Archive for the ‘Holy Week’ Category

confession-drawing-01There will be a number of opportunities for Confession during this Holy Week. A priest will be available in the hour before the services of Tenebrae (Wednesday, 5:15 p.m.-6:15 pm); Maundy Thursday (5:15 p.m.-6:15 p.m); Good Friday (10:45 a.m.-11:45 a.m.) and Vigil (Saturday 6:45 p.m.-7:45 p.m.). You may make your confession in the confessional in the Penance Chapel located along the corridor on the far side of the church by the entrance drive, by coming to the rail to the right of the priest seated in the crossing or face-to-face.  Please let the priest know your preference.  Maundy Thursday typically is the busiest period so you may wish to arrive a bit early.

 If the Penance Chapel doors or the door to the sanctuary is closed, please wait outside until you are called.

To assist you with your preparation and confession, I have reproduced a portion of one of the older St. Augustine Prayer Books and our parish pamphlet. This includes a guide for the examination of conscience.  Copies of the parish Guide to Confession will be on hand.

Copies of the truly great devotional, the Traditional St. Augustine’s Prayer Book, are available to purchase from the Anglican Parishes Association.


THE THREE ELEMENTS OF REPENTANCEThe part of the person approaching this sacrament is repentance. True repentance has three elements:

1. CONTRITION or sorrow for sin. This can be obtained only at the foot of the Cross. We may not have an emotion of sorrow, but when we see what our sins have done to Jesus, we shall be sorry.

2. CONFESSION of all known sin. This involves a careful examination of our conscience. We cannot confess our sins until we see exactly how we look to the all-seeing eye of God.

3. SATISFACTION & AMENDMENT OF LIFE. We must intend to lead a new or better life. This intention is shown by our acceptance and performance of the penance imposed by the Priest in confession.

SELF-EXAMINATION¶ Before self-examination, say this prayer:
O Holy Spirit, Source of all light, Spirit of wisdom, of understanding, and of knowledge, come to my assistance and enable me to make a good confession. Enlighten me, and help me now to know my sins as one day I shall be forced to recognize them before thy judgment seat. Bring to my mind the evil which I have done and the good which I have neglected. Permit me not to be blinded by self-love. Grant me, moreover, heartfelt sorrow for my transgressions, knowing how deeply they have wounded the living Heart of my Heavenly Father; and help me to make a good confession that all stain of guilt may be washed away in the Precious Blood of my Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Think of yourself as God’s child, and of the wickedness of following Satan rather than your loving Father. Do not be in a hurry, and do not vex yourself because you cannot remember everything. Be honest with God and with yourself; this is all God asks of you.

Write down briefly what you remember of your sins. Don’t try to depend on your memory. If there is any question you do not understand, let it alone, and go on, to the Next one.

Do not fret about your sins. Remember, you are trying to recall them in order that you may be forgiven, not that you may be condemned, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt thou not despise.”

1. Pride

Thou shalt have none other gods but me.Have you been more interested in self than in God?
Have you made it your chief aim to be always on top?
What have you been vain about; personal appearance, clothes, personality, possessions, your family, ability, success in games or in studies?
Have you scorned other people for their misfortunes, their sins, stupidity, or other weaknesses?
Scorned other people’s religion?
Talked too much; called attention to yourself?
Been sorry for yourself, self-pitying?
Refused to admit when you were in the wrong? Refused to apologize?
Been resentful or suspicious of others through over-sensitiveness?
Have you been stubborn and self-willed? In what ways?

II. IdolatryThou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them.

Have you put another person before God’s law; by not going to church, or by committing some other sin to please that person?
Have you wanted popularity so much that you have not said your prayers, or done some other good things, for fear of being laughed at?
Have you loved money or clothes too much; or even sinned to get them?
Gone to mediums, fortune-tellers or astrologers?

III. Profanity

Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.Have you sworn? (Especially, have you misused the Holy Name of Jesus?)
Have you given way to anxiety, instead of turning to God for help?
Been worried, afraid, allowed yourself to get into a panic?
Allowed yourself to feel that it was impossible even for God to help you?

IV. Irreverence
Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day.Have you missed Mass on Sunday, when you could have gone?
Have you failed to say your prayers morning and night? Or to say them earnestly?
Have you always kept Sunday as you think it ought to be kept?
Have you done some unnecessary work on Sunday?
Have you always tried hard to worship God when in church?
Or have you sometimes been irreverent? Or joked about holy things?
Have you ever been ashamed of your Religion: ashamed of Jesus?

V. Disobedience
Honour thy father and thy mother.Have you been grateful enough for all your parents have done for you?
Did you ever disobey them, or others who were over you; or did you ever obey them slowly and reluctantly?
Have your actions ever caused them anxiety or shame?
Have you ever deliberately disobeyed God or ignored His desires for you? In what way?
Have you ever shown disregard for the laws of the Church? For the laws of the land?
Have you contributed as much as you ought to the support or the happiness of your parents?
What sins have you committed with regard to your wife (husband), children, or other members of your family?
Have you given as much care and attention as possible to the religious life of your family; for example, with regard to Grace at Meals, Family Prayers, Church going, etc.?
Have you seen that your children had adequate and continuous religious instructions?
Have you been just and generous to people in your employment, or under your authority in business? In what ways have you failed?
Have you tried to dominate the lives of others unduly? How?

VI. Hate

Thou shalt do no murder.Have you killed anyone, either in outward deed, or in your heart?
Have you wished that someone was dead? Have you been angry unjustly? Struck people? Or hurt them by ridicule or contempt?
Have you ever cursed people?
Have you gossiped about people?
Is there anyone whom you now hold a grudge against? Or are unwilling to forgive? (Think how often God has forgiven you; and ask Him to help you to forgive and love your enemies for His sake.)
Have you refused to help people who were in real need of help? ignored the sick or the poor? Not tried to be friendly with people, especially with people who are not very popular?
Have you been afraid to stand up for a person when others were mistreating him?
Have you ever taught (or tempted) another person to sin?

VII. Impurity

Thou shalt not commit adultery.Have you been impure in thought, word or deed? (You need not talk much about it, but make it quite plain to the Priest just what kind of sins you mean; whether they were done alone; or with a man or woman; and, if possible, how often.?
Have you looked at evil pictures? Or read bad passages in books? Have you ever used the Bible in this way?
Have you been immodest in actions, or in dress?
Have you been lazy in prayers, work, or study? Neglected business, family, or social duties?
Have you ever eaten, drunk, or smoked more than was good for you?
Have you neglected the days of fasting or abstinence?
Broken rules or resolutions which you have made for yourself?
Allowed yourself to be over engrossed in light reading, the movies, or other pastimes, to the exclusion of worthwhile things?
Have you been cowardly in sickness or pain?
Been unmindful of the suffering of the world?

VIII. Theft

Thou shalt not steal.Have you ever stolen anything? What things?
Have you shared in stolen goods?
Have you cheated in business, games, or lessons?
Have you been over-extravagant; gambled or bet too much?
Tried hard to pay all your debts?
Contracted debts unnecessarily?
Have you remembered that God has given you all you have?
Have you thanked Him enough?
Have you given as much as you ought to the Church or to charities?
Have you been stingy?
Have you wasted time?

IX. Deceit

Thou shalt not bear false witness.How many lies have you told?
Have you exaggerated too much?
Been deceitful, unfair, a hypocrite?
Allowed others to receive blame for your faults?
Been harsh toward others, or in speaking of others, for sins which you also have committed?

X. Discontent

Thou shalt not covet.Have you been jealous of others, because they had more things, or more money; or because they were better looking or more successful; or because someone loves them more than you?
Been grieved at the prosperity or attainments of others?
Been dejected because of the position, talents, or fortune of others?
Have you been glad when they failed, or were in trouble?
Glad when you heard people speak ill of them?
Have you allowed yourself to be sad and discouraged at times and not always fought to be brave and joyful?
Have you tried to accept loss or sorrow or had things at the Hand of God?
Have you thought that God does not love you? Have you ever given up trying to be good?

Prayer after Self-ExaminationO my God, how great are my sins! Would that I had never offended thee. If by carelessness or ignorance I have forgotten anything in my self-examination, show it to me now that I may make a good confession. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

CONTRITIONO my God, I cry unto thee with the prodigal: Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But now, O God, give me true sorrow of heart for my many sins whereby I have grieved thee, and enable me to make a full confession to thy priest, that I may receive perfect remission of them, through thine infinite goodness. Amen.

O God, I am very sorry that I have sinned against thee who art so good. Forgive me for Jesus’ sake, and I will try to sin no more. Amen.

O God, I love thee with my whole heart and above all things and am heartily sorry that I have offended thee. May I never offend thee any more. Oh, may I love thee without ceasing, and make it my delight to do in all things thy most holy will. Amen.


¶ When your turn comes, kneel in the confessional or other place where the Priest is sitting, and say immediately:

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.

¶ When the Priest has given you his blessing, say, without further delay: 

I confess to God Almighty, to all the Saints, and to you, Father, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, by my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault. Especially, I accuse myself of the following sins since my last confession which was ………….. ago.

¶ Then, without exaggerating or extenuating the offenses of which you may be conscious, tell them, as if to God himself, with a humble, sorrowful and contrite heart. When you have finished telling your sins, say:

For these and all my other sins which I cannot now remember, I am heartily sorry, I firmly purpose amendment, and ask pardon of God, and of you, Father, penance, counsel and absolution. Wherefore, I beg Blessed Mary, all the Saints, and you, Father, to pray for me to the Lord our God. Amen.

¶ Listen attentively to anything the Priest may choose to say; humbly accept the penance he imposes and when he raises his hand in absolution, make the sign of the cross.

SATISFACTION, AMENDMENT OF LIFE¶ Return to your place and make your thanksgiving for your absolution.I thank thee, my God, for giving me the forgiveness of my sins, through the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ my Saviour. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

O most merciful God, who in forgiving our sins, rememberest them no more against us forever, accept my unworthy thanks for thy great goodness in blotting out my transgressions. Let the grace of this absolution strengthen and sustain me, and may the pitifulness of thy great mercy defend me evermore from all assaults of the enemy. Amen.

¶ Then perform the penance the Priest assigned to you as follows:O Lord God, I desire to offer thee the penance which thou hast given me by the word of thy minister. It is as nothing compared to the sins which I have committed: nevertheless, I unite it to the sufferings of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and offer it as an act of adoration of thy devine majesty, of sorrow for my sins (especially ………), and of supplication for the virtues of …………..

¶ then say your penance.O my God, I resolve to show my thanks to thee for receiving me as thy forgiven child, by fighting against sin in the future. I resolve by thy grace to avoid what is wrong, to believe what is true, to do what is right, and to continue thy faithful soldier and servant unto my life’s end.

May the holy Mother of God, my Guardian Angel, and my holy Patron, join with me in giving thanks unto the Lord for his great goodness, and loving-kindness, in pardoning mine iniquity. And may the eternal Father, of his boundless mercy and by the life and death of his dear Son, enable me to persevere unto the end, and + die in his favour. Amen.

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We precede the Triduum with Tenebrae (Latin for “shadows” or “darkness”) which is a religious service celebrated in Holy Week on the evening before or early morning of  Maundy Thursday.   Rich in symbolism, the service of Tenebrae incorporates the use of light and darkness to invoke the spiritual reality recalled within the prayer. For instance, as the service is celebrated (on the morning of Good Friday in its earliest days), the candles used for lighting are successively extinguished so that by the end only one candle is left burning. While the church found itself in darkness, the lone candle, the light of the one who would sacrifice himself for the life of the world, would remain and be seen as the light in darkness. Hope was restored for God’s faithful ones.

Tenebrae will begin at 6:30 pm.  At St. Alban’s, we use a somewhat shorter version as included below which you may feel free to use.  For chants from the Psalter, we use the notation from the Sarum Psalter Noted.  I have set the people’s portion of the antiphons in bold.

Blessings of Holy Week,

Canon Nalls

Tenebrae of Wednesday Evening

(Mattins & Lauds of Maundy Thursday)

The following are said by each worshiper in silence:

O Lord, open thou my mouth that I may bless thy holy Name;  cleanse also my heart from all vain, evil and wandering thoughts;  enlighten my understanding, enkindle my affections that I may be able worthily, attentively and devoutly to recite these Offices, and may be meet to be heard in the presence of thy divine Majesty;  through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

O Lord, in union with that divine intention with which thou thyself on earth didst render praise to God, I offer to thee these Hours.

The Lord’s Prayer

The Hail Mary

The Apostles Creed (page 15)

 The antiphons are said in unison; the psalms are read responsively.  One candle on the stand is extinguished at the end of each psalm.


Nocturn I.

[Antiphon 1]  The zeal of thine house hath even eaten me:  and the rebukes of them that rebuked thee are fallen upon me.

Psalm 69 (page 421)

[Antiphon 1The zeal of thine house hath even eaten me:  and the rebukes of them that rebuked thee are fallen upon me.

[Antiphon 2]  Let them be turned backward, and put to confusion, that wish me evil.

Psalm 70 (page 424)

[Antiphon 2Let them be turned backward, and put to confusion, that wish me evil.

[Antiphon 3]  Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the ungodly.

Psalm 71 (page 425)

[Antiphon 3Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the ungodly.

 Lesson 1:  Lamentations of Jeremiah 1.1

Nocturn II.

[Antiphon 1]  He shall deliver the poor when he crieth:  the needy also, and him that hath no helper.

Psalm 72 (page 426)

[Antiphon 1He shall deliver the poor when he crieth:  the needy also, and him that hath no helper.

[Antiphon 2]  They speak of wicked blasphemy:  their talking is against the Most High.

Psalm 73 (page 428)

[Antiphon 2They speak of wicked blasphemy:  their talking is against the most High.

[Antiphon 3]  Arise, O God:  and maintain my cause.

Psalm 74 (page 430)

[Antiphon 3Arise, O God:  and maintain my cause.

 Lesson 2:  From the Treatise on the Psalms  by St. Augustine the Bishop

 Nocturn III.

[Antiphon 1]  I said unto the fools, Deal not so madlyspeak not with a stiff neck.

Psalm 75 (page 431)

[Antiphon 1I said unto the fools, Deal not so madlyspeak not with a stiff neck.

[Antiphon 2]  The earth trembled, and was still:  when God arose to judgement.

