The disposition of the Daily Office in Holy Week is perhaps the single most complex area where the current shape of the ’79 BCP must be reconciled with the practices of the historic Western liturgy. Three major factors are in play here:
- The simplifying principles of the BCPs and post-conciliar liturgies in general
- The shifting of Passion Sunday from Lent 5 to Lent 6
- The renewed emphasis upon Triduum in post-conciliar liturgies
The Offices of Holy Week in the Tridentine breviary are some of the most unusual and irregular of the year. On one hand, it reverts back to a more primitive shape of the Office that drops a number of usual features, most notably the Opening Versicles and the Invitatory. On the other, it adds a new layer of liturgy and ceremonial appropriate to the events of Triduum. The “Tenebrae” services celebrated in many mainline protestant churches involving a set of readings and a progressive extinguishing of candles is an adaptation of these offices wherein Vespers was dropped and Matins and Lauds were anticipated on the evening before.
Due to the simplifications of the previous Books of Common Prayer, the changes and elaborate ceremonial involving the hearse (a triangular wooden candelabrum containing 15 candles) were dropped. Furthermore, the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite with its simplification of the Liturgy of the Hours has left these liturgies in an ambiguous state. The General Instructions on the Liturgy of the Hours (GILH) directs that Evening Prayer not be said on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday by those who participate in the proper liturgies of these days (GILH 209). It advocates a public celebration of the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer (GILH 210). Exactly how or if the ceremonial of the older form is retained is left to the discretion of the celebrant. One method is described in Appendix Seven of +Elliott’s Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year.
Perhaps the more significant issue is the reversion to a primitive form. Part of the simplification of the Books of Common Prayer is that they maintain a constant form of the Office that does not change. Thus, occasional reversions to primitive forms as in this case are silently removed for the sake of simplicity. That having been said, not all Anglicans have retained this simplicity and have chosen to cleave more closely to primitive practice; Ritual Notes, 11th ed. provides a model for adapting the 1662 Office to historic liturgical norms while the Order of the Holy Cross’s A Monastic Breviary offers a contemporary adaptation based on the precursors to the ’79 BCP.
The second issue regards the movement of Passion Sunday. Under the previous perspective where Lent had been seen as a tiered period of increasing penitence, the shift into Passiontide adds an additional grade up with Holy Week and Triduum providing the final steps before Easter. The leveling of Lent included the shift of Passion Sunday off Lent 5 and combining it with Lent 6/Palm Sunday. There is a useful pastoral rationale here, namely that those who do not or cannot attend mid-week public services do not go straight from the Triumphal Entry to the Empty Tomb thereby skipping the passion, death, and burial of Christ. This shift impacts the Office as a few reversions to the primitive form had historically occurred on Passion Sunday. Specifically, the Gloria Patri was removed in some places—the Opening Versicles, the Responsary Prayers, and the Invitatory—but not others—it was still said following the psalms and canticles.
The third issue reflects the intention of the Liturgical Renewal Movement concerning the importance of Triduum. This emphasis suggests that changes to the liturgy to highlight this time would be appropriate and in line with the priorities of the ’79 BCP.
Based on the core principle of using the ’79 BCP in continuity with the historic Western liturgy, I think that it would be most appropriate to abridge the Offices during Triduum for the sake of contituity. The alterations suggested by A Monastic Breviary serve as my main model, being a respectful attempt to incorporate the historic patterns into the contemporary Offices.
Therefore, in Triduum:
- Offices begin with the Psalms (and antiphons if used) except for Compline; Compline begins with the Confession and Absolution, then jumps to the Psalms.
- All Gloria Patris are omitted.
- A penitential responsory replaces the 1st canticle at Morning and Evening Prayer
- All hymns are omitted
- The Offices conclude early. After the Gospel/second canticle of Morning and Evening Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer and the Collect of the Day are said at which point the Office ends. At Noon Prayer the Lord’s Prayer and Collect of the Day complete the Office immediately after the Psalm(s). At Compline, the Nunc Dimittis without Antiphon follows the Psalms, then the Lord’s Prayer and Collect conclude the hour.
It would also be my recommendation to omit the Gloria Patris during the first four days of Holy Week as well.
The Angelus, should you use it, is said through Wednesday in Holy Week.
Two Opening Sentences are provided for Morning Prayer in Holy Week. Presumably the first is for the first four days and the second is for Triduum. If Opening Sentences are omitted during Triduum, however, either may be used.
The Confession of Sin should be used on the first four days of Holy Week. If opening matter is omitted during Triduum, this should be omitted as well.
The Invitatory and Psalter
“Alleluia” after the opening versicle is not said when the Versicle is used.
Holy Week does not receive its own Invitatory Antiphon. You may either use the text provided for Lent or omit the antiphon altogether.
The Daily Office Lectionary appoints Psalm 95 as the Invitatory for Good Friday and Holy Saturday in place of the Venite.
When “Alleluia” appears in the psalter during Holy Week it is omitted.
The Gloria Patri may be omitted during Holy Week at your discretion.
Palm Sunday and Good Friday use the almost the same lessons in both years. Four readings are appointed; two are designated for Morning Prayer and two for Evening Prayer. For the Palm Sunday Texts, the first two are “Palm” readings and the second two are “Passion” readings, mirroring the division in the prayer book’s Palm/Passion Sunday liturgy. The morning’s Zechariah text contains the prophecy of the king of Zion riding triumphant, victorious, and humble on a donkey rather than a war-horse and presents the paradox of a large prosperous nation without weapons. The second lesson from 1 Timothy includes one of the few instances of Paul appealing directly to a Jesus narrative, reminding Timothy of Jesus’s confession before Pilate. The evening lessons carry a darker tone, presenting another prophecy from Zechariah concerning “him whom they have pierced” and describing the weeping and mourning of Jerusalem. The second reading alternates by year between Matthew and Luke’s rendering of the Cleansing of the Temple which, in the Synoptic timeline, follows upon the morning’s palm procession.
Four readings should be used on Good Friday but five options are given. The preferred morning first reading is from the Book of Wisdom which describes the wicked speaking together, plotting against the righteous one, with heavily prophetic overtones. For those with allergies to the Apocrypha, the other option is the typological sacrifice of Isaac from Genesis 22. The second reading for the morning is Peter’s insistence to Jesus that he will remain faithful and Jesus informing him that he will deny three times before the cock’s crow. The first reading for Evening Prayer comes from 1 Peter and speaks of the sufferings of Christ, exhorting the faithful to obedience and holiness. The second reading is from John describing the giving of Christ’s body to Joseph of Arimathea.
For the rest of the week, Year One retains the use of Jeremiah, following medieval tradition, and uses the second half of Philippians until Triduum. The Gospel is from John, following his account of the triumphal entry and the following dying seed discourse with the Last Supper/High Priestly Prayer for Maundy Thursday. Year Two uses Lamentations, which in medieval tradition was read over Triduum, and provides the opening portions of 2 Corinthians until Triduum. The Gospel follows Mark’s narration of the entry and last days including his Last Supper account for Maundy Thursday. Holy Saturday appoints Hebrews 4 for the morning on account of its description of God’s rest on the seventh day; Romans 8 is appointed for the evening foreshadowing the Vigil.
If first canticles are used, the Kyrie Pantokrator is most appropriate with the Gospel Canticles for the second.
The American 1928 BCP appoints the Collect for Palm Sunday to be read following the Collect of the Day from until Good Friday. While this option is not mentioned in the ‘79 BCP, it seems a good practice in keeping with this book’s heightened emphasis on the seasons of the liturgical year.
The Marian Anthem is used Through Wednesday of Holy Week.