Thursday, December 28, 2023

On the Feast of the Holy Innocents


From the Book of Common Prayer, the Collect for the Feast of the Holy Innocents:
O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Herod "The Great", the Idumean puppet king installed by Rome was known for his massive building efforts and his rebuilding of the post-exilic, or Second Temple.  For all of this, Herod was a paranoid, maniacal murderer who dispatched his wife and his son who was his heir apparent. Knowing this documented paranoia, being confronted by strangers inquiring about a "King of the Jews" could easily set him into a murderous rage.  In that blind rage, he ordered the murder of every boy, two and under, in the town of Bethlehem.

 Warned in a dream, the child Jesus' parents took the boy and as instructed, headed southwest to Egypt.  This moment was seen by the Prophet Jeremiah when he declared:
Thus says the LORD: "A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more." Jer 31:15 (ESV)
   These events were captured in the Coventry Carol, a piece dating back to the early Sixteenth Century. 

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Christmas Eve, and the Dawning of a New Day

Yes, contrary to the sentimental song, She knew...

Advent -- The Waning Moments

 We bring this Advent season to a close while we still long in this season for the return of the one who redeemed us.

Advent IV -- Love!

 From the Book of Common Prayer, the Collect for this Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Advent:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and as we are sorely hindered by our sins from running the race that is set before us, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.
  The Gospel reading for today comes from the Gospel according to Saint Luke, a Phyician and Greek convert to the faith.  Saint Luke, like a contemporary historian, provides great street level detail not only to the Gospel narrative, but to the birth and spread of the Gospel message.  Today's reading recounts the Angel Gabriel's encounter with the Virgin Mary, announcing her critical role in humanity's redemptive story:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." 34 And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" 35 And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God." 38 And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38 (ESV)
Today will be a day where the sun rises on the Fourth Sunday in Advent but it sets and brings us Christmas Eve.  

Sunday, December 17, 2023

At Advent's Apex

 A beautiful hymn whose roots run deep into the Fifteenth century, "Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming" is often heard today on Gaudete Sunday.  Yet, considering that poetry inspired by the Prophet Isaiah, this hymn's roots extend into the Seventh century.  Consider the lyrics:

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming From tender stem hath sprung. Of Jesse’s lineage coming, As men of old have sung. It came, a flow’ret bright, Amid the cold of winter, When half spent was the night. Isaiah ’twas foretold it, The Rose I have in mind; With Mary we behold it, The virgin mother kind. To show God’s love aright, She bore to men a Savior, When half spent was the night. This Flow’r, whose fragrance tender With sweetness fills the air, Dispels with glorious splendor The darkness everywhere. True man, yet very God, From sin and death He saves us, And lightens every load.

Advent III -- Gaudete!


From the Book of Common Prayer, the Collect for this Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent:

O Lord Jesus Christ, you sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise make ready your way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient toward the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world, we may be found a people acceptable in your sight; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
In our Advent journey, today marks the point where we make the far turn and point our bowsprits toward home, and Christmas morning.  And like with any journey, the return home is always a joyous development which is why the theme of this Sunday is joy.  This joyous theme is reflected through our appointed readings.

The Prophet Isaiah, prophesizing more than half a millennia before Christ's birth, captured this joy:
But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.  Isa 65:18-20 ESV
Saint Paul, in his letter to the Church at Thessalonia points to this Joy but Saint John the Evangelist captures it best as he captures the dawn of the ministry of Jesus to the people he came to redeem:
You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease."  Jhn 3:28-30 ESV
The Evangelist who was Baptized with the Holy Spirit in utero, was fully cognizant of his mission and ministry. Had he given into the temptation, he could have risen to a superstar status in the region as he lived out his life in the same comfort known by the religious aristocracy of the high priestly class.  He dismissed any of these notions, remaining focused on his call to be a voice calling in the wilderness to prepare the way for the coming Messiah.  He recognized Jesus, Jeshua, for who he was.  As The Christ's ministry waxed, he knew that his ministry would now wane.  Yet this would not be an occasion for sorrow, it was a time for joy as he recognized that the bridegroom had now come for his bride. 

Sunday, December 10, 2023

In Advent


Advent II -- A Voice Calling


Advent: a season of retelling, and foretelling.

  Today's reading from the Prophet Isaiah recalls the words of the prophet proclaiming:

 1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." 6 A voice says, "Cry!" And I said, "What shall I cry?" All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. 9 Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, "Behold your God!" 10 Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (Isa 40:1-11 ESV)

Some 800 years would pass; Empires would fall and rise. The Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks were now ink in the papyri of history.  Now, Rome had stepped onto the stage and her iron boot was upon the neck of Judah and Samaria, and she ruled without mercy or pity. In this darkness, a new voice was heard:

 1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'" 4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." (Mark 1:1-8 ESV)

A Nazarite prophet and the son of a priest, Jonah bar Zechariah (we know him as John, the Baptist) rose suddenly with a call to national repentance signified by a public Baprism. To spiritual fathers, this was scandalous.  This was an act reserved for those on the outside, not the Jew.  Yet John was calling his hearers to something greater, repentance before their coming Messiah.

 So today we remember, reflect, and look forward in this Secord Advent of our Messiah.  This hope is captured in today's Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and the comfort of your holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Saturday, December 02, 2023

Advent I -- Veni Veni Emauel


Somewhere in the mists of history, servants of God living in community recorded expressions of worship that would become known as Antiphons, devotional compositions that were sung responsively during worship.  Among these was one sung in the eight days (or Octave) preceding Christmas.  It captures the longing of those who were waiting for what the Gospel writers described simply as the "Consolation of Israel".  Those singing the antiphon would proclaim (in Latin):

Veni, veni, Emmanuel 
 captivum solve Israel,

 qui gemit in exsilio,

privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,

nascetur  pro te Israel!

While we may not be fluent in Latin, we might deduce these words to be the first stanza of the Advent carol, "Oh come, Emmanuel".  Perhaps my favorite rendition of this ancient antiphon has been captured by the Celtic muse, Enya:

Friday, December 01, 2023

December First -- The Feast of Nicholas Ferrar

Nicholas Ferrar, an Anglican Deacon born in the late 16th Century is celebrated today.  Nicholas was the founder of an Anglican religious Community, Little Gidding, which existed in the Midlands of England through the reign of Charles I, until it was suppressed by the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell.

After Nicholas had been ordained as a deacon, he and his family and a few friends retired to Little Gidding, Huntingdonshire, England, to devote themselves to a life of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. They restored the abandoned church building, and became responsible for regular services there. They taught the neighborhood children, and looked after the health and well-being of the people of the district. They read the regular daily offices of the Book of Common Prayer, including the recital every day of the complete Psalter. (Day and night, there was always at least one member of the community kneeling in prayer before the altar, that they might keep the word, "Pray without ceasing.") They wrote books and stories dealing with various aspects of Christian faith and practice. They fasted with great rigor, and in other ways embraced voluntary poverty, so that they might have as much money as possible for the relief of the poor.

Nicholas Ferrar, in his ministry to his community of Huntingdonshire, exemplified what it is to be a Deacon and what it should look like in our modern age.  His ministry extended well beyond the Chancel rail and into surrounding world.  Yes, our Lord was worshipped and adored.  His people were also cared for.

Remembering Deacon Nicholas in today's Eucharist, we pray:

Lord God, make us so reflect your perfect love; that, with your Deacon Nicholas Ferrar and his household, we may rule ourselves according to your Word, and serve you with our whole heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

A Revival

I’ve been quietly considering the reports of Revivals breaking out across the Republic this week.  I also wanted to share some thoughts.


Out of the Gate, I believe in revival.  Revivals have occurred throughout human history where the Almighty God moves and ignites humanity, taking them through a time of repentance and contrition and forward into a renewal of life. Holy Scriptures capture this in the life of ancient Israel, one instance under the reign of their King Josiah where a people who had drifted so far from their God, returned in a spirit of brokenness and repentance.  Retribution that was rightfully theirs for their breaking of a holy covenant was remitted and the gentle hand of God was returned.


While our Republic, born in 1776 (and not 1619) had no tangible Covenant with the Divine, those framers of this new land all held to a Judeo-Christian worldview.  While this ethos has ebbed and flowed over the decades, it has taken a decided dive in the wake of the Cultural Revolution of “Wokeness” where down became up and wrong became right.  Now today, there are forces afoot that are seeking to tear our Republic to shreds.  In the midst of this darkness, the Holy Spirit appeared to have fallen on a worship service a University in Kentucky.  This Spiritual manifestation is now spreading across the Nation. 

As this is occurring, there are those, even in my own American Anglican Church, who are viewing this all with a jaundiced eye and dismissing it as nothing.  I don’t accept that view.  Our God IS moving, and his Prophets declared a time where he would once again pour out His Spirit on humanity.  I can’t say for certain that this is what we’re witnessing in the wake of this revival.  What I can do is quote the esteemed Rabbi Gamaliel, who when speaking to the High Council in Jerusalem (The Sanhedrin) declared:

“I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:38-39)

All of this said, the fires of Revival are burning Spiritual tinder.  Once ignited, they require additional fuel to continue or else, they will exhaust themselves.  How does this occur?  It occurs when followers of God come along side these individuals, bringing the word of God to instruct and encourage.  Just as Pricilla and Aquilla came alongside Apollos, these who have recently encountered might have a fuller encounter, and be equipped to engage and influence this tasteless, and cold world.


Thursday, January 19, 2023

The March Continues


Forty  nine years ago, Ms. Nellie Gray led the first March for Life in the chill in a cold DC January. I was twelve years old at the time and really didn't know about this event.  As time progressed, I would become familiar with the march and began to develop the desire to join the throng in making my stand for the unborn.  It would be many years until 2014 when I would be able to join the marchers to make that stand for those in the womb.  It was indescribably cold that day, with the temperatures not leaving the single digits.  The wind chill only added to the January joy.  

  In this bitter cold, I encountered some of the most amazing young people  I ever met. Hundreds of thousands of youth whose energy raised the bitter  temperatures were there.  The event was truly multicultural where the spectrum of faith groups were represented to even include Muslims, Jews and Atheists for life.  I even encountered overtly secular groups to include Gays for Life who marched for our combined cause.  It would take nearly another Decade for our Supreme Court to see the faulty logic in their 1973 decision that burdened our Republic with Roe, and placed this on the States where it should have been from the start.

The work now continues.  While states have either banned abortion or put restrictions on the barbaric practice, others have doubled down, even pushing for post-natal infanticide.  Its my hope and prayer that this Republic will wake and apprehend the barbarity to this practice and realize that just like Dred Scott or Plessy Vs. Ferguson, that Roe Vs. Wade a faulted decision.