Today has long been celebrated as the feast of the Sacred Relics...

In many places, although it has never been a feast in the general Roman Calendar. It is the 5th day infra Octavam Omnium Sanctorum; in the Traditional Rite after Pius XII and Ioannes XXIII's liturgical shenanigans a Saturday for the Commemoration of the Most Blessed Virgin with the Mass Salve sancta Parens-- already celebrated at Saint-Eugène at 0030 my time... ah, but it is the First Saturday, so the Mass will have been Adeamus, of the feast of Our Lady's Immaculate Heart. I will attend after I've returned from the morning errands. 

Typically, a saint's relics have been celebrated on the occasion of their translation from the place of burial into a church or when they have been discovered having been lost or when they have been 'moved', ahem (which verb can cover everything from the giving of a gift to outright theft), from one church to another. But for all the other relics which don't have a particular feast, today's the day, in rather the same way that All Saints celebrates all the saints who don't enjoy particular feasts in the Kalendar. Dr Gregory DiPippo:

... In the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia, the entry on Relics states that “It has long been customary especially in churches which possessed large collections of relics, to keep one general feast in commemoration of all the saints whose memorials are there preserved. [As will be explained below, this is something of an overstatement.] An Office and Mass for this purpose will be found in the Roman Missal and Breviary, and though they occur only in the supplement Pro aliquibus locis and are not obligatory upon the Church at large, still this celebration is now kept almost universally. The office is generally assigned to the fourth Sunday in October.” The author, Fr Herbert Thurston SJ, wrote “generally” because there was a variety of uses in regard to the date. I have seen the feast on October 26 in a 19th century breviary printed at Naples, while the Dominicans kept it on the 30th, and the Premonstratensians on November 14th. The Catholic Encyclopedia article was published just prior to the reform of St Pius X, which abolished the custom of fixing feasts to particular Sundays; after that reform, the most common date was November 5th.

Dr DiPippo's article was at New Liturgical Movement on October 26th. The Mass is Multae tribulationes iustorum.

Introitus. Ps. 33, 20-21. Multæ tribulatiónes justórum, et de his ómnibus liberávit eos Dóminus: Dóminus custodit ómnia ossa eórum: unum ex his non conterétur. Ps. ibid., 2. Benedícam Dóminum in omni témpore: semper laus ejus in ore meo. ℣. Glória Patri.

Auge in nobis, Dómine, resurrectiónis fidem, qui in Sanctórum tuórum Relíquiis mirabília operáris: et fac nos immortális glóriæ partícipes; cujus in eórum cinéribus pígnora venerámur. Per Dóminum.

Léctio libri Sapiéntiæ. 
Eccli. 44, 10-15. 
Hi viri misericórdiæ sunt, quorum pietátes non defuérunt: cum sémine eórum pérmanent bona, heréditas sancta nepótes eórum, et in testaméntis stetit semen eórum: et Fílii eórum propter illos usque in ætérnum manent: semen eórum et glória eórum non derelinquétur. Córpora ipsórum in pace sepúlta sunt, et nomen eórum vivit in generatiónem et generatiónem. Sapiéntiam ipsórum narrent pópuli, et laudem eórum núntiet Ecclésia.

Graduale. Ps. 149, 5 et 1. 
Exsultábunt Sancti in glória: lætabúntur in cubílibus suis. ℣. Cantáte Dómino cánticum novum: laus ejus in ecclésia sanctórum.

Allelúja, allelúja. ℣. Ps. 67, 4. 
Justi epuléntur et exsúltent in conspéctu Dei: et delecténtur in lætítia. Allelúja.

✠ Sequéntia sancti Evangélii secúndum Lucam. 
Luc. 6, 17-23. 
In illo témpore: Descéndens Jesus de monte, stetit inloco campéstri, et turba discipulórum ejus, et multitúdo copiosa plebis ab omni Judǽa, et Jerúsalem, et marítima, et Tyri, et Sidónis, qui vénerant, ut audírent eum et sanaréntur a languóribus suis. Et, qui vexabántur a spirítibus immúndis, curabántur. Et omnis turba quærébat eum tángere: quia virtus de illo exíbat, et sanábat omnes. Et ipse, elevátis óculis in discípulos suos, dicebat: Beáti, páuperes: quia vestrum est regnum Dei. Beáti, qui nunc esurítis: quia saturabímini. Beáti, qui nunc fletis: quia ridébitis. Beáti éritis, cum vos óderint hómines, et cum separáverint vos et exprobráverint, et ejécerint nomen vestrum tamquam malum, propter Fílium hóminis. Gaudéte in illa die et exsultáte: ecce enim, merces vestra multa est in cœlo.

Offertorium. Ps. 67, 36. 
Mirábilis Deus in Sanctis suis: Deus Israël, ipse dabit virtútem et fortitúdinem plebi suæ: benedíctus Deus, allelúja.

Implorámus, Dómine, cleméntiam tuam: ut Sanctórum tuórum, quorum Relíquias venerámur, suffragántibus méritis, hóstia, quam offérimus, nostrórum sit expiátio delictórum. Per Dóminum.

Communio. Ps. 32, 1. Gaudéte, justi, in Dómino: rectas decet collaudátio. 

Multíplica super nos, quǽsumus, Dómine, per hæc sancta, quæ súmpsimus, misericórdiam tuam: ut, sicut in tuórum sollemnitáte Sanctórum, quorum Relíquias cólimus, pia devotione lætámur; ita eórum perpétua societáte, te largiénte, fruamur. Per Dóminum.

[Dr DiPippo's essay continues... I haven't decided what to include here; copied it on the 26th and then forgot about it.]

The Mass of the Holy Relics found in the supplement to the Missal is a fairly recent composition; its three prayers are all proper to the feast, but the Gregorian propers and Scriptural readings are selected from other Masses. The Introit is taken from the feast of Ss John and Paul, the first martyrs whose relics were buried inside a church within the city of Rome. “Many are the afflictions of the just; and out of them all will the Lord deliver them. The Lord keepeth all their bones, not one of them shall be broken.” The Epistle, Sirach 44, 10-15, is that of the octave day of Ss Peter and Paul, over whose tombs and relics the Emperor Constantine built two of Rome’s earliest public churches; it is here selected for the verse “Their bodies are buried in peace, and their name liveth unto generation and generation.” The Gradual Exsultabunt Sancti and the Gospel, Luke 6, 17-23, the beginning of the Sermon on the Plain, are both taken from the vigil of All Saints, since the feast of the Holy Relics is effectively celebrated as a part of All Saints’ Day. The remaining chants are taken from the Masses of various Martyrs.

The Divine Office for the feast is that of the common of Several Martyrs, with lessons in the second nocturn taken from St John Damascene’s Treatise on the Orthodox Faith, which perfectly summarize the Church’s theology of relics....

Read the complete essay at New Liturgical Movement. But I will keep this here, since it is of great interest.

... The neo-Gallican liturgical reforms contain a great many lapses in taste and judgment which almost beggar belief; however, the new Office of the Holy Relics, whatever its history may be, is from a literary point of view one of the better efforts of its kind. Like most people who put their hand to changing historical liturgies, the Neo-Gallican revisers were painfully obsessed with making everything “more Scriptural,” and the new antiphons and responsories consist almost entirely of direct citations from the Bible. But they are very well chosen from a wide selection of books, and do demonstrate effectively that the Church’s veneration of relics is a tradition thoroughly grounded in Scripture. Just to give one example, the following responsory cites an Old Testament episode which was later used by Cardinal Newman in his Apologia to justify the veneration of relics.

R. They cast the body into the sepulcher of Elisha, and when it had touched the bones of Elisha, the man came back to life, and stood upon his feet. (4 Kings 13, 21) V. By faith they received their dead raised to life again. (Hebr. 11, 35) And when…

It is also, I believe, the only example of a neo-Gallican Office that was adopted for use outside France, and continued to be used, at least in part, even after the neo-Gallican liturgies were definitively suppressed in the 19th century. The Neapolitan breviary which I mentioned above contains it in almost exactly the same form as it appears in the 1714 edition of the Parisian Breviary. The one feature of the Office which the neo-Gallican reforms could not make into a chain of Scriptural citations is the corpus of hymns, to which a great many new compositions were added. The new Parisian Office of the Holy Relics includes a hymn written by a cleric of the diocese of Paris named Claude Santeüil (1624-84) which was adopted by the Benedictines for their version of the feast, and is thus still part of the Antiphonale Monasticum for the Office to this very day. The meter is one used by the classical poet Horace called the Third Asclepiadean, not previously part of the traditional repertoire of Christian hymns. Some of Santeüil’s odd vocabulary (e.g. Christiadum instead of Christianorum) is determined by the need to find words that fit the meter, but his complicated word order is a deliberate imitation of Horace’s style.

Reverence their poor and sadly dear remains!
Folded in peace their earthly vesture lies,
Dear pledges, left below, but thence to rise, 
Pledges of heavenly bodies, free from pains!

And here ye may lift up your thankful strains,
Ye Christian companies. The spirit flies,
And hath its recompense in quiet skies,
And leaves with you below its broken chains:

Yet for their bones meek Piety shall plead,
Blest Piety, which honoureth the dead!
Though scatter’d far and wide, yet God’s own eye
Doth keep them that they perish not; and when

The promised hour shall come, their God again
Shall gather them, and as He builds on high
His habitation, each there, moulded by His grace,
Shall live and find a sure abiding place.

To us the places where your ashes be
Shall be as altars, whence shall steadier rise
Our prayers to Heav’n; and that blest Sacrifice,
Where God the Victim cometh down from high,

Shall consecrate to holier mystery;
He here accepts your deaths as join’d with His,
Here builds all in one body, and supplies
Our dying frames with immortality.

And hence your graves become a tower of aid,
A refuge from bad thoughts, a sacred shade;
Until, fresh clad with new and wondrous dowers,
Our flesh shall join the angelic choirs, and be

A living temple crowned with heavenly towers;
Where evermore the praises shall ascend
Of the great undivided One and Three,
And God be all in all, world without end. Amen.

(English translation by Isaac Williams from Hymns translated from the Parisian Breviary, Rivington, London, 1839)

The neo-Gallican use also has a different Gospel from the one named above for the feast of the Holy Relics, Luke 20, 27-38, in which Christ disputes with the Sadducees about the nature of the final Resurrection. The conclusion of this passage is particularly important as the foundation of what St John Damascene says, that the Saints are not truly dead. “Now that the dead rise again, Moses also showed, at the bush, when he called the Lord, The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; for he is not the God of the dead, but of the living: for all live to him.” In the Parisian Breviary, the homily that accompanies it is taken from a treatise written by St Jerome against a priest from Gaul named Vigilantius, who had denied the value of praying to the Saints and venerating relics, a work in which we see the Saint at his wittiest and most acerbic:

“Vigilantius is vexed to see the relics of the martyrs covered with a costly veil, and not bound up with rags or hair-cloth, or thrown down the midden, so that Vigilantius alone in his drunken slumber may be worshipped. Are we, therefore guilty of sacrilege when we enter the basilicas of the Apostles? Was the Emperor Constantius guilty of sacrilege when he transferred the sacred relics of Andrew, Luke, and Timothy to Constantinople? In their presence the demons cry out, and those who dwell in Vigilantius (i.e. the devils) confess that they feel their influence. And at the present day, is the Emperor Arcadius guilty of sacrilege, who after so long a time has conveyed the bones of the blessed Samuel from Judea to Thrace? Are all the bishops to be considered not only sacrilegious, but fools as well, because they carried that most worthless thing, dust and ashes, wrapped in silk in golden vessel? Are the people of all the churches fools, because they went to meet the sacred relics, and welcomed them with as much joy as if they beheld a living prophet in their midst, so that there was one great swarm of people from Palestine to Chalcedon with one voice re-echoing the praises of Christ? They were forsooth adoring Samuel and not Christ, whose Levite and prophet Samuel was. You imagine he is dead, and therefore you blaspheme. Read the Gospel: the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” ...

Introitus. Hebr. 4, 16. Adeámus cum fidúcia ad thronum grátiæ, ut misericórdiam consequámur, et grátiam inveniámus in auxílio opportúno. Ps. 44, 2. Eructávit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego ópera mea regi. V. Glória Patri.

Oratio. Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui in Corde beátæ Maríæ Vírginis dignum Spíritus Sancti habitáculum præparásti: concéde propítius; ut ejúsdem immaculáti Cordis festivitátem devóta mente recoléntes, secúndum cor tuum vívere valeámus. Per Dóminum.

Léctio libri Sapiéntiæ.
Eccli. 24, 23-31.
Ego quasi vitis fructificávi suavitátem odóris: et flores mei, fructus honóris et honestátis. Ego mater pulchræ dilectiónis, et timóris, et agnitiónis, et sanctæ spei. In me grátia omnis viæ et veritátis: in me omnis spes vitæ, et virtútis. Transíte ad me omnes qui concupíscitis me, et a generatiónibus meis implémini. Spíritus enim meus super mel dulcis, et heréditas mea super mel et favum. Memória mea in generatiónes sæculórum. Qui edunt me, adhuc esúrient: et qui bibunt me, adhuc sítient. Qui audit me, non confundétur: et qui operántur in me, non peccábunt. Qui elúcidant me, vitam ætérnam habébunt.

Graduale. Ps. 12, 6. Exsultábit cor meum in salutári tuo: cantábo Dómino, qui bona tríbuit mihi: et psallam nómini Dómini altíssimi. V. Ps. 44, 18. Mémores erunt nóminis tui in omni generatióne et generatiónem: proptérea pópuli confitebúntur tibi in ætérnum.

Allelúja, allelúja. V. Luc. 1, 46,47. Magníficat ánima mea Dóminum: et exsultávit spíritus meus in Deo salutári meo. Allelúja.

+ Sequéntia sancti Evangélii secúndum Joánnem.
Joann. 19, 25-27.
In illo témpore: Stabant juxta crucem Jesu mater ejus, et soror matris ejus María Cléophæ, et María Magdaléne. Cum vidísset ergo Jesus matrem, et discípulum stantem, quem diligébat, dicit matri suæ: Múlier, ecce fílius tuus. Deinde dicit discípulo: Ecce mater tua. Et ex illa hora accépit eam discípulus in sua.

Offertorium. Luc. 1, 46, 49. Exsultávit spíritus meus in Deo salutári meo; quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen ejus.

Secreta. Majestáti tuæ, Dómine, Agnum immaculátum offeréntes, quǽsumus: ut corda nostra ignis ille divínus accéndat, cui Cor beátæ Maríæ Vírginis ineffabíliter inflammávit. Per Dóminum.

Communio. Joann. 19, 27. Dixit Jesus matri suæ: Múlier, ecce fílius tuus: deinde dixit discípulo: Ecce mater tua. Et ex illa hora accépit eam discípulus in sua.

Postcommunio. Divínis refécti munéribus te, Dómine, supplíciter exorámus: ut beátæ Maríæ Vírginis intercessióne, cujus immaculáti Cordis solémnia venerándo égimus, a præséntibus perículis liberáti, ætérnæ vitæ gáudia consequámur. Per Dóminum.

As I put this Mass (O quam gloriosum) of Victoria here I realised that two years ago the Mass of the Sacred Relics was kept at Saint-Eugène, and celebrated by Pater Thomas SJ; I've put that recording above where the texts of the Mass Multae tribulationes are. Who knows why we didn't have this this year (or last?); my supposition is that this was done when Canon Guelfucci was still pastor; he was fairly willing to blur the line between pre-1955 tradition and post-1955/post-1960 nonsense.  


Dr Gregory DiPippo,Commemoratio Sanctae Mariae in Sabbato,Tomás Luis de Victoria