O Lord, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights: give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour and glory; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the First Sunday in Lent, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘As members of Him who was tempted and conquered, as united to “One that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” let us bravely and confidently meet all trials and face all temptations, enduring and vanquishing them in union with our Lord’s endurance of and victory over every seduction of the devil. Then, in correspondence with His grace, in imitation of His example, shall we find ourselves, in Him, “more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” May the commencement of another Lent, to be spent with Christ, apart from the world and its pleasures and associations, recall us to the realisation of our baptismal privileges and obligations. “We receive this child into the congregation of Christ’s flock, and do sign him with the sign of the cross, in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under His banner, against sin, the world, and the devil; and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto his life’s end.”
Lent is a call, year by year, to realise our sonship in Christ, to put our baptismal grace and endowments to their own proper use. In times of stress and temptation we are not to fall into a panic of hopelessness or despair, but to draw upon the grace of God, first bestowed in Holy Baptism, strengthened and increased in Confirmation, and continually renewed in Holy Communion. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way to escape, that ye may be able to endure it.” And, finally, “He hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My power is made perfect in weakness.”’
Vernon Staley, 1852-1933
On! all ye fair and radiant things,
That born of earth to earth decay,
Frail children of the vanished springs,
On you we sprinkle dust today!
Colour and scent and form allied
In garden gay and woodland bough,
The maiden’s blush, the athlete’s pride,
Ashes and dust your portion now!
What were ye but God’s vesture bright
A moment worn and cast away?
Your only loveliness the light
His Spirit caused to dance and play.
And we? We saw, but saw not Him:
We heard, but not the tireless note
Of His exulting seraphim
Above earth’s scrannel music float.
Now on deaf ears, and hearts of sin,
The pride of life, and the eye’s lust
To see, but not to see within,
Today - today we sprinkle dust.
Ash Wednesday by W.J. Ferrar
‘Our goal is God, the source of all good. As we say in our prayer, we are to place our trust in God and in no one else. In His kindness, our Lord wished to strengthen your faith, for without it, as the evangelist points out, Christ could not have performed many of His miracles. He also wished to listen to your prayer, and so He ordained that you experience poverty, distress, abandonment, weariness and universal scorn. It was also His desire to deprive you of my physical presence, even though I am with you in spirit as your poor, dear, beloved father. God alone knows the reasons for all this, yet we can recognise three causes. In the first place, our blessed Lord is telling you that He desires to include you among His beloved sons, provided that you remain steadfast in His ways, for this is the way He treats His friends and makes them holy. The second reason is that He is asking you to grow continually in your confidence in Him alone and not in others. For God, as I said before, does not work in those who refuse to place all their confidence and hope in Him alone. But he does impart the fullness of His love upon those who possess a deep faith and hope; for them he does great things. So if you have been endowed with faith and hope, He will do great things for you; He will raise up the lowly. In depriving you of myself and everyone else you have loved, He will offer you an opportunity to choose one of these alternatives; either you will forsake your faith and return to the ways of the world, or you will remain steadfast in your faith and pass the test. Now there is a third reason. God wishes to test you like gold in the furnace. The dross is consumed by the fire, but the pure gold remains and its value increases. It is in this manner that God acts with His good servant, who puts his hope in Him and remains unshaken in times of distress. God raises him up and, in return for the things he has left out of love for God, He repays him a hundred-fold in this life with eternal life hereafter. This is the way God has dealt with all His saints. So it was with His people Israel after their period of trial in Egypt. He not only led them out of Egypt with many miracles and fed them with manna in the desert, He also gave them the promised land. If then you remain constant in faith in the face of trial, the Lord will give you peace and rest for a time in this world, and forever in the next’.
From a letter to his brothers by St Jerome Emiliani, 1486-1537
O God, the Father of mercies, who didst raise up Saint Jerome Emiliani to be a defender and father of the fatherless: vouchsafe, through his merits and intercession; that we may faithfully guard thy spirit of adoption, whereby we are called and are indeed thy children; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
O Lord God, who seest that we put not our trust in any thing that we do: mercifully grant that by thy power, we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Sexagesima, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘We call God to witness to a fact that must be primary in every Christian life: who seest that we put not our trust in any thing that we do. Is this what God really sees in my daily walk, or is the saying of these words a mockery to Him? Repeat in your heart the gracious and consoling word: “O how plentiful is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear that, and that thou hast prepared for them that put their trust in thee.”
But let us not fear to say this prayer as though it were accusing ourselves. God does not expect perfection in this life. If we earnestly desire to trust Him alone, He will fulfil it for us in the end. All He asks is that we strive by the help of the Holy Spirit to make progress in desiring that perfection which everywhere in Scripture is commanded of all Christians. If when the end comes we are found moving forward in the Christ-life, God will account us as really having attained to the goal of perfection.
Again and again we find ourselves appealing to the divine mercy with great confidence. Everywhere mercy and power are linked together in our realisation of God’s loving relation to us. Mercifully grant, we pray, that by thy power we may be defended against all adversity. His mercy operated omnipotently. It is infinite, and can therefore have neither bound nor limit. Let us cry again and again: “Great is the Lord, and marvellous worthy to be praised; there is no end of his greatness”’.
Shirley Carter Hughson OHC, 1867-1949
On this 69th anniversary of the accession to the Throne of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, a short reflection on the nature of contemporary royal majesty, and its spiritual significance, as seen through the development of the coronation service.
‘The ceremony [of the coronation] illustrates the unity of the present with the past, the importance of the great creative medieval period, and the productive role of the common European ideals. It presents, as no other political event, a synoptic view of the whole development of modern democracy. It shows that, although the modern state owes much to the contribution of the king, it owes even more to political liberty and to the co-operation of the community with the monarch. To retain these, the British people sacrificed even the powers of the ruler; by accepting this sacrifice, the ruler preserved his office for a wider destiny.
Thus the coronation is much more than a medieval pageant. It is more than the solemn investment of the king with a great office. It is a covenant to preserve the great Anglo-Saxon political tradition, and the pledge to maintain the historic process by which this was translated into the procedures of the modern state. That process, in spite of the violent fluctuations of British history, may be described in words written for the stormy fourteenth century: “political creativeness combined with fidelity to the deepest political traditions… progress without impairment of continuity… the transformation, without destruction, of the great institutions of political life”. Of these institutions, none is greater in its true significance than the monarchy, the repository of government under God and the law; and know where, it may be claimed, is this significance better revealed than in the coronation when, in the most solemn sacrament of the Christian Church, the king consecrates his kingship, and his peoples, by their representatives assembled, in the ancient act of homage, consecrate their loyalty’.
from The Coronation in History, 1953, by B. Wilkinson
O God, who providest for thy people by thy power, and rulest over them in love: vouchsafe so to bless thy Servant our Queen; that under her this nation may be wisely governed, and grant that she being devoted to thee with her whole heart, and persevering in good works unto the end, may, by thy guidance, come to thine everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon