Welcome to the First Week of Ordinary Time 2021

As of midnight last night which ended the liturgical day of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Christmas season has official come to an end and we moved into the First Week of Ordinary Time for the year of Our Lord two-thousand and twenty-one (technically the Baptism of the Lord counts as the First Sunday of Ordinary Time but we don’t need to get too technical here).

Many catholic churches, my own local one included, do not use Ordinary Time as part of their liturgical calendar (which makes following along each week with the Liturgy of the Hours super fun and confusing at times). The period between Christmas and the start of Lent is called Epiphany-tide and includes Sundays that count away from Epiphany. This is based on the older liturgical calendar of the Roman Church where Easter and Epiphany were the two major festivals that all of time were rendered through. If you’ve ever seen “Fifth Sunday after Epiphany” vice the “Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time” than you’ve probably stepped into a church that uses the old calendar. But for most catholic churches, the readings and responses all remain the same whether you are using one way of counting or another thanks to the Revised Common Lectionary. And this is important because my beef with people who insist in keeping Epiphany-tide and poo-poo Ordinary Time I think overlook the fact that the readings and responses are not connected in such a scheme.

So why have Ordinary Time? Why not use the traditional calendar and still have a period of Epiphany. Well, this is a bit of a controversial topic. Many people take issue with the innovation of a new calendar for the liturgy but this is not really warranted because changes were made in the past and no doubt will be made in the future. There is no set liturgical calendar. I think a lot of the angst around Ordinary Time is also based on misconception. Many English speaking people think it means the time is ordinary or plain and marks a time outside of feasts and celebrations. I’ve even read before (from learned people) that the colour green was picked precisely because green is a typical boring colour in nature. This is simply not true. Nor is calling the Sundays “X after Epiphany” an extension of the celebration of Christmas because the readings at Mass and the antiphons used in the Liturgy of the Hours during this period do not directly reflect anything about the celebration of Epiphany (aside from being about God and Jesus which is a very loose approach). It is actually kind of misleading to read that the Sunday has something to do with Epiphany when it actually doesn’t. And about the liturgical colour? Green is in fact the colour of ordinary time and it was always the colour of ferial days within the church. Some people say that because of Vatican II we have more green because of Ordinary Time, again this is simply not true, we have more green because many feast days of Saints that used to replace the Sunday worship were suppressed or moved before Vatican II even started and this meant actually celebrating Sunday as Sunday each week as opposed to it giving way to the celebration of Saints. This actually makes a lot of sense because Sunday ought to be considered a Feast of the Lord in some sense, and indeed traditionally was considered the most important liturgical day of the week. Going back to wearing more green signalled a return of Sunday to its proper place within the hierarchy of liturgical celebration in the periods between major seasons.

Ordinary in the this sense means ordinal, which is the ordering of numbers (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc) and is the root of the word order. Ordinary Time is thus the time when we count the Sundays ordinally (accurate) and we live our lives in an ordered states governed by the supremacy of Christ (accurate). With this understanding Ordinary Time makes sense. It also links up with what is happening in the world, in time itself, which is important for any liturgical calendar that first and foremost exists within the same time, indeed sanctifies said time. After Christmas, we put away our decorations and we go back to the ho-hum of life. There are bills to be paid, semesters to start and friends to see. And this again makes Ordinary Time fitting because it is in these everyday encounters that we in fact order our own lives with Christ as the center. It is a time of order and process and right worship and living.

Welcome to the First Week of Ordinary Time 2021.

In your love, Lord,
answer our humble prayer:
give us the grace to see what we have to do
and the strength to do it.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Collect (Office of Readings), Monday of the First Week of Ordinary Time

Cover photo by Thays Orrico on Unsplash.

Being Christian: The Creeds (Part 1)

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. For if you will be careful to do all this commandment which I command you to do, loving the Lord your God, walking in all his ways, and cleaving to him, then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves.

Deuteronomy 11:18-23 (RSV)

A creed is a statement of faith. The root of the word is actually Latin, credo, which literally means “I believe” and forms the very opening of the Apostles’ Creed in that language. The purpose of the creeds in the Catholic faith are to declare and safeguard the fundamental truths of the Apostolic witness that forms our entire faith for all generations of the Church.

We state the Creed in public among members of the church when we are Baptised (or if we are babies when this happens, our sponsors do it on our behalf and we reaffirm in personally at Confirmation) and we state it during the Mass. When we do it at Mass it is a reminder of the vow and commitment we made at Baptism to the essential elements of the Christian faith. It is a statement of things we believe (we state they happened despite never seeing these things ourselves) that is required to be part of the Church which is founded upon the very witness and testimony of those essential elements.

