Monday, February 28, 2011

Thoughts on the Church Calendar

Ordinary Saints

… And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
and one was a shepherdess on the green;
they were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.

So goes a popular hymn, but look in the Calendar of Saints, say the one in the BAS. There is indeed a queen—Margaret of Scotland—but I’m not sure about the shepherdess. (There is a shepherd in the BCP Calendar, but he’s remembered as a poet.) In fact—apart from New Testament figures and the martyrs—most of the names are of clergy and religious (that is friars, monks, or nuns. The others are royalty, and (unless I’ve missed someone) five persons: St Augustine’s mother Monnica, Julian of Norwich, Mollie Brant, William Wilberforce, and Florence Nightingale.

….You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
in church, by the sea, in the house next door;
they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
and I mean to be one too.

Quite right, but the Calendar hardly gives you any examples of men and women, not ordained, with no vows beyond the promises of Baptism, who spent their lives as faithful Christians, and can be practical models living out those promises in the midst of the world.

Such people are commonly known only to God, and to a few people whose lives they touched. We remember them on All Saints’ Day. But there are some whose lives or writings we have, through which some of the light of Christ still shines.

In one copy of the BAS calendar I have noted on or near the day of their deaths (or heavenly birthdays, as the early Christians said of the martyrs) the names of two persons who seem to me to be models of Christian laity. As time goes on I hope to find more.

One, whose faith I may write about another day, is Dr Samuel Johnson, the great lexicographer, who died on 13 December 1784. 13 December is a nice free day in the Calendar.

The other man died in 1706 on the day we remember that holy priest George Herbert, so in my personal calendar he is commemorated today, 28 February. His name was John Evelyn, and is best remembered for his diary, which is less famous than that of his contemporary, Pepys.

G. W,. E. Russell, in his ‘Prefatory Note’ to the Everyman edition of Evelyn’s Diary (1907), suggests why we might take Evelyn as a good model for Layfolk:

“But here we must turn to the second part of the text I tool from Mr Shorthouse —‘Spiritual life and growth [were] not exclusively the possession of Puritans and Ascetics.’ We have seen that John Evelyn was no ascetic, as regards the legitimate pleasures of human life. He was as far removed from the temper of Puritanism as from the licentiousness which is sometimes supposed to be its only alternative. Yet not Baxter or Calamy, or the best Puritan of them all, was more consistently and conspicuously a Christian in faith, speech, and act.
“From first to last Evelyn was a loyal and zealous son of the English Church, ‘as it stands distinguished from all Papal and Puritan innovations, and as it adheres to the doctrine of the Cross.” The phrase is that of Bishop Ken, whose preaching Evelyn greatly admires, but it expresses his own feeling with singular exactness.”

Evelyn’s Diary records the life of a committed and devout layman who lived through the darkest time that has yet come upon the Anglican Church, when under the government of Cromwell, the Prayer Book and the orders of the Church were abolished. Clergy who remained loyal were put out of their parishes or livings (sequestered). To worship and received the sacraments according to the Prayer Book Evelyn often had to arrange to have a sequestered priest celebrate in private. Evelyn notes on 23 May 1658:
“There was now a collection for the persecuted and sequestered Ministers of the Church of England, whereof divers are in prison. A sad day! The Church now in dens and caves of the earth.”

In his Diary we also find the famous record of Christmas 1657, when though the feast had been abolished by proclamation as ‘superstitious’, Evelyn and others celebrated it in Exeter Chapel, London. A troop of soldiers surrounded the chapel and arrested the worshippers. Evelyn reports that
“As we went up to receive the Sacrament, the miscreants held their muskets against us, as they would have shot us at the altar; but yet suffering us to finish the office of Communion, as perhaps not having instructions what to do, in case they found us in that action.”

Delightfully, at least to this student of Church history, Evelyn seems to have made a note of every sermon he ever heard, with the text the preacher expounded!

More can be found of Evelyn the man and his faith in the Diary, a book that deserves a place in any Anglican’s library, and whose memory should be recalled with thanksgiving to God, perhaps even today,

The 'Commemoration of John Evelyn, Layman, 2011’
Note: I have often wondered why St Monnica is spelled this way in the Calendar when the name is most often spelled 'Monica'. In fact the Anglican church dedicated to her in Toronto is spelled 'Monica' in cavalier disregard of the Calendar! It seems that Augustine himself spelled his mother's name Monnica (see Confessions, Bk IX). The Anglican Calendar leans to pedantry in a way I find quite charming.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lectionary Notes

Commonly known as Sexagesima
Proper 8 in Year A
27 February, AD 2011

Sexagesima just means ‘sixtieth’.

The Collect in the BAS is a modernized and slightly simplified form of the Prayer-Book Collect for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, which goes back to 1549 and in turn is a translation of a very old Latin collect used on that Sunday since at least the seventh century. In the American Prayer Book of 1979 it is appointed for the Sunday closest to August 10.
The Prayer Book Collect for Sexagesima has been the same since the first Book of 1549 and is in turn a translation of the old Roman Collect for this Sunday, which goes back to the so-called Gregorian Sacramentary, from the late eighth century.
If I may be allowed a request here, though to whom it should be made I am not sure, I should love to see a simple commentary on the BAS which could set out which of the various prayers are original compositions and what the sources of the others might be. The Introduction to the Holy Eucharist in the BAS does this well for the Eucharistic Prayers (see pp 179-180) but tracking down the Collects sometimes requires more time than one has available. If any appropriate authorities are reading this, I would be happy to take on this job for suitable remuneration.
The Readings
First Reading: Isaiah 49.8-16a
The passage appointed comes immediately after the Second Servant Song (49.1-7) It concerns the return of the exiles from Babylon [8-9b]. see also 2 Corinthians 6:2.
8. In an acceptable time: see Luke 2:14. See also 2 Corinthians 6:2. which quotes this verse. the desolate heritages: the land of Canaan had been allotted to the twelve tribes when they came from the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt (see Joshua, chapters 14 to 17). The heritages were deolate because the people had been taken into captivity.Thus the Servant is not only a new Moses leading the people to freedom, but a new Joshua.
9. … on all the bare heights shall be their pasture. Other versions have ‘on the bald hills’ and ‘on all the pathways’; The Hebrew shĕphiy apparentlty means bareness, and hence a smooth or bare height, bare place, high places, barren height, and the like. A path is made bare of plants by much travel.
In verses 9c-11, Israel’s deliverance from the Exile is described in the language and imagery of the Exodus (see 48:20-22).
12. Syene is usually identified with Aswan in the south of Egypt; the original, however, seems to be Sinim, which is much less easily located and seems to have perplexed even the ancient translators. The Greeks read ‘land of Persia’; the Latin version gave de terra australi, 'from the land of the south’. The new revised Latin version issued by the Roman Church in about 1980 (Nova Vulgata) has Sinim. Strong’s dictionary defines Sinim as ‘a people living at the extremity of the known world’ and for various reasons suggests that China might be meant. (Indeed, news or at least rumours of China might easily have been known in Babylon at this time). One enterprising website explains that Sinim really means Australia, but I suspect an undue influence of Jerome’s de terra australi. (If you’re interested you may find this site at After going through all this stuff, I have concluded for myself that ‘from the Southlands’ is probably the best way to understand it.
13. A brief hymn praising God who comforts his people (see 44.23) concludes the first section of the reading.
14. In contrast to v 13 comes the complaint of Zion, the holy city, expressing the discouragement the people feel on returning from exile to a poor and ravaged land: see Haggai, Nehemiah 5, and Ezra 9-10. 15. In response the Lord protests his love for Israel, as he does in Hosea 2:14-23 and Jeremiah 31:20. This verse has been described as ‘One of the most touching expressions of divine love in the entire Bible.’
16 For ‘names written on the palms of God's hands’ see Deuteronomy 6:8 and Jeremiah 31:33. [NJBC]
Psalm 131
Domine, non est.
An act of humble submission to God’s will and guidance.
Psalms 120-134 have the superscription ‘a song of ascents’ (in the KJV, ‘degrees’, i.e, ‘steps’).. It is thought that these hymns were sung by pilgrims going up to Jerusalem for the great pilgrim feasts.
1-2. NJBC compares these verses to the sort of ‘negative confession’ found in Psalms 15, 24.4-5, and 101.3-4 and notes that it contrasts with the positive tone of verse 3.
3. Perhaps the psalmist means that just as a weaned child no longer cries fitfully for its mother's milk, but is quiet and content upon her lap, so the psalmist reposes in the love of the Lord. [NJBC]
The last verse is thought to be a later addition to the poem for use in public worship.

The Epistle: 1 Corinthians 4.1–5
In this brief section, St Paul concludes his words on properly thinking about the Church leaders which began at 3.5 and was read last Sunday.
1. NJBC notes that the word translated servants (not doulos, ‘slave’ or diakonos, but hypēretēs) also has the meaning of ‘official witness’. Hypēretēs is literally ‘an under-rower’ but came to mean ‘an attendant’; it seems to have been used in military and civil language for a minor officer. On stewards see Lk 12.42. On God’s mysteries, see Mark 4.11; Rom 11.25; 16.25; 1 Corinthians 2.7.
4. The fact that Paul’s conscience is clear does not ultimately prove his innocence: there is only one true judge.
5. Before the coming of the Lord, all human judgements are prejudice, which literally means pre-judgement [NJBC].
The Holy Gospel according to St Matthew 6.24–34
Last week our reading of the Sermon on the Mount reached the end of Chapter 5. The first twenty-three verses of Chapter 6 are not read in the course of the Sundays after Epiphany in Year A; but are for the most part read on Ash Wednesday in all three years. These verses concern the outward show of piety: alms-giving, prayer, and fasting, and conclude with the laying up of treasure in heaven.
The last two verses (22-23) are not read on any Sunday, nor is the parallel passage in Luke (11.34-36). In his book on the Sermon on the Mount Charles Gore comments on these verses in connection with the next one, and for this reason we will provide them here:
The lamp of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness how great is the darkness!
It is the single eye that makes the link to the next verse, and as Gore notes, ‘The question of vital importance is therefore simply this: are we single-minded in seeking God? Single-mindedness is what gives clearness. Put God clearly and simply first in great things and in small. Then your life will be full of light, full of power. And, in fact, you must put God first, or nowhere. Examine any man's life of what sort it is. Cross-question it. You will find at last that one motive is dominant. Either, at the last push, he will do God's will, or he will do that by which he thinks to serve his interests in the world. Now, what a man does at the last analysis or when pushed into a corner, that is what reveals his real motive. The motive on which he then acts is his only real master-principle. There can be only one such in a life. At the bottom it is either God which rules a life or mammon, i.e. money. Thus you must put God first, or, in fact, you are putting Him nowhere; if He is not first, then He can be no more than the superficial decoration of a life really devoted to something else.’
24. Mammon is said by Augustine to be a Phoenician word for gain. Hence, some have suspected it to be a synonym for Pluto, the god of wealth. Others, again, connect it with a Hebrew term for ‘ trusted’. The NRSV’s wealth here can only be justified if it is wealth personified; better, in my opinion, to use the strange word that needs to be explained than the familiar one which is easily misunderstood. For more on Mammon can be consulted.
The second part of today’s passage (25-34; the parallel is Luke 12.22-32) is about anxiety or worry. Gore writes: The result of singleness of mind in seeking God is to be a complete freedom from worldly anxiety. The keynote, as it were, of the passage which concludes this chapter is the phrase, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the rest shall be added unto you’ [33]. Look to God first. Obey God. Enthrone Him in unique supremacy in your heart. He is your Father, and as such you can trust Him. If day by day you do His will simply, and cast your care on Him, then you can have a wonderful freedom from anxiety as to your future, and can live at peace the sort of peace which finds its illustration in the fascinating tranquillity of the flowers of the field, and the light-heartedness of the birds of the air.
25. Do not worry about, or do not be anxious. NJBC: The term means ‘consider’, ‘think about’, in the sense of ‘be preoccupied with’ or ‘absorbed by’.
28. neither toil nor spin: it is possible that these two verbs represent the outside work of men and the inside work of women, although as the NJBC points out, it is not certain that this distinction was observed in the ancient Near East
30. the oven in which bread was baked was a large earthen vessel lined with the dough. The dried grass was placed within and set on fire.
33. Seek first the kingdom of God: The blessings of the kingdom are to be the first objects of desire and effort. If we make duty our first care God will take care of our happiness. Yet the knowledge of this highest law of life must be sought. Origen reports one saying of Christ to be : Ask for the higher things and the lower will be added. We are not to infer that the lower things are not to be sought at all : they have their place, but it is not the ‘first’. We must note that to seek the kingdom is not a call to otherworldly piety: the whole tenor of the first part of the Sermon shows the place of seeking and acting for the justice of God’s Kingdom in the world today (Matthew 5).
34. Today's trouble is enough for today. Better the older, Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof. Each day brings its own evil we do not know what it may be—why anticipate? The worst cause of anxiety is worrying about the uncertain and largely imagined future.
And with that we’ve reached the deadline.

27 Sunday The Eighth Sunday after Epiphany, Sexagesima
28 Monday Commemoration of George Herbert, Priest and Poet, 1633
George Herbert was a country priest in the time of Charles I and remembered for his poetry and his writings on pastoral ministry. Some of his verses have been set to music and are among our best-loved hymns (e.g. King of Glory, King of Peace). For more information, see . This year his commemoration is transferred from Sunday
1 Tuesday Memorial of David, Bishop of Menevia, Wales, c. 544
For more information on the patron saint of Wales, see and
2 Wednesday Commemoration of Chad, Bishop of Lichfield, Missionary, 872
3 Thursday Commemoration of John and Charles Wesley, Priests & Evangelists, 1791, 1788
For further information see: and
4 Friday Feria
5 Saturday Feria
6 Sunday The Ninth Sunday after Epiphany, Quinquagesima

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lent at St Columba and All Hallows

The Church of St Columba and All Hallows
2723 St Clair Avenue East (near O’Connor Drive)
East York, Toronto, Ontario

Lent 2011

Ash Wednesday, March 9
10 am and 7:30 pm— The Ash Wednesday Liturgy:
The Penitential Rite, Imposition of Ashes, and Holy Eucharist

The Holy Eucharist is celebrated each Sunday at 8:30 and 10:30 am
(unless otherwise announced)

A Thursday Evening Programme For Lent

The Prayer Books:
The Story of Anglican Worship

All sessions begin at 7:00 pm with Stations of the Cross in the Church.

