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Friday, January 28, 2005

The Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSaint Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican theologian, was born Thomas d'Aquino, the son of a baron, in his family's castle at Roccasecca, central Italy, in 1224 or 1225. At about the age of five, Thomas was placed by his parents in the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino. His uncle had been abbot of the monastery, and his family had similar ambitions for Thomas. When Monte Cassino became the scene of a battle between papal and imperial troops, however, Thomas withdrew and enrolled at the University of Naples in November of 1239, where he stayed until April of 1244. There he came into contact with members of the Dominican order and, against the opposition of his family, became a Dominican friar in late April of 1244. Shortly after, in May of 1244, his family intervened forcibly, having him abducted and detained thereafter at Roccasecca. His mother tried to persuade Thomas for more than a year to give up his membership in the Dominican order. Failing to persuade him, Thomas was allowed to return to his order in July or August of 1245. He then went north to study for his novitiate till 1248, after which he came under the guidance of St. Albert the Great at Cologne until the Fall of 1252, during which time (1250/51) he was ordained a priest. From the Fall of 1252 to the Spring of1259, Thomas taught at the Dominican house of studies in Paris. It was during this time that he lectured on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. Between March 3 and June 17 of 1256, he was incepted as a master of theology, and was regent master in theology at Paris until 1259, during which time he began his Summa contra gentiles. 1259 found Aquinas leaving Paris for Naples, where he stayed until the Fall of 1261 as head of the Dominican house of studies. From September of that same year to September of 1265, Aquinas was at Orvieto as a lector, where he completed the Summa contra gentiles. After a time at Rome in 1265 and Viterbo in 1267 (his great work, the Summa theologiae was begun in 1266), he took up his second Parisian regency from January of 1269 to 1272. This was followed by his assignment to Naples in 1272 as regent of theology. December 6, 1273 saw the cessation of his writing, after a physical and mental breakdown from years of overwork. While going north to attend the Council of Lyon, Thomas injured his head, fell ill and died in the Cistercian abbey of Fossanova on March 7, 1274.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

M.F. Sadler Republished

To all the readers here, let me encourage you to purchase a copy of M.F. Sadler's book The Second Adam and the New Birth. Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHe has sadly been forgotten by many theologians and layman today and some have never heard of him simply because we have let his work slip away. Well, I am very happy to say, as one who owns all of his works and commentaries, that he is in the process of being republished. He was a 19th Century Anglican who really laid out a solid catholic view of the covenant and baptism and the Eucharist. He has a Eucharistic work entitled The One Offering that will be republished in the future as well. Take the time to read this work; you will not regret it. You can purchase the book HERE.

Open Letter to Guy Waters

If you have been following the discussion on the NPP and particularly +Tom Wright's work and the debates surrounding his NT work and those who critique him here is another look at Guy Waters' recently published book. I hope that Waters will put his response to this somewhere.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Eucharist: The Mark of Unity

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe Anglican Church this week dedicates itself to prayer for unity. Our Book of Common Prayer offers this prayer for unity:

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace; Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord: that as there is but one Body and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The following article is offered by a Roman Catholic theologian. It is obvious in our day that we love to hold on to those things of division that Christ despises. May we ALL come to the One Table/Altar of Unity.

1 Cor. 10. 16-17: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.


Eucharist:
Sign and Source of Christian Unity
by Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D.

When Catholics from all the nations and cultures of the world gather for a Eucharistic Congress, like the one in Rome in June 2000, they celebrate a tremendous sign of unity. All who participate in this Eucharist are fed by the same life of Christ. At the same time the worldwide eucharistic celebration is a sign of unity it is also a source, or cause, of unity. We are nourished by the same body and blood of Christ, strengthened in unity. Yet there's a flip side of the coin. As remarkable a display of unity as eucharistic congresses are they also show us how far we are from unity among all Christians. A eucharistic congress makes us long for the day when all Christians can share in the one body of Christ: intercommunion. To what degree is intercommunion possible today? Are there ways we can hasten the day when all communions can participate in one Eucharist? This Update will explore what the Catholic Church teaches about intercommunion and why.

Longing for Intercommunion

The fundamental meaning of any sacrament can be found in the prayers which accompany the sacramental action. In each of the seven sacraments we invoke the Holy Spirit and petition the Spirit to make us holy and to build up the Body of Christ. This petition is the key to understanding the sacrament: The primary petition of the eucharistic prayer is for unity in Christ. We ask that the Spirit change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ so that we who eat and drink might be changed into the Body of Christ. "Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ....May all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit." (Eucharistic Prayer, 2) "Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ." (Eucharistic Prayer, 3) The other eucharistic prayers have similar invocations.

If "unity" is at the heart of Eucharist, why can't all Christians—Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics—share Holy Communion?

Different Christian Churches answer this question in various ways. Some Christians favor "open Communion." Open Communion is the position that holds that no one can stop a baptized person who believes in Jesus Christ from receiving Communion in any Church. They would say that open Communion is the preferred option because the Holy Supper is a source of unity—a means by which unity among Christians can be achieved. This, however, is not the official Roman Catholic position.

Other Christians believe that the condition for receiving Holy Communion in another Church is unity of faith in the Real Presence. Intercommunion will be possible when the Churches reach a doctrinal consensus regarding Eucharist. While much progress has been made regarding our common doctrinal understanding of Real Presence, the official Catholic position asks for more than common belief in the real presence. Some Christians—Catholics included—hold that sharing Holy Communion is only proper between Churches which have a historical succession of bishops and true priesthood. For real (valid) Eucharist, you need real priesthood. This is an important element of the Catholic position.

The official Catholic position holds that Holy Communion is not only a source of Christian unity, but it is also a sign of unity—real unity, existing now. "Strengthened in holy Communion by the body of Christ, [the faithful] manifest in a concrete way the unity of the people of God that this sacrament aptly signifies and wondrously causes" (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 11).

We cannot put forth signs of unity when obvious division still exists. Receiving Communion at the same altar is not a sign of unity when we do so with the intention of separating afterwards to return to our various Churches. In short, the Catholic Church teaches that we should not pretend to have true unity if, in reality, we are separated from other Christian bodies. That separation is often seen now not so much over basic beliefs as it is over mutual recognition of the validity of Holy Orders.

The Eucharist is more than food for the individual Christian. When we come together to celebrate the Eucharist we express who we are as Church. The liturgy, especially the Eucharist, "is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 2).

Roman Catholic Law

Pope John Paul II explains the Roman Catholic position regarding intercommunion in his encyclical letter on ecumenism, That All May Be One. He says that Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism (#22-23) "pointing out that the post-Reformation Communities lack that 'fullness of unity with us which should flow from Baptism," observes that 'especially because of the lack of the Sacrament of Orders they have not preserved the genuine and total reality of the Eucharistic mystery,' even though 'when they commemorate the Lord's Death and Resurrection in the Holy Supper, they profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and they await his coming in glory'" (#67).

Consequently, the current law of the Roman Church states that ordinarily Catholics can receive the sacraments only from Catholic ministers (Code of Canon Law, Canon 844). However, the law itself gives some exceptions to this general rule. "Whenever necessity requires it or true spiritual advantage suggests it, and provided that danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, the Christian faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister are permitted to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid" (Canon 844, 2). The fact that exceptions exist is a sign of hope.

Sharing Communion With Eastern Catholics
and Orthodox

Some years ago I was in Egypt, visiting a fellow Catholic priest at his parish. While I was there, his friend, the pastor of the neighboring Coptic parish, died. The Coptic funeral was a situation where Roman Catholics would be permitted to receive Communion from a non-Catholic minister. Roman Catholics recognize this Church as having valid priesthood and valid Eucharist. The long friendship of the two pastors made this a time when receiving Communion at his friend's funeral would have constituted a "spiritual advantage." It was impossible to approach a Catholic minister because it was a Coptic funeral Mass. But there was another consideration that kept us two Catholics from receiving Communion: Coptic-church law forbade it. We did not receive out of respect for their law.

The same would be true for a Catholic visiting an Orthodox parish anywhere. But what happens when the above situation is reversed, when a member of an Orthodox Church wishes to receive Communion in a Catholic Church? Here Catholic canon law states: "Catholic ministers administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing f the sick licitly to members of Eastern Churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church if they seek such on their own accord and are properly disposed" (Canon 844, 3).

I experienced an example of this in Kerala, India. I was staying with a good friend who is pastor of a Catholic parish of the Syro-Malankara Rite. An elderly couple who lived next door to the parish church, although they were Syrian Orthodox, came to daily Mass and received Holy Communion with us. This is permitted by the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (Canon 673, 3 which is very similar to our Canon 844, 3).

These provisions in the law are in keeping with the current Catholic position that the Eucharist is a sign of actual unity already achieved. There is sufficient unity between the Catholic Church and these sister-Churches to warrant intercommunion under the circumstances spelled out in the law. They have true faith in the Eucharist, apostolic succession, and valid priesthood.

Sharing Communion With Protestants

But for Catholics where I live, these examples seem to miss the point. The question here is not about Syro-Malankara Catholics or Coptic Orthodox. The question is: What about Protestants? Can we share Eucharist with them?

We have seen that the official Roman Catholic position of restricting the sharing of Holy Communion is based on the principle that Eucharist is a sign of Church unity already actually achieved. But years ago the larger issues of Church unity and ministry did not play a determining role. In my early training I learned that Protestants could not receive Holy Communion at Mass because they did not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It was never explained to me exactly what they did believe, but I knew it was not what we believed. Since then, I have learned that it is often dangerous to presume to know what someone else believes.

For example, I remember the day some years ago when Laura, a young Catholic girl, came to the rectory with her Protestant fiance Mike and asked me to help them plan their wedding. Because marriage is a sacrament and the wedding ceremony is first and foremost an act of worship—prayer time—I asked Laura and Mike, "Have you ever prayed together?" "Sure," they replied, "we often pray together." "Have you ever gone to church together?" And again the answer was yes. "Each Sunday we go to church together," Laura replied. "Sometimes to mine, sometimes his."

I asked "Do you ever receive Communion together?" "Of course not," they both replied. When I asked "why not," Laura explained, "Because we Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and Protestants believe in merely symbolic presence."

Intrigued by this idea of "merely symbolic presence" I asked Mike if he would take his Church's Communion Bread, and put peanut butter and jelly on it. Mike looked at me in surprise and shock. "Of course not, Father! It's not bread for a sandwich; it's the Body of the Lord." "If you believe that Holy Communion is the Body of Lord," I asked, "why don't you receive Communion at the Catholic Church?" Mike explained, "In our Church, we believe that receiving Holy Communion has a spiritual, religious meaning; whereas Catholics believe that it is merely a physical act, some sort of cannibalism." I found it very interesting how both of these devout young Christians had somehow picked up a stereotype of the other's belief.

Although many Protestants have true belief in Christ's eucharistic presence, our laws regarding their participation in Catholic Eucharist are more restrictive than those we saw above regarding the Orthodox Churches because we do not share the same degree of unity with the Protestant Churches that we share with the Orthodox. "If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer [the sacraments of penance, Eucharist and anointing of the sick] licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed." (Canon 844, 4)

The law allows for some exceptions—"when grave necessity urges it." The Roman Directory for Ecumenism (1993) lists among the examples of this "grave necessity" the possibility of a non-Catholic spouse receiving Communion at a Catholic wedding. But the directory insists that local bishops and bishop's conferences spell out the times when this "grave necessity" might be present. There are times when eucharistic sharing between Episcopalians and Catholics in the United States might be possible when similar sharing between Anglicans and Roman Catholics in Ireland might not. It is difficult for Rome to make laws which are applicable to all the countries of the world.

While the Roman directory suggests that the non-Catholic party might receive Communion at their Catholic wedding, the question must be asked about the non-Catholic guests. If they are unable to receive Holy Communion, we will have a liturgy which makes visible signs of our division when the wedding liturgy itself is intended to give signs of unity—the unity of bride and groom, the unity of Christ and the Church. That is why it is best on these occasions to celebrate the wedding without a Eucharist.

Our Task for the Future

In the encyclical On the Coming of the Third Millennium, Pope John Paul II stated: "Among the most fervent petitions which the Church makes to the Lord...is that unity among all Christians of the various confessions will increase until they reach full communion." Our efforts toward ecumenical agreements must show the world "that the disciples of Christ are fully resolved to reach full unity as soon as possible in the certainty that 'nothing is impossible with God.'" In this same context, as the pope calls for "cooperation in the many areas which unite us," he points out that these areas which unite us "are unquestionably more numerous than those which divide us" (#16).

Our task is to emphasize the positive, to realize how far we have come. Today in many places the Churches of a city or area are joining together to work for safe, drug-free streets; jointly sponsoring thrift stores and soup kitchens; pooling resources for emergency financial help to those in need; working together in projects such as Habitat for Humanity. And even though we cannot yet always share the Lord's life-giving Bread at one common table, how wonderful it is that so many of our Churches share a common table of the Lord's Word. It is a great blessing that we all experience the redeeming presence of Christ in the proclamation of the same Scripture passages in our churches. "To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in his Church, especially in its liturgical celebrations....He is present in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church." (Sacred Liturgy, 7).

When we speak of Church unity we do not, of course, mean Church uniformity. It is possible, and even preferable, to achieve Church unity while preserving a wide diversity of Church structures and liturgical expressions. "From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity of those who receive them" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 814).

The transcendent splendor of Orthodox liturgies; the reverence and ecumenical zeal of the Churches of the Anglican Communion; the gratitude for God's free grace and the Lutheran Church's contributions to liturgy through music; the missionary spirit of the Baptist Churches; the Disciples of Christ's dedication to Church unity; the call to social responsibility proclaimed by the United Methodist Church; the confidence in God's faithfulness as witnessed to by the Presbyterian and Reform Churches—these rich gifts which God has given to each of the Churches are to be preserved and developed until the day we weave them together in a wonderful tapestry to be placed on the table when "many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 8:11).


Thomas Richsttater, O.F.M., has a doctorate in sacramental theology from Institut Catholique of Paris and serves on the faculty of St. Meinrad School of Theology. He is a popular writer and lecturer whose latest book is The Sacraments: How Catholics Pray (St. Anthony Messenger Press).

Next: Many Faces in God's House by Virgilio Elizondo, Jamie Phelps, O.P.,
and Peter C. Phan



Guidelines for Non-Catholic Guests
Excerpt from the U.S. Catholic bishops' official guidelines

For our fellow Christians:

...Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life and worship, members of those Churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (Canon 844, 4).

Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of Communion by Christians of these Churches (844, 3).

For those not receiving holy Communion: All who are not receiving holy Communion are encourage to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.

For non-Christians: We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.

Complete official guidelines can be found on the Internet at:
www.nccbuscc.org



A Word for the Cowardly

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSOME priggish little clerk will say, 'I have reason to congratulate myself that I am a civilized person, and not so bloodthirsty as the Mad Mullah.' Somebody ought to say to him, 'A really good man would be less bloodthirsty than the Mullah. But you are less bloodthirsty, not because you are more of a good man, but because you are a great deal less of a man. You are not bloodthirsty, not because you would spare your enemy, but because you would run away from him.'

'All Things Considered.'

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Abortion Clinics: What happens in there?

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Photo is a 7 week old child. I saw this on another blog site today and thought it might cause us to remember that the Lord of creation is against abortion and as another year goes by in America and other parts of the world where millions of children are aborted each year this ought to wake up those who are pro-choice. But I am not sure anything will change their minds even if someone came back from the dead to tell them not to go through with it! May God protect the innocent and hear their cries and those who suffer from having gone through an abortion find themselves at the foot of the cross in the forgiving presence of Christ!

Andrewes A Perennial Preacher

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usDr. Marianne Dorman who has become a good friend through I-net discussions on the theology of Lancelot Andrewes and who is an Andrewes scholar herself has a new book that has been recently published that I recommend. She has written some other things on Andrewes and has a site dedicated to his thinking and work. I should have posted this earlier but I simply did not think of it. Well, since we are celebrating the 400th year of Andrewes' consecration as bishop this year, why don't you read a bit up on one of the greatest English Catholics that the Church ever produced. Andrewes understood the necessity of bringing together the academy and the Church where the people of God would benefit from it the most.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Christ as the plus quam

This quote come from Lancelot Andrewes' sermon at the Durham Cathedral the Twentieth of April, A.D. MDCXVII., Being Easter-Day. The text is from Matthew where Jesus tells the Pharisees that a sign greater than Jonah is here and promised that just as Jonah was raised up from the belly of the whale so shall He, the Son of Man be raised up on the third day. In coming to the end of this sermon that focused on Christ and his death and resurrection as the plus quam Andrewes makes a clear reference that the Sacraments are more than mere signs. He says that the exhibit the very thing they signify. There is a sacramental union with the reality of Christ the greater Jonah. Andrewes confirms that

In Christ this sign is a sign, not betokening only, but exhibiting also what it betokenteth, as the Sacraments do. For of signs, some shew only and work nothing; such was that of Jonas in itself, sed ecce plus quam Jonas hic. For some other there be that shew and worth both—work what they shew, present us with what they represent, what they set before us, set or graft in us. Such is that of Christ. For besides that it sets before us of His, it is farther a seal or pledge to us of our own, that what we see in Him this day, shall be accomplished in our own selves, at His good time. And even so pass we to another mystery, for one mystery leads us to another; this in the text, to the holy mysteries we are providing to partake, which do work like, and do work to this, even to the raising of the soul with “the first resurrection.” And as they are a means for the raising of our soul out of the soil of sin—for they are given us, and we take them expressly for the remission of sins—so are they no less a means also, for the raising of our bodies out of the dust of death. The sign of that body which was thus “in the heart of the earth,” to bring us from thence at the last. Our Saviour saith it totidem verbis, “Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My Blood, I will raise him up at the last day”—raise him, whither He hath raised Himself. Not to life only, but to life and glory, and both without end.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Hilary of Poitiers: Bishop and Doctor 315-367

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Hilary of Poitiers (315-367) lived during the great controversy between Athanasius, who taught that the Son is fully God, equally with the Father, and Arius, who denied this.

Hilary is sometimes called "the Athanasius of the West." He was bishop of Poitiers, and when he refused to sign a condemnation of Athanasius, the Arian emperor Constantius (one of the sons of Constantine) banished him to Phrygia in 357. His exile lasted three years, during which time he wrote several essays, including On the Trinity. Finally the Emperor was forced to send him back to Gaul because he was causing such difficulties for the Arians in the East. In 364, he journeyed to Milan, where he engaged in public debate with the Arian bishop Auxentius, and persuaded him of the error of his ways.

