Text taken from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Guéranger, O.S.B.
(Translated from the French by Dom Laurence Shepherd, O.S.B.)
Advent. Volume 1. St. Bonaventure Publications, www.libers.com
Originally published 1949.
Republished by St. Bonaventure Publications, July 2000.
Unless otherwise stated, Illustrations are taken from UNA VOCE OF ORANGE COUNTY
which reproduced them, with the kind permission of St. Bonaventure Press, from
The Saint Andrew Daily Missal, 1952 Edition.
Receive, O Merciful Father, these Holy Sacrifices (Te igitur)
The obligation of observing this Advent, which, though introduced so imperceptibly, had by degrees acquired the force of a Sacred Law, began to be relaxed, and the forty days from Saint Martin's Day to Christmas were reduced to four weeks.
We have seen that this Fast began to be observed first in France; but thence it spread into England, as we find from Venerable Bede's history; into Italy, as appears from a diploma of Astolphus, King of the Lombards, dated 753 A.D; into Germany, Spain, etc, of which the proofs may be seen in the learned work of Dom Martene, On the ancient rites of the Church.
The first allusion to Advent's being reduced to four weeks is to be found in the 9th-Century, in a Letter of Pope Saint Nicholas I to the Bulgarians. The testimony of Ratherius of Verona, and of Abbo of Fleury, both writers of the 10th-Century, goes also to prove that, even then, the question of reducing the duration of the Advent Fast by one-third was seriously entertained.
The Holy Family, Magi, and Shepherds.
It is true that Saint Peter Damian, in the 11th-Century, speaks of the Advent Fast as still being for forty days; and that Saint Louis, two Centuries later, kept it for that length of time; but, as far as this Holy King (King Saint Louis IX of France) is concerned, it is probable that it was only his own Devotion which prompted him to this practice.
The discipline of the Churches of the West, after having reduced the time of the Advent Fast, so far relented, in a few years, as to change the Fast into a simple Abstinence; and we even find Councils of the 12th-Century, for instance Selingstadt, in 1122, and Avranches, in 1172, which seem to require only the Clergy to observe this Abstinence.
The Council of Salisbury, held in 1281, would seem to expect none but Monks to keep it. On the other hand (for the whole subject is very confused, owing, no doubt, to there never having been any uniformity of discipline regarding it in the Western Church), we find Pope Innocent III, in his Letter to the Bishop of Braga, mentioning the custom of Fasting during the whole of Advent, as being at that time observed in Rome; and Durandus, in the same 13th-Century, in his Rational on The Divine Offices, tells us that, in France, Fasting was uninterruptedly observed during the whole of that Holy Time.
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PART FOUR FOLLOWS