I just finished writing a brief history of the Episcopal sanctoral calendar for another blog (I’ll link when it goes up).
I’ll be the first to tell you that the evolution of our Calendar has been both crazy and problematic. However, I’ve been seeing recommendations on Facebook and in other places suggesting that we just get rid of our Calendar—cut it back to just the Holy Days and take time to think it out, or to not even bother thinking it out.
I have a negative reaction to this proposal. Let me play devil’s advocate and suggest that a flawed Calendar authorized by the church is better than no Calendar. The 1928 BCP, despite a late push at the 1928 General Convention to adopt a calendar, was published with just the vestigal kalendar of Holy Days in place since the 1789 BCP. To me, a New-Testament-figures-only calendar is a betrayal of our pneutmatology and therefore ecclesiology.
We believe in the Holy Spirit. We believe that the Holy Spirit has been at work since Pentecost guiding and directing the Church into all truth. (Obviously, the Spirit was around and active before Pentecost—my point is the Church, which wasn’t…) To skip over twenty centuries of human history is tantamount to a denial of the presence of the Spirit in the Church. Or, at the very least, a dangerous agnosticism about our ability to discern the movement of the Spirit in the past.
We need a Calendar to affirm fundamental Christological, pnematological, and ecclesiological truths: throughout the Church’s flawed and checkered history, the Spirit has been at work, saints have incarnated Christ in their times and places, and the Body of Christ has made Christ Really Present to the world through the members of the Church.
The question that we are faced with now is what exactly we want the Calendar to be. Is the Calendar a history of famous men who taught things we should know? Is the Calendar a representative picture of the kinds of people who make up the Church? or (spoiler alert) is the Calendar a depiction of the virtues of Christ and the gifts of the Spirit incarnated through the Body of Christ (in ways both representative and historical)?
The Tradition of the Church has developed a calendar of persons of particular holiness in a variety of ways of life. While TEC has strayed from that Tradition with Holy Women, Holy Men as well as A Great Cloud of Witnesses, I see something of a return to that standard in LFF 2018. However the committees which organize the calendar seem to shift the designations of the persons and introduce names which are inappropriate. Elizabeth Ann Seton was a professed religious not a monastic. Leaders of monastic communities should be uniformly recognized as Abbess/Abbot whereas LFF 2018 lacks a consistent standard. I wish that the calendar would respect the seasons of Advent and Lent and limit the number of lesser feasts. I wonder if TEC might follow the pattern of Common Worship for its general calendar and then modify the calendar with Lesser Feasts particular to our parts of the world.