Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jeremy Taylor on The Episcopate

Here are three extracts from the great 17th century Anglican Divine Jeremy Taylor’s writings on the office of the bishop – something we are thinking a fair amount about in our diocese just now.

The first one deals with the way in which the apostolic character of the bishop’s office may be deputed to the priests and deacons, yet that office remains fully vested in the bishop.

The second is as much the case today as in Taylor’s day: a priest may share in the sacramental and preaching ministrations of the bishop, but may only do so in a diocese by license from the bishop. This points to very real order which exists in the ‘college of presbyters’ with their bishop.

The third addresses the fact that priests, in essence, are all ‘vicarious representatives’ of the bishop, who cannot be everywhere at once in a diocese. Thus, when the bishop comes to a particular parish or other community in a diocese, the priest no longer has the ‘right’ to lead the liturgy. It falls to the ‘chief priest and pastor’ of the diocesan family. A visual sign of this in our worship is that the bishop is seated either in a special bishop’s chair, or (as at St. Timothy’s) takes the celebrant’s chair under the icon of our patron saint, with the priest now seated to the bishop’s left and serving as an assisting figure during the liturgy.

While a bit dated in content and having a rather convoluted style to modern tastes, Taylor’s writings on the Church still yield valuable insights for those willing to wrestle with them. Taylor was one of those leaders to whom it fell to reconstruct the Church following the disastrous period of the English Civil War and Parliamentary rule.

Although deacons and priests have part of [the offices of the apostolate] and therefore, though in a very limited sense, they may be called ‘successors apostolorum,’ [successors to the apostles] to wit, in the power of baptizing, consecrating the Eucharist, and preaching (an excellent example whereof, though we have none in Scripture, yet if I mistake him not we have in Ignatius [bishop martyred c. 115 AD], calling the college of presbyters… ‘a combination of apostles’); yet the apostolate and episcopacy which did communicate in all the power and offices which were ordinary and perpetual, are in scripture clearly all one in ordinary ministration, and their names are often used in common to signify exactly the same ordinary function.

The whole power of ministration both of the word and sacraments was in the bishop by prime authority, and in the presbyters [priests] by commission and delegation, insomuch that they might not exercise any ordinary ministration without license from the bishop. They had power and capacity by their order to preach, to minister, to offer, to reconcile, and to baptize; they were indeed acts of order: but they might not by the law of the church exercise any of these acts without license from the bishop, that is an act or issue of jurisdiction, and shews the superiority of the bishop over his presbyters by the practice of Christendom.

The whole cure of the diocese is in the bishop[;] he cannot exonerate himself of it, for it is a burden of Christ’s imposing, or it is not imposed at all; therefore this taking of presbyters into part of the regiment and care does not divest him of his own power any part of it, nor yet ease him of his care, but that as he must still episkopein [oversee], ‘visit’ and ‘see to’ his diocese, so he hath authority still in all parts of his diocese…. When the bishop came to any place there the vicaria [deputed office] of the presbyters did cease… and… he being present might do any office, because it was in his own charge….; and therefore praesente episcopo [when the bishop was present] (saith the council of Carthage and St. Leo) ‘if the bishop be present’, the presbyter without leave might not officiate.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Tuesday Commemoration of Creation

Here are the opening lines for Tuesday mornings from Bp. Andrewes’ Private Prayers. They form a meditation regarding God’s work on the “Third Day,” as found in Genesis. They are part of the weekly cycle Andrewes composed for his personal use. Each day’s prayers begin with such a commemoration of God’s creative work. Together, they form a deeply engaging study of the Biblical understanding of nature, and our place in it.

Blessed are you, Lord,

who by drawing the water into sea,

caused dry land to appear,

and let the earth produce growth of plants

and fruit-bearing trees.

From the Abyss came

the depths & the sea – as in a bottle;

lakes, rivers, springs.

From that which was without form came

earth, continents, islands,

mountains, hills, valleys,

farmland, meadowland, woods.

From the Void came

green things,

corn for bread,

grass,

herbs and flowers;

for food,

pleasure,

healing.

Trees yielding fruit,

wine, oil, spices, and

for wood;

Things under the earth:

stones, metals, and minerals;

coal,

blood and fire and a turmoil of smoke (Joel 2:30)

(As translated by David Scott)

Andrewes’ use of imagery always fascinates me here. He uses both the language of God’s creative power (“from the Void came…”) but also weaves the human into the Creation by showing us the benefits of God’s work to us (“farmland,” “pleasure,” “healing,” wine,” &c.). The 17th century world in which he lived still understood humanity as a fully integrated part of the whole of the created order -- not master or detached observer. What would it be like to return to this? Perhaps this is one of the ways Native cultures can speak to our spiritual poverty.

Andrewes' peaceful mind recalls meadowland and woodlands… places he probably enjoyed taking the boys of the classes he taught; yet, he also ends with that mysterious and mildly disconcerting quote from Joel… “blood and fire and turmoil of smoke.” This recollection of the Hebrew “spiritual geography” of the Creation reminds us of the awesome power – both live-sustaining and life-taking – to be found in God’s handiwork. I always come away from this particular meditation being both charmed by (in much the same way I am by reading C.S. Lewis’ accounts of Narnia, say) and made aware of the inherent mystery of the Created order. This seems to me to be the way humanity was – and is – called to relate to the material world. I am deeply thankful that Bishop Andrewes saw fit to integrate his deep Biblical and Patristic piety with a right appreciation for that “other book” God left us to study: the Creation.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Daily Intercession

In peace let us pray to the Lord:

For the peace that is from above and for the salvation of our souls;

For the peace of the whole world, and for the good estate of the holy churches of God, and for the union of them all;

For this holy house and for those who with faith and reverence enter in;

For our forebears in holy things, for the worthy presbyterate, for the deacons ministering in Christ, and for all the clergy and people;

For this holy house and all the city and country, and for believers who live here;

For the good temperature of air, abundance of the fruits of the earth, and peaceful times;

For those at sea, those traveling, the sick, the weary, the prisoners and for their deliverance.

Help, save, pity, and protect us, O God, by your grace.

All-holy, undefiled, highly-blessed, Mother of God, and ever-virgin Mary together with all the saints, we commend ourselves, each other and all our life to Christ our God, even to YOU LORD to whom be glory, honor, and worship.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with me, and with us all. Amen.

Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626, Feast Day Sept. 26),

from the Laud Manuscript of the Preces Privatae,

as translated by David Scott

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What is a Bishop?

A characteristic view of the Episcopate from the Restoration period of the Church of England; it is both remarkably simple and fairly “high” in its understanding. Yet, it does not mention the maintenance of the Apostolic Faith – something largely assumed at the time. It also seems (to many today, at least) rather concerned with maintaining a pyramidal structure. The focus on the bishop as one who keeps deception and heresy from becoming ‘normative’ is significant; then, as now, many different denominational traditions had sprung up, some with highly peculiar perspectives on the Gospel.

A bishop is a pastor set over other pastors. They were to ordain elders. They might receive an accusation against an elder. They were to charge them to preach such and such doctrines; to stop the mouths of deceivers; to set in order the tings that were wanting; and lastly, this was the form of Church government in all the ages. So that to reject this, is to reject an ordinance of God…. Every true and lawful bishop is the representative of Christ in his own Diocese.

Thomas Watson (1663-1755), in Sacra Privia

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Morning Litany


Glory to you Lord, O Lord, glory to you, glory to you who have given me sleep for the refreshing of my weakness, and to restore the labors of this fretful body.

To this day and all days, a perfect, peaceful, healthy, and sinless course:

Let us ask of the Lord.

An angel of peace, a faithful guide, guardian of soul and body, to pitch a tent around me, and always to prompt what brings salvation:

Let us ask of the Lord.

ParXdon and remission of all sins and offences:

Let us ask of the Lord.

To our souls, what is good and convenient, and peace to the world:

Let us ask of the Lord.

Repentance and discipline for the rest of our life, and health and peace to the end:

Let us ask of the Lord.

Whatever is true, whatever is honest, whatever is just, whatever pure, whatever lovely, whatever of good report, if there be any virtue, and praise, such thoughts, such deeds:

Let us ask of the Lord.

A Christian close, without sin, without blame, and if it please you without pain, and a good answer at the awesome and testing judgment-seat of Jesus Christ our Lord:

Let us ask of the Lord.

Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626, Feast Day Sept. 26),

from the Laud Manuscript of the Preces Privatae,

as translated by David Scott

The Destructiveness of Polemic - then and now


There is something in the nature of controversial writing so corruptive of the morality, so apt to destroy some of the noblest graces of a Christian life, that I look upon the case to be much the same in [such writing], as it is in other wars, and that nothing less than an absolute necessity ought to engage a good man in either…. I would to God our own time had not given us too many instances of it; to the scandal of our religion…. But of all kinds of controversies, as there are usually none more unseasonable, so neither are there any which a man would less desire to be engaged in, than those which arise among such as are members of the same church, as well as of the same civil society; and have thereby the strictest obligations lying upon them to love and unity with one another.

William Wake (1657-1737), Archbishop of Canterbury.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fully Alive

From all oppression, conspiracy, and rebellion; from violence, battle, and murder; and from dying suddenly and unprepared,

Good Lord, deliver us.

The Christian is placed in a deeply disordered world. Rather than being oriented towards life, the world “as it is” now is oriented towards death. For many, daily life is lived under the horrors of “violence, battle, and murder.” Indeed, this is perhaps the “norm” throughout the world. Lawlessness, brutality, disregard for life are marks of cultures of oppression which in turn foster “conspiracy and rebellion,” usually perpetuating (rather than ending) the cycle. All of this leads to a deep pessimism about life, leading to Hobbes’ famous dictum: “Life is nasty, brutish, and short.” Once this is conceded, anything becomes possible and even acceptable.

For those of us who live in peace, safety, and plenty this petition can seem almost other-worldly. But, for those who have tasted the bitter cup of violence – and this includes many in our land who have fled here or those who have experienced domestic abuse or lived in a repressive “cult” – this petition is painfully honest. Without deliverance from these things, the richness and goodness of life is nearly impossible. When chaos and brutality reign, Evil seems triumphant, and even the good person may become silent and compliant with Evil’s purposes - becoming agents of evil in the process. The Church must stand against this; it must risk the reprisals of corrupt powers to witness to truth that God alone has the Power. Illegitimate rulers and systems of power may grab the reigns for a season, but they will be “cast down,” in the words of the Magnificat. Each of us has a part to play – tiny or great – in that work of the Gospel. Those who have not experienced such trials and terrors must recover a sense of humility, learning from those who have walked this "way of sorrows" so that their good fortune does not become their undoing.

The final portion of this petition speaks about something often confusing to people in the modern West: dying suddenly and unprepared. For many centuries, the Christian knew that he or she must have one’s “house in order” before leaving this world, for we were placed here to learn and do certain things, and if our “temporal affairs” are not in order, if we have people to forgive, need the forgiveness of others for our own wrongs, or have in some way not “set right” our relationship with God before our passing – then we have failed in a truly lamentable way. Modern people, overwhelmed by the consequences of life-sustaining medical technologies and therapies, often hear these words differently. We sometimes desire to leave the world suddenly, even unprepared. We might say: “How lucky she was, she died suddenly in her sleep” or “he never even knew what hit him.” But this says more about our fears than our faith – and fear is never the place for the Christian to live.

The early Christians knew the secret to daily life: live each day as if it were your last, for in some deep sense, it is. This was not morbid or hysterical; it was (and is) deeply rational, deeply wise. It is the wisdom of the Desert Fathers, the wisdom of the fully mindful and present with God. When we come to see each day as a unique gift, a gift to live fully alive as Christ lived fully alive, then we open ourselves to God’s grace and work of reconciliation. It may be a small advance, or it could be a great one – but it is an advance towards the Kingdom of God, and this is what the Lord thirsts for us when he says “I thirst” on the Cross. He thirsts for our salvation. He thirsts for our completion. He thirsts “for the life of the world."

We who bear the mark of that Cross on our forehead through Holy Baptism may drink from the font of New Life; his thirst has slaked ours; his offering has been made a gift to us. As we pray and labor to serve others that they may know deliverance from the evils of this world, so we, too, must be reconciled and growing in healing, that we may enter the Temple of God in the Heavenly Jerusalem where sin and death are no more. May God deliver us from dying suddenly and unprepared, so that we may continue the work of learning to live freely, preparedly, and fully. For, as St. Irenaeus remarks, the glory of God is the “human person, fully alive.”

For this, Our Lord continues to thirst.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A prayer at the beginning of each day

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace, help me in all things to rely upon your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by you. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray. And you, yourself, pray in me. Amen.

- St. Philaret of Moscow

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Work of a Christian

The day itself is blessed by God. Doesn’t this mean that everything that it contains, everything that happens to us during it is within the will of God? Believing that things happen merely by chance is not believing in God. And if we receive everything that happens and everyone who comes to us in this spirit, we shall see that we are called to do the work of Christians in everything.

Every encounter is an encounter in God and in his sight. We are sent to everyone we meet on our way, either to give or to receive, sometimes without even knowing it. Sometimes we experience the wonder of giving what we did not possess, sometimes we have to pay with our blood what we give.

We must also know how to receive. We must be able to encounter our neighbor, to look at him, hear him, keep silence, pay attention, be able to love and to respond wholeheartedly to what is offered, whether it be bitterness or joy, sad or wonderful. We should be completely open and like putty in God’s hands. The things that happen in our life, accepted as God’s gifts, will thus give us the opportunity to be continually creative, doing the work of a Christian.

- Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh