Every week in the church newsletter, Fr. Rob shares a small theological musing to help form our faith and remind us of what we believe as Episcopalians. This is a compilation of those reflections.

Farewell to the Alleluia

Alleluia is a special liturgical word that means, “Praise God.” But its significance is more mystical than the words “Praise God” can convey. Alleluia signifies that ineffable joy present in those heavenly habitations where saints and angels behold God face to face in God’s perfect love. As we lift our hearts to God in prayer and praise, we use this word as an expression of our highest praise. Alleluia is a foretaste and a pledge of what awaits us in the life to come- a bit of heaven come down to earth. 

Since the fifth century, the Church has suspended the use of this mystical word of praise during Lent, as a reminder of the separation from God that sin brings. We walk the Lenten journey of repentance so that the Holy Spirit may bring healing and wholeness to our wounded hearts. We do not say alleluia, because for a time we mourn our sins and seek God’s mercy and forgiveness. But that does not mean that we do not offer any sacrifice of praise. Even as we contemplate our sins and seek God’s healing, we replace our alleluias with praise to Christ who reconciles us to God and forgives our sins. During the Mass of the lenten season we sing, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory,”- a glory which comforts and supports us during the Lenten season.

On the last Sunday after the Epiphany, we say farewell to the Alleluia. During medieval times their elaborate ceremonies evolved in which the alleluia was actually buried and “resurrected” on Easter. While we won’t be burying the alleluia, we will end the Mass on Sunday with many sung alleluias, as we turn away from the beauty of our Lord in his Transfigured Glory, and turn towards the healing lenten desert which will take us to the Cross and finally back to Easter Joy.

The Healing Sacraments

When Jesus healed someone in the Gospels, he almost always included the forgiveness of sin with a commandment to go and sin no more. We shouldn’t conclude that this means that our personal sin causes sickness- or worse that God punishes people by inflicting them with some illness. But, this does point to the holistic way that God sees us: the salvation and healing that God offers us is for both body and soul. 

The Sacrament of Unction is a sacrament of healing in which a priest anoints a sick person with oil, and lays hands on them with the prayer of faith, asking God’s healing grace and love to be present with the sick person. As late as the mid 20th century this sacrament was only given as one neared death, as part of last rites. But the liturgical renewal of the late 20th century saw the recovery of this sacrament to its biblical origins, in which any sick person could ask for healing grace through this sacrament at any time. It is important to remember that healing does not always mean cure. Yet, we believe that God’s love is always transforming us and preparing us for life eternal. 

The Sacrament of Reconciliation sometimes referred to as Confession, is a sacrament of healing for the soul. The earliest Christians saw sin as a sickness of the soul. The sacraments, particularly Baptism and the Holy Eucharist were seen as the medicine of immortality- the cure for sin. The Church has always believed that after baptism all of one’s sins are forgiven. But the question arose, “what happens when one sins after baptism?” The Sacrament of Reconciliation evolved as a means of offering absolution of sin, and spiritual counsel for those who sinned after baptism. It is rooted in the power that Jesus gave the Apostles to forgive sins. When a priest is ordained, this authority is given to the priest.

There is a General Confession at every Mass, and the priest absolves the sins of the penitent then. We, as Anglicans, following the teachings of the Apostle Paul, also believe that one may confess their sins directly to God through Jesus Christ and obtain mercy and forgiveness. But sometimes, it is helpful to confess one’s sins to a priest. This is helpful when one needs to hear the words of absolution when one needs or desires counsel and prayer, or when one’s conscience needs to find relief. In the Episcopal Church, this sacrament is always available to anyone who needs it, but no one is ever forced or coerced into making a confession. Of course, one’s confession remains under the stole of the priest, in total secrecy, and can never be revealed to another person (unless you confess that you are abusing a child, in which the Church requires the priest to report this to the authorities).


The Sacrament of Confirmation evolved as infant baptism became more normalized in the Church, and the need arose for those who had been initiated into the Church in infancy to be able to profess for themselves their faith in Jesus Christ and to affirm the promises that had been made on their behalf by their parents. Today in the Episcopal Church, Confirmation is a mature, public affirmation of one’s faith. It is a celebration of one’s Baptism, and one’s public intention to follow Christ as a member of the Episcopal Church. It is celebrated by the prayers of the community and the laying on of hands by the Bishop. In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit confirms the gifts given at Baptism, just as the Holy Spirit confirmed the faith of the Virgin Mary, the Apostles, and the disciples gathered in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost. 

If you were baptized (in any Christian Church that baptizes in the Name of the Most Blessed Trinity) but were never confirmed, you might consider receiving this Sacrament as a means of strengthening your faith. If you were confirmed in a Church with Apostolic Succession, you do not need to be “re-confirmed” in order to become a member of the Episcopal Church. However, you may wish to be received into the Episcopal Church by the bishop with the laying on of hands.

The Bishop will be visiting St. Martin’s in November to confirm both youth and adults who desire to make a public affirmation of their faith, and to receive those who have been confirmed in other churches. You may also wish to renew your faith with the laying on of hands by the bishop.

* Please note, you are a member of the church by virtue of your baptism. However, according to the canons of the church, only confirmed members may serve on the vestry, serve as a Eucharistic Minister or Lay Preacher, or seek ordination.