Pentecost (Whitsunsay)

From the Glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:*

PENTECOST: The “fiftieth” day at the end of the seven weeks following Passover (Easter in the Christian dispensation). At the first Pentecost after the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was manifested, given and communicated as a divine person to the Church, fulfilling the paschal mystery of Christ according to His promise (CCC paragraphs 726, 731; cf. 1287). Annually the Church celebrates the memory of the Pentecost event as the beginning of the new “age of the Church,” when Christ lives and acts in and with His Church (para. 1076).

Awhile back we started looking at the similarities, and the differences, between the new Liturgical Calendar - which was promulgated in 1969 according Paul VI’s Motu proprio MYSTERII PASCHALIS - and the Liturgical Calendar which had been in use prior to MYSTERII PASCHALIS, the so called “1962 Calendar” which is followed by the Extraordinary Form (the EF, or the “Traditional Latin Mass”). This new calendar was part of the overall revision of the Mass with the promulgation of the 1969 Edition of the Roman Missal – the Novus ordo missae (also known as the OF or “Ordinary Form”)**. I promised, back then, to point out some of the differences in the calendars as we come across them in our journey through the Liturgical Year. We find ourselves at another difference.

Let us jog our memories. In the 1962 Calendar, there were only two main parts, or “Cycles”, to the Liturgical Year: The Christmas Cycle and the Easter Cycle. In the 1969 Calendar, things are broken up a bit differently: There’s Advent, Christmas Time (Christmas Vigil up to the Sunday after Epiphany or after January 6th), the first Ordinary Time, Lent/Triduum/Easter (ending on Pentecost Sunday), and the second ordinary Time.

In the 1962 Calendar, the Christmas Cycle had a season after Epiphany (January 6th) known, cleverly enough, as The Season after Epiphany, and it had up to six Sundays depending on the location of Ash Wednesday. This Season After Epiphany (and, the entire Christmas Cycle) ended the Saturday before Septuagesima Sunday, thus allowing one to sort of slide out of Christmas without abrupt jolts. Likewise, Septuagesima Sunday began the second half of the Liturgical year, the Easter Cycle, as the first of the three pre-Lenten Sundays whose purpose was to help us get ready for the period of Fast and Abstinence known as Lent. My simple-minder way of viewing this was that they allowed a sort of winding down of Christmas, and a gearing up for Lent. These transition periods were eliminated in the 1969 Calendar; right after Epiphany (which may or may not fall on Epiphany, January 6th) we are thrust into the first of the two periods of “Ordinary Time”. This first Ordinary Time ends abruptly on Ash Wednesday.

A similar thing happens with Pentecost. In the 1962 Calendar, and in my Baronius Press 1962 Daily Missal, Pentecost Sunday is also referred to as Whitsunday, referring to the white garments of those baptised during the vigil. Whitsun was, in the 1962 Calendar, a First Class Feast with an Octave week, meaning that there was a unique liturgy for each day of the Octave. Now, the kind and number of feasts and Octaves in the liturgical year have gone up and down through the centuries; suffice it to say that by the 1950’s things were pretty complicated and confusing, and Pope Pius XII simplified things greatly with his General Roman Calendar of 1954, where (among other things) he reduced the number of Octaves from some fifteen or so to three: Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. These three Octaves were carried forward by Pope Paul VI in his General Roman Calendar of 1960, which in turn came from his motu proprio Rubricarum instructum. As it is the 1960 General Roman Calendar that forms the 1962 Missal which is used by Summorum pontificum, we have, in our 1962 Missal Whitsunday, a.k.a. Pentecost, as well as the Octave week of Pentecost.

Thusly, in the 1962 Calendar (and Missal) we have Pentecost, or Whitsunday, followed by the Octave (there are Ember Days during this Octave; one day, but not today, we will discuss Ember Days). The Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday; this Sunday begins the third part of the Easter Cycle: the Season After Pentecost, which runs up to the First Sunday of Advent.

In the 1969 Calendar (and Missal), Easter Season ends with Pentecost, the Octave of Pentecost is suppressed. Badda bing, badda boom. Thus, there are only two Octaves in the 1969 calendar: Christmas and Easter. The second Ordinary Time begins the Monday after Pentecost, although the Sunday after Pentecost remains Trinity Sunday. Ordinary Time II, of course, runs up until the First Sunday of Advent, when we begin the new liturgical year.

There it is.


* A short post on the development of the current Catechism is here.

** From an older post I offer up this clarification on names for the Rites: “One of the first things one comes up against regarding the Extraordinary Form is the problem of what to call it. It goes by many names, although in this blog I tend to use EF (“Extraordinary Form”) for the Vetus ordo – Old order of the Mass, and OF (Ordinary Form) for the Novus ordo – New order. I do this because that’s how Summorum Pontificum refers to them. Simply calling it "the Latin Mass" is, though widely practiced, not truly accurate, as much of the OF is actually supposed to be said in Latin (and in some parishes in other Dioceses, this is done.)


Fast and Abstinence, Lent, Anno Domini MMXVIII

Here are the basic rules for Fasting and Abstinence during Lent, as cribbed from the USCCB website (they can also be found on the Diocese of Portland, Maine website here):

  “Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence. 

For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.” 


That’s actually all you need to know, and you can stop here if you desire. But, for those who, like me, are detail nitnoids, there’s much more that follows below:

The full text of the current law, as laid down by the 1983 Code of Canon Law, Can.1249-1253, is this:


Days of Penance

Can.  1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.

Can.  1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Can.  1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Can.  1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.

Can.  1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.”


There is also, on the same USCCB page, a Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence (dated 18 November 1966) which covers both Advent and Lent, and Fridays in general as a day of penance. I have clipped a couple of interesting tidbits:

“12. Wherefore, we ask, urgently and prayerfully, that we, as people of God, make of the entire Lenten Season a period of special penitential observance. Following the instructions of the Holy See, we declare that the obligation both to fast and to abstain from meat, an obligation observed under a more strict formality by our fathers in the faith (my emphasis on this thought provoking clause), still binds on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. No Catholic Christian will lightly excuse himself from so hallowed an obligation on the Wednesday which solemnly opens the Lenten season and on that Friday called "Good" because on that day Christ suffered in the flesh and died for our sins.

13. In keeping with the letter and spirit of Pope Paul's Constitution Poenitemini, we preserved for our dioceses the tradition of abstinence from meat on each of the Fridays of Lent, confident that no Catholic Christian will lightly hold himself excused from this penitential practice.

14. For all other weekdays of Lent, we strongly recommend participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting (my emphasis).”


Both the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) and the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) require the current discipline, along with the Universal Church, although both organizations recommend and strongly encourage the older, more rigorous disciplines. The current and older disciplines can be found in many places side by side. Here is an example from  The Parish of St. Peter, Tulsa, OK:

“Rules for Fasting and Abstinence

FASTING The obligation to fast applies to all Catholics who meet the age requirements (see below) on the required days unless they have a medical condition which prevents them from doing so, are pregnant or nursing, or their work would be impaired. On days of fasting: 

•One full meal is allowed (with meat, unless it is also a day of abstinence).

•Two smaller meals without meat, which together do not equal the main meal, are permitted to maintain strength.

•No food or snacks are permitted between meals.

•Liquids are permitted, but care should be taken not to violate the spirit of the fast.

ABSTINENCE On days of full abstinence one is not permitted to eat the flesh of warm-blooded animals or soups or gravies made with the flesh of such animals. On days of partial abstinence (traditional rules only) one meal containing meat is permitted.


Traditional (1962) Discipline

Fasting obligations applied to those between the ages of 21 and 59, inclusive, except as noted above. Abstinence obligations applied to those age 7 and older. 

Fasting was required on Ash Wednesday, the three following days, all days of Lent, Ember days, and vigils. 

Full abstinence was required on Ash Wednesday, all Fridays during the year, and the vigil of Christmas. Partial abstinence was required on all days of Lent, Wednesdays and Saturdays of the Ember weeks, and all vigils (except Christmas). 

The requirements for fasting and abstinence did not apply on Holy Days of Obligation (including Sundays). 


Current Discipline

Fasting obligations apply to those between the ages of 18 and 59, inclusive, except as noted above. Abstinence obligations apply to those age 14 and older. Canon law explicitly requires that pastors and parents ensure that minors not under these obligations are taught the true meaning of penance. 

Fasting and abstinence are required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting on Holy Saturday is recommended, but not required. 

Abstinence is required on all Fridays of Lent unless they are solemnities. Fridays outside of Lent are penitential days: abstinence is recommended, but in the United States other forms of penance may be performed. 

The current laws of fasting and abstinence bind under the pain of severe sin.”


Finally, since we’re on the topic, here’s what the Pastoral Letter mentioned above says about Fridays in general:

“23. Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.

24. Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday, even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law…

27. It would bring great glory to God and good to souls if Fridays found our people doing volunteer work in hospitals, visiting the sick, serving the needs of the aged and the lonely, instructing the young in the Faith, participating as Christians in community affairs, and meeting our obligations to our families, our friends, our neighbors, and our community, including our parishes, with a special zeal born of the desire to add the merit of penance to the other virtues exercised in good works born of living faith.

28. In summary, let it not be said that by this action, implementing the spirit of renewal coming out of the Council, we have abolished Friday, repudiated the holy traditions of our fathers, or diminished the insistence of the Church on the fact of sin and the need for penance. (my emphasis) Rather, let it be proved by the spirit in which we enter upon prayer and penance, not excluding fast and abstinence freely chosen, that these present decisions and recommendations of this conference of bishops will herald a new birth of loving faith and more profound penitential conversion, by both of which we become one with Christ, mature sons of God, and servants of God's people. N.B. The effective date of these regulations is the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, 1966.”

There it is.


Liturgical Year IV: The Time between Christmas and Lent

Awhile back we looked at the 1969 calendar (used with the Ordinary Form) which was instituted with Paul VI’s Motu proprio Mysterii paschalis. We did a general overview of the differences, and similarities, between it and the 1962 Calendar (used with the Extraordinary Form), which is part of Benedict XVI’s Motu proprio Summorum pontificum. One general difference was that the 1962 calendar is divided into two main parts, The Christmas Cycle, and The Easter Cycle. These two big parts have further subdivisions. Then, we looked a little more closely at Christmas Time and saw a fairly substantial difference between the two calendars regarding what happens during the period between Christmas and Ash Wednesday. Today we’ll go into this a bit more.

In the 1962 calendar, the Christmas Cycle, you’ll recall, always has Epiphany on Epiphany (January 6th); then comes Part III of the Cycle: “The Season after Epiphany.” This has up to six “Sundays after Epiphany”, depending on the date of Ash Wednesday, and the Christmas Cycle officially ends the Saturday prior to Septuagesima Sunday.

On Septuagesima Sunday begins the Second Part of the Liturgical Year: The Easter Cycle. This Cycle is divided into Part I: Season of Lent, Part II: Eastertide, and Part III: After Whitsunday. Plus, there’s a bonus bit: the three Pre-Lenten Sundays known as Septuagesima (seventieth), Sexuagesima (sixtieth) and Quinquagesima (fiftieth) Sundays. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf has a piece in the Catholic Herald (go read it there!) where he explains the Pre-Lenten Sundays in his ineluctable way (he also explains the names of the Sundays): 

“We plan for all sorts of important events, like vacations and birthday parties, well in advance. In general, the more significant an event we approach, the more time and effort we put into the preparation…”

The point is, these three Sundays were a period of preparing for the Lenten Fast, which in turn is a preparation for Easter. As Fr. Z points out in his article, waiting until the night before to prepare for the final exam is poor planning. I know, I tried this once in college and it didn’t end well.

The 1969 calendar does away with this. Christmas Time in the new calendar ends on the Sunday following January 6th, and the first of the two segments of Ordinary Time begins on that Monday. That final Sunday after January 6th, by the way, is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and it may come as soon as the day after January 6th, as it did this year. Thus, this first segment of Ordinary Time includes the old “Time After Epiphany” of the Christmas Cycle and the pre-Lenten Sundays of the Easter Cycle. It straddles, if you will, the break between the two Cycles in the 1962 calendar.

My Daily Roman Missal, Third Edition has this to say about Ordinary Time:

“Apart from those seasons having their own distinctive character, thirty-three or thirty-four weeks remain in the yearly cycle that do not celebrate a particular element of the mystery of Christ. Rather, especially on Sundays, these weeks are devoted to the mystery of Christ in its entirety. This period is known as Ordinary Time.” (pg. 838)

Thus, this past Sunday, 28 January 2018, was either the beginning of the Easter Cycle with Septuagesima Sunday, and began the three week pre-Lenten preparation (not a period of fasting, wait for Ash Wednesday!) or it was the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

There it is.




The Liturgical Year III: Christmas Time 

A couple of weeks back, we took an overview of how the Liturgical Year differs, and how it remains the same, across the two liturgical forms, the Novus Ordo (Ordinary Form or OF) and the Tridentine (Extraordinary Form or EF). I also loosely refer to them as the 1962 calendar (the calendar followed by the EF) and the 1969 calendar (the calendar followed by the OF). Now we’ll look a little more closely at the period around Christmas.

First, though, a note of caution: the purpose of these posts is simply to explain the differences, and the similarities between the two calendars. The Church can, and has, altered the Liturgical Calendar through the millennia. I’ve heard, for example, that once upon a time, Advent was 8 weeks, not 4. Sometimes changes seem for the better, other times not so much. But the Church has the authority to do this.

1962 Calendar

Beginning with the EF, my Baronius Press 1962 Daily Missal tells me that the season of Christmas, or the Christmas Cycle, begins with the First Sunday of Advent, and ends with the Saturday before Septuagesima. This Cycle is also known as The Mystery of the Incarnation, and has three parts. Thus we have:

Part I of the Christmas Cycle. Advent: First Sunday of Advent (the Sunday closest to November 30th) up to the Vigil Mass on December 24th. The feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day of obligation in the US (being as Our Lady is, after all, the Patroness of these United States) is on December 8th. The 3rd Sunday of Advent is Gaudete (rejoice, in the plural imperative voice, literally: REJOICE, y’all!) Sunday. Note that the Ember Days for Advent also occur during Advent. These are days of recommended (not obligatory) fasting; in Advent they occur on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after the 3rd Sunday of Advent. The subject of Ember Days probably should have its own post someday.

Part II of the Christmas Cycle. Christmastide: Begins with the Vigil Mass, December 24th, (which I believe in the 1962 calendar must span midnight) and runs through Epiphany. 

Now things get a little confusing. Right after Christmas Day comes the days of the Octave of Christmas; these have their own Masses, with Decembers 26, 27 and 28 are the Masses of St. Stephen, St. John the Evangelist, and the Holy Innocents, respectively. Decembers 69, 30 and 31 are just called 5th, 6th and 7th days in the Octave. If a Sunday happens to fall in there, it gets its own Mass, the Sunday within the Octave. Then comes the Octave, January 1st, previously known as the Mass of the Circumcision (I think), as under the Jewish Law, it was on the 8th day of life that the boy was to be circumcised. Now it is known as the Octave Day of Christmas. 

On the Sunday after the Octave Day of Christmas comes the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. Now, if this Sunday happens to fall on January 1st, 6th or 7th, as it does this year (2018; the first Sunday is January 7th) then the Holy Name Feast is kept on January 2nd. Except when it isn’t. Current calendars for the EF available to me differ slightly on this (along with some other minor points), although the FSSP calendar shows it as I’ve written. Anyways, the days of January 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th are Feria (non feast) masses with their own designated readings, Collects, Introits and so forth. 

What we can be sure of, though, is that in the 1962 calendar, Epiphany falls on Epiphany, the 12th Day of Christmas, January 6th.

The First Sunday after Epiphany is the Feast of the Holy Family, even if it’s the very next day (as it is this year). 

The Octave of the Epiphany is January 13th, the Baptism of the Lord.

Part III of the Christmas Cycle: Season after Epiphany: Now things get a bit more straightforward. Each Sunday after Epiphany (As many as 6 depending on when Ash Wednesday comes) gets its own Mass, and the days in between are Ferias interdigitated with various saints’ feast days. This season runs up to the Saturday prior to Septuagesima Sunday. Thus endeth the  Christmas Cycle in the Extraordinary Form, according to the 1962 Liturgical Calendar. The periods known as Ordinary Time are not present in the 1962 calendar.

Et nunc,

How does Christmas time work in the 1969 General Roman Calendar as promulgated for the Dioceses of the United States by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)?

1969 Calendar

Advent: Using my handy and dandy Daily Roman Missal, Third Edition I find that, as in the EF, Advent runs from the First Sunday of Advent up to First Vespers of Christmas, essentially Sunset of Christmas Eve (which is when the Vigil Mass is often held). As in the EF, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is on December 8th, and Gaudete is still the Third Sunday, but the Ember Days are all gone. Indeed, all of the Ember Days throughout the year were expunged from the 1969 calendar. Other than that, things are pretty similar to the EF.

Christmas Time: Begins December 24th at First Vespers (Evening Prayer I, which is essentially sundown). The Octave is pretty much as in the 1962 calendar, although the Octave Day (1 January) is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. In the 1962 calendar, this feast is not a solemnity, and is on October 11th.

Next up is Epiphany. In the Dioceses of the United States, Epiphany is on the Sunday that falls between January 2 and January 8. If that Sunday happens to be the 6th of January, then Epiphany is on Epiphany. If that Sunday happens to be not January 6th (Epiphany), then Epiphany is celebrated on that Sunday anyway and January 6th in that case is just another day. Now, this period around the 1st of the year is already confusing, as we saw in the 1962 calendar, it is doubly so in the 1969 calendar, because we have two factors that move: the days of the week change relative to the calendar dates (normal), and the date of Epiphany moves, to keep it on a Sunday (less normal). This, in turn, necessitates extra set(s) of weekday readings. If you are not following this and are getting a headache, don’t worry. It’s only in these United States that this goes on. In the rest of the Roman Catholic world, at least so far as I know, they celebrate Epiphany on Epiphany. Or, maybe they don’t.  

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord ends Christmas Time, but it isn’t celebrated at the Octave of Epiphany, as it is in the 1962 calendar. It can be anywhere from 1 to 7 days after Epiphany which, as we saw, has no fixed date either. To recap: in the 1962 calendar, Epiphany is on Epiphany, January 6th, and the Baptism of the Lord is January 13th. The Season After Epiphany, Part III of the Christmas Cycle, can vary in length, but it alsways ends the evening before Septuagesima Sunday. Spetuagesima Sunday, in turn, is always three Sundays before Ash Wednesday, and nine Sundays before Easter. Always. It’s easy to remain oriented to where you are in the year.

In the 1969 calendar, Epiphany is sometime between January 2nd and January 8th, and the Baptism or the Lord (and the end of Christmas Time) is 1 to 7 days after that. Some years, like this year, Christmas Time can end rather abruptly, with the Baptism falling the day after Epiphany, which was placed this yeat on January 7th. So, in the 1969 calendar, if you find yourself feeling slightly disoriented after January 1st, well, don’t worry about it. The USCCB isn’t.

After the Baptism of the Lord (1969 calendar) Christmas Time is over, and we go into the first of the two rounds of “Ordinary Time”. There are no “pre-Lenten Sundays” (Septuagesima, Sexagesim, Quinquagesima). So, there it is.


The Liturgical Year, Part II: Was Jesus born on Christmas Day?

I have a long commute. In the summertime it is beautiful. In the winter, leaving the silent house in the darkness before the snowplow trucks are awake, I and my trusty 4wd Tacoma set out in the blowing blizzard for the money hour (each way) trek. I have, therefore, over the past 5 years, become a great fan of The Great Courses and their many college-level courses on CD, and have even recommended one of their courses on Latin, here. Recently I listened to a course on Medieval Europe, overall very good, but in the section on early Christianity in the former Roman provinces now know as Western Europe it was obligatory for our professor, as I suppose it must be for all contemporary professors who wish to keep their academic appointments, to roll out the tired old tripe about Christmas Day and Saturnalia. It goes something like this (I am paraphrasing, not quoting directly):

"Early Christianity recycled pagan holidays just as it recycled pagan temples. The reason that the date of 25 December was picked for the birth of Christ was because it was close to the pagan holiday of Saturnalia, a period of hard partying in the old Roman Empire which occurred around the time of the winter solstice (21 December). Scholars agree that the date of Jesus' birth is unknown, and the Gospels are 'conflicted' (really?) but most put it in the spring or summer."

