Monday, January 13, 2014

Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany

This post may be a bit redundant to some of the notes made in the entry for the Epiphany Octave, but it bears a little more reflection, that is, the status of the Mass and Office of the Sunday within the Epiphany Octave. The long and short of the discussion is an effective loss of a beautiful Mass and Office, integral to the Octave, vs. a necessary pro tempore feast to combat anti-natural societal trends.

In 1962ville, at which where my family assists at Mass, yesterday we celebrated the feast of the Holy Family. Knowing that this feast has been permanently fixed only since 1921 to the aforesaid Sunday, first as a Double Major and then as II class in 1960, I decided to do a quick comparison of breviaries and a 1952 Missale on hand to gain a better understanding of how this Sunday played out before and after the Quintodecimal Benedictine Kalendar. It is especially jolting this year, being that the Sunday fell on 12 January, how the Sunday has fared.
Source: The Tridentine Rite blog by Rubricarius

The Pian changes of 1911-1913 did not result in much change to the Office of the Sunday, the only changes being the reduction of the Lauds' psalms. Therefore, it is mostly correct to consider the Sunday Office in 1920 as being the same as the Tridentine version. Like the other days within the Octave, the Office is of semidouble rite and identical to the Epiphany with the exception of the Invitatory and hymn and proper lessons at Mattins and proper Benedictus and Magnificat antiphons at Lauds and Vespers, respectively. At Mattins, in the first nocturne, the lessons from I Corinthians begin this day. Like any non-Per Annum Sunday Office, there are also proper capitula and a Collect to distinguish it from the feast itself. The Mass In excelso is entirely proper inclusive of the Gospel passage from St. Luke about the 12 year old Jesus in the temple. This year, this Sunday would have been celebrated integrally from first Vespers on Saturday through None on Sunday and then yielded to the first Vespers of the Octave Day following.

Additionally on a related note, the Tridentine Office gives proper daily antiphons for the Benedictus and Magnificat the six weekdays within the Epiphany Octave. These days are simply labeled as Days Two, Three, etc. to Six, not specified as 7 January, 8 January, etc. At first this baffled me - wouldn't Day Two always be 7 January and so on? Apparently not. The feriae of the Octave are given for just that reason -  as Feriae - which assumes that one of the days between 7 and 12 January will occur on Sunday, and hence the Sunday Office will apply, unless the Octave Day itself is Sunday. Because all six feriae were exhausted this year on Tuesday-Saturday, the Benedictus antiphon commemorated at Lauds yesterday for the Office of the Octave was simply that of the Epiphany itself (i.e. Hodie in Jordane) - not just because we ran out of proper ferial antiphons, but because that would ALWAYS be the case on the Sunday to commemorate the Octave. If Sunday happened to be 11 January (as it will next year), then the sixth feria is Monday, 12 January, the Sunday and the commemorations contained therein being unaffected. Herein was an initial clue into realizing the extent to which the integrity of the Octave would be compromised. More on this below.

Suddenly, an Octave of privilege (more clearly defined in 1911) admitted the celebration of a feast of Double Major rank always and perpetually celebrated on and over the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany. As a result, the following happened to the Sunday, and this would hold mostly only with slight modifications following the 1955 and 1960 axes.
1. The integral Office of the Sunday is perpetually suppressed and has no place in the Kalendar. Hence, the proper lessons in the second and third nocturnes at Mattins and the capitula at the Hours disappear.

2. The Incipit of I Corinthians from the first Nocturne is either anticipated on the Saturday preceding if it be 12 January or transferred to the next day, Monday. Only when the Octave Day occurs on Sunday would the Incipit remain on Sunday. This would later be botched further in 1956 when the Octave Day disappears entirely when it falls on Sunday yielding always to the Holy Family.

3. The aforesaid ferial propers are fixed to exact dates (i.e. 7-12 January) irrespective of Sunday. Hence, in any given year one of these feriae is reduced to a commemoration (or eliminated in 1956 and later). To fill in the potential void, a newly composed Benedictus antiphon is placed for 12 January.

4. When the Sunday occurs between 7 and 11 January, it survives in two ways: In the Office, as a commemoration at both Vespers and at Lauds. In the Mass, as a commemoration without Proper Last Gospel because the two Gospels are the same. The integral Mass of the Sunday, furthermore, is said on the first free feria between the Sunday and the Octave Day.

5. But when the Octave Day is Sunday, the integral Mass of the Sunday is relegated to Saturday, 19 January, the only day free (i.e. of Simple rank) left that week.

Now, after searching my 1952 Missale, there was no rubric given for what happens to the Sunday Mass when the Sunday falls on 12 January as it did this year. There are no days between the Sunday and the Octave Day and there are no days of Simple rank left in the week. In 1962ville, Saturday is a Feria, but its being Saturday relegates it to the Saturday Office of Our Lady. It would appear from all my searching that when a year such as this happens, that all versions of the Roman Missal from 1921 through 1962 omit the integral Mass of the Sunday!

The CTO has already settled the question by restoring the Sunday in full and allowing, by indult, a Mass or two, votivally, for the Holy Family. But in the reality of the TLM venues and with a strong emphasis on the family, one would be extremely hard pressed to argue nowadays for the suppression or even a reduction to the feast of the Holy Family. Novus Ordo Land tried to deal with this problem but ended up just taking its vengeance out on another Sunday (within the Octave of Christmas). Same problem, different Sunday. If we were to restore the Leonine arrangement (i.e. 3rd. Sunday after Epiphany), it could be argued that it wouldn't always be the case that the Third Sunday after Epiphany would be displaced, but one of the -gesima Sundays (which would be even worse to consider!).



  1. After looking back it seems that post-1921 the Office and Mass of the Holy Family and its commemoration of Sunday are moved to the preceding Saturday under Divino Afflatu when the Octave Day is a Sunday, impeding the Saturday. They Office of Sunday is then said, as you mentioned, on Saturday. This system is, I think, overly elaborate and impedes too much of the Epiphany octave. Someone once said to me "Never was the Office so complicated as it was between 1911 and 1955."

    The permanently fixed Holy Name feast strikes me as a bit of devotionalism that does not add very much. I say this because sometimes devotions do add to the liturgy (ex. Office of the Dead, Requiem Mass, Corpus Christi), this just is not one of those occasions. My vote is in favor of a clean octave!

  2. Yes, it seems sensible that the Novus Ordo brought back the Holy Name as an optional feast affixed to a permanent date (i.e. 3 January) rather than the equivalent of a Double II Class having Dominical privilege. A rare thing the new Kalendar got right.

    For Divino Afflatu users, the rubric is clear when the Octave Day falls on Sunday, as you pointed out. However, there is no rubric specifying what happens when the Octave Day falls on Monday; no where is it stated then that the Sunday's Office is anticipated on Saturday, 11 January, though perhaps that could be implied by the general practice of anticipating a Sunday on a Saturday for which no place is possible (e.g. VI Sunday after Epiphany will be observed the day before Septuagesima this year). Do you know of a rubric which specifies the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany (not the Holy Family) being anticipated the day before? In my reading, the integral Office of this Sunday is completely missing from post-1921 Breviaries, having been relegated to commemoration status permanently within the Office of the Holy Family, whichever day the latter is observed.

    1. I rather suspect you are right and that the Sunday is completely ignored.... Do you have a copy of the St Lawrence Press Ordo? It might demonstrate what would be done in such a case.

  3. The calendar, as is well known, is a product of a centuries-long struggle between the temporal cycle, the sanctoral cycle, and (if you will) the "devotional" cycle. If we want to start talking about "clean" octaves (which I certainly don't object to in principle!) the first thing we're going to have to discuss is the perpetually impeded (without even a commemoration!) Octave Day of Pentecost.

    I would be loathe to impose a "purified" calendar on (even some part of) the church. While I can readily understand the attraction of the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany, I think that suppressing the feast of the Holy Family would send an unfortunate message. That said, I'm not sure why it couldn't be permitted to offer either Mass and/or Office (with the appropriate commemorations) ad libitum? I realize that this runs contrary to the goal of liturgical standardization and uniformity that has been pursued since Trent, but I think that a cogent argument could be made that this has had disastrous results, basically fostering the environment that led to the madness of the late twentieth century.

    1. The Octave Day of Pentecost has definitely crossed my mind more than once, so I was going to write a separate post on that a few months hence.

      It is interesting to note that stark contrast between the Christmas and Epiphany Octaves even after Divino Afflatu; the former is obscured by the plenitude of feast days, the latter is mostly "clean". That right there is yet another reason not to move the Holy Family to be on the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas. It would seem that the Epiphany Octave, after the Paschal Octave, enjoys the privilege (no pun intended) of shining clearly throughout eight full days already. Corpus Christi comes close but there is a good possibility of St. John the Baptist's Nativity falling within that octave. Christmas and Ascension - much too obscured, but with the former this has been the case for centuries, with the latter it is accidental owing to the lower privilege of that octave.

      From this perspective, it would seem that we are complaining too much about one octave which already has a definite pride of place, but the question at hand is more pointedly the status of the Sunday. If one takes to heart the cries of those championing the "pre-1955" Missal (and I agree mostly with their case), one principle that was lamentably lost under Pius XII was according every Sunday a place in the Kalendar, hence the anticipated Sunday Office and Mass, but this principle was never applied to the Sunday within the Octave of the Epiphany, and likewise to the First Sunday after Pentecost (i.e. does not have another day in which its integral Office can be observed). These Sundays "suffer" because of new(er) feast days perpetually trumping them combined with their proximity or inclusion within the respective octaves.

      Let it not be said that the CTO advocates an ultramontanist approach to the issue. I think the prudent solution, respective of local variations, is to remove the Holy Family as a perpetual, fixed feast from the Sunday in question and refashion it as a Votive Mass and Office (without calling too much attention to this change so as not to disturb the sense of the vast majority of the faithful). The normative Office and Mass of the day would return to the Sunday within the Octave, but the choice for those in Orders would be determined by local competent authorities.

    2. Can we say if there ever saw an actual Octave day of Pentecost? The Octave was created to "fill in" the days between Pentecost (only a Sunday until c.8th century) and the Ember days later that week. There is no commemoration of the non-extant Octave day on Trinity Sunday or the [permanently superseded] first Sunday after Pentecost. The Pentecost [non]-Octave ends after None because that is why simplex days (and an Ember day is a simplex) ends.

    3. You are correct, of course, though I believe the Ember Days of the Pentecost Octave, being festal by virtue of the Octave, are raised to semidouble rank. It is universal practice that the Octave Day (or equivalent thereof in this case) begins at first Vespers at which point the ensuing day within the Octave ceases. The only oddity with the "Octave Day" of Pentecost is not that the Office of the Octave ceases; it's that the Office of Pentecost and the entire Paschal season ceases yielding to a Per Annum feast day. An enigma we've had for more than a millenium which in the end is reflective of the organic development of the Liturgy, rather than a rationalistic approach.