Holy Week begins with
The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, April 5
Please take part as you are able,
using the information below as your guide.
The Sunday of the Passion:
April 5, 2020
Feed on him
“The gifts of God for the people of God.
Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you,
and feed on him in your hearts by faith,
- Book of Common Prayer, p. 364,5
Dear people of Ascension,
The normal Eucharistic rites at Ascension, long predating my ministry here, do not include the Invitation to Communion indicated in the Book of Common Prayer and quoted above. I imagine it’s not been used, at least in part, because of its implied and overt theology. Those schooled in competing Christian notions will recognize
as a primary feature of Reformed Eucharistic theology. In the same vein, so to speak, the invitation to ‘
feed on him’
is qualified by doing so (
in your hearts by faith
This Invitation to Communion has resurfaced for me, with an interesting twist, in the context of my recent decision to live stream masses. I typically honor the longstanding and sensible Anglican convention that the mass should only be said when three persons intending to receive the Sacrament are
... And I feel both awkward and, yes, even selfish receiving the Sacrament while you are unable. But all of you from whom I’ve heard so far have said, in one way or another, without exception, how meaningful it has been to
feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.
In the event that you are unaware, many parishes in our diocese (and beyond) are live-streaming or offering pre-recorded worship service in diverse forms, particularly for Sundays. Most are offering Morning Prayer or the ‘Liturgy of the Word’ without the celebration of the mass. I now offer the mass for and with you,
, all the while praying for the time I will once again place the Host in your hand.
With regard to any and all worship that we are seeking to provide online
, whether live or recorded …
A mass will be said this evening
-- Wednesday in the Fifth Week in Lent
-- at 6:30 p.m. and live-streamed from the Ascension rectory
Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are now being offered intermittently via Zoom
for those able to use it. In coming days, I or others will try to post more specific information on our website home page and via the Events feature on our Facebook page.
- Evening Prayer will be offered
+ This this evening at 6:10 p.m.,
+ Thursday evening at 6:10 p.m.
+ Tuesday in Holy Week (4/7) at 6:10 p.m.
If you’re curious about what other churches, organizations or individuals are offering
, it seems that thousands upon thousands of Christian congregations are now scrambling as we are to figure out how to remain connected online during this time. Surf around. A few starting points:
Some highly-polished instances of online worship
are being offered by many other churches … and some of us here at Ascension are aware of our steep learning curve, the modesty of what we’re able to offer, and the frequency of my/our blunders, whether liturgical (no
for the Annunciation mass?) or technological (the ‘sideways’ video for Rose Sunday). I’m challenged and humbled to keep going, in the hope and belief that many of you will continue to find what we are doing online to be among the best ways, even if imperfect, that we can continue seeking to be the Body of Christ during this difficult time. And, finally …
In case you're wondering ... NO, it’s not normal for my wife Brooke to serve a mass
at which I’m celebrant. In fact, it’s never happened before now. (She was, however, an acolyte in childhood and adolescence, at a parish of our diocese!) I just want to let her know here how much I appreciate her help, poise and care.
Holy Week 2020
Palm Sunday, April 5
Maundy Thursday, April 9
Good Friday, April 10
Holy Saturday & Great Vigil, April 11
Easter Day, April 12
es, we will provide ways to connect and worship. No, exact means and times have not been established, but an
Holy Week Planning Team has been hard at work and with positive collaboration and good faith. (Members include Choirmaster Benjamin Rivera, Organist David White, Verger Mary Beth Hwang and Senior Warden Gary Alexander.
Please check information that will be regularly updated on the home page of our website
, and thank you for your patience.
Please give generously as you are able.
Treasurer Susan Schlough has asked me to remind you of Ascension's ongoing expenses at this time. To the extent that you are able, payment on your pledges or the offering of special gifts will be greatly appreciated. You may still write a check and mail it to the church, or online payment is possible through the buttons at various places on our website. Thank you!
Please remember these people in your daily prayers
Charley Taylor, August 'Augie' Alonzo, Ted Long, Jim Berger, Ethel Martin, Yuka Asai, Dean Pineda, Carnola Malone, Charlene MacDougal, Jack Johnston, Patricia Johnston, Stewart Marks, Char Yurema, Canon Edgar Wells, Nicholas Carl, Joshua, Ellie, Carmen Castro, Mary Drell, Jim Lo Bello, Judy Cook, Steve Waltz, Lillian Alexander, Mary Lou Devens, Marty Stenson, Donna Neglia, David Jones
During this time of transition
, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Chicago asks for prayers for the church, our diocese, our clergy and lay leaders, our retiring bishop, and those who may be discerning a call to become the Thirteenth Bishop of Chicago.
rayers for the departed
wife of Mary Jane Kowalski's cousin.
longtime Ascension member, died March 17.
godfather of Kuni Sakai, died March 25.
Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
The Altar in the Heart:
Spiritual Communion and COVID-19
By Christopher Poore (Lent 2020)
Perhaps few saints ever envisioned a near-worldwide closure of parish churches, though that is the reality we are facing today. Still, the words of those who came before us can resound with unexpected prescience.
