Saturday, April 28, 2007

Chesterton: Thought for the Day

FOR those who study the great art of lying in bed there is one emphatic caution to be added. Even for those who cannot do their work in bed (as, for example, the professional harpooners of whales), it is obvious that the indulgence must be very occasional. But that is not the caution I mean. The caution is this: if you do lie in bed, be sure you do it without any reason or justification at all. I do not speak, of course, of the seriously sick. But if a healthy man lies in bed, let him do it without a rag of excuse; then he will get up a healthy man. If he does it for some secondary hygienic reason, if he has some scientific explanation, he may get up a hypochondriac.

'Tremendous Trifles.'

St. Gregory of Nyssa and Andrewes: Transelementation

In my present writing on Andrewes' understanding of Eucharistic presence, I find him in very close agreement with St. Gregory of Nyssa on the transelementation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. Gregory writes the following:
By dispensation of His grace, He disseminates Himself in every believer through that flesh, whose existence comes from bread and wine, blending Himself with the bodies of believers to secure that by this union with the Immortal man, too, may be a sharer in incorruption. He gives these gifts by virtue of the benediction through which He "trans-elements" [metastoi-cheiōsis] the natural quality of these visible things to that immortal thing.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

ARCIC on Eucharistic Presence

Communion with Christ in the eucharist presupposes his true presence, effectually signified by the bread and wine which, in this mystery, become his body and blood. The real presence of his body and blood can, however, only be understood within the context of the redemptive activity whereby he gives himself, and in himself reconciliation, peace and life, to his own. On the one hand, the eucharistic gift springs out of the paschal mystery of Christ's death and resurrection, in which God's saving purpose has already been definitively realised. On the other hand, its purpose is to transmit the life of the crucified and risen Christ to his body, the church, so that its members may be more fully united with Christ and with one another.

Christ is present and active, in various ways, in the entire eucharistic celebration. It is the same Lord who through the proclaimed word invites his people to his table, who through his minister presides at that table, and who gives himself sacramentally in the body and blood of his paschal sacrifice. It is the Lord present at the right hand of the Father, and therefore transcending the sacramental order, who thus offers to his church, in the eucharistic signs, the special gift of himself.

The sacramental body and blood of the Savior are present as an offering to the believer awaiting his welcome. When this offering is met by faith, a lifegiving encounter results. Through faith Christ's presence which does not depend on the individual's faith in order to be the Lord's real gift of himself to his church becomes no longer just a presence for the believer, but also a presence with him. Thus, in considering the mystery of the eucharistic presence, we must recognize both the sacramental sign of Christ's presence and the personal relationship between Christ and the faithful which arises from that presence.

The Lord's words at the last supper, "Take and eat; this is my body", do not allow us to dissociate the gift of the presence and the act of sacramental eating. The elements are not mere signs; Christ's body and blood become really present and are really given. But they are really present and given in order that, receiving them, believers may be united in communion with Christ the Lord.

According to the traditional order of the liturgy the consecratory prayer (anaphora) leads to the communion of the faithful. Through this prayer of thanksgiving, a word of faith addressed to the Father, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ by the action of the Holy Spirit, so that in communion we eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood.

The Lord who thus comes to his people in the power of the Holy Spirit is the Lord of glory. In the eucharistic celebration we anticipate the joys of the age to come. By the transforming action of the Spirit of God, earthly bread and wine become the heavenly manna and the new wine, the eschatological banquet for the new man: elements of the first creation become pledges and first fruits of the new heaven and the new earth.

We believe that we have reached substantial agreement on the doctrine of the eucharist. Although we are all conditioned by the traditional ways in which we have expressed and practiced our eucharistic faith, we are convinced that if there are any remaining points of disagreement they can be resolved on the principles here established.

We acknowledge a variety of theological approaches within both our communions. But we have seen it as our task to find a way of advancing together beyond the doctrinal disagreements of the past. It is our hope that in view of the agreement which we have reached on eucharistic faith, this doctrine will no longer constitute an obstacle to the unity we seek.

The Cross and the Caricatures

The debate of 'penal substitution' is growing and developing into a serious debate again. Bishop Tom Wright and others are engaged in an exchange over the recent words of Dean Jeffrey John of St. Alban's Cathedral. Visit this exchange and leave your thoughts and remarks here. Read the entire of Bishop Tom's response here. A portion from it is below. Also, on Anglican Mainstream there is a response by Dr. Lisa Nolland. Read it as well.

Underneath all this discussion is a deep concern which has emerged again in our own day, notably in the writings of the Yale theologian Miroslav Volf. In his magisterial Exclusion and Embrace (Nashville: Abingdon, 1994), he demonstrates, with sharp examples from his native Balkans, that it simply won't do, when faced with radical evil, to say, 'Oh well, don't worry, I will love you and forgive you anyway.' That (as the 1938 Doctrine Report already saw) is not forgiveness; it is belittling the evil that has been done. Genuine forgiveness must first 'exclude', argues Volf, before it can 'embrace'; it must name and shame the evil, and find an appropriate way of dealing with it, before reconciliation can happen. Otherwise we are just papering over the cracks. As I said early on, if God does not hate the wickedness that happens in his beautiful world, he is neither a good nor a just God, and chaos is come again. Somehow I sense that Dr John knows this, since he writes movingly of Jesus Christ as God coming down into the midst of the mess and the muddle to be with us and . . . to rescue us - though he never says how this rescue is effected. But again and again I sense in Dr John's writing the problem which Anselm already identified: you have not yet considered how serious sin is. It isn't that God happens to have a petulant thing about petty rules. He is the wise and loving creator who cannot abide his reation being despoiled. On the cross he drew the full force not only of that despoiling, but of his own proper, judicial, punitive rejection of it, on to himself. That is what the New Testament says. That is what Jesus himself, I have argued elsewhere, believed what was going on. That is what the classic Anglican formularies and liturgy say.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Catholic, looking for a place to train?

Where do you go to train for ministry? A very important question and greatly dependent upon one's tradition. If you are an Anglican who is Catholic in ecclesiology and sacramental theology where would you go?

St. Stephen's House, Oxford is having an open house day on Saturday May, 5, 2007. It is recommended that you spend some time in theological colleges and ask students and staff questions about your formation and hear from them on the nature of priesthood and ministry before making such an important decision. If you are a candidate, I highly recommend you visit St. Stephen's House to see what sort of training you will be getting.

I also recommend a visit to Mirfield where the Community of the Resurrection is located. The theological college is the College of the Resurrection. Go for a visit and ask the same questions you asked at each theological college before making this very important decision. Formation to the priesthood and where this is experienced is one of the most important decisions you will make. I would also recommend that the history of the staff is closely looked at to see how many have held incumbencies themselves. Spend time with them and ask a lot of questions about priesthood and formation. Formation is much more than theological reflection (as important as this is)--it's also important to be trained by those who have experienced the heart of the Church's ministry themselves with some pastoral success. Though this is not to say that all who train priests have to have experienced an incumbency. Yet it enables a tutor to incarnate this experience when teaching, which is very important when training others.
One thing to remember: training is a life-long journey and one should never hold a position that says, when the time of 'formal' theological education is finished theological learning is over. No, it's only just begun!

Patrick Henry Reardon: The Way the Truth and the Life

The way, the truth and the life.

When we look at Jesus, we are faced with something radically different. All who heard him recognized that he taught as 'One having authority.' Jesus expounded no truths transcendent to himself: what he taught was otherwise unknowable and inaccessible.

Indeed, how would we know that we have a heavenly Father who loves and cares for us, except on the testimony of Jesus? Is this an obvious or otherwise available truth? Again, if Jesus had not mentioned the fact, how would we know that the very hairs of our head are all numbered? Is it really self-evident, after all, that God has even the slightest regard for every sparrow that falls? Or that a loving Father clothes in beauty the flowers of the field? We know these things for one reason only, that Jesus told us so.

Thus, the religious message of Jesus is inseparable from the authority of his own person, his own T. This T is central to his message and permeates the whole of it. Jesus' teaching is founded on the proclamation, 'But I say to you.' This T is the founda-tional component of the message, because Our Lord's doctrine stands or falls with himself. Jesus not only taught us that we have a Father in heaven, but he also claimed to be, in his own person, the sole access to that Father.
No resurrection, no gospel

Looking Eastward?

In an article in the New Oxford Review in the October 2003 edition contained the following article: Is there hope of a reunion of East and West? How far is it off? Is the author of the following article correct?

November 2003 By Charles A. Coulombe

Charles A. Coulombe is author of Vicars of Christ: A History of the Popes

Much of my teenage years were spent in the San Fernando Valley of California, at that time (the mid-70s) a religious and cultural wasteland. Apart from the outlets described in that article, another appeared; I discovered the Eastern Rites of the Church, and the Orthodox Churches.

My father, Guy, first stimulated my interest in this area, as in so many others. His tales of valiant Christians maintaining their faith and traditions under Muslim and Communist domination fired the imagination. My freshman year at Daniel Murphy High School (during our last year in Hollywood, before the move north to suburbia) resulted in the discovery, in that school's library, of Donald Attwater's classic two-volume study, The Christian Churches of the East. Up to this point, my knowledge of these matters was all theoretical.

This changed in 1976, when I discovered St. Andrew's Russian Catholic Church in El Segundo, Calif. Its pastor, Fr. Feodor Wilcock, S.J., came from an old Lancashire Recusant family. The last of his clan of gentry, Fr. Wilcock had answered the call of the Holy Father to enter the Russicum in 1922, when the supply of Russian Catholic priests ran out (thanks to Lenin's agents). Sent to Russia with an American companion, he was speedily seized; as a British subject, he was expelled -- his colleague vanished into the gulag, never to return. Fr. Wilcock was then sent to run a school and parish in Shanghai, China, among the Russian refugees. He was interned with his flock by the Japanese during World War II; he then fled with them after the fall of the city to the Chinese Communists in 1949; successively they went to the Philippines and Brazil. In 1956 he was transferred to New York, where he founded the John XXIII Russian Center at Fordham University. In 1971 he had come to St. Andrew's to offer the Funeral Liturgy for its pastor; to his surprise, many of the parishioners were old members of his congregation from Shanghai. At their request he was reassigned, and remained there until his death in 1983.

This was the man who became my confessor after the incapacitation of James Francis Cardinal McIntyre, who had had that dubious honor up to that point. From Fr. Wilcock I learned firsthand the beauties of the Byzantine Rite; I also learned about the Episcopi Vagantes, but that is another story. At any rate, given the state of the Latin Rite, my visits to St. Andrew's were stops at an oasis. In subsequent years, thanks to the cosmopolitan nature of southern California, I've been able to assist at Ruthenian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Melkite, Maronite, Syrian, Chaldean, Coptic, and Malankaran Catholic liturgies.

These experiences have left their trace on my prayer life: When I try to employ my five senses in meditating on the Blessed Sacrament, they come back vividly. Sight, of course, brings the elevation of the Host and pictures of the Holy Grail to mind; hearing evokes the strains of Panis Angelicus and Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence; smell conjures incense; and touch the feel of wooden pews. But taste will always be given over to the crouton-soaked-in-wine texture of Byzantine Communion.

So it is that matters Eastern will always claim my attention. I have spent my time with many an Eastern Catholic, and many an Orthodox. It has certainly struck me that ecumenism, properly defined, must have the reconciliation of the entire East with Rome as its aim. Whatever one thinks of the gatherings at Assisi and such like doings, one can only applaud John Paul II's efforts in this regard. Certainly, relations between Rome and certain of the Eastern Patriarchates have never been so warm. The handing over of churches in Rome and Ravenna to the Patriarch of Constantinople were noble gestures to be sure; certainly, the Pope's 1999 visit to Romania was an unmitigated triumph. (As a side note, on that occasion I was delivering a lecture at the National Art Museum in Bucharest, situated in that city's Royal Palace. At its conclusion, none of us was allowed to leave, because the Pope was offering the Mass immediately outside; since then it has been my boast that I was held prisoner by John Paul II in the Romanian Royal Palace!)

But one grave risk in this ecumenism is the apparent betrayal of the Eastern Catholics, best known in the West as "Uniates." The heirs of past partial reunions, these folk have withstood much oppression at the hands of Communists and Orthodox. In Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, they still face harassment.

But worse still is harassment at the hands of the clergy (something their Latin brothers are familiar with). In days gone by, this consisted of forced Latinization; so bad did this become that successive pontiffs, starting with Benedict XIV, forbade it under pain of excommunication. Today, however, hapless Eastern layfolk in many places face just as odious a forced "de-Latinization."

Part of this is a result (especially in North America) of sending candidates for the priesthood to Orthodox seminaries; other portions of this program stem from the desire of the highest authorities to prove to the Orthodox hierarchs that communion with Rome does not mean a loss of Byzantine heritage. But the problem here lies with lay sensibilities. Among Ukrainians, Ruthenians, and Romanians, for example, many Latin customs have been "inculturated"; thus, iconic Stations of the Cross, use of the Rosary, Latin-style altars (albeit behind iconostasises), devotion to certain Western saints, and the observance (in Byzantine fashion) of such feasts as Corpus Christi and the Sacred Heart have sprung up. Since the liberation of the East from Communism, many Eastern Catholic clerics have given themselves over to purging these practices from the life of their churches.

The problem here is twofold. One is that often enough the practices under attack were adopted at lay insistence precisely to show their allegiance to Rome. More deeply, they answered a religious need in the given people. Corpus Christi became popular in the Latin West precisely because the devotion of the people and their realization of the Blessed Sacrament demanded it; so it has happened among those Byzantines who adopted it. To take it from them is clerical hubris of the worst sort. Moreover, the sharing of liturgical and devotional customs -- when it is a natural process -- inevitably happens among different rites that are in communion with one another. One thinks of how impoverished the Latin Rite would be if it disposed of the Kyrie and the Agios O Theos (of the Good Friday Service), and the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, purely because of their Eastern origins. Their incorporation into the religious life of the West came about because they answered a devotional need; so too Orthodox prize the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified, even though it was composed by Pope St. Gregory the Great.

So too, although the Holy See has permitted Easterners to dispense with the filioque so long as they believe in the doctrine it represents, many Eastern Catholic priests (especially among the Melkites) reject the belief as well as the word -- a result of the aforementioned practice of sending them to Orthodox seminaries.

Most obnoxiously, however, there has been little outcry among Catholic "anti-Latinizers" against attempts in North American Byzantine circles to impose lay Eucharistic ministers, and female lectors and altar servers. To date these have foundered upon lay opposition, and little else. The turning around of altars in American Eastern Catholic churches can be placed in the same file.

One must not be too surprised that in Ukraine and elsewhere, a movement has arisen among Eastern Catholics which, rejecting such de-Latinizing alterations, has allied itself in many places with the Society of St. Pius X.

But what about the Orthodox themselves, for whom so much is being done? Well, it must be said of their clergy that a more argumentative bunch would be hard to find. As a rule, Orthodox clerics are quite ingenious for finding causes for battle. They will, inevitably, speak of a deep-seated unity among them which transcends the need for structural unity, as evidenced under the papal "tyranny." But their squabbles are dizzying: "Old Calendarists" versus "New Calendarists," ROCOR versus OCA, Constantinople versus Moscow (most recently over Estonia), to name a few. When one brings up questions of nationality, it gets frightening indeed: The Macedonian Orthodox are recognized by few other Orthodox Churches; the Greek Orthodox in Albania struggle against the Albanian Orthodox; in Ukraine and Belarus, one finds a three-sided struggle between Autonomists, Autocephalists, and Muscovites (and the existence of Ukrainian and Belarus Byzantine Catholics complicates things further).

The Orthodox clergy will claim an unchanging adherence to the Church Fathers, eschewing all post-schism doctrinal development in the West as "innovation." But many, if not most, tend now to equate Orthodoxy with the post-schism teachings of Gregory Palamas, a 14th-century theologian. His speculations on the nature of grace and the light of Mt. Tabor, as well as his system of "Hesychasm," have achieved quasi-dogmatic status in the East.

The Orthodox clergy's knowledge of the Church Fathers is often, to say the least, sketchy. Orthodox charges against the Latins of "legalism" as regards grace would be hard to maintain, for example, if they studied St. John Chrysostom. So too with their critiques of the papacy: The tendency of non-papal Christians to convert after making exhaustive studies of the question in pre-schism Conciliar decrees and Patristic writings is almost proverbial.

Married to this poor theological background is even poorer historical knowledge. Every Orthodox priest I have ever contended with has brought up the sack of Constantinople by Western Crusaders in 1203; almost to a man, however, they have been ignorant of the subsequent excommunication of the leaders of that expedition by Innocent III. No Catholic will deny the grievances suffered by Easterners at the hands of Latins; but amnesia engulfs the Orthodox mind with regard to the reverse. None, for example, seems to remember the kidnapping and abuse of two popes by Emperor Justinian I (a saint in their calendar); by the same token, they do not remember that monarch's seeking forgiveness and subscribing to papal primacy. Equally glossed over is the bloody, forced incorporation of Byzantine Catholics into the Orthodox Church by Tsar Nicholas I and Stalin (the Orthodox, despite their professed hatred of the latter, have been extremely reluctant to return the churches Stalin stole). Nor (although they have canonized him) do they recall the acceptance of that primacy by Constantine XII, last Emperor of the East, or the part papal opponents played in weakening Constantine's position, in the face of the Turkish menace. One recalls the Grand Admiral of the Empire, Lukas Notaras, who declared that he "preferred the turban of the Sultan to the tiara of the Pope." He must have recalled his words bitterly when the conquering Sultan Mohammed ordered him to present his sons as concubines; refusing, Notaras was forced to watch their execution before being put to death himself. One cannot resist contrasting this with the action of Paul VI, who, in hopes of safeguarding Greek lives and property in Turkey during the 1965 Cyprus crisis, returned the banners captured from the Sultan's fleet at Lepanto. For that matter, the same Pontiff gave the head of St. Andrew back to the Orthodox Diocese of Patras.

That same Turkish Sultan, anxious to break the union with Rome, appointed Gennadios II as Patriarch. From that time until 1922, the patriarchs were appointed by the sultans. Our current schism dates not from 1054, but from 1456; it owes its origin not to Pope St. Leo IX and Michael Caerularius, but to the Turks.

Yet this background undergirds the combative spirit earlier referred to. Orthodox controversialists will justify the continuance of the schism, understandably, not by appeal to the authority of the Sultan, but by manufacturing causes. They will cite cultural differences (such as the wearing of beards by clergy, or the use of unleavened bread) as though they were doctrinal. Filioque is of course trumpeted, ignoring past accords on the question. Despite the Eastern origins of the liturgical feasts of the Assumption and Immaculate Conception, because Rome has defined them as dogmas many Eastern theologians have denied them. But the major cathedral in Moscow retains its title of "Cathedral of the Assumption." In recent years, some Orthodox theologians have begun to question the seven-fold number of the Sacraments, claiming that it is a "Western innovation." If the aversion of any respected Orthodox writer to these points is brought up, it will be asserted that said writer was at best "not a theologian," at worst "not truly Orthodox."

My best Russian Orthodox friend (an educated layman) and I were discussing the difference between our two Churches, when he said, "your Church is too intrusive in personal lives." My rejoinder was that, "I suppose you mean about sexual morality. But apart from divorce, there is nothing my Church forbids that yours condones. If you ask any of your priests if abortion, artificial contraception, fornication, or homosexuality is not a sin, they will assert that it is. But they will not preach it to you publicly, out of what can only be called cowardice." To be fair, much the same could be said for many Catholic priests, but even so the average Catholic layman knows the Church's teaching on these points better than his Orthodox brother.

This touches upon a point that is very important for understanding Eastern Orthodoxy. The gap between a primarily schismatic clergy and their laity (despite such noble exceptions as the martyred Fr. Alexander Men) is enormous. Palamasism and the various other delights of the Orthodox theologians are unknown to the majority of Orthodox laity. The words of the Russian Orthodox Vladimir Soloviev a century ago are still true today:

This difficulty [what "Orthodoxy" really is] does not exist for those folk who are really Orthodox in all good conscience and in the simplicity of their heart. When questioned intelligently about their religion, they will tell you that to be Orthodox is to be baptised a Christian, to wear a cross or some holy image on your breast, to worship Christ, to pray to the Blessed Virgin most immaculate and to all the saints represented by images and relics, to rest from work on all festivals and to fast in accordance with traditional custom, to venerate the sacred office of bishops and priests, and to participate in the holy sacraments and divine worship. That is the true Orthodoxy of the Russian people, and it is ours also. But it is not that of our militant patriots. It is obvious that true Orthodoxy contains nothing particularist and can in no way form a national or local attribute separating us in any sense from the Western peoples; for the greater part of these peoples, the Catholic part, has precisely the same religious basis that we have. Whatever is holy and sacred for us is also holy and sacred for them. To indicate only one essential point: not only is devotion to the Blessed Virgin one of the characteristic features of Catholicism -- generally practiced by Russian Orthodoxy, but there are even special miraculous images venerated in common by Roman Catholics and Russian Orthodox (for example, the holy Virgin of Czestochowa in Poland). If "piety" is indeed the distinctive characteristic of our national genius, the fact that the chief emblems of that piety are common to us and the Westerns compels us to recognise our oneness with them in what we regard as the most essential thing of all. As regards the profound contrast between the contemplative piety of the East and the active religion of the Westerns, this contrast being purely human and subjective has nothing to do with the divine objects of our faith and worship; so far from being a good reason for schism it should rather bring the two great parts of the Christian world into a closer and mutually complementary union. (Russia and the Universal Church., p. 47)

The truth of this assertion can be seen in the recent flap over the Pope's visit to Greece. At first, the Archbishop of Athens's refusal to accept a papal trip was couched in terms all too drearily familiar to those versed in Orthodox controversy. But, after repeated polls showed that the vast majority of Greeks saw little difference between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, the Archbishop was forced to relent, and co-hosted John Paul II with the Greek government.

Still ringing in my ears as I write this is the conversation I had several years ago with an old Serbian lady. Upon discovering my identity, she posed me several questions. "Mr. Coulombe," she asserted, "when I was a little girl in Serbia, the priests [pronounced with disdainful relish] told us that the Pope was Antichrist. But in the Liturgy, it said that [Pope] St. Leo the Great was head of Church. If he was," she asked, "how could his successor not be?" She continued, "And another thing! The priests say there is no such place as Purgatory! But they pray for the dead! If there is no Purgatory, who are they praying for? The saints in Heaven? They don't need it! The damned in Hell? Don't do them no good! So who are they praying for?"

Here, then, is an important point. The mutual excommunications between pope and patriarch covered only those hierarchs, not their followers; in any case, these were lifted in 1964, when Paul VI met Athenagoras II on the Mount of Olives. So where does that leave us now? It would seem to me that many an Orthodox layman is Catholic in all but name. It would behoove us as Catholics to get to know our long lost Eastern family, both Catholic and Orthodox, as well as we possibly can. Not simply does charity demand this, but our own situation. For a non-schismatically minded Orthodox layman is as much a prisoner of his clergy as many of us Latins are of our own more or less heretically minded clergy. In what way, I wonder, does a Vladimir Soloviev, living under a Russian hierarchy which hated the pope, differ from a Catholic whose cardinal denies Transubstantiation? It is here, perhaps, that real ecumenism may one day take its root.

It could be said that the Great Schism (and for that matter the Nestorian and Monophysite heresies which produced the Lesser Eastern Churches -- Nestorian, Armenian, Coptic, Syrian, Ethiopian, and Indian) owes its roots to clerical pride and jealousy, both Eastern and Western. Hardship and persecution have brought Catholics and the Lesser Churches just named very close in today's Middle East; the same is true to a degree of Eastern Orthodox in those areas. Communism and Islam have done much to break down Eastern pride -- certainly the presence of so many KGB or local equivalent personnel among their clergy has made its mark. But without a doubt, neo-Modernism has done the same for the Latins. As the world grows ever more secular and anti-Christian, we may hope that true believers in the East and West will grow ever closer -- and from that closeness shall result true unity.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lovat & Douglas: Habermas and Eucharistic Theology

Read it all here.
Cocksworth (1991) and Douglas (2006) argue that Anglican eucharistic theology is characterized by multiformity, that is, a multiplicity of views with many voices actually competing against each other. Some of these voices come from various church parties within Anglicanism, including Anglican Catholics (c.f. Macquarrie. 1997) and Anglican Evangelicals (c.f. Cocksworth, 1993). At times, these voices are so strident they claim more of the ‘truth’ for particular party traditions or interests than others (e.g. Silk, 1995/2002 as an Anglican Catholic, and Doyle, 1996 as an Anglican Evangelical). Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Communion, has said “ … it is true that witness to what is passionately believed to be the truth sometimes appears a higher value than unity.” (Williams, 2006: 2) Others have observed that these dissociated voices may actually represent a struggle for political power on the part of their adherents, rather than being necessarily all about doctrine (c.f. Kaye, 2003). Williams (2006) has stated that “ … what our Communion lacks is a set of adequately developed structures which is able to cope with the diversity of views that will inevitably arise in a world of rapid global communication and huge cultural variety.” (p. 3) In this context, Habermas’s insights hold out potential for finding the structures of which the Archbishop speaks, through what Habermas describes as different ‘ways of knowing’ (Habermas, 1971 and 1973) and a dialogue based on ‘communicative action’ (Habermas, 1984 and 1989). This potential may be useful to the Anglican Communion and its theological education and will be explored in this article.

The Rt. Rev'd Dr. N.T. Wright: The Word of the Cross

Preached on Maundy Thursday as the Durham clergy gathered to renew their ordination vows.
May God give us the grace to live, preach and be what the cross calls us to be!

Face it: to deny God’s wrath is, at bottom, to deny God’s love. When God sees humans being enslaved – and do please go and see the film Amazing Grace as soon as you get the chance – if God doesn’t hate it, he is not a loving God. (It was the sneering, sophisticated set who tried to make out that God didn’t get angry about that kind of thing, and whom Wilberforce opposed with the message that God really does hate slavery.) When God sees innocent people being bombed because of someone’s political agenda, if God doesn’t hate it, he isn’t a loving God. When God sees people lying and cheating and abusing one another, exploiting and grafting and preying on one another, if God were to say, ‘never mind, I love you all anyway’, he is neither good nor loving. The Bible doesn’t speak of a God of generalized benevolence. It speaks of the God who made the world and loves it so passionately that he must and does hate everything that distorts and defaces the world and particularly his human creatures. And the Bible doesn’t tell an abstract story about people running up a big debit balance in God’s bank and God suddenly, out of the blue, charging the whole lot to Jesus. The Bible tells a story about the creator God calling a people through whom he would put the world right, living with that covenant people even when they themselves went wrong, allowing them to become the place where the power of evil would do its worst, and preparing them all through for the moment when, like the composer finally stepping on stage to play the solo part, he would come and take upon himself, in the person of his Son, the pain and shame, yes, the horror and darkness, yes, but also, in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, in Paul and Acts and Hebrews and 1 Peter and Revelation, in Ignatius and Irenaeus and Augustine and Aquinas, in Luther and Calvin and Cranmer and Hooker, in Herbert and Donne and Wesley and Watts – he would take upon himself the condemnation which, precisely because he loves us to the uttermost, he must pronounce over that deadly disease we call sin. To deny this, as some would do today as they have for hundreds of years, is to deny the depth and weight of sin and the deeper depth and heavier weight of God’s redeeming love. The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Evangelical Catholicism: The Heart of the Gospel

Well, I am breaking my vow of silence today before I leave to go camping in the York National Park this morning for the next few days. I break this silence due to the nature of the post I am attaching here. As a committed Anglo-Catholic in the Church of England who is soon to be ordained, I am convinced that we need to capture the evangelical heart of true Catholicism that is so wonderfully expressed by the American Roman Catholic Priest, Fr. Scott Newman.

Fr. Scott's call to a vibrant evangelical Catholicism is what it means to receive the Christian faith at baptism. So often today, the Church seems to be losing its way and is not able to give the answers that the world is crying out for that seems to be a result of the loss of our own way. Fr. Scott reminds those with Catholic convictions that being evangelical in our Catholic faith cannot be reduced to the red herring of 'fundamentalism' but is in its very essence the heart of what baptism is all about. He gives eight principles that are noteworthy. I am sure they could be improved upon and expanded but the heart of the faith is there. It is this faith that is a result of true belief in the promises of Christ that will not allow Catholics or Catholic-minded Anglicans to become cafeteria style Christians who in fact model the world consumeristic model of faith rather than the faith of Jesus received in baptism.

I commend the following to you with this question: In the Church of England, we baptise by parish and anyone in the parish is given the 'right' of baptism. Often, this happens outside of the context of corporate worship and is done after a Mass. There are many missiological opportunities here but that begs another question for us. In a post-Christian society like England, does this practice reduce the sacraments to something they were never intended to be? I ask this in light of Fr. Scott's reply to one of his posters. Please read his comments! And follow the links to his blog and parish.

The Eight Principles of Evangelical Catholicism
1. The Lord Jesus Christ is the crucified and risen Savior of all mankind, and no human person can fully understand his life or find his dignity and destiny apart from a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. It is not enough to know who Jesus is; we must know Jesus.

2. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is divine revelation, not human wisdom, and the Gospel is given to us in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition which together constitute a single divine deposit of faith transmitted authentically and authoritatively by the Bishops in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. We must surrender our private judgments in all matters of faith and morals to the sacred teaching authority of the Church’s Magisterium if we are to receive the whole Gospel.

3. The seven Sacraments of the New Covenant are divinely instituted instruments of grace given to the Church as the ordinary means of sanctification for believers. Receiving the Sacraments regularly and worthily is essential to the life of grace, and for this reason, faithful attendance at Sunday Mass every week (serious illness and necessary work aside) and regular Confession of sins are absolutely required for a life of authentic discipleship.

4. Through Word and Sacrament we are drawn by grace into a transforming union with the Lord Jesus, and having been justified by faith we are called to sanctification and equipped by the Holy Spirit for the good works of the new creation. We must, therefore, learn to live as faithful disciples and to reject whatever is contrary to the Gospel, which is the Good News of the Father’s mercy and love revealed in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

5. The sacred liturgy, through which the seven Sacraments are celebrated and the Hours of praise are prayed, makes present to us the saving mysteries of the Lord Jesus. The liturgy must therefore be celebrated in such a way that the truth of the Gospel, the beauty of sacred music, the dignity of ritual form, the solemnity of divine worship, and the fellowship of the baptized assembled to pray are kept together in organic unity.

6. Receiving the Sacraments without receiving the Gospel leads to superstition rather than living faith, and the Church must therefore take great care to ensure that those who receive the Sacraments also receive the Gospel in its integrity and entirety. Consequently, before Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, and Marriage are administered, there must be in those who request these Sacrament clear evidence of knowledge of the Gospel and a serious intention to live the Christian life.

7. Being a follower of Christ requires moving from being a Church member by convention to a Christian disciple by conviction. This transformation demands that we consciously accept the Gospel as the measure of our entire lives, rather than attempting to measure the Gospel by our experience. Personal knowledge of and devotion to Sacred Scripture is necessary for this transformation to occur through the obedience of faith, and there is no substitute for personal knowledge of the Bible. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.

8. All the baptized are sent in the Great Commission to be witnesses of Christ to others and must be equipped by the Church to teach the Gospel in word and deed. An essential dimension of true discipleship is the willingness to invite others to follow the Lord Jesus and the readiness to explain His Gospel.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Easter: The Never-Ending Surprise! Bishop Tom Wright

When Easter stops being a surprise, it stops being Easter. The trick Christians pull off year after year is to so immerse ourselves in Lent and Holy Week that we actually screen out what we know comes next.

We reflect on, and mourn, the ruin of the world and the folly of humankind. We look in the mirror and see our own shame and sin. And then we contemplate Jesus's suffering and death at the heart of the whole thing: the place where the arrogance of empire, the frenzy of religion and the betrayal of friends all rush together and do their worst. Faced with all that, it's not hard to bracket out Easter. After all, that's what most of the world does anyway.

"Wait without hope," wrote TS Eliot, "for hope would be hope for the wrong thing." If you frame Easter in the terms of the perceived problem, you belittle it. Whether you think in terms of pie in the sky (at best a thoroughly subChristian concept) or a better society, all you get is a happy ending after a sad or sinful story.And whatever Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were doing in writing the final sections of their books, they were not telling the story of Jesus's resurrection as a happy ending. They were telling it as a startling new beginning. Easter morning isn't a slow, gentle waking up after the difficult operation. It's the electric shock that brings someone back to life in a whole new way.

That's why the Easter stories tumble out in bits and pieces, with breathless chasings to and fro and garbled reports - and then, stories like nothing else before or since. As the great New Testament scholar EP Sanders put it, the writers were trying to describe an experience that does not fit a known category. They knew all about ghosts and visions, and they knew it wasn't anything like that.

Equally, they knew the risen Jesus wasn't just a resuscitated corpse, still less someone who had almost died but managed to stagger on after all. They had the puzzled air of people saying, "I know this sounds wacky, but this is truly how it was." They were stumblingly describing the birth of new creation, starting with Jesus but intended for the whole world.

It sometimes seems that the church can hardly cope with this any more than the world can. Perhaps that's why, after 40 days of Lent, many churches celebrate Easter for a few hours and then return to normality. But nothing can be "normal" after Easter. New creation has begun, and we are summoned to get on board. We should at least have an eight-day party, or even a 40-day one.

And if Easter is all about the surprise of new creation, there is every reason to suppose that it will ripple out into the world in ways we would never imagine. Gangsters and drug-dealers get radically converted and set on fire with God's love, while pale churchmen drone their disbelief and warn against extremism.

Extremism? What can be more extreme than God raising Jesus from the dead after the world has done its worst to him? Supposing the power of that event were to be released into the world, into local communities, into ordinary lives, here and now? What might that look like?

We don't know, of course. That's the point. But I do know this. As our politicians go round the tracks this way and that, fudging and dodging and hedging their bets, and as our culture lurches through the sneers and the whims of postmodernity, it looks as though we all know we need new creation but nobody knows where to find it. Easter offers an answer so striking that most mock at it and even the churches often don't know what to do with it. Forget the eggs and the bunnies. Read the story again, say your prayers, and watch for surprises.

The Rt Rev Dr Tom Wright is Bishop of Durham.

From the Guardian

    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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