Ash Wednesday: Lent begins

Today, known as Ash Wednesday, marks the first day of Lent in the Western Christian tradition – including Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Old Catholics, Lutherans, and others. And Lent is, of course, the holy season of self-examination, penitence, and preparation as we who are Christians prepare for the Feast of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. These two lovely images, from Enid Chadwick’s marvelous little volume, My Book of the Church’s Year, do an excellent job of presenting the key themes of Lent!

There are actually six Sundays in Lent; the others being Passion Sunday (Lent V) and Palm Sunday (Lent VI) – which, as the above notes, are found in a separate image – and are collectively known as “Passiontide.”

Wishing all my Christian viewers a holy, blessed, and fruitful Lenten observance!

Nota Bene: Chadwick’s book has recently be re-published by St. Augustine Academy Press. I’ve obtained a copy (not receiving any compensation for this “plug”), and I commend it to your attention!

 

It’s Shrove Tuesday – tomorrow, Lent begins!

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Wishing all my Christian friends a holy and blessed Lenten season. May our time of self-examination, penitence, and preparation prepare us for a joyful and blessed celebration of the Feast of the Resurrection, come Easter!

(Image, from Enid Chadwick’s My Book of the Church’s Year, shared from a Facebook friend’s posting. This splendid little book has recently been republished by St. Augustine Academy Press.)

 

Shrove Tuesday: penitence, absolution, and… pancakes!

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Pancake races are apparently a “thing” in the UK, for Shrove Tuesday  – the day before Ash Wednesday, and the start of Lent – and have been for centuries. Even clergy and choristers get into it, on occasion! Not to mention some really cute kids…

The town of Olney takes credit for their origin, as recorded on the town website:

“According to tradition it was in Olney, back in 1445, that pancake racing started. On Shrove Tuesday the church bell rang out to signal the start of the church service.

“A local housewife who was busy cooking pancakes before the start of Lent, ran to the church. She was still carrying her frying pan and wearing her apron and headscarf, and tossed the pancake to prevent it from burning.

“Local people who saw this were amused, and later started to organise pancake races. Pancake races still take place in Olney each Shrove Tuesday.”

Several of these pics are from Olney itself (a town which presumably gave its name to a town in Maryland, near where I grew up), both modern and historical; others are from elsewhere around the web… and the UK!

But of course, Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day, Doughnut Day, Fastnacht, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, etc.) is not just an excuse to eat yummy pancakes or doughnuts. It is about preparing for a holy Lent by being shriven (past participle of “shrove”) – forgiven, pardoned – for one’s duly repented sins, in preparation for the great season of self-examination, repentance, and preparation that is Lent.

 

Sex is for male-female marriage only, Church of England confirms | Christian News on Christian Today

marriage

Sex only belongs in heterosexual marriage, a new statement from the Church of England’s House of Bishops has declared.

Source: Sex is for male-female marriage only, Church of England confirms | Christian News on Christian Today

Somewhat surprisingly, given its history in recent years and decades, the House of Bishops of the Church of England – the “Mother Church” of all Anglican Christians – has affirmed that

“For Christians, marriage – that is the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows – remains the proper context for sexual activity.”

This is the traditional teaching, albeit phrased somewhat cautiously. They go on to say that

“In its approach to civil partnerships the Church seeks to uphold that standard, to affirm the value of committed, sexually abstinent friendships and to minister sensitively and pastorally to those Christians who conscientiously decide to order their lives differently,”

which is a legitimate call to pastoral sensitivity: as a dear, excellent, and godly Anglican priest of my acquaintance put it, the duty of the Church is to “uphold the standard, and deal pastorally with the exceptions.” They go on to affirm that

“Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings. The introduction of same sex marriage… has not changed the church’s teaching on marriage or same sex relationships.”

The Church of England and its HOB has itself fallen what seems to be short of God’s purposes for human beings in a number of regards over, as I say, the last several decades, and they do waffle a bit on practical application. But I am a believer in giving credit where it’s due!

Altar Call | The North American Anglican

“I began my sacramental education in a rural Baptist church. There, every service ended with an altar call. Music plays as the pastor waits expectantly to receive anyone who is ready to make a decision to follow Christ. The decision, once made, indicates salvation…”

Source: Altar Call | The North American Anglican

“In the end… I was surprised to find [in the Anglican tradition] every essential feature of my Baptist heritage amplified. The scripture was held up and read aloud. We confessed our sins together. And there at the end of the service was an altar call. In many respects it was the same sort of altar call I had always known: I rose and went up with the same gnawing need for salvation.

“But the differences were vital. I was no longer alone, but walked together with a throng. Instead of going up alone, the whole congregation had deemed itself unworthy, and rose along with me. The altar had a kneeling rail, and a place for my outstretched hands (my approach was expected!). And here at this altar the Lord himself met me, accepted me, fed me with his body and blood, and promised to keep me in everlasting life.

“Above all, the Church did not rebuke the form my Baptist faith had taken, instead she enfleshed it. I had not been wrong to desire to approach the altar again and again. All that was needed was for the Lord to truly meet me there.”

As a sacrament – an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace – the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion, Lord’s Supper, Divine Liturgy, the Mass) serves many purposes and functions in the life of the Church, and of the individual Christian. One I had not really considered was as an “altar call” (not a regular feature of my Methodist upbringing, but not entirely unknown, either). But it makes sense! A lot of sense.

Precisely when and how one receives one’s salvation, and whether or not one can lose it thereafter, are matters that can be and are debated among Christians (I am inclined to believe “at Baptism, when we become regenerate by water and the Holy Spirit, are received into the Body of Christ, and marked as His own, forever,” and “no, unless one consciously, willfully, and overtly ejects it” – and even then, like the Prodigal Son, one can repent and return to the Lord); but one thing which I think we cannot debate is that we are all in need of both strengthening and reassurance as we walk our Christian journey through life.

The Holy Eucharist provides both, in the Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God!

 

The feast of St. Joseph of Arimathea | Holy Smokes

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 August 1st is the feast of St. Joseph of Arimathea in the United states (July 31 in the east). His story is one of mystery and tradition…

Source: Holy Smokes: The feast of St. Joseph of Arimathea

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

— William Blake, “And did those feet in ancient time? (Jerusalem)

Today is the commemoration of St. Joseph of Arimathea (as found in “Lesser Feasts and Fasts 1963,” approved for use in the UECNA), who is best known from the Gospel accounts as the one who gave his tomb to be the burial place of our Lord, Jesus Christ, following his crucifixion. The Collect for this day reads:

O MERCIFUL God, by whose servant Joseph the body of our Lord and Saviour was committed to the grave with reverence and godly fear: Grant, we beseech thee, to thy faithful people grace and courage to serve and love Jesus with unfeigned devotion all the days of their life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

He – Joseph of Armimathea – may have another significance, too, especially for those of us who are of the English tradition. There is a persistent legend that Joseph was not only the recoverer of Jesus’ body, but his uncle, and a tin-merchant with trading contacts as far afield as Cornwall, in what was then the Roman Province of Britannia; and that he took the young Jesus with him on a trip there during the so-called “lost years” of Jesus’ life.

There is even a tradition that when Joseph thrust his thornwood staff into the ground, it took root, flowered, and blossomed, becoming the famous Glastonbury Thorn that survives to this day near the old Abbey of Glastonbury. It is, at any rate, this legendary trip (which cannot be conclusively proven – nor for that matter, disproven) which serves as the inspiration for the lines from the poet William Blake, quoted above, which became the well-known hymn, “Jerusalem”:

Personally, I tend to believe this pious legend – or at least give it the benefit of the doubt – and to consider that there is at least a good chance that “those feet in ancient times” did indeed “walk upon England’s mountains green”! Britain was in ancient and medieval times known as a particularly holy island, and what better reason for that, than that our Saviour did indeed grace “England’s green and pleasant land” with His sacred footsteps?

In any case, wishing you a blessed Feast of St. Joseph of Arimathea!