Saturday, March 29, 2008

Thoughts on Easter II (Mostly for Saint Matthias')

Some Thoughts on The Second Sunday of Easter, Year A.

This Sunday was known in the old Roman rite as Dominica in albis depositis, from the fact that those who had been baptized on Easter Eve for the first time laid aside their white baptismal robes on this Sunday. It is also commonly known as Low Sunday, probably in contrast to the high festivity of the previous week. though some suggest it has to do with the attendance. Another name is Clausum Paschae, the close of Easter, signifying that it is the close of the Octave of Easter, we would not use this name now, owing to the recovery of the fifty days of Easter. Finally we may note that from the opening words of the introit in the old Latin Mass (1 Peter 2.2 Quasi modo geniti infantes, “like newborn babes”) this Sunday was known as Quasimodo. As an infant Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame was found on this day, hence being named Quasimodo. [Sources: Missale Romanum ; Catholic Encyclopaedia (1913); Handbook of Dates for Students of English History.]

The Readings:
First Reading:
Acts 1.14a, 22-32. During Eastertide the first readings for the Sunday Eucharist are selected from the Acts of the Apostles, and present us with the first proclamation of the Risen Christ and the response to that proclamation.
When the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples in the upper room in wind and fire, a crowd gathered because of the noise . They were amazed because each one heard the preaching in their own native tongue [2.1-13]. Peter, speaking on behalf of the other eleven, addreessed the crowd. From the prophecy in the Book of Joel: in the last days God would send the Spirit on all flesh, there would be prophesies and dreams, signs in the heavens and the earth, and in that day whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved [2.14-21]. Today’s reading is from the latter part of Peter’s address, in which he declares that God works salvation through Jesus of Nazreth, who crucified was raised from the dead by God. The raising of Jesus, he says, was foretold bythr Spirit through David in Psalm 16. The quotation of the Psalm in Acts is from the Greek translation, and differs somewhat from the Hebrew text. Peter himself was probably speaking Aramaic, and quoting the Psalm from memory, so it would be unwise to try to make too much of these matters. In next Sunday's reading we will hear how Peter's audience responded to his words.
Psalm 16. This Psalm is set for today because it is quoted in the first reading as a proophesy of the resurrection.
The Epistle: 1 Peter 1.3-9. The First Letter of Peter was written to encourage the churches in northern Asia Minor who were suffering persecution. There is some doubt about the ascription of this letter to St Peter, which are based on the excellence of the Greek style and the apparent reflections of Paul’s epistles. Against this itis argued that Peter may have entrusted the actual composition of the letter to a a companion, possibly Silvanus. It was apparently written from Rome (if “Babylon” in 5:13 is correctly understood as a cryptic name for Rome, as in Rev 17.1).
In the section we hear this Sunday, the readers are encouraged to rejoice in the new and living hope to which they have been reborn in Christ even though they face persecution for a little while. Those who remain faitfhul through the present trials are like gold that has been refined, but infinitely more precious. The conlcuding verses reflect on today’s Gospel passage for the readers have loved Christ even though they have never seen him, and though they do not see him now theybelieve in him.
The Holy Gospel : John 20.19-31. This passage from St John’s Gospel includes events in the first week of the Resurrection – in our terms, the first Easter Day, Easter Week, and the Second Sunday of Easter. On the evening of the first day of the week, ion which Jesus was raised, the disciples were gathered in hiding. Suddenly, Jesus is among them, and gives the greeting. He showed them his wounds, so that they would know him. The he breathes the Spirit upon them, and gives the commission to forgive sins. (We may note here in pasing that in classic Anglican theology, this moment is seen as the beginning of the ordained ministry.) Sometime in the week that followed, the disciples told Thomas, who had not been with them, “We have seen the Lord”. But Thomas refused to believe on their witness, claiming that only if he saw the Lord and touched his wounds would he believe. The following Sunday, when all the disciples were gathered, Jesus appeared again, and Thomas came to faith, apparently without touching Christ’s wounds. At this the Lord said, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." The passage ends with the evangelist’s explanation of why he wrote the Gospel: so that the reader (that is, we) might believe that Jesus is Christ and have life in his name.
From this passage it seems impossible that there can be truth faith apart from the community of the discioles, that is, the Church The appearances of the risen Lord happen to the community when it is gathered on the Lord’s Day; Thomas is unbleieving because he was not there. The next Lord’s Day, when Thomas is again with the others, he comes to know that the Lord is risen. Indeed, he recognizes Jesus whom he had known as “Lord and God”.
Our belief rests on the testimony of the first believers, but it is not only that we read it in the Gospels. As this passage also tells us, we also believe because of the livng experience of the Risen Christ in the Church, in prayer and sacrament, as we gather week by week on the Lord’s Day.

It is still Eastertide: How do we keep rejoicing?
It is important to remember that although Easter day is past, Easter itself does not end even with the Octave Day. At the Daily Office and the Holy Eucharist, Alleluia is added to the dismissal and the people’s response; and where it is customary to use antiphons with psalms and canticles, alleluia is also used. For individual members of the Church it is a challenge to know how best to mark the fifty days of Easter in their personal or family prayers. Some resources for Easter are found on Anglicans Online (, but not many, except for the Triduum and Easter Day itself. You might use the psalms and readings appointed for the Daily Office, or make a selection. These are found in the BAS on pp. 463-468. As I have remarked elsewhere, some guides for keeping a holy Eastertide would be of some value at home.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tales From the Slippery Slope: I

On the main street of Alicubi, Ontario, across from St Hugh's Anglican Church, is The Slippery Slope. When the warm weather comes and the large back doors are opened onto the deck and the river, it boasts the finest prospect of any pub I've ever known, but in late March the Slope is still a dark and cozy parlour with a roaring fire, and (may God keep it so) no canned music.
You don't know Alicubi? It's what the name would suggest, one of those Ontario towns along a fast-flowing river that grew up with a lumber mill and a grist mill, and with the mills declined. Now it is close enough to the city for commuters and far enough for tourists. The river runs parallel to Main Street and then bends to the left so that the street crosses it on an imposing stone bridge.
Respectable brick buildings line Main street; their ground floors are still occupied by businesses, which all are apparently thriving. Just by the bridge on the right hand side is the funeral parlour, Remains to be Seen, which is in a building by itself, with sufficient parking. Next to that, in the building known as the Arbuthnot Block, are Vanity of Vanities, where bathroom fixtures and other plumbing supplies are sold, No Accounting for Taste (a gift shop), and a bank. Then, in a building that has been a hotel of sorts since Alicubi was founded, is the Slippery Slope. Across a side street is the Harrington Block, where you'll find another bank, Well Latte da! (a coffee shop) and Chillingworth's Books (New and Used). After that is Melville Presbyterian Church. On the left hand side are the more official premises: the Post Office (1895), next to the bridge, then the Town Hall (1889), St Hugh's, and the Grand Theatre (of uncertain date). The Roman Catholic Church is next to the theatre, the United Church next to that. Over the bridge are some of the nicer homes. The general effect is a bit like taking a block or so of Queen Street West out of Parkdale, brushing it off and tidying it up and putting it down in a pretty river valley.
Now that you've seen something of Alicubi, we can go back to the Slope. I like to go out there on a Thursday evening; on Thursdays the special is always something interesting, such as the quail cooked slowly in wine and stock with root vegetables we were served last night. Keith, the landlord, has a great interest in food and drink (as you might expect), and there is usually a wine to please your palate without breaking your bank. Thursday is the evening that my friend Father Sidney Smith Hawker of St Hugh's likes to go for dinner (and if the evening has been a good one, I'll accept the hospitality of the Rectory). Tom Chillingworth is always there as well, as is John Strype, the undertaker, who finds he can trust things to his son Brad for one night. From time to time others drop in on Thursday night, but yesterday it was just we four.
It has been our habit for some years that when dinner is over and we settle back over a glass of this or that, to tell stories. Well, the state of the Church is not a topic you want to get into with Fr Hawker these days, and it's not often you want to talk shop with the undertaker; so we tell stories. Some years ago Tom Chillingworth (who is by training an historian) caught on to the fact that Fr Hawker gets many of his stories from joke books of the Tudor and Stuart eras and sources like that, but he knows how few original stories there, so he didn't make a big thing out of it. Last night we were treated to a very familiar story, which Fr Hawker has used more than once in a sermon, but the occasion justified it
Just before dinner, as the four of us were enjoying Tom's best bitter, Mark Simpson stopped by the table. Mark runs a hardware store just around the corner from the bank. Since he calls it Simpson's Hardware, you can tell he has never really caught the spirit of Alicubi. The locals, of course, call it Beeton's after the fourth owner back, which sort of makes up for it. Now to put it bluntly, Simpson is a gossip, not a particularly malicious one, but tedious nonetheless. And as Fr Hawker likes to point out, it's the habit of gossip we have to watch for.
After dinner, Tom grunted something about Simpson, and said "Can't you do something, Stephen? You know, like that Priest in the story you're always preaching."
"Well," said Fr Hawker, "seeing he's a Roman Catholic, I don't know that I should stick my oar in - and I suspect he gives Fr Newton enough grief as it is."
Keith who was having a quiet moment at the bar came over and said, "I don't think I know that story," and sat down. Without waiting another moment, the priest began to tell the story of Saint Philip Neri and the Chicken
St Philip Neri, (1515-1595), the founder of the Congregation of the Oratory, was known not only for holiness but also for his humour and shrewd wit, which won him a place in the folklore of Rome. this is perhaps the best-known story told of this holy man.
In those days there was a woman in the neighbourhood whose besetting sin was gossip. She loved to pick up bits of information about her neighbours and pass them on, likely as not a bit embroidered. More than one reputation was tarnished because of her quick tongue. Now much as most people like to gossip little, a bit of gossip can go a long way and a touch of scandal gets tiresome quickly. The neighbours were too well aware that at the rate this woman talked, no one was safe, be they never so virtuous, but no one could do anything to make her stop.
It happened one morning that St Philip Neri, who was well aware of the problem, met this woman on the street, and after wishing her a good morning, asked her if she could do him a favour.
“Why, certainly!” said the woman
“I would like you to go to the market and buy a chicken for me. Here is the money.”
As she took the money he added, “To save time, pluck the chicken on the way back, so that it will be all ready to prepare.” She agreed, and toddled off the market. Perhaps she was storing up this slightly odd request to add to her repertoire! A little later she came back, and handed the priest a freshly-plucked chicken.
“Thank you, Ma’am,” he said, and added, “Now go back and gather up all the feathers and bring them to me.”
“But Father,” she cried, by now they will have blown down all the streets and alleys and across the piazzas. I could never get them back!”
“Indeed,” he replied. “And that is how it is with the things you say about your neighbours. Once spoken your words are like the feathers you plucked; as the ind carried the feathers, people repeat your words, and they go down all the streets and alleys, and across the piazzas. Whether good or ill, you can never get them back.
No one has recorded whether this woman changed her ways, but all of us can remember this little story and be carefull of what we say about others.
Fr Hawker sat back and drained his pint to general applause. Then he added, "Perhaps for positive advice we can take the example of one of my namesakes, Hawker of Morwenstow. Baring-Gould reports that
A commonplace neighbouring parson, visiting him once, asked him what were his views and opinions.
Mr Hawker drew him to the window. “There,” said he, “is Hennacliff, there the Atlantic stretching to Labrador, there Morwenstow crag, here the church and graves; these are my views. As to my opinions, I keep them to myself."
We all agreed that this was a good policy, and fell into general conversation. If there's a good story next week, I'll tell you about the evening at The Sippery Slope.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A new Blog

I have just removed from this Blog the two posts concerning my research into the conference at Hampton Court in 1604. It seems somehow tidier to keep these matters separate, and (it is to be hoped) that they will more easily be found. If you are interested in my work on Hampton Court, please see:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Some of my Publications and Addresses

