Sunday, March 31, 2002


(for my American friends especially)

The British Broadcasting Authority broadcasted live in Radio 4 and the World Service the 9.00.a.m. Easter Morning Service from Canterbury Cathedral at which the Archbishop was the preacher.

The Service ( and this will surprise my American friends in the ECUSA) was taken from the classic Book of Common Prayer (yes it really was) and was Mattins (not Eucharist, which dominates church life in the ECUSA).

There was the singing by all of some of the great Easter hymns; and there were special anthems and alleluias by the choir.

The Archbishop's address was in three parts, each one focusing on an important part of the Cathedral to convey the Easter message. In between each part the choir sang short anthems.

Dr Carey spoke first of the high altar, pointing to the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins; secondly of the seat of St Augustine, the cathedra, whereon sit the archbishops on important occasions, pointing to service (the greatest among you shall be the servant of all); and thirdly of the tomb of Thomas a Becket, the martyred archbishop, pointing to the call to take up the cross and follow Jesus.

The service though joyful was tinged with sadness as the death of the Queen Mother had occurred on Easter Eve and she was beloved by many.

A final comment.

It was great to have "the people's service", Morning Prayer, as that which is broadcasted to the nation and world. The Holy Eucharist is not the people 's service but the unique service of the people of the new covenant and from the inner core of this service (according to the ancient church) the world is excluded.


The Revd Dr Peter Toon Easter Day 2002

Saturday, March 30, 2002

Who will be the next Archbishop of Canterbury?

The Times of London had a leading article (editorial) on March 30th about the future Archbishop who will replace George Carey.

The point being made is that the Prime Minister should be given two names by the Commission, that one of them should be the Archbishop of Wales and the other should be a conservative of one kind or another. Then Mr Blair has a real choice. The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Here is the article:

Wales or not?
The question which now confronts the Church of England

Easter is, for many, a period of reflection. For the 16 men and women who constitute the membership of the Crown Appointments Commission, this Easter may witness more reflection than usual. This body must produce two candidates for the post of Archbishop of Canterbury and put them forward to the Prime Minister. With the selection this week to head that body of Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, Britain's most senior family judge, the process of serious scrutiny will start shortly. The election has already attracted rather more attention than that which eventually produced the name of George Carey 11 years ago. The Church of England may consider this publicity to be a distinctly mixed blessing.

The composition of the Commission has been carefully scrutinised, in a manner akin to the lost art of Kremlinology, for indications of factional balance and personal allegiance. There are some members who can be identified as "liberal", "evangelical" or "conservative" but it is not clear whether this will necessarily determine their preferences. The term "liberal" embraces both political liberals and those who are liberal in their interpretation of theology. The phrase "evangelical" covers a multitude of virtues. The label "conservative" is not necessarily synonomous with that of Anglo-Catholicism. The personal virtues of the candidates may be enough to enable them to overcome the doubts of those thought to be associated with a different ecclesiatical tradition.

At the start of what might be described crudely as this "contest", three main contenders were identified. These are the Most Rev Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Wales, the Right Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester and the Right Rev Richard Chartres, Bishop of London. The passage of three months has slightly altered perceptions of their prospects. The low-profile taken by the Archbishop of Wales has done him no harm while the most overt campaigning associated with supporters of the Bishop of Rochester have compounded uncertainties about his suitability. The Bishop of London remains an impressive man, but his relative hostility to women priests is a potentially fatal handicap. These developments suggest that the bookmakers have been wise to amend the odds and make the Archbishop of Wales their favourite.

He is certainly an intriguing candidate. He combines an exceptional intellect with the common touch which often eludes the senior clergy. While he is undoubtedly liberal, even radical, in social and political spheres, his theological opinions are stoutly conventional. There might be some in the Church of England who agonise over whether the resurrection is a literal truth or an ingenious metaphor but the Archbishop of Wales is not one of them. This clarity of belief may allow him to appeal to Anglo-Catholics within the Church, even if they worry about his views on the War on Terror or his endorsement by The Guardian.

It would be unfortunate if the Commission did not seriously consider placing the Archbishop's name on the shortlist to be sent to Downing Street. They must also contemplate whether the possibility of the next occupant of the see of Canterbury intervening in political controversies and perhaps prematurely forcing the vexed matter of homosexuality and ordination on to the Anglican agenda demands that they provide Tony Blair with an insurance policy. That might best be achieved by ensuring that the alternative successor to Dr Carey is a figure who is not strongly associated with either the evangelical or the conservative camps. That would reduce what is otherwise a complicated affair down to a single, simple question: the Archbishop of Wales or not?

Jesus, where art thou this holy Saturday?

Jesus died when he knew that the work which the Father had given him to do was completed. After the Atonement was made he cried out, "It is finished" (John 19:30), and then he prayed, "Father into thy hands I commit my spirit" (Luke 23:46). The death of Jesus was a voluntary death; his life was not taken from him since he yielded it up at the moment he chose. But what is certain is that he truly died. His heart stopped beating and he was physically dead.

We know where his body was from the time of his death until at least late on Friday night (for witnesses saw his body taken down from the cross and laid in a tomb); and we can also say with some certainty that his body remained in the tomb until sometime early on Sunday (because the great stone covering the entrance was seen to be there on the Saturday night but was rolled away by dawn on Sunday).

BUT , Where was Jesus - that is Jesus as a Person with his human spirit/soul but without his human body - during the period that his mortal body was dead on the Cross and laying in the tomb?

Was he simply inactive "asleep" as it were in the realm of the invisible spiritual world, waiting for resurrection?

The answer is that he was active not inactive!

First of all, since he is One Person who has both a divine and human nature we have to affirm that as the Word of the Father and the Second Person of the Holy Trinity (that is as the Person considered only with his divine nature) he remains and is in perfect union and communion with the Father and the Holy Ghost and continues as true God of true God.

In the second place, we have to affirm that this One Person in his human nature was full alive before God the Father and, though perfectly at rest in
the embrace of the divine love, was active in the work of the redemption of the world. We say this because of the scriptural evidence and the testimony of the early Fathers of the Church.

The Apostles' Creed declares that "descendit ad inferna" (he descended into hell). This is to be seen not as an extension of his sufferings but as a demonstration of his victory and triumph. This summary statement in the Creed is based upon various passages from the New Testament - see 1 Peter 3:18f & 1 Peter 4:6 & Ephesians 4:6 & Revelation 1:18.

It was commonplace of Christian teaching in the early centuries that Jesus Christ spent the interval between his expiry on the Cross and his resurrection in the underworld. This Descent is explicitly mentioned by Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Tertullian and others.

We believe, teach and confess that the benefits of the Atonement of Jesus Christ are for the whole cosmos and thus for (a) his contemporaries at the time of his sacrificial death; (b) those who will come after him, and (c) those who went before him. For the sake of the latter he had to visit them in their disembodied state and there proclaim unto them the Victory of his Cross and the completed, redeeming Work that he had accomplished for the salvation of mankind.

For the taking of human nature and flesh by the Son of God to be complete and his saving work truly cosmic in scope and nature, he had to descend to the absolute bottom, as it were, of human existence which includes the whole realm of departed spirits and then from there be exalted by the Holy Ghost to the highest place of all existence, the Father's right hand (see Philippians 2: 5-11) in heaven.

And in this total "descent" he had both to bear the totality of the guilt and power of sin committed by the human race - thus his great cry of dereliction as he bore the pain of hell, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" - and visit human beings both alive and dead.

1 Peter 3:19ff informs us that Jesus Christ "went and preached to the spirits in prison who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah." And 1 Peter 4:6 adds that "the gospel was preached unto the dead." These hints perhaps suggest that there was a proclamation of the Victory of the Cross at all levels of the human condition and existence in the realm of the departed spirits. Salvation from future judgment is made available in the realm of the dead by the one, and once only, visit of Jesus to those who in their lifetime had not encountered him or the Christian message.

In much Christian Art the descent into hell is presented as a triumphal journey where the devil and his demons are reduced to submission and Adam and Eve are released from the bottomless pit! The symbolism of this Art is clear!

Having descended to the bottom as it were of human existence and proclaimed his Victory, Jesus was then exalted by the Father to the heights of heaven and in that exaltation his human spirit/soul was restored to his body (which was wonderfully immortalized and supernaturalized) so that he was raised from the dead and appeared unto his disciples on what we call Easter Day in his body of glory. The tomb was then truly empty and the appearance of the resurrected Lord Jesus became the cause for ALLELUIA amongst the disciples and the origins of the Christian mission to the world.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Holy Saturday & Easter Eve 2002

Thursday, March 28, 2002


This name is peculiar to the Church of England (and thus to English culture where the Church has had an impact).

Of all Fridays of the year, there are profound reasons for giving this one the title of "GOOD."

It is the Day when the only One who was GOOD enough as a Person (for he was righteous and without sin) to pay the price of our sin, actually paid that price as the sacrificial Lamb on the Cross.

It is also the Day when the supreme GOOD of mankind - communion and friendship with the Lord - was made possible when the Son of God incarnate took away all barriers to realising and experiencing that good. The supreme end and good of man is to enjoy and glorify God forever and this is only possible through the reconciliation wrought by Christ Jesus on the Cross.

Further it is the Day when GOOD triumphed over evil as God the Father turned what could have been the world's greatest tragedy - the crucifixion of the most innocent of men - into the salvation of mankind, and as He turned an evil act and apparent defeat into the victory over Satan, sin and death.

Finally, it is the Day which provides the world with GOSPEL, that is GOOD NEWS, a message of hope to all the nations. The GOOD news is that there is forgiveness, a right relation with the Father, eternal life in the age to come, and friendship with God through the saving work of the Lord Jesus on the Cross.

Yet, while it is most certainly and surely a GOOD Friday, it is also a day of Fasting since it is the Day when the Bridegroom is taken away from his Bride [the Lord Jesus from his disciples - see Mark 2:19-20] as he descends into Hades to announce and proclaim his finished, saving and good work to those who have died and wait for their full redemption.

Thus the Church fasts for this whole day, or even for this day and the next day, until the great cry is heard --- CHRIST IS RISEN. ALLELUIA. Then with the Bridegroom returned she can eat with him at his banqueting table and her first food is his sacramental body and blood, at the Easter Eucharist.

The BCP (1662) provides Collects, an Epistle and Gospel for this GOOD Friday and the general Anglican tradition has been to have only Ante-Communion this day and to encourage meditation, prayer and quiet in church and at home.

In the Roman Missal there were eight collects for Good Friday and the three in the BCP are adapted from these. The first refers to the Church as the Family of the Redeemed, the second to the Church as a living organism, and the third embraces all outside the Church of God that they will be converted to Jesus Christ, the good Shepherd.

The last of the Collects has been the subject of criticism in modern times and has been amended for some editions of the BCP after 1662. In praying for all men it distinguishes the baptized faithful, the Jews, the Turks [Muslims], Infidels and Heretics [the baptized who have rejected the orthodox Faith] in order to pray that all of them and each of them will be converted to Jesus Christ and become part of his flock.

Instead of "Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels and Heretics" of the original there is substituted, for example, "Have mercy upon thine ancient people the Jews, and upon all who have not known thee, or who deny the faith of Christ crucified."

In these days of high sensitivity and political correctness, it is probably better that the modified version be used, allowing those who pray it to read into it the more definite meaning and petitions of the original English Collect [and Latin Collects] if they so wish.

Though the Church of England removed and eliminated all the solemn medieval ceremonies/features of this day in the sixteenth century [e.g. special intercessory prayers, the veneration of the Cross and the Mass of the pre-Sanctified] some of them have been restored in some parishes, especially those of an Anglo-Catholic disposition.

What it seems is inappropriate to revive and encourage is any devotion or piety that has as its aim to weep for Christ in his pain and agony before and on the Cross. While such was common in late medieval times and is still found today, it is quite wrong for it sets us above the Lord Jesus and encourages wrong emotions in our souls. One hymn has the line, "Have we no tears to shed for him?"

Christ does not want our pity but our total consecration to him.

The affections of the soul of the believer who contemplates the Lord Jesus on his Cross on this GOOD Friday ought to be occupied with profound reverence and awe, adoration and praise, before the overwhelming reality of the Incarnate Son of God engaging in holy battle with all the enemies of God and man in order to gain victory through his redeeming, reconciling and atoning work.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon, Maundy Thursday, 2002

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

EASTER DAY - thoughts to help in its right celebration for those who use the classic BCP.

The rigors of Lent are over. The fasting and abstinence is ended. There is great cause for celebration and rejoicing with exceeding great joy! Away with all desires for self- affirmation and feeling good. Let us be looking unto the Lord Jesus Christ in faith, hope and love.

The festival day of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was called PASCHA in the ancient church and is a word that is related to the Hebrew "Passover." PASCHA is still used in the Orthodox Churches and is being used increasingly in the West.

The English word, "Easter," has nothing to do with facing East! Rather it is Anglo-Saxon in origin and according to St Bede is borrowed from the name of a festival honouring the goddess of Spring, Eostre, at the vernal equinox.

Easter is held on the first Sunday after the full moon, on or next after March 21.

The Pasch or Easter is the Feast of feasts and the Festival of festivals because it is the announcement and proclamation of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead. The raising of Jesus from the dead by the Father almighty on the third day represents: (a) divine victory on his Cross at Calvary over darkness, evil, sin, death and the devil and (b) acceptance by God the Father of a perfect atonement and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, and (c) promise of full redemption, reconciliation and salvation for all those who are united to the Lord Jesus Christ in baptism, by faith, in the Holy Ghost.

The Easter Anthems, the Collect, the Epistle and the Gospel for Easter Day in the BCP (1662) all point to the saving message of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

The EASTER ANTHEMS (replacing the Venite for Easter week) are all biblical verses which declare the fact and meaning of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

The COLLECT celebrates the fact that by the death and resurrection of Jesus there is opened to believers eternal and abundant life; it then makes the connection between this gift of everlasting through the resurrection and the living of a life that is pleasing to God, fruitful in holy desires and good works.

The EPISTLE from Colossians 3:1-7 is an exhortation to live as those who truly believe not only that Jesus Christ has been exalted to the Father's right hand in heaven but that those who are united to him by faith have also been exalted together with him. Holiness and righteousness of life flow from union with the Lord Jesus who has conquered sin and evil and is raised to the highest heaven as the Lord of lords.

THE GOSPEL from John 20:1-10 tells how Mary Magdalene visited the tomb of Jesus only to find that the stone across its entrance had been moved. She hastened to tell Peter and John. They ran to see for themselves and entering the tomb found to their amazement that it was empty. So the empty tomb becomes the first sign that Jesus has been raised from the dead.

Naturally Christians who hear the story so far want to know what happened next and of they read on in John's Gospel. They find out that Jesus actually appeared to Mary, spoke to her and made her -- a woman and a woman with a certain reputation -- into the first witness of the Resurrection! Thus she can go and tell the disciples, "I have seen the Lord!"

So it is a woman not a man, a disciple and not an apostle, who is chosen by God to be first in seeing the Lord Jesus Christ as the Resurrected Master and Saviour. (See Luke 24:1-12 for more details of the role of woman as witnesses of the Resurrection.)


The Revd Dr Peter Toon Holy Week 2002


The traditional English name for the Thursday of Holy Week is Maundy Thursday.

The most probably explanation of this expression is that it is based upon the Latin, "Dies Mandata", meaning "the Day of the Commandments." It will be recalled that according to the Gospels the Lord Jesus Christ on this day gave to his disciples commandment (1) to commemorate his death [Luke 22:14ff.], (2) to wash one another's feet [John 13:14-15], and (3) to love one another [John 15:12ff.].

Various practices are traditionally associated with this day and originated in the early Church - the repetition of the Creed by the Catechumens who are to be baptized on Easter Eve, the public absolution of penitents and the consecration of the chrism (the baptismal oil and oil for anointing the sick).

The classic BCP envisages that there will be a Service of Holy Communion on this day at which will be commemorated the institution of the Lord's Supper and the narrative of the Passion will be read.

The institution is celebrated through the reading of St Paul's account of the commandment of Jesus "to do this in remembrance of Me" ( 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). The Gospel is Luke's Gospel 23:1-49 and is the continuation of the BCP method of reading the Passion narrative in all four Gospels during Holy Week. Thereby the contents of the Gospel take us through Good Friday and we hear of the Crucifixion of the Lord before it has (liturgically in the calendar) occurred.

The Collect used is that used on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The western catholic traditions of reserving the sacrament for use on Good Friday, of stripping the altars and of keeping watch with Jesus into the night have been taken over by some Anglican parishes. Further, some Anglican dioceses have a service in the Cathedral for the consecration of the chrism/oil and at this (in recent times) clergy have been asked to renew their ordination vows.

For those who cannot go to church services there is much benefit to be had in reading and then meditating upon the three commandments given by our Lord on this day.

"This do in remembrance of me" opens us vistas of possibilities of fruitful thought concerning the way we know Jesus in the Sacrament!

"Wash one another's feet" presents us with a vivid picture of what serving and loving others is all about. No task is too menial for the servant of the servants of the people of God.

And "Love one another as I have loved you" takes us into the depths of meaning of "agape" and "caritas" which is presented to us by the example of our Lord and is explained in brief by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.

Maundy Thursday stretches out as it were to grasp Good Friday even as Good Friday reaches out and forward for the message of victory proclaimed on Easter Day!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon , Wednesday of Holy Week, 2002

Sunday, March 24, 2002

Making sense of those Palm Branches

(May this day be for you the first of a truly Holy Week!)

Blessing, distributing and holding palm branches and then processing around the church with them is not meant to be fun! It is both a solemn and a joyous event, but for us it has to be solemn before joyous.

Like the pilgrims on their way into Jerusalem for Passover, we hail Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of David, and we, like them, cry out, “Hosanna [Save us, we beseech thee O Lord] to the Son of David. Blessed is he that comes in the name of the LORD.” We know that the palms we wave are ancient signs of victory and glory.

But there is a big difference in what each of us intends.

The crowds on the narrow winding road into Jerusalem looked for a king who would be their national liberator, freeing them from the yoke of the Roman empire. Their “Hosanna” was a prayer for victory, for a deliverer who would save them immediately from Roman occupation and make them a free people. So they make his way one of glory as they spread their garments and the branches on the way before him. They hardly notice that he is on an ass and not on a horse.

In contrast, as we go in procession on Palm Sunday we see Jesus as the king who embodies justice and mercy and who humbly brings peace with God and peace amongst men by the way of being God’s suffering Servant – by his suffering and death. To us his choice of an ass is a prophetic sign that he has rejected the war horse and chosen the symbol of peace. Our cry of “Hosanna” is for him to save us through his Cross at Calvary. And our joy is a profound inner affection of the soul which is related to the forgiveness of sins and a right relation with God the Father through Jesus the King/Christ.

Having entered Jerusalem, Jesus headed straight for the Temple ( a 30 acre site with the court of the Gentiles being the outer ring of a series of concentric zones). It was entirely nature and appropriate for the king of the Jews to go to the center of Jewish religion and thus the crowds are not surprised that he heads there and they follow him.

But once there, the cries of the crowd cease as they watch with amazement at what takes place. First of all, Jesus began a major operation of clearing the Court of the Gentiles of those Jewish merchants who were exchanging money and selling animals and birds for use in the Temple. As the King of justice, Jesus demonstrated that the Temple was being used for injustice and dramatically he made it clear with those with eyes to see that the days of the Temple as being the center of true Faith were about to end. A new Temple had arrived and Jesus himself was/is that Temple – all worship henceforth will be in through and with this Jesus, the Christ.

To demonstrate that the New Order and Era had arrived Jesus proceeded to heal the blind and the lame (those ceremonially unclean) within the Temple. Thereby he angered the priests who ran the Temple. But God was judging both the Temple and the Priesthood by the actions and words of his Messiah. Their time had come to an end for a new Temple (Jesus himself) and a new Priesthood (his disciples – see 1 Peter 2:5). And to celebrate this, the children present, sensing that they were witnessing a unique event and moment [and inwardly prompted by the Holy Ghost], began to cry out, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” On behalf of all they were praying for salvation to come through this Person, this Jesus. The cries of the children angered the priests and so Jesus spoke to them plainly of what God was doing at this time. From the lips of children God the Father had ordained and brought forth praise – and this in stark contrast to the lack of praise in the priesthood.

We can imagine that the crowds who greeted, garlanded and praised Jesus on the way into the city were taken aback by what they witnessed in the Temple courts. He shattered their dreams of a deliverer and they began to see him as the enemy of the Jewish people and their hope. So they, and others, a few days later could cry out, “Crucify him!”

However, we can see that the solemn cleansing of the Temple and the chiding of its priests by the King of Peace was a prophetic declaration by Jesus -- in anticipation of Good Friday -- that the new covenant was about to be inaugurated and thus the old covenant, which had failed through the hardness of heart of the Jews and their leaders, was under the judgment of God.

Let us stay with Jesus daily through Holy Week with solemnity and inward joy.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon , Palm Sunday 2002

Friday, March 22, 2002

Interpreting the classic BCP of 1662 - continued

I return to a topic which has caused some discussion as well as a little distress amongst my readers on various continents!

TOPIC: On interpreting the BCP 1662 as though it were the BCP 1552 and as though only Cranmer's known theology from 1549-1552 is the key to its meaning.

Comment: In one thing it appears extreme anglo-catholics and very protestant evangelicals agree. They tend to, or actually, interpret the meaning of the text of the 1662 BCP as though it were the text of 1552 and as though the 1552 text were published in the name of Thomas Cranmer. [And further, they tend to regard the 1549 BCP as being genuinely Catholic or unreformed!]

In a recent article circulated by e mail I suggested that the BCP 1552 is to be regarded as a public book, the possession of the Church of England, and that as such it was edited [thus modifying its meaning] in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and Charles II. The fact of its being a publicly used book in prayer and worship and its editing, along with its exposition and defence (e.g., by Hooker & Bramhall), means that its range of meaning is far wider and deeper than that in the mind and intention of Cranmer, although it includes his. At the same time there are definite restrictions upon its meaning for it exists under the authority of Scripture and along with the other formularies, the Ordinal, the Articles and the 1604 Canon Law. Thus it cannot be taken to support Presbyterian Puritanism or Roman Catholicism or German Lutheranism; but, it can be used faithfully by those whom we may call Calvinist Churchmen and Laudian Churchmen, the low and the high church people of the 17th century.

As the Church of England used the BCP after 1559 a growing conviction arose in an every increasing number that it was both catholic and reformed and thus could be used with varying ceremonial and by a wide range of Christians of varying convictions.

In reponse to my initial piece, a learned friend commented by e mail:

"It is wrong to interpret a document in the light of, or to damn its contents because of, the supposed motives or beliefs of the reputed or actual authors.

It is in many ways like the interpretation of an Act of Parliament [in the Biritsh system]. What the draughtsman thought he was doing, what his personal beliefs and motives were, are irrelevant. And ditto for the Attorney General who carried the Bill, and all the individual legislators who spoke on the Bill or sought to or did amend it, or voted on it. What is important is what the thing says. Many an Attorney general has had to echo the little phrase: 'It does not appear to me now, as it appears to have appeared to me then.'

I get rather tired of those people who condemn the historic BCP because of their view of what they think Cranmer's theological positions were. In any event his positions do seem to have been a bit fluid. The critical thing is whether or not the book reflects a position which is both Catholic and Reformed, and whether the wording is such that a reasonably comprehensive range of opinions can be subsumed within it.

The manic desire to have everything perfectly in accord with one's own particular, not to say peculiar, beliefs, is absolutely sectarian, and is the bane of much of the continuing Anglican movement, and not just in the States. The idea that jumped up nobodies of clergymen know better and set themselves up in judgment, and moral judgment also, on Cranmer and his co-workers makes my blood boil."

The above was not intended for publication, but it does make the point very clearly that the BCP is the Prayer Book of the Church and that its meaning is established within the Church by its being prayed, being explained and defended, by discussion of its weaknesses if any, by changes being made in its content to text or rubrics by authority, and by its place under the Bible but with the other formularies of the Church.

When an excessive or exaggerated interpretation arises ( as with J H Newman in the 1840s) there is discussion and debate wherein some or part of the new way of reading the text may become part of the general comprehensiveness of the Church in the use of the Liturgy and the rest if set aside.

When devout persons feel that the classic BCP cannot be stretched to contain their doctrine and practice then they have tended to supplement it from such sources as the Roman Missal or they turn to the new services in "contemporary language" whose imprecision in doctrine allow for diversity. In both cases Anglican identity is diminished if not lost in some cases.

If we take the American 1928 BCP then we see that it contains important editing especially of the text of the Communion Service of 1662 and it cannot possibly be interpreted in 1552 BCP terms. It contains a form of Consecration Prayer that was developed by the English and Scottish High Churchmen of the 17th and 18th centuries. At the same time it can be used by Evangelicals for it is genuinely Reformed Catholic in intention and content. Much the same applies to the Canadian 1962 edition of the 1662 BCP. In terms of the BCP these have gone as far as it is possible to go without changing its reformed catholic character.

The Revd Dr. Peter Toon March 22, 2002

Thursday, March 21, 2002

Remembering Thomas Cranmer on the anniversary of his martyrdom.

Today, March 21, the first day of Spring [in Britain], is the commemoration of the burning at the stake outside Balliol College, Oxford in 1556 of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. A wreath was laid on the spot today by the Prayer Book Society.

As I could not be there, I have read again today the account of his martyrdom, extracts from his writings and parts of The Book of Common Prayer of 1552.

Why, I ask myself, did the Protestant Reformers, including Cranmer, reject so vehemently the medieval doctrines [and ceremonies associated with them] of the Mass, of purgatory, of petitions to saints, of indulgences and of prayers for the departed. And to this question a simple and correct answer is, “Because they did not find them in Scripture.”

Yet there is more to it than that, as the portrait of late medieval devotion and religion provided by E. Duffy’s “Stripping of the Altars” makes clear. And this “more” is explained in these terms by the biographer of Cranmer, Diarmaid McCulloch:

“For the late medieval Church, the mass had become as much something for the dead as for the living; it had broken down the barrier between life and death in a very particular, concrete sense. Behind the crowds of the faithful in a medieval parish church, convent church or cathedral jostled invisible crowds, the crowds of the dead. And they crowded in because the Church maintained a model of the afterlife in which the mass could speed the souls of the faithful departed through purgatory. A gigantic consumer demand of the dead fuelled the services of the Church. It was to change this that the Reformers struggled. Insisting that the just shall live by faith alone, they believed that the medieval Church, with the papacy as its evil genius, had played a gigantic trick on the living by claiming to aid the dead in this way. They sought to banish the dead, and to banish the theology which had summoned them into the circle of the living faithful gathered round the Lord’s Table.” [Cranmer, p.614]

If one looks at the services of the BCP 1552 and compares them with the first edition of 1549 and then with the medieval services of the Sarum Rite, that was widely used in England in late medieval times, one can see the elimination from the 1552 services of all traces of the faithful departed and purgatory - no praying or offering sacrifice for the dead, who are judged to be asleep in Christ and thus in bliss.

In order to break the people free from what they saw as the evil bondage of medieval devotion and religion, the Reformers had to cut down the whole edifice of the Church’s control over the inmates of purgatory, first by removing purgatory from the spiritual universe and then making the church expectant into those who slept in Christ waiting for the resurrection of the dead and the fullness of the life of heaven in redeemed bodies. With the removal of purgatory went also all the means to assist the swift passage through it --- the sacrifice for the living and the dead of the Mass, indulgences, rosaries, pilgrimages, candles, prayers and so on.

And positively the message of justification by faith not by works was proclaimed widely and profoundly. The way to a right relation with the Father was to repent of sins and believe/trust in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. By the action of the Holy Ghost such faith brought union with Christ unto all eternity and the sure and certain hope that at death one would go as a disembodied soul to be with Christ immediately. Such true faith was also faithful and thus genuine faith works by love and has its fruit in good works which are done to the glory of God and not to gain merit!

So it is not surprising that the BCP of 1552 framed by Cranmer, the mature Protestant, has been recognized as a near perfect embodiment of the principle of justification by faith. Here is what Gregory Dix wrote:

“As a piece of liturgical craftsmanship it is in the first rank – once its intention is understood. It is not a disordered attempt at a catholic rite [liturgy], but the only effective attempt ever made to give liturgical expression to the doctrine of justification by faith alone” (Shape, p.672).

Dix’s point is easily appreciated by the reading of the Burial Service and of the Order for Holy Communion – no purgatory or prayers for the dead here.

Today when Anglicans, using a modern rite for Holy Communion, are told that it is all about Celebration and Community (of this world) it is very difficult for them to enter into the experience and thought-world of late medieval and early sixteenth century English devotion and religion, where it was all about reference to the world of the departed. Thus Christians today hardly notice if in prayer there is a general petition for the departed or if in a burial service prayer is offered for the soul of the body being buried.

Thus, for example, it is not surprising that some of those who call themselves Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church USA and in the AMiA seem to have found a way (that Cranmer could not find or allow) of both claiming to hold to justification by faith alone and praying (howbeit in general terms) for the faithful departed. [It would seem that the only way that prayer for the departed makes sense is if a doctrine of the Church expectant is held wherein there is a process of purification of souls towards the full redemption at the general resurrection of the dead.]

Of course what Cranmer did believe in was praying together with the faithful departed in the Communion of Saints within the one Body of Christ and Household of God. In Christian worship the faithful on earth join the faithful departed to offer to the Father through Christ the Mediator and High Priest, worship, praise and thanksgiving. “With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy holy name!”

The Revd Dr Peter Toon, the anniversary of the Martyrdom of Cranmer, March 21, 2002.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002


On March 19, 2002, the British Commonwealth of Nations (54 in all) suspended one of its members, Zimbabwe, for an initial period of 12 months from the councils of the Commonwealth.

The reason for the suspension is that the recent election , which served to confirm the continuing presidency of Robert Mugabe, was judged by official commonwealth observers to be unjust and unfair and not to be conducted according to democratic rules and values.

When the heads of government of the Commonwealth met recently in Australia many concerns were expressed about the way the electioneering was being conducted. Since the election itself had not yet taken place a troika of three, the Prime Minister of Australia (John Howard), the President of Nigeria (Olesungo Obasanjo) and the President of South Africa (Thabo Mbeka), was appointed to meet in London after the elections and to make a judgment on behalf of all 54 nations. This they did on March 19th.

Their decision was a surprise to virtually all onlookers for it was known how difficult it would be to pass a negative judgment upon one of their colleagues by the two Presidents from Africa. Yet the evidence from the observers was so clear in pointing out irregularities, fraud and persecution by the ruling party that there was only one judgement that decent men could make. And for the good of all they took it!

Mugabe and his party are guilty of serious betrayal of democratic values and procedures and thus they must be suspended for the minimum of a year. After that year there will be a reassessment, and during the year of suspension all help will be given to Mugabe and his country for internal reconciliation of persons and parties and to bring themselves into the value system of the British Commonwealth.

For the good of the people of Zimbabwe we all hope that the suspension will be a means to improvement in that beautiful land.

Now let us turn to the Anglican [we could say "British"] Communion of Churches with 37 members, most in the countries of the Commonwealth.

In her midst, this Communion has one member who has forsaken publicly as an institution some of the basic doctrines ("values") of the Communion. She has adopted worship, doctrines, morals and canon law that fly in the face of that which is taken as agreed principles and procedures in the rest of the Commonwealth. Further, visits by Primates to her have pointed out what she has done and two Primates, in the book, TO MEND THE NET, have outlined possible procedures for dealing with an erring member. [What they proposed is not unlike what has been done in the Commonwealth to Zimbabwe.]

The province in question is the Episcopal Church of the USA which has rejected the Anglican doctrine and practice of reception concerning women's ordination and which has also rejected the position of the Lambeth Conference on the ordination of active homosexual persons and the blessing of homosexual couples. And she has done all this in the context of a general departure from orthodox teaching on the identity of the Holy Trinity and the Person of Jesus Christ. This Church shows no signs of repenting, even though she has been called to such by leaders within and without her ranks and membership. In fact, some of her liberal elite see a missionary vocation of this Church to spread its innovations to the rest of the Communion.

For the good of the whole Communion, and for the chastisement and greater good of the Episcopal Church, the Primates' Meeting in April ought to find a way to suspend the ECUSA from the councils of the Communion for a year or more and during the time of suspension help the ECUSA to find ways of returning to worship, doctrine, morals and canon law that at least give space and comfort to those who wish only to be traditional, faithful Anglicans/Episcopalians.

As I heard often when a boy, "Where there is a will there is a way!" The Primates need the will and then they will find the way.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon, The Rectory, Biddulph Moor, Staffs.
March 21st 2002, the anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Right Mindset for Holy Week

Holy Week is "the week of weeks" even as Easter Sunday is "the Feast of feasts" for Christians (e.g. reformed Catholics/Anglicans) who observe the Church Calendar & Year. And Good Friday is the most solemn of all days and thus a day of fasting and waiting upon the Lord.

With what mindset should the baptized Christian enter and go through this unique week?

I suggest that it should be an attitude and presence of mind and a fullness of heart that looks at the Lord Jesus [what he said, what he did and what he endured as he passed from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday] from two perspectives or two directions simultaneously.

(1) In terms of the Church Year it should a meditative, devotional, and imaginative accompanying him as he enters Jerusalem day by day, observing where he goes and what he says, listening to what he says and what is said and done to him, and weeping with his disciples as he suffers, dies and is buried. This can be achieved by participation in public services and by personal devotional exercises before the Lord as the Passion narratives of the four Gospels are read (these are printed in the classic BCP (1662/1928 etc but are in effect chapters from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).

(2) In terms of the personal relation to God the Father through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, and within the Body of Christ, it should be a reverential looking back [or looking down from above] from the post-Easter & post Exaltation position. We are baptized believers and we have been baptized into the death of Jesus, buried with him, raised and exalted with him to newness of life. We are justified by faith through the abundant mercy of God and this state of a right relation with the Holy Trinity will be our eternal state by grace with God and the holy angels and saints for ever - though now existing in earthly, sinful bodies soon to be living in heavenly, immortal bodies.

It would be wholly dishonest for us to go through Holy Week pretending that we are not children of the Resurrection and acting as if we were actually to be redeemed on Good Friday and liberated on Easter Day.

We know that the One who was called the prophet and Son of David and greeted in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is the Lord of glory who died and rose again for us. We know that the Master who went through such agony in prayer in Gethsemane was looking at the expiation/propitiation of the Cross and bearing in his pure soul the agonies and pains of our sins. And we know (as the disciples seem not to have known) that the Jesus who was crucified, dead and buried would/did rise from the dead in a new body of glory.

So why do we in Holy Week walk daily with Jesus into and out of Jerusalem as though we did not know the finale of the events we are beholding and participating in?

I suggest - as a starter - that we go through Holy Week meditatively and with empathy in the company of Jesus in order (a) to grow in appreciation and thanksgiving for who he is and for what he did for us and for our salvation; (b) to see more clearly by self-examination the human sin that rejected and crucified him [which sin is also in our hearts]; (c) to see in his disciples weaknesses and strengths to be noted and either avoided or copied, and (d) to gain a lively sense of the transience and fragility of this world and the solidity and eternity of the invisible world that we call heaven.

I must add the following.

Such a walk with Jesus in Holy Week is made effectual and effective because by grace we are already "in Christ" and indwelt by his Spirit. Thus we are enabled to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ, as St. Paul declares.

What we may call the calendar/liturgical perspective requires the being "in Christ" perspective in order truly to become practically and really a means of receiving the grace of the Father through the Lord Jesus by the Holy Ghost.

In closing allow me to state that an unbaptized searcher after God and truth will benefit tremendously from adopting the calendar/liturgical approach, especially if he proceeds in sincerity and repentance.

And we should not forget that the catechumens, who are to be baptized on Easter Eve or Easter Day, will in a real and vital sense experience Good Friday as the Day of Salvation and Easter Day as the Day of Rejoicing for Salvation in Christ.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Lent VI 2002

Tuesday, March 19, 2002


The Sixth Sunday in Lent
(The Sunday next before Easter known also as Palm Sunday)

The Church as the Household of God the Father now enters into the last week of Lent. The fasting, inward and outward, of her devout family members will soon give way to rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory. The cry will be heard, "Christ is Risen," and the response of "He is risen indeed" and "Alleluia" will be made, but only after the solemn fasting, meditating and preparation of the two last days, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

There is provided in the BCP (1662) one Collect for use on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday. However for each of these days there is a separate Epistle and Gospel. In terms of the Gospel, the Church reads the accounts of the crucifixion in Matthew, Mark & Luke on these days, with Mark & Luke being allocated two days each. Good Friday has its own special Collects (three in all) with Epistle and Gospel. The latter concludes the Gospel accounts of the Crucifixion by reading that in the Gospel of John.

Thus by the end of Good Friday the Church has the mind that is in Christ Jesus, the mind in which is stored the word of God concerning the passion and death of the same Lord Jesus.

When and where there is not a Celebration of the Holy Communion on all these days, there is the possibility (requirement?) for the service called Ante-Communion [= the first half of the Order for Holy Communion] to be used after Mattins so that full use is made of the Collects, Epistles and Gospels. If the BCP Lectionary is used for Mattins and Evensong as well as for Holy Communion there is no repetition of any passage of Scripture during Holy Week and one hears the full account of the Passion of our Lord.

For the Eve of Easter Day, there is provided a Collect, Epistle and Gospel which mark the transition from Lent to Easter and recall that in the ancient Church Saturday night was the time for the Easter Vigil and the baptism of catechumens. Some churches which use the classic BCP will have such a Vigil with baptisms. . Various forms of service are available from standard liturgical sources to supplement the Collect, Epistle and Gospel in the Prayer Book for Holy Saturday.

What seems a strange omission at the beginning of Holy Week is that the account of the Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on the Sunday before Good Friday is not part of the Gospel for Lent VI. It is however the New Testament Lesson at Evensong for that Sunday. In practice this Lesson may be read before the beginning of the Order for Holy Communion when there is a short service of the blessing and distribution of the palm branches or it may even be transferred to Morning Prayer if this service includes the blessing and distribution of palms.

Holy Week is a period of time that demands of baptized Christian believers their full consecration and commitment. Being with Jesus daily in meditation and prayerful imagination as he enters the city of Jerusalem, performs a variety of deeds and provides instruction before returning to Bethany is demanding. Then being with him during his time in the Upper Room, in Gethsemane, in captivity and at trial before being condemned to death by crucifixion is yet more demanding. Finally the walking with him to the hill called Calvary and watching him being crucified, hearing his final words from the Cross and seeing him expire take us to the limits of our human sympathy and feeling. Yet also we know deep in our hearts that He died for us that we might be forgiven, saved by His precious blood.

Where it is impossible for a baptized Christian to attend services in a church or where a church does not provide daily services in Holy Week, it is strongly recommended that each baptized believer reads the appointed Gospel daily, prefaced by the Collect of the Day and followed by appropriate meditation and private prayer.

The Epistle Readings are as follows:

Philippians 2:5-11
M. Isaiah 63:1-19
Isaiah 50: 5-11
W. Hebrews 9:16-28
Th. 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Hebrews 10:1-25
Sa. 1 Peter 3:17-22

The Gospel Readings are as follows:

S. Matthew 27:1-54
M. Mark 14:1-72
Mark 15:1-39
W. Luke 22:1-71
Th. Luke 23:1-49
F. John 19:1-37
Sa. Matthew 27:57-66

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon
Minister of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor, England
& Vice-President and Emissary-at-Large of The Prayer Book Society of America

The Litany and March 21st

The English Litany owes its content and its English prose to the mind and hand of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.

March 21st is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was burned at the stake in Oxford on 1556.

This year of 2002 is the 450th anniversary of the publication of the second edition of "The Book of Common Prayer" (1552) edited by Cranmer.

In Oxford there will be a joint celebration of these two anniversaries on Thursday, 21st March. In the Chapel of Balliol College there will be a celebration of Holy Communion at 11.a.m. according to the 1552 BCP and then a wreath will be laid outside the College on the spot where Cranmer died, marked by an iron cross in the road.

In my parish, some 140 miles from Oxford, we shall use the English Litany on the Eve of the anniversary, Wednesday March 20th. The BCP of 1662 (as those of 1549 & 1552) requires that the Litany be prayed on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

The text of the Litany that is found in the BCP (1662) is virtually the same as that found in the BCP of 1549 and 1552. And it is only slightly different from the original translation and arrangement done by Cranmer in 1544.

In fact, the first vernacular service of worship to be authorized in England was the processional service of petition and intercession known as the LITANY and this is the first example we have of Cranmer's liturgical craftsmanship and English prose. It was published as a separate booklet on May 27, 1544.

In general, Cranmer followed the late medieval structure of the Latin Litany but of course changed its doctrine so that it was reformed Catholic rather than medieval Catholic. He had before him as he worked a variety of types of litanies including the latest Lutheran ones, but his eyes were primarily on the Latin litany familiar in English churches.

The Latin Litany very familiar in England was composed of these parts: 1. "Kyrie Eleison"; 2. Invocation of the Holy Trinity, with response "Miserere nobis"; 3. Invocation of Saints, with response, "Ora pro nobis"; 4. "Deprecations" for deliverance from evil; (5) "Obsecrations," entreaties by some aspect of Christ's life, each with response, "Libera nos Domine"; (6) Supplications with response "Te rogamus, audi nos"; (7) "Agnus Dei", "Kyrie" and Lord's Prayer, and (8) conclusion - suffrages, psalm and collects.

The chief changes introduced by Cranmer were the use of English, the addition of the petition for deliverance "from the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities", the omission of the "Kyrie Eleison" at the beginning, the elimination of virtually all requests for the prayers of the saints, and longer composite petitions instead of many shorter ones.

Cranmer reduced the 62 invocations to saints and angels to three, which were addressed to: St Mary, Mother of God our Saviour; the Holy Angels, Archangels and all Holy Orders of Blessed Spirits; and the Holy Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins and all the Blessed Company of heaven.

In 1549 "The Litany and Suffrages" as it was called was annexed to the new "Book of the Common Prayer" (1549). It had been slightly edited. To conform to growing Protestant convictions about life after death the requests for prayer of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and Saints had been removed.

In 1552 it was placed in the revised edition of "The Book of Common Prayer" after Evening Prayer and the Athanasian Creed with these words: " Here followeth the LITANY to be used upon Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.."

In 1559 in the reign of Elizabeth I the petition referring to the Bishop of Rome was removed. And with very minor changes made in 1660-1662 the Litany became part of the BCP (1662).

Regrettably these days few churches and persons pray to God using it on Wednesdays, Fridays or Sundays! Some use it in Lent but not at other times.

It is especially good when used by Anglicans who have gone over to extempore prayer in either charismatic or traditional prayer meetings. If it is prayed first, before extempore prayer begins, it usually adds to the quality of the free prayer.

Take a look at the Litany and use it!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon March 19, 2002.

Sunday, March 17, 2002


This comment is not intended to be a rebuttal either (a) in the sense of a historian reviewing what Wright has written about the history of a bishop's prerogative or (b) what Beers has written as a lawyer concerning the Canons of the ECUSA on a bishop's prerogative. It is rather some general observations.

Both men were asked to give their advice because of a desire amongst conservative congregations in certain dioceses, where the local bishop is committed to the lesbigay agenda or other modern innovatory doctrines, to have a pastoral visit from a bishop who shares their faith and morals. These parishes on grounds of conscience cannot receive with sincerity the preaching and sacramental actions of their diocesan bishops.

In a few cases the requests of such congregations/parishes have been granted but there are dioceses (e.g., Pennsylvania) where they have been not only refused but militantly rejected.

It seems to me that what both Wright and Beers offer to the House of Bishops is in general correct - correct that is as far as it goes. Any bishop who cares to allow another bishop into his/her diocese to minister to a particular parish is entirely free to do so and further can do so in such a way as to live at peace with that parish. To set up a system of Episcopal Visitors (as in the C of E) would take the action of General Convention.

The present historical tradition of the Anglican Way as well as the Canons of the ECUSA assume that the normal state of affairs in a diocese is that of a Bishop (with the help of a Suffragan) visiting all the parishes, giving their clergy and people pastoral care, and teaching all his flock the Faith of Christ as he drives away heresy and error.

But this is not the present state of affairs in the ECUSA and this is why there is an acute crisis in some dioceses and parishes.

Many dioceses have officially and publicly abandoned the biblically-based, orthodox faith and morals of the Anglican Way to embrace aspects of the radical feminist agenda as well as much of the recent lesbigay agenda; and they have decided that the process of reception (with regard to female clergy) is closed and the verdict is not only acceptance but active harassment of those who still believe (with virtually all the Anglican Communion) that this process is still in process and its results are not yet in.

Thus what has been missing in the ECUSA is not a sound basis in law or in tradition to tolerate gracefully those who, wishing to stay in the ECUSA, still intend to hold to traditional Anglican faith and morals and order. As Wright and Beers show such a basis clearly exists.

That which appears to be obviously missing in some diocesan bishops is loving hearts, caring souls, renewed minds and gracious spirits!

I regret to say that too many bishops have decided that they are Chief Executive Officers and Chief Liturgical Officers of their local religious society (i.e., diocese) and that their own ideology and rules for the company have to be accepted (or at least actively tolerated) by all! They have become hard-hearted religious operatives in whom it is difficult for conservative churchmen to see any sign of the spirit of Christ the great Shepherd of souls.

My judgment is that this state of affairs will not be changed by legal and historical argument or by political machinations in dioceses and in the General Convention. ONLY by fasting and prayer. Hard-hearts can only be softened by the grace of Christ and He usually sends such grace in answer to fervent and sincere prayer in the context of AGAPE (caritas) shown to the offending hierarch by the persecuted.

Time will tell whether the Statement of the House of Bishops of March 12 makes any real and vital difference to requests of the traditional parishes.

"We believe that the present Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church are sufficient for dealing with questions of episcopal oversight, supplemental episcopal pastoral care, and disputes that may arise between the bishops and a congregation. We encourage that their provisions be used wisely and in the spirit of charity."

"The provision of supplemental episcopal pastoral care shall be under the direction of the bishops of the diocese, who shall invite the visitor and remain in pastoral contact with the congregation. This is to be understood as a temporary arrangement, the ultimate goal of which is the full restoration of the relationships between the congregation and their bishop."

The Revd Dr Peter Toon St Patrick's Day, 2002.

Friday, March 15, 2002

On Interpreting the BCP 1662 (in the light of the fact that it is very similar to the BCP 1552 and not to BCP 1549)

The piece below is written in part answer to various questions put to me about the meaning of the BCP (1662). It is a discussion starter not a definitive essay.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

(Some thoughts offered to promote positive discussion in Prayer Book Users' Circles)

For those who only use modern - that is post 1960s - Anglican liturgy what I am going to discuss will seem remote and a waste of time. However, to those who use either the BCP 1662, or one of the editions of the BCP descended from it (e.g., the American 1928 or the Canadian 1962) I think it will have some meaning, and I hope relevance.

Because it is well known that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and several advisers were responsible for the final content of the BCP of 1552, and because the changes made to the 1552 BCP to produce that of 1662 are minimal, there is a tendency in some quarters to want to decide what this classic BCP (1662) teaches and stands for only in terms of what Cranmer (or say Bucer) wrote in their books and letters before1552. On the one side those of decided evangelical and anti-Roman persuasion want to interpret the Book through the very Protestant writings of its primary editor and his associates. On the other side those who wish to downgrade the 1662 BCP because it is not sufficiently "catholic" are happy to point out its very Protestant pedigree.

In both cases there is the use of the historical method which is familiar to us. The attempt to ascertain what an original author intended in what he wrote is of course important. And because we are interested in what an original author wanted to say, then we may be tempted to accept or reject the teaching of the BCP 1662 on whether or not Cranmer's doctrine (known to us from his books and letters) appeals to us.

However, we need to remember that the work that Cranmer and his colleagues produced the BCP (first of 1549 and then, more to their liking, that of 1552) for the Church and Nation. And when their work had been approved by King and Parliament its meaning was in principle larger than that of the editor (s) who put it together. It became the daily language and dialect of prayer of the English people to be used alongside the English Bible, and as such it had to have a greater meaning than that of the few men who had produced it.

And when some of those who used it daily for prayer explained the meaning of its prayers and teachings to their students and their parishioners they did not usually first consult Cranmer's writings before doing so. They offered explanations within the reformed Catholic tradition of understanding then present in the English Church.

What happened, for example, during the reigns of Elizabeth 1 and James 1 was that the contents were interpreted not in the context of mid-sixteenth century controversies of the Reformation (e.g., between Cranmer and Bishop Stephen Gardiner) but in the context of (a) the developed controversies of C. of E divines with Roman Catholic divines from Europe and Puritans/Presbyterians in Britain; and (b) the appeal made by Anglican divines to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Fathers, of the Church of the first five centuries or so. (ONE Canon of Scripture, TWO Testaments, THREE Creeds, FOUR Ecumenical Councils and FIVE Centuries.)

Thus the Sacramental doctrine assumed within or allowed by the wording of the Services of Baptism and Holy Communion of the BCP was not arrived at by a study of the writings of Cranmer but in terms of, for example, what it was known that the Fathers of the early centuries taught on the basis of Scripture and what errors of medieval Catholicism and the Roman Catholic Council of Trent were to be avoided. The Book of Common Prayer was not a book of texts which were locked into the year 1552 but rather it was a living Liturgy with a controlled but expanding interpretation of it within the Church of England.

Of course, words do have meaning and the flexibility for development was limited. In no way, for example, could the text of the Lord's Supper be interpreted to mean that the consecrated bread and wine were really and truly changed totally into the body and blood of Christ so that no bread and wine remained.

Alongside the Formulary that is The Book of Common Prayer, there was that other Formulary known as The Articles of Religion. And the latter served as a kind of signpost as to what it means to be a Reformed Catholic Church, as did also that other Formulary, The Ordinal.

Thus when I want to know what the BCP (1662) as a living liturgy teaches I go to the major expositions of it that exist and in which there is collected what may be called the general mind of the Church in terms of the judgments of godly and wise writers, who include Cranmer and his colleagues. And I allow for the fact that the editors or authors of such books belong to one or another school of churchmanship.

When a Province of the Anglican Church decides to produce a new and revised edition of the BCP 1662 and in doing so deliberately and carefully makes changes in wording to reflect doctrinal change (e.g., inserting petitions for the faithful departed) then of course it is clear what is happening and expositions of it in later years will take note of such change.

Also when a Province creates a totally new Prayer Book in terms not merely of using so-called "contemporary language" but also of introducing new "shapes" of liturgy and new doctrines conveyed by liturgy, then again it is clear what is happening. Here the wording is often deliberately vague so as to allow a variety of opinions from the word go. The result which is probably intended is that people will make all kinds of claims as to what it means, and these may be at odds with each other.

To recap.The BCP (1662), having been a living liturgy for centuries and having been used in differing ways in varying circumstances, has taken into itself the possibility of a reasonably wide spectrum of usage and of meaning. Thus, for example, it could be used with great satisfaction for many decades in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the old style Evangelical and High Church clergy; and today it is used faithfully by those who call themselves "Prayer Book Catholics" as well as those who call themselves "Classic Evangelicals".

However, the fact that most Anglo-Catholic have felt the need to supplement its contents, especially the Prayer of Consecration, with material from the Roman Mass tells us very clearly that the 1662 text is reformed Catholic and not medieval or Roman Catholic in its doctrine of the Sacraments. And the fact that they have felt the need to do this with the American edition of 1928 serves to underline this point.

And the further fact that some Puritans in the mid seventeenth century and many Nonconformists since have felt that it should not be used for it is too near to what they regard as "Catholicism" also tells us that the 1662 text is reformed Catholic and not (in the modern Northern Ireland and Boston, Mass., meaning) Protestant.

Whether being reformed Catholic is a good or indifferent or bad thing I leave to my reader to judge!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon March 15, 2002


In the year 1999 the Prayer Book Society of America made much of the 450th anniversary of The Book of the Common Prayer (1549), the first complete Prayer Book in the English language. A CD of the "Order for Holy Communion commonly called the Mass" recorded in New York City under my guidance was manufactured and the 2,000 copies soon sold out. Printed copies of this service were made available and churches all around the country had special celebrations using this liturgy.

These events of 1999 caused a small but significant interest in the use of a classic Prayer Book in the ECUSA and gave a boost to the Prayer Book Society. (Similar activities in England, Canada and Australia had beneficial results there.)

The year 2002 is the celebration of the 450th anniversary of the second edition of "The Book of [the] Common Prayer" (1552) .

Usually, the second edition of a totally new and epoch-making book is not so valuable or important as the first edition. But in certain ways the second edition is more important than the first. Let me explain.

The importance of the first edition is obvious, it is THE FIRST! The use of the vernacular in the new Prayer Book in 1549 was so good that, along with the Authorized Version of the Bible (the K.J.V.) and the plays of Shakespeare, it had (via the 1552 edition) a major impact upon the establishing of the English language as we have known it. Modern liturgists call this language "traditional language" and their own creation "contemporary language" but these terms are inaccurate in each case! The language created by Archbishop Cranmer was more than "traditional"! (See further the excellent account in Ian Robinson, The Establishment of Modern English Prose, Cambridge University Press, 1998.)

But it was the edition of 1552 (with minor modifications) that was to be used in the Church of England during the reigns of Elizabeth 1, James 1 and Charles 1 and then with further small modifications was to become the most widely used edition of the BCP, that of 1662. The latter has been translated into over 150 languages since 1662. It is for this reason of very wide influence and usage that the 450th anniversary is not to be neglected.

The second edition was intended by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and his colleagues to be explicitly a Reformed Catholic Prayer Book wherein the excesses and errors of the medieval Church were not to be found at all. The services for the Burial of the Dead, the Lord's Supper and Baptism reflect this cleansing!

Perhaps the reaction against medieval abuses so obvious in this edition of 1552 went too far and some good things were discarded. It is easy for us looking back to make such a judgment for we do not live in a culture that is obsessed with life after death and the pains of purgatorial fire; and thus we do not have the real pastoral problem of dealing with people who have been taught for centuries that the Church has a certain power over the destiny of those who have departed this life for purgatory and therefore that prayers, offerings, lighting candles, indulgences and the sacrifice of the mass within holy mother Church can change the quality of life of the departed.

Certainly when the edition of 1662 was prepared it was obvious that adjustments had been made in the contents of the 1552 BCP in order (a) to lessen its perhaps excessive pendulum swing towards extreme Protestantism and (b) to provide services which were genuinely Reformed Catholic in that they reflected the mind and doctrine of the Fathers of the Church of the early centuries. Thus it has been possible for churchmen of various schools of thought to use the BCP of 1662 with complete satisfaction for centuries and to refer to it as "that most excellent liturgy."

As more became known about the history of liturgy and about the liturgies of the major centers of the Church in the first five centuries, there was a desire amongst some Anglican theologians inside and outside the Church of England to make changes in the BCP of 1662 so as to cause the shape of the Prayer of Consecration in the Order for Holy Communion to reflect the shape of these patristic liturgies. One may see these changes in Scottish and American Prayer Books for example. A comparison of the "shape" and content of the Consecration Prayer in the BCP 1662 with that of the American BCP of 1928 will make this point clear.

With the rise of the Anglo-Catholic movement in the 1830s there developed a sense amongst some Anglicans that the contents of the Order for Holy Communion in all editions of the BCP from 1662 needed enrichment from the contents of the Roman Catholic Mass. Thus there were printed, in the late Victorian era, Missals containing the new enriched orders and such are still used in some parishes in America and Canada. In Britain the Anglo-Catholics in the Forward in Faith movement have ceased to use such Missals, and, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, have turned instead to the use in whole or in part of the modern Roman Catholic Rite itself. In a real sense they have abandoned the Anglican style and ethos of worship for what they regard as a more authentically western model.

We must return in closing to the 1552 BCP. It is surely right and appropriate in 2002 that Anglicans of all shapes and sizes, and speaking any of the hundred or more languages used in the Communion, should look back with both gratitude and interest to this Book of Common Prayer, not least because of its influence upon the shape and content of divine worship for millions of people through five centuries.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Lent IV 2002

The Anglican Mission in America Receives Continued Support


TO: The Religion Editor
CONTACT: The Rev. Jay Greener, Communications Officer
Phone: 719-487-3258

March 14, 2002

The Anglican Mission in America Receives Continued Support

In a major meeting just concluded, the leaders of the Anglican Church of
South East Asia voted to recognize their Archbishop's continued sponsorship
of the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA).

Although the bishops chose not to extend full provincial support to the
fledgling missionary movement in the U.S., they unanimously agreed that the
Most Rev'd Datuk Yong Ping Chung, Archbishop of the Province of South East
Asia, could continue his patronage and spiritual covering of AMiA - a
relationship they could have sought to undo. This agreement effectively
recognizes the consecrations of six American missionary bishops in AMiA,
established under the authority of Archbishop Yong and
his predecessor, the Most Rev'd Moses Tay, in partnership with the Episcopal
Church of Rwanda.

Anglican Mission in America Bishop Chuck Murphy was elated at the news. "We
thank God for the bishops and delegates of the Province of South East Asia
for reaffirming their firm stand on orthodoxy, Biblical authority, the
uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the essentials of our faith as affirmed by the
1998 Lambeth Conference. We're extremely grateful for the godly leadership,
vision and witness of Archbishop Yong, and the prayerful and supportive
deliberations of his fellow bishops."

The South East Asian Synod, while weighing how developments related to AMiA
could affect unity within the Anglican Communion, expressed their desire that
Biblical authority and morality be preserved. They committed themselves to
"take a broad based approach to mobilize and link up with like minded
Provinces and Dioceses, Primates and Bishops" toward that goal.

The Anglican Mission in America was launched to provide unity in the
essentials of the Anglican faith with diversity in the expression of the
faith. AMiA's diversity includes the evangelical, catholic and charismatic
expressions of Anglicanism.three streams flowing as one river in Jesus
Christ. The sponsorship of AMiA came from the Archbishops of South East Asia
and Rwanda who consecrated the first two AMiA bishops in January 2000 in
Singapore, with four additional bishops added last summer. These actions
occurred because of a perceived crisis of faith, leadership and mission in
the Episcopal Church in the United States.

The Anglican Mission in America has an affiliation of 40 churches and 8000
adherents, with new churches planned in the year ahead.

Thursday, March 14, 2002


(1552-2002 - the 450th anniversary of the BCP)

To find some of the clearest changes in the BCP (1552) from that of 1549 one turns to "The Order for the Burial of the Dead."

The English Reformers were quite clear in their minds by 1552 that there is no passage in the Old or the New Testaments which enjoins, sanctions or recommends prayers for the dead, baptized or unbaptized. Further, they held the view that if the unrighteous dead can be helped by the prayers of the living then it is incredible that in the many directions for prayer in the whole Bible there is no reference whatsoever to this important matter. (They did not regard the Apocrypha as Holy Scripture and therefore discounted 2 Maccabees 12:43-45.) The Church militant on earth prays with the righteous departed in the Spirit and in the Name of Jesus to the Father, but she is not commanded either to pray for the departed or to ask the departed [saints] for their prayers. [See the official Homily on Prayer, part 3, which is a part of the Formularies of the Church of England]

It has been well stated that, "It would be difficult to exaggerate the degree to which the whole of late medieval worship was dominated by the thought of the departed, and particularly by the need to shorten the pains of Purgatory. This excessive domination to some extent explains the violent reaction of the Reformation against prayer for the departed altogether" (Liturgy & Worship, W. Lowther Clarke, p.622).

The Burial Office of 1549, though different from the medieval Latin service, still contained features of the medieval service which were in origin related to the belief that the Church through her prayer for the dead and her offering of the sacrifice of the Mass could affect the quality of life of departed souls in Purgatory.

In this service, the body of the departed is committed to the ground in hope of the resurrection of the dead and his soul is committed to God the Father; and he, as a departed soul, is prayed for that he may receive the blessing of eternal life as a child of God.

Later, after the Lesson from 1 Corinthians 15 there is further prayer for the departed soul that he will be preserved from judgment and from the gates of hel1.

The service ends with "the Celebration of the Holy Communion" for which a Collect, Epistle and Gospel is appointed. Against the background of medieval Catholicism, with its near obsession with Purgatory, the natural (if not explicitly intended) meaning of such a Celebration is that it is done [in some vague or explicit way] for the benefit of the departed soul --- to pray for and offer the sacrifice of the mass for his speedy passage through Purgatory.

In comparison with the 1549 Service that of 1552 could be said to have the purpose of comforting the mourners with the Christian Hope, of affirming that the baptized, departed soul is already with the Lord Jesus, and of committing his body to the ground in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead. There is no prayer for the soul of the departed for he is assumed to be with Christ; and there is no rubric requiring that there be an attached service of Holy Communion, for there is no need to offer any sacrifice. In this reformed Service there is no hint or suggestion that the Church as the Household of God has powers of prayer or sacrifice that extend beyond death.

And this 1552 Order for the Burial of the Dead remained substantially the same in the classic BCP of 1662. Further, while the reformed Church of England made special provision for All Saints' Day, no such provision was made for All Souls' Day in this Prayer Book.

It is fair to say that the Protestant nature of the 1552/1662 Burial Office has not satisfied all Anglicans. In revisions of the BCP (1662) for other countries as well as in England itself (1928) provisions have been made for prayers for the soul of the departed and for a Celebration of Holy Communion as part of the Service. And in various Anglo-Catholic manuals for priests there are orders of service and prayers for the departed which accept the full reality and existence of the Church Expectant as well as the Church Militant here on earth and the Church Triumphant in heaven.

And in England, from time to time - especially in connection with war -- there have been prayers issued by Archbishops/Monarchs that contain a petition for the departed. Further, attendances at services on All Souls' Day in cathedrals and parishes have often been larger than at services on All Saints' Day.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon March 14, 2002-03-14


In Oxford, England, on the morning of March 23rd, to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the publication of the BCP 1552 and also to commemorate the Martyrdom of Archbishop Cranmer in March 1556, there will be a Celebration of Holy Communion according to the Rite of 1552 in the Chapel of Balliol College, followed by the placing of wreath on the spot outside Balliol where Cranmer died by fire.

1552 Holy Communion

The provision in English of “The Supper of the Lord and Holy Communion commonly called the Mass” in THE BOOK OF THE COMMON PRAYER (1549) was a landmark event. Never before had there been provided for the Church of the nation a complete service in the vernacular to replace the Latin Mass. Archbishop Cranmer and his colleagues, who produced this Rite/Liturgy, intended it as a reformed catholic liturgy that followed the general order of the medieval service but without its medieval doctrines. Instead the New Liturgy was intended to contain biblical doctrine, with insights from the ongoing Protestant Reformation and from the Early Church.

We are not surprised to learn that this new English Liturgy was criticized from both sides of the spectrum.

On the one hand, to those whose minds and hearts still lived within traditional western Catholicism, the Liturgy was seen as deficient in that it did not contain sufficiently clearly or explicitly such doctrines as the mass as a sacrifice, the real presence of Christ in the consecrated bread and wine, and prayers to the saints and for the departed.

On the other, to those whose minds and hearts had been deeply affected by the teaching of Martin Luther, John Calvin and others, the Liturgy was deemed to be deficient in that it was too dependent upon the medieval Mass (of the Sarum Rite) for its “shape” and not sufficiently clear on justification by faith alone.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, belonged to those who believed that it was necessary to produce another text/rite in order to have an Order for Holy Communion free of all erroneous, medieval doctrines and ceremonies and containing full and clear proclamation of the free grace of God in the Gospel of Christ Jesus. He was confirmed in this commitment to rewriting the Liturgy by the insistence of Bishop Stephen Gardiner, a prominent member of the old guard, that the 1549 Liturgy actually gave support to the medieval interpretation of the Lord’s Supper as the Mass.

So when the new edition of The Book of Common Prayer [no longer The Book of the Common Prayer] appeared in mid-1552 it contained the renamed, rewritten and restructured, “The Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.” And it is significantly different from that which is called, “The Supper of the Lord…commonly called the Mass” in the 1549 BCP. No-one could mistake this for an English version of the western Latin Mass.

What were the major differences?

• The inclusion of the Ten Commandments at the beginning of the service.
• A new Exhortation added to be addressed to those who would receive Holy Communion.
• The breaking up of the Canon of 1549 into parts so that (a) Prayer “for the whole estate of Christ’s Church militant here in earth” becomes a separate Prayer after the Homily; (b) Communion is given immediately after the recital of the words of Institution of the Sacrament by the priest and (c) after Communion there follows immediately the Lord’s Prayer and two alternative prayers of thanksgiving.
• New words to accompany the administration of Holy Communion.
• The Gloria at the end rather than the beginning of the service.
• New instructions as to what the Minister is to do with any bread or wine that remains after the Communion.
• The Minister is to stand at the North end of the Table not at the East.

The Prayer of Consecration in the 1552 Rite falls into three parts:

(a) A declaration of the true relation of this Sacrament to the Sacrifice of Christ at Calvary;
(b) A petition that partakers of the elements may be partakers of Christ
(c) A recital of the scriptural account of the original Institution.

It is followed by no saying of “Amen” by the congregation, for the “Amen” is the receiving of Communion by those present, beginning with the clergy. The administration of the bread is on to the hands and not on to the tongue. The words used, “Take and eat this, in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thine heart, by faith with thanksgiving,” are used to make sure that the presence of Christ is located not in the bread but rather in the souls of the baptized and repentant believers, who receive the consecrated bread and wine.

Gregory Dix who is associated with modern attempts to get “The Shape of the Liturgy” right said of the “Order for Holy Communion” of 1552:

“As a piece of liturgical craftsmanship it is in the first rank – once its intention is understood. It is not a disordered attempt at a catholic rite, but the only effective attempt ever made to give liturgical expression to the doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone’.” (Shape, 1954, p. 672).

With minor modifications this Order for Holy Communion was taken into the 1559 edition of the BCP at the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It was used as such throughout her reign and that of her successors James I and Charles I. And with some further minor changes it entered the BCP of 1662 and as such has been the most widely used and known Communion Service in the English language.

However, since 1662 when there have been modifications of the BCP (1662) for use in other countries (e.g., USA 1928; Canada 1962). Changes in the text of the Order for Holy Communion have often been made towards restoring some of the emphases and content of the 1549 Rite. These include such things as general prayers for the dead, the providing in the Consecration Prayer of a distinct Memorial and Oblation, and the allowing of a doctrine of the presence of Christ that is in some way associated with the consecrated elements.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon, March 13, 2002

MORNING AND EVENING PRAYER, from 1549 to 1552 to 1662

One of the great losses of the Anglican Communion in the North and West is the demise of Mattins and Evensong on the Lord's Day and other days.

In this year when we celebrate the 450th anniversary of The Book of Common Prayer edited by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer it may be helpful to reflect a while on the two daily offices of the English Prayer Book.

When the service of Morning Prayer (Mattins) in the BCP (1552) is compared with the service of this name in the first ever BCP of 1549, one immediately notices that the former service begins differently and is significantly longer. Looking closer one also notices that that while that of 1549 is intended for personal or small group recital that of 1552 is clearly intended for congregational recital.

In the BCP (1549) "An Order for Mattins daily through the year" to be said/sung in the Choir/Chancel begins with the Lord's Prayer in its shorter form and then moves to "O Lord open thou my lips" etc. Then follows the "Venite" (Psalm 95), the Psalms of the day, the O.T. Lesson, a Canticle, the N.T. Lesson, a Canticle, Versicles and three Collects, including that of the Day.

Evensong or Evening Prayer in the BCP (1549) has the same structure but with different Canticles and Collects.

It is obvious that the medieval context, although not the medieval texts, has been preserved, where only the local priest and a few others attend the Daily Offices.

In contrast in the BCP (1552) "An Order for Morning Prayer daily throughout the year" is to be conducted as a public service. It was required:

"the Curate that ministreth in every Parish Church or Chapel.shall say the same in the Parish Church or Chapel where he ministreth, and shall toll a bell thereto, a convenient time before he begin, that such as be disposed may come to hear God's Word and to pray with him"

The 1552 Order begins with sentences from Scripture, which are followed by a Call to all present to join the Minister in confessing their sins unto Almighty God, then by a General Confession of sin. Finally there is an Absolution pronounced by the Minister. After this long introduction, the service is basically the same as that of 1549 except it is "O Lord, open thou our lips" to meet the needs of congregational participation.

Evening Prayer has the same structure and is also for congregational use.

Why these changes?

Between 1549 and 1552 the leaders of the reform movement in the Church of England realized the potential of the two Daily [Choir] Offices for becoming means of public worship and the hearing of the Word of God - whether sung, read or preached. Clergy and Churchwardens in parishes were finding it difficult and too costly to supply all the wine and bread needed for a weekly celebration of the Holy Communion (as the BCP 1549 intended). Further, many laity were hesitant to receive Holy Communion weekly, since they had been raised on non-communicating attendance at Mass. So in the BCP
(1552) the Daily Offices are made into two daily public services and the bell of the parish church is to be rung to let people know that the services are soon to start.

As a further addition to public worship and participation by laity in public prayer, the Litany was appointed to be said/sung on Wednesdays. Fridays and Sundays probably after Morning Prayer.

So the custom arose in the Church of England of the major public services being Morning and Evening Prayer, with the former, and sometimes the latter, being followed by the Litany. Gifted musicians and composers began to compose music for these services and to provide anthems to be sung by the choir in cathedrals and college chapels.

Weekly Holy Communion became rare, except in Cathedrals; but often the first half of the Order for Holy Communion (known as "Ante-Communion") was used in parishes. This meant that there was (by modern standards) a prayer marathon on Sundays --- Morning Prayer, Litany and Ante- Communion [which requires a sermon or homily], with the latter becoming the full Communion Service on Feast Days.

When one examines the BCP (1662), which has been very widely used in the English speaking world as well as in many other places in translation, one finds that it is the structure and content of 1552 not those of 1549 that are followed. This makes sense since the 1552 service was used throughout the reign of Elizabeth 1, James 1 and Charles 1 and became part of the English tradition of weekly and Sunday public prayer. However, in more recent times, permission has often been granted by Bishops and Convocations to begin the service at "O Lord open thou our lips," especially when it is to be followed by the Order for Holy Communion in which there is a call to the confession of sins and an absolution.

The American BCP (1928) follows the pattern of 1662 with appropriate modifications for use in a Republic.

Because of the Parish Communion Movement of the 1950s and 1960s followed by the emphasis on the centrality of the Eucharist in modern liturgical revision, large parts of the Anglican Communion, including its mother church, the Church of England, are neglecting, even forgetting that which were for centuries known as "the people's services." Happily the British Broadcasting Corporation presents Choral Evensong weekly and many listeners look forward to this uplifting event.

[The Prayer Book Society encourages the regular use of both Morning and Evening Prayer and is delighted to announce that the Choir of St. John's, Savannah, Georgia, has recorded Evensong and that the CD will be available from the Society for $12.50 from April 15, 2002.

Already Mattins with the Litany has been recorded by St. Thomas Church, Houston, and is available on CD from the Society at the same price. The new President of the Prayer Book Society is the Rector of this parish.

The Prayer Book Society
Box 35220
Philadelphia, Pa. 19128- 0220
(e-mail ]

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Monday, March 11, 2002

Meditation upon the Collect, Epistle & Gospel for the Fifth Sunday in Lent.

The people of God have now completed 30 days of fasting and abstinence. Today, the Lord's Day, they celebrate once more the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and the eternal life they have through, in, and with him. The great Feast of Easter is but two weeks away and Holy Week begins in 7 days.

Being made supremely conscious (through both outward and inward fasting in Lent) that they are an unity of body and soul, the words of this week's Collect are much to the point - "that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul." Here is the Christian hope of the resurrection of the dead and eternal life in an immortalized body with Christ in the glories of the age to come.

In the EPISTLE (Hebrews 9:11ff.) they are called to meditate and give thanks for what the Lord Christ has done and is doing for them as the people of God. By the shedding of his blood as the unique sacrifice for sin he has "obtained eternal redemption" for them. He is now the Mediator between God the Father and the human race and the only way to the Father for sinful men is through, in and with this Lord Jesus Christ. Also in heaven he is the one and only High Priest, who having seen his Sacrifice (himself) accepted by the Father, he has entered into the holy of holies (heaven & the presence of the Father) to act on behalf of those whom he represents (those who believe the Gospel concerning him). At the Father's right hand, he is the exalted King, Priest and Prophet, and there, as the Mediator and also the Intercessor, he makes possible fellowship and communion between redeemed man and the Father. Thus the daily prayers of the people of God addressed to the Father are sent in and by the Spirit "through the Lord Jesus Christ" and thereby are perfected and made effectual. And in the Eucharist, the people of God are raised in the Spirit to dine with him and feed upon him at his heavenly Table.

In the GOSPEL (John 8:46ff.) major aspects of the identify of Jesus are made clear in a comparison with Abraham, the father of the Jewish race. First of all, Jesus presents himself as being in a unique relation with the God of Abraham, whom he calls "the Father" and even more intimately "my Father." So the Church proclaims that Jesus is the Incarnate Son of God, the Only-Begotten of the Father made flesh. In the second place, Jesus presents himself as the living fulfilment of the promises of God made to Abraham and as the realization of the profound hopes of this patriarch for the salvation of his people. "Abraham rejoiced to see my day." And, thirdly, Jesus proclaims his own pre-existence as the only-begotten Son of the Father - "Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am." The words "I am" are of course the words used by the God of Abraham and Moses to identify and to name himself ( see Exodus 3). So the Church has proclaimed both that the Son of God existed before he joined unto himself flesh and human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and that he is truly "very God of very God." As the Incarnate Son he was called "Jesus" and he bears this name unto ages of ages and world without end.

The Revd Dr. Peter Toon March 11th 2002