Holydays and Liturgical Colours FAQ
How does our Church distinguish between the different holy days?
The first and oldest feast is Easter, around which the whole Easter Cycle revolves. All other feasts are distinguished according to class. On holy days, the changeable parts (tropars) follow the theme of the feast. Sometimes two feasts coincide, since the Easter and Christmas cycles overlap; in that case, the feast of the highest class takes precedence.
What are the main classes of feasts in our Church?
The highest category of feasts are the Solemn Feasts of our Lord Jesus Christ, at which, in addition to the festal tropars and readings, even the antiphons are changed. Sundays are also Solemn Feasts of the Lord.
Next are Solemn Feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at which the “It is truly fitting” is substituted with the irmos hymn. The next class is Solemn Feasts of the Saints, such as the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul or the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. The lowest class is Simple Feasts or Polyelei, often designated with a cross. There are also Commemorations, but they do not affect the readings at the Divine Liturgy.
Is there a difference between a Solemn Feast Day and a Holy-day of Obligation?
Yes. At one time, all solemn feasts were obligatory, and in Ukraine many people still observe them as if they were. Western society does not make allowances so many religious holidays, so the Church, using the Power of the Keys, removed the obligation from all except four of the Solemn Feast days. Annunciation, Ascension, Peter-& -Paul, Dormition are designated Holy days of obligation, as are all Sundays.
Is every day a saint’s day?
Yes, but not all are classified as feasts. There is a saint assigned to each calendar-day of the year. But, at the Divine Liturgy, we only take changeable parts (tropars) on a Saint’s day that is classified as a feast, and on Lenten weekdays.
What readings are taken when a weekday is not a feast day?
On ordinary weekdays of the year, we read tropars of the weekday cycle: Monday, the Angels; Tuesday, Saint John the Baptist; Wednesday, The Holy Cross and our Lady; Thursday, the Apostles and St. Nicholas; Frida, the Holy Cross and our Lady; Saturday, All Saints, Martyrs (and the deceased).
The weekday Epistle and Gospel readings follow their own chronological rotation.
Other than readings, what symbols distinguish feast days?
The priest may wear choicer quality vestments on feast days. Gold/bright vestments are worn on all feasts, except for those of the Holy Cross, of martyrs and the Beheading of John the Baptist, at which red/dark vestments are worn. Silver or blue vestments can be worn for feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Sometimes more candles are lit on the altar and the Liturgy can be celebrated with greater solemnity.
What colour vestments are worn during the week?
On ordinary weekdays, bright vestments are worn except for Wednesdays and Fridays when red/dark vestments are used; the liturgical theme of Wednesday and Friday being the Holy Cross.
When are the tropars ‘for General Intention’ read?
The liturgical books never prescribe such tropars. At times when the faithful were illiterate or could not read the Church Slavonic language, the priest, cantor or server would read the tropars and epistle alone. The tropars “For General Intention” are penitential and are read by the priest privately at the beginning of each Liturgy. These tropars were often used when the readings proper to the day or to the feast were too difficult for the laity. Now-a-days, with the introduction of the vernacular, we should take the readings proper to the day.
Shouldn’t the readings match the intention of the giver?
No. Such liturgies are called votive masses. The Liturgical Year has its own cycle, even during the week. The offering of the Divine Liturgy for the living or the dead should not control the liturgical theme of the Mass. When a votive Divine Liturgy is celebrated, in addition to the regular parish liturgy, it may be appropriate to take special readings, such as readings for the dead. Examples of such occasions are: funerals, 40 day Liturgies special anniversary or family liturgies.
Why did votive mass take over the weekday cycle?
Private devotion often took precedence over public worship. Only in the last fifty years has the liturgical movement has re-awakened clergy and faithful alike to understand and appreciate the Church calendar. Up until about the 1940s, the Latin Church was also inundated with votive Masses. Our Church restored her own liturgical books in the 1940s and 1950s and received a definitive mandate, from the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, to rediscover and be faithful to our authentic traditions.
Then, why offer a Liturgy in someone’s intention?
There are three spiritual beneficiaries of the Sacrifice of the Divine Liturgy: the priest who celebrates, those who are present participating, and the person/s in whose particular intention the Liturgy is offered. Offering Liturgies for the living and the dead is a practice that has great spiritual consequences, but was not meant to replace the weekday cycle of liturgical readings. The celebrant will usually read at least a prayer for the one whom the Liturgy is offered. Making a donation for the Liturgy is also a personal offering to God for a holy work.