The Roman Breviary
The Catholic Divine Office Online

Rankings of Feasts

Analysis of the Relative Importance of Feastdays

Solemn Office

The Office of a solemn or preferred Feast, also called an Excepted Feast.  These Offices can be recognized by the fact that Antiphons and Psalms are either printed in full in the Office of the Proper, or at least reference is given there as to where they may be found.  They will not be the Antiphons and Psalms for the current weekday.  The Sunday Psalms are used at Lauds, the Little Hours and Compline.  The Solemn Office is used on Doubles of the First and Second Class, and on certain Greater Doubles.

Sunday Office

In the Breviary, the Sunday Office has a section practically for itself, namely, the Proper of the Season.

Ordinary Office

The Ordinary Office is the Office of ordinary Feasts, also called Non-Excepted Feasts.  These Offices can be recognized in the Breviary by the fact that, though they have a Matin of three Nocturns, no Antiphons for Psalms or Psalms are printed in the Proper of the Saints for such Offices, since those from the Psalter for the current weekday are to be used,

Simple Office

The Simple Office is said on all Simple Feasts.

Ferial & Vigil Offices

The Ferial Office is said on Ferial Days (weekdays having no occurring Feast), and is thus found in the Proper of the Season.  The Vigil Office, which is usually penitential in nature, is said on Common Vigils.  Certain privileged Vigils have a proper Office (eg. Christmas Eve, Vigil of Pentecost), but these will be noted in the Ordo.

The Rank of a Feast

By the rank of a Feast is meant its relative importance.  In the ascending order of dignitythe following grades are distinguished, and then explained in greater detail in the column on the right.

  • Double of the First Class
  • Double of the Second Class
  • Greater Double
  • Double
  • Semidouble
  • Simple

Days that are not Feastdays are referred to as one of the following:

  • Feria
  • Vigil

The ranking of the Feast determines which Office is said.  A list of the various rites of Office is provided in the column on the left.

 

Octaves

Certain Feasts have Octaves, that is, an extension of the Feast over the following week.  Most Octaves are Common Octaves, the days of which are ranked semidouble and the Octave Day greater double.  All the days of a Common Octave follow the Ordinary Office, including the Octave Day itself.

There are six privileged Octaves as follows:

Privileged Octaves of the First Order

Easter and Pentecost - The first two days (Monday and Tuesday) are Doubles of the First Class, the rest Semidouble.  Each day of the Octave uses the Solemn Office, has a proper Mass and certain proper elements in its Office.  No Feasts may be celebrated during the Octave, but on the Semidouble days may be commemorated. 

Privileged Octaves of the Second Order

Epiphany and Corpus Christi - Each day within the Octave is ranked Semidouble.  Each day of the Octave uses the Solemn Office, which is the same as on the original Feastday itself.  Only Feasts ranked Double of the First or Second Class may be celebrated during the Octave, otherwise an occurring Feast is commemorated.

Privileged Octaves of the Third Order

Christmas and Ascension - Each day within the Octave is ranked Semidouble.  Each day of the Octave uses the Solemn Office, which is the same as on the original Feastday itself, with certain exceptions at Christmas.  Feasts ranked Double and above take precedence over a day within the Octave, and use the Ordinary Office.

Double of the First Class

Duplex Primae Classis

Representing the highest of the holy days of the Church's calendar, Doubles of the First Class take precedence over all other Feasts.  They are never omitted, but are transferred to the first available day if impeded by a privileged Sunday or Feria (ie. Advent Sunday, Sundays in Lent, Ash Wednesday, or days in Holy Week).  The Solemn Office is always used.

Double of the Second Class

Duplex Secundae Classis

The next-highest ranking Feasts are Doubles of the Second Class.  They are never omitted, but are transferred to the first available day if impeded by a Double of the First Class, or by a privileged Sunday or Feria (ie. Advent Sunday, Sundays in Lent, Ash Wednesday, or days in Holy Week).  The Solemn Office is always used.

Greater Double

Duplex Majus

Depending on the type of Feast being celebrated, a Greater Double will be celebrated either as a Solemn Office or as an Ordinary Office.  Greater double Feasts of Our Lord take precedence over an occurring Sunday.

Lesser Double

Duplex Minus

The increment "lesser" is usually dropped and the Feast referred to simply as a Double.  Double Feasts are so named because the Antiphons at Matins, Lauds and Vespers are "doubled," that is, said in their entirety both before and after the Psalm.  Double feasts are said according to the Ordinary Office.

Semidouble

Semiduplex

At Feasts of semidouble and lesser ranking, the Antiphons before the Psalms at Matins, Lauds and Vespers are simply intoned, as at the Little Hours and Compline.  At these feasts below the rank of Double, the Preces are said at Prime and Compline.  The Ordinary Office is said.

Simple

Simplex

Unlike the Feasts of higher ranking, the Matins of Simple Feasts and lower ranking have only one Nocturn, the nine Psalms being said consecutively.   The Simple Office is used.

Feria

Ferias, or Ferial Days are weekdays having no occurring Feast.  Certain Ferias are penitential in nature, for example, the Ferias of Advent and Lent, Ember Days, etc., and on these days the Ferial Preces are said at Lauds, Prime, Vespers and Compline.  The formatting of Lauds is also slightly different on these penitential days.

Vigil

Common Vigils are held on the eve of many important Feasts, and follow the Vigil Office  Some Vigils are privileged, taking precerdence over any occurring Feast and having a proper Office of their own. With the exception of the Vigils of Epiphany and Ascension, Vigils are penitential in nature.

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