Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Epiphany collects

I love the collects used for the final Sundays after the Epiphany. Because the date of Easter and thus of Ash Wednesday and Lent vary from year to year, they often go unused and unheard. But they are among the most beautiful in the Prayer Book. Easter must fall between April 22 and April 25 for all of them to be used. This year, Easter is on April 24th.

The collect for the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany in the 1979 Prayer Book is original to the first Prayer Book of 1549, and thus (I supposed) a composition of Dr Cranmer. Before the reworking of the calendar, it was the collect for Quinquagesima, the Sunday before Lent. I love it because it extols love and does so in such an antiquated diction.

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany
O Lord, who hast taught us that all our doings without charity are nothing worth; Send thy Holy Ghost and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee. Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

As far as I can find, the collect for the Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany is original to the 1979 Prayer Book. It is a beautiful treatment of anxiety and faith.

Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany
Most loving Father, who willest us to give thanks for all things, to dread nothing but the loss of thee, and to cast all our care on thee who carest for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which thou hast manifested to us in thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The blessing of throats

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St Blase (or Blasius) was the bishop of Sebaste in Armenia during the fourth century. According to various accounts he was a physician before becoming a bishop. Veneration of this holy bishop spread throughout the entire church in the Middle Ages because he was reported to have miraculously cured a little boy who nearly died because of a fishbone in caught in his throat. From the eighth century he has been invoked on behalf of the sick, especially those afflicted with illnesses of the throat.

The blessing of the sick by ministers of the church is a very ancient custom, rooted in imitation of Christ himself and his apostles. An annual blessing of throats is a traditional sign of the struggle against illness in the life of the Christian. A blessing of throats with candles tied together in the shape of a cross on St Blase's feast day (Feb 3rd, but sometimes done after the Candlemas liturgy) is performed as a prayer for good health throughout the year.

With two candles held in the shape of a cross, the celebrant touches them to throat of each person, and says
Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Purification of Our Lady

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Today we commemorate Candlemas, and I love the reading and five traditional prayers for blessing candles (below).

Luke 2:27-35
27And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29"Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation 31that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel." 33And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

Prayers for Blessing Candles
O LORD, holy Father, almighty and everlasting God, who hast made all things out of nothing, and hast appointed that the labors of bees should be formed into wax by thine ordinance, who likewise on this day didst fulfill the prayers of thy righteous servant Simeon: we humbly beseech thee that thou wouldst vouchsafe by the power of thy holy Name, and at the intercession of blessed Mary ever-Virgin, whose festival we this day devoutly celebrate, and of all thy saints, to bless + and sanctify + these candles for the use of men, and for their protection both in body and soul in all perils of land or sea; hear, O Lord, we humbly pray thee, from thy holy heaven and from the throne of thy glory, the voice of this thy people that seeketh to bear them forth to thy glory and to sing thy praises; and we humbly beseech thee that thou wouldest have mercy upon all that call upon thee, whom thou hast redeemed with the precious Blood of thy dear Son; who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who on this day didst suffer thy only-begotten Son to be presented in the temple and to be received in the arms of Saint Simeon: we humbly beseech thy mercy, that like as we thy servants, taking these candles do seek to light them and bear them to the glory of thy Name, so thou wouldst vouchsafe to bless + and sanctify + the same, that we being made worthy of offering them unto thee, our Lord and our God, and being enkindled with the holy flame of thy most gracious charity, may be found meet to be presented before thee in the temple of thy glory; through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

O LORD Jesus Christ, who art the true light that enlightens every man that cometh into the world: we beseech thee to pour out thy blessing + upon these candles and sanctify + them with the light of thy grace; mercifully grant that even as with their outward flame they scatter the darkness of night, so our hearts being inflamed with the inward brightness of thy Holy Spirit may be delivered from all blindness of iniquity, and that the eyes of our souls being so enlightened may discern such things as are pleasing unto thee and profitable unto us for our salvation, that finally after the darkness and dangers of this world we may attain in the end to light everlasting; through thee, O blessed Jesus, Redeemer of the world, who in the unity of the blessed Trinity livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who by the mouth of Moses thy servant didst command the children of Israel to bring pure olive oil for the lamps to burn always before thy face: we beseech thee to pour the blessing + of thy grace on these candles, that like as they shed forth on us their outward beams, so of thy bounteous goodness the light of thy Holy Spirit may never fail to enlighten us inwardly in our souls; through Jesus Christ our Lord who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

O LORD Jesus Christ, who on this day appearing among men in the substance of our flesh wast presented by thy parents in the temple, whom Simeon in his old age, being enlightened by the light of thy Spirit, knew and blessed, taking thee in his arms: mercifully grant that we, being enlightened and instructed by the grace of the same Spirit, may know thee truly in our minds and love thee faithfully with all our hearts; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.