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

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Why Plato is Relevant, and Necessary, Today

A few months back, I gave a lecture entitled The Right Time: The Cultural, Religious, and Philosophical Environment of the Græco-Roman World at the Birth of Christianity.  In it, among other things, I covered the philosophical views of the Epicureans and the Stoics. My intention is to follow it in a few months with a study which will include reference to Platonism and Neoplatonism. The writings of Plato and his successors exerted a profound influence on early developments of Christian theology, not only with St. Augustine in the West, but also Origen, Pseudo-Dionysius, and Maximus the Confessor in the East (among others, of course).

In that study, the writings of the Marsilio Ficino were recommended to me. Ficino, a 15th century Florentine priest, physician, and philosopher, operating under the patronage of the Medici family, led the Renaissance revival of Plato.

The modern forward to "When Philosophers Rule", an edition of his commentaries on The Republic, The Laws, and Epinomis, was, to say the least, startling.

For Plato, democracy as described by him is a dangerous and delicate form of government amounting at its worst to little more than mob rule based on the primacy of the pleasure-loving appetites in the souls of the citizens. When this becomes dominant in the majority of citizens, the very foundations of participatory government are destroyed as fewere and fewer people people develop in themselves the virtues necessary for the government of themselves or of states. New laws are passed on a whim to demonstrate to electorates that their governors are dealing with the latest crisis, but without any real regard to the effect of such laws on the body politic. There is an inevitable tendency for citizens to become ever more dependent on the state for the regulation of every aspect of life; regulations multiply and the people, far from becoming free citizens, become instead ever mor dependent on the ever-increasing bounty of the state to provide for every aspect of life. In the end this cannot be sustained because the state has to appropriate more and more of the wealth of its citizens in order to pay for the services which the citizens demand in exchange for their votes.

Can there be any denial that the situation of corrupt democracy is an almost perfect description of the Western world today?  And is it any wonder that it is at a time when the Classics - not only Plato, but Cicero, Aristotle, Caesar, Homer, Thucydides, Plutarch, and so many others - are ignored in our education?

Of course, this forward only dealt with the view of democracy. Examples can be taken from virtually every non-technological field of human action.  Our children must be taught to think, as must our adults.  And Plato is a good place to start, is it not?

Saturday, May 26, 2018

In Ireland, It's Yesterday Once More - Sadly

It appears that, after 15 centuries, Ireland has one again embraced human sacrifice.

The Tudors couldn't do it.
Cromwell couldn't do it.
Secularism and sex - and the Irish Church itself - minimized, if not destroyed, the Catholic conscience of a nation.

The sex involved was not just the desire for consequence free sex. It also includes clerical abuse, covered up by the Irish Church.

The indigenous pre-Christian religion of the Celtic people, both British and Irish, was Drudism.  And, according to ancient sources, a part of Druidism was child sacrifice.  THIS was the serpent that St. Patrick drove out of Ireland.

But, child sacrifice in the ancient world wasn't confined to the Celts. It was a practice among the Canaanites, in the form of the worship of Moloch.

And it's present in the modern world, but we euphemistically call it abortion, or "women's health care". (Shades of Orwellian Newspeak!)

So, what do we do?  Do we lament, cry on each others' shoulders that we've lost another battle, and just sit around and wait for Christ's return?  Of course not.

Now, some might argue that this is just another sign of the times, that we're on the cusp of the Great Tribulation.  And perhaps it is.  But, we don't know that. In the year 1000, people in Europe thought that they would live to see the end. For that matter, the Apostles believed that Christ would return any day.

Yes, we should prepare ourselves spiritually to face the end.  Face it, any of us could be killed in an auto accident today.
But, nevertheless, we must fight for truth.

And, how do we do that? Not at the ballot box, not in the courts, not in the debate halls. Those tactics are the tactics of the Enemy.

No. We are individuals in the midst of a spiritual war, and the sooner we realize it and act upon that fact, the better will be the results.

Yes, this is a spiritual war. And, as St Paul tells us, the weapons of our warfare are spiritual.

The first ones who should be involved in this battle, of course, are Irish Christians - not just Catholics, but all faithful Christians.  But Catholics most of all, because to whom much is given, much is expected. Every Irish Catholic, from Archbishop to simple parishioner, must start with deep, heartfelt, honest repentance - repentance from any and every thing that they personally might have done that contributed to this travesty. From there, prayer. Daily, fervent prayer. The Mass (or Divine Liturgy). The Rosary. The Divine Office. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy. The Chaplet of the Holy Cross.

And, living the faith as a thing of joy and love, not a thing of rules and fear.

And, those of us in America?  We need to do the exact same things so that we can fight the good fight here in our backyard.

So, what will you do?

Originally, I had written "consequence free sex for women". It was pointed out to me that men were involved as well, and I have altered this accordingly.

Monday, May 21, 2018

It's Up to Each of Us

Matt Walsh as blogged today Nothing Will Get Better Until We Return To God. And, he's absolutely right. 

In the early 70's, Gospel (and early CCM) singer Andrae Crouch sang
Jesus is the Answer
For the world today
Above Him there's no other
Jesus is the way.

A simple message, perhaps. But an essential one. 

But, Andrae didn't go far enough.  Jesus isn't just the answer for our personal problems. It's the answer for our world.

