Note to readers: Liturgical entries on this blog are based on the traditional calendar of the Books of Common Prayer and the traditional one-year Eucharistic lectionary. If you follow a newer calendar or three-year lectionary, there are variations in names for some Sundays and in the readings.

Monday, September 21, 2015

St. Mathhew- 21 September

Today is the feast of St. Matthew, Apostles and Evangelist. The Collect of the Day mentions his background and points to his example in leaving behind greed to follow Christ.

O Almighty God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist; Grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires, and inordinate love of riches, and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen. 
The Gospel from  St. Matthew 9: 9-13 gives the account of Matthew's call to follow Christ:
And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Matthew also seem to have been called Levi, and ancient tradition ascribes the authorship of the first Gospel to him. He may have also been a missionary among Jews and a martyr. Otherwise, our Gospel account contains most of what we know of Matthew. Although we are not fond of taxes, most modern Westerners have a hard time imagining the position of tax collectors in first century Palestine. First, for patriotic Jews, tax collectors were servants of hated oppressors. They were traitors to their own people. Secondly, tax collectors were religiously suspect. They dealt with money imprinted with idolatrous symbols, they were constantly in contact with people and things that were ritually unclean, and their lifestyle did not make it easy to participate in sacrifices and prayers. Thirdly, many tax collectors were morally reprehensible. The Romans contracted local tax collectors to gather a certain amount of money for the Empire, but the collectors were free to gather as much as they wanted by any means they wanted. Tax collecting was often similar to organized crime. Collectors could use the means that seemed convenient, included blackmail and extortion. And if a victim lacked cash, various goods and favors could be demanded.

So most tax collectors were indeed "sinners" that Pharisees and other respectable people avoided. Eating with tax collectors brought ritual uncleanness and at least a hint of moral taint. Yet, Jesus associated with such people and raised questions about His good judgment. The Pharisees put Jesus" disciples on the spot, and overhearing them, Jesus replied. He was the spiritual physician concerned about the sin-sick souls. He was calling tax-collectors like Matthew to repentance. Of course, the irony was that everyone, including the Pharisees was sin-sick and needed to be called to repentance.

On this feast of St. Matthew, may we see ourselves in the example of Matthew.  Like him, we are all sinners whom Christ calls to repent. And like him, we are sinners who can be called and healed by the gracious mercy of Christ. Like Matthew, we can turn from sin, follow Christ, and serve His Gospel.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Ember Reflections upon the Ordained Ministry and the Church

I have written about the history and meaning of the seasonal Ember days a number of times. These days always lead me to reflect upon the meaning and purpose of the ordained ministry. This week, I have been thinking about the Anglican teachings on the ministry and their relationship to teaching about the Church. In recent months, encounters with Christians of other backgrounds have highlighted the special perspective of Anglicans (I started to write "unique perspective" but then mused that Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholics, and some Scandinavian Lutherans have shared a similar perspective).

From the early years of the Christianity onward, both the ordained ministry and the Church itself have been viewed from two directions: 1) from the bottom up, and 2) from the top down. The first perspective focuses upon individuals baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Baptized persons who respond to grace by faith are the Church militant. In a sense, the Church is present wherever there is a baptized believer and even more when two or three are gathered in Christ's name. From this body of baptized believers, the ordained ministry arises. Even the most hierarchical churches expect candidates for ministry to be related to a local congregation. Unfortunately, Christians have often distorted this side of the Church. Many, especially Protestants, have stressed the individual and the congregation so much that they ignore the larger Church. At the opposite extreme, Christians involved in larger structures have often ignored the individual or the local parish.

The second perspective on the Church focuses upon the Apostles and the continuation of their ministry through the historic ministry of bishops, presbyters/priests, and deacons. As best we can tell, the Apostles sent or appointed other men to continue their work in various places. And certainly, as the Apostles died off, the universal Church saw need for order and connections centered in the ministry of bishops. Through their oversight, preaching, teaching, and special sacramental functions, the Church carried out her mission. Individual believers and local congregations looked to bishops and other clergy as guardians of the faith and sacramental grace. Unfortunately, many Christians have also distorted this side of the Church. Some bishops and other clergy have over-emphasized the larger organization and forgotten that the Church also flows from all the baptized and local groups of the faithful. And higher prelates (archbishops, metropolitans, patriarchs, cardinals, popes) have ignored that local bishops are central and that the highest dignity of any prelate stems from the simple fact that he is a bishop. At the other extreme, many lower clergy and laity have rebelled against abuses by dismissing the importance of the historic ministry.

Anglicanism at its best keeps the two dimensions of the Church together. On the "micro" side, we know that baptized believers, individually and in local congregations are basic. In a sense, they are the Church throughout the world. Yet, they do not stand alone. On the "macro" side, the Church depends upon the historic episcopate with the assisting ministries of presbyters and deacons. Bishops are the universal ministers of the universal Church. They are supposed to be the guarantors of the apostolic faith in Jesus Christ. On Ember Days and always, let us pray for the Church from both perspectives, for the ministry of every baptized believer and for the ministry of all true bishops and other clergy.

Monday, August 31, 2015

APA Bishops on Marriage

See the Link for the Anglican Province of America's statement on Holy Matrimony-

Friday, August 28, 2015

St. Augustine of Hippo- 28 August

The Feast of St. Augustin of Hippo, Church Doctor, is a black-letter day or minor observance on the 1662 calendar, and it is also found on many other Christian calendars. His impact on the Latin or Western Church and on the whole Western intellectual tradition is hard to over-estimate. Even thinkers who have rebelled against his ideas have been influenced by him in many ways. Augustine (354-430) was born in North Africa, and spent most of his life there. He did, however, spend 5 very significant years (383-388) in Rome and Milan. In Milan, the Christian influence of St. Ambrose was added to the life-long witness of Augustine's mother, St. Monica. Augustine finally converted, and after his baptism, Augustine returned to North Africa where he led a monastic life. Soon he was ordained, and in 395 was consecrated bishop. He served faithfully in many ways for the rest of his life, and he died as his beloved city was besieged by the Vandals.

