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Archbishop Diarmuid Martin–“The love that Jesus showed on the Cross: love that endures and that saves”

Think of Jesus. His words are few. He is exhausted and in pain. Two words however remain: a word of mercy to the criminal who repents; a word of fidelity, handing himself to his Father, his mission completed.

Lord we live in a world filled with words. Perhaps never in history have there been so many words: spoken, printed, electronically stored or moving invisibly. Help us to realise that few words are necessary. Empty words foster empty hearts. There are realities which do not need words. Give us Lord the words to ask for forgiveness, the words which touch those things in our hearts we would not want anyone to hear, but things that keep us entrapped in sinfulness and isolation. Give us words to forgive, to be generous and loving.Open our heart in mercy to those who long for freedom. Keep us faithful like Jesus to what we are called to, to what is most noble and good in our lives.

In a world where everything has a shelf-life and what we dislike can be quickly discarded, help us to learn that singular characteristic of God: being faithful. The events of Good Friday realise something that has been spoken of throughout the history of God’s encounter with his people. God remains faithful to his people, even when his people generation after generation fail him and fail him and betray him and betray him[.]
True goodness is not a passing emotion. It is not about feeling good. It is about being faithful to goodness when it is easy, when it is challenging, and even when it leads to our annihilation in the eyes of those who seek their only own interest.

Jesus dies. He breathes his last and that last is the same as the first words recorded about Jesus: “I must be about my Father’s business”; “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”.

Jesus humbles himself, he empties himself, and his love is so great that he empties himself even unto death, death on the Cross. But the Cross triumphs. His self-giving love is so complete that it brings new life, true live.

Lord help us to reject everything that is trivial and superficial. Give us the love that Jesus showed on the Cross: love that endures and that saves.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Holy Week

John Donne–Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward

This day, when my Soules forme bends toward the East.
There I should see a Sunne, by rising set,
And by that setting endlesse day beget;
But that Christ on this Crosse, did rise and fall,
Sinne had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I’almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for mee.
Who sees Gods face, that is selfe life, must dye;
What a death were it then to see God dye?
It made his owne Lieutenant Nature shrinke,
It made his footstoole crack, and the Sunne winke.
Could I behold those hands which span the Poles,
And tune all spheares at once peirc’d with those holes?
Could I behold that endlesse height which is
Zenith to us, and our Antipodes,
Humbled below us? or that blood which is
The seat of all our Soules, if not of his,
Made durt of dust, or that flesh which was worne
By God, for his apparell, rag’d, and torne?

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Church History, Holy Week, Poetry & Literature

A Good Friday Prayer from Archbishop Frederick Temple

O Lord Jesu Christ, take us to Thyself, draw us with cords to the foot of Thy Cross; for we have not strength to come, and we know not the way. Thou art mighty to save, and none can separate us from Thy love: bring us home to Thyself; for we are gone astray. We have wandered; do Thou seek us. Under the shadow of Thy Cross let us live all the rest of our lives, and there we shall be safe.

–Frederick B. Macnutt, The prayer manual for private devotions or public use on divers occasions: Compiled from all sources ancient, medieval, and modern (A.R. Mowbray, 1951)

Posted in Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

We need “more emphasis on the blood of Christ, as well as the brutal method of his death”

Isn’t it curious that the Son of God would die in this particular way? Even Paul was permitted a nice, neat slice of the sword. Why did the Son of God die in the worst possible way? That’s the point here. Crucifixion was specifically designed to be the worst of the worst. It was so bad, good Roman citizens didn’t discuss it in public. It’s very much like the way we avoid talking about death and sin. The Romans avoided talking about crucifixion because it was so horrible, so disgusting, so obscene they used that word to describe it.

Why this method and not another? Because it corresponds to the depth of depravity caused by human rebellion against God. It shows us just how bad things really are with us. No wonder we don’t want to look at it. Yet again, the African American church has never been afraid to look at it. It gives them hope. It gives them strength. It gives them comfort. As for the blood: It is important because it’s mentioned so much in Scripture. It’s a synecdoche, a word that stands for the whole thing. When you say “the blood of Christ,” you mean his self-offering, his death, the horror of it, the pouring out of it. It sums up the whole thing.

And it’s not just a metaphor; he really did shed blood when he was scourged. He was a bloody mess. I remember one line from an article by a secular journalist. Concerning the crucifixion of Jesus, he wrote, “He must have been ghastly to behold.” That’s a great sentence.

Fleming Rutledge in a Christianity Today interview (emphasis mine)

Posted in Uncategorized

How shall I measure out thy bloud?

O My chief good,
How shall I measure out thy bloud?
How shall I count what thee befell,
And each grief tell?

Shall I thy woes
Number according to thy foes?
Or, since one starre show’d thy first breath,
Shall all thy death?

Or shall each leaf,
Which falls in Autumn, score a grief?
Or can not leaves, but fruit, be signe
Of the true vine?

Then let each houre
Of my whole life one grief devoure;
That thy distresse through all may runne,
And be my sunne.
Or rather let
My severall sinnes their sorrows get;
That as each beast his cure doth know,
Each sinne may so.

Since bloud is fittest, Lord, to write
Thy sorrows in, and bloudie fight;
My heart hath store, write there, where in
One box doth lie both ink and sinne:

That when sinne spies so many foes,
Thy whips, thy nails, thy wounds, thy woes,
All come to lodge there, sinne may say,
No room for me, and flie away.

Sinne being gone, oh fill the place,
And keep possession with thy grace;
Lest sinne take courage and return,
And all the writings blot or burn.

–George Herbert (1593-1633)

Posted in Christology, Holy Week, Poetry & Literature

Failure, Rejection, and Ineffectualness

[Shusaku] Endo locates the point of contact between Japanese life and the Gospel in what he observes, and has experienced personally, to be the essence of Japanese religious awareness. This he sees as the sense of failure in life and the subsequent shame and guilt that leave a lasting impact upon a person’s life. Such theological notions as love, grace, trust, and truth are intelligible only in the experience of their opposites. Endo sees them incarnate in the person of Jesus through his own experience of failure, rejection, and, most of all, ineffectualness. Only rarely has modern Christianity presented the story of Jesus as the one to whom those who had failed, were rejected, lonely, and alienated could turn and find understanding and compassion. Endo argues that it is our universal human experience of failure in life that provides us with an understanding of Christian faith in its depth.

–Fumitaka Matsuoka, The Christology of Shusaku Endo, Theology Today (October 1982) [emphasis mine]

Posted in Christology, Holy Week

A Prayer for Good Friday from the Church of England

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

Music for Good Friday–St Pauls Cathedral Choir: God So Loved The World (John Stainer)

Listen to it all.

Posted in Christology, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship

A Prayer for Good Friday

Lord Jesus Christ, who for the redemption of mankind didst ascend the cross, that thou mightest enlighten the world that lay in darkness: gather us this day with all they faithful to that same holy cross; that, gazing in penitence upon thy great sacrifice for us, we may be loosed from all our sins, and entering into the mystery of thy passion, be crucified to the vain pomp and power of this passing world; and finding our glory in the cross alone, we may attain at last thy everlasting glory, where thou, the lamb that once was slain, reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

I am the man who has seen affliction
under the rod of his wrath;
he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
surely against me he turns his hand
again and again the whole day long.

He has made my flesh and my skin waste away,
and broken my bones;
he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me dwell in darkness
like the dead of long ago.

He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
he has put heavy chains on me;
though I call and cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with hewn stones,
he has made my paths crooked.

Lamentations 3:1-9

Posted in Uncategorized

The Betrayal of Christ by Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) [1591-1666]

Posted in Art, Holy Week

Saint Peter

St. Peter once: ‘Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?’-
Much more I say: Lord, dost Thou stand and knock
At my closed heart more rugged than a rock,
Bolted and barred, for Thy soft touch unmeet,
Nor garnished nor in any wise made sweet?
Owls roost within and dancing satyrs mock.
Lord, I have heard the crowing of the cock
And have not wept: ah, Lord, thou knowest it.
Yet still I hear Thee knocking, still I hear:
‘Open to Me, look on Me eye to eye,
That I may wring thy heart and make it whole;
And teach thee love because I hold thee dear
And sup with thee in gladness soul with soul
And sup with thee in glory by and by.’

–Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Posted in Holy Week, Poetry & Literature

A Prayer for Maundy Thursday from The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory

O Christ, the true vine and the source of life, ever giving thyself that the world may live; who also hast taught us that those who would follow thee must be ready to lose their lives for thy sake: Grant us so to receive within our souls the power of thine eternal sacrifice, that in sharing thy cup we may share thy glory, and at the last be made perfect in thy love.

Posted in Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

A Nice Maundy Thursday Healing Miracle Story

Posted in Church History, Holy Week

A Prayer for Maundy Thursday from the Church of England

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

Blog Transition for the Triduum 2020

As is our custom, we aim to let go of the cares and concerns of this world until Monday and to focus on the great, awesome, solemn and holy events of the next three days. I would ask people to concentrate their comments on the personal, devotional, and theological aspects of these days which will be our focal point here. Many thanks–KSH.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Holy Week

(ProPublica) We Still Don’t Know How Many People Are in the Hospital With COVID-19

Late last month, Vice President Mike Pence sent a letter to administrators of the nation’s 6,000 hospitals requesting a favor.

He asked them to complete a form each day with data on the patients they are treating with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and submit it to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The data will help us better understand disease patterns and develop policies for prevention and control of health problems related to COVID-19,” Pence wrote.

Now, as COVID-19 nears an apex in some parts of the country, it’s unclear how many hospitals have submitted the requested information. For its part, the CDC has not released the data publicly, saying only that it plans to do so soon.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

(NPR) Psychiatrists Lean Hard On Teletherapy To Reach Isolated Patients In Emotional Pain

Psychiatrist Philip Muskin is quarantined at home in New York City because he’s been feeling a little under the weather and doesn’t want to expose anyone to whatever he has. But he continues to see his patients the only way he can: over the phone.

“I’ve been a psychiatrist for more than 40 years; I have never FaceTimed a patient in my entire career,” says Muskin, who works at Columbia University Medical Center, treating outpatients in his clinical practice, as well as people who have been hospitalized. Normally, he says he walks patients to the door, shakes their hand or touches their arm or shoulder to reassure them. “Now I’m not doing that, and that’s weird to me. So it’s a whole new, very unpleasant world.”

The pandemic has already robbed many of his patients of their livelihood, or at least their sense of safety. People literally feel trapped, he says.

That, in turn, is leading to a spike in anxiety, depression and addiction — not just among Muskin’s patients, but across the U.S. To try to address those needs, physicians of all kinds are adopting the techniques and technology of telemedicine, which had been only slowly gaining wide acceptance — until the pandemic forced everyone to isolate themselves, mostly at home. The recent demand for telecounseling, as well as for other types of online medical visits, is causing backlogs of care for many providers who offer it.

There are now also even fewer in-person treatment options for some of the most acutely mentally ill in New York, Muskin says; the psychiatric wards at Columbia, where Muskin normally works, have all been converted to beds for COVID-19 patients.

“That means,” he says, “we have no place to send patients who need admission.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Live5 News) South Carolina State Guard helps to convert MUSC fitness center into field hospital

The South Carolina State Guard helped to convert a MUSC fitness center into a 250-bed field hospital.

MUSC officials said their employees are working with the SC State Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers on the field hospital should it be needed for COVID-19 patients who do not require critical care.

The field hospital will be used for COVID 19 patients who are recovering and ready to be discharged.

“What was thought to have taken two weeks, took only two days to accomplish,” said Brian Wood the Emergency Management Coordinator for MUSC adding, “The level of professionalism and skill of the members of the State Guard was unbelievable, they went above and beyond.”

According to officials, 20 members of the State Guard’s 1st Civil Support Brigade began the mission at MUSC on April 3rd only one day after the orders were given and completed the mission in two days.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces

(PD) Faith and Our Future: Lessons from C. S. Lewis in Time of Pandemic

Perhaps death has become our utilitarian coin of this policy realm: counter dead people with more dead people—or other more valuable, less mortal dead people. Death is a pretty solid coin, after all. Even Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, and Woody Allen had to admit that while he didn’t mind dying, he just didn’t want to be there when it happened. Unlike the fiat money about to be thrown from helicopters, death is a hard coin that is hard to devalue. Perhaps death is the trump card for my neighbor’s decision. Sacrificing—not the carb-fasting that used to feel like sacrificing, but real sacrificing—seems apropos when people are dying.

C. S. Lewis knew this line of argument when he addressed Oxford students in an evensong message in October 1939. He engaged the objections of his opponents, “How can we continue to take an interest in these placid occupations when the lives of our friends and the liberties of Europe are in the balance?” Was not scholarship a kind of fiddling while Rome burned? But Lewis upped the ante. It is not death that should concern us most: it is eternal death. And yet in the face of both, culture continues. “Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice,” Lewis tells us. Whether that precipice is war or plague, we cannot wait for normalcy in order to resume our vocations.

