Sunday, December 30, 2001

Circumcision of flesh & spirit -- for January 1st and for all 2002

The traditional English Collect for the feast of the Circumcision & Naming of Jesus on January 1st moves quickly from the historical fact of the circumcising of the infant Jesus on the 8th day of his human existence to the need and duty of his disciples, female and male, to be circumcised spiritually.

The content of the Collect was suggested by the words of “A Benediction on the Octave of the Lord” (=eighth day after Christmas Day) in the Sacramentary of Gregory I. Translated from the Latin this reads:

“Almighty God, whose only Son on this day underwent bodily circumcision, that he might not break the Law which he had come to fulfill, purify your minds from all incentives to vice by spiritual circumcision, and pour into you his own blessing. Amen.”

Thus in 1549 Cranmer produced for The Book of Common Prayer the Collect for the Circumcision:

Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man: Grant us the true circumcision of thy Spirit; that our hearts and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The scriptural passages in mind here were of course Luke 2:15-21 and Paul’s teaching on baptism and spiritual circumcision in Romans 2-4 & Colossians 2.

Later the Collect was amended to read “circumcision of the Spirit”.

When did you last hear a sermon on the Pauline teaching of spiritual circumcision?

Or when did you last hear a sermon on the submission by Jesus to the Law of Moses as a necessary part of his vocation to be the Messiah of Israel and Redeemer of the world?

Or when did you last hear a sermon on the shedding of the blood of Jesus at his circumcision and the connection thereby with his shedding of his blood on the Cross for us and for our salvation?

Or when did you last hear a sermon on the meaning of the Name of JESUS and the connection of this Name with the act of fleshly circumcision?

Finally why not ask your bishop or priest to use the Benediction given above on January lst and/or the following Sunday?

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon the Sunday after Christmas 2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon

Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP

Saturday, December 29, 2001

The Incarnate God is circumcised – A MESSAGE FOR NEW YEAR’S DAY IN THE SECULAR YEAR

“On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived” (Luke 2:20).

The shepherds called the male child in the manger “the Messiah, the Lord and the Saviour” but not Jesus. The Incarnate Son of the Father had no name until he began to fulfill the Law of Moses and was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. Then the Name chosen for him by heaven, by the almighty and eternal Father himself, and revealed to Joseph his adoptive father, was given to him.

In the Gospels, the Incarnate Son is called JESUS around 600 times – in contrast he is called Jesus Christ only 4 times (but of course in the Epistles he is often called Jesus the Christ)

The Name of Jesus is the perfect Name for the One who is sent to be the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the world. Let us examine it briefly.

First of all, for the Jew in the days of Joseph & Mary, JESUS was a reasonably common name. It is in fact the Greek form by which three Hebrew and Old Testament names are presented – “Joshua” (Exodus 17:10); Jehoshua (Zechariah 3:1) and Jeshua (Nehemiah 7:7). In what we call the Apocrypha there is a book called “Ecclesiasticus” and its author is “Jesus the son of Sirach.” In the New Testament we find “Jesus Justus” (Colossians 4:11) and “Bar-Jesus” (Acts 13:6). From other sources than the Bible we also know that “Jesus” was a common name.

The fact that Jesus was a common name proclaims to us that the Incarnate Son of the Father truly became one of us, belonging truly to common humanity, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. The name JESUS reminds us that the eternal Son/Word truly became flesh/human.

In the second place, the name of JESUS is a highly significant and symbolic Name. It is in both Hebrew (the language of the Jews) and Greek (the language of the Roman Empire) a one-word summary and statement of the identity and work of the Incarnate Son of the Father.

In Hebrew “Joshua” and “Jehoshua” mean “the LORD is my help/rescue” or “the help of the Lord”. The angel told Joseph that he should give to Mary’s Son and his adoptive son, the name of JESUS “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Thus JESUS is the Saviour & Redeemer sent from the LORD [Jehovah/Yahweh] who will rescue his people from their sins and from the clutch of the devil.

In Greek, it was usual to connect in sound the word Jesus [iesous] with the verb “iasthai” which means “to heal”. Thus JESUS meant for many “the Healer” and was proclaimed as the physician of soul and body and the one who cured spiritual and physical and mental sickness.

The fact that Jesus was a name with built in meaning points to both his real and full identity and to his vocation given him by the Father.

