Prayers for Mourning

My apologies for not having a post prepared this morning as usual, as you might imagine this is a busy time of year for clerics!

I expect that most people who follow this blog have already heard the news: the great historic and famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris is burning. This is, obviously, a tragedy of incalculable proportion – centuries of spiritual life and history dissolving in smoke. I don’t have any special prayers for this exact sort of tragedy, but I thought we could instead revisit something released by our Province in 2014 after a nasty round of violence and martyrdom. Some of it may still find a place in our hearts in the midst of this event.

“Prayer for a time of suffering…”

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…

Saint Lucia Day

Celebrate Saint Lucia Day, go light your little sister’s hair on fire!  Haha, just kidding… sort of.

Saint Lucia (or Lucy, in English) was a martyr of the Early Church who died in the year 304 during a particularly nasty round of persecution under Emperor Diocletian.  Lucia was betrothed by her mother to be married to a man of some esteem, but Lucia had already pledged herself to virginity and was already beginning to give of her late father’s possessions to the poor.  Discovery of this cause her husband-to-be to scorn her and turn her over to the authorities.  As the story goes, she was sentenced to be defiled in a whorehouse but the soldiers and oxen couldn’t make the cart carrying her to move, and when she was sentenced to be burned to death instead the fire wouldn’t touch her, so the Emperor stabbed her instead.

The candles-on-the-head thing derives from a story that when she carried food to Christians hiding in the catacombs, she wore a wreath with candles on her head so she could carry more food in both hands.  Whether either this or her martyrdom story are accurate reports of history is beyond our ability to know.  But the piety, acts of service, and devotion to Christ displayed in her life are inspirational stories that have endeared Christians the world over, ever since.  Check out the devotion her story can inspire:

Saint Lucia Day, December 13th, is not just any old commemoration in the ACNA calendar.  It also happens to be the anchor date that defines the Advent Ember Days.  You’ll hear more about those next week, but suffice it to note now that the Advent (or Winter) Ember Days are always the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday soonest after St. Lucia Day.  In this year’s case, we’ve got almost a whole week left before the Ember Days begin.

It’s Saint Aelfric’s Day!

November 16th is the traditional date of the feast of Saint Aelfric!
Trouble is, he’s not in the ACNA calendar, so you kind of have to add this day in.  Double trouble: today is already occupied by St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland.  Solution: move her aside, to the 15th, to make room for Aelfric today.  Is this allowed?  Yes, because….

  1. at the official level, all of these commemorations are optional anyway;
  2. moving Minor Saints Days around to make room for more days of higher rank (including other Saints’ Days) is already part of Western tradition;
  3. if you’re a fan of this ministry, then celebrating its patron saint is actually quite appropriate.

Let’s say you even want to commemorate him at the daily Eucharist today, or just in an Antecommunion liturgy on your own.  There are about nine sets of Propers (that is, collects & lessons) for commemorations like these, and Aelfric fits the bill for Monastic, for Pastor, and for Teacher of the Faith.  I haven’t made my own final decision on which Collect to choose for him, but these are the lessons I prefer for his commemoration:

  • Proverbs 3:13-26 & Psalm 119:89-106 (from for a Teacher of the Faith)
  • Acts 2:42-47 (from for a Monastic)
  • Matthew 24:42-50 (from for a Pastor)

Now it should be noted that these Propers are not meant to be mixed and matched like this.  For the optional commemorations, we are meant to pick one, wholesale.  Each set is ordered such that they speak to a common theme, or type of Saint, and if you mix them up you run the risk of creating an incoherent scattering of liturgical bits and bobs.  The reason I’m breaking this rule for the commemoration of St. Aelfric is because I aim to treat this day as if it were a Major Feast Day with a unique set of Propers.

Finally, whether you celebrate Aelfric in the liturgy today or not, you can still read more about him.  I’ve prepared a brief biography of him over at leorningcnihtes boc, and you can also read about why he is the patron of this Customary on this page.

The tea is brewing…

First shared social media post!

But seriously, the launch date for this “liturgical insight & advice” ministry is October 1st. The plan will be to put out one substantial post about the liturgy six days a week (Monday through Saturday). The post will be scheduled for early in the morning and also sent out via email to whoever subscribes* in order that those who want to receive these notes before saying Morning Prayer will not have to wait.

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* Email subscription will be entirely voluntary; liking or following this Page will not automatically sign you up for anything. I care about your inbox!

Welcome

The Saint Aelfric Customary is a work in progress, compiling notes and insights into the use of the Book of Common Prayer (2019) as authorized by the Anglican Church in North America. This project has a three-fold focus: conformity to the authorized liturgical texts, commitment to to the fullest possible execution of the liturgy, and concern for the established traditions of Anglican liturgy before our time. You can read more about that here.

What this ministry is about, however, is not quite so grandiose. Rather than a brute force method like dropping a giant book on people’s heads to “improve” their use of the Prayer Book, this site exists to share snippets of advice and insight into how the liturgy might be implemented that day, or in the near future. We might share preaching aids, reminders of Holy Days or other unusual features of a given day, hymn suggestions, or any number of other liturgical bits and bobs.

It is my prayer that this ministry, and god-willing in the fullness of time, book, will be a blessing and an encouragement in your daily, weekly, seasonal, and annual observances of worship in our beloved Prayer Book tradition.

the Rev. Matthew Brench
Vicar of Fitchburg