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quod pro nobis traditum est

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

defense of true doctrine

"In order to do honour to Christ, in order to defend the true doctrine of the Incarnation, in order to secure a right faith in the manhood of the Eternal Son, the Council of Ephesus determined the Blessed Virgin to be the Mother of God."

- John Henry Cardinal Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, p. 145

Friday, April 25, 2008

the real content of the liturgy

"In the liturgy we find the whole Church at prayer. The word liturgy means the participation of God’s people in “the work of Christ the Priest and of His Body which is the Church” . . . What is that work? First of all it refers to Christ’s Passion, his Death and Resurrection, and his Ascension -- what we call the Paschal Mystery. It also refers to the celebration of the liturgy itself. The two meanings are in fact inseparably linked because this “work of Jesus” is the real content of the liturgy. Through the liturgy, the “work of Jesus” is continually brought into contact with history; with our lives in order to shape them."


(Pope Benedict XVI, Address to seminarians and youth, April 19, 2008)

root causes and catholic application

As one who likes to skim bookstore catalogs (and bookstores) I came across the following promotion for a Catholic book in a catalog, The Faithful Departed by Philip F. Lawler, that has "catholic" application (ie, application to Christian communionss and institutions everywhere). In short, alert Lutherans can resonate quickly to what he writes here for we likewise are struggling with what he describes here as "the essential":

"'The thesis of this book,'" writes author Philip F. Lawler, "'is that the sex-abuse scandal in American Catholicism was not only aggravated but actually caused by the willingness of Church leaders to sacrifice the essential for the inessential: to build up the human institution even to the detriment of the divine mandate...This book should serve as a cautionary tale....The faith will always face resistance, and Church leaders will always be tempted to tailor their messages to suit the latest fashion. But when the quest for public affirmation takes precedence over the demand for integrity to the apostolic tradition, the results were predictable. The church that caters to public opinion may enjoy a short burst of superficial success, but in the long run it will lose both integrity and popularity.'" (Roman Catholic Books catalog)

Lutherans may not appreciate here that he mentions "the apostolic tradition" while not mentioning the Gospel. Nevertheless, scandals in the church do not always have to be about sex, they can also be about changing worship "to suit the latest fashion" or watering down doctrine in "quest for public affirmation" resulting in "superficial success." In other words, Lawler alerts the reader here to a root cause that has "catholic application" to many problems that confront the Church. Wisely, he states that "the faith will always face resistance" and then wisely warns about keeping the "essential" even when those seeking popularity promote the "inessential."

It is not of great interest to me to follow the scandals of others. Triumphalism does not always equate with discernment. (Also, I do not have the time to read every book.) Still, based on this introduction to The Faithful Departed we see that this book has application to all in the catholic tradition for it addresses a root cause to many problems that confront us.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Report on Pope's Visit III (Wrap-up)

here

Rome, Wittenberg and more on justification

Pr. Asburry has an interesting discussion going here on whether or not we as Lutherans might have some agreement with the Pope based on something he has written in his Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I have added a response to his comments there.

If you get a chance to read what he has written and all of the responses please do so. I am providing a citation below that may help one understand how there truly is unity and a direct connection between what Lutherans call "justification" and "sanctification." The following words come from St. Cyril as he writes on the Gospel reading for Cantate (Easter 5) (cf. Jn. 16:5ff):
All that the Lord had to do on earth was now done; but it was necessary that we should become sharers and partakers of the divine nature of the Word, or rather, that giving up of our old life we should be changed to another, and be reformed in newness of life in a manner pleasing to God. But it was not possible to to do this except through the possession and communion of the Holy Spirit. (St. Cyril, cited in Toal, Vol. II, p. 386)

In other words, we do not simply say, "God has done His part" (ie, "Justification") "now we must do our part" in response (ie, what is called "Sanctification"). Rather, as we know in Baptism, the same Lord who justifies is the one who sanctifies. Cyril's quote is an example of the understanding, as we see in John 16, that sanctification is more than a mere response of doing good - it is the actual work of the Holy Spirit who comes to us in Baptism, in Preaching, in Absolution, in Holy Supper. So while the Lord comes to us extra nos, He does not simply keep His distance but actually lives in us (ie, Gal. 2:20). Therefore, the Scripture clarifies that the justified person does cooperate with the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit, that is, Christ, is leading him/her to do so. Therefore, what the sinner is led to do are actually "good" works because they are works which God is doing in and through us.

In brief, justification and sanctification are good ways to understand different works of the same Lord. However, the Lord is not divided in His work outside of us and inside of us (ie, "communion of the Holy Spirit") and this is where focusing on the distinctions may cause confusion in the unity that actually exists between "justification" and "sanctification." Our salvation is a united work of God in Christ. The Spirit does not stop justifying and then say, now it is time to sanctify.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Lutheran Bishop among those who greet the Pope

Pope to Lead Prayer Service at Manhattan Parish This article announcing yesterday's prayer service at St. Joseph's Church in Manhattan, New York, was posted on this particular news source's website on April 1, 2008, and lists national and local church and religious leaders who were invited to personally greet the Pope. Bishop Benke, President of the Atlantic District, LCMS, is listed here and was there to greet Pope Benedict XVI. Having religious and church leaders greet other visiting church and religious leaders is common protocol and it is encouraging that the Missouri Synod agreed to be represented in this way and that the Bishop was there to greet the Pope.

Orthodox Holy Week

Holy Week for the Orthodox Church (or "Eastern Church") begins tomorrow with Palm Sunday. This week is called by the Orthodox "Holy and Great Week" (ie, "Holy and Great Thursday," "Holy and Great Friday," "Holy and Great Saturday"). What is called "Easter" in the West is called "Holy Pascha" in the East, this being the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord.

The difference in timing of these religious observances in the East and West has a long history in the calendars used by the different traditions. Whether or not this holy week will ever be observed simultaneously in the East and the West, the current recognition of this week as holy in the two major Christian traditions of the world provides a "double" solemn witness to believers and non-believers alike of the central and salvific events of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection.

On this blog there are links to some blogs by Orthodox authors that you are invited to visit. They may provide more information on the belief and practices of this week as observed among the Orthodox Christians.

A blessed Holy and Great Week and Holy Pascha to those in the Orthodox Church.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Questions of the Flesh

Why, if sin corrupts our nature and even the very substance of our nature (a la Flacius), is righteousness/justification decided forensically from afar with no effect on the flesh of the human person? Does not the salvation of the incarnate Lord affect both body and soul?

This is a question that arises in my mind because of the vocal insistence of the presence of sin in our nature, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, a justification decided "from afar" which is "for us" but which does not really seem to affect the flesh of the person until the Last Day. This does not seem to fit with the Scriptural data that clearly includes the salvation of the body and which includes the scriptural understanding of the sacraments. In other words, it seems that I am hearing that sin affects both body and soul while salvation affects only the soul (and maybe later the body).

If I have heard wrong or phrased the questions wrong let me know. Either way your corrections and/or feedback is appreciated in handling an ongoing question.

Midwest Tremors

An earthquake (New Madrid fault) of 5.2 magnitude hit near West Salem, Illinois, this morning and was felt throughout the Midwest. Although we slept through the tremors, TV announcers say it was felt in Milwaukee and as far north as Peshtigo.

As a child in the Philippines I experienced a major earthquake that did major damage elsewhere and did much shaking of the house. I remember my parents taking us out of the bedrooms and putting us under the dining room table. There was more than one occasion when this happened. I was young enough to marvel at feeling and seeing everything shake in the house. Fortunately, my parents were more concerned about our safety.

Other news: the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres last night in a game of 22 innings. The game lasted more than six hours.

Report on Pope's Visit II

Friday

on relativism

The Pope's message regarding relativism as treated in the press.

HT: Rasburry's Res

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Welcome!

It is a good thing that Pope Benedict XVI is visiting America and is being warmly welcomed. Undoubtedly, there is massive coverage of this event and there will be analsyis for many days to come. On the homefront one Catholic commentator has given us something to chew on here.

I am not one to speak up at church conferences. About the only time I remember doing so it had to do with a question or comment I had in relation to the sanctity of life. When I included the word "dignity" of man in my comments the well-known and respected speaker reminded me that that was language the Catholics used (maybe he was also saying this in reference to the clerical collar I was wearing). I left the conference still wondering what was wrong with the use of the word "dignity" in discussing life matters. Maybe I should have been more concerned that I had been labeled a "Catholic." Regardless, all this is cleared up for me by the above commentator's remarks regarding some differences Pope Benedict XVI has with the theology of Luther. Hope you have time to read them.

We also wish Pope Benedict XVI a Happy Birthday today!

(I may be a Lutheran but why wouldn't his visit be a "good thing"? After all, isn't this the land of religious freedom?)

on the road to perfection

Here is a post discussing Moses on True Perfection and below a quote on the road to perfection:

"We understand the "way" [Jn. 14:6] to be the road to perfection, advancing in order step by step through the words of righteousness and the illumination of knowledge, always yearning for that which lies ahead and straining toward the last mile, until we reach that blessed end, the knowledge of God, with which the Lord blesses those who believe in him. For truly our Lord is a good way, a straight road with no confusing forks or turns, leading us directly to the Father. For 'no one comes to the Father,' he says, 'except through me.' Such is our way up to God through his Son." (St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit 8.18; cited in ACCS IVb, p. 124)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Liturgy - dealing with external matters

Discussing liturgy one can run into walls at times. What is befuddling appears to be a posed separation between faith and liturgy (more than a mere distinction). In this way liturgy becomes mere external ceremony which may or may not be aesthetically appealing. This would explain the difficulties one hears with lex orandi, lex credendi and the idea posed to me once that God is with us everywhere (ie, Matt. 28) but not necessarily with us in the liturgy, Divine Service or Mass on Sunday morning. Sunday morning becomes, in this way, understood more as a public "show," of some sort or another, that is distinguished from faith (then liturgy also becomes separated from the sacraments). Whoever is in charge controls the show (this could also help explain the slide of worship into entertainment). The quote below adds some sense to the confusion we face in discussing the liturgy, at least in my mind. The quote provides a glimpse of a bigger picture of how the liturgy is viewed by some, or many, in the Lutheran tradition.

"[Graebner] was the only theologian in St. Louis who realized that there was something to liturgical theology, even though he saw only the outward things such as ceremonies which appealed to his artistic senses. His original judgment was that liturgical practices were adiaphoristic ("indifferent"). There were many others who, like, him, looked upon the liturgical revival only as a restoration of traditional ceremonies."
(B. von Schenk in Lively Stone, p. 30)

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Protestant Principle

In recent years there was vocal opposition within Lutheranism to what was called the "catholic principle," a principle which finds clear basis in the Lutheran Confessions for the catholicity of the Church and her confession. Those voices have been silenced or marginalized. Some have left Lutheranism, whether willingly or not.

Recent events seem to suggest a demonstration of the protestant principle. Although the firing of the host and producer of Issues, Etc. and its removal from the air may be seen as a political move and defended as a business decision (as is almost always the case), it appears that this unexpected and deliberate action may be seen as a "protest" against thoughtful discussion of theological issues facing American Christianity, from a self-consciously confessional Lutheran perspective. Here are two reasons to suggest this. 1) Although the Lutheran Church and her pastors, teachers and congregations subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions less and less is known about these documents. More often we hear about Lutheran laity who hear the Confessions quoted and think they are hearing things that are Catholic ("Roman"). Also, those who mention these Confessions do not seem to be following the latest trends in Christendom (they are out of step). This may not even have to do with the Lutheran Confessions, in particular, but with a distrust of "theology" in general. It appears that the Confessions and theology are getting in the way of marketing principles. Neither does it help when people have the impression that "Scripture alone" is against either or both the discussion of the Confessions and theology. 2) Holy Week is important to Christians but apparently moreso to the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Protestants prefer to downplay the days prior to Easter Day and jump to the joyous Resurrection. Some Protestants may not even know what "Holy Week" is. When it is understood that Christianity has little or nothing to do with the mind and much more to do with how we feel then we need, not necessarily Easter, but the joy of Easter (the same can be said about Christmas). And if we can say this about Christmas and Easter then what of the other less joyous Sundays during the church year? Are they even necessary? Protestants are especially uncomfortable with "holy" days. Therefore, what better time to "protest" than to pull this radio program on "Holy" Tuesday. If people do not get the message then, at least, it may serve as a distraction. They will get over it by Easter and all can rejoice.

As we see, the listeners of Issues, etc. will not be undone by this protest. They have managed to launch a massive "protest" of their own. More than 6,500 have signed an online petition in favor of the radio program and this number is growing. Commentary is appearing in newspapers and on radio around the country including both the Christian and secular media. New blogs and websites have been created solely to document the events surrounding this tragic event and gather further support from others. Finally, a two hour protest is being planned outside the Synod's international headquarters for April 14.

Whether it is by an act of power or by public confession we are witnessing the protestant principle at work. In the end it will not matter who won. Issues, etc. will not be returned to the airwaves and those involved in its demise will not gain from it either. What will matter is that all were involved in "protest." Whether it is a protest that takes place during Holy Week or a protest that takes place on the eve of the Pope's visit to the United States, all will be united in having demonstrated that they can protest. This is the protestant tradition and it suggests that there is an underlying protestant principle at work.

Did I sign the petition? Yes. Am I comfortable with all that is happening? Yes and no. Maybe it is time to revisit the "catholic principle" and what it means to be "Church."

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Charity among Lutherans - a necessary distinction

In the papers we are reading the good news about Ted Turner's charitable efforts with the Lutherans and Methodists to fight malaria in Africa. These are but two examples: here and here

Quoting the second article, "The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, with their humanitarian arm Lutheran World Relief, will raise between $75 million and $100 million."

It is helpful to highlight here the charitable work of "LCMS World Relief and Human Care," which may easily be confused with "Lutheran World Relief," as it appears has happened in the press release on which the above articles are based. Check out this link for more information about the humanitarian arm of the Missouri Synod and click on the link "Our Ministry Partners" on the left-hand side. Under "Lutheran World Relief" is more information on the work in Africa.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Homily - Quasimodo Geniti


(Caravaggio, 1601-2)

Quasimodo Geniti - Easter 2 John 20:19-31

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

After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus appeared to His disciples, and then again to them with Thomas present in the closed room. These appearances recorded by the Evangelist get to the heart of the matter as to what we believe and confess about who Jesus is and, also, what, in essence, is the Church’s pastoral ministry. In these few verses the Evangelist passes on what he knows to be true, by the Spirit of God, that you and I who hear these words and believe them about Jesus “may have life in His name.” We were not there and did not witness Jesus’ appearance in the flesh. Yet this only emphasizes more what Jesus says about us and what He says about those who belong to His Church today, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus’ resurrection and appearance here to the disciples and later to Thomas is the giving and receiving of the peace of God; the breathing of God’s Spirit. Here the disciples are given the ministry of the forgiveness and retention of sins. By the same Spirit, pastors are ordained to do the same work in Christ’s Church today.

Just before He died Jesus instituted the Holy Supper for His Church as the new testament in His Body and Blood. Now that He has risen He calls and sends His disciples to form His Church by His Spirit, in His forgiveness and peace. Before He ascends He sends them to make more disciples of all nations through teaching and holy baptism. On this Church He again sends the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. So we are gathered on the eighth day and every eighth day to receive His gifts and be strengthened in His resurrection from the dead; the very life of His Church until He comes again in glory. Where Jesus is there He gives life and this is a mystery of God’s mercy that is revealed after Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead. For He did not remain in death’s power and so neither do those who believe that He is “the Christ, the Son of God.”

Is it not Thomas’ doubting more than the belief of the other disciples that which we relate to? He does not doubt that Jesus died. But he needs to see to believe. Even after the others tell him, “We have seen the Lord,” he needs to see Jesus and the marks of His crucifixion before he will believe. It is the eighth day when Jesus appears to Thomas, saying to all of the disciples, “Peace to you!” He gently leads Thomas to see and believe that which is beyond human understanding. “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side.” Thomas now sees Jesus in the flesh. This is not a spirit but a risen Lord. He confesses, “My Lord and my God!” This is divine revelation and Thomas makes a confession here of Jesus’ divinity. He is true Man in the flesh and He is true God. We also doubt like Thomas, needing to see to believe even when Scripture reminds us that faith moves beyond that which is seen to that which is unseen. That which is seen is not excluded by faith. Rather, faith sees that which is beyond. This faith is only possible by divine revelation. Jesus breathes His Spirit on the disciples. This Spirit brings life to the dry bones. It is the Spirit who bears witness with the water and the bloood and through that Spirit we believe the testimony that God has given of His Son. We do not believe except that these things are written down for us. We do not believe except that we have been called by the Gospel. One church father wrote, “And if you do not believe, then believe those who tell you. And if you cannot believe them either, then have confidence in the print of the nails.” (Gregory Nanzianzen, On Holy Easter, Oration 45.24) If Thomas makes this confession then certainly his faith conquers the world and the Apostle writes, “How do some say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:12) Then read the testimony of John, “That which we have seen, which we have heard, which we have looked on with our eyes and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.” (1 Jn. 1) When Thomas touched Jesus’ flesh he proclaimed Jesus’ divinity. (Augustine) He is the Word made flesh, born through the closed doors of the Blessed Virgin who then appears in the flesh through the closed doors in order to bring God’s peace to men.

We are locked in by our senses and need more to fathom the mysteries of the mercy of God. Jesus’ death on the cross atoned for the sins of the world. His resurrection brings victory over death. These are central tenets of the Christian faith. No other religion brings an incarnate God to the world who becomes man and suffers, dies and rises again. No other religion offers the same hope of eternal life. After Jesus’ resurrection we understand more clearly what He said when He said that He is the way, the truth and the life. Since He is risen from the dead He now lives and reigns on high, though always living in His Church. We are brought into His resurrection first in holy baptism. He is in the proclamation of Absolution and the preaching of the Gospel by His sent ones. And He is in His Holy Supper given at the altar on the eighth day. “With good reason, then, are we accustomed to have sacred meetings in churches on the eighth day . . . Christ still visits us and appears to us all, both invisibly as God and visibly in the body. He allows us to touch His holy flesh and gives it to us. For through the grace of God we are admitted to partake of the blessed Eucharist, receiving Christ into our hands, to the intent that we may firmly believe that he did in truth raise up the temple of his body . . . Participation in the divine mysteries, in addition to filling us with divine blessedness, is a true confession and memorial of Christ’s dying and rising again for us and for our sake. Let us, therefore, after touching Christ’s body, avoid all unbelief in him as utter ruin and rather be found well grounded in the full assurance of faith.” (Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of John 12:1, LF 48:684).

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