quod pro nobis traditum est

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.

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.


Thursday, August 05, 2010

Series of upcoming posts

Just as society feels social and political pressures, the same pressures weigh too upon pastors and the Church. Having served at congregational, district and national levels of my church body I still seek to make sense of the different pressures in a constructive way.

The next three posts will discuss how I, as a pastor, am not Liberal, nor Conservative, yet Both and More. These posts will discuss secular political understanding and how that interacts with theological understanding. The conclusion will include thoughts on how theological understanding need not be defensive amidst misunderstandings, which are inevitable, but how such understanding might help one look beyond ongoing pressures and inform and enhance one's understanding of the Church.

These upcoming three posts are the pastoral thoughts of one in ministry. They may not be so much of help to pastors, deacons, etc. as to laity who are more involved in the political sphere and who wonder what pastors and priests are sometimes thinking, why they are not always involved in public life as they might be.

Bearing Salvation

Anyone with a high view of Christ and of Scripture cannot escape the unique role of Mary in God's plan of salvation. It is not common in my tradition to pay much attention to her, whether for fear of being confused with the rest of Christianity, or for fear that recognition given her might take eyes away from Christ. This latter fear has some basis yet may also be applied to an over-emphasis on any teaching or individual found in Scripture.

Taking a step back, however, helps to alleviate such fears and see the Blessed Virgin in light of the fulness of divine revelation. First, how her unique role in salvation history singles her out for recognition and second, how such recognition is advanced by Scripture and Tradition. Both of these may be summarized in the words that Elizabeth spoke out with a loud voice saying, "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." The Blessed Virgin, receiving God's word, magnifies Him saying, ". . . behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation." Tradition recognizes that the ever-virgin Mary bears the Son of God by the power of the Holy Ghost and that this same Spirit filled Elizabeth and brought her to speak such things of Mary.

Although raising this topic raises the eyebrows of some and a recitation of a list of errors concerning Mary and the Saints by others it is then we see how the incarnation has truly become a scandal like the cross to follow. If silence on this topic is preferable among Christians then even the Scriptures, as that cited above, must remain silent. Yet both Elizabeth and Mary force the issue. Elizabeth gives honor to Mary and Mary gives honor to the Lord. This is preferable to silence. For this is all in line with a high view both of Christ and of Scripture. Tradition has held fast to these teachings. Rather than taking away from Christ the glory due Him, honor of Mary, only accentuates His greatness and His mercy. For she has received God's word and lived according to it. Through her we have received the Word made flesh. She is indeed blessed among women, blessed to be the Mother of God.

Honor given to the Blessed Virgin Mary recognizes her for her unique role in salvation and this brings her Son more honor. "Holy is his name."

Benedicta et venerábilis es, Virgo María: quae sine tactu pudóris invénta es mater Salvatóris. Virgo Dei Génitrix, quem totus non capit orbis, in tua se clausit viscera factus homo.

Blessed and venerable art thou, O Virgin Mary: who without loss of purity wert found to be the Mother of our Saviour. Virgin Mother of God, He whom the whole world cannot hold enclosed Himself in thy womb and became man.