Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Fifth Sunday After Trinity

Today we continue our series of comments on the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ's Church.)

Last week, as we commented on the petition for “all Christian rulers,” that this refers to all who are permitted by God to rule over Christian people, and that it is indeed their duty to punish wickedness and vice, if Christian people are to live in this fallen world with any degree of safety and security. Some priests take it upon themselves to amend this clause, substituting such words as “correcting” or “restraining” for “punishing.” But the realism of the Prayer Book knows that whereas persons may be corrected or restrained, wickedness and vice as such can only be punished or rewarded. And if the Scriptures are telling us the truth, it is the God-appointed duty of the civil magistrate to maintain God's true religion and virtue (Romans 13:1—7, I Peter 2:13—17).

If this paragraph seems hopelessly divorced from the sad secular realities of our time, it ought at least to remind us of how far our world has fallen from the order which God intended. Let us pray all the more fervently!

Give grace, O heavenly Father, to all Bishops and other Ministers, that they may, both by their life and doctrine, set forth thy true and lively Word; and rightly and duly admiister thy holy Sacraments.

As we come to the third and fourth paragraphs, we need to emphasize again that this prayer is the Christian community's supplication for itself and its own needs rather than a general intercession for the needs of the world. Intercession for others (which we do in the various prayers be-tween the Creed and the Sermon) is one of our most important ministries; but in particular prayer we are doing something else. So as the Church prays for the itself, we naturally pray for “all estates of men in thy holy Church” (BCP p. 156), praying earnestly for all members according to their particular Order, that is, those in the sacred ministries of Bishop, Priest and Deacon; for those who serve in the liturgical ministries of readers and acolytes; for singers, organists, ushers, sacristans, and for other special ministries too numerous to mention. The English Prayer Book of 1662 here mentions “Bishops and Curates,” but our American Prayer Book wisely and generously uses a less specific term “other ministers.” This permits us to think of and pray for the many, many forms of service which sustain the church and advance the Faith.

(To be continued)

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