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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world


Canon 1 of the Tenth Council of Toledo, issued in Latin in 656, institutes the celebration of the feast of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) on 18 December and declares it equal to the feast of Nativity.

Evidence ID

E04419

Type of Evidence

Canonical and legal texts

Tenth Council of Toledo, Canon 1

De celebritate festiuitatis Dominicae matris.

Cum nihil fidei sinceritas per diuersitatem aduersum incurrat et unitatem catholicae regulae uarietas nulla decerpat, est tamen quod, nisi temporum unitate seruetur, et discidium indiscissae unitati parturiat et sacramentorum unitate constare non ualeat. Hinc est quod paschale festum nisi uno die celebremus et tempore, in Iudaicum decidamus errorem; hinc aduentum Sancti Spiritus post resurrectionem Dei nisi exspectemus tempore definito dierum simul et numero, non possumus impleri eiusdem Spiritus dono, quoniam si caret plenitudinis numero, carere potest et mysterii sacramento; hinc natiuitatis Dominicae sacrum, quo euidenter de utero uirginali Verbum prodiit caro factum, absque dubio seruat et temporis cursum repraesentat specialis diei et momentum. Si ergo natiuitatis et mortis incarnati Verbi dies absque immutatione ita certus habetur ut absque diuersitate in orbe toto terrarum ab omni concorditer ecclesia celebretur, cur non festiuitatis gloriosae matris eius eadem obseruantia uno simul ubique die similique habeatur honore?

Inuenitur etenim in multis Spaniae partibus huius sanctae uirginis festum non uno die per omnes annorum circulos agi, quoniam transducti homines diuersitate temporum, dum uarietatem sequuntur, unitatem celebritatis non habere probantur. Qua de re, quoniam die qua inuenitur angelus Virgini Verbi conceptum et nuntiasse uerbis et indidisse miraculis, eadem festiuitatis non potest celebrari condigne, cum interdum quadragesimae dies uel paschale festum uidetur incumbere, in quibus nihil de sanctorum sollemnitatibus, sicut ex antiquitate regulari cautum est, conuenit celebrari; cum etiam et ipsam incarnationem Verbi non conueniat tunc celebritatibus praedicari, quando constat idipsum Verbum post mortem carnis gloria resurrectionis attolli, adeo speciali constitutione sancitur ut ante octauum diem quo natus est Dominus, genetricis quoque eius dies habeatur celeberrimus et praeclarus. Ex pari enim honore constat ut, sicut natiuitatem Filii sequentium dierum insequitur dignitas, ita festiuitatem matris tot dierum sequatur sacra sollemnitas. Nam quid festum est matris nisi incarnatio Verbi? Cuius utique ita debet esse sollemne, sicut est et eiusdem natiuitas Verbi.

Quod tamen nec sine exemplo decentis moris qui per diuersas mundi partes dinoscitur obseruari, uidetur institui. In multis namque ecclesiis a nobis et spatio remotis et terris hic mos agnoscitur retineri. Proinde ut de cetero quicquid est dubium, sit remotum, sollemnitas Dominicae matris die quintodecimo kalendarum ianuariarum omnimodo celebretur et natiuitas Filii eius, Saluatoris nostri, die octauo kalendarum earundem, sicut mos est, sollemnis in omnibus habeatur.


'On the celebration of the feast of our Lord's Mother.

Although the sincerity of faith is not damaged by diversity and no variety can break the unity of Catholic rules, it happens nevertheless that if the uniformity of time is not observed, it results in a dissension in undivided unity and failure to agree with the unity of the sacraments. This is why, if we did not celebrate the Paschal feast on the same day, we would fall into the Jewish error; therefore, if we did not expect the advent of the Holy Spirit after the resurrection of God after a defined time and number of days, we could not fulfil the gift of the Spirit, because if the right time is not achieved in full, the sacrament too might not be attained. It is also why the holy Nativity of the Lord when the Word was evidently born from the virginal womb and became flesh, is observed without doubt [on a given day], and represents the time and the moment of the specific day. If then the day of the Nativity and Death of the Incarnate Word is considered to be certain without any changes, so that it can be celebrated on the same day in the whole world in concord by the whole Church, why should not the feast of His glorious Mother receive similar honour, with the same observance on the same day everywhere?

It has been found that in many regions of Spain the feast of the Holy Virgin is not celebrated every year on the same day, because men passing through the country confirm that they do not keep the unity of the celebration because of a diversity of dates, as they follow a variety of celebrations. Therefore, because the day when the angel announced with words to the Virgin the Conception of the Word, and indicated it with miracles, cannot be dutifully celebrated, because it falls within Lent or on Easter, and so in a period when no solemnity of saints (as decreed from the ancient times) should be celebrated. Because it is not proper to preach in celebrations the Incarnation of the Word, when it is known that the Word after the death of the flesh assumed the glory of Resurrection, therefore it is decided by special decision that on the eighth day before the Nativity of the Lord, the most solemn and glorious day of His Mother should be celebrated. Of their equal honour, it results that, as the dignity of the Nativity of the Son follows into the next days, this holy solemnity [i.e. the Nativity] follows after the same number of days after the festivity of the Mother. What feast of the Mother is there other than the Incarnation of the Word? This feast should be as solemn as the feast of the Nativity itself.

This is declared, not without example from recent times observable in various parts of the world. It is known that in many churches in distant lands this custom is observed. Hence, if there is some doubt, this should be removed. The solemnity of the Mother of the Lord should always be celebrated on the 15th day before the Kalends of January [=18 December] and the Nativity of Her Son, Our Saviour, should be a solemn feast on the eighth day before these Kalends [=25 December], according to custom.'

Text: Rodríguez and Martínez Díez 1992, 517-521. Translation: M. Szada.

Festivals

Saint’s feast

Source

The Tenth Council of Toledo assembled in December 656 during the reign of king Reccesvinth (653–672). It was presided over by Bishop Eugenius II of Toledo. Nineteen other bishops, and five representatives of the absent bishops attended.


Discussion

A prohibition from celebrating saints' feasts in Lent is known from Canon 51 of the Council of Laodicea (E02113), and was later included by Martin of Braga in his collection of the canons of eastern councils (E06106).

It is worth noting that this canon does not move the feast of the Annunciation from 25 March, but institutes a new feast of Mary on 18 December, focusing on her maternal role. The feast celebrated on 18 December took root in the Old Hispanic rite – it is noted in all the Mozarabic calendars (known from 11th century manuscripts) as the feast of the Virgin Mary (some add: the Mother of Jesus Christ). See Ferotin 1904, 490-491.


Bibliography

Edition:
Martínez Díez, G., and Rodríguez, F. (eds.), La colección canónica Hispana (Monumenta Hispaniae sacra. Serie canónica 5; Madrid, 1992).

Further reading:
Ferotin, M., Le Liber ordinum en usage de l'église wisigothique et mozarabe d'Espagne du cinquième au onzième siècle (Paris; Firmin-Didot, 1904).


Record Created By

Marta Szada

Date Last Modified

03/11/2019

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of Christgloriosa mater, Virgo, mater Verbi, mater DominicaeCertain


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