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.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

St. Michael and All Angels- September 29

The origin of this feast of St. Michael the Archangel goes back to fifth century Rome when a church in the region was dedicated in honor of St. Michael. This feast became very popular in medieval England, and when Anglican Reformers simplified the church calendar, this was the only observance dedicated to angels that was retained.

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

Trinity XVII

The brief collect for this Sunday is one of my favorites:
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

St. Matthew- September 21

Both the story of St. Matthew's life and the Gospel attributed to him have long been favorites among Christians. As we recall him at this time, we are thankful that our Lord chose people such as an outcast tax collector to be among His people. We are also grateful for the Gospel rooted in Matthew's eyewitness accounts. This Gospel gives us a greater appreciation of the Jewish context of the Gospel and of the way in which Christ came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.


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

Trinity XVI

The Gospel for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity (St. Luke 7:11-17) is one of several stories where Christ restores the dead to life. It is set in a small Galilean village called Nain, and it may recall a similar incident from the region which occurred in the life of the prophet Elisha (II Kings 4:18-37). In thinking about the significance of this miracle, there seem to be two salient issues: a special act of mercy and a Messianic sign.

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

For a variety of reasons, my summer pause ended up lasting a long time, but maybe I can get back into posting now. Thanks to those who have continued to peruse these comments.

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 )