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CHAPTER 6

It is appropriate that we should include here some discussion of the training which is required for a man who is to give his life to, and draw all his cares and studies toward, the ministry of Christ’s Church in the sacred office of the priesthood. The period of training which one must undergo has much to do with the quality of his priesthood in the years after he is ordained. Men have often said that they were “formed,” both in their understanding of the nature of their ministry and in their own approach to it, by the years which they spent in preparation.

With the advent of distance learning since the original edition of this book, there are any number of cost-effective options for delivering “content” to the aspiring clergyman. Distance learning allows a man to pursue studies on a schedule that permits him to continue to earn a living and to contribute to the support of his family. The problem that remains is one of formation, an inchoate process that takes place in the life of a priest during his education. In the past, this has taken place in the context of a traditional seminary education. I note, however, that the seminary is no guarantee of orthodoxy or stability as events have sadly proven. Nevertheless, formation in community is essential, in my view, to a full preparation for the priestly vocation.

We will not need, of course, to discuss the actual canonical requirements for ordination, the studies which are prescribed by the Church’s regulations for candidates for holy orders, nor the procedure through which one must go in order to be ordained to the sacred ministry. Suffice to say, these are somewhat consistent among similar bodies in the branches of the Anglican “continuum”, although there may be wide differences in the rigor in which standards are applied. This poses a very difficult problem, and must be a focus of any discussion of Anglican unity. Our purpose, here, is rather to look at the whole question of training and see what sort of things should be included, so that the candidate may have the possibility of the richest and most serviceable ministry.

Now the conception of the priestly “call” which was developed in the earlier chapters will be of considerable importance in this context. In a sacramental understanding of the office, a man is not made a minister simply by a divine command, thereby receiving as it were “from on high” the message which he is to preach. On the contrary, if the priesthood is to be understood as requiring the commissioning, the authentication, the authorizing, of the Body of Christ in its historical, empirical expression, then it is obvious that the priest is one who stands for, labors for, speaks for, the whole tradition of the Christian Church.

If a priest is one who so represents the tradition of Christian faith, worship, and life-in-grace, it is obvious that he must know that tradition. He must know it intimately, as one who believes in it and is himself living in terms of it. He must also know it in its long development from apostolic beginnings through the centuries to our own day. Unless he has this deep knowledge, he is quite likely to be one whose approach to his people has no background of historical understanding. His proclamation of the gospel will lack the wholeness that comes from entrance into the varied yet wonderfully integrated life of the Christian fellowship.

Because a man who is to enter the priesthood must be concerned with al broad range of disciplines, he should first of all have as thorough a grounding in the liberal arts and philosophy as is possible. Normally, this implies an undergraduate college experience of four years. It is of course true that many men who have lacked this advantage have been most useful and dedicated priests. For example the Cure d’Ars, made by the Roman Catholic Church the patron saint of parish priests, was from the strictly intellectual side a very simple man. Yet he was a holy, consecrated pastor and confessor, whose spiritual insight and profound grasp of the secrets of human souls have never been surpassed.

For these reasons, exceptions can be made. It is one of the most difficult and exacting tasks of a bishop and his examiners to make sure in a given instance such an exception should be made. It is also one of the hardest duties facing seminary officials and standing committees to determine whether a man who is not adequately prepared on the intellectual side should be recommended for ordination.

By and large it is true that a priest should be a man whose secular education has been sufficiently thorough to make him acquainted with “the best that has been thought and said.” He ought to have familiarity with the whole humanistic tradition, for this is the material out of which, humanly speaking, religion is made. Broadly speaking, he ought to have a good grounding in philosophy in its several branches; some knowledge of secular history, especially in its European phase since the dawn of the Christian era; some acquaintance with the literatures of the world, in their great range and sweep; some grasp of the meaning of the scientific method and the veracity of thought which the mathematical disciplines demand. Latin and Greek, despite their unpopularity in most educational circles today, have an enormous value for the future minister, as does a knowledge of some modern language other than his own, sufficient for him to read in that tongue and understand what he is reading. This latter study is particularly important in light of the growth of immigrant communities and whether the candidate wishes to enter the mission field.

If I were asked in what particular fields candidates for holy orders tend to be particularly weak today, one would say that it is in literature and philosophy, with history and English grammar as close third and fourth subjects. For the most part, men may have some knowledge of history, although they appear to be increasingly lacking in a comprehensive understanding of European history owing to the current disfavor shown the Western canon in many colleges and universities. during its formative period through the middle ages. Again, because of the disdain for metaphysics and epistemology and the pervasive emotivism in academe, men generally have little any grasp of the great philosophical problems which have always plagued the mind of man.

What is real? What is the process of knowing? What is the relation of matter and spirit, of soul and body? How about time and eternity and their bearing on each other? Questions such as these, with the answers proposed by thinkers from Socrates and Plato through Aristotle down to Descartes and Hume, and on to Kant and more contemporary thinkers like Kierkegaard, are not usually questions with which candidates have wrestled long and earnestly. In fact, they may not even be questions about which they have done much thinking. Yet their answers to these basic questions will have a profound effect upon their ministry.

When it comes to the great writing in the non-technical fields, many men entering seminaries these days are very badly off. The roll of names from Homer to Hardy seems to mean little to them. One might well ask how it is possible for a man to understand the depths of human experience unless he has felt “the surge and thunder of the Odyssey”; has followed Aeneas on his long journey to Italy and has seen Anchises “stretch forth his hands in longing towards the farther shore”; has gone with Dante in exploration of the Inferno, the Purgatorio and the Paradiso; has heard Lear cry, “Tears, tears, tears, tears”; and with Hamlet has pondered the lot of man in this “weary, unintelligible world.” Surely, too, he ought to know the writers like Goethe, Dostoyevsky, Dickens, and the rest. This need not necessarily be in detail or with scholarly exactness, but at least well enough to see with them the heart of man as he tries to live significantly and with dignity in this world where he has been placed by God.

So, in purely secular pre-theological training, it is good that a man who is to be ordained have as rich an acquaintance with the culture of the world as he can acquire. The priest ought to continue his reading and keep up his study in this wide cultural field after ordination. Otherwise, he is likely to grow stale intellectually or, worse perhaps, to be so sunk in his own immediate situation, culturally speaking, that he is shallow and superficial in his thinking and preaching.

But beyond this, and much more important, a young man looking forward to the ministry ought to be very sure that he is learning the things of God. He needs a knowledge of Scripture to be attained only by constant and devoted reading of the Bible from day to day. It is astounding, and disconcerting, to see how few men seeking ordination have a deep knowledge of Holy Scripture. At best they may know the passages which appear in the Sunday lections in the appointed services of the Church. Such ignorance handicaps them in their seminary studies, requiring them to spend hours in learning that which they could just as readily have mastered during earlier years.

Of course it is not the Bible alone which is needed. We hope that we may assume regular churchgoing, especially the fulfilment of the duty of assisting at the celebration of the Eucharist Sunday by Sunday and at other times. But a man who plans to be ordained should see that his own personal spiritual life is not neglected. For this reason, a rule of life is invaluable, since it guarantees that proper time will be allowed for prayer and the cultivation of one’s inner life. It is not necessary to go into detail here, since it is included in the techniques of the devotional life to be discussed in a later chapter. Perhaps the only difference is that the postulant or candidate for holy orders is not likely to be so far advanced in this respect as the ordained man, but he does need to learn the vital lesson that the spiritual life is central, and that prayer is the very breath of the Christian without which his life as a believer cannot flourish.

Those who know college students well, and especially those students who have a sentimental attachment for the priesthood as a possible vocation, know also that much that passes for incipient vocation is nothing of the sort. It is very easy for a student to fancy himself as a future priest and in this to be guilty of self-regarding wishful thinking. The test of a true vocation, discussed in a preceding chapter, lies frequently in the willingness of a student to live under a rule, of which more will be said. later. The student even in college must learn to take heed to his own spiritual growth, relying upon God’s grace in prayer and sacrament. Something must be learned, and learned before seminary, of the need for discipline.

Men who think they have a vocation, and who yet cannot get up in the morning in time to serve at the altar when scheduled, have all too often substituted a sentimental notion for the rigorous demands which are made upon one who is seriously concerned to become a priest of the Church. It is in the days before one has gone to the seminary that one can best acquire the sense of discipline and the habits of religious practice which should mark the life of a servant of God in the sacred ministry.

In the theological seminary, whether in house or by distance, the course of study is carefully prescribed. Few “electives” are permitted, since the necessary subjects have been set down in the canons of the Church and must be acquired by the ordinand. A great deal depends, however, on the way in which the seminarian approaches his studies. Are they merely something to be got through in order to be ordained? Or do they have a deeper value and meaning? Surely, one who is to be a faithful priest must try to learn from his seminary studies more than those minimum to pass canonical examinations. He must seek that profound understanding of the Christian tradition which will make him a worthy representative of the Church, wherever he may be.

Certainly, he will study the Church’s theology, both in its development and in its dogmatic form. To appreciate these, he must know the Scriptures, which record the events from which our religion took its rise and which always constitute, for the Anglican, the “proving-ground” for all doctrine. He will learn of the way in which the Christian Church has developed through the centuries. He will study the Christian moral tradition, both in its theological statement and in its practical application. He will learn of Christian worship, its theological grounding, its liturgical expression, and its implied results in the life of the worshipper. He will be acquainted with the principles of pastoral care, and he will learn how to conduct services to the glory of God and the edifying of His people. He will be instructed in the cure of souls, so that he may ad-minister counsel and absolution to sinners. So one could go on, through the whole round of the theological curriculum.

All of this is taught, all of this is learned, not by rote so that one may “get it out of the way,” but in the heart so that one may have it at the very root of one’s being. The priest is to be the Church’s man. The life of the Church is to flow through him to such a degree and in such a fashion that he thinks and speaks, works and lives, the Church’s tradition.
Not the problem of distance learning. It is not the classroom which is at the heart of seminary life. The chapel is there, and it is in chapel, as the future priest joins in the daily round of worship with his brethren who like him are preparing for holy orders, that he can most effectively develop the disposition and bent of personality which will make him a worthy priest.

Dutiful and devoted participation in worship in the chapel, especially at the Eucharist, will do much to deepen and strengthen his personal conviction. It will clarity and meaning to classroom studies and the underlying reading and writing which he must follow. He is learning to serve God with his mind; and he must also learn to bring to the altar that which, intellectually speaking, he has made his own. There his mind, his heart, and his soul, together with his very body itself, are offered to God for His service in the priesthood. It is in chapel, too, that he can acquire that habit of saying the daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer which will give stability and form to his life in the priesthood as he joins with the whole Church throughout the world in its fulfilment of what St. Benedict called the opus Dei, “the work of God.” This becomes far more complex for the distance learner, and the local priest and mentor needs to arrange for the parish seminarian to have this experience in the home church.

