Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why Do Some Memorials get Their Own Antiphons?

Today is the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene. 

Even though this is not a feast, you will notice that it has it's own antiphons, readings, and responsories.

Well, good for her. But why do you suppose that is?

The answer lies in the changes in the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours that occurred following Vatican II. In the older form of the breviary, there were many more saints' days that were ranked as feasts. Many of these feasts were "downgraded" into memorials or even optional memorials (also called commemorations). The was due to the desire of the Church that we focus more on 1. the repeating cycle of the monthly psalter and 2. the cycle of the liturgical seasons.

There are ongoing arguments on the part of liturgy geeks over whether this change was a good thing or not. Since people who prefer the older Divine Office are free to use it, I see no reason for either "side" to criticize the other about how/why the newer version came about and it's relative worthiness. And happily, we don't get into those kinds of polemics here, except in occasional, friendly, and charitable comments.

But back to St. Mary Magdalene.   She is one of those whose feast was placed in "memorial" status. However, a number of saints who are both ancient and beloved, have kept elements from  their formerly "feastday" offices in their current "memorial" offices.   Other examples we have coming up shortly include Sts. Anne and Joachim*  on July 26th and St. Lawrence on August 10th. There are others, but right now I"m at McDonald's and don't have my breviary with me.

So now you know why St. Mary Magdalene has such a fancy--and lovely--memorial office.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A mainline Protestant meets the Liturgy of the Hours

Checking some search results today, I came across this piece written by a non-Catholic making an informal retreat at a monastery guesthouse. He joins the monks for each of the liturgical hours, and has some interesting reactions to it all.

I disagree with him that the Liturgy of the Hours marks "chronos" rather than "kairos" time. Clearly it can do both. (But this gentleman couldn't know that at this point in his acquaintance with it.) But he was spot on when he said this:

While we were there, one of the brothers passed away on the premises. He was old and sick; still, it happened rather suddenly. The monks heard the news at church a half hour later. Then they did what they always do: they prayed the psalms. I suspect that if some Job-like tragedy wiped out all but one of them, he’d still show up for the Divine Office that day, singing antiphonally with the cloud of witnesses.
So I began to appreciate that I was not a second-class participant in a worship event some hierarchically-minded person planned. I was an observer of a holy practice of marking the passage of time, a practice as reliable as time itself.