Followup: Misa de aguinaldo and the canonical hours

The misa de aguinaldo is a purely devotional custom that is not linked in any way to the Office of the day. Its vestments are white, while that of the Masses of Advent are purple. Gloria is sung throughout, which is suppressed throughout Advent. Credo is sung throughout, which is only sung on Sundays throughout Advent. The misa de aguinaldo does not commemorate the Advent Mass; the Advent Mass does not commemorate the misa de aguinaldo. One appreciates here the principle of parallel actions in the liturgy that Dr Kwasniewski so eloquently observes in the usus antiquior, something that agents in the modern liturgical establishment are loathe to value and esteem.

This being the case, we shall address the discussions that our previous article generated, primarily on the anticipation of the misa de aguinaldo. People have a tendency to look at the misa de aguinaldo in the evening of the previous day as an anticipation, precisely because it has been marketed as such. In that previous article, we avoided applying the term ‘anticipated’ on the evening misa de aguinaldo, because that would imply that horologically, it is in an actually and morally exceptional temporal locus.

Anticipated Masses are admittedly a paradigm that developed after the Council, intended to accommodate the shifting occupational availability of Catholics. Anticipated Offices, however, are not prior to the Council. In the usus antiquior, if there was a need to move the Mass earlier, the Church predicated permission on the movement of the Offices to an earlier time. Take for example the norms established by the statutes of the then Conciliar Seminary of Nueva Cáceres. In order for the Mass of the Easter Vigil to be said at 6 o’clock in the morning (so the people can break fast early), the seminarians had to finish reciting all the minor hours, from terce to none, including prime, at dawn.

An anticipated Sunday Mass, therefore, is properly ‘anticipated’ because, historically and traditionally, Sunday Masses are said after the hour of terce, which is 9 o’clock in the morning. Terce, unlike matins and lauds, is, by practice, not anticipated the day before. So, saying the propers of Sunday in the evening of Saturday, when the hours preceding terce have not yet been recited, even practically and morally, is indeed an anticipation.

An evening misa de aguinaldo, on the other hand, at least from the perspective of the usus antiquior, is morally still within the bounds of the canonical hours where it has been historically and traditionally celebrated. And what are these bounds? As we have said before, the misa de aguinaldo is sung in the darkness between lauds and prime, before the dawn of the nine days of Christmas. If the misa de aguinaldo starts at, say, 12 noon of 15 December (being before the allowed hour of anticipation for matins and lauds) that would indeed be an anticipation.

Another factor that contributes to this perception is the fact that, in the usus recentior, the misa de aguinaldo has unique readings assigned for each day, whose beginnings were first expressed in 1975, based on the Boletín Eclesiástico. This somehow invites the thought that if the propers are said outside the astronomical boundaries of the days they are assigned, then anticipation is a real thing. Again, it is not only the set of propers that makes the misa de aguinaldo what it is. It is marked, first and foremost, for its joyous solemnity (Gloria and Credo) in honour of Mary (Votive Mass of the Virgin) at an early time of the day (the darkness preceding dawn).

The usus antiquior does not have this problem, because the readings said throughout the nine days are the same. The only change that happens is during 18 December, when the celebrant reads the Alleluia verse from the feast of the Expectation, and changes the elogium of the preface to in Exspectatióne. One here asks: Why admit the feast of the Expectation, when the misa de aguinaldo does not admit even the Advent feria? And the answer is: Because, unlike the Advent feria, the feast of the Expectation is a proper feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and is intimately linked to her perpetual virginity, being, in fact, the reason why we have the misa de aguinaldo in the first place.

These having been said, we shall abstain from comparing the set of propers of the two forms of the Roman Rite. Still, there is difficulty in our liturgical establishment accepting the independence of the misa de aguinaldo from the general calendar, and vice versa. This failure to reconcile the two results in Frankenstein liturgies where elements from the misa de aguinaldo are transplanted into the Sunday Mass. It is not uncommon to attend evening Sunday Masses where the vestments are white and Gloria is sung, but the readings are for the Sunday of Advent. It is, indeed, akin to forcing a 1-cm2 square fit into a 1-cm2 circle, an exercise in frustration.

Before we end, allow us this admonition: If people perceive these words authoritative, we say: Thank you, but authority does not reside in us. Having traced its history and pedigree all the way back to the Tenth Council of Toledo, we are merely appreciating the nuances behind the present-day arrangements of the misa de aguinaldo. Whether the evening misas de aguinaldo are legitimate, is a question our bishops can answer and moderate, as they have so done in their capacity and proper jurisdiction.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

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