Friday, 23 October 2015
I should probably be more patient, but this is how I feel every year on the Last Sunday of Trinity: at last, Ordinary Time is coming to an end! The long green monotony is about to make way for All Saints and All Souls, the Feast of Christ the King and before we know it, deepest purple Advent, with which the new Church Year begins.
The Last after Trinity does have one perk, however: its Collect, a modern version of the Prayer Book's Collect for Advent 2. In my view, this is one of Archbishop Cranmer's finest prayers:
"Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen."
I like this thoroughly Anglican prayer for what it does not say as much as for what it does. It does not say that God wrote the Bible, or even dictated it, but quite reasonably that he caused them to be written; and not for us to reprove or chasten or prove points or bash each other over the head with, but for the spiritual end of embracing and clinging to the hope of life eternal given to us in Jesus. It doesn't describe the means to this end as picking what we like then blabbing on about it, or obeying God's sovereign will, or any of that fundamentalist guff, but reading it, paying attention closely ("marking"), learning and utterly absorbing it as spiritual nourishment. It is given us not as a shackle, but as a comfort, not for its own sake, but for the sake of salvation.
Many Anglican churches nowadays keep the Last Sunday after Trinity as "Bible Sunday," a modern invention. If they do so in the spirit of Cranmer's collect, then all well and good. Sadly, too many these days do not, lured instead by the new religion of 19th-century fundamentalism. I trust that at St Peter's every Sunday is Bible Sunday, so do we do not need to mark the occasion.
I have this Collect hand-written in the front cover of my Bible and use it whenever I am about to pray with the Bible, for which I employ a very powerful and ancient method of praying with Scripture called "Lectio Divina," which just means "Divine Reading." If you'd like to find out how to do it, do just book an appointment with me and we can go through a passage or two together. Perhaps a passage a week could be your Advent discipline when the time comes?
Posted by Tom Plant