Kalendars and Ecclesiologies

As part of the forthcoming upgrade to the breviary, I’ve been tinkering with the way that I generate my liturgical dates. I did have a system where I had to sit down and figure everything out for each year for each kalendar. Needless to say, this took a fair amount of time and caused a certain amount of duplicated work (which programmers hate).

I’m moving to a rule-based system that determines the temporal date, checks for major BCP occasions, then adds in any Days of Optional Observance based on the preferred kalendar. In order to make the magic happen, I’ve been sorting through a whole bunch of liturgical kalendars:

  • the BCP
  • Holy Women, Holy Men
  • the current Roman system
  • the Order of the Holy Cross
  • the Order of Julian of Norwich
  • Exciting Holiness (the CoE’s)
  • the Knott/English Missal
  • the Anglican Missal (functionally the Roman ’62)

All told, this makes 806 liturgical observances.

There are a lot of overlaps between the kalendars (i.e., some observances are celebrated in all 8, many are in at least 3 or 4), nor does this reflect the number of saints within these various kalendars (given that some observances celebrate no one—like days within the octave of the Nativity—and some celebrate several—like the feast of Basilides, Cyrinus, Nabor, and Nazarius or, a personal favorite, Ursula and the 11,000 virgins…)

Having all of this data collected in one table opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities for looking at it and reflecting on it. While I haven’t even begun to do that, some very general observations do come to mind:

  • The people we pray with and about have an awful lot to do with how we construct our own mental ecclesiology. If one of the things that a sanctorale does is to remind us of who all is contained in the communion of the saints, then different kalendars end up giving us very different answers and, as a result, sketch different pictures of who the church is.
  • Holy Women, Holy Men—which I’ve bashed many times in the past for a variety of offenses—takes on a new light when placed in relation to the Exciting Holiness, the ordo of the OHC (particularly the one in the monastic breviary that clearly predates HWHM), and the Knott Missal. This doesn’t necessarily mean that this new light becomes a favorable light, but adding in these relationships does help me see where some of the commemorations are coming from and why they are placed on the dates that they are.
  • That having been said, a very interesting diagram could be made mapping two different axes, the genetic relationships and theological intentions of the kalendars. Of course, two more kalendars would have to be added in first: a “pure” pre-conciliar kalendar, most likely the Pius X revision, and the Sarum kalendar…
  • The one major factor that immediately comes to my mind is the place of the martyrs. Within the big list, 213 of the 806 observances are of martyrs (26%). When we parse individual kalendars or groups of kalendars distinct patterns emerge. The highest martyr count goes without a doubt to the Anglican Missal and this is not solely due to theological grounds but rests partly on logistical grounds: this kalendar is one of few that includes commemorations and thus can—and does—have multiple observances within a single calendar day. (Which , yes, is in and of itself a theological decision…) That having been said, of the Anglican Missal’s 339 discrete liturgical observances, 138 are of martyrs (41%). By way of comparison, of Holy Women, Holy Men’s 272 discrete observances, only 39 are identified as being occasions celebrating martyrs (14%). One factor here is chronological—on the balance, HWHM has more observances from and relating to the modern era than the AM (no firm breakdown on this yet, but that can be obtained…) and thus far fewer individuals from the era of Roman persecution, but this sends a major theological and ecclesiological message.  The church sketched by the Anglican Missal is a church composed in large part by those who died rather than alter their faith. However, the church sketched by Holy Women, Holy Men with both its lack of early martyrs and its many modern entries sketches a church made up of more “ordinary” people in “regular” (to us) contexts embodying their faith.
  • There’s quite a lot more to be said here in relation to these few issues that I’ve raised and the additional material contained within this data. I’m thinking a decent-sized journal article could easily come out of all of this…

11 thoughts on “Kalendars and Ecclesiologies

  1. C. Wingate

    Shouldn’t that be Giovanni Bosco? Or maybe even Don Bosco? “We’re going to give him an education he can’t refuse”? I think I can give this one a pass.

  2. Paul Goings

    Seriously? “Juan” Bosco? Who’s proofreading for Church Hymnal these days?

    And people give us a hard time for paying no attention to the “official” liturgies…

  3. Derek

    We also get Juan de la Cruz later on. As an Anglican of English descent should I be offended that they perpetuate the use of Boniface of Fulda as opposed to his proper English name Wynfrith or that they spell the Great English king “Alfred” rather than using an ash?

  4. John Robison

    Juan de la Cruth?

    there are so many other problems there. The disjointed Bio, the ridiculous, trite and desperately missing the point collect both jump readily to mind.

    And no, you Anglo-Saxon types aren’t allowed to be offended by anything.

  5. Christopher


    I think it might be interest to chart how different understandings of sanctity co-exist in the Anglican experiment. I personally am untroubled by this. And I think we err if we uphold a singular model. Sanctity not only looks different in different eras of Christian history, it looks different in particular persons. The artistic apologetic lives of Sayers or Lewis are no less worthy than the bloody witness of Lawrence or the theological acumen of Augustine or the incredible preaching-teaching of Farrer. Many members, many gifts, multifaceted sanctity. Much if not most sanctity happens in ordinary life and lives, that is something our own common prayer tradition and Benedictine tradition are oriented toward, and then there are spectacular witnesses called upon at particular moments. In Christ’s light, each will shine forth and be full fruition, and we will not care who is better or first. I think the approach to sanctity and eternal life and heaven of much Anglo-Catholicism needs a dose of Eastern Orthodoxy a la Michael Ramsey.

    I am more troubled by the inclusion on our official calendar of persons who did not profess Christ in earthly life, not because I do not hope for their salvation given the trustworthiness of God revealed in Christ, but because the pilgrim Church cannot offer certainty in this regard but rather faith and because it is rather disrespectful way of handling the non-Christian as a real challenge to us as well as a deepener of truth for us–I think of Simone Weil.

  6. Sean+ Lotz

    This is just way too interesting. I can hardly wait for more.

    I had an interesting experience with the kalendar of my Church. I am a Celtic Catholic, and the chairman of the Commission on Liturgy. Some while back I had the opportunity to edit our kalendar in an edition which allowed me to add commemorations pretty much as I saw fit, within certain parameters (basically, they had to have been “canonized” by their own Church, so that gave me access to Orthodox, Romans, and Anglicans.”) Of course, I had no say over the bones and structure of the kalendar; the Holy Days, Feasts, and memorials were set in stone. I was looking at the list of names, around a thousand, and realized that the vast majority of them entered into glory 1000 years ago or more. So I amde a deliberate attempt to include commemorations from every century and every large geographic region (continent). Examining the result, I realized that the geographic distribution did not matter so much in defining the Church and the idea of holiness, but the temporal distribution mattered greatly. A listing of, let’s say, all Russians did not absolutely exclude me or my concerns nearly so much as a listing of first millenium saints. That really said to me, “This is all just a museum exhibit; it has nothing to do with you and your 20th century (at the time) life.” It defined Church as something that really no longer exists, and the pursuit of holiness as irrelevant.

  7. Adam

    I’m a pretty new Episcopalian. There’s a lot in HWHM that I like and a lot that seems bizarre. (Are there more socialists than martyrs?)

    Have any of the members of the committee that did.all.this last summer written anything on the selection process? It seems that would be enormously interesting,.from a historical perspective at least.

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