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The Circumcision of Christ-2012

The Circumcision of Christ.
The Collect.
ALMIGHTY God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true Circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Epistle Reading: Philippians 2.9-13
Gospel Reading: St. Luke 2.15-21

Barbee and Zahl:
“This Collect ( . . . ) was taken from the Gregorian Sacramentary. ( . . . ) When you meditate on a written prayer such as this one, ask yourself first, what is being asked for here? When you take away the address (“Almighty God, which . . . ”), and the formal pleading (“through the same thy son . . . ”), what exactly is being prayed for? In this prayer, on the occasion of the Feast of the Christ’s Circumcision, the petitioner – and we are the petitioner – is asking God for “the true circumcision of thy spirit.”  The idea is that the Holy Spirit alone can cleanse us and prompt us to accede from the heart to the design of God for our life. A transformed will results in changed actions. The Holy Spirit “circumcises” us from within. The consequence is an inward desire to obey God. Such a will bears the fruit of good works. ( . . . ) What we do results, rather, from who we are, or better, from what the prior grace of God has helped us to become” (12-3).

Primus Pilus II


The Sunday after Christmas Day-2012

The Sunday after Christmas-Day.
The Collect.
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

[Then shall follow the Collect of the Nativity, which shall be said continually unto New-year’s Eve.]

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 9.2-7
Psalter: Morning-2, 8; Evening-89
Epistle Reading: Galatians 4.1-7
Gospel Reading: St. Matthew 1.18-25

Barbee and Zahl:
“[This Collect] reminds us of our status as God’s “children by adoption and grace,” while Christ alone is His “only begotten Son.” It is, of all the Prayer Book Collects, the most profoundly theological. Here in one superb prayer are contained both the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation of Christ in time and in our souls” (10).

St. Irenaeus:
“On this account, therefore, the Lord Himself, who is Emmanuel from the Virgin, is the sign of our salvation, since it was the Lord Himself who saved them, because they could not be saved by their own instrumentality; and, therefore, when Paul sets forth human infirmity, he says: “For I know that there dwelleth in my flesh no good thing,” showing that the “good thing” of our salvation is not from us, but from God. And again: “Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Then he introduces the Deliverer, [saying,] “The grace of Jesus Christ our Lord.” And Isaiah declares this also, [when he says:] “Be ye strengthened, ye hands that hang down, and ye feeble knees; be ye encouraged, ye feeble-minded; be comforted, fear not: behold, our God has given judgment with retribution, and shall recompense: He will come Himself, and will save us.” Here we see, that not by ourselves, but by the help of God, we must be saved” (“Against Heretics,” III.20.3).

And Can It Be that I Should Gain?
Charles Wesley, 1738 (alt. 1990)

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Humbled Himself (so great his love),
And bled for all his chosen race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Primus Pilus II

The Holy Innocents-2012

The Innocents’ Day.
The Collect.
O ALMIGHTY God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths; Mortify and kill all vices in us, and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even unto death, we may glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[Then shall follow the Collect of the Nativity, which shall be said continually unto New-year’s Eve.]

Epistle Reading: Revelation 14.1-5
Gospel Reading: St. Matthew 2.13-18

For a short meditation on this day see my post at:

Primus Pilus II


St. John the Evangelist's Day-2012

Saint John the Evangelist’s Day.
The Collect.
MERCIFUL Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church, that it being enlightened by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John may so walk in the light of thy truth, that it may at length attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[Then shall follow the Collect of the Nativity, which shall be said continually unto New-year’s Eve.]

Epistle Reading:1 John 1.1-10
Gospel Reading: St. John 21.19-25

Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr.:
“This is one of the few Prayer Book Collects that can be traced back to the Leonine Sacramentary. ( . . . ) The 1662 revisers added the phrase, ‘so walk in the light of thy truth.’ The metaphor of light which suffuses this Collect is especially appropriate, for it is constantly so used in the Gospel and the First Epistle of John to describe not only the nature of Christian experience, but also the nature of God Himself” (“The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary,” 101).

St. Ireneaus:
There are also those who heard from him (Polycarp) thatJohn, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me?” “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.” Such was the horror which the apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth; as Paul also says, “A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” There is also a very powerful Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who choose to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth. Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles” (“Against Heresies,” III.3.4).
Primus Pilus II


Saint Stephen's Day - 2012

Saint Stephen’s Day.
The Collect.
Grant, O Lord, that in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may stedfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those that suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

[Then shall follow the Collect of the Nativity, which shall be said continually unto New-year’s Eve.]

Epistle Reading: Acts (6.8-7.53) 7.54-60
Gospel Reading: St. Matthew 23.34-39

Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr.:
“The commemoration of the Church’s first martyr on 26 December is common to the universal Church. The feast was instituted in the fourth century, probably at Jerusalem, and rapidly spread to all the churches, for the period was one of much development in the ‘cult of martyrs.’ ( . . . ) The Collect of the Gregorian Sacramentary, slightly shortened in the 1549 Book, dwelt simply upon the thought of our need to love and pray for our enemies. The 1662 revisers expanded this Collect into the form we now have, filling in material from the Epistle, and changing the address from the first to the second Person of the Godhead” (“The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary,” 99).

The Church’s One Foundation
Samuel J. Stone

 The Church's one foundation
is Jesus Christ her Lord;
she is his new creation,
by water and the word:
from heaven he came and sought her
to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.

Elect from every nation,
yet one o’er all the earth,
her charter of salvation:
one Lord, one faith, one birth;
one holy name she blesses,
partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses
with every grace endued.

Though with a scornful wonder
we see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed:
yet saints their watch are keeping,
their cry goes up, “How long?”
and soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.

The church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end;
Though there be those that hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against or foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.

’Mid toil and tribulation,
and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation
of peace forevermore,
till with the vision glorious
her longing eyes are blest,
and the great Church victorious
shall be the Church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union
with God, the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we,
like them, the meek and lowly,
on high may dwell with thee.
Primus Pilus II


The Nativity of our Lord -2012

The Nativity of our Lord, or the Birth-day of Christ,
Commonly called Christmas-Day.
The Collect.
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin: Grant that we, being regenerate and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Epistle Reading: Hebrews 1.1-12
Gospel Reading: St. John 1.1-14

[If in any Church the Holy Communion be twice celebrated on Christmas Day, the following Collect, Epistle, and Gospel may be used at the first Communion. [Appropriate for Christmas Eve]

GOD, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thine only Son Jesus Christ; Grant that as we joyfully receive him for our Redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our Judge, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.]

Epistle Reading: Titus 2.11-15
Gospel Reading: Luke 2.1-14

[If you have time, here is a Christmas meditation I posted on my blog: “The Stunning Humility of God”.]

Barbee and Zahl:
“The Good News of the Gospel affirms that God is both for us and with us. His being for us means that He does something on our behalf that we cannot do for ourselves. This for-us-ness refers to the Atonement, by which Christ died for us in our place on the Cross, thereby sparing us from judgment and guilt. God’s with-us-ness means that He has “taken our nature upon him,” to accompany us as friend and shepherd during the pilgrimage of living. This with-us-ness refers to the Incarnation, by which God is born into the world and shares the condition of human beings with the single exception of sin” (11)

St. Athanasius:
“…the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word who made it in the beginning. There is no inconsistency between creation and salvation; for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it in the beginning” (“The Incarnation of the Word of God,” 1.1).

Primus Pilus II Mike


The 4th Sunday of Advent - 2012

The Fourth Sunday in Advent.
The Collect.
O LORD, raise up (we pray thee) thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

The Collect from the First Sunday in Advent is to be repeated every day, with the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas-Eve.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 40.1-11
Psalter: Morning-98, 99; Evening-101, 103
Epistle Reading: Philippians 4.4-7
Gospel Reading: St. John 1.19-28

Barbee and Zahl:
“This Collect is from the Gelasian Sacramentary ( . . . ) absorbed into the Sarum Liturgy, from which Archbishop Cranmer translated and adapted it for use in the 1549 Prayer Book. It was expanded in the 1662 Book ( . . . ). To be “sore let” is to be thwarted ( . . . )

Cranmer’s panoramic vision and sense of the big picture of our life as ‘hid with Christ” (Colossians 3:3) comes through loud and clear in this prayer. ( . . . ). The prayer represents us as being hindered through our sins and wickedness. We are thwarted in all our attempts at self-deliverance. This is a grievous admission. We are unable to help ourselves: trapped, stripped, caught by outward circumstances and inward tendencies. (   . . . ). No one can appreciate the power of this prayer without first making the admission that all human hopes of self-redemption are a delusion. Is that too much to admit? But as we are “sore hindered,” even so is the mercy of God bountiful and speedy. Moreover, the mercy of God is not a facile fiat. It is grounded in something” “the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord.” ( . . . ). With sins forgiven, the human spirit is no longer obstructed and caved in on its own insatiable hungers” (8-9).

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Words: Latin, twelfth century;
trans. John Mason Neale (1818-1866), 1851

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times once gave the law
in cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan's tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save,
and give them victory over the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


The Third Sunday of Advent - 2012

The Third Sunday in Advent.

The Collect.
O LORD Jesu Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee; Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

[The Collect from the First Sunday in Advent is to be repeated every day, with the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas-Eve.]

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 35
Psalter: Morning-52, 53; Evening-93, 94
Epistle Reading: 1 Corinthians 4.1-5
Gospel Reading: St. Matthew 11.2-10

See my commentary on Isaiah 35 at my blog. Here is the link:

***Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr.: The Collect. This was composed in 1662 and is based on several phrases in the Epistle and Gospel, and also on Luke i.17 (a passage concerned with John the Baptist). The Old Testament background of these passages may be found in the words of the prophet Malachi (iii.1, iv.5-6). This is one of the few Collects in the Prayer Book directly addressed to Christ. The Christian ministry is likened to that of John the Baptist in the sense that it is a heralding of the Second Advent of our Lord—to turn the hearts of the unrepentant and disobedient to the life of righteousness, so that when He comes they may be accepted into his kingdom” (“The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary”, 1955, 94-5).

Shine Thou upon Us, Lord
John Ellerton, 1881

Shine Thou upon us, Lord, true Light of men, today,
And through the written Word Thy very self display,
That so from hearts which burn with gazing on Thy face
Thy little ones may learn the wonders of Thy grace.

Breathe Thou upon us, Lord, Thy Spirit’s living flame,
That so with one accord our lips may tell Thy Name.
Give Thou the hearing ear, fix Thou the wandering thought,
That those we teach may hear the great things Thou hast wrought.

Speak Thou for us, O Lord, in all we say of Thee;
According to Thy Word let all our teaching be,
That so Thy lambs may know their own true Shepherd’s voice,
Where’er He leads them go, and in His love rejoice.

Live Thou within us, Lord, Thy mind and will be ours;
Be Thou beloved, adored, and served with all our powers,
That so our lives may teach Thy children what Thou art,
And plead, by more than speech, for Thee with every heart.
The Original 1549 Collect:

“LORD, we beseech thee, give ear to our prayers, and by thy gracious visitation lighten the darkness of our heart, by our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Barbee and Zahl on the original Collect:
“The succinct Collect for the Third Sunday in Advent assumes that our human heart has become dark. The Collect presupposes that by the time we reach the point where we should wish to pray this prayer, we would have found, by the sheer passage of years and chronicle of love’s disappointment, that our open and bright self had seized up. A personality once sunny and receptive could discover itself in the arid place of wishing to shut out the joy and light of life, let alone the grace of God, entirely.

The prayer sees the answer to our darkness as the light shining in the face of Christ (II Corinthians 4:6). “By thy gracious visitation, lighten the darkness.” Are you able to see the darkness of life’s conflictedness as dispelled by the ancient yet still present accompaniment of God-with-us? This is the love which pierces the darkness, even when you and I have covered over our windows, the eyes of our heart, with hammered shutters, wooden boards, duct tape, and clear-for-all-to-read “no trespassing” signs” (7).

Primus Pilus II
Michael Philliber
Edmond, OK


The Second Sunday of Advent - 2012

The Second Sunday in Advent.
The Collect.
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.

[The Collect from the First Sunday in Advent is to be repeated every day, with the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas-Eve.]

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 55.1-13

Psalter: Morning-80, 82; Evening-25, 26

Epistle Reading: Romans 15.4-13

Gospel Reading: Luke 21.25-33

[“If you consider, for instance, the selection of Epistle and Gospel lessons for the Sundays in Advent, as they appear in the Book of Common Prayer, you will find that they are precisely those appointed in the Sarum Missal of the medieval Church of England, and are in fact the same as those prescribed in the Comes of St Jerome, which goes back to the Fifth Century. The only change has been Archbishop Cramner’s addition, in 1549, of a few verses to the beginning of the Epistle lesson and the end of the Gospel lesson for the first Sunday in Advent. Apart from the slight lengthening of those two lessons, the Advent lectionary remains unchanged since early Christian times.  What we have in that series is not a random selection of readings, but a coherent series of texts, in which Epistle and Gospel lessons interpret and supplement each other, and in which there is a continuous, logical development of teachings from one week to the next. Each set of texts builds upon the thought of the preceding set, and points ahead to the one that follows” (Dr. Robert Crouse, “The Themes of Advent”,]

Barbee and Zahl: 
“Today [in this Collect-MWP] the emphasis rests on a reference point, a text, which exists as a compass to orient our whole lives. ( . . . )For Cranmer, the touchstone or reference point of wisdom is “all holy Scriptures.” He prays that we would not only hear the Scriptures as words, but “inwardly digest” them as the Word by which we may be comforted (i.e., strengthened). Cranmer views the Bible as providing both the grounds for our patience and the fuel for our strengthening. Such patience and strengthening are able to take us by the instrumentality of hope right up to the threshold of natural life. After we cross that threshold, we shall receive the “everlasting life” promised in the last phrase. ( . . . )Cranmer invites us to love the Bible and learn it, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the cause for which it is written: our patience and our comfort” (5).
St. Athanasius: 
“This (treatise on “The Incarnation of the Word of God” – MWP) will give you a beginning, and you must go on to prove its truth by the study of the Scriptures. They were written and inspired by God; and we who have learned from inspired teachers who read the Scriptures and became martyrs for the Godhead of Christ, make further contribution to your eagerness to learn. From the Scriptures you will learn also of his Second manifestation to us, glorious and divine indeed, when He shall come not in lowliness but in His proper glory, no longer in humiliation but in majesty, no longer to suffer but to bestow on us all the fruit of His cross—the resurrection and incorruptibility” (95).

“…reading Scripture is about being mastered by Jesus Christ through a biblical text that functionally stands over us as the word of God, not under us as a word we can control, rearrange, and use for our own purposes” (J. Todd Billings, “The Word of God for the People of God,” 203).

"Of the Father's Love Begotten"
by Aurelius C. Prudentius, 413, cento
Translated by John. M. Neale, 1818-1866
and Henry W. Baker, 1821-1977

1. Of the Father's love begotten Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the Source, the Ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been, And that future years shall see
Evermore and evermore.

2. Oh, that birth forever blessed When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, Bare the Savior of our race,
And the Babe, the world's Redeemer, First revealed His sacred face
Evermore and evermore.

3. O ye heights of heaven, adore Him; Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him And extol our God and King.
Let no tongue on earth be silent, Every voice in concert ring
Evermore and evermore.

4. This is He whom Heaven-taught singers Sang of old with one accord;
Whom the Scriptures of the prophets Promised in their faithful word.

Now He shines, the Long-expected; Let creation praise its Lord
Evermore and evermore.

5. Christ, to Thee, with God the Father, And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving And unending praises be,
Honor, glory, and dominion, And eternal victory
Evermore and evermore.