A Special Sung Matins



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Priest2Chapter 4 of What Is the Priesthood?

Among the many vocations needed in Christ’s Body, the Church, there is one of peculiar significance: that to the sacred priesthood. There must be men who will give their whole time to a representation, in an intense degree, of that priesthood which inheres in the whole Body. Here is a vocation of the priestly Body, and for the priestly Body: of the priestly Body because those called to the sacred priesthood are from baptism members of the Body; and for the priestly Body because such men are commissioned by Christ to exercise priestly functions within and on behalf of the priestly fellowship. The authority for the office is derived from God through the Holy Spirit who gives grace to the ordinand to act as God’s representative. The authority of the sacred office derives not from beneath but from above.

The first question which the Bishop is directed to ask of the ordinand, in the service for the Ordering of Priests, runs as follows: “Do you think in your heart, that you are truly called, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and according to the Canons of this Church, to the Order and Ministry of Priesthood?” Book of Common Prayer at 541. To the question the ordinand is to reply, “I think it.”

A keen sense of vocation is an essential element in the life of the priest. There must be a very real sense of God’s prior action calling forth the response that the ordinand makes. As the Epistle to the Hebrews phrases it, “No man taketh this honor to himself but he who is called of God.”

The young man facing this vocation must be able to affirm that he is conscious of an inward call. There must be a true realization that God “has searched him out and laid His hand upon him.” In brief, there must be a sense of the priority of God’s choice and a belief that this is what God wills.

Once again, though, a question raised in the previous chapter requires answer. What is meant by such an inward call? Must there be some dramatic, perhaps immense spiritual experience? Certainly not. A vocation normally is a growing conviction, and it may have very tentative beginnings. God does not always, or even often, work in violently catastrophic ways. He works, so to say, naturally and with the “still, small voice”. An old teacher once remarked, out of his deep experience of the spiritual life, “It is most natural for the Supernatural to work naturally.” There is a profound truth in that. Those who believe that the heart of the Christian faith lies in God’s incarnate action in redeeming the world will hardly find it difficult to believe. that He loves “the lowly spot,” and often chooses the quiet way.

This is true in His calling of men to the priesthood. God calls in quite natural and undramatic ways most of the time. To be sure, we do not always hear His accents clearly. Yet He calls all the same and gradually our ears become attuned to His voice.
He may call through our childhood interest in the Church and its ways, through the experiences we have as choristers or as acolytes, through the prayers of our parents and friends, through affection and admiration for some priest we have known. We may be called through the confusion and heartbreak in the world about us, through personal sorrow met with, through delight in the Church’s worship and orderly life, through sermons and books. In and through any and all of these and through countless other interests and concerns, God calls to the priesthood.

At first ordained ministry may seem to be but one possibility among many. It should be considered seriously and thoughtfully for it just may be that God is calling. Particularly for students, they should be relaxed about the matter, test their growing vocation, and try to live by a rule of life that may lead to its healthy development. Do not talk about it with all and sundry, but a man would be well advised to discuss his concern with those who know him best and with some experienced priest trained to recognize valid signs of developing vocation. To the faithful Christian man any indication at all that God may be calling him to the priesthood should be treated with the greatest care and conscientiousness. If this should be the divine will for a member of the Body of Christ, it is not a will to be treated lightly or dismissed selfishly.

The question to be faced at the outset and thereafter is not, “Is the priesthood suited for me?” As well, it is not merely: “Am I suited for the priesthood?” Both of these questions are irrelevant at the end of the day. The question to be faced is “What does God mean me to be-a priest, or something else?” If God means a man to be a priest, He will give him the aptitude necessary. He will fit a man and give him grace sufficient for his calling.
Ultimately, a man will not think much of the honor and dignity of this particular vocation. He will not be too greatly swayed by its perils and losses. He will not be drawn to the priesthood simply because he may deem it to be easy and safe (how very wrong he would be to suppose it either of these things!). He will not be “put off” from the priesthood because it is a poorly paid profession with few prizes paid in the currency of the market place. He will not elect to follow this vocation because it presents a chance to escape from the world into some sort of ivory tower.

A man will heed the divine voice because of his faith in the Redeemer of us all and because he believes that here, in the priesthood of the priestly Body of Christ, there is opportunity to make an offering of his heart and mind and will that Jesus Christ Himself wants made. He will have a growing conviction that his Lord’s words apply to him, “Ye have not chosen me; but I have chosen you.”

In many Protestant denominations the “call” of God seems to be the only determinative matter in the ministry. The more extreme of these sects seem to have few other criteria by which to judge whether a man is to become a minister. If an individual feels himself unmistakably “called,” that very fact is his sole warrant. This is something akin to the prophetic vocation in the Old Testament. It is just at this point that a difference emerges in the concept of the ministry between many Protestant denominations and Anglicanism of a truly catholic sort.

Clearly, Protestant denominations have no intention of conveying a ministry of “holy order.” For them, the ministerial vocation is wholly constituted by a call directly from God. There is no conception of “order” on the horizontal level from man to man, in the Holy Spirit, for Christ and His Priestly Body. Anglicanism insists upon a realization of God’s prior calling, but this is not the sole qualification for ordination. The candidate for holy orders must be made a priest by the action of Christ’s Body through the laying on of hands by the Bishop. The ministry of the individual must be thus authenticated by proper commissioning. Otherwise, a man is not a priest of the priestly Body no matter how strong may be his sense of vocation. The authority of the office of priest requires this act of certification and ordination.

In all honesty, it should be noted that men in the priesthood frequently wonder even after ordination whether they possess a rightful vocation to this office. In the life of the Spirit there are ups and downs, times of discouragement and doubt. There may be periods, perhaps extended periods, of “spiritual dryness.” The greatest saints have known these dread experiences.

A man’s office as priest does not grant him any immunity from such spiritual sickness. At such times the ordained man is indeed thankful that there are these two criteria of vocation- internal and external. The internal criterion is, of course, a man’s own strong sense of call, that he is doing what God wills. The external criterion is the belief of those with whom one works, to whom one ministers, on whom one relies for counsel and guidance, that one is indeed a person who ought to study for, or remain in, the ministry. Very often those most closely associated with us understand our motives, intentions, and possibilities much more accurately than we ourselves. It is hard for us to see ourselves objectively.

The most common objection to the priesthood heard by those who counsel youth in our colleges is the simple, blunt, “I’m not worthy.” Surely no one is worthy of this holy estate. The fact is that God chooses very unworthy and sinful men to be His witnesses. Essential to the priestly life is humility, and this perhaps above all. A man who felt himself fitted for the priesthood would have a very faulty knowledge both of himself and of the profession. Frequently those who at the outset are least sure of their calling, least ready to claim worthiness of this high calling, are those who turn out later to be the most consecrated and effective priests of the Church. Archbishop Temple has written: “It is a man’s business to surrender as much of himself as he knows, to as much of God as he knows.” Vocations are never full-blown in their initial stages. There is of necessity much groping about and doubt, much questioning and many uncertainties. The man who is humble about himself may very well have a call for that precise reason.

The psychology of the postulant for holy orders and of the priest himself is no different from that of anyone else. The grace of orders does not convey any new psychological equipment. Study in a theological seminary does not dramatically alter a man’s personality at least as far as psychological processes are concerned. The priesthood is a vocation that comes to men in very different, and usually quite simple ways. It will have varying intensity from man to man and in any one person from time to time, but it is not just another profession. It is the special functioning for Christ in His Body the Church, the means whereby all the members of the Body are enabled to make their full contribution to the witness of the whole Body.

The priesthood involves a character of a special sort, for it is authorized to exercise priestly functions within and on behalf of the priestly fellowship. It ought always to be held in the highest respect and esteem, but so far as this attaches to the man, such respect must be merited. It should be merited by fidelity to the demands of the office, through consecration of character and growing holiness of life, through love of the brethren, through a sincere devotion to God and His will.

This, then, is something of the vocation to the priesthood. In its inception it may have almost imperceptible signs. There may be no blinding light from heaven, no voices heard, no rending of the veil. The disciple may not be given a pillar of cloud by day nor a pillar of fire by night. However, God will be speaking and the soul must make its answer however slowly or tentatively. Then if in the divine economy the disciple makes affirmative response and the fellowship of the priestly Body ratifies the call with appropriate commissioning, the die is cast. There will be times in the future, as in the past, of uncertainty and doubt. Yet, there will be the conviction beneath it all that He who has called will not desert his messengers and stewards. For still His word is given, “Lo, I am with you alway.”



Chapel at St. Simeon’s Skete


As many of you know, I spent just over a week in May on spiritual retreat at St. Simeon’s Skete in Taylorsville, Kentucky. The Skete is home to Grace Church and the Nazareth House Apostolate. With St. Simeon, the God receiver, as patron and with Grace Church, the Skete seeks to practice the ideals found in our Rule, The Thousand Day Nazareth. In simplicity and poverty, the Skete embraces the struggle of the inner life through the practice of the Prayer Rope.

As noted from its website (http://www.nazarethhouseap.org/) , the Skete’s “parent” NHA, began long before the establishment of the Skete and was forged in a worn-torn Sierra Leone. The humanitarian work in that nation became a center of energy, expenditures and focus. The humanitarian aid work that was accomplished was an outpouring of the prayer life and ministry of Grace Church merged with NHA and its supporters. The work of Nazareth House in Sierra Leone and throughout the world is prayer – linking man and God in all situations – be it need, turmoil, healing, grief, joy, glory or thanksgiving. The NHA prayer ministry-praying the Light of the Name into the darkness-has lead to some amazing results and many miracles.

The path has always remained the same. The soul of the apostolate lies less in the belief that they have something to contribute but in the simple willingness to be used by God. Their goal has always been to establish houses of prayer, quiet unassuming homes of prayer, infiltrating the darkness silently and unassumingly whether in a village hut in Africa, an Adobe in the desert, an apartment in Chicago or in the Skete. As these resident forces pray, the outcome of their prayer is shown as Christ grows in their lives-Christ working as the leaven in the dough.

Certainly, that is my own experience over days spent in prayer, fellowship, and pilgrimage along the northern and southern Rosary trails they have established with visits to shrines, rural parish churches, abbeys and arch-abbeys, and an inspiring community-built holy site known as Our Lady of Valley Hill. The pilgrimage, particularly at Valley Hill, was trans-denominational, yet always Catholic and rooted in the ancient traditions of the church. This allowed for a spiritual “refresher”, if you will; and extensive writing and other work long delayed in the daily bustle of parochial ministry.

In addition to taking on retreatants, the regular work of the allied parish Grace Church, publishing, and the other ministries, the Skete sends a daily meditation on the 1928 Lectionary passages, along with the appointed Psalms and readings for the day. Apart from great inspirational readings and photographs, these e-mails enable those of us weary of “prayer book juggling” as we say Morning and Evening Prayer to print out the readings and have them at hand. It is, as they say, better and more convenient than sliced bread, and helps avoid distraction.

You can receive this resource by getting on their e-mail routing. Before doing so, I encourage you to make a contribution great or small to the Skete. The links to do all of this are below.  You will be very glad that you did.


Canon Nalls

The direct PayPal link to benefit the Skete


And here is the email address to join the group daily readings and greetings.

or, for both in one place, go to



Chapter 3-What Is the Priesthood? (Revised Edition)

© Fr. Charles H Nalls

Frequently, the parts that men and women play in life’s drama are decided for them, or even imposed upon them. Life itself may supply the cues for the human actors. The lines we read are frequently not of our own authorship. Often we make our entrances and exits without rehearsal. We are committed without choice and with little preparation in our varied roles. Many considerations lie behind this. The fact that one’s father or mother followed a certain trade. There are accidents of birth and environment, and similar conditions may be determinative.

This certainly is less frequently the case today, however, than in earlier and more static times. The recent technological revolution has made it possible for youth to exercise a variety of choicse in the matter of one’s vocation. Education through the college level, at least, is now a possibility for almost all. As a result, there is opportunity now to understand our human society somewhat more completely and to consider the individual’s place within the whole.

For the Christian, where does a sense of “vocation enter”? An individual must choose. He decides “on his own” with the best judgment at his command to follow this or that profession or way of life. He personally chooses the course for which he feels he is best equipped. He chooses is a “vocation”, a calling, when and if he senses that his choice is in answer to a word from God. This is Christian vocation. The decision may seem to be entirely the work of the individual, but the individual knows that his decision was really a response to a prior demand made upon him.

Young men are inclined to be confused about God’s prior calling, particularly in these times. One assumes that he must have some very definite, perhaps shattering, religious experience such as that known to Isaiah, or Saul of Tarsus are but two classic examples. The average Christian, however, will not find the walls of the Temple parting for him as they did for Isaiah, nor is there any blinding light of the noonday sun. He may not hear voices speaking infallibly to his listening ear.

Is the modern man, particularly young man, entirely without guidance? Does God have nothing to say to him? Is God uninterested since there is no dramatic and unmistakable intervention? Can only the very few who hear voices and see visions be assured that their places are certain in His purpose? We need to face this honestly.
From a Christian perspective and with Christian presuppositions, we see that we must start with ends. There is, we believe, purpose in human life and in our human striving. It is a divine purpose. It is the establishment of a realm of God, the bringing of many sons into the “glorious liberty of the children of God.” It is the purpose of God to win mankind to His mind and will. This human scene is intended for the discipline of souls, for making men responsive to the divine will so that we may be ready for closer union with Him. The end of all human striving is that blessed union. Here on earth we are prepared by experiences of choice for that end.

The Jewish people sensed this and believed it. A primary article of faith for them was that God had a plan for individuals and for the nation. So the psalmist wrote: “O God, thou bast searched me out and known me; Thou hast laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.” The Hebrew prophets proclaimed God’s will for the nation and for individuals and contrasted this with the godless schemes and designs governing men who relied on self rather than on the divine leading.

The central teachings of the Old testament were never peripheral to Christ’s gospel. Rather, He gave new point and emphasis to the older beliefs. It was His understanding that God had a plan or calling for every created soul. Examples of this spring quickly to mind, but nowhere as emphatically as in Christ’s own ministry with its opening words, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” Again, almost its closing scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but Thine, be done.” Jesus knew that God had a plan for the destinies of individual souls. So it was that St. Augustine, centuries later, provided piercing insight into this truth with his oft-quoted words: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

Christians believe that God’s purpose is to win for Himself sons able to share His life. He does not draft nor conscript. Rather He wants our voluntary enlistment in His service. That means conscious choices, made over and over again in the course of our lives.
God does not coerce His children; we still may decide whether or not we will do His Will, follow His guidance. We are free to “miss our calling,” though we are sure to be restless until we have found our rest in Him who is our peace. We may be sure that though God does not coerce, He does bring to bear upon us His prompting love.

God still calls and we are to listen, and then respond with obedience. He calls in a thousand ways. Usually, they are in quite natural and undramatic ways. We are to answer and give Him the loyalty of our hearts and minds and wills. It is not for us to say that He must speak in unusual and dramatic fashion. He may speak to us through life experiences, through the reading of good books, through our relatives and friends, through chance encounters with strangers, through discussion or sermons. Through any of these media and many another the voice of God calls.

There are many lines of communication and God uses an infinite number to bid for our allegiance in the glorious liberty of sonship to Him. In all of them there is His very voice and the call of His holy Will. Life between birth and death is one constant adventure of offering one’s self to God, of making the response of glad obedience to the divine will.

It has been frequently said that if two archangels were sent to this earth by Almighty God to do a piece of work for Him, one to be a metropolitan bishop and another to be a metropolitan traffic officer, neither would care which of the two tasks was allotted to him. Each would be glad to do the will of the Father. Brother Lawrence scoured the pots and pans of a monastery kitchen with as much joy in the confidence of vocation as his abbot perhaps knew.

So it is that we must contemplate the importance of ends. If the purpose of God is to bring the life of his children into union with his Eternal Life, then servants and sons are needed to carry out His will in every aspect of our human life. God must have vocations in commerce and art and letters as well as in the ministry. At the turn of the last century, a young man went to Oxford intent upon reading for holy orders. Instead, he became an artist. He later explained this change in his life work by saying that had he become a priest he would have been an atheist, that is one who does this when God says “do that.”

Every human life is to be an answer, and countless answers must be given to make complete the response of our world to our loving God. This means a willingness to listen to God’s calling, and to expect it in myriad forms and under manifold guises. The sensitive student, concerned about the state of our world and of human society may discern the voice of God in the very affliction, want, and misery all about him. He may not know it at the time but he is being called to help in the healing of the sorrowful, the dispossessed, and the fearful. In the parable, the men on the right of the king exclaimed, “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, thirsty, a stranger, or naked, sick, or in prison . . .”

It is clear that a sense of vocation, to whatever station in life, is dependent upon one condition. The individual must cultivate a listening ear and be ready to obey when he hears the call. The individual must be prepared to make his appropriate response, and not try to limit the nature of his obedience nor restrict it in any way.

If the way of discipleship insists that human life is at God’s disposal, then the individual must be prepared to accept and follow the divine calling. We are not to be selfish about the disposition of our lives, for God’s will cannot be realized when we rebel or are petulant. When He calls, we are to do his bidding. We are not to set the terms of our acceptance. We must give Him instant compliance, knowing that only thus can we achieve our destiny as those who are to enjoy union with Him forever. We are not to be concerned about the vocations of others. We must be very much aware of the intimacy of God’s dealings with each of us in our own right. “Lord, and what shall this man do?” “What is that to thee? Follow thou me.”

A man’s vocation may be in art. It may be in jurisprudence. It may be in medicine or law. It will for some be in the home or in the Trades. It may be in commerce or in the classroom. It may be in industry.

It takes multitudes of obedient sons glad to follow God’s prompting, eager to hear His voice and act upon it, to redeem the times. The divine purpose includes all created souls and all of us should pray that our pride and self-love may not cause us to miss our calling. We should pray for increased sensitivity to His voice, for obedience to the heavenly vision, however that voice may be heard and that vision seen.

Be sure of this simple truth. Life will possess meaning and purpose only as the individual learns to align himself with God’s will. Men and women in every age and in every estate of life testify to this truth. There must be just such an insight into reality, such a harkening to God’s call, such a response of obedience.

The fruits of spiritual awareness witness to their source. So the Christian saints and heroes lived lives that have testified to the gracious leading of a loving God. It was their insight, their intuition, their perception of purposeful divine leading that gave them spiritual victory and freedom in vocation. They knew themselves to be in touch with that “something whose possession is the final good.”

Be assured. God still calls. The Christian who listens for his voice and answers with glad obedience wins thus a spiritual victory and so enters into the joy of his Lord.

One other important matter bears mentioning What is the relevance to the life of the Church of all that has been written in this chapter on vocation? We saw in the preceding chapters that the Church is a priestly Body. The baptized Christian, through membership in the mystical Body of Christ, shares in the priesthood which is the Church’s since it is Christ’s Himself. All the members of the Body share in the priest-hood of the Head of the Body. We will develop this truth and its consequences later, but it should be pointed out here that every vocation of every member of the Church should be a priestly vocation carried out in priestly fashion.

Our manifold and diverse vocations are not merely to be ways of “making a living,” but means whereby we live out our priesthood within the Body of Christ. The Christian religion when true to itself makes profound and searching demands upon its entire membership. “Every member of the same in his vocation and ministry” is to serve God freely and fully.

All must be in readiness to render any needful service. There are no gradations of obligation. All of us are claimed for God in our varied vocations. All of us are to glorify Him in those callings. Our vocations differ, but there is no higher and lower, no important and unimportant. All is His and all that we are or hope to be is to be given gladly to Him through whom we have access to the Father.

Ember Friday

The Ember DaysOn this Ember Friday, we are called to pray for an increase in the priesthood and for those in Holy Orders.  These prayers are not something trivial or to be brushed off, but are vital to the life of the Church and to the lives of the men who serve her.  Indeed, for those of us in Holy Orders, we can feel the presence of these prayers that power us forward, and, conversely, we can sense their absence.

So, today pray for your deacons, priests and bishops and that the Holy Spirit lights many men and leads them into vocation.  As well, today’s readings from morning prayer are quite powerful for all of us, both clergy and lay.  Finally, the serialization of What is the Priesthood? will resume by Monday.

The Collect.
O ALMIGHTY God, who hast committed to the hands of men the ministry of reconciliation; We humbly beseech thee, by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, to put it into the hearts of many to offer themselves for this ministry; that thereby mankind may be drawn to thy blessed kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

First Lesson
Isaiah 61:1-9
1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
4 And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
5 And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
6 But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.
7 For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.
8 For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed.

Second Lesson
2 Corinthians 3
1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:
5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.
11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.
12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:
13 And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ.
15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.
16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.
17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.


“Nothing is his; all is His.”

When the bishop lays his hands on the head of a man who is to become a “presbyter” in the Church, he is directed to use these words: “Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands. Or if he uses the alternative form, the bishop must say: “Take thou Authority to execute the Office of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed to thee by the Imposition of our hands.” (BCP 546) In each instance, the concluding words of the formula of ordination are: “And be thou a faith¬ful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments,” while the first of the forms adds: “Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained.”

Here we learn in so many words that it is the intention of in traditional Anglican churches-for these formulae, abandoned elsewhere, are found everywhere where the American 1928 Book of Common Prayer is used-to ordain men to a priesthood in God’s Church. This is a priesthood which, as the Preface to the Ordinal makes clear, is continuous with the priesthood of the ancient Church and of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church throughout the ages: “to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in this Church.’”

So then we pose our first questions. What is a priest? What is his relation to the Christian Church as a whole? What are the characteristics of his office?

It is obvious that a discussion of these topics necessarily must be somewhat “theological” in character. It is not enough to talk about the priesthood from the purely empirical point of view, to discuss the several duties of the man who has been ordained to this high office and, especially, the necessity for high moral character and spiritual discernment in his ministerial life. We turn to these issues later, but it is essential that we understand what a priest is, who he is in the final sense, before we go on to these other highly important matters. In far too many ordination sermons, the preacher talks about the ordinand’s work but never talks about the priesthood to which he is to be ordained. Yet the being of anything, its ultimate significance and meaning, must come before any doing. In the ministry, as well as everywhere else in human life, the right order of things is, “I am this; hence I do this.’”

The first question when we discuss the meaning of priesthood is simply: “What is the Church?” The answer is equally simple. The Church, as the Ordinal in the Prayer Book declares, is Christ’s “Spouse, and his Body.” It is not an association of men and women who have come together in order to promote religious and moral interests. It is not even a fellowship of people gathered into one by their common beliefs or ways of worship. Above all, it is not a kind of ethical society or service-league which works for a higher standard of conduct in the community.

To be sure, the Church must promote religious and moral interests. Its members must have common beliefs and ways of worship which will certainly improve the “tone” of the community. Primarily, however, the Church is something else. It is the Body of Christ. It is the means whereby He continues to make His presence known and to carry on His redemptive work in the world of men. The Church is an organic whole, its members having been so incorporated into it that they are like branches of a vine, and the Vine is Christ Himself. The Church is the bearer of the divine life of Christ, still mediated through a human agency, as in Palestine the very life of God was mediated through the human nature of Jesus.

When a man is ordained to the priesthood of the Church, he is ordained to a “ministerial priesthood.” The reason that the ordained priest is a ministerial priest is that it is his office and function to act for the essential priesthood of the Church. Christ’s priesthood is the only essential priesthood of which a Christian may properly speak, but the priesthood of the Church is none other than the priesthood of Christ Himself.
It is His priesthood expressed in and operating through His Mystical Body the Church.

This truth follows as an inevitable consequence of the nature of the Church described in the last paragraph. If the Church is in very fact the Body of Christ, His Bride and Spouse, then the Church’s inner life is the life of Christ. That which is His is also His Church’s, and this despite the sin and error, the weakness and fallibility, which undeniably attach to the Church in its human aspect.

So, the man who is “ordered priest” is given a ministerial function within the Body of Christ. He has no rights nor privileges, no status and no position, apart from the Body of Christ. When we attempt to understand the meaning of the priesthood, we must recognize the primitive and soundly Catholic teaching that the laity have a priesthood which is not in opposition to, but is in close relation with, the ordained priesthood of the Church. This priesthood of the laity, however, is not for a moment to be understood as suggesting that ‘‘every man is his own priest”-a view which some of the Reformation denominations have taken as their own.

The truth is that no man is his own priest. Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world, is the only priest who can serve as mediator between God and man, since He Himself is both God and man. But once again, because the Church is the Body of Christ and because all Christians are “very members incorporate in the mystical Body of Christ,” each and every baptized Christian is a sharer, through participation in Christ’s Body, in the priesthood which is the Church’s since it is the priesthood of Christ Himself. The doctrine of the priesthood of the laity, far from being an assertion of individual rights and privileges, is an assertion of the social nature of our Christian membership; the priesthood of the laity is a doctrine of community.

The ordained priest is the representative and functional agent of the Church’s essential priesthood, which is Christ’s. As such, he is also the representative and functional agent for the extended priesthood of the laity. There is no contradiction here. Through rightly appointed and commissioned men, the two facts that Christ is priest in His Church and that all His members share in the priesthood of their Head, are visibly and sacramentally expressed.

Some may think that such teaching implies a low view of the nature of the ministry. This is not true. To the contrary, this is the condition for maintaining the highest view of the ministry, for it relates the ministry directly to our Lord’s priesthood, making it not an artificially instituted ministry in which Jesus only appointed those who would act as his substitutes, but rather making it a ministry in which our Lord Himself is at work. It is His own ministry functioning through those whom He has called and whom, in His Church, He has set apart for this particular work.

This doctrine of the priestly order and office is stated with great clarity in the famous reply of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the papal repudiation of Anglican orders. It is, in effect, the teaching of the Eastern Orthodox communion. It is found, in part, in some of the classical authorities to whom Rome appeals, as for example in St. Thomas Aquinas. The view that the ordained priesthood has essential status of its own, without regard to the Church of Christ for whom and in whom it functions is historically unsound. It is theologically a parody of the meaning of the Church and its place in the whole redemptive work of God. In fact, one might say, it is plainly heretical in the proper sense of the word, taking, as it does, one aspect of the truth and exaggerating it to such a degree that all balancing considerations are forgotten.

If the priesthood of the ordained man is as we have described it, what are the peculiar duties attaching to his office? Here we may turn to the Offices of Instruction in the American Prayer Book, for a clear and definite statement. In response to the question, “What is the office of a Priest?” the Prayer Book says: “The office of a Priest is, to minister to the people committed to his care; to preach the word of God; to baptize; to celebrate the Holy Communion; and to pronounce Absolution and Blessing in God’s Name.” (BCP 294) And, as we have seen earlier in this chapter, the Ordinal itself makes evident the same conception: the priest is to be a “faithful dispenser” of God’s Word and God’s sacraments, and he is authorized to forgive sins in God’s name.

We will discuss the several duties of the priest, but, at this point, it is necessary to make one thing clear. This is the way in which the priesthood of the Church, as traditional Anglicans conceive it. It is a priesthood commissioned to offer what the Anglican archbishops, in their reply to the Pope, called “the Eucharistic Sacrifice.” This must be positively affirmed, since many appear to think that because the Anglican Ordinal is explicit on the whole matter of God’s Word, and the preaching of it, it does not teach also that the priesthood is a “sacrificing priesthood.” However, it does so teach, in that it states, explicitly, that the celebration of the sacraments as well as the proclamation of God’s Word, is the work of the ordained man, while in the Eucharistic Office itself, the whole content and context indicate that this service is a sacrificial rite.

It is of course true that Anglican teaching on the Eucharistic Sacrifice does not imply any repetition of Calvary nor any¬thing added to that “one oblation of himself” which Christ there made to the Father. The Catechism states is that the Eucharist is “the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ.” It is “the memorial” which Christ commanded us to make, “the perpetual memory of that his precious death and sacrifice,” the “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” with which Christ’s members are united as they offer this their “bounden duty and service.” So being “made one body with him,” He dwells in them and they in Him. It is an action, therefore, which both commemorates and makes effectively present the “benefits” of Calvary, where Christ made, “that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world.” Put more succinctly, “the Eucharist as the sacrifice which unites us to the all-sufficient Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and the Sacrament in which He feeds us with His Body and Blood.” (Affirmation of St. Louis, Art. I).

The ordained priest stands at the altar celebrating the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, on behalf of the Church which is Christ’s Body. In so doing, he is making on the Church’s behalf the “continual remembrance’”; he is pleading Calvary before the Father, as the Church which is Christ’s very Body through Him the ordained priest “shows forth the Lord’s death.” All of this is soundly scriptural, soundly primitive.

It may be helpful to say a few words concerning the concept of a “valid ministry”, for much has been said of this in recent years. It would perhaps be just as well if the word “valid” could be forgotten in all discussions of the ministry. Never has a word been so misunderstood, with consequences that have been altogether unfortunate. No one would wish to claim that those ministries which are not in the traditional succession have been without the blessing of God, nor to assert that they have not been marked by a wonderful fruitage in spiritual and moral life. The statements of the Lambeth Conferences and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, time after time, have made this plain. Indeed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “…many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements. Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation…” (Paragraph 819)

All that is implied from the Anglican perspective when it is said that such ministries are not technically “valid,” is that they do not possess that kind of historical authentication and that explicit sacramental relationship to the Church’s apostolic source, which would give them entire certification. The laying-on of the hands of a duly consecrated bishop does not work in some magical fashion. What it does is to make “evident,” as the Anglican Ordinal says, that those who receive it are “approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority” so that the “Doctrine and Sacraments, and the Discipline of Christ” may be rightly ministered. This is what constitutes “validity”. It is the assurance of continuity in the apostolic life of the Church, given through a sacramental means and thereby visibly shown before men.

This teaching concerning the ministry presented here has one consequence of enormous importance in the life of the priest of the Church. This is that the ordained man is not simply an “Episcopal minister,” as the general public is likely to call him. He is the rightly ordered “priest of God’s Holy Church’”. His ordination has placed him in a relationship to the whole Body of Christ, not merely to some fragment of that Body. Nowhere in the Ordinal do we read of ordination to the “Episcopal ministry”. It is always in and to the “Church of God.”

The priest represents the entire company of the faithful throughout the ages. He also represents, in an effectual fashion, the priesthood of Christ in His Mystical Body. On the other hand, he is serving in this priesthood within the Anglican communion, which means that he is a “man under authority.” The Ordinal makes plain that he is one who must “reverently obey” his bishop and other chief ministers, while the “promise of conformity,” taken before ordination, demands that the priest must be loyal to the “doctrine, discipline and worship” of the Holy Catholic Church “as this Church hath received the same.” We will discuss later this apparent paradoxical truth in a more detailed fashion. It will suffice here if we emphasize it before we go on to the final consideration which must always be in the mind and heart of the ordained man.

It also is vitally important to understand that the priest is not possessed, in his own right, of any privileges or of any status. These are given him in and through and for the Church; they are given him by the Church’s Lord. The priest is always, unfailingly, the minister who represents and functions for the Church and the Church’s Head, on behalf of the Church’s members. As such, he possesses what the theology of holy order calls character. He has a distinctive function which can never be taken from him, since it is indelibly his by virtue of his having been lawfully “set apart” for priestly function. “Once a priest, always a priest.” Of course his right to perform his duties may be taken away from him, if he offends in some grievous fashion the Church and its well-being. But he remains, forever, one who has been ordained to this order and office.

On the other hand, there must be no pride of place. The priest is quite literally the minister, servus servorum Dei. We are not speaking here of the work of deacons or bishops, who also fall into the same category of ministers, servi, although with different duties and functions and in a different order and office in the Body of Christ. But on all of the clergy, whether they be deacon, priest, or bishop, is laid the same obligation of humility in their place in the Church’s life. The bishop is chief pastor, steward of the faith and sacraments of the historic Church; yet he is not to lord it over his flock but to be, in St. Paul’s phrase, “helper of their joy.” The deacon, by his very name, is one who ministers, assisting the bishop and the priest in their responsibilities. The priest, too, is a servant of Christ’s people.

Few phrases are so unfortunate as those now and again used by an ordained priest: “I must celebrate my Eucharist,” “I am offering my Mass,” and the like. In each and every instance, the priest is the representative, functioning for Christ in His Body at a particular time and place, in celebrating the Eucharist, pleading the Passion of Christ, proclaiming the redemption wrought by Christ, shepherding Christ’s flock in Christ’s name. “Nothing is his; all is His,” as a wise man once said of the priesthood.