Lewis’s imperative to pursue our vocations in the face of death is compelling; and everyone really ought to wrestle with his arguments, particularly Christians trying to determine their duties and callings at this time. But while Lewis argues in this particular work—almost glibly—that it is not panache but human nature that makes us comb our hair at Thermopylae, he elsewhere acknowledges our inclination to be anxious about our futures. Even if we can soldier on in our vocations, it may be with a lot of anxiety.

Lewis’s great meditation on the future is found in a better-known work, The Screwtape Letters. There Lewis imagines the advice of Screwtape, a senior demon responsible for mentoring a younger devil, his nephew, Wormwood. Wormwood is tasked with keeping a man away from God, and Screwtape’s “letters” of advice showcase Lewis’s insights into human nature, including anxiety about our futures.

In one particular letter, Screwtape explains how both past and future are the enemies of the present. Only in the present can we exercise our virtues. Only in the present can we experience the eternity Christ won for us. It is “better” (for the devils), Screwtape tells Wormwood, if we live in the past or future. Of course, only old people and weird, scholarly types (“Read Bentham!” “Trolleycars!”) successfully do this. The way to trip up more people is to get their heads and hearts into the future. That was certainly easy for Wormwood’s Britons, fearful of their wartime future.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Health & Medicine, Theology

(PC) Tim Keller: People will say ‘I came to Christ during the virus’

Why has God allowed Coronavirus to happen?
There’s three things to say. The first thing is: why weren’t you asking that question before? In other words, when something bad happens to me, that’s when I start wondering about God, when actually bad things have been happening for centuries. The Bible is filled with discussions about it. The book of Job is all about that. Job had a terrible life, way worse than anybody I know.

Secondly, there’s a philosophical answer. The philosophical answer is, if you have a God big and powerful enough to be mad at for not stopping suffering, then you also have a God big and powerful enough who has some good reasons – that you can’t think of – for why he hasn’t stopped it. You can’t say ‘because I can’t think of any reason why God hasn’t stopped all the suffering, there can’t be one’. That doesn’t make sense. If you have a God big enough to be mad at, you’ve a God a big enough to be wiser than you. Philosophically that works, but it’s cold comfort to a person who’s actually in pain.

Thirdly, the more personal answer is, I don’t know the reason for your suffering. But I do know what it’s not. It’s not that God doesn’t love you. Christianity, uniquely among all the religions of the world, says that God actually came to earth and got involved in our suffering in order to someday end it without ending us.

Over the years, as a pastor and a sufferer, that has been the thing that’s helped my heart. Jesus suffers, he understands. I don’t have a God who’s remote. He must have a good reason why he hasn’t stopped it yet. It can’t be that he doesn’t love me, because look what he did on the cross.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Urban/City Life and Issues

A Prayer to Begin the Day from W. E. Scudamore

Blessed Lord Jesus, who, when about to depart out of this world, having loved thine own, and loving them to the end, didst institute the holy sacrament of thy Body and Blood, the dying legacy of thy love: Vouchsafe, we earnestly pray thee, that we may never draw near thine altar, save with hearts enkindled by love for thee and for one another; for thy dear name’s sake.

Posted in Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

The elders of the daughter of Zion
sit on the ground in silence;
they have cast dust on their heads
and put on sackcloth;
the maidens of Jerusalem
have bowed their heads to the ground.

My eyes are spent with weeping;
my soul is in tumult;
my heart is poured out in grief
because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
because infants and babes faint
in the streets of the city.

They cry to their mothers,
“Where is bread and wine?”
as they faint like wounded men
in the streets of the city,
as their life is poured out
on their mothers’ bosom.

What can I say for you, to what compare you,
O daughter of Jerusalem?
What can I liken to you, that I may comfort you,
O virgin daughter of Zion?
For vast as the sea is your ruin;
who can restore you?

–Lamentations 2:10-13

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Local Paper) South Carolina announces 12 more deaths from coronavirus, 2,552 total cases

South Carolina announced a dozen deaths Wednesday, the highest number of fatalities in coronavirus patients on a single day the state has seen.

There are now 2,552 total cases in the state, and 63 residents have died, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The 12 patients who died most recently include three Spartanburg County residents and three patients from Richland County. Clarendon, Horry, Kershaw, Laurens, McCormick and Newberry counties tallied one death each.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Health & Medicine

(Miami Herald) Vivid ‘pandemic dreams’ and nightmares keep nation awake during coronavirus outbreak

The coronavirus has infected nearly 1.4 million people and killed nearly 77,000, including 11,000 in the United States, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University from April 7.

As a result, stay-at-home orders are forcing millions to stay isolated for weeks, store shelves are empty due to hoarding and jobs are laying people off due to lack of customers.

“The coronavirus pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of our waking lives — our routines, our job security, our hopes for the future,” The Cut reported in an April 2 story on pandemic dreams. “And our nights are changing, too: our sleep can be fitful, our dreams darker — and, for many, unusually memorable.”

This is worrisome to health experts because lack of sleep makes us more vulnerable to illnesses, including the coronavirus.

“Scientific evidence is building that sleep has powerful effects on immune functioning,” according to a CDC report. “Studies show that sleep loss can affect different parts of the immune system, which can lead to the development of a wide variety of disorders. … Sleep loss is also related to a higher risk for infection.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Psychology

(WSJ) Government and Businesses Turn Attention to Eventual Reopening of $22 Trillion U.S. Economy

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, which has the second-most Covid-19 deaths, said the resumption of economic activity would be “slow and careful, because the last thing we’re going to need is going too quickly.… That’s the equivalent, I think, of throwing gasoline on the fire.”

San Miguel County in Colorado, using a test from United Biomedical, has plans to check all its residents for immunity. Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker last week announced a coronavirus tracking initiative that will involve 1,000 people working at a virtual call center to trace people exposed or infected with the virus.

GOP Texas Lieut. Gov. Dan Patrick announced Tuesday he is forming a task force on how to reopen the economy, and GOP Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has created a response team to discuss measures that must be in place for opening the state back up.

Some governors talked Tuesday with Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, about ways to work together or launch their own surveillance plans that would trace the disease should it resurface and spread. One idea is to galvanize congressional lawmakers to pass legislation setting a U.S. surveillance system for coronavirus in place.

Dr. Gottlieb, who ran the FDA from 2017 to 2019, released a report on the “roadmap to reopening” Tuesday with Mark McClellan, a physician and economist who ran the FDA under President George W. Bush.

“I’m worried we don’t have the systems in place to carefully reopen the economy,” Dr. Gottieb said in an interview. “You need to be able to identify people who are sick and have the tools to enforce their isolation and [tracing of people they contact]. You have to have it at a scale we’ve never done before. We need leadership.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(Diocese of London) Graham Tomlin, the Bishop of Kensington, offers a reflection: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Wednesday: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? from London Diocese on Vimeo.

Posted in Christology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Holy Week

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–In the Fog of Coronavirus, There Are No Experts

p class=”css-exrw3m evys1bk0″>The official experts, under such conditions, are most trustworthy insofar as their admonitions track with nonexpert common sense. The approach that most experts are currently urging, for instance, is not some complicated high-science approach to disease management, but the most basic pre-modern method of disease control, as obvious to 15th-century Florentines as to 21st-century New Yorkers — shut things down, quarantine the sick and hope for the best.

Whereas the more specific and granular the experts get, the more the fluidity and chaos of the situation makes their pronouncements dubious. It’s good that we’re modeling the arc of the pandemic, but that doesn’t make any of the models trustworthy. It’s good that we’re trying to figure out how the disease spreads, but none of the claims so far about how you’re most likely to get it (from air, surfaces or otherwise) or who is most at risk (whether from viral load or pre-existing conditions) can be considered at all definitive. It’s good that we’re practicing social distancing, but all of the rules we’re implementing are just rough and ready guesstimates.

And you don’t want to overweight the pronouncements of official science in a situation that requires experimentation and adaptation and a certain amount of gambling. Yes, you should trust Anthony Fauci more than Donald Trump when it comes to the potential benefits of hydroxychloroquine. But the exigencies of the crisis require that experiments outrun the confidence of expert conclusions and the pace of bureaucratic certainty. So if you’re a doctor on the front lines trying to keep your patients from ending up on a ventilator, Dr. Fauci’s level of caution can’t be yours, and you shouldn’t be waiting for the double-blind control trial to experiment with off-label drugs that Spanish and Chinese doctors claim are helping patients.

The same logic applies for policymakers, for whom there is never going to be a definitive, one-size-fits-all blueprint telling them how and when to reopen cities or communities. Every single reopening will be its own unique experiment, with confounding variables of climate, density, age and genetics that are nearly impossible to model, and the advice of epidemiologists will only go so far. Governors and mayors will have to act like scientists themselves, acting and re-acting, adapting and experimenting, with expert advisers at their shoulders but no sure answers till the experiment begins.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(Local Paper) Army won’t send recruits to basic training at Fort Jackson amid SC coronavirus outbreak

As the coronavirus continues to spread, the Army announced it will stop shipping recruits to basic training, which will halt new soldiers from arriving at Fort Jackson in Columbia.

Those currently in basic combat training will finish and then be screened and monitored for COVID-19 symptoms before moving to their job assignments within the branch, the Pentagon said Monday.

“The decision to pause the shipment of trainees to BCT for two weeks will allow leaders to focus on setting conditions so movement can be conducted in a safer manner in the future,” said Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces

South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence’s Episcopal Directive Regarding Spiritual Communion

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings in the name of our Blessed Savior Jesus Christ as we walk with him in the Way to the Cross trusting that it will be for those we shepherd and to us the way of life.

As it seems prudent during this time of public and self-quarantine given the recent requests of national and local government as well medical professionals, for us not to gather in our churches or go to extraordinary means to offer the sacrament to our parishioners in piecemeal manner. Therefore, as I am not rescinding the prior prohibition on distributing the sacrament, I want to offer you some guidance on the matter of Spiritual Communion.

This is especially important as we draw near to Easter Sunday, the Sunday of the Resurrection. It seems appropriate that of all Sundays a priest, if at all possible, should be in the local church, or elsewhere to preside at the Easter Eucharist on behalf of the people of God and in festal celebration of our Lord’s victory over Sin, Death, Satan, Hell, Judgement and Wrath—wherein he trampled down death by death. The Anglican tradition has been for the priest to do this with two or three others being present even if they do not receive the sacrament (see my prior Episcopal Directive).

The ACNA Book of Common Prayer 2019 presciently has a prayer “For Spiritual Communion” on p. 677.

Dear Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I desire to possess you within my soul. And since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I beseech you to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to you, together with all your faithful people [gathered around every altar of your Church], and I embrace you with all the affections of my soul. Never permit me to be separated from you.  Amen.

I recommend that you take a moment either after the offertory and before The Sursum Corda, or immediately after The Fraction and before the minister receives to draw attention to this prayer and give a very brief instruction about it. Some have chosen to read it in the place of what normally would be the “Prayer of Humble Access”. The celebrant would then receive the sacrament and, if not fasting in unity with the members of the congregation, the attending priests or deacons then receive. Once again, I reference the guidance of my previous directive. I share with you a comment a parishioner from Christ-St. Paul’s sent to the rector after last Sunday’s Palm Sunday Eucharist, “The spiritual communion was necessary and filled my soul.”

I also recommend for your consideration a seven-minute video, which our retired Archbishop, The Most Rev. Robert Duncan, has made, explaining the history of Spiritual Communion in the life of the undivided Church of the first five centuries, as well as in our Anglican history and the long tradition of the Book of Common Prayer. It is professionally produced, timely, and very instructive. While perhaps too long to show in the midst of Sunday worship, it will benefit those in our congregations if the link is available in advance of the Easter Eucharist.

One brick in this long tradition he did not reference is that found in the 1662 BCP. This prayer book, that is still the standard for many of the Churches across the Anglican Communion, has a rubric regarding spiritual communion in “The time of plague, sweat or other like contagious times of sickness or disease….” Reading such a rubric reminds me of just how relevant the teaching of the Bible remains. As we read in the Book of Ecclesiastes, ‘Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.’ (Eccl 1:10) The rubrics as do the Holy Scriptures continue to guide and teach us. I quote a portion of the rubric for your reference. “But if a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness,…or by any other just impediment, do not receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood: the Curate shall instruct him that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and stedfastly believe that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the Cross for him, and shed his Blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving him hearty thanks therefore; he doth eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Savior Christ profitably to his soul’s health, although he do not receive the Sacrament with his mouth.”

One final word. Having followed what many of you are doing on line or by report, as well as in written word, I want to tell you how grateful I am for the ministry and the effort you are making to reach your people, as well as many others far and wide, with the good news of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is an honor to serve with you in this most unusual season. This continues to be a Holy Week unlike any we have ever known. Let us continue to be vigilant not only in social distancing but also in social care—in the ministry of intercession for our world. As Jesus challenged his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “So, could you not watch me with one hour?”

Gratefully yours in Christ,

Bishop Mark Lawrence's signature

The Right Reverend Mark Joseph Lawrence

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Eucharist, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology