Friday, December 26, 2008

The Christmas Octave + Four

The Twelve Days of Christmas extend the Christmas celebration until the eve of the Epiphany (Twelfth Night). This Octave plus Four is unique in the calendar of the Western Rite. In a manner of speaking, it is an Octave of Octaves.

The Octave Day of Christmas is January 1, the Feast of the Circumcision, the Eighth Day of Christmas.

St. Stephen's, St. John's and Holy Innocents' days are the second, third and fourth days of Christmas. Traditionally, these three days were also celebrated with octaves of their own - on the ninth, tenth and eleventh days of Christmas.

Lutherans usually do not mark the fifth, sixth and seventh days of Christmas. With respect to Pastor William Cwirla, there are three martyrs days within the Twelve Days of Christmas. In addition to St. Stephen and the Holy Innocents, St. Thomas of Canterbury (Becket) is on the fifth day of Christmas. At the instigation of King Henry II, he was murdered in his cathedral on December 29, 1170.

The seventh day of Christmas is St. Sylvester, Bishop of Rome, when Constantine, the first Christian emperor, put an end to persecutions and established Christianity as the religion of the empire. Sylvester, through his representatives, presided at the council of Nicea (A.D. 325). He died A.D. 335.

December 30, the sixth day of Christmas, is the only feria during the Twelve Days. Usually this day is observed with the propers assigned to the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, even if it does not fall on Sunday.

This, then, is how Christmas is celebrated as an Octave plus Four - The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hodie scietis, quia veniet Dominus

Today you shall know that the Lord will come.


All this night shrill chanticleer,
Day's proclaiming trumpeter,
Claps his wings and loudly cries,
Mortals, mortals, wake and rise!
See a wonder Heav'n is under;
From the earth is risen a Sun
Shines all night, though day be done.

Wake, O earth, wake ev'ry thing!
Wake and hear the jou I bring;
Wake and joy; for all this night
Heav'n and ev'ry twinkling light,
All amazing, Still stand gazing.
Angels, powers, and all that be,
Wake and joy this Sun to see.

Hail, O Sun, O blessed Light,
Sent into the world by night!
Let thy rays and heav'nly powers
Shine in these dark souls of ours;
For most duly Thou art truly
God and man, we do confess;
Hail, O Sun of Righteousness!

From 'Devotionis Augustinianae Flamma by William Austin, of Lincolnes Inne Esquire', who died 16 January 1633 (published 1635). There is a monument to him in St. Saviour's Southwark. [Oxford Book of Carols. ]

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What to do on Dec. 28 and Jan. 4.

Much discussion has arisen concerning which Mass is to be celebrated on December 28, 2008. "This is the Feast of the Holy Innocents; but should we, perhaps, celebrate the Sunday after Christmas instead?"

In the pre-Vatican II missal, the Mass for Sunday within the Octave of Christmas (Sunday after Christmas, if you will), is to be celebrated on December 30th no matter what day of the week this falls on, should Christmas or any of the three days following fall on a Sunday. In the event that either Dec. 29th or Dec. 31st should fall on a Sunday, the Mass to be said on Dec. 30 is that of the Octave of the Nativity which is the same as the Third Mass of Christmas. The Epistle and Gospel, however, are to be taken from the Second Mass of Christmas. Dec. 30 is the only ferial day in the old calendar. Dec. 29 is St. Thomas of Canterbury, and Dec. 31 is St. Sylvester.

Then come the question of what to do for the Second Sunday after Christmas? You may follow this discussion at Gottesdienst Online. (Dec. 12 - What to do with Sundays after Christmas?)

According to the pre-Vatican II missals, the solution to this problem is easily solved. The propers assigned to the Second Sunday after Chrstmas are traditionally those of the Vigil of the Epiphany. TLH actually uses (most of) these propers for the Sunday after Christmas.

Introit: When all was still and it was midnight.... (TLH - Sunday after Christmas, second place.)

Almighty and everlasting God, direct our actions according to Thy good pleasure.... (TLH - Sunday after Christmas.)

Epistle: Gal 4:1-7 (TLH - Sunday after Christmas)

Gradual: Thou art fairer than the children of men.... (TLH - Sunday after Christmas.)

Gospel: Matt 2:19-23 (TLH - Sunday after New Year, TLH beginning at v. 13.)

Preface: Christmas.

This solution is in agreement with the historic use and the TLH propers.