Friday, November 03, 2006

Trinity XXI—“with a quiet mind”

When deacons or lay readers officiate at the Daily Office they are not authorized to declare the absolution of sin, and so they have been advised to use one of the traditional Collects from The Book of Common Prayer, that for Trinity XXI, for a general absolution, even though it was originally composed in Latin and then rendered into English for use at the Holy Communion. It prays:

Grant, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

A translation of the original fifth-century Latin intended to bring out its original meaning, even though being unattractive English, would be:

Be reconciled, we beseech thee, Lord, to thy faithful ones, and grant them bountifully indulgence and peace, that they may be cleansed from all offences, and at the same time do unto thee devoted service without distraction of mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What I want to focus upon—in the context of Anglicanism in North America—is the phrase “with a quiet mind” or “without distraction of mind.”

Few, I think, would disagree with the general proposition that far too many gifted, godly, and gracious people within Episcopal and Anglican dioceses and parishes in North America are suffering from “an unquiet mind” and/or “distraction of mind.” That is, they spend an excessive amount of time involved in, pondering and even plotting strategy to survive the current crisis of identity and purpose affecting the people of the Anglican Way.

Instead of that ability to spend long, fruitful times in meditation on God’s Word written, and contemplation of God’s Incarnate Word, their minds easily wander off into exercitations concerning the problems of Anglicanism. Further, in church fellowship meetings, instead of talking with and about the Lord himself and their walk with him in his Body, they easily fall into conversation about the continuing innovations and errors of The Episcopal Church and what, if anything, the Global South Primates will do to help. And in Divine Service, the pastor is severely tempted to speak in notices or sermon or both of the Anglican crisis instead of proclaiming the One Gospel, One Lord, One Faith and One Baptism.

So this ancient prayer is a contemporary prayer, not only a relevant but also a credible prayer for all anguished Anglicans to pray.

However, within the Collect, the blessed state of serving God “with a quiet mind” comes as the result of a previous action of the merciful LORD our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in and upon the souls of those who seek to be his faithful servants. First of all there is pardon, not the initial pardon that comes with conversion and baptism but pardon for sins after baptism—the forgiveness of a heavenly Father for his children where by his Spirit he washes their hearts clean of sin and gives them inward peace.

Devoted and attentive commitment to the Lord in service free from care and distraction is what He deserves, requires and asks for; and it is our high privilege, responsibility and opportunity to offer, even when we are going through a crisis. Only as we confess our sins, humble ourselves before him, and seek his pardon, cleansing and peace, shall we be able to rise to the occasion and serve our Father with a quiet mind.

Grant, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Merciful Father, we implore You to give to your faithful [Anglican] people, who freely confess their sins to You, the blessings of pardon and inward peace, together with the cleansing of their hearts, that they may serve You with undivided and consecrated attention[in this time of crisis]; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Note: that the Epistle for Trinity XXI is from Ephesians 6 about the war against mighty spiritual forces in which we [as Anglicans] are engaged and the absolute need to take to ourselves the whole armor of God. (in 2006 Trinity XXI begins Nov 5)

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