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Adoration of the Magi (c. 1360), Christchurch Priory, Dorset

One of the distinctive features of Divine Worship: The Missal is the inclusion of certain titles and seasons in its liturgical calendar, that derive from the Anglican tradition as found in the various iterations of the Book of Common Prayer and the Anglican missals. An example of this is found in the fact that, after the celebration of Christmastide, Divine Worship moves into “Sundays after the Epiphany.” Here we will explore how these are found in the wider Latin tradition, and what is the character of this season in Divine Worship.

Sundays after the Epiphany

The Sundays after the Epiphany in the pre-conciliar Missale Romanum (and so also the Anglican missals), give specific readings for the six Sundays, but maintain a single set of minor propers (Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory, and Communion) for the last four. These Sundays are kept both in the weeks from the end of Christmas until Septuagesima, and then in order to fill-out the Sundays of the year that are lacking after Pentecost, depending on the date of Easter in a given year. The Sundays are thus characterized principally by the readings and orations (Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion), and not by the minor propers. As with the Sundays after Pentecost (or after Trinity), green vestments are worn and the Preface of the Most Holy Trinity is sung.

Of this rather awkward arrangement, Blessed Ildefonso Schuster writes: “The Sunday Masses up to Septuagesima have no special psalm-chants; they merely repeat those of the Third Sunday after the Epiphany. This is an anomaly which finds its explanation in the very uncertainty which dominates this latter part of the cycle after the Epiphany” (LS Vol. 1, 414). All of this, as we shall see, seems to have been an important factor in formulating the texts for these Sundays in Divine Worship.

Ordinary Time and Epiphanytide

Following the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite moves into the season commonly known as Ordinary Time. The Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar state that in these thirty-three or thirty-four weeks of the year, “no particular aspect of the mystery of Christ is celebrated, but rather the mystery of Christ itself is honoured in its fullness, especially on Sundays” (No. 43).

Nevertheless, the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time does in fact retain something of the character of the Epiphany and Baptism of the Lord. The Introduction to the Lectionary states that it “continues to centre on the manifestation of the Lord, which Epiphany celebrates through the traditional passage about the wedding feast at Cana and two other passages from John” (No. 105). And although the readings on the subsequent Sundays in Ordinary Time begin to diverge from the themes inherent in the feasts of Christmas and the Epiphany, and the gospel passages describing the Lord’s baptism and the “first miracle that he wrought, in Cana in Galilee,” nevertheless the minor propers do make use (more or less) of the texts for the Sundays after the Epiphany in the older provision, at least for the first two weeks. The orations in the Ordinary Form, however, are often distinct from the older form, presumably to distance the Sundays from the themes that flow from the feast of the Epiphany.

Epiphanytide in Divine Worship

Divine Worship: The Missal follows the practice of naming these Sundays as “after the Epiphany,” in keeping with the Anglican tradition and, indeed, the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. However, because the lectionary for the personal ordinariates follows the three-year cycle of Sunday readings, Divine Worship does not retain the older propers, but instead adopts those prescribed by the 1974 Graduale Romanum for the first Sundays per annum. We have mentioned before that, where Divine Worship makes use of the provision of the propers of the Ordinary Form—in cases such as this to avoid having propers from the pre-conciliar liturgy with readings from a different lectionary cycle—it does not simply provide those found in the 2002 Missale Romanum (which nevertheless lack a Gradual, Alleluia, and Offertory) but rather delves into the richer selection provided in the 1974 Graduale Romanum.

What, then, is the character of Epiphanytide in Divine Worship? At first, the insertion of the propers from the Ordinary Form into Divine Worship might appear incongruous; a radical deviation from the liturgical books of the Anglican tradition. However, as we shall now see,  the nature of these Sundays has, in fact, been retained.

First of all, setting aside the question of the adoption of the three-year lectionary, we must admit that the harmonization of the propers and readings provides Divine Worship with a certain coherence lacking in the older provision. Once the decision was taken to adopt the three-year lectionary for the personal ordinariates, the use of the propers from the 1974 Graduale Romanum was a logical step. What is now found in Divine Worship satisfies the provision of the three-year lectionary, and enriches even a said celebration with the presence of the full gamut of antiphons.

Secondly, any impoverishment that might have been caused by removal of the specific Epiphanytide readings is somewhat countered by the maintenance of the Epiphanytide collects from the Book of Common Prayer (which, incidentally, all but conform to the ancient Roman books), and by the continued use of the Preface of the Epiphany, through to Septuagesima. This latter provision is something unique to Divine Worship, the Preface of the Epiphany being restricted to the feast itself in the older books.

Thus this twofold provision, together with the use of the titling “after the Epiphany,” seeks not only to ensure that the character of the provision remains clearly defined, but that, in fact, the Sundays following the Epiphany of the Lord in Divine Worship have a distinctive character, which in fact (to some degree) reasserts the seasonal character of this time of the liturgical year. In Divine Worship these are not just “regular Sundays,” but specific to the weeks after Christmas and before the start of Pre-Lent.

Conclusion

Divine Worship: The Missal preserves for the communities and parishes of the personal ordinariates those elements of the Anglican liturgical patrimony that might nourish the faith of the members of the ordinariates, and become a source of enrichment for the whole Latin Church. The conformity of Divine Worship to the three-year lectionary cycle presents a challenge to maintaining this heritage, but the result is not only a satisfactory tertium quid, but a strengthened and rationalized season, that enriches the liturgical cycle. Together with the rich diet of hymnody and choral music particular to the feast of the Epiphany, Divine Worship is equipped to preserve an important element of the liturgical heritage, not just of the Anglican tradition but of the wider Latin Church.

Please do not reproduce this text elsewhere without permission of the author.