For All The Saints...Blog

  • Some thoughts on St. Vincent of Lerins

    Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.

    -  St. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium 2:6

    In my personal studies, I am about two thirds of the way through the Commonitorium by St. Vincent of Lerins. Some of you may be familiar with a portion of the quote above, which is commonly known as the Canon of St. Vincent. We often use St. Vincent's criteria of "everywhere, always, by all" as a litmus test for what practices can truly be considered "catholic." In particular, we will often appeal to St. Vincent's canon when opposing the theological, pastoral, and frankly un-Scriptural innovations that are plaguing much of the Church, including much of the Anglican Communion.  With that in mind, here are a few thoughts on what I have read so far:

    The Primacy and Supremacy of Scripture

    St. Vincent begins the book by quoting from Scripture. It is the Scripture that always provides the baseline for catholicity. In terms of actually applying the Canon of St. Vincent, the goal is not one of discovering truth in a vacuum, but is actually about discovering the true and proper way of applying and interpreting Scripture.  St. Vincent notes early on that people are all-too-capable of misusing Scripture to justify false teaching. In fact, all of the major heresies throughout history appeal to Scripture for their teachings; they just do so in ways that contradict other parts of Scripture and are contrary to the Church's historic teachings. That is, we appeal to the witness of the Fathers as the interpretive lens through which we see Scripture, never as a way of supplanting or contradicting Scripture.

    The Problem of Heresy

    The first half of St. Vincent's book is dedicated to describing the earliest and most widespread heresies (e.g. Arianism and Donatism), and contrasting them with the truth. Most of these heresies had to do with the nature of God and of the Persons of the Trinity, especially heresies regarding the Person of Christ. The problem with these kinds of heresies is the fact that bad Christology leads to bad beliefs about our salvation. When we are in error about who God is and who Christ is, we will usually be in error about how we are reconciled to him. This is very dangerous for our souls. While St. Vincent does not get into details about this, combating these early heresies is what led to the Ecumenical Councils. In this way, we see the importance of proper theology. As my friend, Fr. Chris Richardson, is fond of saying, "theology must precede doxology." That is, if we're going to properly worship God, we have to know the right things about him!

    When Good Pastors go Bad

    The final and most sobering aspect of my study of the Commonitorium thus far was the case study on Tertullian and Origen, the greatest teachers of their day in the Latin and Greek communities, respectively. Both of these priests were top-notch scholars. Both of them had many devoted disciples that were growing in the faith. Both of them have writings from the beginning of their careers that are still highly valued today. However, both of them eventually fell into error and had to be repudiated. While St. Vincent does not go into the details of their falls from orthodoxy, he suggests that the key to their falls was pride. In their popularity and greatness, St. Vincent suggests that they began to think of themselves higher than they should have and did not even see the errors that began to creep in. In short, they believed their own press sheets and fell into false teaching.

    It is not uncommon today to see popular pastors and teachers fall into error or scandal. This problem is nothing new. But it is nevertheless a sobering reminder to stay grounded in the Scriptures, and in the Apostolic Faith we have received. For this of us who are pastors, priests, and teachers, we must remain humble and not allow pride to seduce us from the Truth. For those of us who are disciples, learners, and students (which includes both laity and clergy), we must not allow admiration of our leaders to turn into blindness. We all have a responsibility to be in the Word of God and to protect each other from false teaching and sin. It is no accident that "everywhere," "always," and "all" are collective words. The Christian faith requires us to be part of community of the Church to flourish. As St. Paul reminds us, we are all members of the Body of Christ. Let us work together to keep that body healthy.

  • For Your Bible Study Toolbox

    The first of our Core Values at All Saints is to be Scriptural. To that end, the good folks at the North American Anglican have just published a review I wrote of Methods of Bible Study, a classic little book by W.H. Griffith Thomas, an Evangelical Anglican priest from a couple of generations ago. You can read my review here. You can download the book for free from the Prayer Book Society or buy it on Amazon

  • Seasonal Changes Afoot -or- "Learning Lenten Liturgical Lessons"

    This morning we begin Septuagesima, the first of three Sundays in "pre-Lent." This period from Septuagesima to Shrove Tuesday began as a way for monastic clergy to prepare for Lent, but eventually spread to all of the Western Church, until it fell into wide disuse in the 20th Century. Among traditional Prayer Book Anglicans and others who maintain the historic Church Calendar, pre-Lent is still observed. One of the main ways we mark this season is to begin some of the Lenten liturgical practices. What follows is a list of some of the things you will see changing at All Saints in observance of Pre-Lent:

    Liturgical Color

    The most obvious change is the use of violet vestments. Liturgically, violet symbolizes penitence, preparation, and sacrifice. In Lent, we symbolically go into the desert with Jesus for his forty-day fast as he prepares for ministry and is both tested and tempted to leave his calling. In pre-Lent, we prepare for this period of penitence, sacrifice, and even preparation (yes, we prepare to prepare). At All Saints, we follow the uniquely English custom of wearing unbleached linen vestments for Lent itself, however.

    Alleluias and the Gloria

    To underscore the penitential nature of Lent, we refrain from singing the Gloria in Excelsis and from saying or singing Alleluia beginning at Septuagesima. The Gloria is arguably the most joyful of the Church's hymns, and the exclamation "Alleluia" is arguably the most joyful response to God's goodness. By consciously limiting these expressions of joy, we are reminded of our need for repentance and our need of God's mercy. As written in this Liturgy Lesson, we are, in effect, going through a liturgical fast to accompany our upcoming culinary fast.

    As a side note, one of the older liturgical customs in the Anglican Church is to read or sing through all of the psalms each month as part of the Daily Offices. I once wondered what to do with the Alleluias in the psalms in observance of the custom of putting away the Alleluias from Septuagesima through Lent. That is, do we skip psalms that have Alleluia or do we just skip those verses? As I researched this further, I discovered that the Coverdale translation of the Psalter (i.e., the translation used in the classical versions of the Book of Common Prayer, including our American 1928 edition) do not actually ever use the word Alleluia! Instead, it always translates the Hebrew term as "praise ye the LORD." So, for those of us who prefer     the monthly psalm cycle, the practice of putting away the Alleluias doesn't change anything.

    The Daily Offices

    While some put away the Gloria Patri following the psalms and canticles in addition to putting away the Gloria in Excelsis, this is by no means a widespread custom. At All Saints, we typically continue to pray the Gloria Patri.  There are, however, some other customs with respect to the Offices that we do observe.

    The Canticles

    A very widespread custom in the Church was to refrain from singing or reciting the ancient hymn, Te Deum laudamus, during Lent and Advent, largely for the same reasons as we put away the Alleluias. If you attend our Mattins services on Fridays, Ash Wednesday, or during Holy Week, we will usually follow this custom. Instead, we will most sing the Benedictus es, Domine or the Benedicite, omnia opera Domini, canticle taken from the additions to Daniel in the Apocrypha. Since I don't want to make any of the ladies who attend our Women's Bible Study late, we will usually sing the shorter of the two on Fridays.

    Another canticle that may be changed is the Venite at Mattins, which precedes the Psalms. In our American Prayer Book tradition, we combine portions from Psalms 95 and 96 for our usual Venite. In other parts of the Communion, the canticle is limited to the entirety of Psalm 95, which has a more penitential character and includes a warning against following after our own ways rather than God's. Starting in Septuagesima, I will use this form of the Venite when I am officiating, especially on Fridays, as per the option in the rubrics. Also per the rubrics, the Venite may be omitted on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday to underscore the particularly mournful and penitential tone of those days.

    The Litany 

    The older English custom, codified in the 1662 edition of the Prayer Book, is to follow Mattins with the Litany every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday. The Litany, or "General Supplication" has a very penitential character, and is suitable as a preparation for Holy Communion or as an accompaniment for fasting. At All Saints, in addition to using the Litany as the processional hymn on the first Sunday in Lent and Advent, we will take up the custom of following Mattins with the Litany on Fridays. Additionally, there may be some Evensong services with the Litany during this time.

    Preparation and Penitence

    As we begin a season of penitence, reflection, and fasting, our hope is that these liturgical changes will help put is in the proper mindset and focus us on the Lord and our need for Him. As we look at Jesus' life, we see that there were high points and low points, times of joy and times of sorrow. In following His life, the Liturgical year has the same. St. James wrote: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."  May this season bring revival in our parish and in our individual lives as we do just that.

  • Classical Anglicanism 5: The Three Creeds

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


    Welcome back to our long running series on classical Anglicanism, in which we are exploring what it means to be "Bible Catholics" in the Anglican tradition. Previously, we introduced the concept of classical Anglicanism, we discussed the essentiality of the Scriptures in two posts, and we discussed the importance of the classical Books of Common Prayer to our tradition and to our formation in the faith.

    Today we discuss the importance of the Creeds to classical Anglicanism. The great Creeds of the Church tie us to historic catholicity and put us within the Great Tradition. In the West, we have generally considered three of the historic Creeds to be the most important, to the point that we often refer to them as the "Ecumenical" Creeds. These are the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. All three Creeds are trinitarian in their design, and discuss how the Persons of the Trinity relate to each other and to Creation in the grand story of Redemption. They were developed in the life of the Church between the Second and Eighth Centuries as a tool for catechesis, as a means to battle heresy, and as liturgical aids. At the time of the Reformation, one of the ways the English Church countered the accusation of reviving old heresies was to affirm the ancient Creeds.

    Scriptural Teachings

    More importantly, the Creeds sum up essential Scriptural teachings. Article VIII of the 39 Articles of Religion, one of the classical Anglican formularies, states that these Creeds "ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Scripture." That is, the main reason the Creeds are important to Anglicans is not their connection to the Early Church and the Fathers, as vital as that connection is. Rather, the main importance of the Creeds is that they are Scriptural. As we have seen in previous posts, Scripture is the supreme authority for Anglicans, and everything we believe must be tested by God's Word.

    Three Ecumenical Creeds

    The Apostles' Creed is both the oldest and youngest of the three Creeds. It is called the Apostles' Creed because it is a summary of the Apostolic teaching. As early as the Second Century, Church Fathers such as Irenaeus indicate the use of statements of belief that would eventually become the Apostles' Creed. However, it doesn't reach its current form until the Eighth Century. Evidence indicates that in its earliest use, the Apostles' Creed, especially in its earlier forms, was used primarily as a baptismal formula for new converts in Rome. That is, the Creed was used to teach catechumens, and was to be affirmed in the baptismal rite. Eventually, it spread to the rest of the Western Church and is still used in baptisms today. Other than its use in baptism, the Apostles' Creed has traditionally been used in the Daily Offices and other non-Eucharistic services. It serves to constantly remind us of our baptism and the basics of what we believe.

    The Nicene Creed has its roots in the first Ecumenical Council, which was held in the city of Nicaea in year 325. It was later slightly altered and amended at the Council of Constantinople in 381. These Councils were called to deal with the widespread controversy surrounding the heresy of Arianism, which denied the full divinity of Jesus. The purpose of the Creed is to set forth the basics of Trinitarian belief in the face of such heresies. In the West, we traditionally use the Nicene Creed in Eucharistic services. It is the only Creed universally recited in the East. The Nicene Creed is longer and more detailed than the Apostles' Creed, but less detailed than the Athanasian Creed.

    The Athanasian Creed is unique to the Western Church, and has its root as a private confession of faith. It was once considered to be the work of St. Athanasius himself, but this is generally not believed anymore, as the Creed did not appear in writings until centuries after Athanasius, and bears all the marks of being originally written in Latin rather than Greek. Nevertheless, it expresses a strong and precise Trinitarian orthodoxy, and Athanasius was the champion of such teachings during the Arian crisis. In fact, it seemed at one point that it was Athanasius contra mundum: "Athanasius against the [whole] world." By the Middle Ages, many monastic communities were singing the Athanasian Creed as a canticle daily in their Offices. This canticle is usually called by its Latin name, Quicunque Vult.  In the first versions of the Book of Common Prayer, it was used as an occasional canticle in Morning Prayer. By the 1662 version of the Prayer Book, it was used in lieu of the Apostles' Creed at Morning Prayer thirteen times a year on certain holy days. Unfortunately the American Church dropped it completely from our classical editions of the Book of Common Prayer, likely due to the condemnation clauses at the end. In fact, the American version of Article VIII only names the Apostles' Creed and Nicene Creed. In modern Anglican liturgies, the Athanasian Creed is often used on Trinity Sunday, but rarely at other times.

    A Bishop's Wisdom

    Lancelot Andrewes, one of the bishops who helped oversee the translation of the King James Bible, famously described Anglican faith as "One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period - the centuries that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith." After the Scriptures themselves, the Creeds are the most important connection we Anglicans have to historic Christian orthodoxy. Indeed, they provide a good summary of the basics of the Christian faith as described in Scripture. Since they sum up Scriptural truth and are marks of historic catholicity, the Creeds form one of the most important elements of classical Anglicans living up to our calling as "Bible Catholics."

  • 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

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