Use of daily prayers to mark the times of the day and to express the traditions of the praying community is traditional in Judaism and in Christianity. The third, sixth, and ninth hours (9 a.m., 12 noon, and 3 p.m.) were times of private prayer in Judaism. The congregational or cathedral form of office developed in Christianity under Constantine (274 or 288-337) with the principal morning and evening services of lauds and vespers. The people participated in the cathedral form of office. The monastic form of office also developed at this time. In addition to lauds and vespers, the monastic form included matins (at midnight or cockcrow), prime (the first hour), terce (the third hour), sext (the sixth hour), none (the ninth hour), and compline (at bedtime). By the late middle ages, the Daily Office was seen as the responsibility of the monks and clergy rather than an occasion for participation by all in the prayers of the community throughout the day.
After the Anglican Reformation, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) reduced the eight monastic offices to the two services of Morning and Evening Prayer. These services were printed in vernacular English and intended for use by all members of the church. Participation in the Daily Office is at the heart of Anglican spirituality. It is the proper form of daily public worship in the church. In addition to forms for Daily Morning Prayer and Daily Evening Prayer in contemporary and traditional language, the BCP section for the Daily Office includes forms for Noonday Prayer, Order of Worship for the Evening, Compline, and Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families. These offices include prayers, a selection from the Psalter, readings from the Holy Scriptures, one or more canticles, and the Lord’s Prayer. Forms for Morning and Evening Prayer include an optional confession of sin. The BCP provides a Daily Office Lectionary that identifies readings and psalm choices for Morning and Evening Prayer (pp. 936-1001), and a Table of Canticles with suggested canticles for use at Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer (pp. 144-145). The officiant in the Daily Office may be a member of the clergy or a lay person.
An entry space, foyer, or anteroom of a church between the door and the nave. The term is from the Greek for a “small case.” Historically, the narthex was an enclosed vestibule or porch of a basilica. Catechumens and penitents stood in the narthex during the service. It also may serve as a place for the gathering and formation of processions and a place for people to wait before services begin.
When you talk about those things, on that kind of scale, then wasting a lot of energy on whether we will live forever, or to whom we may be married, or whatever – well, it seems a whole lot more like another manifestation of that power and control thing, doesn’t it? “I demand to know, and I can afford to pay for the knowledge” or something like that.
Yet, the fullness of God’s love and truth is not known to any of us – not yet. And that’s exactly why Jesus is so easy to mock.
We don’t know everything. As St. Paul says it, “Now we see in a mirror, dimly.” Remember, that in the first century, a mirror was not likely to be one of today’s manufactured, perfectly smooth and clear glasses. Looking into a mirror was like looking into a brook or stream, or into a highly polished rock.
Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but when the end comes, “we will see face to face. Now, I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
The Christian dispensation acknowledges that we do not know, we do not have control, we are not in charge.
So, how is it we have come to believe?
Here’s a story, about two friends. Alice is a priest, and more than a dozen years ago, a seminarian called Bill spent a summer assisting in her parish. It’s a wonderful and special place. The first time he served Communion to Alice, she looked him right in the eye and said, “I believe!”
He was stunned. First of all, he was taught never to look anyone in the eye at Communion. He still isn’t sure why that was, but it used to be a kind of unspoken rule. And second, the Prayer Book clearly states that the appropriate response to “The Body of Christ” is a polite and reverent “Amen,” not an ebullient and loud declaration like “I believe!”
Over the course of the summer, Bill adjusted to Alice’s ways, and became accustomed to hearing “I believe” week after week. And his last week there, Alice invited him to dinner.
It was one of those late-summer evenings that are just perfect for sitting on the porch, rocking. He remembers they had corn on the cob, steaks on the grill, and tonic with their gin.
He mustered up his courage and asked her, “Why, Mother Alice, do you say ‘I believe’ when you receive Communion?”
“I started that a long time ago,” she told him. “It was a time of questioning and doubt for me. I couldn’t be sure there even was a God. And I wanted to know. I wanted to be certain, to be in control. And I figured the only way to get there was to ‘fake it till you make it.’ So one day, I just said, ‘I believe.’ What I really meant was, ‘I’d like to believe,’ or, even better, ‘I think I’m considering believing.’
It was all very tentative. And it was an invitation to God, at least as she intended it. As she explained, it was almost as if she were saying “Show me how to believe,” or “Improve my belief,” or even “Help my unbelief.”
“It was many, many years later,” she continued, “that I realized, O my God, I believe. I really do. Oh, I have questions, sure. And I have doubts from time to time. And a whole lot of this just doesn’t make any sense. But I believe, and that’s all that matters.”
Alice’s witness is a powerful one. It shows us how we can stand up to the powers that be in this society of ours, how we can continue to show another way to the world.
The way of truth, the way of hope, the way of love.
The journey of faith is not a life lived without doubt or questions, the life of a Christian is not one without trial or travail, and the earthly pilgrimage is not about control and power.
It’s about truth, hope, and above all, love.
And all of this begins not with “I insist” or “I own” or “I want” – but with the simple, elegant and hopeful proclamation, “I believe.”
It is helpful to read all of chapter 1 of the book of Haggai through 2:9 to obtain a fuller sense of what is going on in this passage. Haggai was a prophet who urged the leaders of Judah and the Judean people to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The text itself, in verse 1:15, shares that the book was written in the year 520 BCE, during the second year of the reign of the Persian emperor Darius I. This dating tells us that it had been 19 years since the Judean people returned from their Babylonian exile. Since their return, they apparently have been building their own houses while neglecting to rebuild the Lord’s house, the Temple (Haggai 1:9), which was destroyed in 587 BCE.
The community listens to the divine command from Haggai and obeys – they do indeed begin to rebuild the Temple. Our passage for today is God’s response to the obedience and faithfulness of the Judean people in following the Lord’s command. God reminds the people that although the Temple has been destroyed and rebuilding it will be difficult,
God’s presence with them is steadfast, as it always has been, even through times of great difficulty, like their exiles in Egypt and in Babylon. “My spirit abides among you,” God tells the people, “do not fear” (Haggai 2:5, NRSV). “Splendor” and “prosperity” will be God’s gifts to the people (Haggai 2:9).
What difficult tasks do you hear God asking of us in our communities today? What is hard about this work?
What do you envision as the gift or the “splendor” (Haggai 2:9) that could come as a result of this work?
In this song of praise, the people of Israel remember the great things the Lord has done for them and are also happy that the other peoples of the world have witnessed these divine acts of “righteousness,” “mercy,” and “faithfulness” (verses 3-4). The psalmist urges all people to “shout” and “sing” to the Lord (verses 5-6), and the psalmist even calls on nature itself, the “sea,” “rivers,” and “hills,” to join in the praise of their Creator (verses 8-9).
From the Episcopal Church website: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/bible_study/bible-study-proper-27-c-2019/
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“O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go:
preserve those who travel; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger;
and bring them in safety to their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.