Category: Anglican Moments

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)

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)

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.

 

 

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.

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