Tuesday, May 25, 2004


God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by the sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Epistle: Acts 2:1-11 The Gospel: John 14:15-31

Pentecost or Whit Sunday is a major festival of the Church of God, following after the Feasts of the Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the celebration of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the exalted Christ, to the Church of God on earth. It is "White-Sunday" because of the historic connection in the West of holy Baptism on this day and being vested in white robes.

Not only should we pray this Collect before reading the Epistle and Gospel in Divine Service but also privately after reading them.

The Collect, addressed to the Father of the only-begotten Son, begins with the people of God recalling the Event recorded in Acts 2, the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the disciples to bring heavenly light, inspiration, guidance and power to them, so that they could go into the whole world to preach the Gospel. The Lord Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, as he promised in the Gospel (John 14), has ascended: and the Father has sent in his Name and for his sake the Gift of his Spirit to be unto the disciples and in the Church the Paraclete, the Advocate, the Comforter and Counselor of the Lord Jesus Christ. And the Spirit comes to the heart, the biblical word for the very center of human thinking and feeling and willing.

The earnest petition is that, indwelt by the same Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Christ, we today as the people of God will have spiritual insight, discernment and judgment in all things – in worship, in prayer, in reading the Scriptures, in evangelism, in pastoral and social work and so on. For only as our hearts are aligned with the will of God and the mission of Christ in the world are we able to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4) as the Spirit witnesses with our inner spirits that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16). We are to walk “in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:31).

Here “the heart” is to be seen as the center of the human being, that which makes him to be a person created in the image of God, even though sinful. The entering of the Spirit of the Lord into the human heart is his entering into the emotions/affections, the mind and the will. In his natural state, because a sinner, man’s mind is clouded so that he cannot see spiritual truth aright, his emotions are disordered so that he cannot love God aright and his will is in bondage to sinful intentions. The Holy Ghost finds a way to regenerate, renew, re-order, enlighten and sanctify the heart so that the emotions are rightly ordered, the mind is able to think God’s thoughts and the will is empowered to do the divine will. Of course this does not happen all at once, but the Spirit of God is patient! And he works in different people in different ways according to their make-up and his wisdom.

The petition made by the Church today is that this one and the same Holy Ghost do for us what he did for the Church on that Day of Pentecost. We pray for a right judgment – for a sound mind, ordered affections and an obedient will – not occasionally but always and in all things. Sanctification is for all space and time! We also pray that, because the Comforter dwells within our hearts (see John 14-16), we shall rejoice always in God and in his salvation, as we know the strengthening and comforting of the indwelling Spirit of God. “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).

Few of us doubt but that our churches know too much formality, human activity and pride and thus too little of the presence, power, teaching and light, that the Holy Ghost is seeking to make our possession by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is available to us not only at Whitsuntide but also throughout the whole Year.

The Collect ends with a doxology which both celebrates the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, as Saviour and that of the Holy Ghost as the One who is the Unity of Love in the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity. So we are prepared to contemplate and adore the same TRINITY as we move to Trinity Sunday in a week’s time.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge

THE BOOK OF DIVINE WORSHIP: The R C adaptation of the ECUSA 1979 Prayer Book

Since the Episcopal Church [ECUSA] began to ordain women in the 1970s there has been a continual migration of persons and occasionally parts of , or whole congregations, from the ECUSA to the Roman Catholic Church. Most converts have been happy to enter into the normal life and liturgy of the local or the chosen R C parish. However, a minority has made use of the provision by the Vatican of an Anglican-use liturgy, especially where a former Episcopal priest (now re-ordained) is involved.

The public liturgy for these former Episcopalians has now been published as The Book of Divine Worship (2003) by the Newman House Press of Mt Pocono, Pa. It is a massive volume of 974 pages, on regular not India paper.

Its basic sources are threefold : The 1979 Prayer Book of the ECUSA, the 1928 Book of Common Prayer of PECUSA and the English translation of the Missale Romanum of 1973. The full title declares the nature of the book: The Book of Divine Worship being elements of The Book of Common Prayer revised and adapted according to the Roman Rite for use by Roman Catholics coming from the Anglican Tradition. Approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States of America and confirmed by the Apostolic See.

Following the layout of the 1979 Prayer Book (which is assumed to be the latest edition of “The Book of Common Prayer”!) there is a provision of Rite One and Rite Two liturgies for most but not all services and prayers. Daily Morning Prayer, Daily Evening Prayer, The Holy Eucharist, Holy Baptism, Holy Matrimony, The Burial of the Dead and the Collects/Prefaces for the Christian Year come in a traditional and a modern form of language. Here The Book of Divine Worship is more generous to traditional language than is the ECUSA 1979 Book where there is no Rite One provision for Baptism or Matrimony. Further, the R C Book provides the whole Psalter in traditional language, using the text from the 1928 BCP. In respect of Eucharistic Prayers, there is one in Rite One and four in Rite Two.

Strangely in this R C Book there is only one form of the Litany (traditional language) one form of Noonday Prayer & Compline (contemporary language) and one form of the Easter Vigil (contemporary language). Also the form of the Creed in the Rite Two modern language Eucharist begins “I believe” and is the traditional English translation. And, surprisingly, the innovative formula “Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit” from an experimental 1967 ECUSA liturgy (and retained in the 1979 Book) is also retained at the beginning of the Eucharist instead of the Roman Catholic norm of “In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

What appears to have happened in the making of this Book is that the editors began with the 1979 ECUSA liturgy, added to it alternatives in traditional language from the 1928 PECUSA Book of Common Prayer, and then attempted to make all the texts conform doctrinally to the Missale Romanum and Roman Catholic dogma.

We need to remember that not a few of the converts who crossed the Tiber had been users not of the 1979 Book but of the 1928 BCP and thus generous provision was made for them in terms of provision of traditional language, which they can use virtually for all services and all the time, if they use the KJV or the RSV Bible for the Lectionary readings. Yet, recalling what the older Anglo-Catholics used when in the ECUSA, the provisions in traditional language do not include either the use of the Consecration Prayer of the Tridentine Rite in English or of the ancient Eucharistic Lectionary associated with that Rite and with the historic BCP. In the Rite One the Eucharistic Prayer is the modern Roman Canon rendered into traditional English and set into the Rite One structure of the 1979 Book.

Apparently this provision of an Anglican-type liturgy is of limited duration for it is expected that only some converts will need such a provision to assist their full entry into the R C Communion.

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon Ascensiontide 2004

Saturday, May 22, 2004

The Benefits of the Ascension of Jesus

a meditation for the Sunday after Ascension Day

The Son of God who “descended” into space and time from the Father in heaven and then “ascended” from space and time back to the Father in heaven was one and the same Person but on his return to heaven, the vast array of angels knew that he had changed.

Not that he had changed in any way as a divine Person, the Second Person of the Blessed, Holy Trinity. He still remained of one substance with the Father and the Holy Ghost in his divine nature. He had changed in that he had taken to himself, by the action of the Holy Ghost, a full human nature and body in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And in that human nature and body he had lived a fully human life, maturing from a baby to an infant to a child to a young man to an adult man. Further, in that human nature he had submitted himself to the Law and the Will of the Father, a submission which included his Passion, Crucifixion and death. His submission led to a perfect obedience, active and passive.

When the Father raised him from the dead on Easter Day he raised him with an immortal, spiritual and glorious resurrection body. In him human nature was now perfected and deified while still remaining created human nature. So the Son of God who ascended and is exalted into heaven, is the Son of God with his perfected nature and body.

His arrival in that body and with that nature in heaven, and his being placed at “the right hand of the Father” at the very center of God’s supreme dwelling place, brings a totally new dimension and reality into heaven. And that dimension is humanity, not sinful imperfect humanity, but human nature deified and glorified, belonging to the Son of God for everlasting.

All the benefits that flow to believers on earth and then into eternity from the Ascension and Exaltation of Jesus are available as gifts and by grace because the Lord Jesus is in heaven as the One Person made known in Two Natures – divine and human.

Because he is Man as well as God yet One Person, we have one, sure Mediator between God and mankind. We can come to the Father through, with, in and by him.

Because he is there as the God-Man, the Saviour, he prepares a place for his people so that they shall be with him unto ages of ages, with a body like unto his glorious body, as they move in eternity from glory into glory.

Because he is there as the King of Kings, he rules the universe to fulfill the will of the Father, to exercise providence for the good of believers, and to bring to a glorious conclusion the total salvation of the elect.

Because he is there as the High Priest, he represents all his disciples, the whole Church, before the Father in heaven presenting them, their service and their worship/prayers to the Father on the basis of his own merits so that they are loved and accepted in and through and by him.

Because he is there as the great Prophet, he speaks his Word to the church and to the world through the ministry & gifts of the Spirit, his Paraclete, whom he has sent to be with his people, to dwell in them and to guide, empower and sanctify them.

Because he is at the right hand of the Father until the end of this age, he will return to earth from there with power and great glory to judge the living and the dead, to consummate the purposes and will of God, and inaugurate the glorious kingdom of God, wherein the redeemed church shall see the glory of the Father in the face of Jesus Christ.

Therefore St Paul urges Christians to set their minds and hearts on things above where Christ is (Colossians 3). Those who are most useful on earth are those who are truly heavenly-minded.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Services at the First Church of Cyberspace

May 15, 2004


Richard Chartres, Anglican bishop of London, is not used to having congregants wandering around in front of him swearing as he preaches. Then again, he does not normally transform himself into a three-dimensional computer image in an imaginary sanctuary as he did Tuesday to deliver a sermon to animated representations of churchgoers.

But such is life — virtual life, that is — at www.shipoffools.com, an experiment in interactive worship over the Internet. The experiment began with a demonstration at a religious products trade show highlighted by Bishop Chartres's sermon.

People separated by vast distances routinely play in imaginary 3-D worlds and sometimes work in them. Church of Fools aims over the next three months to explore whether they can also regularly worship in them.

Visitors who log on to a vaguely Romanesque church control the speech and movement of on-screen figures known as avatars. Acting through the avatars, visitors can kneel in prayer, talk or whisper in text messages, extend a hand in blessing or raise both arms in ecstatic praise. They can also sit in pews or gather for conversation in a crypt equipped not only with chairs but with a "holy water" water cooler and vending machines as well. Starting tomorrow, they will also hear a sermon at least once a week, from a variety of priests and ministers.

A smattering of churches already provide Webcasts of Sunday services or sites that allow visitors to construct a personalized worship service out of online devotional components. And religious chat rooms allow people to share online prayers or other spiritual activities. But the Church of Fools is the first site to make religion the focus of the kind of interactive role-playing common in multiplayer combat games or Web fantasy worlds.

"We're as curious as anyone to see how it works," said Simon Jenkins, co-editor of Shipoffools.com, the British online publishing group that came up with the concept.

Ship of Fools is best known for hijinks like "The Ark," a takeoff on the television show "Survivor" in which 12 biblical figures competed to avoid being voted off Noah's Ark. But Mr. Jenkins said the Church of Fools was a serious effort to develop an alternative form of Christian worship for people who find the bricks-and-mortar world of religion off-putting. The project is being underwritten in part by the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

Official Sunday services start tomorrow at 4 p.m., Eastern time, with Stephen Tomkins, an author of religious biographies, delivering the sermon. That time slot was chosen to avoid conflicts with traditional services both in the United States, which Ship of Fools said was home to about 60 percent of the 80,000 to 100,000 visitors it got to its Web site each month, and in Britain.

One challenge will be to minimize the rants, insults and barnyard humor that characterize so many public Internet meeting places.

"We have a slightly Old Testament way of dealing with abusive people," Mr. Jenkins said. Budget restrictions prevented the programmers from developing a code that would send miscreants up in flames, he said, but they can be ejected with a keystroke by the site's moderators. Electronic smiting was the fate of the avatar named Anonymous who disrupted Bishop Chartres's sermon.

Still, a substantial part of the early avatar chatter on the site has ricocheted between aggressively irreverent and incomprehensible. Ship of Fools is looking into filtering software that might automatically convert foul language to "amen" or "hallelujah," Mr. Jenkins said. But the Church of Fools is open 24 hours a day, and Ship of Fools lacks the resources to monitor behavior continuously between scheduled services. So in an early response to bad behavior, Ship of Fools has simply cut off the ability of unauthorized avatars to occupy the pulpit and turned off a "shout" feature that had allowed visitors to address everyone at once.

Lack of resources has also affected the worship experience that the Church of Fools is offering. Only some 20 avatars can operate in the church in normal circumstances, although 10 more can be squeezed in for special occasions. In addition, however, the site can handle about 500 ghost visitors, who cannot see one another or interact with the avatars, and its developers hope to be able to expand its capabilities.

"You can't have 5,000 people in there moving around, but you'd like that many watching," said Darrell Wilkins, founder of Specialmoves, the production company in London that built the site for Ship of Fools.

Ship of Fools is scrambling to find additional financial support. Mr. Jenkins hopes advertisers will step forward to claim everything from the vending machines in the basement to the stained-glass window over the altar.

Ideally the advertiser "would be a craft union like one of the Middle Ages guilds or a missionary organization," Mr. Jenkins said of his vision for the window. The image would look suitable, but when a visitor clicked on it, the window would function as a hyperlink taking the visitor to the organization's Web site.

Clearly, interactive virtual services cannot work as carbon copies of regular church services. Based on her experience playing Paul on "The Ark," during which she conducted a service for her biblical shipmates, the Rev. Katherine Anne Carlson, an Episcopal minister at the Church of the Ascension in Gaithersburg, Md., said that to avoid overwhelming the screen with type, interactive sermons would need to be kept to about 500 words, perhaps a quarter the length of her standard sermons. "Maybe it will be worship like haiku," said Ms. Carlson, who is hoping to preach at the Church of Fools.

Because visitors controlling avatars cannot type as fast as words are sung or spoken, participants at Tuesday's demonstration service posted snippets as the hymn was sung and the Lord's Prayer delivered. Some who logged on lived as far away as Australia.

"They weren't all posting in English," Mr. Jenkins said. "I found that moving."

Monday, May 17, 2004

Common Prayer as a vital Tradition in living use.

(comments invited to me personally please: Peter@toon662.fsnet.co.uk)

Christianity does not and cannot exist in this world without a cultural skin. A Christian must live somewhere, eat food available there, dress himself using local materials and speak at least one specific language. Likewise, a local society of Christians as a church must speak to one another and to God in a specific language, sing/chant in a particular style, and meet in a building made from local products and by local hands.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us as a Jew speaking Aramaic and eating and dressing as did other male Jews.

When it is said that Christianity is not to be of this world, the meaning is that the Church in its practice of Christianity is not to share the ethos, spirit, morality and spirituality of the world that is fallen and contains evil. At the same time it is obvious that Christians must live, walk and eat on earth even though they belong to and head for heaven.

In its origins, as Christianity spread out from Galilee and Judea to East and West, the Church sought to please God and minister to the local people in the very places where it was planted. It sought to be in the world and for the world but not of the world. So the Church used a language that was understood by the local people and developed forms of worship which made use of [and transformed] existing styles of music, ceremonial and architecture. So regional and national differences were soon evident in the one Church of God throughout and outside the Roman Empire.

Of course, there was a general basic pattern shared by all the Churches – the daily reading from the Canon of Scripture, Daily Prayer (at least Morning and Evening), the adoption & following of the Christian Year, Eucharist on Sundays and special festivals, Baptism at Easter, and so on. Further, there was the acceptance of the basic Threefold Ministry of Bishop, Priest and Deacon.

Yet in the various regions, the structure and content of Daily Prayer, of the Eucharist and of Baptism/Confirmation were not identical – even as the structure and content of Ford cars are not identical in Europe and America.

The point being made is that each local church, whatever its size and influence, has a cultural form and expression, for Christianity has to be enfleshed in order to exist in this world. In the same manner, each individual Christian, though he seek not to be conformed to this world, has to live on this earth and make use of what is available to him for his existence. There is no escape from or hiding from the living context and so the church has to use its provision even as it sanctifies it.

Further, to be a faithful church in terms of worship and evangelization, the local society of Christians has to belong to and cultivate a living tradition [form, shape, style, content] which is the means by which they worship and serve together. Today, in the panorama of church life in America, we can see a great variety of traditions. The style of worship, preaching and fellowship amongst Southern Baptists is not the same as that amongst Northern Presbyterians or Mid-West Roman Catholics. No doubt it is possible to know God, to love and serve him in and through these various traditions, as long as the tradition is at its best and is the means to an end (the glory of God) and not an end in itself.

Now to consider the Anglican Way.

Up to the middle of the sixteenth century, the Church of England worshipped and served God by and through the Latin, Western tradition. During its Reformation, this same Church translated and adapted the Latin Daily Services to become Morning and Evening Prayer in English for all. So also the Mass was simplified and rendered into English, as were also the other basic services. And, very importantly, the whole Bible was translated into English. Thus the National Church of England crafted for herself in her own local language what became known as Common Prayer, one basic structure and content (with minimal variables) for all services to be used alongside the Bible by all in every parish, cathedral and chapel.

Thus we talk of the Anglican Common Prayer Tradition created in the 16th century out of the living use of the western, catholic, Latin tradition. English “Common Prayer” points to a whole jurisdiction [England] of the Church throughout the whole Christian Year engaged daily in set prayers and hymns with reading of the Scriptures and seeking to live in the light of what is believed, taught and confessed in the worship. Though not everyone can attend every service, yet each and every service is offered to God on behalf of all, so that there is a real Tradition in daily use existing for all.

The Anglican Common Prayer Tradition went overseas with the British Empire and with missionaries and so from being the special possession of one National Church it became the shared possession of many Provinces.

It is important to insist that the Common Prayer Tradition as a living Reality is not created by the individual who opens his Book of Common Prayer to pray, or by a congregation that uses the same Book for a Service of Holy Communion at 8.a.m. on Sunday. The Common Prayer Tradition is always moving through time attached to space; and local churches and individual persons join themselves to it – better immerse themselves in it – in the Spirit. This stated, it is also true to claim that if the National Church or Province seeks to remove it by synodical voting [as has happened in the ECUSA], then the responsibility falls upon major parishes/centers to keep this inherited Tradition alive and well, so that smaller churches and individuals here and there can know and feel that they do belong to an ancient and godly Tradition that is in living use both it in its own region and around the world.

The Common Prayer Tradition of the Anglican Way is a corporate Tradition (in that it is an expression and activity of one jurisdiction of the one Body of Christ and Household of God in one place) before it is a personal, individual tradition, even though each Christian within this Tradition has the vocation to live a godly life in conformity with the high calling of God expressed within this Tradition.

If it is the duty of Prayer Book Societies is to keep in print and available the basic editions of The Book of Common Prayer, and to encourage right understanding and use of them, it is churches having this text in living use who are to maintain and pass on the living Tradition as a form of godliness within the Church of God set in a world of evil and sin.

Appendix --- change of language

The Common Prayer of the ecclesia anglicana [Church of England] was changed from being prayer in Latin to being prayer in English in the sixteenth century. Further, this use of English in public prayer based on set texts had a major influence on the development of modern English prose. Yet the style of English used for Common Prayer in the Church possessed unique qualities from the beginning and these remained in place even as English as a public language developed. One such quality is the use of the second person singular (thou/thee/thy/thine) which is required for the literal translation of ancient texts in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, and thus for the addressing of the One God.

What has happened in the Anglican Communion of Churches in the rush to use what is called “contemporary language” since the 1960s is that instead of there being a faithful attempt to render the received Common Prayer into a modern form of standard English, there has been the adoption of an increasingly politically-correct form of modern English as part of a theory of translation known as dynamic equivalency. This has led to major changes in the content and meaning of the services and thus the creation of an alternative, but not yet a stable alternative, to the classic Common Prayer in “traditional language.” The Alternative often calls itself “Common Worship” but sometimes dares to claim it is “Common Prayer” even though it is by nature filled with many variables.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Extinguish the Paschal Candle on Ascension Day

Not too long ago it was the case that ALL churches which had a Paschal Candle lit it on Easter Eve/Morning and extinguished it 40 days later on Ascension Day after the reading the biblical account of the Ascension. The fifty days from Easter to Pentecost were thus 40 plus 10.

Today, virtually all churches which have a Paschal Candle and use post 1960s liturgy keep it alight for fifty days as if the Resurrected Lord ascended at Pentecost/Whitsuntide. And the rubrics of the new Prayer Books require this innovation.

Why the change?

In short, because of a new definition of the word “Easter”.

In an important essay published in 1984, Massey H. Shepherd Jr., a prominent member of the Standing Liturgical Commission of the ECUSA, explained that the shape or structure of the 1979 Prayer Book owed much to the scholarly reconstruction of the liturgy, and especially of the Easter liturgy, in the ancient Church. He wrote: “The unifying principle of most of the restoration or renewals of liturgy in the 1979 book from the ancient Church is the Paschal Mystery” (“The Patristic Heritage,” in The Historical Magazine of the Episcopal Church, Vol.53, 1984, pp.22ff.). He went on to claim that the whole Paschal Mystery was relived by the faithful in those early centuries once a year, on the anniversary of the Lord Jesus’ own Passover—the very center of the Christian Year, the festival of festivals, and the feast of feasts.

In these reconstructions, the Pascha, as it is called from the Greek form of the Hebrew Pesach or “Passover,” was held to be a unitary festival, recalling the suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, as well as the gift of the Spirit to the Church on Pentecost. Though centered on the events of Good Friday through Easter Day, with the most important rite being that of Easter Eve in the Great Vigil of Easter, what the scholars conceived of as one continuous festival actually lasted fifty days until Pentecost. Thus they spoke of “the great Fifty Days” or the “fifty-day Sunday,” and of the seven Sundays of Easter (not “after” Easter as in the 1928 Book). Then, with the typical zeal of some scholars for the implementation of the latest theory, the liturgists required that the Paschal Candle remain lit until Pentecost to signify the fifty days of Easter. Further, they explained that standing at all times, with no kneeling, is the “norm” for the celebration of this fifty-day Easter and, further, that the general confession of sins should be omitted because this fifty-day Sunday is a period of celebrating the resurrection, not of penitence for sins.

Introducing such innovations into the Episcopal Church of the 1970s and 1980s was exciting to some, but worrying to others, whose piety and devotions were deeply rooted in the Christian Year as it exists in the historic Prayer Book, and whose practice included extinguishing the Paschal Candle at the reading of Acts 1 on the fortieth day, the feast of the Ascension. The facts speak for themselves that the Early Church moved on from celebrating this unitary festival as it further developed the Church Year and identified not only Easter Day but also Ascension Day and Pentecost as specific feast days with their own significance. This identifying of Ascension Day obviously had the effect of minimizing talk of the “great fifty days” because this period of fifty days was now necessarily divided into forty days plus ten. So, too, the period of ten days after Ascension Day assumed a different ethos and spirituality from that of the forty days from Easter Day that led up to it, if only because the Church assigned an octave to the observance of Ascension Day.

In terms of Baptism, there is nothing wrong and much right with preparing candidates during Lent for the receiving of this sacrament on Easter Eve. However, the re-introduction of the Vigil of Easter, which the Roman Catholic Church has also revived, in no way logically or necessarily commits the Church to an academic reconstruction of the “fifty-day Sunday” as observed in the early centuries before the Christian Year was fully developed. The Anglican Way is not based on “primitivism” for its own sake, but it has always sought to follow the Early Church in what might be called her “maturity”—after she had had time to settle the Canon of Scripture, develop basic canon law, dogmatically express the great truths of the Faith, and develop the basic festivals of the Christian Year, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

One of the corollaries of this “fifty-day” scheme in the modern context is that the bodily resurrection and ascension of Jesus is minimized or neglected, the resurrection of Jesus is seen in the light of the “Spirit” (of Pentecost) and thus the resurrection is presented – unwittingly perhaps – as the triumph of the essential life of Jesus over death so that resurrection appearances are just that, appearances. In other words, this scheme suits modern theology in allowing for the diminution of the importance of the Ascension (and it is not surprising that Ascension Day is now often transferred to the Sunday following).

Let us return to the 40 plus 10!

Let the Paschal Candle be extinguished in your parish on Ascension Day!

Then the Forty Days will be accomplished. The Lord Jesus Christ will have ascended into heaven. The Church will be waiting prayerfully for the Descent of His Paraclete, Advocate and Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

The Candle has burned to signify that He had been raised from the dead, is appearing to His disciples as the resurrected Lord, and that as such He is the Light of the world.

The Candle is extinguished (a) to proclaim his Ascension into heaven, that He is no longer with his disciples in the mode of physical presence, and (b) to signify that He is to be with His people in and by the Spirit, his Paraclete, henceforth (and as such He is not located in any one place and time but is present to all everywhere).

The recent custom of allowing the Candle to burn for the “fifty days” causes over a thousand years of church symbolism to be set aside in favour of a symbolism that is not agreed and which differs from place to place, parish to parish – further, the new custom also strengthens the modern tendency to discount the importance of the Ascension and to dilute the reality of the Resurrection of its physical aspects.

Light the Candle again next year for the 40 days and the 40 days only!

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge

Friday, May 14, 2004


Meditation upon the Collects, Epistles & Gospels

The Ascension of Jesus into heaven is the completion of his revealing, saving and reconciling work on earth as the Incarnate Son of God, the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the world. It is thus the Feast to crown all other Feasts of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he who came down from heaven to take flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary must also take that same flesh & human nature, perfected and glorified, into heaven so that he becomes for his people the first-fruits of the new creation. Where he goes they also shall follow.

The COLLECT for Ascension Day assumes the truth declared in both the Epistle and Gospel for this Day that Jesus has ascended into heaven, God’s dwelling place. It goes on to request that we may also ascend – not yet in our bodies but in our hearts & minds – to be with him so that our union with him now is deep and our communion with him is real.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

In the COLLECT for the Sunday after the Ascension, the fact of the Exaltation of Jesus to the right hand of the Father in heaven is celebrated. Then the petition is made for the gift of the Holy Ghost, whom the Exalted Lord Jesus with the Father sends to his Church to be his Representative and our Counsellor, Comforter and Advocate. By his presence and power, we, the people of God on earth, are able to ascend in heart and mind to be with Christ in glory and thus to be genuinely heavenly minded for our humble service on earth. This Collect looks forward to the Feast of Pentecost, White-Sunday, the original time when the Holy Ghost was first given to the assembled disciples of Jesus (Acts 2).

O God the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven: We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

The EPISTLE (Acts 1:1-11) and the GOSPEL (Mark 16:14-20) for the Feast of the Ascension provide us with two different but complimentary accounts of the Ascension itself. It was the last of the appearances of the Resurrected Lord Jesus to his disciples. For forty days he had made himself known to them in marvellous and dramatic ways in order to prepare them for his going away and the coming of the Comforter & Counsellor. Now he is taken up from them by a luminous Cloud of glory which got underneath him to lift him as when a dolphin assumes it rider. This Cloud is the Shekinah which descended upon the Tabernacle in the wilderness and the new temple built by Solomon (Exodus 13:21; 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10-11). It is the symbol of the presence of the LORD and is the best way of making it clear where Jesus is going – not on a journey to far away planets but into the presence and glory of the Father Almighty.

He goes away to be active for his people on earth as their exalted High Priest, King (Lord) and Prophet, the One Mediator between God the Father and man. His going away is not a signal for inactivity by the disciples. Rather his going away opens the possibility of the disciples (empowered by the Spirit who is to come from him) continuing the work on earth begun by him, who said, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel….”

The EPISTLE (1 Peter 4:7-11) and the GOSPEL (John 15:26 – 16:4) for the Sunday after Ascension Day are intended to prepare us for a right appreciation of the Festival we call Whitsunday, the forthcoming celebration of the gift of the Holy Ghost by the exalted Lord Jesus to his Church. In the Epistle, there is a call to fervent prayer and to the right use of the gifts that God gives to us through his ascended and exalted Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Gospel, we are taught more concerning the identity of the coming Holy Ghost, that he is the Spirit of truth. Further, we learn that those disciples in whom he dwells, and who do the work of Christ by his guidance and strength, are very likely to be persecuted for their union and association with Jesus Christ.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge

In Living Use: Keeping the Tradition of English Public Prayer & Hymnody Alive

(a discussion & prayer starter)

About forty years ago a long, rich, creative and dynamic tradition of addressing God the Father Almighty in prose and poetry, in speech and song, began to dry up. A mighty river became a meandering stream. A living being looked as though it had become a corpse.

Until the 1960s, there appeared a constant flow of prayer books to be used alongside The Book of Common Prayer, and specifically for use after “the third collect” of Morning and Evening Prayer, and on other occasions for public worship or meeting on church premises. These, like the new hymns that were continually been written and used, were in the same style of language as the historic Prayer Book and the King James Version (A.V.) of the Bible. In all these books of prayers and the hymn books there is a veritable treasury of piety, devotion, religion and doctrine, supplementing the more valuable & excellent treasury of Bible and Prayer Book. Here was [is & can be] a rich, dynamic tradition.

Why did such a mighty river cease to flow with vigor and contract to stream?

Because in the 1960s there were dramatic changes in the way in which the churches addressed God and translated the Bible. The “Thou-God” became the “You-God” to make the Deity more accessible to a new social order brought in by the raging and revolutionary 60s. And the traditional approach to the translation of ancient texts, what we may call the essentially literal “word for word” method, was replaced by the theory of dynamic equivalency, a “thought for thought” rendering of the original – based upon a missionary intent. So the second person singular ceased to be “thou” and became “you”; “brethren” became “brothers and sisters” and “the man” became “they” (see Psalm 1:1) and so on. Later “Father” became “Parent”!

Publishers ceased to publish books of prayers in the traditional style and looked for compositions in the new style. Likewise hymnbooks appeared where both traditional hymns had been updated and new hymns composed to fit into worship that is addressed to the “You-God”. Liturgical Commissions produced new liturgies and new prayer books incorporating the new ethos and principles. Thus recent hymnbooks do not contain any compositions in the traditional style unless they were produced before the twentieth century!

The use of the traditional way of worship and translation of texts was not so much banned as side-lined after the 1960s. Of course, the use of The Book of Common Prayer and the King James Version of the Bible and the hymns of Wesley & Watts & Newman and the existing books of prayers continued. However, this use continued with few if any injections of new vision, energy and creativity into what was now a contracted tradition. In fact, this long and hallowed tradition has constantly faced the danger since the 1960s of becoming as a fossil or a corpse because it has been starved of energy and life in the context where it is set.

Who is to blame for this policy of starvation? Obviously, there has been amongst most church leaders a deliberate attempt to bring everyone into the new ethos, style and language and this has been very successful. However, the traditional churchmen, who stay with the classic BCP, cannot escape blame for they have done little to keep alive the tradition of devotion and religion surrounding the use of the historic BCP. Many have been satisfied with their local 8.a.m. service and have not supported the writing and publishing (and then use) of new collects, prayers, litanies and hymnody. In other words, many traditionalists have been content to let the meandering stream remain just that, a stream. Or to change the metaphor, they have been content to appear as though they belonged to a people who were on the way out but were nevertheless hanging on to their habits as long as possible!

Keeping the classic tradition of worship, prayer, hymnody, piety and doctrine alive is more than managing to have a BCP service here and there as a small part of the local provision of services. It is keeping alive the dynamism, the creativity and the missionary dimensions of the classic tradition of English public prayer.

Prayer Book Societies, parishes using the classic BCP, and persons committed to the preservation of the Prayer Book Tradition as a dynamic & godly “river” of grace need to pray for revival in their midst that their whole orientation may be centrifugal as well as centripetal, missionary/evangelistic as well as self-edificatory! This will mean using the classic BCP on its own logic and according to its own nature, as a means of worship daily (MP & EP) and weekly (Litany & H C) and also as a form of ordering the godly life for the whole of the day, week, month and year.

As one way to this End, the writing and publishing of Collects, Prayers, Litanies, and Hymns in the style of the classic BCP and according to its doctrine needs to be encouraged – today not tomorrow!

[P.S. Those who are committed to the worship of the “You-God” need also to recognize that the godly development of their tradition depends upon the existence of a healthy and vibrant classic tradition, upon which they are dependent much more than many realize.]

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge


By Julia Dunn
One of the largest and most liberal Episcopal dioceses in the country is banning its clergy from solemnizing same-sex "marriages" in anticipation of Monday, when the Massachusetts Judicial Supreme Court has said homosexual couples will have the right to "marry."

The decision was announced in a May 6 letter by Massachusetts Episcopal Bishop Thomas Shaw to clergy in the 79,000-member diocese, the country's third largest after Virginia (89,000) and Texas (86,000).

"I have ... advocated for the full civil rights of gay and lesbian people and their families," Bishop Shaw wrote. However, "there is a contradiction between what our civil laws will allow and what our canons and the Book of Common Prayer state, which is that marriage in the Episcopal Church is between a man and a woman."

This was a surprise decision because Bishop Shaw and his two assistant bishops openly support homosexual "marriage," as do a majority of Episcopal delegates who voted at a March 13 diocesan convention to approve the state Supreme Court's ruling.

However, anyone who signs a marriage license and conducts an actual marriage ceremony, rather than a church "blessing," for a same-sex couple as of Monday will be breaking church law and subject to defrocking.

"Maybe this is a sop to the people like myself who feel badly as to what's going on and who are splitting from the Episcopal Church," said Gerry Dorman, a board member for the Massachusetts chapter of the American Anglican Council, an Episcopal group that opposes same-sex unions.

"They've been ordaining gays and blessing same-sex unions here for a long time," he said of diocesan officials. "The diocesan directory lists same-sex spouses as well."

Several dioceses in the Episcopal Church routinely "bless" homosexual couples who are not permitted to "marry," such as a much-publicized rite last month in San Francisco involving a retired Episcopal bishop, the Rev. Otis Charles, who "married" his male partner. The diocese retaliated a day later by revoking his license to officiate and removing him as an assistant bishop.

The dioceses of Delaware, Nevada, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have official same-sex "blessing" ceremonies. Similar rites for the Long Island, Hawaii and Washington dioceses are being developed.

However, only in Massachusetts will clergy be able to perform the legal functions of solemnizing a marriage, which includes the signing of a marriage license.

"The question is," said the Rev. Ian Douglas, professor at the liberal Episcopal Divinity School (EDS), a seminary in Cambridge, Mass., "can priests be legal agents of the state if their own church says no?"

A lesbian professor at EDS, the Rev. I. Carter Heyward, told the Boston Globe that she plans to defy church law and perform two lesbian unions this month. She did not respond to a phone inquiry yesterday. The Diocese of Massachusetts also did not respond to inquiries on how Miss Heyward would be disciplined for her act.

A minister with the New England synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America informed Bishop Margaret Payne of an intent to disobey, according to the Globe. The synod declined to release the name of the clergy in question, but did say in a statement that the denomination does not even have rites for same-sex blessings.

Pastors also may not officiate at a same-sex "marriage," the statement said.

Episcopal clergy who disobey any orders from their bishop are subject to "inhibition," which means they are not allowed to function as a pastor for a set amount of time, usually six months. If they have not changed their actions, the bishop can then file a "presentment against them in an ecclesiastical court, where they will be defrocked if found guilty."

Most Christian denominations forbid same-sex blessing ceremonies, as do Orthodox and Conservative Jewish groups. However, the Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish groups do. The Unitarian Universalist Association, which is based in Boston, not only allows the practice but has scheduled dozens of same-sex "weddings" at its churches across the state.

Meanwhile in Boston, a federal judge yesterday declined to grant an emergency stay on same-sex "marriages," and conservative legal groups said they were taking their case to the federal appeals court.

"We will appeal this case as far as necessary to ensure that the separation-of-powers principle is upheld in Massachusetts. The Republican representative form of government must be restored so the people can have a chance to define marriage," said Matthew Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, one of several conservative groups representing 11 Massachusetts lawmakers and a Catholic activist.

In arguments Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro, the plaintiffs said the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overstepped its authority when it unilaterally redefined marriage law to allow same-sex "marriage" in its Nov. 18 Goodridge decision.

The Massachusetts attorney general's office and lawyers with the Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders said the high court was within its purview in its decision.

from The Washington Times (http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20040513-113319-2370r.htm)
For more great articles, visit us at http://www.washingtontimes.com

Copyright (c) 2004 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

New Book From Tarsitano and Toon

From the authors of NEITHER ARCHAIC NOR OBSOLETE: the language of Common Prayer and Public Worship (2003) there is now also available NEITHER ORTHODOXY NOR A FORMULARY: the Shape and Content of the 1979 Prayer Book of the Episcopal Church (May 2004).

Louis R Tarsitano & Peter Toon, having explained and defended the nature, purpose and practical use of the received language of public prayer, turn their attention in the new book to asking whether the 1979 Prayer Book of the ECUSA is or can be a true Formulary of the Anglican Way.

They explain what is a Formulary and the critical place of such in the orthodox Anglican Way.

Then they examine the Catechism, the Eucharistic Services, the Baptismal Service, the way that ancient texts are translated, the nature of Common Prayer and other related matters. They do so in order to ascertain whether or not the shape and content of the 1979 Book can be regarded as presenting and containing orthodoxy and reformed Catholicism.

Their conclusions are:

  • That in and of itself the 1979 Book does not contain a clear confession of orthodox doctrine.

  • That the 1979 Prayer Book belongs to the liturgical genre which Anglicans have called “A Book of Alternative Services” rather than a classic Book of Common Prayer. Thus it was an error by the ECUSA to call this book by the same title as the historic Prayer Book of the Anglican Way.

  • That as a "Book of Varied and Alternative Services," it can only rise to be counted as orthodox if – and only if -- it is understood and used in the light of the doctrinal standard of the historic editions of the classic Book of Common Prayer (1662-1928).

  • That the 1928 edition of the classic Book of Common Prayer ought to be restored as the primary Formulary of the Episcopal Church and of all Anglicans in the USA.

  • And, that with the right Formulary and spirit, there is hope for the renewal of the Anglican Way in the USA.

A MUST READ for all desiring reformation & renewal.

AVAILABLE from The Prayer Book Society, P.O.Box 35220, Philadelphia, PA. 19128-0220, or on line from www.anglicanmarketplace.com or by phoning 1 800 727 1928 for $12.50 including post and packing (PA residents PLEASE add sales tax).

UK orders send e mail to peter@toon662.fsnet.co.uk for details of how to obtain.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


Ladies and Gentlemen:


May I ask you IN YOUR KINDNESS to send me the titles (author/editor, title, publisher, place & year) of BOOKS OF PRAYERS that you know have been/are still used for extra petition & intercession at the end of the Daily Offices, when these offices are used as a full service, either in the a.m. or p.m.

I mean the Offices as offered to the LORD in the received, traditional language of Prayer as found in the traditional BCP- or even the Rite One of the 79 prayer book.

There are some churches which still have public services of M P & E P and there are persons who remember such services and I wonder what sources for additional prayers after the Office and before/after the sermon are used.

Such books of prayers have been/are usually also used for other purposes where prayers are needed outside the Eucharist - e.g. at Vestry Meetings, Women's Meetings, mid- week prayer groups and so on.

In England a standard example used for decades along with the BCP has been PARISH PRAYERS edited by Frank Colquhoun.

This is very English and I am looking for titles that did/do the same job in the PECUSA/ECUSA in the 20th/2lst century.

I thank you in advance for your help in this matter.


The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge

Saturday, May 08, 2004

From Southern Cone Primate to ECUSA Presiding Bishop

Venables to Griswold
May 7, 2004
The Most Revd Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop

Dear Bishop Frank,

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

I write in response to your letter of May 5th. Since it has found its way all over the internet, I am constrained to respond more broadly than just in a personal note.

With great respect it must be said that considering what you now write in the light of what you have already done brings to mind the old cliche of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. It's like the doctor telling the grieving family that the operation was a success even though the patient has died.

You speak with clarity about your grief over the pain your actions have caused and yet you proceed with your relentless agenda. Do you not see that there is an enormous contradiction here?

The key path to alleviating that pain is repentance. It is simple to turn around and join the spiritual and doctrinal direction of the Anglican Communion and the overwhelming majority of the Christians of history and the world today. When one considers that you were advised by the Lambeth Bishops Conference, the ACC, the Primates, and the Archbishop of Canterbury that to proceed would bring a harvest of pain, it is hard to see why you find the consequences you now experience surprising.

You indicate that the action of the General Convention was constitutional. Of course I am not an expert in the Constitution and Canons of ECUSA, but I do remember the commitment of your General Convention to initiate an "inter-Anglican and ecumenical dialogue on human sexuality issues which should not be resolved by the Episcopal Church on its own (B-020)." (A ten minute search of internet archives shows that!) Many colleagues have also reminded me that you were clear that the official position of ECUSA was parallel to that of Lambeth I. 10 at a number of Primates meetings. When was that changed, or was it just ignored? Of course there is pain when you moved ahead in violation of your own Convention decisions. In addition, I saw the broadcast of objections to Gene Robinson's consecration which were simply and totally ignored.

How can these be constitutional actions?

You cling to the statement that "what we hold in common is much greater than that which divides us..." That statement was made before you chose to be the chief consecrator at an event you knew would "tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level."

At a time like this, simply celebrating what we hold in common is like a man arguing before a judge that his offence should be overlooked because he hasn't broken other laws.

You cannot offer a band aid to a person who needs open heart surgery.

The situation must be addressed at the root of the disorder. You don't heal a disease by treating its symptoms.

You tell us that "Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight" is moving toward solving the problem in your province. It is not so. First of all it leaves the decisions in the hands of the offending bishops and does not give any substantive protection to parishes that maintain Anglican teaching and practice. In addition, we are aware of ECUSA clergy and parishes who have been ordered by their revisionist bishops not to ask for alternative oversight, threatened if they do, or who live in areas where bishops have publicly stated that they will not allow it. The fact that "some" bishops will arrange for Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight does not mean at all that it can be put in place where it is really needed.

And when did those who hold to the apostolical, biblical faith and practice of Christianity as accepted for 2000 years suddenly become "dissidents"?

You now say that you want to be in conversation. In the light of your previous great reticence to discuss the matter in our meetings this is tragically late in the day.

ECUSA's actions have caused a great and unnecessary crisis in the Anglican Communion that has spilled over into culture, ecumenical affairs, and even interfaith relations. It is tragic and painful indeed. It is the result of your actions and it is also reversible.

You have insisted on autonomy from the Lambeth resolutions, from the Archbishop of Canterbury's plea, from the ACC, and from the Primates to pursue an agenda that is absolutely scandalous to most Christians. That view of autonomy is the opposite of everything Anglicanism has always stood for. Why would you still want to call yourself Anglican? May I urge you either to live as an Anglican conforming to Anglican norms or admit that you have left us and closed the door behind you.

May God guide us in love and truth at this crucial and sad time.


The Most Revd Gregory J. Venables
Primate of the Southern Cone of the Americas

From ECUSA Presiding Bishop to Anglican Primates

May 5, 2004

For the Primates of the Anglican Communion

My dear brothers,

Grace to you and peace in our risen Savior Jesus Christ.

I find myself, in these days of Easter in which we contemplate the mystery of the resurrection and its consequences in our lives, living with a sharp awareness of the reality of our being bound together in the Lord because of our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And, that being thus bound we are called to share one another's sufferings as well as joys. Over these months I have been deeply grieved that recent events in the life of the Episcopal Church in the United States have caused suffering for many of you. I am very clear that what occurred is in accord with our Constitution and is widely regarded as a faithful action. However, as your brother I am profoundly sorry for the wound this has caused within our body.

As I have said many times to the bishops of the Episcopal Church and to others, what we do in one part of the Communion can have significant consequences elsewhere. I remember vividly when we were together last October at Lambeth hearing from some of you about finding yourselves ridiculed and made a laughing stock because of your association with the Episcopal Church. I completely understand why some of you have spoken so harshly about what has occurred here. At the same time, many of us who love you deeply in the Lord are profoundly saddened that our fellowship is so severely strained, and in some cases appears to be broken.

I pray that in spite of our differences, serious as they are, we can discover together in this difficult time the truth of what we said in our statement of last October that "what we hold in common is much greater than that which divides us in proclaiming Good News to the world." The prayer of my heart is that we can discover anew our unity in service to God's mission through these difficulties. Our world, which is so burdened by poverty, disease and civil strife, is much in need of our common witness and action.

I regret that this communication is through a letter rather than a conversation. I hope we as primates will encourage ongoing conversations at all levels between people of our various provinces. I do believe that as we explore what we share across our differences we rediscover our common ground in service to God's continuing work of reconciliation. In conversation our differences do not disappear. Instead we find ourselves grounded upon the rock of Christ whose deathless love is able to transform our mistrust and woundedness into mutual care and affection.

It is my deepest sense that we have much to learn from one another, particularly as we seek to proclaim the gospel in our often very different contexts. The visits I have been privileged to make to several of your provinces have certainly made that very plain, and I have come away with an enlarged and deeper sense of how God is acting in this world to save us all from the power of sin and death.

