The Procession of the Burial of the Lord in the Rite of Braga: Two Testimonies from the 17th Century

This article, generously translated and offered to Canticum Salomonis by Br. Gregory, was originally posted on the blog Ars Splendida, run by Tiago Monteiro Dias.

Eucharistic coffer from the Convent of Christ in Tomar, MNAA

The Procession of the Burial of the Lord was formerly done during Holy Week on Good Friday “in Parasceve.” The Procession of the Dead Lord, in which a bier is carried with the image of Jesus, is an evolution of this: an eminently Eucharistic act of adoration and sympathy for the sufferings to which God submitted Himself for our redemption. Unfortunately, this praiseworthy tradition was lost in the great majority of churches and cathedrals. It has been preserved only in the Rite of Braga. Father José Manuel Semedo Azevedo in his book Processions of Holy Week and Easter Sunday not contained in the Roman Missal. A Liturgical guide to the centuries-old customs of Portugal, [Albufeira, 1960], pages 40 et seq., gives us an account of precisely this evolution.

The Procession of the Burial of the Lord is a procession with the Blessed Sacrament, contained not in the usual ostensory or monstrance, but in a small urn or chest, that recalls the burial of God on that liturgical day. It is a very simple and sombre procession after the Mass of the Presanctified, recalling the journey that the Virgin Mary, St. John, Joseph of Arimathea and the other women made to bury the Lord’s divine body.

There is no living memory of how this procession was practiced in most cathedrals and parish churches of our Portuguese dioceses, where we still find many precious chests for this rite – I recall the beautiful chest of the Convent of Christ of Tomar, offered by King Dom Sebastião to the Military Order of Christ [a.k.a, The Order of the Cross of Christ], which is now preserved in the National Museum of Ancient Art and is featured at the top of this article.

Therefore, I shall present two witnesses from the seventeenth century: the oldest of Lucas de Andrade and, at the end of the century, that of Dom Leonardo de São José, canon of Santa Cruz of Coimbra, which I transcribe here in full, […], accompanied by some explanatory notes of mine.

One archaic aspect of this procession is the wearing of the amice on the head and not on the neck, as it is worn nowadays. This fact may be due not so much to the antiquity of this procession but to Eastern influence, for it was brought from Jerusalem in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries by Father Paulo de Portalegre. Alternatively, it may be due to the fact that it was a religious introduction, for in the fifteenth century as at present, friars and monks were the only clergymen who covered their heads with the amice, with which they lined their hoods during liturgical celebrations. From them it then spread to diocesan churches. By the fifteenth century secular clerics already covered their heads with the biretta.

The change that led to the substitution of the Blessed Sacrament for the image of the dead Lord can be explained as the maintenance of an already deeply rooted devotion of the faithful to this Good Friday procession, when it was faced with the prohibition by the Sacred Congregation of Rites (SCR) of any exposition and procession of the Blessed Sacrament on that day. Thus we find it in the Constitutions of the Bishopric of Coimbra of 1929:

1575. – It is not lawful to expose the Holy Eucharist publicly for the adoration of the faithful after the Mass of the Presanctified (SCR nº 4049).

1576. It is an intolerable abuse to have a procession with the Blessed Sacrament on Good Friday (SCR n. 2089 and 2668).

If it was prohibited, it is obviously because the custom existed! To circumvent the Holy See’s prohibition, it was decided (soundly, in my opinion), to resort to the use of a sculpted image of a recumbent Jesus. The Rite of Braga, which was not included in the prohibition due to having its own proper liturgy and customs, retained the use of the Blessed Sacrament in this procession.

Both witnesses are almost identical. Dom Leonardo de São José improves and specifies some details omitted by Andrade, but the structure of the procession is exactly the same:

  • Initial rites post Missam :
    • Placement of the Blessed Sacrament in the chest;
  • Simple incensation.
  • Procession proper of two rows of clerics, Orders, and confraternities, all with heads covered and lit candles in hand:
  • Singing of the Heus.
  • Arriving at the chapel of the deposition and final rites:
    • Deposition of the chest in a convenient place,
    • Simple incensation.
  • Return to the sacristy in silence.

 

Andrade makes a note at the end about what to do in the case of a church that should have no tomb for the priests carry upon their shoulders.

D. Leonardo de S. José proposes the chant O salutaris hostia for when the Blessed Sacrament arrives at the chapel and is incensed, noting that not only the clergy wear their heads covered with amice or surplices (according to each’s function), but also the members of the Orders and lay faithful have to cover theirs with cloaks, mantles or opasFOOTNOTE: Footnote, which does not appear in Andrade. Let us see, then, how the Procession of the Lord’s Burial was done in the 17th century:

In Lucas de Andrade, Manual of the ceremonies of the solemn Office of Holy Week …, António Álvares, Lisbon, 1653, pp. 111-124.

§ 7. Of the procession they call the Burial.

I confess that, diligently searching for some book which might enlighten me about the ceremonies of this procession, which devotion has introduced into this Kingdom, [and] which should be maintained, I have not obtained one, and of the many writers who wrote of ceremonies which I managed to obtain, all conclude with this rubric of the Missal: that having said the prayer Quod ore sumpsimus, Domine, etc, Facta reverentia altari, sacerdos cum ministris discedit, as we concluded in number 83 above.

  1. However, since this act of so much piety and devotion is rooted in this Kingdom of Portugal, and in most of its churches is celebrated with so much orderliness and harmony, it seemed to me from what I have seen in some of them, especially in the See of this Court, in the Royal Chapel of His Majesty, whose doctrine and observation in the ceremonies can serve as an example to the cathedrals of the world, in the parishes of St. Julian and St. Nicholas and in the convents, where they seek to get everything right, that there should be a general rule that, just as it there is one faith, devotion, piety and affection, so too there should be unity in the ceremonies and as Pope Clement VIII says, in the bull that goes at the beginning of the Missal: Conveniens est, ut qui omnes unum sumus in corpore quod est Ecclesia, et de un corpore Christi participamus, una, et eadem celebrandi ratione uniusque officii, et ritus observatione in hoc ineffabili, and tremendous sacrifice utamur , and thus celebrate the divine offices all in the same way, removing abuses wherever they may be. Likewise also let there be one way of celebrating the memory of the sentiment which all creatures had in the death and burial of the Redeemer. Let us take part in this act with the thoughts and sentiments of the Virgin Mother and our Lady, of the Holy Evangelist, of the glorious Magdalene, together with the two devout disciples and Marys, who were the ones present at that sad and painful spectacle.
  2. With this consideration (rending our hearts with pain and suffering, weeping for our sins that were the occasion of the death of the Redeemer, whom we offend every hour with our sins more cruelly than the Pharisees, for the more obliged to such benefit and so much love, the more He feels the offences that we do to him), it will be well to assist this act. A tomb or covered chest will be prepared with a rich purple (and not black) cloth; four priests who will carry it on their shoulders, dressed with amices, albs, cinctures, stoles, and the amices placed so that they cover their heads, which they will carry girded with ropes; and the other priests with covered heads also. Before all will precede a subdeacon, dressed in the same fashion, with black maniple, who will carry a large wooden cross [1], and around its arms a towel and shall bring no acolytes. The clergy will follow in order with lit candles in hand.

89. [2] In these churches it is custom to dress three young men in black robes to represent the three Marys. They are sopranos, and carry in their hands insignia of the Passion (such as the nails, the crown, the veronicaFOOTNOTE: Footnote, or the spear). They will go separately behind the others if there are many clergy; if not, all three together, the middle representing Veronica (if he takes the veronica). The processional canopy, which will always be the best, will be carried by priests (if there are any), as we say in number 46, above.

  1. As soon as the celebrant finishes the prayer Quod ore sumpsimus, Domine, etc., the procession will go to the altar and the celebrant will take the host that has been reserved for this purpose, as we noted in the section on Thursday Mass, at number 34. He will put it inside a corporal and place this inside the tomb. While standing he will first put incense in the thurible, with the deacon assisting with the incense boat, without any reverences, and one of the two acolytes that carry the thurible. The thurible, in which he will put incense and then the other without blessing them, and giving the incense boat to the acolyte, [the deacon] will take a thurible and will give it to the celebrant, without kissing the chains or the hands. The celebrant shall incense the Sacrament thrice while kneeling, and rising up, shall close the tomb. The choir shall begin the Heus, continuing them in the procession. The celebrant will go behind the tomb with the deacon and subdeacon, whose heads are also covered, and all will repeat alternatim the Heus with their verses. So the procession shall go within the church, without departing from it, to the place where the Lord shall be present these days, which shall be well adorned with candles. When the priests bearing the tomb arrive, they shall put it in the place where it shall rest, and kneeling before the altar the celebrant (with the deacon and subdeacon on either side), first puts incense in the thurible (standing, as stated above), will incense the tomb three times. Then the priest shall give the thurible to the deacon, who shall give it to the acolyte, and kneeling the celebrant shall begin this sung responsory:

V. Æstimatus sum. And the choir will continue:

R. Cum descendentibus in lacum: factus sum sicut homo, sine adjutório inter mortuos liber.

Having finished the celebrant will say:

R. Signatum est monumentum, volventes lapidem ad ostium monumenti, ponentes milites, qui custodirent illud.

V. In pace factus est. R. Locus ejus.

V. In pace in idipsum. R. Dormiam et requiescam.

V. Caro mea. R. Requiescet in spe.

That being said, the celebrant, on his knees, will say in a soft voice, the following prayer:

Oremus.

Domine Jesu Christe, qui hora diei ultima de cruce depositus in brachiis tuæ Sanctissimæ matris, ut pie creditur, reclinatus fuisti, cujus animam mortis tuæ gladius pertransibat, quinque post maternal amplexus, et amaros, ac lacrymosos singultos, in sepulchro reclusus triduo quievisti: Concede , ut qui tuam collimus passionem, ipsi devictis hostibus, ab instantibus malis, et a morte perpetua liberemur. Qui vivis et regnas in sæcula sæculorum. The choir shall answer in the same tone and mode: Amen.

  1. At the end of the prayer, they will put out their candles and put the cross on the Gospel side, outside the altar. Then they return to the sacristy in silence, in the same way they came. They will say Vespers in choir and when they finish, the candles of the altar shall be put out, as we have said above in number 84.
  2. Note that if there is no tomb, the priest will place the Sacrament in the chest of the closed tabernacle and cover it with a purple veil, not a black one, and carry it in his hands under the processional canopy, his head covered with the amice, and will not say the Heus, nor anything else while taking the Lord. When he is come to the place where it shall stay, the deacon, kneeling, shall receive the chest from the hands of the celebrant and shall place it in the reserved place.

In the afternoon at the customary time, Matins of Saturday will be sung as we said above in number 85.

[1] He refers to a processional cross, with the long rod, clearly, and not to the material of which it is made.

[2] It was not my mistake: it jumps from number 87 to number 89, however, if there is any break in the ritual speech, it would have been only a lapse of the typographer.


 

The second witness is Dom Leonardo de São José, Economicon sacrum of ecclesiastical rites and ceremonies, applied to the use not only of the Augustinian Canons Regular of the Congregation of Santa Cruz of Coimbra, but also of all clergy, Manuel Lopes Ferreira’s Workshop, Lisbon, 1693, pp. 647-651.

Title IX – Of the procession called the Burial, when it concludes the office of Friday in Parasceve I.

In the section on Friday of Holy Week, we passed over the procession of the Burial, which in the churches of this Kingdom is usually done in the office of said day, since there is no mention of it in the Roman Ceremonial and this ours conforms in everything with it. However, we find it more convenient to deal with it in the form found in the Ceremonial of Campelo [1] and in the Holy Week of Andrade [2]. Where the aforementioned ceremonials are lacking, this [my] ceremonial will be able to supply their lack.

II.

For this most devout act, which the devotion of the faithful has introduced, a tomb or chest will be prepared, so that the Blessed Sacrament may be closed in. The tomb will be covered with a rich white cloth, as is the custom in the Holy SeeFOOTNOTE: Footnote of this city, ​​and not purple, in Andrade’s opinion. For the purpose of of this procession two hosts will be consecrated at the Mass of Maundy Thursday, which will be placed in the ostensory or chalice, which is then placed in the tomb. On Friday, the celebrant puts the consecrated hosts on the altar, putting one of them in a corporal and placing it in the little coffer reserved for this purpose. After locking it with a key and covering it with a small white veil, he will place it behind the chalice on the corporal. At the end of the Mass, after the prayer Quod ore sumpsimus, Domine, etc., he shall put incense in the two thuribles without blessing or reverences, with the deacon holding the incense boat. Kneeling, he shall incense the Sacrament, which is in the coffer solito more. He gives the coffer to the deacon, who will receive it kneeling and place it within the tomb over a corporal that is to be spread in it. All the while the celebrant kneels. When the tomb is closed, the procession begins. A subdeacon vested in a black folded chasuble (not the one of the Mass) will take the lead bearing the uncovered cross raised on a rod, and on both sides of the cross will be two candle bearers with lit candles of common wax. The clergy will follow in processional order with lit candles of the same wax in their hands.

III.

In the middle of the procession there will be three sopranos covered with twill robes, representing the three Marys, who will accompany the body of the Lord to the grave, who usually carry the insignia of the Passion. These will sing the Heus alternately with the priests carrying the tomb and the clergy (which all will repeat). The tomb will be carried on the shoulders of four priests clothed in amices, albs, cinctures, stoles and black chasubles, the amices, which they should wear girded with ropes (as Andrade says in this place), placed so that they cover their heads, and . The other priests also cover their heads. The two thurifers will go ahead of the tomb incensing the path of the procession, which will be done inside the church, without leaving it, to the place that is set up for the Lord to rest in for these three days. Behind the tomb come the celebrant and ministers of the altar with their heads covered with amices, as mentioned above, and all ecclesiastics and laity will have their heads covered, namely, ecclesiastics with surplices, Military Orders with cloaks, etc.

IV.

When the priests who carry the tomb arrive at the chapel (which will be respectfully prepared for the Lord’s body with candles) they will put it on the altar. When there is a grave in which to put the coffer with the Lord, the celebrant will take it and give it to the deacon to put on the altar. The celebrant will kneel before the altar with the deacon and subdeacon on either side, first putting incense in the thurible while standing, then incensing as in the beginning. Then he will repose Him in the tomb, turning the key. Meanwhile the singers can sing: O salutáris Hostia, etc.

V.

After the tomb is incensed, the celebrant will begin this sung responsory, on his knees, next to the altar:

V. Æstimatus sum. And the choir will continue:

R. Cum descendentibus in lacum, factus sum sicut homo, sine adjutório inter mortuos liber.

V. Sepulto Domino [3]. R. Signatum est monumentum, volventes lapidem ad hostium monumenti, rapporteurs milites, qui custodirent illud.

V. In pace factus est. R. Locus ejus.

V. In pace in idipsum. R. Dormiam et requiescam.

V. Caro mea. R. Requiescet in spe.

Oremus.

Domine Jesu Christe, qui hora diei ultima de Cruce depositus in brachiis tuæ Sanctissimæ matris, ut pie creditur, reclinatus fuisti, cujus animam mortis tuæ gladius pertransibat, quique post maternos amplexus, et amaros, ac lacrymosos singultos, in sepulchro reclusus triduo quievisti: concede, ut qui tuam collimus Passionem, ipsi devictis hostibus, ab instantibus malis, et a morte perpetua liberemur. Qui vivis et regnas in sæcula sæculorum.

And the choir will respond in the same tone and mode: Amen.

While this act lasts, the bystanders will have their lit candles which they carried in their hands and, after it has finished, they will be extinguished. They will return to the sacristy in silence in the fashion that they came and all will go in peace.

[1] João Campelo de Macedo, Treasury of Ceremonies … , 1657.

[2] Lucas de Andrade, Manual of the ceremonies of the Solemn Office of Holy Week … , Lisbon, 1653.

[3] Don Leonardo of St. Joseph adds this verse, which was omitted by Lucas de Andrade, but which makes perfect sense and is referred to in other authors, including the already mentioned work of Father José Manuel Semedo Azevedo, prior to the reform of the liturgy of B. Pope Paul VI: The Lord having been buried (this is the incipit omitted by Andrade), the monument (sepulcher) was sealed, having been set soldiers to guard it. Evidently, Andrade did not omit it because it was not said it in the Royal Chapel of Lisbon or in the other churches of that city, but because it was a verse so well known in the liturgy, taken from the Sacred Scripture, that its explicit reference was perfectly dispensable, since any clergyman would know.

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