30 October 2023


 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.


Zephyrinus said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Fr. Hunwicke.

Please God, there will be a restoration in the near future.

Wynn said...

Looking at that list – and ignoring for the moment Sarum’s curious exclusion of Simon & Jude – the "missing" Apostles are Pip and Jim, and John. I am guessing that that is because May 1 – or May 3 – or even May 11 – will always fall within Tempus Paschale, and of course December 27 is within the Christmas octave; so in either case it might be deemed inappropriate to have a Vigil (not in itself inherent to the structure of the season, as with Ascension and Pentecost) during such high festal periods.

If so, then that raises the question of what to do about St Matthias if one is following the new Calendar of Saints. Previously safely ensconced on February 22, his new date of May 14 is also now always within Tempus Paschale, at least if one understands that to include the Pentecost Octave. Should Matthias therefore also be removed from the list of Apostles who have Vigils?

Rubricarius said...

The old Roman rite was visually so much more interesting. Consider the sequence liturgical colours over the last few days and the forthcoming days: violet for the Vigil of SS Simon & Jude, red for their feast, white for Christ the King, green for the resumed Mass of the Sunday today, violet for the Vigil of All Saints, white for the feast the sombre use of black for All Souls and then back to white for the Octave.

Add the double Vespers on All Saints' afternoon and it all adds to the depth of experience of the rite. The 1960s stuff does not 'cut the mustard' as your manciple might have said.

I cannot see what would be wrong on adding more days of fast and abstinence back either to be honest.

Moritz Gruber said...

Yes, obviously so, in general. As a commemoration at least, with the possible exception of the "Sarum only" ones.

The rest is detail, but I do disagree about one: the Circumscision. Why? For three reasons:

1. The Feast of the Circumscision is the Octave of Christmas. In feasts with an Octave, you have the vigil in front of the main feast (as you do), not in front of the Octave.
2. St. Silvester, under whose pontificate the Church emerged, in not quite the whole world but the Roman Empire which does represent the whole world, from the catacomb to the peace (though, as Tolkien would have said, the "watchful peace") of the civilization of Christendom, is worth his feast, so it would be a commemoration anyway.
3. While it is wise not to suggest, for the time being, no obliging fast, vigils are by nature fast-days, even if a general dispensation (as it were) from the fast is given (as it was, at least from 1917 onwards, with 4 or so exceptions). But grace perfects and elevates nature, does not destroy it, and on the natural level people will wish to celebrate the outgoing civil year with feasting (not forgetting, being devout Catholics the Te Deum).

On another note: please don't do away with the feast of the Jewish-born atheist-turned-Catholic female philosopher who met death as a martyr for both Jewish heritage and Catholic faith. St. Edith is too important. St. Lawrence's vigil can still be commemorated.

Matthew F Kluk said...

People in congregations would be interested and want to take part. The Catholics that don't attend wouldn't care, the church goers would care very much and want to take part in these things, hopefully to be restored one day .

Thomas said...

I like "Wreckovation". I routinely refer to The Deformation and The Endarkenment, much to the perplexity and/or annoyance of secular minded friends. I might add The Wreckovation to my vocabulary to annoy them even more!