quod pro nobis traditum est

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Advent, again . . . O King of all the nations . . . come

Christianity is both material and spiritual all year round so I am not of the thinking that Advent somehow drags us down or steals away from the joy of Christmas.

An obvious emphasis of Advent is the Second Coming, the Day of Judgement. This may seem a bit frightening or too abstract or too far away from us but the Scripture readings in Advent always come around to Christ. "The Lord is near" is a comforting message, a sacramental and liturgical message that aids us in the preparation of the way of the Lord. He is preparing us. In Him we are prepared. John the Baptist plays a big role in Advent and although he has some quirks he does nothing less than point us to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In short, when we downplay Advent we downplay many Scripture readings that are not heard at other times of the church year.

This brief apology for Advent may or may not address what bothers some about the season but we cannot separate any season or the liturgy from the Gospel and Sacramental realities and joys that they bring. Let the hesitation toward Advent not be that we do not need or desire to be humbled at the coming of the Lord (is it that only the Lord needs to humble Himself for us?) It may also be that the Gloria in Excelsis, which is omitted in Advent, may have greater meaning and expression at the joyous Christmas celebration, much like, but not to the same extent of the Resurrection joy following the somber spirit of Good Friday. Neither celebration omits us from the daily and weekly celebrations throughout the year of the Lord who comes to us and gives us His gifts that we may have life in Him.

One Scriptural emphasis during Advent that is associated with the office of Vespers but that which may be enjoyed by Christians who do not have the opportunity is that of the "O Antiphons." These are the basis of the well known hymn, "Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel." The antiphons are appointed for each day from the 17th through the 23rd day of December:

Dec. 17 - O Sapientia: “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).

Dec. 18 - O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).

Dec. 19 - O Radix Jesse: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and A On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

Dec. 20 - O Clavis David: “O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” Isaiah had prophesied, AI will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6).

Dec. 21 - O Oriens: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).

Dec. 22 - O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4) .

Dec. 23 - O Emmanuel: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (7:14). Remember “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.” (description of each antiphon comes from: CERC, Dec. 17, 2008)

Advent again, one last time before the Christ-Mass!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Repeated pursuit

"And because a path is a way trodden down by those that have gone before, and which former men have worn away, the word bids those who depart from the zeal of their predecessors repeatedly pursue it."

- Basil on Luke 3:3-6 (cited by Aquinas, C.A., III, 111)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ember Days in Advent - a quick look

The Ember Days are Wednesday, Friday and Saturday found at four times of the year in connection with the four seasons. At this time of year, nearing Winter, the Ember Days come after the Third Sunday of Advent. These days are also called the "Ember Fasts." Traditionally Ordinations take place during the Ember Days.

An advantage of the practice of daily Mass or Low Mass is that one benefits from the extra Scripture readings that are available on these days, here in connection with Advent and Christmas:

Wednesday: Isaiah 2:2-5, Isaiah 7:10-15, Luke 1:26-38
Friday (today): Isaiah 11:1-5, Luke 1:37-47
Saturday: Isaiah 19:20-22, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8, Luke 3:1-6
(optional additional lessons: Isaiah 35:1-7, Isaiah 40:9-11, Isaiah 45:1-8,
Daniel 3:47-51, Daniel 3:52-56)

Fasting is the traditional practice on these days. Nowadays, where fasting is not the usual practice, it may be encouraged as an aid according to one's own devotional practice.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Meditation on Holiness

The following meditation for Gaudete (Advent 3) is excerpted from a sermon of 1826 by John Henry Cardinal Newman which was based on Hebrews 12:14 and called "Holiness Necessary for Future Blessedness."

"Heaven then is not like this world; I will say what {5} it is much more like,—a church. For in a place of public worship no language of this world is heard; there are no schemes brought forward for temporal objects, great or small; no information how to strengthen our worldly interests, extend our influence, or establish our credit. These things indeed may be right in their way, so that we do not set our hearts upon them; still (I repeat), it is certain that we hear nothing of them in a church. Here we hear solely and entirely of God. We praise Him, worship Him, sing to Him, thank Him, confess to Him, give ourselves up to Him, and ask His blessing. And therefore, a church is like heaven; viz. because both in the one and the other, there is one single sovereign subject—religion—brought before us.

"Supposing, then, instead of it being said that no irreligious man could serve and attend on God in heaven (or see Him, as the text expresses it), we were told that no irreligious man could worship, or spiritually see Him in church; should we not at once perceive the meaning of the doctrine? viz. that, were a man to come hither, who had suffered his mind to grow up in its own way, as nature or chance determined, without any deliberate habitual effort after truth and purity, he would find no real pleasure here, but would soon get weary of the place; because, in this house of God, he would hear only of that one subject which he cared little or nothing about, and nothing at all of those things which excited his hopes and fears, his sympathies and energies. If then a man without religion (supposing it possible) were admitted into heaven, doubtless he would sustain a great disappointment. Before, indeed, he fancied that he could {6} be happy there; but when he arrived there, he would find no discourse but that which he had shunned on earth, no pursuits but those he had disliked or despised, nothing which bound him to aught else in the universe, and made him feel at home, nothing which he could enter into and rest upon. He would perceive himself to be an isolated being, cut away by Supreme Power from those objects which were still entwined around his heart. Nay, he would be in the presence of that Supreme Power, whom he never on earth could bring himself steadily to think upon, and whom now he regarded only as the destroyer of all that was precious and dear to him. Ah! he could not bear the face of the Living God; the Holy God would be no object of joy to him. "Let us alone! What have we to do with thee?" is the sole thought and desire of unclean souls, even while they acknowledge His majesty. None but the holy can look upon the Holy One; without holiness no man can endure to see the Lord."

(HT: The New Liturgical Movement; text from Newman Reader)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Passing on the faith

As you can see I do not post very regularly. There are obvious reasons for that - family, pastoral ministry, part-time teaching, Advent, Christ-mass. Yesterday was a "snow day" as many of us in the midwest experienced. This meant shoveling the wet heavy snow before it froze. (Now we have the frigid temperatures to deal with.)

Of course, the church calendar does not slow down either. The Second Sunday of Advent was also the Feast of St. Nicholas of Bari, Bishop and Confessor. On that day I had the honor to be involved with a house blessing at Deacon Gaba's new apartment and attend a St. Nicholas party there afterward (my first). Monday was the Feast of St. Ambrose, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church. We heard an excerpt from the good doctor on the topic of faith in the daily liturgy (Low Mass) in which he discussed the Holy Trinity and the two natures in Christ, referring to the Christ Child in the cradle.

The church calendar is a blessing in so many ways. First and foremost, it helps direct the prayer life of the Church. Also it helps to teach us Christian history, the great leaders of the faith and their examples for us today. The church calendar is an ongoing means of catechesis. Some favor faith and some favor reason. The church calendar, I think and believe, is one of those places where faith and reason can interact and work together.

Speaking of Christian history here is an interesting article on the general audience of Pope Benedict XVI where he discusses the medieval theologian, Rupert of Deutz and his teaching on the Real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Praiseworthy curiosity

"In this wide and spacious sea so perish those unhappy ones, who, clutching hard at transitory things, lose what is enduring . . . You, therefore, Brethren, to whom as to little children, God reveals what He has hidden from the wise and the prudent, dwell in earnest reflection upon the things that are truly salutary, and diligently seek out the reason of this season of Advent, asking namely: Who is it that is coming; whence He comes and how He comes; to what purpose; when, and where, does He come? Praiseworthy indeed is this curiosity, and most salutary: nor would the universal Church commemorate so devoutly this present time of Advent unless that there was contained within it some deep significance, some sacred mystery." (Toal, I, 21)

- St. Bernard (1090 - 1153)

Friday, December 04, 2009


Peter Chrysologus, (c. 380 - 450)

Peter Chrysologus is not well known but what little is known about him is certainly worthy of remembrance. Although he is given the Greek name "Chrysologus" or "golden-worded" for his homilies he was from Italy. Originally ordained a deacon he eventually became archbishop of Ravenna in about A.D. 433, a position he held until he died.

He was involved in upholding orthodox Christianity. He wrote to Eutyches to submit to Leo, the bishop of Rome. He spoke against Arian and Monophysite teachings which he condemned as heresies.

His homilies are of interest for their content, elegant style, pastoral approach and historical value. He explained a number of topics including the Apostles' Creed, John the Baptist, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the mystery of the Incarnation. He advocated daily reception of Holy Communion and urged confidence in the forgiveness of sins through Christ.

His homilies also provide documentation of the liturgy and culture of his area. Quasten, citing Saenz, writes, "A more complete picture of the course of the liturgical year is not to be found in the works of any other bishop of the time." (Quasten, IV, 576-7)

In the 8th century, Felix preserved 176 of his homilies and in 1729 he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIII. Traditionally, his feast day is today.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

In the news

Here are some interesting opinion pieces on current events. The first one is about the "prosperity gospel" and its relationship to the economy. The second one is about the appeal of the Latin Mass in the Catholic Church.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

St. Clement of Rome

St. Clement of Rome, or Pope Clement I, was a Pope and Martyr of the 1st century, whose feast was yesterday, November 23. He is listed as the first Apostolic Father of the early Church. His writing to the church at Corinth, 1 Clement (c. 96), demonstrates the apostolic authority of presbyters (elders). He also defends the appointment of bishops and deacons as supported in Scripture.

Understanding Critical Scholarship

Listen carefully:

Monday, November 23, 2009

A visible enemy and an invisible faith?

The Gospel lessons during the last Sundays of the Church Year and the season of Advent stress, among other things, being alert or watching and praying. One teaching that comes up in the readings at this time is that of the Anti-Christ.

One obvious understanding of the Anti-Christ is his role "against" Christ (see 1 Jn. 2:18-25, 4:1-4). There are many other passages that could be cited on this teaching but for purposes here John refers to a denial of Jesus coming in the flesh. A denial of Jesus coming "in the flesh" is of the anti-Christ.

In looking at what church fathers have said concerning Matthew 24:15ff other interesting understandings of the Anti-Christ come out. For example, he is referred to as "false word."

Historically, the Anti-Christ is located in a visible church by those who teach that the true church is invisible. If it is taught that the church is only invisible this is debatable, especially since faith accepts that Jesus came in the flesh. Another difficulty with an invisible church understanding is that Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost), who is invisible, as being attached to visible means. It may be argued that the same could be said of the Anti-Christ. While it is easy to attach the Anti-Christ to one office, location or place this is not as easy to defend.

Returning to the earlier theme of being alert or watching and praying one must consider that, as Christ is a unity of both human and divine natures so His Church is both invisible and visible. The Anti-Christ, likewise, works against Christ, His Gospel and His Church in both visible and invisible ways.

If we are to be alert then it is clear that we question attempts to place the Anti-Christ in only one place or Church when he could be active prowling around in our own back-yard.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Last Sunday of the Church Year

"So we must live by the words of the Lord and support that apostolic ministry of the Church wherever it exists . . . “Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together.” Holy Church remains for He gathers us even on this Lord’s Day around His Body at the altar and we are made one with the saints, the martyrs and all the company of heaven. As His words will not pass away, so will His Church continue. Amen."

(Last Sunday of the Church Year, Matthew 24:15-35)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dogmatic Pragmatism

Eleanore Roosevelt is quoted as saying, "Small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, great minds discuss ideas." This quote could be applied also to the study of theology.

For years I have tried to understand trends within the Church that work against the study of theology, especially by her pastors. One might think that if there was a haven somewhere for the study of theology it would be in the Church(?) Pastors need to have at least the smallest interest in it even when they do not always have the time for it. Forces today not only downplay theology but work actively against such reflection and study. Without arriving at a solution to this ongoing tension or balance in the life of pastors and the Church it seems that the best way to summarize such opposition to theology and its study is "dogmatic pragmatism." This is one time when the use of the word "dogma" may clearly be appreciated in a negative light.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The ends of the world

"In olden time Jacob beheld a ladder erected reaching to heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon it. But now, having been made man for man's sake, He who is the Friend of man has crushed with the foot of His divinity him who is the enemy of man, and has borne up the man with the hand of His Christhood, and has made the trackless ether to be trodden by the feet of man. Then the angels were ascending and descending; but now the Angel of the great counsel neither ascends nor descends: for whence or where shall He change His position, who is present everywhere, and fills all things, and holds in His hand the ends of the world?" (

- St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (c. 213 - c. 270), the Wonder Worker, Bishop of Neocaesarea

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Liturgical Correctness

Originally posted at BOC Online:

Often the use of "liturgical correctness" in describing how a congregation practices worship is a criticism. What really is "liturgical correctness"? Such terminology is often left to perception since there are a variety of liturgical practices even among those who otherwise are quite close in their practice of the liturgy. This means that a charge of "liturgical correctness" in the negative sense may be raised based on a perception toward one practice or many practices or on a variety of factors.

Such a charge also undermines any attempts at catechesis or instruction in the meaning of, or theological basis for, a practice or practices. Thus what is given in support of the faith and in passing on the faith in the liturgy may be seen in the opposite light, that is, as something which is actually opposed to the faith.

When one is charged with "liturgical correctness" it is best not to take personal offense. The traditional practice is that of the Church. This is the real target of the charge. While there is always the possibility of misunderstanding in liturgical matters the charge of "liturgical correctness" is really not an acceptable charge. Rather than question the motives of those who make such a charge it is best to take the opportunity to show how the traditional liturgy leads one to worship that is humble, orderly and reverent of the Holy Trinity in Christ Jesus our Lord. The liturgy is the connection point between God and His people, the Body of Christ. Liturgical tradition focuses on Word and Sacrament, which are gifts of God for the forgiveness of sins, and which lead people away from focus on our own personal likes and dislikes to a right focus on Who is truly acting correctly toward us in the holy liturgy of the Church.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Feast of All Saints

Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a festival-day in honour of all the Saints: at whose solemnity the Angels rejoice, and give praise to the Son of God.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Circumstance

In the liturgy this morning we heard the Gospel from Luke 1, "...because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word." In the Lutheran tradition today is Reformation Day. Although Luke is not the Gospel reading for Reformation this Gospel is certainly appropriate with its emphasis on the word, the humility and faithfulness of Mary and the blessed Incarnation. In these few words is much ecclesiological fodder.

