Get this music: Chris Slaten A.K.A Son of Laughter's "No Story Is Over"

Chris Slaten, a friend of mine from Chattanooga, TN. who performs under the name Son of Laughter, has just released a new project called, "No Story Is Over."  I love Chris, his heart for Jesus, his way of thinking, and his music.  Over the years we have met for lunch or coffee in Chattanooga to talk about books, songwriting, theology, Church, vocation, and family.  Chris' music has been featured on the likes of Andrew Peterson's Rabbit Room site (http://rabbitroom.com).  You can get his new album, and find out more information about him at his website: https://son-of-laughter.com or https://store.rabbitroom.com/products/no-story-is-over-1?variant=46334246478.

Daily Prayer in Anglicanism

Liturgical prayer has many virtues: it prevents individuals from becoming cranky and self-centered, by keeping them in touch with the corporate prayer of the Church; it prevents prayer from floating away in a mist of sentiment, by attaching it to definite times, actions and intentions; it keeps a balance between vocal and other prayer, which is always necessary; and it is a corrective of…dangerous aberrations of the spiritual life. But all these good effects are entirely secondary to its main purpose, which is nothing less than the uniting of the individual in the Church with her divine Head in the perfect worship of God the Father.
— Fr. F. P. Harton, The Elements of the Spiritual Life

Daily Prayer in Anglicanism

The renewal of daily prayer in the lives of every-day Christians “was one of the greatest successes of the English Reformation,” notes James White.[1]  It makes sense then, that in Anglicanism the laity, and not just the clergy, make vows to pray.

Just as Bishops, Priests, and Deacons are asked some version of the question, “Will you be faithful in prayer, and in the study of Holy Scripture, that you may have the mind of Christ” in the midst of their ordination vows,[2] so every Christian is asked, “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers” in the midst of their Baptismal vows.[3]

This article explores the topic of daily prayer in Anglicanism, its history and theology.  The best way to examine this topic (as is true for any topic in Anglicanism) is to look at the Anglican liturgy found in The Book of Common Prayer.  Particularly it’s the Daily Office (DO) liturgy, perhaps more than any other, that most clearly shows the importance of fixed daily prayer in the life of the Anglican Christian.  First we will examine the history of the DO.  And then we will discuss how the DO evidences three key components of the Anglican expression of Christianity: Lex Orandi Lex Credendi, Via Media, and the Threefold Rule of Prayer.

The goal of this discussion?  To help us pray.

What is the Daily Office? 

In the opening words of the BCP’s Morning Prayer liturgy we find this description of the DO:

Dearly beloved, we have come together in the presence of Almighty God our heavenly Father, to set forth his praise, to hear his holy Word, and to ask, for ourselves and on behalf of others, those things that are necessary for our life and our salvation.[4] 

In other words…the essential stuff, that’s what the DO contains. 

The DO is a rhythmic pattern and practice of scripture reading, praise, petition, confession, and thanksgiving, offered at fixed times each day.  It includes some of Christianity’s oldest canticles (songs), and invites a wide-lens view of prayer (for self, city, and world).

The thing is, as R.R. Reno poetically points out, “the Daily Office and its path into the mystery of Christ is far older and more reliable than Anglicanism itself.[5]  That is, it’s a practice that began before Thomas Cranmer and the Protestant Reformation.  It’s ancient- something that developed over many years in the undivided Church (the Church of the East and the West).  In particular, fixed prayer finds its beginnings in Judaism and then in Christian monasticism.  It continued to develop in local parish life up through the Middle Ages, and was given its current form in the days of the English Reformation.[6]  This is important: like all Christian doctrine and practice, the DO developed over time, guided by the Holy Spirit, in the life of the Church.

Here’s a quick highlight reel of the DO’s history:

History of the Daily Office

Fixed Prayer in Judaism

"Seven times a day I praise you" the Psalmist says in Ps. 119:164.[7]  Prayerbook commentator Marion Hatchet notes, “By the time of Christ, the synagogue liturgy of the word [the Jewish equivalent to the Office) was conducted on at least some weekdays as well as immediately before the Sabbath meal.”[8]  While scholars debate which, if any, passages from the New Testament gospels evidence this handshake of fixed prayer between Judaism and Christianity, passages like Luke 4:16-30 seem to suggest that Jesus himself was familiar (and utilized?) some type of fixed schedule of prayer and scripture reading.[9]  In other words, organizing one’s day according to fixed prayer times was a part of the Christian faith from its earliest conception in Judaism.

Fixed Prayer in Monasticism

From the third century on, as monastic communities began to develop throughout the Christian world, fixed hours of prayer became more concrete, and more complex.  Seven Offices were observed in the every-day life of a monk: Matins, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline.[10]  Prayer was the vocation of monks and so, as James White observes, “Monasticism and the Daily Office evolved together, being virtually identified with each other.[11]

Scholars point to one monk in particular, to evidence the connection between monasticism and the DO: Saint Benedict.  One scholar says Benedict “perfected” the DO.[12]   And popular liturgist Phyllis Tickle notes how his Rule, written sometime in the 6th Century, “was to become a kind of master template against which all subsequent observance and structuring of the divine hours was to be tested.”[13]

This is why, even today, as liturgical Christians follow the practice of the DO, they themselves invite the benefits of monasticism’s genius of prayer and work and community.  Want to be a business man monk?  Pray the DO.  Want to include silence and scripture reading into the chaos of motherhood?  Pray the DO.

Fixed Prayer in Medieval Christianity

Medieval Christianity also left its mark on the DO, deepening its rhythms through systematization (a “gift” Medieval Christianity seems to have given all of Western Theology. Thanks?)  In fact, one scholar notes that the DO we have received in the Anglican Prayerbook is, “directly descended from the system of daily services of the Middle Ages known as the Canonical Hours and enshrined in the Breveries of the secular and monastic clergy of the Latin Church.”[14] 

Unfortunately, as even some Roman Catholics observe, during this systematizing process the DO began to grow so complex that, “Daily public worship other than observing the Eucharist became an almost exclusively clerical and monastic tradition for many centuries.”[15]

Fixed Prayer in Reformation Christianity

It wasn’t until the Reformation, with the printing press and the passion of the Reformers to place the scriptures back into the hands of the people, that the DO once again became accessible to the common Christian. 

Massey summarizes,

It was the genius of…Luther and Cranmer, to see the potential advantage to the Church of making the Daily Offices a means of corporate worship for all the faithful…and, in particular, a vehicle for the recovery of the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures by all the people of God.[16]

In England, Thomas Cranmer took the historic Seven Offices used by the monastics, combined it with some of the Medieval traditions of prayer, included some Eastern Christian prayers and practices, and compressed those ingredients into two main services of Morning and Evening Prayer.  The result?  Anglicans have prayed some version of Cranmer’s DO ever since.

Summary

In telling the story of the DO, it’s important to see that it has, like all aspects of the Church as living organism, developed and matured over time.  None of the historic expressions of the DO should be shunned for this reason alone.  Each in its time contributed to what we have today, and that lends to richness and depth.  The liturgy of the DO in the Book of Common Prayer represents 2,000 years of Church history, theology, and practice.  That is a true gift!

The Theology of the Daily Office

In Anglicanism the DO reflects not only an historical Christian identity, but also an historical Christian theology.  Three defining features of the Anglican theological tradition are put on display in the practice of the DO: Lex Orandi Lex Credendi, Via Media, and The Threefold Rule of the Church.[17]

Lex Orandi Lex Credendi

Lex Orandi Lex Credendi means, loosely, the rule of prayer is the rule of faith.  Liturgist Leonel Mitchell explains it this way: “[the] dependence of theology upon worship has been expressed in the Latin maxim lex orandi lex credenda, or more accurately legem credenda lex statuat supplicandi, which means that the way we pray determines the way we believe.[18]  In the Anglican tradition, dogma and practice flow from prayer, even as prayer flows from dogma and practice.  This is precisely why Anglicanism’s primary document is a book of prayer, and not a catechism, or confession of faith.  (Note: We do have a catechism and a list of article of faith, but these are both placed within a book of prayer…in the back).  This feature of Anglicanism cannot be overstated.  Unlike other iterations of the (Continental) Reformation, Anglicanism is NOT summarized in a confessional document.  Nor is it summarized or defined by a Magisterium, as in Roman Catholicism.  Instead, Anglicans believe what they pray.  That daily prayer would be a vow made by every Anglican makes sense for this reason.  The DO is fundamental to Anglicanism’s identity and theology.

Via Media

The second feature on display is summarized by the Latin phrase, Via Media, meaning, “the middle way.”  This is the notion that Anglicanism is both Catholic and Reformed.[19]  Since the DO includes a great deal of scripture reading, it shows its Protestant heritage.  But the DO also affirms the traditions of prayer through Christian history, utilizing forms and prayers that go back to the First Century.  It’s Catholic!  Put simply, in praying the DO, Protestants will feel at home.  There is a lot of scripture reading.  But Catholics will also feel at home (as will Eastern Orthodox Christians) when they sing the Magnificat or pray Saint Chrysostom’s Prayer.

The Threefold Rule

Anglican author Martin Thornton defines the Threefold Rule of Prayer as, “Mass, Office, private prayer.”[20]  These categories provide a helpful understanding for how the prior two Latin phrases work themselves out in Anglicanism.  The Threefold Rule asserts that the DO is important, but only as it finds its place within the Christians canon of prayer: private devotion and corporate worship.  The DO is one of three essential aspects of prayer in Anglicanism. 

In essence, the DO doesn’t stand alone.  It is as strong as the Mass and Private Devotions surrounding it.  The DO fits into this threefold expression of prayer the way the Holy Spirit fits into the Trinity.  It works together with the other kinds of prayer to shape a whole Christian.

Conclusion

The Anglican way of being a Christian is indissolubly linked with daily prayer, as evidenced by its book of prayers, particularly the liturgy of the DO.  This isn’t new, or even 500 years old!  It’s a practice rooted deep in the Church all the way back into the Old Testament.  As such it has developed and deepened over time throughout the undivided Church.  Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians also pray a version of the DO (with some similar prayers!). 

 

I love this aspect of Anglicanism and pray this discussion inspires you (and me) to engage it more.

 

[1] James White, Protestant Worship, (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1989), 103.

[2] Episcopal Church. The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church : Together with the Psalter or Psalms of David According to the Use of the Episcopal Church, (New York: Seabury Press, 1979), 518.

[3] Ibid., 304.

[4] Ibid., 79.

[5] R.R. Reno, The Ruins of the Church, (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2002), 151.

[6] Leonel Mitchell has a good overview of the history of the Office in Leonel Mitchell, Praying Shapes Believing, (Harrisburg: Morehouse, 1985), 37-39.

[7] James White, Introduction to Christian Worship, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990), 124.

[8] Marion Hatchett, Commentary On The American Prayer Book, (New York: The Seabury Press, 1980), 89.

[9] Leon Morris, The New Testament and the Jewish Lectionaries, (London: The Tyndale Press, 1964), 14-15. 

In discussing Judaism’s role in forming Christian prayer James White posits what we may conclude at the very least, that while “Our knowledge of the Daily worship of the earliest Christians is meager…Apparently, a variety of Jewish customs of set prayers at set times had a strong appeal.” James White, Introduction to Christian Worship, (Nashville: Abingdon, 1990), 123.

[10] Marion Hatchett, Commentary On the American Prayer Book, (New York: The Seabury Press, 1980), 90.  See also James White, Introduction to Christian Worship, (Nashville: Abingdon, 1990), 128.

[11] James White, Introduction to Christian Worship, (Nashville: Abingdon, 1990), 128.

[12] Massey Hamilton Shepherd, The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1950), 1.

[13] Phyllis Tickle, A Brief History of Fixed Hour Prayer, http://www.phyllistickle.com/fixed-hour-prayer.

[14] Ibid.

[15] James White, Introduction to Christian Worship, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990), 125.

[16] Massey Hamilton Shepherd, The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1950), 1.

[17] While no single source uses these phrases in precisely this way, see helpful overviews of each in the following.  For Lex Orandi Lex Credendi see W. Taylor Stevenson, “Lex Orandi - Lex Credendi” in The Study of Anglicanism, ed. Stephen Sykes, John Booty, and Jonathan Knight, (Philadelphia: SPCK/Fortress Press, 1988), 187.  Though a debated concept, the study of Anglicanism as a Via Media is best begun with John Henry Newman, The Via Media of The Anglican Church: Illustrated in Lectures, Letter, and Tracts Written Between 1830-1841, (London: Longmans, Green, & Co, 1891).  See in particular John Henry Newman, “Via Media Vol. 1 No. 38in Tracts For the Times,  http://anglicanhistory.org/tracts/tract38.html.  For a discussion on the Church’s Threefold Rule of prayer see Martin Thornton, Christian Proficiency, (London: SPCK, 1959). 

[18] Leonel Mitchell, Praying Shapes Believing, (Harrisburg: Morehouse, 1985), 1.

[19] For a review of this aspect of Anglican identity that is as entertaining as it is informative, see John R. H. Moorman’s chapter “Golden Mean or Leaden Mediocrity” in John R. H. Moorman, The Anglican Spiritual Tradition, (Illinois: Templegate Publishers, 1983), 54-92.

[20] Martin Thornton, Christian Proficiency, (London: SPCK, 1959), 20.

Welcome To The New JoshBales.com!

I am excited to introduce you to my new website!  Please take some time to look around, listen, and watch.  

I always wrestle with finding the best platform to present my varied interests in a concise way, and this is my best shot!  This site will enable me to add new articles on counseling or liturgy, add fresh homilies and lectures, in addition to keeping you up to date on my music.  I've writing for a new album right now.

So please check back often for new content.  And keep in touch!
JB

Joy To The World: Music Video

When I recorded "Joy To The World," and made this video, I wanted to find a way to highlight the profound dissonance (for me, at least) of singing this carol in a broken world... JB

Listen to the rest of the album here:

Longing, Joy, & Hope: The Seasons of Advent and Christmas

Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.  We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.  We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.  We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.  We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.  We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.  To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus." Amen. -Henri Nouwen

“The Nativity Of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” Rublev.

“The Nativity Of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” Rublev.

Liturgical Season

Christian worship is fundamentally about union with God.  That is, God gives himself to us in worship.  And as we receive him- not merely by hearing his word, or making mental assent to a set of doctrines about him, but as we eat and drink him in Holy Eucharist- we are transformed into the image of Christ, unified with God, and brought into the very life of the Trinity!  And all of this happens by his grace, mysteriously, every time we gather to sing and praise, pray and preach, confess sin, receive absolution, share in the peace of Christ, and celebrate the sacraments.  This is Christian worship!

One of the unique ways the Church has learned to open herself up to the transformation that God offers, is through the observance of different liturgical seasons.  Basically, the Church says "Christians, let your worship of God be so pervasive and defining of your identity that even your calendars remind you of the gospel."

I love this!  And I find the observance of the liturgical calendar to be one of the most beneficial practices in my relationship with God.

Currently we are in the season of Advent, coming upon the season of Christmastide.  Let's use these as examples of how God shapes us in worship.  We'll ask: what parts of our human identity will be brought into union with God by Advent and Christmas?  I see three ideas here: Advent teaches us to be aware of our existential longings, and to point them in the right direction (toward Christ).  And Christmas- Christmas reminds us that union with God is a reality of joy and hope.  It is the fulfillment of our human longing!  The two liturgical seasons work together in this way.

Advent: Longing

In Advent we set out on a journey.  It's a journey of LONGING.  In the hymns and collects (prayers), the assigned scripture readings, the greenery around the church, and the progressive lighting of the Advent candles, we rehearse the plight of Israel in the First Testament as they waited for their Messiah to come and rescue them from slavery and oppression.  So we sing hymns with lyrics like this:

O Come, O come, Emmanuel, to ransom captive Israel.

Of course, the Messiah did come!  And so our longing during Advent is actually directed in large part toward the second coming of Christ!  It is a season layered with meaning and truth.  This is why sing:

Lo! He comes with clouds descending, Once for favored sinners slain; Thousand thousand saints attending, Swell the triumph of His train: Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! God appears on earth to reign.

Even the colors of Christian worship help us tell the story of the gospel.  During Advent you'll see purple and blue vestments and linens around the church.  Purple is the color of royalty, but also of lament and repentance (purple is also used during Lent).  Blue is used in some churches, and it represents the anticipation of the season, like the deep blue color of the sky, just before dawn.  It is also the color of the Blessed Virgin in Christian iconography.

So the colors blue and purple remind us that, in Advent, we are longing and lamenting, waiting with anticipation, making repentant preparations for a Savior-King!  We don't have to leave our longings at the door of the church.  We can bring them with us to worship, knowing that God desires to meet and fulfill them in his coming.

Henri Nouwen, in his monastic diary, gives us these words about longing: "An important part of the spiritual life is to keep longing, waiting, hoping, expecting. In the long run, some voluntary penance becomes necessary to help us remember that we are not yet fulfilled. A good criticism, a frustrating day, an empty stomach, or tired eyes might help to awaken our expectation and deepen our prayer: Come, Lord Jesus, come. (Henri Nouwen, The Genesee Diary).

Cathedral Church of Saint Luke, Orlando, FL

Cathedral Church of Saint Luke, Orlando, FL

Christmastide: Joy and Hope

Then?  Christmas comes!  The blue and purple vestments and linens turn to gold and white, colors of celebration, joy, and light.  The dawn from on high has broken upon us!  The Church celebrates Christmas not with a single day, but with an entire season called Christmastide- twelve days of reveling in God's coming.  This means that, even when the stores take down their decorations on the 26th of December, Christians continue to linger in the joyful mystery of the incarnation.  Christmastide is an exuberant and vibrant time of worship as God shapes us into a people characterized by joy and hope.

The emotional uplift that comes with Christmas shouldn't be missed in the sentimentality of the moment.  We need to lean into the joy of Christmas just as we did the longing of Advent!  In a world as broken as ours, joy and hope are precious realities that can sometimes be covered up in the Advent waiting.  Christmas gives voice to the truth, at least once every year, that our ultimate destiny in union with God is joy, hope, and fulfillment.

So my prayer for all of us during this season of Advent and Christmas is that, through the self-giving of God in Christian worship, we may become a people who know our longings, and know the hope and joy that comes with the God who fills them with himself.

- Josh Bales

Sunday Nights At The Cathedral Church Of Saint Luke - Downtown Orlando

Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando
Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando

What: Christian Worship In The Anglican Tradition 

If you're in the Orlando area (or nearby), I want to invite you to Sunday Nights At St. Luke's.  Each Sunday night in the heart of downtown Orlando, in a beautiful Gothic-revival style church called The Cathedral Church of Saint Luke, I lead worship for an ancient Christian service called Holy Eucharist.  In songs and prayers, in scripture readings and preaching, we reenact the story of the Bible together: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration.  It's a worship experience that involves all five of your senses.  You could say we even taste, smell, and touch the story in the bread and wine of communion.  So from the architecture to the liturgy, as poet Gerard Manley Hopkins said, "Christ plays in ten thousand places."  And it's glorious.  For more on Anglican liturgy and the Bible, HERE'S an article from one of the priests at St. Luke's, and my friend, Justin Holcomb.

Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando

Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando

When: Sunday Nights 6pm

We meet each Sunday night from 6-7:15pm.  In Anglican churches some worshippers come early to kneel and pray silently in the Cathedral before the service begins.  You are welcome to do this!  After worship, we walk to a local pub for food, drinks, and conversation.

Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando

Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando

Where: The Cathedral Church Of Saint Luke

Address: 130 North Magnolia Ave Orlando, FL 32801

Website: www.stlukescathedral.org

The Risen Christ, Altar, Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando

The Risen Christ, Altar, Saint Luke's Cathedral Orlando

How: Parking

Parking can be difficult in downtown Orlando.  There are three good places to park when you come to the Cathedral: 1) Metered street parking around the building is free on Sunday nights, 2) The Lanier Parking Lot sits RIGHT BESIDE the Cathedral and parking is FREE there for those attending Saint Luke's, 3) The Regions Bank Parking Garage is another great free place to park.  Pull into the garage, take a ticket, and get a parking voucher from an usher at the Cathedral before you leave.  As you pull out of the garage put both tickets in the machine and that's it!  Get more info on parking HERE.

Who: Leadership

One of the great things about Christian worship in the Anglican tradition is that its liturgical style ensures that the gospel's proclamation isn't based on one pastor's personality or sermon.  Nevertheless, God's church is led by imperfect men and women and we want you to know who they are!  These folks have a steady role with us on Sunday nights.  For a full list of wonderful staff of the Cathedral, go HERE.

Bishop Greg Brewer

Bishop Greg Brewer

Dean Reggie Kidd

Dean Reggie Kidd

Canon Justin Holcomb

Canon Justin Holcomb

Canon Josh Bales

Canon Josh Bales

Every Lament A Love Song: The Pulse Shootings In Orlando, FL

G. Rouault

G. Rouault

What Do We Do With Pain?

In ninth grade English class, my brutally honest professor once asked me, "Josh, do you know why your papers get C's?  Because your Christianity keeps you from writing honestly about the evil in the novels we're reading- and in your life as well."

He was right.  At the time, my understanding of evil was that any kind of worthy faith in God explained it away- if not with denial, then certainly with trivial answers and quickly referenced scripture verses.

A number of years later I spent a summer preaching through the different genres of the psalms for a church in Tennessee.  I didn't know it then, but that summer would become a turning point in my theology, in my relationship with God, and in my relationship with suffering.  That's because I learned that, more than any other kind of Psalm in Israel's hymnbook, there are Psalms of Lament, of sadness, pain, anger, confusion, ambiguity, and discouragement.

So what does it say to us, in the wake of the shootings in Orlando last Sunday, that God's people wrote more sad songs than any other kind in their hymns of "praise?"

Here is the audio link to a sermon on Psalm 13 I gave a few years ago.  The title is a phrase from Nicholas Wolterstorff's fantastic (and heartbreaking) book "Lament For A Son," where he says that every lament is [ultimately] a love song.

By the way, during that summer of preaching on the psalms, I tried to write a modern day psalm of lament.  I called it "I Need You."  A few years later it was picked up by a band called the Swift and got some radio play.  You can hear the song here.

You can hear the Swift's version of the song here.