Three-fold Rule of Worship

Typically on this daily blog we look at specific pieces of advice or insight into some aspect or ingredient of the liturgy of the Anglican tradition.  Sometimes we’ve stepped back here to look at an entire season, but even that is still a fairly specific subject in the broad scheme of things.  Today we’re going very broad indeed: the “three-fold rule of Christian worship.”

Summarized briefly, the 3-fold rule, or Regula, is the balanced diet of Common Prayer (Daily Office), Sacramental Rites, and Private Prayer & Devotion.  The Anglican tradition, historically, has arguably the most ingenious execution of this three-fold rule, though it is a concept as old as the Bible itself.  Anyway, this is a model for understanding the total life of worship as a Christian; it was revolutionary for me in my own spiritual growth, and I hope it will be of value and insight for you as well.  So, without further ado:

Please bear with me, as I am new to the art and science of making videos.  Making eye contact from the pulpit with a congregation is quite different from making eye contact with a computer camera!  Don’t worry, I won’t inundate this blog or your inbox with videos now; but this is a new skill I’m looking into learning.  Hopefully my learning process won’t be too distracting for you.

Supplementary Midday Prayer Lectionary

Last week we looked at an option of filling out the book of Leviticus in a set of daily readings for Midday Prayer, for those who like to read every last page of Scripture.  You can revisit that post at this link.  Today, however, I am pleased to release the entire Supplementary Midday Prayer Lectionary.

Here it is in pdf form!

From the introductory and explanatory material:

The following lectionary is offered as a supplement to the Daily Office Lectionary.

Its first priority is to complete the portions of books omitted in Morning and Evening Prayer, including the books omitted in their entirety yet listed in Article 6 of the Articles of Religion (namely, Tobit, 1 Esdras, and 2 Esdras). As much as possible, this lectionary appoints these omitted readings in a manner that is integrated with the Daily Office lectionary – supplying parallel readings between Kings and Chronicles, for example, or appointing omitted chapters promptly after where they would have appeared in the regular lectionary.

The second priority of this lectionary, when possible, is to supply a traditional devotional reading for Holy Days found in previous Prayer Books but not supplied in the present edition.

And in further detail:

Throughout the year there are a number of days left blank in this Supplementary Midday Lectionary. On such days the reader is encouraged to make use of the standard lessons provided in the official liturgy for Midday Prayer.

January begins with the book of Wisdom, continuing where the Daily Office Lectionary left off on the morning of December 31st. The book of Tobit is then read. Because there is ample space remaining in the month, the major feast days (including the Martyrdom of Charles I on the January 30th) are each given an appropriate reading. The lesson is drawn from the 1662 Prayer Book in each case except for the Confession of St. Peter, which is drawn from the 1979 Prayer Book due to it being a feast day first reintroduced in that book.

The last day of January and the bulk of February continues the omitted writings of the Ecclesiastical Books with 1 Esdras, the majority of which is a rewrite of the end of 2 Chronicles and beginning of Ezra. Space is made for the two major feast days of the month, plus a brief interruption to begin the book of Baruch which is then finished in the Daily Office Lectionary’s evening lessons. That finished, the book of 2 Esdras is begun. The leap day, February 29th, is omitted from this plan.

March is occupied with finishing the book of 2 Esdras, breaking only to observe the Annunciation.

The Ash Wednesday lesson is taken from the 1662 Prayer Book. The same is true for the Holy Week and Easter Day lessons, though in that case several of those readings had their traditional day swapped around to accommodate our Daily Office Lectionary which appoints Lamentations 3 on Friday and Saturday instead of Tuesday.

The month of April begins the major fill-in-the-blank efforts with the Old Testament, first completing the book of Leviticus, then settling into Numbers.

May sees Numbers finished, and then proceeds through 1 Maccabees.

Ascension Day and Pentecost days are supplied with readings from the 1662 Prayer Book.

June completes 1 Maccabees and then covers the omitted chapters of Joshua. The additions to Daniel (namely the Song of the Three Young Men and Bel and the Dragon) are covered on narratively-appropriate days in tandem with the Daily Office Lectionary’s coverage of Daniel in the evening.

July sees the end of the book of Judges covered roughly in line with the end of that book in the Daily Office Lectionary’s morning lessons, as well as the Greek Old Testament Additions to Esther in tandem with that book’s coverage in the evening. Ezra chapter 2 is also supplied. The two major feast days each receive a special reading – the first from the 1979 Prayer Book and the second from the 1662.

The month of August adds Nehemiah chapter 11 and begins the omitted portions of 1 Chronicles. Only one major feast day had room for a special lesson.

September supplies the end of 1 Chronicles and some of 2 Chronicles in close parallel to its matching material in the Daily Office Lectionary’s morning lessons from the historical books. The latter two feast days of the month received lessons from the 1662 Prayer Book.

In October, omitted chapters from 2 Chronicles are supplied in the same manner, with omitted chapters from 2 Maccabees filling in the gaps to complement the evening lessons from that book. The latter two feast days of the month, again, received lessons from the 1662 Prayer Book.

November sees the final omitted chapters of 2 Chronicles covered, and supplements the missing chapters from Judith. The omitted chapters from the book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) are also begun. Space was made, also, to observe the major feast days of the month: All Saints’ Day and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed with a lesson each from the 1662 Prayer Book (the two originally appointed for All Saints’ Day); Saint Aelfric’s Day is observed with a lesson chosen from the Commons of Saints; and Saint Andrew with a lesson from the 1662 Prayer Book.

In December, Ecclesiasticus is completed, the major feast days are supplemented from 1662, and The Epistle of Jeremiah (sometimes accounted Baruch 6) is read.

Book Review: Common Worship Pastoral Services

Welcome to Saturday Book Review time!  On most of the Saturdays this year we’re looking at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value.  Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.

The next volume of Common Worship is Pastoral Services, the book that provides the liturgies for “Wholeness and Healing”, Marriages, and Funerals, with some re-printed materials for Emergency Baptisms and Thanksgivings for a Child.  As I noted in reviewing the previous volume, Christian Initiation, it is interesting to see the Healing services here cover the anointing, visitation, and communion of the sick here, but for the Confession/Absolution rite to be place in the post-baptismal context.  This book, too, comes with a theological introduction and rationale, making this more than just a liturgy book, but a more formulaic catechetical document as well.

As is characteristic of all the books of Common Worship so far, this book provides a lot of optional material with which to supplement or personalize a wedding or funeral ceremony.  There are also printings in the book so they can be celebrated within a Communion service if desired.  Not insignificantly, an “alternative” form of the Marriage and Burial rites is offered at the end of the book, which are basically just the 1662 Prayer Book services.  Traditionalism is thus offered as a concession, not the expectation.  Still, that’s better than how the 1979 book in the USA handled this sort of thing.

A quick survey of the primary contents of this book suggest that the theologically-liberalizing tendency in the Church of England is not especially prominent.  The address at the beginning of the Marriage Rite, for example, is still a loose paraphrase of the traditional Prayer Book exhortation, rather than a complete re-write.  Most of the complaints of modernization that one might raise against this book can be applied to nearly every 20th century Prayer Book as well.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
Like Christian Initiation, this volume is set out in a decently useable format, with several instances where one has to combine its use with another book, such as when celebrating one of the rites in the context of a Communion service.

Devotional Usefulness: 1/5
Unless you’re in the Church of England, none of these liturgies are authorized for your use, and there’s hardly anything in here that can be imported into other contexts.  This is mostly a pastor’s handbook, and the extra prayers and canticles sitting around are almost not worth the effort of looking up.

Reference Value: 1/5
Again, there’s very little worth studying in and learning from this book.  Its theological statement on the healing service may be of some insight, and (like all the volumes) its index at the end can be a handy tool for comparative study – especially where its liturgy does similar things to our own – but ultimately this is probably the least useful book in the Common Worship set, unless you’re actually in the Church of England.

Favorite Psalm? Favorite Day of the month!

One of my favorite Psalms is number 24.  I’m not even sure I can quite put my finger on why that is, exactly.  I appreciate the entirety of creation being identified as God’s dominion in the first two verses.  I like the Q&A in verses 3 & 4 – “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?”  “He who has clean hands and a pure heart” – and the blessing and affirmation of verses 5 & 6.  I like the immediate repetition of verses 7 & 8 in verses 9 & 10.

It also sounds really awesome in Anglo-Saxon.  It begins Drihtnes is sio eoroþe & gefelledness hire * ymbwyrft eorðena & ælle þa ðe eærdiæþ on hieræ.Verse 7 reads: Geopeniæþ gæto eowre eældormonne & upæhebbæþ þæ ecelecæn gæto * & ingeþ se wuldorfestæ kyning.  It strikes me as one of the epic entries in the Psalter, and as a result it makes me look forward to the 5th day of the month when it normally pops up in the Daily Office.

In his book The Christian Priest Today, former Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey spends an entire (brief) chapter commenting on Psalm 37 (“Fret not yourself because of the evildoer) and that he often looked forward to the evening of the seventh day of the month because of that!  If you pray the Daily Office regularly, then you, too, can start having “favorite days of the month” as you latch on to your favorite Psalm(s).

Anyway, I hope you enjoy Psalm 24 with me today:

1 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, *
the compass of the world and those who dwell therein.
2 For he has founded it upon the seas *
and established it upon the rivers of the deep.
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? * Or who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, *
and who has not set his mind upon vanity, nor sworn to deceive his neighbor.
5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord *
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 This is the generation of those who seek him, *
even of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
7 Lift up your heads, O you gates, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors; *
and the King of glory shall come in.
8 “Who is the King of glory?” *
“It is the Lord strong and mighty, even the Lord, mighty in battle.”
9 Lift up your heads, O you gates, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors; *
and the King of glory shall come in.
10 “Who is the King of glory?” *
“The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.”

Passion Sunday Coming Up

After Lent’s lighter moment on its 4th Sunday, things really start to ramp up on the 5th Sunday.  This is nicknamed Passion Sunday, even the Passion Gospel itself is not read on this day.

As I introduced this day in a previous post, it is an anticipation of Palm Sunday.  A noteworthy feature of the traditional lectionary was that major Sunday commemorations tended to have a follow-up Sunday to further explicate its meaning, but in the case of Palm Sunday, that follow-up had to be a preview Sunday instead.  Originally, the Gospel was Jesus’ speech about “before Abraham was, I am” – asserting his divinity.  This was paired with a lesson from Hebrews about his priestly sacrifice, so the theological import of his death on the Cross would be better appreciated on the following Sunday.  The modern calendar carries out a similar function using the Gospel stories of the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus’ saying that “the son of man must be lifted up,” and the parable of the wicked tenants.  The traditional Collect was similar to those for the 2nd and 3rd Sundays, with a thematic similarity to the Collect for Good Friday, making it serve as another “preview” of the Passion to come.  The modern Collect, however, is a transfer from what was originally an Eastertide Collect, asking God to fix our hearts where true joy is to be found, despite our unruly wills and affections.  As far as I can see (thus far), this somewhat weakens the traditional Passion Sunday function.

One of the old traditions that typically began with this day is the covering, or veiling, of images in the church building.  All the statues, icons, even crucifixes, would have some sort of shroud or veil obscuring them.  In past days where church buildings were beautifully and vividly decked with visual splendor, this would have been a stark sight to behold.  On one level this tradition is easy to understand as an anticipation of the starkness of Holy Week: the mourning of Christ’s death on account of our sins, the injustice of his conviction, is aptly expressed in the covering of images that normally bring us joy.

But there are also connections to the liturgy of Passion Sunday itself that probably play a role in this.  The traditional Gradual, from Psalm 143, contains the verse

Hear me, O Lord, and that soon, for my spirit waxeth faint: * hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.

– a plea that is given an extra layer of personal devotion when the visual depictions of God and his Saints are literally hidden from your face that morning!

The traditional Epistle, from Hebrews 9, also contains a thematic link.  Starting in verse 11, “CHRIST being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands; that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves; but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”  It is fitting, therefore, to cover all the things in the church “made with hands”, to remind people that these images are merely images of the Truth to whom they must ultimately look.

Finally, and perhaps most bluntly, the traditional Gospel for the 5th Sunday ends with the Jews wanting to stone Jesus for claiming equality with God, “but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.”  Sure enough, as you look around the room back then, Jesus has hidden himself; his images are covered.  Suddenly you find yourself in the place of those who would kill Christ – he is hidden from you.  This is very much an anticipation, in tone, of the final rejection of Christ on the following Sunday: “Crucify him!”

Chances are, however, that your church building is not adorned with wall-to-wall pictures, icons, artwork, and lined with alcoves with statues of our Lord and our Lady and the Saints.  Directly appropriating that old tradition may not have anywhere near the usual impact in many church buildings today. So what might we do instead?

  • put a veil over the altar cross
  • print a service bulletin with no cover art
  • silence some or all of the instruments

Be creative!  How else might you ratchet up the experience of Lent?

What about the rest of Leviticus?

The book of Leviticus has started its run-through in the Daily Office this morning, according our daily lectionary.  But if you’re looking at the actual lectionary table rather than just following the entire Office online you’ll notice that tomorrow we’ll skip from chapter 1 to chapter 8.  Then we’ll skip to 10, then 16-20 in a row, then 26, and that’s it for Leviticus.  Of the 27 chapters, we’ll only cover 9 – just one third of the book!  Some of you might breathe a sigh of relief at this news, others might get indignant and ask “what gives?”

The main point of a Daily Lectionary, yes, is to get the “full counsel of God” into the eyes and ears of every Christian.  You could to Morning and Evening Prayer every day and over the course of the year you get through the entire Bible.  Or rather, the vast majority of the Bible.  The fact is, every Prayer Book lectionary is “incomplete” when it comes to biblical coverage.  Although this occasionally can be a cover for revisionist selectivism and overlooking difficult/unliked passages (I’m looking at you, 1979) the usual reason is perfectly harmless: not all parts of Scripture are equally accessible and equally beneficial to the reader.

Yes, all Scripture is “God-breathed” or “God-inspired” and therefore beneficial for instruction and training in righteousness, but not all parts of Scripture will accomplish that as well as other parts.  To that end, different lectionaries at different times have made different omissions, judging by the needs of and expectations for its congregations.  The earliest Prayer Book lectionary included only four chapters of Leviticus: 18-21.  It also omitted 1 & 2 Chronicles, much of Numbers and Ezekiel, and the entire book of St. John’s Revelation (apart from one or two snippets in the Communion lectionary).  The reasons for these decisions generally revolve around:

  1. simplicity of use (rather than weaving the Chronicles material into 1 & 2 Kings like our new lectionary, just skip them entirely)
  2. potential for misunderstanding (the Laws of the Torah and the Apocalyptic visions of Ezekiel and Revelation are too complex or too obscure for the average reader)
  3. constraint of time (there are only so many days in the year, so unless you read multiple chapters at once you’re not going to cover everything on just 2 readings per morning plus 2 per evening)

With these reasons in mind you can glance at different lectionaries from different centuries and perhaps better understand why some omissions were made in the 17th century and different ones are made today.  With public literacy higher, more study resources readily available, and an evangelical background expectation to read “the Bible in a year” already common, the modern reader is better-equipped to tackle more of the difficult and obscure passages of Scripture.  But it will always be true that some parts of the Bible simply need to be taught and preached for the majority of readers to finally “get” them.

That said, if you’re of a completionist mindset, and want to read the rest of the book of Leviticus yourself, something you can do is device a supplementary lectionary of one extra reading per day and use it during Midday Prayer.  The Saint Aelfric Customary will providing just such a lectionary, and here’s how it finishes the books of Leviticus and Numbers:

April

1  
2  
3 Leviticus 2
4 3
5 4
6 5
7 6
8 7
9 9
10 11
11 12
12 13
13 14
14 15
15 21
16 22
17 24
18 25
19 27
20 Numbers 1
21 2
22 3
23 4
24 5
25 7
26 9
27 10
28 19
29 26
30 27

May

1 Numbers 28
2 29
3 30
4 31
5 32
6 33
7 34
8 35
9 36

Commemorating Saints during Lent

Looking at the calendar of optional commemorations, there are four in a row this week: F. D. Maurice yesterday, Henry Budd today, James Lloyd Breck tomorrow, and Martin Luther King Jr. on Thursday.  Next week has four such commemorations also.  But should we observe these commemoration days?

The first answer is: it’s up to you / your rector.  These are all optional, and the Prayer Book does not mandate how one must handle a weekday Communion service apart from the Red Letter Days.

But if you want to take longstanding tradition and practice into account, things get a bit pickier.  As a penitential season, Lent is best served by maintaining the tenor of penitence at the public worship services.  If four out of seven days in a week is a celebration of a Saint, then there isn’t really much time left for actually observing Lent.  There are also sets of Collects and Lessons for each weekday in Lent that you can find in Lesser Feasts and Fasts and the Anglican Missal and in the Roman liturgy.  I haven’t studied these sources against one another but I suspect they all represent a very similar tradition.  The idea, simply, is that the Church provides for a Lent-focused Communion service every day in Lent, leaving potentially no room for Saints’ days.

Of course, the “Red-Letter Days” take precedence over these; we celebrated the Annunciation last Monday for example.  But among the optional commemorations, there is room for further consideration.  Roman practice has a complex system of liturgical hierarchies: different sorts of holy days take different levels of precedence.  And although post-Vatican-II reforms have simplified their system somewhat, it’s still more developed than most Anglican sources are on the matter.  When it comes down to it, the Romans expect daily mass in their churches and we don’t, so it’s a matter of priority and emphasis.

So if you’re looking for what to do at a weekday Communion service in your church, or for your own devotions at home, you would do well to consider which of the optional commemorations you would “elevate” to observe during Lent, and which you would leave be in order to keep the Lenten disciplines the priority throughout the week.

Ultimately what this is doing is to create a middle class of holy days – what I would prefer to call Minor Feast Days – to stand between the official Major Feast Days and the Commemorations.  How you decide which saints to so elevate is a big question, and one that is better served on its own.  For now, at least, let us remember that Lent is a time of penitence, and it would not serve us well to get carried away with celebrating every commemoration that comes our way.

Names of God

God is known by many names and titles in the Bible.  Yahweh or YHWH or Yah, usually translated as LORD, is the closest we get to a proper name for the invisible God.  Jesus, of course, is the name of the person of God the Son made man.  Sometimes it’s just “God”, or “Lord”, but often there’s an epithet: Almighty, of Hosts (or “power and might”), the Creator, Who Provides, the Comforter, and many others.

It is no surprise, therefore, that we find many different names for God in the liturgy.  The Lord’s Prayer, for example, taken straight from the Bible, contains two different names for God:

Our Father, who art in heaven, Harold be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thine, Will, be done, on earth as it is in heaven…

So that’s Harold, and Will (surely short for William), right there.  Ergo my wife and I named our two lads after God.  And people thought I was just trying to be quintessentially English!

Consider also this popular worship song of time immemorial, The Garden.

I come to the garden alone
while the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

Andy walks with me and He talks with me,
Andy tells me I am his own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

Thus we can add Andy, short for Andrew, to the list.

And let us not forget the Communion prayers!

Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.
Priest: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is Justin Wright!

I know, I know, it sounds like “It is just and right“, and the ACNA’s liturgy has reverted to the 1970’s version “It right to give him thanks and praise,” but if you stick with the awe-inspiring modern Roman Rite, you will get to celebrate the most proper (and, ironically, quintessentially English) name of God – Justin Wright.

Okay, I’m done.  Happy April Fool’s Day!  Except, well, speaking of April Fools…

Book Review: Common Worship Christian Initiation

Welcome to Saturday Book Review time!  On most of the Saturdays this year we’re looking at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value.  Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.

The next volume of Common Worship is subtitled Christian Initiation.  Although the Baptismal liturgy is found in the primary volume of Common Worship, it is repeated in this book with further detail and additional rites, including some key stuff that was omitted from that book.  The Contents of Christian Initiation can be summarized thus:

  • Rites on the Way: Approaching Baptism
    • Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child
    • Baptismal preparation rites and prayers
  • Holy Baptism & Confirmation
    • Regular and Emergency liturgies
    • Baptism & Confirmation in the same service
    • Baptism and/or Confirmation within a Vigil service
    • Seasonal options for variation
  • Rites of Affirmation: Appropriating Baptism
    • Thanksgivings after an initiation service
    • Admission to Holy Communion
    • Renewal of Baptismal Vows
    • Reception into the Anglican Communion
  • Reconciliation & Restoration: Recovering Baptism
    • Service of Corporate Penitence
    • Reconciliation of a Penitent
    • Celebration of Healing
  • Commentary

common worship

It is interesting to see the sacramental rites of Confession/Absolution and Unction/Healing included under the banner of “recovering Baptism.”  In the 2019 Prayer Book they’re being given their own header “Rites of Healing” without the strictly baptismal context.  This baptism-centered approach to liturgical-theological thinking seems to be characteristic of modern (liberal) Anglicanism, something that we’ve observed to be problematic in cases such as the American 1979 Prayer Book‘s baptismal liturgy.

As in the Festivals volume, this book has an enormous collection of additional materials and options to bring variety to the several services herein.  Special Scripture readings are also offered, even with seasonal considerations in mind.  In theory this could be a really nice touch – baptism especially is such a rich sacrament and the different seasons of the Church year could indeed serve as lenses for different angles of teaching on Holy Baptism.  Common Prayer 2011 did a similar thing in providing different readings for the Ember Days according to their respective seasons.  Where this idea falls short, however, is the fact that it’s too much of a big-picture approach that will get lost on the average church-goer.  If one attends all the baptism services held throughout the year, then one will hear all those different Scripture readings and benefit from the variety.  But if people only ever attend one or two baptism services in a given year, then the value of that variety is lost.  Cynically I am tempted to wonder if the variation of readings (and other prayers and materials) is more for the benefit of a bored clergyman who can’t appreciate the beauty of a simple and consistent liturgy?

Another unique feature in this book are its two forms for private confession.  The American book of 1979 contains two, different but recognizably “catholic”, forms for confession and absolution.  The two in this book, however, are clearly modeled after the standard order of liturgy found throughout Common Worship: words of Gathering, Scripture reading(s) and response, the Confession, counsel, and contrition, followed by the Absolution, a Thanksgiving, the Lord’s Prayer, and a Dismissal.  Where a more traditional sacramental confession can be carried out with the confessee needing no more than an index card of scripted text, these rites require a book and a Bible in hand, which strikes me as needlessly complicated.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
Like Festivals, this volume is set out in a decently useable format, though it has more instances where one has to combine its use with another book, such as when celebrating one of the rites in the context of a Communion service.

Devotional Usefulness: 1/5
Unless you’re in the Church of England, none of these liturgies are authorized for your use, and there’s hardly anything in here that can be imported into other contexts.  Some of the corporate penitential prayers are neat – I like the idea of having a Scripture-based litany of penitence or one based on the Beatitudes – but their usefulness in our own liturgical context is extremely limited.

Reference Value: 2/5
Perhaps the most useful feature of this book is its reference value.  The extra Scripture reading and prayer options may be useful for catechesis, and the surprisingly-detailed commentary on the various rites at the end of the book also give a theological rationale for much of the material therein.  One must be cautious, however, of the unhealthy level of liberal theology that has pervaded the Church of England, and therefore take these resources with a grain of salt.

Fasting Tips

It’s a Friday, and it’s Lent, that means the Prayer Book expects us to be fasting today.  But, unlike the Roman tradition, we aren’t given strict definitions of what to fast from, or how to fast from things in general.  We’re left to the “spirit of fasting”, in danger of a liberal neglect of the discipline, as opposed to the danger of rote fasting out of merely outward obedience.  That said, it probably helps to have some advice, suggestions, and tips regarding how to implement a fast.

If you are not accustomed to fasting (on Fridays, during Lent, or at all) here are some ideas to try:

  • Skip a meal and replace it with a longer prayer time than usual.
  • Simplify your eating for the day: no fancy spices, sauces, or flavors.
  • Eat less: halve all your normal portion sizes.
  • Cut out the extras: no soda, alcohol, desserts, or snacks.
  • If you normally buy a coffee or a snack on the run, don’t.
  • Quantify the money you saved on food (as far as you’re able) and give it away to a homeless person on the street, or to a charity that cares for the poor.

Remember fasting is not a discipline that ultimately is meant to be pursued on its own, but alongside prayer and alms-giving.  Isaiah 58 has a well-known denunciation of ungodly fasting, and as you read through it you’ll find that it props up alms-giving and prayer as correctives to such abuse.  That chapter was often an Office reading for Ash Wednesday for that very reason.

Just remember, both the Prayer Book and Jesus expect God’s people to fast.  Yes, you’re free to do so in your own way, but just be sure you actually do!