Monday, January 31, 2011

Laymen's guide to the Thirty-Nine Articles

Article VI

Of the sufficiency of the Holy Scripture for Salvation

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of Holy Scripture, we do understand those Canonical books of the Old and New testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.
Of the names and number of the Canonical Books.
The First Book of Samuel.
The Second Book of Samuel.
The First Book of Kings.
The Second Book of Kings.
The First Book of Chronicles.
The Second Book of Chronicles.
The First Book of Esdras.
The Second Book of Esdras.
The Book of Esther.
The Book of Job.
The Psalms.
The Proverbs.
Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher.
Cantica, or Songs of Solomon.
Four Prophets the Greater.
Twelve Prophets the Less.
All the books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and account them canonical.
And the other books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine. Such are these following:
The Third Book of Esdras.
The Fourth Book of Esdras.
The Book of Tobias.
The Book of Judith.
The rest of the Book of Esther.
The Book of Wisdom.
Jesus the Son of Sirach.
Baruch the Prophet.
The Song of the Three Children.
The Story of Susanna.
Of Bel and the Dragon.
The Prayer of Manasses.
The First Book of Maccabees.
The Second Book of Maccabees.

De divinis Scripturis, quod sufficiant ad salutem

Scriptura sacra continet omnia, quae ad salutem sunt necessaria, ita, ut quicquid in ea nec legitur, neque inde probari potest, non sit a quoquam exigendum, ut tanquam articulus fidei credatur, aut ad salutis necessitatem requiri putetur.
Sacrae Scripturae nomine, eos Canonicos libros Veteris et Novi Testamenti intelligimus, de quorum authoritate in Ecclesia nunquam dubitatum est.
De nominibus et numero librorum sacrae Canonicae Scripturae veteris Testamenti.
Prior liber Samuelis.
Secundus liber Samuelis.
Prior liber Regum.
Secundus liber Regum.
Prior liber Paralipomenon.
Secundus liber Paralipomenon.
Primus liber Esdrae.
Secundus liber Esdrae.
Liber Hester.
Liber Iob.
Ecclesiastes vel Concionator.
Cantica Solomonis.
IV Prophetae maiores.
XII Prophetae minores.
Novi Testamenti omnes libros (ut vulgo recepti sunt) recipimus, et habemus pro Canonicis.
Alios autem libros (ut ait Hieronymus) legit quidem Ecclesia ad exempla vitae et formandos mores; illos tamen ad dogmata confirmanda non adhibet: ut sunt:
Tertius liber Esdrae.
Quartus liber Esdrae.
Liber Tobiae.
Liber Iudith.
Reliquum libri Hester.
Liber Sapientiae.
Liber Iesu filii Sirach.
Baruch Propheta. Canticum trium puerorum.
Historia Susannae.
De Bel et Dracone.
Oratio Manassis.
Prior liber Machabaeorum.
Secundus liber Machabaeorum.
Fr. Robert Hart

The purpose of the Article was to meet a practical need, not to offer up theoretical conjecture. Arguments about the authority of Scripture and Tradition tend to wander off in all directions, with little or nothing of practical help given to the average layman. What he needs is a sure and secure way to sort out truth from error, or at least essential truth from pious beliefs on one hand, and debatable ideas on the other. The Article is about what “may be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” It is not about how to unravel every mystery, nor even about how to achieve complete agreement on every issue.
-......Cutting to the chase, every Christian is presented with competing claims about what to believe, and about which Church is the right one. Therefore, Article VI appeals to a higher authority than any living human being, or even a hierarchical council of men. Article VI even goes as far as to undermine the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles, among which it sits, unless the teaching they contain may be proved by Scripture. Hence, even among Articles of Religion, we are told that nothing may be required as “an article of faith” unless it passes the simple test. For this reason, we are not interested in the question of the legal status of the Thirty-Nine Articles, as Fr. Wells wrote in an introduction to this series.
If the Articles set forth the truth that God revealed from the beginning, published in the Canon of Scripture where all may find it, they need no legal status. If we are to accept the clear words of Article VI, we cannot grant them legal status. If they pass the test, however, then a proper understanding of their intended meaning is a guide to genuinely useful and helpful study of the Bible.

When St. Luke wrote of the people in Berea, he spoke highly of their diligence.

“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”1

Notice that St. Luke calls them “more noble” for their efforts. He was not angry that they dared to verify the authority of the Apostles, but rather he praised them. He called them eugenēs, translated quite literally, “noble,” conferring on them a title of high birth (indeed, the highest as children of the Lord), seeing in their diligent attention to Scripture evidence of their regeneration.

The Church of England, through its bishops and monarch, invited its children to be like the noble Bereans, and thus stood in sharp contrast against an ancient See that was unfortunately overbearing in its demand for absolute respect and obedience. For Rome required arbitrarily that all of its doctrinal pronouncements be received as infallible and subjected to no test whatsoever. For all their stated faith in the books of Scripture as authored by God Himself, and their thoroughly orthodox adherence to the Divine Inspiration of Scripture (with which we agre), even to this very day they do not lend to the average layman this same practical, noble Berean, tool. Indeed, how can they, when they insist on more than what can be read and proved in Scripture, to be required as articles of faith, and to be believed as necessary to salvation?

Private Interpretation
Of course, the real danger, concerning which we too must beware, is not the ability of each Christian to read the Scriptures and test the verity of doctrine. Rather, the danger is that of private interpretation. Indeed, when some individuals warn against sola scritpura (the Scriptures alone), they really mean to warn against private interpretation. Unfortunately, they fail to make the distinction between these two things. As a result, they reject the old Catholic doctrine of sola scriptura, wrongly assigning its origin to the Reformers in the sixteenth century.

However, sola scriptura was not a Protestant innovation, and the actual expression owes its origin to St. Thomas Aquinas, the “Angelic Doctor” (1225-1274). Among the many things he wrote, we find this passage:

It should be noted that though many might write concerning Catholic truth, there is this difference that those who wrote the canonical Scripture, the Evangelists and Apostles, and the like, so constantly assert it that they leave no room for doubt. That is what he means when he says 'we know his witness is true.' Galatians 1:9, "If anyone preach a gospel to you other than that which you have received, let him be anathema!" The reason is that only canonical Scripture is a measure of faith. Others however so wrote of the truth that they should not be believed save insofar as they say true things."2

The Latin for “only canonical Scripture” is “sola canonica scriptura” from which the phrase sola scriptura is derived. Notice, he wrote very freely that only the same is “a measure of faith,” or, literally, “rule of faith.”
This was a simple and uncontroversial point for a thirteenth-century Doctor of the Catholic Church to make, and he most certainly did not mean by this to set up a tension between two things, Scripture and Tradition, as if they could be set properly in opposition to each other. It was only as man-made traditions became indistinguishable from the Tradition of the Church, that such an idea as Scripture versus Tradition could exist in the popular imagination. But, properly understood, Scripture and Tradition teach the same doctrine with one voice.
If the term sola scriptura has a meaning specific for Anglicans, it is exactly what we find in the words, “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation.” That is, no matter how sincerely one may hold views that are nothing more than pious beliefs, everything he really needs to know is in the canon of Holy Scripture. Man-made additions, whether outright error or merely non-essentials, are not necessary, and ought not to be treated as necessary.
This should be kept in balance with the historical fact that God used the Church to give us the Scripture, and that in two ways. His written word came by way of the Prophets of Israel, the Church of the Old Covenant, and by way of the Apostles. It came by means of communication within the Church when the Epistles were written, and when the Gospels were recorded for posterity. God gave the Church the gift to recognize the books of the Canon, so that long before any Council gave official canonical status to the twenty-seven New Testament books, with a few questions and debates about II Peter, Jude and Revelation, and about whether or not to include the Shepherd of Hermas, the New Testament Canon was recognized by most Christians, the books in it having been quoted with authority for about two centuries. Inasmuch as the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments, had been given within the Church, it is impossible to say, accurately, that the Canon of Scripture has not been understood by the Church.
No new doctrine can be drawn from the pages of Scripture (whether one calls it by the Pentecostal phrase, “progressive revelation” or by the Roman Catholic phrase, “Development of Doctrine”), and no doctrine can be correct if it stands in contradiction to the faith of the Church, especially as summarized in the great Creeds. For, the simple fact, clear for all to see, is this: Everything that is necessary to salvation, and that may be required of all believers as an article of faith, has been known since the beginning. It has been preserved in canonical Scripture by the work of the Holy Spirit; and His work was through holy men who wrote it, and through the redeemed community who heard the Master’s voice, and recognized it. 3 God does not change His mind, neither can he grow into better understanding, being perfect and knowing all things, existing outside the creation in eternity, and therefore subject to no possible processes as creatures are. The truth of God, that he speaks, has been revealed, recorded and preserved, and made known to everyone.

Canon and Lectionary
It is also true that sola scriptura applies to the Lectionary, the portions of Scripture read in Church for the edification of the people. Scripture alone (sola scriptura) is to be read aloud from the lectern, for that is the word of the Lord.
This must bring us to the question of the deutero-canonical books, or the Apocrypha (which does not mean false at all, though some have allowed it to be used that way), listed in Article VI as a third section [and separate section of the Old Testament books]. No Bible was printed without the Apocrypha until the eighteenth century, and readings from the Apocrypha are authorized in the Daily Morning and Evening Prayer Lectionary, appointed to be read in churches.
The Article appears to invest less significance to these books than to the other sixty-six. This too was in keeping with the ancient Tradition, as the quotation of St. Jerome (spelled Hierome in the Article) indicates. Jerome’s evaluation was also that of St. Athanasius. Regarding this confusing question, we ought to consider two facts of history, and consider one practical question of theology.
History shows that the books called Apocrypha were in the Septuagint (LXX), the translation of the Old Testament into Greek by seventy rabbis in Alexandria, and used by the Greek speaking churches, and is the translation of the Old Testament quoted throughout the New Testament. But, until a fairly modern discovery of a text of Ecclesiasticus (or Sirach) in Hebrew, no Hebrew text was extant for the Apocryphal books, and they were not read in synagogues. The ancient Church appears to have treated them generally as Jerome and Athanasius did, quoting them, reading them, and regarding their value. In the East, the Book of Wisdom grew in significance. But, not until the Council of Trent were they officially given formal status equal to the other books, which was a new idea and an innovation. The Anglican treatment of these books, as good and useful, indeed as Canonical enough for the Lectionary, but not useful to prove doctrine, appears to be in accord with the mind of the ancient Church.
The practical theological consideration is that, in fact, they are not useful to prove doctrine. Although the Book of Wisdom has proved useful in imparting understanding, even understanding of Christ and His work, the great Messianic themes of our salvation history and the unfolding of Divine revelation, is clear only from the thirty-nine Hebrew books of the Old Testament, and the twenty-seven New Testament books composed in Greek. One simply cannot prove the essential doctrines from the deutero-canonical, or Apocryphal books; one cannot quote anything from them containing the revelation of our salvation as one can from the Law and the Prophets. But they are useful “for example of life and instruction of manners,” as St. Jerome taught. In this too, having them, reading them even from the lectern, is an Anglican practice that is consistent with the faith and practice of the ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church.
1. Acts 17:10,11
2. Notandum autem, quod cum multi scriberent de catholica veritate, haec est differentia, quia illi, qui scripserunt canonicam Scripturam, sicut Evangelistic et Apostoli, et alii huiusmodi, ita constanter eam asserunt quod nihil dubitandum relinquunt. Et ideo dicit Et scimus quia verum est testimonium eius; Gal. I, 9: Si quis vobis evangelizaverit praeter id quod accepistis, anathema sit. Cuius ratio est, quia sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei. Alii autem sic edisserunt de veritate, quod nolunt sibi credi nisi in his quae ver dicunt.--- Thomas's commentary on John's Gospel, Super Evangelium S. Ioannis Lectura, ed. P. Raphaelis Cai, O.P., Editio V revisa (Romae: Marietti E ditori Ltd., 1952) n. 2656, p. 488.
3. John 10:27, 16:13. I Timothy 3:15
* * *

Fr. Laurence Wells

Reading this Article reminds me of how far our theological situation is removed from that of the 16th century. In that time, German, Swiss, English, Scottish Reformers were in firm agreement with Roman Catholics that the Holy Scriptures are God-breathed and therefore both inerrant in their contents and infallible in their authority. When Luther demanded that he be refuted from Scriptures, he was not enunciating any new idea whatever, but appealing to an authority he felt, with excellent reason, both he and his opponents shared. There were indeed subordinate issues over the relationship between Scripture and Tradition and over the Old Testament canon. But the finality of Scripture as the written Word of God was never in dispute.

Today, living on the other side of the rise of modern science and the modernist/fundamentalist disputes, things are very different. No one is surprised when the revisionists treat Biblical moral statements in a contemptuous manner (after all, that's why we call them revisionists!). But neither is it unusual for conservative Anglo-catholics to treat Scripture in the very same dismissive fashion, by saying (1) "the Church canonized Scripture," or (2) "we don't believe in Scriptura Sola." The assumptions are that (1) since the Church canonized Scripture, it is at liberty to ignore it, or (2) we really believe in what we label as "Catholic doctrine."

The statement that the Church canonized Scripture is perfectly true, as far as it goes. But is this like saying the Church compiled her Prayer Book, or like saying the Church articulated the Nicene Creed. The process of Canonization was somewhat like recognizing the planets of the solar system. It was not merely the compilation of a list but rather the submission to Divine utterance.

As orthodox Anglicans in the last half-century have confronted radical innovations in the purported ordination of females or in the redefinition of marriage, we have been at a severe handicap. This crippling disadvantage is owing to a fundamental weakness in our doctrine of Biblical authority. This weakness involves not only a couple of hot-button issues, but touches directly the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the reality of our Lord's miracles, His final Coming, and the general integrity of Creedal Christianity.

Too frequently Anglican traditionalists have been anxious to distance their position from what they define as Protestantism, with the sad result of embracing a form of modernism dressed up in liturgical vestments. An example of this is Fr. Gabriel Hebert's book, "Fundamentalism and the Church of God" (SCM Press, 1957) which was devastated by Dr J. I. Packer's " 'Fundamentalism' and the Word of God." The so-called "Battle of the Bible" since the middle of the 20th century has generated an enormous literature which I am not qualified to review in detail. My point here is simply that a tepid doctrine of Biblical authority has left Anglican traditionalists largely in a weak position. The most recent exhibition of this vulnerability has been the muddled reaction to the blandishments of Anglicanorum Coetibus. We don't like it but are rather unclear as to why not. Careful study of Galatians and Romans might help clear up this floundering.

An old trick question goes, "Would you prefer to say the Bible is the Word of God, or contains the Word of God?"

Every clergyman ordained in the Anglican Catholic Church has subscribed as a solemn oath, "I, A.B., do believe the Holy Scriptures to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation...." (Canon 13.1.01). But the expression "contains," which we find in Article VI, is equally correct. Some modernists may prefer "contains," thinking that this word allows some wiggle room, as if the written text were only "the golden casket, where gems of truth are stored," as that splendid hymn "O Word of God Incarnate" expresses it. But it is wrong to think that the Word of God is only the contents of a container, like water in a glass. The underlying Latin verb contineo did not mean to contain loosely, but to hold tightly. The point made in continet is that the Word of God is held securely in the inspired Hebrew and Greek words of the sacred text.

We need to say something about the curious manner in which the canonical books are listed and about the place of the Apocrypha. Rather than 39 books in the Old Testament, we find 24. These include First and Second Esdras, which we know from the Authorized Version as Ezra and Nehemiah. By "Four Prophets the Greater" is meant Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel." Here the writer of the Article was influenced by the Septuagintal tradition, in which Daniel was grouped with the "major" prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. The Hebrew Bible grouped Daniel in the third section, the so-called "Writings." By "Twelve Prophets the Less" is intended the so-called "minor prophets," which the Hebrew Bible grouped as one book.

The place of the so-called Apocrypha should not be treated as any more than an academic controversy. As Fr Hart states, all Bibles printed before the 16th century contained it. This includes the archly-Protestant Geneva Bible. It is anachronistic to view this as a Protestant versus Catholic issue. The Parallel Apocrypha (OUP, 1997) contains an essay by a Jesuit scholar, John J. Collins, showing that from Patristic times to the 16th century there was a tradition which questioned the status of the deutero-canonical books. Jerome's preference for the "Protestant" Old Testament (the 39 books of the Hebrew Old Testament) is well known. But along with him we find Gregory the Great, John Damascene, Hugh of St Victor, and Nicholas of Lyra. Amazingly, this list includes Cardinal Ximenes and Cardinal Cajetan. In a debate between Luther and Cajetan, Luther at one juncture attempted to quote from Ecclesiasticus (a.k.a. Sirach). Cajetan objected, declaring that this was not inspired scripture. Cajetan died in 1534, 11 years before Trent convened in 1545. Fr Collins suggests coyly that had Cajetan lived, Trent might have arrived at a different settlement.

It is remarkable that the centrist view laid out in Article VI on this matter is the position almost everyone has come to. Even conservative Protestant Biblical scholars have come to appreciate the historical and literary information contained in these books. But we do not use the Apocrypha to establish doctrine simply because there is hardly any doctrine there. But then, as F. F. Bruce asks, what doctrine could be established from the Book of Esther? Occasionally Roman Catholic apologists try to score a point by asking why we have "excluded" 13 books from our Bibles. The answer is that really we have not, but we wonder why Trent excluded I and II Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh. The last of these is a brief but moving devotional poem. It is the spiritual high water mark of the whole group.

The mainstream of Christian tradition has included, in various ways, a number of books attached to the Old Testament. The unresolved problem is which list to accept. Besides the discrepancy between Trent's list and our Authorized Version, the Eastern Orthodox Churches have an extra Psalm (Psalm 151), Third Maccabees and possibly Fourth Maccabees. The Byzantine Churches have been far from consistent. The so-called Vincentian Canon (ubique, semper, et ab omnibus) is of little help in this area. Defenders of the 39 book Hebrew Canon are within their right to ask, "Which set of Apocryphal Books do you wish us to accept?"

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fourth Sunday the Epiphany

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

The book of Deuteronomy, the fifth chapter, contains this lesson appointed for today, which we read earlier at Morning Prayer. It includes these words:

Moses said to the children of Israel:

9: Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;
10: Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.

39: Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.
40: Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.

How well balanced the scriptures for this Sunday are. In the Old Testament Lesson, at Morning Prayer, we are told that it is for our good that God gives us His commandments. In the Epistle for Holy Communion we are told that He provides for us governments in this world, that even among fallen men, in a state of sin and death, we may have some order. And, yet, in the Gospel we see Jesus doing what could be seen as breaking the rules, both of God and of the authorities, at least of the religious authorities. For, in the first story He actually touches the unclean leper, and in the second He gives mercy to a Gentile. In fact, He says that He is willing to enter the house of a Gentile (notice the Centurion did not feel worthy of such a visit, and expresses humility that is quite touching. Also, the Centurion did not want to create a scandal for the Lord).

But, there is no contradiction here. Jesus is not breaking the rules and being a revolutionary. The Revolutionary Jesus was the popular fiction of the 1960s, and we heard that particular Jesus preached about from many trendy pulpits. But, something much deeper is going on in these two stories, far deeper than the shallow theology of the 60s (or of today), and it has to do with the words that the Lord spoke many years before to the prophet Samuel: Man looks on the outward appearance; but the Lord looks on the heart. (I Sam. 16:7)

If we understand what God was saying through Moses in the Old Testament lesson, it is not so much that God will punish the evil doer (which is part of the message, dont misunderstand), but rather that Gods commandments are a gift to us, a lamp for our feet. If we obey His word, it brings us peace, though not the peace of this world. It preserves us from eternal dangers, and from the consequences of our own foolishness. It is a gift so great that we must pass it on to our children; we must teach it to them for their good, and the good of their children forever (in fact we are not given a choice. Failure to bring up our children in the true Faith is a sin. It is not the mark of an enlightened couple that their children are not raised in the Church, but a terrifying form of neglect and dereliction).

If we understand St. Pauls words, he is telling us that governments exist among men for our good, even though they can often be used by evil men, that is by tyrants. The Romans were tyrants, and they persecuted the Church. But, the purpose of rulers is to enforce laws against wickedness and vice, and to protect society from anarchy and chaos. In a land such as ours, where the law is king, we see that, even in the best of circumstances, perfect justice cannot be found, and that the enforcers of human law allow many evils. Nonetheless, that same law provides order without which we would find it impossible to live.

And, with all of this about order and the rules by which order is maintained, we see what could so easily be misunderstood as disorder. The Law of God made it clear that to touch a leper was to make oneself unclean, lo tahor. To avoid uncleanness the priest and the Levite, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, walked on the other side of the road in order to keep safe distance from a man who, for what little they could see, might be dead. And, to associate with Gentiles, to go into the home even of a worthy Gentile who had built a synagogue for the Jews at his own expense, was strictly forbidden. Not by any actual commandment of God mind you, but rather by the consensus of the Rabbis. It represented disorder for a Jewish man to say to this Roman Centurion, I will come and heal your servant.

To see this properly, however, we must have the correct understanding of two things:

1) The true meaning of the rules, and

2) Who Jesus is.

First let us understand the case of the leper. Leprosy was a state of uncleanness in itself. The leper had to keep his distance from all other people, and cry out with a warning when he entered a place that might be populated: He had to cry Unclean, unclean! This was his warning label, a verbal invitation to everyone within earshot to keep away from him. We could see leprosy in this case as a condition that renders one actually guilty of sin, for he is perpetually unclean. He can never enter the temple, or even a mere synagogue to pray with his fellow Jews. That may seem very strange indeed; but we must think of it the same way this poor leper did.

