The Gift of All Souls

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For the first time in my priesthood, I will say all three traditional requiems for All Souls. I am singing the first mass on the evening of All Souls and I said the second and third masses this morning. This issues and history surrounding bination and trination might be interesting to some and they are easily found on the internet along with the development of saying three masses on All Souls. I am more interested at this moment in the devotional and pastoral effects of this tradition.

Traditionally, the first mass is for all the faithful departed, the second and third are for personal intentions and the intentions of the Holy Father. (If a priest is to sing a mass, he sings the first one, regardless at one time it is offered.) I deviated and said the masses this morning for the faithful departed of St Timothy’s, my parish, and for the repose of my mother, who died in 2010. The pastoral result is that I have journeyed in my prayers and offering at the altar from the personal (my mother), to my pastoral duty in praying for the departed of my parish, to my connection and obligation to pray for all the departed in the Body of Christ. While I could certainly remember all three at a single All Souls’ Requiem, it has been an honor to slow down and remember each group with deliberate intention.

I know that praying for the dead is still somewhat controversial in Anglicanism and the notion of purgatory strikes some as a fond thing vainly invented without any warrant of Scripture. But let us not forget Judas Maccabeus praying for the dead in 2 Maccabees 12.42ff. “For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.” Instead, it is a holy and pious thing. Indeed, it has been.

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The Oxford Movement Begins

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Most Anglo-Catholics know that 185 years ago today, John Keble ascended the pulpit at the University Church of St Mary's in Oxford to deliver the sermon at the opening of the Assize Court.[i] If the date is not remembered, the result certainly is. John Henry Newman wrote that this sermon, easily forgotten during any other time, was the beginning of the Oxford Movement.[ii]   

19th century sermons, to be sure, are not always pleasure reading. Compared to our modern tolerance of sermon length and substance, our forebears preached long sermons with often dense and complicated arguments. The opening of the Assize Court was also not a Royal Wedding. It’s content would naturally address the connection of law and religion and the congregation would not be made up of wool spinners from Norfolk. Yet this sermon, entitled National Apostasy, is unexpectedly good. Once you get through the dense beginning and understand the building argument, it not only speaks clearly to the times in 1833 but it has a remarkable resonance in 2018.

A month after Keble preached this sermon, Parliament passed the Church Temporalities Act. This act, for financial reasons, reduced the number of archbishops and dioceses for the established (Anglican) Church of Ireland. The law said in part:

“And whereas the Number of Bishops in Ireland may be conveniently diminished, and the Revenues of certain of the Bishopricks, as well as the said annual Tax, applied to the building, rebuilding, and repairing of Churches and other such like Ecclesiastical Purposes, and to the Augmentation of small Livings, and to such other Purposes as may conduce to the Advancement of Religion, and the Efficiency, Permanence, and Stability of the United Church of England and Ireland: And whereas the Tenure by which Church Lands are held in Ireland is inconvenient, and it is expedient to alter the same in such Manner as may tend to the Ease and Security of the Church, and the Advantage of the Persons holding thereunder:’ (emphasis mine)

Keble found this act by the Whig government an affront on the rights of the Church. Even if the Church of England is the Established Church, members of Parliament, who may or may not share the Christian faith, have no business deciding how many bishops the Church needs. Rather than being the act of a rogue government ignoring the will of the people, Keble recognized it was the indifference and apathy of the people to allow such legislation to be debated.

Using the prophet and judge Samuel as a model, Keble used his Assize Sermon to diagnose the apostasy in England and prescribed the medicine for healing. In a nutshell, this is Keble’s argument:

Like Samuel’s Israel, we prefer the lure to live in prosperity and so-called freedom like other non-Christian nations. Nations, and by-extension individuals, find justification for throwing off the yoke of Christ and the demands of discipleship. We look to threats outside and threats within to abandon godly principles (sound familiar?). We then blame government or religion for our ills and never ourselves.  We rationalize and excuse every decision and act. We become so tolerant that we believe nothing and we persecute those who believe in the name of inclusion (oh my goodness!). This rebellion moves from individuals to public officials. The officials begin to attack Christ by attacking His Church, beginning with apostolic authority – bishops. This attack will come in the name of popularity and expediency; see the words I highlighted in the Church Temporalities Act above.

Keble calls the Church to follow the example of Samuel through constant intercession, which then gives grounding and strength to protest. Christians should continue to glorify God in their daily lives and routines and should not be so consumed with the concerns of the day that they neglect ordinary duties, especially prayer and devotion. This is an important point he makes. While we may not live to see wrongs righted, we are on the right and, ultimately, victorious side.  

Every one of his points deserves further reflection and exposition, but is this not the climate of 2018?

The Catholic Revival in the Church of England had nothing to do with gin, lace, and backbiting, as is often caricatured. Yes, elaborate ritual and church building followed in the next generation, but this was a logical development of the belief that the Church is not the same as the Post Office. The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives and not the same as chicken tetrazzini at the weekly Rotary Club. The development of ritual and devotion was the servant, the handmaid, to the truths Keble turned our minds to 185 years ago.

Anglo-Catholics need to remember this sermon and why John Keble delivered it. Anglo-Catholics need to preach and live it.

Outline of National Apostasy
Full Text of the Sermon

I.              The Old Testament is a guide, mirror, and warning during national instability

a.     It is a natural and just reflection of the present time

                                               i.     To disregard the Old Testament as a guide for present concerns is “mistaken theology”

b.     The judgment of nations in the Old Testament is analogous with the judgment of individual Christian souls, which God will ultimately reward or punish.

c.     In the past it was quoted constantly, even ‘at random’ for any personal or societal ill, now it seems to have no authority in the hearts of men, however clear the Old Testament might be.

II.            The Example of Samuel

a.     Samuel was “the truest of patriots” whose example perplexes those who would suggest or act as if a nation (especially a Christian one) could prosper without God and His Church.

b.     The people of Israel, despite God’s unique relationship with them, desired to live without His governance and the “the moral restraint implied in His peculiar presence and covenant.”

c.     Israel’s rejection of God is a model temptation for any Christian nation who wonder if God has “forgotten to be angry with impiety and practical atheism” and believe that without God “they should be happier if they were freer, and more like the rest of the world.”

III.         The Symptoms of a Nation Alienated from God and Christ

a.     Israel demanded a king to be like other nations. Christian nations “avow the principle” that she is a part of Christ’s Church “on the plea, that other states, as flourishing or more so in regard of wealth and dominion, do well enough without it.”

b.     The move away from God will come from two impulses

                                               i.     Declaration of outside danger

1.     The Israelites were concerned about the Ammonites (I Samuel 11)

                                             ii.     Declaration of corruption within the nation

1.     The wickedness of Samuel’s sons

c.     Like the Israelites, justification for actions will be found

                                               i.     “Pretences will never be hard to find; but, in reality, the movement will always be traceable to the same decay or want of faith, the same deficiency in Christian resignation and thankfulness…”

                                             ii.     “And so, in modern times, when liberties are to be taken, and the intrusive passions of men to be indulged, precedent and permission, or what sounds like them, may be easily found and quoted for everything.”

                                            iii.     Samuel silenced this behavior with the reminder that the issue is motivation and purpose and not argument.

1.     We are responsible for our motives and purposes in dealing with Christ’s Holy Church.

                                            iv.     Additional symptoms of an Apostate Mind in a nation

1.     Growing indifference on the foundational matters of serious subjects

2.     Viewing matters of religion and the Church as agents of exclusion

3.     Shameful public conduct among officials (those bound by voluntary oaths).

a.     Disrespect of Christ will begin with disrespect to the Successors of the Apostles (bishops).

b.     “Suppose such disrespect general and national, suppose it also avowedly grounded not only any fancied tenet of religion, but on mere human reasons of popularity and expediency, either there is no meaning at all in these emphatic declarations of Our Lord, or that nation, how highly soever she may think of her religion and morality, stands convicted in His sight of a direct disavowal of His Sovereignty.” (This is as close as Keble gets to directly addressing the suppression of Irish bishoprics.)

c.     The attack will address cult (Saul took it upon himself to sacrifice) and order (Saul persecuted David, God’s chosen).

