Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Address of His Beatitude Jonah, Saint Tikhon's Successor, to Orthodox Anglicans

Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA on the Roman Church

From his address to the Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America:

We share the hope of full ecumenical relationship and reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church. However, I believe that we are of one mind, the Anglicans and the Orthodox, in that we reject the papal ecclesiology and the theological distortions of papal infallibility, and some of the hypertrophy regarding Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos, the Ever-Virgin Mary. We love the Most Pure Mother of God, but I think we have to remember what is right and decent and in order. And it's only by, only by the repeal of such doctrines that there is going to be any possibility of reconciliation of the Roman Church with the Orthodox Church... some don't like that.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Anglican Church as seen by the Orthodox Church

By Archbishop Methodios Fouyas, 1972

As we try to see the Anglican Church with Orthodox eyes we must remember that clear-cut definitions are ruled out in advance where Anglicanism is concerned. Judged by the principles of the Orthodox Church, the Church of England had the right to proclaim itself self-governing and autonomous, provided that there were certain canonical principles, which in fact there were. The old Church of England went on without any breach in either its legal or its spiritual continuity.

It continued to profess the Catholic faith, which was once for all delivered to the Saints.

It preserved without any break the Apostolic Succession of its Ministry, 1 although 'many Anglicans maintain Apostolic succession primarily as a symbol and Bond of Unity.'2

Some Anglican theologians have considered Episcopacy to be not only of the bene esse of the Church, but part of its esse, as Canon Richardson says. 3 Consequently Orthodox theologians, influenced by the writings of Anglicans like Gore 4 and A. M. Ramsey, 5 have accepted that the Church of England means by Apostolic succession 'that grace is bestowed by our Lord, through the action of His whole Church. But certain actions in this work of grace are confined to Bishops, whereby the truth is taught that every local group or Church depends on the one life of the one Body.'6 We find a similar opinion to that of Archbishop Ramsey in G. W. Broomfield's book Revelation and Reunion, in which he writes: 'there seems to me to have been a general principle implicit in Apostolic practice, and underlying the evolution of Church order. This was that appointments to the official ministry are the business of those who themselves have received authority to make such appointments.'7

As Archbishop Ramsey has written recently:

Our Church has two aspects: On the one hand we claim to be a Church possessing Catholic Tradition and continuity from the ancient Church, and our Catholic Tradition and continuity includes the belief in the real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; the order of Episcopacy and the Priesthood, including the Power of a priestly absolution. We possess various institutions belonging to Catholic Christendom like monastic orders for men and women. Our Anglican Tradition has another aspect as well. We are a Church which has been through the Reformation, and values many experiences derived from the Reformation, for instance, the Open Bible: great importance is attached to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, and to personal conviction and conversion through the work of the Holy Spirit.8

What we have said about the Orthodox attitude towards Rome applies to some extent also to the Orthodox attitude towards Anglicanism. The Orthodox belief that their Church is the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church on earth, gives the impression that Orthodox theology is even more exclusive than Roman Catholic. But the Orthodox Church has shown some recognition of the sacraments of other churches. For instance, her practice of receiving converts from Rome or Anglicanism by Chrismation without Re-baptism (though this has not always been the case in the past) 'is a clear indication that the sacramental limits of the Church do not coincide with its ceremonial boundaries'.9

Orthodox theologians are divided as regards the character of the Anglican Church. Some see it from the exaggerated point of view which divides it into three parties, commonly known as High Church, Low Church, Broad Church. It is this idea that leads many, not only Orthodox, but Roman Catholics also, to think that the Church of England is a sort of confederation of three separated Churches, each with its own liturgy, its own doctrinal formularies and its own separate hierarchy. This is completely mistaken.

Dr. Ramsey says that

though there is High Church and Low Church, it is all the time One Church with a single life, and all the members of the Church of England share together in the Creeds, Holy Scriptures, the Sacraments, the rule of the Bishops and the Liturgy; so do not think of High Church and Low Church as utterly separate factions but as two aspects of the life of a Church which is all the time one.10

Some Orthodox theologians judge the Church of England from the Thirty-Nine Articles alone, which prevents them from having a true appreciation of this Church from an Orthodox point of view. 11

The Articles bear little relation to the present life of the Church, but are polemical principles long ago established. The Articles do not represent the whole Faith of this Church.

In these matters the Orthodox attitude towards the Anglican Church sometimes tends to be ill-informed. 12 When the Anglican Church and its tradition is more fully understood by the Orthodox, I am sure it will be recognized that Anglicanism represents a genuine spirit of Orthodoxy so developed as to be understood by modern thought.

Anglicanism is not a Protestant Church, but a reformed Catholic Church, which maintains its unity with the tradition of the ancient undivided Church.

Professor Comnenos, in his book on Anglican orders, wrote that 'very many of the lay and clerical members of the Anglican Church are inclined to be Orthodox in mind and would gladly enter into union with Orthodoxy, or otherwise fully communicate with it, if the non-recognition of their Priesthood did not stand before them as an insurmountable obstacle.'13 A leading Orthodox personality, Germanos, Archbishop of Thyateira, speaking at the Gloucester Diocesan Conference on I June 1923, said that 'the Orthodox Church has always considered the venerable Anglican Church as a branch, in many particulars, in continuous succession with the Ancient Church'.14

By a branch, Archbishop Germanos meant not one of the parts of Catholicism, according to the Branch Theory, but a Church especially representing the Catholic Church in England. Similarly Professor Bulgakov writes that 'Anglicanism in its tendency towards the restoration of the Ancient Church, as a reaction to Protestantism, is already becoming more and more Orthodox, and this process is naturally a way to its reunion with historic Orthodoxy.'15


1 Garbett, op. cit., p. 15, 17, 55
2 The Second World Conference on Faith and Order (1938), p. 246. Such was the opinion of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, cf. H. D'Espine, 'The Apostolic Succession as an Ecumenical issue. A Protestant View', E.R. iv (1952), pp. 154-155, and of William Temple, cf. F. A. Iremonger, William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, His Life and Letters (1948), p. 586.
3 C. C. Richardson, The Sacrament of Reunion (194.0). See G. K. A. Bell, Christian Unity: The Anglican Position. Okus Petri Lectures at Upsala University, October, 1946 (London, 1948), pp. 23-31. Appendix: Extracts from Anglican Writers on Episcopacy.
4 The Ministry of the Christian Church, pp. 65-109.
5 The Gospel and the Catholic Church, pp. 81-6, 216.
6 Cf. also Daniel Jenkins, in The Nature of Catholicity (1942), p. 54. Jenkins endorses Ramsey's opinion, although he thinks that such a claim comes with a shock of surprise to many modern Protestants.
7 G. W. Broomfield, Revelation and Reunion (1942), p. 185.
8 Catholic Herald, 17 Sept. 1965; cf. Gore, The Anglo-Catholic Movement, p. 7.
9 N. Zernov, H.E.M., p. 673. 10 Catholic Herald, loc. cit.
11 Such was the attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church during the Russo-Anglican discussions in Moscow, July 1956; cf. H. M. Waddams, Anglo-Russian Theological Conference, pp. 64-65. Cf. also Conferinta Romana Orthodoxa-Anglicana tinuta la Bucuresti y-Sjunie 1935 si Calatoria I.P.S. Patriarchului D. D. Dr Miron in Anglia 28junie-7 julie 1936. Bucharest, 1938.
12 e.g. Trembelas, The History of the Reformation in the Anglican Church, p. 124.
13 P. Comnenos, 'Anglican Ordinations', C.E. ii (1921), p. 113.
14 C.E. v (1924), p. 128.
15 S. Bulgakov, 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic', C.E. xii (1931), pp. 95-6. I do not ignore the Letter of Khomyakov to W. Palmer, where the Russian Orthodox thinker defines Anglicanism: 'It is a narrow ledge of dubious terra firma, beaten by the waves of Romanism and Protestantism, and crumbling on both sides into the mighty waters': quoted in W. J. Birkbeck, Russia and the English Church, pp. 102-3. But this extreme idea on Anglicanism has never found acceptance amongst Orthodox theologians.

Orthodoxy and the XXXIX Articles

By Archbishop Methodios Fouyas, 1972

In the Church of England, as has often been said, there are no comprehensive confessional statements comparable to the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas or to the De Fide Orthodoxa of John Damascene. There are two books which occupy a central place in the piety and scholarship of Anglicanism and these are: the Holy Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.1 It is the Book of Common Prayer as a whole that the Anglican Church considers as its confession, even more than the Thirty-Nine Articles which appear in it.2

Since many non-Anglican writers insist that the Thirty-Nine Articles constitute the authoritative text for the teaching of the Church of England,3 we must examine this question in detail, remembering that without a thorough knowledge of an organism like the Church of England, it is easy to come to mistaken conclusions. Certainly there is strong desire amongst many Anglicans that the Thirty-Nine Articles should be removed from the Prayer Book and we frequently encounter Anglican clergy who deny them any authority. But for a systematic and authoritative explanation of the actual character of the Thirty-Nine Articles let us first see what Bishop Gore had to say in a brief description of them.

The articles bear with them almost throughout the savour of a bygone situation. Many of them are deeply repugnant to the spirit that one may call modern or critical or liberal, even if the 'prima facie' force of their language can be legitimately weakened. The whole discussion of Justification and Predestination is antiquated and quite unenlightening, and the anti-Roman articles are so ambiguously expressed that it does not appear clearly what is being condemned. I do not think that the present terms in which the clergy subscribe to the Articles, the Prayer Book and the Ordinal, as containing, all taken together, the doctrine of the Church of England, which at the same time is scriptural doctrine, ought to present any real difficulty to us. But I find myself in agreement with a large number of those who have most to do with the interests of religion in the universities and the theological Colleges that the Articles of Religion ought to be relegated to the position of historical documents. Nor at present, at least, would it appear to be desirable to have any document other than the Nicene Creed substituted for them as the standard of doctrine to be accepted by the clergy. Of course in addition they must be able conscientiously to use the services and teach the catechism which means that they are in harmony with the doctrines implied or taught.4

In the writings of the great Anglican theologians it is clear that the Thirty-Nine Articles are always called 'Articles of Religion' and never 'Articles of Faith'. Archbishop Laud of Canterbury said that 'The Church of England never declared that every one of her Articles are fundamental to the Faith.'5 Archbishop Ussher of Armagh said: 'We do not suffer any man to reject the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England at his pleasure, yet neither do we look upon them as essentials of saving Faith or legacies of Christ and his Apostles.'6 Similarly Bishop Pearson of Chester 7 said that:

The Book of Articles is not, nor is pretended to be, a complete body of Divinity, or a comprehensive explication of Christian doctrines necessary to be taught; but an enumeration of some truths, which upon and since the Reformation have been denied by some persons; who upon their denial are thought unfit to have any cure of souls in this Church or realm, because they might by their opinions either infect their flock with error, or else disturb the Church with Schism, or the realm with Sedition.

The Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Bishops in 1888 passed a resolution, which throws some light on the position of the Articles among the Churches of the Anglican Communion. The resolution is as follows:

As regards newly-constituted Churches, especially in non-Christian lands, it should be a condition of the recognition of them as in complete intercommunion with us, and especially of their receiving from us Episcopal Succession, that we should first receive from them satisfactory evidence that they hold substantially the same doctrine as our own, and that their clergy subscribe Articles in accordance with the express statements of our own standards of doctrine and worship; but that they should not necessarily be bound to accept in their entirety the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.8

It is evident that the Thirty-Nine Articles, taken as a whole, are intended to be Articles of peace and concord. In the discussions between Orthodox and Anglicans during the 1920 Lambeth Conference, the latter said that 'the Thirty-Nine Articles are not Articles of Faith, but Articles of a practical public State's confession, as is shown by their vague character ... If you wish to learn the mind of the Church of England, study the Prayer-book and not the Thirty-nine Articles'.9

In the discussions with the Orthodox representatives at Lambeth Palace in 1930, the Anglicans stated that if there were any ambiguity in the Thirty-Nine Articles they were 'in all cases to be interpreted by what the Prayer Book itself said'.10 'We have here an application', writes Visser't Hooft, 11 of the characteristic Catholic principle Lex orandi, lex credendi, which leads in practice to an increasing emphasis on the more Catholic liturgy as over against the more Protestant statement of Anglican doctrine'.

However, during the Moscow Conference between Anglicans and Russian Orthodox, the impression which Dr. A. M. Ramsey, then Archbishop of York, received was this: 'Whereas in the discussions between Anglicans and other Orthodox Churches in the 1920's and 1930's there was on the Anglican side a tendency to soft-pedal the Thirty-Nine Articles, and to suggest that they did not greatly matter since they were concerned with "local" controversies and were less important than the Anglican appeal to antiquity, no trace of this unrealism is seen in the Moscow Conference. Here, the Orthodox were encouraged to deal with the Church of England as it is. On the subject of the Thirty-Nine Articles the Russians were outspoken and trenchant. Yet, even so, the Articles stood up to their onslaught with rather more success than might seem likely . . ,'.12 After this necessarily brief interpolation we can deal with the Anglican Church, without it being thought that we have overlooked a document of such historical importance in Anglicanism.

In 1967 the Archbishops of Canterbury and York set up a permanent Commission on Christian Doctrine, whose first task was to re-examine the place of the Thirty-Nine Articles in Anglican tradition. The Commission was appointed by the Archbishops and consists of seventeen members representing different schools of thought in the Anglican Church. It reported in 1968 on the subject of the Articles (Subscription and Assent to the Thirty-Nine Articles, S.P.C.K., 1968), and has gone on to consider other subjects referred to it by the Archbishops. Its report on the Articles aroused little or no controversy and may be taken to express the mind of the Church of England on the subject.


1 Cf., for example, G. Ellison, The Anglican Communion. Past and Future. (The Seabury Press, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1960) pp. 17-18.
2 J. F. Lescrauwaet, 'The Reformed Churches', C. vi (1965), p. 73-
3 P. Trembelas, The History of the Reformation in the Anglican Church (Thes-saloniki, 1956) pp. 57-67 (original in Greek).
4 Gore, op. cit., p. 59. The Thirty-Nine Articles, says Bishop G. Ellison, do not pretend to be a complete statement of the Faith (op. cit., p. 17). Cf. also Gore, Orders and Unity, p. 201, n. I.
5 A Relation of the Conference between William Laud, late Archbishop of Canterbury, and Mr. Fisher the Jesuit, by the Command of King James, vol. ii (Oxford, 1839) p. 42.
6 See The Works of George Bull, Bishop of St. David's, ed. Edward Burton, vol. ii (Oxford, 1827), pp. 211-12.
7 The Minor Works of John Pearson, ed. by Edward Churton, vol. ii (Oxford, 1844), p. 215.
8 Puller, op. cit., pp. 48-9. Cf. Davidson, The Five Lambeth Conferences, p. 174.
9 C.E. iii (1922) p. 12.
10 Doctrinal Report, p. 61.
11 op. cit., p. 40.
12 The Moscow Conference in Retrospect from an address by the Archbishop of York. S., Series 3, No. 23 (Summer 1958), p. 562.

Standards of Anglican Orthodoxy

According to Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America, what are the standards to which the Anglo-Orthodox (a new word I plan to use more frequently in future) must accede?

We must accept:

1. Full affirmation of the orthodox Faith of the Apostles and Church Fathers.

2. The Seven Ecumenical Councils.

3. The Nicene Creed in its original form (without the filioque clause).

4. All Seven Sacraments.

5. A rejection of 'the heresies of the Reformation.'

We must reject:

1. Calvinism.

2. Anti-sacramentalism.

3. Iconoclasm.

4. Gnosticism.

5. The ordination of women to the Presbyterate and their consecration as Bishops.

Continuing Churches that embrace the Affirmation of Saint Louis 1977 are almost entirely in the position outlined by His Beatitude already.

Items to be accepted:

1. Affirmation on the Holy Scriptures, The Creeds and Tradition (1.2).

2. Affirmation on Tradition (1.2).

3. Affirmation on The Creeds (1.2) combined with acceptance of the 1875 Bonn Declaration on the filioque which affirms the teaching of Saint John of Damascus on the Procession of the Holy Ghost, should fulfil this requirement. Removal of the filioque from the authorised liturgical formulae of the Anglican Church would likely still be necessary.

4. Affirmation on the Sacraments (1.2).

5. Affirmation's Solemn Declaration on the Continuation of Anglicanism, its Preface for the Fundamental Principles, its article on the Nature of the Church (1.1), and the articles on Incompetence of Church Bodies to Alter Truth and of Unity with Other Believers (1.2).

Items to be rejected:

1., 2., and 4. are rejected by the Principles of Doctrine section of the Affirmation and Principle of Action 5 on Non-Involvement with Non-Apostolic Groups. Item 4., Gnosticism, would also be condemned by the Principles of Morality section and especially the articles on the Sanctity of Human Life, Family Life, and Man and God's Grace.

3. Directly condemned by the articles on Tradition and the Incompetence of Church Bodies to Alter Truth (1.2).

5. Explicitly condemned by the article on Holy Orders (1.2).

Looks to me like the only outstanding point of contention is the filioque clause.

What does the Metropolitan mean by Calvinism? Probably this... from the Service of Reception of Converts:

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.

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.

If we reject the foregoing errors, we have rejected what is commonly referred to as 'Calvinism'.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Orthodox Church in America Initiates Dialogue with the Anglican Church in North America

An excellent review of the momentous and singularly ground-breaking address given today by Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA to the Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America.

More personal observations and comments will soon follow... suffice it to say in brief that the marvellously generous appeal of the Orthodox Church in America will only find its most willing, open and cooperative reception in those who already embrace essential dogmatic unity with the Orthodox Faith, to wit, the orthodox Anglo-Catholic movement within ACNA, with which we Continuing Anglicans share the Faith. Neo-evangelicals, and in particular Calvinists, will, to one degree or another, likely not be eagerly receptive to the dogmatic necessities and non-negotiables of the Orthodox Tradition. Bishop Duncan subtly indicated in his Wednesday night sermon that ACNA participants may already be divided along theological lines by the invitation.

A latitudinarian ecclesial body is ill-prepared to receive the invitation corporately to enter the fulness of the Catholic Faith. Only an Anglican Church that has, as a jurisdictional whole, entirely recovered its own native inherent catholic identity can profess the Faith sought by the Orthodox. We should remember that the Orthodox are not looking to absorb Catholic Anglicans; rather they are searching for the mutual recognition and sacramental communion of equally Orthodox Churches. Only a fully catholic and orthodox Anglican Church, a thoroughly 'Seven Council' Anglican Church faithful to its own unbroken Anglican Tradition, could meet the criteria of mutual recognition and communion, and thus be acknowledged as Orthodox. This conciliarity was the heart and goal of the ecumenical conversation that began with Saint Tikhon and Blessed Charles Grafton a century ago. Anglicanism is being called, not to become something else, but to restore its own historic Anglicanism. Ad fontes. Ressourcement. Back to the sources.

It is good to see a formal and public acknowledgment that half of the Orthodox Communion recognised the validity of Anglican Orders in the twentieth century.

Also, very importantly, the extent to which the new ACNA accepts and expresses the Orthodox Faith in its fulness is exactly the extent to which the Continuing Churches will be able to enter into full communion with ACNA, for the Continuing Churches are already themselves fundamentally patristic, conciliar and catholic in theology and doctrine, in a word, Orthodox. We are truly, as Saint Tikhon proclaimed and hoped, a 'fellow Orthodox Church' - the 'Orthodox Church of the West.'

More on the specific points of His Beatitude's address shortly... Could this yet be another case of an Apostolic Church talking to a mismatched group? Only time will tell.

If Anglicans foreswear Calvinism, female priests, and the filioque clause, the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) would be ready to begin a dialogue leading to the possible recognition of Anglican orders and full Eucharistic fellowship.

In a June 24 address, His Beatitude Jonah, the Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada of the OCA, said the Orthodox and the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) shared a common apostolic heritage and shared morality. He also announced that his church had switched ecumenical ties, abandoning all relations and dialogue with The Episcopal Church in favor of the ACNA.

“We can come together as the bastion and bulwark of an authentically orthodox church,” the archbishop said. “We can come together to bear witness to the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as handed over by the fathers.”

Metropolitan Jonah told the ACNA assembly the OCA’s synod of bishops was “enthusiastic about the opportunities” dialogue would bring. His offer of a dialogue on full communion was made only on behalf of the OCA, he said. He added that he was traveling from Fort Worth to New York for a meeting of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), the umbrella group of all Orthodox churches in the Americas. The SCOBA bishops were “anxious to hear of my report on this meeting,” he said

The Presiding Bishop’s Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, the Rt. Rev. C. Christopher Epting, told The Living Church he was not aware of the OCA’s plans, but said the announcement was not unexpected.

“We’ve not had formal ecumenical relations with the OCA since I joined the Presiding Bishop’s Office” in 2001, he said. Bishop Epting said he had sought to foster dialogue with the Orthodox churches in America based on the Anglican-Orthodox agreed statement, The Triune Faith. However, the Orthodox had not responded.

The archbishop, 49, told the assembly that he had been raised as an Episcopalian at St James by the Sea Church, La Jolla, Calif., but as a college student came to Orthodoxy through a study of the Tractarians in search of the true church.

“The goal of my life is to live and actualize, to participate in as fully as I can, the full integrity of the Catholic Church, the full integrity of the Orthodox Church,” he said.

There have been relations between Anglicans and the Russian Orthodox Church since the Elizabethan settlement, he noted, and said 100 years ago that “that relationship became extremely strong” in the United States under the leadership of Metropolitan Tikhon.

“St. Tikhon had a vision of unity … that vision of unity resulted in the time of the proclamation by about half of the Orthodox churches of the validation of the Anglican orders,” he said. However, “it fell apart on the Anglican side with the affirmation of a protestant identity more than a catholic identity. This shattered the unity. We need to pick up where they left off.”

To complete the work of St. Tikhon, who hoped The Episcopal Church could be “declared a fellow Orthodox church,” he proposed a dialogue whose goal was a “unity in faith” where it “can be celebrated together in the sacrament of the Eucharist.” To get there, “there are some issues we have to resolve,” he said.

“One hundred years ago, St. Tikhon came to the Anglican Church with arms wide open. I am the successor of St Tikhon. I occupy the place, the throne, that St. Tikhon held as the leader of the OCA. Our arms are wide open,” he said to a standing ovation from the delegates.

In response to the Metropolitan’s address, the dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary, the Very Rev. Chad Hatfield, said that “in times of crisis Anglicanism by nature always turn east.” It is a “time for a huge opportunity, let’s not miss it.”

Reactions from the ACNA delegates broke along party lines. One Fort Worth delegate said there was hardly anything the OCA had proposed that Anglo-Catholics could not accept. However, an AMiA delegate was less sanguine, saying rejecting Calvinism was tantamount to rejecting Anglicanism.

Turning back on women’s orders was also problematic for many of the evangelical delegates, and is a point of contention within the new province.

(The Rev.) George Conger

Incongruent ACNA Reports

First this...

His Beatitude Jonah, the Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) announced recently that his church has ended its ecumenical relations with The Episcopal Church, and will establish instead formal ecumenical relations with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)...

“We engage in dialogue with Episcopalian traditionalists, many of whom embrace the Orthodox faith,” Jonah told a Moscow-based weblog. “And I personally, and our entire synod, give great attention to bringing these people into the fold of the Orthodox Church in America.”

And then this...

It was Archbishop-elect Duncan, the bishop of Pittsburgh, who pushed them to make a place for ordained women, said the Rev. Karen Stevenson, rector of Trinity parish, Washington, and the only female priest on the influential Provincial Council of the new body. "He said that this was not up for negotiation for us in Pittsburgh, that this was a deal breaker," she said.

Of four dioceses that broke from the Episcopal Church and joined the new church, only Pittsburgh ordains women. The Canadians ordain women, as does the Diocese of the Holy Spirit, made up of U.S. parishes that had been under the oversight of the Anglican Church of Uganda. But they are a minority.

"It's a sadness and a sacrifice but it's not the end of the story," the Rev. Hays said. She noted that it is also a sacrifice for some opponents of women's ordination to sit on a provincial committee of which she is chairman.

Another Anglican Communion Diocese Abandons Catholic Order

From VirtueOnline...

Ghana Broadcasting Corporation
June 22, 2009

The Archbishop of the Province of West Africa and Accra Diocese of the Anglican Church Most Rev. Dr. Justice Offei Akrofi has declared that the Diocese of Accra has finally agreed to the ordination of women as Priests of the Church. He said the issue which has been on board for almost 10 years is a breakthrough for the Accra Diocese. He made this known at the closing ceremony of the 20th Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Accra.

Most Rev. Dr. Akrofi said since the Diocese has accepted to train women as Priests, they will work on the modalities to ordain them as active members of the priesthood.

Blogger's note: This news is particularly distressing to faithful Anglo-Catholics who remember from the history of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham the venerable figure of the sometime Bishop of Accra, the Right Reverend Mowbray Stephen O'Rorke, who celebrated the Mass of the translation of the Holy Image to the Holy House and Shrine of Our Lady on 15 October 1931. In Bishop O'Rorke's time and beyond, the Diocese of Accra was a bastion of orthodox Anglo-Catholic teaching and practice. Another great loss for Anglicanism.

Monday, June 22, 2009

21 June Institution - Even More Photos

21 June Institution - More Photos

21 June Institution

Our 30th Parish Anniversary

For our 30th Parish Anniversary, which was celebrated with grandeur and glory yesterday...

Sunday 21st June will be a truly remarkable milestone in the life, witness and history of Saint Barnabas Anglican Church – on that blessed day we shall officially commemorate thirty years of our life together as the parish family of Saint Barnabas.

Personally, I feel that it is the most serendipitous and providential act of the Divine Love that I should have been called to become Rector of our parish just in time to celebrate thirty years of Saint Barnabas Church with you. In the mystery of God’s holy plan, He has brought us together in this moment to enable us to reflect together on the wonderful accomplishment that is our thirty-year anniversary and on our future destiny in Christ.

Our first 30 years should evoke a prayerful consideration of who we are and what is our supreme vocation: called to proclaim the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are the Royal Priestly Prophetic People of God, destined in Him for the hope of glory. We are a kingdom of priests unto our God and Father in Christ our Head through the Eternal Spirit. Our goal is to reveal to our own generation, through our personal holiness, charity, service, obedience, worship, example and faith, that which had been hidden in ages past but has been manifested now in these last days, the mystery of the Word made Flesh today given to men in Word and Sacrament. In us, His Church, the Word is again made flesh and dwells amongst men.

Our future is bright and clear and we know our purpose – we are on a mission from God!

Our mission? To bring those around us into that saving communion with God through which we shall all arrive in the Kingdom. We want others to join us as we are sanctified and brought to salvation. We are one family and one body on pilgrimage to the heavenly country, our true and only lasting home. Here we are but strangers and pilgrims for our citizenship is from above – we have here no continuing city, but we look for one whose maker and builder is God. As we recall the past and consider what is yet to be, we should be conscious of our ultimate Love Who lies before and behind everything we are and do – Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.

Consider these words regarding our Anglican and Catholic Faith as we prepare to celebrate our past and set our hearts and minds on the future:

'This is none other but the House of God, and this is the Gate of Heaven!' Ours is a traditional Anglican parish of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We profess the orthodox Christian Faith as revealed to the Apostles, recorded in Holy Scripture, enshrined in the three great Creeds and the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the ancient undivided Church, and received through the Church of England. Traditional Anglicanism is the Orthodox Church of the West - we faithfully maintain the Catholic and Apostolic Faith as expressed in the Anglican Tradition and the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer. We believe in the fulness of the Christian Gospel and we celebrate the Seven Holy Sacraments of the historic Church.

Our worship is centred on the Holy Eucharist. We believe in the Real Objective Presence of Our Lord’s most precious Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament. We are Evangelical Catholics, seeking to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ to every creature by the preaching of the Word of God. In all things, we desire to glorify the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Saint Barnabas is a growing, dynamic, healthy, and vibrant, missional, family-centred Anglican parish, the largest traditional Anglican parish in the metropolitan Atlanta area. Our lives are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ, by grace through faith in Him.

The Holy Eucharist for the Institution of the Fourth Rector of Saint Barnabas Church and in celebration of our Thirtieth Anniversary will be offered at 10am on Sunday 21st June. On that day, we shall commemorate the Feast of Saint Barnabas, our beloved patron saint. Remembering the past, and all of its struggles, setbacks, victories and successes, we now look to the future and to our mission to make Jesus Christ known, loved and adored by all. Like the Apostle Saint Barnabas, we have been made by God’s grace the ‘children of encouragement,’ privileged to draw all men to their Redeemer and Saviour by that apostolic commission which is our mandate, our task and our inexpressible joy for years to come. We are indeed the Apostles of the twenty-first century, empowered boldly to announce the saving truth of the King of Glory. Let us render most hearty thanks unto God for His inestimable blessings and let us renew our determination to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. Let us renew our vocation for the next thirty years… and begin anew. Please come and join us.

God bless you!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Year for Priests

Today begins The Year for Priests in the Roman Communion.

Let us pray for all Priests of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, Anglican, Eastern and Latin, for all aspirants, postulants and seminarians, and for an increase of holy vocations to the Sacred Priesthood.

Let us also pray for the work of the Board of Examining Chaplains and Vocations Directory ministry of the Diocese of the Eastern United States, and for the work of the Additional Curates Society and God Calling Vocations UK.

Almighty God, give us priests:
to establish the honour of thy holy name;
to offer the holy sacrifice of the altar;
to give us Jesus in the holy sacrament;
to proclaim the faith of Jesus;
to baptise and to teach the young;
to tend thy sheep;
to seek the lost;
to give pardon to the penitent sinner
to bless our homes;
to pray for the afflicted;
to comfort mourners;
to strengthen us in our last hour;
to commend our souls;

Almighty God, give us priests!

Our Lady, Mother of priests and Queen of the clergy, pray for us!

Saint John Vianney, pray for us!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Developing in Our Faith

The theme for the 41st annual Synod of the Diocese of the Eastern United States, held this July in Gainesville, Georgia, is ‘Developing in Our Faith,’ an appropriate description of what the entire Christian and Catholic life should be. What a timely topic for us at this moment! We are called to live a supernatural life, a totally different kind of life, a heavenly life on earth nurtured and fed by grace, nourished and sustained by the Word of God found in Holy Scripture and the Blessed Sacrament. Christians are a People set apart, consecrated to the worship and service of God. They will know we are Christians by our love… and by the holiness that permeates our lives through real formation and growth in the things of the Spirit.

How frequently do we make our Holy Communions? How often do we prepare for our Holy Communions with thorough self-examination and prayer? How often do we pause immediately after our Communions to make a heartfelt thanksgiving for what we have received? How often do we say our personal prayers, and the Prayer of the Church in the Daily Offices? How often do we attend the celebration of the Holy Eucharist? How regularly do we study and meditate upon the Holy Scriptures? How often do we attend Bible Study and receive Christian instruction? How earnestly do we seek out spiritual direction and counsel and find forgiveness and intensification of grace in the Sacrament of Penance? In what ways do we search out those in need, so that we may joyfully perform corporal and spiritual works of mercy? How free are we with our time, talent and financial resources in the ministry of the Church? As we ask ourselves these questions, we can begin to take stock of our spiritual lives, our true lives, and begin to grow. The state of the soul is the genuine measurement of a human being – and God is calling us a state of communion and love with Him.

In an age marred by cynicism, doubt, materialism and secularism, we are called to be formed into the Image and Likeness of Jesus Christ, so that we may show Him to the world - by who we are and what we are becoming. We are called to be salt and light to a generation that has in many areas of its corporate existence abandoned God. There has never been a more important or exhilarating time in which to live, and in which to live as a committed orthodox Christians. We have been appointed and ordained for this very hour in human history – it is not by chance, but by Providence, that we live now in this time. The transformation and conversion of the culture and society around us will only take place to the degree that we ourselves are transformed and converted. As the Lord Jesus reigns in our hearts and lives and truly becomes King and Lord to us, so will he come to reign in the minds and consciences of others and reign as King of society.

The age of Christendom, of a cultural and nominal Christianity, is rapidly coming to an end, and men and women will soon have to choose whom they will serve. The time is likely coming when faithful Christians will bear witness to the Faith in personal sacrifice; the nominal or cultural Christian will easily lapse into apostasy because of the threat of persecution. What kind of Christians will the future find us to be? Our Blessed Lord is calling us in love to fidelity, to obedience to the Gospel. Only mature and well-formed Christians will withstand the prince of this world.

With this sense of holy urgency, we know the key to our calling, our mission to manifest the love of Jesus Christ and to proclaim the Gospel, is personal and life-changing formation.

Please pray for the deliberations of our Diocesan Synod and for the work and mission of our beloved parish. Let us endeavour to ‘Develop in Our Faith.’ Come and grow with us!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On the Latin Cultus of the Sacred Heart

Being a Tractarian, ressourcement, patristically-minded, first millennial, conciliarist, philorthodox kind of Anglo-Catholic, I have always inclined toward the Eastern teaching on doxological matters, and this includes an appreciation for the Eastern Orthodox view on the counter-reformation devotion to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord. Anglo-Papalists included this feast in the Anglican and English Missals, but the Sacred Heart tradition is relatively modern and certainly post-Tridentine, originating as it does in the seventeenth and eighteenth century 'southern catholicism' of the mediterranean countries. As such, it is not part of the devotional tradition of the ancient and patristic catholicism of the undivided Church, and hence does not play a part in my own understanding of orthodox theology or in my own devotional experience.

In this respect the Sacred Heart devotion is different from, say, the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a perfectly Western devotion, which I love and to which I am greatly devoted, and which is also part of the Orthodox tradition and that of the Great Church before 1054 - it was prayed continually by the eighteenth-century Russian Saint Seraphim of Sarov and is called 'the Rule of Prayer of the Mother of God' in the Eastern Churches. The Rosary of Our Blessed Lady is still very much part of the devotional lives of Christians Eastern Rite and Western Rite alike and has been used by both in one form or another since the eighth century. The Anglican devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham is likewise shared by East and West, as is, of course, the universal veneration of Holy Mary as the Spotless Ever-Virgin Mother of God. One of the strongest bonds between East and West is our common veneration of our common Mother.

Another example of common doxological practice shared by the Eastern and Western Rites, although expressed in different ways, is that of the adoration of Our Lord Jesus Christ in His true Body and Blood under the sacred species of the Eucharist. Although the East has no Corpus Christi devotion and no tradition of extraliturgical devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, it shares with the Western Rite the practice of adoring Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament within the context of the Liturgy. All orthodox Catholic Christians, East and West, believe in the Real Substantial Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ and adore Our Lord objectively present in the Sacrament of the Altar. This tradition is Apostolic and is found in all of the most ancient Liturgies of the Church.

The Orthodox tradition speaks very clearly to the Sacred Heart devotion and maintains that it is not Christologically sound. With this judgement I am inclined to agree. The position of the Eastern Churches is quite compelling.

The following explanation is provided by a monk of the Eastern Church:

It would be difficult to accuse Roman Catholicism of denying the divinity of Christ, rather they have split the wholeness of Christ, emphasizing His human nature as a separate devotion, sometimes in a crudely biological way. This violates a central principle of the Councils, that devotion should be given to the devotion of Christ, and not to one of His natures, or parts of His body. Thus, by fragmenting the wholeness of the Son of God, a tendency develops to Nestorianize. Parts of the body of Christ should not become parts of isolated objects of adoration, nor should they be pictorially depicted (i.e., a heart on fire, or a heart crowned with thorns surrounding it).

A hieromonk of the Russian Church expresses a similar view:

The form taken by the newly forged devotion to Jesus' humanity as popularised by the Jesuits also strayed outside the bounds of Orthodox doctrine. We know that there have been seven Oecumenical Councils of the Church, from whose dogmatic teaching there can be no appeal. The Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431), responding to the teachings of Nestorius, the heretic Patriarch of Constantinople, taught that the Word, the second Person of the Trinity, was made man -- that He took a human body and a human soul -- that He appeared in the world under the name 'Jesus,' and under the title 'Christ.' Thus there is only one Person of Jesus Christ, and this Person is to be worshipped with a single worship, that of latria, the kind of worship rendered to God almighty. Nestorius, however, attempted to separate the honour paid to Christ's humanity from that offered His Divinity.

St. Athanasius of Alexandria pointed out the wrongness of worshipping Christ's body in a separate way, in these words: 'We do not worship a created thing, but the Master of created things, the Word of God made flesh. Although the flesh itself, considered separately, is a part of created things, yet it has become the body of God. We do not worship this body after having separated it from the Word. Likewise, we do not separate the Word from the body when we wish to worship Him. But knowing that 'the Word was made flesh,' we recognise the Word existing in the flesh as God.' (Ep. ad Adelph., par. 3)

The majority of Roman Catholic bishops issued pastoral letters to establish worship of the Sacred Heart, naming the physical heart as the object of worship. Offices were composed and inserted into the Missals and Breviaries, and prayerbook devotions abounded. Apologists for the devotion tried to exonerate it from charges of Nestorianism. (Nestorius honored Jesus as man in one way and Jesus as God in another; the Faith teaches us that we must worship Jesus Christ as one Person both human and Divine, not as one or the other separately.)

The apologists argued they worshipped the Heart for the sake of its union with the Godhead. What they forgot is that Nestorius himself, when cornered at the Council of Ephesus, also claimed he 'adored what was visible for the sake of that which was hidden.'

The historian Father Rene Francois Guettee remarks that by singling out for worship not only Christ's human body as opposed to His whole Person, but the heart as opposed to the rest of His body, an error even worse than that of Nestorius has been devised.

And finally this respectful and succinct explanation by Father Michael Pomazansky sums up the Eastern Orthodox tradition on the subject:

To the Lord Jesus Christ as to one person, as the God-man it is fitting to give a single inseparable worship, both according to Divinity and according to Humanity, precisely because both natures are inseparably united in Him. The decree of the Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical Council (the Ninth Canon against Heretics) reads: 'If anyone shall take the expression, Christ ought to be worshipped in His two natures, in the sense that he wishes to introduce thus two adorations, the one in special relation to God the Word and the other as pertaining to the Man . . . and does not venerate, by one adoration, God the Word made man, together with His flesh, as the Holy Church has from the beginning: let him be anathema.'

In connection with this decree of the Council it may be seen how out of harmony with the spirit and practice of the Church is the cult of the 'sacred heart of Jesus' which has been introduced into the Roman Catholic Church. Although the above-cited decree of the Fifth Ecumenical Council touches only on the separate worship of the Divinity and the Humanity of the Saviour, it still indirectly tells us that in general the veneration and worship of Christ should be directed to Him as a whole and not to parts of His Being; it must be one. Even if by 'heart' we should understand the Saviour's love itself, still neither in the Old Testament nor in the New was there ever a custom to worship separately the love of God, or His wisdom, His creative or providential power, or His sanctity. All the more must one say this concerning the parts of His bodily nature. There is something unnatural in the separation of the heart from the general bodily nature of the Lord for the purpose of prayer, contrition and worship before Him. Even in the ordinary relationships of life, no matter how much a man might be attached to another — for example, a mother to a child — he would never refer his attachment to the heart of the beloved person, but will refer it to the given person as a whole.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Our Lord and Our Lady - and Sacra Doctrina in Proverbs 8

Proverbs 8 is critical in the history of the Church, of sacra doctrina, and of the liturgy. In the Western Missal before Vatican II, and still used in orthodox Anglicanism, this passage, based on patristic and medieval tradition, is used as the lesson for the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (December 8). Our Lady is seen as fulfilling the typology of Wisdom or Sophia contained in the passage. Of course, throughout the course of Church history, the passage, used as an image of Wisdom, has actually been used to teach the pre-existent reality of the Logos, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word of God. 'Hagia Sophia,' or Holy Wisdom, is based in this passage. The Fathers of the Church, beginning with such figures as Origen, see the Wisdom character as an Old Testament antecedent for Christ, preincarnate and pre-existing. The early Fathers, followed by the medievals, see this pericope as an Old Testament clue guiding the Church to a right belief in the Holy Trinity and in the eternal nature of the Son of God. Only later, particularly in the high Middle Ages, will the passage become connected to a specifically Marian interpretation.

Sacra Doctrina begins and ends with Holy Scripture. Saint Thomas actually refers to the type of literature herein contained in his commentary on Boethius' De Trinitate. Proverbs 8 is a segment of Old Testament Wisdom literature, which is itself positive and optimistic in tone. Proverbs offers the promise of knowledge, of illumination. It assures that knowledge will be brought to light, 'lady Wisdom' is a common motif in Old Testament Wisdom literature, and here finds its fullest expression. Proverbs 8 is not intended to be an all-encompassing meta-theology or a meditation on the nature-grace dichotomy. Rather, here in the Old Testament, Proverbs offers a life-view, a wisdom-teaching dealing with life and its various temptations, 'lady Wisdom' is the feminine answer to false women and false claims. There is a literally erotic, or eros, tradition in this passage. In the use of female imagery, Wisdom is personified as rebutting and responding to false claims and ideas. Wisdom is our guide. Wisdom, Sophia, the female image, leads us on the quest for truth and wisdom, in the movement of desire toward that which we should desire. Wisdom reaches out to us and seeks to develop us into a higher love, a higher state of being. The question of Wisdom towards us is 'why settle for less.' Here, Wisdom, personified as female Wisdom, tempts men in the right direction. Wisdom's teaching guides the human person who properly responds to it. Wisdom, in Proverbs 8, is envisioned as the forerunner of God, the precursor for God's revelation.

In the passage, Wisdom is identified with God Himself. Here, we have an Old Testament perspective or view on the Blessed Trinity, and on the Eternal Word or Son of God. Wisdom co-exists with God and lives with God from all eternity - hence, the passage offers us a prototype of the Scriptural understanding of the Godhead fully revealed in the New Testament. In Proverbs 8, God's Wisdom is His 'other,' a co-existent co-eternal principle of reality and being. The feminine language and image of Wisdom, in the patristic and medieval period, will be applied either to the Person of Jesus Christ as the Eternal Word, or, as noted above, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, as the predestinated, foreknown and pre-ordained instrument of God's revelation in the Incarnation. Proverbs seems to betray a heavy Greek influence, as it looks to the hiddenness of revelation realised and fulfilled in the seeking of the knower, a kind of gnosis of understanding. Wisdom is personified as an eternal and knowable reality which is accessible to the mind, intellect, intelligence, and will of man. And this is Sacra Doctrina.

We can see how sacred doctrine will arise from the wisdom-thought or philosophy contained in this passage. The object gift of God's revelation of Himself by grace, here seen in the person of Sophia or Wisdom, is freely offered to human beings and requires human co-operation and response. Man must correspond with Wisdom in order to obtain her fruits and access her realities, gifts kept hidden from those who fail to seek or see. 'Does not wisdom call?'... 'Hear for I will speak... my mouth will utter truth.' God's Word and Wisdom incarnate, Jesus Christ, speaks the truth and His sheep hear His voice and follow Him: 'Whoever is of the truth hears my voice'(St John 19.37). 'My sheep hear my voice and know me and I know them' (S. John 10.4, 14). Wisdom represents the Word of God communicated to man, requiring and desiring the full human apprehension and correspondence to divine truth through faith, the hearing of the mind, of the intellect, and hope, and charity. 'Delighting in the sons of men,' Wisdom, God's Word and principle of truth, seeks to be incarnated in the lives of men, to be lived-out, personified, manifested, represented in the faith-life and faith-response of the intelligible and intelligent knower. Rooted and based in faith, sacra doctrina believes in order to understand.

Having received the divine gift of revelation by grace, men are prepared by divine assistance to receive the Word which is to be engrafted in their hearts and souls. There is clearly here a relationship between faith and reason, for faith begins the process and human reason must come in to fulfil its place in the process. The gift of God's revelation is objective in nature, but seeks and ultimately finds a personal, even subjective, reaction. God can only be known, we see from the passage, by His Wisdom, His truth-principle, or rational principle, which was with Him from the beginning. God is known only through, by and in His Word. 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God'....'And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth' (St John 1).

Do we not hear the same reality, the same ontological state, reflected in the words of Proverbs 8? 'Ages ago was I set up, at the first, at the beginning of the earth... when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him like a master workman... and I was daily his delight.' Human mediation comes into play with this Word - and men hear, listen, and understand. And so we can see without difficulty why the ancient and medieval Church simply interpreted this passage as pertaining to Jesus Christ as the Logos of God, the Word by whom all things were made, and through whom all truth is ultimately communicated directly to mankind.

The feminine image of Wisdom also reflects the docility of Wisdom to God her maker, and the openness and docility the hearer of the Divine Word must have properly to appropriate the divine truth and to receive with due affection the fruits of the Spirit the Word engrafted. The Wisdom figure is indeed like the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who in the Annunciation received the message of the Angel with humility and joy, and through her obedience and faith gave birth to the Word in the flesh, as she bore Him first in her heart.

Our Lady may in fact be the key to unlock the passage, as she, the Theotokos, Mother of God and Birthgiver of God, bears the Word in her heart and soul, as well as in her body, by faith, and bears the fruit of our salvation by the truest and best response of faith, openness, submissiveness, meekness, humility, and docility - the 'fiat' -'be it unto me according to thy word.'

Catholic Tradition has always regarded the Wisdom image of Proverbs 8 to be an image of the Wisdom of God as Word, the Second Person of the Divine Trinity, and as God's Mother, the perfectly responsive and faith-filled Spotless One, Mary. Sacra Doctrina is the human mediation by faith of the divine truth revealed by and through His wonderful grace. We see that paradigm worked out beautifully in the Proverbs tradition, and particularly in the eighth chapter. May we learn our lesson from the passage, and with irenic self-donation receive, reason-out, and live the Word so graciously offered to us.

Grace and the Practical Christian Life

Grace is the essence of sacra doctrina, for God of His love and goodness imparts His divine grace to us in the Church and sacraments, via the Incarnation, to make human beings participant in the divine life. Because sacra doctrina is itself the gift of God's grace used and mediated by the faith, reason, and intelligence of man, we can assert faithfully that sacra doctrina is a unique endeavour in the life of grace and in the experience of the Christian life. To a certain degree, the full living Christian experience is an adventure in sacra doctrina.

Fully to appreciate and apply the Christian verity, the Christian person must be completely alive to the divine gift by appropriating it in heart, mind, soul, will, and intelligence. The process by which the divinely-revealed Faith is transmitted, received, digested, and applied is sacra doctrina. Christianity must be a lived-out reality in the believer, in which the divine grace is extended to man and corresponded with by faith and response. Christianity first starts-off, begins with Revelation from God. It is deposited in us and in creation. God makes creation, and makes it capable of receiving His own personal revelation message. So we can say there is a first revelation, the act of creation itself, and a secondary revelation, the imparting of God's own Tri-Personal Being through personal communication and speech. The whole Christian life is made possible because of this twofold revelation, and most especially, because of God's personal revelation - God communicates Himself to mankind through divine grace, God's life itself, which in turn allows human beings to accept the revelation and appropriate the truth humanly.

The practical Christian life is the life of faith, and faith is the response of the human intellect to God's revelation given to man by grace. Only by grace does God give His revelation of Himself - and by this grace man is empowered to respond in faith, with the assent and the searching love of the intellect and the mind. Sacra Doctrina, then, is simply theology, theology at its highest level, the intellectual and rational exploration and reflection of and in the truth of God's revelation. Faith, with the exercise of the intellect and mind, is the basis of sacra doctrina at its heart. The Word of God, divine speaking or speech, is received, united to faith, appropriated by grace to nature, thus raising nature to the divine life.

The whole reality of the gift of God's grace, that grace perfects and builds-upon nature, is fulfilled through sacra doctrina. Nature, deified by grace, shares in the life of God. The theosis of man incorporates the work of sacra doctrina, in which the human person is liberated into the truth by the free gift of God and the corresponding free-will of man and his response. The divine labour of sacra doctrina is to be found in the concept of synergy, God and man working together so that they may forever enjoy a mutual indwelling, a perichoresis of life, love, and grace - the life of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost participated in and shared by redeemed humanity.

Sacred Theology as Special Revelation

'In the fullness of time, God sent His Son born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law" (Galatians 4). Sacra Doctrina emerges most specifically as 'holy doctrine' out of the Revelation of God. God 'reveals' Himself to us in a special way. Judaism and Christianity together share the notion and truth of Divine Revelation - God has personally revealed Himself to mankind via the covenants of the Old and the New Israel, the Jewish people and the Catholic Church. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, is Himself the fulfilment and fullness of all revelation; the Incarnation of God as the full revelation of the Father presupposes prior revelation of God to man. The Revelation given to man by God uses various stages which can be reduced to 1) vocation, 2) covenant, and 3) law.

In the Old Testament, God called Abram (Abraham) from Ur of the Chaldees to the promised land; YHWH then established His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, Jacob, and finally with Moses at Mount Sinai; at Horeb God constitutes His people by revealing His righteous will in the Law. Jewish tradition allows for a reinterpretation of the Word, the possibility of redaction, revision, and re-application to man of the divine Word. In the New Testament, Our Lord calls His Apostles and trains them; He institutes the New Covenant in His Blood in the Mass at the last supper and gives the promise of His Spirit; Jesus then pours out His Spirit in fulfilment of the new law of love at Pentecost. The three elements of vocation, covenant, and law are durable, a sign or image of the 'lastingness' of God Himself - divine faithfulness. The Divine Revelation of God is given to man by communication, by divine speech translated into human speech. God speaks by His Word, the Word of God which is translated into human language. This special revelation given by God to His People, primarily in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, is extended through space and time in the Church which is His Body. The special revelation of God is uniquely contained in written form in Holy Scripture, and is handed-down in the reality of the Spirit, the Church, through the guidance of Apostolic Tradition.

Revelation is primarily God as first truth speaking, communicating Himself to mankind via the instrumentality of human realities and agents. The Word of God is shared, as Word, with men - and therefore demands or requires that human beings be able to receive the divine Word, appropriate the Word to human life, and return it to God in lived faith, in response and reaction to the Word given. The Word made flesh in the Incarnation is spoken to man through Holy Scripture and Tradition. Incarnation: This revelation is enfleshed in the reality of the Incarnation of the Word, Jesus Christ. God's being, and the divine truth, reconfigure themselves, taking-on the reality of this world without losing the divine reality, without losing the self. The Incarnation, in sacra doctrina, means a joining, a coming-together, the 'addition of being' one to another, the effects of which are unleashed on the created side. For God the Incarnation is condescension, accommodation, descent, suffering, offering, self-abasement, kenosis, gift of self towards us. For man the Incarnation is theosis, deification, divinisation, 'being touched by God and touching God,' being raised to the divine life. 'God became man so that man might become God.' This is the principle of sacra doctrina - God reveals Himself out of love to raise man up to live in His life. Sacra doctrina engages the human person in the reality of the Enfleshment of the Divine Word, His suffering and glorification, and the suffering and transformation which must result on our side.

The Incarnation really stands out as the principle of sacra doctrina, as is noted in this author's paper, Strong Meat or Milk. Sacra Doctrina demands the full role and implementation of the human mind and reason, just as the reality of the Incarnation contains the reality of the human mind of the human nature of Jesus Christ. As Our Lord possesses both a divine nature and a human nature, complete with human mind, body, and soul, so does the theological enterprise possess the role and proper place of the human mind and reason. The heresy of Appolinarianism taught that in Our Lord the Divine Word or Logos replaced the human mind and soul of Jesus, rendering Christ fully divine but not fully human. For sacra doctrina to be a fully divine reality given in reality to human beings by divine revelation and appropriated by faith and reason, it is necessary that the human person be integrally involved by virtue of wisdom, mind, intelligence, reason, and skill in the process of explicating, elucidating and applying theological truth. Sacra doctrina is fully divine and fully human, an Incarnation in its own right. Sacra Doctrina is itself an image of the Incarnation of God; it is an Incarnation process.

God united Himself to the created order and to human nature by being born of the Blessed Virgin Mary; in the womb of Mary God joined Himself to man and to His own created reality: revelation, in sacra doctrina, is united to human nature, and most specifically, to human reason and understanding. Sacra doctrina repeats the pattern of the Incarnation within human life. God becomes man so that man might become God. We become by grace what God is by nature - in the Incarnation. Thus God perfects and completes nature by adding grace to it. And this process of the Incarnation, in which God assumes human nature and unites it to divinity, is fulfilled in sacred doctrine; in theology, the natural knowledge and sciences of man are raised up to God as human nature is raised by grace to the life of God. Faith responds to grace, and the human intellect and will are completed and perfected in an exercise prompted, carried-through, and finished by God's own gift of God's own life. In the end, theology or holy doctrine becomes for the believer the Incarnation in microcosm.

The Christian is the microcosm of the Incarnation as he is a hypostatic union - he unites in himself the natural, knowledge of the world, with the supernatural, divine grace. In the hypostatic union of sacra doctrina, the human assumes the divine, the natural knowledge of man is perfectly united to and therefore glorified by divine revelation. In the believing Christian, the created order is united to God by revelation humanly and intellectually appropriated by faith through divine grace. The Incarnation is continued. Thus, grace perfects nature and man is divinised by God in the mystery of Jesus Christ.

The Deep Roots of Theology - Saint Thomas Aquinas and Sacra Doctrina

In the Summa Theologica Question 1, Saint Thomas teaches us that besides philosophical science there should be from God another knowledge, one not simply built up by human reason, but one given to man by God himself - this Saint Thomas calls Sacra Doctrina, inspired or sacred doctrine. So theology itself, when explored at its heart, depths, and roots, must be understood as coming ultimately from God, although its instruments and methods evolve out of human history and sciences. Man, directed to God in a way that surpasses human reason, is graced with God's own gift of Himself in sacra doctrina. Things beyond the rational understanding of man are offered to us that we may receive them by faith.

Sacred Doctrine is God's gift to us, different from philosophy and other human endeavours, being from God suprarationally and supernaturally. And yet, sacra doctrina is a science, according to Saint Thomas, and because it comes from God, it is a science of God and of higher realities than those that are accessible to human reason. The principles of this divine or sacred science come from God and are fulfilled in God, Who is the object of the single one, practical science labelled 'sacra doctrina.' Thomas calls this science, this sacred doctrine, the most noble, or the highest - for it contains God and reveals God. In the beginning, the groundwork of instrumentality for developing sacred doctrine, which itself is Tradition, begins in the pagan era of philosophy, where language, concepts, and ideas originate which will later be used in the process of developing a theological science. The development of sacra doctrina, and of theology as whole, is the story of the development of tradition. The notions which become normative for theology begin within the inculturation of thoughts and ideas expressed in ancient Western civilisation. A systematic, logically-ordered process emerges out of the annals of historical development.

Classical paganism/pagan thought, or pre-Christian western philosophy, is where it all begins. Etiologies about the gods and creation arise from the poetry of the earliest pagan writers. Platonism and Stoicism are instrumental in the development of later theological ideas. Platonism emphasises the transcendence of the divine, an agnosticism to first principles, and the belief in different forms and heavenly realities. Stoicism and Epicureanism begin as small movements of elite followers having agnostic views on the meaning and purpose of life. Stoicism in particular develops a systematic treatment of divine things, a poetry, a theology written-down, a natural theology affirming the beginning and sustenance of the world. The Stoics believed the myths, symbols and legends of pagan religion, and were the first to give a systematic treatment or account of the divine world. Images and mythology are used to explain the reality beyond this reality. Proclus, in the early Christian era, focusses on the nature of being, good and evil, and the created order. Aristotle and Plato, the fathers of western philosophy, are instrumental in the development of theology. They attempt to answer the questions that matter, about God and reality, using scientific methods. They develop the science of 'metaphysics' to explain the meaning of reality. Later Christian theology takes into full account both philosophical systems of Aristotle and Plato.

Early Christian theology is born out of data of Holy Scripture combined with the trains of thought found in philosophy. Platonic philosophy's concern for salvation and the higher world leads to the development within the Church of a theological process. The Hebrew wisdom tradition, reflected in Christianity's exponent Saint Paul, opened itself to the wisdom and sciences of the world. The Apostolic Fathers and postapostolic Christianity slowly began to use philosophical concepts, with selection, sparingly, and often eclectically. They wished to distinguish Christ from the world, Jerusalem from Athens. Apologetics soon demanded philosophical approaches to the subject of Catholic faith. However, as philosophy threatened to endanger Christianity's unique claims, theology developed systematically out of the need for apologetics. From an early Greek Christian 'gnosticism' found in Saint Clement of Alexandria and Origen, the Church deepens her own understanding of the Faith. Eventually theology proper evolves as an exploration and deep elucidation of the meaning of God and His relationship to the created world. In the ancient Eastern Church, theology is understood as a mystical endeavour, a science of God in the soul, a higher and superior knowledge of God through prayer. In the Western Church, theology comes to full fruit in Saint Augustine of Hippo: in him theology moves from a apologetic, a via negativa, and a speculative theory of religious knowledge, to a positive movement of intellect and life. Philosophy becomes applied to the work of theological searching, and intellectual activity in faith becomes rooted in the theological way. We could continue to explore the development of theology through Abelard and the Middle Ages, until we arrive at the Scholastic period. Theology grows and evolves into a science of its own kind, the highest and queen of the sciences. Sacra Doctrina will be finally be defined and explained by Saint Thomas.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

All Saints Sisters of the Poor in Catonsville, Maryland Depart for Rome

By email:

On Thursday, 3 September
in the Year of Our Lord 2009
a Very Special Mass
will be Celebrated
in the Chapel
of All Saints Convent
Catonsville, Maryland
with the Archbishop of Baltimore -
Edwin O'Brien - as the Chief Celebrant
During this Mass
all but two sisters will be received into full communion with the Holy See.

When I served as a parish priest in Maryland I used to frequent the Chapel of the All Saints Covent, glorious in its simplicity and reverence. Mass, Offices and Benediction were offered in the most sublime Anglican Catholic manner, in the traditional rite. The Convent in Catonsville was one of the very last orthodox Anglican religious communities in North America. My ministry in Maryland also afforded the opportunity to work closely with the Sisters at the Joseph Richey Hospice in downtown Baltimore, which was operated by the Sisters. Through that ministry I came to know and love the All Saints Sisters. A dear friend of mine in Maryland now departed this life, Father Harry Shelley, an oblate of the community, was aligned spiritually and sacerdotally with the Convent. Several other beloved priest friends over the years have been strong supporters of this rare and special community.

When I studied at Exeter College, University of Oxford in 1992, I had the wonderful privilege of befriending the great Father Peter Mayhew, an Australian priest who served as Chaplain to the All Saints Sisters in Oxford. The American Convent's move to Rome is a profound loss for the Anglican Tradition.

UPDATE: Names have been removed per private request.

May 2024 Comprovincial Newsletter

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