ASK FATHER: External Solemnities… er um… hooray?

From a reader…


I was very surprised this morning to discover that the regular TLM being celebrated by the pastor was that of the Epiphany rather than the Holy Name. I am not aware of any legal provision for such an “external solemnity.” He referred to his decision to celebrate Epiphany rather than Holy Name in his sermon so it was not an oversight. What say you?

Ah, “external solemnity”, my old nemesis.  We meet again.

Yes, in the traditional Roman Rite it is possible to celebrate “externally”, that is “external” to the true date, great feasts, namely, on the nearby Sunday.   This should not be an observance instead of the true day.  The feast is still to be celebrated on the actual day.  However, on a Sunday the Mass formulary – but not the Office – of nearby feast can be used.

The 1962 Rubric, provides for this in 356-361, especially 358 and 359.

The SSPX describes this  HERE:

On the Sunday after some Feasts, the feast may be solemnized in a special way with a votive Mass celebrated (the Office remains of the day); this is called an external solemnity. They are permitted but not required. The Sunday is commemorated in the Mass of the External Solemnity unless the solemnity is of a feast of Our Lord.

In the USA, the following feasts may have an external solemnity on the following Sunday: Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart, and Sts. Peter and Paul. The rubrics allow for an external solemnity on the Sunday either preceding or following these feasts: that of the primary patron of the territory/diocese, that of the primary patron of the institute to which the church belongs (e.g., St. Pius X), and that of the titular of the church. In addition, the Mass of October 7, feast of the Holy Rosary, may be celebrated as an external solemnity on the first Sunday of October (only).

In the case of today, Holy Name,  Epiphany has a higher liturgical rank.   So, you could have the external celebration today, Sunday.

One could argue – could – that if a Bishops Conference has transferred a feast to a Sunday (which one should argue – should – is a bad idea) then there is an additional justification (to hide behind) for the “external celebration” of feast like Epiphany to Sunday, the Feast of the Most Holy Name.  Of course one should then observe Epiphany on 6 January.

So, in the Novus Ordo the Bishops can transfer a feast.  In the traditional Roman Rite there may be an observance of a feast on a nearby Sunday, while preserving the true feast day.

Therefore, oh boy, I’m really behind this permitted “external solemnity” thing!

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  1. robert hightower says:

    Great to know, thanks, Fr! External solemnities are much more tolerable than transferrals. Having an Epiphany Mass today, or Corpus Christi on a Sunday is tolerable except when Jan 6 then becomes a weekday, and CC an ordinary Thursday.

  2. robert hightower says:

    Of course, were the days on which external solemnities or transfers are used holy days of obligation, their need would be negated. I suppose I won’t hold my breath on that

  3. Thomas S says:

    Is there anything preventing us from offering a votive mass of the Epiphany tomorrow in the ordinary form?

  4. Red_Shirt_Hero says:

    Thomas S – A lovely idea, but I’m afraid that isn’t strictly possible in the OF rubrics. You can have votive Masses of titles and mysteries but not events in the life of Our Lord or Our Lady. So yes to a votive Mass of the Holy Name, Holy Cross or Precious Blood but not a votive Mass of the Ascension, Epiphany or Annunciation.

  5. carndt says:

    Attended a High Mass at St Mary Oratory in Rockford, IL this morning for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.
    There is a Mass tomorrow for the Epiphany.
    On January 12 it will be the External Solemnity of the Epiphany.

  6. Fr. W says:

    In the rubric listed, I don’t see Epiphany as one of the feasts permitted; in addition, I thought the External Solemnity could not be before, but rather on the Sunday after. Confused.

  7. I remember some years ago, when the option of transferring the Feast of the Ascension to the following Sunday arose at the bishops’ conference (USCCB) meeting, Bishop Basil of Stamford (CT) for the Ukrainians brought up the idea of using the practice of festal octaves as a premise for celebrating a feast otherwise falling on a weekday, such as is the case in his own Byzantine Rite. His suggestion was politely ignored. Another (Latin Rite) archbishop said at that time that “this is the way things are going,” and that, as they say, was the ball game.

  8. JesusFreak84 says:

    So when I attended an EF Mass on the Sunday after Ascension Thursday and Father used Ascension Thursday propers instead of the correct ones, that was a liturgical abuse? (I personally suspect that the elderly priest just forgot that you can’t do that in the EF. He’s mixed forms before until corrected by an altar server… Last time I went to that parish, EF, after the sermon he tried to lead us in reciting Creed in English. In a High Mass.)

  9. Titus says:

    There was a PCED dubium response (back when there was a PCED) about transferred feasts and external solemnities. This year, in the U.S., I believe Epiphany was a transferred feast, not one merely celebrated on Sunday as an external solemnity/optional observation in the O.F.

    The dubium and the response are here for those curious: (They were originally on the LMS of England and Wales’ website, but the link there is dead).

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  11. JustaSinner says:

    Some other study suggestions:
    Xbox vs PS4 Mass attendance
    Chevy vs Ford
    Patriots fans Mass attendance
    Lottery Winners attendance


    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

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