Friday, March 19, 2010

The Prayer Book Calendar

I am surprised by how many folks have difficulty with understanding the methodology behind the Church Calendar. I usually explain it this way:

Sundays come in two varieties - Greater Sundays which take precedence over any feast, and Lesser Sundays do not.

In the 1928 BCP these greater Sundays are:
The Four Sundays of Advent
The 'Gesimas
The Six Sundays of Lent
Easter Sunday
"Low" Sunday
Rogation Sunday
Sunday after Ascension
Trinity Sunday

All other Sundays are, of course, Lesser Sundays.

The Church's Holydays are divided into Greater (Red Letter) Holydays and Lesser (Black Letter) Holydays.

The Greater Holydays include all the feasts of Our Lord, including Ascension and Transfiguration, the feasts of the Apostles and Evangelists, St Stephen, Holy Innocents, St. John Baptist, St Michael and All Angels, and All Saints' Day.

All other holydays are minor holydays.

The "Joker in the Pack" so far as the classification of Sundays and Holdays is concerned is the small number of Privileged Ferias - weekdays with a special status. In the 1928 BCP they are Ash Wednesday and the weekdays of Holy Week. These take precedence over Red Letter Holydays. The other special category are the two Privileged Octaves of Easter and Whitsunday.

So, the order of precedence in the 1928 PECUSA BCP is:

Greater Sundays
Privileged Octaves
Privileged Ferias
Greater Holydays
Lesser Sundays
Lesser Holydays

This table of precedence is neccessary because the Church's Calendar has to reconcile a lunar based Calendar that controls the date of Easter with the Solar based Calendar that controls the date of Christmas and Saints' Day. Because the date moves with the lunar calendar, Easter can occur anywahere between March 22nd and April 25th according to the aspect of the Moon.

So how does all this work out in practice.

The month or so that surrounds Easter is usually the most complicated of the Church's Year. So, using the lesser or "black letter" holydays from the 1963 Lesser Feasts and Fasts to supply the minor Holydays absent from the 1928 BCP I have worked out the Calendar from today until the end of April. Hopefully I have not incorporated any goofs!


Fri 19th - St Joseph
Sat 20th - St Cuthbert

Sun 21st LENT V (Bl. Thomas Ken, suppressed)
Mon 22nd - James De Koven
Tue 23rd - Gregory the Illuminator
Wed 24th
Thu 25th - ANNUNCIATION - Proper Preface
Fri 26th
Sat 27th

Sun 28th - PALM SUNDAY
Mon 29th - Monday in Holy Week (Bl. John Keble - suppressed)
Tue 30th - Tuesday in Holy Week
Wed 31st - Wednesday in Holy Week (Bl. John Donne - suppressed)


Thu 1st - Maundy Thursday (Bl. F. D. Maurice - suppressed)
Fri 2nd - Good Friday
Sat 3rd - Easter Eve (Richard of Chichester, suppressed)

Sun 4th - EASTER - Proper Preface (Ambrose, suppressed)
Mon 5th - Easter Monday - Proper Preface
Tue 6th - Easter Tuesday - Proper Preface
Wed 7th - Of Octave - Proper Preface
Thu 8th - Of Octave - Proper Preface (Bl. William Muhlenberg - suppressed)
Fri 9th - Of Octave - Proper Preface (Bl. William Law - suppressed)
Sat 10th - Of Octave - Proper Preface

Sun 11th - EASTER 1 - Proper Preface (St Leo - suppressed)
Mon 12th - Bl. George Selwyn
Tue 13th
Wed 14th - St Justin Martyr
Thu 15th
Fri 16th
Sat 17th

Sun 18th - EASTER 2
Mon 19th - St Alphege
Tue 20th
Wed 21st - St Anselm
Thu 22nd
Fri 23rd
Sat 24th

Sun 25th - ST MARK (EASTER 3 is commemorated)
Mon 26th
Tue 27th
Wed 28th
Thu 29th
Fri 30th - St Catherine of Siena

By the way, commemoration in the Anglican tradition is confined to the use of the Collect of the Day which is replaced by the feast is used after that of the feast. It should also be noted that the Collect for Advent is used everyday from Advent Sunday toChristmas Eve; that of Ash Wednesday daily from Ash Wednesday to the day before Palm Sunday, and that for Palm Sunday on the first three days of Holy Week. Those of the major feasts with Octaves - Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Whitsunday, and All Saints' Day - are used throughout the Octaves

In the next installment we shall discuss "Fast and Abstinence."


  1. You forgot that the feast of the Annuciation has both first and second evensongs. Minor, I know, but probably known and understood by anyone who has taken the time to actually read and work out the stuff in the beginning of the prayer book, but mud to those who have never taken the time or understood that they needed to do so.

  2. All in good time, Canon Tallis. I will get to the characteristics of the various classifications of feasts when I get to discussing the Lectionary.

  3. Well, I guess that's another change between the '79 and the '28--I'd forgotten that Easter Sundays weren't privileged in the older book. Following the new rules Easter 3 and St Mark are reversed.

  4. The big glitch in 1979, however, is the elimination of the 'gismas and in fact the whole category of "greater Sundays"; we now have

    principal feasts
    three major feast of Our Lord (Holy Name, Presentation, and Transfiguration)
    other feast of our Lord

    ...and then so forth as in older calendars. There is some possibility that it cannot in fact happen due to calendar resonances, but in the 1979 the Presentation preempts any ordinary Sunday, so that if it falls on Last Epiphany the latter is not observed.

  5. A look in the 1928 tables shows that in fact this preemption question came up in 1913.