Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui nos omnium Sanctorum tuorum merita sub una tribuiste celebritate venerari: quaesumus; ut desideratam nobis tuae propitiationis abundantiam, multiplicatis intercessoribus largiaris.
Almighty, everlasting God, who hast granted us to venerate in one solemnity the merits of all thy saints, we beseech thee, that as our intercessors are multiplied, thou wouldst bestow upon us the desired abundance of thy mercy.
The Collect 1549
ALMIGHTIE God, whiche haste knitte together thy electe in one Communion and felowship, in the misticall body of thy sonne Christe our Lord; graunt us grace so to folow thy holy Saynctes in all virtues*, and godly livyng, that we maye come to those inspeakeable joyes, whiche thou hast prepared for all them that unfaynedly love thee; through Jesus Christe.
The Collect 1662
O ALMIGHTY God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
As may be seen, Cranmer replaced the old Collect with a brand new composition. His is a happy casting into prayer of several major themes of Scripture that are not present in the Latin, but one could wish he had had less prejudice against the present intercessory role of the Saints at the Heavenly Throne.
Earth and heaven are united in the blessed Communion of Saints. How blest we are to be part of such a glorious company! How wonderful of God to supply us with such examples of godly living! As they strain (in the marvelous picture in Hebrews 12) to watch us as we run the race, to cheer us on, and to bathe us in prayers, we can know that we are not alone, that the mysterious and difficult road on which we run has been trod before, and that the desire of our God and of His Saints is that we join them at His Throne in "joy unspeakable and full of glory". All ye holy Saints of God, pray for us.
Sermon for ALL SAINTS written in 2005, reposted for our new readers. No, this is not the one I gave the link for the other day.
Matt. 5: 1-12
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
I recall my very first solar eclipse, probably about 1961 or 1962, when I could not have been more than four years old. I remember it well. My mother was very careful to tell me not to look directly at the sun, because it was very possible that I could go blind if I did. During a solar eclipse, we can look at the sun, not realizing that the infrared rays are every bit as destructive to the optic nerve as ever. Our eyes cannot take those rays in their full strength. So, I was told not to look up when the sky would darken, but to look down and so preserve my eyesight.
A cousin, who lived across the street, came over with a cardboard box, that, if worn like a helmet over the head, due to a hole cut in the back and a white sheet of paper as a viewing screen placed in front, could be used to see the reflection of the eclipse. It was a partial eclipse, and I recall that on the white screen I saw the sun with a dark round shadow in front of it, causing the reflection of the sun to appear like the moon, when it is only partly visible. The sun appeared shaped like a quarter moon, reflected inside the box-helmet. Even more strange, when I removed the box from my head, on the ground a thousand such reflections appeared, little quarter-moon images of the sun. We could not look directly at the brightness of the sun with any safety, but we could look at the endless reflections all over the ground. I have never seen that particular effect from an eclipse on any other occasion in more than forty years. But, I cannot forget what it looked like.
That is an illustration for us. In our condition as fallen creatures, subject in this world to sin and death, we cannot not look upon the undiluted glory of God in its perfection. It is not a danger, because it cannot happen; for if it happened we would be unable to endure it. It is true that Christ said, “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.” But, this was accomplished by His coming to us as a man. Even on the Mount of Transfiguration it was His glorified humanity that shined with the brightness of the sun in its strength. He made known His divine presence by everything He said and did, especially by defeating death when in His resurrection He ushered in immortality. But, never did He unleash on anyone a perfect glimpse of His divine nature, for to do so would not have been merciful, but rather terrifying. So, He took human nature in its fullness, and this became a part of Him forever by a loving and gracious act of His will. Human nature served as His icon, a perfect image of the Father for us to see. Similarly, His Presence here today is very real, but made food for us under “these shadows mean” of bread and wine.
We do hope to see God some day, and not only in the human nature taken by the Son, though never will it be set aside; And whenever we see God we cannot do so without seeing Christ Jesus, for the Trinity cannot be divided or dissected. The goal and hope of Christians is to see God as our Lord Jesus said: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." This one little line is the reason why this passage that opens the Sermon on the Mount is the Gospel for the Feast of all Saints. The Church long has used the word “saints” to speak of those we believe to have entered already into the perfect state that allows them to be granted the Beatific Vision. That is, to see God as God, the final perfect destiny of the human creature by grace.
Because we are not ready for the Beatific Vision, we must, for now, see God the way I saw the sun during the solar eclipse in my childhood. What we see, that is the sight of God in Jesus Christ, is real. And, real also is what you see when I hold the Sacrament up and tell you to Behold the Lamb of God. We see that reality in a way that is given to us by God’s love, because He saves us by showing Himself. Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
We see Him in His human nature, lifted up on the cross. We see Him as the Lamb of God, ourselves not worthy that he should come under our roof, but asking that He speak the word only, and our souls shall be healed. Yes, what we see is real. And, what we see is granted to us in a way that saves us rather than destroying us, for He came to save us. Our sinfulness, our weakness and our foolishness is all taken into account by the Father, and what we do not see is due to His mercy. The fullness of Godhead dwells in Christ bodily, and the Holy Spirit is really and truly present within the Church- within us with all His gifts. But, our destiny is to behold the sun in its strength when our eyes are made able to endure the brightness, able to endure seeing God as God. We are meant to know Him as He is, to behold throughout eternity the Beatific Vision, a vision not stagnant because He is infinite, and our knowledge of Him once made perfect will be ever perfected more and more, endless knowledge, joy and love.
Yet, we must never presume on God’s grace. Hell is the eternal denial of this joy; not that God denies it to us, but that we deny it to ourselves if we do not make it our aim to know Him.
Recall what I said in a sermon a few months back. On that Sunday the Gospel reading included the words we call the summary of the Law, and which the celebrant says in every Mass (that is, every Holy Communion- same thing). The first and great commandment is the impossible call to be saints, to love God with our whole heart, soul and mind, and then to love our neighbor as ourselves. When you look at the Epistles of Saint Paul, in the opening of the Epistles to the Romans and to the Corinthians, you see that all of the people who belong to the Church are “called to be saints.”
I like the King James Bible, with that accurate translation “called to be saints.” That “called to be” part is missing from the understanding of a good many Protestant revivalists, fundamentalists and Pentecostals. They teach that every Christian is a saint just by, as they like to say, “accepting Jesus.” Meanwhile, the opposite error belongs to those who seem to think of saints as if they were comic book superheroes, people with special abilities like Superman born on Krypton, or Spiderman with his radioactive bug bite that enables him to do amazing things. We mere mortals cannot be like them, and it’s best just to be normal.
Well, the truth is that a saint is a holy person. That is what the words means. And, the truth is that everyone who belongs to Christ has the vocation to be a saint. We have not yet arrived at being perfect saints, but neither are we supposed to leave that to a special class of superheroes. The scripture commands us to “follow on to know the Lord (Hosea 6:3).”
Let me quote my own sermon to you, from the eighteenth Sunday after Trinity:
“Everyone who belongs to the Church is called to be a saint. You, whether you like it or not, are called to be a saint. Your vocation is holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord. That is what the first and great commandment means. And, the problem is, if you don’t like the first product the Church has for you, namely to become a saint, we have nothing else to offer. Real Christianity is radical, and calls for total commitment in every area of life. That is why we need the Holy Spirit.”
The most important thing that we Anglicans focus on during the Feast of All Saints is not the issue of devotions to the saints. Sure, it is possible, I suppose, to slip into idolatry and to worship saints and angels. But, that is not really a danger for most sane people. I think we all know that only God is to be worshiped as God. The ancient practice of asking the saints to pray for us is not idolatry, and should not be condemned as if it were. There is no reason to object to someone saying “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners…” If someone were to speak to her as if to a goddess, that would be wrong; but asking for prayer from a person whom we know to be seeing God face to face is not idolatry. And I, for one, know that many Anglican prayer materials have contained such devotions since long before any of us were born.
But, as I say, the subject of devotions to saints is not our focus on the feast of All Saints. Our focus has always been the call that God has given to all of us, the call to be saints. That is, we are called to be holy, to be faithful in every area of our lives, to press on to know the Lord, to confess the sins we fall into and repent of them in order to be forgiven, and also to be cleansed and delivered from the power of sin. We are called to develop the virtues, faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, prudence and temperance. Above all of the others charity, the bond of perfection.
In order to begin to answer the call to holiness, we must be thankful. And, that is the best reason to look at the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God, lifted up on the cross as Moses lifted the serpent on the pole in the wilderness. It is in thanksgiving that our hearts begin to render for Christ’s great act of love, that our souls are healed, not treating us our sins deserve, but rather dying as our atonement. In that love we begin to see the reflection of Divine glory. Like that reflection I saw as a child, wearing a box as a helmet on my head, we see the glory of God the way I saw a projection of the sun. And like the innumerable reflections of the partial sun that I saw across the ground, we see radiant glory in the great company of saints who have gone before, and who now, with hearts made pure by grace, behold the glory of God.
Monday, October 29, 2007
In my e-mail the other day came this note from Fr. Charles Nalls addressed to a list of friends:
This morning I have been thinking about the importance of catechesis. Here is what my daughter, who is attending a Roman Catholic school is required to know along with her friends who will be confirmed at Holy Cross parish. Some may scoff at and malign the RCC, but do we teach these things or, at least, teach them consistently? As for me, I can't throw stones at a church that makes these demands of confirmandi. We can make all of the anti-Roman statements we want, but, face it, their catechism is more thorough (if we are being honest).
I know that Bp. Florenza has a great set of confirmation materials ... Here's a hint, though, none of these rely on the American Church Union booklet ...
In a former province far, far away, I can name at least one set of children of a professed Anglican priest who, I will warrant you, can recount virtually none of the items in the list below--none, but were confirmed. Why? You might ask him. I was once witness to a confirmation where the child couldn't even recite the creed. ... Fortunately, that's in the past.
The message, here, is that we must put [an end] to being social Anglicans, Catholics, or, for that matter, Christians. If your children do not have a ready answer to the questions below, you need to talk with your priest, and, while you are at it, look in the mirror. If you yourself don't have an answer to these questions, blame... well... (And, no, the answer to the Decalogue question is not "Sneezy, Dopey, Happy, etc.")
Young people are going into a world of increasingly militant atheism, and they'd better be able to make an account of their faith. If we are not doing these basics, we need to reevaluate our teaching. And, if your confirmandi can't do the following, they shouldn't be advanced for the Sacrament until they are able.
I will post the rest of this, the list of questions the children in the RCC school have to answer, below. It is obvious to me that Fr. Nalls is not suggesting that we approach Confirmation merely as an academic exercise, but, rather, that it is time for clergy and parents to restore standards of learning for the benefit of the confirmands themselves. Obviously, we would not want the grace of the sacrament to be withheld from someone due to a learning disability (such as retardation). The point is, however, that everyone should be taught the essential points of the Faith as fully as possible. Whether it is a child or an adult who is being prepared for the sacrament, this teaching period in someone's life is the closest we come to the ancient practice of teaching the catechumins in order that they may enter fully into the sacramental life of the Church.
In modern times it fell out of fashion to teach converts, as if it was not polite; and with the decline of catechesis in the Episcopal Church, people joined quickly and easily with the assumption (as I heard quite a few times) that Anglicanism has no theology. We are supposed to have no distinctive theology of our own (a closed or innovative system like, for example, Calvinism), but only that held by the Catholic Church from the beginning. But, for an adult to join without any serious catechesis, or for a young person to be confirmed with barely any teaching, became common practice in ECUSA. This was one obvious cause of the shipwreck that has drowned that whole denomination. Maybe some of our own people need to unlearn bad habits that were picked up there.
Failure to teach is a sin.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
"And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."
The first responsibility is that of parents, especially of fathers from what we see in St. Paul's words. However, there is this also, work attributed by Paul to the mother and grandmother of Timothy:
"But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
II Timothy 3:14, 15
The first responsibility is that of the parents who must teach the children at home, and then of the clergy who must help them and must maintain standards in the Church. Preparation for Confirmation is an opportunity to make sure that this teaching has been proceeding as it should, while it is refined and furthered by the standards of the Church guided by responsible and pastoral priests.
Here is that list (I would not regard the mysteries of the Rosary as essential for Anglicans; but, they certainly couldn't hurt):
For your 8th grader:
The test has a possible 64 points. The passing grade is 70% or 45 points. You also have the chance to earn free bonus points that will bring up your score!
Here is a list of what you should STUDY and KNOW for the test:
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit - KNOW THESE IN YOUR SLEEP!
The 10 Commandments - know what they mean and know them in order
The Beatitudes (not necessarily in order)
The types of Sacraments and what they do
The similarities between Baptism and Confirmation
What happened at Pentecost
What happens during Confirmation
The Theological and Cardinal Virtues
What is the Holy Trinity?
Types of sin
Days of fast and abstinence and what they mean
The Nicene and Apostles' Creeds
The 4 Marks of the Church
The Lord's Prayer
The Corporal Works of Mercy
The Holy Days of Obligation
The Mysteries of the Rosary
Pray to the Holy Spirit to bless your studies and your test-taking.
God bless you,
"All of these events took place more than 35 years ago. Had the Anglican Communion not subsequently run off the rails, it is entirely plausible that the unity sought now by the TAC would have been established between Canterbury and Rome a generation ago. Progress toward that unity came to a halt, not because the Anglicans decided it was wrong, but because their journey into revisionism, begun in the early 1970's, destroyed all possibility of coming together.
"The foregoing raises an interesting question for the TAC's current critics. Where would they be now if the Anglican Communion had not come unraveled, and the vision shared by both sides in the 1960's had come to fruition? Would they have cried 'foul' and broken with Canterbury , claiming that 'real Anglicans' must ever be separate from Rome? One can only wonder."
Read the whole piece by clicking here.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Next week I shall have something new for you. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy these reruns. New readers, you don't need to think of them as reruns.
Friday, October 26, 2007
The problem with those who are "led by the Spirit" is that they must re-imagine the Bible and disregard Tradition. To do this, they must first invent little fictions. Did you know, for example, that New Testament approves of and endorses slavery? This would have come as no small surprise to the American Abolitionists who based their movement on their Christian Faith and scripture. But, now we have the generally accepted consensus of the Revisionists. I suppose that Saint Paul, instead of teaching the right way of life to Christians who were slaves under the pagan system of Rome, should have urged a Spartacus style revolution, no doubt with the same results, instead of carrying out his mission. His failure to do so must be read as approval of slavery, if not endorsement. And, why must it be so read? To make the Revisionist argument, that's why. Obviously, these Revisionists have never read Deuteronomy 23:15, 16: "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him." The abolitionists, however, had read it.
