Q. 1. What is a Solemnity?
A. 1. Within the liturgy (the celebration of the Holy Mass), there are three ranks of liturgical celebration. There is the Solemnities, which is the highest of the three, and than the Feasts and the Memorials.
As on Sundays, Catholics are required to attend Mass and to avoid work and business that hinder divine worship or suitable relaxation of mind and body.
All holy days of obligation have the rank of solemnity at least at local level, though not necessarily holding that rank in the General Roman Calendar. With the exception of the solemnities of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Annunciation of the Lord and the Birth of John the Baptist, all the solemnities inscribed in the General Roman Calendar are mentioned as holy days of obligation in canon 1246 of the Code of Canon Law, but are not necessarily all observed in a particular country.
Solemnities are the celebrations of great importance. Each one begins on the evening before with first vespers (evening prayer). Several of the solemnities have their own Vigil Mass. On these days, both the Gloria and the Creed are recited. Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation (which in the United States are the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, Ascension, Assumption, All Saints, Immaculate Conception, and Christmas) are always considered solemnities. Other examples of solemnities include the Solemnity of St. Joseph, on March 19, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on the Friday after the Feast of Corpus Christi, and the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul on June 29.
During the celebration of the Holy Mass on a Solemnity, the Creed is recited and there are two scriptural readings, not one, before the Gospel.
When a solemnity falls on a Friday, the obligation to abstain from meat or some other food as determined by the episcopal conference does not apply.