A Table of Precedence for the 79 BCP (Updated)

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?

13 thoughts on “A Table of Precedence for the 79 BCP (Updated)

  1. Scott

    I’ve always found it interesting that the Nativity of St. John the Baptist is unique among saints’ holy days in having a proper Eve. Similarly, Holy Cross Day has one as well. St. Michael and All Angels has a hidden eve in that it has two sets of psalms and lessons for Evening Prayer. Same with St. Mary the Virgin. Do these point to additional gradations in dignity? Does a proper eve put the Nativity of SJB on a par with the Visitation, Presentation, etc.? Are SMV and SMAA on the next lower rung? I suppose it depends on whether the 1979 BCP deciders were thinking in that much detail about the propers and intended to show such gradations by how they arranged propers for eves and hidden optional eves.

    I’m in a parish that observes the BVM on Saturday; this gives way to pretty much any lesser feast and, I believe, Lenten and Easter ferias. The propers used are those of The Visitation. Tomorrow (29 May), for instance, is given in the parish kalendar as “Votive of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Commemorate the Ember Day).”

  2. Derek Olsen

    Scott, the Nativity of SJB is on a par with the Visitation as it is properly a Feast of the Christmas/Incarnation cycle rather than the Sanctoral cycle. The properly sanctoral feast for SJB is the Decollation–his heavenly natal day as opposed to his earthly– now regrettably suppressed in our Calendar.

    There are some great inconsistencies in the way that the ’79 BCP does its Eves. The ’28 Eves are much better and clearer; the ’79 Daily Office Lectionary gets rid of the previous Eves and lumps Apostles & Evangelists under one set of readings. This is a set of points that I was moving toward in my multi-part post on First Vespers & Eves before other things hit and I got distracted…

    I was unclear on the status of the Saturday Office in Easter. Most rubrics since VII have jumped up the status of the Easter season overall. My guess is that Paul and the Clementines celebrate the Saturday Office during Easter while y’all don’t. Is that correct?

  3. C. Wingate

    There’s one distinct glitch in the 1979 calendar which we came close to setting off a couple of years ago, and for better or worse are not likely to set off before the 1979 book gets suppressed in favor of a successor. Unlike the 1928 BCP, 1979 has no entry in precedence for the “gesima” Sundays, although “last Epiphany” appears in the lectionary; therefore if Easter in on 23 March (or 22 March in a leap year) there is no observance of last Epiphany, because Candlemass preempts it under the 1979 rules, whereas in 1928 Quinquagesima took precedence. It’s merely a liturgy-geek point, as the last time this happened was in 1913 and it won’t happen again before 2090 at least. We dodged a bullet in 2008 when it would have happened but for the leap year.

    Looking at 1969 Roman norms I’m guessing we inherited this from them, and it frankly looks like an oversight, as they have Christ the King Sunday before the fixed feasts.

  4. Scott

    This is when I regret having binned the Eastertide bulletins with the parish kalendar! I just have the Easter Day bulletin, which of course shows Saturday in Easter Week rightly taking precedence over anything else that could be observed on that day. I’ll scrounge for possible PDFs that show other Eastertide Saturdays and let you know what we did.

  5. Derek Olsen

    Yes, C. Wingate, the point about Candlemas is a good one. The status of the Last Sunday of Epiphany is a cloudy one since the official adoption of the Revised Common Lectionary. The compilers of the RCL decided that the Ordianry seasons should function like the others and be bookended with feasts; as a result, they took the Feast of Christ the King from its place in the Last Sunday in October and the Feast of the Transfiguration from August and stuck it on Last Epiphany.

    The ’79 BCP does not recognize the place of those feasts; we retain the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 6th and do not have a Feast of Christ the King.

    So does the amalgamated “Sunday of the Transfiguration” have the status of a Sunday of Ordinary Time, a Feast of Our Lord, or—as you note—a ‘Gesima? It’s a grey area…

  6. C. Wingate

    It appears that the RCL does recognize Christ the King Sunday. But the Pentecost season lectionary works differently from the rest of the year, because it is pegged to dates rather than to the series of Sundays. Since there is nothing with a higher precedence than a Sunday in the week from 20-27 November, in practice CtK Sunday is always observed on its designated date.

    The RCL may omit Transfiguration, but it is still on the ECUSA calendar: I just checked at DFMS to make sure. They also name last Pentecost (aka Proper 29) as “Christ the King”. Given the mess that was the latest set of new commemorations I would be loathe to look to this as meaning anything, though.

  7. C. Wingate

    Personally I would say that the 1928 solution is what should be followed. The Epiphany season presents the Transfiguration as the crowning epiphany, so I would say it is more pressing to observe that on Sunday morning than it is to observe the Presentation.

  8. Derek Olsen

    I don’t know about that… If you’re looking at Manifestations of Christ, I’d rather do the Presentation and hit the Transfiguration later in the year than have the Transfiguration twice and the Presentation not at all…

    Furthermore, the Season after Epiphany is no longer the Epiphany season of the pre-conciliar/’28 kalendar; its manifestations have been gutted in favor of starting Ordinary Time early.

  9. Christopher

    I agree with Derek. At one point, the Presentation closed the Christmas season, which really includes Epiphany (pre-gutting) in popular piety. It is an important feast historically that has lost favor.

  10. Geoff

    With respect to the double propers for the Assumption/Falling Asleep/SMV and other feasts, I note that A Monastic Breviary does indeed appoint one set for I Vespers.

    Derek, what is the Sunday before Advent I called in 1979? We have it as “the Reign of Christ.”

  11. Derek Olsen

    As originally printed in the BCP it’s Proper 29: The Last Sunday after Pentecost. The collect, however, doubles for the votive entitled Of the Reign of Christ.

    According to the new RCL tables to be pasted inside BCPs, it’s Proper 29: Christ the King. (In the new tables the Last Sunday after the Epiphany remains “Last Sunday after Epiphany”; no mention is made of Transfiguration. That having been said the collect printed in the ’79 has always been of Transfiguration as have the readings. So the move towards Transfiguration was intended even then, but the name was not surrendered over to it and the Transfiguration remained on Aug. 6 nonetheless.)

  12. C. Wingate

    One thing I would note about the old BCP rotation is that the Last Epiphany readings rotate around the synoptics, so that Year C is pretty close to the festal propers but A and B are not. That’s roughly what the RCL has too, except that in year C the gospel seems not to know when to stop.

  13. Pingback: Considering Ferial Days | haligweorc

Comments are closed.