The following article was written by Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P. which was found on the Dominican Liturgy blog. Enjoy!
I. The Sacrament of Penance (Confession)
In the wake of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, which allowed for pastoral purposes celebration not only of the Mass but of the other sacraments, I have been asked a number of times by friars whether the Dominican Rite had its own particular forms for the sacraments. This is an interesting question, and I think readers here would find it interesting.
Aside from the Mass, two sacraments were, and are, regularly performed in monasteries: Penance (Confession) and Extreme Unction (Anointing of the Sick). So the Dominican Rite has its own forms for those sacraments and these were also used in pastoral service to non-Dominicans. Both, like the Dominican Mass, represent ritual practice of the thirteenth century rather than the fifteenth- century usages codified in the Roman Rite after the Council of Trent.
Penance According to the Dominican Rite
The major external difference between the Roman and Dominican rites of Penance is in vesture. Roman priests traditionally heard confessions in cassock and surplice wearing a purple stole. Dominicans heard (and may still hear) confessions wearing the habit (which is white) and the cappa (the black cape), without a stole. The traditional explanation of the absence of the stole is that the scapular (a white apron-like part of the habit) is considered a stole. I think this story unlikely. The lack of church vestments in our rite is probably a vestige of the early medieval practice of using vestments only during administration of Public Penance on Holy Thursday. “Private” sacramental penance was not usually administered with external formalities at the time of the foundation of the Order. The black cappa was penitential enough.
The Roman “Common Absolution” began with an invocation of God’s mercy (Misereatur tui) similar to the priest’s prayer in the modern Penitential Rite at Mass. He then raised his right hand and prayed a two-part absolution prayer. The first part invoked God’s pardon, absolution, and remission of sins in the third person; the second part, the formal absolution, is in first person and first absolved the penitent from excommunication, suspension (if in orders), and interdict, and then from sins with a single Sign of the Cross. The priest then added the prayer Passio Domini Nostri, which remains an option in the new Rite of Reconciliation.
In the Dominican form, the priest began by absolving the penitent from excommunication, suspension (if a cleric), and interdict, explicitly stating that this restored the penitent to the communion of the faithful. Putting this first reflects the ancient practice that only those in full communion can pray with the faithful or receive ecclesiastical sacraments and rites. So it begins the rite as a whole. The Dominican priest then recited the Misereatur in a form identical to that used during the Dominican Prayers at the Foot of the Altar.
In thirteenth-century practice, this Misereatur prayer probably followed a ritual now absent from the rite. It was very common for priests to help penitents make confession by using a Formula Confessionis in question and answer form: “Did you take the Lord’s name in vain?” “Did you commit adultery” etc. Priests can still do this today, if the penitent seems to have trouble identifying sins; and it is often used when a penitent makes a general confession. What today is relatively uncommon, seems, from my research, to have been nearly universal in the 1200s. After confessing their sins, penitents said a Confiteor (or some other formula of contrition) to which the priest added the Misereatur prayer, which normally followed it, as at Mass.
The priest then pronounced the Absolution. The Dominican form, in comparison to the Roman, because it lacks the absolution from censures, focuses more directly on sins and judgment. This is a remarkable prayer and incorporates not only the typical thirteenth-century focus on God’s mercy, but also an explicitly eschatological dimension. Here is my translation of the Dominican formula:
May Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, through his most gracious mercy, absolve you; and by his authority, through which I act, I absolve you of all your sins, so that you be absolved both here and before the tribunal of Our Lord, the same Jesus Christ, and so that you might have eternal life and live forever. In the name of the Father + and of the Son + and of the Holy + Spirit. Amen.
May Our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you, and by his authority I absolve you from every bond of excommunication, suspension, and interdict, to the extent of my power and your need. Finally I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Note also the triple blessing in the Dominican form, something used in the Roman rite of Penance only by bishops. The Dominican, like the Roman, then concluded with the prayer Passio, which in the Dominican form mentions St. Dominic along with the Virgin, intentions as well as actions, and concludes with a final blessing in the name of the Trinity. Both the Dominican and Roman rituals provided shortened versions for use when penitents were many and a brief absolution for emergencies.
By analogy, in my opinion, as the use by Roman priests of older sacraments is now permitted for pastoral need, this form of absolution might be used by Dominican priests who have permission to use the Dominican Rite. I hope in another posting to discuss the Dominican form of Extreme Unction.
As explained earlier, the rituals for the Sacraments in the Dominican Rite, our Rite is a monastic rite and presupposes the context of a religious house (which is commonly referred to by Dominicans as a “convent” even when it is a house of men) for the celebration of the sacraments. In the case of Confession and Mass, there is nothing particularly “monastic” about the rituals that make them more difficult to perform in a parochial or extra-conventual context than their parallels in the Roman Rite. This is not the case for the Dominican rituals for Viaticum and for Extreme Unction, what is called in the new Roman rite the “Anointing of the Sick.” These rituals in our Rite properly require the presence of a choir of the friars and a sizable group of ministers. As the rite includes processions and music, it is not surprising that it is found in the Processionarium, which collects music for processions and other rites that are not part of Mass or Office.
III. Extreme Unction: Anointing of the Dying
Like the Rite of Viaticum, the ritual of Extreme Unction in the Dominican Rite begins with the assembly of the community in the sacristy for the procession to the room where the sick friar is dying. The procession consists of the Holy Water bearer, two candle-bearing acolytes in surplice, a lantern bearer and a friar with a hand-cross, then comes the sacristan with the Oleum Infirmorum and a case containing six wool or cotton balls or six strips of linen. Last comes the celebrant followed by the community in order of seniority.
At the sick room the celebrant gives the greeting and sprinkles Holy Water during the singing of the Asperges, as for Viaticum. This complete, he intones the collect Domine Deus, qui per Apostolum tuum Iacobum. This prayer is also found in the old Roman ritual of Extreme Unction (with minor differences of phrasing), but in that rite it follows the Pater Noster after the anointings. As the prayer summarizes the institution of the rite in the Epistle of James, it serves as a scriptural warrant for the rite about to be preformed. In an interesting parallel the Epistle passage itself is now used at this point in the modern Roman ritual. As in Viaticum, the dying friar asks and gives pardon for offenses given or received from community members. He then recites the Confiteor to which the celebrant gives the usual absolutions. The celebrant then offers the dying friar the Cross to kiss. This is a ceremony absent from the Tridentine Roman form, although nearly universal in the high middle ages––it was probably also in the Roman ceremony before its simplification. After the veneration of the Cross, the celebrant intones the antiphon: Intret orátio mea in conspéctu tuo: inclína aurem tuam ad preces nostras, Dómine. The friars of the convent chant the Seven Penitential Psalms. The anointing itself is performed during the chanting of these psalms.
The Dominican, like the old Roman, practice, consists of seven anointings: first the five senses, then the hands and feet (which, although requiring a anointing on both extremities, were considered single anointings for formula purposes). As in the Roman ritual, priests are anoninted on the back of the hands, others on the palms. This is so as not to “repeat” the anointing on the palms that priests receive at ordination. As the celebrant finishes each anointing, an appointed friar uses a different one of the cotton balls or linen strips to clean away the Holy Oil. They will be burned after the rite and the ashes put down the sacrarium in the sacristy, practice also part of the old Roman rite. When the celebrant has finished, the sacristan washes his hands. The formulas used during for the Dominican anointings parallel the Roman ones, differing only in minor vocabulary choices or word order. In only one case is there a significant difference of meaning: the Dominican anointing of the mouth mentions the sin of taste (gustum) but not of that of speech (locutionem). This shorter form is probably the older one and focused, in parallel to the other formulas, on the corporal sense anointed alone. But the both sets of formula are so close that they certainly derive from a common ancestor.
When the community finished chanting the Penitential Psalms, the antiphon was sung again, and the Pater Noster was recited silently. After a series of verses and responses slightly shorter than the Roman use, the celebrant sings seven collects: Quaesumus Omnipotens Deus; Respice Domine; Deus qui facturae; Deus infirmitatis; Deus qui humano; Virtutum caelestium; and Domine sancte Pater. The Roman ritual has here only the three collects: Domine Deus (which opens the Dominican Rite ceremony); Respice Domine, and Domine Sancte Pater; all of which have minor verbal differences from the Dominican forms but clearly go back to a common source. The seventh collect finished, the priest imparts an absolution using a long prayer, absent from the Roman version, beginning Dominus Iesus Christus qui dixit discipulis suis. The community then leaves in procession to return to the sacristy. As with Viaticum, the same forms were used in convents of nuns when the priest chaplain administered Last Rites to a sister.
Those who know the old Roman ritual of Extreme Unction will notice that the Dominican form is shorter because it lacks a number of Roman elements: two of the three long Roman collects after the Asperges; the reading of Matthew 8: 5-10, 13; the Litany before the anointing; and the final blessing. In spite of these differences, both rites are clearly members of the same liturgical family and resemble and share prayers with the high medieval Italian/Roman forms of the rite I have studied. In practice, they differ most conspicuously in the absence of the Dominican chanted psalms and external formalities from the Roman. This difference, however, is late medieval. In the thirteenth century, Italian/Roman versions of the ceremony would still have assumed music and external formalities.
As I wrote earlier, a number of elements from the old Dominican rite of Extreme Unction, including the kissing of the Cross, were approved in the 1970s for use in the context of the new Roman Rite of Anointing of the Sick. Unfortunately, no consolidated Latin ritual, much less a translation, has ever been prepared to facilitate this, so the practice remains very uncommon. As with the form of Absolution in Confession, however, Dominicans with permission from their provincials to celebrate the traditional Dominican Rite would also be able to use this older form of the sacrament, should pastoral circumstances warrant it.
This concludes my series on the Sacraments for which the Dominican rite has its own rituals. As I wrote at the beginning of the series, when friars began to serve in parishes in the early modern period, they used the Roman ritual for baptisms and marriages; and Dominican bishops used the Roman forms for Confirmation and Holy Orders.