Learning the Office Part 3B: The seasons in the calendar

If you attend daily mass in the Extraordinary Form (EF), the calendar of the Monastic Diurnal will be pretty easy for you to follow, as it basically mirrors the traditional calendar pretty closely (the main differences are in the selection and level of saints' feasts). If on the other hand you are only familiar with the modern calendar, you may find the monastic calendar a bit of a challenge!

Essentially there are three moving parts to the calendar that you need to be aware of:

  • the seasons;
  • feasts that fall within a particular season;
  • other feasts that fall on particular days (such as saints feasts).
So today, let's take a little tour through the proper of the seasons and feasts that fall within them... The next part will deal with saints and other feasts.

The seasons - propers vs ordinary

The section of the Diurnal dealing with the seasons is near the beginning of the book, on page 1*, and starts with Advent. The overall heading is 'Proper of the Seasons', but in fact it gives you both 'propers' - things that change each day or week through a particular season - and 'the ordinary of the season', or the things that stay the same throughout a particular season. On page 1* for example, you can see some antiphons and prayers that are said at First Vespers (Saturday night) of the first Sunday of Advent. But if you flip over a few pages to 9*, you will find the ordinary of Advent, or the things that are said on most days of that season.

Go and take a look at my post on Eastertide for a fuller explanation of what this means in practice.

The seasons of the traditional calendar vs the new calendar

The really big differences between the seasons in the two calendars are:
  • the season of Septuagesima before Lent (abolished in the new calendar);
  • no 'Ordinary time' - instead the various periods are called things like 'Sundays after Pentecost'.
There is a very clear and entertaining description of the seasons and major feasts of the traditional calendar over at the fisheaters website. If you aren't familiar with them, it is well worth taking the time to read, and find the relevant seasons in the Diurnal.

The other useful source on this subject if you really want to drill down into it is Dom Gueranger OSB's famous nineteenth century multi-volume The Liturgical Year, which provides explanations of the seasons and the texts of each week's masses. But I'll probably try and provide some extracts or summaries of his work as we go through the year in any case.

Even if you are familiar with the traditional seasons though, you will find there are a few more sub-divisions in the Office than are apparent at mass. Look out for this and learn as you go through a few cycles of the Office!

Feasts of the season

As well as the 'ordinary for the season' , you will also find in this front section of the diurnal the propers for feasts that fit within a particular season - like Christmas Day for example (p58*)!

There are two basic categories of feasts - those with fixed dates (like Christmas) and moveable feasts (most but not all of which depend on the date of Easter). You can find a table setting out the dates for the moveable feasts for each year up until 2066 in the very front section of your Diurnal, immediately after the introduction, so that you can plan ahead.

There are a few differences in the dates and particular seasonal feasts celebrated in the two calendars, so just keep an eye out by reading ahead each week or consulting an Ordo (such as on this blog!).

Level of feasts

The other thing you need to be aware of, and that differs from the new calendar, is the level of the feast. This is one of those things that can be quite confusing if you look at older Office books (such as the Monastic Antiphonary), because the descriptors for feasts has changed several times in recent decades! There are basically five possibilities in the 1962 calendar (with a few minor variations within them), which is what you will find in the Diurnal:
  • a first class feast or solemnity;
  • a second class feast;
  • a third class feast;
  • a fourth class;
  • with a memorial (some missals call this a commemoration).
You do need to know what level each day is, as it does affect which prayers and so forth that you use. In fact, if you have the Farnborough Diurnal, it comes with a card that shows the things that vary depending on the level of the feast, and down the track I'll try and explain what it is trying to tell you!

So, if you hadn't been paying much attention to the level of feast, go take a look at this week's Ordo, and get them clear in your mind.

For Part 3C of this series, go here.

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