Video: Passiontide through Easter Week

We’re a few days into Passiontide already, but Holy Week is still not quite here, so this is a good time to share this introduction to Passiontide, Holy Week, the Triduum, and Easter/Pascha.

subject index:

  • 00:00 Nomenclature
  • 05:03 Major Themes and Traditions of these three weeks
  • 11:33 Walkthrough of Passiontide & Holy Week in the 2019 Prayer Book
  • 15:08 Walkthrough of Easter Week in the 2019 Prayer Book
  • 19:47 Daily Office Lectionary and other liturgical features
  • 23:47 Closing in prayers

Learning the Daily Office – part 9 of 12

So you’ve heard about the Daily Office, specifically the Anglican tradition of daily prayer and scripture reading, and you want to enter into this beautiful and formative tradition?  Great, grab a prayer book and go!  Except, maybe someone already said that and you don’t know where to start… or worse, you did try it and it was just too much?  The length of the Office was overwhelming and the contents too complicated to navigate when you’ve got no experience with liturgy.  We understand, we’ve all been at that place before!  Some just don’t remember it as well as others.

Diving into the full Prayer Book life of worship doesn’t work for everyone; sometimes you have to work your way up toward that discipline, adding one piece at a time as you grow comfortable with each feature and learn how to “do” them all.  This post series is basically a twelve-step program to help you advance in the life of disciplined prayer from zero to super-Anglican.  The pace is up to you – the goal of this sort of spiritual discipline is consistency, not “how much” you do.

Step One: Pray a Psalm followed by the Lord’s Prayer.
Step Two: Add a Scripture Reading
Step Three: Add more Psalms and Lessons
Step Four: Add the Apostles’ Creed
Step Five: Add Canticles
Step Six: Add the Confession
Step Seven: Add some Prayers
Step Eight: Add the Invitatory

Step Nine: Add the Collect of the Day

You’ll be aware that, in the Prayers, we’ve been skipping the Collect of the Day.  Now it’s time to add that in.  Under where it says “The Collect of the Day” it notes that you can find them in “The Collects of the Christian Year” section of the Prayer Book.  In the rubrics above (in italics) you’ll see it names pages 598-640 for that section.

Functionally, this is a very simple addition: look up the Collect of the Day that applies, and pray it at this point in the service.  Most of the time, the Collect of the Day is the same all week, based upon the most recent Sunday.  But there are also holy days that come with their own Collect of the Day.  The Prayer Book’s calendar also directs that the Collects for Sundays and Holy Days are normally to be used starting at Evening Prayer before the day in question begins.  The experiential challenge here is that you need to understand the basics of the Church Calendar in order to find the correct Collect of the Day.  Presumably, you’ve been going to an Anglican church for a while, if you’ve put this much effort into learning to pray the Anglican Daily Office, so that experience should be enough to give you a sense of where you are in the year.  You’ll hear the Collect of the Day for each Sunday at the communion service, right before the readings, so that’ll tell you if you grabbed the right one the evening before and earlier that morning, and it’ll set you straight for the rest of the week (again, except for other holy days that might come up).

It may be helpful to buy a special calendar, or use your prayer book to mark one up yourself ahead of time, so you can easily see what the Collect of the Day every day.  This can be a fun activity to do with kids, too, inviting them to color each day’s box the traditional liturgical color… my four-year-old loves it!

The main point of this piece of the Daily Office is to provide a tie-in to the liturgical rounds of prayer that are more fully emphasized in the Service of Holy Communion.  For the most part, the Daily Office is meant to be a stable liturgy, changing little from day to day and season to season, the Collect being one of its only links to the ebb and flow of our liturgical year.  And so, learning to identify the Collect of the Day is a milestone in your education of the liturgy, connecting your regular daily prayers to the life of the greater Church beyond your home.

That being said, don’t worry overmuch about this.  Most of the time, the Collect of the Day is just an extra bookmark in your Prayer Book where it simply moves from Sunday to Sunday.  If you miss a holy day or grab the wrong week from time to time, you’ll survive.  Liturgy is meant to be formative, not stressful.  Checking in at church each Sunday will usually provide you with everything you “need to know” about this piece of it.


