Author: Church

The Light of Christ

The Light of Christ

 

On the Feast of the Epiphany, we celebrated the truth that Jesus Christ came not only for the Old Testament Covenant people of Israel, but also for those outside of Israel who would place their faith in Him. The Magi were the first Gentile people to whom Christ revealed Himself. How exactly did Jesus manifest Himself to these Gentiles? He did so by a bright star shining in the East above the place where the Christ child was. In other worlds, Jesus revealed Himself to them by a great light. In connection with this face, it is very interesting that in Luke 2:32, Simeon says of Jesus that He is a “a light for the revelation of the Gentiles.”

It should not surprise us, therefore; that the Light of Jesus Christ led the Magi to Him since God is light and in Him is no darkness. We live in a world that has been damaged by sin and darkness as a result of that sin. However, it was not like that in the beginning. God the Father spoke light into existence through His Word (God the Son). God the Son was the light that illuminated the world in its creation.

Even after the Fall of Man, the promise of Jesus’ coming to heal that which was broken was the light that saved all of the Old Testament saints. Then, at the precise time in God’s plan that promised Light came into the world. Jesus Christ is the Light that lightens our darkened souls. His light exposes sin for what it is – lies and ultimately death.

Because of the fact that Christ is the light of the world, the Church has always used many symbols of light in her worship. Listed below are just a few examples of which we all should be mindful.

  • The candles on the altar symbolize that Christ is with us the two Eucharistic candles in particular represent the Deity and Humanity of Jesus and also signify that Christ is present in the Eucharist.
  • The Sanctuary Lamp in front of the tabernacle indicates the Blessed Sacrament is being reserved.
  • The torches that accompany the processional cross represents Christ’s light coming into His House for worship and going out before us into the world in which we are called to share His light with others. The torches also accompany the Gospel Book to show that the Gospel (Good News) is among us.
  • The white Christ called candle at the center of the Advent wreath is lit on Christmas to proclaim the coming of Christ into the world.
  • May the Light of Christ, as it did the Magi, continue to lead us and those around us to the Source of our Salvation.
John the Baptist

John the Baptist

All three annual cycles for the Sunday readings reserve the Third Sunday of Advent for a narration about John the Baptist. “Our principal sources of information about John the Baptist are (1) references to his birth in the first chapter of Luke, (2) references to his preaching and his martyrdom in the Gospels, with a few references in Acts, and (3) references in Josephus to his preaching and martyrdom, references which are consistent with the New Testament ones, but sufficiently different in the details to make direct borrowing unlikely.

According to the Jewish historian Josephus (who wrote after 70 AD), John the Baptist was a Jewish preacher in the time of Pontius Pilate (AD 26-36). He called the people to repentance and to a renewal of their covenant relation with God. He was imprisoned and eventually put to death by Herod Antipas (son of Herod the Great, who was king when Jesus was born) for denouncing Herod’s marriage to Herodias, the wife of his still-living brother Philip. In order to marry Herodias, Herod divorced his first wife, the daughter of King Aretas of Damascus, who subsequently made war on Herod, a war which, Josephus tells us, was regarded by devout Jews as a punishment for Herod’s murder of the prophet John.

In the Book of Acts, we find sermons about Jesus which mention His Baptism by John as the beginning of His public ministry (see Acts 10:37; 11:16; 13:24). We also find accounts (see Acts 18:24; 19:3) of devout men in Greece who had received the baptism of John, and who gladly received the full message of the Gospel of Christ when it was told them.

Luke begins his Gospel by describing an aged, devout, childless couple, the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. As Zechariah is serving in the Temple, he sees the angel Gabriel, who tells him that he and his wife will have a son who will be a great prophet, and will go before the Lord “like Elijah.” (The Jewish tradition had been that Elijah would herald the coming of the Messiah = Christ = Anointed = Chosen of God.) Zechariah went home, and his wife conceived. About six months later, Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, a kinswoman of Elizabeth, and told her that she was about to bear a son who would be called Son of the Most High, a king whose kingdom would never end. Thus Elizabeth gave birth to John, and Mary gave birth six months later to Jesus.

After describing the birth of John, Luke says that he grew, and “was in the wilderness until the day of his showing to Israel.” The people of the Qumran settlement, which produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, sometime use the term “living in the wilderness” to refer to residing in their community at Qumran near the Dead Sea. Accordingly, it has been suggested that John spent some of his early years being educated at Qumran.

All of the gospels tell us that John preached and baptized beside the Jordan river, in the wilderness of Judea. He called on his hearers to repent of their sins, be baptized, amend their lives, and prepare for the coming of the Kingship of God. He spoke of one greater follow Jesus. Some of John’s followers resented this, but he told them: “This is as it should be. My mission is to proclaim the Christ. The groomsman, the bridegroom’s friend, who makes the wedding arrangements for the bridegroom, is not jealous of the bridegroom. No more am I of Jesus. He must increase, and I must decrease.” (John 3:22-30).

John continued to preach, reproving sin and calling on everyone to repent. King Herod Antipas had divorced his wife and taken Herodias, the wife of his (still living) brother Philip. John rebuked him for this, and Herod, under pressure from Herodias, had John arrested, and eventually beheaded.” (source: “Birth of John the Baptist” by James Kiefer from the website Saints and Commemorations of the Episcopal Church).

Upcoming Special Services and Events:

Upcoming Special Services and Events:

December 17 –   Hanging of the Advent Greens

                             Sunday, Dec. 17 at 12:15 p.m.

December 24 –   Eucharist for The Fourth Sunday of Advent

                             Sunday, Dec. 24 at 9:30 a.m.

                             Family Mass of Christmas Eve

                            Sunday, Dec. 24 at 5:30 p.m.

                            Christmas Eve Mass (The Vigil of the Nativity)

                            Sunday, Dec. 24 at 10:30 p.m.

December 25 –   Eucharist for the Feast of the Nativity of

                            our Lord Jesus Christ      

                             Monday, Dec. 25 at 12:00 Noon

December 26 –   (Said) Eucharist for the Feast of St. Stephen,

                            Deacon and Martyr              

                           Tuesday, Dec. 26 at 12:00 Noon

December 27 –   (Said) Eucharist for the Feast of St. John,

                            Apostle and Evangelist              

                            Wednesday, Dec. 27 at 6:30 p.m.

December 28 –   (Said) Eucharist for Holy Innocents,

Thursday, Dec. 28 at 12:00 Noon

December 31 –   Eucharist for the Feast of St. John, Apostle and

                           Evangelist (Transferred)

                             Sunday, Jan. 1 at 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

January 1 –         (Said) Eucharist for the Feast of the Most Holy

                             Name of our Lord                 

                             Monday, Jan. 1 at 12:00 Noon

January 7 –         Eucharist for the Feast of the Epiphany (Transferred)        

                            Sunday, Jan. 7 at 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

The Advent Wreath and Family Evening Prayer

The Advent Wreath and Family Evening Prayer

“In family practice, the Advent wreath is most appropriately lit at dinner time after the blessing of the food. A traditional prayer service using the Advent wreath proceeds as follows: On the First Sunday of Advent, the father of the family blesses the wreath, praying: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” He then continues for each of the days of the first week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg thee, and come, that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The youngest child then lights one purple candle.

During the second week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The oldest child then lights the purple candle from the first week plus one more purple candle.

During the third week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Thy ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The mother then lights the two previously lit purple candles plus the rose candle.

Finally, the father prays during the fourth week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The father then lights all of the candles of the wreath.

Since Advent is a time to stir-up our faith in the Lord, the wreath and its prayers provide us a way to augment this special preparation for Christmas. Moreover, this good tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our homes and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas” (by Fr. William Saunders).

The Feast of St. Nicholas (December 6)

The Feast of St. Nicholas (December 6)

The real St. Nicholas was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ word to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals – murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. He died December 6, A.D. 343, in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, the anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day.

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.

Why celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas?

  • To tell the story of a Christian, whose model life inspires compassion and charity
  • To reveal the true identity of Santa Claus and Father Christmas
  • To focus on giving more than on receiving
  • To emphasize small treats and family fun
  • To provide a bit of special festivity early in the waiting weeks of Advent
  • To explain the spiritual dimension of gift giving
  • To help keep Jesus the center of Christmas
  • Saint Nicholas loved children and cared for the needy. He brings the love of Christ and the healing of Jesus. We honor this saint by following his example of selflessness.
Eucharistic Preparation

Eucharistic Preparation

The Exhortation in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer states, “Dearly beloved in the Lord, ye who mind to come to the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ, must consider how Saint Paul exhorteth all persons diligently to examine themselves, before they presume to eat of that Bread, and drink of that Cup. For as the benefit is great, if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy Sacrament; so is the danger great, if we receive the same unworthily. Judge therefore yourselves, brethren, that ye be not judged of the Lord; repent you truly of your sins past; have a lively and steadfast faith in Christ our Saviour; amend your lives, and be in perfect charity with all men; so shall ye be meet partakers of those holy mysteries.”

Christ gave up His life to heal and redeem our bodies and souls. The Sacrament of the Eucharist is a foretaste of the full healing and redemption that awaits us when Christ returns to make all things new. Therefore as the Exhortation reminds us, we are not to approach the Sacrament of the Eucharist flippantly or lightly. This means that we must prepare our hearts and minds to participate in these divine mysteries. We do this in a couple of ways.

First, we are to quiet ourselves before the service by mediating upon the scriptural readings for the day and by offering silent prayers to God such as the Lord’s Prayer. This requires that you arrive a little early for the service and save your socializing until after the service concludes. There is a time for God’s people to socialize, but it is not when we are preparing to come before Him at His altar.

I have observed that oftentimes, when people visit Anglican services, the reverence that they encounter in the liturgy strikes a cord in their hearts. This is because of the peace and calm that come from being in the presence of the Lord. Therefore, if we are going to enter into God’s presence and hear what He wants to tell us through His Word and Sacrament, would it not stand to reason that we must be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10) before the service begins?

Another way that we prepare ourselves to participate in the divine mysteries of the Holy Eucharist is by openly examining our hearts to see whether or not we have “truly and earnestly repented all our sins, are in love and charity with our neighbors,” and are leading lives which are glorifying and pleasing to God and are edifying to others. Of course, there is a time in our service in which we make our general confession to God and this is an important and necessary element in our

liturgical worship. However, prior confession of any known sin is also necessary to

open our hearts and minds to clearly hear God’s voice in the liturgy and to receive the Sacrament worthily. This prior confession allows us to come to the altar of God with a full trust in His mercy and a quiet conscience.

However, sometimes this prior silent confession before the Lord is not enough to quiet our consciences. This is especially true in cases where we have committed grievous, mortal sins. In these cases we are to do as the 1928 BCP tells us on page 88. If by these means a person cannot quiet his own conscience, “but requireth further comfort or counsel, let him come to the Minister of God’s Word, and open his grief; that he may receive such godly counsel and advice, as may tend to the quieting of his conscience, and the removing of all scruple and doubtfulness.” This is referring to the Sacrament of Confession and Penance. If you are struggling with a sin or hindrance that is troubling your conscience, I exhort you to make use of this Sacrament given by our Lord Jesus Christ to cleanse you and your sins and restore your hearts and minds to a state of peace that comes from knowing the love of God, and His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sources:

An Instructional Commentary for the Order of Holy Communion

by Rt. Rev. Ray Sutton (2008)

The Book of Common Prayer (1928)

The Oxford Prayer Book Commentary by Massey H. Shepherd (1950)

The Stewardship of Our Resources

The Stewardship of Our Resources

“We bring nothing into this world and we take nothing out of it. Everything that we have while we are here on the earth comes as a gift from God. In appreciation, we choose to share a portion of these gifts.

The stewardship of our resources is an ongoing process. We give regularly and systematically in proportion to the gifts which we are given and the talents which earn us our possessions. Because we love God, we gladly dedicate these gifts to God’s service, and give a worthy portion for the care of people in need.

Giving money to the Church is a symbolic act – the offering of ourselves in service and devotion to God. Giving is a practical matter, too, because the offering makes it possible for the Church to pay its bills and carry out its mission in Christ’s name.

A question that is often asked is ‘How much should I give?’ The Bible says that we should set aside our ‘First Fruits’ – that our offering to God should be the first portion we set aside, not what remains. Some people give by proportion: for example, $1 per week for every $1000 of annual income. Others set aside a percentage of their income. The Old Testament guideline for giving was the tithe (usually a tenth). How close do you come to the giving expected of the early Christians?” (Excerpt taken from the booklet Stewardship and You)

Saint of the Week: October 18

Saint of the Week: October 18

Luke was a Gentile, a physician, and one of Paul’s disciples and fellow missionaries in the early spread of the Gospel through the Roman world. He is the author both of the Gospel that bears his name and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles. He apparently did not know Jesus, writing that he compiled his narrative from the report of “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses” (Luke 1). A tradition attested by Eusebius holds that he was one of the first members of the Christian community at Antioch.

Much can be gleaned about his character from his writings. In his Gospel the elements particular to him include much of the account of the virgin birth of Jesus, some of the most moving parables such as those of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, and the words of Jesus during his passion to the women of Jerusalem and the penitent malefactor who was crucified alongside Jesus. All of these elements emphasize the compassion of Christ, which together with Luke’s emphasis on poverty, prayer, and purity of heart make up much of his specific appeal to the Gentiles, for whom he wrote this Gospel of the Savior of the world. Women figure more prominently in Luke’s Gospel than in any other, including Mary, Elizabeth, the widow of Nain, and the woman who was a sinner. Luke also emphasizes Jesus’ deity, from the angelic announcement of “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” that applies the Roman imperial titles of soter (savior) and kyrios (lord) not to Caesar in Rome, but to the newborn child in the backwater town of Bethlehem; to the subtlety of the Greek words used to address Jesus by different persons (or angels) at different times through his Gospel. In the first part of his Gospel, up through the passion and death of Jesus, human beings address Jesus as “master”, while angels refer to him as “Lord” (the Greek kyrios echoing the Hebrew adonai, a term applied to God). After his Resurrection, through the witness of God’s vindication of him, Jesus is called “Lord” by his disciples.

In the Acts of the Apostles Luke shows himself a remarkably accurate observer, concerned with making necessary links between the history of the early Church and the contemporary history of the Roman Empire. As noted about his Gospel, above, Luke showed himself an artist with words, which is perhaps the basis for the tradition that he was a painter and that he made the first icon of the Blessed Virgin. For this reason, Luke has become the patron not only of physicians and surgeons, but also of artists. When he is represented with the other Evangelists, his symbol is an ox, derived from Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 1) and sometimes explained by reference to sacrifice in the Temple in the early chapters of his Gospel.

Luke was with Paul until the apostle’s martyrdom in Rome. What became of Luke after this is unknown. Early tradition holds that he wrote his Gospel in Achaia, and that he died at the age of eight-four in Boetia. In 357 the emperor Constantinus the Second had the presumed relics of Saint Luke translated from Thebes in Boetia to Constantinople, where they were placed with the relics of Saint Andrew in Church of the Holy Apostles. The observance of his feast day on the eighteenth of October is quite old in the East, but it appears on Western calendars only in the eighth century. The date itself is universal, and may be based on the actual date of his death. (Sources: The Oxford Dictionary of Saints and Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 1980)

The Stewardship of Life, Time, Health, and Talents

The Stewardship of Life, Time, Health, and Talents

“Life itself is a stewardship. Human life is the first and greatest gift of all and carries great responsibilities with it. As Christians, we know that our lives are sacred trusts. We are the stewards of those lives; God depends on us to use them to accomplish His purposes.

          Next, is the stewardship of time. When God gives us life, we don’t know how much time we have to use that life. But, whatever time we have is a gift from God, and we must use it wisely in every activity throughout the day. We must budget our hours so that we are able to give of our time to fulfill God’s plan.

          Then follows the stewardship of health of body and mind. God gave human beings superior minds to be used to fullest capacity in discovering God’s plan in understanding self and others. We are also given bodies in which to accomplish God’s work – bodies to be treated with respect (taken care of), not abused (harmed). We are to present our bodies and we renew our minds as offerings to God.

          And then there is the stewardship of talents. God gives all people potential talents when they are born. Each of us can share in God’s plan in his or her own way. The Bible tells us that if we use our talents wisely, we will be better able to use than and will develop others. But, if we don’t, we may lose even those talents we do have. (Excerpt taken from the booklet Stewardship and You)

 

Teresa of Avila, Nun – October 15

Teresa of Avila, Nun – October 15

Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada (later known as Teresa de Jesus) was born in Avila, Spain, on March 28, 1515, one of ten children whose mother died when she was fifteen. Her family was of partly Jewish ancestry. Teresa, having read the letters of Jerome, decided to become a nun, and when she was 20, she entered the Carmelite convent in Avila. There she fell seriously ill, was in a coma for a while, and partially paralyzed for three years. In her early years as a nun, she was, by her account, assiduous in prayer while sick but lax and lukewarm in her prayers and devotions when the sickness had passed. However, her prayer life eventually deepened, she began to have visions and a vivid sense of the presence of God, and was converted to a life of extreme devotion.

In 1560 she resolved to reform the monastery that had, she thought, departed from the order’s original intention and become insufficiently austere. Her proposed reforms included strict enclosure (the nuns were not to go to parties and social gatherings in town, or to have social visitors at the convent, but to stay in the convent and pray and study most of their waking hours) and discalcing (literally, taking off one’s shoes, a symbol of poverty, humility, and the simple life, uncluttered by luxuries and other distractions). In 1562 she opened a new monastery in Avila, over much opposition in the town and from the older monastery. At length Teresa was given permission to proceed with her reforms, and she travelled throughout Spain establishing seventeen houses of Carmelites of the Strict (or Reformed) Observance (the others are called Carmelites of the Ancient Observance). The reformed houses were small, poor, disciplined, and strictly enclosed. Teresa died October 14, 1582.

Teresa is reported to have been very attractive in person, witty, candid, and affectionate. She is remembered both for her practical achievements and organizing skill and for her life of contemplative prayer. Her books are read as aids to the spiritual life by many Christians of all denominations. Her Life is her autobiography to 1562; The Way of Perfection is a treatise on the Christian walk, written primarily for her sisters but of help to others as well; The Book of Foundations deals with establishing, organizing and overseeing the daily functioning of religious communities; The Interior Castle  (or The Castle of the Soul) deals with the life of Christ in the heart of the believer. Most of these are available in paperback. 31 of her poems and 458 of her letters survive. Her feast day in the Western Church is October 15. (Source: The Proper for the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 1998)

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