Saturday, August 28, 2010

ACNA and Illicit Orders

A new controversy has arisen in the Anglican Church in North America concerning the Episcopate and the recognition of Holy Orders usually classified as deriving from episcopi vagantes, or 'wandering bishops.' Recently, the ACNA received into its House of Bishops without the benefit of consecration sub conditione a bishop originally ordained in the 'Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches,' affectionately known in some circles as the CEEEEEC...

The problem lies in the fact that, historically, the Anglican Communion has simply refused to recognise Holy Orders conferred by those persons or entities which trace their origin to the various wandering bishops of the twentieth century, without issuing a final judgement as to the sacramental validity of the orders in question: this cautious and prudent disciplinary position was established by the Lambeth Conferences of 1920 and 1958.

By receiving a bishop whose orders originate from episcopi vagantes without conditional consecration, the ACNA has broken from the long-standing discipline of the Anglican Communion in this matter. Anglicanism from the days of her orthodoxy has been very clear on this subject.

The Church Catholic has always taken the safest course as to the validity of Holy Orders, since the validity of orders is necessary for the validity of the Holy Eucharist and other sacraments, and has, whenever there has been a question or doubt about a particular ordination, supplied what might be lacking with conditional ordination - the reiteration of orders under condition does not deny the possible validity of the orders concerned, but only seeks to remedy any defect present and to ensure that the ordination is beyond doubt - 'ecclesia supplet' - the Church supplies what is otherwise lacking in such an ordination by conditional administration of the same.

The Church has a most solemn moral and theological responsibility to make certain, as far as is possible, that the sacramental integrity of her life is preserved and transmitted unimpaired for sake of the salvation of souls. The valid continuation of the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist, Penance, Unction of the Sick and Ordination itself depends on an unbroken and sacramentally assured conferral of a valid priesthood. Hence the Church has always followed the rule, 'better safe than uncertain,'in the administration of the sacraments.

The irony of this particular situation is that orders conferred by episcopi vagantes are generally recognised by Roman Catholic canon law as 'valid but illicit,' possessive of the power of Order but conveyed in a canonically illegal manner. Anglican Orders, on the other hand, are dubbed null and void by the Roman Church, per Apostolicae Curae (1896). Therefore, the historic Anglican position has, in such cases, been stricter in application than that of the Roman Communion. The Anglican Communion, again, has not asserted that vagans orders are invalid, only that they are not to be recognised or permitted within her own ecclesial life. Oddly enough, with an ironic twist of providence, the APA and some other Continuing Churches possess Old Catholic orders from irregular sources, orders which should be recognised by the Roman See, whereas the Anglican succession is declared invalid at Rome. But for Anglicans, it is preeminently the regular, canonical and orderly administration of Holy Orders through and within duly-constituted catholic jurisdiction - Apostolic Succession of Order united to Apostolic Succession of Creed, Faith, Teaching and Government - which is rightly determined most important. Tactile succession can never be divorced from catholic orthodoxy and authentic ecclesiastical structure. And such canonical transmission and orderliness is mostly absent in the vagantes phenomenon.

The orders of the Anglican Province of America were originally obtained from these same controversial sources: Bishop AH Mathew, Bishop CH Carfora, and Bishop FL Pyman of the English Old Catholic succession; Bishop HG de Willmott Newman and Bishop KC Pillai of the English Old Catholic succession; and Bishop C Duarte-Costa and Bishop EM Corradi-Scarella of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church - orders theoretically recognised by Rome but not recognised by the Anglican Communion, orders which, when held up to every standard of Augustinian Western Catholic theology, are to be regarded as sacramentally valid, but uncanonical. In order to remove all scruple and doubt from the Anglican perspective, our hierarchy received conditional diaconal and priestly ordination, and consecration to the Episcopate, in October 1991 by three orthodox bishops of the Anglican Communion at the Deerfield Beach Unity Conference. This action did not deny the validity of the previous ordinations, but only sought to supply what was necessary according to Anglican theological and canonical precedent.

From an Anglican viewpoint, the ACNA should indeed be willing to do the same for its own clergy and people, in accordance with the perennial Anglican disciplinary approach and for the certitude of the sacramental life.

To read about this controversy, please go here, here and here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Closer to Home... TEC Diocese of Georgia Excommunicates Continuing Church


It would seem that the Continuing Church is a very real and present threat to the Episcopal Bishop of Georgia...

From the August 2010 TEC Diocese of Georgia Clergy Handbook:

"Anglican" or "Continuing" Splinter Groups not part of TEC

These groups undermine the geographical authority of the bishop as defined in the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church and observed in historical Anglican practice. Therefore, no clergyperson [sic] from these groups may participate in any service of worship, and no joint services may be held with any congregation of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. Episcopal clergy of the Diocese of Georgia may not participate in any service held in or by these congregations except with written permission from the Bishop.

Though you may choose to notify the Bishop, attendance at a wedding or funeral held in such congregation, for reasons of previous pastoral or personal relationship, is an exception to this more general statement and requires no such permission.


It would appear we are making progress if this is the reaction! It should be noted that the Continuing Church holds that the See of Georgia has been canonically vacated and replaced by the orthodox continuing Anglican Episcopate, since heresy was introduced into the Episcopal Church in 1976 thus rendering any claim to canonical episcopal government in that Diocese void. Additionally, since the current Bishop of Georgia was purportedly consecrated by a bishopess, his episcopal consecration is to be considered sacramentally invalid.

Episcopalians of Georgia, please come home to the Continuing Church!

More Heresy from Sydney - Thwarted by the Anglican Church of Australia

THE DECISION of the Appellate Tribunal rejecting lay and diaconal presidency at the eucharist is the latest setback for the diocese of Sydney in its quest to find a means of allowing lay people and deacons to fulfil this function.

Since the 1990s, numerous attempts have failed, but this decision is the most serious, because the diocese’s current ordination policy is based on the premise that deacons can (in Sydney’s preferred terminology) administer the Lord’s Supper.

Under the policy that has been introduced in recent years, ordination as priests (or presbyters, as Sydney calls them) is restricted only to rectors of parishes. At least one newly appointed rector has been ordained priest in the same service in which he was inducted into his first parish.

Under this policy, all curates, senior assistant clergy, and chaplains are expected to remain deacons. Particularly in chaplaincy situations, the celebration of holy communion will, in time, become dependent almost entirely on diaconal presidency.
The diocese attempted to authorise diaconal presidency — and to affirm lay presidency as well — in a motion passed by the Sydney synod in 2008. That motion, and the claims it made that a 1985 deacons’ ordination service allowed diaconal presidency, was the subject of the recent reference to the Tribunal.

