Church of England Daily Prayer - Contemporay - Combined Prayer

Trinity Daily Prayer

A simple Liturgy of the Hours for singing available here.
Resources for the Liturgy stored at: Company of Voices Resources.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Te Deum for Ss Philip and James

As the Gloria is required at Mass today (but not the Creed) the Te Deum is sung at the Office. Two simple versions may be found at Company of Voices Resources. Alternatively a metrical version works well at the end of Morning Prayer, such as 'Holy God, we praise thy name'. There are also versions in The Voice of faith : thirty contemporary hymns for Saints' days or based on the liturgy ed Timothy Dudley Smith and many others ...

Additional Texts for the Office of Saints Philip and James

The 'opening prayers' provided by Common Worship Daily Prayer at Morning and Evening Prayer - which follow a hymn or opening canticle and precede the psalmody - are  areally helpful innovation. They create a sense of 'presidency' and mirror Orthodox presidential prayers at the Office as well as providing an opportunity for silence early on.
Sadly there is no variation in the texts given. Since the collect of the day is one of the authorised texts that cannot be replaced ad lib this opening prayer may be  a place to introduce alternative collects.
A favourite collection of mine for alternative prayers is Proclaiming All Your Wonders: Prayers for a Pilgrim People (Dominican Publications, 1991)
It is a translation of texts produced by the French speaking Cistercians and contains some beautiful material.
These are collects for the Office not for Mass and texts are provided for all seven Hours. Nothing dramatic, just simple, gentle, Scriptural texts (there is a thorough scriptural index).
Here are two that could be used today from the Common of Apostles:

In the Apostles, Lord Jesus,
we see how those you call can be made new.
Grant that through their witness,
the Holy Spirit may transform our lives too,
to the glory of your Father,
who is blessed for ever.

Lord Jesus, you are the cornerstone,
and you granted to your Apostles
that they would be foundations and pillars of the truth.
Keep us faithful to their word and example,
so that we may come to be living stones,
and a holy people,
to the glory of your Father.

The Cistercian (Trappist) monastery at Novy Dur,
not a French community but stunningly beautiful.

Music for the Office of Saints Philip and James

A full setting with refrains and hymns is available for upload from Company of Voices Resources.

Office Hymn for Saints Philip and James

Even I blush at  this dreadful, didactic doggerel (sorry Brother Aelred ...)

Christ called you Philip, "Follow me!"
and willingly you left your kin;
and then convinced, you broke the news:
"He's come, the Christ, we've now found him!"

Nathaniel asked "from Nazareth ...?"
and you said only "Coem and see!"
Your hearts was free from useless cares;
What you could see you would beleive.

Pragmatic, honest down to earth,
you knew how much, a crowd, could feed;
"Show us the father," you would say:
- though Jesus hoped you had paid heed!

With you at Pentecost was James,
known as the 'younger' and 'the just',
for he was gen'rous with the poor,
did what was right despite the cost.

He welcomed Paul who still was feared,
and people's censure then he risked:
- decreeing circumcision null,
through him both Jew and Gentile mixed.

As leader of Jerus'lem's church,
he wrote a letter, wise and sound,
It nurtured faith which still was young;
from age to age still handed down.

Br Aelred-Seton Shanley Obl.Cam.

Well, as I say, you are probably best sticking with a generic hymn for apostles. Hymns for Prayer and Praise (Revised) has some interesting versions of Neale's hymns for apostles (see the English Hymnal) and also suggest three verses of Isaac Watts 'How beateous are their feet', putting it to Lauderdale by Erik Routley, which is a perfect combination.

How beauteous are their feet
Who stand on Zion's hill,
Who bring salvation on their tongues,
And words of peace reveal!

How happy are our ears,
That hear this joyful sound,
Which kings and prophets waited for,
And sought, but never found!

The Lord makes bare his arm
Through all the earth abroad;
Let every nation now behold
Their Saviour and their God!

Readings Tuesday 1st May 2012

Lectionary here from CWDP for Ss Philip and James - although I rather like the Roman Catholic memoria of St Joseph the Worker, we name him every day in the Eucharistic Prayer at Trinity as a good male role model and patron of workers/craftspeople.
May also marks the beginning of our school May Devotions (crowning of Statue of Our Lady of Walsingham) so some complex liturgical combinations!


Psalm 139
Genre: variously listed as a Wisdom psalm, Hymn or Individual lament!
Richard Atherton (New Light, Redemptorist 2002) describes this psalm as containing three intimacies
- the intimacy of knowledge
- the intimacy of presence
- the intimacy of power
It is intimacy rather than an all seeing and unmerciful 'Eye of God' which is the theme of this psalm.

Psalm 146
Genre: Hymn
'Praise the Lord, O my soul' is about summoning oneself to be present, to be fully attentive to the task in hand.
This passage, like Isaiah 61:1-2, is one that Jesus could fully claim as his own.
Proverbs 4.10-18
The theme of wisdom is here linked, as on St Mark's Day, to the role of the apostle. See the Little Office of Wisdom in the Company of Voices Resources section.
James 1.1-12
Notice the reference to wisdom, or lack of it, which links closely to the first reading.
There is something rather frightening for many of us in today's business in the phrase: "in the midst of a busy life, they will whither away".
The best way I find of not withering under the burden of busy-ness is the obligation to Daily Office. The Anglican divine, John Cosin writes this about the priestly obligation:

"We are also bound, as all priests are in the church of Rome, daily to repeat and say the public prayers of the church ... here is a command that binds us every day to say the morning and evening prayer ... certainly, the people whose souls they have care of reap as great benefit and more too, by these prayers, which their pastors are daily to make unto God for them, either privately or publicly, as they can do by their preaching. For God is more respective to the prayers which they make for the people than ever the people are to the sermons which they make to them. And in this respect are the priests called God's remembrancers, because they put God in mind of his people."

The address 'brothers'  (NRSV inclusivises to brothers and sisters) is used 19 times in this letter. The author strongly favours a 'family' model of relationship in the community.


Psalm 149
Genre: Hymn
The refrain in CWDP is from Ps 98:5
Although historically used by Christians as one of the laudate psalms at the end of the psalmody of Lauds this is a complex psalm where the opening praise gives way to more war-like imagery. Eaton calls this psalm "The Sword of Praise" and skilfully weaves the themes together, linking it to a sacred drama.
"The worshippers rejoice in the salvation already signified in the ceremonies, and, as God's army, look forward to the full realisation of his kingdom across the world."
Eaton's psalm prayer picks up this unified view of the psalm:
Help us, Lord,
to grasp the power not only of prayer,
but also of praise,
that we may overcome evils
by lifting our hearts and voices
in thanksgiving for your salvation
and the sure hope of the world to come.

Job 23.1-12
This sounds like an echo of the Psalm from Matins. I can't see an immediate reason that this passage has been chosen other than fairly generic links to the apostles ...

John 1.43-51
Like this morning's New Testament redaing this passage is chosen for its mention of the saint of the day.
It is full of important phrases
- follow me
- Come and see
- can anything good come out of Nazareth
- heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending

The reference to the angels is presumably an allusion to Genesis 28 and Jacob's dream.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Readings Monday 30 April 2012

Psalm 103
Reardon: "This is a psalm to be prayed in front of an icon of the cross, for only in the crucified Jesus is it truly fulfilled."

Exodus 32.1-14

When Israel heard the fiery law,
From Sinai's top proclaimed;
Their hearts seemed full of holy awe,
Their stubborn spirits tamed.

Yet, as forgetting all they knew,
Ere forty days were past;
With blazing Sinai still in view,
A molten calf they cast.

Yea, Aaron, God's anointed priest,
Who on the mount had been
He durst prepare the idol-beast,
And lead them on to sin.

Lord, what is man! and what are we,
To recompense thee thus!
In their offence our own we see,
Their story points at us.

From Sinai we have heard thee speak,
And from mount Calv'ry too;
And yet to idols oft we seek,
While thou art in our view.

Some golden calf, or golden dream,
Some fancied creature-good,
Presumes to share the heart with him,
Who bought the whole with blood.

Lord, save us from our golden calves,
Our sin with grief we own;
We would no more be thine by halves,
But live to thee alone. 

John Newton

Luke 2.41-end
As someone who works with teenagers this is a really important passage as the only account of Jesus as a near teenager. We have tried, unsuccessfully so far, to find icon, images, of this account for school. They tend to make Jesus look rather priggish. Usually showing a very young looking twelve year old lecturing old men.
It is, of course, the fifth mystery of the Rosary.  Cally Hammond's book Joyful Christianity, has a very helpful section on this.
She points out the importance of the first words that Jesus speaks for each gospel writer. The words we hear in this passage are Luke's first words for Jesus. They are more complex in the Greek than translations usually make them appear with the word 'house' or 'business' not actually in the text.
Hammond highlights the separation from natural family that takes place here, A separation that is of course not just the result of who Jesus is but one of the fundamental psychological movements required of every human being and lengthened into a long teenage period in modern society and the cause of much angst. The other interesting factor is that Jesus is sometimes portrayed as uninvolved with official religion but here he is right at the heart of it. Cally also points out that the text shows that Jesus too needs to learn about God. he is a learner.
Cally provides a prayer for the finding which is great but somehow could go further?
I must work on on, here's hers:
"God our Father,
your Son promised us that if we seek you, we shall find you. Guide our footsteps on the journey, and bring us in time to our abiding home in your presence."

