Saints of the Bible: A Complete List of Their Feasts in the Old and New Calendars

Before the amazing 4th century, Christians were parochial and even patriotic in their veneration of saints. Rome celebrated the martyrs who had died at Rome, Constantinople celebrated the martyrs who had died at Constantinople, Antioch celebrated the martyrs who had died at Antioch, and so on. It never occurred to the folks in Rome to celebrate the saints of Antioch, or vice versa: celebrating a saint involved walking out to see his tomb. But in the 4th century a unique group of saints broke this pattern and set us on the path to the celebration of all saints. Who were they?

Abraham IconThe saints of the Bible.

The saints of the Bible were familiar names throughout the Church. Texts like Hebrews 11 and Sirach 44-50, read everywhere, held up the great men and women of Salvation History as examples to follow and heroes to venerate. For the church in Jerusalem, however, the saints of Scripture were also the local martyrs: just as Rome had a list of days for celebrating the martyrs of Rome, Jerusalem had a cycle of liturgical commemorations of the biblical saints. When 4th-century pilgrims brought Jerusalem’s liturgies back to their home dioceses, they brought with them the practice of liturgically commemorating the biblical saints—and implicitly, they created the practice of commemorating saints that were not local. Unwittingly, they had planted the seed of the universal sanctoral cycle.

Biblical saints have been a fixture in the liturgical year ever since, but most people don’t know about them. With the exception of a few prominent New Testament figures and one feast day in the Extraordinary Form, they are not mentioned in the Liturgy of the Hours or in the Roman Missal. But it turns out there is another liturgical book entirely dedicated to the commemoration of saints: the Martyrology. You’ve seen one of those liturgical calendars that lists saints’ days? They get their information from the Martyrology—and for any given day they leave out most of what the Martyrology offers.

Here’s the punchline: the Church celebrates St. Abraham (Oct. 9), St. Moses (Sept. 4), St. Gideon (Sept. 26), and other great saints of the Old and New Testaments liturgically. They are part of the liturgical year. I have a complete list of biblical saints’ days at the end of this post (click here to jump down).

The pre-Vatican II martyrology is available in English, so more people know about the biblical saints of the Old Calendar. Almost no one actually reads the new Martyrology however, because it only exists in Latin—even the TAN liturgical calendar shows no awareness of the new Martyrology. As a result, Catholics who do know about the biblical saints often have the impression that they were commemorated on the old calendar but have been dropped in the new.

Happily, both old and new calendars are heavy with biblical saints. In the table at the end of this post, I list the liturgical commemorations of biblical saints or biblical events in both the old and new calendars. For the old calendar, I used The Roman Martyrology, the Third Turin Edition, translated by Raphael Collins; for the new calendar, I used the Martyrologium Romanum in its current typical edition. See what you think!

To get you started, seven points of comparison between the old and new calendars:

1. The very first day of the new calendar transfers the celebration of MaryCircumcision Icon directly under her most august title, “Mother of God,” from October 11–the anniversary of the Council of Ephesis, a meaningless date for most people–to the octave of Christmas and the beginning of the secular new year, raising it to a Solemnity in the process. Just looking at the Roman Missal or the Breviary, you would think that January 1 used to commemorate the circumcision of Jesus but has now been changed to the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. In fact, the new Martyrology still commemorates the circumcision of Jesus on January 1 in addition to the new solemnity.  This is confirmed by the General Norms for the Liturgical Year, which specifies that “1 January, the octave day of Christmas, is the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. It also recalls the conferral of the holy Name of Jesus.”

2. The new martyrology tends to group saints that one would naturally recall together: Simeon and Anna are now celebrated on the same day; Joachim and Anne, no doubt inseparable in life, are now celebrated together in glory; the archangels have gathered around one date, emphasizing their archangelitude in a new way without losing sight of their individuality.

3. The seventh chapter of Acts lists seven men anointed as deacons. Acts goes on to describe the ministries of Philip and Steven, and their feast days are accordingly a bigger deal in the liturgical year. In the old calendar, each deacon except for Nicolaus has an individual commemoration, with Steven and Philip having of course the more prominent feasts. Those two retain their own feasts in the new calendar, but we now have something like a “feast of the deacons” on July 28: Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus appear together. The reason Nicolaus had no commemoration before was probably because several early Church fathers peg him as the founder of a heretical sect mentioned in the book of Revelation. But since other fathers disagree and historians have not been able to find good evidence to connect the Nicolaus of Acts 7 with the Nicolaitans of Revelation 2, he has been quietly rehabilitated in the new calendar.

4. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus also share a feast now. For a long time, people thought that Mary Magdalene was the “Mary” mentioned in John 11. Mary Magdalene’s feast on July 22 was a big deal, and Martha was commemorated on the octave of the Magdalene, while Lazarus had his own lesser day in December. When people became convinced that Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany are not the same person, a problem arose: Mary of Bethany has no commemoration! The solution was to group her together with Lazarus on the already-existing feast of Martha, but this solution had a perhaps unintended consequence. Martha’s ancient feast day has its own proper texts that can’t be tossed aside, and so Martha remains the main figure of the day while Mary and Lazarus receive a simple mention in the Martyrology. As a result, whereas Martha’s feast used to be secondary, the octave of Mary’s, reflecting Jesus’ declaration that Mary had chosen the better part, the pragmatic Martha now overshadows the contemplative Mary almost entirely. Most people are unaware that Mary has any liturgical commemoration at all.

5. The new calendar does drop some biblical saints, although you probably won’t recognize most of their names: Parmenas, Aristobulus, Apelles, Sosipater, Crescens, Syntyche, Abibo, Carpus, Patrobas, Philologus, and Sosthenes are not household names. The new calendar drops a commemoration of Gamaliel on August 3—or at least, a commemoration of the finding of a bunch of bodies, including his. The most memorable names dropped are those of Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—better known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

On the other hand, the new calendar adds some biblical saints. I have already mentioned the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, and the commemoration of Mary of Bethany. Having been mentioned in the Roman Canon from time immemorial, Melchizedek now has his own commemoration on August 26. And from 2Maccabees we now celebrate the old martyr Eleazar.

6. Strangely, neither the old nor the new calendars have a single commemoration of a woman from the Old Testament. Old Testament men are well represented, and New Testament women abound, but Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Deborah and the rest are conspicuously absent.

Jesse Tree Icon7. The TAN liturgical calendar and its offshoots list December 24, Christmas Eve, as a “historical” feast of Adam and Eve. In fact, Adam and Eve have never had a liturgical feast day, but medieval popular piety liked to remember our first parents on the night before the Savior’s birth as a way of emphasizing how Jesus culminates the history of salvation that began immediately after the fall of man. The new calendar picks up this Catholic instinct and gives it liturgical expression in a beautiful Christmas Eve commemoration of “all the holy ancestors of Christ.”

And now, the list you have been waiting for. An asterisk indicates an entry unique to either the old calendar or the new.

Biblical Saints and Events

Date New Calendar Old Calendar
1-Jan Mary the Mother of God, Circumcision of Jesus Circumcision of Jesus
4-Jan Birth of Titus
6-Jan Epiphany Epiphany
10-Jan Nicanor
14-Jan Malachi
15-Jan Habakkuk, Micah
23-Jan Parmenas*
24-Jan Timothy
25-Jan Conversion of Paul, Ananias Conversion of Paul, Ananias
26-Jan Timothy and Titus
2-Feb Presentation of the Lord Purification of Mary; Cornelius
3-Feb Simeon and Anna
6-Feb Titus
13-Feb Agabus
15-Feb Onesimus
16-Feb Onesimus
24-Feb Matthias, Apostle
15-Mar Longinus, Aristobulus*
17-Mar Joseph of Arimathea
19-Mar Joseph, foster father of Jesus Joseph, foster father of Jesus
20-Mar Archippus Birthday of Joachim; Archippus
24-Mar Gabriel
22-Mar Epaphroditus Epaphroditus
25-Mar Annunciation; The Holy Thief Annunciation; the Holy Thief
31-Mar Amos
8-Apr Agabus; Herodion, Asyncritus, Phlegon Herodion, Asyncritus, Phlegon
9-Apr Mary of Cleophas, Prochorus
10-Apr Ezekiel
11-Apr Antipus Antipus
19-Apr Timon
22-Apr Lucius of Cyrene and Apelles*
24-Apr Mary of Cleophas and Salome
25-Apr Mark Birthday of Mark
28-Apr Mark
29-Apr Tychicus Tychicus
1-May Joseph the Worker*, Jeremiah Birthday of Philip and James, Jeremiah
3-May Philip and James
6-May Lucius of Cyrene John before the Latin Gate
9-May Isaiah and Hermas Hermas
10-May Job Job
14-May Matthias
20-May Lydia of Thyatira
24-May Manaen and Joanna Manaen and Joanna
31-May Visitation of Mary
6-Jun Philip, Deacon
11-Jun Barnabas Birthday of Barnabas
14-Jun Elisha Elisha
15-Jun Amos
24-Jun Birth of John the Baptist Birth of John the Baptist
25-Jun Sosipater*
27-Jun Crescens*
29-Jun Peter and Paul Birthday of Peter and Paul, Mary mother of Mark
30-Jun Paul
1-Jul Aaron Aaron
2-Jul Visitation of Mary
3-Jul Thomas
4-Jul Hosea and Haggai
6-Jul Isaiah
8-Jul Aquila and Priscilla Aquila and Priscilla
13-Jul Ezra and Silas Joel, Ezra, Silas
19-Jul Epaphras Epaphras
20-Jul Elijah, Joseph called Barsabbas Elijah, Joseph called Barsabbas
12-Jul Daniel*
22-Jul Mary Magdalene Mary Magdalene, Syntyche*
23-Jul Ezekiel
25-Jul James James
26-Jul Joachim and Anne, Erastus Anne, Erastus
28-Jul Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicolaus*
29-Jul Martha, Mary*, Lazarus Martha
1-Aug Seven Holy Brothers, Eleazar*  Seven Holy Brothers
3-Aug Finding of the bodies of Stephen, Gamaliel*, Nicodemus, Abibo*; Lydia of Thyatira
4-Aug Aristarchus Aristarchus
6-Aug Transfiguration Transfiguration
16-Aug Joachim
20-Aug Samuel Samuel
24-Aug Bartholomew Bartholomew
26-Aug Melchizedek*
29-Aug Beheading of John the Baptist Beheading of John the Baptist
31-Aug Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus
1-Sep Joshua Joshua, Gideon, Anna
3-Sep Phoebe Phoebe
4-Sep Moses Moses
6-Sep Zechariah and Onesiphorus Zechariah and Onesiphorus
21-Sep Matthew and Jonah Matthew and Jonah
23-Sep Zechariah and Elizabeth
25-Sep Cleophas Cleophas
26-Sep Gideon
27-Sep Mark also called John
29-Sep Michael, Gabriel, Raphael Michael
30-Sep Jerome (Not in the Bible, but patron thereof) Jerome (Not in the Bible, but patron thereof)
3-Oct Dionysius the Areopagite
8-Oct Birthday of Simon
9-Oct Abraham Abraham, Dionysius the Areopagite
11-Oct Philip, Deacon  Mary the Mother of God
13-Oct Carpus*
16-Oct Longinus
17-Oct Hosea
18-Oct Luke Luke
19-Oct Joel
20-Oct Cornelius
22-Oct Salome
24-Oct Raphael
28-Oct Simon and Jude Simon and Jude
4-Nov Patrobas*, Philologus*
5-Nov Zechariah and Elizabeth
19-Nov Obadiah Obadiah
21-Nov Rufus Rufus
22-Nov Philemon and Apphia Philemon and Apphia
28-Nov Sosthenes*
30-Nov Andrew Andrew
1-Dec Nahum Nahum
2-Dec Habakkuk
3-Dec Zephaniah Zephaniah
16-Dec Haggai Hananiah*, Mishael*, and Azariah*
17-Dec Lazarus
18-Dec Malachi
21-Dec Micah
24-Dec All Holy Ancestors of Christ*
25-Dec Birth of Christ Birth of Christ
26-Dec Stephen Stephen
27-Dec John John
28-Dec Holy Innocents Holy Innocents
29-Dec King David, Trophimus King David, Trophimus
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Author: Dr. Holmes

Dr. Jeremy Holmes teaches Theology at Wyoming Catholic College. He lives in Wyoming with his wife, Jacinta, and their eight children.

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3 Comments on "Saints of the Bible: A Complete List of Their Feasts in the Old and New Calendars"

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Augustine Hilander, OP
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Augustine Hilander, OP

Thanks so much. This is a great list for our year of Mercy.

Terry H Jones
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do you know where I can obtain the latest Roman Martyrology? my Latin is terrible, but I would like to have one to use as definitive calendar reference for my web site. I can’t seem to find anyone selling it online at all, and local book stores are mainly card shops that sell some books. appreciate any help.

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