Friday, February 25, 2011

Eucharistic Devotions

A friend suggested that links to these prayers be put on the blog for the sake of those who may not have noticed them "buried" in the Forward Ministry website. They are part of my collection, TRADITIONAL PRAYERS FOR ANGLICAN CATHOLICS, all of which is HERE. It has been printed in book form and will soon be available for purchase.

Before Mass (William Vickers)

Before Mass ("Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Angels")

Before Mass ("Lord, come to me that thou mayest cleanse me")

Before Mass (". . . incline thy merciful ears to our prayers")

Before Mass ("Cleanse our consciences, we beseech thee O Lord")

Before Mass ("As watchmen look for the morning")

Before Mass (Desiderius Erasmus)

Before Mass (From the Non-Jurors' Liturgy of 1718)

Before Mass ("Like as the hart . . .")

Before Mass (From the Diocese of Bathurst "Red Book")

Before Mass (May this offering avail . . .)
Before Mass (St Thomas Aquinas)

Before Mass (Bishop Lancelot Andrewes)

Before Mass (Bishop Thomas Ken)

Before Mass (Bishop John Cosin)

Before Mass (Thomas Comber)

Oblation (From the liturgy of the Catholic Apostolic Church)
Uniting Heaven and Earth (Bishop Jeremy Taylor)

Encountering Jesus (Eric Milner-White)

The Holy Sacrifice (William Jervois)

The Holy Sacrifice (Charles Wesley)
Ave verum corpus (Attributed to Pope Innocent VI)

To Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament (Favourite medieval prayer of Father John Hope)

Acclamation ("O Sacrament most holy . . .")

The Holy Sacrifice (William Bright)

To Jesus, the Risen Lord (i) (Brian Moore, adapted)

To Jesus, the Risen Lord (ii) (Brian Moore, adapted)

Drawing Near (From the liturgy of the Catholic Apostolic Church)
To Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gonville Ffrench-Beytagh on the Holy Spirit

It is good for us to remember that a Christian is someone who allows himself or herself to be drawn into the prayer of Jesus to the Father by the Holy Spirit. St Paul refers to this when he tells us not to worry when we don't know what to say in our prayers: ". . . the Spirit helps us in our weakness: for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit . . ." (Romans 8:28)

Something of the adventure of this is captured by Father Gonville Ffrench-Beytagh in his little book A Glimpse of Glory. Father ffrench-Beytagh (1912-1991) spent much of his life in South Africa. Converted as a young adult, be trained for the priesthood, eventually becoming becoming Dean of Salisbury (Harare) and later Johannesburg. In the course of his ministry he challenged apartheid, and spent time in prison. On his release he went to England, becoming well-known for his remarkable ministry of spiritual direction, which he carried out from St Vedast's Church near St Paul's Cathedral, London. He published numerous book, including Encountering Darkness, an account of his imprisonment, Facing Depression, Encountering Light, Tree of Glory, and A Glimpse of Glory.

Here is what he wrote about the Holy Spirit and prayer:

"The Holy Spirit is pouring, cascading forth, in tumultuous torrents of love pouring out into the Son, pouring himself in torrents of love. And the Son himself is joyously, gloriously, pouring back his love into the Father. In this great procession of love pouring forth love, it is the Holy Spirit who is poured forth; it is he who is cascading forth in this glorious love affair. And that love is so unlimited, so limitless, that it spills over.

"The Holy Spirit spills over. This is not because God can't contain himself, but because he is so longing to share his life of love and joy and glory, that he has made us as containers. That is what CAPAX DEI means - capable of containing God. Our glory and our purpose is to be filled with the reality which is God. We are designed to be filled with the love of God. We are like the great tankers, filled with petrol or milk, that go trundling along the road, marked 'Capacity 20,000 gallons'. But you and I go about with a couple of gallons sloshing around in the bottom instead of being filled with the fullness of God. Yet that is what he made us for. That is the purpose of our existence - to be filled with God. If we think of prayer being for that, then we are expanding ourselves to receive a share of what is poured out and spilling over of the tremendous infinite power of the love of God.

" . . . I once spent four astonished days at the Victoria Falls in Africa. I was being pounded into the ground by their deafening roar and the magnificent sight of the millions and millions of gallons every moment pouring out, cascading, thundering down into the gorge below. It seemed as if the Congo and the Zambezi had drained all the water out of Africa and there it was. For me this made a picture of the ceaseless activity within the being of God himself. It was like the cascades of infinite divine love interflowing within the Godhead between the Father and the Son. God the Father is begetting love; God the Son is begotten love; God the Holy Spirit is the ceaseless flow of love between the Father and the Son. The Spirit binds them together in the gorgeous, ceaseless torrent of love.

"And beside the Victoria Falls is the rain forest. It is a weird place where you can put on a sou' wester, hat, oilskins, gumboots, and walk into the forest and you're just soaked to the skin. Water gets through everything. The heavy mist comes from the spray that rises up from the great canyon into which the torrent flows. It penetrates everything and seems wetter than ordinary water. As the mist from the cascade will drench us and soak into us if we put ourselves there in the forest, so, if we put ourselves close to the Lord God, his love that overspills and overflows will soak us in the Spirit. We long to share his love in as far as it can be shared by human beings. And he has made us for that, he has made us to be CAPAX DEI, to stand, as it were, in the rain forest, to be drenched in the love of God. That is the spiritual life.

". . . the Falls make a picture of this torrential love of God which never stops. We are caught up into God's love in the prayer of the Spirit praying within us. And we are caught up with the prayer of all the ages and the prayers of all the saints and of our own forbears. We are in their prayers with the angels and the archangels. It is the one great paean of love, agonizing sometimes, from the great chorus of heaven of which we are a part."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) on the Lord's Prayer

This is Chapter 6 of ABBA - Meditations Based upon the Lord's Prayer, first published in 1940 by Longmans, Green & Co Ltd.

IN the first part of the Lord's Prayer, we are wholly concerned with God's glory. We pray with angelic spirits; creatures whose purposes are completely harmonized with the Creative Will. In the second part, we turn from the Eternal Splendour to our earthly limitations, and bring before God the burden, neediness and sinfulness of our state.

Give us this day our daily bread.

With this proclamation of our utter dependence, the presentation before God of the simplest and most fundamental of our needs, we pass from adoration to petition, and enter into the full paradox of Christian prayer: the unspeakable majesty and abiding perfection of the Infinite, and because of that majesty and that perfection, the importance of the claim of the fugitive, the imperfect, the finite.

There is a natural tendency in man to reverse this order of approach; to come before God in a spirit of heaviness, greatly concerned with his own imperfections, needs and desires-"my soul and its shortcomings," "the world and its wants"-and defer the putting on of the garment of praise: that wedding-garment which introduces us into the company of the sons of God and is the only possible beginning of real prayer. Here, Christ's teaching and practice are decisive.

First the heavenly, then the earthly. First ascend in heart and mind to the Eternal, adore the Father, seek the Kingdom, accept the Will: and all the rest shall be added unto you. Again and again the New Testament insists on that . . . keep reading

Friday, February 4, 2011

My yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:30)

The Antiochian Orthodox parish of St Botolph's London, founded by the late Father Michael Harper, has a great website on which can be found various sermons and other interesting bits 'n pieces. The parish priest, Fr. Alexander Tefft, is a Canadian. As a child, he attended the Orthodox Church but was not baptised until his twenties. Thus, he speaks to both 'cradle' and 'convert'. Fr. Alexander has taught the Orthodox faith for twenty years. Graduating from St. Tikhon's Seminary in Pennsylvania, he was ordained a deacon in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Going to England to pursue doctoral research, he was appointed a tutor and later chaplain of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge. Upon transfer from the OCA to the Antiochian Church, he was ordained to the priesthood by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware). His sermons are challenging and thought provoking, always about some aspect of the Good News of Jesus. The website is HERE. Fr. Alexander preached this sermon on 5th December, 2010.

Luke 13:10-17; Matthew 11:27-30

When a Breton fisherman sets sail from a port along the rocky coast of Brittany, tradition states that he prays: ‘Protègez moi, mon Seigneur, ma barque est si petite, et votre mer est si grande’ – ‘Protect me, O Lord, my boat is so small, and your sea is so great’. All that we need to know about life is here. And prayer. About life. And the Lord of life. ‘My boat is so small, and your sea is so great’. The sea is so vast and powerful; and I am so small. Look out on its endless expanse. Who would not feel pity for a little wooden boat, journeying out on the waves? Swept by the foam, battered by the storms that sweep the surface and carry whole villages away. Beneath the surface are animals that are larger and more terrifying than anything on dry land. The sea never forgets that you are small. Your boat is small. No one but a lunatic expects your little boat to master the sea. No one – least of all … God. God watches you set sail. God blesses you. God directs your little boat, over the waves. And God knows when the storms toss you, this way and that, and sometimes, carry you away. God knows, and understands.

A priest of God who is worthy of the name never expects more of you than God himself. He helps you into a tiny boat, he points the way – by means of the true worship: incense and candles, vestments and prayer; processions with the Gospel, and with the holy gifts of bread and wine. He teaches you true doctrine, to direct your little boat over the waves that tempt you to despair; the foam made up of lies and deceit that hide the face of God. A true priest blesses you, again and again, and points your boat toward the land beyond the Jordan, promised by God. But a true priest of God also knows when the storms toss you, this way and that. The white lie that you told. The angry thoughts, the angry words about your husband or wife or co-worker. The piece of meat that you ate during the fast. A true priest knows when the storms sometimes carry you away. The bottle of cider that you drank and forgot all the bottles that went before. The warm body that you clung to in the night, when a friend became a little more than a friend. A true priest, a priest of God, knows, and understands. Your boat is so small. Sometimes, it cannot reach its destined port. Sometimes, it crashes on rocks or sinks below the waves. Sin is no crime. It is the sickness, the infirmity, that comes upon you and others; and a true priest is not there to judge you, but to heal. He is not there to bind you, but to set you free.

A false priest is stiff and proud. Around your neck, he binds a hard yoke of guilt, in order to harness you to some distant tyrant that he calls ‘God’. Upon your shoulders, he lays a burden of ‘right conduct’, rewards and punishments, so heavy that it weighs you down – until you cannot stand up straight, but grovel at his feet. He loads your little boat with his chains until it sinks from the unbearable weight. Have you ever known a priest like that? A priest who never lets God stand in the way of the law.

God, who lifts the burden, breaks the yoke – and recognises him who laid them on you.

For eighteen years, Satan has bound a woman with a spirit of infirmity. She is bent over and cannot stand up straight. The sickness is in her spine, where worries and fears and, above all, guilt, weigh down a body and pull it down under the waves. She comes to the synagogue to hear Jesus teach. He sees her, there in the crowd. He calls out: ‘Woman, you are free. I set you free from the sickness that bends you down in fear. I set free from the tyranny that weighs upon you’. As soon as he lays his hands on her, she does not fall to his feet. She stands and praises God. But the pious leader – let us call him, a ‘false priest’ – hates to see her standing straight. He is angry that Jesus has violated the law. ‘Come here some other day’, he yells at those present, ‘but not the Sabbath’. Jesus does not spare these righteous folk. ‘Hypocrites! Would you keep this woman bound up in sickness, just to obey your laws? Why not keep your own animals tied up, hungry and thirsty, just to obey your laws to the letter? You are of your father, the devil. He sees the little boat tossed on the waves and loads it down with heavy chains. I break the chains – I smash them – here and now, on the Sabbath day, set aside for the glory of God’.

Why else was the Sabbath created if not to set you free? Why Sunday, the glorious Day of Resurrection, if not to free you from death? Why teach true doctrine, if not to free you from every lie? Why obey the commandment of love, if not to free you from yourselves? A false priest delights in seeing you bowed down. Unable to stand. Bound with the chain that he mistakes for the law of God. But in truth, it is he who is chained by the chain that he forged in life; and someday, he will awaken to find himself chained … forever. A true priest of God does not chain you: you, or your little boat. He waits, as long as it takes for you to remember, then gently guides your little boat on its voyage home.

