Saturday, December 31, 2005

Resolved: To Forgive

With the New Year upon us and thoughts turning to resolutions, here is one we might consider adopting that makes giving up cigarettes sound easy but which is ultimately more beneficial to our health.

1. The holy virtues are like Jacob's ladder, and the unholy vices are like the chains that fell from the chief Apostle Peter. For the virtues, leading from one to another, bear him who chooses them up to Heaven; but the vices by their nature beget and stifle one another. And as we have just heard senseless anger calling remembrance of wrongs its own offspring, it is appropriate that we should now say something about this.

2. Remembrance of wrong is the consummation of anger, the keeper of sins, hatred of righteousness, ruin of virtues, poison of the soul, worm of the mind, shame of prayer, cessation of supplication, estrangement of love, a nail stuck in the soul, pleasureless feeling cherished in the sweetness of bitterness, continuous sin, unsleeping transgression, hourly malice.

3. This dark and hateful passion, I mean remembrance of wrongs, is one of those that are produced but have no offspring. That is why we do not intend to say much about it.

4. He who has put a stop to anger has also destroyed remembrance of wrongs; because childbirth continues only while the father is alive.

5. He who has obtained love has banished revenge; but he who nurses enmities stores up for himself untimely labours.

6. A banquet of love dispels hatred, and sincere gifts soothe a soul. But a heedless banquet is the mother of familiarity; and through the window of love gluttony leaps in.

7. I have seen hatred break the bond of long-standing fornication, and afterwards remembrance of wrongs, in an amazing way, did not allow the severed union to be renewed. Wonderful sight - a demon curing a demon! But perhaps this is the work not of demons but of Divine providence.

8. Remembrance of wrongs is far removed from strong natural love, but fornication easily comes near it, just as a hidden louse can sometimes be seen in a dove.

9. Have remembrance of wrongs and spitefulness against the demons, and be at constant enmity with your body. The flesh is an ungrateful and treacherous friend. The more you care for it, the more it injures you.

10. Remembrance of wrongs is an interpreter of Scripture which explains the words of the Spirit allegorically in order to suit its own disposition. Let it be put to shame by the Prayer of Jesus [Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me] which cannot be said with it.

11. When, after much struggling, you are still unable to extract this thorn, you should apologize to your enemy, even if only in word. Then perhaps you may be ashamed of your long-standing insincerity towards him, and, as your conscience stings you like fire, you may feel perfect love towards him.

12. You will not know that you have completely freed yourself of this rot, not when you pray for the person who has offended you, nor when you exchange presents with him, nor when you invite him to your table, but only when, on hearing that he has fallen into spiritual or bodily misfortune, you suffer and weep for him as for yourself.

13. An anchorite who remembers wrongs is an adder hidden in a hole, which carries about within itself deadly poison.

14. The remembrance of Jesus' sufferings cures remembrance of wrongs, which is mightily shamed by His forbearance.

15. Worms grow in a rotten tree, and malice finds a place in falsely meek and silent people. He who has cast it out has found forgiveness, but he who clings to it is deprived of mercies.

16. Some, for the sake of forgiveness, give themselves up to labours and struggles, but a man who is forgetful of wrongs excels them. If you forgive quickly, then you will be generously forgiven.

17. The forgetting of wrongs is a sign of true repentance. But he who dwells on them and thinks that he is repenting is like a man who thinks he is running while he is really asleep.

18. I have seen spiteful people recommend forgetfulness of wrongs to others. Yes, and being put to shame by their own words, they rid themselves of the passion.

19. Let no one regard dark spite as a harmless passion, for it often manages to reach out even to spiritual men.

The ninth step. Let him who has reached it henceforth boldly ask the Lord Jesus for release from his sins.

St John Climacus from The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 9

Sursum Corda

On Friday, Pope Benedict XVI received participants of the 33rd international congress of Pueri Cantores, a group founded in 1965 to promote the performance of liturgical music by school children. We would all do well to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the following excerpts of his remarks to the group.

"It is particularly appropriate at Christmas to sing the praises of the Lord and to express our happiness, following the example of the Virgin Mary, who was the first to give thanks to the Lord for the mystery of the Incarnation, in the Magnificat, which the Church repeats from generation to generation.

"The Second Vatican Council also recalled how much the Church values the role of those who, in their song, contribute to the the beauty of the liturgy." Because "Christ is present when the Church prays and sings, joining us with the Church in Heaven.

The Pope underlined the important mission of the Pueri Cantores in "helping the people of God pray with dignity,"because sacred music is a "ministerial function of the Divine Service." When the "Church prays, sings or acts, the faith of the participants is nourished and their souls are lifted up to God to pay him spiritual homage and receive his grace more abundantly."

Vatican Information Service

On the TAC and Rome

Will published this at Prydain, and I thank him for making it available. (My apologies to the authors if I got the paragraph breaks wrong; I am still learning the technology).

If you've been following the ongoing stories about the Traditional Anglican Communion and its seeking some form of union or intercommunion with Rome, you may find these interesting as (according to an email I received) they are from a Canadian bishop in the TAC, Bishop Peter Wilkinson, and from Archbishop John Hepworth, the Primate of the TAC.

Here is the statement by Bishop Wilkinson:

From the desk (and computer) of Bishop Peter Wilkinson, OSG

Dear Brethren: Over the course of this year many of you have asked for information on the progress of our talks with Rome. I have told you what I know. So, as a further help to all of us, I have asked the Primate for a letter that would bring us up to date. It follows my introductory comments.


After about 450 years of attempts of varying seriousness, Anglicans and Roman Catholics really began talking to one another after the joint decision by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey, expressed in a Common Declaration during their meeting in Rome in March 1966 --39 years ago.

Within a year the Commission they established had produced a report that proclaimed "penitence for the past, thankfulness for the graces of the present, urgency and resolve for a future in which our common aim would be the restoration of full organic unity."

In April 1977 Archbishop Ramsey's successor in the See of Canterbury, Donald Coggan, and Pope Paul VI, made a further Common Declaration declaring their desire for "the restoration of complete communion in faith and sacramental life." In the same year, The Affirmation of St Louis, so deeply embedded in our ACCC Constitution and the Concordat, also declared "our intention to seek and achieve full sacramental communion and visible unity with other Christians who 'worship the Trinity in Unity, and Unity in Trinity,' and who hold the Catholic and Apostolic Faith in accordance with the foregoing principles."

This should not be news to anyone in the ACCC. Since those days a lot of water has flowed down the Thames and the Tiber, and a big log jam -- the purported ordination of women to the priesthood. Rome reacted immediately with both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II stating in letters to the Archbishop(s) of the day that this act would create a stumbling block to unity. Anglican Synods paid no heed either to the pleas of their own constituency, to Roman Catholics, or to the Orthodox Churches of the East some of whose Synods had declared Anglican Orders valid (Constantinople, Jerusalem and Cyprus).

The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission [ARCIC] talks continued and some good progress was made to which Rome did not react.

With the advent of the real possibility of the purported consecration of woman to the Episcopate in England, a Roman Catholic Bishops' response to the Rochester Report (which recommends the Church of England proceed to consecrate women) has stated that, "if the Church of England consecrates women bishops its relations with Roman Catholicism could suffer 'irreparable damage' and warns that women bishops would 'radically' impair relations between the two Churches.

They also said that the reform was at odds with the ecumenical steps taken between the two Churches. The source of this statement goes on to comment that "the long-hoped for reunion between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism remains the pipe dream of a few ecumenical specialists."

Sad to say, in the Canterbury Communion the situation is still deteriorating. A report says that Archbishop Ellison Pogo told over 100 delegates to the 11th General Synod of the Church of Melanesia, that the Anglican Church in the Central Pacific should permit the ordination of women to the priesthood. Archbishop Pogo urged the recusants [Anglo-Catholics] to rethink their stance.

Another report has it that "the Anglican Churches of the Global South are as divided over the issue of women's orders as is the Church of England. Evangelical provinces such as Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda ordain women -- while Nigeria and Southeast Asia do not. Anglo-Catholic Provinces are equally divided with Central Africa opposed and the West Indies in favour of ordaining women.

"The leader of the Ugandan Church, Archbishop Henry Orombi argued that women priests were not a universal panacea for the church's ills and would not work in some places he cautioned, but he believed this was not an issue that should divide the Church."

Dissident groups that have left the ACC [note - ed: Anglican Church of Canada] and PECUSA and are bound up with these Provinces and Dioceses, already have some women in major orders. In light of such a massive defection from Anglican (and therefore Catholic) faith and practice [see the Preface to the Ordinal and the Solemn Declaration in our BCP, which declare that we have no Ministry of our own but only that of Christ's Holy Catholic Church], who is there for Rome to talk to -- only the TAC, and those few remaining faithful dioceses and provinces of the Canterbury Communion?

