Monday, 1 June 2009

It is still Eastertide folks - liturgical oddities for the week!

Yesterday at Mass, our priest sang the alleluia at the end of the response to the Vidi Aquam - and choir and congregation failed to imitate him (bumptious lot that they are, following the priest is almost always the correct thing to do in the liturgy, even if he is wrong in my view!), presumably spooked by the instruction in the Missal that says the Alleluia should be dropped out of Eastertide.

In reality, however, the priest was correct - Eastertide does not in fact end until the end of the Octave of Pentecost, next Saturday night. That's why the liturgy of Pentecost continues to be festooned with alleluias!

This Octave week does have its peculiarities however, most notably in having three Ember days set in amongst it. Ember days, you will recall, occur four times a year connected to the feasts of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost (plus one added to round things out!), and are special days of prayer and fasting. They are intended to act as a bit of a balancing factor the extended period of feasting we've been in.

Days of fasting and abstinence on first class feasts?

Wednesday, Friday and Saturday this week are traditionally (though no longer canonically) days of fasting and abstinence - which seems very odd given that they are also first class feast days, thus the Friday would, on the face of it, be exempt from Friday abstinence provisions.

But in fact this anomaly is explained by the fact that it is of recent creation, by Pius XII - prior to 1955, only Monday and Tuesday were doubles of the first class; Wednesday to Saturday were semi-duplexes.

So, the traditional practice is actually to observe the Ember Days as days of fasting and abstinence - and days particularly suitable for going to confession (and of course a reminder that if anyone hasn't yet made their annual confession (!), time is almost up!).


The Sibyl said...

Dear Terra,

Thank you for your post on this - particularly the issue of the first three days of Pentectost having been doubles. A public holiday is still observed in many European countries on Pentecost Monday (the final day of the Chartres Pilgrimage as it happens).
Of the Emberdays of Pentecost the most pecurliar or should I say interesting is the Saturday with it's many lessons and tracts and indeed the placement of the Gloria. Formerly, I believe, the minor orders were conferred on this day in between each of the readings, which gave particular focus for the acts of penance leading up to the Saturday namely for those to be ordained - this fits in with your prayers for priests in the past week.
The removal of the full Vigil ceremonies of Pentecost which echoed the Easter Vigil (which was once known as the "Queen of Vigils") has sadly left us with a very strange gap in the liturgical books of 1962. The Pentecost Office of Matins is only of one nocturn because much of what would have made up the other nocturns was included in the great old vigil ceremony. Pius XII reduction of the Vigil to a simple penetential mass was never followed up the addition of the two additional nocturns which should rightly form part of the Matins of any great solemnity. Do you think this might be some unfinished work of Bugnini, engineer of the insturatus (newer holy week ceremonies) of Pius XII?
P.S. I believe that Vespers was celebrated at Caulfield last evening, you may wish to include some photo's.

Terra said...

Thanks Sibyl - yes I've certainly seen some references to Bugnini having had a hand in the assorted 1955 bits of liturgical butchery (I think in NLM's recent series), although whether he had a hand in Pius XII's curious bumping up of the days of the Octave I don't know. And as you say, the 1962 non-Vigil/Roman Rite Matins is a very odd beast indeed.

And thanks for the tip on photos!

The Benedictine 1962 Matins fortunately retains the full three Nocturns (twelve readings each with a very beautiful responsory) at least for the Sunday. But rather curiously, it reduces back to the normal two nocturns on Monday albeit using the Pentecost psalms (the third nocturn in the Benedictine office is always made up of canticles), but with only three (patristic) readings. I was very very tempted to be pre-1962 this morning since it seems such a shame to discard the Father's take on the texts of the masses when they are specific to each day of the week!