Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Learn the Office 2.12: The concluding prayers Pt 3: Commemorations

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On the feast of Saints and on all festivals let the Office be performed as we have prescribed for Sundays, except that the psalms, antiphons and lessons belonging to the particular day are to be said; but the general arrangement of the Office shall be as laid down above.

Rule of St Benedict, chapter 14

What is a commemoration?

In St Benedict's time, relatively feasts were included in the calendar in most places.  Over time, however, the number of feasts has proliferated, necessitating the development of a ranking system for the various feasts, and ways of dealing with cases where one feast (or day) displaces another.   

Commemorations are part of this system, and are used the lowest level of saints days (memorials), or when the feast or day is displaced by a higher level day or feast.  

Where a commemoration is made, it comes immediately after the collect of the day, and normally consists of:
  • an antiphon (either for the Benedictus if the commemoration is at Lauds, or for the Magnificat at Vespers);
  • the short verse and response, or versicle, that would have been said with the canticle at Lauds or Vespers;
  • and the prayer (collect) that would have used on the relevant feast or day. 


In the 1962 calendar, memorials are the lowest level way of marking a saints feast, and the feast is marked in the Office by making a commemoration at Lauds.

The Monastic Diurnal usually sets out the antiphon, verse and collect you need to make the commemoration in the correct order, so you simply insert these after the collect of the day.  

If you are singing the Office, the Aniphonale Monasticum includes a section providing the chants for commemorations from the Common of Saints starting at page 735.

The key exception to the 'how to make a commemoration' rules is feasts of SS Peter and Paul, where the commemoration is made by combining two collects (one pertaining to each saint) under one concluding formula.

Commemorating higher level days and feasts

Where the commemoration relates to a displaced feast or day however days you might need to pull these three texts out from a number of different places in the texts for the day or feast.

During Lent, for example, when the 'feria' is displaced by a feast, a commemoration is made at both Lauds and Vespers using:
  • the canticle antiphon for the ferial day for either Lauds or Vespers respectively (ie for the day of the week of Lent);
  • the versicle that would have been said with the canticle (from the Ordinary of Lent); and 
  • the Lenten collect that would have been said at Lauds or Vespers on that day.

How do commemorations arise?

Commemorations basically occur for two reasons:

(1) To mark the feast of a saint listed as 'memorial' in the Diurnal (ordinary commemorations)

This is the lowest level way that the Office takes note of a saint - the feast doesn't affect any of the hours except Lauds, and then only adds a few prayers onto the end of the hour after the collect of the week.

The Ordo for July 3 for example says: Class IV; SS Processus and Martinian, memorial.  It then points you to page [184] of the Monastic Diurnal for the texts you need for the commemoration of the saint.

(2) Feasts displaced by a higher level feast or day

When two feasts or 'days' clash there are rules about which one to celebrate.

During Lent, for example, all third class feasts are reduced to commemorations marked  at Lauds only.

Conversely, Lent days are regarded as so important that they are usually commemorated at both Lauds and Vespers even when a Class I or II feast displaces the Lenten feria.

Similarly, Sundays usually take precedence over other feasts, but if they are displaced by a first class feast, they will normally be commemorated.

And Second Class feasts displaced by the Sunday also usually warrant a commemoration.

The tables of  'occurrence' or 'concurrence'

There are two tables at the front of the Monastic Diurnal (see page xxv) that summarise the rules on which feasts take precedence, and what notice, if any, is taken of the other feast.

The first (ocurrence) deals with what happens when two feasts or days fall on the same date in a particular year.  The second deals with what happens at a clash between two feasts or days at Vespers (ie do you say II Vespers of the feast of the day, or I Vespers of the following day, with or witout a commemoration of the other).

The tables basically reflect the principle that whether a day is commemorated at Lauds only, or at both Lauds and Vespers, is whether it is a 'privileged' commemoration (first class feasts; Sundays; Octave of Christmas; September Ember Days; Lent, Advent and Passiontide days; Major Litanies) or not.

How many commemorations?

There are also rules about how many commemorations can be said on a particular day.  

On first class feasts, for example, only one commemoration is permitted, and then only if it is a 'privileged' commemoration.

On normal Sundays (Class II), only one commemoration is permitted, of either a first or second class feast.

On second class days, one privileged and one ordinary commemoration can be said.

On third or fourth class days, two commemorations can be made.

Where there is a clash, the highest ranking commemoration(s) are used, and any others are dropped for that year. 


Commemorations are a way of marking the feasts of the lowest ranked saints, or of a feast or day displaced in the calendar in a particular year.

Commemorations are usually made at Lauds only, though they can also be said at Vespers in some circumstances.

Commemorations normally consist of an antiphon, versicle and collect, said immediately after the collect of the day.

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