Friday, April 30, 2010

Fr. Wells' bulletin inserts

EASTER IV

For most of the year, the readings from the Epistles are from the letters of St Paul. But during Eastertide (specifically from Easter I through the 3rd Sunday after Trinity), Paul is shelved and instead we read from John, Peter, and James. During the “great forty days” when we focus intensely on the Resurrection of our Lord, we turn to those whom Paul himself considered the primary witnesses of the that great event. Paul, an apostle “born out of due time,” did not meet the Lord Jesus until long after the others, until after the Ascension. Peter, John, and James had followed the Saviour almost from the beginning of His earthly ministry and saw Jesus soon after His Resurrection.

We know Peter's story well. He was the one who had boasted that he would die for Jesus, then denied Him, but was still commissioned to “feed my sheep.” There is an entire chapter (John 21) devoted to Peter's restoration to office by the Risen Christ. What Jesus did to, in, and with Peter (that sounds like a three-point sermon coming on) is clear in the book of Acts. It is eloquently set forth in the two epistles which Peter authored. When we read those two letters, we must remember that every line was composed by a man who had experienced deep sin and our dear Lord's pardon.

John (whom we read exclusively in the Gospel lessons during Eastertide) was the “beloved disciple” who sat close to Jesus at the Last Supper, stood with the Blessed Mother at the foot of the Cross, and was the first to believe when he saw the empty tomb. He was apparently the youngest of the apostles and the last to die. Our final picture of John is that of the elderly man in the penal colony on the Isle of Patmos, with visions of Christ in glory and the new heavens and new earth.

James (whom we read today) was the step-brother of Jesus, whom the Eastern Orthodox Christians audaciously but correctly call the “Brother of God.” (If you truly know Who Jesus really is, that does not shock you.) He was not a believer until after the Resurrection. After all, it is not easy to believe that the Person you played ball with as a kid is God Incarnate, the Saviour of the world. According to I Cor. 15, James was granted a special Resurrection appearance, of which we have no details. It was a family matter. Even the Holy Family is allowed some privacy. But this James became the first bishop of Jerusalem and died as a martyr.

All three were close to Jesus, close to the first Easter Day, powerful witnesses to the event itself. Their inspired Writings, of which they were only the human authors, invite us also to behold the Risen Saviour and to become witnesses to His glory and partakers in His victory. LKW

***

It is expedient for you that I go away.” We are in that series of Gospel readings from John 16, a passage thrilling for meditation yet maddening for those who must prepare sermons. Sermons are supposed to be practical, down-to-earth, relevant somehow to our daily lives. But in this long Farewell Discourse, a conversation between Jesus and the Twelve Apostles in the Upper Room just minutes before their going forth to Gethsemane, the Arrest and the Trial, the words of Jesus sound distinctly mystical, impractical, other-worldly. We identify with the complaint of the Twelve: “We do not know what he means”

The last words of great men make a fascinating study. The conversation in the death-room of a loved one can be tense and emotionally fraught. So the final exchanges between Jesus and His closest followers naturally takes on special significance.

Of all the many things He might have discussed with them, Jesus carefully set as His topic the doctrine of the Trinity, the overwhelming mystery of the inner reality of the Godhead as three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. For us, this doctrine seems dry, abstract, of no particular value to the business of life. For Jesus, the Trinity was an urgent and compelling issue. He did not offer the disciples consolation; He gave them catechesis.

How is it to our advantage for us that He go away? He was speaking (and we know more now than did the little gathering in the Upper Room) not only of His departure at His death, but moreover of His departure at His Ascension. On the Cross He prayed, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” This makes death no longer our “last enemy,” but our return to the Father. That is the advantage of His death for us.

In His Ascension He made good on His promise, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus has carried our flesh and blood, our very nature into the most exalted presence of God the Father, when He ascended “to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God.” His Ascension was a down payment, or a pilot project, pointing out our own final destination.

But for the immediate present, the advantage of His “going away” is that it triggered the coming of the Comforter, the Holy Ghost. Now God is with us “in all times and in all places” in a manner even more powerful and effective than Jesus' presence with the Apostles themselves. Because of the Spirit was about to come, Jesus could say, “Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” LKW

Prelude & Fugue in D minor

Since the last one was well received, here is more from what my son Joseph recorded of my musical recreation on Monday, when the clergy try to have a day off. Of course priests are never off duty, like firmen, police officers, doctors, and Groucho Marx (he was never off duty). Jack Miller "accused" me of Lutheran leanings (tongue in cheek) after my last musical offering. This piece sounds even more so, for it shows the influence of J.S. Bach and comes from my having been a church organist way, way back before the turn of the century. The fugue subject is from the Christmas Carol "Here betwixt ass and oxen mild" number 38, the tune name being Gevaert, in the hymnal 1940. This kind of music really could not exist without the Incarnation, for it is the product of Christian culure. To play it on the piano, I adapted my own music from the organ, originally a piece that was written for Church.

(Click the picture for a link to the music. My son's video program has some interesting features.)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Some Thoughts on the Calendar

It occured to me, when I had finally drunk enough coffee to achieve consciousness last Sunday, that my parish was in the relatively small number of churches that would be celebrating the feast of St Mark. This illustrated two points for me. Firstly, that the English Reformers were relatively conservative in their treatment of the Calendar; and secondly, that the position of the saints in the liturgy was actually diminished by the liturgical reform of the 1950s and 60s.

As you may know, the traditional BCP Calendar divides the liturgical days into four categories:

Greater Sundays - Advent, the 'Gesimas, Lent, Easter, Low Sunday, Pentecost and Trinity Sundays
Red Letter Days - the major holy days that have a Collect, Epistle and Gospel in the 1928 BCP
Lesser Sundays - that is, everything not named above.
Other days - such as Thanksgiving Day, Rogation Days, etc.

It should be noted that the above list is in the order of their importance, which is something that becomes important when a holy day and a Sunday fall on the same day. What is celebrated is decided by the Table of Occurrence in the Prayer Book, but its principles can be fairly summarized by saying that Greater Sundays are never displaced by a feast; but a Lesser Sunday gives place to a major holy day. Hence, on Sunday April 25th, Traditional Anglicans - or at least those who have read pages i & li of the 1928 BCP - found themselves celebrating St Mark rather than Easter III-something that Roman Catholics have not done since the mid-1950s. Those Roman Rite parishes which use the Extraordinary Form (i.e. the 1960/62 redaction of the Tridentine books) in spite of their professed traditionalism did not observe St Mark, but rather Easter III with a mere Commemoration of St Mark. This means that about the only other churches celebrating St Mark last Sunday were some very traditional Lutherans and the Sede-Vacantists! In the latter case, that make me hope that I am not judged by the liturgical company I keep!

This observance of the saint instead of the Sunday points to a certain level of traditionalism on the part of Cranmer and the other compilers and revisers of the BCP. It would have been so easy to sweep the saints under the carpet in 1549/1552, but instead Cranmer gave Biblical saints, the Apostles and Evangelists, enough prominence in the new liturgy that their feasts continue to displace Lesser Sundays in the Church year. This meant that even "casual Anglicans" continued to hear about the wonderful works of God as revealed in His saints.

Then, as the coffee was good and strong, a second point that occurred to me - that liturgical reform has significantly downgraded the saints -applies to both the Anglican and Roman Liturgies.

Like Thomas Cranmer, St. Pius V's revision committee made a point of pruning the Calendar so that the Sunday Office and Mass would be heard with some frequency, just as it had been in the early Middle Ages. In the Roman Church subsequent developments allowed the number of high ranking feasts to again grow to the point where the Sunday Office was rarely heard. A major part of St. Pius X's reform of both Missal and Breviary was altering the rubrics so that Lesser Sundays gained precedence over all but the most important feasts.

This created, or rather restored the situation where the usual Sunday service was that of the Sunday, but the Apostles and the most important saints still occasionally get a look in on Sundays. To my mind, the BCP and the Pius X editions of both the Breviary and the Missal achieve the perfect balance; the Sunday service predominates on Sundays, but two or three times a year one of the great saints of the Church replaces the Sunday office to the edification of all involved.

However, the modernizers and rationalizers could not rest content with the Roman Reform of 1908-13 and the Anglican BCPs of 1662-1928. The saints had to be displaced completely from the Sunday Liturgy. This ideal was achieved in the 1950s and 60s. In the Roman Church, the reforms of the Calendar initiated by Pius XII upgraded the rank of the Sunday Office so that it could be displaced only by the feasts of Our Lord and Our Lady; then in the 1970 Calendar the number of feasts important enough to displace a Sunday is reduced. In Anglican circles, the number of minor saints days is multiplied, but major saints days falling on a Sunday are now usually transferred rather than observed. This means that "the average Sunday Church-goer" now hears very little about the saints, which means that they hear very little about the heroes of the Church.

This downgrading of the saints is not a completely healthy development, because it robs the ordinary churchgoer of their chance to meditate upon the lives of great Christians. All of us have a stage in our lives when we need heroes, and this is particularly true of adolescent males - a group frequently lost to the Church. Our "Christian heroes," the saints, were ordinary men and women who, through the Grace of God, have done extraordinary things, and being like us, they can inspire us to be like them. We also loose a valuable opportunity to reflect on the historical foundation of our Faith. Christianity is grounded in an historical fact - the resurrection of Christ - so if we want to combat the idea that Christianity is just another version of "the Great Cosmic Myth (TM)" we need every chance we can get to emphasize is historical basis.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ACNA still "ordaining" priestesses

From their website:

Susan Freeman to be ordained to the priesthood

Posted: April 26, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010 at 10 a.m. – Christ Church Sanctuary

The Rev. Susan Freeman will be ordained to the sacred order of priest by the Rt. Rev. John A. M. Guernsey, Bishop of the Diocese of the Holy Spirit Anglican Church in North America...

Although it was written to answer a thesis in a paper by members of the AMiA (howbeit unauthorized), it would be good for those in the ACNA who still cling to this innovation to read the work that was done mainly by Fr. John Hollister in our series Priestesses in Plano. Oh, wait a minute! this is that same parish-they have jumped ship to the ACNA. Is that over the one issue of Women's Ordination?

As much as we would hold out hope for a Catholic reform, as we use that ancient creedal word, in the ACNA, at this time it does not look good. Such actions only vindicate the position taken by Archbishop Mark Haverland (ACC) last year.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

B'rit Chadasha (New Covenant)

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
Jeremiah 31:31-34
.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.
Matt. 26:26-29


For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
I Corinthians 11:23-27

"Ante-argument" : Setting up the point

How can we build the first, second and third floors of doctrinal clarity without the foundation? If one thing has become clear from recent discussions about the sacrament of Holy Communion, it is that we have seem to have no proper regard for the actual Jewish context in which our Lord said the words, "Do this in remembrance of me." We have busied ourselves about the nature of Christ's presence in the sacrament, to an extent with Scripture and to an extent with mere philosophy and man-made definitions, while neglecting certain and obvious facts that were absolutely clear to the earliest Christians. Since the sixteenth century we have battled over Real Presence, Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation, breathing such extreme words as "heresy" when, in fact, no breach of doctrinal orthodoxy should be asserted, and when it cannot be proved. Indeed, such accusations often mean only that someone's religious taste has been offended.

That is not to say that details of sacramental theology do not matter, nor that we can deny, or should want to deny, that the Universal Church has always treated the Sacrament as having a supernatural and real connection to the Living Christ by which he gives himself to the Church as the food and drink of eternal life, and that this has given the Church every reason to speak of that grace in terms of his Presence among us, and to teach it as an objective fact, though shrouded in mystery. The consensus of the Universal Church has been to read the Scriptures in such a way as to find the presence of the risen Christ in the actual elements themselves. But, in the last several centuries our sacramental theology has become seriously unbalanced in the sense of "this ought ye to have done without leaving the other undone."

Anglicans have inherited an understanding of the sacrament that is easily misrepresented and wrongly defined, generally related to a willingness, exhibited by too many of our own, to throw away the work of our own fathers as if it was an unclean thing. In the name of a sort of pan-catholic ecumenism (an idea peculiar to Anglicans, even though they suffer from the delusion that it is the Two One True Churches who harbor some "agreement" that excludes us, when in fact they exclude each other and disagree intensely) our own people are quick to relent the positions of the English Reformers, usually revealing that they have no genuine idea what that position was.

It would take too much space to go over the same ground again, so I will state simply that I stand by my postion that the Reformers, including Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, never actually denied that bread and wine change in a mysterious and supernatural way, and that Christ is present in them spiritually and inexplicably. However, faced with the emergencies and errors peculiar to their own time, they emphasized above all else that Christ is present in those who receive Him by faith. But, concerning the idea of Real Presence as we face it today, and as the Church faced it before the Great Schism (1054), they never turned away from faith in that presence as an objective fact; else they would not have condemned by name Zwingli for his doctrine of Memorialism. But, they all did so quite clearly, and as early as the Homilies.

Nonetheless, as Hooker expressed most clearly of all, the exact moment of the service in which bread and wine may be said to undergo their change cannot be known, and neither can the exact manner of that change; and what matters for those who receive with faith is that they participate in Christ, that is, have communion with his Body and Blood, even if the consecration is not complete until they themselves fulfill part of what Christ commanded in the words "do this..." namely, his commands "Take eat...Drink this all of you." We must not forget, as we have seen before, that for the earliest Anglican teachers, the presence of Christ could not be separated in its truest significance, or in any practical way, from grace, which has everything to do with what he gives to each worthy receiver (i.e., made worthy by grace). If we believe that the words "This is my body...This is my blood..." are the only Words of Institution, we need to read the text again, and realize that those words come with words about receiving: "Take, eat...drink this all of you (as in our Prayer Book, "drink ye all of this") also in the Words of institution, placing Hooker's suggestion on firm ground. That is, what matters most about his presence in the sacrament is grace given by means of it.

Yet, the unworthy receiver "shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord," clearly showing that he violates that holy presence, because he does not have fellowship with Christ by faith. For, as we have seen also in previous essays, the words "participate," "partake," "fellowship" and "communion" (including I Cor. 10:16) all signify, wherever we find them in the English translations of the Bible, or the Book of Common Prayer with the Thirty-Nine Articles, or in the Homilies, that the Greek word koinōnia (κοινωνία) best expresses the intended meaning; for all these English words have been used to translate that one Greek word. The unworthy or wicked (Article XXIX) person who presumes to eat or drink has taken the holy elements that are mystically and really the body and blood of Christ, but he cannot partake of (have communion or fellowship with, or participate in) Christ, and therefore cannot be a partaker of the Divine nature (II Pet. 1:4).

(It is tragic that modern Anglicans cannot understand these things when they read Anglican sources; but, as I have argued and proved these points before, I will not dwell on them now; I will refer the reader to my essays on classic Anglicanism, especially those linked above. Suffice to say, the English Reformers, when read carefully and diligently, cannot be charged with any abandonment of the Catholic Tradition of the Universal Church. They restored great pieces of it long neglected.)

The point

But, why do we spend so much time having to prove these things? Is there not a significance to Holy Communion that we have missed in our debates about the unknowable? Is it because we have never accepted the idea of humility as Hooker expressed it, that we ought to admit our ignorance openly as to how the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, that we have argued so much over mysteries that cannot be resolved to the point of distraction from a Biblical doctrine? That lost doctrine is the relationship between the Sacrament and the New Covenant.

Any reading of Genesis chapter fifteen in light of St. Paul's teaching about the faith of our father Abraham (yes, Christians everywhere, our father, if we believe), especially in his Epistle to the Church in Rome, and in light of what the Epistle to the Hebrews says so clearly about the shedding of blood as it relates to any covenant, shows that God took upon himself the penalty of human sin. He passed between the pieces of the sacrificed animals as Abraham had laid them out, meaning that God chose to accept the penalty if the covenant were to be broken, even though his covenant with all mankind had been broken already. The full weight of this cannot be appreciated unless we consider the words of Jesus as he held that cup in his hands: "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."

When the New Testament was written, the Greek word that most closely held the same meaning as the word b'rit (בְּרִית) which we translate as covenant, was the word diathēkē (διαθήκη) which we translate as testament. Modern people think of a covenant as merely an agreement or contract; but, like a Last Will and Testament, it requires death.

"And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission."
(Hebrews 9:15-22)


What we find is that they chose the word we use for testament, because they saw that it had this connection with the meaning of covenant: It required death.

We see in the opening quotation from Jeremiah that the people of Israel broke the covenant, and we must then think in terms of that fifteenth chapter of Genesis and the presence of God walking between the divided body parts of the dead animals. When the Lord said, "this cup is the new covenant/testament in my blood" the disciples thought of Jeremiah's words, foretelling that God would make a new covenant. That covenant has a lists of blessings:

1. The law is written in our hearts
2. God himself is our God (i.e. the true God protects us and provides our every need)
3. We know God
4. Our sins are forgiven and forgotten.

How is this possible? Only through the sacrifice of Christ, and the shedding of his blood. We broke the covenant God made with all mankind many times over. He made it with all people in creation. He made it with Abraham whose faith was credited to him for righteousness. He made it with his chosen and elect people, among whom are counted all Christians as those grafted into the people of Israel, children of Abraham by faith. On that night he made it with us anew, and to establish it he bore the full weight of death, that the New Covenant is his Testament. Our inheritance includes those benefits listed above, as Jeremiah foretold. It includes, as a necessary part of knowing God, eternal life (John 17:3), for God is eternal.

This is why when we "do this" in remembrance of Him, it is the sacrifice re-presented, in that we "show forth the Lord's death," each time we "do this," and will do so "till he come." This is not the double plural "sacrifices of masses." It is the Eucharistic sacrifice. It is the covenant meal that includes the sacrificial thanksgiving or Eucharist (literally good grace, or good thanksgiving). This is why our Canon of Consecration opens,

"All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world."

This sets the stage for all that follows.

The covenantal meaning has everything to do with why St. Paul says so clearly, "the night in which he was betrayed." He was telling the Corinthian Christians that their evil behavior was like the betrayal of Judas, their mistreatment of their fellow Christians, brothers and sisters, a breaking of the covenant that existed between themselves and God, and therefore between themselves and each other.

"I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. (I Cor. 10:15-17)"

That communion, or fellowship (koinōnia, κοινωνία) with the Body and Blood of Christ is communion with one another in the Church, which is also called by the same name, "the Body of Christ" (I Corinthians 12). The unworthy or wicked person who presumes to eat and drink is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, in terms of the whole ancient understanding of what a covenant means. In the context of St. Paul's warning, in that eleventh chapter, the unworthy or wicked person is known by how he mistreats his brothers and sisters, those also in the communion of Christ's Body, those also in the covenant. Like Judas, who ate and drank at the Last Supper, such a one betrays the Lord.

As glad as I am that we believe in the objective and Real presence of Christ, I must ask about the covenantal meaning of the Lord's Supper: Why is this missing from most of our talk about the sacrament? If we cannot see the Body of Christ as His people, what does it matter if we believe in the Real Presence? If you see do not see Christ in the pews, what matters it if you see Him on the altar?

Battle Music

This has nothing to do with our general subject matter, but sometimes we need a break. Monday is, when possible, a day off for most clergy. So, yesterday, my youngest son made a video of me playing one of my compositions (I wrote this in 1980). So, think in terms of Ephesians 6 and spiritual warfare.

Canon Tallis (as a reader calls himself) suggested that we make use of videos and YouTube. I did not have the technology, or any idea of how good it is and easy to get. I think we are getting there.

video

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saint Mark Evangelist

(For a sermon on the Third Sunday after Easter, click here)

Eph. 4:7-16
John 15:1-11

On St. Mark's Day we would expect something from the Book of Acts, or the line from II Timothy 4:11, "Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry." And, we would expect that the Gospel reading come from the Gospel of Mark. But, instead the Scriptures we are given seem not to be about Mark directly. And, yet, in her wisdom the Church has set up a sermon for any preacher who sees it already written for him.

The Scriptures we are given tell us that we need Christ, and that without Him we have no power to do anything acceptable to God. Without Christ we fail, and cannot bring forth good (as God considers good), just as a branch cut off from the vine cannot bring forth fruit, being severed from the source of its life. It withers and dies.

We see that abiding in Christ means that we have His words abiding in us. And, his words are not merely the things he said as he walked the earth. In this same long discourse in the Gospel of John, we hear Jesus emphasizing the work of the Holy Spirit, the other Comforter (the other paraklētos), whom Jesus also calls the Spirit of truth, who will lead the Apostles into all truth after he, Christ, is taken from them. And, as we know from words in this same long discourse, Christ identifies the Father's word as the Truth, and himself as the Truth.

Christ's words, that must abide in us if we are to abide in him, include everything spoken, as well, by the Father and made known by the Holy Spirit; for Jesus Christ's words are the truth as He himself is the Truth. His words were spoken by the prophets centuries before he came into the world as the Son of the virgin mother in the fullness of human nature as the Word made flesh. Moses spoke the words of Christ, as did David in the Psalms, as did Isaiah in his oracles, as did all the prophets who prepared the way for him, up to and including John the Baptist. After his ascension and pouring out of the Holy Spirit, his words continued to come to the Church through the Apostles and Prophets, and it is Christ's words we hear in the Epistles of St. Paul and other Apostles. It is also Christ's words preserved by the Church and passed on to every new generation of Christians.

We are warned that any of us who do not abide in his words, will be like a branch that is cut off and withers. Such a person will not bring forth fruit, but be be cut off from the source of our life and unable to please God, or to know him, or to live forever. To be cut off from the Vine is to be dead while we live, and not to enter into the joy of which Christ speaks in this passage from the Gospel. Not to keep and not to abide in the words he spoke through the Apostles, who were moved by His Holy Spirit, is to be left to the cruel mercies of every wind of doctrine that blows, terrible winds of a storm, words that deceive and destroy. And, we see it today even in churches (as they are called) that have not stayed within the truth of Christ's words, which have thrown off his yoke, which have rejected the doctrine He imparted to his bride the Church through his Apostles, and through those today who speak his word faithfully to govern and feed his flock.

So, we come to John Mark. Here was a man whose name we know from the Book of Acts as I have stated it, John Mark. That is, his Hebrew name was Jonah (John) and he had a Roman name, Marcus (Mark). This is still practiced by Jewish people today, to have a name in Gentile society and also a Hebrew name. It means that Jonah Marcus was from a family of the Diaspora.

What we see of Mark, as a young man, is the picture of fear. It is not the picture of godly fear, but of the kind of timid fear that, St. Paul tells us, does not come from the Holy Spirit. So the Apostle wrote to St. Timothy: "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (II Ti. 1:6,7)

When we first see Mark, as seems more than evident, he is afraid. Like Peter who would deny Christ on that night of terror, Mark fled from the scene. As Jesus stood firmly in Gethsemane like a rock, the picture of a man who was not afraid, the perfect hero facing death with determination, he stood alone. So we read in the fourteenth chapter of Mark's Gospel, and it reads as a confession made by an older man who tells on himself with acquired humility.

"And they all forsook him, and fled. And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked." Mark 14: 50-52)

Mark tells on himself, confessing his fear and the shame of that fear. But, like the other disciples who were on the outer circle (not of the twelve Apostles, but in the band of disciples nonetheless, of which there were about five hundred), he was one of the eyewitnesses to the fact that Christ had risen; and Mark remained in the Church. We read of his presence in the early church in the twelfth chapter of Acts. Eventually, he traveled with Paul and Barnabas. "And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark." (Acts 12:25)

But, he was still afraid. So we see in the fifteenth chapter:

"Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus." (Acts 15:35-39)

Paul saw that Mark had left the dangerous and difficult missionary work once before, and did not think it wise to take him again at that time. Barnabas did. Paul went out with letters of recommendation from the Church at Antioch, and the scriptures do not give this same affirmation to Barnabas and John Mark at that time.

Now, I am not suggesting that John Mark had failed to abide in Christ in the ultimate sense. He was not cut off, not left to the harsh winds that blow outside of Christ's Church. But, in his early life we do not see him bringing forth fruit. On some level, he resisted the Holy Spirit, enough to give in at least to fear. For that reason he gave up. But, like Peter, who had denied Christ all those years earlier, but who strengthened his brethren after he was converted from his own fear to deeper faith than ever before, the story of John Mark does not end bitterly.

So, we come to that last chapter St. Paul ever wrote, the fourth and final chapter in his Second Epistle to Timothy.

"Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren." (II Tim. 4:9-21)

In his old age St. Paul was reconciled fully to Barnabas and Mark, or more likely, they to him. The old fears no longer stopped John Mark from facing all the dangers and fulfilling his ministry. St. Paul, writing from his prison, knowing he would soon offer up his own life as a martyr, now commended both Barnabas and Mark. This is not the story of Paul wising up and seeing he was wrong, but (as the Church has seen it), it is the story of John Mark having the grace to overcome his fears, grace that could have come only through the Holy Spirit, through Mark learning to abide in Christ and to have Christ's words abide in him.

Paul tells of those who had abandoned him, so that he needed Timothy to bring him a cloak before Winter. Like Christ in the garden that night all those years before, Paul stood alone facing death. But, among those he now commended for their fruitful ministry, he praises Mark, the man who many years before had also abandoned him in a time of danger and hardship, but who now was converted.

What, if by anything you are not abiding in Christ, stops you from abiding in Christ and having his words abide in you? Is it love of this present world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desire for ungodly things? Is it ungodly and timid fear? Whatever it is, cast it from you, and do not be cut off from the Vine, from the source of your life. Remain in Him and have His words abiding in you.

Fr. Wells' bulletin inserts

SAINT MARK'S DAY

This Prayer Book Holy Day falls this year right in the middle of Eastertide, and under the Rules of Precedence it supplants the Third Sunday after Easter. That is altogether appropriate, since Mark was the human author of a Gospel. The Resurrection of Jesus is the very thing which makes the Christian message into Good News for perishing sinners, rather than just another religion for spiritual seekers.

As for Mark the man, we have a series of "maybe's." Maybe he was the man with the water jar (Mark 14:13) who guided the disciples to the Upper Room where Jesus would celebrate the Passover. Maybe he was the young man who fled away naked when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:51). Maybe he was the first to write a Gospel, a claim which many modern scholars regard as a fact. (I still believe Matthew was first.) Maybe he was the founder of the Church in Egypt, a tradition which surfaced about 300 years after the time of Christ. We do know that Mark had a falling out with Paul but later became an assistant to Peter. Mark's Gospel surely seems to be Peter's memoirs.

Of greater importance, however, is the meaning of the word "Gospel" itself.

When we trace that word though the New Testament, it surely seems that Gospel was a verb before it was a noun. In Luke, at the birth of Jesus the Angel tells the shepherds, "I bring you good tidings of great joy." The Angel was evangelizing, or "gospelling" the shepherds.

This word Gospel was prominent in the vocabulary of the evil cult of the Roman emperor. The birth, coming of age, accession to his throne, or arrival in a city of every sordid tyrant were all called "Good News." So when Jesus of Nazareth, in Mark 1:14, came "heralding the Good News from God: the time is ripe and the regime of God is about to take over," He was boldly challenging the most dreadful earthly power.

When Mark described his brief book as "the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," he was preparing to tell the story of the reign of God bursting upon our sinful human environment. First He conquered the demons, then He took on Caesar. And His only weapons were His Word and His Cross.

We began by saying that the Christian message, which Mark describes as "the Gospel of God," is not one of the world great religions, not even its highest or best or truest. Mark accurately portrayed the One who came preaching something unexpected, different, and new, the One whom Peter would confess, "Thou art the Christ." That confession, at precisely the mid-point of Mark's little book. is the essence of its message. LKW

EASTER III

Today and the next thee Sundays (Easter III through the Sunday after Ascension Day) our Gospel lessons are taken from the same chapter, John 16. That chapter is the conclusion of a longer unit which begins at John 13:31 known as the Farewell Discourses. This is a long sermon from the mouth of Jesus which He delivered in the Upper Room after the Last Supper before going out to the Garden of Gethsemane.

John makes the setting clear: these words were uttered before the crucifixion, not after. But they indeed sound like the teaching of the Risen Lord as He was preparing for His final Ascension. Luke tells us that in the “Great Forty Days” between the Resurrection and Ascension Jesus continued to open the Scriptures and instruct the disciples. These Discourses surely sound like just such teaching.

So was John confused? Quite apart from the supernatural assistance of the Holy Ghost who inspired him, John was a consummate literary artist. A remarkable feature of John's Gospel is that it does not separate the Saviour's humiliation and exaltation as chronological periods. In his opening chapter, John wrote, “We beheld His glory.” In this Gospel, the glory of God Incarnate was visible to the eyes of faith from the very beginning. His Divine glory transfigured every moment of His earthly human life.

As our Lord contemplated His suffering and death, soon to take place, He could speak of His passion almost in the past tense. His words are simultaneously true on two different levels. When He said, “A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father,” He was speaking of two different departures and two different returns. He departed when He died on the cross; He departed when He ascended into heaven. He returned when He rose from the dead, and He will return again at His final Coming at the end of history.

We can read each verse of this chapter in just such a way, two levels, two meanings. For starters, consider the phrase “a little while.” The time between Jesus' death and resurrection was about 39 hours. But how long is the time between His ascension and final coming? Two thousand years, and still counting! Jesus nonetheless told us this was “a little while.” Peter clarified this in his statement that for God a thousand years was but as a day. God Himself is the timekeeper, not we ourselves. As we sing in Hymn 87,

Come then, true and faithful, now fulfill thy word,

'Tis thine own third morning! Rise, O buried Lord!

We remember His re-emergence from the tomb, we await His re-emergence from the skies. LKW

Friday, April 23, 2010

A conversation with Chester

Poor Chester was ready to give up. After years of trying to build a parish as a priest, he was prepared to abandon Continuing Anglicanism in favor of the Roman Catholic Church. He thought that it was the logical conclusion of being an Anglo-Catholic, as he understood it. We talked well into the wee hours of the morning, as follows.

Chester: I cannot fathom why you like to write about Cranmer and Hooker, and guys like that. We don't need them anymore. The further we can get away from them, the better. Would you stick us in the sixteenth century?

Me: I would think that five hundred years creates a lot of distance in and of itself. Frankly, I would hate to live in the sixteenth century, and I am glad we have a more peaceful way of discussing religious differences. But, what is it you want to get away from?

Chester: Protestantism, the clear rejection of the consensus of the universal Church.

Me: Consensus as to what exactly?

Chester: To begin with, their view of the sacraments.

Me: Before I debate you on that, what is the real issue in your mind about the sacraments as the English Reformers saw them? Does it bother you, whatever you think they taught, for any special reason? To be more specific, are you, as a Continuing Anglican, afraid that some vitally important element is missing in your own church ?

Chester: Well, I am just not sure. What if their beliefs did, in some way, make the orders of our clergy null and void? You must admit that for Rome to believe that they did is no small matter.

Me: No small matter in what way, exactly? In 1896 Rome entered into their alleged study with a clear bias, and with the conclusion already decided before any evidence was presented. When they presented their evidence it was all based on completely faulty history and bad scholarship.

Chester: But, Rome's opinion may be more than mere opinion, considering the antiquity and authority of that See.

Me: Even if I granted that, which I don't, the truth remains the truth no matter who tells it, and falsehood is falsehood no matter who tells it, and no matter how sincerely they tell it. Nonetheless, aren't you aware that Rome itself has admitted, one by one over the many years between 1896 and now, that their historical facts were wrong when they wrote Apostolicae Curae? Indeed, they have been forced to admit that the historical corrections made in 1897 were right all along, in the answer of Canterbury and York called Saepius Officio. Indeed, Rome holds only to one argument now, having surrendered to our superior scholarship on all the others. All they have left is this objection: They insist that sufficient Sacramental Intention was lacking in the English Ordinal.

Chester: Well, wasn't it? Just look at the words spoken when a man is ordained a priest today, or consecrated as a bishop, and compare them to 1550. No mention was made of priesthood or of the office of bishop. Today we hear the words clearly, "Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Bishop in the Church of God," and "Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God." But, until 1662, nothing was said to indicate what the Anglican Church was doing. There was no mention made of either office. With the long gap of over a century, repairing the damage so that men whose orders were invalid could say words with a clear Intention, was not enough. For, if Rome is right, they had no Orders to pass on, making their actions null and void. You have to admit, it is a good argument.

Me: No, I certainly do not. If it were any kind of reasonable argument, I would have sought for a solution long ago. But, it is not a good argument at all. If anything, it is the last thread they have to cling to, needing it desperately in order to hold on to their own problem of maintaining some appearance of Infallibility. The part of the Ordinal you refer to is called, in each case, The Accipe Spiritum Sanctum, "Receive the Holy Ghost." It was not created by Cranmer, but was simply a translation from the Latin in the Ordinal used in England before the Reformation, in fact as early as the fourteenth century if not earlier. Furthermore, it did not need to specify either the office of a bishop or a priest quite as obviously as we have heard it since 1662; but, it did state each office specifically and clearly. It did so by quoting the portions of Scripture known and recognized by the Church as applying respectively to either the office of bishop or priest.

"Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained," was recognized by the Church as the words of the risen Christ in John 20: 23, and was believed to be a clear reference to the priesthood. For, from the earliest times, Absolution has been understood as a priestly sacrament. And, the words, "And remember that thou stir up the grace of God, which is given thee by this Imposition of our hands; for God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and soberness," were recognized as the words of St. Paul to St. Timothy, in II Timothy 1:6,7, and considered as words that related directly to Timothy's episcopal office; for he was the Bishop of Ephesus. In terms of Sacramental Intention, what matters most is that this is how these words were understood.

Chester: That sounds like you're making it up.

Me: Why? Don't you know your Bible, for crying out loud? Or, do you think the scholars who wrote the Latin Ordinal didn't know the Bible in light of the teaching of the Church? Or, do you think Cranmer didn't know the Bible and how it was understood by the Church? Or, do you think he would have felt free to add to such old words? By the Scriptures quoted in those two rites from the Ordinal, the offices were specified and stated in terms clear enough to satisfy Rome before the Reformation. Their meaning and significance did not change by translating them into English.

Chester: If so, why did the Church of England bother to add the words about the office of bishop and priest? Obviously, the argument of Rome caused them to see the deficiency.

Me: The argument of Rome did not persuade them at all. They added those extra words for the same reason that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer highlighted many other things we associate today with a High Church view: They did it to stop the mouths of the Puritans. It had nothing to do with Rome, and even less to do with any doubts about the validity of English orders all along.

Besides, consider how weak the argument is anyway. We really don't need those extra words, or even the quotations from Scripture to specify the offices, inasmuch as the whole Rite does, in each case, specify which office it is. In the prayers, in the Scripture readings, in the presentation of the man himself, in the examination, and so on. What do you think the words, "this godly and wel learned man to be consecrated Bisshoppe," or the words, "to bee admitted to the ordre of Priesthode" meant (pardon the accent)? Did God forget those words, in each ordination and consecration, by the time they got around to the Accipe part? I mean He is the Ancient of Days, but He is not old.

Frankly, for the Roman argument to work, you would have to say that all those people got together, in each service of consecration and ordination for over a century, without really intending to do what they came there for in the first place, and with no regard for the Sacramental Intention of the Church that they claimed to believe in, and to be part of, each time they said either Creed. With Rome saying this is the only argument they have left, I think we can say "checkmate." The debate is over. Anglican Orders are valid and always were.

But, you see, I know why Rome can't admit that. Look at the official Anglican Communion, and consider why we too no longer accept the orders of many Anglican churches. Rome is faced with the same problem we are faced with, in terms of the Canterbury Communion, and that is why we have our Affirmation of St. Louis.

Chester: Oh come on! If our Orders were so sound, why were the Anglicans so eager to make their Orders certain by the Old Catholic Infusion?

Me: They weren't eager to do any such thing. The whole Infusion business was nothing more than an ecumenical gesture in the high hopes that some day the whole Catholic Church would come back together. It was to help Rome accept us, not to boost our own confidence. Brian Taylor has proved that well enough with thorough documentation. For us, the whole "Dutch Touch" business is meaningless. It is simply a part of history without much relevance to anything important.

Chester: Talk about meaningless history! You, with all your writing about The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.

Me: Look, we all know that there are some dangerously silly people out there (like that fellow Charlie Ray) who want to separate the Articles from the rest of the Book of Common Prayer, as if they were meant to stand alone or have some independent authority. And, so they use them to try to push their own rather new version of Reformed theology down our throats. But, even with those folks causing trouble, it is mainly for people like you that I have written so much about the Thirty-Nine Articles. It is because you and your kind are so quick to believe the worst about early Anglicanism, and so lazy when you bother to read the Articles at all, that what little you recall about them only confuses you and increases your doubts. I have seen a need to untwist and unspin the Articles just to give them back their intended, and perfectly catholic meaning. Well, of course you are in what's left of the ACA; but, in the Anglican Catholic Church's edition of the American 1928 Book of Common Prayer, we have the Articles right where they always were. The Affirmation of St. Louis specifically affirms two editions of the Book of Common Prayer both of which contain them. The Table of Contents does not list them as an appendix, but simply lists them like any other part of the book; so, Chester old buddy, let's not go over that old ground again. But, separate from the Prayer Book as some independent manifesto? Well, that's just not what they were intended to be.

Chester: Well, you have to admit, they deny that we have seven sacraments. Right there in Article XXV it denies that we have but two; and, it forbids Eucharistic devotions. So, I personally have taken a razor and cut the accursed foul Protestant Articles out of each copy in my pews.

Me: I see you have not read what I have written about Article XXV, and why it affirms seven sacraments with two as "sacraments of the Gospel" specifically instituted by Christ (as our catechism puts it) as "generally necessary to salvation." I have made my argument more than once. Put simply, the very word "sacrament" is not a Biblical word, but a word the Church uses for mysteries it has recognized in the Bible.

Chester: Ok, I've read your arguments on The Continuum. But, what about the bit that says we aren't to carry the sacrament, or lift it up and all that?

Me: I just wrote something on that; and let me read it to you (here it is): "What we find is not a rejection of Christ's presence, and not a rejection of change. [Cranmer] affirms [as he calls it] 'sacramental mutation' as a reality, 'this wonderful sacramental and spiritual changing of the bread into the body of Christ.' But, the weight of Anglican emphasis taught the common people that the service was not merely the Mass; it was also Holy Communion, after centuries in which priests ate and drank the sacrament supposedly on behalf of the laity, who lived most of their lives in the presence of the sacrament only to see it lifted up, to gaze upon it while it was carried about (see Article XXV), rather than receiving it. Now, in restoration of the true and Catholic doctrine, they were all both invited and commanded to partake of Christ by faithful eating and drinking of the same."

So, if you want to do Eucharistic devotions go ahead; just don't forget what it is really about.

Chester: You do love to hear yourself talk. What an egotist.

Me: Ah! The ad hominem reply. That means, even if I grant your point and admit my fault, I win anyway.

Well, that was it, as it got to be late and we needed to go our separate ways. I don't know what Chester will decide.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A matter of emphasis


"Even so doth the substance of bread and wine remain in the Lord's Supper, and be naturally received and digested into the body, notwithstanding the sacramental mutation of the same into the body and blood of Christ. Which sacramental mutation declareth the supernatural, spiritual and inexplicable eating and drinking, feeding and digesting, of the same body and blood of Christ, in all them that godly and according to their duty, do receive the said sacramental bread and wine...And [St. Ambrose] concludeth the whole matter in these few words: 'If there be so much strength in the words of the Lord Jesu, that things had their beginning that never were before, how much more be they able to work, that those things that were before should remain, and also be changed into other things!' Which words do show manifestly, that notwithstanding this wonderful sacramental and spiritual changing of the bread into the body of Christ, yet the substance of the bread remaineth the same that it was before." Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, A Defence of the True and Catholick Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ, Book II chapter XIII

In a comment on my recent essay about Cranmer's sacramental theology and that of Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Haverland wrote: "The Body and Blood are present even if not perceived or received by faith. Those who reject this objective Presence part company with both Saint Paul and with the great tradition of the East and West." In his book, Archbishop Cranmer never quoted the contemporary Reformers on the continent, but only the Bible and the Church Fathers, holding to the Catholic Tradition, declaring in his title that his purpose was to defend the Catholic doctrine. Therefore, he had no interest in quoting his contemporaries, for his intention was to declare the ancient teaching of the Church, and so he drew only on ancient and universally recognized authority. As we see, in the above quotations Cranmer does affirm the "sacramental mutation " and "wonderful sacramental and spiritual changing" of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. His only contention in doing so, defending the Catholic doctrine against the teaching of the Church of Rome in his day, was to make clear the nature of the change, that it makes possible the "supernatural, spiritual and inexplicable" receiving of Christ's body and blood.

In this, ending his point as he does by emphasizing the sacrament as received by the faithful Christian, we may see a harmony in what follows later in the book:

"For they [the Papists] teach, that Christ is in the bread and wine: but we say, according to the truth, that he is in them that worthily eat and drink the bread and wine...They say, that the body of Christ that is in the sacrament, hath his own proper form and quantity: we say, that Christ is there spiritually, without form or quantity."

The first of these two lines seems to contradict both the above quotations and the quotation that follows it. He declares that the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ, and that he is there, meaning present, in them. His only difference with the Roman doctrine, as generally taught and understood in his day, seems to be that Christ's presence is not due to a physical change in the elements, a replacement of the bread and wine with his flesh and blood though disguised in order that people may eat and drink them; but that His presence is in bread and wine as a spiritual rather than physical reality, truly supernatural and inexplicable, but genuine and real.

Yet, the line, "but we say, according to the truth, that he is in them that worthily eat and drink the bread and wine," is the line that gets all the attention from those who seek to accuse him of Zwinglianism, of Real Absence concerning Christ's presence, or of Receptionism. It is the very frankness of his apparent self-contradiction that drives home the real point: His was a matter of emphasis, (since he would not have contradicted himself) and this emphasis would mark the writing of early Anglicans right up until the time of Archbishop Laud.

What we find is not a rejection of Christ's presence, and not a rejection of change. He affirms "sacramental mutation" as a reality, "this wonderful sacramental and spiritual changing of the bread into the body of Christ." But, the weight of Anglican emphasis taught the common people that the service was not merely the Mass; it was also Holy Communion, after centuries in which priests ate and drank the sacrament supposedly on behalf of the laity, who lived most of their lives in the presence of the sacrament only to see it lifted up, to gaze upon it while it was carried about (see Article XXV), rather than receiving it. Now, in restoration of the true and Catholic doctrine, they were all both invited and commanded to partake of Christ by faithful eating and drinking of the same. Again, to quote from Archbishop Haverland's comment, "Neither should we forgot that the Reformation was correct in saying that the Eucharist is primarily about faithful Communion rather than uncommunicating spectacle (though He didn’t say we could not have both at times)." In other words, it was a matter of emphasis.

It is bad enough that our enemies use the words of our fathers out of context, trying to make our own people lose faith in their heritage, even in the orders of their priests. It is worse when Anglicans themselves aid the effort by repeating the slander, even if beating their own breasts all the while. Indeed, the emphasis of the English Reformation was correct. Once we see that, we can grow in our understanding without feeling the need to question or doubt the validity of our patrimony, or to reject it for the waters of the Tiber.

Banned

According to a few different sources in more than one country, some of the bishops of the Traditional "Anglican" Communion (T "A" C) have banned this blog. One priest even suffered some penalty for having commented here (by name-which is how they knew). What can I say, except to quote our Lord? "Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." We have shined nothing more than the light of truth, stating facts that contradict the spin of Abp. Hepworth and his followers. Nonetheless, the people of the TAC/ACA are not our enemies, and we hope that they will continue to turn to The Continuum for the truth, and that when their bishops have gone to the Tiber, they will know that there remains a home for them in the Continuing Church (see our essays on the new page).

On another thread, a commenter wrote the following:

"As a last desperate move Abp.Hepworth is now telling clergy that he will be departing for Rome to negotiate a further deal with the Roman Catholic Church. He further tells them that he is going to be made an Archbishop in the Roman Catholic Church, this is in contrast to what we feel is going to happen, i.e. he is going to retire. That would be logical taking into account the relevant canons of the Roman Catholic Church. Then there is the promise that TAC Clergy will be automatically accepted by Rome, don't have to be re-ordained and they can remain Anglicans. These promises clash with the contents of the Apostolic Constitution and can only come from an Abp, who is a politician, but not a clergyman"

At the time, I wrote this in reply:

"I would be more comfortable with some confirmation that Abp. Hepworth has made such a wild claim. I would not put it past him, but I must caution readers at this point that it is not yet verified."

But, now I can verify part of it, and from my own notes on the day in 2008 when I interviewed Abp. Hepworth in Timonium, Maryland. He did insist that we and others were wrong in stating that he would have to step down once the TAC was in some sort of formal relationship with Rome. He insisted that the leaders of the CDF liked him, and have said that he would remain the man in charge. The fact that after his ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood, and after his joining the Anglican Church, he was married, divorced (with an annulment) and married again, makes what he says about himself utterly impossible.

At the time, in 2008, he expressed willingness for the TAC/ACA clergy to be re-ordained (so to speak), in his words "to make our ministry available to the larger Catholic Church." If, concerning the part that remains unverified, he has made the promise to other clergy that they will be received in their orders, it is all of one piece. Neither promise is possible, not concerning himself, not concerning the other clergy.

Why, if Anglicanorum Coetibus is all they have tried to make of it (as opposed to what it really says), would further negotiations with Rome be necessary? To avoid re-ordination? To change the rules about impediments? Or, is the trip to Rome a paper tiger, meant to stall the laity while they think of something? Sadly, it would probably do the trick for a while.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Honor thy fathers

And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you: Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever. (Jer. 35:18,19)

Following my essay about both Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Pope Benedict XVI on transubstantiation, I was surprised by how many comments made a point about Cranmer not being the sole representative of Anglicanism. I wonder why that seems necessary, inasmuch as everyone ought to know that no one individual is the spokesman for Anglicanism. A church tradition that states, as its self-understanding, the intention to conform to "the most ancient Catholic doctors and bishops" cannot have any one person, or any one generation, as its chief representative.

However, we do have fathers who are specific to our portion of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and we need not apologize for quoting them and learning their works. Did they always succeed at reaching their goal of espousing the best and most true Catholic faith? As individuals, not always; as a body, yes. If we did not believe that the united witness of Anglican orthodoxy is worth the effort and risk it takes to Continue, we would have scattered to the four winds long ago. Instead, we have been growing throughout several nations.

When it comes to the subject of English Reformers and early Anglican Divines, one of my main reasons for writing so much has been to assist modern Anglicans in our Continuing Church, especially Anglo-Catholics, in regaining appreciation for their own fathers and their own patrimony. I am tired of hearing Anglican clergy speak of their own patrimony as heretical, expressing embarrassment for what they identify as "Protestant," demonstrating vast ignorance, seeking the approval of Rome (which will not happen), and all the while defeating their own efforts to grow congregations of any size and stability. Enough already!

Of course we don't want to be stuck in the sixteenth century. But, we can't blot it out either; and, if we really understood it we would not feel the urge to do so. I am not ashamed of Thomas Cranmer, but my English blood is ashamed of Queen Mary for murdering him, and doing so in the most cruel fashion of burning him at the stake mainly for writing a "Defense of the True and Catholick Doctrine of the sacrament" in his book on the Lord's Supper (I would be ashamed of Bloody Mary, well named, even if I thought his book had been heresy, since such punishments cannot be practiced in the name of Christ without blasphemy added to cruelty and murder).

And, what was in the book? It was written to address the issues of his own day and age, not the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, not the best philosophical considerations of post Einstein physics, but the pastoral needs of the English people in that time. As I pointed out, his criticism of transubstantiation was the general teaching in that generation that the bread and wine cease to be present, and merely appear to be present; that this very kind of thinking creates a philosophical quandary that leads to a denial of the true doctrine of the Incarnation and undermines the Gospel eyewitnesses of the resurrection.

Efforts to make the book someone else's work through Cranmer seem endless. Some have insisted it was really the thinking of Calvin, others of Bucer, others even of Zwingli. I suggest we see the book as the work of the man who wrote it, and let him speak for himself as he bases his doctrine on the Bible and on the Fathers of the Church (which is what the Reformers generally did, being Catholic scholars). But, Zwingli? Cranmer writes so much against the kind of transubstantiation teaching that went on in his day that he gave little space for positive statements; but, when saying what the sacrament is, his words, in that same book, were that Christ Himself is "sacramentally present" in the bread and wine.

The Homily "Of worthy receiving of the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ" clearly denounces the doctrine of Zwingli (as it was and usually is understood), as do other important Anglican works throughout the early generations. Hooker also rules it out as error, rejecting Zwingli by name. Article XXVIII says "The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner." Heavenly and spiritual is not the same as Zwingli's "symbolism." It is meant to be distinct from the physical idea of eating and drinking Christ's flesh and blood according to what transubstantiation generally was understood to mean, saying that it is spiritual and heavenly rather than carnal.

In the time that he wrote, Cranmer was among the first to set the stage for the early Anglican emphasis on sacramental grace. I have addressed the historical reasons for this in many past essays, that the people generally did not receive the sacrament, but instead thought that their role was merely to gaze upon it. To understand all the early Anglican teaching on this subject, we must keep in mind that historical context, and therefore the need to correct the error of that time.

Therefore, whether in Cranmer's book, the Homily, the Thirty-Nine Articles or Hooker, we must think of Christ's Presence in terms of the grace of the sacrament, and how His Presence imparts that grace. Everything else to do with his Presence in the sacrament was either of much less importance in the early Anglican emphasis (as the times made necessary and pressing), or was corrected as the kind of transubstantiation that leads to horrifying stories about bloody body parts, or seeing people swallow Christ as an infant (quite distressing in terms of Christology as well as mental health concerns).

Until we understand the Presence of Christ in terms of the grace imparted by faithful receiving of the sacrament, in the early Anglican mind, nothing else about his Presence in the sacrament can be learned. May it be adored? May it enhance devotions? Frankly, they never actually addressed those questions in the terms that they present themselves to our generation, because they had to restore the idea of this sacrament as "generally necessary to salvation," and the Presence of Christ in terms of communion, partaking or fellowship.

This is where a new breed of Anglo-Catholics, especially, need to forget everything they ever heard or read about Anglicanism by Roman Catholic polemicists, and listen to me instead (doesn't that sound conceited? Listen anyway).

Everything you see in the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Homily, etc., that involves the idea of partaking of Christ or not partaking of Christ, is not about the objective Real Presence in the sacrament, and certainly not a rejection of the same. Even Cranmer's and Hooker's famous lines about seeking the presence of Christ in the worthy receiver of the sacrament, is not about the objective holiness of the sacramental matter, and Christ's Presence in it, and is not a rejection of His presence in "a heavenly and spiritual manner." It is about the effect of that presence as grace for the believer, or about the judgment on the unworthy receiver who is not a "partaker of Christ."

What does it mean to be or not be a "partaker of Christ"? Does this phrase overturn their frank rejection of Zwingli's Memorialism? Does it contradict this from the Homily (also quoted by Cranmer in his book)?

"Take then this lesson (O thou that art desirous of this Table) of Emissenus a godly Father, that when thou goest vp to the reuerend Communion, to be satisfied with spirituall meates, thou looke vp with fayth vpon the holy body and blood of thy GOD, thou maruayle with reuerence, thou touch it with the minde, thou receiue it with the hand of thy heart, and thou take it fully with thy inward man (Eusebius Emissenus, Serm. de Euchar.)."

No, it does not contradict it.

To be a partaker of Christ has everything to do with the words of St. Paul in I Corinthians 10:16:
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?"

This has been stated here before in my essays, but I will state it again. The English Reformers and Anglican Divines were scholars of the Biblical languages, in fact as good as any if not the best. They used the word "partake" to mean the same thing as "communion" and as "fellowship." All three of these words were intended by them to serve as a translation of the same Greek word, for all three are used to translate it in English New Testaments, including the King James (Authorized) Version, and including the above quotation from St. Paul. That Greek word is κοινωνία (koinōnia).

Therefore, we may see Article XXIX for what it really means.

XXIX. Of the wicked which do not eat the body of Christ, in the use of the Lord's Supper.
THE wicked and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as S. Augustine saith) the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ, but rather to their condemnation do eat and drink the sign or sacrament of so great a thing.

"In no wise are they partakers of Christ" means, simply, they receive no saving effects by eating and drinking (the use of the word "sign" means that what they have eaten and drunk is visible to the eyes, but pointing to something greater than the eyes may see. It does not not imply that the "sign" is devoid of Christ's "sacramental presence," to use Cranmer's phrase). The wicked are not, by eating and drinking, partaking of, nor in communion with, nor having fellowship with, Jesus Christ our Lord. And, how could they be, having no faith? Furthermore, it has been the teaching of the Holy Catholic Church, in all of its generations, that we may perceive Christ for who He is, including who He is in the sacrament, only by faith. Why, when Anglicans say it, should this ancient Catholic doctrine be taken to mean something sinister?

Instead of hiding from what your fathers taught, consider its meaning in the language of their times and in light of their times. Go ahead and accept it, learn from it, and come forward within the outworking of Anglican history right through the best from the Oxford Movement. Take it all as of one piece. There is no need to fear the doctrines of your fathers, and no need to fear any alleged deficiency in their sacramental Intention.

And, of course, that is the real point.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Second Sunday after Easter

A rerun, I admit.


Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 23

I Pet. 2:19-25

John 10:11f

I believe that today's Gospel can be expanded to include the next two verses, giving us a fuller context:

"Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 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. I have said before that the Suffering Servant passage goes beyond Christ’s atoning death, predicting as well his resurrection by telling us that he would, after death, “prolong his days” as the agent of God’s will.

It predicts the day of Pentecost by telling us that Christ would “divide the spoil with the strong.” This echoes words from Psalm 68: 18: “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men.” In this way the Holy Spirit reminds us, through the prophetic oracle, that all of the grace, and, indeed every gift, that God gives to us has come by way of the cross of Christ.

St. Anselm taught that Christ did all the work, and after earning a great reward for his labor, gives all of the benefits of his work away. He gives all of the earning, profit and reward to us. For, he is God the Son, and has need of nothing. St. Peter puts it to us with great force: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” That’s the first message. Christ offered himself as the Lover of mankind, in fact, as the one who loves you. He is the sacrifice not just for the whole world, but for you; dying as much for each as for all. This is why I tell you so often; when you look up at the crucifix where he pours out his soul unto death, and you see his love there, take it personally.

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 the 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 even in Easter we may need to be reminded that we do not stop carrying the cross in this life. We cannot set our affection on things above (Col. 3:2) 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." (Phil. 3:18) 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, he still leads us. With the marks of his death yet in his hands, his feet and his side, the living risen Christ, our Shepherd, leads us. 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 will 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.


"Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps."



Fr. Wells' bulletin inserts

We find in John 10 a picture of danger and violence.

EASTER II

Picture: Ceiling of S. Callisto catacomb, mid third century

Both Epistle and Gospel readings assigned to this Sunday present the popular picture of Our Lord as the Good Shepherd. So Easter II has almost become a feast in its own right, called “Good Shepherd Sunday.”

The symbol of the shepherd was rooted in the Old Testament. Both Moses and David were called to their respective ministries while serving as shepherds, and both became shepherds of the chosen people of God. But above all, God Himself was the shepherd of His people, as Psalm 23 teaches us.

John 10 is the great “Good Shepherd” chapter of the New Testament. The chapter in its entirety (we read only a few verses taken from a larger context) will lift us above the shallow sentimental notion of what a good shepherd is, as so frequently depicted in religious pictures. We find in John 10 a picture of danger and violence.

Whenever our blessed Lord uttered one of His “I AM” sayings (as in “I am the good shepherd), there was confrontation and controversy. When Jesus claimed to be the good shepherd, He was boldly suggesting that He Himself was a leader on a par with Moses and David. There is even a hint that He was revealing Himself as the One of whom David wrote, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” He was implying, moreover, that certain other shepherds were not so good.

The danger and violence in Jesus' discourse on His shepherd role come from three sources. First, the false shepherds (whom He called “hirelings”) who exploit and scatter the sheep. The previous chapter (John 9) describes the nefarious work of the Pharisees who persecute the blind man to whom Jesus restored sight. These religious leaders—spiritually blind themselves-- are bad shepherds, the very opposite of Jesus.

Then there are the wolves, who represent super-human and Satanic enemies, constantly preying on God's people. And thirdly, there are the false sheep, who are really wolves within the flock. These do not hear the shepherd's voice and they do not follow the shepherd. Even the genuine sheep are prone to dangerous behavior. As Isaiah wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray.”

What makes the good shepherd good? This is no hard question, since Jesus told us rather plainly the answer: “the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” As an ordinary shepherd might become the victim of either thieves or wild animals, so Jesus became the Victim who died to save and protect His true sheep. God grant that we may be among that number. LKW

***

In its rendition of the Epistles and Gospels our Prayer Book generally uses the great translation of 1611 called the "Authorized Version" in England and the "King James Version" in the United States. But here and there the Prayer Book quietly corrects the old version. We have an instance of this in the final verse of today's Gospel. In the AV, this verse reads "there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." The Prayer Book, since 1928, changed one word and gives the reading, there shall be one flock, and one shepherd." What is the difference, what is at stake? Why is "flock" more accurate than "fold"?

The word "fold" has already occurred earlier in the same verse "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold." The Greek text clearly distinguishes "fold" (aulh) in verse from "flock" (poimnh). The AV translators were apparently influenced by St Jerome's Vulgate who employed the same Latin word (ovile) in both instances. But the great scholar F. F. Bruce pointed out that the mistake was inexcusable in both the Vulgate and AV, since the earlier Latin translation had gotten it right and so had William Tyndale. The correction made by the 1928 Prayer Book revisers was no new discovery, just better scholarship.

When our Lord spoke of a "sheepfold" (the term means an enclosed courtyard lacking a roof), He was referring to the covenant nation of Israel, set apart from the Gentiles, walled in and protected by the Law. The "other sheep" outside that enclosure are the Gentiles, shortly to be admitted to the covenant community. Just two chapters down, "certain Greeks" approach the disciples with the request "Sir, we would see Jesus." Jesus does not predict that the "other sheep" will be admitted to the old enclosed establishment of Israel. Instead, Jews and Gentiles will form a new flock which will follow the Shepherd and go in and out together, One Shepherd, one flock.

The flock, of course, is comprised of "the blessed company of all faithful people" who follow Christ and call upon Him as Lord and Saviour. This flock is precious to Christ, who (as the Epistle tells us) suffered for us, "who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." But the flock is not the fold, and the fold is not the flock.

That confusion, which our Prayer Book so happily corrected, tempts us to exalt the Church as an institution over the faithful souls who belong to it. We have all known people who dearly love the Church but have no use for the people inside it. A lot of shallow ecumenical talk, which turns Our Lord's petition "that they may be one" into a silly cliche, seems obsessed with the sheepfold--the institutional Church-- but appears oblivious of the flock which the fold was supposed to protect. We all know of bishops who scatter their sheep in the name of Church unity.

That Greek word for "fold" is used only in John 10 as a metaphor for Israel. It is hardly a symbol for the Church at all. Its more common usage in the NT was to denote the courtyard of the high priest, where Caiaphas once called a meeting. LKW