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quod pro nobis traditum est

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Advent meditation

As we begin this new church year we rely on God’s grace and power to come and strengthen us in the faith. Our sin hinders Jesus’ coming to us. It is more natural for us to go our own way rather than gladly hear and obey God’s word. Although Jesus was risen from the dead, it was only when he appeared to Thomas that Thomas believed and confessed, “My Lord and my God!” It is not that he did not want to believe, he simply couldn’t believe without Jesus’ gracious coming to him first. This is how it is with us. We are hindered by our sins yet God is merciful to us. Hence we need and look forward to Jesus’ coming, that we may know that grace that overcomes sin, death and hell, bringing instead God’s merciful forgiveness. Every opportunity to hear God’s word is an opportunity to know Him and His salvation, to know His grace and power in working out our salvation. Advent reminds us that the Lord is nearer to us than when we first believed. We look forward to Jesus’ return as we look forward to the solemn celebration of His nativity.

We hear the account of Jesus’ birth from Matthew the Evangelist. Before this account Matthew gives a genealogical account of Jesus going back to David and Abraham. Jesus’ coming is foretold by the prophet, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, “God with us.” The people of God looked forward to the coming Messiah. They lived by faith in the promise of Abraham and awaited Him who would reign forever on the throne of David. The genealogy of Jesus from David comes through Joseph, but it is through Mary that He comes a child of the Holy Spirit, “God with us.” The Apostle Paul calls this baby, “[God’s] Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” We know Jesus is connected to the Cross because the angel of the Lord says “He will save His people from their sins.” Here Paul connects Jesus, born of the seed of David, declared the Son of God, with the resurrection from the dead. Jesus risen from the dead appeared to Thomas and the other disciples and by His grace and power they believed. He ascended into heaven “and He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.” How can we look forward to Jesus’ return? He has already appeared and come to us in Baptism. Here in the waters of forgiveness of sins is the grace and power, to make confession like Thomas, “My Lord and My God” and “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”

God’s grace and power comes to us. Through Christ Jesus we have received God’s grace and power. The crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain. Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. Jesus comes in fulfillment of God’s promise through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures. Still, He comes to us in the hearing of these same Scriptures and prepares us here on earth for the glory He has prepared for us in heaven. So even at the end of the day, even as we sit in the darkness before another night’s rest, we live by God’s grace and power in the brightness of the saints. Jesus comes and brings to us the brightness of light eternal. We rely on God’s grace and power to come and strengthen us in the faith, the same faith of Thomas who saw the risen Lord. And God’s grace and power keeps coming to us. Soon we celebrate this coming in the flesh. His name is Jesus.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

the Sussex Carol

At a choral concert on Sunday I heard the Sussex Carol.

A story in the history of this popular British carol caught my eye. The carol was first published by an Irish bishop in 1684. Vaughn Williams apparently heard it sung in Sussex, England, and wrote down the text and tune. The tune we generally hear today is the Vaughn Williams tune of 1919.

Here is the text of the first stanza from the Ralph Vaughn Williams version:

On Christmas night all Christians sing
To hear the news the angels bring.
News of great joy, news of great mirth,
News of our merciful King's birth.

Christ-mas in America

What is so controversial about this?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

an online survival guide for clergy

In surviving online, the clergy face three challenges: 1) Maneuvering from the left (may come in the form of mind games; it's all relative/-istic) 2) Mind games from the right (may come in the form of maneuvering) 3) Mayhem from the faithful. There is no escaping these challenges. What, then, can be done? After years of study, research and experience, there may now be a solution. Research has discovered that these challenges may be solved by eating M&Ms (dark chocolate or peanut butter).

Friday, December 09, 2011

Reformation in reverse

Some blogs are rightly abuzz. Check here and here regarding a retired Lutheran bishop's feeble attempt to teach the Catholic bishops. The Catholic bishops here are clearly on the side of truth and the blogs cut to the chase. This is another sad chapter in the demise of mainline protestantism and another news item that makes clearer to the public the distinction between the Lutheran synods. How things have changed in 500 years . . .

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Mary's blessedness, a good thing for us

This week the vast majority of Christians in the world will be reminded of the genealogy of Mary and Jesus. Both the Western Church and the Eastern Church recognize the Blessed Virgin's Conception, on the 8th and 9th, respectively. Most in the protestant tradition, heirs of the reformation, will not even notice. There may rise some reactions here and there to the Catholic understanding of the Immaculate Conception or how any emphasis on Mary may sidetrack us from Christmas. Otherwise, these are days like any other.

Sometimes our reactions get in the way. The very Word we uphold brings us to pause and marvel at the greater realities. We appreciate Mary's humility before the Angel Gabriel when she says, "Let it be to me according to your word," especially after she hears unbelievable things about how the birth and naming of Jesus would come about. Certainly, this is something of divine action and power. This is the word of the Lord.

What of Mary's birth? We know little. Yet her birth is part of the greater plan in the birth of Him who was and is incarnate, a divine genealogy. My tradition might question the immaculate conception of Mary yet Jesus' birth demonstrates that nothing is outside His power, "and holy is His Name."

Therefore, in terms of appreciating what God is doing through Mary, the debate tends to distract. It is a worthy debate but not one for me to pursue here and now. Rather, what is it that draws attention to Mary as the "Blessed Virgin," "Our Lady," and the "Theotokos?" Here again we return to the words of the angel, "Rejoice, highly favored one, [or "Hail, full of grace,"], the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"

Leave it to the mysterious grace and mercy of God to regard the low estate of His handmaiden and then to have her called blessed by all generations. This is not a post-reformation contest between Mary and Jesus but a recognition of ongoing greater realities at work in the genealogy of Mary and God's only begotten Son.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Advent, a time for liturgical renewal

What a busy time. Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber-Monday. Creeping in quietly in this list, last Sunday - Ad te levávi - the beginning of the church year.

More than ever there is need for renewal - in our repentance for pushing God out of our lives and schedules. Especially, renewal in God's mercy that we receive together with God's people in the blessed Eucharist.

The first week of Advent is a plea for God to deliver us from our sins. We pray that He show us His ways and teach us His paths. As we approach the celebration of the blessed Incarnation of the Son of God we approach too our redemption. Our redemption is at hand. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Our salvation is nearer than when we believed.

Four weeks in Advent. Undoubtedly overshadowed by the Christ-Mass. Still, no reason to neglect now the words of the Lord nor His coming and nearness to us in the blessed sacrament, our daily sustenance.

This is a good time for renewal, a good time to step aside from the all the entertainment, especially in the Church, and, in preparation, receive the Lord's mercy in the midst of His temple.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

One and ninety-nine in our time . . .

A thought comes across my mind almost daily that when I get to the pearly gates I will have to confess to St. Peter that I failed at social media. Simply put, information overload - definitely not something I can keep up with daily.

On another note, I cannot help but see the contrast in themes between Thanksgiving and whatever is occupying some people as these events overlap in our time. As one who does not fit in either the 1% nor the supposed "99%" I am encouraged by the attitude of the one leper, who like the faithful few, appreciate a connection between faith and thanksgiving on a daily basis. It's true, they all had faith and were healed. Then one broke away from the other nine and took the better road.

