The Pre-Lent Mini-Season

This coming Sunday, as some liturgical calendars indicate, is (or was) known as Septuagesima.  This is the beginning of a distinct mini-season in the traditional calendar.  Although the ACNA calendar no longer retains or authorizes these three Sundays, it can be beneficial to know about them.  They are part of the treasure of Church Tradition that reaches back well past a thousand years, and, rightly received, can be of great benefit to our spiritual formation as we work with the Church’s calendar to learn and grow in Christ.

The three Sundays before Ash Wednesday were known as “the -gesima Sundays.”  -gesima is a Latin partial word, from Septuagesima and Sexagesima and Quinquagesima and Quadragesima.  These mean 70 days, 60 days, 50 days, and 40 days, respectively, and they refer to the approximate amount of time remaining until Easter.  Quadragesima is a Latin name for Ash Wednesday, when Lent officially begins, but the three Sundays before it (with increasingly ‘rounded’ approximations of the Easter countdown) form a sort of Pre-Lent season.

These three weeks were a transitional period: the Lenten spiritual disciplines had not yet begun, but some of Lent’s liturgical features were put in place, like the “burial of the alleluia” and the wearing of purple vestments.  Those who practiced especially severe fasting during Lent would use these three weeks to begin the fast in stages, giving their bodies time to adjust safely to the austere self-denial that awaited.

The Gospel lesson on the first Sunday (Septuagesima) was the Gospel of the Landowner paying his workers the same, even to the 11th hour (Matt. 20).  This prepared the Church for the labor of Lenten disciplines.  The second Sunday (Sexagesima) proclaimed the Parable of the Four Soils (Luke 8).  This reminded us of right reception of the Word of God.  The third Sunday (Quinquagesima) recounted Jesus’ announcement that he was going to Jerusalem where he’d be arrested, killed, and rise again (Luke 18:31ff).  This was an apt sort of announcement that the penitential season of Lent was about to begin.

As it happens, our Collect for the “Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany” is essentially the same as the Collect for Sexagesima Sunday, so on the very rare occasion that we get to use that 8th Sunday, we’ll have the historic Pre-Lent Sunday Collect with us, even on the correct date in relation to the beginning of Lent.

Why have the Roman Catholics and most Anglicans abolished this part of the liturgical calendar?  Perhaps some people think it redundant with Lent.  Perhaps others wanted to lengthen the Epiphany season.  Perhaps its function in the larger scheme of the calendar was not properly appreciated by the revisionists.  Whateverso it is a tradition largely gone from the Church today, observed only in the Eastern Orthodox traditions and the relatively few Anglicans who continue to use traditional prayer books.

If you want my personal opinion, which I suppose you probably already tolerate since you’re reading this article, I hold the third theory above: I believe the demise of Pre-Lent was a poorly-considered decision.  Yes, it simplifies the calendar, but I don’t think such simplification was necessary.  Some localities (and even the whole province of the Church of England and those influenced by their liturgical revisions of the past couple decades) have developed a sort of pre-Advent season, sometimes called Kingdomtide.  Why Advent can get a new pre-season and Lent cannot is beyond me, apart from the slightly-cynical observation that modernists don’t like penitential material.

In my own congregation, I had the liberty to use the traditional calendar for three years before the ACNA calendar appeared and we conformed to it.  Some people asked me about the Pre-Lent Sundays: “isn’t it redundant?  If Lent is about preparation for Easter, doesn’t that make Septuagesima (et al) a preparation for the preparation?”  My answer to that is a rejection of the assertion that Lent is primarily about preparation.  It points and leads to Easter, yes, but it is a season in its own right.  Lent focuses on penitence, purification, sin and death.  Only in its final two weeks did it traditionally start sliding toward Easter.  Lent, therefore, understood on its own terms and in relation to the rest of the calendar, is perfectly entitled to a three-week lead-up.  And that practical consideration of having some “warning” before it starts actually helps, too.

Sadly, this probably doesn’t help much with the liturgical planning for your congregation.  But if you have a regular weekday worship service, perhaps there you can make use of the Pre-Lent Sundays.  Or you can always just pray an Antecommunion service with these traditional Sundays!  They may be gone from the general life of the church, but that doesn’t mean that can’t live on in our private devotions.

 

This article was adapted from “Learning from the Liturgy: The Pre-Lent Sundays” on leorningcnihtes boc, originally posted on 4 February 2018.

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!

The Presentation / Purification / Candlemas

February 2nd is the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple, also known as The Purification of Mary, or Candlemas for short.  I thought I’d take up some of the liturgical tid-bits that characterize the celebration of that day, and point out something of how they inform us of the Christian Faith, and biblical interpretation.

There are three primary worship services in Western liturgical tradition: Morning Prayer (or Mattins), the Mass (or Communion or Eucharist), and Evening Prayer (or Vespers).  Although they are normally held throughout the day in that order, the Communion service is the “principle” celebration of the day; that means that the scripture readings in that service are usually the most significant ones for the given holiday, and the readings in the Office are supplementary.  Also, what exactly the readings are, and how many of them exist, will vary between different specific traditions.  Older Anglican Prayer Books differ slightly from newer ones, and Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox liturgies also have slightly different choices in many cases, but over all the similarities tend to outweigh the differences.  With that in mind, let’s dive in!

The Collect

The “Collect of the Day” is a prayer that is meant to collect together the theme(s) of the day from the Scripture readings.  Looking at how this is done in a given Collect can reveal the theological, devotional, or practical emphases that the tradition is putting forth.  Here is one Collect for the feast of the Presentation:

Almighty and everlasting God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

This focuses on the historical event (Jesus’ presentation in the Temple) and draws a spiritual analogy to the end product of our salvation: the Day we are all made completely holy in Christ such that he may present us to the Father as adopted members of the household of God.  It also points out that Jesus was in “our flesh,” providing an emphasis on the incarnation and the exchange that takes place: God entered into our humanity so that we can enter into His divinity.

Morning Prayer readings

One Old Testament reading that some of the classic Prayer Books set forth for the Office of Morning Prayer is Exodus 13:1-16.  This makes for a great first reading on this holiday because it gives the Old Testament Law of Moses background for what’s going on with Jesus and his family.  In the wake of the Passover (Exodus 12), God instructs Moses that by destroying all the firstborn males in Egypt except for those households protected by the blood of the Passover Lamb, all firstborn males in Israel now belong to Him.  Therefore they must be redeemed (or bought back) after they are born.  It’s like a first-fruit offering, except because children are not to be sacrificed, they are to be paid for instead.  (Interestingly, it’s the same concept as an indulgence – a debt is owed, but another form of payment is accepted.)

This is what Mary and Joseph were doing in the Temple with 40-day-year-old Jesus; they were obeying this law going back to the time of the Exodus.

Holy Communion readings

Across the board, the Gospel reading for this holiday is Luke 2:22-40, as that is the account of the event on which this holiday is based.  There we find the story of Jesus’ family in the Temple, Simeon recognizing Jesus and singing his prophetic song (or Canticle), and Anna the prophetess recognizing Jesus and sharing the good news of His arrival as well.

The Old Testament reading often included here (including our 2019 Prayer Book) is Malachi 3:1-5.  Much of that passage provides material for the preaching of St. John the Baptist, which inevitably draws the participant in the liturgy back to the season of Advent.  For there we heard for one or two Sundays about John and his preaching, and the accompanying Advent theme of the future return of Christ for the final judgement echoes in this reading too.  But most importantly, the very first verse here says “suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple.”  Obviously this has multiple fulfillments, as Jesus visits the Temple many times in his life and significant things take place at several of those visits.  But this is his first arrival in the Temple, and there are two people there (Simeon and Anna) who had been seeking him there.

Other readings

An Epistle reading found in some Daily Office lectionaries is Galatians 4:1-7.  There we find a theme mentioned briefly in the Collect – our own becoming sons of God.  It also mentions the dynamic of moving from being bound to the Law to being adopted as sons.  Jesus himself, it says, was “born of a woman, born under law,” which this holiday describes.  So the sharing of Christ in our humanity leads to our sharing in his divinity, because “since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”

One reading often used at the end of the day is Haggai 2:1-9.  This prophetic writing speaks of the newly-build second temple and its inferiority to the original built under King Solomon.  And yet, God promises that it will be greater in glory, for “in this place I will grant peace.”  This promise is empty and void throughout Old Testament history; it is not until Jesus arrives there that God’s presence actually ever even enters the Temple again!  As the Christian goes through Evening Prayer and sees this promise of peace at the end of the Old Testament lesson, he or she will be drawn back in memory to the Gospel reading earlier, specifically the words of Simeon: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word.”  Haggai’s words are directly answered by Simeon in Luke’s Gospel book!

The Canticle of Simeon

Let’s stick with Simeon’s song for a moment here.  It’s Luke 2:29-32, specifically, and is actually used throughout the entire year as a canticle (prayer-song) in the Daily Office.  Traditionally it’s a canticle appointed for Compline, the bedtime office of prayer.  In that context, it is read by Christians sort of in union with Simeon with our approaching bedtime as a picture of our eventual death (as Simeon had been promised that would not die until he’d seen the Savior).  In Anglican practice, the Canticle of Simeon is also used in Evening Prayer, but the end-of-day/end-of-life context and effect is the same.  My point is that a regular participant in the liturgy will be intimately familiar with the Canticle of Simeon.  As a result, hearing it in the liturgy for this particular holiday will have an interesting effect.

Two major promises stand out in the Canticle of Simeon: Christ will be a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and will be a light to be the glory of Israel.  The theme of light coming into the world is echoed throughout the seasons of Advent (Romans 13:12’s armor of light), Christmas (John 1:9’s light coming into the world), and Epiphany (Isaiah 60’s light shining upon the nations).  So as this holiday wraps up the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle, the theme of light is brought to the foreground and celebrated quite visually.

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The Blessing of Candles

This holiday’s nickname is Candlemas, because of the tradition of blessing candles on this day.  All the candles to be used in the Church for the coming year are gathered up to be blessed for their sacred purpose.  Additionally, other candles are blessed and distributed to the people to carry in procession and to take home.  This is a physical enactment of what we learn from Simeon – Christ is the light of the world for all nations, including ourselves!  One can also find in the Gospel books the words of Christ, “you are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14 and following).

Light does many things.  It drives out darkness and exposes what’s hidden.  Thus, the blessings spoken over the candles include both penitential aspects as God’s people repent of their sins, and apotropaic aspects as demonic spirits are to flee from the light of Christ.  The Scriptures do attest, after all, that the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).  So, by receiving candles and lighting them, we participants in the liturgy are given physical reinforcement to the words and teachings of Scripture that we are God’s adopted children, receiving Christ the light of the world promised in ages past by the Prophets.  And we receive this not just as some abstract teaching, but as historically linked to real events that actually happened.  Christ the Light of the World is not just a spiritual reality that occurs in our hearts, but is grounded in the real arrival of the real Christ child in the real (though now long-gone) Temple.  And with all that in place we are pointed to look ahead to the Day we each are presented in the heavenly temple to our heavenly Father by our adoptive brother, Christ Himself.

This post, apart some new edits, was originally published on my blog Leorningcnihtes boc, on 3 February 2016.

O Sapientia begins

The die-hard liturgy fans out there may already know about this, but others of you may glance at the ACNA calendar this week and mumble in broken Latin “O Sapientia?”  It means “O Wisdom” and it refers to a traditional antiphon that was paired with the Magnificat in Vespers (Evening Prayer).

Let’s back up.

In the final week leading up to Christmas, pre-reformation liturgical tradition spruced up each Evening Prayer service with a different antiphon, meditating on a different aspect of Christ.  Because each of them begin with the expressive word “O”, they’re known as “The O Antiphons.”  How does an antiphon work?  Traditionally they are placed at the beginning of a Psalm or Canticle and repeated at the end, after the “Glory be”.  So the first one, O Sapientia, would work like this:

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For he has regarded
the lowliness of his handmaiden.

He, remembering his mercy, has helped his servant Israel,
as he promised to our fathers, Abraham and his seed forever.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Each day, at Evening Prayer, this Antiphon would be different, in the final lead-up to Christmas.  For most of Europe there were seven such antiphons:

  • O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
  • O Adonai (O Lord)
  • O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
  • O Clavis David (O Key of David)
  • O Oriens (O Dayspring)
  • O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
  • O Emmanuel (O God-with-us)

In England, an eighth was added at the end, moving all the other seven forward a day: O Virgo Virginum (O Virgin of Virgins).

As the discerning reader might now recognize, the classic seven of these comprise the seven verses of O come, O come Emmanuel that we have in our hymnals.  The order is not the same, however, and with good reason: the culmination of these pictures of Jesus is Emmanuel; that is the most profound and clear of all the prophetic images of Christ.  These antiphons, thus, form a progression of growing clarity in our Advent anticipation: we await our Wisdom, our Lord, the Root (or stump) of Jesse, the Key of David, the Dayspring (or Morning Star), the King of the Gentiles, God-himself-with-us!

The medieval English addition of the Marian observance, O Virgo Virginum admittedly interrupts this progression, though its content is just as biblical and pious as the other seven.  I adapted it to verse a couple years ago, for those who care to add it to the hymn.

If you have found Advent to be passing you by, perhaps you can latch on to this final week before Christmas.  These O Antiphons are the stuff of excellent Bible Study, meditation, reflection, prayer, and worship.

Saint Lucia Day

Celebrate Saint Lucia Day, go light your little sister’s hair on fire!  Haha, just kidding… sort of.

Saint Lucia (or Lucy, in English) was a martyr of the Early Church who died in the year 304 during a particularly nasty round of persecution under Emperor Diocletian.  Lucia was betrothed by her mother to be married to a man of some esteem, but Lucia had already pledged herself to virginity and was already beginning to give of her late father’s possessions to the poor.  Discovery of this cause her husband-to-be to scorn her and turn her over to the authorities.  As the story goes, she was sentenced to be defiled in a whorehouse but the soldiers and oxen couldn’t make the cart carrying her to move, and when she was sentenced to be burned to death instead the fire wouldn’t touch her, so the Emperor stabbed her instead.

The candles-on-the-head thing derives from a story that when she carried food to Christians hiding in the catacombs, she wore a wreath with candles on her head so she could carry more food in both hands.  Whether either this or her martyrdom story are accurate reports of history is beyond our ability to know.  But the piety, acts of service, and devotion to Christ displayed in her life are inspirational stories that have endeared Christians the world over, ever since.  Check out the devotion her story can inspire:

Saint Lucia Day, December 13th, is not just any old commemoration in the ACNA calendar.  It also happens to be the anchor date that defines the Advent Ember Days.  You’ll hear more about those next week, but suffice it to note now that the Advent (or Winter) Ember Days are always the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday soonest after St. Lucia Day.  In this year’s case, we’ve got almost a whole week left before the Ember Days begin.

Tomorrow is Saint Nicholas!

Tomorrow, December 6th, is the commemoration of Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra – the man who would be Santa.  I know a number of Christians who embrace “the Santa thing” at Christmas, and a number who utterly refuse to expose their children to “the Santa lie.”  Some see it as a fun exercise of Christian imagination, some see it as a betrayal of trust and potential buzzkill for real faith.  And of course there’s the materialism issue around Christmas presents, too.

One of the older traditions, stemming from the story of Saint Nicholas himself, is for children to leave their shoes by the window (or by the fireplace, or under the Christmas tree) into which Saint Nicholas may put some coins overnight.  Depending on the locality and the century, this might be done on Christmas Eve, or tonight: the eve of Saint Nicholas Day!  If you’ve got children, this might be a fun way to entertain that childish Christmas joy a couple weeks early.  And depending upon their age, chocolate coins might go over better than real ones.

Whatever you do or don’t do, it is worth giving consideration to the original Saint Nicholas.  He was a faithful bishop in every way: he cared for the poor, especially children, in his diocese.  He defended the faith, attending the Council of Nicea and (at least in legend) gave Arius the heretic a fantastic punch up the bracket for his false teachings about the nature of Christ.  He was also martyred, in the end.  American imaginative culture has built up quite a story for Santa Claus, much of which is quite fun, but the drift from Saint Nicholas is obviously quite large.  It can’t hurt to spend some time tonight or tomorrow rediscovering this excellent Saint of old who has inspired so much creative love for children, all these centuries later!

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!

Happy Saint Andrew’s Day

Good news, everyone!  It’s a Friday, but you shouldn’t be fasting today because today’s the Major Feast Day commemorating Saint Andrew the Apostle.  We already looked at some thoughts about this holiday last week, so let’s just think about some other angles of observing this day.

This is one of the feast days listed in the 1662 Prayer Book as being a day for using the Athanasian Creed instead of the Apostles Creed at Morning Prayer.

Also, there is an ancient custom of churches, both local and regional, having “patron saints”.  Sometimes this was for historic reasons – the saint was said to have lived, ministered, or died in that area.  Sometimes this was for devotional reasons – the story of a particular saint was special to a particular founder or community.  In most cases, the memory of the origin of regional patron saints is probably long lost to history.  That being as it may, there are a number of places that bear the patronal name of Andrew, most notably the countries of Scotland, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania.  I know of a church that celebrates Saint Andrew’s Day every year with a bagpipe leading the procession, celebrating the Scottish heritage of several members of the congregation.  They then go on to celebrate and bless all manner of cultural heritages, using the Scottish patronage of St. Andrew as a starting point to highlight and rejoice in the “many tribes and nations” that are brought into Christ’s Church.

Perhaps you can find elements of your own family’s culture to “do up” this feast day, too?  A special food, a special activity, certain music, songs, or other arts…

Stir up, O Lord

The Collect of the Day from Sunday that we’re repeating this week is a classic:

Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people; that they may plenteously bring forth the fruit of good works, as they await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to restore all things to their original perfection; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

In the classical prayer books, before 1979, this was the Collect for the Last Sunday before Advent, a spot now occupied by “Christ the King Sunday.”  On a cultural level, this Collect earned that Sunday the nickname “Stir Up Sunday”, because, landing just about one month before Christmas, it coincided with the time-frame in which people would “stir up” and bake their Christmas Cakes which would then ripen in the pantry for the following month, periodically re-soaked with brandy.

Curiously, I mentioned this to my parents, and they’d already made our family’s Christmas Cake!  It’s as if they heard the “stir up” collect in its modern week-earlier position 😉

Thematically, this Collect is a sort of wake-up call, heralding the approaching season of Advent: “stir up” is very similar to “keep watch”.  The call to good works as the fruit of faithful Christian living also forms part of the crucial link between Trinitytide and Advent in the historic lectionary and calendar.  In the modern system, it still serves as a pre-Advent Collect, just two weeks ahead instead of one.

Structurally, this Collect is unusual.  The “request” portion of the Collect is tiny: “Stir up … the wills of your faithful people.”  The bulk of the prayer is dwelling on the “reason” portion: good works, as they wait for Jesus’ return, who will restore the perfection of creation.  All sorts of implications could be teased out from this:

  • The “application” of this Collect is kept blatantly simple: we are to be stirred up to active Christian living.
  • As Advent approaches we should first spend more time meditating on the reason for our good works.
  • The “end” of the Christian life ought to loom large in our hearts and minds.

If you have a mid-week service (Communion, Evening Prayer, or otherwise) then perhaps this Collect could be a point of spiritual reflection as you teach, preach, talk with others, or simply pray it again with the congregation.

I’m wearing black today

It occurs to me that the lessons and collect for Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day (in the ACNA’s Sunday & Holy Day lectionary) give them a feel not unlike the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (popularly, All Souls Day). I haven’t double-checked, but I suspect most of these lessons are also options for our Burial service.
 
In which case, it seems that the funeral colors (black is traditional, white is modern(ist)) would be reasonable options for Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day.
 
Obviously, as Anglicans, and especially under the modern calendar with less connection to the 1,500 years of recorded liturgical history, vestment color schemes are in the “a diaphora” category that are not regulated by canon law – we do have freedom of choice here. In that spirit of freedom, and awareness of what our modern lectionary is doing, I decided I’m wearing a black stole today, to celebrate Veterans Day.