FREE Catholic Classes
- FOUNDATIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN CALENDAR
- The Easter Cycle
- The Nativity of Christ
- saints ">Saints' Days
- OUR EARLIEST CALENDARS
- FEASTS OF OUR LADY
- THE APOSTLES AND OTHER NEW TESTAMENT SAINTS
- LATER DEVELOPMENTS
- VARIOUS PECULIARITIES OF CALENDARS
- THE MODERN CALENDAR IMPOSED BY AUTHORITY
- THE CHURCHES OF THE EAST
All civilized peoples and even those which seem to be only just emerging from utter barbarism keep some kind of record of the flight of time and are prone to recognize certain days, recurring at regular intervals, as days of special rejoicing or mourning, or occasions for the propitiation of the powers of the unseen world. In ancient Egypt and Babylonia, in China and Hindostan, and again on the American Continent, among the Aztecs or the ancient Peruvians, definite traces have been found of a more or less elaborate calculation of seasons serving as a basis for religious observances. In 1897, a remarkable discovery was made at Coligny in the department of Ain, France, when certain inscribed stone slabs were brought to light in which all are agreed in recognizing an ancient Celtic calendar, probably pre-Christian, though the precise interpretation of the details still remains a matter of lively controversy. Again, both Greece and Rome possessed highly developed calendars, and the Fasti of Ovid, for example, preserve a detailed description in verse of the chief celebrations of the Roman year.
What more nearly concerns us here is the Jewish calendar, outlined in Leviticus 23. The computation of time among the Jews was based primarily upon the lunar month. The year consisted normally of twelve such months, alternately of 29 and 30 days each; such a year, however, contains only 354 days, which by no means agrees with the number of days in the mean solar year. Moreover, the exact length of the mean lunar month is not exactly 29 1/2 days as the above arrangement would suggest. To compensate for the irregularity two corrections were introduced. First, a day was added to the month Hesvan (Heshwan) or subtracted from the month Kislev (Kislew), as need arose, in order to keep the months in agreement with the moon; secondly, eight years out of every nineteen were made "embolismic", i.e. an intercalary month seems to have been introduced when necessary, at this point, in order to prevent the 14th day of Nisan from arriving too early. On that day ( Leviticus 23:5, 10 ) the firstfruits of corn in the ear had to be brought to the priests and the paschal lamb sacrificed. This made it necessary to delay the Pasch (14 Nisan) until the corn was in ear and the lambs were ready, and the rule was accordingly established that 14 Nisan must fall when the sun had passed the equinox and was in the constellation of Aries ( en krio tou heliou kathestotos -- Josephus, Ant., I, i, 3). Down to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, it would seem that in the insertion of this intercalary month the Jews followed no fixed rule based on astronomical principles, but that the Sanhedrin decided each time whether the year should be embolismic or not, being influenced in their decision not by astronomical considerations alone, but also, in some measure, by the forwardness or backwardness of the season. It was the difficulty created by such a system and by the impossibility of accommodating it to the Julian chronology, adopted throughout the greater part of the Roman Empire, which led to those troubles about the determination of Easter (the Paschal controversy ) that played so important a part in the history of the early Church. Besides the Pasch and the week of the unleavened bread (or azymes ), of which the Pasch formed the first day, the Jewish calendar, of course, included many other feasts. That of Pentecost, or, "of the weeks", 50 days after the Pasch, is of importance because it also found a place in the Christian Dispensation . The other great celebrations of the Jewish year occurred in autumn, in the month Tishri. The Day of Atonement fell on 10 Tishri and the Feast of Tabernacles extended from the 14th to the 21st, with a sort of octave day on the 22nd, but these had no direct bearing on the calendar of the Christian Church. The same may be said of the minor Jewish festivals, e.g. the Encoenia mentioned in the Gospel of St. John, which were, for the most part, of later institution.
