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, March 23, 2018

Anglican Stations of the Cross?

During Lent, we often hear of Stations of the Cross- an extra-liturgical way of meditation on the events culminating in Christ's death and burial. The roots of this devotion probably go back to the fourth century AD when Christian pilgrims could appear openly in the streets of Jerusalem during Holy Week. Eventually some of these devotions were carried to other parts of the Christian world, and in the Middle Ages, the Way of the Cross was promoted especially by the Franciscans. Eventually in late medieval and Renaissance Roman Catholicism, the number of stations was set at fourteen. Unfortunately, some of the fourteen traditional stations ( for example, how many times Jesus may have fallen or the existance of Veronica) have little or no Scriptural basis; they seem rather to be products of human imagination. Furthermore, Anglicans and other Protestants have had difficulties with the Roman Catholic emphasis on  the "Hail, Mary." So simplified forms of meditation have been developed.

Many Anglicans and Protestants prefer to use only eight Stations of the Cross, since those are some of the main events recorded in the Gospel accounts. Station 1: Pilate Condemns Jesus to Die (John 19:16; Matt. 27:26; Mark 15:15), Station 2: Jesus Accepts His Cross (John 19:17), Station 3: Simon Helps Carry the Cross (Matt. 27:32; Mark 15:21),  Station 4: Jesus Speaks to the Women (Luke 23:27-28), Station 5: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments (Mark 15:24), Station 6: Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross (Mark 15:25), Station 7: Jesus Cares for His Mother (John 19:26-27), Station 8: Jesus Dies on the Cross (Mark 15:37; John 19:30).  One could add other Scriptural events such as the scourging of Jesus and His burial.

The devotion could begin with a Scripture sentence or invocation of the Trinity, a collect from Lent or Good Friday, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed. Stations could be simple stopping places in a church, parish hall or church yard, or there could be places marked by a cross and/or illustration. At each station, there could be appropriate Scripture verses, a time for silence and one or more prayers; the orthodox Jesus Prayer or the Kyrie might be a good conclusion of each station. One appropriate prayer to use is the Collect for the Monday before Easter from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer: 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. 

After the last station the leader might conclude with the Grace from I Corinthians 13:14

Monday, February 26, 2018

Lent and Special Devotions

As heirs of the so-called magisterial or moderate Reformation, Anglicans have retained the basics of the church calendar including Lent. We have seen Lent as a useful tradition to encourage repentance, voluntary devotion, and preparation for Easter. At the same time, in Articles of Religion XI, XII, XIV, and XXXIV, Anglicanism has also stressed Christian freedom with regard to human works and traditions. While the Prayer Book has provided general rules about observing Lent since 1662, traditions about fasting, penitence and special devotions must not become legalistic. Such things cannot make us righteous before God. Human traditions cannot earn spiritual merit.

Anglicans and all Christians are called to live in Christian freedom, not as slaves to man-made rules. Christ Himself has the unique and infinite merit needed by all humanity, and through faith in Him, we are set right with God. Lent like every other observance is meant to call us to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ. Any special devotions we have during this season do not earn righteousness and must not obscure the work of Christ; they are merely external practices meant to recall us to the central truths of the Gospel.