16 August 2023

S Joachim's travels

 So is today the Festival of S Joachim, Father of the Theotokos

Well, Yes, er, and, er, No. I offer here a broad canvas to those who like their amusements liturgical.

SS Anna and Joachim suffered during the Counter-Reformation. Being 'unbiblical', they did a bunk to prevent the proddies claiming that the Catholic Church was mired in superstitious legends. Silly, in my view: after all, our blessed Lady did have parents, so I can't see any problem in affixing honorary names to them. 

But, in any case, they were allowed back in by Gregory XV in 1622.

S Joachim really takes off in 1738, when he was placed on the Sunday within the Octave of the Assumption as a Greater Double. He stayed there from 1738 until 1913. More than a century and a half. And this was the great period of baroque liturgical magnificence and assertion. When Benedict XIV, most learned pontiff in more than half a millennium, paused his dictation and picked up his Breviary, S Joachim was there on that Sunday. As the Church battled with Revolution and Buonaparte, S Joachim lent a hand as the Papal states were regained and then relost. Throughout the long pontificate of Pio Nono, the Latin clergy celebrated S Joachim on the Sunday after his Daughter's Assumption. He was lurking in Nicolas Wiseman's Breviary as his Eminence composed and sent forth his letter from the Flaminian Gate. S John Henry Newman, admirer from his Anglican days of the Roman Breviary, had Joachim in his coat pocket as he preached on the Second Spring. As the Oratory Church rose from the ground in Brompton, Father Faber never knew a form of the Divine Office in which S Joachim did not occupy the Sunday within the Octave. And Dom Gueranger ...

And the Fathers of Vatican I took him into the Conciliar aula as the skies thundered and they so wisely and presciently voted that the Roman Pontiff has no authority to invent new doctrines. The days when S Joachim was observed throughout the West on the Sunday after August 15 included those great formative decades of the modern Catholic Church and of the renewed English Catholic Church. Within that period, popes as well as priests and people were born, lived their entire Christian lives, and died. 

I wonder how widely and deeply the cult of S Joachim reached. Pope Leo XIII, who finally sent the galero to S John Henry, had Joachim as a baptismal name, and, in 1879, raised the Saint's Festival to the rank of a Double of the Second Class.

This was no mean period of Catholic life and liturgy: it still demands our respect. It came to an end in 1913, when the excellent motive of rescuing the use of the old Roman Sunday Masses led to S Joachim moving to August 16.

But a relic remained of the older customs. Those were times when clergy rather felt that warmly to encourage their people for decades to do X, Y, or Z ... and then, overnight, to ban it ('before breakfast tomorrow morning') ... was a Bit Off. 

So, if you consult your St Lawrence ORDO, you will find that, although S Joachim does rest upon August 16, there is a gentle and understanding note permitting, on the Sunday within the Octave of the Assumption, one Mass that day of S Joachim.

Civilised days.


prince Matecki said...

Dear Father Hunwicke,
my directory (of the teutonic order) (OT ordo teutonicorum de domui sanctissimae Mariae hyrosalymae in old days, ordo fratrum domus hospitalis Sanctae Mariae Teutonicorum now in the annuario pontifico) (if I got my latin without a howler) has
July 26th Joint feast of St Anne, mother of most holy Mary, and St Joachim, father of...
(whereas Aug 16th is allocated to another saint or mass of the day in week etc)

Simon Cotton said...

What about Saint Roch today? Did anyone invoke him in a time of COVID?

Albertus said...

The names of Saints Joachim and Anna as parents of Our Lady are both found in the Protoevangelium Jacobi, which was / is held in high esteem by Holy Church in both West and East. It reflects an ancient tradition. Moreover, in the list of forefathers of Our Blessed Lord, in either St. Matthews or Saint Lukes Gospel, the father - who is rather the father-in-law - of St. Joseph (thus, Our Ladys father), bears a variant of the name of Joachim. I learnt this from a theology professor long ago.

John Patrick said...

I have been somewhat puzzled by terminology used in these pages, such as "double of the second class" so I found this site useful in comparing pre 1960, "Extraordinary Form", and "Ordinary Form" terminology. Others may find it useful:


Moritz Gruber said...

It is rather curious, isn't it, that St. Joachim was perpetually fixed on a Sunday at that time. It wasn't like this would be usual stuff pre-1910: the perpetually fixed days then were: Patronage of St. Joseph; the Trinity; Name of the BVM/Kahlenberg Victory Day (the respective Day in 1683 had actually been a Sunday); Sorrows of the BVM; Holy Rosary/Lepanto Victory Day (the respective day in 1583 had also been a Sunday).

Add to which probably very often Dedication Day to be celebrated on the Sunday following the Patronage feast (though that was meant to be celebrated on the actual day of the Dedication), or later, in Bavaria (and I heard here in the Anglican Church in England), on some specific Sunday in October to curb a bit the celebratiousness of the faithful. Later, when the principle "nothing at all permanently on the Sunday, with the (reluctant, I guess) exception of the Trinity" from the 1910s was found not to really work so much in practice, the feasts of the Holy Family and of Christ the King were added.

All understandable. All deserving a bit of this high honour, which as we see it was even at that time (it's not like they'd have no regard to the Sunday at all).

And then, setting aside the additional devotional Sundays for our Lady in England (a bit over the top, in my view, but still... for our Lady), up pops one other Saint to get such an honour: St. Joachim. Who is basically an Old Testament saint, and wasn't Sunday the specifically New-Testament day of the week? Though one who has seen our Lord (like St. John). Still, very important as our Lady's father and our Lord's grandfather of course, but not at least to us here devotionally, with all due respect less important not only compared with St. Joseph (who did have a feast fixed to the Sunday), but also to, say, St. John. Probably also to St. Abraham. Possibly also to St. Moses, St. David or St. Elias. And, in popular feeling at least, certainly to St. Anna, his own wife.

And then with a Gospel where he is not even mentioned, because it treats the actual "begettings" leading to St. Joseph - whereas he according at least to a plausible theory ismentioned in the other list forefathers of Christ (which lists "mere sonships", thus might include legal filiations, and contains one Eli who very well may be Elyakim which is Yoyakim).

Fascinating stuff.


Moritz Gruber said...


We have to keep in mind, though, that at that time St. Joachim would only twice in seven years have replaced an "actual Sunday" (and in our time, only once, because St. Jean Eudes would have a double feast). So, apart from that that "merely" meant that St. Hyacinth, the Octave of St. Lawrence, St. Bernard, St. Joan Frances and the Octave of the Assumption itself would never be feasted upon by "normal churchgoers", no disrespect intended. And the only one that really raises an eyebrow here, by 19th century standards, is St. Bernard.

And it seems the Church of the 18th and 19th century really wanted to have a "Remember the Old Testament Background Sunday". But wouldn't a more natural choice then - St. Joachim's actual natalis is on March 20th anyway, read fittingly enough in the Prime for St. Joseph, so the date is "devotionally chosen" in any case - have been the Sunday preceding the Nativity, rather than the one following the Assumption, of the Blessed Virgin? Especially since the first week of September is so extraordinarily feast-free?

Maybe "let's at least have some Green Sundays" was an established practice even then. And the Assumption is, after all, the first among the feasts of the Blessed Virgin. And the Assumption is, in a sense, the cumination of everything that began with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and with passing through the Babylonian captivity.

And maybe because of a bit of "we're doing fun stuff here, not everything neatly in order". (Just as in the Middle Ages, St. Bonaventure of all saints also had a perpetually assigned Sunday... but still not any other saint, or at least I have not heard about any.)

Moritz Gruber said...

Dear John Patrick,

nice list, but it is mostly "translating the respective ranks". Which is fine, I do not mean as a criticism, but limited.

The most obvious about that is the major doubles, which are somewhat more akin to a II class feast than to a III class feast. "In between", so to speak.

Grouping the minor doubles and semidoubles together seems defensible; I think our reverend host has called them "middle feasts"... but in theory there is a lot of difference, as between 1910 or so the doubles trumped ordinary Sundays but the semidoubles did not. Which saint got which was often not clear, except that older feasts and feasts of laymen tended to get semidoubles, while founders of orders tended to get doubles, and all doctors of the Church had doubles. (It's no secret that I think, a real thing that should have been done is, to formulate it in Trump-style, "make double special again", which probably, given that there are so many doctors of the Church now, would have meant to give up that principle.)

But anyway, the III class feast of 1962 is structurally a simple, except that it doesn't allow votives (which the semidoubles did!), and antiphons are doubled at the office (which they now always are). The minor doubles, perhaps even the semidoubles, are closer to a 1962 "II class feast", and certainly to a Novus Ordo "Feast", than to a simple, when you look, e. g., at the number of lectures at Matins (certainly if you take 1910 for comparison, when even the semidoubles had their own or Sunday psalms, and every day had psalm 118 and lauds 148,149,150 anyway).

All those feasts simply have been degraded as much.

"Commemorations" are what their name implies, i. e., an additional prayer said at some day, whether that day has a feast (say, the commemoration of St. Alexander in the feast of the Finding of the Cross) or not (say, the commemoration of St. Sabbas on a weekday of Advent). The difference is that since 1955, all weekdays can have them now (previously, only those of Advent and Lent, and other higher ones, on which in turn simples were forbidden), and the previous simples were degraded to these.

The Novus Ordo "memorials" and "optional memorials" are something different from commemorations. They too can perhaps be described as simple-feasts (though it is telling enough that they are not given as festive a name), but some of them, as the name implies, are optional. (Something not altogether unknown before 1962, but different from commemorating a thing.)