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!

 

America’s space saga showcases her common Christian culture | The Bridgehead

“It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.”

— Apollo astronaut “Buzz” Aldrin

Source: America’s space saga showcases her common Christian culture | The Bridgehead

It is more than a curiosity, I think, that the first action committed by human beings on the Moon, aside from operational necessities, was the receiving of the sacrament of Holy Communion by astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin:

And so [his] pastor consecrated a communion wafer and a small vial of communion wine.  And Buzz Aldrin took them with him out of the Earth’s orbit and on to the surface of the moon. He and Armstrong had only been on the lunar surface for a few minutes when Aldrin made the following public statement: 

“‘This is the LM pilot. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.’

“He then ended radio communication and there, on the silent surface of the moon, 250,000 miles from home, he read a verse from the Gospel of John, and he took communion.”

Aldrin had originally intended to broadcast the moment to the United States and the world, but NASA – then embroiled in a legal battle with the militant atheist, Madelyn Murray O’Hare, over the Apollo 8 astronauts’ Christmas Eve message from lunar orbit, when they read from the Book of Genesis, and closed with “good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth” – requested that he refrain.

Still, as the article points out, his actions, and those of his colleagues on Apollo 8, serve as proof positive that Americans still had a common, Christian culture, just 50 years ago. It is also, I would add, proof positive that scientific and technological accomplishment is not at odds with Christian faith: that faith and reason are not, or at any rate need not be, in enmity with one another.

To quote the linked article once again:

“It is fascinating to look back and realize that a mere fifty years ago, America still had a common culture. Her preeminent scientific explorers took the first opportunity when orbiting in space and setting foot on the Moon to glorify the Creator, to acknowledge Him, and to commemorate His sacrifice for mankind. They recognized that despite man’s great accomplishments, which they themselves were spearheading, men should stand in humility and awe at the reality of the Creator.

“A half-century on, the intellectual descendants of the angry atheist who sued NASA over the astronauts’ reading of Scripture on Christmas Eve have triumphed in many ways. But while they can trash the present, they cannot rewrite history—and the simple fact is that the first acts of American astronauts in space and on the Moon were the acknowledgement of God’s infinite goodness and the magnificence of his Creation.”

Amen. Alleluia! Thanks be to God, the Maker of Heaven and earth.

 

Weekly Communion?

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A Lutheran (Missouri Synod) pastor of my acquaintance posted the following on his Facebook page earlier today:

“Lutherans: regularly-scheduled non-communion Sundays – unless caused by poverty or other physical hardship – are expressly contrary to apostolic practice as recorded in Scripture, violative of our confessions, and only benefit the realm of the demonic.

“It’s like deliberately starving your own children for a week so that they’ll appreciate eating, so they don’t look like the Roman Catholic kids who get regular meals, or because you were similarly abused as a child. Stop it.

“We need to drive a stake through this vampire’s heart.”

I used to regularly experience this in my Methodist days. Somewhat to my surprise, I encounter it from time to time in Anglican circles, as well – and I think it’s a shame. Much though I value the proclamation of the Word (which is, after all, read and preached at every Communion service), and much as I love the beauty of Choral Mattins and Evensong, I think those who speak against the weekly reception of the Holy Communion are sadly astray.

It is, after all, the one thing, other than loving one another, and baptizing in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, that our Lord emphatically commanded us to do! And for that small minority of Anglicans who can’t seem to embrace anything without the imprimatur of Continental Protestant divines, both Luther and Calvin advocated for the weekly reception of the sacrament of Holy Communion.

If I had the resources to do so, I would offer the Holy Communion (the Holy Eucharist, the Divine Liturgy) every Sunday and Holy Day, if not as the primary service on a given Sunday, then following Mattins, or as an earlier service (a “Morrow Mass,” as it used to be called), for those desiring to receive. The Lord’s Body and Blood should certainly not be withheld, I believe – and least of all on the Lord’s Day – from any baptized Christian who recognizes His presence in it, and wishes to receive!

No love that in the family dwells,
No caroling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare:
That God was Man in Palestine,
And lives today, in Bread and Wine.
– Sir John Betjeman, “Christmas”

QOTD (with reflections): “We are the religion of the Incarnation…”

“We are the religion of the Incarnation. God became man, the invisible God became visible, he sanctified the material world and elevated these visible, tangible signs to communicate invisible graces and to convey eternal truths.”

— Canon Michael Stein, ICRSS, rector of St. Joseph’s Oratory (Roman Catholic) in Detroit

Amen!

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Photos of the traditional religious procession in Detroit were widely shared on social media

Source: Vintage-style photo of St Joseph’s Day procession goes viral | Catholic Herald

Canon Stein noted, in reference to the St. Joseph’s Procession (pictured above) in particular,

“It only takes a quick glance around the world to see a fatherless society, and to see either a slothful or workaholic society, or a lack of an appropriate understanding of manliness. It’s neither brute nor effeminate, it’s faithful, it’s steadfast, it’s courageous and gentle. And we find all those things in St. Joseph, so I think that’s another part of the power of that picture.”

All very true. But, he goes on to add,

“We are body and soul, all these spiritual truths are meant to be communicated through our senses. We get to see our faith, hear our faith, taste our faith, etc., and that just appeals to us so much,” he said.

“Truth needs to shine in beauty…we’re not angels, we’re not just pure intelligences, we need to see, touch, hear; and that’s something the traditional liturgy has always done. That’s something that a reverent Mass or procession can do, these visible signs that the Church has used throughout her history to excite devotion and promote devotion.”

Again, amen. Amen, and amen!

One of my reasons for concern when we as Anglicans veer too far to the Protestant / Reformed side of the Christian spectrum is the accompanying tendency to get uncomfortably close to a quasi-gnostic devaluation of the physical, the material, the sensory – Creation itself – in favor of the cerebral, the theoretical, the (narrowly-defined) spiritual. “Spirit good, matter bad” is a common view in Christian circles. But, it’s a heretical one! Continue reading “QOTD (with reflections): “We are the religion of the Incarnation…””

Aslan Is Not a Tame Lion: The Serious Mistake of Casual Worship | Jonathan Aigner

I fear we aren’t just guilty of domesticating the one true God, itself a grave error. In our petulant insistence on me-worship, we have shown where our ultimate allegiance lies. Scarier still is my suspicion that most of the church doesn’t even recognize what the hell we’ve done.

Source: Aslan Is Not a Tame Lion: The Serious Mistake of Casual Worship | Jonathan Aigner

In contrast to the pop-worship industry, Jonathan Aigner describes one example of what proper, traditional worship can look like, and why:

“Worship at Advent differs from common liturgical practice in the contemporary American church, to say the least. It is exceedingly beautiful, sublime even, evoking a sense of transcendence that seems strikingly out of place, even in one of the most historic cities in the country. Continuity and communion with the universal church is palpable.”

He goes on to quote The Church of the Advent’s Liturgical Customary:

“While the foregoing may seem excessively fussy, particularly in an age when manners are out of fashion and seminaries are apparently intent on turning the Mass into a rock-‘n’-roll show, remember that Divine Service is not a casual activity. The Lord’s Supper is a heavenly banquet, not a drive-thru lunch from a fast food shop. Lack of attention to deportment at Mass is as inappropriate as wearing torn jeans to a formal dinner. Sloppiness of appearance, movement or behavior will not show forth ‘the beauty of holiness and the holiness of beauty,’ which is what we seek to present.”

Now, there are times when a more casual (although still not sloppy, or careless) approach to worship may be appropriate. Summer camp comes to mind! Or outdoor services in general. But even in this more informal context, I believe, we still have to keep in mind the solemnity of what we are doing, and the majesty of the God we are serving.

In the words that used often to be found inscribed on the chancel arch or elsewhere in Episcopal churches of the more Anglo-Catholic persuasion (quoting Genesis 28:17),

“This is the very house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven.”

 

Altar Rails and Reverence | liturgy guy

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Altar rails are contributing to the restoration of the sacred and the recovery of reverence within the Holy Mass.

Source: Altar Rails and Reverence | liturgy guy

“(The altar rail) is still a marker of the place where heaven and earth meet, indicating that they are not yet completely united… But, at the same time, the rail is low, very permeable, and has a gate, so it does not prevent us from participating in heaven. So we could say there is a theology of the rail, one which sees it as more than a fence, but as a marker where heaven and earth meet, where the priest, acting in persona Christi, reaches across from heaven to earth to give the Eucharist as the gift of divine life.”

Although coming from a Roman Catholic perspective, this is also applicable to the Anglican tradition. The same trends noted here for the Roman observance – that following Vatican II,

“there were many in the Church who aggressively sought to remove that which was considered traditional and sacred. Gone were the high altars, beautiful Catholic statuary, and of course, altar rails.

“A liturgically misguided attempt at egalitarianism ruled the post-conciliar landscape, one which challenged the very distinction between sanctuary and nave. Overtones of anticlericalism were pervasive, as was a new type of… worship, one intentionally structured for ecumenical purposes.

“By their very presence altar rails hindered the march toward the profane desired by many. With such liturgical innovations as… Communion in the hand, altar rails were an affront to the moderns. In the new, democratic, liturgy kneeling had simply become outdated and uncouth”

– have also been seen, since the Liturgical Movement of the 1960s and 70s, as a major influence within the Episcopal Church, and indeed in most other churches within the Anglican Communion. There has been concern to make the liturgy more “accessible,” and as a result, it has become less sacred. Continue reading “Altar Rails and Reverence | liturgy guy”

QOTD: “Believe it or not, tradition works…”

“Believe it or not, tradition works. So-called ‘old ways’ are quite popular among younger Catholics. Smells, bells, classic hymns, chant, prolonged silence, and, hold on for this one, LATIN are all largely embraced by the younger generations of the Church. Furthermore, when younger non-Catholics experience these traditions they are struck by how different they are from everything else they experience in a noisy, secular culture. These ‘old ways’ are beautiful to them, and beauty is a great place to introduce young folks to Jesus Christ.”

Fr. Edwin C. Dwyer, Our Lady of Peace Parish (Roman Catholic), Bay City, Michigan

Now, I am an Anglican, so while I personally like Latin in the liturgy (and a Latin form of the Prayer Book liturgy was, in fact, used in Chapels Royal as late as the time of Queen Elizabeth I), I’m not going to be pushing for it at St. Bede’s!

But otherwise, I am in complete agreement. What Fr. Dwyer says about younger Catholics I believe to be just as true for younger Anglicans; in fact, it seems to be the case across the spectrum of sacramental, liturgical Churches: the churches that are growing, that are attracting young people, are the traditional ones.

And traditional liturgy seems to be drawing more young people who have grown up in contemporary, non-denominational, evangelical, and “community” churches toward those Churches that are in fact rooted in historic, ancient liturgies, in the sacraments, and in traditional, orthodox understandings of the Christian faith.

As Fr. Dwyer puts it,

“we are going to make [our worship] more beautiful with tradition. We are going to look, and sound, and smell vastly different from the rest of the world on Sundays. It will be a religious experience that, at the very least, will be memorable to the young who encounter it.”

As the old saying has it, “what is old, is new again.” Thanks be to God!