Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Proper Celebration of Memorial Day (1979 BCP)

Los Angeles National Cemetery
A bronze soldier standing at parade rest is perched atop a boulder to honor Civil War soldiers, erected in 1942

Memorial Day is the Day set aside by these United States to commemorate those who have died in wartime service.  By law (36 U.S. Code § 116 - Memorial Day) the President is requested to issue a proclamation.  The day is set aside, not just for remembrance, but also as a day of "prayer for permanent peace."  The proclamation sets 11 a.m. (local time) as a time when we should prayer together, and 3 p.m. as a "National Moment of Remembrance".   We are also asked to fly the flag of the United States (at half-mast where appropriate) and to decorate the graves of the war dead.

Liturgically, how should we treat Memorial Day?

If one is using the 1979 BCP, I would propose the following:

At Morning and Evening Prayer the office is of the liturgical day (Monday after the Seventh Sunday of Easter).  One can read the following two prayers during the intercessions at Morning and Evening Prayer:

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead: We give thee thanks for all thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country.  Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence; and give us such a lively sense of thy righteous will, that the work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through
Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.  (BCP p. 488)

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.  (BCP p. 815)

At the Mass, I would celebrate a requiem, with the propers For the Departed, with the following options:

[INTROIT. Requiem aeternam
Ant. Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them. Ps. 65. Thou, O Lord, art praise in Sion, and unto thee shall the vow be performed in Jerusalem: thou that hearest the prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come. Then at once is repeated: REST eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them.]

The first collect above (as allowed by the rubric on p. 202 of the BCP)

Isaiah 25:6–9

Ps. 103:13–22

1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Gradual and Tract.
R. Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them. V. Ps. 112. The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance: he will not be afraid of any evil tidings.

V. Absolve, O Lord, the souls of all the faithful departed from all the chains of their sins.
V. That by the succour of thy grace they may be found worthy to escape the avenging judgement.
V. And enjoy the bliss of everlasting life.

The Sequence Dies Irae (Hymn 468 in the Hymnal 1940) might be added here.

 John 11:21-27

OFFERTORY. O Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell, and from the bottomless pit: deliver them from the Lion's mouth, that hell swallow them not up, that they fall not into darkness: but let Michael the standard-bearer bring them into the holy light: Which thou didst promise of old unto Abraham, and his seed. V. We offer thee, O Lord, this sacrifice of prayer and praise: do thou receive it for the souls whose memory we this day recall: make them, O Lord, to pass from death unto life. Which thou didst promise of old unto Abraham and his seed.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord; who rose victorious from the dead, and doth comfort us with the blessed hope of everlasting life; for to thy faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body doth lie in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens...

COMMUNION. Let light eternal shine upon hem, O Lord: With thy Saints for evermore: for thou art gracious. V. Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them. With thy Saints for evermore: for thou art gracious.

Post Communion Prayer
Almighty God, we thank thee that in thy great love thou hast fed us with the spiritual food and drink of the Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, and hast given unto us a foretaste of thy heavenly banquet. Grant that this Sacrament
may be unto us a comfort in affliction, and a pledge of our inheritance in that kingdom where there is no death, neither sorrow nor crying, but the fullness of joy with all thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

One could visit the cemetery in the afternoon, and lay decorations on the grave and say appropriate prayers at 3 p.m.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Kneeling, Altar Rails, and Making a Good Communion

Holy Communion
Administered by a Priest and Deacon in the 17th Century.
Anglican practice is that the altar (a.k.a. "Holy Table", the same word used in the Byzantine Rite) is enclosed by communion rails.  This was mandated in the early 17th century as a guard against Puritan abuse of the Blessed Sacrament. In the Anglican tradition, Communion is to be received kneeling (unless one is prevented from doing so by bodily infirmity).*  

The communicant, in order to receive the sacrament, must have repented of the sins of which he or she is aware, and to have confessed them to God. The absolution given by the priest at the General Confession in Morning and Evening Prayer and in the mass is deemed sufficient, unless the person has committed notorious public sin. Confession to a priest is to be resorted to when one is in need of counsel, or when one otherwise wishes to do so, and is highly recommended.  Whenever the penitent perceives that she or he has committed mortal sin (a sin of grave matter, committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent) then for "the removal of all scruple and doubt, the assurance of parson, and the strengthening of your faith"** the penitent should seek out a priest for confession, counsel, and absolution.  When one has committed notorious public sin, then confession and repentance to the curate***  and reconciliation is necessary before admittance to Holy Communion.  

In addition to repentance and confession, the Anglican formularies require that one have faith that one is receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament, as it is through such faith that Christ is received. While there are many possible ways of looking at the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, a bare memorialism, that is thinking of the Eucharist as only our remembering of Christ without any actual reception of His Body and Blood in Holy Communion, is not within the bounds of Anglican theology and dogma.  Those who are unrepentant of their sins or who do not have faith that they are receiving Christ in Holy Communion do themselves great spiritual harm: "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" (I Cor. 11:29).  

Anglicans are bidden to "prepare themselves carefully"** before receiving Holy Communion.  This includes not only examining one's conscience, and some prayer time for preparation, but Anglican tradition is to fast prior to receiving the sacrament. The traditional fast was from all food and drink from midnight, but, depending on one's health, this may be modified. (My standard rule is for three hours from all solid food before receiving Communion, and for one hour before all liquids.) 

Prior to the Reformation Anglicans received Communion in one kind only, the host, and on the tongue (not however the most ancient practice, see below).  The original post-Reformation practice was to take the Sacrament of the Body of Christ from the communion plate offered by the priest, it being leavened bread and cut up into cubes by a knife, and to put it directly in one's mouth, being careful to guard against the loss of crumbs.  Aprons (esp. for ladies) or houselling cloths (white cloths attached to the altar rail and held underneath the communicant's mouth while receiving) were employed to catch any crumbs that might fall.  Later Anglican practice advocated by the Tractarians and eventually universally adopted, followed the counsel of St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his Mystical Catecheses:  The communicant is to come up to the Communion Rail, kneel down, and receive the Host on the right hand, supported by the left hand as by a "throne," and receive by lifting the palm of the hand to their mouths, and then checking, (as St. Cyril insists), that no crumb remain: "be careful that no particles fall, for what you lose would be to you as if you had lost some of your members. Tell me, if anybody had given you gold dust, would you not hold fast to it with all care, and watch lest some of it fall and be lost to you? Must you not then be even more careful with what is more precious than gold and diamonds, so that no particles are lost?"† 

Many Anglicans (especially Anglo-Catholics) also receive on the tongue, both out of reverence, and also to avoid profanation of the sacrament from dropping it.  This is also a perfectly acceptable practice.  (When administering communion in either fashion, I make sure that the paten is kept close to catch anything that falls.)  

The chalice is usually received by bringing the chalice to the mouth by gently grasping to the base while the minister holds the chalice at the knob, and tilting the cup so as to get a sip.

Following the universal tradition of the Church, and following the Anglican formularies, and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the proper matter for the Eucharist as ordained by Christ are wheat bread and (fermented) grape wine. One receives both Christ's Body and Blood by receiving either, but it is usual Anglican practice to receive both, and the priest must do so, and, the Anglican practice, mandated by the rubric of the 1979 BCP, is to make both species available separately.‡  If one is unable to receive either the species of the bread or the wine, one may thus receive only one, and the smallest amount of either is sufficient to receive both our Lord's Body and Blood.  If one is incapable of consuming any amount of either, then one makes what is called a "spiritual communion"  telling our Lord that one is unable to receive the sacrament, and asking for the spiritual benefits thereof, which one may be sure sure to receive under the same conditions as actual reception of the sacrament.  

The rubric requires that the Priest and other Ministers reverently consume what is left over after communion, unless some is to be reserved (for the Communion of the sick or shut-in) in a hanging pyx or tabernacle.  To do otherwise is a grave sin of sacrilege.  The only condition under which the Sacrament may be otherwise disposed of is if, for some reason, it may be polluted or poisoned and rendered undrinkable or uneatable.  Then it should be so dissolved in water as to be effectively no longer bread or wine, and poured on holy ground — down the piscinum, a special sink which drains on holy ground, is the usual practice; if there is no piscinum, then the water may be poured on the church yard.

In these times we are subject to many abuses. Disposing of the sacrament in some other way than that outlined above, attempting to consecrate something other than wheat bread or fermented wine, or attempted consecration by a person not validly ordained to the presbyterate to do so, are grave sins of blasphemy ("taking God's name in vain" by purporting to do in His name that which He has not commanded) and sacrilege (misuse or attempted misuse of sacred things). The faithful, being mindful of the damage done to their souls and the souls of others by such abuses, should absent themselves from services where such take place, and would be justified in making a formal complaint to the bishop.

An excellent summary of eucharistic doctrine employing the Anglican methodology of theology is to be found in E.L. Mascall's Corpus Christi: Essays on the Church and the Eucharist (1953), which I commend for your reading. 

*All previous prayer books, and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (one of the Anglican formularies) mandate communion kneeling. However the present Book of the Episcopal Church has no rubric as to the position of the communicant.  The usual rule, when something is not referred to in new legislation, is to refer to previous legislation.  However, in many places, the practice of standing for communion has been so long in force that it has acquired the force of custom in canon law.  However, it must be said, in a Western context, that is it less reverent; it leads far more often to occasions of sacrilege (as I have seen many many times); and it is not the Anglican tradition.

**The Exhortation, BCP 1979, p. 316–317

***In the Anglican formularies, the term "curate" refers to the rector, vicar, priest-in-charge, or other priest with pastoral responsibility for a parish, mission, chaplaincy, or house of religion.  The Anglican formularies are the essential post-Reformation texts for doctrine discipline and worship, accepted of necessity by all Anglicans.  They are the 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, together with the necessary canonical legislation which it assumes, especially the canons of 1608–1609, (which have greater force for us in this country, having never been replaced in the U.S., our canons being an addition thereto), the Articles of Religion, and the Ordinal, both included in the BCP 1662.  Their understanding and interpretation is dependent upon and subject first to the authority of Holy Scripture, and then to catholic tradition (catholicity being an article of the creed and an essential mark for the Church) in particular the writings of the Church Fathers.  

†h/t Fr. Hunwicke

‡"Opportunity is always to be given to every communicant to receive the consecrated Bread and Wine separately.  But the Sacrament may be received in both kinds simultaneously, in a manner approved by the bishop." The practice of intinction, whereby the host is dipped in the wine by a Minister, and then placed on the communicant's tongue (much less preferably, for the communicant to do this himself), is the usual way of doing this.  If proper teaching is given on the nature of the Sacrament, as given above, communicants should find this unnecessary.  However, if this is the custom of some of his people, and authorized by the bishop, then the priest should respect it, as long as it is done carefully and reverently.

Monday, May 15, 2017

When under Spiritual Attack

When under attack, especially with depression or anxiety, I find this prayer very very helpful:

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

What is the Essential Work of an Anglican Priest?

Anglican Priests and Clergy engaged in the most important of their essential works,
done according to the Book of Common Prayer
What is the work of an Anglican Priest?  The Rev. Dr. Eric Mascall describes it very well in Corpus Christi and his other works.  And he does so in a manner that bases itself entirely on the post-Reformation Anglican formularies, the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, the articles and the canons, and thus one that should thus be acceptable to all kinds of Anglicans.

​Fr. Mascall describes the essential work of a priest as "prayer, study, and pastoral work", in that order of importance. Let us first look at prayer.  In the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church in the USA, ordinands commit themselves to "persevere in prayer, both in public and in private."  The other prayer books have similar demands of ordinands.  The public prayer of the Church is her "Common Prayer" or liturgy.  The Common Prayer chiefly consists of the daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer and the mass, a.k.a., Holy Communion or Holy Eucharist.  As the American BCP says, "The Holy Eucharist, the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord's Day and other major feasts, and Daily Morning and Evening Prayer, as set forth in this Book, are the regular services appointed for public worship in this Church." (American BCP, 1979, p. 13).  It also notes that "The leader of worship in a Christian assembly is normally a bishop or priest."  The 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, one of the Anglican formularies, says similarly, appointing the Daily Morning and Evening Prayer, the Litany, and the Holy Communion on Sundays and major feasts.  It also includes this rubric:
And all Priests and Deacons are to say daily the Morning and Evening Prayer either privately or openly, not being let by sickness, or some other urgent cause. 
And the Curate that ministereth in every Parish-church or Chapel, being at home, and not being otherwise reasonably hindered, shall say the same in the Parish-church or Chapel where he ministereth, and shall cause a bell to be tolled thereunto a convenient time before he begin, that the people may come to hear God's Word, and to pray with him.
So, for Anglican clergy, there is an obligation to celebrate the daily office, publicly in the church if possible and required if one is a curate (possessed if a cure), the mass, and the other rites and ceremonies of the Church.  Part of the liturgical duty of the priest also includes preaching, and preparing people for and teaching them how reverently to celebrate the Common Prayer.  The obligation to pray also includes the discipline of private prayer, including, according to the tradition meditation (meditatio) issuing in comtemplation (contemplatio).

The second duty of the priest is study: Study is of Sacred Scripture, the writings of the Fathers and the Saints (including the texts of the liturgical tradition), theology generally, and of other ancillary disciplines, starting with philosophy and languages, but not excluding history, literature, and the other secular sciences, that would tend to make the priest a better minister of Christ.

These two things, prayer and study, in that order, are put first, because they form the basis of the contemplative life, and the contemplative life is both of prime value in itself, but also forms the only basis for pastoral work.

Pastoral work is dedicated to the cure of souls, in helping the life of God in Christ to flourish and grow in them. It is not to be confused with secular political action, or secular social work, which, though they may be good in themselves, and may be the proper work of some of the laity, are not the proper work of a priest.

Administration and fundraising and marketing are things Fr. Mascall cites as NOT being the proper work of the priest. At best these are ancillary, and if at all possible to be delegated to lay persons — at worst Fr. Mascall describes them as "diabolical" distractions.  In the English Book of Common Prayer, part of the Anglican formularies (and thus a doctrinal standard for all Anglicans) the following is said to the ordinand much as lieth in you, ye will apply yourselves wholly to this one thing, and draw all your cares and studies this way; and that ye will continually pray to God the Father, by the mediation of our only Saviour Jesus Christ, for the heavenly assistance of the Holy Ghost; that, by daily reading and weighing the Scriptures, ye may wax riper and stronger in your Ministry; (from "Concerning the Services of the Church")
This is the work of the Anglican priest, and if our churches are failing, then might it not be that we have failed to put first things first.

Friday, May 12, 2017

How Can We Tell if our Beliefs are Good or Bad?

How can we judge the quality of our beliefs? Is a change in belief, a conversion, good or bad? For those who believe in God, how shall we be judged?
Stefan Lochner's Last Judgement, ca. 1435
There are, I think, a few simple tests that will do the trick.

Do my beliefs make me more charitable, more loving of my neighbor, more ready and willing to do what is good for her or him? This is true of that especially annoying difficult neighbor who is on the wrong side of the political fence from me, or not of the same class, race, or background. Or do my beliefs cause me to be more hurtful or judgemental of others. Do they make me more selfish? Do they make me heedless of others and what is good for them? Do they lead me to being hurtful of others, deceiving myself that it is for their own good?

Do my beliefs make me more proud, or more humble? Do they make me realize that how very small I am in the universe, my dependency on others, and on the ultimate source of my being, or do they make me proud and self-righteous, convinced of my own superiority (and thus leading me to be uncharitable)?

Do my beliefs lead me to the truth, or do they lead me to disregard the truth? Or do I misuse the truth, using it as a weapon to hurt others? Am I, because I am convinced of the correctness of my own beliefs, willing to warp the truth in defense of my beliefs? Am I more interested in being right than in being truthful? Am I willing to admit it when I am shown to be wrong?

I see many, including many old friends, for whom a religious conversion, as opposed to making them more loving, more humble, and more truthful, tends rather to accentuate the vices and bad inclinations that they already have — it makes them worse. Sometimes I think this has not so much to do with the new beliefs they embrace (although these have consequences) as for the reasons they have done so. So it causes me to ask myself, is my faith helping me and others, or is it hurting? And the supreme test is charity, un-self-interested love, for, certainly from a Christian perspective, "without charity all our doings are nothing worth". It is our love that makes the ultimate difference.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

May 9th, First day of Summer, and St. Gregory of Nazianzus

Today, May 9th, the 7th day before the Ides of May is the first day of Summer in the old English reckoning, as well as the feast of St Gregory of Nazianzus, the Theologian

May 9, Commemoration of Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop of Constantinople, 389

Blessed be the Name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are his; I thank thee, O thou God of my Fathers, who hast given us wisdom and might, in that thou hast revealed the deep and secret things

V. With my lips have I been telling of all the judgements of thy mouth.
R. I have had as great delight in the way of thy testimonies as in all manner of riches.

O Almighty God, who didst give to thy servant Gregory of Nazianzus special gifts of grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus: Grant, we beseech thee, that by this teaching we may know thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

An Anglo-Saxon calendar for May, marking the beginning of Summer on May 9th.

More here
Old English Summer

Monday, May 8, 2017

Is God our Mother?

Is God our mother? This question comes up every year about Dame Julian of Norwich, who uses, quite appropriately, motherly language to speak about our Lord.

As Bp. Stanley Atkins pointed out to us, some 30 years ago, in our course in English Spirituality, this does not mean that we refer to God as our mother. God as God, not having "body, parts, or passions" does not have biological sex either. However, as the creator and not a creature he is masculine in relation to us, his living creatures, because he acts on his creation from outside to cause it to bring forth life, as* a father begets children by the mother.

In the Incarnation God shows a father's love for us in adopting us as his children when we are united in Baptism to his Son (the incarnate Word of God). God the incarnate Son is the bridegroom of the Church, by which he begets new children. And, while as God, he remains masculine in relation to us, God the Father shows us a mother's love in giving us the mother of his son (the highest of all creatures) to be our mother.

*to be technical, as="analagous to the way in which"

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Temptations of the Age

It just struck me just now (as I was tempted to worry about money) that the moral of the Hobbit is that the desire to accrue and maintain wealth is corrupting to the soul, just as the moral of The Lord of the Rings is that the desire to acquire and maintain power over others is corrupting to the soul. This is true even if this desire has a good end in view, such as one's welfare and the welfare of one's family, or the desire to "redistribute"and "empower" those who have been the victims of present or historical oppression. Indeed, such desire always presents itself as a good thing, especially to those who have been, perceived they have been, or are afraid of being either poor or oppressed. Thus these two stories are very important for understanding our times and our political divides, characterized by greed and the desire for power.

Further, each presents itself as a way of avoiding our inevitable death, the chief temptation for mortal creatures. Yet, by corrupting and killing the soul, they destroy our enjoyment of this life, another important theme in Tolkien's works.