Monday, November 28, 2011

The Collect for the First Sunday in Advent

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

A collect, pronounced /KOL-ect/ when used as a noun, is a brief prayer that's meant to be used at a certain place during a prayer service. There is one Collect for each Sunday of the year, plus for special days, and there are other collects, a Collect for Peace and a Collect for Grace are both used during Morning Prayer.

The Church year begins with Advent and the Collect for the First Sunday in Advent is to be used during prayers every day from now until Christmas.

Lex orandi lex credendi is an ancient principle that is translated, "The law of prayer is the law of belief." Among other things, this means that the way you pray, the way you worship, shapes what you believe. This little prayer beautifully encapsulates the entire Gospel.

One thing I love about written prayers is that they can be memorized and said by everyone in the family -- even the non-readers -- so that we can pray with one voice. We'll be including this one in our daily Morning and Evening prayers, after the Lord's Prayer, and before the closing prayers. Last night Mike read it alone, but after this we're going to encourage everyone to say it together.

I hope you'll pray it with us this Advent season. :-)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Advent Tree

I can't believe it's nearly Advent -- this year just flew by!

This is an updated repost from last year.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Advent preparations

We've celebrated Advent with an Advent wreath nearly every Christmas since we married, but two years ago we added a new tradition: An Advent Tree!

It came about like this: We usually wait till just before Christmas Eve to get the Christmas tree and for some reason the kids always panic -- they always think we're not going to be able to find one this year. It almost happened once, ten or twelve years ago -- there had been a drought out west so there were fewer trees available than usual, and nearly all of them were sold out by the time we went shopping. We ended up with a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

Well, six years ago when we first moved here to Virginia, we went to a church that put a Christmas tree up in the Parish house right after Thanksgiving, and had the children make ornaments on the first Sunday of Advent to put on it. Each ornament was decorated with, or made in the shape of, a traditional symbol that represents Christ -- a lamb, a cross, the Chi Rho, Alpha and Omega, and so forth. This style of ornament is called a "Chrismon," which means "Christ Monogram." I thought it was a neat idea and tried to figure out how to do it at home -- I mean, really, where would I put a second tree?

Finally I figured it out -- we didn't need two trees. All we had to do was put up the Christmas tree at the beginning of Advent, call it an Advent tree, and then decorate it with Chrismons. On Christmas Eve we could remove the Chrismons (or not) and add our usual Christmas ornaments. It worked out so well we did it again the next year and the kids are looking forward to it this year. We'll make the ornaments tomorrow so they'll have plenty of time to dry and can be decorated on Friday.

Here are the specifics (sorry I don't have any pictures -- I never have pictures).

Here's where you can find an explanation of Chrismons and a PDF file of patterns you can print out.

Here is a recipe for the ornaments. I cut them all out with a 3" biscuit cutter which is a nice size for decorating. The first year we used white fabric paint but last year I tried Wilton's fondant icing writer and sprinkled them with gold, silver, or pearl dust. They turned out beautifully. After Christmas we hung them outside for the birds. (Well, that was the intention anyway, and I thought we'd done it, but Elaienar tells me that none of them made it because the younger children insisted on saving them.)

The designs I have used are fairly simple -- Celtic cross, shepherd's crook, crown of thorns, cross and crown, eternity cross, IXΘYΣ, and several others that don't require much detail.

Thanksgiving weekend we put up the tree, with its lights and the star topper, a brass Moravian star, pierced, with a light inside. Saturday night before evening prayers, we turn on the lights (but not the star) and let the kids each pick one Chrismon to put on the tree, and talk a bit about the symbol and what it means. On Sunday we have the lights on all day, and that night we let them add a Chrismon, or one purple or silver ornament from our collection (purple being the color of Advent). The next week we add one Chrismon a day, but we leave the lights off until the next Saturday night. Then we do the whole thing over again so that the tree grows more and more festive as Christmas approaches.

On the 24th, we remove some of the purple and silver ornaments (because we have a LOT of Chrismas ornaments) and add the rest of our Christmas stuff. That night we turn on the star as well as the lights, and leave them on through Epiphany (except for while we were sleeping or away from home, of course). We take the tree down a day or so after Epiphany, and we generally start back to school on the next Monday, known traditionally as Plough Monday.

The kids love crafty stuff and I normally don't do much of that kind of thing with them, so it makes a nice change, and adding the ornaments day by day builds excitement in a way that's just perfect for this season of anticipation.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Time, Death, and Poetry

or, Interesting and Sometimes Awkward Connections Made in Poetry Class

To get the full effect of this poem, you really need to read it aloud.

Calico Pie
~Edward Lear (1812-1888)

            Calico Pie,
            The little Birds fly
Down to the calico tree,
            Their wings were blue,
            And they sang ‘Tilly-loo!’
            Till away they flew,
And they never came back to me!
            They never came back!
            They never came back!
They never came back to me!

            Calico Jam,
            The little Fish swam
Over the syllabub sea,
            He took off his hat
            To the Sole and the Sprat,
            And the Willeby-wat,
But he never came back to me!
            He never came back!
            He never came back!
He never came back to me!

            Calico Ban,
            The little Mice ran,
To be ready in time for tea,
            They drank it all up,
            And danced in the cup,
But they never came back to me!
            They never came back!
            They never came back!
They never came back to me!

            Calico Drum,
            The Grasshoppers come,
The Butterfly, Beetle, and Bee,
            Over the ground,
            Around and around,
            With a hop and a bound—
But they never came back!
            They never came back!
            They never came back!
They never came back to me!

My second son tends to latch onto a particular topic and want to discuss it over and over again from every conceivable angle... for years. It used to be ambulances and fire trucks and police cars, then it moved to the movie “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” particularly the fight scene between Michael and Pony. He still loves those and we still talk about them regularly, but his current passion is time.

Four years ago he started taking me to the calendar every morning so I could show him what day we were on and tell him the name of the day. Then he wanted to know the names of all the days of the week. We’d spend five or ten minutes, several times a day going over all this. He’s just about gotten them all memorized in order now, and I think he understands yesterday, today, and tomorrow, although he calls them, “last day,” “this day,” and “next day.”

This last year his questions have gotten harder. He wants to know where the days go when they leave.

When he first started asking me that I’d tell him, “They fly away like the little birds, and they never come back! They never come back, they never come back, they never come back to me!”

He liked that for a long time and would say the lines with me, but a few months ago he seemed to be wanting something more, so I told him that Sunday is the engine of a train and the rest of the days are the cars. He loves that one. Saturday is the caboose. He wanted Monday to be a special car, so it’s the coal car. Then, this Monday he asked me if “next day” is the next coal car, but I said a train would only have one coal car, so we decided that Tuesday is a freight car. “What does it carry?” I asked him. “Boxes,” he said.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

One of our poems in Dr. Taylor’s poetry class Monday was Tennyson’s “Break, Break, Break.”

Break, break, break,
    On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
    The thoughts that arise in me.

O, well for the fisherman’s boy,
    That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
    That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
    To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanished hand,
    And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break,
    At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
    Will never come back to me.

As you read this poem aloud (and you should) you can hear and feel the poet’s grief as he talks about missing this loved one. I hear an echo of David’s resignation to his baby’s death, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” But I’m sure you can imagine how hard it is for me to read that last line with the proper seriousness—my voice gets all sing-songy of its own accord, and it feels so irreverent, like giggling during prayer, because of course it reminds me of those lines in “Calico Pie,” which I’ve been reciting for years now.

That kind of connection is so embarrassing that I didn’t mention it in class. I wondered if Lear and Tennyson knew each other, or read each other’s works—whether one of them had borrowed from the other. They were contemporaries, so it’s possible.

Well, I’ve been thinking about it since then and I’ve decided that it’s not inappropriate. Both poems are describing loss, and in “Calico Pie” you get a feeling of inevitability as that repetitive refrain comes back again and again. Of course, Lear’s poem is lighthearted at first, but it starts feeling wistful by the time you get to the end of it. It’s right that it should feel that way.

And I’m glad that I’ve been using “Calico Pie” to talk about the days, about how, once they leave, they’re gone forever. Children should have a large store of words for giving voice to these feelings. They should feel comfortable using them in lots of situations, even when we’re only talking about a small loss. I think that being able to talk about the small losses will help them when the really painful losses start happening to them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

BCP: Morning Prayers, Thanksgiving 2011

I can’t believe it’s only a little over two weeks till Thanksgiving! I was born on Thanksgiving and it’s my favorite holiday. Isn’t that wonderful? I feel like Tootie in “Meet me in St. Louis,” who felt so lucky to have been born in her favorite city. ;-)

I like to have a huge, extravagant meal, enough to feed the whole family for the whole weekend. And we like to have a long morning prayer time before dinner, with songs and Scripture readings, and giving thanks for everything in the world.

To make things easier, I print out a missal (that’s a booklet that contains everything needed for the service) and make booklets of the hymns and canticles we’ll be using, so there are no disctractions created by flipping pages in the prayer book, Bible, and hymnal. I always try to print them out the day before so the younger children can decorate them.

Here are a few covers from last year’s missals:

And here are a few from 2008 before I had my long-arm stapler. That stapler saves a lot of time, but I think the yarn ties are prettier.

Here’s the missal we’ll be using this month. It’s mostly taken from the 1928 BCP, but the 1979 has some several appropriate prayers that I’ve included. The titles of the hymns and canticles we’ll be using are listed, but not the words, so it should be pretty easy for you to edit if you’d like to use it for your own family.

Click link below to view document

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How we use the prayer book, part 2B

Below is the same document I posted earlier today, only I've added in red the traditional salutations and the directions and other things I mentioned in the previous post. Hopefully this is more helpful than than all those random directions in the earlier post.

Edit Click "Read more" below to view the document. It was slowing down my page's load time and making the format act wonky, so I took it off the main page.

How we use the BCP, part 2

From my comments in the previous post, you’ll have seen that there’s not just one prayer book, but at least three. Here’s a quick history.

Some history
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canturbury, wrote the first one in 1549 under Edward VI. It was revised a during the reign of Mary I and again after her death. In 1662, after the Civil War, it received a major revision and this one is still the official prayer book of the Church of England, although since the 1980s most churches have been using officially sanctioned alternative service books. How this is different from an official prayer book I really don’t know.

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer would be the one Charlotte Mason was familiar with. I haven’t read much of Charlotte Mason, but I’ve seen words from the Holy Communion service on a couple of occasions that I can think of—once she mentions the Sursum Corda (Priest: “Lift up your hearts.” Answer: “We lift them up unto the Lord.”) and once I remember her using the words “this our bounden duty and service,” when referring to raising children, which comes from the post-communion prayer. I just point that out in case anyone’s interested in reading the book that influenced her.

In America, after the War for Independence, the Prayer Book was revised to take out prayers for the Queen and substitute prayers for the President, and a few other changes of that nature. It received minor revisions in 1892 and in 1928, and a major revision in 1979. The Anglican church we belong to is not part of the mainline denomination, and we use the 1928 BCP, but the 1979 was the first that we used and we’ve continued to use it for prayers at home, although we use the lectionary from the 1928 so we’ll be reading the same Scriptures during the week as other members of our church.

Now some prayers
The 1979 Book of Common Prayer has a section called Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families that has four brief prayer services: “In the Morning,” “At Noon,” “In the Early Evening,” and “At the Close of Day.” These are the simplest forms, so I’m starting here. Below is a link to a document you can download and use (all of the American prayer books are in the public domain).

Here are a few tips about the service.

It’s customary for the leader to begin the service by saying, “The Lord be with you.” The proper response is “And also with you,” (1979) or “And with thy spirit,” (1928). Then the leader says, “Let us pray,” and begins with the first line, “Open my lips, O Lord.” You don’t read the headers—“From Psalm 51” and so forth. Just jump into the text.

That opening verse is read responsively, with the leader reading up to the star, then the congregation reading the indented lines.

The directions in small italics are optional. The Lord’s Prayer is not optional and is said by everyone. Since the text is not included in the document below, I’ll include it here:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

If you’re from a non-liturgical tradition, you’ll notice that the language is a little different than what you might be used to. That’s because the first English language Bible authorized for use in the Church of England was Miles Coverdale’s 1538 version which was based on William Tyndale’s earlier translation. Tyndale used “trespasses,” and Cranmer kept that language when he wrote the first Prayer Book. But Presbyterian and Reformed churches preferred to use John Wycliff’s 1382 translation, and so did the translators of the King James version of the Bible.

Edit Click "Read more" below to view the document and the rest of my notes. It was slowing down my page's load time and making the format act wonky, so I took it off the main page.