Until the Wreckovation of the Roman rite, tomorrow, of course, was the Vigil of All the Saints ... or of all the Hallows, if your idiolect is even older. Or Hallow E'en for the real archaisers among you. It still is, of course, in the Book of Common Prayer. (I have, incidentally, used this passage previously. But the rest of this post is pretty virgin stuff.)
In what follows, Mr Vincent is a college tutor hosting a breakfast; I do not think he was sympathetic to the Ritualist Movement ... He is trying to be funny, but JHN is also, I suspect, making the point that all those admirably 'Catholic' directions in the Prayer Book, to which the Ritualists delightedly pointed, had become obsolete.
"At this moment the door opened, and in came the manciple with the dinner paper, which Mr Vincent had formally to run his eye over. 'Watkins,' he said, giving it back to him, 'I almost think today is one of the Fasts of the Church. Go and look, Watkins, and bring me word.' The astonished manciple, who had never been sent on such a commission in his whole career before, hastened out of the room, to task his wits how best to fulfil it. The question seemed to strike the company [of undergraduates] as forcibly, for there was a sudden silence, which was succeeded by a shuffling of feet and leave-taking; as if, though they had secured their ham and mutton at breakfast, they did not like to risk their dinner. Watkins returned sooner than could have been expected. He said that Mr Vincent was right; today was 'the feast of the Apostles'. 'The Vigil of St. Peter, you mean, Watkins,' said Mr Vincent; 'I thought so. Then let us have a plain beef steak and a saddle of mutton; no Portugal onions, or current jelly; and some simple pudding, Charlotte pudding, Watkins - that will do.'"
I don't propose to tell you all about the all-night vigils of the ante-nicene Church: I want to make some observations simply about what has been the situation in our own liturgical culture and its more immediate background. So I will quote, next, from the sound old manual Liturgy and Worship, because it dates from 1932 ... almost our own day!
" ... in the West, vigils developed into a fast kept on the day before certain feasts. In the Roman and Sarum kalendars the vigil-fasts are those before Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Epiphany, St. Matthias, St. John Baptist, St. Peter and St. Paul, St. James, St Laurence, the Assumption, St. Bartholomew, St. Matthew, St. Simon and St. Jude (not Sarum), All Saints, St. Andrew and St Thomas. Late editions of the Sarum Kalendar add Annunciation, Nativity of St. Mary, Michaelmas and (perhaps) Circumcision ... the present Roman regulations ... in England and Wales ... [are] the Vigils of Pentecost, the Assumption, All Saints and Christmas ..."
I wish to make two suggestions.
(1) I think we should restore the liturgical provisions for the days which precede the celebrations on that Sarum list. I AM NOT SUGGESTING, NECESSARILY, THE DIETARY ARRANGEMENTS. Just the propers as printed in Breviaries and Missals up to the time of Pius XII.
(2) The restoration of the First Vespers, First Evensongs, at least of what used to be called First class or Second Class Doubles, Greater Doubles: and are now called "Festa".
Six and a half decades as a 'professional' liturgical worshipper have convinced me that it is bad psychology suddenly, with no preparation, to spring liturgical goodies on people. The Purple vestments of Vigil Masses, the suppression of Gloria in excelsis, the introduction of appropriate themes into the texts of the rite, seem to me essential. That's why I desire the restoration of the 'old' Vigils.
And the same logic points to the restoration of First Vespers.