Jeremy Taylor’s 1660 devotional work,
The Worthy Communicant
, is a case in point. Near the very end of that book, Taylor addresses himself to those for whom typical communion is no longer possible. For those suffering in anomalous situations, he recommends what he calls a “comfortable doctrine,” a doctrine meant to comfort the afflicted: namely, the doctrine of spiritual communion. This doctrine, which Taylor traces to St. Augustine, states that the faithful can receive the Eucharist through prayer even when geographically separated from the celebration of the liturgy. In the pithy words of the Latin church doctor: “Believe, and thou hast eaten.”
In circumstances not so governed by our concern with COVID-19, I suspect several of Taylor’s statements would jump out at us, particularly his identifications of who might be comforted by this doctrine. For starters, he explicitly names those whose lives are affected by illness. But he goes on to mention those attempting to avoid “the hands of a wicked priest,” a phrase that is chillingly relevant to our own religious culture. In this way, Taylor completely rejects the idea that the abused are somehow dependent on their abuser for the mediation of sacramental grace. The idea of the local church gathered at Eucharist is not to be contorted into a kind of prison, outside of whose bounds—so the threat goes—there is no salvation.
In contrast to this idea, Taylor proposes that when someone communes spiritually, they in fact experience a deep union “with all the congregations of the Christian world,” a daringly ecumenical statement to make in the context of the vitriolic 17th century. In this sense, spiritual communion is profoundly catholic, an encounter with the universal body of Christ. Far from hedging the believer into a painful solitude, Taylor instead opens up horizons.
Yet Taylor argues that this expansive catholicity only makes sense if, at the same time, the communicant forswears an overly individualistic piety. He warns that spiritual communion is not meant to be undertaken with an attitude of “peevishness and spiritual pride; not in the spirit of schism and fond opinions; not in despite of our brother.” Rather, it may only be undertaken out of “actual charity” for the neighbor.
Reading these words, it is hard to think of a time that more strictly met these requirements than our own. The current pandemic has transformed our solitude into one of the most pressing acts of neighborly concern that we could ever imagine. We refrain from actual communion precisely out of an “actual charity” and “spirit of devotion.” We have realized that we are, indeed, one body, and each member of this body deserves our attention and care.
We can therefore have no doubt that Taylor’s words apply to us. He writes that those who are moved by love of the neighbor “may place themselves upon their knees…building an altar in their heart” in order to be “fed of the spirit.” This unadorned act of prayer is all that is necessary for us to receive the sacrament.
In other words: now is the time for us to lean in to our eucharistic piety, not away.
Granted, Taylor’s words do not necessitate a single, uniform solution across all the parishes of our church. We are living through a situation for which there is no easy blueprint available. Pastors are making decisions on a day-to-day basis, with as much wisdom as they can muster. Now is not the moment to bicker or to tear down those who see things differently than we do or to shame those whose concerns are distinct from our own.
I still wonder, though, whether Taylor’s advice doesn’t offer us some helpful guidance about how we are to structure our liturgical life during this time of social distancing. The first principle I’d extract from Taylor is that Sunday worship can still be fruitfully centered around a eucharistic piety, a piety that emphasizes the universal body of Christ. It is a time of longing for this body, in which it prays, in the words of that early eucharistic prayer from the
: “Just as this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and then was gathered together and became one, so may your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom…”
The second principle would be that, while our meditation might be directed towards the Eucharist, spiritual communion doesn’t
necessitate a service of Holy Communion. As we know, Holy Communion only became standard among most Episcopal parishes in the last century or so, and many of our forerunners in the faith lived off of the spirituality of Morning Prayer (most often with Litany and Ante-Communion!) as their weekly bread for centuries. Could an act of spiritual communion be appended to our offering of the Daily Office?
That being said, I find it painful to live through a Sunday without the Eucharist, and the earliest patterns of the Church confirm this habit, even in times of great calamity. The 1979 Prayer Book is without qualification when it states that “the Holy Eucharist” is “the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day.”
It might be now more than ever that we feel a need for the sacrament’s comfort and encouragement.
Jeremy Taylor knew a similar yearning, something we realize when we consider his historical context. In 1660, Taylor was writing to an audience that knew what it was like to be deprived of Holy Communion—the service from the Book of Common Prayer had been outlawed in 1645, and as the historian John Spurr has noted, some parishes in England went years without a celebration of the sacrament.
Those who did manage to be physically present for a service took enormous risks. As the diarist John Evelyn records in 1657, he and his family were surrounded by soldiers while they were in the act of receiving “the holy Sacrament.”
It is out of this background that Taylor offers his advice: even if you cannot attend the liturgical service, God will extend to you the spiritual grace.
The last guiding principle I’d pull from
The Worthy Communicant is this: our acts of spiritual communion are uniquely capable of recognizing the grief we feel at being separated from one another. As Taylor argued, our acts of spiritual participation take on greater reality the more we are “really troubled for the want of actual participation.”
I think that a livestreamed celebration of the Holy Eucharist—far from being an iteration of a “private” mass—is actually a way to gather the community around this communal “want,” simultaneously acknowledging what we have lost and giving the gift anyways. According to Taylor’s logic, we are
already receiving the grace of the sacrament: the visible celebration of Holy Communion would only recognize this interior fact.
What’s more, the prayers of the Eucharist offer a soothing familiarity to many. They act as a touchstone in this time when so many of our daily actions have become deeply unfamiliar. So much of what we love feels like it has vanished. The Church has an opportunity to proclaim that one phrase will never vanish—
this is my body, which is given for you—even when all our bodies are hidden from one another.
Our liturgy itself proclaims the ability of God’s grace to reach us through every distance and disturbance. It asks us to take the eucharistic gifts “in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.”
In times like this, it is Jesus himself who inhabits our poor, fragile faith—so often wafer-thin—and feeds us with the bread that comes down from heaven.
Acts of Spiritual Communion
In Union, dear Lord, with the faithful at every altar of your Church where your blessed Body and Blood are being offered to the Father, I desire to offer you praise and thanksgiving. I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament, and since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I beseech you to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to you, and embrace you with all the affections of my soul. Let me never be separated from you. Let me live and die in your love. Amen.
Come Lord Jesus, dwell in your servant in the fullness of your strength, and in the perfection of your ways, and in the holiness of your spirit, and rule over every hostile power in the might of your Spirit, and to the glory of your Father. Amen.
May the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my body and soul unto everlasting life. Amen.
THE WORTHY COMMUNICANT
Sec. 3: An Advice concerning him who only communicates spiritually.
There are many persons well disposed by the measures of a holy life to communicate frequently, but it may happen that they are unavoidably hindered. Some have a timorous conscience, a fear, a pious fear,—which is indeed sometimes more pitiable than commendable. Others are advised by their spiritual guides to abstain for a time, that they may proceed in the virtue of repentance further yet, before they partake of the sacrament of love: and yet if they should want the blessings and graces of the communion, the remedy which is intended them would be a real impediment. Some are scandalized and offended at irremediable miscarriages in public doctrines or government, and cannot readily overcome their prejudices, nor reconcile their consciences to a present actual communion. Some dare not receive it at the hands of a wicked priest of notorious evil life. Some can have it from no priest at all, but are in a long journey, or under a persecution, or in a country of a differing persuasion. Some are sick; and some cannot have it every day, but every day desire it.
Such persons as these, if they prepare themselves with all the essential and ornamental measures of address, and earnestly desire that they could actually communicate, they may place themselves upon their knees; and building an altar in their heart, celebrate the death of Christ, and, in holy desire, join with all the congregations of the Christian world, who that day celebrate holy communion; and may serve their devotion by the former prayers and actions eucharisticial, changing only such circumstantial words which relate to the actual participation: and then they may remember and make use of the comfortable doctrine of St. Austin; “It is one thing (saith the learned saint) to be born of the Spirit, and another thing to be fed of the Spirit: as it is one thing to be born of the flesh, which is when we are born of our mother; another thing to be fed of the flesh, which is done when she suckles her infant by that nourishment, which is changed into food that he might eat and drink with pleasure, by which be was born to life; when this is done without eh actual and sacramental participation, it is called spiritual manducation.” Concerning which, I only add the pious advice of a religious person: “Let every faithful soul be ready and desirous often to receive the holy eucharist to the glory of God: but if he cannot so often communicate sacramentally as he desires, let him not be afflicted, but remain in perfect resignation to the will of God, and dispose himself to a spiritual communion: for no man and no thing can hinder a well-disposed soul, but that by holy desires she may, if she please, communicate every day.”
To this nothing is necessary to be added, but that this way is to be used never but upon just necessity, and when it cannot be actual, not upon peevishness and spiritual pride; not in the spirit of schism and fond opinions; not in despite of our brother, and contempt or condemnation of the holy congregations of the Lord; but with a living faith, and an actual charity, and great humility, and with
the spirit of devotion; and that so much the more intensely and fervently by how much he is really troubled for the want of actual participation in the communion of saints; and then that is true which St. Austin said, “Crede, et manducasti;—Believe, and thou has eaten.”—Adora Jesum.
Source: Taylor, Jeremy.
The Whole Works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor, Lord Bishop of Down, Connor, and Dromore
. Volume 15. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, et. al., 1839. <
> Accessed March 29, 2020.
All quotations from
The Worthy Communicant
in this article can be found in Jeremy Taylor,
The Whole Works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor, Lord Bishop of Down, Connor, and Dromore.
, vol. 15 (London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, et. al., 1839), 688–90, https://archive.org/details/wholeworksofrigh15tayliala/page/688/mode/2up.
Michael W. Holmes, ed., “The Didache,” in
The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations
, trans. Michael W. Holmes, Third Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 9:4.
The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, Together with The Psalter or Psalms of David, According to the Use of the Episcopal Church
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 13.
E.S. De Beer, ed.,
The Diary of John Evelyn
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959), 383.
The Book of Common Prayer