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.