The Triune God, the Holy Spirit, and Gender

Question: The pastor called the Holy Spirit “she.” What’s up with that?

Language is tricky, translation trickier still, and translating language about God is trickiest of all. Relational terms like Father and Son, describing the First and Second Persons of the Trinity respectively, describe the intimate relationship between parent and child but in ways that can, at times, limit our understanding of the Triune God. Trickier still is how we understand the Third Person, the Holy Spirit, and what pronouns to use.

Short Answer: While human language is limited and translations complicate the matter, there are linguistic reasons to refer to the Holy Spirit using feminine pronouns, and the practice was common in parts of the early Church. Continue reading “The Triune God, the Holy Spirit, and Gender”

Feast of the Ascension: The Tension of Mid-Week Liturgies

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There are holy days in the Church that we always make sure to celebrate on the day itself. Who among us would go to an Ash Wednesday service on a Tuesday morning, or a Maundy Thursday service on Good Friday? There are other feasts that are easy enough to observe precisely because they always fall on a Sunday: Easter and Christ the King spring to mind. And there’s one feast that we mark the night before: in most American congregations, Christmas Eve has become the principle service of Christmas, and few parishes assemble on December 25th.

There exist, though, some feasts that are important to the life of the Church but which are rarely observed on their proper day. Epiphany (the Sixth of January) rarely falls on a Sunday;  Reformation Day (the Thirty-first of October) and All Saints’ (the First of November) face a similar problem.* When these feasts fall on a weekday, they are often observed the following Sunday.

Then there’s the Ascension. Continue reading “Feast of the Ascension: The Tension of Mid-Week Liturgies”

One Baptism: Re-Baptism, the Christian Faith

Question: Ok, so the pastor is throwing water at us. Does that mean we are being re-baptized?

An ordained pastor says a prayer over the water at the Font and then sprinkles people with water? To an outside observer, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism might look a lot like the asperges. So is the pastor re-baptizing the congregation?

Short Answer: By no means! Baptism follows a very particular formula (“I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”). The grace poured out in that Sacrament is sufficient for a lifetime, and the Church has long held that Baptism is not something that need be repeated — nor can it be repeated. Continue reading “One Baptism: Re-Baptism, the Christian Faith”

Remember Your Baptism: Why We’re Getting Splashed

Question: Why is the Pastor throwing water at us at the beginning of the service?

Starting at the Easter Vigil, we have taken up a rite called asperges, in which the pastor and other ministers fling water from the Font into the Assembly. What’s going on here?

The Short Answer: As a way to tangibly remember our Baptism during the Great Fifty Days of Easter. Continue reading “Remember Your Baptism: Why We’re Getting Splashed”

Paschal Triduum: The Great Three Days

Lent is nearly over; Holy Week, having just started, will soon be wrapping up. We are approaching the holiest days of the Christian year: the Paschal Triduum, the Great Three Days. After forty days wandering through the wilderness, and a week in Jerusalem, we have reached the most sacred time: the three-day long period leading up to the Great Vigil of Easter. During this time, we hit our spiritual low point followed almost immediately by our highest; we mark our most solemn fast followed by our most joyous feast.

Over these three days, we gather to worship through prayer, singing, the reading of Scripture, and the celebration of the Sacraments. We gather, depart, and gather again. The three primary services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil just after sundown on Holy Saturday form one complete liturgy.  Continue reading “Paschal Triduum: The Great Three Days”

From the Mount of Olives to Golgotha:The Palm/Passion Sunday Paradox

palmsundayHoly Week takes us through a liturgical and emotional swing, from cries of “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” to “Alleluia!” But that swing is sudden, making that first move over the course of the Liturgy of the Word on Sunday morning. We gather with palms, kids joining in excited because things are so very different this day. And then by the sermon, a pall has fallen over the assembly. Somehow, Christ has been crucified — and we haven’t even gotten to Maundy Thursday yet.

Palm Sunday presents a particularly vexing issue for those involved in planning Christian worship. We begin outside with a collect and Gospel reading, process inside and…have another collect and another Gospel reading. We somehow jump the gun straight from the palms to the Cross. Why? And which text should a preacher take into the pulpit? And what songs should we sing? Continue reading “From the Mount of Olives to Golgotha:The Palm/Passion Sunday Paradox”