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The Celestial Choir


Christmastide 2018

We have waited patiently during Advent. Now, during Christmastide [the Twelve Days of Christmas], we will joyfully sing hymns about the Incarnation.  Many of these hymns will feature “angels.” However, ponder this:  Every Sunday in Worship, we sing with the angels – not merely about angels!

The Liturgy describes this Trinitarian and Sacramental Mystery:

The Holy Eucharist: [ACNA Renewed Ancient Text]

It is right, our duty and our joy, always and everywhere, to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth because you sent your beloved Son to redeem us from sin and death, and to make us heirs in him of everlasting life; that when he shall come again in power and great glory to judge the world, we may without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing.

Therefore, we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who forever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

How is it possible to sing with the angels?

In Sacramental Theology, the Bread and Wine – the Body and Blood of Christ — are the very center and source of our communal life in Christ.

The Holy Trinity, in the Eucharistic Liturgy, collapses the constraints of time and space and opens up a portal between the spheres of heaven and earth.

Christ, through the Holy Spirit, unites Himself with the Church Militant [on earth] and the Church Triumphant [in heaven]. Together, we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God the Father.

In this sense, every one of us is a member of a great “Celestial Choir” and we rehearse weekly, as we prepare for our ultimate vocation: to sing and worship God forever with the angels!

How do we prepare on Sundays to sing with the angels?

Enter the Nave in silence.

Dip your hand into the Baptismal Font. Remember your Baptismal vows.

Bow, as you face the Eucharistic Table and the Crucifix.

Kneel and pray in the pew. Sit silently.

Meditate upon the words in the Worship Leaflet: Scripture, Prayers, Creeds, and [especially] the Music.

Encourage your children to do the same.

In awe and reverence, we will sing with the angels, a Liturgical moment that is mysterious, glorious, majestic, and transcendent!

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Just a Cardboard Box



Dear Readers,

There was a season of my young life, when I was intensely lonely and alone.

I was in college, during this season, living as a boarder, upstairs in one room of a family home. I shared a bathroom with one other boarder.  We shared a refrigerator but we had no kitchen privileges.

I had no car — or even a bicycle — so I walked to the university, where I took classes and worked a part-time job. I think the walk was between one and two miles: good exercise, except for days when it thunderstormed!

I was a Junior and eager to finish my college degree program. Unfortunately, I discovered, too late, that I was totally unsuited for the field that I had chosen. With dread, I began to strongly suspect that I would never choose to work in that field.

I was a quiet, serious introvert, at a huge university, and, in three years, I had never found my place:  I had one or two friends but I had no church or community to which to belong.

I did have a boyfriend but he was attending the University of California at Berkeley.

I had no money to buy clothing. I paid for as many college expenses as I possibly could manage, out of my meager salary, for I tried to be as independent as possible.

One day, a plain cardboard box arrived to the door of my room:   It was from my sister, who lived in North Carolina and was recently married.  She was only four years older than I.

Inside the box were items of clothing that she had either sewn, especially for me, or was passing down to me.  [At that time, we were roughly the same size.] She had carefully packed the items, within tissue paper.

I was not a seamstress but I could easily imagine the hours of time that my sister invested in lovingly sewing those outfits for me:  She chose the pattern, the fabric, and the notions. Then, she found time to construct the outfits, in spite of the fact that she worked full-time.

I can remember the fabric and buttons of one of the outfits, now forty-five years later:  one set was a calico print top with a solid culotte skirt. They fit perfectly.

That was the day that I thought to myself, “Well, someone in the world is looking out for me, caring for me, loving me, and investing her time in me — and that person is my sister.”

I think that, of all the gifts I have received, this is the one for which I am most thankful.  I thank the Living God for my “big” sister, who has always looked out for me.

Coram Deo,



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Sukie and the Other Turkey

guy w turkey platter6742726

[Image Credit:]

Dear Family & Friends:

A friend told me this story about his grandmother, a Southern lady of refinement and gentility . . . .

One Thanksgiving Day, a large group of family members and friends gathered around my grandmother’s large dining room table, eagerly awaiting the sumptuous feast. All eyes were on “Sukie,” the housekeeper, as she ceremoniously carried a platter, from the dining room to the kitchen. On the platter was the main dish, a roasted, golden-brown turkey, redolent with fragrant herbs.

Our collective mouths were watering when disaster struck: Sukie dropped the platter and the fat bird thumped onto the hardwood floor, spilling some of the contents of its stuffed cavity.

 All eyes quickly turned to my grandmother. Her countenance remained serene. With a calm and soothing voice, she offered to Sukie words of assurance and confidence:

 “That’s all right, Sukie. Just take that turkey back into the kitchen and bring us the other turkey.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Coram Deo,


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Hymnody: Vexilla Regis [Gregorian Chant]

Vexilla Regis


Hymnody:  The Season of Passiontide and Easter:

Vexilla Regis [Gregorian Chant]

Vexilla Regis has always been one of the most renowned of early hymns, its imperial imagery a vivid reminder of the Christianizing of the Roman empire [a vexilla is the banner at the head of a Roman legion.]  Reputedly, this hymn was written in 569 to welcome a procession bringing a fragment of the ‘true Cross’ to the convent of Poitiers.”

From:  Sing, Ye Heavens:  Hymns for All Time, The Cambridge Singers, Directed by John Rutter, Collegium Records, 2000.

Click here to read more about this hymn:  Vexilla Regis

Click here to listen to the Cambridge Singers:  



Vexilla Regis prodeunt:

Fulget crucis mysterium,

Quo carne carnis Conditor

Suspensus est patibulo.


Impleta sunt quae concinit

David fidelis carmine,

Dicendo nationibus

Regnavit a lingo Deus.


Arbor decora et fulgida

Ornata Regis purpura,

Electa digno stipite

Tam sancta membra tangere.


O crux ave, spes unica

Hoc Passionis tempore,

Auge piis justiciam

Reisque dona veniam.


Te summa Deus Trinitas

Collaudet omnis spiritus:

Quos per crucis mysterium

Salvas, rege per saecula.  Amen.


[Venantius Fortunatus]


The royal banners forward go;

The Cross shines forth in mystic glow;

Where he in flesh, our flesh who made,

Our sentence bore, our ransom paid.


Fulfilled in all that David told

In true prophetic song of old;

Amidst the nations, God, saith he,

Hath reigned and triumphed from the tree.


O Tree of beauty, Tree of light!

O Tree with royal purple dight!

Elect on whose triumphal breast

Those holy limbs should find their rest.


O Cross, our own reliance, hail!

So may the power with us avail

To give new virtue to the saint,

And pardon to the penitent.


To thee, eternal Three in One,

Let homage meet by all be done;

Whom by the Cross thou dost restore,

Preserve and govern evermore.  Amen.


[Translation by J. M. Neale]

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A Christmastide Meditation by a Guest Blogger

Dear Friends,

My daughter and I have been thinking about and discussing a common theme, during Advent and Christmastide.  I offer this meditation for your reflection and contemplation:

Holy Time: The Joy of the Incarnation and the Pieta

I cannot express this theme any better than she as written.

Coram Deo,


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Worldview Lens: “On the Shoulders of Giants”

The South Rose Window of the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris:  []

La claire-voie de la Rose Sud:  []

“Under the rosette, the heavenly court is represented by the sixteen prophets, portrayed under the large windows of the bay, which were painted in the 19th century by Alfred Gérente, under Viollet-le-Duc’s supervision.

The architect drew inspiration from Chartres Cathedral, placing the four great prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel) carrying the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) on their shoulders, at the centre.

This window echoes the reflections of Bertrand, Bishop of Chartres in the 13th century, on the connection between the Old and New Testaments:

‘We are all dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants.

We see more than they do, not because our vision is clearer there or because we are taller, but because we are lifted up, due to their giant scale.’ ”   


Dear Readers,

[This is a revision from an earlier post.]

Each of us uses his/her own lenses in order to view the world.  This is called a “worldview.”

Since it is impossible to view the world without lenses, it is imperative that we wisely choose the lens that offers us the most clear view of history.

We contemporaries, who are committed to Christian formation, have received a priceless unopened gift — an inheritance!

Receiving this inheritance is like opening the gift of a high-powered, finely engineered telescope, allowing us to peer into the heavens, through a telescope dome:


“Wise Christians should always be historians in one sense.  They sit higher and can see further, more panoramically, if they enrich themselves from the past.

John of Salisbury [1115-1180] a medieval scholar, spoke of the jewels, the riches, the prestige of antiquity.  He was right.  

The past has bequeathed to us its gems.  Note his wise words:

‘Our own generation enjoys the legacy bequeathed to it by that which preceded it.  

We frequently know more, not because we have moved ahead by our own natural ability, but because we are supported by the [mental] strength of others, and possess riches that we have inherited from our forefathers.  

Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to [puny] dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants.  

He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.’

Our brothers and sisters from the past, indwelt by the same Spirit who indwells us, have left us a rich inheritance.  

It’s locked away inside a treasure chest.  It’s layered in cobwebs.  It’s rusty and in some ways not very appealing.


But inside is the wealth John of Salisbury told us about:  diamonds, emeralds, gold sovereigns, and chains of Spanish silver.  

If you have ever wanted to go on a treasure hunt, you’ve come to the right place.  We’ve already found the chest.  

The hard, laborious work is done.  All we need do is dip our hands inside and let the riches run through our fingers.  

Come along, and you’ll be sitting higher and further.”

[Resource:  Pocket History of the Church, D. Jeffrey Bingham, InterVarsity Press, 2002.]

Coram Deo,



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Invitation to Concert Series: 1



St. Peter’s Anglican Church Concert

Friday, January 20 at 7:00 pm
Featuring musical artists from the parish of St. Peter’s including Joel Hastings, Lucy Church, Ann Dalton, Belinda Dudley, Christopher Garven, Will Nilson, and John Ossi.

For more details: 



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Advent Lesson One: The Language of Time

This painting, by Hans Memling in A.D. 1480,  depicts the Life of Christ and depicts the journey through the Church Year, from Advent to Christmas, from Lent to Easter and Pentecost.

The Good News tells how, for the world’s Redemption,

God entered into history:

The Eternal came into time,

The Kingdom of Heaven invaded the realm of earth,

in the great events of the

Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection

of Jesus, the Christ.

~~~F. F. Bruce

The Language of Time:

“The calendar is the foundation of most of Christian worship . . . There is no better place to begin our investigation of the basic structures of Christian worship than with an introduction to the way Christians use time as a language through which to express their worship . . . 


History is where God is made known.  Without time, there is no knowledge of the Christian God.  For it is through actual events in historical time that this God is revealed.  God chooses to make his divine nature and will known through events that take place within the same calendar that measures the daily lives of ordinary women and men. 


Christianity talks not of salvation in general but of salvation accomplished by specific actions of God at definite times and places.  It speaks of climactic events and a finale to time.


In Christianity, the ultimate meanings of life are not revealed by universal and timeless statements but by concrete acts of God.  In the fullness of time, God invades human history, assumes our flesh, and heals, teaches, and eats with sinners.  There are specific temporal and spatial settings to it all . . .


And when his work is done, Jesus is put to death on a specific day, related to the Passover festival of that particular year, and rises on the third day.  It is all part of the same time we inhabit — time that is measured by spatial device, the calendar . . .


The centrality of time in Christianity is reflected in Christian worship.  This worship, like the rest of life, is structured on recurring rhythms of the week, the day, and the year.  In addition, there is a lifelong cycle.  Far from trying to escape time, Christian worship uses time as one of its essential structures.  Our present time is used to place us in contact with God’s acts in time past and future.  Salvation, as we experience it in worship, is a reality based on temporal events through which God is given to us.


The use of time enables Christians to commemorate and experience again those very acts on which salvation is grounded . . . Christianity builds on the natural human sense of time as a conveyor of meaning by fluently speaking the language of time in its worship.”

~~~Excerpts are from the book, Introduction to Christian Worship, Third Edition, James F. White, Abingdon Press, 2000.

Margot’s Commentary:

Therefore, we, as the Body of Christ, might envision ourselves as “historical re-enactors,” as we observe the Church Calendar Year [see Color Wheel below.]  Each year is an opportunity for us to corporately rehearse the mighty acts of the Triune God and to collectively re-enact the events of our salvation history.  These historical events are linked together seamlessly into the Grand Drama of Redemption, in the same way that Shakespeare composes a play with a specific number of “Acts.”  The Church Calendar Year is a visual encapsulation of the Drama of Redemption:  it is the Language of Time.

The Church Year begins with the observation of Advent, the First Coming of Christ.

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Welcome to Advent Lessons & Carols!

Dear Family & Friends,

“Advent” is the season of preparation before Christmas; “Lessons” are Scripture Readings and “Carols” are Songs.  Together, “Lessons and Carols” comprise a beautiful liturgical Worship Service.  I will explain more about that history later.

Today, I am announcing the beginning of my “Advent Lessons,”  in which I will provide ON-LINE lessons in the  Art of the Reclamation of Advent.  

My qualifications:  I have successfully reclaimed the Advent Season, for six years.

Proviso:  This Series is not for everyone!  It is intended only for those who sincerely want to Recover, Reclaim, and Revision the Advent Season.

We will begin lessons next week:

~Sign up for class by “Commenting” on this entry.

~Bring a pencil/pen and college-ruled three-ring paper.  That is your first assignment.

Coram Deo,



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Marmee and “Mr. Manners”

Dear Faithful Family & Friends,

While we continue to await the birth of Lucy Elanor, I will share another story about my grandson, Benjamin, if you will humor me.  By the way, did you notice that I wrote, in my previous update:  “the birth of our first granddaughter?”  I was, perhaps, inspired by “Marmee” of “Little Women” and her four daughters . . . .

While we wait, Marmee has been enforcing good manners in her home.  It began innocently enough:  I told Benjamain [2 & 1/2  years old] that, when I was growing up, my father did not allow any of his children to say, “I do not like this!” when considering a home-made offering at the dining table.  Our father taught us what his father taught him:  “If your mother made it, it is good!  Now, be quiet and be thankful!”   My father and mother raised four children on one modest income and my mother was the Queen of Casseroles, Soups, and Stews.  As for me, I had a healthy appetite and never met a food I did not like.

Anyway, I offered choices to Benjamin, suggesting “Thank you but I do not care for this”  or “I do not prefer this but I thank you” or “Thank you but I am not hungry at this moment.”

Benjamin caught on quite rapidly to the language of polite nonconformity.  Soon, he developed the art of defying instructions with exquisitely good manners, as he charmingly refused to pick up toys, take his bath, and settle down for a nap.

I realized, too late, that I had perhaps gone too far in my Etiquette Lessons, when Benjamin’s father, Daniel, related to me this recent conversation:

Benjamin:  “I would like to watch another ‘Construction Site’ DVD.”

Daniel: “No, you have watched enough DVDs.  You may play with your toys or we can read a book together.”

Benjamin:  “Thank you for your offer . . . but I would prefer to watch another Construction Site DVD.”

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