24 May 2014

The Calendar And Our Identity

One lost feast, and two feasts tragically reduced in significance show how we have ruptured our relationship with the past, how the changes pre-Vatican II paved the way for what was to follow. 

Today should have been the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, a feast of thanksgiving, instituted by Pius VII in 1815 to commemorate the end of the Popes' exile from Rome because of the French Revolution.  As an annual reminder of the threat to Christian religion from the powers of secularism, it should have been raised in importance rather than abolished!

Monday should be the feast of St Augustine of Canterbury.  Before Pius X, this feast was a double of the first class in England, as important a feast as could be with its own octave.  This commemorated the fact that St Augustine was the Apostle of the English.  Of course there were already Christians in England, but, sent from Rome, he organised the Church in England in dioceses, evangelised the English, and, most importantly, brought the Roman Mass with him so that the Church in England never had its own rite but always used the Roman. 

Tuesday should be the feast of St Bede, a Doctor of the Church: not quite as important as St Augustine, but his feast, which has been celebrated in the eleventh and twelfth centuries on 26 May, was moved to 27 May simply so that the two great English saints could be commemorated on consecutive days.

By the time of the 1962 Missal, the two feasts had been reduced to the third class (although in Hexham and Newcastle St Bede could be celebrated as a second class feast).  In the new calendar and with the dates subtly messed about, St Bede is simply an optional memorial while St Augustine, although still classified as a feast (though only in England), isn't so important that a priest can't substitute his Mass for the Mass of a weekday in Eastertime (and, anyway, neither feast can come before "Saint Sunday" any more).

This is yet another example of how the calendar has been flattened and cut off from its roots, and, as a result, how we have been separated, not just from our history, but from the contextualisation that showed our forebears how everything was linked together.  It is another example of the contempt for tradition which started at the beginning of the twentieth century and grew in pace along with the century.

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