Evening Prayer: Feast of All Souls (Nov. 2nd)

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Psalm: 119:73-96
Gospel: Matthew 13:53-58
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a book by St. Ambrose on the death of his brother (scroll down to Reading II)

Tonight I’m going to post what is called a litany….in this case one directed to the saints.

This is a very ancient practice and is one that is popular for All Saints and All Souls, two feast days which are very closely connected. In this form of prayer….the whole church dead and living ask for intercession, mercy, and forgiveness.

If you’ll notice, the way that litanies are structured are designed to again bring us to the contemplation of Christ , The saints who are listed are arranged according to their proximity to our Lord.

We start with Mary, the Theotokos (who is above the cherubim and seraphim), then angels, then apostles, then martyrs, then virgins, then theologians.

After recognizing those who have gone before, the whole church then adds petitions for themselves and for the world. Again asking that the whole world come to know Jesus

These litanies to God are not empty rituals….but an act of remembering the community we are a part of. A family that stretches across all times and places for the glory of God.

I hope you are able to get something out of this exercise, and–on this Feast of All Souls–may you with confidence find a place for yourself in the company of the blessed.

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy

Holy Mary Mother of God.
Pray for us
St. Michael (Archangel)
Pray for us
Holy angels of God
Pray for us
St. John Baptist
Pray for us
St. Joseph (stepfather of Jesus)
Pray for us
SS Peter & Paul
Pray for us
St. Andrew
Pray for us
St. John
Pray for us
Mary Magdalene
Pray for us
St. Stephen
Pray for us
St. Ignatius
Pray for us
St. Lawerence
Pray for us
St. Perpetua and Felicity
Pray for us
St. Agnes
Pray for us
St.Gregory
Pray for us
St. Augustine
Pray for us
St. Cecila
Pray for us
Holy men and women
Pray for us

Lord be merciful
Lord Save your people
From all evil
Lord save your people
From every sin
Lord save your people
From everlasting death
Lord save your people
By your coming as man
Lord save your people
By your death and rising to new life
Lord save your people
By the gift of your Holy Spirt
Lord save your people

Be merciful to us sinners
Lord hear our prayer.
Grant to all the souls of the departed eternal rest.
Lord hear our prayer.

Jesus son of the living God
Lord hear our prayer

Christ hear us
Christ hear us
Lord Jesus hear our prayer
Lord Jesus hear our prayer +

Morning Prayer: Feast of All Souls (Nov. 2nd)

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Psalm: 72
Old Testament: Nehemiah 13:4-22
New Testament: Rev 12:1-12

Although expressly forbidden to do so by the 39 Articles….the old Catholic in me can’t help but be intrigued by the concept Purgatory

Both Eastern Orthodox and Western Churches traditionally maintain that the living and the dead are in a mutual relationship….with each group praying for the other….so that the Church of all saints (which we discussed last night) is eternally bound together.

Roman Catholics went so far as to define the nature of that relationship during the medieval period……an illustration of which we have in Dante’s Divine Comedy

In his travels, through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, Dante describes the mid-level not as a place of torment like the Inferno….but as a place of purification.

At each level of the mountain, saved souls undergo certain activities and punishments that correspond to the 7 deadly sins.

What is fascinating about the way Dante frames this….is that the souls ascend to Paradise when they feel purified and worthy. The extent to which they must undergo trial and tribulation depends firstly on the will of God…..but also is dependent on the extent to which they feel weighed down by the sins of their past.

For whatever reason, this makes a whole lot of sense to me…..and gets rid of one of the more problematic theological outlooks of the Protestant movement.

Under some strains of evangelical thought, confessing the name of Jesus (regardless of when you do it in your lifetime) is the way to heaven. Under this model, it doesn’t matter if you utter it simply because you are afraid of dying, or afraid of punishment…..all that matters is that you say Christ is Lord.

If that’s all it takes……suddenly Grace seems really cheap. I think there is an element of one’s personal conscience which is also an important factor to be thinking of in a theological context.

God knows the thoughts of our hearts, and all our motivations for doing what we do…..

Am I willing to say that purgatory exists? No. But would I be surprised if we had to do some personal reflection and repentance before entering the gates of Paradise??? Not entirely 🙂

On this Feast day we thank God for all those who now share in his presence…and look forward to that day when we will inherit the Golden Jerusalem with them. Alleluia! +

Evening Prayer: Feast of All Hallows (Nov. 1st)

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Psalm(s): 148, 150
Old Testament: Wisdom 5:1-5, 14-16
New Testament: Revelation 21:1-5, 22:5

We believe in the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins
the resurrection of the body
and life everlasting. Amen.

If you grew up in a confessional church, there is a high probability that you have uttered this sentence (or some form of it) in your lifetime.

When I was at McMaster, I remember a Baptist friend askimg me what Catholics meant by the “communion of saints.” In response, I rattled off some answer about holy men and women who pray for us….which is true…but not altogether accurate.

For how the saints pray and intercede for us, take a look at my post on the Dormition,,,,,,but tonight I want to concentrate on who is in that circle.

It might come as a shock….but the answer is all of us. 🙂 Whenever Paul mentions the “saints” he clearly refers to the whole body….the whole community that believes in Christ and place their hope in his cross.

Saints are not saints because of their conduct, but because they have been made righteous vicariously through Christ. When we are baptized….we take on that identity….ever noticed that baptismal gowns are always white ;)????

The purity we receive is a gift and we are welcomed into a family where all are brothers and sisters. We have our common identity in proclaiming the Gospel and gathering around the table with gifts of bread and wine.

Our baptism means that we are connected in a history that is larger than we are. We are woven into the tapestry of the faith…connected with the threads of the past.

What we confess in the Creed is not a special circle of uber virtuous people……but a community knit together in fellowship….trying to walk down the road together….trusting in the forgiveness of the Christ who came to save us. Alleluia! +

Morning Prayer: Feast of All Hallows (Nov. 1st)

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Psalm: 111, 112
Old Testament: 2 Esdras 2:42-47
New Testament: Hebrews 11:32-12:2

Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honour and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures for ever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him;
he is ever mindful of his covenant. (Psalm 111:2-5)

A few months ago, I was talking with a friend on FB about reading the Bible. She is genuinely interested in reading it, but–like all of us–has a hard time with some of the more miraculous stories, and the depiction of God as a vindictive deity.

I promised her that I would post on this blog about how the Bible might be read in a different way. A way that focuses on relationship rather than by myth, theology or narrative…so here’s my best shot at it. 😉

Like the psalmist says this morning, all of God’s works are known….and like all great acts of history, those deeds tend to be recorded. 🙂

The central themes of the Old Testament are many…..but they tend to revolve around two important aspects…creation and covenant.

In Genesis, God creates the world…..and it is not just good but very good. He also establishes a covenant with humanity that he will make them prosper…and that He will constantly be at their side.

But human beings–made in the image of an all-creative Father–also have an innate desire to be independent…..which causes them to sin….and to turn away from their one true companion; the God who made them.

At the risk of being overly simplistic, the rest of the Bible focuses in on how that broken relationship is lived out, and repaired…..that intimate bond between Father and children is built up, broken, and established again in a constant cycle. A cycle that ultimately ends with God and humanity coming out in joy and praise to take care of the earth and each other.

At its core, the Bible is a multi-faceted library of documents. I would go even so far as to say that it is an ongoing and eternal conversation.

As the reader flips through the pages of text, they are exposed to a multitude of voices……some divine, some human. Some sentiments of anger, hatred, and frustration…..met in turn with compassion, forgiveness, and Grace.

Despite what the reformers would have us think, Holy Scripture does not interpret itself …Adhering to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy will only leave with a pounding headache and a broken heart.

As a piece of literature, inspired by God and touched by the human hand…..it is a mixture of perfection and inadequacy….a living encounter between the Creator who wants his presence to be known…..and a world that struggles to listen for it’s Maker’s voice.

On this Feast of All Saints, one thing to keep in mind that we too are saints…by virtue of being baptized 🙂

Whenever we open the Bible we join with the thousands who have come before us in trying to discern God’s will and true hope for us. We add our 2 cents (or 5 cents or 25 cents) to the conversation.

In the struggle to understand what God is saying to us and what we are saying to one another, Christianity is changed from a hollow, inanimate religion into a living, breathing, challenging Body of faith

Sure, this Body is weak and wounded at times….but is also glorious and triumphant when we get the message of Jesus right ;)….a message that we as Gentile North American inheritors of the Gospel have come to know through the written translation of the Bible.

Thanks be to God for the gift of his word on paper….but more importantly for the Word made Flesh that speaks from within those pages. Alleluia! +

Evening Prayer: Even of All Hallows (Hallowe’en)

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Psalm: 34
Old Testament: Wisdom 3:1-9
New Testament: Revelation 19:1,4-10

Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow-servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ (Rev 19:10)

Growing up, I was definitely one of those Roman Catholic kids that didn’t understand the whole saint thing. To me, they were the people enshrined in the stain-glass……their stories often seemed unbelievable……their lives of virtue and inner peace entirely too convenient.

Even stranger to me was the whole idea of praying to the saints….asking them to talk to God on our behalf…..why wouldn’t I just pray to the Father or Jesus directly???

I’ll touch on the theology of intercession tomorrow…but for right now, I want to concentrate on what we hear from Revelation. In his vision, John is so overwhelmed that he feels moved to spontaneous worship.

Not knowing the proper outlet for that praise, he starts to bow down before the saint (holy one) that is unveiling the message of what the apostle sees.

Startled, the saint stops him….and–in my head at least–I can picture that exchange being very awkward for both parties. Wanting to dissuade any false illusions, the white-robed companion immediately directs the writer’s attention back to Jesus.

Contrary to the way the cult of the saints was taught to me in RC circles, the saints are not the object of worship. Rather, looking at their lives is SUPPOSED to lead us to Christ, and the virtues that he teaches in the Gospel……a point which is not always explicitly made.

Tonight, on the eve of All Saints, we are also made aware that the Church–the community of the faithful is an eternal reality. Made not only of the people living in the world today…..but of all who came before us, and those who will follow in the future.

The seemingly endless tales of Christian men and women are a call to be holy as God is holy….and in the next few days we celebrate the fact that progress in a faithful life is not only possible, but that it has the power to shape the world…..and shape it for the better. A transformation that began and was made possible by the One who clothes us in righteousness with His blood. Alleluia! +

Evening Prayer: Feast of Saints Peter & Paul (June 29th)

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Psalm: 97, 138
Old Testament: Isaiah 49:1-6
New Testament: Galatians 2:1-8

National Cathedral of SS Peter & Paul (Washington, DC)

Y’know…….one of the things that comes to mind on this feast day is the fact that Peter and Paul did not really like each other. In the course of their ministiry, they had several spats……the most famous of which we read about tonight

What stikes me though…..is that even though there was tension…..that didn’t automatically mean there was division. Although there was disagreement, they never broke communion with one another.

Is part of my reflection blurred by putting a special glaze on the Apostolic era? Probably. 😛

Yet, at the same time, there can not be any denial that both of these men brought thousands to Christ. Despite their differences….they were able to say emphatically Jesus Christ is Lord!

I wonder what the Anglican Church can learn from their example today. With all of our squabbles…….are we sending the right message? In our pre-occupation with minutiae, are we remembering the message of the Cross and empty Tomb???

Tonight forces us to take a good hard look at ourselves……and to realize that Christian unity is not about unanimous opinion…..but rather in the single message that God has come to save all of us….and that no one is beyond the reach of Grace. +

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