Back to Basics

Old Testament Reading for 2nd Sunday after Epiphany

Again the word of the LORD of hosts came [to me], saying,

Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.

Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.

Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age.

And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.

Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts.

Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country;

And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.

20 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; [It shall] yet [come to pass], that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities:

21 And the inhabitants of one [city] shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also.

22 Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.

23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days [it shall come to pass], that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard [that] God [is] with you.

For the New Year – A Rule of Life

The Church refers to one’s habits of prayer and worship as a “rule of life.” One’s rule of life states how often and according to what form or pattern one will pray each day. It states one’s commitment to worship God in His Church each week, one’s frequency of confession, one’s habits of fasting (cf. BCP pp. 1-li) and one’s habits of stewardship.

To be a Christian is to live in union with God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Ghost. Union with God is cultivated by habitual and diligent prayer. We are able to obey the commandants of God only through the grace that God gives (cf. BCP p. 289). Regular reception of the Sacrament and habitual prayer are prerequisites for faithful living.

Developing your own Rule of Life is a central part of becoming a disciple of Jesus. Take some time to establish one. Write your rule down on a piece of paper and put it inside the Book of Common Prayer or Bible that you use each day. Please note that a rule is a guideline and not a legal document. When you fall short of fulfilling your rule, simply begin again the next day. One’s rule of life may need to be adjusted from time to time as life circumstances change.

A Ministry Based on Gifts

Your gifts are things that God enables you to do naturally in service to others in the body of Christ. The person who has a gift is able to give it without needing anything in return. And the people who receive the gift generally recognize that the person has a gift.

Ministry works best, and according to God’s plan, when the people doing the ministry are exercising their spiritual gifts. If we think that God is calling our church to do something, the way we test the call is by publishing the idea to see if some members of the church have the gifts necessary to do the work. If there is no one in the body with the gifts, the time and the willingness to do the work, we can conclude that it is not something God is calling us to do.

Of course, there is some work in the church that no one wants to do. There is no spiritual gift for setting up and taking down tables and chairs, or for cleaning up after church activities. It is the common responsibility of the body. Also, all Christians are responsible for helping the needy, for loving others, including our enemies, and for fulfilling the general obligations of love and obedience. We cannot excuse ourselves from some duty of Christian faith by saying we don’t have a gift for it.

To use our spiritual gifts in the right way, we must develop a true understanding of the nature of the Church. Many people view the Church as a building or as an organization to which they give money or time. They fail to understand that the people are the Church. In the Old Covenant, God lived in the midst of His people in a temple building. In the New Covenant, God lives within His people. The people of God are the New Temple (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19).

(Lesson to be continued)

About Our Altar, Crucifix & Stained Glass Windows

The San Damiano Crucifix is an early Church crucifix, as the corpus is painted onto the cross. What is unique about this particular crucifix is that it depicts both Christ’s passion and His resurrection. It also reflects the direction God gave to St. Francis: “Francis, do you not see that My house is falling into ruin? Go, and rebuild it for Me.” We are thus reminded of the importance of rebuilding the Church in our time.

Stained glass windows. Often in churches there are stained glass windows of Christ, of saints, or of scenes from the Bible. The stained glass windows at St. George’s Church bear no such depictions, but they will almost certainly be included in the windows of our future church. The natural light that shines through characters in stained glass windows symbolizes the light of Christ. This highlights the reality that in Christ the saints are on fire with the love of God. As our worship of Almighty God joins with that same worship in Heaven in the Mass, it follows we should heighten our senses to the reality that we are on holy ground. Stained glass windows help capture that effect by refracting the rays of sunlight as they pour through the windows, giving our chapel a beautiful and ethereal quality.

The Apocrypha

In the Scriptures used by the Jews during the period of Jesus, certain writings coming after the Old Testament prophets were termed the Ecclesiastical Books, or the Apocrypha. These books contain a history of the Jews following the close of the prophecy of Malachi and the coming of Jesus. They cover a period of 400 years and provide a link between the Old and New Testaments but they have never been received by the whole Church as carrying equal authority with the Old Testament. Selections from the Apocryphal books are read annually in the Anglican Church. The Roman and Eastern Churches also use them as part of their readings.

The Anglican Church regards the Apocryphal books works to be “read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet does not apply them to establish any doctrine.” Every Catholic Christian should have the Apocrypha as part of their personal Bible. King James Version with Apocrypha combined with the 1928 Book of Common Prayer is for sale in the church office.

One Insight on the Sacraments

The sacraments focus on the presence of God in the ordinary. Though we pray for and at times experience miraculous healing and extraordinary signs of God’s presence, we also see Christ in ordinary water, bread and wine, in ordinary Christian people, in God’s sovereign control of daily life. The greatest miracle from the sacramental perspective is Christ’s redemptive presence in all things (Romans 8:28), rather than the odd moment when something unusual happens.

The Prayer for the Church

When the Holy Table (the Altar), has been set, the priest turns to the people and announces that it is now time for us to prepare our minds and hearts for the Coming. He says, Let us pray for the whole state of Christ’s Church. Notice that in this prayer the Church addresses God in behalf of “all men,” not just the people gathered for that particular Mass. General prayers such as this, invoking God’s blessing on the larger body of Christ’s Church have been part of the Church’s corporate worship since biblical times (cf. I Tim. 2ff); indeed, they were characteristic of Jewish synagogue worship.

The Liturgy of the Faithful

In the early Church, the Liturgy of the Catechumens (those who are undertaking instruction but have yet to be baptized) ended with their expulsion from the congregation. They were not admitted to the Holy Mystery, the Blessed Sacrament itself until they were baptized. The Liturgy of the Faithful begins where instruction ends, with the Offertory.

To emphasize the difference between the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful, some parishes distinguish between the Little Entrance, during which clergy, assistants, and choristers enter the nave of the Church and process to the altar; and the Great Entrance, during which the sacred elements of bread and wine (along with the money offering which for most of us now substitutes for bread and wine) are brought forward by lay representatives of the people.

Where “Little Entrance” is the only Entrance, representatives of the people bring forward the money that has been collected and present it to acolytes who, in turn, carry it to the priest. Acolytes, acting as representatives of the people, present the sacred elements (which the altar guild has placed on the credence table) to the priest.

Note: Anglicans will be interested to know that the Great Entrance was introduced to the Liturgy through the Sarum Rite.

The Creed

In point of fact, the Church has three creeds it recognizes as speaking with authority: the relatively informal Apostles Creed, the Athanasian Creed, the most carefully crafted of the three, stating with greatest precision the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity, and, lastly, the one formulated basically by the Church at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. and approved at the Council of Constantinople in 381; the one we repeat at every Mass, and refer to as “The Creed,” the Nicene Creed.

Note:

1. As indicated previously, we bow at the name of Jesus.

2. We genuflect at the words and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man: In most parishes, priest and people rise here; however, in some parishes the genuflection is maintained until the words ‘And the third day he rose again’ are said.

3. We sign the cross at the words And the life+of the world to come.

The Epistle and the Holy Gospel

Together with the Collect of the Day, these two excerpts from the Bible provide the lens through which we should focus our attention for that particular Service.

The Epistle: These letters, mostly from St. Paul and almost all addressed to entire congregations (two to Timothy and one to Philemon were addressed to individuals) are called epistles because they are formal letters, written to particular congregations for instruction or admonition.

The Holy Gospel: The word gospel comes from the Latin words for God + tale. It was translated into Old English as God spel, and eventually gospel; hence, any of the four biblical narratives (Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) which deal with substantial portions of the life, death, and resurrection of our Blessed Lord: the Good News, the Holy Gospel.

Note: We stand in witness to our joy on hearing the Good News of the Holy Gospel

Note: By tradition, the Epistle is read from the Ecclesiastical South (right) side of the altar, whereupon the Missal (the Book from which the priest reads the Mass) is moved from the South to the Ecclesiastical North side of the altar. This is called the Gospel Procession and is intended to remind us that this is the direction in which the Good News of our salvation was spread by the earliest Christian missionaries, principally St. Paul.

Note 1: Particularly on festive occasions, the Missal may be carried down into the Nave and there proclaimed in the midst of the people.

Note 2: +++ While the Holy Gospel is being announced, the people make three crosses, one on the head, that God will transform our thinking, one on the mouth, that God will purify our speech and make us effective evangelists of His ‘Good News,’ and one over our heart, petitioning Him constantly to bathe our lives in His Love.

The Old Testament: Parish clergy (and dioceses) are beginning to return to earlier use: reading a passage from the Old Testament or Apocrypha before the Epistle is read. In most cases the Church selects a reading appropriate to the occasion and marks it with an asterisk in the Psalms and Lessons listed in the front of the Book of Common Prayer. Including this Old Testament Lesson in the Eucharist, fulfills our biblical needs.