Saint James Anglican Church

Joseph Howe Drive at the Armdale Rotary, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada             


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Learning the Liturgy


Lesson 1A: The Gathering of the Community

Lesson 2A: The Beginning of the Liturgy

Lesson 3A: The Lord's Prayer and the Collect for Purity

Lesson 4A: The Ten Commandments

Lesson 5A: The Kyrie and the Mutual Salutation

Lesson 6A: The Collect for the Queen

Lesson 7A: The Collect of the Day

Lesson 8A: The First Lesson

Lesson 9A: The Psalm and the Epistle

Lesson 10A: The Gospel

Lesson 11A: The Creeds and the Sermon

Lesson 12A: The Offertory Sentences, Alms & Oblations

Lesson 13A: The Preparation of the Altar

Lesson 14A; The Intercessions

Lesson 15A: The General Confession, Absolution & The Comfortable Words

Lesson 16A: The Thanksgiving & Consecration

Lesson 17A: The Peace and the Prayer of Humble Access

Lesson 18A: The Agnus Dei

Lesson 19A: Holy Communion

Lesson 20A: After Receiving Communion

Lesson 21A: The Second Lord's Prayer

Lesson 22A: The Prayer After Communion

Lesson 23A: The Gloria in Excelsis

Lesson 24A: The Blessing

Lesson 25A: Post Dismissal: Our Work in the Church and in the World


[Book of Alternative Services]


Lesson 1

The Gathering of the Community

September 22, 2013

As we gather to worship God each Sunday, we should enter the Church with a sense of awe and mystery. It is traditional that each member of  the congregation would take some time for silent prayer; centering themselves in the peace of the Church and preparing to meet God within the service or liturgy.  While this time of quiet prayer and contemplation does lend itself to a careful balance of solitude within community, it should not lead to self-awareness alone.  As each gathered member settles into a prayerful-worship posture, they must always be aware of those around them.  Welcoming newcomers is part of the worship.  Being aware of people, who do not seem familiar with the liturgy or do not know which book to use or what page to turn to is the responsibility of all who gather.  As you prepare to worship the Lord, make yourself aware of the people with whom you will worship.  At the 10:00 am service, we are blessed with the gift of church music, which lends itself to prayer and worship. Some prepare to worship through quiet prayer; others greet their pew neighbours.  All of this is to be encouraged.  We worship with different books and we sit, stand, kneel and move.  Newcomers, guests and visitors may need our help.  Always be aware of who is around you and do not be shy to offer help, with a smile!

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Lesson 2A

The Beginning of the Liturgy

September 29, 2013

In the last section we learned about gathering in the Church, preparing ourselves for worship and becoming aware and attuned to the people who gather with us, especially guests or people unfamiliar with our service.


We look next to the Entrance Rite and the Lord's Prayer. At the BCP Holy Communion service, the Priest begins the service by moving directly to the Altar.  As the Priest proceeds to the Holy Table, she recites the Introit appointed for the day.  Once the Introit has been recited, the Priest stands at the Table and prays the Lord's Prayer.  During the Lord's Prayer, the people shall kneel.  The first Lord's Prayer of the liturgy is prayed aloud only by the Priest.  The origin of the Priest alone saying this prayer precedes the Prayer Book.  Originally, the Priest would offer the Lord's Prayer and the Collect for Purity while he was vesting in preparation for the service.


Introit: An anthem or hymn sung or said at the beginning of a Communion service

Vest(ing): To clothe or robe oneself, as with church vestments

Vestments: any or several ritual garments of the clergy

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Lesson 3A

The Lord's Prayer and the Collect for Purity

October 20, 2013

In the BCP Holy Communion liturgy, the Introit and the first two prayers (The Lord's Prayer and The Collect, or "Collect for Purity") are said by the Priest alone as he stands at the altar.


The theology expressed in the Prayer Book is one that was very much present in the Church in the 16th century, as the Anglican Church or the Church of England came into being.  The theology is such that it was/is understood that the priest is a spokesperson for the members of the congregation.  The priest acts as an intermediary speaking to God on behalf of the people and interpreting God's words for the people.


The recitation of the Lord's Prayer by the priest is a beginning to worship, which places the focus of our worship directly on God from the first prayer offered. The Collect, or Collect for Purity, asks that God will mercifully prepare the people (including the priest) to worship Him. The Collect for Purity recognizes that without divine purification, we would not be able to kneel in God's presence at all, let alone worship Him with all of who we are. Hence, the Collect for Purity really is a prayer of preparation, offered by the priest on behalf of the congregation.

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Lesson 4A

The Ten Commandments

October 27, 2013

The Ten Commandments are the first "rules" of community that God gave His Chosen People to follow. As people of the Book, Christians share the Ten Commandments with Jews and Muslims alike. They remind us of our call to live in community together, respecting God, respecting each other and honouring all of our relationships.


Every time we gather for Holy Communion as a BCP community, we are expected to recite the Ten Commandments (or the Two Great Commandments). The rubrics of the BCP state that: "The Ten Commandments shall always be read at least once a month on a Sunday." It has been our custom to simply use the Two Great Commandments (also known as the Summary of the Law) each week. The new custom within this Church will be to follow the rubrics, and on the first Sunday of the month or at the beginning of new liturgical seasons, we shall recite the Ten Commandments, as expected in the BCP.


Rubrics: a direction or rule as in a prayer book, missal or breviary
Missal: the book containing all the prayers, lessons, etc., for the celebration of mass throughout the year

Breviary: a book of daily prayers, etc., for the canonical hours.

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Lesson 5A

The Kyrie and the Mutual Salutation

November 03, 2013

Following the recitation of the "Rules of Life" we have been given - The Ten Commandments or The Summary of the Law - the congregation continues kneeling with the Kyrie and a mutual salutation or spiritual greeting.


The Kyrie is a Lesser Litany in a Trinitarian form.  The first appeal is made to the Lord, our Father, the second appeal to the Lord Christ and the third to the Lord, the Holy Ghost.  This recitation expresses an attitude of humility or deep reverence before God, because we live as sinners forgiven, and reminds us that we continually seek His mercy.  An eminent Canadian Anglican theologian, Dr. Robert Crouse, has named this attitude "penitential adoration."


In preparation for the Collects of the Day and Service we move into the mutual salutation between the minister and the people.  "The Lord be with you"/ "And with thy spirit."  For a moment we are not speaking to God but to each other under God's gaze.  It is drawn from the greeting Boaz gives his reapers (among them his future bride, Ruth), which can be found in Ruth 2:4. Then the minister invites the congregation to prayer.

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Lesson 6A

The Collect for the Queen

November 17, 2013

lmmediately following the Kyrie and the Mutual Salutation, we find the Collect for the Queen.  This collect is a prayer, which is offered by the Church for the care and keeping of the Head of the Anglican Church.


The monarch is still, technically, the Head of the Anglican Church. Queen Elizabeth II is responsible for the final decision as to whom will be appointed the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Our current Archbishop is The Right Reverend Justin Welby.  Just as we pray each day for the bishops and clergy who maintain the sound doctrine and teaching of the church, as well as its ministrations, so too do we pray for the Head of the Anglican Church (aka the Church of England.)


Within the prayer itself, we ask God to have mercy upon the whole Church and to rule the heart of God's chosen servant that she might make good decisions and exercise just rule over the people God has placed in her care.  The prayer assumes that the Queen will always remember with humility that she is in the headship by God's choice and not by any effort of her own.  The prayer also offers up a request that we, the people who are under her monarchy, might respect and honour the Lord through our proper service and servitude to the monarch.


The assumption rightly made is that those who hold authority within the Church will be subservient to the Lord and will exercise appropriate and merciful authority over God's people within the Church.


In essence, this collect expresses our prayer that the Queen will always be a faithful servant of God, hence praying for and working with the Church in God's will. This collect also expresses our acknowledgment that we must exist, live and worship, recognizing that we cannot be, nor were we ever meant to be, authorities unto ourselves.  There is always someone to whom we turn for leadership, someone in whom we place our trust and for whom we pray ceaselessly.

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Lesson 7A

The Collect of the Day

November 24, 2013

A "collect" is "a brief prayer that changes with the season or occasion."  It is a prayer that quite literally collects the intentions of our worship service and focuses our worship.  Each Sunday there is a different collect written to be paired with the readings and it centers the liturgy.


The Collect of the Day completes the first portion of our worship - The Gathering of the Community - and provides the transition to the readings for the day.  The Gathering of the Community is comprised of the Opening Sentences or Introit, the Lord's Prayer, the Collect for Purity, the Summary of the Law, the Kyrie and the' Mutual Salutation, the Collect for the Queen and the Collect of the Day.


The Gathering of the Community is the rite, which unites the assembled people as a community, to prepare them to listen to God's word and to enter into the Eucharistic celebration.

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Lesson 8A

The First Lesson

December 1, 2013

The Book of Common Prayer has been described as "Scripture order by prayer" (arranged for prayer).  Scholars who have analyzed the text line-by-line, estimate that well over 80% of the BCP is taken directly from the Bible.


In the traditional understanding of the Book of Common Prayer, only one lesson was appointed for a service of Holy Communion, in addition to the Psalm appointed for the day and the Gospel lesson. With the exception of the Octave Day of Christmas, The Baptism of Our Lord, and The Sunday Next Before Advent, all Sundays are supplied with lections from the Epistles, the Acts of the Apostles or the Book of Revelation.  Old Testament lessons were not provided for in the general service of  Holy Communion in the Book of Common Prayer.


Our custom as Anglicans in the 21st century is to read the Scripture along the path of the RCL (Revised Common Lectionary).  The RCL has been created to ensure that if followed daily for the three years of its entire cycle -Years A, B, C -the Bible will be , almost completely read from cover to cover.  We have begun reading from the Old Testament (the First Lesson) in recognition that we must hear and participate in the words of the First Testament in order to more fully comprehend and live out the meaning of the New Testament and the Gospel.

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Lesson 9A

The Psalm and the Epistle

December 8, 2013

Traditionally, the Service of Holy Communion contained only an Epistle reading and the Psalm appointed for the day, in addition to the Gospel lesson.  The Psalm was placed after the reading of the Epistle as a response to the lesson.


Psalms are prayers written many ages ago by a few people who chose to turn to God in every aspect of their lives.  We are called, through worship, to do the same.  God speaks to us through the psalms and we can speak back to God using the very words He has given us.


The Psalter has nourished the spirituality of more Christians than any other book in the Old Testament.  St. Benedict (480-550 CE), the founder of the Benedictine monastic order, made it a requirement of his rule that the whole Psalter should be said or sung each week in monasteries and convents.


The Epistles, or sometimes the Acts of the Apostles, or the Book of Revelation, are read each week and share with us both the revelation of God's truth through the working of the Holy Spirit in the early Christian Church and the stories of how the early Christians lived out their faith.  These letters and books are written by those who were the earliest followers of the risen and ascended Jesus Christ and they give us guidance in how we might live out our lives in faith.


The readings that we use today are arranged and appointed through the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), which is used in most mainline, liturgical denominations in North America.  (Ideally, we should be sharing the same scripture as all Anglican Churches and other denominations each Sunday). The RCL has been created to ensure that, if followed daily for the 3 years of its entire cycle -A,B,C -the Bible will be almost completely read from cover to cover.


The balance of the Old and New Testament lessons with the Psalms provides the listener with a sense of history and the moving of God's Holy Spirit throughout all of the ages.  The participation in the "past" of our faith provides a wonderful counterbalance to the "future" of our faith that we experience in our participation in Holy Communion.

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Lesson 10A

The Gospel

January 5, 2014

After we have listened to the lessons from the Old and New Testaments and the Psalm which speak to us of what God has done in and through the world, we then move to hear God's word that speaks to us of what God has done in Jesus Christ.  The Scripture we have shared before this is of vital importance to our faith and development, to our understanding of God and God's work in the world.  The Gospel we are about to hear draws us up to a higher plane.  The Gospel lesson speaks of that which the Bible surrounds: God incarnate in His Son, Jesus Christ.  The Gospel is always about Jesus and it is always something that is greater than anything else we do when we worship together, with the sole exception being that of Holy Communion.  While we remain seated to listen to God's Word proclaimed, we stand when Christ is present, and in the proclamation of the Gospel, Christ is present in our midst.


In the tradition of the Church, the reading of the Gospel is attended by marks of special honour.  As was just mentioned, all stand and face the Gospel Book or Bible and the reading is preceded and followed by special acclamations.


In the tradition of the BCP, the people respond to the pronouncement of the Gospel by saying, "Glory be to thee, O Lord."  The people's response to the Gospel of Christ is "Praise be to thee, O Christ."  The Gospel is read by the deacon, or in the absence of a deacon, the concelebrating presbyter (assisting priest).  If there is neither a deacon, nor an assisting priest present, the Gospel is read by the priest.

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Lesson 11A

The Creeds and the Sermon

January 19, 2014

In the Christian Church we share & affirm our faith in the form of the creeds. Credo = I believe.   The shortest of the 3 creeds and the one used at all prayer services in the BCP is the Apostles' Creed. Our 2nd creed, used most often on Feast days in the BAS and at every BCP Holy Communion, is the Nicene Creed. The 3rd creed is the Creed of St. Athanasius.  It can be found beginning on page 695 of the BCP.  This creed is the longest and has been traditionally used on Trinity Sunday or during Christmastide and Eastertide.  This creed contains the most detailed teaching on the Trinity and the Incarnation.  The Apostles' Creed is a statement of faith used in the western Church.  Despite its name, it was not composed by the Apostles, but evolved from a creed used in Rome in the 2nd century.  It summarizes the faith of the apostles, as taught in the New Testament, and professed by new converts at baptism. It has remained the baptismal creed ever since, and it became a part of the daily prayer offices of the church between the 7th and 9th centuries.  When we recite our beliefs in the words of the Creeds, we stand and face east.  This is derived from the tradition of celebrating the Eucharist at an eastward facing altar.  Although our altar is no longer facing the east, it is appropriate that we look to the east in our desire to see the second-coming of Christ.  We must remember that we need to say the Creeds to remind us of the promise that soon God's Son will be with us again.


The sermon is a time of reflection & anticipation.  We are given time to reflect on what we have heard proclaimed and we are given time to listen and prepare for God's anticipation of what we will do with the Good News of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ.


The sermon should break open the words we have heard and help us to hear them with a deeper understanding.  It is not a time to make us feel better about ourselves.  It is not a time to cheer us, as a community, on.  The sermon provides opportunities, for each and every one of us to open our hearts to what God is spurring us on to do.  The sermon should provide us with our marching orders.  If it has been prayerfully and faithfully prepared, the sermon should provide a push from God, working through the preacher, to become less as individual so that we can become more as a Christian.  As was once prayed, "Lord, work in me that I may decrease and You may increase."

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Lesson 12A

The Offertory Sentences, Alms & Oblations

January 26, 2014

The Offertory Sentences are shared with the congregation to establish the right heart-set for the gifts of alms and oblations, which are about to be given to God by the Congregation and through the Church. Each sentence invites the congregants to prepare their hearts for giving that their gifts may be true in intent and given in joy as a response to God's generosity.


When we gather before God we give thanks to God for the tremendous gifts God has so freely shared with us. We have been blessed with a church within which to worship, homes to provide us with shelter, food to eat, schools to attend, recreation to share with others. We cannot help but look around and recognize the abundance that we share by God's glorious generosity. As faithful followers of God we are expected to offer back to God a tithe. A tithe has traditionally been understood as 10% of our income or product. In farming communities, farmers would be expected to tithe their grain, beef, etc. In the Church of 2014 we recognize that Christians offer their tithe in many and varied ways. We offer money gifts to charities that have become important to us, as well as the Church. We offer a tithe of our time when we volunteer at Church and in the community. We tithe our talents when we do work in God's name that utilises the talents God has bestowed upon us. Our tithe is not something we give out of guilt. It is something we give out of our joy. Our gift to God through the Church should never be whatever is left over at the end of the month - a gift from our remainder - but our tithe should be gleaned from our first fruits - a gift given from the abundance we have been given by God. When you offer that first gift, say a prayer of thanksgiving and release. When gifts are given with joy and gratitude that we have something to offer back to God, we find that we have more to offer - to God, the world and ourselves.


The collection we offer provides the Church and our community with the resources we need to do God's work in the world. They are given in joy and hope and they are used to share joy and hope. It is appropriate that we graciously give back to God the alms (charitable donations of money or food given to the poor) that God so graciously shared with us.


We also bring forth the gifts of bread and wine to share with the Lord. The bread and wine offered to God by us becomes the body and blood offered through Jesus Christ for us. As with all gifts to and from God, they are brought forward and placed on the altar to be blessed and used to God's glory.


The gifts or collection of money presented to God are left on the altar during the service to indicate that we are giving thanks to God and we give back to God with grace and glory. Just as the bread and wine are gifts we offer to God, so too is the money we offer to God.

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Lesson 13A

The Preparation of the Altar

February 02, 2014

The Preparation of the Altar is similar to the preparation of a dining room table for a great family feast.  We set the table with our finest linens.  We light the candles and arrange the flowers to show the care and attention we have paid for our guest of honour.  We carefully set the table with everything necessary for a grand feast, and we recognize the specialness of the occasion at which we are about to participate.  At the Eucharist, our guest of honour is Jesus Christ himself.


While referred to as the Lord's Table, the Altar should never simply be considered something as commonplace as a "table".  It is the altar upon which we commemorate the sacrifice Jesus made for all humanity in giving himself up to death that we might share in new life.  It is perfectly acceptable to think of this altar as a "table" but always beware that we cannot diminish what this altar represents: a tremendous and self-giving sacrifice made for us and for all people out of divine love.


When preparing the altar, care and attention to detail must be made.  No action is made in haste.  No element of the setting of the altar is made without cause.  There is a place for every item on the altar and there is a reason for its placement.  If you would like know more about how to prepare the altar and what is placed where, please speak to a member of the Sanctuary Guild.

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Lesson 14A

The Intercessions

February 09, 2014

The prayers of the people are the response of the community to the proclamation of the word.  They are a moment when the gathered community exercises its baptismal role.  Baptized into Christ, and made one in his body, we pray with Christ, who makes perpetual intercession for us and for all of creation. The Prayers of the People are also an initial step in a commitment to action.  While we pray for the world as we envision it perfected in Jesus Christ, our intercessions also need to be grounded in the present reality.  For example, while a petition to "bring an end to all famine" is clearly grounded in the vision of the new creation, there is also an implicit demand that the Christian community make a tangible response to that petition.  The petition would ring hollow if a community did not also respond in contributions to the local food bank, the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund, and a heightening consciousness of the root problems perpetuating world hunger.  So, at the same time, the prayers would appropriately include some specific petitions for the local solution.  We cannot pray for something we ourselves are not prepared to become

involved in.


The prayers serve to provide focus and direction for the gathered community.  They are a response to the word proclaimed, they grow out of the context of the community and the content of the proclamation, and they prepare the people for the active response of the Christian life.  In the prayers of the people the community is invited to enter actively into the work of worship.* (*Let Us Give Thanks: A Presider's Manual for the BAS Eucharist)


There is a formal set of prayers within the context of the Service of Holy Communion that is acceptable, and even expected to be used.  In some communities, the Prayers of the People used are the same at all services.  At St. James, we have been maintaining the practice of staying with the BCP Rite as printed.


The custom within the BCP service is that the congregation will kneel for prayer.  However, within the community of faithful believers it is a reality that many people are unable, for health or comfort issues, to kneel for any length of time.  If arthritic knees become a hindrance to prayer kneeling, God will understand if you were to offer your prayers seated.

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Lesson 15A

The General Confession, Absolution & The Comfortable Words

February 16, 2014

While we do not dwell on our nature as "fallen" human beings, we cannot afford to forget that nature. Taking time to remember that we need the forgiveness Jesus secured for us through his sacrifice on the cross and which we are reminded of each time we receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion, is not just important. It is essential because it helps us to not take for granted what has been freely given to us and it reminds us of our need to embrace our humility before the Lord. The Prayer Book requires that those who come to Communion shall have examined their lives, repented of their sins, and be in love and charity with all people. To those whose consciences are burdened, it counsels confession before a priest. For the correction of the impenitent, it provides for the refusal of Communion until such time as proof of repentance has been shown. All of these provisions are part of the normative tradition of the Church, and are clearly rooted in the teaching of the New Testament (1 Cor. 11:27-29, Matt. 18:15-17, James 5:16, John 20:22-23). [The Ceremonies of the Eucharist: A Guide to Celebration]


The General Confession and Absolution is used every time we celebrate the Eucharist, with the exception being the service of Holy Baptism. Because it is used ritually, week by week, it is easy to lose the meaning it holds and impact it yields.


We cannot afford to take the prayer, or what we are doing when we use it, for granted. On one hand, we do fall short of what we should do and who we should be. On the other hand, we are reminded that God is loving and merciful, recognizes that we are sinners and reaching out to us nonetheless. In the prayer of confession, we humble ourselves before God, asking for mercy. When the priest pronounces absolution, we are assured that God has looked upon us with mercy and we have been forgiven of our sins. We can then move forward to the Sacrament of Holy Communion with clear consciences and prepared hearts.


The Comfortable Words, or sentences from Scripture, are provided to remind us of how and why we should be coming to the Lord's Table. While they do indeed bring us the comfort of knowing that the action required for us to receive the Eucharist is through Christ's actions alone and nothing that we can do on our own will make us worthy - the weight of the action has been taken from us and placed on Christ's shoulders - they also remind us of the Anglican theology that was being bombarded when the BCP was written: we do not believe in grace by acts, we believe in God's grace and our reciprocating acts are offered in response. During the Reformation there was a strong Protestant belief in grace by acts: we do what we should and we earn God's grace. The Comfortable Words remind us that we cannot earn grace, we can only receive it, and we receive it because of Christ.

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Lesson 16A

The Thanksgiving & Consecration

February 23, 2014

The Eucharistic Prayer is the great prayer of blessing said over the bread and the cup on the model of the Jewish table prayers of blessing. It is a prayer of faith addressed to God the Father, an act of praise and thanksgiving for the whole work of creation and redemption.


The Person and Work of Christ in the Eucharistic Prayers

- The biblical imagery employed in the Eucharistic Prayers to express meaning of Christ's life, death and resurrection for our salvation is rich and varied. Three images in particular stand out in the biblical material:

1) the interpretation of Jesus' death as an act of vicarious suffering on behalf of the people on the analogy of the figure of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53

2) the interpretation of Jesus' death as a sin-offering on the analogy of the expiatory sacrifices offered in the Temple, and,

3) the interpretation of the death and resurrection of Christ as an act of divine deliverance from the power of sin and death.

These images are fluid and entered in this fluid form into the liturgies of the early Church.


In the Middle Ages and the Reformation period these images were given more precise definition with the use if "satisfaction" and "substitutionary" language. Jesus' death was interpreted as a satisfaction for sin, or as an act of legal substitution. According to the latter idea Jesus, although innocent, stood in the divine courtroom in the place of guilty sinners and suffered the sentence and punishment of death for our sins. As a result, Christians are acquitted of their sins and accounted righteous. In Cranmer's Eucharistic Prayer in the BCP, the language of sin-offering and satisfaction are linked with the phrase, "full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction."


Cranmer and the Reformers were right in insisting on the once-for-all and the "full, perfect, and sufficient" character of the sacrifice of the cross, but Cranmer's liturgy failed to give adequate expression of the unity between the Church's offering and the offering of Christ expressed in the ancient liturgies and in the patristic theology of the "whole Christ," head and members. The revision of the Canadian Eucharistic Prayers (found in the BAS) has sought to give the latter point clearer expression. (BAS pp 178-9)

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Lesson 17

The Peace and the Prayer of Humble Access

March 02, 2014

In the Eucharistic Liturgy for the Book of Common Prayer, the Peace and the Prayer of Humble Access are part of the congregation's preparation for receiving Communion. The Peace follows immediately after the consecration of the elements of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. The Prayer of Humble Access follows immediately after the Peace.


The Peace is the moment of preparation in which the congregation, including the priest, recognize that they are indeed in necessity of feeling the Lord's peace if they are to receive the Lord's body & blood. The Peace is an invitation from God, issued by the priest, to the people of God, that we might feel at peace in body, mind, and especially of spirit (soul) in anticipation of receiving the peace that passes all understanding in the form of the Eucharist. There is an understanding implicit in this form of the Peace that in order to be at peace with the Lord within ourselves, we must also be at peace with our brothers & sisters as well. Hence, the evolution of the Peace in the later liturgies of the Church in which members of the congregation turn to each other and greet each other in the peace of Christ.  


The Prayer of Humble Access brings the preparations of the communicant a little closer as each person vocalizes the truth about how we are to come to the Lord's Table. We cannot come to the Communion Table on our own steam. We have done nothing worthy of being received at God's holy altar. However, we are also reminding ourselves that through the sacrifice of love Christ made for us, we are welcome to receive his body and blood for the betterment of our lives and souls. We are reminded of the true nature of God: "thou art the same Lord, Whose property is always to have mercy.: This prayer reminds us of the gift that was purchased for us through Jesus' sacrifice of himself: our sinful bodies will be made clean and our souls washed through his blood. We have been cleansed and welcomed through Christ and in Christ, and this Prayer of Humble Access serves to remind us of how we are to receive this incredible gift - in humility.


This prayer also echoes for us the Scripture in which Jesus hears the plea of a Canaanite woman that he might heal her child. Jesus answered her question of healing for her daughter by saying, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." In this prayer we offer recognition to God that "we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under they table," and yet we are invited by Christ himself to eat not the crumbs but the bread of life Himself.

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Lesson 18

The Agnus Dei

March 09, 2014

The Agnus Dei is the formula beginning with the words 'O Lamb of God' recited shortly before Communion. Its scriptural basis is John 1:29, which is derived from Isaiah 53:7. It had its origins in the liturgy through the Gloria in Excelsis, but in approximately 610 CE (AD) Serguis, the Patriarch of Constantinople (the Orthodox Church) instituted its use and ordered it to be sung at the time of the Fraction. Originally it was said only once but by the beginning of the 11th century it was said three times, though the third 'have mercy upon us' was changed to 'grant us peace.' Although it is usually said or sung three times, it may be said or sung any number of times.


The Fraction is the formal breaking of the bread which, in all Eucharistic liturgies, takes place before the Communion. It goes back to Christ's action at the original institution and was a sufficiently striking element in the primitive rite to make the 'breaking of the bread' a regular name for the Eucharist.


Generally the Fraction takes place immediately following the Eucharistic Canon, or prayer, and the Lord's Prayer. In the 1662 Book of Common Prayer the rubrics call for the fraction to occur immediately before the bread is consecrated.

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Lesson 19

Holy Communion

March 16, 2014

The Eucharist is essentially the sacrament of the gift, which God makes to us in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Every Christian receives this gift of salvation through communion in the body and blood of Christ. In the Eucharistic meal, in the eating and drinking of the bread and wine, Christ grants communion with himself. God himself acts, giving life to the body of Christ and renewing each member. In accordance with Christ's promise, each baptized member of the body of Christ receives in the Eucharist the assurance of the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:28) and the pledge of eternal life (John 6:51-58).*


When we receive the Eucharist or Holy Communion we are opening up our minds, bodies and souls to the great and perfect goodness that Jesus shares with us completely. It should always be a moment of mystic connection, when our human bodies are joined through the bread and the wine with the eternal divinity of Christ. We are not only encountering the Holy in Communion, but we are being infused by it.


Although there have been arguments made through the years that Holy Communion is too important and special to be received on a regular (daily or weekly) basis, we take our cues from Christ himself who exhorted us to participate in the Breaking of the Bread whenever we gather in his name. We should never think that Communion is so holy we should hold it in high esteem and only participate in it once in a while. As baptized Christians we should be receiving communion as often as possible, seeking out that moment of mystic connection, being nourished and encouraged by Christ that we might have the strength to do His work in the world.


Posture: While it has been the tradition of the Church to kneel to receive Communion, it is perfectly acceptable to stand for reception. This is particularly important for those who experience knee, hip or back pain. Assume the posture for receiving Holy Communion which will best allow you to recognize the power and nature of what you are participating in, rather than assuming a posture that causes your mind to be on yourself or body, distracting you from the beauty and awe of what you are sharing.


* "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry," Faith and Order Paper NO. 111. World Council of Churches, Geneva, 1982.

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Lesson 20

After Receiving Communion

March 23, 2014

After receiving Communion it is important to take some time in prayer and reflection to give thanks to God and to allow our souls to be at peace as we are feeling/experiencing the effects of the infusion of the holy into our lives and beings.


While people are often uncomfortable with prolonged periods of silence, a time of quiet is still necessary for our minds and bodies to have a chance to process the holiness of the moment. Silence need not be scary or disconcerting. It is within the silence that we are most able to hear God's voice and to recognize His touch.


After you have received Communion, go back to your pew and offer yourself completely to God, expecting the Holy to change you and to make you whole in body, mind and spirit. Give God some of your time to catch your attention and then pray that once He has it, you will know what you are being called to do.

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Lesson 21

The Second Lord's Prayer

March 30, 2014

The use of the Lord's Prayer at this point in the liturgy is particularly appropriate in view of the petition for "daily" bread, which had Eucharistic associations in the early Church. The petition for the coming of the kingdom also serves to remind us that the Eucharist is not only a memorial of redemption, but also an anticipation of the future banquet in the kingdom of God. The petitions for forgiveness are another way in which the Eucharist as an act of reconciliation is expressed.*


The Lord's Prayer is the prayer instituted by Jesus himself (Matt 6; Luke 11). For many this use of the Lord's Prayer is a part of the personal preparation the communicant makes while anticipating the reception of communion.  In reciting this prayer, as a community, the congregation is accepting that what is anticipated in the Lord's Prayer is becoming a two-fold action in their lives. Through the Eucharist the prayer has been answered - daily bread has been received, forgiveness of sin has been offered and accepted, the holy has come to be within us in the form of the body and blood of Christ. Reciting the Lord's Prayer together also reminds the congregation that now that they have been nourished by the Holy, they have a responsibility to go into the world and help bring about the fulfilment of the prayer they are offering to God.

* Book of Alternative Services, p 180.

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Lesson 22

The Prayer After Communion

April 06, 2014

Once all members of the congregation have received communion and have had opportunity to take time in prayer and reflection, a final post- communion prayer is offered. This prayer is said by the priest alone. However, in some Diocese, such as this one, the Congregation joins in for the latter half of the prayer. It is a prayer in which the Church asks God to grant the effects of the Eucharist to His people. We ask to become in action what we have received in sacrament.


Within the body of the prayer we offer our thanksgiving to God that we have been welcomed into the holy mysteries in which we share in the eternal effects of the sacrifice and gift of Christ. We recognize that through this act of Communion we have been assured of God's favour and goodness towards us, and we are also able to live in the sure hope of eternal life in God's everlasting kingdom. We also recognize that it is by God's grace and through no work of our own that we are accepted by God.

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Lesson 23

The Gloria in Excelsis

May 04, 2014

The initial words in Latin provide this hymn with its English "title": Glory to God on high, or Glory to God. It is also known as the "Greater Doxology" or the "Angelic Hymn". It originated as a Greek Christian 'pivate hymn', i.e. a hymn composed upon the model of the canonical Psalms. Its authorship and age are unknown. In the 4th century it formed part of the morning prayers. In the English BCP of 1549 the hymn followed the Kyries. In later editions of the BCP it was moved to the conclusion of the service, where it immediately precedes the Blessing.


The Gloria is a beautiful song of praise. As we raise our voices in praise of God, we share our awe in the God who has shared this creation, this worship and this commission with us. As we prepare to leave this place of worship, we are reminded of the three-fold nature of God and the gift we have been given in participating in life with God. This Act of Praise, like the Alleluia, is one we share throughout the Church year but which we set aside during the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent.


While the Gloria has for years been chanted at a slow and plodding pace, it is most appropriate that the priest and congregation recite this hymn with praise in their voices and a lift in their cadence!

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Lesson 24

The Blessing

May 11, 2014

The Blessing is the authoritative pronouncement of God's favour. In Christian practice blessing finds a frequent place in the liturgy, especially at the blessing of the elements in consecration. The Blessing of the people at the end of the Mass did not become general until the Middle Ages. In the Anglican services of Holy Communion or Eucharist, the blessing concludes all services, and it is given from the altar. The right hand is raised to bless and the sign of the cross is made during the pronouncement of the blessing. While it is a part of the liturgy, if the priest knows with certainty that every member of the congregation has indeed received Communion, the final blessing may be omitted.


The omission of the blessing seldom happens in case someone has entered the Church or may have been overlooked at Communion. It may be omitted because the people who have received Communion have received the greatest blessing there is: the sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

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Lesson 25

Post Dismissal: Our Work in the Church and in the World

May 18, 2014

Although within the BCP liturgy there is no formal dismissal beyond the Blessing at the end of the service, there is an expectation that the commendation that occurs within a traditional dismissal will still be taken seriously and applied in the lives of the faithful.


The Dismissal is our reminder that through the worship we have just participated in (especially Eucharistic worship) we have been given the rest and nourishment we need to sustain our own lives, and we have been given the gifts we need to go out into the world to serve Christ in others.


The Post-Dismissal work we are called to do is two-fold: the work of the Church and the work we are called to do in the world - the mission field. The work of the Church includes the fellowship of the faithful (like going together for breakfast, etc.) participating fully in the life of the Church through fellowship opportunities, Bible and Book Studies, stewardship of your time, talent and treasure. The work we are called to do out in the world, in the mission field, is to share the good news of Christ through word and action: willingly speaking about our faith and our faith community when opportunity arises, showing people through what we do and whay choose not to do, who we are as Christians. Whatever we do, whether it is volunteering for Big Brothers, driving a neighbour to an appointment, or even striking up a conversation with the person next to us in line at the grocery store or on the treadmill beside us at the gym, we do so first and foremost as Christians - people who have faith and hope and joy.


Our identity as Christians must be present and accounted for wherever we go and whatever we do. If we are truly being faithful to God, and to our baptismal promises, we must become fully integrated people: Christians in all that we do, allowing our worship to continue out in the world, wherever we may be, and not just leaving it at the door of the Church after the final words of blessing and dismissal by the priest.

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