Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Blessed Idelfonso Schuster on the Vigil of St. John the Baptist

From Bl. Idelfonso Schuster, The Sacramentary, Vol. 4, pp. 262-3:

The Night of June 23
The Holy Vigil in Honour of St. John the Baptist
Station at the Lateran

The Roman populace still keeps unchanged the custom of spending the night hours awake in the neighborhood of the campus lateranensis. At one time the faithful did this in order to take part devoutly in the nocturnal vigils which in the Middle Ages were held in the Basilica of the Saviour. When, however, this practice was given up, the people still kept to the tradition, but finding the doors of the basilica closed they repaired to the wine-shops instead....

The melody of the Antiphon for the Introit is one of the most exquisite examples of Gregorian art, as the music of nearly all the vigilary Masses usually is, in preference to that of the Masses of the feast themselves. Such an anomaly may, perhaps, astonish us, but it will cease to cause us any surprise when we consider that the vigilary Mass which we now celebrate with scanty and penitential rites on the day preceding the feast was celebrated in the time of our fathers as the solemn sacrifice at the end of the night vigil, and was the festive Mass of general Communion. Indeed, in very early days it was the only Mass that was celebrated on great festival days.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In Ireland, especially in the Catholic heartland of the west, the vigil is still celebrated as it was/is in Catholic Europe, with Bonfires. In fact it is known as bonfire night and it is kept in pubs, where they too have a pub bonfire.
Alan Robinson