Thursday, June 15, 2006

Sing, my tongue, the Savior's glory!

Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi in the Roman Calendar. A piece written by this author with the above title appears as a guest column today at, the weblog of Stephen L M Heiner, a native of Singapore currently (as of this week, in fact) residing in St Mary's, Kansas.

I am described thus: "His humor and attitude adds much levity to the blogosphere..." Yep, that's my mission from God -- spreading joy. Thanks, Steve.

An interesting aspect of this feast was broached by the two of us as this was being prepared. It is listed on the traditional Roman calendar as a "Double of the 1st Class with Privileged Octave." As we went to press, there was insufficient time or space to delve into the meaning of octaves, or extended observances of eight days. There were numerous solemnities with octaves in the Roman calendar until 1955, when Pius XII eliminated a number of them. (An example of supposed excess was when Christmas and St Stephen's Day had near-simultaneous octaves.) They became even fewer in the calendar reforms following Vatican II.

What has happened in recent years has been that major feasts that appear on a weekday are allowed by territorial bodies of bishops to be transferred to the nearest Sunday. An example of this is Epiphany (January 6), and more recently, Ascension (Thursday before the week preceding Pentecost). This fate as also befallen today's solemnity, which in the USA has been transferred to the following Sunday. Neither adjustments have been made in Rome, or in the mind of this writer.

Furthermore, they were probably unnecessary. At a meeting of the American bishops some years ago, the prospect of moving Ascension to Sunday was on the agenda. Archbishop Pilarczyk of Cincinnati went on about how "this is the way things are going," as if it were some sort of fait accompli. Then up spoke Ukrainian Bishop Basil Losten of Stamford, who described the custom of octaves in the Eastern churches, and how weekday observances could be extended naturally over the entire eight days, including Sunday. He was politely listened to, and just as politely ignored.

The exercise of moving an observance to Sunday overlooks the value of sacred time. The Magi are remembered at the culmination of a solemnity that extends for twelve days, not a length of time that varies from one year to the next. Christ ascended into Heaven 40 days after He rose from the dead, not 43 days after. There is a significance to the Feast of Corpus Christi being on a Thursday, a day of the week associated with devoted to the Eucharist, in much the same way as Saturday is devoted to the Blessed Mother.

At a time when a liturgical counter-reformation is being considered, perhaps the custom of octaves in the Western church is worthy of a second look.

1 comment:

Stephen Heiner said...

Agree with your post, and thought I'd add some celebratory pictures...