Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lectionary Notes

Some Thoughts for the Week of Proper 30 Year A
The XXIV Sunday after Pentecost
October 26, AD 2008
Dear Readers: Last weekend I was somewhat distracted by the joyful celebration of the wedding of my niece, which is why there were no lectionary notes. I hope this was not too inconvenient. Indeed, I wonder if many actually find these notes interesting or useful. Perhaps, if you do, you might let me know. I am happy to provide them if they are of interest.

The Sentence
is adapted from John 14.23, and is also used in the Roman Missal as the Alleluia verse, reminds us that our love of God in Christ issues forth in the keeping of his commandments, just as the love of neighbour is inseparable from the love of God. In meditating on this active love, it is useful to recall words of Fr Huntington, Founder of the Order of the Holy Cross:
Holiness is the brightness of divine love: love must act as light must shine and fire must burn.
~ (A Monastic Breviary, p. 462, 3rd antiphon for the Solemnity of Fr Huntington)

The Collect
reflects the first reading in a vague sort of way, with its reference to the Promised Land, but seems even more apt for Proper 22 (p. 377) when the call of Moses was read. A collect that would seem to fit today’s gospel better might be that for Proper 13 (p. 365).
The Readings
The first reading: Deuteronomy 34.1-12.
In the Roman Missal the reading is Exodus 22.20-26, which more immediately refers to the teachings of the Gospel; our reading continues to follow the general outline of the history of Israel. It is the last chapter not only of Deuteronomy but of the five Books of Moses, the Pentateuch, known as the Torah or Law. This is the first of the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible: Torah, the Law, Nevi’im, the Prophets, and Ketuvim, the Scriptures (hence the word Tanakh. (Note that different English transliterations of these Hebrew words may be found).
In the Land of Moab to the east of the Jordan, the people of Israel are ready to enter the promised land. God takes Moses aside, however, to give him a sight of the land but to die without entering it, because Moses “broke faith” with him when the people demanded water and God provided it (32:48-52, see also Numbers 20:1-13). From the mountain Moses can see all the land, from Dan in the north to the desert of the south, from the Jordan in the east to the western Sea, the Mediterranean.
After this view, Moses, an old man, dies “at the Lord’s command,” which literally means “at the mouth of the Lord, which gave rise to a tradition that Moses died as a result of a divine kiss. Note that the NRSV “He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab ….” is in error; the text says “He buried him”, clearly signifying that the Lord himself buried Moses. Moses’ burial place is unknown. Many traditions and legends grew up around this subject; see Jude 9. One result of it is that there is no danger of worship being accorded to him at his tomb. Joshua, son of Nun, Moses assistant, succeeded to the leadership: Moses had laid hands on him (Numbers 27.18-23)
The last two verses are in praise of Moses.
The fact that this passage reports the death and burial of Moses, posed problems for the traditional belief that Moses himself had written these five books. This tradition goes back centuries, and was largely unquestioned until the Renaissance and modern times. If you are interested in the authorship of the books of Moses, you might begin with the two Wikipedia articles on the subject, and
A good library will also have several one-volume bible commentaries which will have more information on this point. The commentary of Rashi (which may be found on line at the Judaica Press Complete Tanach) notes two rabbinic treatments of thus passage. One is that Moses had written the Torah up to this poiint, and Joshua carried on. Another is that God dictated the description of Moses’ death, and “Moses wrote it in tears”.
Finally, although I have not seen this noted elsewhere, there may be an interesting parallel between God’s showing the whole land to Moses from Mount Pisgah (verse 1) and the devil’s showing all the kingdoms of the world to the Lord Jesus from “a very high mountain” -- in a sort of infernal parody (Matthew 4.8; Luke 4:5).
Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17

Our Psalm for today comprises two sections of a prayer for deliverance from national adversity or “group lament”. The opening six verses are in the form of a hymn that declare God’s eternity and the transience of humanity (compare Isaiah 40.6-8); the final section is a more hopeful prayer that the Lord will deliver from its difficulties. The suggested refrain is “Happy are they who fear the Lord”. Apart from the traditional inscription, The prayer of Moses the man of God, it is not quite clear to me why this psalm was chosen for this Sunday. It may be that the pondering of the brevity and transience of our life is an apt reflection on the death of Moses. Be that as it may, meditation on our own mortality is an imperative duty for all Christians. Note verse 3, in which the psalmist sees death as a return to the dust, that is, the reversal of the creation of human beings from the dust (Genesis 2:7).

A light note

Ambrose Bierce was perhaps not being pointlessly cynical when he suggested in The Devil's Dictionary that RIP (Rest in Peace, Requiescat in pace) really stands for Reductus in pulverem, reduced to dust. [Bierce seems to have given the phrase incorrectly, his definition of RIP is: “A careless abbreviation of requiescat in pace, attesting to indolent goodwill to the dead. According to the learned Dr. Drigge, however, the letters originally meant nothing more than reductus in pulvis.”]

The Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 2.1-8.

We began to read selections from St Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians last Sunday and will continue for the rest of the Church year. This is probably the earliest of Paul’s surviving letters, and the earliest portion of the New Testament. On his second missionary journey (Acts 15.40-18.22), after he was driven out of Philippi in Macedonia (not Caesarea Philippi), Paul went to Thessalonica, the capital of the province along with Silas and Timothy, where he preached for three Sabbaths and gained converts (Acts 17), but had to leave. In his concern for the new congregation, which faced persecution, Paul sent Timothy to strengthen them. On Timothy’s return with a good report of their faithfulness and loyalty, Paul wrote to declare his gratitude and to exhort the Thessalonians to Christian conduct. He also addressed two questions about Christ’s second advent in glory. These questions are dealt with in 4.13-18 (read this year on November 9) and 5.1-11 (read this year on November 16).
The opening verses of Chapter 2 are variously interpreted: see both the comments at the RCL site and the clippings: . These notes are also helfpul for the rest of the passage.

The Gospel: St Matthew 22.34-46

This passage includes two incidents which conclude the series of tests to which Jesus was put by his opponents (Matthew 22.15-46). These were: the question about the tribute money, posed by the Pharisees and the Herodians (15-22), the question about the resurrection, posed by the Sadducees (23-33) and the lawyer’s question about the greatest commandment (34-40, the first part of today’s reading). Then Jesus himself asks a question of his opponents (41-46), taking the offensive to end these attacks.
The lawyer — but we must first be clear: this is not a lawyer as we would understand the word but a student and teacher of the Torah, the Law of Moses; the older translations were certainly more accurate and maybe more clear to say “doctor of the law” — asks a question that was often debated in those days. There were 613 laws; some considered ‘heavy’, others ‘light’; it would seem that to keep the law faithfully required one to know which had priority. But to ask which is the ‘greatest’ is to ask where the centre and core of the law is to be found. It is only in this way that we can be sure to avoid a legalism that makes of the law a killing letter rather than a life-giving spirit.
Jesus’s answer would not have been surprising to the lawyer; he quoted two passages from the law, Deuteronomy 6.5 and Leviticus 19.18. What was surprising was the fact that he joined them so that one could not be considered without the other.
The comments on this passage at the RCL site are good: see -- and remember to check the “clippings” page as well.
As a companion to the first part of the Gospel passage I would recommend the Homily on Christian Love and Charity from the first Book of Homilies which was published in 1547 in the reign of Edward VI. It may be found at
The RCL notes are also useful for the second part of the passage, the question about the Messiah as David’s son and David’s Lord. I will only note here that this passage depends on a traditional ascription of authorship, this time of Psalm 110 to David. It would seem that there is no real difficulty in this: even though modern scholarship questions this ascription, it was universally believed at the time of our Lord. To some, however, the possibility that Christ could have been in error about a particular fact (such as the authorship of Psalm 110) raises difficulties for belief in his divinity (how can he be in error?). The true doctrine of the Incarnation should ease this difficulty: if our Lord truly took on a human nature, then he truly had a human mind, and a mind of people of his time. As man he was not omniscient: “he increased in wisdom” (Luke 2. 52). The real difficulty, if there is one, is that we cannot understand how the divine and human natures can be united in one person and perhaps that we have no idea what that experience would have been. But that is a different question.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tales From the Slippery Slope X: Theseus and the Minotaur

I Return to Alicubi after a Long Absence
It had been so long since I had gone out to Alicubi that the other day Canon Sidney Smith Hawker finally called to find out what I was up to. Since he is less comfortable using the ‘phone than I am, I was immediately worried that there was some dreadful news.
What’s wrong? I said
“You are, you goop. I know you had church gigs every weekend in the summer, and some other trivial projects to attend to, and I am the first to admit that one thing leads to another, but it’s almost November, and ….”
“Sidney,” I objected, “it's early October.”
“At the rate you’re going it’ll be Martinmas before we see you. And as surprising as it might seem, we would like to see you.”
“I can’t come this weekend, and Tuesday’s the election ...” I began
"Tuesday is perfect, then," insisted the Canon. “Come up after you’ve voted and we can all watch the results at the Slope.
So after I voted I called Keith to make sure he had a room for me. This was too sudden a visit to land on a friend’s doorstep. Keith gave me the news from Alucubi. There was none, except that in August he had shut the pub for a month before the autumn tourist season.

It was midafternoon when I got to Alicubi. After I checked in with Keith, I went for a walk down over the bridge and up to the Appalling Belvedere, to look at the autumn colours along the river. I found Mike and David from the pub and Tom Chillingworth from the bookstore sitting and chatting on the stone benches. I joined them.
“No business at the bookstore, Tom?” I said
“It’s Election Day, Will.”
“Do you close for election day?”
“Everyone does: Election Day is a village holiday in Alicubi. Didn’t you know that?”
“No. Alicubi must be the only place in the country where it is,” I said. “It’s a good idea, though. Voting day should be more special. I always find voting is such an anti-climax. Maybe a brass band at every polling station would help.”
I asked whether they had all voted. They all said yes
“Mike made me,” said David. He’s nagged me for days about it. But I don’t understand it: everybody talks about choosing Harper or Dion or whoever: none of them were on the ballot; it didn’t even ask me to say which party I wanted for the government. How can they claim the country gives them a mandate?”
Tom replied, “David, what most people don’t get clear is that we aren't electing a government, or at least not directly. We're simply electing members to the House of Commons. That indirectly chooses the government because the leader of the party which has majority of the seats in the Commons is appointed Prime Minister. In this last election, the Conservatives didn’t win a majority of the seats, but did win more than any other party, so they formed the govenrment. If they get even a minority again they will continue as the government -- as long as they can get enough support from the other members.”
David thought about this for a while, and said, “That's not what they say in the campaigns or on the news. I just haven’t got a clue how this works.”
Just then Mike looked at his watch. “Gad, I’ve got to get back and start dinner. Come on, David!”
“What are we having?” I asked.
“Stuffed pork loin, with rice and sautéed mushrooms and greens beans in a lemon-butter sauce, and a salad. Just something simple so that Dad can claim I had some sort of holiday today.” Mike said and went off laughing; David followed, trying to figure out Canadian elections,.

Tom and I walked back over the bridge to the pub at a pace more fitting our age and dignity. We ignored the large “Closed” sign on the door and went in.
The Slippery Slope was dark and cozy. We joined Canon Hawker and John Strype at the bar, where Keith poured pints of Best Bitter – the perfect drink for an autumn evening. Since the polls were still open for a few hours, there was nothing to say about the election except for the same old speculation. So we talked idly for a while.
David ambled out from the kitchen; Keith poured him a pint. “It’s a holiday, David, and there’s only friends to serve dinner to, so sit down and talk!”
“Thanks, Keith. Mike asked me to tell you that he has everything under control. and expects dinner to be ready at seven.”
Tom said, “Since we have a little while before dinner, and more till the election results, I have a bit of a story. Just before we came back from the Appalling Belvedere David said something that reminded me of an old myth.
Just then Susan the owner of Vanity of Vanities, came in and said “Happy Voting Day!” After she had got a drink and settled into a seat, Tom explained that he was about to tell a story he was reminded of by something David had said.
“What did I say?” asked David.
“I’ll tell the story, and see if you or Will can guess,” said Tom. “Everybody should know it, but there is an interesting detail. It’s the story of Theseus and the Minotaur..”
We all said we knew it; I realized what David had said, and smiled. Tom began his tale

Theseus and the Minotaur
“Long ago, as a result of a war with Crete, the people of Athens were forced to pay a tribute each year: seven youths and seven maidens were sent to to be eaten by the Minotaur, a terrible monster who lived in Crete atthe heary of a maze called the Labyrinth. Minos had had the Labyrinth designed by the cunning inventor Daedalus to hold the monster, who was half bull and half man, the offspring of Minos’ wife Pasiphae and a white bull that Poseidon had sent to Minos. (The Labyrinth, by the way, was so intricate a maze that Daedalus himself could not escape it. Like many later tyrants, Minos wanted to keep his official inventor a prisoner. It was for this reason that Daedalus devised wings to carry him and his son out of the trap, with the sad consequence of the loss of Icarus.)

“When Theseus came to Athens to find his father, King Aegeus, it was the third year of the tribute. When he heard the wailing of the Athenians over the fourteen young people who were to go to Crete, he resolved to go himself and, somehow, free his people from this bondage to death. Despite his father’s tears, Theseus took the place of one of the youths and set sail for Crete on the vessel with black sails that took the sad cargo from Athens. Theseus promised Aegeus that if he succeeded in destroying the monster, he would return with white sails.

“The ship came to Crete, passing unharmed the brazen giant Talus who guarded its shores. Minos himself came to inspect the youths and maidens of the tribute. With him was his daughter Ariadne. When he came ashore, Theseus claimed the right to be the first to face the Minotaur; Minos assented. The victims were led away to prison.

“That night Ariadne, moved by Theseus’ beauty, brought him two gifts: a ball of thread and a sword. She told him to tie one end of the thread to the entrance of the Labyrinth and keep the other in his hand. By unwinding the ball as he went in, he would be sure to find the way out. Theseus promised to take the princess with him if he succeeded in his task.

“In early morning, Theseus, secretly carrying the sword and ball of twine. was brought to the entrance of the Labyrinth and left. Tying the thread to the door post, he went in. Not far into the maze he found the monster, and after a terrible fight, killed it. Retracing his steps he came out of the Labyrinth. There he found Ariadne waiting for him, and with her he rescued the other victims and returned to the ship. They escaped he brazen monster and set sail for the north.

“The story of how Theseus left Ariadne on the Island of Naxos must wait for another time, as will the story of how the Aegean sea got its name; for we have already heard why what David said reminded me of this myth. But I’ve left out one vital clue.”

No one spoke for a moment. Then David said, “OK; You gave it away at the end. I know what it was I said, but I don’t see what this story has to do with it. I said, ‘I haven’t got a clue.’”

“That’s right, David,” I said, “What Tom left out of the story was the word “clue.” The original meaning of “Clue” or “clew” was a ball, and more specifically a ball of thread or twine. So in Dryden’s version of the story, he says that Ariadne gave Theseus “a clue of thread”. Because of this and some other myths “clew” developed the special meaning of “a ball of thread used to ‘thread your way’ through a labyrinth or maze,” and then anything that leads or guides through some perplexity, and then just an indication, a hint, or a key – in fact , a “clue”.

Just then, Keith turned the TV on — something that almost never happens at the Slippery Slope, and the sound of Peter Mansbridge filled the room, drowning out whatever else there was to say about clues. Nothing much was said after that that wasn’t said everywhere in the country that night, so we’ll say no more, except that it was good to be back at the Slope.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Lectionary Notes

Three sets of readings are appointed for “Rogation Days and Harvest Thanksgiving, which are not allotted to Years A, B, or C, but are chosen to suit local needs and conditions. At St Matthias, the first set is used this year, and up to the middle of this week I was reading that set and making notes in my file. Then I was asked to cover for another church who had no priest for this Sunday, and of course I agreed. That parish is using the second set of readings, on which I had to start a whole new set of notes. So I have just enough time to prepare a sermon, but not enough for proper lectionary notes. So here is a brief introduction to Thanksgiving and Harvest Festival, and very meagre introduction to the two sets of readings.

Thanksgiving and Harvest Festival
The first thanksgivings for harvest are lost in the mists of time, and all though Canadian history days have been set aside for public thanksgivings, both particular and general; it was not until 1957 that the second Monday in October was permanently established by the Canadian Parliament as “ A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed … to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.
The modern tradition of Harvest Festival in Anglican churches was apparently begun by Robert Stephen Hawker, the Vicar of Morwenstow , Cornwall in 1843.
[See This article depends much on Sabine Baring-Gould’s biography of Hawker.]
It is not uncommon for a Canadian parishes to keep Harvest Festival and National Thanksgiving Day on separate days. This is often done to ensure that the Harvest Festival is celebrated before the gardens are hit with frost, so that the people may bring their own produce to Church. To keep two thanksgivings also reminds us that while the richness of this land and the bountiful harvest prompts our thanksgiving, there are many other things for which we, as Canadians, ought to be thankful.

The Readings
The first set:

The First Reading: Deuteronomy 8.7-18, a warning to the people of Israel, when they come into the promised land, not to forget that it was the Lord’s hand that brought them to it. The warning against forgetting that all good things come from God is one to be heard in every generation and in every land. Indeed, we speak so much of the wealth of our country that we should be especially careful to be thankful in word and deed.
Psalm 65 is a psalm of thanksgiving for a good harvest,
The Epistle, 2 Corinthians 9.6-15: a collection was being taken in the Churches of Achaia (Greece) and Macedonia for the relief of the Church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2.1-10, 1 Cor 16.1-4, Rom 15.25-27. Paul urges the Corinthians to be generous in their contribution.
Luke 17.11-19: when Jesus cleanses ten lepers, only one returns to give thanks, and that one is a foreigner, a Samaritan.

The second set:
Joel 2.21-27: after the land has been ravaged by an army of locusts, the restoration of God’s favour is prophesied in a bountiful harvest.
Psalm 126, a prayer for deliverance from national misfortune, is an apt reflection on the first reading.
1 Timothy 2.1-7: The writer urges his audience to prau and give thanks for all; the reference to prayer and thanksgiving for kings and those in high positions is appropriate at this time of National Thanksgiving
Matthew 6.25-33 [compare Luke 12.22-31]: In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus teaches his disciples to trust in their heavenly Father, who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes on the Feast of Dedication
The First Sunday in October

The Dedication Festival
The Feast of the Dedication is the annual thanksgiving for the consecration of a Church, and is to be kept, strictly speaking, only for consecrated Churches. It must be distinguished from the Patronal Festival.
It seems that up to and after the English Reformation, in many places the parish anniversary was kept with much merry-making and revelry. In the reign of Henry VIII, as part of the government’s efforts to curtail the number of midweek holy days, an act of Convocation (1536) ordered that the feast of dedication in all churches in England was to be kept on the first Sunday in October. [See: Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain, which can be found through]
The reform of 1536 does not seem to have been universally obeyed at the time but in later years it became common for parishes to keep their dedication festival on this date, especially when the date of consecration is not known. The Book of Common Prayer (1662) makes no provision for this festival; the Revised Book proposed in 1928, however, suggested that the dedicarion be kept on the first Sunday in October if the day of consecration is not known. The revised English calendar of 1997 allows it to be celebrated on the firt Sunday in October, the last Sunday after Trinity or on another date chosen locally.
According to the old Catholic Encyclopaedia, the anniversary of the consecration was kept as a double of the first class with octave each year; in order to avoid inconveniences of the date, the bishop was entitled,m in the act of consecration, to appoint another date for the anniversary that did not suffer from such problems. If he does not, it must be kept on the anniversary or some other remedy be sought from the Holy See.
It appears, then, that the provision for a common celebration of this feast is something peculiar to Anglicans. However, the provisions of many modern Anglican Churchs, apart from England, [USA 1928, 1979; Canada 1962, BAS; Scotland] by providing propers for the feast but no fixed date, apparently intend that it will be kept on the actual anniversary day. The title of the service in the BAS Thanksgiving on the Anniversary of a Parish or on the Feast of Dedication seems to support this.] Since all of our Churches in Canada were founded in modern times, one would expect the date of consecration of most would be recorded. There is no particular reason, except tradition, for keeping the Dedication Festival on the first Sunday in October.

The Propers
No Sentence is set for this liturgy. Possibilities are “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God”, or “My house shall be called a house of prayer”.
The Gathering of the Community is simplified in this Rite: the greeting is followed by an act of praise and then by The Collect, which was apparently composed for the BAS; like other prayers in this service it leans as heavily towards instruction of the congregation as does to prayer to God. It is followed by:
The Procession to the Font, during which Psalms 42 and 43 or a hymn may be sung; at the Font the celebrant prays a Thanksgiving for Water, which is like the form used in baptism, then follows:
The Procession to the Lectern, during which portions of Psalm 119:89-112 or a hymn may be sung; at the Lectern the celebrant prays, reminding us of what we learn from scripture, and asking God for ears to hear and hearts to obey God’s Word spoken through the words of Scripture, after which follow

The Readings
The BAS suggests suitable readings for this celebration, from which the usual number is chosen. The array of readings touches on different aspects or emphases of this feast. For a church is a number of things: a place made holy by a encounter with God, a holy place set apart for God’s worship, made sacred by sacrifice, a place (would any place do?) where the members of Christ’s body gather to be and be made his body in word and sacrament. Is there a dnager in emphasising one of these thoughts more than the others, or ought one of them to control the others. The readings might lead us to ask what it is we are celebrating in the anniversary of the consecration.

The first reading: Genesis 28.10-17 tells of Jacob’s encounter with God at Bethel; this was also te first reading for Michaelmas. The other choices of first readings are 1 Kings 8.22-30, which is the opening of King Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, and 1 Chronicles 29.6-19, which tells of the offering of the people of Israel for the building of the temple, and King David’s prayer for the work and for Solomon who will take it up.
The passage from Genesis tells us that on his way to Harran, Jacob passed the night at Bethel, where the sacredness of the ‘place’ was revealed to him buy a dream of a ladder leading from earth to heaven. Awaking, he consecrateds the stone on which his head had lain, as a ‘house of God’, at the same time naming the place Bethel,- and vows to dedicate a tithe of all he has, in the event of his safe return. There are many points of interest in this passage:
The Ladder (other possible translations are ‘stairway’ or ‘ramp’) which Jacob saw reminiscent of a ziggurat, a pyramid temple of Babylon, on which there was a stairway (“ladder”, v. 12) to the top, where the deity was believed to live. The Tower of Babel (meaning gateway to a god) was probably a ziggurat. (from the RCL notes for Michaelmas).
In both Hebrew and Greek, the word we render as angel means “messenger”. Angels in a company are mentioned here and in 32.1-2 (compare 16.7; 21.17) suggesting the view of a retinue surroundng the heavenly King. A rabbinic commentary interpreted the angels who were ascending as those who had escorted Jacob in the Holy Land, and do not go outside the Land; the angels who were descending were those who were to escort him outside the Holy Land.
Jacob's dream of the angels’ staircase, a meeting place between Heaven and Earth points towards Jesus, who also reunites heaven and earth (John 1:51): "And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." Here Jesus himself is the ladder, for in hmself Heaven and Earth are united. Even more, in John’s Gospel Jesus presents himelf as the reality to which the stairway points; Jacob saw in a dream the reunion of Heaven and Earth and Jesus brought this reunion, metaphorically the ladder, into reality.
While the Hebrew and our moden English versions say that the Lord “stood above” the Ladder, the LXX, the ancient Greek version (which was followed in this by the Latin), says that he “leaned on” it, giving a delightful image of the Lord leaning over and looking down from heaven to speak to Jacob.
The Lord reveals himself to Jacob to renew the promises made to Abraham and Isaac. An ancient interpretation took the words “the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants” to mean that the Lord had “folded the entire Land of Israel under him.”
It might be felt that the passage chosen here ends too soon. In verse 18 we read that Joseph “took the stone which he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it,” that is, anointed it. Thus the stone becomes a type of the Christ, which means “the Anointed one”. We should note that in the folklore of Scotland and Ireland, the stone used by Jacob as a pillow has been identified with the Coronation Stone (the Stone of Scone) and with a similar stone in Ireland.
This passage was chosen for today because of Jacob’s realization that he is in a holy place, Beth-el, the House of God. The idea of a holy place is an important image among the many that we associate with the dedication of Churches. Even though few, if any, of our churches in Canada are built on ancent sites of theophany or oracle, they have become sites of encounter with God, both generally because they are places where the sacraments are celebrated, and in the personal experiences of individual Christians.It is, however, the setting aside of the place by the Church and the gathering of the people in response to God’s invitation that makes the place holy, not the other way around, as we will see in the second reading.

