Thursday, November 23, 2006

LSB Calendar

I am beginning to understand the sentiment of the author quoted in my first post where it was suggested that "Lutheranism has no actual lex orandi (all in the name of "liberty," of course)."

Many have sung the praises of the newly released Lutheran Service Book. Others have been less kind in their comments. I have followed the development of the LSB; but I have not yet formed a definitive opinion of it.

Traditionalist that I am, the first thing that I look at is the calendar. There is nothing unexpected in the LSB as far as the Sundays and Seasons are concerned, unless you want to quibble about Sundays of or after Easter. I am more interested in the Feasts, Festivals and Commemorations listed in the calendar.

The LSB enumerates 35 Feasts and Festivals; the titles, in several cases, having been modified from their traditional forms:

March 19, "St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary," is now captioned "Joseph, Guardian of Jesus." Was Joseph, as the spouse of the BVM, not de facto the guardian of Our Lord?

The Visitation, historically (and in the 1 year Lectionary) falls on July 2. The 3 year Lectionary moves it to May 31. Why should the version of the Lectionary take precedence over the traditional date of this feast?

August 29 has traditionally been titled "The Beheading of John the Baptist." Have we become so squeamish that "Martyrdom" must be used to sanitize "Beheading"?

October 23, "St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus and Martyr," is assigned an individual commemoration in addition to being traditionally paired with St. Philip on May 1. Why?

When LSB lists Commemorations; I have even more questions.

Historically, the Western (Latin) Rite commemorates saints of the Old Testament only by exception; and then, usually only in particular calendars of religious orders. The primary exception to this rule is the commemoration in the universal calendar of the Holy Machabees, Martyrs, on August 1.

Understanding that it is beneficial to remember the saints, the LSB presents a mixed message. In the listing of Feasts and Festivals, the saints celebrated are accorded the title of "St." before their names. This honorific is omitted in the listing of Commemorations of those whom the Church has always recognized as saints. Then, too, the LSB does not place 19 commemorations on their traditional dates; and in three cases combines several saints, each of whom have their own assigned date in the historic calendar, into one unified commemoration.

With the exception of Fr. Martin Luther, fittingly commemorated on February 18; it would seem more appropriate to commemorate all of the Reformation fathers collectively on the Festival of the Reformation.

But what I find to the most curious is the inclusion of Emperors (Christian Rulers), Artists, Kantors, Father Confessors, Ecumenical Councils, latter day Pastors, Faithful Women and others not commonly commemorated. With "so great a cloud of witnesses," why is there a need to improve upon the wisdom of the past?


Latif Haki Gaba said...

I agree with your assessment here. This is one aspect of LSB where its creators couldn't decide if they preferred an Eastern Orthodox influence or a post-Vat. II Romanist influence; they seem to have gone with both, among other influences. LHG

Father Robert Lyons said...


Just a few comments on the matters you discuss in your post.

As for the Martyrdom/Beheading aspect of John the Baptist, both have their points. Martyrdom underlies the aspect of laying down the life for the faith, while beheading marks the gruesome nature of the act. Of course, the Gospel that day underlines that fact quite vividly, so...

As for James of Jerusalem, there are various views of this. There is a three-James' camp in existence that says there were three James'... James the Greater, James the Lesser, and James of Jerusalem.

In this three-way James situation, James bar Zebedee was martyred by Herod in 42, James bar Alphaeus was mentioned in the listing of apostles but not elsewhere, and James of Jerusalem is mentioned later in Acts and is credited as the first bishop of Jerusalem by later scholars. There are eight James mentioned in the New Testament.

Concerning the Visitation of Mary, it is impossible (and I don't know why anyone ever commemorated Visitation on July 2 to start with) to have the visitation on July 2nd given the fact that the Nativity of St. John the Baptist is celebrated on June 24th. In this sense, the change to the calendar makes far more sense.


Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

Fr. Robert,

Being a traditionalist, I have a strong resistance to change for the sake of change.

I seem to have jumped to a conclusion re. St. James; but I remain firm concerning St. John and the Visitation.

St. John is, indeed, a martyr; but he was murdered (beheaded) at the king's daughter's request. Also, the Beheading (and not the Martyrdom) of St. John is the historic title of this feast.

My problem with the Visitation is that the date varies according to the lectionary being used. I am also suspicious of the ideathat we need to put things in proper chronological order.

Bottom line: If something is not broken, why fix it?

Vicar Josh Osbun said...

I ran across your link to this post on a nother blog, so forgive the massive time frame between your first posting and this comment.

Concerning St. Joseph, it is appropriate to rename him as the Guardian of Our Lord as opposed to the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We identify ourselves according to our relationship to Jesus, not by our relationship to Mary. If Joseph is remembered because of his relation to Mary then we are proclaiming her and not Christ.

As for the moving of the Visitation, this confuses me as well, but it is not new to LSB, for LW included it first, though they left out the July 2nd Visitation.

Furthermore, the change of date is not a Lutheran invention. Many Roman Catholics accept May 31 as the date of the Visitation now as well. I did a brief Google search using the search criteria, "visitation, mary, may 31" and I found several Roman Catholic sites that observe it on this date. One site (and I don't remember which one now) mentioned that it is good to have the visitation happen after the Annunciation but before the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

This leads to your being "suspicious of the idea that we need to put things in proper chronological order." If the church year indeed reflects the life of Christ (which I argue it does), then it is good order to have the feasts that are not directly tied to specific seasons happen in a chronological fashion, else there is a sense of disorder, which is completely contrary to the nature of the church year, the divine liturgy, and the life of the church.

Concerning St. John, why do we remember the method of his martyrdom but not the others? Why not the stoning of Stephen or the crucifixion of Peter or the dragging to death of Mark or the beating to death of James the Less or the sawing in half of Simon? This does not concern me because the previous practice, though historic, was inconsistent.