For All The Saints...Blog

  • 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

  • Pastoral Use of the Prayer Book Revisited

    Note: One of my first book reviews for All Saints was of 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?

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