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‘It’s been a very meaningful experience, vicar. We must repeat it sometime.’

The sacred ministry is a many-sided calling, eliciting a great variety of gifts and talents. For example, the worship of the Church requires the abilities of men of artistic bent. Art must never be left outside the sanctuary in the worship of the Lord of beauty. Again the Church must have preachers and teachers. It must have scholars, able to commend the faith to our day.

It must have men of true pastoral insight. All of this the Church must have because the ministry assumes so many forms and types. There are many, many ways in which the priestly vocation finds expression. In this chapter, we will look at several of these “vocations within vocation” always with the understanding that the need is critical in every area as traditional priests become ever more scarce.  However, there first must be a small jeremiad.

I note at the outset of this chapter, that these areas of ministry are largely a “wish list”.  Until traditional Anglicans, particularly Anglo-Catholics, seriously address the woeful lack of clergy education and formation, these vital ministries will go begging.  Unless the “jurisdictions” take to heart the serious lack of funding outside of military and institutional settings, young men, particularly those desiring to raise a family, will simply be unable to serve the Church in a full-time capacity.  A priesthood comprised largely of retirees, men with working wives and a few independently-wealthy souls is not sustainable.  It is a recipe for decline and loss, a situation that already is manifest to those willing to address reality.  The wonderful ministry opportunities outlined in this chapter will go unfilled and unsupported.

There must be a paradigm shift, not “sometime”, or in a “couple of years” or even tomorrow.  It must happen now, for the hour is very, very late and the opportunity almost gone..

The Parish Ministry. Here is, perhaps, the normal vocation for most men in holy orders. Most of our clergy work in parishes as pastors to the people. The oversight of a congregation may seem to some a cramping and uneventful task, but such an estimate could only be offered by one who knows very little of the life of a parish priest. The parish ministry, as we shall see in a later chapter, provides scope for every manner of ministration and is demanding in countless ways.

The priest in parochial ministry must lead his people in the common worship of God. He must administer the sacraments of the Church worthily and with a glad heart. He must be a prophet, proclaiming the Word of God and doing it in such a way as to make the Church’s scriptures relevant to the human scene. He must be a pastor, acting as a true spiritual father, bringing the people to a realization of their kinship in Christ. He must be the rector, as well, administering the affairs of the parish and providing leadership in its corporate life. More than this, he must stand for the Christian faith in a community largely secular, having a care for those outside the immediate fellowship of the parish.

How many different kinds of parishes there are! A man in parochial ministry may find himself drawn to exercise his priesthood in an industrial community or in a suburban town. He may find himself in a depressed area of a large city or at a vacation center beside the ocean. There are large parishes with curates to help in the discharge of priesthood, although these are fewer and fewer. There are small parishes large enough, none the less, to test and tax the resources of a deeply consecrated man. There are parishes of all classes and groups of people. Parochial ministry affords an infinite variety of opportunities and calls forth from any man all that he can hope to contribute.

The Religious Life. One of the most hearten¬ing developments in the past was been the growth of monastic discipline with its life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Sadly, there are few such religious orders remaining, and even fewer that are, quite frankly, legitimate. Nevertheless, all single men thinking seriously of the priesthood should consider this special vocation within the Church.

The life of a monk is not for all, but for those truly called to it there is there real satisfaction and significance. There has always been such a special vocation within Christ’s Church, for our Lord’s “counsels of perfection” are an outstanding means toward sanctity. Here is a “bound” life, patterned after Christ’s life; and it gives a wide measure of true freedom to those who embrace it.

It is hard to explain the merits of the religious life to our modern world intent on self-expression and anxious for personal liberty. Why should one voluntarily seek hardness and deprivation? To those who are half-hearted and easy-going in their Christian profession the sight of souls with a passion for heroic sanctity seems embarrassing. But if prayer is as important as the Church declares it to be, the very breath of the soul, then we desperately need communities of prayer within the Church.

More than once the Church has been saved from worldliness and apostasy by her religious communities. More than once the Church has been saved from smugness and superficiality by those who have forsaken all to follow Him who was born in poverty and died in perfect obedience to a loving Father who commanded his whole heart. The monasteries are strong spiritual centers. They ought to be stronger. From them, one prays, will come an ever stronger tide, flowing into the life of the whole Church.
Our religious show us how central is the ordered worship of God to our Christian life, how important is life lived by rule, how brotherly love can be expressed in community.

