Evening Prayer: Feast of the Beheading of St. Jean-Baptiste (Aug 29th Combo Post)

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Psalm: 102, 86
Old Testament: Jeremiah 38:1-6, Judges 16:28-30
New Testament: Revelation 7:13-17, 1 Peter 3:13-18

But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Pet 3:14-16)

While it doesn’t surprise me to be celebrating a martyr today, I’ve often wondered why St. Jean-Baptiste gets not just one day but two .

I have a sense that we do it for a few reasons.

One being that Jesus said that John was a pretty important dude. My guess is that the Church–upon hearing these words…..felt that it couldn’t be an all-together bad thing to celebrate the Forerunner twice.

More to the point though….I think that the community of the early church was very much aware of its surroundings. In a Roman pagan world, followers of the Way found themselves being persecuted, hunted and killed. So much so that Tertullian was prompted to remark that:

the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church

In remembering John’s beheading, Christ-followers found a saint who they could relate to. A saint who stood up for morality even at the cost of his own life. A saint whose life was taken away through the scheming and deceit of others.

If you were to look to the life of the saints…..which do you think speak most to the current generation??? What about in your own life????

Leave a comment on this post and let me hear what you think. +

Morning Prayer: Feast of the Nativity of St. Jean-Baptiste (June 24th)

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Psalm: 82, 98
Old Testament: Malachi 3:1-5
New Testament: John 3:22-30

So normally I use a piece of Scripture as the catalyst for my reflections here on this blog. Today, however, I was caught by the utter simplicity and directness of the Collect appointed for today:

Almighty God,
you called John the Baptist
to give witness to the coming of your Son
and to prepare his way.
Give your people the wisdom to see you
and the openness to hear your will,
that we too may witness to Christ’s coming
and to prepare his way.
Through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.

Take a look at this prayer. It asks not only for correct vision to see God…..but the courage and strength to do His will. ๐Ÿ™‚

In the Forerunner John the Baptist, all Christians have a clear example of what it means to give witness and to be a prophet. He was not a man who messed around. He called a spade a spade, and never made light of people’s deeds. May the whole Church…the whole Body of Christ rejoice in this day and pray that some of John’s character will rub off we who are called to preach the Gospel and speak truth to power. +

Evening Prayer: Eve of the Nativity of St. Jean-Baptiste

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Psalm: 103
Old Testament: Sirach 48:1-11
New Testament: Luke 1:5-21

Y’know…..for all my religious education and seminary training….I’ve never quite understood the connection between Elijah and John the Baptist. I mean….it makes sense since Elijah preached repentance and destruction just like Jesus’ cousin…..but why is he the prophet singled out for comparison???

I don’t pretend to know the answer and would welcome any feedback from my readers as to why Jewish/Early Christians would have made this connection. ๐Ÿ™‚

That aside, I was drawn to a line that was repeated both in the lesson from Sirach, and is repeated with slight adjustment in Luke. Check it out:

At the appointed time…you will turn the hearts of parents to their children (Sirach 48:10)

The Third Evangelist quotes this same line, but adds an extra role for Elizabeth and Zechariah’s son.

With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 5:17)

What causes me to scratch my head a little bit is that John the Baptist’s ministry was not exactly lovey-dovey. If anything, his call to repentance and harsh words against the Pharisees seems extremely divisive.

But what if the parent talked about….the one we are reunited with….is not a human one. What if our hearts are being turned to the Father??? Then the reading and comparison starts to make sense.

If our relationship to the Father is broken, then every other relationship in our lives can be potentially off-balance. The call to repentance and baptism is not to avoid destruction and wrath…..but as an invitation to right-living and right-relationship.

Tonight we thank God for sending his messenger to make our crooked ways straight and to prepare a highway for our God…..so that we might know our Father face-to-face. +

Note to the reader: You will have to forgive my use of the French name tonight….it’s one of the few times I let my ethnic heritage show even though I can’t speak the language very well ๐Ÿ˜‰

Morning Prayer: Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth

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Psalm: 72
Old Testament: 1 Sam 1:1-20
New Testament: Hebrews 3:1-6

So I know I have been away for a looooong while…..but I figured this feast day is as good a time to reclaim my place in the blogosphere as any :). Today the Church celebrates one of its most joyous occasions.

Cousins unite to celebrate their respective miracles and greet one another with a kiss of peace. One of the most important aspects of this day for me…is that God never leaves us alone.

Mary is faced with the prospect of being a first-time mom, she has also been told that her Son will redeem the world. No pressure right? ๐Ÿ˜›

And yet, in this incredible time of anxiety and stress, Mary can rely on her cousin Elizabeth; who is going through an equally surreal experience…..carrying a baby well into old age, who has been told that her son will herald the coming of the Messiah.

Together these two women will help to transform the world…taking responsibility for raising John the Baptist and the Christ-child. To instruct both of them in the Law of Moses and to make sure they grow up knowing the difference between right and wrong.

Today’s feast is a way of acknowledging not just the incredible challenge these women faced…..but the joy with which they embraced God’s plan for them. Elizabeth hails Mary as the most blessed of all women, and the child in her belly leaps for joy. Mary responds with the Magnificat, which is first and foremost a song of praise.

In all trials, tribulations and uncertainty…..their example teaches us that we must have joy in our hearts….if not for what God is doing in our lives….then as a way of thanking Him for the family, friends and strangers he brings into our lives to hold us up when we feel like we are falling. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Evening Prayer: March 18th

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Psalm: 51
Gospel: John 3:22-36
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the Mirror of Love by St. Aelred the Abbot

Icon of Christ the Bridegroom

 

He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroomโ€™s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:29-30)

It seems as though in the early Christian movement, there was a significant amount of confusion and debate around John the Baptist and his importance. All four Gospels proclaim him to be an important and integral part of the Jesus story…..both in terms of preaching repentance and in baptizing our Lord.

There were many who were convinced that John was the Messiah…..and that his call to turn away from Sin came from a special knowledge of God, and what he was going to do in Roman occupied Judea. However it is here in the fourth Gospel we get a definitive answer that John is not the guy we should be paying attention to. It should be that guy from Nazareth….baptizing across the Jordan and working his way towards Jerusalem.

I sit here tonight wondering what it means for us in terms of increase and decrease. I wonder if it is at all possible to follow John’s example. If it is possible to let our ego, our ideas, our biases…decrease so that Jesus might be able to point us in a different direction.

In an age with so much rampant individualism and secularism, I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that we are the bridegrooms……that we are the important ones who must be heard.

One of the challenges over Lent–I think–is to wander to the other side of the fence..to see who this Jesus character is…and to let go of what we think is right…..and to question some of the things we take for granted. Who knows…..in the midst of doing so, we might find Eternal life. +

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