A PLACE WHERE THOSE WHO LIVE IN THE ANGLICAN CONTINUUM, OR WHO ARE THINKING OF MOVING THERE, MIGHT SHARE IN ROBUST, IF POLITE, DISCUSSION OF MATTERS THEOLOGICAL AND ECCLESIOLOGICAL. QUOD UBIQUE, QUOD SEMPER, QUOD AB OMNIBUS CREDITUM EST
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
On Wearing the Cross
I responded with the following:
I agree entirely with your notion that the cross should not be worn as jewelry, and I have seen some pretty offending examples of that.
But I also assume that you understand that there are people, such as myself, who wear crosses, not as decoration, but as a statement. First and foremost, that statement is a simple: "I am a Christian, and you have the right to expect me to comport myself as one. And that includes being prepared to explain and defend my faith to anyone who asks (out of a genuine desire to learn)."
Secondly, it is there as a reminder to me, that I have an obligation to comport myself as a Christian. And that every time I do not, I bring dishonor to the cross, the vehicle of my salvation.
Thirdly, it is a statement to the world, and a reassurance to me, that I am under the protection of the cross.
Later today, someone posted a beautiful piece by St John Chrysostom:
Let no man therefore be ashamed of the honored symbols of our salvation, and of the chiefest of all good things, whereby we even live, and whereby we are; but as a crown, so let us bear about the cross of Christ. Yes, for by it all things are wrought that are wrought among us. Whether one is to be new-born, the cross is there; or to be nourished with that mystical food, or to be ordained, or to do anything else, everywhere our symbol of victory is present. Therefore both on house, and walls, and windows, and upon our forehead, and upon our mind we inscribe it with much care.
For of the salvation wrought for us, and of our common freedom, and of the goodness of our Lord, this is the sign. "For as a sheep was He led to the slaughter." When therefore you sign yourself, think of the purpose of the cross, and quench anger, and all the other passions. When you sign yourself, fill your forehead with all courage, make your soul free. And you know assuredly what are the things that give freedom. Wherefore also Paul leading us there, I mean unto the freedom that beseems us, did on this wise lead us unto it, having reminded us of the cross and blood of our Lord. "For you are bought," said he, "with a price; be not you the servants of men." Consider,said he, the price that has been paid for you, and you will be a slave to no man; by the price meaning the cross.
Since not merely by the fingers ought one to engrave it, but before this by the purpose of the heart with much faith. And if in this way you have marked it on thy face, none of the unclean spirits will be able to stand near you, seeing the blade whereby he received his wound, seeing the sword which gave him his mortal stroke. For if we, on seeing the places in which the criminals are beheaded, shudder; think what the devil must endure, seeing the weapon, whereby Christ put an end to all his power, and cut off the head of the dragon.
Be not ashamed then of so great a blessing, lest Christ be ashamed of you, when He comes with His glory, and the sign appears before Him, shining beyond the very sunbeam. For indeed the cross cometh then, uttering a voice by its appearance, and pleading with the whole world for our Lord, and signifying that no part has failed of what pertained to Him.
This sign, both in the days of our forefathers and now, has opened doors that were shut up; this has quenched poisonous drugs; this has taken away the power of hemlock:, this has healed bites of venomous beasts. For if it opened the gates of hell, and threw wide the archways of Heaven, and made anew entrance into Paradise, and cut away the nerves of the devil; what marvel, if it prevailed over poisonous drugs, and venomous beasts, and all other such things.
This therefore do you engrave upon thy mind, and embrace the salvation ofour souls. For this cross saved and converted the world, drove away error,brought back truth, made earth Heaven, fashioned men into angels. Because of this, the devils are no longer terrible, but contemptible; neither is death,death, but a sleep; because of this, all that wars against us is cast to the ground, and trodden under foot.
If any one therefore say to you, Do you worship the crucified? say, with your voice all joy, and your countenance gladdened, "I do both worship Him,and will never cease to worship." And if he laugh, weep for him, because he is mad. Thank the Lord, that He has bestowed on us such benefits, as one cannot so much as learn without His revelation from above. Why, this is the very reason of his laughing, that "the natural man received not the things of the Spirit." Since our children too feel this, when they see any of the great and marvelous things; and if you bring a child into the mysteries, he will laugh. Now the heathen are like these children; or rather they are more imperfect even than these; wherefore also they are more wretched, in that not in an immature age, but when full grown, they have the feelings of babes; wherefore neither are they worthy of indulgence.
But let us with a clear voice, shouting both loud and high, cry out and say(and should all the heathen be present, so much the more confidently), that the cross is our glory, and 'the sum of all our blessings, and our confidence, and all our crown. I would that also with Paul I were able to say, "By which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world; " but I cannot, restrained as I am by various passions.
Homily 54 on the Gospel of St. Matthew
Up to Jerusalem
What with the unexpected victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections, the whole scenario in the Middle East has changed. So we have beefed up our presence in Israel and the Palestinian territories and will keep it that way until after the Israeli election at the end of March.
I'll be going over on Feb 19 for two, possibly, three weeks. Having only spent a long weekend there two years ago, I didn't have enough time for all the exploring, worshipping and shopping that I would have liked.
This time, I certainly plan to make up for that -- plus doing a bit of work.
Blessed Placid Riccardi, OSB, (1844-1915), a monk and priest of St. Paul's Outside the Walls Abbey in Rome.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Authority in the Continuum
If there is one clearly identifiable reason why I withdrew from Canterbury, it was over the issue of its doctrine (increasingly questionable) and authority (apparently non-existent).
Out of curiosity, I have asked our contributing editors to offer their thoughts on the issue of authority in the Continuum. This first observation is from Fr Matthew Kirby. Your contributions are welcome.
The Affirmation of St Louis supplies the answer regarding historic sources of doctrinal authority: Scripture as interpreted by the consensual Tradition, particularly as expressed by the three Creeds and seven Ecumenical Councils.
As for a present living authority, because Anglican Catholics do not believe they represent the whole Catholic Church, when we defer to the Ordinary Magisterium we look to the consensual teaching of the bishops of the RCC and EOC, as well as ours.
As for the Extraordinary Magisterium, Anglicans have, ever since the Elizabethan Settlement, accepted that a truly Ecumenical Council received as such by the Church at large would be authoritative. However, we have not seen those Councils called Ecumenical by the RCC since the E-W schism as necessarily being so. Nevertheless, it may be that reception by the rest of the Catholic Church could manifest them as so in the event of re-union. The precise nature of the role of the Pope in the Extraordinary Magisterium is unresolved as yet in this ecumenical context. I do not believe this issue presents insurmountable problems, but that is personal opinion.
Forward in Hope
In 1993 I spoke on the theme of the Exodus and made it quite clear that there was a real sense in which we were a people on the move. The further the Church of England departed from the historic faith, the further we would have to distance ourselves both sacramentally and spiritually. I regret it but that remains the truth of our position. We have no desire to be separate or to distance ourselves but have no choice but to respond to the Gospel as we perceive it.
Read it all here:
King Charles the Martyr
The Arminians saw the need for the restoration of the catholic ideals of the Church of England, ideals which were becoming swamped by the dominance of Calvinist theology and thought which so dominated the Church in the last years of Elizabeth’s reign and the early years of James.
S.Charles was an avowed Arminian who, heavily influenced by Andrewes and, in particular, Laud, set about restoring the Church of England towards a more ‘catholic’ sacramental and liturgical life. Like his father before him, Charles was also a passionate believer in the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings, a doctrine which he recognised as best upheld by the High Church party in the Church of England.
With the solid support of William Laud, who was appointed by Charles as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, Arminians were promoted and became the most influential party in the Church. Indeed church affairs in the 1630s were dominated by S.Charles and Laud. Laud became a hate figure for the Calvinist faction who saw that Laud and the King were set on dismantling the Calvinist edifice of the Church.
Whilst keen to restore the catholicity of the Church, Laud was not a Romanist and placed a special emphasis on the correct use of the Book of Common Prayer which had become almost unrecognisable in many dioceses. He also placed a restraint on preaching, believing it to be subordinate to prayer and the sacraments in public worship and that this would correct what he saw as an imbalance in favour of preaching. As can be expected, this provoked an outcry from the still sizeable Calvinist contingent in the Church.
The Holy Communion was once again seen as the principal action of the Church rather than the sermon. The doctrine of the Real Presence at the Communion was once again taught in the universities. Vestments began to be worn again. Candles were lit once more and a greater emphasis was placed on the externals of worship including the use of music. In particular altars were restored in church buildings, replacing the communion tables which had in turn taken the place of the old stone altars during the iconoclasm of the protestant reformation.
S.Charles wholeheartedly supported Laud and his fellow Arminians in their efforts. It must not be thought that the King supported them solely from a political aspect. Whilst it is true that the High Churchmen were much more supportive of the role of the King as the anointed monarch than the ultra-puritan party, they were also unparalleled in their personal piety and devotional life. The ‘Caroline Divines’, as they have come to be known, left a rich legacy of spiritual writings such as the sermons of Lancelot Andrewes and The Country Parson by George Herbert.
Religious Community life was re-established by Nicholas Ferrar at Little Gidding, later immortalised by T.S. Eliot. Their influence sustained the Church through the dark days of the Commonwealth and were recognised in later generations as a ‘golden age’ of Anglicanism. All of this was supported and fostered by Charles himself, whose own personal piety was widely remarked on in his own time. This can be seen in his book Eikon Basilke and in many contemporary prints and etchings.
With the loss of the Civil War and the execution of Laud, Charles was left as a prisoner of the parliamentarian and puritan cause. It is now widely recognised that he was offered his throne if he would renounce episcopacy and the Prayer Book and embrace Presbyterianism. This he refused and so found himself facing execution. This took place on 30th of January 1649. He was attended solely by William Juxon who was to succeed Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury at the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660.
Unlike any monarch since, S. Charles attempted to enforce his own vision of the Church’s life. However, this was due to a sincere religious conviction on Charles’ part that the Church of England was part of the Catholic Church and that it needed to be restored to that position and, as God’s anointed and divinely appointed King, he had to take the lead. Ultimately it was to cost him his life whilst saving the Church.
From The Society of King Charles the Martyr:
Sermon for Epiphany 4
Rom. 13:1-7 Matt. 8:1-13
From the book of Deuteronomy, the fifth chapter, is this lesson that is appointed for today, that we would have read if we were also doing Morning Prayer:
Moses said to the children of Israel:
5: Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. 6: Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. 7: For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? 8: And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? 9: Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons; 10: Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.
39: Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else. 40: Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.
How well balanced the scriptures for this Sunday are. In the Old Testament Lesson, part of which I have just read, we are told that it is for our good that God gives us His commandments. In the Epistle we are told that He provides for us governments in this world, that even among fallen men, in a state of sin and death, we may have some order. And, yet, in the Gospel we see Jesus doing what could be seen as breaking the rules, both of God and of the authorities, at least of the religious authorities. For, in the first story He actually touches the unclean leper, and in the second He gives mercy to a Gentile. In fact, He says that He is willing to enter the house of a Gentile (notice the Centurion did not feel worthy of such a visit, and expresses humility that is quite touching. Also, the Centurion did not want to create a scandal for the Lord).
But, there is no contradiction here. Jesus is not breaking the rules and being a revolutionary. The Revolutionary Jesus was the popular fiction of the 1960s, and we heard that particular Jesus preached about from many trendy pulpits. But, something much deeper is going on in these two stories, far deeper than the shallow theology of the 60s (or of today), and it has to do with the words that the Lord spoke many years before to the prophet Samuel: A Man looks on the outward appearance; but the Lord looks on the heart.
If we understand what God was saying through Moses in the Old Testament lesson, it is not so much that God will punish the evil doer (which is part of the message, don't misunderstand), but rather that God's commandments are a gift to us, a lamp for our feet. If we obey His word, it brings us peace, though not the peace of this world. It preserves us from eternal dangers, and from the consequences of our own foolishness. It is a gift so great that we must pass it on to our children; we must teach it to them for their good, and the good of their children forever (in fact we are not given a choice. Failure to bring up our children in the true Faith is a sin. It is not the mark of an enlightened couple that their children are not raised in the Church, but a terrifying form of neglect and dereliction).
If we understand St. Paul's words, he is telling us that governments exist among men for our good, even though they can often be used by evil men, that is by tyrants. The Romans were tyrants, and they persecuted the Church. But, the purpose of rulers is to enforce laws against wickedness and vice, and to protect society from anarchy and chaos. In a land such as ours, where the law is king, we see that, even in the best of circumstances, perfect justice cannot be found, and that the enforcers of human law allow many evils. Nonetheless, that same law provides order without which we would find it very hard to stand in the winds that would blow -- to allude to Sr. Thomas More's words to his son in law, Roper.
And, with all of this about order and the rules by which order is maintained, we see what could so easily be misunderstood as disorder. The Law of God made it clear that to touch a leper was to make oneself unclean, lo tahor. To avoid uncleanness the priest and the Levite, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, walked on the other side of the road in order to keep safe distance from a man who, for what little they could see, might be dead. And, to associate with Gentiles, that is to be willing to go into the home even of a worthy Gentile who had built a synagogue for the Jews at his own expense, was strictly forbidden. Not by any actual commandment of God mind you, but rather by the consensus of the Rabbis. It represented disorder for a Jewish man to say to this Roman Centurion, I will come and heal your servant.
To see this properly, however, we must have the correct understanding of two things:
1) The true meaning of the rules, and
2) Who Jesus is.
First let us understand the case of the leper. Leprosy was a state of uncleanness in itself. The leper had to keep his distance from all other people, and cry out with a warning when he entered a place that might be populated: He had to cry "Unclean, unclean!" This was his warning label, a verbal invitation to everyone within earshot to keep away from him. We could see leprosy in this case as being a condition that renders one actually guilty of sin, for he is perpetually unclean. He can never enter the temple, or even a mere synagogue to pray with his fellow Jews. That may seem very strange indeed; but we must think of it the same way this poor leper did.
In one sense, his coming up to Jesus would have been seen by witnesses as a presumptuous breaking of God's commandments on top of, or to add to, his unclean state. He was failing in his duty to present a verbal warning label to Christ and the disciples. By what right did he do this?
Yet, Jesus was even worse, for He actually touched this unclean man.
But, man looks only on the outward appearance. Jesus looked upon the heart of a man wanting to be clean, wanting to be able to go into the temple of God with boldness. He saw faith, not presumption. The true meaning of God's laws always was to teach us that we are sinners, and to be, as St. Paul tells us, a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Christ, far from being a law breaker, is the Law Giver Himself. He knows that His Law is written by the Holy Ghost on the heart of anyone who has faith, and so it was written on the heart of this man who wanted to be a leper no more.
Some might be preaching this very Sunday about how today’s Gospel reading teaches us to accept all sorts of unsavory people, who have no intention whatsoever of repenting of their sins. In fact, they want us to accept their sins as good things. And, not only to accept those sins, but perhaps even to applaud them. Jesus said of His mission to sinners, not simply that he was sent to call them, but that He was sent to call them to repentance. This man wanted not only to be healed, but to be clean; clean of leprosy which he saw as being itself a sinful state. Jesus not only heals him, but gives him the great restoration he desires. He sends him to the priests in the temple, and reminds him to offer to God the gift ordered in the Torah for the cleansing of a leper. He restores him to obedience to the Law, giving him the commandment to follow, right out of its pages. This was more than a mere ritual; the man was being given back his place in the religion of the God of his fathers, the people of Israel. More than his body, his heart was healed that day. And of course, this story reminds us that Christ the Man is also the Lord from heaven, able to make clean, which no earthly power can do.
The Gentile, the Centurion, is not only a Gentile, but a Roman. He is what is called a God-fearer, not a convert to Judaism, but a worshiper of the true God nonetheless. However, he is not circumcised; and so, to enter his home is to make oneself unclean (again, by the rules of the rabbis of that time. The Torah really says no such thing). You may recall, from the Book of Acts, how many years later St. Peter would enter the home of another Centurion and God-fearer named Cornelius, and would say upon entering what difficulty he had doing so, for he was not supposed to enter the home of a man who is unclean.
It is the Centurion who begs Him not to come, and then proceeds to reveal the depth of his faith by saying "only speak the word." Jesus, again looked upon a heart of faith. He knew that the true children of Abraham were those who believe, a teaching that would later be written down so eloquently by St. Paul. He knew that His own Divine presence carries with it the power to cleanse and to heal wherever He goes. His actions are never disorder, but the very essence of order; it is He Who made the heavens and the earth, and set them in their perfect course. He has come into the world to save us from sin and death, to bring order out of disorder, life out of death; to bring light into darkness, to make all things right. He alone has this power; though He has come and is a man who sees the outward appearance, He is also the Lord Who looks upon the heart.
And now unto God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, be ascribed as is most justly due, all might, majesty, dominion, glory and power, now and forever. Amen.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Why Even the Pope Has to Whisper (Redux)
Sandro Magister, at Chiesa, has just run a piece in which Fessio restates the case, that Islam is capable of reform and can be harmonized with modernity, but at a steep price.
Following are the original piece, and the latest one:
Deus Caritas Est
Thursday, January 26, 2006
The Continuum and Resolution 1.10
It also recognized that “there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation,” many of whom are “members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships.”
The bishops committed themselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and expressed a “wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.”
Finally, it said that, “while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture,” it calls on “all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex.”
There is nothing here that any faithful and spiritually sensitive orthodox Christian could disagree with. And that, obviously, would include members of the Anglican Continuum.
But I have wondered to what extent the spirit of Resolution 1.10 has been assimilated into the life and practice of the Continuum. I don’t know the answer, but would like to hear from readers who perhaps do.
As a way to begin the conversation, I have asked contributing editor Ed Pacht to prepare the following piece. It will be clear as you read it why I did so.
God Loves Homosexuals But Not Their Sin
Traditionalist Catholics (as opposed to the so-called "Affirming Catholics") will be pretty well agreed on the central matters of human sexuality: that male and female are two different estates of humanity, intended to complement one another; that the sexual act is intended solely for a man and a woman bound in Holy Matrimony, and has as its principal (though not sole) purpose the procreation of children; and that all other instances of sexual activity transgress the bounds set by God, constituting, therefore, sin.
Though there will be some disagreement (sometimes heated) over just what is permitted within marriage (including the matter of ψontraception), we would be united, and most Evangelicals with us, in condemning all instances of premarital and extramarital sex (including homosexual activity) as serious sin. We become vociferous in our condemnation of those forces claiming to speak from inside Christianity in defense of the practice of sexual sin, even declaring such sin to be virtue, and rightly declare that this is a willful denial of the very word of God as written in Scripture and cherished in Tradition.
Though there are other issues that are of greater theological impact, and have already led many to withdraw from the Canterbury Communion to form the various "Continuing Churches", it has been this issue, with the consecration of an openly active homosexual bishop and the promotion of "gay marriage", that is proving to be the final Communion breaker.
This little paper, then, grows out of these concerns, and, against the background of a wholehearted agreement with the traditional views of marriage and sexuality, is an attempt to raise the question as to just what traditional Anglicanism and the Continuum, in particular, are now doing and what should be done to minister the Catholic Faith to those who either identify as homosexuals or who identify in themselves same-sex attractions.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a committedly celibate widower, nearly 65, who has been aware of homosexual attractions since my early twenties, and did have an active period in the 'gay' scene four decades ago. As a Protestant minister I became involved in a ministry centered on the issue, which, sometime after returning to Anglicanism, I left, over differences in both ministry principles and theology. I continue, as a licensed Anglican layreader, to reach out in an informal way to help those so attracted to find a way to live their lives in accord with traditional Catholic morality and to find holiness in so doing. I earnestly desire a more effective way of serving this need.
There are two very different issues involved in this kind of ministry -- that of homosexual practice and that of homosexual inclination -- that are frequently confused with one another to the considerable muddying of the waters. The distinction is essential for understanding.
Homosexual practice is dealt with very clearly indeed in the Scriptures (in many passages in both Testaments) and in the traditional teaching of the Church; so clearly, in fact, that the revisionists have found it necessary to engage in some amazing mental gymnastics in their effort to reverse traditional thought, so clearly that I will not trouble to make the case here.
Sexual relations between men or between women are, simply stated, grievous sin. While any sex outside of marriage is seen as a very serious violation of divine law, homosexual activity is seen as yet further from God's will, and thus even more grievous a sin. What, then, is the Church's role in dealing with the practice of homosexuality?
1. Teaching. There must be uncompromising fidelity to the standards of Scripture and Tradition regarding sexuality. Our pulpits, our classrooms, our writings, and our individual ministrations need to present clearly the sinful nature of these things. St. Paul wasn't bashful about it, and neither should we be.
2. Non-blessing. The Church needs to be clear in not giving the appearance that such activities may be accepted or winked at. Obviously 'gay marriage' and the 'blessing of relationships' are out of place in a Traditional Catholic church, but so also is the acceptance of those openly active or in such a relationship in the leadership of our churches.
3. Absolution. The Church cannot see its primary role as one of punishing or excluding, but of saving. The presentation of God's law must always be intended as a call to repentance and an offer of forgiveness. "Once a blank, always a blank," is not a Catholic principle. Christ is a life-changer, and his Church is a life-changing society.
Homosexual inclination. The fashionable term is 'orientation', which seems to imply something a bit more innate and distinctive than I think justifiable, and I've thus chosen to use a somewhat more neutral term.
There doesn't seem to be such a category as 'homosexual persons' reflected in Scripture, nor does such a concept seem to have existed in society before the modern era. Instead, same-sex attraction is recognized as one of the sexual temptations to which fallen humanity is heir. Its open manifestation seems to have varied from societies like ancient Sparta where it was all but universal to other societies where it was rare, but very few societies have put persons in a distinct category on this account. Ours now does so, and we are expected to consider this the only correct way to look at it.
The reality, I would propose, is what was assumed both in Scripture and by the classical Graeco-Roman civilization: that all are subject to sexual desires, and that there are many possible objects for such desire. There are differences in the strength of various desires in various persons, but it is, in essence, but one phenomenon. Thus, it is 'normal' in fallen humanity for sexual desire to fix upon inappropriate objects, that is, upon anyone other than one's legitimate spouse.
The theological term for this, of course, is 'temptation.' It happens, for reasons that can be endlessly debated, but ultimately do not matter, that same-sex attraction (which is probably present in all to some degree) is far stronger in some individuals than in others. We do not know why this is, but it is a reality, and one that is important to the ministry of the Church. In a highly sexualized society such as ours, these individuals are in need of special care as they struggle along the Christian road toward holiness.
Temptation is not sin. "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus knew temptation -- the same temptations we know and feel, it says in this passage -- but He was entirely free of sin. His struggle against temptation was as soul-wrenching as anything we've ever known. Consider the temptation in the desert at the beginning of His ministry and the blood, sweat, and tears of Gethsemane at the very end.
Therefore, the fact that a man has sexual temptations come into his life does not make him a sinner, whether those temptations involve a woman to whom he is not married, or a person of his own sex, or, for that matter, a minor. One can be, as Jesus was, tempted and yet without sin.
Temptation is a battle. If it did not raise up a real desire actually to commit the sin, it would not be real temptation. St. Paul, in Romans 7, describes his own inner struggle and the abject misery it produced in him, until he was able to realize the great grace of God's love in Christ toward him.
This is a story that belongs to each and every Christian. Some have spectacular temptations, like St. Antony in the desert. Some live for a time lives of spectacular sin, as did St. Augustine of Hippo. Others, like St. Therese of Lisieux seem to have lived a whole life without this kind of conflict, until we look deeper and find that temptation of a different sort was equally as hard for them. But all are tempted and all have sinned, and all are called to battle. 'Homosexuals' are no different from anyone else.
Battles are not won alone. The old spiritual song said,
"Jesus walked this lonesome valley,
He had to walk it by Himself
Nobody else could walk it for Him,
He had to walk it by Himself."
But even Jesus wanted, yea, nearly begged, for the support of his disciples, on that night when, in prayer, He fought so hard against the temptation to avoid the Cross, and, though He was indeed God the Son, He did not conquer that temptation alone. The angels came and ministered to Him.
So, what are we thinking when we send a sinner away to conquer his own sin, to win his own battle, all by himself? Is our sinning friend stronger than Our Lord and Master? One of the reasons that Jesus built a Church was to make provision so that His friends will not have to walk this lonesome valley alone.
Consider the Old Testament battle against Amalek in Exodus 17: While Joshua led the battle in the field, Moses and Aaron and Hur, the spiritual leadership of the 'church in the desert', stood on a mountain top praying. When they prayed, Joshua advanced. When they tired in praying, the enemy advanced. The Church in this age is much like that. Every battle being fought is more than the battle of the visible warrior: It is the battle of the whole Church; and my brother's loss is not his loss alone: it is a serious defeat for the whole Church.
What are we doing? Well, in one respect, a great deal. The Anglo-Catholic milieu has always been a religious environment in which those homosexually inclined, yet committed to celibacy, can find a home that does not feel like alien territory. There is an attention to the arts and to the aesthetic sensibilities that such as I find much more congenial than either the macho expectations of some parts of the Protestant ethos or the feminized sweetness of other parts. To repeat, this is home in a way few other environments can manage.
There is also in Anglicanism a willingness to allow each member to wrestle in his own way with whatever temptations seem to be his lot, without the air of judgmentalism and condemnation that one often finds elsewhere. In Catholic circles the provision of private confession and of spiritual direction (a very different thing from 'counseling') provides a far less confrontational structure in which to deal with these things.
Unfortunately, when all those good things have been said, we have not been doing enough. There has historically been very little open teaching about such matters, with the result that many of those who have found a home in the ethos have not been challenged toward a life of chastity and holiness. We see the result in the domination of many Anglo-Catholic parishes by active homosexuals, in the emergence of such a one as the current ECUSA bishop of New Hampshire, and in the agitation for 'gay marriage'.
These are phenomena not in accord with the Catholic Faith and have emerged primarily because of vagueness in Anglican teaching about sexuality, and the lack of real support toward holiness of life.
Where from here? Ay, there's the rub. I'm no organizer, but, having learned a great deal of how to deal with such inner conflicts, having learned the hard way, with very little help, and having been involved with a Protestant ministry whose ministry principles do not seem quite appropriate, I am anxious to be a part of what I see as a vital ministry, one that Our Lord, as 'friend of sinners' would look favorably upon. There are a handful of people for whom I'm attempting to be support (and who are being helpful to me as well) but there is so much more to be done.
Can we of the Continuum get past our anger at the abuses we've seen? Can we reach out as our Saviour desires to those who are caught up in this kind of sin? Can we brainstorm until we find ways to do it? I would be anxious to hear from anyone either seeking help or seeking to be help, to which end contact information follows:
Ed Pacht, 223 Wyandotte Falls, Rochester NH USA 03867
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
A Boy and His Saint
But there was a problem. As the years passed, and the boy became a young man, he began to find irritating much of what Paul had to say. Eventually, he began to rail against the Apostle and call him all sorts of unpleasant names.
But, as more years went by, the young man began to mature; began, I say, because he has still not grown up completely. And in time he began to see the greatness of the man whom he had not understood.
He still doesn’t understand him completely. But he counts it a great honor to have been born on this day, and now unashamedly acknowledges Paul the Apostle to be his patron saint.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God
Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 6. 11-17
(The above photo is undated, but taken approximately five to seven months after the Feast of Saint Paul, 1951).
This is Hair-Raising
EX AUCTORITATE Dei omnipotentis, Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, et sanctorum canonum, sanctaeque et intemeratae Virginis Dei genetricis Mariae, Atque omnium coelestium virtutum, angelorum, archangelorum, thronorum, dominationum, potestatuum, cherubin ac seraphin, et sanctorum patriarcharum, prophetarum, et omnium apostolorum et evangelistarum, et sanctorum innocentum, qui in conspectu Agni soli digni inventi sunt canticum cantare novum, et sanctorum martyrum, et sanctorum confessorum, et sanctarum virginum, atque omnium simul sanctorum et electorum Dei:
Excommunicamus, et anathematizamus huncvel os furems, vel huncvel os malefactorems, et a liminibus sanctae Dei ecclesiae sequestramus ut aeternis suppliciis excruciandus veli, mancipeturn, cum Dathan et Abiram, et cum his qui dixerunt Domino Deo, ‘recede a nobis, scientiam viarum tuarum nolumus’. Et sicut aqua ignis extinguitur, sic extinguatur lucerna eius vel eorum in secula seculorum nisi resipuerit, et ad satisfactionem veneritur. Amen.
Maledicat illumos Deus Pater qui hominem creavit. Maledicat illumos Dei Filius qui pro homine passus est. Maledicat illumos Spiritus Sanctus qui in baptismo effusus est. Maledicat illumos sancta crux, quam Christus pro nostra salute hostem triumphans, ascendit. Maledicat illumos sancta Dei genetrix et perpetua Virgo Maria. Maledicat illumos sanctus Michael, animarum susceptor sacrarum. Maledicant illumos omnes angeli et archangeli, principatus et potestates, omnisque militia coelestis.
Maledicat illumos patriarcharum et prophetarum laudabilis numerus. Maledicat illumos sanctus Johannes praecursor et Baptista Christi, et sanctus Petrus, et sanctus Paulus, atque sanctus Andreas, omnesque Christi apostoli, simul et caeteri discipuli, quatuor quoque evangelistae, qui sua praedicatione mundum universum converterunt. Maledicat illumos cuneus martyrum et confessorum mirificus, qui Deo bonis operibus placitus inventus est. Maledicant illumos sacrarum virginum chori, quae mundi vana causa honoris Christi respuenda contempserunt. Maledicant illumos omnes sancti qui ab initio mundi usque in finem seculi Deo dilecti inveniuntur. Maledicant illumos coeli et terra, et omnia sancta in eis manentia.
Maledictus sitn ubicunque fueritn, sive in domo, sive in agro, sive in via, sive in semita, sive in silva, sive in aqua, sive in ecclesia.
Maledictus sit vivendo, moriendo, manducando, bibendo, esuriendo, sitiendo, jejunando, dormitando, dormiendo, vigilando, ambulando, stando, sedendo, jacendo, operando, quiescendo, mingendo, cacando, flebotomando.
Maledictusi sit in totis viribus corporis. Maledictus sit intus et exterius. Maledictus sit in capillis; maledictus sit in cerebro. Maledictus sit in vertice, in temporibus, in fronte, in auriculis, in superciliis, in oculis, in genis, in maxillis, in naribus, in dentibus, mordacibus sive molaribus, in labiis, in gutture, in humeris, in harmis, in brachiis, in manibus, in digitis, in pectore, in corde, et in omnibus interioribus stomacho tenus, in renibus, in inguinibus, in femore, in genitalibus, in coxis, in genubus, in cruribus, in pedibus, et in unguibus.
Maledictus sit in totis compagibus membrorum, a vertice capitis, usque ad plantam pedis: non sit in eo sanitas.
Maledicat illum Christus Filius Dei vivi toto suae majestatis imperio et insurgat adversus illum coelum cum omnibus virtutibus quae in eo moventur ad damnandum eum, nisi penituerit et ad satisfactionem venerit. Amen. Fiat, fiat. Amen.
For the English translation, see:
St Francis de Sales
(courtesy of Caro at Daily Readings)
Monday, January 23, 2006
Let Us Retrieve the Word 'Love'
This morning, Benedict XVI participated in a congress organized by the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum." The event is being held in the Vatican's New Synod Hall on January 23 and 24, and its theme, taken from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, is: " ... But the greatest of these is love."
In his address, the Holy Father made frequent reference to his first Encyclical, "Deus caritas est," which is due to be published on Wednesday, January 25.
"The cosmic journey in which Dante, in his 'Divine Comedy,' wishes to involve the reader," the Pope began, "ends before the eternal light that is God Himself, before that Light which is, at the same time, 'the love that moves the sun and the other stars'."
The God Who appears in Dante's central circle of light "has a human face and, we may add, a human heart. Dante's vision shows the continuity between the Christian faith in God and research based on reason; ... at the same time, however, there appears a novelty that goes beyond all human research: ... the novelty of a love that impelled God to assume a human face, to take on flesh and blood. ... The 'eros' of God is not just a primordial cosmic force, it is the love that created human beings and stretches reaches out towards them."
"The word 'love,' is so overused today," the Pope continued, "that one is almost afraid to pronounce it. Yet ... it is the expression of a primordial reality, ... and we must retrieve it ... so that it may illuminate our lives ... This awareness is what induced me to choose love as the theme of my first Encyclical. I wanted to try and express, for our own times and our own lives, something of that which Dante encapsulated in his vision."
Faith should become "a vision-understanding that transforms us," said the Holy Father. "I wanted to highlight the centrality of faith in God, in the God Who assumed a human face and a human heart ... In an age in which ... we are witnessing the abuse of religion even unto the apotheosis of hatred ... we have need of the living God Who loved us even unto death. Thus, in this Encyclical, the themes of God, Christ and Love are fused together as a central guide to the Christian faith."
"A first reading of the Encyclical could perhaps give rise to the impression that it is divided into two parts with little in common between them: a first theoretical part discussing the essence of love, and a second part covering ecclesial charity and charitable organizations. Yet I was interested precisely in the unity between the two themes, only if seen as a single thing can they be properly understood ... On the basis of the Christian image of God, it was necessary to show how man was created to love, and how this love, which initially appears above all as 'eros' between man and woman, must then be internally transformed into 'agape,' into the giving of self to others."
"On this basis, it was necessary to clarify how the essence of the love for God and for others ... is the core of Christian life, the fruit of Faith." Then, "in the second part, it was necessary to highlight that the totally personal act of 'agape' can never remain a purely individual issue, rather it must also become an essential act of the Church as community; in other words, it also needs the institutional form that finds expression in the community activity of the Church."
The Pope concluded: "The ecclesial organization of charity is not a form of social assistance, a casual addition to the reality of the Church ... Rather, it is part of the nature of the Church ... [and] must in some way make the living God visible ... The spectacle of suffering man touches our hearts. But charitable commitment has a meaning that goes well beyond simple philanthropy. It is God Himself Who encourages us from within our most intimate selves to alleviate misery ... It is He Himself Whom we carry into a suffering world. The greater the awareness and clarity with which we bear Him as a gift, the more effectively will our love change the world."
Good job of grabbing the reader, there, Christopher. Sling that mud, mate.
But then, Simon Sarmiento, over at Thinking Anglicans, sets the record straight: +Richard is taking his first sabbatical in 33 years of ministry and 10 years as Bishop of London.
Sometimes I am embarrassed to be a journalist.
Yet there is hope. Simon Bates, over at one of my least favourite papers, The Guardian, does a much better job.
Paying for Papal Pronouncements?
For the first time all papal documents, including encyclicals, will be governed by copyright invested in the official Vatican publishing house, the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
The edict covers Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, which is to be issued this week amid huge international interest. The edict is retroactive, covering not only the writings of the present pontiff — as Pope and as cardinal — but also those of his predecessors over the past 50 years. It therefore includes anything written by John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI and John XXIII.
The decision was denounced yesterday for treating the Pope’s words as “saleable merchandise” and endangering the Church’s mission to “spread the Christian message”.
A Milanese publishing house that had issued an anthology containing 30 lines from Pope Benedict’s speech to the conclave that elected him and an extract from his enthronement speech is reported to have been sent a bill for €15,000 (£10,000). This was made up of 15 per cent of the cover price of each copy sold plus “legal expenses” of €3,500.
Read it all here:
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Pope Facing Resistance from Within?
The first words of Benedict XVI’s first encyclical letter, almost the motto of his papacy, are Deus Caritas Est (God is love). But not everyone in the upper levels of the Church is full of love and solidarity for this new pope.
Resistance to his guidance is tenacious and widespread, and in some places it is on the rise. And almost all the resistance shields itself behind the protection of anonymity.
Read it all here:
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Dr Ephraim Radner on OW
It is at least because of this growing theological incoherence of the “traditionalist” groups in the present Communion struggle that it is worth reflecting more broadly on the matter of women’s ordination. There is lurking confusion over just what the opponents of ECUSA’s sexual revisionism really stand for, especially because, although they all claim that, for instance, ECUSA’s General Convention is “walking apart” from the faith of the Communion (or perhaps already has), there is intense disagreement among self-styled “orthodox” Anglican on a matter deemed, by some anyway, to be critical to “orthodoxy”. Who can one trust with the articulation of a battered faith when its blustery defenders are publicly excoriating each other over women’s ordination? As someone who accepts women’s ordination, yet stands strongly opposed to ECUSA’s path into the wastes of doctrinal and disciplinary autonomy, I have come in for my share of criticism from opponents of women’s ordination. Not to mention the fact that I am married to an ordained Episcopal clergywoman. Called by some a “priestess”, with all the deliberate implications of pagan blasphemy associated with female sacral leadership, my wife’s connection (by marriage anyway) with my own writings has, for many, covered them with an aura of hypocrisy at best. Thus, I try to make sense of all this even in the midst of what I hope is a cooperative ministry on behalf of our Communion.
(Hat tip to Captain Yips)
Read it all here:
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Is the Pope (too) Catholic?
According to a poll just released by Gallup, a growing number of Americans are becoming disenchanted with the Catholic flavor of Pope Benedict the XVI's papacy.
"It seems that America was looking for someone who could bring the church together and move it towards the center on issues like birth control and women in the priesthood," reported Gallup's Howie Niedigger, "but this Pope has continued to defy public opinion and appears to be solidly Catholic."
Catholic Ecumenism and the Elephant in the Room (III)
Anglican Catholics contend that at the Reformation the Apostolic Succession was not lost within Anglican jurisdictions. They also note that even if it had been (assuming Apostolicae Curiae to be correct in its conclusions regarding Abp Parker’s consecration and all consecratory acts afterward dependent on it) it would have been regained at some later stage due to insertions from other (undisputed) lines of succession occurring after defects claimed to exist by the Bull could no longer be plausibly said to exist due to changes brought on in the period of the Caroline Divines. E.g., the purported defects of lack of explicit signification of the Order being given in the Form of the sacrament and of a “native spirit and character” in the Church and its permitted and encouraged teaching that denied Eucharistic Sacrifice and thus deprived the Intention in its consecration of validity.
Anglican Catholics also contend that their Church did not initiate the break in communion from their side with the EOC or RCC, or intend to depart from the Catholic Faith and the patristic consensus, though they admit material heresy was common among some Anglican teachers. We do not admit the C of E definitively committed itself to error in dogma. The C of E’s refutation of Roman Supremacy and various “Romish” corruptions was based on the belief that Rome had spoken and acted in ways inconsistent not only with Scripture, but with the Fathers and the faith and practice of the East. These accusations against Rome were directed against understandings of both the Roman claims and certain Roman doctrines that were partly guilty of confusing common opinion and dogma, partly the result of the RCC miscommunicating the true import of its doctrines through arrogance or widespread abuses, and partly the result of errors by a number of Anglicans in interpreting Scripture and Tradition.
Since that time Rome’s presentation of its doctrines of papal primacy, purgatory and ecclesiology, for example has changed in a way that these earlier problems can be seen as quite possibly based on misunderstanding and emotionally charged rhetoric on both sides. We are not, BTW, claiming the Rome has changed its dogma per se. But we do believe its own understanding of them has developed in such a way to help overcome the problems of the past.
Basically, the C of E and its daughter churches saw themselves as the legitimate Catholic jurisdiction(s) in England and its colonies, a “particular Church” as the RCC would put it. Thus Anglicans have not seen their actions at the Reformation as an attempt to re-invent the Church or start a new one. Nor have they seen them, despite the errors and excesses of the time, as a decision to reject the Catholic Faith and reject and separate from all other bishops in the world, this latter being explicitly denied in early Canon Law.
The consensus patrum was said to be normative for the interpretation of Scripture, the Ecumenical Councils authoritative, and the Church to have authority in controversies of Faith in official documents of the highest authority. Documents with significantly less (i.e., non-binding) authority tended to be less reliable, especially early on.
Although many things were said and done amiss on our side at that time and afterward, we do not see the repudiation of Roman Supremacy as intrinsically and deliberately schismatic or heretical in the historical context, given the way the Supremacy presented itself back then and the fact that one of the main Anglican criticisms was that the Pope was less Petrine than Emperor-like. They did not reject the kind of Primacy both evidenced and described in Ut Unum Sint!
As for our separation from the other great Church we have identified as Catholic, the EOC, that was inherited and not chosen. On the contrary, Anglicans appealed to the example of the East just as they appealed to the undivided Church and defended it against Roman claims it was heretical and schismatic. Friendly contacts with the East and talk of re-union has occured since the 17th Century, but really got going in the late 19th and 20th Centuries.
So, many inconsistencies and imperfections, yes. A complete break in continuity with and connection to the One Church, no.
However, what started happening in the 1970s was a different matter. Tradition was effectively trashed and the sacraments endangered. Anglicans in the places first affected appealed to the ancient canons of the Ecumenical Councils and, through the assistance of orthodox bishops in the Anglican Communion, ensured continuation of orthodoxy and episcopal jurisdiction, their mother Church having ecclesially self-destructed. Thus we had the ACC, APCK and ACC-Canada. The messiness of the situation and lack of subsequent support from other orthodox Anglicans, inter alia, led to lack of unity. Later complications from other Anglican Communion defections to liberal Protestantism created more jurisdictions, many of them one-issue groups, not people trying to uphold the Catholic Faith in its fulness.
One of the benefits of this turn of events of the 1970s is that the original Continuers dumped ambiguity and more explicitly and insistently announced their adhesion to Holy Tradition. This allowed a better focussed self-understanding and a more manifest crystallising out of Catholic essence and identity. Before, Anglican Churches possessed the Catholic Faith, but did not mandate it in practice. Fr Hart and I have the joy of being clergy delivered from that undermining vagueness. Our Churches represent not merely a continuation but a fulfillment of Anglican Catholicism. But we know that this fulfillment is not manifested completely while we are out of communion with the EOC and RCC. Let all be assured that this represents no refusal of communio in sacris on our part.
Indeed, before the fall of much of Anglicanism into destructive innovations, it was not uncommon for EO to be admitted to Anglican altars to receive Communion with the permission of their bishops if they were unable to get to their own Church. And this was only possible because of the previous multiple decisions by EO churches to recognise the validity of Anglican Orders. So, sacramental communion between Anglican Catholics and EO, even if under the limited aegis of “economy”, did exist to some extent in the Twentieth Century.
Therefore, if it can be successfully argued that the division between the RCC and the EOC has never been absolute or definitive and that it was initiated by unjustified excommunications and prolonged by mutual misunderstanding and pride, then the division can be characterised as incomplete, such that neither Church is outside “the Church”. It is a schism based on neither heresy nor rebellion and can be resolved, God willing, by much prayer and by turning implicit into explicit doctrinal agreement and mutual submission. Also, since the Anglican Catholic-Roman Catholic and Anglican Catholic-Eastern Orthodox divisions are unilateral, and not deliberate refusals by us to be in communion with them, and since the latter division, like the RCC-EOC one, has not been sacramentally complete, orthodox Anglican Churches are not excluded from the One Church either. And so we dare to believe we too can be incorporated into the prayerful resolving of differences spoken of above.
A Gem from Cyprus
St Anthony the Abbot
At age 35 he moved alone to the desert, living 20 years in an abandoned fort. Anthony barricaded the place for solitude, but admirers broke in. He miraculously healed people, and agreed to be the spiritual counselor of others. His recommendation was to base life on the Gospel. Word spread, and so many disciples arrived that Anthony founded two monasteries on the Nile, one at Pispir, one at Arsinoe. Many of those who lived near him supported themselves by making baskets and brushes, and from that came his patronage of those trades.
Anthony briefly left his seclusion in 311, going to Alexandria to fight Arianism, and to comfort the victims of Maximinus' persecution. At some point in his life, he met with his sister again. She, too, had withdrawn from the world, and directed a community of nuns. Anthony retired to the desert, living in a cave on Mount Colzim.
He was the father of Christian monasticism.
From the Life of Saint Anthony by Saint Athanasius
Saint Anthony told his monks: When, therefore, they demons come by night to you and wish to tell the future, or say 'We are the angels,' give no heed, for they lie.... But if they shamelessly stand their ground, capering and change their forms of appearance, fear them not, nor shrink, nor heed them as though they were good spirits. For the presence either of the good or evil by the help of God can easily be distinguished. The vision of the holy ones is not fraught with distraction: 'For they will not strive, nor cry, nor shall anyone hear their voice' (Matthew 12:19; Isaiah 42:2). But it comes quietly and gently that an immediate joy, gladness, and courage arise in the soul. For the Lord who is our joy is with them, and the power of God the Father.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Worship and Symbol
Ancient thought, considered as a whole, had a great reverence for all being: the individual felt himself to be a member of the great cosmos, and willingly submitted to its order. The self-seeker [what modern man so often views himself as being] was taken for a rebel: his deed…brought down the anger of the gods. Behind the visible world the deep insight of ancient man saw a higher kingdom of spirit and godhead, of which the things we see are symbol, reflected reality, and at the same time mediators and bearers of spiritual things. Ancient thinking was at once concrete, because concerned with objects, and spiritual, because these [men] did not remain confined to material objects. To men like these it did not seem difficult to believe that God could communicate his life through symbols, or that their own religious acts could leap up into the circle of God’s life; it was no different whether they conceived these things as more cosmic or more spiritual; in either case it was a symbolic action which rose to the height of the god’s mode of living. The symbolic, strength-giving rites of the mysteries were real for the ancients; when the Church of Christ entered the world she did not end but rather fulfilled their way of thinking.
The erosion of this manner of perceiving matter and spirit is in great part the result of the triumph of empirical “science” that determines as “real” only what is directly measurable. The sacramental dimension of Christianity has become incomprehensible to modern rationalists. Given the universal context of rationalism, the notion of symbolic worship as a real integration of matter and spirit has become equally incomprehensible. Christians have certainly fallen under a rationalist influence and so some fundamental underpinnings operative in worship have been obscured, if not lost altogether. Yet the integration of matter and spirit is precisely what sacramental – liturgical – worship is all about.
Read more at:
C of E Publishes Report on Women Bishops
Read summary here:
Catholic Ecumenism and the Elephant in the Room (II)
C-1* EXHIBIT A. During the Meletian Schism in the ancient Church, Meletius of Antioch and his flock were not recognised by or in communion with Rome. Most of the East did recognise him and reject his rival – even to the point where he presided for a while at the sitting of an Ecumenical Council. Eventually, not only was Meletius’ claim to be the legitimate Catholic Bishop recognised universally after his death, but he was canonised and his successors (not his rival’s) were the Patriarchs of Antioch. Thus, visible unity was broken without either side being considered by anyone in hindsight as outside the Church. However, it could be argued that visible unity was merely “somewhat obscured” since Meletius was in communion with bishops who were in communion with Rome.
C-1* EXHIBIT B. A large number of Orthodox theologians and hierarchs contend that the difference between themselves and the Monophysites has been, for many centuries at least, based on logomachies. As a consequence they also hold that the two Churches already hold to the same Faith and possess the same Sacraments, and are thus already one in the most important sense, such that restored intercommunion is justified. These theologians appear not to contend that such a restoration would be a return of a schismatic body to the Catholic Church but that it would be the resolution of unfortunate, long-standing misunderstandings between sister Churches. Thus, it is effectively recognised that true ecclesial unity can co-exist with lack of visible unity for considerable periods.
C-1* EXHIBIT C. During the Great Western-Papal Schisms, when there were multiple claimants to the papacy, each with considerable followings at times, visible unity of the Western Church was broken. However, the RCC has canonised as Saints people on opposing sides of these schisms. Also, the fact that it was difficult to tell with certainty which was the true Pope, such that even till today no official and binding decision has been made by the Vatican as to who were the true Popes, has led to RC historians and theologians not portraying any of the various flocks as outside the true Church.
C-1* EXHIBIT D. It is now common in ecumenical (revisionist?) history to claim that the EOC and RCC did not really completely break communion or finalise the schism till many centuries after previously posited dates. It appears to be a permissible and common opinion among orthodox RCs and the EO to say that sacramental communion was not properly or completely absent till the 18th Century. However, the very fact that the schism had been dated by most people as being from much earlier shows that whatever unity there was, was not easily visible. And this includes to the people contemporary with the disputed period, since in Anglican-Roman debates of the 17th Century it was commonly contended by Roman interlocutors that the EOC was in schism and heresy.
C-1* EXHIBIT E. It has never been contended by any canonist or theologian, as far as I know, that any excommunications, even at the Papal or Conciliar level, are infallible. Though the theological reasoning behind them can be, the necessarily accompanying examination of particular evidence regarding a person or group is corrigible. Thus it is implicitly accepted that people, including bishops, can be visibly excluded from the Church unjustly and thus not truly be outside the Church. This is yet another case when the visibility of unity is imperfect, and admission of such imperfection is permissible.
Hence, it is clear that C-1* obtains, the corollary 1* is deniable without automatic loss of Catholicity, thus the foundational premise of Pontificator’s Fourth Law is false as stated. There is thus no reason to apply the Law in its present form automatically to define as unCatholic Anglican Churches because they claim to be a part of the Catholic Church and recognise the RCC and EOC as also belonging to the Church, refusing to see the visible disunity between these bodies as proof of true, fundamental disunity.
So, how should we explain the significance of present divisions? In what ways has unity been preserved? Can the history of the “schisms”, especially at the apparent breaking points, be understood in a way that acquits both sides in each case of formal schism or heresy? Is there a way the elephant in the room can be dealt with rather than ignored, without anyone having to repent of their self-understanding? I believe there are satisfactory answers to all these questions – yes to the last two! -- that will allow Catholic ecumenism to succeed.
Regarding the E-W split, C-1* EXHIBIT D above shows it was not complete even in an outward sense until the 18th Century – and the eventual complete loss of communio in sacris was not the result of any official or binding statement by either Church as a whole. To quote the great Roman Catholic theologian Louis Bouyer, “the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, though dreadfully tempted by the spirit of division remain one Church, in fact and by right, despite contrary appearances. This is verified by the most thorough historical investigation of this problem … In fact, neither the conflict and reciprocal excommunications of the patriarch Michael Cerularius and Cardinal Humbert, nor the scandalous Crusade, redirected toward Constantinople, and its consequences, nor even the fruitless attempts at reconciliation at Lyon and Florence, which merely embittered the oppositions, suspended all communion between the Church the East and the Church of the West. To the end of the eighteenth century, limited incidents of intercommunion between the two Churches are innumerable. … all baptized and communicating members of one received in the other on the same basis, without abjuration, … priests and even bishops passed from one to the other or, more exactly, occasionally “moved through” both, without encountering major difficulties. … [At] the beginning of the nineteenth century did Latin missionaries, moved by unfortunate zeal, take it into their heads to apply to Orientals, canons decreed by Trent against Protestants, and, through a regrettable understandable twist, that Orientals (particularly Greeks, in permanent conflict with Latins in the islands of the Peloponnesus or elsewhere) did the same.” [Emphasis added.]
Since the schism was grown into in such a gradual, haphazard and (in the end) unreflective or non-binding manner, it seems permissible to view it as never definitive. In that case, there is no need for either side to exclude the other from its identification of the One Church. Instead, they should start from the premise that they at least might never have been truly or fully divided, and approach doctrinal dialogue from that hopeful perspective. (Let’s not forget that both East and West have basically disowned the mutual excommunications of 1054, so one must assume they accept that, whatever happened afterwards, the state of schism existing at that time did not really mean one side or the other was outside the Church.)
An objection to this reasoning from the RC side might consist of a simple quotation of the recent Papal Encyclical, DOMINUS IESUS:
“Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.” [Emphasis added.]
But, even if this were an infallible doctrinal pronouncement, its statements of historical fact rather than principle would be corrigible (and fallible). What if the RCC and EOC can come to an agreement on Roman Primacy (which neither EO nor Anglican Catholics have ever simply denied, all believing themselves to hold to the Catholic teaching in this matter) without repudiating their respective authoritative Traditions, but instead synthesising them? Then the above statement would be seen to be based on sound theology and reasoning but a historically conditioned misapprehension of the relationship between the other particular Churches’ teaching and the dogma of the RCC. Thus the statement could be “moved beyond” with relative ease and no loss of face or authority.
A related objection could be that, even if the purely doctrinal question could be resolved in this way, this would not change the fact that those outside the RCC are not in communion with or submitted to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, and have not been so for some time. In other words, RCs could say “Maybe you did have, theoretically or implicitly, all the right teachings about Rome/Peter, but you did not have Rome/Peter! Thus you were outside the Church.”
However, given that, as stated above, the 1054 excommunications have been mutually disowned and that Constantinople’s excommunication of the Westerners was a reaction to their prior excommunication in the other direction, it is fair to say that the schism was initiated from the Western side by unjust action. The reason “who started it” is important is that, once it is accepted that Rome did so, and that Rome now thinks that was wrong, and this is joined with the recognition that the EO reaction (even if it was an over-reaction) was based on a belief that the Roman action was wrong, then the schism’s beginning takes on a particular nature. It can no longer be claimed that the East left the One Church, even if communion with Rome is a normal condition of being in the One Church. Why? Because the initial breaking of communion was due to a fallible-in-theory (cf. C-1* EXHIBIT E) and erroneous-in-fact excommunication by Rome. So, even on RC assumptions, there is room to accept that the EO never left the Church. Once communion was (mostly) broken, communication and mutual enrichment was severely restricted, so that it was virtually inevitable that the two sides would develop in ways that appeared incompatible but were not necessarily so. And that is part of the reason the division was never properly healed and why it is unreasonable to ask the East to simply accept RC distinctives on trust and without having the chance to contribute to their formulation in a way that was not possible before, due to Rome mistakenly considering them outside the Church.
Also, the Fathers of the 5th Ecumenical Council struck Pope Vigilius off the diptychs and refused him communion till he would do what they (and the whole Catholic Church, eventually) considered the right thing about the Three Chapters: i.e., condemn them and the doctrines contained therein. To say that an Ecumenical Council did its job successfully but, by the way, was composed pretty much entirely of formal schismatics (and heretics for denying in practice the absolute necessity of being in communion with and complete subjection to Rome?) is a bit too ridiculous for words. Therefore, broken communion with Rome, even when it is broken deliberately from the non-Roman side, is not and never has been sufficient proof of schism.
(to be continued here)
Sermon for Epiphany 2
Romans 12: 6f Mark 1:1f
This past week, having our oldest son with us much too briefly, we saw the Grand Canyon. It has been said that no matter how well the Grand Canyon has been described, and no matter how many photographs one has seen, “no one expects it.” The canyon itself is grander than the pictures, and is beyond expectations, a surprise to everyone who sees it for the first time. No description and no photograph does it justice.
And, no matter how well the truth about God is taught, He will be a surprise when we see Him face to face on the Last Day. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God,” writes Saint Paul to the Corinthian Church. We know God by revelation, just as we know the Grand Canyon by descriptions and pictures. We could spend weeks exploring the canyon before we truly know it. We will spend eternity learning evermore the knowledge of God, never exhausting all that we can learn, for He is without end, without limit.
The pictures of the Grand Canyon are true; they are a genuine revelation of what really is there. What we see in them is no deception, but the truth. It is less than the reality itself, that we see once we arrive at the place and our eyes take it in; but, the pictures have been true and accurate. When Christ returns in glory and we rise from the slumber of our graves, whether to terror or joy -- depending upon how well we prepare to meet Him in this life -- and we see Him on the throne of His Father’s glory, we will see that God is more than we have been taught, but not different. The full majesty of Divine Glory will surprise us, because we cannot raise our minds to a level of expectation high enough in this time of mortal frailty. But, what has been revealed is true and no lie. God is greater than we understand; but He has made Himself known truly and faithfully, never deceiving us in the process of guiding the Apostolic Church into all truth by the Holy Spirit.
This is the meaning of this Sunday in Epiphany. God has made Himself known in our world. Unfortunately, many preachers this Sunday are telling their people that it was here, in the waters of Jordan, when the Father spoke, that Christ became aware of His true identity. This interpretation has been popular for about forty-five years. But, it is dead wrong. Clearly, to anyone who knows the Gospels, and who knows the doctrine of Christian Faith, Christ was mysteriously aware in early childhood of His Divine Nature, and of being one with the Father. This is clear from the words He spoke to Mary and Joseph in the temple when He was but twelve years of age. No. On that day at the River Jordan, in the presence of John the Baptist and of the crowd gathered, the voice did not come for Christ’s sake, but for ours. It did not meet any need He had, but rather it meets our need. To try to analyze Christ in psychological terms is always a mistake. But, suffice it to say, that because He remains fully God, even while being fully human, He has no need of assurance or confidence. Neither did He need to be told His identity. He had need of none of these things, for “while He walked the earth as a man, He filled the heavens as God (On the Incarnation, Saint Athanasius).”
On that day, when our Lord was baptized, the most amazing revelation of God took place to human eyes and ears. Within the realm of our senses, God revealed Himself as Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. What did each manifestation of the Divine Persons signify, as we consider them respectively? Let us consider these manifestations of the Persons of the Trinity (who together are One God, world without end), and learn from them. Yes, what we learn will be less than the reality in its fullness, but it will be true.
Here is the scene: Jesus Christ is standing in the water having been baptized. The Holy Spirit appears in the form of a dove descending upon Him, and the voice of the Father is heard. First of all let us consider the Son. We see the Word made flesh; the One Who was in the beginning, Who was with God, Who was God, and Who was in the beginning with God (and that is not redundant), is present as a man, sharing our world of matter and space and time, where He was seen and heard, and where He was touched by the hands of men. His presence in our form, His coming in our nature, is the greatest revelation of God, and the seal and proof of His love for us. Whatever it means that we are made in God’s image, clearly it means that our nature was such that the Word could assume it, that He could take it into His eternal uncreated Person without compromising His Divinity or His holiness. And, as He stood in the waters, being Himself without sin, He identified Himself with our weakness, and began to be the offering for our sin. This foreshadows the cross where He would die in our place the death of sin that we deserved. For John baptized sinners unto repentance, and here he baptizes the Holy One, who has no sins to repent of. Thus, Christ begins His ministry of redemption by letting the weight of our sin fall upon Him. Remember that it was from this experience that John the Baptist saw that Jesus is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.
The Holy Spirit appears as a dove. Now, this is a different kind of manifestation than the physical presence of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. The Holy Spirit is appearing in a vision granted to everyone there; His appearing is in a symbolic way, that is to say, it is a Divine writing of iconography in the very heavens. The appearance of a dove is a symbol, and the message is that God’s wrath is over and done. This is the Christmas message of the angel who appeared and spoke to the shepherds of “peace on earth, goodwill towards men.” Not “among” men, but towards men. We are reminded of the story of Noah, who sent out the dove, which returned with an olive branch in its mouth to reveal that the waters of God’s wrath had abated from off the earth. Noah later offered a sacrifice after he left the ark, and God promised not to destroy man, and hung up His bow, His rainbow, as a pledge. The meaning is this: By appearing as a dove that descended upon Jesus, the Holy Spirit signified to us that Christ is the peace offering that reconciles us to God. This too, just like the very baptism itself, points to our redemption by Christ’s full and complete offering of Himself on the cross.
And, to the ear came the audible voice of the Father, telling us of His pleasure in the Son. This is more than simply His approval of Christ’s holy life. It is the eternal love within the Trinity, wherein God delights in being God, where each of the Persons delights in the perfection and worthiness of the other two Persons. Again, like those pictures of the Grand Canyon, we know this is true, but our speaking of it cannot do justice to the reality as we shall begin to know it when the risen Christ returns in glory. For now, we see the significance in the Father’s words, telling us not only of His Son’s worthiness and holiness, but telling us this in contrast to the pleasure He cannot take in the fallen state of every other human being who was there. Here too we understand why this voice was heard at the Lord’s baptism. As Jesus Christ identified Himself with sinful mankind, the other Persons of the Godhead told us Who He is, and why He is Himself without sin, but standing in for us to save us. The Father speaks of His Son Who always pleases Him, telling us not only that He remains holy and without spot or stain of sin, but even more, that He is the Son Who throughout eternity and before all worlds gives delight to the Father in that Divine love that is beyond our comprehension.
We see the Trinity in this report of the Lord’s baptism that day. The vision of the Holy Spirit was for our sake; the voice of the Father was for our sake. Here we see and hear the Trinity with eyes and ears, and we see also that only in Jesus Christ and His offering of Himself do we have salvation from sin and death. And, we can say, from all this, that the revelation of the Trinity tells us that, in the words of Saint John the Apostle, “God is love.”
Sunday, January 15, 2006
I just love the name.
As I grow into the life of blogging, I am fascinated by being able to monitor who reads The Continuum. Well, actually, I can't monitor who reads, but I can see where their ISPs are, and Wapwallopen has had me enchanted for weeks now.
I would love to know who it is in, or near, Wapwallopen who is such a dedicated reader of The Continuum. Not that I'm in any position to offer a prize for most interesting town and one of the most dedicated visitors, but I would if I could.
In any case, whoever you are, I welcome you. If you care to identify yourself, I am sure we would all love to know the story behind the name.
Mahmoud 'Tim LeHaye' Ahmadinejad
As Iran rushes towards confrontation with the world over its nuclear programme, the question uppermost in the mind of western leaders is "What is moving its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to such recklessness?"
Political analysts point to the fact that Iran feels strong because of high oil prices, while America has been weakened by the insurgency in Iraq.
But listen carefully to the utterances of Mr Ahmadinejad -- recently described by President George W Bush as an "odd man" -- and there is another dimension, a religious messianism that, some suspect, is giving the Iranian leader a dangerous sense of divine mission.
In November, the country was startled by a video showing Mr Ahmadinejad telling a cleric that he had felt the hand of God entrancing world leaders as he delivered a speech to the UN General Assembly last September.
When an aircraft crashed in Teheran last month, killing 108 people, Mr Ahmadinejad promised an investigation. But he also thanked the dead, saying: "What is important is that they have shown the way to martyrdom which we must follow."
The most remarkable aspect of Mr Ahmadinejad's piety is his devotion to the Hidden Imam, the Messiah-like figure of Shia Islam, and the president's belief that his government must prepare the country for his return.
Read it all here: