A Chronology of Marian Feasts
Liturgical devotion to the Blessed Virgin began in the East.
The Council of Ephesus (431) was instrumental in codifying the cult of Mary which already existed.
The liturgical celebration of the Theotokos (Mary, the Mother of God) was first observed in Jerusalem, its date being August 15.
Eventually the theme for this feast changed from the maternity of Mary to her Dormition (falling asleep).
From there, with much additional theological overlay, developed the feast of the Assumption of Mary.
The Roman Rite, though, traces its Marian liturgical celebrations, as might be expected, to the worship in and around Rome.
To see the development of these feasts, a simple chronology will suffice:
Note: The word "feast" is used in this chronology in only a generic sense, and does not connote any status in the present liturgical hierarchy of solemnity, feast, obligatory memorial, and optional memorial.
- 7th century: The Natale sanctæ Mariæ (Anniversary of Holy Mary) was established for January 1; considered the first Marian feast of the Roman liturgy.
- 7th century: The feast of Saint Simeon (the Greeks call this the Hypapante or "Meeting of the Lord") is established for February 2; the feast of the Dormition of Holy Mary is established for August 15.
- late 7th century: Pope Sergius orders a solemn procession from Saint Hadrian in the Roman Forum to Saint Mary Major on four days: Saint Simeon (February 2), the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25), the Dormition of Holy Mary (August 15) and the Nativity of Holy Mary (September 8).
- 740: The Evangeliary uses the title Solemnitas de pausatione sanctæ Mariæ ("Solemnity of the Resting [or Death] of Holy Mary") for August 15.
- 770: The Gregorian Sacramentary uses the title "Assumption" for the feast on August 15.
- 891: The Liber pontificalis maintains the Greek name "Dormition" for the August 15 feast.
- 900?: The feast of the Annunciation of the Lord takes on a more Marian tone and is called the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary; likewise, the Meeting of the Lord (Hypapante) becomes the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
- 1000: A hymn speaks of an evening procession for the vigil of August 15, wherein the people of Rome accompany an image of Christ from the Lateran Basilica to the Forum and then to Saint Mary Major, where it is welcomed by a Marian icon, Salus populi Romani ("Salvation/Health of the Roman People"); early in the morning the pope celebrates Mass.
- 1244: Pope Innocent III honors the feast of the Nativity of Mary with an octave day on September 15.
- 1372: Pope Gregory XI institutes a vigil for the feast of the Nativity of Mary.
- 1372: Pope Gregory XI extends the feast of the Presentation of Mary to the West; in the East it is called the Entrance of the Blessed Mother of God into the Temple.
- 1389: Pope Urban VI establishes the feast of the Visitation of Mary on July 2.
- 1441: The Council of Basel promotes the feast of the Visitation of Mary and provides a special Mass text.
- 1477: Sixtus IV establishes the feast of the Conception of Mary for the Diocese of Rome.
- 1568: Pope Saint Pius VI places the feast of Our Lady of the Snow on the universal calendar; the feast (August 5) grew out of the miraculous origins of the plans for the original Basilica of Saint Mary Major.
- 1570: Pope Saint Pius V suppresses the torchlight procession on the vigil of the Assumption of Mary.
- 1571: Pope Saint Pius V establishes the feast of Our Lady of Victory for the first Sunday of October in thanksgiving for the Austrian victory over the Turks at Lepanto, such being attributed to the recitation of the Rosary.
- 1683: Pope Blessed Innocent XI inscribes the feast of the Holy Name of Mary in the Roman Rite calendar, set for the Sunday after September 8 (Nativity of Mary), in remembrance of the liberation of Vienna by the Polish Army under Jan Sobieski on September 12, 1683.
- 1696: Pope Innocent XII extends the feast of Our Lady of Mercy to the entire Roman Rite; the celebration has origins as the patronal feast of the Order of Mercedarians.
- 1708: Pope Clement XI extends the feast of the Conception of Mary to the entire Roman Rite.
- 1716: Pope Clement XI extends the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (formerly Our Lady of Victory) to the entire Roman Rite.
- 1726: Pope Benedict XIII enters the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the Roman Calendar; the feast can be traced back to 1380 when the Carmelite order instituted it in thanksgiving for a resolution of difficulties arising from the order's establishing itself in the West after leaving the Holy Land.
- 1727: Pope Benedict XIII assigns the feast of the Sorrows of Mary to the Roman Calendar on the Friday before Palm Sunday; the feast had monastic origins influenced by Saints Anselm and Bernard, and was celebrated in many countries of Europe before being established in Rome.
- 1817: Pope Pius VII extends another feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary to the entire Roman Rite, celebrated on the Sunday following September 14 (Exaltation of the Holy Cross).
- 1854: The title of the feast on December 8 is changed to the Immaculate Conception of Mary after the dogmatic definition by Pope Pius IX.
- 1863: Pope Saint Pius X commissions a new Mass text, Gaudens gaudebo for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, using earlier texts from the time of Pope Sixtus IV.
- 1880: Pope Leo XIII mandates the celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (a feast with roots back to 1646) for the diocese of Rome on the 22nd of August.
- 1907: Pope Saint Pius X enters the feast of the Apparition of the Immaculate Virgin Mary at Lourdes in the Roman Calendar for February 11, honoring the 50th anniversary of the apparitions.
- 1908: The Roman Gradual contains many Marian feasts, some celebrated only locally; among them, Translation of the Holy House of Loreto (December 10), Expectation of the Childbirth of Mary (December 18), Marriage of Mary and Joseph (January 23), Our Lady of Good Counsel (April 26), Mary, Help of Christians (May 24), Most Pure Heart of Mary (third Sunday after Pentecost), Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Sunday before June 24), Maternity of Mary (second Sunday of October), Purity of Mary (third Sunday of October), Patronage of Mary (second Sunday of November), Manifestation of the Miraculous Medal (November 27).
- 1913: Pope Saint Pius X assigns the feast of the Holy Name of Mary to September 12, rather than the Sunday after the Nativity of Mary; the feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary to September 15, the day after the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross; and the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary to October 7, the date of the battle of Lepanto.
- 1920: The calendar stands essentially as that authorized by Pope Saint Pius V, and reformed by Pope Saint Pius X and Pope Benedict XV.
Pertinent feasts and Marian feasts are listed here:
- January 1,the Circumcision of the Lord and the Octave Day of Christmas
- February 2, the Purification of the BVM
- February 11, the Apparition of the Immaculate Virgin Mary
- March 25, the Anunnciation of the BVM
- Friday before Palm Sunday, the Seven Sorrows of the BVM
- July 2, the Visitation of the BVM
- July 16, Our Lady of Mount Carmel
- August 5, the Dedication of the Bsilica of Our Lady of the Snow
- August 15, the Assumption of the BVM, with both a vigil and an octave
- August 22, the Octave of the Assumption
- September 8, the Nativity of the BVM, with simple octave
- September 12, the Most Holy Name of Mary
- September 15, the Seven Sorrows of the BVM
- September 24, Our Lady of Mercy
- October 7, the Most Holy Rosary of the BVM
- November 21, the Presentation of the BVM
- December 8, the Immaculate Conception of the BVM, with both a vigil and an octave
- December 15, the Octave of the Immaculate Conception
- 1931: Pope Pius XI institutes the feast of the Maternity of Mary as a memorial of the 1500th anniversary of the Council of Ephesus, celebrated on October 11.
- 1944: Pope Pius XII, after consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, extends this feast thoughout the Roman Rite.
- 1954: On the centenary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Pius XII establishes the feast of the Queenship of Mary, to be celebrated on May 31.
- 1963: Changes from the 1920 Calendar listed above include:
- The Queenship of Mary is celebrated on May 31.
- The vigil of the Assumption is retained but the octave is dropped, and August 22 is now celebrated as the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- The simple octave for the Nativity of the BVM is dropped.
- The title Our Lady of Mercy becomes Our Lady of Ransom.
- The Maternity of Mary is celebrated on October 11.
- The vigil and octave for the Immaculate Conception of the BVM are dropped.
- 1969: The solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord and the feast of the Presentation of the Lord take on their original tone and titles as feasts of the Lord.
- 1969: The calendar reforms of the Second Vatican Council removes all minor Marian feasts from the Universal Calendar, leaving the following.
Some of the titles and dates have been changed from the 1963 calendar.
- The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, solemnity (December 8)
- The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, solemnity (January 1, Octave Day of Christmas)
- Our Lady of Lourdes, optional memorial (February 11)
- The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, feast (May 31)
- Immaculate Heart of Mary, optional memorial (Saturday after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus)
- Our Lady of Mount Carmel, optional memorial (July 16)
- Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary in Rome, optional memorial (August 5)
- The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, solemnity (August 15, with vigil)
- The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, obligatory memorial (August 22)
- The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, feast (September 8)
- Our Lady of Sorrows, obligatory memorial (September 15)
- Our Lady of the Rosary, obligatory memorial (October 7)
- Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, obligatory memorial (November 21)
There are a few differences between this Universal Calendar for the entire Roman Rite and the Particular Calendar in force in the United States.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated as a feast on December 12 in the U.S.
Mary, under this title, is the patroness of the Americas.
The celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the Saturday after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is raised from an optional to an obligatory memorial in the United States.