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.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Presentation of Christ (Epiphany 4)

This Sunday has several different names. It is the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, but this year, Epiphany 4 falls on 2 February; so it is also the Feast commemorating the Presentation of Christ in the Temple on the fortieth day after His Birth. Another name is the Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin- which in the Middle Ages also became known as Candlemas because of the custom of blessing ecclesiastical candles on this date.

As in recent posts, my emphasis is on the New Testament Lesson for Morning Prayer. The selection is Galatians 4:1-7: Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

This passage reminds us that even Christ grew up under the Law, and His Presentation at the Temple is one example of His perfect fulfillment of the whole Law to redeem those under the Law. As Gentile believers, many modern Christians may not realize that we are subject to the Law. But we are still under the Law, subject to God's natural and moral Law. Of course, we do not fulfill these divine requirements; we sin and fall short repeatedly. So our only hope is to be adopted as God's sons and daughters through the gracious work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. In other words, we are not redeemed through the Law; we are redeemed through living faith in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Third Sunday after Epiphany

The New Testament lesson for Morning Prayer continues the theme of Christ's manifestations to the world. In St. John 4:1-14, we have the beginning of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Of course, the Samaritans were people with a general belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but over the years they had mixed ethnically, culturally and religiously with pagan neighbors. So loyal Jews viewed them with suspicion. This encounter is even more unusual. Here the Samaritan is an woman, and contact with women outside the immediate family was usually avoided by rabbis. Furthermore, as this woman speaks about her life, we learn that she was not a paragon of virtue.

The key to our selection is in St. John 4:11-14:  The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

In these words, our Lord manifests His identity. He has come to a  bring a new message which surpasses the divine revelation to the patriarchs such as Jacob. Jesus presents Himself as the living water who can satisfy humanities deepest longs forever. This is a message for all, even people of lowly status, questionable theology and dubious morals. No matter what our problems, may we welcome Christ as our living water!

Conversion of St. Paul

Saturday, 25 January, is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The event commemorated is important even from a secular historical point of view because Paul's conversion led to the spread of the Christian message to the Gentile world. For all Gentile Christians and for all thinking Christians, the work of the Apostle Paul is of basic importance. There is much that can be said about Paul's work and writings, but I would focus briefly on the New Testament lesson for Morning Prayer. In II Corinthians 12:1-9, Paul writes about some of his own experiences and mentions his "thorn in the flesh" (12: 7). And in II Cor. 12: 9, the Apostle cites the Lord's response to his prayers:  "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."

This response can be seen as a motto for Paul's mission. It all depends upon the grace of God which overcomes all of Paul's human weakness. Indeed, this is the very message of the cross- God's grace is sufficient to express divine power through worldly weakness. The same can be said about the life and mission of every faithful Christian. We are all weak in many ways, but God's grace is sufficient to transform our weaknesses into opportunities to express divine power.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Second Sunday after Epiphany

One of the New Testament lessons for Morning Prayer on the Second Sunday after Epiphany is from I Corinthians 12:12-31. The first three verses of this selection apply the common Epiphany theme of baptism to the Christian community, the Body of Christ. I Cor. 12:12-14 says, "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." 

Our Baptisms have made us members of Christ's one Body, given us the Holy Spirit, and called us to take our places and work for the well-being of the whole body. In other words, we have been called, given a mission and given divine grace to work for Christ's purposes in this world. Whether we are considered great or minor parts of the Body of Christ, we are all called to serve the great Christian mission of redemption.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

First Sunday after Epiphany

One of the New Testament lessons for Morning Prayer for this Sunday is from Colossians 1:9-29. The first sentence in this selection is very long (vss. 9-17) in the Greek and in the traditional English translation.
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 
In fact, this long sentence deals with three themes: 1) the fact of the Apostle Paul's constant prayer for the Colossians, 2) some of the content of his prayer for the Colossians' spiritual growth and 3) the foundation of those prayers in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. These are themes that should also be in our hearts and minds in a special way during this season of Epiphany. We should be in constant prayer, and during this season in particular, it is appropriate to pray for the spiritual growth of believers. And most importantly, we must always focus upon the unique role of Jesus Christ in bringing God's truth, light and redemptive power.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Epiphany

The New Testament lesson for Morning Prayer is from II Corinthians 4:1-6. St. Paul speaks of the ministry of the gospel which the world does not recognize. Paul's message is a "manifestation  of the truth" (4:2) and is "the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God..."(4:4).  In verse 6, he goes on to add, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
These are common themes which are associated with Epiphany: manifestation (the Latin based equivalent of the Greek "epiphany"), glory, light. Of course, we recall the manifestation of the Christ Child to the magi or wise men. But we also think of His glory and light manifested to all peoples through the Gospel.
In the words of the Epiphany antiphon: The Lord hath manifested forth his glory; O come, let us adore him.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Second Sunday after Christmas

After a hiatus in blogging, I have decided to start again in this new year. Since I have one or more comments on this blog on most of the traditional Eucharistic readings, I hope to post a series of brief comments for Sundays and holy days based on the Scriptures for Morning Prayer in the 1928 BCP (1943 revision of the lectionary).

For the Second Sunday after Christmas one of the lections begins with St. Luke 2:21: And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.  This verse is also found in the Eucharistic readings for the Feast of the Circumcision or the Feast of the Holy Name on January 1. It stresses the importance of the name given the Christ Child. Many moderns ignore the meaning of names, but for Jews of the biblical period names were full of significance. This name is even more so; note that it was revealed by the angel at the Annunciation. Of course, the name "Jesus" is derived from the Greek which comes from the Aramaic "Yeshua" and the Hebrew "Yoshua." And "Yoshua" means "the LORD [YHWH] saves." Thus, Jesus is indeed a holy name and a divine prophecy of the Christ Child's mission. May we hallow this name and allow it to be applied in our lives.