Author: Church

THE CREEDS

THE CREEDS

 

“The title creed comes from the Latin word Credo which means ‘I believe.’ The creeds sum up the Church’s formulated faith and belief in the Gospel revelation. Its personal form – notice the ‘I,’ not ‘we’ – is a reminder of the individual profession of faith in the Gospel made by each of us at our baptism.

In reciting the creeds together, we declare that we receive, believe and are one with the teaching of God and His Church. We stand to show our respect for this faith and to show our willingness to act in defense of that faith whenever we are granted that privilege.

The practice of turning to the East when the creeds are recited is an ancient tradition in Christianity. From the earliest days, Christians worshipped and reverenced God facing the East to emphasize their belief in the Resurrection of their Living Lord Jesus. As the sun rose in the east, the Son of God rose from the dead. For this reason churches were built facing the East and are always considered to be liturgically facing the East even if they were built in a Westward direction. Also, this Resurrection theme explains why ministers in some parishes face the East to conduct services.

During the recitation of the creeds, many will bow their head at the mention of the name Jesus Christ. This practice is based on the scriptural statement, “. . . at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow” (Philippians 2:10). Also many will make the sign of the cross at the end of the creeds. Of course the cross is the most basic, central, and ancient symbol of the work of salvation. From the earliest days of Christianity, baptism was the point at which first commitment to Christ was pledged with creedal statements. The sign of the cross was made on the forehead of the one who had been baptized. This symbolic gesture was to remind the person that the only way to God was through the cross, faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ for payment of sin. Since reciting the creeds is a rehearsing of baptismal commitments, the sign of the cross is made at the end of the creeds in the same way it was first received at baptism as part of the covenant renewal process.

The Church recognizes three creeds: The Apostles’ Creed; the Nicene Creed; and the Athanasian Creed. We will look at each of these in the coming weeks.”

(Sources: Bishop Ray R. Sutton, An Instructional Commentary of the Order of Daily Morning Prayer, pp. 12-13; Bishop Ray R. Sutton, An Instructional Commentary of the Order of Holy Communion, p. 10; Rev. Brad Cunningham, The Holy Eucharist: An Instructed Celebration, p. 5)

C.S. Lewis and the Liturgy

C.S. Lewis and the Liturgy

“The advantage of a fixed form of service is that we know what is coming. Ex tempore public prayer has this difficulty; we don’t know whether we can mentally join in it until we’ve heard it – it might be phony or heretical. We are therefore called upon to carry critical and devotional activity at the same moment: two things hardly compatible. In a fixed form we ought to have ‘gone through the motions’ before in our private prayers; the rigid forms really set our devotions free. I also find the more rigid it is, the easier it is to keep one’s thoughts from straying. Also, it prevents getting too completely eaten up by whatever happens to be the preoccupation of the moment (i.e., war, an election, or what not). The permanent shape of Christianity shows through. I don’t see how the ex tempore method can help becoming provincial, and I think it has a great tendency to direct attention to the minister rather that to God.”                                                                       (Source: C.S. Lewis, Letters, 1 April 1952)

The Sign of the Cross

The Sign of the Cross

The cross is the most basic, central, and ancient sign of the work of salvation by Jesus Christ. Therefore, from the earliest days of Christianity the sign of the cross has been used as a symbol marking someone or something as belonging to Christ. It was once used among persecuted Christians to identify themselves to each other. Now it is a public announcement declaring Christ’s ownership of us and our allegiance to Him.

The sign of the cross is made for the first time on a person when he or she is baptized by the minster on his or her forehead. This symbolic gesture is to remind the person that the only way to God is through the cross; that is, faith in the finished work of Christ for payment of sin.

Since the reciting of the Creeds (Apostles’ and Nicene) are a rehearsing of our baptismal commitments, the sign of the cross is made at the end of the creed in the same way it the same way it was first received at baptism as part of the covenant renewal process. It is also appropriate to sign oneself at the absolution of sins as a gesture of receiving the forgiveness offered by Christ to all those who truly repent and at the final blessing as a sign of receiving this blessing. We also make the sign of the cross on the forehead, the lips, and the center of the chest at the introduction of the Gospel Lesson during the Eucharist as a prayer that the Gospel with be in our minds, on our lips, and in hearts.

 

 

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday

This week it may appear on the surface that the Church calendar is a bit disjointed. One week after celebrating the Pentecostal feast commemorating the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Church the calendar jumps to a feast that celebrates the Doctrine of the blessed Holy Trinity. Over the first half of the Church year, we have been focusing upon and recapitulating the historical events in the life of Jesus Christ (His incarnation and birth, His earthly ministry, His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, His passion and sacrificial death, His victorious resurrection, His glorious ascension and His sending of the Holy Spirit). Now it seems that we abruptly change themes by focusing upon a theological, biblical truth.

However, it really is quite appropriate for us to focus our attention upon the Triune Godhead the Sunday after the Holy Ghost has come upon the Church. You see, now the fullness of God has been revealed to us with the giving of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity has, of course, always existed, but after God the Father (the First Person of the Trinity) sent God the Son (the Second Person of the Trinity) into the world to redeem the world, and God the Father and God the Son sent God the Holy Spirit (the Third Person of the Trinity) to indwell and empower His Church; the Church came to understand in a deeper way the God they were called to worship and serve.

As Rev. Dr. Peter Toon puts it, “In the great work of divine [progressive] revelation and redemption, salvation and sanctification, the Holy Trinity is wholly involved, as the Father sends the Son into the world where he assumed human nature by the presence of the Holy Ghost, and where the Holy Ghost acts in the Name of the Son.” Therefore, since the Holy Trinity has been involved with every aspect of the historical, redemptive acts and events that we have been reliving through the various church seasons; it was very wise for the Church to appoint this Sunday as Trinity Sunday – a day on which we focus our devotion and meditation upon the Triune God. (The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost, Three Persons One God, a Trinity in Unity and a unity in Trinity).

In the older lectionaries, the remainder of the Church year bore the name of the Holy Trinity because of what Jesus said in our Gospel lesson from last week. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Now that the Holy Spirit has come upon the Church, God the Father through the redeeming work of God the Son and by the power and strength given to us by the Holy Spirit will mature us in the Christian faith.

Consequently, the Season of Pentecost/Trinity into which we are about to enter is a season for our spiritual growth. This is represented by the liturgical color of green. Pentecost Season is a time when we are to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth that God the Father and God the Son want to teach us through the written Word (Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel readings) and the Sacraments.

 

The Athanasian Creed

The Athanasian Creed

The Athanasian Creed (Quicumque Vult) is a statement of Christian Trinitarian doctrine and Christology which has been used in Western Christianity since the sixth century A.D. Its Latin name comes from the opening words Quicumque vult, “Whosoever wishes.” It is the first creed to explicitly state equality of the persons of Trinity.

The first half of the creed confesses the Trinity (one God in three persons). With didactic repetition it ascribes divine majesty and characteristics to the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, each individually. At the same time it clearly states that, although all three are individually divine, they are not three gods but one God. Furthermore, although one God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct from each other. For the Father is neither made nor begotten; the Son is not made but is begotten from the Father; the Holy Spirit is neither made nor begotten but proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Didactic as its content appears to contemporary readers, its opening sets out the essential principle that the catholic faith does not consist in the first place in assent to propositions, but ‘that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity and Unity’. All else flows from that orientation.

Its teaching about Jesus Christ is more detailed than in the Nicene Creed, and reflects the teaching of the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431) and the definition of the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451). The Athanasian Creed boldly uses the key Nicene term homoousios (‘one substance’, ‘one in Being’) not only with respect to the

relation of the Son to the Father according to his divine nature, but that the Son is homoousios with his mother Mary, according to his human nature.

The Creed’s wording thus excludes not only Sabellianism (the nontrinitarian belief that the Heavenly Father, Resurrected Son and the Holy Spirit are different modes or aspects of one God, as perceived by the believer, rather than three distinct persons in God himself) and Arianism (the heresy that taught that Jesus was not one with the Father, and that he was not fully divine in nature), but also the Christological heresies of Nestorianism (the heresy that taught that Christ exists as two persons, the man Jesus and the divine Son of God, or Logos, rather than as two natures [True God and True Man] of one divine person) and Eutychianism (the heresy that taught that the human nature of Christ was overcome by the divine, or that Christ had a human nature but it was unlike the rest of humanity). A need for a clear confession against Arianism arose in western Europe when the Ostrogoths and Visigoths, who had Arian beliefs, invaded at the beginning of the fifth century (excerpt taken from Wikipedia). Today, Trinity Sunday, we will say the Anthansian Creed in place of the Nicene Creed.

 

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

 

 The passion begins. Ironically, the journey toward the most intense suffering is launched at the moment of greatest accolade. This is always the insidious deception associated at times with human approval. It is often fickle, shallow and insincere. Perhaps the Jubilation of Palm Sunday was not insincere. No doubt it was spontaneity without commitment, which usually leads to disaster in this life. Much has been written about the meaning of the palms. In the Jewish world, the palms would have probably come from Jericho, not an insignificant piece of information. Old Testament prophets foretold of a day when a new Joshua, an Elijah figure, would enter the land and retake it from the Gentiles. Remember, Joshua of old was the great military leader who brought down the walls of Jericho, the entry point for conquering the Canaanites The remarkable general of the army of God led the nation of Israel on to a complete route the land that had been given them by God. By the time of Jesus’ day, the Jews were in the land. Now they were dominated by the Gentiles, the Romans. It was in one sense the total upending of what Joshua, by the way the Old Testament name for Jesus, had accomplished.  In the former day, the Israelites had come into the land of the Gentiles and established the rule of God. At a later day, Jesus’ time, the Gentiles had overrun the people of God and set up their image over the land. The prophets had anticipated this moment. Under the inspiration of God, they had revealed, however, that a new Joshua would arrive in history. Like the Joshua of old, he would start at Jericho and take the land. Thus, the palms from Jericho were a symbol of the kind of conquest that they thought was about to occur, military triumph. Unfortunately, they forgot the rest of the teachings of the prophets. The new Joshua was to be the suffering servant of Isaiah, He would be stricken and smitten on His back for the sins of the world. Through sufferings and death, not power and might, the Gentiles, and even Jesus’ own people, would be overcome. What the people declared was true. It just did not come about the way they thought it would. Indeed, that first week long ago, had it not been for God’s purposes in the midst of the catastrophe, would have ended in complete defeat. But the darkness shrouding the cross on Good Friday was actually the beginning of victory. Just as the ecstasy of Palm Sunday was the start of something opposite, so was the darkest moment of the Christ’s passion. For, to put Christ on the cross, He had to be raised up high. And that raising up hinted at an even greater rising, the Resurrection!

 

Palms on Palm Sunday

Palms on Palm Sunday

In general, the palm is a symbol of victory and triumph. It is associated with the rejoicing that comes with victory. Thus saints, especially martyrs, are often depicted carrying the palm of victory – they have triumphed over sin and won the victory of heaven.

All the Gospels recall the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem before his passion and death. The Gospels tell us that the crowds lined the road welcoming Jesus to the city. And they laid branches from the trees or reeds on the road before Jesus. John recalls, “…they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…” ’(12:13).

“On that Palm Sunday, the Passion Week began. It is ironic, that the journey toward the most intense suffering in history is launched at the moment of greatest accolade. This is always the insidious deception associated at times with human approval. It is often fickle, shallow and insincere. Perhaps the jubilation of Palm Sunday was not insincere. No doubt it was spontaneity without commitment, which usually leads to disaster in this life.

Much has been written about the meaning of the palms. In the Jewish world, the palms would have probably come from Jericho, not an insignificant piece of information. Old Testament prophets foretold of a day when a new Joshua, an Elijah figure, would enter the land and retake it from the Gentiles. Remember, Joshua of old was the great military leader who brought down the walls of Jericho, the entry point for conquering the Canaanites. The remarkable general of the army of God led the nation of Israel on to a complete route of the land that had been given them by God. By the time of Jesus’ day, the Jews were in the land. Now they were dominated by the Gentiles, the Romans. It was in one sense the total upending of what Joshua (by the way the Old Testament name for Jesus) had accomplished. In the former day, the Israelites had come into the land of the Gentiles and established the rule of God. At a later day, Jesus’ time, the Gentiles had overrun the people of God and set up their image over the land.

The prophets had anticipated this moment. Under the inspiration of God, they had revealed, however, that a new Joshua would arrive in history. Like the Joshua of old, he would start at Jericho and take the land. Thus, the palms from Jericho were a symbol of the kind of conquest that they thought was about to occur, military triumph. Unfortunately, they forgot the rest of the teaching of the prophets. The new Joshua was to be the suffering servant of Isaiah.

He would be stricken and smitten on His back for the sins of the world. Through suffering and death, not power and might, the Gentiles, and even Jesus’ own people, would be overcome. What the people declared was true. It just did not come about the way they thought it would.

Indeed, that first week long ago, had it not been for God’s purposes in the midst of the catastrophe, would have ended in complete defeat. But the darkness shrouding the cross on Good Friday was actually the beginning of victory. Just as the ecstasy of Palm Sunday was the start of something opposite, so was the darkest moment of the Christ’s passion. For, to put Christ on the cross, He had to be raised up high. And that raising up hinted at an even greater rising, the Resurrection!”

So the palms which symbolized victory were very much appropriate for Jesus’ final entry into the city of Jerusalem, even though it was not the type of victory that those waving the palm branches on that day were expecting. It was a far greater victory being foreshadowed on that day which would occur later in the coming week. For you see, Jesus’ whole life had been moving to that decisive moment and purpose when He would become the sacrificial lamb for the sins of the whole world on that Good Friday.

During the first part of the liturgy on Palm Sunday, we commemorate and reenact Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The service begins in the parish hall with palms being blessed and given to those present to carry in procession into the nave. As we do so may we remember one of the key lessons of Palm Sunday – sometimes things are not always what we expect; they are actually better.

 

 

What does Hosanna Mean?

What does Hosanna Mean?

Hosanna is an ancient Hebrew exclamation which basically means, “save us!” The word Hosanna appears in psalm 118 verse 25, “Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray give us success!” This psalm was sung in Jerusalem during Passover with people waving palm branches as sings of victory and joy.

Palm Sunday commemorates the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem at Passover time, the crowds greeting him with the traditional song of the feast. By shouting hosanna to Jesus and waving palm branches before him the people were calling upon him to be their Savior.

When we wave our palms branches and join in this ancient song, we join the ancient call. Hosanna, Jesus, save us! And our hosannas are more joyful than the ancient crowd, because we know that what they hoped for has been accomplished. Jesus has saved all who trust in him.

Hosanna, to Jesus the son of David!

The Sacrament of Confession

The Sacrament of Confession

The Sacrament of Penance, also known as Confession or Reconciliation, is the method given by Christ to the Church by which individual men and women may be freed from sins committed after receiving Baptism. The goal of this sacrament is the reconciliation of sinners with God through the healing of the soul which has been damaged by acts of sin. Confession of sin is the mark of a true Christian. St. John writes, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9-10).

The Sacrament of Penance is administered in either two ways: publicly or privately. In the Prayer Book services (Morning/Evening Prayer and Eucharist), penance is a component of our corporate worship. First, the priest makes an exhortation to repentance. This is followed by the reciting of the general confession by all present. Finally, the absolution is given by the priest to all “who do truly and earnestly repent of their sins.”

In addition to the sacrament being administered in corporate worship, penance is also administered privately by the priest to individuals whose consciences are troubled by weighty sins. Private penance is helpful in such difficult situations because it can deepen a person’s humility additionally it gives a person struggling with a particularly difficult sin a chance to receive counsel that will be helpful in overcoming that sin in the future.

The Sacrament of Penance consists basically of four acts (note that penance sacramentally applies to the whole activity from the contrition of sins to the absolution of those sins by the priest):

Contrition: First the penitent (the repentant sinner – the root word in “penitentiary”), must be aware of his/her sinfulness and must be truly sorry (contrite) for his/her sins. Another word for repentance is “contrition”. Then with a contrite heart, the penitent repents of his/her sins by making a humble confession to God.

Confession: The penitent confesses all the sins he/she can recall – after examining his conscience – that he/she has not confessed previously.

Act of Penance: In the case of private confessions, the priest-confessor may propose certain actions – penance – for the penitent to perform. This may be saying certain prayers and/or performing some other fitting action. The person who performs this penance thus shows his or her sorrow for his/her sinful acts. This helps him/her to overcome his/her faults, and the harm his sins have caused others – to be reconciled with them and with the Church, and to return to behavior consistent with being a disciple of Christ.

Absolution: After the penitent truly confesses his/her sin and accepts any acts of penance needing to be performed; the priest, by the authority that Christ has given him as the one commissioned through the laying on of hands by the successors to the apostles (see John 20:22-23) absolves the sinner; that is, he grants God’s pardon for the sins.

Penance is a wonderful sacrament given by Jesus Christ to His Church. It is a means by which we sinful, unclean creatures can have our souls and hearts cleansed in order that we can be reassured that He fully forgives those who have a contrite heart and truly confess their sins.

Why Don’t We Say Alleluia During Lent

Why Don’t We Say Alleluia During Lent

Throughout the liturgical year, the Church makes certain changes to the Mass to reflect the liturgical season. Next to the change in the color of the priest’s vestments, the absence of the Alleluia during Lent is probably the most obvious.

The Meaning of the Alleluia

The Alleluia comes to us from Hebrew, and it means “praise Yahweh.” Traditionally, it has been seen as the chief term of praise of the choirs of angels, as they worship around the throne of God in Heaven. It is, therefore, a term of great joy, and our use of the Alleluia during Mass is a way of participating in the angels’ worship. It is also a reminder that the Kingdom of Heaven is already established on earth in the form of the Church, and that our participation in Mass is a participation in Heaven.

Our Lenten Exile

In truth, we live in what is called the Now and the Not Yet. The Kingdom of God has come. But its full appearance in not yet fully revealed. During Lent, our focus is on the fullness of the Kingdom which is still to come, not on the partial Kingdom having come. The readings in the Masses for Lent and in the Daily Offices focus heavily on the spiritual journey of Old Testament Israel toward the coming of Christ and the salvation of mankind in His death and resurrection. We, too, are on a spiritual journey toward the Second Coming and our future life in Heaven. In order to emphasize that journey, the Church during Lent removes the Alleluia from the Mass. We no longer sing with the choirs of angels; instead, we acknowledge our sins and practice repentance so that one day we may again have the privilege of worshiping God as the angels do.

The Return of the Alleluia at Easter

That day comes triumphantly on Easter Sunday – or, rather, at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night when the priest chants a triple Alleluia before he reads the Gospel and everyone present responds with a triple Alleluia. The Lord is risen; the Kingdom has come; our joy is complete; and, in concert with the angels and saints, we greet the risen Lord with shouts of “Alleluia!”

Why Veil the Crosses?

Our Lord promised his disciples a place in His Kingdom. He promised them a new life. Yet He continued to talk about a Cross. The disciples tried to ignore it until it could no longer be denied. How could these promises be fulfilled if He who made them was to be crucified? Christ insisted the Cross was a necessity. For them it was a terrifying mystery. The veils symbolize this dark mystery.

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