Your Morning & Evening Offices are now looking like this:

  1. (Opening Sentence)
  2. The Confession of Sin
  3. The Invitatory
  4. Invitatory Psalm or Phos Hilaron
  5. The Psalm(s) Appointed
  6. Old Testament Lesson (occasionally the first lesson is from the NT instead)
  7. First Canticle
  8. New Testament Lesson
  9. Second Canticle
  10. The Apostles’ Creed (consider standing up for this!)
  11. The Prayers
    1. Lord have mercy…
    2. The Lord’s Prayer
    3. Suffrage
    4. The Collect of the Day
    5. A Collect for (the day of the week)
    6. A Prayer for Mission

This covers almost the entire Prayer Book liturgy for daily Morning and Evening Prayer.  Two more steps remain to complete it, and then two extra steps to expand it further if you are so inclined.

Collects of the Day this week

Last week was a bit complicated for tracking the Collect of the Day in the Daily Offices.  In a normal week, you start the Sunday’s Collect on the Saturday evening before, and use it through Saturday morning until the next Sunday Collect kicks in.  Last week, however, had two holy days, one of which redefined the rest of the week:

  1. Sunday morning: Collect for the Last Sunday of Epiphany
  2. Sunday evening through Monday evening: Collect for St. Matthias Day
  3. Tuesday morning and evening: Collect for the Last Sunday of Epiphany
  4. Wednesday morning through Saturday morning: Collect for Ash Wednesday

This week we have the Lenten/Spring Ember Days, causing a similar mix-up of the Collect of the Day:

  1. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday: Collect for the First Sunday in Lent
  2. Wednesday: Collect for an Ember Day
  3. Thursday: Collect for the First Sunday in Lent
  4. Friday, Saturday: Collect for an Ember Day

One of the things that makes this tricky is the fact that we, in the 2019 Prayer Book, only have two Collects for the Ember Days.  Sometimes, like in Advent a few months ago, this works out fine because a holy day (in that case, St. Thomas) sometimes cuts in and overwrites one of the Ember Days, allowing us to use both Collects on one day each.  But now that we have three Ember Days unfettered, and only two Collects to use, how should we handle this?  Perhaps the simplest approach is to use the first Collect each morning and the second Collect each evening.

Another tradition worth mentioning is the fact that the classical prayer books (that is, those before 1979) call for the repetition of the Ash Wednesday Collect after the current Collect of the Day throughout the season of Lent.  The 2019 Prayer Book does not direct for this to be done, but with the rubrics the way they are, there is nothing “illegal” about applying this tradition in our recitation of the Daily Office.  So give that possibility due consideration also!

The -gesimas are back!

For those of you who are already using a classical prayer book, this is old news.  But for those who are using the 2019 Prayer Book, this is kind of a background information update that you might not be aware of.  This past Sunday was the beginning of the traditional Pre-Lent mini-season, of which I have written here before.  Feel free to give that article a read if you haven’t before, or want to re-discover what this sadly-defunt tradition has to offer.

Or, if you don’t feel like reading, you can listen to me yammer away about it on YouTube!


Subject Index:

St. James of Jerusalem Day

October 23rd is the feast of St. James of Jerusalem in modern calendars.  The traditional calendar didn’t give him a separate day of his own because for a large chunk of history he was identified as one of the twelve apostles, commemorated along with Philip on May 1st.  Recent trends of interpretation have preferred to see this James as a separate person, not one of the twelve.  You can read a little bit more about that in last year’s entry.  I suppose it’s better accidentally to commemorate one person twice a year than to forget to commemorate someone because we confused him with someone else.  We’ve got that same problem with St. Aelfric, too, to be fair.

Anyway, let’s move on and look at the Collect of this Day.

Grant, O God, that following the example of your apostle James the Just, kinsman of our Lord, your Church may give itself continually to prayer and to the reconciliation of all who are at variance and enmity; through Jesus Christ our Lord…

It’s interesting to come across this just as a public strife has arisen between fans of John MacArthur and Beth Moore surrounding recent comments of the former against the latter.  There is, indeed, something of a theological gap between the two of them, and, further, a theological gap between both of them and the Anglican tradition from which we could stand aloof to their quarrel – or at least the quarrels of their respective fandoms and supporters.  “I follow Johnny Mac!” and “I follow Beth!” are voraciously-defended causes right now.

