Thursday, September 20, 2007

St. Matthew The Apostle (Sept 21)

Matthew was a tax-collector for the hated Roman occupying power and at the call of Jesus he became a disciple, and later an Apostle and Evangelist (hence the Gospel bearing his name). The Collect for his Feast has in The Book of Common Prayer been stable since 1549:

O Almighty God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist; Grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires and inordinate love of riches, and to follow the same thy Son, Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

What we see here is that after recalling the identity and vocation of Matthew, the petition, which is the center of the Collect, is related to the calling and duties of disciples whom Matthew as Apostle and Evangelist made, and still by the Gospel name for him makes for Jesus. In fact the petition recalls what is basic to the Service of Holy Baptism when converts are made members of the kingdom of God—“Dost thou renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the flesh, so that thou will not follow nor be led by them?” And with this renunciation is, of course, the embracing of the Gospel which is a word for all peoples.

It is good to notice the basic doctrine in the opening of the Collect. It is assumed that God the Father actually called Matthew and did so by his incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus. This points to the intimate union between the Father and the Son and that the mission and work of the Son on earth is done in the Name of and for the Father: “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10). Further, as the ending of the Collect assumes and proclaims, the Father together with his Son and the Holy Ghost (Spirit) is One Deity, The Holy Trinity, from ages of ages unto ages of ages.

Thus the work of the apostles and evangelists and their successors through space and time is set in the context of the Mission of The Holy Trinity, Missio Dei.

In closing it will be helpful to note what was the wording of the Collect in the medieval Service Book for the contrast reflects in part what the Reformation was about:

Grant, O Lord, that we may be assisted by the prayers of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist, Matthew; and what we are not able of ourselves to obtain may be bestowed upon us by his intercession. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Here we are deeply into the medieval world where sinners on earth, although they pray in the Name of the Lord Jesus, the One Mediator, also are judged to need the special help to, and unique intercessions for, them of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Apostles and Martyrs. Asking for the intercession of the blessed dead was totally removed from services in the Church of England from 1549.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon

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