Saturday, January 11, 2014

Transferred Holydays: Postscript on External Solemnities

The Epiphany: celebrated on 6th Jamuary, as it has been since the 4th century.

This post follows two others on the wider topics: on the importance of having 'days of precept' in the week and on the significance of the traditional dates.

Following the submission of a dubium by the Latin Mass Society, Monsignor Camille Perl, Vice President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, replied as follows, in a letter dated 20th October 2008, Protocol N. 107/97.

‘1. The legitimate use of the liturgical books in use in 1962 includes the right to the use of the calendar intrinsic to those liturgical books.
‘2. While in accordance with Canon 1246 §2 of the Code of Canon Law the Episcopal Conference can legitimately transfer Holydays of obligation with the approbation of the Holy See, it is also legitimate to celebrate the Mass and Office of those feasts on the days prescribed in the calendar of the liturgical books in use in 1962 with the clear understanding that, in accordance with the legitimate decision of the Episcopal Conference, there is no obligation to attend Mass on those days.

‘3. Thus, in accordance with nn. 356-361 of the Rubricae Generales Missalis Romani of 1962, it is appropriate to celebrate the external solemnity of Holy Days on the Sunday to which they have been transferred by the Episcopal Conference, as has been customary in many other countries hitherto.’

This is the response which made possible the continued celebration of Epiphany on 6th January, and the Ascension and Corpus Christi on their proper Thursdays, in the Extraordinary Form. It also applies when Holy Days get moved from Saturday or Monday to the Sunday. The essential point is that the only effect of the bishops' action, as far as the Traditional Mass goes, is to remove the precept to attend Mass on the traditional dates.

Point 3 makes reference to the 'external' celebration of a feast: the celebration of a feast on a day other than its proper day. This is essentially the same as the celebration of a Votive Mass. In many places priests celebrating the EF on the Sunday nearest 6th Jan will celebrate the Mass of the Epiphany. The possibility of doing so is unaffected by the changes in the Ordinary Form. It may seem more appropriate to do this in light of those changes, because (in a bi-ritual parish) the Ordinary Form Masses will be of the feast, and since there was no obligation to attend Mass on the proper day, more people than otherwise will not have made it to Mass that day. That is a matter for the celebrant to decide.

What we do need to keep in mind is that thinking it is a good idea to celebrate an external solemnity of a feast is not the same as being bound to celebrate the feast because the date has been moved. The difference is not just one of obligation.

1. On the old day - 6th Jan, for example - in the EF the feast (of Epiphany or whatever) must  be celebrated. These are all First Class feasts; it would not be licit to celebrate any other Mass. In the Ordinary Form, the feast may not be celebrated. It has become a ferial day. It may be possible to celebrate an appropriate Votive Mass, for example of the Blessed Sacrament on the day-formerly-known-as-Corpus-Christi. But there is no Votive Mass of the Epiphany or the Ascension.

2. On the Sunday, only one Mass of the feast may be said. In the (unlikely) case of two public EF Masses being said in a church on the Sunday closest to 6th Jan, only one could be an external celebration of the Epiphany. The other(s) would have to be the Mass of the Sunday, which is, after all, the Mass proper to the day.

3. There are certain small differences in the Mass with an external solemnity, as with other Votive Masses. For example, Votive Masses of the Blessed Sacrament use the Mass formulary of Corpus Christi, but the Sequence is omitted. Similarly, it is omitted when celebrated on the Sunday.

4. Another difference is one of class: Epiphany is a first class feast; the external solemnity is only 2nd Class. It can therefore be said on a Second Class Sunday. An external solemnity cannot, however, be said on a First Class feast. First Class feasts on Sundays are unlikely to clash with these external solemnities, but the principle is an important one.

5. The celebration of an external solemnity requires justification. The disruption to the proper order of the liturgical calendar is allowed - yes - but only for a good reason. The good reason must be that large numbers of the Faithful would not otherwise be able to celebrate the feast. It is not just an ad libitum option, like the choice of Votive Mass on a ferial day.

The EF is actually quite used to the repetition of Masses. Last evening I attended Low Mass and (in accordance with the rules) it was the Mass of the Epiphany again. On Ferial days priests often repeat the Mass of the previous Sunday: this is especially useful if the Sunday has been replaced by an important feast. I know, however, that it has been irritating to many people who have made the effort to attend these particular feast days in the EF on a weekday, and who probably won't go to a ferial Mass during the following week, to be deprived of the 'Sunday withing the Octave' every year for no good reason. Celebrants need to balance this consideration against the desire to provide the feastday Mass for those who didn't make it.

I really hope that, after the Bishops' meeting after Easter, we can stop worrying about all these issues, except perhaps in the more manageable cases of the transferal of OF celebrations from Saturdays and Mondays to Sunday. Please, again, say a little prayer that this may be so.

1 comment:

  1. When one says a Mass of the Epiphany on the Sunday before January 6, does one say the proper Communicantes? My instinct is NO because in the EF it is neither the Feast nor a Day in its Octave (which doesn't now exist).