At least there is a pass-Word to get into heaven.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

for ever

Looking back a little over fifty years I am still grateful for the time when water was applied to my forehead "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost" by the local pastor. This was a gentle washing and conversion in Christ. There was no threat of death toward my family or myself to convert to this religion. Neither was I bound in baptism to be subject to the local congregation or denomination. Neither were my parents forcing their views on a helpless infant. This was and is a gift of grace and union with God in Christ. It could have happened later in life had my parents not believed and later I came to the faith as a young person or adult. In my case, as an infant, I was totally helpless, a sure physical witness to the reality of spiritual need for rebirth.

Having the name of the holy God placed on me in baptism I literally became a "child of God" so that God is indeed my Father in heaven. I was baptized into Christ, into His death and resurrection. My sin and death were buried and I was raised to new life in Christ. This is the life of the forgiveness of sins flowing from the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. I was given the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of life.

Christians and Christianity are taking a beating - not only around the world where they are killed simply for being Christians and not only from secularism that denies what it cannot see - primarily, we take a beating here and now when we, thinking a need for another baptism, forget that we have already received God's Spirit. We lose greatly when we divide the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that we received in Holy Baptism, or look for a new spirit. Living in the one baptism we have already received, we sin, but we are not left without the Gift God has poured out on us. When the sacrament has been properly administered there is never again any need for those who have been baptized to be baptized again, ever.

We hurt ourselves greatly when we separate God from His work, His gifts of salvation for us. We also divide the one Spirit when we are tempted to think that another baptism will better the last or be more truly that of the Spirit. So the Apostle reminds and encourages us to be "careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism."

One baptism connects us to the one Lord in the one faith through the one Spirit. If, in baptism, God gives eternal mercy to helpless infants and those who have come to the faith later in life then faith says, "leave it at that." Rejoice in the Gift you have received. Return to it to be washed from your sins. If you are baptized maybe the best reason not to be baptized again is that baptism does not depend on you. Once is enough. He knows what He is doing and He is looking out for you, not just today and not just for fifty years, but for ever.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

A.D. 2011

In recent years, when I teach an occasional religion, Christian history or theology class I have noticed a change in how the calendar is depicted in textbooks. The traditional B.C. and A.D. are being replaced with B.C.E. and C.E. There is always the need to draw this change to the students' attention, explain the change and then question and critique the change.

It is with interest that I came across an online article showing the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano criticizing the BBC for making the change. The article describes well some of the challenges to the traditional rendering of the calendar.

The change is unnecessary. Challenging this change also draws attention to the fact that Christianity is very much in favor of history, for it has just as much to do with our future.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

unity in theology

A recent reading from the liturgy says,

Therefore thus says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: " . . . They will hallow My name, And hallow the Holy One of Jacob, And fear the God of Israel. These also who erred in spirit will come to understanding, And those who complained will learn doctrine.” (Is. 29)

The last line of this reading stands out. There is a tendency to pit doctrine against the liturgy and vice versa. These words show that there is no need for such a false dichotomy - the liturgy here sees doctrine as a good thing. Hence the lex orandi, lex credendi.

Traditionalists rightly point out that this reading is not part of the lectionary. Only the Gospel and Epistle are read. Even "traditionalist" Lutherans do not always follow the traditional route. That may be a Lutheran thing.

On a related note, I read something historical which helps provide a clue to the mystery why there seems to be a tension between exegetes and the liturgy, something I attributed in the past to merely a difference in focus. This is something with much history:

"It is with Origen that devotion to the letter of Scripture and concern to refer to the original text come to take on a new importance. Science will gain from this. But the living relationship between Scripture and tradition is on the way to being compromised." (Danielou, Couratin and Kent, 54)

This helps to explain the false tension today between liturgy is prayer and liturgy as mere structure. Rather, the liturgy calls on us to both "hallow [God's] name" and "learn doctrine." After all, faith "comes from hearing."

Friday, September 30, 2011

ongoing

"This glory does not extend over the present time only, as if terminating in the age to come. Rather, it extends throughout all generations and all ages. It is eternally ineffable. It abides, develops and increases." - St. Jerome on Ephesians 3:21 (ACCS, VIII, 157)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Do good works exist?

A while back I posted on the topic of the "goodness" of good works, not as a denial of sin and its effects, but to emphasize the essential "goodness" of good works. While they do not come from us they can be done in and through us. I have not read that post recently but, if I remember, this is the basic gist. All depends on a merciful God. However, and even if works are not meritorious, this does not mean that they are not "good." Once again the emphasis is on where the "good" works come from. Also, there is no question of claiming goodness since these works are worked to glorify the Father in heaven.

"Antinomianism" may rightly be attributed to Lutheranism on certain occasions. Sometimes, we hear works spoken of disparagingly in an attempt to clarify a position on justification. Sometimes this disparaging talk is so successful it leads one to wonder even if good works "exist." "Anti-nomianism" means "against the law." This is sometimes understood, mistakenly, to advance ideas that the law does not pertain to us because we are saved by faith. This may take the form of the law no longer applies to me or I am now "above" the law.

Recent side reading on "antinomianism" and a reading from the liturgy brought this topic back to my attention. This is the wonder of the liturgy. In addition to being prayer, all of it is worth hearing and given to us as a reminder that God visits His people. In one reading from the liturgy the Apostle says, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." He encourages the church to live not according to the sinful flesh. He adds, "For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith."

The Apostle encourages doing good in the context of living and walking in the Spirit. "And let us not grow weary while doing good . . ." ". . . as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." This is not a matter of sanctimony, although it brings into question disparaging talk of works and antinomianism. Other types of living and walking are outside the context of eternal life.

The cross is the central good work for our salvation. Jesus died for all sins and was raised in the body in the Spirit. By connection in baptism, we "walk in newness of life." This is like the Word calling light into existence. God says "Let there be light." And there is. The Word brings into existence good works. They are not just declared from afar with no effect on or in the hearer. Disparaging talk of works gets nowhere, nor is it Scriptural. Mary says, "Let it be done to me according to Your word." The Word is made flesh. In Christ, every good work exists.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

at all times

I will bless the Lord at all times. (Benedicam Dóminum in omni témpore.)
Psalm 33/34

This passage, from the Introit, grabs my attention for its ideal approach. In context these are words of King David. Together with the following verses the thrust of these words is the continuous praise of God among the humble.

One natural reaction in hearing these words, even among the faithful, is to think of everything that is wrong in the world and in one's life or in one's day. It is difficult, if not impossible, to hold on to such an attitude of praise let alone carry out any continuous action of the same. This is the irony - that words that speak of praise of God may raise negative and sinful thoughts out of us.

The above reaction is natural and quick. Now, however, I am considering other thoughts around the words "at all times." It is somewhat common for people to remember that God is omnipresent, that He is everywhere, and that He is especially with us at all times. As He is not only omnipresent but also loving toward us it is not too much of a stretch to find rationale for being one with God - without the Church. We know God loves us and that He cares for us, that He is with us, and that our future is in His hands. Is this not what Jesus teaches us? With this picture, it is easy to let go of that which we may perceive or may be mis-taught as getting between God and us.

With polarization in society, the Church is not immune. But the church is not the Church without Christ who has created her and who sustains us in this world. If there is a center or a unity it only comes from Him. In Christ, the words of the psalmist come out in a new way. He promises, "I am with you always to the end of the age." The Son of Man is with us as the very God who we know is omnipresent. He is with us "at all times." That is the point. He is not only with us when we are viewing the mountains and the ocean or meditating on our own. He is with us, and is especially here for us as our righteousness, in church, in the liturgy of the holy Word and blessed Eucharist given to His humble people, those who seek God's mercy in faith.

Here King David is speaking for himself. He says, "I will bless ..." "His praise shall continually be in my mouth." But this is not just King David. It is not just about God and me. So he adds,

"Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together."

David's words remind us that "at all times" is not just every other time and place outside church. Good times or bad, I am part of a people who are also one with God in Christ. "At all times," even in church.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

like grass with water


Here is a picture of grass. Judging by the condition of the grass the reader rightly concludes that this grass has had no water for some time. One may also attempt to determine the geographical location of this grass. For example, this year, this grass could be in New Mexico, or in Arizona, or in Wisconsin within one mile of Lake Michigan.

We are reminded that all flesh is grass. What better day for rain to fall than today, following baptism, the washing of regeneration.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

one step forward, two steps back

Since there is no time to write a multi-tome volume set on the nature and history of anti-catholicism and how it hurts both Christian theology and Christianity in general I will share a pithy saying I heard at seminary: "Gentlemen, it is not Word and Sacrament ministry, but Word and Music ministry."

Does this not summarize well why and how, in part, the pastoral ministry is and will always be an uphill climb?

Friday, August 19, 2011

a divine ministry?

How does one approach the idea that the holy ministry is not of divine origin? This idea, apparently and expectedly of secular origin, is also advanced by a group here and there among us. We expect ideas such as this to be of secular origin. When they are found among us they are opportunities to revisit what we have received.

No one questions the humanity of those who are called and ordained. Yet God still uses men such as Peter to carry on His ministry and through them blesses His work.

Scripture shows the same Jesus instituting holy baptism and the holy supper and then, in post-resurrection glory, breathing his Holy Spirit on his apostles with the charge of advancing the forgiveness and retention of sins for the sake of His Church. Before His Ascension into heaven, Jesus leaves His apostles with both a mandate and a promise. There are many other instances where Jesus advances His ministry among the apostles for ongoing work among people.

Is this divine work? This depends on how one looks at Jesus. Is he mere man? Is he a divine man who acts divinely on some occasions and then humanly on others? For instance, when instituting baptism and the sacrament of the altar does he act on a divine basis and then when instituting the ministry does he act only on a human basis? If Jesus is both divine and man, how do we know when he is working divinely and when he is merely working as man?

Christianity doubts neither the divinity nor the humanity in the one person of the Son of God. For the Christian, this effectively answers the question posed above. The ministry is no less of divine origin than the blessed sacraments because they originate from the same source, Jesus of Nazareth, "the only-begotten Son of God . . . God of God, Light of Light . . . who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man . . ." This means too that the work of salvation on the cross is of divine effect.

The divinity of Christ may appear preposterous to the secular mind. This is to be expected. Equally preposterous is the above idea, advanced by some Christians themselves, of a ministry that is not of divine origin. A more pertinent question considered among us may be whether or not the ministry follows in the tradition of the apostles.





Friday, August 05, 2011

Processions

Recently, at a museum, I saw a display of a formal funeral procession which was held in honor of a leader of high honor. It makes me wonder why processions in church might be discouraged, even on festival days.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

the simultaneous life of the saints

Back from a brief silence that included a vacation.

This post is rated for adults (please see the disclaimer below).

Lutheran teaching is quite clear concerning the merits of Mary and the Saints, that salvation is not gained through their merits. This is a huge topic, one too big for this particular post. I only mention this because not mentioning this will detract some readers from the focus of this post.

The apostle says, "perfect love casts out fear." A quick rejoinder, "we are sinners there is no perfect love." Good, we are sinners, we know that. Now back to the words, "perfect love casts out fear." Why does the apostle write this or why is anything written in the Scripture if we are sinners? Why does God do any good if we are sinners? Are not these words written to and for us? Can we not be led by God who creates faith to trust in "perfect love."

In my preparations I came across some hymns recently that mention Mary and the Saints. One hymn calls Mary "the bearer of the eternal Word." Another hymn says, "sing with all the saints in glory." Finally, another hymn says, "how firm a foundation, O saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word."

I am not so struck by the words of these hymns. They reflect the reality of the one church in heaven and earth existing simultaneously in communion in Christ. Rather, I am struck by the cynicism and fear that the words "Mary" and "the saints" cause us. Are these people not in Scripture? Are they not upheld there? Ought we fear them? Do not their examples inspire us? Do they not reflect God's good work in people? Are they not blessed? Do we really trust what God's Word says about them?

The Apostle says, "Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world." Our boldness in the day of judgment is possible through Him who was judged for us on the cross. I personally am not afraid of Mary and the Saints. They mean us no eternal harm. Rather they reflect the glory of the one Mediator. Rather than bring me cynicism and fear they remind me of the great salvation of the Lord. Did not Mary say, "my soul magnifies the Lord?"

As one hymn that previously mentioned the saints says, "Fear not! I am with you, O be not dismayed . . ." What about perfect love? God is love. He sent His only begotten Son into the world, born of the blessed virgin Mary. In Him we are given salvation and made saints, together with those who now live in heaven, an ongoing communion under the Church's head, Christ our Lord.





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DISCLAIMER: Different church bodies have different doctrines or teachings. Discussing doctrines or theology on this blog when there may be similar or united belief in doctrine does not equate with unity or union of churches or promotion of the same. This is simply a blog that discusses theology and other topics.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A crisis to fear or the deliverance of the body

It is a trend today to ponder the earth in terms of crisis.

This week I have been pondering the earth in a sense that I heard in a reading on Sunday. The apostle speaks of the earth as "creation" and the creation is painted in terms of present sufferings and "the glory which shall be revealed in us." That is, the author draws a parallel between the creation "subjected to futility" with the plight and hope of the children of God. It is even described as the creation eagerly awaiting "for the revealing of the sons of God."

The apostle alludes to baptism, that is "we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit."

There is the idea that all of creation suffers with birth pangs and so too those have these firstfruits. The present includes labor and groaning and waiting. The creation waits for deliverance and so do we. The apostle writes, "because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." The creation is tied to the children of God in terms of deliverance.

So the creation is "corrupt?" This is not how we are normally led to look at "Mother Earth." The apostle offers a different picture. It is corruption in all of creation as it is in us. But this is not a fact to simply rub in the wounds when we are down. These sufferings, this futility, this labor and groaning is only temporary, a part of a bigger picture that brings hope and redemption.

We see this all working out in the death and resurrection of our Lord. So "bondage of corruption" is changed into "glorious liberty" and those born in sin are changed to await "the redemption of our body." From dust we are and to dust we will return. But the real end foreseen in the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the body together with our Creator in eternal glory.

During the summer months we enjoy the fruits of creation. Autumn and Winter come with their changes. The firstfruits of Spring soon bud again. So too, it is for us whose body is a wonderful creation. We wither and die but our bodies are not forever in the ground - they are redeemed. If there is a crisis it is of our own making for our present sufferings cannot "be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Whatever happened to integrated faith?

or the wholeness of the Catholic faith?

In supporting the historic liturgy in Lutheranism over the years I have come across a number of unexpected surprises. In an academic sense we can see that liturgics, dogmatics, exegetical, historical, practical, etc., approaches are different areas of study. In the parish all of these areas are put to use in one way or another in service of the one holy faith. All of these areas serve to teach and uphold the faith.

The liturgy is quite useful in integrating the faith. Invocation, Introit, Prayer, Scripture readings, Creed, Homily, Eucharist, Benediction are just some parts of the liturgy that teach and pass on the faith. In all of the parts there is a wholeness about the liturgy as there is about the holy faith.

One unexpected surprise in supporting the liturgy is overcoming false notions that the liturgy is against the confessions of the Church or the Scripture itself. In other words, it is surprising that the liturgy might even be seen in this light by those who focus on either the Confessions or the Scripture. The liturgy does not place itself against either the Scripture or the Church's confession even if it does not teach the faith in the exact same way. It is not necessary to adapt the liturgy to overcome such notions or perceived weaknesses. The rest of the week provides plenty of room for catechesis. Neither ought prayer and learning the faith be seen as enemies.

Even if one does not understand or appreciate fully the liturgy of the Church it is not hard to hear that the same faith is expressed in the liturgy as is taught in the catechism and revealed in holy Scripture. There is a unity in the Church's faith that remains whether it is learned academically or it is prayed.

When growing up it is the child's surprise to realize that the God on Sunday morning is the same God who created the trees and mountains. The child comes to integrate a whole knowledge of God that does not pit the God of creation against the God of salvation. So too the liturgy is not only an aid in prayer and teaching and passing on the faith. It is union with God in Christ, as in the blessed Eucharist, and thanksgiving to the Father through the Son in the Spirit.

One wonders why there might be seen a conflict between what is prayed and what is believed. There is none. If the Scripture reveals the faith and the confessions speak what the Church believes how cannot the liturgy chime in the same true faith?

Rogate 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Are good works "good"?

My reading is best described as miscellaneous, mainly theology, philosophy, religion, history, news and other topics. Not being able to afford formal studies, I am constantly schooling myself, especially in the liberal arts.

Daily life is real enough so, for those concerned, my feet are on the ground. I tend to be overly practical so my reading, as rare at it is, serves many purposes - relaxation, learning and stimulation of thought.

One area of reading, related to my vocation, is the homilies of the church fathers. In recent weeks I have read homilies of such as St. Leo the Great, the Venerable Bede (whose feast is on May 27) and St. Cyril of Alexandria.

These homilies are in many ways inspirational. For example, Leo speaks of bearing the Cross adding, "... which for each one is rightly called his, for it is borne by each in his own way and measure. The name persecution is one word; but not one is the reason of the fight; and as a rule there is greater danger in the hidden betrayer, than in the open foe." (Toal, II, 147)

Bede writes, "For as the woman rejoices that a man is born into the world, so also is the Church filled with becoming exultation at the birth of the Christian people into life eternal ." (Toal, II, 334)

Cyril writes, "Rightly then have they been justified who without seeing Him have believed in Christ; but the world will lose the possession of this blessedness, not seeking to possess the justice that comes by faith, preferring to remain in its own wickedness." (Toal, II, 370)

This quote from Cyril catches my eye in that he contrasts being justified by faith with wickedness (ie, sin) rather than placing justifying faith in contrast to good works or the Law. Here faith is opposed to wickedness, not the word that comes from God. As the Apostle James says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above [even God's Law] . . . Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." The emphasis is not on God's Law as being essentially bad (James: "for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God") but as Law as essentially good and perfect, from God, to lead us from our wickedness (and not away from good works) to the word, that which saves the soul. So the blessed Apostle Peter writes in his first epistle, "I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation."

If good works are from God, they must be good.

Friday, May 20, 2011

End Time Numbers

I have not been following this too closely but here are some numbers I found from various sources:

1994 - year of last Last Day
5.21.11 - Last Day
200,000 million - people supposed to be saved
$72 million - worth of the ministry advertising the Last Day
? - number of people who have sold all they have to be ready for tomorrow

I wonder if having no sacraments is a factor in the rise of these types of ministry approaches.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

advancing the faith

Around this time of year there are feasts for two bishops who were also martyrs. Their feasts were/are May 7 - St. Stanislaus (1030 - 1079) and June 5 - St. Boniface (c. 672 - 754). St. Stanislaus was instrumental in Christianizing Poland and was Bishop of Kraków from 1072 until his death in 1079. Boniface (c. 672 - 754), called "Apostle of the Germans," was a missionary from England who advanced Christianity in the Frankish Empire and was the first archbishop of Mainz.

"The heavens shall confess Thy wonders, O Lord: and Thy truth in the Church of the Saints."
(from the verse for the Feast of St. Stanislaus)

Confitebúntur coeli mirabília tua, Dómine: étenim veritátem tuam in ecclésia sanctórum.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Unexpected Announcement

I noticed a billboard on the interstate that says that Judgement Day will be on May 21. In addition, it advertises an "open live forum" on that date from 7:00 - 9:30 p.m. If that is the Judgement Day I can put it on my calendar. I have a couple of questions first. Why is this announcement only on one billboard? (that I am aware of) Second, how does "Judgement Day" fit into an "open live forum?" I hope there are billboards like this around the world.

Knowing me, when the 21st arrives I will have forgotten that it is Judgement Day. This way, if I write it down now I may be ready . . .

This year Ascension Day falls on June 2nd.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More thoughts on Tradition

Growing up as a Lutheran and not knowing much about the word I often heard complaints against "tradition." Traditions were apparently un-Scriptural and even anti-Scriptural. Years later, as a pastor with some time involved in attempting to transmit the faith to people, I come to a different understanding of the word.

In one sense, even those who claim to be anti-traditional in Christianity follow repeated beliefs and practices in line with their understanding of the faith. These simply may be different traditional beliefs and practices than those held and practiced by historic Christianity. Some "traditions" may be "newer" or "different" but they are no less "traditions." And they are almost never any more or less "Scriptural" than other traditions held by Christianity throughout the ages.

In a religious free society the tradition of anti-traditionalism has been so successful (anything "new" is equated with anything "good" whatever its source or end) that even those things that are firmly based in Scripture and the greater Tradition of the Church, even those traditions arising out of and passing on the very words of the Lord Himself, are revised or rejected. This means the simple act of teaching the Christian faith from one generation to the next within the Church often comes under attack. We are seeing other factors at work. Anti-traditionalism within Christianity is closely related to secularism. Christianity (Scripture, ministry, liturgy, etc.) gets "re-defined" in view of cultural expectations.

In view of Tradition in the Church being easily misunderstood two other questions arise. For example, today we hear of a re-awakening to Tradition but this re-awakening may only go as far back as the 1960s or 1970s. In other words, this period is seen as the moment to define all others. Although I am of Lutheran background I do not hold to the Reformation as the moment to define all others. This is because the Reformation did not come out of a vacuum. Nor does Church history begin then. There is a triumphalist tendency to relativize our understanding of all history in light of the Reformation. Even the Reformation has fallen victim to the Enlightenment and even whatever the 1960s and 1970s mean. Many of today's protestants are oblivious of the Reformation, much less the Early Church and the Middle Ages. We have come across a truly existential faith(?). An over-reaction the other way puts the whole faith in a Reformation box.

Although I am an heir of the Reformation I hold to a catholic view of the Tradition, that is, in view of the whole. Tradition is a good thing. There is an Early Church. There are the Middle Ages. Hebrew, Greek, Latin are good languages even if they are not my own. Because of its antiquity, Tradition is more than the ethnic backgrounds of my church body. Tradition is more than any historical period. Rather than being an obstacle to the faith the Scriptural Tradition is the connection to the faith, the continuity of the Church and her future. Looking back through Tradition the testimony of a multitude of witnesses is opened up to all who follow in the train of the crucified and risen Lord, who makes all things new through His own work of salvation, He, the Beginning and the End.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Resurrexi

Resurrexi, et adhuc tecum sum, alleluia: posuisti super me manum tuam, alleluia: mirabilis facta est scientia tua, alleluia, alleluia.

I arose, and am still with Thee, alleluia; Thou hast laid Thy hand upon me, alleluia; Thy knowledge is become wonderful, alleluia, alleluia.


It usually takes a day or two to recover, but Holy Week this year was, as always, a blessing. Growing in faith and knowledge of the Risen Lord and the solemn mysteries of salvation feed into the daily life we have received. He is risen!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Speaking of ontology . . .

Speaking of ontology, we remember St. Anselm who died on this date in Canterbury in 1109. Anselm was a monk, philosopher and archbishop. Considered one of the greatest philosophers of the 11th century, he is called the founder of scholasticism and is known for his formulation of an ontological argument for the existence of God.

He wrote, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." In other words, faith comes before reason but reason may be used to expand on faith. He wrote on a variety of philosophical and theological topics including creation, the Trinity, original sin and free will. His thinking is considered Neoplatonic.

Anselm's book Cur Deus Homo, literally, "Why the God Man," discusses his theory of the atonement. Briefly stated, satfisfaction for sin before a just God is only possible through the voluntary death of the God-Man, Jesus. This theory stresses Jesus' obedience to the Law. Although later scholastics and reformers differed somewhat from his view of the atonement, for example, stressing instead God's reconciliation in the atonement, Anselm's emphasis has had a lasting influence on Church teaching and helps to show how reason may be used in relation to faith.

Realities from above

As the year goes around Christians can usually point to one or more words or passages from Scripture or the liturgy that sticks with them long beyond the Sunday hearing. These memorable moments change from year to year and any year can hold many or few of them.

This year I have been thinking on the words from heaven, "This is my beloved Son" heard at Transfiguration, traditionally, the Second Sunday in Lent. These words are rich in meaning much beyond what I write here. Two ways of applying these words may be addressing the identity of Jesus and then, as I have been thinking lately, addressing the significance of these few words.

There have always been popular claims to Jesus' identity. In recent years two claims particularly are fresh in mind. First, there is the Jesus as "CEO" emphasis. Then there is the "revolutionary" Jesus emphasis that we hear so much these days. Both of these claims are influential but fail because they reveal more about those making the claims than about what is divinely revealed to us. The reader understands.

What caught my ear this year has more to do with the words themselves. Here especially the word "is" sticks out. Scripturally, we can think right away of Scripture's rendering of the words "I AM." We can also draw a similarity to words Jesus spoke on the night he was betrayed: "This is my Body . . . This is my Blood." This latter similarity beckons the thought that when the Father speaks from heaven at Transfiguration He is not speaking symbolically, ie, Jesus is not a symbol of what it means to be the Son of God. The Father says from heaven that Jesus "is" His Son. These words of God also put to question our own claims to Jesus' identity and our own tendency to see sacraments, which Jesus Himself instituted, as mere symbols of our faith.

This Holy Week we draw near to the realities of the cross of Christ and His resurrection from the dead. The cross and the empty tomb are today in some ways symbols but they are symbols of greater realities, closely related to Jesus' identity, and closely related to who we are and will be in Him.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Being productive

For a few years now I have gone "underground," or private, in my study of theology, philosophy and history. With the right people discussion of these topics can be quite productive. On the other hand, some may use such discussions for various un-intended purposes. I find that one may sometimes learn more by not discussing one's questions online. Neutral online sources and books are helpful for learning here. Also, it is a good thing to maintain some level of privacy. This way one may get his/her questions answered without being mistakenly labeled.

The moral is: when there's a choice between being labeled for connecting the dots or thinking disconnectedly go private for the sake of ongoing learning. When there is a choice between being functional and being ontological be practical and keep the ontological focus.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Comment

Why do I not post every day? Because there is too much to comment on each day that would take until the evening hours to write about. Then the next day would come and I would not be ready for it.

(This is in answer to a question I posed myself.)

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Laetáre

"I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord."  (Introit, Laetare)

Whenever these words of the psalmist come up in the liturgy they are always a boost of encouragement.  Not as an encouragement to self-righteousness but to the faith of those who come into the Lord's house.  The forces keeping us from the house of the Lord are seemingly greater than the Lord's effort to draw all men to Himself.  On Sunday we sang a hymn that says that the love of the cross demands "my soul, my life, my all."  This portion of the liturgy and the hymn are not speaking to the un-churched or the un-believer but to those who rejoice in the divine things that are spoken to us.

Recently, I posted that I would address "new gospels" that I have been hearing in recent years.  One idea addresses the presence of God as everywhere but limits Him to everywhere outside the church.  In other words, He is omnipresent in the world but somehow is not present in the church nor among His people when they receive His gifts.  This idea I had not heard before. It is not close to atheism, but it certainly puts limits on the power of God and His Word.  The idea may have been something someone appropriated from the secular milieu.

In chapter 6 of the Gospel according to John, Jesus feeds the 5,000 in a sacramental way, even bidding the disciples, "Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost."  The hungry who came to the Lord were fed with the blessed food, distributed by the disciples.  During Lent it seems easier to forgo the blessed food between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  Outside of the strong forces of secularism, Easter tries to outdo Lent as Christmas outdoes Advent.  But Lent draws us to the cross and to Christ, so Lent is the journey to Easter.  "O Thou Bread of Life from heaven, Bless the food Thou here hast given!"

Laetáre Jerúsalem: et convéntum fácite, omnes qui dilígitis eam.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Word on the Word

The Gospel for Oculi speaks of Jesus casting out a demon, that was mute. Later on Jesus says, "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Jesus says this in response to a woman who heard his teaching on demons and raised her voice to him. Jesus' response to the woman was, "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

What did the woman say to Him? "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” The woman praises Mary! Before Jesus was born the angel told Mary that she had found favor with God. Then Elizabeth greeted Mary saying, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" Mary's response to this news and her given place is, "My soul magnifies the Lord . . . For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed."

Mary is called the Blessed Virgin because she was blessed of God before, during and after the birth of Jesus. The woman praises Mary for she knows her Son. Jesus does not deny or rebuke the woman for her confession. He does not remind the woman that He is the One who cast out the demon and who taught about the demons. He does not say, "Look at Me, I am the blessed One." He does not have to for the woman already knows who He is. This is why she praises Mary. She praises Mary for being the Mother of God. He is God's Son, His blessing to people.

When He responds, Jesus echoes the words of the woman and adds, "More than that . . ." The Virgin Mary is blessed, she is the Mother of God. So too all those are blessed "who hear the word of God and keep it!”, baptized children of God in Christ who heed and follow His words.

When the angel announced the birth of Christ to Mary she said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, she said to her, "Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

When Jesus cast out the demon, the mute spoke. The woman, hearing Jesus' words says,"Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” Blessed is she, the Mother of God, who bore the Word who blessed her with His incarnate birth and who blesses us with His words of life, heard and kept, and His Body and Blood, given and shed.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

New gospels

In recent years, I have been hearing a plethora of new gospels. This may reveal how I have been out of touch in prior years or it may reveal changes taking place. These trends in theological emphasis come and go. I will try to comment on them from time to time when they come to mind.

For example, we know the failure of "positive thinking" on theology for its denial of sin. This is just simply a denial of life how it is. On the other hand one new gospel I am hearing sounds like the victory of sin and the helpless Christ. This may be an over-reaction to the positive thinking trend, a parallel thought stream within the Church to the New Atheism, or it may be a new gospel.

Simply put, it puts salvation by Christ solely in the next life as a distant promise. The cross and the sacraments are of no real effect in this life. We are under the power of sin and we should just get used to it. One can only imagine how much of Scripture has to be re-interpreted or re-defined or left out so that sin can have its say. And then we have a helpless God. Is He just a mere architect watching from a distance? Christ is powerless to help us in this life, though He may be of help in the next.

This particular new gospel came to mind as I read the Apostle's words to the Thessalonians,"For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness." The Apostle knows he is talking to sinners and he still says this. He is not waiting for a perfect holiness that will come only in the next life. He seems to have confidence that when God calls us to something He can will and work that in us. Holiness is not a denial of sin, it is a divine call toward God in Christ. This means that Christ can and does gives us what we will need to hear and follow the call to holiness, not only in the life to come. We received this call in Holy Baptism and now we are called to the same in the blessed Eucharist. Baptism does not only remind us of our sinfulness and the Eucharist is not only a foretaste of the feast to come.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Changing the Name

"de ecclesia et liturgia" ("on church and liturgy") has been the name of this blog for many years. The church fathers would write on various topics of theology, philosophy, etc. They would title their reflections or thoughts "de ...", or, "on/of ..." I followed that example in naming this blog years ago.

Part of the reason for coming up with the original name came from years of discussing the liturgy online. Originally, and a bit naïvely, hoping for simple discussion that would encourage the learning of and continuation of the liturgy in a church body that was abandoning in practice what I now find in reality is a logical conclusion to things abandoned 500 years ago. The idea was as the Scripture encourages, to pass on the faith to future generations. This is done best in the church's life together in the liturgy through the hearing of the Word and the reception of the blessed Eucharist. The faith is intertwined with the things of God.

As a pastor the liturgy woke me up to the faith. I had been well-versed in my faith. This comes naturally ("my") in today's Christian experience. Saying the Creed in front of people on a regular basis forced me to think more deeply on the content of the faith. Following a discipline, a ritual, as we have in the liturgy helped me to think outside of myself. This is a scary thing, especially when faith has been so internalized that one becomes unable to distinguish between the faith and one's own feelings. Faith in this thinking is seen as one's own. This, is the plight of modern Christianity, an individualized retreat from the faith. It does not happen suddenly but gradually. First the church's worship needs to become more inviting and more entertaining. Then there is no longer a distinction between the church's worship and the entertainment that is desired and received the other six days of the week. This is what I like to call, the "secular church." One loses out more and more of the substance of the faith while individually feeling better about one's own faith, even finding the faith to have value as entertainment.

Today it is no longer the culture, but the Church which has become so close to the culture, that is going on in so many directions. Discussing the liturgy only goes so far. One really cannot explain mystery and reverence and silence and hearing and prayer when the faith becomes dis-associated from the Church and her liturgy and becomes associated with the latest musical and technological trends. Yet, not to despair. The very flight from the traditional liturgy by some has made the liturgy even more distinct and relevant today, the very reason for its existence in the first place. If it is now new and different, this is a tragedy. Yet, on the other hand, it is finally able to speak clearly again.

These thoughts come by way of explanation for a change in name for this blog. A blog is made up of one's own impressions, reflections and thoughts. This reason alone is enough to change the name. I cannot speak for the whole Church on such matters as the Church and the liturgy. These are weighty topics. Yet in my own religious tradition, liturgy and its parts are relativized and dismissed with a simple rationalization of "adiaphora." Passing on the faith and de-constructionism are constantly at heads. A "tradition of reaction" develops which loses sight of the faith that the liturgy is meant to uphold for fear that the liturgy is somehow only Law. While I may have become more distant from the discussion of these matters I still believe that the faith and the liturgy and the Church are inter-connected, that discussing the liturgy in terms of the faith ought not be seen as an affront to either those who specialize in studies of Scripture or those who study dogmatics, church history, theology or any other field. The liturgy is not the only means of passing on the faith but neither is learning the faith separated from the life of the Church. The Creed is very profound but it really focuses on only two major tenets of the Church's faith, the nature of God and that of His Son. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

I no longer find it necessary to weigh on topics that are of greater value when I can use a blog to reflect on a variety of topics. This does not mean I may not address matters of church and liturgy from time to time. It is now more a matter of freeing the blog to expand on a variety of topics, mostly related to theology, philosophy, history, religion and Church.

Also, there will not be confusion with the new name, "May's Blog," that you are simply getting my reflections, impressions, and thoughts, whether they sound esoteric or simple.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The following is excerpted from a Catholic blog and is a succinct and helpful review of the new book Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week:

"'One thing is clear to me: in two hundred years of exegetical work, historical-critical exegesis has already yielded its essential fruit.' (Emphasis added)

"I had to read that sentence two and three times before I accepted that the Pope really wrote that. In this statement the Pope is challenging the very foundations of the biblical scholarship world. For two hundred years, there has been a race by academics to come up with the “latest” theory about Jesus, resulting in a plethora of contradictory and often ludicrous ideas about “who Jesus really was.” Yet behind this race is not a desire to really know the identity of Jesus, but to create the latest sensation in the academic world, which leads to book contracts and better jobs. If you write that Jesus is who the Church claims him to be, then your academic career will become sidetracked. But if you write (with scholarly authority) that he was a transvestite Muslim, then you are surely on your way to academic fame.

"The Pope undercuts all of this. He sees the Historical-Critical Method as a tool with limited applications – and those applications have now yielded their “essential fruit.” In other words, the focus of studies of Jesus should no longer be driven by the Historical-Critical Method, but instead should be driven by a desire to know the Jesus confessed and proclaimed by the Church: the eternal Son of God who saves us from our sins.

"And this is the Jesus presented to us in Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week. He is not a figment of some scholar’s imagination, but instead the God-man who millions throughout history have lived and died for. The pope is urging us to encounter this God-man in our own lives today."

HT: The Divine Life

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Can Tradition be good?

". . . in fastings often . . ." (Epistle for Sexagesima) In his second letter to the Church at Corinth the Apostle glories in his infirmities that God's grace and power in Christ may be his. One of his regular disciplines was that of fasting. Here the body is weakened to give more emphasis on the life of the soul. With Ash Wednesday drawing close we are reminded of the traditional disciplines of Lent of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

I am not good at fasting. I do not say this to prove my sinfulness nor to solicit a program that will help me become successful in fasting. Fasting, like prayer, almsgiving and any other disciplines encouraged in Scripture are good things. They are traditional practices, of a Tradition, and again, this is a good thing, for they lead us away from trusting in ourselves toward trusting in God. During Lent we prepare for the Lord's Resurrection. We strive to live more as we are called to live in Holy Baptism.

That I am not good at fasting does not mean that fasting is not a good discipline or that it is a breach of Christian freedom to even consider the practice. Should we sin more that grace may abound? Are we saved only when we are "chief of sinners"? Christian "freedom" today is often understood and lived out without Christ. Good is called bad and bad is called good. Indeed, that is how life is without Christ. Goodness and badness no longer are defined by divine revelation but by our imaginations and strivings without Christ. These can easily become the real "traditions of men" that Scripture warns us about, living how we want to live, on our own terms.

Jesus not only saves us on the cross, he leads us to the cross. This is so his goodness can have his way with us. If God can bring purification to flesh in the Incarnation of His Son can He not also purify the soul through the shedding of His blood? Lent reminds us to stop what we are doing without Christ and return to where He is there for us and our forgiveness. When we are in Christ and His forgiveness He leads us to all that is good. The good that we do in Christ is not us but Christ's doing. In Christ, disciplines, works, and Tradition are Good.

When Christian freedom becomes all about freedom then it is no longer good, because it becomes all about us and what we desire to do. Rather than follow our own paths let us return to the repentance of Lent and the life of being crucified with Christ, and living in the flesh by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Lent is a good thing.

"O God, who seest that we put not our trust in any thing that we do . . ." (Collect for Sexagesima)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Waiting patiently for the kingdom

The Gospel for Septuagesima, Matthew 20:1-16, is the parable of the landowner and the laborers in the vineyard. The laborers who came later in the day received the same pay as those who were there first. Some worked only an hour while others bore the burden and heat of the day. Yet all received a denarius.

What are we to make of Jesus' words here, especially in a highly charged social and political climate? There are many obvious parallels that could be drawn with this week's Gospel reading and the status of the state. Unfortunately, Jesus' teaching and illustrations are often made fodder for all kinds of social and political views. People quickly confuse the identity of the man revealed as the Son of God at His baptism by John. He becomes the leader of the day of whatever winds that blow socially and politically. Undoubtedly, this very Gospel reading is being used somewhere to propose a model for a kingdom of this world.

This is a parable for Jesus' disciples. Crucial to this parable and the teaching are the landowner, the laborers and the denarius. Jesus tells His disciples that they are all receiving the same salvation, those who followed Jesus first and those who followed Him later. They are all of the vineyard, the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church with Jesus as the head. He works out their salvation on the cross and mercifully distributes this same salvation in the preaching of the blessed Gospel, the blessed waters of baptism and the blessed Body and Blood of the Eucharist at the altar.

This is not about the work we have accomplished. It is about the Lord's mercy. "Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man that same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?" Is He evil because He freely and equally gives His salvation to us when we would rather focus on and boast of our own works. This is rather about receiving the same denarius, the mercy and salvation of the Lord, at the end of the day. This is a parable of "the kingdom of heaven," a matter of teaching that is beyond time, yet in time in Christ. He is good, so we wait patiently. If there is One who is last who will be first it is Him and all who believe and follow Him.

"Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord . . .
If Thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities: Lord, who shall stand it?
For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness,
and by reason of Thy law, I have waited for Thee, O Lord."

"De profundis clamávi ad te, Dómine . . . sustinui te, Dómine.
(Tract)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

St. Polycarp

Here is a good summary of the life of St. Polycarp from across the pond.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The need for "C" and "E" Christians

We need to be “C” and “E” Christians. Not what we commonly understand as being those who attend church only at Christmas and Easter. Rather we need to see and uphold the “C”reed and the “E”ucharist as essential to the faith and the liturgy. The Creed is the summary of the faith we have by divine revelation, that God is One, the Holy Trinity, and Jesus is incarnate. He has come in the flesh for our salvation. The Eucharist is the fulfillment of God’s gift of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice and death, Christ’s Body and Blood given and shed for us. The Creed sums up what we are given in God’s Word and the Eucharist sums up the divine life we are given here, the Bride’s foretaste of the feast to come. The faith is an everyday thing and this is our prayer in the liturgy. The Church in this world needs more “C” and “E” Christians.


HT: BOC, first posted here

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

". . . except they really happened."

Bultmann's New Clothes is a post that reminds us how Scriptural studies took a big hit in the twentieth century. This is history we need to remember. Life is greater than nature.

HT: New Advent

Friday, January 28, 2011

Faith and Reason

One of the great theologians in Christian history is Thomas Aquinas. On the traditional calendar his feast is March 7 although the recent calendar recognizes him today. The following is a brief video introduction to Aquinas by the pope tv report from Rome.

Probably, one of Aquinas' greatest contributions or legacies he left to Christianity is his understanding and discussion of the relationship between faith and reason.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

...our enjoyment of Him in the Gift



Today's commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord is all the more significant considering that there is a trend in some countries in Europe for people to "de-baptize" themselves. When I mentioned this to a believer recently she gave the response, "Let's all return to our sin. Let's cover ourselves up with the grime of sin." Her response to this idea of de-baptism is somewhat sarcastic but it also points out the truth why Jesus gives us this Gift to begin with. To run away from baptism is to run toward sin. Baptism brings us forgiveness. In Baptism we are clothed with Christ and His righteousness, we are buried with Him in His death and raised with Him in His Resurrection and newness of life. We are given the Holy Ghost. There is so much more to the Sacrament of Holy Baptism that we receive from the merciful hand of God but receiving Christ's righteousness and forgiveness is clearly in the opposite direction when contrasted with any desire to embrace sin and whatever all that means.

On the traditional western calendar tomorrow is the feast of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. Below is an excerpt from his writing, De Trinitate (Book I, 1):

"Believers have always found their satisfaction in that Divine utterance, which our ears heard recited from the Gospel at the moment when that Power, which is its attestation, was bestowed upon us:— Go now and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I command you; and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Matthew 28:19-20 What element in the mystery of man's salvation is not included in those words? What is forgotten, what left in darkness? All is full, as from the Divine fullness; perfect, as from the Divine perfection. The passage contains the exact words to be used, the essential acts, the sequence of processes, an insight into the Divine nature. He bade them baptize in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, that is with confession of the Creator and of the Only-begotten, and of the Gift. For God the Father is One, from Whom are all things; and our Lord Jesus Christ the Only-begotten, through Whom are all things, is One; and the Spirit, God's Gift to us, Who pervades all things, is also One. Thus all are ranged according to powers possessed and benefits conferred—the One Power from Whom all, the One Offspring through Whom all, the One Gift Who gives us perfect hope. Nothing can be found lacking in that supreme Union which embraces, in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, infinity in the Eternal, His Likeness in His express Image, our enjoyment of Him in the Gift."

HT: New Advent

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Theology and the Antichrist

For many years theology has been a favorite area of study. An outsider may be surprised but there are actually many distractions and obstacles within Christianity pushing away from the pursuit of the study of theology. A big obstacle in Lutheran theology that I have run across, discouraging the discussion of any theological issue, is the focus on the papacy and the Antichrist. This too is a big topic. If any theological topic becomes associated with the papacy and/or Antichrist then the focus quickly shifts from the actual topic in discussion to that of the papacy and the Antichrist. Thus, many theological topics are lost in Lutheranism even if they come from Scripture and are also taught by the Catholic Church. For me it has almost reached the point that when I hear charges of "papist" and "Antichrist" I immediately equate that to mean "let us Not discuss theology".

I limit what theology I discuss online so I may have the freedom to continue learning offline. Since we are on the topic, here is a theological discussion from St. Hilary of Poitiers on the antichrist against the teaching of the Arians that Jesus was created, a creature:

"To believe, therefore, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is true salvation, is the acceptable service of an unfeigned faith. For we have no love within us towards God the Father except through faith in the Son. Let us hear Him speaking to us in the words of the Epistle; --Every one that loveth the Father loveth Him that is born from Him. [1 Jn. 4:1] What, I ask, is the meaning of being born from Him? Can it mean, perchance, being created by Him? Does the Evangelist lie in saying that He was born from God, while the heretic more correctly teaches that He was created? Let us all listen to the true character of this teacher of heresy. It is written, He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. [1 Jn. 2:22] . . . He that denies the Son is destitute of the Father; he that confesses and has the Son has the Father also . . . His object [that is, the object of the Antichrist] is to pluck from our hearts the confident assurance of the Divine nature of the Son; next, he would fill our minds with the notion of Christ's adoption . . ."

- De Trinitate, Book VI, NPNF, Vol. 9, pp. 113, 115

Monday, January 10, 2011

another book

The following beginning to a review of a new book about Adrian Fortescue is written by Dr. Alcuin Reid:

"Adrian Fortescue is of much wider interest and importance than his liturgical works alone. He himself would say that he was first and foremost a theologian and an historian, and as such he knew that the sacred liturgy was far more important than simply rubrics and ceremonial . . ."

The above paragraph could stand alone as a quote of the day. Fortescue's book The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy is an interesting read to me because it is liturgy, theology and history in one.

For more from the book review read here.

HT: NLM

Saturday, January 08, 2011

manifested in the flesh



. . . ἵνα εἰδῇς πῶς δεῖ ἐν οἴκῳ θεοῦ ἀναστρέφεσθαι, ἥτις ἐστὶν ἐκκλησία θεοῦ ζῶντος, στῦλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς ἀληθείας. καὶ ὁμολογουμένως μέγα ἐστὶν τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον: ὃς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί, ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι, ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις, ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν, ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ, ἀνελήμφθη ἐν δόξῃ.

. . . ut scias quomodo oporteat te in domo Dei conversari, quæ est ecclesia Dei vivi, columna et firmamentum veritatis. Et manifeste magnum est pietatis sacramentum, quod manifestatum est in carne, justificatum est in spiritu, apparuit angelis, prædicatum est gentibus, creditum est in mundo, assumptum est in gloria.

. . . that you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And evidently great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared unto angels, has been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up in glory.

- 1 Timothy 3:15, 16

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Give us this day . . .

For a period of over a year we had daily mass at a Lutheran parish so I appreciate this column and discussion by Catholics on the topic. Although this practice is not well known in modern Lutheranism it was certainly practiced in Lutheran history. If anything, maybe this linked discussion of the importance of the daily mass might encourage us at least to consider and value more the mass even once a week?

Monday, January 03, 2011

Yesterday and a New Year

Anno Domini 2011

The New Year is the most noticeable change in time on the secular calendar. This year I did what I normally do not do anymore on New Year's Eve - I stayed up past midnight. The strange thing is I did not stay up to watch the ball drop at Times Square nor was I at a party with friends. This year I went downtown to pick up my daughter who was ice skating with friends. Staying up for my daughter on a night like that is a real reminder of the change in time. Instead of driving downtown to attend some outing of my own now it was simply a routine trip to pick up my daughter who was having an outing of her own with friends. This, surprisingly, was not as bothersome as I expected and yes, she had fun.

Earlier I did attend a church service on New Year's Eve with the family and briefly attended a gathering of families so the evening was not without my own events to attend, although I am quite fine with a quiet New Year's Eve at home.

A most noticeable change on the church calendar is the return of the "Glory to God in the highest" of the Christ-mass following the Kyrie in the liturgy. Christmas Eve is about the only evening left in the entire year where I gladly stay up past midnight. This, of course, is for good reason.

The family enjoyed a brief trip to St. Louis after the mass of Christmas Day. After a few days of rest we returned to Milwaukee just in time for 2011. St. Stephen, St. John, The Holy Innocents. The church year is full of great reminders of God's grace in Christ and in the lives of His people. We are not always aware of the rich Scripture readings and the taste of heaven that we pass by with the passage of time. It is a busy and festive time also in a secular sense.

While I was walking around the rink to find my daughter I was asked by a member of a Muslim family to take their picture by the outdoor Christmas tree. Although I am not much of a picture taker I gladly obliged and the pictures turned out just fine. Finally, sometime after the clock passed midnight I found my daughter and her friends and we headed home.

One dictionary defines "secular" as "denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis." I looked up both "secularism" and "fundamentalism" in the dictionary as I contemplated some of the issues that affect the lives of people and cause them to lose sight of calendars not their own. For Christians the new year has already come and gone with the First Sunday of Advent.

In the fulness of time the Lord came, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. God with us. For the Christian this is the blessed Incarnation, prior to the Cross the greatest change in time. The other great event on the church calendar is the Resurrection. The secular calendar helps us order our lives. The church calendar is about meetings of time and eternity. The Word made flesh.

In our time we witness the rage of fundamentalism on Christians overseas. Meanwhile secularism quietly steals away time at home, leading us not only to downplay the more minor feasts on the church calendar but even those of greatest import in God's plan of salvation. Both fundamentalism and secularism are extreme reaches of man's deeper problem of sin. Sin is connected to death and light is connected to life.

Each day brings its cycle of light and darkness to light again. Each life is full of the things of time - work, play, relaxation, entertainment. There is a time and a season for everything under the sun. Already we are filling up the dates on the calendar for 2011.

Outside of the secular, or non-spiritual or non-religious, time and yet together with the same time is sacred or "holy" time. A Christian once told me it is called "baptism" not "Holy Baptism." The church may be in the world but the secular is also in the church. We may be struck by the extremes of fundamentalism in the world and secularism in the church but one great loss in the church is that of sacred or holy time. Baptism is holy because it is "God with us." The Eucharist is holy because it is "God with us" in His Body and Blood. Absolution is holy because it is "God with us."

As sinners we are tempted to compare ourselves with others. This is the error of sin. How many are not comfortable in church simply because of such unnecessary comparisons? The church calendar is not a measurement of holiness but an opportunity to see "God with us" sinners all. He who gave up His only begotten Son is for us. Who can be against us? We do well to follow Mary in the fulness of His grace. Mary says, "Let it be done to me, according to your Word." Mary's firstborn Son is born.

As Christmas approaches the Epiphany it crosses over the noticeable change in time of the new year. After eight days Mary's Son is circumcised. Following the New Year of secular time the church rehearses the naming of Jesus. "He shall save His people from their sins."

Yesterday, in the liturgy on the first Sunday after New Year's Day I could not help but appreciate in the new year of secular time the first procession of the cross toward the altar and the blessedness and salvation associated with the most holy name of Jesus. What better way to begin a new year? What greater name to bear each day as baptized believers do in the church and in this world? What greater meaning has been given to time in our day? Knowing and understanding time as we do, what better way to come to know that which is eternal than through Him Who comes to us?

In nomine Jesu omne genu flectatur, coelestium, terrestrium, et infernorum . . .