For those whose lives are ordered according to the liturgy, one of the problems of liturgical calendars is that they tend to lose their original simplicity and become overladen with new feasts and memorias. These are often ‘devotional’ in character and express the personal enthusiasms of the pope of the day, a bishop or someone else with a desire to spread a particular message or foster devotion to a particular saint. Sometimes they are feasts of a local Church extended to the Universal Church, or they are aspects of the Mystery of Christ celebrated by a particualr Order or group and later taken up more widely. A good example of the latter would be the lovely feast of the Transfiguration, first celebrated at Cluny.
This week we have two new feasts: the obligatory memoria of Mary, Mother of the Church, celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost; today, on the Thursday after Pentecost, the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest. One can see the connection between the two, and if one reads the official documents, one can understand why they have been instituted but I must confess to a little liturgical exhaustion. I think St Aldhelm, whose feast we used to celebrate on this day, would probably have understood — and he would have been celebrating the Octave of Pentecost, anyway, which, to me, is the great feast of the Church qua Church and one I would love to see restored.
What I think both new feasts try to do is to focus on aspects of the Church we may have missed during Holy Week and Easter, but I wonder whether they will prove successful. The priesthood of Christ has become an ever more popular theme to meditate on during the last five hundred years or so. Lumen Gentium 10, for example, expresses this growing awareness very concisely and beautifully, but I do question whether today’s feast adds anything to what we celebrate so starkly and powerfully on Maundy Thursday. Perhaps that’s just me, growing old and curmudgeonly (which has nothing to do with actual age), and it is precisely those of us suffering from liturgical overload who most need today’s feast. Either way, I am glad to have the assurance of Hebrews that in Our Lord Jesus Christ we have one ever living to make intercession for us, aren’t you?
You can read why today’s feast was instituted and obtain the propers for its celebration here: https://www.liturgyoffice.org.uk/Calendar/Sanctoral/May.shtml