THE DIOCESE of Sydney has been urging the change since the early 1970s, although it became a significant issue only in the 1990s. The diocese’s principal claim in favour is that it finds no biblical warrant for restricting eucharistic presidency to priests and bishops. The diocese holds strictly to the premise that scriptural warrant alone has authority in the Church.

The diocese holds the view that the principal role of priests is not sacramental, but rather leader­ship of the Church — hence the rationale for confining priesthood to parish rectors. Further, the diocese believes that scripture upholds its position that the preaching function, rather than the liturgical one, is the primary task of the ordained.

There are no pressing practical reasons why the diocese of Sydney needs alternative means of providing the sacrament of holy communion, as might some far-flung Australian rural dioceses with few ordained priests.

It has almost 700 active priests, and holy communion is not the main service of worship in most of the 270 parishes.

The claim that church-planting activities in the diocese as part of its continuing mission to increase church attendance to ten percent of the Sydney population would create a demand for diaconal presidency has not come about, either. Only about 100 new congregations have been launched so far.

In the past, the diocese has attempted to introduce its own legislation to validate lay and diaconal presidency, but, although these moves received synodical endorsement, previous Archbishops of Sydney refused their assent. Nevertheless, these moves created such concern around the Anglican Church of Australia in the 1990s that a reference was made to the Appellate Tribunal to test the pos­sibilities.

Most observers expected that that reference would result in an unequivocal determination that lay and diaconal presidency would contravene the Australian Church’s constitution, and particularly its foundational statements, which tie it to the doctrine and principles of the Church of England, as they were when the constitution was adopted in 1961.

By the barest of majorities, however, and to some dismay among Anglicans outside Sydney, the Tri­bunal’s decision in 1997 was that lay and diaconal presidency did not contravene the constitution. It could be authorised by a General Synod canon, though not by the legislation of an individual diocese.

Since then, no attempt has been made to introduce a General Synod canon because almost all the other Australian dioceses are opposed to lay and diaconal presidency, General Synod legislation would not receive the high level of support that such canons require under the Australian constitution.

The 2008 resolution of the Sydney diocesan synod was an attempt to find authorisation in an existing General Synod canon — the 1985 canon that authorised a new deacons’ ordination service. A report accompanying the motion argued that because deacons ordained under this canon could administer the sacrament of baptism “in its entirety”, and because “no hierarchy of sacraments is expressed in describing the deacon’s role of assisting the presbyter,” deacons were therefore authorised to “administer the Lord’s Supper in its entirety”.

In its findings, the Tribunal has dismissed that interpretation, saying that “we do not consider that the role of the deacon in the service of Holy Communion has undergone any serious or relevant change by the 1985 Canon.”

The big question now, in the absence of any definitive response from the diocese of Sydney, is what the diocese will do in the light of the Tribunal findings. There is evidence that deacons have been presiding at holy communion as a result of the 2008 resolution. Observers will be interested to see whether that continues, and whether the ordination policy that restricts priestly ordination to rectors is reversed.

Dr Muriel Porter is the Church Times’s Australia Correspondent. She organised the reference to the Appellate Tribunal.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Dormition of the Holy Mother of God


Heaven with transcendent joys her entrance graced,
Next to his throne her Son his Mother placed;
And here below, now she's of heaven possest,
All generations are to call her blest!

-Bishop Thomas Ken (1637-1711)









A glorious Feast of the Dormition, Assumption and Falling Asleep of the Most Holy and Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of God, to you all!

Regina in caelum assumpta, ora pro nobis.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rome? A Letter to A Friend


DEAR Friend: You ask me to put in writing what I said to you in person when you told me of your feeling that you might have to submit to the Roman Church.

I told you why I myself do not go to Rome. First of all I find myself in the Anglican Communion, (the Episcopal Church.) That is where God seems to have placed me. I was baptized and brought up in that Communion. To leave it would require on my part an act of private judgment. Such an act might possibly be my duty, but it is obviously one of grave responsibility.

If I persevere in living the Christian life where I find myself, then at the Judgment I may well claim the mercy of God if I made a mistake as to which was the true Church, for I should have tried to be faithful where He seemed to have placed me. If I make a change of Communion and go to Rome, then I run the risk of being asked at the Judgment Day "Why did you not remain where I placed you?" Of course if I am convinced that in the Anglican Communion I am deprived of some means of grace necessary to salvation, then I should have to make a change Let us consider whether this seems to be the case.

Salvation means victory. To be saved means to have the victory over sin and death. Jesus is the One who has won this victory for us and we receive it as a free gift from Him. To take that gift faith is the first requisite. Does the Anglican Communion teach me the truth about God so that I can have that saving faith?

Next, if I am to live the victorious life, I must have the means of grace from God. Have I in the Anglican Communion access to those means?

Finally I need to be in communion and fellowship with the rest of the saved. Salvation in isolation is impossible for the Christian. Have I in the Anglican Communion effective fellowship with the Saints departed and with the Church militant here in earth? Has the Anglican Communion secure and valid orders and sacraments that bind me to Christ and His other members in a living union?

If these essentials are lacking, then I should have to seek for them elsewhere.

WHAT is the Faith accepted and taught in the Anglican Communion? Our Communion has always taught the orthodox faith in the Holy Trinity--Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God, which has been held by the Church from the first. She has always taught the traditional doctrine of the Incarnation of Our Lord, that He is true God and true Man who was born of the Virgin, lived and suffered and died for us on the Cross, rose again and ascended into Heaven, there to intercede for us and to come again to judge the living and the dead. She has always taught that Jesus founded the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, wherein, through the ministry of the Word and Sacraments, the Holy Spirit applies to us the merits of Christ, for our forgiveness, sanctification and final blessedness in eternal life.

These are the great truths which were carefully defined by the ecumenical Councils of the ancient undivided Church, all of which Councils the Anglican Communion accepts.

The Anglican Communion has been very careful to make it clear that she will never accept as part of the faith necessary to salvation any teaching that cannot be read in the Holy Scriptures or proved thereby. Such doctrines may in some cases be held as pious private opinions, if they are not repugnant to the plain teaching of Scripture, but may never be required of any Christian person as necessary to communion with the Church.

The Anglican Communion accepts as Scripture all those books of the Old Testament that were accepted by the Hebrew Church as their rule or canon of faith, and also all those books of the New Testament which have been accepted as canonical by the Christian Church. She believes that the Holy Spirit has guided both the Hebrew and the Christian Church in the selection of these books. The Anglican Communion accepts the three ancient Creeds of Christendom as summaries of the true faith taught in Scripture.

In what way does the Roman Church differ from this as to the faith?

Only on one or two points, all except one of which seem very unimportant. At the time of the Reformation, when the Church of England was reforming herself, the Church of Rome was also reforming herself in many matters. The results of this Roman reform are found in the definitions of the Council of Trent.

Nothing in the Anglican Prayer Book or Articles can be held to be directly in opposition to Trent, for the definitions of Trent on all points of controversy did not appear until after the Prayer Book and Articles. Roman teaching mentioned in the Articles is therefore the common teaching of pre-Reformat-ion Rome, and not necessarily the considered judgments of the reforming Council of Trent, which are for the most part scriptural and reasonable. But there is one difference created by the Council of Trent. At that time the philosophy of the ancient Greek pre-Christian thinker Aristotle had come into popular vogue with Christian scholars.

By way of Arabic translations his works came into Spain with the Moors. Christians took up the study to their great advantage. St Thomas Aquinas worked out his wonderful Summa of all Christian teaching based on this Aristotelian philosophy. At Trent the same philosophy formed the background of much of the work of reform and restatement of Christian Doctrine. The Anglican Communion at the Reformation went back to a renewed study of the ancient Fathers of the Greek and Latin Churches. These early Christian teachers based their thinking more on the philosophy of Plato than on that of Aristotle.

As a result the Anglican Divines, whose thinking was guided by the ancient Fathers, tended to put their restatements of Christian Doctrine, and to base their reformation on a Platonic view of life. In fact they were much less self-consciously trying to restate Christian Doctrine in a logical way than were the Fathers of the Council of Trent. They left room for the light that might come from other systems of philosophy. They refrained from putting Christian teaching into any particular philosophical strait-jacket.

In the middle ages there had been great liberty of thought in the Catholic Church. There were very definite foundations on which the Faith rested, and these could not be altered, but the conclusions built on those foundations were not too narrowly defined. At the Reformation Rome took fright, and tried to define everything about religion in a clear-cut way according to the current philosophy of that day.

England on the other hand tried to retain the liberty of thought on secondary matters, while keeping carefully all the fundamental teachings of the undivided Church. The result has been that Rome has emphasized authority, and Canterbury has emphasized liberty, and one has become too rigid and the other too lax. To change from the one to the other might well be to go from the frying-pan into the fire.

What each needs is to learn from the other, and there are signs that this is being done. Both may draw together as time goes on, and the old separation be healed. I feel more content with the Anglican Communion where I am free to adopt Aristotelian Philosophy or Platonic or any other that is not contrary to Christian principles, than I should be in the Roman Communion where I should be bound to one philosophy.

I cannot believe that there was something final about the thinking of Aristotle, especially as he was not himself blessed with the revelation of the true God in Jesus Christ. Had Rome been content to leave the definition of the Faith where it was at Trent, there an agreement between Rome and England might have been possible after prejudices had died down, but unfortunately in the last hundred years Rome has started issuing further definitions and putting out further dogmas as necessary to salvation. In 1854 the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was declared an article of the Faith.

A great Doctor of the Church, St Bernard, had denied that teaching in years gone by, and multitudes of holy persons had died who did not hold it. Yet with the definition of it, all these became as it were posthumous heretics. Now I have no objection at all to the teaching that the Blessed Mother Mary was freed from all stain of sin at the moment of her conception in the womb of her Mother, that God did for her at her conception what He does for us at our Baptism. That is congruous. It is also congruous that God should require not only bodily purity of His Mother, taut also purity of soul.

The difficulty is that while the Virgin Birth has always been taught in the Church from earliest times, and is witnessed to in the Scripture, there is not one word in Scripture to support the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. The subject is not mentioned, and it never was mentioned for hundreds of years in the Church. It was a pious opinion that grew up in the middle ages, and was popularized by the Franciscan Friars and denounced by the Dominican Friars.

That the Church of England has no prejudice against it is witnessed by the inclusion of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a black-letter day in her Calendar. You do not commemorate sinful conceptions, but only holy ones. But the Church of England never required anyone to hold this doctrine, because it cannot be proved from Holy Scripture. In fact some would maintain that it is repugnant to Scripture because all are included under sin, and in Adam all die. To erect such a dubious doctrine, rejected by many of the Saints of the Roman Church, into an article of faith is a real obstacle to accepting Roman claims on other points.

The other article of faith put out by Rome is a real stumbling-block to Catholics of other Communions. This is the Dogma of Papal Infallibility. This was put forth in the year 1870, after heated arguments in the Roman Church. It had, like that of the Immaculate Conception, been rejected by many faithful Romans ever since it had first been suggested. The Penny Catechism, for long the chief catechism used by Irish Roman Catholics contained for years a definite denial of the doctrine. As soon as it was made an article of faith, Dr Döllinger, one of the greatest and most saintly scholars of the Roman Church, went into lay communion, and finally with a considerable band of Catholics left the Roman Church. Others stayed, but were never happy about the new dogma.

If the dogma had practical value it would have more to commend it, but so carefully has the Roman Church had to hedge it about because of its obvious weaknesses, that it ends up by proving of little use. According to this teaching the Bishop of Rome is the successor of St Peter. St Peter is the Rock on which the Church is built. Therefore, because of Christ's special promises to St Peter about the keys of the Kingdom, the Bishop of Rome cannot err in defining any matter of faith or morals, when he is speaking from his chair as successor of St Peter. When you ask how often he has so spoken, you are surprised to find that most theologians of the Roman Church limit the occasions to two or three: once when he declared himself infallible, once when he defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and perhaps long ago when St Leo sent out his famous Tome on the Incarnation, though all do not agree as to this last occasion.

Wars have raged, heresies arisen, and the infallible voice has been silent when the souls of men hung in the balance. Only to pronounce a teaching with little or no practical effect on the lives or souls of men, the Immaculate Conception, is the voice heard. Both these two new articles of Faith seem to be set forth more to flatter the Blessed Virgin in one case, and the Bishop of Rome in the other, than for any glory they might give to God or edification to His people.

Our Lady needs no flattery. She, the humble and meek, inherits the earth without flattery. All generations call her blessed. The Bishop of Rome, needs no flattery either. He sits in that ancient apostolic See of the West, and is the successor to a multitude of worthy Bishops, some of them very great Saints; and to a very few great sinners. St Peter himself is the best judge of what Christ's promises to him meant. He never claims Infallibility--far from it. He who was nicknamed "the Rock" by his beloved Master loves to think of that Rock; and with him, that Rock is always Christ Himself. St Peter refers to it more than once--"Jesus of Nazareth . . . this is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other." (Acts iv, 11.) And "Behold I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded." (i Pet. ii, 6.) St Paul also bears witness to the Rock when he writes Ephesians, chapter two, verses nineteen to twenty-two.

The Church of England has kept the old faith that can never alter, "the faith once delivered to the saints," but she leaves room for the new philosophies of life by which men come to appreciate the many-coloured wisdom, the innumerable facets of God's truth which shine forth from the once-delivered Faith.

Rome seems to us to have tied herself down too tightly to one very wonderful and satisfying philosophy, but after all not the only possible philosophy for Christians.

HOW does life in grace differ in the Communions of Rome and Canterbury'? In both the same ideals of sanctity are held up. Both hold up our Lord Jesus as the perfect example of obedience to the Father. Both make the will the seat of true religion. Both pray for and try to cultivate the four cardinal and the three theological virtues which are perfectly shown forth in the life of our Lord, and each in his own measure, in the lives of the Saints. Both provide calendars with Saints' Days. In both the same persons and types of persons are remembered and held forth as examples--Apostles and Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins, Abbots, Matrons and so forth. Both provide the same means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, and the discipline of Christ's Church to build up souls to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

Both teach the same ways of prayer, fasting and almsdeeds. Rome teaches more carefully and leaves less to the individual to learn by personal experience. She uses exhortation and persuasion less, and the Sacraments with greater system and regularity. She wields a stricter rod of discipline. The Anglican Communion uses teaching less methodically, and the Sacraments less regularly. She tries to use discipline lightly, hoping to develop the will and lead to real self-oblation. Both have changed their emphases in these matters before, and are even now changing them.

There is really no essential difference here, but only an accidental one. Rome orders church attendance every Sunday, confession and communion once a year at least. She gives very definite rules for fasting which differ from nation to nation. Her marriage laws are strict. Her tendency is to be legal, and that leads to the setting of a minimum known to all, and beyond which the majority do not progress. Her yoke in some matters sounds like a heavy one, but actually she lightens it by the use of dispensations.

The Anglican Communion urges frequent church attendance, even so frequent as twice every day. She calls for communion at least three times a year and urges it more frequently. She leaves confession optional, but strongly urges it in certain cases. Her marriage laws are as strict as those of Rome. She holds up a high ideal of fasting, but does not enforce it. Her tendency for several centuries has been to set the high ideal, to set forth maxims rather than rules. She has let her machinery for enforcing discipline fall largely into disuse. She has almost no provision for dispensations. She sets forth maxims rather than laws, providing a maximum to aim at rather than a minimum to be enforced.

Both systems have advantages and disadvantages. Each can learn from the other. To change from one to the other would be of little help, if that were the only reason for change.

BOTH Communions set up Baptism and Holy Communion as the chief Sacraments, and both commit them to the same ministers, and use the same essential form--"I baptize thee in the Name" etc., "This is my Body" etc. Both require the same Dispositions for effectual reception, that is to say repentance and faith. Rome has defined the Sacraments in terms of Aristotelian philosophy, "accidents" and "substance." She has also withdrawn the Cup from the laity out of what seems to us an excessive idea of reverence. Canterbury has defined the Sacraments in more popular terms such as all can understand--"outward part," "inward part," "benefits received." She has restored the Cup to the laity believing that reverence for the institution of Christ himself must come before reverence to the consecrated species. Obedience to "drink ye all" is better than morbid fear that people will not be careful in receiving from the Cup.

Both teach that in Baptism the person is born again into God's Family, washed from sin, and set in the way of salvation. Both teach that the use of repentance and faith is necessary if a person is to benefit from the gifts of Baptism.

Both treat Holy Communion as the chief service of the Church, and put the Holy Table in the centre of their buildings as the focus of worship. Both teach that in the Holy Communion the faithful receive the Body and Blood of Christ really and truly--"verily and indeed." Both teach that the Body of Christ is given in a heavenly and spiritual manner so that there is an objective gift to be received from outside the communicant. Both teach that faith is the necessary means by which he receives and eats the same to the benefit of his soul.

The Church of Rome commonly surrounds the Sacrament with greater splendour and more dramatic acts of adoration. The Church of England has gone back to the stark simplicity of the old Roman services of earlier times. There is a classic beauty about her rites. For a long time Rome divorced the communion of the people from the offering of the Sacrifice. Communion was commonly given, and in many places is still given, before or after Mass, from the reserved sacrament. Now there is a movement back to communion at its proper place in the Mass as the climax of the Mass itself. In the same way communion among Anglicans tended for years to be separated from the regular worship of the Church. The bulk of the congregation --even now in many churches--left after the sermon and offertory, and a devout minority stayed for the Communion, which became a separate service. There is now a movement back again by which Worship and Communion are kept together, and the service is not broken up by the exodus of a large part of the congregation after the Prayer for the Church. Rome for many years has let low Mass become the normal worship of her people. Even where High Mass was celebrated on a Sunday, it was not always as well attended because of its length. The reform of the Music of the Church has shortened High Mass, and now there is a movement to make the solemn offering of the Sacrifice of Praise the chief act of worship on Sundays and Holy Days. The Anglican Communion has also for many years used Morning Prayer as the chief service of worship. The Eucharist has in many places been confined to an early service for the devout, or as an occasional service in addition to Morning Prayer. Anglicans are now being led back to the Lord's own service, and in many places a Parish or Family Communion at 9.30 is becoming the chief service of the day. Both Communions are working back to the true position. To change from one to the other for no better reason than a dissatisfaction with the emphasis on communion or the other parts of sacramental practice would be unreasonable.

Both communions speak of the Eucharist as a Sacrifice. A quotation from the Answer of the Archbishops of England to the Bull of Pope Leo XIII on Anglican Orders will make this clear.

'We make provision with the greatest reverence for the consecration of the holy Eucharist and commit it only to properly ordained ministers of the Church. Further we truly teach the doctrine of Eucharistic sacrifice and do not believe it to be 'a nude commemoration of the Sacrifice of the Cross,' an opinion which seems to be attributed to us by the quotation made from that Council. But we think it sufficient in the Liturgy which we use in celebrating the holy Eucharist,--while lifting up our hearts to the Lord, and when now consecrating the gifts already offered that they may become to us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ,--to signify the sacrifice which is offered at that point of the service in such terms as these. We continue a perpetual memory of the precious death of Christ, who is our Advocate with the Father and the propitiation for our sins, according to his precept, until His coming again. For first we offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; then next we plead and represent before the Father the sacrifice of the cross, and by it we confidently entreat remission of sins and all other benefits of the Lord's Passion for all the whole Church; and lastly we offer the sacrifice of ourselves to the Creator of all things which we have already signified by the oblations of His creatures. This whole action, in which the people has necessarily to take its part with the Priest, we are accustomed to call the Eucharistic sacrifice.

'Further, since the Pope reminds us somewhat severely of "the necessary connection between faith and worship, between the law of believing and the law of praying," it seems fair to call closer attention, both on your part and ours, to the Roman Liturgy. And when we look carefully into the "Canon of the Mass," what do we see clearly exhibited there as to the idea of sacrifice? It agrees sufficiently with our Eucharistic formularies, but scarcely or not at all with the determinations of the Council of Trent. Or rather it should be said that two methods of explaining the sacrifice are put forth at the same time by that Council, one which agrees with liturgical science and Christian wisdom, the other which is under the influence of dangerous popular theology on the subject of Eucharistic propitiation. Now in the Canon of the Mass the sacrifice which is offered is described in four ways. Firstly it is a "sacrifice of praise," which idea runs through the whole action and so to say supports it and makes it all of a piece. Secondly it is the offering made by God's servants and His whole family, about which offering request is made that it may "become to us the Body and Blood" of His Son our Lord. Thirdly it is an offering to His Majesty of His "own gifts and boons" (that is, as Innocent IIIrd rightly explains it, of the fruit of the fields and trees, although the words of the Lord have, already been said over them by the Priest), which are called the holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation. Fourthly and lastly (in the prayer Supra quas propitio) the sacrifice already offered in three ways, and according to Roman opinion now fully consecrated, is compared with the sacrifices of the patriarchs Abel and Abraham, and with that offered by Melchisedec. This last, being called "holy sacrifice, unblemished victim," shows that the comparison is not only in respect to the offerer, but also to the things offered. Then the Church prays that they may be carried up by the hands of the holy Angel to the altar of God on high. Lastly, after the second series of names of Saints, there occurs the piece of a prayer (per quem haec omnia) which appears rather suitable to a benediction of fruits of the earth, than to the Eucharistic sacrifice.'

These are the considered words not of some party in the Anglican Communion but of the two Archbishops of England who were moderate churchmen. They published their Answer on March 29th, 1897.

From this quotation it is clear that the Anglican Communion holds the Eucharist to be the Christian Sacrifice, as indeed she has always implied when she prayed "We entirely desire thy fatherly goodness mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, most humbly beseeching thee to grant that by the merits and death of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins and all other benefits of his passion."

Here we offer not "praise," but "this our sacrifice of praise." "This" is a pointing word, and it points to the whole action on which we are engaged, that is the taking of bread and wine, the blessing of them with thanksgiving, the breaking of the Bread and the receiving of the holy gifts as the Body and Blood of Christ. This whole action or series of actions is "this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving." Thereby we plead the merits (that is the holy life) and precious death of our Lord and ask that on that account and through faith in his Blood, not only we who are present, but "all thy whole Church" may receive "remission of sins and all other benefits of his passion." "All thy whole Church" is a very comprehensive term and reminds us that the greater part of the Church has departed this life.

I have no reason then to leave the Anglican Communion for the Roman simply on the ground that one teaches the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the other does not, for both plainly teach it.

If I went to Rome I should miss very much the unspeakable blessing of receiving in both kinds. The separate consecration of the Bread and Cup to be the Body and Blood of the Lord is a symbol of the separation of his soul and body in death. The reception in both kinds is a symbol of his resurrection. As the sacrament is united in the communicant who receives in both kinds, so Christ's soul and body were re-united in the glorious resurrection. To me every communion is a wonderful pledge of the resurrection of the body. The form of words used in the delivery of the Sacrament in the Anglican Communion is "The Body of our Lord .... preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life." This reference to the resurrection is absent from the Roman form.

"The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ keep thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Amen." Perhaps more than anything else the blessing of receiving in both kinds would hold me to the Anglican Communion if I were ever tempted to go to Rome.

THE other Sacraments are held in both Communions to accomplish the same results. Rome calls them Sacraments. Canterbury hesitates about the term because she has adopted a very strict, exclusive definition of the word. She tends to confine the use of the word "Sacrament" to the two great Sacraments which have form and matter clearly ordained by Christ in the Gospel, and which are held necessary to salvation for everyone where they may be had. She speaks of the other five as "commonly called sacraments." Matrimony is plainly called a "mystery," which is the Greek equivalent of "Sacrament." But after all it is not a matter of words but of facts. Both hold Confirmation to effect the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Canterbury adheres to the Apostolic form of laying on of hands with prayer. Rome uses stretching out of the hands over the candidates in general and unction. Both consider Matrimony an indissoluble union of one man and one woman. Both consider the man and the woman to be the ministers of the rite, but Rome tends to add a new requirement, the presence of the priest. Both administer penance with the same form of words, "I absolve thee in the Name" etc. The Anglican Communion has given up unction in the visitation of the sick, but it is being gradually restored. Rome has made this into the rite for the dying. There is need of practical reform in both Rome and Canterbury.

Ordination presents a graver problem. The two chief divisions between us and Rome are the denial of the validity of our Orders by Rome and the insistance by Rome on the infallibility of the Pope as an article of faith necessary to salvation. At the Reformation the Churches of England and Ireland made it perfectly clear that they intended to continue the old Orders of ministers, Bishops, Priests and Deacons. This is what they said and what has appeared ever since as a preface to the Ordinal:

"It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church: Bishops, Priests and Deacons."

In England and Ireland care was taken to make sure that the Bishops after the breach with Rome were always consecrated by at least three Bishops of the old line. In Ireland no question was ever made of this. Archbishop Curwen of Dublin, with the assistance of other Bishops, consecrated the new Bishops as the Sees fell vacant by death. He himself had been consecrated in Queen Mary's reign by the old pontifical. In England on the accession of Elizabeth half the Sees were vacant by death. The See of Canterbury was vacant. Matthew Parker was elected Archbishop and was consecrated in Lambeth Chapel on December 17th, 1559 by four Bishops, Barlow of Bath and Wells and Hodgkin of Bedford (both of whom had been consecrated by the old pontifical in Henry VIII's time); and Scory of Chichester and Coverdale of Exeter consecrated in Edward VI's time by the Prayer Book Ordinal at the hands of Bishops of the old line. A story was hatched up by Roman controversialists eighty years afterwards to the effect that Parker was never consecrated, but only consecrated in fun in the Nag's Head Tavern, This story was refuted by the carefully kept records at Lambeth and by a number of references to the consecration in private letters and diaries of the period. Roman controversialists now accept the historical fact of this consecration. Later on Rome shifted her objection to Anglican Orders to the form used. She complained that at the Reformation when our formularies were translated from Latin to English, such changes were made in the Ordinal as rendered it no longer capable of conveying valid Orders. It is true that, in the form for ordaining priests, considerable changes were made in the direction of simplification. This was inevitable in translating the old rite. If anyone will take the trouble to examine the Roman Pontifical, he will see how difficult and complicated is the service for ordaining a priest. In the process of time, the Roman rite has taken over the forms from the Gallican rites which it superseded, so that it now contains, telescoped together, two or three forms for making a priest, any one of which would be quite sufficient. In fact, it is impossible to say at what moment in the service a man ceases to be a deacon and becomes a priest. Very early in the service there is a laying on of hands in silence accompanied by no prayer or any other form. This is the old Roman rite. Yet this does not seem to make a man a priest, for later on he is treated still as though not yet ordained to that office. Then there is an anointing which also seems to make him a priest, but does not do so for at a still later point he has delivered to him the holy vessels with authority to offer sacrifice. Besides this he has been vested with the priestly robes. By this time he seems to be a priest for he says the rest of the Mass with the Bishop as a sort of concelebrant, yet in spite of this it is not until after the communion that he is completely vested as a priest, and receives another laying on of hands with the familiar words "Receive the Holy Ghost. Whosesoever sins thou dost forgive" etc.

This final laying on of hands is the most solemn one, and that accompanied by the most suitable form of words, (even the words used by Christ in ordaining his Apostles.) In some mediaeval rites this final laying on of hands is missing. It seems to have been a later importation. The place for ordaining priests is traditionally after the Gospel, not after the communion. The Eastern Churches have entirely different rites. The only thing all rites have in common is prayer by the Bishop over the ordinand, and the laying on of his hands with those of the presbyters. The prayer or form used in laying on of hands is such as to indicate the office given. Was it any wonder that in translating the rite at the Reformation our Fathers should have tried to make it simple and direct, and to return to the apostolic method of prayer and laying on of hands at the appropriate part of the service? Deacons are made before the Gospel which one of them reads, because the reading of the Gospel is their characteristic function. Priests are ordained after the Gospel and before the Offertory, because their characteristic function is to preach and to offer up the prayers and offerings of the people and consecrate the Eucharist. These functions follow the Gospel, Accordingly the reformers concentrated the prayers for the candidates at this point, and brought together the two layings on of hands into one. They kept the scriptural form "Receive the Holy Ghost.... Whosesoever sins" etc. All through the office it is clear that it is for the office and work of a priest in the Church of God that the man is ordained. It is mentioned again and again in title, rubrics and prayers. If laying on of hands and that form of words makes priests in the Roman Church it is difficult to see why it does not do so in the Church of England if the line of Bishops is unbroken. In translating the form for consecrating a Bishop fewer changes had to be made, for that service is much clearer and more direct in the Pontifical. Here again it is made clear in title, prayers and rubrics that the candidate is being consecrated to the episcopate. The form of words in the Roman rite at the laying on of hands is very brief. "Receive the Holy Ghost." Only the rubrics and prayers indicate the office conferred. Our reformers retained the same form. Three Bishops lay on hands with the Archbishop saying the form "Receive the Holy Ghost." To it we have added a scriptural passage from the pastoral epistles. All these quotations are from the earliest form of our Ordinal before the defining words "for the office" etc. were added to the form for the laying on of hands. The simpler form is obviously sufficient, since it was the only form used by Rome for hundreds of years, and is still the form used. The additions we have made are for edification, not because we thought the simpler form insufficient.

For many years Rome taught that the priesthood was conferred by the delivery of the chalice and paten with the words "Take authority" etc. Scholars discovered that this form was a very late one and that for over a thousand years no such form was used in the Church but only prayer and the laying on of hands. As a result Rome has shifted her ground and no longer claims this as the form, nor our failure to use it as the reason for rejecting our Orders.

Rome's new position in respect to us is that while our rite might possibly be valid if used by a Church in communion with herself, it is invalid because we do not, and never did intend to make priests or Bishops in the Catholic sense. Our answer to that is that we have always said in our Ordinal, in words as plain as it is possible to make them, that we did so intend. We use the very word "intent"--"to the intent that these orders be continued" etc.

To that Rome replied that we treat the Eucharist as a nude commemoration of the Cross, and not as the Christian Sacrifice, so that our priests do not perform the characteristic function of the priesthood when they celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Our reply to this has been given in the words of the English Archbishops. If I went to Rome therefore I should have to deny my Orders. I should have to say that I was not a priest, and had never performed any priestly function. You as a layperson would have to say that you were not confirmed. You would have to deny the gift of the Holy Ghost. You would have to say that you had never received sacramental communion: that the Bread and Cup you received were not the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, but only plain bread and wine, untouched by the hand of Christ, incapable of conveying to you any blessing or help. To deny these things would seem to come close to blasphemy. Have you ever read the words with which you would have to abjure your former faith? Here they are.

"I, N.N., having before my eyes the holy Gospels, which I touch with my hand, and knowing that no one can be saved without the faith which the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church holds, believes, and teaches; against which I grieve that I have greatly erred, inasmuch as, having been born outside that Church, I have held and believed doctrines opposed to her teaching; I now, enlightened by the grace of God, profess that I believe the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church to be the one true Church established on earth by Jesus Christ, to which I submit myself with my whole heart. I firmly believe all the articles which she proposes for my belief; I reject and condemn all that she rejects and condemns, and I am ready to observe all that she commands me.. .. With a sincere heart, therefore, and with unfeigned faith, I detest and abjure every error, heresy, and sect opposed to the said Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church. So help me God, and these His holy Gospels, which I touch with my hand."

It might be possible to go to Rome if their attitude to us was like ours to them. We recognize Roman Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders. If a Roman wishes to come into our Communion he simply comes to communion. For the sake of discipline some Bishops require a form of admission, but that is not the old way. For hundreds of years Roman recusants in England could always come into our Communion by giving notice like other communicants, and then presenting themselves at the rail. But you cannot go to Rome like that. You cannot just quietly stop going to the Anglican Church and begin to go to a Roman one and then one day go to confession and tell the Priest you wish to make your communion, and so go to the Altar rail at the next Mass. No, you will be treated as a heretic and schismatic, and all rites you have received, and all spiritual experiences you have enjoyed will be treated with grave doubt and in some cases as utterly void and meaningless.

Distant fields often look green, but when you get there they may be a shade too green. After this alarming form of abjuration you will be welcomed into the Roman Communion with a good deal of fanfare. Rome makes the most of her converts. Romans join our Communion in considerable numbers. In a ministry of nine years in the States I received over a hundred. They were people who came without being sought or urged in any way. We make no fanfare over our conversions.

When the fanfare is over you would find yourself one of the converts, always marked out as such by traditional Roman Catholics. You would then begin to see the seamier side of the Roman Communion, the scale of payments for Masses for the Departed, the system of indulgences, the exaggerated devotions to our Lady and the Saints. You would find that just as there are special Anglican sins, so there are special Roman ones just as unpleasant. You might have felt with us that the Thirty Nine Articles were rather hard on the Saints, and on the attractive extra-liturgical devotions to our Lord in the Sacrament Reserved. You might have thought the Anglican Communion was a bit cool towards the faithful departed. You would find many Roman devotions altogether too sweet, and too hot, for habitual use, and you might then wish yourself back in the airier atmosphere of the Anglican Communion.

No formulary of our Church has been so misjudged as those same Thirty Nine Articles. They are meant for the clergy, not for the laity, and they are most carefully worded. For their time, they are a wonderfully moderate statement of reformed Catholicism. The partisans of Rome and Geneva were trying to pull the Church of England this way or that. How carefully these articles lay down the true Catholic Faith of the Trinity and the Incarnation, of the sufficiency of Scripture as a safeguard against additions to the Faith, of the way of salvation. How carefully they reject the errors of Calvin on predestination and the total depravity of man. How carefully the Articles teach us of the objective gift in the Blessed Sacrament--"the Body is given"--while making it clear that it is in no materialistic way. How carefully Romish doctrine is condemned, but not Catholic doctrine or even official Roman doctrine. It is against popular errors that we protest. For the time, the Articles were a triumph of good churchmanship and brevity. Compare the length of the decrees of Trent or the Westminster Confession. If we were drawing up a set of Articles today, we should use different words and treat of some different subjects. At the time they were written, the traffic in masses for the dead and indulgences was very close, and had been experienced by all older people. The riotous pilgrimages, and the feigned miracles and relics were a real menace to them. An ignorant population, most of whom could not read, were a fair prey for superstition. Nowadays it is not too much reverence or superstitious use that we have to contend with but irreverence and neglect.

THINK well before you submit to Rome. If you think you would be more contented so, remember we are not here to be contented. The Church is not a cosy corner for the Saints. It is an army on campaign. Ask yourself too if there is not some other subtle reason for wanting to make the change, a reason with little if any connection with religion. So often people have gone to Rome supposedly because of doubts about the Anglican position, but really as a means of getting out of some difficult position or of dodging some unpleasant duty, and doing so for supposed higher motives.

The Anglican Communion is far from perfect. The Roman has another kind of imperfection. The Eastern Orthodox has another kind yet, the Evangelical bodies their own imperfections. The Church is not perfectly holy, Catholic, Apostolic or even one in any of its separated parts. Perhaps when we are all more holy the Church will be One. Perhaps when we are all one, then we shall see a Church free from the imperfections which we cannot ignore in any of its parts. To move from one part to another will be no help. It is like a fly feeling safer after he has crossed a crack in the plaster that seems to divide the wall, but is really only surface deep.

In communion with Canterbury, you are in the Great Church. Roman Catholics recognize only their own Communion. A Roman Catholic tips his hat to his own Church, but not to the Anglican Church on the corner nor to the Orthodox Church in the next block. An Anglican recognizes all three and is also good friends with a large part of the Evangelical bodies. We do not unchurch others. We recognize as a brother every person who is baptized in the Name of the Trinity and who accepts our Lord as God and Saviour, and tries to follow Him. We belong to the old concern, the one true Church of which Rome is a part. We belong to the Great Church of the ages. Our Faith is exactly that of St Paul, St Augustine and all the Saints and Doctors of the old undivided Church, none of whom ever heard of the Immaculate Conception or Papal Infallibility. Don't leave the Great Church for a part that pretends to be the whole.

Father Roland F. Palmer, SSJE
1946

Friday, August 06, 2010

On Sacramental Assurance


From the Church Times:

"Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh, what a foretaste of glory is mine!" Anglicans, especially Catholic Anglicans, find "blessed assurance" and a "foretaste of glory" in the sacraments of the Church. After the General Synod debate on women bishops, Stephen Barney wrote asking for an explanation of the doctrine of sacramental assurance (Letters, 16 July). Others have questioned whether sacramental assurance is an Anglican doctrine.

I would like to try to explain it, and to show that it is an Anglican doctrine. The doctrine of the Church of England is to be found particularly in "the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal", according to Canon A5; I will refer to these sources, among others.

Article XXV teaches that "Sacraments ordained by Christ . . . [are] effectual signs of grace": they effect what they signify; they truly bring us the grace of God; they are the means by "which [God] doth work invisibly in us". This gives the Church of England a Catholic doctrine of the sacraments.

The teaching of the Article is expanded in the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer, which states that the sacraments are “a means whereby we receive [grace]”, and “a pledge to assure us thereof”. We have therefore the assurance that we receive the grace of God in the sacraments, pro­vided that the right conditions are met.

Traditional Catholic teaching requires the use of bread and wine at the eucharist, and the presidency of a priest ordained by a bishop in the apostolic succession. Both the Book of Common Prayer and Common Worship require the use of bread and wine, and the presidency of a priest ordained by a bishop. Article XXXVI refers to the Ordinal attached to the Book of Common Prayer, which requires that priests be ordained by bishops, as did the Act of Uniformity 1662.

The preface to the Ordinal makes it clear that the Church of England intended to continue the orders of bishops, priests, and deacons, as the Church had received them, going back to the time of the Apostles. In other words, the C of E explicitly intended to continue the ordained ministry of the Catholic Church.

The requirement of a priest, ordained by a bishop in the apostolic succession, to preside at the eucharist is a requirement of Anglican formularies. One could cite various Anglican divines who took just such a Catholic and Anglican position — Jeremy Taylor, Lancelot Andrewes, John Cosin, and William Laud, to name but a few.

The problem for traditional Catholics in the Church of England is that we do not believe that in ordaining women, the C of E is continuing the orders of bishops and priests as the Church has received them. By “Church” here, we mean the undivided Church of the past, together with the present-day Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, and a number of other Anglican provinces.

The ordination of women to the priesthood therefore initiated a process of reception in the Church of England and the wider Church. Reception is not a new concept in the history of the Church: it refers to the reception of the decisions of Councils of the Church by the whole people of the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Because the C of E claims that her orders are those of the whole or universal Church (Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican), the new development in the ordination of women must be subject to reception by the whole Church. Otherwise, our Church’s claim about her orders would be in jeopardy. Recognition of the need for reception underpinned theologically the provision that was made in 1992-93 for members of the Church of England not to receive the priestly ministry of women.

The introduction of women bishops would introduce a new phase into the process of reception, calling, theologically and practically, for provision for members of the C of E not to receive the episcopal ministry of women. According to Anglican ordinals, priests have to be ordained by bishops. Those who are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops cannot receive the ministry of those who have been ordained by women bishops, because ordination is an essentially episcopal ministry.

The problem then, particularly for lay traditionalists, would be how they can be sure that a priest presiding at the eucharist has been ordained by a male bishop, in a line of bishops and priests which is an explicit continuation of the orders of bishops and priests as the Church has received them. Without that assurance, they do not have the assurance of the grace of God in the sacrament.

This is not to denigrate the ministry of women priests, or to say that the grace of God is not present when they preside at the eucharist. But it is to say that the same sacramental assurance is not available when women preside at the eucharist, or ordain priests — because there is doubt that, in their ordination, the Church of England is continuing the Catholic orders of the universal Church.

Bishop Kenneth Kirk wrote in a paper for the Church Assembly in 1947 that “where the sacraments are concerned, the Church is always obliged to take the least doubtful course.” For this reason, we cannot receive the priestly or episcopal ministry of women.

It is sometimes objected that Article XXVI says that the “unworthiness of ministers” does not hinder the effect of the sacrament. If we read the Article in full, however, we see that the unworthiness referred to is not an issue about holy orders, but serious moral unworthiness: “wickedness”.

Indeed, the Article teaches the principle of sacramental assurance, namely, that the grace of God is present in the sacrament when it is rightly and duly administered, in accordance with the teaching and practice of the undivided Church. This requires the continuation of the orders of bishops and priests as the Church has received them, going back to the time of the Apostles.

Canon Simon Killwick is the Rector of Christ Church, Moss Side, Manchester, and chairman of the Catholic Group on the General Synod.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Saint Luke 14.26

The term 'hate' is a Hebraism, a hyperbolic manner of speech, in which Our Lord attempts to gain and capture the attention of his listeners. 'To hate one's family' is not a literal command, but a figure of speech designed to do precisely what it has done for you and all others who have ever come across it, to shock, to provoke, to cajole into focus and attention. Our Lord uses this way of speaking to force us to pay attention to what He is teaching. Much like the phrase, 'if thy eye offend thee, pluck it out,' Our Lord is not telling us to do something literal or actual in the physical sense, but to act in the realm of the spirit, to move the heart and mind to God in repentance, in metanoia, the turning of the whole being to God. Our Lord would, of course, never contradict the Fifth Commandment, 'honour thy father and thy mother'; rather, He transforms the commandment to remind us that our highest spiritual and personal obligation, duty and commitment is to love God first, to love God above all else, above all human beings or created things, thus fulfilling the First Commandment to worship God and serve Him alone.

The Lord Jesus shows us the true nature of the Commandments: 'whoever does the will of my Father is my mother, sister, brother.' Natural and biological and personal family ties cannot and should not lay any claim on us in such a way that we neglect or demote our principal family, which is the Church, the spiritual communion of God in Christ and His brethren, the Body of Christ of which He is the Head and we are the living members. Indeed, to be faithful to God we must fulfil our natural family responsibilities and live a life of divine and supernatural charity towards our earthly family, while realising that this true life of love is only possible, is only completed and achieved, insofar as we love and serve God above everything else. If we love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, everything else, every human relationship, will fall into its proper place and will be ordered and sanctified by God. That is what Our Lord means, in jarring and purposely disturbing language. It seems He had as hard a time getting His disciples' attention as we modern speakers have with our own audiences! Jesus is commanding us to love: to love God, and then, in, with and through God, to love others in, with and through the infused theological virtue of charity.

To paraphrase the Church Fathers: 'Jesus is not saying that we cannot love our family, but we dare not love them more than we love God' (Saint Cyril of Alexandria). 'We cannot let our natural mother and our affections for her supersede our love for Holy Mother Church, which nourishes us with food that lasts for eternity' (Saint Augustine of Hippo). 'We are to hate our families only insofar as they an obstacle to eternal life' (Saint Augustine of Hippo). 'To be a disciple of Jesus requires invincible fortitude and unwavering zeal' (Saint Cyril of Alexandria).

Sunday, August 01, 2010

On the Liturgy

The reason why the Church uses the Book of Common Prayer and other liturgical texts in the offering of divine worship and Christian instruction is really very simple: the Liturgy, meaning 'the work of the people,' the formalised structure of worship by which the clergy and people render to God the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, is Apostolic in origin and traces itself directly back to the worship of the first generation of Christian believers. The Apostles were liturgical, and accustomed to the prayers and liturgical formulae of the Jewish synagogue and temple; hence, they transferred the use of liturgical prayer found in ancient Judaism to the New People of God, the Catholic and Apostolic Church, the new and spiritual Israel (Galatians 6.16). Our Lord Himself used the Jewish liturgy, the Psalms and hymn contained in the Old Testament, and transformed the old liturgy of the Jewish Passover into the Eucharist or Mass, the Sacrifice of the New and Eternal Testament. Our Lord celebrated the first Eucharist and instituted it in the context of the old Passover rite - entirely liturgical. Thus, the Church has, as Our Lord promised, fulfilled and completed, not destroyed, the Tradition of God's chosen people from the Old Covenant, including the liturgy. We use the Liturgy because it actually precedes and predates the writing of the books of the canonical New Testament (which Canon was only settled by the Catholic Church at councils in 393 and 397 AD). The Liturgy is essential part of the Apostles' doctrine, teaching and fellowship - and the Breaking of Bread, the Mass - (Acts of the Apostles 2.42), inherited directly from the Apostles and their successors in the ancient Church.

The Liturgy is fundamental to the handing-down of orthodox Christian doctrine called in Holy Scripture 'the Tradition,' the paradosis, the passing-along of the Faith. Every Christian church has a tradition - either a tradition invented at the protestant reformation, a tradition invented at a later period, or Holy and Apostolic Tradition, which is the content of the preaching and teaching of the Apostles, preserved and handed-on by the Apostles and their Successors in the Catholic Church through the guidance of the Holy Ghost. 'Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us' (II Thessalonians 3.6). 'Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle' (II Thessalonians 2.15). 'Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.' (St John 16.13-15). 'But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you' (St John 14.26). This is Holy Tradition, the living memory of the Church, the Life of the Holy Ghost in the Church.

The Liturgy also preserves orthodox Christian doctrine and protects the Church from falling into novelty, heresy and false doctrine: an ancient axiom of the Faith is lex orandi, lex credendi, the law of prayer is the the law of believe, as we pray so we believe. The Apostles enshrined the Gospel they received from Our Lord in the forms of worship and prayer they handed on to their Churches, and so to this day the Church uses and promotes the teaching of the Apostles contained in the Liturgy. The liturgy is the 'form of sound words' (II Timothy 1.3) given to and by the Apostles. Heretics have through the centuries been known and identified primarily by their changes to the received orthodox form of the Liturgy. Christians worshipped with and through the liturgy before the New Testament was written, and developed through worship the expression of doctrines that would only later be defined by the Church in Scripture, Creed and Ecumenical Council, most especially the dogmas of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation and Deity of Christ. The earliest Christians worshipped One God in Three Persons and Jesus Christ as God and Man long before any official creedal formulae were developed to defend the Church against error. Thus, the Holy Scriptures, the Liturgy and the Church are inseparable for Catholics, for they are three modes conveying the one and same Christian revelation.

The Liturgy unites all Christians across time and space in the common action of the People of God in prayer. It enables us to pray with all those Christians who have gone before us in the Communion of Saints and with all Apostolic Christians in Apostolic Churches today. The Liturgy is the action of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, to whom we are united as members of the Body and His members in His own great act of prayer and intercession.

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