The Church calendar begins September with the feast David Pendleton Oakerhater, a Cheyenne warrior of an elite corps (dog soldiers) who became a Christian deacon, and the apostle to the Cheyenne. This feast of an indigenous missionary is followed by one of missionaries from one land in another, the Martyrs of New Guinea (2 September). On this date we commemorate the suffering and sacrifice of the Christian missionaries who stayed as prisoners in New Guinea during the Second World War.
3 September is the feast of Phoebe, Deacon of the church in Cenchreae (1st C.) Phoebe is commended by Paul to the church in Rome (Rom. 16.1-2). Was Phoebe as a deacon described functionally or in terms of office? The Greek word for “servant” is diakonos. Phoebe is not described by Paul as a “deaconess”. She is not described using a generic description for servant, but in terms of an office, “of the church in Cenchreae”. The fact that she is described as a “helper of many and even of me” connotes as well the role of patron and financial supporter. Regardless of how her ministry in Cenchreae is described, she was the bearer of Paul’s letter to the Romans, and was afforded a crucial role in the spread of the Gospel.
The month of August includes three major and a number of lesser feasts.
Feast of the Transfiguration, 6 August (to be celebrated with a Solemn Eucharist at 6 p.m.): Commemorating the time when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John; when His glory was revealed and God the Father commanded, “This is my beloved Son...listen to him” (Mt. 17.1- 8; Mk. 9.2-8; Lk. 9.29-35). The figure of the transfigured Jesus is a foreshadowing of the risen and ascended Lord, of Jesus in His glory. Peter, James and John see Him as He really is, and not with His glory veiled. This reminds us that as we are created in the “image and likeness of God” (Gen 1.26-28), we too will rise one day in glory.
Transfiguration was not adopted on the Western calendar until the very eve of the Reformation, and so was not included in the Prayer Book calendar. In the 1892 revision to the American Book of Common Prayer this feast was included, and from this revision the observance has spread to all Anglican provinces.
The first day in July for which the Church calendar prescribes an optional special observance is Independence Day. An observance of Independence Day in the Church was first proposed in the draft Prayer Book of 1786, but General Convention in 1789 voted this down, based in large part on the intervention of Bishop William White (Pennsylvania— his feast day is on the 17th), who argued such an observance to be inappropriate in a church in which the majority of clergy had been loyal to the British crown throughout the War of Independence. The Fourth of July was not included in the church calendar until the 1928 Prayer Book.
On 8 July the martyrs Aquila and Priscilla are remembered. This husband and wife team were coworkers with Paul, killed in the same Neronian persecution in which Paul died. Paul refers to Priscilla as Prisca (an affectionate diminutive) at Romans 16.3. Paul says Aquila and Priscilla “risked their necks for my life”; they endangered themselves in partnership with Paul. Elsewhere (at Acts 18, where Prisca is referred to as Priscilla) they are described as leaders of a house church. Paul meets them (recently expelled from “Italy”) in Corinth (Acts 18.2). They travel with Paul to Ephesus (vv. 18–19). There they meet Apollos and “take him aside to teach him the way of God more accurately” (v. 26).
Pentecost (Whitsunday) falls on 8 June this year. This is the 50th day following Easter, and marks the occasion when the Holy Spirit came upon all of the Church (Acts 2.1-13), which is considered to be the “birthday of the Church”.
The following Sunday (15 June) is Trinity Sunday, the only Sunday feast which commemorates a theological doctrine, that God is revealed as one God in three Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). On the Thursday following Trinity Sunday another “theological” feast is celebrated, this being Corpus Christi, in which we celebrate the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. We give thanks that we “may abide in Him as He abides in us” in our Communion with the Lord.
The month begins with the feast of Sts. Philip and St. James, apostles (1 May). Philip is the disciple who baptizes the Ethiopian eunuch at Acts 8.26-39, fulfilling Jesus’ injunction at Acts 1.8 that the disciples will be His witnesses “... in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” James is “James the Less” (a son of Zebedee), to distinguish him from James, the Lord’s brother. This feast is followed immediately by those of St. Athanasius (d. 373, commemorated in a window on the east side of the sanctuary at Grace), the defender of orthodoxy at the First Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325), and of The Finding of the Holy Cross. This latter feast (3 May) commemorates that in A.D. 335 the Dowager Empress Helena (Constantine’s mother) led an excavation of holy sites in Jerusalem in which it was claimed that the cross upon which Jesus was crucified was found. Many modern scholars think that Helena’s excavations were quite accurate.
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