O Lord, from whom all good proceeds: Grant us the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may always think those things that are good, and by your merciful guidance may accomplish the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This collect has its roots in the Gelasian and Gregorian sacramentaries.The 2019 BCP makes an improvement over the 1979 version by specifically asking the Father for the Holy Spirit to be our source of inspiration. With the prayer being offered “through Jesus Christ our Lord” it is thoroughly Trinitarian in nature.
The opening attestation, “from whom all good proceeds,” calls to mind a passage from James. “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”In these days of pandemic, social unrest and economic uncertainty it is refreshing to be reminded of the goodness of God. The news and social media would have us believe that the sky is falling. And perhaps it is, but even so Holy Scripture says “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”We have been accepted in the Beloved, the Kingdom is not in trouble and so we joyfully proclaim, “God is good, all the time!”“Therefore, since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us be filled with gratitude, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” 
The body of the collect encapsulates the truth that the will to do what is right, and the power to accomplish it, both come from the work of the Holy Spirit. It is all too easy to miss this reality. At times through rebelliousness and at other times through naiveté we strike out on our own like the toddler who says “I can do it myself.” How many times do we hear the infuriating question, “Have you prayed about it?” And of course the question is infuriating because we have failed to do so.
The Holy Spirit, in His “merciful guidance,” calls us back to trust and dependence. He grants us the will and the way to obey Jesus’ command, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bare fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”
Books of liturgy from the 8thand 10thcenturies respectively
Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by your providence, that your Church may joyfully serve you in quiet confidence and godly peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This collect has been transferred to the Second Week after Pentecost in the 2019 Book of Common Prayer. It replaces a collect from the 1979 BCPthat in turn replaced a collect of the 1928 and 1662 BCP.(Both of these collects are in the footnotes).
While this collect seems virtuous at first blush, it does not come from a biblical worldview. As a result it is more wishful thinking than good theology. Written at the time of the barbarian invasions, it is a foxhole prayer that falls short.
Its first error is that it implies that the ability of the Church to “joyfully serve in quiet confidence and godly peace” is dependent upon this world being “peaceably ordered by your providence” What would be the vehicle for this peace to come to the world? Politics? Science? Education? The true vehicle for peace is the gospel of the Kingdom. Thus rather than praying for peace, so that the Church can do her job, we need to pray for the Church to do her job, so that the world can know peace.
Jesus was quite clear about the contrast between Himself and the world. He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer,I have overcome the world.”St. Paul would not have ordered the Church to “put on the whole armor of God”if she was going to fulfill her mission in the context of a peaceful world. It would be nice but that is not reality. Reality is that nearly twice the number of Christians were martyred last century than in all the previous centuries combined. Again, the Church’s role is to make this a peaceful world by working and praying for the Kingdom to come in its fullness.
This leads to the second error of this collect. Jesus did not promise His disciples a life of “quiet confidence and godly peace.” He did not give such false assurances. Jesus, as a Southern expression goes, put the skunk on the table. He said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”Jesus promises a cross not a rose garden.
A more biblically accurate collect from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer says, “Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.”
St. James corrects us. “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.”While it would be wonderful for the Church to go about her business in a peaceful world, such a naïve hope is focused more for our comfort than on the glory of God. The Church would do well to return to the former collects for this Sunday that are far more biblically sound.
O God, whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth: We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 1979 BCP p.177
O GOD, the strength of all those who put their trust in thee; Mercifully accept our prayers; and because, through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments we may please thee, both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 1928 BCP p.188,189
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This collect is a revision of the 1662 collect for Trinity Sunday. Its roots are found in the Leofic Missalof the 10thcentury.
The collect begins by acknowledging that our “confession of a true faith” is a result of the grace of God. This is so because the truth of the Trinity came to the Church by the revelation of God and not by the reasoning of man. It took numerous Councils, predominately fighting against current heresies, to finally codify this mystery. And it cannot be emphasized enough that a theological mystery is not a problem to be solved but a truth to be proclaimed, even though it cannot be fully grasped. Thus St. Augustine said if we try to understand the Trinity we will lose our minds, but if we don’t believe it we will lose our souls.
The doctrine of the Trinity exposes the error of those who say that they don’t need the Church’s teaching because they have the Holy Spirit and the Bible. If asked how many years it would take them to come up with this doctrine, if they had never heard of it before, the truthful answer would be “Never.” God is a Trinity of Persons and a Unity of Being. This is His revelation of Himself to the Church and it is believed by all Christians from Orthodox believers in Moscow to Baptists in Murfreesboro.
Once this teaching is received by faith, the truth of it becomes abundantly clear throughout all of Scripture. At the very beginning of Genesis God speaks the Word to create (the Word that became flesh), while the Spirit is hovering over the face of the deep.In the last book of the Bible we read that the hosts of heaven cry not “Holy” nor “Holy, Holy” but “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.”
One of the more interesting typeof the Trinity is seen when three men approach Abraham at the oaks of Mamre. When speaking with them Abraham continually uses the singular “Lord.” And the text even interchanges the three men speaking with Abraham with the “LORD” (indicating the Divine Name) speaking to him.
The collect also informs us that we are not only to “acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity” but we are also to “worship the Unity.” The Holy Trinity is more than a truth to be believed, it is three Persons in one God to be worshipped. This we do every time we recite or sing the Gloria each Sunday. And while the acclamation of the Trinity is infrequent in much of Protestant worship it is replete in Anglicanism from the opening acclamation to the final benediction in both the Daily Office and Holy Communion.
A helpful meditation on the Holy Trinity can be found in the Athanasian Creed.
Almighty God, on this day, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, you revealed the way of eternal life to every race and nation: Pour out this gift anew, that by the preaching of the Gospel your salvation may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your 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 Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Two options are appointed for the Feast of the Pentecost. The first collect is new to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, while the second option is from the 1662 and 1928 BCP. It was taken from the Gregorian sacramentary.
Pentecost is the feast commemorating the sending of the Holy Spirit to the disciples as found in Acts 2. It is the fulfillment of Jesus promise “…but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”Pentecost is also viewed as the birth of the Church because 3,000 from around the known world were baptized on that day. By the sending of the Holy Spirit Jesus’ followers went from being a local sect to an international faith. And since the Sacraments require both Word and Spirit, there would be no Church today without the Holy Spirit.
It is fitting that both collects are offered because they touch upon two important distinctives of the Holy Spirit. They tell us that He comes to comfort and to empower. Ignoring either one or both of these distinctives leads to an imbalanced spiritual life.
He comes to comfort. Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as Paraclete.This word can be translated “advocate” “helper” “comforter.” He is one who comes along side, like a best friend, to be a support and a comfort. He comforts us in many ways by the many fruits that He brings into our lives. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”He also comforts and supports us by praying for us and with us. St. Paul writes, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.”
He empowers us. Jesus said to the disciples, “and behold I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”What was the purpose of this power? Jesus said, “…that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations beginning in Jerusalem.”
One way that the Holy Spirit empowers the Church is by leading her into the truth. Jesus said, “But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.”People who walk in the truth, live in the light and are free. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”People who do not walk in the truth, live in darkness and are in bondage. “But the way of the wicked is like total darkness. They have no idea what they are stumbling over.”
Another way that the Spirit empowers us is through His assurance of our state before God. St. Paul writes, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”While there are many voices, both natural and spiritual, that would undermine our confidence, the Holy Spirit whispers assurances that we have been accepted in the Beloved. Thus we face life saying “If God be for us who can be against us?”
Because the Son glorifies the Father, and the Spirit glorifies the Son, the Holy Spirit is all too often overlooked. Therefore we need to be especially intentional about seeking to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can walk in the comfort and power of God.
Veni Creator Spiritus
Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest, and in our souls take up Thy rest; come with Thy grace and heavenly aid to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
O comforter, to Thee we cry, O heavenly gift of God Most High, O fount of life and fire of love, and sweet anointing from above.
Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known; Thou, finger of God’s hand we own; Thou, promise of the Father, Thou Who dost the tongue with power imbue.
Kindle our sense from above, and make our hearts o’erflow with love; with patience firm and virtue high the weakness of our flesh supply.
Far from us drive the foe we dread, and grant us Thy peace instead; so shall we not, with Thee for guide, turn from the path of life aside.
Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow the Father and the Son to know; and Thee, through endless times confessed, of both the eternal Spirit blest.
Now to the Father and the Son, Who rose from death, be glory given, with Thou, O Holy Comforter, henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.
The Gregorian sacramentary is a 10thcentury book of prayers used by the celebrant at Mass.
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
This collect was taken from an antiphonthat was sung at Vesperson the day of the Ascension, 40 days after Easter. It is reported to be the antiphon sung by the Venerable Bedeas he died in 735AD. It is the collect appointed for the Sunday after the Ascension Day in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as well as the 1928 and 1979 BCP.
