Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Vigil of St Andrew

In the Roman Rite, the term “vigilia – vigil” traditionally means a penitential day of preparation for a major feast. The Mass of a Saint’s vigil is celebrated after None, as are the Masses of the ferias of Lent or the Ember Days, and in violet vestments; however, the deacon and subdeacon do not wear folded chasubles, as they do in Lent, but the dalmatic and tunicle. The Mass has neither the Gloria nor the Creed, the Alleluja is simply omitted before the Gospel, not replaced with a Tract, and Benedicamus Domino is said at the end in place of Ite, missa est.

Folio 122r of the Gellone Sacramentary, a sacramentary of the Gelasian type written in 780-800 AD. The Mass of the vigil of St Andrew begins with the large Q, decorated with two fish in honor of his calling as a “fisher of men”; the same device is used with the Collect of the feast day towards the bottom of the page. The preface “Reverentiae tuae” cited below begins with the decorated VD about the middle of the page. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 12048)
Before the Tridentine reform, the vigil of a Saint consisted solely of the Mass, and had no presence in either the Roman version of the Divine Office, or in that of most other Uses. A minority custom, which seems to have been predominantly German, gave an Office to the vigils of Saints, which consisted of a homily at Matins, and the use of the collect of the vigil as the principal collect of the day; the rest of the Office was that of the feria. The Breviary of St Pius V adopted this latter custom for the vigils of Saints, a rare example of change in an otherwise extremely conservative reform; but even for the Roman Rite, this was not an absolute novelty. Historically, the vigils of the major feasts of the Lord (Christmas, Epiphany etc.) did include the Office, and the change in 1568 simply extended the scope of a well-established custom.

Writing in the mid-12th century, the liturgical commentator John Beleth states that the feast of St Andrew the Apostle “has no vigil, because it occurs in a time of fasting, (i.e. Advent), wherefore it was not necessary that a vigil be instituted for it.” (Summa de Ecclesiasticis Officiis 164). At the end of the 13th century, William Durandus repeats this statement word for word (Rationale 7,38). It may safely be assumed that this is not said merely in error, and does reflect a custom which they both knew to be in use at the time. [1] Nevertheless, the vigil of St Andrew is a very ancient observance of the Roman Rite, attested in the oldest sacramentaries and lectionaries with its own proper Mass, alongside those of the Assumption, the Birth of St John the Baptist, Ss Peter and Paul, and St Lawrence.

The church of Rome is particularly concerned to honor St Andrew as the brother of its first bishop, whom he brought to Christ, as recounted in the Gospel of the vigil. The Introit of the vigil Mass is therefore taken from the Gospel of the feast, Matthew 4, 18-22. “Dóminus secus mare Galiláeae vidit duos fratres, Petrum et Andréam, et vocávit eos: Veníte post me: faciam vos fíeri piscatóres hóminum. – By the sea of Galilee, the Lord saw two brothers, Peter and Andrew, and called them: “Come ye after me, and I will make you to be fishers of men.”

The epistle is a selection of verses from chapters 44 and 45 of the book of Sirach, with the first verse taken from the book of Proverbs. Several words differ from the version of Sirach found in the Vulgate, an indication of the reading’s extreme antiquity. In the lectionary of Wurzburg, the oldest of the Roman Rite (ca. 650 AD), it is assigned to the feast, but about a century later, in the lectionary of Murbach, it has been moved to the vigil. From this position, it became the common Epistle for vigils of the Apostles, as we find in the Missal of St Pius V. The words “divided him his portion among the twelve tribes” refer to the words spoken by the Lord to St Andrew’s brother, “You, who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, shall also sit on twelve seats, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19, 28)

Prov. 10, 6a The blessing of the Lord is upon the head of the just, Sir. 44, 26 therefore he gave him an inheritance, and divided him his portion among the twelve tribes, 27 and he found grace in the sight of all flesh, 45, 2 and magnified him in the fear of his enemies, and with his words he made prodigies to cease. 3 He glorified him in the sight of kings, and gave him commandments before his people, and showed him his glory. 4 He sanctified him in his faith, and meekness, and chose him out of all flesh. 6 And he gave him commandments before his face, and a law of life and instruction, and 7 exalted him. 8 He made an everlasting covenant with him, and he girded him about with a robe of justice, and the Lord put on him a crown of glory.

In the Gospel, John 1, 35-51, St Andrew is named as one of two disciples of St John the Baptist who follow the Lord after John points to Him and says “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Andrew finds and brings to the Lord his brother Simon, who is then first given the name “Cephas”, the Hellenized form of the Aramaic “kepha – the rock.” The passage continues to include the Lord’s meeting with Philip, who was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter; Philip then brings to Him Nathanael, whom the other Evangelists call Bartholomew. This passage also provides the Communion antiphon of the Mass, which is unique to it. “Dicit Andréas Simóni fratri suo: Invénimus Messíam, qui dícitur Christus: et adduxit eum ad Jesum. – Andrew sayeth to his brother Simon, ‘We have found the Messiah, who is called Christ’, and brought him to Jesus.”

The Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries each have a proper preface for the vigil of St Andrew. The former speaks of the importance of the ancient discipline of fasting in preparation for a major feast. “VD. Reverentiae tuae dicato jejunio gratulantes, quo apostolica beati Andreae merita desideratis praevenimus officiis, ut ad eadem celebranda solemniter preparemur. – Truly it is worthy and just, meet and profitable to salvation, that we give Thee thanks always and everywhere, o Lord, Holy Father, almighty and everlasting God, rejoicing in the fast dedicated to Thy veneration, by which we anticipate the merits of the blessed Apostle Andrew, our glad duty, that we may be prepared to solemnly celebrate the same. And therefore…”

In the Gregorian Sacramentary, this preface is displaced by that of the feast day, which lays greater emphasize on St Andrew’s role as a member of the Apostolic college. “VD. Qui Ecclesiam tuam in apostolicis tribuisti consistere fundamentis, de quorum collegio beati Andreæ solemnia celebrantes, tua, Domine, preconia non tacemus. Et ideo. – Truly it is worthy… who granted to Thy Church to stand firmly upon the foundation of the Apostles; and among their company, as we celebrate the solemnity of the blessed Andrew, we proclaim also Thy praises, o Lord. And therefore…”

Surprisingly, it is the Ambrosian Preface, not the ancient Roman one, that speaks particularly of St Andrew’s relationship to his brother Peter, and the fact that they both shared the Lord’s death by crucifixion. “VD. Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Per quem beatus Apostolus Andreas tantum caelesti gratia eminet praecipuus, quantum etiam beati Petri Apostoli germanitate demonstratur esse præclarus: ut, quos una genitrix edidit mundo, una regeneratione per Crucis patibulum collocarentur in caelo. Et ideo… – Truly it is worthy… through Christ, our Lord. Through Whom the blessed Apostle Andrew stands forth as preeminent in heavenly grace, as he is also shown glorious as the brother of the blessed Apostle Peter; so that those whom one mother brought forth unto the world, might be reborn through the gibbet of the Cross, and placed in heaven. And therefore…” The final words “be placed in heaven” refer to a verse of Psalm 112 which is often referred to the Apostles, “That he may place (collocet) him with princes, with the princes of his people.”

The Crucifixion of St Andrew, by Mattia Preti, from the choir of the basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle in Rome.
In the year 1955, as part of a simplification of the rubrics of both Missal and Breviary (which was in reality anything but a simplification), the vigil of St Andrew was suppressed, although the similarly ancient vigils listed above were not. Since the Gospel passage occurs nowhere else in the Missal, in 1960, it was rescued, along with the Introit, as part of a newly created votive Mass “to ask for ecclesiastical vocations”; the Epistle and the Communion, however, have disappeared. In the post-Conciliar rite, in which vigils in the traditional sense do not exist, both the Introit and Communion from the vigil of St Andrew have been moved to his feast.

[1] According to the rubrics of the Breviary and Missal of St Pius V, if the vigil occurs in Advent, the Office is that of the ferial day of Advent, with no mention of the vigil. However, the Mass of the vigil remains the principle Mass of the day, with commemorations of the feria and the martyr St Saturninus.

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