Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Our Bounden Duty

Our Bounden Duty
"Accept this our bounden duty and service..."
Who wants to hear of BOUNDEN DUTY today? This is the stuff of those under military command, or contractual obligation. The duty is a must do, that conveys the perception of an external force, willingly or unwillingly to be accepted. But certainly it is an onerous, burdensome matter impinging upon my time: "Do I have to?", gets verbally expressed or thought.
Nothing could be further from the truth of bounden duty as written in the prayer after communion in the Book of Common Prayer. The Cambridge dictionary says 'bounden duty' is "something you feel you must do.". One struggles to understand the word 'feel' as if it could be some difficult or undefinable emotion compelling the will, something perhaps irrational.
 The Dictionary of Oxford English Idioms says of 'bounden duty ', "a responsibility regarded by yourself or others as obligatory." this is in my opinion a more accurate description of the phrase : something obligatory, something that is required of a person. There is nothing irrational about our bounden duty to God, or our fellow man. (Indeed, to be fully awake in one's  intellectual and emotional capacities towards God and our fellow man IS to be fully human in the very best sense of what it means to be human.)
In the context of the Gospel of our Lord, as witnessed in the Scriptures and the Church through the generations, 'bounden duty ' is the training ground that leads us towards the fullness of humanity: the virtuous redeemed human. Jesus says, "for whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospels will save it.
Now, if I understand love in the Gospel sense of the word, as witnessed in Jesus Christ, it it is to desire the good of the other. One must lose themselves for the good of the other. Jesus did this on the Cross. He lost himself for us. He loved us to the point of death, even death upon a cross.
In another place he says, " Can you drink the cup that I will drink? " The cup of suffering or, "Father, take this cup from me, yet not my will.". These phrases express 'bounden duty' so very well. Love, self-emptying love, sacrificial love, is the driving force of this virtue driven phrase, which trains, nurtures, prunes, and drives to maturity the spiritual fruit. Those desiring to be disciples of Christ embrace 'bounden duty ' with joy because it expresses love in thought, word, and deed.
Only the one who desires to please God enters fully into their bounden duty. They weigh not their merits. They rationally, faithfully, and willfully respond to the love of God witnessed in Christ Jesus and give their lives.
Love so amazing, so divine
demands my life, my soul, my all.