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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Advent

Over the last few years, I have posted numerous times during Advent. There have been general posts on the background of the season and on particular days and scriptural passages. This time, I would like to focus on the general purpose of the season in Christian devotion.

Advent is above all a season of spiritual preparation as we contemplate the ways that Christ has come, keeps coming, and will finally come among His people. We should use Advent wisely to think about spiritual subjects such as sin, judgment, forgiveness, prophecies and  promises of redemption, and grace coming in the person of the Christ, the Anointed One of God.

As Christians, we need to be awake, watchful, and prayerful at all times. We should not allow moral failings, earthly worries, or spiritual lethargy to draw us away from spiritual readiness. Yet, given our fallen human nature, we do tend to become forgetful and lazy. So the Church has incorporated reminders in our worship. In general and personal confession, in corporate prayers, in sermons, in the Eucharist, and in private devotions, we are repeatedly called to wake up and persevere. And in two major seasons of the church year- Advent and Lent-, we have reminders to wake up, watch, and prepare for new encounters with God in Christ.

So Advent is intended to be a spiritual wake up call. It is not quite as somber as Lent, but neither is it a time for much premature celebration. As we meditate upon the Scriptures, we should not rush ahead to the Nativity stories. We should consider a variety of Old Testament passages about the fallen human condition and the need for redemption., about the longings and hopes of Israel, and about God's promises to save all penitent and faithful people. We should also consider the many passages in the New Testament which exhort us to be ready for Christ to come among us anew. During Advent as always, we are to await Him with vigilance and constant prayer. May we all think on such things in this season and be open to new manifestations of divine grace in our lives.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Two Aspects of Being Anglican

Recently as I was thinking about what being Anglican entails, it struck me that there are really two aspects of being Anglican- cultural and theological. This is not an original insight, and to some extent, the same could be said about every religious tradition. Yet, this dual aspect is especially true of Anglicanism. It is rooted in the very name Anglican which is from Ecclesia anglicana, "English Church."

Historically, Anglican identity starts in England, and reflects developments there during the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Reformation, and Modern times. Although Anglicanism has become multilingual in the last two hundred years or so, it is closely associated with the English language, especially with English liturgical and biblical translations.Regardless of an individual Anglican's political philosophy, ethnic background, native language, or theological perspective, most Anglicans seem to be at least somewhat anglophile.

Nevertheless, there is more to being Anglican than simply being a Christian anglophile. While Anglicanism has been influenced by and expressed through differing theologies, there has been the common theological theme of "reformed catholicity." Regardless of churchmanship, Anglicans have thought that fifteenth- and sixteenth-century European Christianity needed some degree of reformation.The vast majority of Anglicans have agreed that popular European (including English) Christianity of the late medieval period added many superstitious details to the ancient faith. There has also been agreement that the papacy has claimed and still claims too much authority for itself.

At the same time, the majority of Anglicans have also maintained great respect for ancient catholic faith and tradition. The ancient creeds, the sacraments, the historic liturgy, and the apostolic ministry of  bishops, presbyters, and deacons have been maintained, honored, and propagated. Although Calvinist rejection of parts of catholic tradition has been strong among some Anglicans, it has not overwhelmed or destroyed the catholic aspect of Anglicanism. In every century since Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I liberated the English Church from papal hegemony, there have been Anglican laity, clerics, and thinkers who have stressed continuity with the ancient catholic tradition. This emphasis on catholic continuity was particularly true among the Caroline divines and the supporters of the Oxford movement.

Such catholic continuity has also been believed and promoted among traditional Anglicans in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Although there has been scandalous fragmentation, the continuing Anglican movement has maintained the structures and content of a Christianity that is appropriately reformed and truly catholic. While much of the Canterbury Communion has abandoned or at least diluted the ancient Faith, truly catholic Anglicanism survives and even flourishes in many places. While being a cultural anglophile has its appeal, the essential aspect of being Anglican is the continuation of the ancient and universal faith of Christ's Church.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

All Saints Day- 1 November

Ever since I started recovering from youthful scepticism and liberalism in my mid-twenties, All Saints Day has been very important to me. It is a time to emphasize the Christian heritage passed down through the centuries. This blog began at All Saints Day six years ago, and in previous posts, I have mentioned some points of general importance. During this week, we think of all those Christ would call "blessed"; we think of all those made saints or "holy ones" through the Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism, all those who are part of the holy catholic Church.

Although it is not an official lection for All Saints Day, I always recall the third and fourth verses of the brief Epistle of Jude- " Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ."


From the times of the Apostles onward, false teachers have crept into the Church, seeking to corrupt the Christian message in a variety of ways for a variety of purposes. This infiltration has been especially strong in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. So more than ever we should heed St. Jude's exhortation to "contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Of course, faith is an attitude, but it also has specific content. The Faith has been revealed and passed on once for all. It is enduring and unchangeable in its basic essentials. Its doctrine is embodied in Scripture, clarified by the ancient Fathers, and summarized in the ancient catholic Creeds. The appropriate behavior that flows from this Faith is summarized in the Ten Commandments, the Two Great Commandments, in lists of the gifts of the Spirit, and the Cardinal and Theological Virtues. In worship, this Faith is expressed in historic liturgies, especially in Baptism and the Eucharist. A convenient brief summary of the Faith is found in the traditional Prayer Book Catechism.


On this All Saints Day, let us honor all the saints by following their lead and contending for the Faith that they have passed on. In a fallen world, especially in a corrupt age, there are many false teachers, and we need to make special efforts to retain and pass on our godly heritage.