Ascension Day – Antecommunion

For Ascension Day under the COVID-19 closure, I thought it would be nice to try something different.  Please forgive the box of kid’s toys in the background, and my hair’s a bit of a mess (I’m taking advantage of social distancing to regrow my hair into a ponytail while nobody has to look at it).  This is a reflection of the simple reality that worshiping at home can be difficult.  Nevertheless, whatever the challenges, the prayers of the Church never cease!

If you want a generic outline for Antecommunion, you can view or download one here: Antecommunion leaflet

The hymn I sang after the Peace (in the place of the Offertory) is See the conqueror mounts in triumph, #151 in the Book of Common Praise 2017.

The Easter Anthems – Pascha Nostrum

Remember, this week we should be using the anthem “Pascha Nostrum” in place of the Invitatory Psalm at Morning Prayer. You can read more about its history and use here:

The Saint Aelfric Customary

The Pascha Nostrum is a beautiful set of anthems that Anglican tradition uses at Easter.  It is built upon three scriptural references: 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, Romans 6:9-11, and 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, each bookended with an Alleluia for good measure.

It has always been in Anglican Prayer Books, but its location has changed in modern practice.  Traditionally, it was placed among the Propers (the Collects and Lessons), for Easter Day; in modern books it is placed in the Morning Prayer liturgy.  It’s interesting to note how the rubrics for this canticle have changed over the years.

1662 BCP:

At Morning Prayer, instead of the Psalm: O Come, let us, &c. these Anthems shall be sung or said.

1928 BCP:

At Morning Prayer, instead of the Venite, the following shall be said, and may be said throughout the Octave.

2019 BCP:

During the first week of Easter, the Pascha Nostrum, without antiphons…

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The Aaronic Blessing

Even though Easter Week is still a time of special observance, with daily Communion propers, the Daily Office Lectionary goes back to normal. So let’s take a look at something from Morning Prayer, Numbers 6…

Leorningcnihtes boc

As much of a fan as I am of liturgy, I still sometimes get a bit self-conscious, or worried, about using certain identical forms week by week, with my congregation.  It’s not that I’m getting restless with the lack of variation or am chafing for greater liturgical freedom, it’s more that I sometimes worry that those to whom I minister might feel that way – “can’t Father Matt use a different prayer here for once?”

The two experiential assurances for me are, first, that nobody in my congregation has ever complained to me about the repetitive nature of liturgy; and second, that if I deliver my parts of the liturgy with integrity, sincerity, and meaning, then chances are that others will receive them in the same positive light.

But in Morning Prayer today we come to Numbers 6, and there I am given a scriptural assurance about the simple repetitions…

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Celebrating Hope with Psalm 114

Rather than dispensing liturgical advice or insight today, I’m just going to pass along some help for your prayers this evening. Let’s look at Psalm 114…

Leorningcnihtes boc

Evening Prayer on the 23rd day of the month sees Psalm 114 leading the Psalms Appointed for that Office.  It’s a short psalm, which is always helpful for those who are new to praying the psalms, and it explores the theme of hope in a curious way.

It begins and ends with pairs of verses that address something that God has done:

1 When Israel came out of Egypt,
and the house of Jacob from among a people of foreign tongue,
2 Judah was God’s sanctuary,
and Israel his dominion.

7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
8 Who turned the hard rock into a pool of water,
and the flint stone into a springing well.

These book-ends frame this Psalm as a celebration of deliverance.  It looks back to the time of the exodus from Egypt, and proclaims…

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Book Review: Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2006

I recently saw word that the ACNA Liturgy Taskforce, or a subsection thereof, has a couple more books in production, one of which is Lesser Feasts and Fasts.  Whether that is the final title or not, it is clearly a successor to a group of books put out by the Episcopal Church (USA) which finished (I think) with a 2006 edition.  I’ve heard that its first edition is from the 1960’s, but I haven’t seen it before and therefore cannot comment on the history of this volume.  Here I’m just going to introduce you to Lesser Feasts & Fasts, 2006.

In a nutshell, Lesser Feasts & Fasts exists to give you more resources for weekday Communion services.  Its primary (and titular) angle is to provide more collects & lessons, covering the entire Sanctoral Calendar – that is, the calendar of optional commemorations.  The 2019 Prayer Book also has a calendar of optional commemorations which differs notably from that in the 1979 book, taking away a number of spurious recent and ‘ecumenical’ commemorations, and adding a few more in their place, both historical and recent.

The way these optional commemorations work in the prayer book itself is that there are a set of collects and lessons for different categories of saints (there are 9, in the case of the 2019 BCP) so you can just match the right set to the commemoration.  In Lesser Feasts & Fasts, a unique Collect and set of lessons is assigned to each and every commemoration, allowing a greater degree of personalization and specificity.

Beside the commemoration of saints are seasonal commemorations.  All the days in Lent and Advent are provided for, giving nice seasonally-appropriate prayers and readings for daily communion services.  Eastertide, too, is provided for, mainly by walking the reader through the books of Acts and John during that season.  Furthermore, there are provided for the green seasons both a six-week set of communion propers hitting upon some rotating topics, and a two-year set of communion propers moving through the gospels in a largely sequential manner.

I have not made a detailed comparison, but I do know that some (if not most?) of this material is in harmony with current Roman Catholic practice, where the practice of daily mass is normalized (if sparsely attended by the laity).

Another handy feature of Lesser Feasts & Fasts, perhaps its most useful feature from a pastoral perspective, is the fact that it provides brief one-page bios of each commemoration or saint.  They’re short and focused enough that you can read them at the beginning of a homily, before launching into the meat of the sermon.  In many cases, the attentive preacher can find a connection from the bio sketch to at least one of the provided Scripture lessons.

The 2006 edition of this book reflects the then-current calendar of the Episcopal Church, which includes a few commemorations that an honest Christian cannot justify.  The names in question are of great historical import for sure: Elizabeth Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, Harriet Tubman, J. S. Bach, Florence Li Tim-Oi, Kamehameha, Florence Nightingale… the question is whether we are celebrating them because of their achievements or because of their sanctity of life and doctrine.  The progressive mindset tends to esteem “human flourishing” too highly, and indeed non-liturgical evangelical protestants also tend towards a “great achievers” mindset when it comes to commemoration those who’ve gone before (i.e. Adoniram Judson or William Wilberforce), whereas the traditional definition of a “Saint with a capital S” is someone whose life and orthodoxy are impeccable examples to the faithful.  By definition, therefore, it should be very difficult indeed to honor as a Saint someone who is outside of the theological bounds of our own tradition.  For sure, the names listed in this paragraph are great and wonderful people who ought to be remembered in their own rights… but is the Eucharistic assembly the right place for that?

That is why a new version, to accompany the 2019 Prayer Book, is in order.

For what it’s worth, the commemorations from 2006, with additions from subsequent Episcopalian books, can be found online here.  I would only recommend them for comparative reference, however, as the bias of modern Episcopalianism is not entirely amenable to orthodox Anglican (or indeed Christian) sensibilities anymore.

Podcast Link on Liturgy

This is a quick & easy post today, because I’m still getting my work rhythm back on track this month.  I want to share this podcast link with you all today: https://www.beesondivinity.com/the-institute-of-anglican-studies/podcast/2020/Anglican-Basics-Liturgy

It’s an interview of Fr. Ben Jeffries by Gerald McDermott at Beeson Divinity School.  You’ll hear some quick introductions to liturgy, the Prayer Book tradition, and – perhaps most on point for our purposes – about the 2019 Prayer Book.  I’m not a big podcast guy, so I can’t make larger, sweeping, recommendations, but this particular entry is very informative and I trust that if you’re the sort who’s been enjoying this blog, you will appreciate this podcast too.

Book Review: The 2019 Prayer Book

The Anglican Church in North America formally released a new book of common prayer in June, 2019, after making its full text available online in Easter a couple months earlier.  Even before the release date, controversy was flying, some of which even quiet little me shared at the time.  And, of course, once the book was out, book reviews (again with accompanying debates) were flying across the Anglican Interwebs, left, right, and center.  Why a review on this book now, half a year later?

I followed the progress of Texts for Common Prayer pretty closely from 2013 through 2018, keeping my recitation of the Office and my church’s celebration of Holy Communion largely in line with the then-current liturgical texts.  By the time the 2019 book was released, I was largely familiar with its features, changes, and distinctions when compared with the 1979 book and the classical prayer book tradition.  There was little left to surprise me, or shock me; most of the good news to celebrate and the frustrating news to mourn was already known.  So I could have jumped on the bandwagon for a book review in June, too.  But I chose not to, precisely because I’d been familiar with the workings texts leading up to it.  Any attentive reader can make a quick book review.  I fear too many of this book’s critics will not have given it enough use to get to know it well enough to provide well-formed opinions.  Prayer Books, like Bibles, are books that take effect over the long haul.  It’s not a novel with a flash-in-the-pan story experience, or textbook with read-it-and-memorize-it content; it’s a book to be used over the course of hours and days and weeks and seasons.  It was my intention to provide a review of the 2019 Prayer Book that is not simply “aware” or “informed” of its contents, but also experienced with its liturgy.

(That being said, I have put together a functional introductory outline to the new prayer book, which I used in teaching my congregation about what’s in it, why, and a bit of its history and function.  You can download a full copy of that here: full teaching outlines – 2019 bcp.)

Like every group project I’ve heard of, The Book of Common Prayer 2019 came out with a handful of errors in its first printing (June); most of those errors, plus a couple official revisions were corrected in the second printing (September-ish), and a hopefully the last of them have been caught in the third printing (in December I think).  Most of the changes are listed on this page, though I did see a second sheet of further corrections (mostly just grammar and formatting) floating around the internet that I forgot to download and save to share here.  So if you’re looking at a hard copy in front of you, check which printing it is.  I have first printing pew editions, but a second-printing “delux edition” for my own regular use, so I’ve been able to look at both over the past several months.  Plus of course there’s always the official website copy you can read and download for free, and I assume that’s always going to have the latest corrections already implemented.

This prayer book was born in controversy.  The ACNA is a difficult province to serve, let alone please.  Several dioceses use the 1928 Prayer Book or the Reformed Episcopal Church’s version of it; several used the 1979 Prayer Book and not quite all of them are jumping over the 2019 to replace it; some use other more localized or customized books, including (inexplicably) the Church of England’s contemporary liturgy book, Common Worship.  There was no way that this entire province was going to be united under one prayer book.  Even the Anglican Continuum isn’t truly united under the 1928 as they sometimes bill themselves, because some supplement and edit that book with resources like the Anglican Missal.  So the goal for the 2019 book was to make it as user-friendly as possible, taking what’s perceived as the best of modern practice and the best of our tradition, and putting together a liturgy more faithful than we had in the 1979.  A tall order and an impossible task, if ever I heard one!

Reading through the Preface to the 2019 prayer book, you’ll find the editors were highly aware of the difficult circumstances under which this book was compiled.  Their care to outline Anglican liturgical history and highlight the ecclesial milieu in which the ACNA and the 2019 book were born shows just how self-conscious the tradition of this book is.

lectionary woes and weals

From my perspective, the end result has only one flaw that I particularly dislike: the modern three-year lectionary and calendar for Sundays and Holy Days.  Just over two years ago I argued in favor of the traditional Prayer Book calendar and lectionary, and today I still wish it had been preserved, or at least authorized, in the new book.  If you go to the bottom of that page you’ll find a link to a document I’d sent to the task force, pleading specifically to save the old Collects and Lessons, as one of the great gems of the Prayer Book tradition.  Sadly I was in a clear minority, though I still hold out hope that some day the 21st Church may yet rediscover the wisdom of her forebears on this.

That being said, the version of the three-year lectionary we’ve got in the 2019 book is an improved version of the Common Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary – very similar to those in most respects, but some of their shortcomings have been improved.  The restoration of a culturally “problematic” text in Romans 1 is a positive move, as is the restoration of January 1st to being the feast of “The Circumcision and Holy Name of Jesus”, rather than just the Holy Name as it was “cleaned up” in 1979.  It is nice, also, to have most of the original Sunday Collects back, even without most of the Lessons they were meant to be paired with.

The Daily Office Lectionary is a curiosity.  It represents a radical move backward toward the original 1549-1662 daily lectionary, using the secular calendar instead of the liturgical calendar, and having a simpler order of reading the Bible.  In general, daily lectionaries have gotten increasingly complicated over the past two centuries, giving us shorter readings and decreasing coverage of the Bible.  So in many ways the 2019 daily lectionary is “more traditional” than any other lectionary in North America, much to everyone’s awkward surprise.  There are still some questions that can be raised about what was included and excluded, why, and how certain books should or should not have been woven together, but on the whole this is one of the strongest daily lectionaries I’ve ever seen.

two and half Communion Rites

Throughout the latter half of 2019 I wrote about each piece of the Communion liturgy in this new book, and you can find them indexed here.  There are officially two orders (or Rites) for Holy Communion.  The first is the Anglican Standard Text, which is basically the “novus ordo” of the 1979 Prayer Book (and the Roman Rite) combined with the 1928 Prayer Book’s communion prayers.  The second rite is the Renewed Ancient Text, drawing primarily upon the short-and-sweet (and shallow, many would say) prayers of the 1979 Prayer Book, earning itself the name “Renewed Ancient” only because the communion prayers of consecration are a version of some prayers attributed to Hippolytus in the 3rd century.

The “half” Communion Rite comes from the fact that this book authorizes the reconstruction of the 1662 order for Holy Communion (and, by extension, the 1928 and similar orders also).

Some argue that having more than one communion rite destroys the principle of common prayer.  Again, though, the reality of this book’s situation is that because it will definitely NOT please everyone, it needs to be sufficiently pleasing to enough people that it will catch on as much as it can.  I think having two (and a half) rites is a strategic decision: it provides one rite akin to what people are already used to, in the hopes that the massive diversity of uncommon prayer will eventually funnel down into the two parallel rites in this book.

Plus, I believe, the intended theology of these two rites can (and should) be read as being identical.  Even though the precise content is different, they are intended to communicate the same Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I explored this argument in more detail a couple months ago.

daily and occasional prayers

At first glance the Daily Offices look very similar to the contemporary language offices in the 1979 Prayer Book, but as you dig into the text, and especially the rubrics, you’ll find that the 2019 Prayer Book’s Daily Offices actually rival the 1928 book when it comes to conformity with the 1662 standard.  Although additional prayers are printed and authorized, the standard originals are marked and suggested.  Although supplemental canticles are provided, the standard originals are given place of preference.  Where the 1928 and 1979 cut certain suffrages short, the 2019 puts them back together (and even expands them a little).  Even the Great Litany is a bit less invisible than it was in previous prayer books.

The flexibility afforded in the rubrics allows for shortened forms of the Daily Office, which can be pastorally helpful in certain situations, as well as reassuring for individuals reciting the office in private concerned about “keeping up.”  Very little of the modernist phenomenon of “dumbing down” the liturgy has taken hold here; the 2019 Prayer Book has a robust office of daily prayer.

initiation and other sacramental rites

Because of the occasional nature of the offices of baptism, confirmation, ordination, matrimony, ministry to the sick and dying, and burial, I have less to say about them in the 2019 Prayer Book from personal experience.

One of the concerns about the baptismal liturgy in the draft texts was that there was a big step away from using the language of “regeneration” and more toward the language of “born again.”  Technically those are synonymous phrases, the former simply being more technical than the latter.  But culturally the implications can run quite deeply: the more “evangelical protestant” extreme of Anglicanism sometimes doesn’t like to use the language of baptismal regeneration, and chafe against the language of Article 27 and the traditional prayer book baptismal liturgy.  It was a relief, therefore, to see the term “regenerate” brought back into the main text of the final product rather than just hiding as an option in the rubrics.

Another nice feature of the 2019 book is the use of holy oils in Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, and the Anointing of the Sick.  In terms of the “seven sacraments” of medieval accounting, unction (or anointing) is the one that got lost in Prayer Book practice, only making an official comeback in the 20th century.  Having that ministry of healing returned in a liturgical context provides a traditional framework for (and corrective to) the pentecostal extremes in which healing ministry is often most loudly promoted.  Plus by appointing the other two types of holy oil (exorcism and chrism) for their respective traditional roles, the oil for the anointing of the sick is brought into its proper larger historical-liturgical context.  But, of course, all this use of holy oils remains optional.  They were not required in the classical prayer books, so they are not required here, only suggested and provided for.

Perhaps the most noteworthy “innovation” of the 2019 Prayer Book is the Declaration of Intention prefaced to the marriage rite.  The prayer book expectation (in line also with the canons of the ACNA, by the way) is that the couple who wish to be married must sign the Declaration of Intention, which explicitly spells out the biblical purposes of marriage.  Provision is even made for a public signing of that Declaration, allowing what one could call a formal (liturgical) betrothal ceremony, initiating a period of discernment, prayer, and preparation for a couple considering (or preparing for) getting married.  This is very much a response to the state of the world around us, where many people, including many believers, don’t understand the biblical teachings on marriage, and have no idea of its gospel-centered nature.  Christians couples interested in marriage need to be recognized, prayed for, protected, nurtured, and instructed, and all this very carefully in the knowledge that the world is attacking every aspect of their relationship.  The Declaration of Intention is a source of instruction and guidance, and also a safe “out” for the local priest who may need to say a difficult “wait” or “no” to a couple unprepared or unwilling to accept the gospel of marriage.

the non-essentials

One of the last publicity pieces released before the book was released was on the typeset, font, and formatting of the 2019 Prayer Book.  Some people scoffed – rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic and all that! – but although these are nonessential features of a prayer book, they can be very high-impact.  The 1979 Prayer Book is hopelessly large and complicated.  The page-flipping required to get through one worship service is intense.  This book, while still not as simple to use as the classical prayer books, is designed more with a “new user” in mind, so page number references are provided, section labels are clear, and the need for page-flipping is reduced from the 1979’s glut.

During the season of Advent I took the risky move of doing away with my church’s service bulletin, in which the entire liturgy was printed weekly, with hymn numbers and the Scripture lessons included, and had my congregation of mostly elderly persons use the new prayer books through the worship service.  This was a risk – people don’t always like new things being foisted on them in church, and when you’re not used to any prayer book, it can be a bit daunting to use them for the first few times.  But, to my relief, the book grew on them!  Just where the 1979 Prayer Book got the most complicated (the prayers of the people through the communion prayers) is exactly the point in the liturgy where the 2019 book became the easiest, with no more page-flipping.  I call that a successful test run of this book!

Another feature of the text that has been inconsistent throughout our 450 years of prayer book history is the handling of marking the priest’s words, congregational responses, and text read by all in unison.  The labelling has always been decent, but not always the same.  Congregational responses in the Great Litany have traditionally been italicised, like rubrics.  Most unison prayers have been in bold, but congregational responses were often in regular text, and simply labeled, People.  The 2019 Prayer Book, finally, standardizes the whole thing: the minister or reader’s text in regular print, everything said by the congregation in bold, and all (and only) rubrics in italics.  Section headings, therefore, are rendered in ALL CAPS in order to keep them distinct from rubrics and congregational responses.  And, by golly gee, this book is so much neater as a result.  To my eyes at least, the 1979 book looks rather clinical, and the 1928 looks really crowded.  From an angle of visual presentation, the 2019 Prayer Book is truly quite excellent.

It has a dignity that strives to elevate it well beyond the controversy and argumentation and pain in which it was conceived and born.

the ratings in short…

Accessibility: 3.5/5
This book, as I already noted, is miles easier to use than its predecessor in 1979.  It’s not as streamlined as the classical prayer books, but it handles the variety of options better than any other modern text I’ve seen.  I almost rated this a 4, but have to acknowledge that its learning curve is still a little steep.

Devotional Usefulness: 4/5
Compared to previous prayer books, this is usually drawing upon the best of the best.  Especially for the lay person praying according to this book, the spiritual life engendered here is as rich as any edition of the prayer book before it.  And while certain features (most especially the communion lectionary) prevent it from an ideal 5/5, this is one of the most devotionally useful prayer books ever made.

Reference Value: 4/5
This is hard to rate… being a brand new prayer book this is of practically zero reference value from an historical perspective.  However, its more faithful use of historic material in contemporary idiom make it a far superior rendition of Anglican spirituality than the 1979 Prayer Book, so that’s a big plus.  Furthermore, it contains a good number of Scriptural references (though not drowned in them like Common Prayer 2011) which also help the reader take note of the biblical grounding of our form of worship.  And, of course, the Preface to this edition, and the fact that this is the “official” book of the ACNA also make it an important go-to reference for Anglicanism in America today.

So, whether your local church adopts this book for its liturgy or not, this is a book I highly recommend for your shelf at the very least.  If you’re using the 1979 Prayer Book I cannot urge you enough to put it away and take this one up in its place; there is nothing in that book that cannot be found matched or improved in this one, I promise you.  And, if you’re a traditional-language-prayer-book kind of person, I would encourage you to look more charitably upon the 2019 Prayer Book.  It is not without its flaws, as are all editions of the BCP, but it is probably a great deal more faithful to our great tradition you give it credit for.

There are bits and pieces here and there that I might someday like to see improved.  But on the whole, I am comfortable with settling into the majority of my priestly ministry with this book in hand.

(waves)

Oh hi, everyone.  Yeah, sorry there was no blog post ready today (Friday).  Like a lot of people, I got very busy with family time and wife’s vacation between internship rotations and all that good stuff.  It’s caused me to miss several entries in the past week or two.  I’ll get back on track with a normal schedule soon.

It may be that I will reduce the posting rate from 6 days a week to 5, so I can focus on quality a bit more, over quantity.  For example, today, instead of rushing to get up a music-related post that I’d intended, I took the time to skip it and work on the much larger write-up for tomorrow.  Stay tuned: I’ve finally put together my own book review of the 2019 Prayer Book!  I hope you will find it worth the wait.

Another coming attraction for 2020 is that I’m finally going to buckle down and start writing the actual Saint Aelfric Customary. Watch for those updates, almost every week, starting in February.

Happy Holidays!

After Christmas Day follows three more major holy days in the church calendar, of varying degrees of likelihood for Christmas-themed celebration: St. Stephen (the 26th), St. John (the 27th), and the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem (the 28th).  This picture from an old children’s book captures their summary quite neatly:

december

It should be noted that the word martyr in Greek means “witness”.  These all witnessed to the gospel of Christ in powerful ways.  Stephen was killed for his faith and preaching.  John was almost killed for the same.  The Holy Innocents were slaughtered when King Herod sought to kill the baby Jesus.  You can read more about these holy days in last year’s posts:

Another fun fact with these days is that because they land on consecutive days, none of them have an “Eve.”  The evening of the 25th is the “second vespers” of Christmas, so all of the 26th is St. Stephen, all of the 27th is St. John, and all of the 28th is Holy Innocents.  Normally, liturgical time begins at sundown – at Evening Prayer – but Christmas Day is significant enough that it keeps its “second” evening to itself, starting a sort of chain reaction of major feast days that don’t get extra time before their morning begins.

Planning Prayers & Readings Review

Although the full text hasn’t been finalized yet, I do have plans for how the Saint Aelfric Customary will recommend the implementation of most of the features in the 2019 Prayer Book.  In short, I can’t tell you why these suggestions are here yet, but if you want to order your prayers accordingly, here is the weekly guide!

Planning Prayers

Sunday 12/15

  • Morning Prayer Canticles: Te Deum laudamus and Benedictus
  • Holy Communion: Third Sunday of Advent (Year A)
  • Evening Prayer Canticles: Magnificat and Nunc dimittis

Monday 12/16

  • Morning Prayer Canticles: #1 Magna et mirabilia and Benedictus
  • Holy Communion: Third Sunday of Advent (with the traditional readings)
  • Evening Prayer Canticles: Magnificat and #4 Quaerite Dominum

Tuesday 12/17

  • Morning Prayer Canticles: #1 Magna et mirabilia and Benedictus
  • Holy Communion: Votive: of the Blessed Virgin Mary (The Visitation)
  • Evening Prayer Canticles: Magnificat and #4 Quaerite Dominum

Wednesday 12/18

  • Morning Prayer Canticles: #1 Magna et mirabilia and Benedictus
  • Holy Communion: Ember Day I
  • Evening Prayer Canticles: Magnificat and #4 Quaerite Dominum

Thursday 12/19

  • Morning Prayer Canticles: #1 Magna et mirabilia and Benedictus
  • Holy Communion: Votive*
  • Evening Prayer Canticles: Magnificat and #4 Quaerite Dominum

Friday 12/20

  • Morning Prayer Canticles: #1 Magna et mirabilia and Benedictus
  • Holy Communion: Ember Day II
  • Evening Prayer Canticles: Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, Collect for St. Thomas

Saturday 12/21

  • Morning Prayer Canticles: Te Deum and Benedictus
  • Holy Communion: SAINT THOMAS
  • Evening Prayer: Magnificat and Nunc dimittis

Sunday 12/22

  • Morning Prayer Canticles: Te Deum laudamus and Benedictus
  • Holy Communion: Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year A)
  • Evening Prayer Canticles: Magnificat and Nunc dimittis

* A Votive is a “Various Occasion” (page 733 in the BCP 2019).  The traditional appointments are Holy Trinity on Sunday, Holy Spirit on Monday, Holy Angels on Tuesday, of the Incarnation on Wednesdays, of the Holy Eucharist on Thursdays, the Holy Cross on Fridays, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturdays.

Readings Review

Last week: Ecclus. (Sirach) 44-50, Revelation 1-6, Isaiah 51-57, Luke 12-16
This week: Wisdom 1-5, Revelation 7-13, Isaiah 58-64, Luke 17-20:26

Special reading for St. Thomas’ Day on Saturday morning: John 14:1-7

With Sirach finished yesterday we begin now on the book The Wisdom of Solomon.  Like Ecclesiastes and much of the book of Proverbs, this book’s authorship is attributed to King Solomon, and written in his voice.  But, also like those books, the ascription to Solomon here is primarily honorific.  They are all written in the tradition of Solomon; we have little way of knowing how much of any of this truly came from his own pen (or stylus?).  And ultimately that’s not the point; the point is that these various wisdom writings are in the great wisdom tradition that Solomon began, or popularized, or codified, or brought into the mainstream.

The opening three chapters of Wisdom, particularly, are arguably its best-known parts.  Their descriptions of the righteous and the unrighteous, and the interaction between the two, find themselves powerful readings when read with a christo-centric eye: the way the unrighteous resolve to “test” the righteous sounds very much like the pharisees’ account of the crucifixion of Jesus.  And chapter 3’s dealing with the security of the godly soul in the hands of God, even in death, makes for excellent reading, not only for comfort in time of grieving, but also clear indication of pre-Christian belief in the afterlife (which scholars sometimes like to quibble about when dealing with the Old Testament).

The Servant Songs of Isaiah have finished, though some powerful chapters are still hitting us this week.  Chapters 58 & 59 deal with fasting, prayer, and alms-giving, earning them prominent places in a few lectionaries on Ash Wednesday.  Chapters 60 & 61 deal with Gentiles and the heavenly Jerusalem, earning them prominent places in Epiphany and Advent alike.

In Luke, the “Kingdom of God” teachings are beginning to increase now.  They’re not quite as thick and heavy as Matthew’s Gospel presents them at this stage of the game, but they’re still quite prominent themes, and at the end of the week we’ll make it to the Triumphal Entry.  As noted a week or two ago, keep the Cross in mind as you read these chapters.