Thursday, June 16, 2022

Some Rubrical Notes for the Coming Days

Over the next several days, there are some rubrical matters which are a little out of the ordinary in both the traditional Roman Rite and the post-Conciliar Rite, regarding the Mass of Corpus Christi, and the feasts of the Sacred Heart and St John the Baptist.

1. In the post-Conciliar Rite, certain feasts which are traditionally celebrated on a weekday, such as the Ascension and Corpus Christi, may be permanently and entirely transferred to the following Sunday at the discretion of the local bishops’ conference; such is the case with both feasts in most of the United States. In such places, today is simply a common feria this year, unless a feast is assigned to a local calendar.

The Allegory of the Holy Eucharist, 1750, by Miguel Cabrera. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.) 
In the Roman Rite, however, these feasts are not transferred; it is obligatory to celebrate both their Mass and Divine Office on the traditional days. The “external solemnity” is a pastoral provision which may be made, but is not obligatory, in cases where a reasonable number of the faithful are unable to attend the feast on the day itself. The Mass of the feast is repeated, but the Office is not changed to match it; the rubrics of the 1962 Missal (numbers 356-361) describe it as “celebratio … festi absque Officio – the celebration of the feast without the Office.” Whereas on the feast day itself, a church may celebrate as many Masses of the feast as are possible, desired, or necessary, only two may be said of the feast on its external solemnity (number 360), and only one of them may be sung.
Further, it should be noted that according to this rubric, there are only two feasts to which an external solemnity is automatically granted, those of the Sacred Heart and the Holy Rosary; the former may be repeated on the following Sunday, the latter on the first Sunday of October, whether before or after its fixed date of October 7.
(The original logic of the external solemnity, by the way, was that it applied to feasts which had octaves, and therefore corresponded to at least a part of the Office, namely, the commemoration of the feast on the Sunday within its octave.)
2. This year, the feast of the Sacred Heart, the day after the octave of Corpus Christi, coincides with the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist. According to the rubrics of the Roman Rite, St John is therefore transferred to the following day, June 25th, and on the 23rd, his vigil is omitted.
As far as I can tell from the letter of the rubrics of the post-Conciliar Missal, which are in many cases as unclear as they are wordy, the same should be done in the Novus Ordo. There does not appear to be any specific rubric warrant for anticipating any feast, rather than transferring it forward. However, in 2020, the Congregation for Divine Worship issued a decree which stated instead that where the feast of St John is a patronal feast (which is a huge number of places), the Sacred Heart should be celebrated on the 23rd, and elsewhere, St John should be celebrated on the 23rd. This actually seems to be a very sensible solution, since it respects the fact that the feast of St John is far older than that of the Sacred Heart, and many popular customs are tied to it.

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