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This Sunday at St. Joseph's . . .


May 7, 2017

Third Sunday After Easter


"Then said some of His disciples among themselves, 'What is this that He saith...'Because I goeth unto the Father?'...We cannot tell what He saith..."                 -- from the Sunday Gospel


Dear friends,

Christ is risen!

Sometimes, you'll remember, the Gospels tell us that the Lord Jesus, after performing a miraculous healing, ordered the person who had been healed not to tell anybody about it (which most of them in their exuberance promptly disobeyed).  These incidents are mentioned frequently enough that all of us will recall at least a couple of them.  One reason we remember these stories is that it seems odd for the Lord to admonish the newly-healed and very excited person to keep quiet about it.  Does He really expect them to?  Why should He want them to keep their "good news" to themselves?  Biblical scholars have pondered the question for a long time.  They may not always come up with good answers, but they've come up with a catchy name for the question.  They call it the "Messianic Secret." 

The "Secret" is tied to the Lord Jesus' identity.  Who was/is He?  It seems that Christ wasn't worried that everybody knew the answer.  The Gospels contain a bunch of tantalizing and sometimes confusing statements Jesus made that don't quite fit the children's Sunday School picture we have of Him and what we think He meant to do.  St Matthew gives us a glimpse of this: The disciples ask Jesus why He uses parables when He preaches.  People don't always understand what He means.  The disciples think He needs to change His style.  His answer is a bit shocking if we think of Him as a genial fellow Who wishes we could all just get along.  Our caricature of Jesus, a man so meek and mild butter wouldn't melt in His mouth, replies to their question "I speak to them in parables so that seeing they might not see and hearing they might not understand."  The Gospel is deeper than the Lord's disciples think it is; it's deeper than you and I think it is. All of His disciples, past and present, are meant to come to terms with our Lord Jesus Christ not through platitudes and parroted Bible verses, but by facing His real and challenging demands in our everyday lives. 

Almost all the Gospel readings for the Sunday Masses in Eastertide are from St John.  They're taken from the long discourse our Lord has with His disciples on the night in which He was betrayed.  Gathered for His last Passover with them and their first Eucharist, Christ prepares them for what's ahead.  Unlike the crowds, He doesn't speak to them in parables, but by the reaction of His disciples to much of what He says, we can get a sense of why He did speak in parables.  His disciples, who'd been with Him for three years, seeing His miracles and hearing His words, have no more idea of what He's talking about than anybody else.

In the wonderfully Jewish (almost rabbinic) words and structure of Sunday's Gospel, the incomprehension of the Lord's disciples is so thick we need the proverbial knife to slice it.  "What's He saying?  It doesn't make any sense!  'Returning to the Father?'  What's He mean?"  The crowds which heard only His parables couldn't be any more in the dark than Peter and James and John were that night.

They knew the Lord called God His Father.  He'd even taught them, in His Great Prayer, to call God their Father, though this wasn't a usual part of the Jewish vocabulary of prayer.  But what did He mean when He said He was "returning" to His Father?  "We cannot tell what He means," they whispered to each other.  

That night, His last with them before His death, the disciples still didn't know Who He was.  They believed He was the long-expected Messiah.  He was the heir of David, the successor of Moses, the Prophet Elijah in their midst.  Believing all that, they still didn't know Him as Who He was.  That's why they were stumped by His claim that He would "return" to the Father.  Who could "return" somewhere unless they CAME from the place they were going back to?  But if He CAME from Heaven then...no, that's impossible.  He must mean something else.  So the disciples were confused, not because the Lord spoke in parables that night but because He used ordinary words in their everyday sense.  But the obvious meaning - that God Himself was sitting at the dinner table with them - was too much for them.  He must mean something else...

You and I have the advantage of the Twelve.  We believe He was and is "God of God, Light of Light, very God of Very God."  This season we celebrate a historical fact: Jesus the Son of Mary was dead as a doornail on the afternoon of Good Friday and eating dinner with His even more confusticated disciples the following Sunday evening.  The Christian religion hinges on the utter reality of those two events.  You and I and Christians "at all times and in all places" believe them to be true.  Our belief is not the same as our opinion.  The Creed isn't something we say with the same conviction as "I believe the Longhorns’ new coach is better than Darrell Royal" or "That new McDonald's burger is, I believe, a lot better than a Whataburger."  When we stand together and say "I believe in one God..." we're saying "This is true and I'm staking my life on it."  These are the truths on which we base our lives.

So let's do.  Let's live our lives as we say we believe.  As we put our lives, the humdrum of the forgettable everyday happenings, the deep love we share with life-long companions and friends, the suffering that we can't avoid and the undergirding goodness of God which is our constant and enduring reality, into God's hands during our daily prayers and Sunday Eucharists, know and believe He is ever and always with us.  That's an essential of our Creed, too.  He loves, regardless.  He loves, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.  He loves, not generically but specifically.  God loves the members of our parish because He loves Middy and Maddy and Larry and both Bills. 

Our religion is about God Who "came down" from Heaven and became one of us, Who died for love of us and came back from the dead to show us plainly that all the stuff we're afraid of and spend our time worrying about isn't worth a cold and dried up French fry.  "By His rising to life again," says the Proper Preface for the Masses of Eastertide, "He hath restored to us everlasting life."  He has put our feet on solid ground.  He has opened our eyes to see and our ears to hear so He can speak to us plainly, not in parables.

Christos aneste!

Pax,
Fr Greg Wilcox
May 4, 2017, being the Friday after Low Sunday



April 16, 2017
Easter Day


Dear friends,

Christ Is Risen!  This is the One Church’s joyful shout, continual proclamation and unchanging Faith since the First Sunday of the Resurrection.  It defines who we are.  In one of the few quotes of St Augustine that most everybody knows, “We are an Easter people.”

We’re the people who believe that nothing, not death or sorrow, not the hidden forces of nature or the persistent malice of man, not my all- consuming self-pity or by frequent disregard for the well-being of others, none of these things can stand before the Life that shows forth from the Empty Tomb. 

Christ Is Risen!  That’s our Easter shout.  As you know, through the Easter season it’s our custom to exchange this greeting over and over, not only in our native tongue but in the great languages long-sanctified by the Gospel: Geek, Latin, Coptic, Syrian, Prussian, French, Spanish, Anglo-Saxon, etc, etc.  The Easter Proclamation transcends our cultures but as it does, it sanctifies them. 

For Forty Days we’ve kept the Fast; for Fifty Days, we’ll keep the Feast.  For Forty Days we’ve lamented our sins; for Fifty Days we’ll rejoice in Christ Who defeated every evil and corrupt thing.  Even we, at our most perverse, couldn’t prevail over Him.

Christ Is Risen!  You and I are free!  Not only from sin and sorrow and death, but from every snarling little thing to which we cling, and to the deformed pleasure it brings us.

Christina Rossetti, the 19th century English poet (who wrote our Christmas hymn, In The Bleak Mid-Winter) wrote in her Easter poem: “Christ Is Risen!” she says, “And all the world’s at play!”  The Resurrection, she insists, isn’t a theological point to be pondered by profesionals, but something which bursts out, spreading it’s irresistible truth among wild primroses and newborn calves; among the ice-fed rushing creeks of Spring and the insistent chirping coming from unseen nests.  Christ is Risen in ways far above our abilities to see, not only ushering in new life but filling every life, old and new, with a meaning far more profound than logic can grasp.

Beloved, Christ Is Risen!  So are you, and so am I.

Alleluia!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox
April 14, 2017, being Good Friday


April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday


Dear friends,

With Palm Sunday, Lent will soon be ending, and with it, this series of letters on temptation and sin.

I appreciate your responses and questions: though I've answered some personally, some didn't allow for quick and easy answers (and I know some of you hold I'm incapable of giving those sort of answers to the simplest of question). Some of your more thought-provoking responses I'll address in sermons or letters at another time.

Sad to say, for most of us most of the time, the main growth in our lives as Christians is not centered around profound experiences of prayer or intimate relationships with God through the Sacraments, but with the humdrum of unexciting temptations and regrettable lapses into sin. That's not to negate the absolutely essential part Prayer, Worship and the Sacraments play, but truth be told, our prayers often give us the "feeling" (which is not too accurate) that unless we "feel" some conscious connection with God whenever we pray, none has been made. Remember the scene in "Hamlet" when the evil King Claudius goes to the chapel to pray. After some time spent on his knees, he gets up in disgust and says: "My words fly up, but my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts ne'er to Heaven go."

Good poetry, good insight into the king's psychological state, but not such good theology. The "effectiveness" of our prayer isn't dependent on how focused we are or how well we concentrate. Sometimes well-focused prayer can give us a sense of connectedness with God. Some of those experiences of God's presence with us may remain with us forever. But that's not why we pray. We pray to be with God, to put ourselves in His presence and at His disposal. All our most memorable experiences of prayer are built on the day-in-and-out prayers we say when often our "thoughts remain below." What matters in prayer is not how we feel, before, during or after, but what we do. Prayer offered when we feel like it (just like "worshipping God in His Church every Sunday" or any other religious duty), may make us feel good, but there's little grounding beneath it. 

In the Sacraments, God comes to us. In the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, our Lord Himself comes not just to be with us, like the visit of an important and well-to-do relative we hope will hope will remember us in the will, but, as the Prayer Book says, "that He may dwell IN us, and we in Him." Years ago, a man who was going through Confirmation class quizzed me very closely: did I (and, by extension the whole Church) REALLY believe that Christ was present with us in the Blessed Sacrament? If we really believed that how could any of us act so casually in church? Why didn't we all fall on our faces as soon as we walked in the door?

You and I are blind to God's presence. He comes to us, not in a plate of literal flesh or a cup of corpuscles, because the purpose of Holy Communion is not to give us nightmares. He comes in bread and wine for a host of reasons, but one most obvious - and least important - is that He's not a conjuror and the faith is not a magical trick. God takes us where He finds us, and that's how He deals with each of us.

One of the most "religious" things you and I do most often is to be tempted. That doesn't sound very nice (which, come to think of it, it's not) but it's the truth. If that's not your experience, it's not because you're a bit above most people, but because you're not really paying attention. Temptation is all around us. A lot of times we're aware of it but not aware that it IS temptation. We can write it off as a wandering thought, a fleeting desire or a satisfying memory. Most of our temptations aren't dramatic, Faustian evils, but the enjoyments of putting somebody in their place, proving ourselves right at another's expense or getting our way because that's what I wanted. Few of us will kill somebody else - in the end we'll most likely get in a whole lot of trouble - it's probably more satisfying anyway to make them look like a fool. These and several hundred thousand variants are temptations. Not dramatic ones, not even ones we acknowledge or take seriously, but this is at the core of the religious life of everybody who ever has, or ever will, live. This is where the fight for who we are takes place. 

The Prayer Book gives this a prominent place not only in our Liturgy, but when she teaches us how to approach God. In the First Exhortation before Holy Communion (which the priest is ordered to read aloud quarterly), there's a quaint-sounding phrase telling us "to try and examine ourselves" regularly, "before we presume to eat of that Bread and drink of that Cup." The meaning of this line is not "y'all should try and do this sometime." It means "put yourself on trial" before God. The purpose of Lent is not that the murderers and rapists among us should turn themselves in, but that you and I acknowledge that we're liars, self-servers and given to building ourselves up at the expense of others.

Prayer, the Liturgy, the Sacraments and serving the ones in our lives (regardless of how some of them may irritate us), these are some essential ways we combat temptation. Hopefully, one of the things we learn a bit more of each year is our temptations and sins. When Lent comes again, it's not a time to be dreaded but embraced. What sins will I fight these forty days? If you know, if you pay attention, if you pray and receive the Sacrament with this in mind, you'll actually come out on top sometimes. You'll recognize the temptation as it approaches and turn away from it (you won't win anything by facing it down; what little victory you win will be more than lost in your sense of personal accomplishment and self-satisfaction). Remember the goal of Lent is not to do everything perfectly but to be sinning less come Easter Day than on Ash Wednesday. We sin less by being with God more.

I will see you all on Easter morning.

Pax,

Fr Greg Wilcox

April 7, 2017, being the Friday after the Fifth Sunday in Lent


April 2, 2017

Fifth Sunday in Lent (Passion Sunday)

Dear friends,

Ensconced in a happy niche of my memory are the Tales of Nathaniel.  He was a young parishioner of mine when I served at St Mary's in Los Angeles.  One of the earliest Tales (and there are many that continue to enrich my life) has to do with Nathaniel's birthday.  A few weeks before his sixth birthday, Nathaniel called me at church.  He told me his birthday was fast approaching but for it to come off right, he needed my help.  I had to come to his house TODAY.  So I did.  His family lived on Los Feliz Boulevard, only four blocks from the church.  He told me he'd meet me on the front lawn.

He was waiting as I crossed the boulevard, at the intersection where the last of the Brown Derby restaurants sat.  I climbed up the steep yard (the family house topped a hill) and sat down beside him.  "Now, Nathaniel, how can I help you?" 

His almost-but-not-quite six year old face looked at me soberly.  "Father, I told you my birthday is pretty soon.  We're having a big party, but I'm worried.  I know we have to go to church to visit God, but I want Him to come to my birthday party.  Could you ask Him to?  It's very important."

His face, like his heart, was utterly sincere and guileless.  "I'm always happy to talk to God for people, Nathaniel, but I think God would be very happy if you were to ask Him yourself."

He gave me a dubious look.  "Do we need to go to back to church?"

I told him that prayer was talking to God and the nice thing about that was that any of us could do it anywhere.

"Like here on the grass?"

I assured him it was so.  He twisted his mouth in uncertainty.  "What do I say?" 


"We begin politely."  I went over how to make the sign of the Cross properly (Nathaniel knew we did something, but the few times I actually saw him Cross himself before this he made more like a "check-mark" over his chest) and what to say as he did it.  "Now, we're ready to pray."  I rehearsed with him the Lord's Prayer (most of the time his brow was furrowed as he tried to make sense of things like "hallowed" and "trespasses") and when we'd finished, I told him, "Now say what you want to God."

He did.  With simple earnest he began talking.  It was a privilege for me to hear.  Some of it I'll keep to myself, but I'm not giving away anything by saying he wanted the Lord to come to help him to be a good six-year-old and to "stay for awhile after the party was over."  When we made the sign of the Cross again, Nathaniel asked, "Do you think He'll come?"

"When you talk to God, He will always come."

Over the next months and years Nathaniel continued his education in the mysteries of prayer.  He and I met many times and talked about "talking to God."  He became a first-class, champeen pray-er.  In fact, a few years later ... but ... that's a Tale ... for another time.

We've spent the past two months considering temptation and sin.  I wish I could say I've taught you well, but I've barely scratched the surface.  Nevertheless, I've got to press on.  There will be other Lents in the future and plenty of time to talk about temptation.  The question before us these last two weeks of the Great Fast is "what do I do about temptation and sin?"

I began with the story of Nathaniel Praying on the Hill not only because I cherish it, but because prayer is one of the constants in our combat with both temptation and sin.  As I mentioned before, we pretty much know our temptations (perhaps only your spouse knows yours better, but most are too smart to let on).  If you're paying attention to what's going on inside you, most of your temptations won't come as a surprise.  In fact, you often go looking for them.  Because we believe that a lot of our sins aren't REALLY sins, we often overlook them.  "God knows I'm a good person.  I'm not like a lot of other people" (the Pharisee in the Lord's parable put it this way: "I thank Thee, O God, that I'm not like other people are ..."). 

To fight temptation and send it packing, the first thing to do is pay attention.  Pay attention to what you say and do.  Develop the easy (if initially uncomfortable) habit of thinking about your day at your day's end.  What have I done that I "ought not" to have done?  What have I not done I "ought to have done?"  Don't fret about what you can't remember.  What you can remember is a good place to start. 

After a few minutes say to God, "I've done this and this and if I'd had a chance I'm pretty sure I would have done this, too."  When you talk straight-forwardly and honestly to God, you'll learn, like Nathaniel did, that God is paying attention.  "When you talk to God, He will always come."  I've quoted St Antony the Great to you many times: "Expect temptations till your last breath."  But that's the second half of his famous quote.  The whole thing runs thus: "This is the great work of every human being: always to take the blame for his own sins, and to expect temptations to the last breath."

I dare not climb on a soap-box, but I must say we are a society running as fast as we can from individual responsibility and integrity (I'll say nothing of societal failings in this regard; all you and I have to do is look in the mirror).  Rather than face our own culpability in ANYTHING, we specialize in fobbing it off elsewhere.  Worse, we don't just blame others: we lie at least as much to ourselves.  We're doing the devil's work for him.

To fight sin, we first have to have some idea of what sin is and then fess up to the fact that we're frequent practitioners of it.  What most of us would rather do is just forget the whole thing (since the self-serving view our prevalent culture has about God is that He/She doesn't take the antiquated notion of "sin" seriously, anyway).  Isn't forgiveness just God forgetting about our peccadillos?  Well, no, it's not.  God doesn't grade on a curve.  He created you, He loves you, and He wants you to grow up.  The ordinary buffets of life teach us that without much need for reflection.  God created you personally.  He means for you to be.  The end purpose of all He has done for us is not so we end up a planet-ful of trailer trash.  St Athanasius the Great (a friend of our St Antony mentioned above) put it both elegantly and bluntly: "God became like us so we could become like Him."  That's the Christian religion and the Catholic faith in one sentence.

When we have an idea of what it's like to be tempted and get used to not lying to ourselves all the time about our sins, we're ready for some brass tack-work.

The warrior prepares for battle; the student prepares for the test; the lawyer prepares his case.  Our Christian life requires us to prepare for temptation.  How do we do that? 

Christians are "members of Christ," as the Prayer Book teaches us.  We're children of God by grace in a most practical, non-theoretical way: we are baptized.  The Sacraments are avenues of grace.  They are one of the principal means of God living with and in us.  The regular and frequent reception of Holy Communion is essential for fighting sin, to growing in grace, to living up to God's image which we bear.  Of course, the Sacrament of the Altar is not magic.  In it, Christ really and truly gives Himself to us.  But do we really and truly want to receive Him, or do we want Him to be more who we wish He was (more jolly, like Santa)?  To get a sense of what Holy Communion is intended to be, read the Prayer of St Simeon Metaphrastes (in our Sunday bulletin). 

We prepare for temptation by praying.  Certainly our daily prayers are part of that, but remember Nathaniel.  Say to God what you really want to say.  Tell Him the truth.  When you're tempted, say so.  Tell Him you're being tempted and tell Him why you want to go ahead and sin.  Tell Him you love Him and you want to love Him more.  Ask Him to help with the temptation.  If you want Him to, He will (He WILL NOT magically prevent you from sinning--you've got to bring something to the table yourself, even if it's nothing more than "I know there is some part of me--somewhere--that hopes to avoid this sin. Help me!"

What I've mentioned thus far skims the surface of our topic.  Many of our temptations are not prolonged but instantaneous.  How do we deal with those?  Conversely, some temptations reassert themselves, popping up again and again, even when we think we've addressed them already.  What's a Christian to do?

There are other important things to consider I haven't yet mentioned in these letters: the Sacrament of Confession and working regularly with a spiritual director are chief among them.  The Sacraments and prayer, however, are the underpinning of our continual preparation.  Remember St Antony's words and Nathaniel's earnest determination.  Both will stand us in good stead.

A blessed Passiontide.

Pax, 
Fr Greg Wilcox
March 31, 2017, being the Friday after the Fourth Sunday in Lent


 

March 26, 2017
Fourth Sunday in Lent


Dear friends, 

Anglicans continue the quaint and pleasant custom, otherwise mostly lost among contemporary Christians, of giving certain Sundays and holy days epithets - new names.  One medieval English word everybody knows is "Christmas."  The actual name of the feast is "The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ."  Christmas is the obviously shortened form of "Christ's Mass."  But our calendar is filled with such days. Up until the 19th century in England, March 25th, the feast of the Annunciation was, by most everyone, called Lady Day, after our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary (an English friend of mine told me years ago that in British Law Courts March 25th was universally called Lady Day by Anglican, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and even Hindu judges, lawyers and their clerks until about 1920).

The Fourth Sunday in Lent is just such a day.  It's called "Laetere Sunday" from the first Latin word in the Introit of the Mass (laetere means "rejoice").  It's also called Rose Sunday, Refreshment Sunday and Mothering Sunday.  "Rose" after the color of vestments and hangings used for the day (we don't have any at St Joseph's but we make up for it with an abundance of beautiful roses at the Altar. "Refreshment Sunday" refers to one of two things, you choose:  1-the Gospel for the day tells us the Lord Jesus fed 5000 people on a mountainside overlooking the Sea of Galilee.  He "refreshed" them with an "all-you-can-eat" meal of bread and fish; 2-the Fourth Sunday is the mid-point of Lent.  In earlier times (when people took Lent more seriously), at this mid-point, the rigors of the Fast were lessened a bit (hence the rose-colored vestments, a "lightening" of Lent's customary purple). "Mothering Sunday" is from the medieval practice of people venturing to the "Mother Church" of the diocese each year - the Cathedral - on the Fourth Sunday (not surprisingly this often was a big shopping day and an excuse for our ancestors to enjoy whatever amusements the "big city" had to offer).

Whatever name we choose for the day, the Great Fast is half over.  It's not a bad time to pause for five minutes and ask yourself if this Lent is benefitting you, and if so, how?  What is your Lenten rule?  Is it worth keeping?  Do you need to "fine-tune" it?  The underlying question to ask yourself is "How will I be a better Christian come Easter than I am now?"

+   +   +

I've been writing you about sin and temptation since the first Sunday of Pre-Lent.  You'd think I'd about exhausted the topic.  Think again, Larry.  A few weeks ago, I quoted St Antony the Great, an Egyptian monk and the founder of Christian monasticism.  He says "Expect temptations till your last breath."  For Christians, temptations are a constant in our spiritual lives.  We don't take 'em too seriously because only rarely are we tempted with spectacular chances to sin.  For most of us, most of our sins - and hence, most of our temptations - are pretty pedestrian.  It's not committing adultery, but choosing to watch (and relish) a television show which appeals to our lower instincts.  It's not stealing from our employer, but denigrating him privately.  It's not shooting our cousin but making sure she knows we don't approve of her.  Most of us who go to hell go, "not with a bang, but with a whimper."

You can't sin without being tempted.  When you're tempted, you can't sin unless you want to.  Sin isn't accidental.  While it sometimes springs on us unawares (like a flash of anger), temptation usually comes on us because we go looking for it.  If I despise someone at work and the break room is where her enemies customarily gather for a bitch-fest, my seemingly innocent urge to head there with the rest of the gang isn't quite so innocent.  If I've given up meat for Lent, Cooper's isn't a good place for me to go for lunch.  If I envy the riches of others, I need to avoid turning on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."

Theologians call these sort of things "occasions of sin," but they are, more appropriately I think, called "chances for temptation."  It's always possible I can go to the break room and, in the midst of the bitching about our co-worker, say "I'd hate to have to walk a mile in her shoes."  I can go to Cooper's every day in Lent, eschewing the sizzling ribeyes and the intoxicating aroma of steak on the grill and eat only a bowl of the jalapeño pintos.  I can watch the elite cavort the Mediterranean on their yachts and delight in the places they go and the latest gadgets they have.  Given how I usually behave in response to the things that tempt me, though, it's a course best avoided.  When we wander, physically or mentally, into an "occasion of sin," most often we do it because WE WANT TO.

We each have our "favorite" sins, the ones we choose most often.  You know yours, I know mine, St Antony knew his.  If we know our sins, we know our temptations, though the way temptation presents itself may vary.  If we know our temptations, we can be prepared to deal with them. 

The fly in the buttermilk is that regardless of what theologians write or priests preach, WE LIKE TO SIN.  If the Lord had arranged it so that every time I sin I got an electric jolt, I'd sin less.  What He did do was give us free will and a conscience.  By the time we're teenagers, most of us have learned how to manipulate the former and ignore the latter. By the time we're thirty, a lot of us have smothered what little conscience we've left unexercised.  So part of our Christian duty is to educate our consciences.  Sounds dreadful, doesn't it?  But given the preoccupation each of us has with ourselves, the opposite is true. It helps you know what you should do.  Is it right for a poor person to steal bread to feed his child?  Is it right to lie to protect someone else?  How should a family (and a parish church, for that matter) treat someone who wants to marry a member of their own sex?  All these are fair questions that deserve answers, but the answers aren't always easy.  Educating our consciences means pondering these problems, listening to God through His Church's teaching and the not-always-easy to understand Scriptures (which are sometimes very easy to understand but too difficult to put into practice) and being willing to face yourself with the answer.  Every time you are tempted, your conscience comes into play.  We can get used to ignoring it and most of us do when we really want something we know we oughtn’t, when the consequences of doing what we should are unpleasant or when we just don't want God interfering with us right now.

Like it or not, temptation is the bread and butter of a Christian life.  But it's not what our lives as Christians are about.  That's like mistaking your commute for your job (unless you're a taxi driver).  Our "end," as St Thomas says, "is to live with God."  Sin unaddressed WILL, make no mistake, take us to another "end," keep us from our goal.  Born in the waters of Baptism, we are creatures, not of sin, but of grace.  Next week, we'll look at how grace overcomes both temptation and sin and moves us along the path to our proper "end."

Happy Laetere Sunday!

Pax,
Fr Greg Wilcox
March 25, 2017, being also Lady Day


March 12, 2017
Second Sunday in Lent


Dear friends,

Lent began on March 1st: as I write, we're ten days into it. Depending on whether you're a person whose glass is half-empty or half-full, Lent is already a quarter over (hooray!) or three quarters of the season is still to come. The Sundays "in" Lent don't "count" towards the forty days "of" Lent, so we give or take a couple of days while calculating the number of days left in the season. One way or t'other, for the slacker or the saint, there's plenty of time left to make a good Lent, regardless of what we've done thus far. If you've had a challenging Lent, you're doing something right. If your Lenten road has been broad and easy, you might check your map 'cause you're probably headed in the wrong direction!

For the past few weeks I've been writing you about sin: its different degrees and categories, its classifications and definitions, how the Church has understood it and dealt with it. She's done this to help us, to equip and prepare us to fight sin and, through the gift of God's grace, to overcome it. To overcome it, we need to know what we're doing. We need to know how to fight and become familiar with the weapons we have to fight with. First, though, we need to know who we're fighting and why the fight matters.

We face three enemies in our spiritual combat: "the world, the flesh and the devil." Each is deserving of an explanation much greater than I have either the time or the competence to give. Suffice to say for now that the "world" is not the natural order of times and seasons, of bunny rabbits and soft-shell crabs, not the world God has made, but the world we have. It's a world built on selfishness, of "every man for himself" and the notion that might makes right. This world constantly entices us with its shiny baubles and trinkets.

The "flesh" is Biblical shorthand for US, you and me. It's a way of saying that since Adam and Eve bit into the pomegranate, all of us (excepting One or maybe two) have a built-in hankering after sin. We're not hopelessly evil (though we each have it in us to become so), but we are certainly flawed. We're like children left alone with a big box of matches. Sooner or later, we're gonna burn ourselves and probably a lot of other stuff, too.

Finally, there's "the devil." Now most everybody is too smart to really believe in the devil or his red-skinned, pitchfork-carrying imps. That's okay. It's not a great concern of mine whether you believe in devils or not. As I look around me, I find it hard to believe in protons and neutrons and electrons. But my belief, or lack  thereof, doesn't have anything to do with their existence and the fact that they make possible every detail of my physical life. As long as the devil convinces you that he has horns and a tail, that he's a mythological character with no more reality to him than Tinkerbell, he's happy.

These are our enemies. Left unchecked, they'll lead us by the nose to hell. That's the reason sin is bad. Sins are not simply lists of bad behaviors or acts that God or a bunch of long-dead canon lawyers decided were verboten. Sin is bad because it hurts us (we often hurt others in the process, but every sin we commit always hurts us more than anybody else). Sin is a cancer that corrodes our characters and destroys our souls. Its goal is to eat at you continually till nothing of you is left.

For 2000 years the sons and daughters of the Church have fought sin. Her greatest saints became saints through their spiritual struggles. They learned hard lessons by picking themselves up and starting all over again after they'd fallen into sin. What they came to see is that the fight with sin is a fight with temptation.

Temptation isn't sin and temptations are not, in themselves sinful. The Greek word for temptation, peira, means "to test." In pre-Biblical Greek it meant "to experiment" or "to examine" something. Whatever other Scriptural meanings temptation has, the meaning above is basic to our understanding. We're being put to the test, and the purpose of the test isn't hard to grasp: who are we and who or what do we love?

Temptation isn't a spring-time walk in the park, but neither is it a spiritual catastrophe. It comes to all of us with some regularity because we're human beings. We can no more avoid it than we can yawning during a sermon or eating green vegetables. St Anthony the Great, the third-century founder of monasticism, says "Without enduring temptations, no one can be saved." Late in his life the saint said to his disciples "Expect temptations till you draw your last breath." This is where the battle for our souls takes place.

Many Christians have pondered temptation and sin, but few more profoundly than St Augustine of Hippo, the great fourth-century theologian. In his younger years, as Augustine documents in The Confessions, he was a master-sinner. After his conversion and baptism, he spent years trying to understand the role of temptation and sin in the spiritual life of a Christian. While many have written about these things, none have written with more clarity and insight.

St Augustine says that there are three steps from temptation to sin.

The first is "suggestion." I may be sitting at my house, reading a book, when the thought occurs to me that my neighbor is on vacation in far-off Croatia and not due back for weeks. I also remember that I saw him putting several dozen gold ingots in the trunk of his car the day before he left. Are they still there? Wouldn't I like to have five dozen one-pound ingots of solid gold?

So far, there's no sin. In fact, the suggestion isn't even a temptation yet (but we're getting there fast).

The second step is what the saint calls "delight." What IF I had those ingots? What could I do with them? I'd have Toya find me the biggest, fanciest house in New Braunfels. I'd have Mike Mahaffey set up some kind of financial scheme so I'd always have plenty of money. I'd ask James to build me enough bookcases so I could have three libraries in my new house, then to cap it all off, I'd order so many books from Amazon that all three libraries would be full.

I'd delight in the prospect and possibilities of the gold I'd like to have, but still, even in the throes of temptation, I've yet to sin. One thing is lacking.

St Augustine calls it “consent.” My mind has suggested that I steal the gold. My heart has delighted in the possibilities of the theft. But at some point my conscience intervenes. This isn't right. It's not right to relish the thought of stealing. If I agree with the pangs of conscience and put aside this stupid and selfish notion, the temptation is pretty much over (for now, anyway).

But if I don't put it away, if I linger in the delightful fantasy, I've crossed the threshold into sin. If I don't actually steal because I can't figure out how to pull it off or am afraid of the consequences, but still wish I could, I'm a sinner. As the Prayer Book teaches us in the Confession, I've sinned "in thought."

But the Prayer Book goes on to say that I can sin more seriously. We confess that we have sinned "in thought, word and deed." This not only refers to different kinds of sin, but to sins of different degree. Some of our sins never get far off the ground, like the one mentioned above. 

Sinning "in word," Augustine says, can mean sinning through careless or evil speech. But it can, he says, mean more than that. It can refer to the proposed theft above. I can seriously embrace the fantasy and bring it into my mind. I think about it and plan for it. I've now sinned "in word" by allowing this sinful notion to infect my mind. I'm not playing anymore. I'm preparing to sin in deed.  If I actually steal the gold, I've run the gamut from thought to word to deed.

Now I've laid the process out in painful detail, but most of our sins aren't so elaborately planned or executed. You cut me off in traffic. I respond with rude words or gestures. A friend tells me you said bad things about me. I brush it off by telling you she's widely-known as a notorious liar and besides, her husband's having an affair because she's such a shrew. Most of our sins aren't planned out, but the suggestion, delight and consent always play a part. We are amazingly efficient sinners. Think about the last couple of sins you've committed. You may not remember the suggestion but you'll certainly recount the delight. THAT'S at the center of every sin we commit. St Augustine says every sin we commit has at its center the pleasure it promises (even if it doesn't always deliver).

Next week, dearly beloved, we'll go over how to turn aside EVERY temptation, and why we don't. 

Pax,
Fr Greg Wilcox
Friday in the Second Week of Lent, 2017



March 5, 2017
First Sunday in Lent

Dear friends,


A close friend wrote me an email the second day of Lent. "I decided to give up arguing with my mother for Lent, but as soon as I got home from work on Ash Wednesday evening, she called and started griping at me, asking why she always has to be the one who calls, I never call her, etc, etc. I'm sorry to say I unloaded on her without giving a thought to my Lenten resolution. Now, I’m not sure where this leaves me. Can I just go to IHOP, eat a plate of pancakes as if it was Shrove Tuesday all over again, and start Lent afresh?"

She's joking, of course, but she has a good instinct: she wants to offer God a "clean" sacrifice, an unblemished Lent. It's a nice, even holy thought, but part of Lent is growth. Our Lenten abstinence should stretch our spiritual muscles. It should be a challenge. A perfect keeping of Lent is not one free of failure but full of grace. In our combat with sin, we are often the losers. For our growth in grace, what matters is not how often we stumble, but how readily we stand back up. At the risk of boring you (which you know hasn't deterred me before), I'll say again Lent is, par excellance, the time of Christian combat. 

A frequent criticism of Lent suggests that real Christians should fight against sin year round, not just for 40 days and forty nights. On the surface, it's true. Other aspects of life, though, show us the usefulness of special times and seasons. Most everybody in Texas knows what "two-a-day" refers to: three to four weeks before school opens in the fall, the "football boys" have practice sessions both in the morning and late afternoon, getting ready for the upcoming season. You relearn how to tackle and sprint in full gear; you retrain atrophied muscles and hone old instincts. You're training to win. We train soldiers how to fight, accountants how to compute and surgeons how to wield a scalpel. Christians need to know how to worship God, how to love their neighbor, and how to fight sin. Like two-a-days, basic training, business college and medical school, Lent is a school where we can specialize in temptation and sin, in prayer and grace. 

To further that a bit, last week I very briefly and incompletely wrote you a few things about the Seven Deadly Sins. Because I tend to go on (as Larry can testify), I only covered three of the Seven last week. I started with pride, anger (wrath) and envy (vainglory), because these three have a special place in the catalogue of sin. They are the "sins of malice," that part of our fallen nature that we turn on each other. The other sins, called "sins of infirmity," are sins we commit through the weakness of our nature. They are serious sins, capable of twisting and destroying us, but they are often easier to address and overcome than "sins of malice." These sins are: avarice, lust, gluttony and sloth. Let's take a glimpse at each of them.

 Avarice (greed, covetousness) is, St Thomas says, "man's willingness to trade things eternal for things temporal." Greediness is not only the mark of a grubby soul, its danger and sinfulness comes from a disbelief in the goodness and love of God. The greedy soul knows that God will not take care of him, so he'd better accumulate all he can and hoard his possessions against whatever or whoever comes to take what is his. Avarice is easy to fall into. The world is an uncertain place. Tragedies and disasters happen every day. The world doesn't owe us a living. But the believing Christian knows he is a "child of God," as the Baptismal Office teaches us. God does love and care for us. He made each of us to be with Him forever. We're not promised Maseratis or penthouses. Seven-figured bank accounts aren't part of the Gospel plan. The Burial Office will be read over each of us: "We brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out..."

Lust is the one thing most people think about when we talk about sin. Sin means sex. So it's useful to bear in mind that the Latin for it is luxuria. Lust certainly includes what Dante calls "love disordered," by which he meant a corrupted sexuality. We live in a society with almost continually collapsing boundaries in this regard, and the Church MUST make clear her unchanging teaching about chastity and the dangers of sexual license. But luxuria is more than that. It means unbridled self-indulgence, making pleasure of the senses an end in itself. In a way, this is Avarice turned on its head. Lust makes pleasure an end in itself. Avarice finds no pleasure in anything; it's an eternal grasping for more, hoping somewhere to find something.

Gluttony (from the Latin gluttire, meaning “to gulp” or “slobber”) carries subtleties of meaning. We think of it as eating too much, but St Thomas, as ever, teaches us to look deeper. He defines five "types" of gluttony:  nimis (our classic definition) - eating too much; studiose - eating too daintily (having a too delicate palate); praepropere - eating secretly or before everyone else; ardenter - eating piggishly or quickly, being too eager to eat; latue - eating only the most expensive or extravagant foods. Like lust, gluttony takes a desire for something God made to be good (sex, food), and twists it away from its intended purpose.

Sloth (the Latin is tristitia, meaning “sadness”) doesn't mean laziness. Laziness may indeed be the result of sloth, but sloth is a condition of the soul. The medieval English word for it is accide, meaning “to care about nothing.” We might say "to love nothing": not God or anybody else, to be detached from the people and world around us, unconcerned about anything, including ourselves. It results ultimately in an apathy to life. Pope St Gregory the Great says "From this sin come malice, rancor, cowardice and, finally, despair." Chaucer, commenting on St Gregory, says sloth is "the enemy of every source and motive for doing good."

So there are the Seven Deadly Sins. Every sin we commit (even the little ones) has its origins here. You'll note murder isn't on the list, nor is stealing or lying. But each of them is born from one of the Seven. Why "Deadly?" Because if left to grow in our souls, if uncontested and unconquered, they're quite capable of destroying us. 

Lent is given to us as a time to uncover some of our sins and to learn a little more how to fight them. My friend's instinct not to give in to anger and argue with her mother sprang from a good intention. But she needs more than a good intention or even a firm resolution. How we fight our sins, the practical nuts 'n bolts of our Lenten combat, will be my topic next week. 

God grant us each the courage to look squarely at ourselves and see, not only the effect of sin on us, but why we hold it so dear. May the Lord bless you through this upcoming week of this holy season.

Pax,
Fr. Gregory Wilcox
Friday of the First Week in Lent, 2017


February 26, 2017

Quinquagesima Sunday (Sunday Next Before Lent)


Dear friends,

Every year, just around Quinquagesima Week, I have the same thought about Pre-Lent: it's too short. You'll recall that it's an "artificial" season, created by the medieval Church to help us get ready for Lent. It was carved out of the last Sundays of the Epiphany season, and while I call it "artificial," I don't mean there's anything wrong with it. It was, and is, a good idea. My only grumble is that it's too short. We need more time to prepare for the Great Fast.

Our brothers and sisters in the Eastern Orthodox Churches have, like us, a sort of "countdown" to Lent. Their tradition calls for them to keep a much more strict fast than ours does. From the first day of Lent, they don't eat any food at all that comes from animals: they keep a vegetarian Fast. So they name the Sundays before Lent, not from fun Latin words, but by bidding various categories of food a fond adieu. What we call Sexagesima Sunday they call "Meatfare" Sunday as they remove all meat from their diet till Easter. Quinquagesima to them is "Cheesefare" Sunday, as they likewise drop that food-and all its derivatives-from the menu.

 Our Lenten tradition, like theirs, emphasizes the common, corporate nature of Lent. We observe it with common Lenten prayers and practices. When you go into an Anglican parish church during Lent, you can tell by just looking around what season it is. Our common prayer is unmistakably Lenten. But our Lenten tradition is a bit distinctive (as is that of the Roman Church, our closest sister). We emphasize Lent as a time of individual spiritual growth more than do our Eastern Orthodox  friends. For us, it's meant to be a time of struggling with our own personal sins. To do that, we need to know what those sins are and how we should fight them. Bearing those things in mind,  we can then plan our Lent. To my mind, the two-and-one-half weeks of Pre-Lent isn't enough time to do that (but then again, I find the older I get, the longer it takes me to get out of bed every morning or eat my vegetables).

 We all know Lent is a time to "give up" something: sugar in our tea, chocolate bon bons or pork ribs (the Prayer Book calls this "abstinence," and tells us we're all expected to observe the "forty days of Lent" this way). If you're able to observe this, I hope you will. But let me suggest that you make your Lenten abstinence personal. Use it as a weapon against your sins.

 What does that mean?

 Well, what's your favorite sin? We all have them. The Church calls them "Deadly" and lists them for us: pride, anger, envy, avarice, sloth, lust and gluttony. Every sin we commit, big or small, comes from one of these. Over the centuries some of the words we use for them have changed their meaning and connotation, so I'd like to describe each one briefly for you. You'll recognize them.

 "Pride," which heads the list, doesn't have much to do with how you and I feel about the Lone Star State or why we may get a lump in our throats when we hear the Battle Hymn of the Republic. The Greek word for this sin is hubris. It's the deep-rooted conviction that you exist for my benefit. It's self-centeredness  nd we all suffer from it. It's been often said by writers on the spiritual life that every other sin comes from this one.

"Anger" (the old English word for this was "wrath") isn't what you feel when you get mad because the kid at the McDonald's window gave you a granola salad instead of the McRib you ordered. What "wrath" means is hatred. When we hate someone with a steady, burning hate, one which leaves no room for sympathy or prayer, we've set them outside of forgiveness, outside of charity and in so doing set ourselves outside, too. "Forgive us our trespasses AS WE FORGIVE..."

"Envy" or "vanity" are used for the old Latin word vanagloria, since the old English term "vain glory" is as incomprehensible as the Latin. This is one of the most interesting sins on our list, as the word has gone through considerable change from its early use. If we think now about what vanity means, the "Mirror, mirror on the wall" in the story of Snow White may come to mind, but that only scratches the surface. The narcissistic overtones the word vanity now has came in about 500 years ago. Before that, vanity meant something like "futility." We retain this older meaning when we say "He's pining after that woman in vain." Used in this way, vanagloria means "to be proud of oneself" or "to put oneself forward" without having reason. This sin leads us to hell down several different paths!

This is already too long, so I'll finish my outline of the other Deadly Sins next week. I'll close with this. We consider our sins not so we'll feel bad about them, but because they're bad for us. We each need to know our sins so we can fight them, and we fight them to rid ourselves of them. This is what Lent is about. A good Lent for me is not one during which I've successfully resisted the siren's call of chocolate for forty days, but one at the end of which I am sinning less than when the Fast began.

What are your favorite sins? Stop for fifteen minutes and ask God to show you. Don't be afraid. He loves you. St Teresa of Avila tells us "God allows us to see our sins only as much as we can bear them." Ask Him. Then ask yourself "How can I fight these sins this Lent?" If you really do that sometime in the next few day,  Pre-Lent will have been long enough after all. 

I will be praying for each of you this week, that God will give you a good, strenuous and fruitful Lent.

Pax,
Fr Greg Wilcox
Friday in Sexagesima Week, 2017



February 19, 2017
Sexagesima Sunday (Second Sunday Before Lent)

Dear friends,

Lent exists because sin exists.  The Church keeps Lent because all of us, her members and children, are sinners.

As Lent fast approaches, it might be helpful to consider a few things about sin so we can keep a fruitful Fast.  Some of what I have to say about sin is commonsensical and you probably already know.  Some of what follows, though, is the result of 2,000 years of Christian experience, our ancestors in the Faith, who wrestled with sin and overcame it through grace.


First, I suppose, it’s useful to recall that not all sins are equal.  We recognize this from our own experience.  Murder is not the same as manslaughter, though both are grievous.  Committing perjury in Judge Boyer’s courtroom isn’t the same as telling your wife her new dress doesn’t make her look fat (as if most men could tell the difference one way or another).  So it is with sin.  If I steal a stapler from the office, it’s not of the same gravity as if I steal a car from your driveway or money from the bank vault.

The Church from the beginning has recognized this. St John, in one of his epistles, cautions that some sins “are to death,” while others aren’t.  He’s not making light of sin, but simply telling us that some sins are more grievous than others.  Among other things, the Apostle means that different sins impact each of us differently.  In early medieval times, Christians referred to some sins as “venial,” by which they meant easily forgiven (from the Latin venia, meaning “forgiveness”), while saying other sins were “deadly” (as St John warned).

Anglican writers recognize the distinction, but take a bit of a different approach, and so employ a different vocabulary.  Looking at sin from its point of origin in the soul, they have traditionally said that some sins are “sins of weakness” and others are “sins of malice.”  Though every sin can fall under one of these categories, they aren’t all equal.  The traditional Seven Deadly Sins, for example, fall out in this way:  among these “sins of weakness” we find gluttony, lust, and sloth; the “sins of malice” include pride, anger and envy; the sin of avarice, commonly called greed, is placed differently by different authors.

The Prayer Book keeps the tradition of distinguishing between “sins of omission” and “sins of commission”: “we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.”

Whatever ways we talk about sin, however we distinguish categories and types, this holds true: sin is a choice we make to either do what is wrong, or ignore what is right.  One or the other, it involves us turning from God.  We can’t sin accidentally, but we can sin easily and thoughtlessly.  Theologians talk about “habitual sins.”  This describes sin which is so frequently practiced that we slip into it unthinkingly, without reflection or hesitation.  Some sins, such as lying, stealing, greed, envy or lust can, with sufficient indulgence, easily become habitual.  These can be among the most difficult for us to combat.

That’s one of the most essential and important things for us to note about Lent.  It’s a time of combat.  You against your sins.  And believe it or not, the Church calls us to combat with the expectation that some of the battles we wage during the upcoming Forty Days we’ll win.

Who and what we are fighting, and how we’ll win, will be my topic with you through Pre-Lent and the Great and Holy Fast that follows.  I’m very much looking forward to keeping it with you.

Pax,
Fr Greg Wilcox
Friday in Septuagesima Week, 2017


February 12, 2017

Septuagesima Sunday (Third Sunday Before Lent)


Dear friends,

I missed Advent with y'all, and Christmastide, and all five weeks of the Epiphany season. This Sunday we turn yet another page on the Church's calendar: Septuagesima Sunday begins what is sometimes called the Pre-Lenten season (the Prayer Book calls it that), but properly speaking it's not a season at all. It's the three weeks before the beginning of Lent.

We remember these three Sundays as the "Gesima" Sundays: Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima are (mas o menos) the seventieth, sixtieth and fiftieth days before Easter. The hangings in the church will change to purple.  In the Church's tradition, it's the color of repentance. Our liturgy changes, too, in subtle ways that also point to repentance (the "alleluia" disappears from the liturgy, we omit the "long" ending from the Lord's Prayer and a few other things to remind us of the penitential season). These are some of the ways we share Lent together.

These changes come with Septuagesima Sunday, because the Church wants us to know Lent is just around the corner. She gives us these three weeks to prepare for it. Pre-Lent may not be a season, but it is an important time for us. As a part of the One Church, as an Anglican parish and as individual Christians, we plan for the approaching forty days of Lent.

Traditionally, we "keep" Lent with the disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Most everybody, even non-Christians, know that Lent is a time to "give something up." In our secular society a lot of people "give up" chocolate or tiramisu for Lent as a kind of game, a way of saying "I can do that." Some people use it as a time to lose a little weight. Nothing wrong with that, but it has nothing to do with Christianity.

The Church has something else in mind. Repentance is the reason for the season. Lent is a gift she gives us each year to turn to God with all ourselves: our bodies with fasting, our souls with prayer and even our pocketbooks with almsgiving. Pre-Lent is a time for us as a parish and as individuals to plan for Lent. What will we as a parish do for the Great Fast? What will I do as a Christian to hand myself over to God for the Forty Days? To answer this, ask yourself the following questions:  What is my most-cherished sin? What part of my life do I most want God to stay out of? The answer to these questions give us some hints for the coming Fast.

Pre-Lent is for pondering these questions and preparing yourself to do something during the approaching forty-day Fast to face down our sins and repent of them.

Most of y'all know I'm just getting warmed up, but my typing isn't what it once was. Over the next few weeks I'll be sending y'all a few jottings about Pre-Lenten preparations for the coming season. While I long to be with you for Septuagesima, thanks to an excellent physical therapist and the daily loving ministrations of Tanya, my eye is fixed on Ash Wednesday as the day I'll be returning to St Joseph’s.

There's much more I want to say, but I'll say it when we're face-to-face. Till then, know I have "all y'all" in my prayers and am profoundly grateful to you for remembering me in yours.

Pax,
Fr Greg Wilcox
February 11, 2017 (being the Feast of St Scholastica, Abbess)


October 13, 2016

The Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity

The election is over. It’s been hard on almost everyone except Rip Van Winkle. A few weeks back, I asked y’all to join me in praying daily for our country. I suggested the prayer “For Our Country” on page 36 of the Prayer Book. It’s a big prayer; if you’ll pardon me, an American prayer, expansive in its tone and broad in its sweep. It was written shortly after the War Between the States by an Episcopal priest, George Lyman Locke, rector of St George’s Church in Bristol, Rhode Island for fifty-two years. The prayer is rich in phraseology, recounting our heritage, national aspirations and character.

Fr Locke wrote the prayer at the instigation of a friend, the Rev William Reed Huntington, one of the outstanding theologians of the Episcopal Church in the 19th century. For decades, the prayer found a place in various diocesan supplements to the Prayer Book, but was only added to the revision in 1928. Here it is:

Almighty God, Who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in Thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This is a prayer not just for election time: it’s a prayer for all seasons. We’ll continue its use daily at St Joseph’s till the beginning of Advent, but I’ll keep using it in my daily prayers. I’m grateful to President-elect Trump and Secretary Clinton for driving me to it!

This Sunday is also the feast of St Brice, sometimes called Brice the Bad Bishop. St Brice’s story proves that anybody can be saved. St Martin of Tours, the soldier who became a bishop, found young Brice, an orphan living in the streets of Tours, about 377 and brought him into his house, where he was cared for by a widow in the parish. Shortly thereafter, the bishop put the boy’s education in the hands of a few clergymen, who trained him in the traditional disciplines of grammar, logic, rhetoric, mathematics and astronomy. Brice was an exceptionally good student, but a very bad boy. He was rude, arrogant and resentful of discipline. His teachers complained to St Martin, who agreed to take over the boy’s education. Though Brice continued willful and disobedient, the bishop was impressed by his intelligence. He was shocked when Brice told him he wished to prepare for the priesthood. The saint continued the boy’s training, but found his arrogance, love of pleasure and delight in lies and gossip only increased. Martin confronted the young man, who repented and asked to be given a second chance. The bishop ordained him to the priesthood shortly before his death in 397. Brice announced that St Martin had privately chosen him as his successor and he was believed. Brice was consecrated Bishop of Tours early in the next year, but afterward he reverted to his arrogant, selfish and indulgent ways. When one of the nuns under his “guidance” was found to be “in a family way,” Brice barely escaped the crowd which had gathered to stone him.

Brice made his way to Rome to plead his case before the Pope, but as Pope Damasus got to know Bishop Brice, he concluded that the people were justified in their rejection. He gave the bad bishop a cell in a monastery in the city and told him to pray, meditate and mend his ways. He remained there for almost 30 years. When the man who had succeeded him as bishop of Tours died the new pope (well, actually four popes had come and gone since Brice moved into his cell) sent Brice back to Tours. Unfortunately, Brice’s arrogance was unchanged and he demanded to be re-instated. Children and grandchildren of the crowd that looked to stone him decades before drove him out again and chose another bishop. Seven years later, after that bishop’s death, another pope ordered Brice to return. Brice had at last learned his lesson. He confessed his sins before all the people and told them he’d accept their decision, even if it meant the twice-deferred stoning. At that, they took him in. He served as their bishop for seven years, till his death in 444. The people said he rivaled St Martin in his humility and loved them as if he were Jesus Himself; they acclaimed him a saint at his burial.

Thanksgiving Ingathering
Thanksgiving is a week and-a-half off. As every Thanksgiving, we’re taking a special collection to the New Braunfels Food Bank. Toya Boyer, the Woman-in-Charge of our quarterly Ingathering program, will lead away a caravan with our donations this Sunday, November 13th, so please plan your giving accordingly (the Food Bank asked Toya to bring our donation on Sunday, November 13th, so they can pack all the food boxes in time for distribution before the holiday). We have two places to collect food: the basket in the back of the church on the “Gospel side,” and in David Hall beneath the “ICXC” Cross. We’ve far overflowed the two big baskets we had out for our gifts and I’m grateful for your habitual generosity. The gifts of our small parish play a big part in helping people during the holidays. It’s a tradition we happily continue, blessing others as we ourselves have been blessed.

Veteran’s Day Collection for Vets in Need
As is our custom around Veteran’s Day, we remember our Veterans with prayers at church and a collection on their behalf. I’m working, alongside Larry Mooney, to help some real-life veterans in genuine need (among other things, for delayed care and medications by the Veterans’ Administration) but we need your help. This Sunday (as last Sunday) a collection will go to my Discretionary Fund, to be immediately distributed among those veterans who can use some help with pain medications and treatments they otherwise cannot afford and are not receiving. An envelope for any help you can give will be included in Sunday’s bulletin.

St Joseph’s Vestry Meets Next Sunday
After the 10.30 Eucharist next Sunday, our Parish Vestry will hold our November meeting in David Hall.

Pray, Brethren…

For Sharon, who’s shortly to be operated on for a spreading cancer; for Tim; for all Veterans still awaiting care from the VA’s health care system; Jillian; for Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; Elizabeth, who, in spite of her struggle with breast cancer continues to work with others in chronic pain, her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain; Remember William & Peggy, Neill and Alec. Pray for Pat, undergoing chemotherapy; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, all living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, for Josh, and for Celeste; for Orlinda; for Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben, for John, for Frieda and for Peggy; for Melonie. Pray for Jonathan, suffering from severe depression and for Cotton. Pray for Paul, an missionary in India who is grievously ill; Pray for decency and genuine discourse in our nation. Remember before the Lord the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS. Due to his recent efforts, about 2 dozen kidnapped girls were just freed and for that let us give thanks to God. Pray for Rose & Monty, for Paul & Rhea, for Bruce, for Melanie, for William and Peggy and for Peg’s family, who mourn. Pray for Marcie, George, Kassie, Bernice, and Juanita, who are terminally ill. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Karl, Caleb, John David, Susan, Theresa, John and Bill. In all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God, especially for the Lord’s many and continuing blessings to each of us we forget, overlook or don’t know about… 

Services & Office Hours This Week

Wednesday, November 16 (St Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1240 A.D.)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7:00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, November 18 (St Hilda of Whitby, Abbess, 680 A.D.)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7:00 PM – Evening Prayer

Our Parish Office is open from 10.30 AM until 6.30 PM every Wednesday and Friday. If you find yourself downtown, stop by! There will always be hot coffee in the pot, cold water in the ‘fridge and lively conversation in Fr Wilcox’s office.

Friday Is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, November 11, 2016, being the feast of St Martin of Tours and Veterans’ Day



November 6, 2016
Sunday in the Octave of All Saints’ Day & the  Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity

Reflections on All Souls’ Day
For all the sober words in the Liturgy for All Souls’ Day, including the solemn words of the Dies Irae just before the Gospel (“Day of Wrath, O day of mourning! See fulfilled the prophet’s warning: the heavens and earth in ashes burning…” it’s hymn # 468 in the Hymnal – not in the Children’s section), nothing focuses my attention more than the reading the lists of the names of the dead during the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church.

 At some point, while I say the long lists of the dead to God, it always strikes me that these are real people, not just words on a list. I know who Grace and Estelle and Harold and James (priest) and Richard (bishop) are. They’re people I know and love (present tense), they may have died, but they’re as alive as they ever were, undoubtedly more so now. I don’t know who Gertrude and William and Sandy and Collette are, but they are dead to the world and alive to God, too. I once sat with a great friend and a great priest as he lay dying. We talked quietly about faith and forgiveness. With an intensity that was wonderfully characteristic of him, he looked at me with bright eyes and said, “Father, there’s so much I want to know!” Both of us were lovers of theology. I said, “You know I’m jealous. In the next couple of hours you’re going to know more than St Thomas Aquinas!” He smiled. “I’ve got a few bushel-loads of questions to ask him!” I expect Fr T still hasn’t settled into his scholarly mansion in Heaven yet. I imagine he’s tracking down some little-known third-century Greek theologian and not leaving his monastic hut till he’s coughed up all the answers to Fr T’s questions.

All Souls’ Day is more than a time for us to do our Christian duty and pray for the dead. It’s a time for us to think a little about the Gospel truth that you and I aren’t going to die. The Proper Preface for the Dead reminds us of some facts we need to believe as much – or more – than we believe the sun comes up in the morning and goes down at night: “the life of Thy faithful people, O Lord, is not taken away, but changed…” Death, once a terror of the unknown, is now the gate that opens us to Christ. What you and I have seen in a Mystery: in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, in prayer and worship, in the experiences we have with God’s profound goodness and abiding love; those we will one day see face to face in the One Who is the Image of the Father. On that day, we’ll each know that there is an answer to every longing of our hearts and question in our minds. Like Fr T we’ll have eternity to uncover and relish the answers (at some point I’ll buttonhole Edison till he explains to me how electricity isn’t magic).

All Souls’ Day is hard on the heels of All Saints’ Day. We’re praying that God will take all the souls of the dead and give them a promotion: that someday, through our prayers and through His patient grace, the souls of the dead will become the saints of Heaven.

The last section of the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church is our prayer for the dead, wherein we entrust them to God’s constant love and pray that they “may continue to grow” in His love and service. The ones we love who are dead are alive. On All Souls’ Day, that is a happy – and enticing – thought to ponder.

This Sunday is in the Octave of All Saints’ Day, so our Sunday liturgy will celebrate the feast, one of the greatest of the Church year. We’ve been observing this feast for 1,600 years. That’s a while, even on the Church’s timeline. The feast was “invented” because the Church’s calendar got clotted (I know that’s not the ideal word) with too many saints. It’s a good problem to have, and All Saints’ Day is a good solution. All Saints’ Day celebrates those saints, too many to number, that leave us here and clot the gates of Heaven.

They don’t all wear togas and sandals; the vast majority of them didn’t speak English. Some of them wore prison jump suits and heavy work boots; they spoke Arabic. A year and a half ago, 21 Coptic Christians (Egyptians) were trucked to a beach in Libya. Most of them were everyday laborers. They’d been kidnapped by ISIS, and pressured to deny Christ and become Muslims. Some did. They weren’t on the beach that day. Those who refused to deny their faith had their throats cut and heads cut off with knives.  They are among the saints we remember on All Saints’ Day. When you come into church Sunday, you’ll see them, depicted on a recently painted Coptic icon. I’ve hung it in the church so we remember that saints aren’t all a long time ago nor do they all hold up in monastic libraries. Some get paid minimum wage and have kids to support. God has made us all to be saints. And each one is the glory of the Church.

Oh No! A New Sunday Schedule?
We’ve been reading Morning Prayer at 7.45 every Sunday here at St Joseph’s for years now, but lately I’ve received a couple of requests to change the schedule (I know – that’s a word NO Anglican, me included, wants to hear). Some people who come to the 8 o’clock Mass evidently need to scamper away as soon as they can and when the psalms and lessons for the Office are over-long (or our pre-Mass chats are too fascinating), the Eucharist sometimes starts late.  To prevent this, beloved, the Morning Office on Sunday will begin at 7.35 AM. This will begin on Daylight Saving Sunday, November 6. You’ll be refreshed with an extra hour of sleep, so there won’t be too much sympathy for those who get to church late that day. The 8.00 AM Eucharist will begin promptly at 8.00 AM.

Daylight Saving Time Ends!
This Sunday morning at 2.00 AM, Daylight Saving Time officially ends for this year. Set your clocks back and hour: you’re one of many millions who’ve won the Time Lottery! You’ve won an extra hour to live: you can sleep longer, read more, or write that letter you’ve been meaning to but haven’t had the time. Now you do! Our Sunday services will begin at the new, official time. Nonetheless, a couple of us will be there an hour early, just for those of y’all who forget, get up and come to church. There’ll be hot coffee in the pot and a sermon on the tip of my tongue.

Thanksgiving Ingathering
Thanksgiving is two and-a-half weeks off. As every Thanksgiving, we’re taking a special collection to the New Braunfels Food Bank. Toya Boyer, the Woman-in-Charge of our quarterly Ingathering program, will lead away a caravan with our donations on Sunday, November 13th, so please plan your giving with that date in mind (the Food Bank asked Toya to bring our donation on Sunday, November 13th, so they can pack all the food boxes in time for distribution before the holiday). That means NEXT SUNDAY is our deadline. We have two places to collect food: the basket in the back of the church on the “Gospel side,” and in David Hall beneath the “ICXC” Cross. Our parish has always been generous, giving regularly to those in need, as well as in times of emergencies. I thank you all for your participation. “God loves a cheerful giver” as saith St Paul. While that’s true, I’m pretty sure the Lord has a soft spot even for the grumbly but generous heart, too.

Pray, Brethren…for Sharon, who’s shortly to be operated on for a spreading cancer; for Tim and for all Veterans still awaiting care from their health care system; Jillian; for Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; Elizabeth, who, in spite of her struggle with breast cancer continues to work with others in chronic pain, her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain; Remember William & Peggy, Neill and Alec. Pray for Pat, undergoing chemotherapy; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, all living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, for Josh, and for Celeste; for Orlinda; for Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben, for John, for Frieda and for Peggy; for Melonie. Pray for Jonathan, suffering from severe depression and for Cotton. Pray for decency and genuine discourse in our nation. Remember before the Lord the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS. Due to his recent efforts, about 2 dozen kidnapped girls were just freed and for that let us give thanks to God. Pray for Rose & Monty, for Paul & Rhea, for Bruce, for Melanie, for William and Peggy and for Peg’s family, who mourn. Pray for Marcie, George, Kassie, Bernice, and Juanita, who are terminally ill. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Karl, Caleb, John David, Susan, Theresa, John and Bill. In all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God, especially for the Lord’s many and continuing blessings to each of us we forget, overlook or don’t know about… 

Services This Week


Tuesday, November 8 – The Octave Day of All Saints’ & the Commemoration of All Anglican Saints
11.45AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist

Wednesday, November 9 – St Winifred, Virgin & Martyr, 650
11.45AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
 7.00PM – Evening Prayer & the Holy Eucharist

Friday, November 11 – St Martin of Tours, Soldier & Bishop, 397
11.45AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
 7.00PM – Evening Prayer

Friday Is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, November 4, 2016, being the Friday after All Saints’ Day

and the Feast of Bl Richard Hooker, Priest & Doctor of the Church, 1600


October 30, 2016
The Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity

“Render unto Caesar”
The particular Caesar the Lord Jesus was referring to in His well-known words from this Sunday’s Gospel was Tiberius, who’d been emperor of Rome for most of Jesus’ adult like. He was a sexual degenerate in ways which would shock people in our almost unshockable world. He was unspeakably cruel, delighting in (and often personally supervising) the torture of people sometimes chosen at random to satisfy his curiosity and lust for inflicting pain.  Towards the end of his life, increasingly suspicious of his relatives he feared might assassinate him, he forced whole families to commit suicide. His heir, the notorious Caligula, outstripped Tiberius in cruelty and depravity; eventually his most ardent supporters had to admit the new emperor was far worse than the old one.

