Thursday, May 17, 2007

Feast Days not Holy Days

As I said in the first post in this series, the RCUS follows the German Reformed Tradition of celebrating Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Day, and Pentecost as Feast days. How do I reconcile this with my opposition to the Liturgical Calendar? Since today is Ascension Day, what better time than now for me to tackle this task. I shall try to explain.

First, it should be pointed out that Easter and Pentecost are always Sundays. I am advocating replacing Sunday services. Instead, my church uses those days to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We do the same with the Sunday before Christmas. This is what was done in Geneva as well, so it is not some sort of new tradition by any means.

Second, I do think churches ought (but by no means do I think they are required) to celebrate such obvious days as Easter and Christmas. If we were honest we would admit that Easter and Christmas are the two days that more people attend church than any other day. There are many who many only go to church on Christmas and Easter. Those people along with the majority of the congregation are expecting sermons revolving around the holiday that the entire culture is celebrating. A giant opportunity will be missed if one decides instead to preach on II Samuel 5:11. Those churches that do not celebrate Christmas or Easter should be consistent and not complain about the selfishness of the holidays or secularization of Christmas or the removal of nativity scenes or the Easter Bunny. If the church refuses to recognize the reason these holidays existed in the first place, then one should not expect the culture to do so either. We must be careful not to lift these days up as better than the rest of the year, but we can still sing Christmas carols or "Up from the Grave He Arose" without doing that. We are clearly not saying this is Easter, Pentecost, or Christmas and the rest of the year are 'Ordinary Days'.

Third, and getting more into theological points now, these days are not kept or celebrated anything like they are in the Liturgical Calendar. There is no sense of Pentitential Purple at all? No fasting, no expiation, no removal of the Bible from the table of the Lord, no services of darkness. All of that is gone and not used. Instead, of Good Friday being somber and dark, it is ‘GOOD’! It is a day of feasting because of the goodness of God towards us. All of these days are kept as celebrations, not of some re-enactment of the sufferings and life of Jesus. Instead of having a season of penitence prior to Easter, we celebrate Easter and Good Friday. Instead of having Advent, a season of penitence, we celebrate Christmas! Not a minor difference.

Fourth, The Continental Reformed Tradition of Five Feast days recovers the days of Pentecost and Ascension Day. There were lots of blogs by Calendar supporters about Lent, but will anyone blog about Ascension Day? I grew up in a Liturgical Calendar church (United Methodist), and we celebrated Lent, we went to church on Ash Wednesday, we had Maundy Thursday, and we never missed Advent. But not once did we ever have an Ascension Day service. Not once. I don’t remember any Pentecost celebrations either, but there could have been. The point is, the Liturgical Calendar and churches put much more emphasis on the penitential parts of the Calendar than it does other days. This is not true with the five feast days.

Fifth, these five days remind us of foundational truths found in the Apostle’s Creed. The Apostle’s Creed speaks of ‘born of the Virgin Mary [Christmas], suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried [Good Friday], he descended into hell, the third day he rose from the dead [Easter], He ascended into heaven to sitteth at the right hand of God the Father [Ascension Day]” And it goes on to speak of the “The Holy Ghost” [Pentecost]. These are fundamental beliefs of the Christian. The Five Feast days just give us days to remember them. Like the memorial stones of the OT, they are their so we do not forget or take for granted.

Again, I do not think it should be required that a Church follow such things, but I do not think it scrapes against Protestant or Reformed Theology to celebrate them with a biblical worship service, and perhaps a meal afterwards for fellowship. I do believe there is a real difference in the theology that underpins these celebrations and the theology of the Liturgical Calendar. So go and have a good Ascension Day. It would be interesting to see how many actually had a service today.


Anonymous said...

Still sound's like a papist to me. Why are you bound to follow the calander of the pope? You are becuse you will not refrain from his apointed days. Does not follow the regulative principle.