Category Archives: Featured Posts

Homily: “On Jesus Coming into Galilee”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the  Third Sunday after The Epiphany, 2018.

We continue today with what is now the third Sunday gathering after The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Keeping this naming convention in our mind, it should be noted, is far more than a convention of utility: rather, it reminds us that this is the season for reflecting on all that has happened since the beginning of Advent. The Light of lights, who was prayed and hoped for, not only by Christians today, but by the people of God for centuries and even millennia before the Incarnation—this Light has entered the world in a way that is perceivable and recognizable. The Light of heaven came to us as a child born of a virgin, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Continue reading

Homily: “On Having No Guile”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Second Sunday after The Epiphany, 2018.

While we have something of a dramatic shift of liturgical color from white to green, the prayer of the Church as guided by the appointed Scripture passages continues in the same general flow that began even back in Advent. That is, the epiphany of Jesus Christ, the Son of God: the showing forth of Jesus to the world, showing forth who He is, showing forth how we are to understand Him as God, and even more so, a showing forth of how our restless hearts can only find true rest in God, our restless eyes can only find rest in the true Light that enlightens every man and woman and child—a showing forth that invites us to boldly confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and embrace the Holy Spirit of God which dwells in our body, our body being a temple of the Holy Spirit within us. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them as light shined. To us a child has been born, to use a son is given—and He is Mighty God, he is Prince of Peace.

All through this long stretch of celebrating the mystery of how God has shown forth Himself to the world, we have seen that the revelation is not have an intellectual system, not a collection of doctrines, and not a treatise of moral values. The Christian revelation is rather an encounter. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the  First Sunday after Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2018.

John the baptizer heard the Father Almighty. He heard our Father in heaven proclaim Jesus of Nazareth His beloved Son and John witnessed the Spirit of God Almighty descend upon Him like a dove. The imagery of this moment is rich. For John this was a quiet earthquake; a spiritual explosion; a silent but fiery illumination. All four of our evangelists record this the baptism in the River Jordan of Our loving Lord Jesus: Matthew, Mark, and John describe it directly, and John directly alludes to it, and presumes his readers know about it. This is not a Christian baptism, of course: for why would Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Himself fully God and fully Man, this Christ-Child through Whom all things were made, need Christian baptism, to be incorporated into Himself? Of course not. He chose to participate in this ritual of Jewish baptism to fulfill all righteousness: words of Our Lord recorded not by Mark but by Matthew. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2017.

“For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him.” The words of the wise men, transformed and expanded into the hymn, “We three kings of Orient are,” words proclaimed around our world this evening and tomorrow, and therefore savored by Christian communities the world over—these words are our words as well. For as the wise men were guided by the star which came to rest where the Child was, so have we been guided by the Light of lights that shines in our hearts, a Light that comes to rest as the Incarnate Word that overshadows our souls, enlightens our spirit, and Who by faith we conceive in our hearts and bear in our minds. It is Christ who brings us together, because through Him have we been made and remade, to celebrate the sacred mysteries of the Epiphany—that is, manifestation or showing forth—of Our Lord Jesus Christ, showing forth to all nations of the world. There are four dimensions of our celebration this evening of this mystery—four dimensions and then a fifth, which is its invitation to us. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Holiness of Eternal Light”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the First Sunday after Christmas, 2017.

In our Collect, we have acknowledged to God and affirmed it to be true that our loving Lord, the God of all creation, the maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen, has poured upon us the new light of His incarnate Word. And this incarnate Word is Jesus Christ, the newborn King. Upon the announcement of His birth by the archangel Gabriel, the Angels sang triumphantly. Upon the announcement of His birth, the Light of Heaven came into our world of darkness and confusion. Upon the announcement of His birth, all of the world is at peace: the conditions of our time and space are transcended, forever giving us a window to heaven in the embrace of Blessed Mary, Blessed Joseph her most chaste spouse, and the Christ child.

For in the embrace of this Holy Family we see love itself dynamic, love itself embodied, love itself pure and holy. It is in this holiness of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ that we share each Christmastide—the holiness of this eternal Light—as so how fitting our Collect is, that we ask God to grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives. For we are taught by our loving Lord Jesus not to hide our light under a bushel, but to put the light on a stand, that it gives light to all in the house. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2017.

It is with joy and thankfulness in my heart that I wish you all a merry Christmas on this most solemn feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And a merry white Christmas, assuming the roads do not get too slippery. This holy night is shining with the brightness of the true Light, and what wonder it is to consider how indeed this Light is for the whole world—how one by one through the time zones of our world, thousands of churches and religious communities gather to sing, to pray, and to celebrate the wonderful and inexpressible mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary conceiving the Son of God Almighty, bearing in her pure womb the Lord of Heaven, and giving birth to the world’s Redeemer amid the choir of holy Angels filling the air with the hymn of glory. Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to consecrate the world by His most loving presence, was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah, and was made man. Continue reading

Homily: “On Mary’s Joy”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year B), 2017.

In the traditional Anglican liturgy for churches that keep the Catholic tradition of liturgical expression, today’s service for the Fourth Sunday in Advent would begin, as all Sundays, with what is known as an “Introit.” That is the Latin word for “Entrance.” Rather than having an opening hymn, or often after the opening hymn while the altar was being incensed, there would be a Cantor who says—usually chants—the Introit. It consists of an antiphon verse, then a psalm verse, and finally the Glory Be, with the antiphon being repeated again. In my own efforts to expose our Parish to a wide offering of liturgical expression, this is what I follow whenever there is a Mass in All Souls’ Chapel, such as there was this morning for the Lady Mass and as there will be on  Christmas Day on Monday morning, 10 am.

I mention all this by way of background so that I can read before you now the beginning of the traditional Introit for this Mass, and then offer a reflection. Here it is: “Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and bring forth a Savior.” Although initially obscure seeming, there is real poetry even in this one sentence, which is the antiphon, through its three images. Continue reading

Homily: “On Witnessing the Light”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Third Sunday of Advent (Year B), 2017.

Stir up your power, O Lord—our Collect begins—and with great might come among us. As a bread maker, I find a particular poignancy to those words “Stir up.” When I am preparing to make bread—and this is something that takes about 24 hours as I make bread the old fashioned way—the first thing I do is take yeast culture that lives in our refrigerator, which is called “the mother,” and with a wooden spoon, stir it up. This brings oxygen into the mother, waking it up a little bit. Immediately there is an aroma of yeasty goodness, which is the primary sign that mother is healthy. Now, God is always active, is always awake, so the analogy falls apart pretty quickly. Yet Jesus is the Bread of Life, with a divine power to come among a mother with bountiful grace to transform water, flour, and salt into delicious sourdough loaves—and many more wondrous miracles—so this analogy is not wholly off the mark. This, at least, is the witness of your local sourdough baker.

In the wonders of His love, and in creating new heavens and new earth through the Incarnation of His Son, that there may be rejoicing in Jerusalem, which restores the fortunes of Zion, there was a man sent from God, whose name was John. Continue reading

Announcing our first Fellow-in-Residence

As the founder of Akenside Press, now in its fifth year of mission to aid in the rediscovery of the true Anglican patrimony of the English School of Catholic spirituality, I am most pleased to announce the flowering of an initiative that promises to make creative strides and bear fruit. That initiative is our Fellows-in-Residence program.

Blazing a trail into unchartered yet exciting waters will be our first Fellow-in-Residence, Nathaniel Marshall, Obl.S.B. Being an Oblate in the Saint Benet Biscop Chapter of Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Nathaniel is profoundly committed to Benedictine spirituality, which is at the ascetical heart of the English School and thus any conception of Anglican patrimony. In additional to Benedictine spirituality, Nathaniel’s specific areas of research will include the writings of Father Andrew, S.D.C. (Henry Ernest Hardy, Anglican priest), Plainchant and the daily Offices, and the Domestic Church.

To learn more about Nathaniel and his journey, see here.

To learn more about the twofold ministry of our Fellows-in-Residence program, see here.

Welcome, Nathaniel! Pray for his ministry as a Fellow-in-Residence, and for the overall ministry of Akenside Press to strengthen Anglican patrimony through the renewal of Catholic reality in Anglican parish life.

— Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B.

Homily: “On Beholding Our God”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the First Sunday of Advent (Year B), 2017.

We have asked Our Lord Jesus Christ in our Collect today to give us grace to heed the warnings of the prophets and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus our Redeemer. That is, the grace to take seriously the words of Isaiah who sings in the highest register, “Behold your God!”; the grace to forsake sin—the separation—between ourselves and God through our daily prayer, a habit that absolves us of the common, low-intensity sins we commit, because daily prayers prepares Him room so that heaven and earth can sing in our hearts; and the grace to greet with joy the God of all creation as He comes into our bodies as the consecrated bread of life and spiritual drink, and still more into our hearts, words, and deeds, for He is speaking peace to His faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to Him.

“Joy to the World” exquisitely captures all the Advent themes of expectation, hope, joy, and acceptance of the coming of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Continue reading

Homily: “On Advent Joy”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the First Sunday of Advent (Year B), 2017.

The season of Advent began to take shape near the end of the fourth century. Its purpose then remains its purpose for us today: to prepare our hearts to receive the boundless significance of the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Nativity of the Word of God as a child—to prepare our hearts to receive Our King with joy. As the prophet Isaiah teaches us: God meets him, that joyfully works righteousness. So Advent, not so much a transition but extension of the celebration of Christ the King, is a time of joy. Our Savior reigns, not only our hearts, but He reigns over all of nature, over all creatures.

This is why the Church wants us to hear the teaching of our loving Lord Jesus as captured in the thirteenth chapter of Saint Mark’s Gospel. Our Master is coming again into our hearts, but we do not know the hour, the day, the moment when He will come. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Final Judgment”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Feast of Christ the King (Proper 29, Year A), 2017.

We celebrate today the Feast of Christ the King, of Him who has put all things in subjection under His feet. Our King of kings and Lord of lords desires to bring His most gracious rule to the hearts of all people. In order for that to happen, the eternal Son of God took the human flesh of His mother, Blessed Mary, and over the course of His earthly life taught people what it means to pray. And in teaching people how to pray, He taught them how to act. And in teaching people how to act, He taught them how to love. And in teaching people how to love, He created the conditions in which His gracious rule comes to the hearts of all people, for the King of Creation always comes to us in love.

He came to us in love so that in love we would go out to others, bringing His love with us in our hearts, that it would touch the hearts of all people we meet. And then, when separation from Him inevitably creeps in, He taught us to return to Him to be replenished through the Scriptures and especially through the Blessed Sacrament of His Body and Blood—so that filled with Him we can again fill others with His love, and in Christ be made alive.

To call Jesus “King” is to recognize and affirm that He is the leader of a new kind of humanity. Continue reading

Martin Thornton, by Deborah Yetter

Thornton and Catholicity

Conceiving the term “Catholic” from a Thorntonian perspective means that catholicity emerges when a particular parish is seen as the whole/holy Church in microcosm. Thornton’s theology is anchored in parish life, and hence his sense of what Catholic means is fundamentally parochial, as well. Distilling from Benedictine/monastic order a highly original “parochial theology” (a term he coined), Martin Thornton must be seen as a Benedictine teacher of the Faith. He shows that Benedictine spirituality (both liturgically and ascetically) is at the heart of genuine Anglican patrimony, its historical “ethos.”

THORNTON’S PAROCHIAL THEOLOGY

Here is an excerpt that epitomizes Thornton’s teaching on parochial theology:

The consecrated elements are Christ to the communicant; wholly and completely Christ, divide them into ten thousand fragments and each is the Body and Blood of Christ. So the parish is the Catholic Church in microcosm. This Church, moreover, is threefold. The holy concourse in paradise and in heaven does not split itself up into insular parties of patrons-per-parish. If the whole Body is complete at every altar, the whole communion of saints are in attendance at every altar. As Lady Julian saw all creation in a hazel-nut, so her hazel-nut comes to universal size. When parochialism is organic and when ye are the Body of Christ, it is the antithesis of narrow but it is, in place, the Catholic Church. There is but one Bread, so each altar is microcosmic of the Throne of the Lamb in heaven. There is one Church and one Body, so that the work of each server, each organist, each verger, each good lady who arranged the flowers is of Catholic significance because it is truly parochial. This is why the Church’s Office, said by two souls in the village church on Monday night, is an infinitely tremendous thing; the “special” service with its teeming congregation is trivial by comparison. (Pastoral Theology, chap. 4)

In a Catholic parish (whether Roman, Orthodox, Anglican, etc.), the ascetical life and celebration—centered around the Altar, prepared daily through Divine Office and extended through personal Devotional ministry within the local community and environment according to the Bible; this is the threefold Regula—can make for wholeness and complete participation by the Angels, Archangels, all the company of heaven, and can do so in a way recognizable to the wider Church as it lives elsewhere in parish and monastic communities around the globe: recognizable even in contextual diversity. The particular, local parish is the Church, for Jesus is one, as He and the Father are one, and we are His by the sacraments.

That the local/particular is analoguous to the whole/cosmic is what I suggest is the most constructive, even useful definition of “Catholic,” for the etymology of the term, of course, means “according to the whole.” And let it be emphasized that “whole” means the threefold Church: in visible creation (Militant), in the intermediate state of Paradise (Expectant/Purgatory), and in the full company of Saints and all Angels in heaven (Triumphant).

For Thornton, a parish or monastic community is Catholic within the Church Militant when its ascetical life and culture is analogous with— corresponds to—the threefold whole/holy Church. To this theological sensibility Thornton invites the Church, through its particular local parish churches around the globe, to practice and live out in their particular gifts and vocation: their reasons for being.

THE QUICUNQUE VULT

Martin Thornton’s definition of “Catholic”—where the particular/local is seen as analogous to the universal/whole—is consonant with the claim for catholicity made in the Quicunque Vult (Athanasian Creed). In the Creed is said: “And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.”

According to the Athanasian Creed, the basis of catholicity is assent-through-worship to the doctrine of Holy Trinity. Thornton’s definition of Catholic encompasses what the Creed demands because by embracing the universal (i.e. Catholic) template of Christian life revealed on the Day of Pentecost as the threefold Regula (Acts 2:42), we affirm—we worship—a Triune God.

The interesting thing to know about Thornton is the fundamental attention he gave to the doctrine of the Trinity. He called it “the most practical idea the Church has come up with.” By that he meant that the consequence of the doctrine is that it forms the basis for life and practice, for ascetic (or “praxis”).

The correlation of ascetic/praxis with doctrine is fundamental for Thornton. That correlation is what for him defines being “orthodox.” Being orthodox is not merely giving intellectual assent to dogmatic statements—”checking” the correct belief boxes. Rather, being orthodox for Thornton is seen in the matching/correlating of corporate and personal practice with doctrine authoritatively taught by the Church. Our prayer life, or “spirituality,” must apply, live into, and in a word enact, doctrinal truth, else we cannot claim orthodoxy, no matter what we claim to believe intellectually, no matter what boxes we check. Belief is not orthodox unless it is lived out.

This is clearly taught in Thornton’s theology of Regula. The threefold Regula—Office-Mass-Devotion—is the “ascetical application of trinitarian dogmatic.” (Pastoral Theology.) That is, the threefold Regula is the means by which the People of God respond in a totalistic way to the nature of God. Want to find out who God is? Then you must live out the threefold Regula (see Acts 2.42) which presumes Baptism and deepens repentence. (Note that explicit embrace of Regula is made every Easter Vigil, baptism, confirmation and reception by the 1979 Prayer Book.)

KNOWLEDGE ABOUT GOD

How does the Regula teach who God is? For Thornton, the Divine Office gives emphasis to, in that sense “teaches” about, the Father because set-prayer teaches about God’s transcendent otherness (following the Our Father model). Likewise, the Mass and the Eucharist give emphasis to, or “teach about,” the Son, because of the manifold ways He is mediated in the Mass. And Devotional ministry, both corporate and personal (anchored in the Bible), gives emphasis to and teaches about the Holy Spirit because we listen for God immanent in creation and creatures around us.

These emphases are never to the exclusion of the other Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity, One God. We are never “taught” about One Person without the other Two likewise experienced and revealed. Because Office-Mass-Devotion flows together in experienced life, the threefold Regula always orders one prayer life.

So to anticipate a common objection: This is not crypto-modalism in this theology of giving emphasis to One Person, because we are talking about emphases of forms of prayer by humans in the conditions of time and space (ascetic), not the doctrine of the Trinity itself, or God Himself. That doctrine says God is Three in One. Regula engages the ascetical time and space appropriation of the “stupendously rich reality” of that three-in-oneness, to quote von Hügel. This stupendously rich reality is precisely what the doctrine of the Holy Trinity seeks to safeguard, protect, and disclose.

The key point is that the “how” of that disclosure is threefold Regula. Whereas the Quicunque Vult establishes the centrality of the doctrine of Holy Trinity to Catholic Faith, by ongoing embrace of Regula we make that doctrine actually central, because our total prayer life is through Regula ordered by the doctrine. It is a two way street: the doctrine orders the threefold practice, and the threefold practice discloses what the doctrine teaches, which is the triune nature of God.

ANGLICANISM AND CATHOLICITY

This is why Thornton wrote in chap. 2 of The Purple Headed Mountain that a Catholic Communion’s use of Regula should be a test of orthodoxy and catholicity. The actual use/embrace of Regula should be a test of equal significance with its use of the Bible, its sacraments, its reference to the Creeds, its Ministry, he suggested. Embrace of Regula is really a test for embrace of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

Anglicanism, when it follows the Prayer Book as Regula—total pattern of prayer that applies and enacts the doctrine of the Trinity—obviously does very well in this test; likewise, we do poorly when we deny or deemphasize that the BCP is Regula. When we deny that—whether explicitly with words or implicitly by our (in)actions—in Thornton’s eyes we are doing nothing less than denying the truth of trinitarian doctrine. One may say one believes in a triune God, which is necessary; but without Regula, that belief is only partially appropriated. I think “Anglican disarray” has quite a bit to do with our confusion about the Prayer Book.

In sum, Anglicans are Catholic ascetically when they accept and live out the Book of Common Prayer as Regula, because as Regula, the BCP enacts the (practical) doctrine of the Trinity, which according to the Athanasian Creed, is the true basis for catholicity. By Regula—by the Book of Common Prayer—we “worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.”

SCHISM AS POLITICAL

Let me also say something about our condition today in the Church, that being what is called “schism.” That there is separation between major Catholic traditions in the Church cannot be denied, but what kind of separation do we actually have?

The Body of Christ is one and whole; it cannot be separated, ontologically. So the “schism” we experience today is not ontological schism, but rather an existential schism: a schism rooted historical conditions of our existence. Real, to be sure, yet another word for all of that is “political,” which is the true nature of our schism and explains why it endures. Ontological schism, on the other hand, is impossible because Christ cannot be anything but One, and humans are utterly incapable of altering that.

The People of God are likewise incapable of being ontologically separated from Him: we are one in Christ by Baptism. And because the threefold Regula repeats and enacts baptismal reality—not only Eucharist, but also Divine Office and Devotional ministry, are the repeatable parts of Baptism—the way beyond political separation or schism can only be found through a more profound embrace of Regula doctrine, amid its diverse expressions throughout the Church, as our true means of existential unity—of true Catholic identity.

Homily: “On the Parable of the Talents”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28, Year A), 2017.

Last Sunday we heard the Parable of the Ten Maidens, and today we hear about the Parable of the Talents. Our eyes are being directed toward the coming of the Lord, the Christian term for which is a Greek word, Parousia. This is the end and fulfillment of the whole history of salvation. What Saint Matthew in his Gospel intends with these parables is not that we should evade the present, but rather, to help us to live fully in the light of the completion of the history of salvation. We do not know when the end will come, but that it will is essential to ancient, Catholic faith, as we confess in our Creed: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”

Indeed, the Lord will come. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Ten Maidens”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 26, Year A), 2017.

Five maidens were wise, and five were foolish. The five who were wise took flasks of oil with them as they waited for the bridegroom to open the door. The five who were foolish brought no oil with them. They were too busy finding other matters important than to tend to this preparation. Asking the wise maidens to give them some oil, they were refused. Scrambling then to find more oil, by the time they returned, the door was closed to them. And despite their pleas to enter, the bridegroom does not reconsider, but instead says, “Truly, I do not know you.” They are unrecognizable to him, for if they have not taken seriously the preparations for this most significant day, their presence will not add to the festivity but detract from it.

Brothers and sisters, Saint Matthew earlier in his Gospel has already given us three clues in His Sermon on the Mount to understanding our Lord’s meaning in this parable. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Gift of Baptism”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 26, Year A), 2017.

This morning at our sister church in Pekin, a beautiful little girl received the Sacrament of Baptism and was made a member of the Body of Jesus Christ. It was glorious, and it was personally gratifying because it was my first as a Priest, and second as an ordained cleric, preceded by the baptism of Anna Augspurger when I as a Deacon assisted Father Richmond. One priest colleague told me this past week that baptisms will be the happiest days of my ministry. Whether that will prove true to me, I do not yet know, but I certainly can see where he is coming from. The baptism of Anna and now the baptism of Makenzleigh have been truly glorious.

I want to share with you the words that concluded my homily this morning at Saint Paul’s. “Let us celebrate how beautiful this moment is. The beauty of this adorable little girl; the beauty of our intentions to bring her into the Christian family; the beauty of the words of prayer that surround his moment; the beauty of the sign of the cross; the beautiful simplicity of water blessed and holy, of oil fragrant and holy, and of light radiant and holy—and the beauty of this our gathering, united with the single purpose of praising, witnessing, and sharing in the love God Almighty has for each one of us—a love so mighty, so awesome, so generous—that He comes to even the smallest of dear children, calling them by their name, welcoming them into His arms, protecting them in every moment of their life. Sending out continuously light and truth to us, that by them we may be led.” Continue reading

Homily: “On Baptism”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 26, Year A), 2017.

It is my great pleasure to welcome our guests who are joining us this morning on this holy day, for this the very holy event of Makenzleigh Ann Copelen receiving the Sacrament of Baptism and being made a living member of Jesus Christ, Himself living eternally. This ritual of baptism has been performed since the very first day of the Christian Church nearly two thousand years ago. It is a Sacrament that remains central to the Christian experience, at its very core. Yet in recent decades in this country, we have seen fewer numbers of Baptisms across all Christian denominations. Whereas Baptism for many of us growing up was more or less automatic, these days it is the result more of a conscious choice. Baptism is something that my wife and I did not automatically choose for our children when we started having them twelve years ago, because at that time we long had stopped attending any church. To baptize our children did not feel right, did not feel authentic. Young adults will increasingly be faced with this kind of situation and this kind of choice. And so my first remark this morning is to applaud Nicole and Chase, Michael and Mona, for having the courage and trust to baptize young Makenzleigh.

I mentioned that Baptism as a ritual has been performed since the first day of the Christian Church two thousand years ago. It is the only Sacrament that was explicitly spoken of in the first sermon on that first day, when Saint Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost with words so powerful that three thousand souls were baptized on that day. When Jesus Christ is heard, when His truth is recognized, when His Spirit is felt, our souls are filled with light, a light that has overcome the darkness and will overcome the darkness in our lives. Saint Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It is Jesus who brings forgiveness because it is Jesus who brings healing, and helps us to begin and continue the process of healing, of becoming whole, of becoming who we are intended by God to be, when we call upon His Name. It is Christ and His love for us that helps us to have Hope that our failings, our errors and mistakes, and yes even our darkness can become opportunities for love, occasions for grace. Jesus Christ was nailed to the Cross so that the darkness in each and every one of us could be transformed into light, a light that then shines in who we are, a light that becomes for others a guide to peace, a release from captivity, and warmth amid the cold.

Brothers and sisters, we are about to witness the most important moment in the life of any Christian—when he or she becomes a Christian. From that moment of Baptism, the Light of Christ will be in Makenzleigh’s heart for ever. Baptism is a spiritual tattoo that can never be removed. Let us celebrate how beautiful this moment is. The beauty of this adorable little girl; the beauty of our intentions to bring her into the Christian family; the beauty of the words of prayer that surround his moment; the beauty of the sign of the cross; the beautiful simplicity of water blessed and holy, of oil fragrant and holy, and of light radiant and holy—and the beauty of this our gathering, united with the single purpose of praising, witnessing, and sharing in the love God Almighty has for each one of us—a love so mighty, so awesome, so generous—that He comes to even the smallest of dear children, calling them by their name, welcoming them into His arms, protecting them in every moment of their life. Sending out continuously light and truth to us, that by the light and truth of Jesus Christ, we may be led. Amen.

Homily: “On the Saints and Mission”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Feast of All Saints, 2017.

As the Adult Study Classes began early last month our close examination of the Gospel according to Saint Mark, I invited the classes to an exercise in which we name significant things we would lose of the Christian life if the only Gospel account of Jesus Christ that came down to us was from Mark; in other words, if Matthew, Luke and John, and for that matter the rest of the New Testament books, did not exist, only the account recorded by Mark. I was not the least bit surprised to see that each class caught on quickly to what we would lose in that scenario. The first response in each case was—we would lose Christmas, because Mark begins his gospel not with the infancy of Jesus but with his mature ministry. Quickly were named many of the rest: knowledge of Blessed Mary, important parables such as the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. If we only had Mark’s Gospel, we also would not have the Sermon on the Mount, and so we would not have the Beatitudes that we hear in our Gospel lesson on this Feast of All Saints.

The Saints and the Beatitudes go hand in hand. And if we did not have the Beatitudes, then the Church would have a far less clear and defined understanding of the qualities Jesus expects His saints to have. To be poor in spirit, to mourn, to be meek, to hunger and thirst after righteousness, to be merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker, and persecuted for righteousness’ sake—these are all qualities of being a disciple at it highest level. They have to do with being humble, sympathetic, sensitive, finding joy in humility, craving progress toward union with God, compassionate, constant in religion, prudent in search of harmony with others, and possessing the fortitude to endure suffering in a creative way. The Saints of the Church have in myriad ways attained these characteristics by the grace of God. And in the myriad ways they have done so, and through their unique personalities and gifts, they teach us how to be better disciples, because they are model Christians. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Wedding Garments”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 23, Year A), 2017.

Our Collect this week dates from at least the 8th century, and it is the shortest, most concise of all the Sunday Collects used throughout the year. But despite its brevity, it contains in concentrated, devotional idiom what has been called the first principle of sound theology. And because of its brevity, it can be easily memorized and used throughout one’s life, almost as a mantra or personal refrain.

That first principle of sound theology is found in the first half, in these words: “Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us.” What that says is, God acts first, and anything we do is a response to grace manifest and present, rather than being of our own design and origin.  Earlier in the church year, we acknowledged to God that in our weakness we can do nothing good without Him. It is grace before, during, and after each and every godly encounter in which we participate in our lives, from the most mundane to the most grand. It is for that reason that we must evermore be praising Him, and saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts (of power and might). We can do nothing good without God, without grace. What a humbling fact! Continue reading

Homily: “On the Angels”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, 2017.

The Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels has historically in English tradition been an occasion for great celebration and revelry. Coming as it does in the heart of the harvest season, food always played a significant role in the popular piety surrounding this feast. This explains in part why the nickname for this feast in English tradition is “Michaelmas.” There is a play on words in there, because while “Michael” in this pronunciation refers of course to the Archangel Michael, or more traditionally, “Mick-aye-el,” it also refers to a now archaic word in the English language, “mickle,” which means “much” or “large amount.” There is no more efficient way to a person’s heart than through the stomach, and so the culinary plenitude associated with this feast, along with the linguistic playfulness of “mickle”-mas are two reasons why it has been disproportionately celebrated in English Christianity, particularly in the Medieval centuries. Is it any wonder, then, why God has guided us to our post-Mass celebration we today christen as the first annual “Tazewell Parish Pie-Luck”? Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals . . .” and pies both savory and sweet, I am sure the compilers of our Prayer Book thought to include.

We celebrate today the Holy Angels, who always serve and worship God in heaven, and help and defend us mortals here on earth. Continue reading

Homily: “On Being Called to the Vineyard”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 20, Year A), 2017.

It is typical to preach on the appointed Gospel Lesson of the day, and if possible to touch base as well with the other appointed lessons; and as you know, I typically like to frame my preaching in the context of the prayer of the Collect of the Day. Today, however, I will devote nearly all of my sermon to our Old Testament lesson and more broadly to what the Book of Jonah can teach us. I said the word “nearly” because I did want to make a couple of points about our Gospel lesson because it pertains to our Mission to Tazewell County. Notice that it is God who recruits workers into the vineyard, not the other workers. They go about their work as God would have them do in the vineyard, and while they are doing so, it is God who is finding more workers. This should be a great relief to us. It is God who gives the increase, who sends more labors into the harvest, who recruits workers for the vineyard—not us, at least directly. When God decides that He needs more laborers, more workers, our all-powerful Lord Jesus will call people to that work, to join us. This should relieve all Christians of anxiety they might feel as they look around and see fewer people in the pews.

Now, to the main part of my homily. Continue reading

Guest homily: “On Rebuilding the House of God”

Offered to the Saint Benet Biscop Chapter of Oblates, Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville MN, by the Rt Rev. Michael G. Smith, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota, September 16, 2017

“Cyrus the king issued a decree: Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be rebuilt, … Also let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God … be restored and brought back to the temple which is in Jerusalem (Ezra 6:3,5).”

Way to go, King Cyrus! What a great idea he had to rebuild the house of God. Or rather, what an incredible plan God had to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and what a great idea it was to use King Cyrus in its implementation. If only we could be so blessed as to be chosen to be used in God’s plan to rebuild the house of God.

The Venerable Bede, commenting on this sixth chapter of Ezra, wrote: “All the writers of sacred Scripture, promise good things for the builders of the holy church if they do not tire from adversities and cease from their holy labor. For divine help will be present, by which the Lord’s house that has been begun may be brought to completion in the heart of their listeners by their believing and living well.” It sounds like Bede had internalized wisdom from the Rule of Benedict.

A little over a week ago, in my Facebook feed, there appeared a post which stated: “Bishop Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter recommends reading this fine lecture by Prof. Tracey Rowland on ecumenism today and its future.” And so I read the lecture, and, Bishop Lopes, you were right, it was worth the read.

Professor Rowland is an Australian and she writes about what she calls “receptive ecumenism” and “re-weaving the tapestry ecumenism” and how she sees both types in the Ordinariate. What caught my attention, however, was when she notes that many Christians find themselves divided across rather than along, confessional lines because of very different answers to fundamental theological questions within a particular community.

For example, “a Catholic who believes that scripture is normative for one’s faith and practice is closer to a Sydney Anglican in matters of belief and practice than he is to a fellow Catholic who says that what is written in the Gospels needs to be re-contextualized with reference to contemporary social theory.” If you know anything about Sydney Anglicans, that is a remarkable statement, and a sign that the house of God is truly being rebuilt.

But I’m sure the very same could be said about those of us here present, whether we identify as Roman Catholic or Anglican. There is probably less theological difference between us than between us and fellow members of our respective communions. Part of our mission as members of the St. Benet Biscop chapter of St. John’s Abbey Oblates is to foster ecumenical dialogue and prayer between Anglicans and Roman Catholics. Is it possible that the Lord might just use us in some way to rebuild the house of God?

Whether, from a Roman Catholic perspective, we value the temple’s “gold vessels” of the Anglican patrimony, or from our Anglican view of cherishing the restored “silver vessels” of the English school of catholic spirituality, we share much in common. And now we share our holy father, Benedict.

Jesus reminds us again this evening that the one who hears his word and believes in the One who sent him, has eternal life. We, my sisters and brothers, are on a journey from death to life (John 5:24). As St. Benedict writes in the Prologue of his Rule: “As we progress in the way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.” May it be so for us, and may the Lord use us to rebuild the house of God. Amen.


[In the photo, L to R front row: Bishop Steven Lopes; Fr. Jack Augustine Barker, Obl.S.B.; Bishop Michael Aidan Smith, Obl.S.B.; Fr. Matthew Cuthbert Dallman, Obl.S.B. Back row, L to R: Fr. Bill Thorfinn Brenna, Obl.S.B.; Br. John-Bede Pauley, O.S.B.; Mr. Stephen Aethelwold Hilgendorf, Obl.S.B. For more information, go here.]

Homily: “On Forgiveness”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 19, Year A), 2017.

We have in our Lessons today a coordinated presentation of the scriptural basis for the Church’s doctrine of Forgiveness. There are other biblical passages that could also be looked at if one were to want to fashion a comprehensive and detailed list of all verses that relate to forgiveness. But certainly for purposes of our understanding of the Faith and our prayer life, these passages more than suffice.

Almost. All I would want to remind us is just how central forgiveness is to the Incarnation of Christ, indeed the whole mission of Jesus of Nazareth. It is central because He said it is, when after supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. To see the relationship between the Church’s doctrine of forgiveness and the Eucharist is not intuitive, but must be seen as a strong, even profound relationship, because of the actions and words of Jesus on the night before He died and the authority that moment receives in the liturgy of the Church. Continue reading

Homily: “On Serving God in Others”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18, Year A), 2017.

Let us hear words from the Book of Proverbs: “Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble He shows favor.” Those words from the end of chapter 3 form the basis for our Collect this week. It is an ancient Collect, dating at least from the 7th century. Through the workings of translations over the centuries, that proverb shows up in our Collect as, “As you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy.”

This also shows up in the Epistle of James as a succinct and useful summary: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” The proud have closed themselves off from God—God does not love them any less, but the proud have opposed themselves to God in their self-centeredness. We cannot be self-centered if we hope to enjoy God’s grace, and be led by grace in our lives. This is why we ask in our Collect for God to give us the ability to trust in Him with all our hearts—trusting in Him in a way that leaves nothing out; trusting in Him in a way whereby we give ourselves, our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Toward the scorners He is scornful, but to the humble He shows favor. Continue reading

Homily: “On Loving the Name of Jesus”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17, Year A), 2017.

We have asked this day in our Collect for God, the author and giver of all good things, to graft in our hearts the love of His Name, to increase in us true religion, to nourish us with His goodness, and to bring forth the fruit of good works. If one had to find a single prayer that summarizes the Christian faith and our total life in it, this Collect would be it. It is also a very old prayer. It goes back at least to the eighth century, making it at least one thousand, three hundred years old. But that is only when the prayer was written down, so it is probably much older than that. It lived in England as one of the Collects of the Day (although earlier in the liturgical calendar than our use) before the English Reformation, and it lived on in the first Book of Common Prayer, and in Prayer Books ever since, including those of the American church. I point this out so as to invite you to reflect on the fact that in our praying of it this morning, we are doing something very ancient, indeed, with words well seasoned with the sweat and devotion of untold numbers of souls. Continue reading

Homily: “On Saint Peter and the Rock”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16, Year A), 2017.

We hear in both our reading from the prophet Isaiah and from the Gospel according to Matthew the word, “rock.” So from Isaiah: “Hearken to me, you who pursue deliverance, you who seek the Lord; look to the rock from which you were hewn.”. And from Saint Matthew, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” Let us see again that when God calls someone by name, something important is happening, as for example, when Jesus called Mary Magdalene by name at the empty tomb, when but the word He spoke was “Mary,” she was healed. But that said (and this could be a sermon unto itself), with regard to the passages from Isaiah and Matthew, in order to properly understand these passages, we must ask whether there is a unique, biblical understanding of “rock” that is distinct from its regular, secular meaning. And in fact, the answer to that is, yes, there is. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Canaanite Woman”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15, Year A), 2017.

We have asked God in our Collect to give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of His redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of His most holy life. The entire petition is a fitting one for today, as we are beginning today a long, mostly uninterrupted period of Sundays which focuses on the life of the Church as we savor the life of Jesus Christ and how His life, and acts, and words provide fruits for the Church’s Mission in the world and teach us how to follow daily in the blessed steps of His most holy life. Let us hear as well in our request to God an echo of our request to Him that begins every Mass—that we may delight in His will and walk in His ways. The journey of the Christian life is a journey in which we learn how to walk. Continue reading

Homily: “On Saint Mary the Virgin”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin, 2017.

This is the day when we recognize and venerate the Mother of God under the title “Saint Mary the Virgin.” It for The Episcopal Church is the central feast of Mary in the Church year. Now, this is fitting because it is also the central feast of Mary of the universal Church, although our sister churches use different names for it than we do.

In the Church of Rome, that is the churches of Roman Catholicism in communion with the Bishop of Rome, this day is celebrated as the Assumption of Mary. That term, “assumption,” is a technical term that refers to the understanding that upon reaching the end of her earthly life, Mary was taken by God—“assumed”—body and soul into heaven; meaning, her whole person and personality is alive and forever adoring God almighty in the Church Triumphant. Now, although when the Church of Rome made this an official teaching there was at that time, and it remains the case today, some controversy at their doing so, we must keep this in perspective. Just as siblings in a family are forever finding ways to be irritated at each other, members of the Christian Church family do the same. Yet this teaching, and specifically the technical term “assumption,” says nothing more than what we profess each Sunday during the Nicene Creed—that we believe in the Resurrection of the Body. We could substitute the word “assumption” for “resurrection” without changing any of the meaning. Continue reading

Homily: “On Saint Mary Magdalene”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, 2017.

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. Let us ask a basic question: Who is Mary Magdalene? There is much that might be said about who she is; and in truth much already has been said, particularly if you have paid attention to popular books and movies of the last thirty years, because a person named “Mary Magdalene” has often been a major character in such works. Yet popular culture has pushed this to an extreme, has it not? As is often the case with the human condition, we tend to take things to their extremes before finally pulling back. The Church’s mechanism for such pulling back is often Holy Scripture, and making sure that our understanding about the faith accords with it. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Good Soil”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10, Year A), 2017.

In our Collect this morning, we petition God to receive the prayers of His people who call upon Him so that they may understand and know what they ought to do. It is a simple request, but we should not be deceived by its simplicity and think it a mundane sort of question. Rather, let us regard this petition as a noble inquiry, one we should always be making, even daily—after all, our Collect contains the two central questions of serious discipleship asked by the first disciples to Saint Peter on the Day of Pentecost. The first was, “What does this mean?” and the second was “What shall we do?”

We could do far worse than make for ourselves a habit of asking these two questions whenever we are in prayer, or reading the Bible, or reflecting on a sermon. Asking these two questions are part of our responsibility, our responsiveness, to God and His loving initiative of coming to us with His Word. The first Christians’ response to God’s initiative on Pentecost was to ask these two questions—What does it mean? What shall we do?—and so we can see that part of the Gospel pattern we are to perceive and make our own is to ourselves ask these questions when we are presented with, or caught by, God and the claim He makes on us and our lives. Continue reading