Monday, December 29, 2008

Feasts, Sundays and Commemorations: What I Do

There is a long-standing problem within Lutheranism in how to celebrate festivals. Lutheran Service Book added a number of feast days, divided between "Feasts and Festivals" and "Commemorations." And while this is a good thing, it made a difficult decision worse: there is the note that only certain "Feasts" are observed when they fall on a Sunday--these are Eve of the Circumcision of Jesus; Circumcision of Jesus; Purification of Mary and Presentation of Our Lord; the Annunciation of Jesus; the Visitation; Nativity of St. John the Baptist; St. Michael and All Angels; and All Saint's Day. These are all privileged, then, over every other Sunday. In all other circumstances, the Proper Sunday is privileged. Right?

What this leaves the liturgically-minded pastor with is a number of feasts and commemorations that will never be celebrated or commemorated on a Sunday, which means never, since it's next to impossible to get anyone to show up for a week-day service unless it's Advent or Lent.

So Sunday was the First Sunday of Christmas (privileged) and also the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs. What to do? We must celebrate the feast of Christmas.

Here's what I have taken to doing: Sunday was Christmas 1, with the propers for Christmas 1 throughout. However, at the end of the prayers, I said, "Let us now commemorate the Holy Innocents, Martyrs" then read the Gradual, Verse and Collect for that day.

This is somewhat akin to how feasts are commemorated during Lauds, with the commemoration of lesser class festivals coming at the end of the propers for the day. Of course, the Divine Service is not Lauds, and I commemorated them during the Prayers, not after the final Benedictions, but I think that the post-communion prayers and benedictions should be the final ones of the service, anyhow.

Regardless, I think this is superior to ignoring it, transferring it, or elevating it over Christmas, or in the case of St. Thomas (Dec. 21), Advent (which are also privileged).


  1. orrologion said...

    As would be expected, there is a byzantine logic to the rubrics that determine the Orthodox church's commemoration of saints and feasts as the monthly and paschal cycles overlap. When you add in saints hailing from different lands but with the same commemorations, it then gets harder. If you are a Greek parish, do you celebrate a big Russian or American saint, or the traditional Greek saint for the day?

    Being a choir member and reader I am always interested to see how these things play out. Feasts of the Master (Christ) always trump the other services, and that means Sunday propers for the Resurrection always take precedence. At most, a Feast of the Theotokos on a Sunday may share - but the only time it's 50/50 is when the Annunciation falls on Pascha (and the Annunciation is as much a feast of the Lord's conception as it is a feast of the Theotokos).

    The Orthodox also have a lot of mini-services that usually precede and append the Liturgy, so the Troparia (1 or 2) and Kontakion for the feasts can alternate in the 3rd and 6th Hours before Liturgy (Resurrection then Saint; Resurrection then Feast). At the various changeable sections of Vespers and Orthros (Matins) it can also be split. Of the 12 stichera at "Lord, I Call" it can be 6 for the Resurrection, 3 for the Feast, 3 for the Saint. The ratios are always interesting because they help to teach you what the Church thinks is more important.

    Of course, commemorations are also moved to other days (especially during Holy Week or around other major Feasts like Theophany, Christmas or the patronal feast of a parish/monastery/city/nation). This sometimes means that all the saints hymns are moved to Compline or the Midnight Office, which aren't normally done in parishes. So, we have much the same problem, it just that we have monasteries doing full cycles, so the commemoration is held somewhere, to some degree by someone. My priest tends to mention all the saints commemorated on that day at the Dismissal, which is nice - especially since he makes sure to mention the pre-Schism saints of the day, the saints of Georgia, etc., even some saints and feasts on the Old Calendar if he thinks some folks off the boat may have shown up to our New Calendar parish by accident.

    It is also possible to 'add' readings and other propers on to the primary ones for the day. So, two Epistles and Gospels can be read, 3 verses at the Prokeimenon and Alleluia in Liturgy rather than just 2; 2 Troparia at the hours instead of 1; 3 or more Troparia in Liturgy; 3 different Troparia at the end of Vespers or toward the start of Matins, etc.

    But, there are rules and precedents governing all of these. You can usually find some example from the Monastery of ______ in _________ who did _________ in the __th century, which was spoken approvingly of by St. ___________ even though Bishop __________ thought it was allowed only because of ___________. It's byzantine, what can I say?

  2. Fr John W Fenton said...

    Fr Hall,

    Prior to the reclassification of feasts in 1962 by Rome, the Latin Mass required the priest to say 3 collects most Sundays (as well as 3 secretas and 3 post-communions). The first was of the Sunday Mass, the second was for any commemoration, and the third was assigned (usually commemorating the Virgin Mary). Perhaps this method could be employed since it conforms with prior Mass usage.

    I'm curious, however, why the Sunday within the Octave superceded the Feast of the Holy Innocents. The 3 saints after Christ Mass are rare instances where the saints' days take precedence over a Sunday.


  3. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Fr. Fenton,

    Thanks for the information. I wasn't actually aware how this worked on Sundays (having only the MD at my disposal...and admittedly, didn't even look at it before this post, mea culpa). There could be that option, then, to use the collect after the collect of the proper. I'll have to think about that.

    As far as why the Sunday within the Octave takes precedence, all I can say is think back to your days within the does it make sense?

    Admittedly, I am just shuffling in the dark, here, and only in a most sinfully uncommitted way.

  4. William Weedon said...

    First, Fr. Hall, I sure hope that the desk edition of LSB will give some help on these matters; I believe it is supposed to.

    Second, the Annunciation does NOT take precedence if the Sunday is Palm Sunday or Easter, obviously. There is a note to that effect on page 960 of the Altar Book: "It is appropriate to observe this feast day in all its fullness during Lent. However, according to historical precedent, when the Annunciation falls during Holy Week or on Easter day (or also the fifth Sunday in Lent in the one-year series), it should not be observed at those time but may be transferred to a weekday following the Second Sunday of Easter."

    Third, Fr. Fenton will no doubt recall that the weight of liturgical practice in the two centuries following the Reformation is what guided the rules for the Common Liturgy. It was a very rare Church Order in which Holy Innocents is observed on Dec. 28th in Lutheran lands; but the Church Orders and the Postilla show that regularly the Sunday after Christmas was observed. Hence, the weight of Lutheran practice in its formative years was upon the Sunday in the Octave rather than Holy Innocents.

    FWIW, we had a totally mixed(up) day. Red upon the altar (I forgot to tell the altar guild); propers for Christmas I; a second collect for Holy Innocents; and Holy Innocents figured largely in the Prayer of the Church, and had honorable mention at the end of the homily.

    I did write to the COWboys about it, and Pr. Vieker noted that "bishop's choice" is allowed on the other festivals ("the other festivals may be observed according to local custom and preference") which is also a historic way of addressing the matter prior to enforced Tridentine conformity.

  5. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    Being the liturgical Phillistine that I am, when there is a feast that fall upon a Sunday, rather than considering which one I am supposed to do according to some objective standard external to my congregation, I instead examine both sets of propers and then determine which one will be more beneficial to the life and growth of my congregation.

    In general this means I'll freely observe the Saint's day outside of Advent, Epiphany, and Lent - as those seasons have wonderful didactic ties from one week to the next.

    However, this past Sunday - Holy Innocents was observed. Go learn about this. Last September, we did Holy Cross. Learn about this. The pericopes and the feasts provide the bounds, I determine where within these my congregation will be.