Today, in the old calendar, is the feast of St. Matthias. (Patrimonially speaking, in the 1662 Prayer Book tradition, as in the Byzantine, there is no provision for moving fixed feasts, so it would merely have been commemorated yesterday. But I’m sufficiently trendy to bow to the dominant Western custom of transferring feasts that collide with Sundays in Lent.) It occurs to me that this is feast invites reflection on themes very appropriate for the days leading up to Pope Benedict’s abdication. I’ve given below the traditional BCP collect and the verse meditation from John Keble’s The Christian Year. Perhaps your readers might find them an aid to their own prayers.
O Almighty God, who into the place of the traitor Judas didst choose thy faithful servant Matthias to be of the number of the twelve Apostles; Grant that thy Church being alway preserved from false Apostles, may be ordered and guided by faithful and true Pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
ST. MATTHIAS’ DAY
Wherefore of these men, which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us; beginning from the baptism of John, until the same day that he was taken up from us; must one be ordained to be a witness with us of His resurrection. Acts i. 21, 22.
Who is God’s chosen priest?
He, who on Christ stands waiting day and night,
Who trac’d His holy steps, nor ever ceas’d,
From Jordan banks to Bethphage height:
Who hath learn’d lowliness
From his Lord’s cradle, patience from His Cross;
Whom poor men’s eyes and hearts consent to bless;
To whom, for Christ, the world is loss;
Who both in agony
Hath seen Him and in glory; and in both
Own’d Him divine, and yielded nothing loth,
Body and soul, to live and die,
In witness of his Lord,
In humble following of his Saviour dear:
This is the man to wield th’ unearthly sword,
Warring unharm’d with sin and fear.
But who can e’er suffice —
What mortal — for this more than angels’ task,
Winning or losing souls, Thy life-blood’s price?
The gift were too divine to ask,
But Thou hast made it sure
By Thy dear promise to Thy Church and Bride,
That Thou, on earth, would’st aye with her endure,
Till earth to Heaven be purified.
Thou art her only spouse,
Whose arm supports her, on whose faithful breast
Her persecuted head she meekly bows,
Sure pledge of her eternal rest.
Thou, her unerring guide,
Stayest her fainting steps along the wild;
Thy mark is on the bowers of lust and pride,
That she may pass them undefil’d.
Who then, uncall’d by Thee,
Dare touch thy spouse, thy very self below?
Or who dare count him summon’d worthily,
Except thine hand and seal he shew?
Where can thy seal be found,
But on the chosen seed, from age to age
By thine anointed heralds duly crown’d,
As kings and priests thy war to wage?
Then fearless walk we forth,
Yet full of trembling, messengers of God;
Our warrant sure, but doubting of our worth,
By our own shame alike and glory aw’d.
Dread Searcher of the hearts,
Thou who didst seal by thy descending Dove
Thy servant’s choice, O help us in our parts,
Else helpless found, to learn and teach Thy love.
According to my ordo, today is a Lenten Feria. But I trust we’ll find this useful to ponder anyway—D