Monday, April 30, 2012

On the Feast of Sts. Philip and James: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic

Below is a portion of a work by Tertullian (c. 160 – d. 259). As one reads it, the centrality of direct continuity between contemporary Christians and their Apostolic roots is made clear.

From time to time in the Church, there are forces and movements that reject the significance of such continuity. Such movements tend to use millenarian language, suggesting that a particular era is uniquely able to see things truly or correctly. If followed, this impulse leads spiritually to eccentricity and (eventually) a dead end. We may try to ignore this, but such efforts always lead to the same dismal results.

The “four marks of the Church” are found in the Nicene Creed: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. As we begin the commemoration of Saints Philip and James, it is a good time to remember that, whatever the issue, these marks are unalterable signs of the fullness of faith…not quaint relics or outgrown identities. 

The same faith that motivated Tertullian to write with such conviction is what will inspire Christians to live and witness to the Gospel in our own day. Disconnection from Apostolic continuity always results in division and obsessions. Only the Apostolic Faith, and not what some have wanted to add or remove from it, will communicate the Gospel in its simplicity and fullness. Thankfully, Classic Anglicanism has always sought to do and be just that.

+ + + 

Our Lord Jesus Christ himself declared what he was, what he had been, how he was carrying out his Father’s will, what obligations he demanded of men. This he did during his earthly life, either publicly to the crowds or private to his disciples. Twelve of these he picked out to be his special companions, appointed to teach the nations.

One of them fell from his place. The remaining eleven were commanded by Christ, as he was leaving the earth to return to the Father after his resurrection, to go and teach the nations and to baptize them into the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The apostles cast lots and added Matthias to their number, in place of Judas, as the twelfth apostle. The authority for this action is to be found in a prophetic psalm of David. After receiving the power of the Holy Spirit which had been promised to them, so that they could work miracles and proclaim the truth, they first bore witness to their faith in Jesus Christ and established churches throughout Judea. They then went out into the whole world and proclaimed tothe nations the same doctrinal faith.

They set up churches in every city. Other churches received from them a living transplant of faith and the seed of doctrine, and through this daily process of transplanting they became churches. They therefore qualify as apostolic churches by being the offspring of churches that are apostolic.

Every family has to be traced back to its origins. That is why we can say that all these great churches constitute that one original Church of the apostles; for it is from them that they all come. They are all primitive, all apostolic, because they are all one. They bear witness to this unity by the peace in which they all live, the brotherhood which is their name, the fellowship to which they are pledged. The principle on which these associations are based is common tradition by which they share the same sacramental bond.

The only way in which we can prove what the apostles taught – that is to say, what Christ revealed to them – is through those same churches. They were founded by the apostles themselves, who first preached to them by what is called the living voice and later by means of letters.

The Lord had said clearly in former times: I have many more things to tell you, but you cannot endure them now. But he went on to say: When the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you into the whole truth. Thus Christ shows us that the apostles had full knowledge of the truth, for he had promised that they would receive the whole truth through the Spirit of truth. His promise was certainly fulfilled, since the Acts of the Apostles prove that the Holy Spirit came down on them.
From On the Prescription of Heretics

The Collect for the Commemoration of Saint Philip and Saint James, Apostles
Almighty God, who gave to your apostles Philip and James grace and strength to bear witness to the truth: Grant that we, being mindful of their victory of faith, may glorify in life and death the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dismissed by the Good Shepherd

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Alleluia, alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia!

During the Great 50 Days of Eastertide (and on other major feasts), it is our custom to sing the Dismissal at St. Timothy’s 10 AM Eucharist. It is beautiful. It is in keeping with the sung liturgy’s character. It underscores the festive character of this season. But, it is more than any of these reasons: it emphasizes the meaning of the Dismissal itself…much as having the Gospel chanted on major feasts forces us to “hear” it differently.

The last words of the Eucharist are those of the Dismissal. They conclude the liturgy with a resolve: to go into the world as people with a purpose. We don’t skulk off, back to our “normal” lives after Sunday worship. We are sent into our lives from the point of total reality that is the Eucharist. We go out renewed in strength and our mission as ambassadors of, heralds for, participants in the Gospel. Singing the Dismissal, with its joyful dialogue, draws this out in a more explicit, dramatic “tonality.”

The restoration of the Dismissal to the Anglican form of the Eucharist was one of the supreme gifts of the 1979 revision of The Book of Common Prayer. Having the Dismissal formally end the liturgy gave it much greater clarity of form. But, it did much, much more than that. It returned to the Eucharist an essential element of mission. After being blessed, we are pointed out the doors as people full of a gift meant not only for ourselves, but to be shared.

This Sunday is informally referred to as “Good Shepherd Sunday,” due to the collect and the appointed Gospel lesson. This Sunday functions both to reflect on the meaning of Christ’s words about himself as the true, real, model, ideal, or good shepherd, and as a subtle re-orientation of the meaning of the Resurrection from being a hidden, inner event to something with global implications. In John 10, Christ speaks of “other sheep” that need to be brought back into the One Flock. The Cross and Resurrection are the necessary pre-conditions for this reunion of all the flock. This Sunday, then, begins to point our minds towards Pentecost and the gift of the Spirit that will unlock the Resurrection’s meaning for the Church so that those "other sheep" can come home. It is that pasture you and I are privileged to call home as part of Christ's Body, but that privilege assumes our desire to invite others to share in this life.

As we end the Eucharist this Sunday, we very much need to emphasize that the Good Shepherd—who is the true host of this meal—has fed us with his gift of New Life and now sends us out into the new week as intentional sharers of that gift. In so doing, we “love and serve the Lord” in exactly the way the Good Shepherd desires.
Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Easter 
O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Pascha nostrum: Singing with St. Paul of Christ's Rising

Christ our Passover Pascha nostrum

1 Corinthians 5:7‑8; Romans 6:9‑11; 1 Corinthians 15:20‑22
Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; *
  therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, *
  but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.

Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; *
  death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; *
  but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin, *
  and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.

Christ has been raised from the dead, *
  the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death, *
  by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, *
  so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.

During Easter at Morning Prayer, the BCP recommends substituting the Pascha nostrum for the usual Invitatory Psalm (either Psalm 95 or 100). At St. Timothy’s, we take this a step further and sing a lively Anglican chant setting of this text at the Eucharist from 3 Easter on. It is one of the seasonal joys of the liturgy as offered here, punctuated as it is with its glad 'Alleluias.'

The Pascha nostrum is technically called a cento, a literary work made by sewing together a collection of quotations—a series of verses from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians and his Letter to the Romans. It has been a part of the Anglican liturgy for Easter since the Reformation of the sixteenth century.

By using it at Morning Prayer, we are emphasizing the unity of the 50 days of Easter—the longest (and oldest) true season of the Liturgical Year. As we progress through the events of Easter Day, through Thomas Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday, Rogationtide, Ascension, and right into Pentecost, we are not hopping from one “topic” to another, but are entering into a loving and thoughtful contemplation of the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection in its many lights and meanings.

Some people, when using the Pascha nostrum at Morning Prayer, will say it for Easter Week, others for the whole 50 days. Some use it on Sundays only, or just until Ascension Day, moving back to the Venite (Psalm 95) with its appropriate antiphon and marking the transition of character in late Eastertide. There is no “one way” to use it, though the rubrics do give us some direction. The point to be remembered is that the Pascha nostrum underscores the power of Christ’s rising as a complete break with the old life…something that each Christian must not only celebrate at Eastertide, but learn to live in the daily life of discipleship.

Praying these words will, at times, cast the light of the Resurrection on those corners of our life we are still trying to live the old way, with “the leaven of malice and evil.” For that knowledge we need to give thanks: it is the active work of the Spirit in our life as Christians this Eastertide and always.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Jar of Manna

Moses said, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded: “Let an omer of it [Manna] be kept throughout your generations, in order that they may see the food with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.” ’ And Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord, to be kept throughout your generations.’ As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the covenant, for safe-keeping. The Israelites ate manna for forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna, until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. (Exodus 16:32-35)

The passage in today’s Daily Office lesson from Exodus 16 (vv. 23-36) places before us an honest if difficult to swallow picture of the human person. Given the opportunity to rest in Divine blessing and peace, we will (left to our own devices) trudge on, attempting to justify ourselves at whatever the cost, choosing our own diminished version of life over the gift of Life itself from God.

The Hebrews, having been freed from slavery and degradation, are now given provision during their long sojourn in the wilderness. Their need for food is matched by God’s desire to feed them. Their response, however, casts the die for all that follows. Echoing the sin of Adam and Eve, they do not trust in God, the God who had just miraculously delivered them from their enemies. Instead, they commence a cacophony of barely-concealed bitterness—“murmuring”—against Moses, Aaron, and God. They began to fantasize about life in Egypt, turning their past suffering into false memories of plenty and freedom. Within sight of the Red Sea and their deliverance, they already wanted to turn back to captivity and death.

