Sunday, December 19, 2010


After celebrating this morning and preaching I am more tired than I thought possible, but the Eucharist is like that sometimes in that it requires a huge amount of energy from us. That being the case, this is going to be very simple: the antiphon and its scriptural background. Maybe next year.

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David, * and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openest, and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth : Come and bring the prisoner out of the prison-house, and him that sitteth in darkness, and the shadow of death.
Isaiah had prophesied:

* "I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open." Isaiah 22:22
* "His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore." Isaiah 9:7
* "...To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house."Isaiah 42:7.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

One of the great themes of medieval art is the Jesse Tree. You will find variations of it all over Europe both in parish churches and great cathedrals. The point of these trees is our Lord's descent from the father of King David, but also of something else. In one of his conflicts with the pharisees Jesus asked them if the Messiah who was to come was David's son, why did David then say "The Lord said unto my Lord, set thou on my right hand until I make thy enemies thy footstool?" The only possible answer frightened and confused them. What it was intended to point out was that He who was and is to come was no ordinary king. It is something which in this day and time we need greatly to remember and this is where this one of the Great O's points us.

O Root of Jesse, *which standest for an ensign of the people, to whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the Gentiles seeK : Come and deliver us and tarry not.

The text again points to passages in the prophet Isaiah. "A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." Isaiah 11:1
* "On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious." Isaiah 11:10 But Isaiah was not along. Micah also wrote that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and even be born in David's own city. St Paul in his epistle to the Romans reminded the early Roman Christians and, by extension, all of us of this fact.

But the most interesting part of the antiphon for me is to be found in the last words, "and tarry not." He has promised to come and we are supposed to be anxious for his quick coming. But are we? If we are not ready, then this period of the Great O's is one in which we are reminded that we should and must be. We must be excited about it; we must stir up our hearts and the very best way of doing that is the worship of the church, the daily offices and the Eucharist which we have "until his coming again."

Friday, December 17, 2010


The antiphon for the Magnifict on 17th day of December in the Sarum rite was O Adonai. It is with a bit of embarrassment that I have to post the Latin version of this antiphon as sung by Roman Dominican students. I would much have preferred to be post the English equivalent as sung perhaps by the sisters of the Community of St Mary the Virgin at Wantage. After all it was from a book obtained from St Mary's Press that I first learned of the Great O's. That book contained the antiphons for the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis throughout the Christian year according to the Anglican calendar. It was intended for use with The Sarum Psalter which was also published by St. Mary's Press. Later when Briggs and Frere published their plainchant psalter one of their announced aims was to make sure that it conformed to Palmer's work. Briggs and Frere is still available and every quire in the Continuum should have copies. They might also want to have copies of the Lancelot Andrewes Press' plainchant psalter. it has additional and very helpful material.

But the point here must remain on text of the antiphons themselves and their scriptural references which clarify and expand the the theme of the season of Advent. In O Adonai the most obvious are the events from Exodus 3:2 and 24:12. The title to the antiphon makes reference to Isaiah 33:22 which says :"For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler, the Lord is our king; he will save us." And its point is taken from Isaiah 11:4-5 "[...] but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins."

O Adonay,* and Leader of the house of Israel, who appearest in the Bush to Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him in the law in Sinai : Come and deliver us with an outstretched arm.

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

Technically, today is the feast of his translation, the return of his relics, what was left of his body after the lions in the Roman circus finished with him, to Antioch for burial. The relics were moved twice after that and now rest in a church in Rome. But the important thing for the Church is that we, as Anglicans, should realize the importance of this great saint not merely for the Catholic Church but for all those who call themselves Christians.

Ignatius who also called himself Theophorus (God bearer)was born in Syria around anno Domini 50 and died in the Roman circus sometime between 98 and 117. He was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist along with his friend and fellow martyr, Polycarp and succeeded St. Evodius as the bishop of Antioch. According to some early authorities he was appointed by St. Peter himself. In the ninth year of his reign, the emperor of Trajan ordered Christians to worship the gods with pagans with the penalty being death for those who refused. Ignatius was at the forefront of the effort to keep the Church together and strong in the face of organized persecution paying special attention to the weakest among the faithful. When his efforts came to the attention of the authorities, he was arrested and brought before the emperor who at that time was in Syria. He was condemned and sent to Rome to be fed to wild beasts in the circus.

During the course of that trip to Rome he wrote at least six letters to various churches and one to his fellow bishop Polycarp which have managed to survive down to this present day. These letters are very important for the Catholic and Anglican understanding of the Church. Indeed, it is one of these letters that the very word "catholic" (according to the whole) is used for the first time. Ignatius also first uses the word "Eucharist" for the service of Holy Communion as well as setting out the tripartite division of the Christian ministry as bishop, priests and deacons. And this relates directly to The Preface in our Anglican Ordinal which states that these orders have existed "from the Apostles' time." It from Ignatius, the disciple of St. John, that we first learn this.

There is also an Anglican involvement in these texts. The seven authentic letters in time were joined by six entirely fraudulent ones. Even the authentic letter became larded with material by latter writers who were attempting to use the saints name and reputation to forward their views on later theological issue. In the thirteenth century the scholarly bishop of Lincoln, Robert Grossteste, carefully edited the later material out in the most careful Latin translation of these works. In the seventeenth century Archbishop Ussher, the primate of Ireland discovered Grossteste's manuscript and published it in 1644.

Ignatius' writings like all of the apostolic fathers should be known to every Anglican in the Continuum. They, after the very apostles and evangelists themselves, are the real basis of the Anglican tradition.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


In the calendar of the English prayer book of 1662 December 16 has this cryptic entry. It is the opening two words for the antiphon for the Magnificat in the Sarum and other pre-Reformation orders of vespers. In the Roman rite this antiphon is found on 17 December but the sequence of antiphons follows the same order as that in the Sarum office with the exception that Sarum had an additional "Great O" not found in the continental rites. What most Anglicans don't know is that this antiphon and those following it go back to the fifth century. We know this because Boethius (480 - 524/5) makes a passing reference to same as if everyone reading him would understand the allusion. The question for prayer book Anglicans is why when so much of the ancient rites were suppressed that the calendar should contain this quite unexplained reference?

It is almost as if there were a secret wish for it to be revived and with the Oxford Movement and its aftermath this has occurred in the English Church. It began with the monastic revival and books like The Day Hours of the Church of England. These books were essentially translations of the Sarum office book which had received these antiphons as part of the common heritage of the Western Church. Further when the Rev'd G. H. Palmer translated the Sarum Diurnal for the use of the Community of St Mary the Virgin at Wantage, he also set the antiphons to their ancient music so even though the words were now in English the tune would be the same. Consequently for the days that the Great O's were sung, the Magnificat would be sung to the solemn version of tone II with the second ending. This is one of the most beautiful of the solemn tones which anciently were always used for both the Magnificat and the Benedictus. They are, as one might imagine, slightly more elaborate than the simple versions of the same tone.

There is another interesting thing about the Great O's. If one uses only the Roman version of them. reading backwards from the last to the first, a Latin phrase is formed, "ero cras" - tomorrow I will come. This is the essential promise of the Advent season and the thread that is woven from all of the biblical texts referenced in the words of the antiphons themselves. In the case of O Sapientia the following verses are evoked in the text: Isa. 11. 2,3; Isa. 28.29; Sirach 24.3; and Wisdom 8.1.

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, * which camest out of the mouth of the most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things : Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Monday, December 13, 2010

St. Lucy of Syracuse, Virgin and Martyr

The American Church with its attempt to reconcile the traditions and prejudices of both high and low Anglicans failed to produce its own black letter calendar of feasts or to incorporate that of either of its mother churches. On the other hand it provided a proper for the feast of a saint other than those of the Red Letter days in its calendar and also lessons and proper psalms for evening and morning prayer for various types of saints for whom parishes or missions might be named. It thus, strangely, attempts to have things both ways to the satisfaction of neither party. Indeed, by so doing, it has created and sided with a party of its own and encouraged the very thing which St Paul has written that we should banish, i.e., the spirit of party itself. It has tried to pretend that it has no need for the celebration of the saints and thus of the doctrine of the communion of saints while celebrating the feasts of those disciples of our Lord listed in the New Testament as being his apostles. Unfortunately this has resulted in the very pattern of prayer book worship itself being violated and one of the most important of our Lord's commandments to his apostles and disciples being, for all practical purposes, rejected.

The prayer book intends that the historical pattern of Christian worship that existed from sub apostolic days until the Reformation should be continued. That meant that in any place where there was a church or chapel the priest or other minister in charge was to say daily the morning and evening offices of the Church with the Eucharist being celebrated on all Sundays and other holy days for which the prayer book provided propers, that is to say a collect, epistle and gospel or indicated by rubric that such celebration was appropriate. This provision is found by our low churchmen to be very offensive in that if they acted in obedience to the prayer book as they promised at their ordination, they would appear to be doing what ministers of the Roman Church do. It does not matter that this is what our Lord and his apostles and evangelists ordered and that the entirety of the Church did from Pentecost till the continental reformation (if it can be called that) for no other reason Romans, whatever their other failings, continue to do it. On that ground, you would also expect them to give up their belief that Jesus is "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God" and our savior simply because the Roman Church continues to believe that also.

So be it!

But there is a reason for some of these missing black letter days in they point us to those movable feasts and fast which still retain a place in the prayer book calendar such as the Ember Days. St Lucy's feast is one of those as it occurs on the 13th of December and the Advent Ember Days are ordered to be kept on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after. The next question is will they have remember to announce these fast days and the reason for them on the Sunday previous and will they actually provide so much as a single communion service on any of the three days when we, the Church, are supposed to pray that God will send us a proper supply of men to be deacons, priests and bishops in the next generation. And if they, the deacons, priests and bishops in this day and time don't, will there be faithful lay men and women who will take up their prayer books and bibles and say the offices privately so that the Church's work may be done?

I would like to hear from those where it was done and also from those where the clergy neglected it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Glastonbury Thorn

It is very sad to report that last night vandals cut down the Glastonbury Thorn. This tree, Middle Eastern in origin, has been a symbol of the earliest Christianity in Britain for centuries. As of yet there are no clues to the motive or to the identity of the vandals who destroyed it.