Thursday, of course, is Ascension Day. Every year this feast, along with others, such as All Saints', brings to mind the whole problem of "days of obligation" in the Anglican tradition. The problem ultimately boils down to this: are there any "days of obligation" in the Anglican tradition? At the outset I should maker clear that I am defining "day of obligation" as a holy day day where the faithful are required to receive make their communions.
That the whole concept of "days of obligation" is a problem within the Anglican tradition became apparent to me years ago when I began noticing different lists of "days of obligation" in classic Anglican devotional texts. The Practice of Religion (Knowles) lists these days as: Christmas, Easter, and Whitsunday. Under the rather ambiguous heading "Other Times of Obligation or Devotion" this same books adds "Holy Days, Saints Days, and Sundays." Another old classic, St. Augustine's Prayer Book, has the days of obligation as being: Sundays, Christmas Day, Circumcision, Ascension, and All Saints'. It adds as "Special Days of Devotion" Annunciation, Corpus Christi, and the Assumption. Besides these two books who knows what other "lists" are out there. So what is one to make of all of this disparity?
In my mind, the only day of obligation in the Anglican tradition - at least for continuing Anglicans who use the 1928 BCP - is Sunday. This is because of what the Prayer Book "Offices of Instruction" says on page 291. So obviously Easter Sunday and Whitsunday, because they are both Sundays, can be considered days of obligation. Other moveable saints' days may also be, perhaps, but only when they fall on a Sunday. Otherwise I can think of no authority within our tradition that declares days such as the Ascension to be "days of obligation." As these are, however, very important days, perhaps it is best to simply refer to them as the Anglican Service Book does: "Principal Feasts."
I suppose if a diocesan bishop were to proclaim some additional days during the year as being days of obligation then that would carry some weight, but I can think of no continuing Anglican diocesan bishop who has done so. And I suppose one could make the argument from tradition that days such as Christmas are days of obligation, but what constitutes "tradition" can easily become rather subjective.
So, in my parish, I do not refer to days such as the Ascension - extremely important though they are - as being "days of obligation" because I simply do not necessarily feel that I have the authority to declare them as such within the strictures of our tradition.
What do you think about this?