Tag Archives: Canticle 13

Out of the depths

74585-From-the-bottom-of-the-well_view

 

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; *
you are worthy of praise; glory to you.
Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple; *
on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.
Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths; *
in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.
Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

I’m not sure these were the exact words Joseph said to himself as he looked up from the bottom of the pit his brothers had thrown him into (Genesis 37:12-24).

It’s kind of strange that they’re the words we say (Canticle 13) right after we read that lesson from Genesis at Morning Prayer today.

But it’s also kind of appropriate, this juxtaposition between the bottom of the pit and God’s glory, especially during the season of Lent.

Lent makes us mindful how far we are from the glory God intends for us.

Lent reminds us in Paul’s words that “not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:26-27).

This particular Lent reminds me, as I work the steps in my recovery process, that I “could not manage [my] own [life]; that probably no human power could have relieved [my problem]; that God could and would if He were sought” (Big Book 60).

The collect we usually read on Tuesday mornings also feels especially appropriate when we consider God’s goodness — God’s choosing us — in the face of our own sin and the predicaments we find ourselves in.

A Collect for Peace

O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 99)

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A baaad soap opera

MidnightDGCinnamon

Picture this: Jacob and his two wives Leah and Rachel are going to flee from his mean old father-in-law Laban. Because he’s mean, they’re going to steal all his stuff, too. Cue the swelling dramatic music as they meet in the field to make the crucial decision. The camera pans onto the worried faces of the wives.

Then Jacob keeps talking:

You know that I have served your father with all my strength; yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not permit him to harm me. If he said, ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore speckled; and if he said, ‘The striped shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore striped. Thus God has taken away the livestock of your father, and given them to me. During the mating of the flock I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats that leaped upon the flock were striped, speckled, and mottled. Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the goats that leap on the flock are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. (Genesis 31:6-12)

Seriously? In the middle of a soap opera story, in the heightened drama of a theft and escape, Jacob starts droning on about sheep genetics? Boring!

And then, as we finish the lesson from Genesis — “thou shalt steal thy father-in-law’s stuff, and flee with thy two wives, and oh by the way, don’t forget to take the household gods, too” — we sing a song of praise, Canticle 13.

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; *
you are worthy of praise; glory to you.
Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple; *
on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.
Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths; *
in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.
Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.
(BCP 90)

Wait, what?

In one breath we go from polygamous, plotting, sheep-stealing (but capably breeding) escapees … to glorifying God, seated between the cherubim.

Anyone who tells you the Bible is clear and easy to understand is pulling the wool over your eyes.

Get it? Wool? Oh, I kid. Get it? Kid?

On the face of it, this is one of those crazy stories, told and retold time and again, that makes your eyes glaze over every time you hear it.

“Oh God, uncle Jacob is telling the story about the sheep again!”

The lesson, and I promise there is one, is that it’s in the distance between our petty, thieving, sheep-stealing ways and God’s glory that we start to get the point of the larger story of Scripture. The Daily Office serves us well when it provides such sharp contrast between two pieces of Scripture.

The God of all creation, from the splendor of his temple, looks down on us and loves us. Even though we are manipulative tricksters, he loves us. Even though we defraud each other, and marry in weird configurations, and dream about sheep genetics, and run away from our lying, cheating families, God loves us.

In fact, he loves us so much that he works out his plan of salvation using us and our efforts.

If it weren’t right there in Scripture, plain as can be, we’d say that was a baaad soap opera.

To hear his holy Word

Image by Michael Podesta Graphic Design

Image by Michael Podesta Graphic Design

The Three-Part Office

The Daily Office is structured in three parts: the Invitatory and Psalter, the Lessons, and the Prayers.

Introductory material like we discussed yesterday, and the apparently complicated Daily Office Lectionary, can obscure that three-part structure, but it helps to keep it in mind.

On Sunday, we discussed finding your place and preparing to say the Office. Yesterday, we talked about beginning the Office and praying the Psalms. Today we will focus on the Lessons, the readings from Scripture organized by the lectionary in a two-year cycle.

Tomorrow we will finish this series by looking at the Prayers, especially the Collects, which are so distinctive in our prayer book worship.

The Daily Office Lectionary

On Sunday we looked briefly at the Daily Office Lectionary in order to mark our place with the Psalms and Lessons appointed for the day and the particular Office we were praying.

One of the particular treasures of the Daily Office is that it soaks you in Scripture. You can’t help it — as you follow the Daily Office lectionary, you will read all 150 Psalms every seven weeks, the New Testament in the course of a year, and the Old Testament over the course of two years.

Since the Church Year starts in Advent, a little before the calendar year, the Year Two lectionary for even-numbered years like 2014 starts a little before 2014. We’re now beginning Year Two.

Week of 1 Advent

Tuesday          5,6          *          10,11
Amos 3:1-11          2 Pet. 1:12-21          Matt. 21:12-22

We looked at the Psalms yesterday; remember that the Psalms for Morning Prayer are listed first and those for Evening Prayer second.

There are three Scripture passages appointed for each day — Old Testament (or Apocrypha), New Testament (Acts and the Epistles), and Gospel.

The instructions on BCP 934 suggest that two readings be used in the morning and one in the evening. They also suggest that in Year One, you read the Gospel in the evening and in Year Two in the morning.

So today at Morning Prayer, you will read the lessons from Amos and Matthew. At Evening Prayer, you will read the lesson from 2 Peter.

You’ll notice as you go from day to day that you are doing what is called “course reading” — reading through an entire book over the course of several days or weeks. That means most days you won’t have to move your bookmarks, because you’ll pick up reading where you left off the day before.

Lessons and Canticles

Most Episcopalians are familiar with the way Scripture lessons are read in church on Sunday mornings.

We usually read an Old Testament lesson, say or sing a Psalm, read a New Testament lesson, sing a Gradual Hymn during the Gospel procession, and then hear the Gospel read.

It’s actually not too different in the Daily Office. The pattern in the Office is to read a lesson, then respond with a “canticle,” a song made up of verses from Scripture.

So today, we read the passage from Amos, then read a canticle, read the passage from Matthew, then read another canticle.

If you turn in the service of Morning Prayer to BCP 85, you’ll see that there are 14 canticles printed over the next several pages. How do you know which canticle to read?

MP Canticles

Enter the handy-dandy Daily Office Anchor Society Canticles Bookmarks!

What they do is replicate the tables found at BCP 144 which lay out which canticles to read on any given day of the week. I suggest that you print them out from the Resources page, trim them to size, and tape them into your prayer book at BCP 84 for Morning Prayer and BCP 118 for Evening Prayer.

Since today is Tuesday, after the Old Testament reading we will turn to BCP 90 and read Canticle 13. Like the Invitatory Psalms, the Canticles have been known for centuries by their Latin names. Benedictus es, Domine is Latin for “Blessed are you, Lord.”

After the New Testament reading, we will turn back to BCP 93 and read Canticle 18, A Song to the Lamb.

Just like there are seasonal sentences of Scripture that you could say to begin the Office, there are also seasonal emphases in the Canticles. You’ll notice on Sundays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays on the table above that there are different canticles appointed during Advent, Lent, or Easter. You’ll also see at the bottom of the table that any time there is a Major Feast on the church calendar, you would use Canticles 16 and 21 at Morning Prayer.

It feels like a lot of information, but the pattern for the Lessons is actually pretty simple:

Old Testament reading

Canticle from table

New Testament reading

Canticle from table

The Apostles’ Creed

The last thing we do in the Lessons section of the Office — after hearing God’s holy Word and responding in song — is recite the Apostles’ Creed (BCP 96).

The Apostles’ Creed is the ancient baptismal creed of the Church. When we baptize anyone even today, we renew our own baptismal covenant by reciting the Apostles’ Creed. Every day, morning and evening, we remember our baptism.

In the Daily Offices “we come together in the presence of Almighty God our heavenly Father, to set forth his praise, to hear his holy Word, and to ask, for ourselves and on behalf of others, those things that are necessary for our life and our salvation” (BCP 79).

Tomorrow, we will conclude this series by looking at the Prayers “for ourselves and on behalf of others” which conclude the Office.

Visions of peace

Four Evangelists cross from the Printery House

Four Evangelists cross from the Printery House

Therefore we praise you,
joining our voices with Angels and Archangels
and with all the company of heaven,
who forever sing this hymn
to proclaim the glory of your Name:

Holy, holy, holy Lord; God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest. (BCP 362)

Today the assigned readings and the canticles appointed for the day line up perfectly to create a single unifying image for Morning Prayer.

In the Book of Ezra, we read about the rebuilding of the Temple following the return of the Israelites from exile in Babylon. They are restoring the site of their worship, and with them we picture their prayers once more ascending to God, with incense surrounding the golden cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant.

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers;
you are worthy of praise; glory to you ….
Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim;
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.
(Canticle 13, BCP 90)

In the Revelation to John, we similarly see a vision of restoration, of worship to God in the heavenly City, the new Jerusalem. John describes his vision of a throne surrounded by 24 thrones, on which are seated 24 elders, in front of whom are seven torches and a sea of glass, and around whom are the “four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind.”

Christian tradition has long associated the four living creatures — “at his feet the six-winged seraph; cherubim with sleepless eye” (Hymn 324) — with the four Evangelists: Matthew like a lion, Mark like a man, Luke like an ox, and John like an eagle.

In Canticle 18, we respond to the reading with the same song the angels and elders are singing around the throne:

And so, to him who sits upon the throne,
and to Christ the Lamb,
Be worship and praise, dominion and splendor,
for ever and for evermore.
(BCP 94)

Now, if that were the whole story, that would be enough — a nice symmetry making Morning Prayer extra lovely. Fine.

But there’s even more.

These visions of a restored Temple, of a City with the Lamb at its center, were recorded in order to give comfort to God’s people in hard times. The exiles were struggling to recover their sense of self, and it seemed like the grinding bureaucracy of the Babylonian empire might slow down or stop their building project. The early Christian communities of John’s time were beginning to be thrown out of the synagogues where they had been worshiping and to experience persecution by the Roman empire.

These are not just lovely songs, but visions of peace meant to sustain God’s people in times of trouble.

How will you imagine peace in your life today? What images will help you get through your struggles?

A Collect for Peace

O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 99)

The roads to Zion mourn

Twin Towers 9-11 by William Wray -- http://williamwray.blogspot.com

Twin Towers 9-11 by William Wray — http://williamwray.blogspot.com

How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies. Judah has gone into exile with suffering and hard servitude; she lives now among the nations, and finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress. The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter. Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the LORD has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe. (Lamentations 1:1-5)

+ + + + +

In his course this fall at Seabury titled “This Dangerous Book: Strategies for Teaching the Bible,” John Dally suggests that the Bible is organized around two 9-11’s.

The Hebrew Bible, or the Old Testament, was compiled into its final form after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and the exile of the Jews into Babylon.

The New Testament is the record of the Church’s attempt to understand the disaster of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Notes from the first session of John Dally's "This Dangerous Book: Strategies for Teaching the Bible" at Seabury.

Notes from the first session of John Dally’s “This Dangerous Book: Strategies for Teaching the Bible.”

The passage this morning from the Book of Lamentations captures the despair of the people of Judah over the destruction of the Temple. In the juxtaposition of this lesson and the canticle appointed for today (Canticle 13), we can see the seeds of Israel’s judgment on itself — “God is worthy of praise; this disaster must be our fault.” An empire has crushed the hope of God’s people.

The story that becomes clear throughout the Hebrew scriptures is the story of God seeking the people of Israel and their turning away from him again and again. In the New Testament, we see the same story written in small letters, but on a cosmic scale.

The New Testament story concerns Jesus of Nazareth — “we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21).

Not only did God come into the world he had created, but once again we turned away from him. Even when some came to accept him and place their hope in him, they had their hopes terribly dashed when he was killed by the Romans. Yet again, an empire crushed the hopes of God’s people.

In both cases, however, as John Dally observes, the people of God had their belief shattered and kept on believing.

Paul sums up the Christian understanding beautifully: “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, so will we bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:49).

Though the Bible is organized around two disasters, they are not the point of the story. The point of the Biblical story is the unswerving love of God for the people he made. Just as the Jews in exile came to understand that God was with them in Torah rather than Temple, the early Church came to realize that not even death could separate them from the love of God or stop the plan of salvation that Jesus had set into motion.

Can I get a witness?

rothkow

Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, while the boy remained to minister to the LORD, in the presence of the priest Eli. (1 Sam. 2:11)

I wonder whether the boy Samuel “ministered to the Lord” by singing songs like the canticle we read this morning right after hearing the beginning of his story:

A Song of Praise Benedictus es, Domine
Song of the Three Young Men, 29-34

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; *
you are worthy of praise; glory to you.
Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple; *
on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.
Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths; *
in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.
Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever. (BCP 90)

We also read in the Acts of the Apostles this morning about the followers of Jesus in the days after his resurrection and ascension. “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer,” we read (Acts 1:14). Their prayer, like ours, probably consisted largely of the Psalms. We minister to the Lord, in part, by singing his praise and joining our voices with all those who have gone before.

One of the first pieces of business the apostles have to attend to is selecting someone to replace Judas, to bring the number of apostles back up to 12. They want someone who has accompanied them during Jesus’ ministry — “one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22).

I wonder what song Matthias sang after he was chosen to be a witness? What song do you sing to honor God and witness to his love?

Juxtaposition

The interplay between Scripture readings and the prayers and canticles in the Daily Office sets up resonances in the biblically educated ear.

Take, for example, this morning’s Old Testament lesson and the canticle appointed to be read immediately following.

In the reading from Genesis, we have a vivid picture of murderous jealousy. Joseph, the dreamer, is stripped of his cloak and thrown into a pit by his brothers who “saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, … conspired to kill him” (Gen. 37:18).

After saying “The Word of the Lord; Thanks be to God” we turn back to the service of Morning Prayer and see that Canticle 13 is appointed for Tuesdays.

Glory to you, Lord God of our Fathers; *
You are worthy of praise; glory to you. (BCP 90)

What an enormous gulf there is between our jealousy and God’s glory! The abrupt transition brings that truth home.

The regular patterns — Scripture readings over a two-year period and canticles day by day — mesh in surprising and illuminating ways.

The same thing happens with the New Testament reading: “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by the world’s standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:26-27).

The Office continues with Canticle 18:

Splendor and honor and kingly power *
are yours by right, O Lord our God.
And yours by right, O Lamb that was slain, *
for with your blood you have redeemed for God,
From every family, language, people, and nation, *
a kingdom of priests to serve our God. (BCP 93)

How little we deserve to be juxtaposed with God’s glory. How little a detail in the Daily Office drives home that truth.