For All The Saints...Blog

  • A Note From Bp. Orji on Works and Faith

    Editor's Note:  This post originally appeared on Bp. Orji's Facebook page. It has been reprinted with permission.

    We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone minus works. Saving Faith, however, produces the good works of holiness and obedience to the Word of God. As Martin Luther noted in his introduction to his commentary on Romans, saving faith is:

    "a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever ... Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire!"  Martin Luther

    “Faith alone justifies but a justified person with faith alone would be a monstrosity which never exists in the kingdom of grace. Faith works itself out through love (Gal. 5:6). And Faith without works is dead (James 2:17-20).” John Murray

    "The relationship of faith and good works is one that may be distinguished but never separated...if good works do not follow from our profession of faith, it is a clear indication that we do not possess justifying faith. The Reformed formula is, “We are justified by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone.” Dr. R. C. Sproul

    "This debate, therefore, is not over the question of whether God renews us and initiates a process of gradual growth in holiness throughout the course of our lives. ‘We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone,’ Luther stated, and this recurring affirmation of the new birth and sanctification as necessarily linked to justification leads one to wonder how the caricatures continue to be perpetuated without foundation." Michael Horton

  • Pastoral Use of the Prayer Book Revisited

    Note: One of my first book reviews for All Saints was of this William Paret's The Pastoral Use of the Prayerbook. I recently asked John Mack, one of our newer members, to read it and write his own review. What follows is his reflections on this venerable book. Enjoy!    - IJR+

    A dear teacher of mine, an old-fashioned high church Episcopalian, once told me that the “Prayerbook protects us from our priests!” I recalled this quip more than once while reading through the Pastoral Use of the Prayerbook, a 1904 pastoral letter from Maryland bishop William Paret to the young priests and postulants of his diocese. The quip almost serves as a favorable summary of the text, for Bishop Paret continually councils his students to worship within the boundaries of the Prayerbook and not make worship into an expression of a priest’s tastes and inclinations, above all to worship as Anglican priests of the American Protestant Episcopal Church. He displays an intimate familiarity with the rubrics of the Prayerbook and regularly refers his students to them, encouraging them to pay close attention to how the Church instructs them to worship. Of course, he refers to the old 1894 Prayerbook, and so some of his advice may seem dated or out of place, especially to us contemporary Anglicans. Our communion is fragmented both in terms of governance and liturgy. Bishop Paret’s book, then, may seem like a relic, a curiosity of an Anglicanism that no longer exists. It is anything but that.

    In my short life as an Anglican, I have visited a parish where the Prayerbook is not used at all, and the liturgy is a hodge-podge of prayers from all around the Communion. I have visited a few others where the Prayerbook is used but in about the same way as we would expect Mr Collins, the vain, bumbling rector from Pride and Prejudice, to use it. In our muddled and confused Anglican world, Bishop Paret’s advice is timely, relevant, and refreshing. Perhaps most importantly, the Bishop is directing his students, and us, to be catholic Anglicans.

    Nowhere in the text does Bishop Paret call himself an Anglo-Catholic. In fact, he has no patience for those depart from the Prayerbook for the sake of being “high-church.” He does favorably speak of some of the most cherished elements of the high-church tradition, especially regular Communion. He objects to those who call Communion “the Blessed Sacrament,” for he does not believe it accurate to label only one sacrament “blessed,” and, predictably, because the Prayerbook nowhere uses such language (the same objection is used, I think unjustly, against the lovely word “evensong”). He urges his young priests to celebrate Holy Communion weekly and Holy Days, but discourages them from adapting Holy Days from other traditions, or even from other Anglican provinces.

    We do not need King Charles or King Edward or St. Chad or St. Dunstan in our American Calendar, nor do we need the fantasies and often unsound traditions which some other names recall. As for Corpus Christi and All Soul’s Day, they are not even on the English list, but taken bodily from Rome. Let them all alone. (pp. 41-2)

    To those of us who are more comfortable with being “catholic” and less with being “reformed,” this passage may seem narrow-minded, provincial, or just too Protestant. Perhaps it is, but it also offers a profound insight into how Bishop Paret conceives of our identity as Anglicans. The heart of the passage is not that we should avoid being catholic. Rather, we should not try to define our catholicity by something that exists outside of our tradition. We are catholic when we conform to the received tradition. We are not more, but perhaps less, catholic when we step outside of it.

