Those of you who keep an eye on the Saint Lawrence Press ORDO [how to get one? See below] will have noticed that, after None today, before Vespers, those strange words are printed. "The Spring Part of the Breviary begins". Why on earth didn't the spring volume start on Ash Wednesday, with the beginning of the new season of Lent?
In earlier days, the First Sunday in Lent was given the title CAPUT QUADRAGESIMAE ... the Start of Lent. Because for most of the first millennium, there was no Ash Wednesday! The Gesima period continued up to the First Vespers of the Sunday.
HOW DID ALL THIS FASTING STUFF BEGIN?
The Church began with just the Easter Fast, of Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
Then a fast of 40 days was prefixed to the Easter Fast. That got us back to the First Sunday of Lent.
Then all that background was rather forgotten; and people began to say that, since Sundays are not a fast days, that gave us only 36 days of fasting.
So they added, in the eighth century, four days before the First Sunday to make up 40 days. So the Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, of Quinquagesima Week were grabbed by Lent.
But it still remained true that the distinctive things about the Lenten Office ... in particular, the Lenten hymns and all that sort of thing ... didn't begin until the First Vespers of the Sunday. They still don't. Such is the laudable conservatism of the authentic Roman Rite!
That's why the clergy still don't pick up their Lenten Breviaries until the eve of Sunday.
So, for more that a thousand years, the Breviary Office did not bring all its Lenten features into play until four days after Latin Catholics had put ashes on their heads, and fasted, on Ash Wednesday!
BEHOLD the amazing conservatism of the Roman Rite ... until the Age of Hannibal Bugnini and his elite squad of elephants!
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(I have no financial interest in this publication!!!)