Help Now >
It might almost be laid down as a general law that in the ancient world holy days were also holidays. In the Jewish system, besides the weekly sabbath, rest from work was enjoined on seven other days of the year, to wit: the first and last day of the Azymes, the feast of Pentecost, the Neomenia of the Seventh month, the day of Propitiation, the first day of Tabernacles, and 22 Tishri which immediately followed. It is not wonderful that this principle was recognized later in the Christian Church, for it had pagan example also in its favour. "The Greeks and barbarians", says Strabo (X, 39), "have this in common that they accompany their sacred rites by a festal remission of labour". So without seeking to derive the Jewish sabbath from any Babylonian institution, for which there is certainly no warrant, we may note that the new moon and the 7th, 15th, and 22nd seem to have been regarded among the Babylonians as times for propitiating the gods and unlucky; the result being that on these days no new work was begun and affairs of importance were suspended. In the Christian system the day of rest has been transferred from the Sabbath to the Sunday. Constantine made provision that his Christian soldiers should be free to attend service on the Sunday ( Eusebius, Vita Const., IV, 19, 20), and he also forbade the courts of justice to sit on that day (Sozomen, I, 8). Theodosius II in 425 decreed that games in the circus and theatrical representations should also be prohibited on the day of rest, and these and similar edicts were frequently repeated.
In the Roman chronological system of the Augustan age the week as a division of time was practically unknown, though the twelve calendar months existed as we have them now. In the course of the first and second century after Christ, the hebdomadal or seven-day period became universally familiar, though not immediately through Jewish or Christian influence. The arrangement seems to have been astrological in origin and to have come to Rome from Egypt. The seven planets, as then conceived of--Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon, thus arranged in the order of their periodic times (Saturn taking the longest and the Moon the shortest time to complete the round of the heavens by their proper motion)--were supposed to preside over each hour successively, and the day was designated by that planet which presided over its first hour. Beginning on the first day with the planets in order, the first hour would be Saturn's, the second Jupiter's, the seventh the Moon's, the eighth Saturn's again, and so on. Continuing thus, the twenty-fifth hour, i.e. the first hour of the second day, and consequently the second day itself, would belong to the Sun; and the forty-ninth hour, and consequently the third day, to the Moon. Following always the same plan the seventy-third hour and the fourth day would fall to Mars, the fifth day to Mercury, the sixth to Jupiter, the seventh to Venus, and the eighth again to Saturn. Hence, apparently, were derived the Latin names for the days of the week, which are still retained (except Samedi and Dimanche) in modern French and other Romance tongues. These names from an early date were often used by the Christians themselves, and we find them already in Justin Martyr. The special honour which the faithful paid to the Sunday ( dies solis ), coupled perhaps with the celebration of Christmas on the day designated the natalis invicti [ solis ], may have helped, later on, to produce the impression that the Christians had much in common with the worshippers of Mithras.
FOUNDATIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN CALENDAR The Easter Cycle
The starting-point of the Christian system of feasts was of course the commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ on Easter day. The fact that for a long time Jews must have formed the vast majority of the members of the infant Church, rendered it impossible for them to forget that each returning Passover celebrated by their countrymen brought with it the anniversary of their Redeemer's Passion and of His glorious Resurrection from the dead. Moreover, as they had all their lives been accustomed to observe a weekly day of rest and prayer, it must have been almost inevitable that they should wish so to modify this holiday that it might serve as a weekly commemoration of the source of all their new hopes. Probably at first they did not wholly withdraw from the Synagogue, and the Sunday must have seemed rather a prolongation of, than a substitution for, the old familiar Sabbath. But it was not long before the observance of the first day of the week became distinctive of Christian worship. St. Paul ( Colossians 2:16 ) evidently considered that the converts from paganism were not bound to the observance of the Jewish festivals or of the Sabbath proper. On the other hand, the name "the Lord's day" ( dies dominica, he kuriake ) meets us in the Apocalypse 1:10, and was no doubt familiar at a much earlier date (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:2 ). From the beginning the Sunday seems to have been frankly recognized among Christians for what it was, viz. the weekly commemoration of Christ's Resurrection . (Cf. The Epistle of Barnabas, 15.) It was presumably marked by the celebration of the liturgy, for St. Luke writes in the Acts: "And on the first day of the week, when we were assembled to break bread" ( Acts 20:7 ); and we may infer from somewhat later ordinances that it was always regarded as joyful in character, a day when fasting was out of place, and when the faithful were instructed to pray standing, not kneeling. "Die dominico", says Tertullian, "jejunium nefas dicimus vel de geniculis adorare" (De orat. 14). In fact this upright position in prayer was, according to Pseudo (?) Irenæus, typical of the Resurrection (Irenæus, Frag., 7). But for a fuller account of this first element of the Christian calendar the reader must be referred to the article SUNDAY.
That the early Christians kept with especial honour the anniversary of the Resurrection itself is more a matter of inference than of positive knowledge. No writer before Justin Martyr seems to mention such a celebration, but the fact that in the latter half of the second century the controversy about the time of keeping Easter almost rent the Church in twain may be taken as an indication of the importance attached to the feast. Moreover the paschal fast of preparation, though its primitive duration was probably not forty days (Cf. Funk, Kirchengeschichtliche Abhandlungen, I, 242 sq.), was constantly referred to by the Early Church as a matter of ancient and even Apostolic institution. In any case, all our earliest liturgical monuments both of East and West, for example the "Apostolical Constitutions" and the "Apostolic Canons", which are a still earlier document according to Funk and Harnack, are agreed in giving to Easter the place of honour among the feasts of the year. It is as the Roman Martyrologium describes it, festum festorum and solemnitas solemnitatum . With it have naturally always been associated the commemoration of the events of Christ's Passion, the Last Supper on the Thursday, the Crucifixion on the Friday, and on the eve itself that great vigil or night watch when the paschal candle and the fonts were blessed and the catechumens, after long weeks of preparation, were at last admitted to the Sacrament of Baptism. Data are lacking concerning these separate elements in the great paschal celebration as it was observed in the earliest times. It may, however, be noted that in Tertullian the word pascha clearly designates not the Sunday alone but rather a period, and in particular. the day of the Parasceve, or as we now call it, Good Friday ; while in Origen a definite distinction is drawn between two kindred terms: pascha anastasimon (the Resurrection Pasch on Easter Sunday ), and pascha staurosimon (the Crucifixion Pasch, i.e. Good Friday ); but both were equally memorable as celebrations.
Closely dependent upon Easter and gradually developing in number as time went on were other observances also belonging to the cycle of what we now call the movable feasts. Whitsunday (see PENTECOST), the anniversary of the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, was probably regarded as next in importance to Easter itself, and as Easter was determined by the Jewish Pasch, there can be little doubt, seeing that Whitsunday stood in the same close relation to the Jewish feast of Pentecost, that the Jewish converts observed both a Christian Pasch and a Christian Pentecost from the very beginning. Ascension day, though determined in position by the fact that it was forty days after Easter ( Acts 1:3 ) and ten before Whitsuntide, was not superimposed on any Jewish feast. We do not, consequently, find it attested by any writer earlier than Eusebius (De sol. pasch., Migne, P.G. xxiv, 679). Lent, which all admit to have been known as a forty days' fast in the early years of the fourth century (cf. the various Festal Letters of St. Athanasius ), had of course a fixed terminus ad quem in Easter itself, but its terminus a quo seems to have varied considerably in different parts of the world. In some places the understanding seemed to be that Lent was a season of forty days in which there was much fasting but not necessarily a daily fast--the Sundays in any case, and in the East Saturdays also, were always exempt. Elsewhere it was held that Lent must necessarily include forty actual fasting-days. Again there were places where the fasting in Holy Week was regarded as something independent, which had to be superadded to the forty days of Lent. The times therefore, of commencing the Lenten fast varied considerably, just as there was considerable diversity in the severity with which the fast was kept. (For these details see LENT.) All that we need notice here is that this penitential season, which at a considerably later period was thrown back to the Sunday known as Septuagesima (strictly the Sunday within the period of seventy days before Easter ), began earlier or later according to the day on which Easter Sunday fell, while the later additions at the other end--such as Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, and in still more recent times, the Feast of the Sacred Heart --all equally formed part of the same festal cycle.
There can be little doubt that the early Christians felt as we do the inconvenience of this movable element in the otherwise stable framework of the Julian calendar. But we have to remember that the movable element was established there by right of prior occupation. Since the Jewish Christians, as explained above, had never known any other computation of time than that based on the lunar month, the only way which could have occurred to them of fixing the anniversary of Our Saviour's Resurrection was by referring it to the Jewish Pasch. But while accepting this situation, they also showed a certain independence. It seems to have been decided that the occurrence of the Resurrection feast on the first day of the week, the day which followed the Sabbath was an essential feature. Hence, instead of determining that the second day after the Jewish Pasch (17 Nisan) should always he counted as the anniversary of the Resurrection, independently of the day of the week upon which it might fall, the Apostles appear to have settled, though in this we have very little positive evidence, that that Sunday was to be kept as the Christian Pasch which fell within the Azymes, or days of the unleavened bread, whether it occurred at the beginning, middle, or end of the term. This arrangement had the drawback that it made the Christian feast dependent upon the computation of the Jewish calendar. When the destruction of Jerusalem practically deprived the Jews of the dispersion of any norm or standard of uniformity, they probably fell into erroneous or divergent reckonings, and this in turn entailed a difference of opinion among the Christians. If it had been possible to ascertain in terms of the Julian chronology the day of the month on which Christ actually suffered, it would probably have been simplest for Christians all over the Roman world to celebrate their Easter, as later on they celebrated Christmas or St. Peter's day, upon a fixed anniversary. Yet this, be it noticed, would have interfered with the established position of "the Lord's day" as the weekly memorial of the great Sunday par excellence , for Easter, as a fixed feast, would of course have fallen upon all the days of the week in turn. However, though Tertullian declares without misgiving that Christ suffered upon 25 March, a tradition perpetuated in numberless calendars throughout the Middle Ages, this date was certainly wrong. Moreover it was probably quite impossible at that period, owing to the arbitrary manner in which the Jewish embolismic years had been intercalated, to calculate back to the true date. For the various phases of the disputes which first broke out in the second century and were renewed long afterwards in the British Isles we must refer the reader to the article EASTER CONTROVERSY . It will suffice here to say that a decision seems to have been arrived at in the Council of Nicæa , which, though it is strangely absent from the canons of the council as now preserved to us (Turner, Monumenta Nicæna, 152), is believed to have determined that Easter was to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon which follows the spring equinox. According to this rule, which has ever since been accepted, the earliest day upon which Easter can now fall is 22 March, and the latest 25 April.
The Nativity of Christ
A second element which fundamentally influences the Christian calendar and which, though less primitive than the Easter celebrations, is also of early date, may be described as the Nativity Cycle . Of the origin and history of the feast of Christmas, dealt with in a separate article, little need now be said. We may take it as certain that the feast of Christ's Nativity was kept in Rome on 25 December before the year 354. It was introduced by St. John Chrysostom into Constantinople and definitively adopted in 395. On the other hand, the Epiphany feast on 6 January, which also in the beginning seems to have commemorated the birth of Jesus Christ, is referred to as of partial observance in that character by Clement of Alexandria (Strom., I, 21), though a recently discovered discourse of Hippolytus for this day ( eis ta hagia theophaneia ) is entirely devoted to the theme of Christ's baptism. This last, in fact, is and has long been the primary aspect of the feast in the Oriental churches. But the feast of the Nativity is of importance in the calendar not only for itself, as one of the greatest celebrations of the year, but also for the other days which depend upon it. These are mostly of later date in point of origin, but are ecclesiastically of high rank. Thus on this supposition, however questionable as a fact of history, that the exact date of Christ's nativity was 25 December, we have first the Circumcision on 1 January, the eighth day, a festival greatly utilized in the attempt to divert the newly converted peoples from the superstitious and often idolatrous pagan practices which immemorial custom associated with the beginning of the year. The Mass for this day in the Missals is often headed Ad prohibendum ab idolis , and its contents correspond with that designation. At the same time other service books preserve conspicuous traces of a time when this day was treated as a festival of the Blessed Virgin. On the other hand, the eighth day before Christmas (18 December) is kept as the feast of the Expectation of Our Lady , which was only added to the Roman calendar as lately as the seventeenth century, but represents an old Spanish feast of the Blessed Virgin. It was not, however, known in ancient times by its present designation of Expectatio partus .
Again, forty days after Christmas, following, as in the case of the Circumcision, the data of the Jewish law, we have the Presentation in the Temple. This, under its Greek name of Hypapante ( hupapante , "the meeting"), was originally treated as a feast of Our Saviour rather than of His Blessed Mother . It is older than any other Marian feast --being mentioned c. 380 in the Pilgrimage of "Sylvia", i.e. the Spanish lady Etheria--though in Jerusalem at that date it was kept forty days after the feast which is known to us as the Epiphany (6 Jan.), but which, as we have seen, then commemorated the Birth as well as the Baptism of Christ. For some reason, of which no adequate explanation seems to be forthcoming, the solemn benediction of candles and the procession were attached at an early period to this feast. It was long known in England as Candlemas Day and in France as la Chandeleur . The Annunciation, or, as it was some times anciently called, the Conception of Our Lord, seems to be heard of in the East in the sixth century and to have been transported thence to Western Europe not long afterwards. Its connection with the Nativity is obvious, and it is even possible, as Duchesne and others have suggested, that the Incarnation of Our Saviour was assigned to the 25th of March because this day, as early as Tertullian, was believed to be the date of His Passion. If this were true, the 25th of December would have been determined by the 25th of March and not vice versa. But certainly the Annunciation as a feast is heard of considerably later than the Nativity. Still later in the year another early feast, already familiar in the time of St. Augustine (Serm., 307-308), meets us in the Nativity of St. John the Baptist . On 25 March, the Fathers calculated, St. Elizabeth had already been six months with child; its birth accordingly would have taken place exactly three months later. Neither does the 24th of June (instead of 25th) assigned to the Nativity of the Baptist present any difficulty, for in the Roman way of counting both 25 March and 24 June are equally octavo kalendas , the eighth day before the kalends of the next month. Yet another feast, the Conception of the Baptist, found in the Greek Church and in certain Carlovingian calendars on 24 September, hardly needs mention. It is chiefly interesting to us as paving the way for the feast of the Conception of Our Lady and hence for that also of her Immaculate Conception.
Another, and that the most substantial, element in the formation of the calendar is the record of the birthdays of the saints. It must be remembered that this word birthday ( genethlios, natalis ) had come to mean little more than commemoration. Already, before the Christian Era, various royal personages who were deified after death commonly had their "birthdays" kept as festivals; but it is very doubtful whether these really represented the day upon which they were born into this world (see Rohde, Psyche, 3d ed., I, 235). Hence we are not so surprised at a later period to meet in Christian liturgical books such phrases as natalis calicis as a designation for the feast of Maunday Thursday, or natalis episcopi , which seems to mean the day of a bishop's consecration. Anyhow, there can be no doubt that the same word was used, and that from a very early period, to describe the day upon which a martyr suffered death. It is commonly explained as meaning the birthday which introduced him into a new and glorious life in heaven, but we cannot, perhaps, be quite certain that those who first used the term of a Christian martyr had this interpretation consciously present to their minds. We are fortunate, however, in possessing in the contemporary account written from Smyrna of the martyrdom of St. Polycarp (about A.D. 145) a clear statement that the Jews and pagans fully anticipated that the Christians would try to recover the martyr's body as a precious treasure to which they might pay cultus , and would institute a birth-feast ( genethlios ), his honour. Here, then, we have the most conclusive evidence that the Christians already in the first half of the second century were accustomed to celebrate the feasts of the martyrs. Probably for a long time these celebrations remained almost entirely local. They were confined to the place where the martyr suffered or where a considerable portion of his remains were preserved over which the Holy Sacrifice would be offered. But in the course of time the practice of moving such relics freely from place to place enlarged the circle of the martyr's clients. All the churches that possessed these relics felt entitled to keep his "birthday" with some degree of solemnity, and thus we soon find martyrs from Africa, for example, obtaining recognition in Rome and eventually being honoured by all the Church. This seems to be, in brief, the history of the inclusion of saints' days in the calendar. At first the number of such days was very small, depending generally upon some special local tie, and rigorously limited to those who had shed their blood for Christ. But before very long the names of confessors also began to find a place in the lists, for confessors and bishops were already written in the diptychs and in those days the line between praying to a departed servant of God and praying for him was by no means so clearly defined as it is with us now. This was the process which was already being inaugurated in the fourth century and which has continued ever since.