It is a dialogue Anglicans began in good faith 39 years ago, and it is a dialogue that we are bound to continue, "that", as our Lord Jesus Christ said, "they may be one, even as We are one, I in them and Thou in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me and hast loved them even as Thou hast loved Me [St John 17:22b, 23]; who livest and reignest with the same Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.

+Peter Wilkinson, OSG

And here is the statement from Archbishop Hepworth, which is most interesting:

The Primate Responds to Reports and Speculation about the TAC and Rome.

It is twelve years since Archbishop Falk led a little group to Rome to explore the possibility of a closer communion with the Holy See, in continuation of the ARCIC agreement between Archbishop Ramsey and Pope Paul VI. Since then, every meeting of the College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion (and we have managed to meet every two years) has endorsed the principle of the TAC seeking to be "an Anglican Church in communion with the Holy See".

Different parts of the TAC have different ways of reporting the doings of the College of Bishops, and there are still some differences in the way that the TAC Concordat (the ruling document that creates the "communion" between TAC bishops) is embedded in the Constitutional arrangements of our member churches, so some seem to know more about what happens in the TAC than others. Some churches have managed frequent visits by the Primate to brief synods and meetings of clergy and laity, others have managed rather less.

So the awareness of what is happening with the "Roman question" varies around the TAC. At this time, almost every National Synod has passed some form of resolution accepting the concept of "an Anglican Church in communion with the Holy See", at least in principle. Some have passed very detailed and enthusiastic resolutions, and embarked on detailed activities with local Roman Catholic communities.

Why are we doing this? Our communion with the Anglican Communion in most parts of the world was shattered by the ordination of women to Holy Orders. In this ultimate of schismatic acts, the Anglican Communion betrayed its claim to share a common Apostolic Ministry with the churches of East and West, which had undergirded its claims to be authentically catholic since the Reformation.

In the same step, the great doctrines of Creation, Incarnation and Redemption are denied. The sacramental life of the Church, by which Jesus brings the saving grace of redemption to each of us, becomes an object of suspicion and uncertainty. Placing a woman priest in a diocese is always "communion breaking", since it makes the very act of communion impossible.

At the same time, the ordination of women fractured one of the most solemn agreements ever made by an Archbishop of Canterbury. Michael Ramsey, when he signed the agreement to create "full and organic communion" with the Holy See, acted upon the urging of the Lambeth Fathers since the "Bell Resolutions" of the Lambeth Conference just before the Second World War, and the enthusiasm of the earliest Conferences for discovering a basis of unity with Rome. And the Pope, in agreeing to this unity that he described as "united but not absorbed", determined to end five centuries of often bitter division.

The Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission was created to achieve this unity. It was clearly understood that, if Anglicans ordained women to Holy Order, the unity would become almost impossible. So each Anglican Province that voted for women priests, voted to end the possibility of unity. The TAC has simply determined to continue the process, since the impediment does not exist within our Communion.

And there is another reason. Having had our communion with the Anglican Communion shattered, we cannot remain "a church on the loose". To hold the catholic faith requires that faith be exercised in communion. Bishops cannot exist cut off from the mainstream of the church's life. Unity is not an option. Jesus commanded it.

Will we be absorbed by Rome? Roman Catholics (including a significant number of former Anglican clergy and laity) have urged us to value our Anglican heritage. One author has written movingly that the TAC seeks "to achieve communion (with the Holy See) while maintaining those revered traditions of spirituality, liturgy, discipline and theology that constitute the centuries old heritage of Anglican communities throughout the world".

We seek to be "Anglican Catholics". That is, to value our Anglicanism while being visibly united to the "whole church catholic" of which our formularies have always spoken.

What stage have we reached? There have been no secrets up until now, and there will be none in the future. The TAC is following a traditional Anglican method of wide consultation, synodical decision-making and deep involvement of clergy and laity.

At Easter this year, I published for the whole TAC a Pastoral Letter on Unity, which set out for publication the point we had reached and pathways for the future. As with all important documents of the TAC, the Messenger carried the full text. I am presuming, perhaps rashly in the case of some countries, that the Messenger goes into every TAC home in the world. Certainly, we print enough for that!

At the moment, there are two documents in the final stages of preparation. The first is a "Pastoral Plan", prepared by an eminent Roman Catholic layman, which performs the joint functions of "verifying the TAC as a worthy interlocutor with the Roman Catholic Church" and of setting out the "desired levels of recognition of the TAC by Rome both before and after full communion".

This document will be delivered to every bishop early in the new year, and will be debated by a full meeting of the College of Bishops, in the presence of clerical and lay representatives of each member church, hopefully in Rome in the first half of next year. The document will then go to the synods of the member churches (even if they must have an extraordinary meeting).

If the document wins the approval of the whole Communion, it will be formally presented to the Holy See, and a more formal process will be established. (At the moment, it would be fair to say that wide ranging, multi-level, international contacts between the TAC and Rome have been proceeding for some years, and have intensified in the past year, with a resultant increase in publicity. It is also true to say that a much greater awareness of the TAC still needs to be created.)

The second document is a formal proposal from the TAC to the Holy See for the TAC to become an "Anglican Rite Church "sui juris" in communion with the Holy See".

The first draft of this document was submitted to the Council for Christian Unity, and its response, with input from other Roman Catholic and Uniate Catholic sources, shaped the present document. It is not proposed to submit this document until the Pastoral Plan is approved by the TAC. The College as a whole has not yet approved the present draft.

A further letter is sometimes mentioned. On becoming Primate, I wrote personally to the Council for Christian Unity resuming the conversations that had been conducted by Archbishop Falk. I made the basic claim, sometimes wrongly reported, that "there are no doctrinal or moral matters of such significance that they would prevent unity between this Communion and the Holy See".

In all of these documents matters of historic difference are canvassed. But both our own bishops and those with whom we speak emphasise the fact that we seek to create a eucharistic community, in which we can join at the altar of God, and from which all else must flow. Questions of Orders, of Liturgy, of clergy discipline, of the way in which we would experience our relationship with the See of Peter, have all been the object of our, as yet, informal conversations. We have found deep rapport in our conversations, as well as much direct speaking, but nothing is, as yet, official. I close this summary with some words shared with me by a Cardinal who has followed this journey. "We must learn to practise the unity we already share from the action of the Holy Spirit. Only then can we ask for more. And the time will be God's time, if we are truly prepared to place this in God's hands."

+John Hepworth Primate

P.S. What Prayer Book will be used?

The Traditional Anglican Communion uses a number of national versions of the Book of Common Prayer, often incorporating the Usage of the English and Anglican Missals. These forms of Public Worship are authorised by the College of Bishops,and member churches do not act on liturgical forms without the authority of the College.

English is only the seventh most-used liturgical language in the TAC, so the various English Prayer Books are not the most significant issue in our Communion, albeit they have local importance.

There is no suggestion that we would adopt the Book of Divine Worship. I have personally indicated to the Holy See that we are deeply moved -- and reassured -- that Rome has authorised any Anglican Liturgy at all. A vital issue for us to discuss is whether we want to attempt a Prayer Book for the TAC at some stage in the future, and then translate it into each of our languages. Bishop Mercer has written with some authority on this proposal. Since it would take all of the annual budget of the TAC for a number of years, it is not on my immediate list of things to do."

Will says:

These statements are indeed most interesting, because for one thing, it appears that the TAC at least has a goal of not simply "intercommunion", but actually becoming a sui generis "Anglican Rite" in the Roman Catholic Church. There has apparently been much thought and prayer invested in this already--and much more is to come if I read this correctly. Note they are already thinking about the Prayer Book to be used it if this all comes about, and the foundation being laid for all of it in the "Pastoral Plan." Note that this also refers to a "Roman Catholic layman" being involved in the planning like other reports we have seen.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Rachel Wept

December 28, 2005, Holy Innocents. Today we remember all those boys who were killed by Herod after the birth of Jesus, in a vain attempt to preserve his own will in the face of the King of kings. My mind goes to those countless children who have been torn from their mothers' wombs because they too threaten the comfort and plans of willful human beings. God is not pleased. I weep, as . . .

Rachel wept, and wept, and wept, for her son, her son, her slain son, and comfort could not be found.

The king raged, and raged, and raged,for his power, power, earthly power, and murder was found in the land.

And ever the power of their own will, seems to give people the right to kill, and no child is safe in the land.

And empty the womb, empty the heart, where the infant in promise was living, but living could never draw breath

And ever before the shrine of "I will", or mightily driven by deep guilty fears, murder is found in the land

Rachel wept, and wept, and wept, for her child, her child, her slain child, and comfort could not be found.

Save in the arms of the One who knows the pain that flows from innocent death, and open-armed calls to the guilty

Ed Pacht

The Holy Innocents

The Holy Innocents, Anon., Germany, 1400s, British Library

As we commemorate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, let us recall that innocent babes are still being slaughtered today, to an extent that would probably have made even Herod blush. The following is courtesy of my dear friend Shari de Silva, at Clueless Christian. (Shari has very correctly provided citations to back up what she has said, but I have left them out to save space. Anyone who wants the full details may contact me).

Twelve Good Reasons to Choose (my) Life …

1. Because I’m your baby and you don’t want to hurt me.
By the time you even knew about me I had brainwaves and a beating heart. (Three weeks after conception a developing baby has a beating heart. Five weeks after conception, brain waves can be recorded).
It will hurt me a lot. (By 7 weeks after conception, a developing baby has a well developed nervous system, and is more sensitive to pain than an adult).

2. Because it could hurt my baby brothers and sisters.
Having had a previous abortion doubles the risk to future pregnancies.
These risks include
A. Placenta previa (with third trimester bleeding)
B. Infertility (inability to conceive) premature birth or still birth
C. Low birth weight
D. Death within the first three months.
E. Cerebral palsy (with paralysis)
F. Mental retardation or learning disabilities.
G. Seizures.

3. Because it could hurt my big brothers and sisters.
Children, aged one to four, whose mothers have an abortion were found to have lower emotional support at home.
Children, aged five to nine, whose mothers have an abortion were found to have more behavioral problems.

4. Because it could hurt my Dad and break up my family.
By ending Mom’s relationship with Dad. More than 50% of male-female relationships end within one year after the abortion of a child.
By making Dad feel guilty and helpless. Of 1,050 men interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, two-thirds of those who acknowledged having fathered an aborted child said they felt guilty about it, and one-third acknowledged feelings of regret, anger, pain, impotence and nightmares similar to those experienced by survivors of combat.
By making Dad a less good husband and father. Abortion encourages predatory sexual habits by releasing men from responsibility for their actions. After interviewing 1000 men whose partners were getting abortions, sociologist Arthur Shostak warned that men who are not helped to mourn over an abortion are learning how to be even less involved as nurturing parents in the future.

5. Because it could make your tummy hurt all your life, and make it impossible for you ever to be anybody’s Mom again.
Abortion leaves fragments of my bones in Mom’s uterus. These are almost impossible to see, even with a special microscope, and usually work into the uterus.
These fragments cause:
A. Infertility (inability to have children) Fertility and Sterility Journal, Apr. 03; Elliot Institute News Vol.2, No.5, 19May03
B. Pelvic infections and chronic pain from adhesions.
C. Future pregnancies outside the uterus ("ectopic") meaning my baby sibling will die and Mom might die too.
4. Bleeding during other pregnancies, with death or disease for my baby siblings.

6. Because it may make it more likely that you will get cancer.
Abortion, with delay of pregnancy, results in loss of protection from breast cancer. This loss of protection is greatest in teenagers who undergo abortion.
By contrast, carrying a child to term protects against ovarian cancer.

7. Because we might both die.
Four out of 100 (4%) moms have life-threatening complications during first trimester abortion.
Twenty two out of 100 (22%) moms have life threatening complications during second trimester abortion.

8. Because taking my life might make you so sad that you take your own.
Low income moms who have abortions are 2.6 times more likely to die of suicide than low income moms who have their babies.
This study examined 173,000 low income California women who had abortions or gave birth in 1989 Having an abortion gave California a higher suicide rate than women in general, while giving birth reduced women’s suicide risk.
Teenage moms who have an abortion are 10 times more likely to die of suicide than teenage moms who have their babies.

9. Because you’d probably live longer if you have me.
A mom’s risk of dying within a year after an abortion is 3.5 times higher than the risk of dying after childbirth.

10. Because you’d be a happier person if you have me.
Of moms who abort a first pregnancy 60% become severely depressed, with many having post abortion traumatic disorder (including nightmares and panic attacks).
Such mothers are 138 percent more likely to have clinical depression compared to women who carry an unintended first pregnancy to term. This terrible sadness continues for at least eight years after the abortion.

11. Because you’d be a nicer person if you have me.
Mothers (in particular teenagers)who have an abortion are much more likely to develop antisocial traits, paranoia, drug abuse, psychotic delusions, and nightmares. They are also more likely to abuse alcohol, drugs and to engage in even greater promiscuity, with resultant increase in HIV and other sexually transmitted illnesses. Such mothers are also more likely to have difficulty maintaining relationships and to have future abortions.

12. Because God is counting on you to have me.
(He said I could count on you too.)
 Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Holy Family

January 28, 2002. I’m doing my laundry at Signal Street Laundromat in Rochester. A young couple (so young) comes in to do theirs, with their one-month-old son. The three and the obvious bonds of love among them completely captivated me. Before I left I had to write and leave a copy with them.

And so ...

The boy so new, so promise filled,
tenderly held by adoring Mom,
cradled again in Dad’s strong arm,
and loved.

So young the two, so strong that love,
as three march on in a troubled world,
and destiny calls to a life ahead,
and one small son can change a world.

Was it like that, Lord, when You came,
when You were held in her soft arms,
when his protection shadowed You,
and the promise
lay before You?

Was it?
It was

Ed Pacht

St John the Evangelist

Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.

For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

Revelations 7. 15-17
 Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 26, 2005

A Christmas Sermon (4)

The Holy Family, Giulio Romano, ca. 1520-23, Getty Collection

Our Lord's ultimate purpose in being born as one of us was not that He might be like us, but rather that we might become like Him—a far greater miracle, and a far greater incentive to rejoice in our present lowliness than the Modernist heresy which tries to make God adore man!

"THERE ARE two principal lessons which we are taught on the great Festival which we this day celebrate, lowliness and joy. This surely is a day, of all others, in which is set before us the heavenly excellence and the acceptableness in God's sight of that state which most men have, or may have, allotted to them, humble or private life, and cheerfulness in it. If we consult the writings of historians, philosophers and poets of this world, we shall be led to think great men happy; we shall be led to fix our minds and hearts upon high or conspicuous stations, strange adventures, powerful talents to cope with them, memorable struggles, and great destinies. We shall consider that the highest course of life is the mere pursuit, not the enjoyment, of good.

But when we think of this day's Festival, and what we commemorate upon it, a new and very different scene opens upon us. First, we are reminded that though this life must ever be a life of toil and effort, yet that, properly speaking, we have not to seek our highest good. It is found; it is brought near us, in the descent of the Son of God from His Father's bosom to this world. It is stored up among us on earth. No longer need men of ardent minds weary themselves in the pursuit of what they fancy may be chief goods; no longer have they to wander about and encounter peril in quest of that unknown blessedness to which their hearts naturally aspire, as they did in heathen times. The text speaks to them and to all, "Unto you," it says, "is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."

John Henry Newman

Read it all here: Posted by Picasa

A Christmas Sermon (3)

The Holy Family, Goya, Prado

Come, let us adore Him

A Christmas Message From the Most Reverend John Hepworth
Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion
EVERY now and then, an article appears that speaks of the Holy Land as a "melting pot of religions". This is quite a silly claim. The Holy Land
remains just as it was when Jesus walked its length and breadth. Each religion remains starkly clear and true to itself. Each religion continues to contest its claims.

So it was with the ancient religions that surrounded the People of God in Israel. So it was with the imported religions of the Greeks and Romans. So it was when the Temple was destroyed and Jerusalem was ringed with crosses, and the cry of those who fled to Masada was "No surrender!"

So it is now. The great religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity remain at war in the lands of the Bible, as we who live elsewhere look on helplessly as historic hatreds flow over lands walked by the Son of God with His prophets and His angels. How used we have become to Bethlehem with guns and soldiers and barbed wire!

