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

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pentecost Octave or Whitsun Week

For me, one of the strengths of the traditional Books of Common Prayer is that the week after Pentecost receives more emphasis than in newer liturgies. The 1549 and 1662 Prayer Books provide propers for Monday and Tuesday and designate Wednesday, Friday and Saturday as the early summer Ember days. The 1928 American and the 1962 Canadian Books of Common Prayer also include instructions about including the Collect for Pentecost and the Proper Preface during the octave. Indeed, although Trinity Sunday is theologically important on its own, its ancient liturgical importance was as the end of the Pentecost octave. The BCP emphasis on Pentecost week is fitting as we continue to observe the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pentecost, commonly called Whitsunday

Of course, Pentecost is rooted in a Jewish festival which also has come to be known as "the birthday of the Church." It is one of the oldest and most widely observed Christian celebrations.
The traditional collect for Pentecost is as follows:
O God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

This Collect is to be said daily throughout Whitsun Week.
The 1928 American BCP included a second collect for use at an early service. It says,
Almighty and most merciful God, grant, we beseech thee, that by the indwelling of thy Holy Spirit, we may be enlightened and strengthened for thy service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

There is a comment on the traditional Gospel from St. John 14:15ff in my post from 2010-

There is a comment on the traditional Epistle from the Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11 in my post from 2011-

The 1928 American BCP also added a second Epistle, 1 Corinthians 12: 4-14.  This reading has also been included in other recent lectionaries. It is a famous and rich passage about the working of the Holy Spirit in Christ's Church. It reads,
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.

May each of us be open to the gifts and operations of the Spirit and use them for the benefit of the whole body of Christ.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sunday after Ascension Day

The last Sunday of the Easter season is also the only Sunday of the Ascension season. This is a time between great festivals; it looks back to Resurrection and Ascension and forward to the Descent of the Holy Spirit. So there is the theme of waiting. This theme is expressed in Cranmer's collect for the day:
O God, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven; We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Epistle- 1 St. Peter 4: 7-11          The Gospel - St. John 15:26-16:2

The Epistle from 1 Peter, like those of the past several Sundays, continues to speak about how Christians are to live in this world, and it is applies to the theme of waiting. These words from 1 Peter 4:7-8 are especially appropriate: "be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins."
Most human beings do not like to wait, especially in this age of instant gratification. We tend to be impatient to move on, and we often view time spent waiting as wasted time. Yet waiting is a basic part of  human experience. Christian life in particular involves much waiting. In the church year, we have seasons of waiting for Christmas and Easter, and these days after the Ascension are days of waiting for Pentecost. At a deeper level, the whole Christian experience in this world is a time of waiting for the final coming of God's glorious kingdom. Although we already have a foretaste of redemption, we await its final consummation.

So whether we wait or not is not an option. The question is how Christian believers wait, and our verses from 1 Peter give us instructions. Christian waiting is not to be a waste of time. It is to be spiritually creative. We are called to be controlled, sober-minded or thoughtful. We are not secular rationalists, but we are to be reasonable people because we live in harmony with divine reason. And prayer is an expression of a sober-minded life. We do not merely say our prayers, as important as that is; we live in a constant state of prayer by turning our thoughts to God, His grace and His will for our lives. Such a prayerful life empowers us to exercise true charity or love in our relationships with others, especially within the household of faith. Such love is rooted in divine love which has forgiven our sins in Christ and helps us forgive the sins of those around us.

In sum, this Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost is a reminder that the life of Christians in this world is a time of waiting for ultimate fulfilment. And 1 Peter 4 tells us how we should wait: sober-minded, prayerful, loving, forgiven and forgiving.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ascension Day

This Thursday is the fortieth day after Easter, Ascension Day. It is somewhat understandable that in our secular societies few people make it to a church service. It is not so excusable when believers, especially those from liturgical churches, do not even know what day it is. Clergy and teachers need to do a better job of instruction. Christ's Ascension is a basic New Testament teaching and a central affirmation of the ecumenical creeds. Contemplating the Ascension of Christ to the Father's right hand helps us better appreciate the Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of our Lord.

The Collect:
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
     [This Collect is to be said daily throughout the Octave.]

The Epistle- Acts 1:1- 11
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so came in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

The Gospel- St. Luke 24: 49-53
Jesus said, Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day

On the secular calendar, the second Sunday in May has come to be observed in many countries as a day to honor mothers, motherhood and family values. Within Christian tradition, there have also been other days to honor mothers, such as feasts associated with the Virgin Mary and in England, the Fourth Sunday in Lent. The observance of the second Sunday in May is of modern American origin and is very commercialized. Even its founder, Anna Jarvis, lamented what it was becoming in the 1920's. So this secular observance should not overwhelm the appropriate liturgical commemorations in our churches. Nevertheless, it is appropriate that we include prayers of intercession and thanksgiving for mothers and that, in this era when there are so many challenges to families, we pray for all families.

The 1928 American Book of Common Prayer includes this prayer:
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families; We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vain-glory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh; turn the heart of the fathers[parents] to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers[parents]; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we be evermore kindly affectioned with brotherly love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fifth Sunday after Easter, commonly called Rogation Sunday

The Fifth Sunday after Easter and the following three days have traditionally been set aside for "rogation" or prayers of supplication, especially prayers for fruitful agriculture. On the topic of rogation, see my post from last year-

The 1962 Canadian Book of Common Prayer also provides a lovely alternative collect for rogation called THE FRUITS OF THE EARTH AND THE LABOURS OF MEN (p. 198f). It says, Almighty and merciful God, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift: Bless, we beseech thee, the labours of thy people, and cause the earth to bring forth her fruits abundantly in their season, that we may with grateful hearts give thanks to thee for the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord.. Amen.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Fourth Sunday after Easter

The Collect:
O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; Grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle: St. James 1: 17-21. The Gospel: St. John 16: 5-15.

I posted comments on the Gospel the last two years; this time, I decided to focus on the Epistle from St. James 1:17- 21.  The passage reads: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls."

The Epistle of James seems to me to be one of the most under-appreciated books of the New Testament. Some commentators down-play this book's importance because they find higher theology elsewhere; other commentators like the book but only see practical moral advice. In fact, there are important themes of theology interwoven with the ethical exhortation. In today's selection from James 1, the apostolic writer begins with the theme of thanksgiving for God's gifts. This should characterize every day of the Christian's life and applies in a particular way in the Easter season as we give thanks for Christ's Resurrection. Then we move to the theme of  "the word of truth."

What is "the word of truth"? Ultimately, our Lord Jesus Christ is the word of truth, the eternal and incarnate Word of God. Jesus Himself is "the way, the truth, and the life" (St. John 14:6), and He repeatedly asserts in the Gospels  "I tell you the truth" and "verily/truly I say unto you." Secondly, Christ's message is the word of truth. The truth of His person is expressed through the good news of divine grace which saves sinners. Thirdly, the word of truth is Holy Scripture which expresses the eternal Word from creation through the life of Israel to the person of Christ and into the apostolic church.

According to James, this word of truth has come to beget us or to give us life as creatures of God. Believers receive or accept this word; they allow it to be "engrafted" or implanted into the core of their being. And allowing Christ and His word to rule in our very souls is what saves us. Through God's gracious gift, the word of truth saves us for a better life here as we seek to live in a holier manner, and it saves us for the best life hereafter when we will dwell constantly blessed by and aware of the divine presence.