In his life with his brethren, in classroom, in dining hall, on the walks of the seminary campus, at social functions, as well as in the worship of the chapel, the future priest learns the charity and forbearance which are the marks of the Christian man, and above all the marks of the Christian priest. Here, in a place where everything is directed toward one end, God and His will, as known in His Church,there is a unique opportunity to grow in the grace of Christian life, with its little courtesies, its remembrances, especially its willingness to let others be themselves and not merely serve as adjectives which modify one’s self.

Here is a supreme opportunity to discover, and to incorporate into one’s own life, the truth that the Church is indeed, as St. Augustine said, a corpus permixtum; and that its very variety of membership, and its rich differentiation in thought and approach, is a sign of its divine quality and nature. In the seminary one can begin friendships in Christ, friendships which perhaps are deeper and more enriching than those known anywhere else, because they are grounded in an undergirding devotion to Christ and His Church, and are set in the context of the life of Him whom we cannot lose because He is our God as well as our Brother. Again, for the distance learner, the sponsoring parish must make accommodation to replicate this experience, at least in part, by working to draw the seminarian into the various aspects of the community’s life.

The life of a seminarian is not without its problems. He must learn discipline, and the average young American certainly does not like this. However, many, particularly those who have had military service, have found themselves in situations where discipline was both necessary and enforced, and have come to recognize that one of our greatest needs today is precisely such a patterned and ordered life as discipline provides.

In other ways, too, life in a seminary is not always easy. The studies are exacting; the obligations regarding chapel attendance may be irritating; there may be many other community problems, quite apart from personal ones. Above all, there is the readjustment of one’s whole life to a new point of view. For even if a man, before he has come to seminary, has been a devout Christian, loyally practicing his religion, he has not been obliged constantly to bring everything into line with this single all-encompassing aim: the knowledge of God, the service of God, as this is expressed in the Church’s ministry. Thus, there may come periods of disturbance, emotional upset, staleness or dryness in prayer and worship, a sense of partial frustration. But these can be met and conquered, if the initial commitment has been made and if the seminarian will follow the advice given earlier and learn where necessary to “take it easy.” Most men now in the priesthood will say that with all the questions and problems that seminary years raised for them, those years were among the happiest, the most fruitful, and the most rewarding they have ever known.

I would offer two or three remarks in conclusion. The first is that the man who is planning on entering the ministry must be one who is teachable. Far too often, a seminarian, or even one who has not yet reached that stage of his preparation, thinks and acts as if he were in complete possession of the face of it. Yet, the lesson of humility before the tradition, and teachability in the presence of those who are commissioned to train ordinands, needs to be learned over and over again.

Intellectual freedom is encouraged in most seminaries. The future priest must learn to think through the content of Christian teaching and make it come alive to himself, as he freely studies it with no other commitment than the great commitment to God and his revelation as the Church proclaims them.

It is plainly true that the Christian faith and much that is contained within the tradition must be studied critically and analyzed fearlessly; and the seminary is the place where this is done. Students in seminary are often startled by new ways of stating the faith or by new theories concerning its origins, by biblical criticism both of the Old and New Testament, by distinctions between “central” and “peripheral” beliefs and the like. In the face of these new and different ideas, they need to remember that their teachers, men who have given their lives to the Church’s tradition, are themselves men of faith as well as men of intellectual integrity. Their task in a theological institution is so to think through and so to present the truth, that the historic faith may be soundly and firmly based in the light of modern knowledge and with relevance to modern problems.

Secondly, I would offer a word about the need for a wholesome “secularity” on the part of those training for the priesthood. While it is true that such men are concentrating on one goal, which is their future ministry in the service of God and his Church, it is also true that they need some “nature” upon which “grace” can work. This principle holds true for the ordained man as well as for the man looking forward to ordination. Baron von Hugel used to recommend to those who came to him for spiritual counsel that they should have some non-theological or non-religious interest to which they could turn from time to time.

It may be music, it may be poetry, it may be current affairs, it may be any one of a number of things. Yet it is necessary that there be something which is not strictly directed toward the theological or religious goal. Of course, in the long run and ultimately, any good thing is God’s and leads to God, even though it be God under one of his million incognitos; but it is right that it should not be “religious” in the narrower sense. In this way, the ordinand will have a balance which will make him a healthier and better integrated person.

In sum, the years spent in the seminary provide the opportunity for a great development in the personal religious life of the future priest. Here, he can learn the techniques of meditation and mental prayer; he can strengthen his grasp on the principles of the spiritual life so that he may himself be one who walks with God and hence one who can help his people. Here are older and more experienced men to whom he can turn for advice and assistance, and from whom he can learn much that he needs to know about the spiritual life.

All that we have said in this chapter leads directly into our next subject. For the man who is training for the priesthood is training so that he may be a worthy representative of the Church’s tradition, functioning for Christ in His Mystical Body and carrying on Christ’s work in the world today. But he is a priest in one branch of the Church, the Anglican communion, and more particularly that part of it known as the Episcopal Church in the United States. He will soon promise to be loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of that Church. He will be a “man under authority.” To that subject we will now turn.

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scott

It is vain for me to pray unless I am striving to do God’s will. If I am to do His will I must read His Word. It must be a lantern unto my feet and a light unto my paths. I need not read much at a time; but I should at least read a little regularly. Neither will it be much advantage if I read my Bible as a task, or merely as a duty, and do not try to see the meaning of what I read, and remember it, and think about it. Neither, of course, will it be any advantage, but the contrary, if I do not obey that which I learn from it. If I wish thus to read it I must pray for light and guidance. I must seek teaching and help from others, and be very unwilling to lean to my own understanding.

When we have learned the basics of the Christian Faith, that is, when we have learned to believe that in the one Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and when we have learned to believe in the Incarnation of the Son of God, that He is now both God and Man, and in His Cross and Passion, His Resurrection and Ascension, and in the coming of the Holy Ghost, we shall do well to read and ponder the teaching of our Lord and His apostles. We do this with the practical purpose of learning what we must do if we would not forfeit our part in this great salvation, but make our calling and election sure. (I Peter i.10)

It is a great privilege to have the opportunity of being taught in church, to know the Creeds, and to have a Bible which we may read at home. And the more familiar we are with the Holy Scriptures, the better we shall be able to follow, and to understand, the teaching we receive in church. If the lantern of God’s Word is to guide us we must walk in the light of it; if it is to be a light which shall keep us from stumbling, we must let the light shine upon our daily path.

Prayer

O God, who hast given us Thy Word to show us the way that we should walk in grant me grace, I beseech Thee, always to rule myself after Thy Word, that I may walk always in the path of obedience to Thy will, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Lent for Busy People © 2017 Fr. Charles H. Nalls

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angel

On Sunday, October 29th, the adult class will begin a four part study of angels and demons using Dr. Peter Kreeft’s book Angels (and Demons): What Do We really Know About Them? The class meets in the parish library from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. and will be open to adults and young adults.

The assignment for the first Sunday will be to find references to angels and the “other guys” using only the Bible and a concordance. Of particular interest will be any physical descriptions that the participants can find. In the second week, we will take up Kreeft’s discussion of angels from his book, and, in the third week we will discuss his descriptions of demons. Finally, in the last week of the course the class will have the opportunity to see a video lecture on the book by Dr. Kreef’s himself. This will take slightly more than an hour to view so the class will start promptly at 9:30.

To whet the appetite, the following is a list by Dr. Kreeft of the 12 most important things to know about angels. Be sure to invite a friend to what promises to be a lively and thought-provoking class.

1. They really exist. Not just in our minds, or our myths, or our symbols, or our culture. They are as real as your dog, or your sister, or electricity.
2. They’re present, right here, right now, right next to you, reading these words with you.
3. They’re not cute, cuddly, comfortable, chummy, or “cool”. They are fearsome and formidable. They are huge. They are warriors.
4. They are the real “extra-terrestrials”, the real “Super-men”, the ultimate aliens. Their powers are far beyond those of all fictional creatures.
5. They are more brilliant minds than Einstein.
6. They can literally move the heavens and the earth if God permits them.
7. There are also evil angels, fallen angels, demons, or devils. These too are not myths. Demon possessions, and exorcisms, are real.
8. Angels are aware of you, even though you can’t usually see or hear them. But you can communicate with them. You can talk to them without even speaking.
9. You really do have your very own “guardian angel”. Everybody does.
10. Angels often come disguised. “Do not neglect hospitality, for some have entertained angels unawares”—that’s a warning from life’s oldest and best instruction manual.
11. We are on a protected part of a great battlefield between angels and devils, extending to eternity.
12. Angels are sentinels standing at the crossroads where life meets death. They work especially at moments of crisis, at the brink of disaster—for bodies, for souls, and for nations.

Blessings,

Canon Nalls

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Jesus-Prayer

It is June, and with the arrival of summer vacations comes the inevitable slew of “beach reading” recommendations. These range from the sublime to, well, the not-so-sublime. The selection runs the gamut from the political to the potboiler. But, I have another suggestion for your vacation edification that also begins with “p”-prayer, specifically, the Jesus Prayer.

The Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me [a sinner]” is one of the great treasures of Eastern Orthodoxy. This simple verse derived from Scripture has long been used by Christians in the East as a form of contemplative prayer. In recent decades, understanding and use of the Jesus Prayer has spread from the Eastern Orthodox tradition and into the lives and spirituality of many Western Christians.

Jesus PRayer
My good friends at St. Simeon’s Skete in Kentucky, true prayer warriors themselves, suggested two books on the prayer while they were visiting last fall, and then left behind their copy of the first of these, The Jesus Prayer-A Way to Contemplation by Bp. Simon Barrington-Ward, the retired bishop of Coventry. Bp. Simon received instruction in this form of prayer from Archimandrite Sophrony, one of the greatest of recent Orthodox teachers living in the West and his work on and with the prayer shines forth. Truly, this is one of those books you begin to read and discover that you have a true gem.

As an introduction, this engaging book is not bound up in the language of theology but is quite accessible to those who are new to the Jesus Prayer. I also found that it contains much of value for those of us who have practiced it for many years and are fairly familiar with the literature on it. Bishop Simon makes a compelling case that the Jesus Prayer, as a way to practice the presence of Christ, has a special role to play in the revival, reformation, and mission of the church.

Bp. Simon writes in style best described as simple elegance. It is clear that he knows the Bishop Barrington-Ward has written an excellent introduction and overview to the subject. His writing style is simple yet elegant. He knows the territory well and gives a useful overview of the history and literature of the Jesus Prayer, its various developments over the centuries, uses to which people have put it. His coming at the spirituality of the Eastern Church from a Western perspective is quite helpful, particularly to those who are unfamiliar with the spirituality of Orthodoxy and the Eastern Church.

JPTogether
In the second book, Praying the Jesus Together, Bp. Simon teams up with “Brother Ramon”, an Anglican Franciscan hermit. Friends for many years, they were stirred by a sense that the Holy Spirit was guiding them, and drew together for a shared week of prayer at Glasshampton Monastery in England. Praying the Jesus Prayer Together shares what they learned in an experience they describe as a week of glory-a week marked by Brother Ramon’s physical suffering from cancer. While Brother Ramon’s cancer would ultimately disrupt their collaboration, they discovered how profoundly the disease and attendant suffering enriched and enhanced their communion as they prayed the Jesus Prayer together.

Until reading this book, I had always regarded the Jesus Prayer as a somewhat solitary work. I had found it deeply personal, and something distinctive from the Rosary or breviary prayers in community. Yet, the book provides practical guidelines for how to practice the prayer, not only individually, but also corporately. The authors, bishop and monk, teach with great clarity and power. They ground that teaching in the Scriptures and adding insights and stories from the Western church and from around the world. In the end, they relate the Jesus Prayer to some of the most profound themes in the Christian faith, as well as some of the most essential patterns of Christian discipleship, particularly in community.

So, my advice is to let the latest breathless thriller or conspiracy theory wait until the fall. Instead of reading a book, take one or both of these books with you to the beach, the mountains or wherever you may be rusticating. Then, go ahead. Get out your prayer rope or beads, and pray a book this summer. You will be quite glad for doing so.

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aaastlouistabernacle

Over the years, I have collected a great many books and pamphlets from the earliest phases of the Anglo-Catholic movement here and in Great Britain.  These were small enough to carry in a coat pocket and sufficiently inexpensive to entice even the most penurious.  One could read important, albeit brief, thoughts about the faith while commuting or even walking.  They needed no batteries to power them or wi-fi connection, but good reading glasses were necessary for some of the smaller typefaces.

The great tragedy, particularly with respect to teaching pamphlets and tracts, our apologetic began to gather dust on tract racks.  Eventually, these gems were relegated to a jumble in store room boxes, or worse, pitched out with the rubbish in favor of brightly colored adverts for cheery social justice themes, in-church raves, and providers of “wymyn’s health services”.

Perhaps the best of these cane from the great Anglo-Catholic Congresses and the spiritual and intellectual giants of the day-Darwell Stone, Francis Hall, and others.  In a few words, they gave a mind to the movement and provided precis if their larger and important works.  In the spirit of returning to our Anglo-Catholic “roots”, I have begun to scan and edit some of the surviving materials for a modern presentation. In the meantime, with the exception of some dated references, the documents still teach and exhort, so I will put them up here to get them out and circulating once again.

The first of these pamphlets is Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament by Darwell Stone, D.D., Principal of Pusey House, Oxford.  It was No. 28 in a series entitled “The Congress Books” edited by another great, Leonard Prestige for the Society of Ss. Peter and Paul, London. Published in 1923, it originally ran to 15 pages.  The price from a used bookseller was USD10.00 some 5 years ago, and worth every penny.  It is offered here for your use and dissemination.  Copies of the original in .pdf with the artwork are available from stirenaeus@hotmail.com, and we hope that paper versions will be republished in the spring.

Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament

The custom of reserving the Blessed Sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was due in the first instance to the practical needs of the Church. And through all the later history of the practice the necessity of receiving grace and the gain by progress in spiritual life have been in view.

The solemn words of our Lord, ‘ Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have not life in yourselves ‘ (St. John vi. 53) have been understood in the Church as at least including a reference to the Blessed Sacrament. In consequence one chief duty of the Church’s ministers has been to secure opportunities of Communion for all those who may rightly receive it, whether in health or in sickness, whether during life or at the point of death. The provision of the First Ecumenical Council that a wide and generous indulgence should secure for the departing Christian in all right cases the reception of the last and most necessary Viaticum is but one instance of what the Church has always felt.

In the first ages of the Church there were different groups of persons who, if they were to receive Communion, had to receive it in some other place than that in which the Sacrament was consecrated. There were the sick and dying; there were those who were kept away by necessary occupations; there were those who were in prison, who during the times of persecution included many whose only offence was that they were Christians. In the altered circumstances of Church life there have been at all times corresponding groups. The needs thus existing have been met in different ways.

One method of administering Communion to those absent from the place of consecration has been by carrying the Blessed Sacrament directly from the celebration. In the middle of the second century there is record that after the Communion at the celebration the Sacra­ment was carried to those who were not present. A like provision was made as one of two alternatives in the English Prayer Book of A.D. 1549 and in the Latin Book of the English Church in A.D. 1560. In the last few years this method of giving Communion to the sick has often been practised in the English Church, the Sacrament being taken sometimes immediately after the service, sometimes after a brief interval, during which it has been reserved in church.

A second method of meeting the need has been by continuous reservation. In the early Church individual Christians were allowed to keep the Sacrament in their own houses for their Communion daily or from time to time. Later this custom fell into disuse, probably partly through the cessation of persecution, partly because Communion became ordinarily less frequent, partly because, as the Church grew, it would be difficult to prevent abuses if such a custom continued. A somewhat dif­ferent method was that by which the Sacra­ment has been reserved in the house of the priest. Possibly this existed in some instances in the early Church. It has been frequent among Roman Catholics in Ireland because of the distance at which the priest often lives from his church and the consequent danger of sacrilege and risk of delay in giving Com­munion to the dying if the Sacrament were in the church. The Irish Roman Catholic bishops possess faculties from the Pope by which they are allowed to give leave to priests to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in their houses.

But the ordinary place of continuous reservation has been the church. There are instances of this from Africa in the fourth century and from Constantinople in the fifth. This has been the unbroken practice of the Eastern Church since the first centuries, of the whole West until the sixteenth century, of the Church of Rome since the sixteenth century. In the English Church this practice fell into disuse in the sixteenth century; it was re­vived by the Nonjurors in the eighteenth century; it is the traditional method of the Scottish Church, and during the continuance of the penal laws from A.D. 1746 to A.D. 1792 probably most Communions both of the whole and of the sick in Scotland were made from the Sacrament so reserved ; and during the last thirty years of the nineteenth century and in the twentieth century it has been restored in many English churches.

A third way of meeting the need has been by consecrating the Blessed Sacrament in a private place. Of this method there are some occasional instances in the early Church, all apparently for some special reason. Apart from particular circumstances it was dis­couraged, and in the fourth and following centuries was forbidden. It was one of the two alternatives allowed in the English Church in A.D. 1549 and A.D. 1560 it was the only plan mentioned in the Prayer Book of A.D. 1552 and the later English Prayer Books; and it became the ordinary method in the Church of England, with the result that what had been exceptional in the early Church became usual, and what had been usual became exceptional.

The foregoing brief summary of historical facts opens the way for considering the practical needs of the English Church at the present time. These are of different kinds.

The giving of the Communion to the sick and dying is an anxious concern to the parish priest. Communion can be given more fre­quently to many chronic invalids if the re­served Sacrament is available. For many of them, and perhaps for most of those seriously ill, there will be less physical strain and more spiritual profit if they receive the Sacrament without a celebration at the time. At any rate, in large parishes a serious attempt to give Communion to the dying in all right cases will involve reservation. If the circumstances of the great war emphasized the need of reserva­tion in military hospitals and at the front, they only brought to wider notice, and laid a greater stress on, what had long been well known to many parish priests.

Again, emergencies through sudden dan­gerous illness and through accident are frequent. In many or most of such emergencies a cele­bration is out of the question. If in them Communion is to be given, it must be from the reserved Sacrament, and, it may be added, from the reserved Sacrament not in some distant neighbourhood but close at hand.

Thirdly, there are classes of persons for whom Communion is difficult or impossible at the ordinary times of celebration in church. Two obvious instances are those of hospital nurses and people engaged in agricultural work. Probably few except priests with knowledge of country life have any idea how many of those whose work has to do with cattle and the land fail to communicate from year to year much more because they have not oppor­tunity than because they are alienated from the Church. The possibility of giving Com­munion from the reserved Sacrament in the church to those who cannot come at the times of celebrations removes a most serious diffi­culty in practical work.

In the circumstances of to-day the practical need for reservation may well be greater than at any earlier time. If some kinds of violence are less than they once were, the massing of population in great towns and a new preva­lence of accidents are among the causes which increase a need always great. Consequently, the principle which underlay the practice of the past has increased force now. This prin­ciple was that the priest should always be able to give Communion to those who ought to receive it. The regulation of the Excerpts of Egbert in the eighth or ninth century “that the presbyter have the Eucharist always ready for the sick, lest they die without Communion” is a representative instance which shows the mind of the Church in its care for souls. If the Church at the present time is to be no less careful for the spiritual needs of its members, provision must be made that the Sacrament be always at hand, lest either the whole or the sick be deprived of their due. The custody of the sacraments in his parish is given to the parish priest at his institution; and it is his duty to see that he does not fail in any right care for the souls committed to his charge.

The Blessed Sacrament then is to be reserved in the parish church. In the treatment of it, again, there is a principle of present value contained in the regulations of the past. The Sacrament thus reserved is no other than the Sacrament which is on the altar after the con­secration in the Mass. It is the body of the Lord; it is the presence of him who is our God as well as our Saviour. This sacred and divine presence may not be treated as a common thing. The honourable place, the locked taber­nacle, the beautiful pyx, the fair veil, which old English regulations required, simply gave effect to the truth that what is reserved is the body of Christ.

The custody of the Eucharist, being an integral part of the cure of souls, is shared by the bishop of the diocese and the parish priest. It is the duty of the parish priest to reserve the Sacrament in the parish church for the purpose of Communion as described above; and it is the right of the bishop to make regulations concerning the method of reser­vation, in order to ensure due security and reverence, and also to decide whether the Sacrament may be reserved in churches and chapels other than the parish church, or not.

There is a further consequence of the truth that the reserved Sacra­ment is the body of Christ. Wher­ever the Lord manifests his presence he makes a demand. The soul of the Christian can at all times and in all places worship the incarnate Lord in his heavenly glory on the throne of God, just as at all times and in all places there can be worship of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But the sacramental presence is a special manifestation of the Lord, and calls for a special response. Such a response is to be made by the worshippers at the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice; it is to be made also by any who draw near to the reserved Sacrament.

In all the gifts of God there is a claim made on the soul of man. But the work of God does not end when he asks for worship, for love, for surrender. In his care for mankind, he links together the soul’s response to him and the soul’s own good. The adoration in the Mass strengthens the soul against temptation and for duty, and helps to equip it for the service of God. The worship of the Lord in the reserved Sacrament aids thanksgiving for Communions already received, enriches pre­paration for Communions which are yet to come, strengthens the sense of the abiding presence of God throughout his universe and the lasting union of the incarnate Lord with the Christian soul, is a means to deeper peni­tence and firmer resolve, and a stay for con­stant prayer. It is one of the resting places in the Eucharistic life of the devout com­municant; and it has appealed with a singular force to some who from sin are finding their way back to God.

Prayer before the Sacrament might help the soul even if the Sacrament were only a symbol. Even so, it might recall the memory of Christ, as the crucifix recalls his death for us and a picture recalls the fact of his incarnation. But, when it is acknowledged that the Sacrament is not only a symbol but also the living pres­ence of the Lord himself, then there is a special claim on the soul’s allegiance and a special gift for the soul’s life. Prayer to the Lord in the reserved Sacrament has its own meaning for the servant of God.

The devout use of the reserved Sacrament is very prominent in the present practice of the Church of Rome, inheriting a long tradition of Western Christendom. To enter a Roman Catholic church for prayer is naturally associated with, though not wholly confined to, the incarnate Lord in his Sacrament.

In addition to the private prayers of indi­viduals, services of common worship are frequent among Roman Catholics. There are processions in which the Blessed Sacrament is carried as an act of faith and reparation, to elicit the adoration of the faithful and to seek the blessing of the Lord; there is exposition in which the Blessed Sacrament is shown to the people in the monstrance that they may worship and pray; there is benediction in which the people are blessed by the priest holding the monstrance containing the Sacra­ment. In part these forms of devotion follow practices current in the West during the Middle Ages; in part they are due to the Counter-Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The extent to which they are used differs considerably in different parts of the Roman Catholic Church; by some Roman Catholics they are but slightly valued, while from others they draw out great en­thusiasm and love.

n all ways the use of the reserved Sacra­ment in the East is very different from that in the Church of Rome. The Roman Catholic on entering a church naturally thinks first of the reserved Sacrament and the presence of the incarnate Lord. To the Eastern, although the Sacrament is reserved equally in his churches, the chief attraction is the eikon, the sacred

The last ninety years have seen a great transformation in the Church of England. The many changes which have taken place have had their centre in the Eucharist. The restoration by the Tractarians of a Eucharistic doctrine which was well-nigh lost led by a natural sequence to many changes in practice. Celebrations which had been infrequent became frequent. In many places where three times a year or once a month had formed a standard, one celebration or more daily have become the established custom. In many places the Mass, from being almost out of sight for the general congregation, has come to be acknowledged as the principal service. Where Communions were made by tens they are now made in great numbers. And step by step there has come to be a widespread recognition of the need for the reserved Sacrament and for its devotional use.

In accordance with English descent and associations the development in the use of the reserved Sacrament has naturally proceeded on Western lines. Not unnaturally, too, some in the Church of England whose Eucharistic doctrine is without suspicion, have felt the tradition of Eastern Christianity to afford a reason against the adoption in the Church of England of practices distinctively Western. It may well be that for some time to come not all who are agreed as to Eucharistic doctrine will be altogether agreed as to its results in practice. At any rate, there is room here for a wide and a wise toleration. The fatal mistake would be to mar spiritual life by wrong ways of controversy or to crush it by a wrong rigidity.

In every restoration of what has been wholly or partially lost there are dangers. There is the danger lest enthusiasm for what is regained may tend to obscure what has always been possessed. There is danger lest the balance and proportion in thought and worship and life be not rightly preserved. There is danger lest the very intensity of some movements of the soul may hamper or dwarf or make unreal other not less needed sides of life. No religious progress can be free from dangers such as these. It may not be expected that the stirring of life in the English Church can be without them. But the dangers are to be met, not by abandoning what is true and right but by seeing that it is in its proper place and that it has its proper complements.

A great responsibility rests on all who value the reserved Sacrament. If stress has been laid in this paper on reservation as the duty of the priest and on the devout use of the reserved Sacrament as the response of the Christian to the claim of our Lord, it is because the writer believes that these are among the aspects which ought to be emphasized. To the priest the custody of the Sacraments is a very solemn thing. To the lay people the approach to the reserved Sacrament is only less solemn than the approach to Communion and the offering of the sacrifice. As this solemnity is recognized, the reserved Sacrament may take its place in the whole sphere of Christian life. For it will be seen that the Christian life is a harmony in which the outward is supported and sustained by the inward, and the inward by the outward, and in which both outward and inward share the task of promoting the imitation of Christ.

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With the evening hours coming earlier and the darkness of the world that seems encroach at an ever-increasing degree, I thought a word or two about light, or lights in the church might be appropriate. Light is something that most people take granted. Absent the effects of a storm, we hardly give it a second thought. The need for light is fundamental, and there can be no life without light. Indeed images of light and darkness recur throughout the Bible.

In the beginning “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep.” The very first action of God in creation was to say, “‘Let there be light’; and there was light and God saw that the light was good.” (Genesis 1:2-3)

In the New Testament, light is a key image particularly in the Gospel according to St. John where he describes Our Lord as “the light.” Not the light created by God, but the Creator Himself! Our Lord, too, uses the image of light to teach His disciples, when He says that we should shine as lights exposed on hilltops, and not hide our faith under buckets.  So it is appropriate that light, or lights, forma a significant part of our liturgy in the Church in accordance with Holy Scripture.

Candles in Church

Let’s begin with the Pascal Candle which can be found in most churches, and it is easy to identify. It is likely to be taller and of greater circumference than  any other candle in the church, but it the only candle to be decorated either with a decal or by being painted. From Easter to Pentecost, or Whitsunday, it will be in a prominent position in the Sanctuary near the High Altar.

