If you’ve got a “Churchman’s Ordo Calendar” or other such liturgical resource hanging on your wall, you may see today is Saint Mark’s Day [transferred]. This may be puzzling to some people – why is it transferred, and what does that mean?
A certain calibre of holy day can be transferred in the event that it conflicts with another, higher ranking, holy day. When you think of a “day” in liturgical time, imagine there is only room for one Communion service. In the event that you get double-booked, a judgment call has to be made: which holy day will you celebrate, and will the other one just get skipped for the year, or get transferred to the next available day?
In the Prayer Book tradition, taking its cue from Western Catholic practice in general, we have Major Feast Days (“red-letter days” as provided in the Prayer Book) and we have commemorations (“black-letter days” listed in the Prayer Book calendar). Commemorations are of a low rank; they get skipped if they coincide with a Sunday or other holy day. The Major Feast Days, however, are generally required in the Prayer Book tradition, and therefore they will either replace the Sunday they land on (depending upon the season) or they will get bumped back to the next available date.
Saint Mark’s Day is supposed to be April 25th. But this year, April 25th fell within Easter Week, wherein the Prayer Book tradition does not allow any non-Easter intrusions. A few days ago I mistakenly stated that the old Prayer Books allowed holy days like this to be celebrated later in Easter Week, but closer inspection of the old calendar rules revealed that, even though Easter Week only provides two sets of Collects and Lessons, the whole week is still off-limits for other major feast days. So whether you’re using an old or new prayer book, Saint Mark’s Day is still transferred to today.
If you take a look at both the major feast days and the commemorations throughout the year, you’ll notice that there’s a convenient gap through much of March and April where they get pretty sparse. The average month has three major feast days in it, but March has just two, and April only one! This is because of the overriding presence of Holy Week and Easter Week – every year, somewhere in this time of year, those two weeks in a row will blot out all the commemorations in its path, and cause any of those major feast days to be transferred. So, the fewer saints days we schedule in these months, the less we have to deal with this situation. Pretty smart, huh? 😉