Filling in the blanks: Ezekiel

I’m posting this a week later than I probably should have… maybe that was a mistake in my pre-planning.  Anyway, back on June 21st we read Ezekiel 47 at Evening Prayer, and then didn’t come back for its final chapter, 48.  Before that we’d skipped chapters 44-46, and 41-42, which I briefly explained and summarized in a video that Friday.  But there’s more: chapters 19-32 were skipped; that’s about 30% of the book gone right there.  Chapters 38 & 39 also were omitted.  Altogether, approximately 45% of Ezekiel is not in our daily lectionary.  The evangelical reader is probably annoyed right now.  “What gives?”

If historical precedent is any consolation….

  • less than 18 chapters (38%) appear in the 1979 Book’s daily lectionary
  • about 16 chapters (33%) appear in the 1928 lectionary
  • maybe 13 chapter (27%) appear in the 1922 lectionary in the 1662 Book
  • nearly 23 chapters (47%) are in the 19th century’s lectionary in the 1662 Book
  • only 12 chapters (25%) are read in the ORIGINAL Anglican daily lectionary

So with us reading 55% of the book, that’s a massive increase compared to every Prayer Book before ours.

But of course, someone who is not as optimistic about the wisdom of the Church and the value of the Prayer Book is still going to argue: what’s “wrong” with so much of Ezekiel?

I’m not going to analyze, explain, and defend the mentality of each prayer book in our history, other than to say that Ezekiel is one of the least-accessible Prophets to read fruitfully without a great deal of study, and so when it comes to the public daily reading in the churches it is more profitable to spend time on other portions of Scripture that are more readily understandable and clear to the people in the pews.  That said, let’s take a quick look at what the 2019 Prayer Book’s daily lectionary omits.

Chapters 19-32 are a series of oracles, prophecies of condemnation and judgment, against Jerusalem, Israel & Judah, Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, and Egypt.  They vary in style and tone, and there are few “famous” images among these chapters, such as the Ohola & Oholiba parable for the unfaithfulness of Israel & Judah.  These aren’t “unimportant” chapters, as such, but they are “redundant” with a fair bit of the Prophetic Corpus of the Old Testament.

Chapters 38-39 form the prophecy against the mysterious Gog and his land, Magog.  This has been interpreted in many different ways, pointing to the Assyrians, the Greeks, the Romans, and even to a yet-future world power in the End Times.  When it comes down to it, this is not mere prophecy, but apocalyptic literature, which comes with its own special interpretive challenges.  I suppose that the restoration of the book of Revelation into the daily lectionary has mitigated the need to to rely on its even-more-puzzling Old Testament forebear.

Chapters 41-42 and 44-46 are basically a series of pictures in prose form.  Here we find the lengthy description of the New Temple, which I talked about in the video post linked at the beginning of this article.  Chapter 40, in the lectionary, is sufficient for giving the reader the “establishing shot”, to use a TV/movie term, and chapter 43 describes an event or scene there.  The rest, omitted, do provide additional prophetic insights of course (they are scripture), but the majority of that material is a slow slog through a lot of measurements and repetitive formulae.

Chapter 48, similarly, is an extension of the information in chapter 47; together they describe a map of new tribal allotments.  You can read more about that here if you like.  For the Christian, the important lesson is in the promise of God that he will bless his faithful people; the specific land boundaries are simply images that prefigure the perfection of the New Heaven & New Earth, so grinding through all the geographic descriptions is not strictly necessary for getting the point across.

That said, if you are a “completionist” when it comes to reading the Scriptures, you can always pick up this Customary’s Supplementary Midday Prayer lectionary to fill you in on the missed chapters of Ezekiel, scattered throughout the summer.

Ecce, Deus, it’s Trinitytide!

In the 2019 Prayer Book we’ve got a nice collection of ten Supplemental Canticles to spice up the Daily Office a bit.  I’ve written about them before, in general, and I’ve made recommendations as to when one might most appropriate use each of them.  You can find that article here.

Today let’s look at Canticle 8: Ecce, Deus, on page 85, which this Customary appoints for regular weekdays through Trinitytide.  This short canticle is taken from Isaiah 12:2-6, but if you compare the text of this Canticle to, say, the ESV translation of the Bible, you’ll find that the phraseology is quite different indeed.  Most of the differences are verb tenses (something that is honestly kind of squirrelly in Hebrew anyway) and prepositions (which also are pretty loose in Hebrew), which is already enough to give a different “feel” to a text without actually substantially changing the meaning.

As it turns out, the wording used in the Prayer Book is the same as that found in the 1979 Book, where Ecce Deus is Canticle 9 on page 86, named “The First Song of Isaiah.”  So this translation was done by the Rev. Dr. Charles Guilbert, who was heavily involved in the crafting of the 1979 Book and in particular its Psalter.

The text of the Canticle itself is actually two psalms strung together.  Isaiah 12:1-2 and 4-6 are brief songs of praise to God for his deliverance, connected by verse 3.  The first part is more directed toward God, speaking of and to him; the second has more of a human audience in mind, calling upon others to give God praise and thanks also.  Both in formal Bible translations and our liturgical translation, this pattern of praise followed by invitation can be discerned.

The rubric on page 85 indicate that it is appropriate for any time, noting that its themes and content have no specific connotation toward Easter or Advent or any other particular occasion – it is a Canticle for all seasons!  So this is as good a time as any to enjoy Ecce Deus, if you ask me.

Introducing the Creed of Saint Athanasius

One of the “Documentary Foundations”, on page 769 in the 2019 Prayer Book, is The Athanasian Creed.  It is offered there without comment, much like it is in the back of the 1979 Prayer Book, except this time in a normal font size so you don’t have to be especially young and spry in order to read it.

There is, however, a rubric in our Prayer Book that point to it.  On page 139, among the Additional Directions Concerning Holy Communion, we are told that the Athanasian Creed may be used in place of the Nicene Creed on Trinity Sunday and other occasions as appropriate.  This is probably the most widespread use of that Creed today.

In the classical Prayer Book tradition, however, it received a bit more use.  In the 1662 Prayer Book, for example, we find this rubric:

Upon these Feasts, Christmas-day, the Epiphany, St. Matthias, Easter-day, Ascension-day, Whitsunday, St. John Baptist, St. James, St. Bartholomew, St. Matthew, St. Simon and St.
Jude, St. Andrew, and upon Trinity-sunday, shall be sung or said at Morning Prayer, instead of the Apostles Creed, this Confession of our Christian Faith, commonly called the Creed of St. Athanasius, by the Minister and people standing.

That’s 13 times a year this Creed was ordered to be said.  If you’re curious about why those feasts were selected, and not others, the best I can offer is that the principle feasts of the year are covered (Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday), and beyond that one feast per month is chosen, such that this Creed would be heard about once a month, usually near the end:

  • January: Epiphany (6th)
  • February: St. Matthias (29th)
  • March: Easter sometimes
  • April: Easter usually, Ascension sometimes
  • May: Ascension usually, Pentecost sometimes
  • June: Pentecost usually, Trinity, St. John Baptist (24th)
  • July: St. James (25th)
  • August: St. Bartholomew (24th)
  • September: St. Matthew (21st)
  • October: St. Simon and St. Jude (28th)
  • November: St. Andrew (30th)
  • December: Christmas (25th)

Anyway, let’s look at the Creed itself.  It’s called Of Athanasius because he is the traditionally-acclaimed author, though historical scholarship has indicated that it’s most likely a product of his school of thought, or his tradition so to speak, rather than of him himself.  Thus some like to refer to it by its first line in Latin: Quicunque vult.  But the appellation of Athanasius is appropriate nonetheless, as this does express his theology quite clearly.

In terms of contents, this Creed is by far the best and most robust resource in the Church’s arsenal when it comes to teaching the doctrine of the Trinity.  In the way it is formatted in our Prayer Book, most of page 769 deals with the Trinity, all of page 770 does, and the first “verse” of it on page 771 concludes the section on the Trinity.  The rest of the Creed (page 771) proceeds in a fashion very similar to the Nicene Creed, outlining the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  But even this uses more developed language to expound the two natures of Christ (in close union with the 3rd and 4th Ecumenical Councils, again indicating a post-Athanasius origin).

Let’s be honest, this Creed can be a bit of a tongue-twister, and its repetitive phrases can make it difficult to understand without familiarity.  But if you read it slowly and carefully, its logic will be clear, as two things are being established very methodically: there are three Persons in the Trinity and there is one God in Unity.

Apart from its length, this Creed has other features that have contributed to its decline in popularity over the past 200 years: its vehement insistence on orthodoxy for salvation.  Note how it begins:

Whoever will be savedbefore all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.
Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

It ends with the same tone:

This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.

The good news here is that it never says “understand”, only “hold” or “keep” or “believe”.  So if you or your child or your uneducated Christian friend don’t really understand what this Creed is saying, you or they are not damned.  We keep the faith, we hold and believe the faith, however well we understand and grasp its particulars in our minds.  The mystery of the Trinity is one of the greatest mysteries and paradoxes that can be found in the Scriptures, yet this Creed reminds us (and carefully explains) that no true Christian worships three Gods, or blends the Father, Son, and Spirit together into one person, neither do we blend the divinity and humanity of Jesus together into some sort of demigod half-breed.  We hold to the intellectually-difficult yet simple truths that the one God exists in three persons, and that Jesus is both fully God and fully man.

So that, I hope, puts to rest any fears that the anathemas (condemnatory statements) may rile up in the heart of the reader.

If you and your church did not say the Athanasian Creed on Trinity Sunday this year (and let’s face it, very few of us even had the chance to!) consider taking up the tradition of the classical Prayer Books and saying it at Morning Prayer on John the Baptist’s birthday tomorrow!  It’s not technically authorized in our Prayer Book, but to do so would be in accord with the spirit of the rubrics, if not the letter.

FOUR versions of the Lord’s Prayer!?

Did you know that there are four versions of the Lord’s Prayer in the 2019 Prayer Book?

You may be aware of two already.  In just about every rite in the book, a traditional-language and contemporary-language rendition of the Lord’s Prayer are offered in parallel columns.  But how do we get four versions, then?  On pages 39 and 65, the following rubric can be found:

Either version of the Lord’s Prayer may be ended with “deliver us from evil.  Amen.” omitting the concluding doxology.

You may find that confusing – why would one opt for the shorter version?  Don’t just the Romans do the short version?

This rubric has some interesting history behind it; welcome to “Weird Rubric Wednesday”.

If you look at various Prayer Books before our own you’ll find a pretty clear pattern: the doxology is often omitted from the Lord’s Prayer.  Let’s list it out:

  • Beginning of Morning Prayer:
    1662 Yes, 1928 Yes
  • Among the Prayers of Morning Prayer:
    1662 No, 1928 Unspecified, 1979 Yes, 2019 Yes
  • Beginning of Evening Prayer:
    1662 Yes, 1928 Yes
  • Among the Prayers of Evening Prayer:
    1662 No, 1928 Unspecified, 1979 Yes, 2019 Yes
  • Beginning of the Lord’s Supper:
    1662 No, 1928 No
  • At the reception of Communion:
    1662 Yes, 1928 Yes, 1979 Yes, 2019 Yes
  • Baptism & Confirmation:
    1662 No, 1928 Yes, 1979 Yes, 2019 Yes

You can see a slow trend from a fairly even split of using or omitting the Lord’s Prayer’s doxology toward uniform use of that doxology.  A further detail in this sequence in the 1979 Prayer Book’s introduction of Noonday Prayer and Compline, in which the doxology is omitted from the Lord’s Prayer.  Thus, only in the 2019 Prayer Book has the doxology become ubiquitous.  These “weird rubrics”, however, note the two Offices in which we are formally invited to consider using the short form of the Lord’s Prayer, and it is the same two (Midday and Compline) as appointed in the 1979 Book.

In ordinary practice, the average lay person who doesn’t use the Prayer Book religiously is going to default to the one version he or she knows from Sunday mornings: what is said at the Holy Communion.  If certain Offices omit the doxology, many such people are going to have a big trip-up moment.  So from that practical perspective, one of the factors aiding this slow shift was merely simplifying things so there were fewer things for newcomers to mess up!

Anyway, in your own prayers and use of the 2019 Prayer Book, it is not going to be this Customary’s business to regulate which version of the Lord’s Prayer you ought to use at which points.  It is traditional to use the short version in most Offices and the long version at the Communion.  But if you’re praying all the Offices every day, plus other devotions like the Family Prayer mini-offices, then you’ll be saying the Lord’s Prayer many times a day, and it might be good to change up which version you use just to help avoid turning into a parrot!

Sometimes you should change the biblical text

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Now there’s a title that will get just about any serious Christian a little worried… “sometimes we should change the biblical text”?  What mad heresy is this?

So let’s get straight to the Weird Rubric of the week.  It’s on page 737.

When a Lesson begins with a pronoun, the reader should substitute the appropriate noun.

Yeah, so the title of this article is kind of click-bait… the change to the biblical text here is actually just a swapping out of a pronoun with a noun.  For example, today at Morning Prayer we’ve got a Gospel lesson from Luke 22, starting at verse 39.  “And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.”  This is a great example because you can read the entire paragraph and still never find out who “he” is.  Obviously it’s Jesus; it usually will be in the Gospels.  But sometimes it’s not immediately obvious, so it is prudent (and canonical, or rubrical) to replace the first “he” with “Jesus” so the congregation understands what’s being read.

Some who are especially zealous for the integrity of God’s Word may still not like this, so I should point you to another precedent for this practice.  Bible translators already do this!  In the Greek, the New Testament uses pronouns even more often than we do in English, such that in order to render the text more clearly there are plenty of instances where the Greek text says “he” but the English puts in the person’s name.  For example, slightly earlier in Luke 22, you’ll find verse 33 is a quote from Peter and verse 34 is a quote from Jesus. Now, it’s part of a dialogue, so it’s not too confusing to repeat “he” for both speakers, but it’s more clear to put the names in.  Thus does the ESV.

A similar practice, not directly mentioned in the rubrics of the 2019 Prayer Book, is to omit a proposition or connecting word (such as “therefore” or “for” or “but” or “then”) if one is placed at the beginning of a reading.  The length and contents of a lectionary reading, especially at the Holy Communion, has been evaluated already.  It presents a full and complete thought, such that having a connecting word at the beginning can prove more distracting than helpful.  Yes, these connectors remind us that the passage belongs in a larger context, but that is always going to be the case whether there is such a word there or not.  So it’s usually best to drop such words when found at the top of a reading, to allow the text to stand on its own so the hearers can receive it more easily.  Let the preacher deal with the context if and as necessary.

For the most part, this advice is more pertinent to the readings at Holy Communion than in the Daily Office. This is because the Daily Office Lectionary is continuous – nearly every reading picks up where the previous day’s reading left off.  Connecting words and pronouns are thus less distracting, because the previous chapter or passage has already been heard the day before.  In the service of Holy Communion, we almost never have that advantage; and even when we do, there’ll typically have been a whole week past since the previous contiguous lesson, so having those pronouns replaced will still be a helpful reminder.

If you find this a little tricky to keep track of, consider this instruction on page 716:

The public reading of Scripture in the liturgies of the Church is among the most important features of any act of worship. No one should be admitted to this high privilege who has not thoroughly prepared the passage to be read, so that the lesson can be read with clarity, authority, and understanding.

Make sure you practice at public reading!  A smooth reading experience makes a smooth listening experience possible. Today’s “weird rubric” is there to help you make that happen.

Implementing the Archbishop’s Call to Prayer

Archbishop Foley Beach has called the Church to a week of prayer and fasting, beginning today.  You can read his full statement here: http://www.anglicanchurch.net/?/main/page/2052  The question we’re taking up here is that of how to implement his call to prayer, and use the resources which has named, as well as others in the Prayer Book.

First of all, today was already a fast day; this is the first of the Pentecost Ember Days.  The same goes for Friday and Saturday.  But this special call to prayer and fasting is, of course, something a bit beyond the ordinary.

The easiest way to fast and pray for the long-term is to give up one meal per day and replace it with a half-hour (or longer) time of prayer.  I would highly recommend using the Great Litany every day during a Week of Prayer. As its rubrics note (both in the 2019 Prayer Book and in the classical books), it is particularly appropriate for any time of “special entreaty” or disaster or strife.  If a bishop or archbishop asks for a special time of prayer, the Litany should be the first thing we put on our list.

Secondly, Archbishop Beach’s statement lists several Occasional Prayers (found on pages 657-661) that are particularly appropriate for this Week of Prayer.  He lists #39 through #51, which range from prayers for the nation through prayers for various aspects of society.  The Saint Aelfric Customary already has a recommended rotation through the Occasional Prayers; if you follow that then you’ll have covered #39 yesterday morning, #40-43 next Tuesday Evening, #44-47 last night, and #48-51 this evening.  If you’re not one who normally adds these additional prayers to the Daily Office, this week is a good time to give it a try.  There are twelve prayers listed in the Archbishop’s statement, so if you use even just one each Morning and Evening through this Week of Prayer, you’ll cover all of them by the end of next Wednesday.

However you do or don’t structure your prayers during this time, I hope these thoughts will help you participate in this holy call to intercede.  It is a privilege of God’s people that we can plead before the Throne of Grace on behalf of the world; let us not squander the opportunity nor scorn the call.

Weekly exorcism of a rented worship space

In this age of small churches, church plants, and sharing worship space with other institutions and even businesses, we’ve got an unusual situation.  You see, churches and chapels and the like are usually consecrated or dedicated for the holy purpose of divine worship.  This doesn’t mean we are unable to worship anywhere else, but there is something very Gospel-proclaiming about setting aside a physical space or structure for the sole use of the Kingdom of God.  There is also the spiritual world to consider: a place of worship is a place where angels minister among us, and thus it is appropriate to expel first the evil angels, or demons.  This is, of a sort, an exorcism.  And those who meet for worship in a space that is used for non-church purposes during the week are advised to carry out such an exorcism before each worship service.

Says whom? The Book of Common Prayer (2019), on page 523, states:

Shared-use facilities like school auditoriums or community centers are not consecrated and dedicated, but weekly preparation for worship should include spiritual cleansing (exorcising) of any forces of darkness that may have entered, invited or uninvited.

Yup.  Welcome to Weird Rubric Wednesday!

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A number of the “weird rubrics” we’ve looked at in the past are instances of what might feel like loopholes for strange practices or mucking about with the liturgy in strange ways.  This kind of weird rubric, however, is one that is probably more of a surprise to the average reader followed by a huge question mark – how should a church community go about exorcising its worship space every weekend?

There probably are other sources out there, perhaps even historic ones, that provide guidance to this scenario.  The main challenge here is that it is an extremely rare situation for a church to share sacred space with a secular institution, so a rite for our present need is not going to be prominently known from history; I highly doubt that there is a standard official rite for this even among Rome’s massive collection of medieval liturgies.

And so I made one up.  But that sounds sketchy and proprietary, so allow me to explain it properly, yet briefly.

In the confrontation of spiritual evil, there are (up to) seven movements a liturgically-minded devotion or Office might go through:

  1. Adoration of the Holy Trinity (to start with the fundamentals of worship)
  2. Celebration of the Communion of Saints (because we are not alone here)
  3. Veneration of the Cross (where God and the earth did meet in full power)
  4. Confrontation of Evil (now we’re ready to “speak truth to power” as it were)
  5. Confession and Absolution of Sin (where we send evil back to the Cross)
  6. Comfortable Words (let the Word of God speak peace into the situation)
  7. The Peace (close with a blessing or other word or prayer of finality)

This outline is generally in conformity with Deliverance ministries, exorcists, reconciliation of a penitent, and other similar ministries of prayer that deal directly with sin and evil powers.

How you spell this out for the purpose of cleansing/exorcising a worship space, well, may look different depending upon your specific situation and your churchmanship or theology.  As a generally-pretty-loyal-Prayer-Book-Anglican, I see it as right and proper that what I provide is entirely derived from the Prayer Book tradition.  It is not my place to introduce too many new and different intrusions to the life of the Church from what has already been established by canon law.

So here is how I would flesh out this summary into a Rite of Cleansing.

  1. Invocation of the Holy Trinity expanded from the beginning of the Ministry to the Sick
  2. Invocation of the Communion of Saints with Psalm 113, which is traditionally used in liturgies for Marian feast days
  3. Anthem of the Cross from the (2019) Good Friday Liturgy
  4. Prayers of Confrontation, again taken from the Good Friday Liturgy
  5. Sentences against Sin from the Scriptures (mixing steps 5 & 6 above)
  6. Collect from Evening Prayer and Compline for God’s angelic presence (mixing steps 5 & 6 above)
  7. The Grace from the end of the Daily Office

I made this short and simple so that anyone can use it, though added the option for a priest to use the Oil of Catechumens if desired.  The assumption is that a congregation’s first time in a shared-use space would do something like this on a larger scale together, and then this short Rite would be used privately by a smaller number of people on the weekly basis during set-up for the worship service.

Obviously there are a lot of factors that might color this situation rather differently.  If your church is meeting in a Lodge or a Synagogue or other religious or quasi-religious building, you’re going to want to be a lot more direct or “aggressive” in your opposition to spirits of deception and lies.  If your church is meeting in a building used by a Christian organization, you probably don’t need to be quite so confrontational.

Here is the described Rite in full:

 

INVOCATION OF THE HOLY TRINITY

Peace to this place, and all who enter it, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

INVOCATION OF THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS
Psalm 113

Praise the Lord.  Sing praises, you servants of the Lord; *
     O praise the Name of the Lord.
Blessed be the Name of the Lord, *
     from this time forth for evermore.
The Lord’s Name be praised *
     from the rising up of the sun to the going down of the same.
The Lord is high above all nations, *
     and his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God, who has his dwelling so high, *
     and yet humbles himself to behold the things
     that are in heaven and earth?
He takes up the lowly out of the dust, *
     and lifts the poor out of the ashes,
That he may set them with the princes, *
     even with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home to dwell in, *
     and makes her to be a joyful mother of children.
     Praise the Lord.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.  Amen.

ANTHEM OF THE CROSS
Psalm 67 with Antiphon

We glory in your Cross, O Lord,
and praise and glorify your holy resurrection;
for by virtue of your Cross
joy has come to the whole world.

May God be merciful to us and bless us,
show us the light of his countenance, and come to us.

Let your ways be known upon earth,
your saving health among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

We glory in your Cross, O Lord,
and praise and glorify your holy resurrection;
for by virtue of your Cross
joy has come to the whole world.

PRAYERS OF CONFRONTATION

O God of truth and love, who desires not the death of sinners but rather that they should turn from their wickedness and live: Look with mercy on those who are deceived by the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil; that the hearts of those who have gone astray may be restored to wisdom and return to the way of truth in the unity of your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Merciful God, creator of all the peoples of the earth and lover of souls: Have compassion on all who do not know you are you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ; let your Gospel be preached with grace and power to those who have not heard it; turn the hearts of those who resist it; and bring home to your fold those who have gone astray; that there may be one flock under one Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

SENTENCES OF SCRIPTURE AGAINST SIN

One or more of the following sentences is read.

When the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”  Jude 9

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9

Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.  Psalm 143:2

When a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life.  Ezekiel 18:27

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Matthew 3:2

Rend your hearts and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.  Joel 2:13

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  Psalm 51:17

To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. Daniel 9:9-10

COLLECT FOR CLEANSING

Visit this place, O Lord, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessing be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Priest may use the Oil of Exorcism, applied at the doorframe of the entrance to the worship space.

CLOSING BLESSING

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore.  Amen.

 

Psalms for the Daily Office on the 31st of the month are not clearly defined.

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One of the more curious features of the 2019 Prayer Book’s handling of the Psalter in the Daily Office is this rubric on page 735:

If there is a 31st day of the month, psalms are chosen from among the Songs of Ascents (120 to 134).

If you want to know more about the Songs of Ascents, I wrote about them a couple weeks ago here.

But today we’re looking at this Weird Rubric.

The 31st day of the month has always been a monkey wrench in Thomas Cranmer’s arrangement of the Psalms, which is a 30-day rotation.  The solution in Prayer Books before ours was that the 31st day of the month would simply repeat the Psalms from the 30th day.  There was at first a more complicated exception to this rule to account for the shortened month of February, but that faded from the Prayer Book tradition.  But in the 2019 Book we now have this murky instruction to choose the Psalms from a particular range.  What this, in effect, does is make the 31st day a repeat of the 27th day or 28th morning.

Now there are two “outs” if you (like me) find this rubric a little too weird.  Your first alternative is to use the 60-day cycle of Psalms, which is printed along with the Daily Office Lectionary.  This has the advantage of begin easy to look up, and perhaps the shorter psalmody will be a welcome “break” if you struggle to keep up with the 30-day standard.  The other solution is to take advantage of this text on page 734:

For any day, the psalms appointed may be reduced in number according to local circumstance, provided that the entire Psalter is read regularly.

This could be interpreted as a “Lazy Clause”, authorizing practically anything.  For example, you could literally read one Psalm, or half a long Psalm, each Office, and take a quarter of a year to get through the whole psalter!  If you do that “regularly” then you’re obeying the rubric here.  And, hey, if you’re new to liturgical prayer and new to the psalms, or you’re helping a child learn to pray, that may be a good idea.  But a seasoned Christian should not use this rubric as license for simply being lazy.  However, the license afforded here does mean that on “any day”, such as the 31st day of the month, you can deviate from the chart on page 735, provided you are covering the entire Psalter regularly.  In short, this is your “out” for praying the Psalms the traditional way, repeating Day 30’s psalms on Day 31.

But if you want to turn Day 31 into a grab-bag of Psalmody, replicating Day 27 and the morning of 28 in some fashion or another, go for it!

Rogationtide at home

The Rogation Days are here!  Today, tomorrow, and Wednesday are the three “purple days” at the turning point of the season from Easter to the Ascension.  As the liturgical color implies, these are days of fasting and prayer.  They’re not penitential, as such – certainly not in the way that Lent or even Advent is – but they are days of particular supplication to the Lord of the harvest for our safety and the safety of our land.  If you want to see last year’s introduction to the Rogation Days, click here.

The question I want to focus on today is how you might observe the Rogation Days at home.  Most of us still have closed churches, after all, so there wasn’t much we were able to do to mark yesterday (Rogation Sunday) as particularly special.  Here are few traditional ideas and resources to draw upon.

The most obvious thing we’ve got is the set of Collects for the Rogation Days, on page 635 of the 2019 Book of Common Prayer.  In addition to praying them in the Daily Office on these three days, consider using them in family devotions, private prayers, before a meal, or in the context of a small group for prayer or worship or study.  You can read more about those Collects in this post from last year.

Similarly, you can sing the hymn O Jesus, crowned with all reknown, a classic song for the Rogation days, and the only one labeled as such in the 1940 hymnal.  To that, the 2017 hymnal adds O God of Bethel, by whose hand and the 1940 recommends also We plow the seeds, and scatter.

Another resource that should not be overlooked is the Great Litany.  Rogation Sunday was one of the major days of the year in English tradition for a grant procession out of the church building, with prayer and supplication, and the Litany was the primary tool for such a public devotion.  It would be a marvelous thing to make use of the Litany on your own through these three days – the most traditional time to pray it would be at the end of Morning Prayer, but the tradition has evolved over the past near-century such that you should feel free to pray the Litany in any context, even on its own!

You could even combine the Litany with a version of the historical tradition of Beating the Bounds.  On Rogation Sunday the grand procession would encircle the entire parish, literally surrounding the village in prayer.  As the great Anglican divine, George Herbert, described it:

The Country Parson is a Lover of old Customs, if they be good, and harmless; and the rather, because Country people are much addicted to them, so that to favour them therein is to win their hearts, and to oppose them therein is to deject them. If there be any ill in the custom, that may be severed from the good, he pares the apple, and gives them the clean to feed on. Particularly, he loves Procession, and maintains it, because there are contained therein 4 manifest advantages.

  1. First, a blessing of God for the fruits of the field:
  2. Secondly, justice in the Preservation of bounds:
  3. Thirdly, Charity in loving walking, and neighbourly accompanying one another, with reconciling of differences at that time, if there be any:
  4. Fourthly, Mercy in relieving the poor by a liberal distribution and largesse, which at that time is, or ought to be used.

Wherefore he exacts of all to be present at the perambulation, and those that withdraw, and sever themselves from it, he mislikes, and reproves as uncharitable, and unneighbourly; and if they will not reform, presents them. Nay, he is so far from condemning such assemblies, that he rather procures them to be often, as knowing that absence breeds strangeness, but presence love.

George Herbert, A Priest to the Temple Or The Countrey Parson, chapter 35

What you see there is very rooted in centuries of history that are, on the practical level, defunct and so far removed from us that it would be impossible to replicate.  But in spirit, these are very “earthy” practices that can be recaptured pretty easily.  Obviously with social distancing in place it would be rather difficult to form a town-wide parade!  But at the level of the home, this could be an opportunity for the household to walk around the property line, praying for one another and for the neighbors.  It could be an opportunity to chat with the neighbors over the fence or across the road, pray for them or even with them!  With the Spring planting now in full swing in many places, pray for your gardens or fields.  Consider how you might use your bounty to bless others, especially the poor or needy.

Andm, if you want yet more ideas and background history, I commend to you The Homely Hours, a lovely blog with a wealth of historic Anglican insight, with a particular high-church-like attention to the traditions of our forebears.

The Readings at Compline

The Night Office, usually called Compline, is a pleasant little piece of liturgy that was just too beloved to die.  When the first Prayer Book was released, its adherents were criticized by Papists for having only two daily Offices – Morning/Mattins and Evening Prayer.  Although the Cranmerian genius was to streamline elements of the medieval monastic seven-fold office into two, popular devotional manuals quickly arose to provide people with orders for midday prayer and compline for their own private prayers.  John Cosin is one noteworthy contributor in this area, having re-created all the monastic canonical Hours in a Prayer Book friendly manner.

So in that regard it was no great surprise that eventually they would reappear in an actual Prayer Book.  Both the 1979 and the 2019 Books have Compline, and I think the Church is the richer for it, even though this office has many “redundancies” with Evening Prayer.

Our order for Compline is a bit different from its medieval forebear and its modern Roman counterpart.  Most of the ingredients are the same, but their arrangement has shuffled somewhat.  In particular, the diversity of Scripture readings now offered by Rome’s Liturgy of the Hours and the 2019 Prayer Book alike is something of an innovation on previous tradition.

To my knowledge, the primary reading for Compline, and possible the only one in monastic practice (we’d have to check) is 1 Peter 5:8-9 Be sober-minded, be watchful…  But now we have four choices printed in our Prayer Book:

  1. Jeremiah 14:9 You, O Lord, are in the midst of us…
  2. Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden…
  3. Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead…
  4. 1 Peter 5:8-9 Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls…

To these the Additional Directions on page 65 add seven more possibilities:

  1. Isaiah 26:3-4  You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you…
  2. Isaiah 30:15  Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest…
  3. Matthew 6:31-34  Do not be anxious, saying “What shall we eat?…
  4. 2 Corinthians 4:6  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”…
  5. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10  God has not destined us for wrath…
  6. 1 Thessalonians 5:23  Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you…
  7. Ephesians 4:26-27  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down…

The purpose for these additions is that if Compline is said every day, especially in a group setting, having more readings to draw from may be desired and beneficial.  But it lists these seven as additional options, not the sum total.  That means you can read whatever you want, actually.  But the best advice is this: stick to something very short, and don’t vary it up too much. Compline is meant to be a short devotional time, not a lengthy study of the Scriptures.  Morning and Evening Prayer is where we are primarily meant together around the Bible and listen.  Minor Offices like Compline are supposed to be more prayer-oriented and reflective.

So stick to a small rotation of readings, allowing you or your group to gain familiarity with these verses, and draw deeper from the well of Sacred Scripture during this quiet time of prayer.

If you want a guide to how you might rotate them, this is how I’ve ordered them for the Saint Aelfric Customary.

  • Sunday (Advent through Epiphanytide) – 2 Corinthians 4:6
  • Sunday (Pre-Lent and Lent) – Matthew 11:28-30
  • Sunday (Easter through Trinity) – Hebrews 13:20-21
  • Sunday (after Trinity through Proper 16) – Isaiah 26:3-4
  • Sunday (Proper 17-29) – Isaiah 30:15
  • Monday – 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10
  • Tuesday – 1 Peter 5:8-9
  • Wednesday – Ephesians 4:26-27
  • Thursday – 1 Thessalonians 5:23
  • Friday – Jeremiah 14:9
  • Saturday – Matthew 6:31-34

What I did was write the extra seven verses onto either side of a piece of paper roughly 4″x4″ and taped it gently onto page 61 so it’s like an extra page of Scripture readings along with the standard four.  That way I don’t need to grab a Bible for Compline, which would be particularly silly and bothersome for just a couple sentences to read, and when I’m angling to go to bed in a few minutes.