Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Laymen's Guide to the Thirty-Nine Articles


Article XXII

Of Purgatory

The Romish doctrine concerning Pugatory, Pardons, worshipping and adoration as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture; but rather repugnant to the word of God.

De Purgatorio

Doctrina Romanensium de Purgatorio, de Indulgentiis, de veneratione tum Imaginum tum Reliquiarum, nec non de Invocatione Sanctorum, res est futilis, inaniter conflicta, et nullis Scripturarum testimoniis innititur; imo verbo Dei contradicit.

Fr. Robert Hart 
            In the sixteenth century, Reformers in the West had to deal with the entire subject of salvation from sin and death by recovering the Biblical doctrine, that same doctrine the ancient Church had protected from the onslaught of heresies. At certain times the defense of the Gospel required a clear statement about Who the Savior is, either by defending the truth that He is Divine (as at Nicea in 325) or by defending the truth that He became fully human (as at Chalcedon in 451). The need for fallen mankind, sinners all, to be saved by God’s grace also needed to be defended, most clearly, as we look back, when Augustine refuted the teaching of Pelagius. Pelagius was a British heretic, and the substance of his error was that Man can save himself without the grace of God.
            In the sixteenth century the teaching of justification, a very real subject of doctrinal clarity in the New Testament, had been obscured. The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls each person to faith and repentance, turning not merely from a few sins here and there, but from all willful sin by a radical turning to God. And, it calls each person to a life of faith, and with it a readiness to die safely in that faith. It replaces terror of the grave with hope of the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day. But, a doctrine had developed, and as the term “development of doctrine” implies, as opposed to the meaning of revelation, it developed with the all the inherent dangers created by the imagination of fallen men.
            Instead of the Gospel of Christ, with its clear call that “Today is the day of salvation (II Cor. 6:2),” a strange religion had sprung up that called for “Pardons, worshipping and adoration as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints,” as a means of shortening one’s time in Purgatory. Instead of turning to God with the hope of complete forgiveness, the average Western European Christian looked for ways to shorten a time of suffering after death. Instead of being saved from sin and death, with the danger of eternal damnation as one possibility and eternal life with God as the only other possibility (John 5:28,29), the average person living with that developed doctrine sought merely to shorten time of suffering, or to prepare for no way to avoid a long period of suffering.
            Along with this the power of the papacy over the minds and fears of the people was increased, as the doctrine of “The Treasury” of saintly merits was supposedly in the pope’s hands alone to dispense. It was this teaching, specifically, that caused the error of Indulgences to become so grave that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door. And, for that courageous stand, he was hounded by the pope who sought to have him killed for it. 
            Make no mistake. On the subject of that “Romish doctrine” the Anglican Reformers stood solidly on the same side as Martin Luther. For that is the only side of the issue that is consistent with the Bible, and the stand that all of the Church Fathers would have taken. The religion of Western Europe, that of “The Romish doctrine concerning Pugatory, Pardons, worshipping and adoration as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints,” all centered on shortening the sentence, was completely unknown to them. It had nothing to do with the Christianity they knew in the ancient Church.
           
Proper use of the word Purgatory?
            However, if by Purgatory one means a process of purification that finishes in some way the incomplete process of sanctification, then it becomes another matter altogether. It is not possible for the work of sanctification, that is, the work of the Holy Spirit to transform each believer into a saint (i.e. holy person), to be complete in this fallen world. Furthermore, until we are clothed with immortality on the Last Day, and given our full share in His resurrection life, we will not be perfected. What does that include? Might it include some degree of suffering? Might the change of nature itself involve some kind of suffering as it gives way to perfect and eternal joy? We could speculate endlessly, but none of our speculation amounts to revelation.

“And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming,” and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master's will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more (Luke 12: 42-48 RSV).’”

            The last lines from this passage have been cited as a Scriptural justification for Purgatory. But, the context is not so promising, as the servant who decides in favor of willful sin is placed among “the unfaithful.” Looking at this passage honestly, it is also clearly referring to the Day of Judgment, the Last Day, when He comes again. It cannot be used to speak of any time at all, for time, as we know it, will be no more.
            However, if we use the word “purgatory” to imply hope for purification, as in taking a bath and putting on clean clothes before entering the King’s presence, then such a hope is certainly not the same as “The Romish doctrine” that the Reformers sought to correct, “a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture; but rather repugnant to the word of God.” The problem with the word "Purgatory" then is the association it generally carries with that old Roman doctrine. The idea that God, to be just, must assign us "temporal punishment" for sins, even though they are forgiven in some larger sense, makes a complete mockery of the cross. It is not a "Pious Belief." After all, no “Pious Belief” can be “repugnant to the word of God.”
            Again, the version of Purgatory for which Anglicanism provides no toleration is not the idea of purification (which some might call "Purgatory"), but specifically "the Romish doctrine," that is, the idea that justice requires a punitive process. The term "temporal punishment" means that Purgatory exists strictly to satisfy the requirements of the Law, not to perfect or even help the soul. The desire of the soul for purification, that bath and clean clothes, becomes irrelevant in this distorted, legalistic debtor's prison in which we supposedly pay to God the debt we owe. Indeed, if it were for the good of the soul, why the Treasury, and the indulgences, and so forth, that shorten the time? The whole notion of purification for the good of the soul is simply not “The Romish doctrine” that enslaved minds all over Europe at that time. That doctrine turned God into a legalistic magistrate, someone who simply wants His pound of flesh rather than the Father who has given His only begotten Son to save us.
           
Contrary to the Gospel
            Whereas purification is an idea we can all be glad for (especially if we see it also as grace), the idea that Christ paid for our sins only in part, and that justice requires a further "temporal punishment" denies the sufficiency of Christ as the Propitiation for our sins. And, if it denies the sufficiency of His sacrifice and death, it denies Him as God in the flesh. If saints, by their alleged merits (another serious problem) can make up for some insufficiency in Christ's sacrifice with further partial payment, than the concept brings Christ down to the level of His creatures who have needed and received His grace. It almost seems as bad as listing the Lord among His saints as a mere equal. 
            That the publican in the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee (Luke 18:10-14) goes home justified (δικαιόω, dikaioō ) is no small matter. The whole theological meaning of justification is of major importance in the New Testament, and the theme receives its greatest development by St. Paul. It is obvious that Paul builds his meaning on the same understanding of justification that is very clear in this parable. On the cross, as He died, Jesus uttered the word τελέω (teleō), which takes three English words to say: “It is finished (John 19:30).” In those days, when Greek was the international tongue, the word τελέω was written on a final receipt of payment; so we may conclude that the usage of the word was meant to convey not only the completion or perfection of a thing, but full payment. Christ has paid in full for it all, for “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:2)."
            No one else could pay for our sins (Psalm 49:7), because everyone else, even the saints, are all sinners themselves. The saints have received grace, including the grace to acquire virtues; Christ alone of all mankind has merits of His own. Furthermore, because of Who it is that died for us, no further payment is needed. And, if it is paid in full and we are justified, how could God be just in requiring yet more, as if we could imagine the Father finding fault with the sacrifice and death of His only begotten Son? He would be unjust; but as it is, God is "just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus (Romans 3:26)."

God alone
            As for the phrase, “Pardons, worshipping and adoration as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints” that seems to have been in the context of Purgatory, we may take “Pardons” to mean the doctrinally developed error of Indulgences. The word “indulgences,” acquired the meaning that I defined above rather than its true ancient meaning of being excused by the bishop from church disciplines for specific reasons (i.e. excused from fasting for an individual’s health). Instead it had come to mean pardons from “temporal punishment” by means of the worship and invocation mentioned in what directly follows.
            It must be remembered that the ancient Church, even in the Seventh Ecumenical Council (or Second Council of Nicea in 787) that condemned the teaching of the Iconoclasts, never approved of giving that special worship properly reserved only to God, namely λατρεία (latreia), to anything or anyone else. So, again, the English Reformers in their opposition to “The Romish doctrine” were defending the genuine and authentic Catholic Tradition, namely the beliefs set forth in Holy Scripture. And, so it was in many other things, which is what these Thirty-Nine Articles were all intended to do.

Fr. Laurence Wells
This, I suppose, is the point in the Articles where we might have a real donnybrook between those who understand Anglicanism as Tridentinism Lite (a genteel version of the Baltimore Catechism) on the one hand and the rest of us on the other.  To lay the groundwork for such an engagement at least two things must be said.  First, the Articles, especially Article XXII, were addressed not to the theology of the schools but to the popular religion of the day.  If this seems unfair, we must recall that this popular religion was the religion of the masses, a debased religion which stood as a barrier between the Gospel and those for whom Christ died.  Secondly, the Articles occasionally engage in rhetorical flourishes  which modern readers find abrasive. 
If one looks at the Latin version, it is a little clearer that this Article says “The Romish doctrine …. Is a fond thing, vainly invented.”  Purgatory, etc, as popularly understood are examples of a religion “grounded upon no warranty of Scripture.”  So the purpose of Article XXII is not to attack this or that point of Roman doctrine, but to assert the absolute primacy of Scripture.  When the Church sits loose to the authority of Sacred Scripture, then it quickly descends into a state of spiritual decadence like that described in the Canterbury Tales.  Apologists for the pre-Reformation Church will not care to read of Chaucer’s Pardoner, hawking his feathers plucked from the wings of the Holy Ghost and other dubious relics.
We must allow that a Biblical case can be made (and has been made) for a number of things which the Articles condemn.  There is a Biblical doctrine for the Intermediate State between our death and the General Resurrection (for which the name “purgatory” seems malapropos).  Likewise, one might find a devout use of holy relics and religious art not inconsistent with the Bible.  It is not necessarily superstitious to say, “St ----, pray for us.”   The Puritan Westminister Confession asserts the “communion of saints” more glowingly than any edition of the Book of Common Prayer, and the Puritan Richard Baxter wrote:
            Ye blessed souls at rest
            Who ran this earthly race
            And now, from sin released,
            Behold the Saviour’s face,
            God’s praises sound
            As in his sight
            With sweet delight
            Ye do abound.

While this Article might require a decree of balance and nuance, its central point remains solid and critical.  Scripture is normative, Scripture is supreme, Scripture is final.

While the notion of Purgatory is a subordinate issue in this Article, I will insert a modest footnote to Fr Hart’s excellent discussion.  There are surely few Anglicans who would attempt to defend the popular mediaval notion of the intermediate state, the horrible idea  of suffering temporal penalties as yet not paid.  When one examines the mercifully brief discussion of Purgatory in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he might be reminded of the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland, a thing which gradually vanished so that all that was left was the smile. 
But I must confess my private skepticism with the theory popular these days among many Anglicans, that between death and the General Resurrection we must undergo further sanctification. Many state this in terms of personal humility:  “A terrible sinner like me must have a thorough scrubbing before I can enjoy the beatific vision.”   Again, pious as this sounds, it betrays a very bad theological method, the route of speculation rather than the way of exegesis. A Bibical basis for this idea is surely lacking.  Our American Prayer Book in its 1928 revision added a phrase to the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church, “grant them continual growth in thy love and service,” with similar petitions in the Order for the Burial of the Dead.  But this was a 20th century novelty.  The revisers would have done better to confine themselves to the 1549 language, “Grant unto them, we beseech thee, thy mercy and everlasting peace,”  which is well grounded in 2 Tim. 1:18. 
The fanciful idea of a “through scrubbing” in the afterlife raises an unnecessary question about the power of God, who is able to give us perfect holiness and purity immediately after we depart this world.
It also contradicts what St Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, concerning those still alive at the Second Coming.  “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.”  Here is the Gospel lying before us:  Not a “thorough scrubbing” in some incorporeal realm, but the victory of God in the resurrection of His Son.
The Reformation doctrine was surely the Biblical doctrine.  The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves, till the resurrection.  

29 comments:

Rubati said...

Hi,

Thanks for the discussion on purgatory, found it very interesting and informative, but I was wondering if you believe the "soul sleep" understanding of the afterlife to be compatible with the Scriptures and the tradition of the Church. For the 1549 BCP does seem to suggest such an idea in it's prayer for the dead where it speaks of "thy servauntes, which are departed hence from us, with the signe of faith, and nowe do reste in the slepe of peace".

Is the understanding that we are in an unconscious sleep until the resurrection compatible with the Bible?

Ioannes said...

Good explanation of Purgatory. Thank you.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

'We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. II Cor. 5:8

April said...

Thanks Fr.Hart and Fr.Wells for the article.

One of my greatest concerns for Rome is the "adoration" of the saints referenced in the Articles--particularly as it concerns the Virgin Mary
(Note: when I say "adoration"--I mean the prima facie adoration--virtually indistinguishable from divine worship--prevalent in so much of Rome (especially outside of America--although it happens here too). Sadly, almost without fail such distortions of proper honor are safely categorized as appropriate hyperdulia by Rome).

Just to make it clear that I'm not here to hate on Rome and giving proper honor to the Virgin Mary: I know excellent Christians who are Roman Catholic (including close family members) and I have no problem affirming that the Virgin Mary is the Theotokos, the New Eve, and that she may be called the Mother of the Church and all believers, etc. That said, I think some of the "veneration" of Mary allowed in Rome makes the errors of the Christian Judaizers pale in comparison. Anyhow, here is some of the heretical stuff the reformers were dealing with--and sadly it is still alive and well in Rome.

From the Fatima Crusader website (while this is not officially approved--where are the condemnations from Roman Catholics for this blasphemy):
The Franciscan Chronicles relate that a certain Brother Leo saw in a vision two ladders, the one red, the other white. On the upper end of the red ladder stood Jesus and on the other stood His holy Mother. The Brother saw that some tried to climb the red ladder; but scarcely had they mounted some rungs when they fell back, they tried again but with no better success. Then they were advised to try the white ladder and to their surprise they succeeded, for the Blessed Virgin stretched out Her hand and with Her aid they reached Heaven.44

NOTE: This apparition is by no means incredible; nor is it right to say that it makes the power of Mary superior to that of Christ. The symbolic significance of the vision must be borne in mind. The idea has been expressed repeatedly in the words of St. Bernard, and more recently by Popes Leo XIII and Benedict XV: “As we have no access to the Father except through the Son, so no one can come to the Son except by the Mother. As the Son is all-powerful by nature, the Mother is all-powerful in so far that by the merciful disposition of God She is our mediatrix of graces with Christ. Therefore says Eadmer: “Frequently our petitions are heeded sooner when we address ourselves to Mary the Queen of Mercy and Compassion than when we go directly to Jesus Who as King of Justice is our Judge.“45

http://www.fatimacrusader.com/cr61/cr61pg20.asp

William said...

[Continued]
Blasphemous reworking of the Book of Psalms (still in use by Fransciscans and many others) St. Bonaventure’s Marian Psalter
http://www.franciscan-sfo.org/ap/bona/PSALTER.htm

Just one Example: The actual words of Sacred Scripture (Psalm 119:161-171–Douay-Rheims Version):
Ps 119:161 Princes have persecuted me without cause: and my heart hath been in awe of thy words.
162 I will rejoice at thy words, as one that hath found great spoil.
163 I have hated and abhorred iniquity; but I have loved thy law.
164 Seven times a day I have given praise to thee, for the judgments of thy justice.
165 Much peace have they that love thy law, and to them there is no stumbling. block.
166 I looked for thy salvation, O Lord: and I loved thy commandments.
167 My soul hath kept thy testimonies and hath loved them exceedingly.
168 I have kept thy commandments and thy testimonies: because all my ways are in thy sight.
169 Let my supplication, O Lord, come near in thy sight: give me understanding according to thy word.
170 Let my request come in before thee; deliver thou me according to thy word.
171 My lips shall utter a hymn, when thou shalt teach me thy justifications.

St. Bonaventure’s Reworking of the Psalm (Psalm 118J):
Princes have persecuted me without cause: and the wicked spirit fears the invocation of thy name.
There is much peace to them that keep thy name, O Mother of God: and to them there is no stumbling-block.
At the seven hours I have sung praises to thee, O Lady: according to thy word give me understanding.
Let my prayer come into thy sight, that I may not forsake thee, O Lady, all the days of my life: for thy ways are mercy and truth.
I will long forever to praise thee, O Lady: when thou shalt have taught me thy justifications.
Glory be to the Father, etc
----

Provided for devotional purposes on the EWTN website (prayers like this certainly don't honor the Virgin Mary, let alone Almighty God).

OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP
O Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke thy most powerful name, which is the safeguard of the living and the salvation of the dying. O Purest Mary, O Sweetest Mary, let thy name henceforth be ever on my lips. Delay not, O Blessed Lady, to help me whenever I call on thee, for, in all my needs, in all my temptations I shall never cease to call on thee, ever repeating thy sacred name, Mary, Mary.

O what consolation, what sweetness, what confidence, what emotion fill my soul when I pronounce thy sacred name, or even only think of thee. I thank God for having given thee, for my good, so sweet, so powerful, so lovely a name. But I will not be content with merely pronouncing thy name: let my love for thee prompt me ever to hail thee, Mother of Perpetual Help.

Read more: http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/prayers/perpet3.htm#ixzz1zEKHzurz

----

Of course, as those familiar with Marian prayers and devotions are no doubt aware there are so many other examples (at least as extreme as the above and coming from the highest echelons of Rome) that it boggles the mind.


God Bless,
WA Scott

p.s.Unfortunately, even the Roman Catholic Catechism itself has stuff that goes way too far:
Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death: By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the “Mother of Mercy,” the All-Holy One. We give ourselves over to her now, in the Today of our lives. And our trust broadens further, already at the present moment, to surrender “the hour of our death” wholly to her care. May she be there as she was at her son’s death on the cross. May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our passing38 to lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise.
http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p4s1c2a2.htm

William said...

Sorry, I didn't realize my wife's google account was up when I sent my first post.

Fr. Wells said...

Concerning "Soul Sleep." The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology informs us:

Soul-sleep is the doctrine that the soul sleeps between death and resurrection. It has been held sporadically in the church. It is not a heresy in the narrower sense, due to the paucity of Scripture teaching on the intermediate state, but it may be called a doctrinal aberration. Some Anabaptists endorsed it. In the Forty-two Articles of Edward VI which preceded the Thirty-nine Articles, was included: "They which say that the souls of those who depart hence do sleep being without all sense, feeling or perceiving till the Day of Judgment, do utterly dissent from the right belief disclosed to us in Holy Scripture. (Thus far, EDT)

The 42 Articles ended, appropriately, with four Articles dealing with matters of eschatology. These were dropped in the 39, apparently as such topics as "soul-sleep" had faded in debate. It is a matter of some interest that one of John Calvin's earliest published works was a refutation of this theory. The NT view of an intermediate state is a via media between the notion of unconscious souls and the mediaeval speculative notion of temporary punishment after death.

William said...

(As I continue my monologue) I don't mean to imply from my first post that prima facie adoration of Mary is merely a problem in Rome. The EO's have plenty of problems with this too (and the complaints of some EO regarding Mariolatry in Rome is rather ironic). In fact typical EO liturgy with its invocations such as "Most Holy Theotokos save us" are far worse than the typical Roman Catholic Mass where the Triune God alone is invoked (Note: I'm very familiar with all the defenses for the "Apostolic" practice of praying to the Most Holy Theotokos to save us--and I find them far less than persuasive).

Akathist to the Theotokos (antiquity is no justification for what it says--it just goes to show how long unscriptural practices have been around):
To Thee, the Champion Leader [or, Invincible Champion], we Thy servants dedicate a feast of victory and of thanksgiving as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Theotokos: but as Thou art one with might which is invincible, from all dangers that can be do Thou deliver us, that we may cry to Thee: Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
...
Rejoice, acceptable incense of intercession:
Rejoice, propitiation of all the world!
Rejoice, good will of God to mortals:
Rejoice, boldness of mortals before God!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
...
Rejoice, sea that didst drown the Pharaoh of the mind:
Rejoice, rock that doth refresh those thirsting for life!
Rejoice, pillar of fire that guideth those in darkness:
Rejoice, shelter of the world broader than a cloud!
Rejoice, sustenance replacing manna:
Rejoice, minister of holy delight!
Rejoice, land of promise:
Rejoice, Thou from whom floweth milk and honey!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
...
Rejoice, Thou Who blottest out the stain of sin!
Rejoice, laver that washest the conscience clean:
Rejoice, cup that drawest up joy!
....
Rejoice, Thou through whom victories are obtained:
Rejoice, Thou through whom foes fall prostrate!
Rejoice, healing of my flesh:
Rejoice, salvation of my soul!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/m_akathist_e.htm
(Numerous other statements throughout the Akathist insert Mary in the place of Christ (eg the Rock out of whom flows Living Waters, Manna, Salvation of my soul, etc)).

William said...

[EO Continued]
Litany
Our most gracious Queen, our hope, O Theotokos, Who receivest the orphaned and art the intercessor for the stranger; the joy of those in sorrow, protectress of the wronged, see our distress, see our affliction! Help us, for we are helpless. Feed us, for we are strangers and pilgrims. Thou knowest our offences; forgive them, and resolve them as Thou dost will. For we know no other help but Thee, no other intercessor, no gracious comforter, only Thee, O Theotokos to guard and protect us for ages of ages. Amen.
http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/m_akathist_e.htm

There plenty of other prayers in EO liturgies and devotionals that are just as extreme as the RC prayers and devotionals.
e.g. http://holycross-hermitage.com/pages/Orthodox_Life/theotokos_prayers.htm

Finally, a fitting quote from the Orthodox info site on how to ensure Salvation at the last moment:
Based on the Testimony of the Nun Tatiana (1912). "If someone dies while saying the Jesus Prayer, his soul stands in the presence of the Lord, and he will be inseparable from Him for eternity. Likewise, if a man dies while uttering the prayer, 'Most Holy Theotokos, save me, a sinner,' then he will be inseparable from the Mother of God. If someone is not able to utter even a single word, then, if he struggled to attain this prayer during his life on earth, his soul will say it for him on his deathbed. The state in which the soul leaves the body is the state in which it abides forever. There will be no change for the better. Only if one is commemorated (on earth) can he alter the state of his soul."
http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/pr_prayer.aspx

Notice there are two great names given under heaven by which we might be saved (as Peter says in Acts)--Christ and the Most Holy Theotokos (And if you didn't get a chance to cry out the equally effectual names of either Christ or the Theotokos--then a proper commemoration can get you in the pearly gates).

God Bless,
WA Scott

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Comment belong to the readers who have something to say, and I am hesitant to be anything like the people at Stand Firm who censored everything that didn't echo their own opinions. But, I do suggest a bit of brevity, if only because more people will read it all that way.

William said...

Excellent point Fr. Hart. I apologize for all the long-winded posts.

I realize I didn't give proper attribution to the comparison from the Marian Psalter. I got it from the following web page that I came across on Google a while back (I can't vouch for anything else on the site--it probably goes way overboard on some things--but I thought the particular page I stumbled across was spot-on):
turretinfan.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/mariolatry-exemplified/

Not that I should say anything more--but the critique of Marian devotions in Pusey's Eirenicon is definitely worth a read:
http://anglicanhistory.org/pusey/eirenicon1.pdf

God Bless,
WA Scott

Orthodoxdj said...

I'm an Anglican who believes in the intercession of the Saints. The broader tradition of Christianity has believed in the invocation and intercession of Saints long before any Anglican reforms. I won't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The point, in the context of Article XXII, is a religion that teaches intercession of saints in the context of achieving a lighter sentence in their version of Purgatory.

Ioannes said...

At the Wedding Feast at Cana, the servants went to the Blessed Virgin Mary to tell her that the wine had run out. She told Jesus and then instructed the servants to do all that He said. That's how I believe in the intercession of the Saints. I pray the Rosary regularly and the Hail Mary is a favorite prayer of mine. I do not worship Mary or any Saint. But I take great comfort in meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary which are the events in the life of Christ. It is He whom we are to follow and worship.

April said...

Hello Ioannes,

I certainly agree that there must be proper honor given to the Blessed Virgin Mary (although I have yet to come across a serious Christian (including Baptists, Presbyterians, etc) who does not confess the blessedness of Mary--though perhaps not with the same titles that you or I would).

Can you agree for with the insertion of Mary's name in place of Y-W-H in the Psalter).

Psalm 148 (Douay Rheims)
[1] Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise ye him in the high places. [2] Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. [3] Praise ye him, O sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars and light. [4] Praise him, ye heavens of heavens: and let all the waters that are above the heavens [5] Praise the name of the Lord.

PSALM 148 Marian Psalter
Let us praise Our Lady in the heavens: glorify her in the highest. Praise her, all ye men and beasts: birds of the air, and fishes of the sea. Praise her, sun and moon: stars, and the orbs of the planets. Praise her, Cherubim and Seraphim: thrones and dominations and powers. Praise her, all ye legions of angels: praise her all order of heavenly dwellers. Glory be to the Father, etc.
http://www.franciscan-sfo.org/ap/bona/PSALTER2.htm

[Note, the EO also has a Theotokos Psalter (although I haven't read if for myself--so I can't comment on its contents)]

I believe devotions like this in the RC and EO bring far greater dishonor on the Blessed Virgin Mary than anything I've heard from Evangelicals.

God Bless,
WA Scott

William said...

Sorry again for the confusion, my wife's google account was up when I sent this post.

Ioannes said...

April / William,

I do not agree with changing Sacred Scripture in that manner and any manner from what it says in the original tongue.

I do, however, agree in praying the Hail Mary whose first section is entirely Biblical and whose second section is but a petition to pray for us. Let's be clear:

Jesus is God.
Mary is Jesus' Mother.
Mary is the Mother of God.

At the Wedding Feast in Cana the servants went not to Jesus but to Mary. As I indicated before, Mary said to them, "Do whatsoever He tells you."

Mary's message is exactly the same today.

And no, most Protestant Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians have not the slightest respect for the Mother of God, the Theotokos. There are exceptions here and there, however.

RC Cola said...

Part of the problem with our discussion of Mary Most Holy is that we think only in terms of adjective, comparative, and superlative, being 1, 2, & 3. The Latin comparative and superlatives cover a range of quality rather than discreet points as in English. So in Latin, God the Most Holy is a "10" while Mary Most Holy may rank "8" even though she appears to hold the same title as "most holy." we can see this at work in our everyday lives. You listen to the radio and you say to your wife, "This is my favorite song.". Two hours later you hear another song and you tell your wife, "This is my favorite song." are you a hypocrite, merely confused, lying? None of these! You are telling the truth, you ate not confused, and if you sat down and really thought about it you would be able to distinguish which of your favorite songs is really your most favorite and which is your favorite. Romans do know clearly who is the most Most Holy (God) and who is merely Most Holy (Mary). True Mariolotry was condemned in the early 20th Century when the pope cracked down on a group of overly enthusiastic Poles. Problem solved. If you ask any Roman if he or she worships Mary you are likely to get laughed at. Even if the don't understand the technicalities of veneration vs adoration, they have an instinct that tells them salvation is through Christ, not his mother and saints. Most Romans I know also understand, even of they can't articulate it, that all Mariology is a defense of Christology, and that the Rosary is in fact a deeply Christological method of prayer. I think the mistake many modern children of the Reformation mistake is the Romans' inability to articulate their faith for having a false faith.
One caveat is that I'm speaking strictly here of orthodox Romans, versus the nutjobs whether Fatima Crusader faux-conservatives or the lesbian nuns in double-knit polyester pant suits holding conferences about the Mother God. Both rare birds (thank God!) yet loud squawkers

Fr. Wells said...

I cannot entirely agree with the claim that the first part of the Hail Mary is "entirely Biblical."
"Full of grace" is a distinctly poor and inaccurate rendition of the Greek "kecharitomene." The Greek perfect passive participle makes it clear that the Mother of God is the beneficiary of God's grace, in that she is permitted to give birth to the Messiah who is God Incarnate. "Full of grace" (plena gratia) was St Jerome's clumsy translation, which gave rise to the false notion that Mary is a reservoir of grace or even the source of it. The text from Lk 1. 28 should be translated, "Rejoice, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee."

Mary is not a source of grace, but like the rest of us, she was a beneficiary of grace. The text is not support whatever for the mediaeval notion of Mary's sinlessness, since a sinless creature would have no need of grace.

Ioannes said...

Fr. Wells,

I have no issue with praying, "Hail Mary, filled with grace..." vice "Hail Mary, full of grace..."

But I won't get baited into an argument over Mary's Immaculate Conception. To those who argue otherwise, I ask: (1) what sins did Mary actually commit (were you there when she committed them?), and (2) how can the perfect and holy Lord God Almighty gestate in the womb of a sinful human being?

I shall resist being called a heretic (which you did NOT do, by the way, but others would) because I respect, adore and love (NOT worship) Jesus' Mother. She is always and everywhere our example of "Let it be done according to Thy word..." For me that is a lesson I need to re-learn every day.

To Jesus Christ be the glory forever and ever.

Fr. Wells said...

"How can the perfect and holy Lord God Almighty gestate in the womb of a sinful human being?"

The larger question is how can the "perfect and holy Lord God Almighty" become incarnate at all. If His holiness and impeccability required a sinless mother, why not a sinless grandmother? A sinless human race?

Remember, please, that when God became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, He did not arrive as a boy in a bubble, isolated and insulated from the sinful human race which He was to live among. He took upon Himself not only our nature in its fallen state, but also our miserable condition. Please reflect on Ro 8. 3 "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh," or 2 Cor 5. 21, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

Here is the point: When the Logos took upon Himself our "nature," it was not our beautiful innocent pre-lapsarian nature. That is a Docetic notion of a Christ who only seemed to be man. No, the Logos took upon himself our fallen and ruined nature. That's why His personal sinlessness was a wonderful and miraculous thing.

As for Mary's beautiful words, "Be it unto me..." this would not be in the least remarkable from the lips of a sinless person. Angels say things like that all the time, so do those advanced in sanctity. But from an ordinary Jewish peasant girl, these were miraculous words which she uttered by Divine inspiration, reversing Eve's "dialogue" with the devil who asked "Hath God said?"

Ken said...

Did Christ have our fallen nature? I'd to know if that is Catholic teaching.

Good article on Purgatory.

William said...

Hello Ioannes,

Amen to Mary's message. As our Mother in Christ we should all heed what she says here (and no doubt Protestant Evangelicals seek to follow the truth spoken by her here as much as anyone else). [I'll seek to limit my discussion to Evangelicals since I can speak from greater familiarity with their typical faith and practice than with Pentacostals]

I certainly agree (as was noted earlier in this thread) that Mary is the Mother of God, or Theotokos (as well as the New Eve, the Mother of the Church and thus the Mother of everyone in Christ, the Ark of the Lord, and that she may be called “Queen of Heaven” as the Mother of the Great King of Heaven).

As for your latest comment (although it wasn't addressed to me)—I don't consider someone a heretic because they believe in the immaculate conception and sinlessness of Marys (Luther himself approved of something akin to IC at least until 1527).

That said, I agree with the many Church Fathers (like St. Chrysostom) who demonstrate from Scripture that the Blessed Virgin also committed sin and therefore was in need of a sinless Savior to bear her sins on the Cross. I think the belief in the Virgin Mary's sinlessness takes away from the uniqueness that Scripture attributes solely to the spotless Lamb of God (Who was tempted yet without sin).

You said Protestant Evangelicals generally don't respect Mary at all. This is contingent on what you mean by “respect.” If you mean they don't ask for her prayers and put a lot of focus on her compared to the RC and EO—then yes. Of course, this same accusation could be leveled at the epistles of St. Paul (or, Scripture as a whole). I would argue that putting too much emphasis on the BVM is far more dishonoring to her (and God) than putting too little—Pusey noted in his day that the natives of Southern India and Ceylon called the Anglican Churches “Jesus-Churches” and the Roman Churches “Mary-Churches.”

The idea never seems to have crossed the mind of St. Paul (or other Scriptural authors) that believers should at any time or in any way go through Mary to get to Jesus (whereas your reading of the account of the Feast of Cana seems to imply that this is the norm—i.e. “At the Wedding Feast in Cana the servants went not to Jesus but to Mary”). It is not only absent but it is also appears to be at odds with the clear implications of the doctrine of the Gospel that St. Paul so painstankingly lays out.

Perhaps the BVM had not gone to glory when Paul wrote some (or even all) of his Epistles and therefore her vital intercessory role in our Salvation (that all believers should seek out fully through calling on her name—if what you say is true) had not yet been realized. However, could anyone possibly argue that the economy of Salvation laid out in Paul's epistles underwent some change after the Blessed Virgin went to glory (I think we both would agree that any notion that the Gospel Paul preached had changed in the slightest would be greeted by a sharp “anethema” from the Apostle).

William said...

I have yet to meet a Protestant Evangelical who does not profess all the clear testimony of Scripture regarding Mary's blessedness and there is little or anything supposedly showing lack of respect of the Blessed Virgin from Protestant Evangelicals that is not matched (or even surpassed) by the Church Fathers (like the harsh words regarding the Blessed Virgin's sins from St. Chrysostom--Homily 21 Gospel of John; Homily 44 Gospel of Matthew).

I do wish that there was a greater awareness of the rich Scriptural images of Mary (as the Ark of the Lord, the New Eve, etc) and thus an even greater respect of her. However, any lack of respect given by Protestant Evangelicals to the Blessed Virgin is far surpassed by the shame that the Blessed Virgin is subjected to through many unscriptural devotions and practices of RC and EO.

The greatest honor that can be given to the BVM is to honor her Son and Lord (and thus, “Do whatsoever He tells you”)—and as noted above Protestant Evanglicals certainly seek to do this as much as anyone in the RC or EO.

God Bless,
WA Scott

p.s. April is my wife (whose google account is often up on my computer—and I'm careless and don't always check before submitting a post).

William said...

Good points RC Cola. Unfortunately, the heretical beliefs of the Fatima Crusaders are not being strongly condemned by many in Rome (the majority of RC's I've spoken with have defended and some have even expressly affirmed the beliefs of Fatima Crusader quoted above). Also, many sanctioned prayers, praises and practices of the RC and EO (as noted earlier in this thread—and there are many more examples) mirror some of the most offensive sentiments of the Fatima Crusaders [e.g. using (without any Scriptural precedent) the unique Scriptural descriptions, praises, and petitions to the Lord in their descriptions, praises, and petitions to the BVM.]

It's great that the RCC and EO have always condemned the offering of latria to anything but God. However, this doesn't solve the problem. As you know, idolatry is above all a matter of the heart and it occurs whenever we place excess love, trust, etc on a creature in place of or in addition to the Creator. According to Scripture idolatry can (and most often does) occur without self-conscious or intentional latria being offered to a creature (e.g. the Scripture says covetousness is idolatry—although no coveter is intentionally or self-consciously offering latria to something created).

God Bless,
WA Scott

p.s. Thankfully for everyone following this thread, my schedule for the foreseeable future will make it very difficult for me to write any further lengthy contributions to this thread. Thanks everyone for the interesting discussion.

Fr. Wells said...

Ken: The Church Fathers taught that "what He did not assume He could not redeem." So what the Incarnate Logos assumed was NOT our nature in its pre-lapsarian Edenic condition, but in its post-lapsarian miserable condition. He came to suffer and to die, not to enjoy the unspoiled creation. The Fall (which I insist was a clock-time event) made a real difference, and the Incarnation (another clock-time event) was subsequent to the Fall and subject to it. Now strictly speaking, man's nature was not changed at the Fall (Adam became a ruined man but remained man just the same) but his condition was altered. The Incarnate God submitted to that when He was born in a stable and laid in a manger. Terribly inappropriate, almost as inappropriate as the place He died, but that's how God did it. A sinless mother does not fit into the NT picture of God's self-humiliation. That's a souvenir of the Docetic heresy.

RC Cola said...

William, the Fatima Crusaders has been officially condemned by Rome. They are schismatics and such a minuscule population of RCs that to use them as an example of Roman mariolotry is like judging all Americans based on the KKK or Black Panthers.
If you want to criticize RC mariology, you need to go ro the source, the CCC, and from there backtrack the citations. Also, the approved liturgical texts.
When I was still an RC I was very vocally against the so-called "Fifth Marian Dogma" and got in a bit of trouble for it in my diocese among those who were fighting for it, but no one in an official capacity cared other than they were receiving many complaints about me. That annoyed them. I noticed two things: those who demanded it were a very small but loud minority; they by no means were the mainstream. Second, the movement seemed to instantly evaporate when Benedict XVI started his reign.
My residual Romanism is that I find Protestant attitudes about the BVM positively appalling and scandalous.

Anonymous said...

Hello RC Cola,

That's great news that Rome has condemned Fatima Crusaders--I'm very glad to hear it.

I wish more Roman Catholics were aware of this. I've spoken with some very knowledgeable Roman Catholics (as far as I'm aware, they were not members of some fringe group in the Church) that didn't have any qualms with the views of Fatima Crusaders as quoted above (and I made clear the
source of the quotes to them).

That said, unfortunately many of the universally used and accepted praises, petitions, etc to the BVM as seen in Rome and the EO (in addition to those quoted previously in this thread) are just as dishonoring to the BVM (and above all, our Lord) as what I've quoted from the Fatima Crusader.*

*For example (among others from the EO's universally sanctioned Small and Great Paraklesis services):
To the Theotokos, let us run now most earnestly, we sinners all and wretched ones, and fall prostrate in repentance, calling from the depths of our souls: Lady, come and help us. Have compassion upon us; hasten, for we are lost in a throng of transgressions; do not turn your servants away with empty hands, for you alone are our only hope.
http://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/mikropar.htm
http://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/megapara.htm

Anonymous said...

[Continued]
I'm confident that the BVM's response to petitions and praises such as these would be no different than that of the holy angel who condemned the actions of the Saint John in Revelations 22:8, 9.

Saint John offered "proskuneo"--which is not at all limited to latria. It is extremely unlikely that he was intending to offer the sacrilege of latria rather than proper honor and veneration to the angel.

In closing, we're in agreement that the BVM should be properly honored--and no doubt many Protestants have failed to do this.
(I hope we may even agree that sanctioned yet unscriptural praises of the BVM such as that quoted above heap far more dishonor on the BVM (not to mention God) than anything done or not done by Bible believing Protestants (like Billy Graham, etc)).

God Bless,
WA Scott

p.s. I may not have time to write any further