Monday, October 18, 2010

So many saints, so few days

There are only 365 days in a year, unless it is a leap year, which only adds one more day. As the calendar of Christian celebration accrues more not less saints (cf. the addition this weekend past of Mary McKillop as a saint in the Roman calendar), or, if one is an NZ Anglican, more not less worthy people from our past to remember with thanksgiving, it seems only a matter of time before one's liturgical calendar is void of days to which nothing special, other than God's grace and goodness, is attached! Alternatively, since some days already have multiple possibilities for special remembrance and celebration, we face working through calendars which give us no great guidance as to which on the list for a particular day has priority in celebration over the others!

My general sense is that no great pressure should be felt by worship organisers to celebrate saints days and the like. The days we all should celebrate are the great days of our Lord's own life, death and resurrection, as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Everything else should be optional. What do you think?

Of course even my approach leaves plenty of room for debate over certain days. Is the Annunciation (25 March) a day in the life of our Lord (i.e. his conception) or a Marian festival?


Anonymous said...

I understand that under modern liturgical practice saints days falling on a Sunday are transferred to the Monday or the first availabe day as all Sundays are celebrations of the Resurrection of our Lord or feasts that are of our Lord.

Barry Smithson

liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

The number of canonised saints numbers in the thousands. John Paul II canonised 484 saints and beatified 1,337 and was criticised for devaluing the currency, Benedict XVI has canonised 34. NZ Anglicans had the bazaar rule of only having one person remembered per day (except St Christopher – who, ironically, was removed from the RC calendar). This means that NZ Anglicans celebrate people on days different to the rest of the universal church. Recently the church took the astonishing decision to move St Mark from being on the same day as ANZAC day.

I would advocate interrupting the systematic, regular reading of scripture as little as possible, so would encourage the minimalist BCP (USA/TEC) approach. NZ Anglicanism has an impossibly complex system. Even then it is ignored. When General Synod this year celebrated eucharist on the day they themselves have ruled as a formulary to be Ascension Day, they did not celebrate that Principal Feast!

I am for ever trying to help people to see that services are not to be straight jackets with everything fixed on a single tight message – there is absolutely no problem pointing to a saint alongside the set readings. This is much better than the often-NZ approach where a number of readings have been selected, often apparently merely by use of a concordance, where the readings are supposed to “relate” to the saint being celebrated, but do so by the most obscure and unscholarly connections which abuse the scriptures and formally normalise such abuse.

The Annunciation is a Feast of our Lord.



Peter Carrell said...

Just one observation re your many points with which I am in concord: as a former vicar of a "St Christopher's" it is bemusing that he should have been so relegated :(