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Archive for the ‘Liturgy’ Category

“We may be confident that liturgical worship is the best of all. There is some loss in the use of printed words; but there is a greater gain. We have in them the accumulated wisdom and beauty of the Christian Church, the garnered excellence of the saints. We are by them released from the accidents of time and place. Above all we are preserved against the worst dangers of selfishness: in the common prayer we join together in a great fellowship that is as wide as the world; and we are guided, not by the limited notions of our own priest, nor by the narrow impulses of our own desires, but by the mighty voice that rises from the general heart of Christendom.”

– Percy Dearmer, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, 1912

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“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Todd Granger and Jill Martin were wonderful to allow us to come and take over their lovely Chatham County home as we gathered to commemorate The Great Vigil of Easter this past Holy Saturday.

As daylight receded, we gathered outside to kindle the new fire, marking Christ’s transition from death back into life. We lit the Pashcal Candle from the new fire and processed it while declaring to the gathering darkness:

“The light of Christ. Thanks be to God.”
“The light of Christ. Thanks be to God.”
“The light of Christ. Thanks be to God.”

As we entered the darkened house, each was given a taper. It was a beautiful scene. The Exsultent was sung as it reminded us:

This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry land.  

This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life.

This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave.

How wonderful and beyond our knowing, O God, is your mercy and loving-kindness to us, that to redeem a slave, you gave a Son.

How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away. It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn. It casts out pride and hatred, and brings peace and concord.

How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and man is reconciled to God.

Nick and Jill

We then listened earnestly to the record of God’s saving deeds in history. Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea is described in Exodus 14:10-15:1. Isaiah 55:1-11 describes God’s salvation offered freely to all. And a new heart and a new spirit was described in Ezekiel 36:24-28.

There were no Baptisms or Confirmations so we all joined our voices in The Renewal of Baptismal Vows. Having recognized that in our Baptism we die and are raised to new life in Christ, we then celebrated Christ’s new life by lighting the candles on the altar,  throwing on the house lights, and proclaiming with loud voices and bells ringing, “Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.”

We heard powerful words from our tradition in St. John Chrysostom’s “Easter Homily.” Christ is risen and Hell has been embittered, abolished, mocked, purged, despoiled, and bound in chains! We celebrated Holy Communion. We sang. We alleluia-ed. Afterwards, we feasted together. I still lament not having one of Nancy Robinson’s cupcakes!  There was a bonfire and fireworks.

What a wonderful and joyful evening. To Christ be the glory!

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Last night we gathered beneath the shadow of the cross to remember and receive by faith the last hours of our Lord. The Good Friday liturgy begins with a solemn procession, silence, and this prayer:

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The prophet Isaiah (52:13-53:12) was read, reminding us that Israel had long been waiting for this servant of God to come and bring deliverance and forgiveness of sins.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the  chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The Passion Gospel was then read by a number of readers. The congregation voiced the cries of the crowd and those who would have Jesus crucified. We stood when he arrived at Golgotha. We bowed when he, “gave up his spirit”

I was grateful to be given the opportunity to preach the Good Friday homily. I spoke on Jesus’ choice to restrain himself in order to be obedient to his Father’s will. His obedience in going to the tree of Golgotha undid the destruction caused by the disobedience of the first humans who went to the tree in Eden and ate of its fruit.

When I spoke of Jesus taking all of the the  sin and wickedness, disobedience, suffering, and sorrow of the world into and onto himself, I was unexpectedly moved emotionally – even to tears. It was the first time that’s ever happened when I’ve preached. As I’ve processed that experience, I’m still not exactly certain what happened. The Spirit kindled something deep within me that I had not planned and was not expecting. I was simultaneously overcome with the reality of the brokenness of this world and Christ’s suffering for it.

Looking out over the faces of the congregation, knowing their stories, their struggles and their griefs, it was as if I glimpsed the devastating extent of the Fall. Internally, I was also aware of the damaging effects of sin in my life and the life of my family. In that moment, I was awakened  unexpectedly to our desperate need for a Savior.

I woke up at 3:15 this morning for some unknown reason and I was pondering this experience. I was gratefully reminded of some words I’d read by Lancelot Andrewes recently:

Give tears then: give the grace of tears.
Give me, Lord, this great grace. 
Tears such as Thou didst give to David, to Jeremiah, to Peter, and to Mary Magdalene. 
Tears gain everything.

We finished the service with The Solemn Collects, the veneration of the cross, and a magnificent rendition of Bach’s passion story according to St. Matthew by Beth Linnartz, Ehsan Samei, and Todd Granger (Aus Liebe Will Mein Heiland Sterben).

Again, what a feast of feasts, these days are! And it’s not over yet! Tonight a number of us from Holy Trinity will gather for the The Great Vigil. Then tomorrow, we will sing, “Christ the Lord is risen today,” with our brothers and sisters at All Saints.

I confess, I am greatly looking forward to the end of  Lent. It has been a long and challenging one in many respects. Not just for me but for those whom I love. I agree with Tom Wright, after such a long Lent, we need more than one day to celebrate the magnitude of the resurrection. “We need days of morning prayers and champagne,” to rightly linger in the joy of this celebration!

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Palm Sunday Procession in PBO

Palm Sunday Procession in PBO

What a blessed day the Lord’s Day was yesterday. Three services: two at All Saints Church and one at Holy Trinity.  To reenact our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and to cross over the threshold of Holy Week together with these two communities was exceedingly meaningful. There is no other season in the Church year more special to me than this one. The liturgies and the prayers are incredibly moving.

It begins with such a flurry of ceremony with the liturgy for the “The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday.”

I love to gather “at a place apart from the church,” as the prayer book recommends, for the “The Liturgy of the Palms.” The words of the opening prayer enjoin our hearts and minds asking for God’s merciful help to assist us, “that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby you have given us life and immortality.”

The blessing over the palms reminds us to hold before us the triumph of Christ our King during Holy Week:

The Lord be with you. And also with you.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is right to praise you Almighty God, for the acts of love by which you have redeemed us through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. On this day he entered into the holy city of Jerusalem in triumph, and was proclaimed as King of kings by those who spread their garments and branches of palms along his way. Let these branches be for us signs of his victory, and grant that we who bear them in his name may ever hail him as our King, and follow him in the way that leads to eternal life; who lives and reigns in glory with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen

No small joy of this season are the hymns we get to sing. Think of them, old and new, brimming with God’s love.

“All Glory, Laud and Honor”

All glory, laud and honor, / To Thee, Redeemer, King, / To Whom the lips of children / Made sweet hosannas ring.

“What Wondrous Love is This”

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!/What wondrous love is this, O my soul! /What wondrous love is this/  That caused the Lord of bliss / To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul, / To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”

Why should I gain from His reward? / I cannot give an answer / But this I know with all my heart / His wounds have paid my ransom

At Holy Trinity, I particularly enjoyed responding to the reading of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew with the words of “O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded.” We read from 27: 1-31 and responded with the first two stanzas of the song. Then vv. 32-44, again responding in song. We finished the reading and responded with these incredible words:

What language shall I borrow
to thank thee, dearest friend,
for this thy dying sorrow,
thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine for ever!
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
outlive my love for thee.

Thank you, Todd for your creativity. This was a wonderful way to gather around the Passion narrative while having time to pause for reverently responsive reflection.

What a rich treasure we’ve been given. The liturgy, the prayers, the music bring us right into the events that Scripture unfolds before us and allows us to be witnesses to these saving acts and to enter into them and receive them as our own by faith.  O Christian, do not deprive yourself of the great joys of these days!  It is a fabulous feast that is set before you!  Come, and behold the marvel of all marvels, and join in singing that Love that no death could destroy!

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The Journey of Egeria, Abbess and pilgrim to Jerusalem, late fourth century, Pilgrimage 30–1: SC 296, pp. 270–4, Egeria: Diary of a Pilgrimage, tr. Gringras, pp. 103–5.

The following day, Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week, which they call here the Great Week. On this Sunday morning … everyone assembles for the liturgy according to custom in the major church, called the martyrium. It is called the martyrium because it is on Golgotha, behind the cross, where the Lord suffered his Passion, and is therefore a shrine of martyrdom. As soon as everything has been celebrated in the major church as usual, but before the dismissal is given, the Archdeacon raises his voice and first says: ‘Throughout this whole week, beginning tomorrow at the ninth hour, let us gather in the martyrium, in the major church.’ Then he raises his voice a second time, saying: ‘Today let us all be ready to assemble at the seventh hour at the Eleona.’ When the dismissal has been given in the martyrium or major church, the bishop is led, to the accompaniment of hymns, to the Anastasis, and there all ceremonies are accomplished which customarily take place every Sunday at the Anastasis following the dismissal from the martyrium. Then everyone retires to his home for a quick meal, so that at the beginning of the seventh hour everyone will be ready to assemble in the church on the Eleona, by which I mean the Mount of Olives, where the grotto in which the Lord taught is located. At the seventh hour all the people go up to the church on the Mount of Olives.… The bishop sits down, hymns and antiphons appropriate to the day and place are sung, and there are likewise readings from the Scriptures. As the ninth hour approaches, they move up, chanting hymns, to the Imbomon, that is, to the place from which the Lord ascended into heaven; and everyone sits down there. When the bishop is present, the people are always commanded to be seated, so that only the deacons remain standing. And there hymns and antiphons proper to the day and place are sung, interspersed with appropriate readings from the Scriptures and prayers.

As the eleventh hour draws near, that particular passage from Scripture is read in which the children bearing palms and branches came forth to meet the Lord, saying: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ The bishop and all the people rise immediately, and then everyone walks down from the top of the Mount of Olives, with the people preceding the bishop and responding continually with ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’ to the hymns and antiphons. All the children who are present here, including those who are not yet able to walk because they are too young and therefore are carried on their parents’ shoulders; all of them bear branches, some carrying palms, others, olive branches. And the bishop is led in the same manner as the Lord once was led. From the top of the mountain as far as the city, and from there through the entire city as far as the Anastasis, everyone accompanies the bishop … the whole way on foot, and this includes distinguished ladies and men of consequence, reciting the responses all the while; and they move very slowly so that the people will not tire. By the time they arrive at the Anastasis, it is already evening. Once they have arrived there, even though it is evening, vespers is celebrated; then a prayer is said at the cross and the people are dismissed.

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The baptism of Jesus

Lord Jesus Christ, who didst humble thyself to take the baptism of sinful men, and wast forthwith declared to be the Son of God: Grant that we who have been baptized into thee may rejoice to be the sons of God, and servants of all; for thy name’s sake, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Prayer Book of the Church of South India

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Advent Litany

In joyful expectation let us pray to our Savior and Redeemer saying, “Lord Jesus, come soon!”

O Wisdom, from the mouth of the Most High, you reign over all things to the ends of the earth: come and teach us how to live.
Lord Jesus, come soon!
O Lord, and head of the house of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and you  gave the law on Sinai: come with outstretched arm and ransom us.
Lord Jesus, come soon!
O Branch of Jesse, standing as a sign among the nations, all kings will keep silence before you and all peoples will summon you to their aid: come, set us free and delay no more.
Lord Jesus, come soon!
O Key of David and sceptre of the house of Israel, you open and none can shut; you shut and none can open: come and free the captives from prison.
Lord Jesus, come soon!
O Morning Star, splendour of the light eternal and bright Sun of righteousness: come and enlighten all who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Lord Jesus, come soon!
O King of the nations, you alone can fulfil their desires: Cornerstone, you make opposing nations one: come and save the creature you fashioned from clay.
Lord Jesus, come soon!
O Emmanuel, hope of the nations and their Saviour: come and save us, Lord our God.
Lord Jesus, come soon!

Hasten, O Father, the coming of your kingdom; and grant that we your servants, who now live by faith, may with joy behold your Son at his coming in glorious majesty; even Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

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