Lent 4: Christian Faith & Culture or How Many Names Can a Sunday Have?

NAME 1: REFRESHMENT SUNDAY. The Early and the Medieval Church helped ordinary people to remember the great festivals with popular names like, Refreshment Sunday, Thomas Sunday, Michaelmas and Candlemas, which indicated key times of the year. Refreshment Sunday marked the midway point of the Lenten season, when Lent meant no milk, eggs, cheese, fish or meat – it was quite an ordeal. Added to this, in the Northern Hemisphere, it was the beginning of Spring and people were lightening up after the dark grim winter, so mid-Lent became an occasion to relax a little. This little bit of indulgence allowed flowers in Church, and the eating of the Simnel Cake (simila, meaning fine, wheaten flour, which actually is an Easter cake), as a sign that fasting was coming to an end as the Great Easter Festival was drawing ever closer. So, for this reason this day was called Refreshment Sunday.

NAME 2: MOTHERING SUNDAY. Added to this, in the liturgy, the opening verse of scripture for this day is, “Rejoice Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her, rejoice with her”. Saint Paul called the heavenly Jerusalem “our Mother.” So, another name was coined for this day “Mothering Sunday”, it is now occasion when we give thanks for our own mums. It also a memorial of our Mother Church and it reminds us that this Parish community belongs to a Diocese, a Province and a National Church and in turn, that belongs to the world-wide Anglican Communion of 80 million people. Last of all, we remember Mary, the Mother of the Lord.

NAME 3: LAETARE SUNDAY. The Latin word for ‘rejoice’, in “Rejoice Jerusalem…” is Laetare – so yet another nickname was added to this Sunday. With all this remembering, rejoicing and relaxing of the Lenten rules, the sombre dark violet colour of the priest’s vestments is changed to a rose colour. In the 1960s that custom was dropped, however the Church of England’s new prayer book has restored the tradition.
All these elements show how worship and liturgy evolves and changes over the centuries – all so we can “Rejoice in the Lord”.

Apologies to our Web Page Users

Our apologies for those who have been trying to access our site over the last few weeks but we had it hacked and have had much to do to be able to get it up and running again. we wish to thank all those involved with this process.

Lent 3: Faith and our Goal

The Christian faith is not a pastime, nor an optional extra, and the Church is not one club among many others. Rather, the faith actually responds to some of the basic philosophical questions of humanity – questions of our origins and our goals: What can I know? What may I hope for? What am I? In other words, faith has to do with truth, and as our Lord said, ‘And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ (John 8:32). The Christian faith prepares us for the possibility of growing in the knowledge of integral truth and therefore, freedom.
So, what is the first item of faith – rather like the first letter of the alphabet, ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word became flesh’ (John 1:1, 14).
These short statements, and its wider context of the Last Gospel that we read at every Mass, reveals the basics. However, Christians have a distinct advantage, for truth is not some form of philosophy – but a Person, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ (John 14:6). This is why simple fishermen of Galilee became the greatest of teachers – they met Truth. So, a university education is not needed because it is about praying, listening and contemplation and in this way faith seeks the truth, and as St Pauls states we acquire the mind of Christ, ‘For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 2:16). Once we grasp the truth of ‘In the beginning was the Word…’ we become theologians without ever attending a theological college. There is another reason for this, for ‘Word’ in Greek is ‘Logos’, from which we derive our word logical. Once we step into our relationship Christ the Word/Logos we discover that faith is logical, that it is reasonable, and we experience the answers to those questions,
What can I know? What may I hope for? What am I?

Lent 2: Glory–revealing and Cross-carrying

In the past Lent has been surrounded with doom, gloom and pessimism about human failings. The new lectionary of readings has changed that. Funny enough, it was a restoration of readings used by the Early Church.
(Out of its vast treasury, the Church brings things old and things new).
However, it is true that human beings are frail and prone to make wrong decisions – but there is more, because we were created to have union and communion with God. Our frailty is that we cannot do it by ourselves and we need the forgiveness, love and grace of God to aid us. So, the Gospel reading about the Transfiguration of our Lord, shows us another dimension of our humanity – it is the possibility of participating in Divine glory.
In Christ, we find the one unique human being, Jesus of Nazareth the carpenter’s son, who is also the Son of God and God. His human uniqueness is that he has been tempted like us but not sinned. Unlike us, he is in constant awareness and communion with his heavenly Father – something we have not experienced. His vocation and mission is to repair that. In his Transfiguration we see what a human being should be in its original beauty. So, we are presented with a vision of our potential when we are willing to open up our personal being to God’s grace.
However, there is the damage we have collectively done to humanity. Sin is a reality that has impaired us. Not only our own personal failings but also the fact we were born into an impaired humanity. This impairment is called ‘original sin’. And we see it every night on the TV news. The corruption of leaders of Russia, North Korea and Syria. The bloody work of terrorists. The murderers and abusers of innocent children. These sins are concrete and real and they are repeated and perpetuated by successive generation.
Who can enter humanity and remove this hideous mess and restore us back to the glory? This is what Incarnation means – God entering all of this to fix it from within. Human beings need a new choice and a possibility to lay hold of a new beginning.
The Cross-carrying Christ enters into the totality of human failure to destroy sin and death and it power to govern us and, to lay hold of his life and make it our own. We are required to surrender our wills and faulty thinking into his hands. The Cross-carrying Christ is the one who is also the Glory-sharing Christ. In him we see that human suffering is not the totality of our existence and that we can become the Children of Glory – Children of God.

Lent 1: The Temptation of Christ

This episode in today’s Gospel follows straight on after our Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan with the descent of the Holy Spirit. The voice of the Father is heard saying that this was his Son, the Messiah. Later, Jesus confirmed this status in his hometown of Nazareth, when he declares that Isaiah’s markers to identify a Messiah are now fulfilled. However, the Baptism and the voice of God draws everyone’s attention, including those of evil. In Matthew and Luke’s Gospel, he is to be tested with the simple proposition, “If you are the Son of God…”. The temptations are even plausible, simply asking proof of identity. You see, temptations are subtle, as in the story of Adam and Eve, they worth considering but always sowing a doubt, “‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.’ So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes…” Although the Genesis story is in the realm of myth, that it is, telling the truth of the workings of our mind and heart. It is profile of how we accept a doubt and then negotiate ourselves into making the wrong choice in the mistake that it looks OK. When our Lord accepted the credentials for a Messiah that Isaiah lists, (this
was in the synagogue in Capernaum) he also accepts the prophet’s image of the Suffering Servant of the Lord. The temptations are to see if he can be taken away from this vocation and to be quick and smart in convincing everyone he is the effective Messiah they are looking for. But the Suffering Servant of Isaiah is the one who embodies within himself the sins, the death and suffering of all humanity. From this path Jesus will not be distracted. He will not leap from the Temple but he will leap into our death to change it. He will not turn stones into bread but he will give his own Body to be the Bread of Life and his Blood as the Chalice of Eternal Life. He will resist temptation and sin to be a merciful and understanding High Priest who knows our weakness and failings and to be the source of healing and wholeness within the midst of our humanity. He will resist Evil One and give his disciples authority over that evil – for he shares that possibility to his disciples – to his people – to his Church. Christ is tempted for us, to give us the grace and insight of how evil can be resisted.

The Benefits of the Traditional Worship and Language of the Mass.

As a priest, that has for decades used the modern form of the Mass, I wish to state what are the benefits of the traditional form we use at Morningside

  1. A clearer statement that the Mass is the sacred gift and work of Christ, and of Him being our Lord, Eternal High Priest, and Mediator.
  2. The traditional form of the Mass provides, for many, a secure bridge between corporate worship and provides space for personal adoration, prayer and contemplation.
  3. The prayers of the traditional Mass give a clear and eloquent communication of the doctrines of the Christian faith.
  4. The traditional form of the Mass unmistakeably focuses on the worship of God as the priority, and not on the activities of the local community. The worship of Mass makes the community – not the other round.
  5. The long-established form of the Mass is a continuity and a living connection to the Christian liturgy from its earliest days.
  6. The celebration of the traditional Mass requires and assumes an environment of beauty and adornment, that is an icon and vision of the truth of the worship of the Heavenly Jerusalem, it is to be a source of our joy. The Mass is the connection to our true homeland.
  7. Last of all, the traditional mass and its language is a link to the culture of the Church – its music and architecture, which also forms a living connection to our English-Australian language and culture.

*For The Mutterings on The Warden’s Wands see the Page dedicated to this: The Why? About the Wardens’ Wands

Life with the Living God

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Pastor of the Lutheran Church and also a vehement critic of Hitler and Nazism – and that would eventually cause his arrest and death. From prison, he wrote that a Christian must live today as if there were no God. Each person must assume responsibility for the course of their life. Regardless of how radical and brave Bonhoeffer was, the Christian tradition of spirituality suggests the exact opposite of what he proposes – we should act as if God really exists and Christ is true, even if at times he seems absent. In fact, for those whose faith is dim or weak this is the advice that is given and it is called an Act of Faith. One of the great spiritual giants, Saint Teresa of Avila, had decades of not feeling any sense of the presence of God, and yet she lived her life to the reality of revealed truth. She continued to hold onto the revelation Christ given to the whole Church, for she realised that that our personal feelings could betray us. Just because ‘I’ feel Christ is absent does not mean he is. Of course, the thing that Teresa understood is that Christ himself entered into that dark place of nothingness, “My God my God, why have you abandoned me” – which oddly is a prayer addressed to God who had gone missing!

So each of us, regardless of how the world affects us or events and circumstances and our health get us down, we should strive as being subjects to the love that awaits us, and in the knowledge that this love, loves even us. Again, we may not feel it, but we van live in that certainty of truth known and experienced by millions. So in this process we are shaping our hearts and soul. We entrust ourselves to this difficult yet inescapable ‘if there were a God’, in which we will become ever more aware that this statement “if” is the only reality for here and now and into eternity. We will know profoundly and lastingly why Christianity is still necessary today as the genuine good news by which we are redeemed. For God is certainly by our side and with us – even if from time to time we do not feel it or doubt it.

The Communion of Saints

Most of us are familiar with the Apostles Creed that is used during Eastertide, at Baptisms, and also Morning and Evening Prayer on Sundays. The longest clause is about our Lord from his conception to the Resurrection and the expected return at the end of time. By contrast, the in the third clause about the Holy Spirit and the Church is very brief: ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting’. However, these statements are actually all one as they are a development about the activity of the Holy Spirit within the Church. As our Lord has taught us, the Holy Spirit is the one who abides with the People of God and leads into all truth about our Saviour. It is in the power of the Holy Spirit that we make effective today the words of Christ in Baptism, the Mass and the forgiveness of sins. However, the phrase about the Communion of Saints was not in the first edition of the Apostles Creed and it read, ‘I believe …of the Holy Ones’, which was actually a reference to the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist. It is mentioned because the Church throughout the world is made one by this feast of unity. The Church is not defined by its administrative structures – its office holders and synods – but by its worship of God, gathered by Christ and with the Holy Spirit. This is the concept that was developed into the Communion of Saints. For it is by the assembly around the altar that the community is created and made holy. This community is not just here and now but embraces all the faithful who have ever lived – and this community extends beyond the boundary of death – the very reason we commemorate them – ‘so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another’ (Romans 11. 36ff). So what about those we call the Holy Ones today? Well, they are still members of the same community we belong to, but their witness to us is that the promises and gifts of Christ are effective to change human beings into his Image and Likeness, ‘So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:7), ‘And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 5.17). All of this indicates we are on a journey to the fullness of life, which we can see is true in the lives of all the Saints.

Praying for Faithful Departed

All Soul’s Day is close, the mutterings are about praying for the dead.

When we come to church for the Mass or Rosary we pray for the departed as a normal part of worship. However, that was not always the case. The reason goes back to the Reformation when the Church of England rejected praying for the dead, but the reasons were sound and reasonable, as the practice had become corrupt. The Church of the 14th & 16th Century starting to charge for the prayers to raise money. Pope Julius II (1503 to 1513), raised huge amounts of money to build St Peter’s in Rome by selling indulgences. For your donation, you obtained a certificate that pardoned the sins of your departed family. It raised money, but it was selling God’s free grace, which is outrageous. Luther protested this practice, hence the term, protestant was launched. The ban on praying for the dead and funerals became grim affairs that gave no comfort to those who mourned. Our first Prayer Books had a reasonable funeral service, but it was not widely used, and after the time of Oliver Cromwell, hardly at all. This was a case of throwing baby out with the bath water. Along with this was a teaching that salvation and damnation had already been decided by God – so need for prayer!

As usual, banning something causes problems and it caused personal problems for those who had no avenue to express grief and love by prayer. So, other avenues are also sought and by the end of the 17th Century it was common to consult occult means of contacting the dead and the rise of spiritualism in the 19th Century.

The Crimean War (1853-56), with 21,000 casualties started to change things as the Church had no means to deal with a nationwide grief. This was when crucifixes came back into the churches; the image of the God who died our death. In 1873 the Guild of All Souls was founded. Their goals were, to change barbaric funerals! They promoted proper and dignified funerals, to educate and promote the Church’s teaching regarding the departed, and intercessory prayer for them and the dying. The Guild was successful, as their goals have now become a normal part of Anglican parish life.

The understanding of these tasks was based on the life and teaching of Christ. We see this is in our Lord’s compassion to the Widow of Nain and his teaching at the raising of Lazarus. Our understanding of Christ is that all life is in his hands, yet it is through our prayerful cooperation with his will, and our desire for healing, wholeness and forgiveness for others, especially the departed, that accomplishes it.

The Shape & Order of the Mass III

This is the third and last muttering about this subject. The object was to explain how the Mass has developed over the Christian centuries and how that effects our worship today, and our new worship book. Nothing of the prayers is being omitted but reordered into a more logical sequence. From the beginning of the Mass up to Creed remains the same. If you note in both columns Offertory you can see the reorderng, which now conforms more to the Early Church, the Anglican 1549 Prayer Book, and the changes in modern worship since 1970 in the Anglican Roman Catholic traditions.

English Missal 1958 Divine Worship Missal 2015
Creed Creed
Offertory Intercessions
Intercessions Confession and Absolution
Confession and Absolution Comfortable words
Prayer of Humble Access Offertory
From hereon the mass remains the same in both Missals until
Lord’s Prayer Lord’s Prayer
Breaking of the Bread Breaking of the Bread
Agnus Dei – Lamb of God Agnus Dei – Lamb of God
Invitation to Communion Prayer of Humble Access
Invitation to Communion

Apart from a return to the Church’s original order of the mass, it is also the order adopted for the reforms of modern worship since 1970. Anglicans who do not know our style and language or worship, will at least understand the order of Mass and be able to participate with us.