Homily preached by Br Andrew at Warrimoo on Sunday 23rd November
FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT YEAR B
When we pray
The genesis of prayer in the People of the Hebrews began with the Sacrifices of blood, grain etc. and oblations offered by the priests in the morning and evening and during the day.
We do not know precisely when these hours became occasions of prayer but surmise they were first introduced during the Babylonian Exile (587-521 BC), when the Temple did not exist. Synagogue services of Torah readings and psalms and hymns developed as a substitute for the bloody sacrifices of the Temple, a sacrifice of praise. The inspiration to do this may have been fulfilment of David's words, "Seven times a day I praise you" (Ps. 119:164), as well as, "the just man meditates on the law day and night" (Ps. 1:2).
And Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud, and he shall hear my voice." -Psalm 55:17 or "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he had done aforetime." -Daniel 6:10
What is Prayer
Tefilah (prayer) is an essential constituent of religion it is a Sacrifice of Praise, the Shema in the morning is obligatory as is the evening Oblation. -Prayer is for the soul what food is for the body. It is praise intercession, hearing and listening of the finite to the infinite. It is "To love G-d, your G-d, with all your heart" (Deuteronomy 11:13) the complete unreserved service of man to God.
To pray continuously with our lips heart, hands and minds moves us toward an inseparable union between ourselves and God such that the hours of prayer draw us gladly from our current tasks to those three allotted hours.
OUR Lord assured his, disciples that he had not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfil, it therefore it is not surprising, to find the earliest Christians, notably the Apostles, conforming to the traditional customs of worship of the old Covenant: keeping the Passover, or going up to the Temple to pray at the appointed "Hours of Prayer,( it was Jewish practise to pray at morning, evening and three times a day “at the 3rd, 6th and 9th hours),or keeping those hours as times of private devotion.
In the Scriptures we discover significant events and miracles occur at the ‘Hours of Prayer’
Jesus was crucified at the sixth hour and died at the ninth hour.
The gift of tongues during the day of Pentecost occurred during the third hour at nine am -Acts 2:15
God chose the time of afternoon prayer (3 p.m.; the Jewish "Ninth Hour") to send an Angel to the Centurion Cornelius:
"When Peter and John went up together into the temple at the ninth hour of prayer, and healed the man, lame from his birth in the name of Jesus -Acts 3:1-6
Likewise, we find S. Paul, wherever he might be, seeking out the local synagogue on the Sabbath, taking part in its worship and availing himself of its opportunities for teaching. At the same time we find Christians keeping strictly Christian observances, notably the First Day of the Week, with its Eucharistic Breaking of Bread as the distinctive act of worship. Even when the Church had overflowed the bounds of Judaism and was overwhelmingly Gentile in its membership, there was a survival of devotional practices of Jewish origin. Chief among these was the observance of the "Hours of Prayer," as services supplemental to the central Eucharistic Rite.
Members’ of the Universal church – for that is what catholic means, come from almost every nation on earth, and the English Church was a very different entity from its Vatican counterpart. The English were a polyglot nation, a unique blend of many peoples, and the result of the many invasions and conquering over the centuries, speaking at least 4 main languages, it was the variety and separation from Continental Europe which made this corner of the Church Universal so different from that one built upon the ruins of Rome.
Here the Protestant Reformation began outwardly as an act of independence driven by the political necessities of Henry the eighth while on the Religious front those such as William Tyndale, John Wycliffe, John of Gaunt not only began to question the Doctrine of the roman Church but to establish various movements against it, Such as Wycliffe and the Lollards.
The Lay members of the church experienced poorly educated priests, poor pastoral care, and were less inclined to religious vocations hence the decline of the monasteries.
Despite this, many parishes remained vibrant and active places of worship even though while continuing to attend mass regularly they rarely received communion. During the Reformation, the weekday masses that had become the norm were eliminated and some German reformers sought to reincorporate the practice of Morning and Evening Prayer.
The Prayer Book
Under the reign of Edward VI, successor to Henry VIII, the primary language of public worship in England and other areas ruled by Edward was changed from Latin to English, a prayer book for the laity was composed and the first Book of Common Prayer came into use. It was first used on Pentecost Sunday, 9 June 1549, and the occasion is now commemorated "on the first convenient day following Pentecost." The Book was the work of a commission of scholars, but primarily of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. It was based primarily upon the Latin worship tradition of the Use of Sarum (similar to, but not identical with, the Roman rite used by most Roman Catholic between 1600 and 1950), with some elements taken from the Greek liturgies of the Eastern Church, from ancient Gallican (French) rites, from the new Lutheran order of service, and from the Latin rite of Cologne.
Key components of this BCP grant us the reading of the psalter monthly across Morning and Evening Prayer and the reading of most of the Old Testament and Apocrypha across a year and the reading of the New Testament 3 times a year. Our prayer book continues this pattern with a two year office lectionary. This systematic course reading of the books of the Bible and the praying of the Psalter are an important part of the rhythm and continuity of the Daily Office.
One disadvantage was that in changing the language to English this left those in Ireland, Wales and Cornwall out in the cold and may have contributed to the schism between the Irish and the English.
Altogether there have been at least 3 editions and re-prints of the Book of Common Prayer not including a 2004 version produced in October 2004 for use in the Irish Church.
The official version for use online is that of 1549.
This English Prayer Book has had far reaching influence on the liturgies of the Prayer books in other Denominations from the Roman Church to the Southern Baptists.