description

quod pro nobis traditum est

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas



in principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum . . . et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis et vidimus gloriam eius gloriam quasi unigeniti a Patre plenum gratiae et veritatis




May God's only-begotten Son in the flesh be for you this day the gift of life, now in the blessed Eucharist and then at the glorious banquet.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

St. Eusebius Bishop and Martyr

St. Eusebius' feast on the traditional Catholic calendar is today. He was Bishop of Vercelli, Italy, and lived from about A. D. 283 - 371. He is considered a martyr for the persecutions he experienced by the Arians while in exile. Thus he defended the divinity of Jesus.

One noticeable aspect in following the church calendar is how many martyrs there are. Interestingly, the number of martyrs at the time of the early church does not compare with the number of martyrs during the 20th c. We hear also how Christianity is the most persecuted religion world-wide today.

From the Mass Sacerdotes Dei: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation . . ." (Epistle)

(picture: Wikipedia)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Where did Advent go?

Thanksgiving Day begins a rapid race toward Christmas, although signs of Christmas are also now found before Thanksgiving. It is a busy time, probably the busiest stretch of the year. Good prices mean shopping and more shopping. There is the Christmas tree, decorations, cookies, Christmas letters, cards, concerts, parties and more.Last year went so fast we did not even get the annual Christmas letter written. Add time spent on snow removal with the advance of winter. Time is a precious commodity and it seems to go fastest around this time of year. With today's arrival of Gaudete Advent seems to have come and gone. Gaudete is about rejoicing and rejoicing is another reminder of Christmas.

There is no question that Advent just does not come and go. Rather it too gets lost in the shuffle of Christmas. As the church year goes Advent is a preparation for Christmas. Yet it has largely disappeared under the more visible sights and audible sounds of the Christmas which has built up a life of its own.

Most of this time is one great commercial. I used to bemoan the disappearance of Advent in the Christmas rush, an impressive and over-reaching distraction. Advent is distinct, not in a commercial way, but in the preparation of the way for the Lord. John the Baptist is a key figure in this drama, making the connection between the Scriptures of old with their fulfillment in the One Who is to come. Lift up your heads, O Sion. He comes for you.

I used to bemoan early house decorations until I realized that people were trying to get them on their houses before the cold weather came. I notice the radio stations changing to an all-Christmas music format at Thanksgiving or before. Certainly the question arises, "Can we get too much of a good thing?" Apart from the commercialization of Christmas, which no longer seems to bother me as it did in the past (I'm too busy), is the question, "Where did Advent go?" This is not a question of how fast Advent went but where it went. A related question may be, "Is there something about Advent that leads some Christians into hiding?"

Beyond the demands of this time of year something must point to the importance of Advent for Christians. It is indeed a matter of time. Advent begins another year, assuming a continuity in the church that is not undermined by whatever distractions there are. Sunday flows into the week and back to Sunday. Weekday services highlight scriptural themes that point us to the Coming One. The Last Day is all about time, for it comes when we least expect it.

Each year it is the same story. Advent disappears in the rush toward Christmas. Advent has a richness of its own and this is lost to the hearer. Certainly, the season has little commercial appeal. Repentance is an emphasis and Ember Days hearken to self-denial at a time when such seems especially out of step. Yet Advent also highlights the double pardon from the Lord. From the Blessing of the Advent Wreath to Rorate Coeli we hear that the Lord is near and this silences the thunder of the outside rush. We pray for the Lord to return.

There is little doubt that the mystery and significance of the Incarnation is beyond what we look for in Advent. Beyond the miracle, without the Incarnation there is no Redemption. Without Redemption Jesus does not come again. Advent can easily get lost in the rush. On the other hand, Advent teaches us patience, a silence outside of the rush, a looking for and waiting for that which we may easily forget or lose when Christmas so quickly arrives.

Where did Advent go? This year Advent is almost over. Time is flying. Advent goes nowhere without coming from somewhere else. We will not be prepared, nor notice without waiting patiently, receiving the comfort of the Holy Scriptures. The day is nearer than when we first believed.

Drop down dew, ye heavens,from above,
and let the clouds rain the Just:
let the earth be opened
and bud forth a Saviour.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

miracles of body and soul

The Feast of St. Ambrose was on the 7th. Below is an excerpt from his "Exposition of the Christian Faith" (De fide ad Gratianum Augustum, Bk. 1, Ch. 20):

"Moreover, there is a Cup, which You use to purify the hidden chambers of the soul, a Cup not of the old order, nor filled from a common Vine,— a new Cup, brought down from heaven to earth, filled with wine pressed from the wondrous cluster, which hung in fleshly form upon the tree of the Cross, even as the grape hangs upon the Vine. From this Cluster, then, is the Wine that makes glad the heart of man, Judges 9:13 uplifts the sorrowful, is fragrant with, pours into us, the ecstasy of faith, true devotion, and purity." (New Advent)

Yesterday was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Ambrose stressed the virginity of Mary and her role as the Mother of God. His emphasis on Mary influenced Popes Damasus [commemorated Dec. 11], Siricius and Leo the Great. Ambrose writes, "The virgin birth is worthy of God. Which human birth would have been more worthy of God, than the one, in which the Immaculate Son of God maintained the purity of his immaculate origin while becoming human?" (see n. 14)

Luther wrote, "It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin."

Saturday, December 04, 2010

on preaching

St. Peter Chrysologus (c. 380 - 450), Bishop, Confessor, Doctor, was Bishop of Ravenna from about AD 433 until his death. He was known as the "The Doctor of Homilies" for his eloquence and speaking ability. Peter was involved in the christological controversies of the day, speaking against Arianism and Monophysitism. He also wrote to Eutyches to accept the ruling of the Council of Chalcedon and obey the Bishop of Rome. Peter advocated daily reception of Holy Communion. Today is his feast on the traditional calendar in the west.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Prayer for the Unborn

Lord Jesus,
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.

Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly present and alive among us, we beg you.

Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.

Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
render fruitful their love.

Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognize and respect
the sacred nature of life, of every human life.

Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person,
and no one endures suppression or injustice.

Give creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realize and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children.

Console the married couples who suffer
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.

Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of your Charity,
the consolation of your divine Heart.

Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb you took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.

(Prayer written by Pope Benedict XVI; Source of this text: CNA)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Good Works

Lutherans are a singing lot so traditional Lutheran worship is rich in hymnody. While hymnody is clearly preferred to what has infiltrated the churches in the last 40 or 50 years, and which ironically is sometimes defended today as "traditional," this does not mean all hymnody is equal. As I am not a hymnologist it is not my intent here to make any comparisons. Still, hymnody is a distinct form of music written for worship and not for entertainment. One area where hymnody is strong is in the text where theology is allowed to speak.

At the masses this past weekend a phrase stuck out from one of the Advent hymns we sang, ". . . And in faith I will embrace, Lord, Thy merit through Thy grace." In a few words we have Lord, grace, faith and merit. Clearly the emphasis is on Christ and His righteousness which we receive through grace in faith. As for emphasis the word "merit" is added. This leads me not to the obvious reformation debate but to another look at the word "merit." The hymn teaches our benefit coming from Christ's merit. Christ and merit are not in opposition. Works can be good, especially that wrought on the cross of Christ for our sake. Is not the good that we do that which He prepares in advance for us to do and that which He works in and through us? Sometimes we take too much pride in our sin wearing it on our sleeve (that grace may abound?). Anti-nomianism is free to take exception but the Law must be good in order for God to give it to us and for Christ to fulfill it on behalf of us. His merits, His works are good and full of mercy.

We tend to shy away from good works as if they may undo Christ's atonement or we may think that doing good works automatically means we are proud and boastful in ourselves. This phrase from the hymn makes me wonder if our merits in Christ are indeed "good." Certainly these merits or good works go together with grace and faith. We need not advertise to others what we have done nor ought we be nervous if we have done something good in our life before God and others. We need not discredit the merits of others nor the merits of the Saints. These merits are the life of Christ and the life we now live in the flesh is the life we live by faith in the Son of God. So it was for the Saints. He who gives sinners the Law also redeems and sanctifies us. His works, our works, are good. Our faith is not alone.

Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle


With the beginning of the new Church year we come to the first feast of the saints, St. Andrew, Apostle. Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, was a disciple of John the Baptist and was drawn to Jesus through John's testimony.

The Gospel (Matthew 4) recounts Jesus' calling of Peter and Andrew along with the other disciples. Peter, Andrew and the Apostles continued the Lord's work. Today the holy Church still lives and depends on the apostolic ministry and doctrine. In the Epistle (Romans 10) the Apostle Paul fittingly asks, "how shall they hear, without a preacher?"

Andrew is considered the founder and first bishop of Byzantium. Hence Andrew plays an important role in the Eastern Church as Peter does for us in the West.

Postcommunion
Sumpsimus, Dómine, divína mystéria, beáti Andréae festivitáte laetántes: quae, sicut tuis Sanctis ad glóriam, ita nobis, quaesumus, ad véniam prodésse perfícias. Per Dóminum nostrum . . .

On this festival of blessed Andrew, O Lord, we have received Thy divine mysteries with joy: and as they brought glory to Thy Saints, so wilt Thou, we beg, let them bring pardon to us. Through our Lord . . .

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

ways of the universe

(St. Clement of Rome, d. ca. 99)


"The heavens, revolving under His government, are subject to Him in peace. Day and night run the course appointed by Him, in no wise hindering each other. The sun and moon, with the companies of the stars, roll on in harmony according to His command, within their prescribed limits, and without any deviation. The fruitful earth, according to His will, brings forth food in abundance, at the proper seasons, for man and beast and all the living beings upon it, never hesitating, nor changing any of the ordinances which He has fixed. The unsearchable places of abysses, and the indescribable arrangements of the lower world, are restrained by the same laws. The vast unmeasurable sea, gathered together by His working into various basins, never passes beyond the bounds placed around it, but does as He has commanded. For He said, "Thus far shall you come, and your waves shall be broken within you." Job 38:11 The ocean, impassable to man and the worlds beyond it, are regulated by the same enactments of the Lord. The seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, peacefully give place to one another. The winds in their several quarters fulfil, at the proper time, their service without hindrance. The ever-flowing fountains, formed both for enjoyment and health, furnish without fail their breasts for the life of men. The very smallest of living beings meet together in peace and concord. All these the great Creator and Lord of all has appointed to exist in peace and harmony; while He does good to all, but most abundantly to us who have fled for refuge to His compassions through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory and majesty for ever and ever. Amen."
- St. Clement, First Epistle, Chapter 20 (source: newadvent.org)

Monday, November 22, 2010

St. Cecilia


(picture: Guido Reni, 1606, source: Wikipedia)

In that fair home shall never
Be silent music's voice;
With hearts and lips forever
We shall in God rejoice,
While angel hosts are raising
With saints from great to least
A mighty hymn for praising
The Giver of the feast.

("The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us", st. 4)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, Bishop, Confessor



Today is the feast of Saint Gregory of Neocaesarea, also known as Gregory Thaumaturgus or Gregory the Wonderworker, (ca. 213 – ca. 270 AD). Gregory was a bishop whose writings on various topics advanced the faith in the early period of the Church.

From his writing "On All the Saints":

"Once, indeed, [Christ] descended, and once He ascended,— not, however, through any change of nature, but only in the condescension of His philanthropic Christhood; and He is seated as the Word with the Father, and as the Word He dwells in the womb, and as the Word He is found everywhere, and is never separated from the God of the universe. Aforetime did the devil deride the nature of man with great laughter, and he has had his joy over the times of our calamity as his festal-days. But the laughter is only a three days' pleasure, while the wailing is eternal; and his great laughter has prepared for him a greater wailing and ceaseless tears, and inconsolable weeping, and a sword in his heart. This sword did our Leader forge against the enemy with fire in the virgin furnace, in such wise and after such fashion as He willed, and gave it its point by the energy of His invincible divinity, and dipped it in the water of an undefiled baptism, and sharpened it by sufferings without passion in them, and made it bright by the mystical resurrection; and herewith by Himself He put to death the vengeful adversary, together with his whole host. What manner of word, therefore, will express our joy or his misery? For he who was once an archangel is now a devil; he who once lived in heaven is now seen crawling like a serpent upon earth; he who once was jubilant with the cherubim, is now shut up in pain in the guard-house of swine; and him, too, in fine, shall we put to rout if we mind those things which are contrary to his choice, by the grace and kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the power unto the ages of the ages. Amen."
(source: newadvent.org)

From "On the Trinity":

"But the Word of God is substantial, endowed with an exalted and enduring nature, and is eternal with Himself, and is inseparable from Him, and can never fall away, but shall remain in an everlasting union. This Word created heaven and earth, and in Him were all things made. He is the arm and the power of God, never to be separated from the Father, in virtue of an indivisible nature, and, together with the Father, He is without beginning. This Word took our substance of the Virgin Mary; and in so far as He is spiritual indeed, He is indivisibly equal with the Father; but in so far as He is corporeal, He is in like manner inseparably equal with us. And, again, in so far as He is spiritual, He supplies in the same equality (aequiparat) the Holy Spirit, inseparably and without limit. Neither were there two natures, but only one nature of the Holy Trinity before the incarnation of the Word, the Son; and the nature of the Trinity remained one also after the incarnation of the Son. But if any one, moreover, believes that any increment has been given to the Trinity by reason of the assumption of humanity by the Word, he is an alien from us, and from the ministry of the Catholic and Apostolic Church. This is the perfect, holy, Apostolic faith of the holy God. Praise to the Holy Trinity for ever through the ages of the ages. Amen."
(source: newadvent.org)

Ecce sacérdos magnus, qui in diébus suis plácuit Deo. (Gradual)

U.S. Catholics elect new leader

Congratulations to Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York for his surprise election to leadership among the U.S. Catholic Bishops.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

St. Martin and Advent


[Monument to Saint Martin of Tours in Odolanów, Poland, source: Wikipedia]

Martin Luther was baptized on this day. He was named for St. Martin of Tours (316-397), a Bishop and Martyr, whose feast is today. Martin of Tours was born in Hungary and died in France. Today is also Independence Day in Poland.

The period of the church year called Advent arose out of the 40 day period of fasting which began the day after St. Martin's Day (November 11) and was practiced from the 4th c. into the Middle Ages in much of Western Europe, including Great Britain. The Latin name for this period, Quadragesima Sancti Martini, means "the forty days of St. Martin." Since then Advent has retained the repentant devotional practice while directing the focus on the coming of the Lord. Advent begins this year on Sunday, November 28.

Today's Introit:

Statuit ei Dóminus testaméntum pacis,/
The Lord made to him a covenant of peace,
et príncípem fecit eum: / and made him a prince;
ut sit illi sacerdótii dígnitas in aetérnum. /
that the dignity of priesthood should be to him for ever.
Meménto, Dómine, David: / O Lord, remember David:
et omnis mansuetúdinus ejus. / and all his meekness.
Glória Patri . . . / Glory be to the Father . . .

Monday, November 01, 2010

Kingdoms here and there

It is encouraging to see the Lutherans addressing Natural Law. This is an area that needs study.

I am concerned that this focus on the kingdoms might provide enlightened reason an opportunity to get over-involved in one of these kingdoms and avoid the light and center of the kingdom, which is the Eucharist.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

justifiably paradoxical

This excerpt from a previous book review post of a few days ago is re-quoted below. It is interesting that while, on the whole, there is probably no practical convergence between Catholics and Lutherans on justification, due to many factors not addressed here, that a Catholic theologian, who is also a Roman pontiff, might "get away" with advancing the scriptural understanding of the relationship between faith and works and allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture (ie, both Paul and John, not just Paul).

". . .

"Rowland points out that Ratzinger is ever ready to come to agreement with various controversial positions once it is clear that what is at stake is compatible with the faith. Take the classic issue with Lutherans about faith and works. "Ratzinger agreed that while Christians are obliged to do good works, justification and final judgment remain God's gracious acts. The actual wording of the key sentence of the declaration is as follows: 'By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping us and calling us to do good works' (139). [emphasis mine]

"This happy formula at the same time avoids the issue of Pelagianism, that is, the claim that we save ourselves by our own powers. Ratzinger retains the Pauline and Johnanine teachings about the first necessity of grace in our salvation. One might say this happy result is due both to good will and to careful thinking that clearly understands the whole issue in its principles and in its development.

. . ."

[Ironically, to most Catholics this is probably a non-issue anymore while to many Lutherans, even if they may concede that the above formula is scriptural would pass over this commonality and quickly point to any number of other areas of disagreement, raising the question if justification really is "the" issue after all.]

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mary and Lutherans

I found this article on Lutheran Marian Theology online and find it to be fairly accurate in dealing with a controversial topic. The article treats different well-known teachings on Mary and how they are viewed by Lutheran groups and their theologians.

For example, Lutherans will not be surprised to see that their church bodies do not teach such things as the perpetual virginity of Mary nor prayer to Mary and the saints. They may be surprised to learn that Martin Luther held to the perpetual virginity and Immaculate Conception of Mary and that he called her the "Mother of God." He did not have much to say about the Assumption of Mary except that it was not in the Bible. Luther had a high view of the Magnificat and this canticle has been retained in Lutheran liturgical practice to this day. As with Luther the perpetual virginity of Mary was confessed in the Lutheran confessional writings and held by such prominent Lutheran theologians as Franz Pieper.

They may also be surprised to learn that the perpetual virginity of Mary is still held by some Lutherans today. Adherence to this teaching is not mere exaltation of Mary although it may appear as such at first glance. She is clearly "blessed among women" and above the saints. Her unique role in God's salvation, her relationship with her son (the Son of God) and her humble example do indeed set her apart from others. Rather this teaching is related to and centered on a high view of the person and work of Jesus Christ and the Incarnation. With this in mind the teaching of the perpetual virginity of Mary is easier to fathom as one of God's mysteries of salvation.

Friday, October 22, 2010

As it Is - blog quote of the day

"I’m talking about the common, casual way The New York Times offends Catholic sensitivity, something they would never think of doing — rightly so — to the Jewish, Black, Islamic, or gay communities." More on this here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

St. Luke, Evangelist



Today's Gospel is Luke 10:1-9, Jesus' sending of the seventy-two. The lesson focuses on the ministry. Readings that speak about the ministry seem out of place in today's milieu where being all things to all people has taken on a life of its own. We come to expect the Scripture to speak directly to us in every instance. All Scripture does indeed relate to us. This text relates to the people but first it is Jesus speaking to the ministry. This ministry as defined by Jesus is sent out.

There is a definite ordering in how Jesus sets up the ministry. First He sent the Twelve. Now He sends the seventy-two. These men are not just called, they are sent. They are not just sent out by any organization, but by the Lord Himself. As the Father sent Him and the Son sends the Spirit so He sends the Twelve and then the seventy-two to go before Him speaking of peace and the nearness of the kingdom of God. We may understand the sending of the seventy-two as a sending of the Spirit, such that there is no separation between them. Neither is this sending separate from the Church, of which Christ is the Head.

Jesus warns the seventy-two of opposition, they are as lambs among wolves. They are to earn their livelihood from this work of preaching the Gospel. Still, this is neither their focus nor concern. Neither opposition they will face nor their livelihood is their concern. Their focus is preparing the way of the Lord. They go ahead announcing peace to every household, no matter the reaction. The peace may or may not rest on those who hear but they bring His peace to people, telling them that the kingdom of God has come near unto them.

Knowing what we do of the history of the Church most of the Apostles were martyrs. The church calendar is full of martyrs from the early centuries. Jesus' death exemplified what was to follow. Scripture describes Jesus' death on the cross as bringing peace between God and men. Today's liturgical color is red. 2,000 years later the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church remains. Contrast this bloody history with Jesus sending His Spirit to the people using pastors and priests to announce God's peace upon them, preaching the Gospel, absolving them of their sins, administering the Lord's peace in the blessed Sacrament. "Peace be to this house."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Faith Abides" - a book review

[Below is a book review by Fr. James V. Schall, S. J. of a new book by Tracey Rowland called: "Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed." This book discusses the theological thought of Benedict XVI. Note his understanding of the relationship between history and revelation, the relationship between faith and culture, the relationship between faith and works and the relationship between ontology and revelation. Note too his approach to the liturgy.]

Faith Abides: The Intelligence of Benedict XVI | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. | Ignatius Insight | September 27, 2010

http://ignatiusinsight.com/features2010/schall_trowlandrev_sept2010.asp

"Following the lead of Newman, Ratzinger has opened Catholic theology to a consideration of the problem of history, but he does not allow the Tradition to be constructed from historical elements external to revelation itself. Consistent with de Lubac and Mohler, he believes that the faith of a twenty-first century Catholic in any diocese of the world is not essentially different from that of a first-century Christian."
-- Tracey Rowland, Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: T & T Clark, 2010), p. 157.

I.

The British publishing house, T & T Clark, has recently produced a series of theological reflections under the series title of "A Guide for the Perplexed." This title comes from a book of the famous medieval Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides. The perplexed were those Christians, Jews, and Arab thinkers who first re-encountered, in the 12th and 13th centuries, Aristotle and his enormous wisdom. What perplexed them, as believers, was whether the revelation that they lived was not natural. Aristotle seemed to figure out much of it without its benefits. The task, among Christians pioneered by Aquinas, was to distinguish what kind of knowledge that was revealed to us from what kind could we figure out ourselves.

The T&T Clark series previously dealt with given writers like Tillich, von Balthasar, Calvin, and de Lubac as well as with Christian topics like the Trinity, Christology, and bioethics. Tracey Rowland's new book on Benedict is part of this series. Rowland, an Australian theologian who studied in Cambridge, has previously written an excellent book on Benedict (Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Benedict XVI, Oxford, 2008). This second Rowland book is relatively short (160 text pages). It is designed primarily to situate Benedict as that theologian who best understands modernity and the place of Catholicism in relation to it.

Essentially, the pope does not judge the faith by the culture, but examines the intellectual and moral meaning of the faith to ask what, if any thing, does modernity have to do with it. As the pope pointed out in Spe Salvi, many of modernity's most forceful ideas are, when separated out, misplaced versions of basic Christian positions now thought to be achieved by means other than Christian. Without careful analysis, Benedict neither accepts nor rejects the operative ideas of modern times.

This caution is in large part because the pope has such a thorough grasp of other times and cultures with which to compare anything in modernity that is said to be contrary to Christianity. Of course, much of it is thus contrary, the pointing out of which is the purpose of this insightful book. The pope examines the elements of culture in the light of both reason and revelation. He does this analysis over against a culture that in many ways denies validity to both revelation and reason. In this sense, the Church and the pope become paradoxically the principal voices of reason in the modern world.

Benedict is not easily deceived by dubious theories that seek to reduce faith to culture. But he understands that faith naturally seeks to find expression in local language, ideas, and images, even when its origin is not simply a manifestation of this origin. This endeavor is a service of enormous importance both to the world and to the Church. Rowland displays an enormous amount of reading and reflection on the vast literary work of Ratzinger and of those who have written about him. She spells out the arguments that are said to indicate either a narrowness or elitism in Benedict and puts them in a broader context where they always make sense.

"For the second half of the twentieth century (especially since 1968) and the beginning of the twenty-first he has represented Catholic theology in the face of a militant secularism and various crises internally created within the Catholic Church" (152). Thus, the principal question for Benedict is not: "How in the light of modern truths can the stated positions of revelation be explained?" Rather it is: "What in the light of faith is the intelligible meaning of modern ideas and movements?" If it is "modern," it is not, as such, either true or false. That is what must be ascertained. In all of his writings, Benedict has shown the happy facility of carefully getting to the heart of an issue. He wants to know what exactly the Muslim, the relativist, the scientist, the Calvinist, the Hindu, or the Marxist holds. He then seeks to discern how such views came about and to relate them to the truth, including the truth of revelation.

The pope is never merely polemical. He lays out an argument with which he disagrees in careful and accurate detail. He gives its history and premises. Nothing is to be gained by not knowing and considering the arguments against your position. But Benedict then responds to what is presented. This book is full of such careful responses. The popular opinion is that Catholicism has no adequate responses to the views leveled against either its truth or historicity. After reading Rowland's book, it quickly becomes clear that the opposite is the case. This opinion includes those within the Church's broader fold whose ideas are skewered from the truth at some point or other. Benedict knows about the small error in the beginning that leads to the large error in the end.

II.

What disconcerts many about Benedict is precisely the fact that he does make sense of revelation as a primary source of understanding of man and the world. When included, revelation and reasoning about it explain our lot much more adequately than any of the popular or dogmatic alternatives, with which Benedict is familiar. In each of Rowland's seven chapters, she addresses a particular issue in which Benedict has taken up critical issues said to present some presumably insurmountable barrier between Christianity and truth. She shows how Ratzinger has dealt with these issues—the Romantic reaction to the Enlightenment, the relation between humanism and the Incarnation, tradition, the theological virtues, the relation of history and metaphysics, the place of social thought, and the question of Christian unity.

In each of these areas, Ratzinger has made a unique contribution that consists essentially in showing that the basic Catholic solution is the most coherent one in careful comparison to the alternatives presented against it. We are not surprised that this calm approach is not well received in quarters convinced that the views of Catholicism cannot be valid or even seriously considered on either scientific or historical grounds. In each case, as Rowland spells it out, Ratzinger makes the counter case that history, or metaphysics, or Scripture, or science does in fact support what is the basic Catholic position.

But, as Rowland describes it, Ratzinger is not writing polemically. Rather he carefully presents the evidence and the basis on which it rests. Whether anyone will accept such arguments is itself something of a personal and spiritual problem. Truth also has to be chosen. What cannot any longer be maintained is that there is no case to be made. Everyone needs to look at the evidence and analysis that clearly show the force of the arguments making sense of it all.

Rowland points out that Ratzinger is ever ready to come to agreement with various controversial positions once it is clear that what is at stake is compatible with the faith. Take the classic issue with Lutherans about faith and works. "Ratzinger agreed that while Christians are obliged to do good works, justification and final judgment remain God's gracious acts. The actual wording of the key sentence of the declaration is as follows: 'By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping us and calling us to do good works'" (139).

This happy formula at the same time avoids the issue of Pelagianism, that is, the claim that we save ourselves by our own powers. Ratzinger retains the Pauline and Johnanine teachings about the first necessity of grace in our salvation. One might say this happy result is due both to good will and to careful thinking that clearly understands the whole issue in its principles and in its development.

The number of basic issues that Rowland touches on is quite impressive. Behind it all, Ratzinger stands for the fact of God's creation and redemption are realities, the basic ones that, above all others, concern us. The Christian narrative in its outlines is not a myth, nor is it a kind of mechanism that unfolds automatically. The Father is always present in creation and history, acting through the Son and the Holy Spirit for our eternal salvation, the achieving of which is the real drama of human and cosmic history. "The Christian sees in man, not an individual, but a person. According to Ratzinger, 'this passage from individual to person contains the whole span of the transition from antiquity to Christianity, from Platonism to faith.' It completely transcends the logos of the Stoics, since a 'world created and willed on the risk of freedom and love is no longer mathematical'" (126).

Rowland sees one of Ratzinger's major accomplishments as that of reconciling ontology and revelation in such a fashion as the integrity of both is retained. A proper metaphysics serves the possibility of revelation. Revelation does not replace the natural order, but it does not divinize it either. Once this background is clear, Ratzinger is concerned with our relation to God, how we serve and worship Him. Rowland is quite blunt in her description of the loss of dignity in liturgy and the effect this has on ordinary believers. Ratzinger is a man who knows and appreciates the importance of beauty in our lives, especially as related to liturgy. Ratzinger stands for dignity, solemnity, beauty, and reverence because he first knows that men are called to worship God.

This relatively short book is wide-ranging. Rowland has managed to show the enormous learning of the pope within the context of his now operative papacy in which he is concerned with the Church itself and what it stands for. It does stand for the fact that the Son of Man did take flesh and did dwell among us. There is nothing mythical about this. Moreover, human destiny is not to continue within this world. Each person is constantly being called to eternal life, to nothing less, though what he is offered in our world is mostly "something less." This is his chief temptation that deflects modern man from any real understanding of himself.

Much of modernity wants this something less. Rowland is very good in showing how Ratzinger is a thinker who does know what the modern man proposes and the inadequacy of such proposals. Modern man has a difficult time (largely a culpable difficulty, I think) imagining that the Christian position is grounded in both thought and history, and that it does make sense and explain things that are most important to human life. Reading Rowland's account of Benedict is an exercise in the recovery both of our tradition and of our mind. It is not to be missed.

Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., is Professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown University.

He is the author of numerous books on social issues, spirituality, culture, and literature including Another Sort of Learning, Idylls and Rambles, A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning, The Life of the Mind (ISI, 2006), The Sum Total of Human Happiness (St. Augustine's Press, 2007), The Regensburg Lecture (St. Augustine's Press, 2007), and The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays (CUA, 2008). His most recent book from Ignatius Press is The Order of Things (Ignatius Press, 2007). His new book, The Modern Age, is available from St. Augustine's Press. Read more of his essays on his website.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

St. Mary, Mother of God

[A homily on St. Mary, Mother of God (Oct 11), Gospel: St. Luke 2:43-51]

In the Name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

In this brief account of Jesus and his parents at the temple we are given an account of the mystery of the Incarnation. Jesus is a regular boy going to the annual religious festival with His parents. Here the family carries out together the religious customs of sacrifice to God at the Temple in the holy city. There is no record of either parent not wanting to go or of Jesus wanting to play outside instead. The family goes dutifully together seeking that which is beyond the Temple but which is also there in the Temple for them. Going to the Temple as commanded by God is not a burden for them. At the Temple Jesus shows His parents that He is not just there because they brought Him there or forced Him to go. Rather He amazes both His parents and the doctors of the Temple by His learning and example. Nowadays, it is easy to pit the learning of theology against prayer and vice versa. One might be concerned about the dangers of learning theology as an intellectualization of the faith and forget about the discipline of faith and prayer. While another might focus on the discipline of prayer and avoid learning too much about theology. This is a false anti-thesis since both have to do with the things of God. Jesus is not against following the customs associated with attending the religious feast and the life of prayer nor is he against learning and teaching the things of God. Rather, He involves Himself, as a child, in both divine worship and in the learning and teaching of the things of God. So much so that He places the things of God above His own family. Here we see the boy Jesus worship God and then teach the wise doctors about His Father. Meanwhile his parents, having faithfully completed their religious obligations, have returned home. When they realize that He is not with them it is three days until they find Him in the Temple.

Hear how we might understand Jesus’ parents finding Him in the temple in these words of a church father: “Learn where those who seek Him find Him, not every where, but in the temple. And do thou then seek Jesus in the temple of God. Seek Him in the Church, and seek Him among the masters who are in the temple. For if thou wilt so seek Him, thou shalt find Him. They found Him not among His kinsfolk, for human relations could not comprehend the Son of God; not among His acquaintance, for He passes far beyond all human knowledge and understanding. Where then do they find Him? In the temple! If at any time thou seek the Son of God, seek him first in the temple, thither go up, and verily shalt thou find Christ, the Word, and the Wisdom.” (CA, III, 98)

Mary is rightly concerned and worried. “Son, why hast Thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing.” Mary knows Whose Son Jesus is when she speaks of Joseph as Jesus’ father, yet Joseph is given her and Jesus by God that through His earthly parents He may be given God’s care and protection. Mary reminds Jesus that He is but a child. Jesus turns around and startles both His parents by telling them He must be about His Father’s business. Earlier they had as a family worshipped the heavenly Father. Now they do not understand what Jesus says. We see that Jesus has a human nature. Here He is saying that there is more to Him than His human nature. This revelation of Jesus to His parents shows the falseness of the teaching that says that Jesus only became divine at around age 30 when the Spirit descended upon Him at His baptism. Rather, this moment at the Temple leads us back to Jesus’ birth, His Incarnation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He is made man, yet He is called “Emmanuel,” “God with us.” Mary, is undoubtedly reminded of this, as Jesus teaches them of things beyond their understanding. Is it not Mary who ponders these things in her heart?

Mary sorrows again. This boy, her Son, conceived by the Holy Ghost, “being of one substance with the Father,” grows up and is crucified to death with her there. The death of His Son on the cross is God’s sacrifice for sin, the fulfillment of all the earthly sacrifices in the Temple. By His blood we are made clean. For three days His family sorrows. On the third day they find Him, risen in the flesh, and they rejoice. He is going to the Father but not until He can breathe upon the Apostles His Spirit and leave His Church with the comfort and salvation in the forgiveness of sins. In the work of the Holy Ghost people are drawn to the cross of Christ and the true worship of God the Father in the Church. Here the sacrifice of Christ is distributed through the preaching, hearing and learning of His Word and the Holy Supper. At Church, the faithful are strengthened in the faith, in body, mind and spirit, because here, God who is everywhere, chooses to give us Christ Himself, crucified and risen. Jesus teaches us here and He leads us to glorify the Father in the Holy Ghost.

Today is the Feast of Blessed Mary, Mother of God. God gave the world His Son through Mary. This is a mystery, that through Mary’s womb, God caused “righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” Where did Mary find Jesus? In the temple. What was He doing? He was about His Father’s business. God created the heavens and the earth and everything that is in them. He is everywhere at all times and in every place. This is beyond our understanding. Yet His being everywhere and our inability to understand everything about Him does not mean that we are to look for Him where we think He should be found. Jesus is found in the womb of the blessed Virgin. He is found in the holy Church. He is found risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. He is at the altar and on your tongue. We can easily be misled by sin and temptation to disregard the holy things of God or take them for granted. Jesus showed His parents and us what truly are the more important things. After pointing His parents to His Father’s business “He went down with them . . . and was subject to them.” Jesus brings together the worship, the teaching and the life of the family so that they are not one against the other. From teaching the Word He takes us to the altar. There He leads us to His Father’s business. He submitted to His Father’s will on the cross. Now He leads us to His Father’s House. Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the †Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Question of the Day

Why should Western traditions be blamed for the ecological crisis when those traditions were cast aside by modern science three centuries ago?

HT: New Oxford Review, 10/11/10

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Holy Rosary



Today the Western Church commemorates the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. The use of the Rosary in the Catholic Church is attributed to St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Friars Preachers.

From the Collect: "O God whose only-begotten Son by His life, death and resurrection, purchased for us the rewards of eternal life . . ." ("Deus, cujus Unigénitus per vitam, mortem et resurrectiónem suam nobis salútis aetérnae praemia comparávit . . .")

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels



Deus, qui ineffábili providéntia sanctos Angelos tuos ad nostram custódiam míttere dignáris . . .

O God, who in Thine ineffable Providence hast deigned to send Thy holy Angels to watch over us . . .

(Collect)

Image Credit: Te Deum laudamus!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Latin vivit

Latin vivit.

Religious Literacy

Here is an important article on religious literacy that came out a few days ago. The article is based on a poll demonstrating that Americans are not very knowledgeable about religion, even their own. Most of the results are not surprising. The average American is likely comfortable with these findings. The article identifies regular worship attendance and level of education as factors in knowing more about religion and religions.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

St. Michael the Archangel



Stetit Angelus juxta aram templi, habens thuríbulum áureum in manu sua:
et data sunt ei incénsa multa et ascéndit fumus aromátum in conspéctu Dei.

An Angel stood near the altar of the temple, having a golden censer in his hand:
and there was given to him much incense and the smoke of the perfumes ascended before God.

(Offertory)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

St. Linus, Pope and Martyr



On the traditional calendar, today is the feast of St. Linus, Pope and Martyr (d. ca. 76). He is considered to be the first Bishop of Rome after Peter by the Apostolic Constitutions and early fathers such as Irenaeus, Jerome and John Chrysostom and the historian, Eusebius. Others contest this saying that Clement was the first to follow the Apostle. Historically speaking, this is a fascinating question. The witnesses here in support of Linus carry weight.

There is little or no difficulty with Apostolic Succession. This is understood in my tradition and confession as succession of the "apostolic doctrine," which I wholeheartedly support. Still, it is not possible to have succession in teaching without succession in office and succession of holy men called to fill the office. Therefore, the burden of proof, in my mind, lies more with those who have rejected the vast majority of Christianity on this particular teaching and practice. In my tradition it is rationalized away, like so many other things, as adiaphora or de-constructed. We ought not just hear the Gospel but also have those men who are sent to preach to us. There is clear Scriptural example.

Gregem tuum, Pastor aetérne, placátus inténde . . .

"Look forgivingly on Thy flock, Eternal Shepherd, and keep it in Thy constant protection . . ." (Collect of Si díligis me . . .)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Some analysis of the Pope's Visit so far

here

let the clouds rain

I always appreciate when the weather and the liturgy cooperate with each other. Last night and this morning there were thunder showers. Then at this morning's Mass: "Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just . . ." (Introit, Is. 12)

Rorate, coeli, désuper, et nubes plurant justum . . .

Friday, September 17, 2010

A homily on good works

The following is a homily on good works by a Lutheran pastor:

Pentecost 16 Luke 14:1-11

1 et factum est cum intraret in domum cuiusdam principis Pharisaeorum sabbato manducare panem et ipsi observabant eum 2 et ecce homo quidam hydropicus erat ante illum 3 et respondens Iesus dixit ad legis peritos et Pharisaeos dicens si licet sabbato curare 4 at illi tacuerunt ipse vero adprehensum sanavit eum ac dimisit 5 et respondens ad illos dixit cuius vestrum asinus aut bos in puteum cadet et non continuo extrahet illum die sabbati 6 et non poterant ad haec respondere illi 7 dicebat autem et ad invitatos parabolam intendens quomodo primos accubitus eligerent dicens ad illos 8 cum invitatus fueris ad nuptias non discumbas in primo loco ne forte honoratior te sit invitatus ab eo 9 et veniens is qui te et illum vocavit dicat tibi da huic locum et tunc incipias cum rubore novissimum locum tenere 10 sed cum vocatus fueris vade recumbe in novissimo loco ut cum venerit qui te invitavit dicat tibi amice ascende superius tunc erit tibi gloria coram simul discumbentibus 11 quia omnis qui se exaltat humiliabitur et qui se humiliat exaltabitur

In the name of the Father and of the †Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

If God has blessed the Sabbath Day as He has then this Day is especially a day of good works. This day is a day of rest, following in the pattern of God’s own rest from the work of Creation. We also see this day as a day of the New Creation, the 8th Day, following Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead. So there is rest from our labors and new life that comes from being in Christ. When Mary is called blessed among women it is because through her womb God bears the good works of salvation in His Son. Sinful man and creation cannot bear good works. There is no rest for sinful man or hope of new life. Then, where sin by Adam and Eve corrupted that creation which was called “good” by God, He returned to bless man and all of creation through the birth of the Second Adam by the Blessed Virgin and His good works of fulfilling the Law, suffering and dying for all sin, rising and ascending into heaven. When the Church celebrates the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary it is not just for her sake it is to remember God’s power in that which is humble. Does not the birth of Mary magnify the birth of Her Son? So the Apostle, who once persecuted the Church, now writes in confidence to the Church at Ephesus that he bows His knees to the Father. He writes, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” These are lofty words but they show, like the words of the Magnificat of Mary, that God can and does work His powerful good work in Mary, in His Church, in us – in Christ. Through Christ we come back around to what it means to have rest in God, to believe in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting, a world without end.

The Pharisees also believe in the Creation and in the Sabbath rest. They are very careful to not break the Third Commandment. It is not that they do not know the Law, it is that they have forgotten that the Law is good. This is God’s Word to His covenant people. The Law is for their good. So while God blessed the sabbath, they forbid good to be done on the sabbath (Theophyl.)

Jesus eats bread with them at the house of one of the chief Pharisees. As the Evangelist records, “They watched Him.” Although He is invited to table He is not really welcome. Jesus knows their thoughts so when the man with dropsy appears before Him He takes the opportunity to probe them with the question, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?” Healing is a work, a good work. Yet since it is a work, does it not mean that doing it on the day of rest is breaking the Law? They cannot respond. On the sabbath day would they not save an ass or ox that has fallen into the pit? They are speechless. We may draw parallels today to those who may place such value on plants and animals, and the earth itself, to save them while human life is devalued to the point that taking the life of the unborn becomes simply nothing more than a choice. Would they save the ass or ox who has fallen into the pit and not allow for healing of the man with dropsy? Sin is speechless before the holy God.

In the face of their silence Jesus tells a parable. He noticed that they chose the better place. What if someone more honorable comes to the wedding. They will have to move to a lower place, even the lowest place. When invited, take the lowest place. You may be invited to the higher room. Rather than being put to shame you will receive more honor. “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Jesus heals the man with dropsy that the good work of God’s mercy may be shown to those who have the best places and yet have forgotten their place before God. They look down on the man with dropsy yet they would save their animals fallen in a pit. He who they look down on is healed and they are put to shame. The Law is not given to make others sacrifice but that all may know the mercy of God. We are not invited here to false humility for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The Pharisees and lawyers have their vocation yet they have lost sight of Him who gave them what they have. Their vocations have become a means to better themselves over others rather than opportunities to recognize the mercy of God and to work while it is day. The Lord who created them and the man who had dropsy desires mercy. This is the same Lord who gave them the Law. He is the same Lord who will offer Himself up as the sacrifice for their sin and the sin of all on the cross. Here is the ultimate good work of mercy and healing. He, born the Son of God, is knocked down in shame and crucified amongst thieves. Yet by being lifted up on the cross He draws all men to Himself. At the cross the Father’s mercy conquers the pride of sin. At the resurrection, He who has descended to the lowest place, is raised in glory. He eventually ascends to the highest places where He has prepared the best places for you and me and all who call upon His name for mercy.

Our Father’s mercy first given us in Holy Baptism is there for us in His invitation to the Holy Supper. The Apostle Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus may be applied to this Sacrament as I applied them earlier to the mystery of the Incarnate birth of Jesus by the blessed Mother of God. Through this Sacrament, we who are weak and sinful, become those who also have Christ dwell in our hearts. Here He works His powerful good work in us so that we, as Paul says, “may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” Only if Jesus goes before us guiding us on the right path and only if He follows us, forgiving us our sins, are we able to be intent on good works. These are works that He has prepared in advance for us to do. These are works that will follow us after we die. These are works that are rooted in Christ and His mercy. Christ makes our works “good.” He who sanctifies us, is He who creates what is good and redeems what is destroyed by sin. We are poor and needy. Like Paul, we bow our knees to the Father and cry in repentance, “Have mercy on me, O Lord.” By His Body and Blood we are given forgiveness and given the foretaste of the feast to come. This blessed Sacrament is the God-given feast of the one Church, here on earth and there in glory. In the words of the Psalmist,
102: 16 “For the Lord shall build up Zion;
He shall appear in His glory.
17 He shall regard the prayer of the destitute,
And shall not despise their prayer.

This same Lord invites you to the altar saying, “Come unto Me all You who are weary, and I will give you rest.” He never rests from His good work of keeping the Sabbath Day holy with the holy Eucharist, that you “may be filled with the fullness of God” and abound in His good and merciful work of working good works in you, that others may see them and glorify your Father in heaven. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the †Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Isidore's Laptop

It dawned on me that one of the reasons that St. Isidore was chosen as the patron saint of the internet might be his laptop. It appears to hold many giga- or terra-bytes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pope visits England and Scotland

Pope Benedict XVI will visit England and Scotland September 16-19. This is not news, the visit has been all over the Christian, religious and secular internet for a while. During the visit the pope will beatify the 19th c. Cardinal John Henry Newman. Apart from Newman's life and conversion, one only needs to read a little of Newman's writings to know why.

Below are some recent articles worth reading online about the the pope's visit:

"There is a tremendous hypocrisy about all this anti-Catholic feeling."

Read more here.

HT: New Advent

"For Benedict, Newman represents a model in that he fought against the same moral relativism — the idea that all religions are the same and that there's no objective truth — that Benedict has denounced during his papacy."

Read more here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Liturgy and Eucharist - A "Conservative" Lutheran Conundrum

[Disclaimer: The primaries are approaching but the post title and this post have nothing to do with current secular political issues.]

It is not surprising to hear "conservative" Lutheran pastors defend the liturgy. The use of hymnals, the services contained therein and hymnody are supported against efforts to make the liturgy something minimal or make it entertaining.

An eye opener for me these days is to hear that this same "conservative" thinking does not see a connection between the liturgy and the holy Eucharist. In other words, let us keep the hymnals, the hymns and the orders of service but it is not necessary to offer the Eucharist. Some, it seems, would even rather not offer it.

Now it is probably best that the Eucharist not be offered if it is not done reverently and following accepted historical liturgical practice. However, what concerns me in this thinking, which was a surprise to me when I first heard it, is the idea that the liturgy might really not have anything or little to do with the Eucharist.

We need not rehearse 2,000 years of Christian history, nor, for Lutherans, the Scriptures and the Confessions, let alone the Lord's institution. We must be living in a vacuum of some sort that such thinking exists among clergy. At least three factors have me concerned. First, this talk is heard among the clergy. Second, these clergy consider themselves "conservative" Lutherans. Finally, the very possibility that the liturgy might have anything to do with the Eucharist seems not even to be a consideration by some. Is the Eucharist merely an appendage that we add on random occasions?

If a study of Scripture and/or the Lutheran Confessions cannot help the clergy then I am not one who can be of much help. Also, there are numerous volumes written on this topic, as if the liturgy itself cannot be of assistance. Let me simply make two observations. First, it appears that this thinking is also connected to the lack of making a connection between the liturgy and factors such as reverence and holiness. Second, if this is what it means to be "conservative" Lutheran, supporting the separation of the Eucharist from the liturgy, then don't call me a "conservative."

Perseverance, or 3 bad centuries

This is an interesting article on Catholics
in England following the Reformation.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Reflections on 9/11

Excerpts from a homily, September 16, 2001 Luke 3:1-5

All of us are affected by the great disaster that has befallen this great nation . . . We are a people of many cultures, races and ethnic groups. We are a people of many different religions . . .

. . .

We too look forward to that glorious Day when there will be no more suffering, no more hatred, no more tears. God has promised that Day to us . . . We have been clothed with Christ and His righteousness. This message of the cross is certain hope. The Savior has conquered our enemies of sin and the devil once and for all. He has conquered the last enemy, death itself, with His glorious resurrection . . . Therefore we await the resurrection of the flesh and the certainty of eternal life in the promised land.

While we await the promised peace and glory what do we make of such suffering and death? Why does almighty God permit such things to happen to people – even those who believe in His Son? It is not our merciful God who brings these things upon us . . . Such terrible things remind us of our own weakness and how we are in desperate need of the One who created us and saved us from ourselves, our sin and eternal punishment. It is not that others are worse sinners than we are. Pilate mixed the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices. The tower in Siloam fell and killed eighteen. Jesus died on the cross
. . .

Why does God permit such suffering and death to fall upon His only Son? Here we see that God is really a God of mercy. His love is so great that He will not allow anything to come between Him and us, including disasters and war. Through Christ He has made us His own . . . He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? . . . Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning . . . (Lam. 3)

Clothed with salvation

I will also clothe her priests with salvation,
And her saints shall shout aloud for joy.
There I will make the horn of David grow;
I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed.
- Psalm 132:16, 17

God bless the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, the new president of the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod, as he follows in the light of the Lord's Anointed, leading Lutherans in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The catholic problem of a-historical theology

Here is a book review/article that addresses a-historical theology and its collapse, especially with reference to "progressive" change within the Catholic Church coming out of Vatican II.

The article addresses issues not unrelated to confusion about the Holy Ministry that exist to this day also among non-Catholics (ie, the dated "everyone a minister.")

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Collect -
Famulis tuis, quaesumus, Dómine, coeléstis grátiae munus impertíre: ut, quibus beátae Vírginis partus éxstitit salútis exórdium; Navitátis ejus votíva solémnitas, pacis tríbuat increméntum. Per Dóminum nostrum . . .

Bestow upon Thy servants, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the gift of Thy heavenly grace: that as the childbearing of the Blessed Virgin who was the beginning of our salvation, so the solemn feast of her Nativity may bring us an increase of peace. Through our Lord . . .

Friday, September 03, 2010

More news from England

See article here. Dealing with "sin" is not even considered. We're back to the slippery slope.

The Mind is a Wonderful Creation

I keep coming back to the news article about the English physicist, Stephen Hawking, and his new book with his idea that God is not needed in the creation of the universe. Obviously, this man is very intelligent so any response I can humbly make to his thought here as a non-scientist is simply simple thoughts.

Hawking writes, "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist."

Apart from his doubt that God has something to do with creation, I appreciate Hawking's observations that creation occurs "from nothing." Also, I like the descriptive "spontaneous creation." There is something to work with here.

The article also shares a quote from Hawking's earlier book, "If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we should know the mind of God."

Now, I am the doubter. I do not believe a "complete theory" is possible using human reason. I digress to add that divine revelation helps us to know in part the mind of God, even enough to learn of man's salvation.

I do not doubt Hawking's intellectual capacity. Undoubtedly, it is beyond my comprehension. Still, I think, with his scientific conclusions, that he is making a religious statement.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

On bumper stickers

Last summer when my family and I were on vacation a van passed us. This particular van had bumper stickers plastered all over the back end, bumper, doors and windows. It was quite noticeable.

When you are driving on an interstate somewhere in between the midwest and the rocky mountain west you need this type of van to drive by. Your eyes light up and you are illuminated by the wisdom shared that may or may not make sense. This helps in a few ways. The colorful plastering of stickers stands out noticeably against the plains and the pavement. Secondly, there is just enough wisdom and foolishness summarized in pithy phrases for you to think on and help you make it a few miles longer. And thirdly, the fact that someone did this to their own vehicle also helps wake another driver from slumber. So, in one sense, this type of van has the same effect on a driver as a good cup of coffee.

