Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Synagō

He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. (Luke 11:23)

What does it mean to gather with Christ? It is possible that the word "gather" was meant to convey the idea of kibutz (קָבַץ), a word that the modern world became familiar with because of the early Zionists and the state of Israel. Or it may have been meant to convey adah  (עֵדָה), which means congregation, for which the Greek equivalent is the word ekklēsia (κκλησία), the word translated as "church" in the New Testament. The Greek word actually used in the verse is of great interest, synagō (συνάγω), from which we get the word "synagogue." No matter how we approach it, that verb form of "synagogue," used by Luke when quoting Christ, must bring to mind the assembled local Church. 

It is also significant that this line is recorded in a context about spiritual warfare and the attack of the Kingdom of God, a frontal assault to take back territory formerly siezed by Satan, and to set hostages free. Going back to v. 20, we see that context: 

But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.

And what follows is about spiritual warfare also, with a warning. 

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. (vs. 24-26) 

Gathering with Christ and His Church seems to be one and the same, at the very least inseparable. When on his way to die in a Roman arena, St. Ignatius wrote several letters to various churches (circa 110 AD). Though he knew that he himself would never return to his bishopric in Antioch, he wrote for the good of all churches everywhere and for all generations to come. In his Letter to the Smyrneans, he said: “Wherever the bishop appears let the congregation be present; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. 

The alternative is to be part of a great scattering, a life of isolation where it is all too easy to avoid the clutter of prayer, worship, sacraments and sound doctrine. In that scattering an individual becomes such a house as Christ describes, "swept and garnished," ready for the habitation of evil plus more evil times seven. That last state is worse than the first. 

Koinonia
Another word that is relevant to the subject of gathering with Christ and His Church is the word translated as "fellowship," which is koinōnia (κοινωνία). "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship (κοινωνία) with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." (I John 1:4) Here we see that this fellowship is impossible without the truth of Apostolic doctrine, the word of God in Scripture.

This same word, koinōnia, is translated "communion" speaking very directly of the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion (κοινωνίαof the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion (κοινωνία) of the body of Christ?" (I Cor. 10:16)

A form of this word is used also to say we are partakers. That is koinōnos (κοινωνός). 

"But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers (κοινωνός) of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." (I Pet. 4:13) 

"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers (κοινωνός) of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (II Pet. 1:4) 

One can see the skillful use of words in our Service of Holy Communion when we come across such lines as, "humbly beseeching thee, that all we, who are partakers of this holy communion, may be fulfilled with thy grace and heavenly benediction." The scholars of the Church of England were second to none, and they knew exactly what they were saying in light of the Biblical use of words that formed their thinking. 

We partake, we communicate, we have fellowship; this is with Christ and His Church; and it is across all barriers of time and space. As St. John tells us in the larger context of his words quoted above about our fellowship, going back to the first verse and taking it from the top: 

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (I John 1:1-4) 

Our Synagogue
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Heb. 10:22-25) 

That word "assembling" is a translation of yet another form of the word "synagogue." It is episynagōgē (πισυναγωγή). 

I do not know what value each of you place on the fellowship of God's Church, especially in countries where the choices seem endless, and where it is so free and easy to gather together. Unlike the ancient Christians under the Roman persecution before 313 AD, and unlike many Christians in various countries where the Church suffers persecution, modern western Christians do not take a risk or pay a high price for the opportunity to assemble. But, to understand the value everyone ought to place on the fellowship of God's holy Church, let us summarize the points we have learned in this brief study. 

When we gather as the Church we gather with Christ Himself. If we do not so gather or assemble together, we scatter and become prey for the enemy. If anyone doubts the reality of that peril, let us look at the very next verse from the portion we have quoted of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Vs. 26, 27 tell us, "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." Why does the writer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, warn that forsaking the assembling together of the Church leads to a state of willful sin? Need we really ask this question?

When we gather as the Church we have fellowship. This is not merely social; more than that it is also sacramental and theological. That it is sacramental is obvious, as we have seen from the passage about the communion of Christ's Body and Blood. That it is theological is obvious, because of what John tells us about the doctrine of the Apostles who touched, who heard and who saw the Incarnate Christ (especially as they again touched, heard and saw Him after He had risen from the dead). Our fellowship and communion is in the truth of God's word and it is sacramental. It is with God, and it is with one another. Across barriers of time, we have fellowship with the Apostles themselves by believing their testimony and doctrine; this fellowship is with God and with His Son. We have communion with Christ's Body and Blood; we have fellowship one with another; together we look forward to the day when we may be partakers of the Divine nature.

I hope you are not planning to sleep late this Sunday.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fr Wells' Bulletin Inserts


TRINITY X


Concerning the Epistle:

In today's first reading we continue with I Corinthians, from a passage dealing with spiritual gifts. Paul lists there numerous gifts within the community of the faithful (a community he goes so far as to describe as “the Body of Christ”). But as these various gifts are listed, there is a test implied: gifts which build up the Body of Christ are truly gifts of the Holy Spirit, but any so-called “gifts” which divide or disturb the Body come from a very different source. Paul wishes us to discern carefully those gifts which are truly of the Holy Spirit.

The fundamental gift is the gift of faith. “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” In that sentence Paul was alluding to the earliest form of the Christian Creed, “Jesus is Lord.” It is a breath-taking fact that in certain religious circles this simple affirmation is rejected as a “sexist” statement, the word “Lord” being regarded as insulting or demeaning to females.

But even in Paul's time the word “Lord” was controversial. This word, /Kyrios/ in Greek, was the word used to translate “Yahweh” in the Old Testament. When early Christians affirmed as their creed “Jesus is Lord,” they were saying “Jesus is God.” This was exactly the reason that the high priest and Sanhedrin attempted to suppress the preaching of Peter and the Apostles in Acts; the declaration that Jesus is God was outrageous to them.

When the pagan Romans or Greeks heard the word “Kyrios,” they thought of the Roman emperor, who in fact was beginning to call himself Divine. The assertion that “Jesus is Lord” sounded distinctly political, in a subversive sort of way. The emperors were always on the look-out for rivals seeking to dethrone them. A new sect which professed “Jesus is Lord” naturally drew the negative attention of worldly powers.

So the simple Creed of the Christians, offensive to both Jews and Gentiles alike, could never be in Paul's world a sentimental platitude or empty slogan. Declaring the Lordship of Jesus Christ was risking one's life, declaring oneself to be Jesus' slave, placing oneself totally at Jesus' disposal.

That sort of declaration does not come about through cheap emotionalism or by a purely human decision. It comes as the miraculous gift of God the Holy Ghost. All who have faith in Jesus, who are enabled to submit to Him as Lord of their lives, truly have the greatest of all spiritual gifts.


Concerning the Gospel:

Trinity Season is mostly devoted to Our Lord's ministry of teaching, though parables, preaching, and miracles (unlike the other half of the year, which sets forth the mighty deeds of His Incarnation, Passion and Exaltation). Therefore, today's Gospel passage, from Luke 19, coming almost exactly in the middle of the "second semester" is striking because it presents a painful picture from Palm Sunday, Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem. So here we have a glimpse back into Holy Week.

Jerusalem, associated with David the King and the Temple he built, is a Biblical symbol of the Church which Our Saviour established to be His Body on earth. But lest we fall into the Old Testament error of seeing our "Jerusalem" in grandiose terms, we have the warning Jesus uttered here. Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Church we cherish as our spiritual Mother, are all under judgment, "because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."

Jerusalem failed to recognize the presence of God, as God was incarnate in Jesus Christ. Matthew tells us that when Jesus had entered into the city, the whole city was stirred up and asked, "Who is this?" Luke relates how He spelled out the tragedy of their ignorance.

Jesus has the habit of coming suddenly and unexpectedly. For all the prophetic preparation God has made, men's hearts are still hard and unready to receive Him. We treat His coming in Word and Sacrament as a routine matter, nothing remarkable. Perhaps we do not expect Him to come at all.

But come He does, in Sermon and Eucharist, and in the face of our neighbor.

Usually this episode is interpreted in terms of the justified anger Jesus felt over the corruption of the Temple (which, by the way), He claimed as "my house." Luke, however, stresses not anger but grief. Jesus approaching the holy city weeps over it. We are told elsewhere in Luke (13:34) that on another occasion He said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those that are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not." This anguished disappointment of Jesus was later mentioned in Hebrews 5:7, "In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death."

He still loves us, as much as He loved Jerusalem and as much as He loved the temple "where He taught daily." Pray that He will not weep over us for not knowing the time of our visitation, the moment of His presence.

Tenth Sunday after Trinity

“Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”
- I Cor. 12:3

We must consider two venues when we think of this basic confession of Christian Faith (Jesus is the Lord): the Church and the World.

  1. Within the Church:
We make this very confession in this specific portion of the Creed: “…Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man…”

The Jewish people had once known the ineffable Name of God which is represented by four Hebrew letters that correspond to our Latin alphabet with the letters YHVH (יהוה). This is the Name that is in the original Hebrew text every time that you find the word LORD rendered with every letter in the higher case, that is, in the KJV and other English translations that follow ancient Jewish and Christian tradition. The prophet Jeremiah had said that, upon their return from Babylon, this Name would no longer be pronounced by any man of Judah. The tradition of the Jewish people was to use the word Adonai whenever reading aloud from Scripture the Holy Name of God, that name YHVH. The Hebrew word Adonai, which means “the Lord,” would be substituted by a Jewish reader; and this still is Jewish practice to this very day. The First century Christians who relied on the Greek translation called the Septuagint (generally rendered LXX for the seventy rabbis who translated it) were accustomed to finding this Name of God translated as Kyrios (Κύριος), the Greek word for “Lord.”
So, when we say that Jesus is the Lord, we are saying that this man who walked the earth, lived, died and rose again is Himself to be identified with the God of Israel who made heaven and earth. We are saying that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” We are confessing the Incarnation. On that day when the apostle Peter said to Jesus, “thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” the Lord answered him, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father in heaven” If you know, and can say with all your heart, that Jesus is the Lord, you are saying that He is one with the Father. You are saying, therefore, that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” You are saying that God the Son has taken human nature into His Divine Person, our created nature into not-created Person. You are saying that He has taken what is alien to Him, our human nature, yet all the while remaining wholly other from every created thing as the Word (λγος) and only begotten Son.          
This He has done to save us from sin and death and to forever sanctify and transform human nature, giving us by grace what we cannot by nature have, and so make us partakers of the Divine Nature, as is written by the apostle Peter.1 This is why you cannot say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost. Yes, someone can say the words, perhaps, without conviction. But, to speak of the Incarnation with faith, you must have the Holy Spirit within you making Christ known to you.

  1. Confessing Jesus as the Lord before the world.
This is more difficult. When the ancient persecution of Christians became the law of the empire, to the ears of a Roman Magistrate such a confession, that Jesus is the Lord, became a crime punishable by death. The empire had one lord, and that was Caesar. Furthermore, Christians were taught to obey and honor all earthly authorities, including Caesar; but (and here is the rub) only as far as the informed Christian conscience allows. The Church was taught to obey and honor Caesar’s title as emperor, but not his ultimate title, his claim to total authority over the human conscience. For that must be formed by the word of God, not by culture, custom or politics.     
Caesar was believed to be the lord and god of his empire. Eventually, for a Christian to save his life if charged with the crime of Christianity, he had to renounce Jesus. The words in this section of the Epistle show that persecuted Christians had been pressed to renounce Jesus by calling Him accursed in the region around Corinth, like a preview of the persecution that would soon be standard throughout the empire. Once the empire began to enforce the law that made Christianity a capital crime, one had to renounce Jesus as Lord, and then make an offering of incense to the image of Caesar, thus recognizing him as the lord and god of the whole world.        
An early form of official persecution had taken place already in region in and around Corinth. Certain lapsed believers sought to be allowed back quickly into the fellowship of the Church by claiming that the Holy Spirit had guided them to renounce Jesus, even to call Him accursed, in order to be spared. Saint Paul addresses this by teaching that such a notion is impossible. Paul, in this passage, did not set aside the possibility of forgiveness and restoration of those believers into the fellowship of the Church (for God does forgive sins, and so must we); but nonetheless he firmly corrected their unacceptable excuse and wrong idea.
Here in the modern Western world we cannot identify easily with the ancient Christians, who could at any moment face denunciation to the authorities, who might even have their services raided. However, in other lands Christians in our own time are faced with the power of the state, that Beast that has suffered a mortal wound and yet lingers before that wound brings about its inevitable death,2 the power of the state demanding to be acknowledged as lord and god by trampling the human conscience. The Twentieth century saw more martyrs than all previous centuries combined, and we see no change in the world even now except for the fall of one state, the Soviet Union. How poor an excuse it is, therefore, if under a threat no more serious than social pressure, we fail to live up to the dictates of an informed conscience and so declare by word and deed that Jesus is the Lord.       
Of course, it is also true that human pride is given no room by the courageous examples of the martyrs; for Saint Paul tells us that if we are faced with death it is only by the Holy Spirit that we have the power to confess Jesus as the Lord. C.S. Lewis once wrote: Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” And, this virtue requires the Holy Spirit giving us grace to say “Jesus is the Lord.” 

The confession that Jesus is the Lord means that He is equal to God. It acknowledges, by using His human name, Jesus, that the Word was made flesh. It carries within it the truth that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”3 It proclaims in its present tense form that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, and is alive today. This confession is a manifestation that the Holy Spirit is in us. Jesus is the Lord of life and death, of heaven and earth, and of all things; He is One with the Father. This confession, Jesus is the Lord, foretells that Jesus Christ will come again to judge the quick and the dead, and that His Kingdom shall have no end.
********************
1.*  “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  (II Pet. 1:4)”
2. Rev. 13:3 seems to predict a mortal wound to the empire, but survival of its basic evil.

3. I Tim. 1:15

Friday, August 26, 2011

Laymen's Guide to the Thirty-Nine Articles

Article XIII
Of Works before Justification
Works done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of His Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the School authors say) deserve grace of congruity: yea, rather for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.

De Operibus ante Iustificationem
Opera quae fiunt ante gratiam Christi et Spiritus eius afflatum, eum ex fide Iesu Christi non prodeant, minime Deo grata sunt, neque gratiam (ut multi vocant) de congruo merentur: imo cum non sint facta ut Deus illa fieri voluit et praecepit, peccati rationem habere non dubitamus.

Fr. Laurence Wells
This is surely the most difficult  article we have yet encountered and may well be the hardest of many "hard sayings" in the Articles in their entirety.        
All of us have known people like a friend of mine.  He is not only a good and generous man, but more than that:  he is self-denying, living out a life of heroic virtue (yes, I know where that phrase comes from), caring not only for his disabled wife but for her elderly invalid parents.  His personal burdens are almost overwhelming.  I am in awe of his courage, and wish I had some measure of his kindness.  One might be tempted to say my friend is the perfect Christian, but that would only insult him.  My friend, you see, is utterly unchurched and seems to be an agnostic.        
Taken at face value, Article XIII appears to say that my friend's admirable way of life and numberless acts of compassion are "not pleasant to God" but have "the nature of sin."  How can such a view be reconciled with even minimal Christian charity?        
To begin, we need to resolve an apparent discrepancy between the title of the article, "Of Works before Justification," and the opening sentence, which speaks of "the grace of Christ and the Inspiration of his Spirit."  Justification in the Articles always has its Biblical meaning of God's once-for-all judicial degree of acquittal and acceptance for sinners who by faith embrace Christ as He is offered in the Gospel.  The "grace of Christ and Inspiration of the Spirit" surely seems to refer, in a loose sort of way, to God's initial invasion of the sinner's heart which the Bible calls regeneration, the gift of new life in the New Creation.  Although these acts of God are distinct, both Justification and Regeneration together divide a sinner's life into a "before" and "after," setting up an indelible line of demarcation, establishing a granite landmark which sin and Satan cannot remove.
Every human being lives on one side or the other of that watershed (signified by the watershed event of Baptism, when we pray that God, of His bounteous mercy, will grant to this person that which by nature he cannot have.") We have already seen that after Regeneration/Justification, we both enjoy and endure an ambiguous existence in the paradoxical status of "simul iustus et peccator."  But what of the fallen creature before that salvific beachhead?       
At this point in our survey we must remind ourselves of the nature of sin itself.  The popular notion that sin refers to occasional lapses from a morally neutral condition, like dark spots on a beige background, is Pelagian and heretical. As we learned in Article IX, Original sin is "the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man," and "in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation."  To invoke the metaphors of Genesis 3, as human beings in our post-lapsarian state, we do not live on in the garden of moral innocence, or even near the gate guarded by cherubim with flaming swords.  Our resultant condition, into which each of us was born, is the tough world of thorns and thistles, exiles from the presence and good-pleasure of the Creator.  Sin is not only leaving undone those things we ought to have done and doing those things we ought not to have done; that phrase from the General Confession in the Daily Office describes the regenerate.  For the unregenerate, sin is a more serious matter: it is our very condition, our dilemma and our predicament.        
Article XIII drives this nail home.  This "fault and corruption of the nature" of every human being is like a deadly poison in an aquifer, a tiny thing which pollutes and ruins the whole system.  The unregenerate man, even at his best, is only a lost sinner.  In his debates with the Pelagians, St Augustine had to account for the virtues of the heathen. Somewhat dismissively, he described those virtues as only "virtutes ethnicorum splendida vitia," no more than "splendid vices," since they were not intended for the glory of God, but only for self-love and human praise.       
So where does this leave my agnostic friend as he daily cares for his querulous and ungrateful mother-in-law?  Shall I congratulate him for the practice of a splendid vice?  Do I suggest, "Don't bother; you are only committing another sin?"  Mercifully, Augustine's followers of a later century introduced a concept which brings some relief.  As we recall "the rain that falls on  the just and the unjust," Holy Scripture offers the doctrine of "common grace," which not only restrains mankind's proclivity to violence and sin, but even enables the unregenerate to perform certain acts less wicked than ordinary, acts of "civil good."  All human behavior is imperfect, but some behavior is better than others, not because of our human nature but only because of God's kindly restraint.  So in the benevolence of the unbeliever, the eyes of faith may see the presence of the Spirit of God, who wills that all men may be saved.

Fr. Robert Hart
Fr. Wells has opened our chapter on Article XIII by looking honestly at the good works of a friend, not unlike the various people each of us know. After all, what we find in this Article cannot fail to bring out the same problem for each honest person who reads it. The most problematic things we find here are that these works we may call, in the lives of individuals, “Before Christ” (BC in terms of one’s own faith), is the idea that they do not please God, and that they have the nature of sin. But, if we understand this teaching correctly, it produces more certainty concerning the love of God and His unmerited favor to unworthy sinners.
            Unmerited is a word I use boldly, inasmuch as no one can save himself from sin and death, as we have seen clearly by now, by even the best and most righteous efforts. If salvation came to you because of merit rather than grace, it might prove true the observation of Mark Twain: “Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” If you had to earn sufficient merits against your sins, most certainly, “you would stay out.” Why? Because God is perfect, and His standard is perfection. In his famous argument against Pelagius, this was essential to the teaching of St. Augustine. The Universal Church agreed that it was Augustine whose doctrine conformed to the teaching of the Apostles in the public record of Holy Scripture.
          For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. (James 2:10,11) 

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire...Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matt. 5:20-22, 27,28) 

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matt. 5:48)
          If, as we know to be true, “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Gal. 3:24),” it is most certain that the old American humorist got it right: “if it went by merit, you would stay out.” And, though I appreciate the entire quotation, it is that first part we need to understand. The salvation we need is absolute, and the salvation God has provided in His only begotten Son meets that absolute need.
          So, let us ask about these points. Why are B.C. works not pleasing to God? Frankly, that is what the rest of the Article answers. Let us then break it down into parts.


First we see, “forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ.”
          But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb. 11:6)
It is impossible because he is perfectly just, perfectly righteous, and perfectly holy. This is where Fr. Wells’ point, above, needs to be stated again: sin “is our very condition, our dilemma and our predicament.” The Gospel is about mercy and about grace, because the heart of God is that perfect charity about which the Apostle wrote his famous chapter thirteen in the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Therefore, He has provided the cure for our condition and the rescue from our dilemma and predicament: “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world (John 12:47).” We need to know that this is our condition in order to appreciate the truth we are presented with.

Then we see, “neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the School authors say) deserve grace of congruity.”
Again, if good works could make us worthy by the perfect standards of God’s justice, we would always live with uncertainty as to whether we had done enough. Or, we could sin willfully, and then assume that God owes us forgiveness by what we consider a just compensation paid to Him. As we have seen before, we are “unprofitable servants” who merely have done their duty; and that is only if truly we have done all that he commanded us to do (Luke 17:7-10). The good works of charity and of devotional duty to God Himself are commanded; they are required. Therefore, it is no great thing if somehow, at some time, we manage to do the best mortals can do in this fallen state. Failure to do right is simply another sin; so, God owes nothing to anyone for good works. “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)” And, therefore, it is not compensation paid to God if someone does the right thing once in a while.

Finally, “yea, rather for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.
How are they done at all if not as God commanded? The obvious answer is that they are done without faith in His Son. For this reason, no matter how much a feeling of love may be present in actions for individuals, the faith that produces Divine love is absent, that charity that comes only from the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Therefore, the motivation to obey the Second Great commandment of the Law is imperfect. And, if you doubt that this is possible, consider the words of St. Paul: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity (γάπη), it profiteth me nothing. (I Cor. 13:3)” And, if you ask why I speak of charity when the Article speaks of faith, it is because of the impossibility of separating these Divine virtues bestowed by grace: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (v. 13)” “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love (γάπη). (Gal. 5:6)”
Therefore, “the nature of sin” speaks of that helpless state inherent in fallen mankind. The motivation that exists, in even the best works, falls far short of God’s perfection. The good news is that God has provided something far better than anything we could imagine. He is not pleased with anything less than His Son; and it is in His Son that He sees us.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Clarifications for the present day

A few unrelated thoughts that seem worth spouting

About this blog
I received a phone call urging me to be cautious about doing damage to potential unity. I was told we said too much about divisive issues. When pressed, the caller told me we had to stop writing about "Deerfield Beach." The problem with that advice is that we have never posted anything at all about that old worn out subject. From 2005 until now, we have never posted an article about it, nor made any point indicating that the topic is worth bothering with. We decided long ago that it does not help the cause of unity to discuss it, so we have always left it alone. This makes me wonder in what other way we have an undeserved reputation. And, to what degree is a perceived reputation as significant as an accurate reputation?

But, I don't plan to lose sleep over it.

Today's lesson
Today is the feast of St. Bartholomew, August 24. The Book of Common Prayer gives us an Epistle and Gospel reading that sets up a fascinating contrast:

"And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest." (Luke 22:24) 

"By the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people." (Acts 5:12)

Like other such feasts for the Apostles, we see a short and precise contrast between them pre-Pentecost and post Pentecost. Before their night of terror and two days of fear, that is, before seeing the Risen Christ with His wounds, and also before the infilling of the Holy Spirit fifty days later, we see them striving with each other. Afterward, they look like Christ Himself, representing Him with the same power and authority to set captives free, because He had given it to them. 

We speak of the Apostolic Tradition, and it occurs to me that we need to be clear which Apostolic Tradition we want to keep. Do we want to keep the tradition of striving around the table, not aware that the Lord is, on the same night, betrayed? I believe we have been quite successful at keeping that tradition, because it takes next to no effort. 

Somehow, I think that is not what we really should aim at, nor what we mean by saying we are part of the Apostolic Church, and that we keep the Apostolic Tradition. At least, I hope no one thinks that. I believe we mean to follow the post Pentecost image of the Apostles. But, to do that we have no power in and of ourselves. For they did not merely live up to a better model; they were transformed by the Holy Spirit Himself. So, we can now decide. We can be like the Church as we see it on that night of betrayal, or like we see it in the Book of Acts. The first choice is the easy one, and the second choice is impossible, but for the grace of God.

Hills to die on
It feels dishonest to argue for anything I cannot prove. Theology is "the queen of the sciences" and the data is revelation. Ultimately, the Church kept a library of revelation, and we call it the Canon of Scripture. If Anglicanism is, as C.S. Lewis called it, "the largest room of all," it is because we have a tradition of liberty within orthodoxy. 

We might as well learn to live with that Anglican tradition, because we are experiencing a return to normalcy now that the recent attempt to infect thousands of people with Roman Fever has fizzled out. If we have academic liberty, unlike Fundamentalists whether of the Evangelical or Roman brand, it is strictly within orthodox boundaries. That is, we may have to accept the practices of both Low and High Anglican Churchmen, but only to a degree. 

Let the following examples suffice: The Low Church folks, if they are Continuing with us, cannot imitate the neo-Anglican bodies whose view of the sacraments is so low as to allow "ordination" of women, a trivialization of liturgy etc., without parting company. And, our High Church folks cannot despise their Low Church brethren, or try to force on them practices that seem foreign. The first question is, what is a hill worth dying on? The second is, what can you prove by the science of theology? For all else, there is liberty. 

It is obvious that even among the concordat churches the High and Low questions are not all resolved fully. Welcome back to true meaning of "Anglican Comprehensiveness," a very different meaning from what the modern Episcopalians have given it. Within the framework of the Affirmation of St. Louis, we still have a manifestation of variety in the Continuing Church concerning things that do not justify dissolving our sacramental communion. What do we do about it?

Because this blog has been committed to the cause of unity in the Continuing Church, and because I do a lot of writing for it, I have decided to resist the kind of over simplification that hinders communication. I will leave you with one example. We have heard from some people (I mean our own people, including some in the concordat) who are not comfortable with the Affirmation stressing seven Councils and seven Sacraments. 

I wrote an essay, therefore, entitled Two rights don't make a wrong. My point was to approach the subject without over simplification of a cheerleader variety, and to defend the Affirmation of St. Louis in the process. It is not enough merely to say "seven and seven" unless we address the questions this raises. And, no question can be answered fully and in an educational manner by merely a brief assertion. 

About seven Ecumenical Councils, it is perfectly right to place the greater emphasis on the first four, as any theologian will tell you. But, it is equally right to acknowledge the authority of all seven as representing the mind of the Universal Church before the Great Schism. It is right (as our catechism says) to place special emphasis on the Two Sacraments of the Gospel as instituted by Christ. It is also right to acknowledge that the Bible reveals the sacramental nature of the other five, and that they are called sacraments quite correctly (the true meaning of Article XXV to readers capable of understanding the foreign language we call English). For that, you may read the essay.

Ultimately, when we have the truth at hand, it will prevail because it cannot fail to persuade and convince. There are, of course, real hills to die on. Absolutely. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

ACC Metropolitan’s Address to the Canadian Church Congress, Victoria, BC, 2011


Archbishop Haverland (pictured with the APCK's Archbishop James Provence) gave the keynote address


Address by the Most Reverend Mark Haverland
Your Grace Archbishop Provence, Your Grace Archbishop Robinson, My Lords Bishop, Venerable, Very Reverend, and Reverend Fathers, Ladies and Gentlemen.
We are not born Christian.  We are made Christian, by baptism.  I was made a Christian, the child of God and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven, in an Episcopal church in Niles, Ohio, when I was three months old.  I lived within the Church of my baptism until January 1, 1977, the effective date of decisions made by the 1976 Minneapolis General Convention.  By accepting a new liturgy radically different from any historic Book of Common Prayer the Episcopal Church proved itself to be sub-Anglican.  By claiming authority to alter Holy Orders by the so-called ordination of women as priests, the Episcopal Church proved itself to be sub-Catholic.  By adopting a pro-abortion policy the Episcopal Church proved itself indifferent to the natural law and to the lives of helpless unborn children.  
From this bundle of erroneous decisions flows everything that has since happened in the Episcopal Church.  All the recent errors are merely elaborations of principles established in 1976, of which the chief error, thefons et origo, is the implicit claim that Anglicans have authority to alter doctrine and moral teaching.  Anglicans quite correctly deny that the Bishop of Rome has authority to add doctrines.  But at least the Popes confine themselves to defining new developments of doctrine at the rate of about one per century.  The Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church do not merely add new doctrines, but also change existing ones; and, far from limiting themselves to one per century, they seem to come up with a new enormity every year. 
In Canada, as most of you know better than I, the situation was not quite the same as in the U.S.  The Prayer Book was not abandoned in Canada so clearly or decisively as in the U.S.  General Synod’s embrace in 1975 of women’s ordination was not combined here with an all-fronts abandonment of Catholic faith, worship, and morality.  Nonetheless, for those with eyes to see – including notably Carmino de Catanzaro and Roland Palmer – 1975 was the Canadian point of no return.  
And so it was that in 1977 both Canadian and U.S. Churchmen gathered in St. Louis in a great Congress to affirm orthodox Anglican faith and practice, with particular emphasis on those points most in question at that time in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Church of Canada:  namely, the male character of Holy Order – all Holy Order including the diaconate; the desirability of retaining the Prayer Book liturgical tradition; and the sanctity of unborn life and the importance of traditional Christian morality in general.  These principles were enshrined in the Affirmation of Saint Louis, which my own Church in turn has wisely embedded in its formularies and Constitution. 
I believe that the importance of the Affirmation of Saint Louis cannot easily be overstated.  In recent decades the decay of our former ecclesial homes has progressed so that more and more clergy and laymen have left them, by joining non-Anglican churches, by staying at home of a Sunday, or more recently by joining one of the soi-disant Anglican bodies which I call neo-Anglican.  The largest of the neo-Anglican bodies is the Anglican Church of North America, led by Archbishop Robert Duncan.  Others include the Anglican Mission in America, ‘AMiA’.  I cannot call such groups ‘Anglican’ simpliciter because they have in various ways accepted the central error of the 1970s:  the claim to authority to alter doctrine.  But my views on the neo-Anglicans are published and are readily available, and I will not repeat them now in detail.
What I would like to do today is to consider the importance of the Affirmation by examining a phrase near its end.  In the final section of the Affirmation the claim is made that, ‘We do nothing new.’  What does this phrase mean?  In what sense is it true?  In what sense might it be misleading?
As someone brought up in the Canterbury Communion and the Episcopal Church, I can say on the basis of personal experience that some things about the Anglican Catholic Church - and I might make bold to add also some things about the Province of Christ the King and the UECNA, with which the ACC is in full communion – some things about us all are certainly different.  What is different is that within our Churches there is great doctrinal seriousness and there is no tolerance for the rejection of basic creedal orthodoxy.  We have no party inclined towards what in Anglican history developed from Latitudinarianism into Church Deism, Modernism, and then the various theological pathologies of recent decades.  To put the difference briefly, the ‘Broad and Hazy’ party has been excluded from the Affirmation Churches.  Now some people might take the assertion that ‘we do nothing new’ to be falsified by the very fact that one important strand of Anglican tradition has been excised.  We note this possibility, are not moved by it, and so may proceed.
Another important sense in which the Affirmation has done something new is in its crystal clarity concerning a number matters which could once excite debate among Anglicans and which still can excite debate among some who profess and call themselves Anglican.  Consider, for example this simple assertion:  
The Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, the Holy Eucharist, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, Penance and Unction of the Sick, [are] objective and effective signs of the presence and saving activity of Christ our Lord among His people and [are] His covenanted means for conveying His Grace.  
Or, again, consider this assertion:  the ‘received Tradition of the Church’ is ‘especially…defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils’.  The clear, simple, unambiguous assertion of seven Sacraments and seven Councils is different, at least in the sense that it would have met contradiction or heavy qualification in many Anglican quarters prior to the Affirmation.  But for us ‘seven and seven’ are principles and premises to be celebrated, explored, taught, applied, and elaborated, and are not propositions for debate or for equivocation.  In short, while we enjoy classical Anglican generosity concerning matters indifferent, and seek to emphasize the common deposit of the Faith rather than multiply items to impose on tender consciences, nonetheless we define the essentials more carefully than many Anglicans once did.  We do not permit every opinion once tolerated among self-described Anglicans, but rather place ourselves squarely and firmly in the center of Catholic and Orthodox Christendom.  If asserting ‘seven and seven’ is in some sense an Anglican novelty, we are, again, not concerned.  ‘Seven and seven’ unites us to the great mass of Christians, East and West, living and dead, and we are not interested in recapitulating older intramural Anglican debates on these subjects.
It is at this point that we may move on from the sense in which we are somewhat different in look and feel and so come to the sense in which our heart is not new, but rather is the same as classical Anglicanism at its best.  On this point we may return to that phrase the ‘received Tradition of the Church’.  The Affirmation does nothing new in essence because its greater clarity and renovated orthodoxy are clear implications of the classical Anglican commitment to Scripture as the source of all necessary doctrine and to patristic tradition as the essential interpretive lens through which Scripture is to be read.  The Affirmation asserts that ‘all Anglican statements of faith and liturgical formulae must be interpreted’ so as to be consistent with the Affirmation itself, including its assertions concerning seven Councils, seven Sacraments, the male character of Holy Orders, the three Creeds, and so forth.  That is to say, the Affirmation in effect provides, not a new body of doctrine, but rather an interpretive lens for viewing the doctrines of the Bible and of the Patristic corpus which all classical Anglicans affirm.  But where Hooker and Andrewes might speak of four Councils and tended to draw a kind of limit in the fifth century, the Affirmation effectively extends the Patristic consensus into the eighth century and the Second Council of Nicaea.  
In this broadening of the limits of the patristic era – or perhaps in this greater definition concerning those limits - the Affirmation is also itself a major ecumenical advance towards the great Churches of Rome and the East, as I have already suggested.  The Affirmation explicitly embraces Councils which Rome and the Orthodox also enthusiastically and explicitly accept as part of ‘the received Tradition of the Church’.  In a sense the Affirmation may extend and clarify of the content of the received Tradition, but it does so in a way that is entirely consistent with Anglican principles and with the living consensus of all the great Catholic and Orthodox Churches.  The classical Hookerian and Anglican principles of consensus and Patristic authority are more truly understood and applied by the Affirmation than by the older Anglican Churches, which all too often embraced doctrinal ambiguity and neglected the living Catholic consensus of East and West, which consensus does certainly extend to Nicaea II.
In brief, then, insofar as the Affirmation does something new, that something is consistent with basic and classic Anglican principles.  We have an orthodoxy and catholicity that are somewhat new in their authoritative clarity, while also being quite consistent with Anglican theological method and principles.  What is new provides an answer to the distortions that were at work in the official, Canterbury Communion in the 1970s.  What is new also brings us into a deeper unity of faith with the great Churches of the East and West.  And what is new does no violence to anything truly valuable in our tradition.
As my topic is the Affirmation I would like to conclude with a brief comment on an abuse of that document currently being made by some Anglo-Papalists.  At the beginning of its final section, the Affirmation says that we ‘should actively seek’ full communion ‘with all other Apostolic and Catholic Churches, provided that agreement in the essentials of Faith and Order first be reached.’  This statement of aspiration has sophistically been read as justifying – as requiring, even - submission to Rome under the terms opened by Anglicanorum coetibus.  This reading erases the Affirmation’s reference to prior agreement in essentials.  And this reading is sophistry because nothing has changed in Roman Catholic ecclesiology or in Roman understanding of the Petrine Office, since 1977.  If James Orin Mote and Carmino de Catanzaro and Roland Palmer and Robert Sherwood Morse and those others who wrote and then approved the Affirmation could not simply become Roman Catholics in 1977, then there is no reason why they or any other person committed to the Continuing Church now should become Roman Catholic. 
The text from the Affirmation which I have just read to you does not refer particularly to Rome, but rather speaks of ‘other Apostolic and Catholic Churches’.  It refers to Churches in the plural and it refers to ‘other Apostolic and Catholic Churches’ so as clearly to assert that Continuing Anglicans now, and other Anglicans earlier, also belong to an Apostolic and Catholic Church.  But anyone who joins an Ordinariate under Anglicanorum coetibus must consent to the Roman position that Anglican orders are invalid, that our episcopal sacraments are null, and that we are not and never have been an Apostolic and Catholic Church.  While not requiring any admission of subjective fault, Rome does require all Anglican converts to accept that objectively they have belonged to a schismatic and defective ‘ecclesial body’.  The Affirmation text does not require conversion to Rome because there has been no movement by Rome towards agreement with us in the essentials of Faith and Order.  In fact the Affirmation also necessarily implies that no submission to Rome is permissible until Rome alters its rejection of our orders and of the fullness of our apostolicity and catholicity.  The attempt to convert the text of the thoroughly Anglican and non-papalist Affirmation into justification for the current batch of Anglo-Papalist conversions is so misleading and so contrary to the plain text itself as to seem disingenuous.  And that is yet another reason for us to admire the Affirmation and to rejoice in the sound foundation it provides us all.
Thank you very much for your attention. 
+Mark Haverland


The Most Reverend Mark Haverland, Ph.D. Archbishop and Metropolitan 
Anglican Catholic Church

Trinity 9 Sermon Notes

flee from idolatry+

Last year I spoke of the reasons why idolatry is spiritual death, why God so persistently warns against it and condemns it. But there are Christians who believe Catholics are idolators. Why? Because Catholics honour and pray to the capital “S” Saints, especially Mary, the Mother of our Lord, and because they also treat images of holy people and events as sacred.


Now, the question of images seems easily and peremptorily dealt with by the Bible to many. The Second of the Ten Commandments forbids the worship of images, and even appears to forbid making them. [Read from BCP.]


But the words “to thyself” and what follows show that it is the making of images as a means to make and possess a false god that is condemned. Therefore, holy images are not forbidden, as long as they are not worshipped as God. This is proven by the fact that the same Law of Moses commanded the creation of certain sacred images, for example, the Cherubim over the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:18, 26:1, 39:24, Numbers 21:8).


More specifically, the old Law forbade the making of any image of God. And it gave the reason (Deuteronomy 4:15-16): “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure … male or female”. And the Bible contains repeated reference to the fact that no man has seen God (e.g., Exodus 33:20, John 1:18), for God is spirit (John 4:24), not flesh, much less inanimate matter, whether like stone or star.


So, how can we make images of our Lord, Jesus Christ, whose divinity is taught by the same Bible? Take the verse I just quoted and try to force it into the context of the New Covenant, and the answer is clear. “You saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at the Sermon on the Mount, or from the midst of glory on the Mount of Transfiguration”? No, that is false. Indeed, to say it would be to deny that Jesus truly came in the flesh, that he took upon himself true humanity, the very error condemned by St John in his Epistles. So, while God's nature is invisible, he has revealed himself in the human nature he assumed. In Galatians 3:1 St Paul says Jesus was “portrayed” as crucified before their “eyes”. While this is probably by Paul's intention a metaphorical reference to preaching and the effect it had in their minds/imagination, the language used is deliberately pictorial and suggests that such imagery is essentially evangelical. In other words, the Gospel is inextricably tied up with the vision of the Crucifix, whether merely mental or physical as well. Under the New Covenant, God has given us the Word-made-flesh (cp. John 1:14), the Word made image-able. So, while we must never worship any image of Christ or Cross, we need not fear portraying God's humanity.


Nor need we fear reverential treatment of these and other sacred images, out of loving respect for those portrayed. The Seventh Ecumenical Council of the ancient Church decreed that the same honour could be paid to these as to copies of the Gospels, for example. Does any Christian believe in worshipping the Bible? Hardly. Does any Christian not feel it right to treat the Scriptures with reverence? Were not the Tabernacle, Temple and Ark of the Covenant, with their imagery, treated with reverence (e.g., 2 Samuel 6:9)? Thus, we worship God alone, but treat with reverence sacred images and objects. The distinction between these levels of honour is found in the Bible too, where God and holy people are both offered veneration, proskunesis in the Greek, but God alone can be worshipped with latreia (e.g., 1 Chronicles 29:20 LXX, Matthew 4:10).


And so we honour the Saints, especially the Blessed Virgin Mary. Allow me to recount part of my personal journey. When I discovered Catholicism through Eastern Orthodoxy at University, a better understanding and appreciation of the significance of the Mother of God was how “the penny dropped”. A paper by a theologian named Vladimir Lossky opened my eyes to the Scriptural riches concerning Mary. Things I had never seen or noticed before became clear, and I saw that this was because I was receiving the benefit of Holy Tradition, the consensual wisdom and insight of the Church through the ages, guided by God, as promised by our Lord. What did I find, as I looked further? That though the Biblical references to our Lady were few in number, they were laden with extraordinary depth of meaning. I found, in particular, that


  • The earliest Biblical prophecy about the Messiah also refers to his Mother and associates the two of them in their enmity with the Devil (Genesis 3:15).

  • Mary is actually named “full of grace” or “highly graced” by the Angel in Luke 1:28.

  • Mary's “be it unto me according to thy word” and faith (as specifically commended by St Elizabeth) is in perfect opposition to Eve's disobedience and unbelief (Luke 1: 38, 45).

  • Jesus, in his humanity, and Mary are again associated, as similarly “blessed”, by St Elizabeth in Luke 1:42

  • While Jesus “corrects” a woman who cries out how blessed is the womb that bore him by saying “rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it” in Luke 11:28, we have already been told by then in that Gospel that this is exactly what his Mother does (Luke 2: 19, 51). Thus what seems a diminishing of our Lady, to a superficial reading, actually reveals her true greatness.

  • Mary is seen as an effective intercessor in John 2, and her last words recorded in Scripture are “Do whatever he [Jesus] tells you.”

  • Mary becomes the Mother of the Beloved Disciple, who represents all of us, at the foot of the Cross, by Jesus decree. (John 19:26-27)

  • St Luke's account from the Annunciation to the Visitation, that is, from the Angel's announcement of her motherhood to her visit to her cousin, contains a number of striking parallels with the OT accounts of the Ark of the Covenant. And then we are told at the end of Revelation 11 that the Ark of the Covenant is seen in Heaven, just before ...

  • The last Scriptural reference to the Blessed Virgin in the Bible has her crowned in Heaven at the beginning of Revelation 12.

  • And there is more besides, which I cannot go into now. No wonder the Church venerates her as the highest of creatures, and seeks her prayers and to imitate her virtues.

So, whatever the area of theology, it is wise not to trust one's personal interpretation of Scripture, no matter how “obvious” it seems, until one has listened attentively and submissively to the voice of the Church. +