From the Pastor: Our Third Holy Week!
Each year since we became Tampa’s Center for the Traditional Latin Mass we have attempted to improve on what we do and to incorporate even more “tradition” into parish life. For instance, the first Holy Week after we were “transferred” to Epiphany of Our Lord, we had one Tenebrae service, and nobody (including me) knew how long it would last or exactly how it was supposed to go. The second year we added a second Tenebrae, not only because it was a step closer to doing all three for the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) but also because the people who attended the single one the previous year were practically begging for more. This year I am happy to announce that we will celebrate all three Tenebraes. Carefully check the calendar, for Holy Thursday’s Tenebrae is, as is traditionally done, “anticipated” (celebrated the evening before). Don’t ask me what “Tenebrae” is, for that will be an admission that you didn’t read even the front cover of last week’s bulletin!
Another thing we are improving upon is the timing of the Easter Vigil and Mass. The first year we started at dark, just like the Novus Ordo Mass does. Last year we thought we would be switching times with St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission (they had volunteered the first year to celebrate theirs a couple of hours earlier, which is licit in a case like this with two groups, each celebrating a different Form of the Mass) but the Mission instead decided that they preferred to celebrate their Vigil outdoors so that both of us could start at dark. But traditionally the Easter Vigil was not begun as darkness began, but rather celebrated in such a way that the Vigil began on Holy Saturday after dark and the Mass proper began around midnight, and hence was a true Easter Mass. It might help to remember that an “anticipated Mass” (what is now commonly called a “Vigil Mass”-- the Mass of the Sunday or other Holy Day of Obligation celebrated the evening of the day before the actual Feast) was a new invention of the Novus Ordo. Traditionally, a “Vigil Mass” was the morning Mass of the day before the big Feast. It did not “count” as a Mass of the Holy Day of Obligation because it was a completely different Mass held on a completely different day. So the Easter Mass started on Easter, as we are trying to do for the first time this year. The time which the “Vigil” part of it takes varies from year to year based on how many people are receiving the sacraments of initiation, so it is always just an estimate as to when everything should start. That is why the liturgical books simply instruct us to “attempt” to start the Mass at midnight rather than make it a hard and fast rule. This year we will start the celebration at 11:00 pm, guessing that it will take us about an hour to get to the Mass proper. I have offered to put up choir member and altar boy families in one of our local motels along Nebraska Avenue so that they could spend the night and more easily return to assist at the morning Masses, but for some strange reason none of them took me up on the offer!
Speaking of which, each year the choir members and altar boys have to do a whole lot of work for Holy Week, too. God bless them and their families, who also get “stuck” getting to the church hours ahead of time for practice! Seriously, please say a prayer of thanks as “payment” for all that they sacrifice for our parish. When special ceremonies and ceremonious “additions” to Mass are only done once per year, it is necessary to rehearse and practice and rehearse again each and every year. The newer choristers and altar boys might be seeing new ceremonies for the first time, while even the most experienced might have only served at them once or twice before.
We are also blessed with other priests who wish to take part in our ceremonies. This year you might see either two or three “extra” priests who are making arrangements to be here to assist during the last week of Lent. Several more have asked questions about what we do for Holy Week but are, quite understandably, unable to get away from their own parish duties to come and experience firsthand what we do. It is amazing that the priests who never experienced the “traditional” Holy Week ceremonies are the ones most likely to be saddened at what has been discarded, replaced or dumbed down. Not ever knowing the difference, we all thought Holy Week was beautiful in the new Rite, but little did we know what it was before The Change™.
So check the schedule. Mark your calendars. Enter more deeply into Catholic Tradition. Boldly go where no man has gone before... err... where no man has gone in the past 50 years!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka