Many denominations and churches celebrate a “Bible Sunday” each year. But there is no agreed day to do this. I have seen July, August, October,…
In 2019, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter (motu proprio), Aperuit illis, establishing for Roman Catholics the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time [Sunday between 21-27 January] as the Sunday of the Word of God. That’s this Sunday [21 January]. My suggestion is, as this is the date for Bible Sunday now celebrated by the majority of Christians, that we all unite in having this Sunday as our ecumenical Bible Sunday – our shared Sunday of the Word of God.
Let us pray (in silence) [that we may persevere in our growth into God’s life]
God of inspiration,
you caused all holy scriptures to be written for our instruction,
grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,
that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of your holy Word,
we may embrace and ever hold fast to the blessed hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
My reflection on this collect is here or below.
“Aperuit illis” are the first two words in the Risen Christ appearing (unrecognised) to two disciples on the Road to Emaus: “Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45). This is what begins the Pope’s letter. The Emmaus story became the logo (above) for the Word of God Sunday based on the icon (below) written by Sr Marie-Paul Farran.
I have long advocated that one have themed Sundays by all means BUT don’t change the agreed lectionary readings; don’t have “themed” readings ripped out of context by a concordance. [Have, for example, Social Services Sunday, but don’t change the agreed RCL/3Year readings for it; if you can’t find social points somewhere in the 3 agreed readings and the psalm then you shouldn’t be leading a community or preaching.] So there is no question that this Sunday Roman Catholics will abandon the lectionary to read concordance-picked readings about the Word of God. The way we treat the Bible in worship is a focus; preaching about the Bible; mentioning the Bible in prayers and in our singing,…
I suggest that you read the Pope’s letter in full.
In that letter, the Pope gives some suggestions:
The various communities will find their own ways to mark this Sunday with a certain solemnity. It is important, however, that in the Eucharistic celebration the sacred text be enthroned, in order to focus the attention of the assembly on the normative value of God’s word. On this Sunday, it would be particularly appropriate to highlight the proclamation of the word of the Lord and to emphasize in the homily the honour that it is due. Bishops could celebrate the Rite of Installation of Lectors or a similar commissioning of readers, in order to bring out the importance of the proclamation of God’s word in the liturgy. In this regard, renewed efforts should be made to provide members of the faithful with the training needed to be genuine proclaimers of the word, as is already the practice in the case of acolytes or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Pastors can also find ways of giving a Bible, or one of its books, to the entire assembly as a way of showing the importance of learning how to read, appreciate and pray daily with sacred Scripture, especially through the practice of lectio divina.Pope Francis (Aperuit illis 3)
The National Liturgy Office website of the Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand gives some excellent suggestions.
I suggest the collect above, based on Cranmer’s.
I am guessing that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time was chosen as this is the Sunday when the Ordinary-Time systematic, semi-continuous reading of the Year’s Synoptic Gospel begins. Note also, that this does not clash for those who celebrate Candlemas moved to Sunday (this year, 28 January).
Mark in Slow Motion
I have been working on a series of reading Mark (this year’s primary Sunday Gospel) in slow motion:
Mark in Slow Motion 1
Mark in Slow Motion 2
Mark in Slow Motion 3
Mark in Slow Motion 4
Mark in Slow Motion 5
Mark in Slow Motion 6
Mark in Slow Motion 7
Mark in Slow Motion 8
Mark in Slow Motion 9
Mark in Slow Motion 10
Mark in Slow Motion 11
Mark in Slow Motion 12
Mark in Slow Motion 13
Mark in Slow Motion 14
Mark in Slow Motion 15
Mark in Slow Motion 16
Week of Prayer for Christian Diversity
Especially in the Northern Hemisphere, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is from 18-25 January. Resources off this site here.
In 2013, this Liturgy website announced the Week of Prayer for Christian Diversity.
This week acknowledges and is honest about our diversity. In the Northern Hemisphere, Christians are having a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In the Southern Hemisphere, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity happens in the Easter Season. Christians cannot even agree when to pray for unity! Let us be honest about our extreme diversity of beliefs. Let us be honest about our enmity – Christian against Christian. Let us be honest about our disagreements. Let us be honest about the diversity of our actions – from some really good stuff, to quite a bit of downright evil. Let us be honest about getting some things right, and quite a bit wrong.
This week celebrates difference. In the Northern Hemisphere Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we often end up seeing quite a lot of ideas that the solution to Christian disunity is to clone and cookie-cutter one way of being a Christian and impose that on all. Unity by uniformity. One size fits all. [And a hint: that one size didn’t look much like the younger woman of colour that I suspect is greater numerically in Christianity!]
The God, who is the Source of Reality, is diversity held in unity, and brings to birth a universe of uncountable variety. And we, the very ones who are called to point to and embody this Source, appear to be threatened by diversity, we cannot cope with the diversity of the flowers, or the colours of the rainbow, and we try and eradicate this – so that there is only one type of flower, and only one type of colour.
This week is about being more honest. In the Northern Hemisphere Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we often see a lot of nonsense about church history, and theology, and spirituality, and ecclesiology. “Henry VIII founded a new church because he was a randy old *&^%$! and the pope wouldn’t let him have a divorce…” and nonsense like that. [Yes, only if we agree that John XXIII founded a new church, and annulment = divorce]. And let’s be honest about the mess we are in; the mess we’ve made.
This week is realistic that accepting diversity is the only way forward. Agreeing to disagree is, in our heart of hearts we know, the only solution. Marriage equality, for example. Christians have poured so much time, money, and energy into this issue; it has become the one touchstone of orthodoxy; even to being what many heard as central in Christmas messages! “The purpose of the incarnation was that Jesus came to save us from gays” is the message many inside and outside the church hear. The Week of Prayer for Christian Diversity prays that we realise that agreeing to disagree will be the only way forward. Whatever your attitude to post-modernism, its insight that “where you stand affects what you see” is too important to brush off.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Diversity is about a hard core and soft edges. It is founded on the great insight of St. Vincent of Lerins: orthodoxy is defined as quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus, that which has been believed by Christians “everywhere, always, by everyone.” And actually, think about it, what has been believed everywhere, always, by everyone is a very, very, very small core. But it is enough.
Maybe during this week we can once again return to reflecting on “orthodoxy” meaning right prayer (much closer to orthopraxy – doing it right, than assenting to the totality of the “right list of beliefs”, mentally assenting to exactly the correct list of propositions in your head, that it has been hijacked as). Shared spiritual disciplines, common prayer, not making windows into people’s souls and minds to check, by the belief police, whether my list of dozens of literally-taken beliefs match up identically to your list. These are the disciplines we have abandoned so that our diversity has no undergirding unity. The diversity in God (and in the universe) is also held in a unity. It is in praying together for the diversity that our unity is already being found.
This week takes care about humour. I’ve got (at least) as much of a sense of humour as the next person. [From time to time some people mishear my points, including ones I make on this site, probably including this particular post, because they haven’t watched as much Monty Python as I have]. There is sometimes some humour during the Northern Hemisphere Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that I would be a little more cautious about. So here’s the rules: (1) You can make jokes at the expense of yourselves and your own beliefs and practices but not by putting down, at the expense of, others. To belittle you have to be little. (2) Even in humour, don’t put yourselves down too much. Get some therapy for a poor self-image, instead.
Finally, maybe the best bit about the Week of Prayer for Christian Diversity: you don’t have to have all your ideas consistently worked out. This week is about lovingly accepting disagreement with others. It is also about loving accepting disagreement within yourself. Thomas Aquinas was definitely a this-therefore-that kind of guy, but when the true reality of God came home to him he stopped writing his attempt to get Christianity all neatly, consistently worked out. His Summa Theologiae just stops. He stated, “Everything that I have written seems like straw to me compared to those things that I have seen and have been revealed to me.”
Reflection on the Collect
The collect at the top of this post is part of my attempt to provide a set of collects with history and commentary (Book of Prayers in Common). In this case, there is no Latin original. This collect is an original by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer for Advent 2 in the Book of Common Prayer 1549:
BLESSED lord, which hast caused all holy Scriptures to bee written for our learnyng; graunte us that we maye in suche wise heare them, read, marke, learne, and inwardly digeste them; that by pacience, and coumfort of thy holy woorde, we may embrace, and ever holde fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast geven us in our saviour Jesus Christe.
The collect picked up the language of the epistle, Romans 15: 4-13 (the Sarum and Roman selection for Advent 2. It continues to be the second reading in Year A).
The address made to the Father as ‘Blessed Lord’ is unique in that Prayer Book. The word “all” alludes to the pre-Reformation limiting of scriptures read – a practice that was remedied by the annual reading of “all holy Scriptures”.
For they so ordred the matter, that all the whole Bible (or the greatest parte thereof) should be read over once in the yeare, intendyng thereby, that the Cleargie, and specially suche as were Ministers of the congregacion, should (by often readyng and meditacion of Gods worde) be stirred up to godlines themselfes, and be more able also to exhorte other by wholsome doctrine, and to confute them that were adversaries to the trueth. And further, that the people (by daily hearyng of holy scripture read in the Churche) should continuallye profite more and more in the knowledge of God, and bee the more inflamed with the love of his true religion. But these many yeares passed this Godly and decent ordre of the auncient fathers, hath bee so altered, broken, and neglected, [Preface BCP 1549]
The words ‘patience and comfort’ are used in their archaic meanings of steadfastness and encouragement. I have altered the “pacience, and coumfort” to the NRSV rendition of Romans 15:4 διὰ τῆς ὑπομονῆς καὶ διὰ τῆς παρακλήσεως τῶν γραφῶν. I have also followed this approach for translating διδασκαλίαν ἐγράφη.
This collect is prayed at the end of October in the Church of England, Ordinary 32 in Canada, Australia, and other places, and will be prayed Ordinary 33 (Proper 28) in The Episcopal Church and elsewhere.
This is not merely a collect for one day; it is a prayer we can use far more regularly than that. Lectio Divina is one way to hear the holy scriptures, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.