Psalm 122.
This psalm is posssibly best known among English-speaking persons at least as the coronation anthem set by Parry. Its original purpose was to praise Jerusalem as the goal of pilgrims, who admire it and pray for its peace and prosperity.
Verse 7 is inscribed (in Latin) above high table in Trinity College’s Strachan Hall.

The Epistle, 1 Peter 2.2-5, 9-10
This passage, or the first portion of it, is used by several churches for the Feats of Dedication; the alternate choice is Revelation 21.1-4, 22-22.5 {Its Temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb) which goes will with the alternate Gospel from John 20.
This reading is concerned not with the holy place, but with the assembly of God’s people. The members of the Church are called living stones, built up into a spiritual temple. Though there is nothing here that speaks of a church building, but St Paul wrote long before particular buildings were set apart for and hallowed by the use of the living stones.
The verses that are omitted (6-8) provide a link between this image and that of Christ the corner-stone that was rejected but chosen by God and precious, which in turn links this whole passage to the story of Jacob, who anointed and made an altar of the stone he had chosen for a pillow (Genesis 28.18)
It is by their use for the prayers and sacraments of God’s holy people that church buildings are made holy. Indeed, the earliest way in which churches were consecrated was by the celebration of the Eucharist. As we give thanks for the consecration of our parish church and for the years of consecrating prayer, a good question might be: How do you understand the sacredness of a place?

The Holy Gospel: Matthew 21.12-16
The alternate Gospel reading is John 20.19-21, in which the risen Lord Jesus appears to the disciples in the Upper Room on the first Easter evening; its emphasis is Church as the communty of Christ’s disciples rather than any particular place.
“My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves”; these words of Christ ought to make us ask ourselves “what is the proper use of a Church?” If we set aside a place for the service of God, what activity is fitting there and what not?
In the context of the Dedication Festival, this passage may serve as a waring that thinking of a place as holy can lead into error. One of the snares is that the service and care of the holy place may become an end in itself, and our religion a care of the machinery of holiness. Such was the commerce of money lending and the sale of sacrificial animals. Christians today may not sell doves or change momey, but are there other dangers that they might make the church building an end in itself, that the service of the bulding might obscure the service in and from the building, and the people forget that it is they that are to be built up into a living temple.

Some Notes on The Blessing of Animals.
This Sunday afternoon we hold the annual service of the Blessing of the Animals.
I have not yet been able to find much about the history of the service of Blessing of Animals, though I would love to know where it began, how it spread and developed.
The first step in such a study would be to think about the words we use. There’s no time or space for detail here, only for noting that animal in Latin comes from anuma “wind” and “breath”, so perhaps it includes all breathing things; it was used to mean “a living being”. We should never allow the specifics of being human (important as they are) to obscure the things we have in common with the other living beings. This is wy it bothers me when “creature” is used only to mean the “animals”, when it means simply “something created”.
The reading from Isaiah (11.1-9) tells of the reign of the Messianic king, a time of justice, plenty, and peace. The passage concludes with a vision of the restoration of all nature to the harmony intended for it by its God, which is especially seen in peace among animals now at variance.
The other reading si a non-biblical writing of St Francis of Assisi, renowned as a friend of animals.
An interesting fact about Animal Blessings was brought to my attention by my friend the novelist Douglas Anthony Cooper. He told me that while here we associate the blessing of Animals with St Francis of Assisi, in Mexico he found that it was celebrated in January, on the
feast of St Anthony of Egypt. I checked a little further on the web and founf that the association of this service with St Anthony is common in hispanic tradition; a famous service of animal blessing in Los Angeles began on St Anthony’s day but was later changed to St Francis’ day.
The Blessing of Animals has gained popularity beyond the ranks of churchgoers, and has also become an occasion that brings together many threads of ecological concern as well as people’s affection for animals of all species [see, for example,] We are very happy to welcome everyone who desires to give thanks in love and joy for the animals of God’s world.