30 January 2014

Lost Feasts In Lent

I said last time that the calendar reform of the early twentieth century had seen a radical cull of Lenten feasts.  Here they are, with this year's dates.  (This is the order for England and Wales.)

Friday after Septuagesima
21 Feb
The Prayer of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Friday after Sexagesima
28 Feb
The Most Holy Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Friday after Quinquagesima
7 Mar
The Most Holy Crown of Thorns of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Friday after First Sunday of Lent
14 Mar
The Most Holy Spear and Nails of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Friday after Second Sunday of Lent
21 Mar
The Most Holy Winding Sheet of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Friday after Third Sunday of Lent
28 Mar
The Five Sacred Wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Friday after Fourth Sunday of Lent
4 Apr
The Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Friday after Passion Sunday
11 Apr
(The Seven Sorrows of the BVM)

(The Feast of the Seven Sorrows is in brackets as it was retained when the others were abolished, though it was subsequently reduced to a Commemoration by Pope Pius XII and has been moved to 15 September as a Memorial in the post-VII calendar.)

Losing these feasts is an impoverishment: there are seven opportunities to preach, to catechise, to meditate on different aspects of Our Lord's Passion as Good Friday draws nearer, and on the final Friday, to join Our Lady in contemplating her seven sorrows; and while there is no reason why we shouldn't mark these Feasts on their traditional days, I doubt that many of us will, mainly because they are no longer part of the geography of our lives. 

Each of the twentieth century's calendar reforms, which aimed at simplification, took away, but didn't replace.  Simplification became reduction.  In stripping away "superfluous" Feasts, the thing they commemorated was gradually forgotten.

This isn't a plea to bring back the Calendar of Leo XIII - well ... I suppose we could do worse than compare the starkly empty 2014 Ordo with what it would have looked like 110 years previously.  But I'd rather think about how the Church might revitalise catachetics and reintroduce (or more often introduce) today's Catholics to the multidimensional richness of their Faith.

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