Marian Masses in Lent and Advent

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Marian Masses in Lent and Advent

ROME, 26 FEB. 2008 (ZENIT)

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: The Masses for the weekdays (including Saturdays) of Lent and Advent are assigned Masses. Yet there are Masses in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Lenten season and for the Advent season. When is it permitted to use the liturgies from this Collection of Masses during Lent and Advent? — J.M., Washington, D.C.

A: As No. 21 of the Introduction to the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary indicates, the collection is destined above all for use in Marian shrines.

These shrines frequently have permission from the Holy See to celebrate Masses of Our Lady on days that would otherwise not be permitted according to the norms of the General Roman Calendar, such as during Advent and Lent.

This concession is usually granted for all days except those indicated in Nos. 1-6 of the table of liturgical days found in most editions of the Roman Missal.

This faculty is usually reserved to priests on pilgrimage or for celebrations for groups of pilgrims and with the requirement to generally use the seasonal readings and not those of the Marian Lectionary (Introduction, No. 31).

For this reason the Masses assigned to Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter are usually not permitted in settings such as parishes, which do not enjoy any exemption from the rules of the General Calendar. The calendar forbids most votive Masses during these seasons.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 376, does say, however: "On obligatory memorials, on the weekdays of Advent up to and including December 16, of the Christmas Season from January 2, and of the Easter Season after the Octave of Easter, Masses for Various Needs, Masses for Various Circumstances, and Votive Masses are as such forbidden. If, however, required by some real need or pastoral advantage, according to the judgment of the rector of the church or the priest celebrant himself, a Mass corresponding to such a need or advantage may be used in a celebration with a congregation."

Thus, should such an authentic need for a Marian celebration arise during the above-mentioned times, the pastor could choose one of the corresponding Masses from either the Roman Missal or the collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

There are also exceptions which allow two of these formulas to be used outside of the assigned season during ordinary time. No. 28 of the Introduction says that the Christmas formula "Holy Mary of Nazareth (no 8)" may be used if a group of faithful desires to commemorate Mary's exemplary conduct at Nazareth. Likewise, the Lenten formula "Mary Virgin, Mother of Reconciliation (no 14)" may be used when Mass is celebrated in the context of seeking reconciliation and harmony.

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Follow-up: Masses in Lent [3-11-2008]

After our piece regarding which Masses could be celebrated during Lent (see Feb. 26), a reader asked for clarifications regarding the physical place for celebrating the Easter triduum.

He wrote, "I thought I had read, either in canon law or in the General Instruction for the Roman Missal, that Holy Week triduum services can only be celebrated in recognized parishes and not in chapels and/or oratories where there is not a parish. Can you provide me with the Church guidance on this subject: where can Easter triduum services take place?"

Our correspondent probably referred to the Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts, published by the Holy See in 1988. No. 43 of this document states:

"It is fitting that small religious communities, both clerical and lay, and other lay groups should participate in the celebration of the Easter Triduum in neighboring principal churches.

"Similarly, where the number of participants and ministers is so small that the celebrations of the Easter Triduum cannot be carried out with the requisite solemnity, such groups of the faithful should assemble in a larger church.

"Also, where there are small parishes with only one priest, it is recommended that such parishes should assemble, as far as possible, in a principal church and participate in the celebration there.

"On account of the needs of the faithful, where a pastor has the responsibility for two or more parishes in which the faithful assemble in large numbers, and where the celebration can be carried out with the requisite care and solemnity, the celebrations of the Easter Triduum may be repeated in accord with the given norms."

A footnote to the first paragraph clarifies the case of cloistered communities: "In monasteries of nuns, every effort should be made to celebrate the Easter Triduum with the greatest possible ceremony, but within the monastery church."

Therefore it is not so much that the triduum is forbidden outside of parish churches, but rather that it is recommended that, insofar as is possible, it not be celebrated in small groups, but in larger gatherings of the faithful.

Larger religious communities may celebrate the triduum in their communities, especially in those communities that traditionally accompany Christ during the whole night between Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

Respecting such long-standing custom would be practically impossible without the celebration of the Mass of the Lord's Supper and the consequent reservation in the altar of repose. This allows for public devotions toward Christ in the tabernacle until midnight and private prayer thereafter.

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