The prayer begins by addressing God as “the King of Glory.” This title is most appropriate as it is the title used in the prophecy of Jesus’ ascension in Psalm 24.
“Lift up your heads, O gates.
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
The Lord, mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory!”
Next the collect speaks of Jesus being “exalted…with great triumph.” The letter of St. Paul to the Philippians confirms this truth. He states, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him and bestowed upon Him the name which is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in the heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God that Father.”
As we are in the period between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost, when Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to the Church, it is very appropriate to pray, “Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us.”Through this prayer we prepare the way for Pentecost which is celebrated the following Sunday.
When we pray, “exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before” we are reminded of an amazing Christian hope. We will not only be raised from the dead but also we will be exalted with Christ. St. Peter speaks of Christians being “partakers of the divine nature.”This does not mean that we become little gods rather that we will be incorporated into the union and love of the Blessed Trinity. As Jesus prayed, “ that they may all be one, even as You, Father are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in us…the glory which You have given Me, I have given to them…”
The unity and Christlikeness that we strive feebly for in this life will become our very nature. There will be no more battles with the flesh, the world or the devil. No more separation and loneliness, no more doubt or despair. All wants will be gone and we will know love in its perfection as we “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
In the meantime we can raise our hearts and minds beyond what is around us because what is around us is only a partial reality. There is also an invisible kingdom that is unfolding. Consequently we are not limited to an earthly perspective. Jesus’ ascension impacts us in the here and now if we will allow it to do so. St. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
A brief sentence that is said or sung before or after the Psalm
A service of evening prayer in the Divine Office
Anglo-Saxon priest and scholar who wrote history and grammar, as well as biographies and biblical commentaries. d. 735
Of course we know the Pentecost happened 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection and that the Spirit has already been sent to the Church. But the point of following the Christian calendar is to walk with Jesus through those historic moments. Additionally the salvific work of God, when it occurred in time and space, is also eternal in nature. Revelation speaks of the Lamb being slain from the foundation of the world (3:8 KJV). From our limited perspective the redemption of Christ looked back as well as forward. The work of God, who is outside of time, is in the eternal present because He is I AM. Thus when we enter into heavenly worship we are doing more than just remembering an event in the past. The Eucharist is more than a memorial meal. While Jesus is not being sacrificed again in the Mass, He is being re-presented to us in the eternal present and so we partake not just bread and wine but also His Body and Blood.
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This collect is found in a number of early missals including the Celtic Stowe Missal of the 8thcentury that was written in Latin and Old Irish. It also appeared in the Sarum Missaland was slightly modified by Archbishop Cranmer for the 1549 Book of Common Prayer.
The collect is drawn from the wonderful biblical promise “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”I heard a country preacher say, “I believe that we are going to find that God is a whole lot greater and a whole lot gooder than we could have imagined.” The Scriptures and this collect say that he is correct.
We would be right to be utterly amazed that God has “prepared…such good things as surpass our understanding.” Considering that we have done absolutely nothing to be forgiven, we would be more than grateful for His mercy. But God has gone far beyond declaring us forgiven. He offers us promises “which exceed all that we can desire,” among which is making us joint heirs with Jesus Christ.
The petition of this collect is that we would obtain God’s promises by loving Him “in all things and above all things.” While that certainly is “meet and right so to do,” the truth is that in our own power we are not able to love God with all of our heart and soul and strength.And so the petition correctly starts by asking the LORD to first “pour into our hearts such love towards you.” It is God’s love in us that makes it possible for us to love Him in return. St. Augustine wisely prayed, “And my whole hope is only in Thy exceeding great mercy. Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt.”
What does it look like for us to love God “in all things and above all things?” Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount. It is to make God the priority of our lives. Jesus said, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.Seek the Kingdom of Godabove all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
First of all Beth and I were both in helping professions. If money had been our focus we would have chosen different careers. We were typical Americans. We always paid our bills but we always had bills to pay. We had very little in savings and were in essence living paycheck to paycheck. We both were worried about our financial future but we didn’t talk about it. Because Beth is better organized she ran our finances and I was basically clueless.
A friend taught Financial Peace University at our church and even though I did not want to, I attended the classes to support our friend. By the second video I was hooked. We pulled together as a team and saw our marriage strenghthend. We saw that it was possible to achieve financial freedom so we determined to follow the plan to the letter. It just seemed wise to take financial advice from a multi millionaire. As we followed the debt snowball we began to see light at the end of the tunnel. Finances began to be fun to talk about because we were seeing our dreams come into focus. After we paid off our debts we attacked the mortgage with a vengence and paid off our house. All the money that had gone to service debt we then put into savings and investments and in a few short years we were able to retire with dignity. If some or all of that is your dream I want to help you get there. If a priest and a social worker can pull this off then you can too.
How does this work? Three steps.
First we get together for a consultation. This will help me to understand both your challenges and your goals and determine if I am the person to help you.
Second we develop a customized plan that addresses both your challenges and your goals. We don’t just want to fight fires we want to dream about the future and make the dream come true
Third since these plans typically have to be adjusted along the way I will walk with you for a few months until you see progress and are comfortable flying solo. We can either meet weekly or every other week depending on your need and your comfort level
How will this benefit you?
It is a massive relief to have the burden of finances off of your back
It adds joy and purpose to your life to dream about your future
It simplifies your life to be free of debt and bills
It strenghtens marriages and can change the family tree
We can meet in person or do it all remotely. If I can help contact me at email@example.com
Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This collect, carried over from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, is a revision of a collect from the 1549 BCP. In the 1549 BCP it was appointed for the feast day of St. Phillip and St. James.
The collect is dense with insight. First it acknowledges that everlasting life comes from “truly” knowing God. Truly knowing God is distinct from simply acknowledging Him. As St. James said, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”
How do we truly know God? Jesus said, “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”Therefore the petition is “Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life…”
This call to truly know the Father and the Son is an important corrective to those who mistakenly believe that knowledge of Holy Scripture is all sufficient. Jesus corrected this thinking in the Jewish leaders when He said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”As one of my professors said, “The Bible is the treasure map but the Treasure is Jesus.”
The second part of the petition is “that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal glory.” It is in knowing Jesus to be the way, the truth and the life, that leads to steadfastly following His steps. In other words our obedience is a result of knowing and loving Him and not due to legalism or fear. In the Gospel appointed for this day Jesus will say, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Lastly this collect reminds us of our destiny. Note that our future is not only eternal life but also “eternal glory.” And the collect reminds us that our eternal glory is dependent upon how steadfastly we have followed in His steps.
St. Paul spoke of building our lives on a foundation of gold, silver and precious stones (things eternal) versus foundations of wood, hay and straw,(things temporal). Then he said, “each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
Jesus’ priority was the Kingdom of God. His first sermon was “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” If we are to “steadfastly follow his steps” then this must be our priority as well. Thus Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
The strong language of this collect, that calls us to “truly” and “perfectly” know the Lord and to “steadfastly follow” Him, is a call to discipleship. While we may not be able to drop our nets and follow as the first disciples did, we can submit to Jesus as Lord and seek to do His will each and every day.
While attending Florida State University I minored in Religion. It was often a challenge because I was theologically orthodox and held a high view of Scripture as the inspired Word of God. To give you an idea of my professors’ theology, one of them said in class, “I wish I could believe in God but if I did it would be Bacchus because of my love of wine.” Sadly he was not an exception.
Thus when I read that a course on the Bible was being offered through the English Department I jumped at that chance, believing it would be less controversial with the Bible only being addressed as literature. To my delight on the first day of class the professor underscored that this was a literature class and not a theology class and no theological debate would be allowed. I was thrilled. I was going to get academic credit for reading the Bible and I would be free of the pressure to defend Holy Scripture as I frequently did in my religion classes.
Right from the beginning the professor violated his own rule. In Genesis he mocked the theology of creation and he went on to treat the stories in Genesis as if they were on the same plane as Greek mythology rather than a history of the Jewish people.
By the time we got to Exodus I had enough of his arrogant attitude and his clear goal to destroy the faith of anyone who was so naive as to believe that the Bible was Gods’ Word. So when we came to the parting of the Red Sea he mockingly said, “And of course we know that this was really the Reed Sea and not the Red Sea because the Reed Sea had only a few inches of water and would be easy to walk across.” I raised my hand and said, “The is fantastic because that makes it an even greater miracle.” “How so?” he replied. “Because that means that all of Pharaoh’s army, including the horses and chariots, were drowned in a few inches of water.” And that is how I got kicked out of a Bible Class.
While I have been reciting the Apostles’ Creed in the Daily Office for decades, it has only recently occurred to me that there is a cascading connection in the final confessions of the Creed. By that I mean that one truth is causally related to the next truth. To review the last part of the Creed reads, “I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholicChurch, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”
Without the Holy Spirit nothing that follows would be possible. When Jesus ascended to the Father He sent His Spirit to empower His followers to be the Church. It was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that turned His disciples into Apostles. They went from hiding in an upper room to taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
And it is the Holy Spirit who makes the Church holy.It is the Holy Spirit who empowers the Sacraments to be vessels of God’s grace that results in sanctification. We are reborn by water and the Spirit in baptism.It is the Word and Spirit that consecrate the bread and wine to be for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.These Sacraments are the universal signs of the Church. Thus it is the Holy Spirit that gave birth to “the holy catholic Church
It is the “holy catholic Church” that produces “the communion of saints.” As one of my professors quipped, “God’s grace may be everywhere but you have never seen a baptism at the Moose Lodge.” His point was that Jesus has established His Church, which is His Body, to be the normative way that God coveys grace to the world. As St. Cyprian put it“No one can have God for his Father, who does not have the Church for his mother.”Therefore it is through the Church that we experience the communion of saints, both with saints below and saints above, and this is a communion that is not optional.
But how is “the communion of saints” connected to “the forgiveness of sins?” It is so on several levels. First, it is as two or more are gathered together in His Name that Jesus is presentand “with Him there is plenteous redemption.”Second, when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon the disciples He gave them what is referred to as “the keys to the kingdom.” That is the power to bind and to loose or to forgive or withhold forgiveness.Thus it is in the context of a private confession that we hear the words of absolution.It is also in Holy Communion that we hear the words of forgivenessin response to the General Confession as prayed by the entire congregation.
Third, the communion of saints is connected to forgiveness of sins in an interpersonal manner, from saint to saint. We pray every day “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Thus if we do not forgive one another, then we will not be forgiven. Jesus illustrated that in a powerful way in the parable of the unforgiving servant.
It is the “forgiveness of sins” that results in the “resurrection of the body.” St. Paul, both in Ephesians and Colossians, makes the connection of us having been dead in our transgressions but through the forgiveness of sins being raised with Him. He writes, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.”The implication is that if we had not received the forgiveness of sins then we would still be dead in our transgressions and therefore not raised with Christ. If we are still dead in our transgressions then the only resurrection that we will know is a resurrection to judgment rather than a resurrection to life.
The final connection is that it is the “resurrection of the body” that leads to “the life everlasting.” Job knew this truth. He declared, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand of the earth…yet from my flesh I shall see God”This is the hope of all Christians, that we will be united with Christ and reunited with our loved ones, and together live in our resurrected bodies in a new heaven and a new earth. “And of His kingdom there is shall be no end.”
Besides the Daily Office, Anglicans recite this ancient Creed at baptisms and funerals. It acts as the bookends of our lives. The interconnectedness of these truths that we confess act as an unbroken chain that anchors us to Christ and to one another. We are merely stewards of these truths and it is our responsibility to understand them and then pass them unchanged to the next generation.
1928 BCP p.81 “AND we most humbly beseech thee, O merciful Father, to hear us; and, of thy almighty goodness, vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with thy Word and Holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine; that we, receiving them according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood.”
This mindset flies against the kind of individualism that is so present in the Western Church and births the error of “sola Scriptura,” that is the thinking that the Bible interprets itself so we don’t need the Church to teach us. Two points easily refute “sola Scriptura.” Point one is that the fruit of this perspective has divided the Body of Christ into countless sects. Worldwide denominations number in the thousands. Also most cults can be traced back to an individual developing a uniqueinterpretation of Scripture that is unsupported by the teachings of the Church catholic. It is the Church that stands as a bastion of truth against schisms and heresies, from the Marcions of the 2ndCentury to the Mormons of this Century. The second point that reveals the error of “sola Scriptura” is the very Creed that we are reviewing. The Apostles’ Creed is a brief confession of the Holy Trinity without which we cannot be saved.This central doctrine was not developed through private interpretation of the Bible. The Holy Spirit revealed it through the Church. The ark that keeps us safe from schism, heresy and damnation is not our private interpretation of Scripture. The ark is the Church.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in him, of his great mercy forgive you all your offenses; and by his authority committed to me, I absolve you from all your sins: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” 1979 BCP p.451
“Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of His great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those who, through hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him: Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strengthen you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 1928 BCP p.76