Saturday, November 29, 2008

Advent I

Painting by El Greco

(A re-run. I wrote this last year, but was not scheduled to preach that Sunday. I don't think I can top it.)

Romans 13:8-13
Matthew 21:1-13

What a confusing choice for today's Gospel, the same reading we have in the Blessing of the Palms before the Palm Sunday Mass. What does this have to do with the main theme of Advent, that we must be prepared for the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in glory to judge both the quick and the dead? After all, as everyone should know, it is about our own real preparation to come face to face with God. The season is about the Four Last Things, death, judgment, Heaven and Hell. Among these, heaven and Hell take on powerful significance as the Resurrection to immortality, to live and reign with Christ forever, and the resurrection of those who will go into the lake of fire. As the Lord said: "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."1 In light of these themes, it is not enough to be aware of the joy that awaits those who will enter the blessed state of glorification as the sons of God. We must also be aware of the terror of the Lord so as to persuade men,2 including ourselves, to be in a state of Grace at all times.

Several religious leaders from various churches must have voted, about a century or more ago, to close Hell. Like some prisons, it has perhaps become overcrowded, and so nobody else can go there, even though some people are dying to get in. Why else would it sound so strange to hear me preach about it? Maybe Hell has become the sort of topic, like for example sin, that we cannot discuss in Church. It's not nice, it's not warm and fuzzy, and it contributes, no doubt, to global warming. The problem is, the ultimate "fire and brimstone" preacher in the Bible is Jesus Christ-no more Mr. Nice Guy to anyone shocked to learn it. Yes, St. John the Baptist has a few words to say about it. St. Paul never mentions it directly, though clearly warning about it indirectly. Some theologians want to blunt the effect of every passage that does mention it. If we are to be serious about the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must face this subject, namely, the danger of being lost forever, going into the outer darkness "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."3 The Greek word for that ultimate Hell is Ge'enna (γέεννα). It refers to a terrible place mentioned in the Old Testament as a site where children were murdered in sacrifice to Molech, the Valley of Ben-Hinnom. In the First century A.D., this place had become a dump, and trash was burned there day and night. In that dump the worm was kept alive, and fires were always burning. And so, our Lord spoke of it in terms of that final and dreadful verse in the Book of Isaiah: "And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh."4 The terror of the Lord that ought to persuade each of us, and with which it is a mercy to persuade others, is that of being thrown away as the garbage.

No one need be thrown away, because God "commandeth all men everywhere to repent."5 The Gospel command to repent is also a word of hope. It is centered on the grace of God, and the love of God that has its ultimate expression and manifestation, its ultimate revelation, in the cross of Christ. 6 How simple and yet powerful are those words of St. Paul, "Christ died for our sins."7 In that light, we can embrace the command to repent in such a way as to be filled with joy because of the hope given to us. "Repent, confess, thou shalt be loosed from all."8 This alone gives hope. A false gospel of acceptance and inclusion cannot revive and comfort anyone's conscience. The words of today's Epistle tell us how to live our lives in this world in the fear of God, and also in the grace of God. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. "

Why this selection from the Gospels? Why this picture of Christ being welcomed as the Son of David, the king, and then getting off from the back of the donkey, going into the temple, and casting out the money changers? We understand why this leads to the Passion, and is read at the start of Holy Week when we bless the palms. We understand that other judgment, that in the cross of Christ it was the Prince of this world who was judged and cast out. 9 When we begin Holy Week it makes sense. What, however, does this have to do with the coming again in glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, to judge the quick and the dead? As an event in history, how do we place some meaning of it in the future? as a recorded past event, how does it find its way into eschatology?

The simple answer (so obvious once we realize it) is that, in her wisdom, the Church puts before our eyes this picture of our Lord Jesus Christ from his first coming that most closely resembles what we may expect in his second coming. Here is the Lord who suddenly comes to his temple and cleanses it. We see the Lord who casts out from the place of that holy presence of the Shekinah, those who have been living in unrepenent sin. The authority of the Lord, to mete out judgment, to evict sinners from his presence, to cleanse, to purge, and to purify, is seen in this Gospel passage. That harder side of the One who was able to forgive and heal with compassion is here made visible. This picture shows the judgment of the Lord; it shows his unique authority as the Word and Son of the Everlasting Father, that power that comes so genuinely from within himself that all of these men felt compelled to obey his voice, and had no power in themselves to resist his words of eviction from the Holy Place. He had no visible army to carry out his commands, no soldiers to enforce his decree; and yet his power was such that no one could resist, and no one could refuse. Just as he had power to cast out demons so that people would not be tormented any longer, so his word with power casts out willful sinners so that they can no longer defile. Yes, this is the best picture we have of the Lord who comes again as Judge.

St. Peter wrote: "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"10 If we allow the work of the Holy Spirit among us, we will experience that gentle judgment that saves us here and now. After all, even though St. Peter makes direct reference to the End, that is the Last Day when Christ comes again, and does so with words to place the fear of God in our hearts, he begins with "the time is come." If the message is to do with "the end" of those who are removed, thrown into the dump of Ge'enna with its nourished worms and perpetual burnings, what judgment is there that begins now, and does so in the house of God? Jesus cast out the works of darkness from the house of God, the temple in Jerusalem, by casting out those who worked that darkness openly and unashamed, and who insulted the holy place no less than the sons of Eli had done long before.11 But, St. Peter urges us with a present hope: "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God." What is this judgment that must begin now? It is the very self-examination that aids those who repent to make a good confession of their sins with all of the sincerity of a heart moved by the Holy Spirit.

What are we planning to do here today? What follows every sermon in a Mass? Before I supply the answer, let us recall that other name, that specifically Anglican name that we give to this service: "The Holy Communion." Other names are good too, such as The Divine Liturgy (the Orthodox name), and the Holy Eucharist. But, I like the Anglican name, The Holy Communion. It was first used to make something very clear to the people of the Church of England, which is that the purpose of the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood, is that it be taken and received. The Catechism tells us that two of the sacraments are generally necessary for salvation, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The purpose of coming here and receiving this Blessed Sacrament is to feed on the Living Bread that comes down from heaven, which if a man eat, he may live forever. Jesus told us that this is the food of eternal life, to eat his flesh and drink his blood.12 First we make confession of sin based on the self-examination we should make every time; as St.Paul wrote: "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup."13 It is in that self-examination and the resulting genuine confession, that we prepare for the coming of the Lord right now, that is, his coming to our altar, and then into our very mouths as we eat and drink the food and drink of eternal life. If we live always ready for this Sacrament, we will live also always ready to meet the Lord face to face. I close by quoting myself from another sermon for the First Sunday in Advent.

In this Gospel passage, we see important elements of His Second Coming, elements that are true to the Person of the Son of God, the everlasting Son of the everlasting Father. He is the only king and savior. He is the judge “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matt. 3:12).” Judgment will begin at the House of God, until His whole creation is cleansed and purified, made ready for a habitation of His righteousness, a dwelling place of His glory among men. The purpose of a Penitential season is to learn to sharpen and focus our self-examination, the same self-examination that we should do every time we draw near to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. I know that a “feel good” religion is the popular model for success in today’s “spiritual” market; but the only good feeling we should ever trust is that spoken of by the Psalmist: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered (Psalm 32:1).”

To be ready for the last Judgment, we must be willing to let the Holy Ghost shake up our world, we must allow Him to shake up our very selves. Indeed, to prepare for the coming again of Jesus Christ, we must draw near "with hearty repentance and true faith" in order to make a good confession, sincere and resolute of purpose to "walk in newness of life ." Indeed, to prepare for the coming again of Jesus Christ, we need do no more, and no less, than we do when we prepare to receive Communion.

1. John 5:28, 29
2. II Corinthians 5:11
3. Mark 9:42-50
4. Isaiah 66:24
5. Acts 17:30
6. Romans 5:8
7. I Corinthians 15:3
8 From Weary of Earth and laden with my sin, Hymn 58 in The Hymnal 1940.
9. John 12:31, 32
10. I Peter 4:17, 18
11. I Samuel 2:12f
12. John 6:26-59
13. I Corinthians 11: 29

What is Receptionism?

that is, what is it if we are to discuss it in purely Anglican terms?

XXIX. Of the wicked which do not eat the body of Christ, in the use of the Lord's Supper.

The wicked and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as S. Augustine saith) the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ, but rather to their condemnation do eat and drink the sign or sacrament of so great a thing.

What does this mean? And what might it have to do with the popular charge that Anglicans taught, or at least allowed, some doctrine called Receptionism? And, what if they did-what would that have meant? We know what it would have meant to a Calvinist or a Zwinglian, but what would it have meant to an Anglican?

To answer this we need to look again at one of the formularies, the Homily on the worthy Receiving of the Sacrament.

Take then this lesson (O thou that art desirous of this Table) of Emissenus a godly Father, that when thou goest vp to the reuerend Communion, to be satisfied with spirituall meates, thou looke vp with fayth vpon the holy body and blood of thy GOD, thou maruayle with reuerence, thou touch it with the minde, thou receiue it with the hand of thy heart, and thou take it fully with thy inward man (Eusebius Emissenus, Serm. de Euchar.).

This needs to be considered along with both Article XXIX, and with two parts of the scripture that require serious thought. That is because a careless reading will lead one to think that the scriptures contradict themselves on a matter of doctrine, and that St. Paul had a "high" sacramental theology, but that St. John must have had a "low" one. Modern people might indeed fall into the trap of pitting their words against each other, if not for the fact that both are part of scripture. Furthermore, we must look at history as well.

In fact, we shall begin with that history. By the time of the different Reformations (my use of the plural is quite deliberate) the people who attended Church were content to "hear Mass" as they generally ignored the actual Latin service. Historians have written of people doing everything from praying to conducting business, and even of gambling. But, when the bell was rung, they looked at the elevated sacrament, crossed themselves, and then went back to whatever they were doing. Only on rare occasions did any of the people go forward to receive the sacrament. The pioneer, among the English, who first taught the value of frequent communion, was Thomas Cranmer himself, Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of King Henry VIII and his son Edward.

Along with prayers in a tongue that the people can understand, and the Bible in their own language as well, Cranmer sought to emphasize that the purpose of the sacrament was not adoration from a distance, but the actual receiving of it. For this reason the first Book of Common Prayer (1549) gave the service a long title with a new name: "The Supper of the Lorde and holy Communion, commonly called the Masse." This was shortened later, and it is customary for Anglicans to call the Mass, Holy Communion. Frankly, this is a better name, since it means something of theological significance that the older name simply lacks, and because it is drawn out of scripture.

The Anglican emphasis on receiving the sacrament required, however, sober attention to what St. Paul wrote in I Corinthians chapter 11:

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (vs. 26-31)

Therefore, this exhortation was written into the Holy Communion service of 1549 (and a modern version can be found in every edition of the Book of Common Prayer, though later it was reserved to be read only on certain Sundays):

Derely beloved in the Lord, ye that mynde to come to the holy Communion of the bodye and bloude of our savior Christe, must considre what S. Paule writeth to the Corinthians, how he exhorteth all persones diligently to trie and examine themselves, before they presume to eate of that breade, and drinke of that cup: for as the benefite is great, if with a truly penitent heart, and lively faith, we receive that holy Sacrament; (for then we spiritually eate the fleshe of Christ, and drinke his bloude, then we dwell in Christ and Christ in us, wee bee made one with Christ, and Christ with us;) so is the daunger great, yf wee receyve the same unworthely; for then wee become gyltie of the body and bloud of Christ our savior, we eate and drinke our owne damnacion, not considering the Lordes bodye.

This brings us to the problem of a simplistic reading of St. Paul and St. John.

Jesus said: "
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:54) Nonetheless, St. Paul warns that one can eat and drink damnation to himself, the opposite of salvation and eternal life, the opposite of being raised with the immortal and glorified Christ when he comes again on the Last Day. A simplistic reading of John's words could make that salvation appear all too easy, just as easy as the Baptist revivalist who thinks that one public act of "accepting Jesus" absolves him of all past, present and future sins. It could create in the mind a high sacramental version of "once saved always saved-perserverence of the saints- eternal security." That is, presumption on the grace of God that life in Christ need not involve repentance, or any moral effort whatsoever.

Anglican formularies that teach the need to receive the sacrament with faith, to receive it in a spiritual manner (a spiritual manner while receving physically through the mouth), are quite consistent with the text of John's words: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life." (vs. 47, 48) It is very obvious that Jesus spoke of believing in him in the context of following him as one of his disciples, and this most certainly does involve repentance and moral effort. So, it is that in our Holy Communion service no one is actually invited to receive the sacrament without meeting the requirements specified in the General Confession and Absolution. We all know those words, and they are summarized best from the Absolution: "Hearty repentance and true faith."

Because Jesus said so very simply, "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day," all of the Prayer Book statements, and Article XXIX, are undoubtedly quite true. Frankly, we need this understanding to reconcile the words of St. John with the words of St. Paul. On one hand, the person who receives Communion without "hearty repentance and true faith" cannot possibly be eating and drinking in such a way as to receive Christ in the sacrament, for then he would have eternal life and a certain hope of the resurrection. Whatever this may do to "transubstantiation" and the "Real Presence," it is undoubtedly the only possible conclusion.

And yet, St. Paul does teach that the Real Presence was a reason why the person who receives in an unworthy manner receives damnation: "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" (reflected in the Exhortation, "so is the daunger great, yf wee receyve the same unworthely; for then wee become gyltie of the body and bloud of Christ our savior, we eate and drinke our owne damnacion, not considering the Lordes bodye"). It is the Lord's body he has eaten, and yet he has not fed on Christ, the Bread of Life. Whether or not one likes Article XXIX, one cannot dismiss it, for it says nothing different from what may be drawn out of scripture, and thereby proved true. This doctrine, which one may call Receptionism of a certain kind, neither contradicts the Real Presence or the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI when he modifies the definition of "transubstantiation" in a very Anglican manner.

The problem is this: Attempts to explain the sacrament perfectly to the satisfaction of the human mind are futile, as are attempts to explain the Incarnation and the Trinity. We will never remove the mystery from the Mystery. Christ's Real Presence in the sacrament itself cannot really be explained; and why would we even want to explain it? I am content to know that if I played chess with God, I would lose. I do not want to try to put God under a microscope and describe him, or his mysteries. I must take and eat, I must drink, with hearty repentance and true faith. What needs a thorough transubstantiation, after all, is me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Transubstantiation and the Black rubric

a. Council of Trent, Session 13
On Transubstantiation.

And because that Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which He offered under the species of bread to be truly His own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation.

b. Article XXVIII. Of the Lord's Supper.

THE Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves, one to another, but rather it is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ. Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions. The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith. The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

c. The "Black Rubric"

"Whereas it is ordained in this Office for the Administration of the Lord's Supper, that the Communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved: It is hereby declared, That thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine there bodily received, or unto any Corporal Presence of Christ's natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ's natural Body to be at one time in more places than one."

d. From God is near Us, (2003, San Fransisco, Ignatius Press) by Pope Benedict XVI, (published initially under the name Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger)

The Lord takes possession of the bread and the wine; he lifts them up, as it were, out of the setting of their normal existence into a new order; even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different.


Internet theology suffers from two defects: 1) Knee-jerk reaction and 2) Nominalism. Not that the internet is the cause of these problems, inasmuch as it is merely one very fast method of communication that displays the general working of human reason in both its glory and ugliness, its strength and its feebleness. Everyone knows that the Earth is flat; or, at least everyone knew this until it was proved otherwise; but even then, everyone knew that the sun, moon and stars orbited the earth until that irksome troublemaker Copernicus came along, and demonstrated otherwise, as if we really needed to know about the Solar System. Well, he can't spoil this one: Everyone knows the clear dividing line between Protestants and Catholics, especially when it comes to all this stuff about the Eucharist and Christ's Real Presence. And, as everybody knows, there is certainly no mystery about the sacrament. It either is or it ain't. Knee-jerk reaction and Nominalism aren't dead yet. What could be more obvious than the fact that all of the above quotations cannot be reconciled? It is every bit as obvious as the fact that the Earth is flat as a pancake.

For centuries our Roman Catholic brethren have charged that Anglicans, by denying transubstantiation, have rejected any concept of the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament. Adding to their voice has been the inferiority complex of some Anglo-Catholics who assume that this charge is true, since, like the flatness of the Earth, it is so damned obvious. There it is in black and red, especially in the "Black Rubric." This fact is safe and secure unless some theological Copernicus should happen to come along. Unfortunately, for knee-jerk Nominalists everywhere, that Copernicus has come along, thinking like an Anglican, reasoning like a Prayer-Book Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI has weighed in.

Using our heads

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy...mind." It is simply astounding that so many people insist on throwing around words without stopping to consider the basic problem of communication. Words require definition, especially in a science. And, that is exactly what theology is, in fact "the Queen of the sciences." It does no good to use a weighty word like "transubstantiation" without pausing to make sure we have a definition that is both acceptable and commonly known to all parties. Such has not been the case with this word. Furthermore, the definition given in the Council of Trent is not helpful at all, since it begs the philosophical craftsmanship that Rome's best minds have tackled only in modern times, especially Joseph Ratzinger who penned the homily from which the above quotation is taken. From the 16th century until the late 20th century, "transubstantiation" was a Nominalist buzz-word, and a superficial bone of contention.

When Anglicans rejected "transubstantiation" they were quite right. They were not rejecting the Real presence of Christ in the sacrament at all, especially inasmuch as they affirmed it clearly in the Holy Communion service of the Book of Common Prayer: "Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood..." Not symbols, not memorials, not metaphors; like St. Paul writing to the Corinthians, they simply affirmed the truth that the bread and wine were in fact the Body and Blood of Christ. In the words of Queen Elizabeth I: "'Twas God the word that spake it, He took the Bread and brake it; And what the word did make it, That I believe and take it."

So, why do I say the Anglicans were right? The answer to how the Anglicans were able to reject "transubstantiation" and yet not reject, as we mean the expression today, the Real Presence is in that very "Black Rubric" that far too many Anglo-Catholics find embarrassing. For heaven's sake-if they would only think about it, they would be glad that the offending passage clears them of the Roman-Polemicist charge. For, it demonstrates that the entire problem was simply one of definition.

Many times I have pointed out that when the Anglicans of past generations rejected "transubstantiation" it was not the same doctrine that modern Roman Catholics believe, and not the same doctrine that Pope Benedict XVI carefully laid out (as a corrective, I might add, in case any of his own people were still thinking along the early Medieval lines he so strongly denounced). They were rejecting, as Pope Benedict does, a "crude material understanding" by which the bread becomes flesh and the wine becomes blood physically, or materially. They were rejecting, as Pope Benedict felt compelled in modern times to teach his own people to reject, a definition of "transubstantiation" by which the conversion of "the whole substance" means that the appearance of bread and wine conceals the physical reality of Christ's flesh and blood. They were sure that what the Council of Trent was teaching actually did amount to cannibalism, an eating of human flesh and and drinking of human blood, which thing they saw as an abomination and superstition that overthrew the nature of a sacrament.

When I have pointed this out, Roman Catholic Polemicists have reacted instead of responding. "That's not what we ever believed." This answer is not at all useful, since the issue here is one of perception. Furthermore, then Archbishop, later Cardinal, Ratzinger-now the Pope-saw a need to teach this clearly to his own people:

Jesus is not there like a piece of meat, not in the realm of what can be measured and quantified...How should we relate to reality? What is "real"?...Concerning the Eucharist it is said to us: The substance is transformed, that is to say, the fundamental basis of its being...Whenever the Body of Christ, that is, the risen and bodily Christ, comes, he is greater than the bread, other, not of the same order. The transformation happens, which affects the gifts we bring by taking them up into a higher order and changes them, even if we cannot measure what happens...The Lord takes possession of the bread and the wine; he lifts them up, as it were, out of the setting of their normal existence into a new order; even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different.

Maybe this is what the Council of Trent meant, using unfortunate wording that lent itself to misunderstanding. Then again, considering the period, maybe not. Nonetheless, it is the fault of Rome, not of Canterbury, that this confusion was allowed to go unchecked until modern times. A few simple words could have clarified everything much sooner. Yet, even as late as my own childhood in the 1950s and 1960s, those words had not come.

Thinking philosophically

Pope Benedict gets to a very important issue, namely the nature of reality. Even a term as strong as "a conversion...of the whole substance" needed never to have caused such division and confusion, inasmuch as a spiritual reality is every bit as real as a physical one. "The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner." In every way, these words are compatible with the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI, and the definition that has finally been given in our day of the word "transubstantiation." Even the "Black Rubric" is perfectly compatible with this. "For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances...and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ's natural Body to be at one time in more places than one." Or, as the Pope put it, "The Lord takes possession of the bread and the wine; he lifts them up, as it were, out of the setting of their normal existence into a new order; even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different."


The real problem with the "Black Rubric" is not that it is wrong, but that it is no longer relevant, and no longer guards against any genuine danger of the mind slipping into idolatry, inasmuch as the old confusion has cleared away. This brings us to but one matter that requires clarification. The Anglican caution about adoration of the sacrament is not referring to veneration, but to worship, that specific worship (latreia, λατρεία) due only to God himself. Here it may be argued that if we believe in the Real Presence of Christ, then our adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is directed to God the Son, not to the physical elements. However, that kind of reasoning takes us to a different category than what the "Black Rubric" actually addressed. The sort of adoration it warned against would be quite wrong. For, it warned against adoration of a "Corporal Presence of Christ's natural Flesh and Blood." Such a corporal presence is not what the Church teaches, rendering such adoration misplaced. Not to be irreverent, but if we placed the sacramental body and blood of Christ under a microscope, we would see wheat and the blood of grapes. Neither could we find in them the DNA of Jesus of Nazareth; and yet He is in those elements, and is present in very truth, as real as reality can be, Present as the food and drink of eternal life. And, this is what Anglicans have always called "the nature of a sacrament."

So, it is past the time to throw away knee-jerk reaction and Nominalism, to follow the example of Pope Benedict XVI, and to both think and communicate with clarity. It may be less fun than a barn-yard scrap or a two-fisted saloon brawl, such as internet theology often is. But, that is simply the pain of growing up.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Screwtape's boast shot to hell

From Letter XVI, The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis

We have quite removed from men's minds what that pestilent fellow Paul used to teach about food and other unessentials-namely, that the human without scruples should always give in to the human with scruples. You would think they could not fail to see the application. You would expect to find the "low" churchman genuflecting and crossing himself lest the weak conscience of his "high" brother should be moved to irreverence, and the "high" one refraining from these exercises lest he should betray his "low" brother into idolatry. And so it would have been but for our ceaseless labour. Without that, the variety of usage within the Church of England might have become a positive hotbed of charity and humility.

This past Sunday I saw, once again, that the know-it-all critics of Anglicanism have been wrong - as usual. I was in Alexandria, Virginia, assisting a brother priest with a very large congregation of over three hundred (with lots of young people and children- not at all strange in the ACC around here). This parish was formed by combining two parishes in one town, a very "low" church congregation and a very "high" church congregation, as one parish. To respect the legitimate needs of everybody, there are three services each Sunday, one "low," one "mid" and one "high." Nonetheless, I preached the same sermon at each service, emphasizing the Real Presence in the Holy Communion as a sacrament "generally necessary to salvation." It was the same sermon each time, because variety of usage is not variety of theology, and never has been.

