Precedence in Evening Prayer

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

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Q: I am a secular Carmelite OCDS in charge of the liturgy for my community. I need clarification on praying vespers in community. When the feast of St. Teresa of Avila or St. John of the Cross falls on a Monday, for Sunday vespers do we pray Evening Prayer II for Sunday or Evening Prayer I for the feast of our spiritual founders? Our community is named after St. Joseph. The same problem comes up for his feast days. Also, my home parish is Our Lady Queen of All Saints. For Aug. 21 vespers, do I pray Evening Prayer for St. Pius X or Evening Prayer I for the Queenship of Mary on Aug. 22? We would like to pray the Office properly and as well correctly teach the aspirants in Carmel. — C.F., Ville Platte, Louisiana

A: The answer to this question depends on the rank of the celebration within the particular calendar of the Carmelite family.

This is not quite clear as some Carmelite calendars list the celebration of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross as solemnities, while others list them as feasts.

There might also be differences among the various orders of Carmelites insofar as a celebration is a solemnity for the clerical and cloistered communities whereas it is classed as a feast for the third order.

The universal calendar has the following rules for such coincidences in the Introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours:

«59. Precedence among liturgical days relative to the celebration is governed solely by the following table.

«60. If several celebrations fall on the same day, the one that holds the highest rank according to the preceding Table of Liturgical Days is observed. But a solemnity impeded by a liturgical day that takes precedence over it should be transferred to the closest day not listed in nos. 1-8 in the table of precedence; the rule of no. 5 remains in effect. Other celebrations are omitted that year.

«61. If the same day were to call for celebration of evening prayer of that day’s office and evening prayer I of the following day, evening prayer of the day with the higher rank in the Table of Liturgical Days takes precedence; in cases of equal rank, evening prayer of the actual day takes precedence.»

An extract of this table in which we list only those celebrations pertinent to our answer is the following:

«2. Christmas, Epiphany, Ascension, and Pentecost. Sundays of Advent, Lent, and the Easter season.

«3. Solemnities of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and saints listed in the General Calendar. All Souls.

«4. Proper Solemnities, namely:

«a. Solemnity of the principal patron of the place, that is, the city or state.

«b. Solemnity of the dedication of a particular church and the anniversary.

«c. Solemnity of the title, or of the founder, or of the principal patron of a religious order or congregation.

«5. Feasts of the Lord in the General Calendar.

«6. Sundays of the Christmas season and Sundays in Ordinary Time.

«7. Feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saints in the General Calendar.

«8. Proper feasts, namely:

«a. Feast of the principal patron of the diocese.

«b. Feast of the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral.

«c. Feast of the principal patron of a region or province, or a country, or of a wider territory.

«d. Feast of the title, founder, or principle patron of an order or congregation and of a religious province, without prejudice to the directives in no. 4.

«e. Other feasts proper to an individual church.

«f. Other feasts listed in the calendar of a diocese or of a religious order or congregation.

«9. Weekdays of Advent from 17 December to 24 December inclusive. Days within the octave of Christmas. Weekdays of Lent.»

Therefore, if a celebration of a religious congregation, such as St. John of the Cross (Dec. 14), is ranked as a solemnity, it has a lower rank than that of a Sunday of Advent. If, as happens this year, it falls on a Sunday, it is transferred to the Monday.

The general rule would mean that the vespers on Sunday evening would be those of the Sunday of Advent as it has the higher rank.

However, as some (but not all) of the Carmelite calendars that I have reviewed indicate, reciting the first vespers of St. John can only suppose that this is in virtue of a particular or general privilege granted to the order to give preference to the proper celebrations.

Where the Carmelite calendar ranks St. John as a feast rather than as a solemnity, there are no first vespers because only feasts of the Lord have first vespers, and these are used only when they take precedence over a Sunday of ordinary time.

Nor are feasts such as St. John of the Cross transferred to another day but rather are omitted that year.

Therefore, our reader should check the ranking of the celebration according to the Carmelite calendar of the country and follow the general rules of precedence.

In some cases there might be particular rules regarding transfer of celebrations issued by the bishops’ conference, and these should also be taken into account.

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Readers may send questions to Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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Fr. Edward McNamara

Padre Edward McNamara, L.C., è professore di Teologia e direttore spirituale

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