Liturgical Year as Organization of
Texts within Books

The calendrical organization of the liturgical year becomes concrete in the organization of liturgical books, whose texts are typically arranged in this order:

In books for the Mass:

  Calendar (the calendar in the book)
temporale from Advent through Holy Saturday
Canon of the Mass (with its surrounding texts)
temporale from Easter through the summer Sundays
sanctorale from Andrew (30 November) through Saturninus (29 November)
Common of saints
Other masses (e.g. for funerals, in honor of the Virgin, for rain, for peace)
In books for the Divine Office:
  Calendar (the calendar in the book)
Weekly offices (based on the psalter)
temporale from Advent through the summer Sundays
sanctorale from Andrew (30 November) through Saturninus (29 November)
Common of saints
Office of the Dead; Little Office of the Virgin
UTS MS 19, ff. 14v-15: A collectar from 15th century Germany with the beginning, on the recto, of a new text section at Advent, "In adventu domini Dominica prima, ad primas vesperas".
Smith Western MS 24, ff. 297v-298: A breviary copied during the middle years of the 15th century in France, showing, on the verso the end of the sanctorale with a rubric for a prayer of Saturnini martiris (29 November), and on the facing recto, the decorated opening of the following text section, Incipit commune sanctorum, primo de communi unius apostoli . . ., assigning to the feasts of apostles the rank "duplex."

The common of saints is the section of a liturgical book that contains services (whether a mass or an office) for those saints who do not have full proper services, "proper" meaning services particular to a specific liturgical occasion. The common of saints offers texts that are applicable to any saint in one of several categories: one apostle, many apostles, one martyr, many martyrs, one confessor (one whose life "confessed" or attested to his extraordinary love of God, but who did not die for the sake of that love), many confessors, one virgin, many virgins. The common elements of the service may be completed by proper prayers contained in the sanctorale.


Clearly, the arrangement of books for the mass and books for the office is parallel in five large sections (calendar, temporale, sanctorale, common of saints, services addressing the "vota" or concerns of particular persons or moments). The difference lies in the location of the ordinary or core text, the one that is recited at every occurrence of the service: for the Mass, it is the body of material around the Canon and that is usually placed in the middle of the book. For the Office, the ordinary or common text is the psalter with its accompanying materials, and it is frequently placed at the beginning of the book. It should be pointed out, however, that in the manuscripts the text sections of the Office display some considerable variation in their order. Dispersal throughout the book of the pieces of text necessary for any one given service is a corollary of the concepts of common and proper texts.