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.”

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

The consecrated elements are Christ to the communicant; wholly and completely Christ, divine 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.

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

Homily: “On Resting in God”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9, Year A), 2017.

Today’s Lesson from the Book of Zechariah is a perfect example of the kind of Scripture the first Christians of the early Church would have used to understand who Jesus of Nazareth truly was. I have spoken previously about the practice of “mystagogy”—of being led into the mysteries of God, of revisiting our experiences to find in them a still greater depth and significance—and the prophet Zechariah provided the early Church, and provides us, with just that kind of opportunity. To do mystagogy is not merely to look at words on the biblical page, and not merely to think about a superficial reading, but rather mystagogy is to enter into the space evoked by the scriptural words. It is deep listening with all of our human faculties, listening for resonances with other parts of the Bible, with our Liturgy, and with our own experiences. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, 2017.

We heard these words in our second reading: “Before His coming John had preached a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.” This is what Saint Paul tells us, as recorded by Saint Luke, the author of both the Gospel by His name and the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus was coming into the world—coming into relationship with the world (he already was in relationship because all things are made through Him, so we mean coming into relationship in the sense of being able to be recognized and to be available through sure and certain means); He was coming into relationship, and coming into the hearts of people. And before Him, ahead of Him, as the forerunner, was John, son of Elizabeth and Zachariah—indeed, a holy family the members of which the Church has long venerated as Saint Elizabeth, Saint Zachariah, and Saint John the Baptist, the nativity of whom we celebrated today.

Saint John is a major saint of the Church. He plays a major role in the economy of salvation—that is, how salvation actually works not as an idea or good-feeling sentiment, not as the theme of a social club, but as an actual reality that has happened, and is happening, and, God-willing, will continue to happen to actual people in actual lives. See how prominent he is in the New Testament. Saint John is the first person we meet in the Gospel of Mark, he is introduced at length in the Gospel of Matthew, he is prominent in the Gospel of Luke, and his ministry is raised to the status of a mystic in the Gospel of John. Continue reading

Homily: “On Corpus Christi”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, 2017.

The Church has celebrated and experienced a dramatic turn of events over the last month. We celebrated the Ascension of Our Lord to the Right Hand of the Father. We prayed for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and indeed with the Coming of the Holy Spirit on Whitsunday, the Day of Pentecost, God gave them to us in His abundance. We then celebrated the revelation of God as Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which orders our prayer life and worship. And today, we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, Latin for the Body of Christ; indeed, we celebrate, we reflect upon, and we adore the Eucharist. Continue reading

Homily: “On the most blessed and holy Trinity”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on Trinity Sunday, 2017.

I have said previously and will say again in the future that the Collects of the Anglican tradition, including those in our 1979 Prayer Book, are a goldmine. They are a goldmine for both theology and prayer, and even moreso are a goldmine for the proper balance between theology and prayer that found in the language. It is because the Collects are so important that they are to be prayed not just on Sunday at Mass, but prayed, along with other Collects, every day of the week that begins on Sunday, particularly in the daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer.

It is not every Sunday that the Collect perfectly matches with the Readings. But on this a solemn day, the Feast of the Most Blessed Trinity, a Feast celebrated throughout the western Church within the Catholic tradition, of which the Episcopal Church is a part, the Collect of the Day is composed in relationship to the Readings. Let us hear again the Collect and then consider how it helps us understand the readings provided us by the Lectionary of the Church. Continue reading

Homily: “On Pentecost”

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

Although the Church in the West over the last century or two has not always treated this way, the Day of Pentecost is a celebration in the church year the theological importance of which is only surpassed by Holy Week culminating in Easter. Granted, its festivity usually comes in behind that of Christmas. Christmas even outpaces Easter Day in that regard. But just like the fable of the tortoise and the hare, Easter as a whole ends up taking the prize because whereas Christmas is twelve days, Easter has fifty.

The culmination of those Fifty Days is the Day of Pentecost, a day on which God taught, and teaches in the present tense, the hearts of His faithful people by sending to them the light of His Holy Spirit. Again it is worth bearing in mind that the biblical understanding of the word heart is much more than our emotions, but indeed refers to our entire being, the arena in which we encounter God—where He lives in us and where God speaks to us. Continue reading

Who Am I, a motet for three voices

I have a body, but I am not my body.
I have desires, but I am not my desires.
I have emotions, but I am not my emotions.
I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts.
So—
Who am I?
Who am I?

Composed by Father Matthew Dallman.
Voices: Christine Kelner (soprano), Doug Kelner (tenor), and Bill Chin (bass).
Sound engineer: BSR.
Recorded in 2004 at First United Church of Oak Park, Illinois.

Homily: “On Keeping His Words”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Seventh Sunday Easter, Year A, 2017.

We find ourselves this morning within the in-between time—after the Ascension of Our Lord and before the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, whom Jesus promised would come to teach us, guide us, and lead us into all truth. This is a time of prayer, and indeed our nine day period of prayer, our Novena for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, emulates what Mary and the disciples did during this time—devoting themselves with one accord to prayer. The picture of the first Christian community is given us by Luke: the community together in prayer, accompanied by Mary, waiting together in prayer for what God has promised them. Although there are many times throughout the liturgical year that we are aiming outward and explicitly focus on the relationship of the Church with the wider world, this time of Ascension, the final days of Eastertide, has us focused on Jesus and His relationship with His closest disciples, including His mother Mary.

Today in our Novena we petition the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of Understanding. Whereas yesterday’s petition of Wisdom asked God to make us aware of the mysteries of divine things, today’s prayer asks God to help us understand them, that we may be enlightened by the mysteries, and know and believe. We are asking God for the ability to discern how the divine mysteries are at work in the world, and see the world around us with the eyes of Christ. Would Christ look around at our world today and see the same things that we see? It is a question always worth asking, for it is a question that challenges us to allow ourselves to be stretched into seeing things beyond our normal pattern of perception. Teach us, O Holy Spirit, to see with Your eyes, that we might apply our heart unto wisdom in this life and be made worthy to attain to the vision glorious in the life to come. Continue reading

Homily: “On Abiding in Him”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A, 2017.

I would like to draw our attention again to the Collect for the Sixth Sunday of Easter. I would like to look at it again because by it we are expressing something very important to the Christian life, and we are asking Our Lord Jesus for something very important, particularly as we look forward on Thursday to the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus and the nine-days of prayer that follow on the Ascension, our Novena for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The first line of the prayer begins: “O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding.” In bringing God to mind, we bring to mind something about God that He has done for us, something about Him that lifts our hearts in praise for His love for us. What hope we express in these words, and these words call to mind our Gospel from last Sunday when we heard that Jesus has prepared a place for us in His Father’s house, a house with many rooms. Jesus knows this because of the love he shared with the Father, since before creation. His Father dwells in Him, and when we dwell in Jesus, Jesus dwells in Us, and through Him dwells the Father in our hearts. As we abide in Jesus, He abides in us. And when He abides in us, the Holy Trinity abides in us, the creator of all things, seen and unseen. The God of all creation dwells in our hearts, and continues His saving work through us. Of course these surpass our understanding, so Jesus teaches us with a commandment that we can understand and endlessly apply: “Abide in me.” If we abide in Him, and continue to actively grapple with what that means, God will work through us. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Way, the Truth, and the Life”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Fifth Sunday Easter, Year A, 2017.

Near the end of Saint John’s Gospel, in the last verse of the twentieth chapter, we learn that what was written in this book was included so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we may have life in His Name. And this applies to all four of the Gospels, and all of the Epistles—that is to say, the entirety of the New Testament, all twenty-seven books. In other words, the purpose, as Saint John states it, is the building up of faith in those who in some sense already possess an experience of God however that experience might be named. And so having that experience, we might be better able to understand it through patient reflection on the biblical books. The Bible supports our experience of the divine mysteries of God, feeds our experience of Jesus and His saving grace, and draws us deeper into the divine mysteries. The words of the New Testament are intended as logs to throw on a fire that is already lit in our hearts. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Good Shepherd”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Fourth Sunday Easter, Year A, 2017.

“The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all His own, He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.” Again we have the theme today in our Scripture that has been present and available to us since Easter Sunday—of hearing the voice of Jesus, and being led to truth; indeed even hearing Him only speak a word, and souls being healed. Undoubtedly this teaching was one of dozens spoken by Jesus which echoed around in the community of disciples during Jesus’s three years of ministry, and this teaching—this word—came back and was remembered by the community as they struggled to understand the resurrection and how Jesus, dead on a cross and laid in a cave, was alive and completely available to them, indeed available to them in a joyous, healing, and yet transformed way—Jesus, still with His wounds, His wounds glorifying Him and showing Him to be authentic. Continue reading

The Anglican Spiritual Tradition, parts 1 and 2

By Martin Thornton

PART ONE
There is good reason for dividing this lecture into two unequal parts. I must first offer a brief resumé of what I take the Anglican spiritual tradition to be; then I should like to look rather more fully at the contemporary impact of our tradition, concluding with a somewhat dangerous game of attempting to read the signs of its future unfolding.

Pedantic haggling over the meaning of words is not the most exciting exercise, but it is apparent already that some attention must be given to that most ambiguous and abused term “Tradition”; paradosistraditio, literally a giving-over, or handing-over. Handing-over be it noted and not handing-down. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Road to Emmaus”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Third Sunday Easter, Year A, 2017.

We come to Saint Luke’s account of the Road to Emmaus and the two disciples who journey with a third person they did not recognize seven miles from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus and how, when they arrive, they come to recognize the presence of Jesus Christ through the breaking of the bread, and in looking back on their journey with eyes of faith, were able to recognize that Jesus was present as well in the proclamation of the Scriptures, opening them, thereby burning their hearts. Indeed, looking back is what the Lectionary has had us do these first three Sundays of Easter—looking back at how Jesus first made His resurrected presence felt and known to the disciples on the first Easter day. Here it is with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; last Sunday it was to the eleven disciples; and on Easter Sunday it was to Saint Mary Magdalene in the garden by the empty tomb. Continue reading