Ashes to ashes….

The cross of ashes, traced upon the forehead of each Christian, is not only a reminder of death but inevitably (though tacitly) a pledge of resurrection. The ashes of a Christian are no longer mere ashes. The body of a Christian is a temple of the Holy Ghost, and though it is fated to see death, it will return again to life in glory. The cross, with which the ashes are traced upon us, is the sign of Christ’s victory over death. The words, “Remember, man, that thou art dust, and that to dust thou shalt return,” are not to be taken as the quasi-form of a kind of “sacrament of death” (as if such a thing were possible). It might be good stoicism to receive a mere reminder of our condemnation to die, but it is not Christianity. The declaration that the body must fall temporarily into dust is a challenge to spiritual combat, that our burial may be “in Christ” and that we may rise with him to “live unto God.”

Thomas Merton, Ash Wednesday, Spiritual Medicine

The Great Litany

On the first Sunday of Lent, Feb 14th at St. John’s we will pray the “Great Litany.” For 472 years Anglicans have prayed with deep faith this litany during penitential times and in times of discernment, distress, war and disaster.  The Great Litany (BCP: 148-53) was written by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and first published in 1544. It was the first “liturgical service” made available in the English language and has been included in every edition of the Book of Common Prayer since 1549. The Great Litany is a time-honored text in the Anglican liturgical patrimony.

This Litany is composed of 42 petitions. It begins with the invocation of the blessed and glorious Trinity, one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The petitioner asks the Lord, that in spite of one’s sins, in mercy apply the saving mysteries of His Incarnation, Nativity, and submission to the Law, Baptism, Fasting, Temptation, Agony, Passion, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and the Coming of the Holy Ghost to heal the mortal soul and mind.

God applies each of these saving actions to deliver us from evil and wickedness, from the lies of the devil and from everlasting damnation. They deliver us from blindness of heart, pride, hypocrisy, envy, hatred, and malice; from all inordinate and sinful affections, and the deceit found in the world. Christ may now find in us our “lamps lit” (Lk 12:35) so in the hour of our death and in the day of our judgment we may attain God’s heavenly Kingdom as our eternal home.

We pray for the Church through-out the world, for her ministry and for Christians who suffer for their faith and conscience, for Christians who have wandered away from the faith that they may return, for all civil authorities, peace, and for all in need.

The petitioner’s primary identity is that of a penitent. He seeks earnest forgiveness and amendment of life. He prays for his enemies. He prays for justice and for his triumph over every evil, and for eternal life and peace, and with all the saints he prays for the repose of the dead in Christ.

Anglicans understand the power of prayer. Prayer brings us in line with the way of truth; it can give us a heart to love and a desire to live after God’s commandments. Prayer can inspire, purify, preserve, protect and comfort. It can strengthen the weak-hearted, raise up the fallen, and beat down Satan who always lurks at the Christian’s door.

With all these prayers and intentions in mind the Great Litany concludes with the Agnus Dei, the Kyrie eleison, the Lord’s Prayer and a concluding collect asking that we may obtain what we have prayed for.

The Great Vigil of Easter, April 4, 2015

Tonight at the Great Vigil of Easter the baptismal themes that were explored during the season of Lent reach their logical conclusion in the words of this prayer, “Through the paschal mystery, dear friends, we are buried with Christ by Baptism into His death, and raised with Him to newness of life.” (BCP, 292)

As Christians we participate in the dying and rising of Jesus. This we call the paschal mystery and it’s the heart and soul of the Christian faith and life. St. Paul writes of this participation as a “grace” in Romans 5:2, “Through [Jesus] we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.”

The paschal mystery is the heart of the liturgical year. The dying and rising of Christ and how to apply this mystery to our lives undergirds our weekly celebration of Sunday and explains why we so dutifully participate in Lent and Holy Week.

The opening prayer for the Great Vigil sets the tone.  “Dear friends in Christ: On this most holy night, in which our Lord Jesus passed over from death to life, the Church invites her members, dispersed throughout the world, to gather in vigil and prayer. For this is the Passover of the Lord, in which , by hearing His Word and celebrating His Sacraments, we share in His victory over death.” (BCP, 285)

This is a power service, and there is a simplicity of interplay between darkness and light that is found through-out the evening. In the darkness of evening a  fire is blessed and the paschal candle is lit from it. This candle is then lifted high and processed down the center aisle with the priest chanting “the light of Christ.”  And the people respond, “Thanks be to God.”  The purpose is to show how the light of Christ dispels the darkness. Darkness has no power over Christ.  From this ‘paschal light’ other candles held by the faithful are lit so this New Light of Easter, reminiscent of “the true Light that enlightens every man” (John 1: 9) is seen as spreading over the whole body of the faithful. (BCP, 286)

The Liturgy of the Word

“Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels, and let your trumpets shout Salvation, for the victory of our mighty King!”  (BCP, 286)  “Darkness is vanquished!”  These and other paschal themes of Lent are joyfully sung in the ancient hymn “the Exsultet” and they prepare us to hear once again the story of salvation history.

These seven readings woven together provide “the record of God’s saving deeds in history.” This is our story!  This is the story that brought each one of us “… to the fullness of redemption” (BCP, 288).

  • The Creation Story.  Genesis :1-2:2.
  • The Story of the Flood.  Genesis 7: 1-5, 11-18; 8: 6-18; 9: 8 -13.
  • Abrahams Sacrifice of Isaac.  Genesis 22:1-18.
  • Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea.  Exodus 14:10-15:1.
  • God’s Presence in a Renewed Israel.  Isaiah 4:2-6.
  • Salvation Offered Freely to All.  Isaiah 55:1-11.
  • A New Heart and a New Spirit.  Ezekiel 36:24-28.

This is the night when all of these plans and purposes of God come true.

This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life.

This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave.

This is the night, when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away.  The mystery couched in this night restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn.  It casts out pride and hatred, and brings peace and concord.

We say, “this is the night” because the activities of God are never constrained or bound by chronological time. God “moves and has His ways” present and efficacious for all in every age. The sacramental theology of the Church explains this so carefully.

God’s grace-filled Providence makes this night “the night” when earth and Heaven are joined and man is reconciled to God.

The Renewal of Baptismal Vows

Our baptismal pledge is to keep the truth of this night continually shinning in order to drive away all darkness. When Christ returns in glory we pray that He will find this truth ever burning in our soul and influencing our life.

So tonight the liturgy gives us opportunity to recommit ourselves to living our life in Christ into which we entered at our baptism. We do this by renewing our baptismal vows. The Resurrection makes all things new. We are so blessed to have this opportunity to renew our participation in the paschal mystery. On the Cross our Lord triumphed over the forces of evil, trampling down death-by-death and winning salvation for us! Sin and death have no claim over us.  We are free!

The Easter Gospel

Tonight the Easter Vigil Gospel is Matthew 28: 1-10.  This is the Resurrection narrative. Matthew writes, “After the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week. . . .”  St. Matthew is speaking about the dawn of the New Day. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ has changed everything.  All of Creation was affected by it and is now being healed as we worship tonight!  Things which were cast down are being raised up… and things which had grown old are being brought to their perfection by Jesus… through whom all things were made!  (BCP, 291)

We hear the words of the angel, “Do not be afraid!  I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He has risen, as He said.  Now go, quickly, and tell…” Twice in this Gospel we hear the command “Go and tell. . . .”  Let the truth of this night burn in you deeply, then go, and do not be afraid. Jesus has gone ahead of you. Go and tell the world about Jesus.  This is the mission of the Church.  Amen

Good Friday, April 3, 2015

Tradition explains that Jesus hung dying between the hours of 12:00 noon and 3:00 pm.  For three hours He hung between “two robbers… one on the right and one on the left.” (Matt 27:38)

Tradition also explains that one is identified as a “good thief” and the other as a “bad thief.”  This seems appropriate as Jesus is always in-between what is good and what is bad.

The Gospels record part of the conversation between the good thief and Jesus.  The thief confesses, “I am a sinful man. My fate is my own doing.  In Your charity… will You remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”  (Lk 23:42)

Those words were sweet music to the ears and heart of our Lord.  They were words coming from the thief of confession and contrition and seeking peace and a new way.  Just when it seemed like that the “Sanhedrin Plot” was going to work out and Jesus would finally be pushed into obscurity… “out of sight, out of mind”… the mystery of the Holy Spirit moves the heart of a dying man to confess his sinful ways and seek a life with Jesus.  The “hidden fruit” of the Cross is already blossoming.

Who knows how many people passed by the Cross screaming their insults and ridicule and taunting Jesus to show what power He had and “come down from the Cross.” (Matt 27:40)

Jesus was deeply moved by the petition of the thief. His heart was filled with joy. “I assure you, Jesus replies, that this day you will be with Me in Paradise.”  (Lk 23:43)

The fruit of the Cross is limitless because it is always at work. It’s power and authority has filled the world with God’s peace, and with His grace and loving forgiveness.  It has restored peace to the guilty, and given everlasting happiness to souls who seek God’s Kingdom. Today the Cross reminds billions that everlasting salvation is available today, any time, any place, anywhere.

The redemption which Christ carried out on “the hill of the skull” is now applied to those who open their heart and will to receive Jesus and His way. The Son of God loves, thats all He can do.  And He died for you in the hopes you would come to love His sacrifice.

A precious way we access the eternal Cross and its fruits are in the Mass Jesus established in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday night.  By receiving Holy Communion we are able to stay on the path He has made for us that moves us from death to life… from struggles and sins to new beginnings and healing.

Monday of Holy Week, Mar. 30, 2015

On Monday of Holy Week we read about the anointing of Jesus while He was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper.  This narrative is found in Mark 14:3-9 or in John 12:1-11.

While Jesus sat at table eating a woman, identified in John’s Gospel as Mary (not the Mother of our Lord) “came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over His head.” (Mar 14:3) The oil Mary used was an expensive aromatic essential oil.  To achieve the level of purity noted in the reading it would have taken a great deal of time distilling the oil from flowering plants. But Mary “broke the jar open” and literally drenched Jesus with this fragrant oil. Then she knelt down and anointed and rubbed the oil into His feet with her hair.

The people in the room saw this and were very upset with what seemed to them as wasting expensive oil. Jesus replied to them saying, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me… She has … anointed my body beforehand for burying.” (Mar 14:6-8)

Jesus’ strongly defends Mary’s actions. Then He called attention to the growing aroma of this oil that was filling the house.  He linked the fragrance of the oil to the ‘sweet fragrance’ of His costly sacrifice that He will begin in the Upper Room and consummate at 3:00 pm on Good Friday.  In His offering of Himself on the Cross our Lord takes us by the hand and leads us through the sacred triduum to atone and heal our soul with His sacred flesh and blood in order to become the “aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Cor 2:15-16).

Mary gave her very best. Jesus gave His very best. Both are acts of pure love and both involved a “labor” intensive process. Mary and Jesus call us to give in the same way. But for us to get to where we are freely giving involves for many intensive spiritual labor on our part. To love without strings attached is not easy to do. To love in spite of pain is hard.  But when we are able to act from a heart purified by the Holy Spirit, a heart that has been graced with the Easter love of God, we find ourselves becoming the ointment and “light” that Isaiah spoke about.  We are God’s servants to the nations.

A Biblical Journey

Holy Week begins with our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (March 29th) and concludes when His lifeless body is laid to rest in a tomb and a large stone is rolled across the entrance. (April 4th)

Each day Jesus is lining up the details to fulfill His words, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).  Holy Week at St. John’s is a biblical journey. We hear an abundance of God’s Word and our historic liturgies in the Book of Common Prayer allow each of us to participate in the Word.

In Holy Week we will read the following 19 readings this year.  In addition are the supporting readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, and the New Testament letters.  Simply amazing!

  • Triumphal entry into Jerusalem……..Mark 11:1-11.
  • Jesus is anointed at Bethany……..Mark 14:3-9.
  • Jesus cleanses the Temple……..Mark 11:15-19
  • Conspiracy against Jesus……..Mark 14:1-2.
  • Betrayal of Jesus by Judas……..Mark 14:10-46.
  • Foot-washing……..John 13:3-17.
  • The Lord’s Supper……..Mark 14:22-25
  • Peter’s denial of Jesus……..Mark 14:26-72.
  • Jesus in Gethsemane……..Mark 14:32-42.
  • Jesus is arrested……..Mark 14:43-52.
  • Jesus before Caiaphas……..Mark 14:53-65.
  • Jesus before Pilate……..Mark 15:1-5.
  • Jesus before Herod……..Luke 23:6-12.
  • Jesus sentenced to die……..Mark 15:6-15.
  • Jesus mocked……..Mark 15:16-20.
  • The road to Golgotha……..Mark 15:21.
  • Jesus’ crucifixion and death……..Mark 15:22-41.
  • Jesus’ burial……..Mark 15:42-47.
  • The guard at the tomb……..Matthew 27:62-66.

