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, December 24, 2013


The purpose of this feast is admirably summarized in the antiphon for Morning Prayer from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
 Alleluia. Unto us a child is born; * O come, let us adore him. Alleluia.

May the Christ Child always be at the center of our celebrations. A blessed Feast of the Nativity to all.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Advent 2013

I have noticed that a diverse group of readers still consults this blog, especially during the Advent season. May your preparations to celebrate our Saviour's Nativity prove spiritually rewarding!

Saturday, June 22, 2013


As dates of posts indicate, I am not blogging at present. Not sure if I will resume, but leaving the blog up since there are still readers.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fourth Sunday after Easter

{Note: the traditional calendar and lectionary refer to this as the "Fourth Sunday after Easter,"  not the "Fifth Sunday of Easter." For those used to the newer calendar/lectionary, this might cause some confusion.}

In reading the propers for this Sunday, I was again struck by the Epistle from St. James 1: 17-21:
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.
Very often we read the Epistle James noting its emphasis on good works. Of course, doing good is an important theme in the epistle, and we can see such an emphasis in the middle of this selection. However, we should notice that the passage starts with an emphasis on gifts from God, especially the "word of truth." Then at the end, we are exhorted to "receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save [our] souls." So James is as much about humble dependence on grace and the divine word as the epistles of St. Paul.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Second Sunday after Easter- Good Shepherd Sunday

The Second Sunday after Easter has commonly been known as Good Shepherd Sunday. Both the Epistle from I Peter and the Gospel from St. John refer to Jesus Christ as the great and good shepherd. He has laid down His life and taken it up again for His flock. In other years, I have commented on the Epistle and Gospel; this time, let us note the collect of the day.

Almighty God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Although the collect does not use the word "shepherd," it does point out what our Good Shepherd has done and continues to do for us. He has sacrificed Himself, given us an example and can keep giving us grace to follow where He leads. Thanks be to God. Alleluia.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

First Sunday after Easter

The Gospel for the First Sunday after Easter ("Low Sunday") is from St. John 20: 19ff.
The same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. 

Here we see that one of the first things that the risen Lord did was to give His disciples authority to forgive sins. Although theologians have discussed and debated exact applications over the years, the basic applications seem fairly straightforward. In a sense, the followers of Christ participate in remitting sins whenever the Gospel of repentance and faith in Christ is proclaimed in word and deed. Anyone who hears the message, acknowledges his/her sin before God and trusts in God's grace in Christ can be forgiven. 

In historic Anglican understanding, this confession and faith can be individual, private between individuals, or public. In the life of the Church, Anglican liturgy has provided for public or communal confession of sin and absolution by the appropriate clergy (bishops and presbyters/priests) in the Daily Offices and at the Eucharist. In the great Exhortation to Communion and in the Visitation of the Sick, Anglican Prayer Books have also encouraged troubled consciences to employ private confession/absolution with a priest.

This Anglican approach seems very pastoral and comforting. It combines the best of what are commonly called "evangelical" and "catholic" approaches. It also fits in with today's Gospel on the power and mission of the risen Lord.

For other approaches to this Sunday's propers and the meaning of the title "Low Sunday," confer the posts for previous years.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Day, the Feast of the Resurrection

He is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. St. Mark 16. 6; St. Luke 24. 34

Easter Anthem for Morning Prayer

CHRIST our Passover is sacrificed for us: * therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; * but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Cor. v. 7.

 CHRIST being raised from the dead dieth no more; * death hath no more dominion over him.
For in that he died, he died unto sin once: * but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, * but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom. vi. 9.

 CHRIST is risen from the dead, * and become the first-fruits of them that slept.
For since by man came death, * by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, * even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Cor. xv. 20.

 Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen.

(compiled by Archbishop Cranmer in 1549; inserted as invitatory in Morning Prayer in 1552.)

A favorite hymn, "Christ the Lord is risen today."

1. Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

2. Love's redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

3. Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where's thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!

4. Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

5. Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

6. King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

(adapted by the Reverend Charles Wesley in 1739 from a 14th century Latin hymn; the 1940 Hymnal of PECUSA only includes the first 4 verses.)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

The Collects as found in the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer

Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold  this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever,  one God, world without end. Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the  whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified; Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all estates of men in thy holy Church, that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry, may truly and godly serve thee; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

O  Merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest  nothing that thou hast made, nor desirest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; Have mercy upon all who know thee not as thou art revealed in the Gospel of thy Son. Take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy fold, that they may be made one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy  Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Previous Good Friday posts:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday or Lent VI

Because of an illness in the family, I have not had time to prepare much to post for Palm Sunday and Holy Week. However, in spending a great deal of time in a hospital observing human behavior, I have certainly had many reminders of just how much all human beings need a Redeemer in body, mind, and soul. All of  us need divine grace to aid us with the many problems of the human condition. So let us prayerfully approach this special time contemplating Christ's work for fallen and weak human beings.

Collect for Palm Sunday:
Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Collect for Monday before Easter:
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified; Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

For further comments on this week, consult previous posts such as the following:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fifth Sunday in Lent, commonly called Passion Sunday

Despite the 1928 Book of Common Prayer subtitle for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, the name "Passion Sunday" is no longer very common. This title was sometimes used in the Middle Ages, re-entered Anglican usage in the nineteenth century and first occurred in the American Book of Common Prayer in 1928. It was used in Roman liturgies until the 1960's when the title "Passion Sunday" was shifted to Palm Sunday.

The theme of Christ's Passion is related to both the traditional Epistle (Hebrews 9:11-15) and Gospel (St. John 8:46-59) for Lent V. The Epistle stresses the great and unique sacrifice of Christ. By offering Himself, He purified believers, and thereby through Him, they are able to offer living works to His praise and glory. And eventually, those who remain faithful will "receive the promise of eternal inheritance."
The Gospel shows a rising tension, a dramatic increase in the claims about the identity of Jesus. In St. John 8:46, there is an assertion of Christ's innocence; in John 8:51 Jesus asserts that those who follow Him will never see death. His opponents sense that the capacity to deliver from death makes Jesus greater than Abraham and the prophets. Finally, in St. John 8:58 Jesus says, "Before Abraham was, I am." In the context of the Hebrew Scriptures "I AM" is a name of God. Christ's opponents are incensed at what they consider blasphemy, and so they want to stone Him. Although it is not yet His time, this is an anticipation of Jesus' suffering and death for human salvation.

As we enter traditional Passiontide (the last two weeks of Lent), let us keep these themes in mind. We are not merely contemplating ancient historical events, and our religious disciplines of the season must not degenerate into some kind of dead works. Instead, as we think of Christ's sacrifice, we must realize that His great work of redemption is already operative on our behalf. He is already enabling us to have faith in Him, to worship Him, to do the good deeds that He wishes and to hold fast to our eternal hope in Him.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Over the centuries, this Fourth Sunday in Lent has had a number of associations, and the BCP collect and lessons reflect some of these.  One popular name, "Refreshment Sunday," refers to the Gospel about feeding the five thousand. In traditional Roman use, this was also the Sunday known as "Rose Sunday" with rose rather than violet vestments (and also the tradition of a golden papal rose sent to distinguished leaders of society). Finally, in medieval England, this Sunday became known as "Mothering Sunday" because of visits and special offerings for the mother church of each diocese. In some parts of England, the mothering theme developed to allow servants, apprentices and students to visit their mothers on this day, a precursor of modern secular mothers' day.

The Gospel for Lent IV from St. John 6:1-14 is one of the four accounts of the miraculous Feeding of Five Thousand found in the gospels. These accounts have several themes. First, there is the general truth that Christ has power over natural elements. Secondly, the story shows Christ's concern for human need, especially need among those who hear Him and hunger for righteousness. Thirdly, especially in St. John's presentation, there are Messianic references. Jesus goes to a mountain like Moses, He provides food in the wilderness as Moses did, and at the end, the people acknowledge Him as "that prophet that should come into the world" (John 6:14). Fourthly, there are also Eucharistic associations any time Christ breaks bread with His followers, and these associations become more explicit later in St. John 6.

All of these themes can be related to our Lenten preparations. For, example, the One who rules over nature also manifests His power by caring for the needs of His followers. However, instead of pursuing all these themes, this time, I would focus on spiritual nourishment.. A central concern of our Lent must always be spiritual nourishment, fortifying our souls for the journey with Christ. In practical everyday application, we feed on Christ in three main ways, through Word, Sacrament, and prayer. During this season as in others, we are called to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Scriptures (Collect for Advent II). We allow Biblical stories, teachings and ideas to permeate our hearts, minds and souls- our prayers and our meditations. And we have the visible, tangible expression and presence of the living Word in the Eucharist. Christ, present in a unique way in the Eucharist, is the One who can truly nourish us and refresh our souls. Common and private prayer should also be a constant element in Christian life, especially in Lent. So as we pursue our Lenten disciplines, let us increase our spiritual nourishment by being more receptive to Christ who comes to us in Word, Sacrament and prayer.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

A Short Exposition of the Apostles' Creed

A study group in our parish recently asked to review the Apostles' Creed. This is always a useful undertaking for Christians, and is especially appropriate during Lent.  I reviewed a number of sources ancient and modern. I commend to your attention one source that could have been the basis of this whole exposition had I remembered it earlier. That is Jeremy Taylor's "An Exposition of the Apostles Creed" from The Golden Grove, or A Manual of Daily Prayers and Letanies.

In the traditional Prayer Book Catechism, we have the following credal affirmations.
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:  Throughout the Scriptures, especially in the New Testament, there are summaries of things that God’s people should believe. In the Acts of the Apostles’, there are several notable summaries of beliefs about Christ in sermons and at Baptisms. There are also passages such as I Timothy 3:16, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
During the second and third centuries, various local baptismal creeds developed. They were usually in three parts (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Although local versions were slightly different, they covered the same basic points. One of these summaries of basic Christian belief developed at Rome in Latin and became  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.

In the year 325, the bishops at the First Council of Nicea took a similar Eastern baptismal creed (maybe from Jerusalem) and added words to be clear about Christ’s divinity. In 381, the bishops at the council of Constantinople added details about the divinity of the Christ and the Holy Spirit. With these modifications, the creed we know as the Nicene Creed developed. Later, the Western church added that the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Son.”  From 1549, English Prayer Books omitted “holy” before “catholic” in the Nicene Creed (but not in the Apostles’ Creed). Some have suggested a printer’s error, but research also shows its omission in some medieval Latin texts.

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.  Luther’s Small Catechism applies this article nicely as follows, I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them; in addition thereto, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves me from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

God’s creation is basically good because He is good. One good part of His creation is freedom for higher creatures such as angels and human beings. Unfortunately, a heavenly creature, Lucifer or Satan, rebelled, was cast out of heaven and pursued his rebellion on earth. And the first human creatures succumbed to temptation and also rebelled against the holy Creator. This Fall into sin disrupted the relationship between God and His creation, but did not destroy the Creator’s love. So God reached out with a series of promises and demands called covenants. An important example was the covenant with Abraham and his descendants. The early covenants are recorded in the Scriptures we call the Old Testament, and were designed to prepare human beings for the great new and final covenant through Jesus the Christ.
Although nature and Scripture teach us much about the Creator, this part of the Creed is short. It seems to assume that most human beings acknowledge a Creator and a moral law, and it moves 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 characterize us as Christians. This part of the Creed summarizes the Gospels and many other parts of the New Testament. We believe that Jesus Christ is the only and unique Son of God, of one essence with the Father; He was conceived by the Spirit of God and born of the Virgin Mary.  Thus, He is true man and true God. He came to earth to reveal God in the Incarnation, to redeem or save us from our sins and to offer us eternal life in God's presence.

Among the many things that He did during His life on earth, the Creed stresses the central events which are His death on the Cross for our sins, and His resurrection to offer us new life. He was a real man who, at a particular moment in history (under the Roman governor Pilate), truly suffered, died, and descended to the dead. He freely gave Himself and paid the debt that a fallen humanity was incapable of paying.  Because He was an innocent man and true God, death could not hold Him, and He rose from the dead in bodily form. This is the source of Christian hope; without it, His story would be meaningless and our hope futile. He appeared forty days to His disciples, and then He ascended into to heaven to pray for us and to watch over us. And at the end of earthly history, He will come again to take up the role of judge of all.

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. There are several aspects of this spiritual work in individual lives.
It is the Spirit that reaches out through Baptism and proclamation of the Gospel to redeem fallen human beings. When the Spirit starts this process of redemption, it is called regeneration. When the individual responds by faith in Christ, we speak of justification, and when the Spirit helps one grow in holiness, we speak of sanctification.

As is shown in the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit also works in a special way through the fellowship or communion of believers, the Church.  Although there are various human organizations involved, there is only one 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 everywhere- in this world and beyond. The Church is apostolic because it is based on the teaching and ministry of the Apostles. The Spirit makes the Church a communion of saints, a fellowship of those made holy by the grace of God in Christ.

The basic visible foundation of the Church is Christian Baptism. Wherever there are baptized persons who profess the faith into which they have been baptized, the Church exists. Into the Church and the lives of its members, the Holy Spirit brings blessings such as the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness is related to Baptism, the proclamation of the Gospel, and in various ways to all the rites of the Church. The Holy Spirit will also be active in the future resurrection of the body for judgment and in eternal life in God's presence. We end with “Amen,” which implies both "it is true" and “so be it”

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Third Sunday in Lent

This year, my focus is on the Collect for the Third Sunday in Lent.
We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Most of the wording of this prayer is ancient, going back to the Gregorian Sacramentary around 595 A.D. Although it is short with simple wording, its meaning may not be apparent. Originally, "the hearty desires" referred to the religious intentions of catechumens looking toward Baptism at Easter. And the "defence" was primarily a spiritual defence from factors which would be obstacles to Christian commitment.

Nowadays, relatively few people are catechumens during Lent. Yet, especially during Lent, one hopes that we all have some serious religious intentions or "hearty desires." We ask God to look favorably upon our intentions and to guide us in their proper fulfillment. We also ask God to defend us from all external and internal enemies and obstacles to our discipleship.

For other comments related to this Sunday's propers, consult previous posts.
On the Epistle from Ephesians 5,
On the Gospel from St. Luke 11,

Thursday, February 28, 2013


This post is based on a class for an adult study group as we anticipate an upcoming Confirmation. It is somewhat longer than most recent posts, but it is a topic about which I have not written much on this blog.

Most Anglicans are familiar with Confirmation. We often recognize it as a rite of passage for adolescents or as an act of commitment for adults. Unfortunately, we don’t always think very much about its deep meanings. Briefly, let us review its general character and then look at the details of the service in the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer.
Confirmation which basically means “strengthening” is a rite of the Church that goes back to apostolic times.  Basically, it involves the Laying on of Hands accompanied by prayers for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the Anglican tradition, Confirmation is done by a bishop. In some other traditions, Confirmation may also be administered by a presbyter.

Confirmation is closely related to Baptism. As Baptism marks a birth into the life of grace, Confirmation marks a growth into that life. The gifts of the Spirit associated with Confirmation are traditionally the seven mentioned in the Greek text of Isaiah 11:2 (Piety is not in the Hebrew text): Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, ghostly/spiritual Strength, Knowledge, true Godliness or Piety, holy  Fear. These are all gifts for living a mature spiritual and moral life.

Now let us turn to the Confirmation ritual in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. This service differs in some ways from the 1662 English BCP.  One notable difference is the omission of the preface or introduction. Although containing important exhortations about the training of confirmands, this preface mainly applies to adolescents who have been baptized in an Anglican context as infants. As we shall see, the 1928 BCP also adds a few items not in the 1662 service.

We may divide the 1928 American service into four basic parts: 1) presentation of the candidate(s), 2) a lesson from Acts viii, 3) an affirmation of the promises made at Baptism and 4) the laying on of hands with prayer.
First, the Presentation of the candidate(s) was added in 1892 in the US and in 1922 in Canada. It is similar to the presentation of candidates at Ordination and reminds us that Confirmation is a sort of  "ordination of the laity.”
Secondly, the lesson from Acts 8:14-18 shows a scriptural basis for Confirmation in the work of the Apostles. This was another addition, by the Americans in 1892 and the Canadians in 1922.  This text has been used in discussions of Confirmation for centuries, but it seems to have been added to North American rituals because so many groups questioned the origin and value of Confirmation. This Scripture points out the value of laying hands on those already baptized. It does not mean that the Holy Spirit was missing at Baptism; it means that Christians need to keep growing in the gifts of the Spirit.

Thirdly, there is a Renewal of Baptismal vows. This renewal was long implied or assumed, but was not actually included in medieval Roman Catholic versions or in the 1549, 1552 or 1559 Prayer Books. The first question was included in the English BCP in 1662. The second question about following Christ was added in 1928 American BCP as a personalization of the first question.  Canadian revisions and the 1927/28 English proposed Book added questions about the Apostles’ Creed and following the Commandments.

Fourthly, with the versicles, we begin the oldest part of the Confirmation ritual. The prayer for the confirmands is rooted in a prayer from the third century.  In medieval Latin rites and in the 1549 BCP, the Bishop would sign the forehead of the candidate with chrism as he said, “N, I sign thee with the sign of the cross, and lay my hand upon thee, In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” This action was omitted from 1552 through 1928, and the laying on of hands was accompanied by the prayer “Defend, O Lord, this thy Child….” The 1662 BCP added the Lord’s Prayer. The next prayer is from Cranmer in 1549, and the final prayer taken from ancient sources was added to confirmation in 1662. The first of these prayers is for the confirmands and the second for all present. The final blessing is the usual episcopal blessing from the ancient Church.

In summary, Confirmation is rooted in apostolic practice. It slowly developed as a rite separated from Baptism in the Western churches in ancient and medieval times, and it has continued in the Anglican Prayer Book tradition. Anglicans have added an emphasis upon instruction and the renewal of Baptismal vows, but they have also maintained the ancient idea of  laying on of hands with prayer for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Second Sunday in Lent

This year, I would focus on the Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent: 
Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

This prayer is a reminder not to be over-confident or self-centered in our Lenten devotions. Lent is not about what we do of our own power, but what the grace of God enables us to do. We all need renewal and growth in the Christian life. And we do need to put forth efforts during this season, as always. However, if we do not depend upon God's power working in our lives, our human efforts are feeble exercises in futility.

For comments in previous years, see these links:

Saturday, February 16, 2013

First Sunday in Lent

In other years, I have already posted comments on this Sunday, especially on the Gospel from St. Matthew 4 on Christ's Temptation. In praying the Litany this week, I was struck by a relationship between the temptation Gospel and the liturgical phrase on the temptations or "deceits of the world, the flesh and the devil." Although there are other ways to approach our Lord's Temptation and although the Gospel order is different, we can also see this Gospel in terms of the three temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. Although the devil is at work in all the temptations, Christ's first temptation to turn stones into bread is primarily a temptation of the flesh. The second temptation to jump from the Temple to impress people is a temptation of the world. And although the third temptation involves worldly power, it is directly about serving the devil.

So whenever we remember the Baptismal liturgy or say prayers such as the Litany, there is a connection to our Lord's Temptation. He has overcome the flesh, the world and the devil for us, and through His grace, we can grow in our resistance to such temptations. Lent is a season for us to increase our awareness and improve our discipline in this spiritual arena.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Litany

During Lent, saying a Litany has often been an important devotional practice. Christian litanies or responsive prayers go back into the early days of Christian worship. The earliest litanies were probably simple amplifications of the Kyrie eleison. In Italy during the fifth and sixth centuries, more elaborate responsive and processional prayers developed. Such litanies continued to develop during the Middle Ages. As they became more elaborate over time, more and more of the intercessions were directed to the saints.
In the 1529, Martin Luther revised a popular litany by removing the invocations of the saints and emphasizing the work of Christ. Influenced by Luther's model, Thomas Cranmer issued the first version of the English Litany in 1544 while Henry VIII still ruled. So the Litany was the first official part of the English Liturgy. This Litany was later included in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. The rubrics directed that the English Litany be said on Wednesdays and Fridays as well as its usual inclusion on Sundays after Matins and before Holy Communion.

Most contemporary Anglicans spend less time in church than our sixteenth-century forebears. So we are not likely to see the whole Sunday array of services or find the Litany recited every Wednesday and Friday in many places. However, the Litany is a very meaningful form of prayer, and its tone is particularly suitable for our Lenten devotions. I would encourage its inclusion in private prayers and its more frequent use in Anglican parishes. This year, in the parish where I assist, we will be using the Litany as a noon service on the first six Fridays in Lent (Good Friday will naturally have other observances).

St. Valentine

The Feast of St. Valentine, more popularly known in the marketplace as Valentine's Day, is one of those days rooted in Christian tradition that has been sundered from its roots.  It has developed from an ancient martyr's day to a medieval identification with courtly love to a nineteenth-century emphasis on romance to a twenty-first-century association with commerce and crude sexuality. It is so commercialized that one would just as soon ignore it if one could without offending tenderness.

What does this day have to do with the Book of Common Prayer? Not very much, except for its presence among BCP black-letter days. One Valentine, possibly two, (Lat. Valentinus) was among Christian clerics martyred ( possibly on February 14) in late third-century Rome. Anything else about him seems to be legend or outright fantasy.  So from a churchly point of view, we can simply give thanks for all those early martyrs who loved God and fellow-believers enough to die for their faith. As loving folk, we can also use this day to express affection for those close to us.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

First Day of Lent, commonly called Ash Wednesday

Today, we begin our disciplined season of preparation as we look to Good Friday and Easter. In other years, I have commented on the lessons from the Book of Common Prayer. In my reflections this time, I have been drawn to the traditional words used on this day: "Remember, O man, that thou art dust, and unto dust shalt thou return."  These word are based on Genesis 3:19 where God speaks to Adam after the Fall.

As fallen descendants of Adam, we all hear these words addressed to us. Ash Wednesday is a special reminder of the life of penitence that we need to live daily. We have all rebelled against God and continue to sin against Him. In doing so, we have all turned from eternal life with God, and as a consequence, our bodies will eventually dissolve into dust and ashes. Yet, this message of judgment is not the last word. Both because of and despite our failings, God calls us to turn from sin, accept the grace of God in Christ and seek to live the holy life that He offers. We are called to repentance and renewal daily throughout our earthly lives; Lent is just a special time set aside by the Church to emphasize this ongoing call to all who would follow Christ. And so let us pray without ceasing, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon us sinners.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Quinquagesima or the Sunday next before Lent

In previous years, I have commented on the Collect, Epistle and Gospel for this Sunday; so readers may certainly consult those posts. This time, I would briefly focus on the Epistle from I Corinthinians 13 and its significance in approaching Lent.

As we look to Lent, we should keep charity or love (agape) foremost. During this season, most Christians rightly stress the need for greater dedication and special acts of devotion. There is much talk about disciplines such as prayer, Scriptural reading, acts of mercy, special offerings, and so forth. We need to do such things. Yet, we must also be careful lest we pursue discipline devoid of true charity or love.  Any externally good actions without Christ-like faith, hope and love prove spiritually worthless.  So we must remain open to the grace of God which is the true source of love for God and our neighbor.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Sexagesima or the Second Sunday before Lent

This Sunday, the traditional calendar continues the pre-Lenten season of preparation. Both the Epistle and the Gospel are rich passages. Briefly, I would focus on the Gospel from St. Luke 8:4ff, the parable of the sower. This passage can be interpreted and applied in many ways. The key theme is the Word of God, the message of Christ. Although the message does not prosper in every setting, God's Word is powerful, and where human hearts allow it to grow, it produces abundant fruit. May we, by the grace of God, be good ground for the Word of God.

See also previous posts on this blog-

Friday, February 01, 2013

Presentation of Christ/Purification of St. Mary- 2 February

February 2 has several names in church history. Traditionally, in the Western Church, one name was Candlemas because liturgical candles were blessed on this day. However, the real meaning of the day is shown by the Gospel from St. Luke 2.

On the fortieth day after Christ's birth, His mother came to the Temple to undergo the purification rites prescribed by Jewish Law (St. Luke 2:22). At this time, Jesus was also presented to the priests and  redeemed as His mother's first born son. St. Luke reminds us that the Holy Family chose to fulfill all righteousness, to follow the Law perfectly. In doing so, they pointed to the general human need for purification and redemption. In the words of the Prayer Book Collect for the Day, the divine "Son was this day presented in the temple in substance of our flesh, so we may be presented unto [God] with pure and clean hearts ... by Jesus Christ our Lord."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Prayers for Expectant Mothers and Unborn Children

This week, we remember the anniversary of the broad US judicial legalization of abortion and think of the millions of murders that have resulted. Let us pray for expectant mothers, children in the womb, their families and other victims and potential victims. Let us also pray for societies and nations under divine judgment for abortion and other immoral policies.

For some  prayers on this theme, see the Anglican Priests for Life

For another prayer, see

Friday, January 18, 2013

Second Sunday after Epiphany

The 1928 American Book of Common Prayer departs from the English BCP tradition on this Sunday. It inserts a Gospel on the Baptism of our Lord (St. Mark 1:1-11). This Gospel refers to an original  theme of Epiphany when the observance first arose in the Eastern Churches. Christ's Baptism is a basic manifestation of His nature and mission.

For more on this Sunday, see the following post

Christian Unity

The octave from January 18 through January 25 is often called the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Certainly, one would hope to see greater unity among orthodox Christian believers. In a world increasingly populated by non-believers and secularists (many of whom are nominal Christians), greater spiritual unity among true believers would strengthen the Christian witness.

For more on this topic, see my post from two years ago-

Saturday, January 12, 2013

First Sunday after Epiphany

In the English Prayer Book tradition, the Gospel for Epiphany I has been the continuation of St. Luke's infancy account (2:41-52).  In a sense, this is a traditional Anglican celebration of the Holy Family. So as we re-read the story of the twelve-year old Jesus at the temple, let us reflect on the implications of the Incarnation for family life. Family is a sacred part of the created order, but furthermore, it is blessed in a special way because the Son of God incarnate accepted growth in a human family. Although He was about His heavenly Father's business, He and Mary and Joseph sanctified the normal roles of family life. In our age when family life faces so many challenges in society, may we keep this holy family in mind and strive to apply its holy and loving example to our own situations.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Archbishop William Laud- 10 January

On some Anglican calendars, 10 January is marked for the commemoration of Archbishop William Laud who was beheaded by the Puritan Parliament on 10 January 1645. In reading about his life, one notes the similarity of the historical accounts and the diversity of evaluations. Most writers agree that he was a talented man in many ways, and that he rose in the church through a combination of ability and royal favor. Among his greatest accomplishments were efforts at improving university education. He also supported a Scottish liturgy which was to influence later Scottish, American and other prayer books.

During his time, the polarization was such that neither Puritans nor Roman Catholics quite knew what to make of his views. Despite Puritan accusations that Laud was papist, his theology was clearly Anglican. His opinions in A relation of the conference between William Laud, late lord archbishop of Canterbury and Mr. Fisher the Jesuit show him as "reformed catholic." Certainly, Laud was "high church" in his emphasis upon the episcopacy and on the grace offered in Baptism and the Eucharist. On the other hand, he rejected many  Roman Catholic claims from the Middle Ages and Trent. He was also fairly tolerant of moderate reformers on the continent. Thus, if one looks at his views carefully, it seems that Archbishop Laud was a dedicated proponent of the via media of the English Church. He looked to the ancient catholic faith as received through the English Church while rejecting the extremes of the Roman Church and various Protestant groups.

Most accounts agree that Laud died well. In his own mind, he probably saw himself as a martyr; certainly part of the opposition to him was Puritan rejection of his theology of the Church. Yet, at least part of the Puritan opposition to him was based as much on politics, policies and personality as on his doctrine per se. In other words, there was a degree of religious martyrdom, but politics and personality were also contributing factors.

In conclusion, Laud was neither a typical Protestant nor a closet papist. He was an unfortunate Churchman caught up in tumultuous times and suffering from certain character flaws. He had great talents which he might have used more diplomatically to advance Anglicanism. He was not an ideal martyr, but to his credit, he did remain loyal to his theological principles and face his fate with courage. Those who value the liturgy and Anglican sacramental thought that he influenced should be thankful for his contribution to the Anglican heritage.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Epiphany- 6 January

The Feast of Epiphany on 6 January is the third oldest Christian observance after Good Friday-Easter and Pentecost.  The word means "manifestation," and the feast and its season remind us of the various ways that God manifested Himself in Jesus Christ. In the Eastern Churches, where the feast originated in the third century, the emphasis has remained on the manifestation at Christ's Baptism. Since the fourth century in the Western Churches (including the Anglican tradition), the emphasis has been on the manifestation of the Christ Child to the Magi or Wise Men, but the Baptism theme has also survived during the season (see Epiphany II in the 1928 BCP).

Although Christmastide is drawing to a close, let us continue to focus on the manifestation of the incarnate Word in Christ. The light of God has shone in Jesus the Christ, and we still seek that light. We also seek to let His light shine in our lives.