What Are Minor Feast Days, Anyway?
Have you ever wondered why we sometimes say an extra prayer about a specific person on Sunday mornings? Or why the colors change, even though we haven’t entered a new season of the church year? Why should we remember great saints who have gone before us, anyways?
These special days on the church calendar are called “minor feasts”—as opposed to the major feasts of Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday. They are days for us to remember the great men and women of God who have gone before us, and to pray that God would give us the grace to follow their examples of exceptional faith, love, and gospel proclamation.
Is it idolatry to remember and celebrate human beings? Absolutely not! It is, of course, important to remember that on minor feast days we are not worshiping the saints. We are merely remembering the great things they did for God and for his people and giving them honor for their faithful service to Christ.
First and foremost, though, the saints should cause us to look to Jesus. We celebrate the saints, not because they are great, but because they looked to Christ and put their faith in him. This should inspire us to do the same!
There are specific ways in which we celebrate the saints on these minor feast days. Typically, we celebrate a saint on the day of his or her death, because, as Psalm 116:15 tells us, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” This is a tradition going back to the ancient church, as it was understood that the day of a saint’s death was a kind of “birthday” when they went to be in the presence of God forever.
If a saint was martyred, we use red for our vestments, banners, and frontal on the altar. If the saint being celebrated was not martyred, we use white as our liturgical color. We also include a collect about the saint and mention them in the prayers at the beginning of the Eucharistic liturgy.
Making these small changes helps us honor our faithful brothers and sisters who have “fought the good fight” and “finished the race” (2 Tim. 4:7). May these days of celebration prompt us to praise the Lord for his work in the lives of these men and women and spur us on to similar faithfulness in our own lives.