Sunday, December 2, 2018THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Advent Sunday is the start of a new church year. At Saint Thomas, we celebrate Advent Sunday with a Procession at 11am and 4pm.
Advent puts past and future in the present moment and asks us to prepare, not for a distant future (for we know not when) but as if the future is today, because it is. Christ has already won the victory. So we are reminded of his incarnation, and wait for him to come again, even as we feed on him in the present moment through the Word and through the Eucharist, that is to say through Jesus Christ, the word made flesh.
As you contemplate what is, was, and is to come, consider any of these advent sermons in the archive.
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Friday, December 7, 2018Ambrose
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.
Saturday, December 8, 2018Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Sunday, December 9, 2018THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
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.
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Friday, December 14, 2018
Sunday, December 16, 2018THE 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. After today we return to purple for the remainder of Advent.
During Lent, we observe a similar break in the midst of a pentential season. It is known as Lataere Sunday, which also means "rejoice." It is always celebrated on the Fourth Sunday in Lent.
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.
Sunday, December 23, 2018THE 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.
Tuesday, December 25, 2018CHRISTMAS DAY
A bit on the history of the development of the feast called Christmas, in which the Church sets aside a day and season to celebrate the incarnation of God in Jesus:
About 1,700 years ago the Church settled on December 25 as Jesus’ birth date for the Christian Year. It seized upon the pagan feast of Natalis Solis Invictus, which among other things marked the lengthening of the light at the winter solstice. The Church appropriated this feast for the Nativity of Christ, baptizing it and reasoning that the Lord’s Incarnation was the beginning of the lengthening of the light of the Sun of Righteousness. So our feast of Christmas began by rubbing shoulders with secular or pagan festivals. Some writers of Antiquity complained that the new rising Christian movement was weakening the Roman Empire and that before long the old gods of Rome would be pushed out. The Emperor Constantine the Great, whose mother Helena was a devout Christian, had already ascribed his military ascendancy to the throne to a vision he had of the cross of Christ; and he had issued an Edict of Toleration for the formerly persecuted faith. Christianity now enjoyed imperial favor, and the celebration of Christmas adorned the Church’s new position.
One very good effect of Christmas in modern times has been the increased American Jewish observance of Hanukkah, which celebrates the victory of Judas Maccabeus over the pagan tyrant Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 BC. Antiochus was a king in one of the Hellenistic empires stemming from the conquests of Alexander the Great. He had ordered an altar to Zeus built in the Jerusalem Temple and had swine sacrificed on the Jewish altar. Hanukkah, or the Feast of Lights, celebrates the cleansing and dedication of the temple – it is the Feast of Dedication referenced in St. John 10:22-23 when Jesus walked in the temple in winter. You may find the original Hanukkah story in I Maccabees, chapters 1-4, in the Apocrypha. It is not only a Jewish feast; it is an important antecedent to the time of Christ.
By no means are all modern developments with regard to Christmas reason to lament, O tempora, O mores! The centennial observance of our current church building in 2013 shed light on the influence of the twentieth century on the way the Church celebrates Christmas – a very good influence indeed. In September 2013 we had our parish Hymn-Sing, featuring hymns that were sung a century ago in 1913. The surprise: not one Christmas hymn from that year would be familiar to us today.
The twentieth century has made all the difference. What happened?
The fact is, Christmas as we know and love it is largely the product of the great English choral foundations – collegiate chapels such as King’s College, Cambridge, and great churches such as Westminster Abbey and Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. Particularly through the development and ensuing popularity of the services of Nine Lessons and Carols led by Boris Ord and David Willcocks at Kings, the beautiful carols, hymns and anthems we cherish made their way across the Atlantic and around the world – thanks in no small measure to recordings.
Before the twentieth century, Protestantism, deeply influenced by its puritan strain, regarded Christmas with suspicion as “popish.” In the nineteenth century, the Oxford and Anglo-Catholic movements promoted the liturgical celebration of Christmas. Pioneering hymnals such as Hymns Ancient and Modern brought the hymnody promoted by English High Churchmen to the pews; but this did not reach the United States and the Episcopal Church’s hymnal until our Hymnal 1916, which was only a beginning. Hymnal 1940 and Hymnal 1982 fully adopted the work of Anglo-Catholic musicians and hymnologists. It is hard to believe, but in 1913 they did not sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing or O Come All Ye Faithful at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue.
What Saint Thomas has now is in many people’s opinion as good as it gets for Christmas music and liturgy. But we are deeply indebted to the Church of England’s great choral foundations, which we both emulate and rival, for this wonderful repertoire.
Almighty God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that we, being regenerate and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.