On another matter, I want to share with you the response of the bishops of the Episcopal Church to the concern expressed in our Lambeth statement of last October that there be "adequate provision for episcopal oversight of dissenting minorities within their own area of pastoral care in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of the Primates." The bishops of the Episcopal Church are called to be chief pastors for all people in their dioceses. They have continued to shape a plan for pastoral care which they first put forward in 2002. They have addressed how bishops with different perspectives, overseeing dioceses in which there are varying points of view, can bear one another's burdens and uphold one another's ministries for the sake of the gospel and its proclamation. When we met in March of this year we further refined our plan, which was then agreed to by an overwhelming majority. It is set forth in the enclosed document: Caring for all the churches.

I am in conversation with a number of bishops, whose theological perspectives meet the pastoral needs of "dissenting minorities," about making themselves available to provide episcopal oversight at the invitation of the diocesan bishop. As well, I know of several instances where diocesan bishops have arranged or are about to arrange for Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight.

Key to what we are trying to do at this time is the shared understanding of our bishops that an episcopal ministry of care and oversight is not a personal possession of any one bishop but is shared by all bishops for the well being of the church as a whole.

Please pray for us as we pray for you in these days that challenge us all in the various contexts in which the Lord has placed us.

This comes, as ever, with my love and prayers,

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold

Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA

The ECUSA & the Anglican Province of S Africa: On sharing a Catechism

It has been widely noted in the last decade or more that it is the Anglican Church in South Africa, through its former and present Primate, which has been the most friendly of all African provinces towards the innovations and the leadership of the Episcopal Church of the USA.

In fact the leadership of the Anglican Province in South Africa is more liberal and less disposed to criticize innovations in sexual partnerships than are the provinces to the north. At the same time, in comparison with the extreme liberalism of the Episcopal Church of the USA, the Church of the Province of South Africa is a semi-conservative church, much less committed to radical innovations than her American sister.

The relation of the two Churches, and the more radical nature of the American, goes back a while and can be seen in the way in which the Catechism of the ECUSA Prayer Book of 1979 is adapted and used by the South Africans in their An Anglican Prayer Book (1989). The latter is in essence a Book of Alternative Services and stands alongside the classic Book of Common Prayer (1662). It is a Prayer Book which has a distinctly Anglo-Catholic flavor and is only partially committed to the rendering of the Bible and ancient Canticles according to the theory of dynamic equivalency in translation of ancient texts. In the Psalter, there is a retention of the literal form of translation since Psalm 1 begins, “Blessed is the man…” (cf. 1979 ECUSA – “Happy are they”).

As Dr Tarsitano and I have shown in some detail in our study of the 1979 ECUSA Prayer Book (see our Neither Orthodoxy nor a Formulary….. [2004] published by the Prayer Book Society, call 1 800 727 1928), the Catechism in the 1979 Prayer Book falls well below what is necessary for an orthodox statement of the Catholic Faith. It is deficient in its doctrines of man, salvation, the Trinity, the person of Christ, and so on.

The South Africans took it over because it was one of the very few recent Catechisms available in the Anglican Communion, but in receiving it they sought to improve it by judicious editing and additions.

Here is what they added:

  • The full Ten Commandments (rather than merely a reference to them)

  • The full Apostles’ Creed (rather than merely a reference to it)

  • A lengthy explanation of “The duty of all Christians” to the section on “The Ministry”

  • A new section on Stewardship

  • Explanations of meditation and contemplation to the section on “Prayer & Worship”

  • A new section on Fasting

  • A new section on Angels

Further, they cut out of the Catechism the novel ECUSA way (first used in 1967) of referring to the Blessed & Holy Trinity as “God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Their answer to the question as to what we mean when speaking of God as Trinity is as follows: “We mean that we believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, three Persons and yet one God.” [It gave me a sense of satisfaction to see the latter as for many years I have protested about the abbreviated and potentially heretical way that ECUSA has spoken and continues to speak of the Triune LORD.]

The Catechism in the 1989 Book is still deficient, but it is less so than is the 1979 Catechism (which remains the expressed doctrine of the ECUSA, and was created as a summary of the content of all the services in the Rite II mode in the 1979 Prayer Book).

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge


Let us think about the Three Rogation Days, being the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Holy Thursday, or the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord.

If we follow the old tradition of the Ecclesia Anglicana (& the western Catholic Church) and of the reformed Church of England, then we receive the three days immediately before the Feast of the Ascension as both Rogation Days and as days of fasting and abstinence in preparation for this Festival, which crowns the other festivals of our Lord.

If we are going to have a Harvest Festival (Great Britain) or Thanksgiving Day (USA) in the Autumn/Fall then we should also have Rogationtide [supplication to God for fruitful seasons and a good harvest] in the Spring. And if we are to prepare rightly to celebrate the Ascension of our Lord we need to fast before the festival. So we ought to fast and pray on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The origin of these Rogation Days seems to be an order by the Bishop of Vienne about AD 470 after an earthquake that special litanies be offered for God’s care and protection, with provision by heaven of the fruit of the earth. The custom spread through Gaul, to England and to Rome. In England the custom was required by Canon 16 of the Council of Clovesho in 747.

It was continued through the Reformation in England so that we find Queen Elizabeth in 1559 by Royal Injunction requiring the restoration of a perambulation of the parish boundaries/fields to pray for a good harvest; and there appeared in the official [Second] Book of Homilies (1562) “An Homily for the Days of Rogation Week”, divided into three parts for the 3 days of Rogation Week. And it is followed by “An exhortation to be spoken to such parishes where they use their perambulation in Rogation Week for the oversight and limits of their town.” This was written by Archbishop Parker. When there was no walking around the boundaries of the parish, the Litany (from the BCP) was sung in church.

A serious proposal made by Bishop Cosin of Durham in 1661 to put a Collect, Epistle [James 5:13-18] & Gospel [Luke 11:1-10] for Rogation in the new edition of the BCP, that of 1662, was not followed through. However, the Collect he wrote provides an insight into how this period of intercession and abstinence was viewed by the faithful then:

“Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth, in whom we live, move and have our being, who does good unto all men, making thy sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sending rain on the just and the unjust; favorably behold us thy people, who do call upon thy name, and send us thy blessing from heaven, in giving us fruitful seasons, and filling our hearts with food and gladness; that both our hearts and mouths may be continually filled with thy praises, giving thanks to thee in thy holy Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

In the 1928 BCP of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA, provision of a Collect (based upon Cosin’s), Epistle [ Ezekiel 34:25ff.] and Gospel [Luke 11:5ff.] is provided for the Rogation Days. There are also two Collects “For Fruitful Seasons,” provided to be used on Rogation Sunday and the Rogation Days, in the section of this Prayer Book called “Prayers and Thanksgivings”.

Let us be fully aware that the members of the Church militant on earth need to be fed both by the fruit of the earth [thus the need for supplication in Rogation and thanksgiving at Harvest] and by the gifts, graces, virtues and characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ, who ascends into heaven to be our exalted Prophet, Priest and King. The week containing Holy Thursday and the three Rogation Days is thus very important in the relation of earth to heaven!

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge


Do please make known to friends in or alongside the Anglican Way!

ANGLICANISM. The Thought and Practice of the Church of England, illustrated from the religious literature of the seventeenth century. Compiled and edited by Paul Elmer More & Frank Leslie Cross, SPCK, London, 1935, reprinted 1951, 811 pages.

This storehouse of classic Anglican teaching on a wide variety of topics is now available on a CD in pdf format (you need Adobe Acrobat Reader to read it) for $12.50 including postage and package (Pa residents add sales tax please). Send a check to The Prayer Book Society, P.O. Box 35220, Philadelphia, PA. 19128-0220 or visit (from May 9th) the website to order there – www.anglicanmarketplace.com

The writings of the 16th century Anglican reformers are exciting and profound and from them we get the Book of Common Prayer, the Articles of Religion and the Ordinal, together with a vast catechetical, expository and devotional writing, not to mention controversial divinity.

By the time of the 17th century, there had been a long time to reflect upon the nature of the Reformed Catholicism (English Protestantism) embraced by the Church of England from 1548 onwards. This Book contains extracts on many topics from those whom we often call the standard divines of the Anglican Way. To read and digest this book is to gain a tremendous insight into the nature and character of the Anglican Way and how as a jurisdiction of the One Church of God it is related to but different from the Roman Catholic, the Presbyterian and the Lutheran Churches.

The extracts from the writers, arranged under various headings, is prefaced by two essays on the nature of Anglicanism in these formative days and then as an appendix there is a brief biography of each of the divines cited in the text.


May 5th, 2004

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon, Vice-President of the Prayer Book Society of the U.S.A.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Ascent and Descent: Christmas, Ascension Day and WhitsuntideChristmas, Ascension Day and Whitsuntide

(When we talk of Easter as being fifty days - as in the modern Calendar - I worry that the Feast of the Ascension will be neglected for it belongs to the 40 plus 10 scheme! thus...)

Christians think of the festival of Christmas as the arrival of the Son of God in the world, or even as his descent into the world.

In terms of arrival, they are speaking in common sense language as when they say, “Her baby has arrived!” In fact, they mean arrived in a visible way in space and time so that the place and time of birth can be stated.

The Son of God with his divine nature exists from eternity unto eternity in the infinite divine sphere; but in terms of both the divine sense of time and of human chronological time there was a moment when the Son of God in a unique manner arrived in space and time, and that moment was the conception of Jesus by Mary through the presence and action of the Holy Ghost. The act of Incarnation by the Son of God began at the conception by Mary of Jesus and came to its physical completion in the birth from Mary of Jesus. So the arrival of Jesus, Son of God and son of Mary, one Person, we date on Christmas Day. We also say in the Creed, “He descended from heaven and was incarnate of the Virgin Mary.” So his arrival is also his descent.

Christians think of the Feast of the Ascension as the departure of the Son of God from earth and his ascent into heaven.

After his ministry as the Messiah, his death and burial as the sacrificed Lamb of God, and his being raised from the dead as the victorious Saviour, the resurrected Jesus in his new body of glory visited his apostles and disciples for a period of forty days. Then he departed from them, not to be seen again in physical, bodily form. On the last of these forty days, in his final resurrection appearance and described in Acts 1, there was a clear demonstration to the assembled disciples of where precisely Jesus was going and where he would be for the future. The cloud into which he went up was no ordinary white cloud in the sky, but the luminous cloud of glory known in the Old Testament as the sign of the presence of YHWH, the LORD, and called by the Jews, the Shekinah. Thus he ascended as the God-Man, the Incarnate Logos, into heaven, into the immediate presence of GOD, the Father.

The Feast of the Ascension is the festival which crowns that of Easter and prepares us for that of Pentecost.

Before he departed and ascended, he taught his disciples all that they needed to know about his identity and mission, and he promised them the Paraclete (Counsellor, Advocate, Comforter – the Holy Ghost as the Spirit of Christ) to be with them all, wherever they were in space and time.

The descent of the Paraclete to the waiting disciples and for the full creation of the Church of God is what is celebrated on Whit Sunday, the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2), ten days after the Ascension into heaven. We may say that the Lord Christ came to his people in, with and by the presence of the Holy Ghost, his Paraclete.

However, the exalted Lord Jesus will remain where he is in terms of his perfected human nature - on the throne of glory- until he descends once more into space and time at the end of the age, until, that is, he arrives in glory on earth, in order to judge the living and the dead, consummate the purposes of God and inaugurate the new age of the kingdom of God. His coming and arrival in great glory as the Resurrected, Exalted Lord is the basis of the Christian Hope.

In the interim, the period of the evangelization of the world by the Church, the Holy Ghost is present as the Paraclete to make the Lord Jesus known on earth and to enable the Church to ascend in heart and mind to dwell with the same Lord Jesus in heaven, even as her members are pilgrims on earth.

The ancient Collect for the Feast of the Ascension from the late patristic era is:

"Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty Father, that in the intention of our mind (heart) we may ever tend thither, where the glorious Author of today's festival hath entered in, and that to the place, whither we reach forward by faith, we may come by our holy conversation through Jesus Christ....."

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge

Monday, May 03, 2004

The PAX --instructions from the Vatican

(from Redemptionis Sacramentum. The Pax in the modern Roman Rite is not at the same position as in the vast majority of modern Anglican Rites [where it is the division, as it were, between the Ministry of Word and Sacrament]. In the Roman Rite the Pax is after the Eucharistic Prayer & the Lord's Prayer and is thus part of the "Communion Rite" and is strictly associated with peace and fellowship, for reconciliation between those at enmity is covered at the beginning of the R C Mass by the act of penitence there. In this recent INSTRUCTION the priest is instructed to remain within the sanctuary and not go walkabout and the faithful are to stay where they are also and share the peace in a dignified manner according to local customs in harmony with local cultural norms for such. Further, the Breaking of the Bread after the Pax is to be done with great reverence but also briefly and without worldly show.


[71.] The practice of the Roman Rite is to be maintained according to which the peace is extended shortly before Holy Communion. For according to the tradition of the Roman Rite, this practice does not have the connotation either of reconciliation or of a remission of sins, but instead signifies peace, communion and charity before the reception of the Most Holy Eucharist. It is rather the Penitential Act to be carried out at the beginning of Mass (especially in its first form) which has the character of reconciliation among brothers and sisters.

[72.] It is appropriate "that each one give the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner". "The Priest may give the sign of peace to the ministers but always remains within the sanctuary, so as not to disturb the celebration. He does likewise if for a just reason he wishes to extend the sign of peace to some few of the faithful". "As regards the sign to be exchanged, the manner is to be established by the Conference of Bishops in accordance with the dispositions and customs of the people", and their acts are subject to the recognitio of the Apostolic See.

[73.] In the celebration of Holy Mass the breaking of the Eucharistic Bread - done only by the Priest celebrant, if necessary with the help of a Deacon or of a concelebrant - begins after the exchange of peace, while the Agnus Dei is being recited. For the gesture of breaking bread "carried out by Christ at the Last Supper, which in apostolic times gave the whole eucharistic action its name, signifies that the faithful, though they are many, are made one Body in the communion of the one Bread of Life who is Christ, who died and rose for the world's salvation" (cf. 1 Cor 10,17).For this reason the rite must be carried out with great reverence. Even so, it should be brief. The abuse that has prevailed in some places, by which this rite is unnecessarily prolonged and given undue emphasis, with laypersons also helping in contradiction to the norms, should be corrected with all haste.

[A FURTHER NOTE - for a copy of THE SERVICE OF HOLY COMMUNION (1928) ANNOTATED from the PBS call 1 800 727 1928. To see the latest edition of The Mandate wherein are some excellent articles on the history of the ECUSA since the 1960s view at the website, www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928. Visit also www.anglicanmarketplace.com for details of the publications and CD's of the Prayer Book Society of the USA.

The latest book, Neither Orthodoxy nor a Formulary, a study of the 1979 ECUSA Prayer Book based upon mature study & reflection, by Dr Tarsitano and Dr Toon, and a CD of the massive & invaluable resource book, Anglicanism, by More & Cross from the 1920s (800 pages), will be available by the middle of May. Call 1 800 -PBS-1928 for help with any matter or visit the website, or both.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Sacramental Discipline from Rome - Redemptionis Sacramentum

(for your consideration - note that the footnote numbers and the section numbers look alike --P.T.)

Redemptionis Sacramentum
On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist


[1.] In the Most Holy Eucharist, Mother Church with steadfast faith acknowledges the Sacrament of redemption,[1] joyfully takes it to herself, celebrates it and reveres it in adoration, proclaiming the death of Christ Jesus and confessing his Resurrection until he comes in glory[2] to hand over, as unconquered Lord and Ruler, eternal Priest and King of the Universe, a kingdom of truth and life to the immense majesty of the Almighty Father.[3]

[2.] The Church’s doctrine regarding the Most Holy Eucharist, in which the whole spiritual wealth of the Church is contained - namely Christ, our Paschal Lamb[4] - the Eucharist which is the source and summit of the whole of Christian life,[5] and which lies as a causative force behind the very origins of the Church,[6] has been expounded with thoughtful care and with great authority over the course of the centuries in the writings of the Councils and the Supreme Pontiffs. Most recently, in fact, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, in the Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, set forth afresh certain elements of great importance on this subject in view of the ecclesial circumstances of our times.[7]

In order that especially in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy the Church might duly safeguard so great a mystery in our own time as well, the Supreme Pontiff has mandated that this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,[8] in collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, should prepare this Instruction treating of certain matters pertaining to the discipline of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Those things found in this Instruction are therefore to be read in the continuity with the above-mentioned Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia.

Read the Entire Document

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Sex and the Cities (from The New York Times)

(how the sex market affects the marriage market & implications for the churches)
Sex and the Cities

Published: May 1, 2004 NYC

Sex is pretty elemental. We share the same basic biology. We watch nationally broadcast TV shows and movies designed for international audiences. You'd think you'd be able to drive across a few neighborhoods in this country and come across reasonably similar sexual behavior patterns. But you'd be wrong.
Edward Laumann of the University of Chicago and several other academics have recently published a research project called "The Sexual Organization of the City." They've found that people construct highly evolved sexual marketplaces, venues where they go to find sex partners. These marketplaces, at least in cities, are incredibly localized; people are not inclined to cross ethnic, racial, sociological or geographical boundaries when looking for a bed mate. Each of these discrete marketplaces has its own rules, and the sex practices in one neighborhood may look nothing like those in the next.

The authors of the study culled data from thousands of interviews in several Chicago neighborhoods and compared behavior across the communities. For example, one of the neighborhoods they studied is a struggling African-American community they call (pseudonymously) Southtown. This area has seen its jobs disappear, its main commercial strip wither. There are more women than men. The men take advantage of their market power to become polygamous. At any moment, almost 40 percent of the men are maintaining long-term relationships with at least two sexual partners. The more educated the man is, and presumably the more desirable he is to women, the more likely he is to be juggling multiple partners.

If men can have multiple partners, they have little incentive to limit themselves; marriage rates drop. Though they face a shortage of African-American men of equal status, Southtown's women tend not to look outside black neighborhoods.

A few miles away, there is a largely Hispanic neighborhood the academics call Westside. About half the people here are foreign-born, many from rural areas of Mexico. Mores here are traditional. Sixty-four percent of single men and 57 percent of single women say men should work and women should stay home to raise the kids.

While roughly two-thirds of the non-Hispanic men in Chicago reported ever having one-night stands, very few of the men in Westside did. Half of the men and three-quarters of the women believe it is wrong to have sex without love. People here are much more likely to meet future sexual partners in a family member's home, and much less likely to talk openly about sexually transmitted diseases.

Shoreland is an affluent white neighborhood on the near northwest side. There is a large gay and lesbian population, and sex is more likely to be impersonal. About 43 percent of the gay men in Shoreland have had more than 60 partners. This neighborhood, too, has developed its own social institutions. A local softball league has become a place where lesbians can go to meet possible partners. Though people here are better educated, their social lives are still tightly bounded. Over 75 percent of the gays and lesbians interviewed said that most or all of their friends are gay, lesbian or bisexual.

When you step back from this data, you see that, first, there has been a flowering of diverse sexual zones. This spontaneous evolution is so rapid, it is very difficult for big institutions to keep up. How can the city government of Chicago design health and welfare programs for areas as different as Southtown, Westside and Shoreland? How can the churches and other moral authorities keep up?

Second, sexual marketplaces are a rapidly expanding feature of society, and they are becoming more distinct from marriage marketplaces. Furthermore, as the sex markets become bigger and more efficient, people have less incentive to get married. As the scholars Yoosik Youm and Anthony Paik write, "Opportunities in the sex market act as constraints in the marriage market."

The big problem here is that there is an overwhelming body of evidence to suggest that marriage correlates highly with happiness. Children raised in marriages tend to have more opportunities than children raised outside marriage.

Over all, Americans are spending much less time married. They marry later and divorce at high rates, and remarry less and less. We are replacing marriage, one of our most successful institutions, with hooking up. This is a deep structural problem, and very worrying.
[Folks, What I comment on below is a near perfect specimen of what a Collect -- in the traditional sense -- ought to look & be like. Modern collects, where the relative clause is not used and where God is told things that he already knows to utter eternal perfection, are as very poor relatives to this kind of classic Latin/then Cranmerian Collect.
Kindly note that I have recorded on a CD in British-American English all the Collects in the ECUSA 1928 Prayer Book - about 60 mins -- and it is available from 1 800-PBS-1928 in the USA (= 610-490-0648 from Canada or outside the USA).]

The Fourth Sunday after Easter

O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men: Grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle: James 1. 17-21 The Gospel: John 16. 5-15

This prayer originated in the Gelasian Sacramentary and passed into the Sarum Missal before being translated from Latin into English for the 1549 Prayer Book. Finally, it was revised for the 1662 Prayer Book. As it stands, it is as near a perfect specimen of a Collect form of prayer as one could wish to see.

There is the Address or Invocation – to Almighty God; then there is the Recital of a specific doctrine concerning God’s power in relation to man, achieved grammatically by means of the relative clause; this is followed by the long Petition, beginning with the strong verb, “Grant…”, which petition is wholly based upon the foundation of the doctrine already remembered and rehearsed; and in turn the petition is followed by the Aspiration – “that so… our hearts may surely there be fixed”. The Collect closes with the Pleading in the Name of Jesus Christ the Lord.

The foundation for the petition recalls before God and recites the biblical teaching that he alone, and only he, is able to order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men. These words of the initial relative clause balance perfectly with the two clauses of the actual petition that follows. That is, “the unruly wills” corresponds to the love of that which God commands, while “the unruly affections” corresponds to the desire of that which God promises.

We know from sacred Scripture and the experience of the saints that God the Father brings the wills and emotions/affections of sinful persons into order out of disorder, by the secret and hidden operations of the Holy Ghost. In this way human minds, hearts and wills are transformed by grace, and the change wrought in them is of such a nature that those persons in whom the Holy Ghost has so worked can only say with certainty that they know and feel that a change has taken place. They cannot tell how it occurred for that belongs to the secret operations of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.

The true Christian is one who delights in and loves what God commands. He is also one who seeks to obey God’s holy law, simply because he loves God and wants to do what God declares to be good and true and right. So the petition is “that thy people may love the thing which thou commandest.”

But it is also important that the Christian loves God and his law as, simultaneously, he also desires what God promises to his elect people – thus the aspiration. This will be so when his affections are set upon the heavenly realm where Christ rules at the Father’s right hand and where the society of angels and saints adore and praise Jesus Christ as Lord of lords and King of kings in all his authority and beauty.

The Christian who loves God’s law and desires to be with Christ in heaven will find that, in the varied and many changing circumstances of life, his central focus will be not in this world as such but on Christ Jesus in heaven, the center of all true and lasting joy. And the more he is focused on Christ the more will he be desirous and able to love God and his law and readily and happily obey him. He will rejoice with exceeding great joy as he loves the Lord and does his will, with his eyes of faith looking above where Christ is in all his glory. And with such a godly mind he will be the more useful on earth!

It is by making men loyal to his will, and to the hope of glory which he holds out to them in the Gospel, that God joins them together in the same mind and the same judgment. His precept and promise are the magnetic power which draw them into union one with another, and they are also the cement which holds them there, beginning in this age and being fulfilled in the glorious age to come.

Since there is one High Priest and one Mediator in heaven, Jesus Christ the resurrected Lord, the Prayer is offered to the Father in his Name.

Thus we have here not merely a perfectly formed Prayer but also a perfectly biblical Prayer. All that remains is that we pray it and it is fulfilled in our lives.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge

The correct title for next Sunday?

Titles and names matter and behind them can be major theories or hypotheses. Consider the names given to Sundays by the modern Church.

In one of the two small parishes I serve, next Sunday (May 2) is The Third Sunday after Easter (which is the title in The Book of Common Prayer of 1662); in the other it is called, The Fourth Sunday of Easter (which is the title in Common Worship, the alternative to the BCP, of 2000). And the following Sunday will be “the fourth after…” and “the fifth of…” and so on.

The traditional English title of the BCP presumes that there has been the major festival - in fact the feast of feasts – of Easter and that the Sundays, five in all, between the festival day and the next major festival, Ascension Day, are Sundays after Easter; and then after Ascension Day (the fortieth Day after Easter) there is one Sunday after Ascension Day before the next major festival, Whitsuntide (Pentecost) Sunday in ten days time. On this scheme, which the BCP inherited from western medieval Catholicism and the late patristic Church, the Easter (Paschal) Candle where used is put out on Ascension Day, after the reading from Scripture that Christ is ascended. So there are two distinct pieties here – that of the 40 days and that of the 10 days.

The new title, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, presumes that originally in the primitive Church of say the second and third centuries there was a festival of 50 days from Easter Sunday (actually Good Friday) to Pentecost – “the fifty-day Easter”. This Pascha, as it was called, was believed to be a unitary festival that recalled the suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus as well as the gift of the Spirit to the Church. Though centred on Good Friday through Easter Day, with the most important rite being that of Easter Eve in the Great Vigil of Easter, it actually lasted fifty days until Pentecost. Thus it is deemed appropriate to speak of “the great Fifty Days” or the “fifty-day Sunday” and of the seven Sundays of Easter. On this scheme, where there is a Paschal Candle, it remains lit until Pentecost to signify the fifty days of Easter. Further, some insist that there should be standing at all times with no kneeling as the norm and, further, the general confession of sins should be omitted since this fifty-day Sunday is a period of celebration of the resurrection, not of penitence for sins.

[It is interesting to note that this scheme lies at the very basis of the mindset of those who produced the 1979 Prayer Book for the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. In a short but important essay published in 1984, Massey H. Shepherd Jr., a prominent member of the S.L.C., explained that the shape or structure of the 1979 Book owed much to the scholarly reconstruction of the liturgy, and especially of the Easter liturgy, in the ancient Church. He wrote: “The unifying principle of most of the restoration or renewals of liturgy in the 1979 book from the ancient Church is the Paschal Mystery.” (“The Patristic Heritage,” in The Historical Magazine of the Episcopal Church, Vol.53, 1984, pp.22ff.) He went on to explain that he believed that the whole Paschal Mystery was relived by the faithful in those early centuries once a year on the anniversary of the Lord Jesus’ own Passover. This was the very centre of the Christian Year and the festival of festivals and feast of feasts.]

The problem with basing modern liturgy and the names of the Lord’s Day on this theory of “the fifty-day Easter” is that it does not take into account the fact that the Church slowly developed her Year and named her Festivals, and the Festival of the Ascension on the fortieth Day became a major festival by the fourth Century. St Augustine of Hippo highly valued it and saw it as the crown of the festivals of our Lord. The modern commitment to the “fifty-day Easter” in recent liturgy tends to relegate the Feast of the Ascension into a secondary festival and to make no distinction between the liturgical and devotional ethos of the 40 days between Easter Day and Ascension and the 10 days between Ascension and Pentecost (Whitsuntide). Further, the doctrine of the exaltation of the Lord Jesus can be seriously minimized or neglected on this scheme.

There is much to be said for the traditional scheme!

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge