About that Magnificat…

One of the ancient staples of Christian prayer is the Song of Mary, the Magnificat, found in Luke 1, after Mary and Elizabeth have their encounter with their respective unborn sons recognizing one another in utero.  It has been associated with Vespers, or Evening Prayer, for many centuries, and the Anglican Prayer Book tradition is no exception.  The 1662 Prayer Book appoints it for Evening Prayer every day, all year, only replacing it with a Psalm when its text will appear in a lesson that day.  Subsequent Prayer Books, including ours, do not make that rule explicit, and so we technically do have more leeway with replacing the Magnificat with another Canticle, but in the spirit of the prayer book tradition, we should not.

And with good reason – the Magnificat is a fantastic song-prayer.  And its words are… startling.  The first half of it celebrates what God has done with, in, and through Mary herself, and the second half of it celebrates what God has done for the whole world.  “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the humble and meek.  He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he sent empty away.”  Taken in a (very) anachronistic context, this could be an anthem for class warfare!  But this is prophetic language – a survey of the Old Testament prophets will yield multiple hits of phrases like these.  The work of God, however spiritualized and gospel-centric you describe it, still yields real-work effects.  Sometimes such in-breaking of the Kingdom of God can resemble all sorts of political and economic and social theories without actually confining itself to any one of them.  So while one can not read the Magnificat as a socialist manifesto, one can see elements of a socialist ideal drawn from the Magnificat.  Sure, Marx was an anti-religious nut who didn’t always know what he was criticizing, but that didn’t stop him from absorbing select elements of the Gospel.

The Kingdom of God is like that… it gets everywhere and changes the world in all sorts of ways, whether every individual accepts it wholesale or not.

Meanwhile, regarding the first half of the Magnificat, we can learn a startling amount about the Blessed Virgin Mary herself.  Since we’re in the the midst of Advent now, and that’s basically the only time of year most Protestants dare breathe the name of Mary out loud, let’s talk about her.  What do Anglicans believe about the Virgin Mary?

Subject Index:
* 00:00 Yes Mary did know! (see this for more)
* 02:05 Lessons from the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)
* 07:25 Lessons from the Early Church (the Mother of God / theotokos)
* 08:51 An Anglican take on approaching Mariology
* 12:37 Lessons from the Anglican Prayer Book (a “pure Virgin”)
* 19:22 Summary wrap-up which is a bit scatterbrained because I had a headcold at the time, sorry

Understanding the Revelation

As promised yesterday, we’re taking a look now at that strange book at the end of the Bible: Revelation.  The Revelation of Jesus Christ to Saint John, or the “Apocalypse”, for short, is a unique book in the Bible, especially compared to the rest of the New Testament.  Only brief half-chapter snippets of the first three Gospels come close to the style and tone that is found throughout this book.  Revelation is often the centerpiece in popular end-times debates and theories, and people sometimes take their own interpretation and perspective for granted, assuming that “if you just read the book, you’ll see what I mean.”

Since we will be spending most of the rest of December reading this book, I’m inviting you to take thirty minutes out of your day to refresh your familiarity with the style, content, and purpose of this book, with a nod to the major interpretive approaches that are taken up.

Of course, now I realize that I’ve doubled this entry.  I wrote this up last week already.  Oh well, sorry.  Now you get a second shot at it if you missed it last week.

For further reading:
Subject Index:
00:00 Revelation/Apocalypse
02:46 Signs, Metaphors, and the Literal Sense
07:17 Examples: seven lamps, lamb that was slain, city dressed as a bride
12:58 Interpretive Approaches: preterist, historicist, futurist, spiritualist
20:18 The 1,000 Years: pre-millennial, post-millennial, amillennial
30:30 Concluding Summary

Overview of Revelation

The Revelation (or Apocalypse) of St. John, the last book of the Christian Bible, can be rather difficult to make sense of. And when you throw into the mix the wide range of conflicting teaching on how to interpret it, things can get very complicated indeed. Since we’re just getting into this book now in the 2019 Prayer Book’s Daily Office Lectionary, here’s my overview on what this book is about and how to read it profitably.
For further reading:
Subject Index:
* 00:00 Revelation/Apocalypse
* 02:46 Signs, Metaphors, and the Literal Sense
* 07:17 Examples: seven lamps, lamb that was slain, city dressed as a bride
* 12:58 Interpretive Approaches: preterist, historicist, futurist, spiritualist
* 20:18 The 1,000 Years: pre-millennial, post-millennial, amillennial
* 30:30 Concluding Summary

