The Last Sunday after the Epiphany
Holy Eucharist, Rite II
February 14, 2021
The Celebrant and LEM stand, maintaining physical distance. There is no procession.
Celebrant: Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
LEM: And blessed be God’s kingdom, now and forever.
Celebrant: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Celebrant: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One,
LEM: Have mercy upon us.
Opening Hymn: We Have Come Into His House
We have come into his house and gathered in his name to worship him.
We have come into his house and gathered in his name to worship him;
We have come into his house and gathered in his name to worship Christ the Lord,
worship him, Christ the Lord.
Let’s forget about ourselves, concentrate on him, and worship him.
Let’s forget about ourselves, concentrate on him, and worship him.
Let’s forget about ourselves, concentrate on him, and worship Christ the Lord,
worship him, Christ the Lord..
The Collect of the Day
Celebrant: The Lord be with you,
LEM: And also with you.
Celebrant: Let us pray.
The Celebrant says the Collect.
O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Old Testament Lesson 2 Kings 2:1-12
2 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 3 The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”
4 Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. 5 The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”
6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10 He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” 11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12 Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.”
LEM: The Word of the Lord.
Celebrant: Thanks be to God.
Psalm of the Day: Psalm 50:1-6
The mighty one, God the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.
3 Our God comes and does not keep silence,
before him is a devouring fire,
and a mighty tempest all around him.
4 He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 “Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
6 The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge. Selah
The New Testament Lesson: 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
LEM: The Word of the Lord.
Celebrant: Thanks be to God.
Gradual Hymn: Christ upon the Mountain Peak Hymnal 1982 #129
Christ upon the mountain peak
stands alone in glory blazing;
let us, if we dare to speak,
with the saints and angels praise him.
Trembling at his feet we saw
Moses and Elijah speaking.
All the prophets and the Law
shout through them their joyful greeting.
The Gospel: Mark 9:2-9
Then, all standing, the Deacon or a Priest reads the Gospel, first saying
Celebrant: The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark.
LEM: Glory to you, Lord Christ.
2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
Priest: The Gospel of the Lord.
LEM: Praise to you, Lord Christ.
The Sermon: “When Beards Wag All”
(The printed sermon text may differ from the spoken sermon)
Quinquagesima / Transfiguration B, February 14, 2021
Seventy, sixty, fifty…you get the idea. Quinquagesima is the name of today, some fifty days before Easter, the Sunday before Lent. Quinquagesima, the hardest of all those weird Sunday names to say, is also the start of the Shrove part of Shrovetide, this little season of the church year that’s fallen rather out of phase. Shrovetide proper, in English, is the three days before Lent, qualitatively different than the three weeks before it, when the party really gets started. Hear what Falstaff’s friend Justice Silence sings, three sheets to the wind: “’Tis merry in Hall, when Beards wagge all / and welcome Merry Shrovetide. / Be merry, be merry.”
It’s also, as the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, the Sunday of the Transfiguration, which is a rather more solemn affair, what with Elijah, chariots of fire, horses of living flame, the blinded minds of the unbelievers, and Jesus shining up there, with Moses and Elijah (again), like the very sun – and then the very voice of God himself booming, telling Jesus’s disciples off, reminding them, “This is my Son, my beloved. Listen to him.”
Merry and solemn, solemn and merry; seldom do these twain meet, yet here we are; this is the day. Plus, it’s the Feast of St. Valentine, so shed a tear and spare a rose for the patron saint of epilepsy, a 3rd century cleric who tended to the persecuted, restored sight to the blind, preached the gospel, stood up for love, and ended up losing his head for it. How we got from that to this day of chocolates, red hearts, and lingerie is an interesting tale. The short answer: Valentine, in Latin Valentinus, listened to “my Son, my beloved,” and helped other people do so in ways that the emperor found inconvenient. We’ll get to the longer answer in just a bit.
But first: something in the reading from 2nd Corinthians has been bothering me, mostly because it’s hard to know what to do about it. Paul and Timothy write, frustrated with the slow progress of things, that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers” so that they cannot understand the gospel, see the light of Christ, or let shine in their minds the knowledge of the glory of God. This begs the question, who is the god of this world? There is no god but God, don’t you know. The other gods are, one would’ve thought, sounding gongs or clashing cymbals, not capable of this sort of independent action to our detriment and harm. What’s going on?
Why is God, and God’s glory, so hard to see?
Why is Christ’s light, Tide-dazzling bright on the mountain, so easy to dim?
