Updated: I added some new categories to allow for local options and shifted the Saturday Office of the BVM below ferias of Easter.
The section on the Calendar at the beginning of the ’79 BCP does, I think, a good job of succinctly and simply explaining what could be a very complicated set of topics. It gives the right data for the sake of regular middle-of-the-road parishes and anyone lower. For those of us who go higher, there is freedom for more precision.
The key thing to remember when addressing it, though, is that it presents a didactic approach to the kalendar and not an analytic one. That is, it offers groups, numbered 1 through 5, that are clustered logically; while the categories roughly correspond with rank, they do not do so strictly—and this is a point that may cause confusion for the unwary.
In particular, there are two principal points where the categories do not correspond with rank. The first is the relation of Feasts of Our Lord with Sundays. You’ll note that Category 2 (Sundays) mentions a few Feasts of Our Lord that supersede Sundays; others don’t. There are logical rules in play here—namely that Feasts of Our Lord take precedence over Sundays in Christmas and Ordinary Time—but they’re not stated explicitly.
The second is Category 4 (Days of Special Devotion). At first glance, this category looks much like what an earlier book would refer to as privileged and non-privileged Greater Feria—but it’s not. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday have already been discussed in Category 3, and the ferias of Advent are nowhere to be found. In fact, upon reflection, you’ll realize that this category has nothing to do with precedence at all, but is, rather, a set of ascetical regulations rather than liturgical ones.
Thus, for the sake of greater precision, the Calendar portion needs to be updated with an analytic section that clarifies the rules underlying this didactic presentation. To meet that need, I offer a trial chart for discussion. In the main, my chart follows what I understand to be the logical root of the BCP’s Calendar, the Roman General Notes on the Liturgical Year, with adaptations based on difference between the two systems. Furthermore, there is a practical end to this chart, in that it provides me with an analytic system that allows machine ranking of liturgical occasions; this requires one minor deviation from custom which I’ll describe below:
1. Easter Triduum [Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday]
2. Christmas, Ascension, Holy Trinity, All Saints’ Day, Epiphany and Pentecost
3. Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter
4. Ash Wednesday
5. Weekdays of Holy Week from Monday from Thursday inclusive
6. Days within the Octave of Easter
7. Local Feast of Dedication of a church, Local Feast of Title, Local Feast of Patron
8. Special Feasts, locally having a first class rank*
9. Proper Feasts, locally having a first class rank*
10. Holy Days: Feasts of Our Lord
11. Sundays of the Christmas Season and Ordinary Time
12. Holy Days: Major Feasts
13. Special Feasts, locally having a second class rank*
14. Days of Optional Observance, locally having a second class rank*
15. Special Feasts, locally having a third class rank*
16. Days of Optional Observance, locally having a third class rank*
17. Weekdays of Lent
18. Weekdays of Advent from December 16th through December 24th inclusive
19. Days of Optional Observance
20. Weekdays of Advent up to December 15th inclusive
21. Weekdays of the Easter season
22. [Saturday Office of the BVM]†
23. Weekdays of the Christmas season
24. Weekdays of Ordinary Time
* The starred categories reflect the freedoms given in the Days of Optional Observance section. Practically speaking, the Prayer Book allows the appointment of propers to any day that does not contravene the pre-existing rules. This allows feasts already in the Calendar to receive additional celebration or the addition of other feasts so long as the other rules are obeyed.
† There is no official liturgy for the Saturday Office of the BVM in the BCP. This rank may be dropped if not utilized. Furthermore, I’m personally unclear on how it ranks seasonally; My understanding is that the office is not used in Advent or Lent but that it is the rest of the year–specifically is it used in Easter or no?