Wednesday, June 7, 2017

For What are We Praying on the Ember Days?

Today is Ember Wednesday, on which we pray for the ministry of the Church. The Tradition of the Church, from the earliest times, is that the terms "minister" and "ministry" are liturgical in meaning (that is, referring to those who "minister" the common prayer and worship for the Christian community), and, as these orders developed as an extension of the apostolic ministry, referring to the ministry of Bishops, Priests and Deacona, as well as to those, such as lectors or clerks, who assist them. John Collins, in his important work Diakonia: Re-interpreting the Ancient Sources, has been very helpful in clarifying this point for us.  This meaning is also that found in the Anglican formularies, especially the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. When the Tradition and the Formularies are agreed there can be no doubt as to what is the definitive meaning for Anglicans. The Ember Days in Pentecost- or Whitsun-Week, and the ordination which traditionally occurred on Saturday, are thus especially appropriate, given the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for which we pray at this time.

The Catechism of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer added the laity as an order of ministry, thus using ministry in a different sense from that found in the Tradition, but nonetheless a useful one. However, in the rubrics of the services, the 1979 Book retains the Traditional usage of "Minister". The Ember days are primarily thus to pray for the ordained ministry, and thus that which is their chief responsibility, the right worship of God. Secondarily, for those of us who use the 1979 Book, we also pray for all Christians in their work of witness to the Gospel.

So we pray this week for those who are to be be ordained, for those who have been ordained, for the right worship of God, and for the witness of all Christians.

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Ant. And He gave some, apostles; † and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

V. Endue thy ministers with righteousness;
R. And make thy chosen people joyful.

Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed various orders in thy Church: Give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all who are called to any office and ministry for thy people; and so fill them with the truth of thy doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee, to the glory of thy great Name and for the benefit of thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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