Daily Prayers

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The Search Committee for the 11th Bishop of Georgia just completed a discernment retreat with potential candidates to be our next bishop. As part of that retreat, we prayed Morning and Evening Prayer together every day. It was the only part of the day, except for meals which immediately followed our prayers, when everyone present was together. We came across campus from wherever we had been just before to gather in the Chapel, and there, for a few moments, we prayed together the prayers that Christians have prayed for centuries all over the world. I think these times in the Chapel were my favorite part of the week.

Back home now, I mostly pray the Office (that collection of prayers said throughout the day) by myself. It’s not the same as saying them communally with others, but they still are sustaining and helpful. I’ve been reflecting on the experiences of praying during the retreat and now, and I’ve mainly been thinking about why we pray the Daily Office at all. I’ll offer three quick thoughts about that in the hopes that, if you’re not already doing so, you might think about adding these prayers to your own life.

Why would we pray virtually the same prayers over and over again each day? First, daily prayer is a discipline. Sticking to a set schedule of prayers not because we necessarily feel like praying at that moment but because it’s time to pray helps us establish an orderly spiritual life. Regular repetition provides structure to our lives, but in this case praying simply because it’s time to pray reminds us (or perhaps teaches us for the first time) that our lives are not simply our own. They belong to God, and no matter what else we find ourselves doing, there are times that we need to pause and make room for God’s presence to take over and have our full attention.

Secondly, praying the Daily Office means following a set pattern of reading from the Psalms and other passages from Scripture. Despite what you may have been told, if you go to church every Sunday for the three years of the Lectionary cycle, you will not hear the entire Bible read aloud. In the daily cycle of the lectionary we hear the books of the Bible read through in narrative sequence, so that we are immersed in the flow of the sacred story of God and God’s people. Their stories become our stories; we become better connected to the stories of our faith.

Lastly (not really, but I said I’d stick to just three), praying the Daily Office connects us to other Christians praying around the world and through time. I may be the only person in my house or parish office saying Morning or Evening Prayer on any given day, but at that same time (or very near it) those same prayers are being offered all over, in a multitude of languages and methods. I may be the only one i can see or hear, but I’m not praying alone.

Clergy are expected to pray the Office each day; it’s one of the obligation of our orders. Nathan, who is preparing for Holy Orders, also already follows that discipline. So if you’re interested in learning how to pray the Daily Office, I hope you’ll talk either to him or to me about it. We would be delighted to sit down with you, teach you how it works, and show you what resources are available to help you begin or continue this discipline.

Who knows? We might end up with a group of us who come across town from wherever we had been just before to gather at St. Michael’s, and there, for a few moments at a time, gather together to pray the prayers that Christians have prayed for centuries all over the world.

St. Mary the Virgin

Koimesis Mosaic at the Chora Church, Constantinople.

Koimesis Mosaic at the Chora Church, Constantinople.

O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, 243)

Today, August 15th, is the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin. It is also known as the Assumption of Mary into Heaven or as the Dormition of the Mother of God. Though Scripture is silent concerning the end of Mary’s earthly life, the Tradition has held that Mary’s body was taken into heaven to be with her Son.

As we celebrate Mary, we are celebrating the incarnation of Jesus. How we talk about Mary reflects what we believe about Jesus. The Incarnation was made a reality through Mary’s willingness and faithfulness to God. We are reminded in the Articles of Religion that Jesus “took [Human] nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance” (BCP, 868). Jesus received his humanity from his mother Mary. The Word was made flesh through the flesh of Mary.

Mary is often depicted holding the infant Jesus in her arms. However, if you will notice in the icon above, Jesus is holding Mary in his arms. Their roles have been reversed. Mary who attended to the infant Jesus and held his dead body is now received into her Son’s arms at her death. She who gave birth to Life will receive the crown of life from him; she who gave Jesus his earthly home will be given by Jesus her eternal home.

We who celebrate Mary’s entrance into glory have the same hope that Jesus will welcome us into glory one day. We pray that encouraged by Mary’s example, aided by her prayers, and strengthened by her fellowship, we also may be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (BCP, 504).

The Search Committee

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August 11-15, the Search Committee will meet with the candidates for bishop at Honey Creek. This will be the first time the Committee has meet in person with the candidates. It will be a time to get to know them better and a time to discern who might be a good fit as the eleventh bishop of Georgia. After the retreat, the Search Committee will finalize their slate for the bishop’s election and send it to the Standing Committee for approval. The slate is scheduled to be released on September 1.

As we continue to pray for the process of selecting a new bishop, the Search Committee is especially in need of our prayers this week as they meet with the candidates. We are thankful for the hard work they have done on behalf of our diocese these past several months. They have a few more weeks of hard work before their part of the election process is finished.

Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a bishop for this Diocese, that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer, 818)

The Transfiguration

The Transfiguration of Christ: Part of an iconostasis in Constantinople style. Middle of the 12th century.

The Transfiguration of Christ: Part of an iconostasis in Constantinople style. Middle of the 12th century.

The feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ is a major feast of the church that is celebrated each year on August 6. It is one of only three Major Feasts which is able to take precedence of a Sunday (the other two are The Holy Name and The Presentation). However, this feast tends to fall on a weekday, so it often is overlooked.

The following is the Gospel reading appointed for the Transfiguration:
“Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’ —not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.” (Luke 9:28-36)

The Transfiguration was moment when the three disciples were able to witness the full divinity and glory of Jesus—though they were not able fully to understand what they saw. Like the disciples we can easily miss when God is trying to reveal God’s self to us. In the collect for the Transfiguration, we pray that God would “Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty.” As we celebrate this great feast, pray that you too might see the glory and beauty of God.

Lectionary Class

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A longstanding and important aspect of life at St. Michael’s is our Lectionary class. This class meets Sunday mornings at 9:30 between our two services. There we discuss the Scripture readings appointed for that Sunday. This class is one way that we can engage with Scripture each week, gain a richer understanding of the lections read in church, and grow our faith.

This class has been faithfully taught by Murray Barnard for many years. However, because of some ongoing health concerns, Murray will be stepping down from this position. We as a church are indebted to Murray for his faithfulness and willingness to lead this class. His service is truly an inspiration to us all!

Beginning September 1, the class will be taught by Fr. Kelly and our intern Nathan Wilson. If you have attended the class in the past, we hope that you will continue to join us. If you haven’t, we invite you to join us as well!

Growth

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We are now in the long stretch between Easter and Advent. Sometimes it is called the Season after Pentecost (which is what our current Pray Book calls it) or Trinitytide (a traditional Anglican name for it). In the twentieth century, some Protestants broke the season in two and called the second part Kingdomtide. Often it is simply referred to as Ordinary time. It is one of two seasons in the Church’s calendar know as Ordinary time (the other is the season after the Epiphany).

Whatever you call it, Ordinary time is a time for growth—both as individuals and as a community.

The Season after Pentecost can seem unfocused when compared with the other seasons of the year. Advent focuses on the coming of Christ; Christmas focuses on the birth of Christ; Lent focuses on fasting and repentance in preparation for Easter, which focuses on the Resurrection of our Lord. It’s certainly true that there is no one focus for this season we are in. However, this gives us a chance to focus on what we might need. Ordinary time is time for us to do some spiritual gardening.

If you have ever gardened, you know that you cannot cause plants to grow. At best, you create conditions that enable the growth to happen. You do what you can to improve the health of the soil. You make sure there is the appropriate amount of water. You try to plant plants where they will get the amount of sunlight that they need to thrive. Sometimes growth happens whether you want or not. Weeds grow despite our best efforts to stop them.

The same is true for our spiritual lives. We cannot cause ourselves to grow spiritual or communally. That is purely a gift from God. However, we can create conditions that will help to promote our spiritual or communal growth. We can follow various spiritual practices, such as reading scripture, praying, and meeting with one another. Like gardening, there is no one right way. Something might work for one person or community that won’t work for others. And that’s ok. We are all different. We each have different needs.

What areas in your spiritual life need tending? There might be something obvious that you think of immediately or something you might need to discover. What spiritual practices work for you? Which do not? What might be some new ones you want to try?

What areas do we as a community need to tend so that we can flourish? We have already started having conservations about strengthening our community at St. Michael’s. What ideas might you have?

The Season after Pentecost is a time for growth. God is already at work in each of our lives inviting us to join in.

The Great Silence

The Book of Common Prayer,  The Church of Ireland, 2004

The Book of Common Prayer, The Church of Ireland, 2004

Some years ago I had the great fortune of hosting The Bishop of Tuam (located in County Mayo, Ireland) for all of Holy Week. He preached at all of our Holy Week services through Good Friday, and he was nothing short of amazing. He was a “prop preacher,” in that every one of his sermons involved some kind of visual aid. For instance, on Monday he wandered into a local hardware store, bought a strap hinge, and then in his homily gave us a powerful and moving meditation on the strap hinge, Peter, and Judas. I’ll share that with you another time.

On Wednesday of that week, knowing that The Church of Ireland had recently produced their new Book of Common Prayer, I asked if we could use it for our service. Bishop Henderson was delighted and helped us put together the liturgy. Much of it was very familiar, and some of it was completely different. One part that they added, which other Churches within the Anglican Communion have included as well, is something called “The Great Silence.” (See photo above).

The Great Silence comes after everyone has received communion and the altar has been cleared but before the Postcommunion Prayer. It is just a few moments of absolute quiet and stillness. The idea behind it is really quite wonderful. What we have all just done and shared - coming to the altar to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus - is a deep and profound mystery. It is at the same time deeply personal, because it is between each of us and Jesus, and also communal - we do this together, becoming the Body of Christ as we receive the Body of Christ. Exactly what happens is impossible to describe in words, but it is something to be savored and “sat with.” The Great Silence gives us that opportunity to sit still with Jesus and with one another, quietly reflecting upon what has just happened, upon what the Lord has done for us before we move on to the next thing.

After Bishop Henderson returned to Ireland, and our parish went back to our normal doings, we continued the practice of The Great Silence, and I’d like us to implement it here at St. Michael’s. I’ve found that I really miss it. It may take some getting used to; American Christians are not always comfortable with silence. We seem to equate sitting quiet and still with doing nothing, but it isn’t. Silence and stillness in the liturgy opens the space for us to stop talking to God and let God speak to us; it allows us to participate in worship in a way beyond words and movement.

You’ll soon see another line added to the Sunday bulletins, right before the Postcommunion Prayer at both services, The Great Silence. I encourage you when that time comes not to do anything other than sit quietly. Don’t look for the next page in the Prayer Book or the Hymnal. Don’t dig in your purse or pocket for a peppermint or check your phone. Just sit in the presence of God and see what God will do.

Building Community

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One piece of feedback we consistently hear about St. Michael’s is what a warm and loving place it is, from the first minute someone walks in. While lots of churches believe that about themselves, in our case I do think it happens to be true. We are a loving community and gladly welcome people in who are looking for the same experience we have found here. That said, lately I’ve been wondering if we’ve been as intentional about sustaining that sense of welcome and connection as we have been. As many of you know, it’s been a difficult year for our family, so I’m aware my perceptions may be a bit askew, but it’s a sense that I haven’t been able to shake. I don’t think our love for each other has diminished, nor do I believe that we are any less committed to being a loving community who wants to receive others, but being such as that takes effort and awareness, and I want to be sure we are being aware.

To that end, your Vestry and I have been discussing how we might re-focus our efforts on doing what we already know how to do - extending the grace and loving-kindness of God to each other and to all who come through our doors. In short, we’ve been talking about ways we can more intentionally show the face of Jesus to all whom we encounter. We began our last Vestry meeting by trying one of those ways together. It’s an idea that comes from the church of a Vestry member’s extended family; they call it “Glad News, Sad News.”

Before their Sunday service, the congregation gathers together in a circle. Someone starts by sharing something that is going in their lives that is either glad or sad, either a cause for celebration or a need for prayer and support. Then they go around the circle, with others either sharing or passing along to the next person. No one has to do it, but all are welcome to. When we started Vestry this way, it was profoundly moving. This exercise obviously invites us to pray for one another in very specific ways, but it is also an act of prayer itself, an offering of the joys and needs of that day’s gathered community to our loving God.

We wondered how this might go over not just with our Vestry but in our congregation, so we’re going to talk about it briefly before both services this Sunday. We’ll get a sense of how this seems to us as a congregation, and then perhaps we’ll try it out for a season to see what effect it has. There are different ways to shape and organize how we do it, and we can talk about that as well.

St. Michael’s is a wonderful place to come and worship God and to draw near to each other as members of the Body of Christ. It’s something that we often do naturally, without thinking, but it’s also something that we can begin to take for granted and perhaps not pay the kind of attention to it that it deserves and requires. What is certain is this - the world around is ever in need of hearing and experiencing the love of God in Christ Jesus that we have found, and we need to be ever ready to offer that love when they come looking for it. And as a good friend and colleague likes to tell me, “It isn’t rocket surgery. We know how to do this.”

Pentecost!

By water and the Holy Spirit…

By water and the Holy Spirit…

This Sunday is the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter Day, the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. While it is often referred to as “the birthday of the Church,” we should remember that wherever the faithful have been present, the Church has been there, too, even long before that day the disciples were gathered in the upper room, and the Holy Spirit came rushing in like a wind.

While probably the two most prevalent images of Pentecost are a fire and a dove, for us at St. Michael’s this year, we turn to another - to water. Our entry into Christ’s Body the Church, our receiving of Christ’s promised gift of the Holy Spirit comes to us through the waters of Baptism: “In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit,” (BCP, 306). Our baptism is not just a washing away of the “old life of sin,” it is our re-birth as children of God and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven.

If you’ve been to baptisms in the Episcopal Church (which I’m pretty sure you have), you’re used to seeing people gather around a font, probably of marble or granite or wood, with a bowl at the top. The person being baptized is held over or leans over the font, and the priest scoops water up and pours it over the baptizand’s head. It’s certainly what we usually do.

This Sunday, though, we’re doing it a bit differently. Caleb Simmons is being baptized, and his choice is to be baptized by immersion. Caleb will be lowered down into a tank of water, three times, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is no more powerful sign of being buried and raised with Christ than going down completely under the water and being raised up again. I have to confess, if I had my choice, this is how we would baptize everybody. While pouring is fine (notice the Prayer Book never mentions “sprinkling,” even though that’s what we usually call it), that is a careful, delicate act, and there is nothing delicate about giving ourselves to Christ. It should be loud, messy, and life-changing. That’s what I hope happens for Caleb on Sunday.

We will begin in the church as usual, but then we will process to where the baptistery is set up. Our plan is to do it in the courtyard garden, but it seems the rains have set it, and there’s a high probability of thunderstorms on Sunday. If that’s the case, we’re going to have it in Patton Hall.

So come be a part of Caleb’s baptism. Wear red if you have it (the color associated with Pentecost because of, you know, the fire and all). And when Caleb comes up out of the water for the third time, a new creation in Christ, I hope that there’s cheering and clapping and celebration. Again, that might not be what we normally associate with baptism in the Episcopal Church, but it’s how it should be.

Walking in the Way of the Cross

The San Damiano Cross, from the early 12th Century.

The San Damiano Cross, from the early 12th Century.

Anyone applying for or being nominated for our Bishop Search is asked three initial questions. The first two have to do with being a bishop and then with being The Bishop of Georgia, but the third asks “What does it mean for you to walk in the way of the cross?”

That is, of course, very familiar language to any Christian, but how often do we ask this question of ourselves? What does it mean for each one of us to walk in the way of the cross? I think that there is not any one response that fully answers that question, for any of us. It’s one that we should probably ask ourselves again and again, as our answer would almost certainly change as the circumstances of our lives change.

One response that comes to mind (one that I have been wrestling with a good bit lately) is that to walk in the way of the cross means, in the words of one of our Lenten hymns that we are “daily dying to the way of self,” or in the words of Jesus in the garden, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” It is always easy to believe that something we want (either for ourselves or for someone else) must be what God wants, but to follow the way of the cross is to be willing to let go of those desires and consider what God’s desire might be. Learning to tell the difference is the process of discernment, and it is a lifelong undertaking. When trying to distinguish between our will and God’s will, there are some helpful questions to ask ourselves - “Who benefits if what I want comes to pass?”… “Which outcome is easier, or which one costs me less?”… “Who has the most at stake in the outcome?”

The Book of Common Prayer reminds us that the way of the cross is “none other than the way of life and peace,” but we only realize the truth of that promise when we are willing to let go of what we want and trust in what God has in store for us.

Search for the 11th Bishop of Georgia

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The Search Committee for the 11th Bishop of Georgia is pleased to present the Profile of our diocese and announce the opening of nominations and applications. This is a critical moment in the life of our diocese, as we seek the person we believe God is calling to be the next Bishop of Georgia.

The profile of our Diocese is available at www.georgiabishopsearch.org/profile. Nomination and applications forms can be found at www.georgiabishopsearch.org/nominations.

Nominations and applications will be received until 5:00pm on Friday, June 7. After that, the committee will begin the process of discernment and selection. A slate of nominees will be published on September 1.

Please keep our diocese, the committee, and all applicants and nominees in your prayers.

Deaconess Alexander Chapel Dedication

Bishop Benhase at the dedication of the Diocesan House chapel.

Bishop Benhase at the dedication of the Diocesan House chapel.

On Friday, Bishop Benhase dedicated the chapel at Diocesan House to Deaconess Anna Alexander, a true saint from the Diocese of Georgia

Born to newly freed parents during 1865, the year of Emancipation, Anna Alexander lived a life of selfless service in rural Georgia and went on to become the first African-American Deaconess in the Episcopal Church. Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander felt a call to serve the people of Pennick and Darien, two small communities near Brunswick, Georgia. In Pennick she planted a church, Good Shepherd, and built a (still-standing) school next door. Generations of schoolchildren learned to read and write, largely from the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, in that two-room schoolhouse. From her room above the schoolhouse at Good Shepherd, she would travel on foot for 15 miles and row a small boat on the Altamaha River to serve St. Cyprian’s in Darien. Serving for more than 60 years in these two communities, she taught her pupils about the world and Christian responsibility to all peoples.   

 Deaconess Alexander served in difficult times, however. The diocese segregated its Annual Convention in 1907, and African-American congregations were not invited to another diocesan convention until 1947. She died in that year and, following the required minimum 50-year wait, through the persistent efforts of those she taught and their descendants, was made a Saint of Georgia in 1998.  In 2018, The General Convention voted to include Deaconess Alexander in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018.

 

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This Easter at St. Michael's

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Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

These words are spoken for the first time each year in the middle of The Great Vigil of Easter, a service that begins in darkness with the kindling of the new fire, moves into the hearing of the promise of our redemption throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, allows us to renew our baptismal covenant with God, and then - at last - we come into the full glory of the resurrection with this shout of joy and triumph.

After a long Lent and a Holy Week that somehow seems even longer than the season before it, proclaiming the Lord’s resurrection is always a wonderful moment. This year, though, I found it even more powerful than usual. When we lit the candles and turned on the lights, and I turned around to say that acclamation for the first time, there was a moment when i wasn’t sure I’d be able to get the words out. The weight and magnitude of what we were about to say to each other and to the world felt almost too great to bear.

We did two things differently for Easter this year, as sort of a trial run - we moved The Great Vigil to before dawn on Sunday morning and added the Holy Saturday liturgy, something I had never taken part in before. With the exception of a fire that didn’t want to catch (I believe I have figured out what was amiss), I wouldn’t change a thing about the whole experience. I hope you found Easter similarly moving, and if you didn’t have a chance to participate in either the Holy Saturday service or The Great Vigil, I sure hope you can next year.

Holy Saturday

Harrowing of Hades , fresco in the parecclesion of the Chora Church, Istanbul, c. 1315  © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro /  CC BY-SA 3.0

Harrowing of Hades, fresco in the parecclesion of the Chora Church, Istanbul, c. 1315

© José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 3.0

Holy Week is perhaps the longest week in the life of the church. The anticipation builds as Easter approaches. The church buzzes with activity. Preparations are made for our many services. Once we arrive at Good Friday, we are ready to rush into Easter Day. We are ready to see the bare sanctuary adorned with the beauty of Easter.

However, we are not quite to Easter yet. Between Good Friday and Easter Day is Holy Saturday—a day to sit and wait. The Holy Saturday liturgy is a time for us to pause; it allows us a moment to process what has happened on Good Friday. We sit with the disciples in our sorrow at the death our Lord. We imagine what it what was like for the disciples on the day in between Christ’s Death and Resurrection.

We also consider what Jesus was doing between his Death and Resurrection. Holy Saturday gives us two paradoxical imagines: Jesus resting and Jesus active. Our Gospel reading and the Collect for Holy Saturday describe Jesus’ burial and his rest in the garden on the Sabbath. We also say an anthem from the Burial Office as our participation in the burial of Jesus.

Jesus is also described as active between his Passion and his rising again. The Apostles’ Creed says, “He descended to the dead”, (or in the traditional language, “He descended into hell”). What happen there is known as the harrowing of hell. Jesus freed from hades (that is the place of the dead) those who died before his death. This is described in two verses in 1 Peter: “[Christ] went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19) and “For this reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead” (1 Peter 4:6). The harrow of hell will be the focus of the homily, which will be a reading from an ancient homily.

After the service, we will decorate the church for Easter. We hope that you will come and join this Saturday!

Holy Week and Easter

The Exultet, from The Great Vigil of Easter 2018

The Exultet, from The Great Vigil of Easter 2018

This Sunday begins Holy Week, and while it should be apparent from the very name, Holy Week is the most sacred time of year for Christians. We pay particular importance to the latter part of the week, Maundy Thursday through Easter Day, but that doesn’t mean the first part of the week should be overlooked.

We begin with Palm Sunday. This year (weather permitting, of course) we will gather on the lawn along Washington Avenue, inside the black wrought iron fence. We have in the past used Daffin Park, but we always worry about crossing that intersection, so this seems safer. There we will bless and distribute the palms and begin the liturgy. At this point, our focus is on Christ’s entry into Jerusalem - we are exuberant and hopeful. As we process into the church, we will stop the procession for a prayer that marks a change in the mood of the day. We finish the procession still with palms, but at this point we should start to realize that underneath the chants of “Hosannah!” lies the shout “Crucify him!” No other liturgy in the year has this sudden shift, and I trust we will pay attention to it.

Monday through Wednesday we will gather at 7pm in the sanctuary - that space inside the altar rail - for Eucharist. These services are simple and fairly informal, without music or fanfare. They are part of our weeklong procession to the cross and give us glimpses into this significant portion of the life of Jesus.

Maundy Thursday is the day we celebrate the gift of the Lord’s Supper, of Holy Communion. It is in some ways the most joyful moment in Holy Week but, at the end, one of the most somber as well. We leave the Lord’s table and follow him into the garden to await the difficult times ahead. At St. Michael’s we follow the custom of washing one another’s feet, as our Lord commanded us to do. Remember he didn’t suggest or encourage; he commanded us - “as I have washed your feet, you also are to wash one another’s.” This service also begins at 7pm, but we sit in our normal seats in the nave (the area with the pews.) Although, if you wanted to sit down front, regardless of where your normal seat is, that would be lovely. After the service you are invited to stay an keep watch in the Gardner Room, where we will have reserve the elements of Communion for Good Friday.

On Good Friday we have three services, one at 12 noon and another at 7pm. We hear the Passion Gospel read again, and we sit at the foot of the cross. It is a difficult day, but our presence on this day is our gift to our Lord for what he has done for us. At 6:00pm we have Stations of the Cross.

This year we will hold a service on Holy Saturday that we have not done before, at least not for quite some time. That service will be the subject of next week’s post.

Finally we arrive at Easter Day, the Day of Resurrection. This year we are doing something different here as well. The Great Vigil of Easter begins in the dark at 6:00am. We will gather (again weather permitting) in the same place we did on Palm Sunday, to kindle the new fire in the darkness. Then we process into the church by candlelight to hear in Holy Scripture the work of redemption rough by God throughout the ages. As the sun comes up, the lights come on, and we welcome with joy the resurrection of our Savior.

Breakfast follows the service in Patton Hall, so please bring something yummy to share. Following our meal together, we will have an Easter Egg Hunt on the grounds of the church, and then at last, our 10:30 celebration of Eucharist. All our lives as Christians find their meaning in the events of this week. While we like to say that Christians are “Easter People,” we are really “Holy Week AND Easter People.” I hope you will take part this coming week as much as you are able.

The Decalogue

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For the Sundays in Lent, we have been and will continue to say the Decalogue towards the beginning of the service. The Decalogue literally means the ten words. It is perhaps better known as the Ten Commandments. We use the Decalogue in the service before we confess our sins to remind ourselves of the many ways we have sinned against God and our neighbor.

The Catechism of our Church offers insights into what the Decalogue means for our lives:

Q.        What do we learn from these commandments?
A.        We learn two things: our duty to God, and our duty to our neighbors.   

Q.        What is our duty to God?
A.        Our duty is to believe and trust in God;
            I           To love and obey God and to bring others to know him;
            II         To put nothing in the place of God;
            III        To show God respect in thought, word, and deed;
            IV        And to set aside regular times for worship, prayer, and the study of God's ways.

Q.        What is our duty to our neighbors?
A.        Our duty to our neighbors is to love them as ourselves, and to do to other people as we wish them to do to us;
            V         To love, honor, and help our parents and family; to honor those in authority, and to meet their just demands;
            VI        To show respect for the life God has given us; to work and pray for peace; to bear no malice, prejudice, or hatred in our hearts; and to be kind to all the creatures of God;
            VII      To use our bodily desires as God intended;
            VIII     To be honest and fair in our dealings; to seek justice, freedom, and the necessities of life for all people; and to use our talents and possessions as ones who must answer for them to God;
            IX        To speak the truth, and not to mislead others by our silence;
            X         To resist temptations to envy, greed, and jealousy; to rejoice in other people's gifts and graces; and to do our duty for the love of God, who has called us into fellowship with him.       

Q.        What is the purpose of the Ten Commandments?
A.        The Ten Commandments were given to define our relationship with God and our neighbors. 

Q.        Since we do not fully obey them, are they useful at all?
A.        Since we do not fully obey them, we see more clearly our sin and our need for redemption.

 (BCP 847-8)

The Great Litany

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Since this Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent, we will begin the service with the Great Litany. It is called the “Great Litany” to distinguish it from other litanies in the Book of Common Prayer, such as the Litany of Penitence that we said on Ash Wednesday.

The Great Litany was the first rite to be published in English. In 1544, King Henry VIII was at war with France and Scotland. The Litany was to be used as a special supplication prayed by churches throughout England. It was composed by Thomas Cranmer who used ancient and contemporary sources. (You can read the original form of the Litany here.)

Because of its penitential tone, the Litany is especially appropriate during Lent. But it is more than just a penitential prayer. Through it, we pray for all sorts and conditions of people. Prayer is an important part of Lent. We pray for ourselves. We pray for others. We pray for the world. We pray prayers of repentance and prayers for healing for the wounds of sin. The Great Litany is one of the ways we do this. Consider what you might need prayers for or those close to you might need prayers for and come this Sunday to pray for them as we pray the Great Litany together.

Alleluia - Say it like you mean it

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This Sunday is the Last Sunday after the Epiphany; Lent begins this week, on Wednesday, which is Ash Wednesday. Because this Sunday is the last one before Lent starts, it’s also the last time we’ll be using the ancient shout of praise, Alleluia, until Easter.

Alleluia, the Latin form of the Hebrew word Halleluyah, literally means “Praise ye (you) the Lord” and has from ancient times in the Church been associated with Easter. Subsequently, it is not used in the liturgy during Lent, when we focus on our sinfulness, our need for forgiveness and redemption, and the repentance that goes along with recognizing that need. Alleluia is often jokingly referred to during Lent as “the A word” since we’re not supposed to say it. In seminary the choir wouldn’t even sing it in rehearsal during the Lenten season, instead substituting the phrase, “Lord have mercy,” which has the same number of syllables and the same emphasized syllables. When the choir director first told us that’s what we’d be doing, I think half the choir thought he was joking. He wasn’t.

Because we’re coming to the end of the Alleluias for a while, it is customary on this the Last Sunday after the Epiphany to sing hymns that are heavy with the word. So this Sunday, if you come to the 10:30 service, sing them with gusto. At both services, we have the opportunity to say it one more time, at the fraction - “Alleluia. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us/Therefore let us keep the feast. Alleluia.” So say it like you mean it. You won’t get another chance for a while.