28 March 2016

EASTER & PENTECOST OCTAVES (including Fasting and Abstinence)

Before the series of rolling reforms which began under Pius XII, the great Octaves of Easter and Pentecost did not contain undifferentiated days. What I mean is: Monday and Tuesday were more special than the rest of the week. They were Doubles of the First Class, while the remaining days were only semidoubles and could admit commemorations. Students of the Book of Common Prayer will remember that relics of this distinction still survive in the Anglican tradition. Recent Vatican Press ORDOs allow that, where Whitmonday is kept festally, Pentecost propers may be used at Mass and Office. The Ordinariate Missal provides the old Tridentine Propers for all the days in the Pentecost Octave, but does not make provision for the Readings. I would suggest the use of the old EF readings as provided partially in the Prayer Book and fully in the English Missal.

It was Pius XII who levelled out the Octaves by making all the days Doubles of the First Class, or, as some of you might nowadays say, Solemnities. Such days, canonically, do not admit Abstinence. So one is not bound to Abstinence on the Friday after Easter.

What about Abstinence on Pentecost Friday? I repeat below a ruling by the CBCEW to the effect that Abstinence is "contrary to the mentality of an octave". But the Friday in the Pentecost Octave survives in the EF but not in the OF! Here, surely, we have a juridical gap.

My view is that, in communities or families in which the dominant "Form" is the EF, the Friday is, according to the legislation in the 1962 books, and the statement of the English and Welsh bishops, a day which excludes Abstinence. (There is, of course, an oddity in this, in as far as this Friday is an Ember Day on which historically Catholics fasted. But that was a long time ago.)
                                             
                                             OCTAVES AND ABSTINENCE

 On 16 October 2014, the Catholic Herald announced that a spokesperson of the CBCEW had stated that Boxing Day, which in 2014 was a Friday, is not a day of Abstinence. "To consider St Stephen's Day or Boxing Day as a day of abstinence would not be compatible with the festive and celebratory nature of the Christmas Octave ... An octave is an ongoing celebration of the two highest ranking solemnities of the Liturgical Year ... it is contrary to the mentality of what an octave is to consider one of its days as penitential ... Octaves are weeks of joy, not abstinence, even though the Easter Octave ranks unambiguously higher than that of Christmas."

There is no doubt that local hierarchies do have the canonical right to dispense from Abstinence (Canon 1253 Episcoporum conferentia potest pressius determinare observantiam ... ieiunii et abstinentiae ...).

Of course, this question of December 26 falling on a Friday had not arisen for a quarter of a century, since the Friday Abstinence was modified in 1985 and only restored by the English and Welsh bishops in 2011.

Interestingly, the statement makes clear that the ruling applies not just to a Boxing Day which falls on a Friday, but, every yearto whichever day in the Octave of Christmas is a Friday; as well as to the Friday within the Octave of Easter, which has Solemnity, First Class status, in modern calendars. As you know, Canon 1251 in any case makes clear that Solemnities falling on a Friday throughout the year are not days of Abstinence*.

When I first published a version of this, some people got worried about whether the CBCEW spokesman was misleading them. Two basic rules of Catholic Moral Theology: (1) Doubtful laws do not bind. In other words, if there is some doubt whether a law applies to me ... it doesn't. If the Bishops say it doesn't apply to me, then their statement creates at least a doubt as to whether it applies to me
(2) We are NOT obliged to be Rigorists, Tutiorists, or Probabiliorists. The Church condemned the Jansenists. If there is a genuine doubt between two possibilities, one is entitled to exercise one's free choice.

That is what the pre-Conciliar books on Moral Theology say.

Not that there is any doubt in this matter. 
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*  Where a National or Diocesan or Ordinariate or Parochial Patron is observed as a Solemnity and falls on a Friday, that Friday is not a day of Abstinence.


10 comments:

fr. Thomas said...

St Albert the Great says that the fast in the Whit Octave is a 'ieiunium exsultationis', unlike the Lenten 'ieiunium lamentationis; i.e. one has been made so spiritual by the descent of the Holy Ghost that fasting is a pleasure.

Matthew Rose said...

Well the congregation is at least wrong about what the principal Feasts of the year are - no minor detail. Christmas is not in the top Three, let alone the top Two.

dunmowflitch said...

Whatever else may be said in this complicated matter,the weekdays of the Octaves of Christmas and Easter in the OF are not Solemnities, but Feasts: the Creed is not recited, and there are only two readings at Mass, not three.
If the faithful are dispensed from fasting on the Fridays in these Octaves, it makes one wonder why they are not so dispensed on other Feasts which fall on a Friday, e.g. of the Apostles. As you have asked in another post, how can a Feast be a Fast?

Tony V said...

What makes it easier is that here in England hardly anyone in the pews actually knows that the bishops ever re-instated Friday abstinence.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I'm a bit mystified. My Calendarium Romanum (Typis polyglottis Vaticanis) says that the first eight days of Eastertide are counted among the Solemnities of the Lord.

motuproprio said...

General Norms for Liturgical Year and Calendar, 24 The first eight days of the Easter season make up the octave of Easter and are celebrated as solemnities of the Lord.

William said...

@dunmowflitch: As our host observes, Friday in the Easter Octave is a Solemnity in the OF. (The lack of Creed and third reading presumably just demonstrates that such things are not of the esse of a Solemnity.) As to the dispensation in the Christmas Octave, the ruling of the CBCEW makes clear that this is not because these days are Feasts (if indeed they are), but because they are of the Octave. This consideration appears to take priority, for these purposes, over the liturgical rank of the day – the two issues are treated as distinct. The soundness of their reasoning may be questionable, but it seems to me that that is their reasoning.

Your final sentence is interesting. Abstinence is not, of course, the same as fasting, but it remains the case that there is an apparent mismatch of expectations on such feasts – particularly when they have been preceded (in the EF) by an abstinential Vigil. While some of us may prefer a more rigorist approach to Feasts on Fridays, I'm not sure we should criticise those who in good conscience decide otherwise.

RichardT said...

Tony V said...
"here in England hardly anyone in the pews actually knows that the bishops ever re-instated Friday abstinence."

Actually I have found that a lot of Catholics do know that abstinence has been re-instated, but they erroneously believe that they are exempt from it because they are over 60 (confusing the rules for fasting and abstinence).

Given the low proportion of regularly practising Catholics under 60, this confusion means that very few Catholics abstain when they should.

Tony V said...

Richard, personally I think the re-institution of abstinence, which as you state hardly anyone under the age of 60 knows about, was rather silly on the part of the bishops. Shutting the barn door after the horse is out, so to speak. There's a lot more useful things they could do...like rooting out homosexual clergy and lambasting this sham of a government. 'Course I'm not a bishop.

John Vasc said...

The CBCEW spokespersons seem terribly keen on telling us when *not* to abstain. I wish that many bishops would put the same effort into reminding the faithful of the general rule of Friday abstention, and explain the reasons why we abstain from *meat* on that day. I have never heard any pastoral letter read on the subject since Friday abstaining was officially reinstated in E&W.

While it would of course be perverse to *fast* on the Friday of Easter Week, it must surely be entirely correct to choose to abstain. (It is for example clearly marked as an abstention day in at least two EF liturgical calendars, and I know of two monastic orders who also keep it so.)

Yes, we are still celebrating the Resurrection of the Lord - that does not prevent us from being also mindful of the day of His Passion on the Cross. We have enough space in our minds to accommodate both, or at least, one hopes so. ("Mors et vita duéllo conflixére mirándo: dux vitæ mórtuus regnat vivus" as the Sequence of the EF Latin Mass reminds us.)