Strengthen for service, Lord,
the hands that holy things have taken;
let ears that now have heard thy songs
to clamor never waken.
Lord, may the tongues which “Holy” sang
keep free from all deceiving;
the eyes which saw thy love be bright,
thy blessed hope perceiving.
The feet that tread thy hallowed courts
from light do thou not banish;
the bodies by thy Body fed
with thy new life replenish.
–Words: Syriac Liturgy of Malabar; translated by Charles William Humphreys (1840-1921)
–Music: MALABAR, David McKinley Williams (1887-1978)
Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy, on May 12, 1820. She was trained as a nurse at Kaiserwerth (1851) and Paris and in 1853 became superintendent of a hospital for invalid women in London. In response to God’s call and animated by a spirit of service, in 1854 she volunteered for duty during the Crimean War and recruited 38 nurses to join her. With them she organized the first modern nursing service in the British field hospitals of Scutari and Balaclava. By imposing strict discipline and high standards of sanitation she radically reduced the drastic death toll and rampant infection then typical in field hospitals. She returned to England in 1856 and a fund of £ 50,000 was subscribed to enable her to form an institution for the training of nurses at St. Thomas’s Hospital and at King’s College Hospital. Her school at St. Thomas’s Hospital became significant in helping to elevate nursing into a profession. She devoted many years to the question of army sanitary reform, to the improvement of nursing and to public health in India. Her main work, Notes on Nursing, 1859, went through many editions.
An Anglican, she remained committed to a personal mystical religion which sustained her through many years of poor health until her death in 1910. Until the end of her life, although her illness prevented her from leaving her home, she continued in frequent spiritual conversation with many prominent church leaders of the day, including the local parish priest who regularly brought Communion to her. By the time of her death on August 13, 1910, her reputation as a healer and holy person had assumed mythical proportions, and she is honored throughout the world as the founder of the modern profession of nursing.
Life-giving God, you alone have power over life and death, over health and sickness: Give power, wisdom, and gentleness to those who follow the lead of Florence Nightingale, that they, bearing with them your presence, may not only heal but bless, and shine as lanterns of hope in the darkest hours of pain and fear; through Jesus Christ, the healer of body and soul, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
–Excerpted from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints, copyright 2010 by The Church Pension Fund.
Forty years ago today, the first 11 women in The Episcopal Church were ordained to the priesthood. It is my belief that our church, and the wider Christian Church, has been strengthened and enriched by this brave act forty years ago.
“May God bless the harvest of this moment, so that it will be not be a high moment in the history of the Episcopal Church but a holy moment in time,” prayed Charles Willie, the Vice-President of the House of Deputies, in his sermon on July 29, 1974. On that remarkable day, eleven female deacons were called, “to make no peace with oppression,” and were ordained to the priesthood in the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia.
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Above Images: 1) Women priests celebrating the Holy Eucharist, from the Records of the Episcopal News Service. 2) The Philadelphia Eleven kneeling at the altar during their ordination to the priesthood, located in the Records of the Communications Office (DFMS). 3) Image of Bishop Edward Welles leading the ceremony of laying on of hands, part of the rite of ordination, located in the Records of the Communications Office (DFMS).
Portions of the above were excerpted from Facebook posts of The Archives of The Episcopal Church.
O Jesus, I have promised
to serve thee to the end:
be thou for ever near me,
my Master and my friend;
I shall not fear the battle
if thou art by my side,
nor wander from the pathway
if thou wilt be my guide.
O let me hear thee speaking
in accents clear and still,
above the storms of passion,
the murmurs of self-will;
O speak to reassure me,
to hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen,
thou guardian of my soul.
O Jesus, thou hast promised
to all who follow thee,
that where thou art in glory
there shall thy servant be;
and, Jesus I have promised
to serve thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow,
my Master and my friend.
Words: John Ernest Bode, 1868
Sung to the tune Nyland, Finnish folk melody
Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he sees, yours are the feet with which he walks,
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes.
—Words based on Teresa of Avila
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among all,
To make music in the heart.
by Heidi Malott
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
– The Song of Mary (Magnificat); Luke 1:46-55
The story of Mary is one that many Christian faith traditions tend to overlook. But, the story of Mary is one filled with beauty, love, and obedience to God’s call in her life. Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus Christ. Her story of unconditional obedience to God’s call is one that all Christians can be inspired from. Like Mary, each of us is called to obedience to God’s way…to the way of humility and love that God made known to us in Jesus Christ. We are called to give up our own desires and, instead, listen to God’s call to us in our hearts and in our world. Where is God calling you? There are innumerable ways to serve God in our world. How can you follow Jesus Christ and be God’s servant? Think about it, and honor Mary’s story by making your own story of servanthood to God.
Blest be the King whose coming is in the name of God!
For him let doors be opened, no hearts against him barred!
Not robed in royal splendour, in power and pomp comes he:
but clad as are the poorest – such his humility.
– Stanza 1 from Blest be the King, by Frederico J. Pagura (b. 1923)
Every aspect of Christ’s life…from the way he entered our world, to the way he lived and traveled, to the way he was condemned to death and died…was poor. Christ entered the world to migrant parents, born in a manger with no pillow for his head, as the hymn goes. He lived his life among fishermen, some of the poorest in society. He traveled on foot, and entered the city of Jerusalem on a donkey. He was arrested and condemned to death, and died alongside criminals outside the city limits, a form of humiliation. And yet we acclaim Christ as our eternal King, who reigns in glory with God. Our King is one of humility. I’m sure we all know Christians who are arrogant in their evangelizing; who are pompous in their knowledge of Scripture; or who are boastful in their salvation or understanding of God. But that is not what Christ calls us to be. Christ calls us to live as compassionate, humble, and meek servants. We worship the one who served others, who washed their feet, who lived their lives in poverty. May that message be in our hearts always, and may we become what Christ calls us to be…servants living our lives in humility and service.
Today is the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, whose faithful story of following Jesus is told in the Gospel of Matthew.
“And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (St. Matthew 4:19-20).
A poignant few lines from a hymn in honor of St. Andrew rings true on this holiday weekend:
“Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world’s golden store;
from each idol that would keep us,
saying, ‘Christian, love me more.'”
We Christians are not only called to worship God and follow Jesus, but we are called to give our lives over in service to the work Christ calls us all to do, each day of our lives. As you begin this holiday shopping season, think about the money you might spend on indulgent gifts for those you love, and think about the words of Jesus, which call you to turn your back on the idols that are bought in the store and instead, serve Christ by serving those who are truly in need.
“Jesus calls us! By thy mercies,
Savior, may we hear thy call,
give our hearts to thine obedience,
serve and love thee best of all.”