In his pastoral writings and in his refutations of Manicheans, Donatists, and Pelagians, Augustine laid the foundations for later Western theology and philosophy. His City of God developed a Christian philosophy of history, and his Confessions remain a fascinating spiritual autobiography. Medieval theology was heavily indebted to him, and although Thomas Aquinas developed a new theological approach, he was steeped in Augustinian thought. Despite their Pelagian tendencies, even Renaissance humanists drew much from him. Reformers such as Luther, Calvin, and Cranmer were also his followers on a number of issues. In fact, the Augsburg Confession and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion have been called deeply Augustinian, and traditional Books of Common Prayer are filled with structures, prayers, and phrases that reflect the Augustinian heritage of the Western Church.

Finally, I would add a personal appreciation. In my mid-teens, reading St. Augustine's Confessions was a key factor in giving me a thoughtful and deeply rooted Christianity in an environment that promoted two opposing options- emotional revivalism and skeptical scientism. In several periods since then, I have returned to the thought and devotion of this great teacher of the Church. His life and his thought embody the truth of the Holy Scriptures, and especially as we slide into a so-called post-Christian period with new barbarians at the gates, we can and should benefit from the witness of Augustine of Hippo.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Blessed Virgin Mary- 15 August

Commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15 is an observance that historically has elicited a variety of reactions among Anglicans and other Christians. In 1950, the Papacy associated the feast with the official Roman Catholic doctrine of the Assumption. According to the official decree of Pope Pius XII,  Mary "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory". Although some Anglicans accept the Roman views, most have been hesitant to make a dogmatic statement. Many Anglicans have ignored the day altogether, some have observed it as a day marking the completion of her earthly life, and some have promoted the Eastern Orthodox view of her Falling Asleep.

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer includes the Annunciation and Purification as feasts associated directly with our Lord and biblical passages. It also lists as black-letter days or minor observances the Marian observances of the Conception, Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, and the Birth of Mary. However, it does not include August 15, probably because of late medieval excesses. Several calendar revisions or supplements since 1662 do have some commemoration of the Virgin on August 15.

This day seems to be a case where the Anglican middle way and tolerance of diverse opinions is wise. Christians should always remember the blessed Virgin Mary with honor and gratitude. We should seek to emulate her submission to the divine plan and grace of redemption. This attitude is especially appropriate as we think of her departure from earthly life. We are also free to have our personal opinions and devotional practices on many topics, but we should not be dogmatic where Scripture is silent and Tradition is varied.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Need for Prayer

There are many responses that believing Christians may have to the abominable and diabolic decision of a slight majority of the U.S. Supreme Court vainly attempting to redefine marriage, but the first and most enduring response should be prayer. And for me, the following petitions from the great Litany apply to such times of trial.

Remember not, Lord, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers; neither take thou vengeance of our sins: Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever.
Spare us, good Lord.

From all evil and mischief; from sin; from the crafts and assaults of the devil; from thy wrath, and from everlasting damnation,
Good Lord, deliver us.

Monday, June 01, 2015

What is classical Anglicanism?

In skimming some frequently read blogs, I found an interesting post on Prydain ( about an English blogger's view on the Five Points of Classical Anglicanism ( The five proposed points can be summarized briefly:
1. Classical Anglicanism is confessional. This point asserts that the Thirty-nine Articles are a binding theological statement meant to guide one's understanding of other Anglican formularies such as the Book of Common Prayer.

2. Classical Anglicanism is universal/catholic. Anglican doctrine and practice respect patristic and even medieval Christianity as long as they do not contradict Scripture.

3. Classical Anglicanism is protestant. Anglican theology is based on the "solas" of the Reformation and rejects the Roman Catholic system, especially ideas about the papacy and merits of the saints.

4. Classical Anglicanism is supposedly Reformed or Calvinist. This assertion claims that Anglican views of the sacraments and of predestination and related beliefs (TULIP) are moderately Calvinist.

5. Classical Anglicanism is normative, not regulative. Unlike continental and puritan Calvinists, Anglicans think that Scriptural principles guide church practices, but do not exclude all use of tradition.

While this five-point summary is interesting, I see two main problems. The first is the issue of defining "Classical Anglicanism." In many areas of the humanities, classical does not refer to beginnings but to high development. In Anglicanism, when does "classical" begin and end? Does one include the developing ideas of the Oxford martyrs and certain Marian exiles while rejecting Lancelot Andrewes and the Caroline churchmen? While I admire the heroism and struggles of Cranmer and his contemporaries, it seems to me that they were pre-classical because of their turbulent times and the early deaths of some. To me, classical Anglicanism is more descriptive of the development from Elizabeth I to the Restoration, including people such as Jewel, Hooker, Andrewes, Cosins, Ken, Laud (who was more "protestant" than many of his later admirers admit), and perhaps even later figures such as Taylor and Law.
The second problem is point four about Calvinism. For good or ill, there is no denying that Reformed views and even self-conscious Calvinism have been influential on the thought and practice of many Anglicans. However, despite such influences, it seems that both practice and official standards such as the Thirty-nine Articles and the Books of Common Prayer deliberately tried to be open to moderates of various persuasions. A moderate Renaissance Catholic, a moderate Lutheran, a moderate Calvinist, and varying degrees of high and low church belief and practice could find things they liked in Anglicanism without finding everything stated exactly the way they would have chosen. Extreme positions were not acceptable, and for good or ill, confessional Anglicanism allowed more breadth than other systems of the time.