I'm trying to be a good sport about this. I really am. I was opposed to its adoption, single-handedly stalling it on the floor of the House of Deputies in 2003 and failing to do so when it was brought up again in 2006. (No always means 'No for now' while Yes means 'Yes forever'.) But there's no core theological or moral principle at stake here (not at long as we have the two track option for the first reading, at any rate), so, per my ordination vows, I use the ****** thing.
But as I begin to prepare my homily for All Saints Day (which actually falls on Sunday this year), I am reminded how, the more I use the RCL, the less I like it. Let me count the ways (the ones that affect me right now, anyway):
- Gone is the familiar and beloved passage from Ecclesiasticus 44 ("Let us now praise famous men ...") that has been part of the Prayer Book liturgy for All Saints since 1549. Not just from this year of the cycle, but from all three. It's not there anymore. That disavowal of our tradition makes me sad and angry.
- Instead, in this Year B, we have another familiar passage from the Apocrypha--Wisdom 3:1-9 ("The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God..."), often used at funerals and at a handful of lesser feasts and votive Masses. This is not an altogether implausible choice. However, in conjunction with the other readings, one can see it as part of a package that falls short of the mark of a robust theological illumination of the meaning of the feast.
- The second reading is from Revelation 21 (New Jerusalem, God dwelling with humankind, no more tears). This is a passage of hope and comfort, but what does it say about the heroic hagioi ("holy ones") who have come through the Great Tribulation and whose robes have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and who cast their crowns before the One seated on the throne? In other words, how is it an All Saints' Day text?
- The gospel is from John 11 (Jesus shows up to raise Lazarus, weeping in the process). Again, very comforting. But what does it have to do with the occasion?
I am left wondering whether the framers of the RCL even understand what All Saints' Day is, what its history is, and how it relates to the following day (All Faithful Departed in the BCP, known popularly as All Souls). Have they fallen into the trap of conflating the two (along the lines of the para-Christian Latino observance of El Dia de los Muertes)? Do these lections contribute to the blurring of the appropriate distinction between November 1, when we honor the heroic holiness of those from whom we are inclined to request prayers on our behalf, and November 2, when we remember more ordinary departed Christians for whom we are more inclined to offer prayers on their behalf? The readings from Wisdom 3 and Revelation 21 seem more fitting for the latter than for the former.
Anyway, back to sermon prep. I must play the hand I've been dealt. I will actually come up with a sermon based on these readings.
The Holy Spirit is always faithful in my homiletical ministry, I have found. But I'm not a happy preacher at the moment.