The First Book of Common Prayer, 1549 | For All the Saints

The first Book of Common Prayer came into use on the Day of Pentecost, June 9, 1549, in the second year of the reign of King Edward the Sixth. From it have descended all subsequent editions and revisions of the Prayer Book according to the use of the several Churches of the Anglican Communion.

Source: The First Book of Common Prayer, 1549 | For All the Saints

A “high holy day” indeed, for us Anglicans! The use of The Book of Common Prayer, and more broadly the Common Prayer tradition of which it is the centerpiece, is the hallmark of the particular Anglican expression of Christianity. Nor for nothing is the BCP often referred to as “Thomas Cranmer’s immortal bequest”! Read on for more…

The Book of Common Prayer 1928, which is the Prayer Book of my (and our, if you are a member or friend of St. Bede’s Anglican Mission) ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the United Episcopal Church of North America (UECNA), is the last American Prayer Book to be unquestionably in the direct line of descent from the 1549.

The 1979 Prayer Book, as used by The Episcopal Church (TEC, formerly Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, or PECUSA), while it has its pluses, is more of a “book of alternative services,” and its theology can get a bit hazy, at times.

I don’t share the dislike, bordering on downright antipathy, of some traditional Anglicans for the ’79, so long as it’s understood for what it is – a book of alternative services – and is not confused with being “the” Book of Common Prayer, and as long as it is interpreted in accordance with the classical Common Prayer tradition: 1549-1662 in the UK, 1789-1928 in the US. With those caveats, it contains useful resources.

But the 1549 is the original! “The” Book of Common Prayer, as it were… although the 1662 has been the standard for three-and-a-half centuries, and remains so, for the Church of England, today. And it is that first Prayer Book – the one that began it all, so to speak – that we celebrate today!

The Official Catholic Beer Blessing | The Catholic Gentleman (slightly modified…)

Source: The Official Catholic Beer Blessing | The Catholic Gentleman

Now, who – Roman Catholic or otherwise – can help liking this…?

One of the great things about being Catholic is that the Church has quite literally thought of everything at some point or another. Some inventive cleric even thought to include a beer blessing in the Rituale Romanum… Creation is good. Beer is good. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

And one of the great things about being Anglican is that one can reasonably “borrow” things from both “sides” – Roman Catholic and Reformed (not to mention Eastern Orthodox, just ask the Scots Non-Jurors who ordained Samuel Seabury and provided the American Church with the model for our classic Prayer of Consecration) – so long as they do not conflict with the Book of Common Prayer and the XXXIX Articles!

Here is a version of the beer blessing slightly modified to suit Anglican sensibilities, and to turn it into a prayer that can be said by lay-persons:

V. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R. Who madest both heaven and earth.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.

O Lord our God, who dost cause grain to spring up from the earth for our sustenance: do thou bless, we pray thee, this thy creature beer, which thou hast deigned to produce from that thy good gift of grain, fruit of the earth and product of human labour, that it may be a salutary remedy to the human race; and grant, for thy mercy’s sake, that whomsoever shall drink of it may gain both health in body and peace in soul: Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

V. Let us bless the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us and remain with us, now and always. Amen.

For the original forms, in both English and Latin, click through to the linked blog post!

John Keble, Presbyter and Renewer of the Church, 1866 | For All the Saints

New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove:
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life and power and thought.

These familiar words of John Keble are from his cycle of poems entitled The Christian Year (1827), which he wrote to restore within the Church of England a deep feeling for the church year, “to bring the thoughts and feelings of the reader into unison with those exemplified in the Prayer Book.”

The work went through ninety-five editions, but this was not the fame Keble sought. His consuming desire was to be a faithful pastor who finds his fulfillment in daily services, confirmation classes, visits to village schools, and a voluminous correspondence with those seeking spiritual counsel.

Source: John Keble, Presbyter and Renewer of the Church, 1866 | For All the Saints

Rightly acclaimed for The Christian Year, John Keble‘s greater and more lasting influence on the Anglican expression of Christianity was doubtless his Assizes Sermon of 1834, commonly titled “National Apostasy.” It was, as this account notes, the spark that ignited the Oxford Movement, also known as the Tractarians: reformers who, again to quote this essay, “sought to recall the Church to its ancient sacramental heritage.”

While some of the reforms proposed (especially among the later Tractarians) went too far for many Anglicans – then and now – there is much to be commended in the Oxford reformers’ attempts to recall the Ecclesia Anglicana to a “high” ecclesiology and sacramental theology, and to reawaken the “appeal to antiquity” (that is, the “ancient and undivided Church”) which has been a salient feature of Anglicanism since the days of Matthew Parker (Archbishop of Canterbury, 1559–1575).

In these attempts they met with considerable, although not uncontested, success – and I, for one, am grateful!

Some reflections on Maryland Day

Source: the Ark and the Dove – from the rectory porch

Reflections on Maryland Day, the founding of the Maryland Colony in 1634 – now the State of Maryland – and the Feast of the Annunciation, from the Rev. Greg Syler, Episcopal priest and rector of St. George’s Church and Church of the Ascension, St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

My comments follow…

O Lord Christ, whose prayer that your disciples would be one, as you and the Father are one, inspired certain of your followers to create on American shores a colony that would practice tolerance, consecrated in the name of your blessed mother to whom the angel announced this day a new gift: Grant that the people of this land may continually give thanks for your protection and uphold the liberty of conscience and worship, until all shall receive the benefits and follow the disciplines of true freedom, endowed by the Name of the same, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

On 22 November 1633, a group of English travelers — about 150 in all — boarded two ships, the Ark and the Dove, and set off from their mother country from the Isle of Wight.  Most of the group were indentured servants who would help settle the new colony and prepare the way for future arrivals, roughly equal numbers Catholic and Protestant, in fact, and on board was also at least one Jesuit priest, Fr. Andrew White, as well as Leonard Calvert, the intended future governor of Mary’s Land, the third English colony in the so-called “new world,” and Lord Baltimore’s younger brother. Continue reading “Some reflections on Maryland Day”

Prayer is not wishful nonsense. It helps us to shut up and think | Giles Fraser – Loose canon | Opinion | The Guardian

Under that flag of convenience called free speech, people tear up their decency in the search for “likes”. Oh, how cheaply we trade the things that matter most. Have social media and the stamping foot of the 24-hour news cycle killed off the quiet dignity of grief, both religious and non-religious?

Source: Prayer is not wishful nonsense. It helps us to shut up and think | Giles Fraser Loose canon | Opinion | The Guardian

Some thoughtful reflections from Giles Fraser, a parish priest in south London, who blogs under the name of “The Loose Canon”:

Prayer is not a way of telling God the things he already knows. Nor is it some act of collective lobbying, whereby the almighty is encouraged to see the world from your perspective if you screw up your face really hard and wish it so. Forget Christopher Robin at the end of the bed. Prayer is mostly about emptying your head waiting for stuff to become clear. There is no secret formula. And holding people in your prayers is not wishful thinking. It’s a sort of compassionate concentration, where someone is deliberately thought about in the presence of the widest imaginable perspective – like giving them a mental cradling.

But above all, prayer is often just a jolly good excuse to shut up for a while and think.

He seems, from what I can determine, to be toward the left end of the political spectrum. But he is square on about this!

And of course, this is leaving out of the equation the question of whether or not prayer really is efficacious. As Christians, we believe that God knows our needs before we ask them, and often responds before we can ask. But he still wants to hear us ask – that demonstrates that we know precisely what we want and need, and hopefully have reflected on why.

Does praying increase the chance that God will respond? Maybe, maybe not. I’m inclined to doubt it, for the reasons I’ve already delineated. But I’m not going to stop praying, for that reason! It’s been said that prayer is not really for God, but for us, and I agree with that. It gives us the chance to thoughtfully ponder – and to lay before that most awesome and transcendent divine reality, God Himself – our concerns, and the concerns of others: to hold them lovingly in our hearts, and minds. That is no bad thing, regardless of any practical effects it may or may not have.

Prayer should not, it is true, distract us from taking what practical steps we are able to take, to effect the changes we want to see. As St. James the Apostle wrote,

If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2:15-16)

Yet that does not invalidate prayer, as an act of mercy, of kindness, of compassion – and of faith in a God who is also merciful, kind, and compassionate. Sometimes prayer can, and often should, accompany action. Sometimes a situation is so overwhelming, or so out of our control, that all we can do is pray. And if that’s all we can do, then we should certainly do all that we can do.

Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, 604 | For All the Saints

One of the most important bishops of Rome and most influential writers of the Middle Ages, Gregory the First is one of only two popes (the other being Leo the First), to have been given the epithet “the Great.”

Source: Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, 604 | For All the Saints

Indeed! But his greatest significance to Anglicans is his role as “the Apostle to the English,” for his zealous concern for their conversion to Christianity, culminating in his sending of the monk Augustine (who would become known as St. Augustine of Canterbury, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, having received the pallium from Gregory himself) as a missisonary / evangelist, with his companions.

It is said that Pope Gregory was inspired to his concern for the Anglo-Saxon people of England by encountering a group of English children or youth on sale as slaves in the Roman market around the year 573. He is said to have remarked on their beauty as being like that of angels, whereupon he was told that they were in fact Angles – causing him to say, Non Angli, sed angeli: “Not Angles, but angels.”

He originally planned to go to England himself, but when he was instead elected Pope, decided to send Augustine in 597 AD. And the rest is, as they say, history…

One of Gregory’s most notable achievements was the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons. He personally took the lead in the whole process, sending Augustine, prior of his own monastery of Saint Andrew’s on the Caelian Hill, and a number of fellow monks to southeastern Britain, to the Jutish kingdom of Kent, where they achieved within a few years the conversion of the people and of their king, Ethelbert. Gregory continue personally to guide the mission in matters that perplexed Augustine by sending a supporting group of missionaries, along with liturgical vessels, books, and vestments, in 601; and by writing to Ethelbert and his Christian queen, Bertha on various matters. The close relationship between Rome and the English Church was continued by Gregory’s successors, and in many ways the Church in England was closer to the papacy than the Church in Gaul was. The first Life of Gregory was written in England, and from the biographies written by the Venerable Bede, Aldhelm, and the anonymous biographer of Whitby come eulogies of Gregory as “the apostle of the English”, “our father and apostle in Christ”, and “he from who we have received the Christian faith, he who will present the English people to the Lord on the Day of Judgment as their teacher and apostle.”

Indeed, we have St. Gregory the Great to thank for the very existence of the Ecclesia Anglicana (Anglican, or English, Church)!

Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Fast

Source: St. Mary’s Anglican Catholic Church › The Lenten Fast

With the coming of Ash Wednesday, and its sobering reminder — “Remember, O man, that thou art dust: and unto dust, thou shalt return” — solemnly recited as we are marked with ashes upon the forehead, we embark upon the season of self-examination and penitence known as Lent.

The linked article comments,

Easter, the Day of the Resurrection, is the most important celebration of the Church. From the beginning, the Church observed a period of fasting before Easter to prepare for the feast.

This season of fasting was eventually lengthened to forty days to correspond to the forty day fasts in the Bible: The fast of Jesus in the wilderness before he was tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1), the fast of Moses on Mt. Sinai while he was receiving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:28) and the fast of Elijah when he fled from Jezebel (1 Kings 19:8).

The Sundays of Lent are not counted as days of fasting. It is forty days from Ash Wednesday to Easter if we do not count the Sundays. The church observes Sunday perpetually as the Day of Resurrection. The lenten Sundays are properly observed as a slight relaxation of the fast, a slight anticipation of Easter, but not a full party.

It is often said, these days, that one need not give something up for Lent, but rather take something on. This is true, to a point, and some of the things we might appropriately take on are discussed in the linked essay. But this should not become an excuse for laxity in the fast, either! The Lenten fast (details below) is itself important. Furthermore, some of us already have lives over-stuffed with things to do; Lent can be a time to step back from doing – again, if this does not lead to laxity.

The keystone is found here:

“We decrease our intake of food, pleasure and entertainment and increase our practice of spiritual disciplines. This helps us to focus less on selfish concerns and more on our relationship with God.”

The essay then goes on to give us some specific guidelines for our Lenten abstinence, both traditional and contemporary: “the general rule for Lent that has come down to us in our tradition is this: Each day consists of one full meal and two smaller portions of food. Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent are days of abstinence from flesh meat. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of complete fasting. No food is eaten until sundown. Medical issues and age are reasons to moderate the fast of food.

“We ought also to abstain from other foods, pleasures and entertainments for the forty days in keeping with the spirit of the season. Consumption of alcohol and desserts should be eliminated. The lenten fast should also include things that occupy too large a place in our lives and run the danger of becoming idols. It is essential, in our time, that the lenten fast include electronics and media. We should reduce the amount of time spent with the computer, T.V., radio, iPod and other media in order to create an atmosphere of silence and stillness that is conducive to prayer.”

This is indeed true, in our current age of constant bombardment by sensory stimuli. Our senses – sight and hearing, in particular – and our mental faculties, including both cognition and reflection, are under constant assault by electronically-mediated pseudo-experiences in these days. Many of us spend all too much time in what amounts to a “virtual reality” bubble! Silence and stillness, conducive not only to active prayer but to contemplation and reflection, are in short supply, and often require a conscious effort to attain. Lent is a time when it is especially appropriate to make that effort.

The essay then goes on to suggest things we may appropriately take on, as part of, or complementary to, our Lenten fast, including prayer, Bible reading, confession, and of course, good works.

One important point to note, that is not always realized: “The Sundays of Lent are not counted as days of fasting. It is forty days from Ash Wednesday to Easter if we do not count the Sundays. The church observes Sunday perpetually as the Day of Resurrection. The lenten Sundays are properly observed as a slight relaxation of the fast, a slight anticipation of Easter, but not a full party.” Sundays, penitential season or not, are always Feasts of Our Lord, min-commemorations of Easter, and thus not fast days. Though as this points out, that doesn’t mean they should be viewed as occasions of excess, either!

In this as in so much else in life, a right balance is essential. Lent helps us to practice that balance, or return to it if we have fallen away.