Fasting has a Purpose

Fasting is perhaps the most prominent and well-known feature of the season of Lent, even though many people today don’t practice it. One of the issues that presents itself to people seems to be that fasting is often misunderstood. Since today is Friday, a fast day, let’s take a look at a few examples of what fasting isn’t, and what it actually is.

Fasting is not an end unto itself

Simply “giving something up for Lent” or refraining from eating certain foods at certain times does not make a person more holy. All foods were created for our enjoyment, provided we give thanks to God. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Fasting, however, is a powerful tool in the toolbox of spiritual disciplines if used rightly. Fasting is a discipline that we can celebrate and use in conjunction with prayer and alms-giving. You can read more about that connection in Isaiah 58 and in part of this short article.

Fasting is not abstinence

It is not always clear in the Bible, but there is a difference between fasting and abstinence. Fasting is a reduction, abstinence is an elimination. When Moses, Jesus, or others fasted for 40 days, it does not typically mean that they ate or drank nothing at all – the human body can survive without food that long if properly prepared, but certainly not without water. One might appeal to divine providence in certain cases, but to belabor that point would be to miss the spiritual point: the discipline of fasting before special occasions or for special intercessory or penitential purposes is valuable to every believer. To fast is to reduce the amount or luxury of a thing. The biggest traditional example of this is to cut meat out of the diet because eating meat was associated with feasting, celebration, even worship. If you want some tips on what fasting might look like in today’s world, you can check out this article.

Fasting is not self-harm

Again, fasting is a spiritual discipline. It is geared toward exercising self-denial such that your spiritual attentions are provoked and improved in some way. Thus, fasting in such a way that your health suffers is not a true fast. The goal is redirect your passions, not make yourself sick. This is not about self-punishment, but self-control. This is why, traditionally, the young, the old, the sick, and pregnant women have been exempt from rules of fasting. It’s not that we’re going easy on “the weak”, but that people must not be encouraged to harm themselves. If you’re on medication, have dietary issues, or other food-related situation, fasting from food is something that you should not pursue without pastoral and medical advice.

Fasting is not just about food

Last of all, there are many other things that can be reduced or eliminated by way of the spiritual discipline of fasting. Social media, television, other activities of leisure or entertainment, are all excellent examples of things that can profitably be reduced or set aside for the sake of increased spiritual pursuits. Don’t get hung up on “I’m giving up chocolate for Lent!” when there are so many other possibilities out there. Look to where your habits and desires are found, and explore ways to curb and control those habits and desires – that is where you truly learn self-control.

Considering the Wedding and its Due Preparation

After the theological drift in the past two American Prayer Books, the service of Holy Matrimony in the 2019 Prayer Book is a breath of fresh air, its content rooted in the traditional material of the classical Anglican tradition. The format of the service is very much in the modern style, but language and doctrine it contains are long-awaited returns to historic orthodoxy.

The opening text on BCP 198-199 outline the doctrine of marriage and call for “great care” in the preparation of all candidates for Holy Matrimony. The word “candidate” should be taken seriously: just as in Confirmation and Ordination, those preparing for marriage are merely candidates, and the minister is well within his rights to deny officiating the wedding if the couple is not prepared or ineligible for marriage. The Banns of Marriage are one line of discernment, wherein the congregation is to be given at least three opportunities to offer any “cause, or just impediment” that the wedding should not go through. Furthermore, the minister is expected (and in many dioceses required) to have the couple sign the Declaration of Intention on BCP 200. This, and its accompanying liturgy on BCP 213, is essentially a formalized betrothal ceremony, and serves as the primary “gateway” to the path to marriage. If the couple is unable to sign the Declaration in good conscience they need further instruction and catechesis concerning Christian marriage before they can receive the Church’s blessing. The minister should take this role with grave solemnity, as many believers have slipped through the cracks in recent decades, entering into marriage with (at best) anemic views of biblical marriage.

What follows is but one way of approaching pre-marital counseling, which the minister can adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of the couple in question.

“Marriage is two people made one flesh in community bearing fruit for life before God.”

1. “Marriage Is”

  • Examine the Declaration of Intent study its four-fold purpose of marriage
  • Examine Holy Matrimony as an image of Christ & Church
  • Gateway: Sign the Declaration of Intention

2. “Two People”

  • Profile the personalities of the man and the woman with appropriate social and religious tools and measures
  • Consider their schedules, lifestyles, interests, personal spaces
  • Gateway: Make plans for Confirmation if not yet done

3. “Made One Flesh”

  • Consider the unity of the couple, especially their disciplines (spiritual and otherwise)
  • Examine their conflict resolution past and present, and where peace is found
  • Gateway: Have them paraphrase the Wedding Vows for their own understanding

4. “In Community”

  • Consider the community, especially the future in-laws, for this couple, and their relationships
  • Explore their baggage, expectations, history, and wishes about family and friends
  • Gateway: Offer Healing Prayer

5. “Bearing Fruit”

  • Explore the subjects of agape love that sacrifices & spreads, especially with regards to sexuality, family planning, and child-rearing
  • Examine their sexual desires, history, expectations, and ethics
  • Gateway: Offer private Confession & Absolution

6. “For Life”

  • Consider ordinary household plans like finances, spending & saving habits, occupations
  • Explore the subjects of homemaking and domestic duties and expectations
  • Gateway: Have them prepare a budget and list major milestones as a couple for their first year

7. “Before God”

  • Explore spiritual habits shared by the couple and pastoral accountability for the future
  • Consider the religious life of their family-to-be
  • Gateway: Plan the wedding ceremony’s liturgy together

Video: the Holy Days in the Prayer Book

The video series I started a year ago nears its conclusion. Here is a summary of how the Holy Days (commonly, the Major Feast Days) fit into the Christian Calendar.

Subject Index:

  • 00:00 Definition & Major Themes
  • 05:20 Historical Features
  • 10:13 Walk-through in the 2019 Prayer Book
  • 15:36 Daily Office & other features
  • 17:36 The Collect for All Saints’ Day

Links for further reading:

The Extra Directions for the Daily Office

Those who used the 1979 Prayer Book might know or recall that there were a couple of pages of “Additional Directions” for the Daily Offices. Perhaps the traditionalists scoffed at this – the increase in complexity and variation both distances the liturgy from the average person in the pews and distances parish from parish, as customs could diverge more and more.

So it is, perhaps, a relief to see that the 2019 Prayer Book only has a short list of Additional Directions. And most of them are rubrics that the 1928 Book had in-line with the liturgy itself; we simply have them moved to the end of the service to reduce clutter.

Nevertheless, some may question why additional directions are necessary for what should be a simple liturgy. Let’s check them out briefly.

The Confession and Apostles’ Creed may be omitted,
provided each is said at least once during the course of the day.

The 1928 Prayer Book afforded flexibility to the saying of the Creed in Morning Prayer, allowing its omission when the Eucharist was to follow. The 1979 Prayer Book’s Additional Directions standardized the Creed’s omission under those circumstances, and also permitted the dropping of the Confession and Absolution of Sin. It is worth noting that neither the Confession nor the Apostles’ Creed were used in the Daily Office until 1559.

So this isn’t a license for laziness, but an accommodation for pre-existing tradition. After all, if you only read through the liturgy, you’ll never even know that this is an option!

The Gloria Patri (Glory be…) in the opening versicles may be said in unison.
The following form of the Gloria Patri may alternatively be used:
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Due to widespread popularity, the 1979 translation of the Gloria Patri is permitted. Would it be better if everyone just used the common text? Yes. This rubric allows congregations that are used to the 1979 version to continue on for a while without having to be bludgeoned with the new text. It also gives a break to the singers who have Psalm and Canticle settings from the past 40 years that they still want to use. But, again, this is an additional direction; the default text is what most people will see, and it will eventually win the day.

The Officiant and People may join in saying “Alleluia” (except in Lent) as an alternative to the versicles “Praise the Lord. The Lord’s Name be praised.”

The saying of “Alleluia” at the end of the Invitatory dialogue was appointed in the 1549 Prayer Book from Easter until Trinity Sunday.

If an offering is to be received, it is appropriate to do so during the hymn or anthem following the Collects.

When weekly Communion was not yet normal, it was common practice in many parishes for the offering to follow the hymn or anthem, after the Collects.

A sermon may be preached after the lessons, after the hymn or anthem following the Collects, or after the conclusion of the Office.

The sermon, when added to the Daily Office, would traditionally be preached after the anthem and the offertory. This rubric also authorizes “after the lessons” to parallel the position of the sermon in the Communion service, and after the conclusion of the Office to allow for the integrity of the Office as it stands and freeing the preaching to follow on its own terms.

Meet John Jewel

He’s not in our calendar of commemorations but today is the death date of Bishop John Jewel, who was one of the great defenders of the Church of England during the Reformation. You can read about him on Wikipedia if you like, or this article I wrote inspired by his works last year, or better yet you can read his Apology or Defense of the Church of England, but what I’d like to put down here today is a general introduction to this man.

He was born in 1522; so the early stages of the English Reformation took place during his young adulthood, and was studying and teaching at Oxford throughout the 1540’s. His ministry as a vicar began in 1552, the year the second Prayer Book was published, and he survived the Marian persecution by fleeing to Frankfurt, Strausbourg, and Zurich. Like many of the Marian exiles, he returned when Queen Elizabeth took the throne, and by 1559 he was an official voice for the Church of England in the ongoing disputes with the Romanists. He had already opposed John Knox (the Scottish Presbyterian reformer), and so Jewel became a quintessential representative of the Elizabethan Settlement, standing between the Romanists at one extreme and the Puritans on the other. Some may retroactively called this the via media, but as you explore the polemics of Jewel and others, you’ll find that they were not seeking a middle ground to negotiate between extremes, but The Catholic Faith, to the opposition of heretics on either side.

His most famous and enduring work from these efforts is “An APOLOGY, or ANSWER in defence of the Church of England.” There he set out in passionate-but-sane detail the substance of the Catholic Faith, how the Church of England receives and proclaims it, and how the Romanists do not. Six sections to this work can be traced:

  1. Of true religion
  2. Doctrine received in the church
  3. Source and origin of heresies
  4. Popes claiming headship of church
  5. Church fathers & councils
  6. Of great councils, abused by papists

His sections on true religion and doctrine are informative for any Christian desiring to read a summary of the faith. His sections dealing with the Papacy and the Early Church are informative for any Protestant considering becoming Roman Catholic. Some of the issues he outlines are dated, but many of them remain relevant to this day. He makes the argument (contrary to how we normally use the word today) that the Roman Church is NOT CATHOLIC, and that to be truly Catholic is to be Reformed. Now, this doesn’t mean ‘Reformed’ in the Calvinist sense, but in the general sense of magisterial Protestantism, of which Calvinism is but one offshoot.

Reading this sort of thing could give the worshiper an extra kick of certainty and assertiveness when reciting the creeds – “we believe in the holy Catholic Church”! His legacy reminds us of our catholicity, neither fretting about the Roman deviancy from catholicism, nor being so lenient toward the radical reformers so as to stretch the term “catholic” to include virtually anything. Ours is a distinct heritage, firmly grounded in the Scriptures and the historic Church. We cannot allow Rome to steal the word “catholic” from us as if it rightly theirs, and we cannot allow the radical Protestants to expunge the word “catholic” from our vocabulary as if it is evil.

Why Holy Cross Day in September?

Happy Holy Cross Day! Is that what we’re supposed to say? I mean, yeah, the Cross is where Jesus died a horrible painful death, that’s not super-happy is it… wait a minute, how is Holy Cross Day any different from Good Friday? Why do we have an extra Good Friday in September?

Perhaps we need a little history to make sense of this. To borrow from Wikipedia,

According to Christian tradition, the True Cross was discovered in 326 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine. The church was dedicated nine years later, with a portion of the cross.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feast_of_the_Cross

September 14th, then, is the day that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was consecrated. Although, in the West, this day also commemorates St. Helena’s discovery of the Cross beforehand, as well as the restoration of the relics to Jerusalem in the 7th century after a brief Sasanid Persian invasion.

For Anglicans and Lutherans, however, who generally prefer their liturgy reformed around the primacy of Scripture, this feast has been focused less on the tradition of the True Cross (which may or may not be entirely historically accurate) and more on the significance of the Cross itself. There is, after all, quite a history of devotion (or veneration veneratio, which is of a lesser degree than worship latria) to the Cross and its relics; the Cross is the instrument by which Christ redeemed the world. He didn’t “just die”, he was nailed to a real physical piece of wood. Some have found this an opportunity to meditate upon the inclusion of nature itself in the Gospel, such as in the great Old English poem Dream of the Rood. Similarly, when the author of the Wisdom of Solomon was reflecting back on Noah’s ark, he also foreshadowed the Cross when he wrote:

It is your will that works of your wisdom should not be without effect;
therefore men trust their lives even to the smallest piece of wood,
and passing through the billows on a raft they come safely to land.
For even in the beginning, when arrogant giants were perishing,
the hope of the world took refuge on a raft,
and guided by your hand left to the world the seed of a new generation.
For blessed is the wood by which righteousness comes.

Wisdom 14:5-7

And so, in harmony both with this ancient spirituality and a renewed focus on the Scriptures, we have Holy Cross Day in our calendar. It is like a repeat of Good Friday, but instead of looking at the pain and suffering of Christ, as such, we are looking at the glorious work of God in the world. Instead of a day of fasting, mourning, and penitence, this is a feast day. We celebrate with awe the wonder of the Gospel, and the tactile reality of the Cross, a “tree” as St. Peter once described it, literally grounds this remarkable theological event in natural reality.

With that in mind, let’s conclude with a brief comparison of the Scripture readings for Good Friday and Holy Cross Day.

Good Friday, in the Holy Day lectionary, gives us:

  • Genesis 22:1-18 or Isaiah 52:13-53:12, which are a typology and prophecy, respectively, of Jesus’ death
  • Psalm 22:1-11(12-21) or 40:1-16 or 69:1-22, which are songs of suffering and lament
  • Hebrews 10:1-25, which deals with the high priestly sacrifice of Jesus
  • John 19:1-37, which is the Passion of the Christ

Holy Cross Day, however, gives us these readings at the Communion service:

  • Isaiah 45:21-25, which is a universal call to turn to Christ for salvation
  • Psalm 98, one of the joyful celebrations of God’s salvation and praiseworthiness
  • Philippians 2:5-11, an exhortation to imitate Christ in his humility even unto death on the Cross
  • John 12:31-36a, where Christ speaks of his glorification and drawing all men unto himself when he is lifted up on the Cross

So you can see that Holy Cross Day has a focus on glory and celebration that Good Friday lacks. They share a call to “behold”, to gaze upon the crucified one, and the Cross itself as his instrument, and they also share a call to follow Christ – Philippians 2:5-11 in particular is also the Epistle for Palm Sunday, which falls into the same pattern as these. But ultimately this is not a day to mourn the death of Christ but a day to celebrate the victory of Christ. The crucifixion, after all, is a deeply rich event, worthy of observance in many different ways from many different angles. Good Friday is particularly concerned with his suffering and our sins that drove him there; Holy Cross Day is particularly concerned with the triumphal glory and power of God displayed in that same death.

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the Cross
that he might draw the whole world to himself:
Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption,
may have grace to take up our cross and follow him;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting Amen.

A brief history of the Te Deum

This great hymn of the Church is said to have been written by Saints Ambrose and Augustine together, though it has also been attributed to Bishop Niceta of Dacia; in either case its origins are in the late 4th or early 5th centuries. By the 6th century it had found its home in the Daily Office, in Matins (Benedictine) or Prime (Mozaribic). A set of suffrages were affixed to the Te Deum in medieval practice, which Archbishop Cranmer retained in the first Prayer Books.

The Prayer Book tradition has consistently appointed this canticle as the one following the Old Testament Lesson at Morning Prayer, usually with seasonal exceptions. Its precise translation has varied in most editions of the Prayer Book, making for a number of useful comparative-study opportunities for exploring its meaning more deeply.

In 1979 the medieval suffrages were removed from the Te Deum and placed elsewhere in the Morning Prayer liturgy, but the 2019 Book has placed them back in the traditional Prayer Book position, albeit rendering them optional.

A Brief History of the Psalms in the Daily Office

For three millennia psalmody has been at the heart of godly worship.  King David is honored as the great psalmist in the Hebrew tradition, but many of the 150 Psalms are products of later centuries, and at least one is purported to be much older – a product of the hand of Moses.  Synagogue worship perhaps codified the chanting of psalms in a standard liturgy, inherited by the Early Church and preserved in both cathedral and monastic traditions.

In the Rule of Saint Benedict, after a rough outline of how all 150 Psalms are to be ordered throughout the week, Benedict observes “our holy forefathers promptly fulfilled in one day what we lukewarm monks should, please God, perform at least in a week.”  The rigors of the Desert Fathers, praying all the psalms daily, and of Benedictine Monasticism, praying all the psalms weekly, were simplified by Archbishop Cranmer into a 30-day cycle, which endures in the Prayer Book tradition to this day, although most 20th century Prayer Books have offered even lighter orders for daily Psalmody.

The text of the Prayer Book Psalter is the translation of Miles Coverdale’s 16th century English Bible, remaining in Prayer Book use despite the several revisions of the Bible leading to the Authorized Version under King James I.  With minor changes to spelling and vocabulary, the Coverdale Psalter endured until a new translation was provided for the 1979 Prayer Book.  Some elements of the 1979 Psalter have been retained in the 2019 Book, most notably in the Suffrages of Morning and Evening Prayer, but the text of our Psalter itself has been rolled back to a modernized version of Coverdale’s translation rather than an entirely new version.

In Benedictine and Roman tradition, the psalms were said with antiphons, but the Prayer Book tradition has not retained them.  It has, however, retained the tradition of reciting the Gloria Patri after each Psalm.  This helps the worshiper “Christianize” the Psalms, recognizing that we are praising the triune God revealed in all of Scripture, not simply repeating the songs of ancient Israel.  The first American Prayer Book in 1790 rendered the Gloria Patri optional, provided it was said at least at the end of the Psalms Appointed.  In the 1979 Book the rubrics indicated the Gloria Patri was to be said once only at the end of the Psalms, which remains the default in the 2019 Book, although a rubric on page 734 permits the Gloria Patri to be said at the end of each Psalm if desired.

Some history on the Invitatory

The Invitatory

The invitatory dialogue contains four couplets: two verses of Scripture (Psalm 51:15 and Psalm 70:1) the Gloria Patri (glory be to the Father), and third verse (Psalm 135:1a). In the American Prayer Book tradition, the second couplet was omitted, until 1979 when the second couplet returned in place of the first in Evening Prayer. The final couplet was omitted only in the 1979 Book. Our Prayer Book restores the full English dialogue.

The Antiphons

In the American Prayer Book of 1928, nine antiphons were added for use with the Venite on particular occasions. In 1979 that collection was expanded to thirteen antiphons. Our Prayer Book preserves those thirteen antiphons but moves the ten appointed for specific seasons or holy days to an appendix after the Morning Prayer liturgy to keep the primary text less cluttered. Only the three for general use appear here on BCP 14. Furthermore, these antiphons remain optional.

Historically, in Anglican practice, antiphons have not been a feature. They are extremely common in historic Western liturgy, however – the Roman Rite at its height of complexity having multiple antiphons for every Psalm and Canticle according to season and occasion. At their best, they provide unique “book-ends” that color the worshiper’s experience of the Psalm or Canticle according to the occasion, and enrich the Church’s life of worship. The obvious challenge, of course, is the burdensome complexity that ensues which the Preface to the 1549 Prayer Book explicitly endeavors to remedy.

By providing some antiphons on page 14 and collecting the other 10 on pages 29-30, our Prayer Book endeavors to strike a healthier balance between historical Western complexity and Anglican simplicity.

 

The Venite

The use of Psalm 95 as the “invitatory”, the invitation or call to worship, dates back at least to the Rule of Saint Benedict: it was to be prayed every morning at Matins. This was preserved in Archbishop Cranmer’s Prayer Book of 1549 and thereafter: it was called to be said or sung at Morning Prayer daily except for the 19th day of the month when it would be read as part of the Psalms Appointed, and on Easter Day when the Easter Anthem, Pascha Nostrum, was appointed instead. Furthermore, in the English Prayer Books the Venite included the “Glory be” at the end.

The American Prayer Book tradition diverged from this pattern. The Venite was now Psalm 95:1-7 followed by Psalm 96 verses 9 and 13. Furthermore, the Gloria Patri was rendered optional here. Again, it wasn’t until 1979 that the entirety of Psalm 95 was authorized for the invitatory psalm, and until 2019 that the entirety of Psalm 95 was printed in this place in the liturgy, albeit with verses 8-11 still labelled as optional outside of the season of Lent.

 

The Jubilate

In the classical Prayer Book tradition, the Jubilate Deo, or Psalm 100, was a canticle offered in place of the Benedictus, until the 1979 Prayer Book when instead it was included as an alternative to the Venite as the invitatory psalm. It was offered without rubrical directions, though one already accustomed to the Prayer Book tradition might most naturally consider the Jubilate to be a substitute for the Venite on the 19th day of the month when the Venite was formerly appointed to be omitted from the invitatory. Our Prayer Book also provides no rubrical guidance on the matter, so the same historically-minded intention may still be assumed.

 

Pascha Nostrum

The Pascha Nostrum, as indicated in its Scripture reference text, is an amalgamation of three New Testament texts strung together. Although this is an example from early Church history, Anglican liturgical practice has yielded several examples of collating multiple biblical texts into an eclectic but coherent whole for the purpose of worship.

This Easter Anthem has always been a part of the Prayer Book tradition, but its location has changed in modern practice. Traditionally, it was placed among the Propers (the Collects and Lessons), for Easter Day; since the 1979 Book it has been placed here within the Morning Prayer liturgy.

Originally this anthem was appointed only for Easter Day. The American 1892 Prayer Book uniquely added the Gloria Patri to it. The 1928 Prayer Book authorized the option of using this anthem throughout the Easter Octave (that is, from Easter Day through the First Sunday after Easter). The 1979 Book expanded this further still, appointing it for every day in Easter Week and making it optional every day until the Day of Pentecost. This has not changed in the 2019 Prayer Book, though the wording of the rubric has been altered.

There is also a custom in some places of using the Pascha Nostrum in place of the Gloria in excelsis Deo near the beginning of the Communion service, under the modern rubrics that allow other hymns of praise to take its place. Especially in church cultures where the Daily Office is not publicly offered, this can be an effective way of introducing elements of the Office liturgies to the congregation. Such points of contact and familiarity will prove helpful when teaching people to pray the Office.