Vigils in the old mass


Can someone list all the vigils in the old Mass? For some reason I thought the Epiphany had one, but apparently I forget what they are, cuz it’s not.



It did until it was suppressed in 1955, apparently. Per the New Liturgical Movement, As such, Epiphany is one of the four principle feasts of the year, along with Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, traditionally preceded by a privileged and special vigil. (By vigil, we refer to an entire day of preparation before a major feast, not a Mass of the feast itself anticipated the evening before.) Considering the importance of the feast, it is a very strange and unfortunate phenomenon that its ancient vigil, along with its highly privileged octave, was suppressed in 1955, along with many other things. Hence, in the 1962 Roman Calendar, there is no longer a “Vigil of Epiphany,” and January 5 was recast as a generic Christmas feria. This post will describe the Roman Liturgy of Epiphany Eve as it existed prior to that time.

Epiphany Eve is like Christmas Eve in that both are privileged vigils which exclude the celebration of other feasts and may be celebrated on a Sunday. (Non-privileged or common vigils would be anticipated on Saturday if they fell on a Sunday.) Unlike Christmas Eve, that of Epiphany because it is part of Christmas season, takes on a festal character: its color is white instead of violet. It is a joyful vigil without penitential elements, either in text or in fasting and abstinence

It continues on with a description of what occurred during the various liturgical hours. I’ll have to ask my mom when she gets up what it was like (she’s 89 so she’d remember 1955- and before!)



The Masses I see are Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and the Ascension for the 1962 rite.



Fascinating. My local FSSP parish doesn’t do a vigil mass. How is a vigil mass different from a “vigil”?

edit: I should add, no vigil mass for the epiphany



I think that from 1970 or so on we understand ‘vigil’ to refer pretty much to the Saturday ‘vigil Mass’ that counts for Sunday, but in the olden days, because of the Jewish tradition that a day started on the evening before (like nowadays when something like Hanukkah starts on the evening before the date the calendar marks it, and the calendar often says, 'observed the evening before), a vigil for a great feast like Christmas or Epiphany would take up pretty much the entire day and there would be special readings, psalms, etc in the liturgical hours (the Roman Breviary). Prayers etc would have been in Latin too.

Epiphany (Twelfth Night for all you Shakespeare fans) was a lot more important as a feast day than even Christmas back in the ‘olden days’. There were lots of funky traditions outside Mass too.



ah, right. Well, the family and me still does stuff for 12th night, but obviously nothing liturgical.



Well the neat thing is that this year, Sunday is actually January 6, so the feast of Epiphany is really on "Epiphany’. I guess one could say that for this Saturday, January 5, since there is a Saturday vigil for Sunday, we will actually have a Vigil for Epiphany. . .so to speak.



true enough



The Vigil of All Saints, (aka Halloween) was also suppressed in that decree.

1 Like


For reference, these are the Vigil Masses used in the Ordinary Form in the Roman Calendar:

  1. Nativity of the Lord *
  2. Easter (on Holy Saturday after nightfall)
  3. Epiphany (MR 3rd ed. - 2002) **
  4. Ascension (MR 3rd ed. - 2002) **
  5. Pentecost *
  6. Nativity of St. John the Baptist *
  7. Saints Peter and Paul *
  8. Assumption *

* Optional evening Mass, since 1969
** Optional evening Mass, since 2002
The optional vigil Mass is used on the evening of the day before the Solemnity, either before or after First Vespers (Evening Prayer I) of the Solemnity.



Tridentine Mass



To be honest I’ve never been a fan of Octaves. I chant the Office every day and the same psalms and antiphons for 8 days in a row wears a bit thin by the 8th day.

I left the Vatican a voice mail, I told them “sure we can have more octaves, but I’d use the ferial psalms and antiphons, with the same antiphon the Gospel Canticle and a proper collect for the day.” I’d gladly chant “Hodie Christus natus est…” every day and then some, it’s such a pity we only get to sing it once a year. But the long Canticle of Daniel, which can be be summed up in one verse “All creation, bless the Lord”, for 8 days, not so much.

I’m still waiting for “them” to call back…,

1 Like


Then why when I called my local FSSP parish, the guy on the phone said there was no tradition for a vigil Mass for the Epiphany?



Just as a matter of interest, (no mention of vigils) this is from “Epistles and Gospels for Pulpit Use,” Milwaukee 1893.



Catholic Encylopedia, Eve of a Feast (Pope Leo XIII 1884 Missale Romanum)

The vigils of Christmas, the Epiphany, and Pentecost are called vigiliae majores; they have a proper Office (semi-double), and the vigil of Christmas, from Lauds on, is kept as a double feast. The rest are vigiliae minorea, or communes, and have the ferial office. On the occasion of the reform of the Breviary, in 1568, a homily on the Gospel of the vigil was added, an innovation not accepted by the Cistercians.

Holweck, F. (1909). Eve of a Feast. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.



no, I believe you, I was just wondering why there might be confusion



Around here Epiphany is known as “Old Christmas” and has traditions attached to it.



Maybe he simply meant that there was no Vigil of Epiphany in the “traditional” Missal of 1962.



Though this is about liturgical colors, if you scroll down, you’ll see what the old liturgical colors and feast days are. Epiphany is included in older feast days.

I hope that is accurate and helps a bit.


closed #20

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit