Praying and believing

Lex orandi, lex credendi

Lex orandi, lex credendi (Latin loosely translatable as “the law of prayer is the law of belief”) refers to the relationship between worship and belief, and is an ancient Christian principle which provided a measure for developing the ancient Christian creeds, the canon of scripture and other doctrinal matters based on the prayer texts of the Church, that is, the Church’s liturgy. In the Early Church there were about 69 years of liturgical tradition before there was a creed and about 350 years before there was a biblical canon. These liturgical traditions provided the theological framework for establishing the creeds and canon. Source: Wikipedia

If you want to know what a community believes, listen to how it prays; if you want to know what an individual believes, listen to that person pray. This is my version of the meaning of lex orandi, lex credendi. If we assume a community or an individual is going to be honest when speaking to God, then we listen to the prayers and gain insight into belief. Likewise, the more a community or an individual prays in a certain way, the stronger becomes the belief, belief becomes more mature, better articulated; there is a dynamic interchange between mind and heart and faith in the act of praying.

In Anglicanism, the worship of the people of God plays a very distinctive role, being the principal arena not only of supplication and praise but also of theological experimentation and formulation. This relationship of worship and belief is often discussed under the Latin tag, lex orandi, lex credendi—’the law of praying is the law of belief’.  Source: W. Taylor Stevenson in The study of Anglicanism, John E. Booty, Stephen Sykes, Jonathan Knight, p. 187

Lex orandi, lex credendi: A Latin phrase often used in the study of liturgy, it means “the rule of prayer [is] the rule of belief.” The phrase describes the pervasive pastoral reality that habits of prayer shape Christian belief. Official provisions for worship can thus have a determinative role in shaping Christian doctrine. Source: Glossary of Terms maintained by the Episcopal Church

1124 The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles – whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, according to Prosper of Aquitaine [5th cent.]) The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition. Source: The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church

Throughout our study the group will share the prayers that shape our faith and thereby reveal the faith that shapes our prayers. We invite you to share your prayers with others in this (online) Forum.

A House of Hospitality

When the new St. Margaret’s sanctuary was available for use in June 1989 The Rev. Brad Hall, Fourth Rector of St. Margaret’s,  preached a sermon, “Solomon’s Prayer: Our First Day in the New Church Building” (June 4, 1989), that we continue to live up to and into as a community.

Though speaking about the building itself and the entire St. Margaret’s community, Brad’s words give us a vision when spoken into our little community–The Sunday Morning Forum–within the larger community. We need to make our room and our presence match what the congregation does in the sanctuary in Sunday worship. Here is an excerpt of Brad’s sermon; hear that the Spirit is saying the same thing to us 22 years later:

God’s House is a House of Hospitality

This is truly a beautiful building, and people will come and visit it. Whether they are drawn here by its architectural majesty, its open, light-filled sanctuary, or to worship and pray, we must always be prepared to welcome and accept all sojourners and visitors who wish to enter our doors.

This is an Episcopal Church, a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion of over seventy million peoples. We are also a community church, a part of this Coachella Valley, and our church is a gift to all who live in their beautiful desert. And so the doors of our building and our hearts must be open to welcome, in God’s Love, all who come to us seeking peace, seeking an answer to their prayers, seeking God, Himself.

My final prayer for us is that your love and Christ’s Love will so shine through these doors and windows that all sojourners who come here seeking will find that their prayers will be answered and that God’s Peace and Joy will fill their hearts.

Note: the entire sermon will soon be posted in the Supplemental Resource category 6/7/11

The Rev. Lane Hensley, current Rector of St. Margaret’s, continues this fine tradition among us. In November 2010 Lane set out some principles for our ministry. Here is an excerpt to help guide our work in the Sunday Morning Forum, a community within a community:

Our collective task is to take our place as members of the Body of Christ, and to come collectively “to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” Here, then, are some principles that I think need to guide that process.

We are a public Church, and a ministry leader in outreach, formation, music, and worship. Our efforts should be directed to the community we serve in mission, and their highest hopes, deepest fears, and most important deliberations should find home at St. Margaret’s.

We expect God’s blessing on our work, and to grow and be transformed into the Body of Christ.

Lane’s principles can be viewed or downloaded here: From the Rector’s Desk, November 2010

Let us be open and inviting to others in the spirit of Christ’s love as we build community. We have a fine vision and strong principles and God’s amazing grace guiding us along the Way.

Your thoughts and observations and questions are important. Please use the Comment section to continue the conversation.

Great 50 Days of Easter

Great Fifty Days of Easter
The feast of Easter is a season of fifty days, from Easter Eve through the Day of Pentecost. From early times the Greek word pentecost (fiftieth day) was used also for the whole Paschal season. During this season there is no fasting. The Council of Nicaea (325) directed that Christians are to pray standing. The word “alleluia” (praise the Lord) is said or sung repeatedly, which contrasts sharply with the season of Lent when the alleluia is omitted. The color of liturgical vestments and hangings is white or gold.

—An online Glossary of Terms maintained by The Episcopal Church

Handout p. 1

Bowing and kneeling and standing and sitting, O my

Often, when someone has spoken or written well, and especially if I agree with what is being said, it is better for me to pass along the wisdom undisturbed (but properly attributed). Rather than tell you what you are about to read, I ask you to read it and think about it and let it be a part of our ongoing conversation.

The source for this extended quotation about posture and prayer: Patricia S. Klein, Worship Without Words: The Signs and Symbols of Our Faith, (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2000), pp. 127-130

Those new to the liturgical tradition may be startled by the considerable amount of movement during the service. The uninitiated may perceive no rhyme or reason to the bowing, the standing, the sitting, and the kneeling. Indeed, it may appear to have all the mystery of a secret handshake.

Bowing and kneeling have always been a part of human worship as signs of humility and reverence. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:9-11), he included the words to an early hymn describing Jesus:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It is the words “every knee should bow” that acknowledge the posture that Christians assume before their Lord and Savior. It is this hymn as well that provides the key reason for bowing and kneeling: “at the name of Jesus….” During the liturgy, it is at the name of Jesus that heads bow. And. by extension, it is to those things that remind us of him, that worshipers bow or kneel.

There are no penalties for not bowing at the right places during the liturgy. And the only hazard in not kneeling at the right points in the service is a brief moment of standing alone. In general, worshipers pray on their knees, so when it comes time to pray in liturgical services, it’s a pretty good bet people will kneel. (NIV)

To those who come from nonliturgical traditions, bowing and kneeling may seem utterly foreign and even distasteful, enough to keep a person from participating. But all aspects of worship are intended to point the worshiper to Jesus, even things as fundamental as posture. Kneeling recalls the bedtime prayers of childhood and bowing reminds us of the honor ascribed to greatness. Sometimes the body can remember what the mind forgets. And as C. S. Lewis points out, “The body ought to pray as well as the soul. Body and soul are both the better for it.” (1)

bowing. An inclination of the head and body, or just the head. Liturgically, bowing is a sign of supplication and adoration towards God; bowing also can indicate respect or reverence toward a person or thing, or express a greeting. In the Roman Church, the head is bowed

  • at the doxology (in which the Holy Trinity is invoked);
  • at the name of Jesus, Mary, or the saint of the day; and
  • at the consecration of the Eucharist.

Bowing of the body is made

  • before the altar, and
  • at specified times during the Mass.

In Anglican churches, people may bow

  • as the processional cross passes by;
  • before the altar;
  • at the Name of Jesus;
  • at the mention of the Holy Trinity;
  • toward the Book of the Gospel
  • at the Gloria tibi and the Laus tibi;
  • during the creed, at the words describing the Incarnation.
  • A bow also is exchanged between the thurifer and those being incensed when incense is used.

genuflect, genuflection, or genuflexion. (Latin, “to bend the knee.”) The act of recognizing the presence of God in the Holy Eucharist by bending the right knee upon entering and leaving the pew while facing the altar.

kneeling. The posture often assumed for private or corporate prayer as an expression of humility before God, reflecting both an attitude of penance and an attitude of adoration.

On entering a church, or in passing before the altar, kneel down all the way without haste and hurry, putting your heart into what you do, and let your whole attitude say, Thou art the great God. It is an act of humility, an act of truth, and every time you kneel it will do your soul good. (Romano Guardini) (2)

standing. The posture of respect that worshipers assume for processions, for the reading of the Gospel, the creed, the prayers of the people, from the Presentation of the Gifts through the breaking of the bread, and then at the Prayer after Communion and the recessional.

Standing is the other side of reverence toward God. Kneeling is the side of worship in rest and quietness; standing is the side of vigilance and action. It is the respect of the servant in attendance, of the soldier on duty. (Romano Guardini) (3)

____________

(1) C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1963, 1964), p. 17

(2) Romano Guardini, Sacred Signs, (St. Louis, MO: Pio Decimo Press, 1956), p. 20

(3) Romano Guardini, Sacred Signs, (St. Louis, MO: Pio Decimo Press, 1956), p. 22

What’s in a name?

Though we use names and titles differently in 2011 CE than in 111 CE they affect us: our emotional state, our responsiveness to the person being introduced or spoken to, and our general “feeling” about the person being addressed, spoken about, or spoken to. This was the thinking behind the Sunday Forum on 15 May 2011.

For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.  1 Peter 2:25

Taking that single verse at the end of the Lesson from 1 Peter we spoke out our “names and titles” of Jesus to one another. It was a lively discussion. Please leave a comment here to any or all of the questions we considered on Sunday. At minimum, answer the questions for yourself.

Sunday’s Questions

  • How many names/titles do you use when speaking of Jesus?
  • How many names/titles do you use for addressing Jesus in prayer?
  • Which name do you use most frequently?
  • Have you ever thought about this?
  • Does it make any difference?

These are just a few of the questions that can be asked based upon a single line, verse 25, in today’s lesson from the First Letter of Peter. To highlight once again the dilemma faced by contemporary translators I offer several translations of  the Greek word episkopos used long ago. Try out each translation as a prayer word; each word evokes a different emotion for me. How about you?

King James Version KJV
For ye were as sheep going astray ; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

New Revised Standard Version NRSV
For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

New International Version NIV
For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

New American Bible Revised Edition NABRE
For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Contemporary English Version CEV
You had wandered away like sheep. Now you have returned to the one who is your shepherd and protector.

Too many choices?

In an article titled “Selection of English Scripture Translations Reaches Biblical Proportions” we are presented with the astounding facts about the lucrative business of printing bibles in English. We’ve come a long way from scribes making copies by hand on papyrus; we’ve come a long way from the Authorized Version of 1611 (aka The King James Version of the Bible). Or have we?

That there are so many bibles to choose from is not entirely good news for those who would order their lives according to the bible wisdom:

“When there is wide divergence among Bible translations, readers have no way of knowing what the original text really says.” [according to Leland Ryken, an English professor at Wheaton College.]

Read this article

The article about the bible reminds me of a recent article I saw in Wired online: Clive Thompson on How More Info Leads to Less Knowledge. The premise, researched by Stanford Professor Robert Proctor and reported by Clive Thomas is that with increasing (and often conflicting) information society as a whole has become more ignorant of what is true and what is not. Read this article.