Brush up your rubrics: memorials/commemorations

Continuing this little 'brush up your rubrics' series in the lead up to the feast of St Benedict, today's rubrics note mainly relates to Lauds, and concerns how to mark memorials of saints, or make a 'commemoration'.

This is a subject that everyone seems to struggle with, and you need to know about, because while my Ordo does set these out, you may need to take note of a feast that is particular to your country/diocese/monastery.

What are commemorations?

Commemorations basically come up in two ways:

(1)  To mark the feast of a saint listed as 'memorial' in the Diurnal (ordinary commemorations)

This is the lowest level way that the Office takes note of a saint - the feast doesn't affect any of the hours except Lauds, and then only adds a few prayers onto the end of the hour after the collect of the week.

The Ordo for July 3 for example says: Class IV; SS Processus and Martinian, memorial.  It then points you to page [184] of the Monastic Diurnal for the texts you need for the commemoration of the saint.

(2) To mark a feast or day displaced by a higher level day 

When two feasts or days clash there are rules about which one to celebrate.  In 2017 for example, the Sunday took precedence over the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  When two feasts or special days fall on the same date, there are basically three possibilities:

  • one of the feasts is transferred to the next available day.  In the 1962 calendar this only occurs with first class feasts; or
  • one of the feasts or days prevails, and the other feast is not celebrated at all that year.  Third class feasts that clash with Sundays, for example, are treated this way; or
  • the main Office is of one of the feasts, but a commemoration of the other is made at Lauds (as this year with the Visitation) and sometimes also Vespers (for example when a Lent day is displaced by a feast).
There are tables at the front of the Monastic Diurnal (see page xxv) that summarise the rules on which feasts take precedence, and what notice, if any, is taken of the other feast.  The tables basically reflect the principle that whether a day is commemorated at Lauds only, or at both Lauds and Vespers, is whether it is a 'privileged' commemoration (first class feasts; Sundays; Octave of Christmas; September Ember Days; Lent, Advent and Passiontide days; Major Litanies) or not.

How many commemorations?

It is also worth knowing that there are rules about how many commemorations can be said on a particular day.  

On first class feasts, for example, only one commemoration is permitted, and then only if it is a 'privileged' commemoration.

On normal Sundays (Class II), only one commemoration is permitted, of either a first or second class feast.

On second class days, one privileged and one ordinary commemoration can be said.

On third or fourth class days, two commemorations can be made.

Where there is a clash, the highest ranking commemoration(s) are used, and any others are dropped for that year. 

How to make a commemoration

Commemorations are said immediately after the collect in the closing prayers of the hour.  They normally consist of:
  • an antiphon (either for the Benedictus if the commemoration is at Lauds, or for the Magnificat at Vespers);
  • the short verse and response, or versicle that would have been said after it at Lauds or Vespers;
  • and a prayer (collect). 
For the memorial of saints, the Diurnal sets all these out in the correct order, so you really just need to say what's there.  On other days you might need to pull these three texts out from amongst the others for the day or feast.

If you are singing the Office, the Aniphonale Monasticum includes a section providing the chants for commemorations from the Common of Saints starting at page 735.

The key exception to the 'how to make a commemoration' rules is feasts of SS Peter and Paul, but we've just passed the most recent of these, so hopefully you followed the instructions in your Diurnal!

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