Sunday, February 26, 2006

Women’s Ordination and Catholic Orders

Alice C. Linsley

At the close of the debate in the Synod of the Church of England in early February 2006, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said: “People have talked at times about differences of opinion and how the Church can live with differences of opinion. I think that the problem is, for those who are not content with the idea that we should go forward along the line of ordaining women as bishops, the problem is not one of opinion, it’s rather one of obedience. It’s one of obedience to Scripture, or obedience to the consensus of the Church Catholic. And, while that’s not a view I wholly share, I think we ought to recognize that that’s where it comes from, those who hold to it are not just thinking ‘this is a matter of opinion’. And therefore it is rightly and understandably a lot harder to deal with dissent if you are talking about what fundamentally comes down to a question of whether you obey God or human authority. That’s why it’s serious. That’s why it’s difficult. It is more than ‘opinion’.”

Read it all at:

A Sunday in Jerusalem (I)

After a whole week of beautiful, spring-like sunshine, Saturday was fairly overcast, bursting out in heavy rain by nightfall. Today it only drizzled a bit, but the sun never really came out, and it was very warm and humid. Not normal for this time of the year, I am told.

This morning I went to Mass at St Saviour's church, which belongs to the community of Italian Franciscans who, among other things, maintain the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, of which I have written. It is a not terribly impressive 19th century attempt at the baroque, but not embarrassing. Sadly, though, the acoustics are absolutely horrendous.

The 10 am Mass is always sung in Latin, except for the canticles and hymns, which are contemporary Italian. For a community of at least 35 friars, mostly young, the singing was mediocre to poor, but there were a few good voices. Sadly, the acoustics don't help. A young friar seated in front of me turned around to me after the service and said "you have a beautiful base voice." (I was honored, but not suprised ). Meanwhile, I don't want to tell you about the celebrant, who used a microphone but was still basically inaudible and who, curing the sermon, spoke ... so ... slowly ... that ... he would have put you to sleep if you could have heard him.

Anyway, my friend and colleague Hazel and her husband Paul didn't turn up as planned, which cast a pit of a pall on an already gray day. We had planned to go shoppng and then have lunch. So I carried on alone. (I later made contact with them. They are moving out of their flat, returning to England, and today was Zero Hour. They just couldn't get away).

Aother colleague of mine, Ezz, is a Palestinian Muslim, and his immediate and extended families have various shops in the Muslim and Christian quarters. I went first to his father's shop to meet him, then went in search of Fayez's shop. I found him, and we spent more than an hour chatting (as business is always slow on Sundays in the winter). I bought the sandals I had been planning to get, and did a deal with Fayez on a narguila (hubble bubble). I then went to lunch at Papa Andreas', a popular eatery in the Christian quarter, before deciding to head back to the hotel for a rest.

But, as fate would have it, I was waylaid by Mohammed. I didn't know his name, but when I was last here, I often passed by his shop, which is on the Via Dolorosa, and consistently declined to go in. This time, I had no choice. He swore up and down he remembered me, which is possible.

It is a tiny place, only a couple of meters wide and not more than 15 meters deep. It is an absolute tip: I don't know how he knows where anything is, because except for some things that are hanging overhead, everything is just sort of lying in piles. If you don't watch your step, you will step on something. I forgot to say that he sells mostly Arabic-style clothes, but also backpacks, embroidered pillow covers and leather bags. A real dump of a place.

But after being waylaid at the beginning, and being offered the obligatory coffee or tea, I was trapped. In the end, I had planned to buy a jelabiya, the long gown worn by men that looks like a nightshirt, and which is what I use them for. So I got one for my son, too. Then starts the litany. He wanted way too much. I was shocked, even though I know this is the way things work. So I said no way, whereupon he says don't ruin my day, whereupon I say don't ruin mine.

This is all "commercial courtship," but I hate it. Anyway, I finally got him down to a price that I found acceptable, but not really pleasing ... to me. I am sure he was thrilled. I really need to brush up on my haggling skills. (BTW, can anyone tell me what a necklace of lapis lazuli might be worth with at least 25 stones? I think I got ripped off on that yesterday, but that's another story).

After escaping from Mohammed and promising to visit him another day (heaven help me), I dived into the Muslim souk (bazaar) where Ezz's father's shop is, and paid him and his son, Ismail, a visit. I got a lovely photo of papa, which I will share when I get home.

Enough. I made my way back to the hotel, only a five minute walk or so from Damascus Gate, and had a couple of drinks. The went out to find a money changer, which I did, before stumbling across a neighborhood barber, where I got my head properly shaved, rather than just close-cropped with electric clippers, as usual.

I feel like a new man, sitting here in my brand-new jelabiya. I'll sign off now, head upstairs and put some "proper clothes" on and go to the hotel restaurant for a proper Arabic dinner -- lasagna.

Ciao tutti.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Shabbat Shalom

A peaceful Sabbath.

I walked the half hour or so from my office back to my hotel in east Jerusalem this evening, after the sun had gone down and the Jewish Sabbath had begun.

The streets were virtually empty of traffic, except for a few taxis and the odd police car or delivery truck.

But people were out in great numbers. All walking briskly, as if with great purpose. I assume they were off to the synagogue.

Our offices are on Yaffa Street, a main thoroughfare. But just a street or two in from there is an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood call Mea Shearim. This place is famous for its welcome of outsiders on the Sabbath. If you have the effrontery to think of driving through on the Sabbath, you run the risk of having your car stoned. I was warned by colleagues that if I wanted to walk through there, not to smoke and not to use my mobile phone. I passed.

I just continued down Yaffa Street and then to a side street that would take me to my hotel. But all along the way, I say people hurrying to their appointed prayers.

And the picture was a memorable one. Lots of families, some even with prams. Fathers, mothers and children, all dressed in their Sabbath best. All black.

Those men whom I would assume were the most "liberal" wore a kippa (skullcap. Others were much more formal, with black suits and large fedoras. Later on, I came across some fellows who really stood out. Long black coats and knee-breeches, some with black hose, others with white, and incredible, oversized fur hats. Some of the younger men, those with white hose, wore what appeared to be a long silver or grey tunic under their coats, complete with a dark sash around the waist.

I just ambled along, down the hill toward my hotel, which is located in the Israeli-occupied Arab part of the city. If any of the synagogue-goers notice me, they gave no indication of it. At the bottom of the hill, I reached Route 1, which basically divides east and west Jerusalem. A police car, blue lights flashing, was parked on a traffic median, and two policemen seemed to be stopping cars randomly, checking drivers' IDs. I suspect the drivers in question were Arabs, but didn't really stay around long enough to watch.

Back at my hotel, I was totally in the Arab world. I stopped into the garden restaurant for a beer, to the sickeningly sweet smell of sheeshas (water pipes) and to the sound of Arabic music. Every Friday night, the hotel has an oud (lute) player in, but he is due later. I am off to the going-away party of a colleague not far away.

More another day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Christians and Hamas

In the days after the January 25 Palestinian elections there was a lot of talk about how the victory of the radical Islamic group Hamas might bode ill for the future of the already beleaguered Christian communities in the Palestinian territories. So I came to Jerusalem with a vague idea about putting together a story on the subject.

Interestingly, my preconceptions have been challenged by what I am learning here. Indeed, there are radical members of Hamas who would push forward vigorously with attempts to impose sharia law in the territories, but they seem to be a small, albeit vocal, minority.

Moreover, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate and a member of the former ruling Fatah faction, has powers similar to George Bush. Any legislation he might veto would require a two-thirds majority of the Palestinian Legislative Council to overturn.

But it is also important to realize that within the Arab world, the Palestinians have always been among the most well-educated and well-traveled people. They have a tradition of cultural moderation, and even many Muslims among them can be found openly drinking alcohol.

Under Palestinian election law, the Christians had a quota of six seats in the 132-member PLC -- two for Bethlehem, two for Jerusalem and one each for Ramallah and Gaza City. I discovered yesterday that a Christian in Gaza had run for election on the Hamas ticket. I still haven't found out whether he was elected, but even if not, he would be an excellent subject for an interview. I will also try to talk to other Christians who ran, whether elected or not, about how they view the prospects for life under Hamas.

I hope to be going down to Gaza for the first time in the next few days.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cinco Mil

Five thousand hits since I created this blog on November 12th of last year.

I have no idea whether this is anything impressive in terms of the blogosphere, and don't really care. I just felt like celebrating; and I celebrate thanks to all of you out there who have been visiting and, occasionally, commenting on The Continuum.

(Y saludos a mi suegro, Silvio, que tanto a contribuido a ese numero).

I shall be leaving for Jerusalem in about half an hour. More later.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem


Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Tomorrow I leave on a three-week assignment to Israel and the Palestinian territories, and will be based in Jerusalem. We are entering a particularly significant period of modern history there, with the imminent formation of a Palestinian government led by the radical Islamist group, Hamas, and Israeli general elections at the end of March.

I don't know if I will have time to do much posting while I am there, but I ask your prayers for me and for Jerusalem. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Is the Anglican Communion Worth Saving?

Read it all at:

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Authority in the Continuum

Fr Robert Hart

That the use of contraceptives under any circumstances is wrong, and that no consequences of avoiding it, however painful these may be, can make it right, is the only answer that Scripture as interpreted by the Church permits to be given to enquirers; and the contents of this article are dictated by my conviction that, in the present moral crisis, it should be given with unqualified clarity.
Francis Hall, 1930

We have seen in the article by Fr. Kirby that the Continuing Churches did, from the start, declare their allegiance to the Tradition of the ancient “Undivided” Church of the first millennium. Without the Tradition of the Church, both Scripture and Reason are blown about by every wind of doctrine, a point so obvious as to be self-evident. But, do we really submit ourselves to the Tradition of the Church, allowing that Tradition to interpret Scripture and to impart the Right Reason of the mind of Christ?

To every Continuing Anglican the thorny question must rise, just what Anglicanism are we continuing? The Anglicanism of 1978? Well, in 1978 the Saint Louis Fathers (if I may coin a new phrase) were very clear that things already had gone too far. So, then, how about 1958? If so, why? 1930? Again, why? Obviously, the answer is not based upon a time, a golden era. Such an era has never existed. The answer is that we are continuing the Anglicanism of the First Millennium, even though Anglicanism, as such, did not exist.

What else can we mean by saying that we believe in Scripture, Right Reason and Tradition? Whatever distinctly Anglican things have been given to us, all of our Formularies including the Book of Common Prayer, authority does not rest on any kind of genuine Anglican Authenticity; it rests upon the teaching authority of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. And, if we think that Authentic Anglicanism requires that we compromise or negate the teaching of the Church from Apostolic times, then we must, as good Anglicans reject Authentic Anglicanism for True Anglicanism- which simply means, for the truth. We do not say anything about being the Anglican Church in the Creeds, but about being the Catholic Church. And so we are. We are part of the Church that traces its history through the sacramental reality that includes, as part of the essence of its being, the Apostolic Succession.

But, if one issue demonstrates that we have a long way to go in recovering genuine Catholic principles, it is contraception. We are clear on abortion; we know that it is murder. But, do we understand that in order to be faithful to the Tradition we cannot accept innovations, not even Anglican ones? Liberal acceptance of contraception is a defiance of the Tradition that we claim to believe. This one issue has turned the love between the sexes within the sacrament of matrimony, into nothing more than a glorified form of masturbation. For, the issue has gone from love and procreation to satisfaction of a desire; that is, as the chief end and goal of coming together as one flesh. It is acquiescence to the spirit of the times that Christians enter into marriage, and into marital relations, thinking only of gratification, and nothing more.

However, it is not necessary for me to make the argument. I refer every reader to what was written by Francis Hall after the 1930 Lambeth Conference. I have posted the link at the beginning of this article. I will add only the link to another essay by Bishop Charles Gore, to which Hall referred.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Fr Robert Hart

I Cor. 9:24f Matt. 20:1f

We begin the Pre-Lenten Season today. This may be a confusing time. We use violet, and yet we have not taken the flowers off the altar, and we have not taken the Gloria out of the Liturgy. However, the Penitential season of Lent, which will start on Ash Wednesday (which this year will be on March 1st), is so important that we prepare for it with these next few weeks of the “gesimas.” Sept, Sex and Quint, that is, seven, six and five weeks before Palm Sunday and Holy Week. It seems like the very opposite of the times in which we live, very counter to this era of indulgence, that we take the Penitential season of Lent so seriously that we prepare for it by the Pre-Lenten season. But, we need to see that our sins and weaknesses are to be taken seriously, and what we learn from the parable in the Gospel we have just heard, teaches us that only in this light do the goodness and mercy of God come across to us.

Everyone who has raised children close in age to each other, has experienced the opposite of today’s parable. When the little ones, who have not labored and have earned nothing, are given gifts, sibling rivalry manifests itself at its worst. If one receives a gift and the other does not, or if one child believes the other one has been given a better gift, the slight, the injustice, is immediately decried. The fact is that no gift was deserved; the gifts were given out of the goodness of a father or mother’s heart. But, this is not worth pointing out to the child who thinks that he was “gypped.” He thinks he wants justice; but we know that justice would not exactly be welcomed, at least not in place of kindness.

Here, in the parable, we have a problem that is very much like its opposite, that is, like the scenario I have just described. The laborers who had borne the heat of the day had every reason to expect that their reward would be greater than the late comers. When they saw that those who had worked but one hour were receiving what was, by the standard of that time and place, a full day’s pay, they assumed that the owner of the vineyard was loose with his money, that he paid by a higher standard than was normal, and that they would be paid more. This was only logical, and so it seemed to them, fair.

To bear the heat of the day is to live the way Saint Paul describes. It is to work hard to obtain mastery over oneself, over everything that leads to sin and that slows us down in the race. It is no easy thing. To labor in the vineyard speaks of a life dedicated to God, and of dedication that is tied into a life within the Church that involves the development of the virtues, especially of charity. None of this is to be taken lightly.

However, the parable reminds us that our salvation, wrought for us by Jesus Christ, was not something we earned. Whatever works and goodness we might achieve, the forgiveness of our sins is not earned by our own efforts. Neither can we do those extra meritorious things beyond what God requires. Article 14 speaks to the limits of what we can do:

XIV. Of Works of Supererogation.Voluntary Works besides, over and above, God's Commandments, which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety: for by them men do declare, that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for his sake, than of bounden duty is required: whereas Christ saith plainly When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We are unprofitable servants.

It is not possible to do works of supererogation. We cannot do what God requires, let alone do more. We are commanded to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves. Even when we have grown in virtues, even if we live the life of holiness as saints, even if we receive signs like the stigmata or visions and revelations of the Lord, our salvation is a gift, and something we cannot obtain by our own efforts. Christ earned it for us and bought us back from sin and death by the full, perfect, sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction of Himself once offered. We were under sentence of death because of sin, eternal separation from God. The one Who was Himself without sin bore our sins in His own body on the tree of the cross, He made there the Atonement.

Look at the icon on the cover of the bulletin. I have chosen to use this as our symbol because the Name of this church, Atonement Church, speaks of what is pictured there. The Lamb of God is pictured with His cross, upon which he took away the sins of the world and made the atonement, the covering -- the Kippur -- for us. This was not even our idea, let alone our accomplishment. The dove with the olive branch comes from the story of Noah. When Noah left the Ark he made his offering, and God was pleased with the sacrifice and promised not to destroy man from the face of the earth. The symbol is that of reconciliation with God. This reconciliation was made for us by God, by the Person of God the Son in the flesh of His sinless human nature, in the image of our sinful flesh, dying as an offender upon the cross for the sins of the whole world. Pilate wrote the accusation over His head -- Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews. But, in his Epistle to the Colossians, Saint Paul tells us that the real accusation over Christ’s head was the entire Law of God. That Law that He alone kept perfectly; and so His death was the death of the just for the unjust, the sinless One for the sinners, the One for the many to make those rendered guilty by one man’s offense, righteous by the perfect obedience of the One, by Christ Who gave Himself up for us with the words, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

What we are given, we are given by His goodness, not by our deserving.

I have said before that without ever hearing the words from a fellow priest, “I absolve thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,” I could not go on. And, since I am not being asked to hear many confessions I must assume that I am the worst sinner here. Nonetheless, a good confessor always reminds the penitent that the forgiveness of sins is given because Christ died for us. The act of penance does not earn the forgiveness, and, in fact, penance is done after the Absolution. Rather, penance is meant to strengthen and reinforce repentance and amendment of life, to direct the mind and heart towards God. Do you know why the “Comfortable Words” follow the General Confession and General Absolution in our liturgy? Well, for three reasons:

To make clear that the forgiveness of sins is real
That it is the gift of God to us through Jesus Christ
and as a light and general penance.

Whatever you feel you deserve, we are going to make the Confession of sin in a few minutes. The day’s pay is being given, not because of your labors but because of Christ’s labor on your behalf. And, the gift of Absolution that is given is the same for everyone who believes and with a true heart repents. We are unprofitable servants, and what is given to us is due to His goodness. Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 10, 2006

Bishop Chislett on the TAC and Rome

At the inaugural meeting of the PATMOS HOUSE COMMUNITY on 23rd August last year, I concluded my address with these words: “ . . . at this point in the disintegration of world Anglicanism, for ‘fair dinkum Anglo-Catholics like us', the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia (and its parent body, the “Traditional Anglican Communion”), though small, is an entirely satisfactory regrouping of Anglicans to which we can belong, especially in the light of current conversations which many hope will lead to the TAC's becoming an “Anglican Rite Church” in full communion with the Holy See of Rome.”

Are we in cloud cuckoo land? Could this really come about? Surely we are overstating things!

I want to remind you of a few facts. There have been Christ-centred, Bible-believing, Gospel-driven, Catholic-minded Anglicans ever since the split in the 1530s who have prayed and worked for the reunion of all Christians (including the Church of England) with the Holy See of St Peter. These “papalist Anglicans” have been hated and despised by just about everyone simultaneously (including, strange as it may seem, other Anglo-Catholics). But through the centuries they prayed, and prayed and prayed.

In the early 20th Century these Anglicans played a major role in significant ecumenical discussion, and, indeed, with Abbé Paul Couturier, the establishment of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, believing such unity to be the will of Jesus for his Church. Following Vatican II it seemed that their prayers were being answered as the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) began to produce agreed statements as part of the journey to the reunion of Rome and Canterbury. Most Anglicans - even those who didn't really approve - were coming to accept that reunion was inevitable.

Then various member Churches of the Anglican Communion began to create NEW obstacles to unity. No longer content to accept the authority of Holy Scripture, or the Faith and Order of Catholic Christendom to which historic Anglican formularies had committed us, bishops around the world began to play fast and loose with just about every Christian doctrine, from the divinity of Christ to the Gospel itself, to Christian marriage, to the Holy Spirit's role in Confirmation.

With the purported ordination of women to the priesthood - and in some places the episcopate - arose the need for all clergy who were true Anglican Catholics to insulate themselves ecclesially, ensuring that they and their people were in receipt of valid sacraments.

Most recently, same-sex marriage has come to the fore as the issue most likely to end the Anglican Communion as we have known it.

Throughout this process, first world Anglicans desiring to proclaim the Gospel and maintain the Catholic Faith have had to regroup. Wherever possible this has been “just inside” existing Anglican structures (the use of “flying bishops” in England, and the adoption of parishes in the USA by “offshore” third world bishops). In many places, however, because of the intransigence and cruelty of liberal bishops, orthodox Anglican Catholics have had to regroup “just outside” existing Anglican structures into “continuing” Anglican Churches. At the international level the Traditional Anglican Communion is the largest of these bodies.

For 13 years, leaders of the TAC have expressed a desire to establish a relationship with Rome with a view to being “united but not absorbed” (Pope Paul VI's vision), believing that what became impossible for the Anglican Communion as a whole could be achieved by those Anglicans who remained demonstrably orthodox.

We have been encouraged by the response of many Roman Catholic leaders at various levels.
But on both the Anglican side and the Roman Catholic side there are others who are extremely unkind towards us. Nowhere is this more hurtful than when liberal Anglican and liberal Roman Catholic authorities collude to discredit us, presumably to try and maintain the Anglican status quo at all cost!

It will obviously take time and patience for the TAC as a community (together with other Anglican groups who might become part of the process) to make what John Paul II called the “arduous journey” to Christian unity. But because we are Catholic Christians who believe in the Petrine unity of the Church, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we will gently and prayerfully persist, determined to overcome the obstacles before us.

Father Joseph Wilson, a Roman Catholic Priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, USA, and a keen observer of Anglican affairs, has written about these things. I conclude with his reflections as published in The Messenger.

“. . . Ecumenical dialogue [i.e. between Rome and Anglicanism] is entering a more realistic phase. As the two churches diverged more and more, the “official dialogue” proceeded and issued optimistic statements; if the official communiques were to be believed, it seemed as though the two churches were growing steadily closer as doctrinal and moral differences between them multiplied.

“Successive Archbishops of Canterbury and Presiding Bishops of the USA were ceremonially received by the Pope in Rome, all the while the official Anglican establishment in Britain and North America was getting loonier and loonier.

“Meanwhile, within the Episcopal Church of the USA and the Church of England, faithful traditionalist Anglicans were struggling to preserve their heritage, and continuing Anglicans, having left the official Anglican Communion to form their own bodies, were persevering against immense odds. With all of these, the Holy See certainly had more in common than with the Anglican Communion establishment with which it was dialoguing.

“But things have slowly been changing in the past few years. Bishops of continuing Anglican churches have been cordially received at Rome, and conversations quietly begun; and when those conversations encountered obstacles among some in the Roman Curia, those obstacles were overcome. Forward in Faith/UK, the traditionalist group in Britain, has been engaged in serious, cordial conversations with Rome.

“And Rome itself has said that it will no longer feel obligated to channel all of its Anglican conversations through the official channels of the Anglican Communion.

“And now there is reason to hope that we return to the Lord Jesus, who is, after all, the Point of it all. We return to the Lord Jesus, who prayed that we might be one. We return to the Lord Jesus and to his Gospel, remembering that the one thing needful is that we be faithful to him.
“. . . it seems that, after so long, there's not just a future to hope in, but to be optimistic about as well. Great things are about to happen, great things done by the Lord.”

This “. . . is a dialogue Anglicans began in good faith 39 years ago, and it is a dialogue that we [the TAC] are bound to continue, ‘that', as our Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘they may be one, even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.' [St John 17:22b, 23]”

- The Rt Rev'd Peter Wilkinson, Diocesan Bishop of the Anglican Catholic Church in Canada.

Bishop David Chislett in The Messenger, Feb 10, 2006

St Scholastica

February 10th

St. Scholastica, sister of St. Benedict, consecrated her life to God from her earliest youth. After her brother went to Monte Cassino, where he established his famous monastery, she took up her abode in the neighborhood at Plombariola, where she founded and governed a monastery of nuns, about five miles from that of St. Benedict, who, it appears, also directed his sister and her nuns.

She visited her brother once a year, and as she was not allowed to enter his monastery, he went in company with some of his brethren to meet her at a house some distance away. These visits were spent in conferring together on spiritual matters.

On one occasion they had passed the time as usual in prayer and pious conversation and in the evening they sat down to take their reflection. St. Scholastica begged her brother to remain until the next day. St. Benedict refused to spend the night outside his monastery. She had recourse to prayer and a furious thunderstorm burst so that neither St. Benedict nor any of his companions could return home. They spent the night in spiritual conferences.

The next morning they parted to meet no more on earth. Three days later St. Scholastica died, and her holy brother beheld her soul in a vision as it ascended into heaven.He sent his brethren to bring her body to his monastery and laid it in the tomb he had prepared for himself. She died about the year 543, and St. Benedict followed her soon after. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

All Quiet on the Western Front

A thousand pardons to any regular and, hopefully, eager readers for my silence of the past few days. I've just been very busy, and slightly less inspired than usual. Do bear with me.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

February 6 is the commemoration of the Martyrs of Nagasaki.

Twenty-six Francisan and Jesuit missionaries and Japanese converts were crucified together by order of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Following their arrests, they were taken to the public square of Meako to the city's principal temple. They each had a piece of their left ear cut off, and were then paraded from city to city for weeks with a man shouting their crimes and encouraging their abuse.

The priests and brothers were accused of preaching the outlawed faith of Christianity, the laity of supporting and aiding them. They were each repeatedly offered freedom if they would renounce Christianity. They each declined.

The story of one of them, Louis Ibaraki, is particularly touching, as he was a year younger than my own son is now when he was martyred. He was the nephew of Saint Paul Ibarak and Saint Leo Karasumaru and an altar boy for the Franciscan missionaries. He was noted for maintaining his high spirits and encouraging all around him during the torture and forced march to Nagasaki.

The Japanese style of crucifixion was to put iron clamps around the wrists, ankles and throat, a straddle piece placed between the legs for weight support, and the person pierced with a lance up through the left and right ribs toward the opposite shoulder Posted by Picasa

Who Do You Think You Are?

I suppose I might be assuming a certain amount of risk by writing this piece, but I will not remain silent.

I have looked at the 12 caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that have enraged so many Muslims in the past week, and which have led to violence and threats of violence across the world.

Let me say right up front, that I can understand how a devout Muslim might find some of them offensive, though I would describe the others as simply light-hearted or even sweet.

I will also say that I think it may have been provocative to publish some of them.

But what I think about them is, ultimately, irrelevant. At the heart of this debate lies a principle that must be addressed: In Islam, it is considered blasphemous to depict the Prophet, be it in a drawing, a painting, a sculpture or whatever. Any depiction of the Prophet, no matter what its intent, is prohibited -- in Islam.

I repeat – it is prohibited in Islam.

But the world is not umma. It is not the community of Muslim faithful. It is made up of many other people, of different faiths, or none at all.

So what is not understandable, indeed, what is absolutely unacceptable, is that Muslims seek to impose their religious strictures on others, even more so when those “others” are not even living in Muslim societies.

I remember as a boy a discussion in school about rights and freedoms. And I remember a teacher saying: “Your right to swing your fist ends where someone else’s nose begins.”

Well, let me play on that idea and say to Muslims something along the same lines: “Your right to impose your beliefs ends where other people’s beliefs, or even lack of beliefs, begin.”

Who do you think you are?

You have absolutely no right to impose your beliefs on anyone, any more than I, as a Christian, have a right to impose my beliefs on you, even though I believe that Mohammed was a false prophet and that Muslims are in error.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the second person of the Most Holy, Glorious and Blessed Trinity.

You believe one thing; I believe another. Live with it. If your “truth” is true, it will prevail; it will be seen as such in the hearts and souls of all people of good will.

And if it were true, it would not require you to burn and slaughter to make your point.

We hear so much from Muslim apologists about what a tolerant and compassionate religion Islam is. Let's see some evidence of it!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Da Vinci Hoax

Fr Hart has passed on the following announcement for those who live in Arizona, or may be in the neighbourhood:

On Wednesday February 8th and Thursday February 9th, distinguished author and historian, Sandra Miesel, will be addressing the claims made by Dan Brown, that his popular novel The DaVinci Code was based on extensive research and that it contains the truth about a conspiracy that goes to the heart of Christian belief.

Is Dan Brown telling us the truth? Is the Church hiding from that truth by continuing to present the same message after these many centuries?

Along with co-author Carl Olsen, Ms. Miesel has written a book, The DaVinci Hoax, published by Ignatius Press, that delves into the facts that Dan Brown’s novel does not dare to tell, putting his work into sharp perspective. The DaVinci Hoax reveals the sources that Brown actually relied upon for his own research, and answers the most penetrating questions his book has raised. Sandra Miesel will give a presentation followed by a time for questions and answers.

The first talk will be at The Episcopal Church of the Atonement on Feb. 8th at 7:00 pm, located at 11002 N. Saguaro Blvd. Fountain Hills, Arizona. The second will be on Feb. 9th at 7:00 pm at Christ Episcopal Church, located at 35500 N. Cave Creek Road, Carefree, Arizona (½ mile North of Carefree Highway).

The talks, which are free, will be followed by a time for questions and answers.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Your prayers, please

Joining in the uproar over the publication in several European countries of some caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, two militant groups in the Gaza Strip announced today that they would target all French, Danish and Norwegian nationals there, and also threatened "European churches," whatever that is supposed to mean.

This could get nasty, not only in the Palestinian territories, but in Europe, as well.

I noticed today that a tabloid in Jordan published one of the caricatures, telling Muslims to lighten up. The editor, ironically named Jihad, asked Muslims what was more damaging to their image -- these pictures or videos of terrorists slitting the throats of captives or blowing themselves up among innocent people.

I have actually seen the offending caricatures, and while I find most of them to be light-hearted, others are in poor taste. I can understand why Muslims might find them to be offensive, especially given that Islam universally prohibits the depiction of Mohammed.

But not everyone in this world is Muslim and bound by those same strictures. Muslims have a right to complain, even to demonstrate and boycott, as they are Danish products, but they have no right to impose their religious or cultural values on non-Muslims.

And I ask myself why these same people, who consider Jesus to be the greatest prophet except for Mohammed, are not out protesting and making threats when He is caricatured, and in ways that are truly offensive.

Just today, someone was passing around on the internet a video clip with a gay Jesus. It shows him prancing down a city street, stripping to his skivvies as he sings Gloria Gaynor's I Will Surive, before getting hit by a bus.

Sadly, I am so accustomed to this sort of thing that I find it difficult to be offended. Sick? Yes. Pathetically stupid? Yes. But in the end, just sadly an almost daily occurrence in the Western world.

I bid your prayers for those whose lives may be endangered by this outrage and for those who are angered. Pray also for more respect, mutual respect, among people of different faiths.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Feast of the Purification

by Fr Robert Hart

Malachi 3:1-5 Luke 2:22-40

We learn from the Book of Leviticus, the twelfth chapter, that after the days appointed for the mother’s purification, the child is to be brought together with a sacrifice of a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and also a young pigeon or a turtle dove for a sin offering. We see in the last verse of that chapter:

“And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtle [doves], or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering...Lev. 12: 8)”

Remembering that, let us look again at the words from today’s Gospel reading:

“And when the days of her purification according to the Law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord; (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the Law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. (Luke 2: 22-24).”

We need to understand the theology of what is happening in these verses. To begin with, St Luke is very clearly telling us that the family into which God became manifested, in our own human nature, was not a family of wealth, but of poverty; for they were not able to bring a lamb. The royal line of David, the line of the Jewish kings, had been reduced to poverty by the process of history, of wars and of subjugation to the Roman empire, And so it is that Joseph, in the line of those ancient kings, was a poor carpenter. Into his house of nobility, but of poverty, was our Lord born; this same Lord of glory, who had only a month before been laid in a manger because there was no place else for Him.

Remember the words of St. Paul:

“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich (II Cor. 8:9).”

The implications of this are very deep, and very profound. It is a picture of the mystery of the Incarnation itself, that the One Who did not grasp onto His own equality with God, but became a man, Who humbled Himself in obedience as a servant, unto the death of the cross, is the One to Whom every knee shall rightly bow, and Who shall be called Lord on every tongue, at the mention of His human name, the name of Jesus. Here He was, noble and the heir to the throne of David, yet poor. Here He was, true man yet very God. Here He was, the Lord Who had suddenly come to His temple, yet a new born babe, without power, and without wealth.

To see Him as He truly was required the eyes of faith, a certain faith which is knowledge, and that comes only by the revelation of God. Eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that understands are the gift of the Holy Ghost. So it is that the true wisdom which comes from above is given to an old man, who wears the mantle of a prophet, seeing the Lord by the revelation given to Him from the Lord’s Holy Spirit. This is expressed in the words which live on in the Church every evening at prayer:

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”

The wisdom of God contradicts everything that a fallen and sinful world holds dear. It contradicts the wisdom of the wise, the might of the powerful, the haughtiness of kings, the wealth of riches. “He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek; He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away.”

An old man takes in his arms an infant from a poor man’s house, and declares that He is the salvation of God for all the world. An elderly widow, also given the true wisdom from above, the gift of the Holy Spirit, speaks of Him to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. The prophet Amos wrote that, in the understanding of sinful man, “the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad.” How could this poor son of a poor carpenter, bring salvation to the world? Let alone, to Israel? And what light could He give to the Gentiles, light that would overturn the pagan religions, the ignorance of idolaters in every land, including the powerful empire of Rome with its many gods? How could this child born into a carpenter’s house, restore the glory of Israel, as if the throne of David could replace the rule of the cruel gentile tyrant, Herod, and banish the powerful legions of Rome? What did these two foolish and mad old folks have in mind, speaking such non-sense?

Let me allude to a fantasy story: Perhaps some of you have seen the movie The Return of the King, or, better yet, have read J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Lord of the Rings. If so, you recall that the world is saved from the power of the evil Sauron by two very little, and completely powerless people. Two hobbits of the shire, Frodo and Sam, accomplish what the warriors of Middle Earth, even under the leadership of King Aragorn, could not do themselves. In the climax of the story, the armies of Middle Earth can only fight their battle to serve as a distraction, while the two little hobbits, both under four feet tall, and without any strength of arms, manage to take the One Ring to its destruction, thus toppling the power of Sauron, and freeing the world from his grasp. Tolkien wrote his story with a Christian mind, as a very devout Catholic; and he made it obvious that the victory was wrought by Providence through the hobbits.

God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are powerful, and the foolish things of the world to confound the things which are wise; so wrote St. Paul. The true victory that banishes oppression from the world, and overturns all of the power of evil, was accomplished by a naked and wounded, beaten and humiliated man, breathing His last breath nailed to cross, as a spectacle of all that appears to be weak and powerless. In His humility and obedience to the Father, His submission to the will of God in giving His life, he is the One true hero Who breaks all of the power of Satan, and liberates the whole world from sin and death.

But, the world saw Him in His weakness and foolishness. It saw Him in His poverty and want of all things, having His garments parted among the gambling soldiers, being given nothing to quench His thirst, but only vinegar as if by a cruel joke. By all the wisdom known to sinful men, this was no conquering hero, no victorious king. The words of Simeon and Anna must have seemed a hundred times more mad and foolish than when they had spoken of Him in the time of His infancy. Anyone old enough to have remembered them, who may have recalled hearing them about thirty three years earlier, surely thought that they must have been no true prophets.

Of course all of this brings me to my second theological point from today’s Gospel reading. Here we see Jesus being presented in the temple, and an offering being made for Him as if He were a sinner. His mother, the Blessed Virgin, is obeying the Law of Purification, as if this child had been born in uncleanness, that is, as if tainted with original sin, as if in the prayer of David, in which he says “in sin hath my mother conceived me (from Psalm 51).” You and I can pray those words, for we were born in original sin, subject to powers over which we could not prevail; for we could never have made ourselves pure. But, Jesus needed no such offering, and His mother needed no purification. Yet, Mary and Joseph obey the Law; and this foreshadows for us the fact that Jesus would fulfill the Law.

The scriptures say that “He was tempted in every point as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).” And, that “God made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (II Cor. 5: 21).” Isaiah had written, “And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, because he had done no violence; neither was any deceit in His mouth...He bare the sin of [the] many, and made intercession for the transgressors (from Isaiah 53).” The offerings that day, in the temple, foreshadow the life of Christ as one of perfect obedience to the Father’s will, in this case specifically by adhering to the Law of God given through Moses. It foreshadows the words he spoke to John the Baptist at His own baptism in the Jordan River: “Suffer it to be so, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” For in His baptism He let Himself be identified with sinful humanity, and began then to take upon Himself the sins of the world, remaining Himself pure from all sin; as John said that day, “Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” He bore them all the way to the cross; for “surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.”

Yes, He needed no offering, and His mother needed no purification since Her Son was borne in complete purity. But the offerings that day, in the temple, teach us that He was taking our sins on Himself. As the only pure Man ever to live, His death would the only death that is completely undeserved. He did not merit death. Death came into the world through sin, and it is our penalty because of sin. When the sinless One died, death was undone. The power of Satan was destroyed, and with it the values and principles of a sinful world were turned upside down. On the day of his death, certified by His resurrection on the third day, all that was powerful was shown to be weak, all that was rich was shown to be poverty, all that was mighty was shown to be weak. “He hath put down the mighty from their seat; and hath exalted the humble and meek.” The two old prophets, who seemed foolish and mad, had spoken wisdom and reason when they spoke of this child as the One Who would bring redemption in Jerusalem.

And now, unto God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, be ascribed, as is most justly due, all wisdom, might, power and glory, now forever. Amen. Posted by Picasa

Is There Real Common Ground?

Dr Peter Toon over at The Prayer Book Society questions whether there is any common ground between the Continuum and the Anglican Communion Network beyond agreement that the views on sexual conduct adopted by ECUSA are sinful. Yet he proposes a formal dialogue between the two.

I just wonder whether there is any point in this, and welcome your thoughts.

In particular, there is an ACN bishop out there who, I hope, is a regular reader of this blog and with whom I have raised this question. I would be particularly interested in hearing his thoughts, even if he wishes to comment anonymously.

Read it all here: