Sunday, December 31, 2006
- St. Basil the Great, from the Christmas oration
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
"On account of this personal union and communion of the natures, Mary, the most blessed virgin, did not conceive a mere, ordinary human being, but a human being who is truly the Son of the most high God, as the angel testifies. He demonstrated his divine majesty even in his mother's womb in that he was born of a virgin without violating her virginity. Therefore she is truly the mother of God and yet remained a virgin."
- Person of Christ (Formula of Concord: SD, Art. VIII par. 8ff, Tappert, 593-5)
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Gospel: Matthew 11:2-10
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The messenger who is sent by the Lord to the people is not who they expect to see. He is not advertised on billboards. He does not preach steps to a successful life or even the purpose-driven life. He is sent before the Face of the Lord to point people to the Coming One. He does not live the comfortable life-style nor is dressed with the clothing of Kings. He is in prison and will soon die. Yet He is sent by Jesus who says, "blessed is he who is not offended because of Me." If people come to church only to see people or be seen by them then Jesus says they are not blessed of God. The prophets, apostles and evangelists, the preachers of today are those whom Jesus sends to speak comfort to the people of God. They are sent by the Lord of the Church to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins. The Lord is coming! He is coming to Judge the world and He is coming to bring His salvation. Do not be fooled by John's appearance or his clothing or the fact that he is in prison awaiting death. He is the one who sends his disciples to Jesus saying, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" He does not wallow because he is in prison. He is always looking for the Coming One and leading the people to always look for the Coming One; pointing to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This is the Messiah, the Suffering Servant who will die on the cross for the sins of the world. Jesus says, "blessed is he who is not offended because of Me." Blessed because they see with the eyes of faith. Blessed because they are not fooled by the outward appearances of success. They see the cross and the suffering and the death and know the Face of the Lord and His salvation.
John is the ultimate prophet, the prophet of prophets. Not only does he fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament as the last and greatest prophet, he recognizes Jesus while still in the womb. What does the Coming One do so that John's disciples may also see? "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them." Jesus brings the mercy of God to the bodies and souls of people. Still, John does not appear blessed by the Lord. While John is in prison Jesus calls him the greatest among those born of women. He is the one chosen by God to baptize Jesus. Jesus speaks the words of the prophet Malachi: "Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me." He preaches Jesus and baptizes Him. He knows Jesus and points people to Him. John is ready to die blessed of the Lord. The road is prepared and Jesus comes healing, preaching the gospel, bringing the forgiveness of sins and comfort to people who labor and are heavy laden. He comes into the world born of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the songs of praise of the angels. He calls John an angel as He does every priest and pastor who faithfully proclaims the word of God and points people to Jesus - Jesus coming in the flesh, Jesus dying on the cross, rising and ascending, Jesus coming in His Word and in His Body and Blood, Jesus coming again. "I am with you even to the end of the age."
Jesus came as John predicted and took away your sins. This is the message of the cross, Christ crucified. John suffered all that people would see Christ. Jesus sends His apostles and the Church lives and thrives on the apostolic teaching. He gives the church His holy Supper and the church feeds on Christ being prepared by His forgiveness for His second coming. He sends pastors into the Church throughout the world and they are sent to speak His comfort to you. Your sins are paid for. They are forgiven. There is no longer warfare between you and God. God has sought you, His beloved Creation, and renewed you, bringing you back to Himself. So the Apostle writes, in effect, of the nature of pastors who are "servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." They are judged by the Lord. Until the Lord comes these are the men through whom you hear the Shepherd's voice and come to know the Shepherd. They have nothing but the word of God and water and bread and wine to keep Christ's Church fed and satisfied and ready for the glorious coming of the Lord. They have nothing but His invitation to share with people as they point to the feast at the altar: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Jesus says, "blessed is he who is not offended because of Me." Christ is coming again. The Holy things are here for the holy ones. You are indeed the blessed ones of God. Amen.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Homily on Romans 15:4-13
Why ought the Church offer a daily office like Matins in the morning or Vespers in the Evening?
The Scriptures say that "we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" The Scriptures give hope therefore, not despair. They also do not provide hope to sinners who are unrepentant and who continue in their sin.
Therefore the Scriptures encourage us in the faith and give us patience and comfort. This is what we need at this time of year. This is what we need every day as we live in these Last Days since the First Coming of the Lord.
The God of the Scriptures grants patience and comfort so that:
- we are like-minded toward one another, according to Jesus Christ (united in Christ and in His words)
- we glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one mouth (as we do this evening and on the Lord's Day)
Christ has received us to the glory of God. In Holy Baptism we are in Christ. Therefore we are to receive one another as Christ has received us. We are to forgive one another as we have been forgiven. The Church is where Christ welcomes us and unites us as one, we who are of many different backgrounds.
Jesus Christ came and became a servant to circumcision to the glory of God. Thus He submitted Himself to the Law and the covenant to bring the promises made to the fathers, that is, to the Jews. So He fulfills the truth of God. Also, He does this so that the Gentiles, that is, you and I, "might glorify God for His mercy."
In Christ the Gentiles are united with the Jews as God's people. In Christ they rejoice together in His salvation and praise and glorify God. Their hope is in Christ, the root of Jesse.
God grants hope in the Scriptures. That hope is for the people of God who received the promises made to the fathers. Jesus came as was promised. As the Suffering Servant He bore the sins of all people on the cross. So it is through the seed of David that the Messiah comes and becomes the hope of all people who believe. The Scriptures give us hope because we have hope in Christ.
Therefore, all are reminded by the Scriptures to get rid of our hard-heartedness toward one another and not despair in temptations. Christ is coming again as He has promised. He is with us to the end of the age as written in divine revelation and received in the divine gifts at the altar for the forgiveness of sins. The hope in Christ is the hope that God gives; the same gift that comes from the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit.
"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" who with the Father and the Son be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Monday, December 11, 2006
For this reason the Lord himself gave as the sign of our salvation, the one who was born of the Virgin, Emmanuel (Is 7,14).
It was the Lord himself who saved them, for of themselves they had no power to be saved. (...)
Isaiah says the same: “Hands that are feeble grow strong! Knees that are week, take courage! Hearts that are faint grow strong! Fear not – see, our God is judgment and he will repay. He himself will come and save us (Is 35,3-4). He means that we could not be saved of ourselves but only with God's help.
Here is another text where Isaiah had predicted that he who saves us is not simply a man, nor an incorporeal being: “It was not a messenger or an angel, but he himself who saved them. Because of his love and pity he redeemed them himself” (Is 63,9). But this Savior is also really and truly a man, one our eyes will see: “Look on Zion, your eyes will see our Savior” (see Is 33,20). (...)
Another prophet said: “(He) will again have compassion on us...(he) will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins” (Mi 7,19). (...) It is from Bethlehem of Judea(Mi 5,1)that the Son of God, who is also God, was supposed to come to spread his praise all over the world (...) God really became man and the Lord himself saved us while giving us the sign of the Virgin.
- St. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 3.2.2
Sunday, December 10, 2006
- St. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 3.1.2
Saturday, December 09, 2006
principle of Christianity. A body of doctrine had been delivered by
the Apostles to their first successors, and by them in turn to the
next generation, and then to the next, as we have said above. "The
things that thou hast heard from me through many witnesses," says
St. Paul to Timothy, "the same commit thou to faithful men, who
shall be able to teach others also." This body of truth was in
consequence called the "depositum," as being a substantive teaching,
not a mere accidental deduction from Scripture. Thus St. Paul says
to his disciple and successor Timothy, "Keep the deposit," "hold
fast the form of sound words," "guard the noble deposit." This
important principle is forcibly insisted on by Irenæus and
Tertullian before the Nicene era, and by Vincent after it. "'O
Timothy,'" says Vincent, "'guard the depositum, avoiding profane
novelties of words.' Who is Timothy today? Who but the universal
Church, or, in particular, the whole body of prelates, whose duty it
is both themselves to have the full knowledge of religion, and to
instruct others in it? What means 'guard'? Guard the deposit because
of enemies, lest, while men sleep, they sow tares upon the good
seed, which the Son of Man has sowed in His field. What is 'the
deposit'? That which hath been intrusted to you, not that which thou
hast discovered; what thou hast received, not what thou hast thought
out; a matter, not of cleverness, but of teaching, not of private
handling, but of public tradition."
John Henry Newman, from Apostolical Tradition, British Critic, July
(John Henry Cardinal Newman, Biglietto speech, 1879.)
The Conception of the Theotokos (lit. "bearer of God") is celebrated on this day in the Eastern Church. Some Orthodox Churches celebrate this day on Dec. 8. Note that the Orthodox Churches do not hold to the teaching of the Immaculate Conception as in the Roman Church.
While the majority of Protestantism, including many Lutherans, do not understand the attention paid to Mary in the historic churches, the writings of Luther, those of the orthodox Lutheran fathers and the Lutheran Symbols allow for greater devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary than is often taught and practiced in the churches of the Augsburg Confession today.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Below is an excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Granted Lutherans cannot accept the sinlessness of Mary but they may be surprised that for the Catholic Church this is an exegetical question based on the Church's interpretation of "full of grace." Also, note below that this sinlessness from conception on and additional freedom from "all stain of original sin" is possible by "by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race . . ." (By whose merits(?) is always a question for Lutherans.)
Catechism of the Catholic Church
§ 490-493 – Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana
"Hail, favored one!"
To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role." (LG 56.) The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace". In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.
Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: "The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.
The "splendour of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception"(LG 56.) comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son"(LG 53.). The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love" (Eph 1:3-4).
The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God "the All-Holy" (Panagia), and celebrate her as "free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature". By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.
So far the Catholic Catechism. For more commentary on this topic, including what Luther has to say, visit Weedon's blog.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
"For the powers of heaven shall be moved: and then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud. And in like manner the coming of the Son of man is longed for, so that by His presence there may be accomplished in the whole world of angels and of men, that which is wrought in single souls, who, with all fitting dispositions, receive Christ. So the powers of heaven, at the Coming of the Lord of salvation, will also attain to an increase of grace; for He is the Lord of the Powers as well, and they will tremble at this appearance among them at the fulness of the glory of the divinity. Then too the Powers that proclaim the glory of God (Ps. xviii) shall also tremble before this fuller revealing of His glory, as they gaze on Christ."
(Advent Homily of St. Ambrose on Luke xxi, Toal, Vol. 1, p. 9)
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Monday, December 04, 2006
3 December 2006
Today is the first day of the new church year (or liturgical year) in the West (Sept. 1 in the East). The Gospel Reading, Matthew 21:1-9, reminds us of the humble King's entrance into Jerusalem to the shouts of "Hosanna." The year begins with Jesus walking to the cross and God's redemption for the fallen world. Advent leads us toward the Incarnation - "God with us", who comes into Jerusalem to die, who rises from the dead and ascends into heaven. He reigns in heaven and on earth He comes to us in the flesh, in His Body and Blood, for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. To this coming we sing "Holy, Holy, Holy" and "Hosannas" to the Lord in the Sanctus. Your King comes to you. He is coming again to judge the living and the dead. Your King comes to you humble and hidden in the liturgy and for all the
world to see in His glorious coming on the Last Day. In Holy Baptism you were clothed in His righteousness and made an heir of His royal inheritance. Advent reminds us that He is preparing us for His coming just as He comes again to us each Lord's Day. In the liturgy He dispenses life to us through His death and the hope of glory through His resurrection. In the liturgy He is with us and His Bride, the Church throughout the world, the Church of all ages who receives her Bridegroom, the King, as she always has and always will, living by faith that He is with us to the end of the age. The historic liturgy is a daily reminder that, though heaven and earth pass away, His words will never pass away.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
St. Andrew is one of the days recognized simultaneously on the calendars of both the Eastern and Western Churches. Today is also significant in that on this day Pope Benedict XVI is in Istanbul meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I as they continue seeking ways to work toward unity between the two Churches.
The historical and liturgical heritages of these two Churches are found in our Lutheran hymnals (in both liturgy and hymnody) so I thought the information below might be of interest to you. Provided below are a Declaration, Address and Homily:
Declaration by Pope and Orthodox Patriarch "We Must Strengthen Our Cooperation"
ISTANBUL, Turkey, NOV. 30, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the Common Declaration signed today by Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, at the end of the Divine Liturgy in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George at the Phanar, Istanbul.
* * *
Common Declaration by Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!" (Ps 117:24)
This fraternal encounter which brings us together, Pope Benedict XVI of Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, is God's work, and in a certain sense his gift. We give thanks to the Author of all that is good, who allows us once again, in prayer and in dialogue, to express the joy we feel as brothers and to renew our commitment to move towards full communion. This commitment comes from the Lord's will and from our responsibility as Pastors in the Church of Christ. May our meeting be a sign and an encouragement to us to share the same sentiments and the same attitudes of fraternity, cooperation and communion in charity and truth. The Holy Spirit will help us to prepare the great day of the re-establishment of full unity, whenever and however God wills it. Then we shall truly be able to rejoice and be glad.
1. We have recalled with thankfulness the meetings of our venerable predecessors, blessed by the Lord, who showed the world the urgent need for unity and traced sure paths for attaining it, through dialogue, prayer and the daily life of the Church. Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I went as pilgrims to Jerusalem, to the very place where Jesus Christ died and rose again for the salvation of the world, and they also met again, here in the Phanar and in Rome. They left us a common declaration which retains all its value; it emphasizes that true dialogue in charity must sustain and inspire all relations between individuals and between Churches, that it "must be rooted in a total fidelity to the one Lord Jesus Christ and in mutual respect for their own traditions" ("Tomos Agapis," 195). Nor have we forgotten the reciprocal visits of His Holiness Pope John Paul II and His Holiness Dimitrios I. It was during the visit of Pope John Paul II, his first ecumenical visit, that the creation of the Mixed Commission for theological dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church was announced. This has brought together our Churches in the declared aim of re-establishing full communion. As far as relations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople are concerned, we cannot fail to recall the solemn ecclesial act effacing the memory of the ancient anathemas which for centuries had a negative effect on our Churches. We have not yet drawn from this act all the positive consequences which can flow from it in our progress towards full unity, to which the mixed Commission is called to make an important contribution. We exhort our faithful to take an active part in this process, through prayer and through significant gestures.
2. At the time of the plenary session of the mixed Commission for theological dialogue, which was recently held in Belgrade through the generous hospitality of the Serbian Orthodox Church, we expressed our profound joy at the resumption of the theological dialogue. This had been interrupted for several years because of various difficulties, but now the Commission was able to work afresh in a spirit of friendship and cooperation. In treating the topic "Conciliarity and Authority in the
Church" at local, regional and universal levels, the Commission undertook a phase of study on the ecclesiological and canonical consequences of the sacramental nature of the Church. This will permit us to address some of the principal questions that are still unresolved. We are committed to offer unceasing support, as in the past, to the work entrusted to this Commission and we accompany its members with our prayers.
3. As Pastors, we have first of all reflected on the mission to proclaim the Gospel in today's world. This mission, "Go, make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19), is today more timely and necessary than ever, even in traditionally Christian countries. Moreover, we cannot ignore the increase of secularization, relativism, even nihilism, especially in the Western world. All this calls for a renewed and powerful proclamation of the Gospel,adapted to the cultures of our time. Our traditions represent for us a patrimony which must be continually shared, proposed, and interpreted anew. This is why we must strengthen our cooperation and our common witness before the world.
4. We have viewed positively the process that has led to the formation of the European Union. Those engaged in this great project should not fail to take into consideration all aspects affecting the inalienable rights of the human person, especially religious freedom, a witness and guarantor of respect for all other freedoms. In every step towards unification, minorities must be protected, with their cultural traditions and the distinguishing features of their religion. In Europe, while remaining open to other religions and to their cultural contributions, we must unite our efforts to preserve Christian roots, traditions and values, to ensure respect for history, and thus to contribute to the European culture of the future and to the quality of human relations at every level. In this context, how could we not evoke the very ancient witnesses and the illustrious Christian heritage of the land in which our meeting is taking place, beginning with what the Acts of the Apostles tells us concerning the figure of Saint Paul, Apostle of the Gentiles? In this land, the Gospel message and the ancient cultural tradition met. This link, which has contributed so much to the Christian heritage that we share, remains timely and will bear more fruit in the future for evangelization and for our unity.
5. Our concern extends to those parts of today's world where Christians live and to the difficulties they have to face, particularly poverty, wars and terrorism, but equally to various forms of exploitation of the poor, of migrants, women and children. We are called to work together to promote respect for the rights of every human being, created in the image and likeness of God, and to foster economic, social and cultural development. Our theological and ethical traditions can offer a solid basis for a united approach in preaching and action. Above all, we wish to affirm that killing innocent people in God's name is an offence against him and against human dignity. We must all commit ourselves to the renewed service of humanity and the defense of human life, every human life. We take profoundly to heart the cause of peace in the Middle East, where our Lord lived, suffered, died and rose again, and where a great multitude of our Christian brethren have lived for centuries. We fervently hope that peace will be re-established in that region, that respectful coexistence will be strengthened between the different peoples that live there, between the Churches and between the different religions found there. To this end, we encourage the establishment of closer relationships between Christians, and of an authentic and honest interreligious dialogue, with a view to combating every form of violence and discrimination.
6. At present, in the face of the great threats to the natural environment, we want to express our concern at the negative consequences for humanity and for the whole of creation which can result from economic and technological progress that does not know its limits. As religious leaders, we consider it one of our duties to encourage and to support all efforts made to protect God's creation, and to bequeath to future generations a world in which they will be able to live.
7. Finally, our thoughts turn towards all of you, the faithful of our two Churches throughout the world, Bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, lay men and women engaged in ecclesial service, and all the baptized. In Christ we greet other Christians, assuring them of our prayers and our openness to dialogue and cooperation. In the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles, we greet all of you: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 1:2).
At the Phanar, 30 November 2006
Benedict XVI Bartholomew I
[Translation issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople]
Pope's Address at the End of Divine Liturgy
"We Are Called Š to Renew Europe's Awareness of Its Christian Roots"
ISTANBUL, Turkey, NOV. 30, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the end of the Divine Liturgy on the feast of St. Andrew, celebrated by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George at the Phanar, Istanbul.
* * *
This Divine Liturgy celebrated on the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Patron Saint of the Church of Constantinople, brings us back to the early Church, to the age of the Apostles. The Gospels of Mark and Matthew relate how Jesus called the two brothers, Simon, whom Jesus calls Cephas or Peter, and Andrew: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Mt 4:19, Mk 1:17). The Fourth Gospel also presents Andrew as the first to be called, "ho protoklitos", as he is known in the Byzantine tradition. It is Andrew who then brings his brother Simon to Jesus (cf. Jn 1:40f.). Today, in this Patriarchal Church of Saint George, we are able to experience once again the communion and call of the two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew, in the meeting of the Successor of Peter and his Brother in the episcopal ministry, the head of this Church traditionally founded by the Apostle Andrew. Our fraternal encounter highlights the special relationship uniting the Churches of Rome and Constantinople as Sister Churches. With heartfelt joy we thank God for granting new vitality to the relationship that has developed since the memorable meeting in Jerusalem in December 1964 between our predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. Their exchange of letters, published in the volume entitled "Tomos Agapis," testifies to the depth of the bonds that grew between them, bonds mirrored in the relationship between the Sister Churches of Rome and Constantinople.
On 7 December 1965, the eve of the final session of the Second Vatican Council, our venerable predecessors took a unique and unforgettable step in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George and the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican respectively: they removed from the memory of the Church the tragic excommunications of 1054. In this way they confirmed a decisive shift in our relationship. Since then, many other important steps have been taken along the path of mutual rapprochement. I recall in particular the visit of my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, to Constantinople in 1979, and the visits to Rome of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. In that same spirit, my presence here today is meant to renew our commitment to advancing along the road towards the re-establishment -- by God's grace -- of full communion between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople. I can assure you that the Catholic Church is willing to do everything possible to overcome obstacles and to seek, together with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, ever more effective means of pastoral cooperation to this end. The two brothers, Simon, called Peter, and Andrew, were fishermen whom Jesus called to become fishers of men. The Risen Lord, before his Ascension, sent them out together with the other Apostles with the mission of making all nations his disciples, baptizing them and proclaiming his teachings (cf. Mt
28:19ff.; Lk 24:47; Acts 1:8). This charge left us by the holy brothers Peter and Andrew is far from finished. On the contrary, today it is even more urgent and necessary. For it looks not only to those cultures which have been touched only marginally by the Gospel message, but also to long-established European cultures deeply grounded in the Christian tradition. The process of secularization has weakened the hold of that tradition; indeed, it is being called into question, and even rejected. In the face of this reality, we are called, together with all other Christian communities, to renew Europe's awareness of its Christian roots, traditions and values, giving them new vitality. Our efforts to build closer ties between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches are a part of this missionary task. The divisions which exist among Christians are a scandal to the world and an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel. On the eve of his passion and death, the Lord, surrounded by his disciples, prayed fervently that all may be one, so that the world may believe (cf. Jn 17:21). It is only through brotherly communion between Christians and through their mutual love that the message of God's love for each and every man and woman will become credible. Anyone who casts a realistic glance on the Christian world today will see the urgency of this witness. Simon Peter and Andrew were called together to become fishers of men. This same task, however, took on a different form for each of the brothers. Simon, notwithstanding his human weakness, was called "Peter", the "rock" on which the Church was to be built; to him in a particular way were entrusted the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt 16:18). His journey would take him from Jerusalem to Antioch, and from Antioch to Rome, so that in that City he might exercise a universal responsibility. The issue of the universal service of Peter and his Successors has unfortunately given rise to our differences of opinion, which we hope to overcome, thanks also to the theological dialogue which has been recently resumed. My venerable predecessor, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, spoke of the mercy that characterizes Peter's service of unity, a mercy which Peter
himself was the first to experience (Encyclical "Ut Unum Sint," 91). It is on this basis that Pope John Paul extended an invitation to enter into a fraternal dialogue aimed at identifying ways in which the Petrine ministry might be exercised today, while respecting its nature and essence, so as to "accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned" (ibid., 95). It is my desire today to recall and renew this invitation. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, received another task from the Lord, one which his very name suggests. As one who spoke the Greek language, he became -- together with Philip -- the Apostle of the encounter with the Greeks who
came to Jesus (cf. Jn 12:20ff.). Tradition tells us that he was a missionary not only in Asia Minor and the territories south of the Black Sea, that is, in this very region, but also in Greece, where he suffered martyrdom. The Apostle Andrew, therefore, represents the meeting between early Christianity and Greek culture. This encounter, particularly in Asia Minor, became possible thanks especially to the great Cappadocian Fathers, who enriched the liturgy, theology and spirituality of both the Eastern and the Western Churches. The Christian message, like the grain of wheat (cf. Jn 12:24), fell on this land and bore much fruit. We must be profoundly grateful for the heritage that emerged from the fruitful encounter between the Christian message and Hellenic culture. It has had an enduring impact on the Churches of East and West. The Greek Fathers have left us a store of treasure from which the Church continues to draw riches old and new (cf. Mt 13:52).
The lesson of the grain of wheat that dies in order to bear fruit also has a parallel in the life of Saint Andrew. Tradition tells us that he followed the fate of his Lord and Master, ending his days in Patras, Greece. Like Peter, he endured martyrdom on a cross, the diagonal cross that we venerate today as the cross of Saint Andrew. From his example we learn that the path of each single Christian, like that of the Church as a whole, leads to new life, to eternal life, through the imitation of Christ and the experience of his cross.
In the course of history, both the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople have often experienced the lesson of the grain of wheat. Together we venerate many of the same martyrs whose blood, in the celebrated words of Tertullian, became the seed of new Christians ("Apologeticum," 50, 13). With them, we share the same hope that impels the Church to "press forward, like a stranger in a foreign land, amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God" ("Lumen Gentium," 8, cf. Saint Augustine, "De Civ. Dei," XVIII, 51, 2). For its part, the century that has just ended also saw courageous witnesses to the faith, in both East and West. Even now, there are many such witnesses in different parts of the world. We remember them in our prayer and, in whatever way we can, we offer them our support, as we urge all world leaders to respect religious freedom as a fundamental human right.
The Divine Liturgy in which we have participated was celebrated according to the rite of Saint John Chrysostom. The cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ have been made mystically present. For us Christians this is a source and sign of constantly renewed hope. We find that hope beautifully expressed in the ancient text known as the Passion of Saint Andrew: "I greet you, O Cross, consecrated by the Body of Christ and adorned by His limbs as by precious pearls Š May the faithful know your joy, and the gifts you hold in store Š".
This faith in the redeeming death of Jesus on the cross, and this hope which the Risen Christ offers to the whole human family, are shared by all of us, Orthodox and Catholics alike. May our daily prayer and activity be inspired by a fervent desire not only to be present at the Divine Liturgy, but to be able to celebrate it together, to take part in the one table of the Lord, sharing the same bread and the same chalice. May our encounter today serve as an impetus and joyful anticipation of the gift of full communion. And may the Spirit of God accompany us on our journey!
[Original text: English]
© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Bartholomew I's Homily at Divine Liturgy
"We Are Reminded of the Need to Reach Unity in Faith as Well as in Prayer"
ISTANBUL, Turkey, NOV. 30, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the homily delivered today by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, during the Divine Liturgy on the feast of the Apostle Andrew, celebrated in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George at the Phanar, Istanbul, attended by Benedict XVI.
* * *
With the grace of God, Your Holiness, we have been blessed to enter the joy of the Kingdom, to "see the true light and receive the heavenly Spirit." Every celebration of the Divine Liturgy is a powerful and inspiring con-celebration of heaven and of history. Every Divine Liturgy is both an anamnesis of the past and an anticipation of the Kingdom. We are convinced that during this Divine Liturgy, we have once again been transferred spiritually in three directions: toward the kingdom of heaven where the angels celebrate; toward the celebration of the liturgy through the centuries; and toward the heavenly kingdom to come. This overwhelming continuity with heaven as well as with history means that the Orthodox liturgy is the mystical experience and profound conviction that "Christ is and ever shall be in our midst!" For in Christ, there is a deep connection between past, present, and future. In this way, the liturgy is more than merely the recollection of Christ's words and acts. It is the realization of the very presence of Christ Himself, who has promised to be wherever two or three are gathered in His name.
At the same time, we recognize that the rule of prayer is the rule of faith ("lex orandi lex credendi"), that the doctrines of the Person of Christ and of the Holy Trinity have left an indelible mark on the liturgy, which comprises one of the undefined doctrines, "revealed to us in mystery," of which St. Basil the Great so eloquently spoke. This is why, in liturgy, we are reminded of the need to reach unity in faith as well as in prayer. Therefore, we kneel in humility and repentance before the living God and our Lord Jesus Christ, whose precious Name we bear and yet at the same time whose seamless garment we have divided. We confess in sorrow that we are not yet able to celebrate the holy sacraments in unity. And we pray that the day may come when this sacramental unity will be realized in its fullness. And yet, Your Holiness and beloved brother in Christ, this con-celebration of heaven and earth, of history and time, brings us closer to each other today through the blessing of the presence, together with all the saints, of the predecessors of our Modesty, namely St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom. We are honored to venerate the relics of these two spiritual giants after the solemn restoration of their sacred relics in this holy church two years ago when they were graciously returned to us by the venerable Pope John Paul II. Just as, at that time, during our Thronal Feast, we welcomed and placed their saintly relics on the Patriarchal Throne, chanting "Behold your throne!", so today we gather in their living presence and eternal memory as we celebrate the Liturgy named in honor of St. John Chrysostom.
Thus our worship coincides with the same joyous worship in heaven and throughout history. Indeed, as St. John Chrysostom himself affirms: "Those in heaven and those on earth form a single festival, a shared thanksgiving, one choir" (PG 56.97). Heaven and earth offer one prayer, one feast, one doxology. The Divine Liturgy is at once the heavenly kingdom and our home, "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21.1), the ground and center where all things find their true meaning. The Liturgy teaches us to broaden our horizon and vision, to speak the language of love and communion, but also to learn that we must be with one another in spite of our differences and even divisions. In its spacious embrace, it includes the whole world, the communion of saints, and all of God's creation. The entire universe becomes "a cosmic liturgy", to recall the teaching of St. Maximus the Confessor. This kind of Liturgy can never grow old or outdated. The only appropriate response to this showering of divine benefits and compassionate mercy is gratitude ("eucharistia"). Indeed, thanksgiving and glory are the only fitting response of human beings to their Creator. For to Him belong all glory, honor, and worship: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; now and always, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Truly, particular and wholehearted gratitude fills our hearts toward the loving God, for today, on the festive commemoration of the Apostle founder and protector of this Church, the Divine Liturgy is attended by His Holiness our brother and bishop of the elder Rome, Pope Benedict XVI, together with his honorable entourage. Once again, we gratefully greet this presence as a blessing from God, as an expression of brotherly love and honor toward our Church, and as evidence of our common desire to continue -- in a spirit of love and faithfulness to the Gospel Truth and the common tradition of our Fathers -- the unwavering journey toward the restoration of full communion among our Churches, which constitutes His divine will and command. May it be so.
[Translation issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople]
[The above was also posted this evening on: "Lutheran_Liturgy@yahoogroups.com"]
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
(Richard John Neuhaus citing David Yeago's description of Luther's understanding of justification by faith in the essay "Luther, Newman, and the Punctiliar Church" in "All Theology is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer", p. 156)
Saturday, November 25, 2006
- St. Augustine (Sermon 93:8-9 cited in ACCS: Matthew 14-28, 219)
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Since the visit to the Temple is apocryphal this feast day did not continue among the churches of the Augsburg Confession (that I am aware of). However, this day does lead us to consider the approaching feast on Feb. 2 at which the churches celebrate The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord.
Jumping ahead to the feast in February we are reminded of the liturgical inheritance that the Church has received upon receiving the very Body and Blood of Christ at the altar. The Church sings the words of the just and devout Simeon in the Temple when he took the baby Jesus up in his arms and blessed God saying:
"Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel."
So too we remember Mary's words at the announcement of Jesus' birth by the Angel Gabriel, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)
"According to Your word" - these words of Simeon and of the Blessed* Virgin Mary are the Church's in her own humble self-presentation at the altar to receive purification in the Body and Blood of Mary's Son, just as He Himself instituted for His Bride the Church for the forgiveness of sins.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Sunday, November 12, 2006
I found on a Roman Calendar that today, Nov. 12, is the Feast Day of St. Josaphat. Knowing that the basilica in Milwaukee is in his name but not knowing who he was my historical instincts got the best of me. It turns out that St. Josaphat (1580-1623) was a bishop of the Eastern Rite who sought unity between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Martin was a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers. He died in 397.
Before I forget, this last summer was non-stop (and so not very relaxing). However, I was able to read an apocalyptic novel called "Father Elijah" by Michael D. O'Brien (597 pages). The book is written within the context of the Catholic Church, the Vatican and travels through many countries. There is suspense and intrigue, insights into modern society, and the state of the Church and how life is for the faithful in the last days. Finally, there is interwoven the reality and reliance on divine revelation (Scripture), the Sacrament, prayer all toward faith in Christ.
Don't let the size of the book scare you away!
Monday, November 06, 2006
- from the letter of Pope Agatho, Pope of Old Rome, addressed to the Sixth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople, A.D. 680-1) (NPNF II 14:334)
Thursday, November 02, 2006
There are difficulties, loss and sadness involved in his departure, especially for his former congregation in Detroit. Fr. Fenton has also had a great influence beyond the congregation especially in the area of liturgics. Many pastors, seminarians, undergrads and laity have benefited from the St. Michael Liturgical Conference, his speaking engagements, articles in print and discussion of the liturgy on various e-mail lists. He will be missed.
It may be argued convincingly by Lutherans that he has abandoned Lutheranism. Nevertheless his contribution toward our understanding and appreciation of the liturgy remain. It is harder to argue that he has abandoned the Faith. God grant His healing and blessed guidance to those who rebuild and to John and his family in all that lies ahead.
Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace:
Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum
Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum:
Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
But man is God's coin, on which is the image of God. Therefore,
give your money to Caesar; keep for God a blameless conscience.
- Hilary (Matthew, Canon 23; cited in Toal, IV, 295)
Friday, October 27, 2006
Then again, maybe not. After all, Walden Pond excepted, the suburbs and rural areas of our country are also beset by sin and its effects. Undoubtedly, the petition in this prayer of the Church is a wake-up call to the fact that we cannot forget the cities and the problems that all cities have.
On the other hand, the petition leaves the average faithful with the idea that sin has not yet crossed the city limits. This petition leaves the impression that those who live outside the city do not need forgiveness. Or is it, that forgiveness is no longer effective?
Although this may be a negative example of lex orandi, lex credendi we can hope that city limits will not be used to profile sin nor to put boundaries on forgiveness, forgiveness that in Christ is equal to "seventy times seven."
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
"Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed . . ." - Luke 1
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, fill thee with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us. Be ever becoming more zealous than what thou art. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet who became visible for our sakes; impalpable and impassible, yet who became passible on our account; and who in every kind of way suffered for our sakes. . . Give ye heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. My soul be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God! Labour together with one another; strive in company together; run together; suffer together; sleep together; and awake together, as the stewards, and associates, and servants of God. Please ye Him under whom ye fight, and from whom ye receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism endure as your arms; your faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as a complete panoply. Let your works be the charge assigned to you, that ye may receive a worthy recompense. Be long-suffering, therefore, with one another, in meekness, as God is towards you.May I have joy of you for ever!
(The Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapters III & VI, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0110.htm)
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
ON CHURCH (and Liturgy):
The 2nd edition of "The Church: Selected Writings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn" is now available. Additional volumes of Piepkorn's writings include "The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions", "Ministry and Church" and "Worship and the Christian Life." http://www.alpb.org/thechurch.htm
ON LITURGY (and Church):
"Lively Stone" by C. George Fry & Joel R. Kurz on the ministry of the Lutheran liturgist, Berthold von Schenk http://www.alpb.org/livelystone.htm
"The Church" (A.C. Piepkorn) is a classic and every Lutheran pastor should have it. Whether or not one agrees with everything he writes the pastor can learn from his knowledge and understanding of the Lutheran Confessions and the historical practice of the Lutheran liturgy.
Berthold von Schenk is a relatively new name to me but one of significance to liturgical history and renewal within Lutheranism. When it comes to Lutheranism and liturgical renewal there are not many books out there so this should be of interest.
Disclaimer: The author of this blog does not necessarily have all of the books that he mentions here.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Flying the Flag, saying the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the National Anthem serve not only to demonstrate one's allegiance but also they serve to keep alive the national consciousness and the memory of who we are as citizens of the United States of America and how the United States got to where we are today. This national support, or "patriotism," is passed down from generation to generation in the United States and in other countries around the world through certain traditions such as the ones mentioned above.
Praying the historic liturgy of the Church serves not only to confess the faith but also to keep alive the Church's consciousness and the memory of who we are as members of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and citizens of the kingdom of God. The liturgy also demonstrates how we share the same faith held by the early church which is also the faith of the saints in heaven. This deposit of faith in Christ and in the Holy Trinity is handed down from generation to generation in the Scriptures and in the historic liturgy of the church catholic.
If freedom of religion comes to mean freedom from religion we can see how "Tradition" becomes a bad word. Constant revision and "creativity" erase the Church's memory and consciousness and re-defines the faith. On the contrary, we have a lot to be thankful for, including the Tradition that we have been given and that which we have received. This Tradition is not just the faith but Christ Himself and we would not know Him except for this Scriptural tradition carried on within the Church. By His holy incarnation, His suffering and death on the cross, His resurrection and ascension into heaven He has prepared the future for us. This future is given to us and received at certain times and places in the holy Word and Sacraments which we receive in the historic liturgy. In the historic liturgy we are brought into the long line of the faithful throughout the world who have been buried and raised with Christ and have received the name of the Triune God in Holy Baptism. These same have also remained in Christ and in His life in His Body and Blood at the altar. In the historic liturgy the Church continues to sing the new song of her life in Christ as she sings with the angels and archangels not only from where she has come from but also to where she is going.
So Tradition is not something we hold on to simply to fly one's flag. Liturgy and Tradition are simple means by which we are united with the Church of all times and places in the Lord's ongoing work in this world, which is, at the same time, united in Christ with the saints in heaven.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Luke 10:23-37 Who Is Our Neighbor?
10 September 2006
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today’s Gospel is like when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptizer and Jesus saw the Spirit descend on Him like a dove and He heard the voice from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” At this time however, before Jesus speaks the parable of the Good Samaritan, He “rejoices in the Spirit” after the seventy returned with joy announcing that even the demons were subject to them in His name. He rejoiced because these things were hidden from the wise and prudent but were revealed to babes. This is about knowing the Father and the Son. Only the Father knows the Son. Only the Son knows the Father. Only those can know the Father if the Son reveals Him to them. Our text continues saying, “Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.’” This is like Jesus’ baptism for, on both occasions, the Spirit is involved and, on both occasions, there is revelation of who Jesus is, the beloved Son. His disciples are blessed to see the things that they see.
There is another similarity. After Jesus was baptized the devil drove Him out into the wilderness to tempt Him concerning what was written in the Scriptures. On the occasion recorded in today’s Gospel Jesus having just rejoiced “in the Spirit,” a lawyer tests him about what is necessary to inherit eternal life. The Church is also tested and tempted about what it means to be “blessed” and this even after having been blessed in Holy Baptism or in the hearing of the Holy Gospel or in the Holy Supper. Immediately after these works of God take place and the gifts are received we are back in the world in our daily lives, thinking about and worrying about money and other things. We quickly forget the eternal benefits we receive in Christ. It is no surprise then that blessing loses its spiritual meaning and becomes equated with physical and material success, even within the Church. Others, after baptism or confirmation, fail to see the importance of God’s means of grace for their lives or what it means to be part of Christ’s Body and to remain steadfast in His Word and they fall away from His Church. Jesus told His disciples not to rejoice that the demons were under their control on account of His name but that their names were written in heaven. In Baptism our names are written in heaven and this means that we have God’s faithful promise but it also means that we will be tested.
On this occasion a lawyer tests Jesus with a good question. His question is of real spiritual value for it deals with eternal life. Blessing does come from what one sees and what one hears but what is it that you see and hear? What is daily before your eyes? What is it that you daily listen to? Jesus directs the lawyer to what is written in the Law. What is the Law? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” The man answered Jesus correctly. Jesus told him, “Do this, and you will live.” The man knows that we are to fear, love and trust in God above all things. He knows that he is to love his neighbor as he loves himself. Yet he asks, “Who is my neighbor?” It is the same sin of Adam that leads Cain to ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” These and other questions we come up with to justify ourselves before God, to cover up our sin and to question God’s knowledge. The lawyer knows the answer but he is wrong. He knows the Law yet he fails to find his life in it. If he keeps and does what the Word of God says he will live. This is brought out more clearly for him and for us in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.
A man falls victim to robbers who strip and beat him and leave him half dead. A priest sees him but passes by on the other side. A Levite also sees him but passes by on the other side. A Samaritan sees him and has compassion. He binds up his wounds, “pouring on oil and wine.” He puts him on an animal and takes him to an inn leaving money with the innkeeper to care for him. Who is the neighbor to the man? The lawyer is right again. “He [says], ‘The one who showed him mercy.’” He is right but he does not have eternal life. Jesus says to him, “‘You go, and do likewise.’” Of the three it is the Samaritan who is the outsider. He is neither a priest nor a Levite. Of the three it is the Samaritan who has compassion on the man. He “showed him mercy.” The lawyer must do the same to inherit eternal life. “You go, and do likewise.” “Do this and you will live.”
The psalmist writes, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” The one who is blessed is not the one who tests God to cover up his own sin but he who delights in the law, the TORAH, or Word that God gives to him. He is blessed by the hearing, keeping and doing of this Word. It is a Word that encompasses his whole being, his whole life, his every moment. This blessed one is not one who has need to test God but rather one who sees and hears what God has to give him – His mercy. Jesus, therefore teaches the lawyer of the mercy of God. “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” (Ps. 1)
True blessing is not dependent on keeping one’s promises but on seeing and hearing what the prophets and kings desired to hear and see but did not hear and see. The lawyer knew the answers but he did not hear and see the Blessed One who stood there before his eyes. The Good Samaritan was there to show him the way of the righteous, the way to eternal life. He came and bound up the wounds and carried the sin of the lawyer and the sin of every man as He suffered and died on the cross. He is robbed of his dignity, beaten and stripped. “By His stripes we are healed.” (Is. 53) “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) God is merciful in giving eternal life to sinners who are unable to love God and their neighbor. In Christ we are given the forgiveness of sins for we have been reconciled to God. The blessing is that in the Law, in the Word of God we are given words of eternal life.
The one who shows mercy in this world is our Neighbor. He is the one who walks in the way of the righteous and leads us in the way of everlasting life. We in the Church will always be tempted to seek God’s blessing where it is neither given nor found. Eternal life is not something that can be gained by testing God or failing to see Him when He is there before us. God’s blessing is placed before our eyes and it is not here for our entertainment. Rather, Jesus shows us what is written in the Law. He speaks His words of forgiveness of sins into our ears. He gives to His Church His very body and blood. Here at the altar we are given His mercy for here He gives us life and salvation. Jesus is our Neighbor and He comes to us at this altar today. Blessed are you and the Church throughout the world who sees and hears of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Friday, September 08, 2006
directly to the Church here too:
CHURCH TIMES 01 September 2006
How can the Church have got it so wrong?
By Juliet Hole
The Government has reportedly shelved plans to tackle light pollution
- excessive artificial light that can obliterate the night sky. One
does not need to be an addict of hidden-agenda theories to see why an
aggressively atheist political establishment does not mind if we
cannot see the stars.
The stars are a constant reminder that there is an "outside" to the
social systems being constructed around us - to the "world" in the
biblical sense - as they help us to see ourselves in a different
light, and in relation to something else.
A society that denies God must set itself up in his place, and provide
secular answers to all our needs and questions. To do this, it must
secularise us as well, control our concerns, and, if necessary,
manufacture ones to which there are political and commercial answers
ready. The stars are no help here.
That otherness that sets us free and nourishes our souls is
encountered pre-eminently in prayer and worship; also in nature, and
in art. This can take place, though, only if we can escape the
intrusive packaging that so often obstructs the real encounter that we
need: packaging that is frequently intended, consciously or not, to
suggest that the experience is given its significance by the people in
THEN there are churches. To enter a country church is to enter a
different dimension, and be completely at home in it; enfolded in a
community of prayer, faith, and love.
I mean the church when it is empty: the "building", so often nowadays
referred to as if it were a nuisance rather than God's house.
These buildings, with their silence and spaces, speak to the heart
like no others. Entering, we can leave the world behind. This is an
escape, not from reality but to reality. Broken connections are
restored, and some are moved to pray, perhaps for the first time.
The church where I was brought up is, like many others, under attack.
"Developments" are planned for the west end - if I say lavatories,
kitchen, meeting rooms, welcoming area, you will get the idea.
The proposals are architecturally and aesthetically disastrous, but it
is not just a matter, as sometimes in the past, of carelessness and
poor judgement. It is a deliberate move to import precisely the
secular chatter and clatter, busyness and corporate self-importance
that these churches, uniquely, have always enabled us to leave behind.
Visitors must no longer slip in during the week and find themselves at
peace in the silence and emptiness. (Look through any visitors' book
if you doubt the nature and value of such experience.) Visitors and
parishioners alike must negotiate apparatus designed to make them feel
"welcome" - even protect them from "embarrassment" (no reverence,
ONE CAN understand how an atheist establishment is driven to market
experience so as to block the way to the transcendent, and keep our
minds on the here and now, so that, for instance, before we can walk
in the woods, we are directed to information in which context nature
becomes "nature" - an artificial rather than a real experience.
It is harder to see why influential churchpeople seem to want us to
encounter their God rather than God. Several factors suggest
themselves. The Church of England is in love with manageralism, and
has adopted its very conformist mindset, forgetting that the Church is
supposed to represent something different.
It fails to grasp that modernisation, as now practised, is identical
with secularisation; that the whole point of destroying the
traditional and familiar is a totalitarian one: to disorient, and
create dependence on an imposed political or commercial culture, with
no sign of an alternative, or outside.
The technique was known in the old Communist states. Conniving with
this process is the direct opposite of what the Church should be
doing. When a church building is de-sanctified, a real answer to a
desperate need is lost - reduced to the sort of thing that can be
found in any community centre.
OUR CHURCH is having one of its regular attacks of the fidgets. It
knows that the nation desperately needs to be re-evangelised, but it
keeps losing its nerve in the face of materialistic mockery and
politically correct disapproval. But it has got to be seen to be doing
something, and has gone for the soft and futile option of chasing
popularity through modernisation.
Yet this approach has been failing for so long, and so spectacularly,
that it should be obvious that more of the same is not the answer.
These pretentious and destructive developments are, needless to say,
staggeringly expensive. It is almost beyond belief that nobody in the
Church can think of better and more truly faithful ways of spending
money. We - the people, insiders and outsiders alike, and perhaps most
of all, the young - need our churches as they are.
Juliet Hole is a schoolteacher and PCC member in Worcestershire. This
is a shortened version of an article that appeared in Faith and Worship.
The Danger of Being Too Busy
By Michelle Bauman *
Two weeks ago, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to a crowd of the faithful who gathered outside his summer residence to pray with him. (See the CNA news article for August 21, 2006). He spoke to them about the danger of excessive busyness and the importance of taking time to slow down in our lives. The Pope’s words are important for all Catholics. In today’s busy world, we all need to slow down. The Pope quoted St. Bernard, a Doctor of the Church who lived in the 1100s and warned that being too busy can result in spiritual suffering, loss of intelligence, and the loss of grace. If we become too busy physically, we can hurt ourselves spiritually.
In today’s world, we are constantly busy. Technology has given us nearly-instant communication and transportation. We are always doing something – we have continuous access to entertainment at our fingertips. Our world is also filled with noise. Radios, i-pods, and cd players give us constant access to music, while cell phones ensure that even when we are alone, we always have someone to talk to. People today spend very little time in silence, whether they are waiting to catch a flight at the airport or stuck in traffic. We are surrounded by a busy, noisy society that places very little value on peaceful silence and reflection. But the more we fill our lives with noise and activity, the fewer opportunities we give ourselves for quiet prayer and reflection.
When people are too busy, they tend to be irritable and get stressed out easily. They are in no condition to glorify God through their lives, and they are too busy to see the grace of God at work in the world around them. That is why it is important for us to slow down and take some time to grow closer to God. Instead of thinking of God for just a few minutes when we wake up or fall asleep, our prayers to God should be constant throughout the day. Slowing down will give us more time for reflection in our daily lives. We will be able to see God in the small things that happen every day, to recognize God in the beautiful creation that surrounds us and in the people that we encounter in our lives. We will be able to spend more time throughout the day thinking about God, and as a result, we will be more fully able to offer our entire day and everything that we do to glorify Him.
In addition, the more time we spend in silence, the better we are able to hear God. God does not speak to us loudly over a megaphone; rather, He speaks to us in the quiet stillness of our hearts. Therefore, it is important that we know how to listen to Him and hear His voice. In today’s busy, chaotic world, we can easily miss His voice if we do not slow down long enough to listen. Only in silence and prayer can we truly hear what God is saying in our hearts. It is important to our spiritual health that we do not become exceedingly busy to the point that we are never able to hear God speak in our lives. We need to make sure that we are able to spend an adequate amount of time in reflection and prayer.
I see the problem of excessive busyness as being a major problem among teenagers as well as adults. Many young people are involved in school, sports, clubs, and other activities. They are often busy from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to sleep. This way of life can become dangerous for teenagers, as it can for anyone. A schedule that is overly busy is not healthy physically or spiritually. We need to remember to allow ourselves enough time to see the goodness of God in our lives. The Lord tells us, “Be still and know that I am God,” (Ps. 46:11) and this is important advice for us to follow as we strive to live as Christians.
* Michelle Bauman is an honor student in the 12th grade at Bishop Machebeuf High School in Denver.
(Source: "Today's Column" Catholic News Agency, September 8, 2006)
Thursday, September 07, 2006
"Devotion to Our Blessed Lady in its ultimate analysis must be regarded as a practical application of the doctrine of the Communion of Saints." ("Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary", http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15459a.htm)
"In Catholic theology there is a clear distinction drawn between the worship of latria (adoration, which may be offered only to God), and veneration and praise, or dulia. Catholicism has traditionally accorded to the Virgin Mary the veneration of hyperdulia, which rests in part upon the angelic salutation, "Hail, full of grace" (Lk 1:28), a phrase with momentous theological impact. Over the centuries, according to the Catholics, the nature of Mary within theology became clearer. By 403 we find Epiphanius refuting a sect called the Collyridians who adored Mary, telling them: "Mary should be honoured, but the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost should be adored. Nobody should adore Mary" (in Ott, Bk III, Pt 3 Ch. 3, §8). Thus we find, from the third century Church, veneration of Mary. Later, the belief that Mary intercedes for us with her Divine Son, and a clear distinction between latria and dulia together with a rejection of the notion of giving latria to Mary. The saints, for their part, receive dulia. This distinction between latria, hyperdulia, and dulia, is key to understanding Catholic Tradition (the Orthodox do not distinguish hyperdulia from dulia)."
("Blessed Virgin Mary", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blessed_Virgin_Mary)
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
- St. Augustine, Christian Instruction 33 (cited in Ancient Christian Commentary volume on Luke, p. 181)
Monday, August 21, 2006
Christians need to slow down, Pope says
Castelgandolfo, Aug. 21, 2006 (CNA) - Christians must guard against the dangers of excessive activity and busyness, regardless of their state of life or occupation, in order to protect themselves from developing “hardness of heart,” said Pope Benedict XVI yesterday, borrowing from 12th-century Cistercian monk and Doctor of the Church St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
The Pontiff, speaking to a crowd of faithful gathered to pray the Angelus at his summer residence in Castelgandolfo, noted that Sunday marked the feast of St. Bernard (1091-1153), who served as abbot of the famed monastery of Clairvaux for 38 years.
Excessive busyness leads to spiritual suffering, loss of intelligence and the loss of grace, the saint had written in his text called De consideratione, which was addressed to Pope Eugene III and which focused on the importance of the interior life. This applies to all occupations, including those within the Church, the saint had said.
St. Bernard knew how to harmonize the contemplative life with important missionary work, the Pope noted. However, the saint’s strict observance of silence and contemplation did not impede him from living a very intense apostolic life, the Pope observed. His humility and his commitment to tame his impetuous temperament were exemplary, he said.
The Pope also highlighted the saint’s focus on the truth that God, who is love, created mankind out of love and that man’s salvation consists of adhering firmly to Divine love, revealed through the crucified and risen Christ.
The richness of St. Bernard’s preaching and his theology were not in pursuing new paths, the Pope said, but in succeeding to propose the truth of the faith in a clear and incisive way so as to fascinate the listener and lead the person to prayer.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
(Alexander Schmemann in "Sacrifice and Worship", Chapter 9, of "Liturgy and Tradition: Theological Reflections of Alexander Schmemann", Thomas Fisch, ed., 132-3)
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
There are others who can address today's Feast of the church year in a way to more fully express its significance. That is one reason why I provide links to other blogs and websites here. The Lutheran Church retains this Feast on her calendar and so reflects continuity, albeit somewhat limited, with the tradition of the church catholic. While this day is The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Church of Rome and The Dormition of the Theotokos for the Eastern Church the day is rich with meaning and devotion. How the secular calendar and the busy-ness of life has obscured days like this on the calendar! However, happy circumstances this year permitted a meeting on this day with children in the city at the order of Matins. Normally, in our city church, Tuesday is Tuesday and we move from Sunday to Sunday (if that often!) This morning, we heard again the words of the Blessed Virgin, ". . . holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation." (Lk. 1) All generations in the faith do call Mary "blessed" and with good reason. This morning we prayed, "Almighty God, you chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of Your only Son . . ."
The Apostle writes, "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." (Gal. 4) Today is just another day, another Tuesday. This year brought a happy meeting of summer Bible School and the Feast of Saint Mary, Mother of Our Lord. Just another day to be sure. Still, a great day to be reminded in the hearing of God's Word of Mary's place in the life of the Church. The angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” And Elizabeth said, "“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" Maybe the children remembered this morning more for the games outside playing with friends or the arts and crafts. Yet they did hear about the fruit of Mary's womb and the blessing He was and is to people of every generation who fear Him. Another day, another day to pass on to a new generation the remembrance and honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary who says to us and our children in the Church, "And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation." When the fullness of time had come God redeemed both people and our time in Christ Jesus and His Cross. Not only Tuesday, but each day leading us into the future hope. In the meantime we have the church calendar to remind us of days like this and how what God has accomplished in the past is still a blessing today and yet another opportunity to hand over joyfully what was received. And "holy is His name."
Saturday, July 29, 2006
- Benedict XVI (Feast of Faith, p. 65)
Friday, July 28, 2006
- Martin Luther (From 2 Sermons on the Saturday after St. Anthony's Day, 1538; Luther's Works, Vol. 22 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4. p.201 )
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Pastors remember when they are installed as pastor of a congregation. Yet one day that ought to be unforgettable for pastors is the day of their ordination into the Office of the Holy Ministry. Installation services are more common than ordination services. Recently, I participated in a service that included both the ordination and installation of a pastor who had recently graduated from the seminary. Although I did not know the new pastor this was an opportunity to welcome him to the area and, more important, an opportunity to be part of a day that is set apart by the word of God and prayer for this young man's entrance into the holy ministry.
It is a privilege and honor for a pastor to be reminded of the day when he received his "holy orders." While participating in such a service might serve as a reminder of the pastor's age and how long ago it was when he was ordained, it is moreso a reminder to the pastor and the Church what the pastoral office is all about.
My ordination into the holy office, 15 years ago this July, was unforgettable in more ways than one. My father was involved as well as pastors from the area and the guest preacher from Florida. The service was at 3:00 in the afternoon. All went well and then a summer storm passed through Milwaukee during the service knocking out the lights in the church. Normally, the daylight would be sufficient but the sky was quite dark making it very difficult to see what was going on in the service. The pastors up front read the Holy Scriptures by candlelight at the altar and, without further use of the organ, the closing hymn was changed to the Common Doxology sung a cappella. The lights next door were out at the reception following the service. Rather than serve "as a sign of things to come" which was joked about, maybe half-seriously, this made a memorable day even more memorable (and which also fit well in scriptural terms of darkness and light). With all of the challenges that face churches in the city the holy ministry is the same as in other places.
Ordination is more than the day and the memories. Christ's work continues in His Church where the Lord chooses and uses men to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments (see, for example, Matt. 28, John 20; Augsburg Confession, Articles IV, V, XIV). The Church continues its life in the apostolic doctrine and tradition.
Ordination then is a beginning of Christ's ministry in flesh and blood among the faithful. The Apostle encourages the young pastor, Timothy, to take heed to the doctrine and the ministry - "the gift" - he has been given:
"Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you." (1 Timothy 4:12-16)
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Monday, July 17, 2006
will do you good. But the modern theory of nourishment-all about
the vitamins and proteins-is a different thing. People ate their
dinners and felt better long before the theory of vitamins was
ever heard of; and if the theory of vitamins is some day abandoned
they will go on eating their dinners just the same."
- C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity", 54.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
"Diversity in Lutheran Worship" (July 11, 2006) on http://fatherhollywood.blogspot.com
"Optional Orandi begets Proscribed Credendi" (June 17, 2006) on http://conversiaddominum.blogspot.com
Whether or not one agrees with use of the historic or traditional liturgy one can see the differences that confront us today in what passes as "worship." Hopefully, and unfortunately, we see that the differences are not only a matter of worship but also a matter of faith.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Nevertheless, an observer has helped me reconsider the state of my blog and I have made some changes to make it more accessible to you.
Whether or not you may have noticed before, now you are able to add comments to the posts. Please be patient with me if I do not respond quickly to your comments - I am still learning how to do this and am also trying to avoid more work ;-)
Monday, June 26, 2006
ST. LUKE 14:15-24
In today's Gospel lesson we hear of the greatness of God's mercy to all people. He sends His Servant, the Messiah, as He promised His people in the Old Testament. The Messiah, or Christ, is the Anointed One, chosen by God to fulfill the Scriptures and bring salvation to His people. Prior to Jesus telling about the man and his invitation to a great banquet, He accepted the invitation to eat bread with a ruler who belonged to the Pharisees, a religious group. The Pharisees watched Him closely for His teachings and His miracles seemed to go against the Law. On that occasion, while he was at table with this ruler, he showed mercy on a man and healed him of dropsy. This occurred on the Sabbath. Was it lawful for Jesus to do this work on the Sabbath? To the Pharisees this act of healing broke the Sabbath Law. What appeared externally to be work was indeed an act of mercy and, according to Jesus, was the purpose of the Sabbath.
We also need this reminder of the Sabbath not just for the day itself but for the sake of coming to know better God and His mercy for us. This is the day of rest for God's people just as He commanded. God's merciful healing in Christ is especially made available and given to His people on this day. This day has both God’s command and promise. Today is also the Commemoration of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. The Augsburg Confession is the primary document of the Reformation and was presented to the Roman Emporer Charles V on June 25, 1530. The document was written and presented as an attempt to find unity between the Reformers and the Roman Church. The central teaching on salvation is made in Article IV that people "are freely justified for Christ's sake" or "that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace for Christ's sake, through faith." The Reformers were concerned about the Scriptural teaching of the centrality of God's mercy toward people and how, on account of His mercy in Christ, He makes us righteous and gives us salvation.
Article V of the Augsburg Confession makes clear how we receive this saving faith, "In order that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and the sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given, and the Holy Spirit produces faith, where and when it pleases God, in those who hear the Gospel." In short, God's grace and mercy is ours and comes to us in the waters of Baptism, in the teaching and hearing of the Gospel and in the bread and wine of the Holy Supper just as it came to God’s people of old through means God had chosen. The apostolic teaching and ministry continues in the Church today. While in the world people can come to know that there is a God it is here that people are brought to faith and God’s salvation in Christ.
So that we do not forget God's mercy to all people and do not forget the intention of the Augsburg Confession, the Reformers write the following words which conclude the main articles of the document: "This is about the sum of our teaching. As can be seen, there is nothing [in these articles] that departs from the Scriptures or the catholic church or the church of Rome, in so far as the ancient church is known to us from its writers." So far the Augsburg Confession. This may seem to be paying unnecessary attention to doctrine or church history. On the other hand, and what is helpful in remembering such things as the Augsburg Confession on this day, is that the Scriptural teaching of God's mercy in Christ continues to be proclaimed to all people and is available and given to us and all people in the church and her ministry today. Also, you may find it interesting that Pope Benedict, prior to being named pope, and while working at the Vatican as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger called upon the Roman Catholic Church to adopt the Augsburg Confession as a document of the Church.
While eating with the ruler of the Pharisees Jesus noticed how those gathered sat there at the table and he taught them a parable on being invited to a marriage feast. He says, do not go to the place of honor but to the lowest place that the host may come to you and invite you to go to the higher place. He also told the man who invited Him that in giving a dinner or banquet that he ought not invite family, friends or rich neighbors. They can repay him. Rather, Jesus teaches, "But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just." (v. 14) Jesus takes the opportunity of his invitation to this meal by the ruler to teach the meaning of inviting and being invited. Here is an opportunity to learn humility and receive mercy. This is what faith is, humbly receiving the mercy that God so freely gives to those in need.
The best illustration of humbly receiving God’s mercy is that of a child receiving Holy Baptism. At Baptism God gives that child His grace and mercy and welcomes that child into the church and even puts His holy name on him or her. The child, though born sinful and not deserving of God’s love and mercy, is clothed with Christ through water and the Word. He or she is baptized into Christ’s death and raised to new life freely given him or her in Christ. The parents bring their child to be baptized and the pastor puts the water on the child’s head but this is all the work of God’s love and mercy toward that child. Basically, God is saying in Baptism that He loves that child and wants that child to freely have His mercy and salvation. So it appears simple with the pouring of water but at the same time this is a wonderful and miraculous work of God’s mercy to all people. The same can be said of Holy Communion. It appears to be simple bread and wine but it is a wonderful and miraculous work of God’s mercy for His baptized people in Christ’s Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus’ talk of invitation to the banquet takes place because He Himself was invited to the table of the ruler and because in accepting this invitation He is also giving those who are present the opportunity to receive God’s invitation to eat bread in the kingdom of God. This is the purpose for which Jesus was sent by the Father. He is on the road to the cross where He will become the sacrificial Lamb. With the shedding of His blood all sin is paid for and washed clean. God reconciles the world to Himself and sinful man, who deserves nothing but God’s wrath and punishment, has peace with God. The cross is where God works His mercy toward the world and conquers our enemies of sin, death and devil. Through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross people are given the invitation to the banquet feast where everything is ready.
Jesus tells those who reject Him that they are invited to eat bread in the kingdom of heaven with Him. “But they all alike began to make excuses.” Three are mentioned here. One bought a field, one bought five yoke of oxen and the third was married. They could not come to the great banquet because they were pre-occupied with other things. The result is that they lose out on tasting the householder’s banquet. Instead, the poor and maimed and blind and lame are welcomed in and people are not only invited but compelled to come in. Salvation is extended beyond the chosen people of Israel to the Gentiles and all are invited, all are recipients of God’s mercy in Christ, that they may taste of the banquet and His house be filled. It could very well be that the householder is God the Father and His servant is Christ Himself. Indeed Christ brings the Father’s invitation in the Spirit to partake of His mercy. There is really no excuse to reject God’s mercy and yet many people do. The way is narrow. Not that the invitation is not for all but because the majority are worried about the things of this life that they have no time for the things from above. They do not recognize Jesus when He is standing in front of them. So Jesus came and brings the Father’s invitation. This is seen in the Last Supper where He speaks of His Body and His Blood to His disciples as the new testament just prior to His death. The disciples’ eyes are opened to knowing who Jesus is and that He is risen as their eyes were open in His presence in the breaking of the bread.
“The Supreme Father therefore is inviting you to the Supper of eternal joy, but while one man is given over to greed, another to curiosity, another to the delight of the flesh, all the reprobate make excuses. While one man is held back by earthly cares, this other by acute anxiety over somebody else’s business, and the mind of yet another is given over to bodily lust, each in turn contemptuous hastens not to the feast of eternal life.” (Gregory, 183) Today at this altar the invitation of mercy is once again made. Here is forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Here we poor sinners rejoice in knowing that we have received the invitation and are partakers of that promised feast of eternal life. The Servant of God brings the invitation and He has prepared the table. Come, for all is now ready. Amen.