quod pro nobis traditum est

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.