Friday, September 26, 2008

Lectionary Notes

Thoughts on the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 26, Year A
September 28, AD 2008
Dear Readers,
This week has been one of business and distractions, and not at all conducive to study and reflection on the readings for the coming Sunday. Nonetheless, here are some observations as we enter the weekend.
The Sentence
“My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them and they follow me” is taken from St John 10.27; the Roman Missal uses the same sentence for this Sunday’s Alleulia verse. The sentence gives no particular emphasis to a theme for the day; rather it invites us to hear the voice of Christ in the Holy Gospel.
The Collect
is also found in the American Book of Common Prayer on Proper 16, the Sunday nearest August 24. It emphasises that the unity of the Church comes as we are gathered in the Holy Spirit, and suggests that as far as we do not share that unity we will not show forth God’s power among all peoples.
The Readings

The First Reading
In Exodus 17.1-7 we continue to follow the people of Israel as they journey towards their encounter with the Lord at Mount Sinai. This reading is omitted at St Matthias because of the Intergenerational Service this Sunday. Since we keep the Feast of the Dedication on October 5th, we shall also miss the reading from Exodus 20, which tells the story of the Theophany at Sinai. It might be helpful to read thse two passages on your own, so that you can stay in touch with the lectionary.
Some things to be noted:
In verse 1 we are told that Israel journeyed “by stages”, that is, from camp to camp. A more detailed narrative is found in Chapter 33 of the Biik of Numbers.
The motif of water from the stricken rock is also found in Numbers 20.2-13. In later legend this rock was said to have followed the Israelites on their journeys. St Paul refers to this legend in 1 Corinthians 10.4, where also speaks of the rock as a type of Christ.
Although I am not always happy with the New Revised Standard Version, I must give them credit for using “Israelites” where the literal meaning is “sons” or “children of Israel”. It is generally thought better to avoid “sons” in modern English; and while “children” is inclusive it has other drawbacks. But the ending “–ite” signifies “one belonging to”, and in the plural “the people of” so that Israelite avoids the problem of exclusivity while nicely capturing the sense of the original.
Although Psalm 78 is chosen as the reflection on this readng in today’s mass, and the Roma Missal uses selections from Psalm 25, the classic link is to Psalm 95.8-11, which also ties in Numbers 20.1-13 and Numbers 14.33. This is all brought into sevice of the Christian religion in the reflection in the third chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews.
The Psalm
Psalm, 78.1-4, 12-16, like Psalms 105, 106, 135, and 136, simply recites the history of God’s dealings with Israel. 78 puts a particular emphasis on the disobedience and ingratitudeof the people. Verses 12-53 record God’s care for his people during the Exodus and the wandering jn the wilderness, and the section chosen for today reflects particularly oin the incident at the Rock of Horeb. .
The Epistle
Philippians 2.1-13. Writing from prison, St Paul urges the Christians at Philippi in Macedonia to be of one mind, the mind of Christ, following his way of humility. We are more accustomed to hearing he central part of this reading at Christmastide and Passiontide, for it is the grat hymn of Christ’s self giving in the Incarnation and Passion, and of God’s triumphant Yes! to all he did in te Resurrection and Ascension. When we read it in this season of the “ordinary Sundays” perhaps we can look more at ourselves, seeking to find the humility of spirit without which we can never have true unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As is often pointed out, verses 6 to 11 are considered to be an ancient Christian hymn. The reasons for this are set out in RCL “Clippings” [see]
In the first verse the words translated “any compassion and sympathy” are literally, “any bowels and mercies” This is our friend σπλάγχνα again, compassion in the very lteral sense of feeling the other person’s condition in your guts. In the Elizabethan Book of Homilies, the econd part of the Homily against Contention comments on this verse:

Who is he that hath any bowels of pity, that will not be moved with these words so pithy? Whose heart is so stony that the sword of these words, which may be more sharp than any two edged sword, may not cut an break asunder? Wherefore, let us endeavour to fulfil St Paul’s joy here in this place, which shall be at length our great joy in another place.

The Holy Gospel
Matthew 21.23-32 is in two parts. The Gospel passage for today in the Roman Missal is only the second part, the parable of the Two Sons.
This week I nothing much to add to the notes on this passage in the RCL Commentary. I do think that the words “the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you” deserve to be stressed. I suspect that some people read this correctly but are thinking instead of you. The phrase can in fact, mean go ahead of you in the sense of “lead the way”. It would do no violence to the text to read it as “the tax collectors and prostitutes will lead you into the kingdom.” There’s something to meditate on this week!

Tomorrow is the Feast of St Michael and All Angels. Don’t forget the goose.

Thursday, September 25, 2008



It is an axiom of all teachers of arcane wisdom, many proponents of conspiracy theories, some semioticians, and the mysterious stranger who is unaccountably eager to guide you on your quest, that there are no coincidences. I am almost sorry to say that I think there really are coincidences, but I also think that if some cabal were secretly ruling the world things would be done more efficiently. Not better than they are now, and probably far worse, just more efficiently: things as they go on now look exactly as I'd expect from the normal muddle of human beings going about their business without much effective direction.
Now just before you go off on your quest without me, I should point out that my position is not to deny all concidences or to claim that it’s all coincidence. Rather, I find coincidence just one more sign of how truly amazing the world is. My position is like the saying of a twentieth-century Archnishop of Canterbury that it was odd; when people start praying, coincidences start happening.
All that said, there is one class of coincidence that makes me wonder. It is what I call the Jeopardy Coincidence. I first heard of this from my Mother and younger brother: they noticed that a name or topic will come up in conversation, and within a matter of days it will also be the subject of a question on Jeopardy. I experience it infrequently, since I usually only watch Jeopardy when I am with my Mother — it is somehow more fun that way. It happened to me today, in what I thought was a striking combination of coincidence.

Last Wednesday I was in the college library before Evensong looking for something to read. I happened upon a book I have been meaning to read for the past few decades, but never got around to, The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins. I took it out and read it over the week end, enjoying it very much. I should probably add that I mentioned to my Mother in my weekly ‘phone call that I was reading The Moonstone.
This evening, just before dinner, I looked at the television listings to see what might be on. I have watched very little television in recent months and never turn the machine on unless I know there’s something I want to watch. I discovered not only that the CBC was to air at 9 p.m. a documentary on Champlain , but that they were now showing Jeopardy. Realizing that I hadn’t seen Jeopardy in six months, if not longer, I decided to watch it tonight. One of the categories of questions was Writers’ Middle Names, and in it one of the “answers” was the middle name of William Collins, the author of The Moonstone. The contestant got it right, I believe (though it might be objected that since Collins is usually known by his middle name, the question wasn’t very hard).

That is a chain of coincidences: within a week of my reading a novel I have been putting off for perhaps thirty years, a question about its author comes up on an episode of Jeopardy, on an evening when I have decided to watch that programme for the first time in many months, after weeks when I have not watched any television at all. That is the Jeopardy Coincidence!

I am sure it is just a coincidence, and has no particlar meaning. To think otherwise would be to think that the writers on Jeopardy not only keep track of my reading habits but forecast my television watching. And that would be silly: even if they could know those things, why should they bother? And if they had that kind of power and wasted on contriving trite coincidences I might get angry. I didn't think any of that at the time, I just thought the coincidence was pretty neat.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


To find the Sunday or Dominical Letter for Any Year of Grace until 2099, inclusive :

First, assign to each day of the Week a letter from A to G:

A, Sunday; B, Monday; C, Tuesday, D, Wednesday; E, Thursday;

F, Friday; G. Saturday

Then, add to the Year its Fourth Part, omitting Fractions, and also the Number 6.[1] Divide the Sum by 7, and if there is no Remainder. then A is the Sunday Letter, but if any Number remains, the Letter that stands next to it in the Table below, is the Sunday Letter

6 B

5 C

4 D

3 E

2 F

1 G

0 A

Example : To find the Sunday or Domincal Letter for AD 2009
2009 divided by 4 = 502
502 + 6 = 508
508 divided by 7 = 72 remainder 4
4 = D
The Dominical Letter for AD 2009 is D; January 1 will be Thursday.

¶ In Bissextile or Leap Years, two Dominical Letters are assigned. The first is used for January and February, and the second thereafter. So, the Dominical Letters for 2008 were FE.

I had hoped to include a Table to find the Weekday of any date in the Year, but this blog apparently does not permit the format of such a Table. Likewise it has proved impossible to include the Calculations for finding the Date of Easter Day. [Incidentally, Easter will fall on April 12th in 2009.] For this reason the method of calculating the Golden Number is also not included. If a way is found, these shall appear. In the meantime, if you are interested in knowing these things, please inquire by comment at this blog.

[1] For Years from 2100 to 2199 add the number 5; from 2200 to 2299 add 4; from 2300 to 2499 add 3; from 2500 to 2599 add 2; from 2600 to 2699 add 1; from 2700 to 2899 add 0, and so on.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Word Play

Confer and Collate; Refer and Relate: The Doublets derived from FERO.

It is one of the strange facts of ecclesiastical life that the ceremony in which an Archdeacon in admitted to office is called Collation. Many people I know find this funny: they say that they picture the poor minor prelate folded and stapled When we have all laughed uproriously at this highly original joke, and made a few light references to snacks, it is time to explain that collate is simply a form of confer, which is from the Latin con+fero. The basic verb "fero", like our English "go", takes some of its tenses from a different verb, Its prinicpal parts are:

Fero, ferre, tullī, lātum

Fero is one of the basic elemental verbs. It means "to bear", "to carry" "to put up with" and so on. Its root, FER-, is found in words in Sanskrit and Greek and German and English. When a proposition is added to the simple verb, the meaning is changed in all sorts of of ways.

Te return to Collation. Because the officials of the Church in the Middle Ages were generally good latinistis, and knew that the way to say "conferred" in Latin was "colllatum est", they called the act of conferring a collation. Thus we have two words derived from the single Latin conferre, or better, two groups of words, a group that has grown out of confer and a smaller group that has grown out of collate.

What is interesting is that English has several of these double derivations, as may be seen from the following.

Circum-fero means to bear around; from the present tense English derived an obsolete "circumfer", from which the word circumference was formed; from the past participle came the obsolete "circumlate"[1] meaning to carry or bring something around. Other words, also now osolete, were formed (such as circulatory).

Con-ferō means bring together, collect, contribute, compare, consult. and so on; its present tense gives us confer in its varied meanings, but from the past participle we form collate, which has a richer set of meanings than you might imagine.

De-ferō, bring away, gives us defer and such polite ideas as deference, and delate with the less pleasant role of the delator and his delations.

From the present of Ex-ferō (efferō), to carry out, lift us, comes an obsolte "effer", (and a term in physics, "efferent", for that whoch discharges outward) but the participle gives us elate to lift up, and of course elation.

In-ferō means to bring in, introduce; its present gives us infer which is so often confused with "imply", whole the obsolete verb "illate" from the participle gives us words still active in philosophy such as illative and illation. (Without implying that any might not know this, I'll just repeat that "illative" and the rest are formed from "inlative".)

Ob-ferō (offerō) meaning bring before, present, and the like, gives us offer, but when we speak of what was offered, we go to the participle and speak of the oblata, oblate, and oblation.[2]

Prae-ferō means to bear before or place before; from the present we get prefer; in the church to be preferred meant to be given a job (called a preferment) and whe they needed a word for someone who had been so preferred, prelate was there at hand in the participle. [3] From there we get prelacy, word given to all those prelated, usually by the folk who hadn't got preferment,

Pro-ferō, carry out gives us the obsolete "profer" and rare "prolate". BUT pro-offerō (proffero) gives us proffer. For the differences here, check the OED.

Re-ferō gives refer from the present, and so referrent, referral, reference, and so on; the participle gives us relate, relations, relational, relative, relatives, and relativity.

Sub-ferō (sufferō) means, to take up, submit to, undergo, bear, endure, suffer. From the present tense we get suffer, and from the participle sublate. The use of "suffer" to mean permit or allow seems to be much later than classical Latin. In the famous words "suffer the little children to come unto me", the word used in the Vulgate is not a form of suffere, but of sinere, to let, permit.

Trans-ferō fnally, gives us transfer and translate, which is all the -fer and -late words I can think of, and probably enough for today.

[1] Circulate, however, is from circulāre
[2] The obsolete oblatrant “railing or carping at”, is not connected to these words, being derived from ob and latrāre, ‘to bark”. It is apparently a coincidence that latrō, ‘bark” should be the same as latrō, -ōnis, ‘a robber’; the latter is from a root meaning ‘gain’, whence we also have got the word “lucre”.
[3] An obsolete word “postferment” is cited from T. Fuller’s Worthies of England, but is explained as a having been formed from Eng. “preferment” and not from the Lat. post-ferō, “put after”. We apparently have no derivative from the ppl. of postferō.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lectionary Notes

Proper 25, Year A
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
21 September, 2008

Please note: I have tried to avoid getting bogged down in great detail by referring to the RCL Commentary [there is a link in the left-hand margin of this page]. When using this site, it is helpful to look at the section entitled “Clippings” for each reading as well as the “Comments”.

The Sentence:
You will note that the BAS does not refer this sentence, Open our hearts, O Lord, to hear what is said by your Son, to any passage of scripture. In the Roman Missal, where this sentence is set as the Alleluia verse for this Sunday, it is referred to Acts 16.14: “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul.” This week the sentence does not serve to set a tone for the day, as it often does; so much as to be a prayer that we may hear the Gospel attentively, remembering that it is the word of Christ.

The Collect
I have not found this collect elsewhere; it may be a new composition. The heart of this collect, the prayer that we we may serve God with reverence and thanksgiving is fitting as we read of the murmuring in the camp of the Israelites and the murmuring of the labourers in our Lord’s parable. It is also a good prayer for personal use, since the best medicine for despndency and grumbling is to remember the good things God has done and is doing for you.
Those who are grumbling about their lot find it more than a bit annoying to be told to “count your blessings.” It sounds so dreadfully naïve. However, being thankful for the many good things God has done is not just a way of cosmetic to cover over the bad things that happen and hide them; it is one of the best ways of rousing yourself to do something about those problems. One of the usual symptoms of a fit of the grumbles is lethargy, and in extreme cases, just giving up (Oh, what’s the use?) But to face reality means taking the good as well as the bad, and this is a wonderful tonic. Of course the best thing is not to wait for a fit of the grumbles, but to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness when things are going well. A very good practice is to say, whenever something good happens, “Why me?” Pretty soon you could be saying “why do these things always happen to me?”

The Readings
Of the many lessons we can learn from the readings for today, the one that is most useful for daily Christian (and human) living is that grumbling or complaining is an important element in both the first reading and the Gospel. We mght be tempted to scorn the early Israelites for grumbling so soon after God had delivered them from slavery; al lthat need be said is "Look to yourself!"
First reading: Exodus 16.2-15. Israel in the Wilderness: the Quail and the Manna

No sooner were the Israelites saved from Egypt than they found themseves in the wilderness of Sinai and started complaining. At Marah the water was bitter, and they murmured against Moses, “What shall we drink” [Exodus 15.24]. God made the water drinkable. God promised that if they obeyed his word and kept his statutes, he would protect them from the diseases that had fallen on the Egyptians. They journeyed through the oasis at Elim and came into the wilderness of Sin [16.1], probably on the peninsula of Sinai. In verse 1 it says that they entered the wilderness on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from Egypt. on the fifteenth day The Rabbinic commentaries say that this is stated because on that day the cakes of unleavened bread that they had taken out of Egypt were depleted, and they needed manna. So the scene is set for the first crisis in the wilderness.
As Moses led the people of Israel into the wilderness of Sinai they began to complain. At Marah the water was bitter, and they murmured against Moses, “What shall we drink” [Exodus 15.24]. God made the water drinkable. God promised that if they obeyed his word and kept his statutes, he would protect them from the diseases that had fallen on the Egyptians. They journeyed through the oasis at Elim and came into the wilderness of Sin [16.1], probably on the peninsula of Sinai. In verse 1 it says that they entered the wilderness on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from Egypt. on the fifteenth day. Rabbinic commentaries say that this is stated because on that day the cakes of unleavened bread that they had taken out of Egypt were depleted. So the scene is set for the first crisis in the wilderness.
When the food supplies were running out the Israelite remembered that food had been plentiful in Egypt, and the memory of well-fed slavery seemed better than the uncertainty of the wilderness. It wasn’t all that bad, barring the slavery. “What was the point of bringing us out here?” they ask Moses, “Did you want to kill us? It would have been better to die as slaves than to starve in the desert.” God hears their complaining and tells Moses that he will give them their fill of bread. This in not only a gift, but a test. he will only given them food sufficient for one day at a time. Will they trust him or will they try to hoard the food, and try to ensure their future survival on their terms rather than God’s? We should remember this passage as we pray each day for our daily bread, not the entire bakery.
The details of this passage are well noted in the RCL Commentary, and do not need to be repeated here.
This manna in the desert is also an example of typology. the Catholic Encyclopaedia notes,
Christ uses the manna as the type and symbol of the Eucharistic food, which is true "bread from heaven":, and "bread of life", i.e., life-giving bread, in a far higher sense than the manna of old (John 6). St. Paul in calling the manna "spiritual food" (1 Corinthians 10:3), alludes to its symbolical significance with regard to the Eucharist as much as to its miraculous character. Hence the manna has always been a common Eucharistic symbol in Christian art and liturgy. In Revelation, ii, 17 [cf Ps 78.23-25], the manna stands as the symbol of the happiness of heaven.

The Psalm: 105 1-6, 37-45: The Story of God’s great deeds on behalf of his people (compare Ps 78).

This psalm, now paired with Ps 106 is thought to have been written to be used at a major festival; it is a recital of the foundational events in the life of the nation of Israel. Its mood of grateful recollection is reflected in the Collect for today. It is remarkable that among the events recounted the giving of the law or any of the other events at Sinai are not included. This psalm and psalm 106 at sone point in their history were provided with the ritual shout Hallelujah! (Praise the Lord!) at the beginning and end. Verses 1-6 are a hymn-like introduction summoning the congregation to praise and thanksgiving. Selections from this psalm are used on Proper 17, 19, and 22 as reflections on the events recorded in the first readings. We can use this psalm in our daily prayer as a sing iof thanksgiving, which helos to build up the habit, and is a medicine against grumbing. The psalm in the Roman Missal for this Sunday is Ps 145.2-3, 8—9,18-19, with v 19a as a refrain.

The Epistle: Philippians 1,21-30

It was at the city of Philippi in Macedonia, that Paul established his first congregation on European soil (Acts 16.11-15); it seems that he always had close and happy relations with that church. Although it is clear from this letter that Paul is in prison and awaiting trial, we cannot say certainly where or when the letter to the Philippians was written. Most scholars take the references to the praetorian guard and to Caesar’s household [1.13, 4.22], as well as similarities to the situation described at the end of the Book of Acts as reflecting the period of Paul’s imprisonment at Rome (about AD 61-63) [New Oxford Annotated Bible]. Paul is under military guard [1.12]; and now all the members of the local headquarters know why he is there, and so have alt least heard the name of Christ. He is writing at this time because Epaphroditus (2.25-29), who had brought a gift from Philippi was returning home, giving Paul the opportunity to thank the Philippians, let them know his state of mind, and give them needed instructions.
The opening of the letter is not included in the Sunday readings, and we begin rather in the middle of a train of thought. After the usual formula of greeting [1.1-2], and prayer of thanksgiving [1.3-11], Paul assures the Philippians that his arrest “has really served to advance the gospel: for all know that his imprisonment is for Christ, and the brethren have found it an encouragement to speak the word of the Lord [1.12-14]. Some, he says, “preach from envy and rivalry, bit others from good will”. That some Christians were suspicious of Paul may be seen in Galatians and the letters to the Corinthians. But, he says, he rejoices that Christ is preached. And he will rejoice, for whether his present state ends in deliverance or in death, he expects and hopes that he will not be ashamed, “but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honoured in my body, whether by life or by death”; it is here that the reading for today begins.
This passage has two parts: the first [21-26] is the conclusion of Paul’s thoughts as he ponders living and dying in Christ, the second [28-30] is an exhortation to the community to live in steadfast unity.
Detailed notes may be found at the RCL Commentary. I will only add here a quibble on their note on v.23, where St Paul writes “my desire is to depart and to be with Christ,” where “depart” is explained: “The word simply means die. There is no implication of separation of the soul from the burden of the body. [NJBC].” The word, ἀναλύω (analuo), does not “simply” mean die, whatever the usage was. There were words that “simply” meant die. In the sense of die analuo is a metaphor and thus is saying something about death. It simply means “to loose, dissolve” — from it we get our word “analyze”— it has an intransitive sense of “to loose” in order to departure, and thus “to depart”, and metaphorically to depart from this life. It is noteworthy that St Jerome used the Latin word “dissolvere,” which would suggest that the Greek word was not a dead metaphor. I would agree that “dissolve” says nothing about the soul being separated from the burden of the body, but I would suggest that it depicts death as the dissolution of the constituent parts of a human being whatever they may be.

The Holy Gospel according to St Matthew 20.1-16: The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard.

This parable, as Archbishop Trench pointed out, has almost as many different interpretations as the parable of the Unjust Steward. Trench argues that the parable can only be understood in the context of the four concluding verses of Chapter 19, and in particular 19:39. In our lectionary Matthew 19 is entirely omitted from the course of the Sunday Gospels of Year A, although the the parallel chapter, Mark 10 is read on Propers 27 and 28 of Year B.
Matthew 19 ends with the words “But many that are first will be last, and the last first”, which is mirrored in 20.16 “So the last will be first and the first last”. This supports the idea that the Lord’s intention in this parable was to establish the truth of this saying There are many that are first that shall be last, and last first. Others point out that such a reversal of things is quite missing from the parable itself, for all the labourers receive precisely the same wage, and are all made equal.
It should also be noted that this parable is only found in Matthew, which suggests that he had some sources of information not known to, or not used by, the other Synoptists. It also raises the question of how closely this parable is tied to the end of Chapter 19, if it does not follow the same material in the parallels.
Again I would refer you to the RCL Commentary for detailed notes .
The first reading today would suggest that the grumbling of the labourers should be noted as we read this Gospel passage. The labourers have been identified differently by different commentators. I suggest that the most useful way of thinking about it is to cast yourself in the rôle of the ones hired in the early morning and hear it that way.
An ancient writer known as the Pseudo-Chrysostom said to his congregation “Know then that we are the hired laborers,” and went on:.

But as no man gives wages to a laborer, to the end he should do nothing save only to eat, so likewise we were not thereto called by Christ, that we should labor such things only as pertain to our own good, but to the glory of God. And like as the hired laborer looks first to his task, and after to his daily food, so ought we to mind first those things which concern the glory of God, then those which concern our own profit. Also as the hired laborer occupies the whole day in his Lord's work, and takes but a single hour for his own meal; so ought we to occupy our whole life in the glory of God, taking but a very small portion of it for the uses of this world. And as the hired laborer when he has done no work is ashamed that day to enter the house, and ask his food; how should not you be ashamed to enter the church, and stand before the face of God, when you have done nothing good in the sight of God?

Perhaps a verse that can be used for meditation is "Are you envious because I am generous?" If envy does not plague us now, pondering on these words can help build our defense against it in time to come.

Note: The Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist is not observed today, but is transferred to tomorrow.

Coming up on September 29th is the Feast of St Michael and All Angels, commonly known as Michaelmas. It is not too early to recall the traditional proverb:

Who eats goose on Michael’s Day, Shan’t money lack his debts to pay.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

While Looking for Something Else

Hissing in the House.'
From time to time the behaviour of Members of Parliament is condemned as too rowdy and rude. I can remember hearing of such complaints as long as I can remember hearing of Parliament, and it has often been said that the behaviour grew worse after the Commons' sittings began to be televised. I haven't heard much recently, but problems like this seem to go on and on; is it useless to appeal for better behaviour?
Perhaps not; while I was looking for something else in the Journals of the House of Commons from the Parliament of 1604, I happened upon a most indignant motion:
Mr. Hext moveth against Hissing in the House; as not beseeming the Gravity of the Assembly, derogating from the Dignity of it, and from the Privileges, more than any other Abuse whatsoever.*
It must have worked. I can't recall any recent complaints about hissing in the house. But was hissing really worse than any other abuse?
*From: 'House of Commons Journal Volume 1: 26 March 1604 (2nd scribe)', Journal of the House of Commons: volume 1: 1547-1629 (1802). URL: Date accessed: 16 September 2008.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lectionary Notes

Some Thoughts on the Propers for Holy Cross Day
Sunday, September 12, 2008

The Sentence is Galatians 6.14, “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”; in the Roman Rite this verse is not used as the alleluia but as the entrance antiphon; the verse “We adore you O Christ and we bless you, because by your cross you have redeemed the world,” which we are familiar with from the Stations of the Cross, is used for the alleluia. The stretch between “glorying in” the Cross of Jesus and “exalting” the cross is probably not too great to allow us to see this verse as a very fitting statement of the theme of today’s festival, the Exaltation or Triumph of the Cross. However, it is good to remember that in Galatians Saint Paul goes on to say “by which (or “through whom”) the world has been crucified to me and I to the world, and remember that we are called not only to exalt and glory in the Cross on which Christ was exalted and by which Christ triumphed over evil, but to take it up, to carry it, and to live it.

The Collect is the same as the collect in the American Prayer Book. The Canadian Book of Common Prayer 1962 provides a different collect “Of Holy Cross Day” (p. 231). In declaring that Christ was “lifted high” [exaltatus est] to draw the world to himself this collect strikes the tone for the day reflects both the words of Christ in the Gospel for today and its foreshadowing in the first reading and the old name of the Feast, the Exaltation of the Cross.

The Readings
The First Reading, Numbers 21.4b-9.
In the legends that grew up in Christian tradition, the Tree of the Cross was identified with the Tree of the Fall. The bronze serpent lifted up by Moses in the wilderness to heal the people of Israel was identified by Jesus as a type of the lifting up of the Son of man on the Cross. This sort of identification is known as “typology”.
Typology is an extremely important concept in biblical interpretation. A type may be defined as
An impression, image or representation of some model which is termed the anti-type; in this sense we often use the word to denote the prefiguration of the great events of our redemption by persons or things in the Old Testament. Thus the brazen serpent and the paschal lamb were types of which our Lord was the antitype.
We would do well to take a moment to consider that the concept of type is vital for understanding the unity of Scripture. To put this another way, One saving act is a type of another because it is the one and only God who is revealed to us and whose saving acts are recorded in the Scriptures. (Once again we see how vital is the question of whether we really believe that God acts). It is only natural that some events, &c., prefigure or foreshadow others. The type, however, is not merely a symbol; it has its own reality and exostence as a saving and revealing act. So the intended sacrifice of Isaac would have happened and been a revelation of God to Abraham, even if God had not also meant it to be a type of the saving death and resurrection of Christ. Again, the crossing of the Red Sea is a type of baptism, but only because it was the real salvation of Israel from Egypt and the first step on the journey to the promised land.
Jesus’ words in the Gospel for today are a foundation of the concept of type. For other passages in the New Testament that bear on the idea, see Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 10:6; Hebrews 8:5; Galatians 4:24; Hebrews 9:9, 9:24; 1 Peter 3:21.
In the text we may note that the “fiery serpents” were probably so called not because they were little dragons but because of the burning caused by their venom. But that serpents were sent to punish the people for gruimbling is itself of interest. On Holy Cross Day We cannot avoid linking the fiery serpents with the serpent in the garden of Eden, and remembering the prophecy there of enmity between the serpent and the woman’s offspring. Interestingly enough in the commentaries of Rashi we find it said: ”Let the snake, which was smitten for speaking evil to Eve; come and punish those who spread slander about the manna”. Would some say this is too fanciful a connection for building doctrine? Perhaps but hardly too fanciful to lead us into deeper meditations on Scripture. As we are often reminded, there are no coincidences.
This account also shows the links in culture and ritual between the people of Israel and the peoples around the, such as Midian and Egypt. There are notes on these points in the RCL Commentary.

Psalm 98.1-6.
The Roman Missal appoints verses from Psalm 78; coments on this selection may be found in the RCL notes {see the link to this site on the left].
The New Oxford Annotated Bible describes this psalm as a “Hymn proclaiming the future establishment of God’s Kingship on the earth.”
Verse 1: summons to worshp, calling on the people to praise the Lord for his faithful love to them. It must be noted that although the verbs are all in a past tense, their reference is the future. The same poetic usage is found in Psalm 76.3. See also Psalms 46, 47, and 48.
Verses 2-4 declare the Lord’s triumph over all the forces that oppose him.
Verses 5-10 summon all nations [5-7] and the physical world itself [8-10] to join in singing God’s praises.
It is not clear to me why the selection ends at verse 6; a more natural cut would be at the end of verse 7.
We should probably look for the reason this Psalm was chosen for Holy Cross Day in the call for a new song, since the marvellous thing we celebrate is a new one. The Lord’s victory is declared not in the defeat of his enemies but in the his death on the Cross. Indeed, one might spend time pondering the new meaning this gives to the words “With his right hand and his holy arm, has he won for himself the victory”, for he won the victory in stretching out his arms on the Cross.

The Epistle: 1 Corinthians 1.18-24
In the preceding section Paul has written against divisions (schismata) in the community at Corinth; he had heard that they had fallen into factions, some claiming to be “of Paul”, some “of Apollos”, others “of Cephas”, and still others to be “of Christ”. This seems to have had to do with the one who baptized them, for Paul declares proudly that he baptized few, and that Christ had not sent him “to baptize but to proclaim the Good News, not in the wisdom of words, lest the Cross of Christ be emptied [of its power]. Now he goes on to proclaim that his preaching (ond ours) is the Good News of the Cross of Christ.
It is a mystery to me why this selection ends at verse 24, when it would seem most natural to continue on to verse 25: “For the foolshness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” It is after this verse that our modern translations make a pararaph division.
The quotation in verse 19 is from Isaiah 29.14b; as is noted in the RCL Commentary, this is from Isaiah’s account of a time when Israel was threatened by Assyria. “The king’s counsellor (a “wise” man, one versed in popular philosophy) advised alliance with Egypt, but Isaiah told the king to do nothing but trust in the Lord: God would save Israel and bring to nothing the ‘wisdom of the wise’ and the ‘discernment’ (intelligence) ‘of the discerning’”. see also 1 Corinthians 3.19, which quotes Job 5.13: “He takes the wise in their own craftiness; and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end.”
Verse 21 echoes the words of Jesus in Matthew 11.25.
On verse 22, see Matthew 12.38, 16.1-4, John 2.18, 6.30 [signs] and Acts 7.16-21 [wisdom].
On the foolishness of proclaiming the Cross, see the rest of 1 Corinthians 1 and 2.1-13.
The contrast between the wisdom of the world and the foolishness of God is not something that we can just apply to our actions as if it were a ready rule of thumb. We are not necessarily called to live by the foolishness of this world! We mst learn God's way through our daily experience of trying to take up our cross and follow Christ. It is only in this experiecne that we can come to recognize in it that God's "foolishness" is wiser than the wisdom of the world. Once again, the key will be found in St Paul's words, "be transformed by the renewal of your minds".

The Holy Gospel, John 3.13-17
It is sometimes necessary to be reminded that quotation marks were not used by ancient writers, and must be added by modern editors. Indeed, quotation marks were not used in the Authorized or King James Version of 1611. While in most cases it is clear enough where a quotation ends, there are pasages where scholars differ. Today’s Gospel reading is one such case. It is taken from the account of the Pharisee Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night (John 2.1-21). Some interpreters hold that the whole of verses 10 to 21 is meant to be read as the words of Jesus; others that the quotation concludes at verse 15, and read the following words as the narrator’s reflection. It is interesting that the RSV closes the quotation at v.15, whle the NRSV closes it at v.21! See further the note on this in the RCL Commentary.
The passage proclaims that the salvation offered by God to the world is in Christ crucified, that is, the living, risen Christ who was crucified. We who believe are to preach Christ to the world and show him forth in our lives.
What else?
To conclude, here is a handful of links from the hundreds of hits for "Holy Cross Day" in a Google search:, a sermon on Holy Cross Day in 2003 by The Rev. Harold Shepherd, preached at St David’s, Donlands, in Toronto. A lectionary resource from the Episcopal Church. That’s Trinity Church, Dublin, Texas, by the way.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Holy Cross Day
Notes on the Feast
Holy Cross Day is one of the nine feasts appointed on fixed days in the alternative Calendar of the Anglican Church of Canada that takes precedence of a Sunday. In this, our Church has restored it to the importance it held in the English Church before the Reformation. A proper collect was provided in the Canadian Prayer Book of 1962, but the feast itself remained a black-letter day. Here are some notes on the history of the feast; notes on the Propers will follow (God willing) before the Weekend.
The feast is known in the Roman Church as the Triumph of the Cross, which renders the Latin Exaltatio Sanctae Crucis. The rich significance of the title Exaltation of the Cross is seen in the readings, which centre on the word play of "lifted up" and "exalted". "As Moses lifted up (exaltavit) the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up (exaltari), that every one who believes in him may have eternal life" [Jn 3.14-15]. Though death seems to be a defeat, yet in being lifted up on the Cross, the Lord Christ is exalted. If we exalt the Cross on this day, it is so that we may in faith look unto the one lifted up thereon, and be healed.
This, or the other feast of the Cross in May (see below), has also been familiarly known as "Crouchmas" or "Crowchemesse Day", crouch being an old variant of the word "cross" (from crux, crucis). I daresay it is too late to be sending out our Chrouchmass Cards. Perhaps next year?
Some History
The festival of the Cross on the fourteenth of September commemorates the dedication of the complex of churches built in Jerusalem by order of Constantine the Great on the sites of Golgotha and the Holy Sepulchre [The Anastasia or Church of the Resurrection, known the the West as The Church of the Holy Sepulchre] dedicsted with great festivity about this date in the year AD 335. The feast of the dedication was kept anually thereafter. Connected with the erection of the basilica was the story that Helena, the emperor’s mother, whom he had charged with seeing to the building of the basilica at Jerusalem, had discovered the true cross buried at the site. [For further reading, see the Catholic Encyclopaedia:]
The celebration on September 14 was imitated in other places, and particularly at Rome by the end of the seventh century. Relics of the cross were also brought to various places, particularly the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome. In AD 615 the armies of Persia under King Chosroes II took the relic of the Cross from Jerusalem; it was recovered and restored by the Emperor Heraclius in 629.
Now the churches of Gaul at that time seem to have been unaware of the feast on September 14, but celebrated the Cross on May 3 a date that may have been derived from a legend of the finding of the Cross. In latr years the Gallican and Roman liturgies were combined, each of the two feasts was given a different character so that both could be celebrated. The 3rd of May was called the feast of the Invention [finding] of the Cross, and it paticularly commemorated St Helena's discovery of the sacred wood of the Cross; the 14th of September, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, commemorated above all the recovery of the the relics by Heraclius. “Nevertheless,” as the old Catholic Ecyclopaedia puts it, “it appears from the history of the two feasts, which we have just examined, that that of the 13th and 14th of September is the older, and that the commemoration of the Finding of the Cross was at first combined with it.”
A strong devotional reason for this celebration of the Holy Cross in September is given by Stephen Reynolds in For All the Saints (page 278),a nd is worth quoting here:

Jesus was crucified at the time of year when people in the northern hemisphere prepare the earth for planting. But September is harvest, our time for reaping and sharing what the earth, under our care, has brought forth. Just so with our remembrance of the Holy Cross. On Good Friday we recalled its planting in the seedtime of the new creation; and now, on the verge of autumn, we look for Christ, the true Vine which the Cross supported, to bear the fruit of justice and mercy not only in opur own lives but also in the dealings of the world.

The Relics and Legends of the Cross
Satire makes much of the sheer number of purported relics of the Cross, claiming that there are enough for a navy, or at least a great ship. On this point the Catholic Encylopaedia refers to the work of Charles Rohault de Fleury, Mémoire sur les instruments de la Passion (Paris, 1870), which provides a catalogue of known relics of the true cross, and states that Rohault de Fleury
has succeeded in showing that, in spite of what various Protestant or Rationalistic authors have pretended, the fragments of the Cross brought together again would not only not "be comparable in bulk to a battleship", but would not reach one-third that of a cross which has been supposed to have been three or four metres in height, with transverse branch of two metres (see above; under I), proportions not at all abnormal (op. cit., 97-179). Here is the calculation of this savant: Supposing the Cross to have been of pine-wood, as is believed by the savants who have made a special study of the subject, and giving it a weight of about seventy-five kilograms, we find that the volume of this cross was 178,000,000 cubic millimetres. Now the total known volume of the True Cross, according to the finding of M. Rohault de Fleury, amounts to above 4,000 000 cubic millimetres, allowing the missing part to be as big as we will, the lost parts or the parts the existence of which has been overlooked, we still find ourselves far short of 178,000,000 cubic millimetres, which should make up the True Cross.”
For the Legend of the True Cross, see the homily for Good Friday, which is posted at my sermon blog, Sermonets for Christianets, on June 16 of this year. There should be a link over on the left somewhere.
On Holy Cross Day we should remember in our prayers the Order of the Holy Cross, an Anglican Monastic Order, and in particular Holy Cross Priory in Toronto and the work of those brothers.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Some Thoughts on the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost,
Proper XXIII, Year A,
September 7, 2008

To the Reader

Now that my summer stint of covering parishes on Sundays is ended, and I don't have to prepare a sermon every week, I may not always comment on all the readings as fully every week, but note what strikes me the most as I read through them in devotional preparation for Sunday. I hope that they will continue to be of interest.

The Sentence for this Sunday, which we use as the Gospel Acclamation is from the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 5.19: God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and he has entrusted us with the message of reconciliation. This is also the Alleluia in the Roman Missal for this Sunday, the 23rd in Ordinary time. It is useful to keep this verse in mind as we read and hear the Gospel for today, which speaks of correction of individual behaviour in the Christian community.

The Collect.

This is the Collect for the Sunday Next Before Advent in the Prayer Book. That Sunday has been replaced in the new lectionary by the feast of the Reign of Christ. There are only slight changes in the new version. Here the words “we beseech thee” have been omitted, which makes “stir up” sound as if we were commanding God rather than praying. The alteration of “plenteously” to “richly” seems to make little difference, so that one might wonder why the change was made. “Plenteous” may be less commonly used nowadays, but its meaning is perfectly clear.
It is interesting to note that the compilers of the Prayer Book altered the original, which said “they more readily following the fruit of the Divine work,” to “plenteously might bringing forth the fruit of good works”. There is also another old Collect which seems to be a variant of this more fitting for just before Advent: “Stir up, we pray, thy power and come, and what thou hast promised to thy Church work mercifully even to the end of the age.” From this we may conclude that altering traditional forms did not begin with the BAS!

The Readings

The First Reading : Exodus 12.1-14. This is the first reading for Maundy Thursday, and some notes on it may be found in the post for Holy Week. It was chosen for today because the first readings in this part of Year A give highlights of the story of the Exodus. The reading used in the Roman Church today is Ezekiel 33.7-9.

The Psalm, 149, is one of the “Hallelujah Psalms”. “Hallelujah” (alleluia is simply a form of the word more euphonious in Latin and Greek) is a Hebrew word meaning “Praise the Lord”. This is a liturgical song, inviting the congregation of the faithful to praise. The New Oxford Annotated Bible suggests that it was a hymn meant to accompany a festival dance [verse 3], of an apparently war-like character [verses 6-9]. The psalms chosen for the lectionary usually seem to reflect on the first reading: here the judgement on the nations reflects the final plague sent by the Lord against Egypt. One might also note, however, a link between the “binding of the kings in chains” and the promise of the Lord Jesus to his disciples that what they “bind” on earth will be bound in heaven. See also the notes on this Psalm at the RCL site

The Epistle: Romans 13.8-14. It is unfortunate that the first seven verses of this chapter do not appear in the Sunday lectionary. This is a very important passage on the relation of Christians to the civil government of the country in which they live. There are many ideas about government in the air today, about obedience and disobedience, and while Christians in good faith come to different opinions on these matters (and almost always have), it seems unwise simply to adopt a current opinion without taking into account this teaching of St Paul. For example, there are some Christians who claim that taxes are inherently unjust and illegitimate, an opinion which seems to fly in the face of clear Scriptural teaching, especially when we consider that the power St Paul writes about here is that of the Roman Empire under Nero! The comments on this passage in the RCL commentary are well worth reading. However, since these verses are not read in Church, it would be beneficial to provide them here. In this translation I have used some old fashioned forms in order to make it clear where St Paul is writing in the singular and where in the plural.

Let every soul [psyche: AV gives “man”; RSV gives ‘person’] be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power except from God; those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists the powers, resists an establishment of God; and they that resist them, receive judgement for themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works but to bad. Wilt thou not fear the power? Do good, and thou shalt have praise from them; for he is a servant of God to thee for good. But if thou do evil, fear; for he does not bear the sword without a cause; for he is a servant of God, an avenger in wrath on him who does evil. Therefore it is necessary to be subject, not only on account of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. Therefore too you pay taxes; for they are God’s servants, attending to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, honour to whom honour is due.

After making it clear that we are to pay everything that we owe, St Paul begins the next section by reminding the Christians of Rome of the one debt that is never paid: “Owe no one anything, except to love one another: for he who loves his neighbour, has fulfilled the law”. We are to see love of neighbour not as a favour we grant, but as a debt we owe. This might be a surprise to some; in fact it is another element of the Christian life which involves being “transformed by the renewal of our minds”. On the words that love fulfills the law, see Mark 12.31; James. 2.8 John 13.34; 1 John 4.11; Col 3.14;1 Tim 1.5; 1 Corinthians 13. St Paul is here commenting on the words of Jesus, who in turn quoted Leviticus 19.18.
If love is the fulfilling of the law it is the foundation of all Christian conduct. The urgency for Christians to conduct themselves is all the greater because of the imminence of Christ’s coming. Though the time seems to have stretched, the urgency of our calling is no less. We may not know the time [kairos] of Christ’s coming, but we know very well that it is high time to act in love, and follow all these words of St Paul.

The Holy Gospel: St Matthew 18.15-20. This teaching on correction of a fellow Christian is found only in St Matthew, except for an echo in one verse of St Luke: Take heed to yourselves; if you brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17.3). A sizeable body of opinion holds that this passage reflects the later experience and condition of the Christian community rather than the original words of Jesus. Indeed, the passage seems to assume a more established community even if we understand “church” as a local group of believers, as some do.
Some Christians, particularly at the time of the Reformation, have taken this passage as a prescriptive regulation for Church discipline. It is one of the scriptural foundations of the practice of excommunication.
The rule is obviously good, for first one is to try and settle the matter privately, and only when that has failed, to involve other Christians. The need for witnesses is founded on Deuteronomy 19:15, but the Lord Jesus seems to have reduced the minimum requirement to one witness in addition to the plaintiff. Moreover, the goal is clearly the reclamation of the sinner, rather than punishment: if he listens to you you have won him.
The passage concludes with a guarantee, so to speak, the assurance that the decisions of the church have the authority of heaven. Here the words that were spoken to Simon Peter are now addressed to all the disciples.
This passage needs to be read and understood in context, for its context is forgiveness and reconciliation, as the Gospel Acclamation reminds us. It immediately follows the parable of the Lost Sheep (18.10-14) and is itself followed immediately by Peter’s question of how many times he must forgive his brother, to which Jesus says “Seventy times seven” (18.21-22). This is in turn followed by the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (18.23-end). This context should make Christians cautious, thoughtful, and prayerful in applying the rules of `18.15-17.
A further consideration is the meaning of “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector, which is generally taken to mean “an unworthy outsider”, to be expelled from the Church. This interpretation is hard to deny. But as we think about these words, let us simply consider how the Lord Jesus himself treated Gentiles and tax collectors.