As a new month is about to begin, let’s take a moment to look ahead at the upcoming noteworthy feast days in the calendar. September is an exciting month in general, so let’s see what’s coming up.
Foremost is the fact that the feast of Michael the Archangel, and of all angels, is on September 29th, which is a Sunday this year. Remember that one of the lovely restorations of tradition in the 2019 Prayer Book that the 1979 nearly squashed is the fact that we can celebrate most major feast days on Sundays again! The rubrics authorizing this can be found at the top of page 689:
Any of these feasts that fall on a Sunday, other than Advent, Lent, and Easter, may be observed on that Sunday or transferred to the nearest following weekday.
So you have the option of going “1979-style” and transfer the feasts off of Sundays, but if the order-of-options is significant then the primary suggestion is to keep those feasts on the Sundays on which they land. This is how the old prayer books worked; this is what this Customary encourages. As a result, this is a big opportunity to pull out those classic angel-themed hymns such as Christ the fair glory of the holy angels (although this is one of the only omissions from the new 2017 hymnal that this writer deeply misses). This is also a great opportunity to preach about angels, spiritual beings, and all that great biblical stuff that popularly doesn’t get much attention apart from Christmas.
Also coming up this month are the major feasts of Holy Cross Day and St. Matthew’s, on the 14th and 21st respectively, both on Saturdays.
Holy Cross Day is (uncoincidentally) forty days after Transfiguration Day, thus bringing an interesting potential “third great fast” of the year to a close. Historically, Holy Cross Day is tied to the story of the finding of “the true cross” outside Jerusalem by Emperor Constantine’s mother, St. Helena, but liturgically that feast day for us is more about the Cross of Christ at the time of the crucifixion. It’s not quite a clone of Good Friday, though. Where Good Friday focuses on the “Holy Week” narrative of the death of Christ and our culpability in our sinfulness, Holy Cross Day emphasizes the glory of Christ on the Cross.
St. Matthew, of course, is the first Evangelist (gospel-book-writer). The historic one-year lectionary seems to draw from his book more than the other three (not that I’ve literally counted the number of appearances of each) and some of the most-beloved gospel texts, like the Sermon on the Mount, are primarily known from Matthew’s book. St. Matthew is also one of the apostles of whom we know a decent amount, having lived as a tax collector (the equivalent of a traitor to his people in that situation) before getting to follow Jesus.
Among the optional commemorations, the two most noteworthy entries are St. John Chrysostom on Friday the 13th (lucky him) and Cyprian of Carthage on Sunday the 15th. The former is sometimes referred to as “the Augustine of the East”, being a major preacher and teacher of his day, influential in the East like Augustine of Hippo is in the West. The latter, of course, will not be celebrated this year because his caliber of feast day cannot be observed on a Sunday in any calendar tradition, but you can still feel free to offer a Collect in his honor at the end of the Prayers of the People at the Sunday Communion liturgy if you wish. Living in the 200’s, Cyprian represents a fairly early generation of Christian leaders and teachers. His most famous work was De Ecclesiae Catholicae Unitate (On the Unity of the Catholic Church), one of the great written products of the Early Church.
One more September commemoration I’d like to note here is one that’s not found in the 2019 calendar: the Nativity of Mary on September 8th. It’s also on a Sunday, and therefore also a day that we can’t really celebrate either. I mention it partly because it’s a significant feast day in the Roman calendar, and partly because it’s the ordination anniversary of yours truly. (I apologize for the self-indulgence.) Some people say there are already enough feast days in the calendar to commemorate the Blessed Virgin Mary, others say “the more the merrier”, so I leave it to you to decide to what degree it’s worth taking note of our Lady in corporate worship a week and a half from now.
As usual, we’ll note most of these days here when they arrive. But it’s always important to know these celebrations are coming, before they get here, especially with St. Michael’s on a Sunday about a month from now.