The -gesimas are back!

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

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


Subject Index:

Commemorating King Charles the Martyr

January 30th is the commemoration of King Charles the Martyr.  In the 1662 Prayer Book (though later removed) this day was one of special devotion and fasting.  A particular set of Collects, Scripture readings, Psalms, both for the Daily Offices and the Communion of the Day, and even a unique anthem in place of the usual Invitatory Psalm was prescribed.  I suppose it was deemed to nationalistic or something, as it has since disappeared from that book.  And with its heavy pro-monarchy language, it’s no wonder that it didn’t proliferate even into the “black letter day” commemorations of the American Prayer Book until (as far as I know) 2019.

I have written about the Martyrdom of Charles I before, once on my pastor’s blog and once on here last year, and I commend those to you if you want or need an introduction to his commemoration from an historical perspective.  You can also get it straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were, and check out the actual 1662 prayer book material.  Just scroll to the bottom and click on “Form of Prayer for the 30th Day of January.”

This entry, today, here and now, is turning instead to the question of how one can commemorate King Charles I in accordance with the 2019 Prayer Book.

The simplest approach would be to celebrate Communion or Antecommunion using the Propers For a Martyr as set forth int eh 2019 Prayer Book.  But if you want to get fancier…

The Collect of the Day

This Collect is one of the two presented in the 1662 Prayer Book.  Although it is not explicitly authorized in the 2019 Prayer Book, its use can be justified because it is an authentic piece of prior Prayer Book tradition (only “translated” to modern English) and because the ACNA is preparing a Lesser Feasts & Fasts book which will most likely put forth a Collect for this and other commemorations.

Blessed Lord, in whose sight the death of your saints is precious; We magnify your name for the abundant grace bestowed upon the martyred King, Charles the First; by which he was enabled so cheerfully to follow the steps of his blessed Master and Savior, in a constant meek suffering of all barbarous indignities, and at last resisting unto blood; and even then, according to the same pattern, praying for his murderers.  Let his memory, O Lord, be ever blessed among us; that we may follow the example of his courage and constancy, his meekness and patience, and great charity: and all for Jesus Christ’s sake, our only Mediator and Advocate.  Amen.

The Lessons at Holy Communion

The Epistle and Gospel here are those appointed in the 1662 Prayer Book.  The Old Testament lesson is from the same book’s Morning Prayer Office for this day, and the Psalm, likewise, is a part of the Psalms Appointed for the Morning of that day.

2 Samuel 1; Psalm 10:1-12; 1 Peter 2:13-22; Matthew 21:33-41.

Midday Prayer

The Supplemental Midday Prayer Lectionary provided here appoints 2 Samuel 1 as the commemorative reading for today.  But if you are reading it for Communion or Antecommunion today, then read a different option from the 1662 book, like Jeremiah 12.

Preparing for Candlemas

Coming up in a couple weeks is one of those lovely opportunities to celebrate one of the Holy Days, or “red letter days” with the whole church on a Sunday: the feast of the Presentation of our Lord, or, the Purification of Mary.  It’s on February 2nd, which is about two Sundays away now.

First of all, if you need to freshen up your memory on the meaning and significance of this holiday, click here for my introduction from a previous year.  There you’ll get a run-down of several scripture readings, a collect, and a canticle that are associated with this celebration.

For many 1979-prayer-book-users, it is a hard adjustment realizing that we are “allowed” to celebrate holy days like this on Sundays.  It cannot be emphasized enough that before 1979 it was universal practice to observe holy days that land on Sundays outside of Lent/Easter/Pentecost, and Advent.  Be glad to reclaim another piece of our heritage!  Plus, holy days like these also help “break up” the predictability of the Sundays of the year somewhat, providing moments of something different.

Although in the case of this feast day, it’s not really that much of an interruption, because the Presentation of Christ in the Temple has strong connections to Christmas and Epiphany.  February 2nd is “the 40th day of Christmas“, matching the timing of the historical presentation in the Temple; and one of the key lines in the Gospel story of this holiday identifies Jesus as “a light to lighten the gentiles”, playing perfectly into one of the themes of Epiphanytide.  So it would really be a crying shame not to observe this day a couple Sundays from now.

One of the “extra things” that make this holiday stand out is the tradition of blessing candles for the church and the congregation.  There is a brief rite for this in A Manual for Priests in the American Church which I have adapted to our contemporary-language prayer book style, below.  Note that this is from a book that assumes a high churchmanship which many of you who read this may not be prepared (or even desirous) to implement.  But the ceremonial can always be simplified for your context, should you choose to do something like this at the beginning of the liturgy.

The Blessing and Distribution of Candles on February 2

 This ancient blessing, symbolic of Christ the True Light of the world, should take place immediately before the principle Mass on the Feast of the Purification of Mary (Presentation of Christ).  In many places it is customary to bless the year’s supply of candles together with the candles which are to be given to the people at this service.

The candles to be blessed and distributed are usually placed at the Epistle side of the Sanctuary, near the Altar.  The Altar should be vested in white.  The Priest who is to celebrate, vested in amice, alb, girdle, white stole and cope (if no cope is available the chasuble may be worn), having arrived at the Altar, goes to the Epistle side.  Without turning to the people, he begins the office of blessing, singing or saying:

The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, who as on this day did present your only-begotten Son in your holy temple to be received in the arms of blessed Simeon: We humbly entreat your mercy, that you would condescend to +bless, +hallow, and kindle with the light of your heavenly benediction these candles which we your servants desire to receive and to carry, lighted in honor of your holy Name.  By offering them to you, our Lord and God, may we be inflamed with the fire of your love, and made worthy to be presented in the holy temple of your glory; through the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, world without end.  Amen.

Then the Priest [after putting incense into the thurible and blessing it] will thrice sprinkle the candles with holy water, saying once only,

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

[Then he censes them thrice.]

If another Priest is present, he gives a candle to the celebrant, who does not kneel.

Other clergy and acolytes receive their candles kneeling at the footpace; the people kneel at the Altar Rail.

During the distribution it is customary to sing the Nunc Dimittis, in the following manner:

Antiphon: A light to lighten the Gentiles: and the glory of your people Israel.

Lord, now let your servant depart in peace * according to your word.


For my eyes have seen * your salvation,


Which you have prepared * before the face of all people;


To be a light to lighten the Gentiles * and to be the glory of your people Israel.


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.


When all have received their candles, and returned to their places, the candles which the people are carrying should be lighted.  The light may be given by acolytes or ushers.

 As soon as the anthem is finished, the Priest shall sing or say:  Let us pray.

We beseech you, O Lord, mercifully to hear the prayers of your people; and grant that by this service which year by year we offer to you, we may, in the light of your grace, attain to the hidden things of your glory; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Then the Procession is formed.  [And first the Priest puts incense in the censer and blesses it.]  Turning to the people, he sings,

Let us go forth in peace.
In the Name of Christ. Amen.

During the Procession, all carry lighted candles, and appropriate hymns and anthems should be sung.  The Procession ended, the Priest lays aside his cope, and puts on the chasuble for the Mass of the feast.  It is an ancient custom for all to hold lighted candles during the reading of the Gospel, and from the Consecration to the Communion.

Renewal of Baptismal Vows

Coming up in a couple weeks is the First Sunday of Epiphany, which is one of the four traditional Baptismal occasions of the church year.  I say “four traditional occasions,” but take that concept gently: any day is a good day for a baptism.  Don’t turn people down because it’s Advent or Lent; as it says on page 221, The minister shall encourage parents not to defer the Baptism of their children (emphasis added).  That being understood, when dealing with baptismal preparation for those of a riper age, there are four big days scattered fairly evenly throughout the year that have been identified as especially appropriate for Baptism and Confirmation: The Baptism of our Lord (the modern Epiphany 1), the Easter Vigil, the Day of Pentecost, and All Saints’ Day.  Of course, any day, a holy day or otherwise, is appropriate for such life-giving rites as baptism and confirmation, but insofar as a parish is able to plan and prepare for these milestones, those are the “best” four days in the year to aim for.

One of the interesting features of the 2019 Prayer Book, adapted from the 1979’s use, is the “Renewal of Baptismal Vows” – a rite appointed for use when there are no actual baptisms to be had.  Our prayer book, on page 194, notes that

If there are no baptisms or confirmations at the Easter Vigil, the Renewal of Baptismal Vows takes place after the Service of Lessons or the Sermon.  On other occasions, the Renewal of Vows follows the Sermon.  The Nicene Creed is not said.

This means that we are expected to use this rite at the Easter Vigil when no baptisms and confirmations are taking place, and we are permitted to use it at other times.  The four “big baptismal days” – Epiphany 1, Easter Vigil, Pentecost, All Saints’ – are arguably the “best” times to pull this rite out and observe it with your congregation.

We’re well into Advent…

You know we’re well into Advent when O Sapientia is approaching!  Our calendar notes its beginning on December 16th, and it runs each evening through the 23rd.  For those unaware, O Sapientia is the first several “O antiphons” leading up to Christmas Eve – that is, antiphons that start with the word “O”.

An antiphon is a repeated phrase that is used both at the beginning and end of a Psalm or Canticle.  The 2019 Prayer Book only appoints antiphons for one thing: the Venite (Psalm 95) at Morning Prayer.  The classical prayer book tradition hasn’t appointed any antiphons for anything.  But in general Western tradition, you can find antiphons for everything – every psalm, every canticle, and also most introits and many graduals are constructed with antiphons.  The idea is that the psalm or canticle is book-ended with this antiphon to give it a seasonal or occasional context that may perhaps bring out a different aspect or theme or idea in the central text that you might not otherwise notice.

The O Antiphons are used with the Magnificat in Evening Prayer, and the first seven of them address Jesus by different prophetic names: Wisdom, Key of David, Root of Jesse, and so forth.  You can read more about them here.

These Antiphons begin on Monday, and count us down the final eight days until Christmas Eve.

Personally, I’ve long wished for a set of Mass Propers (Collects & lessons for a Communion service) for each of these days, but there are just too many interruptions to make it worthwhile: St. Thomas’ Day is always December 21st, the winter Ember Days land in the midst of this week, and at least one Sunday also butts in.  It’s a busy time of year, liturgically, not just culturally!

Anyway, if you want to pray the Evening Office with the O Antiphons, this Daily Office website provides for it. Have fun!

Quick Note about the last Sunday before Advent

It’s the last Sunday of the season – Advent starts in one more week!  A lot of us are probably celebrating “Christ the King Sunday” today, so I thought I’d drop a quick reminder here before we misrepresent our own tradition.  The traditional prayer for this Sunday anticipates the tone of Advent:

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The modern prayer for this Sunday, now called “Christ the King” but perhaps more subtly and appropriately “Christ the Judge”, also prepares us for Advent quite well:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

If you want to know more about Christ the King as an observance, here are some links:

Introduction to Advent

With Advent just over a week away at this point, let’s have a proper introduction to the season.  This is the first of about twelve videos I’m going to make about the different parts of the church year.

The season of Advent begins the church year with a focus on the advent (or arrival) of Jesus, both in as a baby at Christmas and as a glorious king upon his awaited return. Our place, in response to both those themes, is to prepare and make ready.
For further reading:
Subject Index:
* 01:10 Introduction to Advent
* 01:29 Major Themes
* 07:13 Historical features
* 12:19 Walk-through with the 2019 BCP

Not Inviting God’s Presence

Let’s jump into something that may be a bit of a shock to some people.  We do not “invite God’s presence” in worship.

In this I am referring to the now-popular practice in the “praise and worship” movement to say, pray, or sing things like “we invite you here”, “come be with us, O Spirit,” or “you are welcome in this place.”  While perhaps seemingly innocuous at first – expressing, after all, a healthy desire for the presence of God – this can be theologically and doxologically troublesome.  Such invitations espouse a particular theology of worship, and since they originate from a movement of musicians typically with no theological education, one should be very careful about normalizing such prayers.

The idea of inviting God to be with us (in worship or otherwise) fits nicely into image of the domesticated deity of post-modern times.  God is my friend, Jesus is my boyfriend, we’re just generally chummy with the Holy Spirit.  This mentality was an understandable, almost needed, backlash against the dry and distant deity of the modernists, but it is a response of one bad extreme to another bad extreme.  God is both transcendent (or above us) and immanent (among us).  However, Scripture and tradition do not teach us to invite God’s presence in worship, but rather the opposite.

We prepare ourselves to enter into God’s presence. Yes, there is a sense in that he condescends to us, but the primary “motion” of worship is us going to him, approaching the throne or altar of grace (cf. Hebrews 12:22-25)…

you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.  See that you do not refuse him who is speaking.

In accord with this, the wisdom of the liturgical traditions is that we acknowledge our unworthiness, or confess sins, or pray for the Spirit’s purification of our hearts, at the beginning of every worship service.  To “invite God’s presence” is to turn that paradigm around completely, and assumes that we are so worthy of God’s glory among us that he should come under our roof.  At best, that’s ignorance; at worst that’s blasphemous presumption.

Specifically, the Daily Office begins with a sort of exhortation leading to a confession of sin; the Litany begins with pleas to the Holy Trinity for mercy; the Communion service begins with the Collect for Purity and continues with some form of penitential rite.  These devotions and forms teach and remind us that we are not worthy of God’s presence apart from his grace, and that he invites us to worship him.  More than that, it is right, our duty and our joy always and everywhere to give him thanks and praise, as our Communion Prayers proclaim.

So don’t “just invite your presence this morning” in prayer to God at church… prepare yourself to approach his throne and listen to him.

Was there really such thing as a Scottish-American Communion liturgy?

Tomorrow is the commemoration of the Consecration of Samuel Seabury, the first American Bishop.  One of the popular stories about the origins of Anglicanism in this country is that he was ordained by the Scottish Episcopal Church in exchange for the use of their Communion liturgy in our new province.

It turns out that this story is not only oversimplified, but exaggerated to inaccuracy.  As this very informative recent article by Drew Keane reports, the agreement was between three Scottish bishops and Samuel Seabury, who was representing Episcopalian clergymen in Connecticut.  So, at the first, there was nothing binding upon the American Episcopal Church, as it didn’t exist yet.  And secondly, the Scottish bishops did not demand or require anything of Seabury or those in his cure, but rather, simply encouraged him to consider the Scottish liturgies.  Yes, “liturgies” in the plural.  There was a standard Communion text from 1637, a standard reprinting from 1743, and there was another form in circulation by 1764.  And they’re all slightly different, in terms of the precise order of service.  The link above includes a handy table to line up those three against the first American Prayer Book of 1789.  We learn here two critical things:

  1. The “Scottish form” of the liturgy was not standardized at this time, making the common “Scots-American” label for a particular Order of Communion somewhat of a contrivance.
  2. There was no particular deal or obligation put upon the Americans by the Scots.

We American Anglicans do owe gratitude to the Scottish Church, of course, and there are traces of Scottish features that have been preserved in the American tradition.  But the way we sometimes speak of it can be rather overstated.  The English Prayer Book of 1662 was still the strongest standard by which the Scottish and American liturgies were measured.

Thankfully, this correction does not require me to retract any significant errors on this blog so far; I’ve only mentioned the “Scottish connection” once before, when reviewing the 1928 Prayer Book, and didn’t go too far down the rabbit trail.  Our exploration of the epiclesis (invocation) may also be further informed by Keane’s article.

All that to say, go read “Seabury and the Scottish Liturgy” by Drew Keane.  Here’s the link again:

Is it All Souls’ Day?

Day two of the All Saints Octave is known, among the Papists, as All Souls’ Day.  A lot of Anglicans use this term also, though what our prayer book actually offers for November 2nd (on page 709) is the optional Commemoration of the Faithful Departed.  Granted, that rolls off the tongue far less easily than “All Souls”, but it’s more theologically accurate: we can only commemorate the faithful departed, not the damned departed.

Another reason to consider avoiding the name “All Souls Day” is because of the false doctrines that the Papists put forth with respect to this day.  They teach of a place of Purgatory, where most Christians souls go after death, to complete their process of sanctification and finally be completely purged of their sins.  Although traces of this sort of concept are almost see-able in the Bible, it makes for rather untenable doctrine.  All Souls’ Day, in Roman reckoning, is a special day to pray for the souls in purgatory; it’s a neat complement to All Saints Day, celebrating the souls now fully glorified in heaven.

Indeed, there is a neat three-fold structure of the church that they put forth: the church militant (us on earth, still fighting sin), the church expectant (in purgatory, awaiting full release), and the church triumphant (in heaven, at rest).  But the Scriptures don’t permit us to make a full distinction between the last two.  The dead are both at rest with Christ and awaiting their resurrection unto glory.  (The tension between these two realities plays heavily into divergent traditional & modern approaches to the Burial service.)

On those grounds we can still have All Saints’ Day (to emphasize their glorious rest) and Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (to emphasize their yet-unfinished story).  Indeed, it is the recommendation of this Customary to treat this day as if it were a major feast day, using Occasional Prayer #113 as the Collect of the Day:

O eternal Lord God, you hold all souls in life: Shed forth upon your whole Church in Paradise and on earth the bright beams of your light and heavenly comfort; and grant that we, following the good examples of those who have loved and served you here and are now at rest, may enter with them into the fullness of your unending joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

If you still want to nickname it “All Souls’ Day” that’s fine… the phrase is in that collect after all.  But it’s best to think of it as a complement to All Saints’ Day, considering the faithful departed from a slightly different angle.