Grace Abounds
A media ministry of Grace Episcopal Church
The Kalendar
Two important feasts fall in February. The first is the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple (2 February). This feast is, in fact, defined as a “Holy Day,” i.e., a feast of Our Lord as opposed to a saint. “Presentation” was known until the 1979 prayer book as “The Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary” (see Luke 2.22-38), and is known popularly as “Candlemas”. The popular name derives from the tradition of blessing candles for use throughout the church year on this day, this tradition probably deriving from the Christian supplantation of the Anglo-Saxon pagan practice of bearing torches on this day in honor of the earth goddess, Ceres.

The month of January begins with the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. The feast is also known as the Feast of the Holy Circumcision. Falling eight days after Christmas, this would have been the day for Jesus to be circumcised under Jewish Law, but is a day used to commemorate that our Lord’s Name is holy. The name Jesus means “the Lord saves” in Hebrew, and in an ancient calculus a name connotes power; a name effects what it says, and for this we give thanks.

In Advent the emphasis is on the season rather than on feast days. Nonetheless, the calendar remains filled with observances to mark. The first week of the month includes three important fathers of Church doctrine. The first is St. John of Damascus (d. 760), whose teaching still forms the principal base for the catechism used in many Orthodox churches, and whose writing on icons was instrumental in the resolution of the Iconoclastic Controversy at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. Clement of Alexandria (d. 210) was an important early figure in biblical interpretation.

We begin the month on All Saints’ Day. The commemoration of All Saints originated in Ireland, and spread from there to England. After the late 6th C. arrival in England of St. Augustine of Canterbury, the Celtic commemoration of All Saints was learned on the Continent, being observed eventually in Rome by the ninth century. In the East, from the third century a day commemorating all martyrs had been observed. All Saints’ Day is the only principal feast on the Calendar that may be observed twice. It must be observed on its given date, but may also be observed on the following Sunday.

Three apostles are celebrated in October: James of Jerusalem (the brother of our Lord) on the 23rd, and Simon and Jude on the 29th (tr. From the 28th). St. Luke the Evangelist is remembered on the 18th. St. Luke is both the patron of physicians and painters. He himself was a physician (Col. 4.14), and tradition holds that he painted the first icon, of the Virgin Mary. The feast of St. Francis of Assisi is 4 October. Francis reminds us of the fact that all of God’s Creation is to be honored. There will not be a blessing of animals on Saturday the 6th because of a conflict with diocesan Deacon School.

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.