Friday, December 31, 2010
Many later legends about Sylvester are not trustworthy and seem to have been excuses to justify medieval papal temporal powers. Sylvester, however, is an example of a faithful bishop striving to defend the Faith during a period of upheaval in the Church and in the larger society. His feast day also became important for Christians seeking another observance in place of pagan New Year's Eve celebrations.
As indicated in last year's post, the first of January has been associated with several liturgical observances over the history of the Church. Although the association began some time earlier, from the ninth century, the Roman rite commemorated the Circumcision on this eighth day of Christmas. Books of Common Prayer from 1549 through 1928 continued this emphasis; the 1962 Canadian BCP contains this theme along with the octave and new year themes. (By the way, January 1 was not observed as New Year's Day in the English-speaking world until the 18th century.) Stressing Christ's circumcision fits in with the reality of the Incarnation. Jesus of Nazareth, God the Son, was a real Jewish male who humbled Himself, continued the covenant with Abraham and came to fulfill all righteousness.
This year, I would also look at another emphasis- the name of Jesus. Some recently revised Anglican calendars have actually changed the title of the feast, but one also finds this emphasis on the name in the traditional Gospel and the Epistle. In St. Luke 2:21 , we read that at the circumcision the child "was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb." In the Epistle from Philippians 2:9, we read, "God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow..." Of course, Jesus, Greek IESOU, Aramaic YESHUA, Hebrew YOSHUA, was a common Jewish name, meaning "The LORD saves."
In the particular case of this holy child, the common name takes on special significance. For this child born in Bethlehem is the Lord Himself come to save His people. And Christ's work to accomplish the heavenly Father's plan for human salvation is what gives Him a name above every name. What better way for us to begin the New Year than by praising His holy name and giving thanks for the salvation that has come in the Christ Child!
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Question. How many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church?
Answer. Two only, as generally necessary to salvation; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.
Comment. The number of sacraments has been a subject of discussion for centuries. Sometimes the disagreements have just been a matter of word use or definition; sometimes the disagreements have been part of a more general difference in theology. Part of the problem is that the word "sacrament" is not a biblical word; so simplistic proof-texting does not work. Another complication is that a person's view of the sacraments is tied to other issues such as one's theology of the church and of worship, as well as to individual religious experience.
As in many areas, the Anglican perspective embodied in the Catechism seems to reflect a middle way. It rejects the Roman Catholic Profession of Faith from the Council of Trent (1564) which states clearly that there are seven sacraments. The Anglican Thirty-nine Articles and Prayer Book Catechism say that there are only two sacraments generally necessary for salvation. The other five commonly called sacraments are not like Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Some of these rites follow apostolic practice, and they have some value as states of life. However, they had been corrupted in the medieval church and should not be exalted too highly. Most of them are referred to by traditional Books of Common Prayer (except that anointing of the sick was removed in 1552). These rites are not accorded the same status as Baptism and the Supper of the Lord/Eucharist. The two dominical sacraments have a significance for all believers and are explicitly commanded in the New Testament.
Question. What meanest thou by this word Sacrament?
Answer. I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us; ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.
Question. How many parts are there in a Sacrament?
Answer. Two; the outward visible sign, and the inward spiritual grace.
Comment. The definition of a sacrament as "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace" is ancient, going back to St. Augustine of Hippo. Sacraments are both means of grace and pledges of grace; that is, they actually bring grace into our lives, and in a visible way, they promise the continued working of God in our lives. Sacraments are not magical spells which cause an automatic result, but they do confront recipients with God's call and divine grace, and they do require a response.
Question. What is the outward visible sign or form in Baptism?
Answer. Water; wherein the person is baptized, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Question. What is the inward and spiritual grace?
Answer. A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness: for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace.
Question. What is required of persons to be baptized?
Answer. Repentance, whereby they forsake sin; and Faith, whereby they stedfastly believe the promises of God made to them in that Sacrament.
Comment. At the beginning of the Catechism, Baptism is mentioned briefly from the viewpoint of Christian identity. Here the doctrinal basics are considered. Christian Baptism is unique; it is different from all other rites of initiation, acts of repentance, washings, blessings, dedications, etc. - whether in other religions or in Christianity. The outward and visible sign was instituted by Christ and can not be changed. There are two essential parts of administering the sacrament- the water and the words "in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit." The inward and spiritual grace is death to sin and rebirth to righteousness through grace (Rom. 6).
Question. Why then are Infants baptized, when by reason of their tender age they cannot perform them?
Answer. Because they promise them both by their Sureties; which promise, when they come to age, themselves are bound to perform.
Comment. In infants, the capacity for response is limited and must be postponed. Nevertheless, the promise of grace is extended to the children of believers as St. Peter indicates in Acts 2:39 . As children in a family of believers, they will automatically be confronted by the necessity of responding to the Gospel. So it is also fitting that baptismal grace be offered to them at a tender age.
Question. Why was the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper ordained?
Answer. For the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby.
Question. What is the outward part or sign of the Lord’s Supper?
Answer. Bread and Wine, which the Lord hath commanded to be received.
Question. What is the inward part, or thing signified?
Answer. The Body and Blood of Christ, which are spiritually taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper.
Question. What are the benefits whereof we are partakers thereby?
Answer. The strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the Body and Blood of Christ, as our bodies are by the Bread and Wine.
Question. What is required of those who come to the Lord's Supper?
Answer. To examine themselves, whether they repent them truly of their former sins, stedfastly purposing to lead a new life; have a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his death; and be in charity with all men.
Comment. The Catechism explanation of the Lord's Supper, Holy Communion or Eucharist is fairly short, but it does include a great deal. The externals include bread and wine consecrated by a bishop or presbyter using Christ's words instituting the sacrament. There is an act of remembrance of Christ, but the sacrament is a living memory, not a superficial memorial. The inward part is the Body and Blood of Christ. The 1662 English BCP says "verily and indeed taken"; the American BCP from 1789 through 1928 says "spiritually taken." Although the emphasis is different, both views are true: in some sense, Christ is truly present with the sacramental elements; His true or real Presence is also spiritual, not grossly carnal. Most Anglicans have avoided detailed speculation about how Christ is present; they have simply accepted the comfort that our Lord comes to us in a unique way in this holy meal which He commanded. His Presence nourishes our souls as bread and wine can nourish our bodies. To receive these great benefits, we should prepare ourselves: repentance, intent for renewal, a living faith in Christ, thanksgiving for His sacrifice and love for others. We can never be worthy of this great gift, but we are called to approach it in a worthy or appropriate manner.
With this part of the exposition, we conclude our consideration of the traditional Anglican Catechism. We have looked briefly at our identity as Christians, the Apostles' Creed, the Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. These matters concern the core of Christian belief and practice- not just for Anglicans but for orthodox believers of all times and places. There are certainly other things to think about and do (indeed I hope soon to include an addendum on the Church and the Ministry). Yet if all Christians could maintain a constant devotion on the basic matters included in the traditional Catechism, then we could make greater advancements in our spiritual life and and in our mission in the world.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
In recent decades, the English-speaking world has seen discussions on keeping Christ in Christmas and on whether it is even appropriate to say "Happy/Merry/Blessed Christmas" in a public context. One of the ironies is that some of the most outspoken contemporary defenders of Christmas are the evangelical descendants of the Puritans who certainly did not like the word "Christmas" and often objected to observing the day. Another irony is that some of those who love saying "Merry Christmas" are mainly thinking of a sentimentalized commercial and tribal nature festival, not of a time for Christian worship.
Personally, I like most of the carols, some of the other songs and a few old movies. And I certainly like to eat. Nevertheless, in December, I often find myself longing for more simplicity, tranquility and time for meditation. The Scriptures from the Daily Office and the Eucharist are multi-faceted and profound; they deserve more time for study, reflection and inward digestion than most of us give- even at church.
The medieval missals provided a set of proper lessons for Christmas Eve and three sets for Christmas Day- for midnight, daybreak and during the day. In 1549, Archbishop Cranmer reduced the three sets to two, and in 1552 to one set- keeping the daytime Gospel from St. John 1. In 1892, the American BCP provided a second set, restoring the set originally intended for midnight which includes the Gospel from St. Luke 2.
Both the Gospel selections (St. John 1:1-14 and St. Luke 2:1-14) provide keys to our thoughts about Christmas. John's theological reflection and Luke's devotional narrative focus in different ways upon the coming of the Savior, who is God the Son, the eternal Word, made flesh. So the Nativity of our Lord or Christmas is above all a celebration of the good news that God loves us and wants to save us from our sins. He was willing to pay a great price to reach out to us in a way that was concrete and meaningful to human beings. Although it is from a different perspective, Christmas is about the same historical process of redemption that we celebrate on Easter and all other Christian festivals. And if we do not at some time recognize our need and accept God's gracious offer of salvation in Christ, then all of the holiday good cheer is empty and meaningless. If, on the other hand, we focus on and accept God's gift in the Christ Child, then we can experience a truly happy Christmas, even amid the ups and downs of a fallen world.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Catechist. My good Child, know this; that thou art not able to do these things of thyself, nor to walk in the Commandments of God, and to serve him, without his special grace; which thou must learn at all times to call for by diligent prayer. Let me hear, therefore, if thou canst say the Lord’s Prayer.
Answer. Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. Amen.
Comment: Of course, the Lord's Prayer has been at the heart of Christian devotion since the disciples first asked Jesus for guidance. Although translations have varied slightly in their wording, the version generally followed by Christians has been the one in St. Matthew 6:9-13 . In many ancient New Testament manuscripts, the final statement of praise or doxology is missing. Thus, we have the abbreviated form several places in the Book of Common Prayer. But since a doxology has often been included since the early centuries of Christianity, the BCP also includes it in places.
As many scholars have observed, this prayer shows some relationship with other ancient Jewish patterns of prayer. Yet, it is more concise, and it stresses the Fatherhood of God. As with other common Jewish daily prayers, the Lord's Prayer may have well been said by the disciples from the beginning three times a day: morning, early afternoon and evening/night. This could well be at least part of what Acts 2:42 means when it says that the early Christians "continued ... in prayers." And by the time of the Didache (ca. 100), saying the prayer three times a day was explicitly enjoined (ch. 8).
Question. What desirest thou of God in this Prayer?
Answer. I desire my Lord God, our heavenly Father, who is the giver of all goodness, to send his grace unto me, and to all people; that we may worship him, serve him, and obey him, as we ought to do. And I pray unto God, that he will send us all things that are needful both for our souls and bodies; and that he will be merciful unto us, and forgive us our sins; and that it will please him to save and defend us in all dangers both of soul and body; and that he will keep us from all sin and wickedness, and from our spiritual enemy, and from everlasting death. And this I trust he will do of his mercy and goodness, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore I say, Amen, So be it.
Comment: The phrasing of the Lord's Prayer is such that it has sometimes been divided into an address followed by seven petitions, ending with the "amen" of assent:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
1) Hallowed be thy Name.
2) Thy kingdom come.
3) Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
4) Give us this day our daily bread.
5) And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us.
6) And lead us not into temptation,
7)But deliver us from evil.
The address to God as Father is based on the Christian condition; through Christ, we sinners are adopted as children of God. The first three petitions concern the worship and rule of God. We may see them as related to the first four Commandments. The Catechism summarizes them in these words: I desire my Lord God, our heavenly Father, who is the giver of all goodness, to send his grace unto me, and to all people; that we may worship him, serve him, and obey him, as we ought to do.
As is the case through a long tradition of interpretation, the "daily bread" of the fourth petition is taken to refer to all physical and spiritual sustenance: And I pray unto God, that he will send us all things that are needful both for our souls and bodies.
Although the fifth petition about forgiveness is of central importance, the Catechism considers it so clear that it is quickly summarized. In previous centuries, people in western societies knew well that they were all sinners who needed divine forgiveness. They were also familiar with the Christian idea that those needing forgiveness should be willing to extend the same to others. Since the mid-twentieth century these ideas have been attenuated and the consciousness of sin has been lost by many. Therefore in our day where the awareness of of the gravity of sin is not as common, we should stress this petition a bit more.
In the sixth petition, we pray that we may not fall into temptation. Knowing our own weakness of body, mind and soul, we ask divine guidance to avoid trials which may become occasions for sin. And then in the seventh petition, we ask for deliverance from evil- both from particular evil events and from the spiritual forces of evil that oppose God's purposes for our lives.
If we follow some texts, we may include an ancient ascription of glory to God; otherwise, as in the Catechism version, we conclude the prayer with the ancient Hebrew "amen" which expresses our confidence in the accomplishment of the divine will.
At this point, we finish the Catechism that was in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. However, the seventeenth century saw the addition of the section on the Sacraments. In another post, I hope to discuss these basic parts of the Christian life.
Thomas is an example who reminds us that doubt can deprive us of some of the joys of faith; he is also an example that Christ can overcome doubt and use former doubters as trustworthy witnesses to spread the Faith. Thomas is a strong witness to the physical reality of the Resurrection. And as we think of his confession of faith just before Christmas, Thomas is also a strong witness to the Incarnation. For the crucified and risen Jesus is also God the eternal Word made flesh- our Lord and our God.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
The Epistle from Philippians 4:4-7 has a somewhat lighter tone but still reminds us that "the Lord is at hand." Because of Christ, we do have a true reason to rejoice. Despite our sinfulness, we have hope because of the peace that God brings through Christ.
The Gospel from St. John 1:19-28 is another reference to the preparatory message of John the Baptist. When the Jerusalem authorities send representatives to ask who he is, John refuses the usual titles. He will only admit to being "the voice of one crying in the wilderness" (John 1:23 ; Isaiah 40:3). He makes the way ready for the Lord; he baptizes with water to represent repentance and cleansing from sin. But the One coming after John is much greater. He is the reason for John's work of preparation, and He will bring the redemption that John's ministry only anticipates.
And that One, Jesus the Christ, is the One whose way we prepare this week. As Advent draws to a close, there are many preparations for the celebration of Christ's Nativity. Among all the things that we make ready, let us focus on the spiritual preparations. We need to pay more attention to prayer, meditation on Scripture and renewed efforts to run the race set before us. As we get ready to celebrate Christ's first coming in humility, let us also remember that He keeps coming to us. In His holiness, He naturally brings judgment upon our sin, but He also offers us grace and mercy. And we also anticipate the time that He will return in glory to bring even greater joy and peace to all who truly have faith in Him.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
In light of this season, we think of the work of all who prepare the way for the Lord. May all ordained ministers and other Christians work together to prepare the way as Christ comes into our hearts anew; may we also prepare for His future coming in glory.
Among the many ways that we can apply this selection, the Collect for the Day provides an interesting approach.
O LORD Jesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee; Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
This collect calls upon Christians, especially the ordained ministry (by the way, this is the week of the Advent Ember Days), to continue preparing the way of the Lord. As John did at Christ's First Coming, we need to call others- and ourselves- to repent and to prepare hearts for Christ. We also look ahead to Christ's Second Coming to judge the world. We continue to hope that through grace we will be an acceptable people, a people prepared anew each day for our Lord's holy presence.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Nevertheless, the day is part of Prayer Book tradition, and it is certainly appropriate for us to remember the blessed Virgin and honor her on a regular basis, especially during the season of Advent. The greeting of the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation echoes in our minds: St. Luke 1. 26-28.
AND in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a Virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the Virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.
While most Anglicans have viewed some traditions about Mary as excessive and without scriptural basis, we also know that she was indeed "highly favoured" and "blessed among women." Her role in God's plan was unique. It should be respected, and she should inspire us to deeper devotion.
Saturday, December 04, 2010
This collect or short prayer was first included in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and remained at this place in the church year until the revisions of Anglican liturgy during the 1970s. It provided an emphasis on Scripture that used to characterize all Anglican groups. Anglo-catholics, High Churchmen, Evangelicals and Broad Churchmen differed in interpretations, but traditionally all affirmed the authority and centrality of Scripture. Unfortunately with the arrival of revisionist theology in the late twentieth century, a modernistic world view dominated, and the emphasis on Scripture declined. For many contemporary Christians, Scripture has just become a prop. They still use it on Sundays, but they view it as merely a collection of ancient words either to be ignored or to be twisted into support for outlandish secular ideas.
So we need to reaffirm the centrality of Scripture as the greatest treasure in the heritage of the universal Church. Scripture was revealed, recorded and handed on to guide the Church, and we must take the words of the Bible seriously. These ancient words are still the living Word of God through which we confront Christ, the eternal Word. There are some passages that are not easy, but the main points are clear- and have been clear since the days of the Apostles. Let us devote ourselves to reading, marking, learning and inwardly digesting these holy words which do provide us with such a blessed hope.
BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Monday, November 29, 2010
The example of St. Andrew illustrates two important points. 1) Andrew is a person who responds to Jesus immediately and dedicates himself completely. 2) Andrew is also a reminder about the need for humble Christian witnesses. Andrew is not the obvious kind of leader that his brother Peter is. His witness is quieter and more one-on-one. Yet, Andrew is the one who brings his brother to Christ, and without him, the Church might not benefit from Peter's enthusiastic leadership. We will not all be the kind of leaders that Peter was, but day in day out, the Church also needs the Andrews who talk to others and bring them to Christ.
ALMIGHTY God, who didst give such grace unto thy holy Apostle Saint Andrew, that he readily obeyed the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him without delay; Grant unto us all, that we, being called by thy holy Word, may forthwith give up ourselves obediently to fulfil thy holy commandments; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Friday, November 26, 2010
ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
The Gospel (St. Matthew 21:1-13) also emphasizes Christ's Coming. At this time of the year, the account is not so much about the historical entry of Christ into Jerusalem at Palm Sunday; it is more of a reminder that Christ the Messianic King has come to humanity, keeps coming to us and will come again at the last day. He comes humbly and peaceably as our rightful ruler who does not have to prove Himself. Yet, even when He comes in this simple peaceful way, He is so holy that He automatically brings rebuke and judgment to human corruption, a corruption that had even perverted the purposes of the Jerusalem Temple. So as we begin our preparations for the great Christmas festival, let us also begin to examine our souls. Only through spiritual self-examination, repentance and renewal can we truly develop an appreciation for the good news that Christ's Coming brings.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
In the early history of America, English explorers and colonists gave thanks in many places and ways. When English explorer Martin Frobisher arrived in Newfoundland in 1578, he established a service of thanksgiving. In Virginia, there was a celebration of thanksgiving at Berkeley Hundred on December 4, 1619 (over a year before the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts). Of course, the case in Massachusetts in 1621 was a dramatic case of survival, and it was propagated and publicized by New Englanders. At the time of Independence, this New England practice was promoted by the Continental Congress. A few years later, the first American Book of Common Prayer of 1789 included a Thanksgiving Day Office, and parts of this office are still included in the 1928 BCP. Over the years, Canadian Anglicans and others have also developed forms for harvest thanksgiving.
It is a normal part of Christian worship to give God thanks for all things. It is also appropriate that we should pause in autumn to give special thanks for the products of the land which sustain and enrich life. "Now thank we all our God..."
O MOST merciful Father, who hast blessed the labours of the husbandman in the returns of the fruits of the earth; We give thee humble and hearty thanks for this thy bounty; beseeching thee to continue thy loving-kindness to us, that our land may still yield her increase, to thy glory and our comfort; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Question. You said that your Sponsors did promise for you, that you should keep God's Commandments. Tell me how many there are? Answer. Ten.
Comment: Saying that there are ten basic commandments is rooted in Scripture and ancient custom. The Ten Commandments have been an important element in Christian catechesis since at least the time of St. Augustine, but different traditions have divided them in different ways. In general, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans and the Reformed groups have followed the enumeration we see in our Catechism. Roman Catholics and Lutherans organized the text differently. They have combined the command against having other gods with the one about worshipping idols, and they have divided the command against coveting into one against coveting relationships and another against coveting property.
Regardless of the organization, the ideas are the same, and the basic rules can be memorized by the average person with a little effort. There are many things that human beings should or should not do, but these ten cover basic principles and actions. These basics can be applied to all areas of human life.
Question. Which are they?
Answer. The same which God spake in the twentieth Chapter of Exodus, saying, I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
I. Thou shalt have none other gods but me.
II. Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them; for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, and visit the sins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and show mercy unto thousands in them that love me and keep my commandments.
III. Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his Name in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his name in vain.
IV. Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath-day. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all that thou hast to do; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it thou shalt do no manner of work; thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, thy cattle, and the stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it.
V. Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
VI. Thou shalt do no murder.
VII. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
VIII. Thou shalt not steal.
IX. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
X. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his servant, nor his maid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is his.
Question. What dost thou chiefly learn by these Commandments?
Answer. I learn two things; my duty towards God, and my duty towards my Neighbour.
Comment: The Catechism follows our Lord's example by summarizing all the commandments in the two Great Commandments to love God and the neighbor (St. Matthew 22:37-40). Commandments I-IV are primarily about how to love God, and Commandments V-X are primarily about how to love one's neighbor.
Question. What is thy duty towards God?
Answer. My duty towards God is To believe in him, to fear him, And to love him with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength: To worship him, to give him thanks: To put my whole trust in him, to call upon him: To honour his holy Name and his Word: And to serve him truly all the days of my life.
Comment: This short summary of the teaching of the First Great Commandment is simple and in words that most people can still understand. Loving God is not merely some warm feeling; it involves belief, fear, worship, thanksgiving, trust, prayer, respect for divine revelation and service.
Question. What is thy duty towards thy Neighbour?
Answer. My duty towards my Neighbour is To love him as myself, and to do to all men as I would they should do unto me: To love, honour, and succour my father and mother: To honour and obey the civil authority: To submit myself to all my governors, teachers, spiritual pastors and masters: To order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters: To hurt nobody by word or deed: To be true and just in all my dealings: To bear no malice nor hatred in my heart: To keep my hands from picking and stealing, and my tongue from evil speaking, lying, and slandering: To keep my body in temperance, soberness, and chastity: Not to covet nor desire other men's goods; But to learn and labour truly to get mine own living, And to do my duty in that state of life unto which it shall please God to call me.
Comment: This summary of the teaching of the Second Great Commandment is beautiful, but unfortunately somewhat problematic for many modern English-speakers. Loving our neighbors is not merely or primarily a matter of kind or warm feelings; true love for people involves a number of actions and attitudes. This duty extends from the first people most of us know, our parents, to all those we encounter in the various states and stages of life.
Honoring parents extends to actually aiding them, and it extends to all those who have legitmate authority over us- teachers, clergy, supervisers and bosses of all kinds, magistrates and government officials. Not committing murder extends to other behaviors that harm people and to attitudes toward people (see St. Matthew 6:21-22). Not stealing implies being true and just in all dealings with others. Not committing adultery extends to more than outward sexual relations; it includes general attitudes about sex and other physical pleasures- such as moderation in eating and drinking. Not bearing false witness extends to the general need to be honest in our words. And not coveting is already a commandment which has mental and spiritual dimensions that overlap with all other commandments about dealing with other people.
So far the Catechism has dealt with rather general aspects of Christian life. It started with Christian identity by reference to Baptism and with general beliefs by reference to the Apostles' Creed. We have now seen basic religious and moral commandments. With this general background, the next section will move into the practices of Christian devotion.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
The Gospel (St. John 6:5-14 ) is the familiar story of feeding the 5000. In addition to its general significance, the story reminds us of expectations that Jesus fulfilled. When the people saw His miraculous act, they affirmed that He was "that prophet that should come into the world" (St. John 6: 14 ). Of course, orthodox Christian believers (unlike liberal modernists) think that Jesus is much more than a prophet, but we know that He is also a prophet. Indeed, prophet is one the three functions (along with priest and king) that Christian theology has often used to characterize the work of the Messiah or Christ. Jesus is not just any prophet but the long-expected one. He is the one who was to come. He is the prophet like Moses predicted in Deuteronomy 18:15,18. He is the one who brings a new age and establishes the New Covenant. He is the One who is really greater than Moses, the greatest prophet of ancient Israel. Not only is He greater than Moses by nature, He also mediates a covenant greater than the one established through the work of Moses (Hebrews 8:6).
As we end a Christian year on this Sunday, we are reminded of completion. Jesus the Christ was the One to come. He completed the work of redemption that was in progress from Adam, through Noah to Abraham and present in the ministry of Moses and subsequent Hebrew prophets. At the same time that we think of completion, we also anticipate a new church year and the continuing work of redemption. Jesus is the One has already come, but He is also the One who is to come again. Although He has completed the great acts of redemption, we still await the consummation of the age of the New Covenant. We live between the times, and such an existence provides us with both great challenges and great opportunities for growth and service.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
QUESTION. What is your Name? Answer. N. or N. N.
Question. Who gave you this Name? Answer. My Sponsors in Baptism; wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.
Question. What did your Sponsors then for you?
Answer. They did promise and vow three things in my name: First, that I should renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanity of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; Secondly, that I should believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith; And Thirdly, that I should keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of my life.
Comment:The first three questions show us that this Catechism was not designed as a general or abstract discussion; it was originally intended for those young people preparing for Confirmation. It reflects a time when Baptism generally ocurred in the first days or at least weeks after birth. Baptism was also christening or giving of a Christian name. More of the theological beliefs about Baptism occur later in the Catechism, but here the stress is upon Christian identity or self-awareness. Among other things, Baptism gives us a Christian name and identity. Traditionally, it is the renunciation of the fallen world, corrupted fleshly desires and service of the evil one. It makes us part of the community of faith, and we are called to respond to what has been done through the sacrament.
Question. Dost thou not think that thou art bound to believe, and to do, as they have promised for thee?
Answer. Yes, verily; and by God's help so I will. And I heartily thank our heavenly Father, that he hath called me to this state of salvation, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. And I pray unto God to give me his grace, that I may continue in the same unto my life's end.
Comment:The call to respond to Baptism involves our basic beliefs and promises. Whether a person is aware or not, whether we agree or not, being born into a Christian family (even if it is not particularly pious) and receiving Holy Baptism puts us under obligation. Anyone exposed to even a minimal awareness of the Christian message responds to it in some way or another. God has called us to salvation through Christ. He has offered and continues to offer us grace. With His help, we must work to continue what started at Baptism.
Catechist. Rehearse the Articles of thy Belief.
Answer. I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost: The holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints: The Forgiveness of sins: The Resurrection of the body: And the Life everlasting. Amen.
Comment: The basic articles of Christian belief were summarized long ago in the Latin statement known as the Apostles' Creed. Although not literally composed by the Apostles in the first century, it summarizes their preaching and teaching contained in the book of Acts and the New Testament epistles or letters. We could spend much time discussing every word of this Creed, but for now let us notice the short summary in the next Catechism question.
Question. What dost thou chiefly learn in these Articles of thy Belief?
Answer. First, I learn to believe in God the Father, who hath made me, and all the world. Secondly, in God the Son, who hath redeemed me, and all mankind. Thirdly, in God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the people of God.
Comment:The Apostles' Creed like many Christian statements of faith and acts of worship has a three-part form, a Trinitarian structure. The first part of the Creed is about God the Father, the Creator. All of Scripture and much in nature teaches us about Him. Since most of humanity has believed in a Creator, this part of the Creed is short, and we move quickly to the beliefs that are more uniquely Christian.
The second part of the Creed is about God the Son, Jesus the Christ. Our beliefs about Jesus are what make us Christians. We believe that He is the only and unique Son of God, conceived by the Spirit of God and born of the Virgin Mary. He came to earth to save us from our sins and offer us eternal life. Among the many things that He did during His life on earth, the central events include His death on the Cross for our sins, His resurrection to offer us new life and His return to heaven to pray for us and watch over us.
The third part of the Creed is about God the Holy Ghost or the Holy Spirit. Not only did God create the universe and come to earth in the man Jesus, He continues to reach out and work in the world in invisible but powerful spiritual ways. As He works in the world, He sanctifies or makes holy. He works through each individual believer, and as is shown in the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit works in a special way through the fellowship or communion of believers, the Church. Despite human failings, this Church is holy because it belongs to God. It is also catholic or universal. It extends across languages, races, cultures, political boundaries and time. It holds to the same basic beliefs and moral standards everwhere- in this world and beyond. The Spirit makes the Church a communion of saints, a fellowship of those made holy by the grace of God in Christ. And the Spirit brings blessings such as the forgivenesss of sins, the future resurrection of the body and eternal life in God's presence.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
In these two situations, there are different example of human desperation: the urgent illness of the official's daughter and the chronic condition of the older woman. Jesus brings divine grace to both cases of human weakness. God in Christ is ready to reach out, but for healing to take place, there is need for faith. The faith that both the girl's father and the afflicted woman had in Jesus the Christ opened the way for divine power to work. Whatever our frailties- of body, mind or soul- may our faith in Christ open us to His restorative work.
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Yet, Christ's answer is more than just clever debate. He enunciates an important general principle: Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's (St. Matthew 22:21b). Government, even that of an oppressive conqueror, serves certain purposes such as insuring a rough justice and stable economic exchange. Believers like other people benefit from whatever degree of stability government provides, and so believers are not anarchists. As seen throughout Scripture, especially as developed in the New Testament epistles, Christians pray for rulers and acknowledge that worldly power has certain legitimate purposes. At the same time, the claims of Caesar are limited. Money may bear Caesar's image, but every human being bears the divine image. Therefore, the highest human loyalty is to God, not to any political and economic system. It turns out that religious faith is both collaborative and subversive at the same time. To the extent that government restrains human evil and promotes the common good under God's Law, it deserves Christian support.
However, the Christian must always put God's requirements first. When any government (even a democratically elected one) claims too much for itself, it must either be ignored or opposed in some way. Caesar, for example, could claim taxes, but he had no right to claim to be worshipped as a god. In modern democracies, government can justly ask many things of us, but it has no rights when it asks us to accept practices such as abortion or euthanasia.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Of course, Christians from many different institutional backgrounds observe this feast in some way, and as an Anglican, one can respect this common heritage among churches. However, it seems to me that the Anglican perspective on this celebration and on the general theme of the saints is special. Although we have had some differing opinions and emphases among us, Anglicans have a sense of continuity with the best from the Church of all ages. We incorporate the witness of the saints of the past through the calendar, the liturgy, the historic creeds and the apostolic ministry. At the same time, Anglicans have deliberately avoided the excesses of the medieval cult of the saints, especially some ideas associated with theories about a treasury of merits from the saints and popular practices about relics. So on the theme of the saints, it seems that Anglicanism does represent a reasonable and pious middle way, via media, that retains the best of the Christian heritage of all ages.
O ALMIGHTY God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
The second part of today's Gospel (St. Matthew 18:23-35) has been called the parable of the unjust or unmerciful servant. In it, a servant owes his king an enormous debt, a billionaire's debt. He and his family are about to be sold into slavery. The man begs for an extended payment plan, and the king writes off the whole debt. Rather than being humble, grateful and kind, the servant goes out and ruthlessly tries to get every penny from a fellow servant who owes him a comparatively minuscule debt. When the king hears of this lack of mercy, he revokes his previous decision and punishes the unjust servant to the full extent of the law.
Then our Lord adds the key conclusion: So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every man his brother their trespasses.
All the debts that human beings owe each other are minuscule in comparison to what we owe our heavenly King. We can never repay God for what He has given and forgiven us. Our trespasses are enormous offences against divine goodness, and we are dependent upon divine mercy. So we must show mercy by forgiving others. As we pray repeatedly, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Knowing so little about these two apostles gives us occasion to think about the nature of the apostolic ministry. Even for those apostles about whom we have more information (such as Saint Peter and Saint Paul), the important point is not their personal biographies and accomplishments. The important point is always their faithful witness to and service for Jesus Christ and His Church. It is enough to recall that Simon and Jude believed, followed and served Christ. And that is what all bishops, priests, deacons and lay persons are called to do from the first century till the end of the age.
O ALMIGHTY God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone; Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
When the official first approaches, our Lord rebukes the Galilean crowd for their superficial faith based on impressive externals ("Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe"-4:48). However, the official, possibly a Gentile serving Herod Antipas, is different. He loves his son, and he truly believes in Jesus. So our Lord addresses him differently ("Go thy way; thy son liveth"-4:50). In a unique way, Christ's power reaches out at that very moment to heal the man's son who is miles away. For the man and his household, this miracle is a sign. They move from belief in Jesus as a great healer to a more general faith in Him as the Christ.
John calls this miracle a sign, the second sign performed in Cana (the first was the water into wine). As important as the physical healing of a sick family member is, this sign means even more. It points to Jesus as the Christ, the divine Redeemer. In John's Gospel, this sign is a prelude to what follows over the next few chapters where it becomes more and more evident that Jesus is much more than a prophet and faith-healer. He is the unique Son, sent from the heavenly Father. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Personally, I find these early Christian traditions regarding Luke interesting and reasonable. In any case, today we give thanks for the mission of the early Church in the Gentile world and for the divine inspiration which gave us the Gospel according to St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.
ALMIGHTY God, who calledst Luke the Physician, whose praise is in the Gospel, to be an Evangelist and Physician of the soul: May it please thee, that by the wholesome medecines of the doctrine delivered by him, all the diseases of our souls may be healed; through the merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
ALMIGHTY God, who didst inspire thy servant Saint Luke the Physician, to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son; Manifest in thy Church the like power and love, to the healing of our bodies and our souls; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
In the Gospel from St. Matthew 22:1-14, Christ compares the kingdom of God to a wedding feast. Speaking of redemption as a great feast or heavenly banquet was a common Jewish image of the Messianic age, and there is a similar parable recorded in St. Luke 14 (read at the Eucharist on Trinity II). In today's selection from St. Matthew 22, the imagery is a bit more extended. People are invited to the king's wedding celebration for his son. They give all sorts of excuses, and some even attack the messengers. The king punishes those evil people but is still determined to have a feast. So his servants go out into the streets to find new guests. Among the new guests, there is one who does not come properly attired; he does not respect the greatness of the occasion. The king has him cast out to be punished. The conclusion is realistic and somber: For many are called, but few are chosen (St. Matt. 22:14).
Although the imagery and dynamics of the parable are different from the epistle, the reality and application end up being rather similar. The reality is that much of the world is not interested in God's offers to redeem human life. People are too caught up in their materialistic pursuits to value the divine king's spiritual feast. Some are preoccupied or indifferent; some are downright hostile. Despite such reponses, God is not deterred. The feast will take place, and new guests from a variety of backgrounds continue to be sought. Nevertheless, regardless of their previous backgrounds, even these new guests must come in the right way. They must respect the host enough put on righteousness, and if they do not, they too will be cast out to punishment.
As Christians, we can fit into the parable in two distinct ways. 1) We are the king's servants who are sent to invite others to the feast. We are to bear witness to God's gracious offer. And even if doing so exposes us to worldly hostility, we are to keep looking for more guests. 2) We are also guests who have been invited to the spiritual feast with God. We come from a variety of backgrounds, but as we come to the feast, we must show respect for the invitation by putting on the appropriate garments of righteousness. The divine host does not cast us out for what we have been in the past, but He may have us cast out for not appreciating His offer.
Saturday, October 09, 2010
This ability to pronounce forgiveness is precisely the point that Jesus wishes to make. The Messianic Son of man is God's earthly representative (actually of course, He is God incarnate) and has the power to forgive sins. This is a new power at work in Christ's ministry. The Gospel brings forgiveness, and Christ's power to declare forgiveness is shared with His apostles, and through them with the whole Church, especially with bishops and presbyters. From the earthly ministry of Christ till the end of the age, God's forgiveness is at work in the world in a powerful new way that cannot be found apart from Christ.
Saturday, October 02, 2010
In the second section of today's Gospel, St. Matthew 22: 41-46, Jesus turns the tables by asking the Pharisees about the interpretation of Psalm 110. They accepted this Psalm as a Davidic Psalm and believed that it pointed to the Messiah. However, Jesus brings up a question on the text that they do not want to face. How is it possible for the great king David to call the Messiah, who would be his descendant, "my Lord"? Such a situation has a significant implication: that the Messiah is greater than David and more than his mere human descendant. In other words, the Psalm points to the divinity of the Christ, and the Pharisees are not going to acknowledge such an interpretation.