The Pascal Candle is named after the PASCH, the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord. The candle is blessed at the Easter Vigil, and represents Christ the light of the world. The Easter Vigil includes the first Eucharist of Easter, and is a dramatic re- presentation of the mysteries of creation and redemption. It begins in total darkness, but ends in a flood of candle-lit glory!

Two of the Vigil ceremonies are of particular interest. First, immediately after lighting, the Pascal Candle is carried in procession through the darkened church. As the Pascal Candle approaches the Choir, the priests and congregation in turn light candles they are holding from the Pascal Candle, and, in turn, from each other. This is a powerful image of evangelism-the way in which we come to share in the living light of Christ, and also fulfill our commission to spread that light throughout the world.

Secondly, the Pascal Candle is taken in procession to the font, where, using the candle as a symbol of Christ, waters of Baptism are blessed as the candle is dipped three times into the font. This reminds us that in Baptism we enter into the tomb of death with Christ, only to rise again with Him, whose Resurrection we are about to celebrate.

After Pentecost the Pascal Candle is generally is set aside in the Baptistry for use during Baptism.  It will make another appearance in the Sanctuary from Christmas Vigil through the Epiphany.

Altar Candles and Processional Lights.

The number of candles used to decorate altars varies, but traditionally they are in combinations of two, four and six. A useful rule of thumb is that the more candles, the more important the altar is likely to be. Side, chapel and Lady Chapel altars normally have two, or sometimes four candles (two being lit for low mass, all four only being lit on high feast days). The High Altar would have anything up to six candles.  A seventh candle appears when a bishop is present.

The obvious symbolism is that the altar represents the throne of God, from which the light of Christ shines upon His gathered people. You may also find it helpful to meditate upon what the number and arrangement of the candles might suggest.

Candles carried in procession are a simple, but effective way of honoring both the cross which they accompany, and also the priest as he represents the person of Christ. Their use adds both dignity and color to the Church’s worship.

Baptism Candles

Many priests in the Anglican Catholic Church present a lighted candle to the newly baptized person or their God parents at a certain point during the rite.  The baptismal candle is lit from the Pascal Candle symbolizing that, through Holy Baptism, the newly baptized person shares in the life of the Risen Lord, represented by the Pascal Candle. The words which accompany the giving of the candle can also point out an important meaning: “Receive the light of Christ, that when the bridegroom cometh thou mayest go forth with all the Saints to meet Him … ”

Sanctus Light, or Presence Lamp

 This is a light that burns when there is any “reserved sacrament” near the altar in the Tabernacle, which is located in the center of the Altar at St. Alban’s.  The presence light is near to the Altar at the left or Gospel side. The presence light is extinguished on Good Friday after the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified as there is no reserved Sacrament in the Tabernacle.

 Prayer or Votive Candles

Many parishes have a stand for holding votive or prayer. If you do, or when you go into a church that does, one will usually be found near a statue/shrine of a Saint or near to the Reserved Sacrament. Lighting a candle in prayer is a powerful symbol, full of meanings.

Here are some “bright” ideas:

  • The lit candle reminds us of our Baptism, and the way that we share in the life of Christ by sharing in the life of the Church. When we depart from the place leaving the burning candle behind, we are reminded that our souls never leave the presence of God, in company with His Saints.
  • Prayer is not self-centered, it is God centered, and an important element is prayer for other people and causes. When lighting your candle, it is a good idea to light a candle for those others you want to pray for.

The candle is absolutely not a substitute for the prayer of your heart, but an accompaniment. It is a small offering which, in honoring a Saint and giving glory to God, speaks both from the heart and to the heart. Lighting votive candles in church, when asking the prayers of the Saints and thereby to the greater glory of God, is growing in popularity in the Anglican Catholic Church.

It is a devotional practice in which many millions of Christians the world over have found inspiration.

-with thanks to All Saints (ACC) Janesville, WI

 

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DIA liom a laighe,
Dia liom ag eirigh,
Dia liom anus gach rath soluis,
Is gun mi rath son as aonais,
Gun non rath as aonais.

Criosda liom a cadal,
Criosda liom a dusgadh,
Criosda liom a caithris,
Gach la agus oidhche,
Gach aon la is oidhche.

Dia liom a comhnadh
Domhnach liom a riaghladh,
Spiorad liom a treoradh,
Gu soir agus siorruidh,
Soir agus siorruidh, Amen.
Triath nan triath, Amen

GOD with me lying down,
God with me rising up,
God with me in each ray of light,
Nor I a ray of joy without Him,
Nor one ray without Him.

Christ with me sleeping,
Christ with me waking,
Christ with me watching,
Every day and night,
Each day and night.

God with me protecting,
The Lord with me directing,
The Spirit with me strengthening,
For ever and for evermore,
Ever and evermore, Amen.
Chief of chiefs, Amen.

As we work up to our next session on Celtic Christianity, I thought I’s begin to post a few prayers and hymns from the Carmina Gadelica, a 19th century collection of poems, hymns and prayers from the Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Britain.  Many of these hearken back to the earliest days of Christianity in the British isles and show the keen sense of a God present and active in His world and in the lives of His people.

This perception of the active presence of Christ is wonderfully expressed in the hymn, St. Patrick’s Breastplate, which is also a wonderful expression of the Holy Trinity.

The two volumes are online in various places, but the text version in a real book is somehow more satisfying.

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