God came down at Christmas, and faithful shepherds heard the Christ child cry. Were they among the fist-shakers who passed by His Cross? Christmas, with its crib and its swaddling clothes, forces our minds from the baby to the purpose for which he came.
We must do two things this Advent and Christmas. In the first place, we must create in our inner lives, in our families, and in our communities of Grace, the peace "beyond all understanding" which is the gift to those who have knowledge of the Son of God. As the hostility of strange gods and false worship swirls around us again, we do not fight or bomb, but offer the vision of the New Testament: "See how they love one another!".
And in the second place, we must proclaim to those who still dwell in the shadows where God is seen dimly that there is a Light, illuminating the narrow pathway into the realms of God, and that Light is the Christ, the Son of God.
Those who live in the greatest darkness need His Light most of all. And we must be fearless in shining His Light in the darkest places. From the Baby of Bethlehem comes illumination in the things of God and the things of humankind. In a world that craves illumination, let us fearlessly sing to those who do not believe: "Come, let us adore Him!"

Ieva, Nic, Alex and Anna join me in wishing you a richly blessed Christmas.


Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Christmas Sermon ( 2)

Madonna and Child, Bernini, 1640s, Web Gallery of Art

......and he shall be called the prince of peace.

I speak to you in the name of the one Holy and undivided Trinity, Father +Son and Holy Spirit.

To many, Advent is no more than a period in which we do our Christmas,shopping, attend the many parties and celebrate the holiday which is all but,over by the time Christmas day itself has arrived.

For those who practise their Christian faith with some greater dedication to the spiritual preparation, Advent has been a valuable time to look at how we lead our lives and how the Nativity is the fulfilment of a promise made to us so long ago.

To some it might seem innocuous that late on during the Advent period the Holy Catholic Church celebrates what is called the Immaculate Conception, a feast which for some Anglicans and many Protestants feel has no place in the church's life let alone in Advent. In this we are reminded that the holy mother of God was born without stain of sin. At first glance it may appear that their is no Biblical authority for this. However, Christmas is about the fulfilment of a promise by God to his people that he would send his Son (or more accurately if we try to understand the nature of the Holy Trinity) come himself to guide mankind and show the wayto eternal salvation of our souls.

Did God wake up one morning and say, "I think I'll send my Son to Earth in about nine months time, let's find a suitable mother?" That seems both silly and rather unlike the ways of the Eternal God who transcends all time and exists in infinity.

If we look back into the prophecies and particularly those of Isaiah we find most clearly that God made this promises very early on and repeatedly where the concept of God with Us (Immanuel) was always present. The Messiah, the anointed king of all the world was so clearly given to us in God's promise, his covenant with mankind.

As Christians we acknowledge that God has always been and always will be -- the creator living in Infinity which has no beginning and no end, a picture painted again in the new Testament when describing God as the Alpha and Omega.

It may be easier however to see God in the pictorial sense of a circle which has neither start or finish. In this way we can accept that living in an infinite existence allows God to know the past and the future in a way no human person can. As a consequence of this God must know but not necessarily direct what will happen in all life. So when Mary the mother of Jesus was born her future would be known already to God and the nature of her birth would indeed be such that her conception would herald the very start of what we now celebrate as Christmas - the two seem to be inexorably connected.

Amongst all the decorations and Christmas commercialism there remains the single and most poignant truth, that God fulfilled his promise and sent to us through a human mother himself as a man. Jesus is the example of the peace-bringer and yet the world in so many places rejects what he taught us that by a Christian life we are led to peace.

In these troubled times may we constantly look on Jesus and his teaching and find the way to peace between individual and nations.

May God bless you and your dear ones this Holy Christmas.

Dom Jonathan Webster, Order of Port Royal Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Letter to a Christmas Christian

I know that most of you are (or definitely should be) regular readers of CaNN and may have read this. But for those of you who haven't seen it, I commend it to you. And I ask you: How many times in your life have you written a letter like this, or had such a conversation with someone?

Dear Greg,
It was good to see you in church Christmas Eve. This is getting to be a tradition with us, since I ran into you there last Christmas Eve too.

We've been friends for awhile now, so let me get right to the point, and I hope you won't think me too pushy. I wish you'd come back and join us in church sometime other than Christmas — say, next Sunday.

I think I know what your first reaction is; it's the same one I used to have some years ago. The moment you read my invitation, you began to feel cornered, and half a dozen different excuses sprang up in your mind. I work hard during the week and I need to rest over the weekend. I just can't find a church that "gets it right." I'm a Christian, but I don't need to go to church; I can worship in my own time and my own way. And so on.

Forgive me for being blunt, but I don't buy any of it. I think I know you well enough to say that you remind me a lot of me. During all those years when I used to make those same excuses, I always knew deep down that none of them was the real reason. The real reason was that I wanted to call myself a Christian without actually knowing Christ — and I was afraid that if I spent time in church I couldn't avoid seeing Him more than I'd find comfortable.

Matt Kaufman

Read all of it at:

Puer Nobis Natus Est!

Unto us a Son is born!


Here in Cyprus, I'm an hour and a half into Christmas Day. In Spanish style, we had Christmas Eve dinner along with four "strays" from my office, after having opened the presents in the afternoon.

I got a lovely blue sweater from my wife, chocolates from my daughter and some absolutely hideous aftershave, called STR8, from my son.

Merry Christmas to you all!

En Arche

I have to rerun this poem as a separate post, because Ed appended it to another, and it might not have been read. It should be read. And I thank the Poetreader for honoring us with what is the first poem ever composed on the The Continuum. (I apologise if I got the line breaks wrong; it came in all jumbled, and I broke where it made sense to me).

At that time, at the old time,
At the time before there was a time,
Then the Word that is was spoken,
And, spoken, spoke the worlds to be,
And when the later, fuller time was come,
He came,

And, within the made, the Maker walked,
And, walking, spoke the word that was His Name,
and, in His Name, and in His Blood poured out,
The Word that spake spoke our salvation,
And in that Word we live and breathe,
And, breathing, praise forever

(Written today in this space. A truly blessed Christ-Mass to all.) ed pacht

A Christmas Sermon

The Madonna of Humility, Fra Angelico, Mellon Collection

I never tire of the prologue to St. John’s Gospel. This is the Gospel for the first Mass of Christmas, which is also the last Gospel of almost every High Mass. These words are hakadesh hakadeshim- the holy of holies- in all of scripture.

I have no need this day to stand here and relate any personal story, or any tale of fiction. The finest and most entertaining story cannot begin to compare with these words which we have heard from scripture. Though we hear the opening of St. John’s Gospel on every Sunday outside of Advent and Lent, we cannot hear it enough. It cannot become tiresome though we were to read it daily. In fact, listen to the words of our hymns this day. In Hark the Herald, look at Charles Wesley’s words, especially the second verse (the verse beginning Christ by highest heaven adored). Such words as these can never become tiresome either.

A Roman Catholic priest of my acquaintance via e-mail, Fr. Joseph Wilson, wrote, in an article, that it is impossible to overemphasize the Incarnation. How right he is. Many heresies come about by overemphasis on one little part of Christian truth at the expense of the rest of it. This cannot happen to the doctrine of the Incarnation, for it contains all of the truth in itself. This truth, that Christ is God the Son come to us in the fullness both of His Divine Nature, and of His human nature, is the truth, the central doctrine, of Christianity. Take it away and we have nothing. Keep it, and we have everything. No wonder St. John also tells us that this simple true statement, that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is the one doctrine that the spirit of Antichrist refuses to permit.

The doctrine of the Incarnation contains all of the truth of Christianity. The full revelation of the Trinity becomes necessary for God is the Son, and God is the Father; but the Son is not the Father. And the Son is present with us by the Holy Spirit. But, the Son and the Father are not the Holy Spirit. Yet, every Jew always knew that there is only One God- sh’mai Israel... The truth of the Incarnation opens more questions than it gives answers; the questions are because God is revealed fully by Jesus as being, in His words, The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. He leaves us this new name for God, and teaches us that we can spend eternity asking questions about the infinity of the True and Living God because He will always be beyond our full comprehension. Yet, because He can walk among us as a man, in the person of the Son, we can know Him. He is beyond us forever; He is with us forever. His name is called Emmanuel- God with us.

The truth of the Incarnation tells us that we are sinners, lost because we are lost in sin. The light shines not against lesser light, but in the very darkness itself, a darkness that neither understands nor can solve the problem of this bothersome light. The darkness comprehended it not, the darkness into which we have fallen, and in which we were blind. Even many of the very chosen people themselves received not this Light; no wonder then that most of the world cannot receive Him either. Those who can receive Him do so because they face the light. This light hurts our eyes at first; for it tells the truth, the truth about ourselves which we wanted never to see nor hear.

