Tuesday, January 19, 2016

On the feast of the Circumcision

The other day, Pope Francis visited a synagoge.

Near the beginning of the video of the visit (below) an old Jewish man greeted the Pope and then says to him: "Senta, siccome Lei un grande ricostruttore, perché non mette "la circoncisione" un altra volta nel calendario come... quando ero ragazzino, è una buon'idea, non? Sarebbe per noi..." 

"Look, since you're a great rebuilder, why not put The Circumcision once again into the calendar as it was when I was a little boy? It's a good idea, don't you think? It would be for us..."

The re-naming of the feast of 1st Jan is one of the odd and unsatisfactory things about the 1962 Calendar. Unsatisfactory, because the solution they came up with in 1962 - renaming the 'Circumcision', 'the Octave of Christmas', didn't satisfy the reformers only a few years later, when it was renamed 'the Feast of the Holy Mother of God'. It is the only one of the ten Days of Obligation listed in Canon law where the name is different in the 1962 Calendar and the 1970 one.

The theme of the circumcision came into the Roman calendar from Gallican sources, something which made it unpopular with the minimalist fanatics of the era of reform. But it is of great significance: that Jesus was a Jew, and submitted to the Law of Moses in this concrete way, even as a tiny baby.

There's more detail in the Position Paper on Holy Days.

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  1. The Mass texts on January 1 are all about our Lady's divine maternity. They were thus before Pius XII and they remained so after him. The name of the Feast was changed; it used to be called the Circumcision even though the texts only had one passing reference to the Circumcision. Dangerous trendy that I am, it seems to me that the current title, relating as it does to what the Latin Church actually talks about on January 1, is not exactly unreasonable. I repeat: When the name was changed, all this did was to bring the name into line with what the texts had always said.

  2. But in the older Byzantine Tradition, it's just Circumcision (dangerous Traditionalist that I am). And in the Ambrosian Rite?

  3. Let us not forget, it was the first time that Our Lord shed His Blood so it made much sense to have its past title.

  4. And - note to Fr H - the Book of Common Prayer, preserving the Sarum tradition, calls it the Circumcision.

    1. Unfortunate as the name change may be (and I think it is), this ad hominem -- which is almost a non sequitur -- doesn't stand up to the statement, especially as it is fair (though not best) to presume that the one stating would know his own patrimony.

      Upon reflection, anyway, the change seems like spoilt milk to me, especially for having recently begun your five-part series on the death of the RotR. It is in this very part of the Novus Ordo calendar that I have found an example of what is "its own" (i.e. asking where the Baptism would go if the Circumcision is returned).

  5. What reason (if any) was given for renaming the feast of the Circumcision? One would think it would've pleased the liturgical reformer's antiquarian sensibilities (not to mention please their prospective partners in ecumenism who see in Marian hyperdulia a bit of distinctly Catholic superstition).

  6. I'm with Fr. H on this. The Sarum rite had the collect Deus qui nobis salvatoris diem celebrare concedis octavum... and not the Marian collect as found in the Roman Missal. I am not sure where the collect in the BCP comes from - Brightman gives a reference to the Westminster Missal - but again it is not Marian. So many of the texts in the received Roman feast are Marian. In many of the older sources Deus,qui salutis aeternae beatae Mariae... belongs to the Sunday after the Nativity, one cannot but think of the Byzantine praxis of the Synaxis of the Mother of God following the Lord's Nativity.

  7. Another bit of patrimony - a Christmas carol.

    It was on New Year's Day
    And all in the morning,
    They circumsised our Saviour
    And our Heav'nly King;
    "And was not this a joyful thing,
    And sweet Jesus they call Him by name."

    It is just about the sequence of events of the Nativity story. Naming Sundays after the events of the Gospel is a common practice, particularly in the East.