Candlemas Eve

Well, in days gone by, this was the night to take down whatever remained of the Christmas decorations – with to-morrow’s delightul liturgy putting paid, alas, to the Christmas Season. Never mind! Carneval is upon us!

by Robert Herrick

DOWN with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the misletoe ;
Instead of holly, now up-raise
The greener box (for show).

The holly hitherto did sway ;
Let box now domineer
Until the dancing Easter day,
Or Easter’s eve appear.

Then youthful box which now hath grace
Your houses to renew ;
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.

When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside ;
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin
To honour Whitsuntide.

Green rushes, then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments
To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift ; each thing his turn does hold ;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.

by Robert Herrick

DOWN with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas Hall :
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind :
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there (maids, trust to me)
So many goblins you shall see.

7 thoughts on “Candlemas Eve

    • Ah, not quite.

      The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, AKA “Candlemass,” is a “Feast of the Lord” in the Table of Liturgical Precedence that governs the current Roman calendar, and thus is celebrated on its proper day, with “first vespers” on Saturday evening, when it falls on a Sunday. The current ordinary form of the Liturgy of the Hours thus provides proper “first vespers” for this feast, albeit used only when the feast falls on Sunday.



      • Norm, thanks — yes, I can, indeed, read the instructions in my LOTH. As you well know, everything celebrated on a Sunday (whether the Sunday or the now-rare feast or solemnity that supersedes it) has First Vespers (and I’m not sure why that term needs scare quotes). But it’s only due to the Sunday, as you yourself point out (which makes no sense, if you think about it — if there’s a proper I Vespers that is unrelated to the dominical cycle, why should it only be said on Saturdays?).

        Conversely, as you also know, all Feasts (not just of the Lord) have their proper First Vespers restored for any day (not just Saturday evening) in the Ordinariate, which was my obvious broader point. So I’m not entirely sure why you’re trying to condescendingly split hairs over it.


      • For those who are less familiar, here are the relevant customs of the Roman Rite.

        >> 1. Sundays and celebrations that rank as “solemnities” begin with the celebration of vespers on the evening before unless the preceding day has equal or higher liturgical precedence, but celebrations that rank as “feasts” normally do not.

        >> 2. “Feasts of the Lord” take precedence over Sundays, but other celebrations that rank as “feasts” normally do not.

        These norms conspire to produce a few odd wrinkles. The fact that “feasts of the Lord” are celebrated with proper first vespers only when they fall on Sunday is one — and the Liturgy of the Hours does provide proper first vespers for every “feast of the Lord” to cover this circumstance. Another surrounds the anniversary of the dedication of a cathedral. The anniversary of the solemn dedication of a church always ranks as a “solemnity” in the dedicated church, but normally is not celebrated anywhere. The anniversary of the dedication of a cathedral church, however, is a “feast” deemed to be a “feast of the Lord” throughout the rest of the respective diocese and, in the case of a metropolitan cathedral, throughout the rest of the dioceses of the province. Thus, the anniversary of the dedication of a cathedral normally is celebrated with first vespers in the cathedral itself, but with first vespers throughout the rest of the diocese only when it falls on a Sunday. The same is true of the anniversary of the dedication of the principal church of any jurisdiction that’s canonically equivalent to a diocese (territorial abbacy, territorial prelature, apostolic vicariate, apostolic administration, apostolic prefecture, or ordinariate), provided that the principal church is solemnly dedicated. Likewise, the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral church of the Diocese of Rome, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which falls on the 9th of November, has the rank of a “feast” in the general calendar of the Roman Rite, and thus is always celebrated with first vespers in the basilica itself, but with first vespers only when it falls on a Sunday elsewhere.

        That said, the Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Massachusetts, is never celebrated with first vespers — and this is not exactly a unique distinction. Unfortunately, Archbishop John J. Williams decided to dedicate this edifice on 08 December 1875, with the consequence that the celebration of the anniversary of the dedication is perpetually impeded by the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and thus normally transfers to the 9th of December — except when the 9th falls on a Sunday, which, being the Second Sunday of Advent, also impedes the celebration of the anniversary of the dedication and thus causes it to transfer to the 10th of December. And, since each of the impeding celebrations has higher liturgical precedence than a proper solemnity, second vespers of the day takes always precedence over first vespers of the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral in each of these scenarios. The lesson here is that the dedication of a church is best done on a day that is neither a solemnity or a “feast of the Lord” in ordinary time, either between (but not on) the latest possible date of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (13 January) and the earliest possible date of Ash Wednesday (04 February) or between the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles (29 June)* and the earliest possible date of the First Sunday of Advent (27 November) so that the celebration of the anniversary of the dedication will never be impeded. I also would not choose either the day before or the day after any of these occasions for the solemn dedication of a church to allow normal celebration of both first vespers and second vespers of the anniversary of the dedication.

        Note that many Catholic parish churches are NOT solemnly dedicated. When a parish builds a new church, the diocesan bishop can choose to confer either solemn dedication or simple blessing on the new building. Although the Codex Juris Canonici gives a very clear preference for solemn dedication, many diocesan bishops opt for simple blessing of new parish churches because it’s much easier to relegate a building that’s simply blessed than a building that’s solemnly dedicated to non-liturgical use — which often becomes necessary either when a parish grows to the point of needing a larger facility for worship or when changes in demographics or pastoral need compel suppression or merger in which the parish is not the surviving entity. In the case of a church that’s simply blessed, there is no liturgical celebration of the anniversary of the blessing.


        * – The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is the last liturgical celebration tied to the date of Easter. Where not celebrated as a holy day of obligation and thus transferred from the Thursday after Trinity Sunday to the following Sunday, the latest possible date for Corpus Christi is 28 June. Thus, the celebration of the anniversary of the dedication of a church could be impeded on any date before 29 June depending upon the timing of Easter.


      • An additional solution might be the restoration of multiple commemorations to Lauds and Vespers. In addition to not having to neglect all but one whose “optional memorials” may fall on the same date, it would also provide a more nuanced and natural way for dealing with occurrences and concurrences than the black-and-white, chopping-block style “either transferred or abrogated.” Since (as I’m sure the ecumenist in you, Norm, would surely agree) ours is a religion of “both/and,” not “either/or,” you might agree with me that in eliminating the very possibility of multiple commemorations, the Consilium may have thrown out the baby with the bathwater and gone against that generous and nuanced Catholic spirit.


      • Double commemorations are not entirely foreign to the Roman liturgy.

        >> In the present General Roman Calendar, for example, the three days after Christmas actually are split, with morning and daytime hours from the Liturgy of the Hours and the propers for the mass taken from the respective feast (St. Stephen on the 26th, St. John the Evangelist on the 27th, and The Holy Innocents on the 28th) but vespers and compline taken from the Octave of Christmas.

        >> The General Instructions of the Roman Missal permit the use of the collect from a memorial on weekdays privileged seasons that exclude the full celebration of the memorial except on four specific days — Ash Wednesday and Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week. (Note that all memorials become optional during privileged seasons.)

        >> The General Instructions of the Liturgy of the Hours contain the following provisions for combining the office of a memorial with the office of the day during a privileged season (also not permitted on Ash Wednesday and on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week).

        239. During privileged seasons, if it is desired to celebrate the office of a saint on a day assigned to his or her memorial:
        a. in the office of readings, after the patristic reading (with its responsory) from the Proper of Seasons, a proper reading about the saint (with its responsory) may follow, with the concluding prayer of the saint;
        b. at morning prayer and evening prayer, the ending of the concluding prayer may be omitted and the saint’s antiphon (from the proper or common) and prayer may be added.

        But you are correct in saying that there is no provision for combining two optional memorials that fall on the same day. It’s not clear to me how this would work, since prayers proper to each memorial typically are not suitable for the other.

        Note that the recommended pastoral practice in the ordinary form of the Roman Rite is to use the normal scriptural readings of the weekday cycle on memorials to preserve the continuity of the readings in the weekday cycle. The readings of the commons for various categories of saints are normally used only when a celebration that’s normally a memorial is raised to higher rank in the proper calendar of a diocese, parish, or religious order. Of course, there’s nothing that precludes (1) explanation of the memorial as an “explanatory intervention” at the beginning of a mass or (2) discussion of the memorial in the homily itself, if the pastor, principal celebrant, or homilist deems it appropriate.



      • “Double commemorations are not entirely foreign to the Roman liturgy.” — No kidding! Multiple (not just double) commemorations were a staple of the Roman calendar, Mass and Office, until the 1955-70 reforms, and still are (in a somewhat reduced form) in the continuation of that rite in its so-called “extraordinary form.”

        The “splits” during the Nativity season you describe are a bizarre innovation that have nothing to do with how the occurrences of Octaves and unrelated feasts would have been resolved prior to the elimination of the vast majority of Octaves in 1955.

        Lastly, the fact that “it’s not clear” to you “how this would work” has no bearing on the fact that multiple commemorations (with corresponding collects, and in the Mass also the respective secrets and postcommunion prayers) have been part and parcel of how the Roman Rite has worked for the last several centuries, since long before the Tridentine reforms/standardization.


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