1. The Calendar of the Church Year: Never, never on a Sunday!
The directions for The Calendar of the Church Year (pages 15 through 18 in the Book of Common Prayer 1979) instruct that the Principal Feasts of Easter Day, Ascension Day, the Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany “take precedence of any other day or observance”. In other words, if another commemoration or holy day in the Calendar falls on one of these days, the Principal Feast in observed instead. Or, if one of the Principal Feasts on a fixed date (e.g., All Saints’ Day on November 1) falls on a Sunday, the propers appointed for the Principal Feast are used at that Sunday’s eucharistic liturgies, rather than those appointed for that particular Sunday after Pentecost. Otherwise, “all Sundays of the year are feasts of our Lord Jesus Christ”, and in addition to the Principal Feasts already listed, there are only three feasts that take precedence of a Sunday: the Holy Name (January 1), the Presentation (February 2), and the Transfiguration (August 6). Otherwise, the Calendar gives us these directions (with a couple of my own explanatory notes in [brackets]):
All other Feasts of our Lord, and all other Major Feasts appointed on fixed days in the Calendar, when they occur on a Sunday, are normally transferred to the first convenient open day within the week [following that Sunday]. When desired, however, the Collect, Preface, and one or more of the Lessons appointed for the Feast may be substituted for those of the Sunday, but not from the Last Sunday after Pentecost through the First Sunday after the Epiphany [i.e., Christ the King Sunday through Advent and Christmastide up through the Baptism of our Lord], or from the Last Sunday after the Epiphany through Trinity Sunday [i.e., through Lent and Eastertide up through the Day of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday].
An exception is allowed for the feast of the Dedication of a Church and the feast of its patron or title, which may be observed or transferred to a Sunday, except in the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Easter. So, for example, a Church of St Benedict would celebrate its patronal feast (of St Benedict of Nursia) on the Sunday on or nearest July 11, or the Church of the Holy Cross its titular feast on the Sunday on or nearest September 14. Pity the Church of St Nicholas, whose patronal feast day (December 6) always falls within Advent, and the Church of St Patrick, whose patronal feast day (March 17) always falls within Lent! They are left to weekday celebrations of their feasts.
No other provision is made for Holy Days and Days of Optional Observance (including Commemorations of saints that are not Major Feasts) to be observed on a Sunday, though by some creative reading of the direction under Holy Days at the bottom of page 16, the rector of our former parish and I were able one year to justify a Sunday celebration of the feast of St Michael and All Angels!
So what does this mean for this weblog?
Basically, it means that I will continue to post the commemoration(s) for each day, including on Sundays. But when posting Holy Days that are not Principal Feasts and Commemorations of saints that fall on Sundays in the Church Year, I will include only the biographical sketch and the appointed Collect, and will not include the lessons and the psalm, out of deference to the appointed propers (lessons and psalm) for that Sunday. This is the case for today, with the posting of the Commemoration of Bishop V. Samuel Azariah.
Why even post these days that fall on Sunday, then? Simply this: my purpose is to provide a diary of saints’ days and to introduce many of these heroes of the faith to people who might otherwise know little or nothing about them.
2. Why these commemorations and not others?
The somewhat vaguely stated purpose of For All the Saints is to provide a diary of Holy Days and other Commemorations throughout the Church Year that fall on fixed dates. The commemorations that are chosen come from these sources: the Calendar of The Episcopal Church (USA), the Calendar of the Anglican Church of Canada (as found in the Book of Alternative Services), the Calendar of the Church of England (as found in the 1662 Prayer Book and in Common Worship), Celebrating the Saints (a book compiled by Robert Atwell from the Calendars of the Church of England, the Church of Ireland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Church in Wales), as well as the New Book of Festivals and Commemorations (prepared by Philip H. Pfatteicher as a “proposed common calendar of saints” for Lutherans and Anglicans). I also have chosen some commemorations for medieval saints not found elsewhere from the calendar found in The Oxford Book of Saints. Why these?
Because, while I am currently an Anglican Christian within the Anglican Mission in the Americas (and so a part of the Anglican Church of Rwanda), my desire is to provide a sanctoral diary for Anglicans primarily within the United States and Canada (recognizing that a number of the parishes of the Anglican Mission and of the Anglican Church of North America are in Canada), and because Anglicanism’s roots are in the reformed catholic Christianity of the British Isles, it seems fitting to include at least some of the sanctoral commemorations of those Churches (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales). As a recognition of the global character of Anglicanism, and the fact that Anglicanism has found new life and vitality in the Churches of the Global South, I have sought additional commemorations of African, Asian, Latin American, and Oceanic Anglicans where they can be found. One note, however: most of the Churches of the Anglican Communion have revised their own sanctoral calendars beyond that of the 1662 Prayer Book.
Additionally, because the Calendar of the Lutheran Book of Worship (prepared for the precedent denominations that joined as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and for the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod) includes a number of post-Reformation Christians not of Anglican provenance whose influence on Anglicans has been significant (like Isaac Watts), as well as preserving the commemorations of important pre-Reformation saints who appear in medieval English sanctoral calendars (like Henry, 12th century bishop of Uppsala and martyr), some of the commemorations have been chosen from these. I should note that the commemorations in the calendar of The Episcopal Church have increasingly recognized post-Reformation Christians outside Anglicanism as well, with recent provisional additions of Karl Barth, Bartholomé de Las Casas, Nathan Söderblom, Lottie Moon, and others. A sanctorale, or Calendar of saints’ days commemorations, must be truly catholic and not parochial (or worse, denominational) with regards to tradition within the Church, if it truly comprehends what we confess in the Apostles’ Creed; viz., the communion of saints.
One note, however, and I admit that I here am exercising private judgment against corporate ecclesiastical judgment. I think, and I am not alone in thinking so, that a number of the additions to the Calendar of The Episcopal Church have been motivated more by secular notions than necessarily by the Christian lives and witness of the persons added to the Calendar, at least when compared to those previously added to Anglican calendars. Not that those saints in the Calendar for centuries were perfect in themselves. They were not, and their imperfect lives were being perfected in Christ, such that they are signs of grace to us. Nor would this be the first time that secular political motivations were mixed with more evangelical reasons for adding a person to the Calendar or to the Canon of the Mass (I’m always been a little uncomfortable with Edward the Confessor’s being included, and the inclusion of Charles the First in the 1662 Prayer Book Calendar – well). But – at least in the case of St Edward the Confessor and others – their inclusion has stood the test of the Church’s judgment over the centuries. This is not the case with a number of the additions to the Calendar of The Episcopal Church (USA) of persons from the 20th century, however. Additionally, some of the persons added can demonstrably be shown either never to have confessed orthodox Christian faith or to have abandoned that faith. I don’t presume to judge the persons with regard to whether or not they will enter the kingdom of God. I can presume to say that they should not commemorated as examples of Christian faith and witness. All of this to say that a number of the more recent additions to the Calendar of The Episcopal Church will not be found in the sanctoral diary of this weblog. However, not all of those omitted from my diary should be assumed to have been so judged. Sometimes newer, provisional commemorations simply will not be included because they are just that: provisional, not having (yet) stood the test of time.
3. Breaking one piece thereof from another
One of the liturgical reforms in both the English and the Lutheran Reformations was the significant trimming of the Calendar. The reasons for this trimming were both theological and practical. First, by the 16th century the Calendar of the Western Church had become so crammed with saints’ days that the Daily Office lectionaries were constantly interrupted, and the through-course reading of Scripture that had characterized the ancient office lectionary (lectio continua) was essentially lost. Trimming was necessary to restore a more continuous daily reading of Scripture. Second, some of the saints added through the years had a frankly legendary character about them (revisions of the Calendar along these lines also began being carried out by the Roman Catholic Church after the Catholic Reformation of the 16thcentury). The first revisions of the Book of Common Prayer reduced the saints’ days only to those of the Apostles and of persons in the New Testament closely associated with them. The 1662 revision of the Prayer Book saw the restoration of a number of commemorations of other New Testament saints as well as a (small) number of patristic and medieval saints, though few were provided with propers (collects, lessons, psalms).
In our more recent additions to the Calendar, and in preparing such sanctoral diaries as this weblog, we do have to be careful not to crowd the Calendar such that the general movement of the Daily Office lectionary and of the weekly and weekday eucharistic lectionary be lost. In part, this means that sometimes, when more than one commemoration is appointed for a particular day, I may choose only one of them for inclusion in the diary. In that case the judgment will be made by these criteria: New Testament first, then sub-apostolic and patristic Church, then medieval Church, then Anglican (admittedly, I may sometimes choose to list an Anglican with wider influence instead of an obscure medieval saint), then non-Anglican (unless the non-Anglican has actually had a greater influence on the Anglican Churches, or on the Church Catholic, than the Anglican). At other times, however, I may include more than one commemoration on a day, as I recently did on December 29 (when I did not drop the commemoration of St Thomas of Canterbury because of the transference of Holy Innocents to that day) and on December 31 (when I noted no less than three Commemorations, one patristic, one medieval, one Anglican).
4. And finally…
Some commemorations, particularly those note taken from the Calendar of The Episcopal Church or from Dr Pfatteicher’s book, will not have propers appointed. In those cases, I will include only a Collect from the Common of Saints, found on pages 195-199 and pages 246-250 in the Book of Common Prayer (1979).