Thursday, January 31, 2008
For the Eastern Fathers, it is not a shared simple essence of God that unites the Godhead in one Being, but rather the Father, the First Person of the Holy Trinity, Who is in Himself the Source of the Trinity's union, unity and communitarian Being. The Trinity is only defined by relationship, the relation of One Person of the Holy Trinity to the other Two, and the basis, the root, origin and source of the Divine Communion is the Father alone. In the West we have historically focussed on a given simplicity or simple essence shared by all Three of the Persons of the Godhead equally as a substance or force that unites them. In the East, the Father from all eternity causes the Son and the Holy Ghost to exist, an eternal procession of the Two equally from the One: the only-bgeotten Son is begotten of the Father before all worlds, eternally begotten of the Father alone; the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father alone, as the Spirit rests in the Son and is possessed by the Son and proceeds in His temporal mission through the Son (dia) to creation. It is vital in this Trinitarian theology to distinguish between the economic Trinity and the eternal Trinity, the economic Trinity is God as He reveals Himself to the Church in the created order salvifically and the eternal Trinity is God as He is in Himself. In both, the Father sends the Son and the Holy Ghost either into existence or into the world, what Saint Irenaeus of Lyons calls the 'two hands of God,' by personal generation or procession.
The Orthodox East contends that only by maintaining the hierarchy in the Trinity, the Monarchy of the Father and the eternal origin of the other Two Persons from the Father, can the Trinity be maintained as a Tri-Unity, a perfect Triune equality of Three Persons in one God. The Son and the Holy Ghost relate to each other on the basis of the their relationship to the Father. You can see, given this emphasis on the primacy of the Trinitarian nature of God and the Headship of the Father, why the Orthodox consider the filioque clause in the Creed of Constantinople highly suspect: a double procession of the Spirit from the Father and Son as from two origins or principles in the Godhead breaks the equality of the Spirit to the Son and subordinates Him to the Son, depersonalising Him. The Spirit is 'the Spirit of Christ,' 'the Spirit of the Son' precisely because the Spirit belongs to the Son, rests in the Son, shines through the Son, and is sent to the Church in His temporal procession, His temporal mission again through the mediation of the Son. But the eternal breathing-forth, spiration, procession, ekporousis, of the Spirit belongs to the Father as the unique source, principle and origin in the Godhead. God is perfectly one because He is perfectly Three, His unity, being, and Communion grounded in the primacy and pre-eminence of the Father. Otherwise, the Orthodox say, the Son and Spirit can be depersonalised and actually subordinated, instead of preserving the right understanding of their divinity. Please note this is not 'subordinationism', but a divine hierarchy of being within the eternal communion of God Himself - an utter and inscrutable mystery. The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are co-equal and co-eternal, but the Son and the Spirit derive their eternal divinity forever from the Father.
I firmly believe the Eastern patristic metaphysic is more faithful to the content, language and revelation of the New Testament and the Creeds than the Western speculative Aristotlean view, for the Holy Fathers strictly abide by the categories and terminology of the revealed doctrine. In other words, whereas the West has delved into trying to explain the unity of God by invoking a common simple essence which all Three Persons share, thus undermining the absolute priority and necessity of the Three Persons qua personality, the Three Persons being mere manifestations or projections of a simple essence (which sounds creepily like Modalism or Sabellianism), the East asserts that the full revelation of God as Trinity demands that we take into consideration first the reality and relationship of the Three distinct Persons in the Communion of God, and then contemplate that the Three are united by virtue of the eternal principle and originating Life of the Father. Anglican fathers and theologians are indebted to SS. Augustine and Aquinas while also reverencing and utilising the teaching of the Eastern Fathers.
Even more 'simply' (pun intended) we can say:
West = Artistotle's simple essence, from which Three Divine Persons are discerned and extracted
East = Trinity as Communion of Persons, in which the Father originates the life of Son and Holy Ghost
Clearly I think the East is closer to the original vision of the Apostolic teaching and proclamation.
Here follows the official statement of the Second Reunion Conference of Bonn, August 1875, in which the Old Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican Churches agreed on Trinitarian doctrine:
We have formulated our consent in the words of John of Damascus. We have chosen him on the following grounds: he stands at the end of the whole chain of patristic tradition; he has put together in short compass the doctrine of the old Church on the Trinity, the Incarnation, etc., and the result of theological development till the council of the year 680; he has, about 750, composed the first complete text-book of the theology of the fathers, especially the Greek fathers. Experience has shown that we have rightly done in placing ourselves on the ground of John of Damascus. We have united on the six Articles, which I will presently read. With regard to the third article, the Orientals had reserved themselves the definite declaration; but they will now assent to the same without reserve when to this third article there are added a further citation from John of Damascus, to be immediately read, and to the introductory proposition, the words "in the sense of the doctrine of the old, undivided Church," against which, on our side, there is nothing to allege.
The articles run thus:
We accept the doctrine of St. John of Damascus on the Holy Ghost, as the same is expressed in the following paragraphs, in the sense of the doctrine of the old, undivided Church:
1.The Holy Ghost goes forth out of the Father (ek tou patrou) as the Beginning (arche), the Cause (aitia), the Source (pege) of the Godhead.
2. The Holy Ghost goes not forth out of the Son (ek tou Uiou), because there is in the Godhead but one Beginning (arche), one cause (aitia), through which all that is in the Godhead is produced.
3. The Holy Ghost goes forth out of the Father through the Son.
4. The Holy Ghost is the Image of the Son, who is the Image of the Father, going forth out of the Father and resting in the Son as the force beaming forth from Him.
5. The Holy Ghost is the personal Production out of the Father, belonging to the Son, but not out of the Son, because he is the Spirit of the Mouth of the Godhead, which speaks forth the Word.
6. The Holy Ghost forms the mediation between the Father and the Son, and is bound together to the Father through the Son.
So far, therefore, we are one, and theologians know the question of the Holy Ghost is therewith exhausted; a dogmatical position is consequently, in reference to this question, no more between us. God grant that that which we have here agreed upon may be accepted in the churches of the East in the spirit of peace and of distinction between dogma and theological opinion. What we have accomplished gives us new ground for hope that our efforts will be blessed by God, and that we shall be yet more successful, whilst the spirit of the earlier union transactions creates the impression that the blessing of God has not rested upon them. I think that it is not rash to believe that here we see the blessing of God, there His malediction. Let us only remember how at Lyons and Florence, illusion, deceit, a complication of falsification, the lust of tyrannical power were employed: how both parties always had the consciousness of having something else specially in view than agreement in the great truths of Christian faith. I hope we will be able in the next year, to continue these international conferences. What joy if then the Orientals can proclaim to us: our bishops, synods and churches have assented to our agreement!"
Indeed, we may note as the turning-point of the discussion the eloquent appeal of Bishop Reinkens, at the close of the third conference, for mutual forbearance; and the broad basis of agreement laid down by the Archpriest Janyschew, in the speech directly following the Bishop's earnest words. These propositions were as follows:
1. The Godhead, the divine attributes, the divine Being, are the same in all three divine Persons. In this point of view, any separation whatsoever between the Father and the Holy Ghost can as little be asserted as a separation between the Son and the Holy Ghost. In that we are all one.
2. The special property of the first Person is this, that he alone is the pege, aitia, or arch, as well of the Son as of the Holy Ghost, and that Himself is anarchos. In this sense the two other Persons are the production of the first, the Son through the birth, the Holy Ghost through the procession.
3. The special property of the second Person is, that He is the Son, the Only Begotten, the Logos, who is eternally with God, and is sent, as also the Holy Ghost, into the world.
4. The special property of the third Person, the Holy Ghost, is, that he, according to His existence, goes forth from the Father, according to His operation or manifestation--be it in eternity, be it in time--not only from the Father, but also from the Son.
Following this happy beginning Dr. Von Döllinger [of the Old Catholic Church] at the opening of the seventh Conference announced the agreement of the Committee on the following fundamental principles:
1. We agree in the reception of the Oecumenical creeds, and the determinations of faith of the old undivided Church.
2. We agree in the acknowledgment that the addition of the Filioque to the Creed did not take place in an ecclesiastically legitimate way.
3. We own on all sides the statement of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, as it has been presented by the fathers of the undivided Church.
4. We reject every representation and every mode of expression in which any acceptance whatsoever of two principles or arcai or aitiai in the Trinity is contained.
The good news of Saint Paul's' Gospel is that although the Old Law and the Ten Commandments can never justify or save, because it is impossible on our own efforts to keep the Law, in Christ by the power of His Spirit we are not only declared righteous and accounted righteous before God for the sake of Christ, but we actually have the power through grace appropriated by faith to keep the Law in its heart, in its Spirit - those who have faith fulfil the meaning and purpose of the Law and can now actually keep the Commandments by divine grace. Regenerated man, given the risen life of Christ in Baptism, takes on the attributes and character of Christ as the Lord makes His life to be planted in us that it may grow in obedience unto salvation. As we are conformed to Christ by Baptism and faith, Our Lord reproduces His life of love and obedience in us and makes it possible for us to be holy and to obey the Law, just as Christ did. Jesus now obeys the Law in and through us by His Spirit Who works in us to will and to do His good pleasure. We can never be good or holy on our own initiative and power, and that is precisely what the 613 commandments of the Old Testament reveal: the Law is a schoolmaster, a custodian, that points us to Christ, Who alone keeps the spirit and heart of the Law and makes it possible for us to do the same. So now we can not only understand the meaning of the Law, but we can fulfil it through obedience: the obedience of faith (Romans 1 and 16). The Old Testament ceremonial law, its system of rites, ceremonies, ordinances and sacrifices, cannot produce divine grace in us or bring us to God - these are the 'works of the Law' that cannot justify. The Ten Commandments are God's righteous, holy, and true Law, but they only condemn, they cannot save, for we are subject to sin and death. But through Christ and His victory over evil, the Sacraments of the New Testament, pre-eminently Baptism and the Eucharist, are fewer, easier, and far more powerful - they justify, they sanctify and they save, because it is the glorified Christ Who invisibly works in them to bring us to grace and faith. In this enterprise of the 'obedience of faith,' Our Lord, Baptism and faith are inseparable.
2. What is Saint Paul's Gospel? It is the 'Catholic Gospel' for all men. As I understand it, the following is the ordo salutis, the plan of salvation laid out by Saint Paul in Romans:
God created the world good and in communion with Him; man sinned and fell short of the glory of God and Original Sin has corrupted all humanity; man is led into idolatry through Original Sin although he perceives the unity and goodness of God in nature and creation, natural theology; the Jewish Law demonstrates the holiness of God and its adherents claim it can save, for its manifests God's perfection, but it excludes the Gentiles, thus causing the Jews to boast in their status before God by virtue of their race, election and possession of the Law, thus sinning; the Bible itself shows that all men are under the same condemnation, Jew and Gentile alike, and therefore the Jews have no cause or reason to boast because they possess the Law, for the Law in itself is holy but only condemns sinners and cannot save; those who have faith in God fulfill the meaning and purpose of the Law, Jew and Gentile alike, for faith is the full trust and assurance in the promises of God and faith obtains what it desires; thus the circumcised are no better before God and have no higher standing before God than the uncircumcised on the basis of religion - if the circumcised rely on their ethnic origin and supposed racial superiority before God, they have nothing, for God looks on the heart of faith, not on the outward observance of the Old Covenant rites; Our Lord is the unique Saviour of mankind, both Jew and Gentile, who came to save us from sin and destroy the power of sin by His obedience; Christ alone keeps the Law and makes it possible for us to be accepted by God; only by being engrafted into Christ by faith can man lay hold of justification and be made righteous before God, and this applies to the uncircumcised and circumcised alike; by Baptism we are incorporated into Christ and we die and rise with Him, being mystically joined to Him in His victory over death and evil; once baptised, we are given grace to obey God and the fulfill the Law's original purpose of restoring communion with God - in Christ we are made a new creation and forgiven all our sins; after Baptism, although we are regenerated and united with Christ and made one Body with Him, we are still subject to concupiscence, the inclination and attraction to sin which enslaves the whole human race; the Christian therefore must struggle in this world and must be united to Christ through suffering in order to overcome concupiscence and grow into the likeness of Christ; we are the adopted children of God by grace and we must co-operate with God in order to attain lives of holiness and sanctification - Christ reproduces His obedience in us as we grow in faith; ultimately God will bring all things to fulfillment in Christ and through the New Law, Christ's obedience, Jew and Gentile will be finally reunited in one family and fellowship at the end of time.
How is that for a brief synopsis of the message of Romans!? I have no idea how accurate it is, but that it is what I glean from my studies of the Epistle over the past few years.
Please share with me your thoughts and suggestions!
Saturday, January 26, 2008
By Baptism and its corollary, Faith, we are declared righteous by God for the sake of the merits of Jesus Christ and we are simultaneously made to be what God says we are - the sons of God by adoption and grace. Lutheran and Calvinist readings of Saint Paul tend completely to ignore the 'participationist' model of justification, excluding it entirely in favour of the 'legal' model. For this reason, Lutherans and Calvinists believe 'Faith alone', personal intellectual and emotional trust, apart from the saving infusion of Baptism, is all that justifies a man before God, a purely subjective experience based on the private individual exercise of faith in the Christian person. Hence, protestantism does not believe in an infused grace or righteousness in man given instrumentally in Baptism which precedes our necessary exercise of personal faith: for protestantism, justification is solely and merely legal, a forensic legal fiction in which man is declared righteous but possesses no inherent or internal justification by grace which actually transforms us ontologically. That is the meaning of sola fide. Faith becomes the sole saving action or 'work' in man. Man believes, trusts, has assurance subjectively from his heart, and that it all that is necessary for justification. Catholics say both are needful, the legal declaration from God and the participatory transformation in God. We can see why Luther and Calvin depart from the ecumenical consensus of the undivided catholic Church, because they ignore the second and equally essential model of sacramental participation, with its objective gift of union with Christ in the paschal mystery of the Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection. Catholicism is the balance and proportion of these two themes of Saint Paul in Romans; protestantism is the rejection of one in favour of the other, and is thus imbalanced, lop-sided.
Here are some thoughts to muse on regarding the relationship between grace and freedom. I think you have it absolutely right - the Lord in His love and power enables and ennobles us to worship and serve Him by and with the theological virtues of faith, hope and love infused into our souls in Baptism and Confirmation: the Lord Jesus calls us to a docility, an openness to His working of grace in our souls. As we seek to love God and to eschew evil, from our hearts, to keep the Commandments and to avoid temptations to sin, we are drawn by the power of God's love and grace ever more deeply into communion with Him. We should wait upon the Lord in prayer and allow Him to work invisibly in us by His presence and gifts. In the Christian pilgrimage, sojourning with Jesus in this world, nourished by Word and Sacrament, healed and transformed by his gifts given to us freely, we are conformed to His likeness and are given the facility, the ability, truly to grow in holiness and love. We really can become Saints ontologically, in our being, the image and likeness of Christ, 'little Christs' as Saint Cyril of Jerusalem describes this mystery, as we correspond freely with grace and learn from the school of Christ, the school of sanctity, to become more and more like Him. Men can become intrinsically holy and good by resting on the promises of Christ and cooperating with the grace God gives. Justification and sanctification are not legal fictions, but imparted righteousness: God does in us what He declares He will do. Simply trust in the Lord and allow Him to move in you - and you will grow ever deeper into the Love of God, the fellowship of the Holy Trinity.
One of the essential dogmas of Catholic soteriology is synergy, the free co-operation of the human will with the divine grace in the process of justification and sanctification (which are distinct but inseparable). Our Lord assumes human nature in the Incarnation in order to heal, restore, transform, sanctify and divinise our human nature, including our human will. If man does not cooperate with divine grace in the process of divinisation or theosis, he fails to be truly human and loses the essential characteristic that makes him the Imago Dei and the Imago Christi: freedom. There can be no love, faith or hope, no cardinal or theological virtue of any kind without the free exercise of the human will, human freedom, in correspondence to the divine initiative and the divine grace which heals and perfects all things in Christ. The original nature of man was sinlessness and innocence; the redeemed nature of man is God-likeness. In Christ man is raised again not only to the full restoration of the divine image, but is given by grace the divine likeness in which man, by virtue, attains to holiness and divinisation, sanctity. The Incarnate Lord, precisely because He has two wills which harmoniously cooperate in the One Person of Christ in communion with the Father, enables our human will to cooperate with the divine will. Our human will, united to Christ's human will, harmoniously unites in communion with the divine will. Monothelitism, 'one-will-ism' in Christ, prevents this divine-human synergy from taking place and is thus heretical. We become by grace what God is by nature. Grace is the uncreated life of the Holy Trinity given to man that man may participate in the energy, the dynamic life of God Himself. Such a exchange is only possible through the Incarnation as a real assumption and transformation of human nature.
The Sacraments mediately communicate the divine life in such a way that man's nature is divinised. But man must freely receive and apply what is given him. For this cause, with its denial of objective sacramental grace, extreme protestantism rejects any concept of sainthood. Calvinism, properly speaking, is certainly an error of gnostic or Manichean dimensions precisely because by its heresy of total depravity of man it refuses to allow Jesus Christ His work of redemption in the objective and complete restoration of the human person, body, mind, soul and will to total communion with the Tri-Hypostatic Godhead. Calvinistic soteriology, to my mind, leads to a Nestorian Christology and a denial of the Incarnation. Whereas Lutheranism teaches of form of monophysiticism by affirming a ubiquity of the human nature of the Risen Christ in which the natures of Christ are fused and blurred and man is redeemed by a God who is no longer truly human (hence an exclusive belief in only a forensic exterior imputed righteousness in which man cannot be ontically united to the divine life but is merely declared to be accepted by God), Calvinism so radically detaches Our Lord from human nature (because of its view of the evil of human nature and of creation) and from human redemption through the Incarnation that it winds up separating the divine and human natures in Christ. A solitary imputed righteousness, to the absolute exclusion of a real imparting or infusion of divine grace, is either Monophysite or Arian, depending on which view one takes. Arius of Alexandria taught that Christ was adopted as a divine being although created, exactly through an exclsuive imputed righteousness which did not consider His created status but simply declared Him to be God by grace. The Arian Christ is in fact what the Church would describe as the Orthodox saint. We become God by grace (II Peter 1.4). We are adopted as God's children by grace (Romans 8, Galatians 4). The Catholic Mary, like all divinised created human persons, holds the position in orthodox Catholicism which Christ holds in Arianism. In this respect classic protestant soteriology, if it is understood to deny the necessity of the incarnational-sacramental order, is eerily Arian and, I would submit, possibly sub-Christian.
Thank you for your profound thoughts. I hope the preceding reflections, which I am sure are too theological and apologetical, will be useful to you.
Please keep in touch. God bless you!
My dear N.:
You are absolutely right in your understanding of the relationship between grace and free-will. The Calvinist error claims (whether it acknowledges it or not) that God is the ultimate author of evil because in His inscrutable sovereignty He decides before we are born who will and will not be saved, basing His decision on His eternal decree without any consideration of the free synergy or cooperation of man with grace. The Catholic Faith teaches that man is free, and although his free-will was injured and damaged in the Fall, it still exists as an essential component of the Imago Dei, the Image of God in man. Christ by grace heals, restores and perfects our freedom and makes it possible by His grace and power for men truly to correspond with the divine grace and find justification and sanctification. This is precisely why extreme protestants, especially Calvinists, do not believe men can become inherently, innately holy, can truly become Saints, deified and divinised by grace: it is because they deny that man can cooperate with grace and thus become intrinsically holy and God-like. Total depravity, if it is understood to deprive man of the Image and Likeness of God, renders him an unsalvageable monster in his being or essence. Justification, and thus even sanctification, are seen as merely a legal fiction in protestantism, a legal decree of God in which God declares us not guilty but does not change or transform us ontologically.
Justification by faith alone is tantamount to an extrinsic or forensic view of salvation only, and so man in this view becomes what Luther described him to be, a dung heap covered in snow; he is covered and his sins are ignored, but he is not purified, sanctified or changed into a new creation by grace. The Saints are those human beings who have become what God made man to be, the Likeness of God. The Saints are those who have become fully human, who have achieved the human vocation. The Saints are the images of Christ, the icons of the Holy Spirit, man finally and fully human, man finally and fully alive. As Saint Athanasius says, 'God became man so that man might become God.' This means that man's destiny is ultimately to become a 'partaker of the divine nature' (II Peter 1.4), to become by grace what God is by nature, to share the Life of the Holy Trinity. The free gift of such salvation and glorification of man in Christ is offered to all men equally, but only those who willingly receive the gift have such grace applied to their souls and bodies. Only the correspondent apply and appropriate such grace unto justification and salvation. The Church and Sacraments exist for this purpose, to give man the grace he needs to have eternal life. The redemptive work of Christ, His Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection and Glorification, is prolonged and extended in the Church and therefore given and appropriated to men in it for their union with God. Extra ecclesiam non salus est. The Body of Christ in the Church and Sacraments, especially in the Holy Eucharist, is given to men's bodies so that they may be incorporated into the Body of Christ and dwell in Him and He in them. If extreme protestantism soteriology is right, the Church and Sacraments as objective means of grace are in the end meaningless and useless, for faith alone, the sole needful and relative proof of predestination, is all that is necessary. Christ died for all men and offers salvation to all men, but not all men cooperate with grace and are thus saved. This teaching is Orthodox dogma, the revealed soteriological doctrine of the New Testament.
Please keep in touch and keep up your superb thinking and reading. God bless you!
Friday, January 25, 2008
God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.
The mystery of the Cross hearkens back to the story told by the patron saint of parish priests, Saint John Vianney: the old man in the church kneeling before the crucifix – ‘what are you doing here?’ The response: ‘I just look up at Him and He looks back at me.’
We preach Jesus Christ and Him Crucified – His banner over us is love.
On the Cross of Christ, on Mount Calvary, we see Jesus as He behold us, for the Cross is the fulfillment of all life and of all history. God beholds us from the Cross in love of that humanity He offers for our salvation.
As Christ stretches His arms of love out on the Cross – He unites God and Man and spans the centuries by reconciling all things in heaven and earth. Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, reigns from the Cross as our Mediator and Advocate, the Pontifex Maximus, the great BRIDGE-BUILDER, who fills the gap and chasm between God and Man in redemptive sacrifice. He builds the bridge we cross to God because He alone is God and Man and makes them both one.
The ordained Catholic priest is also the Pontifex Maximus, the great Bridge Builder, because he shares in Christ’s unique priesthood. As Pope John Paul II reflects on this in his book Gift and Mystery - the priest prostrates himself before God on the floor of the church at the litany in his ordination, and in so doing he takes on the sign of the BRIDGE; he lays his life down in obedience, as did Christ, that he may serve as the bridge by which the People of God cross over the eternal life.
We priests of the Catholic Church of Christ continue and extend the work of Christ and His Cross in space and time. We are ‘sacrificing priests’ – the sacrifice of our lives is to be united with the Lord’s sacrifice, the unbloody Sacrifice of the Mass. Like Christ, we learn obedience by the things that we suffer, as Hebrews tell us. We are sacrificing priests, and the first thing we are called to sacrifice is ourselves, our personal ambitions, ideologies and agendas, we are called to offer the sacrifice of obedience which Our Lord offered.
The Cross is the School of Sanctity, the place where we begin to love, to serve, to adore, to follow Christ. As Our Lord prays in S. John 17, at the Cross we sanctify ourselves so that others might be sanctified. God is glorified on the Cross – seeming defeat, failure is ultimate victory.
We are reminded that the Church was at one time the embryonic Church gathered at the Foot of the Cross, the first band of disciples; on Calvary the Church was down to two members – Our Lady and Saint John. From that humble Church the world has been saved.
Obedience, the Cross, is the way of salvation. The Cross is the New Tree of Life, Calvary is the New Paradise, the New Garden of Eden, Christ Jesus is the New Man, the New Humanity – of the New Adam is born the Church, the New Eve, born from the side of Christ as the water and blood flow. The Dominical Sacraments that save us also flow from the side of Christ, the water of baptism and the blood of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.
Our Lady, the Mother of the Church and Queen of Martyrs, bravely stands with fortitude at the Foot of the Cross as the supreme exemplar of Christian discipleship.
Saint John the beloved disciple shows us the way to Christ as he keeps vigil at the Fountain of grace and salvation.
From the Cross we see Jesus Christ, not merely the humiliated Son of Mary, but the victorious Son of God, the King of creation and Lord of the world, Christus Victor, the Conqueror of sin, Satan, and death. In ancient images of the Crucified we see Him in Eucharistic Vestments on the Cross as He offers the one spotless oblation of man’s peace. We priests are privileged to offer the same Sacrifice, wearing the same Vestments, reproducing on Catholic altars the same mystery of our redemption.
The fruit of the Cross is the Mass, the making-present of the Lord, the Blessed Sacrament of His Body and Blood, the gift of Confession and Absolution, and all the Sacraments of the New Covenant, Christ’s supreme gift to us won on Calvary for his body and bride, his holy people, the Church.
‘Dig a pit for the Cross,’ cried that wonderful and blessed saint of the Anglican Catholic tradition, Father Alexander Mackonochie. That is our vocation, to make the Cross present in the world, to make a place in our hearts of love for the Cross to shine forth in its splendour and power.
We are the Heralds of the Cross, and our apostolic labours as priests, as alter Christus, another Christ, are to make Christ known, loved and adored – we are to be the sign of Christ’s redemptive love for mankind.
God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ!
Sunday, January 20, 2008
I welcome your comments on the programme - I was somewhat disappointed in it in that the documentary purposely fails to show the interior of the Anglican Shrine, particularly the Holy House and the Image of Our Blessed Mother as restored by Father Alfred Hope Patten. I suppose the sight of such grandeur and undoubtedly Catholic piety might have shocked and confused unwary viewers. The programme contains a very nice and illuminating conversation with Father Philip North, the Anglican Administrator, although in the introductory remarks to that segment of the show the commentator referred to beloved Father Patten as 'Mr Patten', a description at which he would have rightly recoiled with horror. I detected in the commentator, expectedly, a certain unspoken negativity, an attitude if you will, against the Anglicans, or more especially, a certain begrudging if not articulated animus against the English establishment's handling of RCs during and after the Reformation. That is certainly understandable, but a programme on Walsingham is probably not the most appropriate venue in which to take such a hard line, even if only expressed as an attitude, as Walsingham is a place of peace and reconciliation - which the commentator, gratefully, does in fact say. The Anglican and Roman Administrators were both positively charming and exuded a far more ecumenical and kindly approach to the subject. All in all, I thought it was a very good piece and a wonderful evangelistic tool for spreading the good news about Our Lady and England's Nazareth.
In our household we often refer to EWTN as the 'Anti-Anglican' network, as they seem to have a disproportionately large amount of programming devoted to the evils of Anglicanism. Specifically, I am thinking of the show The Journey Home, which has made Pope Leo XIII's Apostolicae Curae something of a mantra. How many times can one programme state that Anglican Orders and Sacraments are invalid? Ah, those naughty Anglicans. Someway, somehow I suspect any Church that receives this kind of consistent negative attention poses a real threat on some level to what is being claimed in opposition to it. Walsingham was, generally speaking, a lovely exception to that rule. If you have an opportunity to see it, I recommend it!
By the way - I am a Priest Associate of the Holy House of Our Lady, as you might have guessed.
God bless you!
Friday, January 18, 2008
Pope Benedict, it appears, is about do something quite drastic in the liturgical sphere; he is going to alter the traditional Good Friday Solemn Collect for the conversion of the Jewish people as found in the 1962 Roman Missal, the Missal of Pope John XXIII. The prayer is almost the same as that used in the Anglican Missal in the Anglican Rite. The Anglican Missal uses a form of the original prayer slightly altered by Pope Pius XII, which dates back in its modern form to 1570:
'Let us pray likewise for the Jews: that the Lord our God may remove from their hearts the veil of unbelief; and that they may come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Almighty and everlasting God, who extendest to the unbelieving of the Jews the abundance of thy mercy: graciously hear our prayers for this people whose hearts are blinded; that they may come to know Christ Jesus to be the Light of thy truth, and in him find the way out of the darkness of their misunderstandings. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. R. Amen.'
'qui etiam iudaicam perfidiam': the Anglican Missal Collect continues to use the word perfidiam, which is accurately translated as 'those who do not have the faith' or the 'unbelieving'. Pope John XXIII removed the word 'faithless' or 'unbelieving' in his reform of 1959. The word itself should not be interpreted as meaning sly, dishonest, shifty or untrustworthy - as is commonly and routinely misunderstood. The word merely refers to the lack of Christian Faith or unbelief in the Gospel.
Here is the reformed Latin version as promulgated by Pope John XXIII in 1959:
Oremus et pro Iudaeis: ut Deus et Dominus noster auferat velamen de cordibus eorum; ut et ipsi agnoscant Iesum Christum Dominum Nostrum.
Omnipotens sempiternae Deus, qui Iudaeos etiam a tua misericordia non repellis: exaudi preces nostras, quas pro illius populi obcaecatione deferimus; ut agnita veritatis tuae luce, quae Christus est, a suis tenebris eruantur. Per eundem Dominum.
'Let us pray also for the Jews: that God and our Lord take away the veil from their hearts; that they also may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord.
Almighty eternal God, who does not reject even the Jews from Your mercy: graciously hear the prayers which we are conveying for the blindness of that people; so that once the light of Your Truth has been recognized, which is Christ, they may be rescued from their darkness.'
A new version of this text may be published within the next few days, which will be implemented in celebrations of the Traditional Latin Mass in March 2008.
From whence does this collect come? The prayer is still controversial in our ecumenical age, but from where do these phrases and ideas originate? What gives us the authority to pray for the conversion of the Jewish people to our Lord Jesus Christ in the language of our liturgy?
The New Testament.
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech. And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished. But their minds were blinded, for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away (II Corinthians 3.12-16).
What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded: (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always. I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all (Romans 11.7-32).
Consider, compare and contrast the ancient prayer of the Latin Rite with this Good Friday Collect from the 1662 English Prayer Book:
O Merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Hereticks, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
The preceding two items are undoubtedly amongst the most blatantly heterodox presentations regarding the Sacrament of Holy Baptism your blogger has ever encountered from individuals who claim to defend and transmit Anglican teaching, at least presentations made in the 21st century. They are more reminiscent of the Calvinist-Puritan rhetorical opposition to authentic catholic Anglicanism presented in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. Both of these items are brought to you through the offices of the Stand Firm website. The discussion on the weblog thread concerning Baptism is truly remarkable, and for an Anglican Catholic committed to the teaching of the BCP and the Great Tradition, very depressing.
In this particular sermon, the preacher forcefully denies the necessity of Baptism for salvation and the grace of baptismal regeneration - and in so doing he denies the explicit doctrine of Holy Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer. Here we have in both of the above-linked items a simply perfect example of that sadly all-too-common neo-evangelical rejection of the Anglican and Catholic Faith.
I find it particularly disturbing that the sermon was preached on the day in the modern calendar assigned as the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. It appears we are back to 1850 and the Gorham Judgement all over again; or perhaps back to 1873 and Cheney's break with the Anglican Communion over Baptism. The Catholic Movement has a very long way to go and much more work to do if ever we are to convince our well-meaning but mistaken brethren of their own rightful heritage and faith.
Below in summary form is the actual teaching of Anglicanism on the Sacrament of Faith, the Sacrament of the New Birth, Holy Baptism: our supernatural regeneration in Christ and the formal cause of our justification in the Lord Jesus:
The Creed of Nicea-Constantinople AD 381:
‘Ομολογώ εν βάπτισμα είς άφεσιν αμαρτιών.
Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum.
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.
Some Points in the Teaching of the Church of England, by John Wordsworth, Bishop of Salisbury, Approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury, 1900
With regard particularly to Baptism, the Church of England teaches as follows:--
As regards Baptism, it teaches that Baptism must always be administered with water in the name of the blessed Trinity, according to our Lord's command (St. Matt, xxviii. 19). It recommends Baptism by immersion, but permits Baptism by affusion; it provides for Baptism by a priest (subject, in the case of adults, to the direction of the bishop), or in the priest's absence by a deacon; but it does not invalidate Baptism by a layman, if it be properly performed. It teaches that the Baptism of young children is to be retained as most agreeable with the institution of Christ. It orders that such children should be brought to the font by three sponsors, two of the same sex as the child and one of the other sex.
As regards the effect of Baptism, it teaches that it is a death to sin and a new birth unto righteousness, and comprehends gifts that by nature we cannot have. In it we are regenerated and made members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. Baptism cannot be repeated. Its proper complement is Confirmation, which is administered among us only to those who have arrived at years of discretion. All who bring children to Baptism are directed to see that they are afterwards brought to Confirmation.
From the American Book of Common Prayer Baptismal Office:
DEARLY beloved, forasmuch as our Saviour Christ saith, None can enter into the Kingdom of God, except he be regenerate and born anew of Water and of the Holy Ghost; I beseech you to call upon God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteous mercy he will grant to this Child that which by nature he cannot have; that he may be baptized with Water and the Holy Ghost, and received into Christ’s holy Church, and be made a living member of the same.
ALMIGHTY and immortal God, the aid of all who need, the helper of all who flee to thee for succour, the life of those who believe, and the resurrection of the dead; We call upon thee for this Child, that he, coming to thy holy Baptism, may receive remission of sin, by spiritual regeneration. Receive him, O Lord, as thou hast promised by thy well-beloved Son, saying, Ask, arid ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. So give now unto us who ask; let us ‘who seek, find; open the gate unto us who knock; that this Child may enjoy the everlasting benediction of thy heavenly washing, and may come to the eternal kingdom which thou hast promised by Christ our Lord. Amen.
Regard, we beseech thee, the supplications of thy congregation; sanctify this Water to the mystical washing away of sin; and grant that this Child, now to be baptized therein, may receive the fulness of thy grace, and ever remain in the number of thy faithful children; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory, now and evermore. Amen.
SEEING now, dearly beloved brethren, that this Child is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits; and with one accord make our prayers unto him, that this Child may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning.
WE yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this Child with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own Child, and to incorporate him into thy holy Church. And humbly we beseech thee to grant, that he, being dead unto sin, may live unto righteousness, and being buried with Christ in his death, may also be partaker of his resurrection; so that finally, with the residue of thy holy Church, he may be an inheritor of thine everlasting kingdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
From the American Prayer Book Offices of Instruction:
HOW many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church?
Answer. Christ hath ordained two Sacraments only, as generally necessary to salvation; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.
Question. What is the outward and visible sign or form in Baptism?
Answer. The outward and visible sign or form in Baptism is Water; wherein the person is baptized, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Question. What is the inward and spiritual grace in Baptism?
Answer. The inward and spiritual grace in Baptism is a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness; whereby we are made the children of grace.
From the American Prayer Book Church Catechism:
Question. How many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church?
Answer. Two only, as generally necessary to salvation; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.
Question. What is the outward visible sign or form in Baptism?
Answer. Water; wherein the person is baptized, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Question. What is the inward and spiritual grace?
Answer. A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness: for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace.
From the XXXIX Articles of Religion:
XXV. Of the Sacraments.
Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.
XVII. Of Baptism.
Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed; Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God. The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.
Like the Eastern Orthodox, since we are the Orthodox Church of the West, we do not believe in a doctrine of expiation-purgatory, which holds that man must pay after death the penalty due to the committing of sins in this life. Many Western Catholics hold there is a temporal punishment due for sins which must be exacted either in this life or in 'purgatory'. Hence the peculiar medieval doctrine of fire-purgatory as punishment, expiation or penalty, condemned by the Anglican Article of Religion XXII. There is a false doctrine of 'purgatory' and a true biblical and orthodox doctrine of 'purgatory', just as there is a false doctrine of pardons, worshipping, adoration, images and relics, and there is a true biblical and patristic doctrine of pardons, worshipping, adoration, images and relics. The things in themselves are obviously not condemned (for who would condemn, for example, the biblical doctrines of worship, adoration or pardon) but only the abuses and false understandings of the same. The penalty due for sins, the temporal punishment, was borne and redeemed by Our Lord on the Cross of Calvary. Paradise is only the extension of God's ongoing work of sanctification and divinisation, not a form of torture inflicted on man for sin. Paradise, most ironically, may indeed involve pain and suffering, and if it does, it is the pain generated from the sense of personal guilt for sin experienced in the light of God's merciful pardon, and the consequent suffering which arises as we are purified and healed by the fire of the Holy Ghost, a fire which burns and cleanses out of us all that does not belong to God and makes us clean and whole. 'Our God is a consuming fire' (Hebrews 12.29, I Corinthians 3.13-15). Such a state is not unlike our sanctification in this world. Healing sometimes hurts; real growth sometimes hurts; the wounds of sin are finally cured in the Intermediate State. Anyone who has ever had a bandaged sore knows how the wound itches and burns as it heals. The Intermediate State is sola gratia, only grace. In it, the grace of God soothes and caresses as it simultaneously washes and mends. The process unleashed by God's sanctifying love may hurt in this life and in the next, but if it hurts, it only hurts because it works, and works to our ultimate transformation. Thus the refreshment, light, peace and joy of Paradise serve as a comforting and remedial balm for the Holy Souls, and in no way contradict the 'growing pains' likely associated with the spiritual maturity and change brought about by God's grace in the nearer presence of the Lord Jesus before the Resurrection. In no sense does 'purgatory' exist as a temporary or miniature hell, as Saint Thomas Aquinas conjectured, in which men are subjected to punishment for sins. Paradise is fuller communion with God and thus God's life and power, the Love of God which burns on our souls to refine them and make them holy.
The Church is the Communion of Saints, and thus the Holy Dead, the Faithful Departed, and the Saints reigning with Christ in the Church Triumphant, pray for us in communion with us as we in turn pray for them. At the Last Day, all will be raised and judged, and given new bodies like unto Christ's glorious risen Body, and God will be all in all (S. John 5.25-29, S. Matthew 25).
Monday, January 14, 2008
To all Clergy of the APA and others,
RE: Common Cause Partnership
Over this past year, there has been much talk and discussion and unfortunately argument over the Anglican Province of America participating as a full member of the Common Cause Partnership (CCP). As the Presiding Bishop, I have listened to our bishops, clergy and lay people about their feelings toward how we of the APA should be related to this Body. I have personally gone back and forth attempting to determine where we should be in the midst of the developing Partnership.
As I observe the reaction of the various clergy, there are those who strongly oppose any participation at all, a larger number that believe we should observe and see what develops (an option we may not officially have) and others who believe we should become members and see what happens. At the present time we are polarized at about 50/50. There is no clear majority on any side.
At this point, as Presiding Bishop, I must ask myself the question, is it wise and is it the best course of action to force through a decision to join the CCP with the strong possibility that there will be significant fall out among some of our parishes and missions. As a Church, we have developed a solid reputation as a stable jurisdiction that is outgoing and welcoming. We have managed to attract good and faithful men for the ministry in a Classical Anglican Church that has a balanced approach to the faith. When we have concentrated our efforts upon building up our parishes and dioceses, we have been successful.
At this time, when the majority membership of the CCP has just recently departed from the Episcopal Church and are going through the withdrawal and anger symptoms which so many of our people experienced 30-40 years ago, do we want to be caught up into their present day battles? Many of the membership of CCP are involved in bitter law suits most of which will not be resolved for years to come. We must ask ourselves whether or not we want to get caught up in the internecine struggles of those who are leaving or preparing to leave the Episcopal Church. The APA has always maintained a positive approach to the mission of the church and departed the Episcopal Church years ago without buildings and property and began on a very modest level building new buildings or renovating places for worship. We made a special effort over the years of not looking back but forward as we have sought to build a positive expression of traditional Anglicanism and not being an anti-Episcopal Church. Our reputation as a positive witness has gotten the attention of a number of former Charismatic Episcopal Church bishops and clergy recently and they have invited me to come to their next meeting to talk about their possible future with us.
Although we have developed a solid reputation and have experienced growth, we are still a fragile flock. There are some monumental issues that must be resolved by the CCP for us to give our enthusiastic support and not jeopardize our own future. What will the CCP develop in to over the next few years? What will the leadership be?
At the present time, we are part of an Intercommunion Agreement with the REC and through this relationship we have formed ourselves into a Federation of the Anglican Churches in the Americas. There are now 6 jurisdictions that are part of this Federation. FACA has requested as a Body to be a part of the CCP. We are thereby in a position as part of this Federation to be observers of CCP as we watch how it unfolds over the next few years. Although personally I would like to be at the table of the CCP, I am well aware that I do not have the necessary support of the majority of the APA to be there. The Theological Statement and the Articles of Federation of CCP have my personal support, but I realize my first responsibility as Presiding Bishop and Diocesan Bishop of the DEUS is to care for that to which I was elected and consecrated.
My position is that I do not recommend becoming partners in the CCP at this time and that we wait, watch and pray that as CCP develops and unfolds, we will have clearer direction as to whether we can be a part of it.
I am well aware that my decisions will not meet with everyone’s approval. I have prayed, sought advice from a number of sources and believe that this is the right thing to do for the good of the APA. I pray that all of you will continue to pray for me and for each other as we seek to build this small portion of the Church to His Glory.
+Walter H. Grundorf
The Most Rev. Walter H. Grundorf, D.D.
Bishop of the Eastern United States, Presiding Bishop
My own personal reflections on the CCP:
The Common Cause Partnership has been a divisive proposition for members of our Diocese, and many people in the APA are deeply concerned that by uniting ourselves to the CCP we shall jeopardise our Catholic theological and doctrinal substance, particularly regarding the validity and orthodoxy of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, as the only two prospective members which do not ordain women are the REC and ourselves. In a recent poll taken by the Diocesan office, it was learned that half of those incumbents, rectors and vicars, who responded are opposed to full membership in the Partnership. I have from the beginning taken a more cautiously optimistic 'wait and see' posture regarding the CCP: I certainly approve of observer status, but not full participation, primarily for the reason outlined above. In truth I believe that the CCP and the Anglican Communion alike are so very unstable at the moment that it would be imprudent and unwise to join forces with a body that is not at all agreed on the basic dogmas of the Catholic and Apostolic Church. My prediction is that CCP will eventually fragment and split along theological and leadership lines, for we see the fractures already beginning to emerge. We would be in a very difficult position if we then had to turn round and decide to join one of the factions splintering from the original organisation. I firmly believe we should wait five years before making any formal or permanent commitments to a body which has so little inner order, proven by the recent proliferation of African-ordained bishops, or essential theological unanimity, demonstrated by lack of consensus on the nature of the priesthood.
I have adopted the position stated by Blessed Evelyn Underhill, an Anglo-Catholic who was faced with an increasingly modernised Church of England, that we must accept where we are as God's will and seek reform and transformation from within. Let us work for 'Catholic progress' in that Church or jurisdiction in which it has pleased God to place us. I am deeply grateful to Bishop Grundorf for the honesty and humility with which he has graciously dealt with the question of membership in the Common Cause Partnership: we are extremely blessed to have him as our Bishop, for he is a faithful shepherd, and he has, in my opinion, truly exercised the wisdom of Solomon on this matter! The APA, through its official committees, agrees with my personal long-held position and will only observe the formation of CCP for the time being. It remains to be seen if we could ever join it, and I believe that such a step would be exceedingly difficult for us to achieve, given the profound ecclesiological and sacramentological differences we have the majority of those neo-evangelicals who comprise it. But we shall see. Let us wait upon the Lord and trust in Him.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Thank you for your brilliant and extremely important question. Due to the amazing popularity of the Left Behind book and movie series, the doctrine of the Rapture, which is only one element in the entire theological system called dispensationalism has made profound inroads into virtually every Christian community in North America, including even Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism. The rapture is in fact a heresy, a direct and unmitigated denial of the eschatological teaching of the Creed of Nicea-Constantinople and the New Testament itself. The rapture is found nowhere in the text of the New Testament, but is contrived through proof-texting, the isolation and use of particular passages or pericopes of the Bible apart from their original context.
The Rapture is the doctrine that there is in salvation history a third secret coming of Our Lord in-between his First and Second Advents, in which he will mystically resurrect and remove the Elect, the true believers, from the earth in advance of a coming Anti-Christ and the final Judgement. The rapture doctrine is a contortion and perversion of I Thessalonians 4 and I Corinthians 15, which taken together clearly teach that there is only one final coming or advent of Our Lord at the end of time, the Day of Judgement on which the General Resurrection will take place. The Second and Final Advent is explicitly taught by Our Lord in Saint John 5 and 10. The rapture doctrine was invented in the nineteenth century by a Scottish evangelical mystic, a girl named McDonald, who claimed to see visions of a rapture for God's special believers before the General Resurrection. It first entered evangelicalism in America and Britain through two different sects, the Plymouth Brethren and the so-called 'Catholic Apostolic Church,' otherwise known as the Irvingites. The rapture doctrine was unknown to the Apostles, the Church Fathers, the Undivided Church, and the magisterial Reformers of the sixteenth century. It is an utter and complete theological novum first introduced into several small evangelical sects 150 years ago. From such humble beginnings it spread like wildfire in the twentieth century thanks to the likes of men like Hal Lindsey, Jack Van Impe, Oral Roberts, and John Hagee. The Scofield Reference Bible is a hallmark of this egregious and heretical system.
The rapturists' basis of belief for the removal of the Church, the true invisible Church, from the earth before the final judgement is the dispensationalist heresy that the Christian Church is God's 'plan B' for salvation; it is a body totally unrelated to and disconnected from ethnic Israel, the Israel of the flesh and of the Old Covenant, a body for Gentiles alone which must be removed, gotten out of the way, so that God's original plan of salvation can finally be accomplished as He originally intended - for the Jews. There are two separate Peoples of God with two completely different plans and means of salvation, Israel and the Church. You see, Christ failed in His original intent to create an earthly kingdom for the Jews, and wound up with the spiritualised Church instead. The rapture makes it possible for Him to correct the situation. According to dispensationalist teaching, Christ will return to set-up a literal earthly Jewish Kingdom for one thousand calendar years, based in a new third Jewish millennial temple in Jerusalem in which He will preside over the restoration of animal blood sacrifice and the recreation of the old Jewish priesthood. Not only does this heresy blatantly reject the whole teaching of Saint Paul in his epistles and that of the Epistle to the Hebrews, it also embraces an error condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople II (AD 553) called chiliasm, a belief in a literal one-thousand year earthly reign of Christ before the end of time. In biblical numerology, the millennial kingdom, the one-thousand years, refers to the Church Age, to the reign of Christ in His Mystical and Militant Body, the Catholic Church.
The premillennial pretribulationist dispensationalist heresy is so fraught with a multiplicity of false doctrines that I cannot even begin to scratch the surface of the problem in a letter. May I recommend two excellent books on the subject: Will Catholics Be Left Behind? by Carl Olson and The Rapture Trap by Paul Thigpen, both splendid Catholic books by great writers and commentators.
Sunday, January 06, 2008
By Father S. C. Hughson, O. H. C.
There are few afflictions that men so shrink from as that of blindness. The sense of sight conveys to the mind so many wonderful and beautiful impressions that we feel we should indeed be cut off from the best the world has to give, were our sight taken away.
It is a scientific truth that every object that is reflected upon the retina of the eye produces a definite effect upon the mind. This law is recognized in all departments of life. The pageantry of royalty, the gorgeous colours and glittering trappings of armies, the order and formal decorum of courts of justice, as well as the ritual of all religions, whether Christian or otherwise, are prepared in accordance with it. By these means the brain receives certain impressions through the sense of sight, and corresponding attitudes of mind are produced which govern our relation to the matters in question.
It was in recognition of this law that holy David prayed: "O turn away mine eyes lest they behold vanity" (Ps. 119. 37). Very likely he had never formulated for himself this scientific law, but he knew by experience that looking upon vanity would ultimately produce thoughts and acts of vanity, and he therefore prayed that the first step might be checked, that his eyes might be turned away lest they should convey to the brain such impressions as would work out into sin. David, however, knew that not only must he guard his eyes lest sin should find an entrance, but he also realized, what many pious Christians fail to understand, namely that this same sense of sight which Satan uses so constantly in order to compass our downfall, can be dedicated to the service of God, and be made a powerful factor in the upbuilding of His kingdom in our hearts. And so again in the same psalm he prays: "Open Thou mine eyes that I may see the wondrous things of Thy law" (Verse 18). It is this very truth which the psalmist understood so well that underlies the use of the Crucifix.
There has probably never been an age in the history of art when portraits were so common as they are today, and the method employed in their use is precisely that which is to be adopted with the Crucifix. See a mother sitting before the portrait of an absent son. With what joy does she contemplate every line and feature. The eyes, the contour of the face, the expression of the mouth, each speaks to her a different message, recalling the loving service he rendered her when present, and giving her a sweet assurance that, though far away, his heart is still hers. And if there should appear upon his brow some scar, bearing witness to one never-to-be-forgotten day, when he proved his love by flinging himself with splendid self-sacrifice between her and some deadly peril, is there one who would think it unnatural and artificial should tears of gratitude and love gather in her eyes, and flow down the old and furrowed face?
Substitute a humble soul for the mother, and an image of our Crucified Redeemer for the portrait, and you will know what the Crucifix is to the disciple of the Lord Who loved us and gave Himself for us. Rude as the handiwork may be, the blessed image tells the old, old story. There we see Him presented to our sight in the supremest act of love the world has ever known. We see there, all dimmed with blood, the eyes which never fail in their tender search for His lost and wandering sheep, the lips which spake as never man spake, bringing peace to the weary soul, and comfort to the broken-hearted; whose words still have, and will ever retain their ancient power to soothe and heal. We behold in this rude image all the marks of His most holy Passion, the evidences of that love whose mighty torrent, amidst unutterable woe, swept even death from its path and triumphed over the grave, that sinners, even the very outcasts of the earth, might find a straight way to the joys of His Kingdom. What though now "He hath no form or comeliness, no beauty that we should desire Him;" He was "fairer than the children of men, white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand," and it was for the great love He bore us that "His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men." Look where we will upon that Cross, upon the Form that hangs thereon, and we read the same lesson, the lesson of love,— patient, suffering, agonizing, dying, never shrinking from the cup which that same love had decreed should be drained to its bitterest dregs.
These are some of the considerations which are aroused in the hearts of the faithful as they look upon the Crucifix; these are the solemn and gracious lessons which God teaches us through the physical sense of sight by means of this outward, material sign. There is nothing fanciful or theoretical about it. For many hundreds of years saints and sinners have used the Crucifix in every part of the world where the Gospel of Christ has been preached, and the effect has ever been the same.
It has been said to be the very essence of immorality to make oneself an exception to a rule, and we cannot afford to constitute ourselves exceptions to a rule, the following of which has produced a uniform result in the lives of millions of our brethren. If the Crucifix arouses no response in us, let us indeed fear lest it be because the flame of God's love in our hearts is flickering well nigh to going out. Those in whose breasts this love has burned high, whose words and works and silent example have given greatest glory to God, bear unanimous witness to the power of the Crucifix, set ever before their eyes in prayer and meditation.
St. Bonaventure, whose burning love for God gained him the name of the "Seraphic Doctor," was once asked from what book he had drawn the beautiful lessons he had taught. Pointing to the image of the Crucified, he said, "This is the book whence I receive everything I write; it has taught me whatever little I know."
An old French labourer was wont, at the close of each day's work, to repair to the village church and, leaving his hat and spade outside the door, to kneel for many hours before the great Crucifix which hung above the altar.
"What do you say to our Lord when you kneel so long before Him," asked the priest one day. "I don't say anything at all," the old man replied, "I just look up there at Him, and He looks down here at me."
Saturday, January 05, 2008
TO JESUS IN THE BLESSED SACRAMENT.
O Jesus, hidden God, I cry to Thee,
O Jesus, hidden Light, I turn to Thee,
O Jesus, hidden Love, I run to Thee,
With all the strength I have, I worship Thee,
With all the love I have, I cling to Thee,
With all my soul, I long to be with Thee,
And fear no more to fail or fall from Thee.
O Jesus, deathless Love, who seekest me,
Thou who didst die for longing love of me,
Thou King, in all Thou beauty, come to me,
White-robed, blood-sprinkled Jesus, come to me,
And go, dear Lord, no more away from me.
O God, most beautiful, most priceless One,
O God, most glorious, uncreated One,
O God, eternal beatific One,
O God, O Infinite and hidden One,
O God, Immense, O God the living One,
Thou Wisdom of the everlasting One,
Thou ever-loved and ever-loving One.
Make me, O holy God, Thy treasured one,
Make me, O glorious Love, Thy precious one,
Make me, O highest Good, Thy longing one,
Make me, O blessed Light, Thy chosen one,
Make me for evermore Thy loving one.
Where in the height of Heaven is light like Thee?
Where in the breadth of Heaven is bliss like Thee?
Where in the depth of Heaven is peace like Thee?
Where in the Home of Love is love like Thee?
With all my heart I give myself to Thee,
And waiting, wait, O King and Spouse, for Thee
Till I am one for evermore with Thee.
O sweetest Jesus, bring me home to Thee,
Free me, O dearest God, from all but Thee,
And break all chains that keep me back from Thee;
Call me, O thrilling Love, I follow Thee,
Thou art my all, and I love nought but Thee.
O hidden God, Who now art loving me,
O wounded Love, Who once wert dead for me,
O sun-crowned Love, Who art alive for me,
O patient Love, Who weariest not of me,
Alone of all, Thou weariest not of me,
O bear with me, till I am lost in Thee,
O bear with me, till I am found in Thee.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
"Why should we have so many new ways of teaching and of conducting the Church's services, seeing we got along so well without them for nearly four hundred years? Why all these innovations?"
Well, my friend, your question suggests two other questions that might be asked in reply: First, Did we get along so well without them? I may take this question up in one of our Tracts some day, and in the meantime I will now refer you to any good historian, such, for example, as Wakeman, who tells us that while the Church was getting along without these things, "lethargy, like a malarious fog, crept up the body of the Church and laid its cold hand upon her heart." (History of the Church of England, Chapter "The Ascendancy of Latitudinarianism.")
The second question that is suggested is, Are these things innovations? Let us consider some of them, Prayers for the Dead, for instance. Are they something new in our Church?
Let us appeal to a book called a Manual of Christian Antiquities, written by the Rev. J. E. Riddle, a distinguished and learned clergyman, who has been described as "a very extreme Protestant." He will be a fair witness to summon. He says: "It is certain, however, that during the third and fourth centuries prayers were offered for the dead, with a belief that they might contribute to their benefit in various ways; that many Fathers of that date concur in speaking highly of the advantage of such prayers; and that this mistaken and mischievous practice, which, in some form or other, had crept into the Church, at a very early period, was conducted with the consent of those Christian teachers." Mr. Riddle, as you see, objects seriously to prayers for the dead, but acknowledges that this "innovation" has been a custom of the Christian Church for at least seventeen hundred years, and how much longer he confesses he does not know.
Suppose we take the Sign of the Cross next. Again I will take Mr. Riddle into court as my witness, just because he is such an unwilling one. "In this treatise," he says (speaking of a book by Tertullian, who died some seventeen hundred years ago), "We find the author appealing to oral tradition as a guide or rule in matters of form or ceremony. Mention is made of the Sign of the Cross as usual amongst Christians without any trace of superstition or abuse." Again, "The practice of marking the body with the Sign of the Cross at the Celebration of the Lord's Supper is unquestionably one of most remote antiquity in the Christian Church. It has generally been supposed to be of Apostolic origin." So then we go back nearly nineteen hundred years for that practice. It then is no "innovation."
Let us next take the Daily Celebration of Holy Communion. Is that an innovation? It looks very like it, when we think in how many places three or four times a year used to be thought enough. Once more I call Mr. Riddle into court. "Ecclesiastical history," says he, "exhibits evident traces of the observance of the Lord's Day very early in the second century, and of the celebration of the Lord's Supper regularly on that day. . . . But we must not suppose that the celebration of this Sacrament was absolutely restricted to the Lord's Day in the ancient Church. On the contrary, a daily celebration seems to have been recommended, and to a certain extent practiced. It is probably to this that allusion is made in Acts ii. 42, 46."
Next let us take the Elevation of the Host. Here is what Mr. Riddle says: "No high antiquity can be claimed for the elevation or adoration of the consecrated elements." Just what we say, you exclaim. Wait a little; listen to his very next sentence: "A practice of this kind seems to have existed in the Eastern Churches as early (perhaps) as the fourth century, originating probably in the system of secret discipline, and in the irregularities of the Markosites or other erroneous sects." I have not the least idea what Mr. Riddle means by this last clause, and I believe myself that Doctor Littledale has proved that the Elevation of the Host is Apostolic, and the antitype of the Jewish heave-offering. But I will not press that now. I will merely remark that on an opponent's showing, this "innovation" is fifteen hundred years old.
Incense is said by Mr. Riddle, and in Dean Hook's Church Dictionary, to have been introduced by Pope Gregory the Great, the same to whom the conversion of our English forefathers to Christianity is due. He died A. D. 604; so, if we take that view, incense has been in use amongst Christians for more than thirteen hundred years. As a fact, it is mentioned by St. Hippolytus, who died in A. D. 230; by St. Ephrem Syrus, who died in 374; by Basil the Great, who died in 379; and by St. Ambrose, who died in 397, as in use during and before their time. That sends us back, at any rate, nearly four hundred years earlier, and thus incense is near seventeen hundred years old as a Christian usage.
Vestments for the Priest at Holy Communion are not of such clear and positive antiquity as some other things I have named, but they are very far from being innovations. I call up my Protestant witness again, and I beg you to remember that he is a very strong Protestant, indeed. "We do not, indeed, find any allusion to such vestments in the New Testament, but it is remarkable that there are some records of some very early traditions respecting certain ornaments and vestments supposed to have belonged to some of the Apostles, and to have been worn by them in the celebration of divine offices. It can hardly be supposed that ministers of the different degrees or orders in the hierarchy which existed in the second and third centuries were not distinguished by different vestments in the discharge of their offices in the congregation. Ecclesiastical laws of the fourth century are extant which relate to the appropriation of vestments to the different orders." So far Mr. Riddle; and I may add that the authorities he quotes as to the early traditions about the Apostles are Eusebius and Epiphanius, both writers of the fourth century. Suppose them to have been wrong in their belief; at any rate they were competent witnesses to the use of the century just preceding, and thus the Eucharistic vestments have at least seventeen hundred years' prescription.
I might easily have made this list longer, but these examples are as good for my purpose as fifty; and I have shown you that the newest of these "innovations" is, at any rate, more than twelve centuries old, and the oldest more than eighteen hundred years of age. You might not like them, my friend, but do not again make the mistake of calling them "innovations." The real innovators were those so-called Reformers who denied these ancient doctrines and practices of Christ's Church.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
By Father James O. S. Huntington, O.H.C.
IS THERE a Tabernacle on the altar in your parish church? "No, I don't think so; but just what do you mean by a Tabernacle? I am not sure that I understand correctly."
A Tabernacle is a receptacle in which the Blessed Sacrament is kept. Usually it is a part of the structure of the altar, a sort of box in the middle of the reredos, carefully constructed and lined with silk, and with a door opening just above the surface of the altar. This door is kept locked, the key being in the custody of the parish priest. The Blessed Sacrament is placed in a gold or silver chalice called a "ciborium," on which fits a cover of the same material. There is a veil over this chalice. Another veil of lace hangs inside the opening of the Tabernacle. A red light suspended before the altar tells of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle. Once a week, ordinarily at a celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the priest receives the Sacrament kept in the Tabernacle, and places in the ciborium some of the newly consecrated wafers.
"Thank you. That answers many questions which have come to my mind from time to time. But now may I ask you, in all reverence, why has this custom of keeping the Sacrament after Communion been observed in the Church? When did it begin?"
Of that we have very definite information. The custom of keeping the Blessed Sacrament, after the service of the Holy Communion was over, in order to carry it to the sick and others who could not be present, must have been well established within a few years after the death of St. John. St. Justin Martyr flourished about the year of our Lord 140. Some years before his death he wrote, in the first account we have outside the Bible of the administration of the Holy Communion: "And to those who are absent they carry away a portion" [that is to say a portion of the consecrated Bread], and again: "And to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons." Not long after the time of St. Justin Martyr we have unquestioned evidence that in some places devout Christians were allowed to take the Blessed Sacrament to their own homes, and communicate themselves for several days, before they had taken any other food on that day.
"Then, as I understand, the first reason for keeping the Sacrament after the service was over was to give communion to the sick, or to those who were not present?"
Yes, that is quite true. Although the present custom of using for the Blessed Sacrament such a Tabernacle on the altar was not uncommon in Europe until the year 1000, and not in England until near the time of the Reformation.
"Ah, I am glad you speak of the Reformation, because I have always been taught that the Reformation put an end to the custom of Reservation. Is there not something in one of those Articles at the end of the Prayer-Book about it being wrong to reserve the Sacrament?"
Let me explain that. Here is a Prayer-Book, and this is just what is said, in Article XXVIII: "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up or worshipped."
"Yes, that's it. What can you say to that?"
I quite understand that it may seem as though the Church forbade those four things. But it has always been understood, by the most careful students of the history of the Articles, that they were drawn up for the purpose of furnishing some common standing-ground for two parties in the Church, which differed in many matters although agreed in her fundamental doctrines. So that we are not to make the language of the Articles mean the most that it might mean, but rather the least—the bare, literal statement. This in all fairness, for otherwise the very purpose of the Articles would be frustrated.
Now it is perfectly true that we have no word of our Lord which ordains or directs the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. But that is true also of a vast number of other things—the observance of Sunday, the communion of women, the blessing of the water for Baptism, making the sign of the cross, candles on the altar, and so forth.
To be sure, not all Church people have agreed about this, but now the matter has been put beyond dispute. At the General Convention at St. Louis the question of reserving the Blessed Sacrament for the sick was considered, as a practice in regard to which the Church was free to make any provision it pleased. Not a word was said about changing Article XXVIII; it was simply taken for granted that the Article did not forbid reservation but simply stated that it was a subject for ecclesiastical provision, and not one as to which our Lord had given direction.
"Yes, that seems very plain. But is the keeping of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar intended solely for convenience in carrying It to the sick?
No, indeed. As the Church has gone on through the centuries, new needs have arisen and new desires have been felt. This has been even more true in the western world than in the "changeless East." In our Lord is provision for the needs of every age and race. In Him are "hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Not one or many generations can exhaust the "riches of His grace." His kingdom is "like a householder which bringeth out of his treasure things new and old."
"You mean that we may find in Holy Communion more than the Christians of the early days found in It?"
Yes. It has been so in regard to Confirmation. For some fourteen hundred years it was simply the completion of Baptism. Infants were confirmed; they were anointed with oil blessed by the Bishop as soon as they were baptized. Four hundred years ago in the West—in the East the original use has never been changed—Confirmation was postponed till "years of discretion" and it became the occasion and opportunity for the child baptized in infancy to renew "the solemn promise and vow" made for him, thus by his own intelligent and deliberate act dedicating his life to God. This use of Confirmation is unquestionably not "the purpose for which it was instituted" though entirely congruous with it.
"For what other purpose is the Sacrament reserved besides that of giving Communion to the sick?"
That Christians may have the joy of coming into our Lord's Sacramental Presence, not only for the few minutes when He is present under the forms of Bread and Wine in the Service of Holy Communion, but at any hour, day or night.
"I had never thought of that."
But just consider for a moment. The occasions where there is sudden need for the Blessed Sacrament are, on the whole, rare. Of course in a general hospital a call to communicate a dying person is likely to come at any moment. And the City Mission of New York makes provision that the Blessed Sacrament be reserved by its chaplains in public hospitals on purpose to meet such calls. On the other hand there are churches in which the red light burns where only once or twice a year is there actual need of carrying the Blessed Sacrament to the dying. In a large conventual establishment which I visit, there is Reservation on three altars, sometimes four.
Do not forget that the craving of souls for the Presence of their Saviour in all the tenderness and sympathy of His Sacred Manhood is unceasing, and ever renewed in eagerness of desire. It hides in hearts that know it not until they are awakened to it by a sudden realization that: "He is here." Only today a man told me that in his youth he went into St. Ignatius' Church when it was down on Fortieth Street. A red light was burning before the altar. He had no sort of idea of what it meant. Yet a sense of warm and gracious welcome came to him, and he felt that he was not alone. Of course there are hundreds of thousands of people who have had a like experience. I remember myself how, when I had gone to Europe in ill-health, and was traveling alone in Germany, away from all relations and friends, scarcely able to understand or speak the language about me, the red light in the Tabernacle in one church after another brought a wonderful assurance that I was at home.
Now, why, I ask you, should such spiritual comfort and joy as this be denied to Christians in their sorrows and trials, the anxieties and alarms of this troublesome world? Why should not every parish altar have its Tabernacle, not alone for possible exigencies of the sick, but for the needs and aspirations of all?
Let me read you a passage from a sermon preached a few years ago. "It is a big Bavarian village church. I am in a corner, but the rest of the broad nave is empty. Why does the west door tremble and move in that odd fashion? Surely no draught can shake it in that manner, it is too heavy. Something is trying to get in. A dog? No, it is Wilhelm, age five. There is an awful moment when it appears that the big door is going to crush him, but he eludes it skilfully, and patters cheerfully up the nave in his tiny hobnailed shoes; Wilhelm of the bare legs and knees and short knickerbockers, the magnificent braces strapped over the white shirt, and the brave hat with the eagle's feather. He is all alone. He is five years old. But he is full of business. Up to the top he goes and is engulfed and lost to view in an immense pew. The church is big and empty; it is full of twilight shadows; great white figures of the saints look down from the altar piece. Amidst this awful silence Wilhelm prays. He is not in the least alarmed, for above him in the gloom of the chancel a friendly star is twinkling, and the star is saying in language which Wilhelm understands: 'Jesus is here.'"
Is there any reason why such a scene as that should not be found in our churches; why Christ upon His altar-throne should not draw men and women and little children to Himself?
"But if people learned to come to our Lord in the Tabernacle would they not feel that they had left Him behind when they went away?"
Exactly the opposite is the actual fact. It is those who are found most often before the Tabernacle who carry most constantly the consciousness of our Lord's Presence in their hearts.
"But is not this to localize the presence of God?"
Don't be frightened by a word. It is not we who "localize" God. He did so Himself when He became Man. Do you not say in the Creed He "came down from Heaven ?" Well, if, knowing what you do now, you had looked in the manger in Bethlehem on Christmas morning would you not have said: "There is God on the straw ?
"Yes, I hope I should."
And if you had seen our dear Lord on the Sea of Galilee would you not have said "There is God in the boat"?
"Yes, of course."
And you believe that He does give Himself to us beneath the veils of Bread and Wine?
"Yes, that is why I make my Communions."
Then is there any reason why you should not say "There is God in the Tabernacle"?
"I don't suppose there is, but it seems strange."
It is strange—stranger than anything we could imagine or dream. There is only one thing stranger; that is that God should love us at all. But if He does love us, with a love that has no limits, then it would be just like Him to give us the joy of knowing where we may find Him in this world in His very Human Nature—our King, our Friend, our Sacramental God.
"Do you think if I went and knelt before the Tabernacle in a church where they reserved the Blessed Sacrament I should feel that?"
Try it and see.
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