Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Of Calendars and Priorities

No room at the Calendar.

The historic Christian calendar is an adiaphoron. One man considers one day holier than another and one man considers all days equal. Let them both do it to the Lord's favor. Celebrate Christmas on Dec 25 or April 17 - or not at all. You are neither more nor less likely to end up in hell whatever you choose.

That is the truth. The bare truth. The truth of refined theological thought in philosophical repose. We mere mortals, however, must live in the flesh. And here in the flesh our fathers (even the man who wrote that bit about considering one day holier than another) worship on the first day of the week as dimanche, domingo, dies Domini. And we celebrate Christmas on Dec 25. If some don't want to, that is free. But surely it would also be against the law of Christian love for a Christian boss to disregard his brother's wish to worship on Dec 25 and require poor ol' Bob Cratchet to come in as usual - to require him to regard Dec 25 as just another day while he wishes to keep it as more holy than others.

At any rate...this came to mind as I had some trouble scheduling liturgical assistants for this Wednesday. It would seem that some required workshop or another at one of our Synod's institutions of higher learning could find no other night than January 6. Nothing going on that night anyway.

Perhaps this is just the last indication that the celebration of non-Sunday festivals is dead. Epiphany, Ascension....how long before Christmas is transferred to a Sunday regularly?

Again: all this is free in Christ. But I can't help thinking that an important battle of priorities has been lost nonetheless. I don't think it's Gospel freedom that's driving this...though it will no doubt be used as an excuse.



  1. My parish makes 4 such moves each year (and has for a long time):
    St. Michael's
    All Saints

    The days that are still observed on their days by more than a handful of parishioners are:

    Ash Wednesday and Midweeks of Lent
    Maundy Thursday
    Good Friday
    Vigil of Easter
    Thanksgiving Day (Liturgical feast no, but still very popular)
    Midweeks of Advent
    Christmas Eve and Day
    New Year's Eve

    Of these, the most "endangered" as far as dropping numbers are just Ascension and Circumcision.

    FWIW from a neighbor.

  2. Oh, we all suffer from this to one degree or another. Reformation and All Saints are the one's we transfer.

    But it is especially sad to see the First Class Festivals of Our Lord get pushed about. We are missing out on a grand function of the Calendar: ordering our time by eternity and proclaiming our freedom from the mundane. Religion is more and more safely boxed in to one hour on Sunday. What does it say that a mundane vicarage workshop is held on Epiphany?


  3. It says: "Epiphany? What's Epiphany?" :(

  4. Would someone be so kind as to explain the historical-liturgical significance of St. Michael's? I have never been at a place where this was treated as one of the major festivals. How does it fit into the Church Year?

  5. St. Michael's teaches us that God's messengers are really far from effeminate, infantile, or playful when it comes to protecting the things of God, including the Divine Service. +MSM

  6. Fr. Curtis-
    come on, don't you know that meetings are far, far more important that masses?

    OK, I here pledge never to translate the Epiphany of our Lord or His Ascension. I really don't care if anyone shows up but me, the organist and the altar boys (note: not girls Curtis). Of course as long as Epiphany is on a weekday someone will always show up for the Morning Epiphany Mass (we have two 9am and 7:30pm) because school is in session again.

  7. Here is the wrestling point for me - would it be better to celebrate these weekdays feasts, especially ones like Epiphany and Ascension transferred so that the weak in faith (to weak to make it during the week) may hear these important Gospels - or stick to it hoping against hope that someday twenty years down the road the parish will finally get it and order their calendar around the church seasons.

    I have at present chosen the later, but the temptation, and pastoral concern, for the first abounds each year.

  8. Ball,

    They are candle lighters...not altar boys. It's a symbol of Mary bring the Light of the world into the world. Or something.


    Yes, that's the struggle. What I've done with both Epiphany and Ascension is try to bring bast the festivities to the Feast. We have a King Cake party after Epiphany, incense at the service, a guest preacher. At Ascension it's bird cookies, an open house, guest preacher. We also usually invite another neighboring parish or two to celebrate with us.


  9. Great ideas Heath, thanks. It is so joy filled - and fun - to dig into our traditions and roots to truly redeem the time. To celebrate a feast with real incarnate festivities.

  10. I'll be honest -- I transfer Ascension because:

    1. There was no history here of observing the Ascension.
    2. The John 15-16 stretch of the 1 year series gets rather repetitive by then.

    I would submit that it is probably a good idea to transfer the feasts if there is no history of celebrating the particular feast, in order to teach what the feast is. . . and then it might make sense why suddenly pastor is wanting us to come to church in the middle of the week. It can serve as a nice introduction.

  11. Fr. Brown-
    two comments, tongue in cheek then a real comment.

    1. Get off the pope's lectionary, and you don't have to worry about that John issue.

    2. The folks in OK need to know that there is more to church than the dust of OK. Our Lord Jesus Christ Ascended into heaven on a Thursday, 40 days after he rose from the dead. It is from the Bible folks. We are in the Bible belt. Let's celebrate what the Bible says happened - or don't ya'll believe in inerrancy?

    Although in the post above I was being a bit silly, I really don't think it takes much to introduce to a parish a Festival of our Lord such as The Epiphany or The Ascension. A nice chat with the elders and a evangelically worded church newsletter should do the trick, and if you want to be really smooth, you be like Curtis and invite everyone who shows up over to your house for a little party afterward. Perhaps the people who might be most put out are the altar guild and the organist. I would sit down with the organist and talk about the importance of the Feast and really work with that person on it. As for the altar guild, these dear ones should be prepared at least a year in advance about the topic. Then, they, you and the saints who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be rejoicing with exceedingly great joy on the day of the Feast.


  12. I came to a congregation with no history of non-Sunday services except Christmas (and only the Eve of that Nativity at that). So I will admit to doing the transfer of Epiphany because of its significanse. I will admit to doing the transfer of other feasts and festivals to the Thursday regularly scheduled Eucharist. Since it is a morning service, I do observe Ascension at an evening time. Though it is not fully satisfactory, it was a stretch to reinvest the calendar with Christmas Day, Ash Wednesday, Lenten, Holy Week, and Advent services. I try to build on these a little at a time but it has taken my 17 years here to get these non-Sundays accepted as routine... a benefit of longer pastorates...

  13. Rev. Brown,

    The historic-liturgical significance of St. Michael's day, formerly designated as The Dedication of St. Michael, is the anniversary of the dedication of the basilica of St. Michael in Rome. It came to be considered an appropriate day upon which to celebrate all of the angels. Hence, the current common title of St. Michael and All Angels.

  14. I was just discussing this with my husband on the way home from the Epiphany service on Wednesday night. I had mentioned to my mom via e-mail that we were going to the Epiphany service and Jack was ushering. She responded (to paraphrase): What are you talking about, why would you go to church when it's not Sunday, if we did that here, no one would come. In fact, my parents' LCMS church in Ludington no longer has a Christmas Day service since, as I've been told when questioning the decision, "no one wants to go to church on Christmas. They want to relax and be with their families." OK, so this comes from a woman who was born and raised in an LCMS church and I guarantee you that everyone in the congregation would feel the exact same way. This mentality, I think, results from the fact that Christianity is no longer seen as making public truth claims and, therefore, why bother spending more than 1 hour per week on what is essentially a privatized social club of aging baby boomers singing bad music from the 1980s? I fear that churches that only offer services on Sunday subtly reinforce this cultural mindset. Of course, I admit to being biased as the way that Christianity gets boxed into one hour on Sunday drives me completely crazy. From a lay perspective, please don't give us no options besides the box! I understand the evangelical concern and, before I get accused of having 'no heart for the lost', perhaps Divine Services could be offered on the actual day they fall along with transferring the readings? In any case, even if no one had been at church beyond my husband and I, I still would have wanted to attend an Epiphany service on Epiphany.

  15. We were surprised this year by the numbers - we had our largest Christmas Day service - ever. We had over 12 guests on a day relegated usually to hardcore church members. Later we found out we were also the only church, besides the Roman Catholic Church, in our county that had a Christmas Day service - people are seeking the reason for the season.

  16. The Annunciation of our LORD is the most neglected feast. Even if it falls on a Sunday, it is not observed due to the fact it occurs during Lent.


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