Archive for the ‘Episcopal Church (Passing References)’ Category

The Light of Christ, Part VI   2 comments

Above:  Icon of the Transfiguration

Image in the Public Domain

FOR THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION (AUGUST 6)

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Appearances can deceive.  That statement is true in many contexts.  Consider the historical figure we call Jesus (or Jeshua or Joshua) of Nazareth, O reader.  I am Christologically orthodox, so I affirm the Incarnation, but I also make a distinction between the Second Person of the Trinity prior to the Incarnation and the person we call Jesus.  The distinction I make is a purely historical one; I refer to Jesus as the incarnated Second Person.  Perhaps I am splitting a hair.  If so, so be it.

As I was writing, appearances can deceive.  We do not know what Jesus looked like, but we can be certain that he did not look like a northern European.  Reconstructions I have seen plausibly depict Jesus as someone with dark skin, short hair, and brown eyes.  One may realistically state that his appearance most days was dramatically different from that on the day of the Transfiguration.  One may also ask how the Apostles knew the other two figures were Moses and Elijah, who were not wearing name tags.

The Gospels are more works of theology than history, as I, trained in historical methodology, practice my craft.  One should never underestimate the four canonical Gospels as works of finely-honed theology, complete with literary structure.  I know this, so I choose not to let the absence of name tags bother me.   I accept the theological point that Jesus was and remains consistent with the Law and the Prophets.  I also accept the theological point that the Transfiguration revealed the divine glory present in Jesus, en route to die in Jerusalem.  The prose poetry, with echoes of Moses encountering God on a mountain, accomplishes its purpose.

What are we supposed to do with this story of Jesus?  2 Peter 1:19 points to the answer:

…the message of the prophets] will go on shining like a lamp in a murky place, until day breaks and the morning star rises to illumine your minds.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

May the light of Christ illumine our minds and shape our lives.  (As we think, we are.)  May that light direct our private and public morality, so that we (both individually and collectively) will not betray Jesus in either our deeds or our words.  May we take that light with us as we travel with Jesus, and not attempt to box it up, even out of reverence.   May the light of Christ shine in us, both individually and collectively, as we, in the words of Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church,

love like Jesus.

We know how Jesus loved, do we not?  We know that he loved unconditionally and all the way to the cross.  The call of Christian discipleship is the summons to follow Jesus, wherever he leads.  Details vary according to where, when, and who one is, but the call,

follow me,

is constant.  So is the command to transfigure societies, for the glory of God and for the common good, with the Golden Rule as the gold standard of private and public morals, ethics, and policies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF COLBERT S. CARTWRIGHT, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF GUGLIELMO MASSAIA, ITALIAN CARDINAL, MISSIONARY, AND CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SCRIMGER, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTRICIUS OF ROUEN, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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O God, who on your holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son,

wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening:

Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world,

may by faith behold the King in his beauty;

who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit,

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 34:29-35

Psalm 99 or 99:5-9

2 Peter 1:13-21

Luke 9:28-36

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 509

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/08/07/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-transfiguration-august-6/

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Suffering, Part IV: Redemptive Suffering   1 comment

Above:  The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord Jesus, who prayed for thy disciples that they might be one even as thou art one with the Father:

draw us to thyself that, in common love and obedience to thee,

we may be united to one another in the fellowship of the one Spirit,

that the world may believe that thou art Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Amen.

or

Eternal God, who hast called us to be members of one body:

bind us to those who in all times and places have called upon thy name,

that, with one mind and heart, we may display the unity of thy church

and bring glory to thy Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Isaiah 53:1-11

1 Corinthians 11:17-26

Mark 14:17-25

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This is a devotion for World Communion Sunday, hence the Eucharistic language in Mark and 1 Corinthians, texts that speak for themselves.  I, as an Episcopalian, do not think much about World Communion Sunday, for the Holy Eucharist is our default service.  The Book of Common Prayer (1979) defines the Holy Eucharist as

the central act of Christian worship.

Why should there be just one Sunday on which as many churches as possible celebrate Communion?

I choose to focus on Isaiah 53:1-11.  The identity of the suffering servant is a topic of long-standing disagreement that reaches back into antiquity, before the birth of Christ.  My question at the moment is, who was the suffering servant at the time of the Babylonian Exile and Second Isaiah?  The most likely answer is the nation of Israel, a seemingly insignificant people who played a prominent role in divine plans and whose suffering was redemptive and salvific for Gentiles.  According to this interpretation, resurrection is a metaphor for national renewal after the exile.  Besides, a well-informed student of the development of Jewish theology knows that the resurrection of the dead was not yet part of Jewish theology.

In many ways, Jesus is a better fit for the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 because collective sin brought on the Babylonian Exile.  Nevertheless, I remind you, O reader, pious Jews studying this passage in the 500s B.C.E. were not talking about Jesus, for obvious, temporal reasons, five centuries prior to the Incarnation.

I do not know how to process the thought that the suffering of Jewish exiles during the Babylonian Exile was redemptive for Gentiles.  I suppose that one could argue that suffering brought them back to faith, thereby transforming them into a light to the nations.  One could make that case, one which the author of the Book of Jonah probably would have favored.  But what about the inward-looking, post-Exilic reaction that led to shunning Gentiles?

Anyway, suffering can lead to positive results for others, regardless of the cause of the suffering.  If one grows spiritually, that growth will influence other people, who will influence other people, et cetera.  Suffering is bad and unpleasant, but grace can bring about a high yield of benefit from it.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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First Reformed (2018)   2 comments

Above:  The Blu-Ray Cover for First Reformed

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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FIRST REFORMED (2018)

Starring

Ethan Hawke as the Reverend Ernst Toller

Amanda Seyfried as Mary Mensana

Cedric “the Entertainer” Kyles as the Reverend Joel Jeffers

Michal Gaston as Ed Balq

Written and Directed by Paul Schrader

Rated R for some violent images

One hour and fifty-three minutes long

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The desire to pray itself is a type of prayer. How often we ask for genuine experience when all we really want is emotion.

–Ernst Toller, in First Reformed

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How easily they talk about prayer, those who have never really prayed.

So writes the Reverend Ernst Toller of those, such as some Evangelical teenagers, believers in the heresy that is Prosperity Theology, in First Reformed.  One of those adolescents says,

If happiness came in pill size, it would have JC stamped on it.

Toller, in contrast, writes in his journal,

These thoughts and recollections are not so different from those I confide to God every morning. When it is possible. When He is listening. This journal is a form of speaking, of communication from one to the other. A communication which can be achieved simply and in repose without prostration or abnegation. It is a form of prayer.

He understands what St. John of the Cross called the Dark Night of the Soul.  The teenager with the JC happy pills has no clue regarding spiritual maturity.

First Reformed is a staggering, thought-provoking, spiritually honest and profound work.  The movie, set in Snowbridge, New York, outside Albany, is about the spiritual struggles of Ernst Toller, a former U.S. Army chaplain.  He is 46 years old, divorced, guilt-ridden, depressed, and physically ill.  He drinks too much.  Toller blames himself for the death of his son, a casualty of the Second Iraq War; the father, following the family tradition, encouraged the son to join the military.  Toller, unwilling and unable to justify that war morally, feels very guilty for the death of his son.  The suicide of a parishioner’s husband, an environmental terrorist, sends Toller down a path potentially destructive of more than just himself.  Given that Schrader wrote both this movie and Taxi Driver (1976), the spiritual kinship of Toller and Travis Bickle is obvious.

Toller is the pastor of the First Reformed Church, a 250-year-old congregation that functions more as a tourist trap than as a church.  He has few parishioners.  First Reformed Church is a chapel of Abundant Life Church in Christ and Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational, “Spirit-filled” megachurch in town.  Joel Jeffers, the head pastor at Abundant Life, is at least as morally ambiguous as Toller, who contemplates using a suicide vest.  Whereas Toller understands the Christian obligation of environmental stewardship, Jeffers ignores the issue.  After all, the generous contributions of Ed Balq, a local industrialist and a major polluter, finance Abundant Life’s media programs and much of the community outreach.  Furthermore, Balq is paying for the repair of the organ at First Reformed Church and the reconsecration of the congregation on the occasion of its anniversary.    Jeffers does, however, care about Tollers and want him to be physically, spiritually, and emotionally well.

A pastor needs a pastor,

Jeffers advises Toller.  Furthermore, according to Jeffers, Toller is always in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The reaches its climax in an ambiguous scene, the meaning of which the director’s commentary does not explain clearly.  Schrader wants to avoid easy answers, as do the two reverends in the movie.  I still do not know of Toller emerged from his Dark Night of the Soul, or even if he was alive when the end credits rolled.  I have an idea, but no certainty.

First Reformed is a movie that shuns certainty.  Much of the best art does.  Uncertainty invites the viewer of the art to interact with that art.  My advice is not to watch First Reformed immediately before going to bed, for, if one does, one’s mind will be busy trying to make sense of the film when one should be sleeping.

The cast is excellent.  Amanda Seyfried, actually pregnant while portraying a pregnant widow, plays the character with whom Toller connects more than any other.  If anybody can lead Toller out of the Dark Night of the Soul, she can.  Ethan Hawke plays a depressive very well.  He is believable in his portrayal of a spiritually disturbed minister.  Cedric “the Entertainer” Kyles proves that Joss Whedon is correct; comedians are fine dramatic actors because comedy is more difficult that drama.  Kyles portrays Jeffers as a believable, generally sympathetic character.  The only unambiguous character is Ed Balq, who professes Christianity while destroying the environment and dismissing criticisms as unfounded and politically motivated.  Michael Gaston plays him believably, without the figurative mustache-twirling.

I do have one minor criticism regarding an error.  Why are members of a Dutch Reformed church using Episcopal hymnals?  The answer, of course, is that the structure labeled “First Reformed Church” in the movie is actually that of an Episcopal congregation.  The Prayer Books are out of sight, to present the illusion that the building is for a Calvinist church, albeit one with a central altar and a pulpit on the right.

If you, O reader, seek to watch a spiritual movie that will force you to think for yourself and ponder ambiguities of faith, First Reformed is a movie to schedule.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 21, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GASPAR DEL BUFALO, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF THE PRECIOUS BLOOD

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA

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The script is here.

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Repentance, Part IV   2 comments

Above:  Ash Wednesday Cross

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For Ash Wednesday, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made,

and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:

create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we,

worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness,

may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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2 Corinthians 7:2-10

Matthew 6:16-21

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Seasons exist in nature.  That they exist in liturgical calendars makes sense, too.  It is a pattern as old as antiquity and present in Judaism and Christianity.

The focus of Lent is repentance, or, literally, turning around.  Traditionally, one is supposed to give up a bad habit, a food one needs to avoid, et cetera, or to take up a good habit.  We human beings are creatures of habit, so may we nurture positive ones.

Advent and Lent are the two preparatory seasons in Western Christianity.  During Advent one is supposed to prepare for the twelve days of Christmas.  Some of us take Advent and Christmas so seriously that we wait until nearly Christmas Eve to say “Merry Christmas,” then say “Merry Christmas” through January 5.  During Lent we are supposed to prepare for the fifty days of Easter.  I, with my United Methodist background, and Episcopalian affiliation, take Lent seriously while not mistaking it for a time to wear a hairshirt.  (Asceticism is not my spiritual path.)  I also observe the Easter season, all the way through the Day of Pentecost.

I propose taking on a task for Lent.  The details of the task properly vary from person to person, but it should work toward building up treasure in Heaven.  Choose one task, O reader, and complete it diligently, faithfully, and well.  May you emerge from Lent as a better person in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN GREGOR, FATHER OF MORAVIAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI GABRIELI AND HANS LEO HASSLER, COMPOSERS AND ORGANISTS; AND CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI AND HEINRICH SCHUTZ, COMPOSERS AND MUSICIANS

THE FEAST OF THEOPHANE VENARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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Human Doubts and the Mighty Acts of God   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Most loving Father, who would have us give thanks for all things

and dread nothing but the loss of thee:

preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties;

and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the

light of thy love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 117

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Jeremiah 23:3-8

Philippians 4:4-7

Luke 1:26-38

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The readings for this Sunday speak of corrupt rulers, the promise of divine deliverance of the nation, the restoration of exiles to their homeland, the practice of making considering for others a defining characteristic of oneself, the practice of trusting in God, and of the conception of Jesus and the annunciation of that event.  That is quite a variety of material.  Much of it speaks for itself.  Obviously the lectionary points toward linking Jeremiah 23 to Luke 1, with Philippians 4 providing commentary.

Instead of checking off all the above items in this post as I continue to write, I prefer to focus on one line:

For nothing is impossible with God.

–Luke 1:37, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Do you, O reader, affirm that?  Do I?

I speak, er, write for myself, the only person for whom I can do so.  A rationalist lives between my ears and behind my eyes.  I am one of the people most likely to ask pesky, inconvenient questions, and one of the least likely join a cult.  St. Thomas the Apostle, the great doubter, is my favorite Biblical character, for I identify with his skepticism.  One of the reasons I am an Episcopalian is the premium Anglican theology places on reason, in the context of scripture and tradition, for balance.  I am an intellectual, not a mystic.  I possess a healthy dose of skepticism.  Nevertheless, I also affirm the necessity of Kierkegaardian leaps of faith.  Such a leap of faith is necessary for one to accept the Incarnation, regardless of whether one affirms of rejects the Virgin Birth.

Yes, I affirm that nothing is impossible with God.  I affirm it more on some days and less on others.  My faith is a work in progress.  I bring my doubts to God; doing that constitutes an act of faith.  God, as I understand Him, does not strike anyone down for asking questions faithfully and honestly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF EMILY HUNTINGTON MILLER, U.S. METHODIST AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON SCHLEGAL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Rich Irony   3 comments

Above:  Part of the Title Page of The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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There is a liturgical joke that highlights certain denominational differences.

In a county seat town somewhere in the United States of America, the First Baptist Church was hosting the annual community Thanksgiving service.  The local Episcopal priest was one of the participating ministers.  When the priest’s role in the service had come, the host pastor said,

Now Father Jones from the Episcopal church will lead us in one of his…written prayers.

Father Jones walked up to the pulpit and said,

Let us pray.  Our Father, which art in heaven….

I was thinking of that story, which could be true, even if it is not, because of an ironic written prayer I read on page 202, from the “Other Prayers for Worship” section of The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), from the mainline of U.S. Presbyterianism:

For Those Who Write Prayers

Almighty God:  you have no patience with solemn assemblies, or heaped-up prayers to be heard by men.  Forgive those who have written prayers for congregations.  Remind them that their foolish words will pass away, but that your word will last and be fulfilled, in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

This prayer, indicating a traditionally Puritan Presbyterian hostility to written prayers and to prayer books, exists in the same volume as many written prayers for congregations to use.

I find this matter rather amusing and theologically alien to me, for I belong to The Episcopal Church, which has a rich and unapologetic record of written prayers–Books of Common Prayer, even–reaching back through the corridors of time to The Book of Common Prayer (1549) and deeper into the past, to missals and the Liturgy of the Hours, and before that, to The Didache.  If one does not approve of written prayers for congregational use, one can avoid them, but hopefully such a person will avoid the hypocrisy of writing or using a written prayer asking divine forgiveness for those who write prayers for congregational use.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PHILIP SCHAFF AND JOHN WILLIAMSON NEVIN, U.S. GERMAN REFORMED HISTORIANS, THEOLOGIANS, AND LITURGISTS

THE FEAST OF FRIEDRICH FUNCKE, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, COMPOSER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARY A. LATHBURY, U.S. METHODIST HYMN WRITER

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The Light of Christ, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Resurrection

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

At least three of the following sets:

Genesis 1:1-2:4a and Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26

Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13 and Psalm 46

Genesis 22:1-18 and Psalm 16

Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 and Exodus 15:1b-13, 17-18

Isaiah 55:1-11 and Isaiah 12:2-6

Ezekiel 20:1-24 and Psalm 19

Ezekiel 36:24-28 and Psalms 42 and 43

Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Psalm 143

Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Psalm 98

Then:

Romans 6:3-11

Psalm 114

Matthew 28:1-10

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The history of the Great Vigil of Easter is interesting.  We do not know when the service began, but we do know that it was already well-established in the second century C.E.  We also know that the Great Vigil was originally a preparation for baptism.  Reading the history of the Easter Vigil reveals the elaboration of the rite during ensuing centuries, to the point that it lasted all night and was the Easter liturgy by the fourth century.  One can also read of the separation of the Easter Vigil and the Easter Sunday service in the sixth century.  As one continues to read, one learns of the vigil becoming a minor afternoon ritual in the Roman missal of 1570.  Then one learns of the revival of the Easter Vigil in Holy Mother Church in the 1950s then, in North America, in The Episcopal Church and mainline Lutheranism during the liturgical renewal of the 1960s and 1970s.  Furthermore, if one consults the U.S. Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (1993) and The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992), on finds the ritual for the Great Vigil of Easter in those volumes.

The early readings for the Easter Vigil trace the history of God’s salvific work, from creation to the end of the Babylonian Exile.  The two great Hebrew Biblical themes of exile and exodus are prominent.  Then the literal darkness ends, the lights come up, and the priest announces the resurrection of Jesus.  The eucharistic service continues and, if there are any candidates for baptism, that sacrament occurs.

One of the chants for the Easter Vigil is

The light of Christ,

to which the congregation chants in response,

Thanks be to God.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Romans, reminds us down the corridors of time that the light of Christ ought to shine in our lives.  May that light shine brightly through us, by grace, that we may glorify God every day we are on this side of Heaven.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONA OF PISA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER OF THE SLAVS AND FOUNDER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/devotion-for-the-great-vigil-of-easter-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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