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Everything You Always Wanted to Know about the Episcopal Church but Were Afraid to Ask:
May 12th, 2019
Q. Why Don't We Say “Alleluia” During Lent Throughout the liturgical year?
The Church makes certain changes to the Mass to reflect the liturgical season. Next to the change in the color of the priest's vestments, the absence of the Alleluia during Lent is probably the most obvi-ous. The Meaning of the Alleluia: The Alleluia comes to us from Hebrew, and it means "praise Yah-weh." Traditionally, it has been seen as the chief term of praise of the choirs of angels, as they wor-ship around the throne of God in Heaven. It is, therefore, a term of great joy, and our use of the Alle-luia during Mass is a way of participating in the angels' worship. It is also a reminder that the King-dom of Heaven is already established on earth, in the form of the Church, and that our participation in Mass is a participation in Heaven.
Our Lenten Exile
In truth, we live in what is called the Now and the Not Yet. The Kingdom of God has come. But its full appearance is not yet fully revealed. During Lent, our focus is on the fullness of the Kingdom which is still to come, not on the partial Kingdom having come. The readings in the Masses for Lent and in the Daily Offices focus heavily on the spiritual journey of Old Testament Israel toward the coming of Christ, and the salvation of mankind in His death and resurrection. We, too, are on a spir-itual journey, toward the Second Coming and our future life in Heaven. In order to emphasize that journey, the Church, during Lent, removes the Alleluia from the Mass. We no longer sing with the choirs of angels; instead, we acknowledge our sins and practice repentance so that one day we may again have the privilege of worshiping God as the angels do.
The Return of the Alleluia at Easter
That day comes triumphantly on Easter Sunday—or, rather, at the Easter Vigil, on Holy Saturday night, when the priest chants a double Alleluia before he reads the Gospel, and everyone present re-sponds with a double Alleluia. The Lord is risen; the Kingdom has come; our joy is complete; and, in concert with the angels and saints, we greet the risen Lord with shouts of "Alleluia!" Note that the double Alleluia is reserved for the highest of holy days, like Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas.
April 9th, 2019
Q. What happens to the bread and wine during Holy Eucharist?
A. Anglicans hold to what we call the “Real Presence” of Jesus in the Eucharist. We mean by this that Jesus is really there in the bread and wine, but we can’t explain the mechanics of it. What we do believe is that Jesus only becomes present when we celebrate this meal of thanksgiving in a community and that the faith of the believer is part of what makes it real. This is why we call for the Holy Spirit to come down and bless the sacrament as well as to bless us in order for this worship to work. It is also why we don’t allow for a priest to bless the sacrament without another person present. Jesus becomes really present to us in community and so our liturgies reflect this.
When ye hear the priest invite you to “feed on him in your hearts with by faith, with thanksgiving” you get a hint of the Anglican Eucharistic theology that holds that it is the faith of the believer that helps transform the bread and wine and not the “magic hands” of the priest. There is no magic moment when the bread or wine becomes God’s body and blood. Instead it is our whole worship together that invites Jesus to be truly present in the Eucharist.
(Adapted from St. Margaret’s Church, Little Rock, AK).
March 31st, 2019
March 17th, 2019
Why do we exchange the peace in the middle of the liturgy?
“Sharing God’s peace is not simply offering a friendly hello to those sitting around you. Sharing God’s peace is not a time for catching up on news with your neighbor or for reminding someone about an upcoming meeting. Sharing God’s peace does not require each worshiper to offer a sign of God’s peace to every other worshiper present. The “exchange of peace” (also commonly called “sharing the peace” or “passing the peace”) is an act of reconciliation that serves as a transition point between the Word and Meal portions of the liturgy… The exchange of peace is a ministry, an announcement of grace we make to each other, a summary of the gift given to us in the liturgy of the Word. This ministry we do to each other is far greater than a sociable handshake or a ritual of friendship or a moment of informality. Because of the presence of Jesus Christ, we give to each other what we are saying: Christ’s own peace.” (Definition adapted from the ELCA)
"It is a most invaluable part of that blessed ‘liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,’ that in his worship different forms and usages may without offence be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire" (Book of Common Prayer, p. 9).
The Book of Common Prayer is a treasure chest full of devotional and teaching resources for individuals and congregations, but it is also the primary symbol of our unity. We, who are many and diverse, come together in Christ through our worship, our common prayer.
“In him you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 368).
As Episcopalians, we are followers of Jesus Christ, and both our worship and our mission are in Christ’s name. In Jesus, we find that the nature of God is love, and through baptism, we share in his victory over sin and death.
In the waters of baptism we are lovingly adopted by God into God’s family, which we call the Church, and given God’s own life to share and reminded that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ.
“The Creeds are statements of our basic beliefs about God” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 851).
We will always have questions, but in the two foundational statements of faith – the Apostles’ Creed used at baptism, and the Nicene Creed used at communion – we join Christians throughout the ages in affirming our faith in the one God who created us, redeemed us, and sanctifies us.