March 17:- Before the Reformation

March 24:- Henry VIII: Reformation before the Prayer Book

March 31:- The First Prayer Books: '49 & ’52 and All That

April 7:- 1662 and after

April 14:- Where Are We Now?


Times of Service to be Announced

The Easter Vigil


Friday, February 18, 2011

Lectionary Notes

Also known as Septuagesima,
Which signifies the Seventieth Day before Easter
Proper 7 in Year A
20 February AD 2011

In the older Calendar the three Sundays before Ash Wednesday were often called `Pre-Lent and may indeed be left over from a time when the season of Lent was longer than its present forty weekdays. Although these Sundays are now considered part of ‘Ordinary Time’ and are not set apart in any way, it is helpful to note that Lent will soon be upon us, and to take thought now for keeping that Holy Season of preparation for the Christian Passover.
One helpful thing that we can do now is to think over the purpose of Lent by reading the Exhortation from the Penitential Service in the Book of Common Prayer. An Address in the Ash Wednesday Liturgy of the Book of Alternative Services is the same in substance, and we will provide that closer to the first Day of Lent. Here is the Exhortation:
BRETHREN, in the primitive Church it was the custom to observe with great devotion the days of our Lord's Passion and Resurrection, and to prepare for the same by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided also a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for holy Baptism. It was also a time when such persons as had, by reason of notorious sins, been separated from the body of the faithful, were reconciled and restored to the fellowship of the Church by penitence and forgiveness. Thereby the whole Congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution contained in the Gospel of our Saviour, and of the need which all Christians continually have, of a renewal of their repentance and faith. I therefore invite you, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting, and self-denial, and by reading and meditation upon God's holy Word. (Anglican Church of Canada, Book of Common Prayer, 1962, page 611.)

There is nothing particularly noteworthy about the Sentence or the Collect this Sunday.

The Readings
The first reading: Leviticus 19.1–2, 9–18
The third Book of Moses, was referred to in the Talmud the law of the priests, and the book of the law of offerings; the name Leviticus is derived from title in the Greek and Latin versions and refers to the Levitical priests who were appointed to minister in the sanctuary. It has six parts:
I: The Laws dealing with sacrifices (Chapters 1 to 7)
II: The Consecration of the Priests (8-10)
III: The Laws setting apart the Clean from the Unclean (11 to 15)
IV: The Ceremony for the Day of Atonement (16)
V: Laws to govern Israel as a holy nation (17-26)
VI: An Appendix on Religious Vows (27)
Today’s reading is from Section Five, which is known as the Holiness Code since its dominant theme is God’s demand that Israel be holy because God is holy. The root idea of ‘holiness’ in Hebrew is ‘separateness’, ‘apartness’, this meaning is reflected in our word ‘consecrated’.
Chapter 19 blends the requirements of ritual and worship and ethical obligations. It is founded on the Ten Commandments.
1-2. Intrroduction
v.1. And the Lord said unto Moses: The laws in Exodus 25-31 are introduced in similar words (see Ex 25.1; 31.12). v. 2 For I the Lord your God am holy. Two reasons at least are wrapped up in this. First, the Author of your being is holy ; and the stream should taste of the fountain. Second, the covenant of grace implied in the terms " the Lord your God" forms the most powerful motive to holiness. Other reasons are implied. Reason binds you to be holy ; a sanctified reason enforces the obligation by new motives. Compare the concluding verse of today’s Gospel (Matthew 5.48; see also Luke 6.36).
Whether we speak of Israel or of the church,, that God’s people are called to be holy is no reason for puffed up with pride. This holiness is not a quality within them that made God choose them, they are holy as set-apart because they have been called into covenant by the holy God.
9-10: Gleaning the Harvest; Charitable consideration for the poor.
The law about gleaning derives from an earlier custom of leaving something of the harvest to the gods or local spirits responsible for the land’s fertility; under the Law of the Lord this is impossible and a new and better motive is given to the practice. But the solemn words I am the Lord Your God remind the people that he sees and knows their actions. On gleaning, see the Book of Ruth. For us who read it now, this commandment is a commandment never to neglect the poor.
11-12 Theft, lying, and oaths
13-14: Law of relations with one’s neighbour.
15-16: Justice in the courts
17-18: Do not hate: the internal foundation of all right behaviour and holiness. Previous ethical injunctions come to a climax in this law, the source of the second commandment quoted in Mark 12:31. [NOAB], In this passage the terms ‘brother’ and ‘neighbour’ refer to fellow-Israelites; but in 19.33-34 the commandment is extended to include the stranger sojourning in the land. In Mark the ‘neighbour’ is understood in the widest possible sense.
Psalm 119. 33-40
The peculiar structure of Psalm 119 was noted last week. This section, in which the verses all begin with the Hebrew letter ‘He’ [ה], is called by the NOAB a ‘Prayer to understand the Law’.
1. to the end translates the Hebrew ‘eqeb, which can also mean wages, reward (understood as the end of one’s labour); see the RCL note on this verse.
The Epistle: 1 Corinthians 3.10–11, 16–23
At the end of last week’s passage, St Paul used two metaphors for the Church: a crop in a “field” (v. 9) and a “building”. He and Apollos worked together for God: he has planted (founded) the church at Corinth; and Apollos has watered (nurtured) it. He now turns to the second metaphor; as founder of the church at Corinth he has laid a foundation; others in the community will build on that foundation, but must do so with care (10). There is only one foundation, Jesus Christ (11); Paul may be alluding to a claim of the `Cephas party’ (1.12) that the church is founded on Peter (see Matthew 16:18).
In verses 12-15, not read this morning, Paul returns to the theme of taking care how one builds: the day of judgement will reveal how each has built.
At verse 16 Paul changes the metaphor slightly to that of the community as God’s temple. On this theme see 1 Peter 2.4-6. It is important to note that in this verse ‘you’ is plural; it is the whole community, not the individual Paul speaks of. Those who destroy God’s Temple (v. 17) commit sacrilege and will be destroyed. In light of what has been said in the first two chapters about the unity of the church, it is obvious that this refers to those who mar or break that unity by their factions, their quarrelling, and their discord. Verse 17 is also a kind of echo of the opening of Leviticus 19 and looks to the final words of the Gospel.
The Holy Gospel according to St Matthew 5.38–48
See Charles Gore, Sermon on the Mount, pp 79ff (this text is available at the Internet Archive:
AFTER dealing with three of the Ten Commandments our Lord proceeds to deal with two other teachings of the old law. As He had done to the commandments, He deepens and intensifies these teachings till they reach that standard which commends itself to His holy and perfect mind. In both cases his treatment of the older moral standard is both profoundly interesting and at the same time the cause of no little difficulty and scruple to Christian consciences.
The first teaching is about revenge.
Exodus xxi. 24, 25, lays it down: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe’ (see also Deuteronomy 19:21). Though it might sound barbaric to a modern ear, the law of the old covenant was in itself a limitation of human instinct. The old law definitely allowed revenge up to a certain point, but no further. It might go to the point of exact reciprocity. The instinct of revenge is to rush blindly in, and do as much harm to an enemy as can possibly be done. Nothing is more striking in the old covenant than that it checks barbarous habits and puts them under restraint. The Mosaic law stands by, as it were, as a policeman, and says, An eye? is that the wrong done? Then an eye may be put out in return; but no more. You must stop there. The point which needs emphasizing is that the old law worked by way of gradual limitation, not of sudden abolition. God dealt with men [adapted from Charles Gore.]
Although we may think that our instinct for revenge is an instinct of Justice, the Lord forbids it because in our own cases, where our own interests are concerned, this passion of justice has become so mixed up with selfishness, and with those excessive demands which spring of selfishness that it has become defiled with sin.
39: Do not resist an evildoer : in the AV this was translated as ‘But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil’, which often easily understood to mean simply putting up with evil. But what our Lord teaches is to avoid physical violence or damages in response to wrong or harm done to them as individuals. The Glossa Ordinaria notes somewhat bluntly: ‘The Lord, having taught that we are not to offer injury to our neighbour or irreverence to the Lord, now proceeds to show the Christian should demean himself to those that injure him.’ But as the NJBC points out, ‘the possibility of psychological or moral resistance, as exemplified by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, is open. The parallel in Romans 12:17, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all” (which is based on Proverbs 25:21-22) shows that Jesus’ teaching is a strategy for winning, not for passive resignation nor for indifference to evil.' The original words can indeed be translated of evil in general (do not resist evil) or of a human opponent (one who is or does evil); as far back as 1395 the Wyclyf translation had here ‘an evil man’.
For a comment on the words if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also, see the note at the RCL Commentary
41 if anyone forces you to go one mile. Put that simply, this might make one ask why a person would force you to go one mile. The answer lies in the word translated as ‘forces you to go’. In ancient Persia the mounted royal couriers were called angareioi, that at least is the way the Greeks understood it. These angareioi could requisition horses or other assistance in the course of their duties`. This courier service and the Persian name was taken up by other governments, and since it had the power of enforcing the assistance of the population, gave a verb (angareuo in Greek, angario in Latin) meaning generally "compulsory service." This word is translated as `forces you to go’ in this verse. It suggests that what Jesus is speaking of is not simply bullying but of one feature of the Roman military occupation of Galilee and Judea in his day, compulsory service.
It might appear, then, that this verse scarcely applies to us. But if this teaches the attitude Jesus teaches us to have toward an unjust regime, how much easier should it be to bear the burdens of our own nation? Charles Gore comments: ‘That is, do not resent public claims upon you, bear the public burdens, and be willing that, as far as you are concerned, they should be double what they are. But how we dislike the rates and taxes ! How few there are who take a Christian view of paying them, and are glad, up to their means, to accept the burden which membership in this great nation lays upon them. Something more is our duty than to make barely honest returns for an income tax.’
You may be interested to know that the Persian angareioi were the ones of whom Herodotus wrote the famous words, ‘Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds’ (Histories 8.98).
42: Give to him that asketh thee: A writer known as Pseudo-Chrysostom says that ‘because wealth is not ours but God's, God would have us be stewards of His wealth. and not lords. This is a hard commandment to obey, for there are more questions to answer than simply whether I am refusing to give because of selfishness. We all of us have responsibilities to meet with our resources. Nonetheless, it may be that most people do not even try to follow this command. Chesterton once said that it is not that people found Christianity impossible and gave it up, but that they found it difficult and did not try it. Still, we may do well to remember Augustine’s words, ‘Therefore, He says not, 'Give all things to him that asks, but, Give to every one that asks; that you should only give what you can give honestly and rightly.’ That is enough food for thought.
43. "You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' It has been noted that the inclusion of the words ‘and hate your enemy’ within the quotation marks is unfortunate, since these words do not occur in Leviticus 19:18, as we heard in the first reading. There we note that the Law said exactly what the Lord Jesus taught, ‘thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself’. Our Lord is perhaps not quoting the Scriptures so much as what was commonly taught or understood at his time. Gore writes: The exact expression, 'Thou shalt hate thine enemy’ nowhere occurs in the Mosaic law; and there are, both in the law and elsewhere in the Old Testament, passages which come nearer to the Christian standard! But on the whole we must accept Dr. Mozley's conclusion: 'The whole precept as it stands undoubtedly represents, and is a summary of, the sense of the law ‘.
It is worth noting here that quotation marks are a fairly modern invention and did not exist when the books of the Bible were written.
44-48 Our Lord deepened and broadened the Old Lawn; now he teaches us that we are to be kind in word and act to all. Love your enemies: we cannot feel alike towards all people; but we can set our will, or what the Bible calls our heart, to do them good. And if we dispose ourselves aright towards others, we shall probably end by feeling aright, though that can never be a matter of commandment. This commandment fulfils the purpose of the call to holiness. Just as God called Israel to be holy ‘For I the Lord your God am holy’ so now Jesus’ followers are commanded to love ‘so that you may be children of your Father in heaven’. And in the verses that follow he shows what this love is if not to feel loving to enemies, or to have affection for them (which cannot be commanded!). We are to show our disposition towards them by kindly salutations, or the ordinary words which express human goodwill, and by deeds, both earnest prayer for them and acts which imitate the impartial beneficence of our Father in heaven. It may sound like little. But consider how engrained it is to respond “I’m not talking to you!’ when we have been hurt. And then hear the Lord command you to greet your enemy. If we do this we will truly be perfect, which is what all today’s readings call us to.

The Calendar
20 Sunday The Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany
Also known as Septuagesima (Seventieth). Annual Meeting of Vestry.
21 Monday Feria
22 Tuesday Feria
23 Wednesday The Memorial of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, Martyr, 156
An article about St Polycarp with links may be found at
24 Thursday The Commemoration of Lindel Tsen, Bishop of Honan, 1954 and Paul Sasaki, Bishop of Mid-Japan and Tokyo, 1946
A note on these bishops may be found at:
25 Friday Feria
26 Saturday Memorial of Florence Li Tim Oi, first woman priested in the Anglican Communion, 1944
Information about Florence Li Tim Oi may be found at:
27 Sunday The Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany
Also known as Sexagesima (Sixtieth)
The Commemoration of George Herbert, Priest and Poet, 1633 may be transferred

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Additional Lectionary Note for Proper 6 of Year A

Thinking further on the notes for tomorrow's readings, I thought it might be of interest and profit to provide a further note on the Lord Jesus' teaching about making peace before offering our gifts. A paricular interest comes because the Exchange of the Peace in the Eucharist is made where it is, after the confession and before the Offertory just to obey this teaching.
A Note from
Charles Gore's THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (1896)
Matthew 5.23-26
[Jesus] adds a sort of parenthesis dealing with the duty of hastening to remove any uncharitable relation in which we may stand towards others.
The text of Matthew 5.23-26 follows here.
Our Lord is speaking to Jews who were accustomed to bring their offerings into the temple. He says that if one of them, while engaged in this religious observance, should remember that his brother has aught against him, he is to leave his gift before the altar and to go away hastily, as a man who is leaving an unfinished work, and be reconciled; and then come back and offer his gift. It is to be done quickly. This is emphasized in a second metaphor. In case of a debt you would have to act quickly, or the law would be in train and extreme consequences would follow. So in moral offences go quickly and satisfy ; purge your conscience and get free ; suffer no delay; otherwise the moral consequences will be in train, and the issue inevitable, and the final result follow.
He speaks to Jews, but he also speaks to Christians. It is the law of the new kingdom. We have an altar. We have to offer up spiritual sacrifices, the worship of God in spirit and in truth. Thus in the course of the first century Jewish Christians apparently applied this saying of our Lord to the Holy Communion. In The Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles [Didache 14,2] you find: 'Let no man who has a dispute with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled [the word in St. Matt. v. 24], that your sacrifice be not defiled.' Surely we need to lay to heart this teaching, that we are to make haste to get rid of whatever hinders our approach to God. We Englishmen are so apt to pride ourselves on not being hypocrites. It was once said to me, and the saying has always remained in my mind, that the great need in our day is to preach against the Pharisaism of the publican! How many say, 'I don't come to the sacrament : a man who has to knock about and make his way in the world must do things and put up with things which if one comes to the sacrament one is supposed to repent of. And if I do not profess to be impossibly strict, at least I am not a hypocrite’. So he goes off. 'Lord, I thank thee that I am not one of these hypocrites: I make no religious professions, thank God! 'Now this is what I call the Pharisaism of the publican. Pharisaism is being satisfied with ourselves. And the Pharisaism of the man who makes no religious professions is at least as bad as the Pharisaism of the man who abounds in them. Our Lord does not bid us abstain from coming to the altar if we are not fit, but He says, See to it that you make yourselves fit; and that too in a hurry. 'Leave there thy gift before the altar', but you cannot leave it long. It will be in the way there. There is an unfinished work which you are engaged in. Make haste to come back and finish it. If among my readers are some who belong to the Church and are not communicants, and are satisfied because they are not hypocrites, I would say to them do not be satisfied: begin to approach the altar: commit yourself to it, by telling your wife or husband, or friend or parish priest, that you hope to receive the Communion, and when ; and then go your ways quickly and remove the moral obstacles which hinder your doing so; otherwise the moral train will be set in motion, and the great and inevitable issue come before you know it.
There is one other point which I will ask you to notice our Lord's use in this passage of the word 'brother'. In the Bible the term 'brother' is confined to those who belong to the covenant; in the old law to the Jews, in the new law to the Christians. Our Lord then is here dealing with the relation of Christian to Christian, who have realized their brotherhood in the common fatherhood of God. All men are meant for brotherhood, but our Lord is speaking here to those who are brothers in fact.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lectionary Notes

Proper 6 in Year A
Sunday 13 February 2011

The Sentence and Collect do not require any comment.


The RCL offers a choice of first readings, Deuteronomy 30.15–20 or Sirach 15.15-20; the point of the readings seems the same. This year we are reading the passage from Sirach, and offer no notes on Deuteronomy.

First Reading: Sirach 15.15–20
The full name of this book is The Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach; it is also known as Ecclesiasticus, which probably means ‘church book’, an indication that it was used by the early Christian community. You may not find it in your Bible because it is one of a number of books known as ‘Apocrypha’. Since some people are not familiar with these books, and some are unclear about the meaning of ‘apocrypha’, here is a note on these matters:


In some editions of the Bible, there is a section between the Old and New Testaments, or following the New, containing a number of books which are commonly called the Apocrypha. In Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Bibles many of these books are found as part of the Old Testament and are referred to as ‘deuterocanonical’ (of a second canon). The books which were included in the Latin Vulgate, as listed in Article VI, are
The Third Book of Esdras [I Esdras],
The Fourth Book of Esdras [II Esdras],
The Book of Tobias [Tobit],
The Book of Judith,
The rest of the Book of Esther,
The Book of Wisdom [Wisdom of Solomon],
Jesus the Son of Sirach [or Ecclesiasticus],
Baruch the Prophet,
The Song of the Three Children,
The Story of Susanna,
Of Bel and the Dragon,
The Prayer of Manasses,
The First Book of Maccabees,
The Second Book of Maccabees.
Modern Bibles also include certain other books from the Greek Old Testament and included in the Bibles of Eastern Orthodox Churches, but not in the Latin Vulgate, to wit:
The Third Book of Maccabees,
The Fourth Book of Maccabees,
Psalm 151
The word Apocrypha literally means ‘things that are hidden’, but it is not clear why it was used to describe these books. It could mean that they are only for an inner group, or that they are not good enough to be read, or simply that they are not in the canon, that is, the accepted list of books counted as scripture. In practice it refers to the fact that these books were included in the ancient Greek Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Septuagint but not in the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures as settled about AD 100. We do not have the space here to discuss the history of the canon of Scripture or the disagreements over the status of these books that have arisen throughout the Church’s history. A good introduction to these matters may be found in the New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha.
What we must note is that the Protestant Reformers questioned whether the Apocrypha were inspired, or were merely human literature. While many rejected them outright, a more conservative policy was to include them in a special section. In Article VI of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion the Church of England says that the Church reads them “for example of life and instruction of manners, but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine.” The lectionaries for the Eucharist and daily Morning and Evening Prayer include readings from the deuterocanonical books. We may wonder, then, why most editions of the Bible leave out these books. The answer is clearly given in The History of the Bible in English by Frederick Fyvie Bruce (New York : Oxford University Press, 1978), pp 110-111.
Note : A.V. stands for "authorized version", the translation of 1611 commonly called the 'King James'.
“Like its predecessors, the A.V. included a translation of the Apocrypha. Four years later Archbishop Abbot forbade anyone to issue the Bible without the Apocrypha, on pain on one year’s imprisonment. The Church of England, in accordance with Article VI, reads the books of the Apocrypha “For example of life and instruction of manners, but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine.” The Puritan party, however, and those who took their guidance from Geneva rather than from Canterbury, disapproved of the inclusion of the Apocrypha in the Bible at all. Some copies of the Geneva Bible published at Geneva in 1599 omitted the Apocrypha, but this omission was the binder’s work; there is a gap in the page-numbvering between the Testaments. An Amsterdam edition of the Geneva Bible, publisherd in 1640, omitted the Apocrypha as a matter of policy, and inserted a defence of this policy between the Testaments. In 1644 the Long Parliament, in which Puritan views were very influential, decreed that only the canonical books of the Old Testament should be read in church, and three years later the Westminster Confession of Faith declared that ‘the books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are not part of the canon of Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, not to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than any other human writings.’
“This policy prevailed in the Church of Scotland, but was reversed in the Church of England after the Restoration. The Nonconformists, however, continued for the most part to disregard the Apocrypha except for the historical value of the books. It is not without significance that he first English Bible printed in America (1782-3) omitted the Apocrypha. The fashion of printing the A.V. without the Apocrypha was reinforced by the example of the British and Foreign Bible Society (founded in 1804), which in 1826 adopted the policy of omitting the Apocrypha from its editions. It is said that, when this Society offered to provide the copy of the Bible to be presented to King Edward VII at his coronation in 1902, the offer was declined by Archbishop Frederick Temple on the ground that a ‘mutilated Bible’ was unacceptable.”
It is the clear teaching of our Church that the books called Apocrypha are to be read in Church and included in the Bible, and we ought gladly to follow this rather than some publisher’s whim. It is good to see, therefore, that the NRSV is readily available with the books called Apocrypha included, so that we can more easily obtain a Bible that is not ‘mutilated’. If you go to the ABC rather than a secular bookstore to purchase a Bible you can be sure of this.

In Sirach 50:27 the author identifies himself as Jesus son of Eleazar son of Sirach of Jerusalem, a scholar of the Law of God, who wrote this book in about 180 BC. The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua. The Prologue to the book explains that his grandson translated the book into Greek; this was soon after 132 BC. Some fragments of a Hebrew text of Sirach have been discovered. The NOAB introduction notes:
‘Sirach is a significant link in the history of the development of ancient Jewish thought. It is the last great example of the type of wisdom literature represented in the Old Testament book of Proverbs, and the first specimen of that form of Judaism which subsequently developed into the rabbinical schools of the Pharisees and the Sadducees’
Sirach 15.11-20 is described by the NJBC as ‘one of the clearest statements in the Bible on freedom of the will. It teaches that each individual has the radical freedom to choose life by obeying the law of God or death by refusing to obey. Other passages in the Bible make it clear that this is not the whole story, and indeed that whole we are responsible and can choose the good, our condition is so weakened by sin that it is impossible to do all the good we choose (see Romans 3.23; 7.13-25). In short the real choice is between faith and unbelief and our freedom to choose does not mean that we do not require God’s grace.
A further complication to our freedom to choose to keep God’s law comes in the Sermon on the Mount, where the law is reinterpreted in such a way that it cannot be kept in a superficial or punctilious manner.
15-17: The two choices are also mentioned in Deuteronomy 30:15-19. [NJBC] See Deut 30.19: I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed.
18-19: NJBC notes “It is a lie to say that because God is omniscient he causes sin”. God’s knowledge does not determine future events. God is eternal. ‘Eternity,’ as Boethius wrote, ‘is the possession of endless life whole and perfect at a single moment’. God, eternally ‘now’ knows every human action as present; his knowledge no more makes them necessary than your knowledge of a present act makes it necessary. (See Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy, Book V, chapter VI)
It is not clear to me why only vv. 15-20 are read, when the whole of 11-10 is so clearly a unit. 11-12 declare that God can in no way be held responsible for human sin. Compare James 1.13 [No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one] and Wisdom 11.24. This was a very important point in the debates over Predestination that have exercised theologians, particularly in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Psalm 119.1–8
Psalm 119 is an alphabetical acrostic: it is made up of twenty-two stanzas consisting of eight lines, each of which begins with the same Hebrew letter. Almost every line contains the word ‘law’ or a synonym (ways, commandments, statutes, judgements). The predominant mood is one of lament, suggesting that it was meant to be prayer for deliverance from some trouble; it may however be a formal literary exercise in praise of the law of God. This part is a prayer for help in observing the law which is an admirable meditation on the first reading.
In verse 2 those who seek God with their whole heart are praised: see also vv 19, 34, 58, 69, 145. It is the commandment of Deuteronomy 6.4 to love God with one’s ‘whole heart’.

The Epistle 1 Corinthians 3.1–9
This passage continues from the point last week’s ended. According to the NOAB, ‘Paul has apparently been criticized at Corinth for preaching too simple a gospel. He explains that, though he has wisdom to impart (2.6), he could it impart it only to the spiritually mature; and the Corinthians did not qualify. They still do not: their party spirit shows ‘that they have not grasped the nature of authentic community’ [NJBC].
1. And so … I; literally ‘And I (kai ego) and so translated in the AV; RSV has ‘but I’, it is not clear to me why the NJBC adds ‘so’. People of the flesh: where in 2.14 Paul spoke of the ‘unspiritual’ here we have the ‘fleshly’. NJBC says that the ‘fleshly’ are those still dominated by the standards of a fallen world. If in the earlier passage he was using the terminology of a faction in Corinth who looked down on some as ‘unspiritual’ (‘soul-people’, psychicoi), perhaps he is taking them down a peg by calling them ‘flesh-people’ (sarkikoi).
3. Behaving according to human inclinations: literally, ‘walking according to man’ (kata anthropon); that is according to human understanding and estimation, as opposed to ‘according to God’ (kata theon; see 2 Corinthians 7.9-10). ‘By accepting envy and strife as normal they betray their acceptance of the common judgement of what is possible for humanity’.
4. are you not merely human? Their party slogans show that they are just ordinary people and not the spiritual and enlightened leaders they claim to be.
NJBC entitles the section 3.5-4.5 as The Right Attitude towards Pastors.
5. What then is …. ‘Who’ might be expected, but Paul uses the neuter deliberately here and in v. 7 to stress that these leaders are instruments. The question seems to demand the answer “Nothing”, but their ministry is part of God’s plan: they are servants through whom you came to believe. Faith is a divine gift, but it comes through human instruments.
6. I planted, Apollos watered: Paul was first to preach the Gospel in Corinth; Apollos later taught; they were ‘related as evangelist and catechist’. 7. God does not need these human instruments but in his wisdom chose to use them [NJBC]. 8. Since all have a common purpose, they are the same, why set them against each other? Each will receive wages: Paul acknowledges the reality of the ministers’ contribution.
9. God’s field, God’s building: NJBC notes that these images are commionly associated; in stony Palestine, clearing fields were used to build walls. It refers to Jeremiah 1.10: ‘to build and to plant’. The theme of God’s building takes over the discussion in the rest of Chapter 3.
The Gospel: Matthew 5.21–37
This section of the Sermon on the Mount continues the thoughts begun in 5.17-20, which Charles Gore called ‘The Revision of the Old Law’ and in particular the second part, concerning the new which supersedes the old (20-48).
It is probably about time to remind you of the ‘Clippings’ on the Gospel passage at the RCL Commentary site and provide the link: I think some of the notes there are particularly worth checking.
Rather than repeating the same points here, I will repeat a general comment on the whole from Gore’s book on the Sermon on the Mount:
‘There are two points to which I would call attention, which apply to all these modifications or deepenings of the old law.
‘First, notice the authority of the teacher. 'It was said to them of old time’—that is, by God Himself in the Mosaic Law—Thou shalt not do this or that; ' but I say unto you’. Now this is a new tone, and it has only one legitimate explanation. All the prophets had said 'Thus saith the Lord': they had spoken the word of another. Jesus says ‘I say unto you’ thus giving one of many indications that He who spoke was different in kind from all other speakers upon earth ; that He was the fount of the moral law, and could speak as the one supreme legislator with the voice, with the authority, of God Himself.
“Secondly, notice that when our Lord deals with the different commandments, He deals with them on principles which in each case would apply to all the others. You could take the distinctive principle which emerges in His dealing with the law of murder or of adultery, and apply it to the case of all the other commandments. This is only one instance which goes to prove that our Lord does not mean to save us trouble. He teaches in a way which leaves us a great deal to do for ourselves, and requires of us a great deal of moral thoughtfulness.”
The Lord teaches about the laws against Murder (21-26); Adultery (27-31) Oaths (32-37); notice that there are what we might call subsidiary teachings in each section. Thus in condemning anger and malice he adds a teaching of haste in removing any uncharitable relation in which one may stand towards others (24-26).
In each case the Lord moves from the outward act forbidden under the law, such as murder and, far from abolishing the law, applies the ban to the underlying cause of the act. Thus anger is raised to the same level as the act of murder which flows from it, lustful thoughts to the level of adultery, and so on.
Gore: … ‘Our Lord raises the whole standard of guilt. He takes no account of sins of act at all. In the citizens of His new kingdom, sins of act are, as it were, out of the question. The way He deals with the law—specifically the law of murder, but in principle all the laws—is, if we may paraphrase His words, this : Under the new law you are to think of malicious anger, of anger and malice entertained in your hearts, as under the old law men were accustomed to think of ordinary homicide.’
Unfortunately, we were somewhat distracted over the past two days by the news from Egypt and have run out of space and time!
EXTRA NOTE: After I published this post I began to look at the readings for next Sunday. It struck me almost at once that it is worth reading both this and next Sunday's Gospels with the first reading for next Sunday, Leviticus 19.1-2, 9-10. More on this nexty week.
14 Monday: Memorial of Cyril and Methodius, Missionaries to the Slavs, 869, 885
In the older Calendar this was the commemoration of Valentine, Martyr. No more need be said
15 Tuesday: Memorial of Thomas Bray, Priest and Missionary, Founder of SPG and SPCK, 1730
16 Wednesday: Feria
17 Thursday: Feria
18 Friday: Feria
19 Saturday: Feria
There is only one Eucharist at St Columba and All Hallows this Sunday, at 10 am, followed by the Annual Meeting of Vestry

