QUAERITUR: 1st Vespers of Epiphany? 2nd Vespers of Solemnity?

From a reader:

In my diocese the Solemnity of the Epiphany is celebrated tomorrow
rather than on the sixth. Which Vespers therefore takes precedence? Second Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God or First Vespers of the Epiphany? Looking at the ranking table it seems both are within the first section entitled “I” but then the Epiphany is above solemnities of Our Lady. It just seems strange to say First Vespers and then Lauds but then no Second Vespers. Does the Epiphany have precedence?

Hmmm…  I don’t have an Ordo at hand, for either calendar.

But in the older, traditional calendar I believe we say 2nd Vespers for the Octave of Christmas with a commemoration of the Holy Family.  Epiphany is, of course, on 6 January where it belongs.

In the newer calendar, if Epiphany is celebrated – which I consider somewhat appalling – I think that Epiphany’s 1st Vespers would have precedence over the 2nd Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary.  Furthermore, Epiphany is one of the most important and ancient feasts of the year.

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  1. Supertradmum says:

    I am on the phone with a seminarian at this time discussing the lack of holy days of obligation this January, our diocese dropping January 1st and, of course, January 6th. He said that these days are not discussed in Liturgy class. He said that it seems like “numbers” are more important, and therefore, the prevailing idea is that people will not come, so why bother. Of course, I disagree with this. He does as well. Epiphany is so important and such a beautiful feast for us Gentiles. My ancestors gave their children presents on that day.

  2. carl b says:

    Yes, 1 Vespers of Epiphany take precedence. In the table of Liturgical Days it is ranked higher than Solemnities of the BVM, so the BVM can’t possibly outrank Epiphany.

  3. FrCharles says:

    This sort of question does come up from time to time. You are correct to consult, in your Liturgia Horarum or translation thereof, the Tabula Dierum Liturgicorum or “Table of Liturgical Days,” which lists the precedence of days in much finer detail than the shorthand of solemnity-feast-memorial-feria.

    In this case we note that Epiphany is in category I:2, which is very high (exceeded by only the days of the Paschal Triduum). Solemnities of Our Lady fall slightly lower, in category I:3. Therefore, when the liturgical days of these two solemnities overlap, Epiphany has precedence. Thus tonight we pray first Vespers of Epiphany. As Fr. Z notes, Epiphany is also a very ancient and deep observance.

    The reverse occurred last Saturday, of course, when second Vespers of Christmas impeded first Vespers of Holy Family.

  4. twherge says:

    as it happens, it is not terribly strange for a feast to have first vespers and no second vespers. This was the norm before 1955.

  5. Considering how many Hispanic people give gifts on Epiphany instead of Christmas, with kids receiving gifts from the Three Kings instead of Santa Claus, it seems very pastorally insensitive to move such an important day to random Sundays.

  6. nanetteclaret says:

    I think more cultures than just the Hispanic give gifts on Epiphany rather than Christmas. So while the rest of the world is celebrating Epiphany on January 6th, why does the U.S. (always) have to be different? Just like a rebellious teenager – any new way rather than the old way! Speaking of teenagers, how many of the younger generations know that Epiphany is really January 6th? It seems almost criminal that one of the oldest Christian holy days should be lost here in the U.S. because of laziness.

  7. gloriainexcelsis says:

    In the traditional calendar there is no Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. January 1 is Octave Day of the Nativity, no longer Circumcision (except for Luke’s Gospel of the day), and not a Holy Day in our Diocese. I attended for Adoration, Benediction and Mass anyway. It is First Saturday. Second vespers are of the Octave Day of Christmas. As it is January 1, we said the Veni Creator Spiritus ( in English) for the Indulgence. Sunday, the 2nd is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, with 2nd vespers of the Holy Name. It all seems so simple this way, doesn’t it?

  8. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Oh, that’s right. I forgot. The Feast of the Epiphany falls on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6th, with second vespers of the Epiphany. On Sunday the 9th it is the Feast of the Holy Family…..

  9. Dan says:

    FWIW, the Ordo for Chicago, Joliet, and Rockford has EP I of Epiphany today.

  10. sprachmeister says:

    Yeah I thought it would be First Vespers of the Epiphany. Of course, everyone would be spared this confusion if dioceses just stuck to the 6th of January for the Epiphany. The way the Office is laid out for the next week is awful with the “transferrable Epiphany”.

  11. cyejbv says:

    //Considering how many Hispanic people give gifts on Epiphany instead of Christmas, with kids receiving gifts from the Three Kings instead of Santa Claus, it seems very pastorally insensitive to move such an important day to random Sundays.//

    I agree. But on top of that, moving Epiphany seems insensitive in general, not to mention- but I will- incorrect.

    I just read that The Epiphany “celebrates the manifestation of our newborn Lord to the Gentiles in the person of the Three Kings… the star that appeared in the East and guided the kings … gave the first call to the Gentiles to the faith…”
    Hmph. I didn’t know that. So my take is that while the problem includes gift giving traditions, it extends beyond it too: One of the biggest spiritual struggles I’ve ever personally had was understanding and believing that God doesn’t love me less because I’m a Gentile. I know it sounds simplistic, but I wrestled for a LONG time with that concept and it was heartbreaking for me. Even after reading Acts. Over and over and over.

    Epiphany properly celebrated- 12 days after the birth of Our Lord- is rich with meaning for many reasons but I’d wager the average Catholic (me) lives unaware. (’til now)

    Anyway we are instituting a new family tradition: Gift exchange on Jan 6. Also, I’m hitting the rewind button and moving the wise men from the nativity set to different rooms of the house. They will get closer each day to the Nativity set proper, and shall arrive on the 6th. Next year I will have this down pat. :)

    Our parish calender lists the 6th as ‘Christmas Weekday’ with ‘Blessed André Bessette’ beneath. The Epiphany is the 2nd. On an up side at least the CCD Christmas Play this year is on Jan 7th!

    Happy New Year Father Z, and all who contribute here!!
    Many of you have taught me so much, whether you know it or not (Thank you!) and I continue to learn daily.
    God Bless You All!

  12. Does anyone here know if the diocese of Memphis, TN, celebrates the Epiphany tomorrow?

  13. Emilio III says:


    The way the Office is laid out for the next week is awful with the “transferrable Epiphany”.

    The way the Office is laid out in the USA is awful anyway. Some clueless translator turned the second day of January into the second day of the week, so we have the wonderful example of “Monday through Thursday from January 2 to Epiphany”, where the rubrics at the end of the Office of Readings read “If this day occurs on Sunday, the Te Deum is said”.

  14. Geoffrey says:

    I wondered this same thing, in regards to private recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours. Even though I live in a diocese where the Epiphany and Ascension are transferred to Sundays, I observe their “proper” days when praying the Divine Office. It can be confusing, but oh well!

  15. jesusthroughmary says:

    The transference of the Epiphany to Sunday, unlike that of the Ascension, is foisted upon the United States as a whole. No diocese in the United States will observe the feast properly. (Also, FWIW, the Ascension is transferred on a province-by-province basis, not diocese-by-diocese.)

  16. PghCath says:


    I believe that the Epiphany is celebrated on Sunday in every diocese of the United States. This change was approved by the USCCB in 1983, reviewed by the Congregation for Clergy, and promulgated in 1984. http://www.nccbuscc.org/norms/1246.htm

    Anyone lucky enough to hear the Proclamation of the Date of Easter at an Epiphany Mass today? I love the Proclamation of the Birth of Christ, but I’ve never heard the Easter proclamation. Maybe today. . .

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