Medieval Marriage Ceremony (trans. by me)

If you are interested, I have translated and posted the Order for the Consecration of Marriage, Sarum Use, in the right-hand sidebar.

If you were wed in mediaeval England, this ceremony would have been what you’d have used — except that everything save the vows would be in Latin.  This ceremony, like all traditional liturgies, is rich in symbol and beauty.  When the groom gives the ring, he also places a bag of silver and of gold on the priest’s Bible for all three items to be blessed.  Thus, he says by his action that he can support the new family that is made that day.  Once the ring is blessed, it is given thus:

With this ring I thee wed, this gold and silver I thee give, and with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow.

Then the husband shall place the ring on the thumb of his wife, saying: In the name of the Father,

Then on the forefinger, saying: And of the Son,

Then on the middle finger, saying: And of the Holy Ghost,

Then on the ring finger, saying: Amen.

Then he shall release the ring.  For it is [taught] in medicine that there is a certain vein proceeding all the way to the heart, and in the melodiousness of silver is symbolised internal love, which now young ought always to be between them.

That manner of exchange of rings — without the gold and silver — was that used by my sister in her mediaeval wedding.  Thus is the Holy Trinity invoked in the most common symbol of marriage, the endless circle of a ring.  God is present with us in our marriages, Father, Son, Holy Ghost.

I like the canopy that is held above the bride and groom as the priest blesses their marriage.  My sister also used this aspect of Sarum in her own wedding ceremony, and I understand that it symbolises the new household the bride and groom are creating that day.

Something you may wonder at in the ceremony is the Pax during the Communion.  The Pax was a physical object, of wood or stone, with a picture of Christ or a saint on it, that was kissed and passed around during the Eucharist in the Sarum Use.  This was a tangible symbol of Christ’s peace which He communicates to us in the Eucharist.  We share it with him.  We share it with one another.  And with the Pax, it is sealed with a holy kiss.

This ceremony, as is common in mediaeval liturgies, comes complete with a wide variety of prayers, chiefly blessings upon the couple.  The blessing upon the bride following the Sacramental benediction includes this lovely phrase:

May she endure among the saintly women.  May she be as loveable as Rachel to her husband; as wise as Rebecca; as long-lived and faithful as Sarah.

Liturgy is not simply words upon a page, as we often imagine when we think of “liturgical” vs. “non-liturgical” churches or worship.  Liturgy, or leitourgeia, is the work of the people.  It include standing, sitting, kneeling.  It includes hymns and prayers.  It includes symbolic actions, powerfully demonstrated herein with the canopy, the exchange of rings with gold and silver, the Pax.  In liturgy, we enact in the sanctuary the spiritual reality of our lives.  We worship God there and leave there to bring the truths and symbols of the liturgy into “daily life” — the blessings upon our homes (canopy), the provision for our families (gold & silver), endless love between husband and wife (the ring) bound up in the Trinity, the peace of Christ that passes all understanding and permeates our entire existence (the Pax).

These symbols are all evangelical truths enacted for our benefit.  Alas that the liturgies of today are so bereft of such depth and beauty!

Tap into the Tradition: The Remedy for “Matthewism”

As may be known, I have a habit of listening to Ancient Faith Radio and reading Eastern Orthodox books (the most recent being Being As Communion).  The Eastern Orthodox are a voice worth listening to, and one of the main reasons they are worth listening to is because they, in turn, listen to the Fathers.  They are, thus, deeply traditional, preserving that which has been handed down to them.

Frederica Mathewes-Green, one of the many Orthodox converts on Ancient Faith Radio, says:

I realized that my selections [in my spiritual life] were inevitably conditioned by my own tastes, prejudices, and blind spots. I was patching together a Frankenstein God in my own image, and it would never be taller than five foot one. (Quoted here.)

This is the Christianised version of the religion cited by Miroslav Volf in Exclusion and Embrace of “Sheilaism” — whatever you feel like believing, however you feel like worshipping, however you feel like living is what comprises your worldview, religion, and lifestyle.

What Mathewes-Green discovered in Orthodoxy was the corrective of tradition.  We all have our idiosyncrasies that we bring to how we think and live, and as Christians we have them when we approach Scripture and worship.  Tradition is the accumulation of what has been handed down from the Apostles and generally approved of in each generation.  It challenges our presuppositions and idiosyncrasies, sometimes very uncomfortably, but when entered into prayerfully, the Spirit will use it to conform us more and more into the image of Christ rather than the accumulation of stuff and culture and self that we bring with us to begin with.

I decided that, while Orthodoxy is interesting and all, I already have a tradition of my own, and it sprang up in England around 596 with the arrival of St. Augustine of Canterbury.  To ensure that I actually am part of this tradition, I recently re-read the 39 Articles of Religion, and I find myself in agreement with them.  So, besides reading the 39 Articles, what am I to do to engage with the Anglican tradition in all its richness?

1.  I have decided to plug into the Book of Common Prayer more frequently, using Morning & Evening Prayer and Compline, but also on occasion the Anglican Society of Saint Francis’ Celebrating Common Prayer for the divine office.  The daily office is an important part of traditional English spirituality.  It is a way to pray to and draw near to God while at the same time joining with believers within the tradition throughout the world and throughout time.

2.  I want to read the classics of the Anglican moral/ethical tradition.  This will first mean finishing off William Law’s Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, but moving on to Jeremy Taylor’s Holy Living and John Wesley’s Plain Account of Christian Perfection.  This aspect of the tradition includes both virtuous living and the call to social justice, both of which are part of the endless movement towards holiness and perfection (on this endless movement, see St. Gregory of Nyssa).

3.  The Anglican tradition also includes the English Reformers, so the Book of Homilies and Richard Hooker at large are to be part of my long-range plan, as is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

4.  The Anglican tradition has a large component of hymnody worth exploring, and since I have 3 copies of Canada’s 1938 Hymn Book, I am well-prepared for this angle.  Alongside hymnody are the poets — Donne, Herbert, et al.

5. The pre-Reformation English tradition, from St. Augustine of Canterbury to the Venerable Bede to St. Anselm to Lady Julian of Norwich and more is part of the tradition as well.  I think a study of the mediaeval roots of “Reformation” thought would be a worthy activity.  Despite the arguments over the date of Easter and monasticism, mediaeval English Christianity tried to adapt local Celtic customs as part of their own, thus making “Celtic” Christianity also fair game.

6.  Patristics is fair game, being the root of much mediaeval Christian thought as well as much Reformation thought.  The Fathers are the Fathers of all Christendom, not just the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox bits.

7.  The theologians other than the Reformers, up to the present day.  The emphasis on Tradition means that, while I should probably grapple with the likes of Spong, Ingham, and more, my emphasis should fall on the Wesleys, the Anglo-Catholics/Oxford Movement, C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, J.I. Packer, John Stott, and their ilk.

The above should probably last me until I’m dead.  Re those within Anglicanism who are divergent voices of dissent who attack and judge the tradition, I believe that the way to approach them is to look at them through the lens of the tradition, taking those bits that fall beyond the bounds of Scripture, the Creeds, and the 39 Articles, and providing cogent, reasonable, biblical, and traditional critique.

What about your tradition?  What are the roots and classic writings of Baptists, Mennonites, the Christian Reformed Church, Roman Catholicism, Pentecostalism?  With these in one hand, the Bible in the other, large doses of prayer, and the enlivening of the Holy Spirit, we should be more clearly drawn towards the image of the likeness of Christ than when our own idiosyncrasies take control as we read our Bibles all alone in our rooms.  Oh, also, take along a worshipping ecclesial community for the journey.  God will use them to shape you mightily as well.

The Chester Mystery Plays: Medieval Drama and the Biblical Narrative

This past weekend I was blessed to be in the audience for a staging of the Chester Mystery Plays at Victoria College at the University of Toronto (the production’s website).  These plays were performed at Chester in England every year at Whitsuntide (ie. Pentecost) until 1572, when they were banned for fear of being a potential source of Catholic rebellion against Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I.

The plays took place over the course of three days from Saturday through Monday (Monday being Victoria Day).  They begin with the Fall of Lucifer and move on to Creation and the Fall of Man, thence to certain important pieces of Old Testament history such as Cain & Abel, Abraham and Melchyzedeck, Abraham and Isaac, the giving of the Law.  Then the audience gets a taste of the life of Christ, from Nativity and the Shepherds at the end of Saturday to Crucifixion at the end of Sunday.  Monday took the audience from the Harrowing of Hell through the Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, Antichrist, and Last Judgement.

That is to say, over the course of a single weekend, your average late-medieval theatre-goer in Chester would have seen the entire sweep of the biblical narrative played out before her.  This is a very important fact.  On Sunday, our priest was encouraging us to engage in the oft-recommended practice of daily Bible reading as a way to stay connected with the Holy Spirit.  For most of Christian history, this was not possible for most of the population.  Thus, for the Church in the Middle Ages, the public proclamation and performance of Scripture was important, for such was how the people would encounter the Bible on a regular basis, being unable to read it for themselves.  This is also why icons and stained glass were vital.

And in the Chester Mystery Plays one is not simply viewing a bunch of Bible stories acted out as so often occurs in ecclesiastical drama today.  In “Cain and Abel“, Adam proclaims:

Whyle that I slepte in that place /my gost to heaven banished was; /for to see I them had grace / thinges that shall befall. . . .  Alsoe I see, as I shall saye, /that God will come the laste daye / to deeme mankynde in fleshe verey, / and flame of fyer burninge, / the good to heaven, the evell to hell. / Your childrenn this tale yee may tell.

In my mind, God coming “to deeme mankynde in fleshe verey” is a reference to the Incarnation.  Indeed, the Old Testament plays, all of which I viewed, have Christ all over the place, in Abraham and Melchyzedeck, Abraham and Isaac, Moses and the Law.  Even when Balaam blesses Israel against Balaack’s wishes, there is content about Jesu.  The Medieval mind saw Christ everywhere, and rightly so, for he permeates the fabric of Scripture if we have eyes to see Him there.

I missed Sunday, but I caught the end of the Resurrection through the Last Judgement.  Here we see Christ in action.  He is appearing and disappearing in the Upper Room.  He is blessing St. Peter and the Apostles.  He is sending His Holy Spirit, Who gives to the Apostles the ability to understand different tongues as well as boldness to proclaim the Gospel.  He defeats Antichrist and judges the peoples with justice.

If you have the opportunity to view a staging of the Chester Cycle (such as that in Chester, England, in 2013), you should.  It is a shame that they have fallen out of the tradition of English drama and of Anglican Christianity.

Eucharist and Christ’s Sacrifice

A few Sundays ago, we had a modern variant on the Eucharistic liturgy at my local Anglican church.  The Eucharistic prayer had a few lines in it regarding us congregants “giving” and “sacrificing” things to God.  The Rev. Chris King, our priest, warned us beforehand that he would be saying things a bit differently from what was printed, for he believes the idea of us bringing anything to the Communion Table is nonsense — the sacrament is entirely a gift from God and our action does not make it happen and adds nothing to it.

I agree with Chris.  And what he had to say was the reason I am a bit uncomfortable at some of the Anglo-Catholic doings of the Eucharist, for they tend to include a prayer beseeching God to accept the sacrifice we or the priest offers.  I am not sure how old that prayer is, and I don’t really have the time to research it right now.

However, the idea of the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, or the Holy Eucharist, or the Mass being a sacrifice is, indeed, very ancient.  You can find a Patristic catena testifying to this fact at Biblical Evidence for Catholicism.  I dare not presume to say that the Fathers were pre-Reformation Evangelicals.  Clearly they thought of the Sacrament of the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as a sacrifice.

Today, reading Worshiping with the Church Fathers, I became a bit more comfortable with the idea.  Christopher A. Hall, in discussing the Eucharist as a memorial of that His precious death, notes that “Holy Communion is a remembrance that makes Christ’s sacrifice present to the church in time and space.” (65)  When that sacrifice is made present in the Eucharist, the crucifixion is not repeated.  This is what many Protestants think the Roman position on the question is, including some former Catholics.  Rather, Hall writes, “It is the introduction into present time of a past event.” (65)

He quotes St. John Chrysostom:

We always offer the same oblation: therefore it is one sacrifice. . . . Christ is everywhere one, entire in this place and that, one body . . . and so, one sacrifice. . . . We offer now what was offered then, an inexhaustible offering. . . . We offer the same sacrifice: or rather we make a memorial of that sacrifice. (66, Homilies on Hebrews 3.17)

Just as the Eucharist brings back into our time the future marriage banquet of the Lamb, the eschatalogical feast we shall enjoy in the ages of ages, so also does it bring forth the past sacrifice of Christ, a sacrifice once offered, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.  We are not offering the sacrifice; Christ already has.  Yet we are seeing it reenacted with the elements of the bread and wine, and Christ’s saving grace is poured forth upon those elements, the same grace he shed with his blood on the Cross.

A. W. Tozer on the results of improper belief

In The Knowledge of the Holy, Tozer writes:

A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well.  It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse.  I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God. (2)

Throughout my reading of this book I was trying to think of how a misunderstanding of God’s attributes could lead to the results Tozer relates, for I want to desperately to believe him.

My answer was found in his chapter on the love of God.  One of the points made throughout The Knowledge of the Holy is the interrelatedness of the divine attributes.  A loss to one means a loss to the others.  And thus come the errors through a misunderstanding of God’s love.  Yes, God is love.  However, we must not overemphasise this teaching to the detriment of the other divine attributes.  We must also avoid imagining that love is God, or imagining that God’s love is the same as ours.

There are Christians abroad in my tradition (Anglican) who hold that sexual sins — same-sex sexual acts, pre-marital relations — are not actually sins, and some are even blessable.  Some such people also act as though sin in general is no big deal, or that sin only refers to the big, criminal things, such as murder or only refers to the great social injustices of our age.  This stems, I believe from a gross misunderstanding of God’s love, and, in fact, of love in general.

If God loves people, why would he condemn them for being how they are made?  If God loves people, why would he condemn them for doing things that are perfectly natural?  If God loves people, why would he wish to put any restrictions on them at all?  Does not love mean to seek the pleasure and happiness of the beloved?  If you love someone, do you really want to restrict that person’s behaviour?  A loving God cannot, therefore, condemn certain behaviours that have recently become social acceptable, for to do so would be to marginalise those who behave in such a way.

Yet if we back up and look at every vision of God in the Scriptures, from Noah to St. John the Divine, do we not get a sense of a truly majestic Being, full of grandeur, greatness, and completely different from us?  A Being whom Ezekiel finds himself at a loss of words to describe? (See Tozer, p. 7)  What, besides pure, unbounded love, are God’s attributes?  A. W. Tozer gives us:

  • Incomprehensibility
  • Holy Trinity
  • Self-existence
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Eternity
  • Infinitude
  • Immutability
  • Omniscience
  • Wisdom
  • Omnipotence
  • Transcendence
  • Omnipresence
  • Faithfulness
  • Goodness
  • Justice
  • Mercy
  • Grace
  • Holiness
  • Sovereignty

Such a one as that would surely establish boundaries for our daily living.  God condemns our wrong behaviour, be it socially acceptable or not, because He wants to see us living in the fullest, most whole way possible.  If we think that His love is like what I described above and do not take into account the other divine attributes, we will miss this point and start condoning sin.  And that leads us down a treacherous road to licentiousness and heresy.

Woe is us!

Saint of the Week: John Wesley (Pt. 1)

Today is the feast day of John and Charles Wesley  in the Anglican calendar.  John Wesley (1703-1791) is the more famous of the two famous Wesley children.  He is quite famous these days for being an “Arminian”, and thus figures in the endless theological debates you will find out in the internet.  Nevertheless, just as Calvin was more than predestination, so Wesley was more than freewill.  So if you are a Calvinist, read on.

John Wesley studied at the University of Oxford and was ordained to holy orders within the Church of England in the year 1728.  He spent a brief time helping out his father, also an Anglican priest, before returning to Oxford.  At Oxford, he discovered that his brother Charles had begun a “Holy Club.”  It is my understanding that this club consisted of young men who met together to read the Greek New Testament and to life lives of holiness.  Their standard of holy living was set so high and their lifestyle so reflected a holy method of living that they were called “Methodists.”*

John Wesley’s “method” of life ran thus:

  1. Begin and end every day with God; and sleep not immoderately.
  2. Be diligent in your calling.
  3. Employ all spare hours in religion as able.
  4. All hollidays [should be devoted to religion].
  5. Avoid drunkards and busybodies.
  6. Avoid curiosity, and all useless employments and knowledge.
  7. Examine yourself every night.
  8. Never on any account pass a day without setting aside at least an hour for devotion.
  9. Avoid all manner of passion.

At Oxford, the Wesleys also encountered the Church Fathers, classical literature, Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ, Jeremy Taylor’s Holy Living and Holy Dying, and the recent bestseller A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law (see my post here).

In the Fathers, Kempis, Taylor, and Law, the Wesleys will have found a high call, a call to live holy lives centred upon Christ and his love for us, lives of faith that produces good works.  In his sermon on fasting, we see that John Wesley strove to steer a course between the extremes of those who believe that good works are nothing and those who believe they are everything.  He believed that they were the result of faith but that faith is what saves us.

After graduation, he went to Georgia where he met with little success.  In 1738, after his return to Britain, he started hanging out with the Moravians, and at a Moravian Love Feast on May 24, his “heart was strangely warmed.”

Wesley now knew that none of his holy living, no amount of partaking of communion, none of his prayers, none of his theology, no success as a missionary would or could save him.  All that could save John Wesley was Jesus Christ and his gift of grace freely given.**  He was truly converted to Christ.

And so, from 1739 to the end of his long life in 1791, John Wesley was committed to evangelism, to bringing this Good News of Jesus Christ to the people of England, and to waking up the Church of England.

More on John Wesley to come . . .

*I have also heard people say that Wesley was called a “Methodist” because of his method of organising the movement he started.  Somehow that is less convincing.

**To people who want to argue against Arminianism with some Augustinian arguments about grace being inescapable and therefore freewill illusory — not here.  Not now.  Embrace Wesley as a brother, see how much like you he is.

A Most Serious Call

Thus far, in our journeys for 2010, the Classic Christian small group has sought out God in the story of Martin Luther in film; we have seen His revelation to us in the Bible with John Cassian as guide; we have seen God’s particular revelation to St. Paul and been exhorted to read and apply the Scriptures by John Chrysostom; we have encountered God in the liturgy of Sarum, the incense, the music, the Eucharist; and we have seen that the fullness of His revelation to humanity has come in these last days in the Person of His Incarnate Son, Jesus, fully God and fully Man, as explained by Pope St. Leo the Great.

Standing with this knowledge of the living God whom we have encountered, the small group stepped forth into Lent this past Tuesday.  And stepped forth into our considerations of the disciplined life, for our Lord Jesus Christ tells us to take up our cross daily, then come and follow him, and to deny ourselves.  He says that if we love him, we shall obey his commands.

St. James says that faith without works is dead, that we are saved by faith and works, that the true religion God accepts is looking after widows and orphans.  Thus, while we have already in this group affirmed the teaching of Martin Luther that we are justified by faith alone, still we cannot avoid the call to live a disciplined life.

Bonhoeffer assures the readers of The Cost of Discipleship that to exhort people to live the disciplined, obedient life will not be to lay a still heavier burden on people, for “Jesus asks nothing of us without giving us the strength to perform it.”  Here he echoes John Wesley’s sermon “On Working Out Our Own Salvation.”

And thus William Law (1686-1761) stands up and makes his Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, the first chapter of which we read on Tuesday.  Law was a high church Anglican clergyman who spent most of his career tutoring Edward Gibbon, Sr,* and living in a semi-monastic community giving help to the poor, educating women, and building housing for destitute widows.  A trained philosopher and theologian, he engaged frequently in the intellectual debates of his day, defending traditional views of Scripture and God as well as calling people to live holy lives.

And what a call it is!  Behold paragraph 2 of chapter 1:

He, therefore, is the devout man, who lives no longer to his own will, or the way and spirit of the world, but to the sole will of God, who considers God in everything, who serves God in everything, who makes all the parts of his common life parts of piety, by doing everything in the Name of God, and under such rules as are conformable to His glory.

William Law leaves no room for waffling, no room for compromise with the world.  He proclaims that the majority of seemingly pious people, although devoted to attendance at public prayer, have the same cares, concerns, loves, fears, hatreds, friendships, pastimes, ways of spending money, ways of wasting time, as the general heathen public of England.

He protests this, saying,

It is as great an absurdity to suppose holy prayers and Divine petitions, without a holiness of life suitable to them, as to suppose a holy and Divine life without prayers.

Indeed, he argues, “If we are to follow Christ, it must be in our common way of spending every day.”  My comment on this last night?  BAM!  William Law pulls no punches.  How unpopular this would be for a society that wanted its religion and its frivolity too!  How harsh this would sound to the ears of the aristocrat who was at Church every feast day yet still paraded around town in the finest beaver-felt top hat and shining brass buttons, puffed up with pride for all to see, giving money only occasionally and only to the Worthy Poor?

Yet is not the call of Christ something this radical?  I have been reading not only Law but also Bonhoeffer of late, let alone all the monks in my past.  The call of Christ is this radical.  He strikes at the root of our loves, fears, lives.  Everything about our lives is to be subordinated to his easy yoke and light burden — from our rising in the morning to our resting at night, from our spending money to our spending time, from how we read to what we read to when we read.

Jesus calls us to follow him.  Are you truly able to drop your nets, leave your plough in your field, walk away from the tax collecting booth, sell all your possessions and follow?  Count the cost.  It is high, yet the rewards are higher.

*Father of Jr, the historian.

Sarum Again

I have posted previously on the Use of Sarum here and have a translation of Sarum Vespers available here.  The Use of Sarum was the most popular liturgy in the British Isles at the time of the Reformation and is the foundation for the Book of Common Prayer and other traditional English liturgy.

Last night, the Classic Christian small group went on a field trip to St. Thomas’ Anglican Church on Huron St.  There we worshipped as our ancestors would have worshipped 500 years ago.  We worshipped in Latin*, using England’s most popular pre-Reformation liturgy.  This event was more than a re-enactment of a deceased/little-used ritual.  It was more than a performance for our benefit.  It was, indeed, worship — “To pay homage to or, literally, to ascribe worth to some person or thing.  Hence, worship embraces the whole of the reverent life, including piety and liturgy.” (Eerdmans Bible Dictionary)

The occasion for our worshipping in this archaic yet beautiful manner was Candlemas, aka The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, aka The Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple, aka the Occursus Domini (Simeon’s encounter with the Lord Christ).  It’s called Candlemas because before the Mass there is a procession with lighted candles through the church — both the processing and the congregation hold said candles in hand.

Before the procession, there were some prayers in Latin sung in plainsong by the priest (the congregation had, here and elsewhere, the role of singing, “Et cum spiritu tuo.”), and then they processed — clergy in fancy robes, three crucifers walking abreast with quite a tall cross in the centre, a banner-carrier (Andrew from the small group, in fact), a choir (which included four “Rulers” in white copes), various other people.  Two large tapers were borne before them all.  The choir sang beautifully in Latin throughout, concluding with “Videte Miraculum” by Thomas Tallis as they stood at the back of the church.

During this procession, the incense was abundant.  I have said on other occasions, “The air was thick with incense.”  This time it was very true, up to the ceiling, with a haze of smoke between us and the holy table.  When the censer was near our pew, I even had trouble breathing.  Smokey Tom’s, indeed!

Following the procession was a form of the Sarum Ordinary of the Mass.  It was an interesting experience.  The choir sang beautifully in Latin, singing a psalm and the Kyrie while the priest prayed the Preparation and Confession quietly at the holy table.  This was the general practice throughout, in fact.  We heard the Collect of the Day, the lessons, the Gospel, the Creed, the homily (of course), the offertory sentence, the preface, and a few other prayers, but the bulk of the actual Eucharistic liturgy was said silently by the priest, including the Words of Institution.

While the priest prayed quietly, the choir sang beautiful things, mostly by Thomas Tallis, and all focussed on the feast of the day.  It was very beautiful, the sort of singing that raises the spirit up to God.  I spent some of the time while the choir prayed praying quietly, some just listening, sometimes thinking, sometimes reading the prayers of the priest.  When the choir sang the Creed, I joined because a loud man behind me also did.

Liturgy, however, is not just the words.  This was evident in the engagement of all my senses in the worship last night.  The incense and the thrice-snuffed candle in my hand drew my sense of smell into the worship.  The vestments, the banner, the statues, the crosses, the light from the candles at the front drew my eyes into the act of worship.  The sound of beautiful, heavenly singing engaged my ears.  At the Eucharist, I felt the Body of Our Lord on my hand, on my tongue.  I tasted the bread and the wine.

We also stood, bowed, sat, and knelt.  Apparently, kneeling is not part of the Use of Sarum, but old habits die hard, and after the choir had sung the Sanctus, we all hit our knees.  The leaflet told us when to bow; most of the rest of the time we stood, though we sat for the homily and part of the Canon of the Mass.  When the time came for us to partake of Holy Communion, we walked to the front of the church to the holy table, and knelt at the railing.  This, too, is a liturgical act, a reenacting of our choice to stand and walk to Christ every day of our lives.  So we stand and approach his Table and feast on the Marriage Banquet of the Lamb.

Thus, although we of the congregation did not pray aloud as much as I prefer, I worshipped the Lord last night.  I read the prayers in my heart as the choir sang, I prayed the Jesus Prayer several times, I praised Him for his beauty and the majesty set forth before us.  The rarity of such beautiful, majestic worship is one of the tragedies of the Reformation (and Vatican II).  I’m not sure I could worship according to Sarum Use every Sunday, but I would not be opposed to worshipping in such an ornate, florid, beauteous manner on occasion.

*If an English translation is provided, does it still contravene the Articles of Religion?

The Allure of Eastern Orthodoxy

I just finished Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris.  He admits that there is the possibility of some sort of being having designed and caused the universe; he just sees no reason to believe this being to be the God of the Bible.  Nor does he see any way to solidly argue the evidence for the existence or character of any such being.  The lack of incontrovertible proof leaves him much unswayed by theists.

And I thought that, this is true.  The physical sciences cannot measure the metaphysical.  God is metaphysical.  Thus, Dawkins and Harris are blind; so are you and I.  The only sure way for us to know that/if there is a divine being would be revelation.

Harris spends large portions of his book attacking the Bible, but rarely with any adroitness, and what I felt was, “It would be much easier to be Eastern Orthodox right now . . . !”

How so?

First, many of the idiocies with which he accuses Christianity (such as torturing heretics [St. Aug] or killing them [St. Tom Aq]) are lacking in pre-Constantinian Christianity (because Christianity is only dangerous when twisted and wielded in the hands of the powerful).  The East has a stronger connection with this era than anyone else.  And why is this?

Tradition (this is also my second thing).

If there is a God, and if he revealed himself to us, and if his revelation was encapsulated in the man, Jesus, then those who were/are closest to Jesus have the truest view of who he is.  And the many troubles and difficulties Harris sees in the Bible are dealt with by a systematic reading of Scripture and by the concept of tradition.  If Jesus handed on his teachings to His Apostles, and these traditions were handed on down the ages, they would help provide the key to proper interpretation of the Bible.  And this is what you have in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

In the West, we used to have it with Rome and the Anglicans, but both of these institutions have recklessly dived into the world of modernity as modernity flounders and sinks.