Tracking Sanctity: Lesser Feasts & Fasts 1973

The next stop on the run-up to the sanctoral kalendar of the ’79 Prayer Book was the revised edition of Lesser Feasts & Fasts issued in 1973. Like its predecessor in 1963, there is not a whole lot of didactic or analytic text in this book. There is, however, an interesting preface from which I will cite down below.

This is a very significant text because of a number of important policy shifts that it contains. Few, if any, of these are explained, but they are definitely present. If the 1957 book represented the first crack at the Calendar, this is unquestionably Calendar 2.0. Here are the things that I identify as major alterations:

  • An increase in Red Letter days: 6 feasts originally introduced in the 1957 study as Black Letter days were promoted to Red Letter-level Holy Days. A brand-new one was added as well. All of these are feasts celebrating biblical people or events. What the shift represents is a new freedom in identifying major holy days apart from the predecessor kalendars whether English or American.
  • Inclusion of the Calendar material: The first material in the book after the preface is a version of what will become “The Calendar of the Church Year” section on pp. 15-8 of the ’79 Prayer Book. This spells out in new detail the relationship between Holy Days (containing Feasts of Our Lord and Other Major Feasts) and the Days of Optional Observance. The language of “Red Letter” and “Black Letter” disappears. Ironically, this is the first kalendar printed in color in a book of this sort and the Holy Days appear in red!
  • Abolition of Collect-Only Entries: In this book there are no longer levels of distinction between feasts that get full propers and those that only receive collects. All entries are provided with materials giving them two psalms, an Epistle, a Gospel, a Collect, and identifying the Proper Preface to be used. However, some feasts receive their own specific readings while others use the readings appointed in a particular common.The varieties and implications of this change will be discussed in detail below.
  • Turn to the Modern Age: Two-thirds of the entries added were from the 19th and 20th centuries. When a consolidation and unqualified group are removed from the reckoning, the fraction jumps to four-fifths. This will begin a major trajectory that will only accelerate in coming years.
  • Move to Consolidation: In the 1957 Proposed Calendar there were only two entries with more than one named individual: Cyril and Methodius, and Latimer and Ridley. One of the principles explicitly called out in the 1957 study was that Anglican Calendars tended to offer one person per entry (except in the case of mass martyrdoms). The Wesley brothers were added together in 1963, but the current work gives us the first example of a consolidation. Timothy and Titus had received their own separate days in 1957, but in 1973 they appear together as “Companions of Saint Paul.” While this is only one entry, it sets a precedent that will be increasingly followed.
  • Dropping of the term “Saint”: In text of the 1957 study, there was absolutely no hesitation to use the word “saint.” There was no sign of any hesitation to regard the people placed on the Proposed Episcopal Calendar as saints in the classical catholic sense. In the Proposed Calendar offered, though, only biblical personages were honored with the title. Thus, in the 1957 Calendar we have Black Letter days for Saint Timothy, Saint Titus, Saint Joseph, Saint Mary Magdalene, and Saint Mary. (Oddly, Cornelius the Centurion did not receive it…) In the expansion of biblical figures in 1963 we saw Saints Mary and Martha of Bethany, Saint Joseph of Arimathea, and Saint James of Jerusalem added. In 1973, most of these were elevated to Holy Days, but those who remained Days of Optional Observance lost their “Saint.” While there was always a reticence with this title for post-biblical figures, now only those biblical persons honored with Holy Days received the accolade.
  • Collects appear in Contemporary as well as Traditional Language: This is not a surprise, but should be noted for completeness’s sake.


Preface (p. vii)

The Calendar (p. 3)

The Collects, Psalms, and Lessons
The Weekdays in Lent (p. 20)
The Lesser Feasts (p. 34)
The Common of Saints (p. 156)

Biographical Sketches (p. 173)
The Sources of the Collects (p. 281)
The Lessons (in Canonical order) (p. 289)
The Selections from the Psalms (p. 297)
Alphabetical Listing (p. 304)

The first thing the Contents reveals is the absence of several kinds of days that had appeared in the previous book. While the Weekdays of Lent are here, gone are the Ember Days, the days in the Easter Octave, and the Rogation Days. The days in the Easter Octave are still mentioned in the Calendar section as having precedence over Holy Days, but they do not appear here. Too, the Ember and Rogation Days are not mentioned as examples of Days of Optional Observance in the explanatory portion of the Calendar rubrics as they are now.

