Father Paul

Father Paul

The Rev. Paul Moberly joined St. Alban’s in 2017 as Assistant Rector and in 2018 became Associate Rector. He and his husband, Gerardo, live in Annandale.

Holy Week: Longing for Communion While Leaning on the Word

“We take Holy Communion not because we are doing well, but because we are doing badly. Not because we have arrived, but because we are travelling. Not because we are right, but because we are confused and wrong. Not because we are divine, but because we are human. Not because we are full, but because we are hungry…”

Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m not sure if that’s always true, since human beings tend to forget. But I know that it is true, for me, right now, as I find myself deeply missing not only the vibrant community of our life together, but also the experience of celebrating Eucharist together and receiving the Body and Blood. I do know in a visceral way now that I have at times taken it for granted.

I know some of you miss it too. I’ve heard from several people in the last couple of days, wondering how we might work around our current restrictions in order to receive communion together. This experience of communal “social distancing” is bringing my own understanding of Eucharistic theology into a brighter clarity — that is for sure.

“Since I have neither bread nor wine nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols… I will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labors and suffering of the world.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, priest and scientist

As you might imagine, this has been a huge issue that your clergy (Deacon Theresa, Fr. Jeff and I) have been really wrestling with, in conversation with our bishops and our colleagues in this diocese and beyond.

One popular idea floated early on was to do a consecration of bread and wine via the Internet, but there are multiple problems with this from a standpoint of our understanding of the Eucharist as Anglicans; so, understandably, the bishops have said “no” in near uniformity. Likewise, pre-consecrated bread and wine, for reasons of safety and security, are not to be “left out” for people to come and pick up from, say, the Narthex.

So how do we observe these solemn Holy Days without receiving the very Sacrament that celebrates the victory of Jesus and his Resurrection? It seems almost impossible.

The Eucharist: Word AND Sacrament

One way to faithfully walk with Jesus this Holy Week has been suggested by Dr. James Farwell, the VTS liturgics professor who came to teach our Lenten series on Holy Week in 2018. Some of you will recall that memorable series of lectures.

On Facebook, on March 19, he wrote:

“The Anglican commitment to Christ’s presence to us in Word and Sacrament is worth pondering in this moment. The Eucharist is Word and Sacrament…The point of the Eucharist is not the changing of bread and wine but the changing of you and me. Is God unable to change us WITHOUT the bread and wine? Might God be able to work in us through a period of sacramental deprivation? Even through it?”

Every service of Holy Communion contains two basic parts: The liturgy of the Word, centered on hearing and responding to Holy Scripture; and the liturgy of the Table, the celebration of Communion. Dr. Farwell encourages us to lean heavily this week on the reality that Jesus comes to us not only in the bread and the wine, but also in hearing and meditating on God’s word.

In the synoptic Gospels, Jesus says something to this effect: We are not to subsist merely on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. This is a “both/and” situation. The Body and Blood are true spiritual food, “the bread that came down from heaven,” like manna in the wilderness. But, we believe that the Scriptures are written as well for our nourishment, and we are advised by that famous prayer of Thomas Cranmer to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” these words.

The mystical poetry of the prologue to John’s Gospel tells us that Christ himself is the Word of God, and that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” — that Word comes to us in a very vivid way as we take it into our bodies by eating the consecrated bread and drinking the consecrated wine. The Scriptures, the “word of God,” contain within them the God-inspired written witness to Jesus, the Word of God.

Through our baptism, marked by the Holy Spirit as “Christ’s own forever,” and through our participation in Holy Communion — the two Great Sacraments commended to our attention by Jesus himself — we OURSELVES become the bread of life broken out for the healing of the world.

Our Plan for Holy Week

This Holy Week, we are leaning on the Word, even as we long to experience the physical presence of Christ in the elements of communion. We are living without one element of our spiritual nutrition, for a time; but will live fully in the other element, the Holy Scriptures!

As such, our worship this week leans heavily on the Daily Offices, both Morning and Evening Prayer, which are centered around the reading of the Bible. The psalms of lament, central to every Holy Week, are already taking on a new life for me, considering the suffering of our world right now. I hope you will join us in observing this holy journey through our online worship offerings, praying with us and meditating with us on the words of life given to us in the Bible.

Morning Prayer will happen as usual at 8 am Monday through Friday, via Zoom. Please consider joining us, even if you haven’t before — the heavy lifting is done by the “regulars” so all you have to do is tune in and watch/listen. The links to access the online worship, as well as the Morning Prayer booklet, may be found on the Worship/Prayer page of the St. Alban’s website.

Evening Worship in Holy Week will be offered daily on YouTube. Services will be posted by 7 pm each day, on our Saint Alban’s Live page. We invite you to join in at that time so we may pray together in real time. The liturgies are available in PDF on the Live page, as well — they are specifically formatted for viewing on a smartphone or tablet (such as an iPad.) View the services on your laptop or smart TV, and use your phone or tablet to follow along. Or, simply listen and pray along with us.

What about the Triduum?

Our observance of the Three Days (the “Triduum” — Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) will contain familiar elements for those of you who cherish those liturgies (and will also be available via video here at our website). But the optional parts that really necessitate gathering together in-person, such as the Veneration of the Cross, the foot-washing, and things that center around the presence of Christ in Holy Communion, will be saved for when we can actually gather again.

I know I’m not alone in longing for experiencing the mystical grace and presence of Jesus in Holy Communion, and also longing to be in the presence of our beloved Community as well. When we finally do gather again, in person, we will light the new fire of the Easter Vigil and process with the Light of Christ into our church. It will be a huge celebration.

For now, we wait. The wait seems long. But after the deepest night comes the dawn. Daybreak is coming. Stay strong in the faith, dear friends. God is with us.

-Fr. Paul

“Blessed, worshipped, hallowed, praised, and adored is Jesus Christ on his throne of glory in heaven, in the most holy sacrament of the altar, and in the hearts of his faithful people. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercies of God, rest in peace.”

A traditional private prayer for after receiving Communion

Facebook Live streaming of Morning Prayer services

If you’ve happened to be online the past two days, and missed the Facebook Live stream of the daily Morning Prayer service, it’s NOT YOU! For some reason, our Facebook Live capability — the interface we use daily — has disappeared from our post options. We are still searching for a reason and a solution.

We hope to be back up and running before long! Stay tuned…

Fr Paul

Election Day Donuts was a success!

This morning, Saint Alban’s Youth held a fundraiser for our upcoming summer mission to Hurley, VA. It was a tremendous success, and we had a lot of fun.

With receipts of just over $855, and costs of approximately $250, we raised more than $600 toward our Youth Mission budget!

Thanks to Robby Larson-Ensinger, Sophia DePasquale, Olivia DePasquale, Macgregor Bickel, Victor Zorin, and James Perina for showing up bright and early — and for showing our local voters some amazing Saint Alban’s spirit!

Thanks, too, to Harry and Delores Baisden, for arriving well before dawn to get the coffee started and the tables set up — while I drove to Route 1 (Alexandria) to pick up the delicious sugar bombs.

Thanks to our wonderful Saint Alban’s family, for supporting us in our mission efforts, and for stopping by to greet us this morning. We couldn’t do any of this without your prayer and support!

Fr. Paul

St. Alban’s Youth: Election Day Donuts was a success!

Election Day Donuts was a success!

This morning, Saint Alban’s Youth raised more than $600 to help fund our summer mission to Hurley, VA next July. We had receipts of $855.95, including cash and credit card donations. With costs for supplies factored in, it amounts to $600 (and change) toward our Youth Mission budget!

Thanks to Sophia DePasquale, Olivia DePasquale, Robby Larson-Ensinger, Macgregor Bickel, James Perina, and Victor Zorin for showing up bright and early to show our local voters some Saint Alban’s spirit!

Thanks especially to Harry and Delores Baisden, for being there long before dawn to start making coffee while Fr. Paul picked up the donuts.

Thanks, too, to our Saint Alban’s family for supporting us in our efforts. We couldn’t do it without all of you.

Fr. Paul

All Saints Day: “A tremendous yearning…”

“Why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this feast day mean anything to the saints? What do they care about earthly honors when their heavenly Father honors them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.

“Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble company of confessors and the choir of virgins. In short, we long to be united in happiness with all the saints…

“Come, brothers, let us at length spur ourselves on. We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us.”

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153)

30 September: Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (Michaelmas, transferred from 9/29)

Icon of St Michael written by Zachary Rosemann, for St. Michael’s Church, Brattleboro, Vermont.

Today, Episcopalians observe the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, commonly known as Michaelmas. This feast is observed annually on 29 September by Anglicans, and others, around the world. (It’s transferred, by custom, and according to the rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer, to the next available weekday.)

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

The biblical word “angel” (Greek: angelos) means, literally, a messenger. Messengers from God can be visible or invisible, and may assume human or non-human forms. Christians have always felt themselves to be attended by helpful spirits—swift, powerful, and enlightening. Those beneficent spirits are often depicted in Christian art in human form, with wings to signify their swiftness and spacelessness, with swords to signify their power, and with dazzling raiment to signify their ability to enlighten. Unfortunately, this type of pictorial representation has led many to dismiss the angels as “just another mythical beast, like the unicorn, the griffin, or the sphinx.”

Of the many angels spoken of in the Bible, only four are called by name: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael. The Archangel Michael is the powerful agent of God who wards off evil from God’s people, and delivers peace to them at the end of this life’s mortal struggle. “Michaelmas,” as his feast is called in England, has long been one of the popular celebrations of the Christian Year in many parts of the world.

Michael is the patron saint of countless churches, including Mont Saint-Michel, the monastery fortress off the coast of Normandy that figured so prominently in medieval English history; and Coventry Cathedral, England’s most famous modern church building, rising from the ashes of the Second World War.

Everlasting God, who has ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lord is glorious in his angels and in his saints: O come, let us adore him.

(from Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2018, Church Publishing.)

23 September: Thecla, apostle and proto-martyr among women, c.70

Today, we honor the memory of an apostle, Saint Thecla — a contemporary of Saint Paul who became an evangelizer after hearing his teachings.

God of liberating power, you raised up your apostle Thecla, who allowed no obstacle or peril to inhibit her from bearing witness to new life in Jesus Christ: Empower courageous evangelists among us, that men and women everywhere may experience the freedom you offer; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thecla was born to a rich family in Iconium, a town in Asia Minor. She was expected to marry, and marry well. In fact, her mother had a young man picked out for her. He had an excellent position and could offer Thecla a secure life. This was important in Thecla’s day because an unmarried woman could find herself with no support and no money. Marriage assured a stable place in society, with children to carry on the family name.

But something happened to Thecla that made her turn away forever from her mother’s dream. The apostle Paul, who had been in Antioch, traveled to Iconium and began teaching at a house near Thecla’s. She sat in her open window for three days and nights, listening as Paul spoke about the blessings of giving everything to God. Thecla decided not to marry and to devote her life to Jesus Christ.

Her fiancé Thamyris was furious and complained to the local governor that Paul was a bad influence. Because Thamyris was so prominent, Paul was arrested and imprisoned.

Late at night Thecla secretly went to the prison, bribed the guards, and stayed to hear Paul’s teaching. When her family found her, they turned her and Paul over to the authorities. Paul was driven from the city and Thecla was sentenced to death. Her mother was so angry at her daughter’s disobedient “madness” that she wouldn’t intervene.

Thecla was tortured, but God delivered her from death. She found her way to Antioch and soon met Paul there. She helped him preach, and together they did good work for the Lord.

But once again a powerful person, this time the city governor, tried to turn Thecla toward marriage. When she hurt his pride by refusing he denounced her to the authorities. She was arrested and sentenced to die in the arena. But the wild beasts wouldn’t harm her, and when their attempt to drown her also failed, the officials were so frightened that they let her go. She retreated to a rocky desert cave in the mountains near the town of Ma’aloula, Syria. Through her prayer she converted many and gathered other women monastics around her. She counseled people and healed the sick, never asking for money.

Even there, though, she was pursued. Jealous pagan doctors sent young men to harm the saint, now an old woman. But God heard her prayers and opened up a fissure in the rock of the cave. Thecla rushed into the space, which immediately closed up again.

Today you can visit Thecla’s cave, and see in it the still-running spring that provided water for her. The nuns who live in the Mar Thecla monastery there will tell you her story, and show you the fissure in the rock where this saint, “Equal to the Apostles”, left the world and joined her Lord in the Kingdom.

(Hagiography by the Department of Christian Education of the Orthodox Church in America.)

St. Alban’s at the Acolyte Festival (National Cathedral)

ACOLYTE FESTIVAL at the National Cathedral

Saturday, October 12, 2019 | 9 am – 4 pm

Calling all acolytes – skilled or aspiring – and their families! We are organizing a group to go this year. There will be a grand procession, worship in the Cathedral, good food, lawn games, relays, and more. If you’re an acolyte, or ever wanted to be, this is a great way to see (UP CLOSE) all the things acolytes can do – and meet other acolytes from around the DC region and around the country!

More information: https://cathedral.org/acolytefestival

Cost: Free! (St. Alban’s will cover the cost.)

RSVP: by Monday, September 30, 2019 HERE

A note from Fr. Paul:

WE NEED YOU! Serving at the altar as an acolyte is both a huge responsibility and a huge privilege – the acolyte is an essential part of our worship heritage as Anglicans. Acolytes get a front row seat every Sunday! If you haven’t served at the altar before, perhaps now is YOUR time! Anyone (grade 3 and up) is eligible to serve. You don’t need experience, just a willingness to serve God and help our people worship Him in Spirit and in truth! Email Jane Lesko or Adam Huston, or a member of the clergy, for more information!

September 16: Ninian, bishop, and missionary to Scotland, 430

Today, September 16, the Episcopal Church joins the people of Scotland in remembering St. Ninian: “Apostle to the Southern Picts.”

O God, who by the preaching of your blessed servant and bishop Ninian caused the light of the Gospel to shine in the land of Britain: Grant, we pray, that, having his life and labors in remembrance, we may show our thankfulness by following the example of his zeal and patience; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Ninian was a Celt, born in southern Scotland in about 360, and is regarded as the first major preacher of the Gospel to the people living in Britain north of the Wall–that is, living outside the territory that had been under Roman rule. He is said to have studied in Rome (note that he is contemporary with Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine), but was chiefly influenced by his friendship with Martin of Tours, with whom he spent some considerable time when he was returning from Italy to Britain.

It is probable that he named his headquarters in Galloway after Martin’s foundation in Gall.  At about the time of Martin’s death in 397, Ninian built a church at Galloway, in southwest Scotland. It was built of stone and plastered white, an unusual construction in a land where almost all buildings were wood. He called it Candida Casa (White House) or Whithorn, presumably after Martin’s foundation at Tours. Archaeologists have excavated and partially restored his church in this century.

From his base at Galloway, Ninian preached throughout southern Scotland, south of the Grampian Mountains, and conducted preaching missions among the Picts of Scotland, as far north as the Moray Firth, He also preached in the Solway Plains and the Lake District of England. Like Patrick (a generation later) and Columba (a century and a half later), he was a principal agent in preserving the tradition of the old Romano-British Church and forming the character of Celtic Christianity.

Our information about him comes chiefly from Bede’s History (Book 3, chapter 4), an anonymous eighth century account, and a 12th century account by Aelred. Aelred is writing 700 years after the event, and is for that reason rejected as untrustworthy by many critics. However, he claims to rely on an earlier account, “written by a barbarian.” This suggests that he may have had an authentic record by a member of Ninian’s community in Galloway.

Hagiography by James Kiefer. Read more.

September 13: Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, 407

John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople, is one of the great saints of the Eastern Church. The Episcopal Church joins the Roman Church in remembering him today, September 13.

He was born about 354 in Antioch, Syria. As a young man, he responded to the call of desert monasticism until his health was impaired. He returned to Antioch after six years, and was ordained a priest. In 397, he became Patriarch of Constantinople.

His episcopate was short and tumultuous. Many criticized his ascetical life in the episcopal residence, and he incurred the wrath of the Empress Eudoxia, who believed that he had called her a “Jezebel.”

John, called “Chrysostom,” which means the golden-mouthed,” was one of the greatest preachers in the history of the Church. People flocked to hear him. His eloquence was accompanied by an acute sensitivity to the needs of people. He saw preaching as an integral part of pastoral care, and as a medium of teaching. He warned that if a priest had no talent for preaching the Word, the souls of those in his charge “will fare no better than ships tossed in the storm.”

His sermons provide insights into the liturgy of the Church, and especially into eucharistic practices. He describes the liturgy as a glorious experience, in which all of heaven and earth join. His sermons emphasize the importance of lay participation in the Eucharist. He wrote,

“Why do you marvel that the people anywhere utter anything with the priest at the altar, when in fact they join with the Cherubim themselves, and the heavenly powers, in offering up sacred hymns?”

His treatise, Six Books on the Priesthood, is a classic manual on the priestly office and its awesome demands. The priest, he wrote, must be “dignified, but not haughty; awe-inspiring, but kind; affable in his authority; impartial, but courteous; humble, but not servile, strong but gentle … ”

A well-loved prayer attributed to him, “A Prayer of St. Chrysostom,” is offered as an option in Daily Office liturgies in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved son, that when two or three are gathered together in his name, you will be in the midst of them. Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come, life everlasting. Amen.

During his lifetime, he was twice exiled; and he died during the second period of banishment, on September 14, 407. Thirty-one years later, his remains were brought back to Constantinople, and buried on January 27 (when the Orthodox Churches honor his memory.) His relics may be visited to this day, along with those of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzus, in the Church of Saint George on the grounds of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul.

O God, you gave your servant John Chrysostom grace eloquently to proclaim your righteousness in the great congregation, and fearlessly to bear reproach for the honor of your Name: mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellence in preaching, and faithfulness in ministering your Word, that your people may be partakers with them of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

(Hagiography adapted from A Great Cloud of Witnesses, Church Publishing.)