The writer to the Hebrews wastes no time in telling us that this Man, the Son of God who is the very icon of the Father, in Whom the glory of God is perfectly seen, has purged our sins. The Gospel we would read if we had a second Mass, is from St. Luke. In it the words of the angels are heard, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” What peace is this? Is it some magic that makes sinful and fallen men stop waging war, as if the cessation of violence is actually worthy in itself to be called peace? Is not the greater war shown to us in scripture? That God has a right to wage war upon man because of our sins? As early as the story of Noah’s flood we see that God accepted the sacrifice of Noah after the flood- a sacrifice that pointed to Christ’s own death on the cross as did all the sacrifices. We are told that God hung up His bow as a sign in the heavens. He hung up what we call the rainbow, His bow of warfare, and promised not to destroy mankind from the face of the earth. This is the peace of which the angels speak. The sacrifice that had been offered in the story of Noah, after he came out of the ark, was only a type and shadow of the cross, the shadow of which hung already, over a newborn Son lying asleep in a manger. Only by this cross, by this sacrifice, is peace made between God and mankind.

“Nails, spear shall pierce Him through
a cross be borne for me for you,
hail, hail the Word made flesh,
the Babe the Son of Mary.”

All of the events to come, right up to His dying and rising again are foretold in these words of the angels. We do not see goodwill among men, as some
misinterpret the angelic words, but goodwill toward men, from God. The whole revelation that God is Love is thus given to us, also, by the Incarnation. This is the great gift of love, that He would give His own Son; He offers the sacrifice that He would not allow our father Abraham to make. Abraham was ready to obey God, and prepared to offer his son, his only son Isaac whom he loved, upon whom had been laid the wood of the altar while they had climbed Mount Moriah.

Abraham was spared this terrible agony of slaying his beloved son, because God used this dramatic means to teach His people that He never would accept the sacrifice of their children, such sacrifices as the pagans made to what were no gods. But, God in His love gives His only begotten Son Whom He loves. This is the goodwill toward men. This goodwill was seen that night in the manger in Bethlehem; this goodwill was seen on the cross many years later on a Friday afternoon.

In the Incarnation we see that God would call a people to be His children, adopting them in the very Person of His only begotten Son; for as St. Paul tells us, we are in Christ. It is because we are in the Beloved, in the Son Himself, that we are chosen by God for salvation, instead of having been abandoned to the fate we had deserved for ourselves.

We see also that He would establish His Church, and give to it His Word and Sacraments for the salvation of all who believe the Gospel. St. John, in opening his epistle, tells us that he had been among those whose hands had handled, and whose eyes had seen the Word of Life; and he goes on to tell us that we too are called to fellowship with God and His Son Jesus Christ through the invitation of the apostles. St. John is telling us that in the Church the sacraments are given and God’s Word is spoken, that we may know Him. Without the Incarnation the apostles have no word to tell, and there is then no Word from God, nor any sacraments. Because of the Incarnation we are given the Word of His truth. And the sacraments stem from His own coming in the flesh, and are only given to us because He was given to us when He came in our own nature, a created nature that was alien to His uncreated Person as God the only Son, eternally begotten of the Father.

In his classic, On the Incarnation, St. Athanasius said that while Christ walked the earth as man, He still filled the heavens as God. The Council Of Chalcedon taught us that He is fully God, being of the same nature as that of the Father, and fully human, being of the same human nature as ourselves, like us in every way except for sin, having human nature from his mother Mary, the Virgin, the
Theotokos- which means the Mother of God.

None of this is explained to us. How is it that God is made man, that the Word is made flesh and that He dwelt among us, that we beheld His glory? We do not really know all the answers- which is part of the revelation. God cannot be figured out, dissected and explained. He cannot be understood, analyzed and described. But, He can be known through Christ, the Only Mediator Who Himself is God and Man.

How do sacraments work? How is bread and wine made into the Real Presence of the Living Christ? How does water, with the right words, give new life when applied to human flesh? How can priests, themselves men, forgive sins? How did Christ’s death take away the sins of the world? How does His resurrection save us from death? If we needed to know the answers in some mechanical way, then salvation would be reserved only for people far too clever for the likes of me; people who are capable of the greatest achievement of science and engineering. The point is to know that it is beyond our understanding, because we are not God. We know not the how of it. But, what we do not understand we can know; we can know the love of God shown to us in the coming of Christ into the world. “For God so loved the world,” and that is the why of it.

I will close with words written in 1765, by Christopher Smart, words which made it into our hymnal, but for reasons I will never understand, not into the Christmas section of it:

O Most Mighty!
O Most Holy!
Far beyond the seraph’s thought,
Art Thou then so mean and lowly
As unheeded prophets taught?

O the magnitude of meekness!
Worth from worth immortal sprung;
O the strength of infant weakness,
if eternal is so young.

God all bounteous, all creative,
Whom no ills from good dissuade,
Is Incarnate and a native
Of the very world He made.

Now unto God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, be ascribed, as is most justly due, all might, majesty, dominion, power and glory, now and forever.

Fr Robert Hart, 2003 Posted by Picasa

The One Thing Jesus is Not

God sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those queer stories scattered all through the heathen religions about a god who dies and comes to life again and, by his death, has somehow given new life to men. He also selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was — that there was only one of Him and that He cared about right conduct. Those people were the Jews, and the Old Testament gives an account of the hammering process.

Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world Who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.

One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins.

CS Lewis

Read it all here:

Friday, December 23, 2005

Welcome to Ed Pacht

I want to welcome Ed Pacht, who officially joins us today as our latest contributing editor.

Ed (who uses the name "Poetreader') is a layreader at Trinity Anglican Church, Rochester, New Hampshire, in the Anglican Church of America.

Now 64 years old, he was born and baptized in Boston, Massachusetts, and raised in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. He was confirmed at Church of the Advent in Boston in 1965, and was an active Episcopalian until 1978.

He spent the next quarter-century as a pastor, first in a Pentecostal denomination, and then at Grace Community Church (an independent Evangelical body across the road from Trinity).

During these years he married, subsequently losing his precious Dorothy to cancer. He was received at Trinity in 2002, and was for a time a postulant for Holy Orders. That did not work out, but he continues as an active layreader, taking responsibility for the Daily Office at Trinity.

Ed is a self-published poet, continues as lay chaplain at a small home for the elderly where he has ministered for 15 years and continues an informal study of theology.

Until recently, he been involved with an Evangelical ministry to those wrestling with various kinds of sexual brokenness, including homosexuality, but found it necessary for various reasons to withdraw.


Muslims offer Indonesian Christians sanctuary at Christmas

One of Indonesia's largest Muslim organisations has offered hundreds of its buildings as safe venues for Christmas religious services amid fears of terror attacks, reports The Age in Melbourne, Australia.It also says it will provide security guards at many churches, as previously reported on Ekklesia.

"We invite our Christian brothers and sisters to say prayers on Christmas Eve and to celebrate Christmas in our schools and other buildings," said Din Syamsuddin, who chairs Muhammadiyah, a conservative Islamic organisation with millions of members.

The Jakarta Post newspaper on Friday said Din made the offer during a gathering on Thursday of religious leaders. The meeting came up with a multi-faith message of peace to be read across Indonesia ahead of three major holidays: Christmas, New Year's Day and the Islamic Day of Sacrifice on 10 January 2006.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country and its Christian minority has been targeted by some hard-line Islamic groups.

The Post said more than 40 Christian houses of worship, mostly in West Java, have been closed by local authorities since 2004, in response to complaints from Muslim communities and because of a lack of clear planning procedures for the building of churches.

This year there have been strong fears that extremists might attack churches over Christmas. But local Muslims are increasingly angry about what is being done in the name of their religion.

Courtesy of Ekklesia

Alhamdullillah is Arabic for "all praise to Allah". Remember, friends, that Allah is the Arabic for God, and is the name used by Arabic-speaking Christians in their prayers. And I say "praise be to God" that these people have offered refuge and protection to their Christian brothers and sisters at this very special time.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


I am probably preaching to the converted here, but I came across the following piece written by Fr Al Kimel, the former Episcopal priest and recent convert to Rome who is well known in these parts as the Pontificator. It was published on the web site of Adoremus, Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy. While Roman Catholic, it has a lot to recommend itself to us.

“The ‘re-enchantment’ of the Catholic Liturgy”, declares Father Aidan Nichols, “is the single most urgent ecclesial need of our time”.

I like the use of the word enchant to describe the Divine Liturgy of the Church. I still vividly remember my first visit in June 1975 to St. Paul’s Church, K Street, in Washington, DC. I had just finished college. Earlier that year I had become a believing Christian. Upon returning to Washington, an old high school friend invited me to join him one Sunday at St. Paul’s. Solemn High Mass, with a visiting African bishop to administer Confirmation; solemn procession, with two thurifers; chanting, crossings, bowings, genuflections, incense -- all of this was completely new for me.

