Thursday, October 25, 2018

Bishop’s Note: October 25, 2018 – The 2019 BCP Summary of the Law

Bishop Eric Menees

Dear Friends,

     As we continue our examination of the Holy Eucharist – Standard Text – in the 2019 BCP, today we look at The Summary of the Law.

     For those of you who have worshipped using the 1928 BCP, opening the service with the Summary of the Law or the Decalogue (10 Commandments), was expected and normal. However, the 1979 BCP eliminated the Summary of the Law. You will notice that, with the 2019 BCP, the inclusion of either the Summary of the Law or the Decalogue is not optional the way it was in the 79 BCP. This is because we recognize the importance of affirming the importance of the relationship that we have with God. Therefore, immediately following the Collect for Purity, the celebrant reinforces the importance of God’s teaching to us. When Jesus was confronted by a Pharisee who asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus responded with the Great Commandment.

The Summary of the Law
What follows is the Summary of the Law, or The Decalogue.
Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ says:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 22:37-40

     The first commandment of the Great Commandment is drawn from Deuteronomy 6:5, and faithful Jews were expected to repeat this twice daily as a sign of devotion and a reminder of proper priorities. (ESV Commentary) In a world that consistently encourages us to place ourselves first and everything else second, the Great Commandment reminds us that the first priority should be God!

     The second commandment of the Great Commandment is drawn from Leviticus 19:18. The only way we can truly be devoted to God, truly love God, is by loving the tangible reality of God in front of us: our neighbor.

     Our neighbor is created in the image of God (Genesis 1: 27), as are we. Therefore, by loving our neighbor we, in fact, love God. St. John makes this clear, but in the negative form when he states: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20) 

     Why do we begin our worship with a reminder of the Great Commandment? Because we need to be regularly reminded what our priorities ought to be and how we are to demonstrate the fulfillment of those priorities!

I pray you all a blessed week!


CanonJohn3+ said...

Very happy the Great Commandment has been restored. My own understanding of the Great Commandment at this place in the liturgy is that it sets in mind we are coming to the altar God having FAILED to follow God's Commandments in thought, word and deed since the last time we worshiped. That is why the Great Commandment is followed immediately by the Kyrie: Lord have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us, Lord have mercy upon us. It establishes penitence & humility as being the proper attitude before the altar of God as one worships, approaches confession and then receives the Blessed Sacrament.
There is much being said about loving one's neighbor as the best way to love God. Not much is said about the actual commandment: love your neighbor as yourself. (not love your neighbor as God) This is a very important distinction. How does love oneself as a follower of Jesus Christ?
Then how does one apply the "love" of oneself to "loving" one's neighbor?

Dale Matson said...

Thanks for the reflection. Each question is worth at least one homily!