Holy Week Destroyed: Maundy Thursday (and the Mandatum?)


[Once the recording for Maundy Thursday is uploaded onto YouTube, it will be placed here with full attribution.  At this time, I do not know whether the Mandatum will be included; I was told an attempt would be made.  As with the previous recordings, there may be some delay before the recordings can be posted.  However, all the ceremonies of the fully traditional Holy Week are streamed live from St. Gertrude the Great Roman Catholic Church, and can be viewed at their respective times/days here.]

The focus of Maundy Thursday is obviously centered upon our Lord’s institution of the Eucharist (something the reformers have almost completely excised from the traditional/pre-1956 rite until now) and following from this, the priesthood.

Prior to Pius XII’s Novus Ordo of Holy Week, the Mass of Maundy Thursday marked the last time Holy Communion would be distributed to the faithful until the Resurrection has been celebrated in the liturgy on Easter.

As regards the mandatum (i.e., washing of feet), Dr. Carol Byrne states:

“As part of the liturgy of Holy Thursday, the Mandatum was, according to longstanding tradition, a ritual performed among priests, based on Christ’s example of washing the feet of the 12 Apostles at the Last Supper. It is not to be confused with the so-called “Mandatum of the Poor,” an entirely separate ceremony that existed alongside its clerical counterpart…(see here).

Fr. Lasance, in his introductory comments to the Mass of Maundy Thursday (The New Roman Missal, p. 447),  corroborates this statement, with a slight twist:

“In Rome, the Pope washes the feet of thirteen poor persons, all of them priests.”

Does this suggest there was only one mandatum, and not two?  Or does he choose only to refer to this clerical mandatum (i.e., the other being irrelevant)?

Meanwhile, the St. Andrew Missal (p. 548) states:

“After the stripping of the altars, the clergy at a convenient hour meet to perform the ceremony known as the mandatum…The officiating priest then…begins the washing of the feet of thirteen clerics or thirteen poor people chosen for the ceremony…”

One rite or two?  Clerical or lay?  I will dig into that when I have more time.

In any case, what is clear, is that in the fully traditional pre-1956 rite, the mandatum took place after Mass, and certainly did not permit laymen to enter the sanctuary.

The reformers, building upon earlier victories for “active participation” (e.g., as contained in the Dialogue Mass), are now emboldened to take another step forward, interjecting laymen into the sanctuary during Mass (giving them a semi-liturgical function in the Pian rite).

The dullest minds can see where they are heading.


[From the exceptional study of Fr. Stefano Carusi:]


We now arrive at a detailed analysis which will cast in relief some of the more obvious changes brought about by the “Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae Instauratus” [“The Restored Order of Holy Week”] of 1955-1956 and which will explain why this reform became the “head of the battering-ram” in the heart of the Roman liturgy and “the most important act since St. Pius V until now.”

For each of the innovations cited there is given as well a commentary which relies as much as possible on […] what the actual authors of the texts later stated; then there is also a brief sketch of the traditional practice.


1. (OHS 1956): Introduction of the stole as part of the choir dress of priests. (57)

Commentary: This is the beginning of the myth of concelebration on Holy Thursday. The bolder among the reformers wished to introduce it along with this reform, but resistance—especially from members of the Commission such as Cardinal Cicognani and Msgr. Dante—blocked this novelty. Father Braga writes: “As to the ‘participation’ of the priests, sacramental concelebration did not seem attainable (the mind-set, even of certain members of the Commission, was not yet prepared for it).” (58) In effect, there was a strongly hostile feeling against concelebration on Holy Thursday because it was not traditional: “Concelebration, whether sacramental or purely ceremonial, was to be excluded.” (59) To introduce the idea of concelebration, its proponents had to be content with the creation of the practice of having every priest present don a stole, (60) not at the moment of communion only but beginning with the start of the Mass.

(MR 1952): The priests and deacons wear the usual choir dress, without the stole, and put on the stole at the time of communion only, as is the usual custom. (61)

2. (OHS 1956): The practice is introduced of giving communion with only those hosts consecrated on this day. (62)

Commentary: It is incomprehensible why those present cannot communicate with hosts already consecrated previously. The Roman practice of the “Fermentum”—which is historically documented—was to communicate, in general, from a particle of the Eucharist from the Sunday prior, to show the communion of the Church throughout time and space, within the reality of the Body of Christ. This presence, being “real and substantial,” continues when the assembly departs and at the same time, with even greater logical coherence, precedes the reuniting of the assembly. With this [new] rubric, the idea is introduced of the Real Presence being tied to the day of the celebration, as well as the idea that one is obliged to communicate from hosts consecrated on the same day. It is as much as to say that those hosts are in some way different from those consecrated earlier. One should note that this obligation relates not merely to the symbolism of the tabernacle being empty before the Mass of Holy Thursday—which, at most, might have had some significance, albeit a novel one—since the text affirms that those who receive communion must receive only hosts consecrated on this day. (63) The underlying theology does not seem very solid, while the symbolism is debatable.

(MR 1952): There is no mention of this practice of giving communion with hosts consecrated on Holy Thursday. (64)

3. (OHS 1956): The washing of feet is no longer at the end of Mass but in the middle of Mass. (65)

Commentary: The reform appealed to a restoration of the “veritas horarum” [i.e., observance of the “true times” of the services], an argument used in season and out, like a veritable hobby horse. In this case, however, the chronological sequence given in the Gospel is abandoned. Rivers of ink flowed in order to convince others of the scandal of an horarium that was not in full accord with that of the Gospels, but in this case not only was a rite anticipated, or postponed, for practical reasons, but the chronological order of the Gospel narrative was inverted within a single ceremony. St. John writes that Our Lord washed the feet of the Apostles after the supper: “et cena facta” [“the supper having been finished”] (John 13: 2). It escapes understanding why the reformers, for whatever obscure motive, chose, arbitrarily, to put the washing of the feet directly in the middle of Mass. While Mass is being celebrated, consequently, some of the laity are allowed to enter the sanctuary and take off their shoes and socks. Apparently there was a desire to re-think the sacredness of the sanctuary and the prohibition of the laity from entering it during divine services. The washing of feet, therefore, is spliced into the offertory, an abuse whereby the celebration of Mass is interrupted with other rites, a practice founded on the dubious distinction of Liturgy ofthe Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist.

(MR 1952): The rite known as the Mandatum, or washing of the feet, is carried out after Mass and not in the sanctuary, after the stripping of the altars and without interrupting Mass or allowing the laity to enter the sanctuary during the service, and withal respecting the chronological sequence given in the Gospel. (67)

4. (OHS 1956): Omission of the Confiteor recited by the deacon before Holy Communion. (68)

Commentary: The third, despised Confiteor is done away with, without recognition of the fact that the confession made by the deacon, or the server, although borrowed from the rite for communion extra missam [outside of Mass], is a confession of the unworthiness of the communicants to receive the sacred Species. It is not a “duplication” of the confession made by the priest and ministers at the beginning of Mass, since at that point they have simply recited their own unworthiness to approach the altar and to celebrate the sacred mysteries. (Hence, at a sung Mass it is recited sotto voce.) This is distinct from one’s unworthiness to approach Holy Communion.

(MR 1952): The Confiteor is recited before communion. (69)

5. (OHS 1956): At the end of Mass, during the stripping of the altars, it is mandated that even the cross and candlesticks are to be removed. (70)

Commentary: It was decided that everything should be stripped from the altar, even the cross. The rubrics of the reformed Holy Thursday do not explain, however, what to do with the altar cross, but one learns this by accident, as it were, from the rubrics of the following day. In effect, the rubrics of Good Friday speak of an altar without a cross, (71) which one can deduce from the fact that it was taken away during the stripping of the altars, or perhaps in a more private manner during the night. (This and other problems arise when one changes a liturgy which has benefited from layers of tradition and which is all but intolerant of hasty alterations.) Perhaps, on the basis of a certain liturgical archeologism, the reformers wished to prepare souls for the spectacle of a bare table in the middle of the sanctuary—something which makes little sense theologically.

(MR 1952): The cross remains on the altar, veiled and accompanied by the candlesticks, enthroned there in expectation of being unveiled the following day. (72)




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s