quod pro nobis traditum est

Friday, February 27, 2009


"Maybe the greatest threat to the church is not heresy, not dissent, not secularism, not even moral relativism, but this sanitized, feel-good, boutique, therapeutic spirituality that makes no demands, calls for no sacrifice, asks for no conversion, entails no battle against sin, but only soothes and affirms."

- Archbishop Timothy Dolan - newly named Archbishop of New York

(source: Quote of the Week, February 27, 2009, CERC)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Priest, Doctor, Confessor

Luther is commemorated by Lutherans on this date, the anniversary of his death in 1546. We may be so bold as to note that the Roman Missal provides a collect that Luther might have appreciated:

"O God, who seest that we put not our trust in any thing that we do: mercifully grant, that by the protection of the Doctor of the Gentiles we may be defended against all adversities. Through our Lord . . ." (Collect for Sexagesima Sunday)

It was in part external threat of invasion that brought pressure to bear on talks between Luther, his fellow reformers and the Catholic Church resulting in the Augsburg Confession and later confessional writings. No doubt at this time internal disunity was not something to be desired by Charles V and the Holy Roman Empire while the Empire faced external adversities. When there are times of stress confession may be clearer but this same confession may also be forced and patience may be short.

The above collect could easily reflect those difficult days. On the one hand, Luther and the Augsburg Confessors insisting that we cannot trust in any thing that we do but in God and His mercy and the Roman Church and Empire seeking unity and assurance in the face of adversity. The collect draws these concerns together and unites them under the merciful protection of the Lord.

Without knowing the history of this particular collect it is a happy coincidence that this prayer is found in the Catholic liturgy during the week of this commemoration. In spite of any real differences of which we are reminded of on a regular basis, Luther would most probably be glad to pray this Catholic prayer today as if it were one he wrote himself.

Monday, February 16, 2009


It may be possible someday to erase bad memories. In man's ongoing quest for progress maybe it is left to medicine now to erase such memories (click here).

Some congregations in the 80s and 90s and even today have tried something similar by omitting any mention of "sin" in their services and by changing the same divine-centered services using methods more suitable for man-centered entertainment.

Do we as individuals and a society no longer have time to consider history and learn from the past? Ought we jump on board with everything that comes in the name of progress and which proposes a bright future, only to forget meanwhile the very substance of the faith?

Whether or not such "advances" in medicine are even possible, this seems to be another example of treating symptoms that arise out of the deeper malaise called sin. This is treated with what the fathers called the "medicine of immortality."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

renewing a solid sense of liturgy

Divine Liturgy: East and West
It was in 1054 that the Church began to think in terms of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox instead of Western and Eastern Christianity.

The split was prefigured in the coronation of Charlemagne in 800 as an emperor distinct from the emperor in Constantinople. This tragic schism damaged what John Paul II called "the two lungs of the Church" and restoration of full communion between the Churches is a priority of Benedict XVI. The enthronement of Kirill I as Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia on February 1 pleased the Pope since this new leader of 160 million Russian Orthodox is a good friend of his.

The election of the new Patriarch took place in the new Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, built on the site of the cathedral which Stalin ordered his minister Kaganovich to blow up in 1931. It is a meticulous recreation of the original from photographs, old blueprints, and living memory. It is a worthy house for the Divine Liturgy which is the heart and soul of Eastern Christianity. Father Frederick Faber called the Latin rite of the Western Church "the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven," and it certainly opens Heaven's gates to souls, but Faber forgot the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom with its incomparable evocation of eternal mysteries. Such worship converted the Slavs, for when the Great Prince of Kiev sent messengers to find a religion suitable for the rising capital of ancient Rus, they were dazzled by what they saw in Constantinople's church of Hagia Sophia, completed by Justinian in 537, with its 80 priests, 150 deacons, 60 subdeacons, 160 readers, 25 cantors, and 75 doorkeepers. The Ottoman Sultan eventually desecrated it, and the Turkish government turned it into a museum in 1935, but the Divine Liturgy remains.

By renewing a solid sense of the liturgy in the West, our Holy Father is doing more than any number of ecumenical discussions to unite Christians East and West in the massive confrontation with practical atheism. We can learn much about our own liturgical tradition through the teachings of the present Pope. The Internet is now a resource that our forebears did not have. One excellent site is

St. Paul reminded all Christians, East and West, that in the Holy Eucharist, "you show the Lord's death till he come" and urged an examination of conscience before receiving Communion, for to partake "unworthily" is to profane the Body and Blood of Christ (1 Cor 11:23-30). Concern only for the external details of ritual becomes empty Pharisaism. But when worshipers come to church and offer a sacrifice of their own hearts, then they can say what those messengers of the Great Prince of Kiev reported to him when they had seen the Divine Liturgy: "We were unable to tell if we were on earth or in Heaven."


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"On Loving the Law of God"

This post reminded me of some citations I had gathered recently after reading the essay On Loving the Law of God by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus ("The Public Square," First Things, February 2009):

Growing in Grace
Luke 2:52
et Iesus proficiebat sapientia aetate et gratia apud Deum et homines
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Faith and Love, God and neighbor
Epistle – Epiphany 4
Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. – Romans 13:8-10

Polycarp – Letter to the Philippians
“And when absent from you [blessed Paul] wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbor, ‘is the mother of us all.’”
- St. Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians, Ch. 3 (source:

Post-Communion Collect by Martin Luther
“We give thanks to You, almighty God, that you have refreshed us through this salutary gift, and we implore You that of Your mercy You would strengthen us through the same in faith toward You and in fervent love toward one another; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” (source: Lutheran Service Book, p. 201)

Morning Prayer
“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.”
(source: Luther’s Small Catechism, Daily Prayers, p. 30)

Catholic Catechism – The Definition of Sin
Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor (emphasis added) caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “’an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law . . .’”
(source: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., #1849, p. 453)

Below are Fr. Neuhaus' concluding words in "The Public Square", First Things, February 2009:

"As of this writing, I am contending with a cancer, presently of unknown origin. I am, I am given to believe, under the expert medical care of the Sloan-Kettering clinic here in New York. I am grateful beyond measure for your prayers storming the gates of heaven. Be assured that I neither fear to die nor refuse to live. If it is to die, all that has been is but a slight intimation of what is to be. If it is to live, there is much that I hope to do in the interim. After the last round with cancer fifteen years ago, I wrote a little book, As I Lay Dying (titled after William Faulkner after John Donne), in which I said much of what I had to say about the package deal that is mortality. I did not know that I had so much more to learn. And yes, the question has occurred to me that, if I have but a little time to live, should I be spending it writing this column. I have heard it attributed to figures as various as Brother Lawrence and Martin Luther—when asked what they would do if they knew they were going to die tomorrow, they answered that they would plant a tree and say their prayers. (Luther is supposed to have added that he would quaff his favored beer.) Maybe I have, at least metaphorically, planted a few trees, and certainly I am saying my prayers. Who knew that at this point in life I would be understanding, as if for the first time, the words of Paul, “When I am weak, then I am strong”? This is not a farewell. Please God, we will be pondering together the follies and splendors of the Church and the world for years to come. But maybe not. In any event, when there is an unidentified agent in your body aggressively attacking the good things your body is intended to do, it does concentrate the mind. The entirety of our prayer is “Your will be done”—not as a note of resignation but of desire beyond expression. To that end, I commend myself to your intercession, and that of all the saints and angels who accompany us each step through time toward home."

- Fr. Richard John Neuhaus (The Public Square, First Things, February 2009)

Requiescat in pace.

Friday, February 06, 2009

about not running from the Church

"This de-theologizing and de-sacramentalizing of our understanding of the Church is now very widespread," wrote Richard John Neuhaus in 2003. He, of course, was addressing trends of Vatican II within the Catholic Church which move in the direction of breaking continuity with what is at its essence the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

Lutherans cannot afford to dismiss these words. Whatever one's views of the Papacy or of the Catholic Church, the winds of Vatican II have had a great impact on the state of Lutheranism and on all of Christianity. This impact is both positive and negative. It is here to stay and will forever affect ecclesiological questions in the future.

For a Lutheran to understand what Neuhaus is talking about one might find a parallel in the differences between what is called the "conservative" reformation and what is called the "radical" reformation. One might even go back in church history and revisit the dueling influences of orthodoxy and arianism in the 4th century. Whatever these historical parallels teach us they will show that "de-theologizing" and "de-sacramentalizing" are essentially contrary to the nature of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. "De-theologizing" and "de-sacramentalizing" go with discontinuity and not with continuity.

Unfortunately, "de-theologizing" and "de-sacramentalizing" are quite widespread too among non-Catholics, and may be arguably moreso evident in the years following Vatican II. Theology and the sacraments are of God and Christ. Ecclesiology is not ecclesiology without christology. Without christology we cannot understand either the Church or the Sacraments and without either the Church or the Sacraments we cannot come to Christ and through Him come to the Father in the Spirit.

With these big words Fr. Neuhaus is being a good parish priest. He is telling us to stop running away from that which comes from God for that which comes from God also leads us back to Him. In the context of these words, Neuhaus is not talking gloom and doom but about hope in overcoming trials within the Catholic Church that are only temporary in the long history of the Church.

Theology, Sacraments, Church help us to keep our perspective in the long scheme of things. They cannot be separated from one another or from the faith. They give us a vision of the eternal things. We are led to this eternal vision and hope in the Sacrament of the Altar, for, as Luther teaches us "where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation." And as Fr. Neuhaus reminds us, this is what we are about as fellow members of Christ and His body in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

Requiescat in pace

(HT: The Catholic Thing, 16 January 2009)

speaking of journeys

My Journey to the Historic Lectionary

Lessons of History

"History is not a creed or a catechism, it gives lessons rather than rules; still no one can mistake its general teaching in this matter, whether he accept it or stumble at it. Bold outlines and broad masses of colour rise out of the records of the past. They may be dim, they may be incomplete; but they are definite . . ."

- John Henry Cardinal Newman (An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, 7)

St. Titus, Confessor, Bishop

"Christ gives those who love instruction the assurance that whatever is said concerning him by the holy apostles or evangelists is to be received necessarily without any doubt and to be crowned with the words of truth. He who hears them, hears Christ. For the blessed Paul also said, 'You desire proof that Christ is speaking in me.' [2 Cor. 13:3] Christ himself somewhere also said to the holy disciples, 'For it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaks in you.' [Mt. 10:20] Christ speaks in them by the consubstantial Spirit. If it is true, and plainly it is, that they speak by Christ, how can they err? He affirms that he who does not hear them, does not hear Christ, and that he who rejects them rejects Christ, and with him the Father."

- St. Cyril of Alexandria (Commentary on Luke, Homily 63, source: ACCS, NT III, 173)

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Church in History

St. Ignatius of Antioch (Feb. 1), writes words of congratulations to the Antiochans at the end of the persecution:

"Since, according to your prayers, and the compassion which you feel in Christ Jesus, it is reported to me that the Church which is at Antioch in Syria possesses peace, it will become you, as a Church of God, to elect a deacon to act as the ambassador of God [for you] to [the brethren there], that he may rejoice along with them when they are met together, and glorify the name [of God]. Blessed is he in Jesus Christ, who shall be deemed worthy of such a ministry; and you too shall be glorified. And if you are willing, it is not beyond your power to do this, for the sake of God; as also the nearest Churches have sent, in some cases bishops, and in others presbyters and deacons."

- St. Ignatius, Epistle to the Philadelphians, Ch. 10 (source: