All Saints' Day
I hope you’ll forgive my being two days late with the Daily Cup for Tuesday. A combination of factors prevented me from typing it on schedule.
Every now and then All Saints’ Day, November 1, falls on a Sunday. It did this year. This can pose a quandary to those who prepare annual liturgical calendars because of the rules of precedence. Years and years ago, one of the monks at one of our monasteries was making the ordo for the Order for a year, like this one, in which November 1 fell on a Sunday. His first impulse was to schedule the observance of All Saints’ to the following Monday and All Souls, another fixed date holy day, to the next day, November 3. That would have been correct in the case of one saint’s day falling on a Sunday, but then he puzzled a bit over the status of All Saints’ as one of the seven principal feast days of the church, all of which take precedence over a Sunday. That means that if a principal feast falls on a Sunday it is observed on the Sunday. That is why we celebrate Christmas Day on December 25, even if it is a Sunday.
But still he was puzzled because, until having this assignment and confronting this question of precedence, he had thought of All Saints’ Day as the feast day for the saints who didn’t have their own day, such as St. Andrew has on November 30. According to the rules of precedence, If November 30 falls on a Sunday, St. Andrew’s Day is observed on December 1, because Sundays take precedence over a saint’s day. Only parishes dedicated to St. Andrew, are allowed to observe St. Andrew’s Day on Sunday if it falls on Sunday and can even observe it on a Sunday if it falls on a weekday. But why, he wondered, should the day for all the lesser saints who don’t have their own day, take precedence over a Sunday?
After some research he learned that All Saints’ wasn’t what he had thought – a day to remember all the ‘other’ saints who don’t have their own day, but who still rank, so to speak, higher than all our departed loved ones, who are remembered on All Souls Day. No, what he learned was something about the Seven Principal Feasts; that they are celebrations of different manifestations of God, such as in the nativity of the person of Jesus, in the Holy Trinity, and — in all the saints. The Collect for All Saints’ Day alludes to this, though rather obliquely I think, in the words about God knitting together the elect in the mystical body of Christ. It is a prayer in which we pray that we too may be such manifestations.
“.. as they were faithful and zealous… so may we with ardent devotion make known [manifest] the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…’
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 5-November-2015.