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am 14. März 2006
In the Episcopal pantheon of books, the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer are the top-tier books, the 'without which' that the Anglican world relies upon. Below this level are several second-tier books, those books which are also vital and useful, the books that no church or clergyperson tends to be without, and that most services in the church incorporate on a frequent if not regular basis. In this second-tier of books is the Hymnal, the Book of Occasional Services (those services not regularly scheduled enough to be in the Book of Common Prayer proper), and this text, the book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts.
Usually, this book is updated every three years (at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church); however, for the most part, the text remains essentially the same from edition to edition, with certain additions and corrections, so that any particular edition has an effective useful life of a decade or so. The latest edition comes from the GC 2003 decisions, but pick up any LFF text over the past many versions, and you will find the format and the largest percentage of the contents the same.
The book begins with a layout of the calendar of the church year. The first few pages are text that give the dates of principle feasts (or methods for calculating the movable feasts), holy days and major feasts, the fasts (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday), and days of special devotion and optional observance. There is then a twelve-page calendar, one month per page, of the days of observance for particular persons. The Anglican communion does not have the same method of canonisation of saints as does the Roman church; 'saints' as such are people accepted by communal assent as having led lives worthy of note and model, as appropriate.
The persons here represented include saints common to the undivided church (prior to 1054) like the Disciples (sometimes with shared days), Cappadocian Fathers, early church figures (fathers and mothers, such as Monnica, Augustine's mother); figures of the Western church prior to the Reformation (Aquinas, Hildegard, etc.); figures unique to Anglican history (Lancelot Andrewes, Richard Hooker, etc.); shared figures in the broader Protestant family (Martin Luther, John Wesley, etc.); figures in American Christian experience, Anglican and otherwise (William White, Phillips Brooks, Samuel Seabury, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc.); and other twentieth century figures (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Florence Nightengale, Evelyn Underhill, etc.). The list is constantly changing and growing, to match the spiritual needs of the community.
All the two-page entries for the people (arranged chronologically through the church year) follow the same format -- there are collects (prayers for the day) for each, presented in 'traditional' language (thee, thou, thy) and modern langauge, reflective of Rite I and Rite II in the Book of Common Prayer. The other page presents a brief biography of the person or people involved, or a little explanation of the day (as in the case of All Saint's Day, or other such events). The listing also includes what propers are due for the day (the Biblical passages appropriate for services). Other sections include the propers and collects for days in Advent and Lent, the commons of saints, lists for eucharistic readings over different periods, and an index of names.
When we did daily services at my old parish, long before I was a priest, we did not have music on those days. We had our 'daily trinity' of books -- the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Lesser Feasts and Fasts book. We would read the daily commemoration for the person involved, and then do an abbreviated eucharistic service, using the collect for the day prescribed in the LFF. I became very familiar with this text, and recommend it not only to Episcopalians, but also people who would like to add a cyclical and historical sense of time to their Christian practices.
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