We are two days away from the Circumcision of the Lord, which is the octave of Christmas, and thereafter the days will start to edge closer to Epiphany, the thirteenth day of Christmas. If you missed the setting of the Noveritis we released earlier this month, then open this now. Done? Let us now listen to how the proclamation sounds in plainchant.
One of the many reasons we released this very early is our desire to provide plenty of time for priests and deacons, who still appreciate the beauty of this custom, to rehearse. This tone is not unfamiliar but, as we have said before, the sudden drops can be disorienting and disarming.
Why do we insist on hearing this announcement of feasts? After all, the world has already advanced greatly in its calendrical studies to such a point we can practically get the dates of all the major liturgical feasts in, let’s say, the year 3091 with just a series of clicks in the Internet.
The determination of the dates of feasts hinges on the date of Easter, and the Noveritis clearly admits this in its introduction. “So we also announce to you the joy of the Resurrection of the Saviour,” it declares. The Church, throughout Her life, combated many heresies, among which figured the obstinacy to fix the date of Easter.
The announcement of the date of Easter on Epiphany is a reminder of this great motherly concern that the Church lavishes upon Her children. She desires that we celebrate the feasts of the Lord on the correct days, and so she tells us, quite generously, the dates that She has correctly determined. Continuing this custom reinforces the bonds that unite Her children, the Pope to his bishops, the bishop to his priests, the priest to his parishioners. It is an affirmation of this unity that is not only universal but also hierarchical.
This reason, of course, borders on the melodramatic. Practicality demands that the faithful should simply look at their calendars and spare their priests from chanting the dates they can readily find elsewhere. This is the logic of the world, which always encourages us to choose the easiest path. If we apply this logic to our received tradition, then perhaps we should also compel the Church to abandon the cope (in Latin pluviale, literally raincoat in English) in the Liturgy because, let’s face it, does it ever rain inside a church? Or during Holy Week, when the only thing that is raining is our sweat.
If a reason as romantic as an emphasis on the hierarchical and universal unity of the Church is too gross even for a pewsitter in the vetus ordo, then perhaps a more compelling reason would be an emphasis on calendrical and liturgical integrity. It is not unknown to many Catholics that Bishops Conferences around the world have recently acquired the habit of permanently transferring feast days, resulting to a complete evaporation of the significance their chronological position. Say hello to Epiphany permanently fixed on the first Sunday of January, goodbye twelve days of Christmas and all! Let’s brush cheeks with Ascension three days after the date clearly enunciated in Holy Writ! If the translation of these solemn feasts earned our consternation, why should we visit our indignation upon the Noveritis in the vetus ordo which only faithfully preserves the correct dates? Announcing, therefore, the date of Easter and other movable feasts has a medicinal effect on this prevailing practice.
If we hear our spiritual fathers dismiss the Noveritis as something extraneous, impractical, and obsolete, let us redouble our prayers for the gift of patience.
Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.