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quod pro nobis traditum est

Friday, December 26, 2008

Saint Stephen, Protomartyr



Sederunt principes, et adversum me loquebantur.

Below are some excerpted commentaries on Acts 7 for this Feast of St. Stephen, First Martyr:

"Therefore to strengthen the blessed martyr's endurance the doors of the heavenly kingdom are opened and, so that the innocent man being stoned may not stumble to the ground, the crucified God-man appears crowned in heaven." (Bede, 86)

"The Lord too, who 'chose' us 'out of the world' for his heavenly kingdom and glory, suffered outside the gate, Like Stephen, who, as though he were a stranger to the world, was stoned outside the city. For he had no permanent city here, but with his whole heart he sought the city to come." (Bede, 87)

"And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' He did this to show them he is not perishing and also to teach them." (Chrysostom, 87)

(Source: ACCS, NT, V, 86-7)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Blessed Christmas and Christmas-Tide



Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

O Emmanuel



O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, expectatio gentium et salvator earum, veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our king and ruler, the expectation and Savior of the nations, come to save us, O Lord, our God.

Monday, December 22, 2008

O Rex Gentium



O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum, veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

O King of nations, and their desired one, and the corner-stone, that makes both one, come and save man, whom you formed out of dust.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

O Oriens



O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol iustitiae, veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Orient, splendor of eternal light, and sun of justice, come and enlighten those who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Address

ON THE MEANING AND VALUE OF OUR LIVES

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

Precisely today, we begin the days of Advent that immediately prepare us for the nativity of the Lord: We are in the Christmas novena, which in many Christian communities is celebrated with liturgies rich in biblical texts, all oriented toward nourishing hope for the birth of the Savior. The entire Church, in effect, turns its gaze of faith toward this approaching feast, readying itself, like each year, to unite to the joyful song of the angels, who in the heart of the night will announce to the shepherds the extraordinary event of the birth of the Redeemer, inviting them to draw close to the cave of Bethlehem. There lies Emanuel, the Creator made creature, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a poor manger (cf. Luke 2:13-14).

Because of the environment that characterizes it, Christmas is a universal feast. Even those who do not profess to be believers, in fact, can perceive in this annual Christian celebration something extraordinary and transcendent, something intimate that speaks to the heart. It is the feast that sings of the gift of life. The birth of a child moves us and causes tenderness. Christmas is the encounter with a newborn who cries in a miserable cave. Contemplating him in the manger, how can we not think of so many children who even today see the light from within a great poverty in many regions of the world? How can we not think of the newborns who are not welcomed and are rejected, of those who do not survive because of a lack of care and attention? How can we not think, too, of the families who desire the joy of a child and do not see this hope fulfilled?

Under the influence of a hedonistic consumerism, unfortunately, Christmas runs the risk of losing its spiritual significance to be reduced to a mere commercial occasion to buy and exchange gifts. In truth, nevertheless, the difficulties and the uncertainties and the very economic crisis that in these months so many families are living, and which affects all of humanity, can be a stimulus to discover the warmth of simplicity, friendship and solidarity -- characteristic values of Christmas. Stripped of consumerist and materialist incrustations, Christmas can thus become an occasion to welcome, as a personal gift, the message of hope that emanates from the mystery of the birth of Christ.

All of this, nevertheless, is not enough to assimilate fully the value of the feast for which we are preparing. We know that it celebrates the central event of history: the incarnation of the divine Word for the redemption of humanity. St. Leo the Great, in one of his numerous Christmas homilies, thus exclaimed: "Let us exult in the Lord, my dear ones, and open our hearts to the most pure joy. Because the day has dawned that for us means the new redemption, the ancient preparation, eternal bliss. Thus in the yearly cycle, the elevated mystery of our salvation is renewed for us, which, promised at the beginning and fulfilled at the end of times, is destined to endure without end (Homily XXII).

St. Paul returns to this fundamental truth many times in his letters. To the Galatians, for example, he writes: "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law … so that we might receive adoption" (4:4). In the Letter to the Romans he sets forth the logic and consequent demands of this saving event: "And if [we are] children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him" (8:17).

But it is above all St. John, in the prologue to the fourth Gospel, who meditates profoundly on the mystery of the Incarnation. And it is because of this that the prologue has been part of the Christmas liturgy since ancient times: There is found, in fact, the most authentic expression and the deepest synthesis of this feast, and of the base of his joy. St. John writes: "Et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis" -- And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

At Christmas, then, we are not limited to commemorating the birth of a great personality; we do not celebrate simply and in the abstract the mystery of the birth of man or in general, the birth of life; neither do we celebrate only the beginning of a great season. At Christmas, we remember something very concrete and important for man, something essential for Christian faith, a truth that St. John summarized in these few words: "The Word was made flesh."

It is a historical event that the Evangelist Luke concerns himself with situating in a very determined context: in the days in which the decree of the first census of Caesar Augustus was issued, when Quirinius was already governor of Syria (cf. Luke 2:1-7). It is therefore a night dated historically, in which was verified the salvation event that Israel had been awaiting for centuries. In the darkness of the night of Bethlehem, a great light was truly lit: The Creator of the universe incarnated himself, uniting himself indissolubly with human nature, to the point of really being "God from God, light from light" and at the same time, man, true man.

That which John calls in Greek "ho logos," translated in Latin "Verbum" and in Italian, "il Verbo" (the Word), also means "the Meaning." Therefore, we can understand John's expression in this way: the "eternal Meaning" of the world has made himself tangible to our senses and our intelligence. Now we can touch him and contemplate him (cf. 1 John 1:1). The "Meaning" that has become flesh is not simply a general idea inscribed in the world; it is a "word" directed to us. The Logos knows us, calls us, guides us. It is not a universal law, in which we fulfill some role, but rather it is a Person who is interested in each individual person: It is the living Son of God, who has become man in Bethlehem.

To many people, and in some way to all of us, this seems too beautiful to be true. In effect, here it is reaffirmed for us: Yes, there is meaning, and this meaning is not an impotent protest against the absurd. The Meaning is powerful: It is God. A good God, who is not to be confused with some lofty and distant power, to which it is impossible to ever arrive, but rather a God who has made himself close to us and to our neighbor, who has time for each one of us and who has come to stay with us.

Thus the question spontaneously arises: How is such a thing possible? Is it worthy of God to become a child? To try to open one's heart to this truth that enlightens all of human existence, it is necessary to yield the mind and recognize the limits of our intelligence. In the cave at Bethlehem, God shows himself to us as a humble "infant" to overcome our pride. Perhaps we would have submitted more easily before power, before pride; but he does not want our submission. He appeals, rather, to our heart and to our free decision to accept his love. He has made himself little to free us from this human pretension of greatness that arises from pride; he has incarnated himself freely to make us truly free, free to love him.

Dear brothers and sisters, Christmas is a privileged opportunity to meditate on the meaning and value of our existence. Approaching this solemnity helps us to reflect, on one hand, about the drama of history in which men, wounded by sin, are permanently seeking happiness and a satisfactory meaning to life and death; on the other hand, it exhorts us to meditate on the merciful goodness of God, who has gone out to meet man to communicate to him directly the Truth that saves, and make him participate in his friendship and his life.

Let us prepare for Christmas, therefore, with humility and simplicity, readying ourselves to receive the gift of light, joy and peace that irradiates from this mystery. Let us welcome the nativity of Christ as an event capable of today renewing our existence. May the encounter with the Child Jesus make us people who do not think only of ourselves, but rather open to the expectations and necessities of our brothers. In this way we too become testimonies of the light that Christmas radiates over the humanity of the third millennium. Let us ask most holy Mary, the tabernacle of the incarnate Word, and St. Joseph, silent witness of the events of salvation, to communicate to us the sentiments they had while they awaited the birth of Jesus, so that we can prepare ourselves to celebrate in a holy way the coming Christmas, in the joy of faith and enlivened by the determination of a sincere conversion.

Merry Christmas!

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Holy Father then greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we commence the Christmas Novena of Advent by contemplating the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies in the coming of the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary in the stable of Bethlehem. Christmas speaks to everyone; it celebrates the gift of life – often fragile or endangered – and the fulfilment of our deepest hopes for a world renewed. The present economic crisis, causing so much suffering, can however help us to focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, and to welcome into our hearts the hope brought by God’s coming among us as man. The Word became flesh to offer humanity the salvation which can only be received as a gracious gift from God. The same Word by whom the universe was made, the Word which gives all creation its ultimate meaning, has come to dwell among us: he now speaks to us, he reveals the deepest meaning of our life on earth, and he guides us to the Love which is our fulfilment. In the Christ Child, God humbly knocks on the doors of our hearts and asks us freely to accept his love, his truth, his life. As Christmas approaches, let us rekindle our hope in God’s promises and, in humility and simplicity, welcome the light, joy and peace which the Saviour brings to us and to our world.

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including the various student groups and those coming from Ireland and the United States of America. To you and your families, especially those who may be in difficulty or suffering, I extend my best wishes for a happy and blessed Christmas!

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

-----------------

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Pope Benedict XVI. "Christmas: An opportunity to reflect on the meaning of our existence" (December 17, 2008).

Given at his weekly General Audience in the Paul VI Hall

Translation by Zenit

O Clavis David



O Clavis David et sceptrum domus Israel, qui aperis, et nemo claudit, claudis, et nemo aperuit, veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel, Who opens and no man shuts, Who shuts and no man opens, come and lead the captive from prison, sitting in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

Friday, December 19, 2008

O Radix Jesse



O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt, reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur, veni ad liberandum nos, iam noli tardare.

O root of Jesse, who stands as the ensign of the peoples, before whom kings shall not open their mouths, to whom the nations shall pray, come and deliver us, tarry now no more.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

O Adonai



O Adonai, et dux domus Israel, qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti, veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extendo.

O Adonai, and leader of the house of Israel, Who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush, and gave him the law on Sinai, come to redeem us by outstretched arm.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

As Advent makes the turn

Two different aspects of the Advent Season begin today, the Ember days in Advent and the first of the 7 Greater Advent Antiphons (December 17-23).

Today is Ember Wednesday in Advent. The other Ember days are Friday and Saturday of this week. These days come in the first week following the Feast of St. Lucy (or after the Third Sunday of Advent). The Introit for this day is the same as that for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Rorate coeli) and the Gospel reading from Luke 1 helps to prepare us for Christmas.



The "O" Antiphon for December 17 is:

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altíssimi prodiísti, attíngens a fine usque ad finem, fórtiter suavitérque dispónens ómnia: veni ad docéndum nos viam prudéntiae.

O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come and teach us the way of prudence.

Lutherans will find all of the "O" Antiphons listed in the Lutheran Service Book in connection with hymn 357, Veni Emmanuel

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

St. Eusebius, Bishop of Vercelli



It is no secret that one of the advantages of the ecclesiastical calendar is an opportunity to study and learn some church history.

On the traditional Western calendar today is the day of St. Eusebius, Bishop of Vercelli (c. 283 - 371). He was consecrated bishop by Pope Julius I on December 15, 340. St. Ambrose writes that Eusebius was the first western bishop to unite the monastic and clerical life. In the controversy with the Arians and even with threats made by the emporer Eusebius refused to sign a document condemning St. Athanasius. He co-presided with Athanasius at a synod in 362. In 363 he assisted St. Hilary of Poitiers against Arian influences in the Western Church. One theological journal in 1900 attributed to him authorship of The Athanasian Creed. The Canons Regular of St. Augustine name him together with St. Augustine as their founder. He is honored by the Western Church as a martyr.

(Source: Adapted from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05614b.htm)

Waiting for Presents



There is something refreshing in watching one's children get excited about the Christmas presents around the tree. They pick them up and weigh them, check out their shape and guess their contents. They truly look forward to the chance to open them. Whether or not they receive exactly what they were waiting or hoping for there is an extra charge in the air at the anticipation of finding out what is underneath the wrapping.

Part of this refreshment may have to do with realizing that as parents we no longer have the need to anticipate presents as we did when we were children so our eyes are opened to their anticipation and impatience. We like receiving presents but it is more important to us that our children receive them than that we receive anything. Much of this refreshment comes in knowing one is able to give to another even if it is something that provides temporary happiness.

This is what I appreciate about the Advent Season - the anticipation of the Second Coming and so too the Christ who comes to us now in the Mass. He gives and we receive. No greater gift. No greater refreshment. No greater joy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Catholic Theologian and Churchman Dies

Cardinal Dulles Dead at 90
Scholar Suffered From Post-Polio Syndrome

NEW YORK, DEC. 12, 2008 (Zenit.org ).- The New York Province of the Society of Jesus reported that renowned theologian and prolific author Cardinal Avery Dulles died this morning at 90.

Avery Dulles was born Aug. 24, 1918, in Auburn, New York. He was the son of John Foster Dulles, who later served as U.S. Secretary of State under President Dwight Eisenhower.

Dulles converted to Catholicism in 1940 while studying at Harvard University. After graduation he continued at Harvard studying law, but after a year and a half he left the university to join the Navy during World War II, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant.

He entered the Jesuits in 1946 and was ordained 10 years later. He earned a doctorate from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1960.

Father Dulles taught theology at Woodstock College from 1960 to 1974 and at the Catholic University of America from 1974 to 1988.

He served as the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University from 1988 until April of this year.

He was created a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001, making him the first American-born theologian not a bishop to receive this honor.

A respected theologian, he served as president of both the Catholic Theological Society of America and the American Theological Society. He authored over 750 articles on theological topics, and dozens of books, the latest including "The History of Apologetics," (revised edition, 2005), and "Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith" (2007).

The cardinal had been suffering of complications of post-polio syndrome, which he contracted as a Naval officer. Confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, the cardinal continued to read and communicated by slowing typing on a computer keyboard or writing on a pad of paper.

Upon stepping down as the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University in April, he wrote: "Well into my 90th year I have been able to work productively. As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ. If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity. 'Blessed be the name of the Lord!'"

During Benedict XVI's visit to the United States last April, the Pontiff and Cardinal Dulles met for a private meeting.

Great theologian

Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S. episcopal conference, said the death of Cardinal Dulles "brings home to God a great theologian and a totally dedicated servant of the Church."

"His wise counsel will be missed; his personal witness to the pursuit of holiness of life as a priest, a Jesuit and a cardinal of the Church will be remembered and will encourage the Church to remain ever faithful to her Lord and his mission," he added.

Cardinal Edward Egan, the archbishop of New York, said in a statement this afternoon that he learned of the death of Cardinal Dulles with "deep sadness."

"Cardinal Dulles was an eminent theologian and professor of theology in seminaries and universities throughout the nation," said Cardinal Egan. "All of us here in the archdiocese are very much indebted to him for his wisdom and priestly example."

Father James Massa, executive director of the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the episcopal conference and a student of Cardinal Dulles, said the cardinal was "for a generation of priests, scholars and faithful [...], a reliable and faithful interpreter of the Second Vatican Council. A number of his books have become classics in theological education."

"In some ways," the priest added, "his life bears comparison with another great cardinal-theologian, John Henry Newman, on whose birthday, 200 years later, Avery Dulles was created a cardinal of the Catholic Church."

(Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-24544?l=english)

[Ed. Cardinal Dulles wrote many theological books and articles, including many articles in the journal FIRST THINGS.]

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Facing the Bridegroom

"The faithful so anticipate the Lord's Second Coming and can be likened to the virgins in the Gospel parable: 'But at midnight there was a cry, "Behold the Bridegroom! Come out to meet him"' (Matt. 25:6) So are the faithful described in their "common direction of liturgical prayer." "The whole liturgy is celebrated . . . facing the Bridegroom."

- U.M. Lang, citing C. Schönborn, p. 102

Monday, December 08, 2008

St. Ambrose, December 7



Reaching Milan, I found your devoted servant Ambrose, who was known throughout the world as a man whom there were few to equal in goodness.

Unknown to me, it was you who led me to him, so that I might knowingly be led by him to you.

- St. Augustine, Confessions 5, 13

Thursday, December 04, 2008

worship in proper measure



St. John of Damascus (c. 676 – December 4, 749)

Liturgically, this commemoration was moved from March 27 (a Memorial during Lent from 1890-1969) in the Catholic Church to today, the anniversary of the date of his death and which also coincides with his day on the Byzantine Rite calendar.

On worship:
"Worship is the symbol of veneration and of honour. Let us understand that there are different degrees of worship. First of all the worship of latreia, which we show to God, who alone by nature is worthy of worship. When, for the sake of God who is worshipful by nature, we honour His saints and servants, as Josue and Daniel worshipped an angel, and David His holy places, when be says, "Let us go to the place where His feet have stood." (Ps. 132.7) Again, in His tabernacles, as when all the people of Israel adored in the tent, and standing round the temple in Jerusalem, fixing their gaze upon it from all sides, and worshipping from that day to this, or in the rulers established by Him, as Jacob rendered homage to Esau, his elder brother, (Gen. 33.3) and to Pharaoh, the [14] divinely established ruler. (Gen. 47.7) Joseph was worshipped by his brothers. (Gen. 50.18) I am aware that worship was based on honour, as in the case of Abraham and the sons of Emmor. (Gen. 23.7) Either, then, do away with worship, or receive it altogether according to its proper measure."

(Source: from Part I of his Apologia against those who decry holy images; http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/johndamascus-images.html)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A still small voice

or Advent and the beginning of a new liturgical year. What better example of, and contrast between, the directions that we are going. It is like darkness and light.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday's Audience: On St. Paul and Justification

Wednesday's Audience

On St. Paul and Justification
"To Be Just Means Simply to Be With Christ and in Christ"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 19, 2008 (Zenit.org ).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the journey we have undertaken under the guidance of St. Paul, we now wish to reflect on a topic that is at the center of the controversies of the century of the Reformation: the issue of justification. How is a man just in the eyes of God? When Paul met the Risen One on the road to Damascus he was a fulfilled man: irreproachable in regard to justice derived from the law (cf. Philippians 3:6); he surpassed many of his contemporaries in the observance of the Mosaic prescriptions and was zealous in upholding the traditions of his forefathers (cf. Galatians 1:14).

The illumination of Damascus changed his life radically: He began to regard all his merits, achievements of a most honest religious career, as "loss" in face of the sublimity of knowledge of Jesus Christ (cf. Philippians 3:8). The Letter to the Philippians gives us a moving testimony of Paul's turning from a justice based on the law and achieved by observance of the prescribed works, to a justice based on faith in Christ: He understood all that up to now had seemed a gain to him was in fact a loss before God, and because of this decided to dedicate his whole life to Jesus Christ (cf. Philippians 3:7). The treasure hidden in the field, and the precious pearl in whose possession he invests everything, were no longer the works of the law, but Jesus Christ, his Lord.

The relationship between Paul and the Risen One is so profound that it impels him to affirm that Christ was not only his life, but his living, to the point that to be able to reach him, even death was a gain (cf. Philippians 1:21). It was not because he did not appreciate life, but because he understood that for him, living no longer had another objective; therefore, he no longer had a desire other than to reach Christ, as in an athletic competition, to be with him always. The Risen One had become the beginning and end of his existence, the reason and goal of his running. Only concern for the growth in faith of those he had evangelized and solicitude for all the Churches he had founded (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:28), induced him to slow down the run toward his only Lord, to wait for his disciples, so that they would be able to run to the goal with him. If in the previous observance of the law he had nothing to reproach himself from the point of view of moral integrity, once overtaken by Christ he preferred not to judge himself (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:3-4), but limited himself to run to conquer the one who had conquered him (cf. Philippians 3:12).

It is precisely because of this personal experience of the relationship with Jesus that Paul places at the center of his Gospel an irreducible opposition between two alternative paths to justice: one based on the works of the law, the other founded on the grace of faith in Christ. The alternative between justice through the works of the law and justice through faith in Christ thus becomes one of the dominant themes that runs through his letters: "We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified" (Galatians 2:15-16).

And, he reaffirms to the Christians of Rome that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:23-24). And he adds: "For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" (Ibid. 28). Luther translated this point as "justified by faith alone." I will return to this at the end of the catechesis.

First, we must clarify what is the "law" from which we have been freed and what are those "works of the law" that do not justify. Already in the community of Corinth there was the opinion, which will return many times in history, which consisted in thinking that it was a question of the moral law, and that Christian freedom consisted therefore in being free from ethics. So, the words "panta mou estin" (everything is licit for me) circulated in Corinth. It is obvious that this interpretation is erroneous: Christian liberty is not libertinism; the freedom of which St. Paul speaks is not freedom from doing good.

Therefore, what is the meaning of the law from which we have been freed and that does not save? For St. Paul, as well as for all his contemporaries, the word law meant the Torah in its totality, namely, the five books of Moses. In the Pharisaic interpretation, the Torah implied what Paul had studied and made his own, a collection of behaviors extending from an ethical foundation to the ritual and cultural observances that substantially determined the identity of the just man -- particularly circumcision, the observance regarding pure food and general ritual purity, the rules regarding observance of the Sabbath, etc. These behaviors often appear in the debates between Jesus and his contemporaries. All these observances that express a social, cultural and religious identity had come to be singularly important at the time of Hellenistic culture, beginning in the 3rd century B.C.

This culture, which had become the universal culture of the time, was a seemingly rational culture, an apparently tolerant polytheist culture, which constituted a strong pressure toward cultural uniformity and thus threatened the identity of Israel, which was politically obliged to enter into this common identity of Hellenistic culture with the consequent loss of its own identity, loss hence also of the precious inheritance of the faith of their Fathers, of faith in the one God and in God's promises.

Against this cultural pressure, which not only threatened Jewish identity but also faith in the one God and his promises, it was necessary to create a wall of distinction, a defense shield that would protect the precious inheritance of the faith; this wall would consist precisely of the Jewish observances and prescriptions. Paul, who had learned these observances precisely in their defensive function of the gift of God, of the inheritance of the faith in only one God, saw this identity threatened by the freedom of Christians: That is why he persecuted them. At the moment of his encounter with the Risen One he understood that with Christ's resurrection the situation had changed radically. With Christ, the God of Israel, the only true God became the God of all peoples.

The wall -- so says the Letter to the Ephesians -- between Israel and the pagans was no longer necessary: It is Christ who protects us against polytheism and all its deviations; it is Christ who unites us with and in the one God; it is Christ who guarantees our true identity in the diversity of cultures; and it is he who makes us just. To be just means simply to be with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Other observances are no longer necessary.

That is why Luther's expression "sola fide" is true if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love. That is why, in the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul develops above all his doctrine on justification; he speaks of faith that operates through charity (cf. Galatians 5:14).

Paul knows that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity. We are just when we enter into communion with Christ, who is love. We will see the same in next Sunday's Gospel for the solemnity of Christ the King. It is the Gospel of the judge whose sole criterion is love. What I ask is only this: Did you visit me when I was sick? When I was in prison? Did you feed me when I was hungry, clothe me when I was naked? So justice is decided in charity. Thus, at the end of this Gospel, we can say: love alone, charity alone. However, there is no contradiction between this Gospel and St. Paul. It is the same vision, the one according to which communion with Christ, faith in Christ, creates charity. And charity is the realization of communion with Christ. Thus, being united to him we are just, and in no other way.

At the end, we can only pray to the Lord so that he will help us to believe. To really believe; belief thus becomes life, unity with Christ, the transformation of our life. And thus, transformed by his love, by love of God and neighbor, we can really be just in the eyes of God.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the Audience, Benedict XVI greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on St. Paul, we now consider his teaching on our justification. Paul’s experience of the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus led him to see that it is only by faith in Christ, and not by any merit of our own, that we are made righteous before God. Our justification in Christ is thus God’s gracious gift, revealed in the mystery of the Cross. Christ died in order to become our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (cf. 1 Cor 1:30), and we in turn, justified by faith, have become in him the very righteousness of God (cf. 2 Cor 5:21). In the light of the Cross and its gifts of reconciliation and new life in the Spirit, Paul rejected a righteousness based on the Law and its works.

For the Apostle, the Mosaic Law, as an irrevocable gift of God to Israel, is not abrogated but relativized, since it is only by faith in God’s promises to Abraham, now fulfilled in Christ, that we receive the grace of justification and new life. The Law finds its end in Christ (cf. Rom 10:4) and its fulfilment in the new commandment of love. With Paul, then, let us make the Cross of Christ our only boast (cf. Gal 6:14), and give thanks for the grace which has made us members of Christ’s Body, which is the Church.

I am pleased to greet the participants in the international Catholic Scouting Conference meeting in Rome. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, South Africa and the United States, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

(http://www.zenit.org/article-24302?l=english)

Faith and Love together

Pope Clarifies Luther's Idea of Justification
Says It's True, if Faith Is Not Opposed to Love

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 19, 2008 (Zenit.org ).- Benedict XVI says Martin Luther's doctrine on justification is correct, if faith "is not opposed to charity."

The Pope said this today during the general audience dedicated to another reflection on St. Paul. This time, the Holy Father considered the Apostle's teaching on justification.

He noted that Paul's conversion experience on the road to Damascus "changed his life radically: He began to regard all his merits, achievements of a most honest religious career, as 'loss' in face of the sublimity of knowledge of Jesus Christ."

"It is precisely because of this personal experience of the relationship with Jesus that Paul places at the center of his Gospel an irreducible opposition between two alternative paths to justice: one based on the works of the law, the other founded on the grace of faith in Christ," the Pontiff explained. "The alternative between justice through the works of the law and justice through faith in Christ thus becomes one of the dominant themes that runs through his letters."

What is law

But in order to understand this Pauline teaching, Benedict XVI affirmed, "we must clarify what is the 'law' from which we have been freed and what are those 'works of the law' that do not justify."

He explained: "Already in the community of Corinth there was the opinion, which will return many times in history, which consisted in thinking that it was a question of the moral law, and that Christian freedom consisted therefore in being free from ethics. [...] It is obvious that this interpretation is erroneous: Christian liberty is not libertinism; the freedom of which St. Paul speaks is not freedom from doing good."

Instead, the Pope said, the law to which Paul refers is the "collection of behaviors extending from an ethical foundation to the ritual and cultural observances that substantially determined the identity of the just man -- particularly circumcision, the observance regarding pure food and general ritual purity, the rules regarding observance of the Sabbath, etc."

These observances served to protect Jewish identity and faith in God; they were "a defense shield that would protect the precious inheritance of the faith," he remarked.

But, the Holy Father continued, at the moment of Paul's encounter with Christ, the Apostle "understood that with Christ's resurrection the situation had changed radically."

"The wall -- so says the Letter to the Ephesians -- between Israel and the pagans was no longer necessary," he said. "It is Christ who protects us against polytheism and all its deviations; it is Christ who unites us with and in the one God; it is Christ who guarantees our true identity in the diversity of cultures; and it is he who makes us just. To be just means simply to be with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Other observances are no longer necessary."

And it is because of this, the Bishop of Rome continued, that Luther's expression "by faith alone" is true "if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love."

"Paul knows," he added, "that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity. We are just when we enter into communion with Christ, who is love."

(http://www.zenit.org/article-24309?l=english)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The enduring value of the Creed

If words are to be used to describe the content of the faith then the Creed
has more to say than one can absorb in a lifetime. This is why it took so
much time and effort to come about and why its formulation is one of the chief
reasons, if not the primary reason, why two branches of Christianity have taken
the directions they have taken. The subject of the Creed is of utmost
value.

Whether or not these branches ever unite it may not matter. For both still
hold the Creed dear and confess it before the world. The farther Christians
move away from this Creed the more they separate themselves from faith that
rests on divine revelation and which ultimately unites them more than they
realize. In moving away or negating the Creed they are left to the whims
of belief that rises from self and which tends to focus on self, on belief
that changes in a moment and can move in dozens of directions at the same
time. This becomes not true belief, or faith, but rather an acceptance of
only that which one can experience or define for oneself.

Here is right where the Creed's value endures. The Creed requires faith to
see beyond oneself and confess the mystery of God as He has revealed Himself
in Scripture. The words point beyond our limited knowledge and understanding
to that which is greater than us Who has given us life and Who saves and preserves
our lives in spite of sin and death through One who died that we may live.
The Giver of life is sent to us and creates such faith in our hearts. That
which is from the foundation of the world leads us to life everlasting.

The enduring value of the Creed is that the world hears and knows what the
one, holy, catholic and apostolic church believes and teaches and the Church is
reminded of that which is greater than the struggles, suffering and trials that are
within and which she faces from without. More than a lifetime is the eternity
that is ours in the One who comes to us in His Body and Blood, Who we know
and confess in the Spirit and whose Father is the only unbegotten.

In short, the Creed has more to say than one can absorb in a lifetime.

Monday, November 17, 2008

St. Elizabeth



The Charity of St. Elizabeth of Hungary
by Edmund Blair Leighton (1853-1922)

St. Elizabeth (1207-1231), daughter of the king of Hungary, is remembered for her charitable work on behalf of the poor and building hospitals. She was influenced by the ideals of St. Francis of Assisi through Franciscan monks. Her husband, Ludwig IV, was a ruler in central Germany. He supported her charitable work. After six years of marriage he died of the plague. Her life was made more difficult afterwords and she died young. She is buried in a church named for her, the Elisabethkirche in Marburg, Germany.

From the Missal:
Shed Thy light upon the hearts of Thy faithful people, O merciful God, and through the glorious prayers of blessed Elizabeth, grant that we may despise worldly success and find our joy in heavenly consolation; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

A Collect:
Almighty God, by whose grace your servant Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tagged

by Rev. Benjamin Harju at Paredwka Apparently, this is called "123 Book Meme." The rules are:

1. Pick up the book closest to me and find page 123,

2. count the first five sentences,

3. post the following three sentences

----------------------------------------------------
Interesting, both books closest to me speak of the Resurrection on p. 123. Decisions!

"For He has promised us this Resurrection which He showed us in Himself; because the members must share the glory of their Head. Our Redeemer for this reason took death upon Him, that we might not be afraid to die; He showed us His own Resurrection, that we might hope that we too shall rise again. And He willed this same death might not continue longer than three days, lest, should resurrection be delayed in Him, we might wholly despair of it."
(Gregory the Great, Sermon on Job xix. 25-27, The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers,Tr. and Ed. by M.F. Toal, Vol. IV, p. 123
----------------------------------------------------
Thank you Rev. Harju. I tag Dan Woodring at Beatus Vir and Rev. Randy Asburry at RAsburry's Res

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Liturgical Quote of the Day

An Eastern Orthodox quote on the liturgy:

"Another divorce which needs to be mentioned is that between theology and liturgy. For an Orthodox theologian, liturgical texts are not simply the works of outstanding theologians and poets, but also the fruits of the prayerful experience of those who have attained sanctity and theosis. The theological authority of liturgical texts is, in my opinion, higher than that of the works of the Fathers of the Church, for not everything in the works of the latter is of equal theological value and not everything has been accepted by the fullness of the Church. Liturgical texts, on the contrary, have been accepted by the whole Church as a 'rule of faith' (kanon pisteos), for they have been read and sung everywhere in Orthodox churches over many centuries..."
- Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev (cited here and here)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Liturgical Conference

Here is a news release regarding a Catholic conference on the liturgy. Note how
the conference stresses the unity of Scripture and Liturgy:

------------------------------------------------------------
Conference Calls For Deeper Knowledge of Liturgy Says It's Key to Healing Divisions Over Reforms
By Karna Swanson

OXFORD, England, NOV. 4, 2008 (Zenit.org ).- Before the divisions over the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council can be healed, liturgy needs to be more fully understood and lived, concluded a congress held at Oxford University.

The one-day congress on "Scripture and Liturgy in the Theology of Benedict XVI" took place Saturday at the Catholic chaplaincy of the university. Nearly 300 attended the event sponsored by the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, founded and directed by Scott Hahn, professor of theology and Scripture at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

The Center for Faith and Culture in Oxford, the U.K. outreach program of Thomas More College in New Hampshire, organized the conference. Stratford Caldecott, director of the center and conference organizer, told ZENIT that "it is no secret that Catholics are still deeply divided over questions of liturgical style and use, many of them nursing wounds that have never completely healed" since the introduction of reforms in the wake of Vatican II.

"Now, with pressure building under Benedict XVI for a far-reaching 'reform of the reform,' some fear a new wave of liturgical changes causing further division in a generation that has grown used to the 'novus ordo' (new order)," he added. "Such disagreements emerge whenever a public forum is created in which to discuss the question of liturgy."

Caldecott said the conference's message was clear: "Before any real healing of these wounds can take place, the nature and meaning of the Church's liturgy needs to be more widely understood and lived."

Speakers

Papers were presented by four speakers: Dominican Father Aidan Nichols, author of numerous books including "The Thought of Pope Benedict XVI" and the forthcoming "G.K. Chesterton, Theologian"; Michael Waldstein, the Max Seckler Professor of Theology at Ave Maria University in Florida; Adrian Walker, an editor of "Communio" and translator of Benedict XVI's book "Jesus of Nazareth"; and Scott Hahn.

"All the papers highlighted the fact that that the Bible is fundamentally a liturgical book," said Caldecott. "The canon of Scripture was originally determined by the decision to read certain books at Mass. Old and New Testament both point toward the body of Christ, dead and risen, which is then received in the Eucharist. The homily itself should lead the faithful from the act of listening to the Word to receiving it in communion."

The conference organizer said after several conference participants spoke, a single thread emerged that all agreed upon: "The liturgy cannot remain frozen, nor can abuses be left unaddressed, but the most urgent need of all is for mystagogical catechesis. Young people as well as old need to become aware of the cosmic nature and theological depth of the Mass."

Hahn underlined in his address -- titled "Eucharistic Kingdom and the World as Temple" -- the meaning and beauty of the liturgy by drawing attention to the fact that "we are with Jesus in heaven, whenever we go to Mass."

Caldecott commented: "Only if this understanding is present will the necessary liturgical changes be understood and accepted."

Source: http://www.zenit.org/article-24159?l=english

Monday, November 03, 2008

Commemoration of All Faithful Departed



Commemoratio omnium Fidelium Defunctorum


Also known as All Souls' Day

The emphasis of The Feast of All Saints (Nov. 1), which in our parish we observed yesterday (Sunday, Nov. 2), is more on those, prophets, apostles and martyrs through whom we have received the divine revelation. In Christ Jesus we have communion with them and with the angels and archangels. Through the Lamb and His blood we have peace and communion with God.



The celebration of All Saints' Day being on Sunday means that the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed (Nov. 2) is transferred to today, November 3. However, with the congregation gathered for the mass on Sunday, the faithful of our parish who died during the last year were also remembered in the Prayer of the Church. This prayer ended with the Collect for the Commemoration. (Liturgically, this Commemoration was included with yesterday's celebration of the Feast of All Saints.)

Below is the Collect of the Day for today's Commmemoration:

Almighty God, in whose glorious presence live all who depart in the Lord and before whom all the souls of the faithful who are delivered of the burden of the flesh are in joy and felicity, we give You hearty thanks for Your loving-kindness to all Your servants who have finished their course in faith and now rest from their labors, and we humbly implore Your mercy that we, together with all who have departed in the saving faith, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, in both body and soul, in Your eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Liturgical Quote of the Day

"What seems to be a coincidence at first glance turns out to be, after looking at the hierarchy of themes and tasks of the Church, intrinsically the most just thing as well. By beginning with the theme of "liturgy," the primacy of God, the priority of the "God" theme, was unequivocally brought to light. The first word of the first chapter in the constitution is "God." When the focus is not on God, everything else loses its orientation. The words of the Benedictine rule "Ergo nihil Operi Dei praeponatur" (43,3; "So let nothing be put before the Work of God") apply specifically to monasticism, but as a statement of priority they are also true for the life of the Church, and of each of its members, each in his own way. It is perhaps useful to recall that in the term "orthodoxy," the second half of the word, "doxa,"does not mean "opinion," but "splendor," "glorification": this is not a matter of a correct "opinion" about God, but of a proper way of glorifying him, of responding to him. Because this is the fundamental question of the man who begins to understand himself in the correct way: how should I encounter God? So learning the right way of adoration – of orthodoxy – is what is given to us above all by the faith."

- Joseph Ratzinger, excerpt from the Preface to the initial volume of "Opera Omnia" (HT: Chiesa)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr



"The Epistles of Ignatius which were sent to us by him, and others which we had by us, we send you as requested. They are enclosed herewith. You will be able to benefit greatly from them. For they are conducive to faith and patience and to every kind of edification pertaining to our Lord."

- Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (Epistle to the Philippians 13, 2; cited in Quasten, Vol. 1, p. 73)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lutheran Liturgical Quote of the Day

"Our common understanding of our Lord's incarnation by the Holy Ghost out of the Blessed Virgin Mary is such that we see the world in which we live as sacramental, a world in which God operates through material means and physical persons -- the human proclamation of the word of God; a washing with water in the laver of rebirth; the eating and drinking of bread and wine that in the sacrament of the altar are the veritable body and blood of Christ; a human mouth speaking a word of binding or loosing that binds or looses in the presence of God; a ministry of men through which God communicates aid and help in our warfare against our native sinfulness and against the seductions of his foes and ours; a union of one man and one woman in marriage by which God discloses the secret of Christ and his bride the Church."

- A.C. Piepkorn, Why Lutherans Should Engage in Conversation with Roman Catholics, "The Church: Selected Writings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn," p. 102

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Liturgy in the Pericope

The Old Testament and Epistle readings for Trinity 20 offer the following:

See then that you [plural] walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil . . . be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5)

Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
(Isaiah 55)

Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live (Isaiah 55)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

all that now runs past us in time

". . . See how the world now withers in itself; yet still flowers in our heart. Everywhere is death, everywhere sorrow, everywhere desolation and sadness; we are struck from every side, from every side we are filled with bitterness. And yet, with minds blinded by carnal desires, we love this very bitterness; as the world leaves us, we pursue it; as it collapses, we cling to it. And since we cannot uphold it, as it falls we fall with it; we fall with that to which as it falls we cling.

"Once the world held us fast in its delight. Now it is filled with so many afflictions, that now it is the world itself that sends us to God. Reflect therefore on how all that now runs past us in time is as nothing. The end of earthly things shows us the nothingness of that which can fade and pass away. The ruin of things declares to us, that this fleeting thing was then close to nothingness while it yet seemed to stand firm.

"Reflect therefore on these things with earnest consideration, Dearest Brethren, and make fast your heart to the love of eternal things, so that refusing to strive after earthly dignities, you may attain to that glory to which we come by faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth God with the Father, in the Unity of the Holy Ghost, throughout all ages and ages. Amen."

- St. Gregory the Great (on John 4:46-53; Toal, IV, 262)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

offenses of this world



From the Homily for St. Michael:

. . . Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! . . . - Matthew 18:1-10

"The offenses of the world are many. Life is rejected by the killing of children during the nine months before they are born. Life is polluted by the taking away of the innocence of children. This is sin as is all forms of relationships and marriage that do not conform to God's creation and blessing. Sin takes that which is holy and precious and re-creates it in its own image. People who are not offended by the world are converted to the life the world demonstrates. This is not new. The problem of sin is as old as Adam and Eve. One church father witnessed the degradation and immorality of his day and wrote, "He grows into praise by virtue of his crime; and the more he is degraded, the more skilful he is considered to be. Such a one is looked upon - oh shame! and looked upon with pleasure . . . Men imitate the gods whom they adore, and to such miserable beings their crimes become their religion." (Cyprian, to Donatus, ANF 277:8)

"It is enough to know about these things for the world reminds us of them every day. Those who live in this way with no thought of repentance and the life that comes from above are in danger of being cast into hell fire. Usually, that is the farthest thing from their minds. Such is the measure of the offenses of this world. And we too are no better if we avoid repentance, Christ and seeking the face of our Father in heaven. This is why Jesus came and this is why He was sent, that we may have life in His name and see the face of our Father in heaven. He leads us away from all ungodliness and gives us grace to overcome all sin. Jesus bore all sin, as ugly as it is, on the cross and by His stripes we are healed. On the cross the head of the serpent is crushed and the prince of this world has lost the war for all eternity. Jesus' blood washes us clean and in His name we are forgiven. The powers of the devil, the world and death are shattered and the gates of hell will not prevail against the holy Church. This is holy Baptism, the ever-flowing fountain of God's mercy and forgiveness for His children."

From the St. Michael Prayer:
". . . O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen."

From the Collect:
"Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order. Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth . . . Amen."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Brethren in point of kinship



Domenico Ghirlandaio: St. Jerome in His Study (1480)

[on The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary]
". . . I assert what has already been proved from the Gospel — that he spoke of the brethren of the Lord not as being sons of Mary, but brethren in the sense I have explained, that is to say, brethren in point of kinship not by nature. We are, however, spending our strength on trifles, and, leaving the fountain of truth, are following the tiny streams of opinion. Might I not array against you the whole series of ancient writers? Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenæus, Justin Martyr, and many other apostolic and eloquent men . . ."

(source: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3007.htm)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

St. Michael the Archangel



Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Who excel in strength, who do His word,
Heeding the voice of His word.


- Introit (Psalm 103)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lutheran Liturgical Quote of the Day

"Besides, we grant that the angels pray for us. This is attested to by Zech. 1:12, where the angel prays, 'O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou have no mercy on Jerusalem?' We also grant that the saints in heaven pray for the church in general, as they prayed for the church universal while they were on earth." (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Tappert, 230:8,9)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Liturgical Quote of the Day

"For prayer that issues from the word of God, speech is not enough: music is required. Two chants from the Christian liturgy come from biblical texts in which they are placed on the lips of angels: the Gloria, which is sung by the angels at the birth of Jesus, and the Sanctus, which according to Isaiah 6 is the cry of the seraphim who stand directly before God. Christian worship is therefore an invitation to sing with the angels, and thus to lead the word to its highest destination."

- Pope Benedict XVI (HT: Sentire cum Ecclesia)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Liturgy in the Pericope Quote of the Day

Every Sunday one can find in the pericopes direct and/or indirect references to the liturgy. This past Sunday brings us Jesus' words:

"But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
- Matthew 9 (St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Holy Cross



From the Homily:

". . . it is the benefits that flow from the cross of Christ that bring us here. We are marked with the sign of the cross in holy Baptism. For us the preached message of the cross is the power of God. In the Holy Supper we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes again. Through these means we receive the forgiveness of sins and life which is God's foolishness and God's weakness and which is our salvation. Without the cross there is no forgiveness of sins and salvation, no deposit of faith, no church. All of these benefits are fed by the grain of wheat that falls onto the ground and dies . . ."

From St. Irenaeus:

"A cutting from the vine planted in the ground bears fruit in its season, or a kernel of wheat falling into the earth and becoming decomposed rises and is multiplied by the Spirit of God, who contains all things. And then, through the wisdom of God, it serves for our use when, after receiving the Word of God, it becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ. In the same way our bodies, being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time . . . This is so because the strength of God is made perfect in weakness in order that we may never become puffed up, as if we had life from ourselves . . ."

(Against Heresies 5.2.3; cited in ACCS, IVb, 60)

Friday, September 12, 2008

long for this life



"Let us learn therefore, beloved, to ask of God things which are worthy of being asked for. For such things, I mean the things of this life, in whatever way they touch us, will bring us no harm. For if we are rich, it is only here we enjoy the pleasures of riches; and if fall into poverty, we shall suffer nothing dreadful. For the bright things of this life or the dark have little power to give us either pleasure or pain. Both are of little account, and swiftly pass away. And so they are rightly called a way; for they pass by, and do not long endure. But the things to come endure without end; punishment and Kingdom alike. For these let us have great concern: that we escape the one, and gain the other. What profit is there in present delight; here today, tomorrow fled? Today a shining flower; tomorrow scattered dust. Today a bright fire; tomorrow dead ashes.

"But it is not so with spiritual things. They remain ever shining, ever flowering, each day a greater joy. These riches are never lost, never given up, never come to an end, never cause anxiety nor envy nor blame. They neither destroy the body nor corrupt the soul, nor awaken jealousy, nor provoke malice; as with earthly riches. This glory does not lead a man to senseless folly; does not inflame him, does not come to an end, does not fade. The rest and the delight of heaven remains, it goes on, ever unchanging and immortal. For it has no limit; it has no end.

"Let us, I beseech you, long for this life. For if we long for this life, we shall place no value on the things of the present time; rather we shall despise them all and laugh at them. And even should we be invited as a guest of the king, and than this nothing seems more desirable, yet, having this hope within us, we should think nothing of it: for those held fast in the desire of heavenly things, must hold this of no importance. For whatever has an end, must not be too much sought after. All that ceases, and is but today, and tomorrow is not, even something very great, let it be to you as something very small and of little value.

"Let us therefore not cling to things that even now are fleeing from us, but to the things that remain and endure, so that we may be blessed with them for ever, by the grace and loving kindness of Jesus Christ our Lord, through Whom and with Whom be there glory to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and throughout all ages and ages. Amen."

- St. John Chrysostom (Homily XLIV; cited in Toal, Vol. IV, 110)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

our own resurrection



ST GREGORY THE GREAT

Carlo Saraceni, c 1610
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Roma

"We possess therefore the hope of our own resurrection, when we think of the glory of our Head. But so that no one in his secret heart might say: 'Christ rose from the dead because He was at the same time both God and man, that the death He suffered in His humanity, He overcame in His Divinity; but we, who are simple men, we cannot rise from this sentence of death,' at the time of Christ's Resurrection there arose, many bodies of the saints that had slept (Mt. xxvii. 52). And this took place, that He might give us in Himself a proof of our own resurrection, and confirm this by the resurrection of others who were in nature like us; so that where man might despair of attaining to what had taken place in God made man, he could expect this to happen in himself, when he knew it had happened in those whom he could not doubt were men like himself."

- Gregory the Great on The Resurrection of the Body (Job xix. 25-27) (Toal, IV, 124)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

the gene of unfaithfulness

We are hearing that a gene has been discovered that may explain the unfaithfulness of men. Now it seems a similar gene may be discovered in women down the road. The problem with sin is that it is an equal opportunity employer and we are too quick to deny its existence.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Beheading of St. John the Baptist



"Herod swore that he would give the dancing girl whatever she asked of him, and, to avoid
being accused of breaking his oath by those who were at the banquet, he defiled the banquet
with blood when he made the reward for the dancing the death of a prophet."

- Bede (Homilies on the Gospels 2.23, cited in ACCS New Testament II, Mark, 86)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

St. Augustine of Hippo, Bishop



" . . . Secure then of His promises, let us believe the past, recognise the present, hope for the future. Let not the enemy lead us astray from the way, that He, who gathers us like chickens under His wings, may foster us: lest we stray from His wings, and the hawk of the air carry us off while yet unfledged. For the Christian ought not to hope in himself: if he hopes to be strong, let him be reared by his mother's warmth. This is the hen who gathers her young together; whence is the reproach of our Saviour against the unbelieving Jerusalem. "Behold, your house shall be left unto you desolate." Hence was it said, "Thou hast made his strongholds a terror." Since then they would not be gathered together under the wings of this hen, and have given as a warning to teach us to dread the unclean spirits that fly in the air, seeking daily what they may devour; let us gather ourselves under the wings of this hen, the divine Wisdom, since she is weakened even unto death of her chickens. Let us love our Lord God, let us love His Church: Him as a Father, Her as a Mother: Him as a Lord, Her as His Handmaid, as we are ourselves the Handmaid's sons. But this marriage is held together by a bond of great love: no man offends the one, and wins favour of the other. Let no man say, "I go indeed to the idols, I consult possessed ones and fortune-tellers: yet I abandon not God's Church; I am a Catholic." While thou holdest to thy Mother, thou hast offended thy Father. Another says, Far be it from me; I consult no sorcerer, I seek out no possessed one, I never ask advice by sacrilegious divination, I go not to worship idols, I bow not before stones; though I am in the party of Donatus. What does it profit you not to have offended your Father, if he avenges your offended Mother? what does it serve you, if you acknowledge the Lord, honour God, preach His name, acknowledge His Son, confess that He sitteth by His right hand; while you blaspheme His Church? Does not the analogy of human marriages convince you? Suppose you have some patron, whom you court every day, whose threshold you wear with your visits, whom you daily not only salute, but even worship, to whom you pay the most loyal courtesy; if you utter one calumny against his wife, could you re-enter his house? Hold then, most beloved, hold all with one mind to God the Father, and the Church our Mother. Celebrate with temperance the birthdays of the Saints, that we may imitate those who have gone before us, and that they who pray for you may rejoice over you; that "the blessing of the Lord may abide on you for evermore. Amen and Amen.""

- St. Augustine (exposition of Psalm 89:51; NPNF I, Vol. 8, pp. 440-1)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Lutherans and Fasting

It is sad and funny at the same time that one cannot
talk about fasting among Lutherans. When there was
a discussion on the liturgy list a while back the
simple act of the discussion of the topic was
considered "legalistic." Obviously, some have
different views than others on the topic.

As somewhat of a newcomer to the topic I was
surprised at the vehement response by Lutherans
to the topic. Granted, the Catholic and Orthodox
Churches might require it on occasion. Still, the
discussion of a discipline such as fasting should
not be such a big deal among Lutherans who are
known usually to respond to about any church practice
with, "that's fine, just don't make me do it."

There are two reasons why Lutherans should not be
worried by this topic: 1) Lutherans who fast are
a vast silent minority 2) Fasting undermines
neither the State nor the Church.

The sad and funny thing about this whole topic is
that Lutherans stand on Scripture and the words
of the Lord. Still, Jesus' words, "When you fast
..." somehow do not seem to apply. If Scripture,
or the Lord Himself, cannot convince us then
there is something else at play.

It cannot be justification since
we all know that fasting does not merit salvation.
The practice is more of a spiritual discipline
that is related to devotional practice and focus
on God. Maybe it is our fear of good works or
the devotional life.

Maybe it is the ever present and vague amorphous
protestant spirit that comes as a breeze
gently letting us know it is always
there to keep us fresh. This breeze, however,
can turn into a strong wind and storm when
troubled by anything outside its power.

Whatever it is, fasting has Lutherans all
tied up in knots . . .

Friday, August 15, 2008

St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord





Today is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in the Catholic Church and the Dormition of the Theotokos ("Mother of God") in the Orthodox Church.

The faithful "sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things." (Ps. 98:1) He has blessed and honored Mary. She is in heavenly glory with her Son, the Lord, and all His saints.

Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! . . . Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation . . ."

et exclamavit voce magna et dixit benedicta tu inter mulieres et benedictus fructus ventris tui . . . et beata quae credidit quoniam perficientur ea quae dicta sunt ei a Domino et ait Maria magnificat anima mea Dominum et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est et sanctum nomen eius et misericordia eius in progenies et progenies timentibus eum

(Luke/Lucas 1)

Friday, July 25, 2008

PS

As follow-up to the last post: America allows for the growth of the "mega-church" as the mega-church reflects the American ideal. So the largest mega-church seems to be a natural venue for a pre-election debate between presidential candidates.

The election process is not a concern. What catches the eye is the venue, a "church" as the meeting ground for a political debate such as this. We see how the "mega-church" defines the event just as the "mega-church" becomes defined by it. Such a debate gives the "mega-church" its ultimate purpose, meaning and role in a democratic society. A future president has a connection to the largest congregation in the land.

From another vantage point this raises the question of "church." The non-denominational approach is already a conscious attempt to flee from the traditional understanding of "church." Still, the name "church" is retained to attract the faithful. In short, this is "church" and it is "not church" at the same time.

So the question here becomes not so much the possibility of hosting such a debate or using a venue such as this but whether or not, if the ultimate purpose, meaning and role of "church" is re-defined as it has been and is being done in the public eye, that the word "church" still be included as a description or label for this venue or its continued gatherings following the great debate.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Liturgy's negative effects on the culture in which we live

Generally speaking, the main role and focus of the liturgy is man's relationship with God. The liturgy is the place where God and man meet. In a specific time and place man is uniquely connected to the supernatural or spiritual side of life and communicates with God (ie, prayer). God addresses man's need or inability to maintain his relationship with God because of sin through His presence in which man receives God's grace and blessing. Man responds faithfully to God's remembrance of him with the recounting of His great and marvelous deeds and acts of thanksgiving that bring praise and glory to God. In Christianity the nexus between God and man is Jesus. He is the perfect representative of man to God, the atonement for sin and the Man through whom God bestows His grace and blessing to man, that is, the forgiveness of sins.

Ongoing discussion of the liturgy among those from within my own Christian tradition reveals various levels of understanding, appreciation of and adherence to the historic liturgy that has been handed down in the Church through the centuries. Such discussion also reveals two distinct paths of opposition or hostility to the liturgy or to the discussion of it among us. First, there seems to be an "antinomian" approach to the liturgy. This approach is often suspicious of and, occasionally, hostile to things liturgical and even to the discussion of such things. The understanding appears to be that the liturgy is something to be tolerated at best, dissected or even totally changed. There are a number of reasons behind such thinking but, in short, the approach appears to be that liturgy is not the most important thing in life, nor is it very exciting and I have many more fun things to do with my time. Do not trample on my "freedom" or bother me with ritual (hence the often used defense-mechanism of "adiaphora"). Another path of opposition toward the liturgy and its discussion is the "pietistic" approach. The liturgy is placed in opposition to my personal "faith". I can choose what approach my personal faith life will take. The liturgy is just another way the Church gets in the way of my personal relationship with God. The "antinomian" approach tends toward the secular or "this world" while the "pietistic" approach tends toward an inner spirituality which cannot be burdened with external things. What ties both approaches together is the appreciation of the priority of the individual in relationship to the community around him or her. One approach may guard against the liturgy as an infringement on one's "freedom" while the other may guard against the liturgy as an infringement on one's "faith." Yet both approaches defend the individual over and against things external or greater and so potentially that which is more beneficial.

Undoubtedly, either of these approaches may not be, in essence, opposed to the idea of man having a relationship with God. But, having discussed in brief a rationale for the liturgy and then general opposition to the liturgy more is revealed to us about the liturgy itself. The liturgy is seen to have negative effects on the culture in which we live. Or the liturgy is seen as "counter-cultural." If opposition to the liturgy is described in individualistic terms then the liturgy might be seen as being opposed to the individual ("I" or "me") as just discussed. Another way the liturgy may be understood as "counter-cultural" is it places priority on man's relationship with God. The liturgy deals with matters spiritual thus placing more emphasis on God who is external to man and greater than him or her. Finally, the liturgy involves the community (ie, "people of God", "children of God", "family of God", "Church") and that community's communion with God which takes place in the liturgy.

Obviously, the liturgy does not operate using the same rules that we use to order our lives together (ie, school, business, athletics, arts and entertainment, government). The distinction of the liturgy from our everyday lives may be described in many ways. In fact, one might argue that the liturgy has a negative effect on the culture in which we live. Ultimately, if the liturgy is seen as being against "me" then it could also be seen, by extension, to be against "my" culture. In a spiritual sense this is true. The liturgy does have negative effects on me and my culture. The liturgy reminds me of my sin in relationship to God and others. It reminds me that God is above me and greater than me and my sin. It takes me outside of my individualism and away from my culture to focus on God who is external and greater than me and my culture and beyond the heights of all cultures. Finally, Christian liturgy is "counter-cultural" in that through it we receive the forgiveness of sins, grace and blessing that does not begin with us or our neighbor but which purports to come from God Himself who reveals Himself to us and gives Himself to us in the Spirit through the man Jesus Christ. If then, the liturgy does have negative effects on the culture in which we live it is therefore for a greater good. This goodness is given to us in the liturgy and takes away that sin which not only tangibly does more harm to our culture but which also keeps us from having and being maintained and even strengthened in an eternal relationship with God.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

for a "culture of life"

Here is a recent address regarding "the great human rights struggle of our time."

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

New direction

Anglicans to Catholics: Ready or Not, Here we Come
Church of England General Synod to touch off an exodus by approving women bishops

By Hilary White

YORK, England, July 7, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - "There can be no future for Christianity in Europe without Rome," an Anglican bishop told the Sunday Telegraph this weekend, after it was revealed that a group of "senior" bishops from the Church of England has been in secret negotiations with the highest levels of the Vatican to discuss the current crisis in Anglicanism over the acceptance of homosexuality and female bishops. Bishops from both the Church of England's "evangelical" or protestant and "high" or "Catholic" wings are said to have been involved in the talks that some believe may presage a mass return of Anglicans to the Catholic fold.

Meanwhile, the news has just been released that the General Synod of the Church of England voted tonight to accept the consecration of women as bishops, a move that is likely to result in the exodus of a large number of clergy and a permanent split in the Church that is the officially established religion under British law. The ongoing dissolution of the Church of England, of which Queen Elizabeth is the head, may result in significant constitutional and legal changes to the make-up of Britain. Some fear that it may result in Britain becoming officially a secular nation.

The news comes just days before the start of the Lambeth Conference, the once-in-ten-years gathering of Anglican bishops from around the world set for July 16 to August 4. This year's conference is being boycotted by many bishops over support by the liberalised western Anglican leadership for acceptance of homosexuality. Thus far, five out of the total of 38 Anglican primates and a large number of territorial bishops have said they will not attend. An alternate conference of traditionally Christian Anglican bishops and laity met in June in Jerusalem to discuss ways forward.

Some at the General Synod had suggested the creation of "super bishops" in an extra-geographical diocese who would have jurisdiction over those members of the Church who refuse to accept female bishops. It is not known now whether this arrangement will be honoured. Anglican officials are expected to draw up legislation to bring in women bishops by 2014 at the earliest, Ruth Gledhill reports in the Times.

In anticipation of the move to consecrate female bishops, more than 1,300 clergy, including 11 serving bishops, have written to the archbishops of Canterbury and York saying they will leave the Church of England if women are consecrated bishops.
While women have been raised to the Anglican episcopate in the US, the Church of England has only ordained female diocesan clergy. Three sitting diocesan bishops have also written to the Archbishop of Canterbury supporting the threat and two other bishops have said they are preparing to leave the Church.

Gledhill quotes the Rev. Prebendary David Houlding, a leading Anglo-Catholic, who said, "It's getting worse - it's going downhill very badly."

"It's quite clear there is a pincer movement and we are being squeezed out. We are being pushed by a particular liberal agenda and we are going to have women bishops at the exclusion of any other view."

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, while favouring some accommodation towards the traditionalists, said, "I am deeply unhappy with schemes or solutions which involve the structural humiliation of women, who are elected to the episcopate and end up haggling about the limits to their authority."

The news that a group of "senior" Anglican bishops are in talks with Rome during the crisis came as a surprise to representatives of the Catholic Church of England and Wales, attending the Synod as observers. Gledhill reported that Monsignor Andrew Faley, ecumenical officer of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, had "no information" that such talks had taken place. The Telegraph reports that the Rowan Williams was also not told of the talks that are reported to have been with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's highest doctrinal authority after the Pope himself.

The talks come with a backdrop of a difficult history. In 1992, when the Church of England voted to ordain female clergy, a similar crisis ensued in which a large number of Anglican ministers applied to Rome to create a provision to retain the traditional Anglican style of worship but seek communion with the See of Rome. At that time, under Pope John Paul II, some "Anglican Use" parishes were established in the US, but the episcopate of the Catholic Church of England and Wales obstructed the solution. Hopes were dashed when the Catholic bishops of England and Wales announced that converts would only be accepted individually, not en masse, and there would be no provision made for the retention of 500 year-old Anglican liturgical traditions.

It was noted that the heavily liberalised Catholic leadership did not relish the thought of a massive influx of doctrinally and liturgically traditional and highly educated clergy into their midst.

But since the election of Pope Benedict XVI, who has made unprecedented moves to reconcile traditionalists in the Catholic Church, and who was strongly supportive of the Anglican traditionalists before his election, hope has been revived that a path may be cleared.

Damien Thompson, a 'blogger for the Telegraph and editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald, wrote, "The Pope's closest advisers are not in a mood to allow the bishops the same freedom this time. They are already cross at the poor English response to the Motu Proprio liberating the Latin liturgy - and have conveyed their displeasure to the relevant bishops in no uncertain terms."

"The Anglican traditionalists know that they cannot trust a Catholic bishop not to shop them to Rowan Williams. So the liberal RC hierarchy has been - quite properly - kept in the dark."

http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/jul/08070717.html

Church unity threatened

Church vote opens door to female bishops

Synod rejects compromise deal and raises fears of split with traditionalists
Riazat Butt, religious affairs correspondent
The Guardian, Tuesday July 8, 2008

Ruling General Synod throws out compromises that would have appeased opponents

The Church of England was thrown into turmoil last night over the issue of women bishops, as it rejected proposals that would have accommodated clergy strongly opposed to the historic change.

In an emotional, sometimes bitter debate lasting more than seven hours, the General Synod voted against introducing separate structures and "superbishops", to oversee parishes opposed to women bishops, because they were seen as amounting to institutionalised discrimination.

Instead, the 468 members narrowly agreed to the idea of introducing a national statutory code of practice, throwing out all compromises that would have appeased opponents of women bishops.

A code of practice has yet to be fully explored, but will not satisfy the demands of traditionalists and conservative evangelicals, who had formed an alliance to block consideration of any such code.

The Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt, condemned the final vote, taken after amendments had been tabled and rejected, as "mean-spirited and short-sighted". "The manifest majority was profoundly short-sighted. At every point it could have offered reassurances, and it did not do that," he said.

In the debate, one churchman, Gerald O'Brien, told the synod there were possibilities of receiving episcopal oversight from overseas archbishops. His comments drew boos and hisses from the assembly.

Scott-Joynt criticised such threats. "We've got people talking about defection - they were clearly talking about the Global Anglican Future conference [held last month in Jerusalem, which ended with the threat of an Anglican breakaway]. We've got a lot of soul-searching to do."

He echoed the sentiments of the Bishop of Dover, the Right Rev Stephen Venner, who was in tears after he made a speech, imploring the pro-women lobby to show some generosity.

"I feel ashamed. We have talked about wanting to give an honourable place for those who disagree, and we have turned down almost every realistic opportunity. We have not even been prepared to explore the possibility of fresh expressions of dioceses or bishops. And still we talk the talk of being inclusive."

Venner was referring to the superbishops plan, which failed to win a two-thirds majority across the three houses (bishops, clergy and laity) even though more backed it than opposed it. Synod's decision infuriated the influential Anglo-Catholic wing, which wants protection from women bishops. One senior churchman, the Rev Prebendary David Houlding, said: "It's getting worse, it's going downhill very badly. It's quite clear there's a pincer movement and we're being squeezed out. There is only one way forward: a code of practice." He added: "There will be no walkout - yet."

The archbishops of Canterbury and York appeared pensive during the debate, holding their heads in their hands. There were frequent pauses for silent prayer and reflection. The synod ignored their pleas. Rowan Williams and John Sentamu wanted legislative protection rather than a voluntary code of practice. Sentamu supported plans for superbishops, while Williams wanted "more rather than less robust" legislation.

The Bishop of Durham said such a vital and sensitive debate should not have taken place a week before Lambeth, the once-a-decade gathering of the world's Anglican bishops. He called for unity amid the mood of unhappiness and disunity.

The Right Rev Tom Wright said: "There might be some things that we might eventually have to split over. This should not be one of them."

The prospect of rebellion has loomed large over the meeting in York, which ends today. Yesterday's vote means the church moves toward ordaining women bishops with a code of practice, to be drawn up for consideration by the synod in February. The code will need a two-thirds majority in each of the houses when it reaches the final vote in several years' time.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/07/anglicanism.religion2/print