Monday, September 29, 2008

On Prayer and Devotion

Your desire to enter more deeply into the life of prayer and mystical communion with God is a wonderful movement and grace of the Holy Ghost. Prayer is an art, but it is also, and most fundamentally, a discipline of order and rule of life, which brings structure to our lives and continually sets us on the path to God. It is vital for one's own spiritual life to develop and rigorously maintain a rule of daily prayer and devotion, for the freedom of the Spirit only takes on its fullest expression and works most powerfully when there is consistency and regularity in the life of the soul. 'Order brings freedom' says Saint Augustine. I would encourage you to develop the holy habit of regular, daily, patterned and directed prayer - most especially I should recommend the daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, which is the Liturgy of the Hours, the daily work and round of prayer to God which unites us to the prayer of the Lord Jesus our Head and to the prayer of the whole Body of the Church in paradise and on earth and across the world. The Offices are opus Dei, the work of God, the prayer of the whole Church throughout time and space. We contribute to it and share in it by our participation in the Divine Offices.

Personal devotions are also essential for stoking the fires of the Spirit and cultivating a personal relationship with God. The affective and personal embodiment of piety is irreplaceable in the spiritual life. I do recommend, and use myself, both the Western Dominican Rosary, the traditional rosary of the Catholic West, and the Jesus Prayer, the Prayer of the Heart, which is characteristic of Eastern Orthodoxy. Both the Jesus Prayer and the Western Rosary function in a similar manner, in that they produce an effect of meditation and recollective silence in which we may ponder the mysteries of salvation and offer to God the prayer of our innermost being. They are not at all 'vain repeititon' or 'rote prayers,' for like the Offices, they create a sacred space and order in which one may contemplate the love and presence of God.

With the Rosary, 15 Mysteries recounting the life of Our Lord, the totality of the Gospel, are contemplated with the three most basic prayers of the Western Christian liturgy, the Pater Noster, the Ave Maria and the Gloria Patri. The Rosary is a recitation of and meditation on the beauty of the Gospel as found in the New Testament.

The Jesus Prayer is a way by which the full theological faith of the Church regarding her Lord and the testimony of our common and personal relationships with Him, 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner,' are brought through the intellect and speech into the heart, there to take on a wordless and imageless communion with God that penetrates into the very Life and Light of the Holy Trinity. By constant recitation of the Jesus Prayer one learns to fulfil the New Testament command, 'pray without ceasing.'

Both forms of prayer are absolutely Christ-centred, objective in character and tradition, and authorised by the Church through the hallowed use of centuries and generation upon generation. 'Time tested, Mother Church approved.' We avoid idiosyncrasies and theological error, as well as atomism and subjectivism, when we use the Church's approved means of prayer.

Practically speaking, I would recommend one form of prayer or the other at first, and that you begin to use the aid to prayer on a daily basis, slowly at first and as time allows, and then permit your attraction to and need for the devotion to grow over time. If you have questions, please let me know and I shall be happy to assist. Being a traditional Anglo-Catholic, I have more of a historically-based and aesthetic penchant for the Rosary, which was revived in the Anglicanism by the Tractarian Revival. But the Jesus Prayer is equally important and useful and has become beloved of Anglicans in recent years.

In all there is a wonderful Trinity of the spiritual life corresponding to the Three Persons of the Godhead: 1. The Mass 2. The Offices and 3. Personal prayer and devotion. With these in continual use three one can grow into the illumined and unitative state of prayer. The integration of these three aspects of prayer is vital to a healthy Christian experience.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The 'Reverend Father-in-Law'


Here is a picture of me with 'The Reverend Father-in-Law,' Father Richard Baskwill, my wife Megan's dad. Ordained by Bishop Grundorf to the Sacred Priesthood in 2003, Father Dic served until his retirement as Curate of Saint Alban's Church, Joppa, Maryland, where I served as Rector from 2001 to 2003 before moving to serve as Sub-Dean of Saint Alban's Anglican Cathedral, Oviedo, Florida. Today, of course, I joyfully serve as Curate of Saint Barnabas' Anglican Church, Dunwoody, Georgia, affectionately known as the 'Atlantican!'

Friday, September 26, 2008

Twin Sacerdotes

A picture of my brother, the Reverend Father Brandon Holder Jones, with me at his First Holy Mass in June 2008. Can you tell who's who? The biretta is a sure giveaway!

Anglicans at Lourdes

Archbishop Rowan Williams at Lourdes; I prefer to interpret the Lourdes apparition as did Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Orthodox fame. He has stated that at Lourdes Our Lady actually said, 'I am the one in whom the Immaculate is conceived,' that is, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Archbishop of Canterbury Venerates the Mother of God at Lourdes

Fascinating links here, here, here and here!

It should be remembered that His Grace was once an bona fide Anglican Catholic - notable are his references to 'the Lord's spotless Mother' and 'the Mother of God,' ancient and orthodox terms with which all Anglo-Catholics should certainly be able to agree, theologically and spiritually. Archbishop Rowan's presence in France this week as the first spiritual head of the Anglican Communion to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes is undoubtedly of the highest historical and spiritual significance, even if one does not accept the Roman dogmas associated with that particular holy place. It should warm the heart of every Anglican Catholic to behold the Successor of Saint Augustine at such a quintessentially Western Catholic site. In spite of the unspeakably complex quagmire that it is the Anglican Communion, it appears that, for at least one shining moment, the Reformation gap was bridged once more.

The Archbishop's sermon...

'The babe in my womb leaped for joy.' (Luke 1.44)

Mary comes to visit Elizabeth, carrying Jesus in her womb. The Son of God is still invisible – not yet born, not even known about by Elizabeth; yet Elizabeth recognises Mary as bearing within her the hope and desire of all nations, and life stirs in the deep places of her own body. The one who will prepare the way for Jesus, John the Baptist, moves as if to greet the hope that is coming, even though it cannot yet be seen.

Mary appears to us here as the first missionary, 'the first messenger of the gospel' as Bishop Perrier of Lourdes has called her: the first human being to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to another; and she does it simply by carrying Christ within her. She reminds us that mission begins not in delivering a message in words but in the journey towards another person with Jesus in your heart. She testifies to the primary importance of simply carrying Jesus, even before there are words or deeds to show him and explain him. This story of Mary's visit to Elizabeth is in many ways a very strange one; it's not about the communication of rational information from one speaker to another, but a primitive current of spiritual electricity running from the unborn Christ to the unborn Baptist. But mission it undoubtedly is, because it evokes recognition and joy. Something happens that prepares the way for all the words that will be spoken and the deeds that will be done. The believer comes with Christ dwelling in them by faith, and God makes that current come alive, and a response begins, not yet in words or commitments, but simply in recognising that here is life.

When Mary came to Bernardette, she came at first as an anonymous figure, a beautiful lady, a mysterious 'thing', not yet identified as the Lord's spotless Mother. And Bernardette – uneducated, uninstructed in doctrine – leapt with joy, recognising that here was life, here was healing. Remember those accounts of her which speak of her graceful, gliding movements at the Lady's bidding; as if she, like John in Elizabeth's womb, begins to dance to the music of the Incarnate Word who is carried by his Mother. Only bit by bit does Bernardette find the words to let the world know; only bit by bit, we might say, does she discover how to listen to the Lady and echo what she has to tell us.

So there is good news for all of us who seek to follow Jesus' summons to mission in his Name; and good news too for all who find their efforts slow and apparently futile, and for all who still can't find their way to the 'right' words and the open commitment. Our first and overarching task is to carry Jesus, gratefully and faithfully, with us in all our doings: like St Teresa of Avila, we might do this quite prosaically by having with us always a little picture or a cross in our pockets, so that we constantly 'touch base' with the Lord. We can do it by following the guidance of the Orthodox spiritual tradition and repeating silently the Jesus Prayer, 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me, a sinner'. And if we are faithful in thus carrying Christ with us, something will happen, some current will stir and those we are with will feel, perhaps well below the conscious surface, a movement of life and joy which they may not understand at all. And we may never see it or know about it; people may not even connect it with us, yet it will be there – because Jesus speaks always to what is buried in the heart of men and women, the destiny they were made for. Whether they know it or not, there is that within them which is turned towards him. Keep on carrying Jesus and don't despair: mission will happen, in spite of all, because God in Christ has begun his journey into the heart.

And when we encounter those who say they would 'like to believe' but can't, who wonder how they will ever find their way to a commitment that seems both frightening and hard to understand, we may have something to say to them too: 'Don't give up; try and hold on to the moments of deep and mysterious joy; wait patiently for something to come to birth in you.' It certainly isn't for us as Christians to bully and cajole, and to try and force people into commitments they are not ready to make – but we can and should seek to be there, carrying Jesus, and letting his joy come through, waiting for the leap of recognition in someone's heart.
Of course, as often as not, we ourselves are the one who need to hear the good news; we need people around us who carry Jesus, because we who call ourselves believers all have our moments of confusion and loss of direction. Others fail us or hurt us; the Church itself may seem confused or weak or even unloving, and we don't feel we are being nourished as we need, and directed as we should be. Yet this story of Mary and Elizabeth tells us that the Incarnate Word of God is always already on the way to us, hidden in voices and faces and bodies familiar and unfamiliar. Silently, Jesus is constantly at work, and he is seeking out what is deepest in us, to touch the heart of our joy and hope.

Perhaps when we feel lost and disillusioned, he is gently drawing us away from a joy or a hope that is only human, limited to what we can cope with or what we think on the surface of our minds that we want. Perhaps it's part of a journey towards his truth, not just ours. We too need to look and listen for the moments of recognition and the leap of joy deep within. It may be when we encounter a person in whom we sense that the words we rather half-heartedly use about God are a living and actual reality. (That's why the lives of the saints, ancient and modern, matter so much.) It may be when a moment of stillness or wonder suddenly overtakes us in the middle of a familiar liturgy that we think we know backwards, and we have for a second the feeling that this is the clue to everything – if only we could put it into words. It may be when we come to a holy place, soaked in the hopes and prayers of millions, and suddenly see that, whatever we as individuals may be thinking or feeling, some great reality is moving all around and beneath and within us, whether we grasp it or not. These are our 'Elizabeth' moments – when life stirs inside, heralding some future with Christ that we can't yet get our minds around.

It's very tempting to think of mission as something to be done in the same way we do – or try to do – so much else, with everything depending on planning and assessments of how we're doing, and whether the results are coming out right. For that matter, it's tempting to think of the Church's whole life in these sorts of terms. Of course we need to use our intelligence, we need to be able to tell the difference between good and bad outcomes, we need to marshal all the skill and enthusiasm we can when we respond to God's call to share his work of transforming the world through Jesus and his Spirit. But Mary's mission tells us that there is always a deeper dimension, grounded in the Christ who is at work unknown and silent, reaching out to the deeply buried heart of each person and making the connection; living faithfully at the heart of the Church itself, in the middle of its disasters and betrayals and confusions, still giving himself without reserve. All that we call 'our' mission depends on this; and if we are wise, we know that we are always going to be surprised by the echoes and connections that come to life where we are not expecting it.

True mission is ready to be surprised by God – 'surprised by joy', in the lovely phrase of C. S. Lewis. Elizabeth knew the whole history of Israel and how it was preparing the way for God to come and visit his people – but she was still surprised into newness of life and understanding when the child leapt in her womb. Bernardette's neighbours and teachers and parish clergy knew all they thought they needed to know about the Mother of God – and they needed to be surprised by this inarticulate, powerless, marginal teenager who had leapt up in the joy of recognition to meet Mary as her mother, her sister, bearer of her Lord and Redeemer. Our prayer here must be that, renewed and surprised in this holy place, we may be given the overshadowing strength of the Spirit to carry Jesus wherever we go, in the hope that joy will leap from heart to heart in all our human encounters; and that we may also be given courage to look and listen for that joy in our own depths when the clarity of the good news seems far away and the sky is cloudy.

But here today, with Elizabeth and Bernardette, we say, in thankful amazement, 'Why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?' And we recognise that our heart's desire is met and the very depth of our being stirred into new life.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On the Mysteries

...Indeed the theological enterprise is fraught with linguistic misfires and quagmires and it can be certain that semantical differences often do separate pensive conversationalists who otherwise would likely agree. We do have substantial (forgive the theological pun) differences with protestants, but we have seen in twentieth century ecumenical dialogues that we in fact agree on more than we disagree. What I find most fascinating about the Reformation period is the vast array of nuanced and differentiated theologies which emerged, particularly surrounding the mystery of the Eucharist, which is, of course, at its heart a Mystery, the Mystery to end all others. What we do not say about the Blessed Sacrament can be as important as what we say - a true case of apophatic theology. Dispute over Eucharistic doctrine was really at the essence of the Reformation debates and the Mass remains the most controverted point of Reformation polemics old and revived. I find myself in somewhat surprising agreement with the Lutheran theologian who once said that it was not justification or total depravity or faith or Scripture that divided the Reformation nearly as much as the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. To use a phrase of my own, to get Eucharistic doctrine wrong is to get the Apostolic Faith wrong: for the Eucharist is the heart of the Christian Religion and the prolongation of the Incarnation. And thus Anglicanism has developed her own special language and expressions when dealing with this incomparable subject...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Anglican Priest of the Province of Christ the King Assists Crash Victims in California

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-priest18-2008sep18,0,6551252.story

A beautiful story of Christian love and of sacerdotal self-sacrifice and ministry...

By Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, September 18, 2008

Still in a daze from the crash, Donald Ashman walked over to the first body.

Ashman knelt down and lifted a corner of a white blanket covering the body, placed his hand on the man's forehead and said the words he had said so many times before, almost always at a hospital:

"May God Almighty have mercy upon thee, forgive thee thy sins and bring thee to everlasting life."The prayer took just a few seconds. Ashman returned the blanket and turned to the next victim, not far from the mangled Metrolink train.

He didn't know their names, their ages, their stories. He knew only that they had died and that they had probably been heading home to their families, as he was, after the workday.

Reflecting on that day now, Ashman also knows, as surely as he has known anything in his 62 years, why he was on that train and why he survived.

He was there to administer their last rites."I was where God intended me to be," Ashman said in an interview Wednesday from his home in Thousand Oaks.

A priest, Ashman leads a small congregation at the Anglican Church of Our Saviour on the Westside of Los Angeles, where he has been for a quarter of a century. He also teaches Latin and world history at Hoover High School in Glendale.

At the time of the Chatsworth crash Friday, he was sitting facing backward in the last train car and talking on his cellphone to his wife of 37 years. The jolt pushed Ashman against his seat, and he immediately felt pain and pressure on his back. He heard moans and screams and saw bodies fly down the stairs. One injured man landed at his feet. He looked out the window and could see that there had been a collision with a freight train.

Ashman climbed out of the car and asked a firefighter if there were fatalities. Yes, the fireman answered.

Then Ashman said he was a priest and asked permission to pray for the deceased.

At first, he said, he didn't think the firefighters believed him -- he was wearing a blue polo shirt and jeans. But as soon as he began to pray, he could see their faces change. A few even joined him in prayer."It was spiritually moving, amid all that sadness and tragedy," he said.

As firefighters pulled out survivors and paramedics treated the injured, Ashman stayed with the dead. He continued to pray, asking God to welcome them. The firefighters brought him more victims. Ashman said he felt an odd sense of calm.

The helicopters flew overhead and news cameramen filmed nearby. Ashman said he was careful not to lift the blankets too far, lest relatives recognize loved ones, bloodied and bruised, on television.

At one point, a firefighter asked him to come with him to pray for the engineer, whose body was still trapped in the wreckage. That blanket wasn't white. It was blood red. Ashman touched his arm, made the sign of the cross and said a quick prayer."I don't remember the words I said, but I became acutely aware that prayer doesn't always consist of words," he said.

Authorities have not determined the cause of the crash. But whatever the involvement, if any, of engineer Robert Sanchez, it doesn't matter, Ashman said."Whatever he did or intended to do, that's irrelevant," he said. "Everybody is treated the same in God's eyes."At the time, Ashman said, he didn't think too much about the religion of the victims, figuring that a short prayer couldn't hurt if they were Jewish or Muslim. Ashman's church is part of the Anglican Province of Christ the King, an Anglican Church committed to what it describes as traditional forms of doctrine and liturgy.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Ron Myers said that the priest was one of dozens of people who helped the afternoon of the crash, lifting people out of the train cars, administering first aid, comforting the injured."As a priest, he has a tool in his professional toolbox that he drew upon to help comfort people," Myers said. "He was not trying to convert people. He was trying to show them a level of respect."After he administered last rites to eight or nine people, Ashman said, exhaustion began to set in and the shock began to subside. So when a fire chaplain arrived, Ashman decided that it was time to go home. A police officer drove him to a nearby intersection, where his family picked him up and took him to a hospital so he could be treated for back injuries.

James Provence, the bishop at Ashman's church, said he wasn't surprised by the priest's actions."The thing that we are trained to do is be prepared to hear confession, to administer last rites, to minister to people at a moment's notice," he said. "Not everyone has the need to do that, but it's something you do prepare for."Hoover High Principal Kevin Welsh said he saw Ashman on television praying for the victims. "When you see those little clips, it's so poignant it really gets you," he said. "It is so gripping and touching."

Welsh marveled that Ashman ministered to others even as he was injured himself. "That he reverted to that under those stressful, trying and traumatic circumstances," he said, "speaks to the core of the man as an educator and as a man of personal belief and faith."Ashman said he plans to return to preaching this weekend. He doesn't know if he'll talk about the crash but expects to talk about healing, of both body and soul.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

On the Mass

The Mass is indeed a propitiatory sacrifice offered for the living and the dead - a doctrine affirmed by most of Anglicanism's best theologians, including Lancelot Andrewes, Jeremy Taylor, William Laud, John Cosin, a host of Caroline Divines and of course, the Non-Jurors and Tractarians. The Mass is not the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross repeated and renewed independently of Calvary, but is the Once Sacrifice Once Offered re-presented and exhibited to the Father in the Eucharist and applied to those for whom it is offered sacramentally, under the form of bread and wine.

The main difference between the Calvinist view and ours is on the matter of Objective Presence: we believe that the Mass is a propitiatory sacrifice, offered for the dead as well as the living, because What is offered in the Eucharist is the True Body and Blood of Christ objectively, mystically and supernaturally present under the sacred species of host and chalice. In the Eucharist, an Objective Divine Thing is made present under the sacramental veils, Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in the totality of His divinity and humanity, not merely present in power, grace or virtue, but made present in His human nature as well as His divine - and wherever that Objective Thing, the Thing Signified, is made present, He is present as Priest and Victim. Where the Body and Blood of Christ are, they are always sacrificial and atoning, for the Body and Blood, once crucified and now glorified, are now for all eternity offered as the one all-perfect and all-sufficient sacrifice for the sins of whole world. The Risen Jesus, who now makes intercession for us as Great High Priest, is on our Altars - really, truly and substantially. (The Caroline Divines frequently refer to a 'substantial presence,' which does not require the Latin definition of transubstantiation at all - the Change in the Elements is real but of a metaphysical and not a material kind). Christ is objectively present in the Blessed Sacrament at the Consecration of the Mass, and by virtue of that objective presence is manifest and pleaded to the Father as Sacrifice and Atonement.

The Calvinist view is virtualist, and does not believe in an objective presence, but rather in a virtual presence of Christ - the grace and power of Christ are present in the celebration, the action of the Supper, but Our Lord is not believed to be present in His human nature under the form of bread and wine. They conceive of the Eucharist as an action in which Christ's virtue, His grace, is made present to the predestined elect in the receiving of communion, but they would deny that the Incarnate Lord Himself is truly contained in, with and under the Elements by virtue of Eucharistic Consecration. But it is precisely because of the objective character of Our Lord's presence in the Blessed Sacrament that we believe the Mass is a true Sacrifice, for the Mass is Christ Himself, the true Sacrifice Himself.

Calvinists also deny ex opere operato, that Christ is always present substantially under the Eucharistic species in the Mass because of the promise of Christ in its institution. They would insist that apart from the faith of the elect Christ is not and cannot be present to the elect in the Lord's Supper. We maintain that Christ is always present when the Sacrament is offered according to His covenantal instructions, and regardless of the faith or lack thereof of the participants. A worthy Communion, an effective, beneficial and salvific Communion, the virtus (benefit) sacramenti as opposed to the res (reality) sacramenti, depends on living faith, of course, but not the validity of the Mass and Consecration themselves, which work and have effect because of Christ and not us. I believe it is fair to say that the Calvinist conception of the Eucharist is far more subjective and discarnate than the Catholic view.

We may succinctly call the virtualist Calvinist doctrine receptionism, for Christ is not sought and found in the Blessed Sacrament per se, but in the heart of the elect and believing recipient. For Calvinists, only the elect partake of Christ in the Lord's Supper by faith - the reprobate receive only tokens of the Lord's Supper but no grace. The Anglican, and thus Catholic, doctrine is sacramental identification, for Our Lord is most definitely sought and found objectively in Blessed Sacrament and is also found, by reception of the objective Gift, in the heart and soul of the communicant. Article XXIX affirms the Catholic doctrine that all communicants receive the Body and Blood of Christ objectively, the outward Sign, Bread and Wine, and the Thing Signified, Our Lord Himself, but only the faithful and properly disposed receive the spiritual nourishment of Christ in the Eucharist, the Benefit. (BCP 582). The unworthy receive to their damnation, as Saint Paul asserts with great clarity in I Corinthians 11. In the words of the indefatigable Michael Davies: 'the Blessed Sacrament is God.'

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Western Lectionary

http://www.thebulletin.us/site/index.cfm?newsid=20100925&BRD=2737&PAG=461&dept_id=576361&rfi=8

An Introduction To The Western Lectionary
By Father Edward L. Rix

No man ever prayed alone. Though we might, as a matter of designation, separate our prayers into categories of private and corporate, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us that "we are surrounded by (a) great cloud of witnesses;" the portion of Christ's Church far greater in faith and number than that which our outward eyes behold here in earth. As Charles Wesley puts it: "Let saints on earth in concert sing with those whose work is done; For all the servants of our King in heav'n and earth are one." Prayer thus ought always to be understood by the faithful as 'Common Prayer'; and if our life of prayer be understood thusly, so also ought our weekly and daily meditation on His Word written. In an age where a typical Bible study class consists of folks sharing what a particular passage of Holy Scripture 'means to me,' we do well to recall St. Peter's admonition that "no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation." Indeed, because of the preponderance of private interpretation, many of our churches have abandoned their appointed role of guarding the deposit of our faith, teaching the whole counsel of God and 'transmitting the same unimpaired to their posterity.'

Some would argue the Church's 'Tradition' is so organic an authority as to over-rule or supersede the Bible, an essentially inorganic and static principal of authority, even when (perhaps especially when) a contemporary estimation of the former disagrees with the latter. However, the great patristic scholar, G.L. Prestige, reminded us 60 years ago that the Church, from its earliest days, understood the principle of "tradition" as constituting the "title deeds of two possessions fundamental to Christianity - first, belief in divine revelation, and second, acceptance of the primacy of Holy Scripture as the guide of faith." As such, our Christian Tradition is always bound by the teaching of the Bible and our reading of it ought always to be, in the words of Thomas Cranmer, devoid of pride. "For, as St. Augustine saith, the knowledge of holy Scripture is a great, large and a high palace, but the door is very low; so that the high and arrogant man cannot run in, but he must stoop low and humble himself that shall enter into it." So when we read our Bibles, as we ought to every day, we must remember that God has given us His Word written "for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." The exercise of Bible reading is one that must be approached with humility, patience and with the understanding that those that have gone before us in the faith will have as much, or more, to tell us of the meaning of these words, than we ourselves will.

Perhaps the best place to start a study of Scripture then, is with those lections or readings appointed by the Church for Sunday Services. And because it is the product of over 15 centuries (roughly from the time of Gregory the Great) of wisdom and meditation, I would commend the traditional lectionary of Western Churches of Christendom; that set of readings used with small variations by all Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans until recent decades. I do so because even though only a small number still use this lectionary, it is being rediscovered by a new generation of younger Christians in concert with their rediscovery of traditional patterns of prayer and worship.

Indeed, Pope Benedict's Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum of 2007 clearly commends the use of this traditional lectionary where the Tridentine Mass is celebrated. In the coming weeks I will be offering a weekly meditation on these prayers and readings (Collects, Epistles and Gospels) with commentary on the scope of the lectionary itself. Very little, if anything, original will be shared with you as most of what I write will be a digest of 1,500 years of commentary on the same. I hope and trust that you will find, as I have, the traditional lectionary of the Western Church to be a key that unlocks the riches of the Bible as a whole.

Father Rix is rector at All Saints' Church in Wynnewood, a traditional Anglican parish serving the heart of Philadelphia's Main Line. He can be reached at elrix@ allsaintswynne.org.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Clarification of the APA Situation

From Dean Glenn Spencer of the APA Deanery of Virginia...

A Letter to All Saints & the Deanery of Virginia
The Very Reverend Glenn M. Spencer

You may have heard or read about the events that have occurred over the past several days within the Anglican Province of America’s Diocese of the West [DOW]. On September 4, 2008, Bishop Richard Boyce, long-time Diocesan Bishop of the DOW, announced to Bishop Grundorf his intent to leave the APA effective immediately, and to merge his entire diocese into the Reformed Episcopal Church [REC], subject to the REC’s approval.

This action has been publicized on-line and has generated much discussion, not all of it fruitful or accurately presented. Based on the articles available on-line, one might conclude that the APA is splitting, or at least facing a significant crisis. I can tell you without hesitation that this is not the case. However, I would like to address these legitimate concerns, and to provide a more accurate explanation as to what is happening, why I believe it is happening, and where we at All Saints Anglican Church and within the APA’s Deanery of Virginia stand.

What Has Happened Over the Past Several Days. By way of background, the APA is a canonical jurisdiction that consists of three dioceses: The Diocese of the Eastern United States [DEUS], the Diocese of Mid-America, and the Diocese of the West [DOW]. We in Virginia are a part of DEUS, and our Diocesan Bishop is Bishop Grundorf. In addition to his role as our Diocesan Bishop, Bishop Grundorf also serves as the Presiding Bishop of the APA.

On September 4, 2008, Bishop Boyce of DOW wrote a letter to Bishop Grundorf. Bishop Boyce stated that he intended immediately to leave the APA and to transfer not just himself individually, but his entire diocese, consisting of maybe twenty parishes, into the REC. Bishop Grundorf correctly responded to this letter by informing Bishop Boyce that an orderly and canonical procedure exists for any such transfer, and that Bishop Boyce had not followed that procedure. Based on the extraordinary circumstances with which he was faced, Bishop Grundorf, as provided by our canons and as shepherd of our church, immediately relieved Bishop Boyce of his position as Diocesan Bishop and appointed an interim administrator for the DOW. Further, he explained the mechanism whereby individual parishes and priests within the DOW, if they wished, could transfer into the REC. He reaffirmed that all DOW priests, clergy, and laity remain in good standing with the APA and have its full support.

While Bishop Grundorf is disappointed with Bishop Boyce’s decision, he has not forbidden a transfer for those desiring it (contrary to what some on-line articles have suggested). Instead, he has insisted that proper procedure be followed for any parishes and priests of the DOW wishing to transfer to the REC. He has reiterated the canonical impermissibility of a bishop unilaterally removing his entire diocese from the APA’s jurisdiction. His goal is an orderly transition in a charitable manner that does not bring scandal on the church.

Bishop Grundorf is absolutely correct in his response. Dioceses cannot, as a body, leave the jurisdiction of the APA. There is simply no canonical mechanism whereby that may occur. Instead, the canons allow for individual parishes, and individual priests, to transfer to another jurisdiction based upon their individual requests for transfer, or “letters dimissory.” As the several articles on-line indicate, Bishop Boyce insists that canonically he retains the full right to move his diocese into another jurisdiction; he is simply incorrect in his reading of canon law. I would be happy to discuss this further with any one who wishes to discuss canon law in more detail.

Why Bishop Boyce has Taken This Action. While I cannot read into the heart of Bishop Boyce, I believe it is fair and appropriate for me to address why I believe he has attempted this maneuver. My impression is that two factors have contributed to his decision.

a. Common Cause Partnership. First, and perhaps most apparent, is Bishop Boyce’s stance, vis-à-vis Bishop Grundorf’s, on what our relationship should be with Common Cause Partnership [CCP]. As you may recall, in January 2008, Bishop Grundorf made the decision to adopt a “wait and see” approach to the APA’s possible affiliation with Common Cause Partnership. This decision was wise, pastoral, and correct. While we share many goals and beliefs with members of CCP, the majority of those jurisdictions who belong to CCP approve of women’s ordination and include women whom they believe to be validly ordained to the priesthood. The issue of women’s ordination goes to the heart of the priesthood and to the validity of the sacraments; it is a position with which we cannot in good faith align ourselves. This issue is still being sorted out within CCP, and Bishop Grundorf believes that the best approach is to let it become settled, and then make a final decision as to whether alliance with CCP is in his flock’s best interest. Further, while CCP currently is only an alliance of various Anglican jurisdictions, it has all appearances of the precursor to a jurisdiction. Many of its leaders have made clear their intent to make it one giant jurisdiction, the North American Anglican Province, under the oversight of the Global Anglican Fellowship Conference (GAFCON). Its members would thus lose their own identity, their individual canons and Constitution, and become a part of the jurisdiction of CCP. This is no small matter, particularly if that giant jurisdiction contains women “priests.” We all desire unity and a common cause with other Anglicans; the question is at what cost, and at what point do we slip into heterodoxy under the purported banner of “unity.”

Bishop Boyce, unlike Bishop Grundorf, has for years strongly supported alliance with CCP. Without question he believes that Bishop Grundorf made the wrong decision in adopting a wait-and-see approach. The REC, unlike the APA, is a member of the CCP. Therefore, one reason I believe that Bishop Boyce is attempting to merge into the REC is so that he can become a member of CCP.

b. Inability/Unwillingness to Comply with APA Canonical Requirements. At the most recent APA Synod, in July 2008, our national registrar, Fr. Bill Perkins, announced that he had never received from DOW the canonically-required credentials and documentations from the diocese’s priests, and from the bishop himself. Properly documented credentials are the prerequisite for a priest to minister within the APA; yet this diocese under Bishop Boyce’s leadership simply had never provided that information. At this past Synod, it was made clear to Bishop Boyce and to all clergymen in the APA, that no one will be permitted to continue as a clergyman-in-good-standing without presenting his required credentials and documentation to the registrar. Bishop Boyce’s inability or unwillingness to correct this disorder, as well as several other irregular practices within the DOW, may have been another impetus for his action last week.

