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Maundy Thursday: Old vs. ’55/62 Rite

BECAUSE THE Maundy Thursday ceremonies in the traditional Missal consist principally of rites connected with the Mass, the changes introduced in the 1955 Renewed Order for Holy Week are not as numerous as those for the other days of Holy Week.

The 1955 Ordo moves the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper to the evening. This in itself is not objectionable. Nevertheless, there are also some ritual changes.

• Following the reformers’ general practice of shortening rites whenever possible, the ’55 rite omits from the Mass the Creed and the Last Gospel.

• A responsorial Psalm is supposed to be sung during the reception of Communion. This practice will become an integral part of the Novus Ordo.

• The Maundy ceremony (washing of the feet) may be inserted into the rite of Mass itself, and the collect following the Maundy is to be recited “facing the people.”

• The traditional practices of setting up an elaborately decorated repository and adoring the Blessed Sacrament until it is removed during the Good Friday service are abolished. The 1955 Ordo (like the Novus Ordo) recommends “severity” in the decorations for the repository.

When the ’55 rite first came into effect, the existing customs of an elaborate repository altar and continuous adoration were to be tolerated temporarily, said Bugnini in his 1956 commentary. But the spirit of the decree, he added, dictated that the candles and decorations be removed at midnight, and that the adoration then cease. (A. Bugnini and C. Braga, Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae Instauratus Commentarium, [Rome Edizioni Liturgiche 1956], 97.)

By 1962, the rubrician O’Connell treats this stripping of the repository as obligatory. (See Ceremonies of the Roman Rite, new ed. [London: Burns Oates 1962], 286.)

Thus after an 8:00 PM Mass on Maundy Thursday, the 1955 Holy Week rites make it nearly impossible to “watch just one hour” with Our Lord.


Traditional Holy Week Ceremonies
St. Gertrude the Great Church, West Chester, Ohio

9:00 AM Pontifical Mass of Chrism
1:30 PM Maundy (Washing of Feet)
6:30 PM Tenebrae


PS: We have been experiencing some technical glitches in these broadcasts. (The ghost of Bugnini?) We thank you for your patience as we try to resolve them.