Friday, March 19, 2010

First Evensongs

One thing that one encounters in the BCP Lectionary is the provision for Sundays and Major Feasts to have a "First Evensong" as we used to call it in England. The liturgical day, like the Jewish day, begins at sunset which means that, in effect, Evensong can belong either to the day ending and the day commencing.

Usually the 1928 BCP treats the Evensong as belong to the day that is ending, but in the case of major feasts the older custom is followed and a "First Evensong" is provided. Most of these are to be found in the Table on pages xliv and xlv of the 1928 BCP. Others, such as that for the Eve of Ascension Day are to be found in the main lectionary.

In the notes I gave in my last Blogpost, two days are affected by this provision; March 24th, when Evensong is not that of the Wednesday after Passion Sunday, but that the First Evensong of the Annunciation, and April 24th when Evensong is not that of the Saturday after Easter III, but First Evensong of St Mark.

Sundays have a little complication of their own. Although the Psalms and Lessons usually come from the daily lectionary table and follow on from those of the previous day, the rubric on page 90 allows the collect of the Sunday to be used on Saturday night, or on the eve of a feast. This is a relic of the old custom of having first Vespers for Sundays.

Although Sundays and Feasts have first Evensongs, Ferias - ordinary days - do not. Thus Ash Wednesday, a privileged feria, has no First Evensong.

The question of whether minor feast days have a one or two Evensongs is a bit vexed. The older custom is that they do, so some unofficial books like "The English Office" make provision for commemorations when feasts follow one after another. For example, this week saw St Patrick on Wednesday, St Cyril of Jerusalem on Thursday, and St Joseph today. So it appoints the collects as follows:

17th Morning Prayer
1. St Patrick
2. Ash Wednesday

17th Evening Prayer
1. St Cyril of Jerusalem
2. St Patrick
3. Ash Wednesday

18th Morning Prayer
1. St Cyril
2. Ash Wednesday

18th Evening Prayer
1. St Joseph
2. St Cyril
3. Ash Wednesday

19th Morning Prayer
1. St Joseph
2. Ash Wednesday

19th Evening Prayer
1. St Joseph (which EO treats as a major holyday)
2. Ash Wednesday

In old-fashioned Anglo-Catholic handbooks, such as Ritual Notes 9th edition, "Simple Feasts" had only a First Evensong. Dearmer, in as much as he addresses the ssue at all, seems to favour this position too. However, many today follow the custom of the 1960 Breviary and 1962 Missal, and grant first Evensongs only to Sundays and Major feasts. This would seem to be the strict letter of the 1928 BCP, but in that case it has to be remembered that no provision was made for Black Letter Days at the time of publication. By the time the first "Lesser Feasts and Fasts" appeared in 1963 minor feasts were being understood as running from midnight to midnight like ordinary days.

I instinctively follow the older, more complex, custom; but then I would! As a result I treat the liturgical day as running from sunset to sunset. Sundays and Red Letter Days have both a First and a Second Evensong, and black letter days only a first Evensong. However, the second part of this usage finds little or no justification in the rubrics of the 1928 BCP, but is simply a taking over of the older custom contained in the Sarum Missal and Breviary.

5 comments:

  1. But we must remember, my Lord Bishop, that Bishop Cosin insisted that the important thing is to follow the rulings of the great council of Nicea and "let the ancient customs prevail." As both "Old High Churchmen" and "Old Westyne" men, we have a duty to assent to the majority of the saints before us as urged by the first Preface of the American prayer book in which it was stated "In which it will also appear that this Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline or worship; or further than local circumstances require."

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  3. I believe that God himself settled this question a long time ago: "And the evening and the morning were the first day." (Gen 1:5)

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  4. I concur with Death Bredon. Therefore any Mass celebrated after sundown Saturday is a Sunday Mass but any Mass celebrated after sundown Sunday is a Monday Mass. We are keeping the Jewish custom of the day being from sundown to sundown. We cannot use this method when it is convenient for us and go to midnight to midnight when that is convenient.

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