The Church is empowered by the religious who are among our best missionaries, giving retreats, preaching missions, befriending the friendless, providing hospitality for the sinful and care-worn. The religious life is an extraordinarily desirable way in which a priest may exercise his ministry.

Chaplains and Teachers in Schools. The “continuing” Anglican Church has recently come to a new understanding of the importance of religious education at every level of the Church’s life. We have a new awareness of the great importance of an integrated Christian curriculum in our private schools. We are beginning to establish parochial schools for day pupils. We are experimenting with choir schools. Within those schools, d “sacred studies” courses are being recast and given a greater prominence. Above all we are learning the critical importance of teaching our young people how to worship.

More and more, chaplains are required in our schools to assume responsibility for all religious activity, for personal counselling and the like. More and more there is a demand, too, for teachers in holy orders, for clerical masters, who may teach many subjects not counted “religious” in nature. We are learning that it is of great value to have men on a faculty who are in holy orders representing the whole tradition of our faith and life to the students and so giving them some conception of the breadth and inclusiveness of the Christian faith. Men who are interested in young people, men who sense the importance of a true Christian orientation in all of human knowledge, will find this type of ministry especially appealing.

Chaplains in Colleges. Few students reading this book will need evidence as to the importance of the Church’s work on the American campus. The effectiveness of the Church’s ministry on the campus varies greatly from college to college and carried out by a competent priest, the results are instantly seen. All will grant that the Church’s ministry on our modern secularized campus is of vital moment. It is one of the most important mis¬sionary fields open to the Church. It requires ded¬icated priests of maturity and insight. It is best served by men of keen intellect and with deep in¬tellectual honesty.

The college chaplain is a priest in a pagan community. He must know apologetics-how to commend the faith to faculty and students alike, as both groups are confused. He must serve both teachers and students. So far as the latter are concerned, he knows them only for four brief years, but these are very critical ones. He meets the student as a maturing person who should come in college years to a new and mature understanding of the faith he has earlier known as a child and as an adolescent. Much will be and should be discarded of that former understanding. What will take its place? The chaplain’s task is to assist the student to a new and true understanding of the Christian way, striving always to insure that it will be full and complete. This applies not only to the faith itself, but also to an understanding of its implications for life.

The chaplain must also be a ready friend and from university to university. Where the work is well conceived, generously supported, and wise confessor, for these qualities will certainly be required of him. Such a chaplaincy is in many respects a lonely calling, and it requires of the man who enters it a depth of Christian conviction and a marked ability to discipline himself. But surely there is no more strategic a mission field anywhere than this one, a field among those who will guide the life and thought of the nation during the decades ahead.

Teachers in Colleges. In our few remaining Church-affiliated colleges, but also in many independent in¬stitutions of learning, there are faculty positions for men in orders. There may be “departments of religion” in such institutions, although the and the tendency has been to weaken then them through modernism and neo-Marxism. Those concerned with higher education and the faith are agreed that abandonment of religious instruction is has bred religious and cultural illiteracy. Beyond this, there is a waning awareness of the central importance of religion in Western civilization. To the contrary, one cannot understand Western history, art, philosophy and the like without a searching exposure to Christian faith and life.

Most clergy, entering the field of teaching in colleges, will find themselves giving courses in the Scriptures, ethics, Christian literature, philosophy, and similar subjects, but there are also openings in the scientific, classical, and other fields. Faculty members of this sort  will exercise a formal ministry by assisting at a local parish or assuming weekend responsibility in some diocesan mission. But all such priests have a unique opportunity to commend the Christian faith to those whom they teach, whether in religious or in “secular” studies. The Christian witness is needed within the faculty as well as from without.

However, the specialization and fragmentation of the curriculum in higher education today, the prevalence of secularism and the disdain for the moral and spiritual factors in life make academe hostile territory. Years ago, author Paul Lehmann, in his History of Bible Teaching at Wellesley College, 1875-1950, aptly described the critical status of the matter in this way:

“The present predicament of higher education in America is its failure to provide the creative leadership for a responsible society. This failure is traceable in large part to the cleavage in under-graduate education between substance and significance; between conviction and criticism. Objectivity as an educational aim has brought a vast accumulation of information and a critical detachment from commitment and meaning. In its own way this has been a necessary and a desirable aim of college instruction. But its inadequacies have been exposed by the rigorous tensions of a society in transition. Without abandoning the critical search for the substance of things as they are, the American campus must wrestle again-as universities in other days have done-with the problem of the loyalties and purposes in terms of which we shall live and die.”

The same holds doubly true today in these post-modern times.

We need the Church’s voice on the campus, within the faculty.

Military Chaplains. In the present and for an indefinite future our armed forces always need priests to serve as chaplains in the army, navy, and air force. This is a particular type of ministry calling for a particular type of man, making tremendous demands, presenting innumerable problems, offering rare opportunities.

The chaplain is traditionally the one to whom the service member takes all sorts of problems. If he is a good counsellor with the confidence of his men and women, the chaplain is in position to do great good for Christ and His Church. His position in military life makes him easily accessible. He shares duties and dangers with all others. He knows as well as all others in his unit the boredom and the horror of war. He has the opportunity to send service members back home to civilian life better soldiers of Christ than they were when they entered a branch of the service.

Meanwhile, he must minister the grace of God, preach God’s Word, be a shepherd and pastor to men in loneliness, in danger, separated from natural ties and normal life. He must do all of this against a constant assault from “social engineers” and frank atheists who have no regard for traditional Christian teaching and, often, would punish the chaplain who holds vast to orthodox Christian beliefs. Never the less, we have reason to thank God for the ministry of such military chaplains, men who helped in the conversion of many a person away in the armed services.

Urban Mission. All over the country in the great industrial and metropolitan areas, parishes have died as the demographics shift to the suburbs. The churches stand empty while thousands pass them by. The churches likely stand empty because their doors have not been opened to the unchurched, the poor, the members of other na¬tional and minority groups. We forget the obligation placed upon all who call themselves Christians to bring into the Body of Christ His beloved poor.

Some studying for the priesthood, may wish to consider turning to the vocation of stimulating the rebirth of these old parishes, founding Christian communities in neighborhoods where little sense of community exists. Such work is very different from that of the average parish: a priest here must work into the lives and ways of his people, sharing insofar as he can their burdens and frustrations, patiently accepting the endless pastoral problems of life in a “blighted area.” He must be lawyer, doctor, banker, psychiatrist, athletic coach, social worker, chauffeur, lobbyist, civic leader, and much else, and all as a part of his priesthood. No drunk or addict on his doorstep can be too repulsive for him to ignore, no child too un¬important to overlook, for he and his colleagues set the tone of the community of love whereby so many may be healed, and in being healed, find Christ.

In many ways, this greater dependency of the parish on its priest gives him a greater opportunity to exercise his ministry. Although he may be an amateur in much that he has to do in some fields in meeting the secular needs of his people, he must develop all of his own professional skills as priest and pastor to channel effectively the grace of God to souls in such various situations. In the rush of his business, he must never forget that only through much prayer may he hope to find the Holy Spirit working through him.
Whatever the methods he uses, and these will vary with each different situation, the overwhelming principle, is to bring to the city a ministry of love.

The agencies and professional social workers with which the people ordinarily must deal make a fetish of impersonality and frequently are hostile to traditional Christian values and morals. The Christian must above all be personal-far from avoiding emotional involvement in his relationships, he must seek to love his people, because there are some for whom this will be their only experience of love. This concern, to be effective, reaches out beyond individual lives into the structure of society itself, necessitating an intelligent and liberal point of view on social issues and a willingness to be courageous in the field of social action.

Although the demands of such a ministry are heavy, although the priest may have to give up such things as privacy, a scheduled life, orderliness, and even efficiency, the general atmosphere of such a parish is one of gaiety and joy, so much so that he is more than compensated for any hardships. There seems to be more laughter in the rectory kitchen, as people come in and out of it all day long, more natural warmth and friendliness in parish calling, more true affection from children, a readier acceptance of leadership in the commu1nity, and above all, a deep sense of Christ’s presence and companionship in the day to day ministry. Perhaps this is because in a place so devoid of love, love finds its greatest return; perhaps because here Christ dwells sacramentally in the suffering of His Body and in the loneliness of the social outcast dying on the cross.

Whoever seeks this vocation will never be disappointed and will find the priesthood a most glorious and joyous life.

Rural Ministry. Our small town and country parishes provide almost unlimited opportunity for a creative and imaginative priesthood and so many have closed are on the verge of closing. For little or no financial compensation, there is a comprehensive ministry.

A rural priest may have a tremendous influence in an entire countryside and the rural parish can become a real community center in every way. The rural priest will find that his ministry includes that of educator, evangelist, handy-man, and leader in every conceivable kind of enterprise (including, one may note, the development of leadership in the local citizenry). Like the farmers who make up his parish, he must be able to do just about everything. Whatever his abilities and interests may be, the rural priest will discover that his vocation demands a full use of all of them and many another as well. In addition, these abilities may be necessarily used to take on outside employment in the manner of St. Paul so as to provide a modest income. (“tent making”)

The rural priest must be an educator not alone in his own parish but in the whole community. He must give educational guidance in the rural school system. He must open up windows on the world outside his own community, trying to relate town and country life to the whole national entity. He must help provide cultural opportunities that will stir the imaginations and broaden the horizons of his people.

He must be a community leader and builder and his voice must be heard in every welfare and social agency. He must see to it that the best possible use is made of available resources, and arrange for the development of unusual or unknown skills. His parish must be a decisive Christian force and a rallying point for all manner of worthy Christian enterprise. The rural priest surely has a comprehensive ministry and one that is of tremendous moment in the life of the whole Church.

Institutional Chaplains. Here we have a largely forgotten ministry to forgotten men and women. What of the priestly duty toward those in prison, in mental hospitals, homes for the aged, and even ordinary hospitals? The Church has a special responsibility for the sick in body and mind and this special obligation is increasing exponentially in intensity in our modern society. Hospitals have become increas¬ingly numerous and complex. Hospital management has become a vocation demanding special training. Who will bring the glorious gospel of Christ to those who stand so greatly in need of it? The need cannot be met by the part-time activity of a local parish priest.

There are millions of people in the institutions of this country on any given day. The Church has not begun to realize its mission in this area of responsibility, but, rather, has shrunk from it. We need more chaplains for penitentiaries, jails and prisons. There are veterans’ institutions, homes for the mentally ill and others all of whom cry out for the charity of Christ. The number of people over sixty-five has grown astronomically as life expectancies have increased, many are in homes for the aged and others in home care. Modern life has created many new demands on the Church, but nowhere as obviously as in this particular direction.

A priest who would give his priesthood to answering this growing need must be specially trained. He must have a knowledge of psychiatric study, social case work, community welfare work. It is missionary, pioneer work; and it is utterly necessary to the Church’s life.

Teaching in Seminaries. The current author of this book is deeply committed to theological education. I believe that a well-edu¬cated ministry is essential to the well-being and future of traditional Anglicanism. I would not have re-written this book otherwise.

Contrary to the current sad state of affairs, “read for orders” programs and local, denominational “theological colleges” are inadequate for the training and formation of clergy. This is particularly so because of the lack of objective standards and personal preferences that have been the rule for such educational avenue for the last forty years. This is not to say that good clergy have not come out of these programs to serve the Church. However, solid results and consistent standards are few and far between.

So, the Church must have strong seminaries for the training of its future priests. The faculties of those seminaries must be made up of men whose devotion to truth and whose scholarship are beyond question. There must be priests who are willing to adventure in the intellectual service of the Faith, who will have a courage and fearlessness in study. We need priest-scholars, men competent to guide and direct the candidates for the priesthood in their only a conception of the Catholic faith in its many-sided aspects but also a passionate devotion to its spread among all men everywhere. Such vocations are greatly to be desired and we should pray constantly for them.

A young man in college who has a natural inclination to scholarship, and ability as well, should understand that the Church’s seminaries need his particular gifts. Too little has been said of this in the past, nor has the Church supported and encouraged its potential scholars and teachers to any perceptible degree. As a result, we have suffered from a marked dearth of scholarship and the few seminaries that existed in the years following 1978 have foundered and certainly have been hard put to it to fill up faculty ranks. Men have been pressed into teaching positions without sufficient training, and our few actual scholars have been overloaded. Research and writing have suffered. All our inadequacies here have had repercussions on the successive generations of clergy.

The Church has no more devoted sons than those priests who at great personal sacrifice, and with little understanding from without, have given themselves to theological study and to the teaching of our priests-to-be.

The Mission Field. Here is something which, though mentioned last, will come first in the mind of many an inquirer. In truth every field is a mis¬sionary field for the dedicated priest. There is but one Gospel, that God has acted salvifically in Christ Jesus and that the Holy Spirit still works in and through the Body of Christ to bring all men every¬where to the knowledge and love of the Father. This is the Church’s mission and she has no other. We cannot speak of the missionary gospel of the Church as though this were one phase of her life. The Church has no other gospel.

By nature and by divine commission the Church is a missionary Body. It has a relevance for all men, in all lands, in every age, in every circumstance of life. It is for those who do not yet know Christ and His salvation, as well as for those already within the immediate sphere of divine grace. The life of the Church has been strengthened and refreshed again and again by the sacrificial heroism of those who have given themselves for the conversion of pagan lands, to bring many to acknowledge the reign of Christ in foreign lands and alien tongues. When the Church is strong in her missionary outreach, she is true to her essential nature and spirit. When the missionary effort lags, the Church needs revival.

The Church today requires a re-dedication to her essential missionary endeavor. There is no gift that is not needed in the mission field and no man’s life or abilities are ever wasted in this vocation. Not only in foreign lands, but also especially here at home throughout America. Who will go to proclaim God’s sovereignty, to carry the gos¬pel of His Son, to bring to men the life and strength of the Holy Spirit?

I have tried to indicate some of the ways in which priesthood may be expressed. The listing is not exhaustive and there are many other avenues through which the priesthood is realized. Yet it is all one priesthood, though it must be used to meet a host of varying needs and conditions. Roman Catholics on meeting a priest for the first time used to frequently ask, “Where are you stationed, Father?” It is a good question, interestingly phrased. The priesthood is one. Its members are stationed in every walk of life, in every imaginable circumstance, to meet every sort of human need.

The priesthood of the priestly Body must embrace all of life. Surely there is variety enough in the priesthood to challenge the varied gifts and talents of every sort of man. Indeed, there are so many ways today in which a priesthood may be lived that no human ability or gift is wasted in its ranks. The student at college ought to study the priesthood with a view to its usefulness and relevancy today. The Church has a place for each and every man provided he senses the divine activity in his soul exerting its pressures upon him, and himself answers the call. But only the individual soul can make his response and offer [himself] for this ministry that thereby mankind may be drawn to [God’s] blessed kingdom.

On the Priesthood


Clergy10

Chapter 5 of On the Priesthood is on the way!  The profound changes in the Anglican expression in the United States in the last 40 years have made this a difficult chapter to rewrite.  For the “continuing Church” and traditional Anglo-Catholics, there have been particular difficulties.

Lack of education for, and formation of, clergy make this chapter on the various ministries available to Anglican traditionalists especially problematic.  Absent proper credentials, a number of ministries such as military or VA chaplaincy and teaching are simply closed.  Nevertheless, we will explore the various opportunities available to those who are willing to undertake accredited education and preparation.

A Special Sung Matins


 

Matins

Do consider a visit to St. Alban’s (Richmond) on Saturday, August 18th (8 am), for a unique celebration of Canon Charles Nalls’ 8th anniversary of institution as the Rector of  the parish. On that date a choral matins/lauds cathedral service, newly composed by Diocesan Choir Master Bernard Riley will be held.

The St. Alban’s choirs have been preparing for over a year for this celebration. The list of compositions includes complete Versicles and Responses including the Lord’s Prayer and Creed, a short double choir motet on the beloved hymn “Astoria” 405, a descant on “Wigan” 338, four Anglican chants, Venite, Benedictus Es, Benedictus and Jubilate Deo and two antiphons, one on Psalm 99 and another on Psalm 101.

Choir Master Riley “would encourage you to invite friends and acquaintances who are curious about us and to come and worship with us and experience our most extraordinary tradition of worship. You shan’t want to miss this opportunity.”

The service will be followed by a Benedictine breakfast. If you plan to attend, please RSVP to atbrashweb@comcast.net


Finally, there are the Fourth and Fifth Marks of St. John Baptist. St. John was a bold rebuke vice and a prophetic call to righteousness. His was an imperfect baptism, but the summons to holiness was clarion. In the end, unjustly condemned and murdered as would be the master, St. John would patiently suffer for the truth’s sake.

So, this month let us meditate on these Marks of St. John Baptist, and lead lives that will allow us to constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord. That is authentic Christian witness.

ALMIGHTY God, by whose providence thy servant John Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour by preaching repentance; Make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through† Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


St John the Baptist 011The third Mark of St. John Baptist is simply humility. It is inexorably tied to a life that points toward Christ. The first chapter of St. John’s Gospel affords us a succinct picture.

19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.
25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;
27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.

St. Augustine offers this brilliant exposition of the Mark of Humility in St. John Baptist as described in these passages. He notes:

And yet, just notice how this forerunner of his Lord, of one who is God and man, how much he humbles himself. No one has arisen greater among those born of women than this man, and here he is, questioned about whether he is himself the Christ. He was so great that people could make this mistake. They wondered whether he was himself the Christ, and they wondered about it seriously enough to question him. Now if he had been a son of pride, not a teacher of humility, he would not have taken steps to make them think that, but he would simply have accepted what they were already thinking. It would possibly have been overreaching himself to wish to persuade people that he was the Christ. If he had tried to do so and had not been believed, he would have been left high and dry, both rejected and dejected, both despised among people and condemned in God’s eyes. But there was no need for him to persuade people. He could already see they were thinking this about him. He could simply accept their mistake and boost his own prestige.…

Consider how inferior to him he would have been, even if he had been worthy. Consider how much he would have been debasing himself if this is what he had said: “He is greater than I am, and I am only worthy to undo the strap of his sandal.” He would have been calling himself worthy at least to stoop down to his feet. But now, as it is, see how exalted he proclaimed him to be when he declared himself unworthy even to touch his feet, or rather his sandals! So John came to teach the proud humility, to proclaim the way of repentance. St. Augustine of Hippo-SERMON 293A.4.


Baptist.jpg

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”-John 1:6-9

The second mark of St, John Baptist is “pointing”.  His entire life pointed toward Christ even from the womb:  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the first chapter of the Gospel according to St. John.

“He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”-John 1:27

“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”-John 1:29

St. Cyril of Alexandria noted that St. John Baptist was essentially a sign post pointing away from himself and toward Christ, He says nothing else than other than that “the one you are looking for is finally at the doors. Indeed, the Lord is within the doors. Be ready to go [with Christ] whatever way he asks you.” COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 1.10.

This is the essence of witness-a point that escapes too many in modern ministry.  To evangelize aright, our words and our lives must point toward Jesus Christ.  So, for today’s meditation on the second “mark of St. John Baptist, let us consider how our we my better point to Christ especially through lives that have been wholly directed to Christ Jesus.

ALMIGHTY God, by whose providence thy servant John Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour by preaching repentance;* Make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through† Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 


Saint-John-the-Baptist-web

Before leaving for Synod last week, I prepared an homily so as to be ready on Sunday morning.  On returning and re-reading the , I discovered that the wise words I had left to age were…well….so much rubbish.  As these things go, I was prompted to preach on the Five Marks of the Life of St. John Baptist and how to live them.

First, there is joy at the presence of the Incarnate Christ.  Indeed, St. John, himself in utero, leapt when the Blessed Virgin, with child, entered into his house. As we hear,

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:…-St. Luke 1:41.

How this prefigures the words of the Apostle, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

Here, we find joy in recognition.  These pose today’s meditation questions.  Do we react in joy in the presence of Christ?  Do at least our hearts leap in joy, if not our whole selves?  Or, do we even recognize Him and that we are always in His presence?

Think on recognition and joy as we pray this week noting particularly toe portions of the Collect in boldface,

ALMIGHTY God, by whose providence thy servant John Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour by preaching repentance;* Make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through† Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.