St. James of Jerusalem presided at a church council in Jerusalem around the year 50.  The primary issue was responding to Judaizers – people who insisted that Gentiles had to become practicing Jews in order to be proper Christians.  Circumcision, the keeping of the Law of Moses, the Saturday Sabbath, dietary regulations, and the like, were the prominent visible aspects of their cause.  The apostles, including Sts. Peter and Paul, had already been teaching against the Judaizers’ cause, though the former had paid lip service to them in the recent past, much to St. Paul’s consternation.  But a case had been made against St. Paul and his company, and it was time to settle the matter formally.  The full story can be read in Acts 15, and I put together a walk-through of that text a few years ago if you care to read it.

The short of it is that James, acting as what we would now call the diocesan bishop of Jerusalem, heard the case, made a ruling, saw it confirmed by the assembly, and released an official statement to make their decision public.  Enmity and strife was resolved with a little bit of comprise, but primarily a restatement of gospel truth.  Remember, godly compromise is only possible when both sides are essentially correct and only peripherally in disagreement… many of the judaizers were outright heretics (cf. the epistle to the Galatians), so there was very little room for compromise anyway.

What makes this episode particularly noteworthy is that St. James was supposed to be a “safe” choice for the judaizer cause.  He had been a faithful Jew, like most of the first disciples and apostles, and he was known continually as a devout Jewish man even after his conversion to Christ.  Simply the fact that he continued to live, minister, and lead the church in Jerusalem when all the other apostles had fled due to persecution by Jewish authorities (cf. Acts 12) is a significant clue to how Jewish James must have appeared.  If the judaizers were going to get a bishop on their side, James would be their man.  But, of course, he wasn’t.  He had a strong personal affinity for the Jewish religion and culture, and he was among the least willing to give up the formal trappings of the Old Covenant, but despite that he understood that this was a voluntary choice and not a Gospel mandate.

Only with the Gospel mandate, or creedal orthodoxy, or however you care to summarize it, can “reconciliation of all who are at variance and enmity” be achieved.  This speaks volumes to the MacArthur versus Moore conflict; this speaks to the ordination of women conflict within the ACNA; this speaks to the substantial disagreements between parties within the Anglican tradition, not to mention the many denominations beyond the confines of the Anglican Way.  Some compromises are possible, but ultimately one truth will prevail over the other(s) if unity is to be achieved.  Let us pray for leaders akin to the spirit and wisdom of St. James of Jerusalem – bishops who can discern biblical truth from personal preference and piety – through whom Christ can bring true reconciliation to his people in variance and enmity.

Generic or Specific Saints’ Day Collects

When I started getting into catholicism (in the broad sense – Roman, Eastern, Lutheran, Anglican, hadn’t decided yet) one of the things I found myself hoping for was that there’d be more information on the Saints.  Where did the twelve apostles go, besides Paul?  What did they do, and how did they die?  It was a naive hope, of course, because we’ve all got the same Bible, and the Bible is still the surest witness to the history of that generation.

We all have access to the same histories, too, which indicate the further stories all of the apostles, but some of that is legendary, and it’s often hard (if not impossible) to separate fact from fancy.  To some degree it doesn’t matter: if we know what kind of people the apostles were (thanks to the Bible) then we can infer the kinds of things they did, even if the details have gotten muddled over the centuries.

But we can’t teach as doctrine what history only assumes and the Bible doesn’t tell or infer… so how do we celebrate saints days like today’s?  We know nothing about Bartholomew’s activity in the Bible, and assuming he’s the same man as Nathaniel we’ve only got about one instance of Jesus even speaking directly to him (toward the end of John 1).

So what we do is have a Collect of the Day that’s more generic.  The wording is a little different between classic and modern prayer books but in this case the content is the same:

Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your Word: Grant that your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

As you can see, we assert nothing specific about his life, only the generic fact that he believed and preached the Word of God, as did all the apostles, especially after the Day of Pentecost.  New-to-traditional-Christianity-me was disappointed at this sort of thing; I was unconsciously feeling the gnostic pull, hoping for secret knowledge and insight that was previously denied me in the generic non-denominational setting.  But it is good, in its own way, that we don’t know much about most of the apostles.  For the reason that we celebrate them isn’t for their own sake.  If that were so we’d need to know a lot about them… each would need his own biography in the Bible!  But we celebrate the saints for the sake of Christ.  We live by their light not because they shine like the sun but because they’re moons that reflect the sun’s light back toward us from another angle.  (This analogy has long been used of Mary, too, to the extent were you’ll occasionally see a moon associated with her in certain strands of iconography.)

So, with St. Bartholomew, the lesson is going to be generic but fundamental: let us love the Word which the apostles taught, and let us go and preach the same.

Remember to use different Collects today

Just a quick entry this Friday morning – remember to use a different Collect of the Day in Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.

  1. In Morning Prayer today, we’re still using the Collect of the Day from Sunday (Proper 15 in the 2019 book).
  2. In Evening Prayer today it’s time to switch the Collect of the Day over to tomorrow’s feast day: St. Bartholomew.

As it says on page 687:

Following ancient Jewish tradition, the celebration of any Sunday begins at sundown on the Saturday that precedes it. Therefore at Evening Prayer on Saturdays (other than Holy Days), the Collect appointed for the ensuing Sunday is used.

Although this only refers to Sundays, the principle has traditionally been applied to major holy days, such as the “red-letter days” in Prayer Book tradition.  This quote does, however, speak to tomorrow’s Evening Prayer situation, noting that the Holy Day takes precedence over starting Sunday at sundown.

In short…

  • Friday Morning: still using the previous Sunday’s Collect
  • Friday Evening: begin using St. Bartholomew
  • Saturday Morning & Evening: still using St. Bartholomew
  • Sunday Morning: begin using that Sunday’s Collect

Happy praying!

Praying Humbly

The Collect for Proper 12 (or, in classical prayer books, for the 12th Sunday after Trinity) is a truly humble prayer.  If you want to see an example of what it means to pray with a humble heart, look no further.

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This prayer acknowledges several things that takes our egos down a notch.

  1. God is more ready to hear than we are to pray.
  2. God gives us more than we desire or deserve.
  3. God forgives us the things of which we’re afraid to ask for forgiveness.
  4. God gives us god things that we’re not worthy even to ask for.
  5. We’re only worthy to ask God for things through the merits of another: Jesus Christ our Savior.

If you chase down some Scripture references this one prayer could be turned into a Bible Study, even a sermon!  And why not? let’s grab a few verses right now.

  • Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. – Isa. 65:24
  • God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. – 1 Kings 3:11-12
  • I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. – John 16:33

Sometimes in a conservative, confessional, liturgical, or otherwise traditional church setting, we might find ourselves downplaying the prodigal love of God toward us, preferring to take a more severe and sober attitude concerning our sinfulness or concupiscence, pushing back against the excesses of pop-evangelical culture, or worse, the prosperity gospel heretics who go on about bastardized versions of “God’s love” all the time.  It’s important, with prayers such as this one, to maintain that biblical balance between sober awareness of our sinfulness and joyful recognition of God’s loving-kindness.

So enjoy this prayer for the rest of the week, and revel in God’s love for you!  (But if you’re in a classical-prayer-book parish, then I guess you have to wait another month or so for your turn with this Collect!)

St. James’ Day

It’s July 25th, you know what that means!  No, no “Christmas In July”… it’s Saint James’ Day, I warned you this was coming!  One of the “inner three” of Christ’s apostles, James’ story comes to an abrupt end in Acts 12.  Let’s start with prayer though:

O gracious God, your servant and apostle James was first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ: Pour upon the leaders of your Church that spirit of self-denying service, by which they may have true authority among your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Though he tends to get less press than a few of the other apostles, James is one of the ones we know the most about from the New Testament.  This is reflected in several of the Scripture readings appointed for today.  The special reading for this feast day in Morning Prayer is from Mark 1, where we see the call of James with his brother John, sons of Zebedee.  At the Communion today the Gospel (from Matthew 20) has Jesus’ subtle prediction of James’ death, and the reading from Acts 11 & 12 (in the place of the Epistle) accounts for James’ death directly.

If you chose to make use of the Midday Lectionary provided by this Customary, you’ll also read from 2 Kings 1 today – a curious story in which the prophet Elijah calls down fire from heaven upon multiple groups of soldiers until a group entreats him with the honor due his office as a Prophet.  This sets the Old Testament background and precedent for another story of James (and John) in Luke 9, wherein they ask Jesus if they should call fire down from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village that rejected Jesus’ teaching.  One can see that St. James was indeed a zealous disciple of our Lord!

So, as the Collect of the Day, how about taking a little time today to pray for pastors, deacons, priests, bishops, that they might be ready, like St. James, to lay down their life for you and those whom else they serve in the name of the Lord?

Pairing a Collect with a Hymn

One of my favorite things about the 2017 hymnal, “Book of Common Praise“, is that among its extensive indices it has a liturgical index that suggests hymns to match each Collect, OT lesson, Epistle lesson, and Gospel for each Sunday and holy day in the traditional calendar.  (Yes, traditional calendar, not the modern 3-year lectionary, because the REC made this book, and they still use the classic Anglican calendar.)  If you pay attention to the traditional Collects and find where they are in the modern (2019 Prayer Book) calendar, then you can profit from this liturgical index.

Take, for example, the Collect for Proper 9, which is this coming Sunday.  It corresponds with the 9th Sunday after Trinity (most of the post-Trinity collects numerically line up from the old to new calendars like this, which is handy).  The collect reads as follows:

Grant us, O Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who can do no good thing apart from you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord…

The 2017 hymnal recommends the following hymns to match with this Collect:

Dear Lord…” right off the bat reveals its connection with this collect: “Forgive our foolish ways!  Reclothe us in our rightful mind, In purer lives thy service find…”  The recognition that we need God to enable us to good is clear throughout the hymn.

Breathe on me” is perhaps better known.  It’s not as “negative” about the sinful self, but its plea for reliance on God is just as sincere: “Fill me with life anew, That I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.”

O thou who camest” is a hymn for Confirmation in this hymnal.  It isn’t until verse 3 that this hymn’s connection to the Collect is clear: “Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire to work, and speak, and think for thee”.  Verse 4 also contributes: “Ready for all thy perfect will,
my acts of faith and love repeat”.  Its emphasis on doing the desire of one’s heart is revealed to be the godly intention of desiring what God desires, and thus plays into the main theme of the Collect.

Take my life, and let it be” may be cliche to some.  But the entire song can serve as a meditation on this Collect’s prayer for God’s spirit which alone enables us to do good.  Verse by verse this hymn hands to God our life, hands, lips, heart, voice, and finally our will:

Take my will, and make it thine;
It shall be no longer mine.

Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for thee.  Amen.

If you want to make use of these hymns to reinforce the Collect of the Day on this coming Sunday, one of the best spots to do this is either between the Gloria in excelsis and the Collect.  The rubrics on pages 107 and 125 indicate that the Gloria may be substituted for a different song of praise, which my congregation traditionally stretches a little such that we say the Gloria and then sing a hymn.  I know of other congregations that take this idea even farther and put a whole “praise and worship set” after or in place of the Gloria… that strikes me as a stretch of the rubrics too far.  Whateverso, placing one of these hymns immediately before the Collect maximizes the potential for people to hear the thematic echo of the hymn in the Collect when the celebrant reads it.

If you place the related hymn elsewhere in the liturgy, it may be necessary for the preacher to identify that connection during the sermon.  And honestly, that’s not a bad idea either.  Include an explication of the Collect in the sermon, quote a piece of the hymn that connects to it, and then have the congregation sing that hymn during the Offertory or something.  That way the liturgy stands as a more coherent whole, and you the ministers are helping your flock see that, recognize that, and learn to make those connections on their own. For if we truly believe lex orandi lex credendi (the law of prayer is the law of belief) and vice versa, we should take care to see that our form of worship is just as coherent as our biblical preaching and doctrinal catechesis.