description

quod pro nobis traditum est

Friday, November 30, 2007

Holding high the Sacrament

For your reading, there is a post by Pastor Weedon entitled "On the Elevation" that provides a Lutheran understanding and history of the practice of elevation of the Body and Blood of Christ in the liturgy of the Eucharist.

(Special thanks to "RAsburry's Res" for drawing attention to this.)

St. Andrew the Apostle



Of Bethsaida; Fisherman; disciple of the Baptizer; First called with his brother Simon Peter to follow the Lord; one of the Twelve; Martyr

“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor." (John 12)

It is Andrew who said to Peter “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). (John 1)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Religious news from across the pond

November 25, 2007
The World
The Church in England: Downright Un-American
By GEOFFREY WHEATCROFT
BATH, England

LAST week, Tony Blair outlined his plans for easing the economic crisis in Gaza, in his role as a Middle East facilitator. And that's all he is these days, a long step down from the prime minister's office, which he resigned last summer. The point was made bluntly then by a State Department spokesman, Tom Casey: "There's certainly no envisioning that this individual would be a negotiator between the Israelis and Palestinians."

Learning to accept such slights with humility is said to be one of the consolations of religion, and Mr. Blair is evidently about to take an important step on his personal path, which he discussed with Pope Benedict XVI, it was reported, on his last visit to Rome as prime minister.

The authoritative Catholic paper The Tablet of London now writes that, some time before Christmas, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair will at last be received into the Roman Catholic Church by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

The historical resonances and political overtones of this are as significant as the event itself — which also illustrates again the great trans-Atlantic gulf. Not only are the English now a notably irreligious people; in striking contrast to America, religion plays no part in British political life.

For years it has been rumored that Blair would one day convert, the culmination of a journey that began when he discovered religion at Oxford. An Australian clergymen named Peter Thomson introduced him to the work of another writer. "If you really want to understand what I'm all about, you have to take a look at a guy called John Macmurray," Mr. Blair has said. "It's all there."

Little read now, Macmurray was an academic theologian and proponent of "communitarianism" who died at 85 in 1976. Not everyone was as enthusiastic as Mr. Blair. George Orwell, for one, was suspicious of Macmurray as a "decayed liberal" who was even susceptible to totalitarian rhetoric.

However that may be, Mr. Blair joined the High or "Anglo-Catholic" wing of the Church of England, whose adherents, from John Henry Newman on, have been inclined "to pope" (as they used to say) and go the whole way. His wife, Cherie Booth, is a Catholic, and for years he went to Mass with her and their children, even taking holy communion, irregularly and sacrilegiously in Catholic eyes.

All of which sets him far apart from his compatriots. When an interviewer once tried to raise the question of faith, Mr. Blair's press officer, Alastair Campbell, snapped, "We don't do God," and on that occasion at least he was quite right.

By contrast with the United States, whose First Amendment prohibits any establishment of religion, there is a Church of England "by law established," with the queen as its supreme governor. And yet, while polls indicate that nearly half of Americans go to church each week, services of this established church are now regularly attended by fewer than 2 per cent of the English population, while the total for all Christian churches is around 7 per cent. (Islam is another matter: Muslims attending Friday prayers in Great Britain may soon outnumber all churchgoing Christians.)

We British not only don't do God, we are effectively a pagan nation — and that goes for our politicians. Even when England was truly Protestant, that was more in terms of hostility to Catholicism than theological precision or zeal, and to this day the public displays of piety that are normal enough in America would be embarrassing here.

No British prime minister has been a Catholic, and it would have been politically very difficult for Mr. Blair to convert when he was in office (think of Northern Ireland, apart from anything else). A neglected footnote to our history is that a majority of prime ministers for the past century were by origin Protestant Dissenters, in the old term, from outside the Church of England: H. H. Asquith
grew up as a Congregationalist; David Lloyd George a Baptist; Neville Chamberlain a Unitarian; Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher Methodists.

More to the point, only a minority of 20th-century prime ministers were Christians as adults, having any serious personal religion. The impious majority includes Winston Churchill. His "Macmurray" was Winwood Reade, who wrote a once-famous book published in 1872. "The Martyrdom of Man" was called "a bible for secularists," though Nietzsche-and-water might be better: Churchill learned from Reade that God is dead and that man is master of his own destiny in a cruel world.

Of course, Churchill paid lip service to the outward forms — christenings, weddings and funerals in church — and he would invoke the Almighty rhetorically. But neither he nor other British pols ever made an open parade of faith, certainly not in the way that United States presidential candidates are obliged to. And it's very hard to imagine an American equivalent of Norman Tebbit.

As cabinet minister and Conservative party chairman in the 1980s, Mr. Tebbit was one of Mrs. Thatcher's most effective lieutenants, a tough, populist right-winger — and a self-proclaimed atheist. Even the believing prime ministers kept politics and religion separate: Harold Macmillan was a pious High Churchman, and he used to say that if the people want moral guidance they should get it from their bishops, not their politicians.

For centuries, England was certainly infused with political Protestantism, in the sense of antipathy to the Roman Church. In 1780, London was swept by the "No-Popery" Gordon Riots (see Dickens's "Barnaby Rudge"), and in 1850 Lord John Russell tried to prevent the re-establishment of a Catholic hierarchy in England. That tradition lingered longer than you might think.

In 1945, Labor won a landslide election (to the astonishment of the defeated Churchill), sweeping every industrial district and large town, with one exception. Labor had acquired a large Irish-Catholic vote, while the Conservatives held on to the ultra-Protestant constituency. And so it was that in that year of Labor's triumph the Tories still won a majority of seats in Liverpool (Cherie Booth Blair's native city), thanks to the anti-Catholic "Orange vote" there.

Today, that kind of sentiment is quite vanished outside Ulster, and there will be no vehement demonstrations against Rome's latest illustrious convert. Still, what Tony Blair has said is his strength has also been seen as a weakness.

"Far from lacking conviction," said the late Roy Jenkins — the Labor politician who became a founder of the Social Democrats, and who originally admired Mr. Blair — "he has almost too much." Mr. Blair has nearly admitted as much: "I only know what I believe." And those words may indeed explain a great deal about him, well beyond his new ecclesiastical affiliation.

nytimes.com

Monday, November 19, 2007

eat something

Moreover, for us to understand that the entire mystery of our salvation is prefigured in this girl [Jairus' daughter]; after she was raised from the dead, as Luke reports, the Lord directs her to eat something. Evidently the order of our faith and salvation is here shown. For when each believer among us is freed in baptism from perpetual death and comes back to life upon acceptance of the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is necessary that the person also be directed to eat that heavenly bread about which the Lord says, ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”
(Chromatius [4th c.], ACCS Ia, p. 185)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Catholics, Lutherans and devotion to Mary

Pastors in the parish cannot always keep up with all of the happenings that affect their respective church bodies and how these affect the perceptions of members and non-members alike. By their call they are placed locally so local, and often personal, concerns predominate their time and efforts. A challenge and joy that happens locally comes from conversation and discussion with people, inside and outside the Church, and the subsequent learning that takes place between pastor and people.

Pastors often learn what is happening from afar, as it were, about current events. Something is gleaned from a newspaper, magazine or journal article. Something is heard in passing on the radio or seen on the television. The internet allows for quick learning. Blogs provide quick commentary. Still, pastors must often rely on others for learning and keeping up on those matters that affect the Church and those topics and issues that are of interest to them on either or both the professional and personal levels.

As a seminary student in the mid-to-late 1980s I was honored to have an article published in the student journal concerning the 450th Anniversary of the Augsburg Confession (1980) and what that anniversary meant in terms of Lutheran-Roman Catholic relations. This article was one article in the journal that was wholly dedicated to the topic of the relationship between Lutheranism and the Catholic Church. My article focused mainly on the roles of both the Augsburg Confession and then the Book of Concord as a whole although it made some mention of a number of many of the topics that dominate such discussions. Another article, written by a fellow student, discussed the question of Mary. I mention this because now, looking back as a parish pastor, I marvel that I wrote the article and then saw it published. Moreso, I appreciate today how great an effect questions of devotion and practice have on how Christians look at each other. The question of devotion to Mary is one that can too easily be seen as one where the line is drawn in the sand.

All of this is simply meant to introduce the reader to an article entitled True Devotion to Mary that has appeared in the latest issue of the journal First Things. The article is undoubtedly written on the occasion of the issuing of The One Mediator, the Saints, and Mary which is the eighth volume from a dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics.

The author of the article is Catholic but don't let that keep you from reading on. The topics of Mary and Marian devotion are too big to cover in this post but these excerpts from the article provide a great introduction for the sceptic:

For example, this "maxim" regarding "rightly ordered faith and rightly ordered devotion" - "If you would draw close to Jesus, draw close to Mary; if you would draw close to Mary, draw close to Jesus." The author continues, "Anything that pits Jesus against Mary or that depicts them as rivals for devotion is disordered. The entirety of Mary's role is encapsulated in her injunction at the wedding of Cana, 'Do whatever he tells you.' These are the final words of Mary in the New Testament and, in substance, the final words of Mary forever." (p. 49)

and

"Disordered Marian devotion has been with us since the beginning of the Christian story . . . John Paul II vigorously called for 'the evangelization of popular piety.' And, of course, this is a theme powerfully underscored in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. John Paul said that devotion to Mary and other saints as expressed in patronal feasts, pilgrimages, and other forms of piety, 'should not sink to the level of a mere search for protection or for material goods or for bodily health. Rather the saints should be presented to the faithful as models of life in imitation of Christ as the sure way that leads to him.' The criterion set forth in the Catechism for rightly and wrongly ordered devotion is unequivocal: 'What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines, in turn, its faith in Christ.' Discerning what is true and what is false devotion to Mary and the other saints engages truths that are trinitarian, Christological, pneumatological, and ecclesial. Any devotion that displaces, overshadows, or obscures the triune God, that impugns the mercy of the one mediator Jesus Christ, that neglects the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, or that tends to separate a particular saint from the whole body of Christ is a disordered devotion." (p. 49)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Advent

from the Latin adventus

For Christians, the anticipation and joy of Christmas are undisputed. The intensity of the weeks leading up to Christmas, is also something incomparable in terms of commercial activity, busy-ness and stress. Halloween leads to Thanksgiving which leads to Christmas which seems connected to New Year’s Day, a festivity on the tail’s end. In between are countless shopping trips, social outings, football games, and the like.

In the Eastern Church, Advent begins today. In the Western Church Advent begins this year on December 2, the 4th Sunday before Christmas and ends before the evening of Christmas Eve.

From the 4th century this was a period of fasting which was held strictly like that of Lent. The strict observance of fasting was later relaxed in Lutheran practice. The period began in some places on November 11 (St. Martin of Tours) and so was known as “St. Martin’s Fast,” “St. Martin’s Lent,” or “the forty days of St. Martin.” Reed writes,

Advent as a season of preparation for the Nativity originated in France. Its observance was general by the time of the second Council of Tours, 567. . . It was probably not until the thirteenth century that Advent was universally recognized as beginning the Christian year, which up to that time had begun with the Festival of the Annunciation in March or, in some places, with Christmas.
(The Lutheran Liturgy, pp. 465-6)

Although strict fasting is no longer the rule and although Advent does not compare with Lent in terms of its strict emphasis on repentance, Advent remains a solemn period of repentance and purification in anticipation of the coming of the Lord. Some practices during Advent include the Advent Wreath, daily readings in Scripture with prayer, the singing of the Great Antiphons (Dec. 17-24) and the use of the liturgical colors of purple, violet or blue (Sarum Rite).

With the secular pressures and the growing impact of Christmas on the heels of Thanksgiving, the season of Advent is often overlooked and neglected, if not forgotten. There seems to be no greater contrast during the year than to solemnly observe Advent when everything around us is pulling us in different directions. Through the observance of Advent the Church not only lives in contrast to the world around her, even more important, she herself is being prepared for the way of the Lord.

A Special Day

This past Sunday, November 11, 2007, our youngest daughter, together with other children of the congregation, received the Body and Blood of our Lord for the first time. This means that she now joins her older sister in receiving the Holy Supper at the altar.

At the altar they join their parents and fellow baptized believers in communion with Christ and His Church throughout the world. They are now strengthened in communion with Christ together with Mary and all of the saints, martyrs, prophets, apostles, evangelists, angels and archangels in heaven. With this brief foretaste of heaven we are united once again with God and are strengthened by His forgiveness and life and salvation. As Christ participates here in our human nature, in Christ we participate in His divine nature.

God willing, there will be many special days ahead for our children like graduation and marriage and many other occasions. Of course, she will remember how strange the wine tasted. For me, this quiet day is one to remember.

God remember His covenant to all as they receive Christ's Body and Blood for the forgiveness of their sins and so proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

begging a moment of your time . . .

Some well-known words from a well-known dead man:

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.

- G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

one holy church

Some more on holiness in connection with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church . . .

"Forgiveness is needed constantly, for although God's grace has been won by Christ, and holiness has been wrought by the Holy Spirit through God's Word in the unity of the Christian church, yet because we are encumbered with our flesh we are never without sin.

"Therefore everything in the Christian church is so ordered that we may daily obtain full forgiveness of sins through the Word and through signs appointed to comfort and revive our consciences as long as we live. Although we have sin, the Holy Spirit sees to it that it does not harm us because we are in the Christian church, where there is full forgiveness of sin. God forgives us, and we forgive, bear with, and aid one another.

"But outside the Christian church (that is, where the Gospel is not) there is no forgiveness, and hence no holiness."

(Large Catechism, The Third Article, 54-56)

"Our churches also teach that one holy church is to continue forever."

(Confessio Augustana, Article VII)