Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

Feasts of the Lord

Posted by universalis on 10 November 2018

The shape of the liturgy on Feasts of the Lord is not as explicitly specified as it might be, so here is a summary of the rules for the readings at Mass.

  1. According to the Table of Liturgical Days, a Feast of the Lord is a feast, with rank 5 in the table of feasts. As such, it has a higher rank than Sundays in Ordinary time (rank 6) and when a Feast of the Lord falls on a Sunday, it replaces the Sunday.
  2. According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, §357, Feasts have two readings at Mass while Sundays and Solemnities have three.
  3. According to the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, Feasts do not have First Vespers (§231), Sundays and Solemnities do have First Vespers (§225), and Feasts of the Lord when they occur on a Sunday have First Vespers just like the Sunday they replace.
  4. A Feast of the Lord occurring on a Sunday replaces that Sunday, and on that day it should have three readings at Mass, just like the Sunday. For this reason, three readings are provided in the Lectionaries.

This does not mean that three readings should always be used. On the contrary, apart from the exceptional circumstances of a Sunday, a Feast of the Lord, like any other feast, should have only two readings.

As the Catholic Liturgy Office of England and Wales says, “When a Feast of the Lord is celebrated on a Weekday there is only one reading before the Gospel which may be chosen from either the first or second reading.”

All Ordos published in England, Wales and Scotland apply this rule to the readings they give for Feasts of the Lord.

The official Latin Ordo also applies this rule. For example, for the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the readings are listed as:

L.1. Ez 47, 1-2. 8-9. 12; vel 1 Cor 3, 9b-11. 16-17.
       Ps 45, 2-3. 5-6. 8-9.
Ev Io 2, 13-22.

A fully reasoned description of the situation is given on the Zenit.org web siteNo longer: that page has died, but a copy of it is preserved on the EWTN site

By far the simplest explanation is this: a Feast never changes the number of readings a day has. A weekday has one reading before the Gospel, and making it a Feast does not change this. A Sunday has two readings before the Gospel, and making it a Feast does not change this. This formulation has exactly the same result as the official one, but it has the advantage of being much shorter, and perfectly uniform in all circumstances.


Universalis follows these rules. A Feast of the Lord falling on a Sunday has First Vespers and three readings at Mass, just like a Sunday. A Feast of the Lord falling on any other day has no First Vespers, and two readings at Mass, just like a feast.

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