Why did Pius XII Revise Holy week and Triduum?


I am rather confused. I feel the church is in need of a liturgical reform, not as a whole, but more locally, say, in the United States.
And not a reform to the new. To go back to our tradition, reverence, and authority in the Most Holy Liturgy. To weed out liturgical abuses.
So : Why did Pius XII reform the rites and liturgy of Holy Week, Triduum and Easter?
There seems no great reason to me. Easter Vigil, granted, was restored, but why did he have to change a thousand year old Mass? I can look at a SACRAMENTARY FROM THE NINTH CENTURY and find that most of the material identical to a Pre-Pius XII Missal. Not
so with even the EF, much less OF.
It seems like these beautiful, very long liturgies (vigils), with all the readings, prayers, exorcisms and blessings, chant, incense, baptism, etc. were first rather drastically changed, abbreviated and stripped of all solemn ritual and beautiful, sanctifying formulas. (Maybe not quite so bad as that:D)

And to put it in perspective, this is basically the length of a normal Eastern liturgy.

Couldn’t we have stayed true to our liturgy? I am speaking mainly of the Holy Saturday (easter vigil) liturgy. I mean, we don’t love God and his church enough to listen to 9 readings? Much less twelve?

Would people have thought it was so boring to spare 3 and a half hours of their life each year on Easter night performing something so holy and powerful?

I feel there has been so much “mass for the people” spirit, and cutting back, that “people for the Mass” is becoming lost. The Mass is something Jesus does, not the people.

I don’t think Vatican II was necessarily a disaster. But what the people did in response
to the “loosening up”, if you will was very wrong. (Getting rid of all Latin, for instance. And Yes, this is not completely true)

Where is the Church going with the implementation of the new translation? Will anything change besides the words of the Mass? I hope so.

Sorry for the long post. Thanks for reading. I hope anyone who has insights into this will share them!

Peace be with you! (and with me:p)

Some would say that he actually restored, rather than revised, the Holy Week liturgies. The General Decree of November 16, 1955, which restored these liturgies, explains Pope Pius’ reasons and motivations:

Of the weeks of the Church’s year Holy Week is truly singular for the fullness, majesty, and devotion of the ceremonies. From apostolic times special care had been taken to celebrate the central mysteries of our Redemption, and in the course of time three days - Friday, Saturday, Sunday - came to be set apart for the liturgical memory of Christ crucified, Christ buried, Christ risen. A little later was added a fourth day, of solemn remembrance of the institution of the most Holy Eucharist…

Originally these rites were performed at the hour of the day at which had occurred the scenes liturgically represented. Thus the Mass on the Thursday was celebrated, as the Last Supper had been, in the evening; the liturgical action of the Friday took place…in the afternoon; and late on the Saturday evening began the solemn vigil that ended early the first day of the week with the Resurrection.

In the middle ages various causes conspired to bring them forward earlier and earlier into the day…impairing their earlier harmony with the accounts given in the Gospel narratives. This disharmony was most glaring on the Saturday, which became liturgically the day of Resurrection instead of that day’s eve, and, liturgically again, from a day of darkest mourning became a day of light and gladness.

…in 1642 the Sacred Triduum was removed from the days of obligation and the three days became officially what they had long been in practice: ordinary workdays. The beautiful solemn liturgy of Holy Week had by this time become unknown to and unappreciated by all save the clergy and a handful of the faithful…

To bring an end to this serious loss, liturgists, parish clergy, and bishops in every part of the world have long begged the Holy See to restore the liturgical actions of the Sacred Triduum to their proper hours in the evening. This was a serious undertaking, calling for much thought and consultation…

…Not only have the times been radically altered, but the ceremonies themselves have been modified…mainly by way of shortening and simplification: and the intention is to make the main ideas of each function stand out more clearly. For the most part these changes are not innovations. They are mainly a return to an older form, more in line with what was known in the days of St Wilfrid and St Bede.

So, you ask why we couldn’t have stayed true to our liturgy - I think Pope Pius restored the Holy Week liturgies precisely because he was trying to stay true to the ancient liturgies of the Church! His changes are acceptable, I think, because they are not merely inventions or innovations - indeed, Pope Pius was certainly not in favour of returning to older practices just for the sake of it. As he wrote in Mediator Dei:

The liturgy of the early ages is most certainly worthy of all veneration. But ancient usage must not be esteemed more suitable and proper, either in its own right or in its significance for later times and new situations, on the simple ground that it carries the savor and aroma of antiquity. The more recent liturgical rites likewise deserve reverence and respect.

It’s true that the timings were restored, but that is only one aspect. It neither explains nor justifies the axe that was taken to the rites themselves.

Thanks so much! Good to know.
I also thought…Don’t put new wine into old wineskins, right?:smiley:
So much of the new form is actually older (ie. from the time of Bede)??
Guess I kind of knew this was supposed to be true, but never really believed it.
I’ve certainly not seen anything like it in my manuscript studies. (But, then again, some of the earliest manuscripts I can view are only from the 8th-9th centuries)
It is just cool to see the same prayers on a 9th century manuscript as those of the Pre-1955 EF.
Also, do you know why does the Mass of Paul VI has Nine (7 old testament, the epistle and gospel) readings (parishes I know only do three anyway) provided for Easter Vigil and the 1962 EF missal has only Four? (Four old testament, epistle and gospel…6)

The new liturgies deserve reverence and respect! (Don’t get me wrong, I do respect them) But it wouldn’t it be better if we all followed the rubrics and went the whole way instead of slacking off!:thumbsup:
I think the OF has yet to be what the Sacred Synod intended.

Again, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge!! God Bless!

I know…:shrug: God be with the Popes now and forever, but some of me wonders, By what authority (even as the Holy Father) did they cut so much away from an age-old tradition…and during HOLY TRIDUUM, the center of Christian life (or perhaps in this case, REPLACE IT WITH AN OLDER ONE).
That doesn’t seem very progressive to me:p
But, I guess it was mostly a good change. I just love the other Tridentine liturgy more. (There’s more to love:))
The Roman Rite is concise enough without all the extra abbreviation.

can you explain your gripe?

Agreed. It’s disheartening to see only four lessons when the ancient rite had twelve, especially when one compares with Eastern rite liturgies.

I wouldn’t call it a “gripe” but in any case, as I mentioned in a previous [thread=535034]thread[/thread], an excellent series of articles appeared a while back in the New Liturgical Movement.

Don’t have a reference for this, but my understanding is that in the 1940’s there were requests made to Rome by many bishops requesting some kind of modification, particularly of the Holy Saturday ceremonies. Not just the timing (having it in the evening instead of the morning) but also a shortening of the rites “for pastoral reasons”. Even so, I’ve heard that when the revised Easter Vigil was published for experimental use in 1951, there was initial surprise as the reformers had worked so secretively that no-one was expecting it!

In addition, in 1948 Pius XII had already established a commission to look into a long-term revision of the liturgy, and the Holy Week reforms were one of the first acts. So it was part of a greater scheme, not just an isolated revision.

that is a little more info than I need, and although I read the part on Holy Saturday I do not understand your specific complaint about the rites of initiation. Are you referring to the actual rites for the sacraments themselves? Or to the things like lighting the fire, blessing the water etc.

IMO if anyone cares the liturgical reforms of Pius XII will stand as one of the major achievements of his notable pontificate, and the restoration of the Easter Vigil its shining crown.

Since the current Vigil has 9 readings, why criticize the rite for being shortened when it is the choice of some priests to curtail the readings. Since I know what readings we will use I focus on those OT readings that will be omitted during the catechumens’ preparation during Holy Week esp. Saturday morning.

My first vigil was pre-1963, with my brother who was discerning his vocation that time and took me to the cathedral. I have never forgotten the experience. I am also familiar with Russian and Greek Orthodox Easter services, although never have been to any Eastern rite church for Easter. I am so much in love with the Easter Vigil I find it hard to listen to any criticism except that which is valid, also IMO, that deals with curtailing or truncating any part of it. One year no one sang the Exultet and I was in shock until Pentecost.

Spiritfire I read your post and I proclaim

“I am so grateful that my pastor understood what Vatican II was all about!!!”

There are no liturgical abuses. The Mass is indeed celebrate in a reverent way.
The windows are also opened WIDE so that all in the congregation can partake in a meaningful and non-abusive way.

I pray for all of you you are not blessed with a priest who understood the vision of Vatican II

For some, it’s been a disaster. For others, a source of confusion.

For my parish, an uplifting and authentic participation in the life of the Church as John XXIII envisioned…!!

God Bless my parish priest for understanding what Vatican II was all about and it’s vision as inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself.

Praise be to God!! :thumbsup:

Perhaps His Excellency, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini thought a revised Holy Week and Triduum would be more accepted to the ‘modern man’ of the 20th century.

:confused: :confused: I did not comment, (much less “complain”) about Holy Saturday in particular. :confused:

Whatever. I’m out of this thread now.

Before the reform the churches during the Holy Week were empty. The reform filled the churches for all three days of the Triduum. The Liturgy started again to express visibly our faith in details. This fact (the filled up churches) was the main argument for the necessity of the liturgical reform.

Hi all.

Thanks for your insights and replies. All of them were wonderful.

I have been reading more documents of St. Pius XII, and His Holiness Benedict XVI.
I have begun to see the pointlessness of my view.

Don’t get me wrong, Vatican II was a GODSEND.

To Marie5890 - Yes, there are abuses. There are lot’s of irreverent OF masses. But there are just as many or more reverent ones. The point is the abuses (Like EMHCs giving blessings or something) were never intended to be there, nor are they supposed to be there.
I don’t feel “stuck” with the OF. I was blessed last summer with a visiting Pastor from Rome.
He really knew what VaticanII meant, and he impressed upon me a deep love and reverence for the Ordinary Form.
However, I do also have a deep love and reverence for the antiquated liturgies, and, even if we can no longer celebrate them, there is something to be learned from them that we can take with us anywhere, or to any Mass in any form.

Okay, I have to ask. What do the 1955 Revisions to Holy Week have to do with Vatican II? A precursor to post-Vatican II changes perhaps?

No axe was taken to any liturgy.

It appears that you are most upset about the change from Latin to the vernacular. Do you really believe that the vast majority of Catholics could understand the Latin? I can tell you that they did NOT. In fact, less than 1% of Catholics (almost all priests, nuns and other religious) could really understand the Latin used in various liturgies.

I converted into the Pre-Vatican II Church. I could never understand why so many people read during the Mass. The looked at their Missal, and never at the Alter. They didn’t have a clue what was going on, they just went through the motions.

The vast majority of the people did not actively participate in any liturgy. They were passive participants, mostly just there. The majority didn’t sing hymns, they didn’t pray out loud, they just were there in body.

I vividly remember, as a young Protestant, learning that Catholics never sang. It was only when I began attending Mass that I learned how close to truth that actually was. Most adults didn’t sing, especially not Latin hymns. They didn’t know what they meant, and they didn’t know the language.

You can carp about this, that and the other thing. But, unless you are old enough to REALLY remember what it was like back in the 1950’s and earlier, you don’t have a clue how lifeless most Masses and other liturgical functions actually were.

No axe was taken to any liturgy.

It appears that you are most upset about the change from Latin to the vernacular. Do you really believe that the vast majority of Catholics could understand the Latin? I can tell you that they did NOT. In fact, less than 1% of Catholics (almost all priests, nuns and other religious) could really understand the Latin used in various liturgies.

This thread has nothing to do with the vernacular. The rites were still all in Latin (dread!) and people understood very well the changes in Holy Week.

This is true, but at least in Hungary because lectors (including myself) read the text parallel with the priest (lessons, prayers) in vernacular or at least explained it (like e.g. for the Exsultet and the Litany in Holy Saturday) . The Passion was read by three or more voices in vernacular either on Palm Sunday and on Good Friday since the beginning of the Ordo Hebdomodae Sanctae (before that only on Palm Sunday)

In Hungary the new Ordo Hebdomodae Sanctae was the first where the participation of the people was synchronized with the missal. (In French and Germany the dialog masses started earlier; as far as I know the dialog Mass in the US started only in the sixties)

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