Tag Archives: Te Deum

Truly yours when it impels you to action

Therefore contemplation, even at its highest, dearest, and most intimate, is not to be for you an end in itself. It shall only be truly yours when it impels you to action: when the double movement of Transcendent Love, drawing inwards to unity and fruition, and rushing out again to creative acts, is realised [sic] in you. You are to be a living, ardent tool with which the Supreme Artist works: one of the instruments of His self-manifestation, the perpetual process by which His Reality is brought into concrete expression.

This week, I am attending the Tri-History Conference on historical encounters between the Episcopal and Anglican Church and indigenous people, being held at Oneida (Green Bay) in the Diocese of Fond du Lac.

At the end of the Eucharist last night at Church of the Holy Apostles (pictured) we stood to sing the Te Deum in the Oneida language, a practice predating their arrival in Wisconsin in the 1820s.

At Morning Prayer today we commemorated Evelyn Underhill, the English writer and mystic whose book Practical Mysticism was published at the beginning of World War I.

The excerpt above, which we read during the office, really struck me for two reasons.

Not an end in itself

Perhaps responding to the charge that promoting contemplation in time of war would lead people to quietism, Underhill writes that “contemplation, even at its highest, dearest, and most intimate, is not to be for you an end in itself.”

Various presenters at the conference noted the strong tradition of hymn-singing among the Iroquois, and the Oneida Singers graced us with several lovely hymns.

Dean Stephen Peay of Nashotah House says that French Jesuits noted the singing of the Iroquois predating their arrival. Laurence Hauptman (citing Michael McNally’s book on Ojibwe singing) suggests perhaps 80% of the Oneida were baptized because of the hymn-singing even more than the claims of the institutional church.

Our praise of God is not for ourselves alone. We sing the Lord’s song in order to draw others not only into the worship and praise of God, but also into the life and ministry of the Body of Christ.

A living, ardent tool

Underhill writes, “You are to be a living, ardent tool with which the Supreme Artist works.”

Discipleship is about modeling our lives on the life of Jesus, becoming what Underhill describes as an “instrument of God’s self-manifestation.”

That “perpetual process” of becoming a disciple is renewed every day as we pray that we may be clothed in Jesus’ spirit, “reaching forth our hands in love” (BCP 100).

The specific shape of our discipleship will take many forms — from collecting oral histories to maintaining archives to serving at a meal program or coordinating disaster relief. Some will serve in public ways or in church settings, others in private or at home.

At all times, though, our work is best done with a song in our hearts.

A Prayer for Mission

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Scope of belief and scale of revelation

You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord: we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father: all creation worships you.

Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you;
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide. (BCP 95)

As I sit on my patio saying Morning Prayer I am thinking about the scope of belief and the scale of revelation.

Creation

“All creation worships you” we say in the Te Deum laudamus, the ancient canticle of praise.

The scope of our belief is not just the seemingly endless universe spanning 14 billion light-years, but the power of God himself, the “Father, of majesty unbounded” — that is, beyond all our measuring and all our perception.

And yet the scale of revelation is that even the chirping of the birds on this misty morning speaks to me of the nature of creation, of its goodness.

Church

“Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you.”

At our Deacons’ Council meeting yesterday, we spoke with Bishop Matt Gunter about the Diocese of Fond du Lac joining in a companion relationship with another diocese in the Anglican Communion.

He shared his experience with the Diocese of Renk in South Sudan, and others on the council spoke of mission trips to Guadalajara, Mexico or to Lima, Peru.

The bishop of our neighboring Diocese of Eau Claire, one of the smallest in the Episcopal Church, is visiting their companion Diocese of Harare, Zimbabwe, one of the largest in the Anglican Communion.

Our belonging to that worldwide Church is mediated to us, brought to scale, through relationships with people in our own parishes or in the places we visit.

We participate in that worldwide acclamation by joining others around the altar for Communion on Sundays and praying the Offices as fellow-Christians do in every time zone around the globe.

The Church is brought to human scale by people in a parish and pages in a book. They are the signs to me that I belong.

Daily Office Basics

 

Human Scale

But these small-scale revelations draw me back out into consideration of a mystery.

Like the people around me, who show me God in their faces, and like the book that contains the words of the Scriptures and the prayers of the Church — like these, God comes to us in human scale.

“The Father, of majesty unbounded” is known to us in the person of Jesus, his “true and only Son, worthy of all worship.”

The mystery that we call the Incarnation is all about scope and scale.

In a specific person who lived in a specific place at a specific time, the God who is beyond all knowing chose to reveal something of himself to us.

And in that revelation, our notions of scope and scale are turned upside down and we begin to see ourselves as God sees us.

“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt. 6:26).

Listen to the chirping of birds in the garden, to the witness of the people around you, to the words of the prayers and the Scriptures.

For those who have ears to hear, that human scale reveals a love of limitless scope.

 

By the oaks of Mamre

Icon of the Trinity by Andrei Rublev

Icon of the Trinity by Andrei Rublev

Today’s readings provide an object lesson in the power of the Daily Office to trigger associations in the Christian imagination.

We begin with the Old Testament reading from Genesis in which Abraham is buying some property from the Hittites in order to bury his wife Sarah in a cave in a particular field facing Mamre.

So the field of Ephron in Machpelah, which was to the east of Mamre, the field with the cave that was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area, passed to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, in the presence of all who went in at the gate of his city. After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. (Genesis 23:17-19)

The canticle which follows, the Song of Moses, is one of the songs we sing at the Easter Vigil, when we recount Christ’s resurrection from the tomb and his victory over death.

So we have this association between the Genesis story and the resurrected Christ. Sarah is laid to rest in a cave; the cave where Christ was buried is empty when the disciples arrive there on Sunday morning. Every cave reminds us Christians of the cave which could not contain Jesus.

But the association goes deeper.

Just as Sarah’s tomb faced the oaks of Mamre, where she and Abraham laughed with the three travelers who were really God (Genesis 18), so we rejoice in the garden outside of Christ’s empty tomb and worship him as our risen Lord.

The chain of associations triggered by today’s readings — and by every day’s readings — helps us see Jesus throughout Scripture, from creation through the appearance to Abraham and Sarah, to his incarnation and passion.

We come to see and name him as one of the persons of the Trinity, as “Christ, the king of glory, the eternal Son of the Father” (BCP 96).

 

 

Trinity Sunday

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St. Augustine’s Chapel in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Fond du Lac

First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday

O God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 228)

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I want to reflect not so much on the doctrine of the Trinity but on the method of Trinitarian faith.

It took more than 400 years of sustained practice and reflection before the Christian church articulated the doctrine of the Trinity. The Apostles’ Creed is first mentioned by Ambrose around 390; the Nicene Creed came after the Council of Nicaea in 325 and was revised by the Council of Constantinople in 381; Augustine wrote On the Trinity in 415; and the Athanasian Creed dates to sometime after the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

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From the beginning Christians gathered to pray daily (just as they had been doing as observant Jews), celebrated the Lord’s Supper, and ministered to those around them, making disciples through the power of the Spirit.

“No one has ever seen God,” writes the author of the Gospel of John. “It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:18).

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

“Jesus is Lord” rings the cry of faith; “We are one in the Spirit” say the apostles to Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female; “How good it is to sing praises to our God” we pray every morning and every evening, joining our voices to the Psalmist’s (Ps. 147:1).

The doctrine of the Trinity is the attempt, however mathematical and philosophical it may be, to account for the lived experience of the Church, following the Lord Jesus in the power of God’s Spirit and in praise to the eternal Father — acknowledging the Trinity and worshiping the Unity.

Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you:
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.

(Te Deum laudamus, BCP 95)