The Octave of All Saints
November gives us the opportunity to experience in close succession the intense, diverse and instructional rhythms of the Church Year. This month of only thirty days begins with the Feast of All Saints, November 1. This Holy Day is so important that it is celebrated with an octave, a period of eight days. A wise, Anglican priest once put this in a very meaningful context for me. He pointed out that certain Holy Days are so important that it takes many days of celebration and reflection to understand their great significance. All Saints is given eight days, an octave. Christmas is celebrated over a period of twelve days, and Easter is celebrated for fifty days. The Sunday – November 6 – in the Octave of All Saints is celebrated with all of the splendor of the Holy Day itself. The glorious and triumphant hymn, For All the Saints, has become a signature entrance hymn throughout the English speaking regions of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
End of Church Year
Just two weeks later we crown the conclusion of the Liturgical Year with the Feast of Christ the King. This year we will mark the end of Lectionary Year C and its focus on the Gospel according to Luke and begin Lectionary Year A with a focus on the Gospel according to Matthew. The Feast of Christ the King is a relatively recent addition to the Western liturgical calendar, having been instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI for the Roman Catholic Church. In 1970 its observance was moved to the final Sunday of Ordinary Time also known as the Season of Pentecost. Prior to the adoption of this celebration by Anglicans and Lutherans, this final Sunday was known simply as The Last Sunday after Trinity (Sunday) or The Sunday Next Before Advent. The Feast of Christ the King brings the Liturgical Year to a glorious and celebratory conclusion rather than simply allowing it to wither away, lost in the anticipation of Advent. In the splendor of this period from All Saints to Christ the King we will replace the singing of the Gloria in excelsis (Canticle 20, Hymnal S 280) with the energetic Benedictus es, Domine (Canticle 13, Hymnal S 236) whose six stanzas each begin with the words “Glory to You” and which extol the Trinity on “the throne of majesty,” “in the high vault of heaven.”
Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas
But wait! The excitement is not over. On the final Sunday of November we begin a new Church Year with the First Sunday of Advent. The drama of the changing season of the Liturgical Calendar is still with us, but it is clad in purple. The music is filled with expectation and contemplation. An ancient, Gregorian setting of Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy) replaces the Gloria in excelsis. A hush is in the pervasive tone as we turn to self-examination and repentance to ready ourselves to welcome the God Incarnate at the Christ-Mass. Yes, November is a month rich in symbolism. In addition we must remember that we honor our Veterans on the Sunday nearest November 11 and we celebrate a National Day of Thanksgiving on the eve of the day, November 23 at 7:00 pm. The choirs are kept alert by intense rehearsals that ready everyone for the changes that are upon us. The final piece in this splendid tapestry is the KIDS’ Church and Sunday School preparation for a Christmas Pageant to be presented on Sunday, December 18. Simply Christmas will involve everyone in traditional roles, shepherds, angels, and the Holy Family. Rehearsals are taking place from 10:30 to 11:15 each Sunday morning. Please mark your calendar for the presentation – Sunday, December 18 at 5:00 pm.