The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist | For All the Saints

Saint John the Baptist, the Forerunner of the Messiah, preceded Jesus both in his birth and in his death. His way of life and his preaching closely resemble that of the prophets of the Old Testament.

Source: The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist | For All the Saints

St. John the Baptizer (I’m sorry, but when I say “St. John the Baptist,” I always want to ask, “Southern or American”…?), also known as the Forerunner of Our Lord, was the bridge figure between the Old and New Testaments, the prophetic tradition of Israel, looking toward the coming of the Messiah, and the proclamation that, as we Christians believe, the Messiah has indeed come, in the person of Jesus the Christ (both “Christ” and “Messiah” mean “Anointed One”).

The birth of St. John the Baptizer is celebrated on the 24th of June, and today we commemorate his death by execution – ironically, not for anything he said or did wrong (though he was in prison at the time), but because King Herod Antipas was trapped by his own promise (perhaps brought about by lust). A warning, perhaps, to be cautious about what you swear to do… and to whom you swear!

COLLECT: O God, you called John the Baptist to be in birth and death the forerunner of your Son: Grant that as John gave his life in witness to truth and righteousness, so we may fearlessly contend for the right, even unto the end; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

What Catholics Lost When They Started Tearing Down Their Great Altars

If the grand altars are at their core outward signs of inward devotion, what does it say about plain altars that more resemble a table than a temple?

Source: What Catholics Lost When They Started Tearing Down Their Great Altars

I am an Anglican, and a member of a fairly “low-church” continuing (traditional) Anglican jurisdiction. But I find a lot to agree with in this essay! Christianity is an Incarnational (and therefore embodied) religion. Therefore, aesthetics – and the incorporation (there’s that body thing again… corpus) of all the senses and the whole physical person, not just the mind, heart, and spirit, into the liturgy – matter.

Get too simplistic, too “Protestant,” and you are beginning to get too close to a form of quasi-Gnostic devaluation of the physical, the material, in favor of the spiritual and intellectual.

And that can lead to a devaluation – however unintentional and subconscious – not only of God’s proclamation that the things He created are good (however marred by human sin), but of the Incarnation itself, in which Jesus the Christ, the Incarnate Word of the Father, indissolubly joined Himself to matter in His own person.

Sure, it’s possible to get too gaudy, and too focused on the external (material) elements of the faith. I am very well aware of that. As in most other areas of life, a balance is called for. But we should never forget the definition of a sacrament: an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Without the outward and visible, are we losing important markers pointing toward the inward and spiritual?

Our Lord Jesus Christ was unique in being fully God and fully Man. But we humans, made in the image of God, comprise a spiritual nature which is nonetheless incarnate (the word means “enfleshed”) in a physical, sensory body, living in a physical, sensory world. We neglect either of these aspects, the physical or the spiritual, at our peril.

The design of churches is one – only one, but an important one – aspect of this. As this essay points out,

The physical design of old churches was meant to dictate several things: ornate artwork on the walls, domes, and arches was meant to pull the eye upward and spark meditation on the divine mysteries, the altarpiece was placed in the apse to orient the congregation properly, and incense was meant to draw together and sanctify the individual properties into one event. That sort of order and hierarchy has been misplaced and is often focused inward, not upward… it is important to remember that how a building is designed is integral to its function.

And the function of a church building is, or should be, to orient the congregation toward God. Not toward itself (or ourselves), not toward the priest: toward God. And the design of the building, including any artistic elaborations – and of course, the liturgy itself – should lead the eyes, the other senses, and through them, the heart, mind, and spirit of the worshipers, God-ward. If that is not happening, something is missing.

And all too often, in today’s churches, it seems that something is indeed missing.

That is not to say that magnificent, ornate altars are guaranteed to focus the attention and lift the spirit of worshipers toward God, or that simple, plain ones cannot do the same. And the same is true of church interiors generally. But generally speaking, we devote time, attention, energy, and yes, money on what is important to us. That is simple human nature.

So, where is our focus? What does the construction of our churches – and of our liturgies – tell us about that focus? I can’t begin to provide a definitive answer to that question; it varies with each church, each congregation, each minister. But it’s something worth thinking about!

Daily Prayer Offices on www.CommonPrayer.org

Morning and Evening Prayer from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, with Hourly Offices, the Ordo Calendar, and other Traditional Episcopal/Anglican Resources

Source: Daily Prayer Offices on www.CommonPrayer.org

A most useful resource for those who want to observe the traditional Daily Offices – Morning and Evening Prayer, also known as Mattins and Vespers (or, if sung, Evensong) – but who may not have access to (or room to spread out) a hard-copy 1928 Book of Common Prayer and Bible at the proper time and place.

Includes both a full and a brief (private recitation) version of the Prayer Book Offices (Lessons are drawn from the 1943 Lectionary), plus the Penitential Office from the BCP and Hourly Offices (a.k.a. the Lesser Offices or “Little Hours” – Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline) drawn from traditional sources.

“Tradition is the living river…”

Tradition is the living river – Pope Benedict XVI

While I am not of the Roman observance, I do completely agree with this! Great admiration and respect for Pope Benedict XVI. I confess, I wish he were still occupying the Throne of St. Peter!

Archaeoacoustics at Avebury – Greywolf’s Lair

Source: Archaeoacoustics at Avebury – Greywolf’s Lair

“I visited Avebury last weekend with my friends, Amanda and Pete, taking with me the newest of my Celtic lyres, wire strung and made from Oak. Towards the end of the day, we arrived at the huge southern entrance stone known in local folklore as ‘the Devil’s Chair’ due to a natural cleft, the base of which forms a comfortable seat in the southern face of the stone, the face that greets people arriving into the henge from the processional route along the West Kennett Avenue. At Amanda’s request, I broke my usual protocol against sitting in the seat so that she could photograph me with the lyre. It was then that we made a remarkable and surprising discovery…”

Fascinating account! The technology of the ancients was very different from ours, limited by knowledge, materials, and several thousand years of development yet-to-come, but that does not mean it should be dismissed as “primitive.” What they were able to do with what they had can be mind-boggling, at times!