Collect: O Lord our God, who didst raise up thy servant Hilary to be a Champion of the catholic faith: Keep us steadfast in that true faith which we professed at our baptism, that we may rejoice in having thee for our Father, and may abide in thy Son, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit; thou who livest and reignest for ever and ever.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Review of Guy Waters' book on Justification

At this link you will find The Rev'd Tim Gallant's review of Dr. Guy Waters' book on the Justification controversy that looks at Bishop Tom Wright's work as well as some other debates circling around Reformed churches on the sacraments. Tim has done his homework in this review and it will be helpful in this debate. Tim uses numerous quotes from the original author's to prove the points he makes in this review and I think you will find it helpful. I hope you enjoy it and it is helpful in this discussion.

Aelred of Hexham, Abbot of Rievaulx, 1167

Collect
Almighty God,
who endowed Aelred the abbot
with the gift of Christian friendship
and the wisdom to lead others in the way of holiness:
grant to your people that same spirit of mutual affection,
so that, in loving one another,
we may know the love of Christ
and rejoice in the eternal possession
of your supreme goodness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


St. Aelred(1110-1167)Abbot of Revesby
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Abbot of Rievaulx
Born: 1110 probably at or near Hexham, Northumberland
Died: 12th Janury 1167 at Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire North Riding


Aelred was the son of a priest of Hexham. Of noble descent, he was born in that region of Northern England in 1110. Being educated in learning and piety at Durham, around 1130, he was invited by St. David, the pious King of Scotland, to his court, made seneschal of his household and was highly esteemed both by him and the courtiers. His virtue shone with bright lustre in the World, particularly his meekness, as related in a number of anecdotes.

A certain person of quality, having insulted and reproached him in the presence of the King, Aelred heard him out with patience and thanked him for his charity and sincerity in telling him his faults. This behaviour had such an influence on his adversary that it made him ask his pardon on the spot. Another time, whilst he was speaking on a certain matter, one interrupted him with very harsh reviling expressions. Aelred heard him with tranquility and, afterward, resumed his discourse with the same calmness and presence of mind as before.

He desired ardently to devote himself entirely to God, by forsaking the World - but the charms of friendship detained him some time longer in it. Reflecting that he must, sooner or later, be separated, by death, from those he loved most, he condemned his own cowardice and broke, at once, those bonds of friendship which were more agreeable to him than all other sweets of life. To relinquish entirely all his Worldly engagements, he left Scotland, and embraced the austere Cistercian order, at Rievaulx in Yorkshire, where Walter de L'Espeque had recently (1122) founded a monastery.

At the age of twenty-four, in 1134, he became a monk under the first abbot, William, a disciple of St. Bernard. In spite of the delicacy of his body, he set himself cheerfully to practice the greatest austerities and employed much of his time in prayer and reading. His heart turned with great ardour to the love of God and this made him feel all the Cistercian disciplines as sweetness and light. He had been much delighted, in his youth, with reading Cicero; but, after his conversion, found that author and all others, tedi-ous and bitter, unless they wrote of the word of God. This he records in the preface to his book 'On Spiritual Friendship'.

Through his friends and his writings, Aelred became a figure of national importance. He was chosen to preach at Westminster Abbey during the translation of St. Edward the Confessor in 1163 and subsequently wrote his well-known life of this man. Other works include a Life of St. Ninian, the Saints of Hexham and Sermons on Isaiah which are often considered his finest.

Towards the end of his life, ill-health forced Aelred to live in a small hut near the infirmary at Rievaulx. He was now rarely able to travel. Though, occasionally, he managed to visit his friend, St. Godric, on his way north to his Scottish foundations. He died on 12th January 1067 and was buried in the Chapter House at Rievaulx. He was never formally canonized, but a local cult, approved by the Cistercians, quickly grew up around him and his body was translated to a superb gold and silver shrine behind the high-altar.

Partly Edited from S. Baring-Gould's "The Lives of the Saints" (1877).

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Pauline Studies and the Ongoing Debate

I wanted to let many of the readers here know that Tim Gallant is doing a critical review and response to Guy Waters' book on justification and the ongoing debates on this issue. Stay tuned for his review. I have not had time to read Waters' book yet and will have to wait for a break in my studies on Eucharistic Theology if there is such a thing. But, all of you readers may be interested to keep up with this on going debate. Keep Tim Gallant's blog as one of your favourites and as one of the careful critiques and thoughtful responses within this discussion. I am sure that there will be many more forthcoming. Maybe we will see Bishop Tom give a response to it as well.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Bishop Lancelot Andrewes on Psalm 118:22

“The Stone which the builders refused, the same Stone is become the Head of the corner.”

Two memorials that Andrewes finds in this Psalm are 1. the exalting of the Saviour by His resurrection and 2. the exalting and making him head of the Kingdom. For Andrewes Christ is the Lapis [stone] of our Sacraments and the water of our baptism. One thing that Andrewes was clear to emphasise was that Christ was the adjoining centre of all things separate, Jew/Gentile, male/female, living/dead, and Heaven/Earth. All of these meet in Christ. Christ then is the Head of unity. He is unitas ordinate and is commended to us a s unity against division. Andrewes said, “The head without unity, unity without the head; either without other will not long hold.” Christ will not be head of a single wall but will unite all to make one. Explaining this unity he says,

And they that had rather be a front in a wall, than in a meaner place sub lapide angulari; and they that stand upon their own partition, and will not endure to hear of any joining, care not what become of angulus, if it were stricken out, “the same mind is not in them,” in neither of them “which was in Christ Jesus.” [Phil. 2:5] His mind we see. He looks to the angle, as to the head; and to the head, as to the angle. And they build best, that build likest Him: “wisdom is justified of all her children.”

This is the greatest service to Christ that we can perform on Earth. It is here that Andrewes shows how the Eucharist is the corner-stone that joins the Law and the Gospel.

One chief corner-point of His was, ‘when He joined the Lamb of the Passover and the Bread of the Eucharist, ending the one and beginning the other, recapitulating both Lamb and Bread into Himself;’ making that Sacrament, by the very institution of it, to be as it were the very corner-stone of both the Testaments. No act then more fit for this feast, the feast of the Passover, than that act which is itself the passage from the Old Testament to the New. Now way better to express our thanks for this Corner-stone, than by the holy Eucharist, which itself is the corner-stone of the Law and the Gospel. 1. And there is in it a perfect representation of the substance of this verse and text set before our eyes. Wherein two poor elements of no great value in themselves, but that they might well be refused, are exalted by God to the estate of a divine mystery, even of the highest mystery in the Church of Christ. 2. And a kind of resurrection there is in them, and therefore fit for the day of the Resurrection, as ever in Christ’s Church Easter-day hath pleaded a special property in them. Sown as it were, in weakness and dishonour; and, after they be consecrated, rising again in honour and power. And that, a great honour and power, not only to represent, but to exhibit that it representeth, nor to se before us, or remember us of, but even to serve us for a corner-stone. First, uniting us to Christ the “Head,” whereby we grown into one frame building, into one body mystical, with Him. And again, uniting us also as living stones, or lively members, omnes in id ipsum, one to another, and all together in one by mutual love and charity. Qui comedit de hoc Pane, et bibit de hoc Calice, manet in Me, et Ego in illo, “He that eateth of this Bread, and drinketh of this Cup, abideth in Me, and I in him.” There is our corner with Him. And again, Unum corpus omnes sumus, qui de uno pane participamus, “All we that partake of one bread or cup, grow all into one body mystical. There is our corner, either with other.

Thought's on +Wright Conference

Tim Gallant has produced a nice introductory review of what +Wright said at a conference in Monroe, LA. These are quite helpful and should warrant a good response.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

+Tom Wright Sermon in Monroe LA

Out of Egypt
Ephesians 1.3–6, 15–19a; Matthew 2.13–15, 19–23

a sermon for Grace Church, Monroe, Louisiana on the Second Sunday after Christmas January 2 2005 by the Bishop of Durham, England, Dr N. T. Wright

‘Out of Egypt have I called my Son.’ I invite you this morning to hold that strange prophecy (to which St Matthew draws our attention in the story of the Holy Family escaping the wrath of Herod and then returning) alongside, and even as a caption for, the scenes of utter horror and devastation that we have witnessed over the last week. It was, indeed, a week ago today that one of the great oceans of the world did what in our worst nightmares we sometimes imagine, and we shuddered at the initial death toll of twenty thousand, little thinking that within a week that would have grown eight times larger, with more inevitably to come. And though there is no passage in scripture which offers a magic answer to the questions we want to ask, there are several – and today’s gospel reading is one of them – which help us get down inside the questions and at least rephrase them from the gospel’s point of view.
Because if we don’t ask questions we condemn ourselves to a shallow, shoulder-shrugging faith which, by refusing the depths, refuses also the heights. Witnessing a week like this reminds us that, when faced with the horror that sometimes sweeps through the natural world, there is nothing we can say, as humans or as Christians, which gives us the sigh of relief, the ability to say ‘Well, that’s all right then’. If we find ourselves saying or thinking anything like that, it’s a sign that we have turned away from the real problem and comforted ourselves with false words. Because there is nothing that makes it all right. There is an awful hymn we sometimes sing which contains the words, ‘Then shall they know, they that love him, how all their pain is good.’ That is a terrible lie. It is gloriously true, as I shall try to say, that God can and does bring great good out of great evil. That is what the cross itself is partly all about. But that doesn’t mean that we call evil good. That way lies chaos, and those who lurch towards it, out of a misplaced desire to defend God the creator, blaspheme far more than if they had done what Job did and shaken their fists at him.

The book of Job, indeed, is where we maybe want to go at this time, not least because it both does and doesn’t contain an answer to the question. Indeed, the book actually increases the volume of the question we are asking this week, because right at the beginning of the Lord’s answer to Job, in chapter 38, God refers to his own work in creation, laying the foundations of the earth, and then, in words which ring very hollow right now, declaring,

Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst forth from the womb?
When I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band,
and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said,
“Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped”?

Those words come back to haunt us, as the proud waves decided to burst their bounds again and ignore the bars and doors. And if, many miles from the sea as we are here, we think that at least there were some bounds which it still observed, we have once again not understood the problem.

In fact, throughout scripture the sea is a sign of the great, untameable evil, the floods which lift up their voices against the Lord, the primal deeps which had to be conquered by the Spirit of YHWH brooding over them at the beginning to bring forth life. When Jonah runs away from the Lord to avoid bringing his message of judgment and mercy to Nineveh, it is the sea that rages horribly until he is thrown overboard into it. In the book of Daniel it is from the sea that the great monsters emerge, an image of the way in which mighty human empires draw strength from a bottomless pit of naked power and aggression and terrify the little nations that get in their way. Within the ministry of Jesus himself it is the sea, albeit the small sea of Galilee, which attacks him and his disciples until he stills it with a word of rebuke. In the Acts of the Apostles it is the sea, and the shipwreck which it produces, which plays the same role within the structure of that book which the crucifixion plays in Luke’s parallel volume, his gospel. Throughout scripture the sea symbolizes the sense of an untameable evil which may be checked or defeated but which returns to cause fresh nightmares. The sea is both a great, dark power in its own literal right and a symbol of those great, dark powers within each one of us, and within human societies and particularly empires, which we keep at bay much of the time but which return and threaten to engulf us once more. It is only at the very end, in Revelation 21, when God has made all things new, that there is ‘no more sea’. The great surging, nightmarish force has gone, gone from the world, gone from within us. That is the eventual promise.

But there is of course one biblical sea story which I haven’t mentioned yet, and it’s the most important of them all. When human empire had done its worst, and the Israelites were enslaved by it in Egypt under the Pharaohs, then, as they tried to escape, the sea barred their way and they were trapped. That was when, at the Exodus, God did a new thing, and yet not a new thing, carving a path through the sea, defeating the proud waves and mighty waters, and bringing his people through in safety, but allowing the sea, still the symbol of evil, to wreak havoc on the representatives of enslaving evil who were pursuing them. The story of the crossing of the Red Sea remained ever afterwards in the Israelite memory as a symbol of what God had done in creation, bringing dry land out of the waters of chaos, and of what God would do in new creation, bringing the new world to birth by defeating the dark forces of evil once and for all.

And so Matthew’s story of Jesus, rooted as it is at every point in the ancient scriptures, picks up this theme too, as it was bound to do, in order to say that at last God is at work to bring about that new creation, to make a way through the sea, a victory over evil, a new world out of the sad old one. But it isn’t as easy as that makes it sound. God doesn’t wave a magic wand and make it all right, as though the world were like a child that had bumped its knee and just needed a kiss from Mommy to be OK again. Evil is not like that, and the gospel is not like that. This morning’s reading is actually even stranger and darker than we were allowed to hear, because the lectionary missed out the verses in the middle which tell of Herod’s slaughter of the innocent babies in Bethlehem, whom we commemorated last Tuesday. Look how all the themes we’ve been talking about come together in this passage. Here is the powerful but deeply corrupt old king Herod, defending his throne against yet another potential usurper and not caring if he has to have several dozen little boys killed in the process. Here is the ancient story of Israel in Egypt being recapitulated, as once again, now in the person of the Messiah, Israel goes down into Egypt, a vulnerable refugee seeking asylum, and then comes back again in a re-enactment of the Exodus. Here he faces again the problem of angry kings, with Herod’s son Archelaus ruling in Judaea, no better than his father. And here, in the middle of it all, is the one whom Matthew has already taught us to see as the Emmanuel, God with us, God in the midst of us, God the refugee, running away from the tyrant, God with a price on his head, God the true king of the Jews having to behave like an imposter, God then returning in a new Exodus but still vulnerable and at risk.

And as we hold that picture in our minds we cannot help looking across at the end of Matthew’s gospel, where we see essentially the same thing: God arrested and dragged before the imperial authorities, God once again with a price on his head, God labelled as the King of the Jews only to be mocked by the chief priests as an imposter, God making a way through the darkest sea of all, the sea of death itself, coming through in the great new Exodus of Easter to the new world where he is no longer vulnerable but possess all authority in heaven and on earth. ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’: the ancient words of prophecy, speaking of God’s victory over the mighty waters, speak now of God’s victory in Jesus the Messiah over all the forces of evil in the world, all the forces within ourselves, all the forces of empire, all the powers of the natural world.

And they therefore tell a different story from the one we would like to be able to tell, the one which says that it’s all right really, there isn’t actually a problem. Precisely because Matthew tells the story of God-with-us, Emmanuel, being with us in the middle of the swirling, raging waters, asleep in the boat on the lake, vulnerable to the screams of the demoniacs and the plots of the Pharisees, undermined by his own associates and finally hunted down by the Chief Priests and handed over to the imperial authorities – precisely because this is the Emmanuel story Matthew tells, the story in which everything I’ve said about evil so far comes rushing together into a single great event – we discover that we can’t ask the question about last week’s tsunami in terms of a God who sits upstairs and pulls the puppet-strings to make things happen, or not as the case may be, down here. We can and must only tell the story in terms of the God who is with his people in the midst of the mighty waters: the God who was swept off his feet and out to sea, the God who lost his parents and family, the God who was crushed under falling concrete and buried in mud. And then we have to learn to tell the story, as well, in terms of the God who rescued others while not saving himself; the God who worked night and day to recover bodies and some still alive; the God who rushes to the scene with all the help he can muster; the God who gives not only generously but lavishly to help the relief effort. Truly, if we believe in Matthew’s God, the Emmanuel, the Son of God who came up out of Egypt, we must learn to see God in that way.

And as we learn to see God in that way we must also learn the lessons of the sea in its metaphorical meanings in scripture. We must name for what it is the sea out of which come the monsters, as in Daniel, the imperial powers that wreak havoc in the world and who are finally called to account when God establishes his kingdom. There are many countries in the world who perceive my country and yours together in the way those on the beaches saw the great wave coming, unstoppable and deadly. We need to learn what it means in these strange times to follow the Emmanuel who came out of Egypt, out from the place which symbolized imperial power, back to the vulnerability of life as the king of the Jews with a price on his head. And we must name for what it is the sea within ourselves, the forces of evil which lurk in the depths of every human heart, forces of fear and suspicion and hatred and lust and anger and evil imaginings, and which are capable, just when we thought they were quiescent, of sending out monsters that wreak havoc in our own lives and those of others. And this is part of the message for the whole Anglican Communion at this time: that there is such a thing as evil, that many of the things which lurk in our hearts and minds are not simply God-given and to be affirmed, that there is an Exodus, a defeat of the mighty waves, which needs to happen in the hearts and lives of all Christian disciples. The problem we face in coming to terms with the mighty waves of the sea is actually the same problem we face in recognising, and dealing with, the residual evil within each one of us.

Two of the greatest English Christian poets of the last two centuries have helped me think, pray and speak about this last week’s events. T. S. Eliot, in his ‘Four Quartets’, wrote of the river and the sea, but particularly of the sea, with its untameable power and its strange, dark ways. He did not try to explain, but he invoked prayer for those who were caught up within it; and, as his long sequence of poems unwinds, he looks to a day when the end of all our exploring will be to return to the place we started, like Jesus coming back out of Egypt, and knowing it for the first time. Then, he says, echoing Julian of Norwich, all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well, not by a new and facile ‘explanation’ of this strange thing called ‘the problem of evil’ but by God with us, Emmanuel, God the Son who was called out of Egypt and is with us now.

Then, in the nineteenth century, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote his long poem ‘The Wreck of the Deutschland’ about the nuns who were drowned in a shipwreck as they made their way into an exile imposed on them by the Herods of their day and their country. Hopkins speaks of God being there in the midst, in the sea, in the boat, darker and stranger than the magician-God we would all like:

Thou mastering me
God! giver of breath and bread;
World's strand, sway of the sea;
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh,
And after it almost unmade, what with dread,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.

I admire thee, master of the tides,
Of the Yore-flood, of the year's fall;
The recurb and the recovery of the gulf's sides,
The girth of it and the wharf of it and the wall;
Stanching, quenching ocean of a motionable mind;
Ground of being, and granite of it: past all
Grasp God, throned behind
Death with a sovereignty that heeds but hides, bodes but abides;

With a mercy that outrides
The all of water, an ark
For the listener; for the lingerer with a love glides
Lower than death and the dark;
A vein for the visiting of the past-prayer, pent in prison,
The-last-breath penitent spirits -- the uttermost mark
Our passion-plung\d giant risen,
The Christ of the Father compassionate, fetched in the storm of his strides.

And then, in one of his best-loved sonnets, the sense, as in Eliot, that after all it shall all be well, as the Spirit broods once more over the waters of chaos:

And for all this nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things
And though the last lights off the black west went
Oh, morning at the brown brink eastward springs
because the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods
With warm breast and with Ah! bright wings.


Saturday, January 08, 2005

+N.T. Wright Christmas Sermon Durham Cathedral

God Inside Out
Hebrews 1.1–12

A small package arrived the other day in amongst the Christmas post. I didn’t want to open it if it was a present, but it looked more boring and official than that, and anyway my curiosity got the better of me. So I opened it; and out dropped a little metal object, about an inch square, slightly convex. I picked it up and looked at it and saw that there was some odd writing on one side. Then I realised: it was indeed boring and official. It was my own address, inside out. It was a replacement part for our office franking machine, the stamp that tells people where the letters have come from.
And then, the way preachers do, I realised it wasn’t boring at all; because I had already been reflecting on the first chapter of the letter to the Hebrews, the traditional epistle for Christmas morning. And there we find exactly that image used of Jesus: he is the radiance of God’s glory, and the exact imprint of his nature. The exact imprint: the word in Greek is character, which means the thing you get when you take a stamp and make an impression, whether on metal, to make a coin, or on wax, to seal a document, or on papyrus, to form a letter of the alphabet. The exact imprint is what you get when a stamp or a signet ring leaves the inside-out version of themselves on some other material.
And the wonder of Christmas morning is that today we are summoned to look at the baby in the manger and recognise whose stamp, whose imprint, he bears. On Christmas morning we find ourselves gazing at God inside out. This baby is what you get when the stamp of divine nature leaves its exact imprint in the soft metal of a human being. Jesus is the coin that tells you whose country you are living in. Jesus is the seal that tells us whose authority the document carries. Jesus is the alphabet, Alpha and Omega, beginning and ending, Chi and Rho, the Christ, Sigma for Soter, Saviour, Tau for the cross – the letters that speak of his identity, his vocation, his victory. When the living God wants to become human, this is how he spells his name, spells it in the character, the exact imprint, of his own nature, writes it in flesh and blood, soft, vulnerable human tissue, stamps it into the innermost being of the foetus in Mary’s womb, the light of the world who blinked and cried as his eyes opened to this world’s light, the source of life who eagerly drank his own mother’s milk. This is God inside out; O come, let us adore him.
This truth is so dazzling, so nourishing, that we ourselves blink at its brightness even as we come to feed on its richness. There are three ways in which it comes home to us today with particular force.

First, as the chapter itself emphasizes, this helpless, vulnerable, God-inside-out baby is superior even to the angels. The writer may be is responding to some in the early church who supposed that Jesus was some kind of angel, a messenger from God rather than God himself in human form. From that point of view, his human, flesh-and-blood character would be a kind of necessary accident, or even a necessary evil, rather than being part of the glory and the essence of who he was. Humans were made in God’s image against the day when God himself would come into his world in the most appropriate way, the most complete, fulfilling way, expressing his own very nature, impressing his own very nature in and as a human being. And until we grasp this – and this is of course the point of it all – we haven’t begun to grasp who God really is. The newspapers have run yet another survey on whether people believe in God, and for good measure life after death, the devil, and a few other bits and pieces, the flotsam and jetsam of the religious imagination of a bygone age. But the answers tell us little or nothing of much use, because most people, when they hear the question about God, imagine a being totally unlike the one whose exact stamp, whose precise impression, is there for us to see in the flesh and blood, the character in every sense, of Jesus of Nazareth, the baby in the manger, the young prophet dying on the cross. When people think of God they often think of him more like an exalted, detached spiritual being, a great angel, in fact, without much to do with our world of space, time and matter. I’m glad they don’t believe in that God; because nor do I. I believe in the God whose exact imprint is on display gurgling in the manger, arguing in the Temple, bleeding on the cross. I believe in the God made known in Jesus, who is so much greater than angels precisely because it is human beings who are made in God’s image, and this human being alone who bears the exact imprint of his nature. Until we come face to face with God as a baby, God as utterly vulnerable, God establishing his kingdom by living as an asylum-seeker with a price on his head, God growing up with sneers about his parentage, God announcing his kingdom and people saying he was mad, God confronting the authorities and dying a cruel death – until we come to terms with this God, until we realise that this God is far greater than all the super-spiritual beings in the cosmos, we haven’t even got on the map with Christian faith. This is God inside out: O come, let us adore him.

Second, therefore, this God is superior to all spiritual teachers and gurus. Once again – it happens every two or three years – someone has written a blockbuster full of conspiracy theories, of secret codes and suppressed documents, of hidden gospels and buried truth. We’ve heard it all before, but it still sells like hot cakes, because our culture badly wants to suppress the rumour of the true God, of the God-inside-out we see in Jesus, and so, in an act of astonishing chutzpah and projection, people make out that it is the church that has suppressed the truth – the truth, as they suggest, that Jesus was really an ordinary man, a great spiritual teacher, one who like a Buddhist master encouraged his followers to find a divine light inside themselves. This is what our generation wants to hear; which is why, quite suddenly, we are confronted in the bookshops not only with The Da Vinci Code, in several sizes and with DVDs and board games, but also with new editions of the so-called Gospel of Thomas, which is regularly cited in these conspiracy theories about early Christianity. Thomas is in fact a late second century collection of sayings supposedly from Jesus, but mostly garbled and mangled. When we look at it carefully, we find that Thomas isn’t about the redemption of the world, but about abandoning the world and escaping into a private spirituality. Tellingly, it offers a worldview from which every trace of the story of Israel has been removed; Thomas could never have had the angels singing about the birth of Israel’s Messiah. It tells you a certain amount about how to cultivate your own spirituality, but nothing about the God who turned himself inside out and became one of us.
And in particular, therefore, it offers no threat at all to the powers who carve up the world to their own advantage. The genuine Christmas story is far more subversive, far more powerful, far more dangerous, than all the coded or decoded ramblings of scrolls and paintings and secret gospels. The church rightly rejected all those as it took the message of God-inside-out into Caesar’s world, the world where what counted was not how clever you were with your spiritual interiority but how loyal you were to King Jesus when faced with lions in the amphitheatre or being burned at the stake. As Matthew saw, the true Christmas story was what made Herod shiver in his shoes; as Luke saw, it was the birth of Jesus that upended the world of Caesar Augustus. This truth is far more dangerous, not least because it was dangerous for God, the God who turned himself inside out to become one of us. That’s why the conspiracy theories are so popular: they give you the thrill of apparently knowing secrets without any corresponding cost or challenge. They debunk the truth and leave Caesar secure on his throne. The real secret, the secret we celebrate here this morning, the secret of God-inside-out, demands my soul, my life, my total loyalty. O come, let us adore him.

Third, therefore, to gaze at the one who bears the stamp, the character, of God’s own nature, is to be challenged at the deepest possible level about what we ourselves call ‘character’. We stand today at a crossroads, culturally, politically, socially, morally. We live in a world where might is right and where the greatest might on earth today gets muddled up with the message of Jesus himself. We live in a world where people cheat and lie and cover up evidence and then are congratulated on retaining their integrity. We live in a world where truth itself collapses into ‘my truth’ and ‘your truth’, so that when these two collide and people get killed we can’t understand what’s gone wrong, and react in ways which simply make matters worse. And in this world you and I come to gaze on and adore a baby who bears the very stamp of God’s nature, and who therefore reveals, in that vulnerability which he carried all the way to the cross, the truth about what it means to be human, to reflect the image of God. And thus on Christmas Day, just as much as on Good Friday, we remind ourselves of one of the primary laws of spirituality, that you become like what you worship. And the test of whether we are really worshipping Jesus of Bethlehem, the Messiah in the manger, is whether as individuals and as a church we are learning to live out, and display before the world, that same character which was stamped upon him. We are called, in other words, to live by the Spirit as those in whom God’s own inside-out life has come to birth, as in our common life in the Body of Christ, our public witness before the world, our personal relationships, and the deep integrity of our own personalities, we are centred again and again in adoration of this Jesus, we find the same character being formed in us. Christmas is a call to humility and holiness, and the way we respond to that call always begins with worship. O come, let us adore him.

Christmas Day invites us therefore to see not only Jesus but our own selves in a new way. We may think of our lives, like the package I received the other day, as somewhat boring and humdrum. How can we possibly make a difference in the world, or even in the church? But God sees each one of us as a present, a special gift, which he is sending into the world, stamped with his own signature. He longs that each one of us should be within the world, by the power of the Spirit, what Jesus was uniquely and fully: God inside out, bearing the character which speaks of his love, his truth, his sovereignty. And the first step is always adoration. That’s why we’re here today. O come, let us adore him.

Strawbridge on +Wright and Gaffin

Here is a review of what I am hearing most people thought of the talks given at the AAPC conference. Go here to read more comments.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Feast of Epiphany


What is it and why is it important? How do we commemorate this season? The term is derived from the Greek word 'epiphanea' meaning "manifestation." The season of Epiphany begins with Epiphany Day, celebrated in the Western Church on January 6. "In the Eastern Church it has come to be celebrated primarily as the baptism of Jesus and his first miracle at Cana." In recent times, the West has seen the importance of the East's focus on the baptism of Jesus and has placed this also in their calendar between the dates of January 6 and the 13th . This season is especially focused on the identity of the Lord Jesus. This can be shown at the manger scene, the baptism of Jesus and His first miracle at Cana, signifying the supernatural manifestations that will shape Christ's ministry . From the early part of the fourth century there is evidence that this day was ranked in the liturgical calendar alongside Easter and Pentecost as one of the three principal festivals of the Church. The season is associated with the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, generally understood as the Magi. The colour of the season is white, symbolic of the glory of Christ revealed to all nations. Theologically this season reminds us of our duty to serve Christ the King, to extend His Kingdom, and to worship Him as God Almighty.

Collect: O God, who by the leading of a star manifestedy your only Son to the peoples of the earth: mercifully grant that we, who know you now by faith, may at last behold your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ you Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Matthew 2:1-12 1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, 2 "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him." 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: 6 `And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'" 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; 8 and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." 9 When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; 11 and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Sibboleth: Things One Could Die For

On the following blog, you will find a good overview of the issues facing theologians, both biblical and systematic when looking at particular questions from Paul. +N.T. Wright has just recently (Jan. 3-5) participated in a Pastor's Conference in Monroe, LA USA. From all that I have heard on the issues discussed, you will want to get the tapes or DVD video of the conference. You can find the information you need by going here. They have also just published M.F. Sadler's book Second Adam and the New Birth. I recommend you get this book when you order the tapes or DVD of the conference.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Part VI of the N.T. Wright Interview

Here is the final instalment of the interview with The Right Rev. Dr. N.T. Wright. Interestingly he has been maligned by some who wish to discredit him as not having a strong enough view of sin. Here he is in his own words. Here is a quote from him: "People have reacted against the new perspective by imagining that it is anti-theological – which in some people it is, but certainly not in Dunn or me, by imagining that it has no view of sin and salvation and justification, which is absolute rubbish as far as I’m concerned. Or by imagining that it’s simply concerned with the coming together of Jews and Gentiles, and not at all with people being saved by grace through faith. That is a totally, totally spurious antithesis, however much some of Sanders and some of his followers may have given that impression." Enjoy!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Chesterton on the New Year

THE object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards. Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

G.K. Chesterton 'The Apostle of Common Sense'

The Naming and Circumcision of Jesus


Almighty God, whose blessed Son was circumcised in obedience to the law for our sake and given the Name that is above every name: give us grace faithfully to bear his Name, to worship him in the freedom of the Spirit, and to proclaim him as the Saviour of the world; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
    O God, most glorious, most bountiful, accept, we humbly beseech thee, our praises and thanksgivings for thy holy Catholic Church, the mother of us all who bear the name of Christ; for the faith which it hath conveyed in safety to our time, and the mercies by which it hath enlarged and comforted the souls of men; for the virtues which it hath established upon earth, and the holy lives by which it glorifieth both the world and thee; to whom, O blessed Trinity (+), be ascribed all honour, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
    --Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Societas Sanctae Crucis

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