Made ready to hear (ii)


Receptivity to God

I have described de Vogüé’s insight at some length because it seems to me that it is important to realize that “saying the Psalms” or Psalmody has two characteristics. It is our prayer to God, but it is so only because it is first word of God: Scripture. As word of God the Psalm speaks to us, “ploughs the soil of our hearts” to paraphrase St Caesarius to prepare us for prayer as such. The Scripture directed at us – and our meditative reading/singing of it – enables us to actually pray and commune with God the Trinity in the most intimate (Evagrian) meaning of the word “prayer.”

What is it, therefore, that Psalmody (as Scripture directed at us) does in us? “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you (John 15, 3).” It seems to me that our Lord is not referring to our physical appearance but rather concerning the condition of our hearts. Our hearts must become receptive of God. This is what the continuous flow of the words of Scripture and our trained attentiveness are to accomplish: receptivity to God. St. Isaac the Syrian wrote:

When a man’s thoughts are totally immersed in the delight of pursuing the wisdom treasured in the words of Scripture by means of the faculty that extracts understanding from them, then he puts the world behind his back and forgets everything in it, and he blots out of his soul all memories that form images embodying the world. Often he does not even remember the employment of habitual thoughts which visit human nature, and his soul remains in ecstasy by reason of those new encounters that arise from the sea of the Scripture’s mysteries.

St. Isaac the Syrian, “Ascetical Homilies,” I.

The mysteries of Scripture (especially as contained in the Psalms) draw our thoughts in with an incredible power – provided we let it. Attentive hearing of the word pushes out the thoughts, memories, concepts, and other distractions of the world from our thoughts. Whatever thought-world exists in our thoughts it is built up by the concepts, memories, etc. of things we have seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt in the world in which we live. Attentive hearing/reading of Scripture provides concepts and memories from Scripture so that the “memory of God” could be firmly planted in our minds. “By establishing the memory of God within the mind, prayer makes one’s thinking ‘become heaven’; in this way, prayer activates the mind’s function of being the ‘temple of God’. This, it seems to me, is what Jesus was talking about when He said that we are clean because of the word He has spoken to us.

Scripture is given to us first as God addressing us. Scripture, even in the Anglican Breviary, comes to us as a given. As such it impacts us. Cleanses us. It transforms the cluttered pagan temple that our minds are into the Temple of God. Praying the Psalms and Scripture by means of the Breviary (in sharp contrast with such derivative and minimalist things as the Book of Common Prayer) is first God’s addressing us by Scripture. Furthermore the way Scripture is itself read according to the lectionary (or in antiphons, responses, graduals, etc.) narrows the exegetical possibilities. In other words Scripture is not just given as a book, it is given as distributed over the seasons and feasts of the Church so that we might rightly interpret it. Though reading Scripture from cover to cover is commendable, it is not understood in that way. Scripture is to be understood as given in the context of liturgy. Viewed in this way, we do not lose the Psalms (or any other parts of Scripture) as reading of Scripture where it addresses us, rather there is a double movement. From God proceed His words addressing us. Being God’s words they remain His and return to Him but bringing those of us who have accepted the address with it. So that as we are addressed by God via Scripture (reading Scripture as Scripture), we are (re) united with God via Scripture (Scripture as prayer).

It seems to me that de Vogüé’s lament above, is inaccurate. By gaining the Psalter as prayer, we have not lost it as Scripture directed at us. Rather the Psalter remains Scripture addressed to us, but by gaining the Psalter as prayer we have a means to pray according to the will of the Father (John 14, 13-14) which is the same as praying in the name of Jesus (John 16, 23-28). In this respect it is interesting to note that in vs. 28 Jesus – who is the Word of God – came from the Father and returns to Him. Notice the dynamics here: the Word of God proceeds from the Father > addresses us > returns to the Father. What is Jesus? is he not the Word become flesh ? (John 1, 14) Who is Jesus addressing? and to whom is He returning? What does His coming and return mean in the context of praying in His name ?  I find it impossible to believe that there is no significance in Jesus framing prayer in His name in the very context in which He speaks of His coming and return to the Father – especially since we know that He is in fact the-Word-of-God-made-flesh. The Word of God comes to us, addresses us. The word of God returns to God. Praying in Jesus’ name, it seems to me, is to pray as Jesus would. The Word of God addresses us in the Incarnation, having become flesh (human) the Word returns to the Father. The Word does not return empty but brings humanity with Him (Isaiah 55, 11). When asked to teach us to pray Jesus gave us the Our Father. We pray the words the Word gave us. Surely the Our Father is both Scripure addressed to us, as well as prayer addressed to God. The word is given to us and retuns to Him who gave it. The opening of John’s Gospel the Word was with God contains a sense of orientation of the Word toward God (more noticeable in the Greek). It is that orientation toward God that the addressing of the Word accomplishes in us, and is expressed by us when we pray. Our (re) connection with the Father is in Christ and that is very well seen in how Scripture is both directed at us and used as prayer directed back to God who sent it. Because Jesus Christ is the Word of God addressing us, while simultaneously being oriented toward the Father.

Scripture makes us ready to hear. Makes us receptive to God (if we let it). Having become receptive to God Scripture orients us to God because the Word of God is so oriented. Psalmody is therefore hearing and praying. Not one or the other.

Gregory +

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Filioque


Often have I heard/seen the filioque discussed, debated, and fretted about. Not often have I seen it explained clearly, cogently, succinctly and accurately. Stephen Holmes has the distinct advantage of doing precisely this in only a few words:

filioque“Within the bounds of classical Trinitarianism, the filioque debate was, in retrospect, inevitable: two relations of origin are proposed, the generation of the Son and the spiration of the Spirit. There are thus four relational terms: generating; being generated; spirating; and being spirated. These four terms then need to be divided between three hypostases. Two options appear natural and obvious: to identify the One who generates with the One who spirates [the Eastern Orthodox option], thus teaching the Father as sole cause and denying the filiqoue; or, following Thomas Aquinas, to affirm the filioque[the Western Catholic option] by making spiration a joint action of Father and Son, and so a non-hypostatic causal principle.”

The Quest for the Trinity, Stephen R. Holmes, (Kindle edition at 58%).

Putting it that way there seems to be no problem as far as theology is concerned with the filioque. Both “options” remain fully and undoubtedly within the patristic trinitarian framework. Neither “from the Father and the Son” nor “from the Father alone” are mandated by the Creed of Nicea-Constantinopel. But here the question must turn to the authority of the Creed as an expression of the mind of the Church (and thereby the voice of the Holy Spirit). Can the Creed be changed? Re-interpreted? and if so who has that authority? First and foremost authority in the Church is God’s. But who or what is God’s “organ” of speaking and acting authoritatively in the Church? The papal addition of the filioque to the Creed of Nicea-Constantinopel asserts that the Pope of Rome is that organ since the official addition to the Creed of the filioque was a papal act not a conciliar one. This is what should be controversial about the filioque. Not the theological content of the doctrine itself. Underneath the filioque lies the issue of papal authority and its limits. The Eastern Orthodox rightly question – nay strongly object to – the assertion that papal authority is not limited by tradition (including Scripture) but that tradition is (apparently) subject to papal authority. Clergy, especially bishops (including the Pope), should understand that they are “guardians of the tradition” not its inventors or innovators. It seems reasonable to me as a Western Catholic that the filioque be dropped from the Creed. This constitutes a clear message concerning authority in the Church and, it cannot be denied, an acknowledgment that in this the Eastern Orthodox are (and have always been) correct. It can also not be denied that the theology of filioque is simply classical, patristic trinitarianism and does not conflate hypostases, and certainly does not constitute a heresy. In that much the Western Catholics are (and have always been) correct.

In other words the solution to this problem, which has surfaced on my facebook feed several times in the past few weeks, is relatively straight forward. It is also as simple as it is straight forward. Drop filioque from the Creed (with its implications for papal authority) stop bitching about it being heretical (with its implication that filioque falls well within classical, patristic theological borders).

It will never happen though.

Gregory Wassen +

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Made Ready to hear


To pray is to be made ready to hear. This book [Worship as a Revelation] springs from the understanding that praying is a kind of hearing – not a mere opening of the ears, but a trained attentiveness in a habit acquired over years, even decades; a directedness towards in a particular manner. ‘I pray you …’ is a construction now rarely heard in contempoary speech, but once it meant a gracious form of address, attempting to draw towards one the attention of one greater than oneself, and an openness for them to speak, to act, to direct their attention to the one uttering the request.

Layrence Paul Hemming, Worship as a Revelation, p. 1.

Adelbert de Vogüé and saying the Psalms

Even though prayer is indeed a divine conversation it is also an act of us listening to God – our conversation partner. The content of prayer is structured around the Scripture and the Psalter. It has been observed by the great Benedictine scholar Adelbert de Vogüé observed that “like the other books of Scripture, the psalter is chiefly the word of God, inspired writing. It is on this ground that the psalm precedes the prayer at the office. Before man addresses the word of prayer to God, he listens to the word which God says to him (“The Rule of St. Benedict: A Doctrinal and Spiritual Commentary,” p. 142-3).” This observation refers to the Egyptian (4th century) monastic form of Psalmody. Psalms or as, St. John Cassian says, about ten verses of a Psalm would be recited after which a silence and – a brief – prayer followed. Evidently the Psalm is not considered as actual prayer but as preparatory to prayer. The Psalm, read by one monk alone, is God addressing us by means of Scripture. The Prayer which follows the Psalm is the fruit of having read/heard it. De Vogüé makes the point with a quote from St. Caesarius: “Saying a Psalm is like sowing in a field: praying (orare) is like burying seed and covering it over by ploughing (arare) a second time (p. 143).” The word play can, sadly, not be translated. It stands to reason that the prayer following the Psalm is a reaction to the Psalm. The Psalm engenders prayer and it seems likely (we have no written records of those Psalm-prayers) that the prayer would be structured by images, concepts, even words of the Psalm itself (p. 144). De Vogüé observes that “this law of dialogue, in which God always takes the initiative, is the same which governs the most ancient prayer of the Church: the readings of the liturgical assembly precede the prayer of the faithful and priestly Eucharist (p. 143).”

That is certainly an interesting observation, and likely to be quite correct. But de Vogüé also observes that many Psalms have the character of man’s prayer to God. The Psalms evidently have a double function: 1. they prepare for prayer; 2. they are prayer. “To have said the Psalms is already to have prayed (p. 144).” This is why the Psalm-prayer eventually disappears from the Office and its place is now (in the West) occupied by the Gloria (Glory be to the Father. etc.). The conception of Psalmody as prayer prevails and is predominant – writes de Vogüé – in the Rule of St. Benedict and would eventually almost entirely crow out the understanding of Psalmody as God’s address to man (p. 148). Though I sympathize with de Vogüé as it concerns losing an important aspect of the Divine Office (Psalmody as word of God directed at us), I do not believe things are quite as dark as he seems to suggest. In my post concerning “Prayer as entering a divine conversation” I have spelled out quite clearly that prayer is not created by us, but is given to us. To view Psalmody as prayer does not necessarily eliminate the aspect of Scripture addressing us. A Psalm is simply both the word directed at us, and our prayer directed to God. Prayer is a conversation consisting of two-way traffic. We need to be made ready to hear.

(to be concluded)

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The Manifestation of Christ …


“Theology – contrary to common definitions – is not speech about God. It is reflective deliberation on the work of faith, the opus Dei, as St. Benedict calls it in his Rule, is the practice of worship, the sacred liturgy itself, and nothing less. It is through the sacred liturgy that the joining of heaven to earth comes to be understood, and culminates in making present who the Christ is by giving us understanding and experience of him. We do not pray in order to speak to God, but so that God can address us. In worship we return to God the love once offered to us and on our behalf through the sacrifice of his beloved Son. Worship, grounded in atonement, is therefore primarily toward God and only secondarily for us. The worship of the Church is divinely instituted: in Old Testament and New, God establishes not only that we should worship, but how. God establishes the Church for the sake of making manifest who for us God is: ‘it is to the holiness of the faithful that the hierarchical structure of the Church is totally ordered.’ This manifestation takes place through the cycle of the sacred liturgy: its work is to make us fit for heaven, to enable God to make saints of us, adopted, divinized, sons and daughters: brothers and sisters to the only-begotten who is not adopted but is Son by right. Prayer is first and foremost the prayer of the Church, and it i offered in her precincts. Central to every prayer and every text employed in the sacred liturgy of the Church is its soteriological meaning – its capacity to save us – and its anagogical meaning. ‘Anagogical’ means ‘capacity to lift up,’ literally, in this case, to raise us to the heavens, to the dwelling place of the saints on high and to the God who stretches out his hand to rule from his cherubim throne.”

Laurence Paul Hemming, Worship as a revelation, p. 1-2.

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Prayer: entering a Divine Conversation


The Divine Office as contained in the Anglican Breviary begins with Matins (p. B1 for Sundays). In spite of the impression that perhaps Matins is the first Office of the liturgical day it is in fact not so. The first Office of Sunday is the 1st Vespers of Sunday (p. B27). The first Psalm of the Divine Office is not Psalm 1 (as given in Matins for Sunday) but in fact Psalm 110. The same is true for the Divine Office according to the Rule of St. Benedict which also begins with the 1st Vespers of Sunday and with the same Psalm.

The introductory versicles are our plea to God for His divine help in being able to pray at all. The plea itself is not a plea “made up” by a committee of Bishops or experts, but is in fact a quote from Scripture – the word of God. “O Lord open thou my lips, and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.” The versicle and its response are taken from Psalm 51: 15. The other opening verislces from Scripture are, of course, taken from Psalm 70: 1. The latter begin all the Hours except Matins which begins with Psalm 51:15. They are in the singular (me) and not, as the Prayer Book distorts it, in the plural. The message of the opening versicles is in fact that “prayer” is an already established given, not something we create or make up. Prayer happens on God’s initiative, not ours. What may seem a small change in the 1552 Prayer Book is in fact a negation of the “givenness” of prayer and an (unintended ? ) assertion of the malleability of prayer by human subjects. It asserts our initiative and control in rivalry to God’s. The better practice therefore – in spite of the Anglican Breviary’s apparent concession to “strict Prayer Book usage” (p. A3) – is to follow the traditional and scriptural usage. The very words of Scripture “given” to us by God are the gate through which we enter prayer. It literally fulfills St. Pauls words to us in Romans that:

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings.

Romans 8, 26

The comment accompanying this verse on drbo.org informs us that: “The Spirit is said to ask, and desire for the saints, and to pray in us; inasmuch as he inspireth prayer, and teacheth us to pray.” Prayer is clearly on God’s initiative and he teaches us by giving us the Scripture itself as the building blocks for our prayer. Spontaneous extemporaneous prayer is not necessarily to be the preferred mode for prayer in spite of many assertions to the contrary heard today. Again what is assumed by so-called spontaneous or extemporaneous prayer is that prayer is malleable. It presumes that I am (or we) doing prayer and God first comes in as the One who listens to our prayer (rather than as the One who first initiated it). Prayer is treated as first and foremost as a human and not a divinely given activity. Such an approach is fundamentally in error. Prayer, such as traditionally given to us, is first and foremost a divine activity into which we are graciously allowed to enter.

This point is made very clear in the first Psalm used for the Divine Office: Psalm 110:

The Lord said unto my Lord …

The Psalm presents to us a divine conversation between Father and Son which is already ongoing. The human subject does not begin prayer and does not create the content for prayer either. God the Divine Trinity does. The Divine Spirit – as we saw above – is the means by which we are inserted into the conversation. Prayer is, to quote St. Evagrius, the mind’s conversation with God (On Prayer, 3http://www.holy-transfiguration.org/imag_lib/Trinity.jpg). The Psalm which opens the “Psalmody” (liturgical recitation/singing of the Psalms) reinforces that prayer is a “given” and specifies what kind of “given” it is: an entry into the divine conversation. Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity provides an interesting possibility for visualizing this message. The faces of the “Angels” are turned inward, and in particular we see the Angel on (the viewers) left hand turned toward the middle Angel and the middle Angel turned toward the middle Angel. This could be understood as the conversation between Father and Son. The third Angel is turned toward both the others and in between the left hand Angel and the one on the right hand (the third Angel) stands a Chalice which is visible due to an “open spot” at the Table (or Altar). That open spot is the “place” where we are let into the conversation. It is the Holy Spirit (here understood as the third Angel) who lets us into that conversation. Note that all three persons are “open” towards the open spot at the Chalice. If we follow Paul Evdokimov’s “reading” of this Icon a clearly Eucharistic aspect comes to the fore. The Priest and congregation gathered for the Sacrifice of the Mass are all facing “East” in other words are all oriented towards the Father. This is so because the Canon of the Mass (where the Sacrifice is offered) is addressed to the Father. There are, of course, other readings of this Icon (for example Leonid Ouspensky’s that disagree with Evdokimov’s but we will not engage that further at this time). The important thing to take away from all this right now is that prayer is “given” to us and not created by us.

The “Our Father” is not an invitation to freestyle out life of prayer but a clear teaching of that prayer primarily addresses the Father, in Jesus Christ actualized through the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus gives us (hence prayer is, again, a “given” ) a pattern for prayer addressed to the Father. He, the very Word of God become flesh, is teaching what prayer is and how to do it. The Bible, as word of God, is intimately linked to the Word of God (Jesus Christ). In a sense the Bible contains the Word of God clothed in words. Using Scripture as the building blocks of prayer is therefore to almost literally “pray in Jesus Christ. Our prayers are drawn from out of the Scriptures, or perhaps we could say, prayer (insofar as it depends on Scripture) draws us into the world of Scripture and so into the Word of God: Jesus Christ.

It seems, to me, an inescapable fact that prayer is a given (to us) and not something we create or do (other than in a derivative sense). Prayer is God’s initiative to let us share in His divine triune life. Prayer is not therefore something for us to change in accordance with our – or my – theological and cultural opinions (or lack thereof). Prayer is the means of our transformation. We are formed in and by prayer. It – prayer – changes us, not we it. Even a seemingly small deviation, such as the one asserted by the Prayer Book, is at least an assertion of our initiative in prayer in rivalry of God’s initiative. It puts the human subject first. In this assertion the human subject let’s God into its life rather than the Divine Trinity letting us into His. The world as it is constituted by the human ego makes some (limited) room for God in it, a process which is essentially idolatry insofar as it seeks to shape God in such a way as to fit into the world created and governed by our ego. Prayer – in its liturgical sense – is given to us so that we may enter God’s world and so that He may shape (re-create us in the Image of God to use Pauline terms) us to fit into His world. This kind of prayer means entering a Divine Conversation which we did not start, do not choose the subject, and do not conclude. The conversation is there, independent of the human subject, but open to the human subject to enter into and so be a participant.

Gregory Wassen +

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Prayer does not bring God to us …


 

Prayer does not bring God or the divine presence to us. We have seen already that the liturgy’s fundamental definition of prayer is Christ the High Priest’s self-sacrifice which he pleads eternally before the Father for our sake. Rather, therefore, through prayer are we moved to enter the divine conspection. We, by uttering God’s name are moved to the blessing presence in which the name can be heard: this is what liturgy as performance and performative does. Most of all: by virtue of our having been moved by God’s having opened our mouth to make our own the prayers of his Son, the one single sacrifice of Christ is through the Holy Eucharist (and by analogy the offices and all our other prayer devotions) extended in its presence and effects to where we are now, and in fact to all times and all places.

 

Laurence Paul Hemming, Worship as a Revelation, p. 57

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Keynote of Advent


A Liturgical Note

Users of the Anglican Breviary will have noted that the Proper of the Season begins with a “liturgical note” about the keynote of Advent and how it is has been (successfully) obscured by the Prayer Book collects:

Originally the keynote of the Advent liturgy was to be found in its Collects, most of which used the phrase: Stir up: and implied action in preparation for Christ’s kingdom.

   The Anglican Breviary, p. C1.

The Anglican Breviary opts to restore the “stir up” or preparation theme by altering the Antiphons on Magnificat for the first three Saturdays of Advent by including a paraphrase of the traditional collects. The first traditional collect is from Advent I:

Stir up thy might, we beseech thee, O Lord, and come; that we, who are ever threatened by the peril of our sins, may be worthy to be rescued by thy protection, and saved by thy deliverance.

The collect addresses God to “stir up thy might” which is to say to come into action in His might (strength). His strength prepared the Lord is asked to “come” (Advent derives from Adventus = coming) to our aid. What is the nature of our need to which we are asking the Lord to come and help? We are  “ever threatened by the peril of our sins” that is we are like Dante in Canto I of the Divine Comedy lost in the dark woods of a sinful life and are unable to escape the darkness in which we find ourselves. The coming of the Lord is to be of such a nature that we become “worthy” of protection, saving, and deliverance (a triple emphasis on the fact that we are in need of redemption). We become worthy not by any action on our own part but by the salvific action of God. He has “stirred up His might” to accomplish our redemption beginning with Him being born of a woman and ending in His Passion-Resurrection. “Saved by thy deliverance” is of course a reference to precisely that cosmos-saving reality of the life-death-resurrection of Jesus Christ. The “stirring up” of God’s might is what we see in the Old Testament. We see humankind fall into sin and we see how God prepares a way out of the death-spin humanity and thereby the whole cosmos find itself in by means of Covenant.

The first liturgical reading of Scripture came from Romans 13:

BRETHREN: It is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

   I Vespers of Advent I, Anglican Breviary, p. C1.

Salvation is nearer – not here yet, but close and getting closer. There is a strong emphasis on an attitude of anticipation and hence on preparation. The Lord is on the move, God is approaching, He is not waiting any longer, He is nearer every time we perk our heads up to look if we can see Him at the horizon yet … He is nearer than when we believed in the very Garden in which we fell. In that garden the Lord had told us clearly what we were to expect as far the results of sin are concerned: struggle, strife, hard work, and death. In fact the world is so darkened by death that the process of child birth will be very hard and painful. Death does not welcome new life into this world which it seeks to maintain in its grip. Death resists life, from birth to the last breath. And yet a promise of a salvation to come was given us (Gen. 3, 15). Driven from the Garden, away from the Tree of Life, away from the presence of God, humankind now waits and in the face of hardship prepares for the salvation to come. It was first believed in the very Garden in which we fell and is now closer than it was when we (first) believed. No longer in the Garden we are yet closer to God’s fulfillment of His promise. Humanity must anticipate the coming of the Lord the Savior. The entire journey of faith presented in the Old Testament is that preparation. In this sense the Old Testament is itself an Advent Season (a time of preparation).

At the end of our Advent preparations we celebrate Christmas – Christ’s Mass – the Nativity or birth of Jesus Christ who is both God and man. God is born and lives as a human Person. The sin-sick human nature receives divine dignity. Fallen flesh is united to God and begins its journey to transfiguration, to salvation, resurrection. This glorious redemption is the answer to our prayer that God would stir up His might. It is that which we now anticipate and prepare for. Advent is the period to turn to God, to exercise repentance, so that when God’s action reaches us it will be to our salvation. The Lord is coming (Adventus) we had better be ready. Even now. Especially now. For the Lord is once again coming to us. He has come once, and is going to come again a second time. That too we should prepare for so that we will not be taken by surprise (I Thess. 5). That is (at least traditionally) the theme, the keynote, of Advent.

It is not that the Prayer Book collects do not have a theme of their own, but the theme they present is different. The Collect for Advent I refers more to Christmas – the Nativity of the Lord – than it does to Advent:

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and [the]* dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

The time of the Lord’s visitation, rather obviously, begins with His birth or Christmas.  Advent is the seasonal time of preparation for that visitation. In other words Advent is the time before the time in which Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility. The Prayer Book Collect starts the season on the wrong foot. What is worse, is that the Season of Advent continues to be misinformed by the continued repetition of this Collect throughout the whole Season of Advent. Everyday after the collect of the day the Collect of Advent I is repeated.

The Prayer Book Collect does not have the strong sense of anticipation and preparation that we have seen in the traditional Collect above. What we have is a call to “put away the works of darkness” and “to put on the armor of faith” because at this time the Son of God (Jesus Christ) is among us (visiting) “in great humility” (born in a stable, sleeping in a feeding trough in somebody’s back-yard barn is indeed rather humble). There is a sense of anticipating the future coming of the Lord though. But unlike the traditional Collect the Prayer Book Collect does not unite the theme of two comings as one Advent. Rather, the Prayer Book presumes the historical setting of Jesus’ birth 2000 years ago (for which we cannot wait since it has already happened) but we anticipate the Second Coming which has not yet occurred. The Prayer Book Collect does not “function liturgically” (including and simultaneously transcending time) but linearly. There is a certain rationalism to the Prayer Book Collect which does not plague the traditional Collect. It has been noted (by Alcuin Reed OSB) that the Reformation was (among other things) an anti-liturgical movement (see his “Organic Development of the Liturgy”) and it shows in the inability of – in this case Thomas Cranmer – to combine linearity and circularity so that it becomes available for the Christian as an entry point of life in Christ. In the old Collect the coming of Jesus Christ is both future and present. In a sense, even the Second coming is made accessible via the Sacraments where Christ comes to us, judges and forgives us (Penance), and already lives in and with us (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist etc.). Each time we go to Church we have to prepare to meet the One Who is to Come (Jesus Christ) so that when we sacramentally meet we may receive salvation.

Gregory +

 

 

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