Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Linsley On What Is A Priest?

I have received permission from Alice Linsley to republish a few of her post on Just Genesis which have to do with the question of priesthood. The reason that I am doing this is the assertion of the Free Church of England which claims to be Anglican that those ordained after the Anglican rites are priests only in the sense St. Peter's "a royal priesthood" and not in the sense of the ancient bishops and Catholic fathers. In short, according to their claim, members of the ancient Christian ministry are really no more than mere laymen, a view I believe completely in conflict with the Anglican Ordinals from the time of the English reformation and before. Cranmer and the Church of England could have used the words in the Latin pontificals, presbyter and presbyterate, but they did not and deliberately choice to use the words 'priest' and 'priesthood.'

What is a Priest?
Alice C. Linsley

The priesthood is verifiably the oldest known religious institution and appears to have originated in the Nile region. It is quite distinct from the other ancient religious office, that of the shaman. Underlying shamanism is the belief that spirits cause imbalance and disharmony in the world. The shaman’s role is to determine which spirits are at work in a given situation and to find ways to appease the spirits. This may or may not involve animal sacrifice. Underlying the priesthood is belief in a single supreme Spirit to whom humans must give an accounting, especially for the shedding of blood. In this view, one Great Spirit (God) holds the world in balance and it is human actions that cause disharmony. The vast assortment of ancient laws governing priestly ceremonies, sacrifices, and cleansing rituals clarifies the role of the priest as one who offers animal sacrifice according to sacred law. The priest was forbidden to consult the spirits of the ancestors as shamans do in trance states.

Priests are intermediaries between the Creator and the community, not between the spirits and the community. Both offices are intermediary, but their worldviews are quite different. When sickness, sudden death, or a great calamity such as flooding or plague affects the community, the shaman investigates the cause and seeks to balance benevolent and malevolent energies. When the community served by the priest experiences hardship, deprivation and loss, the priest calls the people to repentance and seeks to restore the community to the peace of God. In ancient times, this sometimes meant seeking out the offenders by using the binary system of divination represented by the Urim and Thummim. These represent numerous binary sets. The urim would have a number of associations which would be assigned the opposite meaning with the thummim. Using these tools involved more than yes-no questions. It involved deriving meaning from the directional poles, gender, numbers and reversals. The morehs or ancient prophets apparently used the same approach when rendering counsel such as that given to Abraham by the moreh at the Oak of Mamre (Gen. 12:6).

Despite what feminists and politically-correct academics might say, the priestly role was from the beginning the work of a select group of men (a caste, actually) whose devotion to the worship of the Creator involved, by today's standards, extreme asceticism. Contrary to the position of the Roman Church, these men were married and enjoyed sexual relations with their wives. However they abstained from sex, shaved their bodies, fasted and entered periods of intense prayer in preparation for their time of service at the temple or shrine. They were known for their purity of life.

A survey of the world's religions helps us to understand the uniqueness of the priesthood. Shinto "priests" are really shamans, not priests. Priestesses of ancient Greek were really mediums or seers, not priests. Anthropologically, the priesthood is defined by the caste of ruler-priests known as Horites. These were Abraham's people and their idea of the priest was closely aligned to their understanding of blood as both potentially contaminating and potentially purifying.

The unique nature of the priesthood is inextricably linked to the nature of God. God is the first priest (Gen. 3:21) and the priesthood, like God, is eternal. This is what stands behind the biblical references to Melchizedek, of whose ruler-priest line came the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our great High Priest who promises in the Book of Revelation to be with us always.

The Horite Ruler-priests are Jesus Christ's Ancestors

Analysis of the kinship pattern of Abraham's people, using the genealogical information in the Bible, indicates that the ruler-priests married two wives. These lived in separate settlements on a north-south axis. So Sarah resided in Hebron and Keturah to the south in Beersheba.

In his youth, the ruler-designate married his half-sister, as did Abraham with Sarah. Before ascending to the throne, he married his second wife, a patrilineal cousin or niece, as did Abraham with Keturah. The cousin wife named her first-born son after her father, a pattern which begins in Genesis 4 and can be traced to the priestly lines of Joachim (Mary's father) and Mattai, the patriarch of Joseph's line. The pattern of ruler-priests having two wives disappeared among Jews with the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D.

The origins of the faith of Christ, the Son of God, came to Abraham, not as special revelation, but as a tradition received from his forefathers. The distinctive traits of this tradition align remarkable well with the key features of catholic faith and practice:

Male ruler-priests who were mediators between God and the community
A binary (versus dualistic) worldview
Blood sacrifice at altars (sometimes falcon-shaped) for propitiation and atonement
Expectation of the appearing of the Son of God in the flesh
God's will on earth as in heaven - interpreted by morehs (prophets)
Belief in an eternal and undivided Kingdom delivered by the Father to the Son.

Because of God's promise in Eden, Abraham and his ancestors lived in expectation of the Son of God and taught their children to do so. Their priestly lines intermarried exclusively in expectation that the Seed of the Woman would come of their priestly lines. The Edenic Promise was a central belief of the Horite family-tribal tradition. They believed that the son would be born of the chosen Woman (not called Eve in Gen. 3:15). They believed that he would be killed by his own brother and that he would live again.

The Virgin Birth is one of many signs that the One born to Mary is the Son of God. This is not about the birth of the Sun at the winter solstice. This is not a reworking of the Egyptian tale of Horus. The Horus archetype provides the pattern whereby Abraham's descendants would recognize Messiah. It points us to the Virgin who gave birth to the Son of God under humble circumstances. In the Horus myth, Hat-Hor gives birth in a cave. In Orthodoxy, icons of the Nativity show the Theotokos with the newly born Christ in a cave.

Christianity is an organic religion that emerges out of a belief that God made a promise in Eden and that He has been busy fulfilling that promise in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The core of Christianity can be traced to the beliefs of Abraham and his ancestors. It predates all the great world religions. Christianity isn't original, but what it lacks in originality it makes up for in great antiquity, and herein rests its authority.

The Christian Priest

The Christian priest stands at altar as the person of Christ at the Last Supper. He also represents the Father, by whose faith his spiritual children are offered up through the Spirit. The Christian priesthood is thoroughly Trinitarian.

I'd like to challenge the prevalent idea that the Last Supper must be understood as a Passover meal. We, with Isaac, should ask "But where is the lamb?" (Gen. 22:7)

It may be that the best context for understanding the Last Supper is neither the passover meal nor the chaburah meal, but the events that unfolded on Mount Moriah. There was no lamb, only the Father and the Son. After the offering up of the Son, a ram appears. The ram is the lamb come to full strength and maturity. Among Abraham's ancestors the lamb-ram sequence was associated with the rising and setting of the Sun, the symbol of the Creator. The temporal sacred center was noon, a time of no shadows. (James says He is the Father of Lights in whom there is no shadow.) The spatial sacred center was the mountain top, between heaven and earth. Perhaps the Last Supper is the sacred center where we meet God about to cross over to redoubled strength, destroying death by His death.

In relation to the sun, Horus was said to rise in the morning as a lamb or calf and to set in the evening as a ram or bull. When Abraham bound his Issac, believing perhaps that he was the Lamb of God, a ram was provided in Issac's place. To Abraham the Horite this would have meant that his offering was accepted. It would also have meant that Isaac was not the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham's ancestors in Genesis 3:15. Isaac was not the "Seed" of the Woman who would make the curse of death void, crush the serpent's head, and restore Paradise. That promise was to be fulfilled in the future, just as the ram was associated with the western horizon, the direction of the future.
On the third day Father Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off (Gen. 22:4) and again he lifted up his eyes and he saw a ram (Gen. 22:13).

St. Paul says, "For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that He would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith." (Rom. 4:13)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

JUNE - An American Anglican Calendar

1. ROGATION WEDNESDAY - St. Nicomede, P.M. - White
6. St. Boniface, B.M. d. 755 (Transfered) - White
9. St. Columba, Abbot of Iona, d. 597 - White
10. St. Margaret of Scotland, Queen, d. 1093 - White
11. SAINT BARNABAS, AP, M. - White
12. PENTECOST - Whitsunday - White
13. WHITMONDAY - White
20. Translation of Edward, King of the West Saxons, #nglish 1662, Red
St. Fillan, Abbot & Confessor, d. c. 750 Scots' 1929
22. St. Alban, M., d 202 - Red
25. St. Moluag, B of Lismore, C.d.c. 592 Scots - Blue
28. St Irenaeus, B of Lyons, Doctor, d. c. 202 - Green

The feasts and other days listed in all capital letters have propers in the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer. The other feasts are taken from the English and Scots' prayer books. The colors listed are those from the magisterial English Liturgical Colours by Sir William St. John Hope and E. G. Cuthbert F. Atchley and the Alcuin Club's Directory of Ceremonial, Vol. I. The use of any others - and those most likely to be used by those of us in the Continuum - will be those ordered in the 1570 missal of Pius V, the same bishop of Rome who excommunicated Elizabeth I. Those who do so believe themselves to be more Catholic than the rest of us almost precisely because they believe the Roman See to be the font of all things truly Catholic.

Unfortunately those who do so fail to realize that they are directly responsible for the current crisis in the Continuum in which the Australian primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion is attempting to lead Anglicans into the clutches of the Roman Church. They truly believe that their actions are simply a matter of taste, but the truth remains that the human animal is always learning something, be it good or bad, and in this case it is that things Roman are to be preferred over all things Anglican. They deny it, of course, but their actions over the years speak much larger and louder than their words.

If we in the Continuum truly value Anglicanism and the whole of the prayer book tradition over the faith and practice of the Roman Church, we are going to have to match our actions to our words. We are going to have to tell both our own people and others that we are not some sort of Romanism lite, but an authentic expression of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church with our faith firmly planted in Holy Scripture as interpreted by the earliest bishops and Catholic fathers, the three creeds and teachings of the earliest of the general and universally accepted Councils.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Oldest Eucharistic Canon

This is a post which I have long intended to make, but simply disthered because of the Latin, but after comparing my own translation to two which I found upon the web, I have decided that I can no longer delay with it. The reason I am doing this is so that ordinary Anglicans will gain a view of what we can know of the earliest Church.

When it comes to the the service of Holy Communion we know first what we find in the Bible, especially the New Testament. We have the gospel narratives and what St Paul has written about it. The next thing we have is what in the writings of St. Justin Martyr but even that narrative is very bare. Following that we have the liturgies which we now regard as historic, the liturgy of St James, St Basil and St. John Chysostom, Then there is the Roman canon which came to dominate the Latin liturgies of the West but whose theology is less that clear. The experts believe its origin to have been Syrian rather than Roman with the various paragraphs having been rearranged in an order modeled after that of Alexandria.

But what follows is the Verona fragment which is the oldest known liturgical canon. Some experts date it as early third century. But as the Right Reverend Walter Howard Frere, CR, pointed out in his study of it, phrases taken from it appeared in a number of later liturgies. It may seem strange to us in that it lacks a proper preface and the Sanctus. Those items entered the liturgy later. Consequently it is short, direct and sober.

Illi vere offerant diacones oblationem, quique imponens manus in eam cum omni presbyterio decat gratias agens

Dominus vobiscum.
Et omnes decant Et cum Spiritu tuo.

Sursum corda ;

Habemus ad dominam.

Gratias agamus domino ;

Dignum et justum est.

Et sic iam prosequatur,

Gratias tibi referimus, deus, per dilectum puerum tuum Jesum Christum Quem in ultimis temporibus Misisti nobis salvatorem et redemptorum et angelum voluntatis tuae : Qui est verbum tuum inseparabilem, per quem omnia fecisti, et bene placitum tibi fuit ; misisti de caelo in matricem virginis Quique in utero habitus incarnatus est, ex spiritu sancto et virgine natus ;

Qui volumtatem tuam complens, et populum sanctum tibi adquirens, extendit manus, cum pateretur, ut a passione liberaret eos qui in te crediderunt : Qui cumque traderetur uoluntariae passioni, ut mortem saluat , et vincula diaboli dirumpat, et infernum calcet, et justos illuminet, et terminum figat, et resurrectionem manifestet, accipiens,penem, gratias tibi agens, dixit; Accipite, manducate, Hoc est corpus
meum quod pro vobis confringetur : Similiter et calicem, dicens ; Hic est sanguis meus qui pro vobis effunditur quando hoc facitis, meam commemorationem facitis.

Memores igitur mortis et resurrectionis Eius, Offerimus tibi panem et calicem, gratias tibi agentes, quia nos dignos habuisti adstare coram te et tibi ministare, Et petimus ut mittas spiritum tuum sanctum in oblationem sanctae ecclesiae ; in unum congregans des omnibus qui percipiunt sanctis in repletionem spiritus sancti, ad confirmationem fidei in veritate, ut te laudemus et glorificemus ; per puerum tuum Iesum Christum, per quem tibe gloria et honor, patri et filio cum sancto spiritu, in sancta ecclesia tua, et nunc et in saecula saeculorum. Amen."

We return thanks to you, O God, through your beloved son, Jesus Christ, whom you have sent in these last days to be for us a savior and redeemer and a messenger of your will, who is your inseparable word, through whom you made all things and who was well pleasing to you. You sent him down from heaven into the womb of the virgin, and who, held in the womb, was incarnate and was shown to be a son to you, born of the Holy Spirit and the virgin. Who accomplishing your will and acquiring for you a holy people, he stretched out his hands when he was extended so that by his passion he liberated those who have believed in you. Who, when he was handed over to a voluntary passion so that he would dissolve death and shatter the chains of the devil, and (so that) he would trample hell and illuminate the righteous, and fix a boundary and manifest his ressurrection, taking bread and giving thanks he said - "take, eat, this is my body which is broken on your behalf." Likewise the cup, saying "This is my blood which is poured out on your behalf. As often as you do this, you do it in my commenoration."

Therefore mindful of his death and resurrection, we offer to you (this) bread and cup, giving thanks to you because you have held us worthy to stand before you and serve you.

And we ask that you would send your Holy Spirit into the offering of the holy church gathering as one; may you give to all who partake in these these sacred (mysteries) over into a filling up of the Holy Spirit for strengthing in the true faith so that we may praise you and glorify you through your son, Jesus Christ, through whom to you be glory and honor - to the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit, in your holy church now and forever and ever. Amen."

What struck me when reading after many years was that it was as direct as the canon of the 1552 prayer book, a tradition which continued in the English books through that of 1662. It gives thanks, it offers and it invokes the Holy Spirit and that in almost the sparest language possible. Its theology of consecration is that of the Eastern canons which to become that first of the non-jurors and then the Scottish Episcopal Church before being incorporated into the American prayer book. The point which it should bring home to all of us who call ourselves Anglicans is that the purpose of the English Reformation, the restoration of the faith and practice of the Church of the apostles and the earliest bishops and fathers, has succeded in a manner greater than most of us have realized. That means that when we fully use the prayer book liturgy we are able to do what the Church in the book of Acts said it was doing, continuing "stedfastly in the Apostles doctrine and communion, the breaking of bread and prayers."

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.