Angelika_Kauffmann_-_Christus_und_die_Samariterin_am_Brunnen_-1796Christians are formed in and by the biblical story. The biblical language of Holy Week is the language of divine love that is engaging the human heart and will.  The Book of Common Prayer offers Christians the true worship that Jesus told the samaritan woman at the well about. “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.” (John 4:23)

As you enter into Holy Week consider offering the following prayer to ask the Holy Spirit to led you into the biblical narratives and discover a fruitful Holy Week.  “Assist us mercifully with Your help, O Lord God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby You have given us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Amen.  (BCP 270)

Palm Sunday, March 29, 2015

IMG_5064The service of Palm Sunday at St. John’s is March 29th at 8:00, 9:00 and 11:15 am.  This ancient liturgy is found in the Book of Common Prayer beginning on page 270.

It is called “The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday.” This title explains well what the day is about. Using this liturgy we progress from joy and triumph of discovering Jesus as the Messiah to His suffering and death!  We begin with the “Liturgy of the Palms” and the service concludes with the “Liturgy of the Passion.”

The service opens with the “messianic entrance” of Jesus into Jerusalem. The Messiah has arrived!  People wave palm branches and run to meet Jesus, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10)  But this excitement and hope of the crowd moves us to a penitential Eucharist that is dominated by the solemn proclamation of the Passion Gospel of St. Mark 14:32-15:47.

In place of a spoken sermon, today we provide silence.  Silence to meditate on the details of Mark’s Passion narrative.  These details are divinely provided to explain that any and all sins are sins committed against God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.

Today by means of this sacred liturgy we begin our most solemn walk.  Today we stand in procession with our palms, and with the “fullness of faith” we proclaim Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords, praising from our heart the Son of David!  Today we walk in procession as one who has been given a special grace, that certain advantage the first crowd didn’t have. We know the “why” to Jesus’ passion; and we know the eternal significance His triumph stands for. We know and proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord and the glory of the Father (Phil 2:11).  Jesus is the Son of David… He is the Son of God.

Today we grow deeper in our understanding of why Simeon said of Jesus that He was born as “a sign of contradiction,” a “sign” that is understood by those who truly seek God, but He is a sign that will be despised by most. Today we kneel in silence and in communion with our God knowing that Jesus sweated blood through His prayers and His passion to break the bonds of death and hell. His resurrection is His “sign” of His victory over death and the grave. Divine Love redeemed us.  This love continues to redeem our every day assisting us to put to flight the wickedness of sin and cleave to a life controlled by the Spirit.  (Galatians 5:16ff)

Jesus has restored original innocence to the fallen (Matthew 9:16-17) and He gives interior joy to all who mourn. (Matthew 5:4)  He casts out pride and bitterness from us so we can have room to receive the peace and concord of Heaven upon earth!  (Matthew 9:1-8)

How blessed we are to be baptized into this holy mystery.  Today as we kneel at the Altar rail and receive Holy Communion the beloved Son of God has again joined our soul to Heaven and we receive redeeming love. (BCP 287)

 

Holy Week: The Most Solemn Week of the Year!

baptism of catechumenThis year, March 29, 2015 begins the most solemn week of the year. We walk liturgically the last week of our Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly life.  We call this journey “Holy Week.”  We walk “liturgically” meaning sacramentally we are actually present to the suffering, dying and rising of Jesus Christ.  We participate in His “Paschal mystery.”  This divine mystery is the theological core of the Christian faith and the soul of the Church’s liturgical life.

The word “paschal” comes from “pascha” which itself means “the passing over.”  The Pascha is an early description for the Easter celebration of baptism and the holy Eucharist.  Lent developed as a season of preparation for baptism and first communion on Easter. St. Paul spoke to the newly baptized on Pascha, “We were buried with Christ through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

The first service of Easter begins at 8:00 pm on Holy Saturday night (April 4, 2015) and is called “The Great Vigil of Easter.”  At this first Mass of Easter you will hear lots of scripture readings from the Old Testament and New Testaments. The great stories such as the Fall of man, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the prophecy of the Dry Bones, and God making in man a new heart, our baptism into the Christ’s dying and rising and the Empty Tomb. These readings are some of the most ancient Christian “paradigms” for sacramental baptism. The joy that illuminates this evening service is celebrated using the contrast of candlelight and darkness. The glorious announcement “Alleluia, Christ is Risen” originally was spoken by those who had just been baptized into Christ and become a new creation.

The early Christians understood how the act of baptizing was the very act of “passage” in which the Church fulfills herself as God’s new creation.  Using liturgy the Church transcends earthly dimensions of an institution and she becomes the living Body of Christ as she receives the Body and Blood of Christ.  At this moment in earthly time the Church is the manifestation and presence of the “new aeon” of the Kingdom of God.

The first known use of the term “Paschal mystery” as it applies to our Lord’s suffering, dying, and resurrection is found in a homily written by Melito, who was the bishop of Sardis near Smyrna.  The homily was written between 160 and 170 A.D.  A contemporary of Melito was Irenaeus, bishop of Antioch (130-202 A.D).  He was taught how the celebration of “Holy Week” (what he called “Great Week”) went back to the time of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. (d. 155 A.D)  

The origin of this solemn week lies buried in apostolic times. By the 4th century during the episcopate of the great bishop St. Cyril of Jerusalem it was an annual event.  Many of the earliest churches were being built on the sacred sites in the Holy Land by Constantine, and with the growing influx of pilgrims to Jerusalem for Easter Day the Church developed liturgies celebrated on the original sites and at the times indicated in the gospels.  The liturgies in the Book of Common Prayer for Holy Week are structured from these ancient services.

Holy Week brings to fruition the baptismal themes that has structured the season of Lent.  An example of this is how on the 5th Sunday in Lent (March 22, 2015) the Gospel addressed the role of baptism using the words of Jesus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  (John 12:24)

Lent has prepared us to listen attentively to the Passion Gospels and Old and New Testament stories that narrate our salvation. We find on Maundy Thursday the origin and purpose of the Mass.  We discover on Good Friday how all graces flow from the sacrifice of Christ and how on this “Good and perfect day” our Lord’s suffering body made a new humanity that in baptism made us the Father’s “new creation.”  (Eph 2:14-22 and 2Cor 5:16-21)

At the Great Vigil of Easter the 40 days of Lent “fold into” the renewal of our baptismal vows where we once again renounce Satan and all his evil and we promise ourselves again to Christ and to the ministry of His Church. “Through the Paschal Mystery, dear friends, we are buried with Christ by Baptism into His death, and raised with Him to newness of life. I call upon you, therefore, now that our Lenten observance is ended, to renew the solemn promises and vows of Holy Baptism, by which we once renounced Satan and all his works, and promised to serve God faithfully in His holy Catholic Church.”  (BCP 292)

On Easter Day we pray, “Almighty God, who through Your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”  (BCP 222)

Join us for our services during Holy Week and complete your journey of Lent to Easter Morning.

  • March 29th – Palm Sunday, Sunday 8:00, 9:00 and 11:15 am.
  • April 1st – Wednesday in Holy Week, Mass at 7:00 am and 11:00 am in the Lady Chapel.
  • April 2nd – Maundy Thursday, Mass with choir, Foot Washing, Stripping of the Altar, and beginning of the Great Watch.  The Church remains open from the end of Mass around 8:00 pm until 12 midnight for prayer.
  • April 3rd – Good Friday Liturgy at 12:00 pm noon and with the choir at 7:00 pm.
  • April 4th – The Great Vigil of Easter with choir at 8:00 pm.  Includes the Service of Lights, the Blessing of the Easter Fire, procession with the Paschal Candle and chanting of the Exulted, and the service of Lessons recounting the history of salvation.
  • April 5th – Easter Day, 8:00, 9:00 and 11:15 am.  9:00 am is the Flowering of the Cross and Children’s sermon; 10:30 am Easter Egg Hunt with children.

Spiritual Consolation…

According to Ignatius of Loyola (born in 1491) the good spiritual feelings that are stirred up within us he calls spiritual “consolation” and the negative and dark spiritual feelings he calls spiritual “desolation.”

Spiritual consolation is an experience of being connected to God and His love and mercy. We want to serve Him, love Him, and grow to know Him more and more. This encourages in us a deep sense of God’s faithfulness towards us, and that He is our companion through the “thick and thin” of life. The contrast of spiritual consolation is what Ignatius calls spiritual desolation. This is when we cave in to the darkness and commotion around us. Our thinking and decisions are fueled by doubts, temptations, and many self-preoccupations. We are restless and become alienated from others. The end product of spiritual desolation is that we are always taking one step backwards, living without faith, hope, or love.

We all fall victim of spiritual desolation just as we have moments of spiritual consolation. For St. Ignatius much of the spiritual life is largely about “interpreting” the “whys” and “whens” these contrasting movements of “desolation” and “consolation” come to us and where it all might they be leading us?

Keep in mind, spiritual consolation is not always moments of happiness. Jesus tells us, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” Sometimes when we are at our lowest it can be a moment of real truth and conversion giving way to a deeper trust with God. Human suffering when surrendered to the Holy Spirit becomes powerful redemptive medicine for us.

The season of Lent encourages us to try to understand the “whys” and “whens” that consolation and desolation enter our soul and thinking. This can help us move to a deeper conversion with God and maybe help us face changes we need to make.

The Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 22, 2015

john12.24-01The Collect for this Sunday is: “Almighty God, You alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant Your people grace to love what You command and desire what You promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”  (BCP 219)

This Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent before Holy Week. The readings takes us into the mystery of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ and they also draw us into the heart of our baptismal life where the mystery of our salvation is being “worked out”. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will [your salvation].” (Phil 2:11-13)

The reading from the Old Testament is Jeremiah 31:31-34.  “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”  (Jer 31:31)  The “new covenant” is to be inscribed on the human heart by God Himself. (Jer 31:33)  So man’s heart comes to center stage.  The human heart is a great mystery.  From it emerges every type of injustice imaginable: “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy.” (Mat 15:19)  But the redeemed heart is fertile ground where the possibility of reconciliation and peace is conceived.  Jesus stresses, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”  (Matt 5:8)

The epistle reading is from Hebrews 5:1-10.  Chapter Five addresses Jesus Christ as the eternal “High Priest of the New Covenant and Sacrifice.”  He is the perfect and final mediator between God and all souls.  This is the major doctrinal theme of the letter to the Hebrews, the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The reading from the Holy Gospel is John 12:20-33.  Every action and every word of our Lord’s holds redemptive value. Everything He does displays the Cross. “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all souls to myself!”  (John 12:31)

Jesus’s blood and death brings forth a new harvest. In death Jesus offers His earthly life to God. The cost of eternal life is the highest price. Payment is made by completely giving one’s life over to God. Living sacrificially is how one practices the Christian life.  A farmer cannot provide the blessings of the harvest without first committing to a season of toiling to sow. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  (John 12:24-25)

To be supernaturally effective we must be willing to labor hard to know the good. To know and appreciate the good we must be able to understand what is false and evil; to realize when the Evil One is causing division between us and our neighbor and to have the moral courage to walk towards the good and away from the evil. The closer we come to God the harder we will find it to stay there. So long as we are at a distance from God the minions of Satan will not harass us too much.  But as soon as we get serious about returning to the Father the harder Satan will work to convince us there is no point in our efforts.

Just like the farmer, we too must labor daily sorting the good from the bad. Grains of wheat must change through death in order to grow roots and new life. Our supernatural life must begin in the same way.  It must begin in the soil of humility.  Humility is found wherever sanctifying (baptismal) grace is allowed to increase. “We always carry deep within us the mortification of Jesus, that the [new] life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Cor 4:10)

The pure water of regeneration is the water that infused the new covenant upon our heart. (Eph 1:13-14)  This covenant opens our heart and soul to God’s grace and truth, “And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace.”  (John 1:16)

The pure water of regeneration is the water of grace that infused the new covenant upon our heart. (Eph 1:13-14)  Our soul is filled with the holy and life-giving Spirit. We have the means to stay in the faith and communion of Christ’s holy Church.  The Holy Spirit will teach us and forms us in love to love as Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. We live linking the world to God.  With that grace of “dying and rising” within us we can daily find the fullness of the Father’s peace and glory.  (BCP 305-306)