Evening Prayer: March 22nd

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Psalm: 68
Gospel: John 4:43-54
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the Confessions of St. Augustine

For those of you who don’t know, the Evening Prayer service begins with this versicle and response:

V: O Lord, I call to you, come to me quickly
R: Hear my voice when I cry to you
V: Let my prayer be set forth in your sight as incense
R: and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

In tonight’s Patristic reading, Augustine examines the implications of this imagery for the Christian understanding of who Jesus is:

The evening sacrifice is then the passion of the Lord, the cross of the Lord, the oblation of the victim that brings salvation, the holocaust acceptable to God. In his resurrection he made this evening sacrifice a morning sacrifice. Prayer offered in holiness from a faithful heart rises like incense from a holy altar. Nothing is more fragrant than the fragrance of the Lord. May all who believe share in this fragrance.

Aside from the sheer aesthetic beauty of this metaphor, it stands as a perfect example of why I read the Church Fathers.

There is no way in a million years that I would make that kind of mental leap as an academic theologian….but that doesn’t mean that the comparison offered by Augustine is useless. The early centuries of Christian thought allow us to see the Bible in a completely different light. For the early Church, the Scriptures were always a whole unit, as the complete revelation of God to the world.

It stands in stark contrast to the logical and often streamlined approach of the historical-critical method. It points to a fundamental difference in mindset…..When you approach the Bible….what hat do you wear? Does it make a difference? I think it does.

When we read the lections in a context and attitude of prayer….does that also make a difference??? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below + 🙂

Morning Prayer: January 11th

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Psalms: 148, 150
Old Testament: Isaiah 65:13-16
New Testament: Revelation 3:7-13

January 11th is an alternate day to observe the Feast of the Holy Innocents in the Canadian calendar (BAS)….my blog entry for the Feast Day can be found here

See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut……Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 3:8;13)

The closing phrase used at the end of each of the letters to the seven churches (ie. “hear what the Spirit says to the church”) is an alternate versicle to “the word of the LORD”/thanks be to God when reading lections in the Office or the Eucharist.

Personally, I think this is a particularly poignant way to respond to Scripture. It reminds us that reading from the Bible is not simply a literary activity, but one that requires an open mind, heart and spirit.

Reading Scripture through the spiritual lens (though it can be dangerous and runs the risk of misinterpretation) is essential to the Christian life. It opens new ways of looking at the text that are fundamentally different from the critical-historical method of the academy.

If the Bible is taken as strictly literature…..something is lost. What was meant to give life becomes dry and predictable…..what was meant to inspire only confuses and frustrates.

Of course, placing passages in proper historical context is extremely important, but it is not the end all and be all of interpretation.

One of the reasons why I include a Patristic reading in the Evening Office is precisely so that I am exposed to a different way of looking at familiar gospel passages and Biblical accounts :).

The instant that we decide there is only one way to read Scripture is the moment that we become stagnant and run the risk of having our ears closed to the eternal Word through whom all things were made. +

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