Video: Passiontide through Easter Week

We’re a few days into Passiontide already, but Holy Week is still not quite here, so this is a good time to share this introduction to Passiontide, Holy Week, the Triduum, and Easter/Pascha.

subject index:

  • 00:00 Nomenclature
  • 05:03 Major Themes and Traditions of these three weeks
  • 11:33 Walkthrough of Passiontide & Holy Week in the 2019 Prayer Book
  • 15:08 Walkthrough of Easter Week in the 2019 Prayer Book
  • 19:47 Daily Office Lectionary and other liturgical features
  • 23:47 Closing in prayers

A colorful week ahead

If you look at the Calendar of Commemorations in the 2019 Prayer Book, you’ll find a few Saints Days of particular note in rapid succession this week.

  • Tuesday the 17th commemorates Saint Patrick, bishop & apostle to the Irish.
  • Wednesday the 18th commemorates Saint Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem and teacher of the faith (or “Doctor of the Church” in Roman terminology).
  • Thursday the 19th is a red-letter day, the feast of Saint Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary and Guardian of our Lord Jesus.
  • Friday the 20th commemorates Saint Cuthbert, abbot and missionary bishop of Lindisfarne.
  • Saturday the 21st commemorates Thomas Cranmer, the first reformation Archbishop of Canterbury, author of the first Prayer Book, and martyr.

Of all these days, only St. Joseph’s Day is an official break from the Lenten fast; the rest are optional commemorations that you and your church may or may not choose to observe.  The Saint Aelfric Customary names all of these particular commemorations as “minor feasts”, the highest rank of such commemorations, and thus to be given pride of place in any midweek eucharistic celebration.

The way these observances are probably going to look in my household, for example, is that I’ll replace the purple candle on the family prayer table with a white one for Tuesday through Friday (each a saint’s day), and a red one for Saturday (a martyr’s day).  It’ll then go to a pink candle after that – for the 4th Sunday in Lent!  ‘Tis a colorful week indeed.

Collects of the Day this week

Last week was a bit complicated for tracking the Collect of the Day in the Daily Offices.  In a normal week, you start the Sunday’s Collect on the Saturday evening before, and use it through Saturday morning until the next Sunday Collect kicks in.  Last week, however, had two holy days, one of which redefined the rest of the week:

  1. Sunday morning: Collect for the Last Sunday of Epiphany
  2. Sunday evening through Monday evening: Collect for St. Matthias Day
  3. Tuesday morning and evening: Collect for the Last Sunday of Epiphany
  4. Wednesday morning through Saturday morning: Collect for Ash Wednesday

This week we have the Lenten/Spring Ember Days, causing a similar mix-up of the Collect of the Day:

  1. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday: Collect for the First Sunday in Lent
  2. Wednesday: Collect for an Ember Day
  3. Thursday: Collect for the First Sunday in Lent
  4. Friday, Saturday: Collect for an Ember Day

One of the things that makes this tricky is the fact that we, in the 2019 Prayer Book, only have two Collects for the Ember Days.  Sometimes, like in Advent a few months ago, this works out fine because a holy day (in that case, St. Thomas) sometimes cuts in and overwrites one of the Ember Days, allowing us to use both Collects on one day each.  But now that we have three Ember Days unfettered, and only two Collects to use, how should we handle this?  Perhaps the simplest approach is to use the first Collect each morning and the second Collect each evening.

Another tradition worth mentioning is the fact that the classical prayer books (that is, those before 1979) call for the repetition of the Ash Wednesday Collect after the current Collect of the Day throughout the season of Lent.  The 2019 Prayer Book does not direct for this to be done, but with the rubrics the way they are, there is nothing “illegal” about applying this tradition in our recitation of the Daily Office.  So give that possibility due consideration also!

Video Introduction to Lent

If you’ve got 18 minutes, or someone you know who wants an introduction to Lent has 18 minutes, check out this video I put together for ye!  We look at Ash Wednesday as an introduction to season as a whole, a few historical features for sake of background, and explore various features of the 2019 Prayer Book that have to do with the season of Lent.

I’ve largely omitted Holy Week, however, as I’ll devote a separate video to that short-but-intense period of the liturgical calendar.

Subject Index:

  • 00:00 Introduction with Ash Wednesday
  • 05:22 Historical features
  • 08:30 Walkthrough of the lectionaries in the 2019 Prayer Book
  • 13:48 Other ways to observe Lent in the liturgy
  • 17:02 The Theme-prayer for all of Lent

The -gesimas are back!

For those of you who are already using a classical prayer book, this is old news.  But for those who are using the 2019 Prayer Book, this is kind of a background information update that you might not be aware of.  This past Sunday was the beginning of the traditional Pre-Lent mini-season, of which I have written here before.  Feel free to give that article a read if you haven’t before, or want to re-discover what this sadly-defunt tradition has to offer.

Or, if you don’t feel like reading, you can listen to me yammer away about it on YouTube!

 

Subject Index:

Book Review: Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2006

I recently saw word that the ACNA Liturgy Taskforce, or a subsection thereof, has a couple more books in production, one of which is Lesser Feasts and Fasts.  Whether that is the final title or not, it is clearly a successor to a group of books put out by the Episcopal Church (USA) which finished (I think) with a 2006 edition.  I’ve heard that its first edition is from the 1960’s, but I haven’t seen it before and therefore cannot comment on the history of this volume.  Here I’m just going to introduce you to Lesser Feasts & Fasts, 2006.

In a nutshell, Lesser Feasts & Fasts exists to give you more resources for weekday Communion services.  Its primary (and titular) angle is to provide more collects & lessons, covering the entire Sanctoral Calendar – that is, the calendar of optional commemorations.  The 2019 Prayer Book also has a calendar of optional commemorations which differs notably from that in the 1979 book, taking away a number of spurious recent and ‘ecumenical’ commemorations, and adding a few more in their place, both historical and recent.

The way these optional commemorations work in the prayer book itself is that there are a set of collects and lessons for different categories of saints (there are 9, in the case of the 2019 BCP) so you can just match the right set to the commemoration.  In Lesser Feasts & Fasts, a unique Collect and set of lessons is assigned to each and every commemoration, allowing a greater degree of personalization and specificity.

Beside the commemoration of saints are seasonal commemorations.  All the days in Lent and Advent are provided for, giving nice seasonally-appropriate prayers and readings for daily communion services.  Eastertide, too, is provided for, mainly by walking the reader through the books of Acts and John during that season.  Furthermore, there are provided for the green seasons both a six-week set of communion propers hitting upon some rotating topics, and a two-year set of communion propers moving through the gospels in a largely sequential manner.

I have not made a detailed comparison, but I do know that some (if not most?) of this material is in harmony with current Roman Catholic practice, where the practice of daily mass is normalized (if sparsely attended by the laity).

Another handy feature of Lesser Feasts & Fasts, perhaps its most useful feature from a pastoral perspective, is the fact that it provides brief one-page bios of each commemoration or saint.  They’re short and focused enough that you can read them at the beginning of a homily, before launching into the meat of the sermon.  In many cases, the attentive preacher can find a connection from the bio sketch to at least one of the provided Scripture lessons.

The 2006 edition of this book reflects the then-current calendar of the Episcopal Church, which includes a few commemorations that an honest Christian cannot justify.  The names in question are of great historical import for sure: Elizabeth Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, Harriet Tubman, J. S. Bach, Florence Li Tim-Oi, Kamehameha, Florence Nightingale… the question is whether we are celebrating them because of their achievements or because of their sanctity of life and doctrine.  The progressive mindset tends to esteem “human flourishing” too highly, and indeed non-liturgical evangelical protestants also tend towards a “great achievers” mindset when it comes to commemoration those who’ve gone before (i.e. Adoniram Judson or William Wilberforce), whereas the traditional definition of a “Saint with a capital S” is someone whose life and orthodoxy are impeccable examples to the faithful.  By definition, therefore, it should be very difficult indeed to honor as a Saint someone who is outside of the theological bounds of our own tradition.  For sure, the names listed in this paragraph are great and wonderful people who ought to be remembered in their own rights… but is the Eucharistic assembly the right place for that?

That is why a new version, to accompany the 2019 Prayer Book, is in order.

For what it’s worth, the commemorations from 2006, with additions from subsequent Episcopalian books, can be found online here.  I would only recommend them for comparative reference, however, as the bias of modern Episcopalianism is not entirely amenable to orthodox Anglican (or indeed Christian) sensibilities anymore.

Introduction to the Epiphany season

Part 3 of the church year is Epiphanytide.  This is part of my year-long video series on the church calendar, check it out:

For further reading:

Subject Index:
* 00:30 Introduction to Epiphanytide
* 01:02 Major Themes
* 02:44 Historical features
* 7:26 Walk-through with the 2019 BCP
* 18:36 Summarizing the season with the “Surge illuminare”

Let’s talk about the Christmas Season

Entry #2 of my video series on the basics of the Church Calendar has been on YouTube for a week or two now, and it’s time to share it here.  Yes, most of you who read this already know that Christmas doesn’t start until Christmas Day (or Eve, technically), but I’m putting this out there now in preparation – I know a lot of people tend to get quite busy during the week in which Christmas lands.

Christmas is best known as the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but theologically (as the Collects and Lessons elucidate) the application of the Christmas celebration is far more theologically rich: we celebrate God the Son taking on human nature and thereby sharing his divinity with us!  Thus we celebrate the beginning of our redemption, our salvation, without even having to bring the Cross into the picture.

A resource that may be useful is last year’s write-up observing the differences between Christmas Day and Christmas Sunday: https://saint-aelfric-customary.org/2018/12/29/christmas-day-versus-sunday/  Apart from that, here’s the video:

Subject Index:
* 00:10 Introduction to Christmas
* 01:39 Major Themes
* 04:20 Historical features
* 11:30 Walk-through with the 2019 BCP

Church Calendar & Backlog

Something I spent a lot of time exploring, studying, and writing about early in my ministry was the liturgical calendar.  It was a new and exciting thing for me, a former non-denominationalist who (at most) only ever celebrated Advent, Christmas Day, Easter Day, and occasionally Good Friday.  That the entire year could be redefined according to the Gospel was a breath of fresh air – the chilly muddy months of late winter and early Spring could instead be known as “Lent”, and the Easter celebration could actually be just the beginning of something larger, leading to the Ascension and Pentecost – the latter of which I’d at least heard of, but the Ascension was almost completely new to me (apart from an obscure reference to it in the Apostles’ Creed).  Add in the fact that my Christian peers at the time were also unfamiliar with the liturgical calendar (and generally uninterested in my new “discovery), and you got an enthusiastic me tapping away at his blog yammering on about the calendar without them.

It took me a while to settle down and get to know the actual Prayer Book calendars, undiluted from my initial experience with the calendar in a Roman setting.  But when the dust cleared I came out a calmer-but-resolved advocate for the Calendar of the Christian Year.  And the payoff here has been, according to some of the feedback I’ve received, that a number of readers have learned things about the calendar and the seasons that they never knew before, especially novus ordo folks discovering the differences in the classical prayer book calendar.

If you, or someone you know, needs a refresher in the most basic question – “why a liturgical calendar at all?” – I would direct you to this lovely recent article: http://northamanglican.com/a-cruciform-calendar/  It lists ten bullet-point reasons at the end, but also explains some of the relevance of having the Gospel shape our accounting of time rather than the Government, the realities of all time being in God’s hands, and our roles as co-creators under God, making something with the time he has given us.

Furthermore, if you’re new to following this blog, or just want to peruse the past year and see where we’ve been, here’s a list of entries I’ve already written, in outline of the church year.

Calendar Seasons:

Quick Note about the last Sunday before Advent

It’s the last Sunday of the season – Advent starts in one more week!  A lot of us are probably celebrating “Christ the King Sunday” today, so I thought I’d drop a quick reminder here before we misrepresent our own tradition.  The traditional prayer for this Sunday anticipates the tone of Advent:

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The modern prayer for this Sunday, now called “Christ the King” but perhaps more subtly and appropriately “Christ the Judge”, also prepares us for Advent quite well:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

If you want to know more about Christ the King as an observance, here are some links: