Category Archives: Ritual and Cæremony

Chinese Academic Dress for a Christian Cleric

Cassock? Mortarboard? What is that?

Álvaro Semedo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest in China at the end of the Ming dynasty:

Nicolas Trigault, a French Jesuit priest in China around the same time:

Though a Protestant should know not to trust the Jesuits, in this case the Jesuits made a sensible choice, to adopt Chinese dress in China, specifically the dress of Chinese Confucian scholars. Two centuries later, Protestant missionary Hudson Taylor made a similar choice to adopt Chinese dress, much to the chagrin of his English missionary colleagues.

James Hudson Taylor – Church History Review

Even though the everyday clothes of ordinary Chinese are much more Westernized today, the everyday clericals worn by Christian priests and deacons ought to reflect the native meaning system in clothes, rather than shout FOREIGN. For this reason, something like the above, analogous to English cassock, gown, and college cap, is what we should come to expect in China of even priests that are come to serve from overseas.


Lawful and Prudent Treatment of Departed Saints in Chinese Culture

Arilje : Sanctuary: Officiating Church Fathers

There is one law of God, because God is one, but in human society it takes multiple concrete forms. The morality of the same outward acts can vary between cultures, even though the inner law, the moral law of God, is unchanging as God himself. How Christian saints are treated in Chinese culture, then, should be calibrated for the existing Chinese symbol system. Evelyn S. Rawski describes part of this system in The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions (University of California Press, 1998), 205–206:

Christian Jochim argues that ritualized obeisances are ‘acts both of humility and privilege’. By kneeling and kowtowing before Heaven and his imperial ancestors, the emperor partakes of their numinous power; by kneeling and kowtowing before the emperor, ministers, princes, and others participating in an audience ritual partake of the powers flowing through the emperor. The emperor’s obeisance to his mother carries a somewhat different symbolic message, one that reifies the hierarchical relationships within families that lie at the core of the Confucian order.

The symbolic significance of sitting to receive ritual homage was broadly understood in Chinese society. The same action confirms the submissiveness of the young bride to her new parents-in-law, the subordination of a concubine to her husband’s wife, of a maidservant to her mistress. By extension we find in Chinese society the symbolic vesting of authority in both a specific chair and in the pose itself. By at least Song times some of the legitimacy conferred by this symbolically charged act had been transferred to the chair itself. Chan Buddhist monasteries during the funeral of an abbot placed the deceased man’s portrait in the ‘dharma seat’ – the seat occupied by the abbot – until a new successor was installed, thus drawing on the same symbolic vocabulary found in discussions of the throne in the Taihedian.

The argument that Chinese ritual culture gave primacy to performance of the act rather than to a specific throne or chair can be supported by popular religion, where deities in Chinese temples are portrayed in a seated position, to receive the worship of the people. The tablets denoting Heaven and the imperial ancestors in the Temple of the Ancestors were also ‘seated’ on thrones during rituals. Deities in the popular religion are depicted in this seated pose to the present day. The popular woodblock prints known as zhima, which continue to be produced in the People’s Republic of China, show the deity in a seated frontal pose, ‘like a statue in a Chinese temple’: ‘This effect is no accident, since prints of this type (some authors have called this an ‘iconic’ print) were the focus of domestic religious ceremonials and received offerings, such as incense, from family members.’ As with deities, so with the emperor – or perhaps the statement should be reversed. When the new emperor sat on the throne and received the obeisances of the nobles and officials, he was performing a ritual action that not only echoed those of ordinary persons in the society but also replicated that of the gods in Chinese popular religion.

So the Chinese should not, I think, depict departed saints sitting in a frontal pose, because these saints must not be seated to receive homage. We are, after all, not servants of Mary and the other departed saints, but servants of the Most High. Rather than sitting, then, a departed saint could be depicted standing to praise God together with the living, since dead and living alike ascend to heaven to join the angels and archangels in worshipping the one holy God.

Necessarily an avoidance of depicting the dead as seated would call for changes in ritual depictions of dead parents, for instance, but some changes in standard practice are to be expected. A Christian who has gone to be with the Lord is no longer in a position of living authority on earth. The rites should be modified to exclude all ‘sitting’ of the dead, so that ritual homage in the full sense is done only to living authorities: the reigning emperor, a person’s parents, a bride’s new parents-in-law, a concubine’s mistress (her husband’s first wife), a maidservant’s mistress, and so on. It was customary to depict the dead both seated and facing the viewer, as if God had placed them as intermediate authorities between himself and the living; the truth of the gospel, however, suggests that we should depict them not only standing to praise God, but also facing upward toward the left or the right, wherever God may ritually be imagined to be.

In contrast, when my younger brother married, he and his bride knelt to serve tea to my parents, and my parents sat in chairs side by side to receive this act of homage; my parents then gave them advice and symbolic red packets of money. After order of seniority, I myself also sat to be served tea by my brother and his bride, though they stood rather than kneeling, and like my parents I also gave them words of advice. It was a touching moment for me, to receive thanks from my younger brother and his new wife, and to urge them in turn to do all things by the word of God and raise up godly children. A departed ancestor, however, is no longer in a position of living authority delegated by God, and therefore cannot rightly take a seated posture in relation to the living on earth. Therefore it is right to treat them differently when the Lord has called them to leave this earthly life and its authority, and to await the resurrection of the dead.

Commemorative Processions in an Anglican Church

In Anglicanism, processions are probably most popular among Anglo-Catholics, and indeed historically the Church of England went without processions within church buildings (except entrance processions) for quite some time.

But this relative lack of processions is due more to accident of history than to a reforming plan, and certainly there is no Reformed principle against walking to pray or praying while walking. If we want to restore vigil worship and instruction on the nights before feast days, processions may well form a part of that plan. The point is not to instruct the people by reason alone, but also to bring along their bodies into remembrance of what God has done and will do, and thus to build up good Christian cultural habits to leaven a whole people.

According to Sally Elizabeth (Roper) Harper, writing in Medieval English Benedictine Liturgy: Studies in the Formation, Structure, and Content of the Monastic Votive Office, c. 950–1540,

Most processions consisted of three stages: in eundo, where the procession left the choir, a focal statio, or station, and finally in redeundo, the return to choir. The outward phase was normally accompanied by a borrowed respond, or sometimes a proper processional antiphon or hymn. At its destination (an altar or chapel, the rood or some other focal point), the procession stopped for a versicle and collect, sometimes said with an antiphon. The third stage of the procession, in redeundo, was effectively a self-contained memorial. An antiphon (or less often a respond) was sung as the procession moved off from the station, usually halting for the versicle and collect at the choir-step. Often the independence of this final stage was emphasized in that it honoured a quite different saint or intention from the preceding parts of the procession (quite commonly the patron).

The first two of these stages are fairly straightforward. In eundo, the procession would leave the church chancel and sing a hymn or anthem as it went. Arriving at its destination, in statione, the procession would stop for a versicle and collect. For example, at the end of Evensong on Christmas Day, the procession would remember St Stephen for the next day. Leaving the chancel, the procession might be accompanied by the hymn ‘Saint of God, Elect and Precious’.

The procession would stop at its station, some place where St Stephen would most readily come to mind:

V. Behold, I see the heavens opened.
R. And the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Grant, O Lord, that in all our sufferings here upon earth, for the testimony of thy truth, we may stedfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those that suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

Upon the return, if the procession was not already in commemoration of the saint after whom the church was named, then a fitting anthem commemorating that titular saint would be sung. For example, in a Reformed cathedral named after the Blessed Virgin Mary, an acceptable Marian anthem would be sung, perhaps one from the Song of Songs, directing prayer toward no one but God. These words by Thomas Ken could also fit quite well:

1. Her Virgin eyes saw God incarnate born,
When she to Bethl’em came that happy morn;
How high her raptures then began to swell,
None but her own omniscient Son can tell.

2. As Eve when she her fontal sin reviewed,
Wept for herself and all she should include,
Blest Mary with man’s Saviour in embrace
Joyed for herself and for all human race.

3. All saints are by her Son’s dear influence blest,
She kept the very Fountain at her breast;
The Son adored and nursed by the sweet Maid
A thousandfold of love for love repaid.

4. Heaven with transcendent joys her entrance graced,
Next to his throne her Son his Mother placed;
And here below, now she’s of heaven possest,
All generations are to call her blest.

Then would follow the Collect for the Annunciation, with a versicle and response before it.

V. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
R. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Let us pray.

We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts; that, as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so by his cross and passion we may be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

But if the procession was already in commemoration of the Holy Virgin rather than St Stephen, then instead in redeundo an anthem should be sung for the Feast of All Saints, and then the collect following with its versicle and response before it.

V. Be glad, O ye righteous, and rejoice in the Lord.
R. And be joyful, all ye that are true of heart.

Let us pray.

O almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Easter Day to Ascension, the anthem in redeundo would be better replaced with one about the Resurrection, perhaps to one of those which the Prayer Book orders for Morning Prayer on Easter Day.

V. The Lord is risen from the grave.
R. Who hung for us upon the tree.

Let us pray.

Almighty God, whose beloved Son for our sake willingly offered himself to endure the agony and shame of the Cross: Remove from us all cowardice of heart, and give us courage to take up our cross and bear it patiently in his service; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Why Secondary Burial? Tradition, to Stand Against Globalism

A master of disposal of skeletal remains demonstrates the meticulous sequence for placing the remains in the ‘golden pagoda’ (urn). Photo by 陳亮華, for Apple Daily.

Some people may ask, Why? I ask, Why not? I don’t even care why we deep-southern Chinese originally began to bury the dead and collect their bones seven years later for secondary burial 執骨: if it’s lawful and not burdensome, it should be done, because it’s been done for more than 2000 years, before the region was even Chinese. If we Christians need to, we can invent new Christian reasons for maintaining or reviving the practice. My instinct is just that we have to do this kind of thing to stand against globalist forces bent on destroying our culture.

Against the 1979 Edit to the Prayer of Humble Access

Recently, a friend asked me my opinion on The Episcopal Church’s 1979 Rite 1 edit to the Prayer of Humble Access in the Book of Common Prayer.

The edit

The original says, in the Prayer Books of 1552, 1559, and 1662 (and in America, 1789, 1892, and 1928),

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

The 1979 edit omits the purpose clause that says, ‘that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood’.

The friend’s opinion

To my friend, someone who loved the original version, the 1979 edit made quite a bit of sense. The original Prayer of Humble Access, he thought, could easily be ‘misunderstood’ to mean that the body and blood of Christ had different effects from each other: thus, he said, the prayer would give the impression that the bread/body redeemed our bodies and the wine/blood cleansed our souls, when in reality both elements did both things.

My own judgement

On the omission of the clause ‘that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood’, my judgement was completely different.

First, we Anglicans haven’t the notion that one or the other is sufficient. Jesus said eat and drink, not eat or drink. It seems to be that the authors, in the wording of the Prayer of Humble Access, intentionally distinguished the effect of the body and effect of the blood. The two elements’ effects they did not distinguish strictly, but rhetorically. The authors did not deny absolutely that the bread and the wine could be interchangeable (or, in the language of Rome, concomitant), but they did more than merely refer to God’s command to take both bread and wine: going further, they distinguished the effects of bread and wine rhetorically, to connect body with body and blood with blood, the body of Christ with the body of man, and the blood of Christ with the soul of man. The body of Christ is a human body, and the blood is the symbol of the soul (‘but flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat’, Genesis 9.4), and thus the joining of body with body and blood with blood would be the believer’s union with Christ in both body and soul. Thus, distinguishing in words between the effects of the bread and those of the wine encourages people to receive communion in both kinds (i.e., both bread and wine); and not only so, but it implies a theological basis for doing so, a basis more intelligible to us, and apter to help us know God, than simply ‘Jesus said so’.

Second, the effect of the clause’s 1979 omission has been to weaken the worshipper’s sense of original and actual sin’s effects on both body and soul, and that weakening (not all caused by the change in the Prayer of Humble Access, of course) has been devastating in the last 50 years. We need all the help we can get in strengthening the Church’s confession that sin pollutes both our bodies and our souls, and that Christ cleanses both. In terms of our standing before God, he does so through our faith in his promises (without needing to count any good deeds on our part), so that the full promise of the Last Day is ours in potentiality; in terms of our character and knowledge of God, so that we bear God’s image in full, he does so by increasingly filling us with us his own perfect character as we struggle to live as Christians and fight against sin. To omit a clause on how Christ makes our sinful bodies clean by his body, and washes our souls through his most precious blood, is to aid the neglect of this saving doctrine.

Third, the Church very much needs an emphasis on the sacramental salvation of the body, as against visions of salvation that concern only the naked soul and are curtailed, cut off, to leave only a justification that happens in a moment. Rather than being content with such a mutilated salvation, we need to bear the crucifixion of Christ in our bodies, as St Paul did (Galatians 6.17; Philippians 1.20; 3.17–21; Colossians 1.24), identifying in our very bodies with the body of the Christ who was crucified for our sins and raised on the third day to bring us to peace with God and the full measure of what God intended for man created in his image. This salvation of our body and all its works, this participation in Christ, happens through the sacraments. The two sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are God’s visible word to us, that we may take his offer of salvation for ourselves and make it our own continually. To cease to mention the cleansing of our human body by the body of Christ, then, would be to refuse a great help to a full understanding of what God in Christ is doing in our bodies by his Holy Spirit.

For these reasons, I think we would gain nothing from allowing that this clause be omitted, and we should give thanks that it remains in many places and in other places (such as those that have switched from the 1979 to the 2019 ACNA Prayer Book) has been restored, that the Lord’s people may better partake of his gifts and thereby know him in body and soul.

Announcements from the Pulpit: An Anglican Example

Imagine if the following had been the announcements given from the pulpit this past Sunday before the sermon (notes about their Anglican canonical basis in small type):

Rubric in Holy Communion (BCP, 1662), after the Creed and before the sermon.
Then the Curate shall declare unto the people what Holy-days, or Fasting-days, are in the week following to be observed. And then also
(if occasion be) shall notice be given of the Communion; and Briefs, Citations, and Excommunications read. And nothing shall be proclaimed or published in the Church during the time of Divine Service, but by the Minister: nor by him any thing, but what is prescribed in the Rules of this Book, or enjoined by the King, or by the Ordinary of the place.

Canon 64 (1604). Ministers solemnly to bid Holy-days.
Every Parson, Vicar or Curate shall in his several Charge declare to the People every Sunday, at the time appointed in the Communion-Book, whether there be any Holy-days, or Fasting-days the Week following. And if any do hereafter wittingly offend herein, and being once admonished thereof by his Ordinary, shall again omit that Duty, let him be censured according to Law, until he submit himself to the due performance of it.

This Friday, 11 June, is St Barnabas’s Day. Even if ye cannot come to a service at church, I encourage you to observe the day with prayer to God on the day itself and a vigil fast on the day before, according as ye are able, to dispose your minds to thanksgiving for the godly example of St Barnabas the Apostle and Martyr. To this end, to explain the feast more fully and feed your devotions, I will hold a vigil service of instruction after Evening Prayer on Thursday night, the eve of the feast. Nevertheless, this St Barnabas’s Day itself, because this year it falls on a Friday, remains a Friday fast as well, both to remember our Lord’s crucifixion on a Friday and to look forward to his resurrection on the following Sunday. So make your hearts ready, with prayer and fasting, both to remember St Barnabas on Friday and to give glory to God on Sunday for the Lord’s bodily resurrection from the dead.

Canon 62 (1604). Ministers not to Marry any Persons without Banns or License.
No Minister upon Pain of Suspension per triennium ipso facto, shall celebrate Matrimony between any Persons, without a Faculty or License granted by some of the Persons in these our Constitutions expressed, except the Banns of Matrimony have been first published three several Sundays or Holy-days in the time of Divine Service, in the Parish Churches or Chapels where the said Parties dwell, according to the Book of Common Prayer. Neither shall any Minister upon the like pain under any Pretence whatsoever, joyn any Persons so Licensed in Marriage at any unseasonable Times, but only between the Hours of Eight and Twelve in the Forenoon, nor in any private Place, but either in the said Churches or Chapels where one of them dwelleth, and likewise in Time of Divine Service: Nor when Banns are thrice asked
(and no License in that respect necessary) before the Parents or Governours of the Parties to be married, being under the Age of Twenty and one Years, shall either personally, or by sufficient Testimony, signifie to him their Consents given to the said Marriage.

This Saturday, 12 June, Bryan and Linda intend to marry here at 11 o’clock. Therefore: I publish the banns of marriage between Bryan Wang of this parish and Linda Lee of this parish. This is the third time of asking. If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it. If no such cause be declared, then after Evensong on the night before the wedding I shall read from the Second Book of Homilies concerning the state of matrimony, that both those intending to be married and those already married may know God’s will for them.

Rubric in Holy Communion (American BCP, 1928).
When the Minister giveth warning for the Celebration of the Holy Communion, (which he shall always do upon the Sunday, or some Holy-day, immediately preceding,) he shall read this Exhortation following, or so much thereof as, in his discretion, he may think convenient.

Finally, dearly beloved, for the following day, 13 June: On Sunday next I purpose, through God’s assistance, to administer to all such as shall be religiously and devoutly disposed the most comfortable Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; to be by them received in remembrance of his meritorious Cross and Passion; whereby alone we obtain remission of our sins, and are made partakers of the Kingdom of heaven. Wherefore it is our duty to render most humble and hearty thanks to Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that he hath given his Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, not only to die for us, but also to be our spiritual food and sustenance in that holy Sacrament. Which being so divine and comfortable a thing to them who receive it worthily, and so dangerous to those who will presume to receive it unworthily; my duty is to exhort you, in the mean season to consider the dignity of that holy mystery, and the great peril of the unworthy receiving thereof; and so to search and examine your own consciences, and that not lightly, and after the manner of dissemblers with God; but so that ye may come holy and clean to such a heavenly Feast, in the marriage-garment required by God in holy Scripture, and be received as worthy partakers of that holy Table.

The way and means thereto is: First, to examine your lives and conversations by the rule of God’s commandments; and whereinsoever ye shall perceive yourselves to have offended, either by will, word, or deed, there to bewail your own sinfulness, and to confess yourselves to Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life. And if ye shall perceive your offences to be such as are not only against God, but also against your neighbours; then ye shall reconcile yourselves unto them; being ready to make restitution and satisfaction, according to the uttermost of your powers, for all injuries and wrongs done by you to any other; and being likewise ready to forgive others who have offended you, as ye would have forgiveness of your offences at God’s hand: for otherwise the receiving of the holy Communion doth nothing else but increase your condemnation. Therefore, if any of you be a blasphemer of God, an hinderer or slanderer of his Word, an adulterer, or be in malice, or envy, or in any other grievous crime; repent you of your sins, or else come not to that holy Table.

And because it is requisite that no man should come to the holy Communion, but with a full trust in God’s mercy, and with a quiet conscience; therefore, if there be any of you, who by this means cannot quiet his own conscience herein, but requireth further comfort or counsel, let him come to me, or to some other Minister of God’s Word, and open his grief; that he may receive such godly counsel and advice, as may tend to the quieting of his conscience, and the removing of all scruple and doubtfulness.

[Here begins the short prayer before the sermon.]


The Canons of 1604 are not universal, of course, and in the Church of England they have been replaced anyway since the 1960s, but they do show which things are traditionally considered to be suitable announcements for the time after the Nicene Creed and before the sermon. In the 1662 Prayer Book, the exhortation about Holy Communion seems to be ordered after the sermon, but the rubric before the sermon calls for notice of communion then as well; America’s 1928 Prayer Book is more flexible about when the exhortation is to be used. The series of announcements sets the sermon itself within a context of the discipline of the Church. Not least within this discipline are the feasts and fasts set by public authority, whether public worship at church be available for those days or not.

Regardless of which part of the Bible is the source of the sermon to follow, such announcements set a devotional tone that I think useful to Christians’ growth in the ascetical (self-disciplinary) system to which the Church has submitted for the encouragement of holiness. The announcements in that place also call for a harmony, even if a subtle harmony, between the preacher’s sermon and the Church’s feasts and fasts. By setting the sermon within a context of (ideally) the whole Christian body’s discipline, these announcements bring the preached word into churchly discipline, and they bring churchly discipline into the preached word. Both preaching and churchly discipline, after all, whether in absolution of sins or excommunication from the Church, are forms in which the word of God comes to us. Because the announcements before the sermon are not just any announcements – an announcement about the parish potluck is excluded – they serve as an integral part of the Church’s system of spiritual discipline, rather than an insertion of logistically necessary announcements into any ‘convenient’ pause in the service. Thus, the announcements deemed suitable at the time commanded in the Prayer Book are intended to be the ones that pull devout worshippers farther into the devotion necessary for the exalted service of Holy Communion, where they appear.

To approach the announcements at that time as a sabbath from the sabbath, so to speak, is the wrong way to go about it. Instead, the right way is to use the permitted pulpit announcements as part of the exercise of devotion, part of the heavenly rest we take by faith in the Lord’s Day. May it be to the people an occasion not to be distracted, but rather to be devoted to the things of God; not to wander, but to be in wonder; not to loosen, but to fear God.

Chinese Brocades for Copes?

The cope is a churchly cape of splendour, generally having a border (called an orphrey) along the straight edge. It is often worn on state occasions, and in the Church of England required by the Canons of 1604 for the ministers in cathedral churches at Holy Communion.

Elizabeth II at St Paul’s Cathedral with two ministers wearing copes.

Usually, a cope has an ornamental hood on the back, which may be decorated with a symbolic picture.

Queen Elizabeth II - Commonwealth Day Service 2020
Commonwealth Day Service, Westminster Abbey, 2020.

In the Anglican tradition, however, we have ample warrant for variation. As the 39 Articles say, ‘It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word.’ Still less is it necessary or even desirable that ornaments in Asia follow those of England in every particular; rather, to illustrate the principle of national independence in churchly communion, it is desirable that ornaments be somewhat different but show a family resemblance. Imagine if copes in China, offering the best of local crafts in churchly ornaments, used Chinese brocades.

Nanjing yun (cloud) brocade used in a Qing dynasty costume.

Certainly elaborate brocades have been used in religious settings in Chinese culture, as in this Buddhist cape, whose central rectangular panel depicts a qilin while, outwith the panel, four dragons fly up from the water below:

Buddhist monk’s cape, Qing dynasty.