OUR EARLIEST CALENDARS
As feasts and Saints' days multiplied, it became desirable that some sort of record should be kept of them. We may divide the documents of this kind, roughly speaking, into two categories: Calendars and Martyrologia , both officially recognized by the Church. A calendar in its ecclesiastical sense is simply a list of the feasts kept in any particular church, diocese, or country, arranged in order under their proper dates. A martyrologium was originally, as its name implies, a record of mar- tyrs, but it soon assumed a more general character, extending to all classes of saints and embracing all parts of the world. The entries which are included in a martyrologium are independent of the fact of actual liturgical cultus in any particular place. They follow the same orderly arrangement by months and days which we observe in a calendar, but under each day not one but many names of saints are given, while certain topographical and biographical details are often added. It will, however, be readily understood that it is not always easy to draw a hard and fast line between calendars and martyrologia. They naturally shade into one another. Thus the ancient Irish poem commonly known as the "Calendar of Aengus" is more properly a martyrologium, for a number of names of saints are assigned to each day quite independently of any idea of liturgical cultus. On the other hand, we sometimes find true calendars in the blank spaces of which the names of saints or deceased persons have been inserted whom there was no intention of commemorating in the liturgy. They have thus been partly converted into martyrologies or necrologies. Of early lists of feasts, the most famous and the most important is the information which it preserves, the so called "Philocalian Calendar", hardly deserves to be called by this name. It is, in fact, no more than the commonplace book of a certain Furius Dionysius Philocalus, who seems to have been a Christian interested in all kinds of chronological information and to have compiled this book in A. D. 354. There is indeed a calendar in his volume, but this is a table of purely secular and pagan celebrations containing no Christian references of any kind. The value of Philocalus' manuscript to modern scholars lies in two lists headed Depositio Martyrum and Depositio Episcoporum , together with other casual notices. We thus learn that a considerable number of martyrs, including among them Sts. Peter and Paul and several Popes, were honoured in Rome on their own proper days in the middle of the fourth century, while three African martyrs, Sts. Cyprian, Perpetua, and Felicitas, also found a place on the list. The only other fixed feasts which are mentioned are the Nativity of Christ and the feast of St. Peter's Chair (22 Feb.).
FREE Catholic Classes Pick a class, you can learn anything
Not far removed from the Philocalian document in the witness which it bears to the still present influence of paganism is the "Calendar of Polemius Sylvius " of 448. This presents a medley not unlike a modern almanac. The days are indicated when the Senate sat and when the games were celebrated in the Circus, as also the times of those pagan festivals like the Lupercalia, the Terminalia, etc., which had become in a sense national holidays throughout the empire. But side by side with these we have the mention of certain Christian feasts -- Christmas Day, the Epiphany, 22 February (strangely characterized as depositio Petri et Pauli ), and four or five other saints' days. Very curious, also, is it to notice in such company the natales of Virgil and of Cicero. Next to this comes a document of the North African Church which is commonly described as the "Calendar of Carthage", and which belongs to the closing years of the sixth century. It presents a considerable array of martyrs, mostly African, but including also some of the more famous of those of Rome, e.g. St. Sixtus, St. Lawrence, St. Clement, St. Agnes, etc., with Sts. Gervasius and Protasius from Milan, St. Agatha from Sicily, St. Vincent from Spain, and St. Felix from Nola in Campania. We also find days assigned to some of the Apostles and to St. John the Baptist, but as yet no feast of Our Lady. Earlier in point of time (c. 410), is a compilation preserved to us in Syriac, of Oriental and Arian origin. It was first published by the English Orientalist, William Wright, and has since been edited by Duchesne and De Rossi in their edition of the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum" (Acta Sanctorum, Nov., vol. II). The Syriac document is chiefly important as witnessing to one of the main sources, direct or indirect, of that famous martyrologium, but it also shows how even in the East a calendar was being formed in the fourth century which took notice of the martyrs of Nicomedia, Antioch, and Alexandria, with even a few Western entries like Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas (7 March), and probably Xystus. Sts. Peter and Paul are commemorated on 28 December, which may be a mere error, Sts. John and James on 27 December, St. Stephen on 26 December, which is still his proper day. The month of December is partly lacking, or we should probably have found the Nativity on 25 December. The Epiphany is mentioned on 6 January.
