As we conclude the old Octave of the Assumption - I like the old Byzantine habit of "taking leave" of great festivals - I invite readers to engage with the question of what we are celebrating today ... and to begin by tracing the history of one particular hymn.
The post-conciliar revisers, in their first draft of the Hymnarium, proposed to offer a ninth century hymn, O quam glorifica, on Assumption day. It did not make it to the final cut, but it does appear in the new Office Book on August 22, the old Octave day, to which the 'reformers' transferred the Feast of Mary, Queen (at the same time ejecting the Immaculate Heart from that day onto the Saturday after the Sacred Heart). Interestingly, that hymn was, in the first millennium, a Proper hymn for the Assumption.
I can see that combining the Queenship of Mary with her Octave day does have a lot to be said for it. Long before gentlemen in liturgy offices in Rome started shifting Marian feasts around like counters on a Ludo board, Dom Gueranger saw the Octave day of the Assumption in terms of our Lady's Queenship. I hope I am not too puritanical about the Marian frenzy of the pontificate of Pius XII - that sort of thing is rather fun from time to time - but his liturgists never had an over-all, holistic look at the arrangement of the new feasts he showered upon the calendar. Even if Vatican II had never happened, a bit of sorting and sifting would have been in order in the next pontificate.
They might have decided to make the old feast pro [multis] aliquibus locis of our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces, on May 31, a Feast of the Universal Church. And to have left the Visitation where they found it. And to have adopted a neat eighteenth century idea of putting the Most Pure [aka Immaculate] Heart of Mary onto the Saturday after the Sacred Heart.
And, come to think of it, they might have encouraged Octave Days to survive.
That would have been an organic and gradual evolution of the data emerging from the 'baroque' period of the history of the Calendar.
As W.A. Pantin, Catholic, medieval historian and great Oxford character, asked in a letter to Dom David Knowles in the early 1970s, 'Is it still the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary or is it Mary the Home Help?'
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