QUAERITUR: Flowers and unveiling Mary’s statue on Annunciation, during Passiontide.

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From a reader:

Should everything remain veiled for the Feast of the Annunciation? Can we unveil Mary? Is it appropriate to have flowers on the altar?

Passiontide is a heavy liturgical time, especially in the older, traditional calendar, which  must be our guide for these matters.

My consultation of Alcuin Reid’s reworking of Fortescue/O’Connell says (p. 318):

“Before the first Vespers of Passion Sunday all statues and images (including crucifixes) in the church which are the objects of veneration and not merely ornamental, are to be covered with a plain opaque violet veil. No figure or ornament is allowed on these veils. The images are not to be uncovered for any reason (except the crosses on Good Friday) tell the veils are removed at the Gloria in excelsis at the first Easter Mass. But the Stations of the Cross may remain uncovered.

No exceptions.

I conclude… no unveiling of the statue of Mary and no flowers… well… flowers… sure… okay (it’s 1st Class).

Let Passiontide be Passiontide, even on such a beautiful Marian feast.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. DisturbedMary says:

    We keep Mary in our hearts on the Annunciation. Her life was about her Son. Totus tuus. Anything else we do would surely wound her.

  2. mamajen says:

    @DisturbedMary – Exactly!

  3. Centristian says:

    I like the little chapel in the photo. Is that your private chapel by any chance, Father?

  4. rhhenry says:

    OK, I confess — I’m totally confused.

    I thought this year the Feast of the Annunciation was on March 26 (transferred from the 25th), which is during the 5th week of Lent, not during Holy Week (and therefore not after the First Vespers of Palm Sunday, and therefore before any veiling — I am reading the quoted direction to mean something like “Just before First Vespers, etc.”).

    A little help please?

  5. jrotond2 says:

    Actually, flowers and organ music (beyond accompaniment to the Ordinary) are allowed on First Class feasts even during Lent and Passiontide, though the images may not be uncovered during the latter.

    Passiontide in the EF is the TWO week period before Easter. Passion Sunday and Palm Sunday are, therefore, two different Dundays, so the images are covered a week before Palm Sunday.

  6. wolfeken says:

    Excellent point on the flowers and organ. White/gold vestments, too, of course. And a Gloria.

    But to add to how Lent still trumps even this great day, note that the feria for the Monday in Passion Week receives a second collect, secret and postcommunion after the Annunication propers at both Low and High Masses. Also, the Alleluia remains suppressed, with the Tract said/sung instead.

    Another tidbit: The discipline in place during the 1962 missal, although no longer binding, still retained the Lenten fast on the Annunication (and today for the feast of Saint Joseph) in the U.S., as fasting/abstinence days were only lifted for days of obligation (unlike the post-Vatican II law, which lifts fasting/abstinence for any solemnity, obligatory or non). Many traditional Catholics, most notably associated with the FSSP (using their wall calendar or Ordo), still follow the traditional discipline under voluntary conditions.

  7. rhhenry says:

    @ jrotond2: Thanks for the clarification about Passion Sunday vs. Palm Sunday. I’m only familiar with the NO / OF, so the two Sundays are (in my mind, at least) the same.

    Now care to give me a tutorial on the ranking of feasts in the EF? I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea of a “semi-double” feast . . . :-)

  8. jrotond2 says:

    The terms double, semidouble et al. were abolished in 1960 under John XXIII’s calendrical revisions. In their place, every day of the year is ranked 1, 2, 3, or 4 class. The numerical system was in place from 1961-1969 and roughly correspond, though not always, to the OF Solemnity, Feast, etc rankings.

    In the EF, a 1 Class Sunday (Passion Sunday is one) displaces a 1 Class feast (Annunciation), which is why the latter is transferred to Monday, 3/26 this year. The same principle applies in the OF.

  9. rhhenry says:

    @ jrotond2: Thanks. The rough analogy of “classes” to solemnity, etc. is very helpful.

    Just out of curiosity, do you have an equally brief and enlightening description of the schema used before 1960 (the one that did use semdouble, etc.)?

  10. acardnal says:

    According to the GIRM dated June 2011, #305, page 92 and regarding the NO/OF Mass: flowers are allowed around or near the altar but NOT ON the altar table top on Solemnities, Feasts and Laetare Sunday during Lent. Furthermore, as I read read the last sentence of this instruction, flowers are not allowed ON the altar table top at any time during the liturgical year.

  11. jrotond2 says:

    @Rhhenry – the pre-1960 classification system was much more complicated, which was one reason it was simplified. The terms Double, Semidouble (abolished in 1955), and Simple were not only ranks but also qualifiers to the formulae used in the Office. Furthermore, a given Sunday could be ranked semidouble but still take precedence over a double feast, so the ranking terms did not always clearly denote precedence.

    A simple yet flawed comparison would be:

    Double 1 Class = 1 Class = Solemnity
    Double 2 Class = 2 Class = Feast
    Double Major, Double & Semidouble = 3 Class = Memorial
    Simple = 4 Class = Optional Memorial

    Obviously, there are many exceptions, especially to the third category.

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