Monday, April 30, 2007

Biblical Preaching

Readers of the Continuum are aware that I take the subject of preaching very seriously, and that I consider this to be perfectly consistent with Anglican Catholicism. I want to recommend an article in the March/ April 2007 edition of The Mandate, which is editied by Dr. Peter Toon. It is called The Great Charge, and is written by Rev. William Klock, a vicar in the Reformed Episcopal Church. To view it, you need to click the link, you need to have PDF on your computer, and you must scroll down to page 11.

It seems likely that Rev. Klock would have some differences with us, with our High Church understanding of the centrality of the Eucharist in the regular worship of the Church, and with our sacramental theology. In one point he even takes us to task:

The later fruits of the 19th Century Anglo-Catholic movement have led to an unbalanced emphasis on the Eucharist, which has resulted in a deemphasis on the importance of strong Biblical preaching. The end result has been the well-known ten-minute homily Even those of us distant from either the Liberal or Anglo-Catholic tradition can find it exceptionally easy to become lazy in our preaching.

I disagree with the charge of "an unbalanced emphasis on the Eucharist." But, I think he is not really too far wrong in general. Whereas I reject that specific charge, I agree with the gist of his remarks. But, I believe that we are unbalanced, all too often, not by placing the importance that we do on the Eucharist, but rather that we can be unbalanced by placing too little importance on preaching the Word of God. The "deemphasis on the importance of strong Biblical preaching" is, therefore, from this other angle, a valid criticism.

The problem comes from being reactive instead of proactive, and thereby losing our freedom to set a course based on honest convictions. This problem afflicts too many of us just as it does quite a large number of Roman Catholic priests. Because the Protestant emphasis gives priority to preaching over the sacraments, we feel the need to take the opposite position. In Six Little Books on the Priesthood by Saint John Chrysostom, the golden tongued Father warns us that if we teach strongly against one error we must avoid appearing to endorse the opposite error. For this reason, I think of him as the true father of a useful and practical via media philosophy. Just because the Protestant emphasis devalues the Blessed Sacrament is no reason for us to devalue the ministry of God's word. We do not have to let others set our agenda, even if it is by means of error that provokes a reaction.

Every man who has been ordained to the priesthood has been given both the gift and the charge to be "a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments (Ordinal)." We do not live in a tension between these things, but rather with their complementarity. The idea that a powerful and meaningful sermon would, as one man told me, "distract the people from the sacrament," is an excuse for laziness. We are supposed to labor in the word and doctrine, to save both ourselves and those who hear us. "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen (I Peter 4:11)."

C.S. Lewis commented (in Surprised by Joy) on the Anglo-Catholic preachers he heard when he was a boy in school, that they made a lasting impression on him because they preached the great truths of the Christian Faith as men who believed it deeply. This is our authentic tradition, and one that we must endeavor to keep alive. It does not distract from the sacrament to preach a powerful sermon. Indeed, it may so convict hearts and minds to "hearty repentance and true faith" that people, who were otherwise minded, might receive the sacrament in a worthy manner.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Mass is the Mass is the Mass?

An interesting debate among Roman Catholics over the liturgy, focusing on God and breaking in new shoes.

While the discussion is over the relative merits of the Novus Ordo and Tridentine masses, it touches on an issue of great relevance to continuing Anglicans.

Dr Philip Blosser, one of those involved in the debate puts it this way: "good liturgy draws our attention to God and is thus precisely our means to focusing upon God, whereas bad liturgy draws attention to itself, hampering our efforts to find and focus upon God. In the sacramental outlook of Catholicism, worship is embodied in liturgy -- the two are inseparable."

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Collect: Easter III

The Prayer
(as in USA 1928. There are unimportant verbal changes from 1549 and 1662)
Almighty God, who showest to them that are in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness; grant unto all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s Religion, that they may avoid those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Cranmer translated this from the Sarum Missal, a prayer first found in the Leonine Sacramentary, the oldest collection of Latin Propers to have survived. The prayer reflects the early custom in which converts were baptized at the Easter Vigil and wore white garments throughout the Paschal season. This prayer, like much of the liturgical content of the season, is primarily intended as a prayer for these new Christians, but becomes also a prayer for the rest of us.

Listen deeply to the voice of God, to the still, small voice within, to the voice that resounds from the pages of Scripture, to the voice that speaks through preaching, to the voice of the words of the liturgy. Listen.
Are we in error? Do our thoughts contain that which is untrue - that which is incompatible with the Truth of Christ? Undoubtedly they do.
Are we in error? Do our actions belie the Truth that we speak? Undoubtedly it is so.
Have we wandered from the way of righteousness? Is there darkness in our souls? It is so.
Does the Lord desire that we return? Does He call to our Spirits? Does He show us the error of our ways? Beyond all doubt he does, and he does.
Let us then leave that from which he calls us and seek that to which he calls us.
Let it be as the Prophet Isaiah has said:
Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.”

-------------------ed pacht

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Affirmation of St Louis and Doctrine

I draw readers' attention to a post over at The Confused Papist, in which host Marco Vervoorst asks some questions about the place the Affirmation of St Louis holds in the doctrine of the continuing churches.

He asks three questions:

1. How does one consider the AoSL in the wider context of the Church and Continuing Anglicanism? Also, is Anglicanism a confessional movement which is continued in a confessional movement, Continuing Anglicanism?

2. Where does the AoSL set as a standard the the ecumenical Councils pre-1054?

3. With reference to the AoSL's statement that "We acknowledge that rule of faith laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins: ;Let us hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all, for that is truly and properly Catholic,;" he asks:
"What does acknowledge mean? The AoSL does not affirm, endorse, or set as a standard, the Rule but only acknowledges!"

I must confess that I do not feel qualified to answer his questions, but would hope that my clerical co-hosts would be in a position to do so. As a matter of courtesy, I would ask that anyone commenting do so on the original post.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sola Scriptura

Fr. Hart brought up the Reformation distinctive of "Sola Scriptura" and mentioned its weaknesses. I thought a paper that I wrote, one that helped bring me back into the Catholic Tradition, might be of interest here. I posted it, along with four other papers on Scriptures and a satirical poem in my blog, which may be read here.

---------ed pacht

Religion and the Common Good

This talk was delivered by Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., the Roman Catholic archbishop of Denver, at the John Cardinal Krol Conference in Philadelphia on April 21. It it is a must read.

"We most truly serve the common good by having the courage to be disciples of Jesus Christ. God gave us a free will, but we need to use it. Discipleship has a cost. Jesus never said that we didn’t need a spine. The world doesn’t need affirmation. It needs conversion. It doesn’t need the approval of Christians. It needs their witness. And that work needs to begin with us. Bernanos said that the 'scandal of Creation [isn’t] suffering but freedom.' He said that 'moralists like to regard sanctity as a luxury; actually it is a necessity.' He also said that 'one may believe that this isn’t the era of the saints; that the era of the saints has passed. [But] it is always the era of the saints.'

"The only thing that matters is to be a saint. At least we can try. And if we do, God will take care of the rest."

Read it all here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Protestantisms and Platypuses

Hank Hannegraaff is a Christian radio talk show host who has defined "the Protestant Faith" as sola scriptura, sola fide and (exactly as he put it) sola Christi. (That last sola is, of course, simply Christian; it is not specifically Protestant.) By this odd definition definition Anglican Traditionalists are not Protestants, since we hold only to the clearly intended meaning of the last sola, as do the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. We do not hold to the kind of new subjective "private interpretation" kind of sola scritpura that Mr. Hannegraf undersatands, though we hold to scriptura as the Word of God that can be understood only within the Catholic Tradition. After all, the Bible is the book of the Church, and God used His people to write it and recognize it. Along with the Papal Encyclical Dominus Iesus, we join the Roman Catholics in the simple proclamation about the scriptures that "these books have God as their author." But, sola scriptura removes the scriptures from the only context in which they can be understood truly and rightly. Sola fide is, in his world of revised definitions, impossible for one reason: It does not exist, except in the very frightening way described by the words of Saint James: "Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead being alone." ( Jas. 2:17 ) As Saint Paul tells us: "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." ( I Cor. 13:13)

But, is Hank Hannegraaff's definition of "the Protestant Faith" to be taken as, well, definitive? What, in heaven's name, is Protestantism? Our host, Albion Land, asked this question in an earlier blog, only to receive this predictably bull in a china shop remark from the Reformed Catholicism blog: "What made me laugh was the fact that they were surprised to be called 'Protestant' by Roman Catholics. But in fact, Anglo-Catholics–no matter how close they feel to the theology of Rome–are Protestants and it is this fact that makes part of their position so untenable from a Reformation perspective." Of course, had they read what he actually wrote just a bit more carefully, they may have saved themselves the embarrassment of, once again, completely mis-stating the position of Anglo-Catholics.

The question is, how does one arrive at the conclusion that our blog is a Protestant blog? Within Anglicanism the words "Protestant" and "Catholic" are used often to mean "High" or "Low", by which measurement we are not Protestants. But, from the perspective of a Roman Catholic we are Protestant because we are Western Christians who are non-papal. However, from Hank Hannegraaff's perspective we are not Protestants because we reject two of his solas- as defined by ultra modern Evangelicals that is. Perhaps the real problem is trying to define the word "Protestant."

What hath a Pentecostal in common with a Presbyterian? What hath a Baptist in common with a High Church Lutheran? What hath a Reformed Episcopalian in common with a "religious" atheist who supports "gay" marriage and rejects the Incarnation completely? The answer is, they are all Protestants. What hath a Fundamentalist in common with a student of Higher Criticism? What hath a High Churchman in Anglicanism in common with a Quaker? What hath Jerusalem in common with Athens?

I replied to the Reformed Catholicism blogger as follows: "A valid question was raised about the usage and definition of a word so widely applicable as to mean everything from anything to nothing." I meant that exactly as I stated it. Since Billy Graham the Evangelist and John Spong the "Christian" Atheist are both Protestants, the word has nothing to do with articles of Faith. We are left with a very reduced product, a definition in strictly negative terms, and lacking the beauty of apophaticism: "Some kind of Western Christian (from real to sort of) who is not a Roman Catholic." There is no Creed for Protestants, but rather an anti-creed: "I do not believe in Universal Jurisdiction and Papal Infallibility." Of course, a Hindu can say that too. Well, along with the Hindu, we can say this anti-Creed; and along with Pentecostals, Baptists and Methodists this makes us Protestant. However, we can say this with an Orthodox Christian, but he is not a Protestant though he shares this one point of unbelief as a belief. It boils down to this: "Protestant" is hardly a useful term, and one that we can dispense with. It says nothing about what we do believe.

Now, to our Reformed Catholicism blogger friends and to the more militant Roman Catholics in Blogger land, we Anglican Catholics are quite a puzzle indeed. The same problem exists for strict Darwinists when they attempt to place a Duck-billed Platypuse into an existing paradigm. It lays eggs and has a beak, so it must be a bird. But, it is furry and nurses its young, so it must be a mammal. It lays eggs but has no wings, so it is a reptile. But reptiles have no fur. Why don't we just eliminate all of the platypuses for convenience? Failing that, let us make fun of them all for being so obviously stupid that they cannot admit that they are birds, or planes or superman, or a whatever the hell they are.

Never liked platypuses anyway.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Protestant Blog?

I was checking out my sitemeter tonight and came across a link to the comment below on a website called Catholic Answers Forums. I would like to thank the poster for the epithet of "good", but am not quite sure how he came to conclude that The Continuum is a protestant blog. Perhaps he will see this post, and comment. It should generate some good discussion.

Re: Here is the typical Amercan, Protestant "blog"

You want to see some good Protestant blogs, although they may not grab a hold of the title? Take a look at these:
Protestant/Former Episcopal Church

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Easter II

Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 23

I Pet. 2:19-25

John 10:11f

I believe that today's Gospel should be expanded to include the surrounding verses, giving us a fuller context.

Expanded Gospel reading:

1: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2: But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3: To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4: And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5: And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. 6: This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. 7: Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8: All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9: I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10: The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 11: I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12: But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13: The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14: I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15: As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16: And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. 17: Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18: No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

The scriptures we have heard today tie together very profound mysteries about Christ’s sacrificial death, His patience and suffering, and about the care for us that the Risen Christ shows even now by continuing to guide His Church.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” So wrote Isaiah in his famous Suffering Servant passage, the passage from which Saint Peter draws in today's Epistle. We see in our Collect that we are to look upon Christ’s death and suffering as both an example of godly life and as the sacrifice for our sins. Unless we know that 53rd chapter of Isaiah, we cannot understand what Saint Peter is saying, nor can we fully grasp the meaning of today’s Gospel, or those other words of Isaiah from the 40th chapter: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” All that gentle care and goodness involved His death; and the Shepherd is the Risen Christ who cares for His Church until the Day when he comes again in glory. It is not enough to picture the Good Shepherd gently carrying a lamb in His arms, unless we see the print of the nails in His hands.

His goodness and love are demonstrated by His death. He has nothing else to prove. If His ways seem hard to learn, or His commandments seem burdensome, we must remember that He already has shown His love; therefore, we ought to trust that what He requires of us is due to His love- it is all for our good.

As shepherd He cares for us and commits the cure of souls to earthly pastors who represent Him. The true ministry of bishops and priests is to aid the salvation of your souls. Easy church membership is a disservice. We must not make everything too easy, because if we do that we frustrate the working of God’s grace in your lives. This is why on Easter Sunday I reminded you that we do not stop carrying the cross in this life. We cannot set our affection on things above without the aid of the cross, that is, the cross we must carry as His disciples. And, there is no Gospel without the cross. It is no coincidence that the religious bodies that have considered themselves too sophisticated to believe in the resurrection of Christ have become the ones who fit Saint Paul's description as "enemies of the cross of Christ." Their Christ has no nail prints in His hands, no cross, because the cross without the resurrection is the opposite of hope. They are left with "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Their happiness ends in sorrow, their party ends in despair. But, the carrying of the cross ends in hope, it ends in the resurrection. We do not join in with the Hedonism of modern society and modern religion, because we have too much to hope for.

"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." (I John 3:1-3)

Only as the Risen Christ, scars and all, does He still lead us as our Shepherd. So, we follow not only the example of patience and holiness; we follow His direction and hear His voice. Herein is a great danger: We can be religious without hearing His voice; we can build churches without hearing His voice. Remember, the Hebrew word sh’mai means both to hear and to obey. If we want to be obey Him, and make the effort, then we know Him as He knows the Father. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” – John 17:3

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter, Susan and Lucy, upon hearing that Aslan is a lion, ask, “is he safe?” Mr. Beaver answers: “Lord love ya’ child. ‘Course he’s not safe. But, he is good.” As we all know, Aslan represents Jesus Christ. And so C.S. Lewis provides a true insight for us: The Lord is not safe, but He is good. Goodness means that he does not deal with us as we deserve, but for our well being. To save your soul from eternal death He endured the cross; and to give you the full benefit of His cross He provides the cross for you to carry as His disciple, so that you may purify yourself as He is pure. That is, to live with the purpose of being made holy. This is goodness, not safety. Christianity is not a safe religion; it is, in fact, the stuff of which martyrs are made. There is no Gospel without the cross. There is no Gospel without the Risen Christ. To follow the Good Shepherd we must go through the valley of the shadow of death, and fear no evil. We have this hope in ourselves, because we know that when we shall see Him we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Albion, the ACC and England

On Saturday April 14 I had the privilege of attending the annual synod of the Anglican Catholic Church's Diocese of the United Kingdom, which was held at Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, London. It was during the course of the day's events that I met with the Right Revd Rommie Starks, the diocesan episcopal visitor, and with the diocesan board of ministry, to discuss my petition to be accepted as a postulant for Holy Orders.

One of the day's highlights was the ordination to the priesthood, sub conditione, of Fr Tim Perkins, which was carried out during a pontifical high mass. In the first photo, the newly ordained Fr Perkins is presented with the chalice by Bishop Starks, assisted by the vicar general, the Very Revd Damien Mead.

The second photo is of the Mass itself. In the centre foreground can be seen two balding gentlemen, one particularly more so than the other. That is yours truly. To my left is Jonathan Munn, a longtime reader of The Continuum and host of his own blog, O Cuniculi! Ubi Lexicon Latinum Posui? Given that I was in England, and not too far from Jonathan's hometown of Swanscombe, Kent, he very kindly traveled up to London for the morning to meet us and to attend the Mass.

The final photo was taken on the morning of April 15 at the ACC's Parish Church of St Augustine in Canterbury at Sunday Mass, which was preceded by Bishop Starks dedicating the newly renovated space. Here the congregation is singing the Regina Caeli at the end of the service. Yours truly can be seen on the right.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Greetings, With an Appreciation

Published by permission:


I wanted to commend you for your blog, which has been a source of great help and information over the past several months as I have considered joining the Continuum. The "robust, if polite" tone of you and Frs. Hart and Kirby, as well as the poetreader, have been a refreshing change of pace from the somewhat belligerent triumphalism of most Roman Catholic blogs I once frequented.

After nearly ten years in the "dark wood" I have found my way, with the help of our Father, into Catholic religion. Having more or less recovered from my sectarian, fundamentalist upbringing, I have come to appreciate the Way; "Quod Ubique, Quod ab Omnibus." I had intended to become a Roman Catholic but decided to cease RCIA classes in January, for various reasons, one of which was the atrocious liturgical practices of the contemporary Roman Church. I attended my first Anglo-Catholic mass last Sunday, in Indianapolis, Indiana at St. Edward the Confessor, cathedral seat of Bishop Starks, whom you recently visited in the sceptred isle. I was profoundly moved by the serious joy apparent in the liturgy and intend to attend once again this Sunday. It is a bit of a drive, but worth it, methinks.

While it is truly unfortunate that the various continuing Anglican groups have not found it necessary to unite at this time, it seems to me that there is a possible strength to be found in such disarrary. While I pray for some kind of union, I think it important to recognize the possibility that the future of traditional, Catholic, Christianity may just reside in such small cells of faithful witnesses. My decision to become a Catholic was born of a serious distaste with the secular and all its trappings. The progressive temptation, so prevalent in this post-Christian world, is to see numbers as somehow indicative of faith. There may be one billion or so Roman Catholics on earth, but if the West is any indication, many of them are actually Protestant (or, if you prefer, gnostic) in their faith and ecclesiastical practice, preferring private judgment to authority. Pope Benedict XVI has often written and spoken of this possible future, wherein a faithful remnant hold fast to the faith once delivered in the midst of overwhelming indifference and outright persecution, even from those who may think themselves Christian. It is my opinion that the age of Christendom is officially over and that all traditional Catholics and Orthodox must begin to adjust to the minority role, re-catechising the faithful and resisting the overwhelming pressure to adapt one's faith to the dominant secularism that has entrenched itself in Western Civilization.

Forgive this uninvited email; I merely wanted to applaud you and your blog and thank you for the witness it has provided. I pray for the acceptance of your application to become a postulant for Holy Orders, and that you will maintain a faithful witness in Cyprus.

God Bless,
Christopher McNeely

Keeping the Faith and Losing It

I recommend an article at at blog called Whitehall. It gets to a very important point right away.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Collect: Easter II

The 1549 Collect
ALMIGHTIE God, whiche haste geven thy holy sonne to bee unto us, bothe a sacrifice for synne, and also an example of Godly life; Geve us the grace that we maie alwaies moste thankfully receive that his inestimable benefite, and also dayely indevour ourselfes to folow the blessed steppes of his moste holy lyfe.

The 1662 Collect
ALMIGHTY God, who has given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Cranmer translates the collect from the Gelasian Sacramentary. Notice how the phrase "holy sonne" is replaced by the time of the 1662 prayer book with "only son".

If it weren't confusing enough to worship one God in three Persons, and One Lord Jesus Christ with two natures, here in this collect we have another duality concerning our Lord and Saviour. We pray that He may be for us both a sacrifice for sins and an example of Godly living. This seemingly innocuous prayer looks as if it presents us with a problem. If Christ is the one sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, then how far can we use him as an example for living? Surely for us to follow Christ means an inevitable sacrifice on a cross for the sins of the world, and that is a role that only He can satisfy, isn't it?

The Lord tells us that to follow Him we must pick up our cross, our instrument of sacrifice, and then walk with Him. While this whole idea of sacrifice is unpopular (especially with some members of the Anglican Communion), it nonetheless points to Christ as an example of giving and giving and giving until there is no more to give. He is (according to St Thomas Aquinas) the self-wounding pelican who gives of his life's blood. This is the example Christ bids us follow. While our sacrifices shall not result in the forgiveness of sins, they will prove to be the germination of love, kindness, and hope for all those for whom we dare to suffer.

We do not choose our sacrifice - we are led to where we do not wish to go - but if we embrace that sacrifice, looking to the Lord as our example, then that suffering will have a worth beyond our imaginings. But this is the challenge to each Christian and in praying this collect we must acknowledge that which is to come and pray for the Grace to abide it. Is this a prayer that should easily trip off our tongues?

----------------------------------------Jonathan Munn

Monday, April 16, 2007

Report from England

I have just spent what has apparently been one of the warmest April weekends on record in southeast England, with the thermometre topping 25 degrees Celsius yesterday.

I am writing from the deepest wilds of Kent, in the village of Egerton, where I have come to stay a couple of days with one of my oldest friends, before traveling on tomorrow to Winchester and more dear friends. On Wednesday, I will return to Cyprus.

As planned, I met with Bishop Starks and with the diocesan board of ministry on Saturday, and both meetings were generally encouraging.

I must now wait for them all to put their heads together and decide whether to endorse my application to become a postulant for Holy Orders. Then, assuming they do, there is the question of what sort of training they would want me to do.

So your prayers for all of us are still most welcome.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Easter I

I John 5:4-12
John 20:19-23

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”

At the beginning of Saint John’s First Epistle we see a connection between the fellowship that the Apostles had with Jesus Christ during the years in which they followed Him from town to town, the relationship they maintained with Him after His resurrection, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that began to be manifested on the day of Pentecost. Among those charismatic realities we are given the sacraments that belong to the priesthood, chief of which is the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. This continued fellowship with the Risen Christ is, in a sense, Part II of the Incarnation. It is the Incarnation as it continues to affect the fallen world through His Body the Church, from which the Lord is never absent. He is its chief member, the Head of the Body.

So now, hear these words from that Epistle:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

We should think together about how this brings us to the words in the fifth chapter that we have read this day, especially, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” We should reflect on the charismatic reality and power of the Church, and of how we remain in this blessed fellowship. We should reflect on how the hands of the apostles handled the Risen Lord, and how their eyes saw Him, and how we continue in that fellowship. We should reflect upon the reality of His Presence in the Blessed Sacrament when our eyes see and our hands handle the Word of Life even here and now. All of this is part of having fellowship with the Apostles, and in that fellowship, fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, that our joy may be full.

We speak of the Sacramental Life, and we need to know that this is, indeed, Part II of the Incarnation. The Sacramental Life is everything that we have read about. We know that our Lord came to his earth by taking the limitation of human nature into the infinity of His Divine Person as God the Son, time into eternity, creation into uncreated Life, man into God. The means of our salvation are physical, located in time and space, visible in history. His conception and birth, the Nativity in Bethlehem wherein the words of Christopher Smart ring true: “God all bounteous, all creative, Whom no ills from good dissuade, Is incarnate and a native of the very world He made.” In going “about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the Devil” the Son of Man made use of matter, the touch of His hands and the vibrations of his voice, serving to heal through these means. By taking all of our sins and dying on the cross as the “sacrifice for sin,” and then after death “prolonging His days” by rising again, He used the physical means of our world, our home, to bring us salvation. He bore in His own body our sins on the tree, and by rising to life again destroyed death, and the one who has the power of death.

Therefore, to conclude that salvation is sacramental in nature, that it depends on the Incarnation, and is part both of the Church’s message and ministry, is to understand the apostolic fellowship about which Saint John taught us. It all comes from the richest truth gleaned from that simple phrase “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Without a flesh and blood Jesus who is fully God and Fully man, and without His resurrection by which he ever lives to make intercession for us, and without His continued ministry through His Body the Church by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, how do we remain in the fellowship of which Saint John speaks? This is a question we need not ask. We need, rather, to be in that fellowship. We are invited in, welcomed in, and even urged in. The benefits are eternal.

We see from the Gospel this day that our Lord ordained the Apostles, and that this included the priestly gift of the power to absolve sins. Make no mistake. This is the power about which the people had rejoiced when “they glorified God, because this power had been given unto men (Matthew 9:8).” To the Jews of that time, when the temple yet stood, this was indeed a priestly power. In the Law of Moses, the laws of Kippur, Atonement, required a priest to offer sacrifice for the penitent Israelite who, coming to the priest, made his confession of sin. In order to reconcile the penitent to God, the priest was required to make atonement. But, he could not kill himself, and so had to slay an animal in sacrifice (in his own place as the atonement), so that remission of sins could come through the shedding of blood. Of course, to the Israelites, it was only natural to understand confession of sin in relation to the priests and sacrifice.

For us, the sacrifices are a type and shadow of the real sacrifice, that of Christ on His cross. So, on our altars we do not shed blood, but rather we obey the words, “do this as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of Me.” “Types and shadows have their ending, for the newer Rite is here.” So too, when we hear confession, we speak words that are the sacramental matter and form to effect genuine absolution. When the Lord granted to men this power in His own words of Ordination, He handed on the priestly ministry of forgiving sins that is granted by His own priestly act as the true Atonement, the real Kippur, by the shedding of His own blood. The Risen Christ has, by this sacrifice, given to the Church, by means of apostolic and priestly ministry, this great gift as part of that fellowship, “this life [that] is in His Son.”

Some of you may feel the need to make a private confession other than the General Confession, and that may very well be the voice of the Holy Spirit directing you. If so, do you fear the pain of making confession? Consider His pain by which this gift is given. Do you fear the embarrassment of confessing your sins to a man? Consider His humiliation by which this gift is given. Do you want fellowship with the Church of the Apostles? Do you want, through that fellowship, the fellowship with God and His Son Jesus Christ? Do you want your joy to be full? Then do not be afraid to come and confess your sins. The Risen Christ, using even now the means of this physical world, the presence of men who hear, the vibrations, that is the sound of your words of confession and their words of absolution, gives this wonderful certainty that your burden is laid down, and your soul healed.

Even now, in His Body the Church, by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, those charismatic realities that make the sacraments genuine and powerful, He yet goes about doing good, healing all who are oppressed by the Devil. Even now, this very day, within His Body the Church, He gives the fullness of this rich salvation. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Collect: Easter I

The Latin Prayer
Praesta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut qui paschalia festa peregimus, haec, et largiente, moribus et vita teneamus

Grant in thy goodness, almighty God, that we who have celebrated these paschal rites may hold to them in our life and conduct.

The Prayer (1549 and later)
Almighty Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

This collect was written by Archbishop Cranmer for the second Communion of Easter Sunday (if there should be a second celebrated). the 1549 Book assigned the same collect also to Low Sunday, the Archbishop presumably having thought the Latin prayer to be a bit lean in content (justifiably, as it refers only to the rites having been celebrated and not to their significance), and a desire to express some seldom expressed, yet thoroughly Catholic, emphases often heard from the Reformers. When the second Communion dropped out of the 1662 Book, this collect remained as specific to Low Sunday.

How appropriate it is to be reminded once again that the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord stand at the center of our worship, and it was for us that he suffered and rose again. How appropriate to remember that it was thus that we were made righteous in His sight, that we were justified and pronounced worthy. How appropriate also to remember the continuing presence of evil thinking and doing in our lives, to express our desire to be kept free of them, and to beg His help to live in the state to which He has raised us. May our celebration not be for a day or a season, but may it manifest our whole lives through.

-----------------------ed pacht

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Easter Inversion

The world:
"let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we must die."

The Gospel:
"Let us abstain, resist and endure, for tomorrow we must live."

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Collects: Easter Day

The Prayers

ALMIGHTY God, who through thine only begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life: We humbly beseech thee, that as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

O GOD, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the resurrection from the dead of thy only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we who celebrate this Paschal feast may die daily unto sin, and live with him evermore in the glory of his endless life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


The first Collect is a translation from the Latin original in the Sarum Missal. The words “preventing us” were omitted in the 1962 Canadian BCP, probably to limit the potential confusion in using a word, preventing, that had changed its common meaning from “coming before as preparation” to “stopping”. Otherwise, the Collect has remained virtually unchanged since the original 1549 BCP. The second Collect is an optional supplementary one from the Canadian 1962 BCP.


Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

In the midst of the overwhelming joy and wonder of Easter, the chief festival of the Christian year, as we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ from the dead, we might be surprised at the relevance of the petition of today’s collect. Why does the prayer go from talking about the overcoming of death to simply asking that God enable us to carry out our good intentions?!? It seems such an anticlimax.

The Epistle (Col 3.1-11) provides us with the key to understanding this transition. It exhorts us that, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things”. Similarly, St Paul says a little later to “cast off the old self with its evil deeds, and put on the new, which is being refashioned in knowledge according to the image of its creator”.

In other words, the joy of Easter is not just that Jesus has conquered death and sin. He’s taken us with him on the victory parade. We are risen with him. But precisely because we share in this new life we are expected to get on with living it. Jesus had the same expectation of the Apostles: “Go” he says to them at the end of St Matthew’s Gospel!

Since the complete renewal of our bodies is still to come, the way we experience the resurrection-life now is largely in the “refashioning” of our minds, to paraphrase the Apostle. And this includes the redirection of our “desires” as the Collect puts it, or what we “seek” or set our minds on as the Epistle has it. Yet even that is not enough. We must seek till we find. We must desire to do good and actually do it.

Easter is not just a celebration but a challenge and a promise. We are challenged to clothe ourselves with the new humanity that is “in the image of” our risen Lord, and work in its power. And we are promised that the reward is the resurrection of the body to live forever with God.

So, let us make our Easter joy not a complacent one but one that actively impels us to live the new life, using our faith in Christ and his Resurrection to empower our hope in eternal life and our love for God and neighbour. For it is only by faith in God’s grace that we can do it. Believe not only in what God has done for you but in you. There is no need to fret about our ability to obey, for the same Saviour who said “Go” also said “Be not afraid” (Mt 28.10), “Peace be with you” (Jn 20.19) and, best of all, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Mt 28.20).

I Bid Your Prayers

Next Saturday I shall be in London for the annual synod of the Anglican Catholic Church's Diocese of the United Kingdom, before taking a few days to catch up with old friends in Kent and Hampshire.

I shall be meeting with our episcopal visitor, the Rt Revd Rommie M. Starks, and with the diocesan board of ministry, to discuss the future of my ministry in the ACC. At the heart of our talks will be my petition to be made a postulant for Holy Orders and the eventual establishment of an ACC mission in Nicosia.

I ask you prayers for my safe travel and for all of us as we seek to know and to do God's will.

Albion Land

Easter Day

The Epistle. Col. iii. 1.F
The Gospel. St. John xx. 1.F

The joy of Easter quickly turns into an empty and hollow show if we forget the sorrows of the Passion. Only by the Gospel can the deceptions of our time, or of any age, be corrected; and the Gospel keeps before our eyes these two realities: the cross and the empty tomb. The Risen Jesus Christ who appeared to witnesses, and overturned their sorrow with joy unspeakable and full of glory, said to Thomas “reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing (John 20:27).” That is, He answered doubt about His resurrection with the evidence of His sufferings and death. He answered with His wounds, still visible after coming out of the tomb. As an Advent Hymn puts it: “Those dear tokens of His Passion, still His dazzling body bears, Cause of endless exultation To His ransomed worshipers. With what rapture Gaze we on those glorious scars.” Another way of putting it is that He replied to skepticism by proving His identity, showing in those scars that he who now stood alive before them was truly their Lord who had died on the cross only three days before. “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death (Rev. 1:18).” The wounds in His hands and feet, the spear wound in His side, were the signs of suffering, and therefore of life overcoming death.

The Gospel is the story of both the cross and the empty tomb, the story of Christ’s Passion and death, and His glorious resurrection. On Easter we must remember the cross. For, this is how we apply the Gospel to our daily life. Today’s Epistle only makes sense when we place our hope given by Christ’s resurrection alongside the cross of His death. Unfortunately, even as far back as 1928, the Epistle reading was shortened. Let me give you the whole thing, as it had been in Prayer Book earlier, because even still it is not long.

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: for which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: in the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.

What Saint Paul really told us is to have the hope and joy of the resurrection, and for this joy to walk in the way of the cross. This seems like a contradiction. Who wants to talk about mortification and putting to death the impulses that lead to sin? We just came out of Lent, and on Easter we should be all smiles and sunshine. But, if we get the point, we hear the Gospel. The Gospel tells us that Jesus was the one true sacrifice, that he died for our sins on the cross, and so purchased the forgiveness of our sins, and gave us our salvation. The same Gospel tells us that this Jesus, who appeared to witnesses after rising from the dead, promises to us the hope of everlasting life by raising us from the dead when he comes in glory on the Last Day. He is the first fruits of the resurrection, that part of the harvest that comes early. Because of this Saint John, in words from his First Epistle, tells us the same thing that we have heard from Saint Paul:

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure (I John 3:1-3).”

Our hope is in Christ’s death for us by which he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and His resurrection, by which he gives His immortality to us; the gift of everlasting life through His resurrection from the dead. Saint Paul tells us to make this hope certain by a life of obedience and repentance. Saint John says the same thing, by telling us that if we have this hope we will purify ourselves, and adds the words “even as He (that is, the Lord) is pure.” This hope, if we really have it, will make us try to live up to the impossible standard of Christ’s own purity. Frankly, it is the effort that this hope creates; not perfect success, but earnest determination. If we have the hope of seeing Christ when he comes again, and being made alive forever after the pattern of His new and unending life, we will mortify our sinful desires, that is, purify ourselves with only Christ Himself as our standard; with Christ as our standard we do not compare ourselves to other sinners, and see if we are better than some of them, but to the absolute standard of righteousness that keeps us always penitent, and always aiming high.

So, only with the help of the cross, that is, only by accepting the cross that we must carry in order to follow Christ, are we able to live up to Saint Paul’s exhortation we have heard today: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Dead with Christ on the cross, alive with Christ in His resurrection. Our affection is not to be on the things of this world, but on those things in heaven where Christ rules even now.

This Gospel is the answer to the false teachings today that come not only from the society at large, but even from within churches. False religious teachers with a false gospel are always making the news, especially from that other denomination over there, the one about whom the news is always an embarrassment. They have given up and teach others to be given over. About them the words of Saint Paul, from yet another Epistle, ring true.

“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things (Phil. 3:18, 19).”

The Apostle does not say that they are enemies of Christ, but enemies of the cross of Christ. Therefore, we may conclude, that they are enemies of His resurrection too, since their Christ, their false Christ with no cross, does not call anyone to “take up his cross, and follow me daily.”

Listen to words by C.S. Lewis: “Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith but they are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the passion of Christ.” I believe that what he says about anxieties is true of particular sorrows and even of temptations. For some people, having to live with unusual and specific temptations is their share of sorrow.

When religious leaders fail to teach morality they pretend that this is because they are loving, affirming and accepting. But, tolerance is often the very opposite of love, and in reality it is self-serving. It never warns the sinner to repent because the people who preach this false gospel refuse to repent themselves. The most obvious heresy of the current age, making the headlines all the time, is Homosexualism: that is, acceptance of what they call the “gay life style.” But, it is a deeper problem, based on the idea that the highest good, and the most cherished human right for everybody, is carnal pleasure with no boundaries. The fact is (as you all should not need to be told), outside of marriage all sexual relations are sinful, and I mean marriage between one man and one woman. Even within marriage the relations should include love and mutual respect, not just any odd activity that the world engages in. Now, what about the person who suffers from same-sex attraction, or what about the person whose spouse cannot engage in marital relations due to some kind of physical, or even mental, condition? In short, what about the person who has to accept an amount of loneliness, and celibacy in order to live a righteous life?

Without both the cross and the hope of Easter, a false church presents a false gospel of tolerance, affirmation and acceptance; which really means, setting your affection on things below. So, It leads these people to destruction by affirming a false right to carnal happiness as the greatest good. Or, another kind of false approach is to give nothing more than the Law, and to define sin correctly, but to leave it at that. As Christians, we must do better: We must present the Gospel. We proclaim both Good Friday and Easter, the cross and the resurrection, setting our affection on things above, not on things on the earth. Not just for the people I have described, but for everybody, the way of salvation is the way of the cross; and no one can be Christ’s disciple without embracing and carrying the cross behind Him. This means we endure temptations by learning to say no; and it means we accept and even embrace suffering, trusting that God’s love has not failed us as we suffer. Can we see our suffering as our share in His Passion? Can our hope in the resurrection motivate us to purify ourselves by the standard of Christ’s own holiness?

And, for that person whose temptations we do not understand, and whose way seems hard, though we may feel tempted to make him feel good and tell him the easy popular lie, we must be ready instead to present the way of the cross. Only in that way can we help such a person see that his sufferings can, if he will let them, bring him closer to Christ, and the hope of Easter. We must help that person to set his own affection on things above, with hope and joy to purify himself. Anything else, no matter how warm and fuzzy, no matter how much it pretends to comfort, is not worthy to be called love, that is, by God’s standard: Love, charity, “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth (I Cor. 13:6).”

This hope is more than anything the world offers. Years ago trendy preachers belittled traditional Christians as “other worldly.” They derided us because we did not make worldly happiness the highest goal for ourselves or for others. What is worldly happiness compared to what Saint Peter described in these words?

“To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls (I Pet. 1:4-9).”

Our hope is greater than this world, and the pledge for our hope is due only to the appearances of Jesus Christ to witnesses who saw Him alive again after His resurrection. They beheld His hands and feet, that it was truly the Lord. On this Easter, let us be determined to remember the cross, so that we ourselves bear it every day behind Jesus. And, let us be filled with joy and hope through believing, knowing that when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we appear with him in glory.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday Poem

This year's Good Friday Poem is Broken Tree.

---------ed Pacht

Good Friday

Matthias Grunewald: The Small Crucifixion

Now we come to this evening, the evening following the death and Passion of our Saviour. About this evening poets have spoken. About this evening, we find these passages at the ending of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (translated from the German):

At evening, hour of calm and peace,

was Adam’s fall made manifest;

At evening too, the Lord’s redeeming love.

At evening, homeward turned the dove,

an olive-leaf the while she bore.

O beauteous time, O evening hour!

Our peace with God is evermore assured,

For Jesu hath His cross endured...

We sit down in tears and call to Thee in the tomb:

Rest softly, softly rest!

Rest, ye exhausted limbs,

Rest softly, rest well,

Your grave and tombstone

Shall for the unquiet conscience be a comfortable pillow

and the soul’s resting place.

In utmost bliss the eyes slumber there.

We sit down in tears and call to Thee in the tomb:

Rest softly, softly rest.

Yes, the unquiet conscience is itself a gift from God. We live in a time that follows decades of psycho-babble about the need for man to be liberated from the Tradition which demands that he suppress his desires and cravings, the alleged needs of his true nature as a noble savage. What rot, what foolishness, as if the conscience of man and his moral sense is the part of his nature that he must suppress. We have seen the results of this imagination, this high thing that has exalted itself against the knowledge of God, having created a broken society due to broken families, and the creation of broken individuals. These wander in darkness more severe than any since before the Gospel and the Church made a civilization where once stood only a world of pagan cruelty. Reversion back to this cruelty is the mark of our time, a false liberty celebrated less and less as people find themselves living with the tyranny of bad philosophy.

The conscience is the gift of God, and the feeling of guilt is not some medical disability to be cured. Thank God we have a conscience, and thank God we have enough self worth to feel guilt, for we know that we can live up to a higher calling than the calling of sin and death. We also know that we cannot do so without His grace. When this evening comes, and we see that Jesus has endured His cross, we are given both that calling and that grace.We read in the Epistle to the Hebrew that we have boldness to enter into the holiest, meaning into the very presence, the Real Presence [pointing to the ciborium on the side altar being Good Friday] of the Living God.

Hear again the words:
(Heb. 10:19f): Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

This is the day which fulfills the meaning of the slaying of the Passover Lamb and also of Yom Kippur, that is, the Day of Atonement. That was the day in which the High Priest made the sin offering for the whole nation, and in which the scapegoat was led away. The Sin Offering that was killed was a type and shadow of the One True Sacrifice, the One True Offering made by the true High Priest, of which the sons of Aaron were themselves merely types and shadows. By His One Offering of Himself for sin, He put away sin forever. This is what the Epistle is mostly about, Christ the Kippur, the Atonement. The scapegoat was the type of Christ’s spirit descending to hell, to Hades actually, where He would preach to the spirits in prison, and bring the saints of the Old Testament out of their graves to be, with Him, the first fruits of Resurrection and of the World to Come (as we see from St. Matthew’s Gospel). But, on Good Friday we have come to the time of His death and burial. We can see that death and burial in one of two ways. Either it is a tragedy, no more than a simple injustice, one among millions in the history of a sinful and fallen world. Or, we can believe the truth which I preached to you on Palm Sunday, that no man took His life from Him; He gave it by His own power and His own will. He had power, as He said, to lay it down, and He had power to take it again.

His death is the One True Kippur, the atonement for all sin. “He is the Propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” He is the One for the many, by which the many who were made sinners in Adam are made righteous in Christ.We are told to come in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience. That word, “sprinkled” needs to be explained. “Without,” says this same Epistle to the Hebrews, “the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness for sins.” The sprinkling is with the blood of Christ, just as Moses sprinkled the people, just as the Levitical priests would sprinkle the blood of sacrifices. For us there is no need of animal blood; just as we need to kill no sacrifice on our altar, since the altar we have is meant to show that the True Sacrifice for sin was made, and we participate in that one Offering of Christ, both Priest and Sacrifice. The conscience and the heart are sprinkled by the blood of Christ if we come in full assurance of faith. This gift is effective, abundantly given to those who believe.

Again, the place of conscience must be understood. We feel the sting of conviction, the good and right office of guilt doing its wholesome work, whether or not the spirit of the age and the psycho-babblers agree. The conscience is aware of sin, aware of guilt, and forecasts the danger of judgment and of etrenal separation from God. We want to come to the Holy Place, but we dare not. It may help to abandon all true religion, and take up a contemporary “spirituality” in its place. You perhaps know my meaning, the kind of “spirituality” which has no moral obligation but to affirm oneself and to seek power as a possession. The effect, if we succeed in such a thing, is simply deception, and the worst kind of deception, for it teaches us to kill the voice of conscience, and to eschew guilt. It truly suppresses our nature, it suppresses conscience, and moral sense, and so causes the very maladies wrongly ascribed to the Tradition of the Catholic Faith, to the Word of God. The conscience is not quieted simply because it is hushed.

But, if ever it becomes quiet, God has given us over, and we are lost; the alienation beginning in this life cannot feel like freedom for very long, nor can it be eased after death.Let the conscience perform its wholesome and healing office. For with all our embrace of genuine guilty conviction, we also embrace the Gospel. The cross is at once our diagnosis and our cure. The cross shows sin in all of its ugly, violent and cruel reality. The cross shows the Divine sentence upon sin, and the rejection of all that sin is. The cross shows the love of God for all sinners everywhere, for you and for me. The cross is the forgiveness of sin, the poured out blood of sacrifice, the blood sprinkled on the mercy seat. It is the place where perfect justice and perfect mercy meet. It is the place of condemnation and of forgiveness. It is where our hearts are sprinkled and our consciences are made whole.When we have been to the cross, we can enter into the presence of God with boldness, being made new and alive through Jesus Christ. The conscience takes on an even higher function of being the voice of the Holy Spirit, the Law of God written on our hearts, not simply to convict, but to instruct in the way of freedom, of life and of peace with God.

So the Epistle continues:
23: Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works...
Beware of the kind of religion St. Paul warned against:
(Phil. 3: 17f ) :Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

St. Paul spoke of enemies of the cross of Christ. Such people probably think themselves to be friends of Jesus Christ, and may delude themselves that they love Him. But, to hate His cross is to be His enemy; for it was His work, His great act of love. He did embrace it, and carry it, and let Himself be nailed to it. He commands, also, that we take up our cross, and say no to worldly lusts, and to all self exaltation. We are to walk in the way of Christ, the way of the cross. This is how to live with a good and healthy conscience.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Fourteen Days of Dark and Light

April 4, 2007. Wednesday in Holy Week. Here are the two weeks when the destiny of the world is seen and the mighty acts that sealed it remembered. Here, in Holy Week, and in Easter Week (which the Orthodox, so happily, call Bright Week) we see the great contrast between the unrelieved darkness and evil that deserve the ultimate condemnation, and the irrepressible life and light that arise from the infinite love of God. I set about to write a letter, and had to stop for this piece to bubble forth …

Fourteen days:
the days in which the world quakes,
in which the world shakes,
in which the world awakes
to the way the Maker makes.

Fourteen days:
the days of dark and light,
when He stepped into a world of night,
a world that’s evil in His sight,
with destruction as its only right.

Fourteen days:
in which the God made man,
the Lamb once slain e’er the world began,
at the end of a race He with us ran,
ended His life - new life began.

Fourteen days:
when cheering rang out,
and cheering changed into an angry shout,
his head with thorns now crowned about,
and Satan seems to give him rout.

Fourteen days:
when the wood of the Cross,
bears what seems to be our loss,
and all our hopes fate seems to toss
into the garbage with all the dross.

Fourteen days:
midway through,
when mankind knows not what to do,
when blackness covers skies of blue,
but from the blackness comes the new.

Fourteen days:
when angels’ eyes,
have watched Him from his grave arise,
when hope and brilliance fill the skies,
and trampled death in darkness lies.

Fourteen days:
when His own light,
has driven back fore’er the night,
and in the week that we call bright,
we see the vic’ry that ends the fight.

Fourteen days:
the days in which the world quakes,
in which the world shakes,
in which the world awakes
to the way the Maker makes.

Fourteen days:
the days of dark and light,
when He stepped into a world of night,
a world that’s evil in His sight,
with destruction as its only right.

Fourteen days:
in which the God made man,
the Lamb once slain e’er the world began,
at the end of a race He with us ran,
ended His life - new life began.

Fourteen days:
when cheering rang out,
and cheering changed into an angry shout,
his head with thorns now crowned about,
and Satan seems to give him rout.

Fourteen days:
when the wood of the Cross,
bears what seems to be our loss,
and all our hopes fate seems to toss
into the garbage with all the dross.

Fourteen days:
midway through,
when mankind knows not what to do,
when blackness covers skies of blue,
but from the blackness comes the new.

Fourteen days:
when angels’ eyes,
have watched Him from his grave arise,
when hope and brilliance fill the skies,
and trampled death in darkness lies.

Fourteen days:
when His own light,
has driven back fore’er the night,
and in the week that we call bright,
we see the vict’ry that ends the fight.

-----------------ed pacht

Monday, April 02, 2007

What Are You Doing?

I would be interested to know what our readers are doing during this Holy Week -- individually and corporately.

Of course, one of the things you may be doing individually is abstaining from reading blogs, in which case you won't read this post, or from commenting on blogs, in which case you won't answer.

But for those of you who aren't under such a discipline, it would be interesting to hear from you.

I'll kick this off.

First, the personal:

I have not been as dilligent in my Lenten discipline as I had hoped to be (there, I've confessed), so have chosen to make Holy Week as as fruitful as I can.

In addition to my regular morning and evening offices, I am also saying the Litany and the Penitential Office each day and the rosary. I have also chosen to abstain from any social activity, aside from the inevitability of going to work, and am dedicating the extra time to lectio divina and St Maximos the Confessor.

Meanwhile, I have adopted a very rigorous diet: no meat or fish, or products derived therefrom, as well as dairy products. Only one meal a day and the intention of a full fast from sunset Thursday until sunset Friday.

As for the corporate side, there is sadly little to say. As there is no ACC parish in Nicosia (yet), there is nothing for me to share in. Unfortunately, I am working nights all this week, except for Friday. I will see if there are Stations of the Cross, or something else, at the RC parish on Friday evening. On Saturday, I have to work from 3 to 11, and will go straight after work to the Midnight Mass at the Maronite cathedral.

The TAC and the Holy See

A very interesting video here, to which I was tipped off by Andy at All Too Common about the Traditional Anglican Communion's hopes for achieving communio in sacris with Rome.

I know nothing about Salt + Light TV, except that it is a Roman Catholic medium, nor do I have any idea who the driving force was behind this production -- the TAC or Salt + Light.

Whatever the case, the piece gives the incorrect impression that the TAC is the continuing Anglican church. I shall be writing to Salt + Light to disabuse them of that.

That said, I think the piece is sympathetic to the continuing movement, for which I give thanks, and does a pretty good job of expressing our sentiments.