Saturday, February 5, 2011

lectionary notes

Some Notes for Proper 5 in Year A
The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
6 February AD 2011

The First Reading : Isaiah 58.1-9a, (9b-12)
The Lord does not desire fasting, but kindness and justice. In the past few centuries, scholars have suggested that the latter part of the Book of Isaiah (Chapters 40-66) contains writings from during and after the Exile in Babylon, and perhaps even a third set of writings from after the return to Jerusalem. These are referred to as Deutero- (that is, second) Isaiah, Chapters 40-55, and Trito- (third) Isaiah (56-66). More about this and suggestions for further reading may be found at :
This passage speaks of fasting, but its implications are wider: it encompasses the whole of the people’s attitude towards God. Fasting was an ancient insititution in Israel; it was a sign of the people’s grief at times of bereavement (see 2 Sam 1.12, 3.35) and national tragedy ((Joshua 7.6, Judges 20.26). During the exile in Babylon and after the return, the number of fast days increased (Zechariah 7.1-5, 8.18-19, Joel). During the exile in Babylon and after the return, the number of fast days increased (Zechariah 7.1-5, 8.18-19, Joel). Eventually one great day of fasting was established on the day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
Beginning with fasting, the prophet speaks of the whole religious system, which is superficial. This is the theme of true religion from last weeks’s reading from Micah 6.6-8. The passage begins as a true prophetic judgement, but it does not conclude with a verdict of guilt; rather there is an announcement of salvation vv. 8-12)
1. The summons. The trumpet was used to proclaim a fast (Joel 2:15 and Ezekiel 33:3). The sound of the trumpet was also associated with the giving of the law on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19)
2-4a. The indictment. Note the contrast between ther people’s desire to know God and his ways (‘delight’, v. 2) and the Lord’s desire for compassion towards the poor.
3. Why humble ourselves?, literally, ‘we have afflicted our soul’. In the Hebrew there is a play on words: the people ‘afflict’ themselves through fasting but they neglect the poor (‘afflicted’) (verse 7). You serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers: let it never be thought that social justice is some strange idea brought into religion in modern times!
5. This is not the fast I choose. sackcloth was worn by mourners (Ezekiel 7.18), by prisoners (3.24) and by prophets (20.2).
6-9b: It is one’s relationship with others that reveals one’s relationship to God. See Luke 10.25-37.
7. to share your bread … bring the homeless poor into your house … the naked, to cover them: compare the parable of the judgement in Matthew 25:31-46.
8-14: The announcement of salvation.
8. your light. see Isaiah 42:6-7, and obviously today's Gospel reading. The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard: The Hebrew word, which seems to mean ‘gather’ has a range of senses: The Judaica Press translation has the glory of the Lord shall gather you in, while the Complete Jewish Bible has and ADONAI's glory will follow you. The ancient Greek version has and the glory of God shall compass thee ; the Vulgate gather thee. Wyclyf had gather thee; the Douai-Rheims version has: and the glory of the Lord shall gather thee up. Both Geneva and the Bishops’ Bible had and the glory of the Lord shall embrace thee. Something called the God’s Word Translation has the glory of the LORD will guard you from behind. See Isa 52:12.
9. The pointing of the finger: see Proverbs 6:12-15
12. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt: the temple and walls of Jerusalem have apparently not been restored.
Although this passage contrasts with the external and ritual fasting a true fast of compassion and active aid to the afflicted, this does not mean that fasting in the literal sense is wrong. The simple fact that Yom Kippur is still a fast day proves this, as does the fact that our Lord’s teaching on fasting (Matthew 6.16-18) begins with the assumption that his followers will fast. But literal fasting is a tool, not an end in itself.

Psalm 112.1-9(10)
Beatus vir
This is an acrostic poem; each half verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. We might show this, as the ancient Latin version does by printing the names of the letters, thus:

ALEPH Happy are they who fear the Lord BETH and have great delight in his commandments!
GIMEL Their descendants will be mighty in the land; DALETH the generation of the upright will be blessed.
And so on.
This psalm is strikingly similar to Psalm 111. It is quite straightforward and needs no particular comments here except for one point of translation. In verse 9, our version has, They will hold up their head: this is literally their horn will be exalted, the horn is often used in the Old Testament as a symbol of strength and power, an image taken from bulls and such animals.

The Epistle: 1 Corinthians 2.1-12 (13-16)
1-5: The cross as central to Christian life and faith. The first five verses of the passage conclude the section begun last week.
1. Paul develops what he wrote in 1.17: For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. Despite this, the Church was to find that it had to speak to the world, and turned both rhetoric and philosophy to the service of the cross. Nonetheless, this passage reminds us of our purpose, which is to proclaim Christ, the word of the cross which to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1.18). The testimony of God is Christ, whom Paul refused to adorn with rhetorical devices or clever arguments.
2. I decided to know nothing …. Paul focussed all his attention on the crucified Christ, who was not the kind of Saviour expected either by Jews or Greeks (1.220-24).
3. in weakness and in much fear and trembling: There were many itinerant philosophers in those days, wandering teachers who made a living and sometimes took advantage of the credulity of the simple. Today they would be on television or talk radio. They would persuade people of their opinions by clever arguments and the art of rhetoric. Paul declares that when he came to Corinth he was entirely unlike these self-assured and clever teachers.
4. the Spirit and of power: a figure of speech meaning the power of the spirit. This is the only explanation of the conviction that gripped the Corinthians when Paul spoke.
5. not in human wisdom: a faith that is based on human wisdom is liable to be challenged by more persuasive arguments; but in the power of God: that is, in God as active in history, and not just in a concept.
6. the mature, is ironic; see 3.1. Among believers there is no special knowledge reserved to a few chosen souls. The wisdom of God and the power of God is the word of the cross, which is for all. of the rulers of this age: there are three interpretations of this expression: they are human rulers, they are demonic powers, or they are human rulers used by demonic powers. See Ephesians 1:20-21; 3:10; 6:12, which speak of supernatural spiritual agents, and Acts 4.25-28, which refers to human rulers. The NJBC thinks that it most likely refers here to human rulers.
7. The only true wisdom is God`s plan of salvation in Christ crucified.
8. Had the rulers known that God`s plan of salvation would be achieved through the suffering and death of Jesus, they would have tried to frustrate it by letting him live.
9. As it is written: unusually for Paul, this does not introduce a quotation from the scriptures. So NJBC, but another suggestion is that he could be quoting from memory (see Isaiah 64.4 and Psalm 31:19).
14. The unspiritual man: literally, the ‘psychic’ man, as opposed to the spiritual man (15), but not 'physical' as I believe it is translated in another place. The Greek words here are from ‘psyche’, or soul, and ‘pneuma’, or spirit. It may help to know that the Latin translation of ‘psychic’ is ‘animal’ which is of course from anima. But then again it may not. Some of the Corinthians seem to have thought themselves to possess a ‘wisdom’ which made them mature or perfect and gave them the right to look down on others as children. NJBC says that here: Paul turns the Corinthians’ own distinction against them. If the ‘spirit-people’ do not understand him, it is they who are the ‘soul-people’.
The Holy Gospel according to St Matthew 5.13-20
13-16: The Salt and Light of the World
‘How is a character such as the beatitudes describe, planted in a world such as this is, to effect good ? It is to purify by its own distinctive savour, it is to be conspicuous by its own splendid truth to its ideal, it is to arrest attention by its powerful contrast to the world. about it. This is the meaning of the metaphors which follow the beatitudes’ [Bishop Gore].
13. Salt has a great importance in human life: it adds flavour to otherwise lifeless food, and brings out flavours that might be hidden; for this reason it metaphorically adds wit to thought and conversation; it is a preservative; it is a cleaner. It was also used in sacrifice under the law of Moses: see Lev 2.23. if the salt shall become tasteless, in what will it be salted? Bishop Gore writes: “The savour of a Christianity which does not mean what it says, wherewith can it be salted? How can it recover its position and influence? Would it not be better never to have been Christians at all than to be Christians who do not mean what they say ? What is so useless as a hollow profession of religion? ' It is thenceforth 'good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.' 'I would thou wert cold or hot. So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth.’ Christians exist in order to make the contrast of their own lives apparent to the world.” The RCL Commentary notes that salt ‘does not really lose its taste, but in Judaism it can become ritually unclean and need to be “thrown out”. (It was used to season incense and offerings to God.) Jesus may also be thinking of the salt deposits around the Dead Sea: when heavily rained upon, they still look like salt but no longer are. A follower who loses his faith is useless, and will be discarded.’
On salt, this comment of St Remigius is worth noting: ‘Moreover, salt is changed into another kind of substance by three means, water, the heat of the sun, and the breath of the wind. Thus Apostolic men also were changed into spiritual regeneration by the water of baptism, the heat of love, and the breath of the Holy Spirit. That heavenly wisdom also, which the Apostles preached, dries up the humours of carnal works, removes the foulness amid putrefaction of evil conversation, kills the work of lustful thoughts, and also that worm of which it is said their worm dies not. … The Apostles are the salt of the earth, that is, of worldly men who are called the earth, because they love this earth.’
14. You are the Light of the World. Compare John 8.12, the Gospel sentence for today. Bishop Gore noted that ‘Light is that which burns distinctively in the darkness’. On the lamp on shining on the lampstand compare the parable of the lost coin, in which the woman lights a candle whereby she can see to sweep and look for the coin.
And glorify your Father, who is in heaven. This is the earliest use of the expression ‘Our Father in heaven’; Matt. vi. 9. The relation of the righteous to God is shown by works, Matt. v. 48 ; i John iii. 3-9. 1 Pet. 2. 12, seems to refer to this saying.
17-19: The Revision of the Old Law: 1) The Continuity
Bishop Gore writes: Our Lord explains that the new law stands in a double relation to the old. First, it is in direct continuity with what had gone before (w. 17-19); and. secondly (vv. 20-48), it supersedes it, as the complete supersedes the incomplete.
17. Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. Bishop Gore: ‘The character of the citizens of the new kingdom as described by our Lord was so surprising, so paradoxical, that it was inevitable the question should arise, Was He a revolutionary who had come to upset and destroy all the old law was this a revolutionary movement in the moral and religious world? To this question, then, our Lord directly addressed Himself. The rest of the first chapter of the Sermon on the Mount—St. Matthew v. 17 to the end—is simply a statement of the relation in which this new righteousness, this righteousness of the new kingdom, stands to the old righteousness of the Mosaic Law.’ The law and the prophets are the first two great sections of the Jewish canon [Law, Prophets and Writings ] are mentioned, but the whole may be intended, Luke xxiv. 44. To fulfill: to ‘bring to completion’ or ‘make perfect’.
18. verily, in Aramaic amen. not one letter, not one stroke of a letter; literally, not one iota or one horn. Iota was Yod, the smallest Hebrew letter; keraia, horn, referred to the point or serif of a letter. The NRSV version has nothing to commend it over the older ‘one jot or one tittle’. This and the subsequent verses raise important questions about the permanence of the Law of Moses. It is obvious that a perfectly literal interpretation of our Lord’s words will not do, for he himself did break and change the law (see Mark 7.19 as well as the places where he relativized the law of the Sabbath). It is also obvious that we cannot tackle this issue in these notes.
19. will be called least in the kingdom: Slater notes: not shall be excluded from, but shall not attain the highest honour. See also Matt. 11.11

20-48: The Revision of the Old Law: 2) The Supersession
20. Bishop Gore notes: Then our Lord passes to the other side of the question. The old law was imperfect ; the new law is to supersede it. The new law is to supersede it both as it is represented in the actual standard of its professors, the scribes and Pharisees (v. 20), and then, more than that, it is to supersede it even in its actual principles (w. 21-48).

The Calendar

Sunday 6 February The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
Monday 7 Feria
Great and Manifold: A Celebration of the Bible in English’ opens today at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto. See for details
Tuesday 8 Feria
Wednesday 9 Commemoration of Hannah Grier Coome, Founder, SSJD, 1921
Hannah Grier Coome was born in Ontario but spent most of her married life in Britain. After her husband’s death in Chicago in 1878 Mrs Coome decided to try her vocation as an Anglican nun in England. While staying with family in Toronto on the way, she met a group of women who wished to found a community in Canada. Mrs Coome was trained as novice in the United States and in 1884 returned to Toronto where the Sisters of St John the Divine was begun. Mother Hannah was Superior until 1916. The Community is still active in our diocese. Please see for further information.
Thursday 10 Feria
Friday 11 Feria
Saturday 12 Feria
Sunday 13 The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany