Thursday, May 24, 2012

Feasts of Trinitytide

The Western Church's calendar ranks the various days of the year according to the precedence one obervance takes over another. If you care to follow this traditional precedence rather than just the somewhat loosely defined precedence listed in LSB's calendar (which also happens to be rather idiosyncratic), then there is only one feast day that falls on a Sunday this summer: June 24, The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

While July 22, St. Mary Magdalene, also falls on a Sunday, this feast does not traditionally rank as a feast that takes precedence over a Sunday in Trinitytide. If you choose to elevate it to that level in your local custom, the traditional propers as assigned in Daily Divine Service Book will certainly give you a chance to preach about the DaVinci Code. . . 

Especially if you serve in a parish that does not have a midweek service to catch the big observances that fall during the week, you may wish to consider transferring some of the First Class or Major feasts to Sundays, especially in the "long green stretch" of Trinitytide. These are:

June 11, St. Barnabas
June 29, Sts. Peter and Paul
July 2, The Visitation
July 25, St. James the Elder
August 15, St. Mary
August 24, St. Bartholomew
August 29, Beheading of St. John the Baptist
September 14, Holy Cross Day
September 21, St. Matthew
September 29, St. Michael & All Angels

I would not recommend transferring all of these days - that would interrupt the flow of Trinitytide. But especially in summers like the one ahead of us where only one feast falls on a Sunday, transferring in one or two others to Sundays is helpful. 

Full propers for all of these feasts are included in Daily Divine Service Book



  1. Pr. H.R.,

    When I created Lex in 2000, I began posting a calendar based upon the guidelines of The Lutheran Hymnal. At that time I noted that Sundays, especially during the "long green stretch", were of two ranks - Privileged and non-Priveleged. Therefore Sundays after Trinity may yield to feasts of saints and include a commemoration of the Sunday after Trinity by also including the Sunday collect. Feasts of 1st and 2nd class may replace the Trinity Sunday; but not lesser feasts. I am not familiar with the LSB calendar, nor with the idiosyncratic nature thereof.

    I welcome your comments re. my understanding of the ranking of the Sundays after Trinity that they may yield to celebrations to the saints.

  2. Deacon,

    Yes, TLH and LSB approach things differently, and I'm encouraging us to think in yet a third way - more along the lines of Reformation era, Western grading of feasts: simple, double, major, first class, second class, etc. Lutheranism has always had local calendars - that is, in each jurisdiction in Germany (or Sweden, Norway, etc.) a different pattern was followed in the governing Church Order. In contemporary North American Lutheranism, our jurisdictions don't present binding calendars at all, so we are all are on our own.

    I appreciate very much the work you have done at Lex Orandi and following your suggestions would make for a very appropriate, reverent, and edifying parish calendar.

    LSB's calendar suggests a certain number of feasts as worthy of replacing Sundays as "principal feasts of Christ" but then the list of these feasts is hard to reconcile to that rationale. For example, why is the Nativity of John the Baptist a "principal feast of Christ" but not The Holy Innocents? Why is St. Michael a "principal feast of Christ" but not St. Joseph, Guardian of Jesus?

    For my part, this year we are planning to observe the Nativity of St. John the Baptist on July 24 and Mary Magdalene on July 22. The other feasts we plan to pick up at our Wednesday spoken Divine Service.


  3. It's been long enough ago that I don't have all the data ready at hand, but the feasts that we identified as "principal feasts of Christ" were not arbitrarily chosen, but based upon precedents identified by Dean Reuning and in Roger Pittelko's STM Thesis. There were certain feasts that stood out as having been given special prominence and deference in the historic Lutheran practice, so far as our data indicated, and so we likewise preferenced those (albeit loosely, as you indicate). We did not presume to do that in the case of St. Joseph, Guardian of Jesus, for example, because that was a "new feast" to our LCMS sanctoral cycle. By comparison, the Feast of St. Michael & All Angels has been given considerable attention by Lutherans for many generations. Where we invented a bit of a pickle is with the Feast of the Annunciation, which the Church has always honored with the highest reverence, but which should not be given precedence over any of the Sundays on which it might actually occur.

    1. I think it is the terminology "feast *of Christ*" that causes the appearance of arbitrariness. Of course in a certain sense every feast is a "feast of Christ." But on the other hand, a reasonable reader could wonder how The Name of Jesus could be in the same category as a "feast of Christ" with St. Michael but not the The Holy Innocents. "Principal feasts of Christ" makes is sounds like a Christological criterion is being used, whereas the actually criterion, based on what you just wrote, sounds like it was actually historical usage.


    2. That's true. The nomenclature is a bit of a challenge. We specifically wanted to emphasize that, even the saints' days are actually feasts of Christ. I am often amazed at how often people, even those who ought to know better, view the sanctoral cycle as a departure from our usual Christological focus. Of course, anything can be abused in that way, but the saints are properly remembered with thanksgiving because of their faith and life in Christ, because it is Christ Himself who is manifest in their faith and life.

      But to return to the point at hand, yes, the criterion by which we identified the "principal feasts of Christ" was historical, and not an arbitrary attempt on our part to distinguish some occasions over others.

  4. I'll be doing St. John's Nativity out here in Butler, PA (after which I'll be off to Saint Louis for the English District Convention). I would do St. Mary Magdalene, but I'll be having a guest preacher because I'll be off on my honeymoon . . . though I can be convinced otherwise. Is there an Epistle reading given for it in DDSB or LSB? The other reason I wasn't going to do it was simply because I don't know what to put in that slot, since the traditional Epistle is Proverbs 31.

    1. DDSB, as is its wont, contains both the traditional and the LSB propers. The tradition Epistle is Song of Solomon 3: 1-5; 8: 6-7 and the traditional Gospel is Luke 7: 36-50. LSB uses Prov. 31, Acts 13: 26-31, and John 20:1-2, 10-18.

      This is a particularly striking example of the general tendencies in modern LCMS edits to the traditional propers. Since we can't "prove" that Mary Magdalene is the woman in Luke 7, that tradition is done away with. Since a reading from Song of Solomon in this instance requires a certain non-literal reading of that book, it is replaced with a text that is obviously about women (though a married woman, oddly enough for the patroness of nuns. . . ). And since we must have three readings, toss in something from Acts that goes with the idea of being a witness to the resurrection.

      The changes in the intervenient chants are also telling. We go from "Grace is poured ínto thy lips: * therefore God hath bléssed thee for éver. (Psalm 45: 2b)" to "Mary Magdalene came and tóld the discíples* that shé had séen the Lord." Again from the poetic to the prosaic - just as in the change from Song of Songs to Proverbs 31.

      Either way of observing Mary Magdalene is meet, right, and salutary. But the differences in the propers are so very telling and indicative of the spirits of the respective ages that assigned them.


    2. Actually, Heath, in this case you're reading more into the "changes" than was there, and, in fact, misinterpreting the choice of Proverbs 31. The committee considered a wide range of precedents for all of the sanctoral propers. We followed the lead of others in moving from Luke 7 to John 20, and, in doing so, we emphasized the point for which Mary Magdalene has been historically commemorated, especially in the East: She is the first witness of the Resurrection and the "apostle to the apostles." I believe that honor predates the later Roman identification of Mary with the woman in Luke 7 (but I could be remembering incorrectly).

      As far as Proverbs 31 is concerned, it needs to be read in exactly the same poetic way as the Song of Songs, in order to understand the rationale for choosing the text to go with St. Mary Magdalene. As I mentioned above, it is when Proverbs 31 is viewed in light of Christ and His Bride, the Church, that the connection to St. Mary Magdalene, as a faithful member of His Bride, becomes beautifully evident. Although I don't think of her as a "nun," the way in which nuns view their vows as a marriage to Christ seems apropos.

      With the Verse, we followed our general practice of choosing something from the Holy Gospel. I'm not sure I would call that prosaic. Witnessing the resurrected Christ, and being sent to give that testimony to the disciples, is quite a profound privilege. That it is a straightforward fact and historically true does not rob it of divine grace and glory, but belongs to the high honor that God has bestowed upon this dear woman.

    3. Rick,

      I'm sure that was the internal workings of the committee - but one has to have an ear for the Christian culture. Song of Songs is obviously poetical and non-literal in this context. Proverbs 31 is not so obviously poetical. If you don't believe me, check out any Christian book title that references Prov 31 from the last 50 years.

      And what is the depth of the tradition in reading Prov. 31 in the way you suggest? I honestly don't know. . .

      As I said - it's meet, right, and salutary to use Prov. 31 and all the LSB propers. But as you just wrote - arguing adiaphora is arguing about degrees of usefulness, not right and wrong.

      I guess the question I start with on most of these decisions is - why change it in the first place? Here is an old feast that Lutherans observed after the Reformation. Why bother changing it at all? And yes, when one decides to change something of such long standing, folks will analyze each and every decision.

      Nor am I a fan of importing ideas from Eastern Christianity or of playing the "older tradition" card. We are of the Western Church and have our own tradition that is worthy of use. We don't need to go begging from Constantinople.

      I stick by the characterization of the change in the verse - it's poetry to prose: quite literally!

      I like the quirkiness of many of these old feasts - like insisting that Luke 7 is about Mary Magdalene. I love that that could be wrong, and we all know it, but we use the text anyway. I love reading Song of Songs in reference to a celibate saint. The LSB propers make more sense, they are more rational: you have a rational explanation of all the changes. In that, they represent the spirit of our age. But I like the old connections to another age of poetry and fancy. This is part of the reason we use a lectionary - and I think any modern updating always runs the risk of negating this particular bit of the lectionary's utility: taking us away from our age and its prejudices.


    4. I won't argue opinions, Heath. I was simply clarifying the way we went about our work. The Eastern calendars were among those we consulted, but I did not mean to suggest that in this case we simply went from a Western to an Eastern precedent. The change in the Gospel, as I recall, was made first by Rome and then followed by other western churches. But it does also coincide with the way the church historically honored St. Mary for her role as the first witness of the Resurrection. That isn't borrowing from Constantinople, but simply following what the Holy Gospels tell us concerning this woman.

      I don't begrudge you or anyone making use of the historic western lections. But I'm surprised that, while you "love reading Song of Songs in reference to a celibate saint," you aren't able to appreciate the very similar irony in reading Proverbs 31 for the occasion. I honestly don't recall, off hand, where that choice originated, but I still think it is a great lection for the day.

    5. Rick,

      As I said, I can see the Prov 31 working in just the way you note. I was simply ignorant of the history of interpretation there. So that is something I learned from the LSB choices here. It still appears odd to me, but I concede that that is because I am steeped in modern readings of Prov 31.

      My overall point is this - to change something received is to begin an argument. To change propers is to say that there is something lacking in them and that we can do better today. So that action is the opening of an argument. When it comes to things liturgical in general, I think a good motto is "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." I don't think the old set of propers for Mary Magdalene is broke. . .


  5. Do you not like Proverbs 31, Brian? Or am I missing your intent. Understood correctly, in view of Christ and His Church, I love that text for St. Mary Magdalene. Seems especially appropriate, in your case, if you're going to be off on your honeymoon. Congratulations, by the way, proleptically.

    1. Actually, I like the Proverbs 31 very much, and had forgotten the old Roman Missal has something else. I was just wondering what I might put in as a third reading to go with the Proverbs and St. Luke readings. At that point, I was thinking of going with Proverbs 31 as the OT reading, and something else as the Epistle. Though I suppose I could use both the Proverbs and the Song of Songs readings . . .

      Thank you for the well wishes! My wedding is actually June 15, but it's kinda hard to take a honeymoon right away when the English District convenes in St. Louis some 10 days later.

    2. June the 15th is a most excellent day on which to be wed. It worked well for my wife and I, who were united in holy matrimony on that date in 1985. Cheers to you and your bride on your upcoming nuptials!

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Happy Anniversary in advance to you and Mrs. Stuckwisch!
      Perhaps you recall you sat next to my future father-in-law at Oktoberfest a few months back . . . a couple days before Bethanie and I got engaged down at Immanuel Alexandria. He will preach and marry us. Christopher Esget+ will offer The Mass, assisted by Mark Braden+ (deacon) and Jonathan Naumann+ (subdeacon).

    5. Oh, yes, I remember our time together in Kewanee, although I have to confess that I wasn't connecting all the dots in my head before this. It sounds like your wedding will be a most glorious occasion, indeed. My regards to you and your bride, and to the good men who will assist in tying the knot for you.

  6. I typically celebrate whatever falls on a weekend. And since I have services both on Saturday and on Sunday, if it falls on a Saturday we celebrate it on Sunday as well. So we will be observing the following this year:

    June 23/24, The Nativity of St. John the Baptist (during which we will be singing Christmas hymns, the purpose of which is to demonstrate that even in his birth John was pointing to Christ)

    July 21/22, St. Mary Magdalene

    Sep 29/30, St. Michael and All Angels

    Oct 27/28, The Reformation AND St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Reformation will take precedence, while St. Simon and St. Jude will be commemorated. I will replace the gradual with "By All Your Saints in Warfare.")

    Nov 3/4, All Saints

    We typically only have Holy Communion on the first and third (and fifth when it happens) Sundays of the month. St. John, St. Mary, and Reformation all fall on an "off" Sunday, so we will actually be having the sacrament on those days. I can't imagine having a feast day without the Feast.


Comments are moderated. Neither spam, vulgarity, comments that are insulting, slanderous or otherwise unbefitting of Christian dignity nor anonymous posts will be published.