Friday, August 10, 2018

Understanding the calendar IVB - Fixed date feasts and Sundays

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In the last post in this series on the calendar, we looked at how the General Calendar of feasts fixed to particular dates of the year interacts with the Office for ordinary (Class IV) days of the week.

I want to devote one more post to the detail of how to resolve conflicts between days of the week and fixed date feasts, looking at the case of Class II Sundays.  

If you work through these two posts, you will understand the general principles of how it works, and hopefully will be able to use the tables in the Diurnal to resolve the other situations in which these conflicts arise for yourself!


Sundays have always been celebrated with more solemnity than other days in the Office.  St Benedict, for example, gives Sunday Matins an extra 'Nocturn', includes the reading of the Gospel and two extra hymns in it.

He also stressed that the psalm cycle started afresh each Sunday.

Over the centuries, however, the proliferation of feasts and rules for them that equated many feasts with Sundays meant that the texts of the core Sunday cycle was often displaced by feasts.

This situation was changed by reforms of Pope Pius X in 1913 which gave Sundays a privileged position in relation to feasts of the same or even higher rank, and can mean that a particular feast isn't celebrated at all in a particular year, or that its celebration is muted in various ways.

It can also mean that even though the Sunday is displaced by a feast, it is still remembered in the Office as a 'commemoration'.

Resolving conflicts - the two tables

You might expect that the rules on which feast or day are celebrated would be pretty straightforward: Class I feasts would trump Class II feasts or days, Class II feasts could trump Class II feasts and so on.

Unfortunately, while broadly true, it is not quite that straightforward, as we have already seen from the case of Saturday night Vespers, where when the Sunday is displaced by a feast, it is still 'commemorated' in the closing prayers of the hour.

There are a range of options as to what can happen when a feast falls on a Sunday, ranging from the feast being transferred to another day, the Sunday or the feast being commemorated, or the feast completely overriding the normal Sunday Office.

In the last post, we started looking at the 'two tables' contained in the front section of the Diurnal, which cover cases of 'occurrence and 'concurrence'.

Concurrence, it was noted, is about resolving which set of texts to use at Vespers when there are two competing possibilities, such as when Vespers of a feast potentially clashes with Saturday Vespers (I Vespers of Sunday).

The concurrence table also tells us what to do when a Class I feast (ie a feast that has first Vespers) occurs on a Monday (it tells us that a commemoration of the Monday feast is said at Sunday Vespers).

In this post, though, I want to focus primarily on the question of 'occurrence', when feasts of the General Calendar coincide with a Class II Sunday.

Sundays override memorials and Class III feasts and vigils.

Let's start with the simplest case, the two lowest rankings of days set out in the General Calendar: memorials (not covered in the table), Class III feasts, and Class III vigils.

These rank below Sundays, and so are not  celebrated when they coincide with a Sunday in a particular year.

In the August 2018 Ordo that we have been constructing then, we need to note that two of the memorial listed for August in the General Calendar are not celebrated this year - August 5's Our Lady of the Snows, and St Clare on August 12. 

Class II feasts and vigils

When it comes to Class II days, Sundays ranked Class II generally have priority over Class II feasts and vigils.

Sundays completely override Class II Vigils.

Accordingly if the Vigil of St Lawrence (August 8) falls on a Sunday in a particular year, it is not marked in the Office at all.

Class II feasts, though, even when they do not form the main Office of the day are still remembered in the Office through a 'commemoration' at Lauds.  In 2018, for example, the feast of St Martin in November coincides with a Sunday, and so is reduced to a commemoration.

The key exception to the priority of Sundays over Class II feasts is for 'feasts of Our Lord'.  When these fall on a Sunday, they completely replace the Sunday, with no commemorations of it.

In 2017, for example, the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord coincided with a Sunday, so even though the feast is ranked Class II, it had a first Vespers, and the Office of the feast was used without any commemorations of the Sunday.

Class I feasts and Class II Sundays

Class I feasts do have priority over Class II Sundays.

When this happens though, except in the case of Feasts of Our Lord, the importance of the Sunday cycle is emphasized by its remembrance through commemorations at both Lauds and Vespers.

In summary

The table below summarises the rules discussed above.

If a Class II Sunday coincides with a…

Office is of…
Vespers impact
Memorial is not marked in the Office

Not affected.
Class III Feast or Vigil
Feast or vigil is not marked in the Office

Not affected
Class II Vigil
Vigil is not marked in the Office

Of the Sunday
Class II Feasts other than those of Our Lord
Of the Sunday with commemorations of the feast at Lauds

Of the Sunday
Class II  Feasts of Our Lord
Feast, with I Vespers and no commemoration
 of Sunday

I&II Vespers of the feast
Class I
Of the feast with commemorations of the Sunday at Lauds and Vespers (unless feast of Our Lord)
I&II Vespers of the feast

Adding in local feasts

In the last two posts we've looked at fixed date feasts of the General Calendar of 1962.

In the next post I will to look at other sources of fixed date feasts.

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