May 5, 2020

A Prayer for Communion with Christ

Because of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, most Episcopal parishes have been unable to hold public worship, though many are live-streaming celebrations, bidding those at home to commune in spirit. Some have commended a prayer by Alphonsus Liguori. I would like to note, however, that the Episcopal Church has a resource for this situation, in the 1988 edition of A Prayer Book for the Armed Forces, edited by Howard Galley.* I believe this prayer is superior to the prayer by Liguori, and better congruent with the traditions of the Episcopal Church.


In union, O Lord, with your faithful people at every altar of your Church, where the Holy Eucharist is now being celebrated, I desire to offer to you praise and thanksgiving. I remember your death, Lord Christ; I proclaim your resurrection; I await your coming in glory. And since I cannot receive you today in the Sacrament of your Body and Blood, I beseech you to come spiritually into my heart. Cleanse and strengthen me with your grace, Lord Jesus, and let me never be separated from you. May I live in you, and you in me, in this life and in the life to come. Amen.

Note: the 1951 edition of the Armed Forces Prayer Book had this form:

In union, O Lord with the faithful at every altar of Thy Church, where the Holy Eucharist is now being celebrated, I desire to offer Thee praise and thanksgiving. I present to Thee my soul and body with the earnest wish that may always be united to Thee. And since I can not now receive Thee sacramentally, I beseech Thee to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to Thee, and embrace Thee with all the affections of my soul. Let nothing ever separate Thee from me. May I live and die in Thy love. Amen.

—with thanks for all who serve and all who hunger, Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
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* I worked in the publication office of the international HQ-PECUSA (“815”) at the time, and assisted in the production; hence my familiarity with it.

April 6, 2020

On being alone

When Wesley taught that there is no such thing as a solitary Christian he was emphasizing his belief in a particular kind of realized ecclesiology — that the church is the church when it is gathered as a “Society.” Far be it from me to deny the social aspect of the church, of the Body of Christ composed of many members, and of the need Christians have for each other.


My concern is that in this time of enforced solitude for most if not all Christians — a solitude only lessened but never entirely erased by virtual fellowship — that those in isolation may put too much stock in the necessity of sociality, and neglect or forget the truth that the church is not only itself when gathered, but equally so when it is sent — even if that sending is to isolation rather than to mission. Many a saint (and many a sinner) have found in the depths of isolation the truth that lies on the other side of Wesley’s maxim: that there is no such thing as a solitary Christian because no Christian is ever entirely alone: she is part of the Body, like an outreached hand extended yet still attached to the arm, the shoulder, and the heart. Donne had it right when he pictured each of us as a promontory, not an island.

But there is more: there is no such thing as a solitary Christian because even in isolation, there is always One to keep her company; One who has been with her from the beginning; One who will never by separated from her by even so much as a hairs-breadth; One who is close enough that she can feel him breathing.


— Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

March 25, 2020

The Broken Body


The Holy Eucharist is about the assembled people of God, but it is not only about the assembly. For while it is true, as the Didache put it, that the grain once scattered on the hillside is in the Bread of Communion made one, it is also the case that that Bread is then broken and distributed — just as the assembly is dismissed at the end of the gathering, with a missionary purpose. We at present dwell in our sequestered isolation, viewing the celebration through the virtual "squints" of our laptops and tablets, unable to receive due to illness we may not actually have, but in fellowship with all those sick monastics and anchorites who saw the Eucharist only at a remove, through a narrow gap in the stone, or from the balcony — our fellowship, our communion, is no less real. This is the Body truly broken, to testify that it is in our dispersal, in our brokenness, that we find our true vocation as "given for the life of the world." Ite, missa est!

— Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

January 20, 2020

Sickness unto Death

Parts of the church are experiencing a kind of autoimmune disease in which the body attacks itself. Such conditions are always painful, and sometimes fatal.

This — among other things — is leading more and more people to realize that one does not need to be a “churchgoer'' or listed on a parish roll in order to be a Christian; it leads many into the company of those who see themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”

More and more people, for various reasons, are coming to see that institutional aspects of the faith have little or nothing to do with its core values. While it is true that one cannot be "a solitary Christian" there is no need to identify the locus of the community of faith with a parish — especially when that parish, and its leadership, adopt policies or practice behaviors so inimical to Christ and his teachings.

Christendom is not yet dead — but it is sick; and much of its sickness is self-inflicted, the product of its embrace of empire and institution at the expense of the Gospel.