QUAERITUR: The scheduling of Good Friday and Holy Thursday in the Extraordinary Form


I will let you liturgical experts and interested dabblers provide this good reader with some help.

I may be missing something, but I can’t see much of a problem.  You readers might see differently.

From a reader:

A question for you and your readers, which is bound to arise as more and more places offer the Triduum in the EF. Our local clergy here have so far welcomed the idea of a celebration of the entire Triduum in the extraordinary form, in addition to the parish’s celebration in the ordinary form. Amazing! Who would have thought it possible a few years ago?

One practical difficulty we have run into is a conflict between different books as regards the permissible range of times for the Holy Thursday and Good Friday liturgies — a question, naturally, that has to be solved if there will be two of each. The discrepancy can be seen in comparing the Sacred Congregation of Rites General Decree from November 16, 1955 (printed as an appendix in Fr. McManus’s The Rites of Holy Week, 1956) and the fine print in the Liber Hebdomadae Sanctae Cantus Gregoriani (PCP reprint, 2011, of a book that appears to be a Desclee publication of around 1956).

Holy Thursday
SCR General Decree: “On Holy Thursday … the Mass of the Lord’s Supper must be celebrated in the evening, at the most suitable hour; not, however, before 5 nor after 8 p.m.”
Liber Hebdomadae Sanctae: “The Mass must be celebrated at a convenient time in the evening, but not before 4 p.m. or after 9 p.m.”

Good Friday
SCR Decree: “On Good Friday, the solemn liturgical service is celebrated in the afternoon, and indeed about 3 p.m.; but if a pastoral reason urges this, a later hour may be chosen — not, however, beyond 6 p.m.”
Liber Hebdomadae Sanctae: “The solemn Liturgy is celebrated in the afternoon, about 3 p.m.; however, for pastoral reasons, it may begin earlier, from mid-day onwards, or at a latest hour, but not after 9 o’clock.”

There is no discrepancy as regards the Paschal Vigil.

The SCR decree, which appears to give more restrictive times, is the later law.  It is more authoritative than some book.

If this is truly an issue, stick to the more restrictive times: 5-8 for Holy Thursday, “about” 3 – 6 for Good Friday.

If there is real doubt, you are free to submit the question to the Pont. Comm. Ecclesia Dei.  As long as the doubt remains unanswered, you are free to utilize the more expansive time frames.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. pvmkmyer says:

    Would that I had these problems out here in the archdiocese of Los Angeles. I’m already steeling myself for the “everybody washes everyone else’s feet” on Holy Thursday.

  2. Quaerens me sedisti lassus says:

    Indeed, pvmkmyer!

  3. padredana says:

    As a liturgist, and one who considers himself orthodox, I don’t think the Church foresees that any parish would have more than one celebration of the Triduum. That would be contrary to the nature of the Triduum. It would be foolish to have two Holy Thursday Masses in any one Church because it would be a sign of disunity when, during the Triddum especially, we seek unity. Besides, how would you handle the altar of repose? Would you have two separate ones? The whole idea to me is foolish. The Triduum is to be ONE celebration for the whole parish. I think from a liturgical standpoint the parish would have to choose which form the parish wants to use in any given year. We know that both forms are valid, so choose one and do it well!

  4. Father P says:

    I would offer the “spirit of the law” advice. Just a couple of points. The hospitality of the pastor is amazing, to begin with. Rather than try to force an issue and run the risk of appearing to impose on the hospitality might I suggest “going with the flow” here and work out a schedule that is mutually agreeable between all the parties involved, remembering that the parish celebration (whether in the EF or OF) is what takes precedence (see rubrics in the Roman Missal 2000)

    The first is that what you are scheduling is what can be termed “Celebrations of convenience” since the EF liturgy is not the main parish celebration. See Roman Missal 2000 rubrics for Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Additionally in the case of the celebration at the Church of Holy Sepechulre indults for a morning celebration of the Holy Week Rites, including the Easter Vigil, exist because of the “status quo” arrangements for the site. The 1955 legislation the mind of the legislator has been, with the exception of the Easter Vigil, to grant dispensation from “time of celebration” for these.

    One principle of Canon Law is that of “epikia” which means that if a circumstance arises that the lawgiver could never have forseen and other expressions of the mind of the lawgiver is in favor of dispensation a merely disciplinary ecclesiastical law may be dispensed with without seeking an indult. The lawgiver in 1955 could never have forseen the situation that you are describing in that there are two solemn celebrations of the Triduum liturgies in the same church.

    Again, just work out a mutually agreeable schedule and don’t worry about the specific restrictions to time. Remember, the pastor has enough headaches in Holy Week, he has been very generous in providing an opportunity for you to celebrate in the EF. As a pastor, if I could rid myself of a Holy Week headache I would, if you cause him a headache by demanding particular times and messing up his parish schedule don’t expect accomodations next year.

  5. Father P says:


    In theory I agree with you. In my current situation our parish offers hospitality to the Diocesan Vietnamese ministry for a Diocese-wide celebration of the Triduum which means the Parish celebration is followed by the Vietnamese celebration. On Holy Thursday we use the same repository. However, the Main Altar is not stripped until all the Masses are finished. I would suggest to our questioner that the stripping of the Altar be omitted at whatever Mass is celebrated first. It makes no liturgical sense to strip the Altar and then revest it for a second Mass.

  6. ProfKwasniewski says:

    I was surprised at padredana’s remarks. There have often been situations in the past where multiple services were offered during the Triduum to accommodate either congregations that were too large, or sufficiently diverse communities sharing the same church building. In any case, here is the current legislation that addresses the issue of parallel Triduum celebrations in the two forms:

    Instruction “Universae Ecclesiae” on the Implementation of the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, April 30, 2011, n. 33:

    “If there is a qualified priest, a coetus fidelium (group of faithful), which follows the older liturgical tradition, can also celebrate the Sacred Triduum in the forma extraordinaria. When there is no church or oratory designated exclusively for such celebrations, the parish priest or Ordinary, in agreement with the qualified priest, should find some arrangement favourable to the good of souls, not excluding the possibility of a repetition of the celebration of the Sacred Triduum in the same church.”

    That’s quite clear.

    Regarding the question on times, the Liber Heb. S. C. G. (as regards the blurb about Holy Thursday) is merely quoting verbatim the first paragraph of the Missal: “Missa solemnis”, etc. and, as regards Good Friday, the first paragraph of the rubrics devoted to the “Liturgical Action.” So, the more expansive times are the more authoritative, as they are found in the 1962 edition of the Missal, which comes after the 1955 decree.

    In general, of course, the other commenters are correct to say that this is a situation that demands flexibility.

  7. padredana says:

    I agree that there are times and situations that may warrant two celebrations of the Triduum in one parish, but it seems to me this is the exception and not the norm. Is it possible? Yes. Is it permissible? Under certain circumstances. Is it ideal? Certainly not. It is my opinion that we should always strive for the ideal. If it is possible to have only one celebration of the Triduum then that is what should be done, since that is more in the spirit of what the Triduum is all about. If it’s merely because some people like the EF Triduum better that the NO Triduum but there is no necessity for offering both, then I would certainly say that only one should be offered, and the one offered could be either form.

  8. “If it’s merely because some people like the EF Triduum better that the NO Triduum but there is no necessity for offering both, then I would certainly say that only one should be offered, and the one offered could be either form.”

    See, that’s a big part of the problem in regards to the EF. It isn’t, at least for traditionalists, a matter of “like”, but those attached to the OF just can’t imagine there could possibly be anything for those attached to the EF that goes beyond the mere facial aesthetic. As long as that perception exists, then I’m afraid the co-existence of both forms in diocesan parishes will be a short lived and failed experiment. For most traditionalists it simply can not be “either form”, and before you criticize this position, please realize the same holds true, even more so, for those attached to the OF.

  9. Johnny Domer says:

    According to Fortescue, O’Connell, and Reid’s The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described (2003 edition), The Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday) should be celebrated not before 4pm or after 9pm; it cites S.R.C., 1 February 1957, §8 in support of this. I’m guessing that this document would supersede the SRC document cited in the original post, given that this one is later and (presumably, given that it is cited by Reid) the most current, applicable legislation.

    Fortescue also says that the Good Friday liturgy, while it should normally take place around 3pm, “[f]or pastoral reasons…may be begun at any hour between midday and 9p.m.” This would seem to be a clear cut instance of a pastoral consideration that would call for divergence from the 3pm norm. Reid doesn’t provide any citation to legislation in support of this statement; however, given the overall reliability of the Fortescue-O’Connell-Reid, I think you’d be perfectly justified in following what it says.

  10. MrMC says:

    We have been doing this for years. Both forms and both working quite well. We schedule the Holy Thursday Ordinary Form at the typical daytime evening Mass – at 5:45PM. (This year it will have a Procession to the Crypt Church following.) Then the Extraordinary Form starts at 7:30 PM and will also include a Procession to the Crypt Church, then the Stripping of the Altars, and Compline.

    For Good Friday, we start with the Extraordinary Form at 2PM, and follow that with Compline. Then the Ordinary Form starts at 6PM.

    As I mentioned, this has gone on for years as we are a parish that has offered both Forms long before they were considered two “Forms.” As far as I know, no one has had any complaints. I am sure that there are the EF types that end up working all day on Friday and attend the OF service at the end of the day. And I know there are others that attend the EF on Friday because of the time. I am always surprised at the number of people that do attend the EF on Good Friday since it has the Passion chanted which does extend the time.

    It does work. And frankly, I am not sure that I could point out any difficulty.

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