The chief problem

The chief problem of any Breviary is the Kalendar. Inasmuch as the Prayer-Book is based on a greatly simplified Kalendar, Anglican tradition may be said to favour those conservative Uses of the Breviary (such as the Monastic) which do not follow the Universal Kalendar in its entirety. This latter is the most inclusive, and therefore the most elaborate and complicated Kalendar of any liturgical usage today. For which reason a committee of priests has drawn up a simplified Kalendar for Anglican use, to follow which in this Breviary, one should keep only those Feasts marked with a star (*), and should begin at the beginning of the Proper of Saints with the mark SK and disregard everything marked UK.

The Anglican Breviary, Liturgical Note, p. E1 (1021).

Being myself inclined toward liturgical (and theological) conservatism the Simple Kalendar (SK) has a very strong pull for me. I appreciate the ability this usage provides for the Seasons of the Church more clearly to teach us the Catholic Faith as we pray our way through the months of the year. I also appreciate that the selections of Psalms, readings, prayers for the Saints are not practically annihilated as it was done in (especially) the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer (compare the 1559 Kalendar here with the 1928 American here). It would seem that the SK of the Anglican Breviary attempts the same sort of balancing act attempted with the Roman kalendar reforms at Trent (see here). In itself such a reform seems to be necessary every few decades or perhaps centuries.

The question with such reforms is, as one might expect, what are the criteria for reforming the kalendar? The 1928 BCP celebrates biblical figures only on its kalendar with the notable exceptions of Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day which are two secular (inappropriate) intrusions into an ecclesial kalendar. The principle of celebrating feasts of saints is an ancient Christian one and it is to be commended that it was upheld – if marginally – in the 1928 American Prayer Book. Much more to be commended is the kalendar of 1559 where biblical figures and extra biblical figures are given recognition as saints (even if propers to celebrate them were often not provide for). To celebrate biblical and extra-biblical saints makes the kalendar a vehicle to promote sanctification. By means of the kalendar we are taught that holiness (which is achieved by sanctification) is not a prerogative exclusive to scriptural figures. Holiness is not an ideal safely locked up in an old religious text, but is a live issue throughout the entire history of the Church (as testified by new saints entering the kalendar even today). Even today we are supposed to hear and obey the words “be ye holy” (1 Peter 1, 16).

The kalendar, as we can also read in the People’s Anglican Missal (PAM), teaches the faith (p. B21-25):

Thus the liturgical year developed into three main cycles, in honour of three central mysteries of the Catholic religion. A moment’s thought makes clear that all Catholic doctrine is focused in three concentric mysteries, (a) the mystery of God (namely, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity), (b) the mystery of the Incarnation (which is the manifestation of God to us), (c) the mystery of the Church or of Sanctification (which reveals to us how we are to attain God and his holiness).

People’s Anglican Missal, p. B22

Though the PAM is mostly concerned with the seasons of the ecclesial year (Temporale), I am here mostly concerned with what is called the Kalendar of the Saints (Sanctorale). There are different categories of saints addressing different aspects of holiness. This is not arbitrary. The different categories give texture and concreteness to what holiness is and what it looks like in our lives. A “Martyr” shows us that our common Christian call is to be faithful to Jesus Christ even of that should cost us our lives. That requires a total and unrelenting dedication to Jesus Christ. That is not an ideal for biblical figures only (such as St. Stephen the First Martyr) but it is an ideal for Christians throughout history (martyrs are made even today as Christians suffer persecution for their faith). However, martyrdom is not the sole ingredient of holiness. Another aspect of holiness is, for example, doctrine. A “Doctor of the Church” shines a light on the growth in sanctification of our minds. Long ago, Origen, pointed out that the mind doesn’t grow by bodily foods but by knowledge. Indeed The Song Zacharias (sung at Lauds):

… thou shalt go before the face of Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people for the remission of their sins, …

Whatever the precise relation may be between preparing the way of the Lord, knowledge, and salvation it is clear that they are! Origen was on to something. But what is the food by which our minds grow?

Mind certainly needs intellectual magnitude, because it grows in an intellectual and not in a physical sense … by being cultivated through excercises in learning.

Origen, On First Principles, Bk. I, Chap. i, 6.

By the inclusion of doctors of the Church we are directed to their teachings as food for our minds so that digesting their teaching our minds may grow in spiritual magnitude. The same could be said for the other categories of saints and how they illuminate what holiness looks like in our lives. So even though we don’t necessarily need to follow the Universal Kalendar (UK) it is a good thing to have a more inclusive kalendar than that provided by the 1928 BCP popular among continuing Anglicans in the United States. As it is stands the 1928 kalendar fails to teach the faith as cleary as does the 1559 BCP kalendar, or the SK suggested for Anglicans on the Anglican Breviary (AB). An advantage of the AB over any BCP is the fact that it includes samples of the saint’s lives and teachings to interpret and guide our understanding and application of the Scripture readings as they are distributed over the ecclesial year.

The chief problem of any Prayer Book is indeed its kalendar for by it the Church distributes Scripture over the seasons and feasts and by it the Church makes that same Scipture relevant to our lives today.

Gregory +




About Father Gregory

I am an Anglican Catholic Priest, currently residing in Orvelte, the Netherlands.
This entry was posted in Anglican Breviary, Book of Common Prayer, Liturgical Year and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The chief problem

  1. Charles says:

    I agree with you Father Gregory. I think so much of the daily celebration is lost in the BCP.

    • Father Gregory says:

      Much is lost indeed. The rub – I would say – is that this loss seems to have been intentional. Perhaps the intention was a clearer and more sustained focus on Scripture and therefore only Scriptural Saints are allowed as feasts? In any case the Sanctorale and Temporale should not be contrasted as if they are mutually exclusive. It also seems to me that the scarcity of celebration of saints fits the near absence of invocation of them in the BCP tradition. Iow whilst praying the BCP Kalendar the near absence of the saints leaves the didactic door wide open to deny the Communion of Saints as it was (and is) practiced in most of Christendom from early Christianity until today.

      “The way we pray, shapes what we believe.” Catholic Anglicans did well to take this to mean that we needed to restore to the BCP “Holy Communion Service” some pre-reformation liturgical features to return “Holy Communion” to the “Sacrifice of the Mass.” The same, however, is true for Morning and Evening Prayer. Morning and Evening Prayer *also* shape what we believe! It cannot be left in its post-Reformation dilapidated state. It must also be restored to the “Divine Office” by restoring pre-Reformation features such as is done in the AB (but also in the English Office Book for example). But for some reason, quite beyond my comprehension, I have found much resistance to applying the rule “the way we pray shapes what we believe” to Morning and Evening Prayer the same way we have done it to the Holy Communion.

  2. Dale Crakes says:

    How does the AB deal with D1 (Double first class feasts) in the area of Matins readings? Probably it didn’t add any but used selective pruning. Its pre-Immaculate Conception so perhaps the problem doesn’t arise.

    • Father Gregory says:

      Could you be more specific? D1 feasts do occur in the AB and there are three Nocturns and nine Lessons on such occasions. The AB includes the Imm. Conception and during the Octave there is a series of readings (II Nocturn) explaining and defending the theology of it. The Collect is also that of the Feast of the Imm. Conception and not the one anciently used for the Feast of the Conception. I’ve read those lessons several times but remain unconvinced by them. I use the ancient Collect for this feast (and do not observe the Octave anymore).

  3. Jim HJicks says:

    As I was learning the AB, I used the UK. But after several years of that practice I switched to the SK. There is not as much interruption of the daily/yearly flow. Also, having moved from Anglicanism to the Orthodox, I am not concentrating time on as many saints from after the break of East from West.

    • Father Gregory says:

      It would make sense that as an Orthodox you would prefer the SK and perhaps add Eastern Saints from an Orthodox Kalendar? I agree that the SK lets the seasons flow as they should while at the same time preserving the didactic and pedagogical function of the feasts of saints.

  4. Rdr. James Morgan says:

    Apropos of the saints, I commend to you the sermon of the late Metropolitan Anthony Bloom for All Saints Sunday, which in the Eastern Church is always the Sunday after Pentecost. Here is the url from his website.

    • Father Gregory says:

      Thank you Rdr. James. Metr. Anthony’s sermon was excellent. I remember serving All Saints Sundays. Though I was thrilled to celebrate the Holy Trinity today 😉

      Gregory +

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