Thursday, November 4, 2010

Calendar Suggestions for November and December

November and December often pose interesting questions about the calendar and which Divine Service to have when.

First at the beginning of November, there is the close juxtaposition of Reformation and All Saints. For most Double of the First Class (newer term: First Class) festivals, we celebrate on the day of the feast and avoid transferring to a Sunday. However, All Saints is one where I have acquiesced to the Sunday transference. Much of this decision is based on very parochial issues: we host a big dinner on the last Sunday in October and the whole parish is pretty tired after that. A weekday evening Mass for All Saints would simply not be well attended. So, like many others, this Sunday will be All Saints for us.

Then, toward the middle or end of the month, you will have to decide how to do the end of the Church Year. Father Eckardt, a true Anglophile at heart, advises the Michaelmas skip in the Gottesdienst calendar. I've never really liked this - but I can never stay for the Tuesday of Oktoberfest to argue against it!

In the parishes I serve, we follow the custom of using Trinity XXV-XXVII every year as the Third Last, Second Last, and Last Sundays of the Church Year. I prefer this custom as it restores the Advent theme of the second coming to a full six weeks - an old northern European custom often called Saint Martin's Lent. This year, due to the lateness of our All Saint's celebration, we will actually only have a Second Last and Last Sunday.

Others, like my neighbor Fr. Weedon, will be observing the LSB 1-year lectionary to the letter of the law: Trinity XXVII is the Last Sunday of the Church Year, but there is no Third nor Second Last.

The confirmation class at St. Paul's - Kewanee decorates the altar for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving presents a conundrum for those who observe a Mass that day: the appointed readings in LSB call for Luke 17:11-19 as the Gospel. However, you have just preached on that text in the summer (even the Separated Brethren of the Three Year Lectionary did so this summer). Now, every text has more to mine - but all the same, it would be nice to preach on a new Gospel. Furthermore, this selection by the lectionary committee (which goes back at least to TLH) for a day of thanksgiving has always struck me as a little odd: the Gospel is about faith, belief in the Son of God in the flesh, not about thanksgiving. Indeed, the man comes back to "give praise to God" not thanks. I'm sure the other nine were thankful, they just didn't believe...

At any rate, why not use the propers for a Harvest Festival? This is much more expressive of the day, I think, and will afford the pastor a new text to preach on.

Finally, there is perennial confusion among Lutherans about what do with the Sunday after Christmas when it falls on the 26th, 27th, and 28th: does one observe the First Sunday after Christmas or the saint day (St. Stephen, St. John, Holy Innocents)?

The precedence of one feast over another is one of those things that each jurisdiction does its own way. Several times throughout history the primate of a given jurisdiction has had to come in and clean up the calendar - there having been so many privileged observances that hardly any Sunday in Trinitytide ever got celebrated, for example.

LSB suggests which feasts should take precedence over Sunday observances on p. xi by giving in bold "principal feasts of Christ [that] are normally observed when they occur on a Sunday." The other feasts "may be observed according to local custom and preference."

Given the first rubric, it would appear that LSB means to cut back privileged feasts to only the feasts of Christ - no mere saint's day will take precedence over a Sunday. That is very restrictive when compared to historic calendars, but at least it offers a clear definition of precedence. However, that definition is violated as the Nativity of John the Baptist, St. Michael and All Angels, and All Saints are privileged as "principal feasts of Christ." This is just odd - or, rather, arbitrary. If the Nativity of John is a "feast of Christ" then why isn't St. Mary's day or the Conversion of St. Paul?

I would recommend observing the feasts included in LSB based on the class each feast has traditionally had in the Western Church. This is what we did for Daily Divine Service Book - which I hope will be out in time for Christmas...or Epiphany, maybe.

All that was just an introduction to say this: the First Sunday after Christmas is a Double of the Second Class while St. Stephen, St. John, and Holy Innocents are all Doubles of the First Class. Therefore, this year St. Stephen's day is appropriately celebrated on Sunday, December 26th.



  1. Would that our parish had so many children to decorate my altar!

    One difficulty with moving All Saints to the ensuing Sunday--which I used to do--is that, in a shortened season such as this one, you miss the Gospel appointed for the third-last Sunday, and with it, the historic reading from Josephus regarding the fall of Jerusalem in ad 70. I always begin the sermon with that reading.

  2. We do the Josephus thing on Trinity X.


  3. Thank you, I 'educated guessed' as much about the Calendar, but it helps to see the reasoning spelled out to back up my thoughts.


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