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Posts Tagged ‘Spirituality’

The Bishop of London recently gave us some wonderful words on the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer.  A few of the brief remarks he gave were, to my mind, axiomatic for a good understanding of the Book of Common Prayer and its place in our little part of the Church:

 It was an audacious attempt to re-shape the culture of England by collapsing the distinction between private personal devotion and public liturgical worship in order to create a godly community in which all and not just the clergy had access to the “pure milk of the gospel”.

The BCP was an attempt to make a heavily Benedictine influenced spirituality of prayer and Eucharist available to all people.  I have heard it called “the monasticism of all believers,” but in the very least in was taking ascetical spiritual practices  from the monastery and putting them right in the bedrooms, kitchens, and parish churches of lay people.

But one of the functions of a liturgy is to preserve words and the possibility of an approach to God which is hard or impossible to express in the language of the street.

It much of contemporary western Christianity, we have forgotten the place of “liturgical language.”  We feel much more comfortable with t-shirts that proclaim, “Jesus is my homeboy,” than we do with fear and awe and reverence.  The Book of Common Prayer was and is a healthy corrective to this leisurely and  “Hey there buddy” approach to God which is so common these days, but would be difficult to find in the Holy Scriptures.

Cranmer distilled his liturgy from his studies of the Christian past and especially of the patristic period – the first five centuries; the springtime of the Church.

In the Preface to the First Book of Common Prayer, of 1549, he appeals to the authority of the “auncient fathers” as a guide in liturgical matters. Queen Elizabeth I, in her letter to the Roman Catholic Princes of Europe, amplified the point “that there was no new faith propagated in England, no new religion set up but that which was commanded by Our Saviour, practised by the Primitive Church and approved by the Fathers of the best antiquity”.

Some might say that what Cranmer did was not so much “write” the BCP, but to compile, edit, and translate it.  Cranmer was not trying to do anything new, per se.  He was trying to make sure that Biblical, Patristic Christianity was meaningfully and vitally practiced throughout England.

This next paragraph was so striking that I couldn’t help but include it here:

In a book published in 1662, Simon Patrick comments on the rites and ceremonies of divine worship and approves “that virtuous mediocrity which our church observes between the meretricious gaudiness of the Church of Rome and the squalid sluttery of fanatic conventicles.” Of course we would be too polite to say such things now but the Prayer Book offers a simple and moderate system for a whole life from baptism to last rites and seeks in its rubrics and ceremonies to embrace the whole person and not merely the cerebellum.

+London concludes with one of the finest single paragraphs about the BCP that I have ever read:

The Book of Common Prayer which immerses us in the whole symphony of scripture; which takes us through the Psalms every month; which makes available in a digestible but noble way the treasury of ancient Christian devotion has a beauty which is ancient but also fresh. If our civilisation is to have a future the roots must be irrigated and the texts which we choose to pass on to our children have the power to create a community which does not merely dwell in the flatlands of getting and spending but which sees visions with prophets, pursues wisdom with Solomon and lives with the generosity of the God who so loved the world that he was generous and gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Dr. Derek Olsen, who runs the blog Haligweorc, has written a tremendously thoughtful and helpful article on The Book of Common Prayer over at the Episcopal Cafe:

If we want to renew and strengthen the Episcopal Church in light of these very real challenges that are facing us, then the one thing that we dare not mess with is our commitment to the contents and spirit of our 1979 Book of Common Prayer

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I’m not saying the book is perfect. There are certainly some things that I’d change if I had the chance. But recognize this: 1) it is an authentic expression of the historic Western liturgy that has nourished literally millions who have come before us. 2) It is an authentic expression of the English devotional experience. (The importance of this is not that it’s English, of course, but that it is a rooted, embodied, inherited tradition that has been embraced and passed on by a diverse group over a period of centuries—not just dreamed up by a few people last week.) 3) It is an authentic expression of historic Anglican liturgy that balances reform of Western norms with Scripture and the theological and spiritual practices of the Early Church. That’s actually quite a lot of things going for it—and it’s more things than would be going for most services either you or I would dream up.

Most people I know don’t go to church on Sunday morning to experience the rector’s latest exciting innovation; they go to church because they hope to experience God and to get a concrete sense of what it means to live out love of God and love of neighbor. Using the book doesn’t guarantee any of this, but it is a big step in the right direction…

…[T]he Book of Common Prayer isn’t just the book for Sunday services. Instead, the Book of Common Prayer offers a full integrated spiritual system that is intended as much for the laity as the clergy and which is founded in a lay spirituality that arose in the medieval period. If you look at the book as a whole, it offers a program for Christian growth built around liturgical spirituality. The best shorthand I have for this is the liturgical round. It’s made up of three components: the liturgical calendar where we reflect upon our central mysteries through the various lenses of the seasons of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and in his continuing witness in the lives of the saints, the Daily Office where we yearly immerse ourselves in the Scriptures and Psalms, and the Holy Eucharist where we gather on Holy Days to most perfectly embody the Body of Christ and receive the graces that the sacraments afford…

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For me, this is where the church lives or dies. Are we forming communities that embody the love of God and neighbor in concrete actions? Not just in what programs the institution is supporting, but are we feeding regular lives with a spirituality that not only sustains them but leads them into God’s work in a thousand different contexts in no way related to a church structure? Are our parishes witnessing to their members and to the wider community in their acts of corporate prayer for the whole even when the whole cannot be physically there? Therefore this is why, when we worry about the fate of the church, my answer will be a call for more liturgy. Not because I like to worship the worship, but because of the well-worn path to discipleship found in the disciplined recollection of God that the liturgy offers.

My firm belief is that if membership is a problem, our best move is to head for spiritual revitalization. People who are being spiritually fed, challenged, and affirmed by their church will be more likely to show it, to talk about it, and to invite their friends and neighbors to come and see it for themselves. This won’t—it can’t—fix all situations, but even if it doesn’t, spiritual revitalization is what the Church is called to be about…

 

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I wish I had seen this in time for All Saints and All Souls, but late is better than never.  From Haligweorc:

Following the discussion here on kinds of votive offices, these are replacement offices—offices intended to be said in place of (rather than supplemental to) the regular morning and evening offices.

So, here they are:

The Office for the Dead: Morning Prayer

The Office for the Dead: Evening Prayer

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St. Benedict has influenced the practice of Christianity in Anglicanism as much as any one saint, thinker, or writer that I know of.  In honor of that tremendous contribution, I offer this St. Benedict roundup:

(c. 480 AD – 543 AD) was born at Nursia (Norcia) Italy to a wealthy Roman family, making him liberiori genere, ‘of good birth.’ Tradition gives him a twin sister, Scholastica.

Benedict’s Italy was an unstable province of a collapsing Roman Empire, and throughout the fifth century, waves of invaders weakened the peninsula. First Goth warriors marched along the Via Flaminia and into Rome, sacking it in 410. Others soon followed. Into this fragile, violent world, Benedict (or ‘Bennet’) was born among the Apennine valleys and mountains of central Italy. St. Benedict was married to a young woman, her name is not available, but she had dark brown hair and black eyes with white skin. St. Benedict was not supposed to be married but was any way in 522.

Benedict founded twelve monasteries, the best known of which was his first monastery at Monte Cassino in the mountains of southern Italy. The monastery at Monte Cassino was the first Benedictine monastery (most monasteries of the Middle Ages were of the Benedictine Order). Benedict wrote a set of rules governing his monks, the Rule of Saint Benedict, which was heavily influenced by the writings of John Cassian. The Benedictine Rule, one of the more influential documents in Western Civilization, was adopted by most monasteries founded throughout the Middle Ages. Because of this, Benedict is often called “the founder of western Christian monasticism.” Benedict was canonized a saint in 1220.

The Collect:

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, we give thee thanks for the purity and strength with which thou didst endow thy servant Benedict; and we pray that by thy grace we may have a like power to hallow and conform our souls and bodies to the purpose of thy most holy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Catholicity and Covenant, St. Benedict and the renewal of European Civilazation:

On the feast of St Benedict, +Rowan on Benedict of Nursia, patron of Europe, echoing the conclusion to MacIntyre’s After Virtue:

The Benedictine Rule did not set out to ‘save civilisation’; what it did was to define in itself the components of a certain kind of civilisation. You may recall Thomas Merton’s exclamation on his first visit to the abbey of Gethsemani, that he had discovered the only real city in America. The way in which the Benedictine contribution to Europe has sometimes been discussed is in terms of a kind of withdrawal into enclaves where the memory of civilisation was preserved, not always fully understood – a sort of archive of cultural treasures. But, while this is not completely wrong, it misses out the positive contribution of Benedictinism as a model of active Christian life in itself; Benedict’s monks were creators of community before they were librarians, and the vision of human possibility and dignity contained in Benedictine witness was at least as important as the conservation of classical letters – or rather, it gave to the heritage of classical letters a clear and practical application, animated by faith. If the Rule is to be one of the sources for the conservation and renewal of European civilisation in the centuries to come – granted that these centuries may be every bit as brutally anti-humanist as the so-called Dark Ages – it will be because of this sketch of political virtue, not because of any merely conservatory role.

From a previous post on this blog, Benedict’s influence on the BCP:

…like the Regula [The Rule of St. Benedict], the Book of Common Prayer is not a list of Church services but an ascetical system for Christian living in all of is minutiae…the Prayer Book [is] not a shiny volume to be borrowed from a church shelf on entering and carefully replaced on leaving.  It [is] a beloved and battered personal possession, a life-long companion and guide, to be carried from church to kitchen, to parlor, to bedside table; equally adaptable for liturgy, personal devotion, and family prayer: the symbol of a domestic spirituality — fully homely divinity

— Martin Thornton in The Anglican Tradition, 1984, pp 87

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The Archer of the Forest with some great thoughts on Lent:

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the time in the Christian year when we remember the brokenness in our lives and in our world. We walk through the proverbial desert time of fasting and penance, and prepared to be witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday.

The big question on the lips of many Christians at this time of the year is often, “So, what are you giving up for Lent?” Lent is often marked as a season by the somewhat curious habit of many Christians to “give something up.” People give up all sorts of various things ranging from eating chocolates to playing video games. I personally tried giving up coffee once, and I was grumpy for weeks. My point is that sometimes I wonder whether many people really understand the Lenten custom of “giving something up” or just use it for an occasion to brag.

What most people are really doing when they “give up something for Lent” is attempting to engage in a spiritual discipline and not a fast. Just giving something up is not really a fast in itself. Giving up something can be good for you; it can teach you the virtues of trusting that God will see you through your trials of missing whatever you are foregoing. Giving up something can even teach you that by God’s grace you can live without the material thing(s) with which you are addicted.

A fast is something a bit different, however. While a spiritual discipline is giving up something and seeing what you learn about yourself from that exercise, a fast is actively seeking God while you are giving up something. If I am fasting, then the time I would otherwise be using to eat that particular food or waste time on Facebook is actively devoted to searching for God in some tangible way like taking time to pray or read the bible or engage in some good work.

The Church over the centuries has built up the season of Lent (and originally Advent as well) to help us examine our selves, our souls, and bodies, to help re-center ourselves in Christ. Lent is a time when we intentionally look at where we are in our walk with God. Are there things done or left undone to which we need to attend, or are there things that have distanced us from God?

I urge you, therefore, to chose a spiritual discipline or a fast to do this Lenten season if you have not already chosen to do so. It is never too late to start. Even if you have already decided on a course of action, do not do it in vain. Allow God’s grace to lead you through that discipline or fast. Actively seek God while you are abstaining or taking up a new discipline in whatever form it might be. We do this not for the sake of performing a duty because we have to or to boast of our self-sacrifice, but so that we together might invite God into some small space in our lives so that Christ can invite us into the work of God’s dream.

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+Andy Doyle, the Bishop of Texas, with a lights out lecture he gave to the Christian Formation Conference at Camp Allen in September, 2010.  It is really good to see a bishop articulating not only the uniqueness of the Christian faith & Jesus, but also the uniqueness of the Episcopal/Anglican church (I use church here purposefully).  Too often I here Episcopalians speak of our church as if it is just one more denomination with certain products to offer on the religious marketplace rather than a unique expression of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic church with claims to “catholicity” as strong and legitimate as the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches.  We are English Catholics, the historic catholic church of english speaking peoples… a reformed catholic church.  Anyway… I digress, back to +Andy.

A few excerpts:

“The Gospel testifies to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in God’s plan for the salvation of the world.”

“There can be no greater theme – no higher calling for the church to bear witness to salvation in and through Christ.” (Sharing the Gospel of Salvation, GS Misc 956, Report to General Synod Church of England, 2010, from forward, SGS)

“…The Christian story is, quite simply, the most attractive account of the world and the human condition.”

“Theology, [how we believe, how we communicate about God] is not an adjunct to the social sciences – on the contrary, Christian theology is the prism through which the social sciences make the most sense.”

“The task of Christians is not to persuade others of the truth of the gospel story through propositional argument (which, John Milbanks – Anglican theologian – claims, always carries undertones of violence) but to “out narrate” other, rival and less attractive narratives.”

“Christians must so live out their faith, in communities which embody the gospel (especially in practices of worship) that others are attracted by the sublime beauty of God reflected in the Church.” (SGS, 72)

“The Church…is called to be a “community of character”, embodying “the peaceable kingdom.”

“It is not called to prop up other social institutions, such as democracy or capitalism, however useful they may be, but to exhibit in its corporate life the radically alternative life of those who follow Christ.”

“Others will wish to join this community, not because they are convinced intellectually of its argument but because they are captivated by its example of virtuous living.”(SGS, 73)

And further:

Anyone can carry out reconciliation, love, forgiveness, healing, justice and peace. But we understand it is God’s work.

Anyone can confront the tensions in the world. But we do so faithfully trying to live out the life of God’s will and sacred narrative.

Anyone can engage in prophetic action, advocacy and collaboration in our contemporary global context. But only we can engage through the unique prophetic witness of the Good News of Salvation.

Anyone can lift every voice and reconcile oppressed and oppressor. But only we can do the work out of the particular understanding that it is the love expressed through God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

And that’s not all:

The Gospel testifies to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

You and I as Christians are challenged to “out narrate” and to communicate our work of “virtuous” living to the world around us. Specifically, we are called to do this work in our given mission context.

We are to be working hand in hand with Jesus Christ to transform the world around us.

You and I, as uniquely created Episcopalians, must reclaim our mission and ministry and tell the story in such a way that when those who retell it and those who hear it reshape the world into the reign of God.

There is more here worth quoting, but you’ll have to read it for yourself.  Find it here.  Not a reader?  You can listen to his podcast here.

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I would like to bring to your attention something that just came to my attention… that is the blog of Bishop Anthony Burton, rector of Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, TX:

www.anthonyburton.org

Bishop Burton, according to COTI’s website (www.incarnation.org),

At the time of his election as Bishop of Saskatchewan in 1993, Bishop Anthony Burton was the youngest bishop in the world-wide Anglican Communion, and the youngest Canadian bishop that century. In his fifteen years as Bishop of that diocese, he served in a wide variety of offices, among them Chair of the Council of the North (representing a third of Canada’s dioceses and 85% of its geography), Co-Chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue and as the Episcopal Visitor to the South American Missionary Society. He was also patron or officer of a variety of institutions, societies and organizations.

In addition,

Bishop Burton studied at the University of Toronto, Dalhousie University, and Oxford University. He was ordained in the Diocese of Nova Scotia, where he served in two parishes on Cape Breton Island, at which time he married Anna Erickson, a native of California. They moved in 1991 to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, where he served as Dean and Rector of St. Alban’s Cathedral…

On September 1, 2008, he began a new ministry as Rector of the Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, which, with 3,500 members, is one of the largest Episcopal Churches in the United States.

I have a clergy and lay friend who work on his staff in Dallas and when I asked them to describe Bishop Burton they responded, “Saintly,” and “Holy” respectively.  Another friend of mine, while speaking of “Bishop Tony” almost began weeping as she told me that “he makes Christianity real for me.”  There are a number of anecdotes that I have heard in the past two years that attest to the learnedness and holiness of the good bishop, and I regularly listen to his sermons (here: www.incarnation.org/recordings/sermons) to quicken my own spiritual life.  That’s right!….an Episcopal priest with sermons worth listening to and relistening to.  And while I’m on the subject, he also has a number of good articles available here.

If you have never heard of Bishop Burton, do yourself, your friends, and your parish a favor by familiarizing yourself with his writings, sermons, and blogs.  He is, perhaps, a living Anglican saint.  Also, if you happen to pass through Dallas on a Sunday evening as I did a few months ago … do whatever you have to do and go to Church of the Incarnation’s Solemn Choral Evensong & Holy Communion service at 5:30 p.m.  I wept through nearly the entire thing.

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