Psalm 76 (page 432)

[Antiphon 2The earth trembled, and was still:  when God arose to judgement.

[Antiphon 3]  In the time of my trouble:  I sought the Lord.

Psalm 77 (page 433)

[Antiphon 3In the time of my trouble:  I sought the Lord.

Lesson 3: I Corinthians 11.17


[Antiphon 1]  Mayest thou be justified in thy saying:  and clear when thou art judged.

Psalm 51 (page 403)

[Antiphon 1Mayest thou be justified in thy saying:  and clear when thou art judged.

[Antiphon 2]  The Lord as a lamb, is led to the slaughter, and he opened not his mouth.

Psalm 90 (page 453)

[Antiphon 2The Lord as a lamb, is led to the slaughter, and he opened not his mouth.

[Antiphon 3]  My heart within me is broken:  all my bones shake.

Psalm 36 (page 383)

[Antiphon 3My heart within me is broken:  all my bones shake.

[Antiphon 4]  Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power, who didst admonish us today to refresh ourselves in remembrance of thee.

The Song of Moses.  Exodus 15.1

I WILL sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

[2] The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

[3] The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.

[4] Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.

[5] The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone.

[6] Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.

[7] And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble.

[8] And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.

[9] The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.

[10] Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.

[11] Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?

[12] Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.

[13] Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.

[14] The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestine.

[15] Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away.

[16] Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased.

[17] Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established.

[18] The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.

[19] For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought again the waters of the sea upon them.

[20] But the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.

[Antiphon 4Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power, who didst admonish us today to refresh ourselves in remembrance of thee.

[Antiphon 5]  He offered up himself because he did will it, who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the Tree.

Psalm 147 (page 522)

[Antiphon 5He offered up himself because he did will it, who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the Tree.

[Antiphon to Benedictus]  Now he that betrayed him gave him a sign, saying:  Whom I shall kiss, that same is he;  hold him fast.

            Benedictus(page 14)

One candle on the altar is extinguished at the end of every other verse.

[Antiphon to BenedictusNow he that betrayed him gave him a sign, saying:  Whom I shall kiss, that same is he;  hold him fast.

All:  Christ for our sake became obedient unto death.

The last remaining lit candle on the stand is hidden.


Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the Cross;  who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.  AMEN.

The hidden candle is shown, and all leave in silence.

For your cnvenience

A Reading from the Treatise of Saint Augustine the Bishop on the Psalms

“Hear my prayer, O God; do not hide yourself from my petition. Listen to me and answer me. I mourn in my trial and am troubled.”

These are the words of one disquieted, in trouble and anxiety. He prays under much suffering, desiring to be delivered from evil. Let us now see under what evil he lies; and when he begins to speak, let us place ourselves beside him, that, by sharing his tribulation, we may also join in his prayer.

“I mourn in my trial,” he says, “and am troubled.”

When does he mourn? When is he troubled? He says, “In my trial.” He has in mind the wicked who cause him suffering, and he calls this suffering his “trial.” Do not think that the evil are in the world for no purpose, and that God makes no good use of them. Every wicked person lives either that he may be corrected, or that through him the righteous may be tried and tested.

Would that those who now test us were converted and tried with us; yet though they continue to try us, let us not hate them, for we do not know whether any of them will persist to the end in their evil ways. And most of the time, when you think you are hating your enemy, you are hating your brother without knowing it.

Only the devil and his angels are shown to us in the Holy Scriptures as doomed to eternal fire. It is only their amendment that is hopeless, and against them we wage a hidden battle. For this battle the Apostle arms us, saying, “We are not contending against flesh and blood,” that is, not against human beings whom we see, “but against the principalities, against the powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.” So that you may not think that demons are the rulers of heaven and earth, he says, “of the darkness of this world.”

He says, “of the world,” meaning the lovers of the world — of the “world,” meaning the ungodly and wicked — the “world” of which the Gospel says, “And the world knew him not.”

“For I have seen unrighteousness and strife in the city.”

See the glory of the cross itself. On the brow of kings that cross is now placed, the cross which enemies once mocked. Its power is shown in the result. He has conquered the world, not by steel, but by wood. The wood of the cross seemed a fitting object of scorn to his enemies, and standing before that wood they wagged their heads, saying, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” He stretched out his hands to an unbelieving and rebellious people. If one is just who lives by faith, one who does not have faith is unrighteous. Therefore when he says “unrighteousness,” understand that it is unbelief. The Lord then saw unrighteousness and strife in the city, and stretched out his hands to an unbelieving and rebellious people. And yet, looking upon them, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

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Holy Eucharist-8:30 a.m.
Adult Study-9:30 a.m.-Study of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity (Meets in Parish Library)
Blessing of Palms-10:45 a.m.
Holy Eucharist-11:00 a.m. (Hospitality follows in Parish Hall)

Holy Eucharist and Healing Service-Noon

Holy Eucharist-6:30 p.m.
Washing of Feet
Stripping of the Altar
Repose of the Blessed Sacrament
Those wishing to keep Vigil at the Altar of Repose are asked to make their Vigil hours known by Wednesday at noon.

Hour the First-Morning Prayer and Litany, First Meditation
Hour the Second-Stations of the Cross, Second Meditation, Veneration of the Cross
Hour the Third-Mass of the Pre-Sanctified, Evening Prayer
These devotions are arranged so that you may take part in all or a portion to allow for work schedules. Please keep silence when entering or leaving the church. At 3:00 p.m., all are to leave in silence.

Holy Eucharist-8:30 p.m.
Lighting of the New Fire and Exultet
The Blessing of the Font
Holy Baptism (if there are candidates)
Litany of the Saints
The Holy Eucharist
Those desiring Baptism are urged to contact the Parish Office not later than 4:00 p.m. on Good Friday.

Festival Eucharist-10:00 a.m.

Matins and Mass-8:00 a.m.

Holy Week Confessions-By appointment with the Rector.

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“Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” -St. Luke 23:43

We don’t like the Cross.  We don’t like to look at it, be reminded of it or have it around.  It reminds us of the hatred and evil that would condemn anyone to such a death, much less an innocent man, and even more so the son of God. It reminds us too much of suffering and of sin and of the fact that our own kind, not just Jews, but gentiles would engage in such barbarity.  Wouldn’t we just rather have that plain old cross, maybe with an IHS in the middle-what some folks like to call a resurrection Cross? On this night in which Christ began his journey to the Cross, I stand before you to tell you that to ignore the Cross, particularly to ignore it because of suffering-avoidance, is to ignore the very saving act of Christ to the destruction of Christianity.  That is what is at stake onthis Maundy Thursday 2011.

I am not conjuring a theme for tonight’s homily-I will let the modern heretic, the nouveau apostate, the postmodern pagan speak for themselves.  Themes at a 1993 conference of major denomination theologians, themes that have been reprised in conferences with ever-increasing frequency included destroying traditional Christian faith, adopting ancient pagan beliefs, rejecting Jesus’ divinity and His atonement on the cross, creating a goddess in the conferee’s own image, and, of course, affirming lesbianism. Their goal and objective was that Christ would be put down and the feminist goddess, Sophia, would now be accepted in all of the world churches and denominations. At the center of this was the need for self-affirmation and a world of seeming pleasure, devoid of the suffering caused by Christianity.

Delores Williams, theology professor at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, told the gathering: “I don’t think we need a theory of atonement at all…Atonement has to do so much with death…I don’t think we need folks hanging on crosses and blood dripping and weird stuff…We just need to listen to the god within.”  Easy god, feel good god, pain free god, self god. All of this is grounded in the desire to flee from the pain of being incarnate, the pain of sin, the weight borne by Christ on the Cross at the hands of people trying to escape the searing pain of the convicting truth embodied in Jesus the Christ.

But suppose one can’t escape suffering (no one can, really)?  Suppose suffering its one dead on. There are two kinds of responses: 1) We can rail against God and say, “If you are such a great and powerful and loving God, why am I in this hellish mess?”  That’s the immediate post-modern response.  It is even the response of the disciples this terrible night as they flee Christ’s side.  All but John will be far from the Cross and the suffering of Christ, and even Peter, the one who had just proclaimed his loyalty unto death, would deny Christ three times.  And he would weep bitterly.

Or we can acknowledge that we are sinners and that we don’t deserve any good thing, and cry out for mercy and help in our time of desperation. Beloved, the world is full of those who rail against God in their self-righteousness and presume that the creator of the universe obliged to make their life smooth and faith easy, neat and clean. There are only a few who own up to the fact that God owes us nothing, and that any good to come our way will be due to his mercy, and not our merit.

Luke’s text about the two thieves crucified with Christ teach us that there is no great reward for responding to suffering and to the Cross like the first sort of person. Those two thieves who this night would have been awaiting their execution represent these two ways of responding to suffering and relating to Christ in suffering.  Let’s take a close look at them and their response to the Cross.

Notice first how similar they are. Both are suffering the pain of crucifixion. Both are guilty of crime (“We are receiving the due reward of our deeds,” v.41). Both see Jesus, the superscription over his head (“King of the Jews,” v. 38); they hear the words from his mouth (“Father forgive them,” v. 34). And both of these thieves want desperately to be saved from death.

Most of us have all these things in common with these two thieves: there has been, is, or will be suffering in our lives. None of us will be able to say: “I do not deserve this.” Most of us have seen Jesus on the cross and have heard his claim to kingship and his gracious words of forgiveness. And all of us want to be saved from death one way or the other.

But then the ways divide these two thieves and between two categories of people. The first thief says, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” What a picture of a spiritually destitute, worldly man. It is a matter of total indifference to him that he is suffering “the due reward of his deeds.” To him right and wrong, praise and blame, good and bad are of no interest: his one objective is to save his earthly skin. He might even believe Jesus is the Messiah, the King of the Jews. But, it’s only a matter of convenience to him: he’ll take anybody as king who can get him off the cross. Just another shill to serve his own worldly purposes.

That’s the way one whole segment of humans relate to God in suffering. Suffering interrupts their own private worldly goals and pleasures. So why not try God; if you are king, then get me out of this mess. One writer described this as tire theology. A tire-jack is a dirty, useless thing to be kept out of sight in the trunk until you have a flat tire (a little suffering). Then you get it out, let it do the dirty work and put it away again. Here is Christ-scourged, bleeding, not a fit person to look at. “If you’re so useful, take me down off this cross, Jesus.” Or, to put it another way, “If you’re so useful, lift me up out of this sickness, out of this financial mess, out of this lousy job, and so on.”

The thief had no spirit of brokenness, or guilt or penitence or humility. He could only see Jesus as a possible power by which to escape the cross. He did not see him as a king to be followed. It never entered his mind that he should say he was sorry and should change.

But notice the other thief: this one is the one Luke wants us to be like. First, he is not drawn in by the other man’s railing. If we are to follow his example we too will have to stand our ground and not be taken in by the people all around us who say, “If your God is so great and loving, then why the 20 kids shot in Atlanta? Why sixteen miners buried in a cave? Why a village of your fellow Christians slaughtered in Sudan?” “Why suffering? Why doesn’t he come down off his helpless perch on the cross and do something?”

The first thing the repentant thief does is not get deceived by all this talk. “But he rebuked him saying, ‘Do you not fear God?’” This is the second thing about this penitent thief: he feared God. God was real to him. God was his creator, and he knew that a pot can’t take up arms against the potter and come away victorious. It is fitting that creatures bow in submission before their creator and subject all their life to his wisdom. It is even more fitting that sinful creatures bow before God in holy fear, instead of railing against HIM.

Third, the penitent thief admitted that he had done wrong: “We are receiving the due reward of our deeds” (v. 41). He had no guile, no desire to save face any more; he had no more will to assert himself much less become his own god. He was here and laid open before the God he feared and there was no way to hide has guilt.

You and I know people right now who are in trouble-this very night they are in a world of trouble. But instead of laying down their self-righteous defenses, they are devising every means to weasel and inagle and distort so as to appear innocent and cool. The penitent thief gave it up. It’s a hopeless tack, anyway, before an all-knowing God!

Fourth, not only did he admit to wrong and guilt, he accepted his punishment as deserved. The penitent evildoer’s confession of sin and of faith shows the proper response to Jesus’ absolution (Cyril of Alexandria). The penitent thief is not ashamed of Christ’s suffering and does not see it as a stumbling block, and so he makes a confession of faith in the suffering, innocent Messiah. He sees on Christ’s body his own wounds, and despite the reality of Christ’s suffering and imminent death, he goes on to voice an even stronger confession: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”

This is the real test of humility before God. Many will mouth the confession of sin: “God be merciful to us miserable offenders get angry at him. And this anger reveals that they do not really feel undeserving before God. They still feel, deep down, that they have some rights before God. There are not many people like Job, who, when he lost everything, said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return; the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” But this penitent thief did become like Job in the last minutes of his life – he took his suffering without complaint, and feared God.

Fifth, the thief acknowledged Jesus’ righteousness: “This man had done nothing wrong.” It didn’t make any difference to the first thief if Jesus was right or wrong. If he could drive the get-away car — that’s all that mattered. But it matters a lot to Jesus if we think his life was good or bad. Jesus does not want to drive a get-away car; he wants to be followed because we admire him. We must say with the thief: “This man has done nothing wrong.” This man only does what is good. This man only speaks the truth. This man is worthy of our faith and allegiance and imitation.

And then, sixth, the thief goes a step further and acknowledges that indeed, Jesus is a King. “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Even though he is suffering now, Jesus has the mark of a King. For those who have eyes to see, he has a power here on the cross — a power of love that makes him King over all his tormentors. He is not only good, he is powerful, and one day will vindicate his great name, and every knee will bow and confess that Jesus is Lord — to the glory of God, the Father.

And finally, the penitent thief does one more thing. He fears God, admits wrong, accepts justice, acknowledges the goodness and power of Jesus. Now he pleads for help. “Jesus, remember when you come into your Kingdom.” Both thieves wanted to be saved from death. But O how differently they sought their salvation: 1) “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 2) “Jesus, remember when you come into your Kingdom!” There is an infinite qualitative difference between “Save me!” and “Save me!”

Now what motive does Jesus give us to follow in the steps of the penitent thief? There is a fearful silence toward the railing thief: not a word recorded of Jesus to him. Perhaps a final pitying glance. But no promise. No hope.

But to the penitent Jesus says: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” This was almost too good. There would not even be a delay. Today the Spirit of Jesus and the renewed Spirit of the thief would be in union in Paradise. The promise would be without delay.

