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)

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

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).

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.
  • The Paschal Candle is the first candle lit on Easter after all the lights have been extinguished on Maundy Thursday to represent the Resurrection of our Paschal Lamb, Jesus Christ, who was sacrificed for the sins of the whole 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.

Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist

John, the son of Zebedee, with his brother James, was called from being a fisherman to be a disciple and “fisher of men.” With Peter and James, he became one of the inner group of three disciples whom Jesus chose to be with him at the raising of Jairus’ daughter, at the Transfiguration, and in the garden of Gethsemane.

John and his brother James are recorded in the Gospel as being so hotheaded and impetuous that Jesus nicknamed them “Boanerges.” Which means, “sons of thunder.” They also appear ambitious, in that they sought seats of honor at Jesus’ right and left when he should come into his kingdom; yet they were faithful companions, willing, without knowing the cost, to share the cup Jesus was to drink. When the other disciples responded in anger to the audacity of the brothers in asking for this honor, Jesus explained that in his kingdom leadership and rule takes the form of being a servant to all.

If, as is commonly held, John is to be identified with the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” then he clearly enjoyed a very special relationship with his Master, reclining close to Jesus at the Last Supper, receiving the care of his mother at the cross, and being the first to understand the truth of the empty tomb.

The Acts of the Apostles records John’s presence with Peter on several occasions: the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, before the Sanhedrin, in prison, and on the mission to Samaria to lay hands upon the new converts that they might receive the Holy Spirit.

According to tradition, John later went to Asia Minor and settled at Ephesus. Under the Emperor Domitian, he was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he experienced the visions recounted in the Book of Revelation. Irenaeus, at the end of the second century, liked to recall how Polycarp, in his old age, had talked about the apostle whom he had known while growing up at Ephesus. It is probable that John died there. He alone of the Twelve is said to have lived to extreme old age and to have been spared a martyr’s death. (The Lesser Feast and Fasts, 1997)

 

 

 

The Blessed Virgin Mary

There are three feasts in the Church calendar which focus upon St. Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. These feasts are The Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin (Dec. 8), The Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord Jesus Christ (March 25), and The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (May 31). Today, I would like for us to focus upon St. Mary and the important role that she played in Salvation history as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s first Advent. In doing this, we will take all three of the Marian feasts in consideration.

Introduction to the Marian Feasts

“The honor paid to Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, goes back the earliest days of the Church. Two Gospels tell of the manner of Christ’s birth, and the familiar Christmas story testifies to the Church’s conviction that He was born of a virgin. Mary was the person closest to Jesus in His most impressionable years, and the words of the Magnificat, as well as her humble acceptance of the divine will, bear more than an accidental resemblance to the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount.

Later devotion has claimed many things for Mary that cannot be proved from Holy Scripture. What we can believe is that one who stood in so intimate relationship with the incarnate Son of God on earth must, of all the human race, have the place of highest honor in the eternal life of God.” (Source: The Proper for the Lesser Feasts and Fast 1997, p. 328)

The Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“In accordance with the eternal purpose of God, who willed to prepare a most pure habitation for Himself in order to take flesh and dwell among men, Joachim and Anna were prevented from having children for many years. Their barren old age was symbolic of human nature itself, bowed down and dried up under the weight of sin and death, yet they never ceased begging God to take away their reproach. Now when the time of preparation determined by the Lord had been fulfilled, God allowed Joachim and Anna to conceive a daughter. Through the conception of Saint Anna, the barrenness of human nature itself, separated from God by death, has on this day been brought to an end; and by the wondrous birth-giving of her who had remained childless until the age when women can no longer bear fruit, God announced and testified to the more astonishing miracle of the Conception without seed, and of the immaculate coming to birth of Christ within the heart and the womb of the Most Holy Virgin and Mother of God. Even though the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary took place through a miraculous action of God, she was conceived by the union of man and woman in accordance with the laws of our human nature, which has fallen through Adam’s transgression and become subject to sin and corruption (cf. Gen. 3:16). As the chosen Vessel and precious Shrine prepared by God since the beginning of time, she is indeed the most pure and the most perfect of mankind, but even so, she has not been set apart from our common inheritance nor from the consequences of the sin of our first parents. Just as it was fitting that Christ, in order to deliver us from death by his own voluntary death (Heb. 2:14), should by his incarnation be made like to men in all things except sin; so it was meet that His Mother, in whose womb the Word of God would unite with human nature, should be subject to death and corruption like every child of Adam, lest we not be fully included in Salvation and Redemption. The Mother of God has been chosen and preferred among all women, not arbitrarily, but because God foresaw that she would preserve her purity and keep it perfect: conceived and born like all of us, she has been worthy to become the Mother of the Son of God and the mother of us all. So, in her tenderness and compassion, she is able to intercede for us with her Son, that He may have mercy upon us” (excerpt taken from the Synaxarion).

John the Baptist

st-john-the-baptist-5

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).

 

St. Nicholas

th0qfcc7e8

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.

The Offertory and Giving

thohhwfk3lOne of the great controversies of our time is whether or not liturgy is necessary for true worship. We Anglicans, of course, answer the question with a devout yes. But even our most ardent opponents retain certain elements of liturgy, most especially the offertory.

All across the world today, in almost every church, offering bags, bowls, baskets, and plates will be passed through the aisles as people  lay in their money. Why is this the element of liturgy that survives across the denominational lines?

You might answer the question with a crass response such as. “money make the world go around- even for the church.” Or, “Someone has got to pay the preacher.” But these kinds of answers have no connection with the intent of the offertory.

The offertory is an essential sacrifice to God. Let us examine the liturgical action of the offertory. Yes, we do collect alms- which are monies offered to the Lord. We also collect oblations, which are offerings to God. The most significant of the oblations we collect is wine and bread for the Eucharist. On occasions we might also receive candlesticks for the altar, or canned food for distribution to the poor, or a new rosary for prayer. These are also offerings given to God.

And they really are essential because they really are the bits and pieces of ourselves; and therefore, are a gifting of ourselves to God. Our money is a material form of our time and that is a most basic measurement of our life. Our oblations are the things we could use for ourselves, to decorate or elaborate our lives, but instead we offer these things to God for his glory and his use.

Understanding the offertory as our sacrifice to God of “our life and labor” brings both guilt and joy. We begin to feel the guilt of knowing how often we withhold what is precious from God. But we also know the joy of the goodness of giving freely to the God who “is worthy.”

So when the plates head down your aisle today, do not think to yourself the unworthy and crass thoughts. But search your heart to wonder, what offering shall I bring? What sacrifice shall I make to the God who saves me?

Stewardship

stewardship“The Book of Common Prayer teaches us that ‘The Mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ,’ and the ‘the Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members.’  The unstated but clear implication of this teaching is that the main work of the Church is involving people in using all that is entrusted to them in carrying out the mission. Said simply, stewardship is the main work of the Church.

Thus, stewardship is more than church support; it is use of “the gifts given to us to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world.” Therefore, the way we use or do not use resources to further unity and reconciliation in our homes, our communities, and our occupations is our stewardship. Yet, stewardship is not less than church support. Our worshipping, working, praying, and giving within the Church provide the support that we and others need to engage in the often difficult and lonely tasks of proclaiming the good news, loving our neighbors, and striving for justice and peace.

Stewardship is more than a duty: it is a thankful response to God’s graciousness to us. As such, it is an opportunity to praise God with our lives in thanksgiving for: the blessings of creation, the birth, life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and our redemption; the gift of the Holy Spirit; and for the Word, Sacraments, and Fellowship that sustain and transform us al the Church. Therefore, stewardship is an adventure, and expedition into the kingdom where we find our lives through losing them for the sake of the Gospel.”

(Written by the Rev. C.W. Taylor )