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.

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,