Liturgy and Worship: Times and Seasons
In the first several centuries of the Church’s life, the liturgical year developed around the annual celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection: the Christian Passover or Pascha. At first the Early Christians marked a single day that encapsulated the whole of the Paschal Mystery. Later this was expanded to what became known as the Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. Then an entire season of feasting was added, stretching to the Pentecost. Finally a season of preparation and fasting was added, encompassing the forty days before Easter.
The high point of this journey was the Great Vigil of Easter when newcomers to the faith would be Baptized and share in their first Eucharist. The forty days preceding Easter, by which name the season was widely known (Quadragesima in Latin, or simply marked by the Roman numerals XL) and which became known in England as Lent (an old Middle-English word for Spring), was initially a time of Baptismal preparation. Later it became a period for the reconciliation of penitents, who would have been ceremonially ejected from the Church on Ash Wednesday and readmitted on Maundy Thursday.
Advent is the season of watching and waiting. In Advent, we watch and wait for the annual celebration of the Incarnation of Our Lord at Christmas. We also watch and wait for that time when, in the future, God will bring to fulfilment his Kingdom. It is a season of preparation and we are constantly reminded to “be ready” for we neither know the day or the hour when Our Lord will come again. For more on this theme, you can read the Rector’s sermon for the First Sunday of Advent 2007.
Advent is always the four Sundays before Christmas. It can start either in late November or early December and it always marks the beginning of a new liturgical year.
While Advent is, in many respects, a penetential season—as any season of preparation is penetential and pared down partially to to allow for the full impact of celebration when we finally attain to the feast for which we are wainting—it is not a mini-Lent.
On the right is the High Altar in Advent with the sacred ministers kneeling before the Great Litany on the First Sunday of Advent.
There are several features of the liturgy at Saint Ignatius that characterize Advent:
The Great Litany is sung in procession on the First Sunday of Advent.
Kyrie and Gloria in excelsis: We almost never sing the Glory to God (Gloria in excelsis) in Advent. It is never used when Mass is celebrated of the season and it is only appropriate on major feasts such as Saint Andrew (November 30) and Saint Thomas the Apostle (December 21). We continue, of course, to sing Lord have mercy (Kyrie eleyson). “Alleluias,” especially at the verse before the Gospel, are also still permitted. Polyphonic settings of the ordinary of the mass also continue to be used.
A word about 3 Advent, “Rose Sunday”: Many Churches in the Anglo-Catholic traditions, including Saint Ignatius, celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent as a day of less solemnity with a bit more fulness than other Advent services. This day is known as “Rose Sunday,” or “Gaudete,” from the first word of the Introit of the Mass in the Sarum and Roman rites: “Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again, I say, rejoice.” Rather than the usual Advent blue vestments, rose coloured vestments are worn, a practice that most probably originates with the mediaeval tradition of the Pope blessing roses on the Fourth Sunday in Lent.
Liturgical colour: There is much disagreement about the proper liturgical colour for Advent. The Roman rite prescribes violet, as it does for Lent (although this year, Pope Benedict XVI, along with the deacon and subdeacon, were wearing blue vestments at the Solemn Pontifical Vespers of 1 Advent). The Anglican tradition, and that of other pre-reformation uses, is more varied. In the Sarum Rite the Advent colour was red, but it could very well have been the red-purple known as murray, understood to be a royal colour suitable for Our Lord, and one found in many English pre-reformation vestment inventories. At Litchfield in the 13th century, black (which is considered to include violet, indigo, and other dark shades of blue) was given for Advent and Lent, as it was at Westminster. Violet was the colour given at Exeter in the fourtheenth century. There is authority, then, for the use of red, murray, blue, and violet. We use blue vestments, lined in murray, in Advent. This allows us to visually distinguish Advent from Lent and acknowledges both of the major English colour traditions. The notion, however, of a colour called “Sarum blue” for Advent, popular in some quarters, seems to be a twentieth-century fiction.
See below for a note about special vestments in Advent, especially about the custom of the deacon and subdeacon wearing chasubles rather than the usual damlatic and tunicle.
Lent is a period of preparation for Easter and an excellent time for the preparation of people for Baptism. It is also a period for intentional reconciliation. It is not, then, simply a time of wailing, moaning, and gnashing of teeth. It is a season of contemplation, prayer, and discernment. Its austerity—both in our personal life and in our corporate practice as a Church in the liturgy—is a way of heightening our sense of celebration when Easter finally arrives. In order to properly feast, we humans have usually found that it is important to engage in a period of fasting. In this way the feast is all the sweeter.
On the right is the High Altar vested for Lent and Passiontide
There are several features of the liturgy at Saint Ignatius that characterize Lent:
Alleluia (or the lack thereof): “Alleluia” is never said during Lent. This way, when the Great Alleluia of the Easter Vigil is proclaimed, it has all the more impact.
The Great Litany Every Sunday in Lent, except for the Fourth Sunday (see below), we sing the Great Litany in procession before Mass.
Kyrie and Gloria in excelsis We never sing the Glory to God (Gloria in excelsis) in Lent, even on Sundays and other feasts (except on the March 25, when celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation). We continue, of course, to sing Lord have mercy (Kyrie eleyson). You will also notice that instead of a complex, polyphonic setting of the Ordinary of the Mass (the invariable chants), we sing the traditional plainsong melody (Kyrie XVII: Kyrie salve) of the Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei
The Tract In place of the Alleluias traditionally sung right before the Gospel, we sing through-composed psalm verses, known as the Tract.
Solemn Prayer over the People It is an old tradition not to pronounce a blessing at the end of the Eucharist in Lent, but rather to say a Solemn Prayer over the People. We take these traditional prayers from the Episcopal Churchs’ Book of Occasional Services (2003, pp. 24-26). The deacon bids the prayer with, “Bow down before the Lord” or “Humble your head before God” (this a literal translation of the medieval text) and the celebrant says the prayer.
A word about 4 Lent, “Rose Sunday” Many Churches in the Anglo-Catholic traditions, including Saint Ignatius, celebrate the fourth Sunday in Lent, the mid-way point between Ash Wednesday and Easter, as a day of less solemnity with a bit more fulness than other Lenten services. This day is known as “Rose Sunday,” “Refreshment Sunday,” or Laetare (from the first word of the Introit of the Mass in the Sarum and Roman rites). Rather than the usual Lenten vestments, rose coloured vestments are worn, a practice that most probably originates with the mediaeval tradition of the Pope blessing roses on this day.
Week-day celebrations Holy Men, Holy Women (2009) provides a full Proper for the week-days of Lent, complete with Collects and lessons. In general we prefer to celebrate our daily Mass as “of the fast” rather than commemorating the Lesser Saints’ Days that fall in Lent. We mark these with a “Memorial” in the Prayers of the People.
The Way of the Cross The Book of Occasional Services also provides a service of the Way (or Stations) of the Cross. The liturgy is expressly not to be used as the principal liturgy of Good Friday, but rather as an additional devotion that could be enacted, with a greater or lesser elaboration throughout Lent. We pray the Stations of the Cross and celebrate the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament each Friday in Lent at 6:30 p.m.
Liturgical Colour and Church Decoration Traditionally at Saint Ignatius, following the customs of the Roman and other Western Rites, the liturgical colour for Lent has been Violet. We use this colour for all Sunday services when Mass is celebrated of the season (except on the Fourth Sunday in Lent, when we use Rose vestments and hangings, see above). For weekday and masses in the Lady Chapel, however, we use Lenten white vestments and hangings, also known as the Lenten Array. In England (and other places in Northern Europe) before the Reformation the use of the Lenten Array—in which all sculpture and images were veiled in unbleached linen, often decorated in red and black with the Instruments of the Passion and other symbols—was almost universal for ferial celebrations. The Lenten Array is symbolic of the pared-down simplicity, even austerity, of the season and can be quite beautiful. It marks a stark contrast with ferial vestments of the post-Epiphany season and the oxblood red vestments of Passiontide, not to mention the lavish white, gold and red silken vestments of Eastertide. It also makes a clear visual distinction between Lent and Advent. The Lenten Array came back into wide use in England and America from the 1920s through the 1960s with the popularisation of the so-called English or Anglican Use and the work of the Rev’d Dr Percy Dearmer. The white altar frontal in the Lady Chapel is from this period and is the work of the Warham Guild. The Lenten Array is still to be found in many places throughout the Anglican Communion, including Westminster Abbey, the monastery church of the Society of St John the Evangelist in Cambridge, Mass, and here in the diocese of New York at Christ Church, Bronxville. Other images of the Lenten Array can be seen here.
On the right you can see the Lady Chapel vested with the Lenten Array
Vestments at Solemn Mass in Advent and Lent You may notice that at solemn mass during Advent and Lent, the deacon and subdeacon both wear chasubles rather than their usual dalmatic and tunicle. This custom is a hold over from the period between about 300 and 900 at Rome, when everyone wore chasubles as the overcoat when proceeding to the day’s station church for Mass. Only the pope, or bishop celebrating in his place, kept a chasuble on throughout Mass, changing into a different, probably silken, one when he arrived (Ordo Romanus I). There seems to have developed a custom of the subdeacon retaining his chasuble to the Epistle and the deacon retaining his to the Alleluia or Tract and Gospel (Amalarius of Metz records this custom in 831). Given that liturgical scholars have noted that the most ancient customs are often retained for the most holy occasions, it seems only natural that in Advent and Lent, the two penitential seasons of preparation, this ancient use of the chasuble that makes reference to the customs of the Roman stational Mass would be preserved. This practice is reflected in all the medieval books, as well as in the post-Tridentine Roman books, forms of this customs surviving in the authorised Roman rite up until Vatican II. It seems as if this custom was revived at Saint Ignatius (and in other Anglo-Catholic parishes) as early as the 1920s (from which time there is a vestment inventory indicating the presence of deacon’s and subdeacon’s chasubles for Advent and Lent) or even before.
From a reading of the Roman Ordines (instructions for the papal Mass at Rome) and the medieval missals, customaries (the English books have the fullest instructions), and papal ceremonials, as well as from some surviving visual evidence, it is clear the deacons and subdeacons wore regular chasubles. In the Sarum rite, they were specifically instructed to enter with their hands kept inside the garment rather than clasped together outside, as priests were instructed to do. The subdeacon took his off to read the Epistle and, according to several witnesses among the Ceremoniale summum pontificum of the fifteenth century, then put it back on during the Gradual chant that followed.The deacon took his off, folded it in such a way as he could wear it over one shoulder in the fashion of a stole, and secured it with his stole and girdle to read the Gospel. There are no instruction in any of the sources for what he is to do with it next. We can assume that he kept it in this position so he would better be able to serve mass and would put it back on in the usual way during the post-communion customs for the final rites and the return to the sacristy.
As the chasuble became more and more reduced from the middle of the sixteenth century into the fiddle-back shape, the chasuble worn by deacon and sub-deacon in Advent and Lent became even more reduced, and was eventually pleated up the front. In the liturgical revival of the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Gothic style vestments came into fashion, it seems that this manner of pleating was transferred to these more ample vestments. They are described by Adrien Fortiscue in Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described (1937 ed., p. 12) and we have examples of these here at Saint Ignatius. There also seems to have been a move in the early 20th century to once again use conicle chasubles, folded up the front and ample enough to be folded and worn stole-wise (you can see pictures of them here). More information about these developments can be found here.
As described in the later Roman rites, today at Saint Ignatius the deacon removes his chasuble before reading the Gospel, when he puts on the broad stole (developed when chasubles were of such proportions and materials they could no longer be folded and worn stole-wise about the shoulders) as a reminder of the chasuble being folded and worn stole-wise.