    We should learn from other catholic churches. This Anglican, for one, believes that ought to be room for us to incorporate elements from other traditions that harmonize with our own. Some Anglicans find the rosary or the regular recitation of the Jesus prayer to be useful practices that draw us closer to Christ. But, as Fr. Martin Thornton argued in the 20th century, it would not be “more” catholic for us to dispense with the Book of Common Prayer in favor of the rosary or some other devotion. In fact, through their synthesis of Psalms, Scripture, the Creed, the Our Father, and petitionary prayers, the Daily Offices are perhaps more catholic than the rosary, which is essentially an individual’s meditation on Christ through Mary. The Offices are, at least, intended for corporate worship. Here we should listen to Bishop Paret. He wants us to be Anglicans and live out the fullness of our tradition. We cannot validate our tradition by ignoring it or by performing it badly. But the Bishop probes deeper than this. When he insists that priests do exactly what the Prayerbook instructs them to do, he is not being high-church, low-church, broad-church, or anything of that sort. He is not privileging either Reformed or catholic minded Anglicans. He is simply directing us to fidelity and obedience, virtues which should lead us to truly catholic practice. This advice applies to churchmen of any altitude! I remember a very low-church priest in a 1928 parish who openly disliked the old liturgy, and mumbled through the prayers of consecration like someone reading a tax notice. He was a sincere Christian, but I imagine that Bishop Paret would have some rather firm council for him, and would deal similarly with those Anglo-Catholics who reverently use the old Roman Missal. Not only do we believe in one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic church –we believe that we are part of it. The Prayerbook is our received tradition, our inheritance from the Church, and so we should use it reverently and well. The tradition forms us as catholic Christians. We should not try to manipulate the tradition to make it appear more catholic, or for that matter more Protestant.

    This is an abiding theme throughout the book, and beyond this Bishop Paret makes two points that are very worth our attention (really, the whole book is full of good advice and observations). The first comes as an aside early in his discussion of the Daily Offices and the Litany. No service is complete without the Lord’s Prayer. Though many of us realize this intuitionally, I had never thought of it plain terms. Of course the Lord’s Prayer is the bedrock of common prayer, and it provides the consistency of all catholic worship. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are praying with Roman, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians - we are praying with Jesus as He taught us. The spiritual wisdom which undergirds the Prayerbook understands this fact, and incorporates it into our daily worship.

    The second point occurs in the discussion on the offertory. Bishop Paret takes issue with those priests who make a big fuss about the financial offerings of the parish, lifting them up, waving them around in a cruciform shape, but take little notice of the offered elements –bread and wine- which are about to become the Body and Blood. His worry is that ceremony, performed for its own sake, will lessen our reverence, and so he comes on this formulation: “let act and attitude and words go together (pg. 120).” Anglican worship is simple. There is ritual, there is plenty of room for ceremony. But this unity of action, attitude, and language lifts our worship from being mere ceremony, or feelings, or rote recitation. It is an orientation of our whole selves towards God.

    Finally, I offer two personal hopes. Bishop Paret’s advice is well situated within what Martin Thornton called “the English School of Catholic Spirituality.” The right and regular use of the Prayerbook places us in a living tradition of prayer that stretches back deep into the Middle Ages, if not further. Arguments over ecclesiology or apostolic succession aside, the spiritual practices and rhythms inherent in the Prayerbook are unquestionably ancient and catholic. If we use the prayerbook, we not only will enrich our Anglican life, but may, hopefully, reestablish ourselves in the greater catholic tradition. As someone who hopes and prays that the schisms and occasional heresies now dividing the church will be healed, I find this to be an exciting prospect.

    Last, as the West continues its lapse into decadence, I hope that Anglican communities, formed by the practices of the Prayerbook, will have the stamina and integrity to endure whatever comes next in our history. In place of the shapeless and self-indulgent sort of American Christianity that is, even now, caving beneath political pressures (either left or right), catholic Anglicanism, rooted in the Prayerbook, in Psalms, Scripture, and Sacraments, will surely prove more durable.

  • Abiding in Christ: The Spiritual Disciplines and the Means of Grace

    For by grace are he saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. - St. Paul to the Ephesians 2:8-9

    Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. - St. James 2:18, 26

    In yesterday's Sunday school class, one of our parishioners asked how we abide in Christ. That led to a wonderful discussion, in which I somewhat shot from the hip and admitted that I would  like to give a more systematic answer. Well, here is that promised answer in part.

    The first thing we have to remember is that our relationship with Christ is like any other relationship, in that there are parts of that which are simply impossible to quantify. For example, while one can point to actions that are evidence of a good marriage, it is theoretically possible to have those actions present in a cold and loveless marriage. Affectionate gestures, kind words, and regular bonding time may take on a mere ritualistic nature, after all. However, anyone that has counseled marriages will attest that there is a certain amount of "fake it 'till you make it" that works in bettering a marriage. Similarly, the spiritual disciplines and the means of grace can help us abide in Christ, even when we feel distant from him. While the spiritual disciplines and the means of grace are not synonymous, both play a role in this important aspect of our faith.

    A Spiritual Workout

    When we speak of the spiritual disciplines, we generally mean those actions or activities that Christians do to help grow in the faith. Reading the bible, praying, fasting, worship, almsgiving and tithing are all included in the spiritual disciplines. An important thing to remember is that the spiritual disciplines are things we do rather than something God does. A common analogy is to liken the spiritual disciplines to a workout routine. By frequent and regular exercise of the disciplines, we usually see growth. Just as the most important way to strengthen a muscle is to use it, so too do we get better at praying by praying.

    Just like in a workout routine, we sometimes feel better during the workout, but other times it is difficult or boring, the spiritual disciplines do not always yield immediate satisfaction. But if we continue in them, we will indeed benefit. I once heard an interview with a trainer who said that his method is simple but not easy. The same can be said about the spiritual disciplines. Rather than seeing this reality as a discouragement, we should be encouraged that accepting this challenge will indeed yield long term growth.

    God's Gifts for Growth

    If the disciplines are the things we do, the means of grace are the things that God does to help us abide in Christ. Typically, when we speak of the means of grace, we are most especially referring to God transforming us through Word and Sacrament. In our baptism, God washed away our sins, we were made dead to sin and alive to Christ, and we were given new birth into God's family. In the Lord's Supper, we partake of Christ's Body and Blood and are brought into communion (that is, fellowship) with him and with the rest of the Church. As the Catechism says, these are the two Sacraments ordained by Christ himself and are "generally necessary for salvation." That is, Jesus gave these Sacraments to all Christians as a way of uniting us to himself and to each other.

    While baptism is a one-time event, we are reminded of our baptismal gifts and promises every time we witness someone else getting baptized. Additionally, the traditional use of holy water in prayers and in the fonts at the entrance to the chapel are to be further reminders. Indeed, whenever he was depressed, suffering from doubts, or harassed by Satan, Martin Luther would splash himself with water and remind himself of who he was in Christ by declaring "I am baptized!"

    In contrast to baptism, Holy Communion is something we can partake of much more often, at least every Sunday and holy day. In John 6, Christ said that we have life by eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood. This is the promise of the Eucharist. It is not uncommon for Christians to go through significant dry periods where they feel very distant from God. One of my brother priests said that this has never happened to him, and he believes this is because he partakes of the Sacrament of Communion at least weekly. That is, he believes that by sacramentally partaking of Christ, he never feels out of fellowship (or communion) with the Lord.

    Hearing from God

    Just as we are promised grace in the Sacraments, so too do we receive grace by God's word in the Scriptures. As the Scriptures are the inspired word of God, we hear from him most clearly in the Scriptures. St. Paul tells likens the Scriptures to a double-edged sword that can cut down to the deepest parts. He also says that faith comes by hearing and hearing comes from the word of God. The Holy Spirit uses the Scriptures to convict us of our sins, bring us the comfort of God's promises, tell us about Jesus, and transform us into Christ's likeness. Though one of the spiritual disciplines is reading and hearing the bible, when we do so with faith the Lord will give us the grace that comes from his word. In fact, in order for the Sacraments to actually be Sacraments and impart grace, they require the appropriate words or form based on the Scriptures. That is, even in the Sacraments, God uses his word as the means of grace.

    A Faith that Lives

    As encouraging as all this is, we all know people who have been baptized, have heard the Scriptures, and even have taken communion but do not show any evidence of being a genuine Christian. That is, some people can outwardly partake of the means of grace without having any benefits of it. According to the Catechism, we need a "lively [i.e. living] faith" to receive the benefits of Communion. The same can be said for the other Sacraments and the Scriptures. Indeed, without a lively faith, the means of grace actually condemn us, making us worse off than if we had never played at being a Christian. In light of this sober truth, how do we know if we have a lively faith? A good synonym for "faith" is "trust." As such, the first question we should ask ourselves, is in whom or in what do we place our trust? In order to have a lively faith, the answer must be in Christ. That is, we do not trust in our own goodness to save us. We do not trust in our own efforts to draw us closer to him. We know that we have nothing good to offer him, and any goodness in us is actually his. This means that our life is one of repentance rather than self-justification or self-righteousness. Indeed, if we think we can make ourselves righteous or justify ourselves, what need have we of Christ? This does not mean, however, that our faith is always strong. Rather, if faith itself is a gift from God (as St. Paul saith), then we can go to him when it needs strengthening. And this is where the means of grace and spiritual disciplines come in: God strengthens our faith through the means of grace, and we exercise our faith in the spiritual disciplines.

    Article XIX of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, one of the Anglican Church’s traditional formularies, tells us that we have the visible church when we have a congregation of faithful people where the word of God is preached and the Sacraments are properly administered. That is, in the Church the means of grace are readily available. In the various services of the Book of Common Prayer we are also given methods of exercising the Spiritual disciplines, especially through the Daily Offices and through the Church Year. I would encourage all of us to take advantage of these gifts from our tradition, especially when we have the opportunity to do so together. How better to abide in Christ than to do so with the other members of Christ's body?

  • The Armor of God... In Isaiah?

    For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak. 
              - Isaiah 59:17

    One of the more interesting aspects of the Daily Office Lectionary in our 1928 Book of Common Prayer is the multiplicity of lessons assigned on Sundays, in which we are given at least two options for each lesson at both Morning and Evening Prayer. One of the Sunday morning lessons is marked with an asterisk or star, indicating that it was specifically chosen to compliment the Epistle and Gospel propers that are to be read at Holy Communion. This week, the 21st Sunday after Trinity, the Old Testament lesson with the asterisk was Isaiah 59:15b through the end of the chapter, obviously chosen because verse 17 (quoted above) is reminiscent of the Epistle reading from Ephesians 6 that includes the famous passage about the putting on the "whole armor of God." Indeed, the breastplate of righteousness and helmet of salvation are mentioned in both Scriptures.

    There is, however, one very fascinating difference: in Ephesians 6, the Christian is to put on the Armor of God. In Isaiah 59, it is God Himself who is putting on the armor. Why is God gearing up for a fight? Verse 16 gives us the answer:

    And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him, and his righteousness, it sustained him.

    When God's people were surrounded by enemies, no one could rescue us but God Himself. There was no hero up to the task, so God got ready for war. Verses 19 and 20 go on to tell us how God accomplishes this rescue mission:

    When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.

    As we read the Scriptures it becomes apparent that the earthly enemies of God and His people are types that point to the real enemies: sin and the Satan. The Lord sends both His Spirit and the Redeemer to defeat the enemy and liberate his people.  We know from the New Testament that the Redeemer is God the Son, who came do suffer and die that we might live. And we know that when He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, both the Father and the Son send God the Holy Spirit to continue to minister to God's people, especially through the Scriptures and Sacraments. Ultimately, all three Persons of the Holy Trinity work together to establish God's people, reconciling us and bringing us into covenant relationship with Him:

    As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; my spirit that is upon thee, and my words that I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.

    Indeed, God's victory becomes our victory from generation to generation. He gives us His Spirit. He gives us His Word, both the Written Word and the Incarnate Word. Thus equipped, we become more than conquerors. "Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered." Amen and amen.

  • Classical Anglicanism 4: The Classical Book(s) of Common Prayer

    See the sidebar on our blog main page for a all the posts in this series.

    Looking back on our blog archives, it has been about six months since I last wrote in our Classical Anglicanism: Being Bible Catholics series. A new installment has been long overdue!

    In our first post we outlined some essential elements of classical Anglicanism. In our previous two posts we discussed the first and most important element, the supremacy of Holy Scripture. Today we will look at the second element: the Book of Common Prayer in its classical forms. If our blog were to include "trigger warnings," this post would have one. This is admittedly a controversial issue among orthodox Anglicans, and I fully expect some of our readers to disagree with what follows. Nevertheless, I firmly believe restoration of the classic Book(s) of Common Prayer is essential to being Bible Catholics in the English/Anglican tradition.

    Defining the Classic Book(s) of Common Prayer

    While it is common to see wide liturgical variation among today's Anglicans, even within a single province, this was not the case from the early days of the English Reformation until the middle of the Twentieth Century. Rather, liturgical conformity was the norm, enforced by ecclesiastical law, civil law, or both. In the Preface to the original Book of Common Prayer of 1549, Abp. Thomas Cranmer explains that the purpose for such conformity was to simplify the services into a single volume, and to provide godly order in the Realm, so that the people could be edified and grounded in the Scriptures. When revisions to the Prayer Book were necessary, they were made for the whole (national) church, and were made in such a way that the basic theology and structure remained intact and consistent.

    As such, for the purposes of this discussion, to meet the criteria to be a "classical" Book of Common Prayer, a prayer book must meet two criteria:

    1. It must be consistent with the historic patterns
    2. It must be officially approved by a province

    In England, there have been five versions of the Book of Common Prayer culminating in the current official version of 1662. In the United States, there have been three books in the classical pattern, the most recent of which is the 1928 edition. Canada has had two, the second of which from 1962 is still the official Prayer Book of the Anglican Church in Canada. Other provinces and jurisdictions have also had their own, including the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC), which is a member of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

    The importance of the first of the above criteria is that it establishes theological and liturgical continuity among Anglicans, at least at the official level. While this does not prevent variety, it provides a recognizable "family resemblance" between editions and provinces. For example, the first Prayer Book of 1549 seems much more traditional or "Catholic" in comparison to the more Reformed leanings of the second of 1552. Nevertheless, the sisterhood of these texts is undeniable both in form and theology. By contrast, despite being approved by the province and bearing the title "Book of Common Prayer," the American 1979 edition significantly changed the classical forms by including multiple rites to the main services, by adding rites that have not been in the historic books, and by significantly changing the catechism and other texts. Similarly, the theology of the 1979 book was made much more generic, allowing for both orthodox and heterodox interpretations and beliefs to exist side-by-side. Much of this criticism can also be levied at the various official alternate liturgies that clutter the Anglican landscape. Indeed, in England, Canada, and other provinces, these alternate liturgies dominate despite the official standing of historic editions of the Book of Common Prayer.

    The importance of the second criteria is that it curbs the tendency of individual dioceses, parishes, or clergy from editing the Prayer Book on a whim. In recent years there have been numerous proposed texts with no official standing floating around North American Anglicanism. Rather than building unity, these unofficial texts have tended to further divide otherwise orthodox Anglicans and add to the liturgical cacophony. This includes some well-beloved and well-used alternative texts such as the Anglican Missal or adaptions of Roman or Eastern rites.

    While reliance on texts that are either unofficial or outside the historic pattern does not necessarily make one "un-Anglican," it does indicate that one is not practicing classical Anglicanism, but is rather operating within the hyper-variety that has become all-to-common in recent decades. I would argue that such hyper-variety has been a hindrance to Anglicanism rather than the help that our recent ecclesiastical ancestors expected.

    Why does this Even Matter?

    When I first published the list of criteria for classical Anglicanism, several people wrote to me wondering why I put the Book of Common Prayer second only to the Scriptures on the list. After all, the Prayer Book is not essential to catholicity, nor was it in existence in the first 1,500 or so years of the Ecclesia Anglicana. Does liturgical continuity and conformity really matter that much? I would argue that it matters deeply. The Book of Common Prayer tradition has been the most important distinctive of Anglicanism since the Reformation. It is what sets us apart as Anglicans viz. the rest of Christianity. This is widely acknowledged even among other denominations. During the liturgical reforms of the 1960s and 1970s, the Protestant world looked to the Episcopal Church for liturgical leadership, because we Anglicans had been doing Reformed Catholic worship for over 400 years. In making room for an "Anglican Patrimony," the Roman Catholic Church knew that an adaptation of the Prayer Book would be of top priority in Rome's Anglican Ordinariate. When Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions have considered a "Western Rite" in their midst, adaptations of the traditional  Anglican Prayer Book are among  the first steps. The Book of Common Prayer is arguably the most important contribution Anglicanism has made to the wider Church.

    Furthermore, the classical editions of the Book of Common Prayer have provided the main lens through which Anglicans interpret Scripture and apply tradition. Rome has a magisterium, Protestants have Confessions, and Anglicans have the Prayer Book. Not only does it serve as our most important formulary, but it provides the framework for our spiritual formation through the spiritual disciplines. If we really believe in the "lex orandi, lex credendi" principle, it behooves us to insure that our prayers and beliefs are in sync and consistent with our history and tradition. In 2005, Bp. Robert Duncan, the future first archbishop of the ACNA, gave a speech at Nashotah House in which he identified a correlation between the liturgical anarchy since the 1960's and the advance of heterodox and heretical positions in the Anglican Communion. A return to the classical Prayer Book would be a bulwark against both the anarchy and the doctrinal aberrations about which then-Bishop Duncan spoke.

    ACNA and Common Prayer

    When I began the brainstorming that eventually became this blog series, and when I began the series itself, the ACNA proposed liturgies had the potential to meet the two criteria listed above, despite being modern-English texts. Since then, additional services of the ACNA proposed texts have been released, in addition to a third rite for Holy Communion. While the final form of the ACNA texts are still to be determined (such is the nature of proposed texts), the current trajectory seems to be more in line with that of the official "alternative texts" in the Communion (such a s England's Common Worship series) than with that of the classical Prayer Books. That is, the current trial-use texts are are more diverse than is permitted in the historic pattern, largely due to multiple rites for Holy Communion, some of which are outside of the classical Prayer Book tradition. While I do not find the proposed texts to be objectionable from a theological or aesthetic perspective, I believe it is a mistake to further the departure from our liturgical heritage. Rather, the ACNA should have followed the example of the REC in having a revised and updated classical Prayer Book. The REC 2003 edition is firmly within the historic patterns, even as it includes some modern updates, like the option for an Old Testament lesson and a Psalm in Holy Communion. Better yet, the ACNA could have simply adapted one of our historic Prayer Books wholesale.

    Fortunately, there will always be pockets of North American Anglicanism that use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer or other historic Prayer Books. All Saints will be one such pocket.

    For further reading, I would direct readers to the Prayer Book Society, USA's website, especially the New Scriptorum section, which includes many articles on the classic Book(s) of Common Prayer, including some excellent essays by the later Peter Toon on reclaiming the Prayer Book heritage.

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