The collect for today, the Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr, from The Book of Common Prayer (Canadian, 1962):
ALMIGHTY God, who didst give such grace unto thy holy Apostle Saint Andrew, that he readily obeyed the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him without delay: Grant unto us all, that we, being called by thy holy word, may forthwith give up ourselves obediently to fulfil thy holy commandments; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Epistle: Romans 10:8-18
The Gospel: St. Matthew 4:18-22
A native of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee, Andrew was a fisherman, the son of the fisherman John, and the brother of the fisherman Simon Peter. He was at first, along with John the Evangelist, a disciple of John the Baptist. John the Baptist’s testimony that Jesus was the Christ led the two to follow Jesus. Andrew then took his brother Simon Peter to meet Jesus. In Eastern Orthodox tradition, St. Andrew is called the Protokletos (the First Called) because he is named as the first disciple summoned by Jesus into his service.
At first Andrew and Simon Peter continued to carry on their fishing trade, but the Lord later called them to stay with him all the time. He promised to make them fishers of men and, this time, they left their nets for good.
The only other specific reference to Andrew in the New Testament is at St. Mark 13:3, where he is one of those asking the questions that lead our Lord into his great eschatological discourse.
In the lists of the apostles that appear in the gospels, Andrew is always numbered among the first four. He is named individually three times in the Gospel of St. John. In addition to the story of his calling (John 1:35-42), he, together with Philip, presented the Gentiles to Christ (John 12:20-22), and he pointed out the boy with the loaves and fishes (John 6:8).
Written for our learning
A defining feature of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is that they are more or less explicitly logocentric, word-centered. For all three of these religions of ethical monotheism, God is understood largely in terms of Logos, the Greek word for reason or word. Thus the Word as Law defines Judaism; the Word made Flesh is central to the Christian understanding; and the Word as the Will of Allah is a major feature of Islam. All of the world’s great religions to one extent or another give priority to written texts: the Vedas and the Upanishads of Hinduism; the various Buddhist texts in pali or sanskrit, the commentary traditions in philosophy, to give but a few instances. There is something inescapably significant about written texts, the scriptures and the writings of religion and philosophy.
This calls attention to the mystery and the wonder of reading and writing, one of the most profound of all human abilities and one which speaks to the idea of civilisation. The ancient Sumerians were among the first to do so many things practically speaking in terms of technology that gave them a power over nature: such things as sailing – using wind and therefore not necessarily determined by the flow of water; irrigation – being able to redirect water to where it can be used for agriculture; and a host of other practical inventions. But perhaps the most important invention was writing: cuneiform script, wedge-shaped marks in clay, that probably originated in a warehouse. Why? There is a necessary connection between numbering and naming things which then leads on to stories and ideas. Reading and writing signify civilisation.
“Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,” St. Paul famously says. He is referring to the Hebrew Scriptures but paradoxically his remark will extend to the inclusion of his own writings which comprise the greatest part of the Christian Scripture, the New Testament. What is written is written for our learning. This speaks to the prominence and the significance of reading and writing, to the significance of books.
This is a particular concern and challenge for our age as Maryanne Wolf wonderfully explains in Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World (2018). Following upon the success of Proust and the Squid (2008), she has written an engaging book about what has transpired in the last ten years in terms of neuroscience and the impact of the digital culture on our reading. Far from being a technophobe, she nonetheless seeks to alert us to the dangers of losing the capacity for “deep reading,” for a kind of collectedness, “a place of stillness,” that belongs to Aristotle’s idea of contemplation as the highest form of human life. This complements the theme of our attention to ethical principles which alone can properly shape our lives. Sitting and listening like Mary is necessary for Martha’s activity, too. Without it, we are the endlessly distracted in a culture of distraction, unable to focus and at the mercy of digital overstimulation and manipulation. The theologian John Dunne notes that wisdom is “but contemplation in action.” Wolf wants to show this in part through literature and philosophy and in part through neuroscience.
It is all about the turning but what kind of turning? Head over heels? Like a rolling stone? Or a November snowball? No. It is about God’s turning to us and our being turned to God. That is the especial wonder of this Sunday. I love the collocation of prepositions: “next” and “before” that signal an ending and a beginning. This Sunday speaks so profoundly to the double movement of the spirit: God coming to us and our coming to God, to the principle of justification in the first and the principle of sanctification in the second, and to the way in which those necessarily intersect.
We have in today’s lesson from Jeremiah a kind of summa of the pageant of sanctification. It is really all about “the Lord our Righteousness” living in us and we in him. In the textus receptus of the New Testament, this is one of the few but important passages that are re-printed in majuscules, in capital letters. It is a kind of shout-out, a way of calling attention to the whole pageant of sanctifying grace as being about the realisation, bit by bit, of justifying grace dwelling in us. It recalls us to a new beginning, a beginning again in the pageant of that justifying grace towards us and its dwelling in us. It is all about the forms of our incorporation into the life of God in Christ. That belongs and marks the apocalyptic nature of Advent and of all that follows right through to Trinity Sunday. Something has to be made known to us even as we recognise our need for an ethical and spiritual principle. Left to ourselves we are dead and deadly. Such is the darkness of Advent into which comes the light of Christ.
To speak this way about the pattern of the church year may seem linear, a step-by-step kind of thinking but really this Sunday shows us that is not so. It is more about a kind of circular reasoning (understood positively and essentially), a way of returning and turning back again upon the very principle of life and thought and being. A way of being of gathered into what is eternal. “Never that which is shall die,” a fragment from the ancient Greek Tragic poet, Euripides, states. What truly is truly remains. What is that? It is about Christ and about Christ in us, about how our lives participate in the life of God.
Monday, November 26th
4:45-5:15 Religious Inquirers’ Class – KES
Tuesday, November 27th
6:00pm ‘Prayers & Praises’ – Haliburton Place
Wednesday, November 28th
6:30-8:00pm Sparks – Parish Hall
Thursday, November 29th, Eve of St. Andrew
3:15pm Service – Windsor Elms
7:00pm Holy Communion
Friday, November 30th
6:00-7:30pm Pathfinders & Rangers – Parish Hall
Sunday, December 2nd, First Sunday in Advent
8:00am Holy Communion (followed by Men’s Club Breakfast)
10:30am Holy Communion
4:00pm Advent Service of Lessons & Carols with KES (Gr. 7-11 at Christ Church)
7:00pm Advent Service of Lessons & Carols – KES Chapel (Gr. 12s)
Wednesday, December 19th
7:00pm Capella Regalis – ‘To Bethlehem with Kings’
($15.00 – concert; $ 20.00, pulled-pork supper & concert).
The collect for today, the Sunday Next before Advent, from The Book of Common Prayer (Canadian, 1962):
STIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lesson: Jeremiah 23:5-8
The Gospel: St. John 1:35-45
Artwork: Quentin Matsys, Salvator Mundi, c. 1510. Oil on panel, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp.