ASK FATHER: The Sacred Triduum in the Extraordinary Form privately, without people.

Numerous priests have written to me, asking about what to do about the Sacred Triduum in private.

I’ve been pondering and consulting.

Summorum Pontificum 2 excepts the Triduum for Holy Mass in the Vetus Ordo sine populo.

However, Card. Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, issued a decree about celebrating Triduum with the Novus Ordo sine populo.

That said, there is a principle of interpretation of law in the Church, odiosa restringi et favores convenit ampliari, or else odiosa sunt restringenda et favoribilia amplianda/ampliantur. That is to say, laws that place burdens or restrictions on people must be interpreted strictly so that they don’t put onto people what the laws don’t say. On the other hand, laws which grant favors or freedoms to people should be interpreted as generously as possible so that people can enjoy favors and freedoms. Be narrow and picky with laws that restrict and wide and generous with laws that grant things.

In light of how the Church interprets laws, I say that what applies to the Triduum in the Ordinary Form applies also to the Extraordinary Form. If a priest wants to observe the Triduum sine populo, he can… this year.  I don’t know how he will pull off Good Friday alone and the Vigil alone, but I suppose there may be a way.  It would be good to have at least a couple servers.

We have to figure out some mechanics for Good Friday and Holy Saturday Vigil.  Thursday isn’t really a problem.

But, salvo semper meliore iudicio, Fathers, you are good to go for sine populo!

Let’s pray hard this Holy Week and Triduum and really give the Devil and this virus HELL!

Ask God straight out for a miracle: to end this virus NOW, COMPLETELY, and FOR GOOD.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. APX says:

    I am currently watching the NZ FSSP Live Stream of Palm Sunday on under the St. Corona Project. As NZ is several hours ahead of North America (and also in complete lockdown and there’s only one priest, so no help whatsoever in terms of servers, priests may also want to watch to get some ideas as to how to do Holy Week in the EF with no people. (I suppose they could also just email the priest and ask how he’s doing it.)

  2. Hidden One says:

    What about the Triduum with two servers and a cameraman (for the livestream)? Four people should be below the limit for gatherings in most places, and would the cameraman not be sufficient to count as the people?

  3. fr.ignatius says:

    I have been studying the rite and have done ef triduum three times before.

    I think Thursday no problem… no washing of feet. Slightly tricky at the end with the altar of repose and stripping of altar. A bit tricky.

    Friday I can’t actually see too many problems.

    Saturday I have decided against. I will sing the relevant offices in its place.

    I think the fire. The copes, The insence, the oils into the water, the removing of veils, the setting up for mass, on your own it wouldn’t be a liturgy with any flow. So I’ve decided against it.

    I’m doing palm sunday today.

  4. Fr_Andrew says:

    An SSPX priest friend sent me the guidelines and advice he received to help me sort myself out, so I’ll share some of those for other priests :

    Holy Thursday, the spirit of the rite is that one priest says the one Mass. So where there are rectories of multiple priests, even if permission for private Masses has been given, there should be only one ceremony, unless the good of the faithful need this. The OHS, unlike the earlier books, foresees that in some places multiple Holy Thursday Masses could be said, all in the evening, for the benefit of the faithful. If you are still in a limited attendance place, not a stay-at-home, you could start at 4 p.m. and have a string of Masses for people, with the last (which should not start after 7 p.m.) when you transfer the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose. If it’s just a priest and a server, a simple place of repose, like the Sacristy would work well. It could be done completely with four servers in a “Low Mass” form.

    Stripping the altar is tricky, but it could be stripped to the credence, and then afterwards things removed from this. The symbolism and rite is kept. The candles and cross need not be removed during this, and ought not if the pre-1965 rite is used, since six remain on the altar and the cross (or a larger substitute) is on the altar on Good Friday.

    Friday is difficult, in fact, at least in the 1956 rite. The priest would need to do a great deal of excess movements and go and retrieve the Cross and the Blessed Sacrament without candles (which need to make it somehow to the altar), which starts out bare. Without at least two servers, I don’t see this and other things being possible. With two servers it could be done. One makes it a bit unfitting. Less than this and the rite probably should be omitted.

    My temptation is to do the pre-1956 rite, because this keeps almost everything needed on the altar. The Cross and six candles are already there. The only change for the priest is to remove and put on again the black chasuble. He needs to spread the cloths, but this could be done beforehand. If the Sacristy were used as the Altar of Repose, it is easy to access this and no need for an ombrellino. The only difficulty is the incense. I think one server could manage what is needed with relative ease, especially if the Sacristy were the repose.

    Saturday, the older rite brings more difficulty since you need the reed and paschal candle carried. A priest without servers could not manage this without severe modification, and by that point it simply become unfitting. The 1956 rite has fewer things to carry around, but does need someone behind the scenes to move things around. The fire does not need to be large, but could be as small as a candle, and a cigarette lighter uses a flint and steel. Light the candle and you have an new fire. If all is done near a table, then keeping the necessary things around is easy. If there is an attached side room in the church, or even in the vestibule, a candle or a few could be lit as the fire, meaning moving things around is easier and one does not need to leave things outside while this is going on.

    It would be improper to bless the font unless Baptisms or Baptismal Water is needed, seeing as few would have the new oils. If you do, then this could be done, but the ritual foresees that some may need to bless the font (or create Baptismal water) at another time.

    If we do find that omitting the ceremonies is more fitting because we cannot preserve the dignity of these, then the hours of the Breviary which substitute provide a rare opportunity to read these. I’ve never done Easter Matins before, nor the full Lauds, nor have I ever said Holy Saturday Compline. These are also the Liturgy, so it is worth noting that saying these is also the public prayer of the Church, and beneficial for the Church and faithful.

    “Be creative.”

  5. Uxixu says:

    The FSSP with the PCED ad experimentum permission are still going to do pre-1955. In LA, we had MC, Thurifer, 2 acolytes, and a small schola of 4 men in cassock and surplice to do Palm Sunday and it will stay similar scale for the rest of Holy Week, to include the Triduum.

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