8 March 2024

Don't skip the opening pages

 I learned quite a time ago the importance of looking through the stuff at the beginning of liturgical books.

I was fortunate enough to have come into possession of the (the Henry Bradshaw edition of) the Ordinale Exoniense, all four volumes by Bishop John Grandisson ('grauns'n'); gracious me, what a workoholic micromanager the dear old fellow was. By chance, my eye fell upon mid-August. After the Assumption on August 15, August 18 offers Sol in Virgine.


It got me wondering whether this astronomical datum might explain why the Heavenly Birthday of the Mother of God should have been fixed in the middle of August.

But stay. Years later, Nicholas Orchard published his superb edition of the Stowe Missal. And the Exeter Diocesan Clergy Book Fund provided me with a copy. That book also has oodles of introductory material. And here also, perhaps three centuries before the Ordinale, we find ... well, this time it's Sol in Virginem. what a terrible schoolboy error ... an accusative rather than the ablative ... but ... perhaps the formula is an abbreviation and we are to 'understand' intrat.

The agreement of these two books offers another problem: as the centuries moved onwards, the divergence between the Julian Calendar and what we now call the Gregorian ... i.e. where the Heavenly Bodies actually were ... grew greater ... yes? So presumably the coincidence of these two sources of information indicates that the information was passed down orally or in writing; and was nor secured from or based upon observation.

 Incidentally, the Grandisson Calendar gives lots of information ... for example, that, today. February 21 is the "End of Winter. Beginning of Spring. Last possible Date for Septuagesima".

And hang on. Here's another thing. The disjunction Julian/Gregorian must surely have a spin-off with regard to how late Easter can be. I happen to have a Sarum Missal ... thank you, Father; it has been and is endlessly useful ... I have equipped it with tabs and ribbons ... in my view, that is why Providence has endowed us with such a rich supply of tabs and ribbons in all those old Novus Ordo liturgical books so that we can cannibalise them for loftier uses ... and Sarum says: April 25 is ULTIMUM PASCHA ... the last day Easter can possibly occur.

Now I shall turn to Cheney/Jones (I bought that myself). And ... apparently the latest date of Easter is ... April 25!! 1943 was the last such year; 2038 will repeat it.

I am now totally confused ...


Moritz Gruber said...

I did the calculation myself once: Septuagesima always falls between the two feasts of the Chair of St. Peter, both included. And this limit is sharp, as the mathematicians say.

Nice coincidence (as we call it in Middle-Earth), too.

Chris said...

Our Julian-using ancestors, like those who still use the Julian calendar, presumably continued to calculate the date of Easter according to the theoretical dates of moon and sun. Take a March 21 solstice, add one moon and one week and you do indeed reach a latest possible date of April 25, whether or not the real sun agrees with your theoretical one. If actual astronomy came into it, then presumably the Greeks et al. would currently be running on a latest possible Easter of April 12 Julian.