Saturday, December 25, 2010

All decked out for Christmas

Trinity Episcopal Church in Dublin, TX on Christmas Eve 2010.

St Matthew's Episcopal Church in Comanche TX on Christmas Eve 2010.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

O come, Emmanuel

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Latin translation of O Emmanuel
O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Advent Carol

O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lowly exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice, rejoice. Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

The antiphon for December 23rd is based upon theme of the incarnation of the Son of God. St John wrote in his gospel, "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). Likewise, Isaiah prophesied, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14), which name means "God with us" (see also Matthew 1:22).

Messianic biblical prophecies of future events work on two levels—they have an immediate application to events in the near future; they also have a long term application in the unfolding of our salvation. We see an example of that here in Isaiah.

In the immediate context, the Prophet Isaiah is confronting the King Ahaz (who is inspecting the city’s fortifications after losing several battles) to renew his faith with the sign of a child who will be an oracle that God is in fact not with our enemies; rather, God is with us. But this verse also spoke of a deeper fulfillment in God’s plan of salvation.

When St. Matthew tells the story in his Gospel of the angel Gabriel’s visit to the Virgin Mary to announce the birth of Jesus, Matthew tells us, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”

With the virgin motherhood of blessed Mary, God has given us a sign . . . an oracle to say that God is no longer in distant heavens; God is with us. God is now one of us. The Word has become flesh and dwells among us. This is what we call the incarnation. At Christmastime, God unwraps the gift that keeps on giving. The gift of the Christ child is the fount of grace which wells up at the cross.

"Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance (homo-ousios) with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer (Theotokos); one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us." (Definition of the Union of the Divine and Human Natures in the Person of Christ, Council of Chalcedon, 451 A.D., Act V, quoted in the Book of Common Prayer, p 864.)

Although these antiphons and dates have been common throughout the western Church, our Anglican patrimony includes an alternative medieval English usage that arose of moving all of the antiphons forward by one day (commencing on 16 December) and adding an additional eighth antiphon on 23 December, as follows:

Latin translation of O Virgo virginum
O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

Unfortunately, no paraphrase of this antiphon was included in the Advent carol. But as with the previous antiphon, the motherhood of this virgin is a sign that God is both the Father above, and that God is the Son who has come to dwell among us.

Mary’s virginity is hailed as an outward sign of her purity of soul. The Greek Liturgies of St Basil the Great and St John Chrysostom call her Panagia (the “All-Holy One”) and Panagiota (the “All-Sinless One”). Thus, she is the Virgin of virgins, the exemplar of chastity and virtue.

Archbishop of Canterbury William Wake, outlined the Church of England’s view on Mary in a sermon in 1688, saying, “We believe her to have been a most pure, and holy, and virtuous creature: . . . that her virgin mind was clean and spotless, as her body chaste and immaculate; and that she was upon the account of both, the most fit of any of her race or sex for the Holy Ghost to over-shadow, and for the Son of the most highest to inhabit.”

George Hickes, the Dean of Worcester also commented on the theme of the purity of Mary in one of his sermons: “She that was the Mother of God could not be [anything] but a very good woman; she that conceived, and bare, and brought forth the holy Child Jesus, the Virgin Mother of Immanuel, . . . surely must have been pure, as he was pure, and holy, as he was holy.”

Since March, she has been the tabernacle of God, carrying the seed of promise, the holy Child whom God foretold would crush the serpent’s head. St Irenaeus of Lyons in the 2nd Century put it this way, “And so the knot tied by Eve’s disobedience was unloosed through the obedience of Mary; for what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the Virgin Mary free through faith.” May God engender the same faith in our hearts.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

O come, Desire of nations

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Latin translation of O Rex Gentium
O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one: Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.

Advent Carol
O come, Desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind; bid thou our sad divisions cease, and be thyself our King of peace. Rejoice, rejoice. Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

The antiphon for December 22 is based upon the Lordship of Christ the King. The acclamation at his entry into Jerusalem is just as applicable to his birth: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord" (Luke 19:38). It was known that he would be born in Bethlehem, and the wise men sought him out, because he was the anointed heir to the throne of King David. He would be the Prince of peace.

Of him, Isaiah prophesied, "He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4). St Paul noted, "He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet" (1 Corinthians 15:25).

Although he was arrested on the charge of being a blasphemer, Jesus was ultimately sentence under Roman law for treason--for claiming to be the "King of the Jews," as was ordered to be written on the titulus of his cross in Latin, Hebrew, and Greek.

When Pilate questioned him about this charge, Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Notice, he did not deny being a king. He simply said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Pilate said to him, “So you are a king then?” Jesus answered, “You have said it; I am a king. This is why I was born, and why I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice” (John 18:36-37).

When he suspected Jesus of being born in Bethlehem, Jesus would no longer speak when interrogated about this, and Pilate sought to release him, but instead decided to appease the mob. We need the Lord Jesus. We need the Light of God to shine in our hearts. We need the reign of Christ over all nations, all peoples, and every heart, to be come be realized in our lawless world. Maranantha! Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come!

Our prayer in the antiphon today is that all would listen to his truthful voice and submit to his most gracious rule.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

O come, thou Dayspring from on high

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Latin translation of O Oriens Splendor
O Morning Star, splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Advent Carol
O come, thou Dayspring from on high, and cheer us by thy drawing nigh; disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death's dark shadow put to flight. Rejoice, rejoice. Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

The antiphon for December 21st is based upon the image of Jesus as the "Light of the world," so prominent in John's gospel. John’s gospel opens by hailing Jesus as the “Light of the world,” coming to shine in our hearts and dispel spiritual darkness. His first and second Advents are both described as dawnings. The morning star in Revelation 22 is a symbol of God drawing closer to his people. (see Revelation 22:16). Isaiah prophesied, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined" (Isaiah 9:2).

Because we worship Jesus, the Dayspring, churches have been traditionally built with the altar at the eastern end, so that the faithful would worship the Lord toward the rising sun. John of Damascus explained, "It is not without reason or by chance that we worship towards the East. But seeing that we are composed of a visible and an invisible nature, that is to say, of a nature partly of spirit and partly of sense, we render also a twofold worship to the Creator; just as we sing both with our spirit and our bodily lips, and are baptized with both water and Spirit, and are united with the Lord in a twofold manner, being sharers in the mysteries and in the grace of the Spirit. Since, therefore, God is spiritual light, and Christ is called in the Scriptures Sun of Righteousness and Dayspring, the East is the direction that must be assigned to his worship. . . . And when he was received again into heaven he was borne towards the East, and thus his apostles worship him, and thus he will come again in the way in which they beheld him going towards heaven; as the Lord himself said, 'As the lightning cometh out of the East and shineth even unto the West, so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be'."

We are all desperately in need of a Savior, a Redeemer who is capable of ransoming us from the darkness of our sins. Sin clouds our intellect and darkens our will. We need light from above. Let us not shun the light, but look for it and run towards it.

Jesus said, “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Jesus brings clarity and light back to our souls when we are baptized or when we return to him through the sacrament of penance.

Monday, December 20, 2010

O come, thou Key of David

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Latin translation of O Clavis David
O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Advent Carol
O come, thou Key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home; make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery. Rejoice, rejoice. Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

The antiphon for December 20th is based on the image of Jesus as Savior, who reconciles God and man and is himself the very key that reopens the gates of paradise which were shut after the Fall (see Genesis 3:23-24).

Isaiah prophesied that work of the Savior was to release those who were held captive by sin (see Isaiah 42:7). Isaiah also foretold of the Messiah that God would “place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open” (Isaiah 22:22). And that, “His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore” (Isaiah 9:7).

In Isaiah’s day, David’s descendant King Hezekiah cleansed and restored the Temple. As a type of the Christ to come, Hezekiah rose from a dire illness on the third day. He entrusted to his steward Eliakim, the “key of David”—his authority—as an office to be handed on.

So likewise Jesus entrusted to St. Peter and all the apostles the “keys of the kingdom” (see Matthew 16:17-19). This was especially the authority to declare true doctrine and denounce heresy as well as the authority to bind and loose people from the shackles of sin. The church still exercises the power of those keys to this day.

When the Lord died on His Cross and rose again, he ransomed “captive Israel.” Then he descended to the dead to proclaim redemption and set them free. He still does the same for us, visiting us through his ministers. The bishop or priest of the church, exercising the keys, speaks with Christ’s voice. He teaches and absolves sinners with the authority entrusted to him by Christ.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

O come, thou Root of Jesse's tree

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Latin translation of O Radix Jesse
O Root of Jesse, standing as an ensign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

Advent Carol
O come, O come, thou Branch of Jesse's tree, free them from Satan's tyranny, that trust thy mighty power to save, and give them victory o'er the grave. Rejoice, rejoice. Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

The antiphon for December 19th is based on the lineage of Jesus as the Messiah from the house of David. Isaiah prophesied: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” And, “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for all peoples.” (Isaiah 11:1, 11).

David’s father is Jesse, so the shoot (the new budding branch) is David’s progeny. This ancestry of Jesus, the "Son of David" is recorded at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel and in Luke 3.

A Jesse Tree in the home, then an Advent custom of using a collection of symbols that portray the fact that Jesus has come, as predicted, from the root of Jesse. A small tree or branch is decorated with these ornaments representing Adam, Noah, Abraham, and so on. It also reminds us God had promised Adam and Eve that their descendant would crush the head of the serpent who led to their fall.

Jesus was also born in Bethlehem, David’s home town, as the Prophet Micah foretold, “Out of you (Bethlehem) will come one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2). The name David means “beloved” and St. John tells us that God so loved the world that he gave us his Son Jesus, whom the Father calls “the beloved” at his baptism.

What urgency there is this antiphon! Something that lies below the earth (a root) stands high like a banner! What is a little root during Advent becomes by Lent the Tree of salvation. The Prophet Isaiah tells us that the kingdom of David would be destroyed, but a root would remain. It is the root of Jesse’s tree leading to Christ. And the Prophet Micah reassures us it would spring up again in Bethlehem, the city of David.

After reminding us of Jesus’ Davidic heritage, the next day’s antiphon refers to Christ as David’s key. See this page from Fisheaters for information about the custom of making a Jesse tree during Advent.

Friday, December 17, 2010

O come, thou Lord of might

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Latin translation of O Adonai
O Lord and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

Advent Carol
O come, O come, thou Lord of might, who to thy tribes on Sinai's height in ancient times didst give the Law in cloud and majesty and awe. Rejoice, rejoice. Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

The antiphon for December 18th is based on the manifestation of God on Mount Sinai in the Book of the Exodus. God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, and the Torah (or "Law of Moses") became both the foundation of Jewish faith and life as well as the dawn of ethical monotheism in world history.

Adonai or “Lord” was the Hebrew word that the Jews used for the divine Name of Yahweh. We use it for Christ, the Wisdom from on high who is Lord of all creation. Christ is also Lord of the Covenant with the people he chose. The Lord made covenants with Noah, Abraham, and Moses.

He guided his people Israel and gave them the Law. He protected and feed them in the wilderness. The Lord delivered them from unending slavery and bondage to Pharaoh. He went before them in the wilderness with an outstretched arm. All this pre-figured the great work of redemption that Christ did on the Cross. The Messiah was the one who would bring God's Law to fulfillment. He redeemed us his people from Satan and the eternal damnation of hell.

He once appeared clothed in the burning bush before Moses at Sinai. He has also appeared clothed in flesh at Bethlehem. He will appear again one day in glory to judge the living and the dead. And he is with us even now, veiled in the holy Mystery of the Eucharist.

What amazing contrasts we find in our Lord! He came in thunder and lightning to give the Law on Mount Sinai. At Christmas he comes in swaddling clothes. He will come again in glory. He comes humbly in the appearance of Bread and Wine.

We have great cause for rejoicing this holiday season. We can gather to celebrate Jesus’ birth, confident in a certain hope that he is true Wisdom, come down from on high, who guides us to salvation and reigns even now as Lord. And we rejoice that what we behold even now in types and shadows will be brought to perfect fulfillment when he comes again in glory.

Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matthew 5:17). The Messiah was seen as one who would represent the rule of God's law and bring it to fulfillment (see Isaiah 11:4-5). As Lord, "he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet" (1 Corinthians 15:25). As Savior, Jesus fulfilled the obligations of the Law on behalf of sinners (see Romans 8:1-4).

O come, thou Wisdom from on high

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Today the "Great O" antiphons on the Magnificat begin. I shall post them day-by-day from both the Latin translation and the more familiar version in the Advent Carol (#59 in the Hymnal 1982).

Latin translation of O Sapientia
O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the Most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Advent Carol
O come, thou Wisdom from on high, who orderest all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice, rejoice. Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

The antiphon today is based on the description of Wisdom in Sirach 24. In the New Testament, Christ is called "the power of God and the wisdom of God" who is wise as well as righteous on our behalf (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30). St. Paul also describes Jesus as involved in creation, as Wisdom was described as active in creation in the Old Testament (see Proverbs 8). "He is before all things," St Paul wrote, "and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17).

King Solomon asked for wisdom above all, as the most precious gift of God. It was said in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be full of wisdom (Isaiah 11:2). In Jewish philosophical theology, the wisdom of God was equated with the divine Logos, or "Word" which St John said was "made flesh and dwelt among us" in the person of Jesus (John 1:14). It is also significant that Jesus is visited by wise men at his birth, is found as a boy with the teachers in the Temple, and as an adult marvels others by teaching on his own authority. Jesus possibly referred to himself as the Wisdom of God in Matthew 11:9; 12:42; and in Luke 7:35; 11:31.

There are several variations on the lists and texts in Western rite uses. Here's what's coming in the most common uses between now and the Eve of the Nativity:
December 18: O Adonai (Lord)
December 19: O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)
December 20: O clavis David (Key of David)
December 21: O Oriens Splendor (Dawn)
December 22: O rex gentium (King)
December 23: O Emmanuel (God with us)

The marvelous icon above--"The Birth of God," written by Nicholas Markell--is available for purchase at Bridge Building Images.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Clergy poll: offertory prayers

The 1928 Prayer Book explicitly states in the offertory rubrics, "And the Priest shall then offer, and shall place upon the Holy Table, the Bread and the Wine." The 1979 Prayer Book just assumes this is done and directs the congregation to "stand while the offerings are presented and placed on the Altar."

Neither book provides a form for doing so. It is presumed in the Prayer Book tradition that this is something that falls under the domain of custom. And that is understandable since the Roman offertory prayers were a late addition and varied greatly from place to place at the time of the first Prayer Book.

The offertory is an occasion that naturally invites prayer. Some celebrants simply raise the gifts slightly as a gesture of oblation and place them on the altar without any words, letting the ceremonial serve as a prayer. Others naturally turn to the offertory prayer of the Roman rite--either the old rite, or more recently the new rite of Pope Paul VI. The latter has even been included in various new eucharistic rites around the Anglican Communion.

For those who make use of the former, and use an English translation rather than the Latin originals, which translation do you prefer? There have been two main altar books with these offertory prayers printed in them--the Anglican/English Missal published by Knott & Sons and the American edition of the Anglican Missal, sometimes just called the American Missal. The Missal of the Western Rite Orthodox parishes uses another translation (see below).

I have a hard time choosing myself; my preference goes back and forth. Which do you favor for use at the altar?

From the (Knott) English Missal:

At the offering of bread
Receive, O holy Father, almighty everlasting God, this spotless host, which I, thine unworthy servant, offer unto thee, my living and true God, for my numberless sins, offences and negligences; and for all who stand here around, as also for all faithful christians, both living and departed, that to me and to them it may avail for salvation unto life eternal. Amen.

At the blessing of water
O God, who didst wondrously create, and yet more wondrously renew the dignity of human nature: grant that by the mystery of this water and wine we may be made co-heirs of his divinity, who vouchsafed to be made partaker of our humanity, even Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord: Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God: world without end. Amen.

At the offering of wine
We offer unto thee, O Lord, the cup of salvation, humbly beseeching thy mercy: that in the sight of thy divine majesty it may ascend as a sweet-smelling savour for our salvation, and for that of the whole world. Amen.

Over the Holy Gifts
In a humble spirit, and with a contrite heart, may we be accepted of thee, O Lord: and so let our sacrifice be offered in thy sight this day, that it may be pleasing unto thee, O Lord God.
Come, O thou Fount of holiness, almighty, eternal God: He blesses the Oblations, proceeding: and bless this sacrifice, made ready for thy holy name.

From the (American) Anglican Missal:

At the offering of bread
Receive, O Holy Father, Almighty and Everlasting God, this spotless Host, which I thine unworthy servant now offer unto thee, my God, the living and true, for all my countless sins, wickedness and neglect; and for all those here present; as also for all the faithful in Christ, both the quick and the dead; that it may set forward their salvation and mine, unto life everlasting. Amen.

At the blessing of water
O God, who didst lay the foundation of man's being in wonder and honour, and in greater wonder and honour didst renew the same: grant by the mystery of this water and wine, that he who was partaker of our humanity may make us joint-heirs of his very Godhead, even Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

At the offering of wine
We offer unto thee, O Lord, the Cup of Salvation; beseeching thy mercy that it may ascend in the sight of thy Divine Majesty as a sweet-smelling savour for our salvation, and that of the whole world. Amen.

Over the Holy Gifts
In a contrite heart and an humble spirit let us be accepted of thee, O Lord, and so let our sacrifice be in thy sight this day that it may be well pleasing unto thee, O Lord our God.
Come, O thou Sanctifier, Almighty and Everlasting God, and bless this sacrifice made ready for thy Holy Name.

From the Western Rite Orthodox Missal:

At the offering of bread
Accept, O holy Father, almighty and everlasting God, this unspotted host which I, unworthy servant, offer unto thee, my living and true God, for my innumerable sins, offences and negligences, as also for those here present and for all faithful Christians, both living and dead, that it may avail me and them unto life everlasting. Amen.

At the blessing of water
O God, who in creating human nature hast wonderfully dignified it and still more wonderfully reformed it, grant that by the mystery of this water and wine, we may become partakers of his divine nature who deigned to partake of our human nature, thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God; throughout all ages of ages. Amen.

At the offering of wine
We offer unto thee, O Lord, the chalice of salvation, beseeching thy mercy, that it may ascend before thy divine majesty as a sweet odor for our salvation and for that of the whole world. Amen.

Over the Holy Gifts
Accept us, O Lord, in the spirit of humility and contrition of heart: and grant that the sacrifice we offer this day in thy sight may be pleasing to thee, O Lord God.
Come, O almighty and eternal God the Sanctifier, bless this sacrifice prepared for the glory of thy holy Name.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Usually a picture says a thousand words. This one says five: "Turn your head and cough." It will be interesting to see what happens this holiday with so many people headed to Grandma's house. Will these new enhanced screening techniques continue? Or will there be some push-back from the public? One US senator called them "love pats" while one former judge said, "What you are looking at in these pictures is a crime. It's called sexual assault." I'm just glad I'm not set to get on a plane anytime soon.

Someone who recently went through a pat-down described it to me yesterday as being "extremely thorough." I think he used the phrase about four times, saying it slower each time. He said that he had a cough drop in one pocket. When the agent noticed it, he backed up, rested his hand on his sidearm and said, "Please empty your pocket, sir." When it turned out to be a Hall's, he said, "Move along."

On the lighter side of things, this cartoon from New Orleans gets it just about right.

New Advent wreath

This week, I finished constructing a new Advent wreath for Trinity Church in Dublin, one of the mission congregations I serve. I am grateful to the women of the church who donated the funds. It came out to less than $300 for the supplies (candles, sockets, followers, wood, paint, garland, chains and hooks). If that sounds steep, just consider that the same thing from a church supply company would be $600 to $1,2000!

It was not too complicated. I basically cut a ring out of wood, painted it green, wrapped it in garland, and attached candle sockets and chains to it. A white candle will hang in the center at Christmas. This wreath is a little over 30" in diameter. It replaces a home Advent wreath (about 6" diameter) that was set on a little table in the church in previous years.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lost in translation

At the opening Mass for the 2010 Fort Worth diocesan convention, the gospel text was John 21:15-19. It is a powerful passage, but one whose meaning is hidden in translation.

Jesus repeatedly asks Peter, "Do you love me?" Peter responds that he does love Jesus. In turn, Jesus calls him anew as a pastor to the church. Many people see a threefold opportunity for Peter to repent of his threefold denial of Jesus. "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." That is said to explain why Peter was grieved when asked the third time if he loves Jesus; he remembered his threefold denial. While that may be true, the original language gives us more detail, because there are three Greek words for "love" in the New Testament, and two different ones are used in this passage.

The two words for love used here are philo and agape. Philo means to love as a friend or like a brother (hence Philadelphia is the "city of brotherly love"). Agape means to love unconditionally, as God loves. Agape took on a renewed importance with the spread of Christianity. Here is the text with the two different words noted:

John 21:15-19 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me unconditionally [agape] more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you as a friend [philo]." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me unconditionally [agape]?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you as a friend [philo]." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me as a friend [philo]?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me as a friend [philo]?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you as a friend [philo]." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go." (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, "Follow me."

Peter was grieved the third time because Jesus acknowledged that Peter was not yet willing to say that he loves Jesus unconditionally the way Jesus loves him. The context fits in with the dialogue here. Peter has reverted to the life of a fisherman, neglecting the sheep of his vocation. Jesus calls Peter to come learn unconditional love by living out his vocation.

Finally, Jesus implies that one day Peter will learn to love unconditionally, as he partakes intimately in that sign of God's unconditional love--the cross. By the time Peter is old, he will be crucified, having tended God's flock and learned to love the way God loves. It is no wonder that according to tradition, Peter said that he was not worthy to die in the same way as the Savior, and so he was crucified upside down.

Friday, October 01, 2010

"That they may be one"

Excerpts from ARCIC statement "The Gift of Authority"

41. In every age Christians have said "Amen" to Christ's promise that the Spirit will guide his Church into all truth. The New Testament frequently echoes this promise by referring to the boldness, assurance and certainty to which Christians can lay claim (cf. Lk 1.4; 1 Thess 2.2; Eph 3.2; Heb 11.1). In their concern to make the Gospel accessible to all who are open to receive it, those charged with the ministry of memory and teaching have accepted new and hitherto unfamiliar expressions of faith. Some of these formulations have initially generated doubt and disagreement about their fidelity to the apostolic Tradition. In the process of testing such formulations, the Church has moved cautiously, but with confidence in the promise of Christ that it will persevere and be maintained in the truth (cf. Mt 16.18; Jn 16.13). This is what is meant by the indefectibility of the Church (cf. Authority in the Church I, 18; Authority in the Church II, 23).

42. In its continuing life, the Church seeks and receives the guidance from the Holy Spirit that keeps its teaching faithful to apostolic Tradition. Within the whole body, the college of bishops is to exercise the ministry of memory to this end. They are to discern and give teaching which may be trusted because it expresses the truth of God surely. In some situations, there will be an urgent need to test new formulations of faith. In specific circumstances, those with this ministry of oversight (episcope), assisted by the Holy Spirit, may together come to a judgement which, being faithful to Scripture and consistent with apostolic Tradition, is preserved from error. By such a judgement, which is a renewed expression of God's one "Yes" in Jesus Christ, the Church is maintained in the truth so that it may continue to offer its "Amen" to the glory of God. This is what is meant when it is affirmed that the Church may teach infallibly (see Authority in the Church II, 24 - 28, 32). Such infallible teaching is at the service of the Church's indefectibility.

43. The exercise of teaching authority in the Church, especially in situations of challenge, requires the participation, in their distinctive ways, of the whole body of believers, not only those charged with the ministry of memory. In this participation the sensus fidelium is at work. Since it is the faithfulness of the whole people of God which is at stake, reception of teaching is integral to the process. Doctrinal definitions are received as authoritative in virtue of the divine truth they proclaim as well as because of the specific office of the person or persons who proclaim them within the sensus fidei of the whole people of God. When the people of God respond by faith and say "Amen" to authoritative teaching it is because they recognise that this teaching expresses the apostolic faith and operates within the authority and truth of Christ, the Head of the Church. The truth and authority of its Head is the source of infallible teaching in the Body of Christ. God's "Yes" revealed in Christ is the standard by which such authoritative teaching is judged. Such teaching is to be welcomed by the people of God as a gift of the Holy Spirit to maintain the Church in the truth of Christ, our "Amen" to God.

44. The duty of maintaining the Church in the truth is one of the essential functions of the episcopal college. It has the power to exercise this ministry because it is bound in succession to the apostles, who were the body authorised and sent by Christ to preach the Gospel to all the nations. The authenticity of the teaching of individual bishops is evident when this teaching is in solidarity with that of the whole episcopal college. The exercise of this teaching authority requires that what it teaches be faithful to Holy Scripture and consistent with apostolic Tradition. This is expressed by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, "This teaching office is not above the Word of God, but serves it" (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, 10).

47. Within his wider ministry, the Bishop of Rome offers a specific ministry concerning the discernment of truth, as an expression of universal primacy. This particular service has been the source of difficulties and misunderstandings among the churches. Every solemn definition pronounced from the chair of Peter in the church of Peter and Paul may, however, express only the faith of the Church. Any such definition is pronounced within the college of those who exercise episcope and not outside that college. Such authoritative teaching is a particular exercise of the calling and responsibility of the body of bishops to teach and affirm the faith. When the faith is articulated in this way, the Bishop of Rome proclaims the faith of the local churches. It is thus the wholly reliable teaching of the whole Church that is operative in the judgement of the universal primate. In solemnly formulating such teaching, the universal primate must discern and declare, with the assured assistance and guidance of the Holy Spirit, in fidelity to Scripture and Tradition, the authentic faith of the whole Church, that is, the faith proclaimed from the beginning. It is this faith, the faith of all the baptised in communion, and this only, that each bishop utters with the body of bishops in council. It is this faith which the Bishop of Rome in certain circumstances has a duty to discern and make explicit. This form of authoritative teaching has no stronger guarantee from the Spirit than have the solemn definitions of ecumenical councils. The reception of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome entails the recognition of this specific ministry of the universal primate. We believe that this is a gift to be received by all the churches.

