Wednesday, 28 December 2011
The Holy Innocents
The feast of the Holy Innocents is a Double of the Second Class with a simple Octave. Today the liturgical mood changes as the altars and ministers change their recent festive colours to the violet of mourning. The feast of the Holy Innocents is unique in the Roman rite in that it changes its liturgical colour depending on whether it falls on a weekday or a Sunday. This year as the feast falls on a weekday it is celebrated in violet. When it falls on a Sunday the feast is celebrated in red. The origin of this practice is a synthesis between the differences in Gallican and Roman praxis.
Much of the Office comes from the Common of Several Martyrs. At Mattins the invitatory is Regem Martyrum Dominum, Venite adoremus and the Office hymn Audit tyrannus anxius (sung with the Doxology of the Incarnation). In the first nocturn the antiphons Secus decursus aquarum etc are sung with psalms 1, 2 and 3. The lessons are from the Prophet Jeremiah. In the second nocturn the antiphons Dabo Sanctis meis etc are sung with psalms 14, 15 & 23. The lessons are from a sermon of St. Augustine on the Saints. In the third nocturn the antiphons Justi autem etc are sung with psalms 32, 33 & 45. However, the eighth antiphon, Isti sunt, is proper to the feast. The homily on St. Matthew's Gospel is from the writings of St. Jerome. The Te Deum is not sung but a ninth responsory in its place, Isti qui amicti sunt. At Lauds the antiphons Herodes iratus etc are sung with the Dominical psalms. The Office hymn is Salvete, flores Martyrum (again, sung with the Doxology of the Incarnation). After the collect of the feast a commemoration is sung of the Octave of the Nativity.
At Prime and the Hours the antiphons of Lauds are sung with the festal psalms. The hymns have their Doxology changed in honour of the Incarnation. At Prime the short lesson is of the feast, Hi empti sunt.
At Mass the deacon and subdeacon wear violet dalmatic and tunicle. The Gloria is not sung, the second collect is of the Octave of the Nativity. The Alleluia and its verse given in the Missal are not sung but in their place the Tract Effuderunt sanguinem Sanctorum. The Credo is sung and the preface and communicantes are of the Octave of the Nativity. The beautiful solemn tone of Benedicamus Domino is sung as the dismissal.
Vespers are of the Nativity, but from the chapter of the Holy Innocents with a commemoration of the following day's feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury and of the Octave of the Nativity.
Following the 'liturgical books of 1962' the feast of the Holy Innocents loses its penitential aspect (and Octave!) and is always celebrated in red. The Te Deum replaces the ninth responsory. The hymns lose their proper Doxology. At the Hours the antiphons and psalms are ferial. At Prime the short lesson is of the season. At Mass the Gloria and Alleluia are sung. The Tract and magnificent Benedicamus Domino are never heard. At Vespers there is only a commemoration of the Octave of the Nativity.