Author Archives: Derek A. Olsen

New Breviary Feature

I just added a new piece of functionality to the breviary that I think it’s been needing for a long time—but it didn’t click until last night…

Some Twitter friends were talking about bring prayer books on vacation—or using the St Bede’s Breviary instead—and that reminded me of the issues I’ve had when my family and I have tried to use it together. Making sure everyone is literally on the same page can be an issue. You either have to get your preferences all set the same (a real pain, especially if you already like yours) or figure out a good way to share the link.

It hit me as I was climbing into bed that a QR code is the perfect way to solve this. So, this morning on getting up, I did some poking around to see if there was an easy way to do this. Sure enough—there is! There’s a friendly little jQuery library that does this very easily.

Thus, you should see a new link up at the very top of the page. Click it to reveal the QRcode for whatever url you have in your browser, and then have other folks with you take a picture of it (iOS) or use their app (Android), and you’re good to go!

Sanctoral Table of 1963

Why, you ask, does it take so much time to digitize a resource like the Prayer Book Studies Series? Well, one of the reasons is that the SLM of the time was fond of tables…

Tables are a pain.

But—it is quite interesting to see the things that the tables contain. For instance, here is the PBS XVI update of the comparative table of saints across the Anglican Communion in 1963 and incorporating the Roman Calendar changes of 1960. Frankly, we could use to do a lot more of this. I constructed one of these while thinking about changes/additions for Great Cloud, but I don’t believe it ever saw the light of day… In any case, here it is:


Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 HOLY NAME OF JESUS X       X        
  OCTAVE OF CHRISTMAS             X    
2 Holy name of Jesus[1]                 X
4 Titus [2]       X          
8 Lucian               X  
10 William Laud X     X     X    
11 David of Scotland     X            
12 Benedict Biscop       X     X    
  John Horden             X    
13 Octave of Epiphany             X    
  Institution of Baptism [3]           X     X
  Kentigern     X            
  Hilary   X X X     X X  
14 Hilary X       X       X
17 Antony X X X X X X   X X
19 Wulfstan X X X X       X  
  Henry (of Finland)             X    
20 Fabian [4] X X X X X     X X
21 Agnes X X X X X X X X X
22 Vincent X X X X     X X X
23 Phillips Brooks X                
24 Saint Timothy [5] X   X X X X X   X
26 Polycarp X X X X X X X   X
27 John Chrysostom X X X X X X X   X
30 King Charles I     X       X    

1. Roman on 2nd Sunday after Christmas or Jan. 2.

2. See Jan. 24 and Feb. 6

3. Roman observes Baptism of Our Lord.

4. With Sebastian, in Roman, Sarum, and South African.

5. With Titus in Canadian.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Bride     X         X  
2 Ignatius of Antioch [1] X X     X       X
4 Ansgarius X X   X     X    
  Cornelius X                
  Gilbert of Sempringham       X          
5 Agatha       X       X X
6 Saint Titus [2] X   X     X     X
11 Finnian     X            
  Caedmon             X    
  Organization Nippon Sei Ko Kai         X        
14 Valentine       X     X X X
15 Thomas Bray X                
17 Finan     X            
18 Colman     X            
20 African Missionaries and Martyrs       X          
23 Lindel Tsen; Paul Sasaki             X    
27 George Herbert X     X     X    

1. See December 17.

2. See Jan. 4 and 24.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 David X X X X   X X X  
2 Chad X X X X     X X  
  John and Charles Wesley             X    
3 John and Charles Wesley X                
6 Baldred     X            
  Perpetua and Felicitas             X   X
7 Perpetua and Felicitas X X X X X X   X  
  Thomas Aquinas             X   X
8 Thomas Aquinas X   X X X X      
9 Gregory of Nyssa X                
10 Kessog     X            
12 Gregory the Great X X X X X X X X X
17 Patrick X X X X X X X X X
18 Cyril of Jerusalem X   X X X X     X
19 Saint Joseph X   X X X X X   X
  Thomas Ken [1]       X     X    
20 Cuthbert X X X X     X X  
21 Benedict [2]   X X X X X X X X
  Thomas Cranmer [3]             X    
  Thomas Ken [1] X                
22 James DeKoven X                
23 Gregory the Illuminator X                
27 John of Damascus [4]                 X
29 John Keble X     X     X    
31 John Donne X                

1. Cf. March 19 and 21.

2. See July 11.

3. See Proposed for June 10.

4. See Dec. 5.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Gilbert     X            
  J. F. D. Maurice X                
2 Henry Budd             X    
3 Richard X X   X X   X X  
  Reginald Heber             X    
4 Ambrose [1] X X X X X X X X  
6 William Law [2]       X          
8 William Augustus Muhlenberg X                
9 William Law [2] X                
11 Leo the Great [3] X X X X X X X   X
12 G. A. Selwyn [4] X     X          
14 Justin Martyr [5] X   X X X X     X
16 Magnus     X            
17 Donnan     X            
19 Alphege X X X X     X X  
20 Serf     X            
21 Anselm X X X X X X X   X
  Maelrubha     X            
23 George   X X X X X X X X
24 Wilfrid       X          
30 Catherine of Siena X X X X X X     X

1. Roman lists on December 7.

2. Cf. April 6 and 9.

3. Sarum on June 28.

4. S. African on the 11th.

5. Scottish on the 13th; Canadian on June 1.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
  JAMES OF JERUSALEM [2]             X    
2 Athanasius X X X X X X X   X
4 Monnica X X X X X X X   X
6 St. John at Latin Gate   X X X X X   X X
9 Gregory of Nazianzus X   X X X   X   X
11 Cyril and Methodius [3] X           X    
12 Florence Nightingale             X    
13 Martyrs of Uganda [4]       X          
19 Dunstan X X X X     X X  
20 Alcuin X                
  Council of Nicaea             X    
24 Jackson Kemper X                
25 Aldhelm   X X X     X X  
26 Augustine of Canterbury [5] X X X X X X X X X
27 Venerable Bede X X X X X X X   X
30 Joan of Arc       X     X    

1. Roman on May 11.

2. See Oct. 23.

3. Roman on July 7.

4. See Oct. 29.

5. Roman on the 28th.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Justin Martyr [1]             X    
2 The Martyrs of Lyons X     X          
5 Boniface X X X X X X X X X
9 Columba X X X X X X X    
10 First Prayer Book [2] X                
  Margaret [3]     X           X
12 Ternan     X            
14 Basil of Caesarea X X X X X X X X X
16 Joseph Butler X                
18 Ephrem of Edessa X               X
  Bernard Mizeki       X          
20 Fillan     X            
22 Alban X X X X X X X X  
25 Moluag     X            
28 Irenaeus [4] X X X X X X X   X
29 PETER   X X     X      
30 PAUL           X      

1. See April 14.

2. See Canadian on March 21.

3. See Nov. 16.

4. Romans on July 3.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Octave of John Baptist             X X  
  Dominion Day             X    
2 Visitation X X X X X X X X X
4 INDEPENDENCE DAY X                
6 Octave Peter and Paul             X X  
  Thomas More             X    
  Palladius     X            
9 Stephen Langton             X    
11 Benedict of Nursia [1] X             X  
13 Silas       X   X      
15 Swithun   X X X     X X  
16 Osmund       X       X  
17 William White X                
20 Margaret of Antioch   X X X X   X X X
22 Mary Magdalene X X X X X X X X X
24 Thomas a Kempis X                
26 Parents
B.V.M. [2]
26 Anne   X X X X   X X X
27 W. R. Huntington X                
29 Olaf     X       X    
  Mary and Martha [2] X     X   X     X
  William Wilberforce       X     X    
30 William Wilberforce X                
31 Joseph of Arimathaea X                
  Germanus and Lupus       X       X  

1. See March 21.

2. Roman observes Joachim on Aug. 16.

3. Roman and Indian observe Martha only; S. African on the 30th.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Lammas   X X       X    
  St. Peter’s Chains       X X X   X  
  Maccabean Martyrs             X   X
4 Dominic X     X X X     X
5 Oswald   X X       X X  
7 Name of Jesus   X X X   X X X  
10 Laurence X X X X X X X X X
12 Clare X       X       X
  Charles Inglis             X    
13 Hippolytus X           X X X
  Jeremy Taylor             X    
14 Jeremy Taylor X                
15 Repose of B. V. M. X   X X X X X X X
18 Helena         X        
20 Bernard of Clairvaux X X X X X X X   X
25 Louis X               X
  Ebba     X            
28 Augustine of Hippo X X X X X X X X X
  Robert McDonald             X    
29 Beheading of John the Baptist   X X X X X X X X
31 Aidan X X X X   X X    
Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Giles   X X X X X X X X
  Robert Gray       X          
2 Robert Wolfall             X    
8 Nativity of B. V. M.   X X X X X X X X
9 Boisel; Kiaran     X            
10 E. J. Peck             X    
12 John Henry Hobart X                
13 Cyprian of Carthage [1] X X X X   X X   X
  First General Synod, Canadian Church             X    
14 Holy Cross X X X X X X X X X
16 Ninian X X X X     X    
17 Lambert       X       X  
19 Theodore of Tarsus X X X X X   X    
20 John C. Patteson X     X     X    
23 Adamnan     X            
25 Sergius X                
  Finnbar     X            
  Lancelot Andrewes       X     X    
26 Lancelot Andrewes X                
  Cyprian of Carthage [1]         X     X  
30 Jerome X X X X X X X X X

1. Roman on the 16th (with Cornelius); see also the 26th.

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Remigius X X X X     X X X
4 Francis of Assisi X X X X X X X   X
6 Faith   X   X       X  
  Thomas of India           X      
  William Tyndale X           X    
9 Denys   X X X X   X X X
  Grosseteste             X    
10 Paulinus       X     X    
11 Kenneth     X            
  Philip the Deacon       X     X    
13 Edward the Confessor   X X X X   X X X
  Congan     X            
15 Schereschewsky X                
16 Latimer
and Ridley
X           X    
  Henry Martyn       X          
17 Henry Martyn X                
  Etheldreda   X X X     X X  
18 LUKE X X X X   X X X X
19 Frideswide       X       X  
21 James Hannington [1]             X    
23 James, Brother of the Lord X     X   X      
25 Crispin and Crispinian   X   X     X X  
26 King Alfred the Great X X   X     X    
  Cedd             X    
29 James Hannington X     X          

1. See the 29th.

Note: Last Sunday, Feast of Christ the King in Roman and Indian

Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
2 All Souls   X X X X X X X X
  Richard Hooker             X    
3 Richard Hooker X                
6 Leonard   X X X       X  
7 Willibrord X     X     X    
8 Octave; Anglican Saints   X X X   X X    
  Gervadius     X            
11 Martin of Tours X X X X X X X X X
12 Machar     X            
  Charles Simeon X     X          
13 Charles Simeon             X    
  Devenic     X            
14 Consecration of Samuel Seabury X                
15 Fergus     X            
16 Edmund       X       X  
  Queen Margaret X   X       X    
16 Hugh of Lincoln   X         X    
17 Hugh of Lincoln X   X X       X  
  Hilda   X     X   X    
18 Hilda X   X X          
19 Elizabeth of Hungary X     X         X
20 King Edmund   X X X     X X  
21 Columban                  
22 Cecilia   X X X X   X X X
23 Clement of Rome X X X X X X X X X
25 Catherine of Alexandria   X X X X   X X X
Day Feast Proposed English 1928 Scottish 1929 South African 1954 Japanese 1959 Indian 1961 Canadian 1962 Sarum Roman 1960
1 Nicholas Ferrar       X          
2 Channing More Williams X       X        
3 Birinus       X          
  Francis Xavier           X     X
4 Clement of Alexandria X X X X X X X    
5 John of Damascus [1] X                
6 Nicholas of Myra X X X X X X X X X
7 Ambrose [2]                 X
8 Conception of B. V. M.   X X X     X X X
13 Lucy       X X     X X
14 Drostan     X            
16 O Sapientia   X X X     X X  
17 Ignatius of Antioch [3]   X X X   X X    
29 Thomas Becket       X X   X X X
30 John Wycliffe             X    
31 John West             X    

1. Roman on March 27.

2. See April 4.

3. See Feb. 1.


The end of the school year for two different schools has happened for me. That’s been rough, but we’re through it now…

Here’s a quick update on where the Prayer Book Studies digitization project goes. I have now finished Prayer Book Studies volumes I through XV. (Well, almost—there’s still a bit to do on XII, but I’m ignoring that for now.)

This is an important point to stop and make on observation on this collection.

Looking back, it’s clear that PBS I-XIV form a fairly coherent theological and liturgical unit. This body of material goes through all of the main rites and sections of the prayer book and reflects work done since the 1940’s but published in the span between 1950 (with PBS I) and 1959 (with PBS XIV) following the authorization of the series at General Convention in 1949. One of the clear signals of the coherence is that every single one of these volumes begins with an identical preface laying out the premise of the work. Furthermore, that preface makes clear that the work incorporated here did not begin in the 1940’s but, rather, consists on unresolved work and discussions that began in the 19-teens and that did not fully make it into the 1928 BCP:

The last revision of our Prayer Book was brought to a rather abrupt conclusion in 1928. Consideration of it had preoccupied the time of General Convention ever since 1913. Everyone was weary of the long and ponderous legislative process, and desired to make the new Prayer Book available as soon as possible for the use of the Church.

But the work of revision, which sometimes has seemed difficult to start, in this case proved hard to stop. The years of debate had aroused widespread interest in the whole subject: and the mind of the Church was more receptive of suggestions for revision when the work was brought to an end than when it began. Moreover, the revision was actually closed to new action in 1925, in order that it might receive final adoption in 1928: so that it was not possible to give due consideration to a number of very desirable features in the English and Scottish revisions, which appeared simultaneously with our own. It was further realized that there were some rough edges in what had been done, as well as an unsatisfied demand for still further alterations.

The materials we find in PBS I-XIV center around the work of three men, the liturgy professors of the central Episcopal seminaries of the day: Bayard Jones, Morton Stone, and Massey Shepherd, Jr. While Jones died in 1957, the work he had done in the decades prior was still fully incorporated up through PBS XIV.

The overwhelming impression that I get while I go through these documents is of a committee, anchored by these three, that does its work in a careful and thorough fashion. A great deal of thought, discussion, and argument has gone into this work. There are references to earlier liturgical tomes—often those written by one or more of the three—as well as great attention to the sources of antiquity, with a tremendous amount of weight placed on the Apostolic Constitutions (as one might expect in this period of liturgical history).

Nowhere does this stand out more than in the two heftiest and most involved volumes of the collection, PBS IV (On the Eucharist) and PBS IX (On the Calendar). Both of these studies involve searching looks at the past, and an extremely careful survey of the current situation in the Anglican family. I see frequent off-handed and usually silent references to the great minds of the English revision efforts just after the turn of the 20th century. Indeed, it is impossible to read the volume on the Calendar without feeling the tremendous influence of Walter H. Frere’s writing.

The work is careful, thorough, fairly conservative, and completely in touch with sources. I believe I’ve remarked on this before on this blog, but it is worth repeating again: virtually all of the sanctoral collects in PBS XII (Propers for Minor Holy Days) are based on pre-existing collects that have been adapted, tweaked, and modified to be appropriate. Nobody is making stuff up off the top of their heads. Furthermore, this judicious source-based approach was taken up after a test and failure of a “biographical collect” trial run. [As should be well-known to students of our Calendar, this approach and body of work was complete scrapped in 1980 with the triumphal (?) return of the “biographical collect”…]

Furthermore, after PBS XIV we see a shift in the contents of the series. PBS XV is not, actually—despite the name—a volume of study on the prayer book. Instead, coming in 1961 in anticipation of that year’s General Convention, it is a plea. Having established that prayer book revision has been at work in many of the other churches of the Anglican Communion, it has proceeded in those places on the principle of “trial use”: testing stuff out rather than legislative line-editing. Shepherd writes:

For the past three General Conventions (1952, 1955, and 1958) the Standing Liturgical Commission has offered with its report to the Convention a resolution seeking an amendment to Article X of the Constitution that would set up the possibility of trial use in any forthcoming revision of the Prayer Book. This resolution has been defeated in all three Conventions.

The volume is, essentially, a direct appeal to the broad body of General Convention, especially the House of Deputies, for passing a measure that would make trial use possible.

After the publication of PBS XV (which came out 3 years after PBS XIV), PBS XVI would not be published until two years later (1963) and PBS XVII does not appear until 1967. Beginning with these two publications and continuing through the rest, two things happen with the Prayer Book Studies series as a whole. First, the PBS publications begin reworking earlier material (PBS XVI is a re-working of the Calendar material; PBS XVII is a reworking of the Eucharistic material from PBS IV). Second, the studies begin engaging with changes coming from the Roman Catholic world. While the earlier volumes showed influence from the Ecumenical Movement , the great sea-change had not yet occurred. As you’ll note from the date span (1950-1959), this early body of work occurs before the single biggest bombshell of twentieth century liturgics: the reforms of Vatican II.

There is a definite shift in character between the First Series—those denoted with Roman numerals, comprising PBS I-XVII—and the Second Series—those denoted with Arabic numerals, comprising 18-29. I’ll say more about that as I get into them. However, I did want to note this moment, this turn, with a simple observation.

One way to think about the movement we see in the Prayer Book Studies volumes is that this First Series represents a view of prayer book revision that seeks to complete work left undone in the 1928 revision. Although it draws in ecumenical sources and is influenced by the Ecumenical Movement and work by Roman Catholic scholars, it comes from a profoundly and intentionally Anglican perspective.

And I think that’s where I’ll leave it for now: Prayer Book Studies volumes I through XIV represent an Anglican extension of revisions not yet completed for the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

The Liturgical Contexts of Julian of Norwich

The Liturgical Contexts of Julian of Norwich

Things have been quiet here, and this is one of the big reasons why. In addition to the Prayer Book Studies project, I’ve been putting together a talk for Julianfest, the gathering of Associates, Oblates, and Affiliates of the Order of Julian of Norwich. It took place this week and was a thoroughly delightful time—I finally met Fr. John-Julian in the flesh, as well as Marguerite and other long-time readers!

Here is the prepared section of my talk. It doesn’t contain the great questions during it or the musings that occurred as we looked through picture at the end. Before you read through this, you’ll also want to make reference to:

The Handout


The Slides with All of the Pictures

So, once you have those, here’s the talk…

The Liturgical Contexts of Dame Julian’s Revelations of Divine Love

1 Introduction

The Anglican turned Roman Catholic priest Ronald Knox is responsible for the quip that Mysticism begins with “mist” and ends with “schism.” And, indeed, the modern encounter with much medieval mysticism tends to treat it this way. God is a warm fuzzy ball of light—it says so right here in Meister Eckhardt or Mechtild of Madgeburg—or Julian of Norwich. As a result, our writers and thinkers get coopted by a syncretistic New Age mélange that draws on spiritual authorities of the ages in order to say, “I’m ok, you’re ok—or at least you will be once you’re as enlightened as I am…”

What modern people usually forget about the medieval mystics is that the majority of them were liturgical professionals. The order of their days was shaped by the appointed liturgies of the Church—the Mass and the Offices—and, that’s the correct context for understanding them. So, yes, they might write something that sounds like God is a big fuzzy ball of light, but you have to remember that they’ve already said or sung the Creed at least four times by that point in the day, and they’d likely say or sing it another four by the time they went to bed. And thus we read the mystics best when we read them through and in relation to the liturgies that they experienced on an almost constant basis.

2  The liturgical context of the anchoritic experience

2.1 Psalters and, later, books of hours as the premiere devotional materials for well-off Northwest European devotion

When we look at the lay spirituality of medieval England, we’ll notice that it takes part in a broader tradition that we see across northern France, Burgundy, and the Low Countries and, indeed, many of the resources for English spirituality were produced in artistic centers like Paris, Flanders, and Bruges.

Lay spirituality largely followed patterns laid down in monastic practice. As the mendicant movements took off, their forms of spirituality would be passed on to the laity as well, but at the heart of medieval spirituality lay the Psalter. We see psalters being translated in English for the use of the laity as early as the Anglo-Saxon period as part of Alfred’s flowering of English as a literary language, we see monastic style prayer services being adopted in the households of lay nobles in the writings of ælfric in the 10th century.

2.2 Psalters generally

Liturgical psalters, originally the same versions used in monastic liturgies, were either gifted to or created for lay nobles. We see liturgical psalters fusing with devotional psalters by the time we begin heading into the High Middle Ages. Now, a liturgical psalter is more than just a collection of the 150 psalms. Certainly it has those, but it also includes a liturgical calendar, it includes the canticles and hymns used in the full Daily Office, the litany, suffrages to saints, and it also includes the shorter devotional offices that developed following the model of the regular offices.

The earliest of these is the little Office of the Blessed Virgin which developed in Benedictine circles in the mid eighth century and filtered out into broader monastic and lay use by the 10th century. The basic format was copied for a variety of other supplementary offices like the Hours of the Passion, the Hours of the Trinity, and the Hours of the Holy Spirit. These had the traditional seven plus one hours (sometimes fewer) for use at specific times of the day. Also dating from the 7th or 8th century is the Office of the Dead which consisted of only three hours in two blocks, Matins and Lauds of the Dead (which were often said together) and a Vespers of the Dead.

There’s a distinction I want to draw your attention to here: there are two kinds of these cut-down Daily Office “things.” There are “Offices”: These contain psalms and other parts and are longer. The “Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary” and the “Offices of the Dead” are the two most common of these. Then there are “Hours”; these don’t have Psalms and tend to be said either in place of or after a full-on Office which don’t have Psalms and are usually just Opening Versicles, a stanza of a hymn, then a Memorial which is a little liturgical packet composed of an antiphon/versicle & response/collect packet. Usually the materials for the Trinity, The Passion and the Holy Spirit are just Hours with no psalms, but you will also find some books from some periods that will have full-on offices for these devotions as well.

2.3 The Carrow Psalter, Specifically

The book that kicked off this whole topic is a Psalter that lives in the Walters Art Museum which is a mile away from my house in Baltimore. If you’re an expert in all things Julian, you may well recognize the first part of the name. Carrow Abbey is a Benedictine priory in southeast Norwich founded in the year 1145. According to some theories, Julian may have been trained at Carrow Abbey; of course, that’s not Fr. John-Julian’s take on it, and I’m not about to dispute his expertise! However, he does note that Carrow Abbey played a role in Julian’s life as they were had some authority over the parish.

The Carrow Psalter was created in East Anglia in the middle of the thirteenth century. At some point thereafter it arrived at Carrow Abbey from which it gets its name. In all likelihood, it was there during Julian’s lifetime. Could she have seen it? Who knows… It’s a tantalizing thought. We’ll never know for sure, but there’s no doubt that even if she never held or looked at this particular book, she certainly would have seen others just like it. As a result, this is the perfect book from which to get a sense of the kind of liturgical manuscripts Julian would have known and used.

2.3.1  Overview of the Contents

This is a typical liturgical psalter of the period, meaning that it contains not only the psalms but a full complement of the liturgical extras needed to properly pray a high medieval cycle of offices and additional devotions.

It contains an initial section of saints with full-page images, devotions and collects; two cycles of biblical images; a Kalendar; the 150 Psalms; Canticles; the Litany, petitions and collects; the Office of the Dead; the Hours of the Virgin; and the Psalter of the Virgin. So—no Hours of the Holy Spirit or the Trinity, or even the Passion. But, it does have the two cycles of images which are quite interesting. Let’s take a look at some of these sections…

  • Quick look at the Image and prayers for Barnabas and John
  • Biblical Cycle
    • OT focuses exclusively on Adam & Eve, then directly to Christ
    • The handing of the shovel calls to mind the long chapter 51 of the Showings where Julian talks about the lord and the laborer; the Lord dressed in blue with brown hair sitting on the ground and the laborer in his dirty white tunic who is a gardener.
    • I’m not trying to say that there’s any direct connection between this picture and that showing. What I am pointing out is the visual connection and correspondence between Adam the laborer and Christ the Lord who is giving him direction. This picture is certainly representative of the kinds of pictures that would show up in these kinds of books.
    • The life of Christ moves through the Incarnation to the Temptation directly to Holy Week.
    • It’s a little hard to see some of the details so I’m blowing up the Arrest and Flogging, and also the Crucifixion itself.
    • This is definitely a Gothic crucifixion as opposed to an early medieval one, the central difference being that there’s no question that this is a dead Christ on the Cross
    • Then we have the Deposition, the Empty tomb, the Harrowing of Hell, then the moment of resurrection itself with Jesus actively stepping from the tomb.
    • Then we have the resurrection appearances: Thomas touching the side-wound of Christ, The Ascension, Pentecost and then a final image that we should look at more closely
    • Before we get there, here’s a detail of the Harrowing of Hell and the Moment of Resurrection. I want you to notice something here—that is, this is definitely a bloody Christ. Even as a resurrected body, the wounds of Christ are still conspicuously bleeding. And we’ll continue to see this as well.
    • On the left we have Pentecost with the dove descending; on the right we have an image known as the Throne of Grace. This is an image that you will see a lot when looking at depictions of the Trinity in this period and going forward. This is going to be one of the most dominant images of the Trinity. This is an early version as it just shows God the Father holding the Cross containing the crucified Son. In later periods, we’ll see the Spirit as a dove hovering right above the head of the Son—but that’s not in the picture quite yet.
    • The last image from this cycle is the Last Judgement.
    • That’s the end of the first cycle of images. Think about it for a minute: This is an attempt to convey the entire span of the biblical salvation narrative in 34 images. We have Adam—we have Christ. Of these, we have only two full page images where a single folio is devoted to one image—the first is the angel giving Adam the shovel and Eve the distaff; the second is the Last Judgment. This is biblical interpretation at work—this act of selection is a weighing and parsing of what events are the most fundamental, the most significant. Furthermore, the choices about layout and size are interpretive decisions. This framing of the narrative of salvation is going to have an impact on the people who are using these books, looking at these images day after day, week after week, decade after decade.
    • There’s a second cycle that follows the first—this is just scenes from the life of Christ which hit just the high points of Incarnation and Redemption: the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Presentation in the Temple, Carrying the Cross with a display of the instruments of the passion, the nails and the crown of thorns. We’ll just glance at these two images.
  • The Calendar
    • Then we’ve got the Calendar—this is a pretty standard one, that is localized to the East Anglia area. Folks like Botulph of Bury, Felix of Durwich, Withburga, Edmund, and Sexburga let us know that this manuscript is written in the general area. No real surprises here; there are a lot of English saints, so May has Dunstan and Aldhelm and Augustine of Canterbury; it’s also got the old Roman and North African saints, so all in all, what you’d expect from a native English calendar.
  • The Psalter
    • The bulk of the manuscript is occupied by the Psalms. This is the start of Psalm 27 (The Lord is my light and my salvation)—as is normal in historiated initials like this one, David indicates his eye referencing the “light” mentioned in the text. The text is clear and well written; verses are indicated by small initials that alternate between blue and gold. The mediant is indicated either by a point or by a punctuation mark that looks like an upside-down semi-colon. There are a few abbreviations but nothing too crazy. Psalms that don’t start with a historiated initial get a large gold one. Clear—easy to pray from.
  • After the initial color and decoration of the beginning of the manuscript, there’s not a whole lot of it in the later section. After the Psalms, the Canticles, Litany, and the Little Offices don’t have a whole lot of decoration to distinguish one from another.
  • The Canticles follow on immediately after the Psalms with no indication of a break. Just like the psalms, you have alternating marginal initials and each new Canticle is indicated by a large gold initial
  • The Litany of Saints
    • After the saints the litany moves into the abs, the pers, and the uts just as ours does
  • The Office of the Dead also contains no clear visual signals that it has started
  • When we finally get to the Little Office of the BVM, we do finally get some splashes of color but instead of the normal sequence of images, we just get some heraldic insignia representing a family who owned the book in the sixteenth century, likely modifying some original images.
  • Finally, the book concludes with the Psalter of the BVM, a Franciscan devotional creation attributed to St. Bonaventure and his circle. With that we do get one more image—and it’s a historiated initial with a man kneeling before the Virgin and child. This is likely the original owner of the manuscript, the guy who commissioned it.
    • This is something I want to comment on: we see this a lot—patrons included in a scene with Christ or Mary or—more normally, Christ and Mary. And, not in this case, but especially in later works, we see them holding the book itself.
    • What these images are getting across is the mentality of the prayer book—the book serves as a vehicle to bring the pray-er into the direct presence of Christ and his mother. This is a powerful and important claim.
  • So—the Carrow Psalter: This is a book that Julian might have seen and it certainly stands as representative of the kind of devotional psalters that were in favor amongst the nobility in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
  • Now, we can both compare and contrast that with another Psalter—this is the Burnet Psalter
    • If I had to remark on the differences, it’s that we see the entrance of three big pieces: Indulgenced prayers, Franciscan, and Brigittine affective spirituality.
  • After that we see a shift to a new kind of book which will take these themes and run with them.

2.4 Books of Hours generally

Now—the thing about these early psalters is that they’re big. In form factor, they’re large. The original ones had to be because they had to be big enough for a couple of monks to share them while they were singing in choir. They drop in size as they become books for lay use; so 10 inches by 7 inches is fairly standard for devotional psalters by the end of the thirteenth century but they’re still thick. We see a shift in the fourteenth century in lay spirituality from full Psalters to the Books of Hours which are the direct descendants of the liturgical psalters.

When it comes to contents, the Books of Hours—as the name implies—doubles down on the Little Hours and Little Offices as the primary locus for lay spirituality. Again—there’s lots of variation here, but here are some of the standard contents for a high medieval book of hours:

  • The Little Office of the BVM
  • the Gradual Psalms
  • the Penitential Psalms
  • Litany of the Saints
  • the Office of the Dead
  • additional prayers, devotions, and memorials

They’re certainly spiritually continuous with the Psalters but with three major differences. First, they only have some of the psalms instead of all of them. Second, they’re a lot smaller. These are books for individuals to pray from and with individually. Third, these tend to be highly decorated art objects with full page pictures of biblical events and saints with all manner of additional materials packed into the initials and borders of the pages. These are important devotional objects—but they’re also an important form of medieval bling. They could be hung off the belt in a cloth or a little mesh bag so they could be appreciated and a lady could casually take it out and page through it, showing off the beautiful artistry and fine borders, in a display of not just her piety but also her wealth and good taste. So—in addition to being spiritual texts they were also a form of conspicuous consumption.

2.5 The Loftie Hours, Specifically

Now, there are some really rich and sumptuous Books of Hours. Any owned by Jean, duc de berry qualify for that. I’ll probably sprinkle in some material from the Bedford Hours a little later and show you what that looks like. But not all of these were totally high-end manuscripts. There was some basic stuff too, so I’m going to show you a more simplistic version to start with called the Loftie Hours. This one was written in the mid-fifteenth century—so, probably within 25 years of Julian’s death or so. And it was written in the Netherlands. There are two main ways that we know that. The first is that the calendar is of the Use of Utrecht. The other way we know is because the book is written entirely in Dutch. There are a few reasons I want to show you this one. I’ll give you two right off. First, the artistic style is quite interesting. Second, the particular devotional material pulled together here is very pertinent to our topic and I think connects in some clear and interesting ways to what Julian is up to.

We’re not going to walk through everything here, rather I want us to hit the high points. Let’s start with a look at the contents…

  • Table of Contents
    • Pretty Basic for a Book of Hours
  • Calendar
    • Simple and clear, not nearly as embellished as what we see with others
  • Hours of the Cross
    • The grisaille style: drawn with lamp black then colored in. It’s not because they didn’t have colors, rather, it gives it a certain effect.
    • The first time I saw the deposition in this grisaille style, I immediately thought of Julian’s description of the drying out of the body of Christ
  • Imago Pietatis: The Image of Piety and the Man of Sorrows. We’re going to take this up as a major topic in just a little bit…
  • Last Judgement is in the midst of a set of prayers to Christ
  • The Vernacle—Julian specifically mentions this at the start of the description of the Second Showing in chapter 10
    • She didn’t have to go to Rome or have anyone else go—it’s a very common image in the Books of Hours.
  • The 5 wounds.
  • Office of the Dead
    • This one is pretty tame; there will be some much wilder and more colorful images associated with this later like the 3 living and the 3 dead. (What you are, we were/ What we are, you will be)
    • Reminds me of the Showing of the dead body in Chapter 64. There are many of these: dead bodies with souls coming out of them and also angels and demons fighting over souls that have just left their bodies.

Here’s why this is important. The prayer of the anchoresses, as far as contemporary sources show us, is grounded in the use of the Little Offices as we find them in both the psalters and the Books of Hours. These are their central liturgical texts that they’re praying day in and day out. In the Carrow Psalter the images petered out after the Psalter—with the books of Hours you’re going to see a lot more of images and they are going to be much more thoroughly integrated across the volume and within the text. The images that the anchoresses would have seen in these kinds of books would no doubt have shaped their devotional sense of the life and death of Jesus, specifically, the events of the passion.

2.6 The liturgical pattern as reflected in the Ancrene Wisse

One of the surviving sources that tells us about anchorite liturgical practice is the Ancrene Wisse. Written in Middle English sometime between 1200 and 1230 (so—a good 150 years before Julian), the initial chapter of the work lays out the liturgical work of the anchoress.

At the heart of it is the recitation of the Hours of the Blessed Virgin, the Office of the Dead, and a set of devotions that draw from the Hours of the Trinity, the Hours of the Passion, and the Hours of the Holy Spirit. The Penitential Psalms and the Gradual Psalms are interspersed with liturgical sections meditating on the Passion of Christ giving us, essentially, an Office directed to each of the 5 wounds of Jesus.  The Litany is included as well as the 5 Joys of Mary which is a long and substantial Office in and of itself as well. [See the slides for the layout…]

2.7 The liturgical pattern as reflected in the Myroure of Oure Layde

We see a similar—similar, not identical—set up in the Myroure of Oure Layde which was written for the Brigittine Sisters of Sion at Isleworth on the Thames established in 1415, within Julian’s lifetime. John Blunt, the 19th century liturgist and antiquarians who edited this work for the Early English Text Society in 1873, put its composition sometime between 1415 and 1450, most likely in the 1430’s but—again—around the same time period as Julian.

The Sisters of Sion prayed the Hours of the Blessed Virgin together in choir in Latin—but not all of them understood Latin. The Myroure was written to solve that particular problem. It goes line by line through the liturgy, explaining what it means in English and also giving a variety of liturgical and ritual directions complete with reasons why these things are done. Now—many of these are quite fanciful but their purpose is to explain and instruct so that the sisters can pray more profitably.

I’m not going to go into much detail on the Myroure at this point, but I do want to make a few points about it. First, Brigittine spirituality is a major strand of lay English spirituality, especially women’s spirituality. The Fifteen Oes of St. Brigit are going to become huge and they are an important means of affectively meditating on the Passion of Christ and seeing it from the perspective of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Second, note the emphasis on the presence of the vernacular for the understanding of the women. They wanted to make sure that the women understood the Latin texts they were praying so they put it into the vernacular.

I know this seems out of place, but let me jump back to the Loftie Hours for just a moment. When I was looking at this book, thinking about the kinds of images it had, and the liturgies it had, thinking about the fact that it was in Dutch—in the vernacular—I found myself wondering if it belonged to a woman… It really seemed to fit with what we see in the Ancrene Wisse and the Myroure so I approached it from that direction. Well, lo and behold, there’s a partially erased inscription that has been partially reconstructed…

“Hof” means “court” or “courtyard” in Dutch. Who knows if we’ll ever figure out exactly what that means. However—if we’re left free to speculate—might this women live in or by a courtyard because she’s enclosed there? Could this be an anchoress’s book of hours? It’s entirely possible…

3    The Julian Turn

At this point I want to transition into the directly Julian items which means that, I need to make a confession. I am not a Julian scholar. To be totally honest with you, I’ve never read the full Revelations of Divine Love, and the time that I’ve spent with it preparing for this talk is my longest sustained engagement with it ever. Prior to this I’ve read about it and have read a few short excerpts in college and seminary, but not an engagement of this length.

What this does mean, though, is that my encounter with Julian is thoroughly framed by this liturgical background. I’m only coming at it from the lay liturgical perspective. As a result, the major themes that I see coming out of Julian are very much in coherence with the main body of devotional materials I find in the books: A strong emphasis on the Passion of Christ and the way that is bound up with the Blessed Virgin Mary. The consistent emphasis on the Trinity. Things like the Hours of the Trinity and the Office of the Trinity really emphasize devotionally what we’re used to encountering doctrinally. The affective encounter with the Trinity is different from just thinking theological thoughts about it. The Presence and language around the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person of the Trinity that does not get left out in Medieval devotion. We’re kinda scared to talk about the Spirit too much now—I mean, we’re good Episcopalians, why would we ever talk about the Spirit? People who do that are weird, aren’t they?! And also intercession and intercessors and how those fit into the divine economy.

So the way I’d like to proceed is to just start throwing some pictures up here. I’ve got observations on some of them, I invite you to make observations and we’ll keep it fairly free-flowing…

[At this point, this is exactly what we did—looking through a set of images and commenting about them. Broadly speaking, the main topics we covered were the Imago Pietatis and Christ as the Man of Sorrows, Julian’s understanding of intercessors and ways that images in the Books of Hours communicate this concept, images of and devotion to the Wound of Christ and how that connects to Julian’s understanding of the Motherhood of Christ, and—finally—a discussion of the 3 showings of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Julian and how these are part of standard representations of the BVM in the Book of Hours tradition.]

Prayer Book Studies II: The Lectionary

Sharing the latter half of the volume with PBS I is Prayer Book Studies II: The Liturgical Lectionary which examines and recommends changes to the lectionary appointed for the Eucharist.

Note the timing: this was published in 1950 and was based on work done before that time. The three-year lectionary is not even a twinkle in Rome’s eye at this point. As a result, this book is focused entirely on tweaks to the classical one-year lectionary. This volume could be considered an anachronistic waste of time as it refers to a system we no longer use any more but for two important points.

First, the three-year lectionary has come under fire lately and there have been a number of pieces written on the superiority of the one-year system and calls for its restoration. In light of that call, I find it quite valuable to see this list of considerations on what needed to be changed in that system by people who had lived within it for decades. It’s easy enough for people of my age and younger who have never lived under it to wax eloquent about its benefits; it’s more instructive to hear trained scholars with lengthy experience with it hold forth on how it could be made better.

Second, this volume addresses what I understand as a fundamental principle of any good Eucharistic lectionary:

In other words, it is none of our concern to impose any individualistic idea of our own as to what the Christian Year is, much less to reform it to what we might like to make it. As a matter of fact, we know what the Christian Year is only by studying what it has been: and any emendations we may make should be limited to those which will actually enable it to say better what it is evidently trying to say. (PBS II, 45)

One of the brief side-arguments I made in my dissertation that I’d like to revisit and expand upon at some time is just this notion—that there is an Aristotelian back-and-forth between the character of our liturgical seasons and the content of our Eucharistic lections. That is, the themes of the season inform the choice of the lessons; the content of the lessons establishes the themes of the season.

The argument rightly presented here is that “…the Church’s cycle of commemorations was not a system which was systematically planned and executed at any one time, but a collection which was gradually piled up through many centuries” (PBS II, 40). Indeed, further scholarly work like McKinnon’s magisterial The Advent Project (published in 2000 and argued about since then) gives a fascinating visibility into the fits and starts by which accumulation and systematic planning alternated in the life of the Church and the growth of its lectionaries and Minor Propers.

There is a not insignificant amount of unhappiness with certain aspects of the Revised Common Lectionary—the three-year cycle we currently use for our Eucharistic lectionary. While many folks take the opportunity to spout off about what’s wrong with it, this volume offers an opportunity to examine how to go about thinking through what careful, intentional, systematic revision could and should look like.

It’s worth noting that the changes discussed here are grounded in one particular book, The Eternal Word in the Modern World, by Burton Scott Easton and Howard Chandler Robbins (Scribners, New York, 1937). The introduction to PBS I/II states :

The Commission records its loss in the deaths of two of its members, whose final contributions to the Church they served are reflected in this first issue of the Prayer Book Studies. . . . The Reverend Doctor Burton Scott Easton, late Associate Member, in his published work on the Epistles and Gospels of the Christian Year, furnished the foundation and inspiration for the Study on “The Liturgical Lectionary.”

So—the first author of the book was also a participant in the drafting of this volume. I’ve never seen a copy of this work for myself, but now I’m curious about it…

Another interesting throw-away line was this one:

It is a curious fact that no Lectionary of any Church ever made a systematic attempt to secure a definite ‘liturgical harmony,’ featuring a single common theme between all the portions read at each service, until the American Lectionary of 1943. (PBS II, 44)

The reference here is not to a Eucharistic lectionary, but to the revision of the Daily Office Lectionary. While I’m aware of this lectionary and have interacted with it to a certain degree,  I’ve not yet studied it in depth. When I have the opportunity to do so, the starting point will no doubt be Bayard Jones’ The American Lectionary (Morehouse-Gorham, 1944).

Jones was one of the Big Three in the early work of the Standing Liturgical Commission, the other two being Morton Stone and Massey Shepherd, Jr. All three of these guys—as liturgy professors at Episcopal seminaries—wrote important books on the 1928 BCP and its liturgy that might make interesting reading to supplement what is found in these Prayer Book Studies volumes.

PBS I: Baptism & Confirmation

I’d hoped to glance quickly over the text of PBS I, which I’ve already finished, and to jot out a quick post pointing out a few highlights. Instead, I started reading through the text and got bogged down into a few google searches leading inevitably to the agreement between two bishops of the 1750’s that they’d be happy to give away the body of St. Anselm to the superstitious King of Sardinia on the principle that if they could give away some dusty bones to the benefit of a single Protestant they’d be ahead in the bargain! (And, of course, that any old Anselm would do to be sent off anyway…). [Both plans A & B were thwarted.]

However, I did find myself making a number of footnote additions to the text. The authors assume that the readers either know the text of the 1928 BCP intimately or that they have a copy of it at hand while they read the Studies.  While that’s probably not a bad idea, I’ve elected to include footnotes containing the various prayers and other things they make reference to in case there isn’t a ’28 BCP around.

In any case… The study does open with the question of the relationship between Baptism and Confirmation which will continue to be a major topic in Anglican liturgics to the present. While the question is identified, it is not solved or even fully engaged here. Rather, the proposed changes to Baptism: “may be subsumed under three headings: the length of the service, the clarification of rubrics to meet modern needs and demands, and the simplification of the ritual text.” (PBS I, 12). What this line doesn’t mention but explains later is one of the central planks of the revision of Baptism, namely that the baptismal service should be shortened so that it is not overly burdensome when inserted into a regular Sunday Service, preferably a Eucharist.  Private baptism are not forbidden but certainly discouraged.

The discussion of the Blessing of the Font under the third heading brings up again the Confirmation question which concludes in this way:

All that the present revision claims for itself is that it has sought to avoid any phraseology which would foster an interpretation of Baptism with Water in such a way that it usurps or makes superfluous the normative and necessary place of Confirmation in the perfecting of the Christian, or would reduce the meaning of Confirmation to a mere strengthening of what has been received in Baptism. (PBS I, 19)

After this, they do hasten to add that Confirmation should follow directly after if at all possible.

The changes to Confirmation include making it a full stand-alone service, but also a move back towards a second giving of the Spirit:

The most significant alteration in the prayers which follow are designed to restore the primitive view of Confirmation as the gift of the indwelling Spirit in all His fulness to the baptized, and not merely as an added, strengthening grace. Thus, “Send into their hearts thy Holy Spirit” is substituted for “Strengthen them with the Holy Ghost” as in the present form. This brings the prayer closer not only to the 1549 form, but also to the original Gelasian wording: immitte in eos Spiritum sanctum. Similarly, “Confirm” has replaced “Defend” in the prayer said by the Bishop at the imposition of his hand. This change makes it clear that Confirmation means primarily the action of God in confirming His children. In our present rite the word “confirming” is confusingly used only of the action of the candidate in renewing his vows. Moreover the word “confirm” includes all that is implied in “defend” and more! (PBS I, 21)

Needless to say, this direction will be significantly reversed in later volumes…

The second big topic here is the question of bringing  Chrismation back into the service. The Sarum materials mention the bishop “signing and sealing” but don’t mention oil.  While Cranmer had kept the language of “signing and sealing” in the 1549 book, this was all excised in the 1552 BCP. This revision notes that many bishops are signing and sealing with oil, and as much as you get the sense that they’d like to go there, the authors stop short of actually proposing it. It’s floated as a trial balloon in the text, but not included within the proposed service itself.

In summary, then, this study offers some initial steps towards baptismal revision. Private baptisms are discouraged, but there is no sense here of the Baptismal Covenant. The Confirmation revision doubles down on the rite as an invocation of the Spirit upon the confirmand, emphasizing thereby that the “confirming” is something done just as a much by God as it is by the individual.

Prayer Book Studies: Digital Edition

One of the things I have hoped and intended to do for a long time is to make the Prayer Book Studies series more available throughout the church.

For those not familiar with it, “Prayer Book Studies” was a concept set into motion by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 1949. This would be a study of liturgy, liturgical principles, and the rites of the church that would guide progress towards a new Book of Common Prayer. Prayer Book Studies I/II (containing the first two studies) appeared in 1950; Prayer Book Studies 29: Introducing the Proposed Book of Common Prayer was published in 1976.  Appearing (mostly) in floppy blue pamphlets of varying length, these booklets are invaluable looks into the thoughts, logic, knowledge, and assumptions of the men (mostly men…) who shaped our present American Book of Common Prayer (1979).

As we discuss liturgical revision at this time, and as we have memorialized the 1979 BCP—whatever that means—it is imperative that we as a church gain a clear sense of this book that we have and the principles and priorities that produced it.

And these topics are discussed and made explicit in the volumes of the Prayer Book Studies.

I have signed a contract with Church Publishing to produce a digital edition of the full series. Exactly how they will be gathered and distributed is a marketing decision, and not entirely in my hands. Nonetheless, the goal is to produce the complete text containing footnotes (and introducing editorial footnotes where I think something needs to be added or clarified) for the reflection and edification of the church.

Want to know why a text was chosen? Check here first.

Want to understand the reason for a rubric? Check here first.

Want to get a better sense of why we do what we do? Check here first…

We plan to move quickly on this. I’ve already begun the first series, and PBS 1-3 are in the hands of the good folks at CPG. I intend to finish the first series (Prayer Book Studies I-XVII) by the early summer; I don’t know what that means exactly for a release date, but I hope not too long after that. I plan to blog as I go, sharing some of the gems I discover, and whetting your appetites for the arrival of the full set.

(Work on the Psalms book still continues, albeit at a sluggish pace, and will be back on the front burner when this is done…)

So—check back frequently for more updates, ask me if you don’t see any, and keep me in your prayers as I work to make this great set of resources available for the church!

Resurrecting the Blog

Easter-tide is perfect for resurrections…

It’s been a really rough year for me personally and for the blog and my writing as well. I had a job loss, some floundering, then a new job, and a new medical diagnosis lurking behind it all.

For almost the past decade, I worked in the IT department of a financial-sector Fortune 50 company. It had its pros and cons,  the biggest pros being my immediate supervisors who  were (and are) terrific people. The cons were the constant layoffs and downsizings, and eventually they got to my name on the list…

When I was told that was ending, I thought about what to do next. I had a vision of writing and programming full-time: really taking the blog and the breviary to the next level and incorporating some additional projects to make this all work. I gave that a shot. That’s when I put up the Patreon page, and tried to make a go of it. I quickly realized that—at least at this point in my life—that wasn’t going to fly.

A new attractive job opportunity opened up—teaching Computer Science (and math) at an inner-city Catholic girls school here in Baltimore. So I made the switch. And while I love it, and it’s great fun, learning the ropes of a new job, teaching a full load of classes none of which I’ve ever taught before, and trying to stay on top of all of the grading has all but torpedoed any hopes I had of maintaining all of the other side projects.

Especially the blog…

In and through all of this, I’ve been grappling with a new reality about my life. Around the same time that I was laid-off, I was diagnosed with adult Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). I had never thought of myself in that way before, but after the diagnosis, looking through the literature, watching videos like this one and this one and many more, and generally educating myself about the condition—so many things about my life made so much more sense!!

Now I know that typically in our culture we hide neurodiversity/mental illness. Sorry—I have no interest in doing that. It’s part of who I am. It’s not something I’m ashamed of (or proud of); it’s just me.

Please notice I used two terms in the previous paragraph: “neurodiversity” and “mental illness.” I did that for a reason. As I see it, neurodiversity recognizes a biochemical fact—my brain isn’t wired like other peoples’ brains. I lack (or have diminished capabilities in) certain executive functioning pathways and other links that occur in the majority of adult human brains. Mental illness is when my different functioning becomes pathological, and disrupts normal relationships and prevents me from working or living well with my neurotypical family, friends, and colleagues.

I’m on medication and working with strategies to manage my condition, to keep it non-pathological. (And I’m recognizing strategies and coping mechanisms I’ve always used and never realized before!) However, it’s still a challenge, especially with all of the other life changes I am wrestling with right now.

To bring this back to the blog and the church stuff, my ADHD is one of the reasons why I have so many side-projects going on—and why I have such difficulty finishing the ones I start! Part of my sanity process going forward will be to rein these in and to actually finish all of the various and sundry projects that I have started—before I start any new ones!

I have used this blog in the past as, essentially, an accountability strategy. That is, I’ve posted things here in order to keep my forward progress going forward. It doesn’t always work—but it can and has with several projects in the past. So, as one of my strategies towards sanity, I’m going to get back to the blogging, to keep you up to date on things and, hopefully, to keep moving forward with the things I need to do.

What’s prompted this now, at this particular time, is one of the many side-projects that isn’t purely self-directed. When I commit to doing projects with and for other people—people with budgets and timelines—there are consequences for falling through, like important projects I believe in and care about getting cancelled. So. In my next post, I’ll formally announce this project and work towards finishing it, and then tackle the other projects that I (and maybe you) care about too so that we can get these finished up…

Thoughts on Good Friday

I don’t think that the crucifixion was inevitable. I don’t think it necessarily had to go this way.

God sent his Son to be incarnate and live as one of us. Jesus was sent to reconcile humanity with God, to repair the breech, to lead us back to unity with God, and to enable us to share in the hopes and dreams and desires of God for his vast creation. God doesn’t choose to play us like puppets, so there had to be some freedom and flexibility in the plan, so that God could adapt to the human element, to the ways that we might act or react or change the plan. That doesn’t mean that we had to end up killing him—but that’s what we did.

I don’t think that the crucifixion was inevitable—but it was very likely, knowing who God is, and knowing who we are. We humans have an innate tendency to be selfish. We look after our own interests. Our tendency is to look out for number one, and to be suspicious of anyone or anything that threatens our power, our position, or our possessions. It’s a system that works. It’s not a system that is good, but it works because it is predictable and reliable.

Jesus came to break this system.

Jesus came to tell us about a more excellent way. And he didn’t just come to tell us with his mouth, but with his whole body and through everything that he did and the people he hung out with. He could have been part of the political system, he could have gotten in good with the religious system—but he didn’t. Instead he came to break the system. He came to challenge and question and confuse and confound and to beat up the scribes and the lawyers and the religious leaders with their own law because he knew it better than they did. He came, asking the hard questions about what justice, and mercy, and grace, and love really look like and act like and feel like. Jesus threatened the system and so the system fought back in the only way that it knows how. We didn’t have to end up killing him—but that’s what we did.

Because, at the end of the day, that’s who we are. We make the selfish choices. We perpetuate systems that aren’t fair, but that work because just enough people get what they want, they can justify taking it away and keeping it away from others. We made the choice to kill the Lord of Life because that’s who we are.

But—we call this day “Good” Friday because of the other person in the equation. God knows humanity. God knows humanity thoroughly. And even if the crucifixion wasn’t part of the original plan, God wasn’t done with us yet. Despite our pettiness, our fear, our cruelty. Despite humanity staying true to our worst instincts, God stayed true to his best nature. God kept on being God and that means bringing hope out of darkness, bringing freedom out of captivity, bringing redemption out of death. Even while we were yet sinners, Christ Jesus chose to die for us, and in so doing, turned our ultimate act of betrayal into a means for achieving the reunion that he came to accomplish. God loved us—and loves us—so deeply that our own attempts to ruin it were doomed to failure because there is nothing that you or I or anyone else can do that is bad enough to make God stop loving us. God’s capacity for love is greater than our capacity for sin.

I don’t think the crucifixion was inevitable—but it was likely, and I suppose it’s not surprising knowing the way we are. Good Friday is the day that humanity failed. We failed because we closed our eyes and minds and hearts to God’s message of love and truth and peace. We failed because we thought the way to stop God from challenging us and challenging our systems was to kill. We failed because there is nothing that we can do to make God stop—to make God stop loving us and calling us back to him.

Today is the day that we failed—but God wasn’t done with us yet.

God isn’t done with us yet.

Thanks be to God.

Hear Me Talk about Oxford 2.0

At school the second quarter is coming to an end and we’re gearing up for midterms. It wasn’t until my friends from All Things Rite & Musical tweeted a link to my Anglo-Catholic Future talk that I realized it was up for listening!

So—here you will find the audio of me talking about my take on an modern Oxford Movement 2.0.

If you haven’t read them before—or if you haven’t read them recently—I’d recommend reading Robert Hendrickson’s “It’s Time for a New Oxford Movement” post and also the follow-up from Ed Watson “What’s Preventing a New Oxford Movement?” before listening to my talk.

I usually post the text as well, but there’s talk about doing something else with these so I’m holding off until I know more.