Which Readings for All Saint’s Day in The Episcopal Church?

One of the fruits of the liturgical movement in the twentieth century was the wide-scale re-adoption of All Saints’ Day.

As part of the push to highlight Sunday as the preeminent feast and for ‘pastoral’ reasons, the observance of All Saints’ Day in many churches was moved to the Sunday following (or closest to) November 1. The Episcopal Church has allowed All Saints’ Day to be celebrated the Sunday following since the publication of the Book of Common Prayer 1979.

All Saints’ Day may always be observed on the Sunday following November 1, in addition to its observance on the fixed date.
(BCP, Page 15)

Regardless of if a community celebrated the Major Feast on the Sunday following Nov. 1 and Nov. 1, or only on Nov. 1, the same two sets of readings were prescribed:

Ecclesiasticus 44:1-10,13-14
Revelation 7:2-4,9-17
Matthew 5:1-12
or this
Ecclesiasticus 2:(1-6)7-11
Ephesians 1:(11-14)15-23
Luke 6:20-26(27-36)

Another fruit of the liturgical movement is the convergence of the Western eucharistic lectionaries. Speaking of the “second generation” convergence, modeled in the Common Lectionary, Msgr. Fred McManus called this convergence “by far the most successful and practical ecumenical progress in Christian worship since the Second Vatican Council.”

This convergence process reached its fullest flowering in the 1992 Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). Like the Common Lectionary (CL), the RCL provides three sets of readings for Sundays (Years A, B, & C) and was created in close dialogue with the Roman Catholic Ordo Lectionum Missae (OLM) and other three-year lectionaries like that of the BCP (called The Lectionary) and the lectionary in the Lutheran Book of Worship.

The CL and RCL lectionaries were created originally by churches that celebrated All Saints’ Day on Sunday. For this reason, they provide three sets of readings for All Saints’ Day, to parallel the three Gospels used to form the liturgical years. This year, Year C, takes as its Gospel text Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. The other two texts are from Daniel 7 and Ephesians 1.

Daniel 7:1-3,15-18
Ephesians 1:11-23
Luke 6:20-31

Here’s where things get interesting.

Well, interesting if you’re a liturgy nerd.

As you’re on this website, and you’ve made it this far on this post, I assume you are.

In 2006, The Episcopal Church adopted the RCL as its official lectionary. The legislation included a proviso that the original lectionary continued to be authorized to provide a smooth transition. The pages that were slated for replacement in the BCP were the ones that were the Sundays of the Church Year in The Lectionary pp 889-921, not the entire contents of The Lectionary (889-932).

However, as an Episcopal Priest pointed out to me today, people on social media have noticed that All Saints’ Day is on page 925. That means that, in the words of one commenter, the Custodian of the BCP got ahead of the official authorization of the changes from the General Convention. Was the intent of the resolution adopting the RCL to include the All Saints’ Day readings? I would argue that it was.

But were the readings, in fact, adopted?

That’s an open question.

The problem is compounded when one looks at the propers for All Saints’ Day on page 481 of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, authorized in 2022. There, we see the readings aren’t the RCL readings, but are in fact the readings from The Lectionary:

Ecclesiasticus 44:1-10,13-14
Revelation 7:2-4,9-17
Matthew 5:1-12
or this
Ecclesiasticus 2:(1-6)7-11
Ephesians 1:(11-14)15-23
Luke 6:20-26(27-36)

So, Episcopalians: Which set of readings is your community planning on using tomorrow (and next Sunday)? Do you have a strong opinion on which set is the correct and duly authorized set?

8 comments

  1. All Saints’ Day may always be observed on the Sunday following November 1, in addition to its observance on the fixed date.
    (BCP, Page 15)

    I find this “rubric” interesting. In Roman Catholic liturgical circles, from time to time debates pop up online about transferring of holidays to Sunday instead of keeping it on the weekday. I don’t know why this Episcopalian practice couldn’t be used in the Roman Church for feasts like Ascension, Epiphany, and Corpus Christi.

    Apparently this might be being done in South Africa.
    https://www.scross.co.za/2019/08/transfer-of-feasts/

    “In a Southern Cross article published in 2016, Bishop Edward Risi of Keimoes-Upington, then in charge of the bishops’ liturgy department, suggested that transferred feasts might be seen as an opportunity to have two bites of the holy cherry: on the actual feast day and again on the Sunday to which the feast is moved.

    The bishops “encourage priests and laity to use the traditional days of the solemnities for celebrations in Catholic schools, institutions like hospitals and old age homes”, Bishop Risi said at the time.

    It is up to the parishes to offer Masses for the feast days on their actual day, using the particular liturgy — and if this is not offered, for parishioners to ask their priest to do so.”

    1. Devin, there is a provisio for it in RC circles (albeit rarely practiced, in my limited experience). See Universal Norms on the Calendar n. 58. This is a double celebration on actual day and Sunday (or as it used to be known, an “external solemnity”), as opposed to a transferal (which requires an official adaption by a Episcopal Conference and Rome).

      1. 58. For the pastoral good of the faithful, it is permitted to observe on Sundays in Ordinary Time those celebrations that fall during the week and that are agreeable to the devotion of the faithful, provided the celebrations rank above that Sunday in the Table of Liturgical Days. The Mass of such celebrations may be used at all the celebrations of Mass at which the people are present.

        That means it cannot be done with respect to Sundays in Advent, Christmastide, Lent and Eastertide. In my experience, this is usually used for titular/patronal/dedication solemnities. (Though people don’t necessarily understand which ones are solemnities…and those that aren’t: https://www.canticanova.com/articles/liturgy/art9aj1.htm). For new parishes, deliberately choose titles that typically fall within Ordinary Time can help in this regard.

  2. With the older and now re-marginalized Mass and its Calendar, a parish might celebrate on a Sunday as an external feast, meaning that which occurred earlier in the week. The original date is always kept but an additional celebration can take place on Sunday. However, the Sunday propers are still recited or chanted, but there is a double Collect, Secret, Post-Communion Prayer (of the Sunday and the Feast). I believe the Scriptures, though, are of the Sunday. Since celebrating the TLM at our Cathedral, now moved to a nearby church, I have celebrated the Feast of the Holy Rosary, Immaculate Conception and Corpus Christi on a Sunday as an external feast as it fell during the week and also celebrated on that the proper day. I think it is a nice addition and gives the laity more exposure to feasts that fall during the week, but which they normally would not attend, to experience it on a Sunday. I know that this is anathema for many who prefer the ethos of the Modern Rite and Sunday being Christological. But with the older rite it is both/and and thus very Catholic.

    1. Also, for those who complain (and I am one of them) about Ascension Thursday and Corpus Christi being moved to the following Sunday, in the modern rite, both days could be celebrated using the TLM’s logic for external feasts, thus pleasing everyone, or maybe not.

  3. At my local Anglo-Catholic shack All Saints is kept today but with said morning and evening prayer and a low Mass this evening. Sunday will be the external solemnity with all the propers of today (BCP Lectionary) at the procession and solemn high Mass with baptisms. Tomorrow evening is a solemn high requiem with the reading of the necrology and absolution at the catafalque.

  4. To the points raised by Devin and Fr. Allan’s comments, it’s interesting that so many different calendars arrive at the same place by different paths.

    I don’t know how TEC got at this rubric. It first appeared in “Prayer Book Studies 19: The Church Year,” which was published in 1970. There is not an explanation of their rationale, and I don’t know where the minutes are for the meetings of the committee are published. (I suspect they aren’t and are in storage in the archives at the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, TX).

    The same provision (Sunday after) is made in the LBW, which originated in the Lutheran Service Book in 1958. The LSB did not call this a “Sunday within the Octave” but just the Sunday following. Pfatteicher traces that to the Lutherans wanting to have an “octave” and broaden celebration of the feast.

    As Fr. Allan knows, this was a period of rationalizing the Liturgy and broad-scale deletion of octaves. The BCP removed all octaves. Since BCP and LBW had a lot of dialogue in the drafting, and it was the Sunday within the former octave, I suspect that TEC was modeling it after the Lutheran practice and keeping the shadow of the octave and re reinterpreting it, but not keeping the octave itself.

    Charles Price, writing on behalf of the Standing Liturgical Committee, noted that over the trial use period of the BCP reform, there was a softening of the primacy of Sunday. Maybe Fr. Allan’s observation about the variety on Sunday and both/and nature of the 1962 Missal bears itself out in practice across the board.

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