28 February 2016

It's been three years...

Our students sing "Ave verum corpus" as we remember our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on this third anniversary of his resignation, and we pray for him daily.

26 February 2016

Prayerful Language

In one form or another, the traditional Book of Common Prayer has nourished the souls of more than twenty generations of Anglicans.  It provides the template for magnificent public worship, yet it can bring the solitary man into the presence of God.  It really is beautiful.  I don’t think very many people would disagree.  But let’s take a few minutes, and think about why it’s beautiful.

What is it about the soaring phrases and time-proven sentences that make them so memorable and pleasing to the ear? It isn’t accidental that such prayers as the Collect for Purity and the Prayer of Humble Access get into our hearts and minds and stay there. Of course, part of what makes them memorable is that our prayers are saying significant things.  But there’s more to it than that.  There are definite and objective reasons having to do with the rhythm of the words, the cadence of the phrases.  It’s much the same as why we consider a piece of music to be beautiful.  Irregular rhythms and too much dissonance are disconcerting.  I’m sure this marks me as being pedestrian, but I think music that’s most memorable is music that can be hummed.  And it’s the same with our prayers.  A prayer which says, “Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night…” is memorable, not only because of what is said, but because of the way in which it is said.

There’s an excellent essay titled “The Prayer Book as Literature,” which was written by Dr. W. K. Lowther Clarke in 1932.  It’s included in his larger work, Liturgy and Worship. In this essay he discusses some possible reasons for the beauty of the phrases we use in our worship. In part, he says, “A particular theory has recently been propounded to account for the literary qualities of the sixteenth-century Prayer Book, namely, the survival of the cursus, or flow of the cadence in prose. The beauty of Latin prose depended on the arrangement of long and short syllables, especially at the end of the sentence… The cursus had three main forms: planus, with the accent on the second and fifth syllable from the end; tardus, on the third and sixth; and velox, on the second and seventh.”

When I first read that, it seemed pretty dry.  But when I thought about it, I began to realize the important point he was making.  Just as music follows certain rules to achieve a beautiful end, so it is with literature. Excellent writing consists of more than stringing words together. It involves a rhythm. It shows a sensitivity to the zenith of a phrase. It allows for a cadence. In the liturgy, when we think of a prayer as being beautiful, it describes not only the theological truth it contains, but also the way in which the thought is expressed. This is why so many contemporary prayers fall flat. The ancient principle of cursus has been put aside; there is little or no thought about the beauty of the language, because of the mistaken notion that ignoring all that would somehow make prayers clearer.

What was achieved with the Book of Divine Worship went part of the way.  As I’ve said more than once, its shortcomings reflected the difficult political realities present in the Church thirty years ago.  But through it, many of our most beautiful Anglican prayers found a place in full communion with the Catholic Church, and now with Divine Worship: Occasional Services and The Missal, our patrimony is at last in its permanent and best home.

20 February 2016

Second Sunday in Lent

O God, who before the Passion of thy Only Begotten Son didst reveal his glory upon the holy mount: grant unto us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Behold our Lord transfigured,
In Sacrament Divine;
His glory deeply hidden,
'Neath forms of Bread and Wine.
Our eyes of faith behold Him,
Salvation is outpoured;
The Saviour dwells among us,
by ev'ry heart adored.

No longer on the mountain
With Peter, James and John,
Our precious Saviour bids us
To walk where saints have gone.
He has no lasting dwelling,
Save in the hearts of men;
He feeds us with His Body,
To make us whole again.

With Moses and Elijah,
We worship Christ our King;
Lord, make our souls transfigured,
Let us with angels sing.
Lead us in paths of glory,
Give tongues to sing thy praise;
Lord Jesus, keep us faithful,
Now and for all our days.

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1990
Music: "Ewing" by Alexander C. Ewing, 1853

14 February 2016

First Sunday in Lent

O Lord who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights: give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour and glory; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

10 February 2016

Our Lady of Lourdes

I saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem,
coming down from God out of heaven,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary didst consecrate a dwelling place meet for thy Son: we humbly pray thee; that we, celebrating the apparition of the same Blessed Virgin, may obtain thy healing, both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


From The Church's Year of Grace, by Pius Parsch:

The many miracles which have been performed through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin at Lourdes prompted the Church to institute a special commemorative feast, the "Apparition of the Immaculate Virgin Mary." The Office gives the historical background. Four years after the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (1854), the Blessed Virgin appeared a number of times to a very poor and holy girl named Bernadette. The actual spot was in a grotto on the bank of the Gave River near Lourdes.

The Immaculate Conception had a youthful appearance and was clothed in a pure white gown and mantle, with an azure blue girdle. A golden rose adorned each of her bare feet. On her first apparition, February 11, 1858, the Blessed Virgin bade the girl make the sign of the Cross piously and say the rosary with her. Bernadette saw her take the rosary that was hanging from her arms into her hands. This was repeated in subsequent apparitions.

With childlike simplicity Bernadette once sprinkled holy water on the vision, fearing that it was a deception of the evil spirit; but the Blessed Virgin smiled pleasantly, and her face became even more lovely. The third time Mary appeared she invited the girl to come to the grotto daily for two weeks. Now she frequently spoke to Bernadette. On one occasion she ordered her to tell the ecclesiastical authorities to build a church on the spot and to organize processions. Bernadette also was told to drink and wash at the spring still hidden under the sand.

Finally on the feast of the Annunciation, the beautiful Lady announced her name, "I am the Immaculate Conception."

The report of cures occurring at the grotto spread quickly and the more it spread, the greater the number of Christians who visited the hallowed place. The publicity given these miraculous events on the one hand and the seeming sincerity and innocence of the girl on the other made it necessary for the bishop of Tarbes to institute a judicial inquiry. Four years later he declared the apparitions to be supernatural and permitted the public veneration of the Immaculate Conception in the grotto. Soon a chapel was erected, and since that time countless pilgrims come every year to Lourdes to fulfill promises or to beg graces.

09 February 2016

Welcoming Msgr. Newton

Our parish was delighted to welcome Msgr. and Mrs. Keith Newton for Quinquagesima and the days surrounding it.

Msgr. Newton preached a marvelous sermon at all the Sunday Masses on our responsibility to evangelize, and he was the celebrant at the 11:00 a.m. Mass.

Please pray for the work of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England and Wales, and for God's blessing on the continuing leadership of Msgr. Newton.

04 February 2016

Great are the works of the Lord

It was such a privilege to be present for the consecration of Bishop Steven Lopes, and during the magnificent Mass I could not help but cast my mind back more than three decades to the many conversations I had with my treasured friend and fellow priest Fr. James Moore (a founder of the Walsingham parish) as our congregations were worshipping in borrowed convent chapels, store-front spaces, any place where we could find a temporary home. We wondered if any of this was going to bear fruit. We would plan together, pray together, work together. Every single step was a step in faith, never knowing if it would be for nought, or if God was using us to plant a seed which really might grow.

Thinking of all that and more, I could not stop tears of joy and thankfulness as Bishop Lopes went among the people gathered for his episcopal ordination, giving his blessing to all.

All those decades ago we never could have imagined that we would live long enough to see this. How good God is, and how great are His works!