Readers of this Blog who might like to know more of the range of my interests than the space in the profile allows me to provide mght find the following lists of interest. Others will naturally wish to ignore this bit of self-promotion.
“Hampton Court Again: The Millenary Petition and the Calling of the Conference,” Anglican and Episcopal History 77:1 (March 2008), 46-70
The king's own conference : a reassessment of Hampton Court 1604 (ThD Thesis, Trinity College Library, c2006); National Library of Canada, 2007. 4 microfiches. ISBN: 9780494264331 .
“When is a Lady Chapel not a Lady Chapel” TriAngle: Newsletter of Trinity College Chapel, Fall 2005
"Smoke Signals in the Election of a Pope", TriAngle: Newsletter of Trinity College Chapel, Easter 2005
"Review of Edward Herbert and Emanuel Tov, eds., The Bible as Book and the Judean Desert Experience," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada 42/1 (Spring 2004) pp 110-112
"Becoming a Saint", TriAngle: Newsletter of Trinity College Chapel, All Saints', 2004
“SARS and the Common Cup”, TriAngle: Newsletter of Trinity College Chapel, Fall Term 2003
“Ash Wednesday”, TriAngle: Newsletter of Trinity College Chapel, Lent, 2003
"Review of David N. Griffith, A Bibliography of the Book of Common Prayer 1549-1999," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada 41/1 (Spring 2003), pp. 100-104
“Richard Corbet: Bishop and Poet”, TriAngle: Newsletter of Trinity College Chapel, Easter Term 2001
"'Twas God the Word that Spake It: An Elizabethan Pseudepigraphon", Anglican Theological Review, LXXXII, no 3 (Summer, 2000).
"Sorry, Folks, the Millenium is Over", Triangle: Newsletter of Trinity College Chapel, February, 1999
"Gowns, Towns and Frowns", Trinity Magazine, Trinity College, Toronto, 1999
"Does Omitting the Filioque Clause Betray Traditional Anglican Thought?" Anglican Theological Review LXXVIII, no 3 (Summer, 1996).
Selected Addresses, &c.
2004, 1 November: Paper: "Holy Smoke: the History of the Liturgical use of Incense" deliverd at St Thomas's Church, Huron Street, Toronto []
2002, 9 April. Address "The Smith of Smiths: The Wit and Wisdom of The Rev’d Sydney Smith", deliverd to Toronto Arts and Letters Club Literary Luncheon.
2002. Delivered a paper on the history of Papal Conclaves to the Senior Common Room, Trinity College
1999, 22 December. Address, The ‘pagan’ origins of Christmas and its customs, delivered to the North Toronto Rotary Club.
1999, 23 March. Paper: Gowns, Towns and Frowns, delivered to a joint Senior Common Room-Junior Common Room Fireside Chat, Trinity College.
Episodes of the series "Pure Pwnage" may be found at I say the name of the programme at the beginning of every episode, and voice "The Masterer" in many of the episodes. I appear at the beginning of Episode 5 in "Kyle's Film, Strong Man, Angry Man.
I may also be heard at the end of the satirical trailer Indiana James and the Campus of Doom which may be found at

So Lent's Over: Now what? or Keeping a holy Easter

I didn't exactly spring from bed this morning singing "God be glorified!" like St Nicholas in the Cantata; after the Vigil last night I didn't get quite enough sleep for that. But I am glad to say that my first thought on getting out of bed was "Christ is risen. Alleluia!" My Easter resolution is to do this for all fifty days of the paschal festival.
"Easter Resolution?" I hear you ask, "Who makes Easter Resolutions?" I don't know, but I think I ought to
We make a great fuss - or some of us do - about how to keep a holy Lent, by the traditional disciplines of "self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and by reading and meditating on the word of God" [Anglican Church of Canada, BAS, p. 282]. But now that the forty days (not counting Sundays) of preparation for Easter are over, and the fifty days’ celebration of Easter has begun, we may ask, "What are we supposed to do now?" There are enough resources and more on how to keep a holy Lent, but for the life of me I can’t remember ever seeing a handbook for keeping a holy Easter. Perhaps such a handbook is needed, but I think we’re going to have to wait some time for that. In the meantime, it would be helpful if Christians thought about how to keep a holy Eastertide. Otherwise (to exaggerate just a little) when Lent ends, we'll all heave a sigh of relief and go back to the things we gave up, giving it all no more thought till next year, when it won't be so early. [Although this note is specifically about Anglican practice, we all have something to learn from the experiences of other denominations.]
So here are a few thoughts that I had on the subject on Easter morning 2008.
What is Eastertide?
Easter Day is the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord, but the celebration is not compete in one day. Easter Sunday it is the first of fifty days of continuous joy and festival, ending on the day of Pentecost (from the Greek Pentecoste, meaning “fiftieth”). This whole festival celebrates the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ and his sending of the Holy Spirit. In an age of tidier minds than ours, these fifty days were separated into Eastertide and Ascensiontide, which began on the fortieth day of Easter. Even if this separation is to your taste, the fifty days are still a continuous festival.
Some interesting details about Easter: The Council of Nicaea (AD 325) forbade kneeling in church throughout the fifty days of Easter. The liturgical colour is white or gold. The most obvious liturgical feature of Eastertide is that we sing and say "Alleluia" (Praise the Lord) more frequently. The Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada exempts the Fridays of Eastertide from the rule that Fridays are to be marked by “special acts of discipline and self-denial” (p. 17).
As in Lent, the Sundays of Eastertide are no problem: we sing alleluia and the Liturgy has a joyous air. But that looks after only seven Sundays after Easter and the Day of Pentecost. How can we make the most of the other forty-two days of Easter?
The Daily Office helps somewhat, but we don't realistically expect all individuals and families to use that form of prayer. But it would be good if we remember that, like Lent, Eastertide is also a special time for prayer and thanksgiving.
Out of the devotional practices of Lent, the only one that is not performed in the Easter season is fasting, and we don't make a special effort in self-examination and pentitence at this time, but we don't just drop it either. As for the rest of them, if we made a special effort in Lent it was in order to strengthen our habits of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, bible-study and all the rest. In Eastertide we should continue in these things and not slack off. Perhaps one year your parish might have an Easter study series. Perhaps special devotions (emphasizing joy and celebration) could be devised.*
The most important thing to suggest is a personal and individual devotion. One of the features of Lent in both prayer and self-denial is a focus on things one needs to change in life, and by change we often mean "getting rid of". In Eastertide the focus might well be on the habits and practices that we need to encourage - and not just charitable acts and almsgiving, but good humour and politeness as signs of the joy of the new life. The Easter question might be what embers of love in one's soul need to be blown into fire by the Spirit of God. Again, if in Lent one tried to tackle a tendency to a short temper, one might in Easter change direction and emphasize thankfulness or kindness.
These thoughts on Easter Day address a real need in the Christian life: how shall one make the most of these fifty days of special rejoicing and celebration that we have in the Church year? I may have more to say on this sometime later.
*I have intentionally not searched the web for parishes that do such things already, so that I can be happily surprised if someone brings one to my attention. All I mean is that I've never heard of it happening.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Being a novice blogger, I first learned how to post material and then started fiddling with the template.* It's much improved I think. It was while I was fiddling with the template that the tempter spoke (or wrote): Google invites one to allow advertising geared to the topic on one's blog and make money. Ooooh; that's just what I need, considering how eagerly employers are looking for middle-aged academic clergymen nowadays
Long before I ask, whether this could be right, fitting, or consistent with the dignity of a clerk in holy orders (since financial uncertainty is obviously consistent with that dignity), a more practical question comes up: whether it would pay enough to justify facing those questions. Or should I seek my fortune teaching folk how to construct questions in indirect discourse, a very rare talent in today's world? They offer to pay by the click. I think I know what that means, but I am left wondering just how much a click might be worth. On that point they are silent. I could ask, I suppose, but listening to my own sermons has convinced me to avoid entering into conversation with a tempter: look what happened to Eve. There would be ads all over my blog before I could say "how much .....?"
Then I wonder, what sort of advertisements would advertisers think fit to accompany notes on the readings for Good Friday? I shudder to think. What sponsor would bring you historiographical arguments about the Conference at Hampton Court of 1604, if I ever get around to writing up my work in a sort of way fitting for the Blog?** (By the way, do I need to capitalize Blog even if I don't capitalize on it?)
For the moment, no advertising. But I may look into it.

* I am surprised to discover that the word "template" is not on the first edition of the OED. How did we get on without it for so long?

**None that I can think of, since no one yet makes "My Little Beagle" action figures or other toys linked to the life and career of Robert Cecil, first Earl of Salisbury. I'm sure children would love them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Holy Week Book - Sunday of the Passion

Note: The three articles called "The Holy Week Book" were prepared for St Matthias' Parish in Holy Week 2008 to provide comments on the readings and the liturgies that could not be provided in the homily. Therefore they reflect the interests of one person at one time.

Saint Matthias’ Anglican Church, Bellwoods Avenue, Toronto
Some Notes on the Readings for the Sunday of the Passion (Palm Sunday)
by the Reverend Dr William Craig, Honorary Assistant

From the Blessing and Procession of Palms to the Great Paschal Vigil, the purpose of the liturgies of this Holy Week is that we may enter with joy into the celebration of those mighty acts whereby God give us life and immortality. Our modern liturgies are an adaptation of the rich heritage of rites and practices that have served the Church since about the fourth century, when the keeping of Holy Week began.
The sheer amount of Scripture that is read and sung this Sunday and throughout Holy Week challenges both the preacher and the people to careful reading, study, and reflection before and after attending the liturgies. In Church, it is best to listen and sing, not so much thinking about the words as thinking them, concentrating on them, and receiving them into the depths of our being.
With this end in mind, here are some comments (I fear they are too meagre to be of any real use) on the readings for Palm Sunday. I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of using all the resources one can in studying the Bible. “Commentaries: Revised Common Lectionary” is an excellent resource put online by the Diocese of Montreal. See Another handy resource is a study Bible such as the New Oxford Annotated Bible.

The Liturgy of the Palms

The Gospel of the Palms
The Lord’s entry into Jerusalem is recorded in all four Gospels with minor differences in detail (only John’s gospel specifies that the branches were of palm trees).
We are tempted to think of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as joyous beginning to events that went tragically wrong. But as the introduction to the rite in the Roman Catholic liturgy puts it, “Christ entered in triumph into his own city, to complete his work as Messiah: to suffer, to die, and to rise again”. In this work the notes of suffering, death, and resurrection are one, and cannot be separated. As we enter with joy into this act we see that it was in triumph that he set his face set like a flint and went to his self-offering, and death. Outside of this and without it, the glory of the palms would only be a parade.
It may seem odd that Jesus is described as sitting on the donkey and the colt (verse 7). The Evangelist has apparently misunderstood Zechariah 9.9, in which one animal is described as “a donkey and a colt the foal of a donkey.” This form of speech, called parallelism, is very common in the Hebrew scriptures.
The passage appointed ends with the inhabitants of Jerusalem asking who it is that rides by, and the crowd with Jesus replying, This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth. Then it goes on to tell of his cleansing of the temple and his healing blind and lame who were there. It tells us, too, that children in the temple took up the cry of Hosanna (21.15), at which the priests took offence. It is because of this reference that the hymn All glory, laud, and honour says “to whom the lips of children made sweet Hosannas ring”.
The Liturgy of the Passion
A Reading from the Prophet Isaiah
[50.4-9a]: Isaiah prophesied In Judah and Jerusalem between 742 and 687 BC, at the time when the northern Kingdom, Israel, had fallen to Assyria and Judah continued in uneasy “freedom”. Many scholars conclude from differences between chapters 1-39 and 40-66 that the latter part should be attributed to one or more other authors (“Second” and possibly “Third Isaiah”), who wrote at the time of the Return from Exile (ca. 538 BC). A significant feature of Second Isaiah are four passages referred to as the Songs of the Servant of the Lord.
It is not clear whether the prophet intended the figure of the Servant to be Israel as a collective person; a king of the past; or a coming individual Servant. (Note Acts 8.34, where the Ethiopian eunuch asks of one passage whether the prophet “says this about himself or about someone else”). In any case the Christian community very early applied these hymns to Jesus – indeed he seems to have seen them as applying to his vocation as the servant (slave) who frees all people. In Holy Week they are used as a commentary on the passion narrative.
The first of the four songs [42.1-7] describes God's selection of the Servant who will bring justice to earth. Isaiah 42:1-7; the second [49.1-6], written from the Servant's point of view, is an account of having been called by God to lead the nations; The third, the first reading for Passion Sunday, is darker than the others, with a first-person description of beating and abuse of the Servant. Isaiah 50:4-9 The fourth [52.13-53.12] declares that the Servant intercedes for others, taking the punishments and afflictions of others. In the end, he is rewarded with an exalted position. This song is the first reading for Good Friday.
In the third Servant Song, although those to whom God has sent him have rejected him and abused him, the Servant is confident that God is with him. He can set his face like flint, and know that he will not be put to shame. We see the like confidence in Jesus as he goes before the Council and before Pilate, as he is mocked and scourged.

Psalm [31.9-16] One of the categories of Psalms scholars identify as “lament”, by which is meant not a song of mourning but “a song in which an individual seeks deliverance from illness or false accusation, or the nation asks for help in time of distress” [New Oxford Annotated Bible, p. 656] Today we use the psalmist’s cry for deliverance from his personal enemies and the confidence in God which ends the selection as a reflection on the first reading, which is in itself a companion to and reflection on the Passion narrative. Compare verse 13, “For I have heard the whispering of the crowd; fear is all around; they put their heads together against me; they plot to take my life,” with Jeremiah 20:10. The prophet has prophesied the people’s doom as the Lord commanded, and says: “I hear many whispering: ‘Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. ‘Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him’”. The enmity of personal friends is an important theme in Holy Week (see the opening of the Passion Gospel).

A Reading from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians [2.5-11]: In this passage St Paul quotes an early Christian hymn (to which he has added v. 8b), which beautifully describes our Lord’s self-giving, even to the utterly humiliating death on the Cross. For other fragments of early Christian hymns on the subject of Christ’s work, see 1:15-20; Ephesians 2:14-16; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 3:18-19, 22; Hebrews 1:3. [CAB]. In vv. 1-4, Paul had urged the Philippians, to at one, “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord ...”. Now he explains that this one mind is not his own clever idea: it is the mind of Christ, which we begin to share and display when we replacing self-interest with concern for others.
We tend to interpret the words “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” as referring to the name “Jesus”. While showing reverence at the holy Name is good, that is not what St Paul means here. The “name that is above every name” which God has given Jesus in his exaltation is “Lord”, in Greek Kyrios, which is used in the Old Testament to translate the (unpronounceable) name of God. He means that God has given the Risen Christ the authority which, in the Old Testament, he reserved for himself. (See Isaiah 45:22-25.)

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Matthew (26.14-27.66). Instead of pretending to give a useful commentary on the Passion Gospel, I shall merely make a few comments on themes that struck me as I came to it again this year.
The most important theme of Matthew’s account of the Passion is that all that happened was in fulfilment of the Scriptures. So, for example, we may think of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (26.15); “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him” (26.24); the other disciples’ desertion of Jesus (26.31); Jesus’ questioning “how the Scriptures would be fulfilled” if he called on God to save him from arrest (26:54); the purchase of the Potter’s Field with the blood money (27.9)
A fact we must face every Holy Week is the action of Judas Iscariot. How do we understand the working out of God’s plan and the responsibility and freedom of this one person? How do we understand the fact that when he realized what was happening “he repented” (27.3) In Matthew’s account his betrayal is seen as the result of greed. Is this to simple? We may also consider the poignancy of the betrayal. Judas was one of the Twelve (26.14); Jesus had chosen him. At the Last Supper the fact that he sat close enough to dip his hand in the same dish as Jesus (26:23), makes this betrayal particularly poignant and horrific. We are reminded of Psalm 41.9: “Even my best friend, whom I trusted, who broke bread with me, has lifted up his heel and turned against me”, and of Psalm 55.13-15 (compare Matthew 26:23): “For had it been an adversary who taunted me, then I could have borne it; or had it been an enemy who vaunted himself against me, then I could have hidden from him. But it was you, a man after my own heart, my companion, my own familiar friend. We took sweet counsel together, and walked in the throng in the house of God”.
Though it was Judas who handed Jesus over, at the Last Supper all the disciples were overcome with doubt and uncertainty when their Lord said that one of them would betray him. Human weakness, said Origen, makes the uncertain future “an object of dread to us”.
Finally for now, let us note how sparing in detail this account of the Lord’s Passion is; it does not try to manipulate us emotionally by depicting the sufferings of Jesus as a horror. In this it contrasts with many depictions of the Passion, and most notoriously a certain recent film. In our English version we read in 27.26 that Pilate “after flogging Jesus, handed him over to be crucified;” literally it is something like, “and he handed over Jesus, flogged, to be crucified”. Even the soldiers’ mocking of Jesus, their spitting and striking him is got over quickly. The crucifixion itself is buried in a subordinate clause, “After they had crucified him” (27.35). It is fair to add that the first readers and hearers of the Passion story had a far better idea than we do of what crucifixion involved. Nonetheless the sparing accounts in all four Gospels suggest that it is not necessary for us to contemplate too deeply the gory details of our Lord’s Passion.

The Holy Week Book: Good Friday

Saint Matthias’ Anglican Church, Bellwoods Avenue, Toronto
Some Notes on the Liturgy and Readings of Good Friday
by the Reverend Dr William Craig, Honorary Assistant

The English are probably alone in calling the Friday of the Lord’s Passion “Good Friday”. Other names for this day are Great Friday, Holy Friday, High Friday, Passion Friday, Sad Friday, Friday of Lamentation and the Friday of Christ’s Suffering. In Scandinavian countries it is known as “Long Friday”, a name that was also used in Anglo-Saxon England: it may reflect feelings about the time spent in church. Some uneducated people call it “Easter Friday”, a name which properly refers not to the Friday of Holy Week but to the Friday of Easter Week. Some people wonder why we call such a sad day “good”. This is probably why you often hear the explanation that the name was originally God’s Friday and ground down to Good Friday. That’s a nice idea, but without any evidence that I can find. The Oxford Dictionary gives a much simpler explanation: one old meaning of “good” is “holy”, so that our Good Friday is really just same as Holy Friday (Vendredi Saint or venerdi santo).
Nonetheless. there is a truth in our English name for today; for we cannot divorce the Cross from the Resurrection. Though it is sad to hear the account of what people like you and me did to Jesus — more than that, it should make us ashamed — when we read and hear all the scriptures, and remember that this was all done so that we might be put right, made one with God, then we will know why this Friday is not merely Holy but Good.
The Celebration of the Lord’s Passion is a liturgy of great simplicity and beauty. It begins with readings and the solemn singing of the Passion. Then we offer prayers for the world that Christ came and died to save. Then follows the Meditation on the Cross of Jesus. The liturgy ends with the distribution of communion from the sacrament consecrated on Maundy Thursday (“Mass of the Presanctified”).

The Readings
A Reading from the Book of Isaiah (52.12-53.12). This is the fourth of the Servant Songs of Second Isaiah (see notes for Passion Sunday). Its very first verse (See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high) can be understood as a foreshadowing of the crucifixion, for in John’s Gospel the “lifting up of the Son of man” refers to the crucifixion (3.14-15, 12.32-33). It is almost impossible for a Christian to read this passage and not have the story of Jesus’ sufferings come to mind. Even more, through the suffering of the righteous servant will many be made righteous.

Psalm 22. The song of one who feels utterly deserted by God, even though he constantly (by day and night) cries out for help. Nonetheless he does not despair, for he is convinced that the Holy God, in whom his ancestors trusted, still reigns. Despite this faith, the psalmist despised by all around him, and painfully describes their taunts and their persecution, as fierce as wild animals. In his sickness and pain his enemies treat him as if he were already dead. Indeed his friends and neighbours have already divided his clothing among themselves. Even now he does not despair: God will save him, and he will return thanks in the great congregation. The psalm which began so far in the depths of misery ends on a note of confidence and hope in the future.
Jesus spoke the opening words of this psalm from the Cross (Mark 14.34, Matthew 27.46); other verses of this psalm are remembered in the account of the crucifixion. While his quoting the verse leads to fruitful meditation on his sense of desolation, another understanding of it may be mentioned. I once heard it suggested, though I cannot remember when or where, that in the Passion the first words of this psalm are meant to signify that Jesus recited the whole of Psalm 22, including the triumphant hope at the end. Though not the usual view, this is worth thinking about.

A Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews (10.16-25 or 4.14-16; 5.7-9). The lectionary offers a choice of reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. At St Matthias we have opted for the second selection. Although it is traditionally attributed to St Paul, the author of this letter (if it is actually a letter) is unknown. Its title “comes from its approach to Christianity: it is couched is Judaic terms” (Chris Haslam). One of the themes of Hebrews is the superiority of Christ’s priesthood to that of the :priests of the line of Aaron. In this passage we are urged to have confidence that in Christ we may draw near to the throne of God. We are confident because our great high priest knows the human weakness he shared in himself. “Perfect” (v 9) is to be understood in its root sense of complete or finished rather than as a synonym for “best” as people often use it.

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St John [18.1-19.42] is the one traditionally read on Good Friday. Here are some points that struck me on reading the Passion again this year.
The striking thing about this account is how clearly it presents Jesus as being in command of the situation. So, when the mob of soldiers and police burst into the quiet of Gethsemane, Jesus takes the initiative and comes forward to ask what this turmoil means, and proceeds to direct the action. His command carries all the way through to the end of things on the Cross, when Jesus knowing that he as done all that God has sent him to do for the redemption of the world, proclaimed, It is accomplished, and gave up his Spirit. (on a Friday, just as God gave the breath of life to the first man on a Friday). All of this is presented in active and not passive terms: no one forced Jesus to go to the Cross, suffering and death.
In contrast to Jesus stands Pontius Pilate. From the first moment he comes on stage, Pilate is being bustled about by someone. The priests, using their religious laws to full advantage, refuse to enter his residence, and for the rest of the inquiry into Jesus of Nazareth Pilate has to run back and forth between the priests and the accused, in and out of his own house like a servant. Nowhere do we sense the dignity and gravity on which the Romans prided themselves.
It is interesting to note that Pilate’s question to Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” is found in all four Gospels in precisely the same words. The last words recorded from Pilate show how exasperated he was. He ordered the usual placard naming the offender and the crime, and when the priests objected he said merely “What I have written, I have written.”
While the fourth Gospel gives the fullest account of Jesus’ questioning by Pilate, it reports nothing of the trial by Caiaphas nothing of the mocking of Jesus on the cross by the passers-by, nothing of the two criminals crucified with him. St Augustine commented on the differences: “Each Evangelist only inserts what he thinks sufficient.” This gospel sums up Jesus’ meek and patient acceptance of hurt in the words spoken to one soldier who slapped him: "If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?"
Finally we should note one of the most poignant and beautiful moments in all the Passion Gospels. John alone records the presence of Jesus’ mother and the disciple whom he loved (usually thought to be John Evangelist himself) at the foot of the cross. In his last will, as it were, Jesus commits his mother to the care of his disciple, and the disciple to his mother. “And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.” From this incident is developed the title, fruitful for contemplation, of Mary as “Mother of Christians”.
Preparing comments on the Passion gospel really only serves to make the commentator feel insufficient! So in conclusion we recommend R. E. Brown’s magisterial The death of the Messiah : from Gethsemane to the grave : a commentary on the Passion narratives in the four Gospels, 2 volumes, (Doubleday, c1994). This work may found in the university libraries; there is a copy in the Toronto Reference Library [226.07 B68]; it can sometimes be found in second-hand book shops.

The Solemn Intercession, which differs in structure from our normal Sunday prayers, reflects a very ancient form used in the Roman Church. First a bidding is read, which sets out the need to be remembered; then the deacon or some other minister directs the people to kneel in silent prayer, and after a few moments to arise; then the Celebrant gathers the prayers of the community in a collect (hence the name).

The Meditation on the Cross of Jesus (Adoration of the Cross) had its origins in Jerusalem after the relics of the True Cross were reportedly found by the empress St Helena. The custom is mentioned in a letter of a Spanish lady who travelled to the Holy Land not long after AD 380, but it was some time before it was imitated in other places, and a wooden cross used where no relic of the True Cross could be had. Anthems are sung while we meditate upon the Cross. The first group are adapted from a very old set of anthems called the Improperia or “Reproaches”. In their original form these anthems, based on passages from Micah and Jeremiah, blamed the Jewish people for the death of Christ. The form we use includes us Christians in the blame. In the other sets of anthems we praise God for the Cross.
Finally, since anti-Semitism never seems to go away, we must not downplay the rubric on page 309 of the BAS: The term “the Jews” in St John’s Gospel applies to particular individuals and not to the whole Jewish people. Insofar as we ourselves turn against Christ, we are responsible for his death.

The Holy Week Book: Maundy Thursday

Saint Matthias’ Anglican Church, Bellwoods Avenue, Toronto
Some Notes on the Readings for Maundy Thursday
by the Reverend Dr William Craig, Honorary Assistant

Maundy Thursday is the first day of the Paschal Triduum, the Three Holy Days, which commemorate the great events of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. There is no blessing or dismissal at the conclusion of the liturgy tonight, for this is only the first part of a single celebration. Tonight is a mixture of joy and sorrow, of loud rejoicing and silent contemplation.
On the night before he was crucified our Lord Jesus kept the Last Supper with his disciples. At that supper he gave to them the Eucharist, the Holy Feast of the new Covenant. He also took a towel and washed his disciples’ feet. It is from the foot washing that today receives its name, Maundy, which comes from the Latin Mandatum, “commandment”. For he said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
It was at the Last Supper that Jesus told his disciples that one of them was about to betray him, and when they went out after supper to the Garden of Gethsemane it was to agony, betrayal, and arrest. Just so, after we have celebrated the Eucharist and rejoiced in this great gift and sacrament, we take the simple task of removing the ornaments from the church and make it a solemn reminder of Jesus agony in the garden and arrest.

