Video Introduction to the season after Trinity

Now that it’s Trinitytide, let’s talk about what this season is all about!  A lot of people like to divide the calendar into two halves: “the story of Jesus” for the first half and “the story of the Church” for the second half (Trinitytide), but that isn’t really how the season after Trinity Sunday works, either in the traditional calendar & lectionary or in the modern.  Allow me to explain, in video form…

For further reading on the traditional calendar:

Subject Index:

  • 00:00 Introducing this season
  • 01:33 Major Theme: Discipleship
  • 03:16 Historical/Traditional Trinitytide
  • 07:41 Modern Trinitytide in the 2019 Prayer Book
  • 14:04 a concluding prayer

The June Major Feasts

Most months of the year have about three major feast days; June is right on the average with that number: Saint Barnabas on the 11th, The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on the 24th, and Saints Peter and Paul on the 29th.

Being in the first half of the month, Saint Barnabas’ Day often lands close to Trinity Sunday or Pentecost.  While this can sometimes cause a little trouble with displacing the Ember Days or transferring Barnabas away from those highest of Sundays, it also makes a lot of sense to celebrate him in proximity to the Day of Pentecost.  The reason is simple: the book of Acts is associated with the season of Eastertide as well as the Day of Pentecost, so there’s a biblical-chronological sense to getting to the story of Barnabas on the heels of Pentecost.

The Nativity (birth) of St. John the Baptist, meanwhile, is in June for historical reasons; it’s linked with the dates for the Annunciation to Mary and the birth of Christ.  You can read more about that here!

Saints Peter and Paul were both martyred in Rome.  It happened at different times, possibly in different years, although both within a few years of one another in the mid-to-late-60’s.  Their martyrdoms have traditionally been observed together on the same date, June 29th.

Among the Optional Commemorations there are a few that the Saint Aelfric Customary would highlight as Minor Feasts:

  • 1 June: St. Justin Martyr, one of the first major apologists
  • 14 June: St. Basil the Great, one of the Cappadocian Fathers, great theologians
  • 22 June: St. Alban, the first martyr in Britain
  • 27 June: St. Cyril of Alexandria, a key leader at the Council of Ephesus
  • 28 June: St. Irenaeus, a major 2nd century Christian writer

3-Step Spirituality in Ezekiel 3

Yes, yes, this is a liturgy blog, not a Bible Study blog, but I’m a pastor, not just a priest, so some crossover is going to be inevitable from time to time.

But, to encourage you to watch this anyway, I actually do use the liturgy as an illustration for the biblical point I was exploring.  If you sometimes struggle to teach your congregation about the liturgy, this may be an example of one way of employing it in your preaching.

Introduction to Ascensiontide & Pentecost

Time for another video!  The quarantine lifestyle has thrown a lot of my previous plans off track so this is a bit later than I would have liked, but at least it’s ready before the Day of Pentecost.  Here is a video introduction, especially for those new to the Prayer Book tradition, to the mini-season of Ascensiontide and the great holy day of Pentecost.

Subject Index:

  • 00:00 Name & Meaning
  • 04:18 Major Themes
  • 08:20 Outline in traditional Prayer Books
  • 11:55 Outline in the 2019 Prayer Book
  • 16:35 Other liturgical features in the 2019 Prayer Book
  • 19:37 Closing Prayer: for the Sunday after the Ascension

For further reading:

Saint Augustine of Canterbury Day

May 26th is the commemoration of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, who is an immensely significant figure for Anglicans.  He was the first Archbishop of Canterbury.  He was the leader of a mission to re-evangelize the British Isles after the Anglo-Saxon invasion had pushed the old Celtic churches somewhat to the margins.  Sometimes today we romanticize Celtic Christianity, but it needs to be remembered that their unique traditions and style of spirituality did wane over time, and the land later to be known as England was not truly “won for Christ” for the long haul until Augustine’s second wave of evangelists beginning at the end of the 6th century.

St. Augustine had been sent by Pope Gregory the Great, and entrusted with the difficult task not only of evangelizing the warlike Saxon kings but also reconciling his new churches with the old Celtic ones.  It would be over 60 years later, at the Synod of Whitby, that the Anglo-Saxon Church finally settled a peaceful accord between the Augustinian churches and the Celtic churches.  In this sense, Augustine represents a sort of “catholicizing” influence on the English church, pulling local traditions more into alignment with the rest of the Church across the world.  I wrote about this last year, too.

By the way, much of what we know about Augustine and his mission, we owe to the Venerable Bede.  So it’s kind of fitting that their feast days are next to each other in this order!

The Venerable Bede

If you have an interest in medieval English history, Christianity in Anglo-Saxon England, or the now-ubiquitously-popular concept of “Celtic Christianity”, there is one giant of literature that you have to get to know: the Venerable Bede.  His body resides in Durham Cathedral and you can read a bit about him on their website if you like.  As that page notes, Bede’s “most famous work is The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the first ever written history of England.  Completed in 731, it is a key source for understanding early British history, details about St Cuthbert’s life and the arrival of Christianity.”

It is from his writings that we have the oldest-preserved poem in English, Cædmon’s Hymn (which I had to memorize in Anglo-Saxon and translate for an exam in college), and from his students we have another gem of a poem that he recited on his deathbed:

Before the journey that awaits us all,
No man becomes so wise that he has not need
to think out, before his going hence,
What judgment will be given to soul
after his death: of evil or of good.

He died 1,285 years ago tomorrow, but his commemoration day is today.  The reason for that is tomorrow is the commemoration of another saint, August of Canterbury, whose feast is traditionally of a higher “rank” than Bede’s.  Although the Prayer Book tradition only acknowledges two ranks of saints days (the red-letter days appointed with Collects and Lessons, versus the black-letter days listed in the calendar and left as optional commemorations) we still follow the old precedent of celebrating Augustine on May 26th and moving Bede up a day… and besides, it’s easiest to have just one saint per day.

But let’s go back to that poem.

It is, first of all, a reflection upon death and judgment.  It is not simply a momento mori (remembrance of death) like became popular in medieval piety over the centuries, but a remembrance of judgement and eternity.  No one should grow presumptuous (or worse, lethargic) about the state of one’s soul.  Before we die, we all must contemplate eternity, we all most think on our sinfulness and on God’s grace.  Bede does not say we should live in fear, as some accuse medieval Romanism of preaching, nor does he swing in the direction of easy-peasy pop-evangelicalism that focuses on God’s loving-kindness and tends to forget about our sinfulness.  He does not swerve in either direction, but stays simply in the middle: one must be mindful of judgment.

This poem navigates the balance between different sorts of biblical texts, such as:

  • Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).
  • Judgement begins at the household of God (1 Peter 4:17).
  • They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10:28).

I wish I knew more about Bede himself.  Hopefully I’ll make some time to his Ecclesiastical History in the coming year or two.  For now, though, this should be a good spiritual introduction to Bede’s sort of sober spirituality.

Summarizing Eastertide

I know Eastertide is about to shift gears, or even end, depending upon how you understand the bounds of the Easter season, but it’s better late than never… here is the next video in my series on the Church Calendar.

Subject Index:

  • 00:00 Definition & Major Themes
  • 05:38 Historical Features
  • 09:06 Walk-through in the 2019 Prayer Book
  • 12:40 Daily Office & other features
  • 17:36 A Collect for Strength to Await Christ’s Return

Links for further reading:

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.

Lectionary Convergence: Psalm 23

This week we have some nice lectionary convergences in the 2019 Prayer Book.  Psalm 23 was heard yesterday at the Communion service, and now we hear it again at Evening Prayer the next day.  This week we’re also reading from 1 Peter, which is the source of the Sunday Communion Epistle lessons throughout Eastertide this year.

If you want to read a reflection on Psalm 23 for today, click here.

If you want to read about 1 Peter during Eastertide, click here.

Last of all, by way of a reminder, yesterday was the 4th Sunday of Easter, nicknamed Good Shepherd Sunday.  In the traditional lectionary, however, Good Shepherd Sunday was last Sunday.  So if you’re poking around different Anglican ministry sites and pages and noticed a Good Shepherd themed article a week off from what you would have expected, that’s why.

World Mission Sunday: it doesn’t have to exist


You know how it goes, haters gonna hate, complainers gonna complain, the overly-picky will never be satisfied.  Actually, being excessively choosy in one’s tastes is a form of the sin of gluttony, so their reward will be in their bellies… or something like that.

Anyway, one of the more nit-picky criticisms of the Texts for Common Prayer and the resultant 2019 Prayer Book was the introduction of a new commemoration: World Mission Sunday.  It has been branded as the Second-to-Last Sunday of Epiphany since its first appearance, if I remember correctly, though the rubrics (such as on page 604) state that it may be observed on any Sunday in that season, except for the first and last Sundays.

This shows us two things:

  1. The first and last Sundays are noteworthy over against the Sundays in between.  This is perhaps why many modern Anglican calendars appoint white for them, and green for the Sundays in between.  It also stands in line with the tradition of being able to celebrate major saints days (or “red letter days”) on the “green” Sundays but not the first or last in Epiphanytide.
  2. World Mission Sunday itself is not fixed.  It’s the 2019 Prayer Book’s default for the penultimate Sunday before Lent, but it doesn’t have to be!

In fact, when you look at the numbered Sundays “of Epiphany” you’ll find that there still are eight, which means that you can live like 2015 never happened and World Mission Sunday doesn’t exist.

So there you go, if you don’t like it, fine, you’re not required to use it!

What if I’m not grumpy about it, one way or the other?

I’ll tell you a secret, since this is Weird Rubric Wednesday where I’ve given myself permission to be a bit silly-yet-sincere.  I have never observed World Mission Sunday with my congregation.  They probably don’t even know it exists.  And it’s not because I’m opposed to world missions, or think it’s not worth celebrating or preaching about.  I’m not even one of the aforementioned grumpy critics.  Though I have been grumpy and critical about things in the 2019 Prayer Book before… but this isn’t one of them.

Initially I had two reasons for ignoring World Mission Sunday in my tiny parish.

  1. It used the exact same Collect as the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany and all its Scripture lessons are already found elsewhere in the lectionary, so it added nothing really new to the calendar on its own.
  2. More importantly, I had decided to preach through as much of 1 Corinthians as possible through Epiphanytide in Years A through C, so WMS would have interrupted that series considerably.

Since then, World Mission Sunday has gotten its own unique Collect, which is great, though its scripture lessons are still generally duplicated elsewhere in the lectionary.  So if you’ve got a preaching series through the lectionary readings going on during Epiphanytide, you too may want to opt for giving WMS a miss.  But in general, it’s not a bad tradition to introduce, and the Epiphany season is probably the best part of the year to place it.  Epiphanytide is already one of the most-changed seasons when you compare the historic and modern calendars, so it’s not as though further tinkering is going to make it any more or less like its original form.

If you want to learn more about World Mission Sunday in the context of the Epiphany season, here are some links to check out: