In the Latin liturgical rites, a commemoration is the recital, within the Liturgy of the Hours or the Mass of one celebration, of part of another celebration, generally of lower rank, that is impeded because of a coincidence of date.
Parts used in commemorating
The parts commemorated are readings, antiphons and prayers.
In the Liturgy of the Hours, all three are or have been used: a reading of the commemorated celebration at Matins (Office of Readings); the antiphons of the Benedictus at Lauds and of the Magnificat at Vespers; and the proper prayer of the celebration being commemorated, the same as the collect of its Mass.
Furthermore, before the 1955 decree Cum nostra hac aetate, in the Liturgy of the Hours the verse in the short responsory at Prime and the doxology in hymns of a commemorated feast that had special ("proper") forms of these were used, as at Mass were the commemorated feast's preface, if "proper", and the Credo, if the commemorated feast required its recitation.
Originally there were no commemorations at Mass. The older sacramentaries have only one collect. Even when, in the ninth century, priests began elsewhere to say more than one collect, only one was used in Rome. However, even in Rome the number of collects gradually increased.
Following the Council of Trent
Pope Pius V promulgated official editions of the Roman Breviary (in 1568) and the Roman Missal (in 1570) at the request of the Council of Trent. These admitted several commemorations on the same day. Thus, on 29 December the liturgy celebrated was that of Saint Thomas Becket with commemorations of the Octaves of Christmas, Saint Stephen, John the Apostle and the Holy Innocents. (See Tridentine Calendar.)
There were complicated rules about such commemorations. The section De Commemorationibus in the Rubricae generales Missalis in later editions of the Pius V Missal begins by saying: "Commemorations occur at Mass as in the Office. A Double or Semidouble Feast commemorated as a Simple in the Office is commemorated also at Mass, including Solemn Mass on Class II Double Feasts, but excluding Palm Sunday and the Vigil of Pentecost. A Simple Feast is commemorated at Mass, if in the Office it was commemorated in First Vespers; but if it was commemorated only at Lauds, it is not commemorated at a Solemn Mass but only in private Masses. Exceptions again are Palm Sunday and the Vigil of Pentecost, at which no commemoration is made even at private Masses of an occurring Simple Feast, even if it was commemorated in the Office. A commemoration is made of a Sunday on which a Double Feast is celebrated. An Octave is commemorated on a Feast celebrated within it, unless the Feast in question is one of those excepted in the Rubric on Commemorations in the Breviary. So too when a Sunday is celebrated within an Octave." This was the first of eight subsections of the Roman Missal's rubric on commemorations.
A multiplicity of prayers had become so normal that in Masses without any commemoration other prayers were added. The complicated rules in their regard were given in the seventeen subsections of the section De Orationibus of the Rubricae generales Missalis. This practice was abolished in 1955 under Pope Pius XII.
The conclusion Per Dominum nostrum ... (Through our Lord Jesus Christ ...) or its variants was added only to the first prayer and the last.
Mid-20th century reduction
By the decree "Cum nostra hac aetate (De rubricis ad simpliciorem formam redigendis)" of 23 March 1955 Pope Pius XII reduced the feasts previously of Simple rank to commemorations in the Office and Mass of the feast day or feria on which they fell.
He considerably simplified the practice of commemorations. The relevant rules were made uniform for both Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. The basis for some of the previous distinctions was removed by decreeing that feasts, except those of the first and second classes, would no longer, in line with the tradition of Jewish origin that counts sunset as the start of a new day, begin with First Vespers. Commemoration was always to be made of Sundays, First-Class Feasts, Ferias of Advent and Lent, the September Ember Days and the Major Litanies. Other commemorations were admitted on condition that the number of prayers should never exceed three. The verse in the short responsory at Prime and the doxology in hymns of a commemorated feast that had special ("proper") forms of these were no longer to be used in the Liturgy of the Hours, nor were the preface (if "proper") of the commemorated feast and the Credo (if the commemorated feast had a right to it) to be used at Mass.
Five years later, the Code of Rubrics, composed by the same commission that had prepared the decree Cum nostra hac aetate, added little. It distinguished between privileged commemorations (those that in Cum nostra hac aetate were always to be made, with the addition of days within the octave of Christmas) and ordinary commemorations. Privileged commemorations were to be made at Lauds and Vespers and all Masses, ordinary commemorations only at Lauds and conventual and low Masses. It also limited ordinarily to First-Class Feasts the celebration of First Vespers.
Following the Second Vatican Council
The Liturgy of the Hours and Roman Missal as revised after the Second Vatican Council have greater flexibility on most days of the year, allowing a choice between several celebrations, each making no mention of any other alternative celebration.
Only a few saints are classified in the General Roman Calendar as solemnities or feasts; the rest are memorials, most of them optional. On optional memorials, Mass may be of the weekday (feria) or of one of the saints listed as optional memorials or of any saint inscribed in the Roman Martyrology for that day. The choice is more limited on the weekdays of Advent from 17 to 24 December, on the days within the Octave of Christmas and on the weekdays of Lent. On those days the Mass of the current liturgical day must be used, but the collect may be taken from a memorial of the day, except on Ash Wednesday and during Holy Week.
- after the patristic reading with its responsory from the proper of the season in the Office of Readings, add the proper hagiographical reading with a responsory and conclude with the prayer of the saint;
- after the concluding prayer at Lauds and Vespers, add the antiphon (proper or else from the common) and prayer of the saint.
This optional arrangement on such days at Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours has obvious similarities with the earlier arrangements concerning commemorations.
On other days, the impeded celebration is simply omitted, unless it is a solemnity, in which case it is transferred to the next free day. It is not commemorated within the higher-ranking celebration.
- Ranking of liturgical days in the Roman Rite
- Ember Days
- General Roman Calendar
- Liturgical year
- Calendar of saints
- Liturgical reforms of Pope Pius XII
- Code of Rubrics
- Patrick Morrisroe, "Commemoration (in Liturgy)" in Catholic Encyclopedia (New York, 1908)
- Cum nostra hac aetate, III,5
- Adrian Fortescue, "Collect" in Catholic Encyclopedia (New York, 1908)
- Breviarium Romanum ex Decreto Sacrosancti Concilii Tridentini restitutum Apud Paulum Manutium, Roma 1568. Facsimile: Achille Maria Triacca, Breviarium Romanum. Editio princeps (1568), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 1999
- Missale Romanum ex Decreto Sacrosancti Concilii Tridentini restitutum Pii V. Pont. Max. editum Apud haeredes Bartholomaei Faletti, Ioannem Varisei et socios, Roma 1570. Facsimile: Manlio Sodi, Antonio Maria Triacca, Missale Romanum. Editio princeps (1570), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 1998.
- Missale Romanum, 1920 typical edition, pp. 39*–40*
- Missale Romanum, 1920 typical edition, pp. 40*–41*
- Cum nostra hac aetate, V,1
- Missale Romanum, 1920 typical edition, pp. 54*–58*
- Acta Apostolicae Sedis 47(1955), pages 218-224
- Cum nostra hac aetate, II
- Cum nostra hac aetate, III, 1
- Cum nostra hac aetate, IV, 11
- Cum nostra hac aetate, III,2–3
- Cum nostra hac aetate, III,5
- Ordo Divini Officii Recitandi Sacrique Peragendi, p. 27
- General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 355
- Apostolic Constitution Laudis canticum promulgating the Divine Office as revised in accordance with the decree of the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican
- General Introduction on the Liturgy of the Hours, 239
- Edward McNamara, "Antiphons of Commemorations"
- Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, 60