On Formation

As someone who cares deeply about spiritual formation, it’s always interesting to me when I get little glimpses of the process especially when I see it in my children…

My 7th grader is required to do a Bible journal for her Bible class wherein they write reflections on the chapter of the Bible they have read that night for homework. In the car on the way home yesterday, she was leafing through her journal, looking at the comments her teacher had left. They’re working through 1 Samuel right now, and she said her teacher (a former RC priest) was very pleased with her entry on chapter 2; she had gone through the Song of Hannah and had called out all the way through it the parallels with the Magnificat.

Here’s the thing, though—she was writing the Magnificat from memory and I have no idea when she’s heard it last… Now, generally M and I pray the Offices separately rather than together and as a family because if we tried to coordinate them, we’d rarely ever pray them. Sometimes in Lent we try to do Evening Prayer together as a family, but we’re not as regular about that as we’d like to be. So, it’s not even from frequent recent repetition that she was able to pull it up. There was a time for a year or two when we tried to get daily Evening Prayer going in our former parish and G would often be there and would sometimes lead the service. That was probably three or four years ago. Was this passive formation from then expressing itself now? I have no idea.

The other thing that struck me as she was reading what she wrote is that the text cited was recognizably BCP Rite I as she quoted verbatim the phase “sent empty away.” I wonder if she chose this because it’s simply the way she remembers hearing it, or because she and her best friend are self-consciously antiquarian Anglophiles (no idea where she gets that from…), or if the now non-standard word order makes it stick more firmly in the memory. I suspect the last, although all three are likely in play.

Posted in Anglican, Formation | 1 Comment

Obligatory St. Francis Post

 

When M was competing in the Triathlon Age-Group Nationals in Milwaukee this summer, the girls and I popped into the museum of art there on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Because they were remodelling most of the collection was inaccessible, but there were a collection of photos from items that are housed there.

This one in particular caught my attention.

This is “Saint Francis in his Tomb” by the Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbarán, sometimes referred to as the Spanish Caravaggio (no surprise that I like him, then!).  Most of his work is on religious subjects; he has several paintings of Francis, one in the St. Louis Museum of Art very similar to this one, but I like this one best. Francis’s face is almost wholly in shadow, his attention squarely fixed on the skull he holds, and the stance of the right foot (no…left foot; thanks, Fr. J-J!) depicts him advancing directly toward us.

The power of the work, for me, rests in the tension between the depth of contemplation and the solemn inevitability. It welcomes us to a side of Francis which feels deeply true but rarely acknowledged.

(ETA: There’s an arresting simplicity in the overall composition. There’s a central brown scalene triangle imposed on a background divided vertically in half into light and dark with the darkness occupying central positions in the central triangle as well. The visual simplicity and structure adds a great deal to it.)

Posted in Saints, Spirituality | 4 Comments

Interruptions & Observations

I have a post up at a new venue. I will be doing some occasional writing at Godspace, a site that connects the dots on practical spirituality, sustainability, and justice.  This piece is on interruptions and the positive side of the challenges of maintaining spiritual disciplines in a busy household.

I have a tendency to get very diffuse and given all of the commitments of a busy house, multiple jobs, and church duties, I’m looking to tailor my focus. Specifically, I’m identifying a center around liturgical spirituality and particularly those practices that are deeply bound up with the Scriptures and the psalms. This is not new, of course, but I will be working on being more intentional about it. Hence, expect to see a clear focus on things like:

  • The Daily Office in their pre- and post-Reformation forms
  • The Books of Hours and their spiritual traditions
  • The Psalms themselves
  • The practical doing and experience of Psalm-grounded spirituality
Posted in Holistic/Regular Life, Spirituality | Leave a comment

The Carrow Psalter: At the Beginning

It started out a grey and rather yucky day in Baltimore. I decided we needed some pretty pictures. So—here are some pretty pictures. They’re from the Carrow Psalter. It’s a psalter written in East Anglia, the Norfolk/Suffolk/Cambridgeshire area part of England that used to be the heartland of the old Danelaw. Written in the mid-thirteenth century, it appears at Carrow Abbey (near Norwich—still within East Anglia) at some point in its fairly early history. And, yes, this is abbey where Julian of Norwich was said to have received her training. (Indeed, if a certain expert on Julian wants to weigh in further, that would be much appreciated!) Could she have seen or even used this psalter? Who knows. I’d like to think so!

In addition to the Julian connection, I like this book because of one of the saints who figures prominently in it is St. Olaf. Here we’re likely seeing some of the old cultural connections from the Anglo-Scandinavian character of the Anglian area. It’s significant to me as I’m an alum of St. Olaf College.

Finally, I picked it because this book’s shelfmark is W. 34. The “W” signifies that it is one of the holdings of the Walters Art Museum, meaning that this book currently sits 1.7 miles away from my house…

Here’s the url linking to the full manuscript from the Digital Walters: W.34, Carrow Psalter.


PeterAndPaul

The psalter opens with this full page spread of Peter and Paul with facing collects. Following traditional iconography, Peter has the keys, Paul has a sword and is bald on top. The collects are relatively straightforward. The Early Church knew of the dust-up between the two described in Galatians 2, but the tradition describes them patching up their difficulties and the story is told of their joint martyrdom in Rome. Liturgically, the two are connected because whenever a feast of one was celebrated, the collect of the other was included as a commemoration immediately thereafter. That’s basically what we have here—the collect from the Chair of St Peter followed immediately by the commemoration of Paul.

BarnabasAndJohn

Here’s the next full page spread. If you can see up at the top above the figures, they are labelled St. Barnabas and John the Evangelist. However, if you look very carefully at the second collect, you may notice something odd. It mentions “gemini” (twins) and names both John and Paul (beatorum iohannis et pauli). Yeah—it’s the wrong John and Paul… Somehow the scribe has inserted the collect for the 4th century martyr brothers John and Paul who have an ancient titular church in Rome built over their tomb (which was also one of the “stations” where papal masses were held), and who are celebrated on June 26th. Not John the Evangelist.

After these two there are four more full-page spreads each having two saints—mostly apostles—and a collect. The sense you get is that the psalter begins with the 12 apostles (2 saints, 6 pages, sure, why not?). Except that Barnabas was a companion of Paul, not an apostle, and the last pair includes a very generic and surprisingly well-groomed John the Baptist. Luke’s list of disciples is being followed but we’re missing Philip and the second  James (and, of course, Judas Iscariot would round out the Twelve count but Paul is in his place. No Matthias either.)

So—there are some pretty pictures from interesting manuscript that raise a variety of questions! Hopefully we’ll dip back more into this psalter in the future.

 

Posted in Liturgy, Medieval Stuff, Saints | 3 Comments

Thinking about the SCLM

I received a fairly annoyed note today from a regular reader and correspondent; in a nutshell, the message expressed a deep concern about whether the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music (SCLM) was actually listening to what the church wants or needs. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked something like this.

Indeed, M sometimes tells me that much of the work of the SCLM that I do seems like a waste of time as most people within the church ignore what it produces.

In a certain sense, this is generally not an issue. That is, in most triennia, it appears that we on the SCLM offer resolutions that create work for us to do, then we go and do that work that we have decided ought to be done and—as M points out—most of the church yawns and goes on with their usual business.

But things are changing.

Thanks to two resolutions, (A169-2015 and D060-2015) we are now considering both hymnal revision and prayer book revision at the same time.

As a result, the way that we listen to the church, hear the church, and seek to implement the will of the church becomes much more important with regard to these two areas than, say, when we decide that liturgies for creation need tweaking.

What are your thoughts? What is the best way for “the church” writ large to interact with the SCLM? What’s the best way for us to communicate with you? What would help you have an authentic voice in the process and to help us hear what the body of the church is asking for? The SCLM does have a blog—is that useful? Is it sufficient? Let me know. I can’t promise anything, of course, but I would like to hear your thoughts…

Posted in Anglican | Tagged | 10 Comments

Back to the Keys

I’ve been occupied with quite a number of things over the last several weeks, but I’m on my way back to regular blogging.

For those of you who read The Anglican Digest, the Autumn issue opens with a piece from me. Naturally, I’d urge you to read it!  (I don’t see it up yet at their main site, but you can see the Autumn issue on their Scribd feed.)My piece may be familiar to long-time readers, it’s an edit of something I originally published several years ago at the Cafe, and I still regard it as one of my favorite essays.

While you’re there, definitely check out the rest of the issue as well. There’s a very interesting line-up of people with content ranging from the devotional to the pastoral to the theological; this issue has a particular focus on the Communion of the Saints. I used to be a faithful reader of TAD but dropped off a while ago; it’s under new editorial management now by two solid folks who should be well known to Episcopal blog readers, Fr. Anthony Clavier and  Catherine Salmon (verger extraordinaire and daughter of Retired Bishop Salmon). They’ve been at the helm for about a year now, and are breathing new life back into it.

Duty calls—more later!

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Thoughts on the Creeds

A dust-up over the use of the creeds in worship is circulating on Facebook again connected to this post on Fr. Arnold’s blog (now joined by this post by Fr. Hendrickson). I do think that discussion about the creeds is useful and ought to be done quite a lot particularly because I think a lot of people aren’t exactly clear on what they’re for and why we have them.

I address the creed in a couple of different ways in my book on the spirituality of the prayer book that the folks at Forward Movement tell me will be coming out by the end of the year (yay!). In particular, I talk about how the creed serves as a set of hermenetuical boundaries for reading Scripture, but that part of the real genius of our liturgical system is that the Christian Year itself is a slow-motion meditation on the creed. Here’s my first draft of that discussion.

Truthfully, though, that was my second go-around on that topic. A decade ago (!!)  one of the first prolonging things that I wrote on this blog was a two-part discussion of the creeds that works through reading practices in Christian Antiquity, Origen, the place of the creeds in a clash of worldviews, and even some wrestling with (famous 20th century biblical guy) Rudolf Bultmann! You can find them here:

The Creeds I

The Creeds II

(These are the sort of posts that make me think I may want to troll through my old posts and craft some of them into essays…)

Posted in Anglican, Theology | 1 Comment

On the Identity of the Ungodly

As I was praying Morning Prayer, I was briefly distracted going through the psalms because I couldn’t remember for the life of me what Cassiodorus and Augustine had said about Psalm 10. Psalm 11 was no issue—actually, I’ve got a post lurking in my brain dealing with the opening lines of Psalm 11—but 10 was a blank until I finally figured out what was ging on…

Here’s the start of Psalm 10 as I read it from the ’79 BCP:

  Why do you stand so far off, O LORD, *
and hide yourself in time of trouble?
  The wicked arrogantly persecute the poor, *
but they are trapped in the schemes they have devised.
  The wicked boast of their heart’s desire; *
the covetous curse and revile the LORD.
  The wicked are so proud that they care not for God; *
their only thought is, “God does not matter.”
  Their ways are devious at all times; your judgments are far above out of their sight; *
they defy all their enemies.
  They say in their heart, “I shall not be shaken; *
no harm shall happen to me ever.”
  Their mouth is full of cursing, deceit, and oppression; *
under their tongue are mischief and wrong….

Now—here is the start of Psalm 10 as found in the psalter of the ’28 BCP:

   WHY standest thou so far off, O LORD, *
and hidest thy face in the needful time of trouble?
   The ungodly, for his own lust, doth persecute the poor: *
let them be taken in the crafty wiliness that they have imagined.
   For the ungodly hath made boast of his own heart’s desire, *
and speaketh good of the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth.
   The ungodly is so proud, that he careth not for God, *
neither is God in all his thoughts.
   His ways are alway grievous; *
thy judgments are far above out of his sight, and therefore defieth he all his enemies.
   For he hath said in his heart, Tush, I shall never be cast down, *
there shall no harm happen unto me.
   His mouth is full of cursing, deceit, and fraud; *
under his tongue is ungodliness and vanity….

See the difference? It’s the difference between the plural and the singular.

For the Church Fathers, Psalm 10 was not really Psalm 10, but the second part of Psalm 9. Following the Septuagint (the 2nd century BC Greek translation), the Vulgate retained the acrostic structure lurking in the Hebrew and kept the two parts together; the Hebrew manuscripts and our English versions following the Hebrew separated them into two different psalms.

Augustine starts off his interpretation of Psalm 9 with a twofold indentification. The psalm starts in the “voice of the Lord” and therefore the “enemy” referred to in VgPs 9:4 (inimicum meum) is identified as Satan particularly since Augustine connects “retrorsum” with the “get behind me” of Jesus in Matt 16. But Augustine also says, “If, however, we prefer to understand the phrase, my enemy, more generally as a sinner or pagan, that will not be out of line” before concluding that the phrase “is more fittingly understood as spoken in relation to the devil.”

(Jerome, in his very brief Homily 4 on the Psalms, also brings the devil into it, noting VgPs9:29 thus: “Notice what the psalm says about the devil, he lurks in ambush with the rich. It is almost impossible for the rich man to be rich without robbing the poor.”)

 

At verse 19 and 20 (the end of our Psalm 9) Augustine brings in the Antichrist as the one who will be set over the heathen as “lawgiver” (a term not in our version/translation; here’s the Douay-Rheims for comparison). The Antichrist is that “lawgiver” and Augustine brings in the Antichrist a few more times as he considers the “ungodly” in the rest of the psalm.

Cassiodorus takes the hints that Augustine drops and develops the second part of the psalm as a prophetic narrative concerning the Antichrist and the unfolding of the last days. In his reading, the “ungodly” is not a singular noun collectively pointing to bad people but is pretty clearly the Antichrist. Within the psalm, then, Cassiodorus finds a fairly detailed account of the rise of the Antichrist and his actions against the poor and righteous which he bolsters by tying verbal details from the psalm into other passages across both the Old and New Testaments.

(At the same time, though, Cassiodrus insists on a historical reading at the start of the psalm, and, while Augustine brings in the devil at verse 4, Cassiodorus goes in a *completely* different direction: “Though David had many enemies, here we appropriately think only of Saul.”)

So—singular and plural terms in the psalms (or other Scriptures) can lead us in very different directions. The Hebrew, Greek, and Latin use the singular term (impius)  which leads the Fathers down one particular road. Yes, impious can be a collective noun, and Augustine reads it like that at points, but the use of the singular also moves them in the direction of a singular figure. Even though the BCP retains “wicked” as a collective, the use of plural verbs and then plural pronouns would never lead us in that direction.

What’s my point, then, to touch off a screed against inclusive language? No. Simply to make the observation that textual details matter. Certain textual features enable, suggest, or recommend reading in certain ways and close off other lines of interpretation. The shifting of grammatical number (from singular to plural) alters the way that we encounter the psalms. Psalm 1 and Psalm 10 are central examples. The Church Fathers identified the singularly evil person in Psalm 10 as the Antichrist; similarly, they saw the singularly blessed man in Psalm 1 as Christ.

We don’t.

Posted in Patristics, Scripture | Tagged | 5 Comments

A Great Slog of Witnesses

A few days ago I finally pushed “send” and A Great Cloud of Witnesses (GCW) went off to the chair and co-chair of the SCLM for them to steward along the path to publication.

You have no idea how happy I am to have that out the door… Over the years, I’ve begun categorizing the various projects that I have agreed to do. The most difficult are those I refer to as “tar babies.” These are the projects that I’m not particularly fond of, but must do, and that seem to soak up a disporportionate amount of time and emotional energy, preventing me from working on anything else. GCW was one of these. But the bulk of the work is now complete as it moves on to other stages.

A few thoughts at this point in the process…

1. I’m still not particularly happy with GCW, but I do think that it was the best we could do at this time. As I’ve said before, if it were up to me, the calendar would consist largely of martyrs, monks, mystics, and Marian feasts (the 4M kalendar….). But it’s not up to me, and it’s not my calendar. Starting from Holy Women, Holy Men and the responses we received from that, I think this was the best possible option, though, given where the church is.

2. I’m more convince than ever that “first” is not a theological category. Indeed, “first-ness” may well be a good litmus test for determining if a given calendar is eschatologically-oriented or historically-oriented. GCW, like HWHM before it, is primarily oriented towards history. Is that in keeping with the classic Christian conception of a sanctoral calendar? No. Is that in keeping with where the Episcopal Church is right now? Well—yes… But hopefully this will change at some point in the future.

3. I think the use of expanded commons will be a true benefit for two reasons. First, I think we had some fairly tortured readings in HWHM because we didn’t want to re-use readings and we wanted them to be appropriate. When you’ve got 287 lesser feasts to work with this becomes quite challenging! Giving a good range for local communities to select from makes far more sense. Second, it becomes much more clear that these readings are not now (and have never been!) intended for use with the Daily Office. The readings for Lesser Feasts & Fasts have always been for Eucharists, not for the Office.

4. There are a lot of really interesting people and true saints in GCW. I am glad that the church is being exposed to them. It is a decent starting place for exploring our history as Episcopalians and Christians as well as a means for getting to know those who are presently interceding with and for us.

5. We’ll see how the tags get used. There are two different kinds of tags in the resource–liturgical use tags and biographical tags. The liturgical use tags are those that indicate what liturgical materials to use for Eucharistic celebrations; these are balanced between the sanctoral commons and the Propers for Various Occasions. I do hope we’ll begin to see an expanded awareness and use of the later. The biographical tags are tags intended to help readers categorize and connect figures and groups of figures together. These identify things like ordination status, church community, time, place, and also charisms and virtues represented by the variou figures. Clearly, these will be more useful in an electronic version of the resource than a print publication—we’ll see what comes of that.

Hopefully, posting will become more regular now that this is done!

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Repeat Performance: Talking Mary with the Collect Call

When Brendan and Holli invited me to appear as a guest on The Collect Call podcast, they were recording a double-header. The first was on the collect for the Eucharist, the second was on the collect for the Feast of St. Mary which is now up in time for the feast today.

I did have to bail early to deal with some familial turmoil, but before that point had a great chat with them.

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