Sunday, March 30, 2008

Orthodox Renunciation of Errors

Another liturgical tradition from the Orthodox Church for one's contemplation, a section of THE OFFICE FOR THE RECEPTION OF CONVERTS: What is most remarkable and thought-provoking about the following interrogations for converts to the Orthodox Church is that no provision is made for the renunciation of errors perceived in the Anglican Church. There is no special section in which converts from Anglicanism are obliged to renounce formerly held doctrines or beliefs. The absence of such a requirement is most telling as concerns that actual state of affairs historically maintained between the Anglican and Orthodox Churches. Former Roman Catholics, Oriental Orthodox and classical protestants, in particular, Lutherans and Calvinists, are all required to disavow specific errors condemned by Orthodoxy and held to be professed by the religious traditions identified. Anglicanism is exempted from the list of those ecclesial bodies which are said to be in error. Again, how close indeed traditional Anglicanism is to Orthodoxy.

Bishop. Wilt thou renounce the errors and false doctrines of the Roman-Latin (or Armenian, or Lutheran, or Reformed) Confession?

And he shall reply: I will.

After the Prayer, the Bishop (or Priest) shall say to the convert:
Wherefore renounce now, with all thy heart, thine errors, and false doc­trines, and mistakes of judgment, and confess the Orthodox Catholic Faith.

And the Bishop questioneth the convert from the Roman-Latin Confession.

Dost thou renounce the false doctrine that, for the expression of the dogma touching the Procession of the Holy Spirit, the declara­tion of our Saviour Christ himself: "who proceedeth from the Father": doth not suffice; and that the addition, of man's inven­tion: "and from the Son": is required?

Answer. I do.

Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief that it doth not suffice to confess our Lord Jesus Christ as the head of the Universal Church; and that a man, to wit, the Bishop of Rome, can be the head of Christ's Body, that is to say, of the whole Church?

Answer. I do.

Bishop. Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief that the holy Apostles did not receive from our Lord equal spiritual power, but that the holy Apostle Peter was their Prince: And that the Bishop of Rome alone is his successor: And that the Bishops of Alexandria, Antioch and others are not, equally with the Bishop of Rome, successors of the Apostles?

Answer. I do.

Bishop. Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief of those who think that the Pope of Rome is superior to the Ecumenical Councils, and infallible in faith, notwithstanding the fact that several of the Popes have been heretics, and condemned as such by the Councils?

Answer. I do.

Bishop. Dost thou renounce all the other doctrines of the West­ern Confession, both old and new, which are contrary to the Word of God, and to the true tradition of the Church, and to the decrees of the Seven Ecumenical Councils?

Answer. I do.

The convert from the Armenian Confession is questioned as follows by the Bishop:

Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief that in our Lord Jesus Christ there are not two natures, Divine and human, but one only; the human nature being swallowed up by the Divine?

Answer. I do.

The Bishop questioneth the convert from the Lutheran Confession thus:

Dost thou renounce the false doctrine that, for the expression of the dogma touching the Procession of the Holy Ghost the declaration of our Saviour Christ himself: "who proceedeth from the Father": doth not suffice; and that the addition, of man's invention: "and from the Son": is required?

Answer. I do.

Bishop. Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief that in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist the bread is not transmuted into the Body of Christ, and doth not become the Body of Christ; and that the wine is not transmuted into the Blood of Christ, and doth not become the Blood of Christ; but that the presence of Christ's Body only for a short time doth touch the bread, which remaineth simple bread ?

Answer. I do.

Bishop. Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief of the teachers who do not accept as Sacraments Chrismation, Marriage, Anoint­ing with Oil, and the Priesthood itself, which administereth the other Sacraments, and presume to administer Baptism and the Euchar­ist, never having received, through the laying-on of hands by a Bishop, that Ordination which hath been transmitted from one to another, even from the holy Apostles?

Answer. I do.

Bishop. Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief of the teachers who receive not the traditions of the Holy Church, reverence not the Saints, and deprive the dead of spiritual aid and the living of spiritual consolation, in that they reject prayers for the dead?

Answer. I do.

The Bishop questioneth the convert from the Reformed Confession after this wise:

Dost thou renounce the false doctrine that, for the expression of the dogma touching the Procession of the Holy Spirit, the declara­tion of our Saviour Christ himself: "who proceedeth from the Father": doth not suffice; and that the addition, of man's invention: "and from the Son": is required?

Answer. I do.

Bishop. Dost thou renounce the false doctrine, that the predesti­nation of men to their salvation, or their rejection, is not in accord­ance with the Divine foreknowledge of the faith and good works of the former, or of the unbelief and evil deeds of the latter; but in accordance with some arbitrary destiny, by reason of which faith and virtue are robbed of their merit, and God is held accountable for the perdition of sinners?

Answer. I do.

Bishop. Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief that in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist the bread and wine are not trans­muted into the Body and Blood of Christ, and are merely emblems of the Body and Blood of Christ?

Answer. I do.

Bishop. Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief of the Reformed teachers, who reject five Sacraments: Chrismation, Confession, Mar­riage, Anointing with Oil, and the Priesthood itself, which admin­istereth the other Sacraments, and presume to administer Baptism and the Eucharist, never having received, through the laying-on of hands by a Bishop, that Ordination which hath been transmitted from one to another, even from the holy Apostles?

Answer. I do.

Bishop. Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief of the Reformed teachers who receive not the traditions of the Holy Church, rever­ence not the Saints, and deprive the dead of spiritual aid, and the living of consolation, in that they reject prayers for the dead?

Answer. I do.

And after these special questions, appointed for the converts from different Confes­sions, the Bishop shall proceed with the catechizing which is common to all, and shall ask:

Bishop. Hast thou renounced all ancient and modern heresies and false doctrines which are contrary to the teachings of the Holy Orthodox Catholic Eastern Church?

Answer. I have.

Orthodox Profession of Faith

Herein presented is an intriguing item of liturgical tradition from the canonical Eastern Orthodox Churches. It shows just how Orthodox (with a capital 'O') our constituency of continuing Anglican Catholics truly is. For a useful comparison please refer to the Affirmation of Saint Louis:


And again the Bishop saith:

Dost thou accept the Apostolical and Ecclesiastical Canons framed and established at the Seven Holy Universal and Provincial Councils, and the other traditions and ordi­nances of the Orthodox Church?

Answer. I do.

Bishop. Dost thou acknowledge that the Holy Scriptures must be accepted and interpreted in accord­ance with the belief which hath been handed down by the Holy Fathers, and which the Holy Ortho­dox Church, our Mother, hath al­ways held and still doth hold?

Answer. I do.

Bishop. Dost thou believe and confess that there are seven Sacra­ments of the New Testament, to wit: Baptism, Chrismation, the Eucharist, Confession, the Priest­hood, Marriage, and Anointing with Oil, instituted by the Lord Christ and his Church, to the end that, through their operation and reception, we may obtain blessings from on high?

Answer. I believe and confess it.

Bishop. Dost thou believe and confess that in the Divine Liturgy, under the mystical forms of the holy bread and wine, the faithful partake of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto the remission of sins, and unto life eternal?

Answer. I believe and confess it.

Bishop. Dost thou believe and confess that it is proper to rever­ence and invoke the Saints who reign on high with Christ, accord­ing to the interpretation of the Holy Orthodox Church; and that their prayers and intercessions be­fore God avail with the beneficent God unto our salvation: and that it is well-pleasing in the sight of God that we should do homage to their relics, glorified through incorruption, as precious memorials of their virtue?

Answer. I believe and confess it.

Bishop. Dost thou confess that the images of our Saviour Christ; and of the Ever-Virgin Mother of God, and of the other Saints are worthy of being possessed and honoured; not unto idolatry, but that, through contemplation there­of, we may be incited unto piety, and unto emulation of the deeds of the holy persons represented by these images?

Answer. I do.

Bishop. Dost thou confess that the prayers of the faithful which are offered up to God, and more especially when accompanied by the oblation of the unbloody sac­rifice, for the salvation of those who have departed this life in the faith, are favourably received, through the mercy of God?

Answer. I do.

Bishop. Dost thou believe and confess that power hath been given by our Saviour Christ unto the Orthodox Catholic Church to bind and to loose: and that whatsoever, by virtue of that power, is bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven?

Answer. I believe and confess it.

Bishop. Dost thou believe and confess that the Foundation, Head, and Great High Priest and Chief Shepherd of the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church is our Lord Jesus Christ; and that Bishops, Pastors and Teachers are appointed by him to rule the Church; and that the Guide and Pilot of this Church is the Holy Spirit?

Answer. I believe and confess that this Church is the Bride of Christ, and that therein is true salvation, which was in the Ark of Noah at the Flood.

Bishop. Dost thou promise true obedience, unto thy life's end, in guidance which is salutary unto the soul, to the Most Holy Synod; to the Most Holy Patriarch, the Equal-of-the-Apostles (or to the Ecclesias­tical Authorities of the Autocephalous Provincial Church); and to the Bishop of this Diocese, as the true Pastors appointed by the Holy Spirit; and to the Priests ordained by them?

Answer. I promise it, with heart unfeigned.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

CANA Purports to Ordain Women Deacons

In a radio interview given today and linked online, Bishop Martyn Minns of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America acknowledges that CANA has now proceeded to purport to ordain women to the Sacred Order of Deacons. A study group on priestesses has come to no formal decision and is still working through the question, we are told. From the tone and tenor of the comments made, it seems clear that Bishop Minns endorses the 'ordination' of women...

Reception of communion in non-Catholic bodies

Dear N.,

Thank you so very much for your brilliant questions: they are sensitive and delicate questions you raise and our answers to them must be guided by pastoral charity, a love for souls and a desire for the salvation of all men.

Ecclesial communities derived from the reformation and separated from Apostolic Churches have not preserved the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Holy Orders - they lack valid Apostolic Orders necessary for the valid celebration of the Eucharist. It is for this reason that, for Catholic Churches, such as the Anglican Church, Eucharistic intercommunion with these communities is not possible. However these ecclesial communities, when they commemorate the Lord's death and resurrection in the Holy Supper, profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and await his coming in glory. Catholic Churches do not recognise the offering of communion in protestant communities as valid; it is not the Body and Body of Christ under the form of bread and wine.

Celebrations of the sacraments in ecclesial bodies which do not possess Apostolic Succession lack the sacramental assurance and guarantee of the communication of grace in the sacraments for which the sacraments were instituted and given to the Church by the Lord. Surely the Holy Ghost can own, bless and use the ordinances and rites of non-Apostolic ecclesial communities as extraordinary means of grace, means of grace outside the Church's recognised sacramental order, but such rites are not endowed with that certitude of grace which the sacraments are intended to insure.

'Let only that Eucharist be regarded as legitimate, which is celebrated under the bishop or him to whom he has entrusted it' (Saint Ignatius of Antioch, To The Symrnaeans 8, AD 107). Only validly ordained bishops and priests in Apostolic Succession validly celebrate the Holy Eucharist and consecrate the bread and the wine so that they become the True Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only validly ordained bishops and priests have the power, authority and commission of Christ conveyed through sacramental ordination to act in the Name and Person of Christ in His Church (in persona Christi capitis) 'in the person of Christ Head of the Church' and thus validly to confect the sacraments according to Christ's institution. No genuine bishop, no genuine priest, no genuine priest, no genuine Eucharist. The essence of the Church and her sacramental life rest in that which guarantees the ongoing ministry and work of Christ in His Church, the Apostolic Succession. This is a hard saying for many, but it is true, and we must speak the truth and act upon the truth in love for our Christian brethren. The lack of valid Orders in protestant communities means we should not approach the sacraments in these ecclesial bodies.

Although receiving an invalid sacrament may not directly harm our souls and render us in a state of sin, such an act can nevertheless make a wrong statement about our faith and that of the community in which we worship, and it can bear witness to something that is not true, in this case, the purported validity of the sacramental act in question. We should always bear witness to the truth and act accordingly. This delicate situation affords us an opportunity to exercise Christian virtues and lovingly to profess of our faith by our actions.

Here is how I try to answer the question.Why can we not receive communion together with those in different ecclesial bodies?, we may ask. Even if we do agree with other Christians, say for example, Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox, on sacramental doctrine, why can we still not receive Holy Communion in those Churches? We should long for the day when all Christians can receive Holy Communion together. It should cause us deep sorrow that we cannot receive communion from non-Catholics, or the Blessed Sacrament even from other Catholic Churches at this time, but our discipline rests on important theological principles. When we come to the Eucharist, this is not simply an isolated act in which one individually approaches and receives Our Lord. We come to Holy Communion as members of the Church, members of a corporate society, a family of believers. We are never alone in our Communions, but are with all others who profess the same Faith and Tradition. Making our Communions expresses the totality of one's whole Christian faith and one's full life of church membership. Lack of intercommunion is a painful reality, but the effect of Christian division is very real indeed. Christians are divided and belong to separate bodies. We seek for unity with all Christians, but we have a long way to go. So long as we are separated, it is not realistic for Christians to celebrate or receive Holy Communion together. This is because the Eucharist expresses the total unity in faith and dogma of the Church and our solidarity as members of one family.

If our faith is different and we belong to separated bodies, it is therefore untruthful for us to engage in intercommunion. The reception of Holy Communion is not a means to an end, not a means to create unity, even as many well-intentioned Anglicans mistakenly believe. The Holy Eucharist is the expression of that unity we now possess in faith and doctrine, a gift of catholicity and apostolicity from God Himself. Until our God-given unity is fully expressed, we have to accept the truth that we should not practice intercommunion with those who not have the Faith and Tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. To practice intercommunion before its time would not be truthful nor realistic to facts of our separation.

'Communion' literally communio, union with, communion with the Catholic Church in her Apostolic doctrine, Apostolic fellowship, Apostolic sacramental practice, and Apostolic worship (Acts 2.42). The Eucharist is not an act of hospitality, nor is it a free-for-all, but rather, it is the supreme sign and manifestation of that unity of faith, doctrine, moral teaching, and ecclesiastical fellowship which already exists. The Eucharist does not create unity; rather, it reveals and demonstrates that unity which is already given to the Church by her Head and Lord.

Each Catholic Church possesses her own discipline of the Sacraments, and each member of each jurisdiction is bound to one's particular discipline. Only Christians in communion with the Bishop of Rome may receive the Eucharist in the Papal Churches. Only chrismated Orthodox may receive in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. In Anglican discipline, only those baptised into Christ, sealed with the gift of the Holy Ghost in Confirmation received from an Apostolic Bishop, and properly disposed, that is, in a state of grace, can properly and fruitfully receive Holy Communion in our jurisdiction. No Catholic Churches permit their own members to receive communion in protestant bodies. As children of the English Church, we are called by the Lord to obedience to our own discipline.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, King of Saints and Martyrs, bless you in this Holy Week!

Monday, March 17, 2008

An Astonishing Admission

On 14 March 2008, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh published a formal response to the efforts of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the Title IV Review Committee of TEC to depose him from the ministry of the said jurisdiction. In the letter, Bishop Duncan makes an astonishing admission...

3. I have preached and taught nothing but what faithful Anglicans and mainstream Christians have always preached and taught, with the exception only that I have supported and encouraged the ministry of women in Holy Orders.

Bishop Duncan seems to be stating very clearly that the support and encouragement of the ministry of women in Holy Orders is not what faithful Anglicans and mainstream Christians have always believed and taught!

In his striking admission he is absolutely correct. But his statement begs another question: if the support and encouragement of the 'ordination' of women is not what the Church has always preached and taught, then what is it?

Saint Vincent of Lerins provides the answer in his Commonitorium, chapter 2:

'I HAVE often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic Faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic Faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.
But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church's interpretation?

For this reason, - because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.

Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. That is truly and properly 'Catholic,' (magnopere curandum est ut id teneatur quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est) as is shown by the very force and meaning of the word, which comprehends everything almost universally. We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality, antiquity, and consent. We shall follow universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops and doctors alike.'

Bishop Duncan concurs with the judgement of history - the purported ordination of women fails the test of Saint Vincent of Lerins, Catholic Tradition, and thus fails the test of orthodoxy. His admission puts him in a very serious situation indeed.

Let us consider by comparison the inexhaustibly rich and helpful instruction offered to the whole Church, East and West, by two Bishops of Rome in the twentieth century. Every orthodox Catholic, Anglican, Latin and Eastern, should purpose to learn, process and synthesise in one's own understanding of the Faith these excellent words:

Inter Insigniores, Pope Paul VI, 15 October 1976

'1. The Catholic Church has never felt that priestly or episcopal ordination can be validly conferred on women. A few heretical sects in the first centuries, especially Gnostic ones, entrusted the exercise of the priestly ministry to women: this innovation was immediately noted and condemned by the Fathers, who considered it as unacceptable in the Church. It is true that in the writings of the Fathers one will find the undeniable influence of prejudices unfavourable to women, but nevertheless, it should be noted that these prejudices had hardly any influence on their pastoral activity, and still less on their spiritual direction. But over and above considerations inspired by the spirit of the times, one finds expressed—especially in the canonical documents of the Antiochian and Egyptian traditions—this essential reason, namely, that by calling only men to the priestly Order and ministry in its true sense, the Church intends to remain faithful to the type of ordained ministry willed by the Lord Jesus Christ and carefully maintained by the Apostles.

The same conviction animates mediaeval theology, even if the Scholastic doctors, in their desire to clarify by reason the data of faith, often present arguments on this point that modern thought would have difficulty in admitting or would even rightly reject. Since that period and up to our own time, it can be said that the question has not been raised again, for the practice has enjoyed peaceful and universal acceptance.

The Church's tradition in the matter has thus been so firm in the course of the centuries that the Magisterium has not felt the need to intervene in order to formulate a principle which was not attacked, or to defend a law which was not challenged. But each time that this tradition had the occasion to manifest itself, it witnessed to the Church's desire to conform to the model left to her by the Lord.

The same tradition has been faithfully safeguarded by the Churches of the East. Their unanimity on this point is all the more remarkable since in many other questions their discipline admits of a great diversity. At the present time these same Churches refuse to associate themselves with requests directed towards securing the accession of women to priestly ordination.

4. This practice of the Church therefore has a normative character: in the fact of conferring priestly ordination only on men, it is a question of an unbroken tradition throughout the history of the Church, universal in the East and in the West, and alert to repress abuses immediately. This norm, based on Christ's example, has been and is still observed because it is considered to conform to God's plan for his Church.

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II, 22 May 1994

1. Priestly ordination, which hands on the office entrusted by Christ to his Apostles of teaching, sanctifying and governing the faithful, has in the Catholic Church from the beginning always been reserved to men alone. This tradition has also been faithfully maintained by the Oriental Churches.

When the question of the ordination of women arose in the Anglican Communion, Pope Paul VI, out of fidelity to his office of safeguarding the Apostolic Tradition, and also with a view to removing a new obstacle placed in the way of Christian unity, reminded Anglicans of the position of the Catholic Church: "She holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God's plan for his Church."

4. Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church's judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (Saint Luke 22.32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.'

In fine, the Church simply does not have the authority to alter the substance of the Holy Sacraments as received from the institution of Our Lord and the Apostles - this truth is transmitted to us dogmatically through Holy Tradition. Let us pray that Bishop Duncan may one day embrace the fullness of the Faith on this vitally important matter.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Arianism and the Only-Begotten

1. Arianism. The heresy of Arianism asserts that the Son of God, the pre-existent Logos or Word of God, Who became incarnate in the flesh as Jesus Christ, is the holiest, greatest and chiefest of all created beings, but is Himself a creature, made, created, by God the Father before all other created things or beings. The Arian Christ is the beginning of the created order, created before all angels or the supernatural world, but is still a creature. The creed of Arian theology is indeed: 'there was when He was not,' a clear statement that Arians believe there was a point of existence before which the Son of God existed. Because of this doctrine, Arians hold that the term homoousios, 'of one substance' with the Father, is incorrect - they also fought against the dogmatic decree of the Council of Nicea because they correctly observed (but with wrong conclusions) that the term homoousios is not found in Holy Scripture. The Holy Catholic Church employed a non-biblical word in the Nicene Creed in order to make absolutely certain and clear, using the most precise language possible, that the Arian heresy was false doctrine. The soteriological implications of Arianism for the Church, for our doctrine of how man is saved, are explicit and profound. If Jesus Christ is not God, is not of one essence or substance with the Father, and is not a true divine Person sharing the divine life and communion of the Father by nature, then God Himself did not assume human nature in the Incarnation and thus man has not been redeemed or saved. The Fathers of the Church teach that 'only that which is assumed can be redeemed.' The Arian Christ is, therefore, incapable of bringing about atonement and the salvation of mankind, for He is not God Who assumes all that pertains to human nature, body, mind and soul, but is only a created being who partakes of divine nature by grace. The Arian Christ is, in fact, what the Church calls an orthodox Saint, a created being who becomes God by grace and adoption, and who becomes by grace what God is by nature. In Arianism, Our Lord is a creature made perfect by grace, united to God by grace, and made to share God's life, energy, power, characteristics and attributes by grace only. That definition of Christ actually applies to us, to redeemed human beings who are united to Christ and 'made partakers of the divine nature' (II St Peter 1.4). So Arianism is the heresy that denies that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Godhead and 'One of the Holy Trinity.' It is a direct assault on the revealed dogma of the Trinitarian nature and communion of God, Three Persons (hypostases) in One Essence (ousia), one and undivided. Each of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity is distinguished from the others by the eternal relationship (relatio) of the One to the other Two, but They are never separated from each other and all Three are perfectly and totally God. The Three Persons of the Trinity are distinguished by Their relationships to the Father: the Father is unbegotten, the Son is eternally begotten of the Father alone and the Holy Ghost eternally proceeds from the Father alone, and is sent through the Son and rests in the Son. Arianism refuses to allow the Lord Jesus His proper identity and mission, in that it denies that the Word of God, the Logos, Who became Man in the Incarnation is, in truth, the Most High God. The Arian heretics believe in the incarnation of a pre-existent Logos who was merely a creature embraced by the Father as His Son in grace and power - but Who is not held to be God in His very nature or being.

2. Monogennes. This leads to the next point, which is that the New Testament describes Our Lord as monogennes in Greek, 'only-begotten.' This term designates the mysterious and eternal relationship of the Son to the Father within the communion of the Trinity. It does not mean that Our Lord was created by the Father, but rather, that the Son has for all eternity come out from the Father and derives His eternal existence, His generation, from the Father, the sole Origin, Source, Beginning, and Fountain of the Trinitarian life. The words of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed purposely utilise the language of the New Testament regarding the Person of Our Lord and declare that the Lord Jesus Christ is 'one Lord, the only-begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by Whom all things were made...' All of this language, with the exception of the term homoousios, is either explicit or implicit in the theological expressions of the New Testament. A tour of the New Testament reveals immediately that Our Lord's Deity and His communion with His Father are expressed directly by Jesus Himself, Who uses the term 'only-begotten' of Himself. The inspired writers of the New Testament follow His lead...

Saint John 1.14,18: And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

Saint John 3.16,18: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

I St John 4.9: In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

1 St John 5.1: Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

The term genneo, 'begotten,' is also used in the New Testament, in the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Acts of the Apostles, as they apply Psalm 2 to the relationship of the Father to the Son...

Hebrews 1.5: For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?

Hebrews 5.5: So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.

Acts 13.33: God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

In short, the whole potential confusion lies with the definition, the meaning, of the term 'begotten.' The Arians indeed wanted to say that the term monogennes meant 'created' or 'made' - in manifest opposition to the mystical meaning of the word used in the New Testament. The Arians prove overwhelmingly the falsehood of the doctrine of sola Scriptura, the 'Bible alone.' They were really the first protestants, proto-protestants if you will, for they claimed they were only being faithful to the literal words and text of Scripture when they denied the Lord's Divinity. But they employed a twisted and perverse interpretation of the text and imposed their own false interpretation on the language of the Bible. They commited eisegesis, reading into the Bible doctrines they wanted to see there, rather than engaging in exegesis, which the reading out of Scripture what the text actually says and means. Holy Tradition must always interpret Scripture, for it fulfils and clarifies Scripture. The Arians show us the danger of an extra-ecclesiastical or non-Traditional hermeneutic of the Bible. The Constantinopolitan Creed forever and finally clarifies the meaning of the term monogennes: 'Begotten, not made.'

Begotten does not mean 'made' but means 'eternally coming out from the Father', eternal derivation from the Father's nature or essence. From all eternity the Son derives His eternal existence, being, glory and majesty from the Father. He is eternally born of the Father, co-equal, co-eternal. Hence, the Church formulated her precise and careful terminology concerning the Trinity to elucidate and explain the mystery as far as human language and concepts will allow. Begotten means 'from God forever,' eternal generation from the Father, not a created status.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Self-Examination and Confession

One should always endeavour, when one prepares to make a Sacramental Confession, to recollect carefully before coming to that Sacrament and to examine one's conscience very carefully so as not to exclude from a Confession any grave or serious sin. When we then come to Confession, we should freely confess all those sins of which we are aware, being careful not to exclude purposely or deliberately any sins of which we are conscious. If we approach the Sacrament of Penance with the intention of not confessing sins of which we are certainly aware, we then thwart the very purpose for which we go to Confession, and we thus only magnify the guilt of our sins by our refusal to place them at the Foot of the Cross and receive the Lord's abundant mercy and love. So we should always make a good self-examination and we should always confess those sins which trouble or burden our consciences. But if we have in previous Confessions made a good self-examination and have duly confessed those particular sins of which we are aware, we should be confident and fully assured that those sins are completely forgiven and have no need to be confessed again, unless in future we commit them again. A mortal sin is a sin in which we break a Commandment knowingly, fully aware that we are violating God's will, and in which we exercise full freedom, knowledge and consent when committing the said sin. If we do commit mortal sin, we should always confess it, as many times as needed in as many Confessions as we may require in order to overcome it.

The Sacrament provides a preventative and strengthening grace to avoid and resist future temptations and sins, and so we should have recourse to it every time we are conscious, especially, of a mortal sin, so that we may learn to avoid such sins in the 'school of sanctity' which is Confession. If we commit a serious sin after making a good Confession, we should then return to Penance at the appropriate time and confess the sin once more... and keep doing so as often as needed until the sin is overcome by grace and our cooperation with the power of God's wonderful provision.

But my earlier point is that, simply, if we have confessed a previous sin and it has been absolved, it is forgiven and lost in the ocean of God's forgetful mercy. We may certainly revisit such past sins and discuss them with the priest in the internal forum of the Sacrament of Penance if it is helpful and edifying to the penitent, but it is not necessary to 're-confess' past sins which have already been forgiven by sacramental Absolution. There is no need to dwell on past sins which have been absolved unless they continue to be an impediment to one's spiritual life and a spiritual advancement towards holiness. This area is where scrupulosity can become a particular danger: if we dwell too much on past sins which have been forgiven and absolved, we may fall into the trap of being unable truly to forgive ourselves or to accept God's forgiveness, which is always insured by sacramental grace. The best advice I can offer is to confess one's sins, release them to God, allow Him to heal and purify oneself by His grace, and then progress to the next Confession. Habitual and besetting sins can be a very serious problem in the spiritual life and a great hindrance in our spiritual progression, so it is important to continue to confess them afresh in the Sacrament, although it is not necessary to dwell too intensely on past sins lest they paralyse us or hold us in bondage. Once forgiven, we can move on to the next Confession and re-examine the root causes of the besetting sin anew with the perspective of what is happening in our lives as we proceed from Confession to Confession. The Lord calls us to look forward to how we shall use His grace to become holier and better from one Confession to the next, and not to preoccupy ourselves with our past transgressions of His love. While we heartily desire to deal with each and every sin as seriously as we can, we do not want to become stagnant or moribund in the spiritual life - the evil one can use the remembrance of past sins to hold us captive and enslave us to past memories, which can in turn hinder or stop altogether our progression towards God. It is said of Father Martin Luther, whose theology left much to be desired, that in satanic assault the devil reminded him of his past; Father Luther responded by reminding the devil of his future! We should do the same, and not allow past failures to hold us back from embracing the victorious love of Our Lord offers us in the present.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Mixed Chalice

The water in the cruet at Mass is, as in the blessing of water in any liturgical service, blessed to signify the grace that God bestows through the chiefest of the Sacraments, Holy Baptism, but it is blessed in the context of the Mass specifically to signify the union of the human and divine natures in the One Person of God the Son: because the Mass mystically exhibits the wondrous mystery of the Lord's entire life, including His Incarnation, and because the wine and water actually become the Incarnate Lord under the form of bread and wine in the Blessed Sacrament, the priest blesses the water, cleansing and purifying it and making it ready for its union with the Blood of Christ. The best answer to the brilliant question you pose is found in the prayer the priest recites over the water as he blesses it: 'O God, who in great wonder and honour didst create human nature and in greater wonder and honour didst renew the same, grant by the mystery of this water and wine, we make partake of the Godhead of Him Who deigned to share our humanity, even thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.' In the Holy Eucharist we receive the total Person of Our Lord, God and Man, Body and Blood, under every particle of the Blessed Sacrament, and thus we signify in the blessing and commingling of the water and wine the Hypostatic Union, the perfect union of the divine nature of the Son of God with the human nature He assumed from the Blessed Virgin by the Holy Ghost. Fascinatingly, those ancient churches called Oriental Orthodox or Monophysite, which reject the doctrine of two natures in Our Lord, do not bless water and mix it with the wine in the preparation of the gifts at the celebration of the Mass. This is because they do not adhere to the dogmatic definition of the Council of Chalcedon, which upholds the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union. In Anglicanism, the 'mixed chalice' as it is commonly called was condemned by protestant opponents during the Oxford Movement of the nineteenth century, for Anglo-Catholics restored this ancient practice of the undivided Church during the time of the Catholic Revival. The mixed chalice is one of the 'Six Points' of proper Eucharistic liturgical restoration and practice insisted upon by the English Church Union during the hottest controversial period of the Tractarian renewal. The other five are: incense, lighted candles, unleavened bread, Mass vestments and the Eastward position of the Altar - all six emphasise that the Mass is a true propitiatory Sacrifice in which the one Oblation of Christ once-offered is objectively made-present and pleaded to the Father in the consecrated Elements of the Eucharist.

And so there are profound Christological and sacramentological reasons for mixing the chalice of wine with blessed water at the offering of the Mass, more than perhaps most average Churchmen realise. The mixed chalice affirms the Real Sacrificial Presence of the God-Man in the Blessed Sacrament and establishes the truth of the Incarnation.

Confession and Scrupulosity

1. The grace of the Sacrament entails the forgiveness of all sins, known and unknown, voluntary and involuntary, sins of omission and commission, so that as long as you approach Our Lord with a penitent heart, with faith, love and repentance and a desire to be forgiven of all of your sins and to amend your life according to God's grace and power, determined not to sin again, you receive the absolute and comprehensive forgiveness of all sins. The Sacrament is given to us and the grace of Absolution cleanses us from all sin even if we approach the Sacrament with imperfect contrition, for man's contrition, no matter how perfectly sought or formed, can never match the severity of sin or the unconditional love and mercy of God. The Sacrament exists for the very reason that we cannot on own power and merit approach unto God: we come to the Mystery of Penance as sinners, spiritually weak and diseased, in need of God's wholesome remedy and healing power granted to us freely by the Sacrament. So we should never despair because of the horror or ignominy of our sinfulness, for God is more willing to forgive than we are to repent and amend. Because we can never come to Confession with absolutely perfect contrition, being sinners inundated with concupiscence, the inclination and attraction to evil, God supplies His grace in the Sacrament of Penance to strengthen our weakness, to heal our infirmity, to cleanse our guilty stain and taint, and to perfect that which is lacking or insufficient in our souls. Confession is sola gratia, grace alone, and the Sacrament is thus God's free gift of forgiveness through the Precious Blood of Christ; we can do nothing to earn or deserve the plenary Absolution, the liberation form sin and evil, that God wills to give us in this Mystery of His love. God's love is more powerful than our sin, and He manifests the power of that love in the Sacrament.

Please remember that the Sacrament is personal, it restores a personal relationship and communion between God and the penitent sinner, it is not judicial or juridical in that sense that God only matches us or corrects us according to the level of our own repentance or contrition for sin. If we come to the Sacrament with a true penitent heart and a lively faith, earnestly desiring forgiveness for all of our sins, remembered or forgotten, mortal or venial, we are forgiven, full stop. If our past confessions were somehow flawed or if we feel that we did not manifest enough genuine contrition, then subsequent confessions in and of themselves cover that concern, for the very desire, the very remembrance of such perceived failings, is the matter of the Sacrament to be forgiven, and is forgiven through repentance. It is our hearts that Our Lord sees in the penitence we offer, and if we offer our sorrow for sins, past or present, well-remembered or obscure, God's mercy and reconciling love forgives all. The Absolution in the Sacrament of Penance depends upon the power and promise of Christ to forgive sinners, not on the perfection of our own confession, for no sin-laden mortal can perfectly confess. We are only asked to confess to the best of our weak ability, for it God Who moves us to penitence in the first place. Grace prevenient and actual, going before us and leading us to Confession, grace giving us the consciousness of our sins, grace moving us to repentance and faith, grace empowering us to make a good confession, that is what we need, and precisely what God provides. We must ultimately abandon our sins, not only in the sense of not holding on to them in order to commit them again, but we must abandon them to God and allow Him to forgive us, for He has, and will yet forgive our sins and free us from the power of sin in our lives. Jesus is the beginning, the middle and the end of Penance. In the Sacrament of Penance Christ Himself, the Absolver, the Priest, the Intercessor, compensates for our weakness and our failings and our flawed and imperfect contrition and presents us to the Father in Himself, free from sins and given a new life, His Life. All we can bring of our own merit or substance to Confession is our sins - Christ's righteousness and holiness is His gift to us in Penance, Christ becomes our vindication, our sanctification, our justification, our righteousness, our absolution. Jesus Christ saves us by His freely-given and totally unmerited grace in the Sacraments, and so it is with Penance. Let us trust utterly in Him and not fear to relinquish ourselves into His hands. We must indeed 'let go and let God.' Christ will make up for where we lack in the Sacrament of Confession, as He always prevails for us in the whole sacramental life. Commend your sins to the Cross and rest in the Lord Jesus, Who died to make it possible for you to be liberated from these fears.

2. The Absolution itself, the sacramental gift, is not conditional in that once the sacramental grace is imparted by the priest in the Name and Person of Christ, the gift is given and is objective in its efficacy and effect. It is conditional in the sense that the person who receives the gift objectively must then subjectively cooperate with the grace, and use it to his salvation. We are saved by grace apart from works of the law, but then, being given this grace, we must 'work out our salvation with fear and trembling' for we are 'God's workmanship, made for good works' by grace. If restitution should be made for a serious sin, then it is the obligation of the penitent to see to it, as a matter of charity and justice, that the wrong, if it can be rectified, should be in an appropriate and Christian manner. It is not a matter of God withholding His forgiveness, it is a matter of the Christian soul truly responding to and cooperating with the grace has been so freely given. We are made holy and brought to communion with God by synergy, for God will not impel or force us to receive His grace or live lives pleasing to Him: He will, however, equip us with His grace to do what is right and to obey the commandments. 'If you love me, keep my commandments.' It is not a matter of saving ourselves, but of fulfilling and actualising the new life of God in us by allowing Our Lord to reproduce His life in us. God will not withhold His Absolution from an authentically penitent heart; the grace given sacramentally in Penance will enable and empower the penitent then to exercise the life for which the grace is given. The Sacrament is not conditional; once it is given, it is given as divine grace objectively communicated to the recipient. But how we use that grace and the extent to which we cooperate with it is up to us, aided as we are by divine grace all the while. Reconciliation and restitution lie with us as the fruit of that forgiveness which we have been given by God.

3. Finally, scrupulosity should be guarded against because it can itself become a sin or lead us into sin - it can evolve into the sin of despair, that is, the belief that God does not love us and cannot forgive our sins because we are so evil or so far beyond the pale that God could not possibly care for us or forgive us as other men. Despair is the unwillingness to allow God to forgive us because we place a barrier of disbelief and unreceptivity before God's merciful countenance. The sin of despair is really a form of spiritual narcissism, a self-absorption and self-obsession that sees one's own sins as more important or powerful than God. In turn, the sin of despair easily leads to the sin of presumption, a libertinism, which believes that, because God cannot and will not forgive our sins, we might as well sin and sin boldly, a self-permission to commit sins with the underlying assumption that one is already beyond the reach of God's forgiveness and mercy: that is a most serious state indeed. Mild scruples may sometimes, if only rarely, be helpful in the keeping us in check and motivating us to true repentance and amendment of life, but there must be a deliberate balance in the Christian life and an unhealthy preoccupation with one's sinfulness or evil can assuredly be destructive to a happy and peaceful conscience; it can cripple the soul, making it impossible freely to live the Christian life with that vital virtue and characteristic, joy! Scruples are not the same thing as a genuine contrition for sins because of our love for God, for scruples tend to dwell not on God but on self, and direct the soul to be anxious and to worry about itself and about a perfection achieved apart from God's grace. We are called to be penitent, not scrupulous. Scrupulosity tends to devolve into selfishness, a dysfunctional egotism focussed on self and one's own needs and imperfections rather than on God and His attributes, virtues and graces. The Catholic life is a wholesome life, a life of spiritual joy and peace, which are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. If scruples so disturb the conscience and paralyse the soul that they stifle the spiritual growth of the individual, they are clearly harmful and should be, again, abandoned to the mercy and providence of God.

Many heresies have arisen because of scrupulosity, most especially Calvinism, Jansenism, and every form of puritanism, which robs us of the joy and happiness of life, eschews the goodness of human life and creation, and smothers the true Christian spirit of wholeness and personal integration brought about by the Incarnation. There is an essential difference in the life of a Catholic between a healthy and graced illumination of conscience by the Holy Ghost regarding sin and a properly-formed conscience sensitive to moral evil on one hand and scrupulous self-loathing or self-deprecation on the other. We are called truly to repent of our sins by mourning for them and lamenting their wickedness in contrition, but we are equally called to have hearts overflowing with joy, rejoicing in the overwhelming love of God Who forgives us all our iniquities and is 'faithful and just to forgive us all our sins.' Contrition, after all, is about love, love for God and our detestation of that which comes between us and God's love as a result. Repentance should flow from love, and Absolution should be gratefully received by love. 'Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.' That is Our Lord's message to us about our struggle, our war against the world, the flesh and the devil. Let us rest confidently in the promise and victory of Christ. If you have a doubt about a thought, word or action, whether or not it is a sin, it is best simply to confess it and ask a priest about it in Confession. At that point, it should be released and not allowed to preoccupy or worry again.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Women's Ordination Neither Divisive Nor 'Theological' Says Anglican Essentials Canada

'Correction of misinformation about women’s ordination

29 February 2008

Some recent media stories have implied that women’s ordination is somehow an issue in the current crisis in the Canadian Anglican church. It is not. While the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone currently does not practice women’s ordination, the North American churches which have sought and received refuge under the Primate of the Southern Cone are completely free to practice their consciences on this matter. Of the eight clerics currently licenced by Anglican Network in Canada moderator Bishop Donald Harvey under the jurisdiction of the Province of the Southern Cone, three are women, including the Rev Desiree Stedman (Ottawa) who holds the prestigious role of assistant to Bishop Harvey. The real issue is theological (! emphasis added): the profound differences on key Christian teachings and the irreconcilable views of the Bible. Even to say the issue is sexuality is a gross simplification. Sexual ethics is merely the tip of the iceberg, a reflection of much deeper theological constructs. Parishes that have chosen to take such a difficult and serious decision – to seek the protection and care of a bishop outside the Anglican Church of Canada – do so because the parishioners deeply value their Anglican heritage and want to stay true to global and historic Anglican teaching and orthodoxy. They want to faithfully preserve what has been entrusted to them by their Anglican forbearers, so they can pass it on, intact and unaltered, to future generations. These parishioners, while perhaps in the minority in Canada, stand firmly in the mainstream of global and historic Anglican teaching and orthodoxy. Their beliefs are shared by roughly two-thirds of the 77 million Anglicans worldwide. So, it could be said that rather than leaving, they are actually staying – staying true to the fundamental and historic tenets of Anglican Christianity and staying in full communion with the global Anglican Church. They have acted only after exhausting all possible alternative avenues.'

Editor's note: -Ugh.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Thoughts on Rome

...I am fascinated and encouraged by the irenicism and openness to Anglo-Catholics demonstrated by the Orlando RC Diocese. That a Roman priest would bend the knee to the Blessed Sacrament in an Anglican parish church or attend Benediction given with an Anglican monstrance manifests the actual position so many Romans sincerely hold regarding us. Church of England friends of mine have reported through the years that they have freely concelebrated Mass and received Holy Communion with Roman priests, even with the knowledge and consent of the local bishops. Many European and Latin American RCs, who are not English-speaking, have always been incredibly accepting and welcoming of Anglicans, and clearly do believe in the validity of Anglican Orders. Only Anglophonic RCs from the former British Empire seem still to harbour the angrier resentments and condemnations of the past. Father Tavard, the famous Assumptionist RC priest in England, writes in his excellent books on the subject that lay Roman Catholics intuitively know that Anglicans are Apostolic and possess Holy Orders and the Blessed Sacrament: he attributes the phenomenon to the consensus fidelium of the Church, the common sense of the People of God. The TAC-Rome dialogue will be most intriguing to follow and it will be interesting to see what the Vatican does. Cardinal Kasper does not want a traditional Anglican presence in communion with Rome, but the Pope seems very sympathetic to the idea. We shall see indeed...

May 2024 Comprovincial Newsletter

The Comprovincial Newsletter for May 2024 -