Saint Barnabas Apostolate

The Need: Fellowship, Prayer and Work

Prayer and work in the name of God should never be done in isolation. We ought to work together because Christ tells us that where two or more gather in His name, He is there among them. And when two or more agree and pray on a thing that it shall be granted by the Father in Heaven. And Christ is merely emphasizing, or rather fulfilling, a known fact of Christian life which is that the Holy Spirit spreads its gifts among the congregation of people, among the Body of Christ in the church and only together are we truly whole and united under Christ as our Headship.

I spoke in my previous post about the need for Christian fellowship and how this need is even more present in COVID times. We have a guide in the past from Saints who gather people around them and formed systems and orders of prayer and work that formed the daily devotions and contemplation of their lives. And there is no question of the material and spiritual benefit that this had for the church. And there is no question of that same material and spiritual need today within the church.

The Response: The Apostolate of Saint Barnabas

I’ve been moved by the Spirit to explore the opportunity to start a lay group at my local church focused on daily prayer and a commitment to work and serve at the church. The canonical hours will form the backbone of the group as will the leadership roles that we assume throughout the church at the service to others and our own community. This is not a religious order or an institute. No one takes formal vows privately or publicly. We do not have an order or rule and we do not wear a common garb or any marks which distinguish us from non-members. We hold our Commons to be the same among us and what unites us an brings us together as a group. Our Commons are faith, liturgy, prayer, work, and way. You can read more about the Commons of Saint Barnabas here.

While we do not have a rule or order we do have an organization system that is articulated in our Constitution. We expand on our duties and obligation which arise from our Commons and desire to be in membership together in community which is articulated in our Ordinary. The Ordinary of Saint Barnabas can be found here.

It is my hope to develop a small group of dedicated Christians who are united in Christian prayer and a commitment to serve and work at the church. It is a modern take on the tradition Benedictine model which I think is a response to the need for Christian fellowship. We tend to the spiritual needs of the church through prayer and the material needs through work. Our motto is orata et opus which means pray and work which is more of a demand and institution that a reflect on the concepts of these words. They are actions and we are a group of Christian action.

The Method: The Way of Light of Saint Barnabas

Established around the Way of Light which was articulated in a non-canonical letter traditionally attributed to Saint Barnabas. We are peacemakers and peace builders first and foremost and seek to bring together the Body of Christ; temporal and spiritual; together in the unending hymn of praise inherent in the Divine Office.

Feature photo by Rosie Fraser on Unsplash.

The importance of Christian fellowship

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted our natural need for human interaction beyond what we get through pixelated screens and headphones. And this need is probably clearest in our churches.

When the world found itself in a similar period of upheaval and change, the Saints of our past look inward and oversaw the construction of massive structures that housed men and women of prayer who toiled in the name of Christ for the good of the church and their fellow humans on earth. A return to the monastery is probably not the best option for our church today, but the model of circling the wagons, supporting one another and our community directly around us and being united in prayer and common work is certainly within the realm of possible. And I would wager, needed more than ever in our post-COVID church.

The Mass will always be the chief prayer of the church– the sacrifice of Christ reenacted and shared again and again for the faithful who gather in His name. But when it comes to supporting the church in prayer, supporting one another in prayer and supporting our communities in prayer we also have the wonderful gift of the Divine Office. “Hours” of prayer set aside that sanctify the day that forms part of an unceasing hymn of praise that rises before God. A prayer that is done not just by the faithful on earth, but by the Saints and angels in Heaven, we enjoin our voice to them– just as at Mass– in our psalms of praise and devotion to God our Father.

This sort of structure prayer should not be done alone. Just like the Mass, the prayer is meant for the congregation of the church and should be celebrated whenever possible in a group setting. But the hours themselves are also said at set periods throughout the day, which means that even when the prayers are said alone, you are not alone in praying them. Especially if you have a group of people who have all agreed to work to pray together– to hold one another account and pray for a common purpose. We are told by Christ that when two or more agree and ask that the Father shall ensure they receive, and this prayer is a vehicle for that liturgical act with God.

We have something to learn from the so-called Benedictine model that can and should be applied to the post-COVID church. The importance of Christian fellowship, especially in this time of social isolation and fear, cannot be understated. A church is already a beacon for people who are isolated, alone and afraid because as a congregation we form a single body that together can and will overcome any challenge before us– this is the power of the church. When we are forced to break up, as we are now, it is even more important we lean on established prayers like the Divine Office to stay connect and inflame our Christian spirit.

O Lord, open thou my mouth that I may bless thy Holy Name. Cleanse my heart from all vain, evil, and wandering thoughts; enlighten my understanding kindle my affections, that I may pray to, and praise thee with attention and devotion; and may worthily be heard before the presence of thy Divine Majesty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect – 13th Sunday after Trinity

Another beautiful Collect for this Sunday from the BCP that again highlights the importance of worship in the vernacular.

ALMIGHTY and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service: grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this new life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises. Through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Collect, 13th Sunday after Trinity

This Collect from this Sunday is prayed each week for all ferial days. Integrating the Collect into my daily prayer each week is an easy way to stay focused on the liturgical season of the church in between going to Mass. Whether you pray the Divine Office or not, you can incorporate the Collect into your daily prayer as well. They can be found in your missal or prayer book and are easily searchable online.

Completely different worldviews

I was chatting with a Baptist friend of mine about having discussions concerning God and religion with people. My friend is very active preaching to people and is very open to discussing the big topics of God and religion. She remarked that she often feels like she is speaking a different language to people, like they simply cannot understand what she is saying not because they have rejected it but because they have no ounce or shred of understanding of what she is saying to begin with.

This made me think of a similar discussion that I had with some friends over a campfire one weekend last month. One friend remarked that she was a post-modernist which lead to a discussion about post-modernism and relative versus absolute truth. In the course of the discussion, someone pointed out that we were having a discussion about different values and that if I saw that the approach the other person was making was coming from a different value set than me than I would understand (also alluding to the need for the conversation to end). But I pointed out that such thinking was just the same basis as the one-side of the discussion and brought no resolution. And they didn’t understand. Talking about values or trying to find a consensus without any tangible resolution is the exact opposite of one whole part of the basis of the discussion and disagreement. In other words, if there is in fact one absolute truth to understand in this world, whether we come from different values or perspectives or approaches (or whatever you want to call it) there is a common place we can end and resolve the discussion. In fact, the motive for even having the discussion in the first place is a desire to get closer to this absolute truth.

We are so deep into this post-modern world that God has been reasonably declared dead. Not in the real sense, God is very much alive, will always be very much alive and will not go anywhere. But in the sense that for the lives of everyday people, for the large assumptions and motivations that shape our society and our relationships, there is no inclusion or room for God– or any higher power or truth for that matter. And we are generations past this introduction into our world, and the ideology itself is so pervasive that it has influenced every single aspect of our lives since that introduction, including within the church. We’ve all learned a new language and left the old one completely behind, and in the process of leaving the old one behind we’ve left the poetry, writings and wisdom that were gathered up in that now foreign tongue and replaced it with relativism.

Having a discussion where you not just believe but know and live your life and allow society and relationships to be formed around you with an understanding of an absolute truth, a natural order, the existence of God with a person who does not is not just a matter of believer and unbeliever. Certainly not like how we are told it was in apologetic books of the past. Today, the unbeliever is not someone who has been raised in a society that accepts God and thus has been influenced and taught all about the reality of His existence and an absolute truth only to reject it, they are rather someone who has simply never ever come into contact with any understanding or persuasion of there even being a high power, let alone the Christian God. You are speaking Latin and you’re leaning on Latin style prose and poetry to influence a Chinese (picked only because of its distance from Latin in any sense, English would not be an accurate analogy for obvious reasons) speaking man who not just has no idea what you are saying but has had absolutely no exposure to your language, prose or poetry. They not just fail to understand you, you actually sound utterly foreign and completely baseless to them.

That is the state of the world today. And more and more believers themselves are falling into the trap of post-modern thinking and are comporting lives and carrying on themselves as if there is no absolute truth in the world while still calling themselves Christians. And many “churches” encourage or outright condone such behaviours by adopting false doctrines. They speak of finding values, common ground or shut down discussions on topics that demand our attention and exploration in order to get closer to that absolute truth (and thus better, or more divine). Or they focus on matters of perceived social justice above all else which is a world entirely founded upon the principles of relative truth and post-modernism. Or, like the horrendous Gospel of Plenty, they warp and twist the very real teachings of the Bible to the perverse understandings of the world.

But I wrote this note because I am curious what your own experience with this has been in the past and presently. I would say that I find myself in a very lonely place when I think about how different my worldview is from those of my peers around me. I feel exhausted in having discussions with people about religion that can only best be compared to telling a person who has never heard of veins and the heart that they are bleeding to death and need to take action. I know there are like minded people out there, I am not unique in how I see or understand the world, but we are not the default state of society, certainly not in the West. I am curious how you feel about this.

Featured image by Ben White on Unsplash.

Mass: A Protest of the World

It seems that the world has changed so much since February of this year. We’ve had a global outbreak of disease that is on the eve of killing one million people worldwide and has not shown any signs of stopping. In the US, and other Western countries, we’ve seen protesting and rallying around the Black Lives Matter movement which has brought to light in a seemingly finalized sense the brutality that black Americans face at the hands of often white police officers. Many of us who take solace in our weekly protest of the world through Mass and the Eucharist were prevented from attending because of crowd and distancing restrictions during the COVID outbreak. And this may have contributed to a spiritual dearth as we moved through the pandemic crisis and protests the world over. But the Mass and the Eucharist are the solution to the troubles and turbulence of the world and this holds true today just as much as any other age since Christ founded the Church.

Everything about Mass is an orientation away from the world and toward the Divine. From the moment we enter the narthex and cleanse ourselves with Holy Water, to when we are bold enough to approach near the Sanctuary and kneel at the altar rail to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we are purposefully turning ourselves away from the world and toward God. This is most clearly evident in the Baptismal Rite, where traditionally candidates stood facing West, toward Death and the World and as they renounced Satan and worldly ways, they turned physically toward the East, toward the altar and the Risen Christ to embrace their new Christian life. Most church buildings themselves are designed to be places of refuge from great storms. Look way up at the ceilings of most traditional catholic churches and you’ll see ribbing and trussing that resembles the spine and supports of a boat, and you’ll be reminded of the protection and safety offered in this place away from the tumult and storms of the world. You may even have a moment similar to that of the Apostles in the boat during a dangerous storm, waking Christ in fear of being swamped. He reminded them then how powerful faith can be, and we need a little of that reminder again today no doubt. Mass is fundamentally a protest of the world, and that protest is a physical and spiritual turning away of the body and thus the soul and mind away from the world and to the things of God, to God Himself and His Son and Holy Spirit.

In order for the church to be a refuge in the world, the world must be in a state of storminess and destruction which is separated from God. There are many soft theologies that seek to unite the things of the world with the things of God, but Jesus was clear that we can only have one master. And if His Church is to be a redeeming Church (and that is how He founded it), than there must be a world and state to be redeemed from. A world that tells us that power and riches are most important, and that equality and fairness are to be determined by a measure of these things. That says it is best to make goats of all people– to attempt to raise all people to a false status of wealth and fame– than to remind them that they are sheep– all broken, all die and all take nothing from this world to the next. A world that is full of suffering and loss and that constantly reminds us of that same suffering and loss to keep us disconnected from God and each other. A world tainted by the stain of original sin which cannot be part of the Resurrection and life to come. And that is certainly where we find the world today. And because of COVID restrictions, we’ve found ourselves even more lost in not having our refuge, our protest of the world near us in Mass and the Eucharist.

Mass is the protest for the catholic. It is how we protest the world and all of the sin and suffering contained within it. We orient ourselves away from the world and toward God when we attend Mass and consume the Holy Eucharist.

As churches open up and services begin to be offered again, my hope and prayer for you today is that you find the Eucharist, and you take the time to protest this broken world and turn yourself to God.

May God the Father who made us bless us.
May God the Son send his healing among us.
May God the Holy Spirit move within us and
give us eyes to see with, ears to hear with,
and hands that your work might be done.
May we walk and preach the word of
God to all.
May the angel of peace watch over us and
lead us at last by God’s grace to the Kingdom. Amen.

Maundy Thursday

From the General Decree of 1955 which restored the liturgy of Holy Week (Maxima Redemptionis) in the Roman Catholic Church (emphasis added):

Let the faithful be taught about the love with which Christ our Lord ‘on the day before He suffered’ instituted the sacred and holy Eucharist, Sacrifice and Sacrament, the perpetual memorial of His Passion, to be offered day by day though the ministry of His priests. Let the faithful be invited to render due adoration after the end of the Mass to the most holy Sacrament. Finally, wherever to illustrate the Lord’s commandment of brotherly love the Washing of the Feet is carried out according to the restored rubrics, let the faithful be taught the deep significance of this holy rite, and let them spend this day in works of Christian charity.

The Mass today, which by order of Pope Pius XII should not begin before 5 p.m. or after 8 p.m. local time, is specifically focused on the commemoration of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper and the Ordination of the Apostles and is therefore a Mass of joy and thanksgiving. It is for this reason that the church sets aside her penitential purple vestments and the priest wears festive white vestments. The Gloria is also sung during Mass which is a piercing difference from the last 40 days which has seen that part of the Mass shelved (often replaced by the Lenten Prose). In churches with bells, it is tradition for the bells to be run through-out the Gloria during this Mass and then they not rung again until Easter Sunday.

The derivation of the word Maundy reminds us of the ceremony of washing of feet, called Mandatum, from the first words of the Antiphon: Mandatum novum do vobis (John 13:34). The Mandatum takes place today because Jesus washed the feet of His Apostles before He instituted the Holy Eucharist. After the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is processed to the Altar of Repose where it remains until the following day. All of these rites are meant to commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist.

Before the liturgy of Holy Week was codified by the Church, this day was the Feast of the Holy Eucharist– and was the only commemoration of its kind. Private Masses are forbidden on this day. In the early Middle Ages there were three separate Masses that were celebrated today. The first was in memory of the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, the second was the Blessing of Holy Oils and the third was for the reconciliation of public penitents. The second Mass was particularly interesting as it took place at the local cathedral by noon on this day and was presided over by the Bishop who was “surrounded by his priests” in like manner to Christ during the Last Supper. All that remains of the public re-welcoming of penitents in the third mass is the Deus a quo in the extraordinary form which is a very ancient piece. The Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday Mass that we celebrate today is what remains of the first celebration from the medieval church.

After the Sacrament is left at the Altar of Repose, all other altars within the church are stripped and washed. This is to provide a clear image of the Eucharist not being offered again until the conclusion of Holy Saturday. As the altars are stripped the priest recites Psalm 21(22):

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.

All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!

Featured image by euroeana.eu on Pinterest.