Can you name the seven Principal Feasts of the Christian year? Before we take that quiz, I should probably say a bit about what it means to be a Principal feast. Those are particular days on which we celebrate the most important parts of our faith: the incarnation of Jesus, the Resurrection, the communion of saints, the ministry and glorification of Jesus. They are called Feasts for a reason: that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do on those holy days.
But when we use that word “feast” do we mean liturgically, with Holy Communion, or an actual feast? I think we should look to history to answer this question: how, over time, has the church marked important days? Did they gather around the altar to celebrate Eucharist? Or did they come together as a community for a grand feast…a great party, if you will?
The answer is: both! Many of the great Feasts of the year evolved as exactly that: a time to come together as a community to share in fellowship and celebration. But drawing on the tradition of the church through the ages, the Book of Common Prayer tells us that the proper way to mark those days is with a celebration of the Eucharist.
OK, back to the quiz: what are the seven Principal Feasts of the Christian Year? The first three are easy: Easter, Christmas, and Pentecost. The next two are also pretty intuitive since one is always on a Sunday and the other is often celebrated on the nearest Sunday: Trinity Sunday and All Saint’s Day. We round out the list with The Epiphany (January 6th) and Ascension Day (the 40th Day of the Easter season.)
This year Ascension falls on May 25th (it’s always on a Thursday) and we’ll celebrate this Feast with a parish feast of our own. We’ll grill chickens (and veggie burgers) and eat at 6 p.m., then celebrate the Holy Eucharist at 7:30 p.m. Our guest preacher will be the Rev. George Adamik, the rector of St. Paul’s, Cary and a recent candidate for the 12th Bishop of North Carolina.
In May we’ll be selling tickets for the dinner. You can purchase tickets at church or online.
Worshiping (and feasting) at all the Principal Feasts of the year binds us to a rich tradition of liturgical life. But there are other moments in the life of a church – and a diocese – when we celebrate the saints among us and our ties to the wider life of the church. We mark the most important moments of our religious lives with worship and with fellowship.
On May 4th, our diocese will gather here at St. Andrew’s to celebrate the life of Bishop Chip Marble, who died a few weeks ago. Bishop Marble was the Bishop of Mississippi, then after his retirement came to serve as an Assisting Bishop here in North Carolina. Based in Greensboro, Bishop Marble’s community work proved vital in building up an ecumenical movement among the faithful to work for justice and reconciliation in our city. The service at St. Andrew’s will actually be Chip’s third service: his funeral will be in Mississippi, and an interfaith memorial service will be held on May 1 at New Light Baptist Church. But the service at St. Andrew’s will be primarily for the people of the Diocese of North Carolina to celebrate Chip’s life and ministry among us.
In breaking bread together – in worship and in fellowship afterwards – we bear witness to the Resurrection as we honor the life of a saint among us. In this, our feasts connect us to something far beyond our immediate community. We celebrate our connections to the faithful in other dioceses: we are a church with a larger fellowship than just our city, or our state. We connect through Bishop Marble’s witness to the ongoing work of justice in Greensboro.
As followers of Jesus, we mark all these with a feast. So, feast with us on May 4 as we celebrate the remarkable life and witness of Bishop Marble. Then, feast with us on May 25 as we celebrate the glorification of Jesus that we mark on Ascension Day. I can think of few better ways to celebrate the season of Easter.