The blessed Incarnation is as historical as the Reformation and its effects, arguably, of greater value and impact on the Church. Being more recent in history, it is easier to wrap ourselves around the Reformation.

Mary's approach to God's word is that of the holy Church's approach before the Incarnation and the ongoing work of the Word, bringing sinners to repentance and giving them forgiveness and salvation ("no word shall be impossible with God"). In a happy circumstance on Reformation Day we hear the word that leads us back to where it all began. With Mary and the one holy Church we pray, "Be it done to me according to thy word."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles

Little is known of Simon the Zealot. Jude's Epistle is included among the catholic epistles of Holy Scripture. Both holy Apostles were martyred in the first century as they preached the Gospel.

"But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
- Jude 20-21

Friday, October 23, 2009

St. Raphael, Archangel

On September 29 Raphael is included with Michael and Gabriel since 1969, or in the "All Angels" among Lutherans on the same date. The traditional date is October 24. Raphael is mentioned in the Book of Tobit (or Tobias), considered "deuterocanonical" or "apocryphal" depending on one's tradition. The book was declared canonical at the Council of Carthage in 397.

If you get the opportunity, read the Book of Tobit. Here Raphael is mentioned as "one of the seven holy angels." The story revolves around Raphael's role in the marriage of Tobias and Sarah and his works of healing.

In conspéctu Angelórum psallam tibi . . . Ps. 137/138:1

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

History or "curiosity kills the cat"

If you are a reader you know of my interest in the historic liturgy. I blog much about this topic, as an amateur, because of ongoing difficulties that affect pastors and congregations. Years of discussing show that these difficulties are not only a question of the liturgy.

As a history undergrad I tend to fall into the trap of thinking historically. As a graduate student of theology I am aware of the limits of history. Nevertheless, sometimes history helps to put things in perspective. This is the case in my ponderings of how synod and Church have worked and work during my short lifetime.

In my study and experience of the last 40 years or more, including some pastoral experience, I have noted extra-congregational conflict over Scripture, then the still ongoing conflict over worship and more recently the conflict over ecclesiology. As we know conflict is nothing new. Also, we know that congregations are not immune to extra-congregational conflict. These forces are always at play. The Christian life is neither 100% joy nor 100% grief but an ongoing fluctuation of both of them.

My interest in this case is historical. Obviously, there is a relation between church conflict and cultural conflict. However, my curiosity does not care to go there. What could tie such conflict together (Scripture, worship, ecclesiology)? There are obvious theological and spiritual connections that could be made.

It is always dangerous to think of bigger questions (hence the title of the post, history or "curiosity kills the cat"). In other words if I assess these conflicts merely as dry historical facts people would understandably nod off (what else is new?). We know that these conflicts are not anything new in the long history of the Church.

But it begs the question why there is a constant need to rewrite or revise the Scripture, a constant need to rewrite or revise worship and a constant need to rewrite or revise the Church. We may say that this is the "American" thing to do (for example, the American obsession with change and what is "new"). I think that it goes beyond this to a reformation gone wrong. It seems that the Reformation has opened a can of worms which is hard to contain (add some other exacerbating features like the Enlightenment, Pietism, etc.)

While bringing some needed reform to the Catholic Church the Reformation has since then taken on a life of its own. This I owe to the multiplications of translations of Scriptures, "styles" of worship, ministries and forms of "church", denominations, sects, cults, etc. I can say that as neither a Reformation scholar nor a professional historian who has no answers or cure to what ails us (outside of divine revelation) that my pondering leads us back to the title, History or "curiosity kills the cat."

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Holy Ministry - Looking Back

The blogpost below is my "first" blog of note. Dating back to October 19, 2005 it is re-issued again here:

the "gift" of pastors - Ephesians 4:11-16

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
(Ephesians 4:11-16)

How do you look at your pastor? Should he be a good motivator, administrator and leader like we find in the business and political worlds? Should he be a good salesman for the church and her activities? Should he avoid theological matters and instead focus on numbers, revenue and success? Should he avoid the church's liturgy and instead focus on entertaining the people? Should he "get out of the way" so we can "do the ministry?" These are questions raised by people both inside and outside the church who, for whatever reason, see the church primarily as an institution or business that deals in or sells spiritural themes and slogans to inspire us or motivate us for the week ahead. These are sincere people who want to see the church succeed.

See how the Apostle teaches that pastors and the church are something quite distinct from these popular notions that we hear about today. The church and her pastors are of a different tradition. They are of the apostolic tradition, that of the Holy Scriptures, which speaks of them as "gifts" of God Himself. Why are they called "gifts"? Because they are sent by the Lord for the benefit of His Church on earth to equip the saints for the work of ministry and to edify the body of Christ. Why? So that people will no longer be tossed here and there by any and all kinds of doctrine that are everywhere in the world but that come from outside of the apostolic tradition of the Scriptures. Also, that they will not be fooled by "new" teachings about who the pastor and church are or ought to be. Instead, God gives the gifts of pastors that people who hear and keep His word will "all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" and " may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ."

The difference then is not in seeing the pastor and the church as merely a voluntary association of like-minded people who love to do good but rather as "gifts" from God Himself. God gave and gives pastors to the church, as He did the apostles, prophets and evangelists, so that people may be drawn out of the popular thinking of this world and come into communion with God Himself in Christ Jesus. Jesus was sent by the Father and gave Himself over to death for the world that we may in and through Him receive forgiveness of sins and life in God. This tradition in the catholic church of communion with God in Christ lives on in the holy liturgy of the Word and Sacraments, rightly preached and administered by pastors for the blessing of God's holy people. So as God is love He gives to His Church on earth the gift of pastors in love and in Christ "the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."

Friday, September 04, 2009

De Ecclesiasticis Officiis

Recently I picked up a recent English translation of the Latin, De Ecclesiasticis Officiis by Isidore of Seville (c. 560 - 636). This writing would be of most interest to those interested in liturgical history and the education of clergy, which are two emphases of Isidore here. The reason for these emphases was the Visigoths had recently converted from Arianism to Orthodoxy and Isidore was responsible for moving toward ending the remaining influences of Arianism.

The Mozarabic Rite, or "the old Spanish liturgy" (Fortescue), is one of the western Rites that pre-dates the Roman Rite. Although this Rite is in limited use today the history and practice of this Rite is helpful in understanding the development of the eucharistic liturgy. Book I describes the liturgy. Book II describes the office of clerics and other offices of the Church. The translation includes notes and a selected bibliography at the end.

Isidore is writing for the Church. Those interested in the history and development of the liturgy and the offices of the Church and how both continued in difficult times should read this book.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Looking Back" - past articles from "The Bride of Christ"

Past articles and essays from The Bride of Christ: The Journal of Lutheran Liturgical Renewal" are now being made available at the journal's blog.

The first installment of "Looking Back" is a brief article on Holy Absolution by the Rev. Arthur Carl Piepkorn. You can find it here.

St. Augustine of Hippo

"It was not the visible sun that made this day holy for us, but the sun's invisible Creator, when the Virgin Mother brought to light, out of her fruitful womb and virginal body, the Creator made visible for us, the same invisible God who had also created the Virgin. Virgin in conceiving, virgin in giving birth, virgin with child, virgin mother, virgin forever. Why do you marvel at this, O man? God had to be born in this way, when he deigned to become man. Thus did he make her, who was made by her."
- St. Augustine, Sermo 186, 1 (cited by Mary and the Fathers of the Church, p. 220)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Art of Theology

"A theologian who does not love art, poetry, music and nature can be dangerous. Blindness and deafness toward the beautiful are not incidental; they necessarily are reflected in his theology."

-- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Ratzinger Report (p. 130)

[HT: New Liturgical Movement]

Glimpses of the liturgy

". . . He saith to His Mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that He saith to the disciple: Behold thy Mother. And from that hour the disciple took her to his own."

- John 19

Friday, August 21, 2009

What does the name "Lutheran" mean?

Today's vote by the nation's largest "Lutheran" body only confirms the direction it has taken and in which it has been headed for many years. A news article describing this convention action may be found here. Since this body is named "Lutheran" such action brings confusion to those who are not Lutheran as well as many who are as to what the name "Lutheran" means. While the vote is not surprising it does bring an association to the name "Lutheran" that is not held or accepted by many Lutherans. Since this is the largest "Lutheran" body such public association with this vote and all Lutherans becomes more complicated.

On the one hand, such a vote is not unique to Lutherans. Many "mainline protestant" bodies are going in the same direction and have already voted or will vote to do the same thing. That is, it is not surprising because it is a phenomena greater than what it means to being simply "Lutheran." On the other hand, it is clear and will become clearer in the days ahead that many Lutherans who do not belong to the nation's largest body will be making clear that distinction.

The "Lutheran" identity is best determined by what is found in Holy Scripture and not by convention vote. Such a vote might be defended as an interpretation of Scripture in the current context but even that is debatable. This is a topic too big to discuss here. It is probably best here not to fret the meaning of the name "Lutheran" as it is to understand and accept that today's vote was not so much a "Lutheran" phenomena but one that reflects more clearly what it means today to be "mainline protestant." If this association is made with today's vote then the name "Lutheran" and its meaning may be freed from cultural expectations and associations and be returned to associations that are more closely tied to the Scriptural and churchly focus of its origins.

Will this happen? At least in the case of the nation's largest "Lutheran" body this is not likely ever to happen. This reality is reflected in today's vote, a vote which was expected to come for many years. This vote reflects what we can expect from what is known as and associated with as "mainline protestantism".

Thursday, August 20, 2009

St.Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church

"Both grace and truth are found in the Bridegroom. 'Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ' (Jn 1:17), says John the Baptist. If the Lord Jesus knocks at my door with one but not the other--for he is the Word of God, the soul's Bridegroom--he will enter not as a Bridegroom but as a judge. Perish the thought! 'Do not enter into judgment with your servant' (Ps 142:2). Let him enter as a bringer of peace, joyous and glad; but may he come grave and adult, too, to purify my joy and restrain my overconfidence with the stern face of truth. Let him enter as one . . . deigning to become the Bridegroom of the soul that seeks him and to be known as such (Lam 3:25), he who is God, blessed above all forever (Rom 9:5)."

- St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153 (Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works, Sermon 74, p. 258)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

St. Hippolytus, Martyr

"By saying in addition, 'And of the blessing of the womb of your father and your mother' [cf. Gen. 49, Septuagint], the prophet is foretelling a spiritual mystery. For he could have said, 'And of the blessing of the womb of your mother,' to indicate, with this expression, Mary, in whose womb the Word was carried for nine months. Yet he did not say this; instead he says, 'and from the blessing of the womb of your father and your mother'. Joining the two ideas in this way, he made them a single reality, so that it would be clearly understood that both that which exists according to the spirit and that which is according to the flesh belong to this one Person. For the Word proceeded from one heart of the Father and from the holy womb [of Mary], being born from one womb of the Father, as he says through the mouth of the prophet, 'My heart speaks a good Word' (Ps 45:1).

"On the other hand, in the last days, he came forth, according to the flesh, from a virginal womb after having been carried for nine months, so that, after having been born a second time from the womb of his Mother, he might manifest himself visibly. Therefore he says, also through the prophet, 'Thus says the Lord who formed me from [my Mother's] womb to be his servant' (Is 49:5)."

- Hippolytus [On the Blessings of the Patriarchs I; PO 27, 108-12; cited in L. Gambero, 91]

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Ss. Cyril and Methodius

God is wonderful in His Saints:
the God of Israel is He who
will give power and strength to
His people: blessed be God,

Saturday, July 04, 2009

the 4th of July and the Lord's Day

Today we recognize and celebrate the United States of America. We are reminded that this day is more than cookouts and fireworks. This is the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence made by the original thirteen colonies. There is much to revisit and to be thankful for over the last 233 years of this young country's existence.

When I was a new priest I realized soon the power of nationalism and its powerful pull even in the Church. One organist had so synthesized being a Christian with national patriotism that one could not distinguish who or what merited and/or received the most allegiance in his writings and musical tastes. When the 4th of July fell on Sunday patriotic songs were put in place of hymns and the National Anthem was put forth as pre-service music. What is a young priest to do? Fortunately, those days are past.

While one still hears of things like this happening here and there one can only hope that these are exceptions and not the rule.

Every Lord's Day the Church remembers the government and her nation's leaders in liturgical prayer. The liturgy is the place where we are given and receive a taste of the kingdom of heaven. Those who attend Mass on the 5th of July do not exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees and those who celebrate the 4th of July do not guarantee the highest show of patriotism. Patriotism is not diminished among the faithful when the Lord's Day remains focused on the Lord. The sanctuary is no place for the flag. Understanding the 4th of July means understanding the meaning of the flag in its proper place. The 4th of July remains the 4th of July and Sundays belong to the Lord. So too, we commemorate and celebrate in the Church such feasts as that of Saints Peter and Paul, Saint Paul, and the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and other dates that fell on the calendar during this past week.

There is a time and a place for everything . . .

Saturday, June 27, 2009

On Eve and Mary

". . . Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.' But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin . . . And thus also it was that the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith (3,22,4)."

- Adv. Haer. cited by J. Quasten, I:297-8

Friday, June 26, 2009

Saints John and Paul, Martyrs

Saints John and Paul were brothers who suffered death for Christ in A.D. 362. Their martyrdom occurred under the reign of Flavius Claudius Julianus ("Julian the Apostate"), the last pagan Roman Emporer, who died on this day in 363.

John and Paul were brothers in life and death.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

Today the Lutherans commemorate the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, one of the most catholic of all the Lutheran Confessions. Below is an excerpt:

"Inasmuch as the Mass is such a giving of the sacrament, one common Mass is observed among us on every holy day, and on other days, if any desire the sacrament, it is also administered to those who ask for it. Nor is this custom new in the church . . . Chrysostom says that the priest stands daily at the altar, inviting some to Communion and keeping others away. And it appears from the ancient canons that some one person or other celebrated Mass and the rest of the presbyters and deacons received the body of the Lord from him, for the words of the Nicene canon read, 'In order, after the presbyters, let the deacons receive Holy Communion from the bishop or from a presbyter.'"
(translation of the Latin, Tappert, et al, p. 60)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

St. John the Baptist

The Birth of St. John the Baptist
Oil on canvas, 181 x 266 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

The Vigil and the Birth of St. John the Baptist (June 23 & 24)

The Prophet Jeremiah receives the word of the Lord saying He was known and sanctified before he came out of the womb of his mother (ch. 1). The Angel of the Lord spoke of John to his father Zachary saying, "and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb." (Luke 1)

"The Lord hath called me from the womb . . ." (Isaiah 49)

"Let Thy Church, O Lord, rejoice at the birth of blessed John the Baptist; through whom she came to know the Author of her own new birth, even our Lord Jesus Christ . . ."

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Pastor and Theology - a different task

Pastors need to be about theology.

However, if theology is primarily understood as of benefit to the state then pastors will have no time for the pure theological task, that is, allowing the still small voice of divine revelation to speak. Rather pastors will be pressured to fit into predetermined political and social categories with the assumption of total agreement and support for whatever their tradition determines is the majority position. That is, cultural and political expectations will trump anything that pre-supposes any still small voice, which is then marginalized if not silenced. When the pastor is led to fit political expectations there is no time left for the pastor's primary work.

That the pastor's theological task is primarily that which arises from divine revelation in the Church and allows for freedom to grow within the context of the Church should not be, but seems to have become, the exception. If there is any "political" or "public" role for the pastor that is found in the Church's liturgy where the Word is preached and the Sacraments are administered among the people. This is where the "material" of the Church's life is found and the pastor is indispensable in this role as is seen in the Lord's sending of His Apostles.

The political world is rightly ordered about the material world but cannot fully appreciate the distinct nature of the Church and the role of the pastor. This world has different needs and expectations and a different governance. In this regard the Church and her liturgy are clearly distinct. This is seen negatively, in the impatience that has infiltrated the Church and her liturgy in some ways so as to make it harder to discern between that which is Church and that which is not or that which is worship and that which is not. Even within the Church one does not always hear the still small voice.

Positively, the Church and her liturgy remind us that we are on holy ground, that we are dealing with matters more pertinent to the soul and that we can put the world aside, even if for a little while. The "matter" or "material" here is a-political in terms of the expectations of the world outside. It is the Body and Blood of Christ at the altar through which people are drawn and united in the death and resurrection of Christ Himself. There is no big government, little government, or no government here, only Christ on the altar bringing His life to the people.

The pastor needs to be about theology so that he can hear that still small voice and faithfully lead others to hear it too, even if that means he is not on the cutting edge among the many voices in the political arena.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Another look at The Athanasian Creed

"Whoever will be saved shall, above all else, hold the catholic faith . . .
[Holy Trinity]
[Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ]
And they that have done good will go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith which, except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved."
- Lutheran Worship

As the Feast of the Holy Trinity approaches on the church calendar it is good to be familiar with The Athanasian Creed (Quicunque Vult). There is no requirement to speak this creed on Trinity Sunday although congregations may do so that the people remain familiar with this statement of the holy church's faith. (The Nicene Creed is liturgically used in connection with the holy Eucharist and so is rightly used instead.)

The Athanasian Creed remains unfamiliar with many although it is rich in confessing the catholic faith. Two reasons for its limited usage are its length and an uncomfortableness by some with some of the text.

I wish to address here what I call an "uncomfortableness" with the text of the creed with the hope that there may be greater understanding and acceptance of this creed and appreciation for it as a whole.

The Athanasian Creed was written near the end of the 5th c. Although Athanasius himself did not write this creed it was given his name because of his orthodox stand in support of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity against the errors of Arius which were a threat to the Church of that day. The creed remains to this day the Church's confession even being retained as a chief symbol by the Lutheran reformers, so in effect, "surviving" the Reformation.

Although the text of the creed is quite substantial there seem to be two specific areas that regularly raise questions. First is the usage of the word "catholic" which is mentioned at least four times. There is little reason to spend much time on this word. Any fear of its association with the Catholic Church is over-estimated since it truly confesses the catholic faith that all Christians believe and confess (specifically in the western Church). On the Holy Trinity and on the doctrine of Christ as expressed in the three ecumenical creeds there is no disagreement among Christians in the west. This means that rather than being questioned this word should be understood and boldly confessed. Except in part, the eastern Church also does not find difficulty with this creed, although it is not one of their own.

The other question arises regarding the judgement section toward the end and the reference to doing good leading to everlasting life while doing evil leading to everlasting fire. This should be taken in the larger context of the Creed and holy Scripture. We do not dispute bodily resurrection, Judgement Day, heaven or hell. The universal aspect is demonstrated in that all people will be judged. In context, this judgement is understood in terms of the Judge, Christ Jesus. Those who are “in Christ” will be seen as doing good works (which really is His work in and through them) and those who are not “in Christ” (ie, unbelievers) will be judged as having done works in their sin outside of the forgiveness that was offered them. So all will be judged. The good works will go to glorify God while the evil unforgiven will lead to eternal punishment. All are judged yet those “in Christ” do not fear that Day but rather look forward to it. As far as the notion of “works” there is indeed a connection to faith and salvation or, negatively speaking, to judgement and eternal punishment. Faith and works are united in Christ. Our works without Christ are like filthy rags. God grants us both faith and then works good works in and through us, but these works are not us, but Christ who lives in us (Gal. 2:20) Hence the benefits of the cross are given us and He works the good works by grace through faith. In Him these works lead to eternal life. Without Him we have neither grace nor faith and our works condemn us. So neither should this phrasing about "works" trouble us as it neither troubled those on both sides of the reformation. It is truly a "catholic" creed.

But mainly should the Athanasian Creed be remembered and confessed for its marvelous confession of the one true God in three persons, the Holy Trinity, and in the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, God and man in one Christ. It is hoped that these questions not detract from the greater substance of the confession and its unity in confessing the catholic faith.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.

- St. Paul's First Letter to Timothy 3:16

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Movies and Contemporary Sensibilities - an American Religion

First, "The DaVinci Code" and then "Angels and Demons." Here is a good take on the Dan Brown phenomena.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The wholeness of the liturgy

In discussing the historic liturgy online (as I used to do much more often than I do today) I have noticed by reactions to posts various emphases or positions toward the liturgy and/or its parts that are seemingly missing in my posts on this topic. This tells me two things. First, I do not discuss every aspect of the liturgy in any one post for obvious reasons. Second, I do not approach the liturgy as a specialist although I have learned much about specific liturgical aspects over the years. Usually my posts are simply "thought of the day" type of remarks or quotes from others in support of the historic liturgy. These past ten years have been an eye-opening experience and I have learned first, a greater appreciation for the liturgy and its relation to God in Christ Jesus. Second, I appreciate more the liturgy's wholeness or catholicity in terms of both its historic nature and in its ability to draw together people of all nations.

This is not an apology for specialization. Rather, I find, that it is specialization that has been and is most responsible for furthering the distance between people and the liturgy or between people and God in Christ Jesus in the Mass. One notices, for example, that the altar vanishes when a screen or rock band is placed in front. The liturgy is turned into entertainment as a form of Sunday escape from heavier themes or is turned into a springboard for various political and social agendas. These are but some examples of many changes in recent years that are really symptoms of a more broad departure from the center and reason for the existence of the liturgy. Many are noticing that the liturgy has been or is being engineered or left out altogether and that those things that are missed reflect a break in the continuity of the faith. Much has been written on this phenomena already. Basically, such changes reflect more focus on the horizontal rather than on the vertical dimension of the liturgy. This raises questions about the faith itself, which is beyond the scope of this one post.

The faith is upheld rather by the continuity of the historic liturgy or by its restoration to its rightful place. The liturgy is not in competition with theology, biblical studies nor dogmatics nor is it opposed to academic pursuits. All inform the faith or explain further the faith that seeks understanding. Nor is the spirit of the liturgy diminished by the learning of rubrics. Rubrics are important for many reasons, some of which are the development of discipline, continuity in the greater tradition and the cultivation of a sense of reverence among both priests and people.

Words cannot adequately express or teach the sense of holiness and reverence that are included in liturgical worship. The liturgy leads people through God's Word toward the altar and to the Holy Eucharist, which is the crucified and risen Lord Himself. The wholeness of the liturgy is dependent on the one Lord who comes to us and gives Himself to us. Efforts to uphold that unity between God and people in Christ in the liturgy are not fruitless. On the contrary, once worship is bound by horizontal concerns the wholeness can no longer be appreciated and passed on and the overall unity, both vertically and horizontally becomes questionable.

The wholeness of the liturgy bases its existence on and is most fruitfully and centrally located on the altar in the Holy Eucharist.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Doctor of the Church

"Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him; today I am quickened with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; today I rise with Him. But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us— you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by bad men, slaves of the world and of the Prince of the world. Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting; let us give back to the Image what is made after the Image. Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honour our Archetype; let us know the power of the Mystery, and for what Christ died.

"Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. Let us become God's for His sake, since He for ours became Man. He assumed the worse that He might give us the better; He became poor that we through His poverty might be rich; 2 Corinthians 8:9 He took upon Him the form of a servant that we might receive back our liberty; He came down that we might be exalted; He was tempted that we might conquer; He was dishonoured that He might glorify us; He died that He might save us; He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were lying low in the Fall of sin. Let us give all, offer all, to Him Who gave Himself a Ransom and a Reconciliation for us. But one can give nothing like oneself, understanding the Mystery, and becoming for His sake all that He became for ours."

- St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 1:IV,V (source:

Saturday, May 02, 2009

St. Athanasius, Bishop, Confessor, Doctor

"Many before this Man have been kings and tyrants of the world, many are on record who have been wise men and magicians, among the Chaldæans and Egyptians and Indians; which of these, I say, not after death, but while still alive, was ever able so far to prevail as to fill the whole earth with his teaching and reform so great a multitude from the superstition of idols, as our Saviour has brought over from idols to Himself? The philosophers of the Greeks have composed many works with plausibility and verbal skill; what result, then, have they exhibited so great as has the Cross of Christ? For the refinements they taught were plausible enough till they died; but even the influence they seemed to have while alive was subject to their mutual rivalries; and they were emulous, and declaimed against one another. But the Word of God, most strange fact, teaching in meaner language, has cast into the shade the choice sophists; and while He has, by drawing all to Himself, brought their schools to nought, He has filled His own churches; and the marvellous thing is, that by going down as man to death, He has brought to nought the sounding utterances of the wise concerning idols. For whose death ever drove out demons? or whose death did demons ever fear, as they did that of Christ? For where the Saviour's name is named, there every demon is driven out. Or who has so rid men of the passions of the natural man, that whoremongers are chaste, and murderers no longer hold the sword, and those who were formerly mastered by cowardice play the man? And, in short, who persuaded men of barbarous countries and heathen men in various places to lay aside their madness, and to mind peace, if it be not the Faith of Christ and the Sign of the Cross? Or who else has given men such assurance of immortality, as has the Cross of Christ, and the Resurrection of His Body? For although the Greeks have told all manner of false tales, yet they were not able to feign a Resurrection of their idols—for it never crossed their mind, whether it be at all possible for the body again to exist after death. And here one would most especially accept their testimony, inasmuch as by this opinion they have exposed the weakness of their own idolatry, while leaving the possibility open to Christ, so that hence also He might be made known among all as Son of God."

- St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word (source:

Friday, May 01, 2009

St. Philip and St. James, Apostles

Philip said to Him: "Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him: "Have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known Me? Philip, he who sees Me sees also the Father." (John 14)

Friday, April 24, 2009

St. Mark, Evangelist

(mosaic at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice)

The Evangelist was not one of the Apostles but is a disciple of theirs and most closely associated with St. Peter. The reason given that the lion is the animal chosen from Ezekiel to depict St. Mark is that he begins his Gospel by showing John the Baptist as the "voice of one crying in the wilderness."

St. Mark is tied by some traditions to Alexandria and he may have been the first bishop and pope there. The founding of the church in Alexandria is the founding of Christianity in Africa. Coptic Christians especially recognize St. Mark for his role in Christianity there. April 25 is the anniversary of his martyrdom.

Mark succinctly introduces his Gospel with these words,
"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."
(initium evangelii Iesu Christi Filii Dei.)

Faith and Reason: Thoughts on a Friday

The encyclical, Fides et Ratio, of Pope John Paul II is one of those non-"Lutheran" documents that someday I will sit down and read. The topic is always timely and pertinent to tensions within and outside of the Church. There is pressure on those who read about theological topics, themes and issues to put aside such things and focus instead on "higher" cultural and secular interests. For the minority, theology and philosophy, always connected to and guided by Scripture help the busy soul keep sight of bigger questions and realities although they are also more basic and foundational. There is direct connection to the practical world but this is lost when one becomes so caught up in the practical world that one can no longer connect one's thoughts or actions to a greater whole. Such is the struggle in our times. The rapid-paced world, on the one hand (in competition for power), and, on the other hand, simple and basic meaning with occasional mystery.

Such an environment, as we find ourselves in the world today, understandably raises questions of the relationship between faith and reason and therefore any tensions, real and imagined, between the two. Outside of the Church secular beliefs that are indifferent to or even outwardly antagonistic to matters of faith are ever present to pose their questions and challenges. Non-religious "religions" spring up on a continual basis in order to offer alternatives to the faith. Within the Church faith and reason interact more intensely in questions of theology, philosophy and practice resulting in a variety of positions, based on hard evidence and/or perception. Even Church history reflects movement either toward or away from faith or reason. Each era is recognized for its contributions as well as its faults. Questions of Church practice, whether intentionally or not, always raise the bigger question of the relationship between faith and reason (pietism and rationalism being the extremes). Which pastor/priest and congregation has not had a taste of this tension?

In general, one can see, for example, that the church's liturgy has more to do with prayer and sacramental realities, that is, the faith, than with passing on information to people or simply satisfying man's reason. Likewise, the study of theology and/or philosophy, makes use of reason and includes the transmission of information but, in a way that seeks to make a connection between that which reason may understand and explain while, at the same time, adressing metaphysical questions, i.e., questions of the faith. Faith and reason go together, there is no doubt. Dangers arise when they are used one against the other. Here, as in the case of "Word and Sacrament," the word "and" plays a key role.

Returning to an earlier statement, "There is pressure on those who read about theological topics, themes and issues to put aside such things and focus instead on 'higher' cultural and secular interests," one sees in this statement itself a reflection of the tension between faith and reason. It may be argued reasonably that cultural and secular questions do not, in and of themselves, always undermine or negate the faith. Likewise, it is reasonable to conclude that reading about theological topics, themes and issues does not equate with faith or always serve to upbuild the faith. For the Christian, both faith and reason are divine gifts and best understood in the light of divine revelation.

The Bible is understood together with the Church and the liturgy is understood together with the Gospel, sacraments and prayer. Reason admits the possibility of faith with mysteries and faith seeks understanding.

My problem is I like to read such things . . .

Thursday, April 23, 2009

St. George

Rather than offer sacrifice to the pagan gods as demanded by the Emperor Diocletian, St. George (275/285 - 303/4) claimed his allegiance to and worship of Jesus Christ and was martyred by beheading on this day in 303 or 304. Witness of his suffering and death led to the conversion of Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, both of whom were also martyred.

"Thou hast protected me, O God, from the assembly of the malignant, alleluia:
from the multitude of the workers of iniquity, alleluia, alleluia." (Introit, Psalm 64)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Feast of the Resurrection

"And then there followed many proofs, whereon the authority of the Faith to be preached through the whole world might be based. And although the rolling away of the stone, the empty tomb, the arrangement of the linen cloths, and the angels who narrated the whole deed by themselves fully built up the truth of the Lord's Resurrection, yet did He often appear plainly to the eyes both of the women and of the Apostles not only talking with them, but also remaining and eating with them, and allowing Himself to be handled by the eager and curious hands of those whom doubt assailed. For to this end He entered when the doors were closed upon the disciples, and gave them the Holy Spirit by breathing on them, and after giving them the light of understanding opened the secrets of the Holy Scriptures, and again Himself showed them the wound in the side, the prints of the nails, and all the marks of His most recent Passion, whereby it might be acknowledged that in Him the properties of the Divine and Human Nature remained undivided, and we might in such sort know that the Word was not what the flesh is, as to confess God's only Son to be both Word and Flesh."

- Leo the Great (Sermon 71 delivered on Easter Vigil, source:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

The world will go on as if Jesus’ death does not matter . . . There is at the same time an avoidance of death and a removal of oneself from the sacredness of life so that death becomes an escape. This is a culture of death, a running away from life.

Jesus did not run away from death or avoid it but rather picked up His cross and suffered and died at the hands of sinful men. His death was not dictated by an escape from or an opposition to life.

. . . Scripture challenges us to meditate on these mysteries for in these mysteries we come to what the Evangelist calls "the hour of [Jesus’] glory.”

. . . God answers our unbelief by drawing all men to Himself through His Son who is lifted up on the tree.

. . . “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

The world goes on as if Jesus’ death on the cross does not matter. Yet in His Cross and Passion and Death, Jesus has redeemed the world . . .

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Holy Triduum

Holy Thursday is a hidden treasure. Jesus loves the world to the end in His new covenant, the Lord's Supper.

Good Friday - NoonDay Service and evening Mass

Holy Saturday - Paschal Vigil

Easter Sunday - Mass in the morning

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Purgatory on Earth

In the tradition I know this concept is not acceptable. Probably the key argument against purgatory has to do with questions of canon, that being that such a concept is not found in what is generally accepted as "Scripture." (The canon of Scripture is different within the different Christian traditions.)

Purgatory had a role to play in the Reformation. The sale of indulgences was what broke the camel's back for Luther and his theses spelled that out in Latin for the Church to ponder. The buying and selling of the forgiveness of sins was unacceptable, the practice being held up in relation to the understanding of Scripture.

Apart from these issues, what of purgatory itself? This is a question of the afterlife so it is not one easily defined. Nor is the thing in itself something that merits raising protest. Although questioned, especially these days, Heaven and Hell are commonly accepted among Christians. These are also afterlife questions. There is attestation throughout Scripture, no matter which canon.

From an earthly perspective, our experience bears out the popular notions of "hell on earth" or "heaven on earth," the former used more often, even among the irreligious. "Hell on earth" may be used to describe anything from war to devastating disease, unspeakable crime to widespread hunger. "Heaven on earth" may be a phrase used by the irreligious to describe anything that is considered good in the eyes of the beholder. "Heaven on earth" is most often understood within the wider Christian Tradition to describe those unseen realities that are related to the liturgy of the Church (be it Eastern or Western).

Heaven and Hell are different ends of the spectrum, whether speaking spiritually, experientially or theologically. Purgatory is somewhere in between, but in the direction of Heaven. Webster online defines purgatory as "an intermediate state after death for expiatory purification." If purgatory is a state after death, I would understand it as a divine work as it has to do with purification and is in the direction of heaven. Again, whether or not there is purgatory after death is not the focus of this post. I do ponder here the idea of a "purgatory on earth," apart from either the concepts of heaven and hell on earth and yet connected to both.

Rather than being caught in a constant high ("heaven") or a constant low ("hell"), most of us are somewhere in between ("purgatory"). This is like the Apostle learning to be content in whatever situation. Heaven and hell are happening on earth at the same time and they are happening to us. The Christian understands this in terms of sin and forgiveness and the gradual purging of the old life by the sanctification that comes with growing in grace. Both Scripture and experience bear out the realities of being purged as being refined by fire. The Scripture states that the faith is "more precious than gold."

We might say that just as there is hell on earth and heaven on earth that there is also "purgatory on earth". This could be understand as "expiatory"; the work of God such as we know in the passion and death of Jesus on the cross and being baptized both into His death and into His resurrection. We certainly have taste of such a state here on earth. He became flesh and dwelt among us that we might partake of His divine nature. As we follow Jesus and bear our crosses we come to know both the suffering and the joy of knowing Christ, who cleanses us from all sin.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


These three articles cover related topics and issues regarding the relationship between Christianity and liberalism or secularism:

In Britain people are following an atheist trend and 'de-baptizing' themselves. See the article here

Here is an article discussing the relationship between the Nazis and Christianity.

Finally, here is a discussion of Liberalism as Religion.

religion and the stars

"Rather, what arouses is the intriguing presence of any cosmos at all. For us, the setting sun, the number pi, Seattle, a father's role in the family have nothing to do with one another. Even those who profess the Christian faith live in a dead and silent world: religion has retreated into the foxholes of the heart and says nothing about the stars."

- Anthony Esolen, Introduction to Dante's Inferno, xvi

Christological hermeneutic

"[Bede] comments on the Bible, interpreting it in a Christological key, that is, combining two things: on the one hand he listens to exactly what the text says, he really seeks to hear and understand the text itself; on the other, he is convinced that the key to understanding Sacred Scripture as the one word of God is Christ, and with Christ, in his light, one understands the Old and New Testaments as "one" Sacred Scripture. The events of the Old and New Testaments go together, they are the way to Christ, although expressed in different signs and institutions (this is what he calls the concordia sacramentorum)."

- Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 18 February 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

St. John Damascene

"But this blessed woman, who was deemed worthy of gifts that are supernatural, suffered those pains, which she escaped at the birth, in the hour of the passion, enduring from motherly sympathy the rending of the bowels, and when she beheld Him, Whom she knew to be God by the manner of His generation, killed as a malefactor, her thoughts pierced her as a sword, and this is the meaning of this verse: Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also" (Luke 2:35). But the joy of the resurrection transforms the pain, proclaiming Him, Who died in the flesh, to be God."

- St. John Damascene (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book IV, Ch. XIV;

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lent, a time for the Incarnation

In Lent we are headed to the Cross. In our tradition the Cross is greatly emphasized, and with good reason. The Cross is where Christ meets the enemies in battle. The one sacrifice for all time is the redemption of the world. The crucifixion reminds us of the Father's great love and the Son's great sacrifice for sin. Without the Cross there is no salvation. Without the Cross there is no Resurrection. We preach Christ and Him crucified.

Yesterday's Feast of the Annunciation took us back briefly to the Incarnation (a little Christ-mass in Lent?). For one day in Lent the purple was exchanged for white and the focus was on the mysterious and miraculous birth of our Lord through Mary, the blessed ever-Virgin. For with God nothing is impossible.

It is puzzling, as I have heard in recent years, the Incarnation and the Cross pitted against one another, with the former being the one downplayed if not disparaged. Scripture and the faithful Tradition do not do this. Rather one precedes the other and without either there is neither, but both are equally the works of God.

Lent is possible because of the Incarnation. The Cross is the direction of the Incarnation. In the Holy Eucharist we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. It has also been stated that "The Holy Communion is the continuation of the Incarnation." (The Presence, 43)

In the greatest miracle Jesus became one of us and dwelt with us. The Angel announces that Mary is "blessed among women." She responds to grace, "be it done to me according to thy word." The Crucified One is called "Emmanuel," "the Son of the Most High." "the Son of God." He says, "not my will, but Thine be done." We look ahead to the Cross and the Resurrection, not forgetting that the grace and blessing given to Mary is also poured out on us through the one-time Sacrifice, which is eternal. The Angel Gabriel announced to Mary, "And of His kingdom there shall be no end." At the Feast the Incarnate One gives us a foretaste of things to come.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"Not only our memory but somehow our eyes as well contemplate the conversation between the angel Gabriel and the wondering Mary; likewise the conception by the Holy Spirit is wonderful both in its promise and in the faith that received it."

"By the Spirit, Christ is born from the body of his unsullied Mother; by this same Spirit, the Christian is reborn from the womb of holy Church."

"The earth of human nature was already cursed in the first liar. Only in this birth from the Blessed Virgin did it produce a blessed shoot, an exception to the vice of its roots. Its spiritual origin is acquired by anyone who is regenerated. And for every man who is born again, the water of baptism is like the virginal womb. The same Spirit that filled the Virgin now fills the baptismal font; hence, that sin, which was once removed by a holy conception, is now taken away by a mystic ablution."

- Leo the Great (excerpts of sermons cited by Gambero, pp. 307-8)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


"I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord.
Let peace be in Thy strength: and abundance in Thy towers."
(Gradual - Psalm 122:1,7)

Archangel Gabriel

The Archangel Gabriel is one of three archangels mentioned in Scripture. He is mentioned four times, and, of those, twice in the New Testament. Here he announces the birth of John the Baptizer and then announces to Mary her blessing of being chosen to be the Mother of the Saviour. Thus he is considered the angel of the Incarnation and an angel of mercy. (adapted from

In the liturgy of the mass people are drawn up together with the angels and archangels and all the saints in singing the praise of God. We are reminded of the daily work of God's angels as we learned it in the small catechism, "Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tossed to and fro

The ELCA, a merger of 3 Lutheran bodies in the late 20th c., is the largest of the Lutheran bodies in the United States. This body is considered to be what is called a "mainline protestant" body so that the issues it faces are similar to issues faced by other mainline protestants. At the national assembly this August they will be considering changing what it means to be an ELCA clergy. For an article on this issue and the response of three ELCA theologians click here

Conservative protestant Christianity has grown, in part, as a reaction to liberal changes in "mainline protestantism." However, traditional Christianity is being thrown out with the bathwater. Here is an apt commentary on the traditional Church and her detractors called, "Parable of the Sea". Click here

Saturday, March 21, 2009

St. Benedict of Nursia

"What, dearest brethren, can be sweeter to us than this voice of the Lord inviting us? See, in His loving kindness, the Lord showeth us the way of life." These words of St. Benedict (480-547) come from the Prologue to his "Rule" in which he draws up a moderate lifestyle for monastic communities. He is considered the father of monasticism in the West. On the traditional western calendar his feast is today.

(source of quote: CCEL)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Divine intervention

St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Confessor - March 19

St. Gabriel, Archangel -
March 24

The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary - March 25

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

". . . at the proper season expect the confirmation out of Holy Scripture of each part of the contents [of the Creed]. For the articles of the Faith were not composed as seemed good to men; but the most important points collected out of all the Scripture make up one complete teaching of the Faith. And just as the mustard seed in one small grain contains many branches, so also this Faith has embraced in few words all the knowledge of godliness in the Old and New Testaments. Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which you now receive, and write them on the table of your heart." (Catechetical Lecture 5)

"Since then [Jesus Christ] Himself declared and said of the Bread, This is My Body, who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He has Himself affirmed and said, This is My Blood, who shall ever hesitate, saying, that it is not His blood?"
(Catechetical Lecture 22)

- St. Cyril of Jerusalem d. 386 (source:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick, Bishop, Confessor

For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught;and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father,indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity of holy name.

- St. Patrick, d. 464 (from the "Confessio", par. 4, source: CIN)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Catholic Confession

"When I come before the judgment throne, I will plead the promise of God in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I will not plead any work I have done, although I will thank God that he has enabled me to do some good. I will plead no merits other than the merits of Christ, knowing that the merits of Mary and the saints are all from him; and for their company, their example, and their prayers through my earthly life I will give everlasting thanks. I will not plead that I had faith, for sometimes I was unsure of my faith, and in any event that would be to turn faith into a meritorious work of my own. I will not plead that I held the correct understanding of "justification by faith alone," although I will thank God that he led me to know ever more fully the great truth that much misunderstood doctrine was intended to protect. Whatever little growth in holiness I have experienced, whatever strength I have received from the company of the saints, whatever understanding I have attained of God and his ways . . . these and all other gifts I will bring gratefully to the throne. But in seeking entry to that heavenly kingdom, I will, with Dysmas, look to Christ and Christ alone."

- Richard John Neuhaus (from his book Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross, cited in the journal Touchstone, March 2009, p. 6)