Sunday, February 10, 2008

RCL - Lent 1 A - 10 Feb 2008

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Fr. Anthony Cayless, AHC
RCL - Lent 1 A - Sunday 10 February 2008

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

On Mondays and Thursdays in Lent the Antiphon on the Psalter at Matins in our Monastic Breviary is: "Examine yourselves: are you living the life of faith? Put yourselves to the test."

In the 1960's, there was renewed interest in worship in all the churches. At Vatican II the Roman Catholic Church decided that Latin Liturgies should be in the language of the people. Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Lutheran scholars came together to assist those working on new worship books. They formed (ICET) an International Commission on English Texts. This group produced translations from the original Hebrew, Greek, and Latin of Psalms, Canticles, Gloria, Creeds, the Collects, Eucharistic Prayers, and the Lord's Prayer.

Their first translation of the phrase in the Lord's Prayer "Lead us not into temptation" was "Do not bring us to the test" and this was incorporated in the proposed Alternative Service Book of the Church of England, the trial liturgies of the Episcopal Church, and the proposed Liturgy of the Church in the Province of the West Indies, where I was then serving.

Now "test" has a peculiar connotation in the West Indies. As part of the British Commonwealth cricket was our major sport; almost our religion. The Barbados cricket team captained by Gary Sobers could beat any team: England, Australia, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa. Gary Sobers was also captain of the West Indies, a team not quite as strong as the Barbados team for The West Indies Cricket Board of Control felt it necessary to include players from Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica, and later the Leeward and Windward Islands.

In 1974 Australia was touring the West Indies. Their first game was against Barbados who beat them easily. They then went to Trinidad and restored some confidence in themselves by forcing a draw. They returned to Barbados to practice for the first Test. The Test Match began at Kensington Oval on Saturday March 9 continuing through Friday March 14. Five days seven hours a day with a break for lunch and tea. Tuesday was a day off.

Play on Sunday was included in the schedule for the first time in 1956 when the English test team was in Barbados. Gordon Hazlewood, Dean of St. Michael's Cathedral, and Ken Towers the Methodist Minister organized opposition to Sunday Cricket. Holding many public meetings and drawing large crowds they announced that they would lay on the pitch before the wicket to prevent the first ball being bowled. The West Indies Cricket Board of Control agreed that Games in the series would not be played on Sundays. Nevertheless by the late sixties Sunday Cricket crept in with the compromise that the day's play would not start before noon so that people could attend Church.

Barbadians are avid Churchgoers. To be in Church is important. Cricket is also important. Schools close, giving their students a cricket holiday so that students and staff can go to the Test. Government Offices and businesses close so that employers and employees can go to the Test. The two radio stations and the single television channel broadcast ball by ball commentaries over the five days of the Test followed by much analysis.

Now it happened that on Sunday, March 17 in 1974 in St. Michael's Cathedral for the first time, we were using the new trial liturgy during this Australian Test Match. There were close on a thousand persons in Church at the 9.00 a.m. Eucharist. I was Presiding and so was in the Celebrant's Stall. Opposite me was Dean Crichlow in his stall. The Bishop resplendent in Cope and Miter was sitting in his Cathedra by the High Altar. Using the proposed liturgy for the first time, we reached the Lord's Prayer: I said: "As our Savior Christ has taught us we now pray". And for the first time we all recited:

Our Father in Heaven,
Hallowed be your Name,
Your Kingdom come,
Your will be done On earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us.
"Do not bring us to the test" . . .

Cricket in the Caribbean
Originally uploaded by عleem

At this moment the incongruity struck me! I raised my head and my eyebrows catching the Dean's eye. Do not bring us to the test! The one thing that almost everyone in that Cathedral at that moment wanted was to go to the Test, to be at the Test! They were anxious for the Eucharist to end so that they could get to the Test! Somehow I pulled myself together and kept going.

In 1975 ICET published a second edition of Prayers we have in Common: In this edition the phrase "Do not bring us to the test" was changed to "Save us from the time of trial". We use this in our Monastery Rite. It is also in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer as an alternative in Rite II. So now the line: "Save us from the time of trial" cannot confuse West Indians and is indeed a possible translation. The Church of England used this for a time but have since in gone back to "Lead us not into temptation."

The Greek noun translated time of trial or test or temptation is πειρασμός it derives from the verb πειράζω to try, to test, to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing. It is used in today's Gospel account of the temptation of Jesus.

For Jesus the wilderness experience at the beginning of his ministry is πειρασμός a testing, a trial, a temptation. The human Jesus has become aware of who he is and is catching a glimpse of his task, the message he is to proclaim, the mission he is to fulfill, the road he is to travel. As it unfolds he is to become a living demonstration of the power of love in action. God's love.

The three temptations Jesus endured in the wilderness, and the many temptations which continue throughout his ministry: the temptation not to take the Jerusalem Road, the temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane to turn aside and not to face the Cross, the temptation to come down from the cross, are all temptations to disobedience - for the human Jesus to be less than what he is, to fall short of his own glory, to fail to carry out his own destiny, To fail to be fully human and truly divine.

Temptation is not sin. Jesus was tempted. As the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews puts it "in Jesus we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin."

We do not have to worry about being tempted. We should start worrying if we are not. That could mean that we have become complacent, self satisfied, self righteous. There were many in the society in which Jesus operated who were like that. He calls them hypocrites, actors. People who are pretending. People who are not themselves. People who are less than God intends them to be, is calling them to be.

The temptations of Jesus' disciples, his followers, including us his followers today, are in essence the same as those which Jesus withstood: temptations to disobedience, to be less than what we are, to fall short of the glory of God. Temptation is part of the human condition. The essential characteristic of temptation is compromise, to be a little less than what God is calling you to be, what God is calling you to do.

We recognize this when we give in to temptation. At least when we are caught. We make excuses. It is not like me. I am really not like that. I was not myself. I was beside myself. I don't know what made me do it - or even "the Devil made me do it."

It is not a bad thing to become aware that we all too often fall short of God's glory providing that we are also aware that God's forgiveness is full and free. God never stops loving us. We can always make a new start. That is what Lent and life is all about.

The final sin is to give up, to stop going along the road God is calling us to travel. Don't give up. Go along with Christ and keep on going.

"Examine yourselves: are you living the life of faith? Put yourselves to the test."


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