Credo is Latin for “I believe” which opens the words of the Apostle’s Creed.

It might be better understood in this context.

All genuine Catholics (whether Roman, Anglican, Orthodox, etc) profess an apostolic faith. That is, a faith which is based upon the real and historic eyewitness account and testimony of the followers of Jesus Christ– the Apostles. As well as their evangelisation of the Gospel which accounts the birth, ministry, life, death, resurrection and assumption to Heaven of Jesus Christ and professing of His coming again in time. Jesus and His Apostles proclaimed that these events were a fulfillment of the coming of the Messiah contained with the books of the Old Testament. Furthermore (and most importantly), the Christian church, through the Apostles, received the New Covenant that was established by Christ on behalf of the entire human race from God. This is what makes the church founded by Christ and professed by the Apostles on earth truly catholic, because she as Christ’s bridegroom possesses the New Covenant which is justified through the eyewitness account and testimony of the Apostles which forms a key part of the Deposit of Faith handed down through Scripture and Tradition. And this New Covenant is with all mankind, not just Christians or Jews or any one part of the world. This is the essence of Catholicism, our universality.

The distilling or articling of these events into a statement of faith is what forms the creeds that we have today in the Catholic church. Those creeds being the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed. By the second century the Church had established rules of faith which formed the early nexus of what would become our Creeds. As various heresies required the establishment of doctrine and as fundamental aspects of the faith were defined, the official texts of the Creeds came out of consensus among Bishops who assumed roles of the Apostles via Apostolic Succession. The most popular of these statements within the Western church became the Apostles’ Creed which became a core part of the Roman and Anglican Rite of Baptism and part of the weekly liturgy in the post-Vatican II Roman Missal.

The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’s Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture.

Thirty-Nine Articles of Faith, Article 8

The Apostles’ Creed is a declaration, an oath and a teaching instrument all in one statement. Broken into three articles which each represent God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, nothing about the Creed is accidental or without profound reason and purpose. And although the Creed does not come directly from Scripture, there is no doubt that every part of it is rooted in the Gospel and foretelling of the Messiah in both the New and Old Testament. This is affirmed in the eighth article of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Faith which are dear to all Anglicans but in no way contradict anything within the true Holy, Catholic and Apostolic faith (as I am sure we will explore more in depth within this series).

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” said also, “Do not kill.” If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law.

James 2: 10-11 (RSV)

Because the creeds represent the fundamental truths of our faith it should go without saying that a departure from any article of the creed is a departure from the catholic and thus the true Christian faith. We violate the vows and commitment we made before God and the Church at Baptism and affirm each Sunday together when we depart from the tenant of the Creeds in any way. Fundamental to all of this is the belief in the eyewitness account and testimony of the Apostles of the life and mission of Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of Scripture that the events of His life handed down within the Gospels achieve. This is the essence of being Christian.

In the next few articles we are going to review each of the three articles of the Apostles’ Creed in detail and explore their meaning and purpose.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Apostles’ Creed, ICET on English Texts Translation

Cover photo by Ben White on Unsplash.

New Series: Being Christian

I would like to introduce a new series which this blog will be exploring over the next few months before the commencement of Lent in mid-February this year. The theme of the series is a catechismal look at the Catholic faith through the lens of an Anglican Catholic. My hope is that my personal experience and knowledge of the Catholic faith and unique perspective as a former Roman Catholic turned Anglican will assist in developing a worthy and (God willing) interesting series.

I’ll be using several sources for this series. Primary sources will be Holy Scripture and the writings of Saints and early Church Fathers. Secondary sources will include an Anglican catechism entitled Being Christian: An Anglican Catechism, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and relevant documents/writings from both Anglican and Roman Catholic sources. My hope is not to limit this exploration to one tradition of Catholicism or another, I wish to present both together which is what makes this series unique but fitting for the nature of my blog.

The entire series will be under the Catechism category of the blog and will carry the tag Being Christian for future reference and organization. I look forward to presenting the articles of the series!

A Closer Look at the Office of Readings

In the format of the Liturgy of the Hours the Office of Readings is a unique Hour that stands alone among the others. It is the only Hour which does not have a traditional fixed time associated with it and among all of the Hours it is the youngest although it replaced the oldest Hour in the former Roman Breviary in 1970. You’ll often hear people say that the Office of Readings replaced what was formerly known as Matins, but in many respects this is a whole new Hour that wasn’t merely a reform but a complete change. However, there are vestiges of the traditional form of Matins as a Vigil that remain within the rubrics around this Hour.

The fact that the Hour is not linked to a particular time of day makes is unique in many ways. In the English four-volume Liturgy of the Hours books approved for use in North America, the Hour starts with the antiphon for the Invitatory but this is purely optional and dependant on whether the Office of Readings is the first Office being recited for the day. It can be said alone as its own Office or it can be attached to another office such as Morning Prayer or even Evening Prayer if that is how you wish to pray the Hours for that particular day. Matins was always the first Hour of the day (and was usually said at night or very, very early in the morning before dawn) and thus always included the invitatory. This is not the case with the Office of Readings.

The Office of Readings is made up of three psalms or three parts of a large psalm and two readings of notable length; the first reading being from Scripture and the second from a selection of the Holy Fathers usually related to the season, feast or memorial. This is another marked departure from Matins which at its peak had over 12 psalms which formed nocturns that included up to three readings each. The readings in Matins were shorter in sections but together formed sections of Scripture and patristic readings that are comparable to what we get today with the Office of Readings.

On Sundays and solemnities one can add a vigil part to the Office that include three canticles and a reading from the Gospel (usually from an alternate year of the Lectionary from that of the current Mass). This retains the ancient understanding of the word vigil as the prayers and preparations before Holy Mass on Sunday evening after sundown on Saturday night. The Te Deum is also recited on these days just prior to the collect for the day.

There is no doubt that the Office of Readings remains controversial among Catholics. Significant changes were made to the liturgy and thus also to the Roman Breviary and Divine Office in the wake of Vatican II. Among those changes was the introduction of the Liturgy of the Hours, which brought us this new and wonderful devotion in the Office of Readings. There are people who take issue with the Liturgy of the Hours because of the many options, the four-week psalter, the omission of controversial psalms and the creation of a new Hour in the Office of Readings. But when understood in light of the overall intention of the Church Fathers during Vatican II to truly make the Divine Office accessible and palatable to lay people as well as clergy it all actually makes a lot of sense.

I’ve prayed a one-week psalter before and it is certainly wonderful and rich and but only if you have the time. Not many people have an hour in the morning to read 12 psalms (plus another five if they decide to do Matins and Lauds together which is the norm). This routine quickly goes from being wonderful and rich to being a burden and terrible. The four-week psalter is made for lay people, so that we can have access to all 150 of the psalms (the accepted ones, at any rate) but at a pace that works for ordinary life. The same goes for the creation of hinge Hours in Morning/Evening Prayer which follow a pattern typical of how laity live in the 5 day work week and eight hour work day. Remember that how the Roman Breviary of the past was developed was at a time when we didn’t use any unnatural light after sundown, people usually slept in two four or five hour periods and woke in the middle of the night to work and sometimes eat (and in the case of monks, pray). This is simply not the reality for lay people today, for anyone really, and so the changes make sense within this light.

The Office of Readings has become a key within my own prayer life. We are all called to read Holy Scripture often and we could all use more exposure to the insight of the church fathers. Having an Office that is devoted to reading the Bible and the church fathers gives me a vector to do this task which is part of my commitment to pray the Hours regularly. I find they enrich my life from a liturgical perspective and keep my mind focused on God and on the particular season or celebration of the church. There are some days when I can only complete one Hour and I am not ashamed to say that I choose the Office of Readings over all of them (usually with a confession added at the start for good measure). It really is the best of both worlds when you can pray the psalms and do some readings relevant to the season of the church or particular celebration.

Capturing the Liturgy on Film

A positive innovation that has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic within my own church community has been the creation and development of a new ministry around recording and sharing of our services for viewing online. The need for this new ministry is obvious and undoubtedly a common change within nearly every active church in the world. For a variety of reasons– which almost all come down to having no one else willing to step forward in such short notice– I have become the sort of head of this ministry within my church under the guidance (as with all things of the local church) of the rector. The experience has brought with it a range of emotion from confusion and frustration to satisfaction and joy. I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to develop a new found passion. The experience has also given me a chance to reflect on the meaning and value of capturing the liturgy on film for the faithful of my parish and friends from all walks of life.

Filmmaking and recording the various services, announcements and home worship packages has become a passion of mine. Which is my own personal positive innovation that has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. And it has not only strengthened my relationship with God but also practically with my church and community. It has allowed me to continue a sense of purpose and meaning through my responsibilities to the church and another vector to give back my time and talents. And these are responsibilities which I might add are not isolated to just this new passion, I still remain the head of the servers guild and a member of Parish Council and ever-scrutineer of the Finance Committee. But with the entire life of the church seemingly coming to a halt alongside everything in the world, recording and playing a role in establishing a new media ministry has provided beyond ample work in the giant spans of time which make-up the COVID-19 lockdown. It is a gift from God.

There is a tremendously new perspective that I have gained seeing the liturgy through the lens of my camera. And I am coming more and more to appreciate the requirement of anyone who dares venture into a media ministry around the liturgy to understand the meaning behind the gestures, movements, transitions and moments within the service. And this is not unique to filming the liturgy, this is the general job of the director of photography of any movie or film– to capture the mood and tone of the scene, the moment physically and emotionally happening within the frame of the camera’s eye. In the case of the Mass (my “production”), there is already a director who has set the requirements for each scene during any liturgical filming, and that would be tradition which dictates the meaning and spirit of each aspect of how we worship and pray to God. Thus, I see my role as using every cinematographic tool available to me to capture that meaning and passing it seamlessly to the viewer. It is not merely about capturing the action and moving on, rather, each frame passes with it a story and everything from the lightening and the lens angle to the camera position and the sound must be deployed in unity of effort to convey that meaning, purpose and tone. And the ultimate key is that it must be done seamlessly. The video is meant to feel exactly like the real thing while being aware of the fact that it is not the real thing. This is how people begin to get lost in it, this is how we tell the story of the liturgy will the full force of the cinematographic tools available.

There are aspect of filming the liturgy which have become traditions in and of themselves for me through sheer repetition and force of conveyance. For example, I’ve taken to filming sermons using a 30mm lens, with the camera angled slightly below the pulpit to give a feeling of looking up (just as we do in the service when in church physically) and placing the preacher in the right 1/3 of the frame to leave a space for them to literally project their message into as it moves into the viewer’s heart and mind and to capture (slightly out of focus) the statue of Saint Barnabas, our patron, and, in this instance, shameless branding. Each sermon from every service is filmed in this way. The camera placement, the angle, the position of the preacher all tell a story together that helps to convey the liturgical importance of the sermon. And each sermon is filmed in the same way because together each sermon fulfills the same objective, is sourced from the same authority and is spoken in the same voice from the Spirit. That is the tradition and value of the sermon and the repetitive presentation, the stern, clean lines and look is conveying that meaning to the viewer each and every time they watch the film. I am using the tools available to me in order that in every way I may convey and emphasize the meaning and spirit of this moment in the liturgy.

And there are aspects of the liturgy which continue to allude me as an amateur filmmaker. For example, the Words of Consecration, which hold so much meaning and purpose within the Liturgy of the Eucharist still presents a problem to me in capturing its celestial and miraculous reality. It’s tempting to begin wanting to study computer generated graphics (CGI) and effect the roof of the church tearing open with choirs of angels singing and the joining of the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant that we profess occurs at each celebration of the Mass. But that certainly would not work, even with all of the flash, it would still not convey the significance and more importantly the reality of the miracle which takes place at the hands of the priest. For Christmas Mass this year, which was the only Mass service we have recorded since closing over Christmas, my hand was forced because of time and I filmed purely from the perspective of a person sitting in the pews. It was beautiful and it did the job but it was not seamless. The entirety of the Liturgy of the Word was seamless and the fact the Canon of the Mass did not fit made the whole thing jump out.

There is a natural development which comes with taking on any new passion. A chaotic period where one finds their own place and style within their chosen method of artistic expression. I am still very much in that phase with my photography and videography but I remain absolutely enthralled with filming the liturgy and seeing praise and worship through the lens of a camera. It has been an honour to provide these videos to people who cannot attend services and are feeling physically distanced from the church and our community. However, I remain grateful and in the debt of the church for providing me this chance to film the liturgy and focus on worship from an entirely new perspective.

St. Veronica, you gave Christ a towel on His way to Cavalry which He used to wipe the Precious Blood from His Holy Face. In return for this great act of kindness He left you His most Holy image on the towel. Pray for us to Our Lord that His Holy Face may be imprinted on our hearts so that we may be always be mindful of the Passion and Death of Our lord Jesus Christ, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.