50. We have come to a shared understanding of authority by seeing it, in faith, as a manifestation of God's "Yes" to his creation, calling forth the "Amen" of his creatures. God is the source of authority, and the proper exercise of authority is always ordered towards the common good and the good of the person. In a broken world, and to a divided Church, God's "Yes" in Jesus Christ brings the reality of reconciliation, the call to discipleship, and a foretaste of humanity's final goal when through the Spirit all in Christ utter their "Amen" to the glory of God. The "Yes" of God, embodied in Christ, is received in the proclamation and Tradition of the Gospel, in the sacramental life of the Church and in the ways that episcope is exercised. When the churches, through their exercise of authority, display the healing and reconciling power of the Gospel, then the wider world is offered a vision of what God intends for all creation. The aim of the exercise of authority and of its reception is to enable the Church to say "Amen" to God's "Yes" in the Gospel.

58. Anglicans and Roman Catholics are already facing these issues but their resolution may well take some time. However, there is no turning back in our journey towards full ecclesial communion. In the light of our agreement the Commission believes our two communions should make more visible the koinonia we already have. Theological dialogue must continue at all levels in the churches, but is not of itself sufficient. For the sake of koinonia and a united Christian witness to the world, Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops should find ways of cooperating and developing relationships of mutual accountability in their exercise of oversight. At this new stage we have not only to do together whatever we can, but also to be together all that our existing koinonia allows.

60. The Commission's work has resulted in sufficient agreement on universal primacy as a gift to be shared, for us to propose that such a primacy could be offered and received even before our churches are in full communion. Both Roman Catholics and Anglicans look to this ministry being exercised in collegiality and synodality - a ministry of servus servorum Dei (Gregory the Great, cited in Ut Unum Sint, 88). We envisage a primacy that will even now help to uphold the legitimate diversity of traditions, strengthening and safeguarding them in fidelity to the Gospel. It will encourage the churches in their mission. This sort of primacy will already assist the Church on earth to be the authentic catholic koinonia in which unity does not curtail diversity, and diversity does not endanger but enhances unity. It will be an effective sign for all Christians as to how this gift of God builds up that unity for which Christ prayed.

61. Such a universal primate will exercise leadership in the world and also in both communions, addressing them in a prophetic way. He will promote the common good in ways that are not constrained by sectional interests, and offer a continuing and distinctive teaching ministry, particularly in addressing difficult theological and moral issues. A universal primacy of this style will welcome and protect theological enquiry and other forms of the search for truth, so that their results may enrich and strengthen both human wisdom and the Church's faith. Such a universal primacy might gather the churches in various ways for consultation and discussion.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Holy Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael, prince of the heavenly hosts, conqueror of the infernal dragon, you received from God the strength and power to destroy through humility the pride of the powers of darkness. We implore you help us to true humility of heart, to unshakable fidelity, to fulfill the Will of God and to fortitude in sufferings and trials. Help us to stand before the judgment seat of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

9/11 monument--a hole in the ground

I love Mark Steyn's quick wit, as well as his insight which sometimes make things clear. I have been thinking about a point he made the other day--that no one would care much about this issue of how close a mosque/Islamic center should be built to ground zero if ground zero were not still a hole in the ground nearly a decade later.

Above, "ground zero" in April 2010. Below, construction begins on the foundation of the World Trade Center in 1966.

The towers originally took seven years to build. And a lot of things have been built since 2001, including the tallest building in the world. There are a lot of things that have plagued the rebuilding effort: choosing a design, bureaucracy, government red tape, a lack of leadership, funding, etc. But let's not forget that the Empire State Building rose during the depression.

I've been thinking about that massive hole in the ground at the south end of Manhattan. It has a lot to say about who we are and the problems we face. I haven't worked it all out in my mind. Perhaps you have some thoughts. But I'm sure that until we rebuild, our national conscience will be troubled, though we may not always understand why.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A blessed Holy Cross Day

The Crucifixion at Assisi by Giotto.

