Tuesday, December 1, 2015Nicholas Ferrar
Lord God, make us worthy of your perfect love; that, with your deacon Nicholas Ferrar and his household, we may rule ourselves according to your Word, and serve you with our whole heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Friday, December 4, 2015John of Damascus
d. December 4, 749
Given that Saint Thomas Church is full of images in stone, wood and glass, the church building as we know it could not exist if John of Damascus and others were not successful in arguing against the Iconoclasts.
Lesser Feasts and Fasts (2006) explains his contribution in this way:
John of Damascus was the son of a Christian tax collector for the Mohammedan Caliph of Damascus. At an early age, he succeeded his father in this office. In about 715, he entered the monastery of St. Sabas near Jerusalem. There he devoted himself to an ascetic life and to the study of the Fathers.
In the same year that John was ordained priest, 726, the Byzantine Emperor Leo the Isaurian published his first edict against the Holy Images, which signaled the formal outbreak of the iconoclastic controversy. The edict forbade the veneration of sacred images, or icons, and ordered their destruction. In 729–730, John wrote three “Apologies (or Treatises) against the Iconoclasts and in Defense of the Holy Images.” He argued that such pictures were not idols, for they represented neither false gods nor even the true God in his divine nature; but only saints, or our Lord as man. He further distinguished between the respect, or veneration (proskynesis), that is properly paid to created beings, and the worship (latreia), that is properly given only to God.
The iconoclast case rested, in part, upon the Monophysite heresy, which held that Christ had only one nature, and since that nature was divine, it would be improper to represent him by material substances such as wood and paint. The Monophysite heresy was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon in 451.
At issue also was the heresy of Manichaeism, which held that matter itself was essentially evil. In both of these heresies, John maintained, the Lord’s incarnation was rejected. The Seventh Ecumenical Council, in 787, decreed that crosses, icons, the book of the Gospels, and other sacred objects were to receive reverence or veneration, expressed by salutations, incense, and lights, because the honor paid to them passed on to that which they represented. True worship (latreia), however, was due to God alone.
John also wrote a great synthesis of theology, The Fount of Knowledge, of which the last part, “On the Orthodox Faith,” is best known.
To Anglicans, John is best known as the author of the Easter hymns, “Thou hallowed chosen morn of praise,” “Come, ye faithful, raise the strain,” and “The day of resurrection.”
At Saint Thomas, we sometimes sing the first one (#198 in the Hymnal 1982) at Evensong during Eastertide, and we often sing the latter two (#200 and #210) on Easter Day.
Confirm our minds, O Lord, in the mysteries of the true faith, set forth with power by thy servant John of Damascus; that we, with him, confessing Jesus to be true God and true Man, and singing the praises of the risen Lord, may, by the power of the resurrection, attain to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Sunday, December 6, 2015THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
In Year C, the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent at the morning services is Luke 3:1-6: Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
You might be interested in reading some sermons in the archive about John the Baptist.
Merciful God, who sent thy messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Monday, December 7, 2015Ambrose
Bishop of Milan
Lesser Feasts and Fasts (2006) recounts the life of Ambrose as follows:
Ambrose was the son of a Roman governor in Gaul, and in 373 he himself was governor in Upper Italy. Though brought up in a Christian family, Ambrose had not been baptized. He became involved in the election of a Bishop of Milan only as mediator between the battling factions of Arians and orthodox Christians. The election was important, because the victorious party would control the powerful see of Milan.
Ambrose exhorted the nearly riotous mob to keep the peace and to obey the law. Suddenly both sides raised the cry, “Ambrose shall be our bishop!” He protested, but the people persisted. Hastily baptized, he was ordained bishop on December 7, 373.
Ambrose rapidly won renown as a defender of orthodoxy against Arianism and as a statesman of the Church. He was also a skillful hymnodist. He introduced antiphonal chanting to enrich the liturgy, and wrote straightforward, practical discourses to educate his people in such matters of doctrine as Baptism, the Trinity, the Eucharist, and the Person of Christ. His persuasive preaching was an important factor in the conversion of Augustine of Hippo.
Ambrose did not fear to rebuke emperors, including the hot-headed Theodosius, whom he forced to do public penance for the slaughter of several thousand citizens of Salonika.
About Baptism, Ambrose wrote: “After the font (of baptism), the Holy Spirit is poured on you, ‘the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and godliness, and the spirit of holy fear’” (De Sacramentis 3.8).
A meditation attributed to him includes these words: “Lord Jesus Christ, you are for me medicine when I am sick; you are my strength when I need help; you are life itself when I fear death; you are the way when I long for heaven; you are light when all is dark; you are my food when I need nourishment.”
Among hymns attributed to Ambrose are “The eternal gifts of Christ the King,” “O Splendor of God’s glory bright,” and a series of hymns for the Little Hours.
At Saint Thomas we sing the first one, #234 in the Hymnal 1982, every now and again at Choral Evensong.
O God, who didst give to thy servant Ambrose grace eloquently to proclaim thy righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of thy Name: Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellency in preaching, and fidelity in ministering thy Word, that thy people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Friday, December 11, 2015
Sunday, December 13, 2015THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT (Gaudete)
Gaudete literally means "rejoice," for the Lord is coming! And so on this Sunday you'll notice that the Advent purple gives way to a splash of rose. The frontal on the altar changes, the vestments of the clergy change, there are flowers, and the third candle—a rose one—is lit on the advent wreath. All of this is a bit of joy breaking into what is otherwise a penetential season.
If you pay attention to the order of service at the 11am Festal Eucharist, you'll notice that it includes (for the first time this Church Year) the Summary of the Law (Matthew 22:37-40) and the Comfortable Words (Matthew 11:28, John 3:16, 1 Timothy 1:15 and 1 John 2:1-2). Why do these suddenly appear in the liturgy when, on typical Sunday mornings at Saint Thomas, they are not said? Because these words are indeed a comfort to all faithful who are penitent, and therefore are appropriate for this Sunday of joy and comfort in the midst of a penetential season. You'll hear the same words said in Lent, on Laetare Sunday, which is the Lenten equivalent to Advent's Gaudete.
Joy also permeates the Liturgy of the Word. Notice, for example, that both the Old Testament Lesson and the Epistle for Year C have the word "rejoice" in them—Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem [Zephaniah 3:14] and Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice [Philippians 4:4].
Stir up thy power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end. Amen.
Monday, December 14, 2015
Friday, December 18, 2015Ember Friday
A series of three Ember Days (on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) are observed four times a year:
(1) following the Third Sunday of Advent
(2) following the First Sunday in Lent
(3) following the Day of Pentecost (Whitsunday)
(4) following Holy Cross Day
A major feast day overrides an Ember Day if they fall on the same day.
Ember Days, traditionally seasonal days of fasting and prayer, became over time associated with ordination of clergy and with prayer for the Church.
O God, who didst lead thy holy apostles to ordain ministers in every place: Grant that thy Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable persons for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Sunday, December 20, 2015THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
At Saint Thomas, we keep the propers for the Fourth Sunday of Advent at the 8am and 9am services. As such, the appointed collect and lessons follow the lectionary, and the sermon corresponds. Therefore, if you seek a traditional Fourth Sunday of Advent service, consider attending at 8am (said) or 9am (sung).
At 11am and 4pm, we offer Lessons and Carols. The 4pm service is the traditional Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols and it does not include a Mass. The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is repeated on Christmas Eve at 4pm.
We beseech thee, Almighty God, to purify our consciences by thy daily visitation, that when thy Son our Lord cometh he may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Monday, December 21, 2015SAINT THOMAS
December 21 is the feast day Saint Thomas the Apostle, which we transfer to Monday if December 21 falls on a Sunday. We celebrate Saint Thomas two other times through the year: (1) on Dedication Sunday (always the first Sunday of October), in which we celebrate the dedication of our church and therefore Saint Thomas as its patron saint, and (2) on Low Sunday (the Second Sunday of Easter), when the resurrected Christ shows himself to the doubting Thomas.
To learn more about Saint Thomas the Apostle, consider these sermons in the archive.
Everliving God, who didst strengthen thine apostle Thomas with sure and certain faith in thy Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in thy sight; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Sunday, December 27, 2015THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS DAY
Today's Gospel, in which Saint John unfolds the mystery of the Incarnation, is also read each year at Lessons & Carols and on Christmas Day.
Almighty God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word: Grant that the same light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.