Pre-V2 Holy Week

I heard that Holy Week was done differently than it is now in the years preceding Vatican 2. Can anyone shed some light on how it was different and what changes were made?


I wasn’t around then, but I do know that all four of the passions were read during Holy Week. Correct me if I’m wrong guys: St. Matthew’s on Palm Sunday, St. Mark’s on Holy Monday, St. Luke’s on Spy Wednesday, and St. John’s on Good Friday. Violet was also the vestment that the priest wore while celebrating Mass on Palm Sunday. He would wear red for the procession before Mass (correct me if I’m wrong.)

Also on the Fifth Sunday in Lent (which was known then as Passion Sunday) all the crucifixes and statues were veiled. The Crucifix would be un-veild on Good Friday and the statues at the Gloria at the Easter Vigil. There was also the communal prayer of office of Matins during the Paschal Triduum. That was known as the Tenebrae and it was regarded as the Funeral service for Christ (it took place on the evenings of Spy Wedneday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday.) There would be a triangle shaped candle holder and while each part of the Lamentations of Jerimiah were read, one candle would be extinguished. When the church was in complete darkness everyone would bang there breviraries on the pews representing the earth quake that occured when Jesus died.

They seem to be very minor ( as compared to what is to come)

Omission of prayers (Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and Last Gospel)

Final Blessing and Last Gospel were now omitted on Holy Thursday

Genuflection is added to the Prayer for the Jews on Good Friday

Changing in racking of feast days

What is to come?

Novus Ordo and change of a at least the following:

Holy Orders

These are the ones i know off… maybe others

devotus, I am very interested to learn more about this but I don’t want to derail this thread. Maybe we can start a new thread about this. I know that there are some changes in the works for some of the prayers during Mass, but I haven’t heard anything being changed about the sacraments.

yes but to be clearer… almost every ritual has already been changed ( sorry about that)

here is the old rite of baptism…

My favorite part… so biblical

The priest touches Emily’s ears and nostrils with his thumb (moistened with saliva) and as he touches first the right and then the left ear he says:Ephpheta, which is: Be thou open. To the sweet fragrance about you.

Traditional Rite of Sacrament of Confirmation

a new tread would be interesting

I believe you are correct, but I don’t know if this was before or after Bugnini made his changes in 1956. Does anyone know?

It wasn’t just Holy Week, my friends. Oh, no.

Two Sundays before Easter was Passion Sunday. On Passion Sunday every statue and the Crucifix above the altar were entirely encased in purple cloth. My missal is at the office so I can’t tell you which passion account was read from the Gospels but the Passion was read.

Palm Sunday followed and there really weren’t any differences that I remember other than all of the statues and Crucifix remained shrouded in purple.

Holy Thursday was pretty much the same except that no women were allowed for the washing of the feet. We sang Pange Lingua then and, thanks be to God, my cathedral choir sings Pange Lingua in Latin today.

Good Friday was different. There was no skipping or reduction of the prayers for Good Friday (as is the case today) and the Let us Pray…Let us Kneel ritual is fairly much the same. But I’ve kind of skipped ahead. Unlike today in which the Crucifix is processed into the church (with the “this is the wood of the Cross” chant), before Vatican II, the Crucifix was “revealed” - the purple cloth was removed from the left arm, then the right arm, and finally on the third acclamation, the cloth was removed from the head exposing the entire Cross.

The other thing I remember is that from Passion Sunday until the Gloria on Holy Saturday, bells were replaced by wooden clappers. Most NO churches don’t even use bells today but that sound of the clappers going clack/clack; clack/clack; clack/clack served as a powerful symbol of the austerity of the season and made the return of the bells on Holy Saturday far more joyful.

I’m doing this from memory without reference to my missal. I’m sure there’s more that I’ve forgotten.

This is an excellent resource for information on the liturgy before Vatican II, epesicialy in Holy Week: The Ceremonies of Holy Week in Rome

We still un-veil the crucifix and that is an option for today’s Good Friday service. Although my pastor does not veil the statues on the fifth Sunday in Lent, he veils all of the crucifixes. Too many people would have a fit if the statues were covered…

Here is the old Gospel reading for this Sunday:

"At that time, Jesus said to the crowd of the Jews: Which of you shall convince me of sin? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me? He that is of God, heareth the words of God. Therefore you hear them not, because you are not of God. The Jews therefore answered, and said to him: Do not we say well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered: I have not a devil: but I honour my Father, and you have dishonoured me. But I seek not my own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.

Amen, amen I say to you: If any man keep my word, he shall not see death for ever. The Jews therefore said: Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest: If any man keep my word, he shall not taste death for ever. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? and the prophets are dead. Whom dost thou make thyself? Jesus answered: If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father that glorifieth me, of whom you say that he is your God. And you have not known him, but I know him. And if I shall say that I know him not, I shall be like to you, a liar. But I do know him, and do keep his word.

Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day: he saw it, and was glad. The Jews therefore said to him: Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am. They took up stones therefore to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple." (John 8:46-59)

It is not one of the actual passion accounts, but it makes a premenition to it, as do all of the masses during Passion Week (the week before Holy Week). A shorter version of the Gospel is still read on Thursday of Passion Week.

Many of these changes were made under the growing influence of Eastern Catholic practice. Especially Holy Week.


here’s a website with some excellent comparisons between the NO and the TLM.

Holy Thursday was pretty much the same except that no women were allowed for the washing of the feet.

The other thing I remember is that from Passion Sunday until the Gloria on Holy Saturday, bells were replaced by wooden clappers. Most NO churches don’t even use bells today but that sound of the clappers going clack/clack; clack/clack; clack/clack served as a powerful symbol of the austerity of the season and made the return of the bells on Holy Saturday far more joyful.

It is still supposed to be be only men who have their feet washed on Maundy Thursday, but this directive is regularly ignored.

As for the wooden clapper, that was used only from Maundy Thursday (after the singing of the Gloria) through Holy Saturday, rather than throughout Passiontide.

The timeline for the reform of the Holy Week was

1951-New Paschal Vigil (optional)
1955/56- Maxima redemptoris nostrae institutes new texts and ceremonies for the Holy Week
1959- further small changes made in the Holy Week- the change to the rubrics and colours of vestments, and a few prayers: for example the removal of perifidi from the prayer for the Jews. Reranked in 1960.
1965- *Variationes in Ordenem Hebdomadae Sactae *introduced among other changes changes to the solemn orations for Good Friday (see below)
1970- a further revision of the Holy Week as in the 1970 Missale Romanum (a few further texts were added in the 1975 edition like some for use in the Chrism Mass)

These are the introductions and then the prayers of Good Friday changed in 1965:

*7. Pro unitate Christianorum.

Oremus et pro universis fratribus in Christum credentibus: ut Deus et Dominus noster eos, veritatem facientes, in una Ecclesia congregare et custodire dignetur. Oremus, etc.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui dispersa congregas: respice ad oves gregis tui; ut, quos unum baptisma sacravit, eos et fidei iungat integritas et vinculum caritatis.

  1. Pro Iudaeis.

Oremus et pro Iudaeis: ut Deus et Dominus noster faciem suam super eos illuminare dignetur; ut et ipsi agnoscant omnium Redemptorem, Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum. Oremus, etc.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui promissiones tuas Abrahae et semini eius contulisti: Ecclesiae tuae preces clementer exaudi; ut populus acquisitionis antiquae ad Redemptionis mereatur plenitudinem pervenire.

  1. Pro nondum in Christum credentibus.

Oremus et pro nondum in Christum credentibus: ut, Sancti Spiritus luce repleti, et ipsi viam salutis valeant introire. Oremus, etc.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui omnes gentes Filio tuo tradidisti: cunctorum Ecclesiae tuae aggrega familias populorum; ut, veritatis lumen inquirentes, ad te, Deum verum et unicum, pervenire mereantur. *

These retitield and reworded orations 7-9 of the Good Friday. The introduction and prayer (7) is the same as prayer (5) in the 1970 intercessions. The prayer of (8) is the same as the 1970 (prayer 6), the introduction is different. The introduction of (9) is the same as prayer (7) in the 1970 missal, but the prayer is changed-and half the idea has been split off in the 1970 to a separate prayer (8) “for those who do not believe in God”.

Another of the changes made at the time was for the blessing of the oils…I’ll try and type out the text and post it.

As for the changes of 1956, I had written a brief post here but I think it would be better and simpler if one just went and compared the two sets of texts here. Some nice pictures of the ceremonies and vesture of the Holy Week before it was reformed in 1956 can be seen at:

The first one is an Anglican Church that follows an adaptation of the Roman Missal using the rituals of 1949.
For the second, you have to click on an icon at the bottom left which looks like a table with six cells, and select the day you want. They are sedevacantists though.

[quote=Psalm45:9]I wasn’t around then, but I do know that all four of the passions were read during Holy Week. … when Jesus died.

The first part of your post is describing the revised practice after 1956. Before that the procession was in purple.

The Gospel of St. Mark was read on Tuesday. In the 1956 changes, all the Passion accounts were abbreviated: the revised versions for Matthew-Luke all begin with Jesus in Gethsemane whereas before was included also the story of the pentitent woman (Matthew and Mark) and the Last Supper.

The revised directions for the Holy Week (Maxima Redemptoris) removed the custom of saying the *Tenebrae *(Matins and Lauds) on the previous evening and kept it is the morning (as usual). Vespers was removed from Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday- since evening/afternoon/night liturgies had been introduced for these 3 days (whereas previously it was all done in the morning). For the last it was replaced by a form of Lauds after the Mass.

The candles during the tenebrae were extinguished at each psalm- 9 psalms for Matins and 5 psalms for Lauds (before St. Pius X replaced it, Ps 148-150 were counted as one). The top candle was kept burning, hidden under/behind the altar and then brought out at the end. Mystical explanation was that that one represents Christ for which reason in later times custom had it always white while the others were unbleached (yellow-ish)

My mother mentioned to me once that this was done after the Maundy Thursday Mass was over.


Your post #9 brought back a lot of memories to my wife.(she’s a cradle Catholic). For years now she’s talked about the clappers and lack of bells during Holy Week. She also remembers that her family attended mid-night Mass of the Vigil. She says that after midnight the Gloria was sung and the organ (a large pipe organ) joined the choir.

We are hoping to hear that again someday.

The Great Easter Vigil has been moved back to sunset here and I have to say it is quite satisfying. As a member of the cathedral choir, I sit in the choir loft in the rear of the cathedral. But to my left, is the bank of floor to ceiling stained glass windows which face west. When the liturgy starts, the cathedral is in darkness but there is sufficient light from the setting sun to illuminate the stained glass. It is awesome!

All of the readings before the Exultet are done with only the light of the Paschal candle and a small flash light which has been discretely taped to provide only a sliver of light. Since we are downtown, the street lamps outside keep the stained glass windows dimly aglow.

When it comes time for the Gloria, all choir members have hand bells, we have a brass quintet and tympani with us up in the loft, and our organist pulls out all the stops!

I have to say that equally impressive upon me was attending an Orthodox Holy Saturday liturgy…of the entire congregation going outside for the lighting of the Paschal fire and the joyous cries from one person to another of “Christos anesti”, “Alithos anesti” - Christ has risen! Indeed He has risen!" resonated within me as well.

Both signify - out of darkness, light!

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