Monthly Archives: December 2010

A hymn upon the new year

Now greet the swiftly changing year
with joy and penitence sincere;
rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace
another year of grace.

For Jesus came to wage sin’s war;
this Name of names for us he bore;
rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace
another year of grace.

His love abundant far exceeds
the volume of a whole year’s needs;
rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace
another year of grace.

With such a Lord to lead our way
in hazard and prosperity,
what need we fear in earth or space
in this new year of grace?

“All glory be to God on high
and peace on earth,” the angels cry;
rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace
another year of grace.

Slovak carol, 17th century, trans. Jarvosla J. Vajda (1919-2008), alt. in The Hymnal 1982

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Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Bishop in Western Africa, 1891

Bishop Samuel Adjai Crowther

Born c. 1809 into the Yoruba, as a boy of 13, Ajayi (or Adjai) was captured in a Falani attack and sold as a slave.  The ship transporting him was arrested by the British Royal Navy and taken to Sierra Leone, where he came under the care of the Church Missionary Society in 1822.  At baptism he took the name of a committee member of the CMS.  Samuel Ajayi was among the first students of the Fourah Bay Institution, served as a teacher in Sierra Leone, and was a CMS representative on the British government’s Niger Expedition of 1841.  After studying at Islington College, the Church Missionary Society’s training school in London, he was ordained in 1843 and was one of the founding members of the CMS mission to the Yoruba people.  From 1857 he led the Niger Mission with an all-African staff, covering the area from the Upper Niger to the Delta.   In 1864 Crowther was ordained and appointed Bishop of Western Africa beyond the Queen’s jurisdiction.  In that same year he was made a Doctor of Divinity by Oxford University (by tradition, new bishops in the Church of England were made Doctors of Divinity by Oxford or Cambridge on their elevation to the episcopate).

As the first native African Anglican bishop and leader of a native African Anglican mission, Crowther exemplified the younger Henry Venn’s indigenous church policy.  Venn, an Evangelical Anglican missionary statesman and grandson of the Evangelical theologian Henry Venn, served as secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1841 to 1872.  His aim was that indigenous missionary churches should be self-supporting, self-governing, and self-extending.  Venn was instrumental in securing Crowther’s appointment as a missionary bishop.  However, in his later years, as his authority was increasingly bypassed and the African Niger mission was effectively dismantled by European missionaries, Crowther was the victim of a more ethnocentric missionary approach that marked the imperial period.

Crowther was also the principal influence on the translation of the Bible into Yoruba and on the orthography devised for writing Yoruba, and he encouraged vernacular translation by his clergy.  While his attention was over time directed more and more to other languages, he continued to oversee the translation of the Bible into Yoruba, a project that was completed in the mid-1880s.

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is now the second-largest Church in the Anglican Communion by membership, after the Church of England.

The commemoration of Samuel Ajayi Crowther on December 31, the date of his death from the effects of a stroke in 1891, was adopted provisionally by The Episcopal Church in 2009.

The Collect

Almighty God, you rescued Samuel Ajayi Crowther from slavery, sent him to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to his people in Nigeria, and made him the first bishop from the people of West Africa: Grant that those who follow in his steps may reap what he has sown and find abundant help for the harvest; through him who took upon himself the form of a slave that we might be free, the same Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lesson
Isaiah 60:4-9

Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from afar,
and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and exult,
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.
All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you;
the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you;
they shall come up with acceptance on my altar,
and I will beautify my beautiful house.

Who are these that fly like a cloud,
and like doves to their windows?
For the coastlands shall hope for me,
the ships of Tarshish first,
to bring your children from afar,
their silver and gold with them,
for the name of the Lord your God,
and for the Holy One of Israel,
because he has made you beautiful.

Psalm 119:57-64
Portio mea Domine

You only are my portion, O LORD; *
I have promised to keep your words.

I entreat you with all my heart, *
be merciful to me according to your promise.

I have considered my ways *
and turned my feet toward your decrees.

I hasten and do not tarry *
to keep your commandments.

Though the cords of the wicked entangle me, *
I do not forget your law.

At midnight I will rise to give you thanks, *
because of your righteous judgments.

I am a companion of all who fear you *
and of those who keep your commandments.

The earth, O LORD, is full of your love; *
instruct me in your statutes.

The Gospel
Matthew 9:35-38

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

__________________________________________________________________________

Pray today especially for

  • the Church in Nigeria
  • missionary zeal in bishops
  • those who translate the Bible into West African languages

O God, the King of saints, we praise and magnify your holy Name for all your servants who have finished their course in your faith and fear; for the blessed Virgin Mary; for the holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs; and for all other of your righteous servants, known to us and unknown; remembering especially this day Samuel Ajayi Crowther, bishop in Western Africa; and we beseech you that, encouraged by their examples, aided by their prayers, and strengthened by their fellowship, we also may be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

___________________________________________________________________________

The scripture texts for the Lesson and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Version Bible. The Psalm is taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979), and the Collect from the provisional propers for the Commemoration of Samuel Ajayi Crowther.

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John Wycliffe, Theologian and Reformer, 1384

Blessed John Wycliffe, Rector of Lutterworth, Theologian and Reformer

John Wycliffe (also Wycliff or Wyclif), born c. 1330, was born in Yorkshire and educated at Oxford University. Fellow of Merton College in 1356 and Master of Balliol College circa 1360-1, he served a rector of Fillingham and later of Ludgershall and of Lutterworth (the latter two until his death in 1384). He was in the service of the Edward, the Black Prince of Wales, and of Edward’s brother, John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, from 1371, serving as an envoy and propagandist.

Wycliffe made his reputation early as a philosopher. Reacting against the prevailing scepticism of Oxford thought, which divorced natural and supernatural knowledge, he returned to the philosophical realism of Saint Augustine and Robert Grosseteste. From the beginning his philosophy was religious in character, and it was fed by a sense of the spiritual sterility of skepticism. As a theologian he sought inspiration in the Scriptures and the Fathers rather than in the speculations of medieval Scholasticism, and he fulfilled his doctoral obligations at Oxford by an unprecedented, if unoriginal, series of lectures conmmenting on the entire Bible. His growing repugnance at the religious institutions of his time led to his gradual elaboration, on the basis of his philosophy, of a concept of the Church which distinguished its eternal, ideal reality from the visible, “material” Church, and denied to the latter any authority that did not derive from the former. His idea that the clergy, if not in a state of grace, could lawfully be deprived of their endowments by the civil power, its own authority dependent on being in a state of grace (De Civili Dominio, 1375-60), was condemned in 1377 by Pope Gregory XI. In his De Ecclesia, De Veritate Sacrae Scripturae, and De Potestate Papae (1377-8), Wycliffe maintained that the Bible, as the eternal “exemplar” of the Christian religion, was the sole criterion of doctrine, to which no ecclesiastical authority might lawfully add, and that the papal authority was ill-founded in Scripture. In the later De Apostasia he denied, in violent terms, that the religious (monastic) life had any foundation in Scripture, and he appealed to the government to reform the whole order of the Church in England. At the same time in De Eucharistia he attacked the doctrine of transubstantiation as philosophically unsound and as encouraging a superstitious attitude to the Eucharist. Wycliffe’s eucharistic doctrine was that the bread remained, and that Jesus was truly present in the bread, though in a spiritual and not a material manner.

These published doctrines gradually lost him substantial support in Oxford and reduced his following to a small by loyal group of sholars, along with a number of friends at court (he was protected from ecclesiastical censure three times in his later years by Gaunt and by the Black Prince’s widow). His eucharistic doctrine was condemned by the Univerity in 1381, and Wycliffe’s public refusal to comply in his Confessio created a scandal. The Peasants’ Revolt, popularly though erroneously attributed to his teaching – particularly his teaching on authority and grace – magnified the scandal, and a wide range of his teachings and followers (though not Wycliffe himself) were condemned by Archbishop William Courtenay at the Blackfriars Council in 1382. Wycliffe retired to Lutterworth, where he revised his polemics and produced a series of pamphlets attacking his enemies. After his death from a stroke on December 31, 1384, the continued activity of his disciples, who as they gathered strength among the less educated became known as Lollards, led to further condemnations of Wycliffe’s doctrines in 1388, 1397, and finally at the Council of Constance in 1415. In 1428 Wycliffe’s remains were removed from consecrated ground and burned, and the ashes were cast into the River Swift.

Wyliffe’s philosophical influence at Oxford was considerable for at least a generation, though his later influence in England as a whole is less clear. However, his philosophical and theological writings exercised an influence on Czech scholars, especially Jan (or John) Hus, the Bohemian priest and preacher in Prague who was condemned as a heretic by the same Council of Constance as condemned Wycliffe. (Hus was convicted and burned for his heresy.) Many of Wycliffe’s writings survive only in Czech manuscripts.

Outside the field of philosophy Wycliffe’s ideas were not original and can be compared with similar views of contemporary European reformers. His importance lies in his role in propagating his ideas. Wycliffe was an energetic preacher in Latin and in English, as his surviving sermons show. Furthermore, Wycliffe proposed the creation of a new order of Poor Preachers who would preach to the people from an English Bible.

The first English versions of the entire Bible are the two associated with Wycliffe’s work, made by translating the Latin Vulgate between 1380 and 1397. It is unknown what part of the work of translation was done by Wycliffe himself, but Wycliffe certainly inspired the project, including the making of the second version after his death in 1384. Both versions were made by scholars who were his immediate disciples: Nicholas Hereford, largely responsible for the first version; and John Purvey, Wycliffe’s secretary, for the second version, completed in 1397.

The modern-day Wycliffe Bible Translators, named in his honor, are committed to translating the Bible into all languages spoken around the world.

Wycliffe is commemorated on December 31 in the Calendars of the Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the (Anglican) Church in Wales; and in that of The Episcopal Church on October 30.

compiled from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, and the preface to the New English Bible

James Kiefer has provided a collect for the commemoration of John Wycliffe, Theologian and Reformer:

Collect

O Lord, God of truth, whose Word is a lantern to our feet and a light upon our path: We give you thanks for your servant John Wycliffe, and those who, following in his steps, have labored to render the Holy Scriptures in the language of the people; and we pray that your Holy Spirit may overshadow us as we read the written Word, and that Christ, the living Word, may transform us according to your righteous will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The image of Wycliffe is taken from the website of St Mary’s Church in Lutterworth and is of a late eighteenth century portrait of Wycliffe that hangs in the church.

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Sylvester, Bishop of Rome, 335

Saint Sylvester, Bishop of Rome

In the Roman Calendar and in the Calendar of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer this day is the commemoration of Sylvester, Bishop of Rome from 314 to 335. Little is known of Sylvester’s life and episcopate. He became bishop of the imperial city in the year of the promulgation of the letter of the emperors Constantine and Licinius (known in later years as the “Edict of Milan”) which declared Christianity a religio licita (a legal religion) in the Roman Empire. He was represented by delegates at the regional Council of Arles, called in 314 in an attempt to heal the Donatist schism, and at the first Council of Nicaea. Though little of historical value is known about him, he figures importantly in medieval legendary hagiography, which asserts that he baptized the emperor Constantine at the baptistery of the Lateran, cleansing him of leprosy. His medieval Acts also assert that he established the Lateran church as the cathedral of the city of Rome on land given to him by Constantine.

Collect

O God, our Heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Sylvester to be a bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock: Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Celebrating martyrs – in Christmastide?

Christmas is the yearly expectation of redemption and the proclamation of the consummation.  Three feasts days came to be closely associated with Christmas:  St Stephen, St John, and Holy Innocents.  The ancient association of these martyr’s* days [and the later medieval addition in the West of the feast day of St Thomas of Canterbury] reinforces the eschatological understanding of the celebration of Christmas.  The birth of Jesus is more than a commemoration of his birthday.  His birth into this world prefigures the birth into the next world of his martyrs, who follow in his train.  The birth of Christ is a judgment on the persecution and rejection of God and his Word, and means joy for those who remain faithful and steadfast even in the face of great persecution.  These are days of judgment as well as joy…

…In the Western Church, St Stephen’s Day is the first of a succession of three festivals immediately following Christmas – St Stephen, St John, the Holy Innocents – that associate the three “heavenly birthdays” with the birthday of Christ:  as he was born into this world from heaven, so they were born from this world into heaven.

from the New Book of Festivals & Commemorations, Philip H. Pfatteicher (Fortress Press, 2008)

*St John the Evangelist (the Theologian), while he did not suffer martyrdom by death, suffered martyrdom by exile to the island of Patmos during the reign of the emperor Diocletian.

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Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr, 1170

Saint Thomas of Canterbury

Because of the Prayer Book’s rules of precedence governing the Calendar of the Church Year, the commemoration of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, is superseded by the transference of Holy Innocents to December 29 (cf. 1979 BCP, p. 16). Nevertheless, in keeping with the stated purpose of this weblog, I am posting this “day of optional observance” (1979 BCP, p. 17) as well.

Born in London of a wealthy Norman family, Thomas was educated at Merton Abbey and at Paris. He was a financial clerk for a while and then joined the curia of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, notable for the quality of its personnel and the skill of their legal expertise. He was sent to study law at Bologna and Auxerre; after being ordained deacon, he became archdeacon of Canterbury in 1154. In this position he was notably successful and was used by Theobald as a negotiator with the Crown. When Henry II succeeded to the throne of England in 1154, he chose Thomas, at Theobald’s suggestion, as Chancellor of England in 1155. Thomas’ close friendship with the young king, his employment on embassies and on military expeditions in which he actually led his troops in battle, apparently presaged a brilliant future in the political sphere. His personal efficiency, lavish entertainment and support for the king’s interests – even, on occasion, against those of the Church – made him a quite outstanding royal official.

In 1162, Henry, expecting the same relationship to continue, obtained his election as Archbishop of Canterbury. But from this time Thomas deliberately adopted an austere way of life and immediately, to the king’s annoyance, resigned the chancellorship. However, the hairshirt, discipline, vigils, and maundies which he adopted did not end his previous determination. In character he was sensitive and intransigent, ready in speech and thorough in action.

Now that he was archbishop, through no choice of his own, Thomas was determined to carry through, at whatever cost, what he saw as the proper duties of his state. These included the paternal care of the soul of the king, tactlessly presented by his friend of yesterday in a way which caused considerable annoyance. Thomas also opposed Henry in matters of taxation, on the claims of secular courts to punish ecclesiastics for offences already dealt with by church courts, and most important, on freedom to appeal to Rome. A long and bitter struggle ensued, and neither king nor archbishop would give way. At a council in Northampton Thomas, nearly alone, withstood royal claims of money owing the king from the days of Becket’s chancellorship and appealed to the pope. He then escaped to France.

His exile lasted over six years, during which time he lived first in the Cistercian abbey of Pontigny and later at Sens. Both sides appealed to Pope Alexander III, who tried hard to find an acceptable solution. But the dispute grew in bitterness. Henry was bent on Becket’s ruin, while the archbishop used ecclesiastical censures against the king’s supporters among the higher clergy and even attempted to obtain an interdict of England. Thomas came to believe that deeper issues of principle were at stake in the dispute: the claims of Church and State, ultimately of God and Caesar.

Although peace was eventually patched up in 1170 and Thomas returned to his diocese, the reconciliation was superficial. In defiance of the rights of Canterbury, Prince Henry had been crowned, and Becket answered by excommunicating the bishops most closely concerned. In a rage Henry asked his courtiers who would rid him of “this turbulent priest”. Four barons took the king at his word. After an altercation with Becket, they murdered him in his own cathedral. Although he had not always lived like a saint, he died like one, commending his cause to God and his saints, accepting death “for the name of Jesus and for the Church”.

The news of his death shocked Christendom. Miracles were soon reported at his tomb, his faults were forgotten, and he was hailed as a martyr for the cause of Christ and the liberty of the Church. He was canonized in 1173, and his relics were translated in 1220. Representations of his martyrdom rapidly appeared all over Europe: early examples survive not only from France and Germany, but also from Iceland, Sicily, and even Armenia. At Canterbury Thomas more or less replaced the following of earlier local saints by the popularity of the pilgrimage, which soon became one of the most important in Europe. The Pilgrims’ Way, from London or Winchester to Canterbury, can still be traced. The stained glass windows that depict it at Canterbury are a rich source for many details of medieval life, and Chaucer immortalized its practice and its personnel in the Canterbury Tales. The great 16th century Catholic humanist Erasmus later attacked several elements of the cult and Henry VIII destroyed the shrine, ordering all mention of his name in liturgical books to be erased.

In recent years his commemoration has been restored to the sanctoral calendars of Anglican Churches.

adapted from The Oxford Book of Saints

The Collect

O God, our strength and our salvation, you called your servant Thomas Becket to be a shepherd of your people and a defender of your Church: Keep your household from all evil and raise up among us faithful pastors and leaders who are wise in the ways of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ the shepherd of our souls, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lesson
2 Esdras 2:42-48

I, Ezra, saw on Mount Zion a great multitude, which I could not number, and they all were praising the Lord with songs. In their midst was a young man of great stature, taller than any of the others, and on the head of each of them he placed a crown, but he was more exalted than they. And I was held spellbound. Then I asked an angel, “Who are these, my lord?” He answered and said to me, “These are they who have put off mortal clothing and have put on the immortal, and they have confessed the name of God; now they are being crowned and receive palms.” Then I said to the angel, “Who is that young man who places crowns on them and puts palms in their hands?” He answered and said to me, “He is the Son of God, whom they confessed in the world.” So I began to praise those who had stood valiantly for the name of the Lord. Then the angel said to me, “Go, tell my people how great and many are the wonders of the Lord God that you have seen.”

Psalm 126
In convertendo

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, *
then were we like those who dream.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter, *
and our tongue with shouts of joy.

Then they said among the nations, *
“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us, *
and we are glad indeed.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD, *
like the watercourses of the Negev.

Those who sowed with tears *
will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, *
will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

The Gospel
Matthew 10:16-22

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

__________________________________________________________________________

Pray today especially for

  • all bishops and clergy confronted by hostile governments
  • Christians living in unjust and totalitarian societies
  • the see of Canterbury and its cathedral, the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ, mother church of the Anglican Communion and seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England
  • the Most Reverend Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury; and His Eminence, Vincent Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and titular Archbishop of Canterbury (Roman Catholic)
  • all pilgrims and visitors to Canterbury Cathedral

O God, the King of saints, we praise and magnify your holy Name for all your servants who have finished their course in your faith and fear; for the blessed Virgin Mary; for the holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs; and for all other of your righteous servants, known to us and unknown; remembering especially this day Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury and martyr; and we beseech you that, encouraged by their examples, aided by their prayers, and strengthened by their fellowship, we also may be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

___________________________________________________________________________

The scripture texts for the Lesson and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Version Bible. The Collect and Psalm are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979).

The icon supra is taken from the Sacra Domus Nazarena weblog.

The Becket Panel of Wymondham Abbey “depicts Saint Thomas Becket and eight scenes from his life [from his archiepiscopal consecration to his martyrdom]. It was painted by Father David Hunter, a former chaplain at Wymondham Abbey, and was given by him to the parishioners of Wymondham Abbey in thanksgiving for 900 years of Christian witness here in this place”. The panel and its individual scenes, with descriptions, may be viewed at the Wymondham Abbey website.

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The Holy Innocents

Since December 26, St Stephen’s Day, falls on a Sunday this year, the feast of St Stephen is transferred to December 27, and the feasts of St John and of the Holy Innocents are transferred to December 28 and December 29, respectively.

Herod the Great, appointed ruler (ethnarch) of the Jews by the Romans in 40 BC, kept the peace in Palestine for 37 years. His ruthless control, coupled with genuine ability, has been recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus, who describes him as “a man of great barbarity towards everyone.” Though he identified himself publicly as a practicing Jew, Herod was an Idumaean (an Edomite), the son of Antipater the Idumaean, a high-ranking official under the Jewish ethnarch Hyrcanus II, the last legal Hasmonean rule of Judaea, whose daughter Herod married. Because he was not himself a Hasmonean and was not ethnically a Jew, Herod was continually in fear of losing his throne. It is not surprising that the Magi’s report of the birth of an infant King of the Jews (Matthew 2) caused him fear and anger. Although the event is not recorded in other sources, the story of the massacre of the Innocents is completely in keeping with what is known of Herod’s character.

To protect himself against being supplanted by an infant king, Herod ordered the slaughter of all male children under two years of age in Bethlehem and the surrounding region. We do not know how many were killed, but the Church has always honored these innocent children as martyrs. Augustine of Hippo called them, “buds, killed by the frost of persecution the moment they showed themselves.”

adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts

The Collect

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lesson
Jeremiah 31:15-17

Thus says the Lord:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.”

Thus says the Lord:
“Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears,
for there is a reward for your work,
declares the Lord,
and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
There is hope for your future,
declares the Lord,
and your children shall come back to their own country.

Psalm 128
Nisi quia Dominus

If the LORD had not been on our side, *
let Israel now say;

If the LORD had not been on our side, *
when enemies rose up against us;

Then would they have swallowed us up alive *
in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us *
and the torrent gone over us;

Then would the raging waters *
have gone right over us.

Blessed be the LORD! *
he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler; *
the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD, *
the maker of heaven and earth.

The Epistle
Revelation 21:1-7

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

The Gospel
Matthew 2:13-18

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

__________________________________________________________________________

Pray today especially for

  • all children
  • for all those who are persecuted and for those oppressed by any tyranny
  • for the victims of abortion
  • for courage to resist oppression and to share the lot of the oppressed
  • for repentance for those who have persecuted others in the name of Christ

O God, the King of saints, we praise and magnify your holy Name for all your servants who have finished their course in your faith and fear; for the blessed Virgin Mary; for the holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs; and for all other of your righteous servants, known to us and unknown; remembering especially this day the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem; and we beseech you that, encouraged by their examples, aided by their prayers, and strengthened by their fellowship, we also may be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

___________________________________________________________________________

The scripture texts for the Lesson, the Epistle, and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Version Bible. The Collect and Psalm are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979).

An icon of the Holy Innocents entitled, “The Lament of Rachel“, and the troparion for the day, may be viewed at the “Come and See” Icons website.


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