It’s a new year, so let’s revisit what we’re doing here on Fridays: Praying shapes believing. In Latin, lex orandi lex credendi, the way we pray determines the way we believe. And, as pledged in the covenant of Baptism, the way we believe has the potential to determine the way we act, with God’s help.
Like our Catholic cousins, we Episcopalians are liturgical people. We worship Christ with ceremony and ritual. On any given day and time, the communion of our sisters and brothers in Christ from all over the world share our devotions to God, from the Book of Common Prayer.
We have recently completed a season of expectant waiting, Advent, culminating in the birth of Christ. Christ is the One for whom we have waited, our savior from worldly clamors! Yet as we move toward the liturgical season of Epiphany, we discover that we still have more waiting to do!
Our secular calendar announces that it’s January. A long month, usually cold and grey. The name January derives from Janus, of Roman mythology, the god of beginnings, gates, transitions. Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict; war and peace.
The liturgical calendar for January gives us three feast days, including that of The Holy Name. Like Jesus, we all come into being with a name and also potential, hope and maybe a few visitors to our mother’s bedside. So the reading from Philippians 2:5 appointed for this feast day gives us something to ponder throughout a long month: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.
If Jesus’s name is holy, and we come into being the same way—sent by God in the fullness of time—are not our names holy, too? What makes His name holy? Ours? Actions shaped by belief. Belief shaped by prayer. Prayer shaped by desire for relationship.
Eugene Peterson’s contemporary take on Paul and Timothy’s advice for the people of Philippi then and, why not us, today can be found in The Message:
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
It’s a time for new beginnings liturgically and chronologically. Maybe it’s a good thing after all that January has 31 days. May peace be with us as we pray, believe, act and wait.
Narrative and photography by Stephanie Shareck Werner, Copyright 2021. Photo taken in fall 2016 atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine, the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place to view the sunrise in the U.S. from October 7 through March 6.
-The Message, Eugene H. Peterson; Philippians 2:1-4, p. 983. Copyright 2002.