With the rich Chinese artistic tradition of symbolic animals, clouds, flames, waves, and plants, it would not be difficult to produce brocaded copes with highly textured imagery that aptly expressed the spirit of the occasion intended. The rectangular panel above, in this case depicting a qilin, could easily be adapted into a cope’s hood and show any number of embroidered devices: a lamb, a lion, a lotus, or even several sinograms combined in a round seal (e.g., 聖民承國, ‘the holy people take the kingdom’, referring to Daniel 7.18). When the gospel takes hold of the Chinese empire, it may have centuries to drive development in the arts, and copes worn in church are no exception.

Ci Lyric as Anthem After the Third Collect

Just as the Song of Songs is in the biblical canon, there is a place in the worship of God for the sensuousness of the teahouse, a woman singing a ci 詞 lyric as she plays the pipa. This too, after all, is part of the piety of the Church: the desire for the beloved, the Lord’s Anointed.

According to the ci genre, the musical vehicle would be existing Chinese tunes suitable for songs about love. In the first stanza of a two-stanza ci, the singer could render a piece of the Song of Songs in verse; in the second stanza, her lyric could unravel that piece of silk according to what the New Testament has shown us about Christ.

Chinese Archery Good for a Chinese Classical Christian School

For a Chinese classical Christian school, Chinese archery would come to be de rigueur because of the native classical tradition: the Record of Rites 禮記, part of the Five Classics 五經, has a whole chapter on the meaning of the cæremony of archery (射義). Now that traditional bowmaking is coming back, and so perhaps is instruction in Chinese archery, I hope Christian schools can be at the fore in recovering the traditional rite of archery in Chinese society.

Traditional Chinese archery: bow makers on target to resurrect ...

The Master said, ‘In archery we have something like (the way of) the superior man. When the archer misses the centre of the target, he turns round and seeks for the cause of his failure in himself.’

‘Virtual Communion’ an Invention in Place of the Lord’s Institution

‘Virtual communion’ is not the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, not even by Zwingli’s theology. But modern memorialist churches go beyond Zwingli, and they don’t see Holy Communion as the sacrament. That’s why they invent things in place of what Christ has instituted. It’s almost as bad as this:

‘Blessing of the Wheat Fields’, Jules Breton

Neither adoration of a wafer held in a monstrance and carried in procession under a canopy, nor attempts to have virtual communion with bread and wine not originating from the Lord’s Table after the prayer of consecration, are acceptable worship. We in the Church must insist on using the Lord’s own institution, that those things which we do may be pleasing to him by his own word of promise.

If we are to have the sacrament – and we may not be able to do so, but let us then ask the Lord for deliverance from this want – then it is to have both bread and wine consecrated, it is to be both seen and heard by those who are to take it, and the bread and wine are to be brought straightaway after the service to the homes of those who have attended the service virtually. Let us not in any way mutilate the Lord’s word, but keep it.

Easter Music, Contemporary v. Traditional: A Test

Christ is risen, alleluia.

In response to songs I have heard for Easter, I want to propose a test for a hymn’s musical quality, a test with a theological basis. The theological basis is this: just as the offering of incense and the sacrifice of animals belong to the Old Testament – even though today we may still sweeten a church with incense and eat lamb with thanksgiving this Easter – so too only the singing, and not the playing of instruments, is properly the New Testament worship of the Lord. The test, then, is to strip away the pyrotechnics and try singing the hymn on the quality of the melody alone. Let’s use two songs I heard today: one of them a ‘contemporary worship song’, the other a classic hymn for Easter Day.

This Easter song may sound catchy, but try singing it a cappella and see how it is with the instruments stripped away:

I think you’ll find that it falls flat, and you won’t want to be heard singing it without the instruments whose proper place in worship is to accompany the singing.

In contrast, the classic Easter hymn ‘Jesus Christ Is Risen Today’, though certainly grand with the right instrumentation, works well even if you sing it alone in a country field, and it’s the kind of earworm you might find yourself whistling on the way home from church.

Christ is risen, alleluia.

Advantages of the English Reformation over Others?


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.

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.