Church Feasts, Festivals, and Commemorations

I’ve spent the last year sharing writings for each Feast, Festival, and Commemoration observed by the Lutheran church. So, you may be asking yourself, what is the difference between a Principal Feast of Christ, a Festival Day, and a Commemoration? I think I’ve finally got it figured out (although, I’m certainly open to correction if I screwed something up!):

  • Feast–These are the chief days of celebration, outside of the church year days such as Easter, and generally focus on events in the life of Christ, such as His Presentation in the Temple and the Annunciation to Mary, as well as days such as St. Michael and All Angels and All Saints’ Day.
  • Festival–These are days to recognize people who associated directly with Jesus, such as his disciples and his family. All of the people recognized on Festival Days are found in the New Testament. Holy Cross Day and Reformation Day are also Festivals.
  • Commemoration–These days recognize other notable Saints, including people from the Old Testament, such as Abraham, (and his wife, Sarah), Isaac, and Jacob, people from the New Testament epistles, including Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos, early church fathers like Augustine of Hippo and Ambrose of Milan, and famous Lutherans, like Martin Luther and his wife, Katharina von Bora, Frederick the Wise, Philipp Melanchthon, and  C.F.W. Walther. Other pastors, missionaries, rulers, musicians, martyrs, and even artists are also recognized. These are all people who didn’t work directly with Christ, as His apostles did, but still worked to spread the Gospel in some way. The 325 Council of Nicaea is also included as a Commemoration Day, as is the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession.

Most of these dates are observed on the best known date of death for the individual, as that is the date they went to their eternal glory with Christ in Heaven. Men and women are both represented, as are many different countries from around the world. Principal Feasts of Christ can replace the regularly scheduled pericopes for worship when they occur on a Sunday, while festivals and commemorations do not.

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