It is ironic that a van of this sort passed us by since, earlier in the vacation, we visited a store in Durango, Colorado, with bumper stickers all over the wall (for sale, of course). This scene of a wall full of bumper stickers was just enough for us to take out our camera and take a picture. Some of the bumper stickers reflected well the philosophy of the locals. (Although I have lived in the midwest for most of the last thirty years, I confess to being a native of Colorado.)

How can a blog that comments on matters of church and liturgy digress in such a fashion? In brief, because of bumper stickers and specifically, because of two bumper stickers which I see on a regular basis on this side of town (maybe they are all over town): "Coexist," a plea for religious tolerance and "Who would Jesus bomb?" or its variant "What would Jesus bomb?"

Apart from the question of whether or not one puts a bumper sticker on their car, or whether or not the message is worth repeating, bumper stickers do have the advantage of getting people's attention. These two bumper stickers have my attention. Also, they are not too far removed from the subject matter of this blog. Both, in their own way, address religious questions.

The "coexist" bumper sticker has many variants but mainly it provides symbols of many of the major religions using the shapes of the letters. Some variants may use the "e" to symbolize science or as a symbol of gender. Whatever the variant renderings the message is clear. All of these religions and or "-isms" are equal and we all need to get along.

The second bumper sticker is a different take on the evangelical bumper sticker of a few years ago, "What would Jesus do?" Now it is rendered as "Who would Jesus bomb?" or "What would Jesus bomb?" Here is a clear anti-war message with attendant anti-religious and specifically, anti-Christian, sentiment. While no one in the United States questions someone's right to promote peace, this bumper sticker takes it a step further.

I was not taken in by the "What would Jesus do?" craze of a few years ago. It is not a fitting summary of divine revelation. Nor, in my opinion, does Jesus belong on someone's bumper. The new message on the second bumper sticker puts all the onus of war on Jesus. While it argues for peace, much like the first bumper sticker, it fails on the question of religious co-existence for war is clearly associated with Jesus and not Mohammed, Buddha, Moses, Confucius or any other religious figure. So this bumper sticker is "tolerant" yet not tolerant at the same time. It pushes for peace but clearly at the expense of Jesus' name. One may assume that it is Jesus' fault that we at war in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere.

There is the whole question of Church and State. Naturally, my concern here is more religious or spiritual. There is a time for war and a time for peace. However, Jesus' message of peace has to do with a kingdom not of this world. Therefore, He clearly does not fit into the message of this bumper sticker. Yet, maybe in a way He does. Earlier I mentioned that the bumper sticker places the onus of war on Jesus. War has existed as long as sin. Jesus took upon Himself the onus of the world's sin to His death on the cross. At the foot of the cross the enemy's head was crushed. Through Christ there is peace with God.

One is free to agree and disagree with the messages of bumper stickers. That is part of their appeal. It is not necessary for religions to be equal for people to live together in peace. If we all believed in every religion we would all believe in nothing, for truth would not be allowed. Neither does disagreement always equate with war. With religious freedom people live peaceably with neighbors who believe in different religions. I clearly disagree with the message of these bumper stickers. Yet I have one good thing to say about them. They help keep drivers awake, much like a good cup of coffee.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Church at Prayer: Ad Orientem

Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us "in a mystery" by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. To take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching.

[...]

... we all look to the East at our prayers, but few of us know that we are seeking our own old country, Paradise, which God planted in Eden in the East.

-- St. Basil the Great (ca. A.D. 329-379), On the Holy Spirit, 27:66

HT: New Liturgical Movement

Saturday, August 28, 2010

St. Augustine

The mercies of the Lord I will sing for ever. Blessed be the Lord forevermore. - Ps. 138:1, 53

"'Blessed be the Lord for evermore.' Amen. Amen. Thanks be to His mercy. Thanks be to His grace. We but express our thanks; we do not give them, nor render them, nor make a return of them, nor repay them. We express our thankfulness in words; the reality we hold within us. He has freely saved us. He heeded not our iniquities; He sought us who did not seek Him. He found us, He redeemed us, He delivered us from the domination of the devil and from the power of demons. He bound us, to purify us by faith; by which He frees those enemies who do not believe, and cannot therefore be made clean. Let those who remain enemies say day after day what they will; day by day less and less will be left? Let them resist Him, let them laugh; let them mock, not at the destruction but at the change of thy anointed. Do they not see that saying such things they come to nothing; either by not believing (Jn. iii.18) or by dying? For their cursing is only for a time; the blessing of the Lord is for evermore."

- St. Augustine (Toal IV, 82)

Friday, August 20, 2010

St. Bernard



St. Bernard, Abbot, Doctor of the Church (1090-1153)


Bernard was a Cistercian monk and abbot. He contested the philosopher Peter Abelard on the latter's teaching on the Trinity. Bernard did not reject philosophy that leads to God but saw theology as the highest type of knowledge. He was an influence on Martin Luther, especially in his discussion of the conflict between sin and the Spirit. The Passion hymn, "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded," is attributed to Bernard. He is commemorated today on the traditional calendar.

Justus cor suum tradet ad vigilándum dilúculo ad Dóminum, qui fecit illum . . .
The just will give his heart to resort early to the Lord that made him . . .
- from the Lesson, Ecclesiasticus 39

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Today is not a good anniversary . . .

in the history of Christianity. On August 17, 1525, Huldrych Zwingli published a book in which he stated his view that the bread and wine of the Eucharist were only symbols and not the Body and Blood of Christ.

This view, not held or taught by Luther and other Reformers, further fragmented the Church and has helped lead, in part, to the proliferation of denominations that we know today.

HT: The Divine Life

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Now Blessed in Heaven; on a Marian Feast



In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Our eyes are lifted up toward heaven with today’s celebration that Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, is in heaven. Since Jesus was born to save mankind we remember her whom God chose to bring Jesus into the world. The Gospel lesson on the church’s calendar for today brings us Elizabeth’s Spirit-filled announcement to Mary of the blessedness of the fruit of her womb and Mary’s blessedness among women. Elizabeth calls the Blessed Virgin, the “mother of my Lord.” Mary confesses “from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” The Lord has regarded her low estate. He has done great things to her. She who was chosen and blessed to be the Mother of God, blessed to be remembered for all generations on earth, is now blessed to be in eternal glory with God.

Since early on the Church has recognized the importance of remembering and honoring Mary at her birth and then again at her passing from this life to life in heaven, however that passing is understood. As an example for all future generations, she humbly fulfilled the Word of God according to His will. “When the fulness of the time was come” she was made by God to be the means through which God’s Son was sent forth to redeem those under the law. Such that, through her seed, “we might receive the adoption of sons.” Through her seed the enemy’s head is crushed. Although the devil still prowls around seeking whom he may devour he is powerless before the second Adam whose death on the tree conquered forever the power of the devil, and sin and death over us. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Ghost, spoke out with a loud voice to Mary, “Blessed art thou among women, blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”

In Christ, in the miraculous birth of baptism, God sent forth the same Spirit, the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father.” So by God’s Spirit we, who are sinners from birth, are made sons and heirs of God through Christ. Christ is the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb. Through Mary and her blessed fruit we are blessed to be sons of God. We, who are in Christ, become blessed fruit of Mary’s womb. So it is not hard to see how scholars of Holy Scripture make the connection that the Church begins with Mary and her Son is the Church’s Head. St. Augustine said as much in a homily to catechumens on the Creed. He said, “But ye begin to have him for your Father, when you have been born by the church as your Mother.”

By nature we run away from all of these things. Sin cannot comprehend or accept the things of God, let alone the ongoing life of Christ’s Church on earth. When our eyes are lifted up to heaven by God’s Spirit we can see the need for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church on earth. We need to be nourished and fed, strengthened in our faith, while we are on earth, if we are to join with Mary and all of the saints in the promise of eternal glory. Our eyes are lifted up to heaven only because God has looked mercifully down upon us. His Son was lifted up on the tree that we, and all who believe, might be drawn to Him. Jesus, born of Mary, suffered, died and rose again on the third day. He ascended into heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father governing His Church in heaven and on earth. As we kneel humbly before the Lord He lifts up our eyes to heaven through the precious gifts of His Body and Blood. At the Holy Supper, our sins are forgiven and we are one with the angels and archangels, with the Church in heaven and on earth. With God as our Father in heaven we are sent forth into the world as His sons and with His peace, made possible through His Son.

If Christ is not raised from the dead then we are still lost in our sins. If Mary is not in heaven then we can no longer be called sons of God. Rather the blessing that God bestowed on Mary, and which was recognized and confessed by Elizabeth is the blessedness that is ours in her Son, our Lord and God. He has done mighty and merciful things to Mary and to us through Him. Each week as we participate in the heavenly things of hearing and keeping the Word of God and receiving the Holy Eucharist let us not forget how indeed we are blessed to be part of the life that God gave to mankind through Mary and salvation through Her Son. We learn from her humble example. We receive the blessing of being incorporated into the Church with the promise of being made heirs of God through Christ. We rejoice with the angels and archangels that she is in heaven with her Son and that we live in the same promise by the same Spirit. And we rejoice that we share in the mercy that is on us and on all generations that fear God. We follow Mary and all the saints in confessing, “Holy is His Name.” Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Salvation of the just

Chromatius was a Roman prefect who had condemned Christians to death. According to legend, Chromatius was converted by St. Tranquillinus and baptized by Polycarp. Chromatius' only son, Tiburtius, was baptized as the godchild of St. Sebastian. Tiburtius was martyred under Diocletian in 286. Today he is commemorated on the traditional calendar together with St. Susanna, Virgin, Martyr.

Introit:
Salus autem justórum a Dómino . . .
But the salvation of the just is from the Lord . . .

Friday, August 06, 2010

Dominus Iesus - 10 Years Later

In my previous post I mentioned that I would like to discuss the "Conservative" "Liberal" divide in relation to pastors and the Church. After I wrote the post I came across this 10 year look back at Dominus Iesus which looks at that document from both "Conservative" and "Liberal" sides. This approach and the subject matter relate to what I was planning on addressing in my series of posts so I share it here:

Dominus Iesus: Liberal or Conservative?
Peter Kreeft on the 10th Anniversary of Cardinal Ratzinger’s Landmark Document
by PETER KREEFT 08/05/2010
CNS photo

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the architect of Dominus Iesus.

Dominus Iesus, published Aug. 6, 2000, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is one of the most important Church documents of modern times because it concerns what is absolutely central and primary in Christianity, Christ himself, because it defends the most unpopular aspect of the Church’s claim today — its “absolutism” — and because it overcomes the dualism of “liberal” vs. “conservative” by which the media classify and evaluate everything. (I wonder how they will classify the Second Coming when they see it.)

To see these three points, all we have to do is try to classify Dominus Iesus as “liberal” or “conservative.” I put an “L” after all its main “liberal” points and a “C” after all its “conservative” points, and I ended up with 30 Ls and 38 Cs.

But the “kicker” is that it is not half and half, or halfway in between; it is so “liberal” precisely because it is so “conservative.”

To understand this, we should first try to spear those two slippery fish: the “liberal” and the “conservative.” (You can’t fry them if you don’t catch them.)

I see four essential differences, which are the roots of all the others.

First, liberals begin with subjectivity, while conservatives begin with objectivity.

Liberals prioritize personal freedom; conservatives prioritize objective truth. Liberals absolutize persons and see truth as relative to persons. Conservatives absolutize truth and see persons as relative to truth. (Both are right in what they affirm and wrong in what they deny. Both persons and truth are absolute.)

Second, in their anthropology, liberals prioritize the heart, while conservatives prioritize the mind. An attempted mutual heart and brain transplant between a conservative and a liberal failed because no one could find a conservative who would give up his heart to a liberal or a liberal who had any brains to give to a conservative.

Third, liberals emphasize the abstract universal, the cosmopolitan, the global, while conservatives emphasize the concrete particular: individuals, families, neighborhoods and nations. (Thus, the “bad liberalism” of “leftist” communism is international socialism, while the “bad conservatism” of “rightist” Nazism is national socialism.)

Fourth, most obviously, liberals love change and conservatives love permanence; liberals love the new, conservatives the old. That is a matter of temperament rather than ideological content, for anti-Establishment liberals turn into Establishment conservatives when they succeed. And truth is not told by clocks any more than time is told by syllogisms.

These four differences manifest in religion as Modernism vs. Fundamentalism, especially regarding salvation.

Liberals say you are saved by subjective sincerity, love and openness to the new; conservatives by objective truth and fidelity to the old. Thus, Modernists are typically universalists and inclusivists regarding salvation (“We’re all going to heaven, except perhaps the Fundamentalists”), while Fundamentalists are typically exclusivists (“You’re going to hell because you’re not us”).

When Dominus Iesus was issued, both groups gagged. The Fundamentalists found it too liberal and universalistic, and the Liberals found it too conservative and exclusivist. It’s not surprising that it happened to Dominus Iesus because the same thing happened to Jesus himself: Sadducees and Pharisees, Herodians and Zealots, suddenly found one thing to agree about. They had found their common enemy.

Throughout Christian history the pattern has repeated itself. There have always been the “faith alone” fundamentalists (Tatian, Tertullian, Bernard, Luther) and the “reason trumps faith” liberals (Origen, Abelard, Spinoza, Bultmann), but also the “both-and” defenders of mainline orthodoxy (Justin Martyr, Augustine, Aquinas, Newman, Chesterton). The same threefold pattern manifests in Judaism. In Islam, of course, the “faith alone” people won the center of the battlefield.

Dominus Iesus not only overcomes the “liberal”/“conservative” divide but it also unites the positive in both while rejecting the negative. It is not a compromise but a “higher synthesis.” Thus many of my labels were neither “L” nor “C” but “LC.”

The three main points of this document concern (1) Christ, (2) the Catholic Church, and (3) the Kingdom of God. The first is the longest and most important. Its central passage says that:

“God, who desires to call all people to himself in Christ … does not fail to make himself present in many ways, not only to individuals, but also to entire peoples through their spiritual riches, of which their religions are the main and essential expression even when they contain ‘gaps, insufficiencies and errors.’ Therefore the sacred books of other religions, which in actual fact direct and nourish the existence of their followers, receive from the mystery of Christ the elements of goodness and grace which they contain.

“The salvific action of Jesus Christ, with and through his Spirit, extends beyond the visible boundaries of the Church to all humanity … for all men of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly. For since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery.” But “they acquire meaning and value only from Christ’s own mediation, and they cannot be understood as parallel or complementary to his.”


You can see how this would deeply offend both Modernists and Fundamentalists. Just as Jesus himself did.

The point of Dominus Iesus is that it is precisely the “conservative” or “traditional” “high Christology” of the Church and the Bible, so uncompromising on Christ’s full divinity, “unicity” or uniqueness and universality that allows us to have a very “liberal” hope for the salvation of non-Christians.

Because all truth and goodness comes from him, the truth and goodness in the hearts, lives and religions of non-Christians are his action in their cultures and their hearts.

Second, since the Church is not Christ’s artifact but his very body, what is true of him is true of her. Dominus Iesus refutes the “liberal” separation of the two (three cheers for Christ, one for the Church) by correcting its misinterpretation of Vatican II’s statement that Christ’s Church “subsists in” the Catholic Church:

“With the expression subsistit in, the Second Vatican Council sought to harmonize two doctrinal statements: on the one hand, that the Church of Christ, despite the divisions which exist among Christians, continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church, and on the other hand, that ‘outside of her structure, many elements can be found of sanctification and truth’ … but … they derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church. … It is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for this salvation.”

Finally, “the Church is not an end unto herself, since she is ordered toward the Kingdom of God, of which she is the seed, sign and instrument. Yet, while remaining distinct from Christ and the Kingdom, the Church is indissolubly united to both. … The Kingdom of God … is not identified with the Church in her visible and social reality. In fact, ‘the action of Christ and the Spirit outside the Church’s visible boundaries’ must not be excluded.”


Justin Martyr, the first Christian philosopher, said that because Christ is the Logos who enlightens all men (John 1:9), whatever has been truly said by the pagan philosophers is properly Christian. All truth is ultimately his truth, not Buddha’s or Muhammad’s or Socrates.’

Thus our “liberal” assessment of the truths in other religions is based on our “conservative” Christology. This is the double reason, the both “conservative” and “liberal” reason, why we will not and cannot shut up, why we insist on telling the Good News to everyone (including Jews and Muslims): because Christ is the only Savior and because he is already at work in their lives. He plants, waters and gives the increase; we only point to him.

Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and the King’s College in New York City. He is a the author of more than 59 books, including Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Christianity for Modern Pagans and Fundamentals of the Faith.


HT: NCR