Closely connected in certain of its aspects with this memorial of the Eastern Church is the so-called "Martyrologium Hieronymianum "already mentioned. This work, which in spite of its name owes nothing directly to St. Jerome, was probably first compiled in Southern Gaul (Duchesne says Auxerre, Bruno Krusch, Autun ) between the years 592 and 600, i.e. at the same period that St. Augustine was preaching the Gospel to our Anglo-Saxon forefathers. As a martyrologium it is the type of a class. It contains long lists of obscure names for each day mingled with topographical data, but as contrasted with the later martyrologia of Bede, Ado, Usuard, etc., out of which our modern "Martyrologium Romanum" has developed, the "Hieronymian" includes few biographical details regarding the subject of its notices. The fuller discussion of this document, however, belongs to the article MARTYROLOGY (q.v.). It is sufficient here to notice that in its primitive form the "Hieronymian" includes no proper feast of Our Lady ; even the Purification, on 2 February, is only indirectly alluded to.
FEASTS OF OUR LADY
And here it may be convenient to observe that the principal festivals of the Blessed Virgin, the Assumption, Annunciation, and Nativity, were undoubtedly first celebrated in the East. There seems very good reason to believe, from certain apocryphal Syriac narratives of the "Falling asleep of Mary the Mother of the Lord", that some celebration of her Assumption into Heaven was already observed in Syria in the fifth century on a day corresponding to our 15 August (cf. Wright, in Journal of Sacred Literature, N.S., VII, 157). The Annunciation again is said to be commemorated in an authentic sermon of Proclus of Constantinople, who died in 446, while the agreement of the Armenian and Æthiopic Christians in keeping similar festivals seems to throw back the period of their first introduction to a time earlier than that at which these schismatical churches broke away from unity. In the West, however, we have no definite details as to the earliest occurrence of these Marian feasts. We only know that they were kept at Rome with solemnity in the time of Pope Sergius I (687-701). In Spain, if we may safely follow Dom G. Morin in assigning the "Lectionary of Silos" to about 650, there is definite mention of a feast of Our Lady in Advent, which may be earlier than those just referred to; and in Gaul the statutes of Bishop Sonnatius of Reims (614-631) apparently prescribe the observance of the Annunciation, Assumption, and Nativity, though the Purification strange to say, is not mentioned.
Although the mention is a departure from the natural chronological order, a word may also be said here about the feast of the Immaculate Conception. In the East we find it known to John of Euboea towards the close of the eighth century. It was then kept, as it still is in the Greek Church, on 9 December, but it is described by him as being only of partial observance. Nevertheless, about the year 1000, we find it included in the calendar of the Emperor Basil Porphyrogenitus, and it seems by that time to have become universally recognized in the East. The West, however, did not long lag behind. A curious trace may be found in the Irish "Calendar of Aengus" (c. 804), where the Conception of Our Lady is assigned to 3 May (see The Month, May, 1904, pp. 449-465). This probably had no liturgical significance, but Mr. Edmund Bishop has shown that in some Anglo-Saxon monasteries a real feast of the Conception was already kept upon 8 December before the year 1050 (Downside Review, 1886, pp. 107-119). At Naples, under Byzantine influence, the feast had long been known, and it appears in the famous Neapolitan marble calendar of the ninth century under the form Conceptio S. Annæ , being assigned, as among the Greeks, to 9 December. The general recognition of the feast in the West seems, however, to have been largely due to the influence of a certain tractate, "De Conceptione B. Mariæ", long attributed to St. Anselm, but really written by Eadmer, his disciple. At first only the Conception of Our Lady was spoken of, the question of the Immaculate Conception was raised somewhat later. For the feast of the Presentation of Our Lady (21 November), an early Eastern origin has also been claimed dating back to the Year 700 (see Vailhé, in ("Echos d'Orient", V, 193-201, etc.), but this cannot be accepted without fuller verification. For the other Marian festivals, e.g. the Visitation, the Rosary, etc., the reader must be referred to these separate articles. All are comparatively modern additions to the calendar.
THE APOSTLES AND OTHER NEW TESTAMENT SAINTS
From the mention of Sts. Peter and Paul conjointly on 29 June in the "Depositio Martyrum" of the "Philocalian Calendar", it is probable that the two Apostles both suffered on that day. In the time of St. Leo (Sermon 84) the feast seems to have been celebrated in Rome with an octave, while the Syriac martyrologium in the East and Polemius Silvius in Gaul equally manifest a tendency to do honour to the Principes Apostolorum , though in the former the commemoration is attached to 28 December, and in the latter to 22 February. This latter day was, generally, given to the celebration of the Cathedra Petri , also belonging to very early times, while a feast in honour of St. Paul'sconversion was kept 25 January. Of the other Apostles, Sts. John and James appear together in the Syriac martyrologium on 27 December, and St. John still retains that day in the West. With regard to St. Andrew we probably have a reliable tradition as to the day on which he suffered, for apart from an explicit reference in the relatively early "Acta" (cf. Analecta Bollandiana, XIII, 373-378), his feast has been kept on 30 November, both in the East and in the West, from an early period. The other Apostles nearly all appear in some form in the "Hieronymian Martyrologium", and their festivals gradually came to be celebrated liturgically before the eighth or ninth century.
The fixing of the precise days was probably much influenced by a certain "Breviarius" which was widely circulated in somewhat varying forms, and which professed to give a brief account of the circumstances of the death of each of the Twelve. As an indication that some of these feasts must have been adopted at a more remote date than is attested in existing calendars, it may be noted that Bede has a homily upon the feast of St. Matthew, which the arrangement of the collection shows to have been kept by him in the latter part of September, as we keep it at present. St. John the Baptist, as already noted, had also more than one festival in early times. Besides the Nativity on 24 June, two of St. Augustine's sermons (nos. cccvii, cccviii) are consecrated to the celebration of his martyrdom ( Passio or Decollatio ). Similar honours were paid to St. Stephen, the first martyr, more particularly in the East. St. Gregory of Nyssa, in his funeral oration over St. Basil, delivered at Cæsarea in Cappadocia in 379, attests this, and lets us know that the feast was kept then as it is now, the day after Christmas. On the other hand, St. Joseph's name does not occur in the calendar until comparatively late. Curiously enough the earliest definite assignment which the writer has been able to find of a special day consecrated to his memory occurs in the "Calendar of Aengus" (c. 804) under its existing date, 19 March. There we read of "Joseph, name that is noble, Jesus' pleasant fosterer". But despite an invocation of St. Joseph in the old Irish hymn "Sen De", ascribed to St. Colman Ua Cluasaigh (c. 622), we cannot regard this entry as indicative of any proper cultus. It seems probable, from the nature of some of the apocryphal literature of the early centuries, that honour was of old paid to St. Joseph in Syria, Egypt, and the East generally, but reliable data as to his feast are at present wanting.
GROWTH OF THE CALENDAR
During the Merovingian and Carlovingian period the number of festivals which won practical recognition gradually increased. Perhaps the safest indications of this development are to be gathered from the early service-books-- sacramentaries, antiphonaries, and lectionaries --but these are often difficult to date. Somewhat more compendious and definite are one or two other lists of feasts which have accidentally been preserved to us, and which it will be interesting to quote. A certain Perpetuus, Bishop of Tours (461-491), sets down the Principal feasts celebrated in his day with a vigil as the following:"Natalis Domini; Epiphania ; Natalis S. Ioannis (June 24th); Natalis S. Petri episcopatus (February 22d); Sext. Cal. Apr. Resurrectio Domini nostri I. Chr.; Pascha ; Dies Ascensionis ; Passio S. Ioannis; Natalis SS. apostolorum Petri et Pauli; Natalis S. Martini; Natalis S. Symphoriani (July 22d); Natalis S. Litorii (September 13th); Natalis S. Martini (November 11th); Natalis S. Bricii (November 13th); Natalis S. Hilarii (January 13th)." (Mon. Germ. SS. Meroving., I, 445.)
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony
- The Rosary in English
- Come Holy Spirit
- Hail, Holy Queen
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.