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From the Rector's Desk

Defender of the Faith March 2016

A well-known title of the reigning British monarch is “Defender of the Faith.” It is a title so commonly used that most people don’t often give it a second thought. This is most likely because it has been associated with the British Monarchy for nearly five centuries.

One of the most surprising facts about the title is that King Henry VIII, the first “Defender of the Faith” would be considered an unlikely candidate by today’s standards.

Naturally, one might ask why a king as infamous as Henry might be granted a very pious sounding title. The answer lies with Henry’s vocational path before he became king. Growing up, Henry’s older brother, Arthur, was expected to become king. This allowed Henry the opportunity to study for the priesthood. His brother’s death left Henry heir to the throne. And although Henry gave up his goal of becoming a priest, he didn’t give up his interest in theology.

When Martin Luther published Babylonian Captivity in 1520, he challenged the sacramental system of the Roman Catholic Church by suggesting that there were only two sacraments as opposed to seven. Henry felt the need to respond to Luther’s work. With the help of Thomas More (whom Henry would later execute), he prepared The Assertion of the Seven Sacraments. This defence of the sacramental system impressed Pope Leo X who granted it to King Henry VIII on October 11, 1521.

As we all know, Henry’s marital problems eventually led to the separation of the Church of England with the Roman Catholic Church. And after the split, Pope Paul III revoked the title. He conferred it on King James V of Scotland on January 19, 1537. The rationale behind the pope’s action was that by referring to the Scottish Monarch as “Defender of the Faith,” it was implied that the King of Scots would resist the path that his uncle, Henry VIII, had followed.

This had little effect on Henry who really liked being called “Defender of the Faith.” So in 1544 the Parliament of England conferred the title “Defender of the Faith” on King Henry VIII and his successors.

May 2015 - Our Father (part 2)

This month, we resume where we left off in our exploration of the Our Father.

As we wander further into the prayer, we encounter the words give us this day our daily bread. This phrase contains several themes. So to unpack them, we will divide the phrase into two parts.

The phrase begins with request for God to give us this day. When we examine these words, we are faced with a profound truth. Every day we live is something God gives to us. Life itself is a gift from God. So when we pray the Our Father, we are reminded that God not only gives us life, but God also gives us sustenance for the lives we live.

I don’t know about you, but I have always found this next phrase fascinating. The words forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, are words we have probably prayed thousands of times throughout our lives. Yet the word trespass stands out from the rest of the phrase.

Many modern translation of the Our Father use the word sin instead of trespass. This is a very logical choice in that the word sin is one that we are familiar with. One of the questions I am often asked is why the word trespass is used in the Our Father instead of the word Sin. After all, when most of us hear the word trespass, we often equate it with entering private property without permission.

The reason for the word choice is that the use of the word trespass, in the English language, has changed over time. The word trespass comes from the Old French word trespas, which means a transgression of the law.

With this older meaning in mind, we can understand why William Tyndale used the word trespass in his translation of Matthew’s Gospel. And because of the popularity of Tyndale’s translation, it was natural that the 1549 edition of the Book of Common Prayer would use it.

But regardless of whether we use the words sin or trespass, this phrase has an important meaning for us today. These words should remind us that our need for forgiveness is ongoing. Just as we need food in our daily life, we also need to be forgiven.

Asking for forgiveness is difficult at times. We hate admitting our shortcomings. And yet, when we pray the Our Father, we are asking God’s help in doing this. And while this might seem straightforward enough, we also are asking God to help us to forgive those who sin against us!

We need to remember that forgiveness is a two way street. It would be a double standard to expect to receive forgiveness for what we have done to others, but not extend the same to those who have wronged us.

At times in our daily routine, we might find ourselves being tempted by the thought of heading off to the ski hill for a day on the slopes. Or we might be tempted to book a flight to a warmer destination down south. When we think of temptation in this light, we are thinking of performing an action that one may enjoy immediately or in the short term but will probably later regret for various reasons. When temptation is thought about this way, it is obvious that we live in a world in which we are faced with temptation on a daily basis.

So when we pray the Our Father and say the words lead us not into temptation, we might wonder why we are asking God to do this. Surely God knows that we don’t need additional temptation in our everyday lives.

What we have to remember is that the word temptation had a much wider meaning during Jesus’ lifetime. When Jesus’ disciples prayed these words, they would have understood this petition as one asking God to assist in the unavoidable trials he or she would face in his or her life.

All of us at one time or another has something which tries us so greatly that we almost reach the breaking point. During these times we realize that we are not the ones in control. Realizing that one is not in control can be a scary thought. It means that we find ourselves forced to admit that there is something greater than ourselves. It is at times such as these when we need God the most.

Perhaps Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46) provides us with a model of what we should be asking for when we ask God to lead us not into temptation. When he was praying in the Garden, Jesus asked God the father to not have to go through the experience of being tried and crucified. But he also admitted that he would face the horrors of Good Friday if God the Father wanted him to.

Just like Jesus, we might hope that we can avoid having to face a certain trial. And it is quite possible we might find ourselves in a situation where we don’t have to face that specific trial. If, however, we find ourselves in a situation in which we can’t avoid said trial, we would do well to remember that when we pray the Our Father, we are asking God to be with us and to strengthen us when we face those seemingly impossible situations.

The next phrase we will explore is, but deliver us from evil.

In life we encounter a paradox. We live in a universe in which we see great goodness. We experience this goodness from the things we love in the created order and the people who bring great joy to our lives. But there is the flipside. We also experience evil from the same created order and from people who hurt us. As Christians, we believe this paradox is a result of two factors. The first is the positive affirmation that God created a good universe. The second is that we live in a fallen universe in which evil occurs.

What does it mean to live in a fallen universe? For starters, fallen does not mean that something is intrinsically evil. When we hear of some Christian groups claiming that our universe is evil, they are missing the point. We need to remember that God’s created order is fundamentally good. What the term fallen implies, is that something or someone falls short of what or who it is supposed to be. With this in mind, we are able to construe how a good universe can have evil manifest in it.

So when we pray the words, deliver us from evil, we are praying for two things. Firstly, we are praying that God will save us from evil which we are currently experiencing or will be experiencing in the future. Secondly, we are asking God to provide healing to what is causing the evil we are experiencing so it doesn’t occur again.

Let us assume someone is being robbed at gunpoint and is silently praying the Our Father. The one silently praying the words of the Our Father is essentially asking for an end to the robbery and to be able to leave the scene of the crime unharmed. This person is praying for an immediate action, the safe end to a robbery.

Yet, there is a second application of the prayer to this robbery scenario. We can also interpret the words deliver us from evil, to be a request for the person committing the robbery to turn his or her life around. To seek forgiveness for this action of evil which is being committed and to amend his or her life so that such evil actions won’t be committed again.

I think it is safe to say that by asking God to deliver us from evil, we are asking God to not only treat the symptoms of evil, but the sources as well.

The Our Father is a prayer many of us are so familiar with that we might glance over its many deep meanings if we pray it too fast. Since this is the final month of our exploration, it is an opportune time to ask the question as to where the prayer actually ends. One of the most interesting things about the Our Father is that there are different opinions among Christians as to how this prayer should conclude. Some Christians finish saying the prayer with the words deliver us from evil, while others complete the prayer with the words for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.

So why is there this difference of opinion? It comes about because the doxology (for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever) appears in some (but not all) manuscripts of Matthew’s Gospel.

In the early Church, the Christians living in the eastern half of the Roman Empire used this doxology when praying the liturgy in church. In the western half of the Roman Empire, this doxology wasn’t included.

The English wording of the Our Father that appeared in the Book of Common Prayer reflects the version mandated for use by King Henry VIII. This version was based on the English version of the Bible produced by William Tyndale in 1525. Given that there were multiple translations of the Our Father competing with each other, it was natural that Henry wanted standardization.

In 1541 Henry VIII promulgated an edict which stated, "His Grace perceiving now the great diversity of the translations (of the Pater noster etc.) hath caused an uniform translation of the said Pater Noster, Ave, Creed, etc., to be set forth, willing all his loving subjects to learn and use the same and straitly (sic) commanding all parsons, vicars and curates to read and teach the same to their parishioners." This English version of the Our Father did not have the doxology. It wasn’t until the reign of Elizabeth I that the Our Father had the doxology added to it, which gives us the version which we are the most familiar with today.

January 2014 - Sunday School

One of the things we often take for granted is that a Church will offer a Sunday school program for its children. And although it is well known that Sunday schools exist, many people do not necessarily give them a second thought. Unfortunately, this kind of attitude can lead one into the habit of viewing Sunday school as an “extra” and not as something which is integral to the wider mission of the Church.

Yet, right from the earliest days of Christianity, religious education was something on which Jesus placed great value. After his Resurrection, Jesus told his followers to make disciples throughout the world and to baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). By making disciples, Jesus’ followers were engaging in religious education.

Although the methods of passing on the faith to younger members has varied throughout the centuries, the Sunday school model as we know it today has its origins in 18th century England. During this time, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing. People were moving to the cities in order to find work. The low wages of the time resulted in that the entire family, including the children, needed to find employment just to survive. This created a major social change in that children, who would have attended village parochial schools, found themselves working during the week. This situation meant that these children were not being given the opportunity to learn about their faith.

It was a situation which required a response. So in 1780, Robert Raikes of Gloucester began local Sunday Schools in which children could receive basic religious education. Quite soon, it was apparent that the children also needed to learn the rudiments of reading, writing and mathematics. So these subjects became part of the Sunday school curriculum. So successful were the Gloucester Sunday Schools that the idea rapidly spread to other communities.

Given the time constraints in which to teach the children, only the most basic education could be given. Still, the good work accomplished by the Sunday Schools would be instrumental in the setting aside of public funds to ensure that all children would have the right to receive an education in either public or parochial schools.

The advent of state funded education did not eliminate the need for Sunday Schools. Rather, this meant that they were given greater freedom to carry out their original purpose. Today, Sunday Schools are just as important as they ever were. They introduce children to Bible Stories, Moral Teaching, what we do in Church and important people from Christian History.

Formation is integral to the Christian life. Much of that formation is received at home when children learn from their parents. And some of that formation is received each Sunday through the ministry of the Sunday School.

A Tale of Two Monks

On September 3, the Anglican Church of Canada celebrates the feast day of Saint Gregory the Great. Naturally, we might ask ourselves why the Anglican Church of Canada celebrates the feast day of a 6th century pope. And the answer to this lies in one of Gregory’s great goals in life, to spread the Gospel among the Anglo-Saxons in England.

Before the coming of the Anglo Saxons to Great Britain in the 5th century, the British Isles had well established Christian communities. The Anglo-Saxon invaders, however, drove out the locals, who would resettle in Wales and in Brittany.

Given the exodus of Christians from England, Christians on the continent were skeptical as to how successful trying to re-establish Christianity in England would be. Yet in the city of Rome, there lived a monk named Gregory who soon would make it his mission in life to bring the Gospel to the Anglo-Saxons.

Gregory was one of those classic overachievers. A Roman by birth around the year 540, he was the son of Gordianus, a wealthy senator. Despite his family’s wealth and his own flair for business, he decided to undertake ordination and ended up becoming one of the seven deacons of Rome.

Although he sought to free himself from the cares of the world by becoming a deacon, his administrative skills were made evident. And as such, they were brought the attention the Emperor Justin the Younger appointed him, in 574, Chief Magistrate of Rome, though Gregory was only thirty-four years of age.

After the death of his father, Gregory built six monasteries in Sicily and founded a seventh in his own house in Rome, which became the Benedictine Monastery of St. Andrew. Here, he became a monk in 575, at the age of thirty-five.

Shortly after Gregory became a monk, Gregory was out walking one day when he saw some boys for sale in the slave market. He was struck by their appearance and enquired who they were. He was told by the slave-master that they were Angles to which he replied “Not Angles but angels”. The slave-master laughingly responded that for all their looks, the boys came from a fierce people.

During the next few years Gregory made a number of attempts to arrange a mission to England. Once he set out himself, but after three days he was recalled to Rome because of his popularity there.

When Gregory became pope in 590 he devoted part of the revenue of the papacy to buying up Anglian slave boys in order that they might be educated in the Christian faith and eventually sent back to their own land as ambassadors of Christ. This, however, would take many years, and the need was urgent. Appeals from England for Christian teachers were already reaching Rome. There was no time to lose.

Faced with this reality, Gregory decided to select one of his own monks, Augustine of Canterbury, to lead an expedition to England. Unlike Gregory, who had great enthusiasm to undertake such a mission, Augustine had no particular desire to become a missionary. Yet as a monk, Augustine was under the vow of obedience. And as such, he had a duty to carry out Gregory’s wish. Augustine, therefore, accepted his fate and set off with a small party of his fellow monks. But, traveling through Gaul (modern day France), such terrible tales were told him of the savagery of the English people that both his courage and his obedience failed him, and he returned to Rome. Gregory, however, was not the sort of man to allow failure, and Augustine was told to take heart and go forward.

The small band of monks landed in Kent early in 597. Although they were prepared for death, Augustine and his monks soon discovered that they were not to be martyred on arrival. The English, ironically, were more afraid of the monks than the monks were afraid of the English!

As luck would have it, Ethelbert, the King of Kent, was married to a Christian named Bertha. He agreed to meet with Augustine, but with the condition that they meet outdoors under an oak tree. Ethelbert was very superstitious and was worried about meeting Augustine indoors, lest Augustine cast a spell on him. So sitting under a spreading oak, Ethelbert received the missionaries. After listening carefully to what the monks had to say, he gave them permission to preach to his subjects. Although Ethelbert did not convert initially, he decided to become a Christian and was baptized on the feast of Pentecost in the year 597.

After this promising start, Augustine sailed to Gaul to be consecrated a bishop. When he returned to England he baptized (probably with the help of some other priests) ten thousand of King Ethelbert's subjects in the Swale River on Christmas day.

Gregory rejoiced to hear such good news of his protégé and watched over the growing church in England with the closest attention. He sent books, relics and ornaments for the churches which Augustine was building, and was always ready to give advice on the problems with which the missionaries were faced. Regarding the liturgy, Gregory advised Augustine to make his own rite, choosing what he found to be most “pious, religious and correct” in the customs of other churches and adapting them to the needs of the English.

This freedom to adapt became part of the identity of the Church of England and is still prevalent throughout Anglicanism. This means that well over a fourteen centuries years later, Anglicanism throughout the world still feels the influence of these two monks; the one who dreamed of being a missionary in England and the one who was quite happy staying where he was, but ended up being a missionary in England after all was said and done. Anglicans look back to Augustine as being the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Like Saint Gregory, the Anglican Church of Canada celebrates the life and ministry of Saint Augustine on his own feast day, May 26.

Fr. Nico