The Office in Christmastide and the Sundays after the Epiphany

The season of Christmas (or Nativitytide) has two parts: the 'twelve days of Christmas', from Christmas Eve (I Vespers of Christmas) to January 5; and the season of Epiphany, which officially runs up to 13 January.

There is a bit of a trick to it though, because older versions of the liturgy actually treated all of the time up until the Feast of the Purification on February 2 as the season of Epiphany, and the Office retains traces of that: the Sundays are still labelled 'after Epiphany' up until the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima, and the readings on them reflect Epiphany themes. 

In fact the readings for the original six Sundays of Epiphanytide allowed for (before addition of Septuagesima under St Gregory the Great) continue to be said, with any Sundays displaced by an early start to Septuagesimatide moved to the end of the liturgical year.

In addition, the Office of Our Lady on Saturday continues to be said in its Christmastide form right up until February 2.

The other key point to note is that there are a number of texts to be said on particular dates in addition to the main (fixed) feast days.

The twelve days of Christmas

The Christmasy feel for the Office really starts on December 24, with the Vigil of the Nativity.  But in fact that day, at least up until None, is technically part of Advent.

Christmas has a second class octave, and so the Office is effectively that of Christmas for a whole week, but displaced to some degree by the series of second class feasts that occur in this period.

Between January 2 and January 5, the 'ordinary of the ferial office after the Octave of the Nativity', which includes chapter verses, hymns and so forth for Lauds to Vespers, is used, MD 119*.  

During this period, the antiphons and psalms are of the day of the week as set out in the psalter for ‘throughout the year and in Nativitytide’. At Matins, the Invitatory, hymn, versicles and chapter are of the season, and three readings are of the date.  At Terce, Sext and None, the antiphons is as for throughout the year; the chapter and versicle are particular to Nativitytide (set out in the psalter section of the Diurnal, as well as at MD 122-3*.  At Lauds and Vespers, the chapter, responsory, hymn, versicle and canticle antiphon are for the season, and can be found at MD 119-25*.

The Ordinary of the Office in Epiphany (January 7-12)

Epiphanytide is part of the greater season of Christmastide, hence at all hours, antiphons and psalms are of the day of the week as in the psalter for ‘throughout the year and in Nativitytide’.

At Matins, the Invitatory antiphon, hymn, versicles, responsories and chapter are of the season.  At Lauds and Vespers, the chapter, responsory, hymn, and versicle are for the season, and can be found at MD 133-9*.  

In the not too distant past the feast of Epiphany had an Octave, and the proper antiphons for the canticles set for each day are remnants of that octave.  Similarly, the feast of the Commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord is said as if it were an octave day.

Office of Our Lady after Christmas

On fourth class Saturdays up until the feast of the Purification, the Office is of Our Lady after Christmas.

Matins: As for Office of Our Lady throughout the year except for collect.  Reading 3 is of Our Lady (the breviary provides readings for Saturdays 1, 2, 3, and 4&5.

Lauds to None: Office of Our Lady after Christmas, MD (133) ff.  

January 14 - Septuagesima: Ordinary of Time Throughout the Year

Nativitytide officially ends with the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord; from January 14 until Septuagesima, the Offices uses the default texts set out in the psalter section of the Diurnal or Breviary for ‘time throughout the year’.

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