Monday, November 21, 2011
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
So ascribed the older Books of Common Prayer to last Sunday. The words first appeared in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, translating directly from the Latin Missal, "Excita, quæsumus," and the 1662 rubric insisted, sorry - insists that this collect "shall always be used upon the Sunday next before Advent.” It is a prayer deeply engrained in countless generations of Anglicans the world over, but now, sadly being lost to posterity as we bow to other trends. In modern liturgy it is rare. It makes no appearance in the turgid and so unimaginative 1979 Prayer Book of the American Church. It has even been relegated to a post-communion prayer in the Church of England’s Common Worship. (Further note: Instructions state that this collect may be used on this Sunday at Morning or Evening Prayer. Really.)
I’m not suggesting that “Stir-up Sunday” can ever reclaim the cultural and culinary associations that it had in my boyhood and early stirrings of religious faith. To begin with, most people these days do not bake puddings or cakes for Christmas, and most of these most wouldn’t have a clue how to anyway! But surely, as Anglicans, we can reclaim our ground.
The seemingly concrete title now given to this Sunday, that of Christ the King, has a dubious and political pedigree. In 1925 Pope Pius the Eleventh (actually an excellent man, priest and thinker extraordinaire) decided to re-entitle the Sunday before All Saints’ Day as a piece of Church propaganda, to counter-act the growing fascism in Italy and Germany. It was a liturgical attempt to say: Christ is the one true authority. Yet few paid any attention.
It took two later Popes, John the Twenty-Third and Paul the Sixth, to move the intention to the Sunday before Advent, and so it remains.
If I had a problem with the notion of Christ the King (see previous post and sermon) then I would not be able to call myself a Christian. Yet I ask of my Church, that Catholic but reformed church that is called Anglican, that we do not abandon our liturgical roots too quickly. It seems that all too easily our rich heritage and continuity is being sacrificed in favour of a faux rapprochement with the Roman Church.
But I write as a hypocrite. I bought all my ingredients on Sunday, but they remain in the packets. They have not been stirred. Yet!
Posted by Tim Lewis at 9:22 PM