25 March 2008

Patronal or Titular Feast?

Subdeacon Lucas asked if today, the Feast of the Annunciation, is the Patronal Feast for Holy Incarnation. Well, yes. Our Bishop has declared that the Feast of the Annunciation is the annual "Patronal Feast" for Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church.

But it seems more proper, both in the Western tradition and given the name of our parish, to call today our Titular Feast or Feast of Title. Why? A Patronal Feast is the Feast of the Saint who is the patron of the parish. For example, if a parish is named "St Boniface, Apostle to the Germans, Orthodox Church" (wouldn't that be nice!), then the Patronal Feast would be 5 June, the Commemoration of St Boniface. It would be not only the "name day" of the parish, but also understood that St Boniface prays for the parish and that the parish has a special devotion to St Boniface.

However, Holy Incarnation is named for a mystery, not a saint. And while our Patron Saint (as decreed by our Bishop) is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the particular mystery to which we are, by name, attached would be either the Feast of the Nativity or the Feast of the Annunciation. (Another possibility would be the Feast of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary, should this feast be observed in our Vicariate.)

Regardless of which Feast the Bishop would have chosen, it would have seemed odd to term that day "Patronal Feast," since neither Christ Mass nor Annunciation are patrons. Hence, we have taken to call it by the name common in the West; namely, the Titular Feast.

At Holy Incarnation, we celebrated our Titular Feast last evening with First Vespers of the Annunciation followed by the Mass. The celebration was rather low-key on purpose for a number of reasons. We look forward to a grander celebration in the years to come.


Dn. Lucas said...

Fr. John,

In that case, a blessed Titular Feast to you and the good people of Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church!

In Christ,
Sbdn. Lucas

D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

Excellent points, Father.

I believe that the default Patronal Feast for Our Lady is her Assumption.

It's also interesting to note that, in the Western Rite, there are a number of other special local feasts intended to be celebrated with much fanfare (as Feasts of the highest rank, with full Octaves except in Advent and Lent):

(1) The Feast of the Dedication of one's own Church (and the Anniversary thereof); as well as of the Cathedral Church;

(2) The Titular Feast of the Cathedral Church (celebrated in all parish churches in the diocese);

(3) The Feast of the Principal Patron of a Town, City, Diocese, Province, or Nation.