How often has some half-learned writer assured us, with the confidence and smugness of arrogance, that our various practices cannot exist under one roof. By "one roof" they speak figuratively; and yet, they are wrong even when their analogy is tested by literal fact-one actual, real, tangible roof. All the more to be pitied are these smug critics, because they mistake variety of usage for conflicting schools of theology. Granted, at certain times and in certain places, small groups of Anglicans have been so taken by outside influences that they have swallowed alien theological systems that fell under the criticism of our formularies and the men who wrote them as carefully stated ancient Christian faith, with great balance; those who warded off the extremes and innovations of Rome, Anabaptists, Calvinists and Lutherans, to preserve a genuinely Patristic and Biblical Catholic faith. In swallowing these systems some have broken off altogether from Anglicanism to form new church bodies, and others have taught doctrines that contradict the Bible, the Prayer Book, the Articles, and our Catechism. But, until recent decades among the Canterbury Anglicans, vareity in theological convictions was not what anybody had in mind when they saw Anglicanism as comprehensive.

Indeed, as Brian Taylor so carefully documented in Accipe Spiritum Sanctum 1, the first Anglican Bishop, Graham-Brown, who was co-consecrated by the Old Catholic Bishop of Haarlem in 1932, was considered an Evangelical by the standards of that time. His theological convictions were acceptable, nonetheless, to the Old Catholic bishops, including his belief that the Church of England was the same Church after the Reformation as before the Reformation. In those days the Evangelical clergy were expected to have confessors no less than the "high" clergy.

This is confusing to the critics of classic Anglicanism, because they cannot perceive of a church body that allows different practices in the inessential matters, inasmuch as they assume that this must reveal or indicate all sorts of theological conflict. And, on one hand, in light of changes dating from the latter part of the 20th century among the Episcopalians and other modern Canterburians, we cannot always blame these outsiders for getting it wrong. The revisionists and heretics who have stolen away the real estate and worldly assets of such Anglican Communion bodies actually have created rival theological camps, making it easy to project this back into history where it does not belong.

It is easy to shed light on this problem by looking at one very real area of misunderstanding. That is the Eucharistic theology of classic Anglicanism.

We have seen that modern polemical writings by Roman Catholic critics are based on a false assumption, namely that Anglican rejection of "transubstantiation" is still a relevant issue of disagreement between Traditional Anglican Catholics (that should say it all) and Roman Catholics. As we have already discussed in previous posts, 2 this is simply a misunderstanding based on a definition of that one word, "transubstantiation," that has changed, as Rome uses it, from a rather "crude material" understanding to a more spiritual definition that reconciles Transubsatiantion and Real Presence into a common theological view, perfectly consistent with the Anglican Prayer Book tradition: "Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us."

The charge that there was a doctrine of Receptionism that set these things apart from each other has been true outside the main flow of Anglican thought and practice, but never inside of it. Such misunderstanding is due to one simple reality: One is able to comprehend Anglicanism only from the inside, not from the outside. And, even then, it requires a willingness to learn and to live by Lex Orandi Lex Credendi: The Law of prayer is the law of belief-or, as we pray we believe.

In that church in Alexandria, Virginia, Screwtape's boast is demolished, and so are the malicious boasts of polemicists. It is all there under one real, physical, visible and tangible roof.

1. Accipe Spiritum Sanctum, Historical Essays on the agreements of Bonn and Meissen, Guildford, 1995, Great Britain.
2. Certain posts that have addressed this are: A full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice..., About Articles XXVIII and XXIX, Response to Fr. Hunwicke, Pope Benedict's Anglican Mind, and Eating and drinking salvation.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Advent Pro-Life Project

A friend, Fr. David Straw of Trinity UECNA in Evansville Indiana sent me this account of what his parish is doing this Advent. Check out the two websites, one from his parish and the other from the group to benefit.

Here is our parish's Advent project.

Fr. Nolden and I thought it might be nice to do something for the pro-life cause. We decided that we and our parish membership would "put our faith into action". Helping young women who have chosen the life of their children, rather than the darkness and destruction of abortion would help everyone understand better what the birth of our Lord is all about.

Fr. David+

There are Crisis Pregancy centers and similar outreaches everywhere that could be valuable partners for any church desiring to make such a witness. I know of at least one other parish that has followed the lead of these brethren. Could others do likewise?


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Justification by Faith

One of our contributors posted the following in another thread, where it was, as he remarks, somewhat off-topic. I took the liberty of moving it to a new thread right up front, as I think what he has to say is of considerable value, and worthy of discussion on its own merits.


I know this is off-topic, but has anyone else read what the Pope just wrote on justification by faith alone?

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider his teaching on our justification. Paul’s experience of the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus led him to see that it is only by faith in Christ, and not by any merit of our own, that we are made righteous before God. Our justification in Christ is thus God’s gracious gift, revealed in the mystery of the Cross. Christ died in order to become our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (cf. 1 Cor 1:30), and we in turn, justified by faith, have become in him the very righteousness of God (cf. 2 Cor 5:21). In the light of the Cross and its gifts of reconciliation and new life in the Spirit, Paul rejected a righteousness based on the Law and its works. For the Apostle, the Mosaic Law, as an irrevocable gift of God to Israel, is not abrogated but relativized, since it is only by faith in God’s promises to Abraham, now fulfilled in Christ, that we receive the grace of justification and new life. The Law finds its end in Christ (cf. Rom 10:4) and its fulfilment in the new commandment of love. With Paul, then, let us make the Cross of Christ our only boast (cf. Gal 6:14), and give thanks for the grace which has made us members of Christ’s Body, which is the Church. "

In Christ,
St. Worm

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Eduardo Verastegui's pro-life video

The following is from a website run by an actor. This is painful to watch, as painful as the films of Nazi death camps. The problem is that, whereas those films are history, this video falls under the category of current events.

Weep, be shocked, be horrified, but above all, PRAY.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Of Polity and of Essence.

Following an earlier piece I wrote, about the alleged significance of an apparent, but false, agreement between the Two One True Churches concerning us (and our place in the Holy Catholic Church), it is time to question one of their biggest blind spots. And, as always, my purpose is to boost the confidence that Continuing Anglicans have in the teaching and tradition we have inherited.

Once again, I direct your attention to the writings of Richard Hooker, and his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity:

"The matters wherein Church polity is conversant are the public religious duties of the Church, as the administration of the word and sacraments, prayers, spiritual censures, and the like. To these the Church standeth always bound. Laws of polity, are laws which appoint in what manner these duties shall be performed." BOOK III. Ch. xi. 20

Books III and IV of Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity present a defense of Anglicanism against the charges of Calvinists, Book IV defending the continuation of practices that the Calvinists deemed overly- "Romish." Hooker, along with the men who were working to clarify and produce for public use the Articles and other formularies, walked a tightrope trying to balance truth against the very real influences of Calvinists, Lutherans, Rome and the Anabaptists, all of which contradicted the straightforward Catholic-Protestantism (or Protestant-Catholicism) of the Church of England. In so doing his writings produced a system that is often misunderstood. The system requires that we give heed above all to Scripture, that we use Right Reason, and that we obediently receive the teaching of the Church (the latter called simply, Tradition). Unfortunately, this is described wrongly all too often as "the three legged stool," and is misused by revisionists to rule out the authority of both the Scriptures and the Tradition, as if these three things can be weighed against each other instead of taken together. About this error I have written before on this blog.

Nonetheless, what Hooker did give to us provides a hierarchy of authority within the reach of every informed Christian mind. Above all, because the voice of God is heard there loud and clear, we heed the inspired word of God, that is, the Scriptures. Our understanding of the Scriptures must be taught by the Tradition in which they were received. Finally, in areas where the Scriptures do not direct us one way or the other concerning how we carry out the things that God has commanded, we make use of Right Reason. Hooker saw this Right Reason as one and the same with the decrees of wisdom, the same wisdom to which the Scriptures give witness, especially in the Book of Proverbs. To some degree the resulting polity and rules of Right Reason carry the authority of the Church (Tradition), and are subject to change only if this is demanded by Right Reason to meet the needs of the Church in a given time and place, since history is not stagnant. Never does Right Reason lead to a change in the commandments of God, or in the teaching of the Church. It is limited only to matters in which the finite human mind may make rules for order, indeed, must make rules for order. An obvious example is rubrics, and other particular matters of liturgy as well, where we must use wisdom to find the most reasonable and useful way to obey such basic commands as "Do this in remembrance of me."

So too, certain matters of Church polity may require change in accordance with the fluidity of history to meet the needs of churches in various times and places. However, at no time is the Church allowed to meddle with the essential order that God has established. By "essential order" we mean those things that are bon esse- of the essence. For example, learned Anglicans know that the three orders of ministry are of the essence of the Church, and that this includes the unbroken Apostolic Succession of bishops. Indeed, Hooker himself, along with the men who defended the Church of England against "Calvin's Geneva Discipline" (at one point called "crazed" by Hooker), as well as other attempts to reinvent the ecclesiastical wheel, used barrels of ink and mountains of paper, and eventually some shed their blood, to preserve this essential order. The reason is simple: It was established by God with Apostolic witness, and as Hooker noted, nothing else had ever been established by God or practiced in the Church. The Canon Law of the Church of England has always preserved this order, except during the very brief "Protectorate" of Oliver Cromwell, which had no lasting effect whatsoever (having not had time) on the Church of England, but that of making Calvinism completely odious to the people.

Although most of what Hooker had to say in Books III and IV defended Anglicanism against Calvinism, the teaching about Right Reason and polity that we find there guides us in a Catholic evaluation of structures that do not have the witness of Scripture, were not established by the Apostles, but instead grew out of necessity and a proper use of Right Reason to meet the needs of the times. However, these have become confused as essential to the Church simply because of their relative antiquity. The question that Anglicans may ask is whether or not the entire structure of the Patriarchates is truly essential. Is it necessary? Is it permanent? Did we reach a point in history when this structure outlived its usefulness? Did we reach a point in history in which this one-time useful polity may have produced more harm than good, adding to the division rather than to the unity of the Church?

This is not to ask whether or not the Councils of Constantinople (I), Ephesus and Chalcedon were right in establishing an order among the Patriarchates. Rather, is that structure essential, or is the polity of it still demanded by Right Reason? Or, has the fluidity of history brought us to one of two possibilities? 1) If the Patriarchate structure no longer helps, but instead hinders the mission of the Church and our part in that mission, may we freely disregard it until it is truly and properly restored to the ideal condition? 2) Or, is this old structure and polity simply not essential at all, and in fact now a hindrance both to unity and to the mission of the Church; and, therefore, is a loss of the Patriarchates, as a structure, no real loss?

To some degree the Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome and Alexandria had recognition in the era before Constantine and the Toleration. Nonetheless, they took on new power after the persecution was over, and much of their significance was imperial (so too, the later additions of Constantinople, and much later of Moscow). Clearly, the division among the Patriarchs, especially as it continued to develop after 1054, negates the idea that this polity is useful for promoting the unity of the Church. The exile of the original Patriarchate of Alexandria also makes the entire structure appear to be less than rock-solid and completely necessary; as does the freehand that Rome has taken in establishing "Patriarchates," such as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Whether or not the Patriarchates will all become unified once again, and take on some permanent place in an ideally restored Church is a question of the future, perhaps of eschatology. Apart from Divine promises we have no knowledge of the future, just as surely as the future teaches no lessons from which we may learn. Whether or not there is such a Divine promise we may only surmise, basing our various answers on the interpretation we have of Scripture. We do not know if they hold a permanent significance that cannot be seen from our side of history.

But, we can answer the other question in the negative: This structure is not essential. The Patriarchates are not "from the beginning" of the Church, and were not established by the Apostles. Their limited importance is recognized by Rome and Constantinople, at least in their new relations with Oriental churches. Anglicans have always been forced to live without a Patriarch, but this need not hinder us at all. We have the fullness of Catholic doctrine, the charismatic reality of the sacraments, and the clear sound of the Gospel. With all due respect to the Patriarchates, but with appreciation for the certainty that on their own each has erred at some time, we have no reason to end our mission and halt the life of our churches.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

26th Sunday after Trinity

If in any year there be twenty-six Sundays after Trinity, the service for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany shall be used on the Twenty-fifth Sunday. If there be twenty-seven, the service for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany shall be used on the Twenty-sixth, and the service for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany on the Twenty-fifth. If there be fewer than twenty-five Sundays, the overplus shall be omitted.

(Continuum readers: It is always wise to read the appointed readings from scripture first.)

I John 3:1-8
Matthew 24:23-31

The Gospel today is quite sober. It warns of false messiahs and false prophets. "Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." Aside from the very simple and troubled people who get into cults and follow false prophets and false christs, the danger exists of following a more sophisticated falsehood. Where religious error cannot cause great dangers to peoples and nations, political ideology often can. From the time of the French revolution and throughout the time that has followed, political ideology has been a curse of the modern world. It carries the idea that we can establish Utopia on earth if we have the right policies. But, there is no place upon earth that can be perfected, or become a perfect society. The problem that plagues every nation and people is not simply imperfect political structures. The problem is sin and death. It is a false gospel that teaches us to settle for nothing more than some man-made human effort at perfection.

The problem is more basic, and the solution is more radical.

In two weeks the Church's new year begins again, and the Gospel appointed for that Sunday will tell of the Lord entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, entering the temple and driving out the money changers. It always seemed strange to me that the penitential season in which we emphasize the End, the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, takes us back to a specific day in history that ushered in the events of Holy Week, leading to his cross and to his resurrection from the dead. Specifically, we will hear of Jesus driving the money changers out of the house of God, claansing the temple.On that first Sunday in Advent we read that and look backward in time, and that is what seemed strange to me, or out of place. Why not look ahead to his second coming, using passages such as our selected readings for today, or perhaps others that deal with eschatology and the last things? The answer has everything to do with the Epistle and Gospel for today.

Two weeks from now, when we read the Gospel on that first Sunday in Advent, we will be given a picture from our Lord's earthly life, when he came the first time and lived among sinful men, a picture from that day that foretells in a very real way what it means that he will come to judge the quick and the dead. In light of his second coming, we must use this time as the opportunity to prepare ourselves to appear before Christ. St. Peter wrote, "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" (I Pet. 4:17) As Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem, so judgment begins with his temple, the Church which is that temple made of living stones, you and me. So we ought to make ourselves ready for the day in which we shall see him face to face, a day which shall strike terror into an unbelieving world, but that day that will be the fulfillment of all our glorious hope.

We say in Creed, "And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; Whose (that is Christ's) kingdom shall have no end." Make no mistake about it. The only teaching that Christians have ever been given, the only doctrine ever received by the Church and so taught by the Church, is that our ultimate hope is not the intermediate state in heaven or some place of preparation and cleansing (as real as that is); but rather, our ultimate hope is to rise again from the dead and to share the immortal and eternal life of the resurrected Christ. Let me put it simply: Easter is not only an event that happened in the past when Christ rose from the dead; it is for us also the future, when we shall also rise from the dead at his coming. So, in the words of today's Epistle: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." This is our hope, our sure and certain hope of the resurrection.

The Apostle John goes on to tell us the effect that this hope must always have, the manifestation of Christian hope that comes from God's promise of eternal life, our share in Christ's resurrection and complete victory over death: "
And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he (that is, as Christ) is pure." So it is that a true believer cooperates even now with the Lord Jesus Christ in the cleansing of this temple, the Church; and cooperates with the Holy Spirit since each member of the Body of Christ is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is with us for many reasons, such as giving us power for service, gifts by which we help one another, some gifts supernatural in an obvious way and others in a hidden way; and the Holy Spirit is in us to give us utterance of the mysteries of God, to boldly make known the truth of his salvation to the world around us. In today's Epistle we see that he is a cleansing fire burning away the dross of sin, unbelief and every unholy fear. St. John says that everyone who has this hope purifies himself, namely the hope that we will see the risen and glorified Lord at his coming, and be ourselves transformed and made like him. If we are to purify ourselves, above all else, we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit as he sanctifies and makes us ready as a people prepared for the Lord. This is a necessary part of our continued sojourn on earth. This must be part of my life and yours.

Our dross must be cleansed away, and only so can the godly character of virtue, the very character of Jesus Christ, grow in us. I say grow, because we cannot manufacture that life of Christ within ourselves. We have no power to produce it by our own effort. It is planted as a seed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. When I was in Arizona it shocked me to hear a member of my church say, after several months of hearing my preaching, that she thought the whole point of religion was only to make us "better people." Death must be defeated, for it cannot be made better, and the state into which we were born was sin and death. "Better" may be better, rather than worse, but some relative measure of how dead sin and death is, cannot come to our rescue. The work of the Holy Spirit is much more radical, beginning in the waters of baptism where we have died to sin, were buried with Christ and then risen to begin life anew. St. Paul wrote to the Galatians about the difference between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. Works are made, but fruit is grown. The virtuous life of Christ's own character grows in us, above all charity, that love of God described in I Corinthians chapter 13. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, and only of the Holy Spirit.

So, when St. John writes of a hope that makes the believer "purify himself" to be like the Lord Jesus Christ, the first and obvious point is our need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. So, he writes in the present tense. What he says seems impossible: "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him." This is the same Apostle, and in fact the same Epistle, where we find this in the opening chapter: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." (1:8-10) If we are to understand why this is not a contradiction, the same effort to think this through will also help us with his other phrase, that if we have this hope of sharing Christ's resurrection we will purify oursleves "as he is pure." For John never tells us that if we have sinned-past tense-that we do not know Christ.

The use of present tense, "whosoever sinneth," indicates very strongly a willingness to live without repentance, and therefore a willingness to live without God. Every day I look back on my thoughts, words and deeds, and I know that I have sinned. That is very different from making the decision to accept sin as the way of life. I know that I have sinned by the end of each day, rather each hour. But, this is a war, and I do not plan to make peace with sin. Past tense, I have sinned: Present and future tense, I want to follow Christ and know him, and I want to change and become holy. This answer may seem simplistic, but it works. It is the meaning of our powerful invitation to the General Confession: "Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life..." Please, always pay attention to these words, and prepare yourselves with them in mind.

We come here today to feed on the living Christ through the sacrament of his body and blood, and so receive his life to save us from sin and death. Modern people have cut out of our Prayer of Humble Access a little phrase that confuses them, "Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us." They reason that the body cannot be sinful, since it is only a machine without volition. I understand that. But, the very fact that death is, as taught in the Law of Moses, an unclean thing, quite justifies the words of our Anglican prayer. Really, it expresses the glorious hope of St. John's words in the Epistle. As we learn from the sixth chapter of John's Gospel: "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. " (John 6:54) Our sinful bodies, that is, our bodies that are subject to death, are purified and cleansed by eating this sacrament with faith and thanksgiving; our souls are washed as we receive this sacrament of his blood. I love the words from our Prayer of Humble Access, for they speak of the glorious hope that awaits us by the mercy and goodness of God in his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The powerful salvation of God, the glorious hope of the believer, is to be transformed after the pattern of the risen Christ's own immortality, and to be given a share in the power of his unending life. The readings today provide a stark contrast, a contrast we must all heed. We have two ways set before us, the way of life and the way of death. The way of life is this: "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." The other way, the way of death, is the way of fear that has only dread and no hope. The fear that is described by the Lord in the reading from St. Matthew contrasts sharply with the joyous hope in the Epistle. The Lord speaks words of warning, saying that the tribes of the earth shall mourn. Recall those words written in the Book of Isaiah, and quoted by Christ, that they will beg the mountains and rocks to hide them from the face of the Lord. But, when the true believers see the Lord, they will be changed into his image: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." When the unrepentant people of the earth see the same Lord, they want to run for cover out of fear. This is the difference between faith and unbelief, and it is the difference between knowing the Lord and being a stranger to him. Upon seeing him, will you be terrified or transformed? If we know him, and prepare forhis coming, we cannot help but rejoice when he appears.

We have been given many great and glorious promises, all of them personally guaranteed by our Lord on the cross where he died to take away all of our sins, and certified when he rose from the dead on that first Easter, that Passover from death to life, testified and verified in the blood of martyrs. This is our past and the testimony of the Church for every people and all time, that they saw him alive again after his resurrection; and it is our future. We look back to Easter and see his resurrection; we look ahead to Easter, and receive our part in his resurrection when he shall come again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

For kings and all in authority

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (I Timohty 2:1-4)
In my e-mail inbox I receive many items from people who fear that the President-Elect of the United States is either a Muslim, a Marxist, or the Antichrist, or perhaps all three at once as well an invader from Mars (and that despite a good Irish name like O'bama). I do not know about all of these claims, but I do know he is a sinner. I know that I am firmly against things he has voted for both before and after becoming a U.S. Senator, and that I dislike many of the policies he has endorsed or promised to establish. I will not give him a pass when politics and morality overlap, especially on abortion.
Nonetheless, he could not possibly be worse than Nero Caesar, who was ruling at the time St. Paul wrote the words that are quoted above. Let us pray for Barak Obama every day, especially you who are Americans.
O LORD our Governor, whose glory is in all the world; We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and to all in Authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness; and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer 1928 edition, American)

More Catholic than the Pope

The Acting Metropolitan of the Anglican Catholic Church, Archbishop Mark Haverland, wrote the following article, which appears in the current issue of The Trinitarian.


The excellent ‘Continuing Church’ blog called The Continuum recently posted an article on C.S. Lewis and the Roman Catholic Church. The main point of the original posting by Father Robert Hart concerned the foolishness of Roman Catholic wonderment about Lewis’s Anglicanism. Books and articles by Roman Catholics periodically appear that ask, ‘Why didn’t Lewis become a Catholic? ‘ He didn’t become a Roman Catholic because as a well-instructed orthodox Anglican he firmly believed that he already was Catholic. This answer is so obvious that it wouldn’t need to be said if somewhat chauvinistic Romans didn’t keep ignoring it.

I received a recent invitation to Anglican clergy and people to become Roman Catholic. The invitation came in the form of a pamphlet from the Anglican Use Society (‘A Message from Members and Friends of the Anglican Use Congregations in the Catholic Church of the United States to other Christians of the Anglican Tradition on Restoring Communion with the See of Rome’). The pamphlet consistently uses ‘Catholic’ as an exact synonym for ‘Roman Catholic’, in a manner that surely grates on the nerves of the pamphlet’s entire intended audience. Likewise every Anglican clergymen referred to in the pamphlet is called ‘Dr.’ or given no title, so as to avoid, one supposes, any suggestion that Anglican ordinations were ever valid. I understand Roman Catholic theology fairly well, as I have a Master’s degree in the subject from a major Roman Catholic university. I have always said that anyone who can be Roman Catholic should be. But it takes no genius to see that rather gratuitous insensitivity to one’s intended audience will lessen the effectiveness of one’s appeal. Perhaps, since that is so, we should thank the Anglican Use Society for its tactlessness.

More disturbing than this insensitivity is something approaching dishonesty in the pamphlet. The problem will be apparent from a pair of quotations. First the pamphlet says,

Those of us who have entered into full communion with the Catholic Church have taken with us our Anglican/Episcopal heritage of faith and liturgy, devotion, hymnody and scholarship developed and matured especially as a result of the Oxford Movement and the Anglo-Catholic Movement as represented by figures such as...Dr. Eric L. Mascall....

The implication seems to be that Mascall, and others who are named (including C.S. Lewis) were Anglo-papalists. This implication is firmly contradicted by a consideration of Father Mascall’s own writings on the Papacy. Consider this observation from Mascall’s book. Corpus Christi: Essays on the Church and Eucharist (London: Longmans, 1965. 2nd ed. Pages 17f.):

...the Church, as a visible and tangible society, living in the historic process, needs a visible and tangible organ of its unity, though that union is, as I have emphasised, an interior and mystical unity and not a moral or political one. The Church is a visible and tangible society, but it is a sacramental one, and the organ of its unity will be a sacramental organ. This is why, as I see it, the apostolic Episcopate precisely fulfils the requirements for such an organ, for the episcopal character is conferred by a sacramental act. And this is why it seems to me impossible to locate the organ of the Church’s unity in the Papacy, for the papal character is not conferred by a sacramental act at all, but by the purely administrative and organisational process of election. Whether the Papacy has, by divine providence, a unique status in the Church and, if so, what are the functions which rightly attach to it are, of course, important questions, but by its very constitution the Papacy does not, so far as I can see, possess the nature which is required in the organ of the Church’s unity. All that is necessary for the Church flows from a sacrament; the unity of the Church is necessary: therefore the organ of the Church’s unity must be the episcopate, not the papacy. This is the Anglican Catholic and Eastern Orthodox teaching, not the Roman Catholic.

A discussion ensued on the Continuum on the subject, ‘What would Mascall have done?’ given the ordination of women by the Church of England. It’s an interesting question, but rather beside the point. The point is that the clear and sensible theological principles which Mascall states contradict the theory of the papal office required of Roman Catholics since Vatican I. The troubles of an ecclesial body which has abandoned its own sound principles (Church of England) hardly converts the unsound principles of another body into admirable theology. Of course if one accepts papal claims, one should become Roman Catholic. But Father Mascall has explained above in clear and, I think, very sound terms reasons why those claims are false. So I’ll continue being more Catholic than the Pope: which is why C.S. Lewis and Eric Mascall and I - and most of you reading this - were not and are not Roman Catholic.

A worn out gotcha

Among the comments in this blog we saw another one of those "gotchas," manufactured by Polemicists R Us, that is guaranteed to make Anglicans throw their hands in the air, shake their pointed little heads, and beg to be forgiven for five hundred years of mistakes (or is that 450 years of a failed experiment?). The problem is, manufacturers guarantees are designed only to sell products, even products that were built broken and never did work.

I have seen this little "gotcha" before. Back when he was still deciding between the Two One True Churches, Fr. Al Kimel's blog featured it all the time. Here is what the polemical comment said:

The regula fide--under whatever form of his Branch Theory you might use--requires assent by both East and West, but the assent granted by both East and West is that Anglicans are not a part of the Church. But you will not accept that one ruling from them...

This reminded me of one of the "Pontificator's Laws" that said something to this effect: "When Rome and Orthodoxy agree on something and Protestants don't agree, Protestantism loses." Of course, that might make sense as long as the Two One Trues are also right on the particular subject, which is not a given; for, by any rules of logic, all such things must be demonstrated rather than assumed. Also, it requires that we define what and whom we mean by the word "Protestantism," which begs definition these days more than ever. It begs the question, as well, whether or not a restoration of Catholic truth is the same as what Fr. Al the Pontificator meant by "Protestantism."

More to the point of the particular "gotcha" quoted above, and the defect of the manufacturer's guarantee, it is not even true that Rome and Orthodoxy agree on the matter in question. At least two facts stand against the argument.

Orthodoxy has never made an official ruling on any Church except the Orthodox Church. However, the only rulings ever made by Orthodox Patriarchs about Anglicanism were far from anything that could be called agreement with Rome. Specifically, the Orthodox Church wrote of their recognition of Anglican Orders (no small matter) in several letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury beginning in 1922. Also, the meaning of this recognition was clear, inasmuch as the Patriarchs and Archbishops allowed Orthodox Christians to receive Anglican sacraments during a time when Orthodox churches and clergy were few and far between in many western countries, including the United States. This ended in 1976, only because of the heresy of women's "ordination"- a heresy we have rejected from its beginning. (Furthermore, concerning the United States, one Russian bishop's opposite opinion that dates much earlier, to 1904, is not relevant, as the date alone makes obvious.) All of the letters will appear in the appendix below.

I quote an earlier post:

In 1978, after it became clear that churches within the Anglican Communion were “ordaining” women and intent on spreading this untraditional practice, Orthodox Archbishop Athenagoras remarked: “…the theological dialogue [between the Orthodox and the Anglicans] will continue, although now simply as an academic and informative exercise, and no longer as an ecclesial endeavor aiming at the union of the two churches.”(1)

As you can see, the recognition of Anglican orders, and the permission granted to Orthodox Christians from their own bishops, that they could receive sacraments from Anglican priests, was part of an effort to become one Church.(2)

At no time in modern history have the Orthodox Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops allowed any of their people to receive the sacraments of Roman Catholic priests. The fact is, Anglican priests were given this honor, and Roman Catholic priests were not. To this day, even though Rome has opened the door to them, the Orthodox are forbidden to receive sacraments from the Roman Catholic Church. Nonetheless, if not for women's "ordination" the practice might still continue ("might" since many Orthodox churches have since been built where there had been none, eliminating the need to go to anyone else), and the goal of unity would have gone forward. How ironic this is for Continuing Anglicans, since we have never suffered women's "ordination" either.

The second problem with the "gotcha" is that it is basically untrue for an even deeper reason. This is also why the "Pontificator's Law" quoted above is irrelevant to this subject. The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church do not agree about Anglicanism; rather they disagree with each other on which of the two of them is, in fact, Really and Truly The One True Church. Any effect this might have on their consideration of any other church is merely an extension of this, their basic disagreement with each other. This disagreement also rules out any validity to their respective doctrines of an exclusive claim to the title, The Holy Catholic Church. That is because it proves immediately that neither claim has Universal consent.

This also begs what I have called the Anglican solution. We look at them and wonder: Why are they blind to the obvious? They are both the One True Church, and so are we. The Anglican solution is summed up not by a Lambeth Conference, not by an ABC, and not even by our Affirmation of St. Louis. Rather, it is summed up by Saint Paul the Apostle:

If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary. -I Corinthians 12: 15-22

Not only does the body need the "two lungs" of east and west; we, the Continuing Anglicans are needed as well. Only by what we have taught all along can these two ancient communions realize that they are already part of One Church, like it or not (in fact, let's hope they learn all this at the Church of the Nativity before Christmas Eve- a little peace would be nice this year).

(1) As quoted in Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue: The Dublin Agreed Statement, (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985), p.3
(2) The permission to receive the sacraments was an official way of treating the Anglican priesthood as completely valid in fact (which pretty much sinks a theory of Metropoltan Kaillstos Ware designed to make it all mean nothing).


Encyclical on Anglican Orders
from the Oecumenical Patriarch to the Presidents of the Particular Eastern Orthodox Churches, 1922

[The Holy Synod has studied the report of the Committee and notes:]

1. That the ordination of Matthew Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury by four bishops is a fact established by history.

2. That in this and subsequent ordinations there are found in their fullness those orthodox and indispensable, visible and sensible elements of valid episcopal ordination - viz. the laying on of hands, the Epiclesis of the All-Holy Spirit and also the purpose to transmit the charisma of the Episcopal ministry.

3. That the orthodox theologians who have scientifically examined the question have almost unanimously come to the same conclusions and have declared themselves as accepting the validity of Anglican Orders.

4. That the practice in the Church affords no indication that the Orthodox Church has ever officially treated the validity of Anglican Orders as in doubt, in such a way as would point to the re-ordination of the Anglican clergy as required in the case of the union of the two Churches.

The Patriarch of JERUSALEM, 1923

The Patriarch of Jerusalem wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the name of his Synod on March 12, 1923, as follows: To His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, First Hierarch of All England, our most beloved and dear brother in our Lord Jesus, Mgr. Randall. Greeting fraternally your beloved to us, Grace, we have the pleasure to address to you the following: Yesterday we dispatched to Your Grace the following telegram: ‘We have pleasure inform Your Grace that Holy Synod of our Patriarchate after studying in several meetings question Anglican Orders from Orthodox point view resolved their validity.' Today, explaining this telegram, we inform Your Grace that the Holy Synod, having as a motive the resolution passed some time ago by the Church of Constantinople, which is the church having the First Throne between the Orthodox Churches, resolved that the consecrations of bishops and ordinations of priests and deacons of the Anglican Episcopal Church are considered by the Orthodox Church as having the same validity which the Orders of the Roman Church have, because there exist all the elements which are considered necessary from an Orthodox point of view for the recognition of the grace of the Holy Orders from Apostolic Succession. We have great pleasure in communicating to Your Grace, as the First Hierarch of all the Anglican Churches, this resolution of our Church, which constitutes a progress in the pleasing-to-God work of the union of all Churches, and we pray God to grant to Your Grace many years full of health and salvation.

February 27/March 12, 1923 Official translation published in The Christian East, vol. IV, 1923, pp. 121-122. The Archbishop of the autonomous Church of Sinai expressed for his Church adherence to the decisions of Constantinople and Jerusalem.

The Archbishop of CYPRUS, 1923

The Archbishop of Cyprus wrote to the Patriarch of Constantinople in the name of his Synod on March 20, 1923, as follows: To His All-Holiness the Oecumenical Patriarch Mgr. Meletios we send brotherly greeting in Christ. Your Holiness – Responding readily to the suggestion made in your reverend Holiness' letter of August 8, 1922, that the autocephalous Church of Cyprus under our presidency should give its opinion as to the validity of Anglican Orders we have placed the matter before the Holy Synod in formal session. After full consideration thereof it has reached the following conclusion: It being understood that the Apostolic Succession in the Anglican Church by the Sacrament of Order was not broken at the Consecration of the first Archbishop of this Church, Matthew Parker, and the visible signs being present in Orders among the Anglicans by which the grace of the Holy Spirit is supplied, which enables the ordinand for the functions of his particular order, there is no obstacle to the recognition by the Orthodox Church of the validity of Anglican Ordinations in the same way that the validity of the ordinations of the Roman, Old Catholic, and Armenian Church are recognized by her. Since clerics coming from these Churches into the bosom of the Orthodox Church are received without reordination we express our judgment that this should also hold in the case of Anglicans – excluding intercommunio (sacramental union), by which one might receive the sacraments indiscriminately at the hands of an Anglican, even one holding the Orthodox dogma, until the dogmatic unity of the two Churches, Orthodox and Anglican, is attained. Submitting this opinion of our Church to Your All-Holiness, we remain,

Affectionately, the least of your brethren in Christ,
Cyril of Cyprus

Archbishopric of Cyprus. March 7/20, 1923 Published in The Christian East, vol. IV, 1923, pp. 122-123.

The Patriarch of ALEXANDRIA, 1930

After the Lambeth Conference of 1930, the Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria found itself able to join in the recognition of Anglican Orders. The decision was announced in a letter from the Patriarch to the Archbishop of Canterbury as follows: To the Most Reverend Dr. Cosmo Lang, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England, Greetings in the New Born Christ The Feast of the Nativity, according to the Flesh, of the Redeemer of our Souls being a most suitable occasion for us, as it were, to visit your Beatitude, our friend, by means of a letter, we come to you hereby with a heart that is filled alike with joy, that "unto us is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord," and with fervent prayers both for your health and for the peace and stability of the holy Churches of God over which you preside. At the same time, together with our greetings for the Feast, we send you as our gift the news, which we are sure will be good news, to you, that having derived the greatest gratification from the accounts which it has received, both of the marks of honor which were rendered in London, alike by your Grace and by the general body of your Church, to the office which is ours, and also of the happy results which by the favouring breath of the Holy Spirit have emerged from the contact of the Orthodox Delegation with the Lambeth Conference, our Holy Synod of the Metropolitans of the Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne of Alexandria has proceeded to adopt a resolution recognizing the validity, as from the Orthodox point of view, of the Anglican Ministry. The text of that resolution is as follows: "The Holy Synod recognizes that the declarations of the Orthodox, quoted in the Summary, were made according to the spirit of Orthodox teaching. Inasmuch as the Lambeth Conference approved the declarations of the Anglican Bishops as a genuine account [1] of the teaching and practice of the Church of England and the Churches in communion with it, it welcomes them as a notable step towards the Union of the two Churches. And since in these declarations, which were endorsed by the Lambeth Conference, complete and satisfying assurance is found as to the Apostolic Succession, as to a real reception of the Lord's Body and blood, as to the Eucharist being thusia hilasterios [2] (Sacrifice), and as to Ordination being a Mystery, the Church of Alexandria withdraws its precautionary negative to the acceptance of the validity of Anglican Ordinations, and, adhering to the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, of July 28, 1922, pronounces that if priests, ordained by Anglican Bishops, accede to Orthodoxy, they should not be re-ordained, as persons baptized by Anglicans are not rebaptized." We rejoice to see the middle wall of partition being thrown down more and more, and we congratulate your Beatitude that under God you have had the felicity of taking the initiative in furthering that work. May the Lord Who was born in Bethlehem give to you and to us the happiness of its completion. In Alexandria upon the Feast of Christ's Nativity, 1930 Your Beatitude's Beloved Brother in Christ
Meletios of Alexandria

In reporting this decision to the Oecumenical Patriarch Meletios emphasized that his Synod was acting on the basis that the statements made at Lambeth had removed their former hesitation "as to the teaching of the Anglican Church upon the mysteries and Apostolic succession," and could be held to have met the desire expressed by the Romanian Patriarch in replying to Constantinople in 1925, when he wrote, But in order to make a definite pronouncement, we desire especially that the Anglican Church herself should precise her doctrine concerning the holy mysteries and particularly concerning orders: does she hold it to be a mystery or not? Since that requirement had now been satisfied, wrote Meletios, It is proper that the validity of Anglican Orders should now be recognized by all Orthodox Churches. For that which, according to the same letter, was "one of the most serious obstacles in the way of the Union of the two Churches," has been "removed."

Letter published in The Christian East, vol. XII, 1931, pp. 1-6, with notes as above; the quotation in Note 2 is from No. 11 in the Resume of the Lambeth Discussions, reprinted below, p. 22.

[1] The words in the Resolution of the Lambeth Conference are "sufficient account." [2] We transliterate the term, thusia hilasterios, and do not translate it by propitiatory sacrifice, or expiatory sacrifice, because, as generally used, these terms present conceptions which are not attached by the Orthodox to thusia hilasterios. The words used by the Anglican Bishops in their discussions with the Orthodox Delegation, as recorded in the Resume, and endorsed by the Lambeth Conference are: "… that the Anglican Church teaches the doctrine of Eucharistic Sacrifice as explained in the Answer of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to Pope Leo XIII, on Anglican Ordinations: and also that in the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Anglican Church prays that ‘by the merits and death of Thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in His Blood, we and all Thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of His Passion,' as including the whole company of faithful people, living and departed." Lambeth Conference Report, 1930,