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Christian Calendar

Generalities

All civilized peoples and even those which seem to be only just emerging from utter barbarism keep some kind of record of the flight of time and are prone to recognize certain days, recurring at regular intervals, as days of special rejoicing or mourning, or occasions for the propitiation of the powers of the unseen world. In ancient Egypt and Babylonia, in China and Hindostan, and again on the American Continent, among the Aztecs or the ancient Peruvians, definite traces have been found of a more or less elaborate calculation of seasons serving as a basis for religious observances. In 1897, a remarkable discovery was made at Coligny in the department of Ain, France, when certain inscribed stone slabs were brought to light in which all are agreed in recognizing an ancient Celtic calendar, probably pre-Christian, though the precise interpretation of the details still remains a matter of lively controversy. Again, both Greece and Rome possessed highly developed calendars, and the Fasti of Ovid, for example, preserve a detailed description in verse of the chief celebrations of the Roman year.

What more nearly concerns us here is the Jewish calendar, outlined in Leviticus 23. The computation of time among the Jews was based primarily upon the lunar month. The year consisted normally of twelve such months, alternately of 29 and 30 days each; such a year, however, contains only 354 days, which by no means agrees with the number of days in the mean solar year. Moreover, the exact length of the mean lunar month is not exactly 29 1/2 days as the above arrangement would suggest. To compensate for the irregularity two corrections were introduced. First, a day was added to the month Hesvan (Heshwan) or subtracted from the month Kislev (Kislew), as need arose, in order to keep the months in agreement with the moon; secondly, eight years out of every nineteen were made "embolismic", i.e. an intercalary month seems to have been introduced when necessary, at this point, in order to prevent the 14th day of Nisan from arriving too early. On that day (Leviticus 23:5, 10) the firstfruits of corn in the ear had to be brought to the priests and the paschal lamb sacrificed. This made it necessary to delay the Pasch (14 Nisan) until the corn was in ear and the lambs were ready, and the rule was accordingly established that 14 Nisan must fall when the sun had passed the equinox and was in the constellation of Aries (en krio tou heliou kathestotos--Josephus, Ant., I, i, 3). Down to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, it would seem that in the insertion of this intercalary month the Jews followed no fixed rule based on astronomical principles, but that the Sanhedrin decided each time whether the year should be embolismic or not, being influenced in their decision not by astronomical considerations alone, but also, in some measure, by the forwardness or backwardness of the season. It was the difficulty created by such a system and by the impossibility of accommodating it to the Julian chronology, adopted throughout the greater part of the Roman Empire, which led to those troubles about the determination of Easter (the Paschal controversy) that played so important a part in the history of the early Church. Besides the Pasch and the week of the unleavened bread (or azymes), of which the Pasch formed the first day, the Jewish calendar, of course, included many other feasts. That of Pentecost, or, "of the weeks", 50 days after the Pasch, is of importance because it also found a place in the Christian Dispensation. The other great celebrations of the Jewish year occurred in autumn, in the month Tishri. The Day of Atonement fell on 10 Tishri and the Feast of Tabernacles extended from the 14th to the 21st, with a sort of octave day on the 22nd, but these had no direct bearing on the calendar of the Christian Church. The same may be said of the minor Jewish festivals, e.g. the Encoenia mentioned in the Gospel of St. John, which were, for the most part, of later institution.

It might almost be laid down as a general law that in the ancient world holy days were also holidays. In the Jewish system, besides the weekly sabbath, rest from work was enjoined on seven other days of the year, to wit: the first and last day of the Azymes, the feast of Pentecost, the Neomenia of the Seventh month, the day of Propitiation, the first day of Tabernacles, and 22 Tishri which immediately followed. It is not wonderful that this principle was recognized later in the Christian Church, for it had pagan example also in its favour. "The Greeks and barbarians", says Strabo (X, 39), "have this in common that they accompany their sacred rites by a festal remission of labour". So without seeking to derive the Jewish sabbath from any Babylonian institution, for which there is certainly no warrant, we may note that the new moon and the 7th, 15th, and 22nd seem to have been regarded among the Babylonians as times for propitiating the gods and unlucky; the result being that on these days no new work was begun and affairs of importance were suspended. In the Christian system the day of rest has been transferred from the Sabbath to the Sunday. Constantine made provision that his Christian soldiers should be free to attend service on the Sunday (Eusebius, Vita Const., IV, 19, 20), and he also forbade the courts of justice to sit on that day (Sozomen, I, 8). Theodosius II in 425 decreed that games in the circus and theatrical representations should also be prohibited on the day of rest, and these and similar edicts were frequently repeated.

In the Roman chronological system of the Augustan age the week as a division of time was practically unknown, though the twelve calendar months existed as we have them now. In the course of the first and second century after Christ, the hebdomadal or seven-day period became universally familiar, though not immediately through Jewish or Christian influence. The arrangement seems to have been astrological in origin and to have come to Rome from Egypt. The seven planets, as then conceived of--Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon, thus arranged in the order of their periodic times (Saturn taking the longest and the Moon the shortest time to complete the round of the heavens by their proper motion)--were supposed to preside over each hour successively, and the day was designated by that planet which presided over its first hour. Beginning on the first day with the planets in order, the first hour would be Saturn's, the second Jupiter's, the seventh the Moon's, the eighth Saturn's again, and so on. Continuing thus, the twenty-fifth hour, i.e. the first hour of the second day, and consequently the second day itself, would belong to the Sun; and the forty-ninth hour, and consequently the third day, to the Moon. Following always the same plan the seventy-third hour and the fourth day would fall to Mars, the fifth day to Mercury, the sixth to Jupiter, the seventh to Venus, and the eighth again to Saturn. Hence, apparently, were derived the Latin names for the days of the week, which are still retained (except Samedi and Dimanche) in modern French and other Romance tongues. These names from an early date were often used by the Christians themselves, and we find them already in Justin Martyr. The special honour which the faithful paid to the Sunday (dies solis), coupled perhaps with the celebration of Christmas on the day designated the natalis invicti [solis], may have helped, later on, to produce the impression that the Christians had much in common with the worshippers of Mithras.

Foundations of the Christian calendar

The Easter cycle

The starting-point of the Christian system of feasts was of course the commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ on Easter day. The fact that for a long time Jews must have formed the vast majority of the members of the infant Church, rendered it impossible for them to forget that each returning Passover celebrated by their countrymen brought with it the anniversary of their Redeemer's Passion and of His glorious Resurrection from the dead. Moreover, as they had all their lives been accustomed to observe a weekly day of rest and prayer, it must have been almost inevitable that they should wish so to modify this holiday that it might serve as a weekly commemoration of the source of all their new hopes. Probably at first they did not wholly withdraw from the Synagogue, and the Sunday must have seemed rather a prolongation of, than a substitution for, the old familiar Sabbath. But it was not long before the observance of the first day of the week became distinctive of Christian worship. St. Paul (Colossians 2:16) evidently considered that the converts from paganism were not bound to the observance of the Jewish festivals or of the Sabbath proper. On the other hand, the name "the Lord's day" (dies dominica, he kuriake) meets us in the Apocalypse 1:10, and was no doubt familiar at a much earlier date (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:2). From the beginning the Sunday seems to have been frankly recognized among Christians for what it was, viz. the weekly commemoration of Christ's Resurrection. (Cf. The Epistle of Barnabas, 15.) It was presumably marked by the celebration of the liturgy, for St. Luke writes in the Acts: "And on the first day of the week, when we were assembled to break bread" (Acts 20:7); and we may infer from somewhat later ordinances that it was always regarded as joyful in character, a day when fasting was out of place, and when the faithful were instructed to pray standing, not kneeling. "Die dominico", says Tertullian, "jejunium nefas dicimus vel de geniculis adorare" (De orat. 14). In fact this upright position in prayer was, according to Pseudo (?) Irenæus, typical of the Resurrection (Irenæus, Frag., 7). But for a fuller account of this first element of the Christian calendar the reader must be referred to the article SUNDAY.

That the early Christians kept with especial honour the anniversary of the Resurrection itself is more a matter of inference than of positive knowledge. No writer before Justin Martyr seems to mention such a celebration, but the fact that in the latter half of the second century the controversy about the time of keeping Easter almost rent the Church in twain may be taken as an indication of the importance attached to the feast. Moreover the paschal fast of preparation, though its primitive duration was probably not forty days (Cf. Funk, Kirchengeschichtliche Abhandlungen, I, 242 sq.), was constantly referred to by the Early Church as a matter of ancient and even Apostolic institution. In any case, all our earliest liturgical monuments both of East and West, for example the "Apostolical Constitutions" and the "Apostolic Canons", which are a still earlier document according to Funk and Harnack, are agreed in giving to Easter the place of honour among the feasts of the year. It is as the Roman Martyrologium describes it, festum festorum and solemnitas solemnitatum. With it have naturally always been associated the commemoration of the events of Christ's Passion, the Last Supper on the Thursday, the Crucifixion on the Friday, and on the eve itself that great vigil or night watch when the paschal candle and the fonts were blessed and the catechumens, after long weeks of preparation, were at last admitted to the Sacrament of Baptism. Data are lacking concerning these separate elements in the great paschal celebration as it was observed in the earliest times. It may, however, be noted that in Tertullian the word pascha clearly designates not the Sunday alone but rather a period, and in particular, the day of the Parasceve, or as we now call it, Good Friday; while in Origen a definite distinction is drawn between two kindred terms: pascha anastasimon (the Resurrection Pasch on Easter Sunday), and pascha staurosimon (the Crucifixion Pasch, i.e. Good Friday); but both were equally memorable as celebrations.

Closely dependent upon Easter and gradually developing in number as time went on were other observances also belonging to the cycle of what we now call the movable feasts. Whitsunday (see PENTECOST), the anniversary of the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, was probably regarded as next in importance to Easter itself, and as Easter was determined by the Jewish Pasch, there can be little doubt, seeing that Whitsunday stood in the same close relation to the Jewish feast of Pentecost, that the Jewish converts observed both a Christian Pasch and a Christian Pentecost from the very beginning. Ascension day, though determined in position by the fact that it was forty days after Easter (Acts 1:3) and ten before Whitsuntide, was not superimposed on any Jewish feast. We do not, consequently, find it attested by any writer earlier than Eusebius (De sol. pasch., Migne, P.G. xxiv, 679). Lent, which all admit to have been known as a forty days' fast in the early years of the fourth century (cf. the various Festal Letters of St. Athanasius), had of course a fixed terminus ad quem in Easter itself, but its terminus a quo seems to have varied considerably in different parts of the world. In some places the understanding seemed to be that Lent was a season of forty days in which there was much fasting but not necessarily a daily fast--the Sundays in any case, and in the East Saturdays also, were always exempt. Elsewhere it was held that Lent must necessarily include forty actual fasting-days. Again there were places where the fasting in Holy Week was regarded as something independent, which had to be superadded to the forty days of Lent. The times therefore, of commencing the Lenten fast varied considerably, just as there was considerable diversity in the severity with which the fast was kept. (For these details see LENT.) All that we need notice here is that this penitential season, which at a considerably later period was thrown back to the Sunday known as Septuagesima (strictly the Sunday within the period of seventy days before Easter), began earlier or later according to the day on which Easter Sunday fell, while the later additions at the other end--such as Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, and in still more recent times, the Feast of the Sacred Heart--all equally formed part of the same festal cycle.

There can be little doubt that the early Christians felt as we do the inconvenience of this movable element in the otherwise stable framework of the Julian calendar. But we have to remember that the movable element was established there by right of prior occupation. Since the Jewish Christians, as explained above, had never known any other computation of time than that based on the lunar month, the only way which could have occurred to them of fixing the anniversary of Our Saviour's Resurrection was by referring it to the Jewish Pasch. But while accepting this situation, they also showed a certain independence. It seems to have been decided that the occurrence of the Resurrection feast on the first day of the week, the day which followed the Sabbath was an essential feature. Hence, instead of determining that the second day after the Jewish Pasch (17 Nisan) should always he counted as the anniversary of the Resurrection, independently of the day of the week upon which it might fall, the Apostles appear to have settled, though in this we have very little positive evidence, that that Sunday was to be kept as the Christian Pasch which fell within the Azymes, or days of the unleavened bread, whether it occurred at the beginning, middle, or end of the term. This arrangement had the drawback that it made the Christian feast dependent upon the computation of the Jewish calendar. When the destruction of Jerusalem practically deprived the Jews of the dispersion of any norm or standard of uniformity, they probably fell into erroneous or divergent reckonings, and this in turn entailed a difference of opinion among the Christians. If it had been possible to ascertain in terms of the Julian chronology the day of the month on which Christ actually suffered, it would probably have been simplest for Christians all over the Roman world to celebrate their Easter, as later on they celebrated Christmas or St. Peter's day, upon a fixed anniversary. Yet this, be it noticed, would have interfered with the established position of "the Lord's day" as the weekly memorial of the great Sunday par excellence, for Easter, as a fixed feast, would of course have fallen upon all the days of the week in turn. However, though Tertullian declares without misgiving that Christ suffered upon 25 March, a tradition perpetuated in numberless calendars throughout the Middle Ages, this date was certainly wrong. Moreover it was probably quite impossible at that period, owing to the arbitrary manner in which the Jewish embolismic years had been intercalated, to calculate back to the true date. For the various phases of the disputes which first broke out in the second century and were renewed long afterwards in the British Isles we must refer the reader to the article EASTER CONTROVERSY. It will suffice here to say that a decision seems to have been arrived at in the Council of Nicæa, which, though it is strangely absent from the canons of the council as now preserved to us (Turner, Monumenta Nicæna, 152), is believed to have determined that Easter was to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon which follows the spring equinox. According to this rule, which has ever since been accepted, the earliest day upon which Easter can now fall is 22 March, and the latest 25 April.

The Nativity of Christ

A second element which fundamentally influences the Christian calendar and which, though less primitive than the Easter celebrations, is also of early date, may be described as the Nativity Cycle. Of the origin and history of the feast of Christmas, dealt with in a separate article, little need now be said. We may take it as certain that the feast of Christ's Nativity was kept in Rome on 25 December before the year 354. It was introduced by St. John Chrysostom into Constantinople and definitively adopted in 395. On the other hand, the Epiphany feast on 6 January, which also in the beginning seems to have commemorated the birth of Jesus Christ, is referred to as of partial observance in that character by Clement of Alexandria (Stromata I.21), though a recently discovered discourse of Hippolytus for this day (eis ta hagia theophaneia) is entirely devoted to the theme of Christ's baptism. This last, in fact, is and has long been the primary aspect of the feast in the Oriental churches. But the feast of the Nativity is of importance in the calendar not only for itself, as one of the greatest celebrations of the year, but also for the other days which depend upon it. These are mostly of later date in point of origin, but are ecclesiastically of high rank. Thus on this supposition, however questionable as a fact of history, that the exact date of Christ's nativity was 25 December, we have first the Circumcision on 1 January, the eighth day, a festival greatly utilized in the attempt to divert the newly converted peoples from the superstitious and often idolatrous pagan practices which immemorial custom associated with the beginning of the year. The Mass for this day in the Missals is often headed Ad prohibendum ab idolis, and its contents correspond with that designation. At the same time other service books preserve conspicuous traces of a time when this day was treated as a festival of the Blessed Virgin. On the other hand, the eighth day before Christmas (18 December) is kept as the feast of the Expectation of Our Lady, which was only added to the Roman calendar as lately as the seventeenth century, but represents an old Spanish feast of the Blessed Virgin. It was not, however, known in ancient times by its present designation of Expectatio partus.

Again, forty days after Christmas, following, as in the case of the Circumcision, the data of the Jewish law, we have the Presentation in the Temple. This, under its Greek name of Hypapante (hupapante, "the meeting"), was originally treated as a feast of Our Saviour rather than of His Blessed Mother. It is older than any other Marian feast--being mentioned c. 380 in the Pilgrimage of "Sylvia", i.e. the Spanish lady Etheria--though in Jerusalem at that date it was kept forty days after the feast which is known to us as the Epiphany (6 Jan.), but which, as we have seen, then commemorated the Birth as well as the Baptism of Christ. For some reason, of which no adequate explanation seems to be forthcoming, the solemn benediction of candles and the procession were attached at an early period to this feast. It was long known in England as Candlemas Day and in France as la Chandeleur. The Annunciation, or, as it was some times anciently called, the Conception of Our Lord, seems to be heard of in the East in the sixth century and to have been transported thence to Western Europe not long afterwards. Its connection with the Nativity is obvious, and it is even possible, as Duchesne and others have suggested, that the Incarnation of Our Saviour was assigned to the 25th of March because this day, as early as Tertullian, was believed to be the date of His Passion. If this were true, the 25th of December would have been determined by the 25th of March and not vice versa. But certainly the Annunciation as a feast is heard of considerably later than the Nativity. Still later in the year another early feast, already familiar in the time of St. Augustine (Serm., 307-308), meets us in the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. On 25 March, the Fathers calculated, St. Elizabeth had already been six months with child; its birth accordingly would have taken place exactly three months later. Neither does the 24th of June (instead of 25th) assigned to the Nativity of the Baptist present any difficulty, for in the Roman way of counting both 25 March and 24 June are equally octavo kalendas, the eighth day before the kalends of the next month. Yet another feast, the Conception of the Baptist, found in the Greek Church and in certain Carlovingian calendars on 24 September, hardly needs mention. It is chiefly interesting to us as paving the way for the feast of the Conception of Our Lady and hence for that also of her Immaculate Conception.

Saints' days

Another, and that the most substantial, element in the formation of the calendar is the record of the birthdays of the saints. It must be remembered that this word birthday (genethlios, natalis) had come to mean little more than commemoration. Already, before the Christian Era, various royal personages who were deified after death commonly had their "birthdays" kept as festivals; but it is very doubtful whether these really represented the day upon which they were born into this world (see Rohde, Psyche, 3d ed., I, 235). Hence we are not so surprised at a later period to meet in Christian liturgical books such phrases as natalis calicis as a designation for the feast of Maunday Thursday, or natalis episcopi, which seems to mean the day of a bishop's consecration. Anyhow, there can be no doubt that the same word was used, and that from a very early period, to describe the day upon which a martyr suffered death. It is commonly explained as meaning the birthday which introduced him into a new and glorious life in heaven, but we cannot, perhaps, be quite certain that those who first used the term of a Christian martyr had this interpretation consciously present to their minds. We are fortunate, however, in possessing in the contemporary account written from Smyrna of the martyrdom of St. Polycarp (about A.D. 145) a clear statement that the Jews and pagans fully anticipated that the Christians would try to recover the martyr's body as a precious treasure to which they might pay cultus, and would institute a birth-feast (genethlios), his honour. Here, then, we have the most conclusive evidence that the Christians already in the first half of the second century were accustomed to celebrate the feasts of the martyrs. Probably for a long time these celebrations remained almost entirely local. They were confined to the place where the martyr suffered or where a considerable portion of his remains were preserved over which the Holy Sacrifice would be offered. But in the course of time the practice of moving such relics freely from place to place enlarged the circle of the martyr's clients. All the churches that possessed these relics felt entitled to keep his "birthday" with some degree of solemnity, and thus we soon find martyrs from Africa, for example, obtaining recognition in Rome and eventually being honoured by all the Church. This seems to be, in brief, the history of the inclusion of saints' days in the calendar. At first the number of such days was very small, depending generally upon some special local tie, and rigorously limited to those who had shed their blood for Christ. But before very long the names of confessors also began to find a place in the lists, for confessors and bishops were already written in the diptychs and in those days the line between praying to a departed servant of God and praying for him was by no means so clearly defined as it is with us now. This was the process which was already being inaugurated in the fourth century and which has continued ever since.

Our earliest calendars

As feasts and Saints' days multiplied, it became desirable that some sort of record should be kept of them. We may divide the documents of this kind, roughly speaking, into two categories: Calendars and Martyrologia, both officially recognized by the Church. A calendar in its ecclesiastical sense is simply a list of the feasts kept in any particular church, diocese, or country, arranged in order under their proper dates. A martyrologium was originally, as its name implies, a record of martyrs, but it soon assumed a more general character, extending to all classes of saints and embracing all parts of the world. The entries which are included in a martyrologium are independent of the fact of actual liturgical cultus in any particular place. They follow the same orderly arrangement by months and days which we observe in a calendar, but under each day not one but many names of saints are given, while certain topographical and biographical details are often added. It will, however, be readily understood that it is not always easy to draw a hard and fast line between calendars and martyrologia. They naturally shade into one another. Thus the ancient Irish poem commonly known as the "Calendar of Aengus" is more properly a martyrologium, for a number of names of saints are assigned to each day quite independently of any idea of liturgical cultus. On the other hand, we sometimes find true calendars in the blank spaces of which the names of saints or deceased persons have been inserted whom there was no intention of commemorating in the liturgy. They have thus been partly converted into martyrologies or necrologies. Of early lists of feasts, the most famous and the most important is the information which it preserves, the so called "Philocalian Calendar", hardly deserves to be called by this name. It is, in fact, no more than the commonplace book of a certain Furius Dionysius Philocalus, who seems to have been a Christian interested in all kinds of chronological information and to have compiled this book in A.D. 354. There is indeed a calendar in his volume, but this is a table of purely secular and pagan celebrations containing no Christian references of any kind. The value of Philocalus' manuscript to modern scholars lies in two lists headed Depositio Martyrum and Depositio Episcoporum, together with other casual notices. We thus learn that a considerable number of martyrs, including among them Sts. Peter and Paul and several Popes, were honoured in Rome on their own proper days in the middle of the fourth century, while three African martyrs, Sts. Cyprian, Perpetua, and Felicitas, also found a place on the list. The only other fixed feasts which are mentioned are the Nativity of Christ and the feast of St. Peter's Chair (22 Feb.).

Not far removed from the Philocalian document in the witness which it bears to the still present influence of paganism is the "Calendar of Polemius Sylvius" of 448. This presents a medley not unlike a modern almanac. The days are indicated when the Senate sat and when the games were celebrated in the Circus, as also the times of those pagan festivals like the Lupercalia, the Terminalia, etc., which had become in a sense national holidays throughout the empire. But side by side with these we have the mention of certain Christian feasts--Christmas Day, the Epiphany, 22 February (strangely characterized as depositio Petri et Pauli), and four or five other saints' days. Very curious, also, is it to notice in such company the natales of Virgil and of Cicero. Next to this comes a document of the North African Church which is commonly described as the "Calendar of Carthage", and which belongs to the closing years of the sixth century. It presents a considerable array of martyrs, mostly African, but including also some of the more famous of those of Rome, e.g. St. Sixtus, St. Lawrence, St. Clement, St. Agnes, etc., with Sts. Gervasius and Protasius from Milan, St. Agatha from Sicily, St. Vincent from Spain, and St. Felix from Nola in Campania. We also find days assigned to some of the Apostles and to St. John the Baptist, but as yet no feast of Our Lady. Earlier in point of time (c. 410), is a compilation preserved to us in Syriac, of Oriental and Arian origin. It was first published by the English Orientalist, William Wright, and has since been edited by Duchesne and De Rossi in their edition of the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum" (Acta Sanctorum, Nov., vol. II). The Syriac document is chiefly important as witnessing to one of the main sources, direct or indirect, of that famous martyrologium, but it also shows how even in the East a calendar was being formed in the fourth century which took notice of the martyrs of Nicomedia, Antioch, and Alexandria, with even a few Western entries like Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas (7 March), and probably Xystus. Sts. Peter and Paul are commemorated on 28 December, which may be a mere error, Sts. John and James on 27 December, St. Stephen on 26 December, which is still his proper day. The month of December is partly lacking, or we should probably have found the Nativity on 25 December. The Epiphany is mentioned on 6 January.

Closely connected in certain of its aspects with this memorial of the Eastern Church is the so-called "Martyrologium Hieronymianum "already mentioned. This work, which in spite of its name owes nothing directly to St. Jerome, was probably first compiled in Southern Gaul (Duchesne says Auxerre, Bruno Krusch, Autun) between the years 592 and 600, i.e. at the same period that St. Augustine was preaching the Gospel to our Anglo-Saxon forefathers. As a martyrologium it is the type of a class. It contains long lists of obscure names for each day mingled with topographical data, but as contrasted with the later martyrologia of Bede, Ado, Usuard, etc., out of which our modern "Martyrologium Romanum" has developed, the "Hieronymian" includes few biographical details regarding the subject of its notices. The fuller discussion of this document, however, belongs to the article MARTYROLOGY. It is sufficient here to notice that in its primitive form the "Hieronymian" includes no proper feast of Our Lady; even the Purification, on 2 February, is only indirectly alluded to.

Feasts of Our Lady

And here it may be convenient to observe that the principal festivals of the Blessed Virgin, the Assumption, Annunciation, and Nativity, were undoubtedly first celebrated in the East. There seems very good reason to believe, from certain apocryphal Syriac narratives of the "Falling asleep of Mary the Mother of the Lord", that some celebration of her Assumption into Heaven was already observed in Syria in the fifth century on a day corresponding to our 15 August (cf. Wright, in Journal of Sacred Literature, N.S., VII, 157). The Annunciation again is said to be commemorated in an authentic sermon of Proclus of Constantinople, who died in 446, while the agreement of the Armenian and Æthiopic Christians in keeping similar festivals seems to throw back the period of their first introduction to a time earlier than that at which these schismatical churches broke away from unity. In the West, however, we have no definite details as to the earliest occurrence of these Marian feasts. We only know that they were kept at Rome with solemnity in the time of Pope Sergius I (687-701). In Spain, if we may safely follow Dom G. Morin in assigning the "Lectionary of Silos" to about 650, there is definite mention of a feast of Our Lady in Advent, which may be earlier than those just referred to; and in Gaul the statutes of Bishop Sonnatius of Reims (614-631) apparently prescribe the observance of the Annunciation, Assumption, and Nativity, though the Purification strange to say, is not mentioned.

Although the mention is a departure from the natural chronological order, a word may also be said here about the feast of the Immaculate Conception. In the East we find it known to John of Euboea towards the close of the eighth century. It was then kept, as it still is in the Greek Church, on 9 December, but it is described by him as being only of partial observance. Nevertheless, about the year 1000, we find it included in the calendar of the Emperor Basil Porphyrogenitus, and it seems by that time to have become universally recognized in the East. The West, however, did not long lag behind. A curious trace may be found in the Irish "Calendar of Aengus" (c. 804), where the Conception of Our Lady is assigned to 3 May (see The Month, May, 1904, pp. 449-465). This probably had no liturgical significance, but Mr. Edmund Bishop has shown that in some Anglo-Saxon monasteries a real feast of the Conception was already kept upon 8 December before the year 1050 (Downside Review, 1886, pp. 107-119). At Naples, under Byzantine influence, the feast had long been known, and it appears in the famous Neapolitan marble calendar of the ninth century under the form Conceptio S. Annæ, being assigned, as among the Greeks, to 9 December. The general recognition of the feast in the West seems, however, to have been largely due to the influence of a certain tractate, "De Conceptione B. Mariæ", long attributed to St. Anselm, but really written by Eadmer, his disciple. At first only the Conception of Our Lady was spoken of, the question of the Immaculate Conception was raised somewhat later. For the feast of the Presentation of Our Lady (21 November), an early Eastern origin has also been claimed dating back to the Year 700 (see Vailhé, in ("Echos d'Orient", V, 193-201, etc.), but this cannot be accepted without fuller verification. For the other Marian festivals, e.g. the Visitation, the Rosary, etc., the reader must be referred to these separate articles. All are comparatively modern additions to the calendar.

The apostles and other New Testament saints

From the mention of Sts. Peter and Paul conjointly on 29 June in the "Depositio Martyrum" of the "Philocalian Calendar", it is probable that the two Apostles both suffered on that day. In the time of St. Leo (Sermon 84) the feast seems to have been celebrated in Rome with an octave, while the Syriac martyrologium in the East and Polemius Silvius in Gaul equally manifest a tendency to do honour to the Principes Apostolorum, though in the former the commemoration is attached to 28 December, and in the latter to 22 February. This latter day was, generally, given to the celebration of the Cathedra Petri, also belonging to very early times, while a feast in honour of St. Paul's conversion was kept 25 January. Of the other Apostles, Sts. John and James appear together in the Syriac martyrologium on 27 December, and St. John still retains that day in the West. With regard to St. Andrew we probably have a reliable tradition as to the day on which he suffered, for apart from an explicit reference in the relatively early "Acta" (cf. Analecta Bollandiana, XIII, 373-378), his feast has been kept on 30 November, both in the East and in the West, from an early period. The other Apostles nearly all appear in some form in the "Hieronymian Martyrologium", and their festivals gradually came to be celebrated liturgically before the eighth or ninth century.

The fixing of the precise days was probably much influenced by a certain "Breviarius" which was widely circulated in somewhat varying forms, and which professed to give a brief account of the circumstances of the death of each of the Twelve. As an indication that some of these feasts must have been adopted at a more remote date than is attested in existing calendars, it may be noted that Bede has a homily upon the feast of St. Matthew, which the arrangement of the collection shows to have been kept by him in the latter part of September, as we keep it at present. St. John the Baptist, as already noted, had also more than one festival in early times. Besides the Nativity on 24 June, two of St. Augustine's sermons (nos. cccvii, cccviii) are consecrated to the celebration of his martyrdom (Passio or Decollatio). Similar honours were paid to St. Stephen, the first martyr, more particularly in the East. St. Gregory of Nyssa, in his funeral oration over St. Basil, delivered at Cæsarea in Cappadocia in 379, attests this, and lets us know that the feast was kept then as it is now, the day after Christmas. On the other hand, St. Joseph's name does not occur in the calendar until comparatively late. Curiously enough the earliest definite assignment which the writer has been able to find of a special day consecrated to his memory occurs in the "Calendar of Aengus" (c. 804) under its existing date, 19 March. There we read of "Joseph, name that is noble, Jesus' pleasant fosterer". But despite an invocation of St. Joseph in the old Irish hymn "Sen De", ascribed to St. Colman Ua Cluasaigh (c. 622), we cannot regard this entry as indicative of any proper cultus. It seems probable, from the nature of some of the apocryphal literature of the early centuries, that honour was of old paid to St. Joseph in Syria, Egypt, and the East generally, but reliable data as to his feast are at present wanting.

Growth of the calendar

During the Merovingian and Carlovingian period the number of festivals which won practical recognition gradually increased. Perhaps the safest indications of this development are to be gathered from the early service-books--sacramentaries, antiphonaries, and lectionaries--but these are often difficult to date. Somewhat more compendious and definite are one or two other lists of feasts which have accidentally been preserved to us, and which it will be interesting to quote. A certain Perpetuus, Bishop of Tours (461-491), sets down the Principal feasts celebrated in his day with a vigil as the following:

"Natalis Domini; Epiphania; Natalis S. Ioannis (June 24th); Natalis S. Petri episcopatus (February 22d); Sext. Cal. Apr. Resurrectio Domini nostri I. Chr.; Pascha; Dies Ascensionis; Passio S. Ioannis; Natalis SS. apostolorum Petri et Pauli; Natalis S. Martini; Natalis S. Symphoriani (July 22d); Natalis S. Litorii (September 13th); Natalis S. Martini (November 11th); Natalis S. Bricii (November 13th); Natalis S. Hilarii (January 13th)." (Mon. Germ. SS. Meroving., I, 445.)

Similarly Bishop Sonnatius of Reims (614-631) makes the following list of festivals which were to be kept as holidays absque omni opere forensi:

Nativitas Domini, Circumcisio, Epiphania, Annuntiatio beatæ Marie, Resurrectio Domini cum die sequenti, Ascensio Domini, dies Pentecostes, Nativitas beati Ioannis Baptistæ, Nativitas apostolorum Petri et Pauli, Assumptio beatæ Mariæ, eiusdem Nativitas, Nativitas Andreæ apostoli, et omnes dies dominicales.

In the course of the eighth and ninth centuries various German synods drew up lists of the ecclesiastical holidays which were to be celebrated with rest from work. In an early constitution, ascribed to St. Boniface, we find nineteen such days in each year besides the ordinary Sundays, three free days after the feast itself being appointed both at Christmas and Easter. A council at Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) in 809 fixed twenty-one holidays. This included a week at Easter and such feasts as St. Martin and St. Andrew. At Basle in 827 the list was further extended, and it now comprised all the feasts of the Apostles. In England the days honoured in this way seem not to have been quite so numerous, at any rate not at first; but before the end of the tenth century many additions were made, while the ordinances of the synods were enforced by the royal authority. The list comprised the four chief festivals of Our Lady and the commemoration of St. Gregory the Great. The observance of St. Dunstan's feast was imposed a little later during the reign of Cnut.

As regards existing documents, perhaps the oldest ecclesiastical calendar, in the proper sense of the word, which still survives, is the one which was in the possession of the Englishman St. Willibrord, Apostle of the Frisians, who has left in it an autograph note of the date of his consecration as bishop (A.D. 695). The calendar was probably written in England between 702 and 706. As it has never been printed it may be interesting to give here the entries made in the original hand, omitting the interpolations made by others at a slightly later date. The manuscript which contains it is the well-known "Codex Epternacensis", now Latin manuscript 10837, in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

JANUARY

1 Circumcision
3 St. Genevieve of Paris
6 Epiphany
13 St. Hilary
14 St. Felix of Nola
17 St. Anthony, Hermit
18 St. Peter's Chair at Rome and the Assumption of Holy Mary
20 St. Sebastian
21 St. Agnes (Virgin)
24 St. Babilas, Bishop and Martyr
25 Conversion of St. Paul at Damascus
29 St. Valerius, Bishop, and St. Lucy (Virgin) at Treves

FEBRUARY

1 St. Denis, St. Polycarp and St. Brigid (Virgin)
2 St. Symeon, Patriarch
5 St. Agatha
6 St. Amandus
16 St. Juliana
22 The Chair of Peter at Antioch

MARCH

1 Donatus
7 Perpetua and Felicitas
12 St. Gregory at Rome
17 St. Patrick, Bishop in Ireland
20 St. Cuthbert, Bishop
21 St. Benedict, Abbot
25 The Lord was crucified and St. James the brother of Our Lord
27 The Resurrection of Our Lord

APRIL

4 St. Ambrose
22 Philip, Apostle

MAY

1 St. Philip, Apostle
5 The Ascension of the Lord
7 The Invention of the Holy Cross
11 Pancratius, Martyr
14 Earliest date for Pentecost
31 St. Maximinius at Treves

JUNE

2 Erasmus, Martyr
8 Barnabas, Apostle
9 St. Columkill
22 James the son of Alpheus
24 Nativity of John the Baptist
29 Sts. Peter and Paul at Rome

JULY

15 St. James of Nisibis
26 St. James, Apostle, Brother of John
26 St. Symeon, Monk in Syria
29 St. Lupus

AUGUST

1 The Machabees, seven brothers with their mother
5 St. Oswald, King
6 St. Syxtus, Bishop
10 St. Laurence, Deacon
13 Hippolitus, Martyr
16 (Sic) [erasure] St. Mary
25 St. Bartholomew, Apostle
28 Augustine and Faustinus, Bishops
29 Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist
31 St. Paulinus, Bishop at Trier

SEPTEMBER

7 Sergius, Pope at Rome
9 (Sic) Nativity of St. Mary at Jerusalem
13 Cornelius and Cyprian
15 St. Euphemia, Martyr
19 Januarius. Martyr
21 Matthew, Apostle
22 Passion of St. Maurice
24 Conception of St. John the Baptist
27 Cosmas and Damian at Jerusalem
29 St. Michael, Archangel

OCTOBER

1 Remedius and Germanus
4 Sts. Heuwald and Hewald, Martyrs
14 Paulinus, Bishop in Canterbury
18 Luke, Evangelist
28 Simon and Jude, Apostles
31 St. Quintinus, Martyr

NOVEMBER

10 St. Leo, Pope
11 St. Martin, Bishop at Tours
22 St. Cecilia
23 Clement at Rome
24 Crisogonus
30 St. Andrew, Apostle

DECEMBER

10 St. Eulalia and seventy-five others
20 St. Ignatius, Bishop and Martyr
21 St. Thomas, Apostle in India
25 Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ
26 St. Stephen, Martyr
27 John, Apostle, and James, his brother
28 The Innocents
31 St. Silvester, Bishop

This list very well illustrates the arbitrary choice of saints to be commemorated, which is observable in most early calendars. The mention of the Nativity of our Lady on 9 September instead of 8 September is interesting in view of the Eastern practice, attested by the Naples marble calendar, of celebrating the Conception of Our Lady on 9 December. The appearance of St. Januarius (19 September) is also noteworthy. The link between England and Southern Italy in the matter of the commemoration of saints has often been noticed without ever being quite adequately explained. (See Morin, Liber Comicus, Appendix, etc.) The occurrence of the Invention of the Cross on 7 May, as in the Greek Church, is also remarkable. It is further curious to note the partial erasure of the Assumption feast on 16 August (sic), and its appearance upon 18 January. The later Anglo-Saxon calendars, of which a fair number have been printed by Hampson and Piper, offer fewer points of interest than the above; but a word should be said of one or two which are especially noteworthy. The metrical Latin calendar printed among the works of Bede is shown not to be his by the reference to the second Wilfrid of York, who died after his time, but it offers some useful points of comparison with Bede's genuine martyrologium, which, thanks to the patient labour of Dom Quentin, has at last been recovered for us (see Les Martyrologes Historiques, Paris, 1908, pp. 17-119). Not less interesting is the ancient English martyrology edited for the Early English Text Society by G. Herzfeld. This document, though not a calendar, and though including later interpolations, probably reflects the arrangement of a calendar which may be even older than the time of Bede. It is especially noteworthy for brief references to certain Capuan and South Italian saints, which it professes to derive from the "old Mass Books", probably missals of that Gelasian type for which the Gregorian Sacramentary was afterwards substituted.

Another early calendar which must possess an interest for all English-speaking students is the "Anglo-Saxon Menologium", a short but rather ornate poem of the tenth century, describing the principal feasts of each month and probably intended for popular use (see Imelmann, Das altenglische Menologium, p. 40). The writer's main purpose is indicated by his concluding words:

Nû ge findan magon
Hâligra tiid, the man healdan sceal,
Swa bebûgeth gebod geond Brytenricu
Sexna kyninges on thâs sylfan tiid.

(Now ye may find the holy tides which men should observe as the command goeth through Britain of the king of the Saxons at this same time.) The use of metrical calendars, however, was by no means peculiar to England. The Irish "Calendar of Aengus", already referred to, was written in verse, and some of the versified Latin calendars printed by Hampson have been shown by Dr. Whitley Stokes to present clear signs of Irish influences. So on the Continent, to take but one example, we have an elaborate calendar or rather martyrologium composed about 848 in Latin hexameters by Wandelbert of Prüm.

Later developments

The history of the more detailed martyrologia, which has been worked out with such thoroughness by Dom Quentin, may serve to show how far-reaching is the principle that nature abhors a vacuum. Almost all the writers, such as Florus, Ado, and Usuard, who undertook the task of supplementing the martyrologium of Bede, worked with the avowed object of filling up the days which he had left blank. We may fairly infer that the same spirit will have affected the calendar as well. The mere sight of a vacant space, no doubt, in many cases tempted scribes and correctors to fill it up, if their erudition sufficed for the purpose; and though for a long time these entries remained mere paper-commemorations, they will certainly in the long run have reacted upon the liturgy. We may say that much the same influence was at work when Alcuin took in hand the task of supplying the lacunæ in the "Gregorian Sacramentary", more particularly when he provided a complete set of different masses for the Sundays after Pentecost. But besides this we have, of course, to consider the potent factor of new devotional interests, creating such feasts as those of All Saints, All Souls, the Blessed Trinity, the various festivals of the Angels, and notably St. Michael, and, in more modern times, Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart, the Five Wounds, the commemoration of the various instruments of the Passion, the many different invocations under which Our Lady is honoured, and the duplications of feasts provided by translations, dedications, and miraculous events, such as the stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi or the "Transverberation" of the heart of St. Teresa. Necessarily also, among the countless holy men who lived in the practice of heroic virtue, some in a more pronounced way caught the imagination of their contemporaries. The piety of the faithful who had been the witness of their virtues during life, or who, after their death, benefited by the power of their intercession with God, clamoured for some adequate means of manifesting devotion and gratitude.

At first this recognition of sanctity was in a measure local, informal, and popular, with the result that it was not always very discerning. Later the authority of the Holy See was invoked to pronounce after full inquiry a formal decree of canonization. But if this system, on the one hand, tended to limit the number of recognized saints, it also helped to extend more widely the fame of those whose history or whose miracles were more remarkable. Thus, in the end, we find that the cultus of such a saint as St. Thomas of Canterbury, to take an English example, was not limited to his own diocese or to his own province, but within a period of ten years after his death his name found a place in the calendars of almost every country of Europe. To these causes we must add the growth of literary culture among the people, especially after the invention of printing, and last, but by no means least, the cosmopolitan character of so many of the religious orders. Wherever the Cistercians had settled the name of St. Bernard was necessarily held in honour. If, again, there was no part of Christendom in which the friars had not laboured, so were there hardly any of the faithful who had not heard of St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Clare, St. Catharine of Siena, and many more. It is no wonder, then, if at an early date the calendar grew crowded, and if in our own times hardly any vacant days are left in which some festival does not take precedence and exclude the ferial office. To enter into detail regarding this great variety of feasts would be impossible in an article like the present. All the more important celebrations will be found treated separately in their proper place, e.g. ALL SAINTS, ALL SOULS, CANDLEMAS, CORPUS CHRISTI, etc.

Various peculiarities of calendars

From the ninth century onwards a calendar was a common adjunct to most of the different classes of service-books, e.g. sacramentaries, psalters, antiphonaries, and even pontificals. At a later date, and especially after such books came to be printed, it was hardly ever omitted before missals, breviaries, and horæ. In the printed liturgical calendars with which we are now more familiar, we find little but the bare catalogue of ecclesiastical feasts. In the calendars of early date there is a much greater variety of information. We have, for example, a number of astronomical data referring to the times of equinox and solstice, the sun's entry into the various signs of the Zodiac, the dog days, the beginning of the four seasons, etc., and these are often emphasized by verses written above or below the entries for each month, e.g. Procedunt duplices in martis tempore pisces, referring to the fact that at the beginning of March the sun is in the constellation Pisces. Sometimes, also, the verses thus prefixed bear an astrological import, e.g. Jani prima dies et septima fine timetur, which is meant to convey that the first day of the month of January and the seventh from the end are unlucky. It must be confessed that the traces of pagan, or at least secular, influences in many of our surviving early calendars are numerous. A very curious feature in many Anglo-Saxon documents of this class is the acquaintance which they manifest with Oriental and especially Coptic usages. For instance in the Jumièges Missal, at the head of each month we have a line giving the Oriental names for the corresponding period; e.g. in the case of April: "Hebr. Nisan; Ægypti Farmuthi; Græc. Kanthicos; Lat. Apr; Sax. Eastermonath;" and further against 26 April we find the entry "IX Ægyptior. mensis paschæ." [i.e. Pashons]. As a rule, the information given about the Coptic arrangement of months is at least approximately correct. In other specimens again the so-called dies ægyptiaci which were reputed to be unlucky (see Chabas, "Le Calendrier des jours fastes et néfastes de l'année égyptienne", pp. 22, 119 sq.) are carefully noted.

As regards ornament, early calendars are sometimes inserted in a sort of arcading, two pillars forming the sides of each column of writing, and an arch crowning the whole; while in the later Middle Ages we often find beautifully drawn vignettes, sometimes broadly or delicately humorous, illustrating with much play of the imagination the different seasons of the year. One feature which comes down from the earliest times, but which survives even in the printed calendars of our existing Breviary and Missal, is the insertion against each day of the "Epact" and the "Dominical Letter". These have reference to a highly artificial method of computation and are meant to supply, ready to hand, the means for ascertaining the day of the week in any assigned year, and more particularly the age of the moon. The age of the moon, ascertained by these methods, is read out before the martyrologium every day during the public recitation of the Office of Prime. When the calendar was reformed under Gregory XIII, it was considered advisable to retain in a corrected form the old apparatus and names to which people were accustomed. As this system of computation is intricate and has little but an antiquarian interest to recommend it, we may refer the reader to the article EPACT, or to the explanations given along with the calendar in every copy of the Roman Breviary and Missal.

Besides the calendars for ecclesiastical use which were written in the service-books, a practice grew up towards the close of the Middle Ages of compiling calendars for the use of the laity. These correspond rather to what we should now call almanacs, and in them the astrological element plays a much more prominent part than in the missals or horæ. One of the most famous of these compilations was that known as the "Calendrier des Bergers", or the "Shepherds' Calendar". It was several times most sumptuously printed at Paris before the end of the fifteenth century, and it afterwards spread to England and Germany. The religious tone is very pronounced, but we find at the same time the most elaborate astrological directions as to lucky and unlucky days for certain medical operations, particularly bleeding, as well as for agricultural pursuits, such as sowing, reaping, ploughing, sheep-shearing, and the like. It is a remarkable illustration of the conservatism of the rustic mind that editions of the "Shepherds' Calendar" were published in London until past the middle of the seventeenth century, the essentially Catholic tone of the book being easily recognizable under the very thinnest of disguises (see Ecclesiastical Review, July, 1902, pp. 1-21).

The modern calendar imposed by authority

It will have been inferred from what has been said above that considerable divergence prevailed among the calendars in use at the close of the Middle Ages. This lack of uniformity degenerated into an abuse, and was a fertile source of confusion. Hence the new Roman Breviary and Missal, which in accordance with a decree of the Council of Trent eventually saw the light in 1568 and 1570 respectively, contained a new calendar. Like other portions of the new liturgical code, the observance of the new calendar was made obligatory upon all churches which could not prove a prescription of two hundred years in the enjoyment of their own distinctive customs. This law, which is still in force, has not, of course, prevented successive sovereign pontiffs from adding very many new festivals; neither does it preclude different dioceses, or even churches, from adopting various local celebrations, where the permission of the pope or of the Congregation of Rites has been sought and obtained. But though local saints may be added, the feasts prescribed in the Roman calendar must also be kept. In point of fact a considerable license is conceded in such matters. There is hardly any diocese in which the calendar, owing to these additions, does not differ considerably from those of neighbouring dioceses or provinces. Even the introduction of a single new feast, owing to the transferences thus necessitated, may effect a considerable disturbance. In the British Isles, England, Ireland, and Scotland all celebrate a number of national saints independently of each other, but these are merely additions to the general Roman calendar which all observe in common. Moreover, this universal calendar during three centuries, and especially during the last thirty years, has undergone very notable modifications, partly in consequence of new saints' days that have been introduced, partly in consequence of changes made in the grade of feasts already admitted. A tabular arrangement will help to make this clear. What the original meaning of the term double may have been is not entirely certain. Some think that the greater festivals were thus styled because the antiphons before and after the psalms were "duplicated", i.e. twice repeated entire on these days. Others, with more probability, point to the fact that before the ninth century in certain places, for example at Rome, it was customary on the greater feasts to recite two sets of Matins, the one of the feria or week-day, the other of the festival. Hence such days were known as "doubles". However this may be, the primitive division into doubles and simples has given place to a much more elaborate classification. At present we have six grades, to wit: doubles of the first class; doubles of the second class; greater doubles; doubles; semi-doubles; simples. Now from the various official revisions of the Breviary, made in 1568, 1662, 1631, 1882, the following data [on feasts entered in the Breviary] may be gleaned. For purposes of comparison we may add the figures for 1907:

These figures (which include not merely the fixed but also the movable feasts, as well as octave days, etc.) will suffice to illustrate the crowding of the calendar which has taken place of recent years. Moreover, it must be remembered that, practically speaking, it never happens that feasts of the higher grade are "simplified", i.e. reduced to the level of bare commemorations. If a greater double chances to fall on a day already occupied, it is "transferred", and a free day has to be found for it later on in the year. On the other hand, while there has been a great increase of doubles of the first and second class, etc. (festa chori), the holidays of obligation (festa chori et fori), owing largely to the difficulties created by the civil rulers of the various European countries, have grown steadily fewer. Pre-Reformation England, with its forty or more holidays of precept, did not go beyond the rest of the world. To take almost the first example which comes to hand, in the Diocese of Liège, in 1287 (Mansi, Concilia, XXIV, 909), there were, besides the Sundays, forty-two festivals on which the people were bidden to rest from servile work. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that the excessive number of these feast-days was included in 1523 among the Centum Gravamina, the Hundred Grievances, of the German nation, nor that Pope Urban VIII in 1642, deprived bishops of the right to institute new ecclesiastical holidays without the permission of the Holy See, and limited the number of those of general obligation to thirty-four. In the eighteenth century, under pressure from various temporal rulers, this list in certain countries was further curtailed. Many of those festivals which had hitherto been holidays of precept were reduced to the status of feasts of devotion, i.e. the obligation of hearing Mass and resting from servile work was abolished, while at the same time their vigils ceased to be observed as fast-days. But even after the concessions which Clement XIV, in 1772, made to the Empress Maria Theresa, eighteen holidays (festa chori et fori) still remained obligatory in the Austrian dominions. In France, under the Napoleonic regime, the pope was forced to consent to the reduction of the holidays of obligation to four only, Christmas Day, the Ascension, the Assumption, and All Saints. For the rest of Christendom other concessions were made by Leo XII, and still later by his successors. At the present day Rome numbers eighteen holidays of obligation (always, of course, exclusive of Sundays), but only nine of these are recognized as legal holidays by the Government of Italy. The French rule of four festa præcepti prevails also in Belgium and parts of Holland. In Spain, in Austria, and throughout the greater portion of the German Empire, some fifteen days are observed, though both the total number and the particular feasts selected vary greatly in the different provinces. In England the holidays of obligation are the Circumcision, the Epiphany, the Ascension, Corpus Christi, Sts. Peter and Paul, the Assumption, All Saints, and Christmas Day. To these two other days are added in Ireland, the Annunciation and the feast of St. Patrick, and in Scotland one day, the feast of St. Andrew. In the United States six festivals are kept as of precept--Christmas, the New Year, the Ascension, the Assumption, All Saints, and the Immaculate Conception.

For English-speaking Catholics in past centuries, while living under the penal laws, the situation must often have been a difficult one. Down to 1781, as the rare copies of the old "Laity's Directory" still bear witness, our forefathers were bound to keep every Friday of the year (except during Paschal time) as a fast-day. Besides this there was abstinence upon all Saturdays and a fair number of fasting vigils, for which last, in 1771, the Wednesdays and Fridays of Advent were substituted. The holidays of obligation amounted to thirty-four, but in 1778 these were reduced to eleven, the rest for the most part being treated as feasts of devotion. On the other hand the calendar grew by the restoration to full liturgical cultus of many of the old English saints. The first permission was given by Benedict XIV in 1749 at the request of His Royal Highness the Cardinal of York. This was limited to half a dozen saints, including St. Augustine of England and St. George, both to be kept as doubles of the first class; but in 1774 ampler concessions were made by Clement XIV. Again in 1884 the list was still further extended, and in 1887 the beatification of the English martyrs became the occasion for approving several other new offices and masses.

The Churches of the east

With regard to the calendars of the various Eastern Churches it would be impossible here to enter into detail. For the most part they are subject, like that of the Western Church, to the complications caused by a system of feasts which are partly fixed and partly movable. Most of the more important festivals of the Roman calendar-- for example the Circumcision, the Epiphany, the Purification, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, St. Peter and Paul, the Assumption, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, St. Andrew, and the Nativity of Our Lord--are kept on the days corresponding to those observed in Western Christendom. But the correspondence, though recognizable in some few cases, is not quite exact. For example, the Greeks keep the feast of the Immaculate Conception, under the title he sullepsis tes theoprometoros Annes (conceptio Annæ aviæ Dei), upon 9 December, not 8 December; and while the Invention of the Cross is celebrated by us on 3 May, the Greeks and Syrians have their corresponding feast on 7 May. Again, among Oriental Christians the octaves of festivals are not kept in the same uniform way as by the Latins. Their celebrations, indeed, in many cases continue after the day of the feast, but not for exactly a week; and it is peculiar to these rites that on the day following the feast a sort of commemoration is made of the personages who are most closely connected with it. Thus on 3 February, the day after the feast of the Purification, the Greeks pay special honour to Holy Simeon and Anna, while on 9 September, the day after Our Lady's Nativity, St. Joachim and St. Anne are more particularly mentioned. Many other exceptional features, some of them decidedly extravagant, are presented by the Syriac, Armenian, and Coptic Rites. It may be sufficient here, however, to call attention to the practice in the last-named Church of assigning a day each month for the special cultus of Our Blessed Lady.

As regards the movable feasts, the chief interest centres in the beginning of Lent. With the Greek and some of the other rites, the Lenten season may be said to begin the week before our Septuagesima, though this is only a time of preparation. Sexagesima Sunday is known as he kuriake tes apokreo (the Sunday of abstinence from flesh), not that they are forbidden meat on that day, but because it is the last day on which meat is allowed. Similarly, the next Sunday (Quinquagesima) is known as he kuriake tes turines (cheese Sunday), because this is the last day upon which cheese and eggs can be eaten. The movable feasts of the Greek Church, moreover, include other festivals besides those strictly belonging to the Easter cycle. The most noteworthy example is the feast of All Saints (ton hagion panton), which is kept upon the Sunday which follows Pentecost, or in other words upon our Trinity Sunday.

About this page

APA citation. Thurston, H. (1908). Christian Calendar. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03158a.htm

MLA citation. Thurston, Herbert. "Christian Calendar." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03158a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Rick McCarty.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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