Beloved in Christ: Saint Sabas – Mar Saba, as his disciples called him – was just such a priest. Wise beyond his years. His name Savá in Hebrew meant ‘old man’; and this child elder, as they called him, saw how the storms of life toss you up and down, this way and that, and all too easily carry you away. Rather than abandon men to the storms, he set up a community in the Kedron Valley near Jerusalem: the Great Lávra, dedicated to the perpetual prayers of the monks. Rather than draw up a rigid rule of conduct, he gave us the Týpikon, the guidelines for the true worship still used in the Orthodox Church – for the word ‘Orthodox’ does not mean ‘right conduct’ but true worship. Most importantly, Saint Sabas opposed the false priests – those who depicted Christ as some distant tyrant, who bends and breaks you to his will. Christ, our true God, is no less human than we. He sees that our boat is small and the sea is great. He knows how weak and frightened we are. God knows, and understands.

Our God is not stiff and proud; he is gentle and lowly. He commands us, not to grovel at his feet but to stand upright. To cast off the crippling burden of fear and the yoke of guilt. To remember, each time that we hear the word ‘mercy’, that all the sins ever committed by mankind are only a handful of dust cast into the infinite sea of God’s love. He lays on us no yoke, except the true Orthodox worship of Christ our God: the yoke, not of fear but of love.

For his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.

The Psalms - The Scaffolding of our Prayer

Following the example of the Jewish people and of Jesus himself, the early Christians kept using the Old Testament collection of Psalms as the basic scaffolding of prayer. That has continued in the catholic tradition of the Church right down to our day. In fact, Anglican clergy are supposed to pray their way through the book of Psalms every month.

Each of us has our favourite psalms. And - if the truth be known - there are the psalms most of us would avoid if left to our own devices. You now what I mean - the ones which seem full of depression, despondency and anger, where the Psalmist even seems to be shaking his fist at God. Yet, when we are honest, we must admit that sometimes those are the Psalms which reflect how we feel.

It is easy to have prayer lives that help us avoid coming to terms with what is going on inside us. We all fall into that trap, and it's not what God wants, because ultimately it will not help us. Using the psalms in the way we are supposed to is one means of bringing the whole of our lives with their uneven rhythms before God, including the upset, temperamental and sinful bits, so as to become increasingly open to his grace and the healing power of his love.

I have noticed that more and more lay people are seeing the benefit of this, and are using forms of Morning and/or Evening Prayer each day, with a systematic praying of the psalms.

There is a little book by that title. In my youth I feasted on Praying the Psalms by Thomas Merton (1915-1968). It was given to me by the late Father Austin Day, who even preached a series of sermons based on Merton's reflections.

Merton is not all that fashionable these days (and, I must admit, some of my friends think he is not always as orthodox as he could be), but recently I was glad to see that Praying the Psalms has been reprinted. I enthusiastically commend it to you, and guarantee that if you read it your appreciation of the psalms will grow. (You can find it at if your local Christian bookstore doesn't sell it.)

In one of his most memorable passages Merton says:

"When we bring our sorrows to the Psalter we find all our spiritual problems mirrored in the inspired words of the psalmist. But we do not necessarily find these problems analysed and solved.

"Few of the psalms offer us abstract principles capable of serving as a ready and sensible palliative for interior suffering. On the contrary, what we generally find is a suffering just as concrete as our own, and more profound.

"We encounter this suffering at one of its most intense and articulate moments. How many of the psalms are simply cries of desperate anguish: 'Save me, O God, for the waters have come up even to my throat. I sink in the deep mire where no footing is : I have come into deep waters and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with crying out, my throat is parched: my eyes fail with watching so long for my God.' (Psalm 69:1-3)

"What were the dispositions of the saints and the fathers in chanting such a psalm? They did not simply 'consider' the psalm as they passed over it, drawing from it some pious reflection, some nosegay. They entered into the 'action' of the psalm. They allowed themselves to be absorbed in the spiritual agony of the psalmist and of the one he represented. They allowed their sorrows to be swallowed up in the sorrows of this mysterious Personage, and then they found themselves swept away, on the strong tide of his hope, into the very depth of God. ''But to you, Lord, I make my prayer : at an acceptable time, answer me, O God, in your abundant goodness: and with your sure deliverance.' (vv13,14)

"So, in the end, all sorrow turns to triumph and to praise: 'And I will praise the name of God in a song: and glorify him with thanksgiving . . . for God will save Zion : he will rebuild the cities of Judah' (vv32-37)."

The above is part of a longer article I wrote for my web site.