The biographical sketches remain separate from the propers.

The Preface to the work offers a glimpse into the changes that have occurred. It’s short, so here it is:

The General Convention of 1970 authorized the Standing Commission to publish this revised edition The Calendar and the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels for the Lesser Feasts and Fasts and for Special Occasions, first published as “Prayer Book Studies” XVI in 1963 and authorized for trial use by the General Convention of 1964. With certain amendments it was re-authorized by the General Convention of 1967.

The new edition is made necessary because changes have been made in the Calendar, and because certain materials from the 1963 edition have been included in Services for Trial Use, authorized by the General Convention of 1970 and published in 1971. Opportunity has thus been afforded to enrich this new edition with the following changes and additions:

  1. The Collects of the earlier edition have been carefully revised, and several new ones have been included. They are provided in both traditional and contemporary language, as in Services for Trial Use.
  2. Optional Collects and daily schedules of Psalms and Lessons are given for the weekdays of Lent. The new schedule of Lessons, but not of the Psalms, is substantially that proposed for experimental use in the Roman Catholic Church’s Ordo Lectionum Missae of 1969.
  3. Commemorations which hitherto had only a Collect are now assigned Psalms and Lessons, either individually or by reference to The Common of Saints.
  4. The texts of the Lessons have not been written out in full, since it is now permitted to read them from several translations (Title II, Canon 2). The references for the Lessons are from the Revised Standard Version. Verses from the Psalms are numbered according to The Prayer Book Psalter Revised. The corresponding verses in the 1928 Prayer Book, when they differ, are shown  in brackets.
  5. Biographical notes and sketches about the commemorations have been prepared for this edition by the Rev. Massey H. Shepherd, Jr. Many of them are revisions of the notices scattered in “Prayer Book Studies” IX, XII, XVI, and 19.

The Collects, Psalms, and Lessons in this book are for optional use at the times appointed, in accordance with the rules of precedence of The Calendar. The officiant may always substitute, at his discretion, appropriate selections from The Common of Saints. It is our hope that this new edition will be received with the same favor throughout the Church as was the earlier book, for the enhancement of our common worship and devotion.

The Drafting Committee on the Calendar, Eucharistic Lectionary, and the Collects has been responsible for preparing this edition: The Reverend Massey H. Shepherd, Jr., chairman; the Reverend Canon James R. Brown, and the Reverend Messrs. Lawrence L. Brown, Reginald H. Fuller, and Donald L. Garfield.

All sorts of revisions have been going on. Entries are being added, Scripture lessons are being added all around, collects are being changed, a number of new Commons have been added; there’s a lot of flux here.  Point 3 is one of the biggest policy shifts but no information around it is given here—just the statement that it has occurred. I think that Point 4 was also a significant change as it no longer meant that everything had to be constrained by the printed page, several of the readings got longer perhaps in relation to this.

One of the other things not to lose sight of from this preface is its passing mention of Vatican II. We weren’t the only ones doing kalendar changes in this period—the Roman Catholic kalendar was undergoing fairly major revision in this era as well and the full story of the Episcopal kalendar is likely incomplete without looking at parallel developments across the Tiber. Certainly the emphasis on historicity seen in PBS9 was common with the Roman commission, but I suspect other parallels will appear there as well driven in large part by the Liturgical Renewal Movement that was at work in both churches.

Changes to the Calendar

In the 1973 Calendar there are 13 new entries not in the ’63 Calendar containing 13 named individuals.

One of these is a brand-new Holy Day: the Confession of St Peter. Additionally, 6 days already on the Calendar were promoted up to Holy Days:


One of these new entries is the above-mentioned consolidation of Timothy and Titus on the same day so this is technically a new entry but these individuals are clearly not new additions.

There have also been some exits from the Calendar. Obviously, the entries for “Saint Timothy” and “Saint Titus” have disappeared/been replaced. In August, “Jeremy Taylor, Bishop of Down, Connor, and Dromore, 1667” was moved from his previous position on August 14th to August 13th.  In the 1963 Calendar, the 13th had contained “Hippolytus, Bishop, and Martyr, c. 235” who has now been dropped from the Calendar.

Here are the stats on just the new Days of Optional Observance:

By ordination status:

  • 3 bishops (30%)
  • 4 priests (40%)
  • 1 deacon (10%)
  • 1 religious (10%)
  • 1 laity (10%)
  • 3 unqualified collectives

By gender:

  • 9 male (90%)
  • 1 female (10%)
  • 3 unqualified collectives

Entries by category:

  • 3 Multiple Martyrs
  • 3 Male Confessors
  • 1 Martyr
  • 1 Virgin/Doctor
  • 1 Bishop/Confessor
  • 1 Multiple Bishops/Confessors (2 individuals [Timothy & Titus])
  • 1 Confessor/Doctor
  • 1 Hermit/Monastic

Entries by Continent of Major Activity:

  • 3 in N America
  • 3 in Europe
  • 2 in Africa
  • 1 in Polynesia
  • 1 in Asia
  • 1 in the Middle East
  • 1 unquantifiable (Commemoration of All Faithful Departed)

Entries by Century:


Due to its obvious breadth, the entry for the “Commemoration of All Faithful Departed” doesn’t appear on the chart.

The New Shape of the Calendar

Ok—so now the stats of the Calendar as a whole…

In the 1973 Revised Edition of Lesser Feasts & Fasts there are 152 entries of which 33 are Holy Days and 119 are Days of Optional Observance. Within the Days of Optional Observance there are 121 named individuals.

Here are the stats on the Days of Optional Observance…

By ordination status:

  • 62 bishops (51%) [+1/-1%]
  • 26 priests (21%) [+4/+2%]
  • 5 deacons (4%) [+1/+1%]
  • 11 religious (9%) [+2/+2%]
  • 15 laity (12%) [-3/-4%]
  • 5 unqualified collectives (4%) [+3/+2%]

The drop in laity here is due to the upgrading of entries: St Mary Magdalene and the 2 entries naming the BVM left the tally.

Named individuals by gender:

  • 109 male (90%) [+7/+2%]
  • 12 female (10%) [-2/-2%]

Again, the drop in women is due to the upgrade of the Marys.

Entries by category:

  • 30 Bishop/Confessors
  • 20 Male Confessors
  • 14 Bishop/Confessor/Doctors
  • 9 Hermit/Monastics
  • 9 Confessor/Doctors
  • 8 Bishop/Martyrs
  • 8 Multiple Martyrs (only 3 named individuals, though)
  • 5 Martyrs
  • 4 Multiple Bishops/Confessors (9 named individuals)
  • 3 Female Confessors
  • 2 Virgin/Abbesses
  • 2 Virgin/Doctors
  • 1 Multiple Female Confessors
  • 1 Multiple Male Confessors (2 named individuals)
  • 1 Virgin/Martyr
  • 1 Feast of the BVM (2 individuals [her parents])
  • 1 general (Commemoration of All Faithful Departed)

Entries by Continent of Major Activity:

  • 73 in Europe (76 named individuals) (61%)
  • 15 in the Middle East (18 named individuals) (13%)
  • 12 in North America (10%)
  • 10 in Africa (9 named individuals) (8%)
  • 5 in Asia (4 named individuals) (4%)
  • 2 in Polynesia (1 named individual) (2%)
  • 1 unquantifiable (Commemoration of All Faithful Departed) (1%)
  • 1 in Australia/New Zealand (1%)

By Century:


As you can see, there remain three obvious spikes: the 4th century, the 13th century, and the 19th century.

As we approach the publication of the ’79 Prayer Book as as its shape gels, we begin to have new movement towards informal categorization of the entries by means of two factors in the propers, the commons and the proper prefaces. That is, in the “Category” classification above, I’ve been going by the traditional method using the kinds of categories and commons historically found in breviaries and missals. While we saw moves in this direction with 5 specific and 1 general Commons in the 1963 book, we now achieve the 14 Commons consisting of 5 Categories (“Deaconess” was dropped, “Pastor” was added) that will appear in the ’79 Prayer Book (with minor tweaks in a few of the collects):

  • Martyr (3 options)
  • Missionary (2 options)
  • Pastor (2 options)
  • Theologian or Teacher (2 options)
  • Monastic (2 options)
  • Saint (3 options)

There are a couple of tricky things when in comes to applying these categories, though. First, they’re not air-tight.  What do you do with Boniface or James Hannington, both martyr/missionary/pastor types? Classically there were specific propers for Bishop/Martyr that would apply; not so under this framework. That’s not a criticism per se because the flexibility given to emphasis different aspects in different situations is a bonus. However, the way that we categorize our saints simultaneously teaches us about the nature and perception of sanctity in a given time and place.

Second, everybody is assigned their own collect but some entries in the calendar get specific proper readings: psalms, an epistle, and a gospel; others are assigned a Common and receive the generic readings. What’s going on here—is this another way of creating a hierarchy within the Days of Optional Observance that was swept away by the decision to give everyone propers? The evidence seems to suggest not. Of the entries that received full propers under the Black Letter system, none of them lost proper readings. These were retained (but sometimes tweaked). On the 1963 Calendar there were 68 entries that did not receive readings; on the 1973 Calendar, 46 entries received Common readings. Thus, there is not an easy correlation between the old “lesser” entries and the entries in this calendar that received Commons. This suggests to me that the distinction is not based in a hierarchy but has more to do with “fit”—if a particular entry fit another passage of Scripture better than the Common under which they would ordinarily fall, they were assigned that Scripture, otherwise they received a Common.

Furthermore, even among the assigned lessons there are signs of de facto Commons emerging. In the 1963 proper readings there were no duplicate readings in the Epistle and only 1 verse of overlap. There were no duplicates or overlaps in the Gospels. In the 1973 proper readings,  both “Perpetua and her Companions, Martyrs at Carthage” and “The Martyrs of Uganda” are assigned identical Psalms, Epistles, and Gospels (Pss 124; 138|Heb 10:32-39|Matt 24:9-14). Within the Psalms there are 29 entries that share an introit either in full or in part with another entry. In the Epistles:

  • John Henry Hobart and Hilary share 2 Tim 4:1-8;
  • William Reed Huntington and William Augustus Muhlenberg share Eph 4:11-16.
  • There are 7 entries with overlap.

In the Gospels:

  • Ignatius of Antioch and John Donne share John 12:23-26;
  • William Tyndale and Justin Martyr share John 12:44-50;
  • Basil the Great and Catherine of Siena share Luke 10:21-24;
  • Samuel Isaac Joseph Scherechewsky and Jerome share Luke 24:44-48;
  • Francis and Anselm share Matt 11:25-30;
  • Margaret of Scotland and J.M. Neale share Matt 13:44-52;
  • Nicholas Ferrar and Bede share Matt 13:47-52 (overlapping with the previous two…);
  • Theodore of Tarsus, Jeremy Taylor and Dunstan share Matt 24:42-47;
  • Elizabeth of Hungary, William Wilberforce, and F.D. Maurice share Matt 25:31-40 and Martin of Tours picks up at v. 34;
  • The Consecration of Samuel Seabury and Thomas Bray share Matt 9:35-38

Two things in all of this. First, with the expansion of the Calendar and the extension of proper readings overlap and duplication is bound to start happening despite the apparent intentions of the committee up through 1963. Second, it’s interesting to note the reappearance of the traditional medieval Commons particularly in the Gospel readings.

So—to pull together this line of thought—there are now Commons that are used as a rough categorization principle. However, of the 119 Days of Optional Obligation, only 46 are so classified.

A better—but less specific—means of classification appears in the provisioning of Proper Prefaces. Before there had only been one proper preface. This did prompt an interim measure reported by the Episcopal News Service:

In further action, the two presiding officers have authorized two Prefaces for lesser Saints’ Days, as alternatives to the Proper Preface for All Saints’ Day on such commemorations. The new Prefaces, which are provided both in contemporary and traditional forms, read as follows:

1. ” For the wonderful grace and virtue declared in all your (thy) saints, who have been the chosen (choice) vessels of your (thy) grace, and the lights of the world in their (several) generations: “

2. “Who in the obedience of your (thy) saints have (hast) given (unto) us an example of righteousness, and in their eternal joy a glorious pledge of the hope of our calling: “

Now, 7 different Proper Prefaces were assigned to Days of Optional Observance:

  • PP for a Saint: 72
  • PP for Holy Week: 19 [for martyrs]
  • PP for Apostles: 8 [for missionaries]
  • PP for the Incarnation: 7 [for theologians/teachers]
  • PP for Pentecost: 7 [also for missionaries]
  • PP for Trinity Sunday: 5 [also for theologians/teachers]
  • PP for Trinity Sunday or Pentecost: 1 (First BCP)
  • PP for Commemoration of the Dead: 1 (All Souls)

So, this does introduce some native categories into the current kalendar but they still remain very broad.

For what it’s worth, Laud, Tyndale, Latimer/Ridley, and Clement of Rome (?)  receive the Proper Preface for a Saint rather than the Holy Week Preface given to everyone else traditionally identified as martyrs.

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