Friday, October 26, 2007

Father Newman on the Anglican Crisis

Father Jay Scott Newman of Greenville, South Carolina, has published some exceedingly insightful comments regarding the current crisis in Anglicanism on the TitusOneNine blog. Father Newman's points reemphasise precisely the point many orthodox Anglo-Catholics have been making for years now, to wit, the purported ordination of women and the purported legitimacy of practising homosexual relationships both equally arise from the same identical source: a deliberate rejection of the clear authority of Holy Scripture and Apostolic Tradition as received dogamtically by the Church Catholic. Both errors stem from a gnostic heresy which denies the revealed doctrine of the order of creation and of the nature of man. The neo-evangelical movement in modern Anglicanism has yet to grapple honestly with the reality outlined below. Let us pray urgently and fervently for the return of all Anglicans who claim the title 'orthodox' to their rightful biblical and traditional theological and moral heritage as given to us by the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church

http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/t19/article/7112/#comments

- Father Newman says:

'"Both schools are asking themselves what the future of Anglicanism is going to look like. And the return to a biblically faithful, traditional Anglicanism isn't just about our Bishops coming to agreement. It involves the whole Church--including its organs of theological education."

This was the comment offered by the Reverend Martha Giltinan, Trinity's Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology. That an ordained woman and seminary professor can talk about the return to a biblically faithful, traditional Anglicanism without any irony is an index of how far gone the Anglican communion is from any form of Christianity which is biblically faithful and traditional. Friends, this is the camel's nose under the tent, and until and unless it is driven back out into the desert, every manner of tempest will sweep in through that gap. To put it most simply: if a woman can be a presbyter, there is no coherent argument left against two men marrying each other... There remains no hope (that I can see) of Anglicanism in the States being restored to biblical and traditional Christianity...'

Thursday, October 18, 2007

On Spiritual Direction for Eastern (and Anglican) Catholics

As Saint John Cassian relates in his Conferences: ‘all Christians are called to live the monastic life, to be monks at heart. We are all called to singleness of heart...’ Such is the call we receive through the able teaching of Bishop Kallistos Ware in his article, The Spiritual Father in Orthodox Christianity. Here we have a very concise and complete explanation of the essential nature of the starets, the spiritual director, in the Eastern Christian Tradition. First and foremost, what strikes this author as being most important for the consideration of the subject is that, for the Christian East, spiritual direction is the unique domain and action of God the Holy Spirit. Spiritual direction is nothing less than personal relation in the Holy Spirit and through the Spirit of God toward the other. By its nature, we are told, spiritual direction is ‘charismatic.’ The term ‘epikletic’ certainly comes to mind as well. Spiritual direction clearly depends on the epiklesis, the invocation of the Holy Spirit, and its result in the gracious working of the Holy Ghost as He descends in response to prayer. In the Western Church it seems that this consciousness and awareness of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit has been in many aspects either lost or terribly obscured. In Western piety and devotion, and in the praxis of the Western Church, there appears to have been an indeliberate depersonalisation of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. Typical Western spiritual practices and prayers, ranging from Eucharistic exposition and adoration to private prayer, beautiful and orthodox in themselves, often omit any reference to the Holy Spirit or His Work. And yet, in all prayer, in every Sacrament, and supremely in the Holy Eucharist, it is the Holy Ghost, He Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who causes the efficacy and living power of God’s grace to become alive and active. ‘The Holy Spirit is the One Who deifies’ says Saint Basil the Great. Every gesture of prayer and Sacrament should be an epiklesis, and so it is with spiritual direction. Bishop Ware recaptures for us, through his eloquent description of the nature and practice of spiritual direction, a sense of the activity of the Holy Ghost in the Christian life. The same Holy Ghost which was promised by Our Lord to the Church Catholic to lead and guide her into all truth now animates, guides, and empowers the relationship of spiritual direction. Both the director and the directee should be open to the leading and influence of the Holy Spirit. Because the Spirit has descended upon the Church and continues to abide in her forever as the One who makes Christ the Head present, since the Holy Spirit is the One who personally applies the redemption of human nature through Christ’s atonement to human persons, it rightly fits that the Holy Spirit should Himself be the ever-present and true spiritual director. Bishop Ware attributes every dimension of direction to the activity of the Spirit of God, and particularly logismoi, the ‘discernment of thoughts.’ This is a refreshing and extremely helpful perspective regarding the purpose, process, and end of spiritual direction: personal relationship. Our God is Himself a Tri-Personal Relationship, a Trinity in relatio, and so it is properly correspondent that our process in the way of Christian perfection should be indissolubly tied to the reality of personal relationship, master to student, student to master, believer to believer, friend to friend. Spiritual direction, as all else in creation, is radically dependent of the Holy Spirit, our Paraclete and Guide. We would all benefit by being more attuned to and more concentrated upon the presence of the Spirit as He operates in and with us.

The essential component in co-operating with God in the growth-and-maturity process entailed in spiritual direction is to have ‘the heart of the hermit,’ that we may be open to God, to be alone with God in prayer, and to prayer unceasing. This is vital for becoming what God intends us to be, for realising God-likeness, deification by God’s grace. We are in effect called upon to become ‘prayer warriors,’ to meet the spiritual need of mankind by intercessory prayer before God in the creative silence of the heart. Our hearts must be focused on God, on His Presence, in love, in silence, and in compassionate intercession for and with others. We are instructed that even in the midst of a busy life full of noise and distraction, we can and should take time to be with God and the practise the life of prayer and ascetic struggle. No easy task to be sure, but this is the path that leads to true living and to a life saturated with God. What is most noticeable about the life of the director, the starets, is that it is an enterprise in co-redemption, a real participation in and co-operation with the work of Jesus Christ our only Mediator and Advocate. Bearing the burdens of other’s sins and sufferings, we are called to live a life of co-working with God and to be God’s co-operative agents in extending His love, mercy, and forgiveness to others. We are instructed to ‘stand in the gap’ for those who come to us for guidance and to be for and with them as those who plead their cause; like Our Lady, whose fiat as the New Eve became for mankind the first instance of co-redemptive co-operation with God’s saving plan, we should be ready to be judged and to be accountable for those who turn to us for spiritual guidance. This profound idea makes perfect sense - the personal relationship of director and directee should be based in the kind of love that is open to real help in spiritual life. Hence, the angelic or mystical life of prayer and works, taught and shared, is accessible to all of us, and should be particularly evident in the co-redemptive relationship of starets and seeker. Again as John Cassian states, all Christians are called to singleness of heart, even in the midst of a busy and unrelenting world. The characteristics of the spiritual director, and of the nature of direction itself are love, presence, creative silence in prayer, and heart - all heart. Specifically meaningful is the notion of uttering ‘words with power,’ restrained, thoughtful, carefully executed words given with surgery-like precision. The director must first be a listener, open to the true heart of the seeker. What is most useful is to learn that words should be used sparingly in direction. Words should be tailor-made, fit to help and assist the individual. No two differing individuals should receive the same word. The ‘economy of language’ brings with it authentic spiritual power to heal and transform. Our article makes it clear that authentic spiritual direction seeks to move beyond the facades of the individual, the masks, and move more deeply into the true self. And as it is for the seeker, so it is for the director. We ourselves are to be shown who we truly are by our friends and companions, those who come to us to receive guidance. The seeker can and often is the teacher of the teacher, the one reveals to the starets his true self as well. In assisting others to see their true selves, teachers are open to the activity and the flourishing of God’s grace. What is most refreshing in Bishop Ware’s description of spiritual direction lies in the truth that such a relationship is not legalistic, but graced. It is not bound by rules of life or regulations of praxis; rather, healthy spiritual direction, being non-violent and undominating, is open to the life and motion of the Holy Spirit. We are to be guides and companions, co-sojourners, with those who come with us on the spiritual journey. The True Director is the Holy Ghost - we are simply companions on the way that leads to life abundant. This docility to the Holy Spirit in the spiritual life means a freedom, a liberation, a joyful surrender to the will and purpose of God, Who never forces but only frees to true existence. Another dimension of the Church’s spiritual direction tradition which this author discovers to be most appealing we find in the concepts of consensus fidelium and spiritual succession. The Holy Catholic Church herself possess the means of discernment: the whole People of God, the whole Body of Christ, illumined and possessed by the Spirit, knows what is true by divine promise. So, just as in the Orthodox Tradition, where the Church herself, having the collective common-sense and wisdom of God’s faithful, determines who is and who is not be canonised a Saint, so too does the Church as the Christ-Incorporated Body, the New Israel covenant people, discern who has and who has not the vocation of a spiritual director. Acclamation by the universal consent of the Church acknowledges the sanctity and holiness of one raised to the Altars in the Communion of Saints; this collective assent, guided by the Holy Spirit, also tells us who is called to be a spiritual director: ‘beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God: for many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (I S. John 4.1). ‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come’ (S. John 16.13). Marvellous it is to realise that the Church can summon and recognise her own for her own purposes. The Church recommends her own children to serve her own. Ecclesia supplet.

Therefore, the Church owns a supernaturally-guaranteed way by which to know her teachers and spiritual masters. There exists within the Church a complementarity of the ‘institutional’ and the ‘charismatic’ within the life of the Body of Christ; not opposed to each other, both elements of authority and teaching co-exist and mutually fulfil and complement each other. This also is most important to remember. A ‘spiritual succession’ of spiritual directors, teachers, and masters serves as vital and essential a purpose as the apostolic succession of the sacrament of Holy Orders for the Church. Again this reflects the dynamic and spiritual nature of Christ’s Church. The Spirit works where He wills, and ministers through whom He chooses to minister - and the Church has the authority to acknowledge and authenticate such vocations and spiritual verities in her life. It is right to have both bishops and spiritual directors, both priests and prophets. Both types of ministry are essential to the Church, and it is beneficial to be reminded of that fact. And this authoritative gift to the Church cultivates love, love as obedience, love as obedience as the free gift of one’s will and heart to the Lord. An authority of love presides over and within the Church in spiritual direction. Not as masters seeking disciples, but as companions and friends, we serve at the initiative and insight of those others who call us to function in this ministry. Nothing could be more Christ-like, more humble, more like the essence of our modest and self-emptying kenotic God. In this ministry of love and service we are revealed as much or more than we help to reveal others. ‘Now I see through a glass darkly, then face-to-face’ (I Corinthians 13). The calling from our Lord and Saviour to this great ministry of being a reflection, a co-traveller with those whom we are privileged to love and know, is such that it comes only from God. ‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, that you should go and bear much fruit.’ May we have grace to fulfil the call given by Him. Our Blessed Lady, Seat of Wisdom, intercede for us. Amen.

On Saint Anthony of Egypt

Saint Anthony of Egypt, the Father of Monasticism, reveals to us the supreme paradigm of the spiritual director in the saga of his life as recorded in The Life of Anthony by Saint Athanasius of Alexandria. The vocation of Saint Anthony to be a spiritual director, a guide for souls, was generated out of Anthony’s own call to live a life of holiness and ascetic discipline. The awareness of his vocation to the ascetical life of virtue eventually compelled him by necessity to minister to others as a companion and spiritual friend. It was, in essence, Anthony’s own ascetic struggle which attracted other Christians to him. Anthony, solitary in prayer and alone in the desert fortress of his own choosing, soon draws faithful Christians to him as a result of his own consecration of service to God and his own battles against the devil. Saint Anthony did not seek to encourage a following: by his holiness, perseverance, suffering, struggle, and ultimate advancement in the way that leads to life eternal, Anthony became a beacon of spiritual light to others who desired his help and guidance. In chapter 14 of the Life of Anthony, we read that many Christians were so moved by the spiritual power and holiness of Anthony that they literally invaded his home, tearing down the door to get to him. For twenty years before, he had lived in absolute solitude, praying, fasting, and wrestling with demons. Anthony began to give instruction to the people, to minister to the sick, and to educate monks in the path of the ascetic life, only after he was compelled to do so by the people who sought after him. Again and again, Saint Anthony attempts to get away, later in life escaping to a monastic home in the ‘inner mountain’ far away from civilisation. Still, however, he is pursued by faithful Christians seeking healing, knowledge, and help. Inevitably, it seems, Anthony’s holiness and advancement in the spiritual life were simply irresistible - and the demands and needs of the people continually pulled the Saint away from his solitude to serve and assist others, a sign of Anthony’s charity, his love for God and neighbour. Interestingly, Anthony’s original sojourn into the wilderness in order to remove himself from the population for prayer and ascetic life will be so completely reversed because of the spiritual power God grants to him in his effort that, at the end of his life, he serves as an intermediary and mediator for the judges and legal courts of his day. People with grievances in the court system come to him for help, advice, and representation. By going out and away from the world, Anthony impacts and transforms the world through his own transformation. Anthony never really escapes other people, nor does he entirely desire to do so. He retires away from society so that his spiritual war may be enacted and that he may be forged in the conflict of the ascetic life; as he struggles and grows, he becomes so changed by grace that he develops a stronger pull on others, whom he does assist. The more Saint Anthony struggles, co-operating with the divine grace of Christ, the more he is changed, and the more effective he becomes. One can clearly see the model implied here for all Christians who would be led to serve as spiritual directors.

Initially, that which called Anthony to the life of Christian asceticism is that which both started and nurtured his vocation as a spiritual director: the Apostolic life of self-sacrifice and total unabashed service of Christ. ‘He considered how the Apostles, forsaking everything, followed the Saviour...and what great hope is stored up for such people in heaven’. This awareness of the high calling of the Apostolic life is also Anthony’s awareness of the ultimate vocation he possesses for leading others into and through this life as well. Throughout, that which prepared and sustained Saint Anthony for his mission of teaching, prayer, instruction, and healing was his prayer and his strict life of ascetic discipline. He resisted the devil through prayer; he healed the sick through prayer; he cast out demons through prayer; he inspired others to follow his example through prayer; he sustained his incredibly rigorous life of sacrifice, modesty, and struggle through prayer; he encouraged his disciples to be vigilant and persevering through prayer; he interceded and obtained miracles through prayer; he prayed the Holy Scriptures constantly and unwaveringly; he experienced a bloodless martyrdom of spiritual suffering and offering through prayer: prayer was the beginning and ending of his life - it was his food, his stay, his essence. Communion with God through prayer was the hallmark of Anthony’s spiritual pilgrimage. The Egyptian Saint’s prayers, it is important to note, were always fortified and strengthened by his ascetic practices: his fasting and abstinence, his lack of food and sleep, his persistence in meditation and contemplation, his recourse to Scripture, his combat with the demons who assailed him, his constant focus on his soul instead of on his body, his taking of only that which he need to sustain physical life without indulgence and self-satisfaction. Anthony experienced a shocking awareness of the reality of the supernatural world, and especially of the demonic, and this no doubt led him to a deeper awareness of his own call to be a Christian ascetic and monk and a director of other Christians. In horrifying detail, Anthony records for posterity his own combat with the devil and with demonic forces, teaching us how to withstand their assaults and temptations (chapters 22-43). In fact, victory over the demons proves that, on the one hand, monastic life is not escapism but warfare, and on the other, that rigour and strife in the spiritual life are key to defeating evil and overcoming wickedness in oneself and the world. Askesis, ascetic practice, undergirds and reinforces Anthony’s life as a Christian and a spiritual director. The Saint of Egypt teaches us the need, through his own combat, for continual and unrelenting self-examination and self-scrutinising. We are told to watch ourselves, our every act and motive, to be on alert for sin and for desires that enter in. We are reminded of the need for honest work, the regular use and reading of Scripture, and the need for self-donating, self-humiliating disciplines. All in all, Anthony shines forth as a wondrous example of Christ’s divinising grace, one who realised and then fulfilled his call to be a monk and spiritual director because of his openness to the reality of life in Jesus Christ.

If we would be spiritual directors, we must follow the same path that illuminated the life of Anthony. Saint Anthony of Egypt embodies the requisite qualities which are essential for the ministry of an effective and good director of souls. Anthony is presented as the great pioneer, the veritable founder of spiritual direction. Commending his teaching to others, he observes the life of discipline himself. He renders his direction effective because he practices his own advice: ‘he practices what he preaches.’ ‘The Discipline’ as it is simply called, serves as the heart of Anthony’s entire life, physical and spiritual. Utterly consecrated to Jesus Christ and committed to fulfil the will and commandments of God, Anthony exercises the life of Christian virtue through a deep and profound asceticism. The asceticism of Saint Anthony is the pursuit of and the perseverance in the life of excellence, the cultivation of virtue to the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Anthony seeks to live in God and fulfil the human vocation by recovering the full likeness to God. ‘We need therefore to fear God alone, holding the demons in contempt and fearing them not all. The demons are afraid of the ascetics on several counts -- for their fasting, the vigils, the prayers, the meekness and gentleness, the contempt of money, the lack of vanity, the humility, the love of the poor, the almsgiving, the freedom from wrath, and most of all for their devotion to Christ’. These are the qualities postulated by Anthony the ascetic as requisite to the heavenly life of Jesus, a life to which all must aspire and for which all have the capacity to live. The qualities which are to be instilled in the client must be present and active in the teacher. Such is certainly the case with Anthony. ‘Why not rather own those things that we are able to take away with us [to heaven] -- such things as prudence, justice, temperance, courage, understanding, love, concern for the poor, faith in Christ, freedom from anger, hospitality? If we possess these, we shall discover them running before, preparing hospitality for us there in the land of the meek’. Anthony is able to give to others what he already possesses. According to S. Athanasius’ text, various elements unite to make Saint Anthony the spiritual giant that he is. First and foremost, Anthony believes and enacts in love the Orthodox Catholic Faith of the Church. ‘In all things having to do with belief, he was truly wonderful and orthodox’. In all things, Anthony obeyed the teaching of the Church Catholic and submitted himself to the doctrinal and moral judgements of the Orthodox Church and her Tradition. ‘Rather, keep yourselves pure from contact with [heretics] and guard both the tradition of our fathers and especially the holy faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, which you have learned from the Scriptures and have often had recalled to you by me’. As noted by S. Athanasius’ record of the regular and frequent invocation of Scriptural passages on Anthony’s part, the Antonian tradition is thoroughly immersed in Scripture. Saint Anthony’s doctrine and teaching, as well as his spiritual direction, come directly through a comprehensive knowledge and love of Scripture. He bases and grounds all of his work in direction on the Word of God as received and interpreted through the orthodox Fathers. Anthony loves and knows the Bible by heart. He thus utilises it in every aspect of his life and ministry. Anthony is a ‘Bible-believing Christian,’ a Bibliocentric man, a man of the Scriptures. Also, he honours the Sacred Ministers of the Church, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, and reveres the sanctity and goodness of the Church’s corporate life expressed through prayer and sacrament. Saint Anthony is equally a ‘man of the Church,’ wholly, entirely, and unreservedly. In particular we witness the bold zeal of Anthony as a man of the Orthodox Faith in relation to his teaching regarding both the Meletian schismatics and the Arian heretics. The Saint loved the orthodox patristic Tradition and despised and abhorred all heresies and false doctrines. This fundamental quality of faithfulness to the Catholic Faith assures the fidelity of Anthony as a teacher and a spiritual director.

The New Life of Christ, a wholeheartedly Christocentric vision, leads Anthony to worship and glorify Jesus Christ as the Word and Wisdom of God, one in Essence with the Father (homoousios). ‘He taught the people that the Son of God is not a creature, and that he did not come into existence from nonbeing, but rather He is eternal Word and Wisdom from the Essence of the Father.... ‘it is sacrilegious to say, ‘there was when he was not’...’. Devotion to Jesus Christ as God and Lord of all Creation is an indispensable trait in the life that makes a Anthony a Saint and director of souls. The Egyptian Saint encounters, in the midst of his demon-induced torments, a Beam of light, which comes to save and release him from demonic oppression. The Ray of Light is Christ, who is Only-begotten of the Father, deriving from One Essence with the Father. The eternal Word says to Saint Anthony, ‘I was here, Anthony, but I waited to watch your struggle. And now since you persevered and were not defeated, I will be your helper forever, and I will make you famous everywhere.’ Anthony, summoned by Christ Himself, defends the Orthodox and Catholic Religion; he prevails to become such a teacher through his ascetical warfare. It is through the power of Christ alone, Christ the True God, and by His grace, Anthony manifests, that mankind attains to the life of virtue and excels in holiness and God-likeness. The Nicene Faith of the Orthodox Catholic Church, belief in the Deity of Jesus Christ as the Second Person of the Godhead, produces the fruit of Anthony’s spiritual journey. Anthony’s life radiates the power of Jesus Christ as God: through Christ, with Christ, in Christ. ‘Draw inspiration from Christ always’. ‘You will realise that faith in Christ is sufficient in itself. ‘We possess the mystery in the power supplied to us by God through Jesus Christ’. ‘We rely on the trust that is in Christ... by teaching faith in Christ’. ‘It is not we who do it but Christ....’. ‘Christ is God and Son of God’. Clearly, Anthony not only believes, but experiences, the divine Nature of Our Lord Jesus Christ as the uncreated and only-begotten Word of God, who divinises us and transfigures us by the operation of His uncreated grace as we correspond with it by our faith working by love, good works. Theology and prayer, orthodox theology and spiritual disciplines and prayer, are absolutely inseparable. Two other characteristics substantially define the good qualities of Anthony as a director: ‘Competition with the Saints’ and ‘Daily Dying.’ ‘Let the contest be ours...'. Saint Anthony teaches us that to excel in the life of virtue we must engage in a good, wholesome, holy competition with the Saints of God in heaven: we should be prepared to out-do them in achieving the life of ascetic perfection and grace. We are called to join with the Saints in ‘running the race that is set before us, surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses’ (Hebrews 12). As Anthony instructs his disciples before his death: ‘Strive always to be bound to each other as allies, first of all in the Lord, and then in the Saints, so that after death they may receive you into the eternal habitations as friends and companions’. Again and again, Anthony challenges Christians to struggle and not be weary, to persevere and not give up on practising the disciplines of the Faith. He encourages those who follow in his path to live up to the standard established by the Saints - so that in following their way of holiness we may join them in heaven. This ‘competition with the Saints’ is nothing less than the ever-continuing effort to be faithful to the discipline of the ascetic life, to refuse the temptation to abandon the practice of virtue. In doing so himself, Anthony serves as the example for those who follow him. It is yet again a matter not only of practising what one preaches, but finishing what one started. ‘He who perseveres unto the end shall be saved.’ Finally, Anthony teaches us to practice the art of ‘Dying Daily.’ ‘I die daily: For if we live as people dying daily, we will not commit sin... if we think this way, and in this way live -daily- we will not sin, nor will we crave anything, not bear a grudge against anyone, nor will we lay up treasures on earth, but as people who anticipate dying each day we shall be free of possessions, and we shall forgive all things to all people... we shall turn away from it as something transitory, forever doing battle and looking toward the day of judgement’. ‘And live as though dying daily, paying heed to yourselves and remembering what you heard from my preaching’. Saint Anthony admonishes us to live each day as though it were our last on earth, so that, concentrated in body and spirit on that which is most important, we will live a heavenly life, sinless and consecrated to God, here, and, in the world to come, a life of glory in heaven. The Egyptian Saint instructs us to keep our priorities in the correct order, and to live for God at every moment of life, not falling into the trap of desiring the things of the world, but seeking the perfect love and peace of God. The Apostolic and biblical principle of ‘dying daily’ is given a new, brighter intensity by Anthony. These are among the many characteristics that make Anthony a spiritual director par excellence.

Saint Anthony of Egypt serves as the model Christian, the archetype of the believer in Jesus Christ, radically obedient to Christ in the call of the Holy Gospel. He appears before us in the Life of Anthony as a deified human person, the Image and Likeness of God transfigured by divine grace to be ‘by grace what God is by nature.’ Anthony’s ascetic struggle, or Askesis, makes him the object and product of Theosis, divinisation. Anthony holds out for us what it is to be a Christian; he functions as an Ikon of Christ in man, demonstrating in vivid detail the identity, purpose, and calling of a member of the One Holy Catholic Church. Totally opposed to the world-system, Anthony lives the life of heaven on earth, and becomes the prototype of every one who desires to be ‘transformed by the renewing of the mind’ in Christ. Saint Anthony of Egypt, pray for us. Amen.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"I Don't Want Any Man to Come Between My Soul and God"

HOLY CROSS TRACTS

By Father H.N. Thompson

"I Don't Want Any Man to Come Between My Soul and God"

Don't you? But what has that got to do with it? I mean, what difference does it make whether you wish it or not? You haven't got to choose. This is a matter of religion, and the question is not what you want, but what God says. He is the Master. You are only one of His creatures. It is for Him to say what is to be — not you.
The only religion which is worth anything at all is the religion which God has revealed. You can't open up com­munications with God. You can only avail yourself of those which He has made. A man-made religion is worth simply nothing at all. If you have found out a heaven of your own, you can, perhaps, find out the way to it — such as it is. But if you want to get to God's heaven you must be content to go to it by His way.
So, you see, this saying, "I don't want any man to come between my soul and God," is a piece of Counterfeit Reli­gious Coin. It has a pious look about it, but when it is tested it rings false. It is really a piece of base metal. It is really self-will, with a religious face upon it.
"Ah ! but (you say) that isn't what I meant. I meant it isn't God's Will that any man should come between my soul and God." Well, there you are exactly in the wrong. Just the opposite to what you say is true. It is God's Will that men should come between your soul and Him. It is God's Will to give us His gifts for body and soul by means of our fellow-men.
To begin with, there is the great gift of life. You will not deny that our bodily life comes from God. But you can­not deny, either, that it comes to us through our parents. Fancy anyone saying, "I don't want any parents to come between my life and God!" It has pleased Him to use their ministry to convey this gift from Him to us.
But this life, when once it has been given, must be pre­served by food. We do not provide our own food for our­selves. We get it from butchers and bakers and others. By their ministry God's gift of food comes to us. Sometimes we are sick, disease is interfering with the gift of life. We go to the doctor, and he ministers to us God's gift of medicine.
As it is with the body, so it is with the mind. We go to school, and we are taught how to read. Our minds are fed with truth about the world in which God has placed us. The schoolmaster is the minister by whom we receive food for the mind.
So it is also with the soul. God has His gifts for the soul, and He gives them to us through the ministry of our fellow-men—just as He gives His gifts for body and mind through our fellow-men. The gift of spiritual life comes to us in Baptism. Then we are "born of water and of the Spirit," as the Lord said we must be. (St. John 3 :5) But we cannot baptize ourselves. So we receive this first gift for our souls through the ministry of a Clergyman.

The good work begun then needs help later on; the young life requires to be strengthened. So children are brought to the Bishop to be confirmed by him, and by the laying on of his hands they receive the Holy Ghost, as the people of old did by laying on of the Apostles' hands. (Acts 8 and 19.) God uses the Bishop as His instrument.
Sometimes the spiritual life is attacked by the deadly disease of sin. Then medicine is needed. The medicine is called Absolution, or the Forgiveness of Sins. It comes from God, of course, as every good gift does. But it comes to us through the Priest, to whom it has been said, "Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven."
Again, the constant food of the Christian soul through life is the Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. But everybody is not able to celebrate the Holy Communion. Here, again, therefore, the gift comes to us from God through His appointed minister and steward.
So it is, too, with Bible reading and sermons. Holy men of old, moved by the Holy Ghost, wrote down the books of the Bible. Others copied them out, and others at last printed them. In the ministry of the Word and Sacraments our Clergy, who are God's stewards, give to the members of the Lord's household "their portion of meat in due sea­son" (St. Luke 12:42). It is the Lord Who has made them rulers over His household.
This foolish saying, then, about having no man between your soul and God, is nothing but self-will. You might as well say, put no water-pipe between my house and the reservoir. Or, put no staircase between me and my bedroom. Don't you see that these things are channels and helps—not hindrances?
And, moreover, the Clergy and the Church did not invent them. The Sacraments were appointed by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. So that if you say that you won't have anything to do with them, it is not merely the Church whom you are rejecting, but the Lord. And do you think it is wise or safe to do this?
Many years ago there was a man who had caught the dreadful disease of leprosy. He went to a Prophet of God, who told him to wash himself seven times in the river Jor­dan and he would be cured. But Naaman (that was his name) made a difficulty. He said, Why must it be this river Jordan? Can't I wash in one of the rivers in my own country? No, only the river Jordan would do.
Why was this? Did the water of Jordan taste any dif­ferent, or look any different, from the others? Perhaps not. But God said distinctly, The River Jordan. And when God says a thing He means it.
I said at the beginning of this tract that the saying, "I don't want any man to come between my soul and God," is a piece of bad religious money. So it is. And yet it is often passed from one to another by those who would have nothing to do with it if they only knew its real character. It is a saying which really belongs to those who reject the Lord that bought them.
There are some who say that they do not want any Mediator to come between their souls and God—no Lord Jesus Christ to bring them back to the Father. They deny what the Lord said, "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me." All this sounds very dreadful to you. You do not agree with such people.

You say that all your trust is in the merits of the Saviour. This is well. But are you quite sure that you do yourself really believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? If you believe in Him, surely you would obey Him. Surely you would "hear the Church," as He commands. (St. Matt. 18: 17)
Imagine the case of a sick man. As he lies on his bed you hear him express the greatest possible faith in the doc­tor. "I am sure he can cure me," he says. But you notice a row of unopened medicine bottles by the bedside. You say, "Why don't you take your medicine?" The sick man says, "Oh, the medicine is only a form; the great thing is to believe in the doctor, and I do believe in him thoroughly. It isn't medicine that will cure me; it's the doctor."
"Ah!" you reply, "but why should a skillful doctor give you medicine, if it were of little consequence whether you took it or not? How can you say that you believe in the doctor when you neglect his orders?"
And how can Christians declare that they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ when they despise His Church and Sacra­ments? They say that they believe, but in their acts they deny it. They want to come to the Father, not in the way that Christ has appointed, but in their own way.
To despise the things which the Lord has instituted is to despise the Lord himself. "Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (St. Luke 6:46) Why, indeed?

Dear reader, see how all this applies to you. God has set up a certain religion. It is called the Holy Catholic Church. In it He gives gifts to men—such gifts as He knows that we need.
He gives these gifts to us in His own way, the way in which He Himself has chosen. That is, He gives them through the ministry of His Church. He might have given the gifts in other ways if it had so pleased Him, but it has not.
This is not, perhaps, the religion which you would have invented if it had fallen to your lot to make a religion. Fortunately, this is not your business. Your business is (is it not?) to avail yourself gratefully to those blessings which the Lord won for you by becoming Man and dying on the Cross.
You are a poor sinner, afflicted with a worse leprosy than Naaman's—the leprosy of sin. Surely you will not "go away in rage" because the way of salvation is laid down for you; and you cannot make a new way for yourself.
"If the Prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it? How much more, then, when He saith to thee, Wash and be clean?"
You believe that the Lord is perfect Love. Believe also that He is perfect Wisdom. The way which He has chosen for you, the way of the Holy Church, is not merely the only safe way. It is also the best possible way. Say to Him, "Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest. Thou knowest that I love Thee. Thou only hast the words of everlasting life."

Is Your Minister A Priest?

HOLY CROSS TRACTS - August 1916

By Father James O.S. Huntington, OHC

Is your Minister a priest?
"A priest ! No ! Protestants have no use for priests."
I hope you do not really mean that.
"Why not?"
Because it would be as much as to say: Protestants have no use for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
"Well, of course I don't stand for that."
No, I am sure you do not. But there is no doubt that Jesus Christ is a Priest, that He has the one only true priest­hood in Heaven or earth.
"Yes, that is just what I believe. But if He is the only true Priest how can any one else be rightly called so?"
That is exactly what I want to explain, if you will be patient with me.
When you said just now that Protestants have no use for priests, what you were thinking was this: — that priests are a class or caste of men who try to make people believe that a soul cannot get into communication with God except by making use of them, and that God will not give men what they need except through them.
Of course there have been such priests as that, the priests of heathen religions, — like the "medicine men" among the Indians, — but they were not true priests at all.

And that false idea of priesthood has shown itself here and there in the Christian Church. But the true idea of a Christian priesthood is just the opposite. It is, as I said, that all true priesthood is in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary. He joins all Christians to Himself in Holy Baptism, whereby they become Christians, that is mem­bers of Christ. And the whole Christian people shares in the great offices of its Head. He is the true Prophet and Priest and King. So Christians are kings and priests unto God, and they should be prophets as well, continually prophesying, or forth-telling, by their lives if not by their words, the good news of God. It is not, of course, that each Christian exercises an independent royalty or priesthood or prophetic function, in his own right as it were. That would spell confusion. He is to reign over himself, over his body and over his possessions, and the things committed to his care, but he does so because he belongs to Christ, Who is King of kings,—not king of slaves, for to serve Him is to reign. So, also, the Christian does not preach himself but Christ Jesus the Lord. Christ said to His followers, "It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of My Father that speaketh in you." So, once more, it is not that a Christian can be a priest apart from Christ, but he is to have a share in the priesthood of Christ, offering up "spiritual sacrifices" to God, and ministering grace by word and deed.
"Well, all that seems reasonable enough, but what are you coming to?"Just this. Protestants do not claim that all men shall have exactly the same extent of authority; they recognize that a father must be responsible for his family, a school-teacher for his pupils, a foreman for his workmen, a captain for his soldiers, etc.

Then, again, most Protestants do not wish to have all people "exercise in prophesy" to the same degree. They let most of the preaching be done by men trained and set apart for that office.
Why should it not be so with regard to the priesthood? Why should not certain Christians be chosen and set apart that Christ the one true Priest may act in and through them, as they minister to men, and lead them in the sacri­ficial worship of the Holy Eucharist?
"Do you mean that a priest does not claim to take the place of Christ?"
Certainly not. Christ is not an absentee. He has not left this earth to be ruled or fed or taught by certain men, while He stays away. That mistake has opened the way for the tyrants who have oppressed, the ecclesiastics who have cheated, and the heresiarchs who have misled man­kind. But Christ declared after His Resurrection that all power was given unto Him in Heaven and in earth, in His Ascension He went up into Heaven to "fill all things" and to His Apostles, and through them to the Apostolic ministry to the end of time, He said: "As My Father sent Me even so I send you," "he that receiveth you receiveth: Me," 'Lo, I am with you always unto the consummation of the ages.'
"Then you mean to say that a priest does not put him­self in the place of Christ?"
No indeed, God forbid! No properly taught and right-minded priest would dream of such a thing. He acts for Christ only as he acts from Christ. When our Lord came forth from His heavenly Father He was not separat­ed from Him, for He says: "The Father hath not left Me alone," "as Thou, Father, art in Me," "the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works." And when Christ said to His Apostles, and so to all His priests, "As My Father hath sent Me even so send I you," He must have meant that He was to be in them and to act through them, just as St. Paul said, referring to his exercise of absolution, "to whomsoever I forgave anything, in the Person of Christ forgave I it."
"Then what a priest gives to people is not really his at all."
No, not his at all, any more than your friend's gift to you on Christmas morning belongs to the messenger who brings it to your door.
"But I always thought that you Catholics in your Sacra­ments make much of the man, while Protestants depend on Christ."
Yes, that is one of the many mistakes that people make. As a matter of fact the personality of the priest is of very little consequence to us. It does make a good deal of dif­ference to me who is the preacher, but, when I go to make my Communion, it counts for very little who is the priest. He is but the hand of Christ. So if I depend upon the fervour and eloquence of a man who "makes a prayer," I must needs be affected by his personality. But the priest who says the words that the Church puts on his lips is to me only a voice,—the voice of Christ.
"You surprise me very much. I thought that all this about priests was the very opposite of democracy, but you seem to make it almost the same thing."
Of course it is, if by democracy you mean the removal of class and caste. Have you never thought that one reason why the Church dresses Her priests up in such singular robes is that they are so like other men that otherwise you would not know they were priests? Of course we should be glad if all our priests were wise and holy, but we value their ministrations not because of their wisdom or holiness, but because they are "ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." But I forgot; you said that your minister is not a priest.
"No, but I wish he were."
Well, he can be if he is willing.
"How?"

I must tell you that another time. But before we part I want to read you a statement made by one of the wisest teachers of the Church in England. He lived nearly three hundred years ago. His name was Richard Hooker. You will see how strongly he puts what I have tried to say to you, that a priest is nothing in himself, but simply the instru­ment of God.
"For in that they are Christ's ambassadors and His labourers, who should give them their commission but He Whose most inward affairs they manage? Is not God alone the Father of spirits? Are not souls the purchase of Jesus Christ? What angel in Heaven could have said to man as our Lord did unto Peter, 'Feed my sheep: Preach: Baptize: Do this in remembrance of Me: Whose sins ye retain they are retained: and their offences in Heaven pardoned whose faults you shall on earth forgive?' What think we? Are these terrestrial sounds, or else are they voices uttered out of the clouds above? The power of the ministry of God translateth out of darkness into glory, it raiseth men from the earth and bringeth God himself down from Heaven, by blessing visible elements it maketh them invisible grace, it giveth daily the Holy Ghost, it hath to dispose of that flesh which was given for the life of the world and that blood which was poured out to redeem souls, when it poureth malediction upon the heads of the wicked they perish, when it revoketh the same they revive. O wretched blindness if we admire not so great power, more wretched if we con­sider it aright and notwithstanding imagine that any but God can bestow it!"

PNCC-G4 Dialogue

The Anglican Joint Synods (G4) - Polish National Catholic Church Dialogue Meeting was held from 28th-30th January 2020 at Saint Barnabas Du...