Wisdom psalm
Psalm 113
Pss 113-118 form a unit of praise in Jewish worship known as the Hallel and used on certain festivals.
Like the psalms at the end of the psalter these re psalms of praise. Without wanting to go on about school too much in these notes I am always struck by the power of praise in changing behaviour. Obviously it can become insincere or Joyce Grenfell-ish but children really do flourish when praised. the secret I think, is to be always truthful (see 'speaking the truth in love' in tonight's NT reading) . In my experience punishment rarely changes behaviour praise often does. I think the relevance for all of us in praying these praise psalms is to train us in praising. There seems to be something in human nature that pushes us to focus on the negative, perhaps this is all part of 'the fall', and to find it easier to criticise. By 'practising' praise in our worship perhaps we can practise it better with other people too?
Psalm 114
This psalm is placed on the lips of the souls in Purgatory by Dante.
The parallelism in this psalm is very obvious
Reardon: "the intent of the literary construction is to slow down our reading fo the poem, making us go over everything twice; forcing the mind to a second and more serious look at the line, prolonging our prayer, obliging us not to go rushing off somewhere."

Poussin's adoration of the Golden Calf, National Gallery
Deuteronomy 9.1-21
The reading of Exodus in the morning and Deuteronomy in the evening provides some interesting opportunities for one commenting on the other. Tonight we hear about the consequences of rebellion against God and even have a specific mention of the rebellion at Horeb.

Ephesians 4.1-16
vv4-6 are seen as the seven (perfect number) 'theological reasons' for church unity. Since I am happy to be an Anglican I know that I sometimes sit very lightly to ecumenism so it was interesting last week when we took out four senior students out to dinner with our diocesan bishop they raised the disunity of the church as something that they think should change and makes christians look less than we claim to be.
'Speaking the truth in love' is a phrase usually used to justify cruelty or prejudice, far from its original meaning.

1st EP of Philip and James (where patrons), Apostles: Psalm 25; Isaiah 40.27–end; John 12.20–26

Sunday Quotation

However much we may talk of 'spirituality' and however fond we may be of using the epithet 'spiritual', the Person of the Holy Spirit is the Great Absent One in the 'spirituality' of the West, as has often been lamented. As a consequence, we regard many things as 'spiritual' that in fact still belong absolutely and entirely to the realm of the 'natural man', who is lacking precisely in the 'gift of the Spirit'. We mean here everything that falls within the scope of the feelings and emotions, which are of a thoroughly irrational nature and are by no means spiritual or wrought by the Spirit.

Gabriel Bunge
Earthen Vessels, p.31

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Reflections on the Daily Eucharistic Lectionary

It's a bit beyond the remit of this blog but the Daily Reflections from lay and ordained staff of Creighton University have been around a while and are excellent. Helpfully the DEL in NRSV texts with Common Worship psalms is now available for Kindle. The DEL may be used as an Office lectionary in which case it is good to use the single reading of the two year cycle of readings for the Office of Readings alongside it to provide a relatively comprehensive coverage of Scripture. This may be found in the RSV online here, with accompanying Patristic readings. And in Jerusalem Bible bought in printed format here.
The one year lectionary for the Office of Readings was a fairly botched abridgement of the two year cycle and the accompanying readings are pretty haphazard. Bugnini gives a good account of all this in his The Reform of the Liturgy. The new CTS Bible has lectionary charts for both these lectionaries and the DEL as an appendix.
The Church of England alternative Office lectionary is printed with Prayer During the Day and an NRSV bible, although oddly without the apocrypha. I think it's a good lectionary but haven't come across anywhere that uses it yet.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Readings Saturday 28 April

Psalms 108
Communal Lament
see also Psalm 57

Psalm 110
Royal Psalm
Refrain in Common Worship is from Psalm 93:1
NT references: Mk 16:19; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2;
quoted by Jesus at: Mt 22:44; Mk 12:36; Lk 20:42.
This is most famously in the western church the first psalm of Sunday vespers. St Maximus of Turin (fourth-fifth century A.D.), who commented on verse 1 in his Sermon on Pentecost writes:
"Our custom has it that the sharing of the footstool is offered to the one who, having accomplished some feat, deserves to sit in the place of honour as champion. So too, the man Jesus Christ, overcoming the devil with his passion, opening underground realms with his Resurrection, arriving victorious in heaven as one who has brought some undertaking to a successful conclusion, listens to God the Father inviting him: "Sit at my right hand'. Nor must we be surprised if the Father offers to share with us the seat of the Son who, by nature, is consubstantial with the Father.... The Son sits on his right because, according to the Gospel, the sheep will be on the right; on the left, on the other hand, will be the goats. The first Lamb, therefore, must sit on the same side as the sheep, and the immaculate Head must take possession in advance of the place destined for the immaculate flock that will follow him"

Psalm 111
an acrostic
The Christian writer Barsanuphius of Gaza (active in the first half of the sixth century) comments on this verse: "What is the first stage of wisdom if not the avoidance of all that is hateful to God? And how can one avoid it, other than by first asking for advice before acting, or by saying nothing that should not be said, and in addition, by considering oneself foolish, stupid, contemptible and of no worth whatsoever?" (Letter, 234: ).
However, John Cassian (who lived between the fourth and fifth centuries) preferred to explain that "there is a great difference between love, which lacks nothing and is the treasure of wisdom and knowledge, and imperfect love, called "the first stage of wisdom'. The latter, which in itself contains the idea of punishment, is excluded from the hearts of the perfect because they have reached the fullness of love" (Conferences to monks, 2, 11, 13: ).

Exodus 29.1–9 
Following on immediately from yesterday's reading this section concerns the consecration of the priests and their robing.

Luke 2.21–40 
Circumcision and Presentation
There are of course plenty of setting of the Nunc Dimittis.
In Company of Voices Resources I have uploaded a simple plainsong setting for Compline from the Society of Saint Francis.

My favourite choral setting is this one by Arvo Part:


A sense of trust in God pervades the psalms and the readings tonight culminating in the thanksgiving to 'him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine' (Eph3:20)

Psalm 23
Individual Psalm of Confidence
Psalm of the Sacraments of Initiation:
           Baptism - he leads me beside still waters
           Confirmation - you have anointed my head with oil
           Eucharist - you spread a table before me

Psalm 27 
A variety of opinions on the form of this psalm: Hymn, Individal Lament, or individual psalm of Confidence
The Syrian monk Isaiah in his Asceticon applies this Psalm to prayer during temptation:
"If we see our foes surrounding us with their cunning, their piritual sloth, weakening our souls with pleasure, or failing to contain our anger against our neighbour when he acts contrary to his duty, or tempting our eyes with concupiscence, or if they want to entice us to taste the pleasures of gluttony, if they make our neighbour's words to us like poison, if they incite us to belittle what others say or if they induce us to distinguish between our brethren by saying: "This one is good, this one is bad'; therefore, even if all these things surround us, let us not lose heart but cry out bravely like David: "The Lord is the stronghold of my life!' (Ps 27[26]: 1)"
Michael Sadgrove describes this psalm as 'a kind of elaboration of the Shepherd psalm' with which it is paired in our lectionary tonight. He also points out that the opening line links perfectly with the 'valley of deep darkness' of Psalm 23.
Deuteronomy 8 
A dimension of gratitude is added to that of obedience and love.
v3 includes the familiar saying that 'man does not live by bread alone'
This section contains the image of the promised land as abundant and fruitful.
v10 Is generally considered the proof text that prayer is required before and after meals.
These two themes match well with the shepherd psalm and the banquet that is spread.

Ephesians 3.14–end
This section continues the prayer begun at 1:3-23.
Once again this beautiful text can be used as the basis for intercessions:

God of infinite glory, give us power through your Spirit that our hidden selves may grow strong.
Lord, in your mercy:
Hear our prayer.

May Christ live in our hearts through faith:
Lord, in your mercy:
Hear our prayer.

Planted in love and built on love may we have the strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth with all the saints:
Lord, in your mercy:
Hear our prayer.

May we, knowing the love of Christ beyond all knowledge be filled with the utter fullness of God:
Lord, in your mercy:
Hear our prayer.

Daily Office as Intercession

"Whatever else people want of us as priests, they want us to pray for them".
(Being A Priest Today, Christopher Cocksworth p.103)

Finding ways to be a fervent intercessor involves creativity and commitment. Many people have intercession calendars or lists or carry a little notebook to write requests for prayer in. Many churches, chaolaincies and schools have prayer boards or intercessions lists to which names can be added.

It is also possible to 'offer' our regular prayers for an intention. In his The Priest's Companion Father Whatton suggests the following weekly list of intentions for Morning and Evening Prayer. I have always found it helpful to have a personal table.

"The use of a scheme of intentions for the recitation of the Divine Office is a great gain, since it is the best way as well as the easiest of fulfilling the obligation of interceding for the whole Church and in particular for the souls committed to one's care. It is also useful as an aid against wandering attention:

                             AT MORNING PRAYER
SUNDAY For the bishop and all my superiors.
MONDAY For all the persons and objects commended to my prayers.
TUESDAY For the increasing of the priesthood in number, learning and holiness.
WEDNESDAY For the propogation of the faith.
THURSDAY For the Unity of Christendom.
FRIDAY For the afflicted members of Christ's body.
SATURDAY For the good estate of the Queen and realm.

                              AT EVENSONG
SUNDAY For all for whom, by personal or official tie, I am bound to pray.
MONDAY For the faithful departed.
TUESDAY For all religious communities.
WEDNESDAY For the conversion of sinners.
THURSDAY For peace and concord among the nations.
FRIDAY For the final perseverance of the dying.
SATURDAY In thanksgiving for the blessings of the past week.
                                                       The Priest's Companion,G.A.C. Whatton, 3rd ed. 1960, Knott

My own experience is that people are very grateful to be told that I have offered Evensong or some other Office for them, it has a kind of concrete-ness that goes further even than "I have prayed for you." Interestingly this links the daily offering of the Office with its deepest roots in the morning and evening sacrifice. It also makes the call for litugical renewal that some have made for the Office to include liturgical action (offering of incense etc) more than just obsessive ritualising but a real acting out of what is being done.

Abbot Columba Marmion also writes about the Daily Office as intercession for the world:
"Before beginning our Hours, let us say to God 'I believe that by this official prayer of which I am the minister, I can achieve much, in union with thy Son Jesus, for the needs of the church: to help those who are in suffering, who are in their death agony, who are about to appear before thee; to co-operate in the conversion of sinners and of the indifferent, to unite myself to the Holy Souls on earth and to the Blessed in Heaven. May everything that is in me, Lord, confess and adore thee.'

The Anglican divine John Cosin, puts it this way:
"We are to remember that we which are priests are called angeli Domini, and it is the angel's office not only to descend to the people and teach them God's will; but also to ascend to the presence of God and make intercession for the people, and to carry up the daily prayers of the church on their behalf, as they are bound to do."

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Readings Friday 27 April


There are strong links between today's readings and psalms concerning: memory leading to thanksgiving, vocation and intercession.

Psalm 107
Individual thanksgiving
The beginning of Book 5 of the psalter
Four examples of divine rescue, from:
          1 being lost in the desert
          2 prison
          3 sickness
          4 storm at sea
There is  a symmetrical pattern in which each rescue leads to thanksgiving
There may be a liturgical origin to all this perhaps even with individual testimony and thanksgiving. (Eaton)
Exodus 28.1 - 4a, 29-38 
The omitted sections have given vast detail about the tabernacle, this section concentrates on the priestly garments, the ephod and the Urim and Thummim.

Luke 2.1-20 
John Saward writes in Cradle of Redeeming Love;
'As I grow older, the Christmas mystery seems ever greater, or rather the sense I had of its greatness when I was young and my eyes were still bright is, with every passing year, more and more confirmed. When I was a child, Christmas did indeed encircle all my limited world: it was the goal of the year, the glorious summation of everything that was good ... This intuition was renewed ... later when i was the father of  a family. Our little ones were like icons of the Child-God of Bethlehem: in them I could see the likeness of His littleness and hear the echo of his preaching: "Such I became for you, and such you must become if you want to enter my Kingdom." Now, I remain convinced that the Christmas mystery recapitulates the whole of the Catholic religion, inaugurates Easter, anticipates the Parousia and contains within it the source of the world's restoration.'


Psalm 77
Lament and Hymn (2nd part)
The pivotal verse is 10; but the Hebrew is ambiguous and there have been many very different translations of it.
Eaton has:
          But I say, this shall be my entreaty:
           to recite the deeds of the right hand of God most high.
CW has:
          And I said, 'My grief is this:
          that the right hand of the Most high has lost its strength.'
I  think Eaton's version makes more sense and leads more naturally into the second part of the psalm. After this verse the psalm becomes a Hymn.
Eaton says of this psalm:
"The psalm is an example of the strenuous work of the intercessors. Taking all the trouble of their people upon themselves and into their own heart."
This psalm is a good reminder that the praying of the Daily Office is itself a work of intercession. As a priestly people by baptism all Christians are called on to intercede for the world, imitating the work of Christ. Those called to ordained ministry have a particular obligation of intercession.  Reardon calls this one of the psalms of the Passion and identifies it with Gethsemane: Jesus speaks at verse 4, while the  disciples sleep.
The second part of the psalm is deeply Eucharistic: it is anamnesis, remembrance of the good things that God has done that leads to thanksgiving/eucharist.

Deuteronomy 7.12-end 
This is a continuation of Moses' second discourse here concerned with dangers to faith after the conquest of the land.

Ephesians 3.1-13
The first part of the passage is about Paul's vocation. it should make all of us remember the call we have received, (as baptised Christians, and for some as ordained ministers) and give thanks (as in tonight's psalm).
This builds up to a great passage where our role as intercessors for the world is made clear, as those 'who have access to God in boldness and confidence though faith'.
"In him we have confidence" puts it more boldly.
Vocation is very much at the heart of what we try and do in school, enabling every child to believe that God is calling them. Abbot Christopher Jamison in his 2011 Tablet lecture said: "Fostering a culture of vocation lies at the heart of the [Christian] school let's create a Christian curriculum that has one simple vision as its core aim; a Christian curriculum enables all students to respond to the call of Christ throughout their lives ... a vocational curriculum in the profoundest meaning of the word vocation"
In our contemporary culture vocation is under-mined by the over-riding dominance of 'choice'. Jn15:16 'You did not choose me, but I chose you' doesn't really fit with this.
For those called to ordained priesthood this pasage is interesting because it links the call to the boldness to intercede:
Christopher Cocksorth writes:
"Whatever else people want of us as priests, they want us to pray for them".
(Being A Priest Today p.103)

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Hymn for Saint Mark (2)

Twitter (ie Fr Stephen Heard @seheard) has reminded me of this text for Saint Mark, by poet Laurence Housman, in the English Hymnal at 220.

The Saint who first found grace to pen
The Life which was the Life of men,
And shed abroad the Gospel’s ray,
His fame we celebrate today.

Lo, drawn by Pentecostal fire,
His heart conceived its great desire,
When pure of mind, inspired, he heard
And with his hand set forth the Word.

Laurence Housman
Then, clearly writ, the Godhead shone
Serene and fair to look upon;
And through that record still comes power
To lighten souls in death’s dark hour.

O holy mind, for wisdom fit
Wherein that Life of lives stood writ,
May we through minds of like accord
Show forth the patterns of our Lord.

And so may all whose minds are dark
Be led to truth by good Saint Mark,
And after this our earthly strife
Stand written in the Book of Life.

Praise God Who made the world so fair,
And sent His Son our Savior there,
And by His Holy Spirit wist
To teach the first Evangelist.

Readings Thursday 26 April


Psalm 136 
Sung at Matins in the East where it is known as the poly-eleion 'the many mercies'
the 'mercy' is in hebrew chesed, the strong word for God's 'loving-kindness'.
Saint Basil the Great is surprisingly contemporary when he writes about this psalm:
""In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'. My words give way, overwhelmed by wonder at this thought" (1, 2, 1:  Sulla Genesi In fact, even if some, "deceived by the atheism they bore within them, imagined that the universe lacked guidance and order, at the mercy as it were of chance", the sacred author instead "immediately enlightened our minds with the Name of God at the beginning of the account, saying:  "In the beginning... God created...'. And what beauty there is in this order!"
"So if the world has a beginning and has been created, it seeks the One who gave it being and is its Creator.... Moses prepared you with his teaching, impressing in our souls as a seal and amulet the Most Holy Name of God, when he says:  "In the beginning God created'. Blessed nature, goodness exempt from envy, the one who is the object of love to all reasonable beings, beauty in addition to everything else that is desirable, the principle of beings, the source of life, the light of the mind, inaccessible wisdom, in brief, it is he who "in the beginning created the heavens and the earth'" (1, 2, 6-7).
Exodus 25.1–22 
Various laws have been omitted in the lectionary and because of St Mark's day.

The remainder of Exodus (apart from the episode of the Golden Calf) is concerned with building the tabernacle.

v17 the cover for the ark (a slab of gold with a cherubim at each end) is called kapporet in Hebrew from the same root as Yom kippur when God 'covers' Israel's sins.

Luke 1.57–end The birth of John the Baptist
Luke carefully constructs the opening of his Gospel as a pair of diptychs matching accounts of John the Baptist and his origins with those of Jesus. Today's reading is the John the Baptist part of the nativity Diptych which is matched with the account in chapter 2 of Jesus' birth. 
These familiar passages are really easy to slip over without thinking.
1:69 the horn of salvation, is a symbol of strength.

v78 is what makes this a suitable canticle for the morning. 'The day shall dawn upon us' could also be 'the dayspring' or even just 'the rising'. as well as obvious resurrection resonances there are OT prophecies of the Messiah as the one who come like a star in the night/darkness.  (see Num24;17; Is 9:2; Mal 4:2; Jer 23:5; Zech 3:8
Former Benedictine, now Orthodox, monk Gabriel Bunge in his book Earthen Vessels: The Practise of Personal Prayer According to the Patristic Tradition shows how important facing east is to Christians in the early centuries. he encourages us to face east for our prayers now so that we are truly awaiting the one who will rise from the east. It's  a marvellous book which also encourages standing as the fundamental posture of prayer. It de-bunks many of the 'early church = modern suburban house church' myths, the early Christians were deeply liturgical with a strong sense of physicality and space.
The use of the Benedictus is also a reminder of the importance of witnessing the dawn. It is no accident that the morning office for Christians is a dawn office. As Patrick Reardon puts it in an important passage:
"For the believer in Christ the very act of rising from sleep is full of significance. It is clear that the proper praying of the psalms is related to a certain regular and disciplined life. the Christian by preference, rises early and stands in vigilance in the presence of God. When the sun rises, it shines on the believer already at prayer."
We are used to talking about 'night owls' and 'early birds' as if they were fixed personality types. In fact in education the idea of 'learning styles'; has been widely de-bunked and I expect that whether we go to bed late or get up early is simply a choice we make. For Christians all the great spiritual writers suggest early rising (perhaps I will blog about this more at some point) and few people who go late to bed spend those late hours in prayer it seems to me ...


Psalm 73 
A Wisdom psalm
the beginning of Book 3 of the psalter
It is often said that every emotion may be found in the psalms. So it is comforting to find envy and even a hint of bitterness here. Yet this psalm ends on a note of deep mysticism: there is peace for the psalmist:
What have I in heaven but you?
Apart from you I want nothing on earth.
My body and my heart faint for joy;
God is my possession for ever. (Grail)
This matches with the peace promised in Christ as laid out in tonight's reading from Ephesians. a peace which applies to all humanity.
I prefer the psalm prayer given by John Eaton (source of many of the psalm prayers in CW):
Be our shelter, Lord God,
in all the perplexities that assault our faith;
guide us with your counsel,
and bring us so close to you,
 that in this communion
we come to know the fulfilment of all our hope and desire.

Deuteronomy 7.1–11 
Because of St Mark we have missed the reading which includes the sh'ma, Israel's fundamental declaration of faith. 
Todays' reading is quite a disturbing passage about the inhabitants of the land who are displaced by Israel's conquest. It contrasts with the peace offered to Gentile and Jew alike in the reading from Ephesians end even with the deep peace of the psalm.

Ephesians 2.11–end
Again a bit like the Benedictus at Morning Prayer today these passages are so well known that it is easy not to take them in, the content here was all in Romans and 1 Corinthians but there is more poetry here, a smoother style; less immediate and less direct.
Just in case the Deuteronomy reading leads us to dismiss OT religion we should recognise that  Paul/the writer is paraphrasing Is 57:19 in verse 17.
vv14-16 may be the fragment of an early Christian hymn (Brown)

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Intercessions for Saint Mark

Set 1

Jesus, by your life and deeds you made known that you are the Christ:
Your kingdom come.
Response: Your will be done.

Jesus, Son of Mary, you are the carpenter; help us as we craft our lives to make the kingdom known by our words and deeds:
Your kingdom come.
Response: Your will be done.

Jesus, Son of Mary; help us hear the truth wherever it is revealed and whoever speaks it:
Your kingdom come:
Response: Your will be done.

Jesus, you said that the Sabbath was made for us and not us for the sabbath help us to never to lose sight of your kingdom of justice and peace:
Your kingdom come:
Response: Your will be done.

Set 2

You are the suffering servant; may we find the will to serve the needs of all who suffer:
Jesus, Son of man:
Response: Hear our prayer.

You are the Christ, help us to know the dignity of our calling and live free from false needs and dependencies:
Jesus, Son of man:
Response: Hear our prayer.

You set free all who are bound; help us not to bind others by our words and deeds:
Jesus, Son of man:
Response: Hear our prayer.

You brought healing to those around you; by our freedom may we set others free:
Jesus, Son of man:
Response: Hear our prayer.

Readings Wednesday 25 April Saint Mark

The New Testament readings today are a sort of compendium of references to Mark and need to be read with those set for the Eucharist. 

Mark the Evangelist is the author of the Gospel of Mark, and founder of the Church of Alexandria. He has been variously identified with the John Mark mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, Mark the cousin of Barnabas of Colossians and Philemon, the Mark of 2 Timothy, the man who carried water to the house where the Last Supper was held, and also the young man who fled naked from the Garden of Gethsemane. 
My favourite book on Mark's Gospel is Binding the Strong Man.


Psalm 37.23–end
The inspiration for Paul Gerhardt's hymn translated by John Wesley as:

1 COMMIT thou all thy griefs
And ways into his hands,
To his sure truth and tender care,
Who heaven and earth commands.

2 Who points the clouds their course,
Whom winds and seas obey,
He shall direct thy wandering feet,
He shall prepare thy way.

3 Thou on the Lord rely,
So safe shalt thou go on;
Fix on his work thy steadfast eye
So shall thy work be done.

4 No profit canst thou gain
By self-consuming care;
To him commend thy cause, his ear
Attends the softest prayer.

5 Thy everlasting truth,
Father, thy ceaseless love,
Sees all thy children's wants, and knows
What best for each will prove.

6 Thou everywhere hast sway,
And all things serve thy might;
Thy every act pure blessing is,
Thy path unsullied light.

7 When thou arisest, Lord,
What shall thy work withstand?
Whate'er thy children want, thou giv'st;
And who shall stay thy hand?

8 GIVE to the winds thy fears;
Hope, and be undismayed:
God hears thy sighs, and counts thy tears,
God shall lift up thy head.

9 Through waves, and clouds, and storms,
He gently clears thy way:
Wait thou his time, so shall this night
Soon end in joyous day.

10 Still heavy is thy heart?
Still sink thy spirits down?
Cast off the weight, let fear depart,
Bid every care be gone.

11 What though thou rulest not?
Yet heaven, and earth, and hell
Proclaim, God sitteth on the throne,
And ruleth all things well!

12 Leave to his sovereign sway
To choose and to command;
So shalt thou wondering own his way,
How wise, how strong his hand.

13 Far, far above thy thought
His counsel shall appear,
When fully he the work hath wrought
That caused thy needless fear!

14 Thou seest our weakness, Lord;
Our hearts are known to thee;
O lift thou up the sinking hand,
Confirm the feeble knee!

15 Let us in life, in death,
Thy steadfast truth declare,
And publish with our latest breath
Thy love and guardian care.

St Basil observed:  "Not even the deep was judged as contemptible by the Psalmist, who included them in the general chorus of creation, and what is more, with its own language completes the harmonious hymn to the Creator" (Homiliae in hexaemeron, III 9:  PG 29,75).
"When you observe these creatures and enjoy them and rise up to the Architect of all things and of created things, when you contemplate his invisible attributes intellectually, then a confession rises on earth and in heaven.... If creation is beautiful, how much more beautiful must its Creator be?" Augustine [Expositions on the Psalms]
Ecclesiasticus 51.13–end 
This is  a lovely passage which in the Hebrew texts is an alphabetic acrostic (although somewhat corrupted). It is a sort of love poem to Wisdom. It appears in Common Worship Daily Prayer as a canticle (number 48 page 600). A musical setting of it can be found as A Song of Pilgrimage at Company of Voices Resources.
It also appears in a booklet I made for a group in my previous parish as A Little Office of Wisdom with other Wisdom material, including this quote from Thomas Merton:

There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity.  A dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness. This mysterious Unity and integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all, Natura naturans. There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility. This is at once my own being, my own nature, and the gift of the Creator’s Thought and Art within me, speaking as Hagia Sophia, speaking as my sister  Wisdom. I am awakened, I am born again at the voice of this my Sister, sent to me from the depths of divine fecundity.

Acts 12.25—13.13 
v25 is puzzling 'to Jerusalem' is adopted by NRSV makes little sense in the context; 'from' is recorded in some mss. Perhaps it should read: 'after completing their mission for Jerusalem they returned [to Antioch]'?
13:2 the Greek word leitourgeo is used, as in liturgy.


Psalm 45 
Individual Lament or Royal Psalm
Refrain in Common Worship is from Ps 84:8
see Hebrews 1: 8-9 Christ the Bridegroom
In the Hebrew title 'a song of love'. And also 'over lillies' which might suggest a blessing of lillies.
vv7-9 the oil of gladness is interpreted by the early church as the Holy Spirit. Martin Dudley and Geoffrey Rowell wrote an exhaustive commentary on the use of oil in Christian tradition under this title. In some charismatic circles anointing with oil as an 'oil of gladness' has been adopted as a quasi sacrament.
Ezekiel 1.4–14 
This is the passage which originates the symbolism of the four evangelists as animals, in Mark's case as a lion. The animals are normally represented with wings like angels. Why each animal was chosen is the subject of speculation Mark has John the Baptist preaching like a roaring lion and that may be a sufficient connection.

2 Timothy 4.1–11
v6 literally 'poured out as  a libation' as in NRSV which is a powerful image; RSV has 'sacrficed' which somehow loses the strength of the metaphor.
The inclusion of this passage is due to the mention of Mark at the end but it is actually a strong account of Paul's attitude to death and his deep faith.

Office Hymn for Saint Mark

In my blog about Office Hymn Books I failed to mention two other books. One is the 2008 Canterbury press The voice of faith : thirty contemporary hymns for Saints' days or based on the liturgy Timothy Dudley-Smith. The other is Singing With The Saints, published by the Methodist Sacramental Fellowship in 2005 and compiled by Margaret Wallwork. I am trying to get permission to publish words from the first here on the blog. Both are excellent. Most of the hymns are not in a traditional 'Office hymn' style but work well. Many of the suggestions in Singing With the Saints are well known hymns or traditional hymns that work well. For example 'Soldiers of Christ arise' is suggested for Saint George which is perfect.
The late Brother Aelred Seton-Shanley was an English born Camaldolese Oblate living as  a hermit in Connecticut at his 'Hermitage of the Dayspring'. He had been a member of a number of communities over the course of his life. Extracts of the Dayspring Hymnal have been published, see here. But much of the sanctoral cycle has not.

Hymn for St Mark's Day
Singing With the Saints suggests "Praise be to God for servants of the word", Timothy Dudley-Smith's hymn for Saint Mark from the Voice of faith. I think it's rather good, here's the final verse:

All Mark bequeaths us from those earliest days
We, who come after, thankfully receive.
For this his servant, we the Master praise.
Mark shows us Jesus; seeing, we believe!.
Here is the hymn for Saint Mark by Brother Aelred:

O blessed Mark, your book so brief
was first to give the Gospel form:
the catechesis peter preached
you penned in language unadorned.

So close in time and to the source,
your hand reveals those early years;
Christ's messianic secret is
proclaimed to anyone who hears.

Christ is the great Messiah-King,
yet Isra'l's hopes had been misplaced:
he came to serve, and serving, die
- but he, the "Son of Man", God raised.

Great Alexandra claimed you hers
as founding bishop for her faith:
tradition holds that your remains
and holy name, both, Venice, grace.

Your legacy, a precious link
with what occurred in Palestine:
the Lord you loved and served as scribe
still lives through you to our own time.

O Judah's Lion, Lord of Life,
to whom the four great creatures bow:
the one who claim's the lion's share
shall ever praise you, then, as now.