Today is the Octave Day of the Nativity, and this Sunday, January 6, we will celebrate the great Feast of the Epiphany. The Roman liturgy offers some wonderful chants this time of year, which are a bit outside the norm of what most Catholic laity are used to hearing, even if they are familiar with the typical Gregorian chants of the Mass.
Before our Solemn Midnight Mass of the Nativity at St Mary’s in Pine Bluff, we had the singing of the Christmas Kalenda. The Kalenda is not properly a part of the Mass — rather, it belongs to the Office of Prime — and normally it is nothing particularly noteworthy; it simply announces the date according to the ancient Roman calendar at the beginning of reading the day’s Martyrology entry.
However, for the glorious Feast of Our Lord’s Nativity, the common Prophecy tone melody is replaced by a splendid chant, and simply stating the date does not suffice. Instead, Holy Church describes in poetic detail the place Christ holds in both salvation history and secular history:
In the 5199th year from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; in the 2957th year from the flood, in the 2015th year from the birth of Abraham; in the 1510th year from the going forth of the people of Israel out of Egypt under Moses; in the 1032nd year from the anointing of David as King; in the 65th week according to the prophecy of Daniel; in the 194th Olympiad; in the 752nd from the foundation of the city of Rome; in the 42nd year of the reign of the Emperor Octavian Augustus, in the 6th age of the world, while the whole earth was at peace, Jesus Christ, Himself Eternal God and Son of the Eternal Father, being pleased to hallow the world by His most gracious coming, having been conceived of the Holy Ghost, and when nine months were passed after His conception, was born of the Virgin Mary at Bethlehem of Juda made Man. The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Flesh.
While the Church prescribes this to be sung at Prime on Christmas Eve morning, since that Office is not often solemnly celebrated for the faithful to hear, we decided to also include it before Midnight Mass.
Similarly, the Feast of the Epiphany has a special chanted proclamation: the Noveritis. So-named because of the first word of the chant, the Noveritis is an announcement of the dates of important movable feasts for the year — Septuagesima Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, and the First Sunday of Advent.
Whereas the Kalenda is not a part of the celebration of Mass, the Noveritis is to be sung after the Gospel on the Epiphany, at the ambo, or in the place where the Gospel is sung, by a deacon (or priest) vested in cope.
We will be including the singing of the Noveritis in its proper place at the St Mary’s Pine Bluff TLM this Sunday, 6 January 2019.