Merry Christmas!


Wishing you a happy and holy Christmas!

Fourth Sunday of Advent



This year Sunday and Monday is all we get of the fourth week of Advent, and then we are into the new season of Nativitytide, which lasts until 13 January.

For those saying the Office, note that Christmas has a Class II Octave, so unlike Easter, you actually do say the psalms of the particular day at Prime and the little hours unless displaced by one of the many feasts this season, viz:

Sunday 23 December – Fourth Sunday of Advent, Class I 

 Monday 24 December - Vigil of the Nativity, Class I

Tuesday 25 December – The Nativity of Our Lord, Class I with a II Class Octave

Wednesday 26 December – St Stephen, Protomartyr, Class II

Thursday 27 December – St John the Evangelist, Class II

Friday 28 December - Holy Innocents, Martyrs, Class II

Saturday 29 December – Fifth Day within the Octave of the Nativity, Class II [in some places, St Thomas Beckett, Class I]

May you have a happy and holy Christmas.

The Third Week of Advent: Gaudete!



This Sunday is rejoicing (or Gaudate) Sunday, marking the end of the first part of Advent, and the start of a new, more intensive period for the liturgy.

If you are saying the Office, you will need to keep your wits about you, as this is as complicated as it gets!  In particular, each day from Monday:
  • the psalms have a set of antiphons for the day of the week (ie, Monday in the period December 17-23, Tuesday in the period December 17-23), etc;
  • at Lauds, the Benedictus antiphon is generally for the day of Advent (so this year Monday etc in the third week of Advent), but with specific antiphons to be said on December 21 and the last day of Advent, December 23;
  • at Vespers, the Magnificat antiphons are the great 'O Antiphons' which are set by the date (ie December 17, December 17, etc).
Wednesday and Saturday are the Ember Days of Advent, traditionally days of fasting and abstinence.

The only saint's feast celebrated this week is of the apostle St Thomas, on Friday.

The week in the Benedictine calendar

Sunday 16 December – Third Sunday in Advent, Class I (Gaudete Sunday)

Monday 17 December – Monday in the third week of Advent, Class II

Tuesday 18 December – Tuesday in the third week of Advent, Class II

Wednesday 19 December – Ember Wednesday of Advent, Class II

Thursday 20 December – Thursday in the third week of Advent, Class II

Friday 21 December – St Thomas, Apostle, Class II; commemoration of Ember Friday in Advent

Saturday 22 December – Ember Saturday in Advent, Class II

The second week of Advent...



Today (Saturday) Vespers are for the Immaculate Conception; this Sunday is the Second Sunday of Advent.

The saints celebrated in the Office this week are:

Monday 10 December – in some places, Blessed Mark Barkworth, John Roberts and companions, martyrs

Mark Barkworth was a Catholic priest martyred in 1601. Born about 1572, he studied at Oxford and was received into the Church at Douai in 1593.  

Because of an outbreak of the plague he was sent to Rome in 1596, and from their to Spain where he entered the English College on 28 December 1596. On his way to Spain he is said to have had a vision of St Benedict, who told him he would die a martyr, in the Benedictine habit. 

Ordained priest at the English College some time before July 1599, he set out for the English Mission together with Father Thomas Garnet. On his way he stayed at the Benedictine Monastery of Hyrache in Navarre, where his wish to join the order was granted by his being made an Oblate with the privilege of making profession at the hour of death.

After having escaped from the hands of the Huguenots of La Rochelle, he was arrested on reaching England.  He was executed at Tyburn with Jesuit Roger Filcock and Anne Line, on 27 February 1601. He sang, on the way to Tyburn, the Paschal Anthem: "Hæc dies quam, fecit Dominus exultemus et lætemur in ea". On his arrival he kissed the robe of Line, who was already dead, saying: "Ah, sister, thou hast got the start of us, but we will follow thee as quickly as we may"; and told the people: "I am come here to die, being a Catholic, a priest, and a religious man, belonging to the Order of St Benedict; it was by this same order that England was converted."

Tuesday 11 December - St Damasus I, Pope

Pope St Damasus I (305-384) is most famous now for appointing St Jerome as his personal secretary and encouraging his Vulgate translation of the bible and presiding over the Council of Rome in 382, which set down the canon of scripture (the picture left is a letter of St Jerome to him).  

In two Roman synods (368 and 369) he condemned Apollinarianism and Macedonianism, and sent legates to the First Council of Constantinople that was convoked in 381 to address these heresies.  A fierce opponent of the Arians, he did much to promote veneration of the martyrs and enrich the churches and liturgy.

Wednesday 12 December – In some places, Our Lady of Guadeloupe

Thursday 13 December – St Lucy, Class III

Saint Lucy (283–304), was a Christian during the Diocletian persecution. 

According to her legend, her mother was cured dysentery by them praying together at Saint Agatha's tomb (pictured). She consecrated her virginity to God, refused to marry a pagan, and had her dowry distributed to the poor. Her would-be husband denounced her as a Christian to the governor of Syracuse, Sicily, who ordered her to burn a sacrifice to the emperor's image. Lucy replied that she had given all that she had: "I offer to Him myself, let Him do with His offering as it pleases Him." 

Sentenced to be defiled in a brothel, St Lucy asserted:

“ No one's body is polluted so as to endanger the soul if it has not pleased the mind. If you were to lift my hand to your idol and so make me offer against my will, I would still be guiltless in the sight of the true God, who judges according to the will and knows all things. If now, against my will, you cause me to be polluted, a twofold purity will be gloriously imputed to me. You cannot bend my will to your purpose; whatever you do to my body, that cannot happen to me.”

Friday 14 December  St John of the Cross (Ordinary Form only)

First Week of Advent



Advent starts this Saturday tonight, at first Vespers, and the Office during this period is at its most complex, so do take the time to prepare yourself in advance.

The Office up to December 16

There are basically two distinct periods in Advent so far as the Office is concerned, and here are some notes on the Office up to and including December 16.

If you are using the Farnborough Monastic Diurnal, the 'Ordinary' of the period is set out at pages at 8*-17*.

In general, Sundays in Advent are all first class, with their own proper antiphons and proper texts (chapter etc).  The Lauds antiphons are used from I Vespers of Saturday until II Vespers, using the normal principles (that is, the fourth antiphon is omitted at Vespers; the first antiphon is used at Prime, the second at Terce, etc, skipping the fourth as usual). These antiphons are then used for the minor hours throughout that week (MD 13* ff puts them together to make it easier to find the right antiphon for the relevant hour).

The ordinary days of Advent are of the third class. As usual, the collects are from the previous Sunday (with the exception of the Ember days in week three of Advent, which have their own particular collects).

On days when a feast is celebrated (such as the Immaculate Conception) a commemoration of Advent (canticle antiphon, versicle and collect, said after the collect of the feast) is always made at both Lauds and Vespers. 

Lauds and Vespers have canticle antiphons set for each day.  Note also that the chapter, hymn, responsory etc are from the Ordinary of Advent (MD 9*; 15*).

Prime to None have antiphons for each week of Advent, set out at MD 13* ff.  At Terce to None, the chapter and versicle are for the season, also set out in the psalter section of the Diurnal.

Compline: The Marian antiphon is Alma Redemptoris Mater.

File downloads

You can find a full Ordo with page references to the Farnborough Diurnal in the right sidebar (or download the PDF from the Ben Office Help yahoo group (which does not require any approval process to join) or tradben group (which is aimed at traditionalist Catholics in union with Rome).

There are also quick reference cards with page numbers for Advent in the files section of both those groups.

This week in the calendar...

Sat 1 Dec – Our Lady on Saturday

Sun 2 Dec – First Sunday of Advent, Class I

Mon 3 Dec – Monday in the first week of Advent, Class III; St Francis Xavier, memorial

[St Francis Xavier SJ, 1506-1552, was a missionary.  You can read more about him here.]

Tues 4 Dec – Tuesday in the first week of Advent, Class III

Wed 5 Dec – Wednesday in the first week of Advent, Class III

Thurs 6 Dec – Thursday in the first week of Advent, Class III; St Nicholas, memorial 

[St Nicolas (270–346) was Bishop of Myra (part of modern-day Turkey). He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus.]

Fri 7 December – St Ambrose, Class III

[Saint Ambrose (340-397), was bishop of Milan, and is a doctor of the Church.  You can read more about him here.]

Sat 8 Dec– The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Class I

(Note that Vespers are of the feast with a commemoration of the Sunday)