Where We Now Stand. First, the DOW has not left the APA. No canonical method exists for a diocese to leave our jurisdiction; it simply cannot by law occur. Instead, two bishops (Diocesan Bishop Boyce and Bishop Mott) have left the APA, and likely at least some of the DOW parishes will follow. Others will remain within the APA/DOW; several parishes have notified Bishop Grundorf that they have no intention of leaving the APA or the DOW and feel that they were left out of Bishop Boyce’s decision-making process. For those that do depart, where they end up (the REC or another jurisdiction) remains to be seen, as the REC has not yet addressed Bishop Boyce’s request. Only time will tell how this issue settles. Bishop Grundorf intends to give parishes adequate time to determine where they stand, then to call an extraordinary Synod to reorganize and elect the appropriate officers.

Second, Bishop Boyce’s unfortunate action, while disrupting to some extent the peace of the church, has no palpable effect on All Saints or on the deanery of Virginia. We remain, as do all member of DEUS and the great majority of parishes within the APA, committed to our Presiding Bishop and to our church. We do not see this event as an emergency or as a crisis. It is, as I said, unfortunate; however, Bishop Boyce’s departure, and the departure of any individual parishes and priests who may wish to request transfer, may in the end be better for all concerned. We do not count our strength or our success by numbers, but by our feasting on the sacraments, commitment to the creeds, and faithfulness to the Prayer Book. There will be times of numerical growth, and there will be times when our numbers may dip. This is a natural part of life in the Church, and nothing to fear. Our jurisdiction is not splitting or fracturing. Some parishes from DOW will request to transfer. But others will remain. The APA by God’s grace is strong and solid; we are, and will be, fine.

Third, as many of you know, we are in communion with the REC. I do not know whether that will change, though I doubt that it will. Quite frankly, the REC has yet to comment or take action upon Bishop Boyce’s request to join them. It is probable that they had no notice of his action ahead of time and, as several of Bishop Boyce’s own parishes, were caught by surprise. Regardless, we remain in communion with the REC, and within a few days Bishop Grundorf will issue a joint statement with the REC concerning this matter. I will provide that to you when it is released.

Conclusion. While this matter has been presented on some websites as a crisis or a threat to the APA, it simply is not. It is unfortunate, but it will be resolved. I hope this letter has shed some light on these issues and has answered some of your questions. As always, I am available and would be happy to talk to any person or groups about this matter further. My new email address is frgmspencer@gmail.com.

Fr. Glenn Spencer
All Saints Anglican Church
Charlottesville, VA

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Nativity of Our Lady

From the Orthodox Church in America...

The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary:

The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born at a time when people had reached such a degree of moral decay that it seemed altogether impossible to restore them. People often said that God must come into the world to restore faith and not permit the ruin of mankind.

The Son of God chose to take on human nature for the salvation of mankind, and chose as His Mother the All-Pure Virgin Mary, who alone was worthy to give birth to the Source of purity and holiness. The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary is celebrated by the Church as a day of universal joy.

Within the context of the Old and the New Testaments, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was born on this radiant day, having been chosen before the ages by Divine Providence to bring about the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. She is revealed as the Mother of the Savior of the World, Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born in the small city of Galilee, Nazareth. Her parents were Righteous Joachim of the tribe of the Prophet-King David, and Anna from the tribe of the First Priest Aaron. The couple was without child, since St Anna was barren. Having reached old age, Joachim and Anna did not lose hope in God's mercy. They had strong faith that for God everything is possible, and that He would be able to overcome the barrenness of Anna even in her old age, as He had once overcame the barrenness of Sarah, spouse of the Patriarch Abraham. Saints Joachim and Anna vowed to dedicate the child which the Lord might give them, to the service of God in the Temple.

Childlessness was considered among the Hebrew nation as a Divine punishment for sin, and therefore the righteous Saints Joachim and Anna had to endure abuse from their own countrymen. On one of the feast days at the Temple in Jerusalem the elderly Joachim brought his sacrifice to offer to God, but the High Priest would not accept it, considering him to be unworthy since he was childless. St Joachim in deep grief went into the wilderness, and there he prayed with tears to the Lord for a child. St Anna wept bitterly when she learned what had happened at the Jerusalem Temple. Never once did she complain against the Lord, but rather she prayed to ask God's mercy on her family. The Lord fulfilled her petitions when the pious couple had attained to extreme old age and prepared themselves by virtuous life for a sublime calling: to be the parents of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, the future Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Archangel Gabriel brought Joachim and Anna the joyous message that their prayers were heard by God, and of them would be born a most blessed daughter Mary, through Whom would come the Salvation of all the World. The Most Holy Virgin Mary surpassed in purity and virtue not only all mankind, but also the angels. She was manifest as the living Temple of God, so the Church sings in its festal hymns: "the East Gate... bringing Christ into the world for the salvation of our souls".

The Nativity of the Theotokos marks the change of the times when the great and comforting promises of God for the salvation of the human race from slavery to the devil are about to be fulfilled. This event has brought to earth the grace of the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of Truth, piety, virtue and everlasting life. The Theotokos is revealed to all of us by grace as a merciful Intercessor and Mother, to Whom we have recourse with filial devotion.

Friday, September 05, 2008

'Generational Curses'

Dear N.,

Thank you for your vital question about 'generational curses,' which we briefly discussed last night. It is an essential question for one who deals with very serious tragedies and problems in one's own life or one's own family and I am very edified that you have raised it. The person who told you your daughter's illness and condition are the product of some 'generational curse' should be held liable for theological and moral malpractice. There is absolutely no such thing as a supernatural 'curse' or 'hex' passed down from one person to another through a genetic and familial line.

Our Lord Jesus Christ definitively and explicitly rejects this notion in the Gospel according to Saint John chapter 9:

1: And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
2: And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3: Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

The Apostles were tempted to believe the man born blind was the victim of a generational curse, his condition being a consequence of his own sin or that of his parents. The Lord Jesus directly dismisses this false notion and states that illness and suffering, which all human beings now bear as a result of Original Sin, are the means by which the Incarnate Lord will work his gifts of healing and grace, spiritual and physical. Whatever the Old Testament may say about 'generational curses' is once and for all corrected and reinterpreted by Our Blessed Saviour - Jesus Christ now uses suffering, for those who are united Him, as an instrument and a means of sanctification and transformation, union with and conformity to His saving Cross and Passion. Colossians 1.24 and 2 Corinthians 12 beckon for a careful reading in this regard.

It is true that Satan can use his servants, practitioners of witchcraft and the occult, to cast objective evil onto other human beings in the form of curses and hexes, a concern familiar to exorcists, but this is an entirely different area of moral theology and does not apply to your personal situation. The only sense in which we encounter 'generational curses' is in the all-too-common cycles of pain and despair that result from abusive behaviour. Families may hand-down to the next generation such problems as drug abuse, alcoholism, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse, but again, these are problems of immorality caused by repeated and ingrained behaviours which are learned from generation to generation within a family unit. Such tragedies, real as they are, are not 'generational curses' in a supernatural sense.

The concept of 'generational curses' is popular in fundamentalist, evangelical and charismatic protestant circles but is in no way espoused or taught by the Catholic Religion. Please proceed to ignore what that person told you, for he is utterly mistaken and misguided, and does great harm to souls by uttering such nonsense. The best thing we can do for your little girl is to pray for her intensely, to love her with all our might, and to trust in our merciful and good Lord, Who will minister healing to her in His own perfect and right manner. It should be pointed out that 'generational curses' are an abhorrent denial of the grace of the Sacraments and of the efficacy of the regeneration of Baptism and the restorative power of Penance.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Faith and Works

The Epistle of Saint James serves as a vital counterpoint and juxtaposed interpretative text for the theology of Romans and I think looking at it in greater detail would be extremely beneficial. In biblical studies polemics, especially by protestants, Saint Paul and Saint James are often opposed to one another as though they represented contradictory theological and moral teachings, but nothing could be further from the truth. They beautifully support and complement each other by clarifying each other's positions and balancing each other's perspectives. As Saint Paul, of course, says we are justified by faith apart from the works of the law, Saint James says faith without works is dead. They are both correct, which Saint Paul summarises in Galatians 5.6, when he states that Christians are justified by faith working in love.

Justifying faith for Saint Paul is living faith, faith in action, faith animated and enlivened by supernatural charity, the bond of peace and of all virtues, the source of divine life and of our cooperation with saving grace.

The question is often raised as to why Saint Paul and Saint James seem to disagree on the role of faith and works, and I always like to respond by saying that they do not disagree on the necessity of faith, but that they define works differently.

For Saint Paul, 'works of the law,' ergon nomou, involve the totality of the Old Testament system of obedience to the laws and commandments of the Mosaic Covenant, including observance of the ritual, ceremonial, sacramental and dietary laws of the Mosaic revelation. Saint Paul simply states that we are justified, made righteous before God through Christ, not on the basis of observance of the total religious system of the Old Testament, but on the observance and obedience of the new Law of Christ, the 'law' of the New Testament, the Law of Love, which is established and fulfilled in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ Himself and communicated to us by the Holy Ghost. Faith in Jesus, not Old Testament ceremonial and legal practice, places us into Christ's perfect obedience and fulfillment of the Law and thus makes us objectively righteous before God, vindicated and transformed as we are by virtue of our union with our Head, the Lord Jesus. And the formal and initial cause of our justification in Christ is Baptism, wherein we are born again and sacramentally conformed to Christ in His Death and Resurrection, given the grace of the Holy Spirit that we may 'walk in newness of life'.

For Saint James, 'works' are not the rites and observances of the Old Testament, which do not in themselves justify, but the Theological Virtues, faith, hope and love (I Corinthians 13). the Cardinal Virtues, prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, the Corporal Works of Mercy, feeding the hungry, refreshing the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, burying the dead (Saint Matthew 25), the Spiritual Works of Mercy, converting sinners, instructing the ignorant, counselling the doubtful, comforting the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving offences, praying for the living and dead - without which faith does not and cannot live and bear fruit in the soul. There can be no justifying or saving faith that does not act as God commands, and that requires human free-will and correspondence with grace.

Saint Paul condemns works-righteousness, the attempt to save oneself by trust and reliance in the performance of the outward form of Old Testament prescriptions and statutes; Saint James condemns solafidanism, the false and misguided trust in faith alone apart from living one's faith in Christ as the means of one's justification before God. Neither Apostle supports a subjective trust or faith in subjective faith as a kind of resting on one's laurels or 'armchair Christianity.' Saint Paul also rejects solafidanism as Saint James repudiates the idea that the Old Testament system has any power to save.

The term sola fide, 'faith alone', is interestingly found in only one place in the New Testament, in Saint James 2.24, 'ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.'

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