Category: Anglican Moments

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.

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.

Redeeming the Time: The Season of Lent (Pt.2)

Redeeming the Time: The Season of Lent (Pt.2)

In the previous Anglican Moment, I reiterated the fact that one of the purposes for Christ’s Incarnation was to reclaim the entirety of God’s creation for God and His holy purposes which in the beginning He called “good”. I emphasized that part of this creation, of course, is time. In Ephesians 5:16, St. Paul exhorts Christians to “redeem the time because the days are evil.” Therefore, the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit developed a Liturgical Calendar for this very purpose of redeeming the time.

I then reminded you that it was for this reason that one of the major aspects of my vision for parish ministry is to help develop the liturgical life of the parish and to help all parishioners to incorporate the Liturgical seasons and celebrations into their lives. I call this plan collectively, “Redeeming the Time.” “Redeeming the Time” means planning for the themes, moods, and liturgies of the Christian Year, and also includes special reinforcing festivities to help make it all an active and anticipated part of life as a Christian.

Last time, we examined the themes and mood of Lent. This brings us now to an examination of the Liturgy and its changes during Lent. Remember the purpose of the changes is not to just do something different, but to emphasize the unique themes and mood of the Season of Lent and to help us more fully immerse ourselves as Christians in those themes and mood.

The Sanctuary and the Chancel: Both the Sanctuary and the Chancel will be as plain as possible to keep with the penitential theme of Lent. All banners and other decorations will be removed from these areas. We will replace our normal altar cross with a wooden cross and the altar candles holders with wooden holders. All of the crosses will be veiled during this season as well.

Altar Flowers: In keeping with Lent’s penitential theme of preparation, there are no flowers on the altar.

The Paschal Candle: The Paschal Candle, which during most of the Church year stands beside the baptismal font, will be removed from the Church until the Easter Vigil.

Sanctus Bells: The normal Sanctus Bells are replaced during Lent with a single bell.

Liturgical Colors: Our altar hangings and vestments will be purple for this season. Purple is the color of both penance and the royal color worn to prepare for the King.

The Processional: Our entrance rite will be different during Lent. Rather than singing a hymn, we will process either reciting the Great Litany (pp. 148-153) or a penitential psalm in unison. The reason for doing this is because both the Great Litany and these penitential psalms “have served as a special sources of prayer and reflection during Lent for centuries” (ourcatholicprayers.com by Christopher Castagnoli).

The Opening Acclamation: In keeping with the theme of Lent, we will use a more appropriate acclamation to draw us into worship which will have a theme of penance and preparation.

The Decalogue (Ten Commandments): On some Sunday’s during Lent, we will use the Decalogue in place of the Summary of the Law. The Summary of the Law, of course, encompasses all of the Ten Commandments (“Loving God” covers the first 4 Commandments and “Loving Neighbor” covers the last 6 Commandments). However, the Decalogue “sets the clear tone of Lent which is a call to repentance and faithfulness to God’s Law.” The use of the 10 Commandments, therefore, is very appropriate for renewing our covenant vows before God in the liturgy during this penitential season. (“Lent: Why Do We Do the Strange Things We Do” by Fr. Eric Dudley).

The Kyrie Eleison: Again in keeping with the penitential theme of preparation in Lent, there are certain omissions in the Eucharistic Liturgy. This is where we find one of those omissions – The Gloria in Excelsis (no glorias or alleluias). In place of the Gloria, we will sing the Kyrie Eleison which better fits with our Lenten themes. This is “one of the earliest penitential supplications used in the Christian Church and it comes from the Old Testament.” We will sing the 9-fold Kyrie (each line sung three times for a total of 9 lines). (“Lent: Why Do We Do the Strange Things We Do” by Fr. Eric Dudley)

Redeeming the Time: The Season of Lent

Redeeming the Time: The Season of Lent

Just prior to the start of the Advent Season, I explained that one of the purposes for Christ’s Incarnation was to reclaim the entirety of God’s creation for God and His holy purposes which in the beginning He called “good.” I emphasized that part of this creation, of course, is time. In Ephesians 5:16, St. Paul exhorts Christians to “redeem the time because the days are evil.” Therefore, the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit developed a Liturgical Calendar for this very purpose of redeeming the time.

In an article written by KimBerlee Conway Ireton, Ms. Ireton asks three compelling questions that some of us may have after reading the above – “Why do I choose to embrace the church year? What about this particular ordering of time is so compelling? And what effect does living according to the church calendar have on my moral and spiritual formation?”

Ms. Ireton’s answer is – “Embracing this way of marking the year has formed my faith and my character, in large part, because I am repeatedly thrust back into the life of Jesus through the stories told and retold each season. These stories place Christ daily before my eyes and point me back to the One whom I am all too prone to forget in the busyness and bustle of my life. Because each season has a special emphasis, I have opportunities to focus on specific areas of spiritual growth as I live out that season. Like any spiritual discipline, living the church year is most meaningful, most formative, and most transformative when we keep at it, embracing its seasons and their rhythms, allowing the life of Jesus to speak again and again into our own lives, seeking always to follow in the way Jesus leads us, year after year” (“Redeeming Time” in Christian Reflection, 2010).

It is for this reason that one of the major aspects of my vision for parish ministry is to help develop the liturgical life of the parish and to help all parishioners to incorporate the Liturgical seasons and celebrations into their lives. I call this plan collectively, “Redeeming the Time.” “Redeeming the Time” means planning for the themes, moods, and liturgies of the Christian Year, and also includes special reinforcing festivities to help make it all an active and anticipated part of life as a Christian.

Today, I want to look at the theme and mood of Lent. Then next week examine the liturgical changes during Lent which flow out of the Lenten theme and mood. First, let’s consider the theme of Lent. “Lent is a season of soul searching and repentance. It is a season of reflection and taking stock. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated baptism.

By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days in preparation of his earthly ministry. Thus, the first theme of Lent is withdrawal into the wilderness with Jesus in preparation.” The second theme of Lent, which is closely related with the first theme, is that it is a time of submitting to the discipline of discipleship. In order to be disciples of Christ, we must undergo the spiritual disciplines necessary to be conformed into Christ’s image (“Season of Lent” by Ken Collins).

The mood of Lent is one of sober contemplation and somber striving after holiness. In her article referred to earlier, Ms. Ireton describes the mood of Lent well. She states that each season of the Liturgical Year “has a special emphasis, [in which] I have opportunities to focus on specific areas of spiritual growth as I live out that season. In Lent the focus is on repentance—turning away from the sin that clouds our vision and encrusts our hearts and turning toward God who alone can redeem and transform us. Therefore, I can learn patience in this season by fasting from food or an activity. Fasting creates space in my life for God, so this season is also a time when I learn again to discern the still, small voice of God as he speaks to my heart and mind. Sometimes that voice speaks words of conviction, calling me to repent of some habit of thought, word, or deed. Sometimes, God’s voice speaks words of comfort, reminding me how deeply and wholly I am loved, regardless of what I do or don’t do. Either way, listening to God’s voice helps me to see myself more clearly and draws me deeper into relationship with Christ” (“Redeeming Time” in Christian Reflection, 2010).

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