Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Divine Name

Our Lord commanded his Apostles to go & teach "all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost". In doing so, he revealed to us the full Name by which Almighty God is to be known among us: as One God, in Trinity of Persons.

When a Christian reads the 3rd commandment of the Decalogue ("Thou shalt not take the Name of the LORD thy God in vain"), he takes it to mean that one must only pronounce the Divine Name with appropriate reverence, and with devout purpose. We apply this command to all of the various Names for God used in the Bible, but most especially to the Threefold, Divine Name of the Most Holy Trinity, One God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Because we are baptized in this three-fold Name, we are also obligated to live our lives in a way that does proper reverence to the Name. The 3rd commandment for us applies not only to "vain" (or empty) use of God's Name in the course of our speech, but also means that we are to live holy lives because we have been set apart in the Divine Name, and sanctified through Holy Baptism.

On the Lord's Day, we specifically gather at the parish Church to honor and magnify the Name of God. In particular, here are some references to the "Name" of God, from the Anglican Order for Holy Communion:
-The Collect for Purity: "...Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name...
-The Decalogue: "Thou shalt not take the Name of the LORD thy God in vain."
-The Nicene Creed: we confess our faith in the threefold name of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
-The Sermon: an Anglican priest usually presents his Homily, beginning and ending with the invocation, "In the Name + of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
-Prayer for the Church: "...grant that all those who do confess thy holy Name may agree in the truth of thy holy Word, and live in unity and godly love" and, "we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear..."
-General Confession: "...grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy Name..."
-The Lord's Prayer: "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name..."
-The final blessing: We are dismissed and blessed in the Name, The Blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you, and remain with you always. Amen.

The foregoing is some of the "raw material" that will go into my Homily for tomorrow, on the subject of the 3rd commandment of The Decalogue. Visit our parish website for more of my Series on The Decalogue,

"Blessed art thou for the Name of thy Majesty: praised and exalted above all forever." (-from the Canticle of Matins, Benedictus es, Domine)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

God's own child

It was a joy to administer the Sacrament of Holy Baptism to my baby daughter, Mary Eve McGrath, this past Sunday! We gladly recieved her "into the congregation of Christ's flock", and pledged to bring her up in the faith. She has three wonderful godparents, who not only answered for her in the course of the Service, but who also provided a lovely reception afterward. So...'Thank you, godparents!' and 'Godspeed, Mary Eve'!
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Monday, September 18, 2006

Work and Prayer
...a day in the life of...

People sometimes ask me what I have to do during the week...which is a fair question, considering that some people only see me in action for 1 hour each week at Sunday Worship. So, I am not at all offended by this question, and long ago I decided that it was worthwhile to have an answer ready!

In general terms, my work as the rector (parish priest/pastor/minister) of a small, suburban, Anglican Parish falls into three categories: Pastoral, Administrative, and Custodial. There is quite a bit of overlap between these three areas, but it is convenient to separate them, at least at first.

Pastoral: these are the type of things you might think of first in reference to a pastor, such as leading worship, teaching, preaching, administering the sacraments, visiting the sick, calling on parishioners, having lunch or afternoon tea with parishioners, corresponding via email and talking on the phone with them. This area takes by far the majority of my time, and some things such as preaching or teaching require a good deal of preparation and study, in addition to the actual performance of duty.

Administrative: this pertains to the day-to-day responsibility for running an organization of 100 or so people, and taking ultimate responsibility for a range of programs, individuals and smaller groups: Church School, Choir/Organ/Other Music, Newsletter, Website, Sunday Bulletin, Vestry, Treasurer, Publicity. The Parish Newsletter is a good case study of what I need to do in order to have good programs: first, I decide what the content will be; then, I write it; then, I go to Kinko's to copy and fold it; finally I distribute it through the mail to our mailing list and to the webmaster!

Custodial: this pertains to the care of our facilities. We have about an acre of Pacific NW land with a couple dozen or so Fir Trees, a driveway, parking lot, sidewalks, two public buildings (with roofs!), restrooms, kitchen, parish hall, library, books, vestements, furnishings, office equipment...etc...etc... (NOTE: I do find myself changing lightbulbs, sweeping and mopping.)

I have the benefit of capable and dedicated volunteers who make it possible to carry out these duties and activities, and I could not do without them. For example: deacon, vestry, teachers, nursery volunteers, lay reader, acolytes, organist, treasurer. However, I am still the only full-time person on the site, so I accomplish my work during the course of around 60 hours or so each week (sometimes more and sometimes less, depending on the season).

For any young men out there who are considering a vocation to the sacred ministry, rest assured that there is no training or bit of knowledge that you have acquired thus far, which will not be put to good use for God's Kingdom! In this life, you will be fully engaged on every level.

Now, because I am an Irishman, I tend to get myself into other things, too. So a fourth category is needed for OTHER activities, which inevitably eat up a day or two, here and there...such as: Secretary of Synod (preparing minutes), working at Diocesan Summer Camp; editing musical projects, such as a Camp Hymnal; writing articles on The Hymnal, 1940 for The Mandate (prayer book society journal).

How do I stay refreshed and ready to serve others? Each day of my life is enclosed and supported by Worship, Prayer and Study. This happens mainly through public reading of the Daily Prayer Offices of the Church. My days begin with 8:30 Morning Prayer (Matins) and end with 5:30 Evening Prayer (Evensong). This discipline keeps me grounded in the worship of the Most Holy Trinity, One God, and it also unites me in fellowship with thousands (perhaps millions) of other Anglican clergy and devout laypersons throughout the world!

To God be the Glory.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Into the Blogosphere

"A man full of words will not prosper on the earth." (from The Psalms)


What is an Irishman supposed to do? Especially if he has been to Ireland to kiss the Blarney Stone. Well, nowadays, at least he can edit his comments before 'publishing' them and playing the fool to a worldwide audience!

Seriously, you are most welcome to my brand-new weblog. And, if you can grab a cup of enlivening, dark-roast, Pacific NW-style Coffee, and are able stay awake for a while, you are welcome to read through some of my essays, which are just waiting for a sympathetic Anglican eye.

Best Regards
G. K. Chesterton in The Hymnal, 1940

There is but one hymn by G. K. Chesterton in The Hymnal, 1940, and recently at St. Bartholomew's we sang it for the first time!

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) is well known to many of us as one of the foremost Christian Apologists and vigorous defenders of Christian Orthodoxy of the 19th/20th centuries. He started out in the Anglican Church and eventually made his way over to Rome, although this change of course seems to have had little effect on his general outlook.

Hymn 521, "O God of Earth and Altar", written in 1906 is very relevant to us in America in 2006, with references to "terror", excessive wealth, the climate of cynicism, and also the sophistry that is the trademark of our political life, in which the weaker arguments are made to appear strong through lies and manipulations.

Verse two of the hymn contains clear references to The Litany from the Book of Common Prayer. In the Hymnal 1940, Chesterton's hymn is sung to a lovely traditional English melody, called "King's Lynn", arranged by R. Vaughan Williams in 1906.

O God of earth and altar, Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter, Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us, The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us, But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches, From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation Of honor, and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation, Deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether The prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together, Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation, A single sword to thee. Amen.

Now our Parish Newsletter has also begun to go by the name, “Earth and Altar”! (If you can’t create great poetry, at least you can imitate it.) Hopefully Chesterton won’t mind!
The Decalogue in Holy Communion

The liturgical use of The Decalogue (Ten Commandments) as the opening act of worship is a unique and powerful feature of the Anglican Mass, commonly known to us as ‘The Order for Holy Communion’.

Among the liturgical ancestors of the prayer book rite (the medieval Roman and Sarum rites) we find that the mass typically began with a 9-fold ‘Kyrie eleison’, or ‘Lord, have mercy’. This hymn of the Early Church had come to be seen in medieval times as a penitential entrance rite. Together with the offering of the ‘Gloria in excelsis’, it was both a preparation for Communion with God and offering of praise to God. This Kyrie/Gloria opening formula continued to be reflected in the 1549 prayer book rite.

In 1552, Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer (no doubt motivated by the desire that his people should become better acquainted with The Decalogue) juxtaposed it upon the 9-fold ‘Kyrie’. Each ‘Kyrie, eleison’ was now read as a response to a particular commandment, “Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law. Of course the addition of a 10th ‘Kyrie’ was also needed, “Lord, have mercy upon us, and write all these thy laws in our hearts we beseech thee.” In the same year, Cranmer removed the ‘Gloria’ to the end of the Service, where it came to serve a new function as the hymn of praise and thanksgiving from the faithful upon having received the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. This has been the prayer book Order of Service since 1552. For the addition of a little ‘atmosphere’ to the use of The Decalogue, the priest may chant each commandment, and the congregation or choir respond using any one of the 5 musical settings of the Responses to the Decalogue in The Hymnal, 1940. A very good choice, and my personal favorite at the moment, is the setting by Sir Edward Bairstow, number 725.

The Decalogue serves a number of important functions in the Anglican mass: it keeps God’s Law at the forefront of our consciousness; it reminds us that without obedience to God’s Law there is no possibility of Communion with God; it provides us with the context in which to receive our Lord’s summary of the Law, to Love God and to Love our neighbor as ourselves; and, it prepares us to hear and receive with gladness the Holy Gospel in an effective liturgical sequence of Law/Gospel.

The liturgical use of The Decalogue is not ‘merely’ a teaching device or a means of imparting information, however. In the context of our Service, it is also a means of meditation upon, and humble worship of, the Most Holy Trinity One God. Together with the Psalmist, we may say, “Blessed art thou, O Lord; O teach me thy statutes.” (Ps. 119:10)

Our use of The Decalogue is completed by the Collect on page 70 of the prayer book, “O ALMIGHTY Lord, and everlasting God, vouchsafe, we beseech thee, to direct, sanctify, and govern, both our hearts and bodies, in the ways of thy laws, and in the works of thy commandments; that, through thy most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ… Amen.”

In the American Prayer Book of 1928, the rubrics allow for the Summary of the Law (“Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith…”) together with a 3-fold ‘Kyrie’, to take the place of The Decalogue, PROVIDED that The Decalogue still be read one Sunday in each month. Happy is that parish which heeds the wisdom of the fathers of our Church, and thus benefits from the use of The Decalogue. A parish which regularly hears and prays The Decalogue will no doubt be well-formed in biblical/catholic morality, and will be equipped to Love God and to Love Their Neighbor.

The presence of the Decalogue as a liturgical formula, together with the positioning of the ‘Gloria in excelsis’ at the end of the Service, are features of the Anglican Service that critics of the Book of Common Prayer are wary of, and that admirers of the Book of Common Prayer cannot get enough of. The fact is, as present-day “Anglicans” in the APCK in 2006, we cannot escape the beauty and the singularity of the prayer book liturgy that has defined our Way for over 450 years. I am of the mind that “Godliness, with contentment is great gain” and that it is a great joy to simply be content with the great treasure that we have received from our spiritual heritage, to use it with integrity and to profit from it.

Visit our parish website over the course of the next Sundays, for my Series of Homilies on The Decalogue, via
Anglican Catechism: Orthodoxy in Instruction

If you are interested in a simple but effective way of imparting the catholic faith to children or to newcomers to your parish, then read on…

Contained in the Book of Common Prayer is a Catechism, or “Instruction” for those who are being trained in the catholic faith, especially children approaching confirmation. It is presented in Question & Answer format, which is the old-fashioned manner of “rote learning”. In the American Prayer Book of 1928, the Catechism is also presented as two Offices of Instruction, interspersed with hymns and prayers. The principle material of both the Catechism and the Offices of Instruction (which are based on the Catechism) is The Apostles’ Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, and The Decalogue (or Ten Commandments)

The catechizing of new believers is a principle function of the Church, and yet there are various ways of going about it. I will attempt to trace in general terms the tradition in which the Anglican Catechism of our prayer book stands.

First, let us go back to the 4th century, when St. Augustine is approached by a young Christian named Laurence, desiring that the Bishop give him a ‘little handbook’ containing the essence of the catholic faith. St. Augustine replied saying, “What you really want to know in the handbook is this: ‘How is God to be Worshipped?’, and the answer to this question is that God is to be worshipped in Faith, Hope and Charity.” He then proceeded to write his “Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Charity” which is an exposition of The Apostles’ Creed (Faith: what is to be believed), The Lord’s Prayer (Hope: what is to be hoped for), and The Decalogue (Charity: what is to be loved, or how are we to love).

St. Augustine was not doing anything very new, for one must assume that he himself had been catechized in a tradition by his own teacher, St. Ambrose of Milan. Also, we can go back to St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians where he writes in Chapter 13, “and now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity”. St. Augustine juxtaposed the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Decalogue onto St. Paul’s Three Theological Virtues, and thus to write his Enchiridion, or “Little Handbook” on the catholic Faith.

The Augustinian tradition of Catechesis is shared by the Churches of the Reformation, (for example the weighty Lutheran and Presbyterian expositions of the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Decalogue), AND, the Roman Church with its massive, best-selling Catechism, which devotes a large portion of the book to the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Decalogue.

The Anglican Catechism as presented in the American Prayer Book of 1928 is an exposition of that which is to be believed, hoped for, and loved, by the catholic Christian. It is modestly stated, and is a fairly short catechism compared to the Lutheran and Roman Catechisms, for the assumption is made that the parish priest will “instruct” his people out of the catechism, and that the question & answer format will not be the ONLY means of imparting information in the course of their Instruction.

Now for The Offices of Instruction: they present the Catechism as a form of Worship, and not just as a means of imparting information. The Apostles’ Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, and The Decalogue, can be prayed and meditated upon at ANY time, and not just in the course of a Confirmation Class. Thus the Anglican Way of Catechism embodied in our Prayer Book is the very definition of Orthodoxy (a word which means Right/Proper Worship).

Come to think of it, this does sound very Anglican, for in our tradition there is perhaps less emphasis placed upon Didacticism or Legalism, and more emphasis placed upon Right Worship (Orthodoxy)!

Comments, contributions and corrections to the foregoing essay are most welcome.