IV.           How an individual is to respond to national apostasy

a.     The example of Samuel – “that combination of sweetness with firmness, of consideration with energy, which constitutes the temper of a perfect public man, was never perhaps so beautifully exemplified.”

                                               i.     Constant fidelity and intercession for the nation and her people.

1.     “Having so protested, and found them obstinate, he does not therefore at once forsake their service, he continues discharging all the functions they had left him, with a true and loyal, though most heave, heart. ‘God forbid, that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way.’” (This is Keble’s text for the sermon.)

2.     The Church should be constant in intercession and it is only by constantly praying for the leaders and people that they will be spared from hate and despair.

3.     Only through prayer can the church protest (remonstrance), which is the duty of every Christian with the Church is under attack.

a.     Samuel rebuked Saul, yet when he had to remove himself from Saul’s presence until his death, he mourned (I Samuel 15.35).

                                             ii.     Submission and Order

1.     Christians should uphold the Church by faithfully executing their duties with trust and fidelity, lest they discredit the cause, even in the most menial task.

2.     “Public concerns, ecclesiastical or civil, will prove indeed ruinous to those, who permit them to occupy all their care and thoughts, neglecting or undervaluing ordinary duties, more especially those of a devotional kind.”

V.             The Ultimate Goal

a.     It will be unlikely to see the victory in this life and there may be very few to sympathize with Christ’s call.

b.     In the end, the Christian will be on the victorious side and that victory will be eternal.

 

[i] Assize Courts were periodic sessions of the High Court of Justice and find their origins in the Magna Carta. They were abolished in 1971.
[ii] Apologia Pro Vita Sua, page 50, Penguin Classics

Building a Litter

St Timothy's was very pleased to host the Annual Meeting and Mass of the Society of Mary, American Region on April 28. While technically a week early for the traditional May Devotion, we celebrated a votive mass for Mary (propers from the American Missal for a Saturday votive in Eastertide) and processed with a litter and image of Our Lady to an outdoor chapel where we concluded with the Regina Caeli. Not exactly St Silas, Kentish Town, but it was an earnest celebration full of devotion and joy. 

In preparing for the celebration, I was planning on not having a procession of Our Lady for two reasons. First, we are not in an urban setting with a natural route for procession, and second, we do not have a litter. Furthermore, as familiar as I am with church goods catalogs, for the life of me, I cannot remember seeing a litter for sale. My conscience continue to nag, "you cannot have the national mass for the Society of Mary without a procession." Necessity is the mother of all invention, so we built one.

I have the pleasure of many creative, competent, and resourceful people in my parish, both on staff and among the laity. I gave my sexton the general idea and he came up with the follow design. The total cost for his materials was under $80. 

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Materials

  • Sides - 5/8" x 3 1/4" Oak Casting - all joints were mitered cut; all connects were wood glued and brad nailed
  • Top and Bottom - 5mm Oak Laminat
  • Base for Our Lady - 3/4" x 2" Oak - screwed in from the bottom
  • Dowels - 1 /14" x 6'

I also needed an image of Our Lady that was "suitable for transport." I did not wish to move our image of Our Lady of Walsingham from our shrine. I was able to find a 21" image for around $100. I wish she were a little bit taller than 21", but that was the best I could do without paying exponentially more. She is easily and firmly secured by two pieces of wood laid across the base. You can flip the litter upside down and she wouldn't be startled. She is not permanently in the litter and can easily be removed to another place for devotion. The top of the litter is large enough for flowers and we used the same for an organic crown.  

In my opinion, this is the best part of catholic devotion. It was done by members of the parish and staff. It was a group effort. We had to think about what we were doing and what we wanted to accomplish. The end result was a litter for Our Lady constructed by the laity. It reminds me of Martin Travers making candlesticks and crucifixes from papier-mache. It is domestic devotion, which is the best kind.

Atemporality of Jesus Christ

Recently I asked a question on Facebook that was based on a portion of a lecture I watched from Fr John Behr of St Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary.

Fr Behr said, and I’m paraphrasing, that the idea of a Pre-Incarnate Word become flesh is mythology. I know that Fr Behr is Orthodox in every sense of the word and far more intelligent than I, so I knew there must be something to do this, yet it seemed to challenge orthodox thought as I understood it.

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The Prologue of John’s Gospel says it plainly: the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Word as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the creative agency of God that brought all things into being. “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible, and invisible…all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together…For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross” (Colossians 1.15-20).

A mystery, no doubt. Yet we profess that the eternal God entered our existence and was made man. All of that suggests or seems to suggest, there was a time when the Son of God was not incarnate. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

To try to understand Fr Behr’s assertion that the Pre-Incarnate Word later becoming Christ as mythology, I wondered if the answer was found in the mystery of the Ascension. Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father, a relational term and not a spatial one. Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, ascended into the Godhead, a Godhead which is beyond space and time, eternal.

If Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, is eternal, this means there was never a time when Jesus was not. Not the just the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, but Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man. That was my question. In my mind, this did not alter the Annunciation, the Incarnation, or any catholic dogma. I even wondered if this was a way (and I haven’t read Scotus enough to bring him into this) to explain the Immaculate Conception. The merits of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection were able to stretch back to the conception of Mary (or any time) because the Glorified Christ was now timeless by the Ascension, an event that happened in time.

The debate on Facebook was fun and fascinating with many different opinions, so I emailed Fr Behr. To my delight, he responded swiftly and with substance.

Here is the gist of Fr Behr’s argument, and he draws heavily on the late Dominican Herbert McCabe. God does not have a life-story. To quote McCabe, “There can be no succession in the eternal God, no change. Eternity is not, of course, a very long time; it is not time at all. Eternity is not timeless in the sense that an instant is timeless – for an instant is timeless simply in being the limit of a stretch of time, just as a point has no length not because it is very very short but because it is the limit of a length. No: eternity is timeless because it totally transcends time. To be eternal is just to be God. God’s life is neither past nor present, nor even simultaneous with any event, any clock, any history. The picture of the Son of God ‘becoming’ at a certain point in the divine duration the incarnate Son of God, ‘coming down from heaven’, makes a perfectly good metaphor but could not be literally true. There was, from the point of view of God’s life, no such thing as a moment at which the eternal Son of God was not Jesus of Nazareth. There could not be any moments in God’s life" (from God Matters).

Fr Behr’s point, following McCabe, is not that the Jesus Christ always existed because the Ascension brought him into eternity, but because there is no chronology in God. My error, as others pointed out, is that I was using temporal words to speak about eternity.

Here’s another important sentence from McCabe: “I want to argue that the doctrine of the incarnation is such that the story of Jesus is not just the story of God’s involvement with this creatures but that it is actually the ‘story’ of God…(which is) the only sense, in which God has or is a life-story, and this is the story revealed in the incarnation and it is the story we also call the trinity. The story of Jesus is nothing other than the triune life of God projected onto our history, or enacted sacramentally in our history, so that it becomes our story.”

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In his email, Fr Behr left one final “head-spinning consequence.” He rightly acknowledged that our concept of eternity with God often looks like a moment in time and then never-ending. The problem with this is that it still is confined to time. He referenced Origen who said eternity with God is like an iron knife in the fire. An iron knife is known by certain properties yet when it is in the fire, it takes on the properties of the fire. It does not cease to be an iron knife, but it is now known by the properties of fire. The same will be for us in eternity with God. We will still be human beings but we will take on the properties of God and will be known by them. Fr Behr writes, “And so, we actually have to say that although we are not there yet, we already are and always have been! This is our true existence, into which we are called from before the foundation of the world, and compared with which our life on earth is but a shadow, for our citizenship is in the heavens; we approximate most closely to our true identity when in liturgy, sharing in the eternal liturgy in the heavens.”

Yes.

Lex Agendi

If you want to alter a person, put them near an altar.
If you want to alter a place, place an altar.

I’m convinced of this.

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This morning on my way to the priests’ sacristy, I noticed a pizza box in a trashcan that was left overnight. Apparently pizza was on the menu for midnight lunch. I looked on the bulletin board above the empty pizza box. Two of the five packets I left the day before containing St Michael pendants have been taken by their new owners. The space was quiet at 7:30am, but I knew it was full just a few hours earlier.

This is an almost daily routine for me. This is a large, but mostly nocturnal, ministry for our local law enforcement. They come to this church to rest, eat, write reports, and pray. I have no idea how many have the code to get in. I know that when we hosted a late-night barbeque in the late summer, some 50 officers arrived for a quick bite to eat before they went back to walk the thin blue line. I recently found a lovely pendant of St Michael and hung one of the bulletin board asking if anyone would like to have one. So far, 19 have taken me up on it. I know some of the officers personally now. We text and they leave notes, but by and large, they come when I am asleep. This is their midnight church.

This all happened by taking a poorly designed, underutilized space and praying in it. If we want to alter a place, place an altar. If we want to alter a person, put them near an altar.

All, all, of our works of mercy flow from a discipline of prayer (stay tuned for upcoming posts on the Society of St Joseph of Arimathea and the homeless shelter).

In all our efforts to stimulate change in people and places, we often forget that the fount of justice is prayer. In all our efforts to revitalize the church and promote engagement and growth, we often forget that prayer is the transformative agent. And in all our efforts to engage the world by moving away from the church building, we often forget that sanctuary requires space.

Episcopalians love to quote the fifth century axiom from St Prosper of Aquitaine, ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi (the law of praying establishes the law of believing), often reduced to lex orandi, lex credendi. Translated it means what and how we pray establishes what we believe. If you want to change someone’s theology, first change their worship. This, by the way, is why any Prayer Book revision is so very, very important.

But the rule of prayer addresses more than what we believe. If I may be so bold, I would also add to lex ordandi, lex agendi. The rule of prayer establishes the rule of acting. Richard Hooker, who like St Prosper is quoted but never read, followed the thinking St Thomas Aquinas by placing religion within the virtuous realm of justice, or more accurately, justice flows from religion. “So natural is the union with Religion and Justice,” Hooker writes, “that we may boldly deem there is neither, where both are not.” Justice is to give someone what is their due. Religion is the highest form of justice in that it gives God his due.

If we wish to seek justice, we should begin with prayer. For it is in prayer (religion) that we are illumined by the truth of the dignity of the human person as created in the image and likeness of God and it is this illumination that shines light on our complicity in injustice and lights the path for mercy.

If you want to alter a person, put them near an altar.
If you want to alter a place, place an altar.

When today ye hear God's Voice...

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I have not done the research (but now I’m curious) as to why no American Book of Common Prayer has included the entirety of Psalm 95 as the Invitatory at Morning Prayer.* If the reason is obvious to everyone else, mea culpa.

Psalm 95 (or 94 according to Roman Catholic numbering) has been the Invitatory Psalm for Matins ever since the 6th century with the Rule of St Benedict. Chapter 9 of the Holy Rule states:

In the aforesaid winter season, there is first the versicle Domine labia mea aperies, et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam, to be said three times; then must follow the third psalm and the Gloria; then the ninety-fourth psalm to be chanted with an antiphon, or at any rate to be chanted (emphasis mine).

When Thomas Cranmer produced the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549, he included the Psalm 95 with the incipit Venite Exultemus without any invitatory antiphon. Every subsequent English Prayer Book followed suit.

After the Revolutionary War, the first proposed American Prayer Book included the entirety of Psalm 95 as the Venite, yet it was never ratified. The 1789 Prayer Book, and every Prayer Book thereafter combines the first 7 verses of Psalm 96 and verses 9 and 13 of Psalm 96:

O come, let us sing unto the Lord; *
    let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, *
    and show ourselves glad in him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God, *
    and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are all the corners of the earth, *
    and the strength of the hills is his also.
The sea is his and he made it, *
    and his hands prepared the dry land.
O come, let us worship and fall down *
    and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is the Lord our God, *

 and we are the people of his pasture
    and the sheep of his hand. (Psalm 95.1-7) 
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; *
    let the whole earth stand in awe of him.
(Psalm 96.9)
For he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth, *(Psalm 96.13)
    and with righteousness to judge the world
    and the peoples with his truth.

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is the first American version to include a rubric that allows the use of all Psalm 95 as translated by Coverdale as the Invitatory Psalm. Several months ago, we took advantage of this rubric and started praying the whole psalm instead of portions.

Here is what we have been missing:

Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts *
    as in the provocation,
    and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness;
When your fathers tempted me, *
    proved me, and saw my works.
Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, *

It is a people that do err in their hearts,
    for they have not known my ways;
Unto whom I sware in my wrath, *
    that they should not enter into my rest.

I understand that these verses aren’t as uplifting as the first 7, but they are important. The refrain at mass today was from verses 7 and 8: “today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” This is important for us to hear as we break the night silence with our prayers. For we know that it is not if we will hear God’s voice, but when we hear God’s voice. When we hear God’s voice in the Scriptures, in the words at mass, in our conscience, and in the cries of those around us, harden not your heart.

I don’t know about you, but I need to hear that and I need to pray that.

*UPDATE: According to Massey Shepherd in The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary, "Bishop White quaintly said of the alteration made by the 1789 Book: 'We left out the latter part of the "Venite," as being limited to the condition of the Jews.'" 

The Sorrowful Mysteries

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Every Wednesday night we pray the Rosary in community. Even though one traditionally prays the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesdays, we rotate so we may pray them all. Meditating on the mysteries - events in the life of Our Lord and his mother - are vital to a deeper prayer experience with the rosary. The recitation of the Hail Marys help occupy our hands and mouths so our heart and mind can go deeper into the mysteries of faith.

Once at Walsingham, I found a helpful book that provided intercessions and prayers for each mystery. It helped me focus my prayers on the mystery and how it connects with my life and the lives around me. 

Tonight we will pray the Sorrowful Mysteries. I've borrowed from the Walsingham Rosary and created intercessions for our use.

The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden

And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.  Luke 22.39-44

Let us pray for those who are trapped in anxiety.

Let us pray for those in waiting in the hospital.

Let us pray for those who are praying for someone to come home or praying for someone to leave.

Let us pray for those struggling to make difficult decisions.

We pray this mystery for all who are in distress: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. We pray they may unite their agony to that of Jesus in the Garden.

Our Father….

The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging of Our Lord

When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Matthew 27.24-26

Let us pray for those who are abused.

Let us pray for those who suffer in silence.

Let us pray for healing and unity in the Church, that our divisions may no longer wound the Body of Christ.

Let us pray for those who are bullied and let us pray for those who bully others.

We pray this mystery for all who endure the lashes of our pride, negligence, and hate. We pray this also for those who hold the whip. May all find healing in the wounds of Christ.

Our Father…

The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. Matthew 27.27-31

Let us pray for those who are humiliated daily.

Let us pray for those who still bear the shame of past sins.

Let us pray for those who mock Our Lord with words, art, or drama.

Let us pray for those who blaspheme Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

We pray this mystery for those who elevate themselves at the expense of others. We pray also for reverence and courage against blasphemy.

Our Father…

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: Carrying the Cross

And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. Matthew 27.32-34

Let us pray for our Law Enforcement Officers, especially those who find rest in the St Michael Chapel.

Let us pray for our shelter volunteers, especially our monitors Sam, Devon, and Jessica.

Let us pray for all who help carry the burdens of others, especially when it is thrust upon them.

Let us pray for caregivers, especially to the elderly.

We pray this mystery for greater courage in carrying our own cross and for strength to aid others in carrying theirs.

Our Father…

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion

And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. Luke 23.33-46

Let us pray for those who are dying at this hour.

Let us pray for doctors and nurses who stand near the threshold of life and death.

Let us pray for the Society of St Joseph of Arimathea and those who die with no one to mourn them.

Let us pray for those who have died. May they feel the love of our prayers.

We pray this mystery for those approaching the mystery of death. May we all face that hour prepared and strengthened by the Sacraments of the Church. We pray for grace and mercy for those who do not.

Our Father…

Nikola Saric

Thanks to the miracle of Google Images, I stumbled upon the work of Nikola Saric. A young Serbian artist living in Germany, his modern iconography is gripping and insightful. His website is definitely worth a look.

I especially appreciate his icon for today's Gospel at mass, the parable of the unforgiving servant from Matthew 18.21-35. 

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Mr. Saric makes the spiritual point clear: if we refuse to forgive others, we will not be free from the sinister grip of Satan. Note the posture of the man who owed little. His hands are open in a posture of supplication. The man who owed much (and was initially forgiven) has his hands stingily around his neck, as tight as the dark hand which prepares to pull him into outer darkness. The outer darkness is the destiny for those who give permission for the inner darkness to persist.

I'm also fond of the icon for the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16.19-31). 

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The story of this parable is well-known. Lazarus is a poor man who begged at the gate and was covered in sores, which the dogs licked. The Rich Man lived in luxury and ignored Lazarus at his gate. When they both died, Lazarus rested in the bosom of Abraham (lower left panel). The Rich Man was in Hades where he was tormented. There is a door with a lock in the upper panels, reminding us that the Rich Man and Lazaurs were next to each other in life. In fact, Lazarus was outside his door. The Rich Man could have opened the door and removed the chasm between them. Yet in death, there is no door and no key. Lazarus cannot open the door and remove the chasm between them.

A Microcosm of Christian Community

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As a daily parish community, we pray all 150 psalms each month. Ritual Notes, the inspiration of this website, reminds us that the psalms are “the very core of divine office (and) should never be curtailed in number.” The monastic office would pray all 150 psalms each week and we read of some desert fathers reading all 150 psalms each day. With that in mind, 150 per month are a generous concession. Yet the women and men who pray with me are not nuns or monks. They are teachers, business owners, medical professionals, and those we call homeless.

Praying the psalms is a microcosm of the Christian life in community and is, therefore, the most difficult part of the office. The psalms are often long (especially Psalm 78 on the 15th of every month). Some of the psalms are hard to say (see Psalm 137). Sometimes not everyone is (literally) on the same page. Someone usually wants to speed things up and says the verses faster and someone usually wants to slow things down. There is usually a person or persons who say the psalms with volume and dominate with their voices and there is a person or persons who are so quiet as they are silent. There are those times when a person will forget the asterisk and speak through the pause. I’m always amused when, more times than not, the person will cough as if to cover the mistake. Sometimes a person is hard of hearing and is a step or two ahead of the rest or a step or two behind, or both during the recitation of the same psalm. And sometimes there are folks who clearly don’t want to be there or there are folks who have absolutely no idea what is going on. This is Christian community.

All of the above are metaphors to living in community and they are all realities for a parish priest, not to manage, but to pray through. I have learned that the best thing for me, as the officiant, to is to focus on my own voice and my own prayer. If I start focusing on the volume or the speed or the engagement, I will lose my place, speak over the words, and stop praying. No one is intentionally trying to sabotage the office and no one wants to make it harder for others to pray. Quite the contrary, they are trying to cling to the words of the office themselves and they need this for the stability of their day and sanity in the chaos. My job – our job – is to focus on our prayers so we can help others say theirs.

O Lord, open thou our lips.

The Third Sunday in Lent

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A glorious day. 60 plus choristers from ten parishes across two states joined us for the RSCM (Royal School of Church Music) Treble Festival. The choristers were the choir for the Solemn Mass and Evensong. Our procession for the Great Litany included nearly 80 people.

For the second time since Fr Griffin's arrival, I served as the deacon at mass. I have discovered that I'm a jealous celebrant, I love being at the altar to say mass. However, there also a great joy in serving as the deacon, something I shall write about later. More thoughts, pictures, and video to come.