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Of the Kalendar.
Next to the holy offices of the Church, the order of the Kalendar must be held dear by every Catholic Christian. It is a summary of the blessed commemorations which each sacred year brings in its train; and the holy services in which they are made are the animating principle of its cycle. Separated from it the Divine Office would be like the soul without the body ; beautiful indeed and full of life, but imperfect. And as upon the human countenance the reigning dispositions of the soul are plainly pourtrayed, so is the Kalendar a lively image of the heavenly themes which the Divine Office leads us to contemplate. Hence it has always been held in greatest esteem when the services of the Church were most valued ; and when it has been dishonoured and abolished, they have not failed to share its reproach. This will be evidently seen in its changeful history, to which our course will presently bring us.
Every national Church has its own Kalendar. Many of these are very ancient, as for example we read of a Roman Kalendar in the middle of the fourth century. Before that time it was the custom of the Christians to commemorate the Martyrs yearly upon the days on which they suffered. A record of these was kept in each church, and was called a Kalendar. At first it contained only the names of the martyrs, but afterwards the holy Confessors were added, who had witnessed a good confession for Christ, though they had not been honoured to die for Him.
After a time the Kalendar gave rise to the Martyrologies of the Saints, which contain brief notices of their lives and death. In later ages, these in the Western Church, and the Menologies in the Eastern, were histories of the principal saints, which were generally read by the clergy and the monastic orders to excite their devotion and imitation. From being thus publicly read, many of those histories were called Legenda ; and the name was gradually applied to any story of a saint, whether authentic or not. The earliest English martyrology was written by Ven. Bede in the eighth century, and contains very short notices of the saints of that age. It is rather a Kalendar than a Martyrology. The Roman martyrology was adopted in England in 747.
In every national Kalendar are found nearly the same names of our Divine Lord, His Blessed Mother, and His Apostles ; as well as of many others who were eminent in the following ages for wisdom and sanctity. The degree of honour which is paid to these varies in almost every Church, according to their connexion with its history. There are also in every Kalendar the names of national and local saints, whose fame has not spread further than their own Church. Thus virtues and self-devotion unsurpassed in a heroic age, are often remembered only in the bosom of the family or little circle of friends who were favoured to witness them. Not the less precious are they, and worthy of imitation, but their praise is of God, and not of man.
And surely to the heart which feels the beauty of secret holiness, nothing can be more touching than to know of saints of whom little is recorded but their names, hardly even the date of their departure. Dwelling many ages ago, in obscurity in deserts and remote islands, they gave to those around them so a reflection of the image of Christ, that for His sake they yet live in remembrance. How pure must have been their faith, how fragrant their deeds of charity, which without other aid have thus embalmed their memories. And so far from rendering their existence doubtful, the uncertain record of their names which is all that remains, is good evidence of perhaps a lifelong struggle with the lusts of the flesh, or of some work of love done to Christ or His poor brethren, which has not been without its reward, Like that blessed woman who anointed the Lord for His burial, and whose devotion is told for a memorial of her, wherever the Gospel is preached ; and yet about whom learned doctors are not agreed who of all the holy Maries she
The Anglican Kalendar has shared the fortunes of the English Church. It was once much larger and more Catholic than it is now; and was a more perfect summary of the sacred offices. Many holydays which are now omitted, or barely mentioned, had formerly special services; as the Transfiguration of our Lord, S. Mary Magdalene, S. Clement, “ whose name is in the Book of Life,” and many others. It is not for me to say whether such a change has improved it; rather am I anxious to commend to the faithful what is left, lest they lose all.
Among the holydays which it now contains, higher days than others, in regard of the greatness of the blessing commemorated, and of the solemnity of the service appointed to them 1." These are the principal festivals of the year, for which there are special offices, more or less varied according to the degree of honour that belongs to them. They are generally marked in red letters, or sometimes in oldEnglish character. The end which the Church has in view in commemorating these greater holydays is thus taught us by bishop Sparrow, quoting from Hooker : “ As the Jews had their Sabbath, which did continually bring to mind the former world finished by creation; so the Christian Church hath her Lord's days or Sundays, to keep us in perpetual remembrance of a far better world begun by Him who came to restore all things, to make heaven and earth new. The rest of the days and times which we celebrate have relation all unto our head, Christ. We begin therefore our ecclesiastical year (as to some accounts, though not as to the order of our service) with the glorious Annunciation of His Birth, by angelical message. Hereunto are added His blessed Nativity itself, the mystery of His legal Circumcision, the testification of His true Incarnation by the Purification of His blessed mother the Virgin Mary; His glorious Resurrection, and Ascension into heaven, the admirable sending down of His Spirit upon His chosen, and the notice of that incomprehensible Trinity thereby given to the Church of God.
| Bishop Sparrow.
“ Again, forasmuch as we know that Christ hath not only been manifested great in Himself, but great in other His saints also; the days of whose departure out of the world are to the Church of Christ as the birth and coronation days of kings or emperors; therefore especial choice being made of the very flower of all occasions in this kind, there are annual selected times to meditate of Christ glorified in them which had the honour to suffer for His sake before they had age and ability to know Him, namely, the blessed Innocents: glorified in them who knowing Him, as S. Stephen, had the sight of that before death, whereinto so acceptable a death doth lead; glorified in those sages of the East that came from far to adore Him, and were conducted by strange light; glorified in the second Elias of the world, sent before Him to prepare His way; glorified in every of those Apostles whom it pleased Him to use as founders of His kingdom here ; glorified in the Angels, as in S. Michael ; glorified in all those happy souls that are already possessed of bliss. Besides these, be four days, annexed to the Feasts of Easter and Whitsunday, for the more honour and enlargement of those high solemnities 1."
These Festivals are either Moveable or Immoceable. The annual return of the latter takes place on the same day of the year ; while the return of the former depends in one part of the year upon the falling of Easter; and in Advent upon the day of the week on which the festival of S. Andrew occurs. It was ordered, in the Council of Nicea, in 325, that the Feast of Easter should be kept throughout the Church on the first Sunday after the full moon which happens upon the day of the vernal equinox or next after it; and if the new moon fall on a Sunday, Easter day is the Sunday after. The ninth Sunday before it is Septuagesima, or the Sunday within seventy days of the Pasch. Ash Wednesday follows in the third week after, that is, between Quinquagesima and the first Sunday in Lent. Palm Sunday introduces the Holy or Greater week, which is the last, in Lent. Easter Monday and Tuesday immediately follow the Festival of the Resurrection ; forty days after is the Ascension ; and on the fiftieth day from
· Rationale of Common Prayer, pp. 83, 84. Eccl. Polity, book v. chap. lxx. 8.
Easter is celebrated the Feast of Pentecost or Whit-Sunday, with Whit-Monday and Tuesday. Trinity Sunday which immediately follows with its long train of weekly festivals to which it gives its name, as it did anciently in the English Church, concludes the sacred year.
The occurrence of Advent Sunday is regulated by the day of the week on which the feast of S. Andrew falls; for the next Sunday to that, whether before or after, is the First in Advent. If Christmas-day fall on a Sunday or Monday, the second Sunday after the First after the Epiphany; but if on any other day of the week, the Third Sunday. So also if Christmas-day happen on a Sunday, the following Sunday is the feast of the Circumcision, and the Sunday after Christmas is for that year omitted. The number of Sundays after Epiphany is regulated by the occurrence of Septuagesima; as the number after Trinity depends on the time of the year when Easter and consequently Trinity Sunday fall.
Upon four of the great festivals the celebration of the event which they commemorate is continued during the following week, or Octave, as it is called. This is an ancient custom, and is thus commended by the author of the Rationale of the Book of Common Prayer. “ The subject matter of these feasts, as namely, Christ's Birth, Resurrection, Ascension, and the sending of the Holy Ghost, is of so high a nature, so nearly concerning our salvation, that one day is too little to meditate of them, and praise God for them as we ought. A bodily deliverance may justly require a day of thanksgiving and joy; but the deliverance of the soul, by the blessings commemorated on those times, deserves a much longer feast. It were injurious to good Christian souls to have their joy and thankfulness for such mercies confined to a day, therefore holy Church, upon the times when these unspeakable blessings were wrought for us, by her most seasonable commands and counsels here invites us to fill our hearts with joy and thankfulness, and let them overflow eight days together.” The festival of Whit-Sunday is prolonged for only seven days, for the eighth day is devoted to the mystery of the Blessed Trinity.
Most of these days of solemnity are ushered in by a vigil or