These allegedly Spirit led innovations teach us that God is capricious, but at least he is growing in his understanding, and so leading us to follow him in his own search for enlightenment. It took him quite a while, by another of their fictions, to figure out what to do with Gentiles in the Church (it seems that their Holy Spirit, unlike the One we know, never plans ahead). Once again, a little passage of scripture the Revisionists seem never to have read is Acts 11:17, 18. "[Peter said] Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." They confuse Peter's later flaw, as recorded in the Epistle to the Galatians when he was corrected by St. Paul, with the heresy of the "Judaizers" that sprung up even later still. They miss the fact that Paul corrected his fellow apostle on the basis of settled, revealed, doctrine already established, and that the Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15) defended and upheld that same established doctrine. But, by inventing this period of doctrinal confusion, this historical "fact" of their collective imagination, they show once again, by using scripture (in clear "Jehovah's Witness" style) that their God takes a while to figure these things out, and then leads them into the newest discovery of his limited, finite understanding, His never-ending search for truth.
So, their Holy Spirit takes them into new and unsettled territory as he matures and learns. Our Holy Ghost, however young He was on the Day of Pentecost, has become old and set in His ways. He does not approve of women's "ordination" anymore than He did when Christ bestowed Him on the Apostles. And, He does not bless same sex unions, no matter how many clergy persons do. The Revisionists have used the same arguments for women's "ordination" that they now use for Homosexualism because, they walk in the same spirit, and in the same steps. And, no, it is not the Holy Spirit.
If they are going to quote Flip Wilson, they ought to quote him verbatim.
ALMIGHTIE God, whiche hast builded the congregacion upon the foundacion of the Apostles and prophetes, Jesu Christ himselfe beyng the head corner-stone; graunte us so to bee joyned together in unitie of spirite by their doctrine, that we maye be made an holye temple acceptable to thee; throughe Jesu Christe our Lorde. Amen.
The Collect 1662
O ALMIGHTY God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone; Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A Brief History
October 28 is the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude in the Western Church.
Simon is usually portrayed as a middle-aged man with a saw and a book. The saw represents the method of his martyrdom. Sometimes he is shown with an oar or fish. Saint Simon was called “the Zealot” either because of his commitment to the liberation of Palestine or because of his zeal for the Jewish law. It does not necessarily mean that he belonged to the party of the Zealots. The moniker distinguishes him from Simon Peter and from Saint Simeon, the brother of Saint James the Less. Simon the Zealot appears in the tenth position in the lists of apostles found in the synoptic Gospels.
An English legend has Simon making a trip to Glastonbury and being martyred in Lincolnshire. According to Roman Catholic tradition, he traveled to Egypt and Persia and was martyred in Persia.
A letter written by Claudius to the city of Alexandria in A.D. 41 forbade Syrian Jews from moving there. “Syria” at that time included Tarsus, Paul’s hometown. This limitation imposed on Syrians may explain why Paul never choose Egypt as a mission field, but Simon the Zealot was under no such restraint.
According to Hippolytus, Simon the Zealot was the son of Clopas and became the second Bishop of Jerusalem.
Saint Jude is called “Thaddaeus” in Matthew and Mark, and in Luke he is named “Judas, son of James”. He appears in the eleventh position in the synoptic lists of the Apostles. He is portrayed with a club or an axe, and holding his epistle or holding a carpenter's rule. He was the brother of Saint James the Less and Saint Simeon. He preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Syria (ancient Turkey) and Mesopotamia. In 62 A.D. he returned to Jerusalem to help with the selection of a bishop for Jerusalem. When the new Bishop of Jerusalem was elected (Simon the Zealot?), Jude returned to his apostolic travels. According to one tradition he was martyred in Armenia around 65 A.D. Hippolytus, however, reported that Jude was called “Lebbaeus” and that he died and was buried at Berytus (Beirut, Lebanon).
Recently I taught an Adult Bible class at my church on Saint Paul. This involved many hours of research and writing. One discovery that continues to thrill me is the evidence of communication among the Apostles regarding the evangelization of the Jewish Diaspora and the Gentiles. When reading Acts one gets the impression that there was a competition between Peter and Paul, but a closer investigation reveals that the Apostles shared their experiences, ideas and methods. Where they failed to coordinate their efforts, the Holy Spirit worked all things for good so that the Church was established and strengthened throughout the ancient world. Saints Simon and Jude labored as Apostles to fit together the stones that would become the “holy temple” acceptable to God. They do not stand in the spotlight as do Peter and Paul, but their work bore good fruit and they surely deserve to be commemorated with thankful hearts.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
After a rainy start, we now have beautiful sunny skies and cool but pleasant days.
Gotta go. Battery dying.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Cameron begins his piece with a clear reference to the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, which has been the official Anglican statement on episcopacy and the nature of the Church since the 1880s, a statement consistent with the only form of Church structure that has existed among Anglicans. Anyone who has read Book I of Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity knows better than to accept the new conventional wisdom that he considered episcopacy merely a good idea, or that he defended it simply as a state matter. In fact, he made it clear, in his apologetic against Calvin's Geneva Discipline and the Puritans, that the form that the Church of England continued to hold was the only one found both in scripture and in the Patristic period, namely the Apostolic Succession of bishops and the universal Catholic structure as it had existed in the Church since the earliest times. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral brought nothing new to the Anglican table, and it was formulated to tell the only way forward for earnest ecumenical relations that would not compromise something of essence to the Church itself. That they merely followed the thinking of those earlier Church of England officials who gave us our Ordinal is easy enough to demonstrate. Nonetheless, in the 1880s a very firmly convinced Low Church party in the United States decided to stop trying to convert the Episcopal Church away from its Catholic episcopal structure, and so they started the Reformed Episcopal Church based on a "Declaration of Principles" unlike anything ever known to Anglicanism, except when such doctrines were refuted in apologetics. This was not the first Continuing Church, as some have tried to insist, for the REC broke away from the Episcopal Church when it was solid and healthy based on their rejection of Catholic principles that our Continuing Church movement has held since the writing of the Affirmation of St. Louis. The REC began as a very anti-Catholic defection from Anglicanism, reducing episcopacy to merely a human convention.
Nonetheless, McGrath considered Cameron's mention of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral to be "remarkable," and wrote a piece about the Protestantism of Anglicanism, its Reformation heritage and its proper designation as a "denominational family." His article reached its peek with this line:
"Yet historians such as Diarmaid McCulloch have rightly pointed out that the ‘middle way’ developed in England in the late sixteenth century was between Lutheranism and Calvinism – two quite distinct versions of Protestantism. The ‘middle way’ which resulted was neither Calvinist nor Lutheran – but it was certainly Protestant."
First of all, the words "Catholic"and "Protestant" should not be used by any Anglican as mutually exclusive. About Anglicanism, "certainly Protestant" is only as accurate as "certainly Catholic." Rome does not define what is "Catholic" for Anglicans; and "Protestant"- a merely 500 year old designation- is not the antithesis or opposite of "Catholic." Furthermore, McGrath's (or rather McCulloch's) thesis is based on a very subtle use and selection of every extreme and deviant position he could find from the sources, never placed against the self-evident facts of history. The idea that Anglicans were trying to achieve a balance between Calvinism and Lutheranism fails to take into account how much they rejected from both sources, and it fails to notice the obvious. It fails to notice the entire Ordinal with its Preface, and the facts of what the Church of England actually did in maintaining Episcopacy against the efforts of Presbyterians. It fails to notice the obvious fact that the Church of England took care to preserve, always, the unbroken Apostolic Succession of Bishops.
Earlier in the piece McGrath wrote:
"Some point to Charles I as the classic representative of this ‘Anglo-Catholicism’. Yet they too easily overlook the awkward fact that, on the evening before his execution, Charles told his thirteen-year old daughter, Elizabeth, that he was to die for 'maintaining the true Protestant religion', and urged her to read the works of Lancelot Andrewes and Richard Hooker 'to ground [her] against Popery'".
Well, there was no such thing in those days as Anglo-Catholicism, and it is unlikely that anyone has ever so presented King Charles I. But, we call him a martyr because he did have the opportunity to save his life and keep his crown as a Constitutional Monarch if only he would abolish the episcopate. He refused, and chose instead to die. "Popery" was not, in the terms of that day, "Catholicism." At that time a Christian could be a Protestant Catholic or a Papist Catholic; the idea of having to be either Catholic or Protestant, or that rejection of "popery" was to reject the Catholic Church and Faith of the Creeds, simply did not enter their thinking. And, in Anglicanism such a choice has never existed. The modern usage of these words, applied retro-actively by McGrath, is unfortunate and misleading.
However, just because I reject the points raised by Alister McGrath, do not imagine that I found Canon Cameron's ideas to be palatable either. The Deputy Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion treats the last three decades of moral and theological decay as if they have been simply a part of the process towards Reunion that has followed a progressive and positive development. He treats the "ordination" of women as a minor doctrinal obstacle, when in fact it has destroyed all the past efforts at Reunion with Rome, and unity with the Orthodox. He treats the merely polite, but futile, ongoing discussions with those ancient communions as if between each of them and the Anglican Communion, in recent years, there have been steady ecumenical gains. And, in a very telling way, he treats the ecumenical relations with mainline Protestantism as something of equal importance to the Reunion of the Catholic Communions. The title of his rosey picture is "Ecumenical Spring is already here." He concludes his cheery little fantasy with these happy and inspiring words:
"...the concept of what ecumenism is has become richer. It is no longer about doctrinal recognisability, but about shared mission and worship, reconciliation on the personal and political, as well as the ecclesial, levels. It is no longer conceivable for any one Church of the Christian oikumene to go it alone. Despite late frosts, in the continuing reality of an ecumenical spring, genuine partnerships are forged, and deep friendships are founded."
So, the fact that everything with both Rome and Orthodoxy is frozen, despite meaningless chatter that still goes on; and despite the fact that strong ties with certain mainline Protestant Churches are based on a shared commitment to non-commitment, and a shared dogma that dogma is unimportant, it is really an "ecumenical Spring" because of all the new friends who will drink tea together.
Looking at both of these articles makes me very glad to be a Continuing Anglican. Almost everything that comes from the Cantuarian crowd these days is based on some sort of distortion.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Omnipotens et misericors Deus, universa nobis adversantia propitiatus exclude: ut mente et corpore pariter expeditit, quae tua synt, liberis mentibus exsequamur. (This collect is appointed in the Tridentine Missal for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost.)
ALMIGHTIE and merciful God, of thy bountiful goodnes, kepe us from all thynges that maye hurte us; that we, beyng ready bothe in body and soule, maye with free heartes accomplishe those thynges that thou wouldest have doen; Through Jesus Christ our Lorde.
O ALMIGHTY and most merciful God, of thy bountiful goodness keep us, we beseech thee, from all things that may hurt us; that we, being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things that though wouldest have done; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The first thing that strikes me about this Collect is that we pray for protection not so much for our own sake but in order that we might do God’s will. The second thing that strikes me as significant is that the doing of God’s will is described as something we “cheerfully accomplish”. This further accentuates the fact that our greatest desire and joy is to be obeying God.
Of course, it ought to be so, but we may have a tinge of embarrassment in praying so, knowing that these words are easy to say but hard to mean! And so we need to remind ourselves of and embrace two rock-solid truths: that conformity to God’s will brings joy in its wake, and that the more we know Him, the more we will love Him and thus long to please Him. Then faith and love will work together to transform our minds and motivations.
For those who are interested in wider Traditionalist Anglican concerns, you can hear some of the statements made at the recent gathering of FiF in England. This is a collection of audio files on a webpage, so you need to have your speakers on. Of special interest is the statement by Bishop Jack Iker of the Dallas Of Fort Worth Texas, who has openly announced the coming secession of dioceses from the Episcopal Church; and he made a statement about relations with the Continuing Churches. The statements begin with a word from Fr. Geoffrey Kirk, who, were I the King of England, would have been Archbishop of Canterbury long ago.
We, of the Continuing Churches, should pray for these our brethren, especially since we share the Catholic convictions of FiF, and should see ourselves as natural allies in the same battle.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together as one.
Earlier this week the news came out that the TAC is seeking full sacramental communion with Rome. In response I posted some historical details about the efforts on the part of the Anglican Communion (as it was) in past decades to seek Reunion with Rome and to become one Church with the Orthodox, at one and the same time. I reported how both of these efforts, with all of their potential, were violently terminated by the heresy of women's "ordination," so that discussion between the Cantuarian crowd with both Rome and Orthodoxy have continued as pointless, albeit polite, chats. I could have added that the about face from both of these ancient communions (still divided from one another as the two One True Churches), westward to Porvoo, or, as is the case in the Untied States, toward the ELCA, has served to give the Canterbury Club a self-satisfied delusion that making nice with Protestantism is just as good as helping to heal the Great Schism in Catholic Christianity. Well, the paradigm of Protestant ministers is just a little easier to reconcile with priestesses in the "church" than is the theology of the priesthood. This is not because the Bible gives any aid and comfort to those who try to force (as in isogesis) women "pastors" into it. Rather, it is because their new version of Sola Scriptura "as of any private interpretation ( II Peter 1:20)," gives more wiggle room for claiming that one's wild ideas are based on the "sure foundation of God's word" than does a right interpretation informed by our Catholic Tradition, in which the Bible is the highest authority as it has been understood, always, everywhere and by all of the Church- "the pillar and ground of the truth (I Timothy 3:15)."
It is only fitting, at this time, to address this perplexing question of unity and disunity as the theological issue it is. To begin with, both of the two One True Churches teach that no schism can exist within the Church, but only schism from the Church. In a pure and perfected sense this is true, not as the ideal versus present experience that we find in Plato, but according to eschatology. The Church will be manifestly united, most certainly, when the final stroke is given to the influence of the first man, the fallen nature of Adam, and the last enemy which is death will be destroyed. In the meantime, it is our place, as Anglicans, to set forth Right Reason as we learn from Scripture through Tradition. For the first millennium of its existence, the Church recognized the need to define true dogma, and to do so through the conciliar process; and in so doing to make it a priority to avoid fragmentation among true believers. However, even this was not done without mistakes and errors in communication (not doctrine), so that the Coptic Churches were separated from the rest of the Body of Christ because of the perception of a heresy that never, in fact, existed: Monophysitism. If the doctrine had been taught, it would have been heresy; but, it was never taught. Here, as recognized by Rome in recent years, was something that, we most certainly have to point out, was schism.
Anyone who reads First Corinthians, and then comes away insisting that there can be no schism within the Church, is learning neither from Plato nor from Christian eschatology, nor from what he has just been reading. "One saith I am of Paul, and another I am of Apollos, or Cephas..." Even those who said "I am of Christ" were carnal, because they were only saying this to distance themselves from their less spiritual brethren who followed mere apostles. St.Paul addressed the problem of schism in the Church because... there was schism in the Church. Did he try to decide which schismatic faction was the One True Church in Corinth? No. Rather, he rebuked them all as carnal. The Apostle was an equal opportunity rebuker.
Here is where Right Reason knows that the Branch Theory, as long as one does not teach it "as of the essence" of the Church, is a theory in the same way as the theory of gravity; that is, it is also fact. Because of the carnality of the old man of sin, our experience of the Church in this life (the Plato thing again) is less than ideal. It is less than it will be when all the scars of sin and death are healed, and the scales fall from every eye. The One True Church has schism in it, some doctrinal, but more often matters of polity. The doctrinal differences, often misdiagnosed and exaggerated by young western converts to Orthodoxy, never really amount to a anything major; nothing like Monophysiticism. Neither the Church of Rome, nor the Orthodox nor Traditional Anglicans are denying the dogmatic definitions of the Ecumenical Councils. Frankly, the biggest dividing issue is the whole matter of the Petrine See and the shifting dogmatic pronouncements about it, as well as the critique of those pronouncements. It really has never been about filioque, or about theosis versus Anselmian atonement, or any other false and distracting non-issue. If it were, a few good theological discussions would have cleared it up by now, since men of goodwill are ready to learn together and from each other.
Sorry, but it is about that old man, in fact that old rascal, Adam.
It is customary at this point to mention the Lord's own prayer from the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John, twice spoken, " ...that they may be one." We pull this out as if He were praying to us, and we are the ones who may frustrate His wish, or grant His plea. This was spoken within the Godhead, by the Son to the Father: It was as much a formal declaration as a prayer to the Father. This said, the Lord made the whole Church One (as we say in the Creed). The Lord also makes every husband and wife one. "They shall be one flesh." People who are married do not always get along; they fight, they hurt each other, and even go through a legal fiction that the world calls "divorce." But, for life, the man and wife are one flesh. If they fail to live together in peace, they are, nonetheless, one flesh. They do not have the power to say yes or no to God's prayer that they be one, because His word has made them one. All you who are married have an obligation to "so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting." For having been made one, it is incumbent on a couple to live together in unity, and so put to death the man of sin wherever he seeks to cause strife. And, this is sure to happen. In my standard marriage sermon I tell people that they enter into a commitment, not an experiment. For, every experiment in human relations will fail for one very good reason: Everyone is impossible to live with. This is part of what the scriptures teach with those words, "all have sinned," and, "there is no man that sinneth not." "Today," I tell them, "you make a commitment."
So, too, the Church has been declared One by the word of the Lord, that word that we vainly imagine we can grant or foil. As an Anglican I can recognize the One True Church both in Rome and in Orthodoxy, and also in us. We are one; and if the potentially big event of this past week helps the Church to dwell together as one, it is the Holy Spirit guiding the Body of Christ by imparting the mind of Christ even to such sinners as the Church consists of.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Sometimes we spend so much energy on inessentials and ephemera that we forget what really matters. One of the things that really matters is that God is good. God is good: he is good to us, all the time, and we are very, very blessed. This is always true, but sometimes it is easier to see and believe than at other times. When I look back over the two years since our last Provincial Synod, it seems easy to believe. I can think of very little to regret or deplore about the last two years, and I am not an uncritical man. We have had no shocking episcopal deaths or other losses that seem deeply untimely or hurtful. We have suffered no great schism or split. Our ecclesial life has unfolded in harmony, at least on the Provincial level. While here and there we have experienced, as Churches always do, parochial and diocesan fusses and unhappiness, none of these has seriously shaken the Church. Most of our Dioceses have added parishes and people. A new mission society has begun and has funded some remarkable works of charity and faith. We are spreading to new countries. Our bishops are solidly united. Our ecumenical endeavors are producing fruit. In general I would say that in the last two years God has treated us very gently and has reminded us again and again that he is very good: better, always, than we deserve.
While God is always good, his goodness is promised in a special way to his Church, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail and in which he has promised his eternal presence. I hope you will not accuse me of arrogance when I say that a review of the history of the Anglican Catholic Church will show, I believe, that we have been God-preserved. We have suffered incredible setbacks and stunning defections. We have failed ourselves repeatedly. We certainly should be far larger than we are, and we must ourselves share the blame that we are not. Nonetheless, when we look at the threats we have survived, and some of the knaves we have endured, it is truly a miracle that we are here. And through it all I detect a consistent theological position, which I believe represents the purest and most persuasive understanding of Scripture and the Fathers available. We have held to a golden mean, faithful to our past, but we have learned the lessons of the modern Anglican debacle through which we have come.
We were grievously split years ago because, we were told, we were too rigid and too Catholic. Six years later we were again grievously split because, we were told, we were too comprehensivist and too Protestant. There are no more half-Catholics than there are half-virgins; nonetheless, the mutually contradictory charges of our critics cancel each other and suggest to me that we were and are about right. And since in both of these most dangerous passages our critics would have won the day if they had acted more circumspectly and patiently, I say that we have been God-preserved. Here we are, and we would not be if God had not willed our continuation.
In the sociology of religion one of the great bifurcations, at least in the study of Christian bodies, is between sects and Churches. Sects tend to be separatists, who divide from others, who seek to be a pure remnant, and who do not aspire to universal significance or general social influence much less establishment. Churches, in contrast, see themselves at least in principle as universal, as embracing a mixed multitude, as forming the spiritual core of a whole society. Now the ACC shares elements of both sect and Church. Because we began in an act of separation from what at least sociologically was an older, larger body, and because we began with protest against the pernicious influence of the wider culture on that older body, we have an undeniable sectarian bent – remembering, again, that I use the term in a sociological, not theological, sense. This element in our history means that we feel an attraction to the Old Testament remnant theme, which shows God’s faithful people again and again reduced to a loyal core through which God works his will in a wider, more generally corrupt, world.
It is important, however, to remember that the remnant theme is basically an Old Testament theme. It is in Genesis that God shapes a single clan into an instrument to work his will in history. It is in Exodus that God calls a nation out of a great empire and into the purifying desert. It is in I Kings that God says, ‘Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal’ (xix.18). But with the Incarnation and the gospel and Acts, we find the process reversed, as the good news of salvation in Christ flows outward from the still, simple point of Easter and the apostolic witness to ‘Jerusalem, and…all Judea, and…Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.’ (Acts i.8) The remnant, which ultimately is Jesus Christ alone upon the Cross, becomes the Catholic Church formed and empowered by the water and blood flowing from his wounded side into the mighty flood of grace. The Church is called to preach and convert and baptize every creature under heaven.
We are, therefore, in principle, not a sect but a Church, with a universal mission. In fact, as Anglicans we are less sectarian in fundamental impulse than almost any other Christian body: for we firmly assert that while our mission is universal, the particular forms of our own Anglican worship and our own Anglican culture are not exclusive. We deny that we have any unique Anglican Catholic doctrine, but rather we stand for the unique authority of the patristic witness and the Conciliar tradition, and we assert the incompleteness of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches in their more exclusivist claims. We are Catholic, but do not claim to be the only Catholics. We are Orthodox, but do not claim that in principle all others are heretics. We have clarity of doctrine, but a clarity that embraces East and West, Rome and Orthodox, past and present.
It is important, then, even while we find ourselves in tiny congregations or feeling besieged by a hostile secular culture, that we not allow ourselves to become a ghetto. We must not become trapped in a truly sectarian attitude. Our chief duty is not to protest against the world, but to convert the world. Our primary goal is not to preserve a tradition, but to share it, even as we recognize that we will have nothing to share if we do not preserve intact what we have received.
In the delightful Faber Book of Church and Clergy we read of a West Country parson who ‘drove away his congregation, replaced them by wooden and cardboard images in the pews and surrounded his vicarage with a barbed-wire fence behind which savage Alsatians patrolled.’ (London: Faber & Faber, 1992; ed. A.N. Wilson; p. 241) Here is a cautionary picture of more than one ‘Continuing Church’ parochial tendency. The savage Alsatians may have human form, but still may scare away anyone who stumbles upon us. The real people of God may be replaced with simulacrums or simply be entirely absent. Let it not be so.
On the same page of the same book we learn that when Edward King became bishop of Lincoln he was informed that his clergy could be divided comprehensively into three groups: ‘those who had gone out of their minds; those who were about to go out of their minds; and those who had no minds to go out of.’ Here we have another caution. I am myself very fond of clerical eccentrics. Of course I am. I am from the South, which Flannery O’Connor famously observed was the last place in America that cherishes its eccentrics. Still, eccentricity can go too far. If we lose all point of contact with real people and their concerns, then we might as well put a cardboard priest at the altar, to match those in that West Country church’s pews. It is charming to read of the priest who for forty years ‘preached on a variety of themes at his morning Mass, but thought it inappropriate, at… Benediction, to preach on any subject other than the Empress Josephine.’ (Wilson, p. 240) It would be less delightful to listen to forty years’ worth of sermons on the Empress Josephine, and I wonder how many people endured such.
Archbishop Cahoon used to say that within the breast of every layman there beats a heart looking for a reason not to go to church. And the job of the clergy, Archbishop Cahoon would continue, was not to give them that reason. I fear, Fathers, that too often we do give them such reasons. Laymen are perfectly capable of finding irrational and unfair reasons to be scandalized by us. But, Fathers, what about the rational, or even just plausible, reasons? What about the fair, or even just not plainly unfair, reasons? You need to examine your personal conduct more severely than does your bishop or anyone in your parish, and you should alter that which might give offence. If push comes to shove your bishop and Archbishop will tend to support you. That is part of our job. But you need to be very, very careful not to let push come to shove and not to let laymen become so aggrieved that they feel it necessary to call or to write us.
God is good. God has preserved and protected us beyond our understanding and deserving. We in turn need to cooperate with God’s grace. We should remember that our mission is universal and that our perspective should be global. We build our parishes by building the whole Church, even as we build the whole Church by nurturing healthy parishes. Successful parishes have a heart for missions. Churches with missions tend to have successful parishes. And remember that in order to serve God and build the Church, we must open our hearts to his grace through penitence, humility, zeal for souls, love for those whom we offend, and patience under our sufferings.
I call you all to attend this Synod with attention and courtesy, to do the Church’s business, and to enjoy yourselves and your fellow Churchmen. May God, who is good, bless us all this week.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Meanwhile, in an ongoing series of discussions between Anglicans and the Orthodox Church since the days of Lancelot Andrewes, things had reached a new high in 1922. Documents show, as can be seen on the Project Canterbury website, that between 1922 and 1936, Orthodox Patriarchs had, one after another, written to the See of Canterbury to recognize the validity of Anglican orders (in the fullest theological sense) and to work toward real unity: As the 1930 Christmas letter from the Patriarchate of Alexandria summarized the matter: "The Holy Synod recognizes that the declarations of the Orthodox, quoted in the Summary, were made according to the spirit of Orthodox teaching. Inasmuch as the Lambeth Conference approved the declarations of the Anglican Bishops as a genuine account of the teaching and practice of the Church of England and the Churches in communion with it, it welcomes them as a notable step towards the Union of the two Churches. And since in these declarations, which were endorsed by the Lambeth Conference, complete and satisfying assurance is found as to the Apostolic Succession, as to a real reception of the Lord’s Body and blood, as to the Eucharist being thusia hilasterios (Sacrifice), and as to Ordination being a Mystery, the Church of Alexandria withdraws its precautionary negative to the acceptance of the validity of Anglican Ordinations, and, adhering to the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, of July 28, 1922, pronounces that if priests, ordained by Anglican Bishops, accede to Orthodoxy, they should not be re-ordained, as persons baptized by Anglicans are not rebaptized."
As these two discussions were underway with the serious intention of joining the Anglican Communion to Rome and to Orthodoxy, it seemed that a new definition could be given to the Via Media, no longer just a possible bridge between the Protestant churches of the Continental Reformation and Rome, but a bridge to join Rome and the Orthodox Church, ending the Great Schism that has, as its most consequential date, 1054; the year when Christianity was divided into two schisms each claiming to be the One True Church. The Anglican Communion presented to the whole Church of Christ its greatest hope to work toward the real ending of its sad divisions.
Then came 1976, and the "ordination" of women in the Episcopal Church as well as in a few other churches of the Anglican Communion.
Immediately, Pope Paul VI canceled possible plans to rescind the 1896 Bull on Anglican Orders as no longer applicable to Anglican orders (indicating that Archbishop Lang and others had been realistic in 1930) . In 1978 Orthodox Archbishop Athenagoras remarked: “…the theological dialogue [between the Orthodox and the Anglicans] will continue, although now simply as an academic and informative exercise, and no longer as an ecclesial endeavor aiming at the union of the two churches."1 As a result of revisionists having their way and contradicting almost 2,000 years of Tradition and adherence to Scripture, the gains toward hope of true Catholic unity was reduced to a pile of rubble, and the talks carried on between the Anglican Communion and Rome, and between the Anglican Communion and Orthodoxy, have been nothing but mere polite formality with no real potential. Furthermore, the heresies in the official Canterbury Anglican Communion have continued to mount so that what is discussed these days among seemingly orthodox Anglicans (only "orthodox" by comparison to other Anglicans) has to do with gross sin and open rebellion, widespread acceptance of immorality and complete renunciation of all true beliefs.
None of these developments are a surprise to Continuing Anglicans. The issue of women's "ordination" that made the movement necessary was simply the opening of a door to rejection of authority, the authority of Scripture, Right Reason and Tradition. With that door opened, every heresy that can be taught must be taught, and every sin that can be justified and practiced will be justified and practiced. It is just a matter of time, and both recent history and current events prove our point.
The TAC and Rome
Jump ahead to this week's announcement. Comments have been veering in all directions. But, the questions remain unanswered as to what is really happening. However, the potential exists for something to resume that could bring the old hope of unity through a bridge church communion back to life. Yes, the TAC is much smaller than the Anglican Communion; but, if any serious body of Anglicans can be taken seriously by Rome, and one hopes eventually by Orthodoxy, maybe the bridge can be rebuilt. It remains to be seen. But, with God all things are possible- and does anyone really believe that Satan can have a victory against inscrutable providence?
(1) As quoted in Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue: The Dublin Agreed Statement, (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985), p.3
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
ALMIGHTIE God whiche calledst Luke the phisicion, whose prayse is in the gospell, to be a phisicion of the soule ; it may please thee, by the holsome medicines of his doctryne, to heale all the diseases of our soules; through thy sonne Jesus Christe our Lorde.
The Collect 1662
ALMIGHTY God, who calledst Luke the Physician, whose praise is in the Gospel, to be an Evangelist, and Physician of the soul; May it please thee, that, by the wholesome medicines of the doctrine delivered by him, all the diseases of our souls may be healed; through the merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Latin Collect translates as “We beseech thee, O Lord, that thy holy Evangelist St. Luke may intercede for us, who always bore in his body the mortification of the cross in honor of thy name.” Archbishop Cranmer, rather justifiably, seems to have found that to fall a bit short of due consideration of the author of a Gospel, and crafted a new prayer admirably reflecting, in very short space, the salient facts of his life and ministry.
What a blessed thing it is that this author of a Gospel, historian of the church, supporter of St. Paul, and powerful early leader of the infant Catholic Church should be not only a preacher and teacher of the Good News of our salvation, but himself a trained healer of the body. What a wonderful reminder that we are not mere ‘souls’ who happen to be housed in a discardable body, but rather complete human beings, body, mind, and spirit, destined to be eternally bound into one, eternally praising Him of whom St. Luke wrote. With the beloved physician may we always profess, believe, and “look for the Resurrection of the dead: And the Life of the world to come.”
"The College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) met in Plenary Session in Portsmouth, England, in the first week of October 2007. The Bishops and Vicars-General unanimously agreed to the text of a letter to the See of Rome seeking full, corporate, sacramental union. The letter was signed solemnly by all the College and entrusted to the Primate and two bishops chosen by the College to be presented to the Holy See.
The letter was cordially received at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Primate of the TAC has agreed that no member of the College will give interviews until the Holy See has considered the letter and responded."
Saturday, October 13, 2007
“…Jesus seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy, ‘Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.’ ”
As important as this is in the case of jurisprudence, and as trivial in the case of sports, it is of ultimate importance in religion. I have often wondered why people who know that doctors are the experts in medicine, lawyers are the experts in law, and plumbers the experts in plumbing (or so we hope), have decided that they know as much as the most godly and learned clergy; and, with or without learning- usually without- appear to be convinced that on the subject of God and salvation, they have it all figured out. It is amazing to me that people can read the Bible, read it faithfully, and yet see in it things that are not there, often failing to see what is there. Of course, this only proves the point that the Bible is impossible to understand without the Holy Spirit and His revelation in the Church by its Tradition which has been handed down since the times of the apostles. It was never meant to be separate from the Church, never meant to stand alone as sola scriptura over against the Church, but instead as simply the scripture of the Church. It is the Word of God that “contains all things necessary for salvation;” but not by itself alone, because the Bible has never existed alone and was never meant to be taken away from the Church within which it was written and compiled, expressing from the earliest times the same teaching that we find in sacred Tradition.
I say all of this because if we assume that an individual can understand the Bible without the input of the early generations of Christians down through the ages, we can be misled by sincere but erroneous assumptions. Were we to ask about today’s Gospel, many sincere Christians would demonstrate early on that the people they agree with, in this story, are the enemies of Christ who wanted to kill Him. I say this, because quite often I have heard from sincere Christians the refrain spoken by the Pharisees, as Luke and Mark both tell us in their account of the same event: "But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?”
I am not saying that these Christians are hypocrites like the Pharisees. I think they are honest, and that they believe that their notion is in the Bible. In fact it is in the Bible. The problem is, the doctrine that only God can forgive sins, and that men cannot forgive sins, is expressed by the enemies of Jesus Christ, and only by them. In the Bible, yes, but look who says it. Many times I have heard such people tell me, “the Bible does not say that I should confess my sins to a priest, but only to God.” They are sure that the Bible says this, somewhere. If pressed, they produce a verse in the First Epistle of John, chapter One, verse Nine, about confessing sins, a verse that simply does not say that confession is made only to God. They add that part in their minds. Taken within the context of the whole Bible, it probably cannot be reduced to what they say. The whole Biblical picture of Confession involves men as God’s instruments, because it comes from the Book of Leviticus.
In the laws about Kippur- atonement- the penitent Israelite is instructed to take a sacrifice, confess his sins and ask the priest to make atonement. In the New Testament, we learn that all of the sacrifices were types and shadows of the One True sacrifice when Jesus Christ went to the cross and died for our sins. So, the blood of the sacrifices was shed in the Old Testament to announce that the real atonement was yet to come. And, now, we have an altar- and the thirteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us this is an altar that we have, not simply a table- and since it is an altar what we do here is indeed a sacrifice (because that’s what altars are for). But, our sacrifice does not involve killing and the shedding of blood. Because, just as Old Testament sacrifices showed that the true atonement was going to be made, our sacrifice on our altar shows that the true sacrifice has now been made by the One Whose blood is the real atonement for all sin, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.
Without an altar we could only give an abstract teaching. With an altar of sacrifice, our Eucharist is joined to the death of Christ, just as the elements themselves are joined to the One Who said “this is My Body…this is My Blood.” And, in answer to our friends who don’t see what is there in scripture, and somehow manage to see what is not there, let us take Jesus Christ at His word. He did not say it was a symbol, so let’s not see mere symbolism where we are told to see reality. He said that it is His Body and Blood, just as Saint Paul also said when writing to the Corinthians. So, let’s see what really is in scripture. This is His Body, this is His Blood, and it is the One True sacrifice that was once for all offered on the cross to which our Eucharist joins us, to which it becomes a part, transcending time and place.
Getting back to confession, the only picture that the ancient Jews had of Confession involved the ministry of select men, the Kohanim, that is, the priests. So, in the Epistle of James we are instructed to confess to those who will pray for us. Look at today’s Gospel. The Pharisees said that only God can forgive sins, but the people rejoiced that God had given such power unto men. They did not know, as yet, that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. But, they saw in Him the compassion of God as it was demonstrated in power. The healing of the man who had once been paralyzed, showed that Christ’s word of absolution- “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee”- was no empty promise, but a true word with power. God does not deal with us as our sins deserve, and here He proved it by healing instead of striking the man dead. His messenger brought healing, and thereby proved that when he forgives sins, His forgiveness is the mercy of God Himself.
I know what some of you are thinking: “The answer is, Jesus could forgive sins because He is God.” True, very true. But, says Saint Matthew when writing down this report of what he had witnessed, the people “marveled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.” And, the people got it right, while the Pharisees got it wrong, and, unfortunately, as many well meaning Christians still get it wrong. They could not rejoice with the people at the idea that God has given this power of absolution to men. In the Book of Common Prayer, when a priest is ordained, the Bishop, as part of the Ordination Rite, along with the laying on of hands, repeats the words of Jesus Christ that come from the Twentieth chapter of the Gospel of Saint John:
In the ordinal these words are repeated. I remember all those years ago when Bishop Joel Johnson laid his hands on my head and said the words in the Ordinal: “Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” I was aware of the line of Bishops stretching back to the very first Apostles, to whom the words of Ordination by the Risen Christ first were spoken. And I was aware too, that through this line, as it came forward in time, it truly was Jesus Christ Himself who was speaking these words to me through His Apostolic representive. I was aware too of the power of the Holy Spirit creating a change within me, a supernatural reality that I could feel.
The continuation of the sacramental ministry through the priesthood is a means of grace, an extension of the ministry of Jesus Christ Himself, for your benefit.
A while back, a seemingly sincere fellow was trying to debate with the Catholic Tradition that has always been a part of our Anglican understanding of what the Church is. I quoted this passage from the Gospel of John. I asked, in all sincerity, “who, in your church, by its professed beliefs, has the power to forgive sins? If the answer is ‘no one’ then how can you believe that you are in the same Church that Christ established?” We, Anglicans, have always known that this power resides in the priesthood through the Apostolic Succession. It is, if you will not be afraid, a gift from God, the blessed assurance through a sacrament that God has forgiven you, a gift of His love, made possible only because Jesus Christ died for you. Understand, He died for you- the great act of love that He means for you to take personally. And, he means for your conscience to be clear, for your hope to be firm, and your joy to be full.
Because the Word was made flesh, because Jesus Christ was revealed to be God come to us in the flesh, nothing remains the same as it was. He commits His entire ministry to His people, and His priestly ministry specifically to ordained men, as an extension in the earth even now of His Incarnation. All of the sacraments extend to us His Incarnation as the One we hear, see and touch. Another thing some people think they see in the Bible is the idea that the Church will be taken away to some heavenly place before the end of history leaving everyone else behind. They fail to see that Jesus promised to raise the dead who believe in Him on the Last Day, and not even so much as one day before that Last Day. So it must be in order for God’s will to be complete. For, the Church continues as the extension of the Incarnation where the risen Christ is present in the earth among fallen humanity. The Church does not only proclaim salvation; the Church actually administers salvation by the Word and Sacraments that Christ Himself works within her.
One of those sacraments is Absolution.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Feliz cumpleaños to Albion Winslow Land, junior, better known as Winz, who turns 15 today.
There is an amusing story connected with the occasion of his birth in Madrid on October 13, 1992: It was Tuesday, Tuesday the 13th.
So what, you say. At least it wasn't Friday the 13th.
Well, it was, sort of. In Spain, you see, those of a superstitious bent are worried about Tuesdays that fall on the 13th, not Fridays.
As it was, Winslow's mum was getting close to being very overdue. We had an appointment with her doctor the previous Friday, and he said it still wasn't quite time. We'd give it the weekend, and then induce labour if he hadn't been born already.
Problem was Monday was a national holiday -- the feast of Spain's patroness, La Virgen del Pilar. So Tuesday was the first opportunity to coax him out.
Naturally, the doctor asked if either of us were superstitious. Our immediate reply, almost in unison, was "no, just do it!"
I doubt there's much danger that Winz will read this, but if he does, I'm in trouble. But since I'm a gambler, I'll add something that will make it even worse if he does.
Okay. So we weren't superstitious. And he was born. And he was healthy. And everything was where it should be and was working.
And he was butt-ugly!
But as you can see, Tuesday the 13th turned out not to be bad luck after all.
He's one fine lookin' boy. And everything is still where it should be.
Happy Birthday, bubba,
Friday, October 12, 2007
On another damp, cool day (12 degrees cooler than the day before and, yes,
those degrees are from the original thermometer, not that funny European one) the ACC's Provincial Synod met for the second, and as it turned out, last day yesterday in Cleveland. A number of routine and purely formal actions were taken, such as the separation of the Synod into its three constituent Houses (Bishops, Clergy, and Laity) for those bodies to elect their own officers, elect their members on the Administrative Council, Provincial Court, etc., and generally to chew the fat among
The Senate of the Clergy, as usual, immediately passed by acclamation a motion to reappoint all existing officers, representatives, etc., and adjourned. Thus sensibly the men in black made it possible to spend a couple of hours chatting individually, nosing around the Angican Parishes Association's book table, examining the samples of vestments from the new Church Mouse supplier, talking with Fr. Rice, Sister Anne and their cohorts about Good Samaritan Services (the wildly successful social services agency on the West Bank in New Orleans), and similar things while
the Laity and Bishops, in other rooms, did deep and ecclesiastical things.
When the Synod reconvened, Bishop Garang told it something of the situation in the Sudan and Archbishop John Augustine reported on the developements in India that he had already imparted to the College of Bishops earlier in the week.
Canon Marvin Gardner explained the new St. Paul Mission Society that had been functioning on an informal basis as coordinator of the Church's mission funding ever since the last Synod (Grand Rapids, MI, 2005) had requested attention to this area and that was now being formalized by legislation put forward for the Synod's consideration (and which in fact passed).
Father Bien-Amie told about the situation in Haiti and how grievously the rural population suffers from the lack of basic necessities such as clean water. He has been able to put a water system in one village for only $10,000 and has another place he will put one as soon as the money becomes available. (The College of Bishops has already authorized the sale of some land in Tennessee that was given to the Church some years ago; out of the proceeds of this sale, the first $10,000 will go to Fr. Bien-Amie and the residue will go into the Province's Endowment Fund.)
Bishop Brian Iverach, who has been working with the Second Province in India, explained the Church of India's plan to open its own seminary and also discussed the opening of a mission in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. He is about to move back from Texas to his original home, Australia, where he will assist the small number of ACC members there and see what can be done to expand our presence there.
Bishop Dennis Hodge, from New Zealand, addressed the Synod, commenting on how it had heard harrowing tales from places where the people struggled because they were too poor but that he came from a place where the people were too affluent to be easily interested in the Gospel. New Zealanders have no need for money from the other regions of the Church, he said, but they were in desperate need of the others' prayers.
The reports of the separate Houses' actions, two very minor matters of canonical legislation (including placing a description of the territory assigned to the Diocese of Aweil), and the usual courtesy resolutions finished the day and the Synod adjourned by 4:30 PM, having no need of any of the time that had been set aside for it to continue on Friday.
Evening Prayer was celebrated and then the delegates met together again for the Synod banquet. There they were addressed by a lively gentleman whose name, I must confess, I never did quite catch, being by that point in the week exhausted and on the verge of falling asleep every time I sat down. I did gather that he had been President of St. John's College, Santa Fe, NM, had been nominated (unsuccessfully) by President Reagan to be Archivist of the Unites States, and earlier in his career had been one of Archbishop Haverland's professors when he was an undergraduate at Kenyon College.
He spoke about the lessons he had learned during a year in Iraq, where he had been posted to advise the new government's efforts to reestablish the country's higher education system. He discussed how people's culture affects their perceptions of other people and situations and how religion is overwhelmingly the most important aspect of culture and then related these insights to the comments and observations he had received from various members of the multi-religious, multi-ethnic, tribalized Iraqi society.
Using the parable of the Good Samaritan as a metaphor for the Christian outlook on social service, the speaker told how non-Christian Iraqis reacted to that story, seeing it as, at best, improbable, and, at worst, as insane. No one would act out of altruism, was the gist of these responses, and the Samaritan himself had no family or tribal ties to the robbery victim so the whole scenario was meaningless to them.
So the upshot of the week was that the Church escaped suffering any major damage although yesterday's news was filled with the school shooting of the day before, which had occurred only a short distance from the hotel where the Synod was being held. Thus were explained the many vehicle sirens, etc., that had seemed to have been a few more than normal for the center of the office building district.
Addendum by Fr Kirby: Just to note the official positions of the Bishops Hodge and Iverach, as communicated to me by his Grace, Archbishop Haverland. Bp Hodge will be an assistant bishop in the Missionary Diocese of Australia and New Zealand. Bp Iverach will serve as Episcopal Assistant to the Metropolitan with duties primarily involving Australia and East Africa and liaison between the Original Province and the Church of India, that is, the Second Province.
Dirigat corda nostra, quaesumus, Domine, tuae miserationis operatio; quia tibi sine te placere non possumus.
The Collect 1549
O GOD, for asmuche as without thee, we are not able to please thee; Graunte that the workyng of thy mercie maye in all thynges directe and rule our heartes; Through Jesus Christ our Lorde
The Collect 1662
O GOD, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee; Mercifully grant, that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Latin Collect, from the Gelasian Sacramentary of about AD 750, and likely written in response to the Pelagian heresy, appeared in the Sarum Missal for the 19th after Trinity, and on the Continent for the 18th after Pentecost, where it still appears in the Tridentine Missal. Cranmer translated it quite literally, but it was altered somewhat for the Book of 1662, a more significant change than the editors may have realized, as it removes the direct petition for the working of God's mercy in favor of an invocation of the Holy Spirit, theologically correct, but rather different in emphasis.
We regularly try to fool ourselves into believing that we are actually pretty much good people, on the whole, and that, if we live a reasonably good life we're acceptable to God. We aren't. We are fallen creatures, forever making resolves and forever failing our own commitments, to say nothing of the abiding sins we are not even willing to give up. We can't atone for our past misdeeds and we prove ourselves unable to start afresh and keep ourselves clean, and, if we are honest with ourselves, we know it. God, in His mercy knows it also, and that is why, before the foundation of the earth He made provision for our deep need. He sent His Son, who died and rose for us, and left us the inestimable gift of sacraments and Scripture, and He sent His Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in the difficult road to salvation. We ask in this prayer that He continue the operation of His great mercy among us, and continue top mold us into His true image. May this be our true desire, and may this be reality in our lives.
Her funeral will be held at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, Nicosia, tomorrow at 1200 GMT.
May she rest in peace and rise in glory, and may God comfort her husband, Antonis, and her children, Erikos and Marisa.