Variants on this theme note that there were many pre-Christian celebrations on or around the winter solstice, and modern day pagans have created an entire industry around the old Druid "Yule" celebration of welcoming back the sun. This includes, of course, various rituals for contemporary pagan goddesses - no mention if there are any similar rituals for modern day pagan gods. Anyway, the summary point is that the modern notion of Xmas is just a pastiche of various resurrected (or invented) pagan rituals along with a heavy dosing of myth, sentiment, excessive shopping and Hollywood grinchisms, some of which have been neatly summarized here. Into this slurry is injected, and presented as fact, this "no one really knows when Christ was born." I have, in fact, heard this "fact" presented as fact from more than one Catholic pulpit.

There is an analogy. When I was beginning to study the Church prior to becoming Catholic, a meme I not infrequently came across was that the Gospels weren't really written by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. They were written by someone else. Or several someone elses.

"Most scholars doubt [the Gospel's] authorship by Matthew... a growing consensus says the author was a converted rabbi or someone highly educated in rabbinical lore." (Christ Among Us, 6th Ed., A. Wilhelm, HarperCollins Publishers, 1996, pg. 190)

[The Gospel of John] "was probably written just before 100 C.E.... by an unknown author..." (ibid, pg 191) (Note that an ostensibly Catholic catechism used the politically correct "C.E" - "Common Era" - rather than the A.D. Anno Domini, or "after death".)

This sort of stuff bothered me from the very first. Granted, the Gospel writers do not name themselves in their books, but it is, and has been since the earliest days of the Church, the understanding that the Gospels were written by the four men named as authors. If the names of the authors were simply made up, or simply "assigned" to these men, which is after all, what these priests and theologians are claiming, well, that would mean that the Church is not very faithful in little things such as the identity of the Gospel writers. And, if the Church is unfaithful in this little thing, what other little things has she been unfaithful in? How about big things? Is she faithful in the big things like these: death and judgement, heaven and hell? Or, does she bend the truth in the big things as well from time to time? Without getting into the topic of dogma, definitive teachings and Tradition with a capital "T" versus tradition with aa lowercase "t" - that is well beyond the limits of this little post - suffice it to say that I choose to believe that the Gospels were in fact written (perhaps with research help, scribes, etc, but nevertheless authored) by four real men whose names were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If you want to view that view as an abdication of intellect to the simplistic "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it" assertion found on the occasional bumper sticker, that's OK with me.

So. The Church teaches that the Feast of the Nativity, the day Christ was born, is Christmas Day, 25 December, an handful of days after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Further, a significant symbolic aspect of the date of HIs birth is that the days are beginning to lengthen, just as the Christ Child brought light into the world. There it is. All of the confabulation surrounding the actual date of Jesus' birth notwithstanding, I see no reason why He couldn't have been born on December 25th. Why not? If God is truly who we think He is, He could certainly arrange for that event to take place on the day of the Church -- His Church, so we are to believe-- says it happened.

So. I will continue in my quaint belief that Jesus was, truly and in fact, born on Christmas Day, exactly as advertised. I believe, an hope, that the Church is telling the truth in this little thing. And I wish you and yours a very merry and blessed Christmas indeed.

The Liturgical Year, Part I: Mysterii Paschalis

In February, 1969, Pope Paul VI issued the Motu proprio (“of my own volition”, in other words, an edict issued personally by the Pope) “MYSTERII PASCHALIS, On the Liturgical Year and the New Universal Roman Calendar”. This Motu proprio on the Liturgical Calendar went hand in hand with the promulgation of the 1969 Edition of the Roman Missal, variously known as the Novus ordo missae (New order of the Mass), the Pauline Mass (or, Mass of Paul VI) and now officially known as the “Ordinary Form”. The seminal point of Mysterii paschalis is this:

“…by Our apostolic authority we approve the new Roman Universal Calendar prepared by "Consilium"—"The Council for the Proper Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, and likewise the general norms concerning the arrangement of the liturgical year. We establish that they will go into effect on January 1, 1970, according to the decrees which will be published jointly by the Sacred Congregation of Rites and Consilium, and which will be valid until the edition of the restored Missal and Breviary…”

And with this, the Liturgical Calendar underwent some fairly substantial changes from what had been before. As is the case with my occasional posts on the Catechism, here and here, I possess neither the expertise nor the time to make commentary as to whether these changes were good, bad or indifferent. My hope is to simply point out some of these changes from time to time as we go through the Liturgical Year. Folks already “dialed in” to the Extraordinary Form are aware of much of this; folks for whom this “EF thing” is new, maybe not so much. So, my point is simply to make a by no means exhaustive survey as we travel through time together.

Let us begin with a very broad brush: what did the liturgical year look like before M. paschalis (“BMP”)?

BMP, the Liturgical Year was divided into two cycles: the Christmas Cycle and the Easter Cycle (follow along on the handy “Liturgical Year Wheel” reproduced below, the one on the left). The Christmas Cycle, in turn, was divided into three pieces: Advent, Christmastime, and the Time After Epiphany. The Liturgical Year, and the Christmas Cycle, both begin with the First Sunday in Advent. Advent runs through the next three Sundays up until Christmas Eve. The color of the vestments is purple, and the period of Advent includes the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th. Christmastime, the second part of the Cycle, goes from Christmas Day until the Feast of the Epiphany (“the twelve days of Christmas”). Vestments are white. Then comes the Third Part of the Christmas Cycle, the Time After Epiphany. This runs anywhere from one to six Sundays, and ends the evening before Septuagesima Sunday, and the vestments are green. Thus endeth The Christmas Cycle.

The Easter Cycle is also divided into three sections: Septuagesima (or, the “Pre-Lenten Sundays”), Season of Lent, Eastertime, and the Time After Pentecost. Septuagesima begins, appropriately enough, with Septuagesima Sunday, the ninth Sunday before Easter and the third Sunday before Ash Wednesday. There follows Sexagesima Sunday and Quinquagisima Sunday.  The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, and runs through Holy Saturday, which ends, more or less, with the Easter Vigil. The three days of the Triduum (Maunday Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday) are there, of course, but the Triduum as such is not broken out as a separate season. Eastertime runs from Easter through Ascension Sunday (8 Sundays). We then have Pentecost and it’s octave, followed by Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi Sundays, both with their octaves. The vestments beginning with Septuagesima Sunday and running up through Holy Saturday are purple, Eastertime vestments are white (except for Pentecost, rose). We then enter the Time After Pentecost, which runs up to the Saturday before the First Sunday in Advent. Thus endeth the BMP Liturgical Year.

What about after M. paschalis (“AMP”)? It’s the same, but different (please see the Cycle Wheel on the right, below). AMP, the Year is divided into four blocks: Advent/Christmas, Ordinary Time I, Lent/Triduum/Easter/Pentecost, and Ordinary Time II. Advent/Christmas are more or less the same, with the same vestment colors, as the BMP Year. However, the old “Time After Epiphany” and the pre-Lenten Sundays (“Septuagesima Time”) have been collapsed into “Ordinary Time I”, and the three pre-Lenten Sundays, as such, have ceased to be. Then comes Ash Wednesday, initiating the Lent/Triduum/Easter/Pentecost seasons. As noted, the three days of the Triduum are most certainly present BMP, but in AMP they are given their own season. Ordinary Time II corresponds to the BMP “Time After Pentecost” plus the Sundays and octaves of Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi. Thus, OT II after Pentecost, and runs up to the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent. Thus endeth the AMP Liturgical Year.



Thus the Liturgical Calendars, BMP and AMP.  There’s a lot more than this little overview mentions: many feast days have been changed/suppressed/added or the dates they are celebrated have been changed, readings of course have been extensively changed (a discussion of the thee year AMP Liturgical Cycle – A,B and C Years – is way beyond this little post), but gives us an introduction. As we progress through the year we will look at each season a little more closely, but that’s just enough for now.

Finally, I have included (below) a couple of cycles of a secular sort which I occasionally find useful in the daily grind.