Why Baruch now?

For those of you who follow the Midday Lectionary promulgated by this page, you may be puzzled to find that the continuous reading through 1 Esdras is interrupted today and for the next couple days to make space for the first three chapters of Baruch.  This is in anticipation of the regular Daily Office Lectionary’s inclusion of Baruch 4 & 5 in Evening Prayer on February 23rd and 24th.

Okay, that makes sense I guess.  But why are we reading from Baruch between Jeremiah and Lamentations at Evening Prayer?

The bigger question is why are we not reading all of Baruch at that point!  In the Greek Old Testament, Baruch is connected to Jeremiah and Lamentations because of the authorship attribution.  The books of Jeremiah and Lamentations are ascribed to Jeremiah and his scribe, Baruch, and thus the book of Baruch simply belongs with them.  What the 2019 book’s lectionary does (strangely, given historical precedent) is only appoint chapters 4 & 5 of Baruch, and omit the first three.

Chapters 1 & 2 in particular are poignant “answers” to the instructions left by Jeremiah in Jer. 29.  Perhaps that renders them redundant in the eyes of the suspicious-of-the-books-called-apocrypha editors?  Instead, Evening Prayer appoints chapters 4 & 5, which contain the tail end of a wisdom discourse and an extensive section of hope.  This is, again, in accord with the writings of Jeremiah, but both historically and thematically it is reasonable to follow up the dour ending of Jeremiah’s book the hopeful ending of Baruch’s little book.

Still, it’s best to read the whole thing if you can, which is why I created this Midday Prayer lectionary in the first place!

Spacing out the Lessons

Although I grew up a congregationalist, I was blessed to be part of a church that read a pretty good deal of Scripture in the worship service.  As a college student visiting other churches for the first time I was shocked at how often only one reading would be read, and sometimes not until during the sermon, such that the sermon seemed to be controlling the reading, rather than the reading leading to the sermon.

Needless to say, coming into the Anglican tradition was a relief for me on this front, preserving this good practice of reading plenty of Bible stuff during the worship services.  I suppose this background interest and attention paved the way for the amount of time I spent studying lectionaries in the first three-ish years of my priesthood.

But something I hadn’t thought about before was the way we space out the Scripture readings. In my liturgically-influenced congregationalist past, the norm was to hear three readings from the Bible back to back, individually introduced, but responded to as a whole: “This is the word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God for his holy and inspired Word.”  But in the Daily Office we say a Canticle after both lessons, and in the Holy Communion we typically have a psalm and/or a hymn between lessons. Why?

In the case of the Daily Office, the two lessons are not related to each other, so it is valuable to “clear the mind”, as it were, between the two in order to reduce the tendency to try to draw connections that aren’t there.  In the case of the Communion lessons, the traditional thing separating them was a Gradual (or sometimes also Tract or Sequence) which were normally bits of psalms, and actually topically or thematically connected to the other Propers of the day, so they were worshipful expressions in tandem with what was being read.

But John Cosin’s Comments on the Prayer Book provide further insight into this question:

The inferior parts of the soul being vehemently intent about psalms and prayers, and therefore the likelier to be soon spent and wearied; thereupon hath the Church interposed lessons to be read betwixt them, for the higher part of the soul, the understanding, to work upon, that by variety neither may be wearied, and both be an help one to the other.

The sense of his explanation is this: think of worship like physical exercise.  One minute you focus on your triceps, another on your biceps; even from day to day people often have different focuses: leg day, core, and so on.  The point of this is to spread out the stress so you don’t injure yourself.  So with worship: we pray prayers and read canticles, but intersperse them with Scripture so that our hearts and minds can have turns taking the lead within us.

It’s as if our ecclesiastical forebears knew what they were doing, huh? 😉

Create Your Own Prayers of the People

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On page 140 of the 2019 Prayer Book, the following Additional Direction is found:

In both the Anglican Standard and Renewed Ancient Texts, other forms of the Prayers of the People may be used, provided the following concerns are included:

   The universal Church, the clergy and people
   The mission of the Church
   The nation and all in authority
   The peoples of the world
   The local community
   Those who suffer and those in any need or trouble
   Thankful remembrance of the faithful departed and of all the blessings of our lives.

For the most part this is a clone of the rubric in the 1979 Prayer Book, which also authorized a create-your-own-adventure approach to the Prayers of the People, providing a similar structure of required topics.  I think the wording of ours is a bit more positively specific, but the freedom is basically the same.

Now, this is “Weird Rubric Wednesday”, a new series of posts that I’m running about weird, strange, or surprising things that the 2019 Prayer Book permits.  As the intentionally horrific and obnoxious banner picture at the top of the page indicates, I’m running this partly for the humour, and cautioning against abuse of the system.  But some of these will have serious and positive suggestions, too.  How you deal with the Prayers of the People is going to be one of those mixed entries.

Ideally…

The two Communion rites in our Prayer Book provide their own default Prayers of the People.  Ideally you should just use them as-is.  Tampering with them is permitted, but almost never necessary.  The special occasion once in a while may be well-highlighted by an edited set of Prayers here, but on the whole this is supposed to be a stable piece of the liturgy.  If you always keep the congregation guessing from week to week, then you’re only teaching them to rely on you, or to rely upon their own spontaneity, rather than provide the spiritual formation available in the mature historic prayers.

Try your hand at Puritanism

One of the great practices of the Free Church tradition is the “pastoral prayer”, in which the pastor prays at length for, well, anything and everything.  This can be a train wreck if he’s unprepared, but it can also be a beautiful moment of pastoral love and care for the flock.  The Puritans, in particular, had a thing for insanely long prayers, and this rubric offers them a victory in our 2019 liturgy.

Personally I don’t recommend opting for this, but it may be a positive idea to pray, as a pastor (priest, deacon, or otherwise) for your congregation at the end of the traditional set Prayers.

Shaken, not stirred

Another thing you could try here is to pull out the Occasional Prayers near the back of the Prayer Book and grab a collect or two for each of the required topics to create your own Prayers of the People.  This would result in a very piecemeal set of prayers, with little-to-no sense of flow to them, so I would not recommend that for ordinary Communion services.  But that might be a cool idea to try out in an Antecommunion service on your own!  It’s also worth noting that the list of topics in the rubric above also closely matches the organization of the Occasional Prayers, so this scheme would be easier to fulfill than you might think.

Outsourcing

This rubric also gives you the freedom to grab any other Prayer Book, official or proposed or supplementary, and use their Prayers of the People, assuming they meet the simple required topics.  This could mean the 1979, or England’s Common Worship, or the Kenyan Prayer Book, or another province.  Or, to channel that #broke/#woke/#bespoke meme, you could go all-out #bespoke and use the 1662 or 1928 Prayer Book’s Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church.  How ’bout dat?

For ever and ever, Amen.

Pray the Great Litany as the Prayers of the People.  Pray some or all the Psalms.  Pray all the Occasional Prayers.  This liturgy could last all day, baby!  DON’T STAWP!

Learning the Daily Office – part 6 of 12

So you’ve heard about the Daily Office, specifically the Anglican tradition of daily prayer and scripture reading, and you want to enter into this beautiful and formative tradition?  Great, grab a prayer book and go!  Except, maybe someone already said that and you don’t know where to start… or worse, you did try it and it was just too much?  The length of the Office was overwhelming and the contents too complicated to navigate when you’ve got no experience with liturgy.  We understand, we’ve all been at that place before!  Some just don’t remember it as well as others.

Diving into the full Prayer Book life of worship doesn’t work for everyone; sometimes you have to work your way up toward that discipline, adding one piece at a time as you grow comfortable with each feature and learn how to “do” them all.  This post series is basically a twelve-step program to help you advance in the life of disciplined prayer from zero to super-Anglican.  The pace is up to you – the goal of this sort of spiritual discipline is consistency, not “how much” you do.

Step One: Pray a Psalm followed by the Lord’s Prayer.
Step Two: Add a Scripture Reading
Step Three: Add more Psalms and Lessons
Step Four: Add the Apostles’ Creed
Step Five: Add Canticles

Step Six: Add the Confession

Alright, it’s time for something distinctly Anglican: the prayer of confession at the daily office.  While confessing our sins before God is a universal practice (if grossly underutilized among many Evangelicals and Pentecostals today), it is a distinctly Anglican practice to include it in the Daily Office.  You will find it starting on page 11 for Morning Prayer and page 41 for Evening Prayer.  There is a paragraph that the Officiant (the person leading the Office) reads aloud, followed by the prayer of confession itself, followed by a choice of three responses.  Two of those responses are statements of absolution to be read by a priest or bishop, but the third is a prayer for forgiveness that is to be read by anyone when no such minister is present, and that is what you’ll read when you’re doing this alone.

You’ll also see three “opening sentences of scripture” listed before this Confession set; feel free to read one of these first, too, as they serve as a sort of “call to worship”, beginning to direct your focus upon God and his Word before the act of self-examination and confession.

In the Daily Office we confess our sins at the beginning of the liturgy.  This teaches us:

  1. that it is only in repentance that we find salvation;
  2. that we can only approach God in humility, not pride or presumption;
  3. that true worship comes from a “broken and contrite heart”;
  4. that there is no “health” (salvation) in us apart from God’s grace.

So it’s time to start your morning and evening prayer times with this confession.  Sometimes you’ll read it quickly and move right along.  Sometimes you’ll dwell on the words, or need to dwell on the words, along the way, letting their truth sink in and sober you up to reality.  Sometimes a moment of silent self-examination will be necessary – think on your sins in the past day and release them to the Lord for forgiveness and healing.  Sometimes this will feel merely a perfunctory feature of the Daily Office… remember this is a discipline, after all, so it’s there to shape and form you.  Your heart will not always be as “into it” as other times, just like how certain psalms may appeal to you less or more than others.  The point is that this is the pattern of worship you are growing in to, and that you have this opportunity to repent every time you approach the Lord in prayer.

Summary

Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:

  1. The Confession of Sin
  2. The Psalm(s) Appointed
  3. Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
  4. First Canticle
  5. New Testament Lesson
  6. Second Canticle
  7. The Apostles’ Creed (consider standing up for this!)
  8. The Lord’s Prayer

This makes your recitation of the Daily Office about fifteen minutes in length each morning and evening.  Apart from the Canticles, the format and order of Morning and Evening Prayer are identical for you.  But that will soon change.

A (different) Collect for Sundays

Those of who prayed or ministered under the 1979 Prayer Book for any length of time may be familiar with its Collect for Sundays from Morning Prayer.  It goes like this:

O God, you make us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord: Give us this day such blessing through our worship of you, that the rest of the week may be spent in your favor; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

This neat little prayer plays directly into the concept of “sacred time”, identifying the chief reason Christian worship on Sundays (the resurrection of our Lord), and asking for a favorable week in light of the blessing of the Sunday worship.  While succinct, this prayer may come across a little blunt.  “You make us glad… give us this day… that the rest of the week may be spent…”  This Collect was written by the Rev. William Bright and first published in the appendix of his book Ancient Collects, and it read like this:

O God, Who makest us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of Thy Son our Lord ; vouchsafe us this day such a blessing through Thy worship, that the days which follow it may be spent in Thy favour ; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Meanwhile, there was another prayer lurking in the back the 1979 Book (on page 835), also entitled On Sunday, which proved much more robust:

O God our King, by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ on the first day of the week, you conquered sin, put death to flight, and gave us the hope of everlasting life: Redeem all our days by this victory; forgive our sins, banish our fears, make us bold to praise you and to do your will; and steel us to wait for the consummation of your kingdom on the last great Day; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

This Collect was drafted by the Rev. Dr. Charles Price, who served on the Standing Liturgical Commission of the Episcopal Church for many years, in his day, leaving his mark on the 1979 Prayer Book in several places.  As you can see this prayer does much the same thing as the first one: identifying the “sacred meaning” of Sunday with the resurrection of Christ, but it unpacks this reality in manifold praises and petitions.  We celebrate Christ’s victory and the hope he wins for us; we pray not only for the redemption of time (as in the first collect) but also for forgiveness, courage, boldness, and perseverance.  Compared to one another, this one is much meatier.

And so when you take up the 2019 Prayer Book you’ll find that these two collects have swapped places.  The second one is now offered in the Morning Office for Sundays, with a new title: A Collect for Strength to Await Christ’s Return, and the first one is tossed into the Occasional Prayers, appearing as #102 On Sundays on page 676.  I mean, hey, they’re both fine prayers in their own rights.  And they’re only about 100 years apart in age.  But it’s an encouraging thing to observe – the ACNA committees identifying similar prayers and opting to put pride of place to those with more weight, gravity, and substance for the regular pray-er of the Daily Office.

The -gesimas are back!

For those of you who are already using a classical prayer book, this is old news.  But for those who are using the 2019 Prayer Book, this is kind of a background information update that you might not be aware of.  This past Sunday was the beginning of the traditional Pre-Lent mini-season, of which I have written here before.  Feel free to give that article a read if you haven’t before, or want to re-discover what this sadly-defunt tradition has to offer.

Or, if you don’t feel like reading, you can listen to me yammer away about it on YouTube!

 

Subject Index:

Kneeling to confess our sins

So wrote John Cosin in the 17th century:

Kneeling is the most fit gesture for humble penitents, and being so, it is strange to see how in most places men are suffered to sit rudely and carelessly on their seats, all the while this confession is read; and others that be in the church are nothing affected with it.  They think it a thing of indifferency forsooth, if the heart be right.

Does this description match your own congregation’s experience?  Are there those who sit instead of kneel during the confession of sins?  Do people assert that their bodily position is irrelevant as long as their heart is truly contrite?  Against such, Cosin makes a comparison to the practice of kneeling to receive Holy Communion:

it is as fit we should have the like order taken, that this following absolution be pronounced to none but those that kneel neither.  For else there will be no excuse for us, nor no reason left us to render the puritans, why our Church should more punish them, or hinder them from the benefit of the Sacrament for not kneeling then, than it doth punish other men, or hinder them of the benefit of absolution, for not kneeling in the time of confession.  It is a like case, and would be better thought on by men of wisdom and authority, whose neglect and carelessness in this kind gives not only cause of great offence and scandal to them that are reverently and well disposed, but withal is a cause of great impiety and scorn of our solemnity in God’s service; and it is objected to us by the puritans, in their Survey, and by the papists….

Apparently the Puritans objected to kneeling, and complained that they were being picked on for refusing to kneel for Communion when a lot more people were already failing to kneel for the confession.  Answering these concerns, Cosin asserts (with the Prayer Book and the Canons of the Church of England) that men must kneel in both instances, and be reproved for their disobedience equally in both cases.

After the confession, note that the priest alone stands up to read and declare the absolution.  This is a part of his divine ministry, per the order of Scripture and the Church, and ought to be received as the word of God himself.  The absolution in the Daily Office specifically states our theology of the ordained ministry performing this function, and the absolution at the Communion service is followed by Comfortable Words that bring God’s Words to bear on that part of the liturgy.

Granted, there are cases today where kneeling can be difficult, especially for the elderly.  There are situations of church architecture where there is nowhere to kneel to receive the Sacrament.  Strictly speaking, the 2019 Prayer Book does not even mandate kneeling for the reception of Holy Communion, and the rubric about kneeling for the confessions may be softened by an Additional Direction that notes that all referencing to standing imply the caveat “as able.”  These are, I think, legitimate pastoral provisions.  But in general, a lot more people can and should be kneeling a lot more regularly than is customary in many places.

Learning the Daily Office – part 5 of 12

So you’ve heard about the Daily Office, specifically the Anglican tradition of daily prayer and scripture reading, and you want to enter into this beautiful and formative tradition?  Great, grab a prayer book and go!  Except, maybe someone already said that and you don’t know where to start… or worse, you did try it and it was just too much?  The length of the Office was overwhelming and the contents too complicated to navigate when you’ve got no experience with liturgy.  We understand, we’ve all been at that place before!  Some just don’t remember it as well as others.

Diving into the full Prayer Book life of worship doesn’t work for everyone; sometimes you have to work your way up toward that discipline, adding one piece at a time as you grow comfortable with each feature and learn how to “do” them all.  This post series is basically a twelve-step program to help you advance in the life of disciplined prayer from zero to super-Anglican.  The pace is up to you – the goal of this sort of spiritual discipline is consistency, not “how much” you do.

Step One: Pray a Psalm followed by the Lord’s Prayer.
Step Two: Add a Scripture Reading
Step Three: Add more Psalms and Lessons
Step Four: Add the Apostles’ Creed

Step Five: Add Canticles

In terms of content and outline, you’ve already reached a distinctly historic Christian pattern of worship.  This step adds in “Canticles”, which are occasionally Psalms but usually Psalm-like texts from other parts of the Bible, to be read after each Scripture Lesson.  This is where you really start entering into the liturgical history of the Church!

Functionally, this step does not introduce anything new; you started with learning to pray the psalms, and the Canticles work exactly the same way.  Experientially this is purely a matter of logistics: all the Psalms Appointed for the morning or evening are prayed together, then you get the Lessons, both of which are followed by a Canticle.

In Morning Prayer, find your canticles starting on page 17 – you’ll see two choices (Te Deum laudamus and Benedictus es, Domine) for the first one and the Benedictus for the second.  In Evening Prayer, find your canticles starting on page 45 – the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis.  There are also Supplemental Canticles for Worship starting on page 79 and I do have a guide to choosing among them, but it’s simplest to stick with the primary ones provided in the Morning and Evening Office liturgies and get used to them first.  The supplemental canticles are just that – supplemental.

Summary

Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:

  1. The Psalm(s) Appointed
  2. Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
  3. First Canticle
  4. New Testament Lesson
  5. Second Canticle
  6. The Apostles’ Creed (consider standing up for this!)
  7. The Lord’s Prayer

This makes your recitation of the Daily Office about ten to fifteen minutes in length each morning and evening.  You are now also engaging with four different places in the Prayer Book: the middle of the Morning Prayer liturgy, the middle of the Evening Prayer liturgy, the Psalter, and the Daily Office Lectionary.

Once you get used to this, you’ll be well-positioned to fill out the rest of the Daily Office liturgies.  Chances are that the next couple steps will progress quickly.

A Cheerful Giver, 2 Cor. 9:6-7

Today I’ve got a little homily for you based on part of this evening’s reading from 2 Corinthians 9.  I must apologize in advance for a distracted recording process; I usually record videos when my two-year-old is asleep, but it turned out he was up and about and I was a bit distracted as a result.

Hopefully where the minister falls short, the Word of God continues to stand strong regardless!

The many roles of Psalm 51

Psalm 51 is one of the most famous psalms in the Bible, I think it’s safe to say.  Known in Latin by its opening words, Miserere mei, Deus, it has been rendered into one of the most beautiful pieces of chorale music known to man.  And this Psalm pops up, in whole and in part, all over Christian liturgy.  Since it’s one of the Morning Psalms Appointed for today (the 10th day of the month), this is an excellent day to visit the many roles of Psalm 51.

Holy Communion

In the 2019 Prayer Book, you can find this Psalm appointed for the Communion service on a few different occasions.  In mid-September of Year C (Proper 19) verses 1-17 are appointed; on the first Sunday in Lent of Year A verses 1-13 are appointed (with the option of using the whole psalm); and on the Fifth Sunday in Lent of Year B verses 11-16  are appointed (again with the option of using the whole psalm).  So this means that there is always one Sunday every year that uses some or all of Psalm 51.

In Lent

Perhaps the most famous use of Psalm 51 is its place in the penitential office for Ash Wednesday.  In the 2019 Prayer Book it is sung or said after the imposition of ashes, though it could also be sung by a choir during the imposition of ashes.  In the historic Prayer Books it appears in an analogous position, after the curses and exhortation in the Commination (or Penitential Office), also leading up to the prayers that follow.

Versicles & Responses

Various bits and pieces of Psalm 51 show up in other liturgies.  Here are a few examples:

  • Verse 7 “You shall purge me with hyssop…” is the basis of a prayer used by some priests at the washing of hands before celebrating Communion.  It is also a verse used in the asperges – that is, the sprinkling of holy water, usually upon the congregation.
  • Verses 10-12 “Create in me a clean heart…” are the foundation of a few popular songs, contemporary and traditional.  They’re also used in the Morning service of the 2019 book’s mini-Office of Family Prayer.  Two lines from these verses are also found at the end of the Suffrage in the regular Daily Office.
  • Verse 15 “O Lord, open my lips…” is a mainstay of the Daily Office (historically just Morning Prayer, but in modern texts also Evening Prayer), near the start of the service.  Although there are sentences and a confession before it, these words are often considered the “real” start of the Daily Office, and everything before it as merely preparatory.  In monastic tradition, from what I understand, these words are literally the first words spoken at the beginning of the day’s round of worship.

This is quite a bit of mileage for just one Psalm!  Where else can you find its echoes and quotations showing up?