Rorate Caeli

New year, old calendar

It's that time of year, when a novus Ordo we actually like is issued.

Much of the world is already celebrating a secularized version of Christmas. As the lights and trees go up, it is a good time to emphasize some key dates concerning the new liturgical season.

Advent begins on Sunday, 3 December, this year (technically beginning with first vespers on 2 December).

The feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 8 December, falls on a Friday this year, meaning one may eat meat that day following the centuries-old discipline where abstinence is waived on days of precept.  The winter ember days are 20 December, 22 December and 23 December.

Christmas Eve, 24 December, falls on a Sunday this year instead of the Fourth Sunday of Advent (this differs from the novus ordo), the first time that will happen since Summorum Pontificum.  The Vigil of Christmas TLM, celebrated in violet, will be new to a lot of communicants. The traditional discipline of fasting and abstinence on Christmas Eve does not apply this year due to the vigil falling on a Sunday, although many dinner menus will probably still go with the customary seven fishes.

Christmas, of course, begins (not ends!) on 25 December. Although its octave is not comprised of Masses of the first class like Easter and Pentecost, the week of important days takes us to 1 January, the feast of the circumcision of our Lord and the octave day of Christmas. (The Maternity of the BVM is observed on 11 October, not 1 January, using the 1962 calendar.)

The twelve days of Christmas lead to the feast of the Epiphany of our Lord, on 6 January, where the Noveritis -- pictured above -- is sung, announcing movable liturgical dates.

But the liturgical Christmas season does not end until a week after Epiphany, the former octave day now entitled the feast of the baptism of our Lord, on 13 January.

Some homes and churches keep decorations up for the entire 40 days of Christmas, which culminates with the feast of the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on 2 February.

So, when does Christmas begin?  That is an easy one: 25 December.  When does it end?  Well, that is a little more complicated, but it is certainly later than the secular world observes. We are not going to be so bold as to give an answer, but we at least want to put on the table all of the benchmarks --- 1 January, 6 January, 13 January and 2 February -- so your family, friends and priests can at least know some details concerning the calendar, starting with the new liturgical year this weekend.