A Reading from the Book of Exodus [12.1-4 (5-10) 11-14]: This is the account of the institution of the Feast of Passover, which God commanded the people of Israel to keep as an everlasting memorial of the delivery from bondage in Egypt. The feast is called “the Passover of the Lord” because the Lord passed over the land of Egypt in judgement (verse 12), but passed over the houses where the Israelites were, which were marked with the blood of the Passover lamb (verses 7, 13). The first Passover meal was, as it were, the “last supper” of Israel in Egypt. The whole of the Exodus is celebrated in the Passover. The whole of the Exodus is seen in Christian tradition as a type or foreshadowing of the death and resurrection of Christ, the true Paschal Lamb. This is why we read about the institution of the Passover on the night we commemorate the Last Supper and the institution of the Holy Eucharist.

Psalm [116.1, 10-17]: This psalm is a thanksgiving for recovery from illness. This is part if the group of psalms [113-118] known as the “hallel” because they all contain the words “praise the Lord” (in Hebrew, Hallelujah). Psalms 115 -118 are sung after the Passover meal. In part then, this psalm is used at the Mass today as a comment on the first reading. It also looks ahead to the institution of the HolY eucharist: “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” “Precious in the sight of the Lord” (verse 15) means that it is rare.

A Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians [11.23-26] It is an interesting fact that the earliest surviving account of the institution of the Eucharist was written because of the bad behaviour of certain Church members. In the first letter to the Corinthian Church, St Paul found it necessary to write in reprove of their behaviour at the Eucharist. At this time the Eucharist was still part of a real meal as the Last Supper had been. Paul has heard that when the Corinthians assemble, there are divisions among them, so that they do not really come together to eat the Lord’s Supper but each goes ahead with his own supper. It has been suggested that one root of this abuse was a Roman custom of classifying guests socially and giving little or nothing to those considered inferior. Since the church met in private houses, members had to eat in separate rooms. So some ate lavishly, and others poorly; one went hungry, another got drunk [verse 21]. By this some were displaying their affluence and over-indulging. St Paul indignantly declares that if what they care about is eating and drinking, let them do it at home. In order to call the Corinthians to celebrate the Eucharist in the right spirit, he reminds them of how Christ instituted the feast. In his account he makes use of the important words “received” and “handed on”, which were technical terms for transmitting an oral tradition. Indeed the Latin trado, “I give on”, or “hand on” is the meaning at the heart of the idea of tradition. Paul may have received the factual tradition by human means but received the interpretation of it directly “from the Lord.” His message is that every celebration of he Lord’s Supper is a proclaiming of Christ’s death, by which we are freed from the bondage of evil.

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St John [13.1-17, 31b-35] The Fourth Gospel does not report the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper; its Eucharistic teaching is found elsewhere, particularly in the discourses on the Bread of Heaven in Chapter 6. Nonetheless, Jesus’ teaching about love and service in this account of the Last Supper are properly read together with St Paul’s teaching about the true celebration of the Eucharist. The centrepiece of John’s account of the Last Supper is Christ’s new commandment “love one another as I have loved you,” and his acting out of that love in the washing of the disciples’ feet.
If I, then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. Obviously Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet is an example of service. If we read the passage carefully however, we will see an even deeper significance. The Gospel relates that Jesus rose from supper, that is, he left his place at the table. Then he humbled himself to take on the dress of a servant, for he laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a bowl and washed his disciples’ feet , wiping them with the towel. When all was done, he took back his garments and returned to his place at the table. As we hear this account, we are reminded of the hymn quoted by Saint Paul in the second chapter of Philippians, which was read on Palm Sunday. Christ’s action of washing the disciples’ feet shows the same descent to humility and return to glory that is proclaimed here. This is how he has loved us. Thus we may see it a parable of not only of service, but also of Christ’s giving of himself to the Father, which is as it were the reality of which even servanthood is the outward sign. Here is the hymn set out to give some idea of the verse structure
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God
a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself and became obedient unto death,
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus
every knee shall bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (2.5-11 RSV)
In our attempts to fulfil the great commandment of love we do more than simply try to obey, than simply try to imitate Jesus; we begin in our weakness to live the life of the Triune God. Later, in John 14, we read of Christ’s commandments: those who keep them are those who love him; those who love him will be loved by is Father, “and we will come to them and make our home with them” (14.21, 23).

The Procession to the Altar of Repose
By long custom the Holy Eucharist is not celebrated on Good Friday; and by ling custom people have desired the strength of the sacrament on that solemn day. So the consecrated elements are reserved over night for a very practical reason. The altar of repose is away from the main body of the Church so that we may also symbolize the “absence of the bridegroom”. It is useful to reflect on the varied feelings and senses that these holy days inspire in us. On a symbolic level, the people of God have come to take the opportunity of watching before the reserved sacrament as an answer to Christ’s question to St Peter in Gethsemane, “So could you not watch with me one hour?”

The Stripping of the Altar
Because Jesus expressed his love for us in willingly humbling himself to death, in the stripping of the altar our thoughts are brought back to the story of his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and his arrest. During this act we hear read the account of Christ’s agony from St Matthew, which we heard on Sunday. Three times Christ affirms his obedience to the Father’s will despite any desire to escape suffering . It might be helpful to remember that this agony of obedience which led to our salvation took place in a garden; unlike the disobedience of our first parents in another garden, which was the cause of all our woe (Milton).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Last Year's Sermon for Palm Sunday

Note: While working on a sermon for this year I read over last's year's again and thought perhaps I should make it available. Much of it is founded on Dorothy L. Sayer's notes to her radio plays The Man Born to be King, but I can no longer identify exact quotations.
Homily for the Sunday of the Passion, Year C
Preached at Saint Matthias’, Bellwoods,
Sunday 1 April 2007

It's strange when you think about it. Every day all over the world thousands of people recite the name of a fairly undistinguished man who lived many centuries ago. It is very likely most of them never give much thought to this fact. We aren’t sure where he was born – though it was probably in Italy – or when – but I’d guess he was middle-aged by the time he stumbled into world history. We don’t know his first name, though his family name was Pilatus of the clan called Pontius, and we know him as Pontius Pilate. (There is a tradition that his first name was Gaius.) We know nothing of his early career, but in about AD 26 the Emperor Tiberius named him to the responsible but not very prestigious post of Prefect of Judaea; he was the fifth Prefect since the Romans had given up on home rule in that part of the empire. They usually kept the job for about three years, but Pilate held it for ten: Tiberius often left men in office. We know that he was married. In his term several incidents occurred which were recorded by contemporary historians, but one stands out.
Once, on the occasion of a feast, the Jerusalem authorities handed over to Pilate for punishment a man they said had threatened the Temple sanctuary and pretended to be king. When Pilate examined the man he concluded that he was inconsequential and that the Jewish leaders were acting for their own reasons. Herod Antipas of Galilee became involved in the case, but sent the fellow back to Pilate. Pilate announced that he was not going to execute him. Yet when he saw that a riot was breaking out in Jerusalem because of the announcement, he backed down and acceded to the demands of the religious leaders. The man was executed. Later Pilate was recalled to Rome on entirely different grounds and nothing more is known of him, although legends have grown about him.
Thousands of times every day this rather undistinguished Roman official is named all over the world; his name has even been set to music by some of the world’s finest composers, and all because his name is in the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds.
Well, of course you know that. But have you ever wondered why we don’t say that Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried and just stop there, but insist on saying that it all happened under Pontius Pilate? If you’re ever going to wonder it, now is as good a time as any, when we have just heard the Passion of Christ according to St Luke. Now as I said last Sunday, in Holy Week we should perhaps preach less and let the story speak for itself. But we must be prepared to listen carefully and hear this story, and part of that preparation is to be aware of what kind of story we are listening to. The Gospel was first proclaimed in a world of myth and legend, where it would have been very easy for the story of Jesus to be presented as another myth. The same temptation is real today. But – despite what you may hear - the gospels do not read like myths, and we do not do well to hear them as myths. From the first, the Church has insisted that it is not a myth, but something that actually happened.
This is why Pilate is named in the Creed: not so that we can blame him for Christ’s suffering – for surely then we would name Judas and Caiaphas too – but simply because his name fixes within a few years the date of the crucifixion. This is not just a curious fact: it is of great importance. There have been plenty of founders of religions who have dates: Mohammed, for example lived from about AD 570 to 632, but he never claimed to be God, and his followers would reject the very idea. Again, the religious literature of the world is full of incarnate deities and gods who came to earth in mortal guise; but they are all in the ever-never of myths and heroes, once-upon-a-time. Christ is unique among gods and men: He is the only dying and reviving God who has a date in history and among the founders and prophets only he is personally God.
In the epistle this morning St Paul wrote that Christ humbled himself to death on the cross and therefore God has highly exalted him above all names. But if we say that without saying when and where it happened it is really nothing but empty air. In human life things do not happen unless they happen somewhere, sometime, and to someone. It does little good to keep insisting that you love someone if your actions never show it. It is no different for God: St John says, In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
All the rest – our faith and message, our community and our theology – is based on what happened in Jerusalem all those years ago. Although Sunday by Sunday and day by day all through the year we learn from preaching and experience what it means to hold that faith and belong to that community, this week we can come face to face with the history of the Passion of Christ. We do this in the celebration of the mystery as it unfolds in the Upper Room, on the way of the Cross, and in the Tomb cut from the Rock. Come and enter into it in the confidence that what we remember and celebrate are events that happened when God came into our lives in the days of Pontius Pilate.
Note: The Prefects of Judea were: Coponius (6-8), M. Ambivius (9-12), Annius Rufus (12-15); Valerius Gratus (15-26); Pontius Pilate (26-36); 37 (Marullus); Herennius Capito (37-41); from 41-44 Judea passed into the rule of Herod Agrippa I, after whose death it was under the Procurator of Palestine. (All dates CE)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Satisfaction in Print

Five copies of the new issue of Anglican and Episcopal History arrived in the mail today. After about a year "Hampton Court Again, The Millenary Petition and the Calling of the Conference", the article adapted from the first chapter of my ThD thesis, has been published, and here it is in print.
Most of my friends will be happy to hear this, I think; but some might wonder why I should make a fuss about it. After all, these days anyone can publish their ideas in a minute fraction of the time, and for a far wider potential audience. That is true, and this very blog post proves it.
But I won't get the same satisfaction from clicking the key and "publishing" this post as I do from looking at the purple academic journal on my desk. The article in that journal as been through anonymous review and rather a tough editing process (any remaining problems are my fault); its presence means that other people have looked at my work and accepted it as worth saying, whether they agree with it or not. And that's something I can't say about something I might just post on the old blog.

Good Friday

An item appeared on the Anglican Communion News Service today, announcing that "Anglicans world-wide mark Holy Week and Easter". One might have expected it to be newsworthy if they didn't, but let that pass. This item included comments on the days and liturgies of Holy Week. Under Good Friday came the remark: “One wonders why it's called Good Friday when it commemorates a very dark day, indeed. The name comes from "God's Friday," and on God's Friday, we commemorate the Crucifixion. ~ ACNS4378
This explanation has been around for a while, and is mentioned in the old Catholic Encyclopaedia. Another item on the internet, Where Does the Term "Good Friday" Come From? by Daniel Benedict of the American United Methodist Church attributes it to Professor Laurence Hull Stookey in Calendar: Christ's Time for the Church (p. 96).*
The God’s Friday explanation sounds plausible, and we cannot just dismiss it. However, there is a simpler and (in my opinion) more plausible explanation with better authority. The Oxford English Dictionary cites the use of “Good Friday” as far back as 1290 but makes no mention of “God’s Friday”. It refers to “good” in the sense of “pious, devout, worthy of approbation from the religious point of view”, a usage that can be raced back to Old English. I can find no trace of anyone actually using the expression “God’s Friday”. More succinctly, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (15th Edition) says, “’Good’ here means ‘holy’.
The problem with the "God's Friday" explanation is that it sounds like a way to avoid facing the fact that awful as it was, the crucifixion was a good thing, indeed, the lifting up of the Son of Man to draw all unto himself.