When the Name of Jesus is joined to the titles that belong to him then he is Jesus the Christ, the Lord, the Saviour & the Son, and it is this Person with two natures [divine and human] whom we serve and adore.

In the CHURCH YEAR the first day of January [now in the West the first day of the secular year] is the Feast Day when the Church remembers both his circumcision and his naming for these two are joined together in the record of the biblical text (Luke 2:20).

In The Book of Common Prayer (1662/1928) the words of the Collect are:

“Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man: Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all wordly & carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Here the emphasis is upon the fact of the circumcision of Jesus, his shedding of blood for us and his submission to the Torah, and then the fact that for us, as believers in Jesus, circumcision is (as the apostle Paul explains) spiritual and moral. But his Name is not mentioned.

We may note that this Collect is not popular at New Year celebrations!

In the American Episcopal 1979 Prayer Book the Collect is as follows:

“Eternal Father, who didst give to thine incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be a sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we beseech thee, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, even our Lord Jesus Christ:…..”

Here the emphasis is upon the Name of Jesus and its meaning but there is no reference to his circumcision for us.

This Collect is less offensive at New Year celebrations!

Happily in the new “Common Worship” of the Church of England the name of the Festival is “the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus” and the Collect [which could be improved] reads:

“Almighty God, whose blessed Son was circumcised in obedience to the law for our sake and given the Name that is above every name; give us grace faithfully to bear his Name and to worship him in the freedom of the Spirit and to proclaim him as the Saviour of the world…”


(On a snowy Saturday morning, December 29, 2001, the Revd Dr Peter Toon, )

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP
The Innocents' Day

December 28th is the day formerly called "Childermas Day" and has been observed since the fifth century by the Church. In medieval times the mournful nature of the Day was reflected in the use of Black Vestments and muffled peals of bells.

The Gospel is obviously Matthew 2:13-18 which tells of the slaughter by Herod of children of two years and younger and the escape by Joseph, Mary and JESUS to Egypt.

The Epistle, Revelation 14:1-5, speaks of the 144,000 who were redeemed and are the firstfruits amongs the Christian saints. Apparently, some folks in the Middle Ages did equate the 144,000 with the number of children killed by Herod, especially because of the words, "and in their mouth was found no guilt; for they are without fault before the throne of God" (v.5)

Today it is possible to use the slaughtered, innocent children of Bethlehem and its environs as a symbol of the cruel and vicious treatment of other children in the world. Naturally, the killing of thousands in the womb through abortion is a natural application by devout Christians.

However the Collect for this day points to the glorifying of God in the death as martyrs of the innocent babes and then applies the message to all believers.

"O Almighty God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings has ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths; Mortify and kill all vices in us, and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even unto death, we may glorify thy holu Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Thus the relation of the Incarnation of the Son of God to his passion and death and then the vocation of his disciples to be witnesses and martyrs for him are brought before our minds and sink into our hearts during this Christmas week.

There is a rather large gap between the general merriment and secularization of the season and the Christmas call to witness and martyrdom for the sake of the INFANT of Bethlehem who had to flee from martyrdom in order to be the Messiah and become a Martyr thirty years later in Jerusalem, a few miles from Bethlehem.

December 28, 2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP

Thursday, December 27, 2001

St John, Apostle & Evangelist [Dec 27]

During the Christmas Festival we heard read the majestic and poetic Prologue of the Gospel according to St John. We heard his statement concerning the Incarnation of the only begotten of the Father. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.”

Today, appropriately, two days from the Feast of the Nativity, is the Feast Day of the beloved disciple (see the Gospel for today John 21:19ff.), John apostle and evangelist, who was given by his Lord long years to propagate and meditate upon the Gospel of the Father concerning His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Collect for this day, based upon a very ancient one from the 6th century or earlier, has within it the theme of Light, for both in the Gospel of John and in the Letters of John in the New Testament, Light is a major theme. Jesus is himself the Light of the world according to the Gospel, and also, as the Epistle declares, “God [the Father] is Light” [1 John 1:1ff.]

“Merciful Lord [the Father], we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon the Church, that it being illuminated by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that it may at length attain to life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

The Church of God is called to walk in the light of God’s revealed truth that it/she may attain unto the light of everlasting life.

Modern forms of the Collect (as in the English “Common Worship” of 2001) have changed the second “it” to “we” [“we may so walk…”] in an effort to make it more relevant to people today so that they think of it as applying to them. Whether this is necessary is debatable for it loses the full sense that the Body of Christ is not only one people but also one unit that can be spoken of in the singular as the Bride of Christ, the Household of God, and so on.

But the main point is that the Church of God, all its members both clergy and laity, allow the Light of God the Holy Trinity to illuminate and enlighten their minds and hearts as they read the inspired Gospel and Epistles of John, the beloved disciple.

7 a.m. Dec 27th

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP
Stephen the Martyr

26 December is a public holiday in Great Britain. But not because of St Stephen the Martyr whom the Church commemorates. The holiday is Boxing Day to open the boxes given at Christmas! It is a day when churches in the main are locked for the people are out at the "sales."

What is the connection between the Incarnation of the only-begotten Son of the Father and his birth from Mary the pure Virgin, which we celebrated yesterday, the 25th December, and the Saint's Day we call SAINT STEPHEN'S DAY?

Stephen was the first Christian martyr, the witness for the Gospel of the Father concerning His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was actually
put to death because of that witness. Thus the Epistle for this Day is
from Acts 7:55-60 where we read that Stephen had a vision of the exalted Lord Jesus and that his accusers stoned him to death. But as they stoned him he prayed to the Lord Jesus and asked forgiveness for his killers.

Jesus, the Messiah Saviour and Lord, was born in order to live and then to die as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Thus He shed his blood for the world, first a drop when he was circumcised a week after his birth (see the Feast of the Circumcision, Jan 1st) and then much when crucified. Stephen likewise shed his blood, not to atone for our sin, for that his Lord had already done, but to witness to and for his Lord and to begin that holy process where the blood of the martyrs is the seed from which the Church of God grows.

The Collect for this Day closely follows the information given in the Acts of the Apostles 7:55ff.: and it is addressed directly to the exalted Lord Jesus Christ:

"Grant, O Lord, that in all our sufferings here upon earth, for the testimony of thy truth, we may steadfastly look up to heaven and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and being filled with thy Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors, by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those that suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate."

There is no expansion of Christianity in the present world without the witnessing that is prepared to go all the way and lay down its life for the Lord. And thanks be to God the Father such Faith exists in this world and is operative today. However, it is highly probable that much that goes by the name of Christian Faith in the old-line/main-line denominations of America and Europe (not to mention in the abundance of more recent "churches") has little or no connection with the Faith to which Stephen was committed. Western Christianity is so often merely the accommodation of aspects of the Christian inheritance to the secularist western society and culture to produce a comfortable form of religion.

So the feast of this day, December, 26, reminds us what truly is the Christian Faith and what is our calling as baptized believers - to be witnesses which may mean to be martyrs.

December 26 2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP

Saturday, December 22, 2001

The traditional Collect for Christmas-Day, the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, in the BCP 1662 reads:

“Almighty God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin: Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit: through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, ever one God, world without end.Amen.”

Originally in the BCP 1549, the very first edition of the BCP, it read “this day to be born of a pure Virgin” for it was intended for Christmas Day only. Later, as it was used during the week after Christmas it was changed to “as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin.”

What we seem to have lost, I think, in much modern Anglican worship is the sense of living within what I may call liturgical time and within the Church Year. Only as we so live, think, pray and meditate can we really pray meaningfully the Christmas Collect(s).

That is, the Collect only makes full sense if, and only if, during the season of Advent we have entered into the preparation for the Birth & Coming of the Messiah through our association in reading, meditating and praying with the righteous remnant of Israel, particularly John the Baptist. In Liturgical time, as contrasted with chronological or regular time, we place ourselves in the sphere of the Holy Spirit within God’s historical revelation and acts of redemption and move with Him through them. And with the righteous in Israel we look for the Advent of the Messiah. Doing so we can then share the joy of the shepherds, of Mary and Joseph, and of Simeon and Anna.

Thus on Christmas Eve/Day we can truly exclaim in joy that the Messiah is born [as also on Easter Day we can shout with more joy that he is risen from the dead, and on Pentecost we can rejoice in the gift of the indwelling and empowering Holy Spirit].

Further, as the words of the Collect remind us we can rejoice that because of the Incarnation of the only Son of the almighty Father there can be and is regeneration for man.

The second Collect for Christmas found in the BCP 1549 and the American BCP 1928 but not in the BCP 1662 reads:

“God [the Father], which makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thy only Son; grant that as we joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him, when he shall come to be our Judge, who liveth and reigneth…”

Once again a careful noting of these words makes us realize again that fully to experience that of which they speak we need to be “in the Spirit” moving with the Lord God in his acts of revelation and redemption in ancient Israel so that the Incarnation is the cause for great joy – Glory to God in the highest!—and in the light of the First Coming we live in expectation of the Second! At Christmas we “receive him as our Redeemer” both within Liturgical Time and also as the Lord of the present time who redeems us now because he lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God.

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon December 22, 2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP

Friday, December 21, 2001


Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, a meditation for

Let us seek to enter into the experience of the shepherds who were out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night (Luke 2:8ff.).

Let us suppose that they were employed by the Temple in nearby Jerusalem to provide lambs for the sacrifices required by the Law of Moses in order for the people to worship and serve the Lord God according to his declared will. Let us further suppose that they were pious Jews who were looking for the advent of the Messiah.

All of a sudden the blackness of the night was replaced by brilliant light and the presence of a messenger from heaven. They were filled with amazement and fear for they knew that they were in the near presence of the God of their fathers, the holy and righteous Lord before whom all creatures tremble!

The shepherds did not know that already the greatest event in the history of Israel/Judaism had occurred not far away in the town of Bethlehem. The long expected Messiah of Israel had been born.

So the proclamation by the angel was “NEWS of a great JOY”! “Be not afraid; for behold I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you [the descendants of Abraham] is born this day in the city of David [Bethlehem] a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”

Heaven declares that the Messiah [the Christ] is born and that he is both Saviour and Lord. As such he is given titles and a work that belong to the Lord God himself! This Messiah is no mere man!

Then the shepherds are instructed to go and find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. (Bethlehem was a small town with only a few inns and so to find a new born babe in the stable of one of the inns was not a difficult task.)

But before the men could arrange for the safety of their sheep and begin their walk down the hill into Bethlehem, they were further amazed by the granting to them of a wonderful vision into heaven.

What were they given to see? A sight of the heavenly choir of angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim praising the LORD God in song with words which were addressed first to God himself and then to the world. Heaven was celebrating the Incarnation of the Son of God, the entering into space and time of the Messiah, the Saviour and the Lord.

What we may call the benediction of the heavenly choir expressed that which had occurred – God had sent forth his only-begotten Son. Thus, Praise be to the Lord God and Peace [Shalom] to his covenant people.

To God in the highest, GLORY.
To his people on earth, PEACE.

[We may recall that the Church has expanded this angelic benediction into the Canticle that we call the Gloria.]

When they had recovered from this overwhelming experience, the shepherds set off to see with their own eyes the One who brings Peace and is the Saviour, Lord and Messiah. And finding the babe, they told Mary and Joseph what the angel had declared to them.

Mary, the mother of the Lord, Peacebringer and Saviour “kept all these things in her heart and pondered them.” Thereby she sets for us an example of constant meditation and faithfulness.

Her meditation was of the personhood, nature, vocation and character of her Son, who is also God’s Son for he is the Son of God incarnate: One Person made known in two natures, divine and human. And Mary is Theotokos, the birthgiver [mother] of God, the Son.

Let us join with the heavenly choir to glorify God the Holy Trinity and to exalt his saving and peacemaking work on earth amongst men.

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon Dec 20, 2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP
Do we need to observe those three Saints' Days immediately after Christmas?

For clergymen [clergypersons] and many lay persons the latter part of Advent together with Christmas Eve & Christmas Day are very busy times. Thus they tend to take it easy in terms of attending public services after the last service on Christmas Day. If they are in Great Britain they enjoy the public holiday known as Boxing Day (26th) and keep far away from their parish church.

Yet in the Church Calendar there are three major Saints' Days immediately following the festival of THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD. These are St Stephen's Day, St John the Evangelist's Day, and The Innocents' Day, on the 26, 27, & 28 December.

It has long been held that these three Days illustrate the triple kind of martyrdom endured by God's saints -- St Stephen in will and deed; St John in will; Holy Innocents in deed.

It has also been held that these days are so placed so as to emphasize the honor due to Stephen as the first martyr, to John's special friendship with the Lord Jesus, and to the intimate connection of the death of the Innocents with the birth of the Saviour.

The problem, modern clergy have to face, is that these Days are not moveable and are long established in the Church Year. Clergy must keep them and if they do they will probably be joined at least by some of the faithful laity.

Therefore, in larger parishes there should be on each of the three days a full service of Holy Communion where the appointed Epistle and Gospel for each Day are used. In smaller parishes, what used to be called Ante-Communion [the first half of the Order for Holy Communion from the BCP], can be read by the clergyman in church whether he be alone or another with him.

That is, in one appropriate way or another the Church should remember the first martyr, the beloved disciple, and the holy innocents, and do so in relation to the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus. In each case, it will be found that an aspect of the meaning and purpose of the Incarnation of the only-begotten Son of the Father will become the clearer and union with him by grace will become the more dearer.

Thus not to keep these days will be to fail in one's duty and also to miss out spiritually on what is gained from these means of grace.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon
December 21,2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP

Thursday, December 20, 2001

A Pre-Christmas Meditation

“In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son, born under the law…”[Galatians 4:3]

Since the Blessed Holy Trinity, the LORD God, is the Ruler and Guide of human history, then we should expect that the Incarnation of the Second Person of that Glorious Trinity would become incarnate at the right time in that history. So the Church confesses that the sending forth from eternity by the Almighty Father of the only-begotten Son into space and in the fullness of time resulted in the conception of the human nature of this Son by the Virgin Mary and the birth from her of the Incarnate Son of God, who is one Person made known in two natures, Son of God and Son of Mary.

Having made such a confession of faith, it is now possible to proceed by identifying some of the conditions on earth that made the time to be right for both Jew and Gentile for the Incarnation of the Son of God to occur.

In terms of the Jews, who were under the “old covenant” or “the Mosaic Covenant” or “under Law/Torah”, time was needed for the revelation and commandments of the Law to do their work. The testimony of the sages, psalmists and prophets sent and inspired by the Lord God had to be made and recorded. The experience of living under the Torah had to occur so that a people, with their holy writings, had been taught to worship and confess the one, true and living Lord God, to acknowledge his righteousness and glory, to confess and make atonement for its sins, and to walk in his ways and commandments. All had to be in place so that the Messiah, when manifested, could fulfill the Law and the Prophets, complete the revelation already given, and bring to their climax the saving purposes of God for the Jews and the world. Finally, there had to be a righteous remnant of the covenant people who were actively and piously looking for the coming of the Messiah. And when Elizabeth conceived John and Mary conceived Jesus, there was such a remnant and the time was ripe, God’s time had fully come.

To identify those conditions within the Gentile world that made the time to be ripe and right for God’s revealing and reconcilingaction is more speculative. But we can note the following:

The presence of the Jewish synagogue in the major cities of the Roman Empire and the teaching from it of belief in One God, who actually desires to be in communion with man and who requires righteous behavior of man. This Jewish monotheism stood in marked contrast to the polytheism of the day. We note that the Christian Gospel was first preached in the synagogues of the Gentile world before being proclaimed in homes and on the streets.

The Roman Peace allowing movement of persons and ideas and along with the Peace the Roman Roads, which linked all the major cities of the Near East and Mediterranean world. Apostles and evangelists used these to great advantage. Further, we may note that it was because of the Roman census required by Augustus that Joseph and Mary had to go to Bethlehem and because of this they were in the place that Jewish prophecy had identified as the birthplace of the Messiah.

The general use of the Greek language allowing a message to be quickly disseminated by word and in writing in the Roman Empire. The New Testament was written in Greek!

Jesus, the Word made flesh [to use St John’s expression], was certainly the Saviour of the whole world but in terms of his humanity he was born as the son of Mary, a Jewish woman, and thus was born “under the Law” of Moses, the Torah. Jesus was a Jew and the purpose of his presence in Palestine was “to redeem those born under the law” [Jews]. However, Gentiles rightly confess that Jesus was first the Jewish Messiah and then by fulfilling this Role was also the Saviour of the whole world. It was the Father’s will who sent him that the two roles should be in fact one in terms of achievement.


· GOD our Father, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thine only Son, Jesus Christ; Grant that as we joyfully receive him for our Redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our Judge, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Dec 21 2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

How a poor translation of the Creed has undermined the received Church doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Creeds, the Apostles’ & Nicene, proclaim, teach and confess the doctrine of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. A major part of that sound doctrine is the statement as to the full identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and included in this is the statement of his human origin.

In the traditional English translations of these two Creeds we have the words: “who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary” and “and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”

When we turn to the English translation which has been used widely by Roman Catholics, Anglicans etc, we find that there is inserted into both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds the words “the power of” so that the conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary is said to be “by the power of the Holy Spirit” in contrast to “by the Holy Spirit.”

And in the addition of this expression “by the power of” is the beginnings of error and heresy.

Each and every conception by a female is “by the power of the Holy Spirit” who energizes the laws or workings of nature. Yet what has been and is claimed of the conception by the Virgin Mary is that it was not according to the laws or the normal working of nature. It was a new creation, a unique act of God, a supernatural event wherein a virgin conceived a boy child. And it occurred first because the Virgin was open to God’s grace and will and secondly because the Holy Ghost acted directly, individually and personally (not via the laws of creation) to cause the Virgin to conceive and to ensure that her conception was of the human nature belonging to the eternal and only-begotten Son of the Father. Thereby God the Father sent his Son into the world and this Son, theWord/Logos, was made flesh and dwelt amongst men. And thereby Mary became in the words of the Fathers, “Theotokos”, the birth-giving of God [the Son].

Thus the original Latin and the original Greek of these two Creeds have no words in them that could possibly be translated “by the power of”. These words in modern English renderings were additions made by liberal Roman Catholic translators in the 1970s because they wanted to make the conception and birth of Jesus to be something less than the full and complete Incarnation of the eternal Son of the everlasting Father almighty. They wanted the conception and birth to be remarkable (like that of John the Baptist and Samuel and Jacob) but not virginal.

It is perhaps necessary to note that the words of the angel in Luke 1:35, “…and the Power of the Most High will overshadow you” make use of a Name for the Lord God and that Name is “Power of the Most High.” It is a reference to the Shekinah Presence of the Lord overshadowing her as did the holy Cloud in the O.T. come down on the Tabernacle. Thus this expression is not a justification for erroneous translating of the Creed.

Happily in the vernacular translations into other European languages in the 1970s these words were not added and in the latest ecumenical efforts to translate the Creeds into English the expression “by the power of” has not been included.

This said, many people still use the two Creeds wherein is the erroneous translation and in doing so are constantly open to receiving a less than adequate understanding and view of the human origins of the Lord Jesus Christ.

At Christmas when the Church proclaims the Incarnation of the Son of the Father it is most important that she rightly stated the true identity and origins of that Son.

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon December 19,2001

Friday, December 14, 2001

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT—The Two Comings of the Lord Jesus

In the Eucharistic Lectionary of THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER (1662) the Collect for this day is addressed to the Lord Jesus “who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.”

It begins, “O LORD Jesu Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee:…” The messenger was John the Baptist and thus the Gospel reading (Matthew 11:2ff.) records Jesus’ estimate of John as “more than a prophet” for he was also the herald of the long-expected Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

The Collect proceeds by making a petition for the present situation within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God the Father and created by the saving work of the same Lord Jesus Christ. “Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy Second Coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight…”

The Church of God lives by faith in the Son of God, who having been exalted into heaven will come again to the earth to judge the living and the dead, and thereby bring to a glorious conclusion the purposes of God with mankind in space and time. Evangelists and Pastors, Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons, are the ministers and stewards of the Mysteries of Christ (His Gospel, His Gospel Sacraments), and the people of God are to pray that these ordained persons in particular truly make use of these Mysteries so that they shall prepare the way of the Lord amongst his people for His second Advent, even as John the Baptizer prepared the Jewish people for the first Advent of the Messiah.

We know that the state of true preparation of the way of the Lord in Judaism, despite the heroic witness of John, was not as God desired. We pray that the preparation in the Church of the Second Advent will be better and will be pleasing to God the Father and thus truly beneficial for mankind.

This petition reminds us that in Advent, while we prepare liturgically for the celebration of the First Advent of the Incarnate Son of the Father, we also in heart and mind prepare practically for the Second Advent of the same Son, now exalted at the right hand of the Father. Thus the Church is called to watch and pray, and at no time more specifically than in Advent.

A final thought for meditation. It is only those who are in moral and spiritual preparation for the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ who can truly enter fully into the liturgical preparation for Christmas (that is of waiting with the pious remnant in ancient Israel/Judaism for the arrival of the Messiah and then with Simeon and Anna and pious shepherds greeting him with JOY).

The Revd Dr Peter Toon,
Dec 14 2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP