This coming Sunday…

Liturgy-hours…is an interesting occurrence. The Church will celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption which happens to fall on a Sunday this year. It is celebrated instead of the normal 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Since the 17th Sunday we had been reading from Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John, whose central/key verses are part of the 20th Sunday gospel. And so that is why I posted a longer piece on those key verses that you can read here. But you might be asking, why does the Solemnity of the Assumption replace the 20th Sunday?

Why wouldn’t they “transfer” the Holy Day to another day? And why is the gospel not about the Assumption but rather it is from Luke’s Gospel and covers the verses we refer to as the Visitation to Elizabeth and the Magnificat. The short answer is the Assumption of Mary is not described in the Bible but its celebration has a long history in the liturgy of the Church going back into the 2nd century. References to the Dormition or Assumption of Mary first appear in two non-biblical texts, the “Liber Requiei Mariae” and the “Six Books Dormition Apocryphon” (early 3rd century) reflecting a practice of the faith that was already celebrated. Later this week I will post more about the history of the celebration. But what about the celebration on a Sunday?

Each and every day in the Catholic liturgical calendar has a rank. The five basic ranks, in descending order of importance, are as follows:

  • Solemnity—the highest ranking type of feast day. It commemorates an event in the life of Jesus or Mary, or celebrates a Saint important to the whole Church or the local community. Outside of Advent, Lent and Easter season, a solemnity falling on a Sunday is celebrated in place of the Sunday.
  • Feast—the rank of secondary liturgical days including lesser events in the life of Jesus, Mary or an Apostle (theologically speaking) or for major saints. A Feast pertaining to the Lord (e.g. Transfiguration) falling on a Sunday during Ordinary Time replaces the Sunday Liturgy.
  • Memorial—the commemoration of a saint of lesser importance. Many memorials are optional or only observed in specific dioceses, regions or nations.
  • Seasonal Weekday—a weekday in a “strong” liturgical season (Advent, Christmas season, Lent, or Easter season), on which no solemnity, feast, or memorial happens to be observed. On Weekdays of Lent memorials are celebrated as optional memorial and such liturgy of Lent shall be used.
  • Ferial days—a weekday in ordinary time on which no solemnity, feast or memorial happens to be observed. feria refers to a day other than a Sunday.

And since the Assumption is ranked as a Solemnity, it is celebrated in place the regularly scheduled Sunday in Ordinary Time. And now you know!

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