In one sense, his coming up to Jesus would have been seen by witnesses as a presumptuous breaking of Gods commandments on top of, or to add to, his unclean state. He was failing in his duty to present a verbal warning label to Christ and the disciples. By what right did he do this?

Yet, Jesus was even worse, by merely human understanding; for He actually touched this unclean man.

But, man looks only on the outward appearance. Jesus looked upon the heart of a man wanting to be clean, wanting to be able to go into the temple of God with boldness. He saw faith, not presumption. Gods Law teaches us that we are sinners. St. Paul tells us, the Law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). Christ, far from being a law breaker, is the Law Giver Himself. He knows that His Law is written by the Holy Ghost on the heart of everyone who has faith, and so it was written on the heart of this man who wanted to be a leper no more.

Some might be preaching this very Sunday about how today’s Gospel reading teaches us to accept all sorts of unsavory people, who have no intention whatsoever of repenting of their sins. In fact, they want us to accept our own sins, and those of others, as good things; and, not only to accept those sins, but perhaps even to applaud them. Jesus said of His mission to sinners, not simply that he was sent to call them, but that He was sent to call them to repentance. This man wanted not only to be healed, but to be clean; clean of leprosy which he saw as being itself a sinful state. Jesus not only heals him, but gives him the restoration he desires. He sends him to the priests in the temple, and reminds him to offer to God the gift ordered in the Torah for the cleansing of a leper. He restores him to obedience to the Law, giving him the commandment to follow, a commandment directly taken from the Law of Moses (Lev. 14).

This was more than a mere ritual; Christ gave back to this man his very place in the religion of the God of his fathers, the people of Israel. More than his body, his heart was healed that day. And of course, this story reminds us that Christ the Man is also the Lord from heaven, able to make clean, which no earthly power can do. As for the price, the true offering for sin was yet to be made. Christ Himself was going to make it, on the cross. So, He gave freely to the man, cleansing him of leprosy, and restoring him to his God, and to the Faith of his fathers.

But, the other man, the centurion, is a Gentile; the Centurion, is not only a Gentile, but a Roman. He is what is called a God-fearer, not a convert to Judaism, but a worshiper of the true God nonetheless. However, he is not circumcised; and so, to enter his home is to make oneself unclean (again, by the rules of the rabbis of that time. The Torah really says no such thing). You may recall, from the Book of Acts, how many years later St. Peter would enter the home of another Centurion and God-fearer named Cornelius, and would say upon entering what difficulty he had doing so (for he was not supposed to enter the home of a man who is unclean-see Acts 10).

In both of these miracles of healing that we read about today, Christ showed Himself willing to be "numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12)." Though He actually broke no commandment of the Law, like His healing on the Sabbath Day, He was willing to be counted among the transgressors. In all of this, in His mercy, He was already beginning to bear His cross, to carry that burden to the place of His death for the sins of the whole world. In these miracles of healing the cross is foreshadowed in two ways; 1) He allows Himself to be numbered among the transgressors while remaining pure and without sin; and 2) every healing looked ahead to the cross, where He would offer Himself as the one true sacrifice, so that mercy can flow freely to all who believe.

It is the Centurion who begs Christ not to come, and then proceeds to reveal the depth of his faith by saying only speak the word.Jesus, again looked upon a heart of faith. He knew that the true children of Abraham were those who believe, a teaching that was yet to be written down so eloquently by St. Paul. He knew that His own Divine presence carries with it the power to cleanse and to heal wherever He goes. His actions are never disorder, but the very essence of order; it is He Who made the heavens and the earth, and set them in their perfect course. He has come into the world to save us from sin and death, to bring order out of disorder, life out of death; to bring light into darkness, to make all things right. He alone has this power; though He has come and is a man who sees the outward appearance, He is also the Lord Who looks upon the heart.

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

Fr. Wells bulletin inserts


Today's reading from Matthew 8 keeps up the Epiphany theme of Christ's continuing self-disclosure as God stepping right into the thick of things, involving Himself directly and even dangerously into our human predicament. In this passage we see Jesus performing two miracles, both miracles of healing.

The first miracle ministers to a leper, clearly a Jewish person. The second occurs at the behest of a Gentile. This reminds us that the first Epiphany, the apparition of the star to the wise men, was "the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles." He is not only the anointed Messiah of the Jewish people; He is the Saviour of the world, the Redeemer of all mankind, all nations and races. In Christ the promise to Abraham comes true. "And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:3).

Jesus gives special praise to the Gentile, who is a Roman army officer. "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." This implies a contrast in the two miracle stories which are read together. The faith of the Jewish leper is not impressive. His question is almost skeptical in tone: "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." He makes a rather minimal affirmation of Jesus' power (does he mean Divine power, or only the power of a magician?), but is too timid to ask boldly for Jesus to act. But no matter; the Divine compassion in Jesus moves Him to grant immediate healing.

The faith of the centurion, however, is of a deeper sort. How or what he had previously known of Jesus is not related to us. But he knows that Jesus has power to heal at a distance; this is the point of our Lord's praise for him. It was remarkable in itself that Jesus offered to come to the centurion's home. That was the risk of ritual uncleanness. Remember how the priests and temple personnel refrained from entering the house of Pilate! Jesus' kind offer strangely anticipates a later occasion when He would indeed set foot in a Gentile home.

The centurion responded with words familiar to us as a prayer which we utter just before we go to the Altar rail, "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed."

Whether faith is of a poor doubtful quality or whether it shines with heroic confidence ultimately makes no difference. The sovereign grace of God acts powerfully for those in need. For all we know, the centurion's servant had no faith at all. But he was healed, nonetheless.

In this wonderful season we see God in Christ reaching out to all mankind, to all sorts and conditions of men, to those of great faith, little faith, and even no faith, healing, transforming and making new. In His mercy He reaches even to us. In His love He comes even to our house. LKW

Thursday, January 27, 2011


This was originally published almost two years ago, for Lent and Eastertide 2009, and you can see the whole issue here. The appeal goes hand in hand with the post that follows directly.

The Missionaries of St. Paul the Apostle

The Evangelist

Published by the Mission Society of the Anglican Catholic Church

The Most Rev. Mark Haverland Metropolitan & Bishop-in-Charge of the Mission Society

The Venerable Donald F. Lerow

Executive Secretary

Mission Society: “The Society shall encourage the witness, Faith and practice of the Anglican Catholic Church and shall, on behalf of all Provinces of this Church, provide funding, personnel, and other forms of support for domestic and international missions; for the amelioration, relief, and assistance of persons and communities distressed by natural or man-made events or disasters or by adverse social or political situations; for religious, educational, and medical eleemosynary endeavors; and for works of religion.” [ACC] OP Canon 3.

This is a tall order to say the least. But, the Society is busy working on your behalf to bring order and energy to support the life and growth of the Anglican Catholic Church. Reality teaches us that it takes more than a few committed clergy and laity to bring to fruition the dreams of those Christians living in lands not so rich. Without your financial support, prayers, gifts and offerings it would not be possible.

In spite of the hard financial times the world is struggling with, giving to those not so fortunate is an absolute necessity. Those without suffer greatly. This must not happen: but, alas, it can happen if we don’t act. Let us all pledge this year to give when the giving is hard, pray when the praying is tough and volunteer when there seems to be so little time.

In Christ,

Fr. Donald F. Lerow

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Africa Appeal

Revised at 4:30 PM EST, 1/27/11

From Fr. David Marriott

Parishes of St. Columba of Iona & St. Bride.

February 2011

A few days ago, I was sitting watching a whole bunch of little birds: different varieties, but I cannot tell them apart very well: they were out in a backyard eating their fill of seeds which my host had kindly scattered for them. But the way they went about this feast was different: it involved so much nervous looking around them before every quick peck at the seed, and many, many hasty flights into the nearby trees and bushes, before they deemed it safe to return to their food.

Watching these birds brought me to reflect on the way we can live without the need to check our surroundings every few minutes, that we live in a far safer place than that of the birds: even though we all, birds and humans, happen to live in the same place on earth! And the reason that there is this fundamental difference is that we have embraced the values of law and the civil society: with a respect for the rights of the other: be that neighbour, colleague, friend, or adversary. And in the societies of the ‘West’, we might give great thanks that the values of the very civil society that brings us this peace is the result of the teaching of the Christian faith and the values inherent therein.

Then I checked my e-mail, where a message was waiting which demonstrated that as we give thanks for our freedoms, others, other Christian brothers and sisters, live a life more typical of that which I had observed in the birds: they are, they have to be, constantly on guard, constantly watchful, constantly aware of the enemy within their own community. If you read the Economist of January 15th 2011, there is an article detailing the impact of rape as a weapon of war: and the grave ramifications of this. The e-mail I received made this article far, far more real: these are people I have met, who have honoured my visit to their town: the little town of Fizi in Sud-Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo.

On the 1st January 2011, an officer of the Congolese army, ‘Amani Leo’ battalion, sat drinking in Fizi. He called out to a young boy, that the boy should go and bring him a local woman whom he had seen in a field close by: he explained that he wanted to sleep with her. The young boy objected: arguing that this was not a prostitute, that the woman was a married woman, mother of a family in the town. Angered by this reply, the officer ordered his body guard to shoot the young boy.

Before the bodyguard was able to carry out the command the officer and bodyguard were assaulted by a group of the young boy’s friends: they were successful in taking the rifle from the bodyguard, and then proceeded to beat the officer and the bodyguard with severe results.

That evening, the commandant of the ‘Amani Leo’ battalion, who was in Fizi-Centre at the time, ordered his troop to take their vengeance by killing with knives any and all people that they found in the neighbourhood of the incident. This was the night of the 1st – 2nd January 2011.

You should be aware that the name ‘Amani Leo’ is Swahili for ‘Peace in our day’.

The soldiers in this brigade have been recruited in the main from a former rebel group – ‘CNDP’ (Congrès national pour la défense du peuple) of Laurent Nkudabatware (Laurent Nkunda): these troops include many Rwandan Tutsi who have been brought in to fight the Iterahamwe (Hutu) militia, themselves fugitive from the Rwandan conflict, in both North and South Kivu provinces.

Whereas all may support the need to eliminate the threat of an armed militia terrorizing your community and region, desperately looking to a return to peace and tranquility and the possible establishment of investment in mining and agriculture that this would bring: few can countenance the prospect where the very army you need to rely on for protection are themselves instigators of criminal acts of terror.

In all cases the ones who suffer are the local population: trapped between two vicious armies, where there are no limits to cruelty and violence. These include the people of the parish of St. Paul, Fizi whom I have met: four years ago they welcomed us at the entry to the town with singing and a great procession: they presented gifts, including a handsome goat: they looked to building a new church, a symbol of a return to peace and good governance: they celebrated this past Christmas hiding in the jungle around their town, too fearful to return to home and hearth, giving thanks for the birth of Christ in the shadows, in secret places, while the powers of evil stalked the paths and byways of their town.

I have been told some sad stories which have been circulated about the church in Congo, L’Église Catholique Anglicane du Congo. There are, for sure, elements which need to be improved: but is this not true of all of us? None of this takes away from the responsibility for the people of the villages, of the towns like Fizi: where ordinary people like you and me try and live out their lives in faith and harmony, but unlike us, must be constantly on the watch for the approach of evil, for the marauder who will torture, maim and kill them with little or no compunction: just like those little birds you can watch outside your kitchen window!

Can you help? In Canada, the Africa Appeal at St. Columba or, in the USA, the Missionary Society of St. Paul ( will ensure that any funds contributed will be sent in full to the church in Congo. (Indicate ‘Congo’ on your cheque.)

Fr. David R. Marriott SSC

Please send your donations (cheques payable to St. Columba of Iona) to:

The Africa Appeal, St. Columba of Iona, c/o Fr. David Marriott, 304-9821 140th Street, Surrey BC, V3T 5R7

Or to:

The Africa Appeal, St. Columba of Iona, c/o Mr. D. Whitworth, 11070B Sunshine Coast Highway, Halfmoon Bay BC V0N 1Y2

Tax receipts will be issued.

Reflections on a Walk

(Originally published on The Cathedral Close, the blog of Saint Alban's Pro-Cathedral, ACC-DMAS)

It is 5 a.m. and dark. Very dark, and very cold. The temperature is about 7 degrees, and here I am. One more year and another March for Life. It is my 28th or 29th time out on this 38th March. I am tired and crabby, for I am at that age when things begin to ache when jostled about too early. This would be so much easier if folks could understand that "right to life" bit of the founding documents, and we could be having a nice Mass of thanksgiving to celebrate our children--say at noon on a Sunday in June.

But, here we are still marching and praying for culture of life to return to our nation in the face of an executive branch committed to "choice" and a health care proposal that seems as much a threat to the elderly as to the unborn. In the first dark hours of the day, I pray that my daughter, born on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, will not have to be marching for life in her adult years. It is she with whom I will be marching, along with her 11th grade classmates from the Holy Cross Academy.

My coffee is cold even before I can get out of the drive, and we head to school mostly in silence. After an assignment of the girls in our group, we head out into the dark, 100 strong, to take the Metro to the Youth Rally and Mass at the Verizon Center downtown. I am glad of my wool cassock and my purple "AHC" wooly cap (not recommended for liturgical use), as I contemplate the cold, images of which I began to pray over on a packed train-the cold of instruments, the cold of life torn away from the womb, the coldness of the hearts that permit and endorse such things.

The cold passes away as we herd our group into front-and-center seats for the Youth Rally and Mass. We can see everything from our vantage point, and certainly hear the mostly deafening music. It is worship and praise of the loud kind, but the people pouring in are responding--waiving hands, dancing, praying aloud. I feel more like hearing a requiem, but, I guess I am of an age.

The rock concert momentum of the event seems an odd juxtaposition to the gravity of the day. "Youth ministries" know best, I guess, and there is full multi-media on the big screen of the arena with various groups of young pilgrims getting face time in full color.

Then it is time for Mass-a Mass for 20,000, with another going for 10,000 over at the Armory. There is a procession, seemingly endless with deacons, then priests, then bishops, archbishops and even a couple of cardinals. The celebrant is Cardinal Wuerl of the Archdiocese of DC, and the homilist a young priest who brought home the gravity of the situation. Then quiet in so large a crowd as 20,000 rose to receive the Sacrament (and an occasional blessing) from the hands of the clergy. No lay administration here. Amazing the effect of the Presence of Christ on so large a crowd.

Then, back to the fire up--the hundreds of priests are introduced to the rock star roar. Then deacons, and religious. The crowd is standing and applauding each order. Finally, the seminarians over on the Epistle side (I think it was the Epistle, but, facing altars flummox me). A roar louder than all.

But then, those feeling a call to vocation are asked to stand. Haltingly, young people in the hundreds rise up. More thunder from the crowd for those who may be tomorrow's leaders in the Roman church. I took a moment to pray that we'd see such a desire on the part of our Anglican Catholic young people--men under the age of grey entering the priesthood and young women restoring our Anglican religious life.

Now its out to the street and utter confusion. The route is less than half of its old track from up near the White House. I guess we had to be kept at a stand off distance unless the chants of, "Hey, Mr. President, your mother chose life!" might touch a conscience. Police vehicles, too, broke the pattern of the march, positioned in the route itself, as a barricade for what?

Somehow, the march began with the official starting groups somewhere in back of us. The short route and jumble made sustained prayer impossible. My daughter, now seventeen, walked alongside as we walked up Capitol Hill and on the the Supreme Court. Over the years, I have walked alone, with other clergy and in parish groups. I have never had better company than Laura, who kept me focused on the surge of young people, the prayers and, above-all, the placards-graphic placards-that depict some of the cost of abortion. It was my teenager's comments that let me know that there will be faithful Christians following in our steps to carry the Cross on behalf of all human beings. That's hope...real hope.

Then, suddenly, it is over all too soon. A quick prayer before the Supreme Court, and back down the Hill to Union Station. We encounter some of the disdainful--sneering government staffers who push past, but, thankfully remain silent. These are they who write bills which go unread by their purported makers-the bills that encourage "rationing" of care to the elderly, fund abortions and enshrine that which was once called sin in law. I know the look-I worked here for many years in a part of life now very distant. I am glad of my parish home in Richmond.

We board the Metro back to the school. Things are subdued. Some of our group fall asleep. No one bothers us or stirs a debate as used to happen on this day.

On the walk from our stop, it is the parents who are talking--many had not been to a March for Life. Some who had, had not been for years. There was a sense of renewal, and profound gratitude for the gift of our own children.

And so it was that I ended up asleep a little after 7 p.m., tired and cold. At midnight I woke, and spent some time staring into the night contemplating all of the walks I had taken, and all of the lives cut short over those years--the potential of God's children lost.

Then I walked downstairs to the oratory and lit a candle and prayed:

O LORD, Jesus Christ, who dost embrace children with the arms of thy mercy, and dost make them living members of thy Church; Give them grace, we pray thee, to stand fast in thy faith, to obey thy word, and to abide in thy love; that being made strong by thy Holy Spirit they may resist temptation and overcome evil; and may rejoice in the life that now is, and dwell with thee in the life that is to come; through thy merits, O merciful Saviour, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest one God, world without end. Amen.
So, I will keep walking and praying until there is a change or I can walk no more, but safe in the knowledge that there are those who will take my place.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bigger, wider and deeper

I would like to thank the reader who calls himself Semi-Hookerian for a thoughtful comment in response to Who's Erastianism is it Anyway?

That well-read old political philosophy tutor (among other things), C.S. Lewis, writes, of the controversy into which Hooker enters, respecting 'both' sides, "Puritan" and Settlement "Anglican" (and for that matter their "Papist" ancestors and contemporary controversial opponents), "Their picture of Christianity always includes that disastrous figure 'the Christian magistrate' or 'godly prince.'" (OHEL, p. 443). And (pp. 444-45), "Whatever they say, even whatever they wish, the puritans are driven to put the Church above the State, and the Anglicans to put the State above the Church. [...] Prince and priest in the sixteenth century both desire to ride the pale horse theocracy: and when two men ride a horse we know where one must sit."

Further (p. 458), "It will, of course, be obvious that Hooker's system does not extricate us from theocracy." He points out (p. 459) how "Hooker answers his own age: it is perhaps absurd to ask how he would answer ours. Usually, in past controversies, the premiss which neither side questioned, now seems the shakiest of all."

He does note specific exceptions, regarding Erasmus, Bellus, Acontius, Atkinson, Aglionby, and "best of all, [...] the words of Robert Browne" (pp. 40-41) - concluding, however, "Throughout the sixteenth century the great mass of those who seemed at the time to be sane, normal, practical men, ignored the few who spoke for liberty."

The United States really does seem the next step, even though, e.g., some New England states were protected in their making it difficult for Anglicans, with some such things extending well into the 19th century. Has there, indeed, ever been a further step? And now over a century of "progressives" in ever increasing numbers at a maniacally increasing rate, have been chipping away at that.

Can this be a Chestertonian "White Horse" moment? Is there anything else, in earthly terms, to hope for?

Indeed, when Hooker penned his theological defense of Church of England polity, he did so in an era of state churches. As Leslie Poles Hartley said, "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."

Hooker's writing on Church of England polity is valuable to us today largely because he defended the self-understanding of Anglicans as fully catholic and as reformed. He defended the ongoing practice of Apostolic Succession and episcopal order, including in Book Seven (Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity) a thorough defense of the episcopate as of Divine Institution, having already defended episcopacy as the only practice known to the Church until the innovation of the Geneva Discipline. All of this is standard Anglican belief and practice.

What is not standard Anglican belief and practice is what Hooker went on to say about the Church and the State. Yes, there is still some image of that in the established State Church, the Church of England. But, in Hooker's day, every church was a state church; and this is simply all that people had known for centuries (I need not argue that again. You may simply review the original post). But, the essence of Anglicanism, while retaining every other vital feature defended by Hooker, has proved itself bigger and deeper than anything our critics can cover by their careless and reckless tossing about of the word "Erastianism."

That fact is especially important, because our very existence is constantly under attack. That we remain who we are is an affront to them, retaining an Anglican identity in the face of unrelenting efforts by polemicists of the Two One True Churches to make our people feel illegitimate, uncertain about the validity and efficacy of our sacraments, or embarrassed by a factually wrong allegation of doctrinal confusion in our foundation. We do not mean to insult them, but our Continued existence is taken as an offense. In a sense, by daring to exist at all, we are like the Jewish people, always faced with some ideological menace hell bent on removing our identity from the earth.

When they accuse Anglicanism of being Erastian, not only do they ignore the historical context of the 16th and 17th centuries with the politico-religious paradigm that pervaded all of Europe; they also ignore the subsequent facts of history and overlook what the Continuing Anglican Church proves today by its very existence.

The existence of the Anglican churches that sprang up apart from England, especially the Episcopal Church in the United States, had nothing of the State Church in their structure at all, nor could they have had. The constitutional impossibility of a National Church in the United States, and the complete absence of a crown, did not prevent the spread of our own brand of Christianity. It did not prevent the prosperity of mission efforts across the American continent, especially by such apostolic giants as Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple (1822-1901), whose heroic work among the Dakota and Chippewa, as well as other aboriginal peoples of North America, certainly had no trace of Erastianism about it.

Of course, the birth and survival of Continuing Anglicanism, which retained all of our spiritual assets when invaders took away our material assets, also has nothing of Erastianism about it. Even in England itself the Anglicanism we Continue has no need of a State establishment to support it. Faithfulness to the catholic and evangelical faith, the doctrine and practice--indeed the ongoing life-- of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, practiced with such spiritual aids as our Book of Common Prayer, does not depend on any state establishment. The reason is simple. Anglicanism, by its nature, was endowed by the English Reformers, Church of England Divines, and its numerous Doctors in succeeding ages, with something more valuable than real estate and money, and something more permanent than an earthly crown. It was endowed with that remarkably flexible, inherently endurable, and living reality of the Faith of the Apostles.

The charge of Erastianism simply fades away against reality. We depend on the Holy Ghost, and the grace He imparts through the word of God, and the sacraments. We do not depend on earthly governments to be of that Church we confess in the Creeds. What we possess as our inheritance, and the mission with which are charged by our Lord, have proved to be bigger, wider, and deeper.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

John 2:1-11

Today we will look at three important things meant to be drawn out, exegeted, from this portion of the Gospel of John. These are:

1) Christ’s presence at a wedding
2) His phrase “my hour”
3) The title that he gives to His mother, namely, “Woman.”

(Click the picture for the rest of the sermon)

Fr. Wells' bulletin inserts


Following the visit of the Gentile Magi and the Baptism in the Jordan River, the miracle at the Cana marriage feast is the third manifestation of the God-Man in the Church's liturgical celebration. To many commentators, this miracle seems to be almost unique, in that it does not serve any critical human need. In other miracles, Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, raised the dead. But this miracle merely saved an ordinary family from social embarrassment. Is this situation, with no-one sick, hungry, or dead, too prosaic to warrant Divine intervention? Recalling a wedding in my own experience when the caterer almost failed to appear, surely the Cana wine shortage cried out for God's help. No human need is beneath God's compassionate attention.

As St. John relates the event, the miracle seems almost like a parable in the constellation of symbols. The wedding itself recalls God's marriage covenant to Israel and Our Saviour's taking the Church for His bride. The transformation of water into wine reminds us of the Old Testament, with its types and shadows, giving place to the New Testament, in which the Word is made flesh. From another perspective it symbolizes sinners' being made into saints. Even the number of water-jars seems significant: six (as in the Days of Creation) frequently bespeaks incompleteness, just falling short of the mystical seven. And the presence of the Blessed Mother (not seen again in John until she stands at the foot of the Cross) is not without great importance. Both times Jesus addressed her as “Woman,” echoing Gen. 3:15, naming her as the New Eve, “mother of all living.”

At bottom, this episode is important because John tells us this was “the beginning of miracles.” The first half of the fourth Gospel is organized around an ascending series of seven (that number again!) miracles. These form a crescendo of intensity and power, with the climax in the raising of Lazarus from the dead. John takes us from the gift of new and better wine to the restoration of life to a stinking corpse (his symbol for lost sinners). The eighth miracle, of course, is the resurrection of Jesus Himself, inaugurating the new creation.

The response to the miracles progresses in a counter-direction. The wine of Cana aroused pleasure and delight. “Thou hast kept the good wine until now.” But the succeeding miracles triggered growing animosity. The beneficiary of one miracle, the lame man of John 5, himself became a betrayer of Jesus. The hostility of sinners, like the power of God, found its climax in the desperation of the Jews: “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs” (John 11:47). We know the resolution of that quandary.

So John's magnificent Gospel carries us from “the beginning of signs” to “many signs.” The greatest sign, surely, still continues in the healed and transformed lives of all whom He encounters. LKW

Friday, January 21, 2011

January 22 The other day that lives forever in infamy


(The Supreme Court Decision which led to the

slaughter of 64,000,000 human beings.)

ALMIGHTY God, who hast created man in thine own image, who hast loved us even before thou formed us in the womb, Grant us courage fearlessly to bear witness to the sacredness of all human life, especially the life of the weak, the enfeebled and the unborn, and to make no peace with the culture of death. Bless with wisdom and courage all physicians and nurses that they may regard every human creature with due reverence. Guide and direct those who make law and public policy, that the rights of all persons may be upheld, most especially the right to life itself. Save thy Church from cowardice and compromise. And finally, we beseech thee, cleanse our world from the evils of abortion, euthanasia and suicide. All this we ask in the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ, in whom is life and whose life is the light of men. Amen.

(The above prayer was sent by Fr. Wells)


The following are excerpts from a sermon Archbishop Mark Haverland wrote for the Feast of the Holy Innocents. The remarks about abortion are relevant on January 22.

Now, having heard me explain how Herod might have justified his action, do you see how easy it is to become a mass murderer? Do you see how plausible, smooth, and sensible it is to slip into killing, so long as it goes on outside our immediate sight? We can claim the greater good, we can even claim that in a sense it is good for those who die, that for the sake of peace or prosperity or the whole country some should die. It is sad. It is regrettable. But so long as we do not have to watch, some may be allowed to die.

And let us not dare become smug in this matter. The most civilized nation on earth -- the nation of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, the nation of Leibniz and Kant, the nation of Dürer and Matthias Grünewald -- put people into cattle cars and gas ovens. Our own nation averts its eyes as a million unborn children every year are -- regrettably, reluctantly -- killed. And we tolerate judges and politicians who tell us that this -- of course regrettable -- situation is necessary and that it is the economy that matters. I cannot see how they are any better than Herod, except that Herod has a bad press in the gospels. You may be sure that St. Matthew could never get a job with the New York Times.

The point of course in Herod’s day and ours is a failure of love -- a failure to love and honor God and our neighbor. Herod is frightened by a threat to his power, so he fails to honor the lives of Bethlehem's children as given by God, the Lord and Giver of life. He values many things, many of which are genuinely good and valuable; but he neglects the one thing needful. He is looking so hard after his kingdom that the kingdom of God passes him by. He is a realistic, this-worldly politician, whose name becomes a byword for murder and wickedness. He realistically struggles to keep the Romans at bay, but thirty years later Pontius Pilate is governor in Jerusalem. He struggles to preserve peace, and in the next generation peace is repeatedly shattered by rebellions and wars. His worldly wisdom is made foolish by the wisdom of God, and he is left with nothing but a bad name and failed policies.

And so it always is. When we fail in love and do not love God above all and our neighbors as ourselves, then everything we achieve and gain in our selfishness will turn to ashes and bitterness. If Herod had had a generous heart, opened to the possibility that God sought to work something great in Bethlehem, what might have been? We will never know, of course. But if Herod had sought first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, I am sure that he would not have lost in this world either. I have known women who have had abortions because, they tell me, in genuine agony, they just could not manage. I cannot greatly blame them, given the pressures they are subjected to and the circumstances that often cloud what should be clear.

But I believe that if we put God and his kingdom first, even -- no, especially -- in the awful circumstances in which we sometimes find ourselves, then God will open a way, that we cannot see in advance. For I also know people who have not failed in love, even in the most difficult of times, and who have lived to bless God for their choice. We all of us at times are little Herods. Sometimes we all do better. But let us always remember how easy it is to slip into Herod’s position and to justify to ourselves the greatest acts of selfishness. Let us in this joyful season think on these sad things as well. Let us open our hearts indeed to the Christ Child, whose face is that of all men and women, and whose face is especially that of the weak and the helpless -- the sick, the elderly, the unborn, the poor, and the lonely and unloved. Let us strive to be Christians in deed and not to fail in love.


Her Mother's Glory

For the third time I am posting this article from Touchstone, which has been reprinted in various pro-life journals and other publications since it first appeared seven years ago. It was at the request of David Mills that I made the effort to compose the only article that was ever difficult for me to write. And, I required the agreement of both my wife and my daughter, for reasons you will see. This pro-life testimony from our real life experience seems fitting right now.

“Her Mother?s Glory” first appeared in the January/February, 2004 issue of Touchstone.

Robert Hart on the Hardest of Abortion Cases

I promised myself that I would not be the stereotypical father of the bride, like Spencer Tracy, who hates to give away his little girl. But as I walked her down the aisle, and approached the moment she would become a full-grown, married lady, I felt everything I had determined not to feel. Very far from my mind was the story of her strange origins. It is always far from my mind, unless something reminds me of it, like the recent news from Poland.

The infamous abortion ship from Holland was daring to stop off a port in Poland in order to make its “services” available to Polish women who do not have “reproductive rights”—as the anti-life crowd call them—in their own country. Polish law restricts abortions to cases in which the mother’s life is threatened, to cases of incest, and to cases of rape. Compared to the ease with which most women in the Western world can obtain legal abortion for any reason, in fact for no reason at all, and at just about any time during pregnancy, Poland is better. But pro-life? No, sadly, no.

His Daughter Alone

Of my four children, my daughter alone is the one I adopted. I never exactly forget the fact; it simply passes out of conscious thought since it does not matter, for she is, in every way that counts, my daughter, my first child. Over the years, I have always felt what a father ought to feel.

When she was eleven, she suffered a staph infection, and Diane and I feared we would lose her. This was the second time in her short life that she was in danger of dying. The first time she was in danger she did not face an impersonal disease, but determined persons: when her mother had to fight against intruding social workers, and the whole system, for the right to make the choice that her baby would be born. After all, when a woman has been made pregnant through rape, it is not only her right, but her duty, to do the “honorable thing.” At least, so it seemed from all the pressure put on her in those months. She was upsetting the expectations and demands that “liberated” women have no right to upset. She was refusing the “sacrament” of abortion.

What a terrible thing she did. For a woman to bear a child when abortion seemed so justified, so necessary, when the pregnancy was the result of rape—well, it was certainly anti-social behavior. She was coerced into seeing a psychiatrist who could help her overcome the obvious defect known to Christians as principle. He might even have cured her of maternal instinct and the malady called love.

But all those years ago I knew nothing of what had happened, only that she was suddenly gone, nowhere to be found. Why had this girl vanished from our hometown in Maryland without a trace? When I discovered her whereabouts, 3,000 miles away in California, I hastened to call her. I had expected, had hoped, to have seen her in those months. “I have a baby girl,” she told me.

“Are you married?”


“I see. Well, as a Christian I hope you have repented of . . .”

“Well, it was from rape, actually.”

I found that she would not put up her child for adoption. She was willing to live as a single mother because she could not be sure that a couple would raise her child to believe in Jesus Christ. She decided to keep the baby; and God rewarded her by giving her a wonderful, not to mention dashingly handsome, husband.

Convoluted Reasoning

I never think of my daughter’s origins and the strange circumstances of her early life unless something brings them to mind; for example, the disappointing remarks of a “conservative” radio talk-show host. This fellow talks a lot about his Catholic faith and Irish heritage, so it was with some astonishment that I heard him defending his view that abortion in cases of rape may be justified. “After all,” he pointed out, “it’s not the same as when it’s someone’s fault that she is pregnant. I just think it’s different.” He certainly did not get this idea from the Catholic Church.

I remembered back over twenty years ago hearing the same convoluted reasoning from Christians, some Catholic, some Evangelical. I recall a very Evangelical and Charismatic lady asking me, “But if it was rape, why didn’t she get an abortion?” I thought about the king of Judah, the one who would not execute the sons of his father’s assassins because of the Law of God, which says “the children shall not be put to death for the sins of the fathers, nor the fathers for the sins of the children” (2 Chronicles 25:4; Deuteronomy 24:16).

Where did the “conservative” radio talk-show host get the idea that pregnancy is a penalty? If it is a penalty, it might be unjust for the innocent to bear it. But what if it is not a penalty? What if it is the healing that God might give to a woman who has suffered a violent attack? What if the Author of Life takes the opportunity to do good from someone’s evil? The injustice done to Joseph resulted in the saving of his life, and that of millions of people, foreshadowing the good done for the whole world by the unjust crucifixion of a young rabbi from Nazareth. It is ever the way of God to make good come from the evil that men do.

Just who is it that these well-meaning people, such as the very Charismatic lady and the talk-show host, would sentence to death?

I remember the very wide eyes of a ten-month-old baby girl looking up at me, having just arrived by plane from California with her mother. I remember her first steps across my parents’ living-room floor. After her mother and I were married, I remember the first Christmas in our apartment, and her excitement at the wonder of a lit and decorated tree. She had names for us from Winnie the Pooh. I was Pooh, she was Piglet, and as she looked at her mom, now pregnant with the first of our three sons, she said, “And mom’s the kangaroo.”

Her very first day of school I remember watching her bravely walking into the classroom, as a lady laughed at the sight of my perplexity—a feeling of mingled loss and pride that was small compared to what I felt when I gave her in marriage to a fine young man. I remember her saying to him, “I will,” and pledging her life not only to him but also to any children they are blessed with, and to God who blesses them.

She is a young lady who spreads joy wherever she goes. She has a place in the lives of many, not only her new husband, her parents, and her brothers, but many who know her well, and many who have met her in passing—a unique place that no one else could fill. She is happy by nature at 23 (update 2011: this year she will be 30, and the mother of two sons so far), married, an avid reader, a good friend, a serious Christian. This is the person that these well-meaning people were willing to sentence to death. Oh, not now, not when they can see her; but when she was in danger the first time, in the womb and hidden from view.

Enough for Her

My wife is not living the life of a tragic victim. She is the happy mother of four children, and would not wish to part with any of them. My daughter learned of her origin after she was over twenty years of age and it became obvious that the truth could not be hidden without confusion. Someone had taken pictures of her as a three-year-old, at the wedding of her parents. I had been warned, “Never tell her, it would devastate her to know.”

Not so. Rather, the mystery was unsettling, and the truth was welcome. You see, it did not matter. She had always known that God is the Author of Life—all life. Every human being is made in his image, and that means everything when a child is raised to understand that the image of God became more than an abstract idea in Hebrew Scripture when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And it was enough for her that she has a mother and a father who love her.

For both Diane and me, the details of our daughter’s early life and strange origins are very much out of mind, far from conscious thought. That is, unless something brings them to mind, such as realizing that it is time to tell our story for the benefit of others who are caught in what seem like desperate circumstances, and who need the courage to make the decision to let the Author of Life do his healing and creative work, bringing light out of darkness and good out of evil: who need to make the decision of love.


Finally, for those who can endure it, we will provide a link to a video by Eduardo Verastegui. It is not suitable for young children, and may be too much for some of you, because it shows the terrible violent truth of abortion. We make it available, but be warned.

Eduardo Verastegui's pro-life video

O God, according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die. (Ps. 79:11)

Open thy mouth for the speechless in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. (Prov. 31:8)