Friday, February 24, 2006

How I understand confessional Lutheranism

Over the last two years I have studied confessional Lutheranism when time has allowed. For me, steeped as I am in the Catholic Movement of Anglicanism, Lutheranism of the confessional kind (as opposed to the modernist mainline variety) has proven to be a fascinating and compelling adventure. However, I am somewhat confused by some of the theological claims I have discovered. The following is how I would describe my findings, and I hope someone far more knowledgable than I will correct my errors. Here we go...

Are confessional Lutherans, in essence, 'rivals' to the Holy Catholic Church?

1. I am fascinated by the confessional Lutheran position on the Real Objective Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Missouri Synod Lutherans, for example, are absolutely emphatic that the True Body and Blood of Our Lord are 'in, with, and under' the species of bread and wine after consecration. They absolutely insist on the unique power and efficacy of the Verba, or Words of Institution, which alone consecrate the sacred species into the Body and Blood of Christ. They insist again that only those who hold to the Lutheran confessional doctrine may receive the Holy Communion, and thus they practice the two-pronged principle of necessity of dogmatic unity before Eucharistic hospitality, and of 'closed communion' for only those that fully subscribe to the Lutheran doctrinal formulae. What is most perplexing about this position from my perspective is the absolute rejection on their part of the apostolic sacramental or ministerial priesthood and of the necessity of episcopal ordination and apostolic succession, upon which, of course, Catholics believe the Eucharistic Mystery is utterly dependent. I am led to believe that Lutherans therefore believe any baptised Christian can preside at the Eucharist and recite the formula of the Verba, thus bringing about the Real Presence. But they vehemently deny this and require the 'Office of the Holy Ministry,' as transmitted by some form of succession within the Lutheran community, for a valid celebration of the Eucharist. They appear to deny that other protestants, such as Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, possess a valid offering of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Again, confessional Lutherans abhor the Eucharistic Prayer or Canon, which they say, quoting Luther, 'stinks of oblation.' They claim that the Prayer of Consecration, or Canon, with anamnesis and epiclesis, renders the action of the Eucharistic celebration a man-centred work, works-righteousness, an act of the Church towards God in an effort to propitiate God, rather than the reception of the unmerited and unearned grace of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament. Thus, they divorce the traditional elements of the Canon from the Verba, which stand alone as the central and independent act of consecration. In the administration of the Lord's Supper, they call the elements the 'true Body' and 'true Blood' of the Saviour. Some of them even speak of the 'Mass;' they certainly all refer to the Holy Communion as being the Body and Blood of Christ. Yet, they do not practise Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament and do not seem to believe in a permanent Presence in the sacred species after their liturgical use.

2. Along these same lines, confessional Lutherans also claim to be THE One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, a genuine recovery of the True Church on earth. It is maintained that confessional Lutheranism is the full resourcement, the complete restoration of New Testament Christianity. In the Book of Concord, they claim to possess a higher magisterial authority for the interpretation and transmission of dogma than the Roman See or the consensus patricum of the early Fathers. They appear to claim that the Lutheran confessions correct the Church Fathers, while handing-on what is true and faithful in the original doctrine of the same. They claim to be the Church of the Apostles, the Fathers, and the Councils of the Undivided Church - and they assert that those bodies which refuse their position are essentially heretical and have abandoned the true Gospel. In practice, as I see it, this assertion seems to contradict the fundamental Lutheran axiom of sola scriptura, for it is only Scripture as rightly interpreted by the Lutheran confessions which alone possesses truth in faith and morals. To be painfully honest, I cannot help but see the Lutheran confessional position as analogous to the Donatist schism of the fourth century. The confessional Lutherans appear to hold themselves above the consentient witness and tradition of Catholicism as the 'Church of the pure,' the 'Church of the holy.' As far as I can tell, they present themselves as being the only true Church, uniquely possessing the purity and apostolic deposit of the Gospel - based on justification by faith alone, that on which the 'Church stands or falls.' Unity in the Church Catholic can thus only be had on the terms of the Lutheran confessions. Is adherence to the Book of Concord and the Augsburg Confession adherence to the mind of Christ, in a unique sense? All non-Lutheran bodies seem to be regarded as heretical. Do Lutherans really see themselves as the Holy Catholic Church, nothing less? Are all other Christians, Catholics or protestants, truly beyond the pale?

Please correct me if I am mistaken. Have I erred in my attempt to grasp this profoundly interesting position?

The Shrine of Saint Chad Discovered

- From the Diocese of Lichfield website

24th February 2006

Archaeologists discover Saint Chad's Burial Place and Shrine-

Major discovery re-writes Lichfield's history-

Shrine to be reunited with illuminated Gospels after 1,000 years

In a discovery hailed as being of “European significance” and the “foundation of English art”, archaeologists working at Lichfield Cathedral have uncovered the church built to house the grave of St Chad; together with the “Lichfield Angel” - part of the shrine created around AD700 by Bishop Hedda to mark the resting place of Lichfield’s first Bishop. And now the remains of the shrine are to be reunited for the first time in more than 1,000 years with the Lichfield Gospels – an illuminated manuscript commissioned in the eighth century to adorn the shrine. And, thanks to collaboration between the Cathedral, the British Library and the Parish of Llandeilo, members of the public will be able to ‘turn the pages’ of the precious Lichfield Gospels as they have been digitised – digital versions of the St Chad Gospels will be on display in the Cathedral and also available to tour across the diocese.When Chad became the fifth Bishop of the Mercians in AD 669 he moved the bishopric from Repton to Lichfield. The noted church historian, the Venerable Bede, reported that Chad “came to dwell by St Mary’s Church”. Chad died on 2nd March AD672 and Bede reported that he was buried: “close by” the Church of St Mary, but that his body was later transferred to the new church of St Peter. The exact locations of these churches have never been known; and there has been much speculation that St Chad’s Church in Lichfield is located on the site of one of the original churches. But now, archaeologists can reveal that the remains of both St Peter’s Church and St Mary’s Church lie under the floor of the present cathedral – and that both have been found during recent archaeological investigations.The latest finds – St Peter’s Church, the shrine, and a number of high-status later burials around the shrine – were discovered as archaeologists conducted a dig in the nave of the Cathedral to prepare the way for a new motorised retractable nave platform. The remains of St Mary’s Church was discovered in the 1990s during a major programme to replace broken limestone flooring flags. It wasn’t until the remains of St Peter’s Church was found that it was possible to identify the remains found in the 1990s as St Mary’s Church – the church where Chad worshipped and preached.

The “Lichfield Angel” is three adjoining fragments of an Anglo-Saxon sculptured panel made of cream shelly limestone. It is believed that this formed part of a shrine in which the bones of St Chad were housed.Leading ecclesiastical archaeologist, Dr Warwick Rodwell, is Consultant Archaeologist at Lichfield Cathedral, and led the dig. He said: “The remarkable state of preservation of the panel fragments is due to several factors. First, the sculpture had a short life span before being broken and buried. Second, the fragments were deposited inside the church and have therefore not been subject to outside weathering. Third, at least two of the three pieces were placed face-down in a pit, thereby trapping air pockets against some areas of the sculptured surface. Hence, parts of the painted decoration have never had soil in contact with them.”Professor Rosemary Cramp, a trustee of the British Museum and past president of the Council for British Archaeology is a senior expert in Anglo-Saxon archaeology, described the “Lichfield Angel” as being of “European importance”. She added: “This carving is crucially important for the light it throws on the chronology of Anglo Saxon sculpture. Only a handful of sites have produced sculptures which are archaeologically stratified as belonging to the pre-conquest period. This piece is unusual in that an almost complete panel of a casket has been carefully reburied, some time before the Norman Conquest. This can be paralleled only in the reburied sarcophagus at Alkmund’s, Derby.“This piece provides something of a missing link between England and the continent in the revival of late antique styles, a revival which on the continent is demonstrated in manuscripts and ivories, not large scale carvings. The conservation of the Lichfield Angel and its formal, stylistic and iconographic analysis is obviously of crucial importance.”

Emily Howe, a conservator of wall paintings and sculptural polychromy, has been given the task of co-ordinating the recording, examination and analysis of the Angel prior to its conservation, and is receiving generous technical support from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and a substantial grant from the Pilgrim Trust. She said: “Initial documentation of the panel components, including high resolution digital imaging and close range 3-D laser scanning, has now been completed. Not only will these records serve as an important resource for monitoring the condition of the panel over time, but they will enable a better understanding of the way the panel was made and assist in the provision of interpretative material showing how the fragments might originally have fitted into the St Chad shrine chest.“Following the Angel’s temporary display in the Cathedral during the month of March, a detailed condition assessment will be undertaken and further research instigated into the object’s physical history. Findings from these non-invasive investigations will inform the need for scientific analysis of the Angel’s stone support and extensive remaining paint layer, and examination of the ways in which the materials were used. Such analyses will not only provide further information on the panel’s current condition, but will also serve to illuminate its considerable technological significance among Britain’s early medieval sculpture.”Recommendations for the long-term conservation of the Lichfield Angel and suitable conditions for the panel’s display in the Cathedral will be considered by a panel of experts based on the findings of these informative preliminary investigations.

Saint Chad, pray for us!

The 1928 English Proposed Canon

Recently I have been re-reading the works of Bishop Walter H. Frere, CR of Truro, a staunch defender of the Eucharistic Canon of the 1928 'Deposited Prayer Book' of the C of E. Bishop Frere desired a restoration of the Eucharistic Anaphora based on Eastern theological and structural lines. It is fascinating to learn that Bishop Frere was one of the very, very few Anglo-Catholics who supported the 1928 Proposed Book and especially its Canon: most Anglo-Catholics in England despised the epiklesis in the new liturgy (holding to the Latin view that the Very Words of Christ alone consecrate) and forged a strange alliance with the Evangelical party to see the Deposited Book defeated. Walterus Truron loved the Eastern tradition and rightly saw the Ecclesia Anglicana as the western expression of that orthodoxy so magnificently manifested in the Eastern rite. He was truly 'philorthodox.' See how closely the 1928 American and English Prayers of Consecration agree...

ALL glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his Holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious death until his coming again;

Who, in the same night that he was betrayed, took Bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is my Body which is given for you; Do this in remembrance of me. Likewise after supper he took the Cup; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of this ; for this is my Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins ; Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me.

Wherefore, O Lord and heavenly Father, we thy humble servants, having in remembrance the precious death and passion of thy dear Son, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension, according to his holy institution do celebrate and set forth before thy divine Majesty with these thy holy gifts, the memorial which he hath willed us to make, rendering unto thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits which he hath procured unto us.

Hear us, O Merciful Father, we most humbly beseech thee, and with thy Holy and Life-giving Spirit vouchsafe to bless and sanctify both us and these thy gifts of Bread and Wine, that they may be unto us the Body and Blood of thy Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, to the end that, receiving the same, we may be strengthened and refreshed both in body and soul. And 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 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.

And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee humbly beseeching thee, that all we, who are partakers of this Holy Communion, may be fulfilled with thy grace and heavenly benediction. And although we be unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice, yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service; not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honour and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end.

And all the people shall answer, Amen.

1928 American Prayer Book Canon

Here's the 1928 BCP Canon in the vernacular of the ancient Western Church...

Cum Sacerdos, stans ante Mensam, ita Panem et Vinum disposuit ut promptius et decentius coram populo Panem frangere, et in manus suas Calicem accipere possit, dicat Orationem Consecrationis, ut sequitur.

OMNIS gloria tibi Deus omnipotens, Pater noster caelestis, quia ex immensa tua misericordia dedisti nobis unicum Filium tuum Iesum Christum, pro nostra redemptione mortem in cruce pati, ibique unica illa oblatione qua sese semel obtulit, perfectum, plenum, et sufficiens sacrificium, hostiam et satisfactionem integram faceret pro peccatis totius mundi: quique instituit, ac in suo sacrosancto Evangelio praecepit perpetuam memoriam pretiosae suae mortis ac sacrificii celebrare, usque dum rediret.

Ad verba sequentia de pane, Celebrans eum in manus accipiat, vel ei manum imponat; et ad verba de calice, eum in manum accipiat, etiam quidque vasum quo insit vini aliquod consecrandi, vel eis manum imponat.

Qui eadem nocte qua tradebatur, accepit panem et gratias agens fregit, deditque discipulis suis dicens:

Accipite et manducate, HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM, quod pro vobis datur: hoc facite in meam commemorationem.

Simili modo, postquam cenatum est, accepit calicem, et gratias agens dedit illis, dicens:

Bibite ex eo omnes: HIC EST ENIM SANGUIS MEUS NOVI TESTAMENTI, qui pro vobis et pro multis effunditur, in remissionem peccatorum: hoc facite, quotiescunque biberitis, in meam commemorationem.

Unde, Domine caelestis Pater, secundum institutionem dilectissimi Filii tui Salvatoris nostri Iesu Christi, nos humiles servi tui celebramus et hic facimus coram divina Maiestate tua, de his tuis sanctis donis, quae nunc tibi offerimus, illam quam Filius tuus celebrare nos praecepit memoriam; memores et eius tam beatae passionis et pretiosae mortis, necnon et mirabilis resurrectionis, sed et gloriosae ascensionis; tibi gratias agentes ex animo propter innumerabilia beneficia nobis inde collata.

Exaudi nos quaesumus, misericors Pater, et pro tua bonitate omnipotente benedicere ac sanctificare digneris, per Verbum tuum et Spiritum Sanctum, haec tua dona ac creaturas panis et vini; ut nos haec sumentes, iuxta sacrosanctam institutionem Filii tui, Salvatoris nostri Iesu Christi, in memoriam eius dirae mortis et passionis, participes simus sanctissimi Corporis et Sanguinis eius.

Supplices rogamus paternam tuam bonitatem, ut hoc nostrum sacrificium laudis et gratiarum actionis, benigne accipias: humiliter supplicantes, ut propter merita et mortem Filii tui Iesu Christi, et per fidem in illius sanguinem, concedas, ut nos cum universa Ecclesia remissionem peccatorum ceteraque beneficia passionis illius consequamur.

Atque hic etiam offerimus et praesentamus tibi, Domine, nos ipsos, animas nostras, et corpora nostra, hostiam rationalem, sanctam, et vivam: humiliter obsecrantes ut quotquot participes sumus huius sacrosanctae communionis, sacrosanctum Filii tui Iesu Christi Corpus et Sanguinem digne sumpserimus, tua gratia et caelesti benedictione repleamur, et unum corpus cum ipso fiamus, ut in nobis maneat, et nos in illo.

Et quanquam indigni sumus, propter multitudinem peccatorum nostrorum, qui tibi ullum sacrificium offeramus, hanc tamen debitam oblationem servitutis nostrae, non aestimator meriti sed veniae, quaesumus, largitor accipias, per Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum;

Per quem, et cum quo, sit tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti, in unitate Spiritus Sancti, omnis honor et gloria, per omnia saecula saeculorum. AMEN.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Witness for the Catholic Faith

An amazing testimony to Catholic truth at one of my favourite blogs...

Eucharistic Ecclesiology in a nutshell

From The Tablet, 18 February 2006 -

'The Eucharist is the sacrament of the Church, the sacrament of sacraments – wherever it’s celebrated by a legitimately consecrated priest, the Church is present and it’s possible to live the fullness of the church experience. No primacy can be exercised at the expense of this catholic fullness of the local Church. Yet in the [Roman] Catholic Church, the Pope projects his ecclesiastical power over the whole earth. This complicates relations with Orthodox sister Churches.'

-Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk, president of the theological commission of the Russian Church’s governing Holy Synod.

Saintly Intercession and Paedocommunion Again

Thank you for your thought-provoking response. I am the first to admit that Saint Thomas is not always the most perspicuous of Church Fathers and theologians! Indeed, I would much rather cling to the musterion than fall prey to the temptation to scholasticise and overcompartmentalise the Faith. I see the Intercession and Invocation of Saints more in the light of received Tradition, of lex orandi, lex credendi, than on any dogmatic and systematic principle: that is, the Communion of Saints, including its concomitant belief in the value of saintly intercessory prayer, lies at the heart of the Church's mystery, her inner doxological life. For the Eastern Churches, for example, the theological belief regarding the Dormition of the Mother of God is not a matter of dogmatic pronouncement or of a salvific article of faith (de fide) to be believed as a matter of saving faith, but is rather considered part of the interior life of prayer and worship to which only orthodox Christians have access by virtue of their inheritance of the Apostolic Tradition - that is, such beliefs do not form part of the Church's kerygmatic proclamation of the Gospel, but remain in the collective memory and experience of the Church, which in turn is expressed liturgically. So Invocation of Saints becomes part of the living Tradition, or consensus fidelium, which is handed down in prayer, liturgy, custom, and devotion from the earliest Church. The Invocation of Saints, I submit, passes the test of the Vincentian Canon quite nicely, as it is clear that the Churches that stem from antiquity, the Latin, Eastern Chalcedonian, Eastern Monophysite, Assyrian, 3/4ths of the world's Christian population, have always so prayed and pray still. Only the reformation bodies formed in the 16th century repudiate the practice.

Regarding paedocommunion - I should be happy if the Western Church would restore paedocommunion, which undoubtedly existed in the West for at least the first seven centuries of the Church, if we would restore with it the practice of paedochrismation, or infant Confirmation. As practiced in the Roman, ECUSA, and RE Churches, paedocommunion admits children to the Blessed Sacrament without the benefit of receiving the perfection and completion of baptismal grace in Confirmation, which thing I believe to be a tremendous loss. Not only could that approach be construed as bad theology, but on a pastoral level it deprives these children of their full participation in the life of sacramental grace which is conveyed in Confirmation. The question raised is a difficult one, as it itself raises many, many more questions about the relationship of Baptism to Confirmation, of the Holy Communion to both, of the proper minister of Confirmation, and of the exact nature of the gift conferred in Confirmation. The Eastern Church retained the ancient form of 'Christian initiation,' maintaining the proper sequence of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist - extending such full sacramental union with Our Lord and His Church to little children. If novus ordo Churches insist on reintroducing paedocommunion to the Western Church, then I think we have seriously to consider the wisdom of also reintroducing (or perhaps introducing de novo) the Confirmation of infants, as it would be a tragedy to separate Baptism from its completion in Confirmation and first Holy Communion. Would then priests, as opposed to bishops only, be authorised to administer chrismation, as is the practice in the East? It would seem that presbyteral paedochrismation would be the only viable option for us, if the proper sequence of the Sacraments is to be preserved.

Paedochrismation and Paedocommunion

I think if we were simply to plug the traditional prayer for the sevenfold gift of the Holy Ghost from the confirmation rite(page 297) and with it the traditional prayer of anointing with chrism as imported from either the western or eastern rites (see below) into the baptismal office, we would have sufficient grounds for establishing universal paedocommunion in the Anglican Rite: for such children would not only be baptized but confirmed/chrismated as well, so long as the cleric administering the baptism and its following anointing with chrism and prayer for the gift of the Spirit were a validly ordained priest. The chrism would naturally be consecrated by a bishop. We would not have to change the baptismal office as it stands at all, but in order to bring the rite to a point of reuniting baptism, confirmation, and first Eucharist, we would have to include a historically-recognised prayer and chrismal anointing which demonstrate the proper intention of conferring the Seal of confirmation. The actual formula used at the chrismation could be either eastern or western, or as in the Antiochian Orthodox Church's western vicariate, a combination of both ancient sacramental forms:

Western -'I sign thee with the Sign of the Cross and I Confirm thee with the chrism of salvation: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.'


Eastern - 'The Seal of the Gift of the Holy Ghost.'

When I was confirmed, my confirming bishop used the former of the two at the chrismal anointing - it has Anglican precedent. Our beloved bishop today uses the latter form at the anointing with chrism. And, were this suggestion to be officially introduced, adolescent confirmation as we now approach it would be eliminated (for it would be already administered at baptism), to be replaced with an 'affirmation of faith' for adolescents at the appropriate time. Adult converts to the Church would still be confirmed in the usual western manner. This alteration would seem radical to some, but it is the ancient practice of the Church from the fifth-sixth centuries or earlier - and it would enable those of us with scruples about maintaining the dignity and role of the sacrament of confirmation freely to re-admit the practice of paedocommunion.

But we should not allow paedocommunion without the restoration of paedochrismation.

One Sacrament, Two Parts

Regarding the connexion of baptism to confirmation, I think you hit the proverbial nail on the head: strictly speaking, baptism and confirmation are two integral parts of one sacramental mystery, and thus our challenge is somehow to bring them back together in a closer unity. The rite of 'Christian initiation' (for lack of a better phrase) as described by all of the early fathers, and especially S. Ambrose and S. Augustine, is presented as one rite consisting of a prebaptismal anointing with exorcism, a triple immersion, a postbaptismal anointing, and a final consignation and anointing with chrism, which corresponds to our modern chrismation. Indeed, the crux of the question is the development in the Western Church in which the baptismal and chrismal mysteries were ultimately separated. You raise a vital point about the priest's postbaptismal anointing of the baptizand with chrism in the rite of baptism itself -- in the ancient liturgies, such an anointing would correspond, not to the final sacramental chrismation (with its prayer for the sevenfold gift of the Spirit as read in Isaiah 11), but to a postbaptismal anointing then used to symbolise the descent of the Holy Ghost in baptism. Again, it would be arbitrary, however, to separate any these anointings and rites because they originally formed an organic whole. In ECUSA, during the trial Prayer Book period in the 1970's, a draft rite of baptism actually included within it the rite of confirmation for newly baptised children, replete with an appropriate prayer for the actual conferral of the gifts of the Spirit with anointing with chrism. The historic rite of separate 'western' confirmation for older children was also retained. This, naturally, led to complete confusion amongst both the clergy and laity, as they could not figure out which rite actually conveyed the sacrament of confirmation, and the innovation was struck out of the 1979 book. I do know of a case in which an ECUSA priest confirmed children at their baptisms using the new-fangled (but actually more ancient) rite, and thebishop of the diocese insisted that they subsequently NOT be 'reconfirmed' in adolescence, because they had, according to his judgment, already received the indelible character of confirmation. Perhaps we should go the Eastern route and fully initiate children as infants, only to have them attend a confirmation class and make an affirmation of faith at a later stage of life. Not a bad idea - it seems to have worked for the Eastern Churches for, well, millennia!

Confirmation and Baptism

Our conversation reminds me of the quip of an Anglican theologian of the20th century who wrote, whimsically -'Confirmation is a Sacrament in search of a theology.' How true it is - One way to describe it is perhaps to say that Holy Baptism, which is in itself the perfect entrance into the life of grace and the plenary conferral of the remission of sins and divine sonship, is the Sacrament of the Holy Ghost for regeneration; Confirmation is the Sacrament of the Holy Ghost for strengthening. Thus the Holy Ghost is given in each Sacrament in His fullness, but in each for a different operation and purpose. At least, that is how it has been characterised in some theological teaching. Some Anglican theologians, like Fr Puller, actually want to say that Baptism does not make us full members of the Church - which is protesting too much. But we must indeed clarify these subjects in order to make our praxis understandable. Again, what brain-twisting it is to attempt to define indefinable mysteries...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Adoration and Presence

Your concerns regarding the use of the Blessed Sacrament are very important and most legitimate. The Eastern Orthodox Church as a whole agrees with your position to a great degree. The extra-liturgical use of the Blessed Sacrament for the purpose of adoration and devotion is admittedly medieval and uniquely Western in origin, introduced both to encourage faith in the Real Presence and to fill the spiritual vacuum created by infrequent communion. Although extra-liturgical devotions to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament are an excellent audio-visual aid for teaching the doctrine of the Real Presence, they are not part and parcel of the substance of Catholic Eucharistic belief. The Orthodox prove this beyond question. While the Orthodox indeed offer divine worship, latria, to the consecrated Elements of the Holy Sacrament as to the True Body and Blood of Christ, which They are, Orthodox generally do so only within the confines of the Eucharistic Liturgy itself. The Eastern celebrant prostrates before the Sacrament at the epiklesis and the people bow in adoration at the presentation of the Holy Gifts, but otherwise they demonstrate no particular acts of adoration outside of the Mass. The only exception to this rule in the Eastern Rite is the Lenten Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified, in which the people prostrate on the ground before the Blessed Sacrament as It processes at the Great Entrance before the communion of the faithful. Even here, however, the adoration of the Elements takes place within the Liturgy, never outside of it. I believe it helps to distinguish the question of adoration of the Sacrament into two categories:

1. Is the Holy Eucharist the True Body and Blood of Christ under the species of bread and wine, and therefore is It to be adored at all?
The universal Catholic answer, Eastern and Western, is an emphatic 'yes' to both questions.

2. Is the Eucharistic Lord Jesus Christ to be adored in a special service apart from the use of the Blessed Sacrament in the Mass?
Here the answers differ according to rite and culture - the Latin or Roman Church says 'yes;' the Eastern Orthodox say 'no;' the Anglican Church says in typical comprehensive style, 'it depends where you are.'

In these questions what we want to avoid is raising doubt about belief in the Real Objective Presence. If Our Lord is really, truly, and essentially present in the Holy Eucharist under the form of bread and wine, then He must in some fashion be adored in It. To paraphrase Blessed John Keble, 'wherever Our Lord is, there we must adore Him.' If Christ is in the Eucharist objectively, we cannot help but offer Him divine adoration in It. Such adoration has always been rendered by the Church Catholic in the context of the Eucharistic Liturgy. The secondary question of extra-liturgical devotion is of lesser importance, and the Church's approach to this subject has differed with place, time, and ethos. The first point is the crucial one, from an historic Catholic perspective. I personally respect the view that the Blessed Sacrament should not be used outside of the Mass for adoration, so long as those who object to the extra-liturgical practices do not fail to adore the Lord's Eucharistic Presence in the Liturgy, where such adoration rightly belongs if no where else. As Saint Augustine famously writes:

It was in His flesh that Christ walked among us and it is His flesh that He has
given us to eat for our salvation. No one, however, eats of this flesh without
having first adored it ... and not only do we not sin in thus adoring it, but we
would sin if we did not do so.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Episcopi Vagantes

The phrase 'episcopi vagantes' was sadly developed out of necessity by Anglicans in the nineteenth century to describe the phenomenon of bishops uncanonically consecrated without flocks to serve or parishes to govern: bishops made by bishops whose orders are schismatic. The phrase simply means 'wandering' or 'vagrant' bishops, that is, bishops without jurisdiction or apostolic authority, bishops who do not serve as the officers of any legitimate Church. Vagantes are defined, technically, as bishops who lack communion with any historic see in Christendom or who lack any connection to any authentic catholic Church. They are also defined as bishops whose 'churches' are so small as to seem to exist only for the sake of prelate concerned - many 'continuing church' bodies are vagans, for they have no process for the election and accountability of real bishops in communion with other real bishops. Vagantes' sacramental orders may or may not be valid, depending on the succession involved, but they are all, as Dr CB Moss interestingly describes them, ecclesiastical freaks. They are bishops outside the Church. The most famous examples of vagans bishops are the quasi-Old Catholics AH Matthew and Joseph Rene Villate, from whom sprang countless sects claiming apostolic succession in a vacuum, but having no living communion with any historical catholic body. Today, in North America, all bodies aside from the PNCC describing themselves as 'Old Catholic' are in fact vagans sects, having no origin from or relationship with the Union of Utrecht. Only the Polish National Catholic Church can claim a genuine Utrechtine ancestry.

Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy

Pope Benedict XVI has certainly given orthodox Anglo-Catholics mixed signals in recent years, but his very recent pronouncements, in which he has recommitted himself and the Church of Rome irrevocably to the work of ecumenism, should give us great hope. For example, in 1998 Cardinal Ratzinger promulgated the official commentary of Pope John Paul II's revision of canonical principles entitled Ad Tuendam Fidem, in which it is expressly asserted that Pope Leo XIII's condemnation of the validity of Anglican Orders is a judgement to be believed as supernaturally revealed by God. Roman Catholic theologians who contend for the validity of Anglican Orders, even as private opinion, are thus adjudged heretics by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In that respect, Benedict XVI could not be more anti-Anglican. But, more recently, in several essays and books, he has expressed a more genteel approach to the Anglican question, remarking that 'Anglicanism retains many essential elements of the Catholic Tradition,' and that 'Catholic Anglicanism' as he happily calls it, continues to persevere in preserving important aspects of catholic faith and life. It would appear that Ratzinger is quite tolerant of orthodox Anglo-Catholicism on a personal level, and sees it as tending towards reconciliation with Rome, which he, of course, heartily approves. I believe he will be quite firm with +Rowan Williams and other heretical Anglican bishops regarding the question of women's ordination, and that he will also reach out, in a way more decidedly than his predecessor, to real bona fide Catholic Anglicans like ourselves. Time will tell, but it seems the new Pope may be willing to move a bit closer to the creation of Anglican uniatism. We shall see indeed.

You raise a wonderful question regarding the recognition of Anglican Orders by the Orthodox Churches of the East. Amen, amen - the Orthodox Church provisionally recognised the validity of Anglican Orders beginning in 1922 with an official pronouncement by the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Ecumenical Patriarchate declared in that year that the Anglican Church had retained the Apostolic Succession and the requisite elements necessary for valid episcopal consecration, laying on of hands and the invocation of the Holy Ghost. Constantinople also declared that the line of episcopal succession had never been broken in the Church of England and that Archbishop Matthew Parker was made a true bishop in 1559. The Orthodox definitely stated that the Priesthood of the Anglican Church was a musterion, the true Sacrament of Holy Orders. In 1923, the Churches of Jerusalem and Cyprus affirmed the validity of Anglican Orders. The Patriarch of Alexandria declared the validity of the Anglican Priesthood in 1930. In 1936, the Church of Romania affirmed not only the validity of Anglican Orders but also the Anglican doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Real Presence. Finally, in 1939, the Church of Greece declared the validity of Anglican Orders. All these Churches at the time stated that Anglicans should never be rebaptised, and that Anglican Priests should not be reordained, if admitted to Orthodoxy. In effect, the Orthodox accepted the validity of all Anglican Sacraments, and in particular Baptism and Orders. From the time the members of Orthodox Churches began to immigrate to North America in the 19th century until well after the First World War, the Orthodox episcopate directly instructed its people to receive the Sacraments in Anglican Churches if Orthodox Churches could not be found. For decades, the new immigrant Orthodox were baptised, confirmed, shriven, communicated, married, and buried in Anglican Churches. They frequented the Blessed Sacrament at Anglican Altars without hesitation. More rarely, Anglicans were afforded the same courtesy from Orthodox Churches in Europe when away from English chaplaincies. Sadly, before the Orthodox Church could act upon the decision of the Bishop of New Rome and his colleagues concerning the validity of Anglican Orders, World War II erupted and the opportunity for complete restoration of full communion was lost indefinitely. After WWII, the cultural climate had changed too dramatically - the Russian Church turned against the Anglican Communion, while the Anglican world pursued its cataclysmic course into modernism - and the rest is, as they say, history. Theoretically, the earlier Orthodox rulings on Anglican Orders have never been rescinded, but with the introduction of the priestess heresy, they have severed any real relationship with Anglicanism for the foreseeable future. I hope this information will be useful.

Whose Tradition?

All of the recent discussion and debate about the role of Calvinism in the Anglican Church raises a point of supreme importance. What is the teaching office of the Church and how are its teachings to be received and applied? Much of our previous discussion presents an epistemological quandary. How do we know what is the right interpretation of the Christian Faith? The philosophical principle of non-contradiction, which says that two things which are opposite of one another cannot both be true, requires that there must be an objective means for discerning the orthodox Tradition of Jesus Christ. From all accounts previously read, it would appear that in the Calvinist system John Calvin, his followers, and the confessional statements arising from their beliefs constitute a teaching office of the Church - one analogous to that exercised by the See of Rome for the RC Church. My statement is not intended to be derogatory or pejorative, but factual. Holy Scripture is interpreted in the Calvinist system according to the Calvinist hermeneutic - in like manner, Holy Scripture is interpreted by the infallible teaching office of the Roman Pontiff in the Roman Church, which office is held to be absolute when dogma is proclaimed ex cathedra. The Eastern Orthodox believe that the Seven General Councils are infallible and that the Tradition of the Church is a necessary element in the right understanding of doctrine. Confessional Lutherans unabashedly affirm that the Book of Concord contains the truest exposition of the Christian Religion, to the exclusion of all others. All Scripture by nature demands a theological tradition, a means and office of interpretation in the Church.

Having these questions, I must say that, apart from its internal logical consistency and extremely well-formulated and well-organised systemic thought, it is difficult for me to determine why the Calvinist matrix is given moral or theological superiority to rival theological schools, apart from the simple choice to accept it on one's own volition as above others. For instance, the theological hermeneutic of Martin Luther never seems to be considered as valid or as 'pure' as that of Calvin by those who adhere to the Calvinist mentality. What makes Calvinism the teaching office? Why is Luther rejected in favour of Calvin? Are these competing schools of thought or are they complementary? It appears that the confessions of the Lutheran tradition are not given the power or authority of the Calvinist confessions by Calvinists. Lutherans in the main think Reformed teaching, particularly on the Holy Eucharist, is heretical. Does the Calvinist system, as opposed to the Lutheran or the Catholic, bear some stamp of divine authority, of inspiration or supernatural origin? If I accept the Book of Concord as the authentic tradition, and my brother takes the Westminster Confession, who or what can determine which one of us is right? In other words, apart from an arbitrary personal choice based on private judgement, it is difficult for one such as myself to discern the objective ecclesiastical criteria by which such judgements of interpretation are made. Where can I turn to find a Tradition which does not require for its authority the consent or the empowering of my own fiat? Is there a Tradition in which I can rest and under which I can obey without testing it according to my own pre-conceived ideas? And again, there is a difference between taking components, parts, or ideas of a system into one's own consideration of the Faith and taking a whole system in toto as the means by which we live and understand the Gospel. There is 'cafeteria confessionalism' and there is the 'whole-hog' variety. Which is right? Who is right?

We require, it seems to me, some objective instrument of Scriptural interpretation which is universally acceptable and accessible, but more than that, one which bears the unquestioned weight and authority of an authority higher than our own individual wills or theological tastes and preferences. There must be for the preservation of the Gospel a Holy Spirit-led Divine Society, an organic and living Church, given by Christ with a Tradition which authentically interprets Scripture. Mercifully, this philosophical and theological gap was bridged by the Lord Himself in the divine institution of the Holy Catholic Church as the Body of Christ and the Sphere of the Holy Spirit. We can have certainty of hermeneutic in the transmission of the saving Gospel by a divine and Apostolic Tradition which has been handed-down in the Apostolic Churches. For the Anglican, who is a member of the One Catholic Church, the Apostolic Tradition is expressed and encapsulated, universally, in the Creeds and Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church, and locally, in the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal, and the XXXIX Articles of Religion. And the local must be subject to the authority of the universal. I contend there really is a definitive and unambiguous Anglican tradition to which we must hold, faithful as it is to the doctrine of the Apostles and Fathers, which does not admit of extremes in either the protestant or Romanist direction. Although our history admits necessarily of the 'great muddle' or mix of varying and opposing theological views, I submit it is still possible to locate within the complexity of Anglicanism an authoritative central or Via Media tradition - smack dab in the morass. For it, such men as Andrewes and Taylor lived and such men as Blessed Charles I and Blessed William Laud died. It will be necessary, in the pursuit of Christian unity, to recover this sense of Anglican Tradition and live it to the full. We will inevitably have disagreements on adiaphora - but on the Great Tradition, on the means of interpreting the power of the Gospel, there must be consensus and communion, for all else depends upon it. Let us pray we can together recover our unity in the Tradition of the One Body. As Luther said, Here I stand...

Anglicanism: The 'American Catholic Church'

The title 'American Catholic Church' or its variant 'The Holy Catholic Church in America' was proposed as a name for the American branch of Anglicanism at the turn of the 20th century at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. It was used unofficially in many pamphlets and books to describe the position of the Episcopal Church. It was particularly loved and promoted by Bishop Charles C. Grafton, the saintly Bishop of Fon du Lac, Wisconsin. The Diocese of Quincy, for example, is, in fact, not officially named 'Episcopal' or 'Anglican' at all: it is legally incorporated as the 'Catholic Diocese of Quincy.' The aforementioned title would make an excellent one because it possesses a precedence of historical use in the Anglican Communion - the Anglican Churches of Japan, China, and Southeast Asia use the title 'Holy Catholic Church' instead of 'Anglican' because they believe themselves, and rightly so, to be the authentic Apostolic Churches in those regions of the world. Additionally, some races and cultures no longer want to be identified strictly as 'Anglican' because of the colonial history of the past and theological and moral error presently found in the Communion. 'Reformed,' in the American setting at least, is definitely identified with Calvinism and is therefore, I believe, misleading to those unfamiliar with our tradition. Christians of strong Catholic ethos are unlikely to gravitate to a Church which bears the label of 'Reformed,' no matter how the term is defined. The Spanish Anglican Church, which bears the name of Reformed, is deeply evangelical in tone and origin, governed and organised by the Church of Ireland from its first days. Our Name, like everything else it seems, is going to be a very sensitive matter indeed.

The Sacred Host

Regarding the use of the sacred Host which is utilised as the focus of prayer, adoration, and meditation in Eucharistic devotion - It remains in the tabernacle or aumbry with the rest of the Blessed Sacrament reserved for the Holy Communion of the sick. Once a week or thereabout, It is reverently consumed at Mass by the celebrant and replaced by another consecrated priest's Host. The Host is always therefore available to be consumed by the sick or by other persons who are unable to attend Mass but desire to receive the Holy Communion apart from a Eucharistic celebration. It is never left unconsumed and It is never neglected - It is always ultimately used in Communion. A very good question.

The Brown Scapular

The devotion referred to by N. is, I believe, the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which was, according to medieval legend, given to Saint Simon Stock (1165-1265) by the Blessed Virgin Mary. Saint Simon was the sixth Master General of the Carmelite Order and one of the first Englishmen to join the Carmelites upon their arrival in Britain. For Anglican Catholics, the devotion of the Brown Scapular, like all such other personal devotions to Our Lord's Mother, is solely pious opinion and not dogmatic or salvific in nature. Many Catholic Anglicans, like myself, firmly hold to the biblical, universal, and patristic doctrine of the Intermediate State or the Church Expectant in Paradise, which is concomitant with the Communion of Saints, while eschewing the particulars of the doctrina Romanensium de purgatorio condemned in Article XXII. One can strongly affirm the wonderful grace and virtue of Our Lady's intercession, as do all Western Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, without accepting the theological inferences implied by the Brown Scapular.


From the Anglican Rite of Baptism

Question: Why then are infants baptized, when by reason of their tender age they cannot perform them?
Answer: Because they promise them both by their Sureties (Sponsors); which promise, when they come to age, themselves are bound to perform.

Dost thou, therefore, in the name of this Child, renounce the devil...
Minister: Wilt thou be baptized in this Faith?
Answer: That is my desire.
Having now, in the name of this Child, made these promises...

From the Roman Rite of Baptism

Priest: N., what is it you are seeking from God's Church?
Sponsor: Faith.
Priest: And faith, that does that obtain for you?
Sponsor: Life everlasting.
Priest: If your desire is to enter into life, keep the commandments...

Priest: N., are you willing to be baptized?
Sponsor: I am.

X. presents a very compelling elucidation for why it would be permissible to administer the Blessed Sacrament to baptized children who have not yet attained to the age of reason. If the Sacraments are truly Means of Grace which confer grace to the soul ex opere operato, apart from the merits, workings, or deservings of the recipient, and if Baptism extends grace and regeneration to a child without the use of reason by virtue of the Faith of the Church into which the child is thus incorporated, it seems theologically correct to apply the same sacramental outworking to the Mystery of the Lord's Body and Blood in the Holy Communion. Those incorporated into Christ's Church, which is the extension of the Incarnation, are therefore rendered living members of the Lord in need of perpetual spiritual nourishment and sustenance. Children, like adults, have to eat to live, just as we have to be born to live. We are born to the Church in Baptism and fed in the Church by the Holy Eucharist. None of us, adult or child, can fully or rightly 'discern the Lord's Body' (I Corinthians 11) in the ultimate objective sense, for the mystery of the Real Presence escapes human knowledge and reason - for everyone. The Eastern Orthodox Church practices the Communion of infants and small children and bases the praxis on this underlying principle, that is, the Faith of the Church operates in the Sacraments in the objective conferral of grace to the recipient of the Sacraments. In any given sacramental ministration, it is the Faith of the Body of Christ of which we are members that supplies what we may lack in the relative or subjective exercise of our personal faith. For this reason the Liturgy itself always supplies for and compensates for any deficiencies in the celebrant, congregation, or in the performance of the same. Calvinist theologians argue, convincingly, that just as Baptism fulfils the Old Covenant rite of circumcision and the Holy Eucharist fulfils the Old Covenant rite of Passover (Exodus 16) so as the whole household of faith participated fully in both rites in the Old Testament so the New People of God as a whole, children included, should participate in the Sacraments of grace and salvation. This is a convincing and deeply-penetrating line of thought. In the end, I believe the Orthodox Eastern practice, which was our Western practice for centuries, in unanswerable in its legitimacy. The question is not so much about children receiving Holy Communion - as I see it, the only questions that remain are 'what do we do with Confirmation?' and 'how does the Blessed Sacrament relate to Baptism and Confirmation?'

That's the hard part, coming as we do from the Western tradition.

The 'Sacrificing Priesthood'

The phrase 'sacrificing priesthood' is often misunderstood itself. A safe way of describing it is to say that the priest is one ordained to be ontologically in persona Christi capitis, in the Person of Christ the Head of the Church, in order to celebrate the Sacraments of the New Covenant. 'And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God and of His Holy Sacraments.' In this role as the living instrument of Christ, the living icon of Christ, the ordained priest offers the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is no new Sacrifice, but the anamnetic re-presentation of the One Sacrifice once offered to the Father. The priest is Christ's sacramental representative, imaging or impersonating Christ at the Altar, pleading and making-present in a sacramental mode the One Perfect Sacrifice of Christ. As Saint Cyprian of Carthage puts it, the priest 'stands in Our Lord's place.' Through the sacerdotium or ministerial priesthood, Our Lord does in the Eucharistic offering on earth in the Church what He eternally does in Heaven - He exhibits Himself in His atoning death, sacrifice, and glorification as the full, perfect, sufficient Oblation for the sins of the whole world. Christ exercises His one and only Priesthood as the Great Eternal High Priest and Heavenly Intercessor, Mediator, and Advocate through the sacramental priesthood of His Body the Church. Sacramental priests have no priesthood of their own; they share in Christ's one Priesthood. The sacerdotium is the sacramental organ of His Body. Through this organ of ordained priesthood the whole Church, the priesthood of the baptised, is enabled to be the Church, united as members to the Head, to Christ's self-oblation to the Father through the Holy Ghost. That is what I mean by 'sacrificing priesthood.'

How wonderful it is to be a 'sacrificing' 'massing' priest!


From N.: 'Of course, when I was ordained I certainly did NOT understand myself as being elevated to a sacerdotal priesthood either; in point of fact the Declaration of Principles of the REC made it quite clear that that was NOT happening...'

Dear N.:

Your incisive comment actually raises a fascinating and critical point of sacramentology, which is that the sacerdotium, or sacramental ministerial priesthood, is always validly conferred so long as the following necessary elements are present:

1. proper minister, a bishop in apostolic succession,
2. proper form, prayer by the bishop for the grace and office of the presbyterate,
3. proper matter, laying-on-of-hands by the bishop,
4. proper subject, a baptised male,
5. proper intention, to do generally what the Church does in ordination - that is, to intend to do what Our Lord and the true New Testament Church effect in ordination in conferring the sacred ministry.

It is not even necessary that the ordaining bishop and receiving ordinand intend to confer and receive the sacramental priesthood, so long as they intend seriously to perform the rite of presbyteral ordination according to mind of Christ and His Church, to wit, to do what the true Church does in ordination. They do not even have to intend what the Holy Catholic Church intends by ordination: they only have to intend to do what the Church (however understood by the parties involved) does. Thus, you see, you are a validly ordained priest, sacerdos, of the hierarchical sacerdotium whether you believe it or not. Thou art a Priest forever after the Order of Melchizedek, a Catholic priest in Apostolic Orders as the whole Church has always understood such. How wonderful is the grace and authority of Holy Orders.

The Real Presence and the Manducatio Impiorum

Here's an offing for all those who love suprascholastic theology. I personally prefer Holy Mystery...

Following the teaching of Saint Augustine, a dog which happens to consume the Blessed Sacrament would consume:

1. The sacramentum, the outward and visible sign.
2. The Res sacramenti, the glorified Body of Christ, the Divine Thing signified, which inheres in the outward sign permanently by eucharistic consecration.The dog would not consume:
3. the virtus sacramenti, the effect or benefit of the Blessed Sacrament.

On this subject I would agree with the original teaching of that Augustinian theologian Father Martin Luther, who taught what classical theology calls the Manducatio Impiorum, or 'communication of the wicked.' This doctrine was later altered and reinterpreted by Philip Melanchthon, but the original understanding is still upheld in the Augsburg Confession and the Book of Concord. Sinners receive the Res sacramenti, or in this case an animal receives It, because Our Lord is always present in the Blessed Sacrament to be given as supernatural nourishment by virtue of His institution and covenantal promise. So long as the species remain bread and wine, Our Lord remains, by His institution and covenant, present and available to be received by all who receive the outward sign. Otherwise, we would never know who receives or does not receive Our Lord in the Sacred Mysteries - and it could not thus be an objective gift. I firmly believe Martin Luther was right because Our Lord's Real Presence in the Holy Sacrament, graciously given to poor sinners, of which I am one, depends not upon my interior faith, my motions of will, intellect, or affection, or my supposed election, but upon the power and will of Christ in the Incarnation and sacramental order. The 'communication of the wicked' therefore guarantees that the Sacrament is a Sacrament, and always a Sacrament. The Real Presence is an objective gift, given to be received by a living faith. But the Presence of Christ, objectively present apart from and outside of my personal belief, no more depends on my faith in It than does the existence of God, for God simply is, whether or not I believe. So it is with the Blessed Sacrament, which is Christ's Body and Blood objectively present in sacramental form and subjectively received in personal faith. Ironically, here Article XXIX seems to disagree, at least to some extent, with Article XXVI. We must always receive the Blessed Sacrament with faith, hope, love, and repentance for it to be fruitful in our souls, but the Presence of Christ does not depend on our interior or subjective faith - only on the objective covenantal means of grace given by Christ Himself. Here, I believe the Lutheran formularies, because they are clearer, are actually superior to our own. The dog receives the sacramental sign of Christ and the objective presence of Christ which remains in the sacramental sign, but does not receive the virtue of the Sacrament, for it does not have a soul.

The Real Objective Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament

Dear N.:

How lovely to hear from you - it is wonderful to know you are participating with us in this lively and beneficial discussion! Thank you for your gracious note and your excellent questions. Eucharistic theology is, I think, by definition the attempt to define the indefinable and to explicate the inscrutable, so we are talking about great and supernatural mysteries of love that transcend human knowledge and human categories of understanding. Having said that, it is clear, I think again, from divine revelation that the Real Objective Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is an august mystery of the saving Gospel, a truth that we receive by faith although it surpasses our intellectual powers to grasp it. This is why Saint Thomas Aquinas in his Te Adore Devote uses the phrase 'sola fide' to describe how we must approach the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Mysteries - only by faith can we pierce the veil of the visible signs and see Our Lord present under the lowly forms of Bread and Wine. Please bear with me as I submit what I understand to be basic Catholic teaching on each of the questions posed.

1. Our Lord is present in the Blessed Sacrament, not only in figure, virtue, power, or sign, but truly in His Body and Blood, as well as His Divinity. The total and complete One Person of God the Son made Man, fully human and fully divine, is objectively present under the forms of the Blessed Sacrament as our heavenly sustenance. The Divine Thing signified in the Holy Eucharist is Our Lord Himself, in the fullness of His human nature. So the Eucharist is the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. But the Body and Blood present in the Eucharist are present in their glorified and risen state, in the glory of the Resurrection, immortal, immutable, impassible, divinised. Our Lord's Body and Blood are not present in any carnal, gross, materialistic, or mortal state - the infamous Black Rubric was written to deny such a false understanding. So, in a true sense, the presence of Our Lord in the Holy Communion is 'bodily,' that is, the Body and Blood of Christ are the risen, ascended, glorified, deified human nature of the Saviour personally present in the Eucharist in a unique sacramental mode - mystically, supernaturally, heavenly. The Body contained in the Blessed Sacrament is defined by Saint Paul in I Corinthians 15 as a 'spiritual body,' a Body after Resurrection.

2 & 3. The Articles of Religion clearly express the truth that the Body and Blood of Christ are objectively present in the Holy Communion by a supernatural and ineffably mysterious manner: Article XXVIII affirms the Pauline teaching of I Corinthians 10 that the Eucharist is a partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ. 'The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner.' The Body of Christ is really contained in the Eucharist because the Body is really given, really taken, and really eaten. That is genuine objectivity. Article XXIX does not deny the Objective Real Presence, for its very title states that the wicked 'eat not the Body of Christ' - but the Body of Christ must be present for it to be eaten at all. The opposite is, of course, that the good or faithful DO 'eat the Body in the use of the Lord's Supper.' The teaching of Saint Augustine here is authoritative for us - the Augustine who says that the wicked are in no wise partakers of Christ is the same Augustine who elsewhere teaches that in the Eucharist 'we recognise in the Bread what was hung on the Cross and in the Cup what flowed from His side.' Augustine tells us what is contained in the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of our sins (Sermon 228). The Body of Christ is offered and served to the communicants (City of God 17). The Confessions of Saint Augustine record of the Eucharist that is the Body and Blood of Christ: 'I eat it and drink it and minister it to others' (10). Saint Augustine's sacramentology is complex but can be broken down neatly into three components - in his view a Sacrament is comprised of three things, the sacramentum, which is the outward visible sign, the res, which is the Thing signified or inner reality, and the virtus, which is the benefit or efficacy conveyed by the reality of the Sacrament. Given these categories and the contextual perspective of Augustine, it seems evident that when the Article says the wicked 'eat not the Body' and do not partake of Christ, it means the virtus of the Sacrament is received, not to the benefit, but rather to the condemnation, of the communicant. The wicked press with their teeth the sacramental sign of the Lord's Body: they receive the Sacrament and its integral Reality (which makes the Sacrament to be a Sacrament, for otherwise it would be but a bare ineffectual sign) but they do not receive the virtus, the efficacy, which only the faithful can receive. 'Any who receive the Sacrament of unity and do not hold the bond of peace do not receive the Sacrament for their benefit, but for a testimony against themselves (Sermon 272). Here Augustine echoes Saint Paul. 'Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord... For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's Body. (I Corinthians 11.26, 29). And so I would contend that if one understands Article XXIX according to Saint Augustine in his own context, it is possible to believe in the Real Objective Presence and to hold that the wicked do not partake of the essential virtue of Christ in the Eucharist. Let us recall the English Catechism when it says 'The Body and Blood of Christ are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper.'

4. I would answer that wherever Our Lord Jesus Christ is present, there he is to be adored with that divine adoration which belongs to the divine nature alone. Even if Our Lord were present in the Eucharist virtually, that is, in His divine power and glory and not in his glorified human nature, it would still be possible to contend that the Eucharistic elements objectively and instrumentally transmit the presence of Christ, and thus Christ should be worshipped as present in the Eucharistic mystery during the time of the liturgy. Certainly that contention would be more of a theological stretch. The Church has rendered divine worship to Christ in the consecrated elements of the Blessed Sacrament from the earliest ages... within the format of the liturgy - here again the liturgical precedent goes before the theological outworking and explanation. Today in both the Western and Eastern Rites, Christ is adored in the Blessed Sacrament at the Mass or Divine Liturgy. Prayers are addressed to Him specifically as present in the Holy Mysteries. Ritual gestures of loving adoration are offered to the Lord present objectively in the Sacrament. The liturgical and doxological evidence for the practice is historically consistent, universal, and overwhelming. And so the consensus fidelium is yet again manifest in the liturgical matrix, lex orandi, lex credendi. To conclude I quote that saintly scholar and priest, James DeKoven:

'You may take away from us if you will every external ceremony; you may take away altars, and superaltars, lights and incense and vestments, and we will submit to you. But gentlemen, to adore Christ's Person in His Sacrament - that is the inalienable privilege of every Christian and Catholic heart. How we do it, the way we do it, the ceremonies with which we do it, are utterly, utterly indifferent. The thing itself is what we plead for.'

Priesthood and Sacrifice in the Book of Common Prayer

I recently encountered this letter written by a Priest of the Episcopal Church in 1874 who subsequently joined the Reformed Episcopal Church in opposition to the growing influence of the Catholic Revival. His perceptions are, I think, quite fascinating. They certainly express the general theological consensus concerning the Prayer Book doctrines of Priesthood and Eucharist which have since obtained in the Anglican Communion:

'Again, there are expressions in the Prayer-book which give countenance, at least, to the notion of a Priesthood in the Christian Church, and of a sacrifice in the Lord's Supper.
First of all, it constantly applies to the ministers of the Church the name Priests.

Then, in the service for ordaining them, the Bishop uses this language; 'Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed to thee by the imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained.' (There is here an alternate form allowed, but a majority of the Bishops use the form I have given.)

Then, in the stated services of the Church there is a 'Declaration of absolution or remission of sins, to be made by the Priest alone, standing: the people kneeling.'
And then, in the service for the 'institution of ministers into Parishes or Churches' (a service adopted by the General Convention of the Church, and now found, whether rightly or not, in every Prayer-book), the table used for the administration of the Lord's Supper is spoken of as an 'altar,' the minister's relation to the people of his charge is described as a 'sacerdotal connection between him and them,' and he is invested with power 'to perform every act of sacerdotal function among them.'

I know that the word Priest is said to be a contraction in the Prayer-book for Presbyter. But Priest is a plain English word, and has a plain English meaning. It means one who has verily a 'sacerdotal function to perform,' an expiatory sacrifice to make, and the real blood of some slain victim to offer unto God. The word is never used by any English speaking people, or in any English book, except the Prayer-book, in any other sense.
Can we be surprised, then, when the Prayer-book calls the ministers of the Protestant Episcopal Church Priests, and uses such language in regard to their office, that many of them come to look upon themselves, and their people to look upon them, as really priests, and their office as a priestly office, and the Lord's Supper as a sacrifice, and the Lord's body and blood as in some form offered in that sacrifice? Or can we wonder when such language is used in the Prayer-book, in investing the ministers of the church with the office of Priest, that the doctrine and practice of priestly confession and absolution should claim a rightful place in the Church?'

-From the letter of the Rev. James A. Latané, Rector of St. Matthew's Church, Wheeling, West Virginia To Bishop Johns, Resigning the Ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church.1874.

The Prayer Book and Articles III

Dear friends:

I offer another perspective on the question of the relationship of the Book of Common Prayer to the Articles of Religion: this one is presented by the Right Reverend John Wordsworth, Bishop of Salisbury and president of the Commission of the Archbishop of Canterbury on Relations with the Orthodox Churches. Bishop Wordsworth presents the official teaching of the Anglican Communion as endorsed by the Archiepiscopate of Canterbury to Orthodox Churches of the East. The year is 1900.
What is the official confession of the Church of England? In what books is it contained, and what is its binding force or validity?

The elements of the teaching of the Church of England are found in the three Creeds, that is to say, (i) in the definition of the faith known as the Nicene Creed, which is constantly recited in the divine Liturgy; (a) in what is called the Apostles' Creed, which is professed by all at Baptism; and (3) in the hymn which is commonly called the Athanasian Creed. [This is the Creed which was ascribed by the Fathers of Chalcedon (A. D. 451) to the 150 Fathers of Constantinople (A. D. 381). It is now generally supposed by Western scholars to have been originally the baptismal Creed of the Church of Jerusalem. It is of course Nicene in doctrine, but with the addition of certain clauses required by the later growth of heresy.]

We receive these Creeds not only because we reverence the ancient Tradition of the Church and the Oecumenical Synods, but because we believe that the Holy Scriptures most clearly bear witness to the doctrines contained in them. For we honour the Holy Scriptures as the rule and test of divine truth, by which every form of doctrine, whether derived from ancient Tradition or from theological definition, must necessarily be tried.

Further, inasmuch as in our public worship we stand before the Almighty and All-wise God, whom we cannot approach except with entire faith and sincerity, we all consider the teaching contained in our Prayer-Book, which is in the hands of all, even of our children, to be an official and authoritative expression of the belief of the Church of England.

This Book had the fullest sanction which it was possible to give it, being ratified first by the Convocations of the two Provinces, and afterwards accepted by an Act of Parliament A.D. 1662. In this Book moreover is inserted, between the services for Baptism and that for Confirmation or Laying on of Hands, the Catechism or 'instruction to be learned of every person before he be brought to be confirmed by the Bishop.' This Catechism has to be learned by heart by every child and the meaning of it understood. It contains an explanation of the Apostles' Creed, of the Ten Commandments, and of the Lord's Prayer, and it also contains the most necessary information concerning the two great Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion (Eucharist).

Outside the Prayer-Book, but usually bound up together with it, we have 'The Articles of Religion agreed upon by the Archbishops and Bishops of both Provinces and the whole Clergy, in the Convocation holden at London in the year 1563, for the avoiding of diversities of Opinions and for the establishing of Consent touching true Religion.' We have given the full title of these Articles, usually called 'the XXXIX Articles,' because it describes the object with which they were framed. The XXXIX Articles are definitions to which the clergy give assent in writing, professing by their subscription that they will not teach anything in opposition to them, and that they consider the doctrine contained in them and in the Prayer-Book to be agreeable to the word of God. It must be observed that these Articles, though they contain many valuable definitions of Christian truth, are rather 'Articles of Religion' than a Confession of Faith. Their main object from the beginning was the preservation of peace and the elimination of certain kinds of error, 'that every mouth might be stopped' of those who contentiously disputed, and that so our Church might be at peace within itself. Assent to these Articles is not required of our own lay-people nor necessarily of the clergy of the Churches of our communion which may be established in foreign lands. The synods of these Churches are free to establish what rules they think fit in order to secure the orthodoxy of their clergy and the maintenance of union with the general body of the Anglican Communion.

The XXXIX Articles therefore considered and examined in a historical light are a very useful internal bond of union, and are no hindrance to the maintenance of inter-communion and brotherly relations with our fellow Christians of other lands, who have not adopted the errors referred to in these Articles.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Prayer Book and Articles Again

If the Book of Common Prayer, the law of prayer which is the law of belief, is subject to interpretation by the 39 Articles of Religion and not vice-versa, what do we do with the teaching of the Lambeth Conference of 1930, which explicitly stated:

'We have declared that the Doctrine of the Anglican Church is authoritatively expressed in the Book of Common Prayer, and that the meaning of the XXXIX Articles must be interpreted in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer.'

Must Holy Tradition, embodied in lex orandi, lex credendi, in Apostolic Creed and Liturgy, give way to historically-conditioned statements never intended to be utilised as comprehensive expositions of doctrine or as a confession of Faith? We must always recall that the Articles are Articles of Religion, not Faith, and have never been used by Anglicanism as a protestant confession analogous to that of Augsburg or Westminster. Anglicanism's 'confession' is the Common Prayer Book. Must not the local and particular nature of the Articles by necessity require interpretation by the Faith and practice of the whole Universal Church? Just a thought.

The Book of Common Prayer and the Articles of Religion

Many thanks for the excellent conversation - I find it most illuminating and fascinating! These meagre thoughts have emerged as I have read your correspondence:

1. It is true that Anglo-Catholics (who are, after all, simply sons of the Church of England who seek to be faithful to the full doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Anglican Communion as received from the Apostles and Fathers) have never questioned the established form of the Thirty-Nine Articles nor have they sought to revise them. The original vision of the Oxford Movement was nothing less than the full implementation of the liturgy and doctrine of the Book of Common Prayer and the Articles practiced in the light of the Church's 2,000 year-old Tradition. Real Anglo-Catholics, as opposed to Anglo-Papalists (who are not representative of the original intention of the Oxford Movement or the Catholic Revival), have always acknowledged that the XXXIX Articles are authoritative for the Churches of the Anglican Tradition. We simply say that the Articles must be subject to the authority of Holy Scripture as interpreted by the Holy Tradition of the ancient and undivided Catholic Church of the first millennium. Please note that nowhere in my own writings have I ever questioned that the Articles have authority for Anglicans, God forbid; the Articles do have authority, but not to the extent of a Creed or protestant confession.

2. Anglicans are, strictly speaking, not adherents of sola scriptura; they never have been - that phrase is never found in the Prayer Book or the Articles. We profess regarding the Holy Scriptures what the Holy Catholic Church of the ages has ever held - Scriptura continet omnia - Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation. That is the teaching of the Articles and the Ordinal. By its very nature and hermeneutic, Anglicanism is a Church that interprets Scripture through the lens of the Church and her Tradition: 'the Church to teach; the Bible to prove.' Why? Because all Churches interpret Scripture. Holy Scripture is never read or applied in a vacuum. All Churches have and use a tradition. All Churches interpret Scripture through a tradition of some kind. And if we are to have a tradition, which we must by necessity, then let us have one that originates from Our Lord, the Apostles, the Fathers, the Councils, and the primitive Catholic Church, not one solely contrived in the heat of theological controversy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

3. And this may be my most curious comment: the seeming use of the Articles of Religion as a Creed or dogmatic standard, irreformable, inalterable, and binding upon all in its literal sense, is surprisingly Roman, that is to say, it utilises, invokes, and enshrines the Articles in a way methodologically identical with that by which Rome uses the Magisterium, the teaching office of the Papacy. Not to be too crass about it, but it appears that the Articles of Religion have become, at least for some, a 'paper Pope.' The Articles were certainly never designed to be used in such a strictly dogmatic and creedal fashion. Blessed King Charles I, Martyr for the Church of England, imposed His Majesty's Declaration as the preface to the Articles in order to eliminate a puritan or calvinist interpretation of the Articles. One must consider the historical context and origin of such texts as the Articles before regarding them as statements which, at least in the minds of some, are held to be of a nature like that of a papal dogmatic pronouncement. I am sure no one wants to say that the Articles are infallible proclamations of de fidei dogma ex cathedra. And yet the tone of some statements, or at least an interpretation of them, seems to come dangerously close to this idea. Articles of Religion, yes. Articles of Peace, yes. Articles of Unity for a comprehensive Church, yes. Articles of dogmatic Faith, absolutely not.Thank you for considering these thoughts. I appreciate your charity and kindness.

Lutheran Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament?

I have been searching for this article for some time and have recently re-discovered it : the controversy regarding the practice of Eucharistic devotion and adoration is not limited to the debate between Catholic theology-praxis and Calvinists within Anglicanism. The meaning of the Real Presence and the reality of the Objective Presence have, perhaps, been most hotly debated between adherents of the Lutheran Reformation and those of the Calvinist Reform. Case in point...

'The Electorate of Brandenburg, the area around Berlin that later became the nucleus of Prussia, and which still later was to unify Germany in 1871, accepted the Lutheran Reformation in 1540. Its Elector, Joachim II (1535-1571) in his later years expressed an intense dislike of 'Calvinist blasphemy,' particularly as regards the Eucharistic Presence (and Church ceremonies and vestments), and in 1562 he ordered a new rite, termed the OSTENSIO (or 'showing') to be introduced into the Eucharist as an anti-Calvinist statement. In it, the celebrant, after reciting the Words of Institution (in the course of which, in accordance with pre-Reformation Catholic practice [a practice of which Luther approved, but which largely disappeared in Lutheranism by the mid-17th-Century], the Host and the Chalice were elevated separately for the adoration of the people after the consecration of each one), would turn towards the congregation and, holding the consecrated elements aloft together, would proclaim: 'See, dear Christians, this is the true Body of Christ given for us, and the true Blood of Christ shed for us.' The rite was considered 'popish idolatry' by Calvinists - and, to be fair, the retention of the Elevations during the Words of Institution was a frequent example adduced by some Church of England divines, Calvinist and 'high-church' alike, of the defective and incompletely reformed nature of Lutheran liturgical practice. If the Orthodox demur at transubstantiation, the Lutherans all rejected it, then as now. What think the 'Reformed Catholics?' Are these practices 'popish idolatry' or are they not?'

-Dr William J. Tighe, Associate Professor of History at Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Post-Tractarian Anglican Catholics, in this case, would clearly seem to agree with the Lutheran Reformation of Brandenburg.

Liberty in Christ

I greatly appreciate N's words earlier today - we need very much to move away from the disputes and disagreements of the Victorian era and to move forward in the common life and work of proclaiming the Gospel of Our Blessed Saviour to which we are all called and by which we have all been made one Body. We should all deeply respect and honour one another's positions (even if we disagree with them) and engage all questions of religious difference in a reverent, dispassionate, and charitable manner, simultaneously recognising that many of the matters recently discussed are indeed deeply-held beliefs which are matters of conscience and faith. For example, I vehemently support the right of a churchman not to have Eucharistic devotions as much as I vehemently support another's right TO have them; Anglicanism's past successes and future strengths lie in the liberty of conscience and expression which has always manifested the best of what we are. Anglicanism also has theological boundaries, and together we should explore and determine what those are - as brothers, together, in one mind and heart. I pray that my meagre contributions to the recent discussion at hand have served, not to polarise or divide, but to intensify, sharpen, and clarify the issues at stake, all the while giving the honest perspective of one who does hold certain beliefs and expressions to be sacred and worth preservation. Let us persevere in well-doing and, above all, in supernatural charity in God, for God, and for one another. Jesus Christ be praised.

The Quadrilateral and the Undivided Church

I am grateful and intensely thankful for the recent very fine comments on Faith and Life regarding the need for the spirit of Christian charity and forbearance to prevail in our conversation and in our work together. Continual self-examination and repentance are certainly a prerequisite in the theological exercise, and I pray that we all take to heart the words of Saint Paul that we are to 'speak the truth with love.' Although we may harbour serious disagreements and differences, which we hold undoubtedly with the most profound and most sincere conviction and passion, I believe that we all love the Lord Jesus Christ and each other as brothers, for otherwise there would really be no point in our ongoing conversation at all. We are (or should be) committed to the vision of a united Church, of a united communion and fellowship with Christ and each other. It must be so, for the Lord Himself intends that supreme reality for us as he prays for us in S. John 17. Anything, including theological models and paradigms, can indeed become an idol if it replaces Our Blessed Saviour as the centre and King of hearts. Theology without faith, hope, love, and prayer is a tool of the devil. Let us continue to serve one another in love and seek each other's good as we individually and corporately seek to glorify our merciful Redeemer and extend His kingdom.

The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral is the essential meeting-ground and starting-point for all orthodox Anglicans. I agree that it is absolutely necessary that we share the vision of the Great Church articulated in that seminal document of ecumenical ecclesiology and theology. But if I may be so bold as to say it, I should hope as well that we may, together as a united Church, grow more deeply into the heart of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ in her sacred Tradition and begin to share, not only the essentials of the Quadrilateral (which are absolutely needful), but the plene esse of the Church located in the Faith of the ancient and Undivided Church, the first millennium Church to which I refer so often. We must start with the Quadrilateral and rightfully so. But let us not end there. May it be our prayer and our goal that we grow together in unity and communion, into a deeper grasp and application of the life of the Church we have inherited from the earliest ages. We all know, or should know from past experience, that there can be no lasting unity in the Church without Dogmatic Unity, unity of doctrine as well as unity of charity and purpose. I am not afraid to say it, although it touches on something very dear to our hearts - the Anglican experiment we love so much, in this regard, may need to be revisited and re-evaluated. Any Church that lacks basic agreement on matters of Faith is most likely doomed to terrible internal strife and, ultimately, discord and dissolution. Such a truth is not a matter of creating a Church out of our minds or culture, or of reproducing a Church in our own image. It is not even about finding or making a perfect Church. It is about recovering the fullness of the Christian Faith and living under it in obedience. At a minimum, it is about obedience to a common standard, in which we agree to accept basic ideas and beliefs in common so that we may live together in peace. I am not recommending that we jettison the Elizabethan Settlement, but I am suggesting we may need to re-examine what that Settlement means and what its limits are or are not. There are no easy answers, but there is great potential and vital work to be done. And we must do this thing together, as brothers. May we endeavour to grow together into the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace manifested in the unity of Tradition and Faith that comes to us from Christ and the Apostles.

What was the vision of dogmatic unity in the Undivided Church? Please allow me to share a quote with you that sums up that Faith of the earliest Church very neatly. I pray that we can all someday aspire to this vision:

'The doctrine of the Great Church, as it stood on the eve of 1054, includes, first of all, the main fabric of Trinitarian and Christological dogma, including, of course, the beliefs in our Lord's virginal Birth, bodily Resurrection, and Ascension into Heaven; the presuppositions of Christian soteriology known as the doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin; belief in Christ's Atoning Death as objectively bringing within our reach that salvation which we could never have earned for ourselves; the doctrines of the Sacraments as the means of grace, of the Real Presence and the Eucharistic Sacrifice; of the grace of Orders and the necessity of the episcopal succession from the Apostles; of the Church's absolving power in Penance; of Confirmation and Unction; of the Communion of Saints; and of the last things, Heaven and Hell, and the intermediate state, and the Last Judgement.'

-1920 Anglo-Catholic Congress

May the Lord bless and keep us all and more powerfully bind us in His love.

On Catholicism and Baptism

Dear N.:

Thank you for your absolutely splendid e-mail. Dealing with militant protestants can be a particularly difficult and sensitive matter and I applaud your courage and fortitude in being willing to discuss the Faith with someone so sadly biased against it. In these circumstances I am reminded of the wisdom of GK Chesterton, who admonishes believers always to be mindful that when defending the Faith we must guard against the temptation to win the argument and yet lose the person whom we debate. You have already demonstrated the first and most vital axiom which must obtain in any discussion of matters of religion: the need for charity above all things. S. Paul in Ephesians tells us to 'speak the truth with love.' That you have already certainly done. How wonderful it is that you express such love and concern for your friend. Unhappily, your friend clearly harbours grave prejudice against the Catholic tradition, and in so doing reveals, if I may say it, a woeful but unsurprising ignorance of the subject.

1. I believe our first task is to distinguish the meaning of the word 'Catholic.' It can be pointed out to your friend that the Creed of the First Council of Constantinople (AD 381) which has been used by all orthodox Christians universally since the fourth century and is now called 'Nicene' refers to the Church as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Sadly, your friend, as a Baptist, rejects this orthodox Creed and the authority of the Church that composed it. The word Catholic was first used by Saint Ignatius, the Bishop who succeeded Saint Peter as Bishop of Antioch, in AD 107; it is katholikon or kata' holon, meaning, 'according to the whole,' 'full,' 'complete.' Where the Bishop is, there let the congregation assemble, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church (S. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 8). The word Catholic does not simply mean 'universal' or 'spread throughout time and space;' it also means 'orthodox' or 'the fullness of the Gospel.' Catholics, therefore, are simply Christians who adhere to the full and complete Christian Faith, and who belong to the historic traditional Church described in the Creeds as Catholic, or universal and orthodox. Obviously your friend intends to use the word Catholic to describe the Roman Church; this is a common but serious mistake. The word Catholic is not synonymous with the Roman Communion - it may very effectively be argued that the Papal Church is not Catholic is the truest sense of the word, that is, faithful to the ancient Tradition of the Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils both East and West which existed unimpaired for the first thousand years of Christian history. Anglicanism claims for herself that she is uniquely faithful in the West to this ancient orthodoxy, asserting that she is the purest branch of historical Catholicism, shorn of the excesses of medieval Roman Catholic theology, and preserved from the caustic broom of protestant revolution which swept away the baby with the bathwater. In this sense, Anglicanism is more 'Catholic' than Rome. The Roman Church does not encompass the totality of the Holy Catholic Church of Christ, although Rome boldly makes that very claim. Catholicism does not begin and end in Rome - that branch of the Church ruled by the Pope of Rome does not comprehend the whole Church of Christ. When your friend says 'Catholic,' she means 'Roman.' It needs to be pointed out to her that such an idea is exactly what the Roman Communion wants her to think, but that assertion is wrong historically and theologically. We Anglicans recognise the Roman Church as a true particular Church of Apostolic and thus divine origin, with Apostolic Succession, Apostolic Faith and Order, and an authentic administration of the Word and Sacraments, but we also repudiate those elements in Romanism that are contrary to the theological deposit of the ancient and undivided Church of the first millennium, to wit, papal infallibility, the dogmas of the immaculate conception and bodily assumption of the Blessed Virgin, and the universal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome. There is but one Church of Christ which is orthodox and universal, and the Anglican Church, having the prerequisite Scriptures, Creeds, Sacraments, and Apostolic Ministry, is a true part of that one Church. To level the accusation at the Latin Church that she is a 'cult' is simply too pejorative, provocative, and unreasonable to dignify with an intelligent response - a Christian communion two-thousand years old with 1.1 billion members, the Mother Church of western Christendom responsible for the development of western civilisation and culture, is certainly not a cult. Let us recall that the word 'cult' refers to a body that claims to be Christian but holds aberrant, clearly unbiblical doctrines which undermine the Gospel of Christ. That cannot be said strictly of the Roman Church, although Rome does teach as doctrine certain beliefs which are at best theological opinions of great philosophical sophistication, and not revelation from God.

2. The other major point of contention is the phrase 'born again' which in Greek is anothen, 'born from above.' If we say it in its most simple and direct fashion, it is right to say that every single Christian is by virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism 'born from above' or 'again.' Every Christian, every person that has been baptised, is born again. Your friend commits the quintessential error of confusing regeneration, or new birth in the Holy Ghost, with conversion, which is the turning of the soul, mind, and heart to God. Regeneration is God's Action upon us; conversion is our action towards God. The New Testament teaches salvation by grace alone. Grace comes to us primarily through the Sacraments, God's extension of His Incarnation, His own life in Christ, to us in a physical way. Christ is an incarnate human being with a physical body Who touches our bodies physically in the Sacraments. We cannot earn or deserve grace, and thus grace comes to us in visible signs by the Church that guarantee and assure our reception of it. Babies are baptised because they cannot earn or merit grace, and thus cannot earn or merit Baptism. It is pure, sheer, total grace. We are only saved by having our human nature taken into Christ's human nature; Baptism gives us a 'human nature transplant.' Through Baptism, we are inserted into Christ's incarnate life now glorified and 'made partakers of the divine nature' (II Peter 1.4). Baptism makes us the children of God by adoption and grace. We become in Baptism what God is by nature, children of God the Father and co-heirs of Christ the Son by the Spirit of Adoption (Romans 8). Baptism is the Sacrament of New Birth, it is the Sacrament of Faith wherein the three gifts that last forever, faith, hope, and love, are infused into the soul (I Corinthians 13). In evangelical teaching this is often confused and muddled. You and I are born again Christians because we are baptised; all baptised Christians are born again because the Holy Ghost recreates supernatural life in us by Baptism, apart from our works, deservings, or even our initial faith in Him. Grace comes first, then faith. The grace of conversion is preveniently presented to us and then made fully manifest in Baptism, which is the New Life in Christ. We die and rise again with Christ in the mystery of Baptism. Because we are born again sacramentally, we can then thoroughly turn to Christ in conversion, which is an ongoing daily process in the life of the Christian. The only way truly to become a Christian is to be baptised, to be united to Christ sacramentally, to be made a sharer in Christ's death and resurrection through the infusion of the Holy Spirit. Baptism applies to our bodies and souls in a direct supernatural manner the person and work of Jesus Christ, His victory on the Cross, and His resurrection and glorification. It communicates to us the forgiveness of all sins, actual and original, and makes us a 'new creature in Christ.' We receive remission of sins and eternal life in Baptism. 'I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins' (Nicene Creed). Baptism is an unrepeated once-for-all gift of God's forgiveness and mercy: One Lord, one faith, one Baptism (Ephesians 4.5). An unbaptised believer is a learner, a catechumen, but not a proper Christian. Baptism causes us to become members of Christ, members of the Body of Christ the Church, and heirs of the eternal and heavenly kingdom through grace. Baptism is the beginning of grace in the soul, the entrance into the divine life of grace. It makes us to share the one life of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost into Whom we are baptised. In summary, we cannot be saved, that is, brought into the saving, regenerating, transfiguring, redeeming, glorified life of Christ without water Trinitarian Baptism, as Our Lord clearly teaches us. Baptism is, in the words of the Prayer Book catechism, 'generally necessary to salvation,' that is, necessary for all people where it may be had. Your friend will undoubtedly reject all of this, but it is the explicit teaching of the Word of God: which is ironic, considering that evangelicals claim to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. Often, many evangelicals subconsciously believe only in the inerrancy of those scriptural passages with which they agree a priori. Baptists deny the regenerative power and sacramental efficacy of Baptism through a misinterpretation of the New Testament doctrine of salvation. If one gets Baptism wrong, one gets the economy of salvation wrong. Your friend should consider these essential scriptural teachings:

Verily, verily, I say unto you: unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (S. John 3.5).
Our Lord commands water to be the outward sign and the Spirit to be the inward grace of Holy Baptism.

Baptism doth now save us, not as the removal of the filth of the flesh, but as the answer of a good conscience toward God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (I Peter 3.21)
S. Peter clearly understands Baptism as the gift of salvation which confers on us the power of Christ's resurrection.

For you are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ: for as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ (Galatians 3.26-27).
S. Paul makes it abundantly clear that Baptism causes us to be adopted by God as His children through Christ. Baptism clothes us in Christ, His divine sonship, His righteousness, and His glory.

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the Laver of Regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost (S. Titus 3.5).
Baptism saves us and washes us clean from sin through regeneration in the Holy Spirit.

For by one Spirit we were all baptised into one Body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and have all been made to drink into one Spirit (I Corinthians 12.13).
S. Paul teaches us that Baptism conveys to us the Holy Spirit and incorporates us into the Body of Christ by giving us the Spirit.

He who believes and is baptised will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. (S. Mark 16.16)
Our Lord definitively teaches the necessity of Baptism for salvation.

Do you not know that as many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? Therefore we were buried with Christ through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6.3-4)
Baptism causes us to die and rise again in Christ, that the Father may raise us up in Baptism just as He raised Christ from the dead.

We are buried with Christ in baptism, in which you also were raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2.12).
The power of faith in God operates in baptism to join us to Christ's death and resurrection.

Then Peter said to them, Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts of the Apostles 2.38).
Baptism confers the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As one can see, it is vitally important to distinguish between the regenerative gift of the Spirit conveyed in Baptism and the human response given to God's love and grace in conversion and repentance. Once this is rightly done, the confusion is clarified and the relationship between these two aspects of salvation is solidified and strengthened. When asked the question, 'are you born again?' the reply must surely be given, 'yes, when I was baptised!'

I pray these few meagre thoughts will be of some use to you in your continuing dialogue with your friend. Let us pray that the illumination of the Holy Ghost will move her to a greater understanding of the mystery of the Gospel as contained in Scripture and expressed in the life of the Church which is God's Family and the Household of Faith.

May 2024 Comprovincial Newsletter

The Comprovincial Newsletter for May 2024 -