Thirsty Thursday

It’s Thirsty Thursday, wooo!
No I’m not rewinding back to my university days… I wasn’t quite that wild anyway.  But we do have good reason, in the church, to think about wine on Thursdays.

Let’s think about the Christian conception of the week.  On one level we received the concept of the seven day week from pre-Christ Judaism.  The sabbath, or seventh, day was a day of rest to complete the week.  It set ordinary life into the context of creation: as God was described to have worked for six days and rested on a seventh, we were to work for six days and rest on the seventh (cf. Genesis 2, Exodus 20).  That sabbath was a day to replace the ordinary with the sacred, to gather with the community of the faithful and worship God.    That sabbath was also forward-looking, anticipating God’s promised “rest” for his people (cf. Psalm 95, Hebrews 3).

In light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, this theological accounting for the week got expanded.  The first day of the week was the day of Christ’s resurrection, and the apostles eventually dubbed it “the Lord’s Day” (cf. Acts 20:7, Revelation 1).  And although that resurrection day, Easter in English, quickly became an annual festival and holiday, it was also the theological raison d’etre of the first day of the week (or Sunday).  Some Christians also called it “the eighth day”, with a forward-looking anticipation of the new creation in Christ (cf. Justin Martyr’s First Apology ch. 67).  Thus every Sunday is a sort of mini-Easter.

Fridays, too, were drawn into this Gospel-centric scheme.  By the end of the first century Fridays were commonly considered a fast day (cf. Didache 8:1).  This tradition, of remembering Good Friday on most Fridays of the year, endures even into the Anglican Prayer Books, which we’ve noted here before.

What does this suggest to us about Thursdays?  Again, looking to the gospel narratives, we have Maundy Thursday, the day on which Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, or Holy Communion.  Our “Thirsty Thursday” is a weekly remembrance of the institution of the sacrament of the altar!  Now, to be fair, this particular tradition doesn’t have any echo that I’ve noticed in the classical Prayer Book tradition.  The closest we get, these days, is the Collect for the Presence of Christ recommended for Thursdays in the Evening Prayer liturgy:

Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread.  Grant this for the sake of your love.  Amen. 

Apart from that little shout-out, taking on a remembrance of the gift of Holy Communion on Thursdays is entirely up to the individual worshiper or worship planner.  You can keep it in heart and mind during the Office; you could read the Antecommunion service; you could choose Opening Sentences or Canticles that help you to reflect on the Sacrament in the midst of your daily worship.

How did this Maundy Thursday emphasis exist in the liturgical tradition before the Prayer Book?  It was part of the cycle of Daily Mass.  For centuries, every priest was expected or required to celebrate Mass every day.  In cathedrals or other churches with multiple priests available, this meant that there were more masses to be said than there were masses needed for the people to come to attend, and so while one or two priests would celebrate the “public” masses, the rest would have to celebrate a “private” mass – not meaning that nobody else could show up, but just that he would be using a side altar and probably serving the bread and wine to nobody but himself.  As the Western tradition flourished and grew more elaborate, more and more stipulations guided how this worked.  The “mass of the day” was the principle service, but could only be celebrated once or twice, depending upon the number of the congregations attending them.  For the rest of the priests, they’d be saying “votive masses”, that is, other topical devotions mostly divorced from the liturgical calendar.  And part of that tradition included a particular “votive mass” for each day of the week, and for Thursday it was – you guessed it – a mass giving thanks for the gift of Holy Communion, essentially repeating the theological themes of holy days like Maundy Thursday and (later) Corpus Christi.

Obviously, much of that tradition and mentality is incompatible with the Anglican Prayer Book tradition.  But the idea of taking on a different theological theme on different days of the week may well make its echo in our own private devotions, regardless of the potential excesses of medieval tradition.  So perhaps, tonight, you can raise a glass to our Lord Jesus, and give a toast to his saving health!

Looking Ahead: the Christmas Day options

Christmas is just a few days away, as you all are undoubtedly aware.  If you’re a liturgical planner for your congregation, chances are the big decisions have already been made.  If you’ve got family plans, chances are they’ve already been worked out.  In either case, perhaps there are still last-minute details to sift through – isn’t that always the way?

But perhaps there is still some room to consider the rhythm of worship through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  It is my preference, and the practice of this Customary, to start with a “maximalist” approach: assume that every option in the Prayer Book is to be used; individuals can then use that big picture to work out how it can be reduced and enacted in their own contexts.

Service #1: Evening Prayer on December 24th

Following ancient Jewish (as well as Christian liturgical) tradition, the holiday begins on the evening before.  Christmas, therefore, begins with Evening Prayer.  The ACNA lessons that evening are Song of Songs 1 and Luke 22:1-38.  That Old Testament lesson is an interesting choice, for reading the love poems coinciding with Christmas lends an allegorical interpretive aid: as we celebrate the spousal love described in the Song, we also celebrate the divine love of God that led to his incarnation as one of us.  The New Testament reading is just part of the sequential reading through Luke at the end of the year.  The Collect for Christmas Eve is:

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

This will be used at the following Communion service too.

Service #2: Evening Communion (or Vigil) on December 24th

Earlier drafts of our liturgy (I think following the style of the 1979 book) called this option Christmas Day I, but the most recent updates have gotten more specific: this is Christmas Eve with its own Collect and lessons.  The Collect is shared above.  The lessons are Isaiah 9:1-7, Psalm 96, Titus 2:11-14, and Luke 2:1-14(15-20).  The parentheses refer to an optional lengthening of the reading.  Just as the angels appeared to the shepherds at night, and the birth of Christ seemed to happen overnight, so we get the Bible’s primary nativity narrative in the evening, or vigil, service.  Traditionally this would be a late-night service, after when Evening Prayer would normally be said, making it analogous in function to the Easter Vigil.

Service #3: Sunrise Communion on December 25th

Just as many churches have a sunrise service for Easter, the following collect and lessons are the Prayer Book’s option for a sunrise Christmas service.  This may be an “impossible” idea for families with children, who want to rush to the tree first thing in the morning.  But it’s worth noting that some traditions, particularly across the pond, left the Christmas day gift-opening festivities until after Christmas lunch or dinner, making an early morning service actually preferable.  The lessons for this service are Isiah 62:6-12, Psalm 97, Titus 3:4-7, and Luke 2:(1-14)15-20.  The Gospel is the same as the night before, basically for the same reason; but the the Old Testament & Psalm and Epistle lessons are different.  There are so many excellent Old Testament lessons for Christmas, the variety is just worth celebrating.  This Epistle (Titus 3) is found shortly after last night’s epistle (Titus 2), so there’s a sort of sequential logic to that as well.  The Collect for this day is:

Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born [this day] of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Service #4: Morning Prayer

Now the duplications start coming in.  The lessons at Morning Prayer are Isaiah 9:1-8 (the same as the Christmas Eve Communion service, plus a verse) and Revelation 17 (just part of the sequential reading of the month).  It’s more than a little unfortunate that chapter 17 is one of the more unpleasant chapters in Revelation; we’re stuck reading about the Whore of Babylon on Christmas morning.  I suppose you could redeem this unpleasant oversight with the observation that the precious baby Jesus came into the world precisely to deal with such evils.  Still, not a very festive reading… oh well.

Service #5: the Principle Communion

By “principle” I mean “primary.”  This is the one that best matches the historic Prayer Book lectionary, and therefore ought to be the one that a church uses if there’s only one Communion service on Christmas Day.  The lessons are Isaiah 52:7-12, Psalm 98, Hebrews 1:1-12, and John 1:1-18.  You’ll note that the three Communion services (the night before the sunrise, and the principle) make use of sequential psalms: 96, 97, and 98.  These are very festive psalms and lend themselves to celebrations of all sorts.  The non-liturgical Christian today may be surprised at the choice of John 1 for the Christmas Gospel: what about the delightful nativity story of Jesus and his family in Bethlehem?  The answer is theological.  John 1 tells us of Jesus’ true origins; his eternal divine pre-existence with the Father.  Hebrews 1 backs this up, and provides another observation of Christ’s incarnation in human history.  Where the Vigil and the Sunrise services capture the drama of Christmas, this Principle service captures the substance of Christmas.

Service #6: Evening Prayer on December 25th

Christmas Day ends with Evening Prayer, where the lessons are to be Song of Songs 2 and Luke 2:1-14.  This is another instance of duplication – we’ll already have heard this Gospel lesson at the Vigil and/or Sunrise Communion services.  I guess this way, if you don’t make it to any Communion service and only say the Office at home, you’ll at least get the nativity story here.

Applying this to your personal or family context

Ultimately, a Customary cannot tell you how to “take the liturgy” home, exactly.  Nor can I, as a writer, dole out universal advice on what works best for you.  Families with children have one situation, empty-nesters have another.  Some people travel and will be on the road at typical prayer times.  Some people have lots of church services to go to and others will have none.  You’ve got to work with the situation you’ve got.

In the case of my tiny congregation, all we’ve got is the Evening Prayer service on Christmas Eve.  Knowing that we won’t be offering any Communion service to attend, I’ve planned for the New Testament lesson (Luke 22) to be changed to Luke 2:1-20.  Song of Songs 1 will be staying.

As you look at how to handle your personal and/or family devotions, consider what your church will be celebrating together.  Plan your worship at home in conjunction with the corporate liturgy, so that you can have as rich a celebration of Christmas as possible!

And yet, the liturgical context for celebrating Christmas is even bigger: there’s still the following Sunday to consider! But I’ll save that for another entry on another day.  In the meantime, have a blessed final couple days of Advent.

The Advent Acclamation

One of the features of the modern order of the Communion service (that is, since the 1970’s) is that it begins with an “acclamation”, which is a call-and-response Call to Worship.  There are a number of seasonal options in our liturgy, most of which are found in the 1979 Prayer Book and a few that are newer than that.

During the season of Advent, the recommended Opening Acclamation is from Revelation 22:20.  The verse is “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”  And this is adapted liturgically into:

Celebrant   Surely the Lord is coming soon,
People    Amen.  Come Lord Jesus!

This simple versicle captures the essence of the Advent season more succinctly than most other verses can.  The Collect for the first Sunday (and traditionally the whole season) is fantastic for summarizing the season in a doctrinal and applicable manner, but here we have what could be said to be the gem at the center of it.  Jesus will be back “soon” or “suddenly,” and we look forward to that day!

Is that really a prayer on your lips, “Come, Lord Jesus”?  As an Acclamation we literally acclaim God – speak well of him, invite him into our hearts, affirm his holiness, answer his call to be with him.  In the season of Advent, we are reminded that “Come, Lord Jesus!” is not just a prayer of judgmental fundamentalists, or crazy cultists, or end-times nutters, but the biblical prayer of all followers of Christ Jesus.  With just a week left to go, this season, let’s keep this prayer fresh on our hearts and lips.

Sample “Daily Mass” Schedule for Advent

If you’re a highchurch sort of person, perhaps you dream of a day where you have the opportunity to celebrate or attend a daily Mass.  This is a staple of Roman Catholic practice, and only the most devotedly-Anglo-Catholic Anglican parishes have brought this practice back in full.  The season of Advent, being so explicitly thematic and conveniently short, is a great time of year to consider taking on a special sort of devotion beyond what you usually do throughout the year.

Holding a Communion service every day of the week is nearly impossible for most of us these days, but what can be done is to read and pray parts of the Communion service on your own.  This is basically the “Antecommunion” liturgy – follow the Prayer Book service up until the Offertory and end it there with a few extra prayers.  Given the resources available to us in the 2019 Prayer Book, there is no one way to do this.  As an example of how one might go about this, here is what I’ve mapped out, and hope to observe as a special daily devotion in addition to the Daily Office.

(Remember if you’re an Anglican, especially a clergyman, it’s more true to our tradition to be praying the Office daily before adding optional extras like daily Mass!)

2018 advent

A few words of explanation so you can see where this comes from and why I did it this way…

Contemporary versus Traditional: The classical prayer books have a different logic for Advent than the modern calendar, and is worth learning from.  So I have appointed the “traditional” lessons for Advent on each Monday.  (With the 2019 Prayer Book, the Collects for each Sunday are the same as the traditional ones, unlike in the 1979).

Votive Mass: This is a Roman Catholic term for what the 1979 Prayer Book called “Occasional Observances” or something like that.  In this case I’m electing to repeat, essentially, Christ the King Sunday’s collect & lessons as an Advent devotion.

O Sapientia: in the Episcopalians’ Lesser Feasts and Fasts book, a number of optional seasonal observances are offered.  “O Sapientia” refers to the final week leading up to Christmas Eve, and are related to the “O Antiphons” from which the hymn O come, O come Emmanual is derived.  In a break from tradition, I decided to spread these eight observances out throughout the season.

Hybald of Lincolnshire: No, you’re not crazy, this guy isn’t on the ACNA calendar of commemorations.  He’s on a list of Anglo-Saxon Saints that I compiled a few years ago.  When the new Prayer Book comes out, then I will finish my and my church’s transition to full conformity with its rubrics.  This is on my last flings with extra commemoration days.

Ember Days: These are in our Prayer Book, and I’m sure I’ll write about them when they approach, later this month.  Noteworthy this year is the fact that Ember Friday will be replaced by the feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle.

December 24th: In Latin Christian discipline, a Priest had to get permission from his bishop to “binate” – celebrate two masses on the same day.  Assuming we’ll just be doing Antecommunion, or even just reading the Collect & Lessons as an extra devotion during the day, there’s no reason to pay that old custom any heed.  Besides, it’s good to finish the Advent Sunday contemporary & traditional pairings, even if it is a little crowded with Christmas Eve.

Whether you choose to copy this or do something else entirely, I hope this at least gets you thinking about how to approach a special daily Advent devotional this year.  You could get really creative, and make these observances part of the family devotion, or link it to an advent wreath, or something else like that!

First Advent Sunday Checklist

Advent begins on this coming Sunday!  There are many customs, local and regional, that probably occupy the attention of you and your fellow church-goers.  Many people like to have advent wreaths in the church these days.  That’s fine, but don’t usurp a beautiful family tradition!  It’s a lovely devotion for the home setting, don’t let the church “take it over” and “liturgize” it, if I might coin a phrase.  Perhaps a new sermon series for the four Advent Sundays is being readied.  Perhaps the music is going to take on a different mood as the expectant, penitential, preparatory, and other connotations of the season.

But for the first Sunday in Advent, you need not look any further than the Prayer Book for ideas of how to especially mark this day in the life of the congregation (or at least in your own household, if you’re not a decision-maker).

Suggestion #1: Read the Exhortation

Back in 1662, despite a hundred years of reformation, people were still not going to Communion every Sunday, and many churches were not offering the Eucharist every week anyway.  So the three Exhortations that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer had written back in the 1540’s stuck around: one to announce that Communion will be celebrated in the near future, one to announce that Communion will be celebrated immediately next, and one to badger people into receiving Communion if they’d been neglecting it for a while.  Today, only the second one survives in modern American Prayer Books.  Weekly Communion is almost completely normalized across the board; there is no need to “give notice of a Communion” for the coming month.

In the 1928 Prayer Book, the Exhortation is instructed to be read thrice a year: the first Sunday of Lent, Trinity Sunday, and the first Sunday of Advent.  The current ACNA rubrics state:

The Exhortation is traditionally read on Advent Sunday, the First Sunday in Lent, and Trinity Sunday.

This means we are not obligated to use the Exhortation, but this is the minimum recommended usage.  Given the enormous theological value of the Exhortation, it is well worth everyone’s time for the celebrant to read it.  You don’t need to add it to the bulletin or project it on an overhead screen, just stand up and read it to the congregation.

Suggestion #2: The Great Litany

Some people today like to argue over whether Advent should be considered a “penitential season” anymore.  Regardless of where you stand on that debate, the Great Litany is an excellent way to prefix the Communion service this Sunday.  Remember that in the historic Prayer Book tradition the Litany was supposed to be said every Sunday (and Wednesday and Friday!) so bringing it back for special occasions like this need not have a “penitential” connotation.  The Advent call to watch and pray for our Lord’s return is more than sufficient cause for instituting the Litany at the beginning of the service.

There are rubrics in our text of the Litany that explain where to end the Litany and how to join it onto the Communion service.  And, although there are no rubrics about this idea, I have always omitted the Prayers of the People from the Communion liturgy on Sundays that we say the Great Litany at the beginning – partly for the sake of time and partly because the function of responsive prayer has already been fulfilled.  You could be a better liturgical purist than I and keep both sets of Prayers… power to ya.

If you’re not a liturgical decision-maker in your church, saying the Litany is something you and anyone can do before the service that morning.

Suggestion #3: Use the Decalogue

In the ACNA Communion liturgy there is a penitential rite near the beginning.  After the Collect for Purity we have two choices: the Summary of the Law & the Kyrie or the Decalogue (Ten Commandments).  The early Prayer Books provided only the Decalogue; the Summary of the Law was a later concession for a shorter option.  If your congregation normally just sticks with the Summary of the Law, hitting them up with the fullness of the Law (well, just the Decalogue) is another effective way of liturgically declaring “the seasons have changed!”

For my part, I use the Decalogue throughout the seasons of Advent and Lent, as well as a handful of other Sundays scattered throughout the year.

Remembering the Faithful Departed in the Liturgy

November 2nd is the commemoration of the Faithful Departed.  For the Roman Catholics, this is a holy day of higher rank, equal (or almost equal?) to All Saints’ Day itself.  The distinction is that All Saints’ Day remembers the Church Triumphant – Saints with a capital S – and All Souls’ Day remembers the Church Expectant – those at rest, awaiting the resurrection on the Last Day.  In Protestant theology, most of us generally don’t make much (if any) distinction between these two groups.  Some might posit that the “Capital S Saints” are enjoying the beatific vision to a greater degree than others among the departed, but I’m not aware of much talk along those lines.

As a result, the All Souls commemoration has typically been rolled into the All Saints commemoration in Anglican practice and piety.

However, there is a good reason for distinguishing these two holy days.  Two analogies present themselves.  The first is in our Prayers of the People in the Communion service: historically the last petition of those Prayers acknowledges both the departed at rest and the saints in glory.  Even if one believes these are not two different groups of people, they are clearly presented to us as two aspects of people.  We remember the Departed in a joyful glorified state and in a mournful “we miss them” sense.  The second analogy is the funeral/Burial service: the interplay between giving thanks and mourning is intricate and (occasionally) controversial.

In the standard Prayers of the People we have now, there is a lovely inclusio wherein you can add the names of the departed to your prayers:

We remember before you all your servants who have departed this life in your faith and fear, especially ___, that your will for them may be fulfilled…

My congregation makes use of this on a regular basis, but if yours does not, this weekend is the perfect opportunity to do so!

Remembering the Saints in the Liturgy

All Saints Day is upon us!  As one of the seven principle feasts of the Church Year this is (or ought to be) a grand occasion not only for celebration and worship but also for teaching and catechesis.  The greatest holidays of the year, after all, are built upon the greatest doctrines of the Christian faith.  All Saints’ Day draws our attention to the communion of saints, as the Apostles’ Creed puts it, that Body of Christ of which we are a part.  There are a few built-in features of the liturgy that can (or should) be highlighted to enhance the celebration:

  • The Collect of the Day is packed with Scripture and theology.
  • The heavenly multitude depicted in the epistle lesson from the book of Revelation is a beautiful picture of this holiday’s subject.
  • The Sursum Corda (or “Great Thanksgiving”) leads to a special Proper Preface for the occasion: “For in the multitude of your Saints, you have surrounded us with so great a cloud of witnesses that we, rejoicing in their fellowship, may run with patience the race that is set before us, and, together with them, may receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”
  • The usual prayers leading up to the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) are worth emphasizing today: “with angels and archangels and with the whole company of heaven“.

The unity of prayer and fellowship, between all saints in heaven and on earth, is wonderfully celebrated throughout the liturgy.

But is there something more we can do?

There are many ideas that could be brainstormed, but this is probably the simplest one.  The final petition of the standard Prayers of the People reads:

We remember before you all your servants who have departed this life in your faith and fear, [especially ______________,] that your will for them may be fulfilled, and we ask you to give us grace to follow the good examples of [N., and] all your saints, that we may share with them in your heavenly kingdom.

This is a direct invitation to fill in the blank, and All Saints’ Day (or Sunday, when most of us will be celebrating this holiday) is the perfect opportunity to expand the second blank.  You could draw up a list of saints who are well-loved in your congregation, or list all twelve apostles (replacing Judas Iscariot with Matthias), or list the Saints celebrated as Major Feast Days in the Prayer Book.  My church this year will just be listing categories: “give us grace to follow the good examples of Joseph and Mary the holy family, your Apostles and Evangelists, your holy Martyrs and Confessors, and all your saints…”

If you do include a list therein, note that the traditional ordering of Saints is basically:

  1. the Blessed Virgin Mary
  2. Joseph
  3. Apostles (not just the twelve, but including Paul)
  4. Evangelists (Mark and Luke)
  5. Martyrs
  6. Confessors
  7. Doctors (that is, “Teachers of the Faith”)
  8. Bishops and Kings
  9. Monastics or members of other religious orders
  10. Other Saints

The point of this is not simply “to be traditional” and “get things right,” but the general ordering tradition exists to denote a sort of hierarchy.  This is not to say that a Martyr is more holy than a Monk, per se, but that the witness of the former is generally greater than the latter, and so deserves a place of greater significance when presenting such names to the congregation.  If this sort of ordering offends your theological sensibilities, then be sure to use a different-but-clear ordering, such as alphabetizing their names, so it doesn’t just look like a hodge-podge thrown-together list.  Liturgy and worship always benefits from transparent forethought!

Communion without Communion

One of the realities of modern church life is that the vast majority of us only open our doors for public worship on Sunday mornings.  A lot of churches have mid-week programs, sometimes even worship services, but it takes a great deal of searching, nation-wide, to find a church that actually offers the full pattern of Prayer Book worship: daily Morning and Evening Prayer, and Holy Communion every Sunday and major feast day listed in the Prayer Book.  It would take a radical, serious, and long-term effort to restore the ancient rhythm of Christian worship to the public space of our church buildings.

Instead, the Daily Office is commonly perceived and treated as a family or private devotion.  Indeed, the Office can work that way – the English Reformers intentionally simplified precisely so anyone literate could pray it!  And although the Office is grossly underused today, it is at least available wherever a Prayer Book is to be found.

What is less accessible is the service of Holy Communion.  You need a priest or bishop to preside and celebrate the sacrament.  Oh, actually, you could just have a Deacon lead the service and distribute pre-consecrated bread and wine.  Wait, no, even a licensed lay minister can do that.  Ah, but even that requires planning, resources, and trickiest of all, an open place to gather and people to gather.  The majority of us simply do not have access to a Communion service on most major feast days throughout the year.  What to do?

Consider taking a page from historical Anglican practice: Antecommunion.  First of all, make sure you don’t pronounce it so it sounds like “anti-communion.”  This ante-Communion, that is, the Service of Holy Communion before the actual celebration of Communion.  If you don’t have a church to go to, offering the primary liturgy of the holy day, you can read the first “half” of it yourself!  Let’s look at how to do that:

First, grab one of the Communion services from the ACNA website.  The Collects for the Christian Year and the Sunday, Holy Day, Commemorations Lectionary are further down the page.  Today is the feast of St. James of Jerusalem, so find his Collect & lessons.  Grab a Bible, and you’ve got everything you need.  The order of service will look basically like this:

  • Acclamation: “Worthy is the Lord our God…”
  • The Collect for Purity
  • The Summary of the Law & The Kyrie
  • The Gloria in excelsis
  • The Collect of the Day
  • The Lessons (Acts 15:12-22a, Psalm 1, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Matthew 13:54-58)
  • Instead of a sermon, perhaps you can spend a minute in quiet reflection on the lessons… maybe look at some study notes if your Bible has them.
  • The Nicene Creed
  • The Prayers of the People
  • Confession of Sin
  • If you’re not a priest you shouldn’t declare the Absolution, and if you are a priest but praying this on your own, it might seem inappropriate to absolve a non-existent gathering, so perhaps use the Prayer for Forgiveness from the Daily Office.
  • Wrap up with a blessing from the Office and/or a Dismissal from the end of the Communion service.

Side note: if you’re using a classical Prayer Book, this works almost the same way.  Conclude with the Words of Comfort after the Confession, and either add a Blessing from the end of the Daily Office, or, if you’ve got the 1662 in hand, there are a few Collects provided at the end of the Communion service to say in place of the Communion prayers for this very scenario.

If you’re a priest, this is an excellent way to deepen your Eucharistic devotion at the altar even when you’re unable to celebrate Communion on a given day.

But for anyone, this is a marvelous devotional opportunity, one of the best ways to strengthen your roots in our common life of worship if your church isn’t open that day, and also a really good Bible Study opportunity, as a feast day’s readings usually speak together with one voice more clearly than the average Sunday morning’s lessons.

A Special Pastoral-Liturgical Opportunity

A month from today is 11/11 – Veteran’s Day in the USA, Remembrance Day in several other countries; originally Armistice Day, commemorating the end of the Great War (WW1) in 1918.  This year is the centenary of the Armistice and the institution of this multi-national state holiday.  And it falls on a Sunday!

Normally state holidays like this do not take precedence over the regular Sunday Propers (Collect & Lessons), though in England, I believe Remembrance Day is big enough to observe on Sunday.  Given the special timing of this particular November 11th, however, it struck this small-church Vicar as an opportune moment to break the usual rules of precedence in our Calendar and plan to celebrate Armistice Day on Sunday 11/11.  And yes, I got my Bishop’s permission to do this!

If you have veterans in your congregation, as I do, this could be a very special opportunity to honor and minister to them.  That’s why this article is entitled a “special pastoral-liturgical opportunity.”  How can you implement this in your church?  Let us count the ways:

  1. Go all-out and use the Collect & Lessons for Remembrance/Veteran’s/Memorial Day (copied below).
  2. Reference poetry contemporary with the War such as Dulce et Decorum est or For the fallen.
  3. Reference the origin of Veteran’s Day in the USA.
  4. Include hymns such as the second stanza of I vow to thee my country, or Faith of our fathers! or God bless our native land or In Christ there is no East or West or O God of earth and altar or even Silent Night (referencing the Christmas Day Armistice of 1914, and providing a haunting double meaning to the phrase “sleep in heavenly peace”).
  5. Browse the Church of England’s vast collection of resources surrounding their observance of this day for other bits and bobs you might incorporate locally.

There are so many directions this observance can go: the noble call of patriotic service to one’s country, the devastating idolatry of nationalism run wild, commemorating the departed (not unlike All Soul’s Day back on November 2nd), praying for our current service-men and -women and veterans.  For sure, do what makes sense for your congregation!  But it strikes me as a very special opportunity to seize.

Collect and Lessons in Texts for Common Prayer

O King and Judge of the nations: We remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our armed forces, who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy; grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, now and forever.  Amen.

Wisdom 3:1-9, Psalm 121, Revelation 7:9-17, John 11:21-27 or 15:12-17

NOTE: the reading from Revelation is also an option for All Saints’ Day, so if you go for this commemoration be aware that you might end up with the same Epistle lesson twice in a row unless you plan carefully.

The Evening Before…

In Jewish accounting of time, the “day” begins and ends at sundown.  This concept survives in Christian liturgy; the “Eve of” a Holy Day is the beginning of that Holy Day.  Christmas Eve is the beginning of Christmas, All Hallow’s Eve is the beginning of All Saints’ Day, and so on.

It can be easy to forget, but Sundays are Holy Days, or feast days, too.  Therefore, as the rubrics in Calendar of the Christian Year explain:

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.

So when you pray Evening Prayer later today, make sure you read the next Collect of the Day: “Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in continual godliness…”  This isn’t just a nit-picky point to make sure you “get your prayers right”, but can also help you prepare for church tomorrow morning!  If you pray this Collect tonight and again at Morning Prayer before the Communion service tomorrow, then by the time you hear it (or say it yourself) in church it’ll be fresh on your mind already.  Just like with music or preaching, a prayer that is prepared is easier to share!


Note: this blog will not be updated tomorrow, or on subsequent Sunday mornings.  I’m rather assuming that you, like me, have got enough to do already at that time!