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med-calend-art - 5/5/95


Article on figuring out feast days by Fr. John Woolley.


NOTE: See also the files: bells-msg, calendars-msg, clocks-msg, time-art,  fasts-msg, fish-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


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Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Wed, 06 Jan 1993 01:59:27 GMT

From: "John W. Woolley" <jww at evolving.com>

Organization: Evolving Systems, Inc.

Subject: The Period Calendar you've been wanting


You asked for it, you got it.


Assuming you want to take modern month-and-day dates and convert them

to Church-style dating by feasts and seasons, you've got several

problems, only a few of which have been touched on in this Rialto thread

so far.  Here's as brief an article as I can manage without being grossly

incomplete.  The discussion below is not accurate for the modern calendar,

but should do well for period stuff.  In the odd event they're called for,

corrections would be welcome.



If it's Sunday or a major feast day, your job is (comparatively) simple.

The problem is just to figure out which Sunday or feast it is.


The ecclesiastical year starts with the fourth Sunday before Christmas.

(This is the Sunday between November 27 and December 3 inclusive.)  It's

called "The First Sunday in Advent", or "Advent Sunday", or (shorthand)

"Advent I".  The next three Sundays are, as you might expect, "The

Second Sunday in Advent" (or "Advent II"), "The Third ...", etc.


So far so good.  Now comes a cluster of major feasts, "Christmas" or

"Nativity DNIC" on December 25 (DNIC is a standard abbreviation for

"Domini Nostri Jesu Christi" -- "of our Lord Jesus Christ"; similarly,

BVM means "Beatae Virginis Mariae", "of the Blessed Virgin Mary".); St.

Stephen's Day (or "The Feast of St. Stephen") on December 26; St. John's

(John the Apostle, that is) on December 27; Holy Innocents' Day on

December 28; and Circumcision DNIC on January 1.  The Sunday after

Christmas is "The First Sunday after Christmas", unless Christmas was

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, in which cases the next Sunday

would be one of the feasts just mentioned.  If Christmas is on a

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, there is a "Second Sunday

after Christmas" as well on January 5, 4, 3, or 2.


Now we come to Epiphany DNIC, the great feast on January 6.  If that's a

Sunday, it's still "Epiphany", or "The Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord",

or whatever.  The next two-to-six Sundays are "The First Sunday after

Epiphany" ("Epiphany I"), etc.  I say "two-to-six" because it varies

year to year with the date of Easter.  You will have to look up the date

of Easter.  It's the Sunday after the first full moon on or after the

vernal equinox, and falls somewhere between March 22 and April 25

inclusive.  Yes, there are algorithms for finding it, and no, I'm not

going to post them.  The trick here is to count back from Easter to the

ninth Sunday before.  The Sundays between Epiphany and the ninth Sunday

before Easter are the ones dated "after Epiphany".




The ninth Sunday before Easter is named "Septuagesima"; the eighth is

"Sexagesima"; the seventh "Quinquagesima".  The Wednesday in

Quinquagesima week is "Ash Wednesday", the first day of Lent; the day

just before it is called "Shrove Tuesday" or "Carneval" -- Latin for

"Goodbye meat!".  The next four Sundays, then, are the "First Sunday in

Lent" ("Lent I") and so on through the "Fourth Sunday in Lent".  The

fifth Sunday in Lent (the second before Easter) is "Passion Sunday", and

the next (the first before Easter) "Palm Sunday".  That second week

before Easter is called "Passion Week", and its weekdays are called, for

instance, "Tuesday in Passion Week".  The week just before Easter is

"Holy Week"; its Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are designated "in Holy

Week"; its Thursday is "Maundy Thursday" or "Holy Thursday"; its Friday

of course is "Good Friday"; its Saturday is "Holy Saturday".


Then comes Easter itself.  The two days following are "Easter Monday"

and "Easter Tuesday", and the other days of the week called, for

instance, "Thursday in Easter Week".  The next five Sundays are dated

from Easter, in what by now seems a simple manner: "The First Sunday

after Easter" or "Easter I", etc.  (Easter I is sometimes called "Low

Sunday" for obscure reasons, or "Quasimodo Sunday" for less obscure

ones.)  The Thursday five-and-a-half weeks after Easter is Ascension

DNIC, or "Ascension Day"; so the sixth Sunday after Easter isn't called

that; it's "The Sunday after the Ascension".  And the seventh Sunday

after Easter is "The Feast of Pentecost" or "Pentecost", or in English

"Whitsunday" -- after Easter the most important feast of the whole year.


The next Sunday is the Octave of Pentecost (more on Octaves below), and

is called Trinity Sunday, or "The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity".


From then until Advent comes again, the Sundays (from 23 to 28 of them)

are dated "after Pentecost"; sometimes they're dated (with the numbers

one less, of course) "after the Octave of Pentecost" or even "after

Trinity".  The last Sunday before Advent is often called not by number,

but "The Sunday before Advent".


Simplicity itself.


Now, exceptions.  We've already dealt with Christmas, the feasts in

Christmas week, and Epiphany, any of which might fall on a Sunday and

upset the normal naming of Sundays.  There are others feasts that do the

same, but the list varies from place to place and time to time.  In

general, the other feasts that can override Sunday are "The Feast of St.

Peter and St. Paul" (St. Peter's Day) on July 29, Assumption BVM on

August 15, and "All Saints' Day" ("All Hallows'", "The Feast of All

Saints") on November 1.  The feasts of Patron Saints of countries,

dioceses, parishes, religious orders, towns, etc., also override Sunday

unless they fall between Advent I and Christmas or between Septuagesima

and Easter, in which case the feast is transferred ("bumped").  More on

transfers in a moment.


(A caution.  Not all these conflict-resolution rules were well worked

out until late in our period, say mid-fifteenth century. But the scheme

encoded then embodied the usual practice of earlier ages.)


Other major feasts that land on a Sunday (or on another more major feast

-- one of those we've already discussed -- or on a major feria -- Ash

Wednesday is the only major feria you need worry about) get transferred

to the first open day.  (As do even very high-ranking feasts that land

on Sundays during Advent and Lent, as noted previously.) An "open day"

is usually the next day, Monday; but if Monday is a feast day of equal

or greater rank itself, the moving feast would move (probably) to Tuesday

instead.  The exceptions (you're surprised there are exceptions) are all

the days from January 7 through 13, the two weeks from Palm Sunday

through Easter I, and the week from Pentecost to Trinity -- all the days

of these weeks are considered closed, and nothing transfers to them.  So

Annunciation (normally March 25), if it landed in the last week of Lent,

would get moved all the way to the Monday eight days after Easter.

Sometimes two feasts will get "bumped" by the same conflict; for example,

St. George and St. Mark (April 23 and 25) might both conflict with a

later-than-usual Easter Week, and get moved to the Monday and Tuesday

after Low Sunday.  (This of course would only apply where SS. George and

Mark are both celebrated as major feasts -- the English embassy in Venice,



The list of these "other major feasts" would vary from place to place;

in the Middle Ages it would include most of these: Purification BVM or

"Candlemas" on February 2; Annunciation BVM ("Lady Day") on March 25;

Transfiguration DNIC on August 6; Nativity BVM on September 8; and

Conception BVM on December 8.  Also patronal festivals such as St. David

(Wales) on March 1; St. Patrick (Ireland) on March 17; St. Benedict on

March 21; St. George (England) on April 23; St. James (Spain) on July

25; St. Dominic on August 4; St. Francis on October 4; and St. Andrew

(Scotland) on November 30.  Local patrons of provinces, towns, parishes,

etc., get celebrated the same way; but it's rare to date documents from

obscure saints' days, unless just to show you're a hagiography geek.


Lesser feasts get cancelled if they land on a Sunday, major feast, or

major feria.  Frequently seen lesser feasts are:

     January    5   St. Edward Confessor

                9   St. Adrian

               13   St. Hilary

               18   St. Prisca

               19   St. Wulstan

               21   St. Agnes

               25   Conversion of St. Paul

     February   3   St. Blaise

                5   St. Agatha

               14   St. Valentine

               22   The Chair of St. Peter

               24   St. Mathias (February 25 in leap years)

     March      1   St. David (patron of Wales)

                2   St. Chad (or Cedde)

                7   St. Perpetua

               12   St. Gregory

               17   St. Patrick, patron of Ireland

               18   St. Edward King of Wessex

               20   St. Cuthbert

               21   St. Benedict, father of monks

     April      3   St. Richard

                4   St. Ambrose

               19   St. Alphege

               23   St. George, patron of England

               25   St. Mark, patron of Venice

     May        1   SS. Philip and James, Apostles

                3   Invention of the Holy Cross

                6   St. John before the Latin Gate

               19   St. Dunstan

               25   St. Aldhelm

               26   St. Augustine (or Austin) of Canterbury

               27   St. Bede the Venerable

     June       1   St. Nicomedes

                5   St. Boniface

               11   St. Barnabas

               15   St. Eadburga

               18   Translation of St. Edward King of Wessex

               22   St. Alban

               24   Nativity of St. John Baptist

               30   Commemoration of St. Paul

     July       2   Visitation BVM

                3   Translation of St. Thomas the Apostle

                4   Translation of St. Martin

                7   Translation of St. Thomas of Canterbury

               11   Translation of St. Benedict

               15   St. Swithun

               20   St. Margaret

               22   St. Mary Magdalene

               25   St. James the Greater; also St. Christopher

               26   St. Anne, mother of the BVM

     August     1   St. Peter ad Vincula ("Lammas Day", "Gule of August")

                4   St. Dominic (at first August 5)

               10   St. Laurence

               24   St. Bartholomew

               28   St. Augustine (or Austin) of Hippo

               29   Beheading of St. John Baptist

     September  1   St. Egidius (aka St. Giles); also St. Priscus

                4   Translation of St. Cuthbert

               14   Exaltation of the Holy Cross

               16   St. Edith; also St. Euphemia

               21   St. Matthew

               22   St. Maurice

               26   St. Cyprian

               29   St. Michael the Archangel

               30   St. Jerome (or Hieronymus)

     October    1   St. Melorius

                4   St. Francis

                6   St. Faith

                8   St. Oswald

                9   St. Denys (or Dionysius), patron of Paris

               12   St. Wilfrid

               13   Translation of St. Edward the Confessor

               17   St. Etheldreda

               18   St. Luke

               25   SS. Crispin and Crispinian (or Crispian); Henry V day!

               28   SS. Simon and Jude, Apostles

     November   2   St. Eustace

                6   St. Leonard

               11   St. Martin

               16   St. Edmund Bishop

               17   St. Hugh

               20   St. Edmund King

               22   St. Cecilia

               23   St. Felicity; also St. Clement

               25   St. Catherine

               30   St. Andrew the Apostle

     December   3   St. Birinus

                6   St. Nicholas (Santa Claus)

               13   St. Lucy

               21   St. Thomas the Apostle

               29   St. Thomas of Canterbury

               31   St. Silvester


This list is heavily weighted toward English practice.


The day just before a major feast (unless that day before is a Sunday,

major feast, or major feria) is called the "Vigil" of the feast.  So

don't date things mediaeval "Christmas Eve", but rather "The Vigil of our

Lord's Nativity".  If the feast is on a Monday, though, Sunday is *not*

its vigil -- for document-dating purposes it has no vigil that year.

(For monastic purposes, the vigil is anticipated on Saturday.)  A feast

that always falls the day after another notable feast (St. John's the day

after St. Stephen's, for instance) never has a vigil.


The eighth day counting from a major feast is the Octave of that feast,

exactly one week afterwards.  So, for instance, a document signed on

January 4 would likely be dated "The Octave of the Innocents".  You can

frequently date weekdays as being within an octave, as "The Tuesday

within the Octave of the Assumption".


Four times a year are a group of "Ember Days". They never override a

feast of any importance, but (if the days are otherwise unencumbered)

they are the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday next following 1) The

First Sunday in Lent, 2) Whitsunday, 3) Holy Cross Day (September 14),

and 4) St. Lucy's Day (December 13).  (The Ember Days at the four

quarters are designated as being "in Lent", "in Whitsuntide", "in

September", and "in Advent").  So, for instance, in this year of grace

1993, Friday September 17 will be "Ember Friday in September".  (Unless

of course you're in a parish dedicated to St. Lambert, in which case

that's your patronal feast.  Nothing is ever simple.)


If all this doesn't get you to a nice-sounding date, you can always use

a phrase like "Tuesday the seconde daie afore the feste of oure glorious

patroun and lord seinte Austin biscop and confessour of Caunterbury".


Questions more-than-happily fielded.


Fr. John Woolley (jww at evolving.com); vastly enthusiastic about Augustine,

Austen, babies, Bach, backgammon, baseball, beer, the Bible, Botticelli, Burke,

Chesterton, Dante, Dixieland, hardboiled, Hitchcock, Dr Johnson, Latin, Mozart,

Shakespeare/de Vere, St Teresa, Tolkien, Trollope, Fats Waller, and Washington


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org