Good morning, folks, and a joyous Sunday to you! For those of us who are Christians, today is the Sunday Next Before Advent (Propers follow, below): since the Church’s calendar begins on Advent Sunday, then in a sense I suppose one could think of this as the Christian “New Year’s Eve.” Although if we become intoxicated, let it be with the Holy Spirit, and not with more carnal potions! At least not this early in the day…
Today is also known as “Stir-Up Sunday,” from the opening words of the Collect for the day: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…” – a most apt petition, on this last Sunday before the beginning of the season of both penitent preparation and joyous expectation that is Advent! Indeed, just as the “Gesima” Sundays in late Winter prepare us for the coming of Lent, so “Stir-Up” Sunday gives us the opportunity to prepare to keep a holy Advent.
It is also the day on which many in England (and some here in the States, if of English heritage and affections) “stir up” the traditional Christmas pudding. The lovely “Full Homely Divinity” blog recounts the matter thus: Continue reading “The Sunday Next Before Advent: “Stir-Up” Sunday!”
Welcome to my first “teaching video” – in this case, on a rubrically-correct but condensed or abbreviated form of Evening Prayer.
The rubrics of the The Book of Common Prayer 1928 permit a significant degree of reduction in the length of Evening Prayer (Vespers) while retaining its form and a lot of its contents, making it perhaps easier to fit into our often hurried, harried, and hectic early 21st century lives.
If you have the time and opportunity to say the full Office on a regular basis, more power to you! Give thanks to God for that blessing. But if you do not, here is a way to say a shortened form of the Office which is, nonetheless, fully in accord with the rubrics contained in the 1928 Prayer Book.
And here is the very interesting and informative blog post which inspired this teaching video: Evensong at Home: A New Shortened Form for Busy Families. I encourage you to check it out – especially if you found my verbal explanations confusing.
Here is the video of Vespers (Evening Prayer) for the 25th Sunday after Trinity – Second Sunday before Advent, 2018.
For some time I have been doing live broadcasts of Morning and Evening Prayer (and occasionally other Anglican devotions) on Facebook. For some reason (not sure whether it’s insufficient memory and processing speed, the internet connection I have available, or some other glitch), I have not been able to broadcast live recently. Consequently, I’ve had to find a way to record the videos offline and then post them. Having found it, it occurs to me that I can now post them on The Anglophilic Anglican, too!
This is the first such: a bit of a “test run.” It is The Litany, or General Supplication (also known as “The Great Litany”). from The Book of Common Prayer 1928. I hope you enjoy, and find it of benefit!
“As a friend of mine observed recently, there is something medieval about Halloween…”
A very interesting “take” on Halloween, and the larger Hallowmas season (Eve of All Hallows, All Hallows / All Saints Day, and All Souls Day) of which it is a part. Sally Thomas writes, in this “web exclusive” for the excellent journal First Things,
“As a friend of mine observed recently, there is something medieval about Halloween. The masks, the running around in the dark, the flicker of candles in pumpkins, the smell of leaves and cold air — all of it feels ancient, even primal, somehow. Despite the now-inevitable preponderance of media-inspired costumes, Halloween seems, in execution, far closer to a Last Judgment scene above a medieval church door, or to a mystery play, than it does to Wal-Mart.
“To step outside on Halloween dressed as someone—or some thing—other than yourself is to step into a narrative that acknowledges that the membrane between our workaday, material world and the unseen realm of spirits is far thinner and more permeable than many of us like to think. This narrative disturbs a lot of people, as the proliferation of church-sponsored ‘autumn festivals’ and ‘trunk-or-treat’ parties suggests. To some of those who worry about it, Halloween is either a thoroughly secular or a thoroughly pagan observance, to be avoided by serious Christians…
“Halloween’s emphasis on darkness makes many Christians squeamish, but, to my mind, what my friend observed about the medieval feel of Halloween is more on the money. There is a drama to be played out, like a mystery play in three scenes, and it makes sense only if you observe all three days of Hallowmas — not only Halloween but All Saints’ and All Souls’ days as well. In this context, the very secularity and even the roots-level paganism of Halloween become crucial elements in a larger Christian story.”
“What their costumes are is less important than the fact that, for a night, my children will be people other than themselves: each of them will be someone who, regardless of real-life fears about the dark, is not afraid to step out into the night. Armored inside their personae, they can laugh at the shadows, as well they should. On the one hand, the powers of darkness are no joke; on the other hand, although Christians have no traffic with these powers, we do not fear them.”
This is an important lesson to learn, and one of the reasons I get a bit impatient at those Christians – usually on the Evangelical / Fundamentalist Protestant side of the Christian spectrum – who get into conniptions over Halloween, and often refuse to celebrate it at all. They are missing the point. They are also surrendering to the demonic far too much power: as Ms Thomas points out, we have no traffic with these powers, but neither need we fear them: Christ has already won the victory over them.
[These are some of the same folks – doubtless good and well-meaning people – who act as if, even if they may not formally believe, that the Devil is God’s “opposite number,” so to speak. In fact, the counterpart to Satan (Lucifer, the fallen “angel of light,” who became the demon of darkness) is St. Michael the Archangel (see Revelation 12:7–10): God is utterly supreme, omnipotent and ineffable, and has no opponent! That the Devil thinks he is anything close to equivalent with God is but a conceit on his part (hubris: overweening pride), and a heretical error to any human who believes it.]
Halloween is (or should be; admittedly, there are some who use it to celebrate darkness to a psychologically and spiritually unhealthy degree, but Christians should know better) about mocking the forces of darkness, not embracing them. It is, in a sense, a victory parade for the battle that was won for us on the Cross of Calvary – a celebration in which some may choose to wear the uniforms of the defeated enemy.
And it is also, of course, a harvest festival, celebrating the turning-point between the season of warmth and light, and that of cold and dark… between, that is to say, the seasons of life and of death, or seeming death. And this, too, is a Christian mystery!
For just as the myths of the “dying gods” recorded by Frasier in The Golden Bough, and others, were reflections of the seeming “death” (actually dormancy) of the natural world in the Winter, only to be “reborn” in the Spring, so that very seasonal cycle is a reminder of what C.S. Lewis called the “true myth” of Christ’s death and resurrection:
“Now what Dyson and Tolkien showed me was this: that if I met the idea of sacrifice in a Pagan story I didn’t mind it at all: again, that if I met the idea of a god sacrificing himself to himself . . . I liked it very much and was mysteriously moved by it: again, that the idea of the dying and reviving god (Balder, Adonis, Bacchus) similarly moved me provided I met it anywhere except in the Gospels. The reason was that in Pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound and suggestive of meanings beyond my grasp even tho’ I could not say in cold prose ‘what it meant.’
“Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference — that it really happened.”
Thanks be to God! Just don’t forget that All Saints and All Souls are yet to come – the drama is not yet complete:
“On All Saints’ Day, our parish holds a children’s festival, hugely attended, at which children and adults alike dress as their favorite saints… The party is such fun that we could almost dispense with Halloween, whose festivities, as we observe them, are minimal by comparison. But the cumulative iconography of being, first, a secular character confronting darkness, and then a saint in light, is imaginatively powerful and valuable.
“As our Hallowmas ends, the pageantry and excitement of Halloween and All Saints’ Day give way to the comparative quiet of the feast of All Souls. This final solemnity is a day without costumes. Having been denizens of the night and citizens of the household of God, the children step back into themselves to contemplate their own mortality and pray for our beloved dead. In three days they have enacted the story of their own eternal lives: from darkness to the hope of heaven and the joy of the saints who await them in glory. From mystery to mystery, it’s a drama I would not have them miss.”
Amen, and amen!
Percy (Percival) Dearmer (1867-1936) was an English priest and liturgist who was and is best known as the author of The Parson’s Handbook, a liturgical manual for clergy of the Church of England. His appointments included:
• Vicar of St. Mary the Virgin, Primrose Hill, 1901-1915
• Professor of Ecclesiastical Art, King’s College, London, 1919-1936
• Canon of Westminster Abbey, 1931-1936
Although on the Anglo-Catholic side of the Anglican liturgical spectrum, he was decidedly not an ultramontanist (Romanist), favoring, rather, ritual forms drawn from the pre-Reformation “English Use.” Wikipedia notes that he also had a strong influence on the music of the church and, with Ralph Vaughan Williams and Martin Shaw, is credited with the revival and spread of traditional and medieval English musical forms.
As the title of “The Parson’s Handbook” indicates, he had a strong concern for the parochial; that is, the ordinary, day-to-day spiritual and religious life of ordinary Christians, and found (as many have, both before and after him) the classical Prayer Book pattern – the core of Anglican tradition – to be an excellent model and aid for growth in holiness.
He was also a prolific writer. The following excerpt is from one of his tracts, entitled “A Christian’s Life According to the Prayer Book,” and is rather shamelessly cribbed from the blog of St. Bede’s Productions, which notes that the whole tract is available on Project Canterbury, but this is the heart of it.”
[As I prepare to post this, it occurs to me that I may have posted it, or parts of it, earlier; but if so, no matter! If I have, it’s been a while, and this is the sort of thing that one needs to revisit from time to time, if one is even the least bit serious about what Martin Thornton called “Christian Proficiency.” I hope some may find it helpful!]
A CHRISTIAN’S LIFE ACCORDING TO THE
Let us see, then, what the Prayer Book system will be when we have come back into the habit of carrying it out. Continue reading “Percy Dearmer on the Prayer Book system”