Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Nativity of St John Baptist

Today's feast was the occasion of the first celebration of the Eucharist according to the prayer book rite in what is now the continental United States. The celebrant was the chaplain of Sir Francis Drake's ship, the Golden Hind and the celebration occurred while the Golden Hind was being prepared for a trip across the Pacific and around the tip of Africa to avoid the Spanish fleets.

It used to be believed that the place of this celebration was at Drake's Bay just North of San Francisco and the Golden Gate, but historians now seem to believe that the latitude which Drake posted was more nearly correct and that would place Drake's landing in the Oregon-Washington coast range. But the place is not important while the fact of the celebration is. Even as Drake claimed the territory around his landing for Elizabeth I and the English throne, the Eucharist claimed it for English and Anglican Catholicism.

In learning about the history of our country, we forget - or rather, we are not reminded, not taught - about the Anglican settlements of Virginia, about Roanoke and Jamestown because for political reasons beyond my taking time to explain here or now, the emphasis in American history is now on Plymouth and the Puritan dissenting settlement there. We are not taught about the Anglican majorities that signed the Declaration of Independence and wrote the Constitution of the United States. It is not pointed out to us that the form of government we find in our constitution was first to found in the government of the provinces of the English Church from the eighth century onward, that is to say a legislature consisting of a lower and upper house with an executive and a judiciary. In the case of the Church it was the archbishop with the house of clergy and the house of bishops which gave us the president with the House of Representatives and the Senate. No matter! It is all there for us to find out and to enjoy. The important thing to realize, to know is that where the prayer book tradition is strong, the tradition of ordered freedom with a value on the rights of every human being is also strong. Indeed, with the exception of Switzerland, the five nations with the greatest freedom are all those with a strong Anglican tradition in their history.

St John Baptist died as the result of his protest against vice and tyranny. That protest sprang from his faith and obedience to God which should be the fountain of all our actions as well. Let us remember his feast and keep it that way.


Alice C. Linsley said...

Very interesting!

What are your thoughts about GAFCON's preference of the 1662 BCP? The Jerusalem Statement says: "We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture."

Do you think one reason is that this book has at the back A Table of Kindred and Affinity listing relations that are forbidden to marry? Of course this deal with kin, but could be expanded to forbid homosexual "marriage".

I hope GAFCON doesn't go that direction as it makes a concession to gay activists since not one of the fifteen nations that have made legal provision for homosexual couples calls that provision "marriage". See this report: http://college-ethics.blogspot.com/2008/07/civil-partnership-does-not-marriage.html

As for John the Baptist, he is shown in the iconostasis of most Orthodox churches immediately to the right of Christ (as one looks at the altar). He is often shown with wings to symbolize his angelic, other-worldy asceticism. He is one of the connectors between those who died in expectation of Messiah's appearing and those who are in the Church. Both dispensations make up the Kingdom of God. Th 3 great connectors are Simeon, Anna and John the Baptist. They are the 3 witnesses to the Kingdom's appearing. Simeon, a priest, represents the Blood, Anna, a prophetess, represents the Spirit, and John the Forerunner represents the Water. These are the 3 witnesses to which John alludes when he tells us "This is He who came by water and blood - Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and these three agree as one." (1 John 5:6-8)

Canon Tallis said...

I fear that the reason that they settled upon 1662 is that even where it is still the offical BCP, so-called Evangelicals and Low Churchmen feel entirely free to treat it as a source of "services," but with no understanding that it is a liturgy that to be understood must be obediently used in its entirity. And that they have no intention of doing. The problem is that they have no idea what was intended by its revisers or what the presentation of the previous BCP was like. Dr Toon whom I very much like and admire very carefully left the offending rubrics out of his contemporary language 'translation.' They might have reminded people that the book as a whole was intended to be treated and used as the Roman Church would use any of its standard liturgies or as the Orthodox Churches used theirs. This means that the American disciples of same can continue using '79 while pretending to a Biblical orthodoxy which that book was never intended to have.

I don't think the Table of Kindred and Affinity made any difference because I think few of those at GAFCON were really aware of the contents as a totality.

Thank you for your comments on the Orthodox iconostasis and the presence there of John Baptist, Anna and Simeon. I must admit I had never thought of the three in terms of spirit, blood and water but it makes sense and would appeal to the Orthodox imagination. But imagination is not precisely the right word. There must be a better and I wish that it would miraculously appear. Not very likly in this heat.

I must go and look up the blog you have recommended. I am sure it will be as excellent as the last one.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Thanks, Canon Tallis.

I prefer the 1928 version of the BCP, as does Dr. Toon, but Dr. Toon was willing for this edition of the 1662 for use by the AMiA. I think GAFCON's decision was influenced by AMiA's decision to use only the 1662.

Please pray for Dr. Toon. He is not well.

Canon Tallis said...

Peter is very much in my prayers as is his wife. I may very much disagree with him on some things, but he is a great scholar and wonderful Christian and his illness is a tragedy for us all. I hear in it Donne's tolling bell which calls me to prayers not only for Peter whose sickness, thank God, is not a sickness of the soul, but only of the body while I fear we must all the more pray for those who are baptized but who have no understanding of the status or their calling. Theirs is a sickness of the soul which is far more deadly than the one which Peter has.

Have you ever been called to prayer and known that the calling was of God although you had no idea of what or for him you were praying. That it was simply yours to cry "Jesus, mercy" and "Mary, pray" while bending your heart before his throne that sinners would repent and his will be done in everything, but especially in this thing for which you must, really must pray until you are relieved by his mercy.

I came here at this hour looking for clues so perhaps it is Peter for whom I am praying and for you. May God have his most gracious mercy upon all for whom he calls forth our prayers.