Tuesday, January 12, 2010

War in the heavens

The Telegraph had an article the other day that is worth reading.

Cardinal says Christian Europe is to blame for Islamisation

A leading Catholic cardinal has said Europeans only have themselves to blame for allowing Islam to "conquer" the continent.

By Simon Caldwell

Czech Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the Archbishop of Prague, said Muslims were well placed to fill the spiritual void "created as Europeans systematically empty the Christian content of their lives".

"Europe will pay dear for having left its spiritual foundations and that this is the last period that will not continue for decades when it may still have a chance to do something about it," he said.

"The Muslims definitely have many reasons to be heading here. They also have a religious one – to bring the spiritual values of faith in God to the pagan environment of Europe, to its atheistic style of life.

"Unless the Christians wake up, life may be Islamised and Christianity will not have the strength to imprint its character on the life of people, not to say society."

The 77-year-old cardinal made his remarks in an interview to mark his retirement after spending 19 years as the leader of the Czech Church.

He said he did not blame Muslims for the crisis as Europeans had brought it upon themselves by exchanging their Christian culture for an aggressive secularism that embraced atheism. (You may read the rest here.)

The subject it covers is related to the book Without Roots by Pope Benedict XVI and Marcello Pera, which I reviewed for Touchstone in 2007.

Our work is cut out for us

The crisis facing Europe today should be a matter of grave concern for all of us, including those of us in America and other continents. The spiritual void itself is a crisis, and the danger of Islamisation adds to it greatly, inasmuch as nothing else in history has proved to be as deadly. Christians have accepted the world's values in many ways, by having fewer children, by neglect of teaching the children we do have, and in general by allowing religious belief to diminish and with that, moral conviction.

The Continuing Anglican churches need to embrace this matter in a special way. In various places our churches fit the caricature of too much clergy and too few laity, all of whom are very advanced in years. The point of our origin at St. Louis in 1977 was not to maintain the religion we like until we die, but to Continue building the Church according to our Anglican heritage (and, frankly, the retro nature of our worship is no hindrance in attracting younger members, at least not to those who know how to use it positively). I remain hopeful, just as I was at the beginning of January when I posted an essay for the new year.

The solution for what ails not only Europe, but western civilization in general, is provided by the Holy Spirit in what He has placed within the Church. Cardinal Miloslav used the right words: "Today, when the fighting is done with spiritual weapons which Europe lacks while Muslims are perfectly armed, the fall of Europe is looming." Weapons, that may be called spiritual (remembering that angels and the Devil himself are spirits) can be good or evil, and used for good or evil. As nature abhors a vacuum, the lack of spiritual ideals which include a faith worth dying for, must be filled. Against a kind of Christianity that has been made to appear weak and accommodating to the times, the radical call of Islam attracts converts who have never seen the commitment of sincere Christians. But, our spiritual weapons are more than mere attempts at persuasion, inasmuch as our prayers reach the throne of God through His Son; and that is where our use of powerful weapons of spiritual warfare must always begin. With Lent approaching, though still some weeks away, we do well to recall the words, "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." (Matthew 17:21) And these words:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (II Corinthians 10:3-5)


Paleologos said...

We are, in both the Roman Catholic and Anglican Catholic Churches, far too un-evangelical. But before our people will go out and evangelize others, they must have hearts set afire for Christ through a living faith and its accompanying spiritual disciplines: prayer, fasting, and confession. We have to understand that prayer in the Liturgy must spill over into our whole lives, that fasting means more than giving up sweets for Lent, and that confession, examination of conscience, and spiritual direction are, along with frequent reception of the Sacrament of the Altar, are the spiritual medicine we sorely need.

These disciplines impart a sense of urgency and watchfulness, a sense of expectancy, a sense that we serve a risen King Whom we expect to see soon. We'd call a man a fool who didn't watch over his investments, who didn't seek regular professional advice as to them, and who thus squandered an inheritance, but we think nothing of going without spiritual direction and ascetic struggle- not because these things will earn us salvation, but because they make us fit for the service of our Lord, and because their spiritual results spill out into the world around us. Just look at the lives of the saints: no one who puts himself wholly into the service of the Lord can fail to be a vessel for the transformation of those around him.

Deacon Down Under said...

A fantastic article cited by Fr. Hart, and insightful editorial by him also, and some useful and cogent commentary by Paleologos.

The answer to the problems of both the Continuum and western Christendom is to take up the great commission of Our Lord and to go out and preach - to the atheists, to the homeless, to the modernists - to one and all.

Are our sacraments the means of grace and mercy and spiritual life? Yes. Does the Anglican expression of the Catholic and Apostolic faith have something to offer? Yes.

I hope and pray that this Lent that we all meaningfully fast and pray, for the renewal of the continuum, for the renewal of our commitment - lay and clerical to go out and preach, to share the Gospel of mercy.

I agree with Paleologos. Lent should be a spiritual "podvig" or act of asceticism by laymen and clerics alike, that goes beyond tokens of giving up something like sweets, but which embraces serious prayer, Bible study and fasting, more frequent communion and use of the sacrament of confession.

While Anglicans have long agreed that all may, some will use the sacrament of confession, the truth is if we search our hearts we all have need of the grace of penance and absolution.

Individually confession, followed by receiving the Lord's Body and Blood can be so life-transforming, and we all in the continuum could do far worse than offer this to our Lord this coming Lent.

Anonymous said...

"..... spiritual direction and ascetic struggle- not because these things will earn us salvation, but because they make us fit for the service of our Lord, and because their spiritual results spill out into the world around us."

One of the best things I have read in quite some time! Bless you for that, Paleologus!

Jakian Thomist said...

I totally agree with the sentiments expressed here.

The world is in ever need of more saints!

Lord, please send us your wisdom and guidance.

Canon Tallis said...

It is better than nice to find something with which you have total agreement. What Paleologos wrote says precisely what I believe and have attempted to live and practice since I discovered Anglicanism as a teenager. In my own mine I haven't done very well at it, because perhaps here alone I am a type A personality and want a perfection that I am not capable of.

But I see in what he wrote not the spirit of Lent, but the joy of Easter. And one filled with memories of sitting on the steps of St. John's waiting for my turn to go in and make my confession, but in the meantime telling my fellows as they did to each all the sins which we had to confess. The joy of it was that it seemed in those now lost days so easy to bring others to Christ and to the Church - His Church and not ours - because He had chosen us and pulled us out of our sins and self worship.

I was so fortunate in those days because books like Hilton's The Ladder of Perfection and The Cloud of Unknowing seemed to find their way into my hands and no matter how many times I put them down and attempted to walk away from them, be back until I surrendered and made them my own to read and re-read. But then to live. Asceticism wasn't pain and denial, but like an interior atheleticism such as was set out by St Paul.

And than I began to watch, like the ancient Maya, while the modernist and the revisionist began destroying my culture and the Church all around me. But now, God is saying to all of us, even as he did to Francis, "Rebuild my Church which is falling down all around you." And whatever our problems with each other and the times, we need to be about our Father's work.

Isn't that what this is really all about?

T said...

One thing we should never worry about- God's Church. He is in charge, and He will multiply His church when He wills. We must be faithful servants and go about His Great Commission, and He will honour our efforts- we plant, He waters and gives growth. That's how this great mystery works.

Every migration into Christian Europe in history has resulted not in the conversion of Europe, but in the conversion of those arriving, whether by the sword or by immigration. Now is the perfect opportunity for the Church to witness the truth of Christ and His love to those who have now entered into our midst.

Let's not see this as something to be feared, but as a chance to witness. So many of these migrants have fled oppressive regimes and failed states, and have seen what a false theocracy looks like. Deep down, they need Jesus just like everybody else, and they know that the alternatives are failures. Embrace them, love them, teach them.


Paleologos said...

Thank you Fr. Wells -- it means a lot coming from you.

And Canon Tallis, what a winsome and beautiful recollection.

Fr. John said...

Let us remember the New Martyrs of Cordoba in Muslim occupied Spain. June 14th is the feast of Ss.Anastasius, Felix, and Dignii. They constitute a part of those saints known as the New Martyrs of Cordoba.

Martyed by the Moors at Cordoba about 852. Anastasius was an old priest of Cordoba, Felix was a monk originally out of North Africa, Dignii was a fiery young nun who was ordered killed after she upbraided the Judge in open court for the injustice of the sentences against Father Anastasius and Brother Felix

Another New Martyr of Cordoba is St. Columbii, another nun who confronted the authorities directly about the Islamic prohibition on preaching Jesus.

I have in my possession first class relics of Anastasius, Dignii and Columbii.