My only prior experience with the Lord’s Supper was as an addendum to the Methodist preaching service, with cubes of bread and shot-glasses of grape juice. Here was something utterly different. I was taken up into a sacred world. On that day I discovered the Eucharistic Christ. I was enchanted.

I found it possible to believe the Eucharistic promises of Christ because of the enchanting beauty and power of the Divine Liturgy that I experienced that first summer at St. Paul’s. I was enchanted into faith. I experienced the glories of heaven and thus came to know the truth of the Eucharist. I will always believe that the consecrated elements are truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. And it is the liturgy that has sustained and generated my faith for the past thirty years.

Surely the Holy Eucharist should enchant us. The Divine Liturgy is nothing less than the presence of the coming Kingdom of God. By the Spirit we are lifted into the heavens in union with our Great High Priest. By the Spirit we are brought before the Throne of God and behold the glory of salvation. Whether we imagine the liturgy as our ascent into heaven or as the descent of heaven into our midst, what truly matters is the gracious presence of the Holy God in glory, love and beauty. Thus the psalmist sings: “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness”.

Read it all here:

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas Light Conquers Evil

"The light of Christmas" was the theme of Benedict XVI's special catechesis in today's pre-Christmas general audience, which was held in St. Peter's Square in the presence of 15,000 people.

"Today's audience is taking place in a climate of joyful and eager expectation as we await the imminent Christmas festivities," said the Pope, adding that many symbols help us to understand the mystery of Christmas, "among them that of the light, which is one of the richest in spiritual significance."

"Christmas in our hemisphere coincides with the days in which the sun completes its descendent cycle and the period of daylight gradually begins to lengthen ... This helps us to a better understanding of the subject of light overcoming shadow; a symbol evoking a truth that touches the most intimate part of man: the light of goodness that overcomes evil, ... of life that overcomes death.

Christmas - which re-presents us with the announcement of the definitive victory of God's love over sin and death - causes us to think of this interior light, this divine light ... As we prepare to celebrate with joy the birth of the Savior in our families and our ecclesial communities, a certain form of modern consumer culture tends to remove Christian symbols from the Christmas celebration.

Let everyone, then, seek to understand the value of the Christmas traditions, which are part of the heritage of our faith and our culture."

"In particular, when we see streets and squares adorned by dazzling lights, let us remember that these lights call us to another light, one invisible to the eyes but not to the heart. As we admire them, as we light the candles in church or the lights on the nativity scene or the Christmas tree in our homes, let our souls open to the true spiritual light, which was brought to all men and women of good will."

The Pope concluded his catechesis by calling on the faithful to "maintain their interior wonder" as they celebrate the birth of the Savior, and wishing everyone "a happy and holy Christmas."

Vatican Information Service

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Female Clergyperson?

As a journalist I am more than sensitive about the rank ignorance that so many of my colleagues demonstrate in their coverage of religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular. This story contains some real gems -- linguistic, journalistic and theological -- not all of them the fault of the poor reporter. Spot them all.

Church ordains city's first female Episcopal priest

Carol Petty was ordained as a priest Monday night at Trinity Episcopal Church in Longview, becoming the city's first female ordained priest in the Episcopal church.

"It's a great honor to be ordained as a priest in the church," Petty said. "I've been in ministry of various kinds for about 15 years."

Petty attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary at its Houston campus, earning two degrees. However, she soon became interested in the Episcopal church, being "drawn to the beauty of the liturgy and the grace," she said.

Kevin Wittmayer, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, called the ordainment "monumental for us," adding, "We couldn't have a better woman to be our first female clergyperson. It's a real good thing for us."

Petty attended a year of Anglican study at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin after entering the discernment process for holy orders at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Beaumont. She came to the Longview church in July.

According to Rayford High, the assistant bishop of Texas, females were allowed to be ordained priests and bishops in 1976 at a general convention meeting in Minneapolis. Before that, women could be ordained only as deacons.

High confirmed Petty's ordainment as the first of a female in the Episcopal church in Longview and said female ordinations are commonplace throughout the country.

"There are only three out of 100 diocese that don't ordain females," High said – in Fort Worth; San Joaquin, Calif.; and Quincy, Ill.

By Gabriel T. Brooks at the Longview News-Journal

Monday, December 19, 2005

Church Planting

Found this on the ACC Diocese of Mid-Atlantic States web site, and thought it might be of interest to those giving thought to planting a church.

The material in this booklet was contributed by members of the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) who were instrumental in the formation of new parishes in areas where previously no ACC parish existed.

Endowed with a spirit of evangelism and a strong loyalty to the historic faith, and trusting in the Holy Spirit to guide them, they set about accomplishing what might have seemed at the outset to be impossible. Today these efforts have come to fruition as three thriving parishes of the ACC.

It is the sincere hope of the contributors and the publishers that this outline will be helpful to others who may have the opportunity to bring the Church into a new area.

Read it all at:

Surfing: Maggie's Kitchen

While we encourage as many people as possible to make use of this blog, many people still do not know about us. So I have decided to begin a new feature, Surfing, in which I shall share gems and clunkers that I come across in my daily surfing. One gem I have discovered is Maggie's Kitchen, which I found on the website of an ACCC parish, St Michael's, in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The following is an excerpt from Maggie's December column. All of it can be read at

Of the feasts of the waning year -- Hanukkah, Kwaanza, Divali, Christmas, and no doubt may others -- only Christmas, the Feast of Christ’s Incarnation, is a Feast spread out for all people everywhere and at all times, for all creation visible and invisible, for all of heaven and earth. Christ didn’t become incarnate for a few followers, or even for millions of followers, but for all, friend and foe alike. It makes me wonder why we Christians are so apt to treat it as our feast alone, as if it had no real significance for Jew or Moslem or pagan. These would probably be just as happy if Christmas went away altogether. I imagine that to accommodate them we could “spiritualize” Christmas by sweeping away our material observances, the way some Christians “spiritualize” the Sacraments by dispensing with the outward signs. But those little matters of cookies and gifts, of festoonings of house and church, are little statements of our Lord’s Incarnation -- little reminders of the wonder of His coming into the world in human flesh -- little echoes of His Words of Institution which we will have still ringing in our ears from the Christ Mass. Little proclamations of the Good News.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

No More Christ(ians) in Bethlehem?

With only a week left until the Feast of the Nativity, I want to share with you one of my deepest concerns -- that the Christian presence in Bethlehem and the rest of the Holy Land is being threatened from all sides -- political, religious and economic.

Year before last I had the joyous experience of visiting the Holy Land. I met there Fr Peter Vasco, a New Yorker and a senior member of the Franciscan community in Jerusalem, who gave me a personal guided tour of the Holy City.

Fr Peter was one of the founders of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, and I commend their web site to you. If you are looking for a special charity to bless this Christmas, your money couldn't be better spent.

The following is a piece written about a talk given by Fr Peter. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas Message to the Anglican Communion

Perhaps the two images most of us will carry away from the last twelve months are those of the devastation caused by the tsunami just after last Christmas and by the hurricanes that devastated the southern states of America in the autumn. The natural world became a place of terror and disaster.
The question never quite goes away of why God made a world in which such tragedy is possible. But Christmas reminds us of the one thing we know for sure - and that is God’s way of responding to suffering. He doesn’t wave a magic wand, or descend briefly from the sky to clean things up. He arrives on earth as a human being who will change things simply by the completeness of his love. Jesus is dedicated to the will of the one he calls Father, the divine source of his own divine life. Never for a moment does he put any obstacle in the way of that ultimate, total outpouring of love that is the wellspring of his own life. He gives himself to this transforming purpose in every moment, whatever it costs. And the world changes - even the physical world: death is overcome and the material world reveals God’s glory in its depths. So we are changed. New things become possible for us, new levels of loving response and involvement. As has often been said, the Christian answer to the problem of suffering is not a theory but the story of a life and a death, Jesus’ life and death. And for that answer to be credible now, that story has to be visible in our story. We must give an answer to suffering and tragedy in what we do - because the one thing we know is that this is what God does. Faith is restored and strengthened not by talking but by witness in action. And one of the moving things that this year has brought for me is the awareness of how generously so many have responded to the desperate needs of the tsunami victims and those who suffered in New Orleans.
I have had moving letters describing the sacrificial work of Anglicans in the Province of South-East Asia, and in the diocese of Kurunagula in Sri Lanka, to name only two instances, clearly witnessing to the willingness to respond first and ask theoretical questions afterwards. And only a few days ago, I listened to a woman from Texas speaking of her work day and night over many weeks in Houston with those who had been made homeless by Hurricane Katrina. Here are stories of people who know how to answer the challenges of terrible suffering in God’s way - by obedience and service and love.
There is something about Christianity that always pulls us back from imagining that everything will be all right if we can find the right things to say - because for God, the right thing to say at Christmas was the crying of a small child, beginning a life of risk and suffering. God shows us how, by his grace and in his Spirit, we can respond to the tormenting riddles of the world. And, as we agonise over the future of our beloved church, with all its debates and bitter struggles at the moment, it does us no harm to remember that God will not solve our Anglican problems by a plan or a formula, but only by the miracle of his love in Jesus. If we want to be part of the solution, we must first be wholly and unconditionally pledged to that love, with all its costs. May God who works in the weakness and smallness of the Christmas child work in our weakness and smallness; may he bless and strengthen you all at this season.

+Rowan Cantuar:

The Weight of Years That Fill the Place


May 21. 2005. Trinity Church, Cornish NH. In 1808, at the urging of a young college student named Philander Chase, later to be bishop of Ohio, an Episcopal church was built, and remained for almost two centuries a place of holy worship. Not long ago, as the Episcopal Church was drifting from its historic faith, Trinity was finally closed and the lovely church in the midst of its churchyard filled with those who have gone before stood unused and forsaken. Mere months ago it began to be used once more, and Trinity Church revived, as a parish of the Anglican Church in America.

Today Bishop Langberg instituted Fr. Brian Marsh as the new rector and ordained David Moody as a deacon. A vibrant congregation joined together in celebrating the one Sacrifice once offered, and I believe the angels rejoiced, along with the blessed ones whose remains lie in the churchyard. . . .

The Weight of Years That Fill the Place

The weight of years that fill the place,
the many times the words were said,
the white robes humbly worn by men
with hearts on fire to spread His Name . . .
Now through windows clear and filled with sun
the solemn standing stones are seen
that mark the rest of those who prayed
and heard and feasted on these holy things –
those who now in patient silence wait,
gathered long and gathered silent here,
listening for the holy angel's final trump
that loudly greets the resurrection day.

The weight of years that fill the empty place
where words long said are heard no more,
and fire of hearts has cooled and dimmed,
and cherished truths are laid aside,
and pews left empty gather dust,
and week by week the altar lies unused,
and in the Yard where Christian dust lies buried
the sense of expectation seems to fade
with none within to hear the trumpet
of that final coming day.

The weight of years that fill the place that lives again,
where words again are said and heard and prayed,
where fire of hearts rekindled by the Spirit
once again shines forth, a holy beacon,
and a man to whom a key and books are given
humbly kneels and humbly prays before a humble altar,
receives a charge and gives a charge to the flock before him,
and all the stones that name the saints of days gone by
seem to glow and silent shouts of praise are almost heard
and hope renewed begins to fill the holy place,
and almost can the promise of the trumpet now be heard.

The weight of years that fill the place that lives again,
the place where words are said and sung and prayed,
where sweetly rises fragrant smoke in praise
of Him who makes and loves and judges men,
of Him who comes and lives and dies and lives,
and comes and feeds and comes and loves and saves,
of Him who comes and fills and pours His power.
of Him who Three is ever One, and One is ever Three,
in whom the gulf of death that sin has wrought
cannot prevail, cannot prevent the union now
of those who rest beneath the quiet sod outside
and those who at this altar pray in fervency,
in this place where weight of years is known
and past and present are but one,
as, in solemn joy they wait together
for that final blast of angel's horn.

The weight of years that fill the place today,
as, joining those whose robes of white have here been seen,
a humble man lies prostrate at His feet,
as chanted prayers are filling every voice,
and every angel turns his eyes to earthward,
and all the saints in silence give attention,
and at the placing of the hands upon him,
the holy Dove descends from heaven,
and a servant's heart is filled with power to be a servant,
and by him the timeless words of Christ are spoken,
and by his hands the Blood of life received;
and, silent sighing from the Yard arises,
and we and he and they await the Day.

The weight of years that fill the place,
the many times the words were said,
the sacrifice of praise so oft repeated,
so often spoken yet forever one,
and at this altar blessed union,
blest communion of the saints,
timeless time and never ending,
even when the trumpet comes.

Ed Pacht

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Lord Carey Defends Wearing of Religious Jewelry

NEVER one to shy away from what it means to be ‘British’, Lord Carey of Clifton’s most recent outburst over the weekend has accelerated the debate over the wearing of religious jewellery in British schools. Speaking in a GMTV interview on Sunday morning, the former Archbishop of Canterbury took a swipe at the farcical levels of political correctness that have permeated our society. Last week, Sam Cooke, 16, was sent home from her school in Derby by the deputy headmaster for refusing to remove her crucifix necklace. Lord Carey branded the fiasco as ‘nonsense’ and warned England risked facing a move towards French attitudes. He said: “I think at the one level is a view around that practising Christians and all the symbols that go with it embarrasses people of other faiths and of course that is nonsense because the Jews and Muslims are only too delighted that Christians take a greater pride in the cross.”He added: “What does worry me is that it may represent a worrying hostility towards Christianity and all religions by a minority of people in leadership today who want to privatise religion, push it to the boundaries, not allow it a voice in the public arena and go the way of France.” A cross, he said, was an expression of faith and not to be considered ‘jewellery’. He urged any pupil faced with a similar dilemma to confront the headmaster and explain the importance of religious imagery. Last month Lord Carey backed the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu’s call for the English to celebrate St George’s day in proper fashion. Echoing these words he said: “I think what we need to recover is identity, what it is to be British today and to be British I cannot understand how you can be British without having that core faith at the heart, which is Christianity.” When asked if it was possible to appreciate Britishness without an appreciation of Christian faith he replied: “If you take the Christian faith out of British identity what have you left?”

Alex Delmar-Morgan in the Church of England Newspaper

(See Free Piglet on this blog, posted on 6/12/05)

Reds Under the Bed?

It's nice to be talked about, even if for the wrong reasons. I found the following comment and reply over at Free Republic I won't comment on my own politics -- they're none of anyone's business -- but I think a regular reading of The Continuum will allay any fears of "Reds under the bed" around here. That said, I wonder if there is some reason to consider it unnatural having political liberals in a continuing church. Comments?

I'm not so sure that this blog should be recommended. The top item refers to the folks who went to Iraq to generate some anti-American propaganda as "Peacemakers" who have "been striving for the betterment of life in Iraq."

The second is a good point and so the blog is worth watching. Liberalism is not unknown in the Continuum churches (even my own! and from parishioners who have definitely long been part of our church family). But I will not toss it on one element alone. Note also: "I had expressed discomfort with women’s ordination and outright opposition to the ordination of practicing homosexuals to Holy Orders."
I, for one, would hate to be held to account and forever labeled for every mis-expression I've made.
Let's give the bloggers here at Continuum some time. There's little enough, as Will at Prydain notes, coming from the Continuing Churches. If we see here a leftist element, it's quite worth watching; if it's a misstatement we'll see that soon enough.

Merger ... or Acquisition?

The following comes from, The Thoughtful Crab:

I thought my readers might find the following links of interest:

A couple decades ago, the Roman Catholic Church Church made a pastoral provision for some Anglican parishes to convert wholesale to Roman Catholicism and retain their priest (After reordination) and some elements of the traditional Anglican liturgy. The Book of Divine Worship is a reorganized version of the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer (With elements from both the 28 and the 79 prayer books), altered to reflect Roman Catholic theology. The liturgy is a cross between the traditional Anglican liturgy and the traditional Roman Catholic liturgy.Of course, like anything, there are some catches. One is that those in Anglican-Use parishes are required to assent to all elements of Roman Catholic teaching. The other catch, and this is a big one -- they can be forceably converted to the regular Novus Ordo Roman Catholic mass at any time. Apparently, in many cases, this has already happened. There are also few long term provisions for continuing the tradition -- once your priest dies, it seems as though you're kind of out of luck and the parish will be converted to the Novus Ordo and stripped of it's Anglican traditions, if it isn't done before that point by a jumpy Roman Catholic bishop.In some respects, this is a promising start. In the long run, though, I don't think it's wise for any Anglican parish to convert to Roman Catholicism on the premise that they'll be able to retain their heritage. There are no guarantees that they'll be allowed to continue as Anglican Use for long. In fact, the odds are against it.To have any assurance of being able to continue as Anglicans in any sense of that word, I think Anglicans interested in this sort of thing would have to be offered an "Anglican Rite" like the Eastern Rite Catholics -- complete with their own bishops, priests, seminaries, clerical discipline, and liturgy. A rite is something lasting that people can hang their hats on, to a certain degree. A rite will be there in a few decades or in, theoretically, a few hundred decades. A use is just a bridge intended to get people to the other side, that'll be cut off behind them when they cross it -- these "use" parishes seem destined to all eventually become Novus Ordo parishes, barring a change of direction.

Discarding Accretions

I commend to you the following thread, over at Continuing Home, which can be found at

In a discussion in class this evening our Rector noted his annoyance at some practices that have accreted to our celebration of Mass over the years. I think to his surprise, I know to my (pleasant) surprise, there are a few of us in the class who've been annoyed by them and now each of us knows we are not alone.

One, a congregational response that is not in the 1928 Order for Holy Communion, is traceable to the ECUSA 1979 BCP and was probably brought in by a convert (refugee?) from ECUSA. I think this probably occurred in the earlier days of our parish when former Episcopalians made up the majority of our congregation (we are a distinct minority now, I counted just 10 to 20% a year ago), and they would have been accustomed to the '79 service.

Another is reading the Prayer of Humble Access out loud along with the priest. I have no idea where that came from; somebody brought that in from somewhere else. The congregation varies widely on this; a few read it out loud, others (including me) remain silent, the rest seem to follow whichever group is the majority. But the rubrics are quite explicit on this point.

I suspect we're going to be discarding these practices. Without so much as a(nother) word from the Rector.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Jesus Ain't Deaf


I found this on a blog in Brazil, which may be most appropriate as a message for the less Anglo-Catholic among our readers:

A bit of graffiti across the street from a church ...

Jesus isn't deaf!!!
Pray quietly
and respect the ears of the other children of God. Posted by Picasa

Civil partnerships are 'opportunity' for the church

This comes from Ekklesia.

As the first civil partnerships are about to be registered in England on 21 December, the progressive Anglican organisation Affirming Catholicism has announced the publication of a booklet calling on the Church to welcome the development as a pastoral opportunity and a means of listening to the experience of lesbian and gay Christians.

Translation: We ask the Church to accede to a reinterpretation of the Christian faith, with homosexual unions being accepted, a priori, and then pastoral care can proceed on the basis of our agenda.

The booklet, written by an Anglican priest, argues that civil partnerships will provide a way out of the ‘catch 22’ which faces many homosexual Christians whose relationships are criticised for being unstable while - at the same time - the Church fails to offer any support which might help couples stay together.

I won't even begin to try to decipher that one ... On second thought, I will. It flows on well from the previous paragraph. Homosexual relationships, which we now have acknowledged as being acceptable, are criticised for being unstable. (I think the evidence shows that they are). So we provide the support to keep them stable.

Canon Nerissa Jones, MBE, the Chair of Trustees for Affirming Catholicism said: "The period of listening and reception to which Anglicans are committed can’t happen on a purely theoretical level. It must also be about the lived experience of lesbian and gay Christians who need to feel safe enough to tell their stories. We believe that civil partnership can help give that security and that local clergy should offer prayer and support for couples."

Op cit

The Church of England Bishops have stated that, while there could be no authorised liturgy to bless same-sex couples until there was consensus on Church teaching, parish priests should nonetheless respond sensitively and pastorally to gay couples seeking blessings.

The publication, which opens with a foreword by The Very Rev’d Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, calls for an end to the double standard at the heart of current Church teaching which accepts gay relationships between lay people but bans sexually active homosexual women and men from the priesthood.

I agree entirely with the Dean of St Albans. The double standard should be ended. The Church should teach clearly, forcefully and unashamedly that all sexual relationships outside of marriage are sinful.

The booklet will be published on Friday 27 January 2006.

Get your orders in early.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Santa Lucia


Today is the feast of Santa Lucia, one of the patron saints of my daughter, Andrea Lucia.

St Lucy of Syracuse : Lucy was born toward the end of the third century and lived in Syracuse, Sicily. She was the daughter of very noble and rich parents. Her father died when she was still young. Lucy secretly promised Jesus that she would never marry so that she could be his alone. She was a lovely girl, with beautiful eyes. More than one young noble set his heart on her. Her mother urged her to marry one whom she had chosen for Lucy. But the girl would not consent. Then she thought of a plan to win her mother. She knew her mother was suffering from hemorrhages. She convinced her to go to the shrine of St. Agatha and pray for her recovery. Lucy went along with her and together they prayed. When God heard their prayers and cured
her mother, Lucy told her of her vow to be Christ's bride. Her mother let Lucy follow her vocation, out of gratitude for her cure. But the young pagan to whom she had promised Lucy was furious at losing out. In his bitter anger, he accused her of
being a Christian. He threatened her with the frightening torture of being blinded. But Lucy was even willing to lose both her eyes rather than belong to anyone but Jesus. And that is just what happened. Many statues show St. Lucy holding her
lovely eyes in the palm of her hand. Jesus rewarded her for her heroic love. He worked a miracle and gave her back her eyes, more beautiful than ever. The pagan judge tried to send the saint to a house of sinful women. He hoped that Lucy might be tempted to give up Christ. But when they tried to carry her away, God made her body so heavy that they could not budge her. In the end, she was stabbed and became a martyr for Jesus in the year 304. Her name in Latin means Light and, as her
feast-day fell in December, she became associated with the one true Light who was coming as the redeemer of the world, the Light that would lighten the nations, the Light that would banish darkness and let the eyes of all behold Truth incarnate.
In many countries, and Scandanavia in particular, her feast day is celebrated with the youngest daughter of the family wearing a crown of candles and bringing in the first meal of the day. Posted by Picasa

Thirst for More Than Just Beer

This comes from a discussion list in which I have been active for several years, followed by a comment I made in reply. Are any other Continuers engaged in a similar ministry, and why not?

I receive the newsletter from the parish in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago where I grew up. They are doing great urban ministry there. On the first Friday night of the month, the curate goes to Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap, that's right, a bar, and holds forth about theology ... This has been so well received that it has been expanded to another night each month.


One of my favorite topics.

My "local" is a mock Irish pub/restaurant in Nicosia called Finbarr's. It's
a great meeting point for Cypriots and foreigners, and has become the
closest thing I have to a "club."

The owner and staff, all of whom I count among my friends, are aware of my
priestly vocation, and I have become a sort of an unofficial spiritual
director to some of them. Moreoever, they have a habit of introducing me to
new folks as "Father Albion" or simply as a priest. While that is more than
a slight exaggeration, I find that this opens up the opportunity for me to
engage in the ministry of apologetics, and even evangelism.

There is nothing of a formal nature like at Jimmy's, just conversation when
it comes up. But I never cease to be amazed at how much thirst there is for
more than just beer.

A Chuckle

A man suffered a serious heart attack and had an open heart bypass surgery. He awakened from the surgery to find himself in the care of nuns at a Catholic Hospital.

As he was recovering, a nun asked him questions regarding how he was going to
pay for his treatment. She asked if he had health insurance.

He replied, in a raspy voice, "No health insurance."

The nun asked if he had money in the bank.

He replied, "No money in the bank."

The nun asked, "Do you have a relative who could help you?"

He said, "I only have a spinster sister, who is a nun."

The nun became agitated and announced loudly, "Nuns are not spinsters!
Nuns are married to God."

The patient replied, "Then send the bill to my brother-in-law."

How very nice

The following appeared on the Prydain blog. I hope we can all live up to the initial praise.

Interesting new blog: "Continuum"
There are not very many blogs out there that focus on the Continuing Anglicans, those churches that split from ECUSA in the 1970s over the ordination of women. Until this week, the only blogs of this type of which I was aware were The Continuing Anglican Churchman and Continuing Home, both of which are fine blogs and make a needed contribution to the discussion of alternatives to ECUSA.

This week I found out about Continuum, which appears to be a group blog with contributors such as Fr. Robert Hart and Fr. Matthew Kirby. In addition, the prime mover behind "Continuum", a man who goes by the name "Albion" is no slouch either; he writes very well and is in the process of joining the Anglican Church in America, with a view towards eventually being ordained. This blog has a great deal of potential, I think, and would be worth checking out.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Pray for the Hostages

Please pray for the four members of the Christian Peacemakers Team held hostage in Iraq. A deadline for their "execution" was extended until today.

O God, soften the hearts of their abductors, that they might set free four men who have been striving for the betterment of life in Iraq. In Jesus'name. Amen.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Just one more thing, and then I will really go to bed.

Here is a picture of the house I bought in Spain, and hope to have renovated by next summer. Posted by Picasa