Readings Review & Planning Propers 11/25

What we’re doing on this blog on Mondays is looking back and forth at the Daily Office readings (or lessons) so we can better process together what the Scriptures are saying, and list the recommended Propers for the Communion or Antecommunion service for each day of the week.

Readings Review

Last week: Judith 11-16, Ecclus. (Sirach) 1, Acts 17-20:16, Isaiah 30-36, Luke 3-6:19
This week: Ecclus. (Sirach) 2-11, Acts 21-23, Isaiah 37-43, Luke 6:20-9:17

Special lesson for Morning Prayer on Saint Andrew’s Day: John 1:35-42

This weekend in Morning Prayer we began the book of Ecclesiasticus, the full title of which is The Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach, often called Sirach for short.  This is a book of wisdom literature, like the book of Proverbs, but unlike that book is largely written (or compiled) by one man (whose name is in the title) and translated into Greek by his grandson.  This book even has a Preface (chapter zero, basically) which gives us a note about its translation, and that you always lose something in the process.  That in itself is a fascinating insight into the manner of self-awareness of ancient writers.  Anyway, if you’re not familiar with Sirach, check out my brief introduction to this book from last year.

Meanwhile, in Isaiah, we’re just getting into a brief historical interlude in the middle of the book, where we hear the story of some of King Hezekiah’s interactions with Isaiah.  If you have a keen memory you may recall some of this material from 2 Kings.

After that, starting with Isaiah chapter 40, we get to the second half of the book.  Some scholars think that this section of the book was written by Isaiah’s prophetic successors or disciples because it takes on a different tone and focus.  Although it may be an unnecessary stretch to assume a change in authorship, it is absolutely true that the style of the book changes.  Chapters 40-66 no longer deal so much with specific oracles and prophecies against specific nations and peoples, but take on a much broader scope.  Jerusalem, Babylon, and other important cities are still mentioned along the way, but the emphasis is not so much on what’s going to happen to them specifically so much as what’s going to happen to the whole world.  Almost every chapter from here to the end has at least a couple famous verses that the casual Bible-reader will recognize.

  • 40 = “Comfort, comfort my people…” and “They will soar on wings like eagles…”
  • 42 = “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold… I have put my Spirit upon him…”
  • 43 = “Remember not the former things… Behold, I am doing a new thing…”
  • 49 = “Can a woman forget her nursing child… yet I will not forget you.”
  • 51 = “Awake, awake, put on strength…”
  • 52 = “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news…”
  • 53 = “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…”
  • 54 = “In righteousness you shall be established”
  • 55 = “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near…”
  • 56 = “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples”
  • 57 = “thus says the one who is high and lifted up… I dwell in the high and holy place… to revive the spirit of the lowly…”
  • 58 = “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness…”
  • 59 = “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart…”
  • 60 = “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you”
  • 61 = “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me… to bring good news to the poor…”
  • 62 = “You shall no more be termed Forsaken… but you shall be called My Delight Is In Her…”
  • 64 = “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter”
  • 65 = “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”

Almost every one of these chapters find a home in the lectionary in Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, or near Easter…. most of the major feasts of the Christian year.  This is because, as we will see, reading through, a great deal of Isaiah’s writings point very clearly to Jesus, the New Covenant in his blood, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Planning Propers

This is the week of Proper 29 (or Last Sunday before Advent in the traditional calendar), so keep in mind that the historic Prayer Book default is that a mid-week Eucharist will repeat the Collect & Lessons (the propers) for yesterday.  Otherwise, we recommend…

  • Monday 11/25 = St. Catherine of Alexandria (martyr) or Votive*
  • Tuesday 11/26 = Votive
  • Wednesday 11/27 = Votive
  • Thursday 11/28 = Thanksgiving Day
  • Friday 11/29 = Votive
  • Saturday 11/30 = SAINT ANDREW

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

Readings Review & Planning Propers 11/18

What we’re doing on this blog on Mondays is looking back and forth at the Daily Office readings (or lessons) so we can better process together what the Scriptures are saying, and list the recommended Propers for the Communion or Antecommunion service for each day of the week.

Readings Review

Last week: 2 Kings 23-25, Judith 4, 8, 9-10, Acts 13-16, Isaiah 23-29, Mark 15-16, Luke 1-2
This week: Judith 11-16, Ecclus. (Sirach) 1, Acts 17-20:16, Isaiah 30-36, Luke 3-6:19

The story of Judith is in full swing now – the rising action, or set-up, has taken its place, and now we see our heroine in action.  For those who are new to this story, it is almost certainly a work of pious fiction, like a parable.  Its historical features jumble together several different conflicting markers of time: the Assyrian army, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Second Temple in Jerusalem… if there is a true story at the root of this book, it’s indiscernible from the fanciful elaborations that surround it.  And therefore, unlike the Old Testament books we normally consider “historical”, we have to ignore any attempt to connect the story of Judith to the rest of established history.  Instead it should be read on its own terms, as a story unto itself, and be appreciated (and learned from) on its own merits.  Look at the faithfulness of Judith, her piety, her means of devotion to God.  See in her heroism echoes of Rahab and Jael and Deborah.  From the way she is praise, in contrast to the faltering faith of her brethren in Bethulia, we can learn about what virtues were particularly valued in Second Temple Judaism and how they understood the Law of Moses – that outward visible sense of piety is really developing here, which would be “perfected” into hypocrisy with the Pharisees in Jesus’ time.  And in the villains we see pictures of sinners: filled with pride, caught up with Judith’s beauty, and dismissive of the power of God.

Planning Propers

This is the week of Proper 28 (or 22nd after Trinity in the traditional calendar), so keep in mind that the historic Prayer Book default is that a mid-week Eucharist will repeat the Collect & Lessons (the propers) for yesterday.  Otherwise, we recommend…

  • Monday 11/18 = St. Elizabeth of Hungary (renewer of society) or Votive*
  • Tuesday 11/19 = St. Hilda of Whitby (abbess) or Votive
  • Wednesday 11/20 = St. Edmund or Votive
  • Thursday 11/21 = Votive
  • Friday 11/22 = St. Cecilia (martyr) or Votive
  • Saturday 11/23 = St. Clement (bishop & martyr)

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

Readings Review & Planning Propers 11/11

What we’re doing on this blog on Mondays is looking back and forth at the Daily Office readings (or lessons) so we can better process together what the Scriptures are saying, and list the recommended Propers for the Communion or Antecommunion service for each day of the week.

Readings Review

Last week: 2 Kings 18-22, 2 Chronicles 30-33, Acts 9:32-13:12, Isaiah 16-22, Mark 11-14
This week: 2 Kings 23-25, Judith 4, 8, 9-10, Acts 13-16, Isaiah 23-29, Mark 15-16, Luke 1-2

You may have seen something like this kicking around Facebook or other social media:

Adventwith-Lukea4[1]

It’s a neat idea, as Luke has 24 chapters, so if you read one chapter a day starting on December 1st, you’ll cover the whole story of Jesus just in time for Christmas.  If there was no such thing as a Daily Office, I would wholeheartedly endorse this sort of thing.  But, of course, we have a Daily Office, with a Daily Lectionary, that takes the entire year into account.  And so, reading a full chapter at a time is a bit excessive, especially for chapters 1, 2, and 20-24, which are quite long.  So instead we’re starting Luke on November 12th and finishing on December 31st.

By way of an interesting aside in version 2 (of 3) of this daily office lectionary, Christmas Day’s reading for Evening Prayer did not have a special Christmas-related reading, resulting in a reading on the passion and suffering of Jesus on CHRISTMAS DAY itself.  That struck me as inappropriate, and enough other people complained that we got the reading for Christmas Day fixed to be about Christmas in the final version.

