Sunday, September 9, 2018

A prayer appeal

The Church is in bad shape at the moment.
Allegations of sexual abuse of minors, or covering up that abuse, are in the news. And there are allegations of the corruption reaching into the Vatican, even the Pope himself.
I am not in a position to determine the truth or falsity of these allegations, but, even if they're false, much harm has been done to the Church's credibility, and therefore its message.
I've even seen where one American Jesuit has tweeted that "The Holy Spirit knows what SHE is doing". (my emphasis)
How many have been driven away because the allegations?
How many clergy - bishops, priests, and deacons - have been wounded - certainly emotionally, and, in some cases physically, by those retaliating.
And, if the allegations are true, how many have been wounded by the evil they report?
We can petition that the charges be answered, but such petitions can be ignored.
But, there is one judge - the ULTIMATE Judge - who will listen to our petitions, and those petition must be necessarily for judgment of the evil, but for the strengthening of the Church.
Therefore, I believe the Holy Spirit is leading me to call for as many of my friends to join me in prayer.
Next Friday September 14, is the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross on both the Roman and Byzantine Calendars.
I ask you, each of you, each day, to join with me in praying
1) The Athanasian Creed, that we can declare the True Faith, the faith in the Most Holy Trinity and the Two Natures of Christ.
2) The Chaplet of the Holy Cross
3) The Litany of the Holy Cross.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Response to the Current Crisis

From Christ, Our Pascha, the Catechism of the Ukrainian Catholic Church

h. The Church is Holy

  1. In Holy Scripture, the Lord God refers to himself as the Holy One: “For  I  am  God  and  no  mortal,  the  Holy  One  in  your  midst”  (Hos11:9). This God calls humankind to become like him in holiness: “For I am the Lord your God; sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44). God’s holiness is the source of holiness for the Church.Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendour, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish (Eph 5:25-27).The  Church  affirms  this  holiness  liturgically,  inviting  the  faithful  to  approach Communion with the words: “The holy Things for the holy.”
  2. The Church is where we are to grow in the holiness that is granted by the  grace  of  the  Holy  Spirit.  The  Holy  Spirit  leads  us  on  the  path  of  holiness, offering the grace of repentance and divinization in the Holy Mysteries of the Church. The Holy Spirit reveals to us the truth that “the Church, embracing in her bosom sinners, [is] at the same time holy and always in need of being purified.”(Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium [Light of the Nations], 8) Those who enter the Church through the doors of repentance, pass through the doors of Paradise into God’s sanctification and blessing. The greatest miracle that takes place in the Holy Church is the transfiguration of a sinner into a saint. As members of the Church grow in holiness, the Lord transforms all creation, liberating it from the dominion of “this world” and its forces, and directing it towards the fullness of the “new earth” (see Rev 21:1).

Even if the worst allegations against Pope Francis are true, the Church's holiness remains untouched.

We must remember that, yes, although the Church is the Body of Christ, it is still made up of individuals.

  • Does the Church teach sexual abuse of minors?  Of course not!
  • Does the Church teach excusing those guilty of such abuse?  Of course not!
What has happened is horrendous, and guilty parties should be held accountable - ecclesiastically and civilly.  But, even though they were in positions of authority over those whom they abused, or over those whose sins were covered up, none of it was done with the authority of the Church.  All of it was done by individuals abusing their position within the Church.

The Church is holy, and will remain holy.
If it is not holy, then it's a fraud - and Christianity is a fraud.  But history shows that it cannot be a fraud.

Let us consider this past Sunday's Gospel reading in the Byzantine Rite:
The Lord told this parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matt 22:2-14
In this Epistle to the Colossians, St. Paul tells us to "put on love".
Not only love, we are to clothe ourselves in holiness.  Those who don't do so are like the man who comes to the banquet without a wedding garment.
Now, I'm not sitting in judgment over those priests and bishops who've sinned, or covered up. I'm merely pointing out that their sins are not those of one who wears that garment, who is clothed in holiness. And, so, their actions are not those of Christ's Holy Church.

So, what are we to do?
Consider the Latins' Gospel reading from this past Sunday:
Many of Jesus' disciples who were listening said,
"This saying is hard; who can accept it?"
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, "Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe."
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said,
"For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father."

As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"
Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:60-69

Our Church is the Church of the Holy One of God.
Through Him, it has the words of eternal life.
Where would we go?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Beatitudes 3 - Blessed are they who mourn

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

What is it to mourn?Merriam-Webster defines it as "to feel or express grief or sorrow" or "to feel or express grief or sorrow for something".
OK. So, what can be the reason for our mourning? For what do we express grief or sorrow?

As Christians, the primary reason we should mourn is the fact that we are, in fact, sinners; that our actions separate us from God's love.

St. Thomas Aquinas collected the thoughts of many Church Fathers on this point

  • Ambrose: When you have done thus much, attained both poverty and meekness, remember that you are a sinner, mourn your sins, as He proceeds, “Blessed are they that mourn.” And it is suitable that the third blessing should be of those that mourn for sin, for it is the Trinity that forgives sin.
  • Hilary: Those that mourn, that is, not loss of kindred, affronts, or losses, but who weep for past sins.
  • Pseudo-Chrysostom: And they who weep for their own sins are blessed, but much more so who weep for others’ sins; so should all teachers do.
  • Jerome: For the mourning here meant is not for the dead by common course of nature, but for the dead in sins, and vices. Thus Samuel mourned for Saul, thus the Apostle Paul mourned for those who had not performed penance after uncleanness.
  • Pseudo-Chrysostom: The “comfort” of mourners is the ceasing of their mourning; they then who mourn their own sins shall be consoled when they have received remittance thereof.
  • Chrysostom: And though it were enough for such to receive pardon, yet He rests not His mercy only there, but makes them partakers of many comforts both here and hereafter. God’s mercies are always greater than our troubles.
  • Pseudo-Chrysostom: But they also who mourn for others’ sin shall be comforted, inasmuch as they shall own God’s providence in that worldly generation, understanding that they who had perished were not of God, out of whose hand none can snatch. For these leaving to mourn, they shall be comforted in their own blessedness.
  • Augustine: Serm. in Mont., i, 2: Otherwise; mourning is sorrow for the loss of what is dear; but those that are turned to God lose the things that they held dear in this world; and as they have now no longer any joy in such things as before they had joy in, their sorrow may not be healed till there is formed within them a love of eternal things. They shall then be comforted by the Holy Spirit, who is therefore chiefly called, The Paraclete, that is, “Comforter;’ so that for the loss of their temporal joys, they shall gain eternal joys.
  • Chrysostom: We may remark that this blessing is given not simply, but with great force and emphasis; it is not simply, ‘who have grief,’ but “who mourn.” And indeed this command is the sum of all philosophy. For if they who mourn for the death of children or kinsfolk, throughout all that season of their sorrow, are touched with no other desires, as of money, or honour, burn not with envy, feel not wrongs, nor are open to any other vicious passion, but are solely given up to their grief; much more ought they, who mourn their own sins in such manner as they ought to mourn for them, to shew this higher philosophy.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Christian Divisions

Often, on Social Media, the claim is made by well meaning Catholics that there are 40,000 different Protestant denominations, implying that each of these denominations have their own little variation on the Gospel.

Having been Protestant for a little over half my life (at this point), I can tell you that the observation, while it may be true from a strictly numbers perspective, is a grossly inaccurate representation of the situation.  The 40,000 argument relies, in part, on the perception that, to be counted as a Protestant group, there must be organizational unity.  That perspective works very well when speaking of the Catholic world, but it doesn't work in reference to the Orthodox world, let along the Protestant.

It is fairer to speak of doctrinal positions than churches when one is approaching the Protestant world.

The various positions that one finds are

  1. What is Communion? There are three positions - consubstantiation, spiritual, and memorial. I know of no case, however, where a denomination requires on position over another.  It is therefore not a cause of division.
  2. The proper recipient of baptism - infant or believer only.  
  3. Predestination vs. Free will - or Calvinism vs Arminianism
  4. Church government - congregational, presbyterial, episcopal.
  5. Understanding of sanctification and means of achieving it - some teach that entire sanctification is possible in this life
  6. Charismatic or not
  7. Ordain women
  8. And, today, prosperity gospel or not.
Yes, I could have added Eschatological views, but I don't know where that's a cause for division among denominations.
So, that leaves us with 386 possible variations, not 40,000.  To that 386, I would add one other variant - liberal theology.
My purpose is not to deny that the Protestant world is splintered. It's to call Catholics to a fair view of that splintering.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Beatitudes 2 - Blessed are the poor in spirit.

1. Blessed - μακᾶριος, which in Greek is used synonymously with its shortened form, μάκαρ.  It's basic meaning is happy. But, in Greek literature it can take on the meaning of prosperous, or the happiness associated with the gods.  So, here, it certainly means happy, but might it also indicate spiritual prosperity of divine origin? Something akin to that seems likely; many of the Greek Fathers taught that, just as the Ten Commandments teach behavior as a part of the Mosaic Law, the Beatitudes serves the Gospel, the New Law, as an indication of those internal qualities that we can, and should, cultivate in order to live a more perfect Christian life.

2. Poor is Spirit.

Let's look at two of the Doctors of the Church for our explanation.

First, St. John Chrysostom

Let us hearken with strict attention unto what is said. For though it was spoken unto them, it was written for the sake also of all men afterwards. And accordingly on this account, though He had His disciples in His mind in His public preaching, yet unto them He limits not His sayings, but applies all His words of blessing without restriction. Thus He said not, Blessed are you, if you become poor, but Blessed are the poor. And I may add that even if He had spoken of them, the advice would still be common to all. For so, when He says, Lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world, Matthew 28:20 He is discoursing not with them only, but also, through them, with all the world. And in pronouncing them blessed, who are persecuted, and chased, and suffer all intolerable things; not for them only, but also for all who arrive at the same excellency, He weaves His crown.

However, that this may be yet plainer, and to inform you that you have great interest in His sayings, and so indeed has all mankind, if any choose to give heed; hear how He begins these wondrous words.

Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 5:3

What is meant by the poor in spirit? The humble and contrite in mind. For by spirit He has here designated the soul, and the faculty of choice. That is, since many are humble not willingly, but compelled by stress of circumstances; letting these pass (for this were no matter of praise), He blesses them first, who by choice humble and contract themselves.

But why said he not, the humble, but rather the poor? Because this is more than that. For He means here them who are awestruck, and tremble at the commandments of God. Whom also by His prophet Isaiah God earnestly accepting said, To whom will I look, but to him who is meek and quiet, and trembles at My words? For indeed there are many kinds of humility: one is humble in his own measure, another with all excess of lowliness. It is this last lowliness of mind which that blessed prophet commends, picturing to us the temper that is not merely subdued, but utterly broken, when he says, The sacrifice for God is a contrite spirit, a contrite and an humble heart God will not despise. And the Three Children also offer this unto God as a great sacrifice, saying, Nevertheless, in a contrite soul, and in a spirit of lowliness, may we be accepted. This Christ also now blesses.

3. For whereas the greatest of evils, and those which make havoc of the whole world, had their entering in from pride:— for both the devil, not being such before, did thus become a devil; as indeed Paul plainly declared, saying, Lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil: 1 Timothy 3:6 — and the first man, too, puffed up by the devil with these hopes, was made an example of, and became mortal (for expecting to become a god, he lost even what he had; and God also upbraiding him with this, and mocking his folly, said, Behold, Adam has become as one of us Genesis 3:22; and each one of those that came after did hereby wreck himself in impiety, fancying some equality with God: — since, I say, this was the stronghold of our evils, and the root and fountain of all wickedness, He, preparing a remedy suitable to the disease, laid this law first as a strong and safe foundation. For this being fixed as a base, the builder in security lays on it all the rest. But if this be taken away, though a man reach to the Heavens in his course of life, it is all easily undermined, and issues in a grievous end. Though fasting, prayer, almsgiving, temperance, any other good thing whatever, be gathered together in you; without humility all fall away and perish.

It was this very thing that took place in the instance of the Pharisee. For even after he had arrived at the very summit, he went down Luke 18:14 with the loss of all, because he had not the mother of virtues: for as pride is the fountain of all wickedness, so is humility the principle of all self-command. Wherefore also He begins with this, pulling up boasting by the very root out of the soul of His hearers.

And what, one may ask, is this to His disciples, who were on every account humble? For in truth they had nothing to be proud of, being fishermen, poor, ignoble, and illiterate. Even though these things concerned not His disciples, yet surely they concerned such as were then present, and such as were hereafter to receive the disciples, lest they should on this account despise them. But it were truer to say that they did also concern His disciples. For even if not then, yet by and by they were sure to require this help, after their signs and wonders, and their honor from the world, and their confidence towards God. For neither wealth, nor power, nor royalty itself, had so much power to exalt men, as the things which they possessed in all fullness. And besides, it was natural that even before the signs they might be lifted up, at that very time when they saw the multitude, and all that audience surrounding their Master; they might feel some human weakness. Wherefore He at once represses their pride.

And He does not introduce what He says by way of advice or of commandments, but by way of blessing, so making His word less burdensome, and opening to all the course of His discipline. For He said not, This or that person, but they who do so, are all of them blessed. So that though you be a slave, a beggar, in poverty, a stranger, unlearned, there is nothing to hinder you from being blessed, if you emulate this virtue.

And the words of St. Augustine of Hippo

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. We read in Scripture concerning the striving after temporal things, All is vanity and presumption of spirit; but presumption of spirit means audacity and pride: usually also the proud are said to have great spirits; and rightly, inasmuch as the wind also is called spirit. And hence it is written, Fire, hail, snow, ice, spirit of tempest. But, indeed, who does not know that the proud are spoken of as puffed up, as if swelled out with wind? And hence also that expression of the apostle, Knowledge puffs up, but charity edifies. And the poor in spirit are rightly understood here, as meaning the humble and God-fearing, i.e. those who have not the spirit which puffs up. Nor ought blessedness to begin at any other point whatever, if indeed it is to attain unto the highest wisdom; but the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; for, on the other hand also, pride is entitled the beginning of all sin. Let the proud, therefore, seek after and love the kingdoms of the earth; but blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Liturgy Propers: 5th Sunday after Pentecost, The Birth of St. John the Baptist

Troparion and Kontakion:

Troparion (4): When the disciples of the Lord learned from the angel the glorious news of the resurrection and cast off the ancestral condemnation, they proudly told the apostles: Death has been plundered! Christ our God is risen, granting to the world great mercy.
Troparion (4): O Prophet and Forerunner of the coming of Christ, in spite of our honor and devotion, we are unable to give you worthy praise. Through your glorious and noble birth your mother’s childlessness was ended, your father’s tongue was freed, and the Incarnation of the Son of God was proclaimed to the world.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Kontakion (3): Today, she who was once barren gives birth to the Forerunner of Christ, the fulfillment of all prophecy. In the Jordan, John laid his hand upon Him Whom the prophets foretold, showing himself to be the Prophet, the Herald, and Forerunner of the Word of God.
Now and for ever and ever: Amen.
Kontakion (4): My Savior and Deliverer from the grave, as God, has raised out of bondage the children of earth and shattered the gates of Hades; and as Master, He rose on the third day.

Prokimenon (4): How great are Your works, O Lord; You have made all things in wisdom.
Verse: Bless the Lord, O my soul; O Lord my God, You are exceedingly great.
Prokimenon (7): The just man is glad in the Lord and takes refuge in Him.
Verse: Hear my voice, O Lord, when I pray to You.

Reading of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans (Rom 10,1-10)

Brethren: My heart's desire and prayer to God on their behalf is for salvation. I testify with regard to them that they have zeal for God, but it is not discerning. For, in their unawareness of the righteousness that comes from God and their attempt to establish their own [righteousness,] they did not submit to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for the justification of everyone who has faith. Moses writes about the righteousness that comes from [the] law, “The one who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will go up into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will go down into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is the word of faith that we preach), for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

Alleluia Verses:

Verse (4): Poise yourself and advance in triumph and reign in the cause of truth, and meekness, and justice.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Verse (4): You have loved justice and hated iniquity.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Verse: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for He has visited His people, He has come to their rescue.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Verse: And you, little child, you shall be called Prophet of the Most High.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Gospel: (Mt 8,28-34;9,1)

At that time, when Jesus came to the other side, to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him. They were so savage that no one could travel by that road. They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?” Some distance away a herd of many swine was feeding. The demons pleaded with him, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go then!” They came out and entered the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea where they drowned. The swineherds ran away, and when they came to the town they reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district. He entered a boat, made the crossing,
and came into his own town.

Communion Verse:

Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the highest.
The just man shall be in everlasting remembrance. An evil report he will not fear.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Solzhenityn's Observation is a valid for the West Today as it was for Russia 100 years ago

Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened." Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened."

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, in Ericson, Edward E. Jr. (October 1985) "Solzhenitsyn – Voice from the Gulag," Eternity, pp. 23–24

A prayer appeal

The Church is in bad shape at the moment. Allegations of sexual abuse of minors, or covering up that abuse, are in the ne...