These are the sort of people our Lord commanded that we “render unto.”

We may find ourselves disheartened by the political climate in our country as we approach November 8th, but history – the past – often helps us put the present in perspective.

I don’t remember the movie, but I recall a line from an old black and white film about a cattle drive. A group of cowboys squat around a campfire with their dinner plates in hand. One takes a bite, makes a face and tosses his dinner, plate and all, into the fire. “Sometimes no food tastes better than this food,” he opines as he gets up and walks off (if you remember the movie, please let me know). By most accounts, the majority of ballots this year won’t be cast for one of our national candidates but against the other one. The best line I’ve heard so far regarding the election comes from Larry Mooney. He told me about a poster he saw showing a meteor speeding through space, headed straight for planet earth. Printed underneath is a simple, prayerful phrase: “Please hit before November 8.”

Jesus tells us to “render unto Caesar.” Literally what the text says is “Pay the debt you owe to Caesar.” Regardless of our political affiliation or lack thereof, the consistent teaching of the Church from New Testament times till today is that we are expected to be good citizens. We’re to fulfill our duties as best we can. In addition to those civic duties common to all, we Christians are explicitly taught to pray for our country. Let me commend this to you in these days as the election approaches (assuming the meteor doesn’t). The Book of Common Prayer provides us with an excellent “Prayer for Our Country” on page 36. I am praying this every day from now till Election Day and I’m asking you to join me. Every service at St Joseph’s from October 30 through November 8 will include this prayer in the liturgy.

Of course, when our Lord told us to render unto Caesar, He said it to open our eyes to what really matters. “Pay Caesar what he’s owed, and pay God what He’s owed." We are citizens here for three-score, four-score or sometimes even five-score years, and then we’re not. But we’re citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven for more than 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000 years, and those are just the starting numbers.

So pay your taxes, serve our country, tell the truth, don’t break the laws. By all means, vote – even if it’s to throw the rascals out (or keep them from getting in). And when the cheers of victory, the groans of despair, the puffed-up talk of “clear mandates” and the lists of those celebrities who think we care that they might now leave the country have faded, remember that which nothing can change, diminish or take away from you. You are “a child of God, a member of Christ, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven.” God is your Father; Christ is your Brother, the Church is your Mother.

Yes. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” But, “Render unto God the things that are God’s.” Whatever comes (even that meteor), put your trust in God, and all manner of things will be well.

All Souls’ Day
All Souls’ Day each year follows immediately after All Saints’ Day (unless November 2 is a Sunday, then it’s moved to Monday). As we celebrate the Church’s countless saints on All Saints’ Day, November 1 (“a great multitude which no man can number” the Epistle for the feast says), on All Souls’ we remember the “faithful departed,” those Christians who have died and rest in paradise until the Lord’s return. We also pray for those who have died who are not among the Christian faithful, but who more than ever need the Lord’s love and mercy (most of them have figured that out by now!).

Three days mark the brief season long ago called Hallowtide: the Vigil of All Saints’ Day (All Hallows’ Eve), All Saints’ Day (All Hallows) and All Souls’ Day.

Since the Church’s earliest days, Christians have counted it an act of selfless charity to pray for the dead. The Prayer Book concludes the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church in the Eucharist with a prayer for “all Thy servants who have departed this life in Thy faith and fear.” With this in mind, we remember the faithful departed, particularly friends and relatives, praying for them on All Souls’ Day and remembering them at celebrations of the Holy Eucharist offered that day.

Christians don’t forget our dead: they are alive in Christ. We pray for them and ask them to pray for us. When we say we believe in the communion of the saints in the Creed, we mean death does not and cannot separate us from one another. Our prayers benefit the dead and theirs benefit us.

On Wednesday, November 2nd this year, we’ll have 2 celebrations of the Eucharist with special intentions for the dead. One Mass will be offered at noon, the second at 7.15 that night. Enclosed in your bulletin this Sunday, you’ll find a sheet with spaces for names of the dead you’d like remembered. Please return your lists at church this Sunday (we had these out last Sunday, too) or email me your list by Monday evening. All names will be read at both Masses. We have already received a pretty lengthy list, so I commend your charity. As always, we’ll include in the day’s prayers those listed in our Parish Necrology.

Oh No! A New Sunday Schedule?
We’ve been reading Morning Prayer at 7.45 every Sunday here at St Joseph’s for years now, but lately I’ve received a couple of requests to change the schedule (I know – that’s a word NO Anglican, me included, wants to hear). Some people who come to the 8 o’clock Mass evidently need to scamper away as soon as they can and when the psalms and lessons for the Office are over-long (or our pre-Mass chats are too fascinating), the Eucharist sometimes starts late.  To prevent this, beloved, the Morning Office on Sunday will begin at 7.35 AM. This will begin on Daylight Saving Sunday, November 6. You’ll be refreshed with an extra hour of sleep, so there won’t be too much sympathy for those who get to church late that day. The 8.00 AM Eucharist will begin promptly at 8.00 AM.

Daylight Saving Time Ends!
Well, for this year, anyway. Sunday morning, November 6, at 2.00 AM, please wake up and set your clocks back to 1.00 AM. That will mark the official end of Daylight Saving Time (not “Savings”) for 2016. You’ll gain an hour to sleep, read, or drink a late-night cup of coffee and contemplate the state of our nation (in that case, let me recommend a smooth bourbon or an astringent Scotch). Our Sunday services will begin at the new, official time. Nonetheless, a couple of us will be here an hour early, just for those of y’all who forget, get up and come to church. We’ll be here! I can always preach.

Thanksgiving Ingathering
Thanksgiving is four and-a-half weeks off. As every Thanksgiving, we’re taking a special collection to the New Braunfels Food Bank. Toya Boyer, the Woman-in-Charge of our quarterly Ingathering program, will lead away a caravan with our donations on Sunday, November 20th, so please plan your giving with that date in mind. We have two places we have baskets to collect food: in the back of the church on the “Gospel side,” and in David Hall beneath the “ICXC” Cross. Our parish is always generous, giving to those in need, as well as in times of emergencies. I thank you all for your participation. “God loves a cheerful giver” as saith St Paul. It’s an outward sign of the inward heart.

Services This Week

Tuesday, November 1 – All Saints’ Day
11.45AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist

Wednesday, November 2 – All Souls’ Day
11.45AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00PM – Evening Prayer & the Holy Eucharist

Friday, November 4 – Bl Richard Hooker, Priest & Doctor of the Church, 1600
11.45AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00PM – Evening Prayer

Friday Is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, October 28, 2016, being the feast of SS Simon & Jude, Apostles



October 23, 2016
The Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity and the Fathers of the

Seventh Oecumenical Council

A Parable of Terror
That’s what St Augustine calls the parable appointed for this Sunday’s Gospel.  It’s sometimes called the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. The story Jesus tells is about a king who tells his accountants to give him a profit and loss statement. When they do, they find that one of his councilors owes him more than $100,000,000 (Jesus was obviously using a figure that would make his hearers think “Wow! That’s a lot!”). When the man comes before the king, he ‘fesses up that he can’t pay it back. So the king orders him tossed into a dungeon and tells the jailers to throw away the key. The terrified man flings himself at the king’s feet, blubbering about his wife and children, about how sorry he is and he wishes he had it all to do over again. “If you can find it in your heart, I’ll work for you the rest of my life to undo what I’ve done.” The king knows that’s not happening, but he does put himself in the other man’s place, tells him to get up and forgives him the $100,000,000 debt. He sends him away in peace.

No sooner does he leave the palace, though, than he goes looking for a man who owes him $100. He finds him, grabs him by the throat and starts choking him. “Pay me every penny, right now!” he demands. Jesus puts the same words in this debtor’s mouth that the first man just used on the king, but the just-forgiven debtor isn’t buying it. He orders the debt-police to haul the guy away to prison. When some of his friends find out, they go to the king and tell him what just happened outside his palace gate. The king sends the debt-police out to fetch the jerk back. He lambastes the guy. “Shouldn’t you forgive a little, since you were just forgiven so much?” He sends the $100,000,000 debtor to prison after all, till he repays the full amount – which isn’t gonna happen – ever.

Now that’s a well-rounded, interesting story. Why should St Augustine react so badly to it? One reason may be that he knows a few things we don’t. Nowadays, when somebody gets in trouble with their finances, their credit rating gets bumped. If they really flub up, they have to declare bankruptcy, and if they lose too much money to ever make it good, they resign their position, get a $100,000,000 golden parachute, and the company that’s too big to fail gets bailed out by the government (uh-which is you and me).

Not so in Jesus’ day or St Augustine’s. When the $100,000,000 debtor went to prison he knew only three things for sure: wherever he ended up, there’d be unrelenting hard manual labor till he dropped; there would be regular sessions with “torture experts” till he dropped (those “experts” were motivated torturers: they got a share of whatever undeclared assets he revealed); and, finally, the man knew that when he dropped, he’d be left for dead. That was a debtor’s world in ancient Rome.

But the real clincher for St Augustine isn’t the harsh reality everybody knew. Most of those who heard the parable from Jesus’ own lips wouldn’t ever get a chance to owe anybody $100,000,000. It was just a story, told by a master story-teller. What froze Augustine AND Jesus’ listeners was what He said when His parable was over.

“God will do the same thing to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

This is the core of Jesus’ teaching. I might try to sugar-coat it, to say Jesus’ message is really about how much God loves and forgives me, but I’d be telling a half-truth (and so, a half-lie). God does love us and He forgives us like the most indulgent grandparent. But He forgives us as we forgive (that’s what “as we forgive those who trespass against us” means). The Gospel message is not “Shucks, y’all, it don’t matter none. Let’s just all have ourselves a snuggle.” Every time we see a crucifix, we see what our forgiveness cost Jesus. MY forgiveness cost Him that. St Augustine said “If only one of us had ever sinned and all the rest of us lived the lives of saints, Christ would still have come and died for the one.”

Christianity, the Gospel message, IS about how much God loves and forgives. But it is, just as much, about how you and I love and forgive. Love costs. Forgiveness isn’t easy. Without those things, the Gospel is a joke.

Jesus concluded His interesting story with a stern warning, not directed at billionaires but at everyday folks like you and me. We all cherish wrongs, hold grudges and fantasize revenges. Unless we come to terms with that grubby truth, we have no place in the kingdom of Heaven. Considering that, it’s no wonder Augustine trembled.

The Fathers of the Seventh Oecumenical Council, 787
Who were the “Fathers” of the Seventh Oecumenical Council? In AD 787, at the command of the Empress Irene, 308 bishops crowded into the small Church of the Holy Wisdom in Nicaea and formally opened what Christians would later call the Seventh Oecumenical Council (there’s a photograph of that church on our narthex table). In addition to the 308 “Fathers of the Council,” and the Empress, there were deacons and priests, courtiers of the Empress and official secretaries, about 50 “consulting theologians” and all the curious onlookers and sight-seers the garden around the church would hold (you can see the garden in the photograph).

The Council was originally planned to meet in the Imperial City, Constantinople, but was moved to Nicaea (the site of the First Ecumenical council 450 years earlier) to cut down on the crowds and isolate the bishops from all the fascinating distractions of the City (Nicaea was about 50 miles from the capital on the other side of the Bosporus, with not a lot to do!). It was more of an imperial resort and administrative center than anything else. The Church of the Holy Wisdom (“Holy Wisdom” is a title for Christ drawn from St Paul: “Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God” – I Corinthians 1.24), which has been fairly well-maintained over the centuries, has recently been taken over by the Turkish government and is in the process of being converted into a mosque.

There is a write-up about the Seventh Council in our Sunday bulletin. A sheet on the teaching of the council is next to the photograph of the Church of the Holy Wisdom in the narthex. Next to both of them is a photograph of a Byzantine mosaic portrait of Empress Irene. Finally a Greek icon depicting the “Fathers of the Seventh Oecumencial Council is on the stand in the narthex.

Parish Office Hours
Our Parish Office is open from 10.30 AM until 6.30 PM every Wednesday and Friday. If you find yourself downtown, stop by! There will always be hot coffee in the pot, cold water in the ‘fridge and lively conversation in my office.

Parish Ordo Calendars
Our 2017 Church Calendars, with Sundays, Saint’s Days and Holy Days (all in the proper liturgical colors!) have arrived. They’re $6.50, available in the Parish Office. The profits will go to our Children’s Education Program. We won’t sell enough of them to make a real difference with the budget for Children’s Education, but I’m willing to use any excuse to get those calendars on your refrigerator doors!

Pray, Brethren… for Sharon, who’s been diagnosed with colon cancer and needs our prayers (she is as yet being untreated by our health care system); for Jillian; for Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Tim; Aimee and her family; Elizabeth, who, in spite of her struggle with breast cancer continues to work with others in chronic pain, her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain; Remember William & Peggy, Neill and Alec. Pray for Pat, undergoing chemotherapy; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, all living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, for Josh, and for Celeste; for Orlinda; for Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben, for John, for Frieda and for Peggy; for Melonie. Pray for Jonathan, suffering from severe depression and for Cotton. Pray for decency and genuine discourse in our national election. Remember before the Lord the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS. Due to his recent efforts, about 2 dozen kidnapped girls were just freed. Pray for Rose & Monty, for Paul & Rhea, for Bruce, for Melanie, for William and Peggy and for Peg’s family, who mourn. Pray for Marcie, George, Kassie, Bernice, and Juanita, who are terminally ill. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Karl, Caleb, John David, Susan, Theresa, John and Bill. In all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God, especially for the Lord’s many and continuing blessings to each of us we forget, overlook or don’t know about… 

Services This Week

Wednesday, October 26 – St Alfred the Great, King of England, 899
11.45AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, October 28 – Ss Simon & Jude, Apostles
11.45AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00PM – Evening Prayer

Friday Is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, October 21, 2016, being the feast of St Ursula & her Companions, Martyrs, 453


October 16, 2016
The Twentieth-first Sunday after Trinity and the Feast of St Hedwig of Silesia

 Signs and Wonders

The four Gospels record 37 different miracles that our Lord Jesus Christ “performed.” Undoubtedly there were more, probably many more, but 37 are described in Scripture. Some of His miracles are mentioned by only one of the Gospel-writers, some by two, many by three, but only one by all four (the Lord’s Feeding 5000 on the hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee). St John concludes his account of the miracle Jesus “performed” in today’s Gospel saying “this was the second sign that Jesus did.”

St John writes about 7 of Jesus’ miracles. That’s not because he didn’t know about any others – at the end of his Gospel, St John says “Now there are many of things Jesus did; if they were all written down, the world isn’t be big enough to hold all books it would take.” St John writes of only seven miracles – he prefers the word “signs” – because he uses these seven to focus on something else: not so much on the miracle itself, but on what the miracle meant at the time and what it means for us now. The “sign” in today’s Gospel story points us to the meaning and power of faith.

A member of King Herod’s household hears about Jesus, the miracle-worker from Galilee. The man lives in Capernaum but he travels twenty miles to Cana, where he hears tis country rabbi is at the time, to see if there’s anything to the man generating all the hubbub. He travels quickly for the matter is urgent. His son is dying, and he’s desperate: can Jesus from Nazareth do anything?

Tracking Him down, Herod’s councilor asks Jesus to come to Capernaum and restore his son’s health. Jesus’ reply ignores the plea and sounds a bit irritated if not downright petulant: “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” He answers, “Lord, come, before my son dies.”

The Gospels tell us about many similar requests made of Jesus: “Lord, come and heal my daughter.” “Come, your friend Lazarus is seriously ill.” In response to most others, the Lord does indeed stop what He’s doing and come. Not now. Without any gentle words of comfort, Jesus tells the king’s man, “Go. He lives.” Did the courtier just come on a bad day? Did Jesus get up on the wrong side of the bed? What are we supposed to take away from this “sign” of St John’s?

The story goes on to say the king’s man “believed Jesus’ word and left.” He headed home. Along the way, his servants met him with the good news that his son was indeed better. When they told him it was at 1.00 PM yesterday when his fever left him, the man knew that was just when Jesus told him to go home. “And he believed, and all his house with him.”

Jesus wasn’t in a bad mood when the man from Herod’s court showed up. Christ is God. God doesn’t get mad or act in a piqué. Everything He does is from love (that’s part of St John’s “sign” to us – He acted with a love that seemed to harsh to the court official; He does the same with you and me now and then. It’s one of the ways He deals with us to help us get over ourselves). The Lord saw the father’s desperation. He also saw that the father came to him looking for a faith-healer. The man is a royal official, a VIP, a person of significance. Can this faith-healer really heal? If so, he’ll be a use.

That’s how all of us look at God sometimes: “will He be of use to me?” So Jesus gives the King’s man a corrective kick in the chops. “All y’all want is spectacular miracles and fantastic feats.” His words aren’t petulant; they’re a challenge.

The man, not used to being rebuffed, presses on. “Lord” (the same title he uses with King Herod) “come before my son dies.” Jesus’ words are beginning to cut through the man’s thick layer of self-importance. Now He puts him to the final test: He will NOT come and heal his son. “Go” He orders. “The boy lives.” The man does just what he’s told. He believes and leaves. The conclusion (telling that when Jesus spoke the boy was at that same time healed) drives home the point of the story. The man believed: to him and all his household, salvation had come.

St John wants us to understand what Herod’s man finally came to see: Jesus doesn’t come scattering miracles hither and yon. He comes to each of us in our distress. He challenges who we are by asking us Who He is. If we allow our faltering faith to open our eyes, His miracles become signs.

St Hedwig of Silesia, Duchess, Queen and Nun, 1243

St Hedwig was a bright, kind-hearted, pretty young girl of twelve when her parents, from the highest ranks of Bavarian nobility, plucked her from her convent schoolroom and sent her to Silesia, a patchwork of duchies and baronies bordering feudal Poland, to marry the heir to the coronet of the duchy of Silesia, Henry I. His biographers called him “Henry the Bearded” and several contemporary depictions show that he was not mis-called. At the time, Silesia was involved in constant military adventures with its quarrelsome neighbors and the gentle girl’s new husband was embroiled in all sorts of political schemes to enlarge his landholdings at the expense of his neighbors. Over time, the girl grew into a woman and as mother seven times over. She also grew in the heart of her gruff husband, winning his love (which she returned), his respect and eventually his admiration as she won over his enemies, not with a sword but with gentleness and piety. She used her family’s connections to build peace among warring factions, foster prosperity by opening the Grand Duke’s land to farmers who cultivated much more land in peace rather than war, and built convents, monasteries, and churches. Every monastery and convent had either a school or hospital attached. After Hedwig’s death, following Henry by only a few years, she was declared a saint by a pope who didn’t know her because of the many requests for recognition of her sanctity by people from every rank of society who did. A couple of pictures of the saint are in the narthex this Sunday. Unfortunately, the print of the larger picture of her, taken from a 14th century illumination, doesn’t show her bare feet – which are quite visible in the original. If you read her biography in Sunday’s bulletin, you’ll understand.

Parish Office Hours

Our Parish Office is open from 10.30 AM until 6.30 PM every Wednesday and Friday. If you find yourself downtown, stop by! There will always be hot coffee in the pot, cold water in the ‘fridge and lively conversation in my office.

Parish Ordo Calendars

Our 2017 Church Calendars, with Sundays, Saint’s Days and Holy Days (all in the proper liturgical colors!) have arrived. They’re $6.50, available in the Parish Office. The profits will go to our Children’s Education Program. We won’t sell enough of them to make a real difference with the budget for Children’s Education, but I’m willing to use about anything to get those calendars on your refrigerator doors!

Pray, Brethren… for Sharon, who’s been diagnosed with colon cancer and asks for your prayers; for Russ, now to be off to the Carolinas for a vacation (just in time to share in the headaches left by Hurricane Matthew); for Jillian; for Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Tim; Aimee and her family; Elizabeth, who, in spite of the difficulties of fighting breast cancer still working to help others in chronic pain, her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain; Remember William & Peggy, Neill and Alec. Pray for Pat, undergoing chemotherapy; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, all living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, for Josh, and for Celeste; for Orlinda; for Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben; pray for John, for Frieda and for Peggy; for Melonie who’s recuperating from surgery. Pray for Jonathan, suffering from severe depression and for Cotton. Pray for decency and genuine discourse in our national election. If that doesn’t work, only a meteor may save us! Remember before the Lord the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS. Due to his efforts and those of his associates, about 2 dozen kidnapped girls were just “redeemed.” Pray for Rose & Monty, for Paul & Rhea, for Bruce, and for Melanie, who mourn. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Karl, Caleb, John David, Susan, Theresa and Bill. In all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God, especially for the Lord’s many and continuing blessings to each of us we forget, overlook or don’t know about… 

Services This Week

Wednesday, October 19 – St Frideswide, Abbess, 735 A.D.
11.45AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00PM – Evening Prayer

 Friday, October 21 – St Ursula & Her Companions, 433 A.D.
11.45AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00PM – Evening Prayer

Friday Is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

 Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, October 15, 2016, being the feast of
St Teresa of Avila, La Madre, 1582

 October 9, 2016

The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity and the Feast of SS Denis,

Rusticus & Eleutherius, Martyrs of Paris

Pope St Gregory the Great, after who I am happily named (my younger sister used to tell her friends “Greg thinks ‘the Great’ is the part that applies to him”), in a sermon he preached on this Sunday 1400 years ago, compared us to ants. “How are we different from ants?” he asks his hearers. When he asked the question, no doubt many of his listeners in Rome took umbrage at the impertinence of the suggestion. “I’m infinitely more important than an ant!” Most likely we’d all agree. But the saint’s comparison doesn’t continue in our favor. He goes on, “They care, as do we, for the well-being of their bodies and so direct their actions to attain their goal. Their single-minded virtue guides them. Alas for us! We waste our time, not in pursuits which help us come to the end for which we were created, but hankering after every vain frippery that attracts our attention, mistaking the light of a candle for the shining of a star. Would we had the dedication of an ant!”

The larger context of St Gregory’s sermon is the wedding feast for the king’s son, the Lord’s parable appointed for the Sunday Gospel. In the parable some of those invited ignore the invitation to do other things. The saint is talking about them.

The world is full of shiny baubles. Most of them aren’t bad in and of themselves. The problem isn’t the baubles. The problem is me. I want to be distracted. I don’t want to pursue the kingdom of Heaven with the dedication of an ant, but I’ll fight like a wild boar for stuff I think I’ve gotta have (most of the stuff we’ll fight tooth-and-nail for isn’t tangible at all, we get vicious less about the necessities of life than the demands of our egos).

As differently as you and I might define “vain fripperies,” we each have fripperies we love. But the world in which God placed us is full of goodness and beauty. There is much to love: cherished friends, a Texas sunrise on a fall morning, a fine cup o’ bourbon that deserves lingering over. God didn’t put us in the midst of all this because there’s something wrong with it. The problem is me.

It’s when I forsake God for what my friends think, when I rejoice in the red sun and cool breeze of the early morning but forget the One Who made the sun and sent the breeze, when I greedily gulp the bourbon so I can have another and another and…”the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the stars but in ourselves,” Cassius says in Julius Caesar.

St Gregory found the “single-minded virtue” of the ant more admirable than “our hankering after every vain frippery” that attracts our attention. What can I do, though? The baubles do shine. And I’m not an ant.

St Augustine says, “Be who you are, then!” Who is that? The Prayer
Book teaches us that which we should carry in our minds and cherish in our hearts: “In baptism I was made a child of God, a member of Christ, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven.”

Love “the world and all that therein is,” as the Psalmist says, but fix in yourself that this is not your permanent residence. No, we’re not ants. We’re sons and daughters of the King of Heaven – but very much needing to learn the ant’s lesson.

SS Denis, Rusticus & Eleutherius, Martyrs of Paris, 253

We don’t know much about our saints this Sunday except how and why they died. St Denis was a priest serving in Rome with Rusticus, another preist, and Eleutherius, a deacon. The new Emperor, Decius, began a fierce campaign against Christians in AD 250; Gaul (France) was one of the most impacted by the persecution, which singled out clergy for death. Decius was killed in battle the following year and his harsh edicts were rescinded. The bishop of Rome, Fabian, chose seven priests of the city to send as missionaries to Gaul, to take the places of bishops and priests killed in the recent persecutions. Denis was made a bishop and sent to the north of Gaul along with his co-workers, Rusticus & Eleutherius. In Sunday’s bulletin there’s a brief account of their martyrdom. In the narthex we have an icon of St Denis on the stand beside the baptismal font, and a photograph of a famous statue of the saint. St Denis belongs to a category of French saints designated as cephalophores. All is explained – to the degree it can be explained! – in the bulletin on Sunday.

Opus Anglicanum at the V&A, don’cha know?

Opus Anglicanum is Latin for “English Work.” In medieval Europe, “English Work” meant fine embroidery. English embroidery was sought after by kings, popes and emperors for hundreds of years. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London just opened a “programme” of Opus Anglicanum last week; it runs through February. While I doubt many of us will be jetting over to catch it, the V&A website has pages and pages about it, with some impressive photos detailing the intricate precision achieved by those fabled artisans. On our narthex table today, alongside the photo of St Denis le cephalophore, there’s a photo of one of the many pieces on display for the exhibit, a 13th century chasuble, the priest’s main vestment for the celebration of the Eucharist. Here’s the address of the website, just in case you want to spend some time admiring the wonders of the past:

http://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/opus-anglicanum-masterpieces-of-english-medieval-embroidery

PS – the article does include the prices for entrance to the exhibit, just in case…

Parish Office Hours

Our Parish Office is open from 10.30 AM until 6.30 PM every Wednesday and Friday. If you find yourself downtown, stop by! There will always be hot coffee in the pot, cold water in the ‘fridge and lively conversation in my office.

Parish Ordo Calendars

Our 2017 Church Calendars, with Sundays, Saint’s Days and Holy Days (all in the proper liturgical colors!) have arrived. They’re $6.50, available in the Parish Office. The profits will go to our Children’s Education Program. You’ve got to have one of these if you wonder, week by week, if your dress or tie matches the color of the liturgical season!

Pray, Brethren…for Sharon, who’s been diagnosed with colon cancer and asks for your prayers; for Russ, well enough now to be off to the Carolinas for a vacation (just in time for Hurricane Matthew); for Jillian; for Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Tim; Aimee and her family; Elizabeth, who’s fighting breast cancer but still working to help others in pain, her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain; Remember William & Peggy, Neill and Alec. Pray for Pat, undergoing chemotherapy; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, all living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, for Josh, and for Celeste; for Orlinda; for Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben; pray for John, for Frieda and for Peggy; for Melonie who’s recuperating from surgery. Pray for Jonathan, suffering from severe depression and for Cotton. Pray for decency and genuine discourse in our national election. Remember before the Lord the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS. Pray for Rose & Monty, for Paul & Rhea, for Bruce, and for Melanie, who mourn. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Karl, Caleb, John David, Susan, Theresa and Bill. In all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God, especially for the Lord’s many and continuing blessings to each of us we forget, overlook or don’t know about… 

Services This Week

Wednesday, October 12 – St Wilfrid of York, Bishop, 709
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, October 14 – St Catillus of Rome, Bishop & Martyr, 223
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday Is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, October 7, 2016, being the feast of
St Canog of Wales, 492


 

October 2, 2016
The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity and the Feast of
St Thomas of Hereford, Bishop


Four Faithful Friends

This Sunday’s Gospel tells the story of our Lord’s healing the paralyzed man. The reading is from St Matthew, but the story is also told by St Mark and St Luke. Each one tells the same story, but has his own emphasis, focusing on those things that interest him most. St Luke is interested in the paralytic’s healing, for him, that’s the story; St Mark wants to show us the whole scene: the tight crowd of people inside the house and outside on the street, the stretcher-bearers trying to get through to Jesus, the paralytic’s pathetic condition, and some lively details the others leave out or barely mention; St Matthew is interested in the conflict between the Lord and the scandalized Scribes. He focuses on little else, but makes one comment easy to overlook, that’s well-worth our attention.
 
St Matthew says “they” brought the paralytic to Jesus. St Mark tells us who the “they” are – four friends who’ve been carrying the paralyzed man this way and that, weaving through the closely-packed crowd surrounding Jesus so He’ll do something. Even though St Matthew doesn’t say who these four men are, he tells us something important, not only about them, but about us, too. “They” try wending their way through the crowd but without success. Rather than shrugging their shoulders and saying to the paralytic “Sorry, we tried, but no can do,” they innovate. Climbing to the rooftop of the house, they pull off the tiles and push aside the inside covering of the ceiling. Then they lower their friend through the hole they’ve made (in somebody else’s roof) and plop him down at Jesus’ feet (St Mark says some people were sitting at a table and I like to think “they” lowered the paralytic right onto the tabletop, but that’s only my imagination).
 
St Matthew then tells us, in his parenthetical aside, that Jesus saw “their” faith and, when He did, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” His words ignite a controversy with the Scribes sitting at the table (“who does he think he is, forgiving sins?”); the Lord heals the paralytic and in doing so, scares the wits out of everybody in the room. Everybody except, I suggest, those four faithful friends. They were, to use a very current-sounding phrase, “results-oriented.” These four faithful friends got what they came for: an empty stretcher. Their friend was healed and self-ambulated home.
 
St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (+397), was so taken by these nameless four faithful friends that he preached about them. He called them monitores – helpers – of the soul. Their faith, which Jesus saw and noted, saved their friend. Ambrose goes on to say “Let us, too, be friends and helpers of the soul. Let us carry the cripple and believe for those in distress. Let us so help the helpless by our prayers and efforts that we may place them before Jesus, Who, seeing our faith and persistence, will grant them His healing and salvation.”
 
Remember those four faithful friends. We’re called to be like them. The need is all around us: in our families, in our neighborhood, in our parish, in our city. If we ask the Lord to open our eyes, to help us be a faithful friend, He will. It’s surprising how close we each already are to someone who needs us to carry them to God.


In 1977 Franco Zeffirelli made the best movie on the life of Christ I’ve seen, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Like all movies, the film-makers seem to be genetically incapable of telling a story without “improving” it, but Zeffirelli kept fairly close to the Gospel of Luke in making this movie. I’ve always remembered the scene of our Gospel for this Sunday, the healing of the paralytic. Here’s how Zeffirelli depicts it in his movie:
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyQ6aev6ELg


St Thomas of Hereford, 1282

St Thomas, Bishop of Hereford from 1275 till 1282, was a son of influential Anglo-Norman parents of the de Canteloupe family. His father was one of the principal councilors of “Bad Prince John,” the conniving brother of Richard the Lion-heart. Because of his “birth-rank” (he was the fourth-born son and so it was unlikely he’d inherit the family estates) he was destined for a life in the Church. That suited the scholarly-inclined boy just fine and he received the finest education thirteenth century Europe could provide, studying at Oxford, Paris, Orleans and in the universities in Italy. Being from a very politically involved family, however, Thomas was unwillingly and unhappily entangled in English and French politics. His life centered around teaching theology, serving the poor and arbitrating the squabbles between the English crown and the rebellious English barons. He twice refused elections to English bishoprics until his family on one side and King Edward on the other told him he’d be shirking his duty and letting down those who needed him. He acquiesced and served most of the last decade of his life devoting himself to the people of his diocese. A more complete story of his life is in our Sunday bulletin. A delightful illumination in a medieval manuscript from the British Museum depicts the saint and his pet cat. A copy of the picture is in the narthex, on the stand beside the baptismal font. On the table next to it is a photograph of St Thomas’ tomb at Hereford Cathedral, wonderfully restored to its original glory.
 
Yes, St Thomas de Canteloupe’s family has a relation to the fruit which bears the ancestral name, but you’ll have to read the particulars in Sunday’s bulletin – most likely when I’m preaching! Anyway, in remembrance of the holy bishop who got ensnared in politics, Tanya and I will be serving sliced cantaloupes after both the 8 and 10.30 services this Sunday.


Chris’ Curry Extravaganza

If you didn’t come to the September Parish Luncheon last Sunday, you missed a treat worth remembering. Instead of our usual fare of fried chicken and all the fixin’s y’all usually bring, Chris Penski, our erstwhile Junior Warden, cooked a curry feast fit for a, well, for somebody who really wanted to have a first-class meal, and all he/she could eat. I don’t know much about curry except when I go into an Indian restaurant, my nose usually burns. Not last Sunday. After the 10.30 Mass we lined up in front of two tables of food loaded with five kinds of curry: beef, shrimp, chicken, pork sausage and vegetarian. Some of the dishes were available both in gringo-friendly and esophagus-blistering “heats,” served with mounds of Basmati rice and bowls of mildly curried carrots, taters and sundry vegetables. When we began, the tables were full; when we finished, the bowls were empty. I won’t say how many times Lynn Mahaffey and Clare Murray went back for more, but some people started counting! Thank you, Chris, for a meal both memorable and delicious. A lot of us will be wearing black armbands the day he hies himself up to join his wife in Seattle!


Parish Custodial Search

We’re conducting a custodial search – looking for someone to clean the church and hall on a monthly or semi-monthly schedule. Several of you have recommended someone to me for the position. While it rarely works well to have a parishioner in such a paid position (and I’m not sure it’s much better to have a friend of a parishioner either), there is always the very real and frequently proved possibility that I could be wrong. So the Vestry has decided to give it a try. If you are one of those who has someone (or someones) to recommend for this post, please send me an email or put in my hand the name and contact information of the person you’d like considered for the post. The salary is as yet undecided and while there has already been a fair amount of discussion as to what the position will require, that, too, is still undecided. I’m moving one step at a time. On Saturday, October 8th at 1.00PM, I will meet with all interested parties in David Hall.         
 
Parish Office Hours

Our Parish Office is open from 10.30 AM until 6.30 PM every Wednesday and Friday. If you find yourself downtown, stop by! There will always be hot coffee in the pot, cold water in the ‘fridge and conversation in my office.
 
Parish Ordo Calendars

Our 2017 Church Calendars, with Sundays, Saint’s Days and Holy Days (all in the proper liturgical colors!) have arrived. They’re $6.50, available in the Parish Office. The profits will go to our Children’s Education Program. You’ve got to have one of these if you wonder, week by week, if your dress or tie matches the color of the liturgical season!


Pray, Brethren… for Sharon, who’s been diagnosed with cancer and scheduled (someday) for surgery; for Russ, well enough now to be headed to the Carolinas for a vacation!; for Jillian; for Middy; for Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Tim; Aimee and her family; Elizabeth, who’s fighting breast cancer but still working to help others in pain, her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain; Remember William & Peggy, Neill and Alec. Pray for Pat, undergoing chemotherapy; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, all living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, for Josh, and for Celeste; for Orlinda; for Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben; pray for John, for Frieda and for Peggy; for Melonie who’s recuperating from surgery. Pray for Chris, whose house is still on the market (he’s now looking for a small statue of St Joseph); for Jonathan, suffering from severe depression and for Cotton. Pray for decency and genuine discourse in our national election. Remember before the Lord the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS. Pray for Rose & Monty, for Paul & Rhea, for Bruce, and for Melanie, who mourn. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Karl, Caleb, John David, Susan, Theresa and Nathaniel, the anniversary of whose death is Sunday. In all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God, especially for the Lord’s many and continuing blessings to each of us we forget, overlook or don’t know about… 


Services This Week

Wednesday, October 5 – St Galla of Rome, Nurse & Widow, 550
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
Friday, October 7 – St Oswyth of Essex, Abbess, Martyred by Vikings, 700
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
Friday Is a Day of Abstinence
 
I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!
 
Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, September 30, 2016, being the feast of
St Jerome of Bethlehem, Priest, Hermit and Doctor of the Church



September 25, 2016
The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity and the Feast of St Sergius of Radonezh, Hermit

 
True Religion

 “Christianity isn’t a religion, you know, it’s a Person.”

I first heard that facile statement one morning many years ago, as I ambled across the UT campus to an early class. I was minding my own business, when a very sincere-looking young guy started walking near me, matching my easy pace. He injected himself into my consciousness by asking me out of the blue “Are you religious?” I gave him a quick once-over. He had the earnest look of those unsubtle Campus Crusade for Christ people who begin talking at you by asking “Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?” I didn’t really want to do this before an 8 o’clock class. “Because if you are, you’re not really a Christian. Christianity isn’t a religion, you know, it’s a Person.” Evangelical types should know that ten minutes before eight in the morning isn’t a promising time for a conversation about eternity. I politely grimaced and said “I’ve got to get to class” and picked up my pace.

Somebody must have written a book about this in 1970, because I began hearing it more and more through most of my years at school. I still hear it now and again, but since I don’t do as much amblin’ as I used to, I may not be going to the right places. Maybe it’s the people I hang out with.

The underlying notion is that religion is either bad or unnecessary. It certainly can be, I reckon, but there’s a lot of difference between a rowboat and the Queen Mary I. The word itself is sort of odd. It comes from old Latin and combines two words res + ligare, “something bound together.” By Cicero’s time (about 50BC) it meant “things associated with worship.” Worship can take a lot of forms, from the solemn celebration of the Eucharist at Winchester Cathedral to an Aztec sacrifice of still-beating hearts atop the Great Pyramid of Cholula. Distinctions make a difference.

In Sunday’s Gospel, after a contentious day of religious debate, we’re told that Jesus was approached by a scribe, an expert in the Law of Moses, who’d been pushed in His direction by a group of contentious Pharisees. He asks Jesus the standard question of religious debates among the Pharisees. What’s the most important commandment of the Law? What’s at the core of our religion?

Jesus gave him a conventional answer, one many before had given to the same question. It’s a quotation from Deuteronomy; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind.” Nothing controversial or even interesting in His answer. Not much to argue about. But the Lord continued. “Of equal importance to that is this. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Now both those quotes are from the Old Testament. The second is from the book of Leviticus. What shocked the scribe (and the Pharisees listening nearby) was the linking of these two verses, and especially how Jesus had linked them. “Of equal importance to that is this” or, as we’re used to hearing it week in and out, “the second is like unto it.” Christ binds together (res+ligare?) the love of God and the love of our neighbor (the Greek word translated neighbor also means one near you) in a way it had never before been done.

Is Christianity a religion? Most certainly it is. It binds us to God as most religions claim to do; uniquely to the Gospel, it does that by binding us to each other.

St Sergius of Radonezh, 1381

This Sunday is the feast of St Sergius of Radonezh, the most beloved of Russia’s saints. He has a place not only on the calendars of the Orthodox Churches, but his feast is also celebrated in the Roman and Anglican Churches.  On the stand beside our baptismal font you can see a copy of a Russian icon of the saint. In his hand he holds an open scroll; on it is written a frequent saying of Sergius: “God's grace cannot be fully tasted without trials; after sorrow comes joy.” On the narthex table are two other pictures worth a look: one is a wall painting from the refectory (dining hall) of the Holy Trinity-St Sergius Lavra (monastery) depicting St Sergius and his bear (I won’t go into the story right now, especially since I’m writing a book for the Redland girls about it); the other is of the Holy Trinity-St Sergius Lavra. It didn’t look like this when St Sergius lived alone in the forest outside Radonezh 700 years ago, but it’s built on the site of his first hut and primitive chapel. I’ve written a brief biography of the saint in Sunday’s bulletin.

St Francis’ Day Blessing of Animals

The feast of St Francis of Assisi, the patron of animals, is October 4th. It’s customary to bless animals on his day, so next Saturday, October 1st at 1.00 PM, we’ll bless any pet you want to bring, including tarantulas that hop and dogs that bite, but from a discrete distance. After the blessing, treats for pets will be distributed.

Monthly Parish Luncheon This Sunday

The last Sunday of the month we hold our monthly parish Covered Dish Luncheon. As that’s this Sunday, I’d normally be reminding you to bring something, BUT NOT THIS TIME! Chris Penski, a man of considerable talent in the kitchen, is cooking lunch for everybody and providing everything. All you need to bring is your appetite! On the menu du jour are a rich variety of curried dishes. I’m trying to find some sitar music to play in the background.

Confirmation and First Communion Classes Begin

I’m happy to announce  that, beginning this Tuesday afternoon, we’ll begin classes for both Confirmation and First Communion. I’m pretty sure I’m looking forward to this more than my young students! 

A Bell for St Joseph’s

I’m told the parish has been talking about a real bell, that actually sounds like a church bell, to replace the decorative but discordant cast iron piece out front, since 2007. I’m happy to say that search has ended. Thanks to the generosity of several donors (more about this in due time) and the steady persistence of the Vestry, we’ve found a great bell. It’s a 19” bronze bell, a bit smaller than the cast iron piece outside, but with a rich and full tone. It will be here well before Christmas, and by then we should have it nicely mounted and ready to ring. The bell was cast 115 years ago and is in beautiful condition. I’m grateful to our donors and the Vestry who’ve come together to enrich the life and worship of our parish family.

Parish Custodial Search

In case you haven’t heard, we’re conducting a custodial search – looking for some one to clean the church and hall on a monthly or semi-monthly schedule. Several of you (four or five, as I recollect) have come to me recommending someone for the position. It rarely works well to have a parishioner in such a paid position and I’m not sure it’s much better to have a friend of a parishioner either. But on the very real and frequently proved possibility I could be wrong, the Vestry has decided to give it a shot. If you are one of those who has someone (or someones) to recommend for this post, please send me an email or hand me in person the name and contact information of the person you’d like considered for the post. The salary is as yet undecided and there has already been a fair amount of discussion as to what the position will require. I’m moving one step at a time. On Saturday, October 8th at 1.00PM, I will meet with all interested parties in David Hall.          

Vestry Report

St Joseph’s Vestry met last Sunday afternoon. A summary of the meeting is in your Sunday bulletin.

Parish Office Hours

Our Parish Office is open from 10.30 AM until 6.30 PM every Wednesday and Friday. If you find yourself downtown, stop by! There will always be hot coffee in the pot, cold water in the ‘fridge and conversation in my office.

Pray, Brethren… for Sharon, about to begin treatment; for Russ, well enough to go on a vacation now!; for Jillian; for Middy; for Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Tim; Aimee and her family; Elizabeth, who’s fighting breast cancer but still working to help others in pain, her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain; Remember William & Peggy, Neill and Alec. Pray for Pat, undergoing chemotherapy; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, all living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, for Josh, and for Celeste; for Orlinda; for Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben; pray for John, for Frieda and for Peggy; for Melonie who’s recuperating from surgery. Pray for Chris, whose house is on the market; for Jonathan, suffering from severe depression and for Cotton. Remember before the Lord the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS. Pray for Rose & Monty, for Paul & Rhea, for Bruce, and for Melanie, who mourn. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Robert, Billy, Jenna, Karl, Caleb, John and David. In all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God, especially for the Lord’s many and continuing blessings on our parish… 

Services This Week

Wednesday, September 28 – Good King St Wenceslaus, King & Martyr, 938
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, September 16 – St Jerome of Bethlehem, Monk, Priest & Doctor of the Church, 420
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

 Friday Is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, September 23, 2016, being the feast of
St Thecla of Iconomium and Ember Friday in September


September 18, 2016
The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity and the Feast of

St Methodius of Olympus, Bishop & Martyr

An Inconvenient Dinner Guest
The Gospel appointed for the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, from St Luke, tells us about an odd dinner party. Our Lord was the guest of – well, not quite “honor” – notoriety might be more apt. Jesus was slowly making His way, for the last time, to Jerusalem. He was now a public figure, known to King Herod Antipas (son of the evil King Herod who tried to hoodwink the Wise Men at Christmas and murdered all the babies in Bethlehem on Holy Innocents Day) and most every Pharisee and Scribe from northern Galilee to southern Judea. Some admired Him, some despised Him, and a lot, in the middle, wondered what to make of Him.

While He journeyed to Jerusalem, a leader of the local synagogue at a town along the way asked Him to dinner on the Sabbath. It wasn’t an intimate meal, but a special occasion, a chance to meet and greet the celebrated Rabbi. It was also a chance to look Him over. Did He put His pants on one leg at a time? (Yeah, I know He didn’t wear pants but you know what I mean.) The dining hall was crowded, a lot of hustle and bustle,  people jockeying to get a good seat, wanting to sit close to the host and his Guest.

Some of the attendees weren’t curious or excited to glad-hand the Visitor. They had an agenda. It was the Sabbath day, and the scuttlebutt among certain groups of Pharisees was that the Galilean could heal the sick, performing miraculous cures whenever and wherever He encountered the need – even on the Sabbath day. Since healing was considered work, many Pharisees believed it was an offense against the Sabbath. St Luke tells us the people at the dinner party “watched” Jesus. Some watched and waited so they could pounce if the opportunity presented itself.

It did.

Whether the diseased man jumped at a chance to stand before the Rabbi or – as St John Chrysostom thought – he was pushed forward by the Pharisees looking for a fight (he had “dropsie,” an edemic swelling of the hands and feet brought on by congestive heart failure), our Lord looked up from his humus and saw someone in distress. We don’t know, but Christ did, whether the guy had been put up to it or not. To Him it didn’t matter. He knew the suffering in front of Him and the envy all around Him.

You know the story. He asked the eager Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” Though no one responded, everyone had an answer. Of course, it is not. The Dinner-guest abruptly changed the situation from a hypothetical question to (if you’ll pardon my use of current lingo) an existential conundrum. He healed the man on the spot. Now what? They’d hoped to see Him break the Law. But what do they do now? Everybody in the hall saw the miracle. If the Galilean Rabbi broke the Law, so did God, Who did the miracle. The men who came to pounce on the touring Rabbi got trounced. The Lord Christ looked at them, picked up a piece of pita bread and dipped it in His humus.

Between courses, the Lord told a fun little parable. He’d watched the “one- upmanship” of people as they came into the hall, vying for the most prestigious places at the banquet. The maitre d’ found it necessary to intervene now and then, shifting people around so the people of quality were able to sit together, leaving the riff-raff to cluster around the kitchen door. The Lord gave some advice to the place-seekers: if you really want to be seen as important and win the admiration of everybody at the banquet, don’t come in and plop down at the seat of the guest of honor. Sit with the riff-raff. Then, when the host sees you down there, he’ll get up and personally escort you up front and everybody will know what an important person you are.

Que? Was Jesus a “win friends and influence people” guru? It doesn’t quite fit Him, does it? Well, He was actually lifting a few lines from the Old Testament book of Proverbs: “Don’t push yourself forward in the presence of the king; don’t try to make a place for yourself among the great; far better to be told ‘Join us up here’ than to be sent off from the ranks of the mighty.”

He passed along the practical advice from Proverbs to the self-seekers in the hall to get their attention. Then, as with the Pharisees earlier, he turned the tables. “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,” He cautions them. “And he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Most likely, the majority of those present scratched their heads. Some few realized His words weren’t about self-promotion.

The Lord wouldn’t leave the sick man to his suffering, or the self-satisfied to their illusions. He came to the Sabbath dinner to show everyone, from the high table to the kitchen door, that the kingdom of God is here, among us. To some it comes as a balm, to others as an astringent, but to all it comes, right now and back then, as Love. 

St Methodius of Olympus, AD 311
On the stand beside the baptismal font this week is a copy of an old Russian icon of St Methodius of Olympus, whose feast we’ll celebrate this Sunday. He is shown holding a book (one of the ways a “Father of the Church” is indicated in icons). He wears the vestments of a medieval Greek bishop. Most of St Methodius’ writings are lost, though a few survive intact and fragments of some of his other works have been preserved in quotations of other ecclesiastical writers. The saint was regarded by his contemporaries as one of the most profound thinkers and elegant writers of their day. At the very end of the last great persecution of the Church, in AD 311, the bishop was arrested, briefly jailed and beheaded. St Jerome, who wrote a biography of Methodius, tells us he was 82 years old at the time of his execution.

They’re Baaaack! What! The Ember Days Again?
This coming Wednesday, Friday and Saturday we keep the Autumnal Ember Days, days of fasting and abstinence. In Latin the Ember Days are called the jejunia quattuor tempora: “the fasts of the four seasons.” They fall once a season – in mid-Advent, early Lent, Whitsun week and the middle of September closest after Holy Cross Day (September 14).

The Embertide fasts began a long time ago in Rome. Originally they were timed to offset times of pagan feasts: while the pagans indulged in over-enthusiastic revels like Saturnalia and Lupercalia, Christians were exhorted to fast and pray (that the Ember Days weren’t fully observed until a few centuries after paganism had been outlawed in Rome tells us Christians weren’t as enthusiastic about the fasts as the pagan were about their feasts).

As paganism fell before the Church, the rationale for the Ember Days fell by the wayside, too. Pope St Gelasius I (+ 496) set the Ember Days as the customary time for ordinations and that remains their principal focus today. In the Prayer Book, the Collect and readings for the Ember Days (BCP pp 260-261) refer only to ordination, asking God “to put it into the hearts of many to offer themselves for this ministry.” This is a time we pray for those who are ordained and for those preparing for ordination.

What’s the “ember” of the Ember Days?

The Latin name of the days is plain and straightforward: the fasts of the four seasons. Nothing there about fiery flames or burning embers. Turns out the explanation isn’t from a foreign language, but from our own, even if we’re a bit removed from it. In old Anglo-Saxon, the word ymbren means “a seasonal cycle.” After the 9th century, we find words like ymbren-tid (Embertide), ymbren-wucan (Ember weeks), ymbren-fisstan (Ember fasts), ymbren-dagas (Ember days) are commonplace in the writings of the Anglo-Saxon Church. Etymology may sometimes be confusing, but it never fails to fascinate! Next time there’s a lull in conversation at the dinner-table, trot out this etymological tidbit and see what kind of response you get.

St Jerome of Bethlehem
September 30th is the feast of St Jerome of Bethlehem, one of the greatest Biblical scholars in the Church’s history. For the rest of the month, a wonderful icon of the saint (shown with his pet lion!) will be displayed on the narthex table. There is a also a biography of the saint as well as copies of a children’s story about St Jerome and his pet lion, Judah, which I wrote for and dedicated to the Redland girls, Alyson, Kathryn, Jillian and Madelyn a couple of years back.

Thank You for Your Support in Helping Send Clare to Nashville!
Except that she wasn’t able to go after all! Through y’all’s generosity we did raise the money for Clare’s trip to Nashville, but unexpected events – and a doubling of plane fares – made it impossible for her to attend the Tolkien/CS Lewis Conference in Nashville this weekend. However, the largest annual conference on CS Lewis studies, at which our own Professor Murray two years ago was a keynote speaker, has asked her to speak again at next year’s conference. Clare has returned the money donated for her trip to the Vestry, but I’ll be asking them at our meeting today to turn that money into a fund to help support her work and travel for future CS Lewis/JRR Tolkien events – including the establishment of an annual celebration here at St Joseph’s, the first of which Clare and I have made initial plans to hold in November 2017. Watch for more information and many, many thanks to those who donated for the Trip Not Taken.

St Francis’ Day Blessing of Animals
The feast of St Francis of Assisi, the patron of animals, is October 4th. It’s customary to bless animals on his day, so on Saturday, October 1st at 1.00 PM, we’ll bless any pet you want to bring, including tarantulas that hop and dogs that bite, but from a discrete distance. After the blessing, treats for pets will be distributed.

Monthly Parish Luncheon, Sunday, September 25
Next Sunday is our monthly parish Covered Dish Luncheon. After last month’s very popular Pizzafest, we’re going back to our Fried Chicken mainstay. The Vestry will provide mass quantites of Chicken Express chicken strips, with all manner of dipping sauces, etc. The rest is up to you, beloved.

Parish Office Hours
Our Parish Office is open from 10.30 AM until 6.30 PM every Wednesday and Friday. If you find yourself downtown, stop by! There will always be hot coffee in the pot, cold water in the ‘fridge and conversation in my office.

Pray, Brethren… for Sharon, still undergoing tests; for Russ; for Jillian; for Middy; for Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Tim; Aimee and her family; Elizabeth, who’s fighting breast cancer while running a support group for others in chronic pain, her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain; Remember William & Peggy, Neill and Alec. Pray for Pat, undergoing chemotherapy; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, all living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, for Josh, and for Celeste; for Orlinda; for Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben, Tim and Benny, recuperating from an old gunshot wound; pray for John, for Frieda and for Peggy; for Melonie who had surgery for lung cancer. Pray for James, our new Senior Warden, as he prepares for his first Vestry meeting Sunday. Pray for Chris, whose house is on the market. Remember before the Lord the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS. Pray for the victims of the floods in Louisiana. Pray for Rose & Monty, for Paul & Rhea, for Bruce, and for Melanie, who mourn. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Robert, Billy, Jenna, Karl, Caleb, Lucille, Jacques (priest), John and David. In all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God…for Benny’s sudden improvement (surprising to my old friend, not to those who’ve been praying for him!); for the Lord’s blessing on the Redland family.

Services This Week
 
Wednesday, September 14 – St Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist; Ember Wednesday
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, September 16 – St Thecla of Iconomium, Disciple of St Paul, Ember Friday
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Wednesday, Friday & Saturday This Week Are Days of Fasting and Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, September 16, 2016, being the feast of
St Hildegard of Bingen, Abbess, 1179 (it’s also, by unanimous order
of the United States Congress, National Guacamole Day, so act accordingly)

 
September 11, 2016

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity and the 15th Anniversary of the

September 11, 2001 Attacks

Weep Not

St Luke tells us the story (he’s the only one of the Evangelists who does): the Lord Jesus, with a crowd of followers, was entering the “city of Nain” when they encountered a crowd of people leaving the city. It was a funeral procession and a particularly pathetic one. The custom of the day called for a group of female mourners to precede the bier bearing the corpse; immediately behind the body the family followed. Jewish custom also called for anyone who encountered a funeral procession to stop and let it pass, then to join it “for at least four cubits” (four steps). No doubt Jesus and His followers complied, till He saw the mother of the dead, walking behind the bier alone.

Everyone present knew what that meant. The woman was alone, so a widow and childless. Since the Jews didn’t use coffins or cover the body on the bier, the youth of the dead man was obvious. He was her only son.

St Luke says the Lord, looking at the woman, “had compassion on her.” He said to her “Weep not.”

Imagine what went through her mind. “Weep not? My son – my only child, is dead. I’m left alone. What’s left for me but to weep?”

She faced even more problems. Jewish law prevented her from inheriting her husband’s estate. At the death of her son, their family property passed to whoever the closest male relative was. No provision could be made for her from her husband’s property. She was now dependant “on the kindness of strangers.”

Everyone present knew that. They all must have puzzled at the Lord’s words.

Before anybody could tell Him to take a flying leap, Jesus stepped forward and broke the rules. He touched the dead man’s bier, thereby defiling Himself. But the confusion of everybody, Jesus’ followers and the procession of m mourners, must have been complete when He said, “Young man, arise.” No doubt everyone froze. In the immediate silence the atmosphere must have been electric. “Arise! What is-” And he did. The dead man sat up, talking. St Luke, in almost studied understatement, says “And He delivered him to his mother.”

In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus said to His disciples, “Don’t be anxious. Don’t be afraid.” God, He reminded them, cares for you. At the gate of the city of Nain He said to the widow – and St Luke wants His words to echo in us – “Weep not.” “Don’t be afraid.”

Just look at the Evening News. There is much to fear and a lot to cry about. Drug dealers. Five-year-olds killed by a stray bullet. Abandoned great-grandmothers. Abused women. An alcoholic living in a cardboard box. It’s in the midst of this that Jesus says, “Weep not.” “Don’t be afraid.” But how can we not?

When Jesus lived among us, He didn’t bring back everybody who died. Scripture tells us of only three. He didn’t heal everybody who was sick or crippled or dying. He didn’t make everybody smart or pretty or friendly. He didn’t stop crime or restore Jewish independence. We could fill the countless hard drives (notice my computer allusion, Don?) with all the things He did not do. Could He have waved His hand and made all this and more happen? No question. God could and can do whatever He wants. So what gives?

God didn’t create this world to be Fantasyland. He gives us the freedom to choose. He lets us tinker with the world. When the Bible says He made us in His own image, it’s not talking about the shape of our nose or the contour of our calf. It means He made us to create. To make of the world and of ourselves what we can. We have done things both dreadful and wondrous. Some of us have been saints and some of us have turned ourselves into trash. From our blinkered viewpoint there is pointless pain and sorrows innumerable in this world. What does Jesus say about that? “Weep not.” “Don’t be afraid.” But He goes on. “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” Pain and sorrow and suffering are not pointless. None of it is lost on God. He takes it on Himself and transfigures it. If our faith is true, if the Creed is right, then all the suffering and sorrow is full or meaning, pregnant with our redemption.

At the very end of the Bible, closing up the Book of the Revelation, St John assures us that God forgets nothing – and more importantly, no one. “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the old things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”

Weep not.

September 30th is the feast of St Jerome of Bethlehem, one of the greatest Biblical scholars in the Church’s history. For the rest of the month, a wonderful icon of the saint will be on the stand next to the baptismal font. It shows St Jerome with his pet lion! On the narthex table there is a biography of the saint as well as copies of a children’s story I wrote for and dedicated to the Redland girls, Alyson, Kathryn, Jillian and Madelyn a couple of years ago.

Blessing of Students and Teachers

At the 10.30 Eucharist this Sunday, after the Offertory, we’ll have special prayers for and a holy dousing of the students and teachers of our parish who are beginning the new school year. Everybody who comes to be blessed and splashed has a fun gift waiting afterwards.

Help Send Clare to Nashville!

This coming weekend, Professor Clare Murray hopes to attend the annual Tolkien & Lewis Conference at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee. But she needs a bit of financial help to pay her expenses. You may recall that Clare delivered one of the keynote speeches in 2015 at the national CS Lewis Convention. She and I have plans to hold a CS Lewis Celebration here at St Joseph’s next year and this trip is part of the planning and preparation for that. If you can help get her outta town this coming weekend, I’m sure she, and certainly I, would be most grateful. If you’d like to help her attend, please let either me or Larry Mooney know.

Parish Office Hours

As you know, most of the summer I’ve been attending rehab in San Antonio three or four days a week to help me get adjusted to my new prosthetic leg. I’m happy to say that’s concluded. While I’m still a bit unsteady and won’t be challenging Jillian or Madelyn to footraces anytime soon, I am able to wobble around safely. With my sessions at an end (and with them, the summer will before too long finally end, too) on Wednesdays and Fridays I’ll be keeping office hours again. The office will open from 10.30 AM until 6.30 PM both days each week. If you find yourself downtown, stop by! There will always be hot coffee in the pot or cold water in the ‘fridge.

Pray, Brethren…


For Sharon, still undergoing tests; for Russ, who’s showing some good signs: all Charlotte’s chicken soup is paying off!; for Jillian; for Middy; for Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Tim; Aimee and her family; Elizabeth, who’s fighting breast cancer while running a support group for others in chronic pain, her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain; Remember William & Peggy, Neill and Alec. Pray for Pat, undergoing chemotherapy; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, all living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, for Josh, and for Celeste; for Orlinda, for Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben, Tim and Benny, recuperating from an old gunshot wound; pray for John, for Frieda and for Peggy, and the Redland family. Pray for James, our new Senior Warden, as he prepares for his first Vestry meeting next Sunday. Pray for Chris, whose house is on the market; and Clare, traveling next week to Nashville for the Tolkien/Lewis Conference. Remember before the Lord the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS. Pray for the victims of the floods in Louisiana. Pray for Rose & Monty, for Paul & Rhea, for Bruce, and for Melanie, who mourn. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Robert, Billy, Jenna, Karl, Caleb, Lucille, Jacques (priest), John and David. In all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God… 

Services This Week

Beginning September 14th, this Wednesday, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, our weekday service schedule will resume.

Wednesday, September 14 – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, September 16 – St Hildegard of Bingen, Abbess, 1179
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday is a Day of Abstinence
 
I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!


Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, September 9, 2016, being the feast of Blessed Constance & her Companions, 1878

 September 4, 2016
The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity and the Feast of St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, Bishop & Hermit

Be Not Anxious

We’re all afraid of something. Some of the things we’re afraid of are blunt and basic: not having enough money to pay our bills or to pay the rent and many more people than we imagine are afraid of not having enough to buy food or medicine; we fear for our personal safety and security, from random criminal acts to identity theft. We also have our own internal fears: fear of not being good enough, of not getting the recognition we deserve, of not being liked, of embarrassing ourselves, of getting old and what will happen as our bodies don’t do what they used to. We worry about our children and the dangers they face in today’s world, about our families and friends, our changing society and the loss of our culture, the future of our country and the loss of our past. We’re afraid, as all people at all times and in all places have been, of loneliness, of grief and of death.

Now, before you start thinking I’m just feeling depressed because of  the unremitting heat and humidity of central Texas in the dog days of summer (I will welcome the cooling days come mid-October), our Sunday Gospel this week is about fear and worry. The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity is, in my mind, the “Lilies of the Field” Sunday. The Gospel for the day repeats the Lord’s sermon where he talks about our fears and worries, and tells us to remember the beauty of the lilies in the field and the freedom of the birds in the sky.  “Your heavenly Father cares for them,” He says. “Do you not trust Him to care for you, who He loves so much more?”

Over and over in Jesus’ sermon on the lilies He tells us “Be not anxious.” Don’t be afraid. Quit worrying.

Now, what the Lord did NOT do was tell His listeners, “And if you are afraid, if you find yourself worrying, here’s how to conquer those fears in six easy-to-remember steps! First…” The Gospel isn’t a psychological band-aid to make us feel better about ourselves. It’s not “powerful positive thinking” to help us find success in business. It doesn’t encourage us to think good thoughts and so make the world a nicer place.

Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid.” He doesn’t try to convince us there’s nothing to be afraid of. He doesn’t tell us our worries aren’t real, that the world is just fine as it is.

What He does say is that God is greater than our fear. He is more powerful than the drug dealers in Seguin or crazed Islamists in Iran or the cleverest of hidden cyber-thieves; His power extends over creeping cancers and alcoholism and every sort of human addiction, over criminal cartels and banks that are too big to fail and even the IRS. He is probably more powerful than AT&T.

In the end, though, fear isn’t assuaged by power. God’s certain power doesn’t always seem evident. That’s why we’re afraid. We don’t doubt God’s power. We doubt His love.

So God became one of us. He shared the things we fear: hunger, poverty and pain. He took on our loneliness and grief and finally death itself. The hymns of the ancient Church celebrate this: “the Source of all life tasted death,” “the Immortal One took on our mortality,” “He Who is deathless suffered the pains of death and Hades…” God became one of us and proclaimed the Gospel. Remember what “Gospel” means? It’s an old Anglo-Saxon word that translates the Greek evangel. It means “a good message,” or “good news!”

The Good News is that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the continual bad news on CNN or our own whispering fears in the middle of the night, we, you and me, we are loved. Not just by our family and friends, who have to love us, but by the One Who became – and forever remains – one of us.

So what? There’s still cancer and criminals. Everybody we know either has died or will die and it’s a good bet I’m standing in that line, too. What does the Gospel do for me? I have bills to pay.

The Gospel says – it demands – that we give up our fear, that we quit worrying. Easier said than done? That’s only because – hold your breath a minute – we cherish our fears. We may loathe them, but our fear is like a familiar scab we pick at over and over. We’re used to it.  We learn to compromise with it. But at the bottom of it all, worrying makes sure that my life is about me, not God.

The next time you approach for Holy Communion take one single fear you surrender yourself to – something specific, something real, and trade it with Jesus Christ. Take His life, His power, His immortality in Bread and Wine, and leave BEHIND that fear at His Altar. If you make a habit of it, He’ll set you free – as a carefree bird in the sky, or a blossoming lily of the field.

Sunday is St Cuthbert’s day. An icon of the saint is on the stand in the narthex and his biography is in this week’s bulletin. To understand the fun part of the icon (the otters playing at Cuthbert’s feet), you’ll have to read the biography.

Collection for the Flood Victims in Louisiana

We’re collecting donations for the people suffering as a result of the recent flooding in Louisiana. In your Sunday bulletin you’ll find a specially-labeled envelope in hopes you’ll give something to add to the money (over $500 thus far) already set aside as a gift from St Joseph’s. We’ll collect money through September 5th (Labor Day) – having received permission from the owners of Texas Tubes, I’ll be hitting up our parking “toobers” for donations both Sunday and on Labor Day itself. 

Blessing of Students and Teachers

At the 10.30 Eucharist this Sunday, after the Offertory, we’ll have special prayers for and a holy dousing of the students and teachers of our parish who are beginning the new school year. Everybody who comes to be blessed and splashed has a fun gift waiting afterwards.

Pray, Brethren…


For Sharon, undergoing yet more tests now scheduled through the end of the month; for Russ, recuperating at home and Charlotte, his loving caregiver; for Jillian; for Middy on her birthday, for Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; Elizabeth, fighting breast cancer while continuing to run a support group for those in chronic pain, her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain; Remember William & Peggy, Neill and Alec. Pray for Pat, undergoing chemotherapy; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, all living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, for Josh, and for Celeste; for Orlinda, for Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben, Tim and Benny, a friend of mine and a retired policeman, having serious complications from an old gunshot wound; pray for John, for Frieda and for Peggy, and the Redland family. Pray for James and his wife Carol, wrapping up their tour of America’s National Parks in the west. Pray for Chris, working diligently to prepare his house for the market. Remember before the Lord the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS. Pray for the victims of the floods in Louisiana, especially Tanya’s family, who live in one of the hard-hit areas. Pray for Rose & Monty, for Paul & Rhea and for Melanie, who mourn. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Robert, Billy, Jenna, Karl, Caleb, Lucille, Jacques (priest) and John. In all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God… 

Services This Week

There will be no weekday services this week.
 
Friday is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, September 2, 2016, being the feast of St Ingrid of Sweden, Prioress, 1282


 

August 28, 2016
The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity and the Feast of St Augustine of Hippo, Bishop & Doctor of the Church

Last Sunday, the thirteenth after Trinity, the Gospel appointed for the day (we read it as the Last Gospel because of the Dormition) was the Parable of the Good Samaritan. This Sunday’s Gospel is about the grateful Samaritan. St Luke tells us the story of ten lepers, living as a group, who called to Jesus as He passed by. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,” they cried. It was a typical plea for alms. They were begging for money. Because of their leprosy, the Law of Moses required them to beg from a distance.

The Lord had something else in mind (as He usually does). The lepers were looking for a little help. Jesus was looking to test their mettle (as He still does with us). He wasn’t interested in being nice and giving them some lunch money, but changing their lives (as He always is).

The Lord could’ve said, “Okay, y’all are healed! Go to the priests and get a certificate.” In fact, several pages earlier in his Gospel, St Luke tells us about a time Jesus did just that. A leper came and asked the Lord to make him clean and Jesus did, almost before the guy finished asking. Then He sent the man to get certified. St Cyril of Alexandria, in his commentary on the Gospel, notes the difference and then says Jesus treated the ten lepers differently because He had a different purpose. He was testing them.

When we think we’re being tested it’s usually because something bad has happened to us. God is seeing how we’ll handle adversity. How much more telling is it to see how we handle, not bad things, but blessings? St Cyril says nine lepers failed the test. Only one of them, “and he a Samaritan” St Luke points out, returned to thank Jesus for what He had done for them.

Failing the test didn’t mean the nine got leprosy again. God, says St Augustine, loves us and doesn’t want to condemn us. But He does want to prod us, to test us, to see what we’re about. He tests us because He wants us to see what we’re about.

Thomas Macaulay, the great English historian, near the end of his life wrote to a friend, “The true measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.” Amid the tumults and triumphs of our lives God is not only present, but acting. In times good and bad He’s helping us discover our “true measure.” Why?

Because He’s making saints. That’s what He intends for you and me, and He won’t be satisfied with anything less. He doesn’t want us to be either. There are no “safe spaces” for Christians, no room for molly-coddling. John Donne, the Anglican priest and poet, turns that truth into prayer in his famous Sonnet 14:

Batter my heart, three person’d God;

for You as yet but knock: breathe, shine and seek to mend

that I may rise and stand.

O’erthrow me, and bend Your force,

To break, blow, burn and make me new.”

The grateful Samaritan passed the Lord’s test. In his suffering he hadn’t forgotten God; in his joyful freedom he remembered Him. That is the faith that saves. It’s what the Lord is looking to build in us.

An icon of St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (a Roman colony along the northern coast of Africa) rests on the stand next to our baptismal font this week. It’s painted by a modern artist in a semi-medieval style, and for what it is, it’s well-done. The saint is shown in the vestments of an early medieval bishop, holding in one hand a pen and book, the customary symbols of a “doctor of the Church,” and in his other a burning heart, branded with IHS (the first three letters of Jesus’ Name in Greek). A flaming heart, sometimes pierced with two arrows, is the particular symbol of St Augustine, alluding to what is probably the most famous sentence he ever wrote, at the very beginning of his Confessions: “O Lord God, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts will never rest until they rest in Thee.”

There are two other pictures on the table at the entrance to the church this week I hope you’ll take a look at. One is the earliest known picture of St Augustine, a fresco done about a hundred years after his death. He’s depicted in the clothing a bishop of his day would have worn, not so very different than that of a decently-attired Roman patrician. He’s shown sitting in a cathedra, a bishop’s throne, with a Bible in front of him, holding a scroll in one hand and gesturing with his other. He’s teaching.

St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, Doctor of the Church


Augustine is one of a handful of saints we call “Doctors of the Church.” While it can be said that the Church’s doctors heal her ills, doctor in Latin isn’t the word for a physician. The word literally means teacher. Those “Doctors of the Church” are her greatest teachers. Up until the 16th century, there were customarily eight such “doctors”: four of the Latin Church – SS Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo, Jerome of Bethlehem and Gregory (the Great) of Rome; and four of the Greek Church – SS Athanasius (the Great) of Alexandria, Basil (the Great) of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzen (called “the Theologian”) and John Chrysostom.

Since the 16th century, the list of doctors of the Church has grown to about 30 and includes a number of great teachers of the Church who are women. SS Teresa of Avila (who scolded bishops), Catherine of Sienna (who scolded popes) and Hildegarde of Bingen are among them.

There’s a woefully inadequate “biography” I wrote of St Augustine in Sunday’s bulletin and a little booklet I’ve prepared with some of his memorable quotes you’ll also find there. Some of the saint’s writings are a bit difficult to read, but others, his Confessions or the Enchiridion (a small handbook on the Christian faith) are easy to read and digest. I have a couple of copies of each, if you’re interested. Though it’s quite beyond my pay scale and level of competence, I’d be willing to give an indulgence to anybody who’d take up and read one of his books…

Pizza This Sunday!

This is the last Sunday of the month so it’s time for our August parish luncheon. Usually the Vestry provides a big batch o’ fried chicken, but not this Sunday. It’s boxes and boxes o’ pizzas instead, so y’all bring salads and desserts and whatever else goes with pizza, and we’ll do our collective best to do justice to the table. AND PLEASE NOTE, beloved, that we’ll be collecting food for the New Braunfels food bank both in the big basket at the back of the church and in a couple of boxes in David Hall, one by each entrance. We have much at our parish to be thankful for; let’s show our gratitude to God by being generous with others.
 
Before the food, be the flock of God never so impatient, come the prayers and blessings. Sunday we’ll bless (and sprinkle) those who’ve had birthdays and anniversaries in August. God grant y’all many years!

Collection for the Flood Victims in Louisiana

We’ve had a couple of donations made for the people suffering as a result of the recent flooding in Louisiana. In your Sunday bulletin you’ll find a specially-labeled envelope in hopes you’ll give something to add to the money (over $500 thus far) already set aside as a gift from St Joseph’s. We’ll collect money through September 5th (Labor Day) – having received permission from the owners of Texas Tubes, I’ll be hitting up our parking “toobers” both this Sunday and on the Labor Day weekend. 

Report on August Vestry Meeting

Our Vestry met this Sunday in David Hall following the 10.30 Eucharist. A written summary of some of our discussions and resolutions is in your Sunday bulletin, and at our Pizzafest Sunday, I’ll be speaking briefly about a few of the things that we discussed.

Blessing of Students and Teachers

Next Sunday, September 4th, at the 10.30 Eucharist, we’ll have special prayers for and a holy dousing of the students and teachers of our parish who are all still eager about the new school year.

Pray, Brethren… for Sharon, still waits for more tests and sends her thanks for your on-going prayers; for Russ, recuperating at home and Charlotte, his loving caregiver; for Jillian; for Bruce on his birthday, for Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; Elizabeth, fighting breast cancer while running a support group for those in chronic pain, her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain, supporting her through it all. Remember William & Peggy, Neill and Alec. Pray for Pat, undergoing chemotherapy; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, all living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, for Josh, and for Celeste; for Orlinda, for Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben and for Benny, a friend of mine and retired policeman, having new problems from an old gunshot wound; pray for John, for Middy, for Frieda and for Peggy; remember the Redland family. Pray for James and his wife Carol, on a tour of America’s National Parks in the west. Pray for Chris, working diligently to prepare his house for the market. Remember before the Lord the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS. Pray for the victims of the floods in Louisiana, especially Tanya’s family, who live in one of the hard-hit areas. Pray for Rose and Monty, whose grandson died and for Paul and Rhea, who also mourn. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Robert, Billy, Jenna, Karl, Caleb, Lucille, Jacques (priest), and Patricia, the anniversary of whose death we’ll remember Sunday. In all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God…especially for Bruce on his birthday and for William, who’s aspirancy for Holy Orders was endorsed by our Vestry last Sunday. Now he’s really got to start studying! 

Services This Week

There will be no weekday services this week.

Friday is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, August 26, 2016, being the feast of St Victor of Spain, Martyred by the Moors, 950

August 21, 2016
Sunday in the Octave of the Dormition of St Mary the Virgin & Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

The earliest strands of Christian tradition place the Blessed Virgin in a central place in God’s plan for “us men and our salvation.” St Luke introduces Mary near the beginning of his Gospel, where he presents her as the prefect handmaid of God. The Angel Gabriel announces that she is God’s choice to serve as mother of His Son, and the Virgin’s reply is meant to be the response of every believing soul to the call of God: “Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord,” her answer is couched in the masterful translation of the King James Bible. The Greek original is a bit shocking to our ears: “I am the slave of God. Do to me as you have said.”

St Luke goes on to tell her story, intertwined with that of her Son: her Visitation to St Elizabeth, the soon-to-be mother of St John Baptist, wherein Elizabeth exclaims “blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!” followed by St Mary’s song, the Magnificat, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior” (we say it every day at Evening Prayer – it’s on page 26 of the Prayer Book); with St Joseph she presents Him in the Temple, where the aged prophet Simeon tells her that because of what will happen to her Son, “a sword shall pierce your heart”; and so on through whole of St Luke – the Virgin is the perfect mother of the Lord and the model for every Christian soul. While the other Gospel writers augment our knowledge of St Mary, her place in Christian tradition is (literally) crowned in the Book of the Revelation of St John. There, in the beginning of chapter twelve, the Apostle tells us, not another story of her life on earth, but a picture of St Mary glorified: “behold, a great wonder appeared in Heaven, a woman, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head, a crown of twelve stars…and she brought forth a male Child, one Who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron…” This is the Bible’s teaching about St Mary.

If you read through the twelfth chapter of St John’s Apocalypse, you see that the Apostle draws a connection between St Mary the Virgin and the One Church. In his understanding, St Mary is a symbol of the Church. St Luke has presented her to us as the ideal Christian soul, following God’s call through the whole of her life. St John says the one who is the Mother of the Savior is also the sign – the “wonder” – the boast, of the Church.

The Dormition acknowledges St Mary as a daughter of Eve, paying the price of our humanity: she, like all of us, has to die. But at the same time it celebrates the woman crowned in Heaven, taken to Himself at her death by her Son.

St Mary isn’t incidental, a passing character in God’s working out of our salvation. She is what God intends all of us to be.

An icon of the Dormition of the Virgin is on the stand next to the baptismal font in the narthex of St Joseph’s. It’s a copy of an icon in St Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, DC, which is itself a copy of an original 14th-century icon in the Dormition of the Theotokos Monastery outside Pskov, Russia (Pskov is about 450 miles northwest of Moscow). On the table next to the icon is a framed enlargement of its most interesting detail: Christ is depicted standing alongside the bier holding the Virgin’s body. Cradled in His hands is a tiny figure, wrapped in white. It’s St Mary’s soul, which He has come to bring with Him to Heaven. The Lord looks down affectionately at His mother’s body. He is surrounded by a large halo, called a mandorla (the Italian word for almond), and gray angels inside the mandorla with Him (gray to indicate the glory in which they are depicted merely reflects the glory of Christ). The icon shows St Mary surrounded by the Apostles and a variety of saints. This recalls the symbolism of the Book of the Revelation, which shows the Blessed Virgin as not only the Mother of God, but as the pre-eminent symbol of the Church. And as the Lord is shown taking His mother into Heaven, He is symbolically taking, in and through her, His Holy Church, too. The feasts glorifying St Mary as feasts meant to reveal our future glorification as well. As He takes her soul to Himself, so He will, in His good time, take our souls as well.

That’s a lot of good theology in one picture. Maybe one good icon is worth many thousand words, and I should just show pictures instead of preaching! I said should, not would, Larry!

Hymns This Sunday
Our Processional Hymn this Sunday will be “Sing of Mary,” # 117 in the Hymnal. The lyrics were written in 1914 by a young Canadian priest, Fr Roland Palmer, SSJE, who became a stalwart leader to the traditional Anglican movement in the late 1970s & 80s. Fr Palmer worked in the mission fields of northern Canada for much of his long ministry before retiring in Victoria, BC, in 1969 at 78. After the “Continuing Church” began in Canada, Fr Palmer became one of its most influential leaders, coming out of retirement and serving in parishes on Vancouver Island till his death in 1985. He was the author of four devotional books and several books on the Anglican liturgy, as well as a translator of hymns. “Sing of Mary is the only hymn he wrote, but it became very popular, published in our American Hymnal of 1940, Common Praise, the hymnal of the Anglican Church in Canada and in many other Anglican and Roman Catholic hymnals, some of which quaintly call it “a traditional Catholic hymn,” which would have delighted Fr Palmer, who wrote a longish booklet titled “Why I Am Not a Roman Catholic”!

The music Fr Palmer chose for his hymn was drawn for the first hymnal published for general use in America, The Christian Lyre, in 1831. The author, the Rev Joshua Levitt, a Congregationalist minister and abolitionist, named the tune Pleading Savior. It’s also the tune for hymn # 511in our hymnal. Here it is, sung very tastefully by the choir of the Daughters of St Paul: https://youtu.be/JrzW3lMtKPM

Our Offertory Hymn, “O Glorious Maid,” a Latin hymn in honor of the Blessed Virgin dating from the 7th or 8th century, was sung as part of the Daily Offices on feasts of St Mary for many centuries. The Latin text was much-tinkered with through the Middle Ages, partly because of difficulties with the meter of the poem, and partly because some of the wording was considered clumsy. Its original title, O Gloriosa Femina (“O Glorious Woman”), came to be considered impolite; its next title, O Gloriosa Domina, (“O Glorious Mistress”) was considered too secular; it’s third title, O Gloriosa Virginum (“O Thou of Virgins Most Glorious”) messed up the Latin meter dreadfully. Sometime in the 18th century its original title was quietly restored. Fortunately for us, the English translation we’re using was made for the English Hymnal in 1906 by one of the greatest Anglican translators of hymns, Percy Dearmer. The music, Puer Nobis, is a medieval folk tune, re-worked by Michael Praetorius, the great 16th century composer. It’s used three times in our hymnal, # 47, 98 and 158. Here it is, played on a modest but pleasant pipe organ: https://youtu.be/Wu-1qlh7YFU

Our final hymn Sunday, “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones,” (# 599 in our hymnal) was written by an English nobleman, John Athelstan Laurie Riley, for publication in the 1906 English Hymnal. Riley, trained in music and classical languages at Oxford, translated about a dozen hymns for inclusion in that hymnal, but “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones,” based partially on an ancient Greek hymn to the Virgin, is the only hymn Riley ever published of his own. The music, Vigiles et Sancti, is based on an old German Easter hymn first published in a Jesuit hymnal of 1623. Here it’s sung very nicely by the Choir of Belfast Cathedral a few years back: https://youtu.be/_mZT59b3Kaw

August Vestry Meeting
Our Vestry meets this Sunday in David Hall following the 10.30 Eucharist.

Blessing of the Foundation Work
Just before the 10.30 Mass this Sunday, we’ll gather outside the front doors and bless the newly-completed (and fully-paid for) foundation work on the church. It’s been muggy and hot and there’s not much reason to expect different – the weather channel predicts a 100% chance of thunderstorms, for what that’s worth – so it will be a thorough but very brief blessing. Even Lynn Mahaffey may be anxious to get back into the air conditioning!

Pray, Brethren…for Sharon, still patiently waiting for more tests while in pain (her halo after all this will blind us all when she’s able to come back to church); for Russ, recuperating at home and Charlotte, his daily caregiver; for Jillian; Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; pray for Elizabeth, fighting breast cancer, her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain, supporting her through it all. Pray for Pat, undergoing chemotherapy; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, Josh, and Celeste; for Orlinda, Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben and for Benny, a friend of mine and retired policeman, having new problems from an old gunshot wound; Pray for John, Middy, for Frieda and Peggy; remember the Redland family: Alyson, applying for college, and for Angie and the girls traveling to visit family before school starts. Remember others in our parish family on the road, especially James and his wife Carol, taking an Amtrack Tour of America’s National Parks in the west. Pray for Chris, working diligently on fixing up his house before putting it on the market. Remember before the Lord the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS. Pray for the victims of the floods in Louisiana, especially Tanya’s family, who live in one of the hard-hit areas. Pray for Rose and Monty, whose grandson just died and for Paul and Rhea, who mourn. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Robert, Billy, Jenna, Karl, Caleb, Lucille and for Jacques (priest). And in all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God…

Services This Week
There will be no weekday services this week.

 Friday is a Day of Abstinence

 I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, August 19, 2016, being the feast of St Seebald of Nuremburg, Hermit, 770


August 14, 2016
The Forefeast of the Dormition of St Mary the Virgin and the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

 Another forefeast? 

Some things are just too good to pass up. The feast of the Dormition (the “Falling Asleep”) of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of those. The Dormition is Monday, and for many centuries has been observed with an octave (an eight-day celebration) in Western Christianity and a week-long “afterfeast” by Eastern Orthodox Christians. Our western Christian tradition calls the day before a feast a vigil (in Latin, vigilia means “watch” – not the timepiece but as “to be on watch” for something), but I like the old English “forefeast” better.

You’ll remember that on the Church’s calendar, most of the saints’ days we celebrate are on the day that the saint died (“fell asleep”). Their earthly deaths are sometimes called their “heavenly birthdays.” The reason is that our birthdays here on earth (which many of us try to forget as those numbers add up) fade in importance to our birthdays in Heaven. Here, we’re born into a world of great beauty and wonder, to live a life surrounded by good friends and loving families. Problem is, it doesn’t always work out that way. Each of our lives, regardless of how fortunate our circumstances or how happy our home life, are a mix of joy and sorrow, exhilaration and grief. The grossest sinner and the greatest saint have that in common.

As we stand at the foot of the grave, the Burial Office of the Prayer Book begins with the grim reminder of this: “Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.” While it goes on to affirm the “sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ,” the Prayer Book insists on the reality of sin and its consequence.

So we celebrate the “heavenly birthday” of St Mary the Virgin by first recognizing that she who is blest above all women had to pay the price of our common mortality. We begin by remembering her “falling asleep.” Our celebrations of the saints aren’t “wakes,” remembering the good things they did in the past and what fine folks they were. We do tell their stories, the Prayer Book tells us, as “ensamples,” examples of what God does in the lives of His people. But our real celebration doesn’t so much focus on times past as in time present and to come. The saints are alive now, in the presence of God. They praise God in Heaven and pray for us on earth, till our own heavenly birthdays “promote” us to where they are.

St Mary was closer to God on earth than any other creature ever has been or ever will be. She carried God in her body for nine months. But she carried Him in her heart since He created and prepared her as a “dwelling place meet for Himself,” as the ancient hymn goes. For you and me, Heaven is a place we look forward to in hope. For her, who lived with God in her womb, fed Him from her breasts, held Him as a child, heard His words as a man and watched Him suffer and die, Heaven is not an aspiration, but a return to her Son. She is now where you and I hope to be.

Our celebration of St Mary’s Dormition begins with her death but culminates in her glorification. When we celebrate St Mary’s Dormition, we’re celebrating our own. The Lord took his daughter and raised her to Heaven, as He will take you and me, in His own good time, and raise us there, too.

Every “forefeast” is first and foremost a celebration, not just of a day on the calendar, but a Day which will never end, which our best imaginations are incapable of conjuring.

In the narthex, next to our baptismal font, you’ll see one of the most beautiful icons ever painted. It’s named the Virgin of Vladimir, originally painted (or “written” as the iconographers say) in 1400 by the greatest of Russia’s iconographers, Andrei Rublev (the picture of “Christ in Glory” hanging at the back of David Hall is also by Rublev). The original is in the Cathedral of the Dormition in Vladimir, Russia (Vladimir, 140 miles east of Moscow, was the capital in the 12th & 13th centuries). Some of the paint on Rublev’s original has deteriorated over the centuries; our copy is a duplicate of a proposed restoration which will most likely never happen, as most restorers have been unwilling to touch Rublev’s work. A line drawing of the Virgin of Vladimir is on the front of Sunday’s bulletin.

Also on the narthex table are a couple of pictures of the Pangaea Kapulu, the “House of the Virgin” outside Ephesus in modern-day Turkey. Since the second century it’s been venerated as the home of the Virgin after St John the Apostle, entrusted by our Lord Himself with her care, came to Ephesus about AD 40-45 to build the Church and serve as the first bishop there. I’ve done a write-up of the “House of the Virgin” in Sunday’s bulletin, but I found some good pictures we’ve had printed and framed. Jack Muff will be impressed when he learns it’s been declared an International Heritage Site by the United Nations.

The Collect for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui abundantia pietatis tuae et merita supplicum excedis et vota; effunde super nos misericordiam tuam, ut dimittas quae conscientia metuit, et adjicias quod oratio non praesumit.

Almighty and everlasting God, which art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve; pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving unto us that which our prayer  dare not presume to ask. – from the first English  Prayer Book of 1549

Almighty and everlasting God, Who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve; Pour down upon us the abundance of Thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask. – from the 1662 Prayer Book

Today’s collect has been much reworked since it was first written. The Latin above comes from the Gelasian Sacramentary (Pope St Gelasius died in 496) but that was a reworking of an earlier version of the collect from about 50 years earlier. It read: “God of the heavenly powers, Who gives us more than we either desire or deserve, we pray Thee to pour Thy mercy upon us, which we have not the confidence in our merits to ask.” The Gelasian version is a decided improvement on this, and the English translation of 1549 is a good translation of the Gelasian collect.

The revisers of the 1662 English Prayer Book altered some of the wording of the 1549 version (particularly the final line). The change isn’t a major one, but it many think it sounds better. “We are not worthy to ask” is a bit more in keeping with 17th century thinking than the more medieval (and, to my mind, preferable) “dare not presume to ask,” but beauty is in the ear of the listener as well as the beholder’s eyes, so druthers I’ll leave to you.

August Vestry Meeting

Our Vestry will have its meeting this month on the customary Third Sunday (that is, not this Sunday, but on August 21st) in David Hall following the 10.30 Eucharist.

 
Blessing of the Foundation Work

Just before the 10.30 Mass on Sunday, August 21st, we’ll gather outside the front doors and bless the newly-completed (and fully-paid for) foundation work on the church. It’s been blistering hot lately and there’s not much reason to expect different, so it will be a thorough but very brief blessing so we can get back to the air conditioning!

The Vestry has been looking at the repair of the church’s foundations for more than two years. Following Toya Boyer’s advice and a recommendation from Mike Mahaffey, the committee (made up of Mike Mahaffey, Larry Mooney and James Polhemus) decided to work with Alamo Hi-Tech, said to do the best foundation-work in the city (is that a commercial endorsement? do we get a rebate if it is?). Their work has a life-time guarantee (my question is “whose” lifetime? I’m holding out for that of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church).

Several of y’all have pointed out some slight cracks along the top of the southeast wall of David Hall. Larry Mooney brought the manager from Alamo into the hall one day as the work on the church was being done and asked if it was a serious problem. Though Alamo didn’t do the work, he told Larry a little “settling” was to be expected and it shouldn’t be a problem. We just need the cracks re-plastered. So, to quote somebody or other, “all’s well that ends well.” We’ll bless it all on the 21st, maybe with some modest celebratory treats after the Eucharist.

Pray, Brethren… for Sharon, now patiently waiting to see yet another doctor for more tests while still in pain; for Russ, recuperating at home; for Jillian; Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; pray for Elizabeth, fighting breast cancer, her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain, supporting her through it all. Pray for Pat, now undergoing chemotherapy after the successful removal of cancer from her ovaries; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, Josh, and Celeste; for Orlinda, Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben and for Benny, a friend of mine and retired policeman, having new problems from an old gunshot wound; offer a prayer of thanksgiving for Paul and Carmen, who have just moved into their new home after losing their previous one in the Wimberley floods (Paul is James Polhemus’ brother). Remember, also the Redland family: Alyson, who is applying for college, her parents trying to figure out how to pay for it, and for the whole carload of them as they travel this week. Remember others in our parish family on the road: James and his wife Carol, taking a special Amtrack Tour of America’s National Parks in the west, beginning with Glacier National Park (perhaps the two of them should be praying for the rest of us, who aren’t touring glaciers in the dog days of summer!), for Bill who’s visiting pals in the Carolinas, Kay who’s off with her children and Clare, who, with her faithful dog, Bingley and some friends from Finland, is gallivanting around central Texas, where I know she’s looking for a place to go to Sunday Mass. Pray for the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS and for the victims, living and dead, of attacks by Islamists. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Robert, Billy, Jenna, Karl, and Lucille; for Caleb and his parents, Paul and Rhea, who mourn. Pray also for the repose of the soul of Jacques (priest). And in all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God…

Services This Week

There will be no weekday services this week.

Friday is Not a Day of Abstinence

 I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

 Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, August 12, 2016, being the feast of St Clare of Assisi, Virgin, 1253


August 7, 2016
The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity and the Afterfeast of the Transfiguration of our Lord

Sunday we’ll be observing what is called the “afterfeast” of the Transfiguration of our Lord. What that means for us is we can celebrate the feast a day late. Since it has ample precedent, particularly given the history of this feast, I’m happy to take advantage of it. The feast is important because of what it means “for us men and for our salvation.”

Now it’s fair for you to be suspicious when I say that. It’s just the sort of thing a clergyman is supposed to say: “this feast day is important and meaningful because of blah-blah-blah, whatever.” Christmas and Easter are indeed our BIG days, no dispute about that. The Transfiguration has been celebrated on different dates and in different seasons – sometimes in Lent, sometimes in Eastertide, sometimes in the early spring, sometimes in the late summer -  over the centuries.  Though the feast had been celebrated for a thousand years, its date wasn’t set on August 6th until 1456. Pope Callixtus III declared the Transfiguration a universal feast not after theological reflection, but because on August 6th, the day the feast of the Transfiguration was celebrated in Rome, news reached him that the Muslim armies besieging Belgrade had been decisively defeated.   

So the theological “meaning” of the feast didn’t have much to do with its becoming fixed on our calendar. Why then an “afterfeast?”

Well, because things aren’t always what they seem.

We have a tendency – I certainly do – to be lazy, to take the point of least resistance, in religion as in most other things. Since its beginning, Christians have been tempted to water down our faith, to make it easy, to boil it down to a slogan that can fit on a bumpersticker. Salvation for a great many Christians, consists in believing that Jesus is my personal Savior and that’s that. Hallelujah! I believe, I’m saved. But God is more subtle than that, and so are we.

Salvation doesn’t just mean I’m not going to hell. Its message in not that I’ve escaped the consequences of all the rotten stuff that I’ve done and the flawed person I’ve become. Your own life tells you that’s not how things go.

Salvation comes from the good ole Latin word salus, health. God didn’t become one of us so a bunch of lazy creeps and sleazy bums could sit on clouds for eternity and try to figure out how to play harps. Salvation is what God does to take us lazy creeps and sleazy bums and transfigure us into sons and daughters. He wants to make us, in the words of the collect for the feast, “white and glistering” (that doesn’t refer to the color of your skin but status of your soul).

On Sunday, as we keep the afterfeast, we’ll be celebrating why Christmas and Easter are so important. God didn’t “come down” to be one of us so we’d feel good about ourselves and how important we are, or feel bad about ourselves and how rotten we can be. He came to restore His image in us – the image the Bible says He gave to Adam, the same one He gave to you and me – the one each of us has lost. Salvation is, first, the restoration of that image. Since we can’t do that for ourselves (and wouldn’t if we could), He does it for us. That’s what baptism is.  Second, salvation is you and me living Christ’s life in our own lives, day by day. We share with Him the task of making all things new. Christ’s Transfiguration revealed the glory of God in a world unable (and unwilling) to see. He calls us to do the same.


In the narthex, next to our baptismal font, there’s a traditional icon of the Transfiguration (as if we’d have any other kind). It shows Christ perched atop Mount Tabor, flanked by Moses and the Prophet Elijah. Below them, crouched in amazement and confusion, are SS Peter, James and John. Most striking though, are the multiplicity and types of halos surrounding our Lord. They’re meant to show that Christ, as God and Man, is far more than His apostles imagined or that we can conceive. Those layered halos reveal the depth of God’s glory, hidden in the humanity of Christ. They tell us that God, Who we cannot understand and Whose glory we can never imagine, is with us. And just so we can get a glimpse of what that means, St Thomas Aquinas tells us plainly, “He has made us to be His friends.”

This Sunday’s Hymns
Our hymns this Sunday are all set to good, singable and familiar music, even if we may not immediately recognize the all the lyrics. Our first hymn, though, is near the top of most everybody’s favorites, “Holy, Holy, Holy” (# 266 in the Hymnal. It was written about 1815, by the Rt Rev Reginald Heber, Bishop of Calcutta from 1823 until his death in 1826 (from the heat! – India wasn’t the most salubrious place for an Oxford man). A poet of some ability, Bishop Heber was unimpressed by most “modern” hymns of his day (200 years ago!) and published a book of his own, set to use with the Prayer Book Calendar. He wrote 57 hymns during his relatively short life (he died at 43), but “Holy, Holy, Holy” is his best-known. The music for his hymn, titled Nicaea, was written by the Rev John Dykes, a priest and prolific composer of church music, who composed more than 300 hymn tunes. He began his musical career at 12, when he was made organist of his parish church. He went on to study music at Cambridge, where he was president of the musical society. Dykes was ordained to the priesthood at 25, in 1848, and the next year was appointed canon precentor for Durham Cathedral (a “canon precentor” is the clergyman in charge of music at a cathedral). He wrote Nicaea in 1861, one of his 17 hymn-tunes in our hymnal. Here it is, decently sung without bongo drums or electric guitars: https://youtu.be/rBGTPh2Xn_o

Our Offertory Hymn this week is one you already know the music for, so I’ll start there. In our hymnal it’s # 363, and the tune is titled “Slane.” Slane Hill in Ireland, after which the music is named, is famous for its association with St Patrick. When Patrick brought the Gospel to Ireland, the pagans were neither impressed nor interested. The High King of Tara, Lo­gaire, forbad the bishop from celebrating Easter in 433. Part of the ancient Easter celebrations (which we still observe) was lighting and blessing the New Fire on Easter Eve. In response to the king’s edict, Patrick led his converts up Slane Hill, the highest spot in Logaire’s land, and there lit a huge Easter bonfire that could easily be seen from the king’s castle. Logaire was furious and led his soldiers to the hill, where the saint invited them to warm themselves “by the Fire of Christ’s Resurrection.” Logaire, taken by the saint’s bravery, grudgingly exclaimed “If only my warriors were so fearless!” He allowed the celebration, granted Patrick permission to preach, and eventually let the bishop build a monastery atop Slane Hill. The tune is an old Irish folk melody. The hymn we’ll sing to it is one we’ve sung before, though it’s not in our hymnal. “Be Thou My Vision,” is an Irish prayer-poem by the 8th century Irish poet St Dal­lan For­gaill. Dallan was blind, which explains the hymn’s opening line. The version we’ll sing was translated from Old Irish in 1905. Here it is, from a BBC broadcast: https://youtu.be/ykzZAODJSIE

Finally our Recessional Hymn is something we sing (part of, anyway) every Sunday. “From All That Dwell” (# 277), is a paraphrase of Psalm 117, the Bible’s shortest Psalm – it’s only two verses. The lyrics were written in 1711 by Isaac Watts, the “Father of English Hymnography,” who wrote more than 750 hymns (his best-known are “Joy to the World,” and “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”) The last verse of the hymn, which everybody knows, was written, not by Watts but by an English “Non-Juring” bishop, Bl Thomas Ken, in 1695 as the last verse of his own hymn “Awake My Soul.” The tune, called “Old Hundredth,” composed in 1551 by Louis Bourgeois, combines elements of medieval Plainsong with a French folk tune. Here’s Old Hundredth, played by 100 tubas, trumpets and coronets at a Jr High School in Houston! It’s worth a listening to, even for a group directed by a shirtless conductor:  https://youtu.be/0YXe_jaGvGE

Ingathering Food Collection for NB Food Bank
Our ongoing Ingathering Collection continues on behalf of the Food Bank here in town. The Food Bank hands out a basic packet of groceries – non-perishable food items – consisting of bags of flour, rice, sugar, beans, pasta, as well as tomato sauce, oatmeal and peanut butter. While they are happy to accept any other foodstuffs, these are what they need the most. On Sunday, August 28th, the day of our monthly parish luncheon, please remember to bring an item or two for our collection for the Food Bank. We’ll have a special place in David Hall, as well as the fancy basket for it in the back corner of the church to take your donations. If you have any questions as to the program and what is best to bring, please ask Toya Boyer, who’s the Woman in Charge. Thank you for your generosity!

Pray, Brethren…

for Sharon, patiently and uncomplainingly undergoing a lengthy series of tests while still in much pain; for Russ, recuperating at home; for Jillian; Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; pray for Elizabeth, fighting breast cancer, her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain, supporting her through it all. Pray for Pat, diagnosed with ovarian cancer and afraid; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, Josh, and Celeste; for Orlinda, Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben; pray for Paul and Carmen, still living with the results of last years’ flooding. Remember, please, the Redland family, especially Alyson, applying for college, her parents trying to figure out how to pay for it, and for the whole carload of them as they travel this coming week. Pray for the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS and for the victims, living and dead, of attacks by Islamists. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Robert, Billy, Jenna, Karl, and Lucille; for Caleb and his parents, Paul and Rhea, who mourn. Pray also for the repose of the soul of Jacques (priest). And yet, in all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God…

Services This Week

There will be no weekday services this week.

Friday is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, August 5, being the feast of St Venantius, Bishop of Viviers, 544


 

July 31, 2016
The Tenth Sunday after Trinity
God doesn’t get mad, regardless of what we do. He doesn’t get happy, either. When the Bible says He’s angry or sad or glad or worried, it’s using an analogy, saying something we understand to help us understand something we don’t (or, in this case, Someone we can’t). God doesn’t change, He is forever the same. He doesn’t get His feelings hurt if somebody says bad things about Him, and He isn’t happy if we’re particularly good. He is always the same.

To say that isn’t to say He lives snug as a bug in Heaven, unconcerned and uncaring about what happens to you and me. Heaven is not an ivory tower, where God and the angels and saints abide in self-satisfied bliss. We speak about God using analogies because God is above anything we can say or think of, so only analogies will do. St Thomas Aquinas, to help us understand a bit, wrote that God is That Thing about which we can’t think of anything good enough to say. Everything we say about God, we say by analogy. When we say God is love, it’s true, He is; but it’s not true in that we’re using words to describe Him Who is above description. Our word “love” isn’t loving enough to say that God is love. Anything we say about God falls infinitely short of the truth.

I’m not trying to give you a headache or make you feel insignificant; just the opposite. In the book of Exodus, you remember when God appears to Moses in the Burning Bush (you might remember it better if you picture Moses as Charlton Heston). When Moses asks God His Name, God replies “I AM WHO I AM.” That’s a way of saying the only one who can really say anything about God accurately is God Himself. He’s is utterly beyond our comprehension.

But His love for us is so great, if we remember that “love” is incapable of expressing it, that He made us and everything else, to delight and revel in Who He Is. To help us to come to terms with Him, He became one of us. That’s what the Incarnation, the birth and life and death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, is. So we could know Him, He Who is limitless took our limited nature. Jesus Christ is God, no ifs ands or buts. In Him, God gets mad and angry and glad and worried. In Christ, God smiles at His creation with a human face. He loves us and heals us with hands that are human. We say that Jesus came to save us from our sins, and that’s true. But He did – and does – much more than that. He became one of us so we could know God, not in an ivory tower, but in the nitty-gritty of our everyday lives.

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus cries genuine, sorrowful tears when He goes to Jerusalem and sees the city. He is profoundly sad at the Holy City which hasn’t grasped what holiness is. When He rides into the city and goes to the Temple, and He sees that it’s degenerated into a money-making enterprise, He is genuinely angry. He makes a whip and hits people with it. He turns tables upside down because He’s really and truly mad. He’s not behaving analogously, but as God would behave if He was a perfect Man, because that’s what and Who Jesus is.

Our faith then, and by that I mean the Catholic religion, is unique as religions go. It is the dizzyingly wondrous paradox that God is utterly above and outside His creation so as to be completely incomprehensible to it, and yet He comes from Heaven to be one of us so He is now forever a part of it. In Christ, the unknowable love of God becomes knowable, the incomprehensible understandable, the analogy falls away.

“This is,” the Athanasian Creed teaches us, “the Catholic Faith. Without it, a man cannot be saved.”


St Benjamin of Petrograd, Bishop & Martyr, 1922
When we think of saints, most of the time we think of people a long time ago. But if the words of the children’s hymn, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God,” mean anything, they mean that saints are not only part of the Christian past, but part of the present and future, too. “They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still.” Sunday we celebrate a saint who died (well, was executed by a firing squad) in 1922.

Bishop Benjamin was the saintly Russian Orthodox Bishop of Petrograd (once – and now again – St Petersburg). He was much-loved in the city, especially by the poor, to whom he devoted his life. For that very reason, he was a particular threat to the Bolsheviks after the Red Revolution. Orders came from Moscow to get rid of him, but the local soviet found that easier said than done. His story is in our Sunday bulletin and I hope you’ll take time to read it. I have a couple of pictures of the bishop displayed in the narthex. He was executed in the pre-dawn hours of July 31, 1922. As we remember him, may we benefit by his prayers.He was executed in the pre-dawn hours of July 31, 1922. As we remember him, may we benefit by his prayers.

This Sunday’s Hymns
We’ll begin the 10.30 Eucharist on Sunday with the hymn, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” (#355). Its author, the Rev Edward Perronet, came from a long line of Anglican clergy and from his youth had determined to follow in their steps. His father was close friends with the Rev Jon Wesley, the prominent Anglican priest and preacher, and Edward grew up with the Wesley brothers as frequent guests in his father’s rectory. After attending Oxford, he was ordained in 1743. Though he served a parish in southeast England, he accompanied John Wesley on many of his preaching tours. Every time Wesley invited him to preach, however, Perronet refused, so much did he hold Wesley in awe. One day Wesley simply announced to the crowd that Perronet would preach. Perronet’s quick wit saved him: he stood before the crowd and announced they were about to hear the best sermon they ever would. He then opened his Bible and read to the expectant crowd the Sermon on the Mount.

In 1780, Perronet wrote and published an Easter poem, “On the Resurrection,” which ran to twelve verses. This was to become our hymn, though he re-worded some of the verses and re-named the hymn several times over the years. It appeared in something very close to its present form in 1785, under the title “All Hail! the Great Emmanuel’s Name.” Perronet was a very popular and prolific writer, especially of controversial religious pamphlets (it was said of him by Charles Wesley that “No man exists with whom Edward cannot start a fight.”) and Perronet died a wealthy man. He confounded his family by leaving his entire fortune to the man who wrote a setting for the hymn we’re singing this Sunday.

The composer of the hymn’s music was an American, Oliver Holden, from Charleston, Massachusetts. He was a real estate broker by profession, but had received musical training in his youth and it continued to be his life-long passion. He composed the music for our hymn in 1793. Over his lifetime, Holden published four books of hymn tunes, folk melodies and country airs. When George Wash­ing­ton vis­it­ed Bos­ton in 1789, Hold­en was chosen to write the lyr­ics, score the music and train the choir which sang for him at the State House. Here is our hymn in a “sing-along” version, with lyrics: https://youtu.be/fvnPmO5sQrg

 Our Offertory Hymn, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” (# 197), comes from the fourth-century Eastern Orthodox Liturgy of St James. It’s sung as the clergy process to the Altar with the bread and wine, a sort of fixed Eucharistic hymn. Each verse of the hymn reflects the worship of God described somewhere in Scripture: verse 1, Habakkuk 2.20; verse 2, Revelation 19.16; verse 3, St Matthew 19.27; verse 4, Isaiah 6.2-3. The translation in our hymnal was made from the Greek text by Gerard Moultrie, an Anglican priest and hymnographer, in 1864.

The tune, called Picardy after the region in northern France where it originated, was a 17th century folk song.  Ralph Vaughan Williams, the English composer and lover of folk songs, adapted it for use with our hymn in the1906 English Hymnal. It’s sung here by the Choir of Somerville College, Oxford: https://youtu.be/0Dy_qdLwej4

Our Recessional Hymn this Sunday is an old favorite of many – Jack Muff especially, as I recall. The lyrics for “Onward, Christian Soldiers” (# 557) were written in 1865 by the Rev Sabine Baring-Gould, who, in addition to being an Anglican priest, was a folklorist, collector of English folk songs (he published four volumes of them in the 1870s), a novelist (18 over a twenty-four year period), hymnographer (“Onward, Christian Soldiers” was his biggest “hit”), archaeologist and, as his biographer put it “a scholar of eclectic and unpredictable interests” (he wrote a well-known and still much-used 13 volume set of the Lives of the Saints, several travel books on regions of France, and a book on the Lore of Lycanthropy [were-wolves]). He regarded his books on folk songs as his most enduring and best work, but Baring-Gould will forever be known as the author of “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”

According to Baring-Gould’s wife, he wrote the lyrics one afternoon in less than 15 minutes, something he was embarrassed about after the hymn gained popularity. He allowed publishers to alter the original words if they wanted, so several versions exist, but our hymnal retains the original lyrics.

The hymn didn’t really “catch on,” however, until Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert & Sullivan fame) decided to set the words to music during a visit to the country estate of friends. The woman of the house, whose name was Gertrude, encouraged him in his work, so when he finished the piece he called the tune “St Gertrude,” the title it bears to this day. When Baring-Gould’s words were published with Sullivan’s music, the hymn became an overnight best-seller.

 In the early 1980s several American denominations, principally the Episcopal, United Methodist and Presbyterian churches, decided to publish new hymnals. All of them had determined to cut “Onward Christian Soldiers” because of its “militaristic message.” All backed down when the protests from the pews became too vocal. Since then, it has been removed from some modern hymnals, but others have changed the words to make them less offensive: “Onward, Comrades, Onward,” or “Onward Christian Pilgrims” are new titles that have appeared since the 1990s. We’ll stick with what we’ve got. Here it is, old words and all:  https://youtu.be/GiaLu2e28rU

Sunday Brunch
This is the last Sunday of the month and we’ll be having our usual Covered Dish Luncheon (NOT a “pot luck lunch,” I’ve been taught to say) after the 10.30 Eucharist. The Vestry will be providing a Donald Trump-sized, HUGE, bucket of chicken strips with a variety of dips. The rest, dearly beloved, is up to you. Before we fall on the food, though, we’ll bless those who’ve celebrated birthdays and/or anniversaries this month; I’ll have a full bucket o’ holy water to hand. Because we need to vacate the parking lot by 1.00 PM, and because I love y’all and don’t want to cut short your eating, there will not be a sermon at the late Mass (maybe I’ll preach at the 8 o’clock?). I can hear the sighs and protests now, but never fear: I’ll make it up the next Sunday (when Larry will be back in town!).

 

Help “Flower the Cross!”
When you next walk into the front door of David Hall, take a look at the new parish Cross James Polhemus recently made for us. It looks kind of lonely hanging on the wall by itself. I’m asking every member of our parish to bring a framed picture of yourself or your family and hang it alongside the Cross. If you don’t have a picture flattering enough, Tanya has volunteered to make a photo of you. We’ll be hanging some recent pictures we’ve made of all of us (well, all of us who were there for the picture) this Sunday at our Parish Covered Dish Lunch. Bring a picture with you that day and we’ll make a party of it!

Pray, Brethren…

for Sharon, who is still undergoing a lengthy series of tests; for Russ, still recuperating; for Jillian; Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; pray for Elizabeth, fighting breast cancer, and her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain, supporting her through it all. Pray for Pat, just diagnosed with ovarian cancer; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, Josh, and Celeste; for Orlinda, Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben; pray for Paul and Carmen, rebuilding their home after last years’ flooding. Pray for the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS and for the victims, living and dead, of attacks by Islamists. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Robert, Billy, Jenna, Karl, and Lucille; for Caleb and his parents, Paul and Rhea, who mourn. Pray also for the repose of the soul of Jacques (priest), martyred in Rouen, France this week. And yet, in all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God…

Services This Week

There will be no weekday services this week.

Friday is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, July 29, being the feast of SS Mary and Martha of Bethany


July 24, 2016
The Ninth Sunday after Trinity
Sometimes when Jesus spoke, His words were hard to understand. “I am come, not to bring peace, but a sword.” “He who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: he that loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me,” “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” Sometimes the Lord’s words weren’t so hard to understand as they were difficult to accept, and even more difficult to obey. “If someone smacks you on one cheek, turn to them the other.” “If a man asks for your coat, give him your shirt, too.” “If you would be perfect, go, sell all you own, give it to the poor, then come and follow me.”

The Sunday Gospel isn’t only easy to understand, it’s something we enjoy hearing. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is just a good story. It’s not hard to figure out. Without going into the details of metaphors or analogies, everybody gets it: the loving father, the foolish son, even the justifiably angry older brother, it’s a story that cuts to the heart of the hearer. How many times have you heard it? Regardless of whether it’s only once or you’re hearing it for the fiftieth time, I’d be willing to bet $10 American that you get a lump in your throat when the father, at the end of the parable, answers the pent-up fury of the prodigal’s brother: Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. But it is meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for your brother was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

We read this story twice a year: at the Eucharist on the Ninth Sunday after Trinity and at Evening Prayer on Ash Wednesday. Every time I hear it I think how foolish it would be for me to try to preach after it’s been read. What further needs to be said? What words could augment those we’ve just heard?

And yet (you knew my justification was coming after that display of thin humility), even the most profound and moving of stories raises as many questions as some of the hard-to-understand words of the Lord mentioned above. So many questions, actually, that the little space I have here couldn’t even enumerate, much less attempt to answer.

I want to address one question only and that not thoroughly. In our current culture, we hear a lot about “unconditional love.” It isn’t just bandied about in books of pop psychology or sessions in the therapist’s office. I once heard a judge in a Los Angeles courtroom opine about it as he was reviewing his verdict.

Without listening to the purveyors of wisdom on TV shows, we all know what unconditional love means, because we’ve all experienced it. We see the tear-stained faces of the parents of a mass murderer talk about how sorry they are for what their son has done, and in the same sentence say how much they love him. Think of the person you love most and then think about what you would do, what you would give up, to save them from death or terror. There are no conditions you would place on their safety and well-being. That is love without conditions.

The danger in the Parable of the Prodigal Son is not that it paints a masterful picture of unconditional love, but it raises the question of unconditional indulgence (that’s why the older brother is an essential part of the story). Love and indulgence aren’t the same. In what has become a tiresome topic, but nonetheless one we cannot avoid since it’s foisted on us daily, the plain and constant teaching of the Church is that the practice of homosexuality is sinful. It is also the plain and constant teaching of the Church that every person created by God is loved by Him. Our calling, as Christians, is to “go, and do likewise” as another of our Lord’s parables concludes. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I don’t know of a single family in that doesn’t have a homosexual as a member. We love them. I wish I could say unconditionally, but it wouldn’t be true. I’ve known some parents – not many, but some – who have rejected their homosexual children, as I’ve known parents who have done the same for a variety of reasons. They need to ponder this story.

But love and indulgence are not the same. To love someone doesn’t mean we approve all they do, or think, or believe. Isaiah the Prophet warns “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who take darkness for light and light for darkness, who call bitter sweet and sweet bitter!” That’s what we’re all tempted to do, not just about homosexuality, abut about anything that puts us at odds with the world.

Contrary to what we want, love is sometimes the most difficult of things. It makes demands on us we don’t want to deal with. Beloved, it’s that way for all of us at times. Nobody escapes the chance, sometime in their life, to be the father of the prodigal. We will be called on to show unconditional love, often at the cost of heartbreak and tears. Just remember this, it’s how God loves us, all the time, because we are the real prodigals, and God is at all times and in all places our loving Father.

St James the Greater, Apostle

Sunday we’ll be “anticipating the feast” (as the liturgical books teach us to say) of St James the Greater, the Apostle. His feast day is actually on Monday, July 25th. What we know of his story is in the Sunday bulletin, so I’ll note only one thing here: there were two of our Lord’s apostles named James (just like we have several men in our parish named William and several women named Catherine). To distinguish between the two Jameses, one is called (and was probably so-called by the Lord Himself) “the greater” and the other is/was called “the less.” This wasn’t because the Lord Jesus liked one of them more than the other (I’m sure, like the mothers of several children, He would’ve said He “loved them all the same”), but because James the Greater was taller than James the Less. That was what people said in those days. It kind of makes me wonder now when I read of Pope St Leo the Great or St Basil the Great of Caesarea…

Our first hymn at the 10.30 Mass on Sunday, “The God of Abraham Praise” (# 285), is a paraphrase of a traditional Jewish hymn written about 1350 by Daniel ben Judah. One night in 1772, Thomas Olivers, an English priest who was friends with John Wesley, attended services at the Great Synagogue in London. During the course of the liturgy, ben Judah’s hymn, called the Yigdal, was sung. Captivated by the haunting melody and lyrics, Olivers got a copy of the text and that night wrote a paraphrase, giving it a Trinitarian ending. He also obtained a copy of the melody, which he used to compose his text. He showed it to his friend, John Wesley, who arranged for the hymn to be published. It has been in both Anglican and Methodist hymnals since. The Yigdal runs to 14 verses in Hebrew; Oliver’s paraphrase, with its final Christian verse, has 15. There are five in our hymnal, of which we’ll sing two Sunday morning. Here it is, https://youtu.be/goOK5vwzUeQ

We sang The Church’s One Foundation (# 396) only a few weeks back, so I won’t repeat all I wrote then. Suffice to say, when you come to church on Sunday, you’ll see all the work necessary to keep our parish church’s one foundation intact, so it seemed only meet and right that we celebrate the work with this hymn. Here is a very English rendition: https://youtu.be/OQv4EAwMFoQ

Our Recessional Hymn, “We Gather Together” (#315), is one we usually associate with Thanksgiving, turkey, Pilgrims and happy Native Americans. But it was written in 1597 to celebrate the defeat of a Spanish army by the Dutch. The lyrics were translated from Dutch into Latin and eventually into English in 1894. English words were matched to the tune we all know, called Kresmer, after its composer. Eduard Kresmser (born in 1838), was a musician and lover of German and Austrian folk songs. He published many volumes of both during his long career, and wrote many pieces of music based on the old folk tunes. Kresmer is one of these. It was difficult for me to find a decent version of this hymn on YouTube, till I stumbled on this, sung by the Cedarmont Kids: https://youtu.be/8i6yH92PGt4

Walk with Care!

When you come to church Sunday morning, you’ll see that the work on the church’s foundation is not yet finished. There are piles of dirt and busted concrete out front and along both sides of the building. It’s all been wrapped with Yellow “Caution” Tape, but please be careful! Most of our parking lot is okay for parking, but watch your step as you’ll have to go under (or jump over!) the tape to come into the front doors. The city building inspectors are expected on Monday and all should be nicely finished up by the end of next week. Thanks to Mike Mahaffey and Larry Mooney, who are keeping a close eye on the work and its progress.

Help “Flower the Cross!”

When you next walk into the front door of David Hall, take a look at the new parish Cross James Polhemus recently made for us. It looks kind of lonely hanging on the wall by itself. I’d like to ask every member of our parish to bring a framed picture of you or you and your family to hang alongside the Cross. If you don’t have a good picture, Tanya has volunteered to make a photo for you. We’ll be hanging one of the recent pictures we’ve made of all of us (well, all of us who were there) on Sunday, July 31st at our Parish Covered Dish Lunch. Bring a picture with you that day and we’ll make a party of it!

St Joseph’s Summer Schedule

We have no mid-week services at St Joseph’s until the week of Labor Day. Our Sunday schedule will remain the same. Remember that the parish has a summertime parking agreement with Texas Toobs. They have use of our parking lot on Fridays, Saturdays, and on Sundays after 1.00 PM.

Pray, Brethren…


for Sharon, who is still undergoing a lengthy series of tests; for Bruce, who’s doing well after his recent surgery, in spite of being on a bouillon only diet; for Russ, still recuperating; for Jillian; Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; pray for Elizabeth, fighting breast cancer, and her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain, supporting her through it all. Pray for Pat, just diagnosed with ovarian cancer; remember Daniel, Dorothy, Lori and Tanya, living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, Josh, and Celeste; for Orlinda, Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben; pray for Paul and Carmen, rebuilding their home after last years’ flooding. Pray for the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS and for the victims, living and dead, of attacks by Islamists. Pray for Lucille, who is dying. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Robert, Billy, Jenna and Karl; for Caleb and his parents, Paul and Rhea, who are mourning the loss of their young son. Pray for the repose of the souls of the five policemen killed in Dallas: Brent, Patrick, Michael, Lorne and Michael, as well as the families and friends mourning their deaths. Remember Sean & Brodie, the father and son from Austin killed in the ISIS attack in Nice, France. And yet, in all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God…

Services This Week

There will be no weekday services this week.

Friday is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, July 22, being the feast of St Mary Magdalene, Penitent


July 17, 2016
The Eighth Sunday after Trinity
This Sunday’s Gospel begins on a grim note: “Beware of false prophets,” Jesus tells His disciples. “They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” The reading continues this somber tone till the end. The Lord concludes: “Not everyone who calls me Lord shall enter the kingdom of Heaven; only those that do the will of my Father Who is in Heaven.”

 The Old Testament tells some juicy stories about false prophets (they always get their comeuppance in the end), and, like the Lord in the Gospel, warns about them.  Jeremiah says the false prophet lies to people, “healing their wounds only slightly, prophesying ‘Peace, peace,’ when they know there is no peace.” The Prophet Micah, speaking more bluntly, says, “The judges of Israel hand down verdicts for a bribe, her priests teach God’s laws for a price and her prophets foretell the future for money.” That sounds pretty bad. Those false prophets deserved what they had coming.

Isaiah, though, wants us to look into the whole question a little more deeply. Why do the prophets prophesy falsely? Speaking for God, Isaiah gives the answer: “My people say to the prophets, ‘Prophesy unto us smooth things, speak to us pleasant illusions, tell us not of the demands of the Holy One of Israel.’ ”

False prophets thrive when we turn from God as He Is to God as we want Him to be. We want – I want – Santa Claus, not the One Who is coming again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead. I want a god who says, “Y’know, I’m OK, you’re OK, and he, she or it is OK, too.”

So the Lord had to warn His disciples about false prophets in their day, and the Church continues to put His words in front of us now because we have plenty of false prophets to go around. They continue to prosper because we want them to. We want – I want – the “demands of the Holy One of Israel” to be soft. Sunday’s Gospel begins warning us about false prophets but it ends warning us about ourselves: “Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter the kingdom of Heaven; only those that do the will of my Father Who is in Heaven.” The hard, true and good words of the Gospel tell us the more we do of God’s will, the less we do of our own. Ouch!

St Margaret of Antioch, Virgin and Martyr

Sunday is also the feast of St Margaret of Antioch, the “shepherdess on the green” of whom we sing in the hymn “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.” Our Sunday bulletin has the story of her life and martyrdom, but I want to say something briefly about martyrdom. Martyr is an old Greek legal word. A person who was called in to testify about something in a trial was called a martyr, a witness. During the three centuries following the resurrection of Christ, the Church endured horrific persecutions. While many thousands of Christians were persecuted over those centuries, Edward Gibbon, the author of the classic The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, estimates that the total number of martyrs (those who died for the Faith) was under five thousand. St Margaret was one of them.

I want to make a point about Christian martyrs because in our tradition, martyrdom, giving witness to the Gospel at the cost of your life, is a noble testimony to the truth of the Faith. I’m willing to die for my belief in God. Nowadays, however, the venerable word is tainted with another concept of martyrdom – not a willingness to give up my life, but a willingness to take yours. Some air-headed Hollywoodite remarked last week that the murderer of the officers in Dallas was a martyr. We hear the word applied likewise to Islamist killers. I loathe seeing a noble word abused and, in our sometimes-less-than-discerning culture, altered irrevocably. As there are false prophets, so there are false martyrs. St Margaret is a point of happy pride for Christians, a true martyr, whose testimony we celebrate.

“Come, Thou Almighty King” (# 271) is our Processional Hymn this Sunday. The words first appear on a songsheet in 1757, printed for use in the outdoor services of the famous Anglican preacher, George Whitfield.  Its author is unknown, though it is sometimes attributed to Charles Wesley on the basis that he was a friend of Whitfield. The tune, called Moscow, was composed by Felice Giardini, an Italian musician who lived in England and died in Moscow (hence the tune’s title – don’t ask me why). Here’s the first verse: https://youtu.be/XFyp0FL0V18

Our Offertory Hymn, Fairest Lord Jesus (#346), first appeared in a Jesuit hymnal printed in 1607. Originally set to Gregorian chant, it was paired with the tune we know in a German Roman Catholic hymnal published in 1677. The tune is to a Silesian folk melody, said to trace back to the time of the Crusades (in times past this tune was called the “Crusader’s Hymn”). 

The English translation was made by a Lutheran pastor, Joseph Seiss, in 1873. He omitted the last verse of the original, which focuses on the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The hymn is popular in America and found a place in the Episcopal Hymnal, but is not included in many Anglican hymnals. Here it is, sung by the choir of Hastings College: https://youtu.be/JBH8mhHSNWo

Our Recessional Hymn, “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed” (# 545), is a paraphrase of Psalm 72 (BCP pp 426-428), and originally ran to twelve verses. It was written as a Christmas hymn by James Montgomery in 1821. The next year at a clerical meeting in Liverpool, a friend heard it and offered to publish it as a poem. Since then, it’s been set to music many times. More than twenty different tunes have been used for it; the music in our hymnal is a German folk melody called Woodbird. Here it’s played by Andrew Remillard, our pianist friend: https://youtu.be/9xAeDVXy9kQ

Our July Vestry Meeting

The Vestry will meet this Sunday in David Hall after the 10.30 Eucharist. Among other topics, they will review the contract signed with Alamo Construction for the foundation work on the church building and approve the final payment. Middie Pannill, who worries about the members of the Vestry going too long without lunch, is providing snacks for the meeting.

St Joseph’s Summer Schedule

We have no mid-week services at St Joseph’s until the week of Labor Day. Our Sunday schedule will remain the same. Remember that the parish has a summertime parking agreement with Texas Toobs. They have use of our parking lot on Fridays, Saturdays, and on Sundays after 1.00 PM.

A Saint for July: St  Benedict of Nursia, Abbot, 543

This month we’re celebrating the life of St Benedict of Nursia, the Father of Monasticism and founder of the Benedictine Order (he didn’t name it after himself – that came later). His icon is on the stand next to the baptismal font. His feast day is July 11th.

One of the enduring accomplishments of St Benedict was the composition of the Rule. It reached its final form about AD 530, but was many years in the writing. In seventy-three chapters, the Rule provided guidance for living an orderly monastic life in a community. Topics include the duties of an abbot and the other “officers” in a monastery, rules for the liturgical life of common worship, the disciplines necessary for daily common life, and instructions for administering the monastery so it is not only self-sufficient, but has the resources to engage in charitable work. Benedict’s Rule is most noted for its moderation. It forbids the individualisms and excesses that were often associated with the monastic life prior to its time, and stresses the importance of common life and common prayer.

Most people associate “poverty, chastity and obedience” as the typical vows made by monks and nuns, but the older Benedictine vows are to “obedience, stability and conversion of life.” Obedience is fairly straightforward – everybody has their place in a monastic community, and follows the rules. This helps make a common life possible. Stability requires a bit of explanation. It doesn’t so much have in mind emotional stability (that’s more reflective of our culture) as physical stability – staying in one place, doing your duty, being dependable. Prior to Benedict’s day, monks were known for “wandering,” being sort of religious gad-abouts. Benedict called them “false monks.” Finally, Benedictines vow to conversion of life.  They’re to spend some time daily in self-examination, to hold their acts each day before the Gospel standard of Christ, and to seek him constantly in the ins-and-outs of their lives. Over the inner doors of most Benedictine monasteries, so the monks see it each time they open the door to guests, are words from the beginning of chapter three of the Rule: “Let each guest be received as Christ.” Conversion of life means to look for Christ daily, knowing He will appear.  

St Benedict’s Rule is more than a set of dos and don’ts. More than anything, it’s a guide to ordering life to find God, worship Him and serve Him in others. Benedict’s notion of the importance of common prayer and common life were prevalent in England in times past, and many of the spiritual characteristics of the Anglican spiritual tradition are Benedictine.

Pray, Brethren…


for Sharon, who is still ill and presently undergoing a lengthy series of tests, but your cards and prayers are keeping up her spirits; for Bruce, who’s looking pretty good after his recent surgery; for Russ, still recuperating; for Jillian; Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; pray for Elizabeth, fighting breast cancer, and her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain, supporting her through it all; remember Daniel, Dorothy and Tanya, living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, Josh, and Celeste; for Orlinda, Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben; pray for Paul and Carmen, rebuilding their home after last years’ flooding. Pray for the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS and for the victims, living and dead, of attacks by Islamists. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Robert, Billy, Jenna and Karl; for Caleb and his mourning parents, Paul and Rhea. Pray for the repose of the souls of the five policemen killed in Dallas: Brent, Patrick, Michael, Lorne and Michael, as well as the families and friends mourning their deaths. Remember Sean & Brodie from Austin, a father and son killed in the ISIS attack in Nice, France. And yet, in all things, beloved, give praise and thanks to God…

Services This Week

There will be no weekday services this week.

Friday is a Day of Abstinence

 I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, July 15, being the feast of St Swithin of Winchester, Bishop, 862

July 10, 2016
The Seventh Sunday after Trinity

We all have to eat. The Lord Jesus, during His 40 days and 40 nights fasting, said to the devil who showed up to tempt Him with food, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” An important word in the sentence though, is alone. We cannot live without food, our daily bread.

But eating has always been about more than food. Eating is a social occasion, we “break bread” as a way of bringing ourselves closer together. We spend time preparing fancy feasts as public celebrations, passing recipes from one generation to another to give us not just a good taste in the mouth, but a real sense of our unity with our past. Food has meaning for us. Even when we say we “had to go to McDonalds,” we’re telling each other “but I don’t count that as eating, really.”

Even our first sin had to do with food in the Garden (traditionally either an apple or a pomegranate was the cause of our Fall), and the greatest remedy of our sin is food, too. St Ignatius of Antioch, writing about AD 100, calls the Holy Eucharist “the Bread of Immortality.”

The Church wants to make sure we “get it.” Three times a year, evenly spaced, the Sunday Gospel is a story of one of Jesus’ miraculous feedings of the multitudes. Once He fed 5,000 Jews on the shore of the Lake of Galilee, then, as today’s Gospel tells us, He fed 4,000 more in the pagan region of Palestine. This miraculous bread is a sign to us of the Bread of Immortality. A frequent picture found in the early Christian catacombs shows the Lord miraculously multiplying bread for the hungry multitudes. So the Christians of that day would “get it,” the breads miraculously multiplied were shaped just like the breads they used to celebrate the Eucharist.

We do not live by bread alone, but we do live by bread. “And the bread,” He said to His disciples,” which I will give is My flesh, which I give for the life of the world.”

St Joseph and His Companions, the Martyrs of Damascus, 1860

St Joseph of Damascus, actually, Yousef ibn Jirjis Mousa ibn Mouhana al-Haddad, was a Syrian priest serving at the Cathedral of the Dormition of St Mary in Damascus in 1860. Anti-Christian riots swept across Syria in the summer of that year, the result of a jihad against all infidels declared by the imams of the country. Throughout the summer, Christians were attacked, their homes and churches burned, and many killed. In July, the riots broke out in Damascus. On July 10, the Muslims entered the Christian quarter of the city and surrounded the cathedral. Many Christians had come to the church for refuge and the crowd, after barricading the doors, torched the building. Fr Yousef helped many of the people escape through a hidden exit and spent the rest of the day visiting older parishioners and families trapped in their homes. How he did so is a story in itself (a full account is in our Sunday bulletin). While visiting one of his parish families, a large crowd, led by several imams, tracked him down and attacked the house. Fr Yousef helped the family escape and, to give them time to make good their exit, went outside to meet the crowd. He was promptly killed. The crowd carried his body to the city dump and threw him in. He was not alone. That day, more than 2,500 Christians died with him, and most were tossed into the fires of the trash heap outside the city wall. The last family Fr Yousef saved reported later that his last words to them were “Pray for our enemies, do not hate them. The love of Christ is greater than all hatreds.” Fr Yousef, St Joseph, the Martyr of Damascus, pray for us.

Two of our hymns this Sunday should be comfortable as old shoes. Our Processional Hymn at the 10.30 Eucharist is “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” (# 273). The words were written by Fr Ignaz Franz, a Roman Catholic priest, in 1771, as a paraphrase of the 4th century Christian hymn, the Te Deum (on page 10 of the Prayer Book). A friend of Franz, whose name is unknown, composed the music for the hymn based on a German folksong tune. The Empress Maria Teresa of Austria heard it performed and asked her royal publisher, who had a hymnal in production at the time, to include it. It was printed in the Ka­thol­isch­es Ge­sang­buch (“Catholic Songbook”) of 1774. It became one of the most popular hymns in Germany, and 19th century German immigrants brought the song to America, where eight of its original eleven verses were translated into English in 1858. The folk tune proved so popular that by the end of the century, it was published in more than 100 hymnals of many American denominations. In an odd note, Adolf Hitler loved the tune, but hated the words. At his direction, new words, praising the Nazi party, were written in 1941. Here it is, though on Sunday we won’t have quite the same accompaniment! https://youtu.be/DII6ap7bj0Q

The music from this Sunday’s Recessional Hymn (# 301), “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise,” was based on a Welsh folk tune. Composed in 1839 by John Roberts (famous in Wales as the founder of the Welsh public “hymn-singing’ movement), it was written, as were many of Roberts’ choral pieces, with no particular words in mind. The words were written in 1867 by Walter Chalmers Smith, while serving at a parish in London. He based the text on a verse of St Paul: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever” (1Timothy 1.17). The words and music were first brought together by Ralph Vaughn Williams in 1906, when he was putting together the English Hymnal. Percy Dearmer, the famed Anglican hymnographer and liturgical author, re-wrote a few of the original verses at Williams’ request. The Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral sings it here: https://youtu.be/O-w5SFBjsWI

Our Offertory Hymn, however, is new to you and me alike. It’s a Eucharistic hymn from the Syrian Orthodox Liturgy, “O Bread of Life.” I chose it because its words are good, and it was very familiar to our saint today, Fr Yousef, and his martyred companions. It’s original melody would be difficult for us to sing, based as it is in the Arabic/Byzantine musical tradition, but in our Sunday bulletin its paired with a hymn tune all of us know: St Columba (# 345, first tune). Here that tune is sung to the words we know, “The King of Love”: https://youtu.be/E-P95IbVbY8

We’ll practice this hymn a few times after Sunday’s announcements, but we’ll make up the time with a shorter sermon. Hold back your tears, Larry.

St Joseph’s Summer Schedule

Effective this week, we have no mid-week services at St Joseph’s until the week of Labor Day. Our Sunday schedule will remain the same. Remember that the parish has a summertime parking agreement with Texas Toobs. They have use of our parking lot on Fridays, Saturdays, and on Sundays after 1.00 PM.

Repair Work on the Church’s Foundation

At our Annual Meeting early this year, the Vestry reported that the part of the foundation of the church, alongside the parking lot, has “settled” in the years since its construction. The result of this continual shifting has been the opening of cracks, both interior and exterior, in the building and the concrete parking slab. The longer the stabilization of our church building is delayed, the more serious is the damage it will incur.

Mike Mahaffey, since his time as Senior Warden, has been working with Alamo Hy-Tech Foundation to stabilize and repair the problem. Not only will the problem be addressed, but Alamo is giving us a lifetime guarantee on their work (lifetime of what, I can’t resist asking: the church building?

St Joseph’s parish? the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church? I’m not sure!). We signed the contract on Friday and work will begin July 18th. I’m grateful, as I know you will be, for Mike’s work in staying on top of this project for so long. It will benefit St Joseph’s for many years to come.

Last Sunday one of our hymns was “The Church’s One Foundation.” Had I known we were so close to initiating the work, we’d have sung it this Sunday instead!

Our Old Testament Class

Our class on the Old Testament meets every Sunday in David Hall, from 9.15-10.15 AM. Right now, we’re reading and pondering over the Book of Genesis.

We’re looking into how it was written, to help us understand what it has to say. We take for granted that Genesis, and all the Bible, is a “religious” book. It talks about religion a long time ago. But the Bible, and Genesis, is more than that. It’s not just about religion. Genesis is profoundly theological.

We might take religion and theology to mean the same thing, but they’re not. Religion isn’t a bad thing, but it’s mainly about what we do based on what we believe. Theology is not about us, but God. The word theology comes from two Greek words mashed together: “theos,” God, and “logos,” words or thoughts. As we read Genesis, we come to see Who God Is, based on what He does. So we’re looking into how Genesis is structured, because the structure is essential to the story. This Sunday morning we’ll examine what the different authors of Genesis tell us about God and how their stories, drawn together over the centuries, present us with a deeper vision when taken as a whole. The patiently-awaited Handout # 6 will be passed out at the beginning of class.

Everyone is welcome to join us. The questions and discussions are good, and wide-ranging enough that it’s not hard to see why Genesis is worth studying! If you want coffee, come a little early. I start talking at 9.15 and shut up promptly at 10.15. I have to. The next Mass starts at 10.30!

 Our Class Handouts are now available online at our parish website.

A Saint for July: St  Benedict of Nursia, Abbot, 543

This month we’re celebrating the life of St Benedict of Nursia, the Father of Monasticism and founder of the Benedictine Order (he didn’t name it after himself – that came later). His icon is on the stand next to the baptismal font. His feast day is July 11th.

St Benedict had a twin sister, Scholastica, who is also on the Church’s calendar of saints. Like Benedict, his sister was given the best education of the day. Sometime after Benedict embraced the monastic life, his sister followed suit and did the same. St Gregory the Great, fifty years after the death of St Benedict, collected the stories of the saint’s life from those who knew him and included them in his book, The Dialogues. One of the stories in the book tells us that it was the annual custom of the brother and sister to meet in a hermitage halfway between his monastery at Monte Cassino and her convent in Plumbariola, five miles away. They would spend the day engaged in prayer and lively conversation, often on topics of the spiritual life.

During one of their visits, St Gregory wrote, as dusk approached, Benedict told the monks with him to prepare to leave. Their monastic rule (which Benedict had written) forbad monks to spend the night away from the monastery. Scholastica asked him to make an exception, as she was so much enjoying their discussions. Benedict told her he had to return unless the journey would somehow put the monks in danger. At that point, Scholastica bowed in silent prayer. While she prayed, the monks made their preparations to leave. Suddenly, an enormous thunderstorm broke over the valley and the rains fell in Biblical proportions. Seeing the storm only worsening and the pleased look on Scholastica’s face, Benedict said “What have you done?” His smiling sister replied, “I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked God and He did listen. So go off now, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.” The storm did not let up and the twins and their companions spent the night in prayer and happy conversation. St Gregory concludes the story saying, Scholastica’s prayers prevailed, because her love was the greater. When she died, St Benedict had his sister buried in the monastery of Monte Cassino, and he himself was placed in the same tomb after his death in 543.

Pray, Brethren…


for Sharon, who is ill and presently unable to leave her apartment; for Bruce, who is happily on the mend after his recent surgery; for Russ, still recuperating (and for Charlotte, who makes sure he keeps recuperating!); for Jillian; Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; pray for Elizabeth, fighting breast cancer, and her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain, supporting her through it all; remember Daniel, Dorothy and Tanya, living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, Josh, and Celeste; for Orlinda, Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky, for Ben; pray for Paul and Carmen, still living with the consequences of last years’ flooding. Remember the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from the brutality of ISIS and for the victims, living and dead, of attacks by Islamists. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Milford, Ron, Robert, Billy, Jenna and Karl; for Caleb and his mourning parents, Paul and Rhea. Pray for the repose of the souls of the five policemen killed in Dallas: Brent, Patrick, Michael, Lorne and Michael, as well as the families and friends mourning their deaths. And yet, in all things, beloved, give thanks…

Services This Week
There will be no weekday services this week.

Friday is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, July 8, being the feast of St Kilian and His Companions, Martyrs, 689


 
July 3, 2016
The Sixth Sunday after Trinity

I am an American citizen. I was born in the United States, the child of American citizens also born in this country. One of my sisters was born in Japan; she’s an American citizen by virtue of the fact that both of her parents were also American citizens, regardless of her place of birth. I have a long-time friend, John Glagolev, who is an American citizen, though he was born in Hong Kong and neither of his parents were American citizens. John went through a six-year legal process to obtain his citizenship. Regardless of your political views about illegal/undocumented aliens, they are not citizens of the country. Wishing to be doesn’t make them so, saying they are doesn’t make them so: it’s a status one either has, or does not. 

Lest you think I’m trying to make a political point which would be quite inappropriate for me to do, let me say my point is theological. You are a Christian, and so am I, and so is every Christian you and I know, because we were baptized. That’s the unchanging and constant practice of the Church for 2,000 years. You are a Christian because you are baptized. You’re not a Christian because your parents were, or because you’re a good person or even because you believe in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. All those are good things, but none of them make you a Christian. The Prayer Book keeps the Church’s 2,000 year-old teaching and practice alive: “In Baptism I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven” (BCP p 283). Then, a couple of pages later the Catechism drives home the point:

Question: When were you made a member of the Church?
Answer:  I was made a member of the Church when I was baptized.
Question:  What is the Church?
Answer:  The Church is the Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head, and all baptized people are the members.

There is a bushelful of theology in these few sentences, but only one point I want to make right now. You didn’t make yourself a Christians. God did. Your family may always have been Christians, even “cradle Episcopalians,” but that doesn’t make you one, till you’re baptized. Through the Sacrament God the Holy Ghost put what theologians call an “indelible mark” on your soul (like tattoos, indelible marks don’t go away - ever). You’ll be a Christian from here to eternity, whether you like it or not. God chose you to be His, and only He knows why – I haven’t a clue.

But though I can’t tell you why, I can tell you something of what it means for you and me that we are chosen. First, it doesn’t mean you and I are better than other people, but it most definitely means we are different. God has chosen us for a purpose.

In the Epistle for this Sunday, St Paul begins “Don’t you know that all of us who have been baptized into Jesus Christ have been baptized into His death?”

The Prayer Book, as noted above, enumerates the great and good things that are ours by virtue of our baptism. These are, we might say, indelible gifts. But as our American citizenship carries with it costs and responsibilities, so too does our citizenship in Heaven. We’re called to share Christ’s death, His ongoing battle with sin, in our own lives.

Most of us won’t get nailed to a tree, but each of us, in ways most appropriate to us, are called to share His death. Our Christians ancestors, a long time ago, had a word I wish we could bring back. It’s martyria: “little martyrdoms.” By it they meant the small sufferings and difficulties of daily life. These are opportunities for us, not to gripe and moan about the stuff that happens that we don’t like, but to see these as things to recall us to God. They let us know that He is always with us, in times good and bad. We’re not victims of the bad things that come: for us, these are martyria, signs of God’s presence and calls for us to be faithful. The preachers of prosperity are wrong. God doesn’t want you to be rich and pretty and powerful. He wants you to be holy. He wants, as the Lord Jesus said, for you to pick up your Cross, your daily martyria, and follow Him wherever you go and whatever you do.

“If we have shared in His death,” St Paul says, “know this: we shall also share in His resurrection.” The reason you and I were baptized is working itself out in our lives.

St Anatolius of Constantinople, Bishop, AD 453

St Anatolius was a lover of music and mathematics who became unwillingly embroiled in politics. Born in Egypt about AD 395, as a young man he taught music and philosophy, but under the influence of St Cyril, the Archbishop of Alexandria, who was his mentor, Anatolius was ordained deacon and went on the staff of the Archbishop. He attended the Third Ecumenical Council with him in 431. His skill in diplomacy there (something St Cyril had little of) and his persuasive manner earned the deacon a new post: the archbishop sent him as a representative to the Imperial Court in Constantinople.

He impressed both clergy and people in his new post, but especially came to the attention of the emperor. After the death of the archbishop of Constantinople, the emperor nominated Anatolius to fill the vacant position.

Unfortunately, the times were turbulent in both the Empire and the Church. A heresy called Monophysitism (“one nature”) denied that Christ was human (his “one nature” was divine). Anatolius opposed this theological novelty and convinced the emperor and the leading bishops of his day to call a council of the Church to address the error. St Anatolius presided at the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon in 451. The Church officially recognized “two natures” in Christ: He is fully God, and fully man.

Not everyone accepted the teaching of the Council, and some reacted violently. Rioting in Egypt (the birthplace of Monophysitism) led to a conspiracy against the archbishop, who was murdered in his home.

St Anatolius wrote many hymns, still sung in Orthodox Churches today. For more about the saint, and to see one of his hymns, look in our Sunday bulletin.

Hymnody


Next Sunday, July 10, we’ll be learning another “new” hymn, beloved, but this Sunday we’ll be singing some familiar favorites. The words for our Processional Hymn, “Holy Father, Great Creator” (#267), were written in 1835 by the Rt Rev Alexander Viets Griswold, the fifth Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (from 1836-1843). The music was composed by a London organist, Henry Smart, in 1867. Seven of Smart’s hymn tunes are in our hymnal, but this one, titled Regent Square, is probably the best known. It’s the tune to four different hymns in the 1940 Hymnal. Here it is, played by our pianist friend of a few weeks back: https://youtu.be/8FQ6NCHY4oU

The Offertory Hymn this week is one of the best hymns in our hymnal, “The Church’s One Foundation” (# 396). The words were written by the Rev Samuel Stone, an Anglican priest who served in several slum parishes in London until, much to his surprise, he was appointed to St Paul’s Cathedral. Our hymn comes from a book of twelve hymns he published in 1866. A bishop of the Church of England in South Africa questioned the need to believe all the articles of the Creed (sound familiar? this was in 1863!). Fr Stone in response wrote a series of hymns on each of the major articles in the Creed, which he published under the title Lyra Fidelium (“the Lyre of Faith”). Most are now forgotten, but the Church’s One Foundation, written about the article, “the Holy Catholic Church,” has one of the favorite hymns of a lot of other people than me. Samuel Wesley, the grandson of the Rev Charles Wesley (brother of John), served as a church organist for several of the principal cathedrals in southern England (and eloped with the daughter of the dean of one of them!). He wrote the tune to our hymn, with the title Aurelia, shortly after the publication of Lyra Fidelium. As with Henry Smart mentioned above, seven of Wesley’s hymn-tunes are also in our hymnal. Here’s a touching version of the hymn: https://youtu.be/b0hieUU_jz4

Our final hymn, “My Country T’is of Thee” (# 141), was written by an American theological student, Samuel Francis Smith, in 1831. A teacher gave him the music for a German patriotic song (using the same music now known as “God Save the King/Queen”) and asked him to come up with a quick translation for use at an upcoming Fourth of July celebration. He told Smith he had 30 minutes to translate the German lyrics, but Smith didn’t like them. Instead he quickly composed the words for “My Country, T’is of Thee” to fit the old German melody. It caught on, and, together with “Hail, Columbia,” served as the national American song until Francis Scott Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner” was officially declared the National Anthem in 1931. Here it is: https://youtu.be/pG1W7JDWv50

Our Old Testament Class

Our class on the Old Testament meets every Sunday in David Hall, from 9.15-10.15 AM. We’re reading the stories of the lives of the Patriarchs in the Book of Genesis: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. As we read through these stories, we’ve noticed that God is called by different names in different parts of Genesis. There are seven in all. Some of the people use special names for Him which aren’t used elsewhere. To some He was El Shaddai, to others El, Elohim or some variant (the word El in almost all the languages of the Fertile Crescent is the generic word for God). Last week we discussed this a bit (it’s the topic of Handout # 5). This week we’ll talk about the various authors whose compositions formed Genesis, and how their preference for one or other of the Names of God helps us to understand the story they want to tell. Handout # 6, available today in the narthex, outlines the topic and has some notes that will be helpful in class.

Everyone is welcome to join us. The questions and discussions are good, and wide-ranging enough that it’s not hard to see why Genesis is worth studying! If you want coffee, come a little early. I start talking at 9.15 and shut up promptly at 10.15. I have to. The next Mass starts at 10.30!

 Our Class Handouts are now available online at our parish website.

A Saint for July: St  Benedict of Nursia, Abbot, 543

This month we’re celebrating the life of St Benedict of Nursia, the Father of Monasticism and founder of the Benedictine Order (he didn’t name it after himself – that came later). His icon is on the stand next to the baptismal font.

Benedict and his twin sister, Scholastica, were born in AD 480 in the central Italian town of Nursia. Their family was the principal noble family in the area, and Benedict was being groomed to take his father’s place when the time came. Though Nursia was a small city, it was not far from Rome and its geographical placing put it in the middle of the educational centers of Italy, so both Benedict and Scholastica received the best education available.

When he was fifteen, Benedict was sent to Rome to continue his studies, but after five years he suddenly broke them off and left the city. A beautiful woman – and unrequited love – was the cause. Benedict took up residence in the hill country east of Rome, and to soothe his sorrow, and, his biographer says, to quiet his unruly passion, he walked the roads and forests in the region. On one of his explorations, he met a monk to whom he unburdened himself. The monk lived in a monastery outside nearby Subiaco, and Benedict began visiting the monastery regularly, getting to know the monks and their life. Moving into a nearby cave, Benedict began living a life of prayer and austerity. He lived in the cave for more than three years before deciding to become a monk. Shortly after his decision, the abbot of Subiaco died and the monks asked Benedict to take his place. It didn’t work out well. The monks found him a strict taskmaster and tried to poison him. Benedict got the message and returned to his cave.

Some of the monks did follow him and a monastic community formed around his cave. After many years of thought and living with his fellow monks, Benedict wrote what would become one of the most important books of medieval spirituality: The Rule. It outlined the structure of monastic life in a moderate and balanced way and became a model still followed by most monasteries and convents today. Over his lifetime, St Benedict founded twelve monasteries in the Italian countryside, including the famous Monte Casino, where he died on March 21, 543.

Pray, Brethren…


for Russ and Bruce, who are both recuperating; for Sharon, who is ill and presently unable to leave her apartment; pray for Jillian; for Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; pray for Elizabeth, fighting breast cancer, and her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain, supporting her through it all; remember Daniel, Dorothy and Tanya, living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, Josh, and Celeste; for Orlinda, Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky; and for Paul and Carmen, still living with the consequences of last years’ flooding. Remember the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS and for the victims, living and dead, of attacks by Islamists. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Milford, Ron, Robert, Billy, for Caleb and his mourning parents, Paul and Rhea. Pray for the repose of Jenna, a good friend of Bill and Kay Hull, for her husband Ben, for the parish of St Benedict and the priest, Robert, all of whom are much mourning her death. And yet, in all things, beloved, give thanks…

Services This Week

There will be no weekday services this week.
Friday is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

 Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, July 1, being the feast of St Arnulf of Clermont, Bishop and the 146th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the first Income Tax bill in United States history – hmm – it’s also the 145th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Gettysburg. Is there a connection, perhaps? I dunno, I’m no historian, but…

 

June 26, 2016
The Fifth Sunday after Trinity

This Sunday’s Gospel is about how St Peter found faith in a boat full of fish. The Fifth Sunday after Trinity is close to the feast of St Peter (June 29th is his day), so the Gospel chosen for today points him out to us.

St Peter is a sort of Everyman in the Gospel: self-absorbed, opinionated and shoots off his mouth a lot. He’s impulsive and pushy. But there’s more to him than that. For all his raw humanity, St Peter is like all of us in that he hopes (or at least wishes) for more. He developed calluses on his soul to protect him from life’s slings and arrows, but underneath his grumbly exterior, Peter wished that the things he’d been told about God and goodness and beauty could be true. Experience taught him otherwise. If there was a God, He didn’t care about ordinary people enough to dirty His hands. It’s a tough world and only the tough survive.

The traveling rabbi from Nazareth his brother Andrew had linked up with showed up with a big crowd. He asked a favor: would Peter, who was cleaning his nets after a night of fruitless fishing, let Him use his boat as a pulpit? Peter agreed, no doubt after rolling his eyes and glaring at his brother, loaded Jesus into his boat and pushed off the beach a bit. He sat there as Jesus preached. He heard Jesus’ words, but he’d heard that kind of stuff since he was little. Religious talk for those who liked religion.

When He’d finished talking, the Rabbi told Peter to give the fish another try. Peter knew better. The fish only came to the surface at night, which is why fisherman worked the night shift. When the water started to heat up from the sun, the fish retreated to the bottom of the lake. But maybe like you and certainly like me, Peter threw his nets in the water to prove that the Rabbi might know a lot about Bible verses, but not much about fish. Peter said “We’ve been working all night and don’t have a single fish to show for it. But, okay, we’ll give it another try.”  

St Luke tells what happened next: “When they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes; so their nets brake.  And they beckoned unto their partners who were in the other ship, to come and help them. And they filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.”

Peter heard Jesus preach and it left him unmoved. He was a practical man. But two boatloads of fish turned his cynical certainty upside down. Overwhelmed, he threw himself down in front of Jesus. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man O Lord,” he cried. St Luke concludes the story with an eye to the rest of us, so much like the gruff fisherman who “left everything, and followed Jesus.”


St Pelayus of Cordova, Martyr to the Moors, 925
Sunday we celebrate the feast of St Pelayus of Cordova, called Pelayus the Martyr in Spain, where his feast is a major holy day. Pelayus was distantly related to a Spanish nobleman whose brother, a bishop, had been kidnapped by a Muslim caliph, Abd-ar-Rahman III, about 920. Pelayus was offered to the caliph in exchange for the release of the bishop, but when ar-Rahman received the boy, he decided to keep both boy and bishop and asked for cold cash in return for them both. Evidently the nobleman found money harder to part with than relatives, and both remained captive to the caliph. Pelayus, a teenager, had been repeatedly offered his freedom if he would convert to Islam, but he steadfastly refused. When the young man was told he was to be inducted into the caliph’s harem, he refused with vehemence, insisting he would rather die. The exasperated caliph granted Pelayus’ wish: the boy was tortured for six hours (his biographer didn’t tell us how he was tortured, only how long) and finally chopp’t up.

St Pelayus is one of 48 Spanish Christians whose names and stories are known, martyred by the Muslims between about AD 850-920. Their names and the accounts of their martyrdom were compiled shortly after the death of St Pelayus, one of the last of the “Martyrs of Cordova.”


Hymns - Our Anglican Heritage

Though we’ll be learning some “new” hymns this summer, this Sunday we’re going to some trustworthy standards: our Processional Hymn, “Praise, My Soul, the King of  Heaven,” (# 282), is as Anglican a hymn as you can get. The words were written by the Rev Henry Lyte in 1834. The music was composed thirty years later by Sir John Goss, the organist at St Paul’s Cathedral, who loved Lyte’s words and wanted to give them a tune of their own. Here it is, sung at St Paul’s Cathedral: https://youtu.be/4d9RJMOP9Tw

Our Offertory hymn is “The King of Love” (# 345), a paraphrase of Psalm 23. The Rev Henry Baker, an English  priest devoted to church music, wrote the words in 1852  (he was eventually to become the editor-in-chief of the first great Anglican hymnal, Hymns Ancient and Modern, in 1860, to which he contributed 33 hymns). The tune we’ll use, called St Columba, is an old Gaelic melody. Here it’s sung by a good, Welsh choir: https://youtu.be/d50KE9jMVWY. You may not recognize the name of our Recessional hymn, “Thou, Whose Almighty Word,” (# 272), but you know the tune: Moscow, usually sung with the words, “Come, Thou Almighty King.” The words to the hymn were written by another English priest, John Marriott, in 1813; the tune comes from a popular 18th century Italian comp-oser, Felice de Giardini. For reasons which escape me, the name of the tune, Moscow, comes from the odd fact that, late in life, Giardini took a post at the Russian imperial court and, almost immediately on his arrival in Moscow, died. Though a prolific composer, Giardini is most famous for this tune above all his operas and concertos. Here it the hymn, sung by a Scottish choir. Can you catch the accent? https://youtu.be/7iUYYir9ujY

Old Testament Class
Our class on the Old Testament meets every Sunday in David Hall, from 9.15-10.15 AM. We’re reading the stories of the Patriarchs in the Book of Genesis. Having concluded the story of Abraham, we’ll look next at his son Isaac, the son of God’s promise. Of the three patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), Isaac is the one least focused-on. Though he’s the long-awaited son of Abraham and Sarah, and the one around whom the great test of Abraham’s faith centers (on Mount Moriah), the actual stories of Isaac’s life told in Genesis are few and unexciting. He lived longer than the other patriarchs, but less is said about him than any of them. Yet Isaac is essential to the book of Genesis. In some ways, the most interesting things about Isaac are what didn’t happen to him. Isaac is the only patriarch whose name was never changed (Abram became Abraham and God changed Jacob’s name to Israel). Unlike the others, Isaac remained in Canaan his whole life; he alone kept to his wife. The differences between Isaac and the other patriarchs aren’t just interesting little Bible facts. The few incidents of Isaac’s life passed on in Genesis, along with the small handful of facts they convey, are included because they’re important to the overall story Genesis tells.

We’ll be looking at the Tales of Isaac (Genesis 22-27) over the next few weeks. Our Class Handout # 4 is an outline of his life. If you don’t have a copy, some are available in one of the standing trays in the narthex and, if my memory is properly working, there are some in the satchel I usually brings to class.

Everyone is welcome to join us. The questions and discussions are good, and wide-ranging enough that it’s not hard to see why Genesis is worth studying! If you want coffee, come a little early. I start talking at 9.15 and shut up promptly at 10.15. I have to. The next Mass starts at 10.30!

Incidentally, our Class Handouts are now available on this website - just click on "The Bible Page" above.

Parish Covered Dish Luncheon This Sunday
As is usual, we’ll have our monthly Covered Dish Luncheon the last Sunday of the month, which happens to be this Sunday. The Vestry is providing all-you-can-eat fried chicken. The rest is up to y’all. Before we eat, I’ll be blessing those over the past month who’ve had birthdays and anniversaries, and will have a stowpfulle of holy water with me…Bill Hull is, I’m well-informed, preparing another culinary tour de force for the day, so bear that in mind. And the rumors are true: Bill’s Casserole of Cruciferous Vegetables last Sunday was such a delight that both Bill Lee and I, neither of whom are vegetable enthusiasts, both returned for seconds.


We Need Help with a Few Things Around Here…
I need baskets! I need a batch of baskets in decent shape, clean and sturdy. Long, long ago, in my home parish, a couple of parishioners took it on themselves to improve the lives of people who illnesses left them homebound or in what we used to call “nursing homes.” They collected batches of baskets and filled them with small books or cheery magazines, scented soaps, a small snack or two and a couple of other sundries and deliver them after Mass one Sunday. I’d like us to emulate those kindly Episcopal ladies and do the same. The first step is baskets! If you’ve got a couple in the recesses of your attic or storage bin, bring ‘em to church. Then I’ll start begging for stuff to fill ‘em. Also, I asked recently for some help sewing strips of Velcro onto the brocade hangings for our lecterns to keep them in place. Charlotte Campbell and Mary Catherine Cole have stepped up to help, but I neglected to tell them we have about 40 hangings to fix up. They’re ready to go and have made no complaints, but Charlotte said “How many of these are there?” when she looked in the sacristy. Any more of y’all who can sew would be welcome!

A Saint for June: St Margaret, Queen of Scotland
This month we’re celebrating the life of St Margaret of Scotland, Queen, wife and mother. Her icon is on the stand next to the baptismal font. What follows is a brief excerpt from her biography, written by Bishop Turgot, her confessor, not long after her death in 1093. He wrote his biography at the request of her daughter, Matilda, wife of King Henry I of England.

“As I have determined to fulfill your request and render a true account of the life of your mother, it seems fitting that I relate not only an account of her life as Queen, given over to the daily completion of her royal duties, but also not to leave hidden the works of piety and charity which were the content of her days. Some of her charity you know, but she so quietly followed the words of our Lord, not allowing her left hand to know what the right was doing, that many of her close acquaintances were aware of the breadth and constancy of her acts of charity. During the years it was my duty and honor to serve at the royal court, I was myself privy to her deeds and prayers.

When the Queen was resident at court, it was her habit to rise from her bed at midnight and join in the service of Matins. That completed, she often remained in the chapel at prayer until rising to return to her chamber. She did not, however, return to her rest. One of the duties of her chamberlain was to present the Queen with six poor persons outside the chapel. The Queen washed their feet and distributed alms to each. Only then did she return to her rooms.

At dawn she arose to pray and recite the appointed Psalms. When she broke her fast, she was joined by six children from the orphanage she founded who shared the table with the Queen. Afterwards, she would take the children on her knee and speak words of kindness to them, giving each a gift as they departed. These things she did, as she would tell us, “for the sake of Jesus Christ, present in the poor.”

Prior to her mid-day meal, it was the Queen’s custom to have three hundred poor people brought into the royal hall. There, attended by those of us who were her chaplains and a few others, she herself served a meal from the royal kitchen and afterwards distributed alms. In like manner, after Vespers, she saw to the feeding and distribution of clothing and alms to twenty-four paupers. From midnight until the close of day, the Queen was given to both frequent prayer and continual works of mercy…”

Pray, Brethren…

for Russ, who continues his recuperation; please pray for for Sharon, who is ill and presently apartment-bound; remember Jillian; Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; pray for Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; for Elizabeth, struggling with breast cancer, and her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain, supporting her in her fight; please remember Daniel and Dorothy, who have Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, Josh, and Celeste; for Orlinda, Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky; and for Paul and Carmen, still living with the consequences of last years’ flooding. Remember the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS and for the victims, living and dead, of attacks by Islamists. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Milford, Ron, Robert, Billy, for Caleb and his mourning parents, Paul and Rhea. In all things, beloved, give thanks…

Services This Week
There will be no weekday services this week.

Friday is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, June 24th, being the Feast of the Nativity of St John Baptist


June 19, 2016

The Fourth Sunday after Trinity, which is also Father’s Day

Blessing of Holy Water
They say no one can eat sausage with the same gusto as before once they’ve actually seen sausage being made. While making a batch of holy water isn’t quite the same as stuffing sausage, people almost always have questions about it once they’re present for the brief service. Sunday was no exception. At the beginning of the 10.30 Eucharist, all of us there blessed some holy water and I had a couple of questions about it earlier this week. Here’s the main one:

Do you do “exorcisms” of the salt and water? Why?

We do indeed exorcise the salt and water before blessing them as holy water, but exorcisms rarely involve eerie demonic voices and pea-green regurgitant. The original meaning of the Greek word exorcism, and its most common use before the 17th century, was “to compel by an oath” or “to bind with strong words.” The exorcisms used in the blessing are meant to purify the “creatures” of salt and water and prepare them for a sacred use. The exorcisms set them apart from everyday salt and water. Underneath these exorcisms is the notion, explicit in St Paul, that “all creation groans” since the fall of Adam. Everything God made is good, but since Adam chewed the pomegranate, everything is also tainted. Not just us, but everything God made so good. The whole of creation is impacted by sin. So these exorcisms seek to rectify a bit of that, to prepare the salt and water for blessing, so they become something holy, to be used solely for a sacred purpose.

What are we supposed to “do” with the holy water?

Aside from its most obvious use, set at the entrance of the church so people can bless themselves with it when they come and go from church, holy water can be used by individuals, families or groups to bless themselves, their homes, their cars or anything else they want to ask God to bless. The concluding prayer of the rite says “wheresoever this salt and water is sprinkled, with the invocation of Thy holy Name, may Thy Holy Spirit be present to those who ask for Thy mercy.” Holy water is not one of the Sacraments, but it is called a “sacramental”; something we use to help us in the living of our faith. Other “sacramentals” are things like the ashes we use at the beginning of Lent, the palms of Palm Sunday, and things like that. Nobody has to use holy water (except when they get splashed with it), but for many it is an aid to deepen their spiritual lives.

Notes on This Sunday’s Collect
“O God, the protector of all that trust in Thee, without Whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; Increase and multiply upon us Thy mercy; that, Thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal.  Grant this, O heavenly Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.  Amen.”

The Latin original of this Sunday’s collect was written sometime in the fifth or sixth century. When it was translated into English for inclusion in the first Prayer Book of 1549, a small but noteworthy change was made from the Latin. The Latin collect is identical to the English with the exception of one phrase: it says “that we may so pass through the good things of this world, that we lose not the things eternal.” The original prays that we use the good things of life in such a way that they don’t become distractions from the good things of eternity, but through them grow in grace. By removing the word good from the collect, the Prayer Book broadens its meaning. Not everything that happens to us in life is good. Some things don’t entice us, but sadden us. Some things drive us to despair. So the Prayer Book asks God that, whatever comes, good or bad, may He enable us to use everything “to His glory and to our salvation,” to quote another old collect.

 
St Ursicinus the Martyr
This Sunday is the feast of St Ursicinus of Ravenna, Physician & Martyr, AD 67. St Ursicinus was condemned during the persecutions of Nero, who had hundreds of Christians dipped in tar, bound to tall wooden stakes and set afire in the Coliseum to provide light for the night-time gladiatorial games. When the imprisoned Ursicinus learned he would be among those burned the next night, he was much tempted to renounce his faith in Christ and save his life. After talking with St Vitalis (who was himself to shortly follow Ursicinus in martyrdom), the saint insisted on being the first to be taken into the Coliseum the next evening.

The saint’s name, Ursicinus, is pronounced ur-sik-EYE-nus, just in case you want to mention him in a conversation.

Our hymns this week are familiar ones: our Processional Hymn is # 280, “God, My King.” It’s played simply here, on piano: .https://youtu.be/Bbq4MDoZx60. Sunday’s Offertory Hymn, “I Worship Thee, Lord Jesus,” (#252) is played here also on piano, by the same person: https://youtu.be/wix3IoBMJbI. Finally, our Recessional Hymn, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” (# 289), is done here nicely at Westminster Abby: https://youtu.be/rsHIwXTjAOU. If you usually skip over this listing of hymns, don’t skip this one. It’s Anglican hymnody at its best.

Our pianist friend has one more piece I’d like you to listen to: https://youtu.be/neSaS_pOfpY. YouTube has it mislabeled as “I Worship Thee,” our Sunday Offertory, but it’s actually in our hymnal as # 251, “Lamb of God, I look to Thee.” The tune is captivatingly simple and – as we’ll see, beloved – very easy to learn. I want to add it to our parish repertoire, so here’s the deal: this Sunday we’re going to practice it for about 8 minutes or so during what would normally be the sermon-time, and the sermon I preach will be 8 minutes long – or LESS.

Old Testament Class
Our class on the Old Testament meets every Sunday in David Hall, from 9.15-10.15 AM. We’ve been reading the Book of Genesis, and have just concluded our study of the life of Abraham. Before we move on to looking at the lives of Isaac and Jacob, though, we’ll take a couple of weeks to look at the structure and composition of Genesis and a brief history of its interpretation, using the stories of Abraham as a way of understanding the way the book as a whole was put together and some of the principles that have guided our understanding of not just Genesis but the Old Testament as a whole. What is the relevance of the patriarchal stories for today? How do they influence our beliefs about God and what He is doing now as we look at a world so very different from our own? If reading this makes you so giddy that you can’t wait till Sunday morning arrives and want to drive to my house right now so we can talk about it, hold your horses! Sunday will be here quick enough. In the meantime, review the stories of Abraham (Genesis 11-24) and come to class Sunday morning with your questions!

Everyone is welcome to the class. If you want coffee, come a little early! I start talking at 9.15, and with everybody’s help, I stop at 10.15 so be in church for the 10.30 Eucharist!

Incidentally, our Class Handouts are now available online at our parish website.  Just click on "THE BIBLE PAGE."
 

Parish Covered Dish Luncheon Sunday, June 26th
As is usual, we’ll have our monthly Covered Dish Luncheon the last Sunday of the month, which is next Sunday. The Vestry is providing all-you-can-eat fried chicken. The rest is up to y’all. Tanya has a sign-up sheet, so let her know what you plan to bring. Before we eat, I’ll be blessing those over the past month who’ve had birthdays and anniversaries, and will have a stowpfulle of holy water with me…

We Need a Few Things Around Here, and Maybe You Can Help…
I have a charitable project in mind, and for it I need baskets! I need a batch of baskets in decent shape, clean and sturdy. Plain is just fine, in fact, preferable. If you’ve got a couple in the recesses of your attic or storage bin, I’ll take ‘em! Also, I need somebody who can do some relatively simple sewing. The brocade hangings on our lecterns are held in place by books or other convenient weights, but prone to slip when gravity can sufficiently exercise his authority. A few strips of judiciously applied Velcro should allow us to defy the otherwise inexorable laws discovered by Sir Isaac Newton.

A Saint for June: St Margaret, Queen of Scotland
This month we’re celebrating the life of St Margaret of Scotland, Queen, wife and mother. Her icon is on the stand next to the baptismal font. What follows is a brief excerpt from her biography, written by Bishop Turgot, her confessor, not long after her death in 1093.

“The Queen was devoted, as we have said before, to daily works of charity benefiting the poor, but she did not neglect the betterment of the church, particularly working to enrich the beauty of the House of God. She left proofs of her devotion in a host of churches throughout our land, as witness the Church of St Andrews (wherein her marriage to King Duncan was celebrated). In that church, even to the present day, is preserved a most striking crucifix she had fashioned by the finest craftsmen. One of the chambers of Queen Margaret was given over as a workshop of sacred art, in which copes, chasubles, stoles, altar-cloths, together with church hangings of exquisite beauty, were always in course of preparation.

In these pious works she was daily joined by certain women of noble birth and like devotion who eagerly took part in the Queen’s program for adorning the churches.  Inspired by the Queen’s sweetness of temper and gentle conversation, these women avoided all silly talk and any untoward conversation. Those who waited upon her, men as well as women, loved her while they feared her, and in fearing, loved her the more. This was not the servile fear of punishment, but a noble fear deriving from their love of Queen Margaret: none wished to do any act or utter any word which was unworthy of her presence. From courtiers of exalted station to the lowliest serving maid, from her ladies-in-waiting to the guards at her door, and, as I myself have seen, from clergy of every rank, the Queen drew forth a desire to excel in virtue. Thus it was that when she was present no one ventured to utter even one unseemly word, much less to do aught that was objectionable.

There was gravity in her joy, and courtesy even in her displeasure.  Her mirth never degenerated into foolishness, nor did her displeasure ever kindle into fury. When she chided the faults of others, it was only after expressing her own similar failings to ease their consciences.

So thoroughly did her outward bearing correspond with the inward strength of her character that she presented to those who knew her with the pattern of a virtuous life. In fact, I may say, every word which she uttered, every act which she performed, showed that she lived her life on earth with a heart fixed upon the things of Heaven.”

Pray, Brethren…for Russ, making a slow but steady recuperation and for Cassandra, who likewise continues mending; for Jillian; Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; pray for Sharon, who is ill; for Elizabeth, struggling with breast cancer, and her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain, supporting her in her fight; please remember Daniel and Dorothy, living with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, Josh, and Celeste; for Orlinda, Lynne, Gaelyn & Skyler; for Becky; and for Paul and Carmen, still living with the consequences of last years’ flooding. Kathryn is at Summer Camp. Remember the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS and for the victims, living and dead, of attacks by Islamists. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Debra, William, Milford, Ron, Robert, Billy, as well as young Caleb and his mourning parents, Paul and Rhea. In all things, beloved, give thanks…


Services This Week

Wednesday, June 22 – St Alban, Proto-martyr of England, 209
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
 7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, June 24 – Feast of the Nativity of St John Baptist
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
 7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

This Friday is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, June 17th, being the Feast of St Botolph of Thorney, Abbot, 680

 

June 12, 2016
The Third Sunday after Trinity


As you come into Saint Joseph’s, just past the narthex, you see the parish baptismal font. It’s a beautiful piece of work, over 100 years old I’m told (it sort of looks it around the edges), made of walnut. The cover for the font is nice and heavy, as it should be, and is surmounted by a nicely-carved cross – off-kilter a bit, warped no doubt by the vicissitudes of age and 100 years to Texas  humidity.
 
When you pass by the font Sunday by Sunday, you’ll note the cover is laid to the side. The font is usually filled with water, even though we’re usually not baptizing anybody. Porque?


The water in the font is holy water. When it runs low, as it recently has, we replenish it by blessing some more. This Sunday, before the 10.30 Eucharist begins, we’ll bless some more so the font will be full. Porque?
Many churches, Anglican, Roman Catholic and, I’m told even some Lutheran churches, have a small container at the entrance to the church called a holy water “stoup” (it comes from stowp, the Old English word for a bucket). The stoup is there so people can dip their fingers in the holy water and make the sign of the cross as they enter. Before churches placed the stoups by the entrance, though, the older custom was to keep the baptismal font full of water for that purpose. One of the oldest accounts of the custom dates back to AD 540, when the great church of St Sophia in Constantinople was consecrated. Above the baptismal font the words “Wash my transgressions, not only my face,” were written.

The reason the water is in the font, and that some people pause to use it when they enter, is plainly put before us in the Prayer Book catechism.

Question: When were you made a member of the Church?
Answer: I was made a member of the Church when I was baptized. (BCP p 290)

We became Christians when we were baptized. For most of us, that was long before we do anything more articulate than gurgle. We don’t make ourselves Christians, God does, in the water of baptism. Baptism doesn’t save us, but it is the beginning of our salvation, a most necessary and integral part of it. The baptismal font sits at the entrance of the church just for that reason: it tells us, each time we enter, that baptism is our entrance into the Church.

As the catechism teaches us a bit before the above quotation: “in Baptism I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven.” (BCP p 283). The water in the font is there to recall us to that happy fact. Our faith, our salvation, requires that you and I co-operate with the grace God gives us, at the font, at the Altar rail, in our worship and when we pray. But the initiative is always with God, in Whom our salvation is grounded, and from Whom it comes.

As mentioned above, at the beginning of the 10.30 Eucharist this Sunday, we’ll bless holy water at the baptismal font. When we’ve finished, as a sacramental reminder of our baptisms, I’ll asperse everyone with the newly-sanctified water. I’ll need a few assistants with it all, so if you’re willing to help out, let me know. The complete form of the blessing is in the bulletin.
 
This Sunday is the feast of St Amphion of Nicomedia, one of the 318 Father of the Council of Nicaea, one of the authors of the Nicene Creed.
 
Our hymns this week are all one you know: our Processional Hymn is # 301, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.” It’s competently sung here: https://youtu.be/spE-BE23qxA. At the Offertory is my favorite Eucharistic hymn, # 189,  “And Now, O Father, Mindful of the Love”:  https://youtu.be/bTBkw994IR8. We’ll conclude with “Lord of All Hopefulness” set to the Irish tune, “Slane.” Michael Mahaffey tells me this is one of his favorite hymns. It’s # 363: https://youtu.be/LCBjxVP6GWE. Next Sunday, though, dearly beloved, we’ll be trying out something new (for us, anyway).


Old Testament Class
Our class on the Old Testament meets every Sunday in David Hall, from 9.15-10.15 AM. We’re reading the Book of Genesis, having just concluded a study of chapters 18-24. Before we move on to the life of his son, Isaac (chapters 22-27), we will pause and take a look at quick look at the Book of Genesis as a whole. Please read Handout # 3 “Outline of the Book of Genesis” before class if you can. The book, though it seems to be a collection of sometimes unrelated stories, has been woven into a tapestry of tales that, taken together, do indeed tell a story – with complex characters and all sorts of twists and turns in the plot.  Everyone is welcome to the class. If you want coffee, come a little early! I start talking at 9.15, and with everybody’s help, I stop at 10.15 so be in church for the 10.30 Eucharist!
 
St Joseph’s June Vestry Meeting
At the best of times, our parish Vestry does well to meet once during the summer, and never in June. We have met, I understand, since Apostolic Days on the third Sunday of the month, but Fathers’ Day always falls on the third Sunday. Since that’s the case this year too, a poll of the Vestry has resulted in our annual cancelation of this month’s meeting, too. I’m tempted to ask the Vestry to pass a standing resolution that we simply do not schedule a meeting in June, but it’s kind of fun listening to our Vestry members ponder and discuss the pros and cons of a June meeting, when everybody already knows what the decision will be!
 
Parish Covered Dish Luncheon Sunday, June 26th
As is usual, we’ll have our monthly Covered Dish Luncheon the last Sunday of the month, on Sunday, June 26th. The Vestry will provide the main dish – don’t be shocked – fried chicken. The rest is up to you, beloved. Tanya has a sign-up sheet, so let her know what you plan to bring.
 
We Need a Few Things Around Here, and Maybe You Can Help…
I have a charitable project in mind, and for it I need baskets! I need a batch of baskets in decent shape, clean and sturdy. Plain is just fine, in fact, preferable. If you’ve got a couple in the recesses of your attic or storage bin, I’ll take ‘em! Also, I need somebody who can do some relatively simple sewing. The brocade hangings on our lecterns are held in place by books or other convenient weights, but prone to slip when gravity can sufficiently exercise his authority. A few strips of judiciously applied Velcro should allow us to defy the otherwise inexorable laws discovered by Sir Isaac Newton.


A Saint for June: St Margaret, Queen of Scotland
This month we’re celebrating the life of St Margaret of Scotland, Queen, wife and mother. Her icon is on the stand next to the baptismal font. What follows is a brief excerpt from her biography, written by Bishop Turgot, her confessor, not long after her death in 1093.


“…by the appointment of God, she was married to Malcolm, son of King Duncan, the powerful king of the Scots. But although she was compelled to do as the world does, and live in royal state, surrounded with the honors and trappings of her high position, she thought it unfitting to fix her affection upon the things of the world. Good works delighted her far more than good things. Indeed, it may be said that she, more than any I have ever seen,  fulfilled the Gospel commandment: she so used her temporal possessions that through them she laid up for herself great rewards in Heaven; for it was there that her heart was fixed, and there was her treasure also.
And since before all things she sought the kingdom of God and His righteousness, the bountiful grace of the Almighty freely added to her honors and riches in abundance. This prudent queen directed all such things as it was fitting for her to regulate; the laws of the realm were administered by her counsel; by her care the influence of religion was extended, and the people rejoiced in the prosperity of their affairs. Nothing was firmer than her fidelity, steadier than her favor, or more just than her decisions; nothing was more enduring than her patience, wiser than her advice, or more pleasant than her conversation. Her generosity in conversation extended to all. The humblest of her subjects, no less than those of the most exalted station, found themselves fully engaged in her attentions. To each she dealt gentle words and kind intentions, ever with the intent to cheer the sorrowful and build up the weak. No word of hers ever fell on stony ground…”


Pray, Brethren…

for Russ, recuperating, but looking pretty hale at his birthday party last Sunday evening; in thanksgiving for Cassandra, who continues mending, for Jillian, who celebrated her birthday Saturday; for Bill and Sammi; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; pray for Sharon, who is ill, and for Elizabeth, with breast cancer, and her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain; please remember Daniel and Dorothy, struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, Josh, and Celeste; for Orlinda; for Paul and Carmen, still living with the consequences of last years’ flooding. Kathryn is off to Summer Camp this week and Middie has been carted off by her family for a week of vacation: pray for them. Remember the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS and for the victims, living and dead, of attacks by Islamists. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Debra, William, Milford, Ron, as well as young Caleb and his mourning parents, Paul and Rhea. In all things, beloved, give thanks…


Services This Week
 
Wednesday, June 15 – SS Athanasius & Benildis of Cordova, Martyred by the Moors, 853
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
Friday, June 17 – St Botolph of Thorney, Abbot, 680
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
This Friday is a Day of Abstinence
 
I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!
 
Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, June 10th, being the Feast of St Margaret of Scotland, Queen, and the birthday of the Hon Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, 1808

June 5, 2016

The Second Sunday after Trinity

Whitsunday, Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi Sunday, all follow hard on the heels of Easter. In fact, every year, from the beginning of the Advent season late in November till Corpus Christi Sunday, the Church’s calendar is chock full of feasts and fasts and special observances. Advent, Christmastide, Epiphany, Lent and Easter: each winter and spring we’re drawn into an annual participation in Christ’s Incarnation, “His blessed passion and precious death, His mighty Resurrection and glorious Ascension.” This is the real purpose of the Church’s year, and the inestimable benefit of her Liturgy. We are made participants in redemption.

Redemption, hard as that may be for me to believe sometimes, is not about me. St Augustine did indeed once say that if only one of us had ever sinned and everybody else lived lives of seamless perfection, Christ would indeed have come down from Heaven for the sake of the one. He said that, though, to show the profound love that God has for each of us. Redemption is not something God brings about for each of us individually, not even what He does for us collectively as the Race of Man, but what God does for the whole of His creation. The Church’s grasp of redemption, embodied in her Scriptures, extends beyond each of us as fallen souls, beyond all of us as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, to the farthest stars of the cosmos. In Christ’s Incarnation, God didn’t only become one of us, He became a part of all He has made. “Christ,” St Paul says, “is the image of the invisible God; all things were created by Him and for Him, and in Him all things hold together…and having made peace through the blood of His Cross, He reconciles all things in Himself, whether things on earth, or things in Heaven.”

The Church’s calendar enables us to live out our redemption through her feasts and fasts. That’s not the totality of the life of a Christian, but it’s a firm grounding for it. The days from Advent through Corpus Christi put in front of us the essential content of our redemption. They show us – and bring us into – what God has done “for us men and for our salvation.”

“For all things there is a season,” the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us. There’s a time to plant the seeds, to harvest the crop, and to let the ground lie fallow; a time to do, and a time to reflect. With that in mind, the Church gives us a long season, Trinitytide, which we’re just beginning, as a time to ponder and put into personal practice the redemption of which each of us is a part. From now till next Advent, still six months off, we’ll consider and put into practice what redemption means for us Christians at St Joseph’s here in New Braunfels. I’ll be talking to you about that a bit more this /Sunday morning. I’ll tell Larry it’ll take the place of a sermon!

Most of us are either too young, or too old, to sing very well (there may be other reasons, but I’m “drawing the curtain of charity” over anything else). Nevertheless, hymns and music are not only a happy incidental to our worship, they’ve been there since the beginning and, if Scripture is to be believed (if it’s not, we’re in serious trouble!), music is integral to Heaven. I know sometimes we’re doing our best to get through a couple of verses of any given hymn; I’m also aware some of y’all think I pore through the Hymnal thinking, “Let’s see now…which of these hymns are so obscure nobody will have heard them before? Hmm…here’s one that should stump ‘em all on Sunday!” I’ll be the first to admit our Hymnal, while having some hymns of incomparable beauty, is also littered with musical trash. There are a couple of hymns, more than one or two hundred years old, that are so theologically unsound they could have been written by a modern-day Episcopal bishop!

But our musical, hymnological tradition is too rich and good to surrender. We aren’t a cathedral, but Catholic tradition isn’t really tradition if it’s not alive everywhere in the Church – even if it limps sometimes. So rather than us sing the same eight hymns over and again, this summer we’ll be learning some “new” ones. I’ve chosen a batch from traditional Anglican hymnals across the world – I’ve got a pretty good collection – and we’ll be practicing and singing some now and again over the summer. You can tell me what you think after Mass is over – not that you don’t anyway! – and maybe we can increase the size of our parish hymnological repertoire. If not, well, the hymn-practice time will have come out of my sermons. Every situation has its own silver-lining.

This Sunday, though, we’ll stick to some great old favorites from the hymnal: “Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven,” # 282. Here is a nice little version on YouTube: https://youtu.be/sx1eMwlDFb8  Then, “I Worship Thee, Lord Jesus” # 252:  https://youtu.be/wix3IoBMJbI  and, finally, “Jerusalem, My Happy Home,” # 585: https://youtu.be/_ySssVj7XCs

Old Testament Class
All the members of the class concurring, we will be moving the day and time of our Old Testament Class, which has been meeting on Friday afternoons, to Sunday mornings. Class will begin at 9.15 and continue till 10.15; we’ll meet in David Hall. So everybody can be primed for class to begin on time, coffee will be served beginning at 9.00 AM. That’s when Bill Lee and I always have our Sunday morning bowl of oatmeal. If you’d like to join us for that, let Tanya know. She buys the oatmeal and cooks it for us. It’s usually too thick.

We’ve concluded our study of the life of Abraham (Genesis 18-24); our first Sunday session we’ll quickly review the principal stories in his life and then do the same for his son, Isaac, noting how the Covenant continues in his life as it did in the life of his father. As it changed Abraham, so it will change Isaac, too. Before class, please read Genesis, chapters 24-27. You’ll note a bit of overlap in the stories: Abraham doesn’t conveniently die at the end of chapter 23 but lingers till halfway through chapter 24, and Isaac, a necessary party to the story of his sacrifice, first comes on the scene back in chapter 21. A new handout for our class (#3 for those keeping count) is on the narthex table this Sunday. It’s an outline of the book of Genesis with a few notes on its composition. There are a couple of new maps, too, showing the places Abraham lived in Canaan and the important sites in Isaac’s life.

A Saint for June:  St Margaret, Queen of Scotland
This month we’ll celebrate the life of St Margaret of Scotland, Queen, wife and mother. Her icon will be on the stand next to the baptismal font, and a small book I’ve written about her will be on the narthex table. Her feast day is this Friday, June 10th, a day she shares with 314 other saints. Why, then, St Margaret?

The life of a princess who grew up to be a queen doesn’t seem to be anybody’s idea of roughing it, but Margaret was a member of the royal family of Anglo-Saxon England when Anglo-Saxon England was coming apart. Her father, heir to the English throne, was exiled first to Sweden, then Russia and finally Hungary, where he managed to find protection under King Stephen. When be brought his family back to England by the dying king, St Edward the Confessor, his political enemies had him murdered two days after getting off the boat. Shipped hither and yon, Margaret’s family had no home of their own and lived under constant threats. She married the King of Scotland, Malcolm, a grizzled and uncouth warrior who fell madly in love with her, when she was in her early twenties. Margaret became his devoted wife and bore him eight children, each of whom she personally taught to read and write. Though Malcolm had never been able to do either, she taught him as well, using her Book of Gospels as a text. During her time as queen, Margaret opened several schools and hospitals, even paid for bridges, roads and ferries to help the common folks, and several days each week fed the poor in courtyard of Edinburgh Castle.

Queen Margaret attended daily Mass and set aside a part of her day for reading Holy Scripture (her book of the Gospels is preserved in the Bodleian Library in Oxford). She founded several convents and monasteries and did all she could to bring her family up in piety. Though Malcolm’s interests were in statecraft and warfare, he is said to have remarked that his wife’s work with his people would long outlast his. He seems to have been right. 

Anniversary of the First Book of Common Prayer, 1549 BCP
This Wednesday, June 8th, is the 467th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer. It’s an anniversary worth remembering every year and a gift worth thanking God for. I won’t go on about it right now, but the famous American poet, W H Auden, an Episcopalian from the cradle who grew up week in and out hearing the words of the Prayer Book, wrote a letter to the Rev Cannon Charles Guilbert back when the first revisions of the 1928 Prayer Book began to appear (which would someday become the 1979 Book of Common Prayer). His letter reads (in part):

“I think our church has gone stark raving mad. We had the Providential good-fortune, a blessing denied to the Roman Catholics, that our Prayer Book was compiled at the ideal historical moment, that is to say when the English language was already in all essentials the language we use now - nobody has any difficulty understanding Shakespeare’s or Cranmer’s English, as they have difficulty with Beowulf or Chaucer - at the same time, men in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries still possessed what our own has almost totally lost, a sense for the ceremonial and ritual both in life and in language. Why, except in very minor details, any Episcopalian should want to tinker with either the Book of Common Prayer or the King James Bible, and go a-whoring after cacophonous and sometimes heretical new versions passes my comprehension.”

I’ve omitted some of the more colorful phrasing in the letter.

Pray, Brethren…

for Russ, recuperating, who celebrates his birthday next Monday; in thanksgiving for Cassandra, who continues mending, and for Bruce, who is mended (and a new grandfather, to boot!); for Jillian, who celebrates her birthday next Saturday (she’ll be eight!); for Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; Remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; pray for Sharon, who is ill, and for Elizabeth, with breast cancer, and her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain; please remember Daniel and Dorothy, struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, Josh, and Celeste; for Orlinda; for Paul and Carmen, still living with the consequences of last years’ flooding. Remember the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS and for the victims, living and dead, of attacks by Islamists. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Doris, Billy Jean, Debra, William, Milford, Ron, as well as young Caleb and his mourning parents, Paul and Rhea. In all things, beloved, give thanks…especially for Rachel and Seth, who have had their child, Jacob, and for Bruce & Toya, happy grandparents.

Services This Week

Wednesday, June 8 – St Edgar the Peaceful, King of England, 975; Commemoration of the First Book of Common Prayer, 1549
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, June 10 – St Margaret of Scotland, Queen, 1093
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

This Friday is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, June 3, being the Feast of St Alcuin of Tours, Abbot, 804, and the birthday of the Hon Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, 1808


May 29, 2016
Sunday in the Octave of Corpus Christi, also being the First Sunday after Trinity


The Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, was Thursday, but since it has an octave (a week-long celebration), we’ll be keeping the feast this Sunday. It focuses on the Holy Eucharist and its central place in the life of the Church. Every Sunday for the last 1983 years (remember our Whitsun birthday cake?), we Christians have been offering the Eucharist as we have been ordered by the Lord Himself to do.

The Lord Jesus instituted the Eucharist, “on the night in which He was betrayed,” the night before His brutal crucifixion and agonizing death.

Many centuries back, it was thought that a feast celebrating the Eucharist itself, separate from the sobrieties of Holy Week, would allow us to focus on the Sacrament and its inestimable benefits in a more joyful setting. So we have the feast we’re celebrating this Sunday.

Three times a year, the Prayer Book orders me (and I dutifully obey) to read the Exhortation before Holy Communion. It’s found on pages 85-6. I read it to y’all last Sunday. The Exhortation is in two parts. It tells us to prepare ourselves to receive the Sacrament, and why our preparation is important, and it then goes on to tell us why the Sacrament is important. The Lord instituted these Holy Mysteries “for a continual remembrance of His death.” Even when it’s not Maundy Thursday, or Holy Week, or Lent, the Eucharist is a “continual remembrance of His death.”

Who’s doing the remembering?

Well, there’s us. Those of us who got up, got dressed and came to church. If we remember to remember what we’re doing, there’s us. But we’re not remembering alone.

With us, unseen but as present (is it too rude to say even “more present”?) as us are “angels and archangels and all the company of Heaven.” There’s them. They’re remembering, too.

But there’s something (Someone) more. All this remembering we’re doing is part of the Eternal Remembering which goes on continually in Heaven. That’s the Remembering that matters.

Here’s what St Paul has to say about all this: “Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with human hands, which is a copy of the true [sanctuary], but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” What’s he saying?

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension, when Christ’s body went to Heaven. Why? Was it just ‘cause He didn’t have anything else to do here? Well, in a sense, yes. His Work here was done, but He now had business Elsewhere. Christ returned to His Father, the Son of God forever now also the Son of Man. His perfect divinity is now eternally one with His perfect humanity, “to appear in the presence of God for us.” He is, in Heaven, perpetually remembering “His blessed Passion and precious Death, His mighty Resurrection and glorious Ascension” before His Father. He’s presenting all this on our behalf. When a handful of us celebrate the Eucharist in our little parish church on a Wednesday morning with the world bustling around, we are not alone.

That’s something worth keeping an Octave for.

Because of the feast, the liturgical color for Sunday is white. Enjoy it while it lasts. The green color of Trinitytide will be up till the end of November! This Sunday we’ll have three Collects for the Eucharist: one for Corpus Christi, one for the First Sunday after Trinity and one for Memorial Day. Please take a look at the blurb below about Memorial Day. In addition, we’ll have a Last Gospel at the end of the Mass, as is customary for a major feast day. With all these extra prayers and Bible readings, is there a chance the sermon will be shorter than usual? You’ll have to come to church to find out.

New Day and Time for Old Testament Class
All the members of the class concurring, we will be moving the day and time of our Old Testament Class, which has been meeting on Friday afternoons, to Sunday mornings. Class will begin at 9.15 and continue till 10.15; we’ll meet in David Hall. So everybody can be primed for class to begin on time, coffee will be served beginning at 9.00 AM. We WILL NOT MEET this coming Friday, June 3rd; our first Sunday class will meet on June 5th.

We’ve concluded our study of the life of Abraham (Genesis 18-24); our first Sunday session will review the life of his son, Isaac, noting how the Covenant continues in his life as it did in the life of his father. As it changed Abraham, so it will change Isaac, too. Before class, please read Genesis, chapters 24-27. You’ll note a bit of overlap in the stories: Abraham doesn’t conveniently die at the end of chapter 23 but lingers till halfway through chapter 24, and Isaac, a necessary party to the story of his sacrifice, first comes on the scene back in chapter 21. A new handout for our class (#3 for those keeping count) will be on the narthex table this Sunday. It’s an outline of the book of Genesis with a few notes on its composition.  

Memorial Day
Monday is Memorial Day, but we’ll be remembering the day on Sunday, with prayers for those who’ve died in the service of our country, remembering especially those of our own families. If you have names you’d like to add to our commemoration, please email them to me or bring them with you on Sunday. We’ll have a sheet on the narthex table. 

A Private Commemoration
During my recent hospital stays and surgeries, I’ve been buoyed by the prayers of many of y’all and am grateful for them. As ever, I carry a stack of books with me and try to see these occasions as reading vacations. Two books I did read during this time are The Fall of Constantinople by the great medieval historian, Steven Runciman, and 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West, by Roger Crowley. They both tell the story of the fall of Constantinople, the capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire, the walls of which were finally breached after a long siege on May 29, 1453. Sunday is the anniversary of the fall of the Great City, an anniversary which will pass without any acknowledgement in our culture, though not elsewhere. It’s kept as a high day in Muslim Turkey, which celebrates the day as “Fatih: the Victory of Islam over the Christians.” It may be something we might be wise not to completely toss in the dustbin of history. Anyway, in Sunday’s bulletin you’ll note in the intercessions “a Private Intention.” It’s mine, this time. I’ll privately be remembering, on the day before our own Memorial Day, those who died on May 29, 1453, and what they died fighting for – and against.

Summertime at St Joseph’s
With the coming of Trinitytide, which will stretch from now till the end of November (the Advent season begins November 27th), there are a couple of Holy Days of note we’ll specially celebrate, but summers – in Texas, at least – I recollect as “fallow times” of the year. People went on vacations, envied the Mexicans their siestas, and generally tried to find excuses not to leave the air-conditioning (last summer, Chris Penski and I joked about finding one of those old blue vinyl signs, with white icicle letters that used to hang outside theaters in the summertime saying “Refrigerated Air”; we wanted to hang one of them on the front of the church from May till October).

Parish life during Texas summers was a fallow time. A lot of parish choirs took the summer off (that’s not a concern at St Joseph’s), Sunday schools didn’t meet – but there was Vacation Church School, the Episcopalian version of Vacation Bible School. Services were sometimes shorter (again, not anything to be concerned about here), fewer men wore ties and jackets to church, more women wore sundresses and flouncy hats. Parish life sensibly slowed, but didn’t stop.

I have a couple of things in mind for this summer so we don’t slow down too much. Watch here next week for our summer parish calendar. 

Pray, Brethren…

. . .for Russ, recuperating, and in thanksgiving for Cassandra and Bruce, who are most definitely on the mend and may soon challenge each other to a footrace after the 8.00 AM Sunday Mass; for Jillian, who in spite of some of her health challenges has joined her sisters on the swim team (the Dolphins); for Sammie and Bill; Patrick; Taylor, Sunni and Emery; for Loren. Remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; pray for Elizabeth, with breast cancer, and her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son, Iain; please remember Daniel and Dorothy, struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, Josh, and Celeste; for Orlinda; for Paul and Carmen, still living with the consequences of last years’ flooding. Remember the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS and for the victims, living and dead, of attacks by Islamists. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Doris, Billy Jean, Debra, William, Milford, Ron, as well as young Caleb and his mourning parents, Paul and Rhea. In all things, beloved, give thanks…especially for Rachel and Seth, who are expecting a child – very soon! – and for Clare, who will begin teaching at St Edward’s University in the fall.

St Conrad of Trier, Bishop & Martyr
The calendar of Saints is chock full of all sorts and conditions of folks like us. St Conrad of Trier, one of the 94 saints whose feast day is celebrated on June 1st, was just a pious monk who got mixed up in a quarrel (of which he had no part), and ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

St Conrad was born into the large and influential von Pfullingen family, in

Swabia, a region of the German Alps, about AD 1030. His uncle, Anno, was the Archbishop of Cologne, one of Germany’s most powerful churchmen at the time. As a young man, Conrad entered the Benedictine abby in nearby Hirsau and devoted himself to a life of prayer and study. He seemed destined for a quiet monastic life, having turned down a position as abbot of a new monastery built by his relatives near the family’s ancestral town.

His uncle, the archbishop, however, developed other plans for Brother Conrad. A dispute broke out between the archbishop and the clergy of the cathedral at Trier, one of the dioceses under his authority. The clergy had refused to elect as their new bishop Anno’s candidate. Tempers flared on both sides and, to prove his authority, Anno plucked the saintly Conrad from his monastic cell and consecrated him a bishop in Cologne early in 1066. He then sent Bishop Conrad off to his new position. When Conrad arrived, the clergy refused to receive him and a riot broke out. The freshly-minted bishop was dragged to a high tower of the local castle and summarily tossed off. The account of his life tells us that as he was about to be thrown from the tower, he not only forgave his killers, but prayed that his death might bring a reconciliation to the disputants. St Conrad, a good man at the wrong place in the wrong time, pray for us.

Services This Week
Wednesday, June 1 – St Conrad of Trier, Bishop & Martyr, 1066
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, June 3 – St Alcuin, Abbot of Tours, 804
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

This Friday is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Thursday, May 26, being the Feast of Corpus Christi (not the city, the Sacrament!)


 

May 22, 2016
Trinity Sunday

An old friend, whose opinions I respect and with whom I usually concur, once told me he thought that priests shouldn’t be allowed to preach on Trinity Sunday (no, it wasn’t Larry!). “I’ve never heard a sermon with anything useful, helpful or profound preached that day,” he told me with an arched eyebrow (directed, I’m sure at me). “Most priests don’t know what they’re talking about and the sermons they preach that day prove it.”

I’m sure there have been good, insightful sermons preached on this Sunday’s upcoming feast, but there is a bedrock grounding of truth in what my pal said. No less an authority on All Things Theological than St Thomas Aquinas himself says so. He doesn’t warn priests from preaching on the feast, but near the beginning of his great work, the Summa Theologica,  St Thomas gives all of us this caveat: in speaking about God, he says, we’re dealing with something which “surpasses human reason.” We’re incapable of understanding God as He is. About all we can know is that we don’t know. Everything else we can say about God is an approximation, because we can’t grasp God as He is. Only He can do that.

Nonetheless, St Thomas tells us, “our salvation, which is found in God, depends on our knowledge of Him.”


And that’s why we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity, “the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Ghost is God,” tomorrow. Our salvation depends on it.

Why? Because salvation doesn’t mean not going to hell. That’s like saying the definition of a Texan is somebody who wasn’t born on the North Pole. There’s a lot more to it than that, hon.

Salvation is our life in and with God. And the God we’re talking about isn’t the god of a comparative religion class. The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost is not the “Christian version” of God. He IS God. He Is Who He Is. All other beliefs about God are shadows of the God Who Is. Salvation consists “in our knowledge of Him,” as St Thomas says. As good as “book knowledge” is, he doesn’t mean that. The knowledge Thomas is talking about is like the knowledge we have of knowing the things we love: the smiling face of a cherished spouse or dearest friend, the certain familiarity of a summer’s evening alive with fireflies and creeping deer, the opening lines of a favorite book, all of them promises of better things to come. God, in Christ, has introduced Himself to each of us and invited us, in another of St Thomas phrases, to “be His friends.” Living that friendship is salvation.

In spite of my friend’s kindly warning from years back, I’ll preach on Trinity Sunday again this year. Don’t expect too much. Remember (and with this Larry will agree), I don’t understand what I’m talking about!

During the Liturgy on Sunday, we’ll be reciting the Athanasian Creed in place of the Nicene Creed. It’s a lot longer, but that’s because it says more. To reward you for working through its intricacies, after Mass we’ll be serving up Trinity Sundaes in David Hall. Neapolitan Ice Cream (three flavors in one) will be the order of the day, and assorted syrups and sprinkles and such will be available for those who want to add a bit extra to our theological dessert.

Old Testament Class
In spite of thunderous rainstorms, floodings, and occasional hospitalizations, our Friday Bible class continues undaunted. In the next few weeks, deo volente, we’ll finish the book of Genesis, tracing God’s Covenant with Abraham through the lives of his descendants as Joseph goes before the much-enlarged family of Abraham into Egypt, leading them out of Canaan, the land promised to them. There are notes, maps and other ephemerae related to the class in the stands on the table nearby the baptismal font in the narthex.

Some people have asked about the possibility of moving the class to Sunday mornings, to meet between the early and late Masses. If those presently attending the class on Fridays are willing, I’ll consider it. Let me know your thoughts. If you’re not attending the class and wouldn’t be interested in attending on Sunday morning either, you are allowed voice but no vote in the matter. 

Vestry Meeting – June 19th
The Vestry has its next scheduled meeting on Sunday, June 19th (the Fourth Sunday after Trinity), being also Fathers’ Day. If you are on the Vestry and this presents a problem, speak now! The Sunday following is our June Parish Lunch.

River Parking Has Begun!
“Summer is icumen in,” the 13th century English ballad begins. In New Braunfels, the “coming in” of the summer means the annual influx of tubers (toobers?) is “icumen” too. For us, that means our parish parking lot will be filled with cars parked by the Texas Tubes folks. That will be the case every weekend and some weekdays from now till Labor Day. Texas Tubes begins parking at 1.00 PM on Sundays. If you come to church on days when they’re parking, just tell the attendants you’re here on church business and you’ll escape the fee. And just in case you’d like to listen to the old English  ballad, here it is, in Chaucerian English: https://youtu.be/ZWWEHAswpF

Pray, Brethren

for Cassandra and Russ, still recuperating; for Jillian; Sammie and Bill; Patrick, Taylor, Sunni and Emery; for Loren. Remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; pray for Elizabeth, with breast cancer, also for her husband Steve (subdeacon) and for their son, Iain; please remember Daniel and Dorothy, struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Eric, Josh, and Celeste; for Orlinda and for Paul and Carmen, still living with the consequences of last years’ flooding. Remember the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS and for the victims, living and dead, of attacks by Islamists. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Doris, Billy Jean, Debra, William, Milford, Ron, as well as young Caleb and his mourning parents, Paul and Rhea. In all things, beloved, give thanks…especially for Rachel and Seth, who are expecting a child; for Charlotte and Robert, celebrating their birthdays (Charlotte at the casinos in Louisiana); James and Carol whose anniversary is this week, and for Clare, who not only just received her Master’s degree but has been hired to teach already – and it’s where she wanted to find a job!

Services This Week

Wednesday, May 25 – St Aldhelm of Sherbourne, Bishop
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, May 27 – In the Octave of Corpus Christi & St Bede the Venerable, Monk & Scholar
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

This Thursday is the Feast of Corpus Christi, celebrating the institution of the Holy Eucharist; though there will be no celebration of the Mass on that day, we will observe the feast on Sunday, May 29th, during the Octave    

This Friday is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, May 21, being Ember Saturday in Whitsun Week & the feast of St Helena of Constantinople, Finder of the True Cross


 
February 7, 2016
Quinquagesima Sunday

Anglican Particulars and Peculiarisms
Cicero said “It’s often much easier for us to say what’s wrong with things we admire than it is to explain what’s right about them.” That’s worth remembering when we Anglicans talk about our Faith. We see its imperfections (especially as it’s practiced by people in other parishes) so easily we take for granted its glories.

As we consider the whys and wherefores of Anglicanism over the next month or so, I thought it might be good to mention some of the things we all know but sometimes overlook.

Dr Geoffrey Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1945 till 1961, famously wrote “The Anglican Communion has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ's Church from the beginning.”

In other words, the faith of Anglicans is the faith of the ancient Church, the Creeds, the Councils and the Holy Scriptures. Unlike Lutherans, who look to Martin Luther, Presbyterians who follow John Calvin, Methodists who trace their beginnings to John Wesley, etc., our faith is “the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church.” That’s what we say we believe. The problem comes when we try to explain what we mean.

We know what the Bible is, but how do we understand it? Are the days of creation in Genesis 24 hour days? Whose children did the children of Adam and Eve marry? Did the rotation of the earth stop for a day so Joshua could win a battle? Do any of these things matter? The faith of some Christians, hinges on a host of questions like these.

When we recite the Creeds, we say things like “He descended into hell,” and “He ascended into Heaven.” Are these “real” places, like Austin or Falfurrias or are they something else? If they’re not “real,” what do we mean when we say further along “I believe in the resurrection of the body”? Where did the body of Jesus Christ go, and what’s in store for our bodies when the Time Comes if He didn’t really have somewhere He was headed?

These are crude questions, crudely put, of a sort many of us are too well-bred to ask. But they’ve been much-asked, and well-answered, in ages past. Since the earliest days of the Church – and before – questions we feel too silly to ask were bluntly and forcibly posed by people who demanded answers. They were answered by people like Saints Athanasius and Augustine and Jerome. That is all part of what we mean when we say our faith is “the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church.”  Their faith is our faith. That faith comes to life in a variety of ways, all inspired (inspirare in Latin means “to breathe into”) by the Holy Ghost. The Holy Bible, the Catholic Creeds, the Liturgy and Sacraments, all these are ways God breathes His life into the Church.

For Anglicans, the Church is not an option, some kind of “add-on.” A lot of good Christians have been taught the Church is good (or at least, not all bad), but not necessary. You can be a Christian just as well, many believe, on the golf course or on a mountain-top as propped on an uncomfortable kneeler in a stuffy church. Anglicans know better, though some of us may appreciate golf courses and mountaintop vistas more than sermons. “The Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church” gives us something nothing else can: here we encounter, every time we come, Jesus Christ. We hear His words, break His Body in our sorrows and joys, offer His Blood to His Father for the life of the world, and receive Him in the most comradely and intimate of ways.

This is central to our understanding of Anglicanism. “Others follow Jesus in their own ways,” says the bishop in the old Anglican joke, “just as we follow Him in His.”

St Blaise Blessing of Throats Sunday
February 3rd is the feast of St Blaise, the fourth-century Bishop of Sebaste in Armenia. In the year 316, he was put to death by order of the Roman governor of the region. St Blaise had a reputation as a skilled physician (and veterinarian) long before he was a bishop. As he was led to his execution, a mother with a choking child interrupted the procession and asked the bishop for one last cure, which he obligingly performed. Undeterred, the Roman soldiers then beheaded the healer.

The veneration of St Blaise spread and he was held in high regard in Europe, especially in medieval England, as an intercessor – especially for people with throat problems! The custom arose of the St Blaise Blessing on his day, crossed candles tied with a red ribbon (to remember the martyrdom of the saint) held at the throat while the priest pronounces the blessing. Since St Blaise Day fell mid-week, we’re transferring the Blessing till Sunday, when it will be offered after both the 8 and 10.30 services.

Robert Redland, noting half the parish wheezes and sniffles all through the services nowadays due to Texas Cedar Fever, suggested that we might want to transfer the feast – or at  least offer the Blessing – around Christmastime each year, just as the Cedar Season is setting in. Not a bad idea, really. I’ll consult the ancient texts…

Alleluia Laid to Rest
After a necessary week’s delay, we finally buried our friend the Alleluia with appropriate mournings and wailings last Sunday at 10.15. The coffin was filled with parchment Alleluias, sealed and carried to the waiting grave, Chris Penski, our Junior Warden laid the coffin in its place and It was covered with paving stones giving the whole site a most dignified appearance. James Polhemus cleaned Alleluia’s headstone for the occasion and it marks the grave most solemnly. Thanks to all who helped prepare and to the mourners, who added quite pitifully to the occasion. Things will be different at the grave on Easter morning! There are some great pictures on our website. Take a look: http://www.stjosephstable.com/

Pancake Supper & Coronation of 2016 King of Mardi Gras, Michael Mahaffey, Esq
On Tuesday, February 9th – Shrove Tuesday, commonly called Mardi Gras – we’ll begin our evening’s revels with the Coronation of Michael Mahaffey, Esq., as King of the Night’s Festivities.  He will, according to our custom, be served the First Pancake of the Night after the traditional Pancake Procession. Don’t forget that everyone will be called on to tell their best joke as we compete for the venerable title of the Jester of King Michael’s Court.

Old Testament Class
Our class on the Old Testament begins this Friday, February 12th, at 1.00 PM in David Hall. Fr John Power’s History of Salvation: Introducing the Old Testament, is our text. Copies are available from Amazon for a few dollars. The class will meet every Friday unless announced and each session will end at 2.00 o’clock.

 As best I know, everyone who’s planning to attend already has a copy of the text, so, prior to our first session, please read the Introduction. We’ll be principally using the Revised Standard Version of the Bible in class (as Power does in the text), but bring whatever version(s) you want to. Now and then we’ll want to compare translations.

St Joseph’s Annual Meeting, 2016
We will hold our Annual Parish Meeting for 2016 on Sunday, February 14th following the 10.30 Eucharist. A covered dish luncheon will precede the meeting, with the Vestry providing the main dish. The first thing on our agenda for the day will be the blessing of the portrait of SD and Nancy David, for whom David Hall is named. The parish will receive 2015 reports from the officers of the Vestry and Priest-in-Charge. Our treasurer will present, explain, answer to the most minute detail and present for the parish’s approval our 2016 Budget, and we will hold elections for the vacant Vestry positions. Right now the controversy on the horizon is what kind of fried chicken will be served – HEB, Chicken Express or one parishioner who’s been lobbying for the past month for Church’s Chicken.

Pray, Brethren…

for Cassandra, Russ and Bruce, each still recuperating; for Katherine and Bryan; Jillian; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; for Taylor; for Loren. Remember Myric & Rocia; Larry; Aimee and her family; pray for Elizabeth, with breast cancer, also for her husband Steve (subdeacon) and for their son, Iain; please remember Daniel and Dorothy, struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Bonnie; for Diane and Mike; for Eric, Josh, Celeste, please continue your prayers for a secret intention we’ve been asked to remember. Remember the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS and for the many victims, living and dead, of daily attacks by Islamists. Of your charity, remember the dead, especially Jeremy and Jason, as well a s James, just departed and his grieving family Jimmy, Jove, Jacie, Denny, Glenda and Laurel. In all things, beloved, give thanks…especially for Rachel and Seth, who are expecting a child; for Charlotte, who celebrates her birthday this week.

Services This Week

Tuesday, February 9 – Tuesday after Quinquagesima Sunday, commonly called Shrove Tuesday
5.30 PM – Evening Prayer

Wednesday, February 10 – The First Day of Lent, commonly called Ash Wednesday
7.00 AM – The Penitential Office, Imposition of Ashes & Holy Communion from the Reserved Sacrament
10.00 AM – Morning Prayer & the Imposition of Ashes
12.00 NOON – The Penitential Office, Sermon & Imposition of Ashes
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer, Imposition of Ashes & Low Mass

Friday, February 12 – First Friday in Lent
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer & Reading of Part One of the Life of St Mary of Egypt

Wednesday is a Day of Strict Fast & Abstinence; Thursday is a Fast Day; Friday is a Day of Fast & Abstinence; Saturday is a Fast Day

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, February 6, 2016, being the feast of St Titus, Bishop

& the eve of Quinquagesima Sunday

 

January 24, 2016
Septuagesima Sunday

It happens frequently to me, and I gather from your periodic comments, often enough to you. A friend will ask “What is Anglican?” (though they’ll often write it as “I really don’t know what Angelican is”) Mike Mahaffey, Bill Lee and I had a long and fun discussion of this very question after Mass the other day. What follows is the first in a series of attempts to answer the question.

Anglican?
The sign on our front lawn says St Joseph’s is an Anglican Church. What does that mean? What is Anglican?

The word Anglican comes from Latin. It means “English.” The first recorded use of the word is in the famous Magna Carta of 1215. Ecclesia anglicana libera sit. “The English Church shall be free.” The concept was by no means a new one, though. Christianity came to England sometime before 200 AD; archaeological remains tell us that within fifty or sixty years, churches were being built. The first English martyr, St Alban, was killed in 303 AD during the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian. Three bishops, representatives of the English Church, attended a church council in southern France in 314. The English Church has been well-established for seventeen hundred years and more.

What does this have to do with the sign in front of St Joseph’s? We’re Texans, not English people.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll cut through some history for now to address our sign. Some history, not all. When English colonists settled in the New World, they brought their religion with them. We know the Pilgrims and Puritans came from England – they came, for the most part, to escape the Church of England. They believed she was hopelessly mired in “popery,” virtually indistinguishable from Roman Catholicism. The Puritans wanted to “purify” the Church of England and decided they could best do it by going to another continent. But other colonists, members of Ecclesia Anglicana, brought the Church of England with them to the New World. They reproduced the Church in England as best as they could. They established parish churches with rectors and vestries; they worshipped using the Prayer Book of the English Church; they did what they could to transplant the Church of England to the New World.

The American Revolution put the members of the Church of England in an untenable position. They were seen as sympathizers at best – and sworn agents at worst – of an alien power. The Revolution hadn’t changed their religious principles – but it forcibly altered their political ones: those once pledged to support the British monarchy now found themselves members of an American republic. Over the decade following, they gathered themselves into dioceses, elected bishops and managed to get them consecrated by Scottish and English bishops. Four years after the Battle of Yorktown and the defeat of the British under Cornwallis, the first Convention of the Episcopal Church “in the United States of America” met in Philadelphia, to begin the process of organization. They finished the job when they met again in 1789 to adopt an American version of the Book of Common Prayer, approve the constitution and canons of the American Church, and, while affirming their continuity in faith and practice, formally sever their legal ties with the Church of England. They formed what is now called the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

Most of us who, according to our sign out front are now Anglicans, were at one time members of the Episcopal Church. What happened?

For the better part of 200 years, the Episcopal Church continued to keep the faith. We shared the same faith as the Apostles, embodied in the Apostles’ Creed, the faith of the early Catholic Church as expressed in the Nicene Creed, the faith of the Holy Scriptures. As Episcopalians we were members of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. When you and I were baptized, none of us were baptized into the Episcopal Church. We were baptized, as the Prayer Book repeatedly says, “into Christ’s Church” – the One Church – not Episcopal or Roman but Catholic. As a baptized Christians, you and I are members of the One Church, holding to the One Faith.

Over the past sixty or seventy years, however, the Episcopal Church began turning from the One Faith (the Episcopal Church is by no means the only church which did, but we’re concerned right now about why our sign out front says “Anglican” and not Episcopal). Some of these things are big and obvious and concern fundamental questions of who we are and Who God Is: what does it mean to be a man? what does it mean to be a woman? Is Scripture speaking honestly and truly when it says we are made in God’s image? If it is, then who we say we are speaks not only about us, but God, too. In 1976 the Episcopal Church altered the nature of the priesthood because it says we are all, men and women, the same (in a not unrelated topic, our society was saying the same thing at the time). Over the next few decades, that muddled thinking spread to its logical conclusion: since the differences between men and women are linguistic and perceptional rather than basic and essential, any form of sexual congress or matrimonial alliance we choose is just dandy – and since we think so, God no doubt does, too.

There is plenty else I could go into: changing the Prayer Book Liturgy isn’t just changing old words to new ones, but the ancient faith to a new one – lex orandi statuit lex credendi; replacing saints with social justice advocates and Marxist revolutionaries on the Church Calendar: an Episcopal publishing house in the early 70s published “The Che Guevara Prayer Book,” the iconic “tee-shirt” picture of the famous atheist emblazoned on the cover; the recently-retired Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church said not long ago that every religion is essentially the same, all granting access to the same god. “To deny that,” she said, “it is a sin against the Holy Ghost.”

The Episcopal Church (again, it is not alone) is in the process of inventing a new, avante garde religion. Beloved, we’ve yet to do a good job keeping the one we’ve already got. So we had to make a sign for the front of the church, and another word for the one that’s been broken.

Houseblessings
This is the customary time of year for house blessings. To keep this venerable tradition in your home, please sign up on the sheet on the narthex table, call me at (830) 214-3969, or just tell me in person that you want your house blessed. The rite is brief, 10 minutes or less (depending on the size of your house and how many rooms you don’t want me to see). There is no sermon, no collection, and you don’t have to feed the me! House Blessings will continue through Tuesday, February 9th.

Farewell to Alleluia
This Sunday is Septuagesima Sunday, the beginning of the Pre-Lenten season. From now until Easter Day, there are some changes that come in the liturgy because of the penitential tone of the time. Among those, the Alleluia Verses and Gloria in Excelsis chant are not sung. An old English custom, the Burying of the Alleluia, has been observed by parish children from medieval times. The coffin is in the church, waiting for the Deposition of the Alleluias; the grave lies open between the church and the hall, the headstone is prepared. So before Mass Sunday morning, at 10.15, we’ll observe that ancient rite and “Bury the Alleluia”. Feel free to join the mourners!

2016 King of Mardi Gras, Michael Mahaffey, Esq
A couple Sundays ago, Michael found the Baby in the King Cake. On Tuesday, February 9th – Shrove Tuesday commonly called Mardi Gras – we’ll begin our evening’s revels with Michael’s Coronation as King of the Night’s Festivities.  He will, according to our custom, be served the First Pancake of the Night after the traditional Pancake Procession. Don’t forget that everyone will be called on to tell their best joke as we compete for the venerable title of the Jester of King Michael’s Court. Sunday the uncrowned king’s head will be measured for his crown and his arm length noted so a properly-sized scepter can be made.

Old Testament Class
I’m planning a class giving an overview of the Old Testament, provisionally set to begin the first Friday of Lent, February 12th, after the noonday Eucharist. A textbook, Fr John Power’s History of Salvation: Introducing the Old Testament, will be our text. Used softcover copies are available from Amazon for a few dollars.

Vestry Meeting This Sunday
The Vestry meets today following the 10.30 Eucharist. Aside from the usual reports they will go over the agenda for our upcoming Annual Meeting, approve a tentative budget for 2016, and review the Vestry nominations for the 2016-2019 term.

St Joseph’s Annual Meeting, 2016
We will hold our Annual Parish Meeting for 2016 on Sunday, February 14th following the 10.30 Eucharist. A covered dish luncheon will precede the meeting, with the Vestry providing the main dish. The first thing on our agenda for the day will be the blessing of the portrait of SD and Nancy David, for whom David Hall is named.

Parish Office Hours
With the completion of the work on David Hall (as if such things can ever be said to be finished), we now have regular, weekly office hours at church. I will be in my office every Wednesday and Friday from the time the noon Eucharist ends (about 12.30) till 7 o’clock, when Evening Prayer is read. Most any other times I’m happy to meet for appointments with a day’s notice, and anytime in emergencies. oly Unction willo be H

Pray, Brethren

… for Cassandra, Russ and Bruce, each recuperating at home under the watchful eyes of their attentive and patient spouses; for Sharon, recuperating in her new condo; Katherine and Bryan; Jillian; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; for Taylor. Remember Myric & Rocia; Aimee and her family; for Elizabeth, undergoing natural therapy for breast cancer, also for her husband Steve (subdeacon) and for their son, Iain; please remember Daniel, struggling with Multiple Sclerosis and Dorothy, newly-diagnosed with the same. Pray for Bonnie; for Diane and Mike; please continue your prayers for a secret intention we’ve been asked to remember. Pray for Marcy and her daughters, Greta and Greer. Remember the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS and for the many victims, living and dead, of daily attacks by Islamists. In all things, beloved, give thanks…especially for Rachel and Seth, who are expecting a child; for Michael and Lynn, who celebrate their anniversary this week; and for the hostages long-held in Iran and now released. Remember too, those still in captivity.

Services This Week

Wednesday, January 27 – St John Chrysostom, Archbishop & Doctor of the Church
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, January 29 – St Frances de Sales (1622 AD)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday is a Day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, January 23rd, being the eve of Septuagesima Sunday, 2016


 January 10, 2016
Sunday in Octave of the Epiphany

Anglicans will put up with a lot. Back in the 1960s, Bishop James Pike, one of the leading bishops of the Episcopal Church, denied the virginity of the Virgin, the divinity of her Son and finally tossed the whole kit and caboodle overboard, writing in  1964 that the dogma of the Holy Trinity “unnecessary baggage the Church doesn’t need.” After a decade of the bishop’s denial, the Church assumed a pained expression, as if the Queen had burped during a State Dinner, but did nothing.

In the 70s, many Anglicans worldwide decided Jesus just plain got it wrong, and corrected His error by saying, after 2000 years, that women should have been bishops and priests all along. Some disagreed but couldn’t quite say why, so they did nothing.

So it continued. Clergy were permitted to remarry after the failure of a first marriage, and remarry again after the collapse of a second (or third or fourth…); unborn children were re-classified as “tissue” and abortion shops were blessed as health clinics; homosexuals were exempted from Christian concepts of chastity (which is really only fair if bishops can grant themselves annulments from their marriage vows) – one thing followed another and people in the pews said one to another “Well, none of that’s happening here at St Swithun’s, thank God.”

But when the Powers That Be changed the Prayer Book, hell scalded open. We can only be pushed so far.

To those outside the Proper Church (if not necessarily the Only True One), this makes no sense. To those inside, though, it’s not only sensible but natural and necessary. Most everybody in the pew knows they know just a little bit more about Prayer Book liturgy than the rector up front, every rector is certain he’s more erudite than his bishop on the fine points of liturgical worship, and there’s not a diocesan bishop (nor a coadjutor nor a suffragan) who doesn’t secretly believe he could give both the Popes of Rome and Alexandria lessons on liturgical decorum and minutiae.

I don’t say any of this harshly or even critically. It comes from decades of serving as a priest, knowing at least some of my own foibles and proclivities and those of my brothers cut from the same cloth. The funny things is, after all these decades of observing, all of us are sort of right!

Anglicans may not all be profound theologians, but we do have a good and real sense about worship. It IS important. We may not be able to articulate all the reasons for it, but we know worship matters. It’s not merely a matter of good taste (though some of that is involved); it touches on Things Eternal.

In spite of all the well-intentioned and undoubtedly sincere mish-mash of what passes for worship in contemporary Christianity, one thing we Anglicans have a certainty about is that worship isn’t about us. We worship, not to feel good (sermons and hymns prove that), but to enter into the Beauty of Holiness and fall down before the One-in-Three Who creates us, redeems us and makes us holier than we were before.

Epiphany is a time most meet to remember that. At the heart of the Epiphany Gospel we hear told again the reason for the Journey of the Magi: “when they were come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him.” They didn’t “traverse afar” out of curiosity, or to bring presents, but to worship. Everybody worships something, so how we worship tells us something about who we worship. Difficult as Anglicans can sometimes be, we have a good grasp on that fundamental truth.

Happy Epiphany. Come to church.

Epiphany and Epiphanytide at St Joseph’s
This Sunday we’ll observe what professional liturgists call the “external solemnities” of Epiphany. That means we’ll march into church carrying the Three Kings to the crèche (well, three of our youngest will), bless the figures of the Kings newly-nestled by the manger, sing “We Three Kings” and hear the Scriptural readings of the Feast. But there’s more to it than that.

After blessing the Kings, we’ll bless the Kings’ Cake which will be nearby. After the Mass, pieces of the cake will be passed out in the narthex and you’ll be encouraged (nay, required) to partake. That’s ‘cause hidden in one of the pieces is a figure of the Bambino and whoever finds it will become the King or Queen of our Mardi Gras festivities four-and-a-half short weeks from now. Enjoy your cake, but carefully!

In the Church’s first centuries, before printing presses and wall calendars, it was customary that the Holy Days which centered on Easter (commonly called the “moveable feasts”) be announced for the upcoming year on the Feast of the Epiphany (not a moveable feast since it’s on January 6th every year). So along with the date of Easter, the dates for the beginning of Lent, the post-Easter feasts of Ascension Day and Whitsunday (Pentecost) were announced, as well as the number of Sundays after Trinity and the date for the beginning of Advent.

This year, with a felicitously-worded version of this ancient “Epiphany Proclamation” (thanks to the Rev Dr Dennis Mahoney), Larry Mooney will read it to us.  More than just a series of upcoming dates quaintly read, the Epiphany Proclamation puts before us the Church’s firm conviction that in celebrating these ongoing cycles of feasts and fasts, we encounter Christ in the Church’s liturgy. The Church’s Feasts are not bare remembrances of things past, they’re also participations in the saving acts of Christ present with us now and, even more, anticipations of Eternity.

Epiphanytide is the customary time of year for house blessings. To keep this venerable tradition in your home, please sign up on the sheet on the narthex table for it, call me at (830) 214-3969, or just tell me in person that you want your house blessed. The rite is brief, 10 minutes or less (depending on the size of your house and how many rooms you don’t want me to see). There is no sermon, no collection, and you don’t have to feed the me! Epiphanytide House Blessings began on January 6th and continue through Saturday, January 23rd.

Solomon and Nancy David Portrait Now Displayed in David Hall
Thanks to the David family, who provided us with a great portrait of SD and Nancy David, the Vestry which footed the bill for its exquisite framing and James Polhemus who actually hung the picture this week, we have a fine copy of their portrait in David Hall. At our Annual Meeting in February, I’ll splash it with holy water.

The Ungreening
After the 10.30 Eucharist this Sunday, we’ll remove the remaining poinsettias, the Christmas trees, the wreaths, holiday candles and sundry festive decorations from the church and parish hall. No refreshments or treats will be served: 13 days from Sunday, beloved, is Septuagesima…

Parish Office Hours Set
With the completion of the work on David Hall (as if such things can ever be said to be finished), we now have regular, weekly office hours at church. I will be in my office every Wednesday and Friday from the time the noon Eucharist ends (about 12.30) till 7 o’clock, when Evening Prayer is read. Most any other times I’m happy to meet for appointments with a day’s notice, and anytime in emergencies.

Pray, Brethren…
for Russ, who is doing well, recuperating at home under Charlotte’s watchful eye, and for Cassandra, likewise and similarly recuperating while eating Don’s cooking; for Sylvia, who’s under the weather having nursed Jack back to health; for Bruce, who’s recovering from ankle surgery and mobile courtesy of a medical scooter he rides into church on; pray for Katherine and Bryan; Jillian; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; and for Taylor. Remember Myric & Rocia; Kyleen; Aimee and her family; for Elizabeth, undergoing therapy for breast cancer, also for her husband Steve (subdeacon) and for their son, Iain;  please remember Daniel, struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Bonnie; for Diane and Mike; please continue your prayers for two secret intentions we’ve been asked to remember. Pray for Marcy and her daughters, Greta and Greer. Remember with me in thanks the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS and for the many victims, living and dead, of the attacks by Islamists. In all things, beloved, give thanks…especially for Rachel and Seth, who are expecting a child.

Services This Week

Wednesday, January 13 – Octave Day of the Epiphany
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, January 15 – St Paul, the First Hermit (342 AD)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

No Fasting or Abstinence through the Octave Day of the Epiphany

Around and About...Here and There…This and That
Larry Mooney will be reading the Epiphany Proclamation for us Sunday, unless he decides to chant it using the ancient tone: https://youtu.be/u2RpeZOKnZ0 . You’ll have to come to church and see what he does.

The quintessential Epiphany hymn, of course, is “We Three Kings.” Here’s how it’s supposed to be done: https://youtu.be/KiIImQet9CA

But this classic can be done in ways you’d never imagine, like this: https://youtu.be/0vecWPafdDQ

Or this: https://youtu.be/UWasN7utCBo 

Or this: https://youtu.be/UWasN7utCBo

Or this: https://youtu.be/VrsWF3JlScw

Listen to these with discretion, beloved, otherwise, you may never be able to sing “We Three Kings” again.

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, January 9th, being the Saturday in the Octave of the Epiphany, 2016


December 20, 2015
The Fourth Sunday in Advent

The whole Advent season is four weeks, from beginning to end but short as it is, we’re in danger of losing “the reason for the season.”

 I’m sure you were taught, as was I, that Advent is not the time for Christmas parties, Christmas caroling or Christmas visiting and gift-giving. That’s what the Twelve Days are for. The distinctive character of Advent is its quietness. Before the exuberance of Christmas, the Church gives us this gift of Advent, to ponder and pray over what the coming exuberance is about. The much-spoken of “meaning of Christmas,” the “reason for the season,” is found in Advent.

Because we discover the meaning of Christmas in Advent, these four short weeks are a time for us to slow down, to pray and ponder what (or, rather, “Who”) is coming, what that coming meant for the “people who sat in darkness,” and what it means for us “who have seen a great Light.”

Advent embodies, among its many riches, the long years the Jewish people waited for the Messiah. The “O Antiphons,” a series of daily liturgical chants done the last week of Advent, tell of the Jewish longing for the One Who would come. The daily Advent readings from the Prayer Book center, every morning and night, on the Prophet Isaiah and his message of the coming of Emmanuel. The story of the Old Testament, from Adam to Zechariah, is the gradual unfolding of the promise of the One Who will come. St Augustine says the Old Testament “carries Christ in its loins.” For all its varied cast of characters and wide sweep of events, Christ is Who the Old Testament is about. It points to Him, and it’s through Him that we understand what it means.

The first story in the Bible is the tale of Adam and Eve. You recall it goes badly. But the Unfortunate Incident with the Snake ends with a promise of Good Things to Come. God tells the unhappy couple that eventually things will turn out even better than they might otherwise have had not all this happened. God’s promise of a Redeemer is embedded in the first story of the first book of the Bible. The rest of the Old Testament, all 23,145 verses of it, is the story of how He prepares the Jews for the fulfillment of that promise on Christmas night.

But after eighteen centuries of preparation, the years from Abraham to Christ, many Jews were unwilling to believe that the promised Messiah had come. They longed for the fulfillment of the promise, but when the Promise became flesh came they didn’t know what to make of Him so they dragged Him to Pontius Pilate.

For many others, though, the long years of preparation did bear fruit. The seed fell on good ground and they believed and followed Him. We are their spiritual heirs: we believe today because they believed then.

What does Advent reveal about Christmas? That God is always preparing us and forming us, slowly and patiently, to make us ready for His coming. Week by week He comes to us, speaking to us in Scripture and feeding us with the Sacrament.

What does Advent reveal about Christmas? That as God prepared the Jews for His coming, He prepares us, too, slowly and patiently forming us so that when He comes, we will recognize Him and follow where He leads. There will be for us, as for them, twists and unexpected turns, failures and successes, happiness and sorrow. But in the end, He is preparing us for joy and peace (with, I hope, some enticing challenges) such as pass our understanding.

The Advent season has a venerable and, for people like me, fascinating history. I’ll spare you the details this time, noting only that the traditions of the Advent liturgy open up for us rich theological insights into the Old Testament and the meaning of what happened in Bethlehem that night so long ago, “when the Word leapt down from His royal throne.”

The Prayer Book preserves the emphasis of the medieval Roman liturgy, tying the Third and Fourth Sundays of Advent to St John the Baptist and the Ember Days from the Third Week of the season. The Gospels for both Sundays focus on St John as the Forerunner of Christ and a model for Christian clergy. St John is also shown to be the culmination of the prophets of the Old Testament. As with the first Sundays of the season, St John also calls to mind the upcoming judgment of Christ at the End of Time.

Among the layers of Advent’s history, though, is another, more ancient, emphasis. Advent is a celebration of the patient preparation God has made for the coming of Christ to His people (remember that adventus in Latin means “coming”). Y’all know the medieval name for the First Sunday in Advent is “Doom” Sunday, but an older name for it is “Forefathers Sunday,” when the Church begins Advent by recalling the long ancestry of Christ as embodied in those long “begat” sections of the Gospels of SS Matthew and Luke. In that liturgical tradition, St John the Baptist is seen as the culmination of Old Testament holiness and St Mary the Virgin is the exemplar of the piety of the New Testament. As the Third Sunday in Advent looks to St John, the fourth Sunday looks to St Mary.

We’ll observe that this Sunday at St Joseph’s. The Gospel will not be the Prayer Book Gospel looking again to St John the Baptist, but the Gospel of the Annunciation, when “the angel of the Lord announced unto Mary.” Our Offertory Hymn will be # 117, “Sing of Mary,” one of the most recently written hymns in the 1940 Hymnal, written by Fr Roland Palmer, an honest-to-gosh saint of the traditional Anglican movement who died in 1985. The Proper Preface of Advent (the words which precede “therefore with angels and archangels…”) will also reflect the day. And if I decide to preach, I’ll try and tie all this together.

Cookies Exchanged; Parish Christmas Tree Trimmed; Christmas Schedule Sign Hung without Any Injuries
After the 10.30 Eucharist last Sunday, we made our way to David Hall for the Thelma Sullock Annual Cookie Exchange, trimmed the tree there and a select group OF MEN hung the Christmas Schedule Sign on the big board in front of the hall.

There were a lot of cookies! I’m not sure how many were actually exchanged, but a bunch of them left the building in people’s stomachs. We’re a parish of bakers and cooks as our every gathering proves. The tree looks great (there are pictures of it on our website). The Redland clan festooned the tree with arabesque shapes, multi-colored snowflakes and strings of girls holding hands. Dr Lee made a friendly Christmas tooth, Clare Murray a smiling Christmas octopus, and Sunday afternoon (after a late reading of Evening Prayer), I finally finished my many-scaled Christmas trout (Angie watched me cutting out scales for a few minutes and sweetly asked “Have you ever considered making a Christmas Catfish? They don’t have scales.”)

While we cut and pasted our decorations, Mike Mahaffey, Larry Mooney and Bill Lee took our new Christmas Schedule sign out front and hung it up. They did a good job of it, but it required some fancy balancing and some of the women of the parish sent Clare (the Senior Warden, after all) to supervise. That wasn’t well received and they suggested she go back inside and finish her octopus. The sign was hung (hanged?) and nobody got hurt. Both count as accomplishments around here.

Rorate Masses
The Rorate Masses, candlelight, pre-dawn celebrations of the Eucharist, are offered the last days before Christmas. The readings and prayers focus on the Old Testament prophecies leading to the birth of our Lord. Rorate caeli, which means “drop down, O heavens,” are the opening words of the Latin introit which begins the Mass. The introit reads “Drop down dew, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness.”  The candlelight Eucharist is scheduled to end at dawn, telling us of the arrival of the coming King.

We’ll celebrate the Rorate Masses this year on Monday, December 21st and Tuesday, December 22nd at 5.45 AM (sunrise is at 6.20 those mornings). Snacks & hot cocoa will be served afterwards to those stalwart souls who brave the dark winter’s chill.

Greening the Church and Decking the Hall
This Sunday, December 20th, after the 10.30 Eucharist, we’ll Green the Church and deck the Hall with ornaments. Afterwards Wassail and Advent Treats will be served in David Hall.

Anglican Church Calendars for 2016 Now Available!
The Church Calendars for 2016 (“Ordo Calendars”) have arrived and are available from the Parish Office (“Tanya”) for $6.00. We have a limited supply this year and are unable to order any more after January, so if you want one, please see Tanya soon.

Christmas at St Joseph’s, 2015

Christmas Eve, December 24
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer
10.30 PM – Lessons & Carols Service
11.00 PM – Candlelight Holy Eucharist (“Midnight Mass”)

Christmas Day, December 25
10.15 AM – Morning Prayer and the Holy Eucharist

Pray, Brethren…
for Russ, who is now in rehab, and charlotte who’s running hither and yon between doctors and clinics to make sure he gets the care he needs; for Jack, who is recuperating at home – and for Sylvia, who’s making sure he stays there and does what he’s told; for Cassandra, also recuperating at home and Don who has reason to feel a bit peaked himself; pray for Katherine and Bryan; Jillian; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; and for Taylor. Remember Myric & Rocia; Kyleen; Aimee and her family; for Elizabeth, undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer, also for her husband Steve (subdeacon) and for their son, Iain;  remember Daniel, struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Bonnie; for Diane and Mike; please continue your prayers for two secret intentions we’ve been asked to remember. Pray for Marcy and her daughters, Greta and Greer, who I baptized as babies and are both now in college – with all that entails today!  We also remember at the Liturgy and ask prayers for those many of our parishioners, their families and our friends traveling during the holidays. Pray also for those who will spend the holidays alone, in sorrow or mourning; pray for those who, for duty’s sake, must be separated from their families during this time of year. Remember with me in thanks the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS and for the many victims, living and dead, of the attacks by Islamists. In all things, beloved, give thanks…

Daily Services This Week

Sunday, December 20 – The Fourth Sunday in Advent
7:45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
10:30 AM – The Holy Eucharist
11.45 PM – Greening the Church & Decking the Hall
1.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Monday, December 21 – St Thomas the Apostle
5.45 AM – The Holy Eucharist (Rorate or “Sunup” Mass)

Tuesday, December 22 – Ferial Day in Advent
5.45 AM – The Holy Eucharist (Rorate or “Sunup” Mass)

Wednesday, December 23 – Ferial Day in Advent
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Thursday, December 24 – Vigil Day of the Nativity, commonly called Christmas Eve
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer
10.30 PM – Lessons & Carols Service
11.00 PM – The Holy Eucharist (“Midnight Mass”)

Friday, December 25 – Feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, commonly called Christmas Day
10.15 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist

No Fasting or Abstinence from Christmas Day through the Octave Day of Epiphany

Around and About...Here and There…This and That
I’ve mentioned the “O Antiphons” many times, and wrote a long blurb in the last weeks bulletin about them, but a couple of you have asked “how they go.” Here are the “O Antiphons,” chanted by Benedictine professionals:

December 17th – O Saptientia:

https://youtu.be/8ngcQDQfhlA?list=PLM_BPPe3btzjYhja2ufL8ffepQLsk3KQ8

December 18th – O Adonai:
https://youtu.be/dn1cloz0ssQ?list=PLM_BPPe3btzjYhja2ufL8ffepQLsk3KQ8

December 19th – O Radix Jesse:
https://youtu.be/VFE7B-DZ8_w?list=PLM_BPPe3btzjYhja2ufL8ffepQLsk3KQ8

December 20th – O Clavis David:
https://youtu.be/fDg29sswhgQ?list=PLM_BPPe3btzjYhja2ufL8ffepQLsk3KQ8

December 21st – O Oriens:
https://youtu.be/1BsZH7e27Dg?list=PLM_BPPe3btzjYhja2ufL8ffepQLsk3KQ8

December 22nd – O Rex Genitum:
https://youtu.be/5GvDvgfLoUo?list=PLM_BPPe3btzjYhja2ufL8ffepQLsk3KQ8

December 23rd – O Emmanuel:
https://youtu.be/wdu0HjiLEn4?list=PLM_BPPe3btzjYhja2ufL8ffepQLsk3KQ8

In case this is too much liturgical overload, here’s something a bit less refined: https://youtu.be/cHI8M1K2LXs

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, December 19th, being the Feast of St Ribert (not Robert!) of Rouen, abbot, 790


 

December 13, 2015
The Third Sunday in Advent, commonly called Rose or Gaudete Sunday

Like the Fourth Sunday in Lent, the Third Sunday in Advent goes by the secondary name of Rose Sunday. Each of them marks a sort of half-way point in the season, and a shift in emphasis. With Rose Sunday (also called Refreshment Sunday or Laetere Sunday, from the Latin word meaning “y’all rejoice”) Lent changes from being primarily a time for personal spiritual reflection and self-denial (with its emphasis on our Lord’s 40 days and 40 nights “fasting in the wild”) to a time of common participation in His Passion. Lent and its penitence intensifies.

In Advent, something of the opposite happens. The first two Sundays we “remember” something which hasn’t yet happened: the Coming Again “in the clouds with great glory,” of Jesus Christ our King. He comes as King and Judge, “to slay the wicked,” Isaiah warns, “with the breath of his lips.” 

But with Rose Sunday in Advent, the season takes a decidedly more festive tone. We now “anticipate again” the wonders of the First Coming of God, the humility, as St Cyril of Alexandria says “of God Who condescended to wear diapers for our sakes.” We look forward to “hear again” the midnight voices of angels and meet, in a small piece of Bread and a slight sip of Wine, He Who creates and maintains the cosmos by His thought.

Parish Christmas Tree Trimming Party
The trees are bought, big, fat and green. After an hour (or was it four?) spent examining a score of finalists, measuring for height and girth, checking for suppleness and  aroma, discussing the merits and flaws of our narrowing choices, Kathryn, Jillian, Madelyn, their dad and I finally chose two fine trees, one for the church and another for David Hall.

Paul Jackson joined our crew when our caravan got back to the church to help pull the trees off our trucks, trim the bottom branches and haul ‘em to their places of prominence they’ll hold for the next several weeks. Tanya served as judge to say when they looked straight in their stands and, with Jillian, decorated the Advent Candle stand with its official wreath. Dr Lee stopped in to nod approvingly at the work and Chris Penski stunned everyone to silence when he looked over everything and said “Trees look good; good choice.” We were gonna finish off with some donuts and cider but the donuts from this week were like concrete out of the freezer. Instead we all feasted on brisket tacos from Granzin’s and told Christmas stories. We left the hall in readiness for Sunday. That’s  where you come in.

After Sunday’s late Mass, we’ll repair to David Hall for the Thelma Sullock Annual Cookie Exchange and decorate the Christmas Tree. As is our custom, all decorations MUST be handmade, and there are stacks of colorful construction paper, scissors, felt pens, glue and all the “sparklies” you can use waiting to be put to use. There will be steaming wassail (or hot cocoa) and seasonal snacks for everybody. Come and make a decoration that you think can best my annual  cardboard Christmas Trout. Over the years many have tried.

Rorate Masses
The Rorate Masses, candlelight, pre-dawn celebrations of the Eucharist, are offered the last days before Christmas. The readings and prayers focus on the Old Testament prophecies leading to the birth of our Lord. Rorate caeli, which means “drop down, O heavens, from above” are the opening words of the Latin introit which begins the Mass. The introit reads “Drop down dew, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness.”  The candlelight Eucharist is scheduled to end at dawn, telling us of the arrival of the coming King.

We’ll celebrate the Rorate Masses this year on Monday, December 21st and Tuesday, December 22nd at 5.45 AM (sunrise is at 6.20 those mornings). Snacks & hot cocoa will be served afterwards to those stalwart souls who brave the dark winter’s chill.

Greening Of St Joseph’s Next Sunday
Sunday, December 20th, after the 10.30 Eucharist, we’ll Green the Church and deck the Hall with ornaments. Afterwards Wassail and Advent Treats will be served in David Hall.

Anglican Church Calendars for 2016 Now Available!
The Church Calendars for 2016 (“Ordo Calendars”) have arrived and are available from the Parish Office (“Tanya”) for $6.00. We have a limited supply this year and are unable to order any more after January, so if you want one, please see Tanya soon.

Christmas at St Joseph’s, 2015
Christmas Eve, December 24
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer
10.30 PM – Lessons & Carols Service
11.00 PM – Candlelight Holy Eucharist (“Midnight Mass”)

Christmas Day, December 25
10.15 AM – Morning Prayer and the Holy Eucharist

Pray, Brethren…
In thanksgiving for Russ’ successful surgery, and for Jack, whose health is finally starting to improve; for Cassandra; pray for Katherine and Bryan; Jillian; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; and for Taylor. Remember Myric & Rocia; Kyleen; Aimee and her family; for Elizabeth, a long-time friend undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer, also for her husband Steve (subdeacon) and for their son, Iain;  remember Daniel, struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Bonnie; for Diane and Mike; please continue your prayers for two secret intentions we’ve been asked to remember. Pray for Marcy and her daughters, Greta and Greer; for the continuing recovery of Julie (Kocurek), the Austin Judge shot in Austin, and all judges who serve to promote justice, including our own Judge Bruce Bowyer. Remember with me in thanks the ongoing work of Steve Maman, rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS and for the many victims, living and dead, of the attacks by Islamists. In all things, beloved, give thanks…

Daily Services This Week
Wednesday, December 16 – Ember Wednesday in Advent
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
 7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, December 18 – Ember Friday in Advent
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist

  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Wednesday, Friday and Saturday this week, the Ember Days, are all days of fasting!

Ember Days? Now Tell Me about Them Again…
Four times a year the Ember Days pop up on the Church’s Calendar. Quarterly days of fasting, they originated in Rome in the fourth and fifth century at the time of raucous Roman agricultural feasts. While the pagans debauched over the fruits of the harvest, Rome’s Christians prayed in thanksgiving for God’s bounty. Over the centuries the days evolved into seasonal prayers for the Church’s harvest, the bringing of souls into Christ’s Church. In 12th century England, the Ember Days became the customary times for ordinations, and the Prayer Book maintains that medieval liturgy and emphasis. Thus, the Embertides are marked each season by prayers for the increase of clergy asking that God will “put it into the hearts of many” to offer themselves to the Church’s ministry.

Around and About...Here and There…This and That
Lest our anticipations of Christmas become too ethereal or cerebral, there’s always Larry Mooney to bring us back to earth (“crashing down to earth” we might say). To me, medieval carols and the descants of cathedral choirs epitomize the heights of the coming season. Then comes Larry with his Yuletide offering: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/12/11/christmas-album-goats_n_8780530.html Be careful, though. When you’ve heard this, you may never again hear any carol you love the same way.


[Image result for cartoon goat]

 Just so you won’t feel there’s a dearth of Christmas lawsuits in the land this year, the New York Post reports that a Manhattan man “is suing the Metropolitan Museum of Art, saying ‘racist’ paintings depicting a blond Jesus make him feel ‘rejected’ and ‘unaccepted by society.’

“The masterpieces are ‘offensive aesthetic whitewashing’ of the reality that the Savior, as a native of the Middle Eastern region, had ‘black hair like wool and skin of bronze color,’ says Justin Renel Joseph in the lawsuit filed at Manhattan Supreme Court on November 30th.

 “Joseph called for the Renaissance paintings to be removed because they represent an ‘extreme case of discrimination’ as the paintings depict an ‘Aryan,’ ‘racist’ Jesus. He says he suffered ‘personal stress’ after viewing ‘The Holy Family with Angels’ by Sebastiano Ricci; ‘The Resurrection’ by Perugino; ‘The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes’ by Tintoretto; and ‘The Crucifixion’ by Francesco Granacci.

“ ‘They are especially offensive’ Joseph claims, ‘because I have black hair like wool and skin of bronze color. I shouldn't have to go into the Metropolitan Museum and see paintings for white people. It doesn't make me feel good.’ ”
I know what he means. The story gives me a queasy feeling, too.

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, December 12th, being the Feast of St Edburga of Kent, abbess, 751


 

December 6, 2015
The Second Sunday in Advent

Our national pre-Christmas season begins with an orgy of sales: Black Friday (which in most places actually begins on the afternoon of Turkey Thursday), Cyber Monday (the only Monday which lasts a week) and the Shopping Days Countdown has come once again.

The Church’s pre-Christmas season – Advent – begins differently: Doom Sunday, the Sunday of Judgment, kicks things off. The sign of the season is the Lord Jesus riding into Jerusalem as the King of Israel. The first thing the King does is go into the Temple and start a fight. His first words to the people who’ve been waiting for him for a thousand years are hardly evocative of Yule logs and sweet-scented wassail: as He tosses aside the money-laden tables choking the entrance to the Temple He shouts “You have made My House a den of thieves!” The Gospel Lesson opening Advent tells us that the King is Coming and He’s Not Happy.

The Second Sunday in Advent is more of the same. The Gospel reading is from St Luke and in it Jesus warns His disciples about the End of the World.  “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” We’ve convinced ourselves, over the centuries, that the way things seem is the way they are. Jesus Himself says “T’ain’t so. This whole thing is coming down: the Federal Reserve, transhumanism, gender politics, NATO and OPEC, the UN and the NRA all will crumble like cardboard.” But Jesus’ words of warning are actually words full of hope, because that’s what Advent is really about. All those things will crumble because they’re all things we’ve constructed in our efforts to make things better. But we’ve failed, even if we won’t admit it. The Lord Jesus concludes His words on the End of the World by saying “when these things come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh: the Kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”

The Third Sunday in Advent the outlook of the season changes. It becomes a time of looking to Bethlehem and the honest-to-God, uncuddly wonder that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” But before we look back, Advent makes us look forward. It makes us look around. Things are not as they seem. That’s at the core of the Gospel. And the Gospel is full of promise: they are indescribably better than we can imagine, and the same King Who is coming is as Judge is, first and last – alpha and omega – our Redeemer.

Parish Christmas Tree Expedition & Decoration Party Planned
Next Saturday, December 12th, at noon, I’ll meet at church with all those who want to join in our Annual Christmas Tree Expedition. As usual, we’ll choose two trees, one for the church and one for David Hall. We’ll head for the Big Tree Lot on the Interstate at Highway 46. In addition to our trees, we’ll choose wreaths for the doors of the church and hall. I’ll be asking the Men of the Parish to help set up the trees when they arrive at the church. Please be aware that the Redland girls, after consulting with their father and me, have the final choice of trees each year.

The next day, the Third Sunday in Advent, we’ll go to David Hall after the 10.30 Eucharist for the Thelma Sullock Annual Cookie Exchange and to decorate the Christmas Tree for the Hall. As is our custom, all decorations will be handmade, with all the construction paper, felt pens, glue and “sparklies” you can use, and enough scissors for everybody. We’ll serve steaming wassail (or hot cocoa) and seasonal snacks to all participants.

Anglican Church Calendars for 2016 Now Available!
The Church Calendars for 2016 (“Ordo Calendars”) have arrived and are available from the Parish Office (“Tanya”) for $6.00. We have a limited supply this year and are unable to order any more after January, so if you want one, please see Tanya soon.

St Joseph’s Thanksgiving Donation
Toya Boyer reports that St Joseph’s Thanksgiving donation to the New Braunfels Food Bank this year was over 115 pounds of non-perishable food items this year. Many thanks to all (I think most everybody in the parish brought in bags o’ food) who contributed. – Fr Wilcox

Christmas at St Joseph’s, 2015

Christmas Eve, December 24
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer
10.30 PM – Lessons & Carols Service
11.00 PM – The Holy Eucharist (“Midnight Mass”)

Christmas Day, December 25
10.15 AM – Morning Prayer and the Holy Eucharist

Pray, Brethren…
Please pray for Russ, Charlotte’s husband who had two heart attacks this week; for Cassandra and for Jack (who, his doctor says, doesn’t have shingles after all, but “something else.”); pray for Katherine and Bryan; Jillian; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; and for Taylor. Remember Myric & Rocia; Kyleen; Aimee and her family; for Elizabeth, a long-time friend beginning chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast caner, also for her husband Steve (subdeacon), who buried his father, Ray, today, and for their son. Iain;  remember Daniel, struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Bonnie; for Diane and Mike; also please continue your prayers for two secret intentions we’ve been asked to remember. Pray for Marcy and her daughters, Greta and Greer; for the continuing recovery of Julie (Kocurek), the Austin Judge shot in Austin, and all judges who serve to promote justice, including Bruce. Do not forget to pray for the ongoing work of Steve Maman in rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS and for the many victims, living and dead, of the attacks by Islamists in California this week.

Daily Services This Week
Monday, December 7 – the Feast of St Ambrose of Milan
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist

Tuesday, December 8 – the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist

Wednesday, December 9 (St Nicholas, Bishop of Myra)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, December 11 (Feria in Advent)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

This Friday is a Day of Abstinence

Around and About...Here and There…This and That
With all the pre-Christmas Christmas celebrations and concerts, it’s good to remember that Advent and Christmas are distinct. Many of us are familiar with the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, an Anglican custom developed in English cathedrals and popular now in many American churches, which is kept right before Christmas – and here’s a good example, from 1954 : https://youtu.be/Rr6yZ-deibU

But there is a traditional Advent Service like unto it, the Advent Procession. Here’s one from Trinity College Chapel, Oxford, in 2011. I hope you can get it without having to listen to the septic tank commercial YouTube seems to have appended beforehand: https://youtu.be/AoIz6veXL5g

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, December 5th, being the Feast of St Sabbas of Palestine, abbot, 532


 

November 22, 2015
The Sunday Next before Advent

Next Sunday begins the news Church Year, so how wonderfully grand is it that the old name for the day is Doom Sunday! We start the new year by recalling the End of the World, the Collapse of the Cosmos, the King coming to Judgment with a two-edged sword. Not quite the same image as 26 Shopping Days till Xmas.

It tells us something important though, about days and times and seasons. We begin our Christmas preparations by “remembering” something which hasn’t yet happened. The Church’s annual calendar isn’t quite like the other calendars by which we live. Other calendars help us plan and organize the year ahead. The Church’s calendar helps us look back to our past and, by doing that to look forward – to “remember” our future.

In English we don’t have a word for this kind of remembering, but there is one in Greek: ANAMNESIS. We translate this word as “remember,” but that’s ‘cause we don’t have a corresponding word in English. Anamnesis is not what we do when we try to remember where we put our keys or what the last name of the lady I’m talking to is. But when we take bread and wine “in remembrance” of Him, it IS what’s happening. When we celebrate Doom Sunday before the Doom of Days it’s happening again.

Anamnesis is to make something present NOW which is of another time. It’s why we have the Church calendar. At Christmas Eve we can gather and collectively imagine how wonderful the first Christmas night must have been. We can sing sweet old hymns, hear again the story of the Birth in Bethlehem and feel warm and fuzzy about the crèche and twinkling candlelight. We can remember Christmases past. But none of that, pleasant as it may be, is anamnesis.

The Liturgy is central to our lives as Christians not because it’s “high-church” or “Anglican” (so we can thank God that we’re not like other Christians are), but because this is the principal thing the Lord Christ told us to do so He would be with us. Anamnesis means He is here in the same presence and power as when we walked the dusty roads of Roman Palestine. It may not “feel” much like it some days, when the priest chooses hymns we don’t know and can barely sing, when the air conditioner is not working right or the third candle on the Epistle side of the Altar keeps going out. That’s ‘cause we think the Liturgy is about us. Anamnesis happens when you and I gather at the Altar and “Do this.” But the promised Presence doesn’t come as the result of our efforts, try we never so hard or sincerely. The One doing the anamnesis is the Holy Ghost. He is remembering. He is lifting us “with angels and archangels and all the company of Heaven,” to be participants in the Heavenly Liturgy, the Eternal Anamnesis the Lord Jesus is continually offering to His Father.

Listen to the Epistle for the Sunday Next before. Nothing more plainly tells us of anamnesis and how crucial it is to who we are and what we do.

Baking the Cake for Doom Sunday
Next Saturday morning at 11.00 AM, the Parish Cooks of St Joseph’s will gather in the Kitchen to prepare the fabled Doom Cake for Sunday. (“Doom” is a medieval English word meaning not death but judgment; Doom Sunday is the old English name for the First Sunday of Advent). The Doom depicts Christians at the Day of Judgment: some taken up to Heaven by angels and some pulled down by devils to the Gates of Hell – usually pictured as a giant sea-monster with sharp, pointy teeth. The skilled cooks of St Joseph’s will prepared and decorate the Doom Cake, but I reserve to myself the production of the gory and gaping Gates of Hell. We’ll serve it all up after Mass on Doom Sunday.

Anglican Church Calendars for 2016 Now Available!
The Church Calendars for 2016 (“Ordo Calendars”) have arrived and are available from the Parish Office (read “Tanya”) for $6.00. We have a limited supply this year and are unable to order any more after January, so if you want one, please buttonhole Tanya soon.

Pray, Brethren…
Please pray for long-suffering Cassandra, who after months of recuperating from her broken leg and attendant medical misadventures learned yesterday her leg is STILL BROKEN! She begins with a NEW doctor early this week; you may have noticed Jack’s absence from the 10.30 Sunday ranks the past week or two. He’s said he “just isn’t feeling like moving around much.” Now we know why. He has shingles. “That wouldn’t e enough to keep me holed up,” he says, “but I’m taking no chances of sharing any of this with the Redland girls.” The girls are working on a Get Well Soon card for him. Pray also for Katherine and Bryan; Jillian; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; and for Taylor. Remember Myric & Rocia; Kyleen; Aimee and her family; please pray for Elizabeth, a long-time friend waiting for test results about the “progress” of cancer, also for her husband Steve (subdeacon), whose father Ray died recently and their son Iain; remember Daniel, struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Bonnie; for Diane and Mike; also please continue your prayers for two secret intentions we’ve been asked to remember. Pray for Marcy and her daughters, Greta and Greer; for the continuing recovery of Julie (Kocurek), the Austin Judge shot in Austin, and all judges who serve to promote justice, including Bruce. Pray for the safety of Charles (Mike & Lynn’s grandson), studying in Paris. Do not forget to pray for the ongoing work of Steve Maman in rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS and for the many victims, living and dead, of the attacks by Islamists over the past few weeks. We’ve been praying for Reba, who was grievously ill. Last week sher died, so please remember her, and Ray, together with all the faithful departed. Requiescant in pace.

Weekday Services
Wednesday, November 25 (St Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin & Martyr)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Thursday, November 26 (Thanksgiving Day)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist

Friday, November 27 (St Sylvester, Abbot, 1267 AD)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

This Friday is NOT a Day of Abstinence

Around and About...Here and There…This and That
Some of us remember November 22, 1963. If you do, you remember just where you were and what you were doing at about 1.30 that afternoon. I was sitting in Mrs Kreig’s class, and one of us was reading aloud about starfish from our textbook. The Principal came over the loudspeaker and told us to stop what we were doing and get under our desks. The President had been shot and the Russians might soon be attacking.

 They didn’t. After a while, we crawled up from our desks and eventually went home. For three days America was draped in black. The steady drumbeat and clacking horse hooves that echoed through the wide avenues of Washington DC reverberated through the country.

 Two other men died that day so quietly and unnoticed that, because of the assassination and all that clustered round it, their deaths were only reported after the president was buried. One was Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World, a mystic of sorts in an upper-crust, English public school sort of way. The other was Clives Staples (better known as “CS”) Lewis, an Oxford don and one of the most able and influential advocates for Christianity in the 20th century. In a fun little – not unbiased – book, Between Heaven and Hell, by Peter Kreeft imagined the three meeting in Purgatory and sitting down for a conversation. The address the perennial Great Questions: “How do we know things” and “Is there a God?” “Does it matter if there is?” Kennedy speaks for modern secular world, Huxley for humanism and Lewis for the Gospel. I’ve lost my copy of the book, but I’m looking for one for our new parish library. It’s worth a perusal. Every year on this day, I always remember where I was, ponder the premise of Kreeft’s book, and recall the picture of that pink and gold starfish I was looking at when the loudspeaker broke the news.

 Sure, he was a KGB goon, has fostered the worst kind of crony-capitalism and may very well be a war criminal, but if you watch Vlad Putin with his new puppy, you’ll have to agree every tyrant has a cuddly side:

https://youtu.be/HeS3Eq4e8Qs

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, November 21st, being the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary


 

November 15, 2015

The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity

The clocks changed a few weeks ago, but it takes a while to adjust. Only now is the weather starting to change here in central Texas, reminding us there are seasons other than “hot” and “not as hot as it’s been.” Dark comes on sooner, and cattle egrets are becoming a regular sight again. December is only a couple of weeks away, and to my distress I went into the store the other day to be confronted not just with Christmas trees but a sign warning me there are only 34 shopping days left till Christmas.

The Church Calendar says the same: the year is changing. As you’ll recall, the Church’s calendar begins on the First Sunday in Advent. That, beloved, is two Sundays from now. The long Trinitytide season, incorporating the long hot summer, can lull us into a sort of seasonless sense, but change is on us once again. Grumpy old men and Anglicans of any age are suspicious of change, but change, as the old Greek philosopher Zeno said, is the only changeless thing.

Not all change is good, much of it is often unwise, but that doesn’t stop it. Sometimes, the changes going on around us are scary or unsettling. Often people say to me there’s not much we can do, and thank God we’re in New Braunfels or Texas, where change comes slowly.

We’re not ostriches (which, as the matter of fact, do NOT “bury their heads in the sand”). Unlike dinosaurs or dingos, God gifted us with brains to think and plan. Unlike them, we can change things by thinking about them. Most wonderfully, too, we can change things by praying about them.

Change comes. We can be its victims or its initiators. The Gospel calls us to speak and act truthfully and charitably. St Edith Stein, who died in Hitler’s Auschwitz, said “Do not accept anything as truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love if it lacks truth.” That’s the challenge of Christians facing change (interestingly, while St Edith’s statement about the intertwined relationship of Truth and Love is prominent in her writing, most people who quote it today leave the second sentence out. Hmm…).

Change can come looking like a threat. It’s up to you and me, as Gospel-bearers, to see those times as a challenge, a chance for us to live up to and speak up for what we believe.

In the meantime, with only 30-odd days left till Christmas, I’m planning on buying everybody on my Christmas list a book on learning basic Arabic.

As Eye See It
This edition of “This Sunday at St Joseph’s” is short because my eyes are still recuperating a bit from what was a bit of a difficult eye surgery. My vision is improving daily, but undramatically, and it may be a few more days till I can toss my reading glasses aside. I am grateful for the prayers offered on my behalf and for the books I can now read (and am reading) readily.

Parish Office Hours and Weekday Services
This coming week we’ll keep our regular office hours in David Hall. The office will be open from 10.30 AM till 6.30 PM on Wednesday and Friday, and I’m available at other times by appointment. Also our schedule of weekday services will resume, with Morning Prayer at 11.45, the Eucharist at 12.00 and Evening Prayer at 7.00 PM on Wednesdays and Fridays, with additional services on Holy Days.

Pray, Brethren…
For Cassandra’s ongoing recovery; for Katherine and Bryan; Jillian; Tanya; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; Myric & Rocia; Kyleen; pray for Aimee and her family; please pray for Elizabeth, a long-time friend, beginning chemotherapy, also for her husband Steve (subdeacon), whose father Ray died this past week and their son Iain; remember Daniel, struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Bonnie and Reba; for Diane and Mike,; also please continue your prayers for two secret intentions we’ve been asked to remember. Pray for Marsden and Bruce, traveling this week all over the State of Texas; for Marcy and her daughters, Greta and Greer; pray for Julie (Kocurek), the Austin Judge shot in Austin, and all judges who serve to promote justice, including Bruce. Do not forget to pray for the ongoing work of Steve Maman in rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS and for the many victims, living and dead, of the attacks in Paris this week past by ISIS.

Weekday Services
Wednesday, November 18 (St Hilda of Whitby, Abbess, 680)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, November 20 (St Albert the Great, Bishop, Confessor & Doctor of the Church, 1280)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

This Friday is a Day of Abstinence

Thanksgiving Day Services
Thursday, November 26th is Thanksgiving Day. Morning Prayer will be read at 11.45 AM and the Holy Eucharist will follow immediately.

Sunday is the Deadline for Bringing Donations for our Thanksgiving Gift

to the New Braunfels Food Bank!

 
Around and About...Here and There…This and That

The Consecration of Samuel Seabury, First Anglican Bishop in the United States
During the colonial era, there were no Anglican bishops in the Americas; anyone seeking ordination had to travel to England for the rite. After the winning of American independence, the Church in the United States had, of necessity, to have its own bishops. To that end, a synod of Connecticut clergy chose Samuel Seabury to go to England and there seek consecration from bishops of the Church of England.

But English bishops were forbidden by law to consecrate anyone who would not take an oath of allegiance to the British Crown, so rather than wait around for a permissive Act of Parliament, Bishop-elect Seabury turned to the Episcopal Church of Scotland, which had no connection with the government (having originated around 1690 with the non-Jurors: those Anglicans who, having sworn allegiance to James Stuart, would not break their oaths to swear allegiance to William of Orange; consequently, they were all but outlawed under the new dynasty), and was free to consecrate him without political entanglements.

In Aberdeen, 14 November 1784, Samuel Seabury was consecrated to the Episcopate by the Bishop and the Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness. He thus became part of the unbroken chain of bishops that links the Church today with the Church of the Apostles.

In return, he promised them that he would do his best to persuade the American Church to adopt the Eucharistic Prayer of Consecration from the Scottish Book of Common Prayer (taken almost unchanged from the First Prayer Book of 1549) rather than the much abbreviated prayer then in use in the Church of England. That Eucharistic Prayer, still used in our 1928 Prayer Book, is widely regarded as one of the liturgical treasures of the Church in this country.

Here’s a very short video of the chapel at St Paul’s Church in Edinburgh, Scotland where Seabury’s consecration took place (it concludes with a view of a stained glass window now in the chapel depicting Seabury’s consecration). It sounds like the floor is covered with bubble wrap, which I’m pretty sure was not the case at the time… https://youtu.be/ig0r97MjOs4

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, November 14th, being the Commemoration of the Rt Rev Samuel Seabury as the First Anglican Bishop for the United States, 1789


November 8, 2015
The Octave of All Saints Day and Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity


Some days are so special we just don’t want ‘em to end. Just imagine the excitement of children – to say nothing of retailers! – if Christmas was longer than one day. Think how happy young women would be – and how panicked their sweethearts – if it wasn’t Valentine’s Day but Valentine’s Week.

It’s not a new idea. The Twelve Days of Christmas, running from December 25th till January 5th or 6th (depending on who makes the calendar) comes ultimately from the exuberance of people who like Christmas. Hundreds and hundreds of years back (about seventeen hundred, mas o menos) Christians prolonged certain celebrations to squeeze all they could out of certain feasts ‘cause they liked ‘em so much. Since a couple of major Jewish feasts, operating on the same idea, were celebrated for eight days, early in the fourth century AD Christians began doing the same thing. Octava is the Latin word for “eighth,” so a celebration stretched to eight days is called an octave. The Prayer Book calls for a number of Holy Days to be celebrated with an Octave, and All Saints is one of them.

This Sunday we’ll crowd into the Liturgy the All Saint’s Octave, the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity and a few special prayers and blessings (complete with a liberal aspersion of holy water) for Veterans’ Day. The Octave Day of All Saints is kept in some places (St Joseph’s being one) as the day commemorating “All Anglican Saints and Worthies.” We have a lot to get in! The sermon may have to be abbreviated.

The Solomon and Nancy David Parish Hall
I thought we were finished! Well, we are, mostly. Wrapping things up will take a little bit yet. The portrait of SD and Nancy which will greet everyone as they come into the hall is about ready to go to the frame shop; I’ve delivered the text for the large signboard in front of David Hall to the painters; and the Bookcase Committee has decided we need better bookcases, which is the consensus of everybody who looks over the unassembled cases. Not only were the instructions written in Mandarin, the contents of the containers are all incomplete. The Committee has concluded “these are not the bookcases for us.” Now all they have to do is sell Sylvia on their decision. When Cassandra is wheelchair-free, she’ll send out the word and assemble the Women Who’ll Organize the Kitchen. One step (pardon the pun) at a time will finish us up, till one of us comes up with the next idea.

But David Hall is now in regular use, and even now plans are being made…

Parish Office Hours and Weekday Services

Beginning next week, we’ll begin keeping regular office hours in David Hall on Wednesdays and Fridays. The office will be open from 10.30 AM till 6.30 PM both days, and I’ll be there other times by appointment. Watch here and in the bulletin for other activities to be held in the hall throughout the week. Also beginning next week our schedule of weekday services will resume, with Morning Prayer at 11.45, the Eucharist at 12.00 and Evening Prayer at 7.00 PM on Wednesdays and Fridays, with additional services on Holy Days.

Pray, Brethren…
For Cassandra’s ongoing recovery at home; for Larry, facing surgery this week; for Jillian; Tanya; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; Myric & Rocia; Kyleen; pray for Aimee and her family; I ask your prayers for Elizabeth, a long-time friend, about to begin chemotherapy, also for her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son Iain; remember Daniel, struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Pray for Bonnie and Reba; for Diane and Mike, who are struggling; also please continue your prayers for two secret intentions we’ve been asked to remember. Do not forget to pray for the ongoing work of Steve Maman in rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS

Weekday Services
There will be NO services or office hours this week. I’m going in for eye surgery mid-week and will be recuperating and forbidden from reading for the better part of a week. There are however, books on CDs (I’ve got David McCullough’s 1776 ready to listen to) and Robert Redland showed me a place I can listen to texts of the Fathers of the Church online, so the problem may be getting me to leave my room! Weekday services and office hours will resume after Sunday, November 15th.

Around and About...Here and There…This and That
A Taste of Pompeii? The ancient Roman city, buried in the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in AD 79, was rediscovered in 1748. From that day to this, archaeologists have been digging through the ruins. According to Steve Ellis, director of the current archaeological work there, “it’s the longest continually excavated site in the world.”

Recently, during the excavation of a bakery there, an oven was uncovered and examined. Inside were loaves of breads placed in the oven on the morning of August 24th, but not removed till now. While nobody tasted it, archaeologists did pass one of the loaves to the lab to find out what was in it. A technician passed a piece to a baker, and together they came up with the recipe for Pompeian bread. This was too interesting to me to leave, so I pursued this further till I got the recipe, directions and cooking instructions. I’m asking the adventurous cooks of the parish to join me in the Parish Kitchen on Saturday, November 28th to prepare some Pompeian Bread and our Advent Doom Cake for consumption on Doom Sunday, November 29th. With wine and olive oil?

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, November 8th, being the Feast of St Willibroard of Utrecht, Bishop, 738 and in the Octave of All Saints Day


November 1, 2015
The Feast of All Saints, commonly called All Saints Day or All Hallows

The Church has a happy problem. We have too many saints! Too many for what?  Too many to celebrate them all. A saint, one of us who’s actually made it, who has followed Jesus faithfully “the whole of his good life long,” is something to celebrate. Very early on, the Church set aside the day a holy one died as his “birthday in Heaven.” The martyrs, those who gave up their lives rather than give up their faith, were among the earliest remembered. They were the champions of the persecuted Church. So they remembered them on their birthdays in Heaven, offering the Eucharist at their tombs (that’s why the catacombs were so important to our Christian ancestors – they weren’t places to hide but to celebrate the victories of the martyrs).

The Church lived through several major persecutions under the Roman emperors. Fiercest of all was that of Diocletian, from 284-305. During his reign alone, more than 17,000 Christians were martyred. 

It got to be too much for Christian hagiographers (those who write about the saints): their lists were becoming too long to read at the Eucharist, and just kept getting longer as the years passed. The glory of the Church became a headache for her archivists. St Ephrem the Syrian, in a sermon from 373, mentions that the Syrian Christians in Antioch observe the Sunday after Pentecost (that’s Trinity Sunday to you and me) as a feast of the Martyrs of Syria. Within a few generations Christians everywhere were venerating their local saints in similar ways.

Churches were being built with dedications like “St Mary and All the Martyrs.” While churches were still dedicated to individual saints and many saints were still honored on their “heavenly birthdays,” a desire grew among many Christians to venerate those saints mentioned in the Book of Revelation, “who no man could number.” On November 1, 731, a chapel was dedicated in Rome to “All the Saints.” The idea and the date stuck, and we’ve been keeping the day ever since.

The purpose of the All Saints Feast is not to make sure we don’t miss anybody and so unwittingly offend a heavenly VIP. All Saints Day rejoices in the grace of God which takes men and women who’ve broken themselves and remolds them so that everyone who meets them thinks they’ve just met Jesus. That’s what a saint is, and any Christian is eligible.

Fr Augustine Hoey, an Anglican monk and no mean hagiographer himself, wrote “Why were the saints, saints? Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful, patient when it was difficult to be patient; and because they pushed on when they wanted to stand still, and kept silent when they wanted to talk, and were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable. That was all. It was quite simple and always will be.”

They’re not stuck to stained glass. We meet ‘em now and again, out and about. And as we’ll sing on Sunday, “I mean to be one, too.”

The Council of Chalcedon
In addition to being All Saints Day, Sunday is the 1,564th anniversary of the conclusion of the Council of Chalcedon, Fourth among the Seven Great Ecumenical Councils of the Church. Nowadays “ecumenical” means something like “Christians getting along together” (a la Rodney King). In ages past, though, it meant something very different.

The Greek original is oekumeme, which meant, to the original Greeks, “the civilized world.” The “civilized world,” to ancient Greeks, meant the “Greek-speaking world” (our word “barbarian” derives from ancient Greek; it’s meant to imitate the sound sheep make: “baa-baa”). That was how Greeks in the time of Aristotle said everybody else sounded like when they spoke their native, non-Greek languages.

Under the Christian empire of the Byzantines (from about 320 – 1450 AD), the word oekumene came to mean “Christendom,” that is, those baptized peoples and nations which comprised the One Great Church. An Oecumenical Council, then, was a gathering of Christians from across the oecumeme. In a time when it took months to travel across the empire, such gatherings were few, far between, and called only to address issues of grave importance. The first of these Oecumenical Councils met at Nicaea in 325 and produced the Nicene Creed we still say today. Over the next 450 years, seven of these Great Councils met to settle questions which threatened to tear at the fabric of the One Church. Chalcedon was one of these.

They were called together because a squall was turning into a hurricane. Eutyches and his pals said that Christ’s humanity was inconsequential. He was God. They admitted that he was “made man,” but insisted that his humanity was absorbed into His divinity “as a single drop of honey dissolves into the ocean.” The Council, following the lead of the greatest theologian of the day, Pope St Leo the Great (that’s not what he called himself), taught that both Christ’s humanity and divinity were necessary for salvation to be salvation. The Fathers of Chalcedon agreed, and on November 1, 451, they said so:

“We, then, following the holy Fathers, with one consent teach all people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of rational soul and body; of one substance with the Father as God, of one substance with us as man; in all things like us, except sin; begotten before all ages of the Father as God, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, as man; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, these two natures unmixed, unchangeable, indivisible, inseparable; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, as the prophets from the beginning have declared, as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught, and as the Creed of the holy Fathers [of Nicaea] has handed down to us.”

What does all that mean and, practically speaking, what does any of it matter? Ah, beloved, there’s the rub. To find out, you have to come to church tomorrow.

Blessing and Dedication of the SD and Nancy David Parish Hall
Thanks to one and all for pitching in together to make our dedication of David Hall such a bright and joyful day. The parish hall was wonderfully resplendent and ready for the day (if you don’t look too closely around the edges and peer into corners). We’ve redone the old hall from top to bottom and from inside out (though actually we did that part from “outside-in”) and it looks grand, and it is good to see it full. I’m very grateful to the members of the David family who showed up for the day, renewing their acquaintances with some of us and making new friends with others. The family is having a portrait of SD and Nancy prepared as a gift to the parish, which we’ll hang in a prominent place in the hall.

There are still a few things to do, particularly in the Parish Office, which will be finished up in the next week or so, and the Building of the Bookcases. Sylvia Muff chose new bookcases for the parish library but at least two people with civil engineering degrees are required to complete the construction. Sunday I’ll be asking for the creation of a group of dedicated Bookcase Builders to meet, consider and complete the construction. One of our guests asked me about the Big White Empty Sign in front of the hall, the first thing you see from the street when you look at our property. I’ll be taking care of that next week. Wait n’ see.

Anyway, dearly beloved, David Hall is ready for us to use. How well we use it will tell a lot about the future of St Joseph’s. I’m looking forward to the results. Thank you for doing your part to bring us here. Now we continue…

Parish Office Hours and Weekday Services
Beginning next week, we’ll begin keeping regular office hours in David Hall on Wednesdays and Fridays. The office will be open from 10.30 AM till 6.30 PM both days, and I’ll be there other times by appointment. Watch here and in the bulletin for other activities to be held in the hall throughout the week. Also beginning next week our schedule of weekday services will resume, with Morning Prayer at 11.45, the Eucharist at 12.00 and Evening Prayer at 7.00 PM on Wednesdays and Fridays, with additional services on Holy Days.

Daylight Saving Time Is Gone, Done, Over, Finished, Kaput…
…till March 13, 2016, when the hour we’ve just got back will be snatched from us again.

All Souls Day
Monday is All Souls Day, with two Masses being offered for the faithful departed, at noon and 7.00 PM. Sheets will be in the Sunday bulletin with places for those you’d like remembered at the Eucharist. You can also email me names for inclusion; it is one of the great acts of mercy to pray for the dead and All Souls Day calls us to our duty.

Pray, Brethren…
For Cassandra’s ongoing recovery at home; for Larry, facing surgery on Tuesday; for Jillian; Tanya; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; Myric & Rocia; Kyleen; pray for Aimee and her family; I ask your prayers for Elizabeth, a long-time friend of Tanya and me, recuperating from her cancer surgery and waiting to hear if it was successful, also for her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son Iain; remember Daniel, struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Of your charity, remember all the faithful departed, especially on Monday. Please also pray for two secret intentions we’ve been asked to remember, and for the ongoing work of Steve Maman in rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS.

Weekday Services
Monday, November 2nd (All Souls Day)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & Holy Eucharist
 7.00 PM – Evening Prayer & Holy Eucharist

Wednesday, November 4th (St Ioannicus of Mt Olympus, Hermit, 846)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, November 6 (St Edwina of Wales, Princess, 683)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Around and About...Here and There…This and That
I received an email from a former parishioner in California, asking if she had relatives here at St Joseph’s. Barbara Bowyer, who received these weekly emails, got interested in the possibility when I mentioned Judge Bowyer last week in connection with the unchained “Texas Law Hawk.” Problem is, I don’t know a Judge Bowyer. Judge Boyer and his wife, Toya Boyer, are stalwart members of St Joseph’s. I won’t explain the mix-up – nobody would believe me if I did – but I am firmly resolved never to work on parish letters past midnight again.

Another email from California this week came from Santa Barbara. My good pal Geoff, who’s convinced himself he’s an atheist because – best I can figure – he has money and a fancy house overlooking the beach so he doesn’t need God right now, loves Halloween. He doesn’t like people dressing as Marie Antoinette or Luke Skywalker. “Halloween is about horror,” he wrote. “Death, gore and spattered blood is what we need. Fear is what we want to instill, primordial fears of unspoken terrors.” I asked Geoff what he’d be wearing as he goes around the classy neighborhoods of Santa Barbara with his two young nephews. “Last two years I went as an IRS agent” he wrote back, “but two people tried to run me over. This year I’m going as Global Warming.” Somehow, I feel set up.

This week’s Wall Street Journal has a Halloween story about visiting Karl Marx’s grave in London’s Highgate Cemetery. To cover the costs of keeping up his tomb with its dark, scowling visage, the cemetery has taken to charging visitors to the communist shrine $6.50. The young tovarishii who want to pay homage are not pleased. That’s quite a dig into a young marxist’s budget!

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, October 31st, being All Hallows Eve, the Vigil of All Saints Day



October 25, 2015
The Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity

 

Catholic – from two Greek words, kata holon, meaning “according to the whole” – is very often, I might even say usually, mistranslated by well-meaning people who are a bit uncomfortable with the word. It’s often been translated “universal” (indeed, the Prayer Book uses the word “universal” but immediately shows us the use is incomplete). It’s like defining a puppy as an animal with a tail and teeth. Right insofar as it goes, but you might not want to curl up with an alligator, which also possesses a tail and teeth. Words matter.

For Christians, at least those who want to keep “the faith once delivered to the saints,” catholic refers to the Church. It’s one of the four traditional “marks” of the Church: she is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. She is catholic in that she maintains the whole faith, entire, without additions or subtractions. She is catholic in that she is, in herself, the whole Church. She is catholic in that she embraces all Christians, living or dead. She is catholic in that her calling is to all people, of all races, cultures, social position or background. The salvation she has is for all and to all.

 A lot of people are leery of the word catholic because they equate it with Roman Catholicism. It’s ingrained in the common parlance of our language (the old military question used to be “Protestant, Catholic or Jew?”; it’s a bit more complicated nowadays). For some, “Catholicism” means superstition and corruption with a healthy pinch of blind obedience kneaded into the mix. That’s less a description of Roman Catholicism, though, than of religion. An old Latin phrase reminds us that when the best things are abused, they become the worst. Modern assurances and pretenses aside, everything human beings touch becomes infected, religion included.

 Contemporary religion carries the virus. Its most current manifestation is to lull us into a sense that God will be really happy if we all have good 401Ks, perfect teeth and are fearless in following wherever our minds lead us. Contemporary religions, Protestant, Buddhist, Catholic, Sikh, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, whatever, all whisper the same basic message. It’s the Oldest Temptation, promised in Eden: “eat this” (“say this,” “do this,” “think this,” whatever) “and you will be like God.” The only difference nowadays is the Temptation cuts God completely out of the picture. “You will be a god” (which is really what I’ve thought all along!).

The other day the Washington Post featured an interview with the Very Reverend Gary Hall, the newly-appointed dean of the National Cathedral in Washington DC. When asked to describe his faith he replied, “I would best describe myself as a non-theistic Christian.” God isn’t necessary to contemporary religion. We’re all that’s needed. Dean Hall continues: “Jesus didn’t try to convert people. He just had them at his table.”

Okay, I admit it. It’s easy to pick apart ‘Piscopalianism. When the best things are abused, they become the most pathetic. But similar quotes, in growing number, can be found among Baptists and Methodist, Buddhists and Jews (admittedly, you can’t find too many Muslims saying such things: for them, blasphemy isn’t just shoddy thinking or bad manners: it’s a capital crime).

The Gospel has no need of swords or Kalashnikovs, but it must have the truth. Dean Hart aside, St Matthew’s Gospel tells us “From the time Jesus began to preach, He said, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’”

We all have a tendency to make God in our own image, to see Him as we want Him to be. It’s not new, it’s the timeless temptation. For all her faults and foibles – and they are many – the Catholic Church prevents us. She will not tolerate half-truth or any sort of rendering down of the Gospel to suit my whims or wicked inclinations. In spite of the weaknesses of her members, she clings to the whole truth for all people. Regardless of our failings, the Head of the Catholic Church is perfect and infallible. Jesus Christ our Lord did not come to found a religious club or place for people who want to feel better about themselves, think good thoughts about everybody and just hope for the best. He came to make the Church, a new people made of all peoples, “of all nations, kindreds, peoples and tongues.”

 The Catholic Church is that Church, and we are among those people.

 Just one more point I want to toss into the equation. It’s an essential, most necessary, and to some, most uncomfortable teaching about the Church. It doesn’t come from a misty crypt of the Vatican but from the pages of the catechism of the Book of Common Prayer:

Question: When were you made a member of the Church?
Answer. I was made a member of the Church when I was baptized.
Question. What is the Church?
Answer. The Church is the Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head, and all baptized people are the members.

We didn’t create the Church and history proves we can barely maintain it. It doesn’t belong to us, but we to it. As much as we may be tempted, it’s not ours to change, but Christ gave it to change us and then to pass on – unchanged, whole, entire, Catholic.

The Blessing and Dedication of the SD and Nancy David Parish Hall
At noon THIS Sunday, October 25th, we’ll bless and dedicate our renovated hall, to be named “The Solomon and Nancy David Parish Hall,” honoring one of the founding families of St Joseph’s. After the blessing and dedication and a few appropriate words, we’ll sit down to a covered dish lunch featuring the haute cuisine of our parish cooks and juicy hams straight from the Honey-baked Ham store. After we’ve had our fill (maybe, the photographer tells me, before we’ve eaten lest some of us be seen wearing our lunch), we’ll pose for an Official Picture. Please note, dearly beloved, that we’re combining the 8 AM and 10.30 Masses that day to a single parish Eucharist at 10.30. Morning Prayer will be read at 9 o’clock.

Many of our preparations have been finished: the new parish hall signs now hang on the porch, new wood blinds grace every window in the hall, the new kitchen is complete as is the work in my office. Lynn Mahaffey has completed the arrangements in the Main Hall and done things up in a Harvest Theme. Virtually everyone has been involved and, given that’s been so, it’s almost miraculous that it has harmonized so beautifully.

 In special connection with the completed work I particularly commend to you and thank Rick and Melinda DeLong, our local Budget Blinds agents, who worked long and hard hours to be sure our new binds were properly prepared and installed in time for our celebration.

Sunday is a day to rejoice, but we set out on this undertaking not just to have a nice place to have parish lunches, but to be a center for parish activities and projects, a place we could do some of the work we, as a Christian parish, are called to do. We’ve done some good work on our hall, of which we can be justifiably and sinlessly proud. Now, dearly beloved, the REAL work begins.

Parish Office Hours and Weekday Services
Beginning the first week of November, we’ll begin keeping regular office hours in the David Parish Hall on Wednesdays and Fridays. The office will be open from 10.30 AM till 6.30 PM both days, and I’ll be there other times by appointment. Watch here and in the bulletin for other activities to be held at David Hall throughout the week. Also beginning that week our schedule of weekday services will resume, with Morning Prayer at 11.45, the Eucharist at 12.00 and Evening Prayer at 7.00 PM on Wednesdays and Fridays, with additional services on Holy Days.

Pray, Brethren . . .
In thanksgiving for Cassandra’s successful surgery; for Larry, facing surgery a week from now; for Jillian; Tanya; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; Myric & Rocia; Kyleen; pray for Aimee and her family; I ask your prayers for Elizabeth, a long-time friend of Tanya and me, diagnosed with cancer and undergoing surgery today, also for her husband Steve (subdeacon) and their son Iain; remember Daniel, struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. Of your charity, pray for Lana, Maria, Robert (“Boppa”) and Carl, who have died, and for Georgia, Richard, Clare and their families, who mourn their losses. Remember all the faithful departed, especially Solomon and Nancy. Please also pray for three secret intentions we’ve been asked to remember, and for the ongoing work of Steve Maman in rescuing women and children from captivity with ISIS

Weekday Services
Saturday, October 31st (The Vigil of All Saints Day, commonly called All Hallows Eve)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer
12 noon – Holy Eucharist

Around and About...Here and There…This and That
I thought the late-night TV commercials of Jim Adler, Esq., aka “the Texas Hammer” set the tone for rowdy advertising, but now that I’ve seen a commercial produced by Bryan Wilson, the “Texas Law Hawk” (see link below), I stand corrected. The Hawk’s blend of Laredo wrestling atmospherics, off-off-off-off Broadway acting and high-school motorcycle antics come together to produce a commercial hard to forget, try-as-you might. Coming soon to a television near you:

 https://youtu.be/HL3MxAH-kDI

I’d travel to Hays County to see the Law Hawk appear in Judge Bowyer’s court!


 St Benedict of Nursia established monasticism in the western Church 1600 years ago. A old Benedictine abbey built on the site of his birthplace in Nursia (now Norica), Italy lasted until the property was secularized by the government 200 years ago. A group of Benedictine monks (mainly from America) recently obtained the property and have restored it to its original use, financed by beer! Here’s a brief video of their story:

https://youtu.be/vjRB3qUAwqM

And here’s what comes of brewing that beer:
https://youtu.be/KUvZHuM6mmw

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, October 24th, being the Feast of St Raphael the Archangel


 October 18, 2015
The Feast of St Luke the Evangelist & the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Sunday we’ll celebrate the Feast of St Luke the Evangelist and the prayers and readings that day focus on his feast. He’s the author not only of the Gospel associated with his name, but also of the Acts of the Apostles, the two longest books in the New Testament. His writing alone makes up more than a fourth of the entire text of the New Testament. There is a lot of interesting stuff about St Luke worth mentioning: he was, as you know, a physician, and a companion of St Paul during some of his travels (Tarsus, St Paul’s home town, was also the home of one of the greatest medical schools of his day and some scholars speculate the two men may have become acquainted during St Luke’s residence there); St Luke was not a Jew but probably a Syrian from Antioch who converted to Christianity as a young man; he was very well-educated, a writer well-trained in literature rhetoric, and history – his Greek is not only the most elegant of the New Testament but also closest to following the pattern and style of the great writers of his day.  

All that having been said (and much more that could have been said left aside), that’s not why Sunday is St Luke’s Day. We celebrate October 18th every year as his day not because he was Luke, who wrote more words that ended up in the New Testament than anybody else, or who knew St Paul, but because Luke the physician lived and died as a saint. A grand old medieval book, called the Martyrology, summarizes his sanctity in a couple of sentences: “In Bithynia, the birthday of St. Luke the Evangelist. He died, filled with the Holy Ghost, after having suffered much for the Name of Christ. His relics were translated to Constantinople, and thence taken to Pavia.”

The Martyrology isn’t just an old book listing those Christians who died as martyrs, but those who died as saints. The book recounts what’s essential about the Evangelist’s life: he died in Bythnia (a Roman province on the northern coast of what we now call Turkey – Nicaea, birthplace of the Creed, is part of the same province), was an author of one of the Gospels, lived and died “filled with the Holy Ghost,” and “suffered much for the Name.” His “birthday” the Martyrology mentions means his birthday in Heaven, an old Christian concept sadly now unused.

We’ll remember St Luke in Sunday’s Liturgy not so much for what he did then, as for what he’s doing now. The saints aren’t dead. They’re much more alive and involved now in Heaven than most of us will ever be till we catch up with them (which, dearly beloved, we’re intended to do!).

We’re fast approaching All Saints Day (November 1) and I want to focus on what the saints mean for us a people wrassling to live our faith. The first thing is that saints aren’t plaster – not now in Heaven or when they were down here wrassling like the rest of us. “Filled with the Holy Ghost, he suffered much for the Name.” Being a saint isn’t being safely insulated from the slings and arrows. Being buffeted is a necessary part of holiness. It’s not the buffets that count, though: it’s why we’re buffeted (“for the Name”) and how we take it that counts.

St Luke, the brilliant young physician and the most skillful of New Testament authors, followed St Paul on his journeys and served as his right hand (at one point St Paul grumbles “everybody’s deserted me except Luke”). In the Book of Acts he recounts the dangers he endured with St Paul, not only without grumbling, but with undoubted humor and good grace. The man who “suffered much for the Name” wrote about the God Who stooped low to share all our sorrows so He could raise us to Himself. St Luke did what saints do: he points us to Jesus, “the Author and Finisher of our faith.”


The Blessing and Dedication of the SD and Nancy David Parish Hall
On Sunday, October 25th (the last Sunday of this month) we’ll bless and dedicate our renovated hall, to be named “The Solomon and Nancy David Parish Hall,” honoring one of the founding families of St Joseph’s. Members of the David family will gather from across Texas to be with us for the festivities. After the blessing and dedication (scheduled for noon) and a few appropriate words, we’ll sit down to a covered dish lunch during which we’ll hear a few more words. Sometime in the midst of it all, we’ll pose for an Official Picture. Please note, dearly beloved, that we’re combining the 8 AM and 10.30 Masses that day to a single parish Eucharist at 10.30. Morning Prayer will be read at 9 o’clock.

This week a lot of our preparations are being finished: the new parish hall signs will be up, new wood blinds will grace every window in the building, the library with its new bookshelves will be organized, work on what goes where in the kitchen continues apace (I’m keeping clear of this!), the new carpet is being steam-cleaned (I’m not sure why but I’m not asking  any questions I don’t need to know the answers to), and the new parish office, with worktables, cabinets and shelves will be finished as much as a work area can ever be finished. I even have two plush and comfy wing chairs in my office (Toya almost fell asleep in one earlier today during a meeting). Even the church is getting its share of improvements: our Master Carpenter, James Polhemus, just built a new prei-dieu for the sanctuary. He built it to match the others and I can’t tell which is the new one.


Thanks to the Vestry and the work of most everybody in the parish – especially Middy Pannill, who’s always there cleaning up after the rest of us, of Chris Penski our Junior Warden and Mike Mahaffey, our former Senior Warden who’s now appointed himself the assistant Junior Warden to help Chris, we’ll be ALMOST ready for the festivities on the 25th. I’m sure somebody will say “We should’ve thought to do…” but whoever does that will find themselves on a new committee titled “Ongoing Work to the David Parish Hall” forming up on October 26th!

Parish Office Hours and Weekday Services
Beginning the first week of November, we’ll begin keeping regular office hours in the David Parish Hall on Wednesdays and Fridays. The office will be open from 11.00 AM til 4.00 PM both days, and I’ll be there other times by appointment. Watch here and in the bulletin for other activities to be held at David Hall throughout the week. Also beginning that week our schedule of weekday services will resume, with Morning Prayer at 11.45, the Eucharist at 12.00 and Evening Prayer on Wednesdays and Fridays, with additional services on Holy Days.


Pray, Brethren…
Pray for Cassandra and Larry, facing surgeries; in thanksgiving for Shelley’s successful surgery; for Jillian; Tanya; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; Myric & Rocia; Kyleen; pray for Aimee and her family; for Hector and his family; for Lana, Maria, and Robert (“Boppa”) who have died, and for Georgia, Cliff, Richard, Clare and their families, who mourn their losses. Remember all the faithful departed, especially Edward & Frances and Joe. Please also pray for three secret intentions we’ve been asked to remember, and for the work of Steve Maman in rescuing women and children from ISIS


Weekday Services
Saturday, October 24th (St Raphael the Archangel)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  5.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
This Friday is a day of Abstinence.
 
Around and About...
 
Clare Murray entered the lists with a cutting response to a gushy article on the wonders of Planned Parenthood’s abortion program in the University Star (the student paper of Texas State University in San Marcos). Those of y’all who are acquainted with Clare’s fiery prose can imagine the bottoms of the editors of the Star are so blistered they can’t quite sit down yet!
 
Religion and Politics Do Sometimes Mix: A Florida lawyer, Sol Invictus, has declared his intention to run for the Senate as a Libertarian in the seat being vacated by Marco Rubio. He’s having some problems, though, being accepted as a candidate by his chosen party. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Invictus announced that prior to making his decision to enter the race, he prayed, fasted and then sacrificed a goat to the gods.  “I sacrificed an animal to the god of the wilderness,” Invitus told the Sentinel. “And yes, I drank the goat’s blood.” Whatever Florida Libertarians decide, he’s probably lost the PETA vote already…
 
He was a philosophy professor from Australia, an atheist, who mid-life converted to Christianity and has been, for many years now, a Coptic Orthodox monk in the desert of Egypt. Here is a brief video introducing his extraordinary life:    https://youtu.be/uKXf_7Tt0-c

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!


Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, October 16th, being the Feast of St Colman of Kilroot, 589


Attachments area
Preview YouTube video The Last Anchorite part1

October 4, 2015
The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity and Feast of St Francis of Assisi


Loving God, Rutabagas and the Dallas Cowboys
“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

The Lord Jesus commands us to love. He requires it of us. But can we really love something just because we’re told to?  When we say we “love” some one or some thing, we’re most always talking about either an attraction or an affection: “My favorite color is puce,” “I’d eat mashed rutabaga every day if I could,” “She’s my sister. I’d do anything for her.” “It’s the logo of the Dallas Cowboys. Why wouldn’t I want it tattooed on my forehead?”

Everybody knows what we mean when we say we “love” puce or rutabagas or our sister or the Cowboys. We use the same word, but we don’t mean the same thing by it. I don’t love rutabagas in the same way I love my sister. There are distinctions we have in mind when we say we love something. But how would you respond if someone said, “From now on, you don’t love puce, you love orange” or “You’ll be rooting for the Patriots after today”?

How can anyone tell us – much less command us – to love something?


When it’s Jesus Christ doing the telling, we’re wise to try and understand what He means. He’s commanded us to love God above everything else, and to love our neighbors like we love ourselves. To make sure we get it, He concludes by saying “everything hinges on you doing this.”


He’s telling us to do something we already do – to draw some distinctions about who and what and how we love. He doesn’t tell us not to love rutabagas, but does tell us to love them appropriately (St Thomas Aquinas would say for us to love rutabagas “ordinately,” that is, in the place  - or order – they rightly hold in God’s creation). Loving rutabagas more than God is “inordinate.”

What Jesus is commanding us to do is love ordinately. To love things appropriately, giving to each thing the love it in its proper place. But how can I know what that is?


That’s my problem. Left to my own devices I might love any  number of things – say the Iliad, or Bach’s chorale “Wachet auf” or a good In ‘n Out burger more than I love God or anybody else, depending on how I feel or what I want or think I need or know I deserve. You probably knew we’d get around to this sooner or later, but that’s what sin is, dearly beloved. When I sin, I’m saying “Well, for now I love this do-dad or particular pleasure more than God.”

Left to myself, I don’t know what to love. There’s so much! So I dither after one thing for awhile, thinking this is the thing that I want, until I see something shinier over there, and off I go.

For a long time the Church has placed the Lord’s command at the beginning of every celebration of the Eucharist just so we’ll remember what we are do have a reason to live and a goal to reach. Whenever we come together as His people, His two great commandments (which are really one), are the first words the priest says to us. They define us as His disciples and direct us in what we’re to do. What’s that? To love. To love God and to love those around us. Everything hangs on that, including you, and me, and the world all around us that seems to be “goin’ ta hell in a handbasket.” Everything – most especially salvation – hangs on love.
 
The Blessing and Dedication of the SD and Nancy David Parish Hall
We’ve set aside Sunday, October 25th (the last Sunday of this month) to bless and dedicate of our renovated hall, which will be named the Solomon D and Nancy David Parish Hall (the sign-painter is already at work on the sign for the front of the building). I’m happy to say members of the David family will gather from across Texas to be with us that day. We’ll have a lunch following the dedication and sometime in the midst of it all, an Official Picture will be made. There’s work going on almost every day twixt now ‘n then, so if you have a free afternoon, let me know!


Parish Office Hours and Weekday Services
The week after David Hall is properly blessed and opened, we’ll begin keeping regular office hours there on Wednesdays and Fridays. The office will be open from 11.00 AM til 4.00 PM both days, and Fr Wilcox will be there at other times by appointment. Watch here and in the bulletin for other activities to be held at David Hall throughout the week. Also beginning that week our schedule of weekday services will resume, with Morning Prayer at 11.45, the Eucharist at 12.00 and Evening Prayer on Wednesdays and Fridays, with additional services on Holy Days.


A Capella Sunday
Well, we survived our A Capella Sunday pretty well! Despite having several people out-of-town and all the Redland girls (along with their dad) sick and in bed – leaving Angie to play nurse to the houseful! – we sang the appointed Psalms and verses just fine. I added a hymn at the end of the Mass I figured everybody would know, and naturally, Jack Muff told me “I’ve never heard of this before!” Still, by the second verse he was singing as lustily as a Lutheran. Summer’s over, dearly beloved (though you’d have a hard time telling when you step outside the church after the late Mass), but we’ll still introduce a new hymn now and then throughout the fall. I told Jack on Sunday after his loud singing I might just build a choir around him!


Pray, Brethren…
Pray for those living through Hurricane Joaquin, especially those with friends, family and loved ones in the Carolinas and Virginia; for the victims, living and dead, of the school shootings in Oregon; continue your prayers for Russ, Cassandra, and Chris, all three recovering from surgeries; for Shelley, and her family, Steve, Cade and Kingsley; for Jillian; Tanya; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; Jayric & Rocia; Kyleen; pray for Aimee and her family; for Hector and his family; for Lana, Darla and Maria, who have died, and for Georgia, Cliff, Richard and their families, who mourn their loss. Please also pray for three secret intentions we’ve been asked to remember, and for the work of Steve Maman in rescuing women and children from ISIS


Weekday Services
Saturday, October 10th (St Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, 644)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  5.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
This Friday is a day of Abstinence.
Take a Peek..

Into the contemplative scenes and sounds of an English Benedictine convent:  https://youtu.be/VhgkmPJQX5A
 
And compare that with life inside an American Trappist Monastery, with a bit of a twist: https://youtu.be/UD4c8YnKEtA

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, October 3rd, being the Feast of St Hesychius of Gaza, Hermit, 380


September 27, 2015
The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Papally Speaking
Just in case your television is on the fritz, your internet service has been down, or the radio in your car is permanently tuned only to “KJ97,” the Pope is here in the US of A. He’s visited the White House and preached to the Congress, where he brought tears to the eyes of politicians on both sides of the aisle. Both Fox News and MSNBC and every news outlet between have been indistinguishable in their enthusiastic coverage of the visiting Bishop of Rome. I heard someone impoliticly ask how much all this was costing (the questioner was brusquely shushed), but otherwise, Pope Francis has been lauded like sliced bread never was.

He’s a man of deep personal warmth and profound intellect (that’s what 15 years of Jesuit training will do for you). A couple of the speeches he made – particularly his address to the UN General Assembly – would [should] have sent the more perspicacious of his hearers in search of an unabridged dictionary.

As a representative of Jesus Christ, there’s much to commend him for. His humility and care for the “masses” is obvious. The reality of his faith touches everyone who has eyes to see.

For all that, not that it matters, I am regretful of his trip. Not so much for what he has done (those in the know knew what he was going to do and say), but for what he did not do. One of the great scourges of our land is the 3,000 infants we legally butcher in America every day. While our government recognizes the marriage of homosexuals (which seems to me only consistent in keeping with the changing mores of a society which rejects anything but public opinion polls as a moral compass), the Church does not.

It’s right for the pope to warn of the dangers inherent in untrammeled capitalism, and he’s never hesitated to do that. It’s important for us to hear (and take to heart) the humanity of those many who brush aside our laws to enter our country illegally.  It’s meet and right and our bounden duty not to ignore the plight of the poor and suffering in our own country. We have little room, as individuals or as a society, for self-satisfaction regarding these things. If the pope calls us not just to remember these things, but to act on them, his time with us is well spent. His reputation is that of a pope who boldly “speaks truth to power.”

Edith Stein, a Jewish woman who became first a Christian then a nun and died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, said “Do not accept anything as truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love if it lacks truth.”  That’s an acid test of both the truth and love we are called to live. And I wouldn’t apply it too rigorously to anyone, especially me. All of us, popes included, are hard-pressed to live up to St Edith’s words. During this journey, the pope has singularly failed to do this.

Here in America, he has called us on the carpet for some of our failings, but not, as I mentioned above, some of those which strike at the very hearts of who we are becoming. In Cuba, where a ruthless family of dictators have brutalized the country fifty years and more, the pope said to the people who attended the principal Mass he celebrated there, “You are a people who have suffered wounds, like people in every country.” Small solace for fifty years of blood. The pope’s representative in Cuba, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, habitually refers to Cuban dissidents and those who flee the country as gusanos, the same term the government uses to refer to its critics. Gusanos means “maggots.” The pope would not meet with these gusanos during his four days there.

No doubt there are political reasons he couldn’t. No doubt it would have upset the people who run things. But his clarion call to America sounds a bit tinny against the backdrop of his words spoken to power in Cuba.

I’m aware nothing here has the slightest to do with the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity. Most of you probably know I don’t cotton to clergymen – me included – addressing political topics in ecclesiastical settings. A growing question of our day is where we draw the line between the Church and what is often now called “the Public Square.” I’m neither competent nor interested in talking about “climate change” or “income equality,” but that we are called to “have dominion” over the earth and to “seek justice for all and do what is right” (as Isaiah says) demands the attention of us all. These are not options for the followers of Jesus Christ, but most certain duties. Every one of us, including popes, sometimes fail to do what we should. Let’s bear each other’s weaknesses in mind and carry each other’s struggles in our as we plod after Jesus. On Sunday we’ll pray for Pope Francis, and the suffering people of Cuba specially, in the Liturgy.

The Blessing and Dedication of the SD and Nancy David Parish Hall
We’ve set aside Sunday, October 25th (the last Sunday of the month) for the blessing and dedication of our renovated hall, which will be named the SD and Nancy David Parish Hall (the sign-painter is already at work on the sign for the front of the building). I’m happy to say members of the David family are gathering from across Texas to be with us that day. We’ll have a lunch following the dedication and sometime in the midst of it all, an Official Picture will be made. There’s work to be done twixt now ‘n then, so if you have a free afternoon, let me know!

Parish Brunch This Sunday
The Apostolic Custom of a Parish Brunch on the last Sunday each month, which we’ve had on hiatus since renovation work on the Parish Hall began (was it eight or fourteen?) years ago, is being reinstated this Sunday. The Vestry is providing the HEB fresh-fried chicken, the rest is up to y’all. After we’re well-filled and talked out (well, maybe before), we’ll bless those having birthdays and anniversaries in September. The holy water bucket will be well-filled.

An A Capella Sunday
Grave Dreyer, our dedicated parish organist, won’t be at church this Sunday, and twice more before the end of the year. So we’ll curtain our hymn-singing a bit, BUT NOT our singing of the Introit, Gradual and other Verses anciently appointed. Y’all do a bang-up job of these very week without accompaniment!

St Francis Day Blessing of Animals
The feast day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron of animals, is October 4th, next Sunday. It’s customary to bless animals on his day, and I’m VERY tempted to encourage you to bring your pets of all sorts to church for a blessing during the Liturgy, except that I know what a disruptive scene my VERY BAD DOG, Freya, would cause. That being the case, on SATURDAY, October 3rd, at 1.00 PM, we’ll bless any pet of any sort you want to bring, including tarantulas and dogs that bite, but from a discrete distance. After the blessing treats for both pets and their owners will be distributed.

Pray, Brethren…
In thanksgiving on Clare’s birthday on Saturday, for Alyson, celebrating her birthday this coming Monday; for the work of Steve Maman in rescuing women and children from ISIS;

Pray for Russ, Cassandra, and Chris, all three recovering from surgeries; for Shelley, and her family, Steve, Cade and Kingsley; for Jillian; Tanya; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; Jayric & Rocia; Kyleen; pray for Aimee and her family; for Hector and his family; for Lana and for Maria, who have died, and for Georgia, Cliff, Richard and their families, who mourn their loss. Please also pray for three secret intentions we’ve been asked to remember.

Weekday Services
Saturday, October 3rd (St Hesychius of Gaza, Hermit & Disciple of St Hilarion, 380)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
1.00 PM – Blessing of Animals on the Church Porch
  5.00 PM – Evening Prayer

This Friday is a day of Abstinence.

Just for Fun ( and a bit of Edification)
David J. Slater, a wildlife photographer, was taking pictures of endangered crested macaques monkeys in Indonesia when he temporarily left his camera on his tripod. While he was gone, one of the monkeys made a batch of self portraits with the camera, commonly called “selfies” today. Slater returned to find a whole series of very good photos and, on later included them in one of his books. Fun – and profitable – for all until PETA got a whiff of the egregious exploitation of the monkey. They’ve now filed a suit in his behalf, claiming the monkey should own the copyright (since the court has ruled that only human beings can own copyrights, PETA has offered to receive the residuals themselves and administer them on behalf of exploited animals).

Since there are few “open and shut” cases anymore, here’s a video of the monkey’s photography. He’s pretty good. If PETA doesn’t co-opt him out of his rights, he may just consider publishing a book of his own!

https://youtu.be/Sa1CGB5NzwQ

Archbishop Kallistos Ware, the Greek Orthodox Bishop of England, speaks to American university students about the relationship of faith and science, particularly about evolution: https://youtu.be/jSVPZykCRyQ

A grand performance of Byzantine chant by Eikona. Byzantine chant is usually an acquired taste, like ouzo, but these women make it a sheer joy to listen to: https://youtu.be/b_6e9T1FpG8

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, September 26th, being the Feast of SS Cosmas & Damien, Physicians & Martyrs, 283


 

September 20, 2015
The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

The Dogma of Love
Before anything, there was love. Before the Big Bang and whatever there was before the Big Bang did bang, there was love. Before time started ticking, there was love.

The love that has always been and will always be isn’t much like the “eternal love” couples pledge each other at weddings (or in the back seat of cars) nowadays. Back when good theology was part of weddings, people didn’t promise to love each other forever and ever ad saecula saeculorum, but till they died. That was a promise they could keep, even if many didn’t.

The old wedding vows, promising to love till death, didn’t mean that when we died loving stopped. What it did – and does – mean is that we recognized that we can promise only what we can do.

Many marriages fail when one of the couple – sometimes when both of them – come to a realization that they don’t “love” their spouse anymore. What that means is they don’t “feel” what they used to feel. The “butterflies in the belly” don’t flutter anymore. The sound of their spouse’s voice sometimes evokes irritation, not happiness. The view of the face on the opposite pillow when you wake up doesn’t produce joy but only a dull acknowledgement that it’s morning again. That old feeling, the excitement, the thrill, the pleasure at the presence of the other, passes. It used to be said that the “seven year itch” was a sign of its passing, but the usual time for couples to first discover this is one or two years into  the marriage. Where did love go?

Truth is, it hadn’t yet begun. The anxiety, the tingling, the flitter-flatter of our emotions that are what we call “falling in love” or “being  in love” isn’t love in any meaningful sense, but love’s appetizers, like a really rich lobster bisque. As much as it delights the palate, it can’t satisfy the appetite. Too much of it and we get sick.

Love begins as infatuation ends. When a husband recalls that “for better, for worse” means “I stay when I want to go” and a wife thinks in the middle of the night that her father’s words “he’s never going to amount to anything” might be true but not if she can help it, love is pushing its way forward.

Newborns are cute and giggly and fun for everybody. It’s easy to love a three-day-old child. But when 2 AM feeding time comes for the 36th night in a row, few appreciate the unspeakable joy of pushing the covers aside and stumbling around in the dark to fetch a bottle. Love comes at a cost. When we begin to find out those costs and agree to pay the price, we begin to get a glimpse of what love really is.

You won’t be too shocked when I say that “before anything, there was love,” I’m talking about God. He’s not just where love comes from, He IS love. In a way that transcends my ability to speak and your ability to understand, God is love. In the most dogmatic of ways, absolutely and incomprehensibly, God is love.

Here’s the “delight of dogma” (to steal a phrase from the Anglican theologian and murder-mystery writer Dorothy Sayers): the Catholic Faith teaches us that the central Truth of Everything is this – the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost are Three Persons in One God.  This is the Truth on which every other truth is based.

Here’s what that means: the Father loves the Son. He always has and always will. The Son loves the Father – always has and always will. St Augustine takes us one more necessary step: the love the Father has for the Son and the love the Son has for the Father IS the Holy Ghost. Love is, then, not a feeling, not even an action, but a Person.

St Augustine says that when you and I love someone – or even something – we’re reflecting that eternal love that is Who God Is. Our attempts at love, transient and selfish as they may sometimes be, are nonetheless feeble participations in the eternal, self-giving love of God. He made us for love. As His disciples, we’re meant to spend our lives getting with the program. How? Look around.

Beer and Theology
Our long-awaited “Beer and Theology” group will have its first meeting this coming Friday, September 25th at Zelicks Icehouse in San Marcos. Attendance is open to anyone who can legally sit down at a bar and intelligently share an opinion. Each meeting we’ll focus on a topic, often with readings provided to open the discussion. On the 25th, we’ll talk about a Christian’s Freedom of Conscience in Public Life, taking the controversies surrounding Kim Davis as a springboard. This Sunday, two articles on the topic will be on the narthex table, available for would-be participants to take home and read. I’m looking forward to this; if you’re interested, come on by. Clare’s got a place for us already picked out. NB – You have to pay for your own beer!

New Date Set for Dedication and Blessing of Parish Hall
We set Sunday, September 27th as the date for the dedication & blessing of our renovated parish hall, but many of the family members of SD & Nancy David (after whom the hall is being named), and who very much wanted to be in attendance, are unable to make the trip to New Braunfels until October. After talking it over with members of the Vestry and the David family, I’ve chosen October 25th (the last Sunday of the month) for the dedication. Next Sunday, however, we’ll re-instate our Last Sunday of the Month Parish Lunches. The Vestry is providing freshly-cooked HEB fried chicken, y’all are bringing the rest!

Pray, Brethren…
In thanksgiving on Lynn’s birthday this Friday just passed; for the work of Steve Maman in rescuing women and children from ISIS; and I am personally thankful on the thirty-fifth anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood.

Pray for Russ; for Cassandra, who patiently continues her recuperation; for Shelley, and her family, Steve, Cade and Kingsley; for Jillian; Tanya, who is still moving slowly; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; Jayric & Rocia; Kyleen; pray for Aimee and her family; for Hector and his family; for Lana and for Maria, who have died, and for Georgia, Cliff, Richard and their families, who mourn their loss. Please also pray for three secret intentions we’ve been asked to remember.

Weekday Services
Saturday, September 26th (SS Cosmas & Damien, Physicians & Martyrs, 283)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  5.00 PM – Evening Prayer

This Friday is a day of Abstinence.

Just for Fun
This Sunday our hymns will be “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” (# 282), “ Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” (# 479 – Hyfrodol) and “God, My King” (# 280 – good ole Stuttgart). Here’s our Processional, sung at Westminster Abbey. They don’t do it like we do at St Joseph’s: 

https://youtu.be/sx1eMwlDFb8

You may not be the only one who is slow to jump up on Sunday morning to get to Mass: https://youtu.be/hQjJT1-wOfw

And finally. for those of you who miss the high-brow section of our weekly blurb, here’s some unsurpassed “pick-me-up” music, courtesy of GF Handel. It’s his “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” from his oratorio “Solomon,” composed in 1748. He’ll set your toes a-tapping:   https://youtu.be/B50ed6qaHbU

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, September 19, being the Feast of St Pomposa of Cordova, Nun & Martyr to the Muslims, 835


 

September 13, 2015
The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

The Liturgy of the Sacrifice
The Eucharist comes to us in two parts: these are variously named by liturgical scholars but commonly called the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Sacrifice. The two parts form one Eucharist, but it wasn’t always so. For the first two or three generations of Christians, they were distinct, but by the end of the first century the two parts had been permanently fused.

We see traces of their “separateness” in a few places in the New Testament. The Liturgy of the Word was drawn directly from the weekly services of the synagogue familiar to all Jews at the time of Christ. We’re given occasional glimpses of his participation in these services in the Gospels. Like our Liturgy of the Word, the synagogue service consisted of readings, psalms and prayers (all the services, in all their parts – readings, psalms and prayers – were chanted) and included AT LEAST one sermon, sometimes three (Larry would have loved it!).

After the first Whitsunday, St Luke tells us in the Book of Acts, the Christians, new and old, “continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the Breaking of Bread and the prayers.” The “prayers” referred to are the prayer services, the liturgy of the synagogue. But the Breaking of the Bread is their distinctively Christian liturgy, coming directly from our Lord Himself, when He blessed the Passover bread and wine “on the night in which He was betrayed.” This Breaking of the Bread is the “new Christian sacrifice,” as a Christian bishop, Melito, wrote about 170 AD:  “old insofar as the sacrifice concerns the law, but new insofar as it concerns the gospel; passing as it concerns a future promise, eternal as it grants grace; uncertain in the sacrifice of sheep, firmly fixed in the offering of the life of the Lord.”


Seventy years before Melito preached his sermon on the Christian Passover (from which the above is taken), the two parts of the our Liturgy had become one Eucharist (what we call the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, structured very much like the synagogue’s worship, is actually a monastic invention of a few centuries later).
What is a sacrifice? In common parlance, we might say it’s giving up one thing to get another. The Latin, though, is from two smaller words brought together: sacra, holy and facere, to make, or to do. A sacrifice, in unembroidered Latin, is doing something which makes something holy or, to be more blunt, doing something which produces holiness. Sounds kind of crude, but that’s not the end of it. 

Most of the time, we nowadays use the word sacrifice to refer to baseball or car sales. A sacrifice fly ball allows a player, at the cost of getting on base, to bring in the home run of a team mate; the car salesman, to sell one of last year’s Ford F-450s will sacrifice his profit and let you walk away with it for $69,725.00. Not too much holiness here.
But sometimes we use the word in another way, much closer to the old Latin, when we say “the fireman sacrificed his life to get the children out of the burning building.” We don’t use the word much that way, because it doesn’t much happen. When it does, when someone sacrifices himself for others, the word tells of something solemn. We might even say sacred.


The batter’s sacrifice gets him praise, the salesman’s sacrifice gets him a commission. The fireman’s sacrifice will get his name carved in stone somewhere and a pension for his family, but it costs him his life. We pause in front of it.
Around the Passover Table, the Lord took bread and wine and offered the first Eucharist, the same one we offer every time we gather at His Altar, our Passover Table. When He did, He forever joined His sacramental sacrifice of broken Bread and poured Wine with His Flesh and Blood which would, a few hours later, be broken and poured out on the Cross.

The sacrificial character of the Eucharist was described, in a phrase much-used by medieval theologians and the Anglican divines who followed them, as the “Unbloody Sacrifice” because the Eucharistic sacrifice was not graphic but sacramental. It is, nonetheless, very real and very present with us at the Altar.


I have a book titled The Eucharistic Hymns of John and Charles Wesley. Though they’re associated with Methodism, the brothers lived and died as Anglican priests. Charles was a prolific hymnographer: nineteen of his hymns are in the 1940 Hymnal, but he wrote many more that are not. A few months back I pulled out my copy of The Eucharistic Hymns to find some we might use at St Joseph’s. A couple of hours later I shut the book and returned it to its place on the shelf. We couldn’t use any of them. Not because the tunes were too hard or pitched too high, but because the sacrificial language was too blunt. The graphic depictions of Christ’s death and their close ties to the “torn and bloodied Bread” are bit too much for our watered-down, spoon-fed, 21st century psyches, mine included. But I did pluck out some verses from among Wesley’s hymns that we can use as we did a couple of Sundays back when I restored one of the verses to his hymn “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” The Eucharistic verse reads:


“All of our sins were on Him laid;
The Lamb of God once slain;
The offering of Himself once made
Pleads here for us again.”


The Liturgy of the Sacrifice, the distinctive note of Christian worship from that first Passover, doesn’t simply unite us with liturgies ancient and modern; that would be good. But what’s essential and necessary is that the Sacrifice of the First Christian Passover, from the night He broke the Bread till the morning three days later when He broke open the grave, is present in all its grace and power, with us in our small Anglican parish on South Seguin Boulevard, when you and I gather to Break the Bread of our “new Christian Sacrifice.”

Beer and Theology
The much-discussed and long-awaited “Beer and Theology” group will have its initial meeting on Friday, September 25th at Zelicks Icehouse in San Marcos. Attendance is open to anyone who can legally sit down at a bar and intelligently share an opinion. Each meeting we’ll focus on a topic, often with readings provided to open the discussion. On the 25th, we’ll talk about a Christian’s Freedom of Conscience in Public Life, taking the controversies surrounding Kim Davis as a springboard. This Sunday and next, two articles on the topic, one from The Federalist magazine and another from the Huffington Post will be available for participants to take home and read. More particulars on our Beer & Theology sessions will be in next week’s bulletin and our weekly emails. NB – You have to pay for your own beer!


Pray, Brethren…
In thanksgiving for Middy, whose birthday was Tuesday; for Sandy, who’s now cancer-free; for the work of Steve Maman


Pray for Russ; for Cassandra, who continues her recuperation; for Shelley, and her family, Steve, Cade and Kingsley; for Jillian; Tanya, who is grateful to be moving from her bed, albeit slowly; Helen and Kenny; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; Kyleen; pray for Aimee and her family; for Hector, and his much-concerned family; and for three secret intentions we’ve been asked to remember.


Weekday Services
Saturday, September 19th (St Pomposa of Cordova, Nun & Martyr to the Muslims, 835)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  5.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
This Friday is a day of Abstinence.
 

Just for Fun
Thanks to all of you who watched the documentary on Mount Athos last week and took the time to comment on it. In my continuing effort to convince you that, while I may not be a pious priest, I do at least have some interest in things spiritual, the following is a good little video, just about 10 minutes long, on a question much-asked in Texas and often put to me when a well-intentioned Protestant sees me out and about in a cassock: “Are you saved?” Kallistos Ware, a Greek Orthodox bishop teaching at Oxford, gives us a few insights on the topic: https://youtu.be/IjHGtCHyBrU
 
Recently one of y’all asked me if I prepared the Sunday bulletins for St Joseph’s. Well, I help prepare them. Tanya usually types up a month’s worth at a time and gives them to me. I then make the particular changes. When I return them to her, she always asks “Have you proofread the whole thing?” Sometimes I do, but not always. I discovered yesterday she’s been testing me for several weeks. If you want to see how she’s been testing me – and how I’ve done – take a look at the very last line in our Sunday bulletins for the last few weeks (and tomorrow’s, too!) – and compare them. From now on I will be proofreading the bulletins more closely. 
 
I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, September 12, being the Feast of St Eanswida of Kent, Abbess, 640
Attachments area
Preview YouTube video Are You Saved?



September 6, 2015
The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

The Liturgy of the Word
The Liturgy has been compared to many things: a drama, an opera, a conversation, a pageant. I’ve heard it compared to a walk in the garden (with allusions to the walks our First Parents took with God in the Garden of Eden); once I heard a bishop at a clergy conference describe the Liturgy as “the most erotic of experiences” (I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one present who found the comparison an unhappy one, but that was many years ago and hey – the times they are still a-changing’).

“Liturgy” comes from the Greek meaning “something done for the common good.” It’s one of the earliest words used for Christian worship, coming from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible used by the authors of the New Testament. In the Septuagint, leitourgia is the word used to describe Jewish worship in the Temple.

Whatever comparisons we choose to make – comfortable or otherwise – between the Liturgy and other things we do, this much is obvious: the Liturgy moves. It progresses from one thing to another, like a well-written play or a lively discussion. Like a conversation, the Liturgy is an exchange. The priest says things to the people and they say things back. As we participate, the Liturgy unfolds. At the root of the Greek work is “ourg” – work. The Liturgy is something we do. It begins, we might say, as a conversation. We come together and address God with songs and words from the Bible. He responds, speaking to us likewise through Holy Scripture. The chants we do, the Graduals and Alleluias, are the answer we make to what we’ve heard. This conversation reaches its high point at the Creed.

Note that, while the actual words have been spoken back and forth between priests and people, readers and hearers, cantors and congregations, it is still, at its very heart, a conversation between God and His Church. The Lord speaks to His baptized people, and they answer in faith. For a long time, this part of the Eucharist has been called the “Liturgy of the Word,” just as it’s titled in our Sunday bulletins.

Imagine a conversation, though, where all the participants read from scripts. We wouldn’t call that a conversation, but a performance. The Liturgy is more than both.

You can look through your copy of the Prayer Book and know what the Liturgy will be – down to the readings and prayers – for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, September 1, 2065. Very predictable. Not spontaneous. Predictability and reliability are two of the best things about the Liturgy. The purpose of liturgy –worship – is not to keep us wondering what’s gonna happen next. It’s not meant to hold us, quivering, on the edge of our pew. It’s to enable us to pray, with each other and with angels and archangels. The constant focus of the Liturgy is God, not us. So the fact that we know what the readings are (and you can see from last Sunday’s Epistle that we still don’t quite get what they all mean even after 2000 years!), what every word of every prayer will be, and when the bells will ring, doesn’t detract from our worship. These things enhance it. They enable us to make it ours. By knowing them, we move from what the words of the Liturgy say, to what the words mean. The more we do that, the more the words enter our minds, the more they become part of us. Then, almost after the fact, we discover that we are, and have been for a long time, singing with angels and archangels and all the company of Heaven, a song that will never end.

Pray, Brethren…
In thanksgiving for Middy, whose birthday was Tuesday; for Sandy, who’s now cancer-free; for the work of Steve Maman

Pray for Russ, for Cassandra, continuing her recuperation (and hankering, no doubt, to get out of her wheelchair); for Shelley, whose surgery was delayed and for Steve, Cade and Kingsley, her family; pray for Jillian, for Tanya; Helen and Kenny; keep Sammie and Bill in your prayers, as well as Patrick & Jodi; pray for Kyleen, just diagnosed with MS; for Aimee and her family; for Hector, having surgery this Wednesday, and his much-concerned family; and for two secret intentions we’ve been asked to pray for.

Weekday Services
Saturday, September 7 (St Eanswida of Kent, Abbess, 640)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  5.00 PM – Evening Prayer

This Friday is a day of Abstinence.

Just for Fun
Now and again some of you have heard me make mention Mount Athos, the “Holy Mountain” (actually, a peninsula) on the east coast of Greece. Recently I came across a 60 Minute documentary on the place, the link to which is here: https://youtu.be/5_fJ2QaIK8s

Since some of y’all think my Bach & Handel selections are too highbrow, maybe this will convince you I do have an occasional interest in religion!

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, September 5, being the Feast of St Cloud of Nogent, Hermit, 560


 

August 30, 2015
The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

There’s No  Yawning in Heaven!
You know what to expect when you come to church. There will be hymns – some of which you know – a sermon (or siesta-time, as some of you call it) and you can count on a collection. Other than that, we have readings from the Bible, some chants, and we finish up with everybody receiving Holy Communion. Pretty predictable. No “speaking in tongues” (unless I can sneak in a little Latin now and again) or rolling on the floor, and while we do exchange the Peace at the Breaking of the Bread, everybody stays in their place and focuses on the Broken Bread and not complementing Janet’s new dress.

It almost always happens that people new to making their Confession will eventually and cautiously mention that they sometimes, every now and then, on a rare occasion, get bored during Mass. It’s often said softly, as if they’ve confessed the Unforgivable Sin. How could you be bored during such a Holy Event? What kind of person are you???
It’s good to pay attention as best we can in church. The Holy Eucharist, at the Church’s heart since that night our Lord gave it to us “on the night in which He was betrayed,” not only embodies the Church’s worship, it is the meeting place of God and man. For us, there is nothing higher in life.

I know that sounds like the sort of thing a priest is supposed to say, like the dentist tells you to be sure and floss. For the Christian, though, it’s true. We aspire to be with God. We hope for our salvation and the redemption of the world. The Eucharist is not just a help in that regard, or a nice thing. It’s the most essential thing you and I do to participate in the salvation of humanity and bring about the redemption of the world.

Sometime, open your Prayer Book to the Epistle for All Saints Day (pp 256-7) and read it. It’s a picture of Heaven, of the saints gathered before God’s throne. It shows us the Liturgy of Heaven. What the saints do in Heaven, you and I do when we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. That’s what “therefore, with angels and archangels and all the company of Heaven” means. What the angels always and forever do, we join in for an hour and some extra minutes every Sunday morning. And we get bored.

It happens to everybody. Our minds wander. In the company of angels and archangels my mind flits hither and yon: “What are we having for lunch?” “Do I need to fill up the car?” “Is it supposed to rain tomorrow?”

It’s nothing to be proud of, but it’s no sin, either. We get bored because we’re human beings, not angels. Part of it is because of the Liturgy itself. We know – or at least, we think we know – what’s going on. Nobody’s gonna jump up and start playing a banjo. We’re not saying new words to the Creed ‘cause we came up with some more interesting ones. The priest is not consecrating champagne and biscotti just because they’d prove just how sophisticated we are. Sunday after Sunday, building to seasons and years and decades and generations and centuries and millennia, the One Church does what she always has done since that night He took bread and wine.

We don’t do the Liturgy because it’s interesting or entertaining, or because we understand it or enjoy it, but because Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Master and our God said “Do this.” It’s not a friendly suggestion or  helpful hint but an order.

So we obey. The Prayer Book prods us: “What is your bounden duty as a member of the Church? My bounden duty is to…worship God every Sunday in His Church...”

We don’t worship because we enjoy it (hopefully we do), or because we “get” anything from it (that would be nice), or because we learn anything (I see the politely suppressed yawns). We worship because we’re being faithful. We worship with invisible angels and saints in Heaven because we know we are part of “all the Company of Heaven” even while here on earth.

The tradition of Catholic Liturgy, of Christian worship, is to give, not to get. It’s the meaning and hardiest part of the Gospel. Sometimes, because I’m a slug, I yawn through the Sanctus or saunter to the bathroom during the Words of Consecration. That’s okay. I am “a child of God, a member of Christ, and an inheritor of  the Kingdom of Heaven,” even when I forget sometimes.


Pray, Brethren…
In thanksgiving for Robert, safely returned from Russia; for Bruce, who celebrated his birthday this past Wednesday; for Sandy, who’s now cancer-free; for the work of Steve Maman.


Remembering the teachers and students of our parish returning to school, especially Alyson, Kathryn, Jillian, Madelyn, Clare, Angela; pray for Russ, Cassandra, continuing her recuperation; Jillian; Tanya; Helen and Kenny, Charlotte’s daughter and son-in-law; Sammie and Bill; Patrick & Jodi; and for two secret intentions we’ve been asked to pray for.


Women’s Saturday Class on Prayer
Due to Tanya’s current MS bout, she’s been unable to get around much, so neither have I. It’s led to a scheduling mix-up with our Saturday class. The next class is scheduled for Saturday, September 7th. Thanks to a volunteer driver, even if Tanya is still bed-bound and unable to bring me, I’ll be there. We’ll continue our discussion of St John of Damascus definition of prayer – and try to figure out how to work the expensive new coffee maker!
 
Weekday Services
Saturday, September 7 (St Cloud of Nogent, Hermit, 560)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  5.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
This Friday is a day of Abstinence.
 

Not Always Just for Fun
 
I’ve spoken of the genuinely heroic work of Steven Maman, the “Jewish Schindler,” in rescuing Christian women and children from the slavery of ISIS. There’s a write-up about him and his work in our bulletin this Sunday. To see more, look at the website of the organization he founded here:
http://www.liberationiraq.com/


For a five minute documentary detailing the work of their work, look at this Youtube video:
https://youtu.be/S9mYdp2tszA


Pray for them, and talk to me if you’re willing to do more.
 
I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, August 30th, being the Feast of St Sabina the Martyr, 130


Attachments area
Preview YouTube video A VIDEO BY STEVE MAMAN - THE LIBERATION OF CHRISTIAN AND YAZIDI CHILDREN OF IRAQ SOLD AS SEX SLAVES


August 23, 2015
The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

We’re creatures of outward and visible signs. Kisses, flags, top hats and bumper stickers – none of these things seem necessary, but all have meaning. That one of us drives a Dodge Ram and another a Prius tells us something about the individual drivers.  Signs and sacraments don’t make life better, they make it possible. The need we have for them is built into our DNA. The outward and visible stuff of our lives define who we are inside.

It goes deeper than that, though. Because of how we were created, outward things don’t just say who we are, they shape us, they make us who we are. For good or ill, in our society a person’s skin color has a powerful impact on how that person lives. If a girl is pretty or if she’s homely, her life as an adult woman will be affected by how she looks.

Not always in predictable ways. The blond, blue-eyed young Adonis may come to believe his good looks mean he’s owed a good life and so he never rises above his chiseled chin. The girl never asked to dance at the prom might be the one to cure cancer because she came to understand her life was hers to create. 

Outward, material things produce internal, spiritual results in us. 

In spite of what is commonly assumed, spiritual things are not necessarily good. It’s a cliché in our culture to say “I’m very spiritual.” I used to hear it in Hollywood all the time, but the phrase – and the brainless sentiment that espouses – is something I’ve heard more than I’m comfortable admitting since I’ve returned to Texas. We are ALL spiritual. It’s part of what it means to be a human being. We ALL have spiritual lives. They may be rich or anemic, profound or shallow, Christian or heathen, refined or crude. Every person has a spiritual life since all of us have souls. To say “I’m very spiritual” is not unlike saying “You know I have teeth, don’t you?” Not everything true is significant.

When people say “I’m a very spiritual person,” they’re actually saying something else (unless they’re unbelievably stupid and are just rehearsing words they heard someone else – who they believe to be sophisticated – say). Usually the phrase is preceded by some version of “I’m not very religious, but I’m blah blah blah.” What that means is “I’m not bound by petty orthodoxies. I’m a free spirit. I can think for myself.” Which thing they immediately proceed to disprove by mouthing the current set of avant-garde opinions of the day. Some people who claim to be spiritual exercise their spirituality in a variety of self-indulgences. Dante pictures hell as having Nine Circles and each one is reserved for its own spiritual wickedness. It’s worth bearing in mind that devils are purely spiritual.

So having a spiritual life – for humans, anyway – is as praise-worthy as having toes. The question then becomes not “do you have a spiritual life?” but “what sort of spiritual life do you have?” According to Dante (who reflects the best of Christian tradition), we have a range of possibilities – from hell’s lowest pit to the highest circle of Heaven.

What does this have to do with outward and visible signs? Even more, what does this have to do with the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity?

The Gospel story this Sunday is about the Lord Jesus healing a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment as a result. Not the most impressive of His miracles, perhaps, but think about it for a minute. The man couldn’t hear properly, so he couldn’t speak plainly. He was cut off from the world around him. His outward problem produced an inward isolation. Jesus broke through it. He used outward signs – sacramental acts – putting His fingers in the man’s ears, touching his tongue, speaking to him, and healed him. St Mark tells us the result: “He spake plain.”

When we talk about our spiritual lives, most of us don’t know what we’re talking about. Our spiritual lives are mostly hidden from us, often because we don’t want to look too closely. We play all sorts of mental games to avoid a genuinely close encounter with ourselves. St Augustine says that EVERY TIME we sin, we do so because we’ve convinced ourselves that committing this sin at this time will be good for us. Nobody in their right mind, he tells us, does anything which he thinks will hurt himself. I know that stealing is a sin for everybody else – and even for me in most instances – but this particular time, in these particular circumstances, I convince myself that God will understand and cut me some slack. Most of the time I’m not hood-winked into sin by satan himself or all the company of hell, but by me.

I’m not always a trustworthy judge of what’s best for my spiritual life. Holy Scripture and two thousand years of Christian teaching and experience are probably more reliable guides to my spiritual life than my hormones or whims, as much as I want to trust them.

The Sacraments are “outward and visible signs of inward, spiritual grace.” The spiritual life of every Christian begins with Baptism, an act of God. The basis for the spiritual life of Christians is not “the hour I first believed” or when I “accepted Jesus as my personal Savior.” Those aren’t bad things at all, but they’re not determinative. Salvation isn’t my act, something I do, but is grounded in God’s sacramental act of Baptism.

Regardless of the sincerity of his sorrow and the profundity of his isolation, the deaf man who could not speak couldn’t make himself hear or be understood. Jesus took him aside and, with sacramental signs that addressed not just his outward hearing and speech, made him whole. His hearing and speech restored, Jesus set him on the path to salvation, healed in body and soul, to start afresh. He looks to do the same for us, with the sacraments and signs of our lives.

Pray, Brethren…

For Russ, who had surgery this week; for Cassandra, who continues her recuperation; for Jillian and Tanya; for Helen and Kenny, Charlotte’s daughter and son-in-law; for Robert, traveling in Russia and his family, missing him; for Sammie and for Bill; for Patrick and for Jodi; for two secret intentions we’ve been asked to pray for; please also pray for the Lord’s blessing on the work of Steve Maman, who is working to free Christian children and women from the slavery imposed on them by ISIS.

Weekday Services

Saturday, August 29 (St Sabina of Rome, Martyr, 130)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
 5.00 PM – Evening Prayer

This Friday is a day of Abstinence.

Just for Fun

It’d be hard for an old Texan to whittle down which was his fav’rte musician and I cain’t do it neither. It’d hafta fall between J S Bach & G F Handel. I love Handel best fer his choruses, these bein’ two of my fav’rtes:

https://youtu.be/GBXqV0Lqlko  

from the Oratorio Belshazzar -  “See, From His Post Euphrates Flies” (it’s the first two minutes or so of this selection; this is the best version on Youtube)

https://youtu.be/iM0Ejb1SX5A

from the Messiah – “And He Shall Purify the Sons of Levi”; I was amazed to hear this in the soundtrack of the movie Charlie Wilson’s War. The piece, exquisitely played, accompanied scenes of Afghani militia shooting down Russian helicopters. It’s not the exactly the setting Handel had in mind but it worked!

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, August 22nd, being the Octave Day of the Dormition of St Mary the Virgin, 2015


August 16, 2015
Sunday in the Octave of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin

The Feast of the Dormition – the “Falling Asleep” – of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which we’ll keep this Sunday, is a celebration of the death of the Virgin Mother. It may seem odd that the Church celebrates the day saints died. But she has long done so, not so much celebrating their deaths, as rejoicing at their “birthdays in Heaven.” If it’s meet and right to celebrate the death of our saints as their heavenly birthdays, it’s especially true on the feast of St Mary’s Dormition.

Because of St Mary’s place in the life of her Son and the veneration in which she was held by the earliest Christians, Christians had a great reluctance to speak of her death. She “fell asleep” and was thus, they said, taken to Heaven. Unlike the death of her Son, which was “for us men and for our salvation,” the death of the Virgin doesn’t bring redemption. What is does do, why this feast is one in which the Church has so long delighted, is to reveal what salvation is, what it looks like: in St Mary we see how Jesus Christ transforms our distorted humanity.

Jesus Christ is “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God.” If the Fathers at Nicaea seem to be belaboring the point in the Creed, it was to make unmistakably plain Who He was and Is. Our Lord Jesus Christ,” the Athanasian Creed teaches us, “is God and Man; God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of His Mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man…” Jesus is the Savior. What then, is Mary’s place in the working out of salvation? 

If He is the Savior, she is the saved. In her, God’s saving grace finds its most perfect example. Later generations of Christians will honor her as Mother of God, insist she is Theotokos (literally “the one who carried God”), hymn her as Queen of Heaven. But no generation of Christians exalted her more than the first one, those men and women who actually knew her. Here’s how they pictured her, in the 12th chapter of the Book of Revelation: “there appeared a great wonder in Heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she brought forth a man Child, Who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron.” Anyone who thinks the Church honors the Blessed Virgin over-much fails to see how much more the Bible honors her.
But why? Because she was Theotokos?

Perhaps we’d be more Scripturally-accurate and theologically-correct to say she wasn’t important because she was Theotokos but that she was Theotokos because she was important.

“The Angel Gabriel,” St Luke tells us, “was sent from God to a city named Nazareth, to a virgin whose name was Mary. And the angel came to her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” The angel was not just sent, nor just sent to Nazareth, but sent to Mary. The Blessed Virgin may come at the beginning of the Gospel story, but the road that led to her stretches all the way back to the beginning of Genesis. The whole of the Old Testament is the story that leads from Adam to Christ, and from Eve to Mary. 

St Mary is not the object of our faith, but the highest expression of its fulfillment. She is the perfect example of redeemed humanity. Her life of perfect obedience to God, of complete self-giving (consider what her answer to Gabriel’s announcement – “Be it unto me according to thy word,” cost a young teen-age girl in rural Galilee) is meant to be the pattern for the rest of us.

In the Dormition of St Mary the Virgin we celebrate a life perfectly lived. One of us has actually made it – become what God made us all to be. And being raised to her Son in Heaven, she prays for us, in the communion of saints, that we’ll make it, too.
 
So, What Came of our Lunch Other than a LOT of Pizza Being Consumed?
On Sunday, August 2nd, we gathered after the 10.30 Eucharist because a long table in the hall was lined with hot pizzas and cold drinks. After we addressed that predicament, we devoted 45 minutes to talking about plans and activities for our parish for the upcoming year. I was especially grateful that everyone in the parish attended, from both the early and late Masses, with the exception of a handful who were ill or out of town.
We talked about our parish and its future. As we began I asked that we bear two things in mind: first, God is always involved in what we do, as individuals and as a parish. Imperfectly as we may follow, we are Catholic Christians committed to following the Gospel of Jesus. Second, because God has brought us together to be St Joseph’s, He has given us a distinctive calling. That calling is to us, and He calls us to it because we’re the ones He wants to do it, here and now. And it follows that if He wants us to do something, He has given – or will give – us the gifts and tools to do it.


So I asked all of us to examine ourselves and ponder our situations. Given who and where we are, what does God want us to do?


I was extremely happy of the conversations that followed, throughout the room, at different tables and among different groups. It’s a conversation which is continuing. I’m not going into the specifics today, lest this email burgeon beyond a readable size. But things are already happening. We’ll be talking about it at tomorrow’s Vestry meeting, and next Sunday I’ll be talking after the Liturgy about specifics with you.

Thank you all. That pizza was productive!

Pray, Brethren…
For Russ, who’ll have surgery this week; for Cassandra continuing her recuperation; for Jillian, diagnosed with epilepsy; for Bill, adjusting to his new pacemaker; for George and Diane, Charlotte’s daughter and son-in-law, much needing our prayers; for Sammie; for Tanya, struggling through a bout with her MS; for two secret intentions we’ve been asked to commend to God in our prayers
 
Weekday Services
 

Saturday, August 22 (Octave Day of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  5.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
This Friday is a day of Abstinence.
 
Just for Fun
(Or, at least, what I think of as fun) I found this on Youtube:  https://youtu.be/oN_pooWIheA
 
It’s Bach’s greatest Cantata (to my way of thinking), Christ Lag in Todes Baden, an Easter cantata. This particular recording – or whatever we’re supposed to call these things nowadays – is directed by John Eliot Gardiner, one of the leading interpreters of Bach today. Bach’s greatest cantata directed by the greatest contemporary baroque conductor! If I’m ever set free from Purgatory, I know I’ll find Gardiner directing the Heavenly Choir whenever they perform Bach.
 

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, August 14th, being the feast of St Werenfrid of Arnhem, priest & missionary to the Frisians, 760
Attachments area
Preview YouTube video Bach: Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4 | John Eliot Gardiner


August 2, 2015
The Ninth Sunday after Trinity
Everybody loves a good story. You’d be hard-pressed to find one more moving than the story the Liturgy assigns to be read as the Gospel this Sunday, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s often listed, together with the Parables of the Good Samaritan and the Publican (read “IRS Agent”) and Pharisee as the Lord’s most memorable and beloved stories. All are from St Luke’s Gospel. I’ll confess that almost every time I read the Prodigal Son’s parable aloud during the Liturgy, I get a bit blurry-eyed during the final verse, spoken by the father to the unprodigal and irate (and perhaps just a tad jealous?) son, who isn’t quite as overjoyed by the prodigal’s return as is his father: “Son, it was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” The Lord Jesus was a first-rate story-teller, and St Luke was the most capable of the Gospel-writers in putting His stories into a good, punchy Greek.


The Gospel is one which makes almost anything a preacher says superfluous, so you’ll be glad to know this Sunday (for reasons given below), I won’t be trying to explain that which needs no explanation in a sermon.

That having been said, there is something of fun in the Gospel reading for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity that I can’t resist looking at for just a minute. Of all the lectionaries of the Western Church, for the past 1200 years or so, only one lists the Parable of the Prodigal Son to be read on this coming Sunday. It’s the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer. Most lectionaries since the time of Charlemagne assign another parable to be read. It’s sometimes called the Parable of the Unjust Steward (St Luke 16.1-13). If the Prodigal Son is the Lord’s most popular parable, the Unjust Steward is probably His least favorite and most obscure. It’s about a business manager who steals from his employer and then when he’s about to be fired for mismanagement, he goes to the ones who owe his boss money and ingratiates himself with them to feather his own nest after he gets the sack. The Lord concludes, in words that sound a bit strange, “the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.”
St Luke skillfully places the puzzling parable in a context that enables the listener to grasp the Lord’s real meaning, but as the appointed Gospel doesn’t give the larger context (though many scholars think that before Charlemagne’s time it did), it makes for uncomfortable reading – and hearing! Left to itself, the parable comes off sounding like it’s commending the Bernie Madoffs that don’t get caught!


That really isn’t the point of the Unjust Parable. It shows us something more interesting. The Lord’s parables are often taken as being Christianized Fables of Aesop: wise or kindly words of Jesus asking us to be good and nice to each other. That misses His point, and doesn’t apply to ANY of His parables. The Prodigal Son isn’t intended as a tale of Unconditional, “All-y, all-y in come free,” Love. Gospel Love is Love at a cost. St Augustine writes: “the love, and death, of Christ is in His parables – oft-times concealed, but always present.” There’s no sermon this Sunday but there is an assignment. Listen to the Parable as it’s read. Listen for Christ and His death. It’s there, but you may be a bit surprised as to where it’s hiding. His parables aren’t only great stories, they’re tales full of meaning, and sometimes His hearers didn’t understand what He’d said till long after.

Parish Lunch & “Frank and Comradely Discussion” – August 2, 2015
We’ve had a bit of a bumpy ride the last several months here at St Joseph’s, but the waters have now calmed and our boat is not only still afloat but in pretty decent shape. It’s time to get back to what we were doing and where we were – and still are – heading. With that in mind, I’m asking all our parishioners, from both the 8.00 AM and 10.30 Masses, to come together after the late service THIS Sunday, August 2, to talk about our plans for the rest of this year and the beginning of the upcoming one, to share some hot pizza and cold drinks. We’re still under the time constraints of our summer parking schedule, so we need to empty the parking lot about 12.30 or so. With that in mind, and over the vocal protests of Larry Mooney, there will be no sermon Sunday.

Pray, Brethren…
For Cassandra as she recuperates; for Jillian, just diagnosed with epilepsy; for Bill, who received a pacemaker this week; for George and Diane, Charlotte’s daughter and son-in-law, much needing our prayers; for Sammie; for two secret intentions we’ve been asked to commend to God in our prayers
 
Weekday Services
Saturday, August 8 (St Altmann of Passau, Bishop)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  5.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
This Friday is a day of Abstinence.
 
 I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, July 31st, being the feast of St Ignatius Loyola, Priest, 1556

July 26, 2015
The Eighth Sunday after Trinity
“A wolf in sheep’s clothing.” It’s a phrase taken from this Sunday’s Gospel, an illustration our Lord’s point: “by their fruits you will know them,” which is part of Christ’s larger point as He concludes the Sermon on the Mount. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father Who is in Heaven.”


The wolf Jesus warns us about is the false prophet, who turns us away from doing “the will of My Father Who is in Heaven.”


There are an abundance of wolves in sheep’s clothing in every facet of life, not just the religiously duplicitous, but those who are deceitful commercially, politically, academically, medically, scientifically, you name it: there are ravening wolves aplenty waiting to pounce.


The wolves the Lord Christ warns us of, though, are not those who can fleece our bank accounts, hijack our political discourse, rewrite our history or declare as certain that which is conjecture; Jesus warns us of the wolves who want to gobble up our souls. “Fear him, He warns, “who looks to destroy both body and soul in hell.”


Now there are a mass, a big fat clot, of religious claims and claimants that are false, and they’re not hard to identify if you have a scorecard. That’s what the Church’s tradition is: her timeless teaching, her Holy Scriptures, her Apostolic life and her grace-filled Sacraments. These are the sure and certain guides she gives us. St Augustine, echoing St Paul, reminds us though: “if I understand all mysteries and possess all knowledge and have all faith, if I give away everything I own and surrender my body to torture and death, but do not love, I am nothing, and it all avails me nothing.”


The world is full of idiotic religious claims and cheap religious sentiments. Charity doesn’t require us to call stupid idea “mysterious” or immature desires “passionate.” Truth (alethea) and Love (agape), both coming from God, are not only compatible, but necessary parts of each other.

The Catholic Religion is not our invention. It’s the gift, given to us – entrusted to us – by God. If we’re to be faithful, we’re not free to change it.

I think women are wonderful, the most delightful crown of God’s creation. I love ‘em. On the whole, women seem to be more pious than men, and more attuned to the demands of morality. But that doesn’t mean they can be priests, however much better priests they might make than men. Of course some say they can be priests and treat them as if they are. But we cannot change the Catholic Religion.


Living in Hollywood for thirty-odd years, I’ve become friends with many homosexuals. Many of my homosexual friends are more witty and fun to argue with than those who are not homosexuals. I have befriended some who are in relationships that have lasted longer and been more sacrificial than many married with the full rites of the Church.  The State and some religions have come down irrevocably to say homosexuals can marry with all the rights that entails. I have no quarrel with that. But with whatever blessing such marriages may have, they are not sacramental marriages of the Catholic Church, and we cannot change the Catholic Religion.


I know far more than I want to about the strange, bizarre and downright stupid religious beliefs floating around (remember I lived in California a l-o-n-g time). I’m not reluctant to point out the weird practices and sometimes dangerous results of those beliefs, no more than I am to point to the weird practices and sometimes dangerous results of my own. But in doing so, I cannot forget St Paul: “if I do not love, I am nothing, and it all avails me nothing.” The Catholic Religion teaches me women cannot be priests, and homosexuals cannot enter into the Christian Sacrament of Marriage. But that same Faith teaches me Christian women want to be faithful, dedicated servants of God, and homosexuals want to love and need to be loved. The Catholic Religion will not let me ignore those truths any more than she allows me to skip over the parts of the Nicene Creed I find inconvenient. She demands of us, who “hold the Faith of Jesus,” to grapple with the hard things, not as theories but as basic questions in the lives of those we love.
Ravening wolves can be unimpeachably orthodox in doctrine and liturgical dress, but can refuse to allow the Gospel doctrine to intrude in their daily lives. For us, that may be meaning of Sunday’s Gospel. I don’t need to waste my time and yours pointing out the wolves in sheep’s clothing all around us. I just need to make sure, as best I can, that I’m not one of them.


Singing Another New Song That Is Old
As part of our summer program of learning – or, at least, singing – great hymns not in the 1940 Hymnal, we’ll try it again this Sunday. Last week we sang a sixth-century Irish hymn, “Be Thou My Vision.” While the words were new, the melody was not. The tune customarily associated with “Be Thou My Vision” is called Slane, and we are familiar with that. It’s used a couple of time in our Hymnal (most notably for # 363, “Lord of All Hopefulness”; Mike Mahaffey tell me it’s one of his favorite hymns).


This Sunday we’ll sing more new words to another familiar tune. The hymn is “Firmly I Believe, and Truly,” written by John Henry Newman, the Anglican priest who became a Roman Catholic in 1845, and is now in the process of being made a Roman Catholic saint. The music usually used with Newman’s poem is Shipston, an old English folk tune reworked by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughn Williams. We’ll be singing the words to a different tune, though, on Sunday. It’s one everybody in this parish can sing backwards and forwards, Stuttgart (not only is it in our hymnal 3 times; it’s the first hymn in the hymnal!). I’m looking forward to hearing y’all knock it out of the park.


Here’s a recording of the hymn with Williams tune:
Shipston (English Hymnal No.390) Firmly I Believe And Truly

https://youtu.be/53N-KJd5vrw
 
Shipston (English Hymnal No.390) Firmly I Believe And Tr...

Grace Dreyer’s Many Years II
Last Sunday was the 28th year Grace Dreyer have been with us as our parish organist. We had a cake in her honor, a card and a few gifts, but Grace brought a cake, too, in thanksgiving for her years here (she also gave the flowers last Sunday). So many people were out with the stomach flu or away on vacation that we only ate half of one of the two cakes – and that the smaller of the two! So this Sunday we’ll complete our celebration with more cake & gifts, I’ll give her a special blessing and we’ll sing her a song! Don’t miss it! Her celebration of 50 years at St Joseph’s won’t be till 2037!


Parish Lunch & “Frank and Comradely Discussion” – August 2, 2015
We’ve had a bit of a bumpy ride the last several months here at St Joseph’s, but the waters have now calmed and our boat is not only still afloat but in pretty decent shape. It’s time to get back to what we were doing and where we were – and still are – heading. With that in mind, I’m asking all our parishioners, from both the 8.00 AM and 10.30 Masses, to come together after the late service on Sunday, August 2, to talk about our plans for the rest of this year and the beginning of the upcoming one, to share some hot pizza and cold drinks. We’re still under the time constraints of our summer parking schedule, so we need to empty the parking lot about 12.30 or so. With that in mind, and over the vocal protests of Larry Mooney, there will be no sermon that Sunday (not to worry, Larry; there will be this Sunday).

Pray, Brethren…
In your prayers please remember Cassandra Watkins, who has been recovering from her broken leg. She’d hoped, after her two surgeries and recuperation, to return to church this Sunday, but an infection has set in and she had to have a third surgery this week. She’s in for an even longer recuperation now. So Sunday we’ll have an even BIGGER card to sign for her than a couple of weeks back and again take her flowers from the Altar.
 
Weekday Services
 Saturday, August 1 (St Peter’s Chains, commonly called Lammas Day)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  5.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
This Friday is a day of Abstinence.
 
I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, July 23rd, being the feast of St Anna of Constantinople, Hermitess, 840


July 19, 2015
The Seventh Sunday after Trinity

Sunday’s Gospel, the miraculous Feeding of the Four Thousand, tells us a story we’ve heard before. As you recall, the Gospels tell us that at least twice our Lord miraculously fed a bunch of people. Once, beside the Sea of Galilee, He fed 5000 Jews. In the story we have here (from St Mark), Jesus feeds 4000 Gentiles in an area called the Decapolis (“Ten Cities”), an overwhelmingly pagan part of Roman Palestine. There’s a sermon here, but not today.

Our Christian ancestors saw in these Scriptural accounts of the Miraculous Feeding direct allusions and foreshadowings of the Eucharistic Meal they shared Sunday by Sunday. It was, St Ignatius of Antioch wrote about the year 100 AD, “the medicine of Eternity, the Food that they should not die.” When the first generations of Christians heard these stories, they knew what the Jews by the seashore and the Gentiles of Decapolis ate by way of promise, they feasted on in reality. There’s a sermon here, too, but for another time.

The lectionary, the cycle of readings we use year in and out (pp 90-269 of the Prayer Book), appoints this story to be read three times a year: the Fourth Sunday in Lent, the Seventh Sunday after Trinity, and the Sunday Next before Advent. We hear it at the beginning of Spring, during the dog days of Summer, and when winter is approaching. There are many stories in the Gospels the Sunday lectionary never appoints, but this three times. Porque? That I do want to consider with you a moment, and from the Catholic perspective of Anglican tradition.

The Eucharist is plainly and obviously intended by the Prayer Book – again, reflecting the teaching and practice of the One Church from the beginning – to be the central focus of the Church’s life and worship (just look at all those lectionary pages above, with provisions not only for the Sunday Eucharist, but with collects and readings for every important event in the spiritual life of a Christian). It’s meant to be the anchor of our spiritual lives, our “regular and frequent” source of grace. The lectionary turns to these stories of Miraculous Food several times a year to make us reflect on and participate in what God has done and will do for us in this Sacred Bread and Wine. The Blessed Sacrament is not just “good” for us, like eating our vegetables. It is necessary for us, like air to our lungs or water to our bodies. As St Ignatius said, it’s “the Food so that we should not die.”
 
The Lord Jesus Himself is even more blunt: “unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you.”

The lectionary points us to this truth, but the Eucharist itself points us to another: left to ourselves, trying to do our best, to be good, to hold positive thoughts and to make the world a better place by recycling won’t change anything that matters. In spite of all our Common Wisdom, the world doesn’t just need an occasional and well-meant “attaboy!” It needs (with all that word really means) to be made new, and you and I aren’t up to it. But in a bit of Bread no longer bread and a sip of Wine which is not wine, soul by soul, the Son of Man makes new men and women and teen-agers and tykes. Then He tells us “Go, and do as I have done.” It’s the easy yoke and tough challenge of the Gospel. He calls us to eat His Body and drink His Blood and then live His life where we are, year in and out, at the approach of winter, the beginning of Spring and through the hot “dogge dayes” of Summer.

Singing a New Song That Is Very Old
Our Offertory Hymn Sunday, “Be Thou My Vision,” is not in the 1940 Hymnal. At least, the words aren’t. The tune long-associated with it, Slane,  is used twice in our hymnal with other lyrics (# 122 & 363). The tune is an old Irish folk melody, but the words were written long before, by St Dallan Forgaill. The saint was an Irish monk and the most renowned poet of his day (he died about 590). He composed a series of poems on the lives of St Patrick and his companions, St Columba of Iona and other early Irish saints and heroes.

“Be Thou My Vision,” a prayer in the classic style of Celtic Christian poetry, echoes the famous “Lorica,” the Breastplate of St Patrick (Hymnal # 268). The words to the hymn were translated from the Old Irish original into English in 1912.

Here’s a good recording of it from the BBC: https://youtu.be/ykzZAODJSIE

Grace Dreyer’s Many Years
This Sunday marks the 28th year of Grace Dreyer as our parish organist. “I’ve seen many changes at St Joseph’s over the years,” she says, “sometimes up and sometimes down, but it’s been a joy for me to be part of it all.” Grace has been a blessing for St Joseph’s, and we’re celebrating on Sunday with a big cake and some gifts after the 10.30 Mass in the hall. A special “thank you” card will be on  the narthex table for her, please sign it!

Parish Lunch & Meeting – August 2, 2015
We’ve had a bit of a bumpy ride the last several months here at St Joseph’s, but the waters have now calmed and our boat is not only still afloat but in pretty decent shape. It’s time to get back to what we were doing and where we are heading. With that in mind, I’d like to ask our parishioners, from both the 8.00 AM and 10.30 Masses, to come together after the late service on Sunday, August 2, to talk for a bit about our plans for the rest of the year, to share some hot pizza and cold drinks. We’re still under the constraints of our summer parking schedule, so we need to empty the parking lot about 12.30 or so. With that in mind, and over the vocal protests of Larry Mooney, there will be no sermon that Sunday. I’ll have more for you next week, both in our weekly email and the Sunday bulletin.

Weekday Services
Saturday, July 25 (St James the Apostle)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  5.00 PM – Evening Prayer

This Friday is a day of Abstinence

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, July 18th, being the feast of
St Arnulf of Metz, 648


July 12, 2015
The Sixth Sunday after Trinity

For much of the Church Year, from Advent through Whitsunday, the cycle of Gospel readings appointed for the Eucharist center on the events they commemorate. We have Christmas readings during the Christmas season, Gospel accounts of the Resurrection and the events following during Eastertide, and so on. But Trinitytide, the long season that stretches from June to November, is a bit different. Despite the most creative efforts of preachers and liturgical sleuths to find a “theme” or pattern that explains the Trinitytide readings – particularly the Gospels – there isn’t much to go on.

About the best we can do is note a period of, for example, parables of Jesus that are emphasized for a series of weeks or something similar, but there is no particular idea the season intends to teach us.

That being said, there are special emphases that aren’t only central to the Gospel readings, but essential for us to grasp the meaning of the Lord’s words He spoke to His disciples then and which He speaks to us now.

Many preachers for many hundreds of years have looked at the text of the Gospel for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity and focused on Christ’s words about murder, hatred and anger. Hardly a surprise. Here are the Lord’s own words in the heart of the reading: “Ye have heard it said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever says, ‘Thou fool,’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

I’m going to emulate those preachers of the past: the above text is what I’m preaching about tomorrow, too.

For this little essay, I want to look at something a bit different. The Gospel words are part of the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, and they have an illuminating preface:  “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Except your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.’ ” Those words aren’t the introduction to his main point. They ARE the point. All the rest, about anger and hellfire is His illustration of the point. The real point the Lord Christ is making is not about anger, but righteousness – true and false.

In spite of what pious Sunday School teachers and well-meaning unbelievers may think, the Gospel IS NOT about behavior. The Gospels are not about how we should try real hard to be good, remember our manners and always say “please” and “thank you.”  Christ’s words point us elsewhere. We don’t earn Heaven by being good or fall into hell by being bad. Heaven is not a reward. Righteousness, the Lord is saying, isn’t a behavior.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t send “thank you” notes or say “please” when we ask for the potatoes. The Lord’s words tell us that righteousness is not a status we earn but a gift we are given. Salvation (salus, remember?) is about grace – God’s life lived in ours. The salus of our souls, their true health, is less about how we live than it is Who lives in us.

So it’s not murder that drives grace from us, be it in thought, word, or deed. It’s a cutting word that spits from a bitter heart. Such a heart leaves little room for grace. That shriveled, technical righteousness of the Pharisees is what Jesus tells His disciples – then and now – will plunge us to hell, because it has never known Heaven.

Weekday Services
Saturday, July 18 (St Arnulf of Metz, Bishop, Hermit and Brewer, 648)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  5.00 PM – Evening Prayer

This Friday is a day of Abstinence.

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,

Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, July 11th, being the feast of St Benedict of Nursia, Abbot, 547


 

July 4, 2015
The Fifth Sunday after Trinity

Independence Day


As I write, the fireworks are already popping in the neighborhood; my big dog is crowding under my desk, as she does every Fourth and New Year’s, looking for reassurance and safety from the bombs bursting in air. We’re celebrating our 239th year of independence.

On Sunday we’ll do this with special prayers, after the Liturgy we’ll sing the National Anthem as the flag is carried in procession and blessed, and the bulletin has a special page devoted to the signing of the Declaration. There are some ways that we, as Christian Americans, show our pride of country and express our thankfulness for the benefits of the liberties we enjoy.

Events in the news lately have made many question whether this country of ours is a Christian nation. Some of its founders were Christians. Some were not. Most were closer to what is nowadays commonly called “Deists,” (though none would have called himself that). It’s certainly fair to say that most of them were not orthodox Christians. While God is referred to in the Declaration of Independence, Christianity is not (the Constitution, which nowhere mentions God in the text, does conclude with the dating “in the year of our Lord,” but I don’t think we can make too much of that). Whatever their personal beliefs, several of them, beginning with George Washington, repeatedly and explicitly stated that the country was not a Christian country, nor founded on Christian principles. The recent Supreme Court ruling on homosexual marriage is simply the latest affirmation of that tenet.


The Collect for Independence Day from our American Book of Common Prayer Book (and even more, its background) gives us some insights into our heritage and an Anglican approach to the whole question of the relationship of the Church to the State. Here’s the one of the Collects we’ll say on Sunday:

“O Eternal God, through Whose mighty power our fathers won their liberties of old; Grant, we beseech Thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord…”

The gist of the Collect is simple and straightforward: “our fathers won their liberties; may we maintain them.” There is nothing here about our nation being a “godly” one, nor particularly “righteous.” Why? Because those liberties that were won can be lost, turned from, or squandered. The United States is not the ancient nation of Israel, with which God made His covenant.

The first American Prayer Book was issued in 1789 (with minor revisions in 1845 & 1871), a second in 1892 and the 1928 version in our pews (there was a Confederate edition in 1863, but this is probably not a good time to mention it).

The Collect for Independence Day appeared only in the 1928 Book. Prior to that, the Prayer Book made no mention of Independence Day, nor provided for any celebration of it. More interestingly, most of the prayers for the country (BCP pp 35-36, 41-42) in the Book likewise didn’t appear till then. The prayer for the President in both Morning and Evening Prayer, which are in every edition of our American book (based on prayers for the King in the English Prayer Book) were, from the beginning, the subject of controversy (what? arguments over the Prayer Book?). The second prayer for the President provided in Morning Prayer (BCP p 18) was written to answer criticisms that the first prayer was inappropriate when applied to “an unbelieving President.”

The Prayer Book teaches us what the One Church has always taught: “My Kingdom is not of this world.” We pray for our nation, as Scripture teaches us to: we are grateful for the freedoms she provides, and we hope in this imperfect world that she may reflect justice and preserve peace, but we pray for those things because they are uncertain.

This Independence Day, we’ll pray in gratitude to God (Whose service – as the Prayer Book Collect insists – is “perfect freedom”) for our liberties. So it’s good to blow up fireworks, sing patriotic songs, eat hot dogs and read the Declaration. Under it all, though, beloved, remember the Gospel teaching: libertas, liberty, lived apart from God, is not freedom at all, but servitus – slavery. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” There aren’t enough days to celebrate that.

St Teresa On Prayer
A class for the Women of St Joseph’s meet on alternate Saturdays from 9 o’clock till 10, to discuss St Teresa of Avila’s The Way of Perfection, a classic on prayer and the spiritual life. We next meet on Saturday, July 11.  Join us if you can. Follow the class online at our website: look for “Class on St Teresa of Avila.”  At our next session I’ll continue our discussion on the “Three Ways of Prayer,” focusing on the practice of vocal prayer and ways of meditation.

Weekday Services


Saturday, July 11 (St Benedict of Nursia, Abbot, 547)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  5.00 PM – Evening Prayer


This Friday is a day of Abstinence.


I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, July 4th, being the feast of St Andrew of Crete, Hymnographer, 710 – and the 239th American Independence Day

 
June 28, 2015
The Fourth Sunday after Trinity

The Sacrament of Marriage

I was in the midst of preparing my weekly piece for our weekly email –a brilliant essay on the overlooked importance of the Fourth Sunday after Trinity – when a friend called to ask what I thought about the Supreme Court ruling. Since I knew nothing about it, I had to ask him what he thought about it. I spent much of Friday either answering emails or phone calls about the Court’s ruling, so I never finished my original essay. It’ll have to wait till next year. Instead, after more conversations today on the same topic, it seems meet and right to talk a bit about marriage.

Since I’ve been “doing” marriage for more than 40 years now, I think I can say a few things about it as a practical matter. Since I’ve officiated at more than 100 marriages, done pre-marital counseling for almost every one of them, and spent a whole lot of time as a marriage counselor, I know something of the promises and pitfalls of the institution.

I like marriage. I think it’s a good idea. I think it’s good for us as a species and a good thing culturally.

Since the ruling on Friday, we now have two kinds of marriages. We have civil marriage and sacramental marriage. The truth, though, is that we’ve always had both, though we sometimes lumped them together for convenience’s sake.  There are a whole lot of people who married – even before Friday – not wanting the blessing of the Church on their life together. Here in what we’ve mis-called Christian America, people have gone to civil authorities to be married for centuries. Over the years I’ve blessed many such, when a couple has decided they want their civil marriage to be a Christian one.

Our society is rapidly changing. Statistics show an increasing number of people are in favor of the marriage of homosexuals. I don’t think it’s 50% yet, but I reckon it will be soon – and after Friday, sooner than it might otherwise have been. An  overwhelming majority of people under 40 favor it right now.

None of that matters to me one whit. My concern, as a Christian and a priest, is not what the Supreme Court decides about civil marriage. Now that the dam has officially opened, American society will see further changes yet in these things.

But neither the decisions of a court, nor the statistics of a poll, can change the teaching and practice of the One Church. The Sacrament of Marriage is unchanged. If I put an ad out in the Herald-Zeitung inviting every homosexual couple to come to St Joseph’s, promising I’d marry them, it wouldn’t change the Sacrament. There would not be one sacramental marriage if I read the words and they said the words 1,000 times over. The Church is, among many other things, the guardian of God’s Sacraments. The Sacraments were not instituted by the Church, but by God. She didn’t make ‘em, and she is powerless to change ‘em.

I like Dr Pepper. I like it since before I remember liking it. It’s part of my heritage as a Texan. I also like Fritos. Again, when I remember things in my early life, Fritos were already a fixture. I like Dr Pepper and Fritos a lot more than I do bread and wine. And if one day I plop a plate of Fritos and a tastefully-turned ceramic cup of Dr Pepper on the Altar, and if I say the Lord’s Words over them and recite the Church’s prayer, they will always be Fritos and Dr Pepper, regardless of how sincerely I want them to become Something Else. The Faith isn’t something we change. It’s meant to change us.

Civil marriage can be whatever the Supreme Court says it is. It has NO impact on the Catholic Faith and the practice of the One Church.

In case anybody still lives under the illusion that this is a Christian country, I hope to God this drives the final nail in the lid of that coffin. When the Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that we could butcher unborn children, we were already long departed from what some of the founders of the country believed.

The world has always, will always, change. The Catholic Faith will not, the One Church cannot. I see no need to chew nails and be bitter about the Court’s ruling. It applies to a civil society which daily eschews God – at least God understood as anything other than Santa Claus. The Church lives in the midst of a world she must oppose. That’s one of the most fundamental parts of the Gospel, the same from the Sermon on the Mount in St Matthew to the fiery words of St John’s Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation.

Being opposed doesn’t mean being hateful. The Church challenges those not of her number by holding up the truths they don’t want to hear. But the Church challenges you and me, her children, by calling us to the highest standard imaginable: to fight the lies of the world while loving every one of those who buy into them.

Homosexuals are people like everyone else: they want love and they need God. Right now the Pied Piper (is that a forked tail peeking out from his robe?) is playing them a tune they very much want to hear. But the problem is spiritual, not cultural. The solution is not anger at a society which, dearly beloved, doesn’t give a damn what any of us thinks. The solution, the only one that matters and by far the most difficult to implement, is to genuinely love those who believe you are certainly wrong, probably evil and definitely stupid. If that was easy, we’d all be saints.

Parish Vestry Meeting
St Joseph’s Vestry met Sunday in the parish hall. Chris Penski and Mike Mahaffey laid out the final steps in completing the work on the hall. The Vestry approved the purchase of new chairs at Toya Boyer’s motion and they are now in place. The Vestry approved the clearing of the hall and storage building of extraneous stuffs and donations were made to a local family who are having trouble meeting the expenses for the adoption of a child. Clare Murray, our newly-appointed Senior Warden, reported on the on-going work on parish internet sites. We’ve been requested to make it possible for people out-of-state to make donations to the parish through Paypal or some other internet payment system and the Vestry approved the motion, appointing Clare and Tanya to make the arrangements. Fr Wilcox proposed and the Vestry approved a Summer Schedule for St Joseph’s (see more on this below). We adjourned before getting kicked out by the Parking People.

St Joseph’s Summer Schedule
Beginning this week, we’ll have a new weekday schedule at St Joseph’s, running through the week after Labor Day. We will have NO WEEDKDAY SERVICES Monday through Friday. On Saturdays, we’ll add Morning Prayer at 11.45 followed by a noon Mass. Evening Prayer will be read at 5 o’clock. Fr Wilcox will be most of Saturday in the office. The personal counseling sessions he’s now doing either already meet on Saturdays or will be moved to Saturdays for the duration of the summer (if this applies to you, you’ve already been notified).

One note, more, beloved. Cassandra Watkins, the newly-appointed Tsarina of St Joseph’s Kitchens, fell on Thursday and broke a leg in two places. She’s had one surgery already and another late this coming week. Please keep her and Don, her husband, in your prayers. Most likely it’ll be a few weeks before we see any sign of them. After the late Mass tomorrow, Tanya and I will be taking them some flowers from the Altar. Obviously, the meeting Cassandra was planning for the Women of St Joseph’s will be a bit delayed.

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, June 27th, being the feast of St Emma of Austria, Queen, 1015



June 21, 2015
The Third Sunday after Trinity (and “Father’s Day” on the civil calendar)

Some Theological Thoughts on Father’s Day
We live in a culture of apology. Popes and Presidents, reporters and comedians, CEOs and salesmen, we all prove our humanity by making mistakes. It’s difficult to have a good old-fashioned discussion about anything nowadays, because we have so many bets to hedge and sacred cows to acknowledge before we dare open our mouths. If I want to discuss my opposition to abortion, I must first acknowledge I’m not a woman, haven’t carried a child, don’t know what it’s like to live in an over-crowded, drug-infested tenement (the mythic home of the statistical woman forced into infanticide), etc., etc. By the time I pull a forelock at the required orthodoxies of the day, there’s little time left for the topic, so why begin down a road few will follow?

So, as a child of this culture, I begin by acknowledging my faults

I’ve been pondering fathers and fatherhood for years. Oddly enough, as I count them, I’ve been ruminating on this question the past 40 years, a good Biblical number if purely coincidental to the time of this writing. Though there are a variety of reasons I take up this topic, theology is at the root of them all.

Not coincidentally, the question of the ordination of women to the priesthood and bishop’s office has roiled the Church for 40 years, too. For many, one way or another, it’s a settled question. In the early years of the turmoil it introduced into the life of the Church, I tried to understand the issues as best I could. I read everything I could find on the topic, from both sides. I asked my mentors and wrote some of the leading theologians of the day to learn what I could. The more I searched, the less clear the answers I was given seemed to be. It slowly dawned on me that few people were doing theology – most, again, on both sides, were pursuing sociological agendas. I came to the conclusion that the most basic questions were not being asked. Before asking “should (or can) women be ordained priests,” we have more fundamental questions to answer: “What is a man?” and “What is a woman?” and “What is a priest?” Only when we’ve adequately addressed these things can we return to our initial inquiry with any hope of success.

That’s the background of these Father’s Day thoughts. It’s first a meditation on “manhood” or “masculinity.”

I apologize for not apologizing for considering such a one-sided question. I love and admire women, and blah, blah, blah. No one who knows me wonders about that. But is there a place to talk about “masculinity” or “femininity” in our culture which isn‘t just genitally-based?

Everybody has been bending over backwards the last couple of weeks to outdo each other in their praise and admiration of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. For the purposes of my discussion, Jenner qua Jenner is irrelevant. What I notice is that in a culture obsessed with blurring “gender-distinctions,” we’re quick to praise somebody who makes an avanat-garde one. That says nothing about Jenner but a whole lot about us.

The ageless teaching of the Church is that masculinity and femininity are gifts from God to each of us. She also teaches us that we are sacramental creatures. Our sexual realities (as expressed by our bodies) are “outward, visible signs of inward, spiritual” truths. To be a man – as to be a woman – is full of meaning. We’re meant to discover and express these truths in our lives.

I’m aware of the oft-repeated but shoddily-defined notion that we all have our “masculine” and “feminine” sides. I ain’t buying it. It’s a cheap and easy answer to a question that deserves genuine exploration.

God is not male or female. To coin a bastardized word, but one with some credible theological precedents, God is “huper-sexual” – the Greek means “above” or “beyond.” At the same time, like it or not, He has taught us to call Him “Father.” He became one of us as a man, not a woman, not as a sexless angel. The hackneyed argument that our Lord had to come as a man is specious: the world of His day was chock-full of goddesses and womanly priesthoods. The Lord chose the place and people among whom He would “come down” knowing all that and choosing something else for a reason.

By now it’s obvious that I can’t answer the pivotal question in a couple of hundred words (I titled this “theological thoughts” rather than “theological certainties” on purpose). But I hope you’ll take the time, be you a man or a most wonderfully-made woman, to do a bit o’ wrasslin’ with one of the most fundamental gifts God has given you – given to you personally. We take it up day-to-day. We can follow the “uncertain trumpet” calls of our culture, which daily proves its ineptness, or be guided into an understanding of who we are by the one Who made us. Through this summer, every couple of weeks, I’ll lay aside the usual liturgical focus of this page to explore a bit some questions of masculinity and femininity. When we’ve done something like this in years past, I’ve been pleased at how much some of you have engaged me either in face-to-face conversations, through emails and even an occasional phone call. Feel free to do so with this. I can write monologues easily enough. I enjoy conversations far more.

Celebrating the 1549 Liturgy
We survived! If a participant in the original celebrations of the first Prayer Book back in 1549 had been present at last Sunday’s 10.30 Eucharist, he would no doubt have been discombobulated by the way we said the words of the Liturgy, but with the words and order of the rite he would have been completely at home. One of the things we talked about afterward was how familiar we were with the same thing. The Liturgy hasn’t changed that much at all.

A couple of y’all asked me for a copy of the sermon I made Sunday. As usual, I spoke ex tempore, so I don’t have one. Probably that’s just as well. I can recount the gist of it much more succinctly.

The tradition of the Church’s Liturgy, her worship, is embodied in the Prayer Book. A perusal – or, far better, a regular and frequent use of the Prayer Book – teaches us that the Liturgy is the beating heart of the Church.  It is both what she is and how she lives. Her life in Christ is centered here.

The Liturgy is what WE do. It’s not what the clergy do “up front” while the rest of us do the “Anglican squat” in the pews. Back in 1549, when more people in church couldn’t read than could, the Prayer Book took that into account and had the priest (or “the clerkes,” as the old rubrics read) say a lot of stuff in the place of the people. As times have changed, the Prayer Book has changed, and an essential characteristic of liturgy has come to the fore: the Liturgy is what we do together, it isn’t a spectator sport. You read the old rubrics – I pointed them out – the priest can’t say Mass without the people, and the people can’t celebrate Mass without the priest. That tells us something important about Liturgy and about life.

We did pretty well, so don’t throw away your “souvenir” copies of last Sunday’s rite. I’m thinking the Second Sunday after Trinity may just become “Prayer Book Sunday” at St Joseph’s every year.

St Joseph’s Vestry meets this Sunday in the parish hall after the 10.30 Mass. While I shouldn’t say it, the meeting is expected to be brief. Our agenda is light and the weatherman says we’re expecting more rain in the afternoon.

Services This Week
Wednesday, June 24 (The Nativity of St John the Baptist)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

No Services This Friday

This Friday is a day of Abstinence.


I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, June 19th, being the feast of St Hildegrin of Chalons sur Marne, Abbot & Bishop, 827


June 14, 2015
The Second Sunday after Trinity (“Prayer Book Sunday”)

Only Anglicans would have a day on the Church Calendar for the Liturgy. Even the most ultra-traditional of Latin Mass enthusiasts don’t do that (and let me hasten to say that, from where I’m sitting, “ultra-traditional” is hardly a pejorative term!). On the calendar for June 8th, we see the listing “First Book of Common Prayer, 1549.” The date is significant because the Parliament of King Edward VI (“the Boy King,” son of Henry VIII) ordered that the new Liturgy for the Church of England should be used “acrosse this realme” beginning Whitsunday of 1549. The date for Whitsunday that year was June 9th. We get June 8th because June 9th is long-taken by St Columba of Iona.

We’re celebrating this Sunday, June 14th, as “Prayer Book Sunday” because the original day the “Booke” was slated for use, Whitsunday, is just too busy. The Prayer Book commemoration would be so far at the end of Whitsun observances – what with our “reading in tongues” and birthday celebrations for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and all – it might get overlooked. Last Sunday was Corpus Christi Sunday. Even without clouds of incense and around-the-block processions, we had much to do for the feast (it’s worth the price of admission to look at our Facebook page and see the picture of Bill Lee showing our monstrance to the youngest Redland girls and trying to explain to them what it is).

So this Sunday we thank the Lord for the Book of Common Prayer. The Prayer Book preserves the august language of our past. Scholars count the Prayer Book, alongside the King James Bible and the plays of Shakespeare, as the highest literary achievements of the English-speaking world. The Prayer Book preserves the tradition of Catholic worship from the earliest times, linking us to the table of the Last Supper, the Altar at the Church of the Holy Wisdom in Byzantine Constantinople, and the top of a jeep used as an Altar which the shells burst all around on Iwo Jima. The Prayer Book ties us to our past.

Much more importantly, though, it points us to our future. The greatest value of the Prayer Book is that it forms us as Christians. It’s cycle of daily prayer (Morning and Evening), the Eucharist for Sundays and holy days, and the Occasional Offices (for the special “Occasions” in the lives of Christians) make the Book of Common Prayer one book, with one purpose: to form Christ in us. THAT is what Anglicanism is: a way of life, of grace, moving us through life with God, day by day.

The Prayer Book tradition (that happy word means “something handed down”) comes to us not from 1928 or 1549, but from the tradition of worship cherished by our Lord and His disciples from their Jewish ancestors. It’s been refined by monks in the fiery deserts of Syria and Egypt, enriched by the medieval chants and prayers of Pope St Gregory the Great and St Thomas Becket, Englished by Archbishop Cranmer and Bishop Cosin, approved by Queen Elizabeth I, attacked by Puritans, and put into our hands as a genuinely American book by Bishops Seabury and White.

It’s not a collection of old prayers, no matter how venerable. The Prayer Book brings the whole of Christian tradition to a community, a parish, as a way of living together in Christ. The book was designed to do that, parish by parish, throughout late medieval England. Its genius has been to transcend its original setting and do the same for Americans in New York City and New Braunfels, Texas. The Prayer Book forms each parish into a community bound by common prayer, common faith and common practice.

For all that, it’s a book. It enshrines tradition in a wonderful way. But that tradition must be brought to life. It needs to breathe of life. If we enshrine the Prayer Book, preserve it, protect it, keep it safe, we make it a relic, and the parish it’s meant to form into a museum. What makes the Prayer Book, and Catholic tradition of which it is part, so happy is that it’s a vehicle, a tool – to help us approach God. More wonderfully still, it can be, for those willing to take it as a guide, a vehicle and tool for the Holy Ghost to breathe life into His Church – us.


Celebrating the 1549 Liturgy This Sunday
At the 10.30 Eucharist this Sunday, we’ll use the 1549 Eucharistic Rite. To do that, a booklet has been prepared with every word of the rite in it’s original form. A lot of the spelling will look odd at first, but you’ll quickly get used to it. The basic structure – and virtually all the words – of the Eucharist will be very familiar to you, but there are a few differences of note: FIRST: there will be no hymns. The Prayer Book provides an Introit which we’ll use as we do every Sunday, excepting this will take the place of the Processional Hymn. SECOND: instead of a three-fold Kyrie (“Lord have mercy upon us”), we’ll follow the book in doing it ninefold (I’ll explain it beforehand; it’s simple as “pi”). THIRD: the Gloria in Exclesis (“Glory be to God on High”) comes right after the Kyries, not at the end of the Eucharist. That’s how it was for a very long time indeed and the first Prayer Book kept it in its original place. FOURTH: the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church leads right into the Prayer of Consecration (again, as in the old liturgy). The General Confession, Absolution and Prayer of Humble Access come immediately before Holy Communion.

Some of the words may be spelled differently, but you’ll recognize most every phrase and sentence. The spelling in those days – there were no dictionaries for 200 years yet – reflected pronunciation. We’ll use them Sunday morning, but we’ll be following “Standard Texas Pronunciation!”

Services This Week
Wednesday, June 10 (St Botolph of Ikanho, Abbot, 680)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
 7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

 No Services This Friday

This Friday is a day of Abstinence.

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, June 12th, being the feast of St Peter of Mount Athos, Hermit, 747

 
June 7, 2015
Sunday in the Octave of Corpus Christi (the First Sunday after Trinity or Second Sunday after Pentecost)

The Church calendar gives us one last hurrah before we begin the long season of Trinitytide – which reaches from the first stirrings of summer till the winter warnings of late November. Trinitytide itself is deserving of some comment, but that’s for another time. This Sunday, as every First Sunday after Trinity for the last 750 years, is celebrated as Corpus Christi Sunday, the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the old liturgical books called it. Like Trinity Sunday, this holy day doesn’t celebrate an event in the life of our Lord (except insomuch as it springs from what He did with His disciples in the Upper Room on the night in which He was betrayed). It’s the Eucharistic celebration of the Eucharist itself, and the great doctrine of the Eucharist, which we call the Real Presence.

Christ, the Church teaches us, is present in the bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist. The bread, after its consecration, is no longer just bread but is now become the Body of Christ, “the same,” the great theologians tell us, “as was born in Bethlehem of St Mary the Virgin.” After the Prayer of Consecration, the wine is no mere cup of wine but the chalice of Christ’s Blood, “shed on Calvary.” The meaning of those phrases is important – essential even – not only to the feast but to grasping why the Lord said to His disciples, and to us, “Do this.”

You know the phrase: “Do this in remembrance of Me.” After all the years I’ve preached on this, you can’t help but to know that those words aren’t an accurate translation of His words. It’s not because of a nefarious plot, but a failure of language: the key word in the sentence isn’t available in English. “Do this,” the Lord Christ said “for My anamnesis.”

There are Greek words for “remember,” but anamnesis isn’t one of them. Problem is, there isn’t an English word that translates it. We “remember” when we try to think where we put our car keys or how much is in our checking account. That’s not anamnesis.  Now at Christmastime, when we sit with friends around a blazing hearth, drink spiked wassail and reminisce about the old days, we’re coming closer to anamnesis, but we’re not there yet.

Plato popularized the word in one of his dialogues. The translators of the Greek Old Testament (which was used by the first Christians) took it from him. Plato said anamnesis brings a reality of the past into the present. The Jewish translators used Plato’s word in a special way, connecting it exclusively to worship. The Passover, the sacred meal recalling the night the Angel of Death “passed over” the Hebrews in Egypt, the celebration of their freedom from slavery, was, they said, an anamnesis. Jews a thousand years after the events of that first Passover were, by prayers and hymns, by eating and drinking, made participants of that first Passover. They, too, were free. Anamnesis was not remembering, but re-living the power of the past made present. Those gathered around the table with Jesus “on the night in which he was betrayed” understood what He meant when He commanded them to “do this in My anamnesis.”

If that was the extent of the Eucharistic anamnesis, we could all nod knowingly and say “Huh. Isn’t that interesting?” It’s not, though. It’s not the end of our belief about the Eucharist, but the beginning. The Lord Jesus took up where the Passover left off. The pious Jews of Jesus’ day were (if you’ll pardon, but go along with, my abuse of a perfectly decent Greek word), “anamneting” – recalling and reliving that dark Egyptian night as they ate the Passover lamb, broke the unleavened bread and drank the cup of wine. The Jews at the table did their “anamneting” in the presence of God.

Not so with us. In the Eucharist there is indeed “ananmeting” going on, and we’re present for it and an integral part of it. The “anamnetor” (I know I’m pushing the Greek here, just bear with me a little longer) isn’t us. It’s the Lord Jesus. He’s the High Priest of the Eucharist. Me and all the other priests who share His priesthood are His “step n’ fetchits.” We do what He commands us to do; the anamnesis we do here when we celebrate Mass is possible because of the real, on-going and eternal anamnesis going on in Heaven. There, Jesus Christ, God and Man, is forever “anamneting” before the Father. That’s the whole meaning of the New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews. The meaning of Christmas, and Good Friday, and Easter all come together every time we “do this” at the small wooden Altar in St Joseph’s Parish, New Braunfels. Every time Christians gather, whenever a priest and people meet with bread and wine to “do this” in His anamnesis, He is present, “doing this” with and for us. On Corpus Christi, we celebrate with great joy here, that eternal anamnesis which never ends.

Helping Out Our Neighbors
We began St Joseph’s Parish Relief Project a few weeks ago in response to the devastation wrecked on our area by heavy rains and floods we had in May. Last Sunday a caravan from the parish took three carloads of non-perishable food, blankets, towels and household supplies to the San Marcos Relief Center. In addition, $440 was donated to go to the purchase of HEB gift cards, distributed by our Senior Warden, Clare Murray, and our Treasurer, Larry Mooney. The envelope you’ll find in your bulletins this Sunday is to raise additional money for the relief of James Polhemus’ brother, Paul and his wife, Carmen. They lost their home and most of their possessions in the Wimberly floods. Any additional money and donated stuff (see the list the Relief Center gave Clare at the end of this email) will be taken to the San Marcos Relief Center. Thank you for your generous response to our neighbors in this time of need.

“Prayer Book Sunday”
We’ll observe the 466th anniversary of the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer Sunday, on June 14th. June 8, 1549, the Book was first used at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. To commemorate the Book, and in thanksgiving for the blessings it has given to the world in general and Anglicans in particular (scholars of the English language rank the Prayer Book, the King James Bible and the plays of William Shakespeare as the greatest works of our language), our 10.30 Eucharist will be celebrated using the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. You might be surprised to see how close what we do on Sunday morning is to that First BCP!

The Sacrament of Holy Unction This Sunday
After both the 8 AM & 10.30 Masses this Sunday, the Sacrament of Unction will be administered to all desirous. You may receive the Sacrament on behalf of others. Please give the name of the person on whose behalf you are being anointed to the priest as you present yourself.

Services This Week
Wednesday, June 10 (St Margaret of Scotland, 1093 AD)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
  7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

No Services This Friday -- this Friday is a day of Abstinence.

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!


Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, June 5th, being the feast of St Agobard of Lyons, Bishop & Preacher, 840

Clare’s List

-TOWELS, SHEETS, BLANKETS
-non-perishable ready to eat food items (peanut/almond butter, fruit pouches, granola bars, tuna packs, instant coffee, etc CAN OPENERS!)
- DIAPERS, WIPES, BABY FORMULA

Other items people need include:
Bottled water; Ready to eat non perishable food; Clothing; Shoes; Rain boots; Tarps; Mosquito spray; Pillows; Blankets; Hand soap; Laundry detergent; Hand sanitizer; Paper towels

Pet supplies including:
Dog food; Cat food; Cat litter; Kennels

Toiletries including:
Shampoo; Conditioner; Deodorant; Soap; Toothbrushes; Toothpaste
Hairbrushes; Feminine products

Baby supplies including:
Clothing; Blankets; Diapers; Wipes; Formula; Bottles; Baby food; Pacifiers


May 31, 2015
The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, commonly called Trinity Sunday

The major Feasts of the Christian Year center on events in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, His holy Mother, or the great saints. We celebrate things that happened – Christmas, Easter, Whitsunday, the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, the Decollation of St John Baptist (if you don’t know what St John’s “decollation” is, it means you were paying attention during the sermons at church: every boy who leafed through the Prayer Book while the priest was droning on from the pulpit knows St John’s decollation is his ‘beheading,” which we celebrate on August 29th each year).

This Sunday is the exception to the rule. The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, commonly called Trinity Sunday, is almost unique on the Church calendar because it’s not about something that happened, but a dogma: an essential belief – dare I say THE essential belief of the Christian religion. It undergirds our belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ and so all we believe about Him, all those things we insist on saying every Sunday in the Creed:  the “only-begotten Son of God…very God of very God…of one substance with the Father...Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven, and was incarnate…and made man…crucified…and the third day…rose again…and ascended into heaven…[to] the right hand of the Father.”

Underneath everything we learned in church school about Jesus is this most fundamental truth: He is God, one with the Father and the Holy Ghost (which is another old English word for Spirit). Jesus did not “become” God, it wasn’t a reward for being good. Before creation was created, “in the beginning,” there was always Father, Son and Holy Ghost. St Athanasius made the point in what for us is bad grammar but perfect theology; speaking of the Son (and thus of each of the Persons), he said: “there was never a time when He was not.” God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost exists from all eternity. A few centuries after St Athanasius, a Syrian theologian we call Dionysius said we cannot, properly, even say that God “exists.” Existence, Dionysius wrote, is what created things do. God is distinct from and outside of His creation. If Dionysius is right – and he is – God is above “existence.” Everything that exists, exists because God created it. God is not created – He is Uncreated. You and I exist because we’re made: He simply “is.” “Is now, and ever shall be, world without end.” That’s what that oft-repeated phrase means.

If your head is starting to hurt a little, that’s okay. We’re quickly getting to the outer edges of what we can say about God, where words and thoughts are inadequate to the Topic.

A friend once told me that this coming Sunday was a day no clergyman should be allowed to preach “since none of you have any comprehension of what you’re talking about.” He’s right, of course (not that it’s stopped many of us heretofore!).

It’s meet and right that we acknowledge that God is an unfathomable Mystery, hidden in Himself and perfectly known only to Himself. But it’s right here, in the hidden depths of God, the Unknowable, that the greatest mystery of the Gospel lives. The eternal Son of the Father became a human being just like you and me, to make it possible for you and me to be like Jesus, sons and daughters of God, world without end. I’m thinking that’s worth at least one day on the calendar…

I Came to Whitsunday and All I Got Was This Tee Shirt?
“Speaking in Tongues” Sunday, commonly called Whitsunday and properly called Pentecost, may for some time yet be also known as “Inundation Sunday.” Our parishioners north of New Braunfels were unable to come to church on Sunday because the Interstate was flooded and closed down. The gravel and dirt roads leading from my house to Highway 46 were covered in three feet of water and partially washed away, so we were unable to get out onto the highway until almost 10 AM. Still, a surprising number of people were at Mass by 10.30 so we were able to fulfill our obligation on our behalf and for those who couldn’t get through.

The Lord wasn’t intent on making it any easier on anybody, though. We may not have had flames dancing on our heads for the feast, but the air conditioner wasn’t cooperating and it was “hot as the hinges of Hades” and humid as Equatorial Africa by the time I added my own hot air to the mix come sermon-time. We did our customary “reading in tongues” for the day, though two of our readers, James and Clare (slated to read Russian, German and Gaelic between them), were prevented by the flooded Interstate. We did manage to get through – none of us knew Angie Redland could speak German, but she read fluently! We did have a birthday cake (her 1982nd) for the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and Pentecostal Punch afterwards, but after that everybody dashed out before the next storm rolled in. 

Athanasian Creed and Trinity Sundaes
We recite the Athanasian Creed this Sunday. At the end of it, you will be either be very confused or absolutely clear about the central dogma of the Catholic Faith. To help set your faith more firmly, or untangle it if necessary, we’ll have Trinity Sundaes after Mass. Trinity Sundaes, of course, are made with Neapolitan Ice Cream – Three Flavors in One!

Helping Out Our Neighbors
Many of you received an email on Friday from Clare Murray, our Senior Warden, about St Joseph’s Parish Relief Project, our work to assist those who lost so much in the recent storms. Included in Clare’s email was a list of the items many people specially need. Please bring with you what you can on Sunday morning. After church we’ll form a caravan to take our donations to the Relief Center in San Marcos – and have a bite of lunch afterward. There will be envelopes in our bulletins the next two weeks to collect funds so Larry Mooney can purchase some HEB gift cards for distribution to our neighbors in need. There is a happy tradition of generosity here at St Joseph’s, and y’all make me proud every time a need arises. Clare’s list of items most needed by the Relief Centers in our area is at the end of this email.

Services This Week:

Wednesday, June 3 (St Bede of Jarrow, 735 AD)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Thursday, June 4 (Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist

Friday, June 6 (St Agobard of Lyons, Bishop & Preacher, 840)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

This Friday, due to the Feast of Corpus Christi and its Octave, there is no fasting or abstinence.

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, May 29th, being the
Ember Friday of Whitsun Week

Flood Relief List:

-TOWELS, SHEETS, BLANKETS
-non-perishable ready to eat food items (peanut/almond butter, fruit pouches, granola bars, tuna packs, instant coffee, etc CAN OPENERS!)
- DIAPERS, WIPES, BABY FORMULA

Other items people need include:
Bottled water; Ready to eat non perishable food; Clothing; Shoes; Rain boots; Tarps; Mosquito spray; Pillows; Blankets; Hand soap; Laundry detergent; Hand sanitizer; Paper towels

Pet supplies including:
Dog food; Cat food; Cat litter; Kennels

Toiletries including:
Shampoo; Conditioner; Deodorant; Soap; Toothbrushes; Toothpaste
Hairbrushes; Feminine products

Baby supplies including:
Clothing; Blankets; Diapers; Wipes; Formula; Bottles; Baby food; Pacifiers

______________________________________________________________________________________________


May 24, 2015

The Feast of Pentecost, commonly called Whitsunday


Sunday is Pentecost – “fifty days” in Greek – fifty days from Easter; so whether Eastertide is forty days or fifty, Easter is past. The day is also called Whitsunday – “White Sunday” – even though the color on the Church Calendar is red. In the colder climes of northern Europe, baptisms normally done at Easter were sometimes deferred to the warmer days of late May or early June. That way the newly-baptized didn’t catch colds and die! Since the newly-baptized wore white, the day was “White Sunday.”


But the Calendar says red, because red is the customary color of the Holy Ghost. Whitsunday is His day – which is good, ‘cause most of the time we don’t give Him much thought. The Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, Comforter, Advocate, He’s the most mysterious Person of the Three. The Common Prayer Book, passing along the Church’s teaching from her earliest days, asks what we “chiefly learn” from the Creed:


“First, I learn to believe in God the Father, Who hath made me, and all the world.


Secondly, in God the Son, Who hath redeemed me, and all mankind.


Thirdly, in God the Holy Ghost, Who sanctifieth me, and all the people of God.”


God is equally One and Three. Next Sunday, on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, this will be pointedly brought home to us when we recite the Athanasian Creed. The Son and the Holy Ghost are not “less” God than the Father (but that’s for next week): each of the Three Persons plays a necessary and equal part in the salvation of the world. The Holy Ghost is the Sanctifier: God come to make all things holy.

Jesus Christ came to repair what we botched up. He became a Man – the Second Adam, St Paul says –  to make man afresh. In Him, redemption – the renewal and deepening of the relationship God intended to have with Adam – becomes possible again. That’s why Jesus was born and lived and died. That done, He left. In Christ, redeemed humanity ascended into Heaven “to prepare a place for us.”
He left it to us to continue His work. Problem is, we can’t. Only God can. So how does God, since He’s not here anymore, expect us to continue His work?

If you said “through the Holy Ghost,” you’re right! That’s what Whitsunday is. Christmas is the birthday of the Redeemer; Whitsunday is the birthday of His Church, the coming of the Holy Ghost to continue the presence and power of God in the world.

In His Church – it’s not “ours” but His (which is why we can’t change it whenever it gets to be inconvenient) – God acts to redeem the world. “Redemption” is God’s on-going, continuing activity in the world, which always needs redeeming.

Now, there’s a kink in all this: us. Not “all baptized people,” not even “most” baptized people, in fact, at any given time, maybe only an handful of baptized people are willing to put themselves on the line to continue God’s  work. Most of us (me included) are willing to go along as long as somebody else is doing the heavy work and if it’s not too disruptive of mealtimes and social calendars. But the Lord “knows whereof we are made,” as the Psalmist wrote, “He remembers that we are but dust.” We’re not up to doing what He calls us to, and He knows it. That’s what Whitsunday is, too. He gives us His Holy Spirit, “to renew the face of the earth.” In the Sacraments, in the Liturgy, in our prayers and in the daily struggle for holiness, He gives Himself to us – and through us, to the world. We falter in His service, we hinder what He does, we kick against His grace, but still redemption goes on. Amazingly, He uses us (often in spite of ourselves) to bring to completion the Good Work begun when the Lord God knelt in the Garden and breathed His Spirit into the lump of clay which would become Adam, and through him, each of us.

Whitsunday, commonly called “Speaking in Tongues” Sunday, is Here!

Well, we call it “Speaking in Tongues” Sunday because that’s what happened on the first Whitsunday 1982 years ago. Flames of Pentecostal Fire, sent by the Holy Ghost, danced on the heads of the Apostles “and they began to speak with other tongues,” as St Luke wrote. So this Sunday we’ll speak – well, we’ll read – in other tongues. It’s customary on that day, after the Gospel reading during the Eucharist, for people in the parish to read the Gospel in other languages. In years past, we’ve heard Spanish, French, German, Russian, Greek, Latin, Coptic and Anglo-Saxon! So far this year we have Latin, Spanish, German, Greek, Gaelic and Chaucerian English already “spoken for.” If the Spirit seizes you with a certainty you, too, should join the Pentecostal readers, send me an email and let me know what you want to say, and in what language you want to say it!


The Birthday of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church
Since Whitsunday is the “Church’s Birthday” (she being 1982 this year), we’re celebrating with cake and Fr Wilcox’s specially-brewed “Pentecostal Punch” after both Masses this Sunday.


Memorial Day Observance
This Sunday is also part of the Memorial Day weekend. During the Liturgy, we’ll include prayers for those who’ve died in the service of our country. Remembrance sheets will be available again this Sunday for any names you’d like to remembered at the Masses. Put your completed form in the collection plate Sunday and I’ll read any names “sent up” along with the rest. As last week, there will be a specially-marked envelope in your bulletin. Any money collected will be put with our Veteran’s Day collection later this year as our annual donation to the Wounded Warriors Project.


Services This Week
Wednesday, May 27 (Ember Wednesday in Whitsun Week)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
Friday, May 29 (Ember Friday in Whitsun Week)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
There is no Fasting or Abstinence this Week, beloved – but don’t count on that too much longer!


I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!


Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, May 22nd, being the feast of SS Paul & Demetrios of Tripoli, Martyrs, 1818


May 17, 2015

Sunday after the Ascension, commonly called Expectation Sunday


“Commonly called Expectation Sunday.” A couple of weeks ago a good friend, who knows more about the Liturgy than people should be allowed to, exchanged notes with me about Eastertide and its proper length. At different times and in different places the season has not been uniformly kept. At some times and in some places Eastertide has been reckoned as the  40 days from Easter till Ascension Day (this past Thursday, for those who forgot it was a Day of Obligation!); at other times and in other places Eastertide is reckoned as coming to an end on Pentecost (Whitsunday). While this sort of ratiocination is endlessly fascinating to liturgical moles like me, it doesn’t have a whole lot of obvious meaning to most of us when considering the rising cost of milk.
But my pal, who takes the view that Eastertide is 40 days, not 50, made a point in his note. Those 50-day Eastertidians (in which he counts me, with some good reason) miss out on what was medievally called the Hebdomada expectationis, “Expectation Week.” That makes the Sunday after the Ascension “Expectation Sunday.”
And that matters because…?


Because of what we’re expecting – what we’re waiting for. We’re waiting on the Holy Ghost. He came on Whitsunday with an Agenda and it’s still being carried out, even if imperfectly.


It’s not that the Holy Ghost isn’t doing His job. We’re not doing ours very well. There are a lot of excuses we can give – excuses I do give – as to why I’m not following His orders very well. But maybe, if we were to be a bit “expectatious” in our faith, things would be different. Do we expect God the Holy Ghost to work with us in our lives, addressing our day-to-day problems as if we actually had the faith we espouse. Are we – am I – willing to do or say what’s right for His sake even if people roll their eyes?


Maybe we expect too little of God. Look at that a bit this week. Test the waters a little. I will. Let’s see what comes of a decent Hebdomada expectationis. Maybe there’s something to what my pal says.


Whitsunday, commonly called “Speaking in Tongues” Sunday, is Coming!

Well, we call it “Speaking in Tongues” Sunday because that’s what happened on the first Whitsunday 1982 years ago. Flames of Pentecostal Fire, sent by the Holy Ghost, danced on the heads of the Apostles “and they began to speak with other tongues,” as St Luke wrote. So on Whitsunday we’ll speak – well, we’ll read – in other tongues. It’s customary on that day, after the Gospel reading during the Eucharist, for people in the parish to read the Gospel in other tongues. In years past, we’ve heard Spanish, French, German and Russian, as well as Greek, Latin, Coptic and Anglo-Saxon! So far this year we have Latin, Spanish, Greek, Gaelic and Chaucerian English already “spoken for.” This is the time, beloved, to dust off your linguistic skills and sign up to read. Tanya has charge of the signup sheet, and will be button-holing people this Sunday, so see her, email her or call her soon – the shortest verses always go fast!


The Birthday of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church

Whitsunday has long been called the “Church’s Birthday.” Not St Joseph’s Church (except by extension, I suppose), but the One Church we say we believe in when we say the Creeds. She is a very old lady indeed, this being her 1982nd birthday. After both Masses on Whitsunday, we’ll be celebrating her birthday with cake and Fr Wilcox’s specially-brewed “Pentecostal Punch.”


Memorial Day Observance

As if Speaking in Tongues, a 1982 birthday cake and all the Pentecostal Punch you can’t drink isn’t enough for one day, Sunday, May 24th is the Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend. During the Liturgy that day, we’ll include prayers for those who’ve died in the service of our country. Remembrance sheets for any names you’d like remembered at the Masses will be in this Sunday’s bulletin, along with an envelope. Any money collected in the Memorial Day envelopes will be put with our Veteran’s Day collection later this year as our annual donation to the Wounded Warriors Project.


An Excuse for an Extra Sermon?

I had four emails this week with questions or comments on last Sunday’s Rogation sermon. I’m not only left pleased but surprised, since I don’t think I saw four people awake for the whole thing – though as I think about it, maybe that’s the reason for the questions! In case you were one of the Sleeping Ones, I preached about the Lord’s words, telling us to ask and we shall receive. Since it doesn’t always seem to work that way, I thought it worth a few words. So, evidently, did some of you. Though this may make Larry’s heart sink, I’ve even been asked (I won’t betray the person’s identity) to preach about it again – in more detail!

Well, I’m not gonna do that. Nor will I write about it in this little weekly email. Five hundred words – at least, five hundred of my words – aren’t enough to do the topic justice. But I will answer the questions that were raised and comment on some of your comments. Sometime in the next few weeks I’ll post a response on our parish blog. First, though, I have to get Clare to tell me how to do that!
 
Services This Week
Wednesday, May 20 (St Askalon of Egypt, Marrtyr, 303)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
Friday, May 22 (SS Paul & Demetrios of Tripoli, Martyrs, 1818)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
There is no Fasting or Abstinence this Week, beloved – but don’t count on that too much longer!
I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, May 15th, being the feast of SS Dymphna & Gerebrand, Martyrs, 620

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On the Ascension of Christ

The Feast of the Ascension of Christ is the feast of His Going Away. The old and delightful iconography of the feast makes a point of it: the Lord Jesus’ feet are protruding from a cloud that has removed Him from their sight. He’s outta here.

He’s outta here, though, for a reason – rather, for several reasons, all of them good but one I want to ponder with you for a minute.

After His Resurrection, the Lord Christ came and went as He pleased:  He walked into rooms with thick walls and locked doors, appeared and unappeared as He wanted, and Scripture tells us His friends were often unsure as to Who He was when He did show up. Repeatedly they took Him for a ghost, so He walked and talked with them in the sunlight, sat down and ate with them, gave them His hands still marked with nail prints to poke their fingers through. Whatever had happened to Him, He was no ghost. On that certainty they were willing to bet their lives. As the matter of fact, every one of them eventually did.

They knew that He’d been dead “as a doornail,” to use that great old Latin phrase. Now not only was He alive, He was alive beyond what they understood “being alive" meant. Their Lord, Who’d wrestled with death and won, would now, they knew, Make Everything Right. A whole lotta people were gonna be sorry now.

Forty days after His Resurrection, He met one last time with His disciples (they didn’t know it would be a Very Long Time before they would see Him again). “When they had come together,” St Luke tells us, “they asked Him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ ”

They still didn’t get it. They were hoping the Lord Who created the heavens and earth would raise an army and kick the Romans out of Palestine. They didn’t understand He was calling them to overturn not only Roman Order, but every human thing that puts itself in the place of God.

So Jesus led them to the top of the Mount of Olives. There, “as they were looking on,” St Luke continues, “He was lifted up and a cloud took Him out of their sight.” He was gone.

He wouldn’t eat with them on the Galilean seashore anymore, pray with them in Gethsemane, no more would they hear Him spin out a parable. He was gone. Why?

If He remained with them, their faith, and ours, would have focused on the Amazing Man who died and came back to life. He might have globe-trotted like the Dalai Lama, or ended up 24/7/365 healing the sick, raising the dead and in continual demand as a marriage and family counselor.
He left them so the Truth He’d planted, the One Church He founded, could come to be. No more would His hands be the only hands to heal, His voice the only one to pronounce forgiveness or teach His followers to pray. His hands, His voice, His love, all of which a thirsty world still craves, now come to that world through us.

His disciples looked up longingly toward the cloud, but He was gone. He didn’t stay because His kingdom is not of this world:  our hearts, as His disciples today, aren’t meant to be focused here any more than theirs were. The Only-Begotten Son became one of us to lift our gaze from the beauty we can see to the Beauty our unresurrected eyes cannot. One Day, He will come again, in glory we cannot imagine and power we cannot comprehend. He will come for us. – Fr Gregory Wilcox


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MAY 10, 2015


The Fifth Sunday after Easter, commonly called Rogation Sunday


Christ is risen, alleluia! El Masseah kam!


A long time back, before I started cutting my teeth on Latin, somebody told me rogation came from the Latin “rogo,” which meant to “go around.” That made sense since we process around the church building on Rogation Sunday. The etymology was fake. Rogation derives from rogare, to ask, petition or beg. Rogo is a Latin word, but it means “I ask” – as in “you ask, he/she or it asks,” etc.


One way or another, we still “beat the bounds” on Rogation Sunday, tracing the property lines of the parish with our steps and splashing each corner that belongs to us with holy water. We do that because it’s our plot of God’s earth. God has entrusted all of us with this property because it’s one of His outposts here in New Braunfels. Here, we not only proclaim the Gospel but are meant to show how things go when the Gospel holds sway. That’s what a church is. In a parish the Sacraments are celebrated, the Gospel is proclaimed (hopefully not just with words) and bonds of charity are forged.

The notion is widespread, even among Christians, that Christianity is a spiritual religion. That’s wrong. The Gospel and the Church that proclaims it are not spiritual but sacramental. God created the world as sacramental. “Spiritual religions,” like Buddhism and any of its allies, see the world as an evil place to be escaped or transcended. For them, its beauties are illusory distractions which draw humanity from its Higher Spiritual Path. A whole lot of Christians, well-meaning but poorly-taught, accept this silliness.
What does the Prayer Book tell us?
The Catechism says a Sacrament is “an outward, visible sign of an inward, spiritual grace.”

What does Scripture say?
The final verse of the first chapter in the Bible, after we’ve heard the story of the Six Days  the Lord spent a-creating the heavens and the earth, says “And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.”

God’s creation, from beetles to bears, and including you and me, is very good. He made it, among other things, as a way of showing Himself to us. We are indeed spiritual beings, but we are – and forever will be – physical creatures, too. That’s why the phrase “the resurrection of the body” in the Creed is crucial to our Faith. Stuff matters. It has meaning. God has not just put us in a physical world – He’s made us a necessary and pivotal part of it. He has called us to give meaning to His creation (that’s what it means when God tells Adam to name all His creatures).

So we baptize with water, we eat the Flesh of Jesus in Bread and drink His Blood in Wine, we anoint the sick with oil and the bishop mashes the heads of kids with his two hands at Confirmation (St Thomas Aquinas shocked a lot of people when he wrote about what the “outward and visible sign” of marriage was, but I’ll save that till another time!). We’re not simply Sacramental, we’re sacramental – so kisses, flags, melodies and birthday cakes carry meanings far beyond what they seem.

Rogation Sunday we’ll process around our property and splash it with water God has blessed, as we say again that everything God has made, makes, and will make, is good and very good, and we are grateful to be part of it.
A Capella Sunday.


Well, it came off better than I expected, especially considering the number of people out-of-town. As the Minister of Music for the day I led us in the singing of the wrong Sanctus (“Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts”), and we did Healey Willan’s Sanctus and Benedictus (# 711, from the Second Mass setting in the 1940 Hymnal). But to my surprise, most everybody sang along quite knowledgably! Y’all have been holding out on me. Still, as Larry Mooney said to me afterwards “We better not let Grace quit!”
Rammalation Biscuits and Beer; an old Rogation custom in medieval England was to serve everybody Biscuits and Beer after Mass, because they’d all be tuckered out after “rammalating.” Turns out “to rammalate” does mean “to walk around” in Middle English. So after both Sunday Masses, I’ll be serving everybody this year’s version of Rammalation Biscuits. The (root) Beer this year – as every year – will be come from the kegs of “A&W.”


St Teresa Class Meets This Saturday
Alternate Saturdays, the Women of St Joseph’s meet in the parish hall for an hour to discuss St Teresa of Avila’s The Way of Perfection, a classic on prayer and the spiritual life, as full of pithy observations and useful reflection today as when it was written five hundred years ago. St Teresa speaks with a contemporary voice on issues of profound importance to any Christian (man or woman), who wants to deepen their relationship with God. Our class meets from 9 o’clock till 10, when we stop, even if Fr Wilcox is mid-sentence! So join us if you can, even if you haven’t attended any sessions before. This Saturday we’ll review chapter 19, wherein St Teresa begins her discussion on prayer.
 
Services This Week
 Wednesday, May 13th (Rogation Wednesday)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
Thursday, May 14th (Feast of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
 
Friday, May  15th (In the Octave of the Ascension)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Ascension Day is a Day of Obligation
There is no Fasting or Abstinence this Week
I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

He is risen indeed, alleluia! Hakan kam!
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Thursday, May 7th, being the feast of St Stanislaus of Szcepanow (let’s just say “of Poland”), Bishop & Martyr, 1079


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May 3, 2015

The Fourth Sunday after Easter


Christ is risen, alleluia! Hristos Voskresye!


The medieval name of this coming Sunday is Cantate Sunday – “y’all sing” Sunday. It comes from the first words of the day’s Latin Introit, “O Sing (ye) unto the Lord a new song,” the opening verse of Psalm 98.

Singing is integral to Christian worship. Sometimes, when you hear us sing, it’s hard to imagine why, but it’s been so from the very beginning. Jewish worship in our Lord’s day was sung. From the great Temple in the heart of Jerusalem to the smallest synagogue in the Galilean sticks, the readings, the Psalms, the prayers – all were everywhere sung. Ancient Christian worship, since it came from the Jews, was sung, too.

The Eucharist comes to us in a musical form. As soon as Christians were free from the official persecution of Rome, when our ancestors could build churches openly, they built them with a cocked ear, with the sound of the liturgy in mind. The ethereal music of the medieval cathedrals – perhaps most beautifully realized in the English choral tradition – was no accident. Their music is a vocal expression of the “beauty of holiness.”
Not all of us are equally gifted with musical ability, nor are we all equally interested in musical performance (when you consider the quality of a lot of what passes for “religious music,” it’s not hard to understand why so many are tepid on the topic). But like it or not singing and worship are inseparable. On Cantate Sunday, it seems worth pondering why. Is it simply an accident of history or is there something inherent in worship that calls for us to strain our vocal chords?
If you’ll pardon me bringing old dead Greek guys into this, the unchristian but certainly not unwise Socrates had a useful thought or two about the power and place of music:  “Music is a more powerful instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, to which they attach themselves…” Boethius, a sixth-century Christian philosopher, said succinctly: “Music becomes a part of us: it either ennobles or degrades us.”

Music impacts us in ways we often don’t think of and sometimes are completely unaware of. Just think about how many advertising jingles you carry around in your head. I’ll always remember when this struck me. Sears had an old jingle in the late 60s – five notes and five syllables, and if you were around then, you won’t be able to help recalling the music when you remember the words. They were: “Sears has every-thing.” One day I was driving around Austin with the car radio turned on. The five notes of the jingle played to introduce a commercial. No words, just the notes. My mind immediately supplied the words. As the music played, I sang to myself: “Sears has everything.” I realized I was better-conditioned than Pavlov’s dogs.

What does this have to do with worship?

As ole Socrates said, music “finds its way into the inward places of the soul…: The music of the Liturgy is not entertainment. It’s never meant to entertain. It carries the Word and enters almost unnoticed into the soul. It can elevate the soul above the power of words – I say this as a lover of the power of words. St John of Damascus says “prayer is the lifting of the heart and mind to God.” The union of music with words – the right music and the right words if I understand Socrates’ aright – can do just that.


I can’t do more than scratch at the veneer of this topic with a few hundred words, but the Church’s intent, drawn from more than a millennium of Jewish practice before the Lord came down to the singing of angels in Bethlehem, is to “sing unto the Lord a new song,” because we can do nothing better as His people when we come together.

A Capella Sunday
Speaking of singing in church, you may remember that Grace, our organist, will be up in Dallas this weekend. What music we’ll have, dearly beloved, will be what we provide. Y’all do yourselves proud nowadays with your adept singing of Introits and Alleluias, but when it comes to hymns, oft-times Grace’s playing covers a multitude of – well, let’s say imperfections.

Now I’m well aware of the conspiracy to blame me for all this, because I chose hymns that are sometimes unfamiliar. That’s a topic for another time. In order that we keep up the hymn-singing in Grace’s absence, though, I gave y’all the choice of hymns this week, so there would be, to quote the Psalmist “no complaining in our streets.”

Well, the ballots are in. I’d said no Christmas carols or Lenten dirges, and, considering what that left you, y’all did pretty well. James Polhemus, remembering the old Scots motto Forewarned is Forearmed, asked that I let y’all know beforehand what the Chosen Hymns would be. Petite et dabitur vobis: our Processional Hymn for Cantate Sunday is “Holy, Holy, Holy” (#266 in the 1940 Hymnal), our Offertory is “All Things Bright and Beautiful” (# 311) and, for the Recessional “Onward Christian Soldiers” (# 557). If this works out okay, we may try this again – from time to rare time!


Services This Week
Wednesday, May 6 (SS Heliodorus, Desan & Marjab, Martyrs of Persia, 335)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
Friday, May  (St Victor Maurus, Soldier & Martyr, 303)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

There is no Fasting or Abstinence this Week

I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

He is risen indeed, alleluia! Voestinu Voskrese!
This Sunday we’ll be exchanging the Eastertide greeting in Arabic. It seems especially appropriate that we remember this given the harsh world in which our fellow Christians who speak Arabic live. They say, El Masseah kam! and answer, Hakan kam!


Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, May 1st, being the feast of SS Philip & James (called “the Less”), Apostles


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APRIL 25, 2015

THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER

Forty Days of Easter, Fifty Days of Joy

Christos aneste! The Third Sunday after Easter puts us half-way through Eastertide, our fifty-day celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection. These days, from the earliest times, allow no fasting or abstinence – fixed by Christian custom before the end of the first century and formally recognized at the Council of Nicaea (which issued our Nicene Creed) in 325 AD. But fasts are more than giving up food and feasts more than the gobbling of it.  Our holy days begin with worship, continue with fun and are meant to fix in each of us the certainty that we are a real part of what God is doing to redeem and sanctify the world. The feasts and fasts of the Church’s calendar make our everyday lives a part of what God began while the pomegranate was still fresh-bit in Eve’s mouth. God’s salvation began then and continues now.

Salvation is happening now – not just the generic now, the philosophic present, but now, the now of the food digesting in your belly while you read this and the pain you feel from a friend’s loss this morning and the happiness of a moment ago when your dog came in wagging her tail just to say hello. God made all things new in and through Christ. He continues to make all things new in and through you, now, this afternoon, inasmuch as you are Christ’s (a reality not because you feel good or religious or even because you believe but because the Holy Ghost incorporated you in Christ when you were – were what? – that’s right! – “In baptism, I was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven.”

Eastertide celebrates these Old Truths as New Ones. Forty days, from Easter till Ascension Day (May 14th this year), we keep as the Days after Easter. Forty days the Risen Christ was with His disciples. He was with them, showing them He was alive, teaching them things which before His Resurrection they could neither have believed nor understood, rejoicing with them that as He now lived, so they would one day live, too. He was helping them to see that in Him and through Him that all things were new; that things they once knew to be impossible were no longer so. He means the same for us as He did for them.

Eastertide, though, isn’t forty days but fifty. Fifty days unevenly spaced: forty after the Resurrection and ten more after His Ascension, till the great Feast which brings all that has gone before together – Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, the day we call Whitsunday.

Something is building during these forty days which become fifty. The Lord Jesus breathed it into His Church and He breathes it into us. It’s ours to keep and cherish if we’re willing to hold onto it. It’s joy.

Joy doesn’t come because something good happens to us. It doesn’t come from lotteries or mirrors or new cars. It’s not lost because of the death of a much-loved spouse or the racking pain of a lingering cancer. Joy is the deep certainty that all things are under God, Who is always present, always acting, always making broken souls new. Joy lives in each person who knows they belong to God and nothing can change that. The events of Easter Day, of Ascension, and of Pentecost are not dates on an old calendar. In the liturgy, and thus in our lives, they are truths that linger, joys that lasts. Fifty Days of Eastertide stretch into eternity. Alethos aneste!

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A Capella Singing Next Sunday
Grace our organist will be out of town next Sunday (May 3rd), but we’ll still have church! We’ll even do some singing at the 10.30 Mass, but just so nobody can say they don’t know and can’t sing the hymns because they’re too obscure, y’all will chose the hymns for next Sunday. Send me an email (gregwilcox1549@yahoo.com) or give me a call (830-214-3969) and let me know what you’d like us to sing. It must be a hymn from the 1940 Hymnal and not a Christmas carol or Lenten hymn, but something that is appropriate to the season or Sunday. I’ll choose among the ones you suggest, but if you give me a particularly good reason for your choice(s), I’ll give those special consideration.

Have Too Much Stuff? Clean Out Your Garage & Help St Joseph’s Raise a Little Cash!
On Saturday, May 2nd, a neighbor of Fr Wilcox and Tanya (out in the country about half-way between New Braunfels and Seguin off Highway 46 – okay, way off Highway 46) is hosting a Garage Sale. She lives on several acres and is opening her property to anyone in the area who wants to join in. She’s offered to sell any stuff for the church we want to bring, so if you have some things you’d like to clear out of your garage or attic, this may be a way you can make some space and benefit St Joseph’s, too! If you’re interested, please talk to Tanya at (830) 660-2482.

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Services This Week
Wednesday, April 29 (St Catherine of Siena, Nun & Doctor of the Church, 1380)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, April 24 (SS Philip & James, Apostles)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

There is no Fasting or Abstinence this Week

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I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Christ is risen! Alleluia!   He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
-  Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, April 24th, being the feast of St Sabas Statelates, Soldier & Martyr (+372 AD)

 
APRIL 19, 2015

The Feast of St Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary – and the Second Sunday after Easter, commonly called Good Shepherd Sunday


Christ is risen! Alleluia!


St Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin, is a Christmastime saint; we don’t associate him with Easter. He’s on all the best Christmas cards, leaning on his staff beside St Mary and the Christ child, looking on benignly. In Christian art he’s usually depicted as a pleasant-looking older gent, often holding the Baby Jesus and a lily. That’s what his statue at church looks like. St Joseph was a carpenter, though, not a florist, so why the Easter lily?


The lily is a sign of chastity, or, if I can use an even more outmoded word, of purity. One of the beautiful symbols of St Mary the Virgin is the fleur-de-lis, the flower of the lily, a sign of her life-long purity and virginity. Today, when virginity is seen more as a punch-line or something to be embarrassed about, it’s worth at least a remembrance that for Christians it has a special place and value. The lily St Joseph holds and the fleur-de-lis that calls the Blessed Virgin to mind tell us an important part of the story the two of them shared. They were called to life-long purity and chastity – and they lived their calling.

Nowadays, that might make people feel sorry for them or superior to them, since we’re free of all those out-dated notions about sex. We’re smarter now. We know that there’s nothing special about virginity or chastity or – to go deeper – purity. We can look at the Brave, New World we’re in the midst of creating and see what a boon sexual freedom has wrought in us and our children.


St Joseph wasn’t a florist, but a carpenter, with rough, calloused hands and strong, muscled arms. Purity isn’t limp-wristed or panty-waisted. Chastity isn’t the result of missed opportunities but dedicated commitment; a determination to live life focused on the goodness and purity of God. A rugged, bruised carpenter is perhaps the best working sign of purity I can think of.

This Sunday we celebrate St Joseph, the Spouse of the Virgin, the man who lived every day the words of His adopted son: “Blessed are the pure in heart…” Keeping his feast, let’s remember that God’s call to St Joseph is also His call to each of us. Like him, we’re called by the same Master with the same words carrying the same promise: “…for they shall see God.”


Sancte Ioseph, ora pro nobis!

New Parish Website & Facebook Page
Clare Murray, our parish Webmistress, is working every week to update and improve our new parish website. She’s also done a Facebook page for us. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/stjosephsnewbraunfels  Our webpage is here: www.stjosephstable.com/  The newest things on the website are: “Going to the Dogs,” where we have pictures of the dogs (yes, and cats, too, and no doubt other pets will find their way up as well) of our parish, and the “ ‘Quick Before They’re Gone!’ Bluebonnet Page,” showing pictures of parishioners with bluebonnets – or maybe it’s bluebonnets with parishioners. Early next week I’m having my picture made with Freya the Unruly Dog and then Clare and Tanya (and maybe the Redland girls) are taking me out Highway 46 to a bluebonnet field, wheeling my chair into the middle of it, and pushing me out of it and into a thick stand of the State Flower, where they’ll make my picture. So find a field of flowers, have your picture made, and send it to Clare.
 
St Joseph’s Day Celebrations
March 19th was St Joseph’s Day, the feast day of our parish. This year, the day fell right before Passiontide, so we’ve deferred our celebrations until this Sunday, April 19th – a month to the day after the feast. We’ll keep St Joseph’s Feast with our customary St Joseph’s Table and Annual Parish photograph after the 10.30 Mass. I’m sure you’ve received several emails already about the day and the Food, so I hope you’ll plan to stay for this year’s official St Joseph’s Day Parish Photograph – and for the Food, too.


Services This Week
Wednesday, April 22 (St Vitalis of Seridos in Gaza, Monk, 620)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
Friday, April 24 (St Sabas Stratelates, Soldier & Martyr, 372)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer
There is no Fasting or Abstinence this Week


I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Christos aneste! Alethos aneste!
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, April 17th, being the feast of St Donnan of Eigg Island, Monk & Martyr (+817 AD)

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April 12, 2015

The First Sunday after Easter, commonly called Low Sunday


No doubt, last Sunday was an High Day. The Alleluia’s empty grave and the opened coffin full of treats for young and old (and the middle contingent of college kids, who seemed as delighted as the children with contents of the Alleluia’s casket), the valiant effort made by all to sing the ancient Triple Alleluia, the crowded renewal of baptismal vows beside the freshly-filled font, followed by a liberal aspersion of all with those newly-blessed waters (and Michael Mahaffey’s annual splashing of the priest afterward), all these things and more marked our celebrations. Thanks go to many – Charlotte for making the arrangements encouraging everybody to bring flowers for the Flower Cross and to Cassandra Watkins for taking charge of the actual planning and initial flowering of the Cross; to Chris our Junior Warden for doing all the work before and after on the Alleluia’s Grave; to Grace for showing up early so we could go over the music for the day; to Angie who, along with Tanya planned the after-Mass Feast in the Parish Hall (and then stayed with Larry long after everybody else was gone to clean up); thanks to all y’all who made sure we had enough food not just to feed us all, but to send every adult home ready to take a long Easter nap.

Everybody contributed to the day which saw the introduction of a custom with which many – me included – were unfamiliar: the Easter cascarones. A cascaron is an eggshell (that’s what it means in Spanish). Introduced into Mexico by the Emperor Maximillian’s wife, it involved crushing confetti-filled eggshells on the heads of people as (evidently) a sign of affection. That explains the confetti you’ll see everywhere on the church property this weekend. It will be some time a-cleaning.
 
This Sunday is Low Sunday, the old English title for the day (the day is also Quasimodo Sunday from the opening Latin words of the day’s Introit Verse). There’s no mystery about Low Sunday, no hidden or obscure liturgical meaning long-forgotten. It contrasts with the High Sunday we just kept.


The Prayer Book reminds us that it’s our “bounden duty to worship God every Sunday in his Church.”
Sunday is the New Sabbath Day of Christians. You know the first Christians were Jews and they kept the old Sabbath Day, Saturday. But those first Christian Jews quickly came to see that Lord’s Resurrection changed everything. On that day, from the beginning, they gathering to celebrate the Eucharist, the sacrament of His Death and Resurrection. Those first Christians did something remarkable: they changed the Sabbath, fixed for a hundred generations or more, from Saturday to Sunday. They did it because of their conviction that Jesus had changed the meaning of everything, had, in Himself, changed us and made all things new.

Ever since, we’ve kept Sunday as the New Sabbath. For the last 1982 years since the first Easter Day, Christians have gathered to celebrate the Eucharist, to do the thing He commanded us when He said “Do This.” This day is our Sabbath, our New Day, the day of our bounden duty. Every Sunday, for us (Low Sunday included!) is Easter.


Easter Flowers
Thanks to all who brought flowers for the Flower Cross last Sunday. Many pictures were made of the clusters of flowers on and around it. The Easter lilies down the aisle, around the Altar and Paschal Candle were splendid but a lot didn’t fully bloom until mid-week. It looks like an Easter Garden in the church right now.


New Parish Website & Facebook Page
Clare Murray, our parish Webmistress, has been working on a new parish website, which is now up and running, and something to be proud of. Critiques and comments run from “Slick” (from the laconic Mike Mahaffey) to “one of the best-designed church websites I’ve seen” (from Fr Geoff Karnes, an old friend and retired English priest – though in fairness I must add that Fr Karnes is even more unfamiliar with the New Technologies than I am and I don’t know how many church websites he’s actually seen!). Clare has also done up a Facebook page for the parish. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/stjosephsnewbraunfels  Though there is still much to be done (and a lot of that involves Clare trying to make me understand what can be done and why we should do it), take a look at our webpage here: www.stjosephstable.com/  I am already beyond my ability to understand what Clare’s doing with this. If she does a “Twitter” page, I’m doomed!
 
St Joseph’s Day Celebrations
March 19th was St Joseph’s Day, our parish feast-day. Because of its proximity to Passiontide, though, we’ve deferred our Sunday celebration of the feast until Sunday, April 19th – (that’s NEXT Sunday!) a month to the day after the feast. We’ll keep St Joseph’s Feast with our customary St Joseph’s Table and Annual Parish photograph after the 10.30 Mass. A special mailing about the day’s festivities will go out early this week, but we’ll be talking about plans Sunday morning.
 
The Bluebonnets Are Here!
Look around! The Bluebonnets are here in profusion! This year Clare and Tanya want to make some pictures of parishioners amid fields of bluebonnets. We’re looking to post them on our website. So send in pictures of yourself, family, friends and/or fellow parishioners in a field of bluebonnets and we’ll put them on our website/Facebook page and immortalize ourselves with the official Flower of Texas!


Services This Week

Wednesday, April 15 (SS Maximus & Olympiades of Persia, Martyrs)
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer
 
There will be no Morning Prayer or Eucharist this Wednesday
 
Friday, April 17 (St Donnan of Eigg Island, Monk & Martyr-killed by Vikings, 817)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer


There is no Fasting or Abstinence this Week


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I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, April 10th, being the feast of St Fulbert of Chartres, Bishop and Hymnographer (+1028 AD)


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March 29, 2015
The Sunday Next before Easter, commonly called Palm Sunday

The Prayer Book calls the day “The Sunday Next before Easter”; the old Latin liturgical books say it's the Dominica in Palmis (Palm Sunday) or Dominica Hosanna (Hosanna Sunday); Greek Orthodox books call it “the Feast of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem,” though the Greek people themselves call it “Olive Sunday,” from the Greek custom of blessing and carrying bushy branches from olive trees (much easier to find in Greece than palm fronds); for the same reason, Russians call the day “Pussy Willow Sunday.” In Spain and France the day is called “Flower Sunday,” from the custom of strewing flowers before the morning’s liturgical procession; and in medieval England the day was “Yew Sunday.”

Whatever its name, Palm Sunday celebrates the Coming of the King. During the Palm Liturgy we echo the joyous shouts of the Hebrews “Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!” Customarily the children take a leading place in the day’s palm activities and so it will be with us. The children and young people of our parish will lead our Palm Procession on Sunday morning. We’ll celebrate the Liturgy of the Palms outside.

When we come inside the church to begin the Eucharist, though, things change. The focus is no longer the Coming of the King but His Death.

The shouts of hosanna were proclamations that the King, the Son of David, was coming to renew David’s long-lost kingdom. The people who acclaimed our Lord King and Messiah, who sang loud songs about the Son of David, didn’t understand what they were celebrating. Over the next few days they would discover He was not who they expected.

The Jewish leaders, huddled in the Temple and hearing the cries of hosanna from the crowd, knew precisely what the shouting and singing meant. The Man from Nazareth was allowing himself to be greeted as the King-Messiah. But this was not the kind of king – or messiah – they expected. He certainly was not the kind of king they wanted (surely he would be more like them!). Over the next few days they would discover He was just what they feared most.

Our Lord’s disciples, many of whom had been with Him three years, who had heard Him proclaim the coming of His Kingdom and listened to His parables explaining what that Kingdom would be like, were in the forefront of the hosanna-ing. At last, after all His words, the Kingdom was coming and they would soon be joining Him, seated on their Twelve Thrones, judging the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Over the next few days they would discover He was not who they hoped.

You and I see, Deo gratias, with Easter hindsight. But like the Palm Sunday crowd, like the conniving Saducees and Temple priests, like even His close friends and disciples, God is often not what we expect, sometimes He is what we fear, and He is almost never what we hope. That’s because, even with our Easter hindsight, our expectations are too narrow, our fears are too blinding and our hopes are too small. The tomb with No One in it on Easter morning is meant to change all that. 

Lent has been our sobering reflection on who we are. So let Easter be our happy embrace of Who God Is, and what He means for us to become.

Easter Flowers
There will be special envelopes in your bulletins this Sunday to help pay for our Easter flowers and other seasonal decorations. The envelopes have spaces for your intentions, which will be specially noted in the Easter Day bulletin and remembered at the Eucharist on Easter Day and through Easter Week.

Special Parish Meeting
Thanks to all who filled the tables in the Parish Hall with delicious food last Sunday and who participated in the unanimous decision of the Vestry and Parish to resolve the affiliation of St Joseph’s. I wish I could say this takes care of everything, but we now must begin the process of deciding which affiliation the Parish now must make for the future. As we already have three inquiries from other jurisdictions in the weeks since we were shown the door (and we have yet to ask anybody yet), this may take us a little time!

New Parish Website
Clare Murray, our parish webmistress, has been working on a new parish website, which is now up and running, and something to be proud of. Though there is still much to be done (and a lot of that involves Clare trying to make me understand what can be done and why we should do it), you can find it here: www.stjosephstable.com/

CS Lewis Scholar (You Know Who It Is!) Presents Paper to National Convention
Okay, so here’s the official press release:

“Ms Clare Murray, a graduate student in Rhetoric and English Literature at Texas State University in San Marcos, will be presenting a scholarly paper on C.S. Lewis and rhetoric at the C.S. Lewis and Inkling Society Conference at Grove City College, in Grove City, PA on Friday, March 27th. The paper, titled “'Suppose there were a Narnian World': C.S. Lewis’s Rhetorical Use of Supposals," is an academic piece that blends rhetorical theory, literary theory, and Christian theology to explore C.S. Lewis's multiple identities as a writer, and how those identities come together in his work of children's fantasy literature titled The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This is Ms Murray’s first presentation at an academic conference in her graduate career.”  

Clare will be back Sunday morning, eager to share her stories and wear her laurels. Plan to stay for a few minutes after Mass and hear how things went. She said last week “I’d be thrilled to share the paper with anyone interested.” If you’re one of those, keep an eye on our new website, mentioned above and still a-building. She’ll soon have a link to her paper there.

Flowering of the Cross
On Easter morning, please bring a handful of flowers to church with you from your garden (don’t stop along the roadside and pluck bluebonnets as I’m told that’s illegal). We’ll have the white-framed Cross out to flower, so when you come, add your flowers to the rest. It will be splashed with newly-blessed holy-water right after everyone renews their baptismal vows.

St Joseph’s Day Celebrations
March 19th was St Joseph’s Day. Because of its proximity to Passiontide,  we’ll defer our Sunday celebration of the feast until after Easter. On Sunday, April 19th – a month to the day after – we’ll keep St Joseph’s Feast with our customary St Joseph’s Table and Annual Parish photograph after the 10.30 Mass. More details are coming.

The Bluebonnets Are Here!
Look around! The Bluebonnets are here in profusion! This year Clare and Tanya want to make some pictures of our parishioners standing in a field of bluebonnets to post on our website and I’d like a good one for the Parish Hall. So keep your eyes open for the most lush expanse of bluebonnets you can find, let Clare or Tanya know where it is, and we’ll get as many of us as possible – and a good camera – to immortalize ourselves for posterity!

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Services This Week
Thursday, April 2 (Maundy Thursday)
 
7.00 PM - Evening Prayer
  7.15 PM - Mass of the Lord's Supper, Foot-Washing & Stripping of the Altar

 Friday, April 3 (Good Friday)
 
7.00 AM - The Penitential Office & Veneration of the Cross
10.00 AM - Morning Prayer
12.00 PM - Three Hours Devotion, Stations & Veneration of the Cross
   7.00 PM - Evening Prayer & Veneration of the Cross

 Saturday, April 4 (Holy Saturday)
 
6.00 PM - Vigil of Easter: Blessing of the Paschal Candle and New Fire, Paschal Procession & the Exultet

 Sunday, April 5 (The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Commonly called Easter Day)
 
7.45 AM – Morning Prayer
 8.00 AM – Low Mass
10.00 AM – Recovering the Alleluia
10.15 – Flowering of the Cross
10.30 AM – Mass of Easter Day
11.30 AM – Easter Egg Hunt
11.45 AM – Easter Brunch in the Parish Hall

There are NO SERVICES this Wednesday

Monday and Tuesday are Fast days, Wednesday is a day of Fasting & Abstinence; Thursday is a Fast day; Friday is a day of Strict Fast & Abstinence; Saturday is a Fast Day

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I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Friday, March 27th, being the Feast of St John of Damascus, Priest and Doctor of the Church (+749 AD)


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March 22, 2015
The Fifth Sunday in Lent, commonly called Passion Sunday

Easter is in two weeks. Between now and then are the two most rugged weeks of the Christian Year. We call them Passiontide.

We keep Lent because we sin. I don’t fast and pray because you sin and you shouldn’t, but because I sin and I want to sin more. During Lent we hear sermons about sin and temptation, we ponder our human weakness to do what we ought not to do, and hopefully, during these Forty Days, we each come face to face with on our own real and repeated sins. Lent is my forty day war with my sins.

Passiontide, though, isn’t about us. For these last two weeks we turn our eyes, not on how sinful we are, but on how good and holy God is.

During Lent we’ve draped the Altar in purple, discontinued the singing of the Gloria in excelsis (“Glory be to God on high”), and used the shorter form of the Lord’s Prayer. When you come to church tomorrow, you’ll find not only the Altar but the all the Crosses in the church veiled in heavy purple, the holy pictures taken down and the statue of St Joseph covered. The Gloria Patri (“Glory be to the Father and to the Son…”) disappears from the Liturgy – gone from both the Eucharist and the Daily Offices – till Easter.

Why the veils and verbal abbreviations?
Because we are a people in mourning. Easter is coming, but at what a great cost it comes. For the two weeks of Passiontide the Church wants us to count something of the cost of sin – not to ourselves (that’s what we’ve been doing these past weeks), but to God, Who came to us, as He still does, in Jesus Christ. We cover our treasures for sorrow. We mute the Liturgy in shame.

Sorrow and shame and guilt are not good things. Psychologists today insist on that dogmatic principle and all of us would agree that we don’t like any of them. Like ‘em or not, they’re part of us, as real as sin and as cold as death. For these two weeks of Passiontide we mourn the price of sin.

We mourn, though, with one eye open, looking ahead, knowing what’s coming. As St Augustine says (I always think about the saints in the present tense), “Always, we are Easter people.” Our mourning is temporary.

Easter Flowers
Included in your bulletins this Sunday and next are special envelopes for our Easter flowers and other seasonal decorations. The envelope has a place for your intentions, which will be specially noted in the Easter Day bulletin and remembered at the Eucharist on Easter Day and through Easter Week.

Special Parish Meeting
After Sunday’s 10.30 Eucharist, we will gather in the Parish Hall for a Parish Lunch, followed by a meeting to resolve the question of St Joseph’s ecclesiastical affiliation. The Vestry encourages every parishioner to participate in helping determine the future of our parish.

New Parish Website
Clare Murray, our parish webmistress, has been working on a new parish website, which is now up and running, and something to be proud of. Though there is still much to be done (and a lot of that involves Clare trying to make me understand what can be done and why we should do it), you can find it here: www.stjosephstable.com/

If things have worked out properly, you’re reading this on it now!

St Joseph’s Day Celebrations
March 19th was St Joseph’s Day. Because of its proximity to Passiontide,  we’ll defer our Sunday celebration of the feast until after Easter. On Sunday, April 19th – a month to the day after – we’ll keep St Joseph’s Feast with our customary St Joseph’s Table and Annual Parish photograph after the 10.30 Mass. More details are coming.

Reading the Passion Gospel
Palm Sunday is only a week from today. Our palms are already waiting for us in San Antonio – having come all the way from the Holy Land – but you may remember that, in addition to our Palm Liturgy and procession that day, we also read the Passion Gospel. Though all of us participate in the reading, some of us also are assigned parts – eleven or twelve, depending on how you count – from our Lord Jesus Christ to a serving maid. Tanya Wilcox has a list of parts as yet “unspoken for” and the text we’ll be reading. Her job is to fill those roles. So if you’ve always wanted to be Jeremiah the Prophet or Pontius Pilate (a part Larry Mooney’s read for the last couple of years – he always asks the same question “Why does the only registered Democrat in the parish always have to be Pilate?”), let Tanya know. She can sign you up on the spot!

The Bluebonnets Are Already Here!
While it’s a bit early yet, I’ve seen a couple of brave bluebonnets peeking up along the highways. This year Clare and Tanya want to make some pictures of our parishioners standing in a field of bluebonnets to post on the website. I’d like a good one of us for the Parish Hall. So keep your eyes open for the most lush expanse of bluebonnets you can find, let Clare or Tanya know where it is, and we’ll get as many of us as possible – and a good camera – to immortalize ourselves for posterity!

Services This Week
Wednesday, March 25 (Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Friday, March 27 (St John of Damascus, Priest & Doctor of the Church)
11.45 AM – Morning Prayer & the Holy Eucharist
7.00 PM – Evening Prayer

Monday and Tuesday are Fast days, Wednesday is a day of Fasting & Abstinence; Thursday is a Fast day; Friday is a day of Fast & Abstinence; Saturday is a Fast Day

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I look forward to seeing you, dearly beloved, in church Sunday morning. You’ll recall – the Book of Common Prayer teaches us that’s where we have an obligation to be!

Pax,
Fr Gregory Wilcox, Saturday, March 21st, being the Feast of St Benedict of Nursia, Abbot (+547 AD)