“Corpus Christi” Anglican Style

In Western tradition, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday is the feast of Corpus Christi.  It and Trinity Sunday are, as far as I recall, the only holidays that primarily celebrate a doctrine rather than a person or event.  In its original (and present) Roman setting, Corpus Christi is a celebration of the doctrine of transubstantiation, which is the official Roman explanation for how the Body and Blood of Christ is present in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

It is often incorrectly assumed that transubstantiation is the same as the doctrine of the corporeal real presence; that is incorrect.  The former is an explanation of how the latter works; there are other theological theories that explain the doctrine of the real presence.  If that confuses or surprises you, or you want to look at this in a little more detail, check out this summary.

Anyway, transubstantiation is explicitly ruled out in our formularies, so why would we ever want to celebrate Corpus Christi?  Among the particularly high-church Anglo-Catholics, there have been a number of movements toward both reviving pre-Reformation tradition and aping the Church of Rome in the present.  Corpus Christi was a major holiday in popular devotion as well as the calendar of the church, and in light of how lax many (perhaps most) Protestants treat Holy Communion, it seemed necessary to some to re-emphasize the holiness of Holy Communion with a restored feast day in its honor.  Appropriated into Anglican tradition, one might call it “Thanksgiving for the gift of Holy Communion”, in a manner not unlike last week’s “Thanksgiving for the Promulgation of the First Prayer Book.”

Another angle of how and why Corpus Christi can be re-appropriated in Anglican tradition is the fact that the traditional Collect for this holiday was appointed by Thomas Cranmer to be the Collect for Maundy Thursday, and has remained unchanged ever since.  Seriously, compare the Latin Mass propers in English with ours; it’s the same prayer!  Combine this with the fact that one of the Scripture lessons is the same (Epistle is from 1 Corinthians 11), and you find that Corpus Christi is basically just a reiteration of Maundy Thursday outside the context of Holy Week, just as Holy Cross Day is a reiteration of Good Friday outside the context of Holy Week, and the (modern) Last Sunday of Epiphanytide is a reiteration of the feast of the Transfiguration in a different context.

If you want to commemorate an Anglican-style Corpus Christi, the easiest way to do it under the auspices of the 2019 Prayer Book is to do a Votive Mass of the Holy Eucharist according to the Various Occasion Propers on page 733, which instructs you to imitate Maundy Thursday.  That would turn out as follows:

Almighty Father, whose most dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it in thankful remembrance of Jesus Christ our Savior, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 78:15-26; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26(27-34); Luke 22:14-30

I took the liberty of removing the John 13 Gospel option as that is about the “maundy” and not about the Eucharist per se.

You might also consider other traditional Communion-related Psalms such as 34 or the latter part of 116.  John 6:47-58 is also traditional Corpus Christi material, if you don’t mind applying that text to Eucharistic doctrine.  Don’t forget, also, to grab a hymnal and sing or read some Communion hymns!  Anglican hymnals have some truly wonderful entries in this category that you can’t find in most of the rest of the Protestant world, and a couple of my all-time favorite songs are Communion hymns.  It’s definitely worth celebrating in song, too.

Thanksgiving for the First Book of Common Prayer

On the day of Pentecost in 1549, churches across England cracked open a book to engage in common prayer in their own language for the first time in history. That Sunday was when the first Book of Common Prayer was appointed by royal authority to replace the various versions of the Sarum and Roman Mass that previously held sway.  As we noted recently, this is a significant event that can be worth celebrating in our own worship services on Pentecost.  Or, as we hinted a couple days ago, we could celebrate this anniversary today (Thursday) instead.

In the book Lesser Feasts and Fasts (2006) put out by the Episcopal Church (USA), the following Collect and Lessons are offered for this commemoration:

Almighty and everliving God, whose servant Thomas Cranmer, with others, restored the language of the people in the prayers of your Church: Make us always thankful for this heritage; and help us so to pray in the Spirit and with the understanding, that we may worthily magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Acts 2:38-42, Psalm 96 or 33:1-5,20-21, John 4:21-24

If you are so inclined you could add 1 Corinthians 14:6-19 as an Epistle lesson, as it is a verse that is referenced in the Collect (“to pray in the Spirit and with the understanding“).

Why recommend this for Thursday?  Simply, every other day is taken, according to Anglican tradition.  Monday & Tuesday [used to] have their own Pentecost-themed propers, and Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are Ember Days; only Thursday is left.

So if you get the chance to celebrate the Eucharist today, or just choose to pray Antecommunion, consider giving this commemoration a whirl!

This is not when the disciples were scared

We’re sort of cheating today… this isn’t liturgical advice so much as it is Bible-teaching and preaching advice.  Now that we’re in Ascensiontide and Pentecost is approaching, you need to make sure you don’t mess this up for your congregations: this is not when the disciples were hiding and scared.  I see this error on the internet almost every year, and it’s even in my sons’ otherwise-pretty-good children’s Bible.  After Jesus ascended into heaven the disciples were not hiding behind locked doors in fear, wondering what was to happen next.  The biblical account we have of these ten days is Acts 1.  There we read of the ascension of Jesus following his final instructions:

to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So while yes, the disciples were waiting for the Holy Spirit to descend, they were not hiding away and frightened.  Furthermore, there were not waiting passively either, but actively preparing for that gift from on high.  In particular:

All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.… So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

They then proceeded to identify who the new twelfth apostle would be, chose Matthias, and ordained him so.  (Some modern calendars place St. Matthias Day on May 14th, which generally lands around this time of year, making a stronger link between his story and its situation in the time between the Ascension and Pentecost.  Our calendar, however, keeps him in a more traditional date, February 24th.)  So, far from scared and hiding, the apostles were active during these days between Ascension and Pentecost; make sure you don’t misrepresent them in your Pentecost sermon!

Additionally this is worth noting because the “activity” and “mission” that is frequently brought up regarding Pentecost is often presented at the expense of the quiet prayer, preparation, and planning that went on in the days before.  We must be sure we present a healthy spirituality; one that not only pushes out “outwards” towards ministry and mission, but also equally draws us “inward” to worship and prayer.  That is one of the purposes of a Customary like this one, after all, to help the church order her prayers in a healthy manner so to under-gird a fruitful Christian life for all her members.

Learning from the Liturgy: Ascension Day

Happy Ascension Day, everyone!
Here’s what I wrote for my congregation last year about this holy day:

Leorningcnihtes boc

Ascension Day is perhaps the most under-celebrated important holiday in the calendar.  Representing one of the lines of the Creeds (“he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father”), this holiday marks a significant turning point in the Gospel story and sets the stage for how the Christian’s relationship with God is defined.  We often think of it as an awkward point between the Resurrection of Jesus (Easter) and the Descent of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost), but even in itself the Ascension is a major event.  What I’m setting out to do in this post is draw from the various Scriptural and traditional resources of the Church’s liturgy to explore some of the basic teachings and implications of this great and underappreciated day in the year.

The Event of the Ascension

Christ’s ascension is described in three books: Mark, Luke, and Acts.

In Mark’s Gospel…

View original post 2,092 more words

Catholic Anglicanism

There are three major figures, patron saints if you like, who stand behind me as inspiration for the creation of this Customary. Aelfric is the obvious one of course, and you can read more about him here. He represents a reforming strand of thought: correcting malpractices, tightening the morality of the monasteries, translating things into English (Anglo-Saxon), and writing many sermons to refresh the theological tradition in his land.

The second is Saint Augustine of Canterbury, who represents a catholicizing strand of movement. The old British church had gotten stuck – the Anglo-Saxon invaders weren’t converting to Christianity very quickly, and their relationship with the rest of the western church was getting frayed – they even celebrated Easter on a different day, throwing most of the liturgical calendar off from one another! Saint Augustine and his team began the missionary movement that rekindled the church in Britain and eventually brought them into closer union with Rome and the universal church (East and West had not yet parted ways at that point).

The third figure is King Charles the martyr, who died for the causes of Crown and Church at the hands of a Puritan Parliament. He represents the particularly Anglican Way of Christianity: neither Roman in its catholicism nor Puritan in its reformation.

Yesterday, May 26th, was the feast of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, so I thought it a good opportunity to share a video about the catholic side of Anglicanism.

Commemorating the Martyrs of Sudan

May 16th is noted, in our calendar of commemorations, not for a particular saint, but for a whole group: the Martyrs of Sudan.

Originally, this date was chosen to commemorate this group of martyrs because on this day in 1983 the Anglican leaders in Sudan made a public stand for the faith, knowing that under Sharia Law they were destined for execution.  And in the two decades of civil war that followed, millions lost their lives for Christ.  A further wave of attacks against Christians swept the country in 2011, soon before South Sudan was separated as a new (and Christian-friendly) country.

Many of the Sudanese bishops who survived the wars lived in exile; most of the clergy ministered without pay.  Hardly a church building was left standing.  To this day, rebuilding destroyed communities and healing broken families and lives is a massive effort.  The Sudanese diaspora across the world, including in the United States, also need prayer, ministry, healing, and new life rebuilding.

But the blood of the martyrs has been fruitfully sown: the population of South Sudan has gone from 10% Christian in the 1990’s to 60% Christian in 2012, the majority of whom are Roman Catholics and Anglicans.

As this is a mere commemoration in our calendars, there are no major changes to our daily round of worship, unless you hold a Communion or Antecommunion service for this day.  But we can add a Collect to the additional prayers at the end of the daily office, like this one:

Almighty God, you gave your servants in Sudan boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

We could also make a point of praying the Great Litany today with the Sudanese church and diaspora in mind.





Praying with St. Julian of Norwich

Today’s entry in the calendar of commemorations is St. Julian of Norwich.  Two quick clarifications are in order.  First, Julian is (in this case) a woman’s name.  Second, the W in Norwich is silent, so pronounce it ‘norrich’.  (Sorry, I had an history professor in college who heavily pronounced the W all the time, and it was ridiculously embarrassing.)

Saint Julian of Norwich was an ordinary medieval woman of some social status and means.  She was born in England around 1342, and had a severe illness at thirty in which she received last rites and had a series of sixteen visions of Christ.  She wrote about her visions, Revelations of Divine Love, shortly afterward, and near the end of the century wrote a longer treatise explaining them in greater detail.

For most of her life, after her near-death experience, she lived as an anchoress.  An anchorite (male) or anchoress (female) is sort of a cross between a monastic and a hermit.  As the name suggests, one is anchored to the spot, living in a small cell block attached to a church.  As an anchoress, therefore, she lived simply, singly, on the charity of others.  She had a window into the church building through which she could hear Mass and receive Communion, and a window to the outside through which she could speak with visitors and offer spiritual wisdom and advice.  Near the end of her life she was visited by another medieval woman who came to be remembered as a Saint, Margery Kempe.

You can read more of about her life here.

Apart from her name appearing in our calendar, St. Julian shows up in one other place in our Prayer Book: the Occasional Prayers section.  There, prayer #92 on page 673 reads:

O God, of your goodness, give me yourself, for you are enough for me. I can ask for nothing less that is completely to your honor, and if I do ask anything less, I shall always be in want. Only in you I have all. Amen.

In this Customary’s recommended rotation of praying these Occasional Prayers every two weeks, I came across this prayer on the day after Ash Wednesday, and immediately took a liking to it.  In my own emotional and spiritual life at that point, I badly needed to refresh a sense of satisfaction in Christ alone.  Words like “for you are enough for me” and “Only in you I have all” are expressions of faith and trust and reliance that I needed to meditate upon, and so this little prayer became a quiet theme for me throughout Lent.  It wasn’t seasonally appropriate one way or the other, it had no connection to the liturgy as such, it was simply a piece of my private devotions for a few weeks.  This is legitimate and good; the classical three-fold rule of worship identifies private devotions as necessary to the Christian life alongside the daily office and the sacraments.

And yet, common prayer, or at least a Prayer Book, can aid us in our private devotions.  The 123 Occasional Prayers offered near the back of our Prayer Book include over 20 labelled as being for Personal Life or Devotion.  This means that 1, they aren’t meant for common worship as such, and 2, some will befit your prayer life better than others.  There are some in there that I actually rather dislike.  But my opinions will change with my mood and spiritual condition over time, I’m sure, and St. Julian’s prayer may not minister to me as profoundly in another year.

So I encourage you to explore these prayers for your own prayer life, and explore the people commemorated in our calendar.  You never know who and what the Holy Spirit will use to minister to you both within and apart from the liturgy!

Hymn: the way, truth, life

There’s a perfect hymn for Saints Philip and James Day which works perfectly with both the Collect and the Gospel lesson:

1 Thou art the Way: to thee alone
from sin and death we flee;
and he who would the Father seek,
must seek him, Lord, by thee.

2 Thou art the Truth: thy Word alone
true wisdom can impart;
thou only canst inform the mind,
and purify the heart.

3 Thou art the Life: the rending tomb
proclaims thy conquering arm,
and those who put their trust in thee
nor death nor hell shall harm.

4 Thou art the Way, the Truth, the Life:
grant us that Way to know,
that Truth to keep, that Life to win,
whose joys eternal flow.  Amen.

This lovely reflection on Jesus as the way, truth, and life, is an excellent pairing with yesterday’s holy day.  And also, as I commented in that post, the 5th Sunday of Easter will also be a good candidate for singing this hymn, as its collect is derived from the traditional collect for Philip & James.  Check it out; consider appointing it for your church’s worship service that day if you’re on the modern calendar; or just enjoy it on your own!

Philip & James, Old & New

It feels a bit silly to approach a “mere” major feast day with an “old & new” comparative article.  That sort of analysis is usually better spent upon whole seasons rather than individual days.  But this holiday in particular has undergone some interesting transformation and reassessment and repurposing.

First of all, let’s consider the traditional Collect.  Roughly adapted to modern idiom, it reads:

O ALMIGHTY God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life; that, following the steps of your holy Apostles, Saint Philip and Saint James, we may steadfastly walk in the way that leads to eternal life; through the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

This collect, dropping the mention of Philip and James, has been repurposed as the Collect for the 5th Sunday of Easter in the modern calendar.  This is pretty neat: the collect was considered so great that it got moved to a Sunday where it will be heard by the majority of church-goers (rather than only the few who participate in the liturgy during the week).  And placing that Collect in Eastertide means that it’ll always be generally near the May 1st holiday it originally belonged to.  The modern collect for Saints Philip & James Day still draws upon the “way, truth, and life” quote, pairing with mostly the same Gospel reading as in the traditional lectionary, which is good, though the petition and application of the Collect comes out rather differently:

Almighty God, who gave to your apostles Philip and James the grace and strength to bear witness to Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life: Grant that we, being mindful of their victory of faith, may glorify in life and death the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The other major change is the Epistle.  Traditionally, the reading was James 1:1-12.  Those verses did have some thematic connection with the traditional Collect, but a more significant consideration is the identity of James.  There are, today, typically three men named James in the New Testament:

  1. James the Great/Elder, Apostle, brother of the Apostle John, commemorated on July 25th
  2. James the Less, Apostle, commemorated with Philip on May 1st
  3. James of Jerusalem, kinsman of Jesus, author of the Epistle of James, commemorated on October 23rd

For a good portion of the Church’s history of biblical interpretation, James the Less and James of Jerusalem have tended to be considered the same man.  But, now that scholarly opinion prefers to see three different characters named James, it was decided that the epistle of James should be not read on the feast day for the “wrong James”, so a different epistle lesson was appointed instead: the popular “jars of clay” passage, 2 Corinthians 4:1-7.

This text, too, has a thematic role: it speaks of the ministry of the apostles, of veiling and unveiling the truth, of blindness and sight, knowledge of the glory of Christ presented in earthen vessels.  Echoes of John 14 can be found here, and so can an allegory of these lesser-known apostles: compared to other apostles whom we know better from the Scriptures, Philip and James are very much like clay jars (humble, seemingly expendable characters) who nevertheless carried the glorious and imperishable word of God to the nations.

Happy Saint Mark’s Day!

If you’ve got a “Churchman’s Ordo Calendar” or other such liturgical resource hanging on your wall, you may see today is Saint Mark’s Day [transferred].  This may be puzzling to some people – why is it transferred, and what does that mean?

A certain calibre of holy day can be transferred in the event that it conflicts with another, higher ranking, holy day.  When you think of a “day” in liturgical time, imagine there is only room for one Communion service.  In the event that you get double-booked, a judgment call has to be made: which holy day will you celebrate, and will the other one just get skipped for the year, or get transferred to the next available day?

In the Prayer Book tradition, taking its cue from Western Catholic practice in general, we have Major Feast Days (“red-letter days” as provided in the Prayer Book) and we have commemorations (“black-letter days” listed in the Prayer Book calendar).  Commemorations are of a low rank; they get skipped if they coincide with a Sunday or other holy day.  The Major Feast Days, however, are generally required in the Prayer Book tradition, and therefore they will either replace the Sunday they land on (depending upon the season) or they will get bumped back to the next available date.

Saint Mark’s Day is supposed to be April 25th.  But this year, April 25th fell within Easter Week, wherein the Prayer Book tradition does not allow any non-Easter intrusions.  A few days ago I mistakenly stated that the old Prayer Books allowed holy days like this to be celebrated later in Easter Week, but closer inspection of the old calendar rules revealed that, even though Easter Week only provides two sets of Collects and Lessons, the whole week is still off-limits for other major feast days.  So whether you’re using an old or new prayer book, Saint Mark’s Day is still transferred to today.

If you take a look at both the major feast days and the commemorations throughout the year, you’ll notice that there’s a convenient gap through much of March and April where they get pretty sparse.  The average month has three major feast days in it, but March has just two, and April only one!  This is because of the overriding presence of Holy Week and Easter Week – every year, somewhere in this time of year, those two weeks in a row will blot out all the commemorations in its path, and cause any of those major feast days to be transferred.  So, the fewer saints days we schedule in these months, the less we have to deal with this situation.  Pretty smart, huh? 😉