From the Preface of the Cross:
". . . on the wood of the Cross, thou gavest salvation unto mankind; that so, whence death arose, life might also rise again: and the foe, who had conquered by a tree, by this Tree might be overcome, through Jesus Christ our Lord . . ."

From Wikipedia:
The True Cross is said to have been discovered in 326 by the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine I, Helena of Constantinople, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine. The church was dedicated nine years later, with a portion of the cross placed inside it. In 614, that portion of the cross was carried away from the church by the Persians, and remained missing until it was recaptured by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius in 628. Initially taken to Constantinople, the cross was returned to the church the following year.

The date of the feast marks the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 335. This was a two-day festival: although the actual consecration of the church was on September 13, the cross itself was brought outside the church on September 14 so that the clergy and faithful could pray before the True Cross, and all could come forward to venerate it.

Collect of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross:
O God, who makest us glad this day by the yearly solemnity of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: Grant, we beseech thee, that we who on earth have learned the mystery of our redemption, may be found worthy of its rewards in heaven; 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.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Happy birthday, Mary!

The Nativity of the Virgin Mary by Giotto.

Collect for the Nativity of Mary
We beseech thee, O Lord, pour into our hearts the abundance of thy heavenly grace: that, like as the child-bearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary was unto us thy servants the beginning of salvation, so the devout observance of her Nativity may avail for the increase of our peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Vicar's Voice--September 2010

As I begin to work on this newsletter, I’m told that it is the hottest day of the year in this part of Texas (106°). It certainly seems like it has been the hottest summer ever. Yet my mind tells me it only seems that way because I’m in the hottest part of it. It shapes my perspective.

The sweltering heat leads me to forget that little blizzard we had back around Christmas. But it even makes it harder to remember that we never broke 100° here in July, and in fact, Houston has not seen a 100° day all summer. Imagine never breaking the thermometer’s century mark in a Texas summer! But my perspective is shaped by my own experience in the here-and-now.

A Pew Research poll made news recently because it found that only just over a third of Americans (34%) believe that the President of the United States is a Christian. I thought people would never forget all the attention his pastor got back in the election. But that was back then, and the first family doesn’t go to church anymore. When people see the president on Sunday mornings, it is at the golf course. Why is that relevant? It reminds us our experience in the here-and-now shapes our perspective.

We run the risk of losing our Christian perspective when we neglect Sunday worship, Christian fellowship, regular prayer, works of charity and mercy, sacrificial giving, and regular Scripture reading. It’s not unlike a well-toned physique—you use it, or you lose it. Acting like a Christian helps us be one. If someone took a poll, what percentage of people in town would think that you are a Christian?

Let this Fall be a time of renewal. If you have fallen away from good habits or picked up bad ones, let this be a time of getting back to the basics—to the things that shape a Christian perspective in us. The world will be a better place for it, and so will our own souls. And let us be among those who encourage one another along the path of holiness.

One of my favorite passages is Romans 12:2, which says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Putting things in perspective

In response to Judge Vaughn Walker's overturning of California's Proposition 8 in his ruling on Perry v Schwarzenegger issued today, I'd like to remind everyone that the Church has always supported the right of gays and lesbians to marry. And as long as there are no impediments (e.g., blood relations, already married, etc.), we also support the rights of Christian gays and lesbians to have their marriages solemnized and blessed in the church.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Totally stumped

What do you do when you are totally stumped by a question?

Like Richard Dawkins, you answer the question you wished you had been asked (no matter how unrelated it may be).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Not your typical Episcopal parish

I remember remarking to someone that S. Clement's in Philadelphia used to have a statement on their website that the Catechism of the Council of Trent was their doctrinal standard. That's not your typical Episcopal parish, of course, but it sounds fine to me. If you were looking for the proof, here it is, courtesy of the Wayback Machine.

Under item V. of the church's Mission Statement it states:
The final arbiter of doctrine is reckoned to be the Catechism of the Council of Trent. S. Clement’s rejects the errors of the Episcopal Church of the last thirty years; the so-called “ordination of women,” feminist theology, the new permissive marriage canons, the “revised liturgies,” and so on.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Just Watt you need for summer

I was quite taken with this custom-designed green solemn vestment set (click image to enlarge) from Watts & Co in London. I say that if you are going to shell out the cash for Watts, you might as well get green, which will have the most face time during the liturgical year. This is the description:

Cut in the Spanish style from green Bellini Damask, this vestment set is richly hand embroidered with a design based on sixteenth century Spanish originals.