The Catholic University of America

Rev. James George Sabak Defense

Final Examination of Rev. James George Sabak, OFM
For the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Wednesday, January 18, 2012 1:00p.m., Caldwell Room 125


Dominic E. Serra, S.L.D.


"The Theological Significance of “Keeping Vigil” in Rome from the Fourth to the Eighth Centuries"

This study examines the nature of Roman pre-Eucharistic vigil liturgies incorporated within the earliest extant calendars of Roman practice.  It situates this examination between the fourth and the eighth centuries, a period during which the Roman Rite developed it current structure.  This study employs a detailed and interpretive text-by-text historical-critical and textual-critical analysis of and commentary on the orations, scripture lessons, chants, rubrics, and structure of the liturgical celebration of those feasts that merited a vigil as found in the sacramentaries, lectionaries, antiphonals, and ordines of Roman provenance.  Part one of the study explores the organization and meaning behind the vigils associated with the uniquely Roman Quarterly Fast periods or Embertides.  Part two examines the complex development and multidimensional character of the vigils of the Paschal Cycle – Easter and Pentecost.  The study uncovers the features unique to Roman papal and presbyteral liturgical forms, thus confirming some and challenging other long held assumptions.  Part three investigates the vigils found within the celebration of Christmas in the Roman calendar, and evidence of a vigil associated with the feast of the Epiphany.  This part of the study treats the evolution of the four liturgies connected with the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord and its relationship to Epiphany in Roman practice.  Part four offers an analysis of the meaning and significance of the sanctoral vigils that became normative in Roman practice: John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, Lawrence, Assumption, and Andrew, and considers the evidence for a vigil associated with the Ascension of the Lord.  The sanctoral vigils are studied for what they tell us of primitive vigil-keeping identified with the feasts of these saints.  The study offers several conclusions, among which shows that the practice of keeping a pre-Eucharistic vigil in Rome was composed of at least three different “types.”  In addition, the study determines that the Embertide vigils are not based on imitating agrarian models of pre-Christian Roman practices, but rather on an eschatological rendering of the year punctuated by the solstices and equinoxes, and thus underscores the eschatological significance of all liturgical vigils in the city of Rome.