Marian Feasts Past and Present

The following feature points to the evolution of Marian Feasts in the recent past. It shows the feasts in vigor before the liturgical reform of 1969, the changes made in 1969, and the further developments of 1986. This presentation attracts the attention of the reader to the meaning of these changes and their doctrinal content and enrichment.

1. Feasts of Mary prior to 1969
Jan. 8 Our Lady of Prompt Succor (diocese of New Orleans)
Feb. 2 The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Feb. 11 The Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes
Mar. 25 The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Fri. of Passion Week The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Sat. within the octave of the Ascension Our Lady, Queen of Apostles (In some places by special indult)
May 31 Mary, Our Queen
July 2 The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
July 16 Commemoration of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Aug. 5 The Dedication of the Church of Our Lady of the Snow
(Aug. 14) Vigil of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Aug. 15 The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Aug. 22 The Immaculate Heart of Mary
Sept. 8 The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Sept. 12 The Most Holy Name of Mary
Sept. 15 The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Sept. 24 Our Lady of Ransom
Oct. 7 The Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Oct. 11 The Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Nov. 21 Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Dec. 8 The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Dec. 12 Our Lady of Guadalupe (in some dioceses)

Most of these Masses revolve around the themes of the virgin Mother of God and Mary as ever-virgin.  Notable exceptions are the feasts which specifically celebrate the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and the celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

2. Liturgical Revisions of 1969

The Fathers of Vatican II called for a revision of the liturgical calendar.

The liturgical year was to be revised so that the traditional customs and discipline of the sacred seasons shall be preserved or restored to suit the conditions of modern times. Their specific character is to be retained so that they duly nourish the piety of the faithful who celebrate the mysteries of the Christian redemption and, above all, the paschal mystery... The minds of the faithful should be directed primarily toward the feasts of the Lord whereby the mysteries of salvation are celebrated throughout the year. For this reason, the Proper of the Time shall be given due preference over the feasts of the saints so that the entire cycle of the mysteries of salvation may be suitably recalled.1

In the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus Pope Paul VI further specified the criteria used to modify the Marian feasts.

The reform of the Roman liturgy presupposed a careful restoration of its General Calendar. This Calendar is arranged in such a way as to give fitting prominence to the celebration on appropriate days of the work of salvation. It distributes through the year the whole mystery of Christ, from the Incarnation to the expectation of his return in glory, and thus makes it possible in a more organic and closely-knit fashion to include the commemoration of Christ's Mother in the annual cycle of the mysteries other Son.2

In the revised liturgical calendar, the number of Marian feasts was reduced to fourteen from twenty-one.

3. Feasts of Mary after 1969

Jan. 1 Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Feb. 2 The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple
Feb. 11 Our Lady of Lourdes
Mar. 25 Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
May 31 The Visitation
Sat. after Second Sunday after Pentecost Immaculate Heart of Mary
July 16 Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Aug. 5 Dedication of Saint Mary Major
(Aug. 14) Vigil of the Assumption
Aug. 15 The Assumption
Aug. 22 The Queenship of Mary
Sept. 8 The Birth of Mary
Sept. 15 Our Lady of Sorrows
Oct. 7 Our Lady of the Rosary
Nov. 21 The Presentation of Mary
Dec. 8 The Immaculate Conception
Dec. 12 Our Lady of Guadalupe (in the dioceses of the U.S.)

4. The Changes and Their Meaning

It should be noted that the two feasts of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, formerly celebrated during Passion Week and on September 15, were combined into one feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 15. Although the feasts of February 2 and March 25 were "lost" when their titles were transferred to feasts of Our Lord, in reality these two feasts have been in the past and remain today, joint feasts of Jesus and Mary. The three feasts that were dropped were Our Lady, Queen of Apostles, Our Lady of Ransom (which were celebrated only locally) and the Most Holy Name of Mary. The Mass for Our Lady of Ransom did not have its own euchological prayers, but used the common of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Until the publication of the Collection of Marian Masses in 1986 it would seem that Mary lost ground, so to speak.3  However, when we consider the proportion of feasts in her honor compared to the number for other saints, she fared rather well. Bruno Kleinheyer draws our attention to the fact that simply having the Mass celebrated in the vernacular language brings Marian doctrine more into the awareness of the people than the changing of the formularies of the texts.4

The order of the Mass retained references to Mary in the penitential rite, the creed, each of the four Eucharistic Prayers, and was added in two solemn blessings. The tone is no longer emphasizing her honor and privilege so much as sharing in the unity of the whole Church.

"In union with the whole Church we honor Mary, the ever-virgin mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God."5

"Make us worthy to share eternal life with Mary, the virgin Mother of God."6

"Enable us to share in the inheritance of your saints, with Mary, the virgin Mother of God."7

"Father, in your mercy grant also to us, your children, to enter into our heavenly, inheritance in the company of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God..."8

The difference between the Votive Mass and the Common for the Blessed Virgin Mary was dropped. There are, however, seven options for the euchologic prayers: four for ordinary time and one each for the seasons of Advent, Christmas and Easter. The theme of the virginal motherhood of Mary and her position as Mother of God continue to dominate these prayers.

The one preface was expanded into five in addition to references to Mary in prefaces for Advent, Sunday in Ordinary Time, one of the weekday prefaces and the one specified for the second Eucharistic prayer. We find in these prefaces a new emphasis on Mary's response to the saving deeds of God and on her relationship to the Church. For example,

"When you looked on Mary your lowly servant, you raised her to be the mother of Jesus Christ, your Son."9

"Full of grace, she (Mary) was to be a worthy mother of your Son, your sign of favor to the Church at its beginning You chose her from all women to be our advocate with you and our pattern of holiness."10

"The Virgin Mary, receiving the angel's message in faith, conceived by the power of the Spirit and bore your Son in purest love."11

"Today the virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven to be the beginning and the pattern of the Church in its perfection."

In regard to the feast of February 2, the earlier title of the Presentation of the Lord was restored.12 Even when this day was known as the Purification of Mary, the focus of the Mass texts had been christological and remains so. A previous mention of Mary in the post communion prayer was dropped.

The feast of the Annunciation took back its previous title of the Annunciation of the Lord. For the Solemnity of the Incarnation of the Word, in the Roman Calendar the ancient title, the Annunciation of the Lord, has been deliberately restored, but the feast was and is a joint one of Christ and of the Blessed Virgin: of the Word, who becomes "Son of Mary" (Mk. 6:3), and of the Virgin, who becomes Mother of God.13

Mary does not, however, receive less attention in the prayers although there is an extension other responsibility expressed. As Mother of the Savior she "bring(s) Jesus to the waiting world and fill(s) the void of incompletion with the presence of her child." We begin to sense that her role in the plan of salvation is not only toward God but also toward the Church.

The greatest revision of the liturgy in favor of Mary was the moving of the feast of the Motherhood of Mary from October 11 to January 1.

In the revised ordering of the Christmas period it seems to us that the attention of all should be directed towards the restored Solemnity of Mary, the holy Mother of God. This celebration, placed on January 1 in conformity with the ancient indication of the liturgy of the City of Rome, is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the "holy Mother... through whom we were found worthy to receive the Author of life."14

In the Mariological hierarchy of truths, Mary's grace to be the Mother of God is central and the basis for her role in the economy of salvation.

Mary has by grace been exalted above all angels and men to a place second only to her Son, as the most holy mother of God who was involved in the mysteries of Christ: she is rightly honored by a special cult in the Church. From the earliest times the Blessed Virgin is honored under the title of Mother of God... 15

It is in view of her mission as the Mother of God that she is immaculately conceived.16 It is due to her motherhood that she remains ever-virgin.17 It is a result of her motherhood and consequent relationship to the Christ that she is assumed body and soul into heaven. 18

The prayers of the former feast of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary emphasized Mary's blessedness and basically the fact that she is Mother of God. In the revised liturgy we further proclaim her as the mother of the Church in view of her relationship to Christ. The fact that in the U.S., January 1 is a holyday will ensure that many more people will celebrate Mary as the Mother of God.

The revised prayers of the vigil of the feast of the Assumption speak about the humility and lowliness of Mary, qualities which emphasize her solidarity with us as we experience our human condition. The optional opening prayer is especially tender and expressive:

Let us pray with Mary to the Father, in whose presence she now dwells. Almighty Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, you have revealed the beauty of your power by exalting the lowly virgin of Nazareth and making her the mother of our Savior. May the prayers of this woman clothed with the sun bring Jesus to the waiting world and fill the void of incompletion with the presence of her child.

We see Mary in relation to the Father, experiencing his gift to her, and in turn handing on this gift to a "waiting world."

In the opening prayer of the Mass celebrated during the day, the connection between the immaculate conception and the assumption is retained: "You raised the sinless Virgin Mary, mother of your Son, body and soul to the glory of heaven." However, the meaning for our own lives is pointed out too: "May we see heaven as our final goal and come to share her glory."

The Solemnity of the Assumption is prolonged in the celebration of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which occurs seven days later. On this occasion we contemplate her who, seated beside the King of ages, shines forth as Queen and intercedes as Mother.19

In the revised prayers for December 8 we notice that the terminology shifts away from the negative "stain" and "wounds of ... sin to a more relational image. "Lord our God, in your love, you chose the Virgin Mary and kept her free from sin." Likewise Mary's response is highlighted as a more active role than formerly: "Mary had a faith that your Spirit prepared and a love that never knew sin, for you kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception."

5. The 1986 Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary

In 1986 the Congregation for Divine Worship published a collection of forty-six Marian Mass formularies.20 These Masses are primarily from local churches or religious institutes with a view to being made available for Marian shrines or for a Memorial of the Blessed Virgin on Saturday.21 These Masses are divided into the liturgical seasons in order to integrate devotion to Mary.

As a result of this arrangement of Masses, the occasions and manner of Mary's cooperation in the work of salvation will be celebrated and in the most appropriate liturgical season; in addition the Blessed Virgin's close connection with the mission of the Church will be clearly expressed.22

Marian Masses of 1986

Advent Season: The Blessed Virgin Mary, Chosen Daughter of Israel The Blessed Virgin Mary, Chosen Daughter of Israel
  The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Annunciation of the Lord
  The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Christmas Season: Holy Mary, Mother of God
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Savior
  The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Epiphany of the Lord
  The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of the Lord
  Our Lady of Nazareth
  Our Lady of Cana
Lenten Season: Holy Mary, Disciple of the Lord
  The Blessed Virgin Mary at the Foot of the Cross, I
  The Blessed Virgin Mary at the Foot of the Cross, II
  The Commending of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Reconciliation
Easter Season: The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Resurrection of the Lord
  Holy Mary, Fountain of Light and Life
  Our Lady of the Cenacle
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles
Ordinary Time: Holy Mary, Mother of the Lord
  Holy Mary, the New Eve
  Holy Mary, Handmaid of the Lord
  Holy Mary, Mother of Unity
  Holy Mary, Queen and Mother of Mercy
  Our Lady of Ransom
  The Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Temple of the Lord
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom
  The Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of all Creation
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Mediatrix of Grace
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Fountain of Salvation
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Teacher in the Spirit
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Good Counsel
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Cause of Our Joy
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Pillar of Faith
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Image and Mother of the Church, I
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Image and Mother of the Church, II
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Image and Mother of the Church, III
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Divine Hope
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Divine Providence
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Consolation
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Fairest Love
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Health of the Sick
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace
  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Gate of Heaven

Two of the three Masses which had been dropped through the liturgical revisions of 1969 are included in the list of Masses, that of the Queen of the Apostles and of the Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In effect, the number of approved Marian Mass formulas has tripled since 1969. In addition each of the forty-six Masses has its own preface.

Summary

In this brief overview we can discern that our liturgical prayer mirrors a shift in the Church's image of Mary. In the first half of the century Mary was revered for her greatness and the gifts with which God graced her. With Vatican II's bringing us to a new awareness of Mary's position within the Church, the liturgy reflects the dimension of her relationship to Christ and her role in salvation history. At this stage a new thread is introduced into the tapestry of the liturgy which will be highlighted even more in the Collection of Masses, namely, what Mary has received as gift should be transmitted to the other members of the Church. We see evidence of the attitudes that disposed her toward hearing God's voice, and traces of the response she gave.

When we consider the treasury of prayers now contained in the available Marian Mass texts we cannot overlook the relatively few direct references to the Marian dogmas. In comparison to "newer"23 themes such as the new Eve, the new creation, and discipleship, the emphasis of the liturgies is to look to Mary for what message she has for us today. The dogmas are present but not just to lead us to admiration of Mary. Rather we are called upon to meditate and act upon the realization that God has revealed these mysteries to give us a message for our own lives. We are called to holiness. We are called to be consecrated to God and the coming of the kingdom. We are called to mediate spiritual life to others. We are called to live in the hope of our glory to come. We are invited to reflect Mary's attitude in the real world of today.


This text is part of a research paper written by Sr. Marcia Vinje in 1996. It was shortened and somewhat reorganized by Father Johann Roten.

Endnotes

1. SC 107-108.

2. MC 2.

3. Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I Sacramentary. New York: Catholic Book Publishing, 1992.

4. Kleinheyer, Bruno. "Maria in der Liturgie," Handbuch der Mariekunde. Regensburg: Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 1984, 405.

5. Eucharistic Prayer I.

6. Eucharistic Prayer II.

7. Eucharistic Prayer III.

8. Eucharistic Prayer IV.

9. Preface of the Blessed Virgin Mary 2.

10. Preface of the Immaculate Conception.

11. Preface of the Annunciation.

12. MC 7.

13. MC 6.

14. MC 5.

15. Lumen Gentium. Vatican II, Constitution on the Church. 21 November 1964. 66.

16. CCC 490.

17. CCC 499.

18. CCC 966.

19. MC 6.

20. Collectio Missarum de beata Maria Virgine. 15 August 1986.

21. Collection of Masses. 12.

22. Collection of Masses. 13.

23. In reality these are a return to scriptural themes that have not been stressed for centuries.

Selected Bibliography

Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. English translation for the USA: United States Catholic Conference. 1994.

Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary I, Sacramentary. New York: Catholic Book Publishing, 1992.

Days of the Lord: the Liturgical Year, Volume 1. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1991. 176-180, 242-247.

Jelly, Frederick M., O. P. Madonna, Mary in the Catholic Tradition. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 1986. 90-116, 131-147,168-177.

Kleinheyer, Bruno. "Maria in der Liturgie," Handbuch der Marienkunde. Regensburg: Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 1984.

Laurentin, Rene. Our Lady and the Mass. Trans. Francis McHenry, OSB. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1959. 35-53.

Lumen Gentium. Vatican ll, Constitution on the Church. 21 November 1964. Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. Northport, NY :Costello Publishing, 1987.

Magee, Brian, CM. Mary in the Church, chapter 11, "The Blessed Virgin Mary in a Renewed Liturgy." Dublin: Veritas, 1989.

Maryknoll Fathers, ed. Daily Missal of the Mystical Body. New York: P. J. Kenedy and Sons, 1957.

O'Donnell, Christopher, O. Carm. At Worship with Mary. Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1988.

Pope Paul VI. Marialis Cultus. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1974.

The Roman Missal - The Sacramentary. Collegeville:The Liturgical Press, 1985.

Sacrosanctum concilium. Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. 4 December 1963. Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. Northport, NY:Costello Publishing, 1987.

Thompson, Thomas A. "To Live the Mystery of Christ with Mary - The Presence and Role of Mary in Liturgy." Marian Library Studies, Volumes 17-23. 698 ff.

"The Virgin Mary in the Liturgy: 1963-1988," Marian Studies XL. Dayton: The Mariological Society of America, 1989. 77-104./

Abbreviations

CCC Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. English translation for the USA: United States Catholic Conference. 1994.

DS H. Denzinger and A. Schoenmetzer, eds., Enchiridion symbolorum, definitionum et declarationum. Herder.

MC Pope Paul VI. Marialis Cultus. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1974.

MM Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Volume I Sacramentary. New York: Catholic Book Publishing, 1992.

SC Sacrosanctum concilium. Vatican ll, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. 4 December 1963. Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. Northport, NY: Costello Publishing, 1987.


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