Sunday, March 26, 2006

Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (BCP, p. 130)

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and forever. Amen.

We have already passed the mid-way point in our Lenten journey, but Archbishop Cranmer is not letting us off the hook too soon. We are to always be mindful that it is only through the unmerited, benevolent grace of God that we are not punished as we deserve. Even when trying my best to serve God in all things, and in all ways, I still manage to foul things up. Human nature at its absolute best!

I thank God that I have the unlimited opportunity to ask for His forgiveness, and know that it is complete. I can seek strength in my daily fight against evil and Satan, and know that it will be given me. I trust in that grace, and I live in the comfort of knowing my conscience can be relieved.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

450 Years Ago Today!

O Almighty God, who hast called us to faith in thee, and hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses; Grant that we, encouraged by the good examples of all thy Saints, and especially of thy servant Thomas Cranmer, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we, with them, attain to thine eternal joy; through him who is the author and finisher of our faith, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, p. 258)

On this day in Oxford, England, Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake for his defense of the reformed Catholic faith in the Church of England. His position as a supporter of reform, and opposition to the reign of Queen Mary led to his imprisonment and later martyrdom.

His contributions to the Anglican Church are almost unsurpassed by anyone in the fact that his work in developing the Book of Common Prayer 1549 & 1552 are the benchmark standards for our liturgy to this day. Even though much of his work has changed over the past 400+ years, many of his collects (in traditional language), and the form and structure of Morning and Evening Prayer remain somewhat in tact from what he first proposed.

Even though Cranmer has critics on both sides of the aisle, mainly due to his Eucharistic theology, one cannot ignore his contributions in encouraging large quantities of scripture to be read as an integral part of the liturgy, and that those readings, and the liturgy itself, were to be read and heard in the common tongue.

Whatever one thinks of Cranmer and his theology, it is with joy that we celebrate his life, and the life he gave in defense of the faith. One cannot help but respect someone who stays firm in their convictions, even to the point of death. Here is the quotation from Cranmer as he breathed his last, "...forasmuch as my hand offended in writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for if I may come to the fire, it shall first be burned." (Book of Occasional Services 2000, p. 399)

In joyful thanksgiving for The Most Rev. Thomas Cranmer (July 2, 1489 - March 21, 1556)
Archbishop of Canterbury March 30, 1533 - February 14, 1556
Collect for the Third Sunday in Lent (BCP, p. 128)

We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defense against all our enemies, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

The image of God Almighty stretching out His right hand to be our defense against our enemies is a most awe inspiring thing to comprehend. It is almost incomprehensible to fathom that all assaults of evil can be totally defeated from only one hand of God. After preaching on Romans 7 last Sunday, it is all I can do to put up a fight against Satan and his devils with my whole body, and I am fighting a losing proposition when I do it on my own. God's power is so awesome to behold that His right hand is the only defense that we need. My problem is sinking back into my own defenses and thinking that it is flesh that can withhold these attacks. It clearly is more than I can humanly do on my own.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent (BCP, p. 127)

Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth the Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Boy, do we ever need to hear a collect such as this one! How many times do we hear in our semi-pelagian world that we can do anything that we set our mind to, and that we can change our lives if we just listen to what Oprah and Dr. Phil have in store for us.

Cranmer knew right from the beginning that St. Paul was right on when he said that he couldn't figure out what was going on. He was doing everything he wasn't supposed to be doing, and he wasn't doing the things that he knew in his heart he ought. What was the problem? He was a saint for crying out loud! If he couldn't get it, how on earth are we going to?

We are going to get it by doing exactly what the petition section of this collect begs. We are going to cry out for mercy to the Almighty for His protection against all assaults of the enemy, both to our body and to our soul. We pray that no adversity happens to our bodies and he even goes so far as to beg for double protection from attacks against the soul: those things which will both hurt and assault.

We can do nothing of ourselves to help ourselves. I am sure living proof of that. However, I know from where my help comes, and it comes from calling upon the Blessed Name of our Lord.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Would Cranmer recognize (or better yet acknowledge) the 1979 Prayer Book?

I think that the climate in which we find ourselves, this is a fair question. I also think a follow-up question would also be in order. What agendas did the framers of the '79 book bring to the table as they drafted a revised Book of Common Prayer?

To address the original question, I think we must first look at what Cranmer was doing and what his intentions were in the composition of the 1549 and 1552 BCP's. First and foremost, the Church of England was striving to have the liturgy and the Bible in the vernacular for all Christians. The bulk of the 1549 Book was a fairly close translation of the Sarum Rite into English. The 1552 revision was certainly a move in a much more Protestant direction than 1549, but it still retained the common shape of 1549. There was one service of Morning Prayer, one service of Evening Prayer and one form for the Order for Holy Communion. There was not a buffet line of choices of Eucharistic Prayers for the Minister's choosing.

Was this intentional, or was he just keeping with what he had? I firmly believe that this was clearly intentional. Cranmer's concept of 'common prayer' was something that he felt was a crucial component of our Anglican style of worship. When Christians prayed they prayed as a communion of believers, lifting a unified voice toward heaven.

In Episcopal Churches across this country today, there is nothing less than a cacophony of prayer that may or may not be lifted to God alone. Even within our National Cathedral at the installation of the Samuel Lloyd as Dean, the Liturgy of the Word contained a reading from the Quran. There is no way that anything within the rubrics of any versions of the Book of Common Prayer that Cranmer would have authored or supported would have allowed for atrocities such as this.

We have desperately slipped into murky waters if this is even remotely possible. This was obviously deemed acceptable by the Bishop of Washington since he was the presider at the service. I realize I am not saying anything special by thinking that +Chane would do anything that resembled orthodoxy. How did we come so far? This seems unfathomable to me.

Where do we go from here?

There are clearly some things within the '79 book that were good additions. I definitely like the fact that the printed liturgies for Ash Wednesday ('28 does have a service, but I do like the self-contained liturgy for this day as seen in the '79 book), Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are there for our use. A very nice addition is the service for the Reconciliation of the Penitent. The addition of the service of Compline is also welcomed in my humble opinion.

Where is '79 flawed?

The catechism is abysmal, especially the 10 Commandments. How anyone bought off on those, I'll never know. The complete removal of penitence and the nature of sin within the Daily Office and Eucharist. The move toward a gender inclusive Psalter has changed the meaning of some altogether. See Psalm 1 and Peter Toon's argument:

Also, the use of "inclusive language"” in the translation of the Psalter so as to make women of a particular political outlook feel at home in using it. Thus the "man-centered"” nature of the psalms is toned down and modified. However, when the word "“man" is changed to "“they"” (as in Psalm 1), the traditional use of the Psalter as the prayer of the Church in and with Christ, united to him as the Head of the Body, and as the prayer of Jesus Christ within His Body, becomes impossible for, according to the Fathers, the "“man"” in Psalm 1 (as elsewhere) is the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. To pray the Psalms as the Church has prayed them over the centuries, the text must read, "Blessed is the Man"not "“Happy are they."” The inspired text, as God has given it to be written down, is already inclusive of every faithful human being, man or woman.

I know that some people believe that the 1979 Prayer Book is a done deal, and why is anyone still talking about this? I for one think that as Anglicanism in North America begins to take on a new shape true, honest, and orthodox thought needs to be taken into accout regarding a new Book of Common Prayer. I believe as Christian believers in the Anglican Tradition we have an obligation to look at our history and iron out a liturgy that will stand a new test of time like our forerunner the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

There is a very good reason that this is still the official Prayer Book for the Church of England and everything else is contained within their Alternative Service Book. I would strongly advocte keeping the traditional language component as a centerpiece, but also a carefully crafted liturgy in contemporary language for those parishes who chose that style for their mode of worship. An enlarged Catechism similar to 1979, but orthodox this time around, and a Psalter that would still make King David proud!

These are just a few items on my mind as I type this post. I know there are more things to discuss, but I save room for your suggestions.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Collect for the First Sunday in Lent (BCP, p. 125.)

O Lord, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights; Give us grace to use such abstinence that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness, and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

This collect is one offered to Jesus and not to the Father out of thanksgiving for his example to pray and fast for ministry. It is the same thing that we all must undertake as Christians. In all four Gospel accounts, Jesus begins his earthly ministry by first being baptized, then fasting and praying, and being tempted by the devil in the wilderness. That sounds pretty familiar!

The stage has been set for us. When we are regenerated by the waters of our baptism, we are a new person in the Body of Christ. Our lives thereafter are ones which must be lived in prayer and fasting so that we can withstand the trials and temptations that Satan places in our path. These 40 days of Lent serve as a reminder that just because we move into a period of time of introspection and discipline, we never truly move out of Lent for the remaining 300+ days of the year. We are going to remain tempted as humans, and therefore, still need our weapons sharpened and honed for the battle against the Evil One.

It is the joy of serving a Resurrected Lord and Savior that we know that the Evil One has been defeated once and for all. We can face those battles that lie ahead for us all in peace knowing that Christ is there to fight along side of us, and will bandage our wounds with his shed Body and Blood.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Collect appointed for Ash Wednesday (BCP, p. 124.)

Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

May the blessings that can come from a Holy Lent be upon us all. As we pray this collect during the 40 days of preparation for Easter, we are to remind ourselves of our sinfulness and brokeness, and that we are incapable of changing ourselves without help. For our help comes only from Almighty God.

Grace and peace to those who seek to prepare their hearts and minds for the joys that await us with the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior. It is in the preparation that we are allowed into the depths of the Paschal Mystery.