Now do we celebrate a holy day adorned by three miracles: today a star led the wise men to the manger; today water was made wine at the wedding feast; today Christ vouchsafed to be baptized by John in Jordan that he might save us, alleluia. –Antiphon II Vespers Epiphany
Strategic Planning for Eternity
Something which drives me crazy is the way that the contemporary Church has adapted secular managerial theory. If a diocese or a parish does not have ‘strategic planning’, then everything will fall apart. I thought Jesus said “no thought for tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34). “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Not only can you not take the risk of failure out of the Gospel, it would be a mistake to do so. The truth is that a church which starts talking about ‘strategic planning’ is in the kind of decline that human calculation will not fix.
But at St. Francis we do have a strategic plan, not for just the next five or ten years, but for ever and ever, world without end. It’s called the liturgical year, the year of Christ. It is what we have been doing for the last fifty plus years and it’s what we hope to be doing for next fifty years and for eternity since it is a tried and true way of going to heaven.
It is an ancient tradition at Epiphany to announce the dates of the principal feasts for the rest of the year. A modern practice is to solemnly chant this proclamation and some years I have croaked this out at the Epiphany Mass. But the original way to convey the information was in a letter. The bishops published annually, on January 6, an Epistola festalis, a pastoral letter in which were announced the dates of Easter and moveable feasts of the current year.To the relief of many, not least of all myself, I am not a bishop but I can probably get away with addressing these words to you all:
You know, beloved Brethren, that by the mercy of God, as we have been rejoicing in the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, so also do we announce unto you the joy of the Resurrection of the same our Saviour. Septuagesima Sunday will be on the 27th day of January. Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the fast of most holy Lent will be on the 13th of February. On the 31st of March we shall celebrate with joy the holy Pasch of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ will be on the 9th of May. The Feast of Pentecost on the 19th of the same month. On the 30th of June will be The Feast of the holy most Body of Christ. On the 1st of December will occur the first Sunday of the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
With the coming of Septuagesima we decide that we want to become regular Christians, i.e. folks who live by a rule (regula Latin for ‘rule’) fast, pray, give alms, repent of our sins, deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. On Ash Wednesday we stop just talking about all these good things and start doing them. At Easter we see where following Jesus leads us, the life everlasting. On the feast of the Ascension we realize that our home, where we really belong, is not here but in heaven. Pentecost and Corpus Christi tells us what to do in the meantime: be lead into in all truth by the Holy Ghost, get our sins forgiven through the Spirit-filled ministry of the Apostles, Bishops and Priests of the Church and get as close as we can to heaven by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, receiving the Bread of Life and worshiping the Eucharistic Presence of the Crucified, Risen and Glorified Jesus Christ.
Finally we reach Advent, when we start over again but not from scratch, because each year Christ is being formed in us. As St. Paul says “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3.10-12). That is the plan for 2013, the plan for every year, “to know Christ and become like Him.”
FROM CANON DUNCAN
Friday morning, 28th December, I was shocked to receive from you through our Rector's Warden, Bob Davis, a Christmass gift-cheque. As our Rector is wont to say, "Even though I know you, you still never fail to surprise me with your generosity." For me, the surprise is both the gift and its size. Shock quickly changed into a profound sense of being loved and cared for, of which the gift is a token ... a sense which humbles me and fills me with gratitude - to God, and to you, for you all. What a blessed gift God has given me and my lady in our Rector and you. Thank you ever so much for taking us to yourself. I pray God's richest blessings on you all in this new year, a year in which I rejoice to be with you.
With love, Fr. Duncan
Epiphany, Lent, & Beyond
I received as a Christmas present something, which I have long coveted and am currently devouring: John Mason Neale’s four- volume Commentary on the Psalms, newly published by Nashotah House Press in a paperback, affordable edition. This Commentary is one of the greatest bits of Anglican patrimony and a particular contribution of the Anglican Catholic tradition. Dr. Neale begins his opus by quoting St. John Chrysostom:
If we keep vigil in church, David comes first, last and central. If early in the morning we want songs and hymns, first, last and central is David again. If we are occupied with the funeral solemnities of those who have fallen asleep, or if virgins sit at home and spin, David is first, last and central. O amazing wonder! Many who have made little progress in literature know the Psalter by heart. Nor is it only in cities and churches that David is famous; in the village market, in the desert, and in uninhabitable land, he excites the praise of God.
In Epiphany and Septuagesima I will be at the Adult Christian Education Class with the help of Dr. Neale talking about the spiritual reading of the psalms.
I intend this year for us to have a Carmelite Lent. Each week we will use a form of the Stations of the Cross taken from the writings of the one of the Carmelites saints, St. John of the Cross, St Teresa of Avila, St Therese of the Child Jesus, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, St. Theresa Benedicta (Edith Stein) and Blessed Titus Brandsma. On Sundays I will introduce each of these saints.
In Eastertide, as I mentioned at the Parish Annual Meeting, I will teach a ten session Instruction Class using the DVDs Catholicism produced by Fr. Robert Barron. I will have much more to tell you about this as time draws near but the format will be Thursday evenings, a simple meal, while we watch the DVD, followed by discussion and instruction. What I am looking for now is ten or so good men and women to commit to attend, to bring new folks, if possible, and help with the meals. I already have a few recruits but we could use more. What we can all do is begin to pray now that this ‘new thing’ will be blessed by the Lord.
Epiphany: the Golden Legend
On this day the kings worshipped Jesu Christ, and S. John Baptist baptized him. And Jesu Christ changed this day water into wine. When Jesu Christ was in the age of thirteen days the three kings came to him the way like as the star led them, and therefore this day is called Epiphany, or the thiephanye in common language. And is said of this term epi, which is as much as to say as above, and of this term phanes which is as much to say as apparition. For then the star appeared above them in the air, where the same Jesus by the star that was seen above them showed him to the kings. . . after this that Bede saith, he had thirty years complete, . . . And then he was baptized in the flood or river of Jordan . . . then God, that is the Trinity, appeared, God the Father in voice, God the Son in flesh human, God the Holy Ghost in likeness of a dove. After this, that same day a year, when he was thirty-one year old and thirteen days, he turned water into wine, And this miracle was done of the wine in an house by which he showed him very God. Then let us pray unto Almighty God that this day showed him to these kings and at his baptism, where the voice of the Father was heard and the Holy Ghost seen, and at the feast turned water into wine, that at the reverence of this high and great feast he forgive us our trespasses and sins, and after this short life we may come to his everlasting bliss in heaven. Amen.