I mentioned the week before last (and then forgot to follow up on it) the classification of feasts in the Church, so we’ll cover that now. In Orthodoxy, we rank our liturgical celebrations throughout the year according to a hierarchy of classifications, numbered first through fifth. So first and foremost, Pascha ranks higher than any other commemoration, being in a class of its own as the single most important day of our year. Feasts of the Lord (there are 7) are what are called First Class Feasts, and we focus all our attention on the Lord, suppressing both the patronal troparion of the temple as well as other commemorations for that day (even on a Sunday). Fasts are usually relaxed on these days to permit fish, wine, and oil (unless it’s the Elevation of the Holy Cross, where fasting is maintained). With the exception of Palm Sunday which has neither, most of these feasts have both forefeasts and leavetakings, except for Ascension and Pentecost, which have the latter, but not the former (still with me?).
Second Class Feasts are those of the Theotokos (there are 5), and together with the 7 of the Lord, these comprise the 12 Great Feasts of the Church. The patronal troparion of the temple is suppressed for these as well, and the fasting is relaxed to permit fish, wine, and oil if it falls on a fast day. But because we are Orthodox and nothing can be too easy, we make an exception if the Annunciation falls during Holy Week - then wine and oil are okay, but not fish, but if it falls on Great and Holy Friday or Saturday, then wine is okay, but not oil or fish!
Now it gets a bit tricky - Third Class Feasts are those for which the Menaion (literally “of the month”) includes a complete akolouthia (“to follow”) - a full cycle of daily liturgical services (even though we don’t do all of them most of the time) - Vespers, the Midnight Office, Matins, the Little Hours, and Compline, as well as the Divine Liturgy (or Typika). We are privileged at St. Andrew’s to have a complete set of the Menaion - check it out at the kliros sometime to see just how much richness we’ve developed in the past nearly 2k years! With a few exceptions (St. Demetrious, the Nativity of the Forerunner, Sts. Peter & Paul, and the Beheading of the Forerunner), 3rd Class Feasts usually don’t have a forefeast or leavetaking - the exceptions have the latter, but not the former. As you might expect, fasting is relaxed to allow wine and oil for most of these, and on patronal feast days, fish is allowed also. Fourth and Fifth Class Feasts, included with the Third as the “lesser classes,” commemorate the lives of the Saints, holy events (e.g., the appearance of an especially famous icon), or holy objects (e.g., the Theotokos’ belt).