Each of the sections of our Gospel from St. Matthew 22 is rich in itself. Each section can tell us much about Christian belief and its implications for Christian living. Furthermore, the juxtaposition of these two sections can point us to even broader truth: Christian discipleship is rooted in the Jewish tradition, but it also makes affirmations about Christ that go beyond the Jewish tradition. Jesus makes dramatic claims about Himself. He is the Davidic Messiah, but He is also much more.
Like the Pharisees, many contemporary Christians want to avoid this issue. Many self-professed Christians want to reduce Jesus to a bland religious teacher who just says to honor God and be nice to everybody. However, such a bland view of Jesus ignores claims that Jesus makes about Himself in the Gospels. He presents Himself as more than a teacher, more than even the greatest king of Israel; He is divine Lord who shares the heavenly Father's nature. And to be true disciples, we must believe this about Him.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
In Scripture, angels are mentioned many times, and St. Michael himself is mentioned in Daniel, the Epistle to Jude and Revelation. He is the warrior angel who defends God's people from the Devil. While we would certainly want to avoid the angel worship that St. Paul warns about in Colossians 2:18, as well as many popular superstitions about angels over the centuries, it is important that Christians recognize and honor the work of St. Michael and all the angels. They are spiritual beings created by God, and they are at work in the universe to praise God and to aid His people.
O EVERLASTING God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels always do thee service in heaven, so, by thy appointment, they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
LORD, we pray thee that thy grace may always prevent and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
As a linguist, I find the archaic use of prevent interesting. In the collect, this word is used in the original Latin sense, "come before"- a sense that still exists in the French and Spanish uses of the verb to mean "anticipate" or "prepare." Aside from that, the real reason that I appreciate this collect is that it reminds us that we are surrounded by grace, and that it is only through such divine grace that we can do any good works.
Today's Gospel from St. Luke 14:1-11 is also a rich passage. In it, we see Christ having the Sabbath meal with a group of Pharisees. This religious and social occasion is the backdrop for two messages to the Pharisees (and to us). First, there is the Sabbath healing of the man suffering from dangerous fluid retention. Christ responds to the man with compassion and points out that an act of compassion takes precedence over our human rules- even if our rules originally have a good devotional purpose. Secondly, observing human pettiness in striving for social honors, Christ stresses the need for humility. True honor does not come from self-promotion; it comes from a humble attitude. May the divine grace which surrounds us lead us into greater compassion and humility.
Monday, September 20, 2010
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.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
First, this is a concrete case of Christ's compassion for those in need. The death of this particular young man was especially sad. He was "the only son of his mother, and she was a widow" (7:12). So there was more than personal sadness involved. In that society, the woman's whole world had collapsed with the loss of her son. She would have no one to help, provide for or defend her. Besides loosing her son, she was as good as dead herself. In the face of such drastic need, Jesus reaches out. He does more than sympathize: He restores the young man, and thereby restores the mother also.
Secondly, as important as the individual act of compassion is, the story also points to a broader theological issue. For raising the dead is a Messianic act. Although the crowds here do not overtly proclaim that Jesus is the Christ, they do realize that God is at work among them in a new way. They acknowledge that Jesus is at least "a great prophet," and rumors of His work spread through the region. The Messianic significance is made clearer later in the same chapter when Jesus sends word to John the Baptist. Alluding to prophecies such as Isaiah 26:19, Christ points out that along the other great deeds, "the dead are raised" (St. Luke 7:22). Thus, by raising the young man, Jesus is proclaiming to those who will listen that He is the promised deliverer.
The two points of today's Gospel belong together. Acts of compassion are good and important in themselves, but they only find their full meaning when related to God's eternal kingdom. Through Christ, kind deeds rise beyond the level of human morality to become expressions of God's rule over all life and His redeeming work in His creation.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Holy Cross Day is one of the medieval feasts that survived as a "black letter day" on the 1662 BCP calendar. It is also referenced indirectly in the 1928 BCP (page li) and wherever the autumnal Ember Days have continued to be observed.
In a sense, every day is a holy cross day for Christian believers. We have been baptized into the cross of our Lord, we continue to be saved by the work Christ performed there, and we anticipate the final triumph of the Crucified Savior and our heavenly fellowship with Him. It is appropriate for us to pause and give thanks for the horrible instrument of death that God chose to use to bring us to eternal life.
This week we also pray for vocations, for those about to be ordained and for all the clergy. (See the previous post
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Trinity Sunday is unique on the Church calendar in several ways. Historically, its origins are late. It seems to have been observed first in the early 900's in what became Belgium and to have spread rapidly in northwestern Europe, including England. The observance was not added to the Roman calendar until the 1300's. Another distinction of Trinity Sunday is that, unlike other major holy days, it focuses on a doctrine rather than an event. Finally, there is the liturgically mixed origin of the traditional BCP propers for the day. The collect focuses on the doctrine of the Trinity while the English epistle and gospel selections go back to an earlier emphasis upon Pentecost and the work of the Spirit.
Yet, observing Trinity Sunday on the Sunday after Pentecost is certainly appropriate because the powerful coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples is a completion of the Trinitarian revelation. In a sense, talk about the Trinity is not merely theology about the nature of God; it is a teaching which summarizes the whole Biblical message. This doctrine is indeed a mystery that transcends the limits of the human intellect. At the same time, the doctrine of the Trinity has a practical application to the devotional life of every Christian. Whenever worldly philosophies attack this particular doctrine, there is often more involved than some intellectual issue. Behind the issues of mystery and semantics, disputes about the Trinity have tended to reflect differences in views of the human condition and the divine work for human salvation.
Long ago as a seminarian, I came to realize two important points about the doctrine of the Trinity. 1) It is indeed rooted in Scripture. One may not find it explained in one key verse or passage, but this doctrine permeates the whole Christian canon. A person can not reject this doctrine without discarding many Scripture passages, especially in the New Testament. 2) The doctrine of the Trinity is an essential part of a Christian perspective. It provides the structure of creedal summaries about God's work to save us from our sins. The doctrine of the Trinity is also present whenever Christians pray. Regardless of which divine person we invoke at a particular moment, Christians are always calling upon the Triune God. We look to God as our heavenly Father through the mediation of His Son Jesus Christ prompted by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost....
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Postulants, Seminarians, Candidates for Ordination and Clergy always need our prayers, but it is good to remember them in special ways on Ember Days. In addition, I bid your prayers for the Diocese of the Eastern U.S., Anglican Province of America (APA) which meets in June to elect a suffragan bishop.
Collect for the Ember Days:
O ALMIGHTY God, who hast committed to the hands of men the ministry of reconciliation; We humbly beseech thee, by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, to put it into the hearts of many to offer themselves for this ministry; that thereby mankind may be drawn to thy blessed kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A Prayer for a Church Convention/Synod:
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who by thy Holy Spirit didst preside in the Council of the blessed Apostles, and hast promised, through thy Son Jesus Christ, to be with thy Church to the end of the world; We beseech thee to be with the Council of thy Church about to be assembled in thy Name and Presence. Save them from all error, ignorance, pride, and prejudice; and of thy great mercy vouchsafe, we beseech thee, so to direct, sanctify, and govern them in their work, by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, that the comfortable Gospel of Christ may be truly preached, truly received, and truly followed, in all places, to the breaking down the kingdom of sin, Satan, and death; till at length the whole of thy dispersed sheep, being gathered into one fold, shall become partakers of everlasting life; through the merits and death of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen
SEND, we beseech thee, Almighty God, thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, that he may direct and rule us according to thy will, comfort us in all our afflictions, defend us from all error, and lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the same Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.
Collect for Tuesday:
GRANT, we beseech thee, merciful God, that thy Church, being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Spirit, may manifest thy power among all peoples, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
The Gospel for Pentecost (St. John 14: 15-31) continues the recent series from Christ's Farewell Discourses. For me, a key verse in the selection is this: But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsover I have said unto you (St. John 14: 26). In view of all the strange things that some Christians have attributed to the Spirit over the centuries, this verse provides important guidance. 1) The Holy Ghost comes from the Father in Christ's name: His work is inseparable from the saving work of the Father and the Son. 2) The work of the Spirit is not primarily emotional; the Spirit mainly comes to teach Christ's disciples. 3) As the Spirit teaches, there is not a distinct new revelation. Rather the Spirit brings to remembrance what has already been revealed in the words of Jesus. Thus, if Christians "feel" that the Holy Spirit is leading them in a certain direction, they need to examine their feelings in light of the truth of the whole Biblical revelation, especially in light of Christ's words in the Gospels.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
This juxtaposition of promise and warning has a perennial application to the Christian life. Easter, Ascension and Pentecost remind us of great and joyful aspects of Christian faith and life. God in Christ has given and continues to give us so much. However, Christian joy is not a simplistic denial of reality. The Scriptures do not proclaim some distorted message of worldly prosperity and happiness. Believers are still fallen creatures living in a fallen world. So our Lord wants us to be realistic; He wants us to be ready to worldly face difficulties without losing hope. May the Spirit of truth give us strength to keep such a joyful realism in our doctrine and in our daily lives.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Unfortunately, the schedules of contemporary life make it hard for many people to observe this day at a church. Nevertheless, let us keep the day in our devotions and meditate on its meaning. Christ, the eternal Word, God the Son, has returned to His heavenly home at the right hand of the Father. This is for the good of Christ's followers in two important ways. 1) Our Lord is in the place of greatest honor and power interceding for us. 2) His presence in heaven is related to the sending of the Holy Spirit to work among His people in new and powerful ways.
Saturday, May 08, 2010
The common name for the the Fifth Sunday after Easter is Rogation Sunday, and the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week have also long been known as Rogation Days. The term "rogation" comes from the Latin verb rogo, rogare. This is one Latin term for praying and is used in the Latin version of St. John 16:26, that I will pray (rogabo). Rogation Days go back to the sixth century at Rome where Christian prayers for crops were appointed to replace certain pagan customs. Early processional litanies were associated with this observance, and other prayers of supplication were included during times of disaster.
At the time of the English Reformation, practices were simplified, but the Rogation Days continued as occasions for the Litany and prayers for agriculture. Although many modern people are far removed from the agricultural cycle of life, it is good for us to continue to be aware of and pray for the natural cycle that sustains earthly life. And as we approach the Ascension, it is also appropriate that we be more aware of Christ as our heavenly Intercessor in whose name and spirit we are to offer up all our prayers.
Saturday, May 01, 2010
Theologically, this is a rich passage which could be developed for pages; here is a capsule version. It was time for Christ's ordinary physical presence on earth to draw to a close, and the disciples were anxious about the change. Like those first disciples, we may still view the days of Christ's earthly ministry with a certain nostalgia. Nevertheless, those days had to draw to a close, and such a change was necessary and good for believers. A new chapter in Christ's work was soon to begin through a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. In this way, Christ would continue to work among His followers through the Spirit. The Spirit would be a guide into truth; not some new, secret or unheard of truth, but the truth already manifested in the person of Christ.
All too often, people have gone to extremes when talking about the Holy Spirit. St. Paul indicates as much in addressing the Corinthians. Throughout Christian history, this has been true. And in our time, all kinds of strange things are attributed to the Spirit- by extremists caught up in emotional sensations, by those affirming certain exaggerated doctrines about the infallibility of the church or by those justifying modernistic unbelief and immoral behavior. However, if we are to have a sound view of the working of the Spirit, we must test it by Scripture, especially by the central teachings of the Gospels. The truth into which the Spirit guides us must always be based on, be an application of, the truth already revealed in the life, teachings and redeeming work of Jesus Christ. As we look back to the Cross and Resurrection and look forward to Pentecost, we must keep the two connected. The basic work of redemption was a unique historical event; now the Spirit simply guides us into the continued application of that truth in each of our lives.
Friday, April 30, 2010
These two apostles, although not famous, certainly had a function to fulfill. Like the others, they learned directly from our Lord, they went out preaching the kingdom before and after the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Despite their human flaws and presumed fearfulness during Holy Week, they followed the risen Lord and were part of the foundation of the Church. They did what we see Philip doing in the Gospels: they brought others to Christ. So on their feast day, we remember and give thanks for their apostolic ministry.