Category : Church History

Hans Urs von Balthasar on Easter

“Without Easter, Good Friday would have no meaning. Without Easter, there would be no hope that suffering and abandonment might be tolerable. But with Easter, a way out becomes visible for human sorrows, an absolute future: more than a hope, a divine expectation.”

–Hans Urs von Balthasar To the Heart of the Mystery of Redemption (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), p.39

Posted in Christology, Church History, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

AN HOMILIE OF THE Resurrection of our Sauiour Iesus Christ. For Easter Day from the Book of Homilies

For then he opened their vnderstanding, that they might perceiue the Scriptures, and sayd vnto them: Thus it is written, and thus it behooued Christ to suffer, and to rise from death the third day, and that there should be preached openly in his name pardon and remission of sinnes to all the Nations of the world (Luke 24.45-47). Yee see (good Christian people) how necessary this Article of our faith is, seeing it was prooued of Christ himselfe by such euident reasons and tokens, by so long time and space. Now therefore as our Sauiour was diligent for our comfort and instruction to declare it: so let vs be as ready in our beliefe to receiue it to our comfort and instruction. As he died not for himselfe, no more did he rise againe for himselfe. He was dead (sayth Saint Paul) for our sinnes, and rose againe for our iustification (1 Corinthians 15.3-4). O most comfortable word, euermore to be borne in remembrance. He died (saith he) to put away sinne, hee rose againe to endow vs with righteousnesse. His death tooke away sinne and malediction, his death was the ransome of them both, his death destroyed death, and ouercame the deuill, which had the power of death in his subiection, his death destroyed hell, with all the damnation thereof. Thus is death swallowed vp by Christs victory, thus is hell spoyled for euer.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Christology, Church History, Easter, Eschatology, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology

John Donne–Easter Faith that Sustains

If I had a Son in Court, or married a daughter into a plentifull Fortune, I were satisfied for that son or that daughter. Shall I not be so, when the King of Heaven hath taken that sone to himselfe, and married himselfe to that daughter, for ever? I spend none of my Faith, I exercise none of my Hope, in this, that I shall have my dead raised to life againe. This is the faith that sustains me, when I lose by the death of others, and we, are now all in one Church, and at the resurrection, shall be all in one Quire.

–John Donne (1572-1631) [my emphasis]

Posted in Church History, Easter

In the End A Sort of Quietness

I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been, if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you, you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again.

–C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Posted in Church History, Eschatology, Holy Week, Theology

Eleanor Parker–One of the most moving medieval poems about the Crucifixion

“Mother, now I may you say:
Better that I alone should die
Than all mankind should go to hell.”
“Son, I see your body swung,
Your breast, your hand, your foot through-stung; [pierced]
No wonder that I mourn!”

“Mother, if I dare you tell,
If I die not, you will go to hell;
I suffer this death for your sake.”
“Son, you are so meek and kind;
Blame me not, it is my kind [nature]
That I for you this sorrow make.”

“Mother, have mercy! let me die,
Adam out of hell to buy
And all mankind that is forlorn!”
“Son, what would you have me do?
Your pain pains me to death;
Let me die before you.”

“Mother, now you may well learn
What pain they endure who children bear,
What sorrow they have who children lose.”
“Son, indeed, I can you tell,
No sorrow but the pain of hell
Is greater than to suffer so!”

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Holy Week, Poetry & Literature

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 Church History, Holy Week, Poetry & Literature

Alone Thou goest forth for Good Friday

Alone thou goest forth, O Lord, in sacrifice to die;
is this thy sorrow nought to us who pass unheeding by?

Our sins, not thine, thou bearest, Lord; make us thy sorrow feel,
till through our pity and our shame love answers love’s appeal.

This is earth’s darkest hour, but thou dost light and life restore;
then let all praise be given thee who livest evermore.

Grant us with thee to suffer pain that, as we share this hour,
thy cross may bring us to thy joy and resurrection power [The Hymnal 1982 #164].

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

(Reuters) Church of the Holy Sepulchre’s ancient altar rediscovered, researchers say

Pressed against a wall in a back corridor of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a stone slab bore testimony only to the graffiti etched on it by multitudes of pilgrims through the ages.

But the 2.5 x 1.5 metre stone turned out to be far more precious when its other side was exposed during recent renovations at the church, the traditional site of Jesus’s crucifixion and burial.

Researchers believe the elaborate looping ornaments they found on the long-hidden part of the slab indicate it was once the decorated front of a medieval high altar that took pride of place centuries ago in one of Christianity’s holiest sites.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Israel, Middle East, Religion & Culture

(Eleanor Parker) An Anglo-Saxon sermon for Palm Sunday

The master of the asses asked them why they untied his asses, and in the same way the chief men of every people perversely opposed the preaching of God. But when they saw that the preachers, through God’s power, healed the lame and the blind, and gave speech to the dumb, and raised the dead to life, then they could not withstand those miracles, but all at last turned to God. Christ’s disciples said, “The Lord needs the asses, and sends for them.” They did not say ‘our Lord’, or ‘your Lord’, but simply, ‘the Lord’; for Christ is Lord of all lords, both of men and of all creatures. They said, “He sends for them.” We are exhorted and invited to God’s kingdom, but we are not forced. When we are invited, we are untied; and when we are left to our own choice, then is it as though we are sent for. It is God’s mercy that we are untied; but if we live rightly, that will be both God’s grace and our own zeal. We should constantly pray for the Lord’s help, since our own choices have no success unless they are supported by the Almighty.

Christ did not command them to lead to him a proud steed adorned with golden trappings; instead he chose a poor ass to bear him, because he always taught humility, and gave the example himself, saying “Learn from me, for I am meek and very humble, and you shall find rest for your souls.” This was prophesied of Christ, and so were all the things which he did before he was born as man…

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Church History, Holy Week, Preaching / Homiletics

Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

This is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without contrition. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Gracious God, the Beyond in the midst of our life, who gavest grace to thy servant Dietrich Bonhoeffer to know and teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, and to bear the cost of following him: Grant that we, strengthened by his teaching and example, may receive thy word and embrace its call with an undivided heart; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Germany, Spirituality/Prayer

(BBC) Dunstable Priory church was once much larger, says survey

The true size and importance of a medieval church has been revealed following an archaeological survey by Historic England.

Dunstable Priory in Bedfordshire was founded by Henry I in 1132 for the Augustinian Canons.

It was the location of the court which annulled Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

The church survived his dissolution of the monasteries, but was once “grander and more elaborate”, the survey shows

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry

A Prayer for the Feast Day of William Augustus Muhlenberg and Anne Ayers

God of justice and truth, let not thy Church close its eyes to the plight of the poor and neglected, the homeless and destitute, the old and the sick, the lonely and those who have none to care for them. Give us that vision and compassion with which thou didst so richly endow William Augustus Muhlenberg and Anne Ayers, that we may labor tirelessly to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy; through Jesus Christ, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

St. Tikhon’s Forgiveness Sunday Homily for his Feast Day

Unfortunately, brethren, we do not like to acknowledge our transgressions. It would seem natural and easy for a person to know his own self, his own soul and his shortcomings. This, however, is actually not so. We are ready to attend to anything but a deeper understanding of ourselves, an investigation of our sins. We examine various things with curiosity, we attentively study friends and strangers, but when faced with solitude without extraneous preoccupation even for a short while, we immediately become bored and attempt to seek amusement. For example, do we spend much time examining our own conscience even before confession? Perhaps a few minutes, and once a year at that. Casting a cursory glance at our soul, correcting some of its more glaring faults, we immediately cover it over with the veil of oblivion until next year, until our next uncomfortable exercise in boredom.

Yet we love to observe the sins of others. Not considering the beam in our own eye, we take notice of the mote in our brother’s eye. (Matt. 7. 3) Speaking idly to our neighbor’s detriment, mocking and criticizing him are not even often considered sins but rather an innocent and amusing pastime. As if our own sins were so few! As if we had been appointed to judge others!

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Orthodox Church, Preaching / Homiletics

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Tikhon

Holy God, holy and mighty, who hast called us together into one communion and fellowship: Open our eyes, we pray thee, as you opened the eyes of thy servant Tikhon, that we may see the faithfulness of others as we strive to be steadfast in the faith delivered unto us, that the world may see and know Thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be glory and praise unto ages of ages. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast day of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Almighty God, who by the hand of Moses thy servant didst lead thy people out of slavery, and didst make them free at last: Grant that thy Church, following the example of thy prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of thy love, and may strive to secure for all thy children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of James Lloyd Breck

Teach thy Church, O Lord, we beseech thee, to value and support pioneering and courageous missionaries, whom thou callest, as thou didst thy servant James Lloyd Breck, to preach and teach, and plant thy Church in new regions; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast Day of F.D. Maurice

Almighty God, who hast restored our human nature to heavenly glory through the perfect obedience of our Savior Jesus Christ: Keep alive in thy Church, we beseech thee, a passion for justice and truth; that we, like thy servant Federick Denison Maurice, may work and pray for the triumph of the kingdom of thy Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

(CH) John Donne–Thanksgiving in the Midst of Fear

These poems speak, as [Philip] Yancey says, to “the guilt and fear and helpless faith that marked [Donne’s] darkest days.” They also answer one of the toughest questions we can face, “In the midst of plague times, how can we give thanks?”

Here are the three poems excerpted by Yancey, with his clarifying revisions of Donne’s eighteenth-century language…

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Poetry & Literature, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John Donne

Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with thy servant John Donne, that whatsoever hath any being is a mirror in which we may behold thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Innocent of Alaska

Holy Immortal One, who didst bless thy people by calling Innocent from leading thy Church in Russia to be an apostle and light to the people of Alaska, and to proclaim the dispensation and grace of God: Guide our steps, that as he didst labor humbly in danger and hardship, we may witness to the Gospel of Christ wherever we are led, and serve thee as gladly in privation as in power; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, to the ages of ages. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A John Keble Hymn for his Feast Day–New every morning is the love

New every morning is the love
our wakening and uprising prove;
through sleep and darkness safely brought,
restored to life and power and thought.

New mercies, each returning day,
hover around us while we pray;
new perils past, new sins forgiven,
new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

If on our daily course our mind
be set to hallow all we find,
new treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.

Old friends, old scenes, will lovelier be,
as more of heaven in each we see;
some softening gleam of love and prayer
shall dawn on every cross and care.

The trivial round, the common task,
will furnish all we ought to ask:
room to deny ourselves; a road
to bring us daily nearer God.

Only, O Lord, in thy dear love,
fit us for perfect rest above;
and help us, this and every day,
to live more nearly as we pray.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Liturgy, Music, Worship

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John Keble

Grant, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know thy presence and obey thy will; that, following the example of thy servant John Keble, we may accomplish with integrity and courage that which thou givest us to do, and endure that which thou givest us to bear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast Day of James Solomon Russell

O God, the font of resurrected life, draw us into the wilderness and speak tenderly to us, so that we might love and worship thee as did thy servant James Solomon Russell, in assurance of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

The testimony of Connecticut farmer Nathan Cole when George Whitefield preached in 1740

From here:

When I saw Mr. Whitefield come upon the Scaffold he lookt almost angelical; a young, Slim, slender, youth before some thousands of people with a bold undaunted Countenance, and my hearing how God was with him every where he came along it Solemnized my mind; and put me into a trembling fear before he began to preach; for he looked as if he was Cloathed with authority from the Great God; and a sweet sollume solemnity sat upon his brow And my hearing him preach, gave me a heart wound; By Gods blessings: my old Foundation was broken up, and I saw that my righteousness would not save me….

–quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Preaching / Homiletics

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Richard Allen

Loving God, who hast made us all thy children by adoption in Jesus Christ: May we, following the example of thy servant Richard Allen, proclaim liberty to all who are enslaved and captive in this world; through Jesus Christ, Savior of all, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

Eleanor Parker for the Annuncation–‘Our Lady’s Lay’

Today is the feast of the Annunciation, or ‘Lady Day in Lent’, as it was known in the Middle Ages. As I explored last year, the medieval church considered 25 March to be the single most important date in history: it was both the beginning and the end of Christ’s life on earth, the date of his conception at the Annunciation and his death on Good Friday. To underline the harmony and purpose which, in the eyes of medieval Christians, shaped the divinely-written narrative of the history of the world, 25 March was also said to be the date of other significant events: the eighth day of Creation, the crossing of the Red Sea, the sacrifice of Isaac, and other days linked with or prefiguring the story of the world’s fall and redemption. The date occurs at a conjunction of solar, lunar, and natural cycles: all these events were understood to have happened in the spring, when life returns to the earth, and at the vernal equinox, once the days begin to grow longer than the nights and light triumphs over the power of darkness. The resonances of 25 March reached even unto Middle Earth, as Tolkien aligned the downfall of the Ring to this most auspicious of dates.

‘Lady Day in Lent’ is the springtime feast of the Virgin Mary, one of several ‘lady days’ which marked the seasons of the medieval year. There is a vast amount of medieval poetry and art on the theme of the Annunciation, more than you could read or look at in a lifetime, and much of it is exquisite: I’ve posted some of my own favourites under this tag. Over and over again, through many centuries, thousands of poets and artists have tried to imagine this scene, where heaven and earth meet and the fate of the universe hangs upon a young woman’s word.

For today, here’s a lovely little poem about the Annunciation by William Herebert, friar and poet, writing in the early 14th century.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Poetry & Literature, Theology

A Rowan Williams sermon on the life and ministry of Oscar Romero on Archbishop Romero’s Feast Day–‘Life has the last word’

And so his question to all those who have the freedom to speak in the Church and for the Church is ‘who do you really speak for?’ But if we take seriously the underlying theme of his words and witness, that question is also, ‘who do you really feel with?’ Are you immersed in the real life of the Body, or is your life in Christ seen only as having the same sentiments as the powerful? Sentir con la Iglesia in the sense in which the mature Romero learned those words is what will teach you how to speak on behalf of the Body. And we must make no mistake about what this can entail: Romero knew that this kind of ‘feeling with the Church’ could only mean taking risks with and for the Body of Christ – so that, as he later put it, in words that are still shocking and sobering, it would be ‘sad’ if priests in such a context were not being killed alongside their flock. As of course they were in El Salvador, again and again in those nightmare years.

But he never suggests that speaking on behalf of the Body is the responsibility of a spiritual elite. He never dramatised the role of the priest so as to play down the responsibility of the people. If every priest and bishop were silenced, he said, ‘each of you will have to be God’s microphone. Each of you will have to be a messenger, a prophet. The Church will always exist as long as even one baptized person is alive.’ Each part of the Body, because it shares the sufferings of the whole – and the hope and radiance of the whole – has authority to speak out of that common life in the crucified and risen Jesus.

So Romero’s question and challenge is addressed to all of us, not only those who have the privilege of some sort of public megaphone for their voices. The Church is maintained in truth; and the whole Church has to be a community where truth is told about the abuses of power and the cries of the vulnerable. Once again, if we are serious about sentir con la Iglesia, we ask not only who we are speaking for but whose voice still needs to be heard, in the Church and in society at large. The questions here are as grave as they were thirty years ago. In Salvador itself, the methods of repression familiar in Romero’s day were still common until very recently. We can at least celebrate the fact that the present head of state there has not only apologized for government collusion in Romero’s murder but has also spoken boldly on behalf of those whose environment and livelihood are threatened by the rapacity of the mining companies, who are set on a new round of exploitation in Salvador and whose critics have been abducted and butchered just as so many were three decades back. The skies are not clear: our own Anglican bishop in Salvador was attacked ten days ago by unknown enemies; but the signs of hope are there, and the will to defend the poor and heal the wounds.

Read it all.

Posted in --El Salvador, Central America, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ministry of the Ordained, Roman Catholic

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Oscar Romero

Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to thy Word who abideth, thy Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Gregory the Illuminator

Almighty God, who willest to be glorified in thy saints, and didst raise up thy servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray thee, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth thy praise, who hast called us out of darkness into thy marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Armenia, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer