Episcopalians believe in celebrations. The central liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer is, indeed, the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
We use the word "celebration" in every nuance of its meaning: to observe or commemorate, to proclaim, to praise widely, to solemnize, to perform with appropriate rites and ceremonies.
Each Sunday in the Christian year, we celebrate as a specific feast day, remembering that "each Sunday is a Little Easter." This Sunday (Sept. 24) happens to be the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost on our calendar, and we have specific readings and prayers assigned to that day.
Throughout the Christian year, there are many other feast days that occur on any day of the week. These days have been observed on a particular date because of its association with a particular moment in the Bible, a particular saint, or another holy person or event ("lesser feast or fast").
The Book of Common Prayer lists all the "biggies" at the beginning of the book: Easter Day, The Day of Pentecost, The Transfiguration, along with the Feast Days of St. Joseph, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Mary the Virgin and so many others. "Fasts" as observed in the Christian year include Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
In Memphis, we have our own important lesser feast day forever tied to the city, the 1878 yellow fever epidemic and St. Mary's Episcopal School. Constance and Her Companions are commemorated each year on September 9, the date that Sister Constance died. She was the first of a number of nuns to succumb while caring for so many others.
Throughout the years, other companion volumes have been published that include these lesser feasts and fasts. Before they are an official part of our worship tradition, these calendar volumes must be approved by General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which convenes every three years. The last General Convention was held in 2015 in Salt Lake City.
The present edition of Lesser Feasts and Fasts was approved in 2006 at General Convention, and that volume remains in effect. However, as other persons have been raised up in our midst, "contemporary saints" if you will, new calendars have been proposed, studied and used.
In 2009 Holy Women, Holy Men was introduced to commemorate a number of these contemporary saints; this volume was given final approval at General Convention in 2012.
At the 2015 General Convention, an expanded version of Holy Women, Holy Men, entitled A Great Cloud of Witnesses, was presented, approved for trial usage, and may be finally approved at General Convention in 2018 in Austin, Texas.
While major feasts of the Church year may not be transferred (moved off of their dates), lesser feasts and fasts may be transferred to other days or occasions as convenient by local parishes.
At Choral Evensong this Sunday evening, we will be observing the transferred Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, using the readings and some wonderful choral music and congregational hymns pointing to St. Michael the Archangel, who is traditionally credited as the principal one to combat Satan, to escort the faithful to Heaven at the hour of their deaths and to be the champion of all Christians and the Church itself.
Click here for some further information about Lesser Feasts and Fasts.