Friday, November 11, 2016

On Veterans Day and the Feast of St. Martin of Tours

A Prayer for Veterans Day:

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad.  Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The eleventh of November has, for Anglican Christians in the United States and elsewhere, a double meaning. It is a secular day of great solemnity (known formerly as Armistice Day and since the Eisenhower presidency as Veterans Day). It originally marked the day when the First World War ended. That war, perhaps more than any other single thing, gave birth the world we still live in. Veteran's Day is also a recognition of the many forms of cost borne by those who serve in the armed forces, as well as their families and loved-ones.

But November eleventh has another meaning for us: it is the commemoration of St. Martin of Tours (AD 316-397): Roman soldier, Christian convert, monk, and finally bishop. His life was a fascinating story of living on the borderland between the pagan and Christian worlds, as well as taking seriously the implications of the Gospel in day-to-day living—most famously in the legend of the still-unbaptized Martin cutting his cloak in two in order to share with a nearly-naked beggar, who turned out to be Christ in disguise.

Part of Martin’s story was the difficulty of being a soldier and a faithful disciple of Christ. It has never been easy to hold these two things together. For early Christians this was particularly an issue, as the normal practice was to renounce the shedding of blood once one became a follower of Jesus. Tried for cowardice, he volunteered to go to the front unarmed, to die there. The war ended before this could be brought to pass, and Martin left the army to become a monk and eventually a bishop. Interestingly, in the battle with the great heresies of the time, the staunchly-orthodox Martin was a victim (being flogged by the pro-Arian authorities in one city), but refused as bishop to enact any policy of violence against heretics himself. He was truly a man of faith and integrity, seeing the folly of hypocrisy wherever it occurred and holding a consistent faith and practice for himself.

Veterans Day is, for Christians, a day to recognize the tremendous cost of war, the ministry of Christ as the Prince of Peace, and to pray for all those in the military—whose lives are often in danger or hardship, and frequently involved with temptations to commit acts of brutality and carnality. So many bear the scars (physical and emotional) from war and its apparatus; yet, we do want truly good people to be involved in the waging of war, rather than only the most bestial and carnal in the population. On top of this, of course, we pray for peace.

This day (also known as Martinmas) is a day to recall a saint of great faithfulness and compassion who labored under circumstances similar to our own: conflicting claims for loyalty, demands for conformity to earthly power, and the temptation to use violence in the Name of God. His witness for a consistent ethic of orthodox faith and personal practice of the Gospel is the essential mark of a true Christian. There can be no authentic Christianity without both—something that needs underscoring in our partisan era.

May we who share with Holy Martin the name of Christian, take courage from his witness and share with him life eternal in his Savior--and ours!

The Collect for the Feast of St. Martin of Tours

 Lord God of hosts, you clothed your servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and set him as a bishop in your Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Praying for the Dead: The De Profundis

Below are prayers for the dead from the new St. Augustine’s Prayer Book (published by Forward Movement and available here or here). These prayers may be offered at the close of day (traditionally at around 9 PM), or said at other times such as on All Souls’ Day (11/2), after the Eucharist, and especially in times of mourning and before the Burial Liturgy. 

Prayer for those who died is part of the Church's affirmation of the communion of saints. It is also part of the Church's healing ministry, in that through commending the souls of the faithful to God, we are being given grace to understanding more deeply the power of Christ's passion, death, resurrection, and ascension to unite all creation to God the Father in love and peace. 

Our prayers do not "make" anything happen; they connect us directly to what God is already doing, has done, and will do in Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who calls forth our prayer and gives us true communion with God, we participate in the promise of salvation and in its first fruits already made known in Christ.

These prayers take their name from the first two words in Latin of Psalm 130, a psalm long associated with the sick, those in peril and extreme need, or the dead.

130   De profundis

1       Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice; *
     let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

2       If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss, *
     O Lord, who could stand?

3       For there is forgiveness with you; *
     therefore you shall be feared.

4       I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; *
     in his word is my hope.

5       My soul waits for the Lord,
more than watchmen for the morning, *
     more than watchmen for the morning.

6       O Israel, wait for the Lord, *
     for with the Lord there is mercy;

7       With him there is plenteous redemption, *
     and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

V. Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord.
R. And let light perpetual shine upon them.

Our Father &c.

V. And lead us not into temptation.
R. But deliver us from evil.
V. From the gates of hell:
R. Deliver their souls, O Lord.
V. May they + rest in peace.
R. Amen.
V. O Lord, hear our prayer.
R. And let our cry come unto thee.

Set free from every bond, O Lord, the soul(s) of thy servant(s) N.[N.], that in the glory of the resurrection, he may be raised up amid thy saints and elect unto newness of life. Amen.

Lord Jesus, whose loving heart was ever touched by the sorrows of others, have mercy upon the souls of the faithful departed, and grant them a place of refreshment, light, and peace whence pain and sorrow and sighing are driven away; and in thy goodness and mercy pardon every sin committed by them in thought, word, and deed; thou who art the resurrection and the life, and who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.

- or -

Almighty and eternal God, to whom there is never any prayer made without hope of mercy, be merciful to the souls of thy servants being departed from this world in the confession of thy Name that they may be welcomed into the company of the saints, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

V. Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord.
R. And let light perpetual shine upon them.
V. From the gates of hell:
R. Deliver their souls, O Lord.
V. I trust to see the goodness of the Lord
R. In the land of the living.
V. O Lord, hear our prayer.
R. And let our cry come unto thee.

O Lord Jesus Christ, our shepherd and guide, grant us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death fearing no evil, lacking nothing, and accompanied by thee, who thyself hast passed that way and made it light and who now livest and reignest in glory everlasting. Amen.