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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Ss. Timothy and Titus

It seems most appropriate on this feast day of Ss Timothy and Titus to say something about Church order and subjection to godly bishops. One of the issues that I have been pondering within my studies is that in order for there to be an ecumenism of genuine validity, it must contain some sort of an episcopal structure. If not, it will not happen. The below quotation from St. Ignatius' letter to Ephesus contains that humble call to obedience and submission to our appointed authorities in the Church. The difficulty is to submit when there is genuine disagreement with the bishop. But when is submission really tested except when there is disagreement? Now, I would qualify this with the necessity above concerning the 'godly' nature of the bishop. When the bishop is out of line with scripture or the tradition of the Church's teaching on an important moral or sacramental issue, things get very difficult. This makes me think about prayer and how important it is that we learn to pray God's will and for God's will. If we always pray our will, God may answer and give it to us. When we get it, well, it's not exactly what we thought we had hoped for. When the people's hearts in the OT were far from God and they gave Him lip-service only, He often sent them rulers that symbolized where they were. We have to be careful in making such judgments that presume to know why this or that person has been placed in authority above us but when we have rulers or in this case bishops in the Church who appear or act as wolves, is it time for us to turn and examine ourselves? Where are our hearts? One thing we must not do is to conclude that we must scrap the idea of episcopacy because there are those who abuse their authority or do not belong there in the first place. That would be a tragedy and ecclesial chaos, i.e., "denominationalism". Let us use this day to pray for those in authority above us and for God to search our hearts and to put His will at the centre of our lives with an obedient mind. Christ's blessing will follow.
For if I, in this brief space of time, have enjoyed such fellowship with your bishop—I mean not of a mere human, but of a spiritual nature—how much more do I reckon you happy, who so depend on him as the Church does on the Lord Jesus, and the Lord does on God and His Father, that so all things may agree in unity! Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two possesses such power that Christ stands in the midst of them, how much more will the prayer of the bishop and of the whole Church, ascending up in harmony to God, prevail for the granting of all their petitions in Christ! He, therefore, that separates himself from such, and does not meet in the society where sacrifices are offered, and with “the Church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven,” is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, while he presents a mild outward appearance. Do ye, beloved, be careful to be subject to the bishop, and the presbyters and the deacons. For he that is subject to these is obedient to Christ, who has appointed them; but he that is disobedient to these is disobedient to Christ Jesus. And “he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” For he that yields not obedience to his superiors is self-confident, quarrelsome, and proud. But” God,” says [the Scripture] “resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble ; ” and, “The proud have greatly transgressed.” The Lord also says to the priests, “He that heareth you, heareth Me; and he that heareth Me, heareth the Father that sent Me. He that despiseth you, despiseth Me; and he that despiseth Me, despiseth Him that sent Me.”
Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. 1997. The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol.I : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325.

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    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

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