Resources for Good Friday

These are resources meant mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, but others may find them helpful!

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Christ on the Cross, made in Tirol or Salzburg (Austria), ca. 1125-1150, now in the the Fuentiduena Chapel in the Cloisters, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York NY

Read/Listen

In the western Christian tradition (Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and others) the core of the Good Friday Liturgy is the reading or chanting of the Passion according to John.

The Passion is chanted in English by Kevin Vogel, a Roman Catholic priest in Nebraska, in this Youtube video.

St Thomas Kirche

St. Thomas Church (Thomaskirche), Leipzig

If you want a musical version in German you might listen in to Bach’s St. John’s Passion, which is being live-streamed from Bach’s church in Leipzig where it premiered in 1724. Details are on this page, and the live stream will be on their Facebook page.  It starts at 3:00 PM CEST, which, of course, is 4:00 PM EEST in Greece, 9:00 am EDT in Ottawa, and 6:00 am PDT in Victoria.

Arvo Pärt set the Passion in Latin translation to music in 1989. I find it particularly powerful.

 

The full readings for Good Friday are here.

stations-of-the-cross

From the Stations of the Cross by artist Chris Woods, originally in St. David of Wales Anglican Church in Vancouver.

Pray

After the reading of the Passion according to John, the next most important part are the prayers, which come in two parts. First, the Reproaches, or an anthem of penitence, punctuated by the Trisagion. Common Worship from the Church of England has a form of it here, but I confess I prefer the version used by the Anglican Church of Canada in my old Diocese of British Columbia. Here it is:

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow
which was brought upon me,
which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger.
Holy God, holy and mighty,
holy and immortal one, have mercy upon us.

O my people, O my Church,
What have I done to you,
or in what have I offended you?
Testify against me.
I led you forth from the land of Egypt,
and delivered you by the waters of baptism,
but you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
Holy God, holy and mighty,
holy and immortal one, have mercy upon us.

I led you through the desert forty years,
and fed you with manna.
I brought you through tribulation and penitence,
and gave you my body, the bread of heaven,
but you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
Holy God, holy and mighty,
holy and immortal one, have mercy upon us.

What more could I have done for you that I have not done?
I planted you, my chosen and fairest vineyard,
I made you the branches of my vine;
but when I was thirsty, you gave me vinegar to drink,
and pierced with a spear the side of your Saviour.
Holy God, holy and mighty,
holy and immortal one, have mercy upon us.

Celebrant:  I went before you in a pillar of cloud,
and you have led me to the judgement hall of Pilate.
I scourged your enemies and brought you to a land of freedom,
but you have scourged, mocked, and beaten me.
I gave you the water of salvation from the rock,
but you have given me gall and left me to thirst.
Holy God, holy and mighty,
holy and immortal one, have mercy upon us.

I gave you a royal sceptre,
and bestowed the keys to the kingdom,
but you have given me a crown of thorns.
I raised you on high with great power,
but you have hanged me on the cross.
Holy God, holy and mighty,
holy and immortal one, have mercy upon us.

My peace I gave, which the world cannot give,
and washed your feet as a sign of my love,
but you draw the sword to strike in my name,
and seek high places in my kingdom.
I offered you my body and blood,
but you scatter and deny and abandon me.
Holy God, holy and mighty,
holy and immortal one, have mercy upon us.

I sent the Spirit of truth to guide you,
and you close your hearts to the Counsellor.
I pray that all may be as one in the Father and me,
but you continue to quarrel and divide.
I call you to go and bring forth fruit,
but you cast lots for my clothing.
Holy God, holy and mighty,
holy and immortal one, have mercy upon us.

I grafted you into the tree of my chosen Israel,
and you turned on them with persecution and mass murder.
I made you joint heirs with them of my covenants,
but you made them scapegoats for your own guilt.
Holy God, holy and mighty,
holy and immortal one, have mercy upon us.

I came to you as the least of your brothers and sisters;
I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was a stranger and you did not welcome me,
naked and you did not clothe me,
sick and in prison and you did not visit me.
Holy God, holy and mighty,
holy and immortal one, have mercy upon us.

The second part of the prayers are the Solemn Intercessions, which can be found here; you’ll need to scroll down to The Prayers of Intercession.

Reflect

I wrote a reflection last year on Good Friday on George Herbert’s A Dialogue-Anthem.

I also wrote a meditation on the reading from Isaiah 52.13-53.12.

Last year Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, with others, created a series of short podcasts on the stations of the Cross.

Hymns

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Resources for Maundy Thursday 2020

These are resources meant mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, but others may find them helpful!

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Ο Νιπτήρ O Niptir The Washbasin – the Icon of Maundy Thursday, when Jesus served his disciples by washing their feet. This icon hangs in our kitchen, and was a gift to me from my Beloved.

As Common Worship puts it:

Maundy Thursday (from mandatum, ‘commandment’, because of the use of John 13.34 in the Antiphon) contains a rich complex of themes: humble Christian service expressed through Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet, the institution of the Eucharist, the perfection of Christ’s loving obedience through the agony of Gethsemane.

On this Maundy Thursday 2020 I planned to meet with members of the congregation and visitors around a dinner table at the Tabernacle, where we normally gather for worship. Last year we did this, and it looked like this:

Well, not this year. In its place here are some resources you may wish to use to mark the day.

Readings

The readings for Maundy Thursday may be found here.

Prayers

Home Liturgies
The Diocese in Europe has sent us this resource, which can be downloaded and used as an agape liturgy over bread and wine. It is not communion, but it is an echo of it. Agape Order of Service Alternatively, one might use this order for a Spiritual Communion. spiritual-communion-2.

The Collect
Let us pray that we may love one another as Christ has loved us.
Silence is kept.

God our Father,
you have invited us to share in the supper
which your Son gave to his Church
to proclaim his death until he comes:
may he nourish us by his presence,
and unite us in his love;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

God our Father,
your Son Jesus Christ was obedient to the end
and drank the cup prepared for him:
may we who share his table
watch with him through the night of suffering
and be faithful. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession
In the power of the Spirit let us pray to the Father
through Christ the saviour of the world.

Father, on this, the night he was betrayed,
your Son Jesus Christ washed his disciples’ feet.
We commit ourselves to follow his example of love and service.
Lord, hear us and humble us.

On this night, he prayed for his disciples to be one.
We pray for the unity of your Church.
Lord, hear us and unite us.

On this night, he prayed for those who were to believe through his disciples’ message.
We pray for the mission of your Church.
Lord, hear us and renew our zeal.

On this night, he commanded his disciples to love,
but suffered rejection himself.
We pray for the rejected and unloved.
Lord, hear us and fill us with your love.

On this night, he reminded his disciples
that if the world hated them it hated him first.
We pray for those who are persecuted for their faith.
Lord, hear us and give us your peace.

On this night, he accepted the cup of death
and looked forward to the new wine of the kingdom.
We remember those who have died in the peace of Christ.
Lord, hear us and welcome all your children into paradise.

Reflections

Father Leonard Doolan of St Paul’s, Athens has recorded a meditation for Maundy Thursday:

In modern times Maundy Thursday has been a day during which clergy would gather with their bishop and renew their ordination vows; we in the Diocese in Europe will be doing this this year via Zoom with Bishop Robert Innes. Last year on Maundy Thursday I reflected on being a priest in this blog on George Herbert’s poem The Priesthood.

Hymns

 

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Resources for Palm Sunday 2020

These are resources meant mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, but others may find them helpful!
The Diocese of Europe featured us in their website news this past week – you can read all about it here.

Being alone on Sundays is becoming the short-term normal. It feels strange not to gather for Holy Week. But we are still the Church, so what can we do? We can still read, reflect, pray, and share.

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The Collects for Palm Sunday

Almighty and everlasting God,
who in your tender love towards the human race
sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh
and to suffer death upon the cross:
grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility,
and also be made partakers of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

True and humble king,
hailed by the crowd as Messiah:
grant us the faith to know you and love you,
that we may be found beside you on the way of the cross,
which is the path of glory. Amen.

Read (or Listen to) The Lessons for Palm Sunday

The Entry into Jerusalem

The Gospel Reading for the Procession
Psalm 118, which might be chanted in procession.

A post I did a little while ago about Psalm 118.

Readings for the Sunday of the Passion

The Reading from the Hebrew Scripture is Isaiah 40.5-9a.
The psalm is Psalm 31:9-16.
The Reading from the New Testament is Philippians 2.5-11 .

The Passion according to Matthew

You can read the text of the Passion here, or listen to it below,

In the Lutheran Church in Germany in the 18th century people gathered in churches to listen and participate in musical versions of the Passion. This is the origin of one of the greatest pieces of classical music, Johann Sebastien Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion (1727), and you can listen to it below (it is about three hours long). The text, in German with an English translation, can be found here

Reflect

Our curate and deacon, the Rev’d Julia Bradshaw, has written a sermon for this Palm Sunday, and you can download a copy by clicking at the right. With palms and scattered garment strowed.

Fr Leonard Doolan of St Paul’s Athens has made available his sermon in both text and audio.
Text: Palm Sunday 2020 Sermon
Audio:

Last year I preached this Sermon.

Pray

Prayers appointed for Palm Sunday

We stand with Christ in his suffering.
For forgiveness for the many times we have denied Jesus,
let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For grace to seek out those habits of sin which mean spiritual death,
and by prayer and self-discipline to overcome them,
let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For Christian people,
that through the suffering of disunity there may grow a rich union in Christ,
let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For those who make laws, interpret them, and administer them,
that our common life may be ordered in justice and mercy,
let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For those who still make Jerusalem a battleground,
let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For those who have the courage and honesty to work openly for justice and peace,
let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For those in the darkness and agony of isolation,
that they may find support and encouragement,
let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For those who, weighed down with hardship, failure, or sorrow,
feel that God is far from them,
let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For those who are tempted to give up the way of the cross,
let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

That we, with those who have died in faith, may find mercy in the day of Christ,
let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

The Trisagion
Holy God, holy and strong, holy and immortal,
have mercy upon us.

 

Prayers in a Time of Pandemic

There are liturgies and prayers on the Coronavirus pages of the Church of England, and also the Diocese in Europe. This one is very good, and was borrowed by Bishop David Hamid from the Jesuits USA.

Jesus Christ, you travelled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.” At your command, the sick were made well. Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love.

Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.

Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbours from helping one another.

Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders. Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.

Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace.

Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your peace.

Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.

Be with the leaders of all nations. Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve. Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks. May they know your peace, as they work together to achieve it on earth.

Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your peace. Amen.

Share

In this chaplaincy (i.e. parish, congregation) we are sharing by e-mail, social media, and the telephone. Please keep doing so!

We also may gather with others outside the chaplaincy by video and live-streaming. Here are some options:

Facebook Video Stream at 11:00 am EEST Greek time (9:00 am BST): Building on the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of York’s weekly broadcasts which have engaged a large audience, the Palm Sunday broadcast has been recorded by the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, and the Archdeacon of Manchester, Ven Karen Lund, with Lucy Hargraves from St Peter’s Church in Bolton leading prayers, all from their own homes.

Holy Trinity, Corfu has a link to their Palm Sunday worship. This appears to be a prerecorded service.

Holy Trinity Geneva is doing a service with a Zoom Conference. at 10:30 am CEST (11:30 am EEST, our time here in Greece).

Through Holy Week

The Venerable Dr. Leslie Nathaniel, Archdeacon of the East and of Germany and Northern Europe, has passed on these simple service for prayer During Holy Week; they were devised by Fr Louis Darrant, Chaplain to St Christopher’s Anglican Church on the Costa Azahar in Spain. It is a downloadable PDF: Praying at home in Holy Week.

 

 

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Passion in Exile

A Sermon that was NOT preached on Passion Sunday (The Fifth Sunday of Lent) during
The Great Pandemic of 2020,
at
The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
on

March 29, 2020 11:00 am

The readings for this day are Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130, Romans 8:6-11, and John 11:1-45.

The Bones

Mortal, can these bones live? Ezekiel 37.3

Just as Wolfgang the Wolf wondered if the olive tree would come back, so the prophet Ezekiel is asked if the dry bones would live again. The dry bones are a metaphor for the people of Judea who were in exile in Babylon.  Would the people of Israel would ever return home to Jerusalem and Judea?  Would they ever rebuild the Temple?  Would the Judeans survive as a distinct people?

Ezekiel lived in the first half of the 6th century BCE. He was an adult and a priest in Jerusalem when the Neo-Babylonians came and besieged it in 597 BCE. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered the city, and King Jehoiakim of Judah appears to have died in the siege. His son and heir, Jeconiah, along with the elite and perahps some ten thousand other Judeans were deported to Babylon. as well, the Temple of Solomon was emptied of its treasures. Jehoiakim’s brother and Jeconiah’s uncle, Zedekiah, was appointed king by Nebuchadnezzar, although he ruled over only the poorest of the people who remained. While in exile in Babylon Ezekiel began to have his visions. Ten years after the first seige and conquest Zedekiah revolted, and Nebuchadnezzer again came and took Jerusalem by force. This time he destroyed the Temple, tore down the walls, and ravaged the city, driving out the survivors from the city. Zedekiah watched as his sons were executed, and then he was blinded and taken as a prisoner to Babylon, where he eventually died. Even more people were taken into exile in Babylon. The House of David and Judea seemed to come to an end.

It was reasonable for Ezekiel to despair. The practice of moving populations around, and cutting a people off from their educated upper class, was common in the ancient Middle East. The Assyrians had done the same with the northern Kingdom of Israel, removing the people from Samaria and placing them in various centres far to the east, in what is now Iraq and Iran. We hear of Israelites being recruited by the Assyrians for their armies after their deportation, but after that they disappear from history, presumably being assimilated into the peoples surrounding them.

The Judeans, the last of the people of Israel, seemed as good as dead. They were suffering, And yet Ezekiel had hope, a hope that was given to him in the vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones. “Can these bones live?”

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“Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Ezekiel 37.4-10

Ezekiel is told that “these bones are the whole house of Israel”. Just as they came together and lived and breathed, so would Israel live again – a hope that was later fulfilled after the Babylonians were defeated by the Persians and Cyrus the Great told the Judeans they could go home.

Of course, the vision of bones coming to life may also be a vision of the Resurrection – the coming to life of the dead to receive judgement from God. This feeds into the Gospel reading, where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead as a preliminary to his own resurrection. We are not given the sense that Lazarus is raised to eternal life – but that he was dead and now lives is a prefiguring of Jesus and a witness to who he is.

Dem Bones

This vision was interpreted as hope by another people who were also suffering a long passion.  In the 1920s an African-American writer and songwriter namedJames Weldon Johnson recalled how the Black preachers of his youth preached on Ezekiel 37, not just as a text about the resurrection, but about the rebirth and rising of a people sore oppressed; what the Judeans were in the 6th Century BCE the African-Americans were from the 17th to 20th century in America. He wrote the lyrics and melody which then went through various interpretations. While often reduced to being a child’s tune and stripped of any deep meaning, Gospel singer Albertina Walker took it back to its inspiring roots in the version here from 1972.

Her (perhaps improvised) lyrics at the end are fascinating:

We got some deacons in our church, sure ain’t nothin’ but a dry bone.
We got some mothers in our church, sure ain’t nothin’ but a dry bone.
We got some preachers in our church, sure ain’t nothin’ but a dry bone.
Come on and hear the word, hear ye! C’mon and hear ye the word of the Lord!

A Vast Multitude

Today we are required, under penalty of fine and possible arrest, not to gather in our churches, and to remain in our homes except for essential reasons. We might feel we are in a kind of exile, forbidden to meet for meals and coffee, prohibited from our usual activities, needing a permit just to walk the dog, and required even to refrain from gathering for worship. For many of us this raises all kinds of concerns for our church here and beyond. In an era when church attendance is already in decline, this is all quite inconvenient.

Of course, for some, it is more than an inconvenience. Those of us with health issues or are above a certain age are more likely to become very ill, and the mortality rate is frightening. The pandemic does not spare prime ministers and princes, and even the healthy can succumb to it. Many of our friends and relatives are incapable of working, or have to find new ways of accomplishing their tasks; people are spending all their time on internet video conferences, trying to teach, meeting with students, and carrying on as if this is all quite usual. People’s investments are in freefall, and the value of pensions, paid in sterling but spent in euros, is going down. Children are home from school, and families are spending more time together than they are used to, and not surprisingly, tensions are rising. Frontline workers are stressed, wondering if they are overexposed to infection.

Can these bones live? Even in this exile we can still have some hope. In the United Kingdom people are applauding the NHS. In my home country of Canada people are practicing radical “caremongering”, a spontaneous  effort to ensure that everyone is alright and has what they need. The Church has rediscovered the fact that it exists even when it is not in the building or carrying on its liturgies.

Screenshot 2020-03-27 at 11.55.47 AM

Dave Walker’s Cartoon in this week’s Church Times

Just as an olive tree recovers from a severe pruning, so we will come back. The pandemic will end. The economy will roar back. Greece will get back to tourism and great food. And the Church will come together, and these dry bones will once again stand up and put on flesh.

As we suffer the indignities of this pandemic, let us not forget the promises of God. Hear the word of the Lord!

A Note on the Calendar: In the liturgical tradition of the Western Church (Roman Catholic, Anglican Lutherans, and others) this was commonly known from Medieval times as “Passion Sunday“. It was a time in Lent when various practices began, such as veiling the crosses in the church. In the liturgical renewal that began of the 1960s, and was implemented in the reforms of Vatican II in the Catholic Church, and in many provinces of the Anglican Communion, it was felt that this name properly belonged to the Sunday before Easter, as it was the traditional day on which one of the synoptic gospel passions would be read. In the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church in the United States this Sunday, then, is simply called “The Sunday of the Passion”. In the Church of England there is a desire to adhere to the older tradition, and this time is known as Passiontide – the week leading to and including Holy Week. There is a consequence shift in the practices in Lent in the resources of Common Worship.

 

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Prayer Resources for Passion Sunday in the Great Pandemic, March 29, 2020

WLANL_-_Techdiva_1.0_-_De_opwekking_van_Lazarus_(naar_Rembrandt),_Vincent_van_Gogh_(1890)

The Raising of Lazarus (after Rembrandt) by Vincent van Gogh 1890 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands. According to the wikipedia article, “In The Raising of Lazarus (after Rembrandt), van Gogh drastically trimmed the composition of Rembrandt’s etching and eliminated the figure of Christ, thus focusing on Lazarus and his sisters. It is speculated that in their countenances may be detected the likenesses of the artist and his friends Augustine Rouline and Marie Ginoux. Van Gogh had just recovered from a lengthy episode of illness, and he may have identified with the miracle of the biblical resurrection, whose “personalities are the characters of my dreams.””

Good Saturday afternoon from the village of Gavalohori, on the island of Crete, in the beautiful Republic of Greece. While we are under lockdown the Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, will not be able to meet, so I will be presenting a variety of resources for prayer the day before each Sunday or Holy Day. Some of these are written in full here, others are links to other websites that look useful.

I am working my way through the congregational list, checking in on folk and seeing how you are all doing. I am joined in this  by our deacon and curate, Julia Bradshaw. If you have any concerns or prayer requests, please let us know. You can reach me by phone at +30 69855 70353 or by email at bbryantscott@gmail.com .

Readings & Published Sermon

The appointed readings for Passion Sunday are Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130, Romans 8:6-11, and John 11:1-45. Just click on the link and it should bring them up.

My sermon for today – what I would have preached in church on this Sunday – can be found here.

A Hymn

When Jesus Wept, The Falling Tear is a lovely old hymn, new to me, which is connected to the gospel reading.

Live Stream

This Sunday I will join the people of Holy Trinity, Geneva, and the live stream via Zoom of their liturgy there. Remember that clocks go forward this weekend. They will have their service at 10:30 am CEST, which is 11:30 am EEST. The Zoom link is https://zoom.us/j/864442942  Meeting ID: 864 442 942. One click should get you in. Depending on your platform – computer, tablet, or smartphone – you may need to download the Zoom app. As well, you will need to enable audio and video on your computer. They request that you download the service sheet by going to the Holy Trinity website here.

Audio Files

Father Leonard Doolan of St. Paul’s, Athens has prepared an audio version of a short service of Morning Prayer, and a sermon for this Passion Sunday.

MORNING PRAYER:

SERMON:

Prayers For Passion Sunday

The Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, commonly called Passion Sunday

Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

Gracious Father,
you gave up your Son
out of love for the world:
lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion,
that we may know eternal peace
through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Intercessions from Common Worship, Times and Seasons:

H1

Let us bring to the Father our prayers of intercession
through Christ who gave himself for the life of the world.

For forgiveness for the many times we have denied Jesus,
let us pray to the Lord.     Lord, have mercy.

For grace to seek out those habits of sin which mean spiritual death,
and by prayer and self-discipline to overcome them,
let us pray to the Lord.     Lord, have mercy.

For Christian people, that through the suffering of disunity
there may grow a rich union in Christ,
let us pray to the Lord.     Lord, have mercy.

For those who make laws, interpret them, and administer them,
that our common life may be ordered in justice and mercy,
let us pray to the Lord.     Lord, have mercy.

For those who still make Jerusalem a battleground,
let us pray to the Lord.     Lord, have mercy.

For those who have the courage and honesty to work openly for justice and peace,
let us pray to the Lord.     Lord, have mercy.

For those in the darkness and agony of isolation,
that they may find support and encouragement,
let us pray to the Lord.     Lord, have mercy.

For those who, weighed down with hardship, failure, or sorrow,
feel that God is far from them,
let us pray to the Lord.     Lord, have mercy.

For those who are tempted to give up the way of the cross,
let us pray to the Lord.     Lord, have mercy.

That we, with those who have died in faith, may find mercy in the day of Christ,
let us pray to the Lord.     Lord, have mercy.

Holy God, holy and strong, holy and immortal,
have mercy upon us.

H2

Let us pray to the Father through his Son
who suffered on the cross for the world’s redemption.
Fill with your Spirit Christ’s broken body, the Church …
Give to Christian people everywhere a deep longing
to take up the cross and to understand its mysterious glory.
By the Saviour’s cross and passion,
Lord, save us and help us.

Bless those who lead the Church’s worship at this solemn time …
In the preaching of the word and the celebration of the sacraments
draw your people close to you.
By the Saviour’s cross and passion,
Lord, save us and help us.

Strengthen those [among us] who are preparing for baptism,
together with their teachers, sponsors and families …
Teach them what it means to die and rise with Christ
and prepare them to receive the breath of his Spirit.
By the Saviour’s cross and passion,
Lord, save us and help us.

Look in your mercy upon the world you loved so much
that you sent your Son to suffer and to die …
Strengthen those who work to share
the reconciliation won at such a cost upon the cross.
By the Saviour’s cross and passion,
Lord, save us and help us.

Bring healing by the wounds of Christ
to all who are weighed down by pain and injustice …
Help the lonely and the betrayed, the suffering and the dying,
to find strength in the companionship of Jesus,
and in his passion to know their salvation.
By the Saviour’s cross and passion,
Lord, save us and help us.

Welcome into paradise all who have left this world in your friendship …
According to your promises,
bring them with all your saints
to share in all the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection.
By the Saviour’s cross and passion,
Lord, save us and help us.

Holy God, holy and strong, holy and immortal,
have mercy on us.

H3

Let us pray to the Father,
who loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to give us life.
Simon from Cyrene was forced to carry the cross for your Son.
Give us grace to lift heavy loads from those we meet
and to stand with those condemned to die.
Lord, hear us.     Lord, graciously hear us.

Your Son watched the soldiers gamble to share his clothes.
Transform the hearts of those who make a profit from their victims,and those whose hearts are hardened by their work.
Lord, hear us.     Lord, graciously hear us.

The thief, who was crucified with Jesus,
was promised a place in your kingdom.
Give pardon and hope, healing and peace
to all who look death in the face.
Lord, hear us.     Lord, graciously hear us.

From the cross Jesus entrusted Mary his mother
and John his disciple to each other’s care.
Help us also to care for one another and fill our homes with the spirit of your love.
Lord, hear us.     Lord, graciously hear us.

In Mary and John your Son created a new family at the cross.
Fill our relationships, and those of new families today,
with mutual care and responsibility, and give us a secure hope for the future.
Lord, hear us.     Lord, graciously hear us.

The centurion was astonished to see your glory in the crucified Messiah.
Open the eyes of those who do not know you
to see in your Son the meaning of life and death.
Lord, hear us.     Lord, graciously hear us.

Joseph of Arimathaea came to take your Son’s body away.
Give hope and faith to the dying and bereaved,
and gentleness to those who minister to them.
Lord, hear us.     Lord, graciously hear us.

Simon and Joseph, Mary and John became part of your Church in Jerusalem.
Bring into your Church today a varied company of people,
to walk with Christ in the way of his passion
and to find their salvation in the victory of his cross.
Lord of the Church,     hear our prayer,
and make us one in heart and mind
to serve you in Christ our Lord. Amen.

In the Prayer Diary of the Diocese in Europe, Church of England we are asked to:
Pray for the Church of Sweden. Pray for the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (Turkey), for Patriarch Bartholomew and the autocephalous Orthodox Churches and their leaders. Pray for threatened Syrian Orthodox communities in Turkey.

In the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle of the World Council of Churches we remember the peoples and Christians in the Balkans – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia.

Prayers for a Season of Repentance

Today, the fifth Sunday in Lent, is the focus of the Primates’ Task Group’s call for a period of prayer and repentance in the Anglican Communion. The Bishop of West Malaysia, Moon Hing, is a member of the Task Group and has written this prayer, which the Task
Group offers to the Anglican Communion for use today.

Almighty God,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Sovereign Lord of the universe, Creator of humankind,
we, your unfaithful children, are truly sorry for our sins and the lives that we have lived.
We sincerely believe and confess in our hearts that only through the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary,
can we obtain Your forgiveness.
We repent that:

In thought, word or deed, we have committed serious offences against You and our neighbours;
In laziness, despair and lust for power, we have provoked hatred, division and hurt within our communities;
In greed, deceit and indifference, we have caused serious damage, unnecessary conflict and aggravated destruction to our
refugee and migrant brothers and sisters;
In selfishness, insensitivity and bias, we have encouraged and emboldened those who inflict hurt, pain and sorrow on our
loved ones and families;
In the name of religion, doctrine and even of Christ himself, we have wounded believers and pursuers of holiness and faith;
In stubbornness, pride and arrogance, we have caused division and strife within Your church and among Your children;

Mercifully send Your Holy Spirit – the Spirit of order and comfort –
and cleanse us from all unrighteousness;
restore in us true faith in Christ which brings truth, peace and harmony;
and help us to walk together with our brothers and sisters
in the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ to the glory of Your name. Amen.

One can download further prayers here: a-season-of-repentance-en.

Prayers in the Great Pandemic

You may want to use some of the prayers from last week’s resources blog. Some great prayers written by Jewish rabbis may be found here. Here are two more from Christian sources.

A ‘New’ Prayer from Rev’d Dr Sam Wells (Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London)
A Prayer as Things Get Harder:
God of gentle presence,
you knew the ultimate separation
when on the cross Christ felt he was forsaken;
be with all who feel their Good Friday has come today.
Comfort those who have the virus.
Empower all who care for those in distress,
through medicine, acts of kindness or imaginative communication.
Be present to any who feel utterly alone,
without companion or health or hope.
Show us your face amid grief and bewilderment.
Inspire us to find new ways to be one with one another and with you.
And bring this time of trial to an end.
In Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer to Combat the Coronavirus Pandemic

Most merciful and Triune God,
We come to you in our weakness.
We come to you in our fear.
We come to you with trust.
For you alone are our hope.

We place before you the disease present in our world.
We turn to you in our time of need.

Bring wisdom to doctors.
Give understanding to scientists.
Endow caregivers with compassion and generosity.
Bring healing to those who are ill.
Protect those who are most at risk.
Give comfort to those who have lost a loved one.
Welcome those who have died into your eternal home.

Stabilize our communities.
Unite us in our compassion.
Remove all fear from our hearts.
Fill us with confidence in your care.

Jesus, I trust in you.
Jesus, I trust in you.
Jesus, I trust in you.
Amen.

The author of this beautiful prayer is unknown, except to the Lord. If you know who the author is, please let us know so we can give proper acknowledgement. If a temporary attribution is needed, you are welcome to say: “Author unknown. Posted on AscensionPress.com“.

Fr Leonard Doolan of Athens has prepared a simple format for Daily Worship, which you can download by clicking here: MP&EP Booklet(1)
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The Annunciation and Revolution

Some Thoughts on the Feast of the Annunciation
March 25, 2020
during
The Great Pandemic of 2020,

If this were a Eucharist, the readings would be Isaiah 7:10-14,  Psalm 40:5-11, Hebrews 10:4-10, and Luke 1:26-38.

urwin-mark_annunciation-after-martini

The Annunciation, by Mark Urwin of England, after the 1333 altar piece by Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi.

“. . . the power of the Most High will overshadow you”   Luke 1.35

The Annunciation and the Greek Revolution

March 25 is a national holiday in Greece, and not simply because it is 95% Greek Orthodox and highly values Mary as Θεοτόκος Theotokos “God-bearer” or “Mother of God. No, Greece also remembers this as the day 199 years ago when the War of Independence began. While the revolt against the Ottoman Turks actually started some weeks before this in different places, and the War carried on for nine long years, this is the day on which Revolution was declared by Metropolitan Germanos of Patras. As Greeks used the Julian calendar still, it was actually April 6 in the Gregorian calendar, but even though Greece now uses the “New Style” one, they keep the commemoration on March 25. Normally there would be parades and such, but not this year, Still, flags are out at peoples homes, so we have our Greek flag out, with the Canadian one to keep it company.

20200323_191651

There is something somehow appropriate about this. The Angel Gabriel brought a message to Mary of Nazareth that she would conceive and bear a child, despite the fact that she did not “know a man”. Mary is told that

. . . the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. Luke 1.32-33

Of course, at the time there was no one on the throne of David. Herod, King of Judea, was not of the House of David, and his family were viewed as Idumeans that had converted to Judaism only for political reasons. Herod the Great was a client king of the Roman Empire, and when in the judgement of the Romans his heirs were not as suitable for rule as he, they did not hesitate to divide up his kingdom into lesser principalities and provinces. Thus, the birth of Jesus, and his proclamation by Gabriel that he would be a king, is a revolutionary challenge to the imperial power of Rome and those who collaborate with it. If Jesus was acclaimed later, as an adult, as the King of the Jews, the Romans rightly saw this as a challenge to their rule.

We who live in the west sometimes forget this. We see Jesus’s kingdom as purely spiritual, putting aside the eschatology of the Second Coming and the dominion that would be established. As modern people we try to spiritualize the meaning of Christ’s reign, perhaps putting it in existentialist terms, as Rudolf Bultmann did.

But the Greeks in 1821 understood the coming of the Word into flesh as an anti-imperialistic act. Of course, Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection was non-violent and one who emptied himself, whereas the Greek revolutionaries were used to being violated and did not hesitate to justify the use of violence. But the desire for freedom is the same.

Rowan Williams on the Three-Fold Nature of the Word

In his recent book, Christ, The Heart of Creation (2018), Rowan Williams reflects on how the Word is presented in scripture and theology. He affirms the pre-incarnate Word, through which the world is made. In Jesus born of Mary that divine nature is united to a human nature in a single person. Because there is a single hypostasis in that person Jesus we are entitled, as affirmed by the Council of Chalcedon, to call Mary the Mother of God, or God-bearer. She freely accepts the role offered to her by God through Gabriel, and so becomes the model of obedience that Christ shows in his own life, and is shown in the lives of his followers.   Williams also notes that Christ is present in the church, as the Body of Christ; by the Holy Spirit Christ is present among us. Jesus is bound to the visible community insofar as it is constituted by turning and returning to the foundational and sustaining act of Christ, which is memorialized and made present in communion. Thus, Christ is the unifying and identifying ground of an individual human existence.

Williams calls on Dietrich Bonhoeffer to remind us that we cannot think Christ without his “for the other” nature; therefore, the church must exist for the other, for the world’s reconciliation with God. This is a kenotic action, the pouring out of God in Christ for the world. This is not the way of the world, but it is the way God acts for the world. This anti-worldly attitude is seen in Jesus’s conversation with the disciples:

Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

This is the true revolution which is announced to Mary in the Annunciation. She does not understand it, but knows that the pregnancy she will have will undermine the seemingly powerful norms of her society. It is a turning of the lazy-susan of the cosmos so that humanity can return to what God created it to be, the image of God.

The Word in Us

So how is Christ present in the Church? Not through its many failings as a human institution, but in the times and ways in which it has let go of power and turned to others. And the Word is united to the humanity of the Church in the same way that the Word is made flesh in Mary – by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. The way in which the Word is made flesh in us is no less a miracle than the Incarnation and a virgin birth. So on a day in which a revolution is remembered, let us remember the great Revolution inaugurated by the Annunciation, and may it continue in us today.

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Family and Home in a Time of Pandemic

A Sermon that was NOT preached on Mothering Sunday (The Fourth Sunday of Lent) during
The Great Pandemic of 2020,
at
The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
on

March 22, 2020 11:00 am

St John Leading Home his Adopted Mother 1842-60 by William Dyce 1806-1864

“St John Leading Home his Adopted Mother”, painted between 1842–60 by William Dyce. From the Tate Museum.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her,
he said to his mother,
Woman, here is your son.’
Then he said to the disciple,
‘Here is your mother.’
And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.    John 19.26-27

The Church as Family

As I said to Athanasius the Alpaca and Mla the Raven, some commentators suggest that the church was born at the cross.  Why is that? Jesus, in giving the care of his mother to the Beloved Disciple, and identifying him as her son, creates a new family. The church is a family into which we are adopted, and it is characterised by care for one another. When we are baptised, we become part of that family. Insofar as we do the will of the Father, we are his brothers and sisters, and mother (Matthew 12:50).

The Beloved Disciple is never named in the Fourth Gospel. By the Second Century CE he was identified as John, the brother of James, a fisherman from Galilee – but the gospel itself does not have this identification. Below I have a scholarly note about this, but here I just want t mention that the anonymity of the Beloved Disciple allows us to  project ourselves into that person (and it may not be insignificant that the mother of Jesus is also not named in this passage).  At the foot of the cross the Beloved Disciple – and perhaps all of us who follow Jesus – are given responsibility for the other person. The cross is about atonement, which is not just having sins washed away and ransom paid, but it is also about being entrusted and empowered by God to carry on the ministry of care of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Idea of Home as the Place of Church

Now, I misspoke when I talked to Athanasius and Mla. I said Jesus told them to go home, and that’s not correct. But that is what the Beloved Disciple interpreted Jesus’s words to mean – he took Mary into his own home. By the 4th century pious tradition asserted that John brought his adopted mother to Ephesus, in what is now south-west Anatolia in Turkey, near the city of Selçuk, and tourists can go to the tomb of John and the House of Mary. But I think we can put another spin on it beyond the historical or legendary.

Home is the place of the Church, no less than the church buildings. Walk into any Greek home and almost invariably there are icons, and people will reverence them. While we may be in church for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning, most of us spend a third or more of our time in our houses or flats. If our faith means anything to us, then the home is also a place of prayer, of meditation, of study of the scriptures, of learning, and of action. we remain the church even when we are home and dispersed.

Home is, ideally, a place of care and retreat. We have been told by the Greek government Μένουμε σπίτι, σωζουμε ζωες – “We stay home, we save lives”. As we stay home now, let us be that church that cares for others by, ironically, not interacting with others in person. Let us be the church that enters into a desert of isolation, not as a deprivation, but as a moment in time to focus on the blessings of food and shelter. Slow down and enjoy what you are eating. Read a poem, perhaps one by George Herbert. Crack open that old, dusty copy of the Bible and read it for yourself. Go to YouTube and watch a video of someone chanting prayers, or a choir singing a beloved hymn. If you are in quarantine with someone else, ask them how they are doing, and invite them into a discussion of the important things in life.

Take time to pray.

  • Let us not forget to remember those who cannot retreat to their homes, but must put themselves at risk and work.
  • And so we remember the physicians, nurses, and all health care workers in hospitals and clinics.
  • Let us remember the people whose labour is essential – the people in supermarkets and pharmacies, delivery services, transportation, police, and so forth.
  • Let us pray for the leaders in government and bureaucracies who have the responsibility for making decision for the common good, not just the ones we support and vote for, but especially those whom we do not particularly like.
  • Let us pray for children and their parents as they spent an unexpected amount of time together without the assistance of schools and daycares.
  • Let us remember all who have lost their jobs, or are facing economic ruin because their sector of the economy has closed down; here in Greece we think of the tourist industry especially, and our friends who run tavernas and kafenios.
  • Let us remember those who are most at risk – the disabled, the elderly, the immunity-compromised. Let us remember those who are sick at home and those who are receiving intensive care in hospitals.
  • Let us pray for all those who are anxious for themselves and others, for those whose mental health programs have been shut down.
  • Let us give thanks for those who have died, that they may rest in peace and rise in glory.

Today is Mothering Sunday. In England this was a day when servants were given the day off, and so they would often go home to visit their mothers. They homecoming servants might attend their “mother parish”, the place where they were baptised, and so it was also a time of reunion. While there are not too many households now that still have a staff of servants, the Church of England still commemorates Mothering Sunday with special readings, a respite from the supposed rigours of Lent. As we mark it today let us return to our homes and be reminded that the Church is there as well.

A Note on the Beloved Disciple

The Fourth Gospel, known as “The Gospel according to John” does not identify the Beloved Disciple by name, nor does the text identify the author of the gospel by name.  At the very end of the gospel we are told (John 21:24) that the book was written by or based on the preaching of the Beloved Disciple. Christian tradition from the 2nd Century CE on claimed that this person was none other than John the son of Zebedee, the brother of James and a fisherman. Therefore they assumed that John wrote it, and so it became known as the Gospel according to John. Modern scholarship treats it as anonymous, despite the ancient attribution.

The late, great Biblical scholar Raymond Brown, who wrote a two volume commentary on John and a one volume commentary on the Johannine Epistles, also wrote a book called, “The Community of the Beloved Disciple“. In this book Brown reconstructed some of the characteristics of the community out of which the Gospel and the Epistles emerged. The first readers/hearers of these texts would have known who the Beloved Disciple was, but we have lost that information.

In summary, the Beloved Disciple appears to have been someone who stood apart from the inner circles of the early Christians, for he is usually described in parallel to Peter but somehow different. The stories common to the four gospels suggest a degree of common origin, but the stories that are told in John that are different from those in the synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) suggest that there was a separate development relatively early in the growth of the church. The Beloved Disciple had a community grow around him, and either he or a close disciple wrote down what he was preaching in narrative form. This was later expanded by the same person, or perhaps another, which explains why passages in John sometimes seem to come to a natural conclusion, and then start up again and discuss the same thing in a slightly different way. This led to the Gospel of John in the form we have today (we have no material evidence of this two-edition development of the gospel – this is all based on inferences from the text). Still later we read in the three Epistles of John – also all anonymous – of a split in the Community of the Beloved Disciple. Finally, the Revelation to John – which is not anonymous but written by a man named John – appears to have been written by one individual who was part of, or deeply influenced by, this Community. Since ancient times, and based on the style and fluency of the Greek, it has been felt by many that this is not the same person as the Beloved Disciple, or John the Apostle, although many have asserted just that. For that reason the author of Revelation is sometimes called “St John the Divine” to distinguish him from the Apostle.

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