'When to Celebrate the Annunciation'
Researched and written by John Elliott, Cathedral volunteer
At the November 1909 meeting of the Salisbury Dean & Chapter there was much debate about when to celebrate the Annunciation in 1910 as 25 March – the normal feast day - fell on Good Friday just as it did in 2016. In an attempt to resolve the problem the Dean and Chapter referred back to the medieval “Salisbury Use”. This stated that if the feast fell on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or Easter, or any day in Easter week, then it should be transferred until after the octave of Easter and celebrated in the week after Low Sunday - 'on whatever day is most fitting for its observance, namely when it can secure both its evensongs'.
They also recounted what the position was in the Church of Rome. Here the rule had been to transfer the feast to the Monday after Low Sunday (Dominica in Albis depositis, which means Low Sunday, was written immediately after this). However, they noted that by a decree of 11 December 1897 the Roman breviary changed the arrangement to the same as the “Salisbury Use”. This meant that for 1910 the “Salisbury Use” required the transfer of the Annunciation to the Thursday after the first Sunday after Easter with its first Evensong on the Wednesday, the Monday and Tuesday being blocked by the celebration of St Ambrose's day on the 4th and St Richard's day which had been transferred to the 5th to make way for the Sunday after Easter on the 3rd. However, after much discussion they decided to transfer the feast of the Annunciation to the Tuesday after Low Sunday.
In 2016 both Salisbury Cathedral and the Roman Church celebrated the Annunciation on Monday 4 April, after Low Sunday, that is in accordance with the Roman practice pre 1897.
[The Canon Precentor Tom Clammer comments: Modern liturgical practice, as we saw this year, is to transfer the feast to the nearest available weekday after Low Sunday, normally therefore Monday of Low Week. I chose to keep the first Evensong on Sunday evening as well, with the procession to the Trinity Chapel, which is optional in the modern rite.]