by Fr. Michael Crowdy This month of January completes a year of intermittent notes, concerned mainly with explaining the changes that have been made in the Saints' Days. It is time now to bring together the general principles on Which the revision was made, and which are given in the "rnotu proprio" which introduced the new Calendar.
Its basis is Vatican II's Constitution on the Liturgy, which called for such changes as would bring out more clearlythe liturgy's structure and purpose. This purpose is to enable us to grow in union with Christ 1)‘ renewing continuously in a
yearly cycle the mysteries of our Redemption which culminate in the celebration of Christ's death and resurrection.
This has necessitated some pruning, to free the main out lines from a too luxuriant growth of additional feasts. vigils and particular devotions.
Especially. the Sundays must be
recognised as weekly celebrations of the Resurrection (this was the original idea of the
first Christians who kept the Sunday rather than the Jewish Sabbath), which must only be supplanted by the most exceptional feasts. and no longer. for example, by the feast of an Apostle. In the same spirit, the main seasons of the Church's year — Advent and Lent. Christmastide and Eastertide — have been freed from a number of Saints' Days which occurred in them (especially in Lent) and distracted attention from the spirit of the season.
Speaking of seasons, the Ember and Rogation days seem, on the face of things, to have disappeared. It is not that they have been abolished, but, as they are days of prayer for par ticular needs, especially . for those of the harvest. their dates have been left for regional Episcopal Conferences to decide.
To return to the Saints' Days. These :Ire not mere unimportant extras. Headed by the feasts of Our Lady, which have the special dignity that comes from their close .connection with the
life of her Son, they show the many different ways in which the Holy Spirit continues in the world the work that began at the Annunciation.
however. the Saints are very
numerous (praise to God for it!) and the liturgical year had become over-burdened with their feasts. To remedy this. without discouraging devotion, the revisers have applied the long-standing principle that not all of them need be equally honoured everywhere. Hence the large number "relegated to local calendars". For, besides the general or Roman calendar, each diocese or Order can have its own Calendar (duly approved by Rome) in which,its special feasts have due prominence.
So the fact that a Saint's Day is no longer obligatory in the general calendar, or not in it at all, does not mean that it cannot he celebrated locally. And on feria' days Votive Masses can still he said in honour of any saint in the Martyrology, which contains many more martyrs and confessors than have ever been in the general Calendar.
On the other hand, new Saints have been added from countries more recently evangelised, so as to make the calendar more truly . universal, But in this connection, we must remember that we are here concerned with the calendar of the Latin rite: the Eastern Catholic rites have their own calendars.
The merits on principle of this reform cannot he gainsaid. But inevitably there are differences of opinion as to the success of the application of the principle involved. One may question — to take a small point as an example — whether anything has been gained by -changing the numbering of the Sundays. It 'was simpler to count them as so many after' Pentecost, or the Epiphany, rather than on the artificial new scheme. Liturgy gains strength from old custom,
so any cliange needs some necessity to justify it.
Then there is the disappearance of the Octave of Pentecost, which has aroused comment. There are now only two Octaves, Easter and Christmas: • and the Faster season is viewed as going not up to Ascension Day, but for fifty days ending with Pentecost as its climax. One can accept the principle while feeling that, in practice. Pentecost without its Octave comes and goes too quickly. At least Whit Monday and Whit Tuesday (formerly days of the highest rank) could be restored.
Lastly. what about the game of General Post that has been played with the Saints' Days? Besides the intention of unburdening the special Seasons, the other object has been o place each Saint on the actual day of his death (which has always, in fact, been the general principle). The merit of insisting on this is more arguable.
That a Saint has been honoured from time immemorial on a certain day; that people know by heart. and remember it as the name-day of some of their -friends, that old records are often dated by the Saint's Day — these are considerations that need to he set against a too pedantic insistence on the date of death.
However, when particular cases are looked into, we have often found that an "old established feast" is not so old after all: which is a reminder of how a little knowledge often has a remarkably cooling effect on the heat of criticism!
For those with a little Latin. "Calendarium Romanum," with fa notes and introduction, is published by the Vatican Press.