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quod pro nobis traditum est

Friday, February 29, 2008

29 February - A Leap Year Church Father



Known more for his transmission of the wisdom of the Desert Fathers and his influence on St. Benedict (The Rule of Benedict), John Cassian is remembered on this day, especially in the East. The excerpt below is from his On the Incarnation of the Lord, where he responds to Nestorius at the request of the Archdeacon, who later became Pope Leo the Great.

"In the meanwhile we will now prove by Divine testimonies that Christ is God, and that Mary is the Mother of God. Hear then how the angel of God speaks to the Shepherds of the birth of God. "There is born," he says, "to you this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11 In order that you may not take Christ for a mere man, he adds the name of Lord and Saviour, on purpose that you may have no doubt that He whom you acknowledge as Saviour is God, and that (as the office of saving belongs only to Divine power) you may not question that He is of Divine power, in whom you have learned that the power to save resides. But perhaps this is not enough to convince your unbelief, as the angel of the Lord termed Him Lord and Saviour rather than God or the Son of God, as you certainly most wickedly deny Him to be God, whom you acknowledge to be Saviour. Hear then what the archangel Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary. "The Holy Ghost," he says, "shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God." Luke 1:35 Do you see how, when he is going to point out the nativity of God, he first speaks of a work of Divinity. For "the Holy Ghost," he says, "shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you." Admirably did the angel speak, and explain the majesty of the Divine work by the Divine character of his words. For the Holy Ghost sanctified the Virgin's womb, and breathed into it by the power of His Divinity, and thus imparted and communicated Himself to human nature; and made His own what was before foreign to Him, taking it to Himself by His own power and majesty. And lest the weakness of human nature should not be able to bear the entrance of Divinity the power of the Most High strengthened the ever to be honoured Virgin, so that it supported her bodily weakness by embracing it with overshadowing protection, and human weakness was not insufficient for the consummation of the ineffable mystery of the holy conception, since it was supported by the Divine overshadowing. "Therefore," he says, "the Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you." If only a mere man was to be born of a pure virgin why should there be such careful mention of the Divine Advent? Why such intervention of Divinity itself? Certainly if only a man was to be born from man, and flesh from flesh, a command alone might have done it, or the Divine will. For if the will of God alone, and His command sufficed to fashion the heavens, form the earth, create the sea, thrones, and seats, and angels, and archangels, and principalities, and powers, and in a word to create all the armies of heaven, and those countless thousands of thousands of the Divine hosts ("For He spoke and they were made, He commanded and they were created"), why was it that that was insufficient for the creation of (according to you) a single man, which was sufficient for the production of all things divine, and that the power and majesty of God did not entrust that with the birth of a single infant, which had availed to fashion all things earthly and heavenly? But certainly the reason why all those works were performed by the command of God, but the nativity was only accomplished by His coming was because God could not be conceived by man unless He allowed it, nor be born unless He Himself entered in; and therefore the archangel pointed out that the sacred majesty would come upon the Virgin, I mean that as so great an event could not be brought about by human appointment, he announced that there would be present at the conception the glory of Him who was to be born. And so the Word, the Son, descended: the majesty of the Holy Ghost was present: the power of the Father was overshadowing; that in the mystery of the holy conception the whole Trinity might cooperate. "Therefore," he says, "also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God." Admirably does he add "Therefore," in order to show that this would therefore follow because that had gone before; and that because God had come upon her at the conception therefore God would be present at the birth. And when the maiden understood not, he gave a reason for this great thing, saying: "Because the Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and because the power of the Most High shall overshadow you, therefore also that holy thing which shall be born shall be called the Son of God;" that is to say: That you may not be ignorant of the provision for so great a work, and the mystery of this great secret, the majesty of God shall therefore come upon you completely; because the Son of God shall be born of you. What further doubt can there be about this? or what is there further to be said? He said that God would come upon her; that the Son of God would be born. Ask now, if you like, how the Son of God can help being God, or how she who brought forth God can fail to be Theotocos, i.e., the Mother of God? This alone ought to be enough for you; aye this ought to be amply sufficient for you . . . Therefore all grace, power, might, Divinity, aye, and the fulness of actual Divinity and glory have ever existed together with Him and in Him, whether in heaven or in earth or in the womb or at His birth. Nothing that is proper to God was ever wanting to God. For the Godhead was ever present with God, no where and at no time severed from Him. For everywhere God is present in His completeness and in His perfection. He suffers no division or change or diminution; for nothing can be either added to God or taken away from Him, for He is subject to no diminution of Divinity, as to no increase of It. He was the same Person then on earth who was also in heaven: the same Person in His low estate who was also in the highest: the same Person in the littleness of manhood as in the glory of the Godhead. And so the Apostle was right in speaking of the grace of Christ when He meant the grace of God. For Christ was everything that God is. At the very time of His conception as man there came all the power of God, all the fulness of the Godhead; for thence came all the perfection of the Godhead, whence was His origin. Nor was that Human nature of His ever without the Deity as it received from Deity the very fact of its existence. And so, to begin with, whether you like it or no, you cannot deny this; viz., that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, especially as the archangel declares in the gospels: "That holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God." But when this is established then remember that whatever you read of Christ you read of the Son of God: whatever you read of the Lord or Jesus belongs to the Son of God. And so when you recognize a title of Divinity in all these terms which you hear uttered, as you see that in each case you ought to understand that the Son of God is meant, prove to me, if you like, how you can separate the Godhead from the Son of God."
- John Cassian (ca. 360-435)(On the Incarnation, Book II, Chs. II & VII, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/35092.htm)

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Bride of Christ



We are glad to announce that The Bride of Christ: The Journal of Lutheran Liturgical Renewal is being resurrected. Visit the new website and the companion blog to learn more. You are invited to join us in these renewed efforts toward liturgical renewal in Lutheranism.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Called in holiness

Week of Reminiscere - Homily for Daily Office
1 Thessalonians 4:1-7; Hebrews 2:1-4,10-11,14-18

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We know the Apostle Paul for his many epistles that spell out so clearly the Lord's salvation as God's gift to us. He also wrote to encourage the churches, like the one at Thessalonica, so that they might know also that they are called by the Lord in, or into, holiness. Salvation is for sinners. Holiness, or sanctification, is the call to sinners who have salvation in Christ. In his first Epistle to the Thessalonian believers the Apostle urges and exhorts them to lives of holiness, saying, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification" and "For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness." The Latin word for "uncleanness" means, in effect, that God does not call us to be like the world, or worldly. We are in the world but not of it. Rather, God's call is in the opposite direction - God calls us "in holiness." We are called to walk in a way that is pleasing to God. God's will is that all be saved. God's will is also that we who are being saved, are sanctified.

The salvation that we have received in Christ is "so great", as the author of Hebrews states, that he warns that this salvation not be neglected. "Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away." Is there a danger of drifting away? Touch yourself and see if you have flesh. If you have flesh, do you live without sin? The salvation is "so great." Yet we need to be reminded of that salvation. We need to "heed to the things we have heard." Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of God. The believers of the early church were zealous to hear the word of God so that they gathered daily. Daily they received the Eucharist. The life of the church is summarized by Holy Scripture in this way, "They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:42) By their love of God and their example of hearing and heeding the things they heard, the believers brought people to the holy faith. Their lives reflected their faith. Prayer, fasting, and deeds of charity were not considered burdens but simply flowed from the words of the Lord into their daily lives. We may feel threatened by adding one extra service each week during Advent and Lent. They may have wondered, if they were here today, why the church neglects all of the other days of the week. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?"

The Scriptures do not know the certainty of salvation in Christ as an excuse to live in sin. Rather, we are called to newness of life. We are called to discipline of both body and soul for the purpose of growing in the word of life and following the author and perfecter of our faith. The captain of our salvation was made perfect through sufferings. As we are flesh and blood so He shared in the same so that through His death He might destroy Him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. We know of the first martyr, St. Stephen, and the first martyr of the time of the Apostles, St. Polycarp, who the Church commemorates on Saturday. Jesus was made in everything like His brethren. He is one with them and with us because He who sanctifies is one with those who are being sanctified. This is God's will, our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4). He made us holy by making propitiation for the sins of the people. He is the merciful and faithful High Priest who Himself suffered and was tempted. So He helps us in our temptation through His holy Word. The Apostle writes that all things are sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. Here we hear of the great deeds of God for our salvation. When we fall into sin we are reminded through this same word that we are made holy by the High Priest Himself.

Thou hast suffered great affliction
And hast borne it patiently,
Even death by crucifixion,
Fully to atone for me;
Thou didst choose to be tormented
That my doom should be prevented.
Thousand, thousand thanks shall be,
Dearest Jesus, unto Thee.

Having been rescued from eternal punishment and having received "so great a salvation", during Lent and every day "we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard."

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, February 18, 2008

it's about more than just the melody

I found this book referred to while reading another blog and think that it is one of those must read books - the title says it all:

Why Classical Music Still Matters

Even if I never get around to reading it myself (I am too far behind on my personal reading list) your comments and reviews are appreciated.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hometown Threatened



The mountain town of Leadville, Colorado, is where my parents were living at the time I was born and I was baptized at a church there. So, I consider this my hometown, although technically I was born in Denver (where they had hospitals).

Here is some "not so good" news about the old baby-stomping grounds.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

on dust, ashes and eternal life

The words from Scripture that are spoken as the ashes are applied to the forehead are "Dust you are and to dust you will return." God created man from the dust and woman from the man. We are living beings because God has breathed life into us and we are God's children because we received God's Spirit in the washing of Holy Baptism. Jesus has redeemed us from sin and death on the cross and calls us to lives of holiness. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Although we struggle with sin, we live the new life we are given in Christ with hope of the life to come. God's salvation includes both body and soul. The Christian life is concerned with both body and soul. Forgiveness is needed so that we are washed on the inside. When we are cleansed on the inside this affects how we treat ourselves and our neighbor. Sin produces selfish desires. Christ calls us to live outside of ourselves, not seeking our wants and desires, but first to seek God's face in Christ and seek the welfare of our neighbor. This does not mean that we are to totally neglect ourselves. Rather we are to deny ourselves and discipline ourselves that we grow to be like Christ. To be like Christ is not possible without being "in Christ." This is where Holy Baptism comes in and the ongoing life of hearing God's Word and partaking of His Body and Blood at the altar. He feeds both body and soul. Just as He rose from the dead so He prepares us for the resurrection of our own bodies and the life eternal. So the ashes are not given to remind us that we will becomes ashes. They are given to remind us of the cross of Christ that we bear in this life and through which we are redeemed and given eternal life. The words from Scripture remind us that we will return to dust but for only for a while.
(excerpt from the Ash Thursday homily)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday



The Mass for Ash Wednesday will not be held this evening because of the snow. Still, today is the beginning of Lent. We are encouraged to begin practices such as prayer, fasting and almsgiving as disciplines to help in crucifying self and selfish desires and to help us in picking up our crosses and following Jesus. If you are stuck at home, some suggested Scripture readings for today are Genesis 1:1-19 and Mark 1:1-13.

We are reminded of our mortality that comes from sin. We are reminded of the trials and temptations that the Lord suffered as He fulfilled the Scripture and gained our forgiveness and salvation on the cross. As His children and members of His holy Church we remain in His mercy even as we are called on to pick up our crosses and follow Him.

A Lenten Mass will be held on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. (Ash "Thursday"?)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Purification of Mary and Presentation of Our Lord



Today is a principal feast of our Lord based on the Gospel account of the presentation of Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:22-40). The earliest name for this feast was Hypapante ("Meeting" in Greek). In the Christian East, this feast is therefore sometimes called the "Meeting of the Lord." The additional recognition of the feast as the Purification of the Virgin and also becoming known as Candlemas (ie, Luke 2:32) came later in the Roman Church.

In a prayer to the Lord on this feast, called the Kontakion, the Orthodox recognize God's blessing in the sanctification of the Virgin's womb which took place at the birth of Christ and the blessing of the hands of Simeon who held the Christ child in the Temple as he blessed God.

In our tradition we pray in the Collect of the Day to Almighty God to "grant that we may be presented to You with pure and clean hearts; through Jesus Christ, our Lord ..." An antiphon appointed for this day says, "We have thought on Your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of Your temple." (Psalm 48:9)