Updating Lesser Feasts and Fasts

During the 2016-2018 triennium, the Calendar of Commemorations workgroup of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) will be working to propose updates to “Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006” for consideration by General Convention in 2018. The criteria for inclusion will be those set forth on pages 491-493 of “Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006,” which is the official calendar of commemorations of the Episcopal Church. Those criteria include:

1. Historicity. Christianity is a radically historical religion, so in almost every instance it is not theological realities or spiritual movements but exemplary witness to the Gospel of Christ in lives actually lived that is commemorated in the Calendar.

2. Christian Discipleship. The death of the saints, precious in God’s sight, is the ultimate witness to the power of the Resurrection. What is being commemorated, therefore, is the completion in death of a particular Christian’s living out of the promises of baptism. Baptism is, therefore, a necessary prerequisite for inclusion in the Calendar.

3. Significance. Those commemorated should have been in their lifetime extraordinary, even heroic servants of God and God’s people for the sake, and after the example, of Jesus Christ. In this way they have testified to the Lordship of Christ over all of history, and continue to inspire us as we carry forward God’s mission in the world.

4. Memorability. The Calendar should include those who, through their devotion to Christ and their joyful and loving participation in the community of the faithful, deserve to be remembered by the Episcopal Church today. However, in order to celebrate the whole history of salvation, it is important also to include those “whose memory may have faded in the shifting fashions of public concern, but whose witness is deemed important to the life and mission of the Church” (Thomas Talley).

5. Range of Inclusion. Particular attention should be paid to Episcopalians and other members of the Anglican Communion. Attention should also be paid to gender and race, to the inclusion of laypeople (witnessing in this way to our baptismal understanding of the Church), and to ecumenical representation. In this way the Calendar will reflect the reality of our time: that instant communication and extensive travel are leading to an ever deeper international and ecumenical consciousness among Christian people.

6. Local Observance. Similarly, it should normatively be the case that significant commemoration of a particular person already exists at the local and regional levels before that person is included in the Calendar of the Episcopal Church as a whole.

7. Perspective. It should normatively be the case that a person be included in the Calendar only after two generations or fifty years have elapsed since that person’s death.

8. Levels of Commemoration. Principal Feasts, Sundays, and Holy Days have primacy of place in the Church’s liturgical observance. It does not seem appropriate to distinguish between the various other commemorations by regarding some as having either a greater or a lesser claim on our observance of them. Each commemoration should be given equal weight as far as the provision of liturgical propers is concerned (including the listing of three lessons).

9. Combined Commemorations. The present edition of Lesser Feasts and Fasts (2003) recognizes that not all those included in the Calendar need to be commemorated “in isolation”. Where there are close and natural links between persons to be remembered, a joint commemoration would make excellent sense (cf. The Cappadocians – Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa and Macrina— and the Reformation martyrs—Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley).

10. Common of Saints. A greater range of “Commons of Saints” should be provided to allow for optional commemorations at the local and regional levels. Presently there are propers provided for martyrs, missionaries, pastors, theologians and teachers, monastics, and “saints.” Possible additional categories could include musicians and other artists, reformers of society, and “stewards of creation,” for example, scientists and environmentalists.

General Convention 2015 made “A Great Cloud of Witnesses” available for private devotion or local use, but because it was not authorized as an official liturgical resource of the church, the SCLM does not plan to update it. However, local congregations have considerable flexibility in using commemorations that are appropriate to their local context, regardless of whether they appear on the church’s official calendar, and the existence of such local observances can be important to the convention’s decision to add a commemoration to the churchwide calendar. The guidelines for local calendars and memorials and procedures for national  recognition are available on pages 494-495 of “Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006.”

The members of the SCLM understand that Episcopalians have a broad range of understanding about what it means for someone to be on the calendar of commemoration and what criteria for inclusion should apply. Debating those theological questions are not within our mandate, although we suggest that General Convention might authorize a separate representative body to do so. In this triennium, however, we are bound to operate in accordance with the criteria for revising the calendar that was approved by General Convention in 2006 and set forth in “Lesser Feasts and Fasts.”

2 thoughts on “Updating Lesser Feasts and Fasts

  1. Is there a contact person for this working group, if we have input or feedback about how to move forward now that we’re back to LFF 2006 for our official commemoration calendar? I didn’t see anyone identified on the blog post, though I may have missed it. Thanks!

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