Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Green Monday, and Beyond

I am reminded that, this year, Orthodox and Western Christians celebrate Easter on the same day.

That leads me to something I have been thinking of doing for several of the years I have been in Cyprus, but have never done: attempting to fast along with my Orthodox brethren in the same way that they do.

Now, as far as I know, the Orthodox don't begin Lent with Ash Wednesday, as we do. Here they have Green Monday, more universally known as Clean or Pure Monday (Καθαρή Δευτέρα). It is immediately preceded by Dairy Sunday, with the preceding Sabbath known as Meat Sunday.

Assuming I've got that all right -- Meat Sunday is the last day before Lent upon which meat can be eaten. That is followed the next Sunday by the last day for dairy products. From Green Monday on, it's just veggies and other horrid things (actually, I like veggies -- along with my food).

(Alice, if you're out there and have got this figured out yourself, let me know if I'm on the right track).

So, anyway, I am going to try to do this, and I would invite as many of you who feel you have the stomach for it, and the willpower, to join in. Along the way, perhaps we can all pass along some culinary tips, not to mention some spiritual morsels, that we manage to pick up from our Orthodox friends.

What say ye?


I had said in my sermon for Epiphany IV that I thought that Archbishop Morse might be the only one of the four bishops of the 1978 Denver Consecrations still alive. This brought the following response from my friend , Dr. Wiiliam Tighe:

"Actually, Bishop Doren (b. 1915) is still alive at:Doren, C Dale David Rev2293 Country Club DrUpper Saint Clair, PA 15241."

I apologize for the mistake.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Epiphany IV

Rom. 13:1-7
Matt. 8:1-13

Today is not only the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, but also a day with so much significance for us that January 28th is given a special place on the Ordo Calendar as printed for Anglicans in our churches as the feast of the Preservation of the American Episcopate. In 1978, on this day, in Denver Colorado, four Episcopal priests were consecrated as bishops for the purpose of Continuing the faith and practice of orthodox Anglicanism. The decision was reached late in 1977 that action had to be taken to preserve our Faith and valid sacraments. And so, to keep the Apostolic Succession of bishops alive, these men were consecrated even though it meant that they were forced to leave the Episcopal Church. On that day was the birth of the Anglican Province of Christ the King, and of the Anglican Catholic Church. Those four bishops were brave enough to leave the security of the Pension Fund, and all the safety of a large well-endowed organization, because something far more important was at stake, namely the truth. The truth makes demands on the conscience because the world is always in the grip of spiritual warfare. If not for the reality of human sin, the conscience would be easy to live with, and would never call us to painful duties.

The last remaining bishop to have been consecrated that day, that is the only one out of the four who is still active (and I think the last one who is still alive), is our own Archbishop, Robert Morse. Not only does he remain active as our Archbishop, but he also remains active as a chaplain at the University of California in Berkley (which he has been for more than fifty years), where he still goes to the campus just about every weekday and continues a very genuine ministry of personal evangelism among the students. Many years ago, the Rector of Christ Church in Carefree, our friend Fr. Steven Dart, when a student at Berkley, was converted through the ministry of Archbishop Morse. The Archbishop uses the Confessional as an evangelistic tool, and so it was in the Confessional that Fr. Dart was converted. And, the Archbishop has his office at our own Saint Joseph of Arimathea Seminary right there near the Berkley campus. He spoke of the day that followed his consecration by relating a mystical experience: He realized that he was carrying the cross in a way new to him. He felt its weight when faced with the new work he had to do. Earlier this year, in Wisconsin, Archbishop Morse was reminiscing for our benefit about that and the events that led to the consecration, including his own personal experiences of the dangers of spiritual warfare that he had endured as a priest serving under the infamous, the notoriously heretical, Bishop James Pike, the Episcopal bishop in San Francisco in the 1960s. He said that from Bishop Pike he learned the meaning of brutality- and Archbishop Morse is a World War II combat veteran.

Heresy is brutal, and the cold-heartedness with which ecclesiastical office holders like Pike have been so willing to crush the hearts of people who looked to them for spiritual leadership, is best expressed by the title of a book written by the retired Episcopal Bishop of South Carolina (who ordained my brother many years ago), Fitzsimons Allison. That title is The Cruelty of Heresy. Indeed, it is very cruel. I think of a lady I knew for years, a saintly matriarch of a large family in Catonsville, Maryland, forced to choose between the place that for more than eighty years had been for her the house of God, where all her family including her husband were buried, and the truth. That old church, with its stained glass, its walls covered with angels, its marble altar where the sacrament had been consecrated perhaps as many as a million times, had been her spiritual home, a bit of heaven on earth. Maybe some people would think of it as unworthy or carnal to be so attached to one place. But, I do not think so; people do have sentiments and deep feelings, affections for their memories, and attachments to the holiness of sacred space. There she was baptized as an infant. There she was confirmed. There she was married. There her husband’s funeral had been held. There she helped to teach the faith to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. There she had received Holy Communion thousands of times in over eight decades. With the Diocese of Maryland having taken over that church because the people of the congregation felt compelled to give it up, again due to the demands of conscience, this lady was forced to decide. Leave to go with her faithful brethren, or stay under the power of an unbelieving bishop?

The cruelty of heresy is that it forces such choices. And, that is only the smallest of its cruelties. Its greatest cruelty is that it aids the damnation of the soul rather than the salvation of the soul. It gives sweet comfort to the unrepentant sinner, a false security that his sins are not a separation from God. On the Last day it will not deliver anyone from the pains of Hell. Its other great cruelty is to both discourage and blame the true believer who does follow the demands of conscience. It heaps upon the honest believer false charges of meanness, of hatred, of bigoted intolerance. But, who is the real bigot? Is it the one who thinks and reasons that God does not contradict Himself or change His mind? No. The real bigot is often the one who imagines himself to be truly enlightened and sophisticated, but who, in reality, lives by a prejudiced rejection of Christian teaching, a prejudice he mistakes for knowledge. Another cruelty of heresy is that, in the name of a new and up to date religion, it restores the terror of the grave. Where do people go when they discover that the leaders of their church no longer believe in the Incarnation? What do they do when they find out that those leaders themselves are the ones who deny everything that the same church had once taught them to believe? If the clergy cannot say the Creed with sincerity, where does that leave the people?

The priests who left the Episcopal Church that day, by becoming bishops at the hands of Bishop Albert Chambers of the Episcopal Church, and Bishop Francesco De Jesus Paktigan of the Philippine Independent Catholic Church, were forced out by the truth. So were all the people who went with them. The only way to keep the faith of the Episcopal Church alive was to leave the Episcopal Church, and to teach that faith without compromise. It was necessary.

All these years later, here we are. We are deliberately mischaracterized as an angry bunch who are attached to old worn out ways and won’t change with the times. They say that we are only here because of the old Prayer Book (but the ‘79 book never hit the pews of the Episcopal churches until 1980- two years after the Denver Consecrations). They are always writing our epitaph, despite the fact that our numbers keep growing, and we keep building new churches. They think that all our congregations are old and have no future; but, most of our churches are filled with families and people of all ages. Most of the members of many congregations are people who never were in the Episcopal Church at all, but were evangelized or who converted from other backgrounds. But, make no mistake about the motives for the mischaracterizations: It is not that our critics believe we are dead: It is that they wish us dead.

What is it that the truth gives to us, after we have declared our independence from apostasy? It gives us freedom, as we know. It also give us power. The Holy Spirit works through the truth of the Gospel, because it is, as Saint Paul wrote long ago, “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.” Jesus healed the leper in today’s Gospel reading; and He was willing to enter the home of a Gentile to bring healing. This upset the religious authorities. To touch a leper was to touch uncleanness; to enter the home of a Gentile was to defile oneself- or so they taught. Let me remind you of what I said a year ago:

“[The leper] 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 only his body, his heart was healed that day.

“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 Christ 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.”

The Denver Consecrations were like these two healings. Certain religious authorities, to this day, condemn the decision taken by those four priests, and by those who went with them. It was “out of order” by their rule. But, it was the work of Jesus Christ, and the restoration of order into the chaotic turmoil created by the cruel and brutal spirit of heresy. And, because we have the Holy Spirit among us due to the simple faith that was expressed by that “man under authority”, we can reach out to the world around us as Jesus did. We can touch the pain of its uncleanness with the gift of healing; because there is no substitute for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. We have the ministry of the word and of the sacraments; we have the medicine that people need. And, this is because we allow the truth to teach our conscience, especially that great truth of the Incarnation, that Jesus is the Lord.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Collect - Epiphany IV

Collect from the Roman Breviary
Deus, qui nos in tantis periculis constitutos, pro humana scis fragilitate non posse subsistere : da nobis salútem mentis et córporis ; ut ea, quæ pro peccátis nostris patimur, te adjuvante vincamus. Per Dóminum.

Collect of 1549
GOD, whiche knoweste us to bee set in the middest of so many and great daungers, that for mannes fraylnes we cannot alwayes stande uprightly; Graunt to us the health of body and soule that al those thinges which we suffer for sinne, by thy helpe we may wel passe and overcome; through Christ our lorde.

Collect of 1662
O GOD, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright; Grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Clearly Cranmer is happy to translate the Sarum Latin collect verbatim. The compilers of the 1662 BCP encourage us to take some personal ownership of "mannes fraylnes", but the content is largely the same.

Jamal is a crack racing driver who has performed many stunts for televison and films. His hand-brake turns are legendary and he is regarded in the film industry as an remarkable asset since the last few stunts have rendered the productions a roaring success. Jamal's reactions are remarkably quick, the impulses taking microseconds to process infromation gained from his senses, before they reach his steering wheel. Truly, like everyone else, Jamal's body is a feat of hydraulic, pneumatic and mechanical engineering, only Jamal has exercised his reactions as far as he can.
The wind blows, a tree falls, and even Jamal's honed reflexes cannot save him as he crashes into its bulk. The safety devices in his car work as well as they can, air-bag, side impact bars, crumple-zone, but nothing can stop the damage done to Jamal's body.
In hospital, he pays neurosurgeons to help him regain the use of his legs. He gets the top bod, those with more doctorates and degrees than an MIT reunion. For all their knowledge they can do nothing. Jamal sits in his wheelchair for the rest of his life.
You'd think he would be bitter, angry at God for this complete removal of his ability, passion and livelihood. But he sits and laughs. "Sure, I am tempted to curse God and die, but it was He who has given me some wonderful experiences in life. I've been part of some great films and I've been proud of what God gave me. Sure, He took it away - He's boss. I wasn't expecting for this body to last forever, but my life isn't over yet. With God, I've got all I need, and if He wants me, life everlasting too when this body finally falls to bits."

Jonathan Munn

Thursday, January 25, 2007

White for Saint Paul?

Conversion of Saint Paul
Jan. 25th

At first it seems wrong. Saint Paul is the saint of today’s feast, and yet white is the color of the day. He was a martyr, so, why are we not given red for this day? If we are humble enough to be taught by its wisdom, we see that the Church teaches profound things even in the smallest details of liturgy, such as the choice of colors. This is not the Feast of Saint Paul (for whom we do wear red), but a feast centered on the appearance of Christ to Saul as he was approaching Damascus: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” This day is a celebration of our Lord. Saint Paul said that he was a witness of Christ’s resurrection “as one born out of due time.” So, this Easter Feast of Christ’s post resurrection appearance is out of due time, in Epiphany.

Indeed, it is the last of the Easter appearances. These words of Saint Paul, from his First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 15, explain why:

“1: Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2: By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3: For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7: After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8: And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9: For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”

Indeed, that fourth fact that he preached was the appearance of the Risen Christ to eyewitnesses (1. Christ died for our sins, fulfilling the scriptures of the prophets, 2. He was buried 3. He rose the third day, fulfilling the scriptures of the prophets and 4. appeared to witnesses). White is the color of the day, because it is about the Risen Christ and His final Easter manifestation, the day that the final eyewitness to His resurrection saw Him.

The rest was the path to what red symbolizes, Saint Paul’s death as a witness.

Thank You, Ra'ed and Pauline

I will be saying good-bye to Jerusalem tonight and returning to Nicosia a few days early.

As always, my stay at the Jerusalem Hotel was a delight. Ra'ed and his fiancee, Pauline, are Orthodox Christians and the charming hosts of this family-owned hotel, with its family atmosphere. And the staff are always ready to make one feel at home. Today is my 56th birthday, and Pauline gave me a lovely collection of pen-and-ink drawings of the Old City

The hotel is located only a five-minute walk from the Damascus Gate into the Old City and just across the street from the Garden Tomb, the Protestant answer to the Catholic and Orthodox Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

For anyone planning a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Liturgists Take Note

The Anglican Mission in America has published a trial-use Order for Holy Communion based on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, which can be found here.

For those of you who are interested, an interesting and lively discussion on the pros and cons of the rite is taking place at Stand Firm in Faith.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Collect - Epiphany III

The Prayer
Almighty and Everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Another ancient and rather general collect as translated by Cranmer.

He knows our weakness, our physical weakness, our mental limitations, and above all our sins and moral failings. He knows.
He does not need us to tell Him, but asks us to do so nonetheless, and, in a fashion we would call 'gentlemanly', He does not reach into our lives to transform us without our permission and request.
But, in all our need, whether in the outward circumstances of our life, or, more importantly, in the inner condition of our hearts, he stands ready to help us onward.
Note that all through the Old Testament there are references to the 'Right Hand of the Lord'. It has been traditional for Christians to see these references as refering to the preincarnate Son of God, and thus this is a prayer for the wondrous blessings of the Cross and Resurrection.
Ed Pacht

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Ruminating Romans

For those of you who, like me, are looking for something new in lectio divina, may I recommend the series entitled Ruminating Romans, which you can follow over at Pontifications.

Fr Al Kimel, my favourite Anglican apostate, is engaging in a slow and thoughtful reading of Paul's Epistle to the Romans. I am following along with him.

"For one thing," he says, "I want to see if the letter reads differently from a Catholic (or at least more Catholic) perspective than it did, say, twenty years ago."

That will be an interesting exploration to follow, given that Romans is so beloved of Protestants.

Protestants and the Bible

Recently, I was looking at a website for people who are shopping for a church, and tried to create a profile for the Church of the Atonement, hoping that I could recommend this service to Anglicans of our stripe on a large scale. But, their Belief Statement (assent required) included these words: "We believe that the Bible is God's written revelation to man and that it is verbally inspired, authoritative, and without error in the original manuscripts." Aside from the redundancy of saying that the Bible is the word of God, and without error- as if God might lie or be mistaken, which alone would make the extra words necessary- there is a problem with the words "in the original manuscripts." I sent them an e-mail in which I deliberately used their terminology (since any good Catholic knows that the Bible is "inerrant" without having to add that idea to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), making communication easier. Here is what I wrote to them, in full:

Before I go any further I must raise the question sparked by these words in your Belief Statement: "...and without error in the original manuscripts." That may be intended to affirm the authority of the Bible as the word of God, but it actually denies the authority of the Bible. Since the 1880s, beginning with The American Standard Bible, the Codex Sinaiticus, has been given far too much weight and undeserved authority, and it has been given this authority due to Higher Criticism. The Textus Receptus was, until then, the universally recognized Bible of all Christians. It was from this that all traditional translations were made, including the King James Version in English. If I say that I believe in "the original manuscripts" then I am saying that I believe in a Bible that we simply do not possess, since no original manuscripts are extant. I believe in the Bible that we actually do have, the Textus Receptus, which has been defended best in the Preface to The Third Millennium Bible. It is that collection of scripture that always has been believed by Christians - Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant- to be the Word of God, and therefore without error. About that, our Anglican Article VI declares: "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the holy Scripture, we do understand those Canonical books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church." The simple words of the Roman Catholic Papal document, Dominus Iesus, say it rather well (about the books of the Bible): "These books have God as their author."

The preface to The Third Millennium Bible says:

"In evaluating the reliability of almost all contemporary versions one must take into account some little-known history of Bible translations. The principal Greek New Testament text from which almost all contemporary translators worked is known as the Codex Sinaiticus, discovered by archeologist Konstantin von Tischendorf at the foot of Mt. Sinai in 1844. This manuscript is shorter than the text used in translating the Authorized Version by almost three thousand words. This shorter Greek New Testament text was unused and ignored for more than fifteen hundred years in the life of the church, and was reflective of Gnostic and secular influences of the Alexandrian and Hellenistic cultures of antiquity. It was never used in any English Bible translation until 1881. It is worthwhile to note that the New Testament of the Authorized Version finds its support in over five thousand ancient Greek manuscripts, more than any writing in the entire history of literature. By contrast, contemporary versions are supported by a mere handful of ancient manuscripts.

Contemporary Bible translators and publishers attempt to defend their use of the shorter text in their translations by arguing that theirs is more ancient than the manuscripts supporting the text used in the Authorized Version. But recent scientific examination of fragments of Greek manuscripts which are still more ancient casts much doubt on such claims."

Therefore, if we limit our faith in the inerrency of the Bible only to "original manuscripts" we give the Devil ground. We don't have those originals; but we do have the Bible that the Church has received from the Holy Spirit, and this Bible is the word of God, without error. The words "in the original manuscripts" amount to a denial of faith in the Bible, not an affirmation of the Bible, no matter how well they may be intended.

My second question is why your options for church government do not include "episcopal," that is, the authority of bishops? I cannot limit my answers to your options, because we have an episcopal structure, and we believe it to be the doctrine contained in the Bible.

Fr. Hart

I saw no reason to go further, that is, to bring up the authority of sacred Tradtion. Anyone who accepts the scriptures as the Word of God must, if logic and knowledge are utilized, eventually get to the point of accepting the authority of the Tradition too.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Down to the River

Father and Son in the River Jordan

Bishop with dove and Israeli army escort

JERICHO, West Bank, Jan 18, 2007 (AFP) - Thousands of Orthodox Christians joined in a festive pilgrimage Thursday to the Jordan River site where Jesus is believe to have been baptised.

First a handful of brave souls clambered over a security fence that had been set up to keep them back from the last few, very steep, metres (yards) leading into the river, a few kilometers east of the town of Jericho.

But sections of the fence was eventually broken down by the press of hundreds more in their enthusiasm to reach the slow-moving muddy waters.

They came from much of the Orthodox world, including Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria and as far away as Georgia, as well as Israel and the Palestinian territories, but most of them were Russian.

Dozens of people could be seen earlier, modestly hiding behind sheets held up for them, or simply wrapped in towels, changing out of their clothes and into thin cotton tunics to prepare for a reenactment of their own baptisms.

The event was to mark the Feast of the Epiphany, the time when Jesus began his public ministry by receiving baptism at the hands of John the Baptist.

Western Christians celebrate Epiphany on January 6, which is 12 days after Christmas. The Orthodox, who continue to use the old Julian calendar, mark the date on January 18.

The celebrations, in a carnival-like atmosphere under a warm sun, began at the 5th century monastery of St John the Baptist, which sits on a hill overlooking the river several hundred metres away in what is normally a closed Israeli military zone.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, was received there by hundreds of faithful and clerics and a marching band of youths, complete with bagpipes.

As he stepped out of his car, he was greeted by another cleric who had been holding a white dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, which was released into the air.

After prayers in the monastery church, the dignitaries and pilgrims processed down a winding desert road between mine fields to a pavilion just above the river bank, where were more prayers were sung.

The patriarch then went down to bless the waters of the river itself.

That was the signal for hundreds of people who had been waiting nervously behind police barricades to press forward toward the river, whose steep banks were lined with scrubby trees and rushes.

Israeli soldiers and police did their best to control the crowds, but were eventually rendered useless.

Only a few metres across the narrow river was the Jordanian side, and a number of soldiers had come down to the water to watch.

The scene was a joyous one.

Theona Kakidze had traveled from Tblisi, Georgia with her priest and a group of about 25 pilgrims.

"It is very beautiful," she said. "I can't explain what I am feeling now."

Down by the river, words were unnecessary.

A Russian and his son, who appeared to be about 10 years old, had gone down into the river together. The man embraced the boy and they both disappeared under the water, before surfacing, and repeating the ritual two more times.

That was to commemorate the Orthodox batismal rite, which calls for immersion in the name of the Father, then of the Son and then the Holy Spirit.

Less brave souls had made their way down on to the trampled reeds to dip plastic bottles into the river and then pour water over themselves, blessing themselves as they did.

Two generous and enterprising young men were dipping large tin cans into the water by improvised "fishing poles" and filling the bottles of others.

Standing next to them were two Israeli civil defence workers, armed with coils of strong yellow rope in case anyone needed rescuing.

One woman, clad from head to toe in black, had immersed herself in the river and seemed unable to get out. After several attempts with the rope, two strong young men grabbed her hands and dragged her unceremoniously out of the water.

Elsewhere, people could be seen guarding shopping trollies full of litre and a half bottles that they had filled with the water to take home with them to Russia.

Back on the dais, after the final prayers had been chanted, people scrambled forward to dip their bottles into the water of a large copper baptismal font that the patriarch had blessed.

One Greek nun, who couldn't make her way up, handed her bottle to a man above her, and he dipped it into the font, bringing up not more than a few teaspoonsful.

She took the bottle back with a word of thanks in Greek, and they began to chat.

Then, in a moment iconic of the divisions that plague humanity, and Christianity, she asked the man: "Are you Orthodox or (Roman) Catholic?"

He replied that he was Anglican. She began to berate him and said "this is only for the Orthodox. The Catholics have nothing to do with the Orthodox."

But an elderly woman, with whispy white hair and kindly eyes standing next to her smiled with gratitude when the man, his hand still wet from the font, offered it to her and she pressed it against her face.

Albion Land

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hepworth on TEC and Departing Parishes

Our hearts and our prayers are with the former members of the Episcopal Church – from Virginia and other places - as they begin to "walk apart".

We understand their experience that is at once painful and joyful. Joyful, because there can only be joy for those who walk in His ways. Painful, because being forced by the power of conscience to follow the way of Jesus and separate themselves from a church that has chosen the way of sinfulness, involves the risk of leaving family and history and much-loved places. It involves leaving good people who are still confused and not yet driven by their consciences to this point. It involves, above all, leaving in the knowledge that others have done the wrong, and we are paying the price. In the Crucified Christ, we gaze at the one who has already paid the price, and he was without fault.

Our feelings for those now walking apart are intense, because we began walking this way thirty years ago, and it has been a long time in the wilderness. For Anglicans in the Catholic tradition (who until then were in beautiful balance with Anglicans of the Evangelical tradition, producing an Anglicanism that was a true Communion, with a dynamism that took the Faith to the furthest corners of the world), the point at which conscience broke was the ordination of women to the Priesthood. Catholic Order could not be stretched that far, for we could not be party to Sacramental and Eucharistic schism against the pleading of those who led the Catholic and Orthodox churches of East and West.

We grieved then, and still grieve, that our fellow Anglicans little understood the cause of our reluctant decision to walk apart, and that in many places they embraced this first wave of Anglican gender revolution with enthusiasm. We understood that we were following the demands of the Gospel and the practice of the undivided Church (to which all Anglicans once appealed) in upholding the great doctrines of Creation, Incarnation and Redemption, each of which is challenged by the ordination of women.

Separation in the Church can never be justified by the sinfulness of a minister, even a chief minister. Each of us sins and cries out for redemption. We have in our turn struggled to understand those who seem to be now separating because of the unworthiness of fallen human nature to be immersed in the work of God. But we recognise that we are now dealing with much more than sinful ministers. In the Episcopal Church, and elsewhere in the Anglican world, those very same doctrines, of the Father in Creation and the Son of God in Redemption, are denied by those who deny the power of God's will in human creation, and the even greater power of God's will in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus, his Son. "Mother Jesus" and "Gay marriage" offend the mind of God with just the same intensity as "gender is irrelevant" offends His creating Spirit. The ancient Church, and Jesus himself, would have us walk apart from those who teach evil about God and Salvation. We have noted with joy the steadfast leadership of the Province of Nigeria, the Diocese of Sydney, and the Anglican Mission in America, in upholding as biblical the discipline of East and West on ordination, as well as the related biblical discipline of gender relationships in marriage and morality.

There is now a great company of those who walk apart but who continue to cherish their identity as Anglican Christians. In the impoverished townships of Africa, in the persecuted Anglican communities of India and Pakistan, in the prophetic fragments of Christianity in Asia, in Australia and the Pacific nations, and throughout the American continent, there are now thousands of Anglican communities that have heard the Gospel imperative to "walk apart". That they do not walk together surprises none of us – people do not walk together after they have suffered devastation. They must be gathered by shepherds who know and love their sheep. That is our next challenge. May God give us strength, especially to those just joining the walking. May He make the rough places smooth for them, and every mountain and hill in their pathway be made low.

+John Hepworth, Primate, Traditional Anglican Communion

From The Messenger

TAC Orders

In the paper sent to the TAC, it is noted that there is a variety of opinion in the ACC on the Orders of the TAC. I have argued that TAC Orders are valid and that all contrary claims are based on false reasoning. The supplementary paper in which I did this, with some modifications, is here. I should note that this paper has no imprimatur or approval whatsoever from any hierarch in the ACC. I should also note that it contains three very short "stories" which are all intended to be amusing, but are also fictional. Only the last one is claimed to represent reality indirectly. The names used were deliberately light-hearted and are not intended to offend any member of another Church.

It is just my opinion, but I think that for reconciliation between the TAC and the ACC three things have to happen, even if they take time:
  1. The TAC should throw down the gauntlet to those clinging onto the Anglican Communion and its present compromises, especially Forward in Faith and dioceses and provinces claiming to be orthodox but retaining communion with heterodox jurisdictions, including Canterbury. They should challenge them to cleanly break with heresy and leave the "Communion" or admit they are not willing to put their Catholic principles into practice, rather than encouraging them to remain incoherent and inconsistent by being in full communion with them.
  2. The TAC should admit that Deerfield Beach was a schismatic act and counterproductive, however well intentioned, and that the ACC's doubts about Archbishop Clavier were proven to be prescient and fair.
  3. The ACC should admit that the TAC has valid Orders and is not significantly different to itself in doctrine.

While the divisions among Continuing Anglicans are sad and frustrating, they are not reasons to lose hope. In each significant jurisdiction there is still good evangelistic and charity work being done, God is being worshipped and his people edified spiritually.

It should also be remembered that a large part of the reason the Continuers did not remain united is that, having established the original "Anglican Church in North America" without the normal authorisation and assistance "from above" due to the cowardice, indecision and sloth of most other "orthodox" hierarchs outside and inside ECUSA, they began in an isolation neither splendid nor chosen. (And this is also part of why the orthodox have progressively lost each battle within the Anglican Communion.) Thus, without the matrix of inter-Church relationships and mutually stabilising influences usual for Catholic jurisdictions and having begun in voluntary association (though in a way perceived as obligatory under Ecumenical Canon Law, which says that if the people find themselves under a heretical bishop or archbishop they must repudiate him and place themeselves under the jurisdiction of an orthodox bishop), it was all too easy for "every man to do what was right in his own eyes" (cf. Judges 17.6). Disputes that should never have been dividing became so.

However, it is also true that not all Continuers were willing to comply with the Affirmation of St Louis' solid commitment to Holy Tradition, and that some who have come out of the Anglican Communion did so over one issue where they happen to agree with the Catholic Faith. So, there are some groups that have formed and some other individuals who are not commited to Anglican Catholicism but "cafeteria Catholicism" and who thus confuse perceptions and make traditionalist Anglicans look even more divided than they are.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The ACC and the TAC: An Ecumenical Endeavour that Stalled

More than two years ago I volunteered to write a paper on behalf of the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) outlining our ecumenical position with respect to the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) and how we thought progress toward reconciliation might begin.

After much consultation, the first draft was changed in various respects to reflect better the range of opinion within the ACC on certain matters. The final paper was duly sent to TAC Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth, who read it, made some preliminary remarks by email, and told me by telephone that an official response would be forthcoming.

It has been about two years since then and no further or official response has been received. To be fair, the following ameliorating factors should be noted. Firstly, the TAC's ecumenical priority has been Rome and this ecumenical endeavour has undoubtedly not only been time-consuming but has apparently hit some road blocks, perhaps slowing down everything else. Secondly, the recent "warning shot across the bows" of Forward in Faith (FiF) by Archbishop Hepworth may signal that the TAC is getting to closer to addressing some of our concerns about FiF, even though this action is not related to the paper's specific objections. Thirdly, there are public statements by individual TAC bishops rejecting doctrinal comprehensiveness, which is a step towards the official, corporate statement desired by the ACC in the paper.

Nevertheless, our present Metropolitan, the Most Reverend Mark Haverland, has been asked questions by TAC bishops in that time about what our position towards them is, implying they are unaware of the paper where these questions were answered. I believe it is time for it to become a matter of public record, and have been given permission by Archbishop Haverland to make it available on-line.

It may be found here. (An Addendum included with the original document has been deleted. The reasons for this are that the Addendum dealt with another jurisdiction whose relations with the TAC may have caused problems at that stage. Since that time developments have taken place which give hope for better things in the future in this regard. To include the Addendum would thus have been unhelpful and unnecessary.)

Before reading the paper, many will need some background on one the events spoken of therein. There is detailed analysis of the "Deerfield Beach consecrations". In brief, this was a Conditional Consecration of the bishops of the "American Episcopal Church" (AEC) (not to be confused with the mainstream Episcopal Church in the U.S.) and some bishops who had belonged to the ACC. Associated with this act was the voluntary re-association of these bishops into a new jurisdiction, the Anglican Church in America (ACA). This church then effectively replaced the ACC as the U.S.A. portion of the TAC, since joining the TAC was one of the primary motivations of the AEC for participating in these acts and since the ACC considered this whole sequence of events to be schismatic, rupturing its former relationship of full communion with the rest of the TAC.

The reason that re-consecrations occurred and a new church was created was that the ACC had already effectively rejected the claim of the AEC to be a Catholic jurisdiction with certainly valid Apostolic Orders and had also questioned the integrity and suitability for office of its Primate, Anthony Clavier. The ACC had thus indicated that the only way for the AEC to join the TAC was via conditional repetition of its ordinations and confirmations and acceptance into the ACC -- and the latter would not mean automatic acceptance of all AEC clergy into active ministry. There was a minority within the ACC that felt that its position was too rigid and so it appears they organised a way, in collaboration with the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada and the AEC, to get around this obstruction.

Finally, there is one TAC defence of the Deerfield Beach Consecrations not addressed in my paper that I will briefly address here. The fact that ACC bishops, who the consecrators said they had no doubts about as to the validity of their episcopal orders, were nevertheless conditionally reconsecrated, has been justified by Archbishop Falk (in Deerfield Beach Revisited) on the grounds that the ACC succession included early consecrations that were not " 'normal', 'canonical', or 'regular' " and that "one widely recognised good reason for conditional ... consecration ... has exactly been the matter of 'regularising' Orders". The problem with this defence is that it is absolutely incompatible with another defence by Archbishop Falk and others of Deerfield Beach -- that the uncanonical lack of warrants there didn't matter since there were none at the Denver Consecrations at the beginning of the ACC either. You cannot justify a re-consecration on the grounds of making up for irregularities in prior consecrations and simultaneously excuse irregularities in the reconsecration because they are no worse than those in the original! As it happens, the lack of warrants was a smaller (and relatively trivial) problem compared to the more fundamental one at Deerfield Beach: the jurisdictions/sees to which the men were to be appointed did not officially exist at the time they were consecrated: in other words they were, strictly speaking, not explicitly consecrated for a specific ministry. The sees were not created till the next day when the ACA was constituted. This serious mistake was not one made at the original Denver Consecrations which gave bishops to the "Affirmation of St Louis"-based Continuing Church. Nevertheless, when it comes to the question of validity rather than regularity, I believe we can be morally certain of the genuineness of TAC Orders, including any conferred at or via the Deerfield Beach Consecrations. I will post on this matter soon, giving my refutation of the contrary position common in the ACC.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Collect - Epiphany II

The Prayer
Almighty and everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth; mercufully hear the supplications of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Cranmer simply translated the Latin Collect for this day (still found in the Roman Missal of 1962), and his translation continues in later English Prayer Books, and in others, including USA1928. Like many of the collects for the 'green seasons', its content is rather general.

It is the eternal God who made all things, upholds them by the word of His power, and governs heaven and earth by His divine will.

Yet, in His mercy, He listens to hear the prayers of His people. He hears, and He responds. What a counterintuitive and miraculous thing that is!

And what better request than peace? ("The peace of God that passeth all human understanding," in words of Scripture repeated at the end of the Prayer Book Mass) Peace, in Hebrew "shalom", meaning not only absence of strife, but also health, wholeness, rightness with God, and harmony of body, mind, and spirit.

Priesthood and the Church

In 1995 I was in Chicago at an art museum, enjoying French Impressionism, elongated El Greco paintings, and other masterpieces. But, in a special section I saw an archeological find, several identical little statuettes of a woman’s body, from the neck down to the vagina. A modern Westerner might assume that these ancient, mostly forgotten, people were obsessed with sex and had produced pornography; and this would say more about the modern Westerner than about the people who actually carved these little sculptures. The fact is, they were found in graves, clearly sculpted to be buried with the dead. The most logical thing to conclude is that these statuettes showed the part of a woman’s body most clearly identified with bearing children, giving birth and nourishing infants in order to help assure the safe delivery of the departed spirit into another world. There the dead would be reborn and nourished as spirit children.

In a sense, if I am right about their meaning, these ancient pagans had a clearer understanding of a sacredness of the feminine than modern theologians who want to convert the Church into a religion with a Divine Feminine. Their idea even carries a little bit of the ministry of the Church in its role of administering, as well as proclaiming, salvation. Christians do not worship a goddess, and I have commented on that rather extensively in Revelation and Imagination.

But, the imposition of women trying to fulfill the role of the priesthood, and the new “Feminist Theology” of goddess worship meant to overtake and replace the worship of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, have come together in time, and among the same apostate sections of Anglicanism, as well as the Church of Sweden, and among the Old Catholics of the Utrecht Union. It is not an accident or mere coincidence that women priests and the new “Divine Feminine” are contemporary with each other.

The Russian Orthodox theologian Dr. John Meyendorff once wrote: “There is no doubt that the Protestant rejection of the veneration of Mary and its various consequences (such as, for example, the really ‘male dominated’ Protestant worship, deprived of sentiment, poetry and intuitive mystery-perception) is one of the psychological reasons which explains the recent emergence of institutional feminism” (of course, it would be neither fair nor accurate to lay this charge against all forms of Protestantism, especially unfair to lay it against catholic Anglicans; but, it is fair to say that the charge is uniquely applicable to certain forms of Protestantism). Eric L. Mascall, building on this, went on to say:

“It was male human nature that the Son of God united to his divine person; it was a female human person who was chosen to be his mother. In no woman has human nature been raised to the dignity which it possesses in Jesus of Nazareth, but to no male person has there been given a dignity comparable to that which Mary enjoys as Theotokos, a dignity which, in the words of the Eastern liturgy, makes her ‘more honourable than the cherubim and beyond comparison more glorious than the seraphim.’…The centrality of womanhood in redemption is shown by the fact that the incarnation itself waited for the courageous and obedient Fiat of Mary (Luke 1: 38).”1

We see that redemption cannot be separated from the feminine presence of Mary, as the only human person to share directly and physically in the miracle of the Incarnation with Jesus Christ; in fact she became His mother; not simply a feminine presence, but a female presence. This distinction is necessary in order to clarify its significance to an age that confuses the meanings of the word “sex” and “gender.” People come in two sexes, male and female, rather than in genders. The Mother of God is a woman. However, the Church is not a woman, but it is the Bride of Christ, and as such is of the feminine gender, though not of the female sex. Jesus is a Man, a member of the male sex in His human nature. But, as God he is of the masculine gender, together with the Father and the Holy Ghost. God, speaking strictly of the Divine Nature shared by the three persons of the Trinity, is “without body, parts or passions.” 2

It is necessary to distinguish between the two natures of Christ, the Nature that is proper to His Divine Person as one with the Father, and His nature that has been taken into the Divine Person of the Logos, an alien nature, that is a nature created taken into the uncreated Person of the Logos; a physical nature taken into a nature of Spirit (and different from every created spirit), and a nature fixed in time taken into eternity. Our redemption necessitates this deifying grace, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory…” Clearly revealed from the beginning, and more clearly revealed in the name of God as “Father” by Jesus Christ, God is masculine in gender. This makes the creation, and the human race in particular, feminine in relation to Him. Our redemption was not accomplished without the Son of God appearing in the material world by assuming our nature, and this requires both the female sex and the feminine gender as necessary for the accomplishment of God's gracious will.

We see that the Blessed Virgin Mary was the woman, the new Eve, mother of a new humanity in the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, in whom all are made alive. The female sex was necessary for our salvation as God willed and accomplished it, since the redemption that has been revealed by God is not merely a spiritual idea supported by speculation, but a real life drama that involved everything that was part of the Incarnation, including the cross of Christ and his resurrection.

Also, the Church provides our need for the feminine gender. It is the Bride of Christ and the mother of all believers. We need to understand and appreciate the Church as an extension of Christ’s Incarnation. Saint Paul clearly taught that the Church is the Body of Christ in this world (I Corinthians 12), and that in the Church Christ reveals His mind, and within her He acts to give new life and salvation to all who truly believe. Knowing that the Church not only proclaims salvation by the ministry of the Word, but also administers salvation through specific sacraments, and that reconciliation to God involves walking in the light with others in the Church 3, we see the necessity of a sacred, though not Divine, feminine. Mary is the woman who bore the Son of God for our salvation, and the Church is the Bride of Christ within which we are born again and nourished unto life eternal.

The Priesthood

The priesthood of the Church is not simply a function, or job to be done. It is not the possession of any man, even of those who are part of it. Rather, it is the extension of Christ’s own ministry in the world. It is uniquely apostolic, and even to a greater degree when it is taken into the episcopate. The priesthood was established with unique power and authority, and it cannot be assumed or granted by any human power. The Church does not authorize the role of bishops, priests or deacons, because they are sent by Christ.

“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained (John 20:21-23).”

Among the many reasons we give for the all male priesthood (in fact for all three of the sacramental orders) is that it is not the ministry of the men themselves, but that of Jesus Christ working in His Church. When the priests forgive sins it is the extension of the ministry of Jesus Christ, who gives this power unto men (Matt. 9:8). And, when they stand at the altar and offer the Eucharist, it is Christ who says, “this is my Body…this is my Blood.” The priesthood belongs to Jesus Christ, not to the Church as such (II Corinthians 5:20). It belongs to the bridegroom, and represents Him in an exclusive sense not shared by any layperson, no matter how gifted and holy. Furthermore, it is not the privileged position of men who belong to the priestly order, and it is not about their desires or status; it is, rather, for the benefit of the Bride of Christ, and the gifts of the priesthood are given for the salvation, pastoral care and edification of all who are baptized into the Body of Christ, as reborn children of the Church.

At this point we must teach that the priesthood is not only the ministry of the altar. To reduce anything to one of its main functions at the expense of its entirety is a serious mistake. When the Archbishops of England wrote Saepius Officio, they made it very clear that they agreed with the teaching of Apostolicae Curae, published under the papal imprimatur of Pope Leo XIII, regarding the administration of Eucharistic sacrifice as unique to the priestly office. But, they found fault with the papal document for failing even so much as to mention the pastoral ministry of the priesthood. A priest always minsters alter Christus, not only when he offers the Eucharist. And, this gives a special sacramental charism to his teaching, his advice, and his fatherly love for the people of God. (as a much earlier Pope, St. Gregory the Great, had written in his book Regulae Pastoralis, i.e. Pastoral Care).

An individual priest may fail to exercise all the gifts of his office, but he does not lose the sacred character implanted in him. So we do not agree with those who say that the priesthood is only about the ministry at the altar and nothing else. Rather, as the ministry of the Church extends the grace of the Incarnation among mankind, the priesthood extends the graces of the Incarnation among the people of the Church, and does so at all times by the sacramental charism of the indelible character added to the man who is ordained to the priesthood. In St. Paul's First Epistle to St. Timothy, the third chapter, we learn that the nature of pastoral care that is charismatically present in the priesthood is fatherly: "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" (v.5)

Indeed, laypeople may function as teachers and prophets, and also carry on a kind of priestly ministry as those who are called to be saints. The Sacrament of Confirmation gives each member of the Body of Christ not only a special place, but a special function due to the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit. The ordained priesthood, however, belongs to the Bridegroom in a special way that makes it the embassy of Christ among His own people. For this reason, among the others we have cited, it is reserved to men who are called and ordained, and only to them.

1) For these quotations see Whatever Happened to the Human Mind? E.L. Mascall, 1980, London, chapter 5, Sexuality and God.
2) From Article I of the Thirty-Nine Articles
3) In the Fifth chapter of the Book of Acts, Saint Peter made it clear that to lie to the Church is to lie to the Holy Ghost (which caused the death of a greedy and dishonest couple).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Women's Ordination, an Eastern Orthodox View

Frederica Mathewes-Green, a former Episcopalian, now Orthodox priest's wife, and an unusually gifted and thoughtful writer, posted the following. Check it out.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

An Anatomy of Error V

With the holidays behind us, it is time to continue looking at the 2003 series An Atomy of Error, published that year in New Directions. The fifth part of that series dealt with the issue best summarized in this little excerpt:

The maleness of the incarnation for the modern liberal Christian and the post-Christian feminist is sufficiently remarkable to need explanation or mitigation. For the Fathers of the Church, in the culture of late antiquity, it needed no explanation. It was ‘natural’ and inevitable, hence the ‘silence’.

We recommend it, and invite comments for discussion on The Continuum.

Monday, January 08, 2007

January in Jerusalem

Early Christian pilgrims located the Garden of Gethsemane at the bottom of the slope of the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple Mount. A Byzantine church, and later a Crusader and a modern one were built successively on the site where it is believed that Jesus prayed to the Father hours before his crucifixion. The modern Church of All Nations has a beautiful mosaic on its facade. Inside, in the sanctuary before the altar, a large section of rock has been left exposed, where tradition holds that Jesus prayed. Photo:

Tonight I leave for Jerusalem on assignment for three weeks, my second time working in the Holy City in less than a year.

The last time I went, the Palestinian people had just shocked themselves and the world by electing a parliament with a massive majority for the Islamist movement Hamas, a choice that has brought even more grief to them in the form of a financial embargo and aid boycott by the West. At the same time, Israel was preparing to elect its own parliament, which resulted a short time after I returned home by Ehud Olmert becoming prime minister.

The situation has deteriorated ever since. The Palestinians, divided between supporters of Hamas and those of the relatively moderate president and his Fatah party, Mahmud Abbas, are on the verge of open civil war.

For now, I would like to focus on the peaceful winter scene on the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gesthemane. I don't know if any snow will await me on my arrival, or fall while I am there, but I expect that my three weeks will be filled with news of yet more discord and killing.

I don't know how much time I will have to post while I am away, but hope to share the occasional thoughts on my experiences -- the things I see, and the people I meet.

Please pray for me and for the people among whom I will be living and working -- Israelis and Palestinians -- that somehow they might eventually choose to live in peace with each other.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Epiphany

Isaiah 60:1-9
Eph 3:1-12
Matt. 2: 1-12

The most radical line to be uttered in the ancient world must have been the first of the Ten Commandments. “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” It was completely out of the ordinary in the days when the peoples of the earth were expected to worship the local deities; in fact, for Israel to believe that their God was the only true God, and all others were vain, was as out of place amid the pagans of antiquity as a fervent expression of Nationalism would be out of place on the floor of the United Nations. To what degree any of the ancient pagans may have thought themselves to be refined and sensitive, the Israelites must have come across as ill mannered. And, since the Law and the prophets of Israel denounced the practices of some of the religions, such as child sacrifice, it was very clear that the Jews simply were not willing to change with the times, and that they were intolerant.

Furthermore, not only was the God of Israel considered to be the one and only true God to His own people, but the only true God at all. The phrase that is translated “before Me” is quite significant. The Hebrew expression is al peni, and it means “in front of my face.” That might not be so bad for a local god that stayed within his boundaries; but this God had been in Chaldea with Abraham, called him into Canaan, went with the family of Israel into Egypt, and took them back to Canaan. Everywhere He went He was the ruler, showing no regard for the customs and religions of the people, and treating their idea of divinity as vain and silly. He judged the gods of Egypt in the plagues, even by putting out the light of their supreme deity, the sun. So, to have no other gods before Him, that is, in front of His face, the face of the God who is everywhere, is to make the judgment that only the people of Israel, believing in the One God who made Heaven and Earth, have the truth.

Syncretism was expected in the ancient world, a polite recognition of the various gods of the different places where nations settled. If nothing else, it was just bad manners to treat any religion as false, any god as a mere idol, and any practice as an abomination. Of course, when it became necessary to save mankind from the worst kind of paganism, the better kind came to the rescue; the Romans defeated the Carthaginian Hannibal whose army fought to spread the madness of child sacrifice everywhere. And, nowhere does this receive treatment that has better insight than in The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton.

But, even the Romans fell short of the Israelite standard, the worship of one and only one God, the maker of all things and judge of all men. They allowed the Jews to worship the God of their fathers only because He was the God of their fathers. They tolerated Jewish intolerance out of respect for its antiquity. But, they persecuted the Christians who converted from among the Gentiles, using the excuse that they were rejecting the gods of their fathers and the worship of Caesar. And, even during the early days of the Christian Church, as recorded in the Book of Acts, the Emperor Claudius sought to banish all Jews from the City of Rome itself. The idea of any religion that could not take an equal place among the devotions to the various gods of the peoples was completely strange to ancient peoples everywhere.

Yet, what we know that the pagans of antiquity did not know, is that the revelation of God to man was a gift and the offer of salvation. Jewish monotheism was intolerant of the gods for the same reason that men of medicine are intolerant of folk remedies. The real trouble with all people everywhere is that two-sided coin of sin and death; so the intolerance of Judaism for idolatry was a necessary first step toward what would become the mission of the Church. Inherent in the first commandment of the Law of Moses is the Great Commission of the Risen Christ. “Thou shalt have no other gods in my presence-before my face” is echoed in the words, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. (Matt. 28: 19, 20).” It is expressed in the words of Saint Peter, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).” Emmanuel, “in ancient times did give the Law, in cloud and majesty and awe,” and now He stood risen from the dead to authorize the Church to go with His presence to all nations, going everywhere among fallen mankind and with all their gods before His face, to root up, pull down and destroy, and to build and to plant. Jesus Christ, after dying on the cross for the sins of the whole world, gave us our commission. He is the only salvation revealed by the only true God, Whom to know is eternal life (John 17:3).

