"Send out Your light and Your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling." Psalm 43:3

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ye Holy Angels Bright

I couldn't resist posting this.  We sang no. 625, "Ye Holy Angels Bright", by the seventeenth century Puritan Richard Baxter, as our dismissal hymn in church today.  I was familiar with the tune (it's a great one, Darwall's 148th; I posted a video below), but it was the words that struck me.  I'm not sure I'd ever really listened to them before (or at least they had never so impressed me).  Such a beautiful hymn, and a stirring image of the communion of saints, both those "blessed souls at rest" and we "who toil below".  It is a communion that is not bound by space or time, and that includes also all the angelic host of heaven (as we were reminded yesterday, the feast of Saint Michael and All Angels).
Peace to you, and grace to "bear thou thy part" in the coming week.

Ye Holy Angels Bright
by Richard Baxter, revised by John Hampden Gurney

Ye holy angels bright,
Who wait at God's right hand,
Or through the realms of light
Fly at your Lord's command,
Assist our song, for else the theme
Too high doth seem for mortal tongue.

Ye blessed souls at rest,
Who ran this earthly race
And now, from sin released,
Behold the Savior's face,
God's praises sound, as in his sight
With sweet delight ye do abound.

Ye saints, who toil below,
Adore your heavenly King,
And onward as ye go
Some joyful anthem sing;
Take what he gives and praise him still
Through good or ill, who ever lives!

My soul, bear thou thy part,
Triumph in God above:
And with a well tuned heart
Sing thou the songs of love!
Let all thy days till life shall end
Whate'er he send, be filled with praise.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Praying with Saints and Angels on Michaelmas

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.
~Collect for Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels

A short excerpt from Opening the Prayer Book, by Jeffrey Lee.  In Chapter Seven: Liturgy in Action, Lee writes about the intention behind the 1979 Book of Common Prayer to more fully realize the very reality proclaimed by the prayer book's title: namely, that the work, worship, and prayer of the church is to be primarily communal, not private.  It is certainly true that we are often less than resoundingly successful at living truly communal Christian lives, and Lee acknowledges that we often miss the mark.  I myself am aware of critics (and have to an extent shared in their concern) who allege that the variety of options in the current prayer book actually serves to undermine the unity of the church, that the diversity means we are in fact no longer a church of common prayer.  For this reason, I find Lee's assessment fascinating and helpful.  He writes that the 1979 prayer book "may look like prayer books from earlier times, but it is actually a resource library for pastoral liturgy", with the attendant necessity that every individual parish must be actively involved in determining how they will live into that liturgy.  The worshiping community does not simply open to a certain page and read straight through a single, standard set of prayers, hymns, and offerings.  Rather, the format, or "shape" of the liturgy is standard, while many details remain to be determined at the parish level.  Thus, we might say, the local community comes to have a sense of meaningful ownership in the liturgy.  Here is Lee writing about the communal reality of prayer.
We gather for common prayer.  In the last several decades, liturgical reformers within Anglicanism and among Christians in general have sought to reclaim a more vigorous understanding and practice of the communal dimension of Christian prayer.  For the Christian, in a real sense, there is no such thing as private prayer.  In fact, the word "private" shares a root with "deprivation" - privatio in Latin is to deprive.  This is not to deny the importance of times of personal prayer; but even personal prayer is fundamentally ecclesial in nature.  When Christians pray, they do so with the church, not in isolation, even if they are alone:  we pray always "with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven" (BCP 362). 
Peace, and happy Michaelmas!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

E. B. Pusey: On Love

Grant us. O Lord, not to mind earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to cleave to those that shall abide; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.
~Collect for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

A final post taken from the writings of Dr. Edward Bouverie Pusey.  Pusey was regarded as a great preacher, not for his oratory, but for his depth and zeal.  His passionate love for God, and his desire to see that love imparted throughout the church, is readily displayed in the following.

Faint not, any who would love Jesus, if ye find yourselves yet far short of what He Himself who is Love saith of the love of Him.  Perfect love is Heaven.  When ye are perfected in love, your work on earth is done.  There is no short road to Heaven or to love.  Do what in thee lies by the grace of God, and He will lead thee from strength to strength, and grace to grace, and love to love ...
Think often, as thou canst, of God.  For how canst thou know or love God, if thou fillest thy mind with thoughts of all things under the sun and thy thoughts wander to the ends of the earth, and thou gatherest them not unto God?  Nothing (except wilful sin) so keepeth men tepid and lukewarm and holdeth them back from any higher fervour of love, as the being scattered among things of sense, and being taken up with them away from God.
Bring all things, as thou mayest, nigh to God; let not them hurry thee away from Him.
Be not held back by any thought of unworthiness or by failures, from the child-like love of God.  When we were dead in trespasses and sin, Christ died for us; when we were afar off, Christ recalled us; when lost, Christ sought us; how much more may we reverently love Him, and hope that we are loved by Him, when He has found us, and we, amid whatever frailties, would love Him by Whom we have been loved!
Be diligent, after thy power, to do deeds of love.  Think nothing too little, nothing too low, to do lovingly for the sake of God ... 
"Charity never faileth."  How then is all lost, which tendeth not to love!  O abyss of love, torrent of pleasure, life of them that believe, paradise of delights, comfort of our pilgrimage, reward of the blessed, root of all good, strength in all strife, rest in all weariness!  Why will ye "labor for that which is not bread", and toil for that which satisfieth not; why seek for pleasures which perish in the grasp, and when tasted, become bitterness; why heap up things ye must part with, or why love vanities, when ye have before ye love which cannot weary, cannot sate, cannot change, cannot fail; for Love is the Essence, the Bliss, the Being, the Glory of God; and this may be yours for evermore.  God in Whom are all things, Who is All-Goodness, willeth that ye love Him eternally, and be eternally filled with His Love, and enter into His Joy, the Joy of the Everlasting Father in His Co-Equal Son through the Spirit, of Both Proceeding, the Bond of Both, and that ye should rest in the Bosom of His Love, and His Love rest upon you and fill you for ever.  Will ye not then cast out now, for these few years, what hinders in you the Love of God, that ye may have for ever His Love which passeth all understanding, and be one with God, being filled with the Love of God Who is Love?
E. B. Pusey, Parochial Sermons, volume II 


Thursday, September 20, 2012

E.B. Pusey: Holy Communion

Among the many ways in which he influenced the course of Anglican spirituality, Dr. Pusey was one of the foremost advocates for a return to a doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (I recently published a blog post on the same).  An indication of both the effectiveness of his preaching and the opposition he faced on this issue in 19th century England is the fact that he was barred from the pulpit for two years after preaching what the leadership of Oxford University considered to be a dangerous and erroneous sermon, "The Holy Eucharist, a Comfort to the Penitent".  The following excerpt is from another of his sermons on the subject of the Holy Communion.

The Holy Supper is not a gazing up into heaven after Christ.  No thoughts of Christ, however holy; no longings after Him, however sanctified; no wish to be with Him, however purified; no thoughts on His cross and Passion and Precious Death, however devout; no devotion of self to Him; no acknowledgment of Him as our Priest, Prophet, King, and God; no setting Him up in our hearts as (with the Father and the Holy Ghost) the One Object of our love; no reliance upon Him as the only Anchor of our soul, however real, comes up to the truth.  We ought to meditate on Him, long for Him, desire to be with Him, rely on Him, devote ourselves to Him; pledge ourselves to obey Him, and do what we have pledged.  We should look for His coming, avow Him, be ready in all things, in suffering as in joy, to be partakers with Him, partakers of His Cross, and Death, and Burial.  All this we should be at all times, but all this does not make us yet partakers of Him, for man cannot make himself a partaker of Him; He must give Himself.  As He gave Himself to the Death upon the Cross for our sins, so in the Holy Eucharist must He, if we are to be partakers of Him, give Himself to us.  We have of Him only what He giveth.  All Christian graces, although His work, are but messengers to prepare the way before Him.  Hope but putteth us in that expectant, longing state which He rewardeth; Faith but openeth the door to receive Him; Love or Charity but cleanseth the chamber of our hearts, which He is to inhabit; Repentance but breaketh the heart, and maketh it that contrite or broken spirit, wherein it pleaseth Him to dwell, but all this is not yet He.  He, "the Bread of Life which came down from heaven" must come down also into our hearts, if we are to be partakers of Him.  The Communion is not a mere going up of our hearts to Christ, but a coming down of Him to us.
E. B. Pusey, Parochial Sermons, volume III 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

E.B. Pusey: The Hidden Life

Edward Bouverie Pusey was one of the leading voices of the Oxford Movement, the greatly influential catholic revival in the Church of England in the nineteenth century.  In anticipation of his feast day (today, 18 September), I spent some time over the weekend perusing a book entitled The Mind of the Oxford Movement, edited by Owen Chadwick.  Great stuff, timely and challenging; in fact, I had intended to simply post a short excerpt from one of Pusey's sermons, but I couldn't make up my mind.  In consequence, I'll be sharing a few selections here over the next few days.  To begin, here is Pusey speaking of "the hidden life":
As this hidden life is obtained by deadness to the world - "ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God" - so, by that deadness, is it to be cherished, maintained, perfected.  Death to the world is life to God; the life in God deadens to the world.  By Baptism we were made partakers of Christ's Death, that we might henceforth share His Life ... The less we live for things outward, the stronger burns our inward life.  The more we live amid the distractions of the world, the less vivid is the life of the soul.  The more we live to things unseen, the less hold will this world of sense have over us.  The more we make anything seen our end, any thing short of approving ourselves to God, the more will our hidden life decay.  It matters not wherein we are employed, but how.  We may in the most sacred things forget God, or in the most common things serve Him.  We may be promoting His Truth, and ourselves be but the unfruitful conduit through which It flows to water the earth; or we may in the meanest things of this earth be living to His Glory and thereby promoting it.  Everything seen, even the outward Coming of God's Kingdom, may make men lose sight of God; in every meanest duty the quickened eye may see Him the Invisible.  Self-denying duty, love, and contemplation, together advance this hidden life.  Alone, self-denying duty were austere and hard; love were weak and faint; contemplation but imaginative or sensual.  Together, self-denial deadens the flesh; deeds of love soften the spirit; contemplation fixes the soul upon God ...
This, then, is our office; to see how, day by day, we may be ourselves more hidden from the world, that we may be more with God; how to discharge our duties in it, so as more to forget ourselves and remember God only; to consider this only, how they may be done, so as best to please Him; how self may least mingle in them; to seek no bye-ends of our own, no applause of men, nor our own; rather to seek how we may escape men's praise, that we may win God's; escape men's sight and be seen by our "Father Who seeth in secret" only, and have that in store with Him, which He, "in the last day", "will reward openly"; to be content with the least; desire no more than we have; be thankful to escape the snares of those who have what we have not; be glad, if it may be, to have less, that others may abound; to disburden ourselves of wealth by giving to Christ's poor; forget self in others, love others in God; seek only to be "buried with Christ" from this world and its vanities, hidden in His Tomb, so that all the show and pomps of this world may but flit around us as unreal things, but not catch our gaze, nor draw our hearts, which have been "buried with Him" and are now "risen with Him."
E. B. Pusey,  from Sermons  during the season from Advent to Whitsuntide 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Prayer for the Human Family

With a desire both to enrich my prayer life and to become more immersed in the spirituality of The Book of Common Prayer, I have just recently begun praying through the various numbered "Prayers and Thanksgivings" during my times of daily prayer.  As it happened, today I prayed number three, For the Human Family.  It seemed especially appropriate today, on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

O God, you made us in your image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.