Lesson Seven: How to Commemorate Lesser Feasts

Commemoration is the act of giving recognition to feasts other than the principal one being celebrated in the Office.

Such lesser feasts may come about because two particular saint's days permanently occur on the same date year after year; because in the interplay between the Proper of the Season and the Proper of the Saints a particular saint's day occurs with a seasonally-based feast; or because I Vespers of tomorrow's semidouble or double feast concurs with II Vespers of today's feast.

Such occurrences and concurrences, necessitating commemoration, occur quite frequently.  Thankfully, however, the Breviary provides that commemoration be made only at Lauds and Vespers (with one slight exception to this rule noted below).

Further, commemoration is made only once, and at the same place in the Office of Lauds and Vespers -- namely, after the Collect of the Day has been said.


Making Commemoration

To commemorate a lesser occurrence at Lauds, recite the following from the office to be commemorated: (i) its antiphon on the Benedictus; (ii) the versicle and response after its Hymn; and (iii) the Salutation, Bidding, and its Collect.

That's simply all there is to commemoration.  If multiple commemorations need to be made, they are made in descending rank order, and the day's rubrics will usually assist in this regard.  If the Common Commemoration is also to be said, it is said after all festal/ferial commemorations are made.

Similarly, to commemorate a lesser occurrence (or concurring I or II Vespers) at Vespers, recite the following from the office to be commemorated: (i) its antiphon on the Magnificat; (ii) the versicle and response after its Hymn; and (iii) the Salutation, Bidding, and its Collect.

Example:

Since most commemorations depend on the vagaries of the Kalendar, the only examples which provide reliable practice are those involving feasts which permanently occur or concur.

An example is II Vespers of St. Stephen (December 26), which perpetually concurs with I Vespers of St. John (December 27).  The rubrics on p. C69 of the Breviary direct that Vespers is said of St. Stephen, with commemoration of St. John.  Remembering that commemoration always involves reciting the antiphon, versicle and response, and Collect, after the Collect of St. Stephen is said the following from C69.

Ant: "This is the same John, etc."
V. "Right worthy of honor, etc."
R. "Who leaned on the Lord's bosom, etc."
Let us pray:
"Merciful Lord, we beseech thee, etc." from C72


Using the Tables at F1-F6

Often, lesser feasts will not have proper antiphons or versicles and responses, but merely proper Collects.  In such a case, in order to commemorate them, one must pull those elements from the appropriate Common.  For example, if the feast to be commemorated is that of a martyr, and one would therefore use Common 5 in celebrating its Office, one would pull the antiphon, versicle and response needed to commemorate the Office from Common 5 as well.

The Breviary has provided convenient Tables of the necessary elements from each Common needed to commemorate feasts at I Vespers, Lauds and II Vespers.  These Tables, found at F1-F6, are arranged in the same order as the Common, and are helpful when commemorating lesser feasts which do not have proper antiphons, versicles or responses.

For example, at I Vespers of St. Agatha (E84), the rubrics direct that Vespers be said of St. Agatha with commemoration of the "outgoing" II Vespers of St. Andrew Corsini, "from Table 7C."

St. Andrew Corsini is a Bishop Confessor, so Common 7 is the Common used to supply the necessary elements for his Office.  Table 7C, found on F4, merely pulls the relevant antiphon, versicle and response needed to commemorate his II Vespers and places them together in a convenient location.

Thus, to commemorate St. Andrew Corsini, after the Collect of St. Agatha is said, the antiphon, versicle and response from Table 7C is said, followed by "Let us pray" and the Collect for St. Andrew (E83).


Ninth Lesson at Matins

The "one slight exception" to the rule that commemoration is made only at Lauds and Vespers is this.  In cases of occurrence (two observances occurring on the same day), the Ninth Lesson at Matins is the Homily or historic lessons from the Office to be commemorated.

In practice, this is exceedingly rare.  First, Offices wherein Matins has 9 lessons is fairly rare.  Most Matins offices have merely 3 lessons.  The number of such Matins celebrations which involve an occurring feast are rarer still.  The vast majority of these involve a Sunday, on which the Ninth Lesson must be Sunday's own Homily, thereby obviating the commemoration (see p. xxxviii of the General Rubrics).

Most occasions in which the rule comes into play is when a feast which outranks a Sunday occurs on a Sunday.  In such a case, lessons vii, viii and ix of the Sunday (i.e., Sunday's "Homily," as will be seen later in the lesson on Matins) are recited as the Ninth Lesson of the supervening feast.

This is very similar to how the Last Gospel at Mass, usually St. John's Gospel, will occasionally be the Gospel of the Sunday when it is superseded by an outranking feast.

A good Ordo Kalendar should alert you to the extremely rare occasion on which the Ninth Lesson at Matins is taken from a commemorated feast.


Final Notes

The Breviary provides excellent guidance regarding when and how to make commemorations.  Virtually every occurrence or concurrence of feasts is accompanied by a rubric informing the reader which Office to celebrate and which to commemorate, and usually points one to the correct Table, as in "Vespers of preceding with commemoration of following from Table 5A."  In all matters, explicit rubrical directions prevail over generalized rules.

Due to the richness of the Catholic sanctoral Kalendar, commemorations are a frequent occurrence.  The reader should remember that commemorations only occur at Vespers and Lauds (and sometimes Matins), are made always in the same manner, and are made in descending order of rank when more than one need be made.  The most common cause of commemoration is the fact that I Vespers of one feast frequently conflicts with II Vespers of another (concurrence).  The second cause of commemoration is two feasts occurring on the same day (occurrence), resulting in the need to commemorate one at both Lauds and Vespers.

As with all other aspects of the Breviary, with time and practice, commemoration will become easier to accomplish.

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