The Daily Offices

The Daily Offices from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, (Canada 1962), including daily Bible readings and occasional sermons from the Cathedral of the Annunication of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa

Monday, March 19, 2007

Reverencing Motherhood

Father Peter's Sunday Sermon for Mothering Sunday:

Jerusalem which is above is free; which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice thou barren that barest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.

There is a great deal of female imagery in chapter 4 of St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, which is probably why the verses from it were chosen to be read today, the day designated by the Church as Mothering Sunday.

Motherhood is a reality of Christian life in many ways. Leaving aside the obvious biological aspect, other parts of the reality of Motherhood stretch back into the age of Moses, when God commanded, Honour thy father and thy mother. Yes, Dad is included in that commandment, but let’s ignore Dad for now – this is Mother’s day. The images of Motherhood then reach forward from Moses to the Cross and from the Cross penetrate to the very heart of Christianity.

I have often wondered about the need of Mohammedans to have several wives, seeming as a result to reduce women to the status of baby factories. That is not honouring thy mother. Nor is it honouring motherhood or womanhood.

In Christianity it is forbidden to have several wives, especially at one and the same time. Now, at the risk of my personal safety, I could rabbit on at length about why one wife is a blessing, but multiples of them would be a curse. But I won’t go there. I have not reached my age without learning a few things about protecting my personal safety! Let me just say that folded into the sacrament of marriage is the concept of monogamy, of honouring one woman as a gift from God. Also folded into the sacrament are the pains, the blessings and the glory of motherhood.

Where the Christian is truly blessed, be they man or woman, is that we may have only one husband or wife, but we have several mothers.

First, we have our natural mother, of course. But soon after we are born, hopefully, our natural mother is a Christian and we will be taken to be baptized into Mother Church. The one Holy Catholic Church is what Paul speaks of when he says the Jerusalem which is above, which is the mother of us all.

It is the bride of Christ, as St. John saw in his revelation, And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. In that new Jerusalem everything involved in motherhood will be perfected.

St. John continues, And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall wipe away all the tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Rev.21:3,4.

This is the promise of the new covenant brought in by Jesus Christ through the Cross. And from the Cross we receive another mother -- Mary, Theotokos, the God bearer, our Holy Mother.

What greater honour could Mary have possibly received than to be chosen as the spotless virgin in whose womb the Incarnate Son of God was conceived and carried for nine long months.

What greater honour could all womankind have possibly received than that one of their own was chosen to bear the world’s redemption.

What more reason could we have for honouring women, our human mother’s and motherhood itself, than that God did not abhor the virgin’s womb.

On the Cross, St. John tells us, When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing there whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy Son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother!

It is understood from these words of Jesus Christ that He gave His blessed mother not just to St. John, but to all of us. That is the interpretation carried in the prayer following the Salve Regina as sung at Walsingham, which contains the words, O Mary, recall the solemn moment when Jesus, thy Divine Son, dying on the Cross, confided us to thy maternal care. Now there are those who dispute this interpretation of those words of Christ upon the Cross, but there is a prayer of St. Augustine in which for me the matter is put to rest. It contains the following paragraph:

Woman incomparable, thou art both bodily and spiritually Mother and Virgin. Mother of our Head, who is the Saviour, thou art Mother also of his members, even of ourselves; for by charity thou hast co-operated in the birth of the faithful into His Church. Thou art the beauty and dignity of earth, O Virgin, and hast ever been the type of the holy Church. By one woman came death, and by another even by thee, O Mother of our God, came life.

Let me close by quoting a section from one of my dogmatic theology books.

The love and reverence given by all Christians, until the Reformation, to our Lord’s Mother have been of the highest spiritual and moral value. They have inspired the ideal of chivalry towards all women; they have supported the teaching of St. Paul that in Christ men and women are equal; they have strengthened , as perhaps nothing else could have done, personal purity and the ideal of the Christian home. They are one of the most precious parts of the Christian tradition, and the sects which have cast them away have suffered immeasurable loss.

After the Mass today, we will go downstairs and one of the things we will do there is honour Heather, our Mother of the year. I sincerely hope the words I have just read will allow us to do that in genuine Christian love and respect. But I hope they will allow us to go further.

Let us love and revere our Holy Mother Mary. Let us Love and revere our Holy Mother Church, the bride of Christ. Let us love and honour our earthly mother. Let us love, honour, cherish and protect the very idea of Motherhood and the women in whom this God given gift and responsibility resides.

Peter Jardine+
Mothering Sunday (Lent IV) 2007

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Day of Prayer for Julianne

Good morning and a very warm welcome to our visitors. Thank you for joining us today. We are here to make a small sacrifice of prayer to God our Father for Julianne, a young woman who many of us have not actually met. The purpose of this talk is to try to set the tone for our prayers and meditations. In doing that, I want to focus on our relationship with God and on our basic means of communicating with Him, which is prayer.

As you will see in the bulletin, we have organized the day around a number of Offices, interspersed with periods of private prayer. The Offices, which are ancient in origin, help to keep our minds fixed on God. They should also remind us that although we may have come here as strangers, that is the worldly view. God’s view; the Biblical, Christian view is that we are all members of the body of Christ and have therefore a huge amount in common. Two Christians should never be strangers, for, as St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, So we being many are one body in Christ and every one members one of another.

As Christians then, we are not strangers but are united in a bond of Love in and through Jesus Christ. We are bound by and through the Cross to one another and many things follow from that.

Let me say just a few words about what has brought us here today. Julianne was and remains the victim of an unprovoked and savage attack which took place in Banff on July 11th, 2005. She was left for dead and in a coma from which she has yet to recover fully. This was an unspeakably vile act perpetrated by what Valerie, Julianne’s mother described to me as a monster. I can only agree with Valerie’s description, especially as I am myself the father of three daughters.

However, and I fully recognize how difficult this is in circumstances such as these, Jesus is quite clear that we must forgive. He teaches us forgiveness not for the sake of the perpetrators, but for our own sakes because there is nothing so corrosive to the human soul as hatred and anger.

I want to say no more about the terrible violence of that day in July. We are not here to dwell on that, but to make our humble petitions to God and seek His healing grace. We are here to join ourselves to the hope which abides in membership of the Body of Christ.

What happened to Julianne matters most of all to Julianne herself, and that will always be the case. Julianne is, if you like, the point where the stone is dropped into the water of a calm lake. The ripples immediately encompassed her mother, father and sister, then other members of her family. Let us remember them frequently in our prayers today. What happened to Julianne matters almost as much to her family as it does to Julianne, and it will always matter to them.

The ripples then rapidly engulfed her friends, and it has been a revelation to me how much this terrible event matters to them. I met two of her friends through a box placed by one of them on the counter of a Kanata coffee shop to collect money for Julianne’s medical expenses. The simple message on that box moved me to want to do more.

Soon after, I met Jen and Tasha. I don’t yet know these young women well enough to understand how remarkable they are, but I already do know that they are doing remarkable things for their friend. They are living the commandment, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. They have taught me that the circle of victims in a crime of violence can be much larger than I imagined. Let us remember these very Christian young people in our prayers today.

And so the ripples keep spreading, now touching each of us in this church, where, through the grace of God, we are gathered to ask God to bestow healing of body and soul upon Julianne and healing of spirit upon her family and friends.

We are offering God both our prayers and the sacrifice of our time, not that there is really a distinction between the two. A sacrifice offered to God is always a form of prayer. Let us consider for a while what prayer means to those who would converse with the Almighty.

As Bishop Carl often reminds us, God is not some cosmic bellhop. We do not, or should not ask Him to do this or that for us, thinking we can reward Him with a few grubby bank notes if He complies. God created us and everything around us and He has no material needs, so we can offer Him no material rewards. Nor do we make demands on God on the mistaken assumption that He must give us what we want. Not even Jesus Christ always got what He asked for. In the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord asked three times for the cross to be taken from Him. God did not do that, but He did give His Son something much more important. He gave Jesus the victory over death in the Resurrection. Through the suffering of His Incarnate Son, God gave the world its Redeemer. Christian prayers never go unheard and are never ignored.

Now, if God needs nothing from us, He certainly wants something from us; He wants our love and obedience to His commandments. Prayer is very much a part of that, so much so that Jesus took the need for prayer for granted. The Gospels reveal that He prayed frequently, seeking quiet private places to do so on many of those occasions. He also instructed His disciples many times on the subject of prayer, generally with the underlying assumption that they would be praying, but could pray better.

Scripture teaches us that we need to pray for ourselves, but also that we need to pray for others. It is absolutely the right and required thing to do to pray for Julianne. Consider the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13. He comes to Jesus not for himself, but seeking a cure for his servant, his slave. As Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to Him, beseeching Him and saying, Lord, my servant is lying paralysed at home, in terrible distress. And He said to him, I will come and heal him. But the centurion answered Him, Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.

Two things should be noted in those verses. Firstly, the centurion sacrificed – he took time and made the effort to go to Jesus. We are all doing that here today, and I point that out not that we can take pride in it, but rather take comfort in it. It is what God wants. Secondly, when the centurion came to the Lord he petitioned Him on behalf of his paralysed slave. We are also doing that today, petitioning God on behalf of Julianne.

There are other relevant examples in the Gospels. In Luke 5:18-24 we read, And behold men brought in a bed a man who was paralysed, and they sought to bring him and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.

Once again there was the element of sacrifice on the part of the men who worked so hard to bring the paralytic to the Lord. Their petition was there also, but apparently silent. Nevertheless, Jesus knew the desires of their hearts.

In both the cases I have quoted, Jesus answered the petitions and cured the sick. This is so consistent with the property of mercy which is part of Divine Love. Jesus does not ignore the sick and those innocents who are injured by the evil of others. And in both cases I quoted, Jesus said it was their faith, the faith of those making the petitions and the sacrifices which resulted in the victims being cured. In the quiet periods today, it is surely worth contemplating that fact.

Let us pray, too, for the grace of faith, that our prayers for Julianne may find favour with God. It is through faith that we unite our wills with the will of God, and that is always what our prayer must seek to do. We cannot, ever, bend God’s will to ours or change God’s will in any way. God is not some cosmic bellhop who jumps when we demand he jump and fetches when we demand He fetch.

However, Scripture does make us promises.

St. James in his general epistle writes, The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. There are many things which can be said about a righteous man, and one of the more important is that he is righteous because his will is united with the will of God. St. James goes on to give us an example:

Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

There we have a case of one man, his will united with God’s, praying with conviction and passion and with dramatic results. Elijah believed that God would send rain, but still he felt it necessary to pray. So he went up to the top of mount Carmel and prayed, not once but seven times. And oh, how it rained. So we must pray with serious intent.

We must also pray believing that God will grant us what we ask. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a serpent? If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father, who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

God is always more willing to give than we are ready to ask. I was in a conversation recently with a small group, when someone complained that they did not have the gift of healing. A small, humble priest from Newfoundland quietly asked the complainant, “Have you ever asked for it, believing you would receive it?” There was a rather stunned silence.

So we must pray, believing that God will grant us what we ask.

I said at the beginning of this talk that we are all members of the body of Christ and have therefore a huge amount in common. In the Epistle of St. James, we learn that prayer should unite us in the body of Christ. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another that ye may be healed. Individual prayer is so important, but what St. James wrote is an invitation to pray in the Body of Christ and for the body of Christ. Julianne is a member of that body and a member in special need of our fervent, heart felt prayers

Few have understood the call to corporate prayer, united with the will of God, as well as St. Chrysostom, whose prayer we use in the daily offices. Let me close this talk with his prayer.

Almighty God, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto thee; and dost promise that when two or three are gathered together in thy name thou wilt grant their requests; fulfil now, O Lord the desires and petitions of thy servants, as may be most expedient for them; granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth and in the world to come life everlasting. Amen

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Sunday, March 04, 2007


Fr. Peter's Lent II Sermon:

And behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

Yesterday in this church we prayed for a Julianne Courneya, a young woman who is not grievously vexed with a devil, but was grievously assaulted by a devil-like man and left for dead. We talked and prayed a lot for faith in her restoration by Almighty God, the source of all healing. Julianne’s mother prayed among us. And now, one day later, we read a Gospel passage which speaks to the faith of another woman seeking a cure for her daughter. Outside these walls, some may say that is a coincidence, but there are no coincidences with God. Such a concept denies His Divinity.

Faith. What a strange creature faith can sometimes turn out to be. Often when we think we have it, we act in ways which prove exactly the opposite. At other times, we take bold leaps in particular directions, surprising ourselves at how strong our faith actually can be.

Then, too, we are prone to judging others by our own yardsticks. We look at street people and cannot imagine faith, or any degree of spirituality, playing any part in their lives. I have spoken in previous sermons about the strength of faith I have encountered among Ottawa’s street people. That certainly came as a big surprise to me.

But in today’s verses from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus teaches us that true faith may indeed be found where it might have been least expected. The woman who cries out to Jesus for help is a Gentile, a Canaanite, of a people who were historical enemies of the Jews. Jesus was in Gentile territory for the first time, probably to take a break from the increasingly hostile attentions of the Chief Priests and the Pharisees, while he taught the Apostles some of the mightily important things he had to teach them.

Somehow, this woman had heard of Our Lord’s ministry; heard enough for her to believe that Jesus could cure her sick daughter. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David,” is her prayer and what surprising words they are, coming from a Gentile.

Which brings up an extremely important point; believing is a matter of grace, not place. Remember Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the prophet. Despite living in a prophet’s family, the references in 2 Kings to Gehazi make it clear that very little of the prophet’s piety rubbed off on the servant. Gehazi followed after and took money from Naaman and in 2 Kings 5.25, we read that he lied about it to Elisha. “And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, thy servant went no whither.” But Elisha knew the truth and had his lying servant afflicted with leprosy.

On the other hand, all over this world and through the reaches of time, we find the strong light of witnesses for Jesus Christ burning in the face of rampant opposition. History records the lives of many Christian martyrs, of thousands more persecuted for professing Jesus Christ.

We pray for house churches in China, which not only refuse to disappear, but proliferate, in the face of constant harassment, such as the arrest of their pastors. We pray for those Mohammedans in places like Pakistan, who become Christians in the sure and certain knowledge that they will be marked for imprisonment and death. We pray for Christians in Nigeria, Kazekhstan, Indonesia, India, Mexico, South Sudan and on and on, who gather to worship our God despite the fact that their congregations become a favourite target for cowardly bombers and knife wielding rioters.

Yet Jesus teaches that we are not to despair for anyone’s soul, just because of where he is or what his circumstances may be. Believers are made through grace, not place. And all of us have to accept the fundamental truth that Jesus died on the Cross for each and every human being that has since walked on the earth or will yet walk on the earth. After such a death, can we imagine that He would refuse the soul struggling towards the light.

So Jesus responds to the Canaanite woman’s entreaties, albeit in what may seem to be a curious way. He ignores her, a reaction of apparent contempt. But we know that Jesus does not ever treat people with contempt, for contempt is not a property of love and Jesus is Love.

On the contrary, out of his Love for her, Jesus is testing her faith in preparation for strengthening it. God does test our faith, not for His satisfaction or for some heavenly score sheet, but strictly for our benefit. He is also putting her faith in full view of the world as a lesson to all

When Jesus does speak to the woman, his words are hardly encouraging, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” You, you miserable Gentile, he might be saying, don’t count! Of course, Jesus would never treat any one like that. No, the test is still on, and her faith gives her perseverance. She falls to her knees in worship and pleads again, “Lord, help me.” Acknowledging the kingship of Jesus, her faith unwavering, she again submits her plea. And again she seems to be even more sternly rebuffed, It is not meet to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs.

Yet again the woman petitions Him, this time displaying great humility along with her visibly growing faith. Truth, Lord, she replies. What an astonishing display of humility that is from anyone, let alone someone under such stress. How many of us would have so responded, rather than bridling at the suggestion we are dogs.

Jesus has shown us so much about prayer in this short episode. It must be persistent, it must contain worshipful acknowledgement of His majesty and it must spring from a well of humility.

Then look how Jesus strengthens this woman’s faith, with the simple statement, “O woman, great is thy faith.” Those six words of encouragement must have come in a voice vibrant with the tender love and compassion of the Almighty. The same Love would shine from his unique, penetrating eyes and radiate from every cell of his body.

By themselves, those few words would have been reward enough. But Our Lord’s Love knows no bounds, so he gives the woman more, “…be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”
She has offered Jesus persistent intercessory prayer and He grants her wishes.

Such is the faith we need during the penitential season of Lent. May God grant us the grace of faith so that we can pray with consistency, persistence, humility and in thankful acknowledgement of His glorious majesty.

May we also remember that in Matthew 15.21-28, Jesus tells us in clear terms that we are to intercede for others. There is always someone who is in greater need than we ourselves are.

We may have a child, for example, whose conversion to Christ is our greatest wish. There may be a relative or friend who is desperately ill. There may be people we know and about whose salvation we are seriously concerned. We may have a relative or friend desperately ill with cancer or some other ailment. And if you cannot think of anyone, pray for Julianne and her family.

Follow the example of the Canaanite woman and take it to the Lord in prayer. Lay their names and conditions before Him, day in and day out, never giving up and always believing that God will hear and grant our requests.

And in this penitential season especially, as the shadow of Good Friday grows and when we may be inclined by our examination of ourselves to drive ourselves towards despair; let us keep a charitable eye on each other. But let us also remember that it is expected of us that we pray for ourselves.

“Lord have mercy on me,” was the Canaanite woman’s prayer. It should be our fervent and constant prayer as well, if for no other reason than that the temptation to give up on prayer comes from the devil and it needs to be resisted.

Let us pray then, that during Lent, God will grant us the courage to combat our besetting sins; to resist the false promises of the world; to turn aside from the subtle blandishments of the devil. Let us ask for the strength to obey our God; for the grace of forbearance in our trials; for the comfort of the Holy Spirit in times of trouble and for the persistence to pray without ceasing.

Lord have mercy upon us – and let our cry come unto thee.

Peter Jardine+
Lent II, 2007

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I believe; help my unbelief!

Fr. Peter's sermon on the Day of Prayer for Julianne:

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 1John 5:4.

We are approaching the end of our Day of Prayer for Julianne, but most certainly not the end of our prayers for her. We should all be leaving here filled with hope, a hope inspired by the promises of Jesus; a hope nurtured by the Holy Spirit.

What we have done today is to participate in a victory over evil. I say that with utter conviction because we were all moved to come here to pray and prayer is born of God and as St. John says, whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.

The world is a hostile place for Christians. Before sending out His apostles on their first mission, Jesus tells them, Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

Jesus is talking to his apostles, but it is extremely difficult for a Christian to hide their Christianity for long and His warning applies to us. He warns the men in no uncertain terms of the persecution they will encounter. They are being sent into a hostile world, in the midst of wolves. That is both a warning and a reminder of how they are to behave.

The warning is that they are being sent into harms way – sheep and wolves do not mix to dance merrily around the mulberry bush. We can each of us be met with evil at any turn and we should, as Christians expect it.

We also find in His words a reminder to maintain our Christian character, the character laid out in the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. St. Chrysostom says, So long as we are sheep we are victorious, though a thousand wolves surround us; but if we turn into wolves, we are beaten, for the aid of our Shepherd is withdrawn from us: He is the Shepherd, not of wolves, but of sheep.

It is not always easy to remain as sheep, especially when someone close to us has been severely hurt. But it is for our own good that we are told to be harmless as doves, or as Chrysostom says, to remain as sheep. We can never be separated from Jesus Christ, our great Shepherd as long as we are obedient to His commandments. And as long as we are not separated from Him, He will bring us through the worst of trials. Come unto me all that labour and are heavy laden and I will refresh you. What a wonderful promise that is.

Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. In the nineteenth century, Bishop Walsham How commented on these words, To unite together this wisdom and this innocence is indeed a hard thing. Wisdom without harmlessness is an awful gift. It is the very character of Satan. But harmlessness without wisdom is weak and powerless for good. The Christian must seek to be both wise in his dealing with others and also loving and gentle.

We cannot possibly accomplish something so hard without the help of God. For that, we must believe in Him and have faith that He will help.

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world, and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. The faith required is faith in Jesus Christ, in God the source of all Love, the source of Divine healing.

This world seems at time to have all but abandoned belief in anything Divine. That is the surest path I know to utter despair and hopelessness and I will not accept it for one second.

I believe in my heart that I will one day, in God’s time, stand in front of Julianne and we will shake hands and introduce ourselves.

I believe that because of the deep love for her daughter which Valerie cannot hide and which our Loving God will not ignore.

I believe that because of the tears which occasionally escape down Tasha’s cheeks and which wash my heart with her compassion for her friend.

I believe that because of the quiet, loving dedication with which Jen works to help her friend.

But mostly I believe it because God is pure Love and I accept His promises without question.

There is a passage in the Gospel according to St. Mark, which follows immediately after the Transfiguration. The disciples of Jesus have failed to cast out an evil spirit from a young boy and he is grievously afflicted. The boy’s father says to Jesus, If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us. And Jesus said to him If you can! All things are possible to him who believes. Immediately the father cried, I believe; help my unbelief!

Jesus drives the spirit from the boy and later tells His disciples, This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.

We have prayed today, sincerely and honestly. We do not know if God will heal Julianne through the medical attention she is now receiving or by some other means. If any of us still cannot quite believe in her healing, let our cry be I believe; help my unbelief! But let us all leave here confident in the knowledge that Jesus promises, All things are possible to him who believes.

This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith!

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