Thursday, 1 January 2009

The Circumcision of the LORD and Octave Day of the Nativity

Today is the feast of the Circumcision of the LORD and Octave Day of the Nativity. It is a Double of the Second Class.

Anciently two if not three Masses were celebrated this day in Rome. There was the Octave Day of the Nativity, a Mass in St. Mary Major in honour of Mary, Mother of God (c.f. today's orations in the Missal) and the Circumcision. Although the latter probably fused with the Octave Day at an early age. The eleventh century Missal of Robert of Jumieges gives two sets of formularies the first for the Octave Day all specifically referencing both the Circumcision and the Octave Day. Then, for the first Sunday after the Nativity are the set of orations as found in the Pius V Missal for today but with a proper preface. Today's liturgy clearly displays its composite nature.

At yesterday's first Vespers the antiphons were proper and the psalms those for a feast of the BVM. At Mattins there are three nocturns and nine lessons. At both Veespers and Lauds four pluvialistae in pariti assist the Hebdomadarius. The invitatory and hymn are those of the Nativity. In the first nocturn lessons are taken from St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. Prior to the 1911-13 reform today chapter 3 and 4 of that letter formed the first nocturn lessons with the first verse 'What advantage then hath the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? and all of St. Paul's discourse on circumcison and the Gentiles. In the reform the readings from Romans started a day earlier, on the feast of St. Thomas Becket with the result that the first part of chapter three is omitted and no longer formed the 'appropritated' first lesson for today. At Lauds the same antiphons as at Vespers are sung, the hymn if of the Nativity.

At the Hours, as usual, the antiphons from Lauds are used. The Doxology in honour of the Incarnation is sung with all hymns of Iambic metre.

At Mass the composite nature is apparent: the introit Puer natus, epistle, gradual, offertory and communion chant are of the Nativity; the orations of the BVM and the Gospel of the Circumcision. The Gloria and Credo are sung and the preface and communicantes are of the Nativity.

Second Vespers use the same antiphons and psalms of the BVM.

In 'the liturgical books of 1962' textually there are only a few differences in the liturgy today. The Circumcision has been renamed Octave Day of the Nativity and raised to first class rank. At the Little Hours the tone of the hymns will be different as the Doxology in honour of the Incarnation is omitted.


Kevin said...

Would you point us toward a good source of information on the traditional ceremonial of the Divine office? In these sad times Choir offices are few, and the ones that are available tend to be scaled down. You mentioning of the Hebdomadarius and his pariti makes me want to know more about how the office was celebrated. Any sources would be appreciated.

Rubricarius said...


Yes, the book I am in the process of writing!

Please forgive the arrogance. The best authors for the Roman liturgy are Michael Bauldry (17th C in Latin); and then, more recently, Leon Le Vavasseur (in French) and Pius Martinucci (in Latin).

We have promised customers such a work for several years but the problem has been the lack of fiscal resources. Hopefully, Deo volente, this year will see a work on Choir Office and, very close to my heart, the Services of Holy Week.

Anonymous said...

I am sure many people will be grateful for such a book. Let us up it will see a wide circulation