So I was all excited to figure out last night’s collect for Evening Prayer. Why? Well, it’s a Saturday night. Generally Saturday nights are the First Vespers of the Sunday following which is why even the ’79 BCP instructs that the Sunday collect be used (p. 158). However, it being the Saturday falling after the first Wednesday after the 14, yesterday was also the Fall Ember Day which is a fairly significant event. Not only that, it was the 23rd which means it’s the eve of a 24th.
Caelius can explain this better than I, but the date of the summer and winter solstices and the equinoxes have drifted a bit over the centuries. They’re currently on the 21st where they used to be on the 24th. Early on, the church appropriated the natural theology of the increase and decrease of the sun and positioned incarnational feasts at each of them. Thus, Christmas–the rebirth of the light–was Dec 24th; nine months early was the vernal equinox and the equality and increase of the light and thus the Annunciation of the BVM. The Birth of St John Baptist was at the summer solstice (nb: it’s really rare to celebrate the *birth* of a saint rather than his death…it’s a signal there’s something deeper going on…). Since the sun decreases at that point it was linked to the words of JB in John’s Gospel, “I must decrease so he [Jesus] may increase.” Nine months before that, then, is the Conception of JB. Which is today. So yesterday was the eve.
What then should be observed? The 1st Vespers of the Sunday or the Feast or the 2nd Vespers of the Ember Day?
When I went to check the tables of precedence in the Anglican Breviary–what do you know, they had the nerve to take out the Conception of JB!
Final answer–The Ember Day as the second vespers of a feria of the second class takes it; the Conception would have to be a 1st class feast for a first verspers to knock out a second vespers.
Hey–I said it was the height of geekiness…