Friday, December 31, 2010


I want to encourage the brethren and strengthen their hands without appearing to boast. It is easy at St. Benedict's to be encouraged, especially so soon after Christmas with the sight of about twelve very young Christians varying in race and color (but not in creed), dressed as angels, shepherds, wise men (in decorated Burger King crowns) and the Holy Family complete with a cabbage patch doll, cast in the role of Christ the newborn King, held aloft like a football after a touchdown, by a beeming young looking Joseph. It is easy to be encouraged in a parish church where the vestry bought the rector a car because, frankly, he needed one. It is easy to be encouraged in a parish that plans to budget a proper amount for advertising, with people asking how to be involved.

In the coming year we should all plan to make evangelism a high priority, knowing that evangelism (proclaiming the Gospel) should have the result of growing our churches with the addition of new members. For this reason I am looking forward to a draft soon to be posted by Fr. Nalls about evangelism, containing practical wisdom (if it posts anywhere other than the top of this blog, when it posts I will move it to the top).

Evangelism means we make known the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and two facts must be considered. First of all, evangelism is not an option, a good idea or "nice work if you can get it." It is the mission of the church, and therefore of every congregation and of every Christian. Christ has commanded it to His Church. Second, we are supposed to build the Church, and therefore evangelism is incomplete unless we are bringing people into the fellowship and life of the Body of Christ.

Now, some of our people are discouraged as I was in Arizona, where a tiny and mostly geriatric congregation let me know that they were retired, and that I had been "hired" to make everything happen, and where no one was willing so much as to commit to providing a Sunday School if a family with children ever showed up. I have been through it, and I understand. That was then, and this is now.

Let me offer some practical thoughts that could help anyone who may give heed. Ronald Reagan's famous "eleventh commandment" was to "speak no ill of a fellow Republican." In politics it is not helpful, because of the partisan nature of that animal, to speak ill of fellow Demublicans or Republicrats, or fellow whatevers, because politicians need parties and parties need votes. Well, I have my own eleventh commandment (or, for real Torah scholars, a six hundred and fourteenth commandment) that says, "thou shalt not shoot thyself in the foot."

For over a year readers of The Continuum have noticed that I resist those who try to pressure Continuing Anglicans into accepting the Roman option, even when it is dressed up as something that preserves a mythical animal wrongly labeled "Anglican Patrimony." In short, what they mean is Roman Catholicism with Elizabethan English and, eventually for one generation only, married priests. They cannot correctly define or describe real Anglican Patrimony for the same reason that they, like the people of ancient Nineveh, cannot discern between their right hands and their left (notice how I avoided...).

But, those sad folks are only the most extreme example of a common problem, namely ignorance about the wealth of our own heritage. Even some who resist jumping on board the big magical mystery tour coeti bus, have yet to learn anything about their own Anglican heritage. For some, everything they "know" about Anglicanism they have "learned" from Roman Catholic propaganda, including unscholarly fiction works from Ignatius Press-too often a source of historical revisionism and general silliness.

Now, for actual Roman Catholics to build their own churches is right, proper and the only way they may carry out fully their portion of the Great Commission consistent with their beliefs, and consciences (and God bless their efforts among the unbelievers and unchurched). And, for me the only way to carry out fully my portion of the Great Commission, consistent with my beliefs and conscience, is to further the Continuing Anglican branch of the Church. I begin at home, in Chapel Hill with St. Benedict's.

What I have grown weary of seeing is Anglican clergy who seem to go out of their way to convert people to Roman Catholicism, who buy the lie that the Anglican heritage is somehow flawed, and that our Orders are just barely valid in spite of (when in truth, they are really fully valid because of) what the English reformers believed. After buying all the false history, and with barely any grasp of sound learning, such clergy give people no confidence in the heritage of the very church they are charged to serve with honest leadership. How could they expect to grow congregations if they don't believe in their own church?

To such clergy, I offer the words of the 614th or 11th commandment: "Thou shalt not shoot thyself in the foot." Restore your brainwashed gray matter "by the renewing of your minds." Clean off the ring of doubt around your collar, and learn how to embrace the strength of your own heritage, including the riches you have almost thrown away because the Latin-Romans did not understand them. So, they don't know valuables from trash; but, what's your excuse?

Do you know where the name of Saint Veronica comes from? It is because the Romans did not know what the phrase Very Icon (true image, i.e. of Christ's face) meant. They thought it was a name, and so a legend, pure fiction, developed to the point where you can't watch a movie about Christ without the scene of some woman with a veil wiping the Lord's face. Well, it is pretty much the same story when it comes to Roman understanding of English, or Anglicanism.

For example, they think Article XXV teaches two sacraments, when, in fact, it affirms all seven. It affirms them in English, however, a language unknown not only to Latin Romans but also to modern Americans. I really don't care what the Spanish Ambassador thought the Articles of Religion are "patient of" because the man, speaking only his unknown tongue, was a barbarian to us and we to him (remember, his was the Country whose Armada was sunk by an act of God). But, I care when Anglicans think like a Spanish Ambassador.

We have no deficiency of Anglo-Catholics (sort of) who can carry out a High Church liturgy that has every bell, every whistle, every Missal rubric and every Ritual Note under the Sun. That is just fine, but only as long as laity and potential members are not driven out because the smoke is so thick that their asthma begins to kill them, or are otherwise left behind in the dust (mistakes I made in years past, so I know whereof I speak). We have a good grasp of what makes sacramental validity, and in many cases even of grace through the sacraments.

But, for balance we need a good dose of Evangelical preaching, the kind that sets forth the Gospel in powerful and direct terms, that is simple enough to be heard clearly without compromising its integrity. People need to know the way of salvation, what Jesus did for them, and that they must Repent and believe the Gospel. I do not know where the idea came from that the catholic Tradition can be complete without its evangelical message (in Anglican circles Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics have been blaming each other for the modern heresies; but, they have come from neither source). You can't be a true catholic unless you are also a true evangelical, and you can't be a true evangelical with being a true catholic. For some of you, that means a radical new understanding, a comprehensive grasp of orthodox Christianity--by the way, that is what Anglicanism is supposed to be.

Finally, your own parishes can grow, but only if you have confidence enough in your particular branch of the Church that your confidence becomes contagious. Otherwise, you may spin your wheels from now to the last day, but nothing much will grow. Someone told you that your own heritage is straw and stubble; but it is gold and precious stones. Open your eyes.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Laymen's Guide to the Thirty-Nine Articles

Article IV
Of the Resurrection of Christ
Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again His body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherefore He ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until He return to judge all men at the last day.

De Resurrectione Christi

Christus vere a mortuis resurrexit, suumque corpus cum carne, ossibus, omnibusque ad integritatem humanae naturae pertinentibus, recepit, cum quibus in coelum ascendit, ibique residet, quoad extremo die ad iudicandos homines reversurus sit.
(Composed by the English reformers in 1552/3.)

Fr. Robert Hart

The opening words of Article IV have a necessary double meaning. By saying “Christ did truly rise again from death” Anglicans affirm two things with the word “truly.” First, it is true that Christ rose from the dead. The second reason for saying “truly” has to do with what follows, that He “took again His body, etc.” That is, His resurrection was a physical fact. The Gospel is not a ghost story.

The most detailed passage in the Bible that explains all of this is the fifteenth chapter of St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. Paul opened that chapter by declaring to the Church in Corinth the same Gospel he had preached to them from the start, the one in which we all stand. In that opening he points out that Christ had fulfilled what the prophets foretold (which is what is meant by the words “according to the scriptures”), that Christ died for our sins, was buried, rose the third day and appeared to witnesses.

The historic context that occasioned Paul’s writing was, no doubt, a Hellenistic distaste for the old Hebrew idea of physical immorality. It was more fashionable to believe in an immortal soul, and to disdain the Hebrew doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Paul begins, therefore, by proclaiming the negative, that if the dead do not rise, then Christ did not rise either, in which case we would be left in our sins with no Gospel. Think about that in light of current religious talk about “going to heaven” as if we were going to spend eternity as disembodied spirits. For, even today, too many Christians think in Hellenistic rather than Biblical terms.

Then Paul ties the fact (the fact that was confirmed by many eyewitnesses) of Christ’s resurrection in to our own glorious hope, teaching clearly that all true believers will rise from the dead in the same way that the Lord did. At one point Paul uses imagery from agriculture, about the first fruits and the harvest:
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.” (vs. 20-23)

Paul explains, as well, that the Lord has become the Second man and the Last Adam, the father of a new humanity of the resurrection. The nature of Christ’s body changed into that of a body that is naturally and supernaturally immortal, that is, by its nature the resurrected body cannot die. It is a different body, but it is the same body. Others had been brought back from the dead miraculously, such as Lazurus. But, they had come back to a mortal life. Christ rose to a human life of immortality. It is the same, but it is different, just as a seed is not as glorious as the life that grows from it after it is buried and springs up.

Christ’s coming, on what he Himself called “the Last Day” in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, is that harvest of the General Resurrection to which we look forward with great hope; and not only hope, but as the Book of Common Prayer says, “sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This hope is sure and certain because it is the promise of Almighty God.

Details in Article IV show how much care the English Reformers took to speak Biblically. They chose their words to match the revelation of God through Scripture. Therefore, they wrote, “His body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature…” This echoes everything in I Corinthians 15, in I Thessalonians 4:16-18, and in the sixth chapter of the Gospel According to John, about that future perfection of the saints (i.e. all who are “in Christ”), and the present perfection of Christ’s risen and glorified human nature. Also, by a small detail such as “flesh [and] bones” rather than flesh and blood, we see their care to speak from Scripture. Compare the following verses.

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (I Cor. 15:50)

“And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” (Luke 24: 38, 39)

We could say much here about Biblical Anthropology. The natural man lives by the soul, which corresponds to blood,

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” (Lev. 17:11)
The word “life” is nefesh, that is, soul, the same word translated “soul” in the same verse. “He poured out his soul (nefesh) unto death,” says Isaiah (53:12) of the Suffering Servant, for His is the blood that makes the only true atonement.

The new man, that is the immortal resurrected man, lives by the spirit, which corresponds to breath rather than to blood. The soul and the spirit are not the same part of a man (I Thes. 5:23), and the Bible consistently attributes different elements and activities to each of them. A human being is a soul who has the spirit of life and a body in order to be complete (Gen. 2:7).

Also it is likely that the English Reformers meant to make a statement about the popular misconception regarding the Roman doctrine of Transubstantiation by these words: “He ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until He return to judge all men at the last day.” Most likely they wanted to defend the truth that Christ’s resurrected body is a physical reality, located beyond our reach until he returns. This served as a defense of two revealed doctrines of Scripture, the Incarnation and the Resurrection, against which they saw danger from a popular misconception of Transubstantiation.

So, the word “truly” in the opening line carries the strongest significance in all that follows it: “Christ did truly rise again from death.”

Fr. Laurence Wells

For those who treat the Articles dismissively, either as a heap of Reformation polemic or as the English Church's compromise on a few disputed points, this Article is especially important. What we have in these well-crafted words.

is a ringing affirmation of the central truth of the Christian religion, the great Event which makes Christianity not only a religion but a Gospel, good news to lost mankind. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was not under dispute between Rome and the Reformation. Neither was there any radical sect which denied it, at least none which our research can find. Even the Racovian Catechism, which set forth the doctrines of the proto-Unitarians of the 16th century, clearly affirmed that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. So what was the fuss about in Article IV?

In Articles II, III and IV we have a noble restatement of the New Testament kerygma, a recital of the Gospel in its simplest and baldest form. This is compelling evidence that the English Reformation was not merely a political settlement but a powerful revival of the Good News which Peter preached on Pentecost, which the Apostles carried to the uttermost parts of the earth, and Paul summarized in his Epistle to the Romans.

This Gospel is most concrete in the clock-time physical event of Jesus' Resurrection. N. T. Wright is correct when he points out that when Our Lord predicted His Resurrection (Matt. 16:21), the disciples were surprised not because He promised to rise again, but because He promised it would happen so quickly-- "in three days". This was a common Jewish idiom for a swift event, after a brief interval. Almost all Jews, except the Saddducees, believed in a Resurrection at the end of he world. But when the Resurrection was promised so suddenly, the Consummation of the Ages was at hand. The New Creation, which commenced in His Virgin Birth, was rapidly on the way. It will be consummated and finished when we also shall rise at the last day, as Paul sets forth for us in I Corinthians 15.

This means that the Christian life of here and now is lived between two cataclysms, two earthquakes, two Resurrections, His and ours. If a Sermon is preached at the Burial of the Dead, it should proclaim the great Easter in our future. Merely to say that the deceased has "gone on to a better place" (like moving from one suburban town to another), is a false Gospel. Simply stating that "the soul lives on" is chilly consolation.

I like particularly the blunt realism of this Article, with its language, "and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man's nature." We cannot be too realistic in how we describe or affirm what happened at the Tomb of Jesus. Yes, His body was made glorious in a manner beyond our description. What Peter, James and John saw briefly on the Mount of Transfiguration is now His permanent condition (as it will be our also). But I become nervous when some begin to make a sweeping distinction between resurrection and resuscitation.

Resuscitation is simply the revival of a mortal body at the point of death or perhaps even past that point. The resurrection of Jesus (and likewise of ours!) will be far more wonderful and glorious than a resuscitation, but it will not be any less.

Having stirred up one controversy over the terms "reconciled/propitiated." I am about to stir up another. When the writer wrote "did truly rise again," I wish he had said "was truly raised again." The passive voice would have the double advantage of asserting that Our Saviour was truly dead, not merely unconscious, and of declaring that His Father raised Him up.

The Greek NT has two verbs which refer to Jesus' resurrection. There is anisthmi which has many occurrences but is used rather infrequently to refer to what happened at Easter. In John 20:9, we find this verb in the active voice: "for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead." In John 10:17 the active voice is even stronger, "I lay down my life that I may take it up again."

But the more common verb is egeirw, which is preferred by the Synoptics and by Paul, and was not unknown to John. This verb generally appears in the passive voice, the Hebrew idiom for Divine activity. But we also find the active voice in texts like Acts 3:15, "But you killed the Author of life, whom God hath raised up," or Acts 5:30, The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree."

The resurrection which Article IV sets forth was not an independent action of Jesus alone, but the mighty act of the entire Trinity, when the Father, acting through the Spirit, raised up the truly dead but incorrupt body of the Incarnate Son. There is no other spot in the Prayer Book which trumpets the Gospel so forcefully. God save us from ever losing it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fr. Wells' bulletin inserts


The “third day of Christmas” is marked by the feast of St John, Apostle and Evangelist, called “the beloved disciple” in the the Gospel he wrote and styled “the Divine” or “the Theologian” in the language of the Church. This is a felicitous marriage of feast and season, since John's Gospel excels as the Gospel of the Incarnation. Its magnificent prologue is rightly read as the liturgical Gospel on Christmas Day. After we hear of the angels' appearance to the shepherds on Christmas Eve, on Christmas morning we encounter the sublime truth of this great day: “The Word was God.... the Word was made flesh.”

The brief homily we call “the First Epistle General of John” begins with a passage almost as striking, which echoes and reinforces the monumental prologue to the Gospel. John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, we we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled …. that which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you.”

In this passage, the Apostle was dealing head on with the earliest heresy to invade the Church, a heresy which alleged that the Incarnate God did not really become man but only seemed to be human. We call this falsehood Docetism. This heresy can even be found in our Hymnal at Hymn 165, with the appalling line “Thou seemest human and divine.” We wish Tennyson had written, “Thou are both human and divine,” as our Creed clearly declares.

The reality of Our Lord's human nature continues to shock. It was a scandal to the ancient Jews, a stumbling-block to the ancient Gentiles, and an absurdity to the world today. We sinners do not want God to get too close to us. We foolishly believe He can be managed better at a great distance.

John demolishes this heresy with few words. We have seen God, he affirms, not just in some mystical vision, but “with our eyes.” We have handled God “with our hands.” But when? When we arrested Him in the garden? When we examined His wounds on Easter morning? When we touch and taste the Eucharistic Bread?

John is relentless in declaring the reality of Our Lord's human nature, sometimes resorting to almost crude language. Where Paul (not known for under-statement!) speaks of the “body” of Christ, gentle and poetic John speaks of His “flesh.” And this, John teaches us, is a matter of eternal importance: “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist....” (I John 4:2). Likewise, John allows the wretch Pontius Pilate to utter one of the most important affirmations of the Gospel, “Behold, the man.”

In the vulnerable humanity of the Infant in the Manger and the rejected corpse on the Cross, we truly see the humanity of God. LKW


During the “twelve days of Christmas,” the second, third and fourth days are festivals which commemorate first St Stephen, next St John the Evangelist, and then the children slaughtered by Herod in his futile effort to destroy the Infant Jesus. This day, December 28, is where we stand today in the Church's liturgical year. It is called “Holy Innocents Day” in our Prayer Book. It is also sometimes called “Childermas.”

This is one day we find painful to celebrate. The death of a child is a dreadful experience. The death of a host of children gives us nightmares. Oddly, many Biblical scholars reject this story as anything more than a piece of fiction. But the reality is that Herod the Great and his whole family were a murderous lot. Herod the Great is known to have murdered two of his own sons. He would have thought nothing of slaughtering all the very young children in Bethlehem and the surrounding territory. Men who worship power, especially their own power, will go to any length to secure it.

As grim as it is, and equally as distasteful, Holy Innocents' Day reminds us of exactly what kind of world God came to save. There is a false Gospel which would teach us that Jesus Christ came into this world merely as a good and holy example, to show humankind, already decent and upright, how to live better lives and to improve their moral condition. We repeat: that is all a falsehood.

Herod's hideous crime plainly shows that the world in which Jesus was born was, and still is, a violent, cruel, and depraved world. Ivory-tower intellectuals who cannot believe that Herod was capable of such evil are still somehow able to live comfortably and serenely, while millions of innocent children are slaughtered in the abortion factories of this nation. This monstrous sin in our own time plainly demonstrates that Herod, as he murdered his own children, was hardly a unique figure in history.

In contrast to the false Gospel summarized above, the true Gospel tells is that Jesus Christ came into the world to save helpless sinners, unable to help themselves. He took upon Him our very flesh and blood, “the likeness of sinful flesh,” that He might over-power and destroy Herod and all that Herod represents in this fallen world.

Today's Lesson from Revelation 14 shows us a picture of great victory with the Lamb standing on Mount Sion. Plainly, Herod had every reason to fear the Infant lying in the manger. If Herod was “mocked” by the wise men, he would soon enough be over-whelmed and humiliated by the King of kings and Lord of lords. LKW

St. John and the Holy Innocents -the Octave of Christmas

For St. John (Dec. 27) click here. To read about the Holy Innocents (Dec. 28) click here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

To Anonymous and his kin

If I did not need one thing on Christmas, it was for someone to send me a comment full of complete, utter, non-sense. As usual, a zealous, arrogant, pontifical comment was proved to be the work of that prolific writer/composer/poet, Anonymous; a man known for his courage (if Anonymous wants to read and make a series of comments, he needs to create some sort of nickname, so that we know we are responding to the same individual). Seeing that Fr. Wells and I are working on the Laymen's Guide to the Thirty-Nine Articles, the brave would-be scholar took keyboard in hand to set us straight:

"Tested against the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Church Fathers the Articles do fail. They convey a Calvinist theology that is in opposition to what was taught and understood by the pre-schism Orthodox Catholic Church. Examples include the following Orthodox Catholic dogmas: real presence in the eucharist, including a change in the elements; infallibility of the Church in ecumenical council; that the Church consists of all Orthodox Catholic members who were baptized and chrismated into the faith by a bishop or priest who stands in apostolic succession; salvation by a joint effort of human and God and not by faith alone; total rejection of human depravity as it is understood in the Calvinist sense, etc.

The Articles should be consigned to the category of theological error and forgotten."

What is worse, the anonymous Anonymous sent this on the heels of other comments in which he claimed to speak for the ACC, a claim I find insulting and offensive. Continuum readers may anticipate my response, that each point he made is wrong, and in my own essays has been refuted already. Furthermore, in our series on the Thirty-Nine Articles, that has only recently gotten underway, each point he made will be corrected yet again.

I could ask him where and how any of the Articles actually "fail" against the Seven Oecumenical Councils, but I would rather simply tell him that if they did, both Fr. Wells and I would know it already. We would not need to be told, especially by Anonymous. Furthermore, I know that his answer would amount to the angry reactions of someone who suffers from a far worse condition than mere ignorance: he suffers from mis-education, or the indoctrination of a kind only slightly better than brain washing.

I could ask him to explain, if it is required that one must have been "chrismated into the faith by a bishop or priest who stands in apostolic succession" in order to be part of the Church, where do the children of our congregations stand who have been baptized, but not yet confirmed? And, I could demand to know how he can so openly contradict the Universal Church by adding this condition? And, if he is any sort of Anglican, why does he say "chrismated" instead of confirmed? That is, why does he emphasize the anointing with oil, which is not in the Bible as matter for this sacrament, instead of the Laying on of Hands, which is? I would ask him, what makes him think he can understand the Articles? For, it is obvious that he cannot understand the foreign language (English) in which they written.

Like many chronic sophomores, he uses the word "Calvinist" very freely, no doubt as if to frighten us with a scary monster face. But, I have no doubt that he would not know real Calvinism if it climbed up and bit him on the behind. Usually, when such persons invoke the word "Calvinist" they really mean a combination of Thomist and Dominican Theology that they wrongly attribute to Protestantism for its origin. It is a widespread symptom of mis-education. The only real innovation of Calvinism (i.e. something that was new in Calvin's time) is the Geneva Discipline; and Anglicans have always and consistently rejected that innovation (one might say that Richard Hooker wrote the book on our polity, because he did).

But I hope this person (who I imagine to be a young man) will stick around and keep reading, and maybe actually learn something, which may be possible once he stops pontificating to his betters.

The Legal status of the Thirty-Nine Articles is a subject that will not be part of our Laymen's Guide. But, I am going to address the subject here briefly anyway, just to get it off my chest.

I have been informed by a few of my fellow clergy in the ACC that the Articles are not binding in our church (but, never have I heard anyone say that the ACC rejects the doctrine contained therein), and that is because they are not mentioned in the Constitution and Canons. I respect the men who have made this argument, and generally agree with their views. Nonetheless, I disagree with them, respectfully, in this matter. I might as well say why I disagree.

The Affirmation of St. Louis says:


Prayer Book -- The Standard of Worship
In the continuing Anglican Church, the Book of Common Prayer is (and remains) one work in two editions: The Canadian Book of 1962 and the American Book of 1928. Each is fully and equally authoritative. No other standard for worship exists.
Certain Variances Permitted
For liturgical use, only the Book of Common Prayer and service books conforming to and incorporating it shall be used.

The words, "each is fully and equally authoritative" could not be more clear. I have argued that the 1928 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer lists "the Articles of Religion" in its regular contents. It is not there as an index, or as a mere historical document. And, even if one wants to disagree with me on that, the 1962 edition of the Canadian Book of Common Prayer is absolutely and unmistakably clear, repeating on page vii the following Solemn Declaration (first published in 1893):

IN the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

WE, the Bishops, together with the Delegates from the Clergy and Laity of the Church of England in the Dominion of Canada, now assembled in the first General Synod, hereby make the following Solemn Declaration:

WE declare this Church to be, and desire that it shall continue, in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world, as an integral portion of the One Body of Christ composed of Churches which, united under the One Divine Head and in the fellowship of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, hold the One Faith revealed in Holy Writ, and defined in the Creeds as maintained by the undivided primitive Church in the undisputed Ecumenical Councils; receive the same Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as containing all things necessary to salvation; teach the same Word of God; partake of the same Divinely ordained Sacraments, through the ministry of the same Apostolic Orders; and worship One God and Father through the same Lord Jesus Christ, by the same Holy and Divine Spirit who is given to them that believe to guide them into all truth.

And we are determined by the help of God to hold and maintain the Doctrine, Sacraments, and Discipline of Christ as the Lord hath commanded in his Holy Word, and as the Church of England hath received and set forth the same in 'The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, according to the use of the Church of England; together with the Psalter or Psalms of David, pointed as they are to be sung or said in Churches; and the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons'; and in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion; and to transmit the same unimpaired to our posterity.

The Constitution and Canons of the ACC contain the Affirmation of St. Louis as a foundation, which calls the whole 1962 Canadian BCP, which includes that Solemn Declaration, "fully authoritative." Therefore, our Constitution and Canons do, in fact, bind us to the Thirty-Nine Articles. There was no need, therefore, to single them out from the rest of the Book of Common Prayer for special mention at St. Louis in 1977.

I do not expect everyone to accept my argument, but I am persuaded that it is good enough to be treated with respect. No one should simply brush aside the possibility that I am right. Nor, especially in light of Tract 90, am I able to understand why anyone could think that rejection of the Classic Formularies is a position consistent with Anglo-Catholicism. The idea is very new, and contrary to the Oxford Movement.

The most responsible course of action we can think of is to create a resource that explains the true meaning of the Thirty-Nine Articles. I do not expect my argument about their legal status to win over everyone, but merely to establish that the legal status of the Articles is not so cut and dry. But, even if they have no legal status, and are not binding, they will not go away. They are with us, and they will remain with us for the foreseeable future, and they will continue to have in hearts and minds an authority that is greater than mere legal status can provide.

But, we have a problem. Anonymous cannot understand their meaning because they were written in a foreign language. That is, they were written in the past. They were written in a time of history that is generally not understood very well. As a result, in the wrong hands the Articles of Religion are dangerous. Of course that is true of everything that is of genuine value, including the Bible.

So, whether you agree with my position on the legal status of the Articles, or not, I see clearly the only realistic and responsible course to take, as does Fr. Wells. Therefore, I hope Anonymous will sit down, listen and learn.

St. Stepehn Proto-Martyr Dec. 26

Click on the picture to read about St. Stephen.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas sermons

For years I have alternated between two Christmas sermons, which you may read here and here. This year I preached without a written text, using an outline. I will be writing it down and posting it during the week. Due, perhaps, to the influence of Lancelot Andrewes, I found myself focusing on the deep meaning contained within a few brief words. To wet your appetite, you may think about the way I plan to write a title, considering higher and lower case letters: I AM come.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Among many fine sermons by Fr. John Hollister at Sermons for Lay Readers, scroll down for the Christmas offerings.

Lancelot Andrewes

PREACHED UPON CHRISTMAS-DAY, 1606 before King James, at Whitehall.

Isaiah ix:6

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His Shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

The words are out of Isaiah; and, if we had not heard him names, might well have been thought out of one of the Evangelists, as more like a story than a prophecy. “Is born,” “is given,” sound as if they had been written at, or since the birth of Christ; yet were they written more than six hundred years before.

There is no one thing so great to our faith, as that we find the things we believe so plainly foretold so many years before. “Is born,” “is given” nay “shall be;” speak like a Prophet: nay is; loquens de futoro per modumi, “speaking of things to come as if they were already past.” This cannot be of God, “Who calleth things that are not as if they were,” and challengeth any other to do the like. It is true, miracles move much; but even in Scripture we read of “lying miracles,” and the possibility of false dealing leaveth place of doubt, even in those that be true. But for One, six hundred years before He is born, to cause prophecies, plain direct prophecies to be written of Him, that passes all conceit; cannot be imagined, how possibly it may be, but by God alone. Therefore Mahomet and all false prophets came at least boasted to come in signs. But challenge them at this; not a word, no mention of them in the world, till they were born. True therefore that St. John saith, “The testimony, that is, the great principal testimony, of Jesus, is the spirit of prophecy.” It made St. Peter, when he had recounted what he himself had heard in the Mount, (yet as if there might be even in that, deceptio sensus,) to add, Habemus etiam firmiorem sermonem propheti, “We have a word of prophecy besides;” and that firmiorem, the “surer” of the twain.

This prophecy is of a certain Child. And if we ask of this place, as the Eunuch did of another in this prophet, “Of whom speaks the Prophet this?” we must make the answer that there Philip doth, “of Christ;” and “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of this prophecy.” The ancient Jews make the same. It is but a fond shift to draw it, as the latter Jews do, to Ezekias (Hezekiah); it will not cleave. It was spoken to Ahaz, Ezekias' father, now King; and that after the great overthrow he had by the kings of Syria and Israel, in the fourth of his reign. But it is deduced by plain supputation out of the eighteenth of the second of Kings, Ezekias was nine years old before Ahaz his father came to the crown. It was by that time too late to tell it for tidings then that he was born, he then being thirteen years of age.

Beside, how senseless is it to apply Ezekias that in the next verse; that “of his government and peace there should be none end,” that “His throne should be established from thenceforth for ever;” whereas his peace and government both had an end within few years.

To us it is sufficient that the fore-part of the chapter is by St. Matthew expressly applied to our Saviour; and that this verse doth inseparably depend on that, and is alleged as the reason of it; “For, unto us.” Of Him therefore we take it, and to Him apply it that cannot be taken of any, or applied to any other but Him.

But how came Isaiah to speak of Christ to Ahaz? Thus: Ahaz was then in very great distress; he had lost in one day eighty thousand of his people, and two hundred thousand of them more, carried away captives. And now the two Kings were raising new power against him, the times grew very much overcast. And this you shall observe. The chiefest prophecies of Christ came ever in such times, that St. Peter did well to resemble the word of prophecy to a candle in loco caliginoso, “a dark room.” Jacob's of Shiloh, in Egypt, a dark place; Daniel's of Messias, in Babylon, a place as dark as Egypt; this of Isaiah, when the ten tribes were on the point of carrying away, under Hoshea. That of Jeremy (Jeremiah), “a woman shall enclose a man,” when Judah in the same case, under Jechonias. Ever in dark times, who therefore needed most the light of comfort.

But what is this to Ahaz's case? He looked for another message from him, how to escape his enemies. A cold comfort might he think it to be preached to of Immanuel. Indeed, he so thought it; and therefore he gave over Isaiah, and betook him to Shebna, who wished him to seek to the King of Ashur for help, and let Emmanuel go. Yet for all that, even then to speak of Christ, being looked into, it is neither imperative, nor out of season. With all the prophets it is usual, in the calamities of this people, to have recourse still to the fundamental promise of the Messiah. For that, till He were come, they might be sure they could not be rooted out; but must be preserved, if it were but for this Child's sake, till He was born. And yet, if they could believe on Him, otherwise it is no match: Nisi credideritis. Then thus the prophets argued; He will not deny you this favour, for He will grant a far greater than this, even His own Son, and by Him a far greater deliverance; and if He can deliver you from the devouring fire of hell, much more from them; and if give you peace with God, much more with them. So teaching those who will learn, the only right way to compass their own safety is by making sure work of Immanuel, “God with us.” To the true regard of Whom God has annexed the “promises as well of this, as of the other life.” All are as lines drawn from this centre, all in Him “yea and Amen.” Which all serve to raise Ahaz up, and his people, to receive this Child, and “to rejoice in His day,” as their “father Abraham” did.

Thus the occasion you have heard. The parts, ad oculum, “evidently” are two: 1. a Child-birth, and II. a Baptism. 1. The Child-birth in these, “For unto you,” etc. II. The Baptism in these, “His Name,” etc.

In the former: I First of the main points, the Natures, Person, and Office: 1. Natures in these, “Child” and “Son.” 2. Person in these, “His shoulders,” “his name.” 3. Office in these, “His government.” II Then of the deriving of an interest to us in these, “to us,” two times. And that is of two sorts: 1. By being “born;” a right by His birth. 2. By being “given;” a right by a deed of gift.

In the latter, of His Baptism, is set down His style, consisting of five pieces, containing five uses, for which He was thus given; each to be considered in his order.

I. It is ever our first care to begin with, and to settle the main point of the mystery: 1. Nature, 2. Person, and 3. Office; and after, to look to our own benefit by them. To begin with the natures, of God and Man, they be super hanc petram; upon them lieth the weight of all the rest, they are the two shoulders whereon this government doth rest.

We have two words, “Child,” and “Son;” neither waste, neither waste. But if no more in the second than in the first, the first had been enough; if the first enough, the second superfluous. But in this Book nothing is superfluous. So then two diverse things they import.

Weigh the words: “Child” is not said but in humanis, “among men.” “Son” may be in divinis, “from heaven;” God spake it, “This is My Son;” may, and must be, here.

Weigh the other two; 1. “born,” and 2. “given.” That which is born beginneth then first to have his being. That which is given presupposeth a former being; for it must that it may be given.

Again, when we say “born,” of whom? of the Virgin His mother; when we say “given,” by whom? by God His Father.

Isaiah promised the sign we should have, should be from the “deep” here “beneath,” and should be from the “height above;” both “a Child” from “beneath,” and “a Son” from “above.” To conclude; it is an exposition decreed by the Fathers assembles in the Council of Seville, who upon these grounds expound this very place so; the Child, to import His human; the Son, His divine nature.

All along His life you will see these two. At His birth, a cratch for the Child, a star for the Son; a company of shepherds viewing the Child, a choir of angels celebrating the Son. In His life, hungry Himself, to shew the nature of the Child; yet feeding five thousand to shew the power of the Son. At His death, dying on the cross as the Son of Adam; at the same time disposing of Paradise, as the “Son of God.”

If you ask, why both these? For that in vain had been the one without the other. Somewhat there must be borne, by this mention of shoulders; meet it is every one should bear his own burden. The nature that sinned bear his own sin; not Ziba make the fault, and Mephibosheth bear the punishment. Our nature had sinned, that therefore ought to suffer; the reason, why a Child. But that which our nature should, our nature could not bear; not the weight of God's wrath due to our sin: but the Son could; the reason why a Son. The one ought but could not, the other could but ought not. Therefore, either alone would not serve; they must be joined, Child and Son. But that He was a Child, He could not have suffered. But that he was a Son, He had sunk in His suffering, and not gone through with it. God had no shoulders; man had, but too weak to sustain such a weight. Therefore, that He might be liable, He was a Child, that He might be able He was the Son; that He might be both, He was both.

This, why God. But why this Person, the Son? Behold, “Adam would” have “become one of us”: the fault; behold, one of Us will become Adam, is the satisfaction. Which of Us would he have become? Sicut Dii scientes, “the Person of knowledge.” He therefore shall become Adam; a Son shall be given. Desire of knowledge, our attainder; He in “Whom all the treasures of knowledge,” our restoring. Flesh would have been the Word, as wise as the Word; the cause of our ruin; meet then the “Word become flesh,” that so our ruin repaired. There is a touch given in the name “Counsellor,” to note out unto us which Person, as well as the “Son.”

One more: if these joined, why is not the “Son” first, and then the “Child;” but the “Child” is first, and then the “Son.” The Son is far the worthier, and therefore to have the place. And thus too it was in His other name Immanuel. It is not Elimanu; not Deus nobiscum, but nobiscum Deus. We in his Name stand before God. It is so in the Gospel; the “Son of David” first, the “Son of God” after. It is but this still, zelus Domim exercitum fecit hoc; but to shew His zeal, how dear He holdeth us, that He preferreth and setteth us before Himself, and in His very name giveth us the precedence.

The person briefly. The “Child” and the “Son;” these two make but one Person clearly; for both these have but one name, “His Name shall be called,” and both these have but one pair of shoulders. “Upon His shoulders.” Therefore, though two natures, yet but one Person in both. A meet person to make a Mediator of God and man (I Timothy 2:5), as symbolizing with either, God and man. A meet person to cease hostility, as having taken pledges of both Heaven and earth, the chief nature in Heaven, and the chief on earth; to set forward commerce between Heaven and earth by Jacob's ladder, “one end touching earth, the other reaching to heaven;” to incorporate either to other, Himself by His birth being become the “Son of Man,” by our new birth giving us a capacity to become the “sons of God.”

His office; “The kingdom on His shoulders.” For He saw when the Child was born, it should so poorly be born, as, lest we should conceive of Him too meanly, He tells us He cometh cum principatu, “with a principality,” is born a Prince; and beautifieth Him with such names as make amends for the manger. That He is not only Puer, “a Child,” and Filius, “a Son,” but Princeps, “a Prince.”

Truth is, other offices we find besides. But this you shall observe, that the Prophets speaking of Christ, in good congruity ever apply themselves to the state of them they speak to, and use that office which best agreeth to the matter in hand. Here, that which was sought by Ahaz, was protection; that we know is for a King; as a King therefore he speaketh of Him. Elsewhere He is brought forth by David as a Priest; and again elsewhere by Moses as a Prophet. If it be a matter of sin for which sacrifice to be offered, He is “a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” If the will of God, if His great counsel to be revealed, “a Prophet will the Lord raise, &c. hear Him.” But here is matter of delivery only in hand; here therefore he represented Him cum principatu, “with a principality.”

A principality, not of this world.O Herod need not fear it, nor envy it. If it had, his officers, as they would have seen Him better defended at His death, so would they have seen Him better lodged at His birth, than in a stable with beasts; for if the inn were full, the stable we may be sure was not empty. Of what world then? of that He is Father, futuri. Of that He is Father, and He is a Prince of the government That guideth us thither.

Yet a Prince He is, and so He styled; “born” and “given” to establish a “government.” that none imagine they shall live like libertines under Him, every man believe and live as he list. It is Christ, not Belial, that is born to-day, He bringeth a government with Him, they who be His must live in subjection under a government; else neither in Child nor Son, in birth nor gift, have they any interest.

And this “government” is by name a principality, wherein neither the popular confusion of many, nor the factious ambition of a few, bear all the sway, but where One is sovereign. Such is the government of heaven, such is Christ's government.

With a principality, or government, and that upon His shoulders; somewhat a strange situation. It is wisdom that governs; that is in the head, and there is the crown worn; what have the shoulders to do with it? Certainly somewhat by this description. The shoulder as we know is the bearing member, and unless it be for heavy things, we use it not. Ordinary things we carry in our hands, or lift at the arms' end; it must be very heavy if we must put shoulders and all to it. Belike, governments have their weight be heavy; and so they be; they need not only a good head, but good shoulders, that sustain them. But that not so much while they be in good tune and temper, then they need no great carriage; but when they grow unwieldly, be it weakness or waywardness of the governed, in that case they need; and in that case, there is no governor but, at one time or other, he bears his government upon his shoulders. It is a moral they give of Aaron's apparel; he carved the twelve tribes in his breast-plate next his heart, to shew that in care he was to bear them; but he had them also engraven in two onyx-stones, and those set upon his very shoulders, to shew, he must otherwhile beat them in patience too. And it is not Aaron's case alone; it was so with Moses too. He bare his Government as a “nurse doth her child,” as he saith; that is, full tenderly. But when they fell a murmuring, as they did often, he bare them upon them upon his shoulders, in great patience and long-suffering. Yea he complained, Non possum portate, “I am not able to bear all this people,” &c. It were sure to be wished that they that are in place might never be put to it. Bear their people only in their arms by love, and in their breasts by care. Yet if need be, they must follow Christ's example and patience here, and even that way bear them; not only bear with them, but eve bear them also.

Yet is not this Christ's bearing, though this He did too; there is yet a farther thing, He hath a patience paramount, beyond all the rest. Two differences I find between Him and others. 1. The faults and errors of their government, others do bear, and suffer; indeed suffer them; but suffer not for them. He did both; endured them, and endured for them heavy things; a strange superhumeral, the print whereof for them heavy things; a strange superhumeral, the print whereof was to be seen on His shoulders. The Chaldee Paraphrast translateth it thus, “The Law was upon His shoulders;” and so it was too. A burden, saith St. Peter, neither he, nor the Apostles, nor their “fathers, were able to bear.” This He did, and bare it so evenly as He brake, nay bruised not a commandment. But there is another sense, when the Law is taken for the punishment due by the Law. It is that which our Prophet meaneth when he saith, Posuit super humeros, “He hath laid upon His shoulders the iniquities of us all.” And not against His will; “Come,” saith He, “you that are heavy laden, and I will refresh you,” by loading Myself; take it from your necks, and lay it on Mine own. Which His suffering, though it grew so heavy as it wrung from Him plenty of tears, a strong cry, a sweat of blood, such was the weight of it; yet would He not cast it off, but there held it still, till it made Him “bow down His head and give up the ghost.” If He had discharged it, it must have light upon us; it was the yoke of our burden, as in the fourth verse He termeth it: if it had light upon us, it had pressed us down to hell, so insupportable was it. Rather then so, He held it still and bare it; and did that which never Prince did-died for His government. It was not for nothing, we see, that of the Child born no part but the shoulders is mentioned; for that, we see, that of the Child born no part but the shoulders is mentioned; for that, we seem in this Child, is a part of special employment.

2. The other point of difference between Him and other governors. When we say, “On His shoulders,” this we say; on no other shoulders but His. For others, by Moses' example upon Jethro's advice and God's own allowance, may, and do lay off and translate their burden, if it be too heavy, upon others, and so ease it in part. Not so He. It could not be so in His. He, and He alone; He, and none but He: upon His own shoulders, and none but His own, bare He all. He “trod the wine-press,” and bare the burdsen solus, “alone;” et vir de gentibus, “and of all the nations, there was not a man with Him.” Upon His only shoulders did the burden only rest.

3. Now from these two doth the Prophet argue to a third, to the point here of principal intendment. That if, for His government sake, He will bear so great things; bear their weaknesses as the lost sheep, bear their sins as the scape-goat; He will over the government itself, as in Deut. 32. He maketh the simile, stretch forth His wings, “as the eagle over her young ones,” and take them, and bear them between His pinions-bear them, and bear them through. They need take no thought, “No man shall take them out of His hands,O no man reach them, and through He would still carry them; at least-wise, till this Child Immanuel were born. Till then He would; and not wax weary, nor cast them off. And, like the scape-goat, bear their sins; and like the eagle, bear up their estate, “till the fulness of time came,O and He in it, with the fulness of all grace and blessing. And this point I hold so material as Puer natus, nothing, and Filius datus, as much, without Princeps oneratus; for that is all in all, and of the three the chief.

And now, what is all this to us? Yes-“to us” it is; and that, twice over, for failing. We come now to look another while into our interest to it, and our benefit by it. Nobis is acquisitive positus; we get by it: we are gainers by all this.

“To us;” not to Himself. For a far more noble Nativity had He before all worlds, and needed no more birth. Not to be born at all; specially, not thus basely to be born. Not to Him therefore, but to us and our behoof (benefit).

“To us,” as in bar of Himself, so likewise of His Angels. Nusquam Angelos, not to the Angels was He “born,” or “given;” but “to us” He was both. Not an Angel in Heaven can say nobis. Vobis they can, the Angels said it twice. Nobis natus or datus they cannot, but we can, both.

Nobis exclusive, and nobis inclusive. Isaiah speaks not of himself only, but taketh in Ahaz. Both are in nobis; Isaiah, an holy Prophet, and Ahaz, a worse than whom you shall hardly read of. Isaiah includeth himself as having need though a saint, and excludeth not Ahaz from having part though a sinner. Not only Simeon the just, but Paul the sinner, of the quorum, and the first of the quorum.

Inclusive, not only of Isaiah, and his countrymen the Jews, it is of a larger extent. The angel so interpreteth it this day to the shepherds, “joy that shall be to all people.” Not the people of the Jews, or the people of the Gentiles, but simply “to all people.” His name is Jesus Christ, half Hebrew; half Greek; Jesus, Hebrew; Christ, Greek; so sorted of purpose to show Jews and Greeks have equal interest in Him. And now, so is His Father's name too, “Abba, Father;” to shew the benefit equally intended by Him to them that call Him Abba, that is, the Jews; to us that call Him Father, that is, the Gentiles.

But yet, it is inclusive of none but those that include themselves, “that believe,” and therefore say “to us He is born, to us He is given.” Which exclude all those that include not themselves. St. Ambrose saith well, Facit multorum infidelitas ut non ominbus nascertur qui omnibus natus est; “Want of faith makes that He, That is born to all, is not born to all though.” The Turks and Jews can sayhm Puer natus est; the devil can say, Filus natus est, too; but neither say nobis, but Quid nobis et Tibi? They have not to do with Him; and for lack of it, of this, neither Child nor Son, Birth nor Gift, doth avail them: we must make much of this word, and hold it fast, for thereby out tenure and interest groweth. Which interest groweth by a double right, and therefore is nobis twice repeated. 1. The one, of His birth, natus; 2. the other, by a deed of giftg, datus. Of which the one, His birth, referreth to Himself; the other, the gift, to His Father; to shew the joint consent and concurrence in both, for our good. “So Christ loved us, that He was given;” “so God loved us, that He gave His Son.”

By His very birth there groweth to us an interest in Him, thereby partaker of our nature, our flesh and our blood. That which is de nobis, He took of us, is ours; flesh and blood is our own, and to that is our own we have good right.

His humanity is clearly ours; good right to that. But no right to His Deity. Therefore His Father, Who had best right to dispose of Him, hath passed over that by a deed of gift. So that, what by participation of our nature, what by good conveyance, both are ours. Whether a Child, He is ours, or whether a Son, He is ours. We gave Him the one; His Father gave us the other. So both ours; and He ours, so far as both these can make Him. Thus, “God, willing more abundantly to shew to the heirs of promise the stableness of His counsel,” took both courses; that, by two strong titles, which is impossible should be defeated, we might have strong consolation, and ride as it were a double anchor.

I want time to tell of the benefit which the Prophet calleth the “harvest” or booty of His Nativity. That it is in a word: if the tree be ours, the fruit is; if He be ours, His birth is ours; His life is ours, His death is ours; His satisfaction, His merit, all He did, all He suffered, is ours. Farther, All that the Father has is His, He is Heir of all; then, all that is ours too.

St. Paul hath cast up our account, Having given Him, there is nothing but He will give us with Him; so that by this deed we have title to all that His Father or He is worth.

And now, shall we bring forth nothing for Him That was thus born? No, Quid retribua- no giving back-for Him That gave Him us? Yes, thanks to the Father for His great bounty in giving.” Sure, so good a giving, so perfect a gift, there never came down “from the Father of lights.” And to the Son, for being willing so to be born, and so to be burdened as He was. For Him to condescend to be born, as children are born, to become a child: great humility; great ut Verbum infans, ut tonans vagiens, ut immensus parvulus; “that the Word not be able to speak a word, He That thundereth in Heaven cry in a cradle, He That is so great and so high should become so little a child,” and so low as a manger. Not to “abhor the Virgin's womb,” not to abhor the beasts' manger, not to disdain to be fed with “butter and honey;” all great humility. All great, and very great; but that is greater is behind. Puer natus, much; Princeps oneratus, much more; that which He bare for us more than that He was born for; for greater is mors crucis than nativitas praesepis; worse to drink vinegar and gall, than to eat butter and honey; worse to endure an infamous death, than to be content with an inglorious birth.

Let us therefore sing to the Father, with Zacharias' Benedictus, and to the Son, with the Blessed Virgin's Magnificat, and with the angels, Gloria in excelsis to the Prince with His “government on His shoulders.”

Nothing but thanks? Yes, by way of duty too, to render unto the Child, confidence; Puer est, ne metuas: to the Son reverence; Filius est, ne spernas: to the Prince obedience; Princeps est, ne offendas. And again, to natus; Is he born? then cherish Him. I speak of His spiritual birth wherein we, by hearing and doing His Word, are, as Himself saith, His mothers. To datus; Is he given? then keep Him. To oneratus; Is He burdened? favour Him, lay no more on than needs you must.

This is good moral counsel. But St. Bernard gives us politic advice; to look to our interest, to think of making our best benefit by Him. De nobis nato et dato faciamus id ad quod natus est et datu; utamur nostro in utilitatem nostram, de Servatore nostro salutem operemur; “with this born and given Child, let us then do that for which He was born and given us; seeing He is ours, let us use that that is ours to our best behoof, and even work out our salvation out of this our Saviour.” His counsel is to make our use of Him; but that is not to do with Him what we list, but to employ Him to those ends for which He was bestowed. Those are four:

1. He is given us, saith St. Peter, “for an example” to follow. In all; but-that which is proper to this day-to do it in humility. It is that which the Angel set up for a sign and sample, upon this very day. It is the virtue appropriate to His birth. As faith to His conception, beata qu credibit; so humility to His birth, et Hoc erit signum. Fieri voluit in vit�ñ primum. quod exhibuit in ortu vit, (it is Cyprian;) that “He would have us first to express in our life, that He first shewed us in the very entry of His life.” And to commend us this virtue the more, Placuit Deo majora pro nobis operari, “It hath pleased Him to do greater things for us in this estate” than ever He did in the high degree of His majesty; as we know the work of redemption passes that of creation by much.

He is given us in pretium “for a price.O A price either of ransom, to bring us out de loco caliginoso; or a price of purchase of that, where without it we have no interest-the kingdom of heaven. For both He is given; offer we Him for both. We speak of quid retribum? we can never retribute the like thing. He was given us to that end we might give Him back. We wanted, we had nothing valuable; that we might have, this He gave us as a thing of greatest price to offer for what needs a great price, our sins, so many in number, and so foul in quality. We had nothing worthy God; this He gave us that is worthy Him, which cannot be but accepted, offer we it never so often. Let us then offer Him, and in the act of offering ask of Him what is meet; for we shall find Him no less bounteous than Herod, to grant what is duly asked upon His birth-day.

He is given us, as Himself saith, as “the living bread from heaven,” which Bread is His “flesh” born this day, and after “given for the life of the world.” For look how we do give back that He gave us, even so does He give back to us that which we gave Him, that which He had of us. This He gave for us in Sacrifice, and this He gives us in the Sacrament that the Sacrifice may by the Sacrament be truly applied to us. And let me commend this to you; He never bade, accipite, plainly “take” but in this only; and that, because the effect of this day's union is no ways more lively represented, no way more effectually wrought, than by this use.

And lastly, He is given us in; not now to be seen, only in hope, but hereafter by His blessed fruition to be our final reward when “where He is we shall be,” and what He is we shall be; in the same place, and in the same state of glory, joy, and bliss, to endure for evermore.

At His first coming, you see what He had “on His shoulders.” At His second coming He shall not come empty, Ecce venio,&c, “Lo, I come, and My reward with Me;” that is a “kingdom on His shoulders.” And it is no light matter; but, as St. Paul calleth it, “an everlasting weight of glory.” Glory, not like ours here feather-glory, but true; that hath weight and substance in it, and that not transistory and soon gone, but everlasting, to continue to all eternity, never to have an end. This is our state in expectancy. St. Augustine put all four together, so will I, and conclude; Sequamur 1. exemplum; offeramus 2. pretium; sumamus 3. viaticum; expectemus 4. “Let us follow Him for our pattern, offer Him for our price, receive Him for our sacramental food, and wait for Him as our endless and exceeding great reward,” &c.

Fr. Wells' bulletin inserts


"Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." Revelation 21:3.

The compilers of our 1928 Prayer Book made a brilliant choice of this text as the Opening Sentence for Evening Prayer in Christmastide. But it may require a bit of unpacking. It says nothing about angels, shepherds, stables or the Holy Family. Until you study it, it does not sound much like Christmas.

This text comes from the next to last chapter of the very last book of the Bible, the Revelation of St John the Divine, a collection of visions which came to the last surviving apostle in a penal colony in a desert island. This vision is a picture of the heavenly Jerusalem, where the triumphant Christ reigns eternally over all his redeemed people, the multitude which no man can number. And there, in the glory of the new heaven and new earth, a loud voice cries out this text, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men." The voice continues with words which echo and re-echo through the pages of the Old Testament.

In heaven itself, when temporal history is all in the past, the voice cries out with words first heard by Abraham and uttered by the prophets over and over. "I will be your God, and you will be my people, and I will dwell with you."

Note one detail. Our text from Revelation mentions a tabernacle, not a temple. What was the difference? The tabernacle was more ancient, belonging to an earlier period of Biblical history. Whereas the Temple was a massive stone structure, the Tabernacle was only a small tent. The Tabernacle was suitable for wandering nomadic people. Now the Christmas message begins to unfold!

The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us! The word "dwelt" is the very same word as "tabernacle." Tonight, the straight line from Genesis to Revelation, from the tent of Abraham to the Island of Patmos, runs straight through the town of Bethlehem, directly through a stable, leading right on to the new Jerusalen. The Christmas crib is the first installment of the new heaven and new earth.

Both Genesis and Revelation contain a promise. God said, "I will dwell with you." What if the most powerful man in the world sent a message, "I am going to come to live in your house." Not just in our town or your neighborhood, but in your house. Imagine the changes in your life and lifestyle!

That is what happened at the first Christmas. God came finally into our world and our life, to take possession and to make changes. When the Baby was laid in the Manger, everything began to change. May that Baby, God in the flesh, dwell in your heart, your house, and your life today and in the New Year. LKW

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Juridical and liturgical

In comments one reader made mention of an online article by my friend, who is also a friend of both of my brothers, Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Pastor of All Saints Antiochene Orthodox Church in Chicago. He is also a Senior Editor of Touchstone, and so Fr. Reardon and I have been on a joint venture for several years. Referring us to an essay entitled Expiation, blood and atonement, the reader alleged that Fr. Reardon's argument in that essay contradicted my position on Atonement.

Let me disappoint the reader, in case he is looking for a fight to watch. I mostly agree with Fr. Reardon's point. The idea of Christ's Atonement as placating the anger of God, to a degree that separates (in anyone's mind) the Trinity into three Gods with independent wills, with the Father as the bad cop and the Son as the good cop (and who knows where the Holy Spirit fits in?), would certainly be more in keeping with pagan polytheism than with Christianity. The main point that Fr. Reardon has made is that God the Father is the One who paid the terrible price in the suffering of His beloved Son.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. (Rom. 8:32,33)

The offering up of Christ to take away the sins of the world was, from the beginning, the will of the entire Trinity.

With that major agreement in mind, I am left questioning a couple of items. First of all, I must ask, who out there is preaching the angry god version of Christianity? I have heard converts to the Orthodox Church talk about how they were saved from the "Western" idea that God took "pleasure" in the suffering of His Son, because He was so irate that somebody just had to die. I must ask, how did they train their minds to remember something that has never existed?

Who, among all the "Western" theologians (Wyatt Earp? Jessie James? Who?) has ever taught this pagan gospel? Certainly not Augustine, nor Anselm nor even the much vilified Calvin, ever taught such a notion. How is it "Western" theology? To his credit, however, Fr. Reardon never even uses that word, western. But, he does say that somebody has been teaching this, and I cannot think of anyone in the west who fits the wild bill (sorry- I couldn't resist).

My other item, in this case a disagreement, is with the distinction between juridical and liturgical. Fr. Reardon summarizes his position with the words, "The Cross was the supreme altar, and Good Friday was preeminently the Day of the Atonement. The removal of sins was not accomplished by a juridical act, but a liturgical act performed in great love."

The word juridical, like the word forensic, suggests to some a court of law that is separated from the world of worship and devotion. In our own society such a court is secular, as different from a church as anything can be. Therefore, it is easy for modern people to assume that the difference between juridical and liturgical has always existed, and that it is a proper and true separation. This is why some modern writers make too clean and absolute a break between religious sacrifice and satisfaction. What does justice have to do with it?

This is where the word "wrath" is relevant. Human anger is distorted through sin, and always an emotion, a passion that the Impassible God cannot have. But, which is the metaphor? What we attribute to God or what we see in man? Which is the image, even if a distorted image because of sin, and which is the archetype? God made man in His own image and likeness, and so even anger has its pure reality. God is love, and the reality we call anger is an eternal, unchanging attribute of Divine Nature that is revealed in Scripture to be hatred for evil and sin.

Applied to the human race and our greatest need, that anger is mostly remedial in nature, God's love and compassion causing His great and costly expression of love to free us. But, it is uncompromising, in that God is righteous and holy. How can He justify the ungodly without compromising His own righteous character? Can God wink at sin, and merely overlook it? If He did, would that help to transform us into the image of His Son, or would it harden us in our sinfulness?

The answer, again from the Epistle of St. Paul to Church in Rome, was the cross.

To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Rom. 3:26)

By the cross God is both just and the justifier of the saints, by which I mean (in accord with Holy Scripture), all who believe in Jesus. This brings us back to the problem with erecting an absolute wall between a juridical act and a liturgical offering. The Law is not Roman, and it is not Greek. The Law is not pagan, and it is not secular. The Law is the Law of God.

The term "Hebrew Law" was used in the same body of comments that referred us to Fr. Reardon's essay. That is correct if by the word "Hebrew" we mean revealed. The Law, when the time arrived to make it known fully, came by a prophet named Moses, and it is called the Torah. The Torah is comprehensive, or exhaustive. It is the Law for religion, including sacrifices of blood at the altar. It is the Law also that governs all of life, including not only the moral laws that all Christians recognize as universally binding to this day, but even details of civil and criminal law.

Even the building codes for a house are found in that Law ("When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence." Deut. 22:8). It is the Law that forbade slavery (Deut. 23:15,16), but also told the priests exactly how to offer sacrifices, whether of blood or incense.

In short, the Law that exists in the Biblical context of the prophets is the Torah. The judges, when disputes and matters of justice arose, were the priests, the sons of Aaron. The Law taught how to judge disputes between men, and also how to offer the bloody sacrifices of atonement so that the people could be forgiven (Lev. 17:11). The entire language of sacrifice and of justice is the language of the Suffering Servant passage (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). If anything is a sure and certain doctrine of the New Testament (and much is), it is that the Suffering Servant in the book of Isaiah is Jesus Christ, the One Who prolonged His days after being made a sacrifice for sin.

Therefore, because of the Hebrew context of the Gospel as it was foretold in the Law and the Prophets, no clear or absolute distinction can be made between a juridical act and a liturgical offering.