What is this paradise? The word is found in two other places in the New Testament. First, in 2 Cor. 12:3: Paul says, “I know a man in Christ, who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven – whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know; God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise — whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know, God knows — and he heard things which cannot be told, which man may not utter.” Thus Paradise is the heavenly abode of God where there are found things prepared by God for those who love him, which are utterly indescribable (1 Cor. 2:9). The second place the word “Paradise” is found is in Rev. 2:7. Here Jesus says to the church at Ephesus, “To him who conquers, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.” And if we look at the end of the book of Revelation we find that the tree of life is in the heavenly city of God. In Rev. 22:1 John said, “Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

But in all this, the one thing that Jesus chose to mention to the repentant thief on the cross (if you can only say one thing, what do you say?) “You will be with me todayThe penitent thief considered the cross of Christ not to be a stumbling block but power rightly merits paradise. The same apostle says, “To those Jews who have been called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”43 The Lord also correctly gives paradise to him, because on the gibbet of the cross the thief confesses the one whom Judas Iscariot had sold in the garden. This is a remarkable thing. The thief confesses the one whom the disciple denied! This is a remarkable thing, I say. The thief honors the one who suffers, while Judas betrayed the one who kissed him! The one peddled flattering words of peace, and the other preached the wounds of the cross. He says, “Remember me, Lord, when you come in your kingdom.”

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Last Supper-Passion of the Christ

Our Holy Week devotions continue with collects for Maundy Thursday from Canon E. Milner-White’s Procession of Passion Prayers.

This evening’s services begin with the Washing of Feet and Mass at 6:30 followed by the Stripping of the Altar and Repose of the Blessed Sacramentat the conclusion of the Mass.  The Church will remain open for those who wish to keep Vigil before the Blessed Sacrament at the Altar of Repose which will be located in the Penance Chapel.

Confessions are being heard in the hour before each scheduled service today and on Good Friday.

Blessings of Maundy Thursday,

Canon Nalls

The Bonds

O CHRIST, the Lord of life, who madest thyself prisoner unto death: Deliver us from the bonds of sinful habit, and from every dungeon in which thy praise is forgotten; to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be all majesty and dominion, world without end. Amen.


 O ETERNAL FATHER, whose blessed Son, even in the fierce tumult of arrest, turned to heal the wounded enemy: Save us from taking the swords of wrath or hate, lest we perish by them; but arm us always with the holy and healing Spirit of the same Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Spirit, one GOD, world without end.  Amen.


O LORD JESUS CHRIST, Son of the living God, whose disciples forsook and forswore thee, so that alone in thy pains thou didst redeem us Give faith to the lonely and the beset, that they may know the Friend who never departeth; nor, abiding, faileth to bless who art with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, one Saviour, one GOD, world without end.  Amen.


O LORD JESUS CHRIST, look upon us with those eyes of thine wherewith thou didst look upon Peter in the hall, That with Peter we may repent and, by thy same love, be forgiven.

O Lord Jesus Christ, turn thy face from our sins, but turn it not from us, for thine endless mercies’ sake.  Amen.

* A cento from Bp. Andrewes Preces Privatae;  Ps. 51;  and Christina Rossetti Face of the Deep.


 O LORD JESUS CHRIST, who, bound and alone, didst proclaim the Messiah before the High Priest and elders of thy people Make plain, we beseech thee, the perpetual truth amid the transient show; and open our ears to hear, our eyes to perceive, and our lips to declare, that thou with the Father and the Holy Ghost art one only eternal and glorious GOD, world without end. Amen.


  KEEP us, O Lord God, from hasty excuse when the semblance of a fault is charged upon us that rather we may be silent with thy holy and unreprovable Son, who when he was reviled, reviled not again; and when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself unto thee, the only righteous and true judge with whom he liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one GOD, now and evermore. Amen.


JESUS our Lord and our God, who gavest thy cheek to the smiters, and for our sake wast filled full with reproach: Grant us to learn of thee who art meek and lowly of heart, and after the example of thy sufferings, to be patient in bearing our own; for thy holy Name’s sake. Amen.


O LORD JESUS CHRIST, Son of the living God, who wast silent when they befouled the pure beauty of thy countenance with spitting: Save us from the sin of scorning a brother, lest in him we defile also the image of thy glory; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one GOD, world without end. Amen.

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Christ Pantocrator

In the bustle of Holy Week activities there is no “day off.”  Even the rector’s customary quiet Monday with family was occupied with meetings and some long overdue appointments up in D.C. The streets were clogged with spring break tour buses, and the usual trip downtown was made even more complicated by road road work cunningly scheduled for the height of the tourist season.  “Protest time” in the Nation’s Capitol also kicked off with the unwashed and over-indulged enhancing the gridlock with the now-obligatory manifestations outside of the World Bank.  A holy time was not being had by all, and, for traffic-bound clergy, it was a test of vocation.

            Leaving the downtown, I opted to swing wide of the madness and took 16th Street north toward Maryland. For those unfamiliar, this is a broad thoroughfare along which one can find churches and houses of worship of every denomination from thoroughly revisionist Methodist to the Buddhist Vihara of Washington.  There is even the Washington Ethical Society, a band of self-proclaimed “right living” atheists who serendipitously meet on…Sundays. 

            As I crossed the park, I happened to see the sign for St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral and was moved to stop in to see what another cathedral church might be up to at the beginning of Holy Week, as well as to spend some time in private prayer and meditation.  It was a bit of a “busman’s holiday” of the ecclesiastical sort.

            I suppose that people may stop in any church for a variety of reasons. Here in Washington, D.C., high school Russian language students come to St. John the Baptist on field trips, university students may come to fulfill a requirement for a course in Russian history or culture, different flavors of seminarians pop round as part of their studies of other denominations, and tourists might stop in before or after tasting some of the ethnic foods sold at the cathedral’s well-known bazaars. 

            Perapatetic priests and other wanderers may stop by to pray, find a bit of respite and see what our brothers and sisters of the “Eastern church” are about this holy season. Others come for reasons known only to them and to God.  As the website notes, “[a]ll are made welcome, for regardless of what prompts them to enter, that entrance may be a first step on the path to salvation.”  We should remember that with each new face we see at Saint Alban’s or in any parish in which we may be.

            A burly gent running a construction crew warmly greeted me and went to get someone to open the church for me.  Shortly, the rector’s wife (the matushka) Mrs. Victor Potapov arrived with the keys and to give me a tour of the church.  Although busy directing kitchen workers and fielding parishioner calls, the Matushka generously afforded me nearly an hour of a busy day to explain the history of the church, the exquisite iconography and to talk about parish life at St. John the Baptist. Things apparently have become so busy, expecially at Holy Week, that three priests were not enough, and they had to “call for backup” from Russia.  On Palm Sunday, the crowds were so large that there needed to be three liturgies, and confessions were heard late into the evening.


            Entering the Narthex, I could only gape as I saw the nave filled with incredibly beautiful icons, and beyond it, elevated by several steps, a large iconostasis. Entering the nave itself, the world outside disappeared and the world of the Church seemed to surround and embrace me. In the central cupola, there is the Christ Pantocrator looking down upon the nave and the paople of God.  Within the cylinder supporting the cupola are representations of the six-winged seraphim, angels in constant attendance at the Heavenly Throne. Below them, written in chain calligraphy are the words “Look down from the heavens, O Lord, upon this vine which Thou didst plant with Thy right hand, and keep it.”

            The air was redolent with incense, and the early afternoon light refracted through clouds of air filled with that smoke and the aroma of the candles from the Sunday commemoration of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.

            My guide, returning to her work, left me to pray and to try to take in the beauty and timelessness of that sacred space.  To borrow from the tour book of the cathedral, the entire Church “is an icon of mankind’s relationship to its Creator, and we see that each of us is an essential part of that icon.”  I thought of yesterday’s Palm Sunday Mass at Saint Alban’s and the voices lifted in solemn hymnody, the smell of incense and candles offered to the glory of God, the prayers, and even our own iconography-stations of the Cross, icon of Saint Alban and the Crucifix.  Indeed, the faithful people of Christ are each an “essential part of that icon”-God’s icon.

            I left the Church to be given a tour of the rest of the facility by the work foreman, a parishioner, who showed me the magnificent transformation he had worked in the old parish hall, a new kitchen, library and the sacristy.  It was all work done for glory of God by a man who was found again by Christ in that place and among that community. (He was baptized just last November.)

            After being given gifts of cds of the two cathedral choirs, I returned to the main church for one last look and moment of peace from the world of Washington traffic.  The light had shifted and dimmed, the haze of smoke seemed thicker, as if the shroud of Good Friday were approaching to obscure the Light of Lights.  Yet, even in gathering darkness and gloom, the saints still hold their line against the devil, the flesh and the world; the angels still soar over the Church swords drawn against the ancient enemy; and Christ Jesus still looks upon, loves and blesses His people.

Holy Week blessings,

Canon Nalls

Take a tour of Saint John the Baptist here http://www.stjohndc.org/Russian/tour/e_tour.htm

Iconostasis at St. John the Baptist Cathedral

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I have been asked to set a parish cell phone policy in light of recent ringing at most unfortunate times.  Holy Week, with its special devotions, seems an appropriate time to do so.

Please leave cell phones at home or in locked cars (concealed, of course) unless you are military, medical or law enforcement personnel in an “on call” status.  In the latter case, double check to be sure that your phone is silenced before entering the church.  A sign will be posted shortly in the narthex to alert visitors to this request.

Our thanks to all for cooperating to be sure that we continue to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

Blessings of Holy Week,

Canon Nalls

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