Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Recovering Tradition

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 -- Week of Proper 27, Year One

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 992)
Psalms 119:97-120 (morning)       //       81, 82 (evening)
Nehemiah 7:73b - 8:3, 5-18
Revelation 18:21-24
Matthew 15:29-39

There is something moving about the account we read today from Nehemiah.  The community has been on a journey of rebuilding -- rebuilding the walls of the city as well as the corporate structures and the identity of their nation recovering from exile.  The people gather together in an assembly to hear the reading of the ancient law.  They hear sacred words from their tradition.  It has been such a long time since these words have been pondered that the community has lost some of its corporate memory.  The people weep, because they realize that they had lost so much of their identity. 

In the reading they rediscover a holy festival and reinstate its observance.  The people celebrate the Festival of Booths for the first time in living memory.  They rejoice as they reclaim a part of themselves that they didn't know they had.

Last night I taught an Inquirers Class.  I spoke about the dynamic way time and space opens in the celebration of the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper.  I talked about how we experience the past becoming actively present in the Eucharist.  "Anamnesis" is a way of remembering so that a past event becomes present to us now.  Through active anamnesis we participate in the Last Supper today.  I talked about our anticipation of the heavenly banquet where all things are to be gathered together into the eternal life of God.  The future blessing becomes present now.  When we celebrate the Eucharist, we enter a thin place where past and future merge into the present moment.

One of the participants in the class was deeply moved.  He has been a Christian for a long time, though he is new to our church.  "I've never heard of that before," he said.  Then he spoke about how meaningful that tradition seemed to him.  It seemed so much more than merely thinking of communion as a memorial of something that had happened long ago and was now over.  Last night he reclaimed something ancient, and his worship will be deeper.

I remember when I was taught the ancient tradition of Centering Prayer, based on the 14th century teaching from "The Cloud of Unknowing."  This practice of opening to the possibility of contemplation was unknown to me, though I was an adult who had been brought up in the church.  When this tradition was "recovered" for me, it became a portal for my own life and renewal.

I grew up in the days of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.  I can remember some of the process of liturgical renewal that accompanied the composition of the 1979 BCP.  One of its treasures is the recovery of the Great Vigil of Easter.  The church where I was raised had never celebrated that great liturgy.  Thanks to our reclaiming something from our tradition, the Vigil has become my favorite worship service of the year.  Our church has reclaimed a part of its lost tradition.

It can be a wonderful moment when we reclaim something from our ancient identity, like finding a valuable treasure that we didn't know we already owned.

I wonder what other ancient things of our tradition remain for us to discover, to uncover or to reclaim. 

For a while I've wondered what it might mean for us to reclaim the ancient tradition of the Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25f).  In the year of Jubilee all debts were canceled, all bondage released, and there was a redistribution of the land to its original equal endowments.  In our nation, where one percent of our people owns over one-third of our wealth, where the top 20% claim 85%, and where the lower 40% only have 0.3% of our corporate wealth, what might some form of a Year of Jubilee mean for us?

What other treasures lie hidden below our corporate remembrance?  What parts of our inheritance have we forgotten?  What ancient wisdom waits for our rediscovery?  What more is there for us to claim?  ...for us to learn?


Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location -- --  Click for Divine Hours

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My priest and I visited Occupy Little Rock yesterday afternoon. One of the members there brought up the Year of Jubilee and we had some time to talk about the state of our economics in the U.S. Then, I read your remarks and wondered what is bubbling up. Surely God doesn't take pleasure in a relative few people living in opulence while the many are struggling with too little...Caroline

At 10:25 PM, Anonymous janet said...

And Mother Teresa would say we have forgotten that we belong to each other. Re-collect, re-member the body of Christ

At 7:30 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for the comments, Caroline and Janet. I hope our culture is in moving toward reclaiming some sense of corporate identity and mutuality. Radical individualism and competition seems to have met its limits and produced some sour fruits.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home