This week the Catholic Church, together with other Christian communities, celebrated the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. For those from the Anglican tradition, the origins of this week are significant, because it was the effort of Anglican ecumenists that founded what was originally known as the Church Unity Octave, and which had the express intention of the reunion of Anglicans with the Apostolic See. The involvement, in 1933, of the French priest Fr Paul Couturier saw this develop into the Week of Universal Prayer for the Unity of Christians, again, with unity with Rome at the very heart.
Recently my parish priest, Msgr Charles Pope, wrote about the exorcism prayers in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite and their possible restoration in the ordinary form rite of baptism. On Monday I concelebrated at the Byzantine liturgy for the feast of the theophany, at which water was blessed using this prayer, attributed to Saint Sophronios, patriarch of Jerusalem in the seventh century. It is a prayer full of rich baptismal theology, and a good meditation as we approach the Latin rite feast of the baptism of the Lord this Sunday:
O Trinity, transcendent in essence, in goodness, and in divinity, almighty, invisible, and incomprehensible, who watch over all; O Creator of intelligent beings, of natures endowed with speech; O Goodness of utter and unapproachable brilliance, who enlighten everyone who comes into the world: enlighten me also, your unworthy servant! Illumine the eyes of my mind, that I may venture to praise your immeasurable goodness and your might; let my supplication on behalf of these people be wholly acceptable, so that my sins may not prevent the descent of the Holy Spirit upon this place; that without condemnation, I may be permitted to cry out to you and say: “We glorify you, O Master and Lover of us all, almighty and eternal King! We glorify you, O only-begotten Son, born of a mother without a father and of a father without a mother; for in the preceding feast we have seen you as a babe, and in this present feast as perfect man appearing as our perfect God.
This homily was given to the Blessed John Henry Newman community in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter in Orange Country, California.
Our annual celebration of the epiphany of the Lord has two characteristics that we can identify as fundamental to the Christian life, not least as those who rejoice in celebrating the liturgical, spiritual, and pastoral traditions of our Anglican heritage (AC III). First, the solemnity of the epiphany is a highly liturgical feast. As we journey with the magi to the stable, and there bend the knee in adoration of the King of kings and Lord of lords, we come also to this awesome and admirable sacrifice – the Church’s offering of bread and wine in the wonderful exchange of the Eucharist – and we worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, with gold of obedience and incense of lowliness. We come to offer ourselves – our whole being – to be a living sacrifice to the one who, as a babe in a manger, comes to save us from ourselves. What is proposed for us by the magi, is fulfilled today in the Church’s worship of Christ in the Eucharist.