Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Support the Christians of Iraq

Please pray for the persecuted Christians of Iraq and indeed please urge your Congressmen to pass the proposed resolution noted below: in particular, Anglicans, who sponsored the Mission of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Assyrian Church of the East at the beginning of the twentieth century, should stand in solidarity with our bothers and sisters of the Assyrian, Syriac and Chaldean Christian traditions in Iraq, as they face at this very moment what is possibly the worst persecution in their venerable 2,000 year history.

The United States Conference of [Roman] Catholic Bishops urged Congress on Nov. 29 to pass a resolution condemning religious violence in Iraq, and insisting on better protection for Christians and other minority faiths.

Two representatives of the conference, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany in New York, wrote to the sponsors of House Resolution 1725, in their respective positions as the national chairmen for migration and social justice. They commended the seven sponsors of House Resolution 1725, and called for the act's immediate passage.

Rep. Chris Smith (R – N.J.), a [Roman] Catholic and an outspoken advocate for international religious freedom, introduced the resolution along with six co-sponsors from both the Republican and Democratic parties. The proposal follows a wave of attacks targeting Iraqi Christians this fall, the worst of which left over 50 worshipers dead at Baghdad's Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation on Oct. 31.

Several Iraqi Christians now living in the U.S.--including a board member of the international charity Iraqi Christians In Need, and a former seminary professor of two priests killed at Our Lady of Salvation– have told CNA that the government is not doing enough to stop an epidemic of violence that has forced more than half of the country's Christians to flee.

Although Rep. Smith voted in favor of the American invasion of Iraq –which Pope John Paul II warned would destabilize the region and lead to sectarian violence– he has also demonstrated a willingness to speak out against cases of abuse or negligence by the ruling Iraqi government. Last year, he co-sponsored a resolution condemning Iraqi security forces' attacks on a group of Iranian refugees.

Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Hubbard praised Rep. Smith's introduction of HR 1725, as a means to “focus attention on the situation of the vulnerable religious communities in Iraq.” They particularly appreciated its call for a “comprehensive plan” to prevent religious persecution, and to increase the representation of Christians and other minority groups in Iraq's government.

The bishops described the attack at Our Lady of Salvation, along with other assaults intended to drive Iraqi Christians from their homes and businesses, as “horrific reminders of the appalling lack of security that has condemned many in Iraq to live in fear.” The resolution expresses concern for Iraqi refugees, urging that barriers to their resettlement or return be lifted.

“We sincerely hope that H. Res. 1725 will be adopted quickly by the House of Representatives as we believe it will help improve security for all Iraqis, especially Christians and other vulnerable minorities,” the bishops wrote, noting that the resolution's proposals would help the troubled country achieve peace and address its refugee crisis.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Saints and Canonisation


Q: Do Anglican Churches canonise Saints or have the ability to do so? Do Anglicans recognise the Saints canonised in other catholic Churches?

A: The Anglican and English Missal traditions do recognise as a matter of course the canonisation of Saints by both the Western and Eastern Churches after the period of the Reformation, a number of post-Reformation feast days being included in the Missals. The Missals are an officially authorised worship resource in the APA by virtue of Canon Law, so as a result, the canonisation and veneration of such identified Saints is part of our theological and canonical praxis. It is entirely within the competence of any Catholic and Orthodox jurisdiction to canonise Saints, as we see in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Churches of the East canonise Saints according to the careful decision and specific proclamation of particular Holy Synods, the Synods of Bishops in any given jurisdiction. After a number of years of research, study and prayer concerning an individual considered worthy of canonisation, a particular Orthodox jurisdiction has the ability and juridical right to proclaim an individual a Saint, and this happens with some frequency. It is the general custom of Anglican Churches to recognise these Saints, and those also canonised by the Roman Communion and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. The 'Branch Theory' allows us to recognise all those holy men and women who have been canonised in other parts of the Holy Catholic Church.

Theoretically, there is nothing in canonical or doctrinal precedent to prevent the Provincial Synod of the APA, or of any other orthodox Anglican Province, from canonising a new Saint, 'canonisation' meaning the commemoration of the recognised worthy at the Altar with a special feast day in the liturgical calendar and special liturgical propers for the celebration of the Mass and Offices, but to my knowledge, no Anglican body has sought so to canonise formally any Saint unique to Anglicanism since 1661, when Saint Charles was officially canonised by the English Church: 26th April 2011 marks the 350th Anniversary of the official Canonisation of Saint Charles Stuart I, King and Martyr, by the Church of England. The closest the Anglican Communion has come since that time to liturgical official canonisation has been the inclusion of various Anglican 'Worthies' in local, regional and national liturgical calendars and Prayer Books. Our Missals, for example, contain feast days for Blessed William Laud, Blessed John Keble, Blessed Edward Pusey, Blessed John Mason Neale, etc., an act tantamount to canonisation without the formal process of a Synod or Convocation authorising it. Lesser Feasts and Fasts, in the orthodox 1963 edition of the American Church, also 'canonised' a large number of Saints from the Undivided Church and the Anglican Communion by giving them proper feast days and Eucharistic propers.

Our practice, as demonstrated in the Missals, is essentially that of the ancient Church, which Church always canonised Saints on a local basis by popular acclamation - the consensus of the local Church; a local Diocese would recognise in one of her own members a person of heroic sanctity and virtue, and would thus begin the practice of invocation of the person in prayer, with the veneration of the place of burial, relics, and sites associated with the person in question: over the course of time, such local veneration, often resulting in miracles, would flower into a more formalised devotion and the most official recognition possible, the holy one then being commemorated in the Liturgy, and the place of his burial and his mortal remains becoming a shrine and place of prayer and pilgrimage. A local Church would simply be compelled to recognise a Saint through popular devotion and 'make it so.' In the Undivided Church, there was no formal or 'bureaucratic' process of canonisation; veneration of an individual was the result of the Saint's life of Christian holiness, witness and example, and the fruit of Christian devotion and the movement of the Holy Spirit in the consensus fidelium of the People of God. So we Anglicans have basically followed the same path, and have slowly and incrementally incorporated particular Saints or Worthies of our own branch of the Catholic Church into our own liturgical calendar as acclamation and recognition have warranted, sometimes with Synodical and juridical action and sometimes without.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On the Sea of Galilee

Bethlehem

Egypt


The Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church


This prayer serves as the ‘Mass intention’ of the Eucharistic Liturgy: it incorporates and expresses the petitions of the Body of Christ, the Church, for which the Eucharist is offered to the Father through Jesus Christ, whose perfect and eternal sacrifice is to be sacramentally re-presented in the Canon, by the power of the Holy Ghost - all in the Church as the royal priestly people of God, who offers to God the Sacrifice of her Head and herself in union with that Head of the Body. We beseech the Father in the Prayer of the Church to accept the oblations of bread and wine, and our own lives, which will be hallowed and transformed in the Prayer of Consecration: bread and wine will be consecrated into Christ’s Body and Blood, and our lives will be changed to bear the New Life in Christ. The oblations, set before the Father in preparation for their consecration into the Blessed Sacrament, are offered to God in sacrificial praise, along with the petitions and prayers of the faithful, and alms to be given to assist all those who need them. In this prayer, a supreme prayer of intercession and petition is offered to God for the needs of His Church by the Church as ‘a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people’ (I Saint Peter 2.9).

This prayer is the first stage in the Eucharist introducing Christ’s own Act of intercession, presented to the Father through His Body in the sacred liturgy, the leitourgia, ‘people-work’ or ‘the work of the people.’ It sublimely summarises all the intentions for which the Eucharistic Sacrifice is offered, as it petitions God for the ‘whole’ or ‘healthy’ state of the Holy Church - that the Church may be secured in unity, holiness and fidelity to Scripture and Tradition, and empowered to present to God fragrant offerings of self-sacrifice, righteousness and love. Into this prayer, Christ’s priestly people enter their own immediate needs, intentions, petitions, and concerns, individual and personal requests of God. Here, intimate sacrifices and desires are lifted to the Throne of Grace, as the Church inserts the personal and individual intercessions of her particular members, and the needs and intercessions of local churches, into the One Great Intercession of Christ, our High Priest, Mediator and Advocate, which will be made-present, pleaded sacramentally, in the Canon. The Eucharist, beginning here, reproduces the mystery described in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 9), as Christ makes present on earth His Eternal Offering.

The Prayer for the Church originates in the ancient Jewish prayers of supplication in the synagogue. The ancient Christian Eucharist named it the ‘Intercession, or Prayer of the Faithful,’ to be recited as either the preface or conclusion of the offertory, in which the holy gifts were prepared by the deacon at the altar. Eventually, this collection of intercessory prayers made its way into the Eucharistic Canon or Prayer of Consecration: in the Eastern Rite, it is located right after the epiklesis, the prayer for the Holy Ghost to consecrate the gifts into Christ’s Body and Blood, and in the traditional Latin Rite it is located after the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy). In the original 1549 English Prayer Book, Archbishop Cranmer placed his newly-composed intercession prayer (our ‘Prayer for the Church’) between the Sanctus and the opening section of the Canon proper (‘All glory be to thee...’), basically in the same location as the old Latin Rite prayer. Bishop Cranmer reconstructed and redesigned the Prayer for the Church, weaving new elements into it and reordering older ones, fashioning a new prayer, based on Scripture, holding fast to the most ancient of prayers and concepts.

In the 1552 English BCP, it was moved to its present position, immediately following the offertory. This change was based on the discovery of the original, primitive arrangement for this prayer as found in the Liturgy of St Justin Martyr (circa AD 150). Bishop Cranmer adjusted his prayer structure accordingly. The 1789 American Prayer Book followed the English 1552 usage, and so have we received it in our 1928 American BCP.

Our prayer follows the order of petitions also found in the Divine Office, the Bidding Prayer and the Litany. Its order is very straightforward. Notice the emphasis on ‘the Word,’ or Holy Scripture, characteristic of the perspective of the English Reformation, which reasserted the centrality and importance of the Bible as the ultimate standard of Church doctrine and morality. The people as well as the clergy are admonished throughout this prayer to teach, hear, receive and believe the content of Holy Writ:

1. Offering of Oblations, Alms and Prayers, with Intercession for the Universal Church: I Timothy 2.1 is quoted as the guiding principle in its opening paragraph.

2. Prayer for Christian Rulers: A prayer only for Christian rulers, and thus a prayer for the Church Catholic and her members, not necessarily intended for secular rulers outside the Flock.

3. Prayer for Bishops and other Ministers: an intercession for those in Holy Orders.

4. Prayer for the People of God in the local parish, and those present at the Eucharist.

5. Prayer for all who suffer or who are in adversity: an intercession for all in need.

6. Prayer for the Dead: an intercession for the Christian departed that they ‘grow’ in the love and service of God in paradise, and that we may follow the examples of the Saints.

7. A Final Doxology: the earthly intercession is united to Jesus’s heavenly High Priesthood.

A note on Prayer for the Dead:

The 1928 American BCP restores the primitive, ancient and venerable practice of praying for the departed, making intercession for the Church Expectant or Church in Paradise. The renewal of such prayer is a recovery of the truth of the Communion of Saints, of the One Family in Heaven and Earth (Ephesians 3.15) in which all who are alive in Christ, quick and dead, are united in one Body, one fellowship of shared life, love, grace and prayer, indestructible even in the face of death - for all who live in Christ are alive to God, both those on earth and those have passed through the veil of death. This One Communion of Saints, of ‘holy ones’ in Christ, possesses in common the One Life of Christ, the One Holy Ghost Who enlivens all, being the Life-Giver, and One heavenly Father - the total reality of the Trinity’s eternal life. The whole Body of Christ is joined and linked together in prayer and intercession, in union with Christ our Head and Priest, so that all generations of the new redeemed humanity, the Church, are essentially one and undivided. All are one in Christ.

This means, practically speaking, that within the Communion of Saints, the Church on earth liturgically intercedes for those who have entered into the Age to Come, as that vast majority of Christians now enjoying the larger life can and does intercede for us still striving in this mortal life. The Communion of Saints exists as a mutual exchange of love and prayer between the saints in paradise and militant Christians still struggling on earth. The Church, from the Apostolic age, has always offered the Eucharist on behalf of the departed, knowing that such prayer, in a way mysterious and unknown to us, benefits the dead. The Holy Sacrifice is pleaded for them, that they may rest in peace, and experience a foretaste of the Heaven we all hope to share - we pray that the Holy Dead may receive a state of light, refreshment and peace in the nearer presence of God.

Prayer for the dead, incorporated into our Eucharistic Liturgy, is a thankful return to the universal and unbroken Tradition of the Apostolic and Primitive Church, and her liturgical worship, which interceded for her faithful dead in the Eucharist as, now, do we. The first 1549 English BCP included both a commemoration of the Saints, offering God ‘most high praise, and hearty thanks, for the wonderful grace and virtue declared in all thy Saints from the beginning of the world...' with a high veneration of Our Lord’s Mother (‘chiefly in the glorious and most blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ our God and Lord’) and an intercession for the faithful departed, who have died with the sign of faith, that they may receive ‘mercy and everlasting peace.’ All reference to the Saints and faithful departed was unhappily expunged from the Prayer Book in its 1552 English edition. Our current prayer is originally based on that of the 1662 English BCP, which restored a commemoration of the departed borrowed from an Injunction Prayer of Queen Elizabeth I written in 1559. But, the 1559/1662 commemoration has no actual petition for the departed, only a grateful remembrance. The 1928 American Prayer Book’s phraseology of intercession for the dead (‘grant them continual growth in thy love and service’) is novel, having no discernible precedent, and is unique to our Liturgy. The 1928 BCP also reintroduced Requiem Mass propers.

The Biblical Texts

‘Let us pray for the whole state of Christ’s Church’ Psalm 122.6, Colossians 1.24
‘Almighty...God, who by thy holy Apostle...’ I Timothy 2.1-2, Philippians 4.6

‘We beseech thee...to accept our alms and oblations, and to receive these our prayers’ II Samuel 16.4, Acts of the Apostles 24.17, Hebrews 13.16, Galatians 6.6, Psalm 20.1-3, Hebrews 6.10, St Matthew 25.40, Psalm 6.9

‘beseeching thee to inspire continually the universal Church with the spirit...’
St Matthew 28.19-20, St John 10.15-16, St John 17.20-21, St John 16.13, Ephesians 4.1-4, St John 13.35

‘And grant that all they that do confess thy holy name may agree...and live...’
Romans 10.9-10, I St John 4.2-3,15, I Corinthians 1.10, Amos 3.3, II Corinthians 13.11, Philippians 2.1-3, Philippians 3.15-16

‘We beseech thee also, so to direct and dispose the hearts of all Christian rulers...’ I Samuel 10.24, Psalm 72.1, I Timothy 2.1-2, Proverbs 11.14, Exodus 18.21-22, Deuteronomy 1.17, Romans 13.3-4, I Peter 2.13-14

‘Give grace, O heavenly Father, to all Bishops and other Ministers...’ Philippians 1.1-2, II Thessalonians 3.1, Ephesians 6.13-19, I Timothy 4.12, Titus 2.7, Psalm 132.9, St Matthew 5.13-16, I Timothy 4.16, II Timothy 2.15, Titus 2.7-8,
Acts of the Apostles 20.28, Acts 7.38, II Timothy 2.7, Jeremiah 3.15, St John 17.17,
St John 6.63, St Matthew 28.19, Acts of the Apostles 8.36-38, Acts 16.31-33,
St Luke 22.8/19, Acts of the Apostles 20.7, I Corinthians 14.26-40

‘And to all thy people give thy heavenly grace...that...they may hear, and receive...’ Psalm 16.1, 119.18-36, Ezekiel 36.27, Acts of the Apostles 10.33, Nehemiah 8.2-5, Revelation 2.11, St James 1.19-21, Deuteronomy 32.46-47, I Thessalonians 2.13

‘...truly serving thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life.’
II Timothy 3.16-17, St James 1.22, Romans 6.22, St Luke 1.74-75, Galatians 6.9,
Micah 4.5

‘and we humbly beseech thee of thy goodness...to comfort all those who are in trouble...’ Hebrews 13.3, Psalm 145.9, Psalm 94.19, II Corinthians 1.3-4, Psalm 103.13-17, Psalm 90.5-6, Psalm 144.4, III St John 2, Hebrews 4.15, St Matthew 4.23, Hebrews 2.18, Psalm 94.12-13, Psalm 31.7, St Luke 7.11-15, St John 11

‘And we also bless thy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear...Grant this, O Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our only Mediator and Advocate.’ Job 1.21, Psalm 145.21, Revelation 14.13, Revelation 7.13-17, Hebrews 11.13, Ecclesiastes 8.12, II Timothy 4.7-8, Hebrews 12.1-2, Hebrews 6.12, Hebrews 13.7-8, Hebrews 11.39-40, St Matthew 8.11, Colossians 1.12, II Timothy 4.18,
I Thessalonians 4.14, I Corinthians 15.22, I Timothy 2.5

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land



Your episcopal blogger just returned yesterday afternoon from an astonishing 12-day journey to Israel, Palestine and Egypt, my first visit to the Holy Land: photographs to come with gratitude for everyone's ongoing prayers. God bless you!

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