Thank you Michael.
So, is it fair to say that the calendar was 'made up as it went'? Or was there a core pattern of remembrance present from the very beginning that was never altered? This is really a historical question.
You're welcome, Sacha.
I would perhaps be more inclined to say developed
than made up
but, yes, it took form over time, and is indeed still developing as new saints are glorified and as new events in the life of the Churc unfold, and are given their own feasts in the calendar.
I would suggest that those most ancient observances in the calendar are those surrounding the events in life of the Saviour, his Mother, and the Apostles. The Resurrection was likely the original and most widely celebrated feast. It was perhaps the only one that was universally celebrated at first. As the Ascension happened forty days after the Resurrection, forty days after Pascha seemed the natural time for it to be celebrated in the calendar. Similarly, it seems natural for the Annunciation to be celebrated nine months before Christmas, and for the Conception of the Mother of God to be celebrated nine months before her Nativity. See what I mean? Once one thing becomes established, others dependent on it just naturally fall into place. The dates and manner of the deaths of the Apostles would have been known to their disciples, and would have been marked accordingly.
It has been a number of years since I read anything on the development of the calendar but a good introduction is to be found in The Shape of the Liturgy
, by Dix. In the chapter, The Sanctification of Time
is a section on the development of the calendar and the various influences on it, as the Church passed from being an alternately persecuted and tolerated sect within the Roman empire to being a state religion, now celebrate its mysteries more openly, affirm its martyrs, and so forth.