Thursday, August 29, 2013

An egg facial for Passion of John the Baptist+Q&A

Getting through the intricacies of which office to use for any given saint's days is usually pretty straightforward, once you understand the distinctions of solemnity, feast, and memorial. But now and then even people who write books about the Liturgy of the Hours get caught out by some little variation in the normal rules.

Last night I get an email from Russ, a long time reader who lives in Tokyo. He notes that there have been several saint's days in a row, and it's getting to feel a bit like the movie "Groundhog Day" having to do the pslams of Sunday week I yet again for John's beheading. Now keep in mind that when Russ wrote me when it was already August 29 in Japan. I --getting ready for bed on the 28th in America--didn't bother to crack open my breviary when I breezily responded:

 Here's the Way if Should Be: Sunday week I is for Solemnities and Feasts, period!
For memorials, you use the current weekday psalter, and then you may continue either with the current weekday OR use whatever common is suitable for the rest of the office from the reading and on, substituting any elements that are in the proper of saints for that memorial. This is often just a concluding prayer, but for some of the more historically important saints, there might be a gospel canticle antiphon or even a reading for MP and EP. A couple of memorials, like St. Anne, St. Agnes and St. Lawrence, have their own antiphons for the psalms. 

Then I went to bed, confident of having done my work of mercy for the day (instructing the ignorant).
This morning, I see that the psalms for morning prayer at are those of Sunday Week I. What's the matter with those people? I thought. Don't they know that the Passion of the Baptist is only a memorial?  I switch to and see the same thing. Finally, I get my breviary. And there, in the proper of saint for today, I see that the Baptist has his own canticles and, much to my chagrin..."Psalms and canticles from Sunday, week I."

Now, I do have a little wiggle room here. I did say that whatever elements appear in the proper of saints are the ones that should be used. And I did say that certain saints' memorials have a much more custom made office due to their place in the tradition and history of the Church. But I forget from year to year that this particular saint rates Sunday of Week I for his psalms, memorial or no. So my vehement "PERIOD!" up above must be amended to "with very rare exceptions."

So, to avoid the Groundhog Day syndrome, Russ should have avoided using Sunday I psalms for St. Augustine and St. Monica earlier in the week, and thus able to welcome Sunday I on today's  feast.

And although I"m not going to look it up right now, I"m guessing that this situation of Sunday week I psalms for a memorial probalby applies to Sts. Lawrence, Mary Magdalene, St. Anne, and a couple of others as well. The rationale for this? Before Vatican II, these ancient saint's days were celebrated as feasts. When they were "downgraded" to memorials, the church decided to retain some fancier elements of their old offices as a way to honor them.

People argue endlessly about whether these types of changes to the calendar and to the celebration of saints days  should have been made, and there are logical arguments on both sides. Personally, I do "buy" the logic of the reforms, because these seem to give greater focus on the cycle of salvation (and hence, on Christ) that the liturgical year proposes to give us, and in the Divine Office, gives us each of the psalms with more regular frequency.  But more important still than my personal opinion of these changes is the fact of the Church's authority to make them. That trumps everything.

Now then. It's weekly Q&A time. Any more questions about feasts and memorials or anything else about the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours/breviary?

Oh, and welcome aboard to new blog followers "senf" and Tom Lucente. Just jump in when you have anything to say.