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.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

In the English Books of Common Prayer from 1549 through 1662, the Gospel for Epiphany IV was St. Matthew 8:23-34. That selection includes two stories: Christ calming the sea and Christ healing the demoniacs of the Gergesenes (or Gadarenes). Both of these stories are epiphanies or manifestations of Christ's power over nature and over human affliction.
As noted for the last two Sundays, the 1928 American BCP changed the sequence of Gospel readings by inserting the account of Christ's Baptism on Epiphany II. The Gospel from St. Matthew 8:23ff has fallen out of the 1928 Communion lectionary, and the 1549-1662 Gospel for Epiphany III (St. Matthew 8:1-13) has been transferred to Epiphany IV.

The Gospel from St. Matthew 8:1ff has two healing miracles, one of a Jewish leper and the other of a Roman centurion's servant. Both acts are epiphanies of Christ's power and His concern for human affliction. The healing of the centurion's servant is also striking because it shows our Lord reaching out to respond to faith among the Gentiles.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Prayer for Babes

On this anniversary of the American court's abortion decision, we remember the sins against the unborn and the waste of human life. We pray for limitations on the taking of innocent life, and we pray for all the victims: innocent babes, distraught mothers-to-be, confused fathers-to-be and societies with materialistic and selfish values.

Almighty God, by whose Providence new life is conceived, look with mercy upon all thy handmaidens who are with child and upon the babes within their wombs. Strengthen them during the months of waiting and growth, and bring them in safety through the time of birth. And grant that each child may increase in wisdom and stature, and grow in thy love and service, until he or she come to thy eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Epiphany III

As noted before, the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer made changes in the Gospel selections from the English tradition because the revisers decided to bring in the Gospel on Christ's Baptism for the Second Sunday after Epiphany. Thus, for the Third Sunday after Epiphany, the 1928 BCP has the Gospel that the English and Canadian Prayer Books have on Epiphany II- the miracle of the water into wine (St. John 2:1-11).

This miracle story is a rich passage that can be approached in many ways. This year, I am struck by the different responses to the manifestation of Christ's power. 1) The majority of people at the wedding in Cana did not even realize what Jesus did. 2) The servants of the host saw what He did and were merely amazed. 3) Christ's disciples saw what He did, "and His disciples believed on Him" (John 2:11). Human beings continue to have those three basic responses to God's work in Jesus Christ. Even though they had a limited insight, the disciples responded in faith. May the same be true of us.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Anglican Catechism- Supplement

In previous posts, I have dealt with the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer as it existed from 1549 with additions through 1662. As in many traditional Catechisms, there is a treatment of the Creed, the Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The phraseology is beautiful and gives an Anglican twist in presenting the core of the Faith, but it is really a general Christian explanation of basics. Over the years, some Anglicans felt that a Catechism should include a few more items, especially on the Church, Confirmation and the Ministry. Finally, in 1887 a proposed supplement was presented to and approved by the lower house of the Canterbury Convocation. Although that proposal did not obtain further approval in England, it seems to have been used by many and became the basis of catechetical modifications in the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer and in the 1962 Canadian Book of Common Prayer. The American expression is found in the Second Office of Instruction (pp. 290,291, 294), and the Canadian version is found at the end of the Catechism as "A Supplementary Instruction" (pp. 552-555).

Here is the 1928 version excerpted from the Second Office of Instruction:

Question. WHEN were you made a member of the Church?
Answer. I was made a member of the Church when I was baptized.

Question. What is the Church?
Answer. The Church is the Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head, and all baptized people are the members.

Comment: These two questions and answers point us to the basic reality of the visible Church. The Church is the Body of Christ, and He alone is its true Head. Under ordinary circumstances, individuals are united to Christ and grafted into His Body through Baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit. Many of those baptized may not be faithful or edifying examples, and many other things may be necessary for the fullness of the Church and its mission, but wherever there are baptized people, the Church is already present to some degree.

Question. How is the Church described in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds?
Answer. The Church is described in the Creeds as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.

Question. What do we mean by these words?
Answer. We mean that the Church is One; because it is one Body under one Head; Holy; because the Holy Spirit dwells in it, and sanctifies its members; Catholic; because it is universal, holding earnestly the Faith for all time, in all countries, and for all people; and is sent to preach the Gospel to the whole world; Apostolic; because it continues stedfastly in the Apostles' teaching and fellowship.

Comment. The historic creeds based on the early Church's consensus and summary of Scriptural teaching describe the Church by four words. There have been many debates on the marks of the Church, and different individuals and subgroups may have a variety of ideas and interpretations. Yet, for Anglicans and for others who affirm the historic creeds, there is a broad agreement. Whether Christians agree with one another or like one another, the Church of all the faithful baptized is one under the Christ, the Head of the Body. The Church is also holy, not because of us, but because it belongs to God who works to sanctify it by His Spirit. This Church is catholic because its basic message of salvation through faith in Christ remains the same for all times, places and peoples. And the Church is apostolic because the core teachings of the Apostles about Christ are affirmed and because despite the ups and downs of history, all the faithful belong in some degree to an unbroken fellowship of believers stretching back to the New Testament.

Question. What is your bounden duty as a member of the Church?
Answer. My bounden duty is to follow Christ, to worship God every Sunday in his Church; and to work and pray and give for the spread of his kingdom.

Comment. In addition to the general human duties toward God and the neighbor which are summarized in the section of the Catechism about the Commandments, all those who have been baptized have more specific "churchly" duties: follow Christ, worship on Sundays, contribute to and work for the spread of God's rule.

Question. What special means does the Church provide to help you to do all these things?
Answer. The Church provides the Laying on of Hands, or Confirmation, wherein, after renewing the promises and vows of my Baptism, and declaring my loyalty and devotion to Christ as my Master, I receive the strengthening gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Question. After you have been confirmed, what great privilege doth our Lord provide for you?
Answer. Our Lord provides the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, for the continual strengthening and refreshing of my soul.

Comment. These two questions and answers start to become more specifically Anglican. In our tradition, Confirmation has two sides. 1) Those already baptized profess their faith in Christ, and 2) through the bishop's Laying on of Hands with prayer, they are offered the strengthening grace of God the Holy Spirit. Barring exceptional circumstances, Anglicans have traditionally expected that beginning to partake of Holy Communion would come after instruction, profession of the Faith and the bishop's blessing.

Question. What orders of Ministers are there in the Church?
Answer. Bishops, Priests, and Deacons; which orders have been in the Church from the earliest times.

Question. What is the office of a Bishop?
Answer. The office of a Bishop is, to be a chief pastor in the Church; to confer Holy Orders; and to administer Confirmation.

Question. What is the office of a Priest?
Answer. The office of a Priest is, to minister to the people committed to his care; to preach the Word of God; to baptize; to celebrate the Holy Communion; and to pronounce Absolution and Blessing in God's Name.

Question. What is the office of a Deacon?
Answer. The office of a Deacon is, to assist the Priest in Divine Service, and in his other ministrations, under the direction of the Bishop.

Comment. Here is a simple traditional Anglican view of the ordained ministry. This summary does not go into the differing party views which have existed in Anglicanism, but it stresses the positive elements. Bishops, priests or presbyters and deacons are mentioned in the New Testament, and they were certainly separate ministries by the early second century. Bishops are the chief pastors; they have special functions for the good of the whole Church, and they continue to exercise those functions of pastoral leadership which they also confer upon priests. Priests are the pastors that most Anglicans see on a regular basis, and they perform a wide range of pastoral tasks under the bishop's oversight. Deacons are ordained to assist bishops and priests, both in worship and in other Christian service.

To conclude, the supplement to the traditional Catechism continues to reflect traditional Anglican views. These questions and answers cover topics important in Church life, topics that have usually been covered in confirmation/inquirers classes. While fairly general, the supplement also includes a bit more of a specifically Anglican perspective than the basic Christian matters covered in the traditional Catechism.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Second Sunday after Epiphany

The Second Sunday after Epiphany through the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany are among examples of a divergence between the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 1928 American BCP. (For a previous treatment of this Sunday, see last year's post; for comment on the 1662 Gospel, see last year's post on Epiphany III,

By placing a Gospel about the Baptism of our Lord (St. Mark 1:1-11) on this Sunday in the Epiphany season, the 1928 revisers were paying homage to ancient associations of Epiphany. When the feast of Epiphany began during the third century among the eastern churches, the chief epiphany or manifestation of Christ that they had in mind was His Baptism which marked the beginning of His public ministry. A secondary association was His Birth, but these associations were modified as Epiphany spread among the western churches during the fourth century, and Christ's Baptism tended to be ignored in western liturgies.

So although commemorating our Lord's Baptism on this particular Sunday is not universal, even among Anglicans, it is certainly appropriate that we should reflect upon this important Gospel event. Although Jesus of Nazareth did not need to be cleansed from any sin, He underwent this ritual of cleansing to give His followers an example and to dedicate Himself publicly to His mission. And as He did so, the Holy Spirit blessed Christ's human nature while the heavenly Father proclaimed His approval of His only Son. This Baptism is unique because Jesus Christ is unique. Yet, by submitting to Baptism, our Lord modified it forever and later established it in a new way among His followers. Every Christian Baptism is a uniting with Christ, a blessing by the Holy Spirit and an adoption as a child of God the Father.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Anglicanism and the Papacy

Various current events and comments by all sorts of Anglicans, Roman Catholics and others keep bringing up the subject of the relationship between English Church tradition and the papacy. Of course, these current events and discussions have a long history behind them. At some point before the Roman evacuation of Britain in the late 300's, Christianity was planted in the British Isles and prospered for years. This Celtic Christian presence survived the barbarian invasions and soon started an independent mission to evangelize the barbarians. Later, in 596, Pope Gregory I also decided to launch a mission to the Anglo-Saxons through St. Augustine of Canterbury. Ever since that time, there has been an certain ambiguity in English views of the papacy. Sometimes the tensions were decided in papal favor; at other times, royal power or local custom had greater influence on the Church in England.

This perennial tension between the papacy, local custom and monarchs continued into Tudor times. In 1533-34, Henry VIII rejected papal authority, and various Englishmen cooperated with him because of personal ideas and preferences. Many churchmen, including bishops such as Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley hoped to use the political rejection of the papacy for reforming the national church. Thus, for example, from 1544 through 1552 the Litany included this petition: From all sedicion and privye conspiracie, from the tyrannye of the bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities, from al false doctrine and herisy, from hardnes of heart, and contempte of thy word and commaundemente:Good Lord, deliver us.

In the Elizabethan settlement of 1559, various laws reiterated the Henrican and Edwardian rejection of the papacy, but in the effort to be comprehensive, the blunt reference to the Bishop of Rome was removed from the Litany. Nevertheless, the Articles of Religion from 1563 and 1571 were clear in rejecting Roman religious as well as temporal authority. Although drafts of the articles pre-date the Council of Trent, Anglicans, other Protestants and Roman Catholics took certain phrases as rejections of the papal faith proclaimed at Trent. Article XIX states, "... the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith." Article XXI states, "General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes. And when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture." Although these words could be applied to all councils, reform-minded Anglicans would see them aimed at councils under papal authority such as the Fourth Lateran Council, the Council of Constance and especially the Council of Trent.

Article XXII states, "The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God." Some commentators have argued that the words applied to pre-Tridentine or unofficial corruptions. Yet, in the context of the late 1500's, they were generally understood and have been understood since as directed against official beliefs associated with the papacy. The same can be said of Article XXVIII: "Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions." Although the exact theological import of these words can be explained in slightly different ways, the general intent to reject certain Roman ideas is clear.

Furthermore, Article XXXVII states, "The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England." In part, these words apply to sixteenth-century political pretensions of the papacy, but the article does mention men of ecclesiastical estate. So there is also a rejection of papal pretensions to universal jurisdiction in the Church.

Apart from the Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer itself has not refered directly to the papacy or Rome from 1559 onward. Clearly, certain Roman doctrines are missing and the Papacy is not affirmed. The ultimate authority for doctrine is Holy Scripture, and except in England, the highest governing authorities among Anglicans are local bishops.

Thus, it seems that a natural reading of both the Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer involves a rejection of the papacy and certain aspects of Roman Catholic theology. Despite the efforts of some Anglicans to claim otherwise, most Anglicans, Roman Catholics and other Christians have understood this over the last 400 plus years. Regardless of any admiration for certain aspects of Roman Catholic history and respect for the conscientious example of recent popes, theological honesty demands that we recognize differences. Although some contemporaries might wish it were otherwise, Anglicans cannot be Roman Catholics. Anglicans who do submit to the papacy are no longer Anglicans. And those of us who do in good conscience choose Anglicanism must affirm our differences from Rome as well as our general Christian commonalities.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Epiphany I

Historically, the First Sunday after Epiphany has had several associations. At some points in church history, it has simply been the Sunday within the octave (ecclesiastical week) of Epiphany and repeated the collect and lessons of that ancient festival. From early times, it was also associated with Christ's Baptism, and some recent lectionaries re-introduce that theme (in the 1928 American BCP, the Baptism is for Epiphany II). In traditional Books of Common Prayer, the Gospel continues the Christmas-Epiphany sequence with the one recorded episode from Christ's later childhood: the episode of the twelve-year old Jesus in the temple (St. Luke 2:41-52).

This Gospel shows how Jesus continued to fulfill all righteousness in His human nature. As a pious Jew, He was concerned about studying and applying the Scriptures. And in His case, there was a special awareness that He was about His "Father's business" (St. Luke 2:49). Along with this awareness, He remained the ideal son who at that age was subject to His earthly parents' authority.

On the one hand, the episode shows something unique. It is a manifestation or epiphany of God the Son incarnate as the perfect human being. At the same time, it is also a call to us to follow Jesus' example. As sinners, we never follow His example perfectly, and we always remain dependant upon His grace. But we are called to be about our heavenly Father's business and to seek to grow in service.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


A blessed Epiphany to all!

The Collect
O GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(According to the 1928 American BCP rubrics, "this Collect is to be said daily throughout the Octave." )

For a brief commentary, see last year's post:

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Christmas II

The Second Sunday after Christmas does not occur every year and has not developed a clear liturgical identity. Medieval service books and the 1549 Book of Common prayer did not have any propers for the day. From 1552 and 1662, Books of Common Prayer simply directed the continued use of the propers from the Circumcision of Christ. The 1928 American BCP, like some others of that decade, provided a collect and lessons. The lovely collect is from a medieval Christmas liturgy, and the lessons are from older services for the Eve of Epiphany.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word; Grant that the same light enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.