This is the meaning of the wise men coming from afar to worship Him in His infancy. Any other kind of writing would have told us all about these men; where they came from, how large their company really was, and details about the route they took, and alternative route by which they returned. But, sacred scripture was composed by the Holy Ghost, and the focus in the Gospel of Matthew is on Jesus Himself. Therefore, all these interesting details about the Magi have become the study of modern historians and archeologists uncovering a mystery, because the Gospel had no space to give to such minor issues. It focuses attention on the salvation of God in the person of Jesus, and it tells His story. The Holy family’s flight into Egypt and return to Galilee is given the space that follows, and the three wise men – or Magi – simply disappear back to the place from which they came. But, their significance is not lost.

Their significance is taken up by Saint Paul in the Epistle we have heard today, about the Jews and Gentiles being made one new man in Christ, the middle wall of division broken down. We, that is those of us whose ancestry is from the Gentiles, are one with the people of Israel through faith in Jesus Christ. A gentile- that is, anybody who is not of Jewish descent- becomes grafted into the heritage of the people of God, made a child of Abraham by faith in Jesus Christ. This is why I have never been impressed by the apologists for women’s “ordination” when they argue that Christ chose only Jews, and so if we do not believe that women can be ordained based upon His example of choosing only men, we should be consistent and logical, and realize that this would mean we should not allow Gentiles to be ordained. The reason their argument does not make sense is contained in the truth revealed to the apostles and prophets, as taught in today’s Epistle: No Christian is a Gentile. When you were baptized you were taken out of your wild Gentile tree, and grafted into the cultivated tree of Israel.

It is a basic understanding of salvation itself, as Isaiah prophesied that the Root of Israel would grow and blossom and fill the earth, the same earth that is to be “filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” that upon being made part of the Church, one becomes a part of the Israel of God. By faith Abraham is our father, the Lord is our God, and there is salvation in none other than His Son. All of our beliefs are based firmly upon revelation, and not based on even the best speculations of the wisest of men.

The difference between revelation and imagination is the difference between the true God and every idol. Even the unseen and unfelt idols of the mind, housed in the Arian speculations of Muslims and Unitarians of an unrevealed and lonely brand of monotheism that cannot possess the eternal attribute of love because it is alone, is an idol. A god who cannot be seen, touched, heard and even tasted, is the new kind of idol; for, “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (John 1:14).” Apart from this revelation of the Wholly Other uncreated God taking our time and space world into His Person; apart from the revelation of this invisible deity found in fashion as a man whose glory is beheld; apart from this unknowable God being known in the Person of the Incarnate Word, there is no salvation. There is no salvation in all of the other gods that men worship before His Face.

We have the Great Commission to spread the knowledge of the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. Thou shalt have no other gods in front of His face, for neither is there salvation in any other. The name of Jesus is given under heaven among men, whereby we must be saved.

The Collect - Epiphany I

The Prayer

LORDE we beseche the mercyfullye to receive the praiers of thy people which cal upon thee; and graunt that they maie both perceave and knowe what thinges they ought to do, and also have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same, through Jesus Christ our lord.


This collect is Cranmer's translation of the Old Latin Collect as it appeared in the Sarum Missal

Between the Papacy of Pope Leo XIII and Vatican II, the First Sunday of Epiphany celebrated the feast of the Holy Family (with a new collect written to correspond with the old readings). This has subsequently been moved to the first Sunday after Christmas (or December 30) to make way for the feast of the Lord's Baptism which brings Catholic celebrations in line with the Eastern understanding of the Epiphany (now adopted by Protestants and many Anglicans). The collect instituted by Cranmer for the Sunday in the octave of Epiphany evolved very little save for the addition of "through Jesus Christ our lord" in 1552.


The Collect from Cranmer seems rather non-specific, doesn't it? "Dear Lord, hear our prayers. Help us to know what we are supposed to be doing, and help us to do it." It's a very simple prayer, but is it a prayer that is ever answered? Despite its simplicity, it recognises two central facts about human beings:

1) We don't know what we're supposed to be doing.
2) Even when we do know what we're supposed to be doing, we don't do it.

It's easy for Christians to get hung up on these two facts, to become paralysed with the fear of sinning so that we cannot do anything, which in itself is a sin. God is remarkably generous with the gift of free-will. We have an enormous freedom to become the person whom God created us to be despite the attempts by the Adversary to stop us. What does God want of us? Keep the commandments: love Him most, love others too. We cannot disobey God if we fulfil these rules. But the trouble with love is that it calls us to walk right up to the boundary of sin and to skirt that boundary continually. Go over that boundary and we sin; withdraw from that boundary and we are not loving enough.

We constantly fall one way or the other, and Cranmer prays that we strike the balance between not doing enough and going too far in our attempts to love our neighbour. We will go wrong, but have a merciful God, as Cranmer recognises in his collect. How far away are you from the boundary?

Jonathan Munn (with minor additions by EP)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Light and Fire and Fleshly Vault

  • January 5, 2007. Alice Linsley, in a mediation on the Epiphany(below), wrote this:

  • "I had the following dream, unlike my usual dreams, which are narrative. This dream was iconic.
    I stood beneath a dark vault of sky and suddenly a huge star shot from the east and shone immediately over the center and I heard a voice say, "I am the Light in the tabernacle." Then the sky changed to the Virgin's pregnant belly where a ball of fire spun and I heard: "I am the Fire that does not consume the Virgin's vault."
    Wow! Lord, have mercy on me."

  • Her words stirred something very deep, and a poem had to come.

    Light and Fire and Fleshly Vault
  • A Star!
    A light blazing on high!
    A radiance dimming every light,
    in the brightness of its shining,
    and lighting every darkness lurking
    in the shadows of a sinful world.
    A voice!
    A Voice!
    The Voice!
    Resounding through the heavens,
    filling Earth,
    shaking hearts,
    proclaiming glory,
    and the fullness of the Presence:
    “I am the Light
    of the Tabernacle
    of the Most High!”
    A vault!
    A womb!
    A Mother swollen with the holy Fire,
    the Fire that burns away the ugly sin,
    destroys the work of fallen angels,
    and takes flesh.
    “I am the Fire,” says he,
    “that does not consume
    what I have ordained.”
    “That does not consume,” says He,
    the holy Virgin’s vault,
    but takes its flesh to be My own.”
    And God said, “Let there be Light!”
    And there was Light.”
  • ------------ed pacht

The Collect - Epiphany

The Prayer

O GOD, which by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant, that we, which know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through Christ our Lord.


This prayer, by the hand of Archbishop Cranmer, is based on an older prayer in the Gregorian Sacramentary and packs a great deal of meaning. The collect remains unchanged in the various editions of the Book of Common Prayer until the 1979 prayer book, which changed the prayer to read:

“O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.”

Compare the ECUSA collect to the Ambrosian collect for Epiphany:

“O God, who hast hallowed this day of election by the first-fruits of the Gentiles, and by the star of thy light hast plainly shewed thyself unto us: grant, we beseech thee, that the new and marvellous brightness of the heavens may ever arise in our hearts; who livest and reigneth with thee...”

It is evident that the ECUSA revision strays from the more profound meaning, evidenced by the deletion of the words “fruition” or “first-fruits.” The miraculous star manifests the birth of God’s only begotten Son, the fruit of the Virgin’s womb. The focus is on the Divine Fruit, of which we partake now by faith and “after this live” may enjoy in glory.


The 1549 collect places stress at exactly the right point: the star as a visible sign of the appearing of Christ, perfect Sacrament. Those who made gods of the stars, were by a star lead to adore the one Eternal God. The Orthodox prayer for Christmas Day expresses this well:

“Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.
For by it those who worshipped the stars,
Were taught by a star to adore Thee,
The Sun of Righteousness.
And to know Thee the Orient from on high,
O Lord, Glory to Thee!

In preparing this meditation I had the following dream, unlike my usual dreams, which are narrative. This dream was iconic.

I stood beneath a dark vault of sky and suddenly a huge star shot from the east and shone immediately over the center and I heard a voice say, "I am the Light in the tabernacle." Then the sky changed to the Virgin's pregnant belly where a ball of fire spun and I heard: "I am the Fire that does not consume the Virgin's vault."

Wow! Lord, have mercy on me.

Alice Linsley

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Lies and Slander

A few days ago, a comment was posted by a reader who accused me of “lies and slander” because of my completely accurate remarks about deceptive statements by Elaine Pagels. Her works belong to a new category of scholarship that does not have at its heart a desire to learn facts, to research all of the relevant available documents, and try to understand real history. It belongs, rather, to this new kind of scholarship (new as in about 100 years old) that is more akin to a legal brief than to anything truly scientific. Just enough facts are gathered for an advocate to make a case, and all opposing facts are completely overlooked.

The first time I witnessed her ability to distort history was on television several years ago, and what I heard was quite astonishing. She stated her own history of the ancient Church, one in which women had all the authority. This, in itself, is not only a false history, but a demonstration that her mind works along political lines that would have been alien to the ancient Christians. She went on to say that Saint Ignatius of Antioch wrote his epistles that placed emphasis on the authority of bishops (more than simple authority was taught by Ignatius), because he wanted to strengthen his own power. Of course, the truth is that Saint Ignatius wrote all of those epistles after his death sentence, as he was being taken by soldiers to Rome where he was to die in the arena, and after he had left behind all of the authority and responsibility that he had in the Church in Antioch to a new bishop, being led away as a prisoner in chains. Whether or not a person like Elaine Pagels wants to agree with the teaching about the epicopal office contained in his letters, he could not have furthered his “power” in any possible way, because he was going to be killed in a very short time, executed as entertainment for a crowd of Roman pagans.

Pagels’ writings about Saint Irenaeus (c.132-202) portray another ancient bishop as a man trying to strengthen his own power, as a rather nasty fellow who suppressed the truth just to amplify his own position. The truth is, every time a bishop held his head up during the days of the Roman persecution, he took his life in his hands. Every time he drew attention to himself he risked death. As Saint Gregory the Great reminds us, early on in Pastoral Care, the bishops of the early centuries were the first in line to be martyred.

How tragic it is that a modern feminist, thinking in worldly terms, ascribes mean motives to great saints who faced the penalty of death every day of their lives. The idea that their service was about power is rather ridiculous, because they had no power in a time when they were living like fugitives, always subject at any moment to someone’s whim to denounce them to the authorities to be killed. Their lives were spent on the altar of sacrifice every day. It was not about power.

Saints Irenaeus of Lyons and Ignatius of Antioch are not here to defend their own reputations. Talk about lies and slander.
By the way, here are the two relevant comments, the first by my detractor, the second my reply:

Jordan Stratford+ said...
Her claim was that she discovered these ancient writings and that the Church has been hiding them away from the world, due to their fear that the Gnostic writings would be discovered, and prove that there were different versions of Christianity from the start. (quoting me)

Dr. Pagels has never claimed to have discovered anything. You are no doubt aware of this. So why say what you know is not true?

She made up a few fictional items to elaborate on genuine history in the process, such as making up entire passages from her own mind and attributing them to one of the Church fathers. (again, quoting me)

While she has been accused of taking some passages out of context to support her thesis, your claim that she "made up a few fictional items" is bearing false witness. Shame on you.And your use of the term scholar in quotes to somehow imply that Dr. Pagels is not one is simply an ad hominem attack - uncharitable and un-Christian.Lies and slander. This is what you preach for the first Sunday after Christmas?
7:06 PM

I replied with the facts, as follows:

Fr. Robert Hart said...
About Pagel’s claim to have discovered suppressed writings, here are her words from Beyond Belief), p.31 ;

"When I entered the Harvard doctoral program, I was astonished to hear from the other students that Professors Helmut Koester and George MacRae, who taught the early history of Christianity, had file cabinets filled with 'gospels' and 'apocrypha' written during the first centuries… When my fellow students and I investigated these sources we found that they revealed diversity within the Christian movement that later, 'official' versions of Christian history had suppressed so effectively that only now in the Harvard graduate school, did we hear about them."

But, the "suppression" she wites about never occurred, and one did not have to explore file cabinets in Harvard to find these Gnostic works. One needed only to read some of the Fathers of the Church, which makes her ignorance until that time (as a Doctoral student) rather puzzling. First I quote Pagels herself, and then a comment by Matthew Gross (I will prvide the link to the full work by Gross).

On page 97 of Beyond Belief, Pagels has simply invented a lie, or fiction if you prefer, which she repeated later in the book (on p. 176):

“But in 367 [AD] Athanasius, the zealous bishop of Alexandria––an admirer of Irenaeus––issued an Easter letter in which he demanded that Egyptian monks destroy all writings, except for those he specifically listed as 'acceptable,' even 'canonical' …But someone––perhaps monks at the monastery of St. Pachomius––gather dozens of the books Athanasius wanted to burn, removed them from the monastery library, sealed them in a heavy, six-foot jar, and intending to hide them, buried them on a nearby hillside near Nag Hammadi.”

Gross says it simply:
“In this section of the chapter, Pagels continues her claim that Irenaeus and later Athanasius acted in an authoritarian manner, demanding that certain writings be destroyed. Pagels evidence for this is Athanasius’ Easter letter of 367. However, Athanasius letter of AD 367 does not contain any demands that any writings be destroyed. It does not address Egyptian monks at all. It does not name any specific writings other than ones that are acceptable or canonical. At this critical point it appears that Pagelian orthodoxy has slipped into the realm of falsehood, of myth, and of speculation in an attempt to bolster its plausibility.”

Gross further writes: "Pagels was forced to mischaracterize the writings of Athanasius and actually resorted at one point to fabricating a quote in order to make her point.”

Here is the Link:

Other such critiques are available, and here is a link to one more:

For now this should keep you busy.

10:31 PM

Monday, January 01, 2007

"Twixt Stirrup and Ground ..."

... mercy he sought and mercy he found."

A comment I made in an internet discussion group about the state of Saddam Hussein's soul has caused quite a debate. What I said is, that it appeared as if Saddam had gone to his death unrepentant of the evil he had done, and that, as a result, he is now in hell.

That prompted some interlocutors to raise the old canard about how God just might give him one last chance. In its extreme, it led one person to suggest that it was somehow unhealthy for us to dwell on such things. He asked: "Is arguing about the ultimate fate of someone else's soul something that affects the person making the argument?"

The following was my response. I would be interested in hearing what you have to say.

The answer is, unequivocally, yes.

The Four Last Things -- Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell -- are central to
Christian doctrine as held by the church catholic and are something about which each one of us should have as clear an understanding as possible. The simple reason is that, in due course, they will apply directly to each one of us.

We all die. We will all be subjected to judgment. And we will all go either to heaven or hell. It is something that does affect us, and something that we should ponder and discuss.

A fundamental tool of teaching is the case study. And a fundamental way to learn how to live a righteous life is to imitate the lives of those who have gone before; most importantly, Christ himself, but also his saints. The flip side of that is to avoid imitating the lives of those who have not shown themselves to be righteous.

Discussing the life and death of someone so notoriously evil as Saddam Hussein can be illuminating. Hopefully, none of our lives will mirror his in the enormity of the evil he did. But each of us is equal to Saddam in one thing -- if we do not repent of the evil we have done and of the good we have failed to do, then our souls are forfeit.

None of this is to say that we should gloat over the fact that Saddam, as I firmly believe, is in hell. Indeed, it should be a cause of great sadness. It is for me. How I would have rejoiced to see a transformation "twixt stirrup and ground."