Meanwhile, in Morning Prayer, we’re finishing 2 Kings and moving on to the deuterocanonical books, commonly called apocrypha.  Unlike historic Anglican lectionaries, we’re not getting the full story of Judith, just selections from that book to get the highlights of the story in 10 parts instead of 16.  An even stranger disappointment: the book of Tobit is omitted entirely from this lectionary – perhaps a first in Prayer Book history.  Nevertheless, enjoy what we’ve got.  The fall of Jerusalem, in progress today and tomorrow, is a dramatic turning point in biblical history, and sets up a very different situation for the later prophets and the intertestamental period – no longer are God’s people a distinct country.  A nation, or people-group, sure, but complete political autonomy under their own Davidic King is gone forever.  As we get into Judith later this week, and Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) and Wisdom after that, that backwards-looking sentimentality for the fullness of Israel becomes quite a noticeable trend, accompanied with a growing forward-looking hopefulness for full restoration.  A restoration we see only in Christ!

Planning Propers

This is the week of Proper 27 (or 21st after Trinity in the traditional calendar), so keep in mind that the historic Prayer Book default is that a mid-week Eucharist will repeat the Collect & Lessons (the propers) for yesterday.  Otherwise, we recommend…

  • Monday 11/11 = Veterans/Remembrance Day or St. Martin (bishop)
  • Tuesday 11/12 = Votive*
  • Wednesday 11/13 = Votive
  • Thursday 11/14 = Votive
  • Friday 11/15 = Votive
  • Saturday 11/16 = Votive or St. Margaret

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

Readings Review & Planning Propers 11/4

What we’re doing on this blog on Mondays is looking back and forth at the Daily Office readings (or lessons) so we can better process together what the Scriptures are saying, and list the recommended Propers for the Communion or Antecommunion service for each day of the week.

Readings Review

Last week: 2 Kings 15-17, 2 Chronicles 28-29, Acts 5:12-9:31, Isaiah 9-15, Mark 8:11-11:26

This week: 2 Kings 18-22, 2 Chronicles 30-33, Acts 9:32-13:12, Isaiah 16-22, Mark 11-14

Both in Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer we are hurtling toward some major endings.  In Morning Prayer we are powering through the last century of the kingdom of Judah, recorded in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.  We’re in the reign of Hezekiah at the moment, who was one of the last great kings of Judah.  He’s featured heavily not only Kings and Chronicles but also in the middle of Isaiah, so we’ll hear some of his stories again from that book later this month.  We’ll then bounce through the lows and highs of Manasseh and Josiah over the coming week, and finally crash into the destruction of Jerusalem early next week.

In Evening Prayer we have been moving through Mark’s Gospel.  Last week we entered the second “half” of the book, where Jesus’ teachings and claims are increasingly tested.  Disagreements and questionings, even from St. Peter, characterize this half of the book, and things only continue to escalate this week.  We’ve just had the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, so now we’re in “holy week”, leading up to the crucifixion.  It’s an interesting experience reading through the Gospel books at this pace – you discover just how much attention is given to the death and resurrection of our Lord.  In this lectionary, for example, it takes about four weeks to read Mark, which means a quarter of the book is spent on Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem!  You’ll also note here (as in the other gospels) that the chapters dealing with the trial and crucifixion and death are the longest chapters in the book.

Many of us are used to thinking of the resurrection of our Lord as being “more important” than his suffering and death, so it’s thought-provoking to see the Gospels give more attention to the death than the resurrection.

Planning Propers

This is the week of Proper 26 (or 20th after Trinity in the traditional calendar), so keep in mind that the historic Prayer Book default is that a mid-week Eucharist will repeat the Collect & Lessons (the propers) for yesterday.  Especially this week a weekday communion service probably should use “Proper 26” if it was not used on Sunday!  Otherwise, we recommend…

  • Monday 11/4 = Votive *
  • Tuesday 11/5 = Elizabeth & Zechariah
  • Wednesday 11/6 = Votive
  • Thursday 11/7 = Votive or St. Willibrord
  • Friday 11/8 = Votive
  • Saturday 11/9 = Votive

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

Readings Review & Planning Propers 10/28

What we’re doing on this blog on Mondays is looking back and forth at the Daily Office readings (or lessons) so we can better process together what the Scriptures are saying, and list the recommended Propers for the Communion or Antecommunion service for each day of the week.

Readings Review

Last week: 2 Kings 10-14, 2 Chronicles 26, Acts 1-5:11, Isaiah 2-8, Mark 4-8:10

This week: 2 Kings 15-17, 2 Chronicles 28-29, Acts 5:12-9:31, Isaiah 9-15, Mark 8:11-11:26

Special reading for St. Simon & Jude’s Day on Monday: John 14:15-31
Special readings for All Saints’ Day on Friday: Hebrews 11:32-12:2 & Revelation 19:1-16

If you’ve got a moment, check out this quick devotional on Isaiah 9 & 10, straddling Sunday and Monday evening’s OT lessons:
https://leorningcniht.wordpress.com/2019/10/27/and-his-hand-is-stretched-out-still/

Planning Propers

This is the week of Proper 25 (or 19th after Trinity in the traditional calendar), so keep in mind that the historic Prayer Book default is that a mid-week Eucharist will repeat the Collect & Lessons (the propers) for yesterday.  Otherwise, we recommend…

  • Monday 10/28 = SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE
  • Tuesday 10/29 = Votive* or James Hannington (martyr)
  • Wednesday 10/30 = Votive
  • Thursday 10/31 = Votive
  • Friday 11/1 = ALL SAINTS’ DAY
  • Saturday 11/2 = Commemoration of the Faithful Departed

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

Readings Review & Planning Propers 10/21

What we’re doing on this blog on Mondays is looking back and forth at the Daily Office readings (or lessons) so we can better process together what the Scriptures are saying, and list the recommended Propers for the Communion or Antecommunion service for each day of the week.

Readings Review

Last week: 2 Kings 4-9, 1 John – 3 John, 2 Maccabees 8,10, 1 Maccabees 7,9,13,14, Isaiah 1, Matthew 28, Mark 1-3

This week: 2 Kings 10-14, 2 Chronicles 26, Acts 1-5:11, Isaiah 2-8, Mark 4-8:10

Special reading for St. James of Jerusalem’s Day on Wednesday: James 1

As is often the case with biblical authors, the Morning Prayer readings includes the opening section of the saint-of-the-day’s book.  We saw this with St. Luke last week, and St. James this week.  There is some unresolved debate regarding exactly who the various people named James are, in the New Testament, but we can say, regardless of the possible confusions of identity, that the James who became bishop of Jerusalem, whose authority we see in action in Acts 15, is most definitely the author of the Epistle bearing James’ name.

As for the Gospel according to St. Mark, there are a few different ways that this book can be outlined.  One of the simpler theories is that, after a 15-verse introduction, the book is in roughly two “halves”: the demonstration of Jesus’ authority, and the testing of Jesus’ authority (especially his persecution and suffering).  The change from the first half to the second takes place in the latter part of chapter 8, putting our readings this week solely in the first half of the book, and leaving us ready to transition over next week to the push-back, resistance, and persecution that would lead to the death of our Lord.  So for now, consider the Gospel lessons to be various stories that show us the divinity of Jesus in his ministry.  Next week, we’ll see that claim put to the test…

Planning Propers

This is the week of Proper 24 (or 18th after Trinity in the traditional calendar), so keep in mind that the historic Prayer Book default is that a mid-week Eucharist will repeat the Collect & Lessons (the propers) for yesterday.  Otherwise, we recommend…

  • Monday 10/21 = Votive *
  • Tuesday 10/22 = Votive
  • Wednesday 10/23 = SAINT JAMES OF JERUSALEM
  • Thursday 10/24 = Votive
  • Friday 10/25 = Votive
  • Saturday 10/26 = St. Alfred the Great

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

The Maccabean Famine

In Evening Prayer we’re walking through some brief highlights of 1 & 2 Maccabees this week, and I thought that since so many Anglicans today have minimal experience with these books, it would be a good idea to offer a brief homily.  To that end, I present you with The Maccabean Famine: a reflection on the death of Judas Maccabeus in 1 Maccabees 9.  For best effect, save this for during or after Evening Prayer so you’ll have read the story before watching/listening to this.