Wednesday 17 January 2018

Times & Seasons...

In the past 100 years or so, there have been many saints added to the calendar, and I have a devotion to quite a few of them. However, I rarely get to mark their feast days, because I prefer to say the Office according to the older calendar. This is because I feel that the Novus Ordo calendar is considerably impoverished with regard to the liturgical seasons.

One of my major bugbears is the idea of "Ordinary Time." It starts off after the Baptism of the Lord, stops for Lent and then starts again after Pentecost. It doesn't usually continue exactly where it left off, however, so, unless you have a table of movable liturgical feasts or an Ordo handy, you haven't got much chance of being able to guess which week of Ordinary Time it is. Very annoying.

The calendar for the usus antiquior is, in my humble opinion, much richer - especially if you follow the pre-1962 version. The year starts with Advent, then Christmas. This is followed by Epiphany, which has an Octave, and then we begin the Sundays after Epiphany.

This period is separated from the preceding one by a change in the colour of vestments and veils. It feels very different to the season "After Pentecost", even if the colour is the same, just as Advent is different to Lent and Christmas is different to Easter.

This year, there are only three Sundays after Epiphany, and then we enter Septuagesimatide, when the hangings, veils and vestments become purple, and, even though we don't yet abandon the Gloria, the alleluia is no longer heard: at Mass, (a tract is chanted instead). This all helps to prepare us for the rigours of Lent, being able to give due thought and preparation to the prayers, penances and almsgiving we intend to carry out, rather than Ash Wednesday (and the whole Lenten season) coming as a total surprise!

As well as the seasons, the old calendar helps to mark individual feasts as well - the whole concept of feast days means so much more if they are preceded by their Vigils. The idea of the Vigil has lost currency in the eyes of many people, being associated with the idea of carrying out one's Sunday obligation by attending the "Vigil" Mass on Saturday evening. In the old calendar, however, the Vigils were days on which you fasted before the feasting occurred! Most Vigils therefore had purple vestments at Mass to indicate their penitential and preparatory nature. And then, of course, the more important feasts had Octaves...

And so the calendar marked the seasons and times of the year, with feasting and fasting, joyful celebration and sombre preparation. Simplifying the calendar has destroyed part of our Catholic heritage. Perhaps, just as the Friday abstinence rule has been reintroduced and some of the Holydays of Obligation have been returned to their proper days (at least in England and Wales) in order to reaffirm our Catholic identity, so also our calendar can be restored to its former glory.
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