Category Archives: Ritual and Cæremony

Advantages of the English Reformation over Others?

dean-chapter

I am not sure a comparison between Cranmer and Hooker’s gradual approach and the Continental Reformers’ approach to the reformation of the Church is a fair one. The English Reformation already had the benefit of Reformers and Protestant states on the Continent with which to make alliances and unite as feasible in common cause. Whereas the Continent was rife with civil wars in both the Empire and France, England being peripheral to Europe could better afford to reform its part of the Church without being overrun by invaders. Thanks to English naval strength after the destruction of the Spanish Armada, even the existential threats faced by England for the next centuries seem more often to have been about the prospect than about the reality of being overrun by popish armies and (as ‘God Save the King’ originally said) popish tricks.

Nevertheless, the English Reformation does seem to have worked with the existing commonwealth in ways that the Continental Reformers seem not have done. The first vernacular piece of liturgy, the Litany, was introduced in 1544, and the Sarum Mass (in Latin) was retained until 1549, long after Protestant doctrine had begun to leaven English society in sermons and official statements of church doctrine. Even the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, though Reformed in its doctrinal basis, was so written that Bishop Gardiner was able to claim it plausibly for unreformed doctrine; and only upon that challenge, and with the advice of Bucer, Vermigli, and others for a clearer statement, did Cranmer put together the 1552 Book of Common Prayer. Even at this pace, the 1549 Book of Common Prayer sparked revolts in Devon and Cornwall; still less could a more sudden change have hoped to avoid convulsing the nation. Because of this politic pace and the place of the Prayer Book in reformation, Englishmen retained their old loyalty to the Church as such rather than to what appeared to be the doctrine of some particular men, which in my judgement remains a great asset today.

Indeed, a great deal of the Sarum mass and offices was not in itself unconscionable, but only relatively conducive to beliefs and practices that were unconscionable. These forms of services were, in other words, adiaphora: in themselves indifferent, though in need of alteration according to the freedom of the Church to frame services toward ædification according to the general teaching of Scripture. The concept of things indifferent in worship was recognized by the Continental Reformers, of course, since they were themselves able to accept local differences in worship and even to defend England’s forms as acceptable for a Reformed church. All the same, England’s emphasis on treating these adiaphora prudently has lent itself to an easily understood sense that no new church was forged in the Reformation, only a cleansing made of the extant Church. On the popular level, I think, such an understanding is necessary, especially in times when the world is changing fast; strangely, perhaps, this kind of careful conservatism helps the Church adapt to changes in the world because its members understand the organism as one that has survived through challenging times with its life and biblical witness intact.

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Stillness in Companionship with the Bereaved

In companionship with the bereaved, as Alan D. Wolfelt says in Companioning the Bereaved: A Soulful Guide for Caregivers, a most meaningful principle is being still; it is not about frantic movement forward. This is something I have yet to learn well, even though I acknowledge its truth. We might fruitfully compare the mourning of death with the mourning of sin; and this not only because the wages of sin is death, but also because many people today are averse to mourning of both kinds. It is far harder to sit with an awareness of one’s own sin, and to acknowledge that things are not all right, than to strain forward toward God-knows-what; the same is true when one feels a piece of his heart broken by the death of one he loves. Who wants to own himself incapable of righting something wrong with him, and to acknowledge his own dependence on someone to save him? Much rather would he say it pro forma, to ease his own feeling of the moment enough to just move on. Even he who does so by reason, then, is loath to sit with the thought, and with the feeling, to sit on the ground with the truth about himself. We fear being crushed by the truth, and yet we need the truth to open our hearts to the purifying love of Christ, and this truth is what the Holy Ghost whispers in the stillness of Mount Sinai.

Yet the Chinese once knew that nothing but time, dedicated time, would be sufficient. Mourning for the dead cannot be hurried. In the idealized past, a Chinese scholar-official whose father or mother died would take leave from his post and mourn for three years, eating nothing but gruel, avoiding delights of the world, and every now and then wailing in a shack behind his house. For other relatives, within the five degrees of mourning, he would do similarly, though for a shorter time and with finer sackcloth. The ritual was systematic, even if it was an ideal to which not everyone would practically attain. We may not do exactly the same, but we may practise these things in spirit as much as we can.

To our loss, Christian Chinese seem to have given these things up. Perhaps in the rush to modernize by the latest Western standards, and to leave the old behind, we have forgotten the wisdom of the ancient paths. To be ruled by someone else’s race, rather than to be like the pole star, fixed in the heavens, is to forget where God is. What does God say? ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ To cease from striving, to know one’s abjection and yet to rest in God’s love, is to find the presence of the God who has always been here. This is the presence we share with those who have lost those they have loved, and this is the presence we desire them to know with us, and us with them. Man fears time, and time fears the pyramids; but after all things have passed away, even the pyramids, do we not find our value in being loved by God, and in loving him? When we give ourselves the space to mourn, and when we give others the space to wear sackcloth and mourn for three years upon the death of a parent – to turn their harps to mourning, and their organs into the voice of them that weep – we show respect for their pain, that they may allow themselves to acknowledge in their hearts, and before the face of God, what they have lost and how desperate they are for God. To dwell in the moment is good. We live in light of the Resurrection, and because of it we are justified, but to God the time of death is real as well. To see the light of Christ in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death is not to be out of that valley, but to be encamped there and dwell in the hope of God’s healing and deliverance; for we walk by faith, not by sight. For this reason we cling to the holy Cross. We pause in the unresolved dissonance. By putting on sackcloth for our own mourning, we are not forgetting the grace of Christ and turning back to pagan sorrow, but we are remembering the meaning of mourning as those who are doomed to die and mourn with hope. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison.

Leading a Dying Patient to Expressing Forgiveness, Thanks, Love, and ‘Goodbye’

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Though the American 1928 Book of Common Prayer’s Order for the Visitation of the Sick is intended for to be used by ordained ministers, it contains much that can be used by laymen. The psalm selections – from Psalms 3, 43, 77, 138, and 103 – evoke thoughts of forgiveness, thanks, love for others, and committing others to God. For one example, we might begin with a look at the selection of Psalm 3 there printed:

LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise against me.
Many one there be that say of my soul, There is no help for him in his God.
But thou, O LORD, art my defender; thou art my worship, and the lifter up of my head.
I did call upon the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill.
I laid me down and slept, and rose up again; for the LORD sustained me.
Salvation belongeth unto the LORD; and thy blessing is upon thy people.

Already in the first psalm printed there is thanksgiving to God: against ‘the[m] that rise against me’, the Psalmist says, ‘O LORD, art my defender; thou art my worship, and the lifter up of my head.’ The psalm also mentions the whole people of God: ‘Salvation belongeth unto the LORD; and thy blessing is upon thy people.’ God’s blessing to the one who prays Psalm 3 is a blessing ‘upon thy people’. When a patient is praying this psalm with his loved ones, within the bosom of the Church, I think he remembers that God sustains him through the communion of the Holy Ghost among all God’s people; the same is true of those who are praying with him. The very act of praying together, in the words of the Holy Ghost, in identification with Christ who prayed these same psalms, leads the patient and his loved ones to show gratitude to each other. They feel in the depths of their souls what others have done for them in the very act of praying, and the end of the psalm becomes a time when the patient’s thankfulness toward his loved ones, and their thankfulness for him, overflows in thanks for what they have done for each other and what they been for each other.

‘Many one there be that say of my soul, There is no help for him in his God,’ but those who are there are not those enemies. Instead, they are there to confess that there is help for the patient in his God, and their hearts are joined together in this confession. Were there times when the patient and his loved ones afflicted each other, as enemies afflicted the Psalmist and said (in word or in deed) that there was no help for him? The psalm can be a wonderful way to reflect on that pain, asking forgiveness and offering forgiveness in hope of the Resurrection (‘I laid me down and slept, and rose up again’). Now, those who are gathered by the patient’s side are those who love him, and he has the opportunity then to express his own love as well.

This is also one reason the Prayer Book provides for the Communion of the Sick, that the patient may receive communion together with his family and other loved ones. Those who come to receive the Holy Communion are exhorted,

Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling.

When the patient and his loved ones hear this exhortation together, confess their sins together before God, receive the Lord’s absolution together, and hear his comfortable words together, they have a manifest occasion to reconcile right then and there, knowing that ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ Asking forgiveness of each other and extending it to each other at exactly that time is not in the rubrics of the liturgy; but that time is a time for the power of the gospel, declared boldly by a priest in the Absolution and Comfortable Words, to penetrate into the relationships between the dying patient and his loved ones. Who knows? It may even be a time for the patient to experience the healing of seeing two of his sons or daughters reconcile when old wounds have kept them apart. Not all of us, of course, are priests with the authority to administer Holy Communion and pronounce absolution for it; but merely declaring our intent to take it together and readying ourselves for it together has great potential for experiencing what Psalm 3 says, that ‘salvation belongeth unto the LORD.’

When the patient is dying and knows it, the last verse in Psalm 3 also draws out the sentiments of ‘goodbye’: the loved ones, knowing that ‘salvation belongeth unto the LORD,’ can begin to commend the patient’s soul to God, and the patient can give his blessing to his loved ones as if he is giving God’s blessing. Rather than Isaac’s blessing of Jacob, marred by trickery and favouritism, it can be a time of true blessing for all who share in the faith of Christ and confess that God sustains and saves them.

When God raises the dead, then, this prayer will be answered in full, and the now dying patient will be restored to incorruptible health: ‘Hear us, Almighty and most merciful God and Saviour; extend thy accustomed goodness to this thy servant who is grieved with sickness. Visit him, O Lord, with thy loving mercy, and so restore him to his former health, that he may give thanks unto thee in thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’

I Didn’t Know This Psalm Project Existed

Well, I know now because I was looking for stuff for next Sunday’s worship and came upon these guitar arrangements of the Genevan Psalter.

People Who Don’t Believe the BCP Is Basically All Bible Should See This

By the Rev. Henry Ives Bailey, The Liturgy Compared with the Bible. Here begins the exhortation that immediately follows the opening scriptural sentence of Morning Prayer:

liturgy-compared-with-bible-mp-exhortation

Let him impugn the words of the Prayer Book who dares to deny the truth of Holy Scripture.

Adapting Western Clothes Ethnically

Jessica R. Metcalfe wrote in 2011 about an Ojibwe Indian named Bagone-giizhig, or Hole-in-the-Day the Younger.

She said of Hole-in-the-Day,

He dressed in fashionable European-style clothes, but he always kept his hair long and continued to wear a blanket draped across one shoulder. Euro-American fashion was simplistic in the 1800s, and individuals like Hole-In-The-Day made it visually more exciting with the inclusion of Ojibwe accessories and items of adornment. He also continued to wear Ojibwe-style moccasins.

Perhaps this is how other non-Westerners ought to wear their Europæan-style clothes. How might Chinese men do this?

Addai and Mari for the Church of China Today?

To do honour to the Lord’s work in China of old, the Church of China could follow the first Chinese Christians in using the Anaphora of Addai and Mari (whose structure and content Thomas Mannooramparampil explains), at least on certain days. This Anaphora could be used within the existing Holy Communion service on the feast day of St Thomas the Apostle, on whatever feast day might be set for Alopen 阿羅本 the Missionary (7c.), and on Sundays in Lent:

First Gehanta, after the opening dialogue

Worthy of praise from every mouth and of confession from every tongue is the adorable and glorious name of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost, who didst create the world by thy grace and its inhabitants by thy mercifulness and didst save mankind by thy compassion and give great grace unto mortals.

Sanctus

Thy majesty, O my Lord, thousand thousands of those on high bow down and worship and ten thousand times ten thousand holy angels and hosts of spiritual beings, ministers of fire and spirit, praise thy name with holy cherubin and seraphin shouting and praising without ceasing and crying one to another and saying:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts; heaven and earth are full of his praises.

Second Gehanta

And with these heavenly hosts we give thanks to thee, O my Lord, even we thy servants weak and frail and miserable, for that thou hast given us great grace past recompense in that thou didst put on our manhood that thou mightest quicken it by thy godhead, and hast exalted our low estate and restored our fall and raised our mortality and forgiven our trespasses and justified our sinfulness and enlightened our knowledge and, O our Lord and our God, hast condemned our enemies and granted victory to the weakness of our frail nature in the overflowing mercies of thy grace.

Third Gehanta

Do thou, O my Lord, in thy many and unspeakable mercies make a good and acceptable memorial for all the just and righteous fathers who have been wellpleasing in thy sight, in the commemoration of the body and blood of thy Christ which we offer unto thee on thy pure and holy altar as thou hast taught us, and grant us thy tranquillity and thy peace all the days of the world.

Yea, O our Lord and our God, grant us thy tranquillity and thy peace all the days of the world that all the inhabitants of the earth may know thee that thou art the only true God the Father and that thou hast sent our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son and thy beloved. And he our Lord and our God came and in his lifegiving gospel taught us all the purity and holiness of the prophets and the apostles and the martyrs and the confessors and the bishops and the doctors and the presbyters and the deacons and all the children of the holy catholic church, even them that have been signed with the living sign of holy baptism.

Anamnesis

And we also, O my Lord, thy weak and frail and miserable servants who are gathered together in thy name, both stand before thee at this time and have received the example which is from thee delivered unto us, rejoicing and praising and exalting and commemorating and celebrating this great and fearful and holy and lifegiving and divine mystery of the passion and the death and the burial and the resurrection of our Lord our Saviour Jesus Christ.

[For on the night in which he was betrayed, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.]

Epiclesis

And let there come, O my Lord, thine Holy Spirit and rest upon this offering of thy servants and bless it and hallow it, that it be to us, O my Lord, for the pardon of offences and the remission of sins and for the great hope of resurrection from the dead and for new life in the kingdom of heaven with all those who have been wellpleasing in thy sight.

Doxology

And for all this great and marvellous dispensation towards us we will give thee thanks and praise thee without ceasing in thy Church redeemed by the precious blood of thy Christ, with unclosed mouths and open faces lifting up praise and honour and confession and worship to thy living and holy and lifegiving name now and ever and world without end.

Baptism for Public Testimony of Your Own Faith? Try Again

Baptism of Constantine

The Baptism of Constantine. Excuse the tiara. The painting looks cool.

Where do evangelicals get the idea that the point of baptism is to testify outwardly about one’s faith? Not one verse in the Bible suggests that public testimony of one’s own faith is even one of the reasons to be baptized, let alone the chief or only reason. Try it yourself: search for every occurrence of bapt* in the Bible, and see if even one verse in that search suggests that one reason for baptism is for the one baptized to testify of his own faith before other men.

What do you find instead? Ananias saying to Saul of Tarsus, as St Paul later recalled,

The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

This is why in the Nicene Creed we confess, ‘I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.’

You will also find St Paul saying of baptism in Romans 6,

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

And St Peter says this of baptism in 1 Peter 3:

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

What surprises me is not that modern evangelicals are unable to reckon with these passages, or that they misinterpret Scripture. Many parts of the Bible have become a puzzle to evangelicals who have long imbibed the ways of the world, so that little else is imaginable. But what does surprise me is that modern evangelicals, who purportedly believe in ‘sola Scriptura’ and sometimes criticize Romanists for following another principle, do not even attempt to justify their understanding of even something so important as the meaning of baptism on the basis of Scripture. Not one verse have I heard cited in support of the understanding that the point – maybe even the only point – of baptism is to show other people that you have made a personal commitment to Jesus.

Contrast this understanding, not at all drawn from Scripture, with what the London Baptist Confession (1689) says about baptism:

Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.

The prooftexts listed are: Romans 6.3–5; Colossians 2.12; Galatians 3.27; Mark 1.4; Acts 22.16; Romans 6.4. In this understanding, much like those of other Reformed Protestants, baptism is ‘ordained by Jesus Christ’ as a sign ‘unto the party baptized’; the word is not of that of the believer but that of Christ, who ordained the sign. Modern Protestants, take heed.

The Huguenots and Anglican Worship in Ireland: Lessons for Today?

Ruth Whelan, in ‘Sanctified by the Word: The Huguenots and Anglican Liturgy’, part of the edited volume Propagating the Word of Irish Dissent 1650–1800 (Four Courts Press Ltd, 1998), 74–94, gives us a look at the Huguenot refugee community in Ireland which complicates the picture often painted of French Protestants readily conforming to the established Anglican worship of the English-speaking countries in which they resettled. Though the French Protestants recognized the Church of Ireland and the Church of England as fellow Reformed churches, with whom they basically agreed in doctrine, differences in practice shaped differences in piety between them and Anglicans who conformed to the Book of Common Prayer. Practices that strictly were adiaphora (in themselves indifferent) were nevertheless, for much of the Huguenot refugee community, part of the Huguenots’ ethnoreligious identity.

The article also shows us some history that could be useful for dealing with the problem of Phyletism – which Wikipedia calls ‘the idea that a local autocephalous Church should be based not on a local [ecclesial] criterion, but on an ethnophyletist, national or linguistic one’ – as well as with the practical mess of the Byzantine communion’s overlapping ethnic-associated jurisdictions in America.

Father’s Day

I’m glad the Rev. Luke Lau, at Montgomery Chinese Baptist Church, did not do yesterday what White Left 白左 evangelical Christians do about Father’s Day. Instead, he preached a normal sermon that did not insult fathers but honoured fatherly love and exhorted everyone to live lives that honoured God.

st-joseph-and-the-jesus-child-jusepe-de-ribera

‘St Joseph and the Jesus Child’. Jusepe de Ribera.

Perhaps, though, the Church in America and elsewhere ought to bring the day honouring fatherhood back to the feast day of St Joseph, on 19 March, for two reasons: (1) to tie things explicitly to the life of the Church and her saints, and (2) to resist commercialistic trends by which, as the Father’s Day Council said in the 1980s, ‘[Father’s Day] has become a Second Christmas for all the men’s gift-oriented industries’. After all, as my father says, of all the useful things in the world, money is the most useless. To orient ourselves toward commercialism, then, rather than the life of God in his saints, is to forsake the things that are worthy for the things that are not; it would be far better, then, for human society to use a day on which the fatherhood of God was expressly glorified in the self-sacrificing life of St Joseph.

John Cosin’s Interleaved Book of Common Prayer Against the Puritan Objectors

Notes from the interleaved copy of the Book of Common Prayer kept by John Cosin, who after the restoration of the Stuart monarchy became Lord Bishop of Durham.

Aye, apparently WordPress allows ebooks to be embedded from archive.org. You can view the book in full screen if you want.

Enjoy Dr Cosin’ retorts and private responses to the Prayer Book’s puritan surveyors who object to its provisions.

Who Giveth This Chinese Woman?

Grace Kelly, accompanied by her father, arrives at the cathedral to be married.

The Book of Common Prayer directs that the priest should ask, ‘Who giveth this woman to be married?’, but it does not specify the manner in which he should receive an answer. Generally, the bride’s father, standing to the bride’s left, takes her right hand and delivers it to the priest; in so doing, he may also explicitly say, ‘I do.’ In a Chinese wedding, though, there are other ways this could well be done, and there is another form of words that I imagine would work, from the ‘Airs of States’ 國風 in the ancient Odes 詩經, the poem ‘Peach Tree’ 桃夭:

桃之夭夭、灼灼其華。
之子于歸、宜其室家。

The peach tree is young and elegant;
Brilliant are its flowers.
This young lady is going to her future home,
And will order well her chamber and house.

桃之夭夭、有蕡其實。
之子于歸、宜其家室。

The peach tree is young and elegant;
Abundant will be its fruits.
This young lady is going to her future home,
And will order well her house and chamber.

桃之夭夭、其葉蓁蓁。
之子于歸、宜其家人。

The peach tree is young and elegant;
Luxuriant are its leaves.
This young lady is going to her future home,
And will order well her family.

As the Mao Prefaces say, ‘ “Peach Tree” is [about] the queen consort’s directives. Through her freedom from jealousy, the relation between males and females was made right; marriages were celebrated at the proper times; and there were no unmarried people in the kingdom.’ Then, the vows once taken, would these words of the poem ‘They Beat Their Drums’ 擊鼓 ring true:

死生契闊,與子成說。執子之手,與子偕老。
For life or for death, however separated,
To our wives we pledged our word.
We held their hands; –
We were to grow old together with them.

Thus let all be done in order, under Heaven’s will.

A New Generation Poem for the Tsangs?

中華曾氏祖根地 (vignette)

中華曾氏祖根地: the Chinese lineage’s ancestral rootland.

In many Chinese and Korean families, you see that the names of the sons of the same generation share a character, a generation name 班次. My ancestor of the Sòng dynasty, for example, Emperor Taìzōng, was named Zhào Kuāngyì 趙匡義; his older brother, Emperor Taìzŭ, was named Zhào Kuāngyìn 趙匡胤. Besides sharing the surname Zhào , they had in common the generation name Kuāng . Now, as Wikipedia explains,

The sequence of generation is typically prescribed and kept in record by a generation poem (bāncì lián 班次聯 or pàizì gē 派字歌 in Chinese) specific to each lineage. While it may have a mnemonic function, these poems can vary in length from around a dozen characters to hundreds of characters. Each successive character becomes the generation name for successive generations.

For the Sòng dynasty House of Zhào, the poem goes, 若夫,元德允克、令德宜崇、師古希孟、時順光宗、良友彥士、登汝必公、不惟世子、與善之從、伯仲叔季、承嗣由同。 The poem’s 42 characters were split into three groups of 14 for the offspring of Sòng Taìzŭ and his two brothers. As Emperor Taìzŭ set forth for the family (with older romanizations from the book quoted),

Together with the Prince of Chin, Kuang-i, and the Prince of Ch’in, Kuang-mei, we will constitute three branches. Each will establish fourteen characters [for generation names] in the Jade Register so as to distinguish the streams and give order to the [spirit] tablets. Although our posterity may be distant in time and in relationship, they will not lose their order.

According to this præscription, my grandfather had the character in his name, as did all of his brothers. So it has been, for my mother’s family, since the 10th century of our Lord Jesus Christ; but my own clan, despite its descent from the Xià king Shàokāng 少康, has not had such a long and constant usage.

zhao-genealogy-kuangyin-kuangyi

This record shows the ancestry of Zhào Kuāngyì 趙匡義.

zhao-genealogy-dun

The ancestry traces back through Zhào Dùn 趙盾.

Of the generation poems used by those of the ancient House of , there are so many (beware: Tripod page with popup adverts!), and of such diversity, that there clearly is nothing like a standard. What was once used by my branch of the family has been interrupted by the convulsions of the 20th century. Though we clearly maintain commonalities between brothers – my father’s generation having the character and mine having , even for my cousin – these generation names have not at all been drawn from the poem formerly used. Instead, my father’s generation received an accent on the nation, and mine on righteousness. In each, of course, is an ethical orientation. Herein I see the makings of a new generation poem that has yet to be written. Since my grandfather was the seniormost Christian in the family (though his conversion was not the first), his name should be the one that heads the poem, and the poem can mark a new beginning by expressly giving glory to Christ the Saviour of the nations.

炳國義, and the rest is unwritten. But even here, with just three characters, we can see some order. My grandfather’s character ‘bright, luminous’ has the radical for fire, ; my father’s character ‘territory, nation’ clearly suggests earth; my character ‘righteousness, justice’ is associated with metal. Thus we have gone from summer to the ripe season to autumn, and the next in the cycle of the five phases of matter and energy (wŭxíng) is winter and water. A cycle of five itself suggests lines of five characters each, whether four lines for 20 syllables or eight lines for 40. Numerologically, 40 can correspond to the days of rain and flooding in the time of Noah, or the years of Israel’s wandering until the faithless generation had died, or the days of Jesus’s fast in the wasteland to suffer the temptations of man; 20, however, is of no significance. But when the cycle of five has gone eight times, which makes an octave of a feast to the Lord, signifying the spiritual Eighth Day of the week, then shall we have the number of trigrams and the number of persons on Noah’s Ark and the number of the Beatitudes. Let the poem, the jìntĭshī 近體詩, be written thus.

炳國△△ 義某 某△○ ●
某某○○ 某某 某△△ ●

某某○○ 某某 某○△ △  parallelism
某某△△ 某某 某△○ ●

某某△△ 某某 某○○ △  parallelism
某某○○ 某某 某△△ ●

某某○○ 某某 某○△ △
某某△△ 某某 某△○ ●

Decrees of the Church to Be Kept as Wisdom

common-prayer

A high churchman’s conviction that holds the old decrees and customs of the Church in high regard is not unreformed, nor among the Reformed churches is such a conviction unique to Anglicans. Thus says Girolamo Zanchi in De Religione Christiana Fides:

For I beleeve that the thinges which were decreed and received of the fathers, by common consent of them all gathered together in the name of the Lord, without anie contradiction of holie scriptures, that they also (though they bee not of equall authoritie with the scriptures) come from the Holie ghost.

He speaks similarly in his Operum Theologicorum, intended to be a Protestant ‘summa’ modelled after that of St Thomas Aquinas, in the section on the traditions of the church:

Thesis 3. Moreover, just as political laws have their origin in natural law, so, too, the traditions of the church have their origin both from the Holy Spirit (as in the case of the apostles) and from the written Word of God (as in the case of the holy bishops and synods).

[…]

Thesis 4. Therefore, as long as these traditions are either consistent with Scripture or at least not contradictory to it, they are truly the traditions of the Church and must be accepted. And we ought to obey and honor them.

Thus did the fathers of the Council of Jerusalem speak, as St Luke records by the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles:

Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us [emphasis mine], to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.

Therefore, such decrees received from the Holy Ghost, consonant with what he breathes out in the holy Scriptures, are also reverently to be kept until altered under the law of Scripture, and of nature, by duly appointed authority.

Decrees and recognition of adiaphora

Yet reverence for what we have received is not always simple. St Paul tells the Corinthians,

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; and through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

If what St Paul teaches is as true as the words of the Apostolic Decree recorded by St Luke, then the matter seems less simple than that decrees of the Church should be obeyed religiously, as a matter of religion strictly. To acknowledge this complexity we are forced all the more if, as historians believe, 1 Corinthians was written a few years after the Apostolic Decree was sent out. Here, the Council of Jerusalem’s decree to abstain from meats (i.e., in today’s English, foods) offered to idols is not the basis of St Paul’s argument at all, though he should know of it. Instead, he treats an idol as nothing in itself: As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world. Thus, that some food has been sacrificed to idols is also nothing in itself: it is the weak conscience that is defiled by eating what has been offered to idols. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. The matter in itself St Paul as adiaphoron, a thing indifferent.

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But it makes little sense that a decree recorded many years after in Acts should be nothing to St Paul writing to the Corinthians. After all, the Council of Jerusalem was summoned in the first place because of his disputation against Judaizers in the Church, and at this council he and Barnabas declared what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. The letter promulgating the Apostolic Decree was sent with them at least ‘unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia’, and there is no reason to suppose that the decree’s compass would have excluded the Gentiles of Corinth. There is no room for doubt that St Paul knew of the decree and followed it in his ministry to the Gentiles.

St Paul’s way of arguing for adhærence to the Apostolic Decree, then, is instructive. Nowhere is his persuasion of this sort:

 The Church has ruled against eating what is offered to idols.
 What the Church has ruled, the Corinthians should obey.
 The Corinthians should not eat what is offered to idols.

Instead, he recognizes a basic Christian freedom but urges the Corinthians of ‘stronger’ consciences to take heed lest by any means their liberty become a stumbling-block to those of ‘weaker’ consciences. Otherwise, when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. How St Paul argues for the Apostolic Decree is how Richard Hooker, writing fifteen centuries later, argues for the reformed Church of England’s episcopacy, liturgy, and canons. On the Apostolic Decree, he can easily be read in The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, particularly in book 4; on the settlement of the Church of England as it then stood, throughout the eight books. ‘The end which is aimed at in setting down the outward form of all religious actions’, Hooker says, ‘is the edification of the Church.’ It is not, then, a mere matter of obedience to divinely ordained authority, as if any arbitrary judgement can be taken for that of the Holy Ghost, but a matter of submitting to an intelligible wisdom.

Bless, O Lord, This Ring?

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In PECUSA’s 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the order of solemnization of holy matrimony specifies that the priest may say, before delivering the ring to the man, ‘Bless, O Lord, this Ring, that he who gives it and she who wears it may abide in thy peace, and continue in thy favour, unto their life’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’ The North American Anglican has published my short piece on whether to bless a ring or its wearer. Check it out. What do you think?