When God gave them the quail and the mysterious but free manna, the people—as if consciously preparing to give birth to modern American consumerists—responded by applying all their own demented and selfish thinking to it: they hoarded, complained, and grew bored. When told not to seize control over the situation by storing up extra in their biblical equivalent of Tupperware, they ignored God and created the first failed 401K plan. Instead of giving them freedom and peace, it turned wormy and rotten…just like the crazed housing market equivalent in our day.

When commanded to gather extra manna on Friday in order to keep the Sabbath undisturbed, thus enjoying rest with God and participating in Divine peace, many promptly ignored both the command and the consequent promise of blessing by going out to the desert-cum-supermarket for more on Saturday. There they found a wasteland much like our restless American cultural desert today, populated by stores open on Sunday promising mirages of meaning to people who ostensibly already have the Meaning of Life through Baptism and the Eucharist.

The picture painted by Exodus 16 should indeed be familiar to us. A restless people, always trying to get that extra advantage, never satisfied or truly enjoying anything—hungry for more when already fed, easily bored and searching for novelty. In the honest light of morning, looking in the mirror can be hard to take.

And so the response in many churches has been to discard the mirror for a big screen TV showing us the DVD of our choosing. After more than a century of unbridled textual and biblical criticism, the scriptures have been reduced to a medical school’s cadaver. Through the wielding of various “isms” and ideologies like scalpels, the great story of creation-fall-redemption-consummation has been dissected, rendered into isolated, scattered oddments of times and mindsets lost to us—their self-assured contemporary interpreters.

With the work of the Holy Spirit in official theology now largely confined to liberating our Id, wherever we find our “natural selves” reflected negatively in the Bible there is sure to be a seminary professor, a bishop, a priest, a bestselling theologian to dismiss the troubling vision with a novel, tangential, or simply illogical interpretation. In an age of pharmacological solutions to just about everything, American theology has become an awesomely efficient dispensary of spiritual coping mechanisms, sedatives lulling us into easy self-acceptance, and laxatives relieving us of uncomfortable guilt.

All of this can get the seeker of a real encounter with a real God pretty depressed. But all of this has happened before. Over and over again in Exodus through Numbers, God meets with an earlier version of the same thing from His people: mistrust, grousing, and rejection. No wonder a lot of people find these books hard to take. When the true creed of many is some form of “Follow Your Bliss,” the idea that we do not know what is best for us is simply unacceptable. Marcion’s old heresy of turning the God of the Old Testament into a mean, forbidding, cruel, lesser divinity when compared to the kindly, permissive, and oh-so-affirming New Testament Deity becomes the clear choice, even if that choice goes unspoken.

However, if the reader of Exodus comes to the text with a bit less self-affirming smugness and rather more openness of mind to observed reality, a different message may be perceived. What is striking is not human frailty, selfishness, or cussedness, but Divine patience. Like a good parent, God lets the people feel the consequence of their choices—at times in severe ways indeed. But the point is not that the biblical text shows God’s wrath with humans bent on self-destruction: it is that God does not finally let them do it. Rather than simply getting rid of the lot and picking someone else, God puts up with them and draws them on towards a new relationship at Sinai. This, rather than the more obvious story of human folly, is the really astounding part.

As one surveys the contemporary Episcopal Church, the Exodus portrait of a greedy, bored, and venial people readily emerges. Energetically gathering extra helpings of manna by digging into financial reserves when the demographic shoes begin to pinch, mistrusting the promise of God found in its spiritual patrimony, and like a disgraced televangelist “re-inventing” itself with new rites culled mostly from self-help glitterati, the Episcopal Church lurches from one fantasized fix for its ills to another. Untroubled by the fact that the pseudo-radical fixes don’t really fix, the Church’s leadership continues the unending but increasingly hidebound experiment unabated. The anti-institutionalism of the last generation will only be satisfied, it seems, when there isn’t a Church to worry about any longer.

Today’s lesson from Exodus does, however, give us a clue as to what to do in such times. In a season of spiritual vacuity those who cannot stomach a diet of delusion must, like Aaron, place the testimony of God’s provision before them as a witness that there is truth, there is reality, there is hope after all. Much the same as the jar of manna placed “before the Lord,” the individual parishes or other communities within our Church must gather up the fragments of Christian truth and Anglican witness left after decades of revisionism and associated amnesia.

As we journey through our own Wilderness of Zin—the intellectual, moral and liturgical wasteland left to us—we must keep that jar of manna before us. It will remind us that God does provide provision, hope, and renewal in times of trial and unfaithfulness. That jar is present wherever the Eucharist is celebrated as a participation in the Paschal mystery, rather than an exercise in the futile search for relevance. That jar is present when Episcopalians study the Scriptures as a living encounter with a living God, as opposed to accumulating proof-texts for their private opinions deriving from secular sources. That jar is present when mission and outreach is done not to show how insufferably enlightened we are, but to share the joy, the knowledge, the Life given to us in Christ Jesus, the Lord of Life, who is the True Bread from Heaven, and who alone will satisfy our deepest cravings.

Until we get to what Exodus calls a “habitable land,” a place where communion across cultures and ages in the Church is valued once more, it will be up to those leaders and communities with vision and courage to bear carefully that jar along the way to our next appointed Sinai, that rendezvous with the God who has always been there in spite of our aggressive and willful forgetting.

Collect for Friday in the Second Week of Easter  
Grant, O Lord, that we may so live in the Paschal mystery that the joy of these fifty days may continually strengthen us, and assure us of our salvation; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, April 16, 2012

1 Peter on The Resurrection

Christ, the King of Glory
From a medieval illumination

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, 11inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated, when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. 12It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look! (1 Peter 1:3-10)
--From today's Daily Office lessons 

The opening of the First Letter of Peter is a marvelous passage in Scripture. It encourages us to understand the Resurrection of Christ not as an event locked or sealed in the past, but as an ongoing reality, a joy-in-the-midst-of-suffering that gives savor, hope, and depth to our earthly life.

As we start to move through the Great 50 Days of Easter, this is a good moment to take seriously what the Scripture says: the Resurrection is both a present reality (“receiving the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls” made known in the transforming power of God through worship, study, and service) and a future fulfillment (“kept in heaven for us”) that is available, in part, even now. 

It is this unity of past, present, and future, that remains elusive for those who understand the Resurrection either in purely “physical” or purely “spiritual” terms. It is, on the deepest level, beyond such gross distinctions. The Resurrection is, in essence, the most "real" event since the Creation, and uniquely binds all the disparate and fragmented elements of time and space together. This is why each Eucharist is a direct participation in the One Pascha, the One Easter, the One Consummation of all things that has yet to be in its fullness here on earth.

St. Peter brings this fact out by noting the Resurrection directly connects us—who live in its light by faith and the work of the Holy Spirit—with the Prophets who came before. We are all essential parts of a mystery so vast that even the angels envy (if we may so speak) our share in it!

May the Great 50 Days increase our awareness of the Resurrection as a present reality, yet something into which we are growing. May we embrace more and more this inheritance that is ours in Christ.

'O Queen of Heaven, Rejoice!'

The Regina Coeli
[To be said from Easter Day to Trinity Sunday]

O Queen of Heaven rejoice, alleluia:
For He whom you merited to bear, alleluia,
Has risen as He promised, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.

V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.

R. For the Lord is risen indeed, alleluia.

Let us pray:

O God, who by the Resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, granted joy to the whole world: grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may lay hold of the joys of eternal life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

This short devotion is the Eastertide variation on the Angelus, and offers us the opportunity to celebrate the Resurrection in our daily prayers, wherever we may be. As with all Marian devotion, it is a further working out of the implications of the mystery of the Incarnation in the person of the Theotokos, who stands for the whole Church's response of bearing forth Christ in our lives.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Easter Week: A Sermon on the Resurrection, part 7

In the final section of this sermon, Andrewes ties together many of the strands of thinking and feeling he has created, producing a conclusion that connects Mary Magdalene's "resurrection" to a new life and faith to the Resurrection of Christ. This connecting the events of a particular passage of Scripture to the Nicene Faith, while at the same time opening the words of Scripture up to hearers as a living encounter and then applying the experience of that encounter to Christian discipleship is a challenge each preacher must accept. Needless to say, Andrewes was a master of it.

At the end, Andrewes connects this appearing in John to the Emmaus story in Luke, and draws a surprising conclusion: that these two accounts of the risen Christ show us that God speaks to us equally in sermon and in sacrament (a much-contested matter in Andrewes' day). At the heart of Andrewes' theology is always the centrality of catholicity in its deepest sense: a unitive, holistic vision and experience of the Faith: sermons and sacraments; the mystery of the Incarnation-Atonement-Resurrection-Ascension-Pentecost-Parousia; Divine Love and Divine Judgment; our fragility and need for redemption, and yet our destiny to share in the Divine Nature through divinizing Grace: all of these things are for Andrewes bedrock unities, as they must be for all who would accept and live the catholic Faith "once delivered to the saints," which is the true vision of classical Anglicanism.

Ver. 16. 'Jesus said to her, Mary; she turned herself, and said to Him, Rabboni, that is to say, Master.'

Now magnes amoris amor; 'nothing so allures, so draws love to it, as doth love to itself.' In Christ especially, and in such in whom the same mind is. For when her Lord saw there was no taking away His taking away from her, all was in vain, neither men, nor Angels, nor Himself, so long as He kept Himself gardener, could get anything of her but her Lord was gone, He was taken away, and that for want of Jesus nothing but Jesus could yield her any comfort, He is no longer able to contain, but even disclosed Himself; and discloses Himself by His voice.

For it should seem before, with His shape, He had changed that also. But now He speaks to her in His known voice, in the wonted accent of it, does but name her name, Mary--no more, and that was enough. That was as much to say, Recognosce a quo recognosceris, 'she would at least take notice of Him who showed He was no stranger by calling her by her name;'for whom we call by their names, we take particular notice of. So God says to Moses, Te autem cognovi de nomino, 'thou hast found grace in My sight, and I know thee by name.' As God Moses, so Christ Mary Magdalene.

And this is indeed is the right way to know Christ, to be known of Him first. The Apostle saith, now we `have known God,' and then correcteth himself, 'or rather have been known of God.' For till He know us, we shall never know Him aright.

And now, lo Christ is found; found alive, That was sought dead. A cloud may be so thick we shall not see the sun through it. The sun must scatter that cloud, and then we may. Here is an example of it. It is strange a thick cloud of heaviness had so covered her, as see Him she could not through it; this one word, these two syllables, Mary, from His mouth, scatters it all. No sooner had His voice sounded in her ears but it drives away all the mist, dries up her tears, lightens her eyes that she knew Him straight, and answers Him with her wonted salutation, Rabboni. If it had lain in her power to have raised Him from the dead, she would not have failed but done it, I dare say. Now it is done to her hands.

And with this all is turned out and in; a new world now. Away with sustulerunt, His taking away, is taken away quite. For if His taking away were her sorrow, contratiorum contraria consequentia. Si de sublato ploravit, de suscitato exultavit, we may be sure; 'if sad for His death, for His taking away, then glad for His rising, for His restoring again.' Surely if she would have been glad but to have found but His dead body, now she finds it and Him alive, what was her joy, how great may we think! So that by this she saw Quid ploras was not asked her for nought, that it was no impertinent question, as it fell out. Well now, He that was thought lost is found again, and found, not as He was sought for, not a dead body, but 'a living soul;' no, 'a quickening Spirit' then. And that might Mary Magdalene well say. He shewed it, for He quickened her, and her spirits that were as good as dead. You thought you should have come to Christ's resurrection to-day, and so you do. But not to His alone, but even to Mary Magdalene's resurrection too. For in very deed a kind of resurrection it was wrought in her; revived as it were, and raised from a dead and drooping, to a lively and cheerful estate. The gardener had done His part, made her all green on the sudden.

And all this by a word of His mouth. Such power is there in every word of His; so easily are they called whom Christ will but speak to.

But by this we see, when He would be made known to her after His rising, He did choose to be made known by the ear rather than by the eye. By hearing rather than by appearing. Opens her ears first, and her eyes after. 'Her eyes were holden' till her ears were opened; comes aures autem aperuisti mihi, and that opens them.

With the philosophers, hearing is the sense of wisdom. With us, in divinity, it is the sense of faith. So, most meet. Christ is the word; hearing then, that sense, is Christ's sense; voce quam visu, more proper to the word. So, sicut audivimus goes before, and then sic vidimus comes after. In matters of faith the ear goes first ever, and is of more use, and to be trusted before the eye. For in many cases faith holdeth where sight faileth.

This then is a good way to come to the knowledge of Christ, by hodie si vocem, to 'hear His voice.' Howbeit, it is not the only way. There is another way to take notice of Him besides, and we take notice of it. On this very day we have them both.

For twice this day came Christ; unknown first, and then known after. To Mary Magdalene here, and to them at Emmaus. To Mary Magdalene unknown, in the shape of a gardener. To those who went to Emmaus unknown, in the likeness of a traveller by the way-side. Come to be known to her by His voice, by the word of His mouth. Not so to them. For many words He spoke to them, and they felt them warm at their hearts, but knew Him not for all that. But 'He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.' There is the one and the other way, and so now you have both. And now you have them, I pray you make use of them. I see I shall not be able to go farther than this verse.

It were a folly to fall to comparisons, committere inter se, to set them at odds together these two ways, as the fond fashion now-a-days is, whether is better, Prayer or Preaching; the Word or the Sacraments. What needs this? Seeing we have both, both are ready for us; the one now, the other by-and-by, we may end this question soon. And this is the best and surest way to end it; to esteem of them both, to thank Him for both, to make use of both; having now done with one, to make trial of the other. It may be, who knows? If the one will not work, the other may. And if by the one or by the other, by either if it be wrought, what harm have we? In case it be not, yet have we offered to God our service in both and committed the success of both to Him. He will see they will have success, and in His good time, as will be expedient for us, vouchsafe every one of us as He did Mary Magdalene in the text, 'to know Him and the virtue of His resurrection;' and make us partakers of both, by both the means before remembered, by His blessed word, by His holy mysteries; the means to raise our souls here, the pledges of the raising up our bodies hereafter. Of both which He makes us partakers, Who is the Author of both, 'Jesus Christ the Righteous.'&c.

Easter Week: A Sermon on the Resurrection, part 6

Ver. 15. 'Jesus saith to her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?' She supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, 'Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where you hast laid Him, and I shall take Him thence.'

Still she weeps; so He begins with Quid ploras? asks the same questions the Angels had before; only quickens it a little with quem quæris, 'whom seek you?' So, Quem quaeris quaerit a te, Quem quaeris? Whom she sought, He asks her. 'Whom she sought.' Si quæris, cur non cognoscis? si cognoscis, cur quæris? saith Augustine. If she seek Him, why knows she Him not? If she know Him, why seeks she Him still? A common thing with us, this also; to seek a thing, and when we have found it, not to know we have so, but even Christum a Christo quærere, 'to ask Christ for Christ.' Which however it fall in other matters, in this seeking of Christ it is safe. Even when we seek Christ, to pray to Christ to help us to find Christ; we shall do it full evil without Him.

This quid ploras? it comes now twice. The Angels asked it, we stood not on it then. Now, seeing Christ asks it again the second time, we shall think there is something in it, and stay a little at it. The rather, for that it is the very opening of His mouth, the very first words that ever came from Him, that He spoke first of all, after His rising again from death. There is sure some more than ordinary matter in this quid ploras? if it be, but even for that.

Thus say the Fathers: 1. That Mary Magdalene standing by the grave's side, and there weeping, is thus brought in to represent unto us the state of all mankind before this day, the day of Christ's rising again, weeping over the dead, as do the heathen, 'that have no hope;' comes Christ with His quid ploras? As much to say, as ne ploras; `Weep not, why should you weep?' There is no cause of weeping now. Henceforth none shall need to stand by the grave to weep there any more. A question very proper for Easter-day, for the day of the Resurrection. For if there be a rising again, quid ploras? is right, why should she, why should any weep then?

So that this quid ploras of Christ's, wipes away tears from all eyes, and as we sing in the thirtieth Psalm, whose title is, the Psalm of the Resurrection, puts off our 'sackcloth,' that is our mourning weeds, girds us 'with gladness,' put us all in white with the Angels.

Ploras then, leave that for Good-Friday, for His Passion; weep then, and spare not. But quid ploras for Easter-day is in kind the feast of the Resurrection, why should there be any weeping upon it? Is not Christ risen: Will He not raise us with Him? Is He not a gardener, to make our bodies sown to grow again? Ploras, leave that to the heathen that without hope; but to the Christian man, quid ploras? Why should we weep? he hath hopes; the Head is already risen, the members shall in their due time follow Him.

I observe that four times this day, at four several appearings, 1. at the first, at this here, He asked her, quid ploras? why she wept. 2. Of them that went to Emmaus, quid tristes estis? Why are ye sad? 3. Within a verse following, the nineteenth, He saith to the Eleven, Pax vobis, 'Peace be to them:'4. And to the women that met Him on the way, cairete, that is, rejoice, be glad. So, no weeping, no being sad; now, nothing this day, but peace and joy; they do properly to this feast.

And this I note the more willingly now this year, because the last Easter we could not so well have noted it. Some wept then; all were sad, little joy there was, and there a quid, a good cause for it. But blessed be God That hath now sent us a more kindly Easter, of this, by taking away the cause of our sorrow then, that we may preach of Quid ploras? and be far from it. So much for Quid ploras? Christ's question. Now to her answer.

She is still where she was; at sustulerunt before, at sustulisti now--si tu sustulisti; we shall never get that word from her.

But to Christ she seems somewhat more harsh than to the Angels. To them she complains of others; 'they have taken.' Christ she seems to charge, at least to suspect of the fact, as if He looked like one who had been a breaker up of graves, a carrier away of corpses out of their place of rest. Her if implies as much. But pardon love; as it fears where it needs not, so it suspects often where it hath no cause. He, or any that comes in our way, hath done it, hath taken Him away when love is at loss. But Bernard speaks to Christ for her; Domine, amor quem habebat in Te, et dolor quem habebat de Te, excuset eam apud Te, si forte erravit circa Te: 'that the love she bare to Him, the sorrow she had for Him, may excuse her with Him, if she were in any error concerning Him in her saying.' Si tu sustulisti.

And yet see how God shall direct the tongue! In thus charging Him, prophetat et nescit, 'she says truer than she was aware.' For indeed, if any took Him away, it was He did it. So she was not much amiss. Her si tu was true, though not in her sense. For quod de Ipso factum est Ipse fecit, 'All that was done to Him, He did it Himself.' His taking away, virtus fuit, non facinus 'was by His own power, not by the act of any other,' et gloria, non injuria, 'no other man's injury it was, but His own glory,' that she found Him not there. This was true, but this was no part of her meaning.

I cannot here pass over two more characters of her love, that so you may have the full ten I promised.

One, in si tu sustulisti Eum, in her Eum, in her 'Him.' Him? Which Him? Her affection seem so to transport her, as she says no man knows what. To one, a mere stranger to her, and she to him, she talks of one thrice under the term of 'Him;' 'if thou hast taken Him away, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I shall fetch Him.' Him, Him, and Him, and never names Him, or tells who He is. This is Solæcismus amoris, an irregular speech, but love's own dialect. 'Him' is enough with love; who knows not who that is? It supposes everybody, all the world bound to take notice of Him Whom we look for, only by saying 'Him;' though we never tell His name, nor say a word more. Amor, quem ipse cogitat neminem putans ignorare.

The other is in her ego tollam: if He would tell her where He had laid Him, she would go fetch Him, that she would, Alas poor woman, she was not able to lift Him. There are more than one, or two either, allowed to the carrying of a corpse.

As for His, it had more than a hundred pound weight of myrrh and other odours upon it, beside the poise of a dead body, She could not do it. Well, yet she would do it though. O mulier, non mulier, saith Origen, for ego tollam seems rather the speech of a porter, or of some lusty strong fellow at least, than of a silly weak woman. But love makes women more than women, at least it makes them have…the courage above the strength, far. Never measures her own forces, no burden too heavy, no assay too hard for love, et nihil erubescit nisi nomen difficultatis 'and is not ashamed of anything, but that anything should be too hard or too heavy for it.'Affectus sine mensura virium propriarum. Both these argue dilexit multum. And so now, you have the full number of ten.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Easter Week: A Sermon on the Resurrection, part 5

It is in this section of the sermon that Andrewes works one of his most beautiful tapestries: Mary Magdalene’s mistaking Jesus for the gardener. All along in this sermon, Andrewes has sought to show that whatever her other errors (and whatever ours), Mary’s deep love for Christ (to borrow a phrase from St. Peter) “covers a multitude of sins.”

Here—once again drawing on a variety of sources—Bishop Andrewes creates a picture of utmost tenderness, compassion, and beauty. One can imagine this being preached slowly, with great care, as his hearers are being led through the manifold ways that Mary was actually right in supposing Jesus to be the gardener.

This section of the sermon highlights one of Andrewes’ most beautiful characteristics in later life: a desire to show not only the face of God’s judgment, but a tremendous capacity to speak of God’s desire for communion with us. It is this profound sacramentality that marks his greatest sermons, and for which he has been called “Anglicanism’s Mystical Theologian.”

Ver. 14. 'When she had thus said, she turned herself about, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.'

Always the Angels, we see, touched the right string, and she tells them the wrong cause, but yet right, if it had been right.

Now to this answer of hers they would have replied, and taken away her error touching her Lord's taking away; that if she knew all, she would have left her seeking, and set her down by them, and left her weeping, and been in white as well as they.

But here is a supersedeas to them, the Lord Himself comes in place. Now come we from the seeking Him dead, to finding Him alive. For when He saw no Angels, no sight, no speech of theirs would serve, none but her Lord could give her any comfort, her Lord comes. Christus adest.

Adest Christus, nec ab eis unquam abest a quibus quæritur, saith Augustine; 'Christ is found, found by her; and this case of hers will be the case of all who seriously seek Him.' This woman here for one, she sought Him we see. They who went to Emmaus to day, they but talked of Him sadly, and they both found Him. Why, He is found of them who seek Him not; but of them who seek Him, never but found, 'For Thou Lord never failest them that seek Thee.' 'God is not unrighteous, to forget the work and labour of their love that seek Him.'

So find Him they will, but happily not all so fully at first, no more than she did. For first, to try her yet a little further, He comes unknown, stands by her, and she little thought it had been He.

A case that likewise falls out full oft. Doubtless, 'He is not far from every one of us,' saith the Apostle to the Athenians. But He is nearer us many times than we think; even hard by us and we are not aware of it saith, saith Job. And O si cognovissess et tu, 'O if we did know, and it standeth us in hand to pray that we may know when He is so, for that is, 'the time of our visitation.'

St. John saith here, the Angels were sitting; St. Luke saith, they stood. They are thus reconciled. That Christ coming in presence, the Angels which before were sitting stood up. Their standing up made Mary Magdalene turn her to see who it was they rose to. And so Christ she saw, but knew Him not.

Not only not knew Him, but mis-knew Him, took Him for the gardener. Tears will dim the sight, and it was not yet scarce day, and she seeing one, and not knowing what any one should should make in the ground so early but he who dressed it, she might well mistake. But it was more than so; her eyes were not holden only that she did not know Him, but over and beside He did appear…in some such shape as might resemble the gardener for whom she took Him.

Proper enough it was, it fitted well the time and place, this person. The time, it was the spring; the place, it was the garden: that place is most in request at that time, for that place and time a gardener doth well.

Of which her so taking Him, St. Gregory said well, profecto errando non erravit. She did not mistake in taking Him for a gardener; though she might seem to err in some sense, yet in some other she was in the right. For in a sense, and a good sense, Christ may well be said to be a gardener, and indeed is one. For our rule is, Christ as He appears, so He is ever; no false semblant in Him.

1. A gardener He is then. The first, the fairest garden that ever was, Paradise. He was the gardener, it was of His planting. So, a gardener.
2. And ever since it is He That as God makes all our gardens green, sends us yearly the spring, and all the herbs and flowers we then gather; and neither Paul with his planting, nor Apollos with his watering, could do any good without Him. So a gardener in that sense.
3. But not in that alone; but He it is who gardens our 'souls' too, and makes them, as the prophet [Jeremiah] saith, like a well-watered garden;' weeds out of them whatsoever is noisome or unsavoury, sows and plants them with true roots and seeds of righteousness, waters them with the dew of His grace, and makes them bring forth fruit to eternal life.

But it is none of all these, but besides all these, no over and above all these, this day if ever, most properly He was a gardener. Was one, and so after a more peculiar manner might take this likeness on Him. Christ rising was indeed a gardener, and that a strange one, Who made such a herb grow out of the ground this day as the like was never seen before, a dead body to shoot forth alive out of the grave.

I ask, was He so this day alone? No, but this profession of His, this day begun, He will follow to the end. For He it is That by virtue of this morning's act shall garden our bodies too, turn all our graves into garden plots; yea, will one day turn land and sea and all into a great garden, and so husband them as will in due time bring forth live bodies, even all our bodies alive again.

Long before, did Esay see this and sing of it in his song resembling the resurrection to a spring garden. 'Awake and sing,' saith he, 'ye that dwell for a time are as it were sown in the dust, for His dew will be as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall shoot forth her dead.' So then He appeared no other than He was; a gardener He was, not in show alone, but opere et veritate, and so came in His own likeness. This for Christ's appearing. Now to His speech, but as unknown still.