ASK FATHER: When to sing the Christmas Proclamation

From a reader…


The Christmas Proclamation (from the Martyrology).  I know it is sung prior to Midnight Mass in the OF.  Does it fit in the Traditional Mass, or is it relegated to the hour of Prime?

We are talking here about the Kalendas, the solemn announcement of the birth of the Savior.  It was sung at Prime.  Since Prime isn’t being sung in many places, and since we need to have these good customs in far greater use, I say go ahead and sing it before Midnight Mass in the Usus Antiquior.

In the proclamation, the birth of Christ follows a list of important events, set points in history, which therefore puts the birth of Christ into the context of the history of salvation, beginning with the Creation of the world and culminating in the Nativity.

Remember that in the ancient world there was no standard calendar.  So, one way to pinpoint events was to say what else was going on at the time according to other reckonings of time.  The overlap of the dates would then give you the desired result, like a chronological Venn Diagram.  The overlapping of the dates of the events cited in the Proclamation results in an accurate dating of the Nativity, that is 3/2 BC.  There is good scholarship that reinforces 3/2 BC and cleans up a dating error for the year of Herod’s death.

I wrote about it at some length last year and made a recording for those who had to practice it.  HERE I found a good Gregorian notation for the 2018 Kalendas (for the 2019 dates) at the site of Cappella Gregoriana Sanctæ Cæciliæ olim Xicatunensis.

Here is a fast recording for this year.


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  1. ex seaxe says:

    I see that the Kalenda proclaimed at the Papal Mass has been revised somewhat from the version you have pointed to. In accordance with modern scholarship, the dates of the earlier events are less precise, particularly for the creation:
    Innumeris transactis sæculis a creatione mundi, quando in principio Deus creavit cælum et terram et hominem formavit ad imaginem suam;
    permultis etiam sæculis, ex quo post diluvium Altissimus in nubibus arcum posuerat, signum fœderis et pacis;
    a migratione Abrahæ, patris nostri in fide, de Ur Chaldæorum sæculo vigesimo primo;
    ab egressu populi Israel de Ægypto, Moyse duce, sæculo decimo tertio;
    ab unctione David in regem, anno circiter millesimo;
    hebdomada sexagesima quinta, iuxta Danielis prophetiam;

  2. majuscule says:

    I’m blessed to be in the choir at a Solemn High Mass at Midnight Christmas Eve where Father will be singing the proclamation! This, in a parish where the Ordinary Form is usually offered.

    The priest and deacons are all young men. They are diocesan priests/deacons, not FSSP or ICKSP.

    I think we will see more of this. I know we will see more of this!

  3. padredana says:

    In the Ordinary Form is this only to be done before the Mass in the Night, or can it be used before Vigil Masses and Morning Masses?

    [It think you could do it before all the Christmas Masses. It’s before Mass, after all.]

  4. Gab says:

    Have never heard of this before but then I live in Australia so am not surprised.

  5. Charles Sercer says:

    Obviously this is appropriate to be sung before any of the Christmas Masses, since as Father says, Prime is never (or rarely) recited or sung publicly except at monasteries and a few other places. But just for reference, in monasteries and other places that sing the martyrology every day, traditionally this would have been sung at Prime as the beginning of the martyrology on December 24th, if I am not mistaken. Though I guess I am only saying “traditionally” based on my experience at a traditional monastery.

  6. Blackfriar says:

    Gab, it was sung before Midnight Mass at St Dominic’s in Camberwell (suburban Melbourne, Australia) this year.

  7. Blackfriar says:

    Ah, but I should have added that it was in English, and to the tone from the Dominican (not Roman) Martyrology.

  8. Gab says:

    @Blackfriar Thanks. (Love St Doms for their Friday night Rosary). I went to St Francis Xavier Box Hill and it was also sung in English before Mass. First time I’ve heard it. Just wonderful.

    [Quite a few have written that they heard it for the first time. That suggests that this custom is making a come back.]

  9. knute says:

    Is there any restriction on a payment singing the proclamation?

    [An odd question. “Restriction on a payment”. No, you don’t have to pay in order to sing the proclamation. Also, you may be paid for singing the proclamation. It is an honor to be able to do so, yet a worker is worthy of his wage.]

  10. knute says:

    Darn you autocorrect! I meant “laymen”.

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