What is it that blinds minds so that they cannot see, or will not believe, what is?
Sometimes it is because they have been lied-to by bad people whom they, the blinded, have come to trust and believe. The lies can be venial, as in those types of marketing that sell wish-fulfillment or fantasies, like the ads that come to my phone for products I cannot afford made by Prada, Breitling, or Bentley. The lies can be mortal – mortal as in ‘mortal sin’ – such as when liars triangulate to build emotional dependency and keep people in thrall against truth, or when they gaslight people to drive them out of their minds, make them think that up is down, war is peace, and slavery is freedom. Sometimes it is because the truth is unpleasant, what it will require is difficult, and the lied-to have been abused or psychologically manipulated so that their dysfunctions and inadequacies are met and soothed by the sweet deceit of replacing what they need to accept with what they want to believe.
Narcissistic leaders, weak inside and with no self-worth, can induce this in people. The leader and the led then feed on each other’s anxieties, wounds, and stresses, the one craving subservience and adulation, and the others craving a parental figure who will make them feel worthy, wanted, even loved. All of this has a price, in lives and integrity. That price is a shared psychosis, in which leader and led believe things that simply are not true and are bound to one another by it and because of it. Millions can come to share, indeed depend on, the same lies and delusions that enable the narcissistic leader to get through the night, but which more often than not spoil their days. Leader and led also gain satisfaction in violence, real or imagined, against those whom they think disdain or disagree with them, and against any who reject or question their shared belief in things that everyone else knows, sees, and tells them are untrue. When the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit, said Jesus – and “‘tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind,” said Gloucester, in King Lear. One must have such words keep the silence Jesus bid the demons keep, and leach them from the minds and the mouths of the deceived, with the same grit and fervor one would use to draw poison from a wound.
It can be done. Act Five of 2 Henry IV is where the quote about “welcome Merry Shrovetide” comes. In it, Falstaff, Shakespeare’s brilliant caricature of how “lilies that festers smell far worse that weeds,” is about to face a similar situation. He has lived by delusions, and soon won’t be able to. The young Prince Hal, whom Falstaff thinks depends on him and will raise him to a station that they both know he does not deserve, has just become king. As king, Henry V what was once Prince Hal has moved beyond the old food his deceits, his sloth, his narcissism, and his selfishness. The lie that Falstaff lived by – that he could bluff his way into ease by flattering a prince and never trying to do any good – is about to fail him. He’ll never quite get over it. The prince, now king, will – and that’s the important part. Falstaff’s and others’ beards may have wagged all in the merriment of Shrovetide, but it’s all about to end, and the need for honesty, humbleness, penitence, and piety be made plain. Falstaff never really accept this, and is broken by it. Pretty much everyone else moves on.
Valentinus, who becomes St. Valentine, had a similar sort of problem, except in his case he was the teller of truths, and the monarch was the deluded one. That leader, Marcus Aurelius Claudius Gothicus, emperor of Rome from 268-270 C.E., took a shine to Valentinus for an interesting reason. The latter had managed to talk a judge out of putting him to death. He said that he’d cure a young woman of her blindness to prove his god was God, and then he did so. The judge and all his family converted to Christianity over this, even though it was illegal. People whined about that, and Valentinus, to Claudius, who was impressed by that, figuring that this cleric must have some mettle to him if he could bend people out of shape simply by telling them that God could set them free from sin.
But Valentinus had a little too much mettle for the emperor’s liking. He fell out of favor for either: a) trying to convert him; b) preaching when having been told not to; or c) helping Christians get married so that the groom could avoid being dragooned to fight in Rome’s endless wars. Better, they all agreed, to serve the god who is God than the gods of power, war, and tribute. They say that Valentinus would cut heart-shapes and give them to the newlyweds to remind them of their faith and its freedoms. Claudius had him clubbed and beheaded for this, and for refusing to deny Christ to his face, on 14 February 269. Claudius himself died a year later in a battle outside of Cairo. His force had been betrayed.
Among Valentinus’s last acts was sending one last love letter to the daughter of Asterias, the judge he’d converted. He signed it, “from your Valentine.” Medieval writers and bards took up this tale with glee. Soon, being someone’s “Valentine” came to mean being willing to die for the love of them, or for the love of God, or for both. Whether the metaphor of losing one’s head for someone, so deep is one’s passion for them, comes from this tale I will leave for others to judge.
But back to Claudius: why kill someone because of their integrity? Claudius’s decision to do what he did to Valentinus is not rare in leaders, just awful – and all the more awful for its not being all that rare. One must believe that the person with integrity is a threat – and that their integrity is at the heart of that threat. Such a person will not yield to incompetent or malevolent authority, let alone to narcissistic liars. S/he will not obey an immoral order, and will not raise a hand against the innocent, or let the guilty get away with it. Such a person will not tolerate corruption, bow to deceit, or let ignorance continue unchallenged. Those qualities are, in Jefferson’s words, “formidable to tyrants only,” not to people who are free. To the free, it is the lack of integrity that threatens, not its presence, even if that presence be as obstinate as a mule, or as immoveable as a mountain.
Quinquagesima, Transfiguration, and Valentine’s Day align every so often – often enough that we do well to let their lessons resonate like this. It all helps to clarify what this season means, and set us up for the one last lesson of “Shrovetide” that I have to mention – a lesson found in the word itself.
“Shrove” in “Shrovetide” and “Shrove Tuesday” is the past tense of the mostly archaic verb “shrive.” “To shrive” means to give penance to, hear the confession of, and/or to absolve – in short, “to free from guilt.” It means this in the way that “to pardon” does not. To be pardoned is to be set free from the consequences of one’s guilt, but not of the guilt itself. Someone with the power to pardon has decided, whether out of mercy or self-dealing, that someone else should not pay the penalty owed, nor do penance for the wrong done, nor atone for it. Yet to accept a pardon is to admit one’s guilt, not be free of it. To be shriven – that is, to have someone “shrive” you, is different. This removes the guilt entirely, much as a drop of Dawn and a heavy dose of and elbow grease can remove even the stickiest, most obstinate remnants of food in the frying pan. One longs to be shriven, not pardoned – and this is as good a season as any to remind ourselves of that.
I said that “to shrive” was mostly archaic. It is – mostly, but not entirely. Lord Byron, of all people, used it in the early 1800s in its lasting, more modern sense of “to relieve of a burden” or “to remove (lift) a burden from” in his famous, long Romantic poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:
Yet mark their mirth—ere lenten days begin,
That penance which their holy rites prepare
To shrive from man his weight of mortal sin,
By daily abstinence and nightly prayer;
But ere his sackcloth garb Repentance wear,
Some days of joyaunce are decreed to all,
To take of pleasaunce each his secret share,
In motley robe to dance at masking ball,
And join the mimic train of merry Carnival. (II.lxxviii).
That is: eat, drink, and be merry as when beards wag all – for tomorrow, or once Shrovetide ends, we get to…be set free once again, if we’re honest with ourselves, from all that’s wrong or broken or wicked within us, all we do and anything we do that is not of love, or of justice, of peace or of mercy. We get to be set free not as someone who was retroactively allowed to get away with it but to whom guilt still applies, but as those who are now as though they had never been guilty at all, Free, with no memory of being in chains. Released, with never having even been justly bound. Repenting – which is key to all of this – repenting, admitting the guilt and responsibility entirely, is essential to being set free from it. Confess your guilt, show remorse for the wrong done, set right whatever of the wrong you can. Then and only then can you, can we, move on.
In short, for Shrovetide: rejoice, shrive, and be free.
There is no passing of plates or reception of gifts.
The Deacon or Priest prepares the altar and sanctuary for the Eucharist.
The People make ready their gifts of bread and wine. The LEM continues
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God, begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Prayers of the People
The LEM prays. In the silence after each bidding, the People offer their prayers without speaking.
I ask your prayers for all God’s people; for our bishops, our clergy, and this gathering, and for all ministers and people. Pray for the Church.
I ask your prayers for peace; for goodwill among nations; and for the well-being of all. Pray for justice and peace.
I ask your prayers for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the oppressed, and those in prison.
Pray for those in any need or trouble.
I ask your prayers for all who seek God, or a deeper knowledge of God.
Pray that they may seek, and pray that they might find.
I ask your prayers for the departed [especially N.N.]. Pray for those who have died.
I ask your prayers for those on the prayer list of this parish, and those whose needs are known to you alone.
The Celebrant adds a concluding collect.
The People stand.
Celebrant: The peace of the Lord be always with you,
LEM: And also with you.
The Ministers and People greet one another in silence while keeping physical distance.
The Holy Eucharist: The Great Thanksgiving
Celebrant: The Lord be with you,
LEM: And also with you.
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
LEM: We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
LEM: It is right to give God thanks and praise.
Then, facing the Holy Table, the Celebrant proceeds
It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, because in the mystery of the Word made flesh, you have caused a new light to shine in our hearts, to give the knowledge of your glory in the face of your son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the host of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to the glory of your Name:
The LEM says
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed are they who come in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
The people stand or kneel. The People hold forth their gifts. The Celebrant continues
We give thanks to you, O God, for the goodness and love which you have made known to us in creation; in the calling of Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, your Son. For in these last days you sent him to be incarnate from the Virgin Mary, to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world. In him, you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy to stand before you. In him, you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.
On the night he died for us, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his friends, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.”
After supper he took the cup of wine, gave thanks, gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in memory of me.”
Therefore, according to his command, O Lord:
LEM We remember his death. We proclaim his resurrection. We await his coming in glory;
The Celebrant continues
And we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you, O Lord of all, presenting to you, from your creation, this bread and this wine.
We pray you, gracious God, to send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant. Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
In the fullness of time, put all things in subjection under your Christ, and bring us to that heavenly country where, with [N.N. and] all your saints, we may enter the everlasting heritage of your sons and daughters; through Jesus Christ our Lord, the firstborn of all creation, the head of the Church, and the author of our salvation,
By whom, and with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever. Amen.
Now, as Christ taught us, we are bold to say,
The LEM prays
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The Breaking of the Bread
The Celebrant breaks the consecrated Bread, and then keeps a period of silence. The Celebrant continues
Celebrant: [Alleluia.] Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us;
LEM: Therefore, let us keep the feast. [Alleluia.]
Celebrant: The Gifts of God for the People of God.
The People come forward to retrieve the hosts, maintaining physical distance. They consume the hosts upon returning to their seats. They consume their gifts. After Communion, the Celebrant says
Let us pray. The Celebrant prays
Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Blessing and Dismissal
The Celebrant says
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord be with you, this day and always, and give you peace.
The LEM says
Let us go forth, in peace, to love and serve the Lord.
Withdrawal Hymn: O Christ, the Word Incarnatl Hymnal 1982, # 632
O Christ, the Word Incarnate,
O Wisdom from on high,
O Truth, unchanged, unchanging,
O Light of our dark sky;
we praise thee for the radiance
that from the scripture’s page,
a lantern to our footsteps,
shines on from age to age.
The Church from our dear Master
received the word divine,
and still that light is lifted
o’er all the earth to shine.
It is the chart and compass
that o’er life’s surging sea,
mid mists and rocks and quicksands,
still guides, O Christ, to thee.
O make thy Church, dear Savior,
a lamp of purest gold,
to bear before the nations
thy true light as of old;
O teach thy wandering pilgrims
by this their path to trace,
till, clouds and darkness ended,
they see thee face to face.
The Celebrant, the LEM, and the People depart, maintaining physical distance.
We hope that today’s service has been a blessing to you.
We are here to serve you, and hope to see you again.
Please feel free to call us, email us, or visit us online.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Fairland, MD
12621 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904
firstname.lastname@example.org * 301-622-5860 ext. 1002
The Rev. Dr. Christopher Wilkins, Priest-in-Charge
email@example.com * 301-622-5860 ext. 1001
Linda Lee, Parish Administrator
firstname.lastname@example.org * 301-622-5860 ext. 1003
Beresford Coker, Musical Director
Joyce Walker, Administrative Assistant
Lee Mericle, Senior Warden
Rosanne Tingley, Junior Warden
For information about St. Mark’s, please visit our website:
The table for readings in Year B (Epiphany) may be found here: https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/lections.php?year=B&season=Epiphany.
 Sermon text © 2021 Christopher Wilkins. All rights reserved.
3] 2 Henry IV V.iii.32-34.
Resources (available for free online)
These resources contain the prayers and worship services used in The Episcopal Church and by Episcopalians in their daily devotions.
- Book of Common Prayer, www.bcponline.org
- Enriching Our Worship 1, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-1/enrichingourworship1.pdf
- Enriching Our Worship 2, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-2/enrichingourworship2.pdf
- Hymnal 1982: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/EH1982
- Hymnal 1940: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/HPEC1940
- Lift Every Voice and Sing II: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/LEVS1993
- Wonder, Love, and Praise: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/WLP1997
This source shows the readings assigned for use in Sunday worship and for daily office use for each day of the year, with links to online biblical texts.
- The Revised Common Lectionary and Daily Office, https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/
Links to church websites – National, Diocesan and our church’s website.