Morning Prayer: Holy Saturday

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Psalm: 88
Old Testament:Lamentations 3:37-59
New Testament: Hebrews 4:1-16

Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.
You have caused friend and neighbour to shun me;
my companions are in darkness. (Psalm 88:16-18)

In many ways, this is the darkest time of the Church year. Our Saviour lies dead in a tomb….and like the Psalmist echos, there seems to be only darkness as a companion.

This particular psalm is interesting in that 88 is one of the very few Psalms that end in doom and gloom. There is no expression of deliverance, or of praising God’s goodness and power. Only a frank statement of fear and despair.

The disciples too were once at this point…..their teacher gone, their friends scattered……the 12 huddled away in mourning and grief.

But the difference is that now…..we know the end of the story…….we know that there is something more going on here. So what do we take away from this Holy Saturday???

For me, the most important thing is that by laying in a crypt….dead and motionlesss….God literally lays beside all of humanity. As a result of his Incarnation, death and burial……there is now no place where God is not.

Even in the dread silence of death….of the shock and horror of betrayal and defeat……Christ is here amongst us.

We know the glory that awaits us tonight…but for this moment in time……our souls wait in silence for God….. +

Evening Prayer: Holy Saturday (Easter Eve)

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Psalm: 27
New Testament: Romans 8:1-11
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a sermon on Holy Saturday

He suffered under Pontius Pilate. Was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead….

This part of the Creed–much like Holy Saturday–often gets overlooked in our excitement for Easter Sunday. One of the fundamental aspects of our faith is that the Resurrection was not just for us….but for all of the faithful throughout all space and time. I think the Patristic reading is absolutely beautiful in its description of why Holy Saturday and the Harrowing of Hell is so important to commemorate:

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear….

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve.
The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light….”

Christ’s victory over death is so gracious, so complete, so all-encompassing that Satan is literally left with nothing. The chains of death are shattered and all are invited to live life with abundance once more.

Everything our Lord did….all the insults he endured, the pain and suffering he faced, the utter humiliation of the Cross… was for us. ❤

Like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, Christ greets all sinners with the open arms of love. He adorns them with the jewels of Grace and Forgiveness and welcomes them to his table.

Alleluia! Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast. Alleluia! +

Morning Prayer: Holy Saturday

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Psalm: 88
Old Testament: Job 19:21-27
New Testament: Hebrews 4:1-16

You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves (Ps. 88:6-7)

In the Incarnation, God became man to save us. Part of that salvation comes from the fact that our Lord was dead and buried. Just as he felt our pain and anguish and emotions when he lived amongst us, so now he tastes the finality of death.

This morning his body has no life in it, his flesh is cold; and the disciples have fled and hidden themselves away.

The resurrection means nothing unless there is a day where God lay in the tomb. How can the rising to new life be considered a miracle if there is never a day where God is still??? a span of time where God is inactive????

This morning, there is desolation and emptiness….this morning, it seems that the Messiah rests in shame and defeat.

This morning, we wait.

O God, Creator of heaven and earth:
as the crucified body of your dear Son
was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath,
so may we await with him the coming of the third day,
and rise with him to newness of life;
who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Morning Prayer: Jan. 22nd

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Psalms: 30, 32
Old Testament: Isaiah 46:1-13
New Testament: Ephesians 6:10-24

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,
else it will not stay near you. (Psalm 32:8-9)

Psalm 32 is a penitential Psalm, asking forgiveness for sinning against God. In tandem with Psalm 51, it forms the basis for sacramental Confession.

Growing up Catholic, confession meant going and confessing to a priest 1:1, a practice that I very rarely engaged in. When I did (in high school) it usually served as a way to get out of class for 20 minutes, and chat with the priest for a bit.

Now that I’ve grown up a little (emphasis on “little”) I’ve come to understand the Sacrament of Confession differently.

Whether most Anglicans know it or not, it’s a sacrament we celebrate communally before the sharing of the Peace, and the celebration of the Eucharist.

Confession is not about giving the grocery list of sins to be washed away. Nor is it a way to make us feel bad about ourselves and diminish our sense of self-worth.

Acknowledging those times when we falter in following Christ is all about rededicating our life to following Him. It’s about having that bridle being removed and being given freedom once more.

God wants us to confess, not because he needs us to…..but because in confessing we become honest with ourselves. We become aware of the things in our life which are frustrating to us…..which are stretching us too far…..and which we feel bad for not being able to accomplish.

More than that though, the sacrament of Confession serves as a reminder that we do nothing alone…..that our transgressions are indeed forgotten, and our sin is put away. It reminds us that though there are things in which we fail….God lifts us up anyway out of sheer love. +

P.S. The Anglican Church also has a form of auricular confession, but I will touch more on that when Lent starts.

Evening Prayer: Sat. of Epiphany 1

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Psalms: 112, 113
Gospel: John 4:46-54
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a sermon by Faustus of Riez

Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time on and for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens. (Psalm 113:2-4)

Today I had a really interesting chat with one of my good friends from school. We talked–among other things–about the North American church…..particularly the Anglican context.

There has been a lot of apprehension right now about shrinking numbers in the congregation and a gradual decline of the community aspect of Church.

The thing is, this concern is very much a North American phenomenon. Around the world–particularly in Africa and Asia–Christianity has been experiencing steady growth. The Church universal is growing….we just don’t pay attention to that fact in our Canadian bubble.

All around the world, at all times of the day, people are praising God and encountering Christ. Instead of focusing in on the negative…why not take stock and rejoice in those parts of the world in which the Light of Christ is shining brightly???

I have a sense that it is in those places we can learn much about how to spread the Gospel and to develop a real sense of community, if only we take the time to stop moping. 😀 +

Morning Prayer: Sat. of Epiphany 1

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Psalms 117, 118
Old Testament: Isaiah 59:15-21
New Testament: Revelation 2:8-17

He saw that there was no one, and was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm brought him victory, and his righteousness upheld him (Isaiah 59:16)

This is the LORD’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
On this day the LORD has acted;
we will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118: 23-24

I am always struck by passages like these. It reminds me that all of God’s works….from creation, to prophecy, and even the Incarnation are done out of His own initiative. We human beings have done nothing to deserve salvation, or God’s presence in our lives……and yet here we stand…saying the Morning Office and giving thanks to the one who formed us from the dust.

Our LORD is a proactive and caring God…. the Holy One who acts out of love so that we may truly be His sons and daughters. It is God’s doing not ours….and thanks be to Him for it. +

Evening Prayer: Sat. of Advent 3 (Dec. 18th)

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Psalm(s): 8 , 84
Gospel: John 3:16-21
Patristic Reading: Excerpt from a letter to Diogenetus

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals* that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,*
and crowned them with glory and honour.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet…(Psalm 8:3-6)

Have you ever just sat and thought about how lucky you are? I know it sounds a little cheesy….but I mean how crazy is it that I was born with the capacity for rational thought? That I can write down my thoughts in a cogent manner so that everyone on the interwebz can know what I am thinking?

I had one of those “holy crap!” kind of moments earlier this year. In the course of finishing my M. Div. I set about researching disability legislation in my home province of Ontario.

For those of you who don’t know…..disability rights is still a generally new phenomenon in the grand scheme of things. I was born in 1982 with Cerebral Palsy to a living and supporting family that wanted to see me integrated into the regular school system. Had I been born just one generation earlier…..there is a fairly good chance I would have ended up living in an institution.

I had no control over when I was born, nor over which family I would grow up in….As much as I bitch and complain about my life sometimes……Deep down I know I am a lucky man.+ 🙂

Morning Prayer: Sat. of Advent 3 (December 18th)

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Psalm(s):24, 29
Old Testament: Isaiah 42:1-12
New Testament: Ephesians 6:10-20

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,*
and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, ‘Glory!’ (Psalm 29: 5-9)

I don’t know about you….. but this is what God’s voice sounds like to me 😉

OK….so maybe YHWH doesn’t sound exactly like that :)…..but Psalm 29 does put a lot of emphasis on God’s voice…more specifically the power behind it.

The voice of the LORD can break cedar trees, turn water into dry land and causes the very foundations of the world to quake. If any of us were to witness these things in our lifetime, I’m sure we would be scared out of our wits!

I think that this aspect of fear and surprise is often missed in modern interpretations of the Bible.

For the writers of Scripture God’s appearance is always sudden and overpowering. His voice and presence are so overwhelming that Moses must hide his face as the LORD passes by……

His manifestation in the heavenly host causes shepherds to tremble, and all mortal flesh keeps silence as the Word descends from heaven.

Hearing the voice of God is not always meant to bring comfort and solace. At times, it is meant to make us a little afraid, a little apprehensive about our own future….to blur the line of what is vs. what God will do in the future.

It is in that creative and spiritual tension that we as disciples are forced to grow beyond our own borders. It is in that discomfort that we uncover what makes us tick, and it is in that fear and apprehensiveness that we realize there is more to this world then simply our own needs and desires. +

Evening Prayer: Sat. of Advent 2

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Psalm(s):42 , 43
Gospel:Luke 22: 31-38
Patristic Reading: Excerpt from a sermon on Mary and the Church by St. Issac of Stella

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

Given this common ending for both poems, it’s pretty clear that Psalm 42 and 43 were meant to be taken together.

We have a writer here who feels both lost and thirsty. He wants to see and taste God but cannot find Him.

I say to God, my rock,
‘Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mournfully
because the enemy oppresses me?’
10 As with a deadly wound in my body,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
‘Where is your God?’ (Psalm 42:9-11)

For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you cast me off?
Why must I walk about mournfully
because of the oppression of the enemy? (Psalm 43:2)

You can almost envision the internal struggle that is going on here. A person who remembers the time when she was happily worshiping in Church, and who now finds the liturgy dry and empty.

Despite his/her questioning…….there seems a firm resolve on the part of the writer to trust in God’s goodness. It takes quite a leap of faith to trust when our lives feel like they are going to shit.

Incidentally, that’s one reason I pray the Daily Office. When our current Suffragan Bishop was still Dean of the Cathedral….in the midst of a prayer, he used a sentence that I will never forget.

Let us pray for those who are too exhausted, too angry, or too tired to pray

Part of the ministry of prayer means holding up those people who feel broken and betrayed…who are in similar situations to the one described in tonight’s Psalmody…People who want to trust….but can’t……who want to pray…… but aren’t entirely sure someone is listening on the other end…….

Part of the life of prayer is to give witness to real human emotion……to uphold others when they feel abandoned–and on the flip side–to have them uplift us in our times of spiritual dryness. We all long for God’s presence, but it’s not something we can afford to do all alone. It is only in the context of community that the Son can be fully present. +

Morning Prayer: Sat. of Advent 2

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Psalm(s): 30 , 32
Old Testament:Isaiah 8:1-16
New Testament: 2 Th 3:6-18

Both Psalms appointed for this morning acknowledge the struggle of the spiritual life. It is fraught with times of suffering, self-loathing, and despair:

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
‘I shall never be moved.’
By your favour, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.
To you, O Lord, I cried,
and to the Lord I made supplication:
‘What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be my helper!’ (Psalm 30: 7-10)

While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up* as by the heat of summer (Psalm 32:3-4)

When we feel spiritually full, we often delude ourselves into thinking that we too shall never be moved; that the ecstacy we feel now will never go away. But the simple fact of the matter is….life usually ends up throwing us curve balls. We are thrown off balance by the death of a loved one, or by the mounting pressures of the workplace. We make bad decisions and mistakes. We sin, and have to live with the outcomes of those choices.

Sometimes the only thing that gives me hope is one of the verses we read today:

Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5)

In this simple sentence….so much is said. For me, it sums up Christian spirituality very nicely. We weep at our sins and transgressions…..we weep when we think of our suffering Lord, we weep when we think of him being laid in a tomb; his messianic mission proclaimed a failure.

But then, the dawn breaks…..The tomb is empty…..and the women who were his disciples raise their voices in amazement and holy fear. New life has begun. Tragedy has been transformed into victory…the sorrow we feel melts away…and is replaced by a sense of hope.

My friends….I assure you….we will suffer in this life and it will suck. It will be painful, and uncomfortable and emotionally exhausting.

In living the life of faith however, we commit ourselves to being a resurrection people….waiting for the new morn, knowing that our God will triumph and be in our midst. +

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