St. Mary's on the Highlands Episcopal Church
Thursday, May 23, 2013
From the November 2012 St. Mary's Newsletter
Made in the First Century: The debate between Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist
By the Rev. H. Huey Gardner
I remember an advertisement that encouraged me and my family to buy goods produced in the United States. It had a catchy verse that was repeated and the images were of workers at sewing machines and on production lines. I once even asked my mother about the “made in Asia” label on a piece of clothing – could we buy it? The ad campaign challenged me to think about where a product or good had originated.
In the Episcopal Church of the USA (this debate does not happen in all parts of the Anglican Communion), some American congregations get bogged down in a debate between Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist. Some of us remember a practice associated with the 1928 Book of Common Prayer when the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion) was offered on the first Sunday of the month, and all other Sunday worship services were the Daily Office of Morning Prayer. Which liturgy should be the weekly rite for a congregation? Should we use Morning Prayer or should celebrate the Eucharist? Both liturgies have advocates and positive attributes.
The Holy Eucharist is the liturgy that has “made in the first century” stamped on it. The Eucharist is based upon the Jewish Seder meal and the language we continue to use is embedded in Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. Paul references the gathering of a house church and the meal central to this gathering. He tells the Corinthians the language to use and how they are to present themselves to the meal (Chapter 11). The Eucharist has been the foundation of the Christian community. Gathering to share in the bread and wine was a central, regular act among first century believers, and this gathering was the primary liturgical act of the early Christians. Jesus told His followers to gather and remember Him in the bread and wine of the meal. Paul and the text of Holy Scripture support the celebration of the meal and state that its observance is necessary in the life of a believer. We are one of the Christian traditions who have guarded this first century Christian liturgical act.
Morning Prayer was a later development in the life of Christians. The office of Morning Prayer is a liturgy whose roots are associated with the rise of monasticism (convents, monasteries, abbeys, cathedrals) and a regimented cycle of prayers for the believer. The liturgy of Morning Prayer is defined as “Daily”( BCP pg. 37). It is a tool for a Christian to begin the day using a prescribed cycle of prayers and readings. The offices for Noon, Evening, Compline, and Vespers were fixed times of prayer among monks, nuns, priests and within many communities. The commitment to these offices and the offering of offices is typically understood as an aspect of the middle ages. This period of time is most often defined as 450-1550 and is understood as the time when the Christian movement had a unifying influence over the culture of Europe. The rise of Islam beginning in the mid 500’s was a challenge to many Christian ideals, but Islam retained the idea of “offices” in the practice of public prayer five times a day among its followers.
One way to think about the tension between Morning Prayer and the Eucharist is from the point of origination and why is the liturgy done. Morning Prayer is a tool to strengthen the daily life of the believer. The Eucharist is a reminder of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His promise to be among us as an offering for sins. Both liturgies have their significance among the modern day believer.
St. Mary’s currently honors both liturgical practices. Morning Prayer is offered Monday through Thursday in the chancel. It is also offered on the first Sunday of the month at the 11:00 service. The Eucharist is offered at 7:30, 8:45, and 5:00 on Sunday. It is also offered to a growing number of participants following the Morning Prayer service on the first Sunday. This schedule allows everyone in our parish to participate in both of these important liturgies.
From the March 18, 2012 St. Mary's Newsletter
The March to Holy Week
By The Rev. H. Huey Gardner
Each year, Holy Week begins with a re-telling of the last few days in the life of Jesus. The Gospel accounts vary with some of the specifics but they all agree about a entrance, a meal, death, confusion among followers, and then the resurrection. This year we will do what Christians have done for almost 2000 years. We will start our march through Holy Week with Palm Sunday on April 1st. The liturgy will introduce us to the events of Jesus’ Passion and we will once again take on the role of a crowd who cried for Jesus to be crucified. We will also be the same crowd who will welcome Jesus into the city with palms and shouts of “Hosanna!”. The palms associated with Palm Sunday have traditionally been associated with victory. It seems that Greeks and Romans regularly awarded palms to the champion athlete or the conquering military leader. So the crowds welcomed Jesus into the city with the symbol of victory. Of course the crowd was not aware of the actual victory over the grave and sin that was about to unfold in front of them.
Come and move through Holy Week, be ready to “be a part of the crowd”, and be ready to learn about the power of God!
From The January 15, 2012 St. Mary's Newsletter
Epiphany and the Season of Resolutions
By the Rev. H. Huey Gardner
It happens every year! In the last week of December I begin to find articles in various publications about resolutions. Some of the resolutions are about weight loss, exercise, priorities, and use of personal time. Most of these resolutions are entrenched in our secular lives, but the church and our Christian tradition come at us from a different perspective and with a similar challenge. As we cross the secular season of resolutions, we also begin the liturgical season of Epiphany. The season of Epiphany will extend until Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2012. In this important liturgical period those present in worship and programs of the parish will hear portions of Holy Scripture read in worship that challenge our faith’s resolve. Do we live a life of commitment, service and self-denial? Do we incorporate prayer, study and devotion into our lives? These are the resolutions and considerations introduced in the season of Epiphany. We will be asked on Ash Wednesday to consider our actions and our inactions.
I am always struck by the zeal with which we approach resolutions for a new year. We join health clubs, commit to exercise, and spend time with our families. Our tradition of Christianity offers us a zeal for God. The secular resolutions are important and can change our lives – a religious resolve can change one’s whole outlook and relationship with God. I hope you will include a resolution to be faithful and present in the life of St. Mary’s. Many have, many will and lives will be changed by the power of God.