I know that no one gets as excited over a liturgical conundrum or issue as much as I do, and I am convinced that God appreciates my excitement and probably has a good heavenly chuckle.
Indeed, this is how I wound up earning an accidental Anglican Studies Diploma during my first round of graduate school, bless my heart.
Actually, I have a handful of Facebook friends and professional parish musician friends who enjoy a good liturgical discussion, ever attempting to get it all perfect, but perhaps that is a conversation for another blog.
In our Service Music List for 2019-2020, which is now posted on the Worship/Music page of our parish website, I took great delight in choosing an icon of The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple as this year’s cover artwork. The Feast of the Presentation is one of the “red letter days” in the Book of Common Prayer that completely replaces the proper readings of a particular Sunday.
Called “Principal Feasts” (BCP p. 15), those liturgical feasts are Easter Day, Ascension Day, Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany. Whenever those liturgical feasts fall on a Sunday, the Sunday propers lose and the red-letter day wins.
These feasts take precedence of any other day or observance. (BCP p. 15)
Having said this, of course Easter Day is always a Sunday, as are the Day of Pentecost (50 days after Easter Day) and Trinity Sunday. And as Ascension Day is always 40 days after Easter Day, Ascension Day is always a Thursday.
All Saints’ Day is always November 1, no matter upon which day of the week it falls. Some years November 1 falls on a Sunday. Double-win.
However, All Saints’ is actually a double-win every year, at least in this parish church where we choose to take the option given to us, also on BCP p. 15:
All Saints’ Day may always be observed on the Sunday following November 1, in addition to its observance on the fixed date.
If we wanted, this year we could have an All Saints’ Eucharist on Friday, November 1, in addition to Sunday, November 3. And if we were an Anglo-Catholic parish, we could have an All Saints’ Day Vigil Mass on Thursday evening, October 31.
Couple all of that with the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed, commonly known as All Souls’ Day, on November 2 each year according to the Prayer Book, we could have All Saints’ and All Souls’ feast day services night-and-day for a good 3-4 days.
I’m in, but I will admit that might be a bit much, even for a lowly parish musician.
Our Sunday after All Saints’ Day this year will be wonderfully special, as we will celebrate Holy Baptism at our 8:00 and 5:30 liturgies and renew our baptismal vows as a congregation at the 10:30 service. A baby being baptized at the 8:00 service will be a treat for our early-morning worshippers, and including baptism in our contemplative 5:30 liturgy, with its dim light and quiet nature, will also be a beautiful experience.
All Saints’ offers us wonderful music and texts upon which to celebrate and meditate. Here are a few from our hymns and anthems at 10:30 this Sunday morning:
The golden evening brightens in the west; soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest. Alleluia!
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day; the saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on his way. Alleluia!
- Hymn 287, stanzas 6-7
Let them praise his Name in the dance; let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes pleasure in his people and adorns the poor with victory.
Let the faithful rejoice in triumph; let them be joyful on their beds.
- Psalm 149:3-5
These are they who have contended for their Savior’s honor long,
Wrestling on till life was ended, following not the sinful throng;
These, who well the fight sustained, triumph by the Lamb have gained.
These are they whose hearts were riven, sore with woe and anguish tried,
Who in prayer full oft have striven with the God they glorified;
Now, their painful conflict o’ver, God has bid them weep no more.
- Hymn 286, stanzas 3-4
Happy and blest are they who have endured!
For though the body dies, the soul shall live forever!
- James 1:12, from Mendelssohn’s oratorio St. Paul
Respond, ye souls in endless rest, ye patriarchs and prophets blest, Alleluia!
Ye holy twelve, ye martyrs strong, all saints triumphant, raise the song, Alleluia!
- Hymn 618, stanza 3