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Friday, September 29, 2006

The Bishop of London on Civil Partnerships

The Bishop of London has written to a number of churches in his Diocese about Civil Partnerships.

Dear xxx

I appreciate your concern about the statement on Civil Partnerships and am glad to reflect with you on some of the issues raised by your letter.

The Church of England has not always been clear about the relative weight and authority of the documents it produces and the contexts in which they should be construed. Under the leadership of the present Archbishop I believe that we should be able to clarify the situation.

Our ultimate authority is of course the Word made flesh as he is “uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures”. We read the scriptures in company with the church throughout the ages and most particularly we attend to the witness of the undivided church, distilled in the catholic creeds.

This inheritance of faith is expressed in our liturgy. The Book of Common Prayer as you know is so intimately related to scripture that you could almost describe it as a biblical mosaic.

Canon Law also flows from this inheritance of faith and solemnly declares the mind of the church, not least in relation to the way in which the church is ordered and discipline is applied.

From time to time controversies arise which are resolved by the promulgation of Articles of Faith. The Church has regarded the XXXIX Articles for example not as the last word in a systematic theology but as a Spirit filled and authoritative response to the context in which they were composed.

These weighty pronouncements are followed by formal resolutions adopted by General Synod. The 1987 Synod motions are the most recent and most authoritative statements in the area which concerns us.

Lambeth resolutions have a considerable moral authority but they are strictly advisory in the polity of the Anglican Communion as we actually have it.

There is another set of statements which arise in the context of our formal ecumenical relations. Again such statements only become authoritative when received and ratified by General Synod.

At last we arrive at the glosses on these authoritative statements including documents like the House of Bishops paper “Issues in Human Sexuality” and the recent “Pastoral Statement”.

The Statement was of course drafted at a time when the Government was officially giving assurances that they did not intend to introduce same sex marriage by another name. I would have been more convinced by this argument if the legislation had embraced those who suffer from the injustice that, despite their commitment over many years to a particular relationship of care, perhaps for a parent or a sibling, they are excluded from the legal and financial privileges attaching to other committed relationships.

Subsequently the situation has changed and Government spokespersons have undermined the official line and one minister has even erroneously suggested that the legislation permits the dissolution of a civil partnership on the basis of non-consummation. This is untrue but it has of course further clouded the picture.

That said, the Pastoral Statement contains valuable material which I hope you have discussed with the community at _______. Paragraphs 1-7 in particular are a helpful summary of recent church teaching on the subject. I must say that I was influenced in my own attitude to the statement by the opposition of those who saw it as an excessively conservative presentation of the teaching of the church. The points subsequently raised about paragraph 23 in particular were not made at the time.

Editorial addition: 23.The House considers that lay people who have registered civil partnerships ought not to be asked to give assurances about the nature of their relationship before being admitted to baptism, confirmation and communion. Issues in Human Sexuality made it clear that, while the same standards apply to all, the Church did not want to exclude from its fellowship those lay people of gay or lesbian orientation who, in conscience, were unable to accept that a life of sexual abstinence was required of them and instead chose to enter into a faithful, committed relationship.

My own position stated over and over again is unequivocal and I believe fully in accord with the hierarchy of authoritative teaching which I have described above.

The first time in Holy Scripture when God declares that something is “not good” is the spectacle of a human being living alone. Human beings were not created for isolation and the Church has always taught that we should honour life in community and that our identity as Christians is derived from our life together in Christ. Friendship has been blessed by Christ himself who calls us friends in St John’s Gospel but sexual relations are to be channelled through the exclusive lifelong union of a man and a woman. The Book of Common Prayer, in the preface to the Marriage Service and in the vows provided for bride and groom, expounds the teaching of the Church in its classic form. Within the bond of marriage sexual relations can express a depth of mutual love and commitment which establishes the optimum conditions for procreation and the nurture of our next generation.

I know that one controversial point has been the suggestion that “Issues in Human Sexuality” set up one moral standard for the laity and another for the clergy. This is clearly an incoherent position which is demeaning to the laity. The same standards apply to all but it is true that the clergy are called to be “exemplary” in the sense which is set out in the Pastoral Epistles and especially in 1 Timothy. The discipline which follows from the call to an “exemplary ministry” is necessarily distinct.

Since its publication I have found the St Andrew’s Day Statement in which Professor Oliver O’Donovan’s hand is so obvious, to be a good summary of orthodox teaching. I hope this important contribution to the debate is well known at ______ and I cannot do better than to quote it:

The Church “ assists all its members to a life of faithful witness in chastity and holiness, recognising two forms or vocations in which that life can be lived: marriage and singleness - Gen II:24; Matt XIX: 4-6; I Cor. VII passim. There is no place for the Church to confer legitimacy upon alternatives to these.

Pastoral care however needs a certain flexibility taking note of the circumstances which make each individual case different from every other and discerning ways in which the Gospel touches people in different situations. The Church then will give constant encouragement in following Christ not only to those who conform to one of these two vocations but to all who seriously intend discipleship in fellowship with the body of the church.” I do hope that if you have not already done so you will make the St Andrew’s Day Statement available for study in your church.

All are welcome but this cannot mean that there should be no guidance or discipline for the sake of fellowship. The Baptismal liturgy itself makes a specific demand for repentance. It should be possible to set out the church’s teaching clearly and to guide those for whom we have pastoral care into the ways of holiness and compassion without setting ourselves up as their judges.

I am wary of making further negative statements on the pastoral letter for a number of reasons. There is much that is sound and good in the document. It is vital to read it in context and in conformity with the hierarchy of other more authoritative statements and to avoid giving it an undue symbolic significance which it cannot bear. At the same time to suggest a greater disunity among bishops than really exists is to play into the hands of those who are seeking a radical revision of orthodox teaching.

I conclude with the wise words of the St Andrew’s Day Statement , “that the issue should have become so highly dramatised calls for repentance on the part of all members of the church.” That was written in 1995 and the situation has become even more highly dramatised and politicised since then. My hope and prayer for the Diocese of London is that we may attend to the “weightier matters of the law” and be conspicuously a community of hope and love attractive to all our neighbours. I am sure from my knowledge of__________ that this is your hope and prayer also.

With thanks for our partnership in the Gospel

The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Richard Chartres DD FSA

Why So Quiet?

I know that the traffic here has dropped due to my recent lack of postings. There is a good reason. I have started my formation year as a priest in the Church of England at Cranmer along with finishing my PhD studies and preparing to do some tutoring and seminar work in the department this next year in Christology. I have been so busy that I feel like I am in a fog just now. I am up early and at Morning Prayer each day with the community of ordinands and will be studying in my private study area beginning on Monday so that I can finish my doctoral studies.

I hope to get some stuff out here soon and bring some more discussion to the blog. Please do continue to come by. Once I get my book shelves set up tomorrow and my desk at Cranmer, I'll be able to at least post a few times a week. Thanks for hanging around!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Karl Rahner on Purgatory

I am looking at Andrewes's view of purgatory in his discussion with Cardinal Bellarmine and how he approaches this issue in light of the Eucharist being effectual for both the living and the dead as the Christian Sacrifice. Now, Andrewes does reject purgatory as something created to give people hope in purgatory who have lost all fear of Hell. That is Andrewes's view of what purgatory is. It has been nuanced in numerous ways of late and Karl Rahner has an interesting way of looking at it. He said, purgatory is
"an element of the encounter with God; that is, the encounter of the unfinished person, still immature in his love, with the holy, infinite, loving God; an encounter which is profoundly humiliating, painful and therefore purifying."
So, purgatory is an aspect of the maturation process of the Christian rather than some place of 'torment' between heaven and hell. I understand that Pope Benedict XVI (Ratzinger) nuanced the doctrine of purgatory a bit as well. This would be an interesting study. I wish I had the time to look into it more. Basically, I am merely setting out Andrewes's views of it and problems with it.

Any thoughts?

First Things on Kigali and Camp Allen

Viewed as a whole, Archbishop Williams’ actions and words can only be seen as positive from the perspective of those who hope to see the catholic substance of Anglicanism preserved. The Church of England is quite clearly not willing to give up either her children or her heritage, and while many conservatives have been understandably impatient at the seemingly glacial progress of Canterbury, it must not be forgotten that Williams is unable to jump ahead of decisions that can ultimately be made only by the entire Communion. Canterbury moves slowly by its very nature, but the irrevocable logic of the Covenant process guarantees its forward motion. So long as the majority of the Communion is dedicated to the preservation of Anglican catholicity and identity—and it is—the time will come, and soon, when the Covenant’s promise of mutual ecclesial subjectivity will entrust orthodoxy to that upon which it has always depended—the Spirit-guided sensus fidei of the whole body of believers, living prayerfully under the authority of Scripture.

Go here to read the whole piece.

Deformation of the Mystery

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A good friend of mine, Fr. Mark Withoos, and a fellow postgraduate student at Durham who is writing on the 'Theology of the Body' has a homily that was published on Catholic Exchange that may interest you. I copy it here for your reading and possible comments.

I’m currently in Inferno — not literally — but in the cantos of Dante’s poem dealing with hell. There, with Dante, I discovered Francesca amongst the lustful. Francesca tells us the story of her life and particularly of the end of her life.

In This Article...
Deformation of the Mystery
Putting Our Salvation at Risk
Be Wise and Convert

Deformation of the Mystery

Love quick to kindle in the gentle heart,
seized this one [Paolo] next to me,
for the beauty of my body torn from me.

How it happens still offends me,
Love that excuses no one love from loving,
seized me so strongly with delight in him,

That as you see,
he never leaves my side.
Love led us straight to sudden death together.

Hearing this account from one side, how can one not feel torn by this story and feel that perhaps this Francesca, now cast in hell, has been terribly hard done by? Francesca tells us about Paulo with whom she is entwined amidst the lustful in an area in hell where they are being punished. As the lustful on earth are out of control and blown about by every wind, so here the lustful are thrown together, tossed and turned by every breeze like starlings in the skies of Italy.

There is only one problem. Francesca leaves out as much as she puts in. Dante based this account on a true story that would have made the pages of the National Enquirer had it occurred in our own time. You see, she is married — but not to Paolo. Secondly, Paolo is the brother of her husband. That is, she is there in this barren embrace in the Inferno, being whirled around out of control, as the result of an act of adultery with her brother-in-law. These details help us to understand who Francesca is, but interestingly she leaves them out. You see, "love" is to blame.

Another detail she leaves out is that the two of them were caught in the act by her husband, who killed them on the spot — which gets them to where they are.

Why do I relate this story? Because many times, particularly in this world of mass media, we are left at the mercy of information providers. We are given information, and moved by compassion we think how "terribly” this or that person has been treated. Then one day we learn the whole story and our opinion is altered.

We could apply the same analysis to our recent Gospel reading. Taking the statements of the Pharisees and Scribes alone, we too, might have quarreled with the Lord: “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” We could, with them, have found such a statement offensive. But now, in the light of the Passion, death and Resurrection of our Lord, and the knowledge we have that He is the Son of God, we see that perhaps those opposed to our Lord were not so much searching for the truth, as searching for a way to be rid of this trouble-maker. The Son of God stood before them. From the miracles He performed, from His disposition, from His words, indeed from His presence, they should have known it. But they were blind. When our Lord said “My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink” we should see, as His faithful disciples did, as we alone in the Catholic Church do now, that He was speaking literally. But even today, like His first listeners, we have a choice to believe this is true or to be doubters.

In our own time, unlike in our Lord’s time, we have an additional help that guides us to faith — the Church. Yet the voice of our Mother the Church is gradually being weakened. So often anyone who listens to her is considered to be a fool, but without her, we are left only to the vagaries of the world's Francescas or the New York Times: We can never be sure that what is being represented to us is the truth.

Recently an instruction has been published in Spain which will make its way around the world, composed under the supervision of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. Addressed to the Spanish bishops — equally applicable to our own bishops in the US or in Australia — this instruction indicates for the Church in Spain (and in the world) both the sickness and the cure.

The sickness, the instruction said, is "secularization within the Church" — a widespread loss of faith caused in part by 'theological propositions that have in common a deformed presentation of the mystery of Christ.’”

Putting Our Salvation at Risk

The cure is precisely that of restoring life to the profession of faith: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." This profession needs to be restored in the four areas where it is most seriously undermined today:

• the interpretation of Scripture;

• Jesus Christ as the only Savior of all men;

• the Church as the body of Christ;

• moral life.

If there are problems in these four areas, can you see how important it is to know what to believe, and indeed how easy it is for many to set themselves up as interpreters of what the Church believes or "should" believe?

There are many who now feel free to dissent from the Church’s teaching. Of course, there are many who love the Church, and do not dissent, but there are a great many who think that the Church gets it wrong, for example, on homosexuality, contraception, abortion, the Eucharist, and yes, even on Christ Himself. Moreover, they think that such dissent is not a grave sin, though indeed it is, and something that causes great damage in our Church and in the world, and indeed puts our own salvation at risk.

This attitude is precisely the problem, the problem of Francesca, the inability to see things other than my way. The Church’s teaching, on the other hand, is be a challenge to us, calling us to see things beyond our selfish inclination to justify our sin. An attack on the Church’s teaching must generate in us a desire to rise to our Mother’s defence. A shrugging acceptance of attacks on Church teaching — “Hey, maybe the Church has got it wrong” — may be a temptation when the moral teaching of the Church is grating against our own concupiscence.

We know of famous cases such as Hans Küng, Leonardo Boff, and others who regularly attack the Church, or indeed have left it, and in the cases of Küng and Boff left the priesthood, because they no longer accepted Church teaching. Contrast this with the case of Fr. Henri de Lubac in the 1950s. A theologian with seemingly radical ideas, he was refused a licence to teach for two years, while the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith investigated his theology. What did he do? Hold a news conference to protest? Write articles in journals about his treatment? No. He went away and prayed and thought and wrote. After he was found to be of orthodox faith, the ban was lifted and he was permitted to teach again. Did he decide to sue? Did he rant and rave? No. He wrote a book entitled The Splendor of the Church.

Recently the papers have been filled with the news that Jane Via here in San Diego is now celebrating “Mass” at a congregation she formed downtown. Via was “ordained” recently on a boat in Pittsburgh. Were we to take Via's claims on her terms, who would not be in sympathy? She was denied ordination even though she felt this was her right and her Church didn’t recognize it. Ordination was only open to men. How ridiculous was all of this in the 21st century! A recent article in the Chicago Tribune said that polls (from somewhere) showed a majority of American Catholics favor women’s ordination. Is this what the issue is all about? Equality? Affirmative action? A voice for women? My “rights”?

The real problem is that many in our Catholic Church are not only confused, they don’t even realize that they are confused. Many once faithful Catholic Christians are slipping out of belief, even contrary to their own best intentions. And the cause is secularization, a widespread theological process that has undermined and continues to undermine our faith.

Be Wise and Convert

Let’s take women’s ordination as an example. The Church has declared in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that ordination is not possible for women. The reasoning is clear in the document, but the bottom line for faithful Catholics, the final reasoning, is that the Church, which is the Body of Christ, teaches us so. The Second Vatican Council tells us we are called to give a “humble submission of will and intellect” to the Church’s teaching. I hear the Church teaching and if I disagree I pray and think, and then I humbly submit my intellect and will, saying something like, “Well, the Church has spoken; I must have it wrong.”

Jane Via has not done this, and nor have many others. Perhaps you do not agree with some Church teaching. Get angry, talk about it, but in the name of the Lord Jesus, please reconsider all of your positions when you set yourself up against the Church. The stakes are enormously high. The Church will survive no matter what — we have Christ’s own assurance of that — what is in question is whether I find myself inside or outside of the Church.

This is how the Spanish document described the condition of those who wish to hang on to their beliefs in dissent:

[T]here exists a silent form of dissent that promotes and defends disaffection with the Church, considering this a legitimate critical attitude with respect to the hierarchy and its Magisterium, justifying dissent within the Church itself as if a Christian could not be an adult without establishing a certain distance from the teachings of the Magisterium. Behind this attitude there frequently lurks the idea that the Church at present is not obeying the Gospel, and that a struggle “from within” is necessary to arrive at a future, authentically evangelical Church. In reality, what is sought is not the conversion of the Church’s members, its constant purification, penance and renewal, but the transformation of the very constitution of the Church, to adapt it to the opinions and perspectives of the world.


In his letter to the Ephesians St. Paul said, “Brothers and sisters, watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.” We have recently read in Proverbs that “Wisdom has built herself a house.” Where is that house? It is not of this world, for Scripture says that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” The house Wisdom has built is the Church, and if we are wise, we will find our home there, being instructed by her and conforming our minds to the Church's teaching. Secularism is the attempt to bring the foolish and false wisdom of the world into the Church. Ultimately this is an attempt that will fail, but sadly it is one that, in these evil days, has claimed many spiritual victims.

So be careful; be challenged and change if you have to, but love the Church who is our Mother and still nourishes us and is the only one who keeps us truly close to our Lord. Let us break this nasty habit of thinking that the Church needs to change, but I don’t. Following her, despite all temptations, we won’t find ourselves like Francesca, justifying our mistakes, but rather, we will find ourselves in peace and tranquility, living the life that Christ intended for us to live, in the house that Wisdom built.

Mary, Seat of Wisdom, Mother of the Church and our Mother, pray for us.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Back and Shattered

I have returned from my cottage where I was shut off from the world for a week. I am absolutely exhausted and the last thing I want to really do is look at my computer. I was able to get written 20,500 words; about 45 pages. I have a bit more to finish on my section on purgatory and then my concluding remarks. I should have something completed by this next week. Thanks for your prayers. I'll post some photos when I give a more detailed post about my discoveries and an overview of what my chapter concluded in my findings on Eucharistic Sacrifice in Andrewes's theology.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI's Present Troubles with Muslims

Here is a portion of the text that has the Pope receiving so much criticism and anger from Muslims:
The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the three Laws: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qur'an. In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point-- itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself-- which, in the context of the issue of faith and reason, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat.

But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels,” he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words:

Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: "For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality." Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry.
Now, what is so problematic with him quoting someone else? Why should the Pope be called to apologise when what is historically accurate about the violence in Islam's history is being discussed openly? Why can't this history be owned and vows made not to participate in such tactics anymore? Case in point, what has happened? Churches are now being bombed of which have had nothing to do with the Pope's comments, which again is another display of violence. When Christians are offended, nobody seems to care since that's what we are here for--a 'whipping boy' of the anti-Christian cultures.

I do not believe that the Pope did anything for which he needs to apologise; what do you think?

Update: Now there are some Muslims burning an effigy of the Pope.

Off to the Cottage and a bit of News!

Image and video hosting by TinyPicWell, the time has come! After a long summer of translating from Andrewes’ Responsio ad Bellarmini in what I felt was crucial to my thesis on his views of Eucharistic Sacrifice and Presence, it is now time to go away, think and write. So, tomorrow (Sunday) after Mass, I will drive 40 minutes outside Durham to a small English village called Stanhope. There I will ascend a hill where an English cottage awaits my arrival to spend a week of silence and writing. It is very quiet out there:no phone, TV, Internet or anything to distract me. I am loading up boxes of books, numerous articles, my laptop, breviary and I will be on my way.Image and video hosting by TinyPic

My hopes are to get my chapter on Eucharistic Sacrifice within Andrewes’ theology written by next Saturday night—at least the rough draft anyway. I will also take another read and re-write through my chapter on Andrewes’ understanding of Instrumentality in the Eucharist as applying ‘anew’ the forgiveness of sins.

My plan is to work endlessly but also to go out on walks in the Moors and to look over the hills of southern Northumbria to hopefully get inspired to write something useful. This next year is so very busy and crucial that I get my thesis hopefully ready to submit by 1 Oct. 2007.

This brings me to my other news that cannot be fully disclosed until my return from Stanhope. That news is that I have been granted my title parish here in Durham to begin my priestly work after three years away from parish ministry for academic pursuits. I am very much looking forward to returning to parish life. I intend to keep a foot in the academy by hopefully doing some teaching in some capacity. Therefore my being granted a parish within Durham has come as a great blessing with many hopes for the future. I will relate more of this news once the parish has been ‘formally’ informed which should be within a week or two.

The blog will go quiet for the next week but I hope to report good news on my progress in writing. I humbly ask that you remember me in your prayers this next week as I seek the Holy Spirit's guiding in my writing.

This also means that I hope to send some work to my good friend Dr. Bill Tighe to read in the near future! Remember Bill, you said you would be happy to read it!!!! 

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Br. Roger: A Man of Communion

In a poste below, I noted the "News" of Br. Roger from the Taizé community who was tragically murdered but who had apparently been "received" in a quiet way into the Catholic Church. Biretta tip to Patrick for pointing out the articles in response to the initial report. The response from Taizé rings very true about what the Eucharist is all about--something foreign to most in the Church universal. If Br. Roger can convince the Christian Church of what he stood for in unity, then he has indeed performed a miracle and I would be the first to give thanks for his canonisation as a saint. He truly was a saint. Below is a portion of the article that you can read from the Taizé site.
There was never anything hidden about this undertaking of Brother Roger’s. In 1980, during a European meeting in Rome, he spoke these words publicly in St Peter’s Basilica, in the presence of Pope John Paul II: “I have found my own identity as a Christian by reconciling within myself the faith of my origins with the mystery of the Catholic faith, without breaking fellowship with anyone.”

Brother Roger’s step was not understood by all but it was welcomed by many: by Pope John Paul II, by Catholic bishops and theologians who celebrated the Eucharist in Taizé, as well as by Protestant and Orthodox Church leaders with whom Brother Roger patiently built up trust in the course of many years.

Those who at all costs want the Christian denominations each to find their own identity in opposition to the others can naturally not grasp Brother Roger’s aims. He was a man of communion, and that is perhaps the most difficult thing for some people to understand.

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

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Adoramus te, christe, et benedicimus tibi,
quia per crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

We adore thee, O Christ, and we bless thee,
for by thy cross thou hast redeemed the world.

+ + +

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but have everlasting life.

On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (or Triumph of the Cross) we honor the Holy Cross by which Christ redeemed the world. The public veneration of the Cross of Christ originated in the fourth century, according to early accounts, beginning with the miraculous discovery of the cross on September 14, 326, by Saint Helen, mother of Constantine, while she was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem -- the same day that two churches built at the site of Calvary by Constantine were dedicated.

The observance of the Feast of the Exaltation (probably from a Greek word meaning "bringing to light") of the Cross has been celebrated by Christians on September 14 ever since. In the Western Church, the feast came into prominence in the seventh century, apparently inspired by the recovery of a portion of the Cross, said to have been taken from Jerusalem the Persians, by the Roman emperor Heraclius in 629.

Christians "exalt" the Cross of Christ as the instrument of our salvation. Adoration of the Cross is, thus, adoration of Jesus Christ, the God Man, who suffered and died on this Roman instrument of torture for our redemption from sin and death. The cross represents the One Sacrifice by which Jesus, obedient even unto death, accomplished our salvation. The cross is a symbolic summary of the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ -- all in one image.

The Cross -- because of what it represents -- is the most potent and universal symbol of the Christian faith. It has inspired both liturgical and private devotions: for example, the Sign of the Cross, which is an invocation of the Holy Trinity; the "little" Sign of the Cross on head, lips and heart at the reading of the Gospel; praying the Stations (or Way) of the Cross; and the Veneration of the Cross by the faithful on Good Friday by kissing the feet of the image of Our Savior crucified.

Placing a crucifix (the cross with an image of Christ's body upon it) in churches and homes, in classrooms of Catholic schools and in other Catholic institutions, or wearing this image on our persons, is a constant reminder -- and witness -- of Christ's ultimate triumph, His victory over sin and death through His suffering and dying on the Cross.

We remember Our Lord's words, "He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake shall find it." (Mt 10:38,39). Meditating on these words we unite ourselves -- our souls and bodies -- with His obedience and His sacrifice; and we rejoice in this inestimable gift through which we have the hope of salvation and the glory.

Dying, you destroyed our death; rising you restored our life.
Save us by your cross, Christ our Redeemer.

Resource

Collect:
God our Father,in obedience to you your only Son accepted death on the Cross for the salvation of mankind. We acknowledge the mystery of the Cross on earth. May we receive the gift of redemption in heaven. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

J.C. Ryle's Nominalism

I was reading recently from Heiko Oberman's work Forerunners of the Reformation: The Shape of Late Medieval Thought as I have been trying to get my mind around the many issues surrounding the Eucharistic controversy in the Church. This morning I visited Fr. Brian's blog to see his explanation of Ryle's issues and it was a reminder of how problematic Nominalism is to the life of the Church and her Sacramental ministry. Fr. Brian lists the following as the principles of Ryle:
“1. We protest against the modern practice of first personifying the Church, then deifying it, and finally idolising it.
2. We refuse to admit that Christian Ministers are in any sense sacrificing priests. We find that sacerdotalism or priestcraft has frequently been the curse of Christianity, and the ruin of true religion.
3. We refuse to admit that Christ’s Sacraments convey grace ex opere operato. We protest against the idea that in baptism the use of water, in the Name of the Trinity, is invariably and necessarily accompanied by regeneration. We protest against the theory that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrifice. Above all, we protest against the notion of any local presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, under the forms of bread and wine, as ‘idolatry to be abhorred of all faithful Christians’”. (Ryle, The Principles of Evangelical Religion, Online).

I could think of a protest to the protest. Oberman quotes Louis Bouyer commenting on the effects of nominalism prior to the Reformation in the writngs of such theologians as Occam, Holcot, d'Ailly and Biel and imputes to nominalism "what was without doubt most irreparably vitiationed and corrupt in Catholic thought at the end of the Middle Ages...the utter corruption of Christian thought as represented by nominialist theology." (246 Oberman). For an important dicussion of this whole issue and the theologian Cajetan, see Francis Clark's book Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Reformation.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering 9/11

Biretta tip to Canon Kendal Harmon for this video. It is sad to watch but a good reminder of why people are and have put their lives on the line for freedom. The war on terror is a difficult issue and I do believe in a just war theory. As bad as I want this war to end so that peace can reign in the Middle East, I am also thankful for those who spend hours in their daily lives to make us as safe as possible and to protect us from attacks. As a former Marine in the US, my prayers for all those who suffered and continue to suffer are brought before the Lord's throne of Grace. May peace and not terror reign in this world! Watch this and let us not forget.

'Clearly and Uncompromisingly' Pope Benedict

Image and video hosting by TinyPicFrom Zenit News Agency

MUNICH, Germany, SEPT. 10, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Western societies suffer from a "hardness of hearing" of all things that have to do with God, thus impeding a correct perception of reality, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today when celebrating Mass on Munich's fairgrounds, attended by some 250,000 people, the first Mass of his fourth international trip.

Addressing his fellow countrymen of Bavaria, the Holy Father said: "There is not only a physical deafness ... there is also a 'hardness of hearing' where God is concerned, and this is something from which we particularly suffer in our own time.

"Put simply, we are no longer able to hear God -- there are too many different frequencies filling our ears."

"What is said about God strikes us as pre-scientific, no longer suited to our age," the Pontiff added. He spoke at the open-air Mass in the presence of what is said to be the oldest crucifix in the world, dating back to the 11th century, testimony of the ancient Christian roots of Bavaria.

Benedict XVI said that when he meets bishops of Africa and the Baltic countries, they mention the enormous help that the Church in Germany gives to the rest of the world.

However, the Pope added, every now and then "an African bishop will say: 'If I come to Germany and present social projects, suddenly every door opens. But if I come with a plan for evangelization, I meet with reservations.'"

"Clearly some people have the idea that social projects should be urgently undertaken, while anything dealing with God or even the Catholic faith is of limited and lesser importance," the Holy Father said.

Faith and action

The Bishop of Rome continued: "Yet the experience of those bishops is that evangelization itself should be foremost, that the God of Jesus Christ must be known, believed in and loved, and that hearts must be converted if progress is to be made on social issues and reconciliation is to begin, and if -- for example -- AIDS is to be combated by realistically facing its deeper causes and the sick are to be given the loving care they need.

"Social issues and the Gospel are inseparable."

The Pontiff added: "The people of Africa and Asia admire our scientific and technical prowess but at the same time they are frightened by a form of rationality which totally excludes God from man's vision, as if this were the highest form of reason, and one to be imposed on their cultures too.

"They do not see the real threat to their identity in the Christian faith, but in the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom and that holds up utility as the supreme moral criterion for the future of scientific research."

Benedict XVI continued: "This cynicism is not the kind of tolerance and cultural openness that the world's peoples are looking for and that all of us want.

"The tolerance which we urgently need includes the fear of God -- respect for what others hold sacred demands that we ourselves learn once more the fear of God."

"We impose this faith upon no one," the Pope observed. "Such proselytism is contrary to Christianity. Faith can develop only in freedom. But we do appeal to the freedom of men and women to be open to God, to seek him, to hear his voice."

Be opened

"The world needs God. We need God, but what God?" the Pontiff asked. "The definitive explanation is to be found in the one who died on the Cross: in Jesus, the Son of God incarnate ... love to the end.

"This is the God we need. We do not fail to show respect for other religions and cultures, profound respect for their faith, when we proclaim clearly and uncompromisingly the God who encounters violence with his own suffering; who in the face of the power of evil exalts his mercy, in order that evil may be limited and overcome."

On his pilgrimage, the Holy Father will visit some of the key places of his life, including Munich, the city of which he was archbishop from 1977 to 1982, and Marktl am Inn, his birthplace.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Love Alone is Believable: von Balthasar

Image and video hosting by TinyPicThe Revelation of Love as Beauty
One of Balthasar’s key insights into how God incites man with his divine love is to encourage the non-believer to ponder his encounters with beauty in the world, especially as found in human love. Since most non-believers like to consider themselves open-minded, Balthasar capitalized on that desire by helping them see the mystery of Being as revealed in beauty. His thought in this regard has been developed wonderfully by Fr. Thomas Dubay in The Evidential Power of Beauty (Ignatius, 1999). Non-believers must also consider the limitations of worldly beauty, especially in the brokenness and failures of all human love. Why is love in this world so finite and fractured? Why are all attempts at love stamped as "failed" by the inevitable reality of death? This predicament leads to the vital question: Is there a love beyond this world?

At this point the non-believer can be led to wonder at the Cross and be provoked by this sign of divine revelation. They can be challenged to open their heart to the encounter with the beautiful form of Christ crucified revealing in its depths the Triune God of love. The non-believer with an open heart can be drawn by the grace coming through this form into the dynamic of love, leading to an act of faith. Though this theme is present throughout Balthasar vast writings, I will concentrate on two of his foundational works: Love Alone Is Credible (Ignatius, 2004), and The Glory of the Lord, (tr. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis), vol. 1 (Ignatius, 1982).

Balthasar argues that the encounter with beauty in the world is analogous to the encounter with the Triune God. What happens in the "aesthetic encounter"? He sees that beauty is an indissolvable union of two things: species and lumen. Beauty consists of a specific, tangible form (species) accessible to human senses with a splendor emanating from the form (lumen). Beauty has a particular form, is concretely situated in the coordinates of time and space, and thus has proportion so that it can be perceived. The splendor is the attractive charm of the Beautiful, the gravitational pull, the tractor beam pulling the beholder into it. When confronted with the Beautiful, one encounters "the real presence of the depths, of the whole reality, and . . . a real pointing beyond itself to those depths" (GL).

In the perception of beauty, two moments occur: first vision and then rapture, the result of which is the impression of the form on the beholder. The splendor moves out from within the form, enraptures the person and transports him into its depths. Thus the visible form "not only ‘points’ to an invisible, unfathomable mystery; form is the apparition of this mystery, and reveals it while, naturally, at the same time protecting and veiling it" (GL). In beauty, the beholder is drawn out of himself and pulled into the form by the attractive force of the beautiful thing, thereby encountering the beautiful thing in itself.

The Aesthetical Encounter

A simple example to illustrate the aesthetical encounter can be found in looking up into a clear night sky at the stars. One is struck by the immensity and order of the universe, by the arrangement of the constellations. On an especially clear night, one seems engulfed by the sheer number of stars. Presented with this beautiful form, a sensitive viewer is drawn in by light breaking forth from the form. This light is not simply the light emanating from each star, the result of burning gases. It is the light of Being. Transported into the depths of the form, the viewer ponders foundational questions such as: How did this happen? Where did these things come from? Why is this form so beautiful? Why am I so moved by it?

The result of the aesthetical encounter is an encounter with the mystery of Being-in-itself. One has been shown the form and through the form been brought into an encounter with the depth of Being. Wondering at the mystery of a particular being, one is drawn into that beautiful form, and touches the mystery of absolute Being. The form and the depths of its being are indissoluble. In beauty one doesn’t "get behind" the form. Rather one touches the depths of Being in the form itself.

For Balthasar, things that exist don’t just lay there in existence; they glow from their participation in absolute Being. In Beauty, one is taken in and grasped by Being. In order to perceive a particular being as it is, one must surrender, be receptive, and be willing to be taken in by the form. Control or manipulation on the part of the beholder derails the aesthetical encounter. To share in the beauty, the viewer must renounce himself. The result of the encounter with beauty is the impressing of the form on the person leaving him breathless, exhilarated, full of awe and infused with joy. He is "seduced" by the beautiful form whether it is a stunning landscape or one’s beloved.

Love Alone is Believable: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Apologetics | by Fr. John R. Cihak

Thursday, September 07, 2006

N.T. Wright's Simply Christian 'Simply Outstanding'

Christianity Today Review of Simply Christian

I am especially interested to see a review of this book put forth by some of Bishop Tom's most vocal Reformed critics who have claimed that his views of justification are some of the most dangerous attacks on the Christian Gospel in our times. Yes, people do believe this. I find it incomprehensible but there are multiple things that I do not understand. If you have read the book, what are your thoughts?
"I am especially struck by Wright's offering of Christianity as an alternative worldview to pantheism and deism, because it explains human experience far better than either. He clearly describes the overlap between earth and heaven as they merge not only in the life and works of Jesus and such Christian rites as baptism and the Eucharist, but also in our ordinary human encounters with the world.

Second, his treatment of Jesus' growing self-consciousness—how the Lord understood his mission in light of the history of Israel and the future of humanity, coming slowly through his grasp of the Hebrew Scriptures—impresses me.

Wright could not have written this section with such credibility without the massive scholarship that went into his Jesus trilogy: Christian Origins and the Question of God. Those who suspect that Wright fails to sufficiently emphasize Jesus' divine self-consciousness will have to contend with the author's impressive scholarship.

Finally, Wright's emphasis on the present and future of the kingdom of God is a corrective for those who think that the point of Christianity is "to go to heaven when you die." God, Wright argues, is bent upon putting "the whole creation to rights." "Earth and heaven were made to overlap with one another," the author writes, "not fitfully, mysteriously, and partially as they do at the moment, but completely, gloriously, and utterly." Our task as Christians is to join our lives to that great end.

Simply Christian is simply outstanding. It will confirm, challenge, and deepen your grasp of Christian faith and practice."


James W. Sire is the author of The Universe Next Door and Why Good Arguments Often Fail.

Br. Roger from Taizé was a Secret Catholic for 33 Yrs?

What does one make of this?
A year after being murdered in his own church, the secret of Brother Roger, apostle of Christian unity, has been made public: the Swiss Protestant monk, who founded an ecumenical community at Taizé in eastern France, was an undeclared Catholic for 33 years.

Just over a year ago, Brother Roger, aged 90, was stabbed to death in public by a deranged Romanian pilgrim in the community he founded to promote unity in the Christian Church. The following week he was given a funeral service according to Catholic rites, fulfilling a wish he expressed before he died. Many Protestant supporters were taken aback - even annoyed.

Now a former Catholic bishop of Autun, whose diocese includes the village of Taizé, has said Brother Roger made a Catholic "profession of faith" in 1972. "Brother Roger himself told me he was a Catholic," Monseigneur Raymond Séguy said. His Catholic allegiance was never made public as Brother Roger did not want to destroy his ecumenical achievements at Taizé.

However, some Protestant leaders, while backing Taizé's work, became disturbed by what they saw as Brother Roger's drift towards Catholicism. At the funeral of Pope John Paul II last year, Brother Roger was seen to take communion from the hands of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The future Pope Benedict XVI had always opposed proposals that, in the name of Christian unity, Protestants should be allowed to participate in the Catholic mass.

The mystery of how the "Protestant" Brother Roger came to receive the host from Cardinal Ratzinger's own hand has now been solved.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Silence of a Confessor

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There are many who fear confessing their sins to someone else but one need not be. Priests take an oath to silence about what they hear in the confessional as should be fearful since the confessional is always sealed. If you have never been to confession and have a heavy conscience about something or are unsure of the practice I think you will become a bit more comfortable with it after reading this piece from the mouth of one who has heard thousands of confessions.
I am a priest. I hear confessions. I have heard thousands of confessions. I also go to confession myself quite regularly, but that is not the angle from which I am writing here. I want to write from the angle of the confessor, not from that of the confessing.

I do so for the sake of the thousands of Catholics who need a good confession, but don't make one because of what they think might go on in the mind of the confessor while they tell their sins. Also for the sake of the thousands who are not Catholics and who have been taught to think that just about the most horrible institution in the world is that in which one human being is supposed to tell another his sins. Well, here are some of the things, 'that go on in the mind of the confessor.'

Of course, I cannot (I say 'cannot' instead of 'may not' deliberately, because the thing I speak of is so near to a physical impossibility) say anything that would reveal or publish the sins of any individual. That is what is called 'the seal of confession. ' You have to lock up in your heart what you hear. You have to be ready to stand up to inquisitors, dictators, persecutors, and dare them to order you to the gallows or the firing squad or solitary confinement rather than tell them anything about anybody's confession. I suppose every priest has, at some time or other, had the dream of glory involving brave and stony silence in the midst of a third degree about confessions he has heard.

Actually, however, it isn't so hard to keep the seal of confession. I said I have heard thousands of confessions. I have never kept track of the totals, though we are asked to count the number heard on specific occasions. I would roughly guess that I have heard many more than one hundred thousand confessions in twenty odd years, which would be less than five thousand a year. Some years, I know, they were many more. Anyway, that comes to an average of about one hundred a week, and I've often wondered if there are any other professional men in the world, doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists, etc., who in any given week treat the problems of a hundred different clients. I suppose doctors behind the front lines of a battlefield during a war do: But they would call this 'emergency treatment.' For hundreds of priests, one hundred or more confessions a week is normal practice for years. However, the point I want to make is that you don't have much capacity for remembering the sins of any individual when you are hearing one hundred or more confessions a week. All the stories blur together. The people whose confessions you have heard become like a crowd that you see only from a distance. You can see different heads and hats and heights, but you cannot distinguish features. You get so that these many voices you have heard whispering through a grate are like the one great voice of humanity whispering its plea for forgiveness and peace.

Sometimes, it is true, a penitent may arrange it so that you won't forget him or his sins. He comes to you in the parlor of a rectory, or he takes you aside from a gathering of people, and tells you outright what sins he has committed and asks you if there is any chance for him. Sometimes, if the place and time are suitable, you can have him kneel down at once, and put it all into a sacramental confession. He doesn't care what you know about him or what you think of him. To him, you are but an anonymous and shadowy instrument of God's mercy. But after such an open confession, you sometimes find the penitent wanting to keep in touch with you, remembering you with a greeting on feast days, reporting on how well he has been doing since the 'big' confession was made. This makes you very happy. Indeed, it is one of the great sources of happiness for a priest. It keeps before your eyes the kind of miraculous transformation that can be effected in people through a good confession and the strong graces that are imparted through the absolution you are empowered to pronounce.

There are those, too, who come to you regularly in the confessional in quest of guidance and help toward greater holiness. They want you to know them and to remember them just well enough to enable you to give them continuous direction. To you, they become souls without external features; you would not recognize them outside the confessional. Sometimes, on meeting you, a person will say: 'I've been going to confession to you for ten years. ' Yet, you won't have the slightest inkling of which 'case' or 'soul history' the person represents.

But nobody ever has to reveal himself, or herself, to the priest, either face to face, or by personal identification, when in need of a good confession. All they have to do is to join the queue outside the confessional, become one of the nameless, faceless, blurring multitude on a Saturday afternoon or evening, and slip into the shadowy cubicle when their turn comes. The story may be long or short; it may be weighted with big numbers revealing many falls, or it may come tumbling out charged with the emotions of remorse, sadness, fear, humiliation, grief. It may be the simple and placid revelation of those half deliberate slips and failings of which the Gospel says that even the just man can be guilty seven times a day. It doesn't matter to the priest. He has heard it all before. He has acquired the personal disinterest that routine and monotony and anonymity cannot but produce. Yet, that personal disinterest, that total lack of curiosity about who the penitent may be, does not destroy an intense desire to become the instrument of another miracle of forgiveness.
Read all of it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

New links for web sites

I have added a new category in my links column on the right called 'Parish Web Sites'. This link is for parishes within England (C of E) that are of a more catholic ethos in liturgy and spirituality and traditional in their approach to churchmanship. If you have good recommendations that you think should be added, please do let me know. I will broaden this out a bit in time for ecumenical reasons but I am just getting this portion started.

I want to develop this web blog into something bigger once I finish my PhD. My goal is to get this site 'out there' in order to help get any future work I do before the theological world. In the future, I will broaden the theological discussions on Eucharistic and Sacramental Theology as well as articles on other theological topics for the wider community to engage and challenge. Thanks for any assistance from the faithful visitors here.

Anglican Eucharistic Theology

In a post below, I have had a comment recently by a Fr. Brian Douglas who is an Australian Anglican Priest. He is presently working on a PhD on Anglican Eucharistic Theology and has a blog and a website where he discusses this topic. Pay him a visit some time. He should be able to add some fruitful discussion to this blog. Welcome, Fr. Brian!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Robert Daly, S.J. on the Power of Sacrifice

I just finished reading an article by Robert Daly, S.J., titled THE POWER OF SACRIFICE IN ANCIENT JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY JOURNAL OF RITUAL STUDIES: 4/2 (SUMMER 1990) 181-98. He had some interesting conclusions in here and even referred to himself once as a "Reformed Catholic". Note the below issues concerning sacrifice that he claims the Roman Catholic Church has yet to recover from during the Medieval Church.
The Christian church never reverted to material sacrifice, but it nevertheless so thoroughly institutionalized and routinized what came to be called the "sacrifice of the mass" that specially in popular piety, it absorbed many of the characteristic abuses of a material sacrificial cult. A key development in this process was the gradual replacement of the idea quite widespread among the fathers of the church, that Jesus Christ is the principal agent in the sacrifice of the mass with the notion that the celebrating priest is the principal agent. The twelfth-century medieval Latin commentaries on the mass provide fairly clear witness to this development (Schaefer 1983). 191

From a theological perspective this was a massive alteration from which the Roman Catholic Church still has not yet fully recovered. Its disastrous consequences are known to all familiar with the history of medieval and Reformation Christianity and they are still at work today as can be seen, for example, in the debate over women's ordination. An extraordinary power-accompanied in the popular mind, which often enough included the mind of the priest himself, by blatant semi-magical connotations—was put into the hands of he priest: the power to forgive sins through the sacramental ritual of confession and absolution and thus to save from the threat of eternal damnation; and the power through the ritual of the mass to "confect" the Eucharist and make Christ present by changing bread and wine into his body and blood and to offer this sacrifice, in the words of the Council of Trent, as an effective sacrifice of propitiation for the living and the dead. [Denzinger and Schonmetzer 1965.-no.l753). 191

Translation of the Relics of St. Cuthbert

Image and video hosting by TinyPicTonight at half seven, we will be at the Durham Cathderal to celebrate the translation of the relics of St. Cuthbert. Cuthbert is obviously a very important saint for Durham as his body lies at the end of the cathedral behind the High Altar. The story of the translation of his relics is quite remarkable. Chamber's Book of Days has some great details on the story of this day's celebration. What is so exciting about it all is that I live right in the heart of where all this happened. The reference below to Neville's Cross is about 100 yards from my present home. We live at the top of Redhills Lane which was named after the Battle of Neville's Cross due to the redness of the hill seen from the castle and cathedral where the blood ran down it. A section from Chamber's Book of Days is found below. Do read it and I am confident that the mystery of it will enrich your prayers as we ponder the mystery of God this day and give thanks for St. Cuthbert.
Cuthbert—originally a shepherd-boy in Lauderdale, afterwards a monk at Old Melrose on the Tweed, finally bishop of the Northumbrian island of Lindisfarne, in which capacity he died in the year 688—is remarkable for the thousand-years' long history which he had, after experiencing that which brings most men their quietus. Fearing future incursions of the Danes, he charged his little religious community that, in case any such event should take place, they would quit the island, taking his bones along with them. Eleven years after his death, having raised his body to give it a more honourable place, they were amazed to find it had undergone not the slightest decay. In consequence of this miraculous circumstance, it became, in its new shrine, an object of great popular veneration, and the cause of many other miracles; and so it continued till the year 875, when at length, to escape the Danes, the monks had to carry it away, and commence a wandering life on the mainland.

After seven years of constant movement, the body of St. Cuthbert found rest at Chester-le-Street; but it was, in a sense, only temporary, for in 995, a new incursion of the Danes sent it off once more upon its travels. It was kept some time at Rippon, in Yorkshire, and when the danger was past, the monks set out on their return to Chester-le-Street. They were miraculously arrested, however, at a spot called Duirholm (the deer's meadow), on the river Wear, and there finally settled with the precious corpse of their holy patron, giving rise to what has since been one of the grandest religious establishments of the British empire, the cathedral of Durham. This is the event which was for some ages celebrated as the Translation of St. Cuthbert.

For upwards of a hundred years, the tomb of St. Cuthbert, with his uncorrupted body, continued to be visited by devout pilgrims, and in 1104, on the erection of the present cathedral of Durham, it was determined to remove his remains to a shrine within the new structure. Some doubts had been expressed as to the permanence of his incorruptibility, and to silence all such misgivings, the clergy of the church, having met in conclave beside the saint's coffin the night before its intended removal, resolved to satisfy themselves by an actual inspection. After preparing themselves for the task by prayer, they removed, with trembling hands, the external fastenings, and opened the first coffin, within which a second was found, covered with rough hides, and enclosing a third coffin, enveloped in several folds of linen.

On removing the lid of this last receptacle, a second lid appeared, which on being raised with much fear and agitation, the swathed body of the saint lay before them 'in a perfect state.' According to the narrative, the monks were appalled as if by some fearful interposition of Heaven; but after a short interval, they all fell flat on the ground, repeated amid a deluge of tears the seven penitential psalms, and prayed the Lord not to correct them in his anger, nor chasten them in his displeasure. The next day the miraculous body was shewn to the multitude, though it is honestly stated by the chronicler that the whole of it, including the face, was covered with linen, the only flesh visible being through a chink left in the cerecloths at the neck. Thereafter it was placed in the shrine destined for it behind the great altar, where it remained undisturbed for the ensuing four hundred and twenty-six years, and proved the source of immense revenues to the cathedral.

No shrine in England was more lavishly adorned or maintained than that of St. Cuthbert; it literally blazed with ornaments of gold, silver, and precious stones, and to enrich the possessions of the holy man, and his representative the bishop of Durham, many a fair estate was impoverished or diverted from the natural heirs. The corporax cloth, which the saint had used to cover the chalice when he said mass, was enclosed in a silk banner, and employed in gaining victories for the Plantagenet kings of England. It turned the fate of the day at the battle of Neville's Cross, in 1346, when David of Scotland was defeated; and it soon after witnessed the taking of Berwick by Edward III. But all the glories of St. Cuthbert were to be extinguished at the Reformation, when his tomb was irreverently disturbed. It had, however, a better fate than many other holy places at this eventful epoch, as the coffin, instead of being ignominiously broken up, and its contents dispersed, was carefully closed, a new exterior coffin added, and the whole buried underneath the defaced shrine.
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Sunday, September 03, 2006

What is imperative for ecumenical discussions?

In the conclusion of The Sacrifice we Offer, by Powers he writes,
What appears from the whole discussion is that it is necessary for each church critically and constructively to review its own liturgical and doctrinal tradition. It has to see what is open to challenge in it, to recognize its limitations as well as its fundamental inspirations, asking how it may be received into the life of the church today. l86 l87

It is imperative in such a review of a sacramental tradition to attend to the unbreakable link between doctrine and practice. A church cannot say that it will keep the doctrine as stated, but change its practice, nor vice versa. This is an impossible fissure. Similarly, in the dialogue between churches, agreement on an appropriate and commonly observed eucharistic practice, within reasonable diversity, is integral to the quest for fuller ecclesial communion. This has indeed been the trend of ecumenical rapprochement, but the closeness of the connection between practices and doctrine needs to be constantly emphasized. l87
What sorts of questions does this bring up for what was determined dogma in the C16 at the Trentian Council that might have to 're-state' certain doctrines of Eucharistic Sacrifice and or Presence?

Any thoughts?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

E.L. Mascall on Eucharistic Sacrifice

It is in the sacramental order that the Mass is a sacrifice. That is to say it is a sacrifice not because Christ is dying at a particular time on a particular altar, as he died once at a particular time on a particular cross, but because the elements of bread and wine which are at that time on that altar are the divinely appointed signs of the sacrifice. And in the sacramental order the Mass contains and communicates the whole redemptive activity of Christ, the whole sweep of filial self-oblation that extends from his incarnation in the womb of Mary through his death on Calvary to his heavenly glorification. The Mass is therefore neither a new sacrifice, nor a part of the one Sacrifice; it is the one Sacrifice in its totality, present under a sign. We may legitimately inquire what part is played in the one Sacrifice by the various events of our Lord's incarnate life; how, for example, Calvary is constituted as a sacrificial reality, and is made something more than a legal execution, by the events of the Last Supper, and whether Calvary can be considered as a sacrifice apart from the Resurrection and the Ascension. Corpus Christi, 97

Fr. Andrew Louth on the Feast of the Nativity

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One of the many wonderful things about being in Durham is being able to regularly visit with scholars such as Professor Louth. To have him in our department here at Durham University is such a great blessing. The Times Online 'Faith' section has published an article from him in the news that can be found below. I place it here for your reading and refer you to the Times page as well.
There is nothing untrue in the Protevangelion’s joyful, inaccurate tales
Credo by Andrew Louth
Next Friday, September 8, Christians celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. For Eastern Orthodox Christians, this is one of the 12 great feasts of the liturgical year. Like several other feasts of the Virgin, it draws its inspiration not from any of the canonical gospels, but from a late 2nd-century gospel, the so-called First Gospel of St James, the Protevangelion of St James.

This is one of the apocryphal gospels that attract perennial interest, often alleged to contain traditions of the “real truth of Christianity” and consequently to have been suppressed by the Church. The Protevangelion was not included in the canon of the Gospels, probably because of doubts about the historical accuracy of the stories it contained, which tell of the early life of the Blessed Virgin, from her conception by aged and barren parents, through her life in the temple, to her betrothal to Joseph and her giving birth, as a virgin, to the Son of God.

It is clearly a work of imagination; the meaning of the stories lies in their significance, not in their historical truth.

What is particularly striking about the Protevangelion is the way it associates the Virgin Mary with the Jewish Temple. In a wonderful scene, depicted unforgettably in the mosaic of the life of the Virgin in the inner narthex of Constantinople’s Church of the Chora (Kariye Camii), the six-month-old Mary is placed by her mother, Anna, on the ground, and walks seven steps towards her mother. Anna vows that Mary will no more walk on the earth until she goes to the temple. She is presented at the temple, and lives there until the age of 12, when she is betrothed to Joseph. Later she is one of the virgins chosen to weave the cloth for the veil of the temple.

Much of this is historically implausible, but its significance lies in the fact that Mary is destined to be a living temple, in which God will dwell, and that she will weave in her womb the human nature of Christ: the flesh, called in the Epistle to the Hebrews the veil (Heb. x, 20). By her “Yes” to God, the Jewish girl Mary becomes God’s dwelling place, a living temple. Or, to change the imagery, she becomes Paradise restored: as one of our Orthodox liturgical hymns puts it: “Her womb is shown to be the spiritual paradise, in which is the divine plant, eating of which we live, not like Adam who died. Christ is born, to raise up the fallen image.”

Though there are many songs and hymns about the Virgin throughout Christendom, the West has often seemed to hanker after something more definite, either dismissing devotion to Mary on historical grounds, or expressing it in terms of defined dogmas: the Immaculate Conception, or the Assumption. The Christian East has remained content with celebration in song. The most famous Byzantine hymn to the Mother of God, the Akathist, cries out to her:

Hail, you through whom joy will shine out,
Hail, you through whom the curse will cease.

Hail, recalling of fallen Adam,
Hail, redemption of the tears of Eve.

Hail, height hard to climb for human thoughts,
Hail, depth hard to scan even for angels’ eyes.

Hail, for you are a throne for the King,
Hail, for you carry the One who carries all.

There is perhaps a deeper reason behind the way the Christian East expresses its devotion to the Mother of God in song rather than in intricate theological definition. For song and celebration foster a fundamental attitude to the world and life of joy and thanksgiving. In contrast, one of the most insidious effects of sin, very evident in society today, is the way it leads to an approach to life characterised by suspicion, resentment and fear.

The attitude of thanksgiving was characteristic of one of the great saints of the early Church, St John Chrysostom, the patriarch of Constantinople, who experienced in his life much opposition and misunderstanding, and died in exile. According to his biographer, his constant response, whatever happened, was: “Glory to God for everything.”


Father Andrew Louth is a priest of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchal Diocese of Sourozh
    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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