Tag Archives: Major Feast

Red-Letter Days


In my post this morning I reflected on the lessons appointed for the Thursday after Proper 23, having completely missed the fact that today is actually the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist.

Perhaps if the Calendar in the front of the Book of Common Prayer still printed the Major Feasts in red (the origin of the term “red-letter days) I might have caught it. The current prayer book (see above) is a bit more subtle.

I probably wouldn’t have caught it, anyway, since my early-morning, barely-caffeinated routine has me turning first to the bookmarked Daily Office Lectionary, 961 pages away from the Calendar page for October, and then marking psalms and readings with the appropriate ribbons.

Oh well, there’s always Evening Prayer. I’ll have a chance to erase the black mark soon enough.


Ordained and Constituted in a Wonderful Order

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:11-12)

Year by year, the Easter celebration begins when the deacon sings: “Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels, and let your trumpets shout Salvation for the victory of our mighty King!” (BCP 286).

Week by week, the Great Thanksgiving at every celebration of the Eucharist begins as the priest or bishop sings, “Therefore we praise you, lifting our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven” (BCP 362).

Night by night, each of us closes the day with this quiet prayer: “That your holy angels may lead us in paths of peace and goodwill, we entreat you, O Lord” (BCP 122).

Saint Michael and All Angels

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 244)

Saint Mary the Virgin

The heaven of heavens is the Lord’s
but he entrusted the earth to its peoples. (Psalm 115:16)

The readings and canticles for this morning, the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin, give us glimpses into the lives of several people who were trusting and became trustworthy.

In the Old Testament reading, Hannah, formerly childless, sings to God after giving her son Samuel to serve in the Temple. She sings of God’s power: “He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap” (1 Sam. 2:8). She trusts that “he will guard the feet of his faithful ones,” and she entrusts her son to his service.

We respond with Canticle 16, appointed for Major Feasts like today, which is a song about another son. Zecharaiah sings to God in joy that he has witnessed a miracle — the birth of a son to his wife Elizabeth — and that his son, John the Baptist, will have a special part to play in announcing the coming of the Messiah. Zechariah trusts in God’s promise “to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

The Gospel reading recounts Jesus’ first sign, or demonstration of his power, at a wedding in Cana. His mother Mary nudges him into action, forcing his hand when he is reluctant to intervene. “There’s no wine,” she says. “So what?” he says. “Do what he tells you,” she says to the servants. Put on the spot, Jesus performs his first miracle. Mary trusts that the time is right for her son to step onto a larger stage, even though he was just coming to a wedding with his friends.

In Canticle 21, the Te Deum, we get another glimpse of the larger stage on which God is acting.

You, Christ, are the king of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
When you became man to set us free,
you did not shun the Virgin’s womb.

God’s purposes will be fulfilled with and through the “peoples of the earth,” people like Hannah and Zechariah, like Mary and like us, people who trust in his direction and become trustworthy by participating in his work.