Monthly Archives: October 2011

New Internet Home for Sarum Rite Chant Materials

For those of you familiar with Dr. William Renwick’s efforts in producing the Chant of the Sarum Office, you’ll be happy to learn that he has a new site dedicated to his materials. It can be found here:

Update your links accordingly…

Note, too, that he intends to include both the Missal and the Processional in addition to the Office.

Saints and Fathers: Serendipitous Edition

I have to confess that I have been in a bit of a spiritual malaise recently. One of the things that I’ve started doing in response is reading a homily or two of the fathers before I go to bed. For Christmas last year I received a volume of the sermons of St. Maximus of Turin. If you’re not sure exactly who he is, don’t feel so that – you’re not alone. He was a bishop of the Italian city of Turin who died in the opening years of the fifth century. The sermons of St. Maximus were quite popular during the Carolingian period, and Paul the Deacon’s homiliary includes quite a number of his pieces. However, interest in him kind of dropped off after that whole high medieval thing.

In any case, I was reading over one of his homilies last night and was very interested to find the following section. I think it ties in quite nicely with some of our recent discussions about the saints, the blessed dead, and the regular dead. This sermon was for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. He has been talking about Peter’s vision of the sheet full of animals and connects it to the conversion of the nations. We pick him up at that point:

For when we see the throngs of the nations hasten to the Christian faith, we rejoice together with the apostles. For those whose anniversary we celebrate today are not dead but reborn. It is clear that they are alive because they have become partakers in Christ, who is life. Although their bodies have been slain in suffering nonetheless the process of life has not been interrupted. For they still give thanks to God and offer praises to the Savior, and in fact they adhere more closely to Christ inasmuch as their members are no longer bound together as the apostle Paul says: to be dissolved and to be with Christ is better by far. Thus that should not be called death which, when it occurs, separates us from our persecutors and joins us to Christ. It is clear that that should not be called death which associates the one who has died with Christ and brings gain to the dying, as the blessed apostle says: for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. But that is real death which binds by the death of sinners even the living person who although he appears to be alive seems nonetheless already given over to death. In this respect the apostle says of that voluptuous widow: while living she has already died. [Sermon 2.3]

The key here for me, is his emphasis that the whole nature of death has changed for us who are bound to Christ. As Christians we now look at death differently. His language of binding and joining and dissolving works better in Latin than in English because of the way the Latin words share parts of one another. To be living, to be alive, is determined by the nature of our relationship with the living Christ. The closer we cleave to Christ the more alive we are no matter what our biological state might be. He also builds out the contrary position: the further we are from Christ – even if we are still biologically alive– the more in death we are.

Books and Beauty: Liturgical Layout

Over at the New Liturgical Movement, the editor Shawn Tribe has written an interesting piece proposing a set of guiding principles for missal layout coinciding with the new Roman translation of the Novus Ordo mass.

Upon seeing the article, I was immediately reminded of the words of Percy Dearmer on the subject of liturgical books and layout which are well worth repeating in full:

It is an established convention that the books associated with religious worship shall be not only bound in black or at best in dingy colours, but shall be printed and arranged in the most repellent manner. It is almost impossible to procure Bibles and Prayer Books printed in good type and arranged in the best way, as other books are arranged. Occasionally well-bound copies are given as presents — thirty years ago they were still dismal, however great their cost, though today they are brighter outside — but when you open these expensive copies, the same ugly typography meets your eye. Now a publisher who issued a new book in such type, chopped it up into short verses, sprinkled it with unemphasized words in italics, arranged it in narrow columns with cramped margins, spaced the verse as if it were prose, eschewed quotation marks in his dialogue, and finally encased the whole in cheap black cloth — such a publisher would be bankrupt in a year. However good his books, people simply would not read them. (Art of Public Worship, 33.)

Dearmer called for beautiful books that would be worthy of and properly honor (honour?) both the words that they conveyed and the dignity of public worship for which they were intended.

Apart from a few fits and starts in this direction, not many folks have heeded him… (The outstanding outliers in this case were the English printer Pickering and the American Daniel Updike. [Corrected per comments!] For more on this topic see Martin Hunter’s essay “Prayer Books and Printers” in The Oxford Guide to the BCP.)

C’mon folks! In this age of computer printing and graphic work there is absolutely no reason why liturgical works cannot be beautiful! Indeed, care and beauty on the front end can make a well thought-through and designed book more functional than an ugly one!

I have seen in draft a missal for the monastics, oblates, and friends of the Order of Julian of Norwich which holds great promise in this regard, but these sorts of works should be the rule—not the exception.

CWOB and the Diocese of Connecticut

This resolution passed at the convention of the Diocese of Connecticut:

Resolution #10: year-long Dialogue on Communion of the Unbaptized PASSED AS AMENDED

This resolution was much debated as well. It started with an amendment to change “open communion” to “communion of the unbaptized” for clarification. which passed.

Final language: RESOLVED:  That the 227th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut declares a year for theological and catechetical reflection, dialogue, discussion, conversation and listening among parishes of this diocese on “Communion of the Unbaptized” [welcoming all, baptized or not, to Holy Communion]; and be it further,
RESOLVED:  That the laity make their voices heard to the bishop and clergy as they explore this sacrament.

Couple of things here…

First, I’m wary of the words “dialogue” and “conversation” in the Episcopal Church. This generally seems to be shorthand for: “We know better than you on this topic and we’re going to have a ‘dialogue’ until you see the error of your ways and agree with me at which point our dialogue will be done.” I will be very interested to see what form this “dialogue” takes. What sort of theological and catechetical material will be used to guide the reflection?

Who really will get to have a voice at the table?

…And that brings me to my second thing…

What the heck does that last line mean? Let’s take another look at it: “That the laity make their voices heard to the bishop and clergy as they explore this sacrament.” What is the rhetorical purpose and the political valence of this sentence?

Two options immediately present themselves.

The first is a simple and straight-forward wish that all orders of ministry will have an opportunity to have a say in the matter. Well, yeah—isn’t this kind of the point of our whole process? Isn’t this how our polity is different from the COE and other Anglican churches? Perhaps I’ve been in church circles too long but this seems a little too much like wide-eyed naivete; I’m feeling something a little disingenuous here…

The second is a sneaking suspicion that the appeal to “the laity” is an attempt to stack the deck. I truly believe that the current argument around CWOB is neither a theological nor a sacramental argument. Instead, it’s an issue of identity that rests primarily upon an emotional appeal. That is, I think it’s less about theology and a lot more about how we perceive ourselves and shape the face we offer to the world; CWOB advocates intend it as a message that we are open, inclusive, and welcoming. I have no problem with framing ourselves this way–but CWOB is not the way to do it!!

Are the folks behind this line thinking that the laity will be swayed more by this sort of an emotional appeal than a theological one?

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see more resolutions like this popping up a conventions going forward . This will be a very important resolution and “dialogue” to follow over the coming year.

Media and Meaning

Over at Seven Whole Days, Scott Gunn has posted a very interesting reflection on the church in the age of social media.

There’s no question that social media has already had an enormous impact on the shape of the global religious landscape and will continue to do so. In fact, I’d attribute most of the church splits and schisms over the last decade as being driven either in part or completely by social movements fostered and enable by new media. As far as I’m concerned, the Episcopal split and the formation of the ACNA would not have happened if blogs and blog networks had not been able to focus opposition to 815 and gain/create a critical mass willing to leave.

On the other hand, I know I personally have met and been nurtured by a wonderful group of people—some I knew or have come to know offline, others not—through social media interactions, most notably  this blog.

I just want to make two quick points.

First, from a systems-perspective, the problem of our age is not access to data. We have too much of it. We’re completely awash in information. Some of it is useful and important—some of it less so.The problem of our age is the analysis and organization of data into useful—and comprehensible—chunks.This is one of the broad functions of social media. No-one can sift through all of the news/information/books/essays/thoughts/etc. out there. It’s simply not possible. What social media does is, essentially, to serve as a crowd-sourced filtration and data organization device. Our friends and acquaintances access some bits and post or pass on what seems most meaningful to them. Social circles feed and amplify certain themes, stories, and concepts. We’ve got to use this tool but at the same time be very aware of the shadow-side of this strength: it’s really easy to get caught up in your own echo-chamber where all you hear are the kinds of stories, news,and statistics that reinforce what you already think and believe. As more and more of us rely more and more on the internet for our news and locus of critical reflection, we must also be intentional about cultivating friends and acquaintance who can challenge us enough to keep us from being locked into a simple and simplistic way of thinking and processing.

Second, when social media gets discussed, it usually means Facebook and Twitter. I think it’s fair to say that there has been a certain decrease in blog activity over the last several years—especially since the rise of Facebook. But I must strenuously protest: blogs have their place!! There are two things that blogs do better than Facebook. The first is the retention of a surface anonymity. Anonymity online is a source of liberation. It enables us to say and do things we can’t with a name attached. Yeah, I know—that can be a Bad Thing, and trolls will always be with us… Nevertheless, sometimes people need anonymity to provide a critical space for their own growth and reflection. Some of my favorite bloggers either are or were anonymous. I was semi-anonymous for a while myself. I don’t think it’s always a problem, and find it healthy for those just growing their wings.

The second thing that blogs can do that Facebook can’t is to provide a forum for the thoughtful essay. The essay genre is perfect for blogs. Facebook, not so much. If we are going to engage in thoughtful, compelling reflection, we need more space to develop a substantive body of thought than Facebook and Twitter provide. The best route is, of course, integration: using Facebook and Twitter to circulate pull-quotes that lead readers into the blog. (Not I do this myself, of course, but I still think it’s the best way to go…) In the article referenced above, Scott+ linked to a Reflections edition focused entirely on New Media. As I scanned the table of contents, I didn’t recognize the name of one person as a long-standing blogger of note. To me, that’s a serious oversight. You have people writing on the new media—but you leave out one of the central platforms? Hello?

Naming Spiritual Communities in the Sarum Rite

I was thinking aloud a few days ago about the liturgical act of acknowledging the dimensions of our spiritual community. It occurs to me that a quick glance at the Sarum Rite will give some really interesting examples of what I mean… (Note: most of the things I say here will be broadly applicable to the Historic Western Liturgy—I’m just focusing on the Late Sarum because it gives a nice nailed-down example that I can conveniently point to.)

First, there’s the exercise of the capitular office. Four major things happened here. First, it was the monastic/cathedral daily check-in meeting. Second, there was a reading from the Rule or the Fathers. Items three and four are the reason I’m bring it up. Third, it was a list of obits that identified anyone in the community’s records who had died on that day. Fourth, the hagiographies were reviewed for the saints who would be celebrated that evening and the next day.

Before Mass on Sundays there was a procession. That procession would include the following prayers bid by the priest “in the mother tongue”:

 “Let us make our Prayers to God,” [here was sometimes added, “Our Lord Jesu Christ, to our Ladie S. Mary, and all the Company of Heaven,”] beseeching His Mercy for all Holy Church, that God keep it in good estate, especially the Church of England, our Mother Church, this Church, and all others in Christendom.” [Here sometimes was added, “For our Lord the Pope, for the Patriarch of Jerusalem, for the Cardinals.”] “For the Archbishops and Bishops, and especially for our Bishop N., that God keep him in his holy service. For the Dean or Rector, or all other Ministers, that serve this Church.” [This was sometimes varied “For your ghostly father, and for Priests and Clerkes that herein serve or have ferved, for all men and women of religion, for all other men of Holy Church.”] For the Holy Land [and the Holy Cross], that God deliver it out of the hand of the heathen; for the Peace of the Church and of the earth; for our Sovereign Lord the King, and the Qyeen, and all their children. For [Dukes, Earls, and Barons, and for all that have the peace of this land to keep], all that have this land to govern. For the welfare of N. and N., and all this Church’s friends. [For all that live in deadly sin.] For our brethren and sisters, and all our Parishioners, and all that do any good to this Church or Foundation. For yourselves, that God for His mercy grant you grace so to live as your soul to save, and for all true Christian people.

Thus we’ve got a naming here of a whole bunch of folks—from the saints to the geographically dispersed to the deceased to one another. It does name quite a community to keep in mind.

At the beginning of the Mass itself, we have a form of the Confiteor:

I confess to God, to blessed Mary, to all the saints, and to you, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, by my fault : I pray holy Mary, all the saints of God,  and you, to pray for me.

I’m more used to the modern form where it calls out more of the saints by name, however, Not only does the Confiteor name the saints—mirroring the prayer at the procession—it places them in the proper relationship to us; we pray together for one another.

The beginning of the Canon of the Mass likewise begins with a very clear naming of the gathered spiritual community (rubrics are parenthetical):

…together with thy servants our Pope N. and our Bishop N. (That is to say, the bishop of the diocese only,) and our King N. (The above persons are mentioned by name. Then shall follow : ) and all who are orthodox, and who hold the catholic and apostolic faith. Remember, O Lord, thy servants and thy handmaidens N. and N. (in praying for whom a due order dictated by charity ought to be observed. The priest prays five times : firstly for himself; secondly for his father and mother, that is to say both carnal and spiritual, and for his other relations; thirdly, for his special friends, parishioners and otherwise; fourthly, for all persons present; fifthly, for all Christian people; and here the priest may commend all his own friends to God. I counsel, however, that no one should pause at this point too long, both on account of possible distractions of mind, and also on account of suggestions which may be made by evil angels, as well as on account of other dangers.) and all here present, whose faith is approved, and whose devotion is known to thee; on behalf of whom we offer unto thee, or who offer unto thee this sacrifice of praise, for themselves and for all pertaining to them, for the redemption of their souls, for the hope of their own salvation and security, and who are paying their vows unto thee, the eternal, living, and true God. In communion with and reverencing the memory, in the first place, of the glorious and ever virgin (inclining a little as he says,) Mary, mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ ; As also of thy blessed apostles and martyrs—Peter, Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, and Thaddseus, Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian. Laurence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian, and of all thy saints; through whose merits and prayers do thou grant that in all things we may be defended by the aid of thy protection. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

That initial “together” kicks off quite a clear naming of who all has gathered: the living, the dead, the saints, and anybody else who might not fall neatly into any of those categories.

That’s just a few examples; doubtless many more could be produced. Notice something here: all of these prayers are very much present tense. The point is not that they’re liturgically remembering historical figures—however fondly. Rather, these prayers are naming the current, present members of the spiritual community whether they happen to be visibly present or not.

Now, this rite does a great job with this liturgical naming—when it’s considered as a text. The actual liturgical experience of it would be quite different. The laity would hear the processional prayer in their native tongue;  the monastic or cathedral Chapter would here the capitular office; the confiteor would be heard by the altar party and basically only the priest would have heard the section that starts the Canon. There’s a great ecclesiology present here; the fact that so much of it is liturgically inaccessible to the majority of the physically gathered community does seem a little ironic.

bls: Liturgy, Anglo-Catholics, and the Episcopal Situation

bls has a nice rant up at her place that strikes some real chords with me. Here are a few things that jump out at me and how I’d address them:

The Episcopal Church is mad for “liturgy.”  Over the top, really – that’s all we ever hear about, in fact.  “Liturgy” this and “liturgy” that – everything seems to be about the parade and the pageantry.

Now, listen:  I, like every Episcopalian, love a parade, and I do like pageantry.  I love incense and chant and the whole drama.  But I think in many ways this focus on “liturgy” is just a way of avoiding talking about content.

. . .

I would identify as an “Anglo-Catholic,” I think, generally speaking – on the basis of “liturgy.”  That stuff really speaks to me – the smoke, the chant, the statuary, the movements, the reverence.  I like it.  I was rendered literally speechless – kind of choked in the throat, and not from the smoke – when I first saw it.  And I agree that all this was meant to express a certain point of view – but I do wonder what, actually, the actual content is, at this point.

Ok—The way that I would say it is this: Despite what many people think, liturgy is not a means for avoiding content, rather, it’s a means for performing and embodying content. But that doesn’t mean that 1) we’re doing the liturgy well, 2) we’re doing the liturgy in such a way that lets the content speak, or 3) that those who know better are helping everyone else connect the dots. As she and I have discussed before, liturgy is a major key to all of this—but liturgy is not enough. I’ve repeatedly said about biblical interpretation, the act of interpretation has not been completed until someone’s habits have changed. It’s not enough to read the Scriptures. It’s not enough to come to an understanding. If there isn’t a lived change in your attitude to God, creation, and humanity, then you haven’t finished the job.

I’d say that the same is true of liturgy.

If your experience of God and your relationship with creation and your fellow creatures is not in the process of being transformed on the basis of what’s happening in the liturgy, something is not happening correctly. Process is important here—liturgical formation is a process not an event, and occasional periods of back-sliding is an inevitable part of the process, but if forward progress into love and virtue is not occurring when measured over a period of years, then something is off.

Liturgy is a means of embodying content. And there’s content there a-plenty: the creeds, the narrative of our failures and God’s constancy in the Eucharistic canons, intercession as a way of drawing the whole world into our view as part & parcel of our relationship with the divine, etc. But we’ve got to do the work to connect the dots and between what we do in worship, how this relates to what we believe, and how this changes how we act.

This means that people like me aren’t doing our job to the best of our abilities. We know how these things are supposed to fit together, and aren’t being as effective as we can be about communicating it!

Again from bls:

So I have to ask again: what is the content of our faith? Well, we don’t generally say, I think because we’ve been worried for a long time about offending people. But, as St. Paul has said pretty plainly: Christianity is offensive. There’s no getting around that; we’re not going to convince people that it’s of value by making it seem attractive or elegant or whatever the adjective happens to be. It’s offensive – so we’d better start talking about why that’s a good thing – why it’s a necessary thing – I’d say.  And that means talking about content. (Listen: I myself am living proof of the idea that seeing and recognizing this “offensiveness” can lead to conversion! I’m sure I’m not alone.)

bls had this question up on her blog earlier and not many were willing to tackle it. The question was, how, in brief, to describe the purpose of the church to a non-believer without using churchy language. This was my go at it:

The point of the church is to bring the whole human family to acknowledge reality: that love is at the center of all that is, has been, and will be, (as revealed in perplexing particularity by Jesus, his self-sacrifice, and love’s inability to stay dead [which we call resurrection]) and that our greatest task on earth is to conform ourselves, our community, and our society to the virtues of love, compassion, and justice.

What we as religions and churches tend to argue about is precisely how we define “love” and how we order our lives and societies to best reflect how we understand those virtues.

(Readers of Evelyn Underhill will note a certain similarity here to what she writes in Practical Mysticism.)

Again from bls:

Those who’ve rejected Christianity are, in my experience, rejecting two things:

  1. The authoritarianism and hostility to reform of the Roman Catholic Church.
  2. Brain-dead evangelicalism.

But at least the RCC has tried to make a case.  As I’ve said quite often before:  I have RCC Catechism envy.   I admire the massive intellectual tradition of the RCC, and its appeal to reason; it’s very unfortunate that all that has come along hand-in-hand with claims of “infallibility” and the authoritarian tendency.  (By contrast, our feeble Catechism in the back of the 1979 Prayer Book is nothing except embarrassing, at least to me.  More of a problem:  it once again assumes prior acceptance of Christian claims.  It has nothing to offer anybody who doesn’t already accept the basic claims of Christianity – and it doesn’t offer anything really interesting even in that case.  “An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace”?  OK – but could you please say a little something about these “inward and spiritual graces” that connects our minds with our hearts and souls, instead of just offering bland doctrinal summaries? Apparently we have nothing very deep or interesting too say on the topic, which is mighty sad.)

We need to make a case.  Reformed Protestantism – it seems to me – speaks to the individual modern human psyche, in all its alienation and anxiety.  It does have something important to say – but our case can’t be predicated on Biblical literalism or shallow, “personal salvation.”  It can’t assume facts not in evidence; it must make an argument.

And, actually, I’d tie this line of questioning in with the whole set of questions around Anglo-Catholicism:

I would identify as an “Anglo-Catholic,” I think, generally speaking – on the basis of “liturgy.”  . . .  And I agree that all this was meant to express a certain point of view – but I do wonder what, actually, the actual content is, at this point. . . . And there’s no particular clue in that article, titled “What Is An ‘Anglo-Catholic’ Parish,” about anything else we might regard as content.  It’s all about form:  historical events and counter-reactions, and “ecclesiology” and “how we do things” – i.e., “liturgy.”

I have to believe that one of the major issues here is that Episcopalians who are Anglo-Catholic are going to have a different understanding about the core content of the faith than other Episcopalians. But what and why? There have been a lot of the shifts in the past few years. Many of those who identify as Anglo-Catholic have left and those of us who are still here have yet to take stock and claim our identity. We need to do it clearly and publicly. Most Episcopalians still think of us as “those people who like incense and Mary and closets and who don’t like women.” Is that who we are? If not, then who and what are we? I have some ideas but am still working them out.

I do believe that the Society of Catholic Priests is a good start in this regard. But I think we also need a lay movement that can provide an active and vocal presence to church discussions. What would/could/should this look like?

Again, bls:

We need to make a case.  “Mystery” and “mystification” are two completely different things; we really can retain the former and eliminate the latter, I believe.

Absolutely! The fact that God, the communion of the saints, the sacraments, resurrection life etc. are mysteries to be inhabited doesn’t mean that it’s ok to keep everything nebulous or to use those mysteries as an excuse for fuzzy thinking.

We do have things to offer – but we’re not saying anything that’s very interesting to anybody not already interested!   (And sometimes not even to those of us who are, when you get right down to it.  I mean, when we’re not talking about “liturgy” we’re talking about partisan politics – both of which get my eyes to glazing over these days.)

But the Gospel is very interesting – it’s speaking to some of the most basic facts about living life as a human being on earth – and we just can’t let the opportunity to talk about it go to waste.

I agree entirely!

New Cafe Post: Christ Church Posters

I have a new post up at the Café. It’s on the Christ Church posters that have been floating around Facebook. The creator is a friend of mine, Fr. Robert Hendrickson, who was part of the team who got the American branch of the Society of Catholic Priests up and going. He graciously allowed me to showcase his work because–as I say in the piece–I think they do such a good job of encapsulating a parish ethos.

And, as I see it, this is the kind of ethos that the SCP is trying to foster and that the Episcopal Church needs more of.

Robert has a blog as well and reflects on the posters in these two posts: Worship like it’s 1099 and Christ Church Posters.

Perspective on the Saints

I wrote this a while ago for use on the Cafe, and—given both my current train of thought and the time of year—thought it was worth re-sharing.

One of the approaches that I was specifically trying here was an alternate form of persuasion. That is, there are all sorts of readers at the Cafe, some of a churchmanship not amenable to the notion of saints. My goal here was to make more of an affective or poetic appeal for the concept rather than logical argumentation.


A cold wind flaps my coat-tails and whirls a cloud of dead leaves about my feet as I walk my elder daughter to the bus stop. They rasp voicelessly on the concrete and my thoughts finds them a flock with words, warnings, pleas, spoken—but not understood. A passage of Homer flickers to mind: Odysseus, sword drawn, keeping the rustling flock of shades at bay from the invigorating blood of the black sheep that gives back voice to a fallen comrade, to an ancient prophet, to the hero’s mother—strangers joined only in death. For the dead have been on my mind.

It’s only natural, I suppose—in the most literal kind of way. As the sun rounds another corner, the hours of night overtake the day; the vibrant star’s light dims to watery wintry shadow and, harvest passing, the fields fall fallow—corn stubble awaiting a blanket of snow. The signs of the earth turn to sleep or death. With signals like these it’s only natural my pagan precursors identified the passage from day’s supremacy to night’s to be a passage between worlds, a time when the dead souls return to be blown about our lands toothlessly muttering words, warnings, pleas to the living. With the coming of Christ to the British Isles, the soul cakes were offered to wandering strangers rather than the family dead; flickering faces lit visitors rather than turning away spiteful spirits. For All Hallows’ Eve and All Hallows and All Souls replaced and displaced the former pagan feast.

All Hallows—or All Saints as we know it now (the Latinate “saints” replacing the Saxon with the same sense)—is something of a confusion in these latter days. Who we remember, what we remember, and why has been blurred: sometimes on accident, sometimes on purpose. All Saints, All Souls, and the difference between them lie at the intersection of the Church’s musings on Scripture, on the Church Expectant, the Church Triumphant, and the overarching principle of the baptized dead knit into the living Christ.

All Hallows is for the Church Triumphant, those spirits and souls of the righteous who already rejoice in the ineffable splendor of the appearance of the glory of God. For these are those who already harmonize in the great chorus and who unceasingly lay down their petitions before the Throne, praying for we who yet linger here.

All Souls is for the Church Expectant who rest from their labors, who sleep in the earth awaiting the last trumpet when the earth shall flee away, the sky roll like a scroll, and our great company shall throng to the judgment seat.

Images fill my mind, of the Great Judgment, the Last Day, snatches of songs, paintings half- remembered from medieval books on penitence and prayer. Pre-modern in aspect, pre-modern in assumptions, a pervading truth permeates the scenes. It shall not be as they envisioned, it shall not be as I envision and yet…

And yet…

My mind turns to the font and the flood for this is the center of this belief that yea, though they die, yet shall they live, knit to the marrow, the sinew, the bone, knit in the body of the Living Christ. Held in the mind of God, held in the heart of God, whatever our state of wake or rest we are hid with Christ in God.

Today we walked amongst the dead.

As sunlight filtered through fallen lives, my girls and I sat with gravestones.

Walnuts lay thick their husks and shells, and we sat and filled bags—much to the squirrels’ chagrin. Down on my knees, I dug out the walnuts, cleared them away with the rest of the parish volunteers. My flirtatious five-year old finding a friend, laughed and skipped as she gathered the shells, laughter pealing like little bells over mossy stones and markers. The other, tired, threw herself upon a marble slab and stared at the sunlit sky. At first I tried to hush and shush them, to remind them of the reverence due this place, and then I thought of the music of voices and of how they rang in this silent space and remembered that we walked among friends. And a trumpet sounded its clarion call, the sound drifting over the waiting stones, but it came from the organ inside of the church that lay at the center of the stones—tuning for the day’s second service. St. Paul’s words then came to my mind: “Sleeper awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.”

No Homeric scene this with the blood of goats and shades that mutter and warn. There is blood, it gives life—but not as the old poet sang. For the cup that we share and the loaf that we break is a sharing in the life of our God. And here in the church-yard we gather as one—those on high, those in sleep, those awake—and we gather at the table that is an altar and a tomb and we share in the mysteries of God. For the communion we share links the living and dead, finds all those knit together in Christ, and invites us to share in the promise of that place, a life hid together in God.

Another Issue with HWHM

I’m working on a longer piece on Holy Women, Holy Men (about which more later) but I think it finally hit me what one of the major problems of one of the central new categories is. I didn’t notice it until I’d fully digested the rhetorical structure of the collects.

One of the tendencies of the new additions is to group like people together and to produce a collect that speaks to all of them. Here are some examples:

Divine Physician, your Name is blessed for the work
and witness of the Mayos and the Menningers, and the
revolutionary developments that they brought to the practice
of medicine. As Jesus went about healing the sick as a sign
of the reign of God come near, bless and guide all those
inspired to the work of healing by thy Holy Spirit, that they
may follow his example for the sake of thy kingdom and the
health of thy people; through the same Jesus Christ, who
with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God,
now and for ever. Amen.

[btw—we’re going to ignore for the moment the presence of a “your” in a Rite I prayer and focus on the structure…]

Eternal God, who didst inspire Anna Julia Haywood
Cooper and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright with the love
of learning and the joy of teaching: Help us also to
gather and use the resources of our communities for the
education of all thy children; through Jesus Christ our
Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy
Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

As the heavens declare thy glory, O God, and the
firmament showeth thy handiwork, we bless thy Name for
the gifts of knowledge and insight thou didst bestow upon
Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler; and we pray
that thou wouldst continue to advance our understanding
of thy cosmos, for our good and for thy glory; through
Jesus Christ, the firstborn of all creation, who with thee
and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.

Are you seeing a pattern here? This is what I see… At its most reductionistic, it goes like this:

O God, we thank you for A. and B. who were great Xs. Help us to be great Xs too. Thanks.

What’s the problem here? It’s that we’re not just trying to form Xs—we’re trying to form Christians. Whether they were good at their job or not (however holy that job might be), is not the point. The point should be that these specific people displayed the incarnate presence of Christ in their lives and thus were part of the sacramental conversion of all creation.