Anglicans Online banner More about the gryphon
Independent On the web since 1994 More than 250,000 readers More than 30,000 links Updated every Sunday
Will you help support
Anglicans Online?

The Paypal logotype

Noted This Week
Sites new to AO

News Centre
News archive

News flash: a summary of the top headlines
Start here
Anglicans believe...
The Prayer Book
The Bible

Read letters to AO
Write to us

Resources A to Z

World Anglicanism
Anglican Communion
In full communion
Not in the Communion

Dioceses and Parishes
Hong Kong
New Zealand
South Africa

Vacancies Centre
List a vacancy
Check openings worldwide

Add a site or link to AO
Add a site to AO
Link to AO

About Anglicans Online
Back issues
Awards and publicity
About our logo

Our search engine
  Hallo again to all.

NagusameIn this morning's worship, we heard the Comfortable Words from the traditional rite for Holy Communion still used in many Anglican churches around the world. These four sentences are at the core of the Anglican liturgical inheritance, grounding our prayers in a spiritual attitude of comfortableness. They form a kind of bridge in the service, coming as they do between the Confession with Absolution—when our hearts are or ought to be rather low—and the Sursum corda, when we begin to lift up our hearts in the great thanksgiving. Because they are not read at each service in some churches today, it is worth re-presenting them here and recalling that for some 400 years every Anglican communicant heard them before approaching the sacrament of the altar.

Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all who truly turn to him:

Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. St. Matt. xi. 28.

So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. St. John iii. 16.

Hear also what Saint Paul saith. This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 1 Tim. i. 15.

Hear also what Saint John saith. If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins. 1 St. John ii. 1, 2.

These words are not comfortable in the modern sense; they do not call to mind scenes of fading sunlight on a Sunday afternoon, a warm and quiet place to read a good book, a favourite chair, a friendship in which we are our best selves. This comfort is not a kind of Anglican gemütlichkeit. Rather, it is an older meaning of the word comfortable, one the OED is right to call 'obscure or archaic'. The Comfortable Words are comfortable in the sense of being 'strengthening or supporting (morally or spiritually); encouraging, inspiriting, reassuring, cheering'; they are comfortable in the enlivening sense that Archbishop Cranmer meant in the first English liturgy's reference to the 'most comfortable Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ'.

These Comfortable Words are comfortable because they condense the gift of the Gospel into an almost tweetable length: God loves you. God will refresh you in Christ. Our sins are no barrier to this; in fact, Christ does away with them. In the incarnation of the Son of God, there is love stronger than death.

As we knelt and listened to these clear, doctrinal and declaratory statements today, for personal reasons our hearts were with the suffering people of northeastern Japan. In a pattern that has become too familiar in recent years following powerful earthquakes in Haiti and New Zealand, profound and prolonged human tragedy are the outcome of changes deep in 'the caverns of the earth'. For those of us who watch from afar in horror, it is hard to see the easy possibility of real refreshment for persons who travail and are heavy laden in such situations. It is hard to connect the existence of a loving God—to whom choristers in cassock and surplice sing the ancient words of Coverdale—with the scale of life-stealing devastation we come to know with increasing frequency.

Yet the Comfortable Words—however obscure, archaic, and often unrecited they be—make a bold and even universal claim that flies in the face of all that would sap and destroy life. They tell us that Christ bears even the horrors of this human sorrow on the cross to which Lent leads us. They tell us that God's purpose is for life everlasting, and that Love expiates—destroys, does away with, finally erases—the lasting power of all that is broken in the world. The Comfortable Words are indeed still comfortable: strengthening, supporting, inspiriting, reassuring.

But our Comfortable Words will be cold comfort indeed if they do not bear fruit in solidarity with those who suffer, whether in prayer or in action. The refreshment of which the Comfortable Words speak is even now being brought to the people of the Diocese of Tohoku. The gift and ministry of presence is even now being offered by those who have it to give, and we have it on good authority that these are the best ways to support such relief efforts from afar.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

See you next week, dear friends in Christ, comforted, comfortable, comforting.

Our signature
All of us at Anglicans Online

Last updated: 20 March 2011


A thin blue line
This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact about information on this page. ©2011 Society of Archbishop Justus
. Please address all spam to
Yes, this is Zimbabwe