New Liturgical Movement: The Dawn Mass of St John the Baptist

St Augustine notes that John the Baptist is the only Saint whose birth the Church celebrates, apart from that of the Savior Himself, since the feast of the Virgin Mary’s Birth had not yet been instituted in his time. This custom is observed in fulfillment of the Angel Gabriel’s words to John’s father Zachariah, which are read in the Gospel of the vigil, that “Many shall rejoice in his birth.” (Luke 1, 14) In the Carolingian period, the custom emerged by which the Roman Rite celebrated two Masses on June 24th, one to be celebrated early in the morning, after Prime, and another after Terce, as attested in the oldest copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary. These correspond to the dawn and day Masses of Christmas; the greater solemnity of the birth of Christ, of whom John himself said “I must wane that He may wax”, is proclaimed by the fact that it is celebrated with three Masses. This custom of the two Masses gradually died out, and was observed only in a few places at the time of the Tridentine liturgical reform; the Mass which survived, and is included in the Missal of St Pius V, is the second one, and the older of the two. Here is the full text of the dawn Mass; medieval commentators such as William Durandus noted that the day Mass was the more solemn, since it has more proper texts, while most of the Gregorian chants for the dawn Mass are also used on the feasts of other Saints.

New Liturgical Movement: The Dawn Mass of St John the Baptist

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