Monday, January 01, 2007

Liturgical Confusion

DISCLAIMER: Comparisons will be made in the following article between the 1975 ICEL translation of the Liturgy of the Hours and the 2000 Editio Typica Altera. I acknowledge that these are different editions, and only wish to clear up discrepencies as they pertain to the celebration of the office today (2007). The original oversights or ambiguities might be the fault of the ICEL translators or the programmers of the older Latin edition: having no access to the latter, I withhold any judgement on that matter. My purpose here is simply to shed light upon the Ordo's plan of the hours in 2007 given a comparison between the current Latin rubrics and the version we have translated into English. END DISCLAIMER

Now with that messy business behind us, let us begin.

The old agage is: Say the BLACK, do the RED. Most priests and seminarians have heard the urban legend/joke about the priest who gets up at his first Mass and says "Then the priest, facing the people, extends his hands and greets all present... (etc.)." Sometimes, however, this can be confusing work.

Let's consider first the notation, in red, on page 493 of the ICEL Volume I Breviary:
Where the solemnity of the Epiphany is celebrated on the Sunday between January 2 and January 8 [as is the case this year], the office of the Second Sunday after Christmas is not used. After the Epiphany is celebrated, the office is given on 385-393, with the proper parts on 575ff, unless Sunday occurs on January 7 or 8, in which case Ordinary Time begins on the following day, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord being omitted. [Emphasis added]
Now, I was a bit confused.

I knew that we were celebrating the feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Monday, January 8. I knew also that the Epiphany was to be celebrated on Sunday, January 7. So, why the discrepancy in the red text?

I went to the Ordo in search of an answer. The Ordo is a book that Dioceses or regions publish with their specific adapations of the Roman Calendar, based on the plan formulated by the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy. It is, in a sense, the "rule" for the celebration of the liturgy within a given Diocese. It's a trusty friend in times of confusion... except this time. This time, it only added to the confusion.

The Ordo contained no notation regarding the feast to be celebrated on the eighth, apart from the recognition that this was the case. There was, however, a note to this effect:
The days from January 2 to Epiphany in the Liturgy of the Hours need to be adjusted. The day marked "Monday" will be celebrated on Tuesday, the 2nd, and so on. [This is a paraphrase as I don't have my Ordo handy]
Ok, so let's get this straight. For the week between January 2 and Epiphany, where the Liturgy of the Hours gives days of the week, these days are to be disregarded. Instead, the series is to be taken as beginning on January 2nd, and continuing in date order, all the way until the weekend celebration of the solemnity. Thus, January 2 would be celebrated as "Monday between January 2 and Epiphany."

Thinking that I somewhat understood, I turned back to my Breviary to check out these days following the Octave of Christmas. To my dismay, I found that the Propers here were much as they were in Advent: in other words, the psalms were to be taken from the current day of the psalter. Note, it would be the current day.

Now, I was placed in a quandary. Granted, being the liturgical purist that I am, I'm the only lunatic who would give this two seconds' thought. But consider: Since we're pretending Tuesday is Monday in the Temporal (Proper of Seasons), should we also do that in the Psalter? Should the psalms come from Monday, Week 2, since the Proper is really "Monday between January 2 and Epiphany"; or, since the day is Tuesday, January 2, should the day of the Psalter be matched with that, notwithstanding the Propers?

I was just about disgusted. I knew that something was awry. I've known the Liturgy to be a pretty well-oiled machine. Something wasn't connecting here. I simply wanted to be praying the right thing. But it seemed that most people in the world would be celebrating Tuesday on Tuesday (how many people daily check their Ordo?) and I'd be praying out of synch. It wasn't comfort enough that I'd be praying "by the books," because the Ordo is ambiguous here. So, if I was going to tread thus out-of-step, I wanted to be sure it was for good reason. And in the back of my mind, the question regarding the Baptism of the Lord still lurked.

So, I ventured over to Catholic Answers Online Forums and posted a query. A very timely reply from an "AlexV" encouraged me to check out the Latin, if I had it. While this had occurred to me before, I dismissed the possibility that this would shed any light on this particular confusion. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I did crack open my Liturgia Horarum.

It turns out that, in the Latin edition, the day of the week is not given at all in the Temporal. Rather, the title of the day is "Die 2 Ianuarii." Period. No "Feria II." So, apparently, there's been a confusion attributing a "day of the week" in the same place in our English edition; the Latin provides for the liturgical flux where, like this year, the time between January 2 and Epiphany is almost, but not quite, a full week.

Hence, following the Latin, the plan of the Hours for this week is simple. This year, on Tuesday, January 2, the hours flow thus: first, the psalms from the current weekday in the psalter (the real weekday); then, the propers are taken from the day, beginning with January 2nd (which equates to the day marked "Monday of the week before Epiphany" in our English edition).

Encouraged by this enlightenment, I turned back a few pages to the Latin equivalent of the rubrical note about the Baptism of the Lord (the red text). This, too, was enlightening. Rather than trouble everyone with the Latin, I'll give my own rough translation below of the pertinent parts (compare this with the instruction [above] given in the current English edition):
In regions where the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord is celebrated on the Sunday between January 2 and 8, there will be no Second Sunday after Christmas... [The directive for how Epiphany will be celebrated, and the pages, is then given, but with the following proviso:] except when Sunday occurs on January 7 or 8, in which case the following day, the Office of the feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated as indicated... [Everything not proper, it is noted, will come from Monday of the first week of the Psalter.] Feria III [i.e., Tuesday] follows, beginning ordinary time, Volume III.
Now, I was getting somewhere.

So, for January 2 through Epiphany, the weekdays of Psalter II are used and the Propers from the date (I've already crossed out "Monday" in my English breviary and changed it to January 2). Then, Epiphany on Sunday, followed by the Baptism as a feast, followed by Tuesday of Psalter I in ordinary time. Phew! What a work out.

But what gives? Why the confusion? I appealed again to my pal, AlexV, over at the Catholic Answers Forums and he had this to say:
Before 1979, if your country observed Epiphany on Sunday January 7 or January 8, your country omitted the Baptism entirely.

In 1979, JP II added the rubric that in such countries, the Baptism would be celebrated on Monday, January 8 or January 9.
Alex had some other interesting things to say about this rubrical issue that results from the transferral of the Epiphany from its traditional date: I won't trouble you with these. Suffice to say, after looking into it a bit further, I agree with his assessment: "It's a sloppy mess."

But anyhow, if there were any in the blogosphere as confused as I was about this upcoming week, hopefully this clarifies things a bit. As for me, I have another reason to love my Latin breviary - and another reason to be chagrinned about the transferral of feasts and such to accomodate our own calendar comforts. Most of all, though, I have a renewed appreciate for the beautiful and organic structure of our liturgy that we all too often take for granted. It's been a personal mission of mine for some time to help increase appreciation for liturgy. Who knows? Maybe this little peek into my own obsessions will encourage others to take up their own search for the intelligibility that can be read between the lines of all that red and black text.