Thursday, 17 August 2017

FROM GLORY TO GLORY: the Holy Spirit in the Prayer Books Part VIII

My goodness! It's been a while since I've posted here. I've been neglecting things. Alas. What follows is from the Summer 2017 edition of Anglicans for Renewal Canada magazine. Subscribe to a print or digital version here

Today, I suspect most of us Anglicans are "to" timers. We're living in the "to" between the glorys as we await the Holy Spirit's transformation from "glory to glory" about which St Paul wrote (2 Cor 3.18). The glory of the revivals and awakenings involving people like David Watson, Dennis and Rita Bennet and Terry Fulham in the 70s and 80s and which brought ARM Canada into being have subsided. Just as in the days of Eli and Samuel, we now live in days when the "word of the Lord" is rare and there are few visions (1 Sam 3.1) in the North American Anglican world, at least. We await another visitation, another awakening, to draw hundreds and thousands of Anglicans into another outpouring of the Spirit where folk will flock to our services and gatherings hungry and thirsty for more of the LORD simply because his presence is so palpable and obvious in healings and changed lives. 

While we wait I am convinced that the Daily Divine Offices in our prayer books are excellent and indispensable tools with which to pray for that next visitation. For example, I've counted over 400 references to the Holy Spirit in The Book of Alternative Services (BAS). To watch for them as we pray the Divine Office individually or in groups, and as we come upon them, pause and pray for a new outpouring of God's glory across our church would be a good, faithful way to pray us all from glory to glory.

The Service of Light and Evening Prayer in the BAS begin, as usual, with Trinitarian praise and worship in the ancient chant "O Gracious Light":
Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the vesper light, we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (pp 61 & 66)
The Thanksgiving prayers (pp 62-65) are evocative words for thankful worship. Notice the prayers composed for the seasons of the church year. Notice also who is the giver of the Holy Spirit (p62), what the results of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit are (p63), and the anointing love and renewed life which are bestowed by the Holy Spirit (pp 64 & 65). 

The Advent and Resurrection thanksgivings are particularly focussed for praying from "to" to new glory and revival. Pray that "the outpouring of his Spirit" will, indeed, "open our blindness to the glory of his presence. Strengthen us in our weakness. Support us in our stumbling efforts to do your will and free our tongues to sing your praise" (p63) and will renew our "life in the Spirit of the risen Lord" (p65). 

Don't be afraid to make the prayers your own. For example, when praying the Psalms by myself, I'll often change them to address God in the second person and, therefore, more directly. 

Use the words of the office to prompt silent reflection, extemporaneous prayer, praise or worship. If you're praying in a group, give yourselves permission to pause and pray in to words and phrases that light up for you. Pause to give glory to God. Take a few moments to worship in song. 

The BAS Morning and Evening Prayer rubrics (or directions) state "The readings may be followed by silence, a canticle, a responsory, an anthem or other music, or a hymn. A combination of these responses may be appropriate." (pp 51 & 68)

Canticles are helpful resources for Holy Spirit glory to glory prayer. Canticles are Scripture fashioned into hymns or chants for worship. They are used as worshipful responses after the readings in Morning and Evening Prayer. The Book of Alternative Services provides 27 canticles for the Divine Office with several suggestions as to how they might be used (p72). The canticle, "You Are God" (p94)—known as the Te Deum in The Book of Common Prayer—provides the encouraging reminder that we are not alone in this business of worship and prayer. The Holy Spirit, himself, is our advocate and guide—with the sighs too deep for words (Ro 8.28), about which St Paul wrote. 

"These alternative introductory responses," state the rubrics (or directions) in the BAS, "may be used at the beginning of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer instead of O God, make speed to save us, etc., and O Lord, I call to you, etc. On weekdays they may replace all that precedes the Psalm." (p96)

Introductory Response 4 for Repentance gives us the sobering reminder that the Holy Spirit can be taken from us. Good spiritual hygiene by honest self-examination, confession and repentance is key for a healthy spiritual life. Evan Roberts' first requirement for those praying for what was to become known as the Welsh Revival was to confess all known sin and renounce any doubtful habit. Sin cuts us off from the power of the Holy Spirit. It's as simple as that. 

Responsories are verses from Scripture arranged as anthems to be said or sung by a soloist and choir, or leader and congregation, or group. They provide a repetitive pause for worshipful reflection on what has just been heard in a lesson. Some are keyed to particular seasons. 

Responsory 12, entitled "The Holy Spirit–Thanksgiving" (p108) is another good glory to glory prayer invoking the Holy Spirit:
You send forth your Spirit, O Lord; * you renew the face of the earth.
One of the ways in which the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ sends out his Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth is through faithful Anglicans who choose to worship him as they pray the Divine Office of the Church day in and day out, no matter what.