Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Timothy, Titus, Silas, the Dude who sold them Doughnuts, and the Taxi camel driver...

I make no bones about the fact that I do not like the trial use Kalendar of Saints that the Episcopal Church is floating in the attempt to revise the Lesser Feasts and Fasts calendar. It is entitled Holy Women, Holy Men. You can find the daily blurbs here at the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music blog. I think the very name of it belies the politically driven motivations behind it. They could just as easily have called it something like the Holy People of God or even the New Feast Day Calendar. That, combined with the fact that the blog headings include Resources for Same Sex Blessings and Hymnal Revision, I have to cringe at the thought that the powers that be may soon have enough political chips to tackle Prayerbook revision again, but that's neither here nor there for purposes on this blog entry.

I did not like the way new saints were added to the liturgical calendar in a buckshot method at General Convention a few years back now. Heretofore each addition to the calendar of saints had to be proposed and debated on the floor on a proposed saint by saint basis. The way Holy Women, Holy Men was presented as a take it all or leave it all format just did not sit well with me from the get go. I've also blogged about this before here, so I won't revisit my thoughts on the issues. Suffice is to say that I have not really changed my opinion of the matter.

I have tried to engage the proposed calendar revisions as objectively as I can. I do not use it personally in my daily mass schedule, and have simply reverted back to the Major Feast Days with Daily Office readings on non-major feast days. I've been reading up on the new saints, and some of whom I do like. But, as the calendar is being presented as a take-it-or-leave-it resource, I've ethically chosen to leave it. I really prefer not to have to play liturgical pick-n-choose on a weekly basis like some school yard kickball game where the kids line up and you have to choose this kid over that kid.

I also have to admit I have been a little put off in some personal conversations I have had with people who were directly involved in the process that created Holy Women, Holy Men. I don't try to be a rabble rouser, nor do I try to run one of those blogs that does nothing but bad mouth the Episcopal Church. I try to support and defend the Episcopal church as much as I can, even though I vehemently disagree with the national leadership on a good number of issues. One person whom I won't name but is on the Liturgy and Music Commission told me flat out when I was honestly inquiring as to the reasoning behind some of the more bizarre additions (an architect? a Egyptian Pentecostal?) that "You just don't get it, Father! This isn't 1662 anymore!"

I never admitted to "getting it" as pertains to the Holy Women, Holy Men resource nor have I ever advocated that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer should be the gold standard of all Anglican churches everywhere unto the ages of ages amen. I do question the top down "you have to use our resource entirely and like it, no theological questions asked" mentality that seems to be pervasive in the upper echelon of liturgical gurus both in seminaries and liturgical commissions these days.

Case in point: today's feast day is Timothy, Titus, and Silas. It used to be just Timothy and Titus. Timothy and Titus have been paired on the Catholic and Anglican calendar of saints for years. Silas has suddenly now been added, for what reason I do not understand. I know they are all companions of Paul in some way, but having some feast day that lumps more than two specific persons together seems problematic to me. You couldn't possibly cover those three together in a single sermon with any depth. If Silas was important, he should be given his own day. With the cluttering of the calendar however, I suppose Silas got lumped in with Titus and Timothy. But, again, why would you do this? Why not add Chloe, Apollos, the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker as well?

I think this goes back to my previous question of what do we mean in the Episcopal church by "lesser feasts and fasts"? I understand major holy days. I understand the Catholic hierarchical rankings of feast days from the Paul VI terminology: Solemnity to Feast to Memorial to Seasonal Weekday (i.e. a day of Lent or Advent) to the ordinary day (Feria). I think the Episcopal church has been attempting to do something like this for years, namely the Lesser Feasts and Fasts resource. Although, even there, what exactly was supposed to be a fast in the LFF other than Lent was baffling as Lent is not properly a lesser fast.

I think the Liturgical Commission would have been better suited to do a teaching series on what we mean by lesser feasts, holy days, fasts, etc. For that matter, what we even mean by Saints (and commemorations thereunto) in the Anglican tradition seems to be cafeteria religion. You take some, you leave some, or you have nothing to do with the salad bar at all. This on top of the fact that most Episcopal priests don't even say daily mass anymore, or even do the daily office on a regular basis. So, for the one non-Sunday liturgy a week that some Episcopal priests can be bothered to do, they just pick and choose whatever saint of the week fits their whim, political, theological, or otherwise.

Again, I don't claim to get it. Perhaps someone more learned than I can explain it to me.

1 comment:

JD Ballard said...

Powerful! Thank you Father for these thoughts. Let us hope that no BCP revision happens in the near future.