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quod pro nobis traditum est

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.