A Healthy Balance of Penitence and Anticipation: Rediscovering the Value of Vigil Days—Part I
Feb 21, 2023

A Healthy Balance of Penitence and Anticipation: Rediscovering the Value of Vigil Days—Part I

Most readers of this article will remember what it was like to await Christmas as a young child. One thought of one’s presents; one could barely sleep; so much chocolate was tantalizingly in reach—and yet one knew that the sweet agony of waiting had to be borne. One knew, even as a child, that to find the chocolate early would be to spoil the feast: the waiting sanctified the coming celebration. As we grow older, and participate more consciously in the Church’s liturgical year, it is the Triduum that becomes for us the most moving and profound time of watching and waiting, and Easter that gives us the greatest joy.

Yet the basic principle remains the same, and it is natural rather than specifically Christian: the waiting heightens the celebration of the feast. The principle is written in the very psychology of us humans, is seen in the attitude of most Western children (Christian and non-Christian alike) to Christmas, and remains an important natural basis upon which the supernatural life of the Church is built. We are better able to celebrate great feasts with joy when we have first waited solemnly until the appointed time arrives for them to begin.

G.K. Chesterton once made the same point in his own inimitable fashion: “There is no more dangerous or disgusting habit than that of celebrating Christmas before it comes…. It is the very essence of a festival that it breaks upon one brilliantly and abruptly, that at one moment the great day is not and the next moment the great day is…. [W]hatever the day is that is to you festive or symbolic, it is essential that there should be a quite clear black line between it and the time going before.”1

The Church, ever mindful of man’s nature, has always recognized this principle. Indeed, before the great feasts of Christmas and Easter, she observes the seasons of Advent and Lent, which are not only times of waiting, but also times of penitence. These two seasons heighten the contrast with the forthcoming feasts and purify us that we might celebrate Nativity and the Resurrection with a right and holy joy, avoiding the carnal excesses or the complacency to which the Fall makes us vulnerable. Thus, building on man’s nature, the Church in her liturgy embodies deep truths about man’s earthly sojourn in this Final Age, the Age of the Church, in which both sorrow and joy have their place. We might call this the “Penitential Principle”: it has ever been the instinct of the people of God to keep times of waiting and penance before celebrating the Church’s greatest feasts, and so to draw Chesterton’s “clear black line” between those feasts and what precedes them.

From her earliest days until 1970, the Church also applied this Penitential Principle to some of her other ancient and important feasts by keeping a penitential vigil before each one. As we shall see, at first these vigils were evening or night-vigils on the eve of the feasts; later, from the Middle Ages onwards, the Western Church transferred its vigils to the daytime, and so celebrated whole vigil days, each with its own proper Mass and office on the days before the feasts. For most of the 20th century, there were 13 such vigil days in the Roman Rite (before the feasts of the Nativity of Our Lord, the Epiphany, the Ascension, Pentecost, the Assumption, All Saints, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, and St. Lawrence; and before the principal feast of each apostle except St. Barnabas, Sts. Philip and James, and St. John), though in 1955 Pope Pius XII reduced this number to seven (before the feasts of the Nativity of Our Lord, the Ascension, Pentecost, the Assumption, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul, and St. Lawrence only).

In the reform of the liturgy that followed the Second Vatican Council, these vigil days were abolished and were replaced with the five (later seven2) new eventide Vigil Masses that we have in the Roman Rite today—namely the Vigil Masses of Christmas Day, the Ascension, the Epiphany, Pentecost, the Assumption, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, and Sts. Peter and Paul.

Here we need to pause for a moment to be clear about terminology. When we Roman Rite Catholics talk of “Vigil Masses” today, we usually mean Masses of Sunday that are celebrated on the preceding Saturday night. But strictly speaking, this is an improper use of the term “Vigil Mass.” A Saturday-night Mass of the following Sunday is liturgically identical to the Mass of the Sunday itself, and so is properly called an anticipated Mass. The seven true Vigil Masses are different: they have their own distinct proper antiphons, readings, and orations, which are not the same of those of the following feast days. In this respect, today’s true Vigil Masses resemble the Masses of the Church’s pre-1969 Vigil Days—and indeed the pre-Mediaeval night-vigil Masses.

But today’s Vigil Masses differ in one key respect from these older Masses. As we have seen, the older Masses were penitential, preparatory Masses. In contrast, today’s Vigil Masses are festal Masses, which form part of the celebration of the feast itself. In 1969, the Concilium—the commission charged with implementing the liturgical constitution of the Second Vatican Council—explained the character of the new Vigil Masses in these terms: “The concept of the ‘Vigil’ has been radically changed. Vigils as previously understood are no longer kept. Now, on the evening before one of certain Solemnities, a proper Vigil Mass is said. It forms part of the Solemnity itself, and is therefore a festal Mass.”3

In this article, I will briefly set out the history of liturgical vigils, and then consider the liturgies of the pre-1969 vigil days. Next, I will consider the modern Vigil Masses. This done, I will argue that the old vigil days were valuable features of the liturgy, which resonated well with man’s natural instincts for the keeping of feasts, and that they could and should be restored. I will also suggest that the restoration of the traditional vigil days would be compatible with the ongoing use of anticipated Masses—Masses upon which many of the faithful now rely to meet their Mass obligations.

Origins of Vigil Days

In the first few centuries of the Church, there were fewer feast days than there are today, and all or almost all of them were preceded by night-long vigils (in Latin, vigiliae). By at least the fifth century, as the number of feasts multiplied, new feasts began to be instituted without night-vigils, but the ancient, traditional night-vigils continued to be kept. Indeed, they were kept strictly: canon 98 of the Fourth Council of Carthage of 398 prescribed that clerics who were absent from vigils should lose their stipends.4

These night-vigils, which were penitential in character, included prayers, readings, and the Mass. As St. Jerome tells us in the fifth century, the Church kept these times of watching and waiting in conscious imitation of Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden, of his other nights spent in prayer (cf. Luke 6:12), of the Apostles’ night-vigil in prison (cf. Acts 16:25-38), and of other apostolic vigil-keepings (cf. Colossians 4:2, 2 Corinthians 11:27).5

During these night-vigils the faithful fasted. In the ninth century, for example, Pope Nicholas I (d.867) writes in his letter to the Bulgarians6 that fasts are to be kept at the vigils of all the important feasts. In particular, he mentions fasts on the eves of Christmas and the Assumption, saying that the Roman Church had kept them since ancient times. Similarly, a decree of Theophilus of Alexandria (d.412) makes it clear that the Epiphany was preceded by a fasting day;7 and the Verona Sacramentary (with material dating before the seventh century) mentions fasting on the eve of Pentecost.

After keeping a fasting night-vigil, the faithful would wait near the church until the time came for the morning’s festal celebrations, which would begin at first light.8 Unfortunately, in the period between the end of the vigil fast and the festal celebrations, it often happened that a few of the faithful behaved disgracefully.9 For this reason, night-vigils came to be deprecated. Bishops, such as those at the Synod of Rouen of 1231,10 dispensed the faithful’s obligation to keep such vigils, allowing them to meet all their obligations by merely fasting during the day prior to the feast. These compensatory day-time fasts came to be called ieiunia dispensationis, “fasts of dispensation.”11 As Durandus, writing in the 13th century, explains, these day-long periods of fasting also came to be known by metonymy as vigiliae, i.e., Vigil Days. Durandus says that in his day fasts were obligatory on the Vigil Days of the feasts of the Apostles (except those within Easter and Pentecost), and on the feasts of the Nativity of Our Lord, St. John the Baptist, All Saints, the Assumption, and St. Lawrence.

As night-vigils became Vigil Days, the traditional Masses of the vigils came to be celebrated in the mid-afternoon before the feast, after the office of None,12 probably with little or no change to their ancient texts. These Masses remained substantially unchanged thereafter until the reform. The 1962 Vigil Mass of Sts. Peter and Paul, for example, is exactly the same as that in the 11th- or early 12th-century,13 and the 1962 Vigil Mass of St. Lawrence has as its offertory a verse from a pre-Vulgate, Old Latin translation of the book of Job, which indicates its great antiquity.14

At first, the vigil days had no proper offices, but offices for them were developed and used in Germany and were made universal in the liturgical standardization that followed the Council of Trent.15 These vigil offices, which also remained substantially unchanged before 1969, consisted of the ferial office of the day, but with the readings at Matins drawn from a commentary on the Gospel of the vigil Mass, and the collect drawn from the vigil Mass. Except on the vigils of the Epiphany, the Ascension, and Pentecost, the penitential scheme of psalms was used in the vigil offices, and vestments, when worn, were purple.

Lastly, on the eve of the reforms enacted by the Second Vatican Council, three of the vigil days were still days of fasting (and abstinence): namely the vigils of the Nativity, Pentecost, and the Assumption.16

I now turn to a consideration of these pre-Reform Vigil days.

Vigil Days before 1969

Every Catholic knows that Christmas Eve and Holy Saturday have very different atmospheres. Both are times of waiting before a great feast; but whereas Christmas eve is exciting and anticipatory, Holy Saturday is sorrowful and sombre. Though both days embody the Penitential Principle, the two of them represent two distinct classes of vigil.

If we are to appreciate fully the liturgy of the traditional vigil days, we must understand that each of them falls into one of these two classes. The vigils of the Epiphany, Ascension, Pentecost, and of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, belong to the former, anticipatory kind, whereas the vigils of the Apostles17 and of St. Lawrence belong to the latter, more sorrowful kind, because they all precede the days of the martyrdom of their respective saints. I turn first to the latter, “sorrowful” vigils.

Sorrowful Echoes of the Passion

As readers of this article will know well, the two most sacred days of the Church’s year are Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But these two days have sharply contrasting atmospheres. Good Friday is a day of sorrow, when we enter into Christ’s Passion. Easter Sunday is a day of joy, when we enter into Christ’s victory over death. Both these “enterings” are essential to Christian life. Yet they are, to us time-bound, embodied humans, emotionally incompatible. We enter into the Passion through one set of natural emotions, but we enter into Easter through a quite different set—and we cannot feel both sets at the same time. This is why the Church gives us two separate holy days, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, each with its own distinctive atmosphere, to prompt these two different “enterings.”18

I mention this because it helps us to understand the function of what I call the Sorrowful Vigils, which precede the death-day feasts of martyrs. Here we can begin with a general observation about the cult of saints. When we venerate the saints, we venerate the life of Christ in them. Now, this truth has special relevance to the liturgical celebration of a martyr’s death day. For the death-day of a martyr reminds us that there are two aspects to this life of Christ in the saints. They now share his heavenly glory; but on earth they shared in his passion, having been, as St. Paul says, baptized into his death. All of us were so baptized, of course, but in the saints we see this truth manifested with particular clarity. Indeed, several of the martyred apostles, whose vigils the Church once celebrated, were themselves literally crucified. Thus, lives of the martyrs echo both the Passion and the Resurrection.

In all Catholic rites, the feasts of the martyrs’ death-days naturally focus on the Paschal, glorious aspect of their passion, since the day of a martyr’s death is, above all, the day of his or her entry into heaven. Of course, the texts for martyrs’ feast days commonly talk very explicitly of the shedding of their blood; but this bloodshed is always presented as part of their glorious victory over fear and death itself. Such feasts thus provide a liturgical atmosphere that echoes that of Easter, allowing us to “enter into” the glory of the saint.

The Sorrowful Vigils of the apostles and St. Lawrence provide a complementary atmosphere, with its own distinct devotional value. For these days are focused on the martyrs’ echoing of the Passion, and by their atmosphere they themselves echo Good Friday. The Mass of each such vigil is liturgically penitential, having no Gloria or Creed, and being celebrated in purple vestments.

Consider first the Vigil Mass of Sts. Peter and Paul. It begins with the poignant words of Our Lord to St Peter from John 21:18-19 (which form its entrance antiphon): “Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” The opening antiphon of the pre-1955 vigil of Sts. Simon and Jude is equally poignant, from Psalm 78: “Avenge, O Lord, the blood of your saints, which has been poured out….”

As these examples show, in the Sorrowful Vigil Masses the faithful focus on martyrs’ sufferings themselves, not on the heavenly glory to which they lead, much as Good Friday focuses on Christ’s sufferings. For example, in the post-communion prayer of the pre-1955 Vigil Mass of St. Andrew, we ask that the Holy Sacrifice that we have offered “to venerate [St. Andrew’s] passion” may heal us. Appropriately, since Lawrence was burned alive, the first reading for the Vigil of St. Lawrence is Ecclesiastes 51:1-8,12 (“In the middle of the fire I am not consumed”). The Gospel for the Vigil of Sts. Peter and Paul is John 21:15-19 (from which the aforementioned introit is drawn), in which Our Lord predicts St. Peter’s death.

The collects and secrets of the Vigil Masses typically implore God for protection and for the forgiveness of sins. Here we see the Penitential Principle at work, but we also see something deeper. The martyrs were killed by a broken, sinful world that could not abide their goodness, but they held firm through a pure-hearted love of Christ. On the Sorrowful Vigils, we the faithful therefore rightly recall how our sins have helped contribute to the brokenness of this broken world, but we also seek to purify ourselves, that we might face whatever sufferings we ourselves are called to face. Sts. Peter and Paul’s collect is “Grant, we pray, almighty God, that you allow no disturbance to shake us,” while its secret asks for cleansing from sin. Similarly, the collect for the Vigil Mass of St. Andrew asks for absolution from our guilt and protection from danger, and its secret asks for our mental purification. The secret of the pre-1955 Vigil of Sts. Simon and Jude also asks that we be freed from the things that weigh upon our conscience, and the secret of the Vigil of St. Lawrence asks God to release us from the fetters of our sins.

Yet just as Good Friday leads us towards Easter, so the Sorrowful Vigils prepare us worthily to celebrate festal liturgies of intense joy, and thus to “enter into” the victories of the martyrs, and the glory that they won by them. Consider some of the texts of these notably Paschal Masses. (Some of them are also found in the modern Masses of the same feasts.) The gradual for the feast of St. Lawrence is drawn from Psalm 63: “You have tried my heart, O Lord, you have visited me by night. You have proved me by fire, and wickedness has not been found in me,” and its introit is Psalm 96:6: “Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.” Similarly, the antiphon for the feasts of St. Andrew and of Sts. Simon and Jude is Psalm 138:17: “But to me thy friends, O God, are made exceedingly honorable: their principality is exceedingly strengthened.” The collects of these Masses also focus on victory and glory: Sts. Peter and Paul’s talks of God’s “consecrating” the saints by their martyrdom; St. Lawrence’s talks of his “overcoming” of his torturers’ fires; Sts. Simon and Jude’s talks of their “glory.” Notable too is the difference in tone between the sombre gospel reading of the Vigil of Sts. Peter and Paul (the aforementioned John 21:15-19), and the more exultant Matthew 16:13-19 (in which Peter rightly tells Jesus that he is “the Christ, the son of the living God,” and Jesus says that he will give him the keys of the kingdom).

As we can see, then, each Sorrowful Vigil provides a complementary atmosphere to that of the coming feast: the vigil echoes Good Friday, and the feast then echoes Easter. The vigils thus help us to enter into the passion of the martyr before we enter into his glorification. We shall consider the devotional value of this in more detail below.

An Intermediate Case

The Vigil and festal Masses of the Assumption mark the end of Our Lady’s earthly life and her assumption into heaven. This is a peaceful day, and an especially great and glorious one. For this reason, the Vigil of the Assumption has an atmosphere of eager anticipation, as we await the glorious entry of Our Lady into heaven. The introit antiphon, Psalm 44, immediately sets this tone: “All the rich among the people shall entreat thy countenance. After her shall virgins be brought to the king: her neighbors shall be brought to thee in joy and exultation.” The collect for the Vigil Mass continues the note of anticipation: “O God, who deigned to choose the blessed Mary as the virginal entrance-hall in which thou was to dwell: grant we pray that we being fortified by her protection may by thee be made joyful partakers of her festivity.”

On the other hand, the Assumption has an element of sadness. Through it, the Church on earth loses Our Lady’s physical presence. Moreover, as her earthly life ends, we cannot but recall her long widowhood and bereavement, the long years of separation of the God-bearer from the Son whom she had seen die on the Cross. This long separation was necessary in the Economy of Salvation, but it was surely no less painful to her for that. Fittingly, therefore, the Gospel (Luke 11:27-28) strikes a sombre note. In this passage, which can seem to us severe and hard, Jesus replies to a woman who declares, “Blessed was the womb that bore thee, and blessed were the breasts that you sucked,” with the stark: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” This gospel reminds us of Our Lord’s teaching that all earthly attachments must be seen under the aspect of eternity and must be put aside if they do not serve the proclamation of the Gospel. For this sobering truth was well known to Our Lady. This is why the Vigil of the Assumption is penitential, why it was a day of fasting (until 1969), and why its Mass, like that of the martyrs’, is celebrated in purple, without Gloria and Creed.

The contrast here with the following, festal Mass of the day of the Assumption is striking. We begin with the grand and glorious opening antiphon from Revelation: “A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” The collect talks of Our Lady’s being raised to heavenly glory, and the first reading is Uzziah’s great victory cry in celebration of Judith, who has vanquished the enemies of Israel, from Judith 13:22-25, 15:10 (“your praise will never depart from the hearts of those who remember the power of God”). In the feast’s Gospel, we hear the joyous narrative of the Visitation, of St. Elizabeth’s proclamation and Our Lady’s Magnificat. As in the festal Masses of the martyrs, the tone is of victory and glory.

Joyful Cries of Anticipation

As we have just seen, the Vigil Mass of the Assumption mixes eager anticipation and poignant reflection. This leads us to what I call the Anticipatory Vigils of Christmas itself, the Epiphany, Ascension, Pentecost, and the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

The Vigil Day of the Nativity may be regarded as the paradigm of the Anticipatory Vigils, not least because the atmosphere of Christmas eve is so familiar to us all. Like the eve of any birth, it is a time of excitement and eager anticipation. The introit antiphon (Exodus 16:6,7) sets this tone: “Today you will know that the Lord will come, and will save us: and in the morning you shall see his glory….” The offertory and communion antiphons are also future-tense: respectively Psalm 23:7 (“be lifted up, you ancient doors, and the King of glory will enter”) and Isaiah 40:5 (“The glory of the Lord will be revealed: and all flesh shall see the salvation of our God”). The first reading is Romans 1:1-6, in which Paul mentions that the coming of the Son was predicted by the prophets, and the Gospel is Matthew 1:18-21 (the angel tells St. Joseph that Our Lady’s unborn child is of the Holy Spirit).

At the same time, the vigil of the Nativity, again like the eve of any birth, is also a time of anxiety and of fervent intercession. It is liturgically penitential, with no Gloria or Creed, and purple vestments. Its collect recounts the themes of Advent, asking: “O God, who makest us glad with the annual awaiting of our redemption: grant, that just as we joyfully welcome your only-begotten Son as our Redeemer, so we may be safe when we see him coming again as our Judge.” It need hardly be said that the following day, Christmas Day, has a contrasting atmosphere of unreserved joy.

The Vigil of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, as the vigil of the Precursor’s birthday, is closely akin to the Christmas Vigil, reflecting most clearly the spirit of Christmas Eve. The Mass of this Vigil is filled with the excitement of the great birthday to come. It begins with the words of the angel from Luke 1:13-15: “Be not afraid, Zacharias, your prayer has been heard: and Elisabeth your wife will bear you a son, and you will call his name John: and he shall be great with the Lord.” The first reading is Jeremiah 1:4-10, God’s calling of that great prophet (“I knew you before I formed you in the womb”). The gospel is Luke 1:5-17, the angel’s announcement to Zachariah, from which the introit antiphon is drawn. Here the parallel with the aforementioned gospel of the Vigil of the Nativity, Matthew 1:18-21, is conspicuous. Nevertheless, the vigil retains a sombre note, with the penitential scheme of psalms, purple vestments, no Gloria, and no Creed.

Compare these texts with those used on the following feast day itself. Now the entrance antiphon is perfect-tense (Isaiah 49:1-2): “From my mother’s womb the Lord has called me by my name, and has made my mouth as a sharpened sword…” The Gospel is Luke 1:57-68, the story of St. John’s birth itself, and the collect gives thanks for St. John’s birth (whereas the collect of the Vigil does not).

The vigils of Pentecost, Ascension, and Epiphany are less sombre in tone than the birthday vigils: they are celebrated with the Gloria, the non-penitential scheme of psalms, and the liturgical color of the feast. We see in them, too, the idea of eager anticipation. The introit antiphon of the vigil of Pentecost is, like so many vigil antiphons, future-tense: “When I shall have been sanctified in you, I shall gather you from all the lands, and I shall pour pure water over you, and you will be cleansed all of your defilements: and I will give you a new spirit, alleluia, alleluia” (Ezekiel 36:23,24,25-26). So is the offertory antiphon: “Send forth Your Spirit, and they will be created, and you will renew the face of the earth….” This Vigil Mass does have readings and prayers about the action of the Holy Spirit, because we already have the Holy Spirit; but of course Catholic liturgy has always combined “liturgical time” and “real time” in a subtle way. Compare these anticipatory texts with the texts of the Mass of Pentecost itself: the introit is Wisdom 1:7 (“The spirit of the Lord has filled the whole earth, alleluia”), and the first reading is Acts 2:1-11 (the coming of the Holy Spirit).

A similar contrast in seen in the other vigils. The Vigil of the Epiphany has as its Gospel Matthew 2:19-23 (the angel warns Joseph to go to Israel), whereas the feast day Mass has Matthew 2:1-12 (the coming of the Magi), alongside Isaiah 60:1-6 (“Jerusalem, your light has come”). The gospel of the Vigil of the Ascension is John 17:1-11 (Jesus’ prayer before his arrest), but the gospel of the feast day is Mark 16:14-20 (Jesus’ final words to his disciplines and his Ascension), which is complemented by Acts 1:1-11 (the Ascension).

Value of Vigils

We are now in a position to assess the spiritual value of the old Vigil Days. Firstly: all the traditional Vigil Days embodied what I have called the Penitential Principle. The contrast between them and the following feast days helped the faithful to sense Chesterton’s “clear black line” between fasting and feasting, so that the joy of the feast should, in Chesterton’s words, “break upon us clearly and abruptly” with great joy.

The Sorrowful Vigils had a further value. Today, we know well that any healthy Christian spirituality must incorporate something of Good Friday as well as something of Easter. The Resurrection does not cancel out the Crucifixion, nor make Christ’s human suffering irrelevant: we rightly reflect on both events, feel both, and enter into both. We also know that we should revere the life of Christ that we see working in the lives of the saints, and that we should take joy in their glory. What we perhaps forget, however, is that we should join the saints in their passion, too. The Sorrowful Vigils, by echoing Good Friday, provided the distinctive atmospheres that allowed us to do just this. Thus, they helped us to see and love the saints as real, vulnerable human beings, who suffered, not merely as the distant inimitable figures who they can otherwise seem to be.

The Vigil of the Assumption had a similar value. It reminded us that Our Lady’s glory, too, came at a cost: not only her Seven Sorrows, but the long subsequent time of separation from her Son.

Lastly, the Anticipatory Vigils helped us to enter into the Gospel story in the most fulsome way, by keeping watch with Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. Elizabeth and St. Zachariah as the births of John and Jesus draw near, recalling both the excitement and the anxiety of these key moments in salvation history.

In the second part of this essay, we will consider whether the Church today would benefit from a restoration of these traditional Vigil Days.

Peter Day-Milne read Classics at Trinity College, Oxford, and took an MLitt in Philosophy at St. Andrews. He was received into the Church in 2018, while studying 17th-century natural law theories at Cambridge. Lately he has been undertaking some private study, writing articles and essays, and working on comprehensive new grammar of Latin. He also keeps a website of liturgical calendars, calendarialiturgica.co.uk.

Image Source: AB/Lawrence OP on Flickr

Peter Day-Milne

Peter Day-Milne read Classics at Trinity College, Oxford, and took an MLitt in Philosophy at St Andrews. He was received into the Church in 2018, while studying 17th-century natural law theories at Cambridge. Lately he has been undertaking some private study, writing articles and essays, and working on comprehensive new grammar of Latin. He also keeps a website of liturgical calendars, calendarialiturgica.co.uk..


  1. G.K. Chesterton, “Christmas that is Coming,” Illustrated London News, 1906.
  2. The Vigil Masses of the Epiphany and of the Ascension were added in the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal (2011).
  3. “Notio vigiliarum penitus mutatus est. Amplius non habentur vigiliae sicuti antea intelligebantur. Nunc vespere diei praecedentis quarumdam sollemnitatum dicitur Missa propria de vigilia, quae iam pertinet ad sollemnitatem: est ergo Missa festiva.” Notitiae 5 (1969): 405, n. 21, from the resp. ad dubium “Utrum mane diei 24 decembris celebrari possit Missa de vigilia Nativitatis?” (“Whether the Vigil Mass of the Nativity may be celebrated on the morning of the 24th December?”).
  4. “Clericus, qui absque corpusculi sui inaequalitate vigiliis deest, stipendiis privetur.” Aeltere Geschichte des Breviergebets (1887) p.231.
  5. St. Jerome, Letter 109 (to Riparius), available in translation at <https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3001109.htm> as of 13th May 2022.
  6. St. Nicholas I, Epistolae et Decreta, no. 97, Migne PL 119 col.981. <http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/01p/0858-0867,_SS_Nicholaus_I_Magnus,_Epistolae_Et_Decreta,_MLT.pdf> 13th May 2022.
  7. Migne PG 35 col.33f. <http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/20vs/103_migne_gm/0384-0412,_Theophilus_Alexandrinus_Archiepiscopus,_Edictum_(Canones)_(MPG_065_0032_0046),_GM.pdf> 13th May 2022.
  8. The Liber diurnalis Pontificum Romanorum, a papal liturgy-book which is generally now agreed to have been composed in the eighth century (partly out of earlier materials), includes an oath for episcopal consecration that has bishops promise to celebrate vigiliae with all their clerics from first cock-crow until morning. I take this to mean that the celebrations on the mornings after vigils begin at cock-crow. See Pleithner (op. cit.) p.231.
  9. See e.g. St. Jerome, Against Vigilantius section 9 available in English at <https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3010.htm> as of 13th May 2022.
    Durandus, writing in the 13th century, claims that feasting, singing, dancing, and drunken revelry was common in this time-period between the night offices and the morning offices. See Durandus Rationale Divinorum Officinorum VI.7.7.12 p.265 in the Lyon edition of 1672 by Antonius Cellier. <https://archive.org/details/ita-bnc-mag-00002773-001/page/n320/mode/1up> 13th May 2022.
  10. Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, V, 1007.
  11. E.g. Durandus (op. cit.), V.7.7.12.
  12. Gregory di Pippo (August 9, 2018), “Liturgical Notes on the Vigil of St Lawrence,” New Liturgical Movement, <https://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2018/08/liturgical-notes-on-vigil-of-st-lawrence.html>. 6th July 2022.
  13. The author has checked this missal online:ark:/12148/btv1b8422976g, p.198r., from the Département des Manuscrits, Bibliothèque nationale de France. <https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8422976g/f401.item.r=Missale>. 5th July 2022.
  14. di Pippo, “Liturgical Notes on the Vigil of St Lawrence.”
  15. di Pippo, “Liturgical Notes on the Vigil of St Lawrence.”
  16. The 1917 Code of Canon Law, which was in force in 1969, mandated fasting and abstinence on the Vigils of the Nativity, Pentecost, the Assumption, and All Saints; but the Vigil of All Saints had already been deleted in 1955, as mentioned above.
  17. St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, who according to tradition was the only apostle not to be martyred, has no vigil in the old rite, and seems never to have had one.
  18. Here we might observe in passing that the most anti-liturgical, low-Protestant Christians often suffer emotional burn-out because they think that it is a mark of their being saved that they be ever jolly about their salvation—they are, so to speak, stuck in “Easter” mode. This is unhealthy for us mortals in the “Vale of Tears.”