Church of St. Uriel the Archangel Sea Girt, New Jersey
An important distinction obtains between Liturgy and Devotions. The former comprises the worship that the universal Church offers every Sunday and weekday and on specially appointed days throughout the year. The Holy Eucharist, the daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, and the liturgies appointed for Ash Wednesday and the Sacred Triduum are all elements of the Church's Liturgy properly so-called.
Popular Devotions can be thought of as optional extras that enrich the Church's life and deepen the piety of the faithful. The word "popular" is used here in its meaning of "of or belonging to the people." At St. Uriel's, three devotions holding a special place in the parish's life are the Stations of the Cross, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and the Holy Rosary.
Stations of the Cross
The Way of the Cross is a devotion of the Western Church commemorating Our Lord's Passion and Death. The Stations originated many centuries ago among Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land who traced the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows) that Jesus followed on Good Friday. Gradually, Stations were installed in churches in Europe for those who could not make the pilgrimage or who wanted to relive a pilgrimage they had made.
At St. Uriel's fourteen reliefs are mounted on the interior walls of the nave depicting each Station. Usually on Fridays in Lent we offer public services of Stations of the Cross using the form provided by the Episcopal Church in its Book of Occasional Services. But individuals are free to follow the Way of the Cross around the church and meditate on the Stations at any time. Many forms of the devotion have been published and are available for such private use, either in the church or elsewhere.
The First Station
Jesus is Condemned to Death
The Second Station
Jesus Takes Up His Cross
The Third Station
Jesus Falls the First Time
The Fourth Station
Jesus Meets His Mother
The Fifth Station
The Cross is Laid Upon Simon of Cyrene
The Sixth Station
Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
The Seventh Station
Jesus Falls the Second Time
The Eighth Station
Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
The Ninth Station
Jesus Falls the Third Time
The Tenth Station
Jesus is Stripped of His Garments
The Eleventh Station
Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
The Twelfth Station
Jesus Dies on the Cross
The Thirteenth Station
The Body of Jesus is Placed in the Arms of His Mother
The Fourteenth Station
Jesus is Laid in the Tomb
In this devotion Jesus Christ is adored in the consecrated Host exposed on the altar, and the priest blesses the faithful with the Sacred Host.
The Blessed Sacrament is exposed in a monstrance - a gold or silver vessel with a glass opening through which the Sacred Host is visible. The word monstrance comes from the Latin monstrare, "to show." It is also called an ostensorium from the Latin ostendere, again, "to show."
Wearing a vestment called a humeral veil (from humerus, Latin for shoulder or upper arm), the priest blesses the faithful by tracing the sign of the cross over them with the monstrance.
In the Anglo-Catholic tradition, Benediction often follows other services such as Evensong or Compline but it can also stand on its own. At St. Uriel's, it usually follows Stations of the Cross during Lent.
Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament
The Holy Rosary
Corporate recitation of the Rosary is one of the "Catholic privileges" that distinguishes Anglo-Catholic parishes like St. Uriel's.
The Rosary is a vehicle of deep meditation upon a series of selected scriptural episodes (known as "Mysteries"). The set prayers—Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be—combine with the tactile handling of the beads to help free our minds and imaginations to contemplate each Mystery. Many people experience the Rosary as profoundly calming and a great weapon against stress and anxiety. Others offer up their recitation of the Rosary as a powerful form of intercession for all who need their prayers.
All are welcome to join the group of parishioners who gather each week to pray the Rosary on Wednesdays at 9 am (before the 9:30 am Mass). The Rosary is relatively easy to learn, and once it becomes part of your prayer life, it is hard to let go.
The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary
Anonymous, between 1515 and 1520
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Image from worldofsacramentals.com
The Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer, 1979, teaches that the Church's Sacraments are “patterns of countless ways in which God uses material signs to reach out to us” (p. 861).
Unlike the Seven Sacraments, which effect the grace they signify, Sacramentals are material signs that build up our faith and devotion insofar as we use them mindfully, reverently, and devoutly.
The Church's tradition commends a veritable treasury of Sacramentals to assist our spiritual lives: holy water, crucifixes, altar candles, incense, and relics of the Saints—to name just a few. The ashes of Ash Wednesday and the palms of Palm Sunday are classic Sacramentals.
When you acquire such items as crosses, statues, rosaries, medals, icons, or prayer cards, you are welcome to ask the priest to bless them for your personal use. Immediately following Mass is usually a good time to do this.