Interesting post on Spanish Liturgical Privileges and Uses

(UPDATE: Post slightly altered and amended.)

If I am crazy about one thing in the Liturgy, it is that of privileges—, especially Spanish privileges. As someone whose country was part of the Spanish realm, it practically means that these customs enjoyed by the Madre Patria (Motherland) in turn has been enjoyed by the Patria chica (Small Homeland) as well (with certain exceptions).

I am currently chairman of our Brotherhood, whose primary duty is to make sure that the Old Mass is available to the students of our school; indeed, our members are comprised of students. Some are traditionalists, others are in need of catechism and vigorous exposure to the richness and beauty of Catholicism. It is imperative for me, therefore, to introduce to them the Old Mass and to make sure that the customs employed were customs common to the Philippines, and by extension, the Spanish realm.

I was collating some information regarding these customs, most of which are no longer in practice in the Philippine islands due to things such as American colonization, the Second World War, the influx of American clergymen and religious orders, the Hispanophobia rampant even among churchmen, and the general spirit of aggiornamento since the Council (and especially the erroneous ‘Spirit of Vatican II’), among other things. I was thankful that some of my labours have since been relieved, in some ways even justified, when I found this post (in Spanish) online. It practically outlines many customs that are related to the Spanish realm, the first of which are blue vestments.

I will not presume upon to add anything of importance or variance to the post, much less to translate it, but instead I will merely add what I merely know and which is practiced in my country, and I will provide my (admittedly amateurish) translation in places where it is needed.

The subject of blue (actually, cerulean as this, much more academic post by a much knowledgeable person has written, points out), are well-known in the English-speaking world as being currently enjoyed by the Spanish realm. What is being misunderstood is that they are not used for all Marian feasts; they were only used for the Feast, octave (nonexistent in 1962), and Votive Masses in honour of the Immaculate Conception. Therefore, the use of blue in other occasions are outside this special allowance, unless the Holy See grants an indult extending the privilege. Admittedly in my own private opinion the Holy See should do so, mirroring what is now common practice, but until then we should not presume to use blue in other instances.

What are also curious Hispanic liturgical customs are the uses of an assistant priest even in Masses not celebrated for the first time, and a full lavabo bowl and ewer, both of which are privileges of the bishop. Perhaps the piety and the fervor of the Spanish then in spreading the Gospel merited these concessions from the Holy See to Spanish priests. Indeed, in the latter example I just saw them in practice here in the Philippines, even as to this day concerning the Novus Ordo (New Order of the Mass).  I would see priests using a separate vessel for the Lavabo, and a large dish as opposed to a small plate.

Skipping the custom about tunicled acolytes (something that I have written about before) as they merit the final comment, another custom that has been used by Hispanic priests is the Asperges ceremony being performed by another priest rather than the celebrant in Sunday Masses. Very curious, as this tendency of a priest performing another ritual before the Mass itself is somehow analogous to the custom of bishops relegating the liturgical function, in Black Saturday according to the old old rite of Holy Week, to another bishop or a priest the function of presiding the ceremony of blessing the new fire before the Black Saturday Mass itself.

Skipping, once more, the custom of the acolyte incensing the faithful instead of the deacon in Solemn Masses (something that is better discussed alongside tunicled acolytes), it is interesting to note that in parish churches it is permitted to add the name of the patron saint in the recitation of the Confiteor “(..) beatae Mariae semper Virgini, beato Michaeli Archangelo, beato Ioanni Baptistae, sanctis apostolis Petro et Paulo, beato N., ómnibus Sanctis (…)”. This is analogous perhaps to the custom of religious orders adding the name of their sainted founders to the Confiteor.

With regards to the custom of acolytes and incensing the choir, and the acolyte being accorded the privilege of wearing tunicles, I can see that it is perhaps a vestige of the older times in Medieval Europe that the acolytes are given more roles in the liturgy of the Solemn Mass instead of the Roman practice that relegates them to bearing the candles at the Sanctus and being in-charge of the wine and the water cruets as well as the lavabo.

Examples of such other roles being accorded to the acolyte as being allowed in medieval rites, such as the Parisian Rite or the Sarum Rite, are carrying the processional cross at the Gospel (a feature of the Dominican Rite as well), being accorded the privilege of holding the paten (as at Sarum), and being able to read the Epistle in the absence of the subdeacon, not to mention that the acolyte is considered as next in line, so to speak, after the subdeacon. In the Rite of Soissons (another neo-Gallican liturgy), a young acolyte is tasked to hold the paten instead of the subdeacon, while wearing a cope. The Spanish custom of having the acolyte incense the choir is merely reflective of the medieval praxis of granting the acolyte more functions and considerably more importance than what the Roman practice ever gave the acolyte. If the subdeacon is the “helper”, so to speak, of the deacon, the acolyte is the assistant of the subdeacon.

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