At the dedication of Solomon's Temple, that same God, YHWH the Lord, told the great king, 
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land
As Christians, when we are baptized, we take part in Christ's offices:
  • The Office of Priest: that is the Royal Priesthood - we are ministers to the world. See We Are All Ministers!
  • The Office of Prophet: We are to be witnesses to the world, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to our station in life.
  • The Office of King: We are to guide those things over which we are given authority, whether it be our individual souls, our family, our job, our community.
And on top of, or perhaps foundational to all that, we must pray - daily. As St Paul wrote the the Thessalonians, Pray without ceasing.
Pray, practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
If each of us did this - if we truly lived out of lives as Christians (and I'm not pointing fingers; I fail as much as the next guy) - think of how this world would change for the better.

It's up to each of us to change our society.
I'm gonna start working on improving my faithfulness today.  
What about you?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

No Salvation Outside the Church?

A recent Facebook post linked to a story, "Popes declare salvation is only found in the Catholic Church", and the article does indeed link to a number of papal documents that, read out of context, would lead one to the conclusion that, if not Catholic, one goes to hell.

So, is this true?

In a word, no.

First, let me be clear that I am not advocating anyone leaving the Catholic Church. May it never be.

But, we must understand that the Catholic Church teaches that it is THE Church founded by Christ. All other churches and ecclesial bodies (I'll explain the difference in a minute) broke away from the Church, at one time or another.  You may disagree with this perspective, but, in order to understand what the popes are saying, you first of all must understand it.

The simple response to the accusation that only Catholics can be saved is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #838 and 846-848

838 "The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter." Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church."With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist."

846 How are we to understand this affirmation (No salvation Outside the Church), often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.

848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."
So, does this mean that all who leave the Catholic Church are OK in doing so?  What about those who say it is a great sin?

I'm certainly not one to stand in judgment over another, but let me suggest this.

If someone knows that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded — not if they've heard it it and not really believed it; and not even if they used to believe it but have since come to disagree; but if they KNOW it — if such a person leave the Catholic Church, is there any way that we can say that they're not rejecting Christ?  I don't think so.

But, on the other hand, someone who was raised Catholic, who was poorly catechized, and only learned a Catholicism that was ritual and maybe some moral rules, but never experienced the Church as a living faith — what do we say of such a person who leaves the physical Church and joins a fundamentalist church where they find a living faith?  Can such a person be said to have abandoned Christ, or merely gone to a place where He is actually known and experienced, albeit imperfectly?  I would suggest the latter.

Ultimately, we can say that the Catholic Church (not just the Roman Catholic, but all the Eastern Catholic Churches) are where the Church is.  We cannot, however, say how far beyond its visible boundaries it may extend.  We can, however, trust God's mercy that it does indeed extend to all those who confess the Incarnation of our Lord and to the Most Holy Trinity. Wherever those truths are affirmed, we can expect find brothers and sisters who work out their salvation with fear and trembling, and look forward to the day that the Holy Spirit brings them home into a perfect communion with Christ's Church.

On the terms church and ecclesial community
With the advent of the Reformation, many Christian groups rejected the ministerial priesthood that had been accepted since the apostolic age, and that priesthood was lost in those groups.  As such, they have also lost the Eucharist and most of the other sacraments as well (i.e., those that require a priest), and thus cannot be called churches. 

However, the Church, recognizing that they are still Christian, and that clergy of those groups still function as ministers, use the term Ecclesial Community to refer to them.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Why is the Council of Nicea Important?

The Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council
Picture yourself living as a Christian in the Roman Empire in 303. The Diocletian Persecution occurred that year. extending to the next.  One edict went so far as requiring public sacrifice to the gods. Refusal to do so would result in execution - on the spot.

Fortunately, this wasn't universally enforced, but, nevertheless, it is known as the worst persecution that occurred under the Empire.  And, it was the last.

About 312, the Emperor Constantine was marching with his troops, and, as the story goes, had a vision of a cross in the sky, with the words, "In Hoc Signo Vinces" - In this sign you will be victorious.  He was instantly converted (although he put off baptism until he was near death), and, the following year, 313, he issued The Edict of Milan, making Christianity legal.  Indeed, although it did not become the state religion until 380, it became quite influential from that point on.

St. Athanasius of Alexandria
At that time, in the Church of Alexandria, there was a presbyter named Arius, who started preaching of Christ that, "there was a time when he was not".  He began denying the Divinity of Christ!  As time went on, this erroneous teaching became quite a problem in the Eastern Church, causing much strife, even among the bishops.  Eventually, Constantine realized that, in order for peace to be maintained in the Empire, this disagreement had to be settled. So, in 325, he called a council in Nicea, a town some 90 miles from Constantinople.  About 300 bishops and deacons from the Eastern Empire attended, with a smaller number from the West. Pope Sylvester I was represented by legates.  Among the deacons from the East was a deacon who, after becoming Archbishop of Alexandria, would spend the rest of his life (48 years) fighting against the Arian Heresy.  In fact, he was exiled five times for standing for the truth.  His name?  Athanasius.  

Athanasius had previous written a treatise supporting the truth of Christ's incarnation.  His other writings through the years against the heresy are numerous. They are well worth reading, and are found among the Writings of the Church Fathers.

Athanasius wasn't the only hero to be revealed at the council.
St. Nicholas of Myra (yes, that Nicholas) showed the world that he wasn't a jolly old elf. The legend goes that he was so incensed by Arius speaking his profanities that he struck him. He was thrown into jail, but delivered through divine assistance. The full story is found at The St. Nicholas Center.

Even though Arius had brought 22 bishops with him to defend his case, the council decided in favor of the doctrine of the Incarnation that we, as Catholics, hold today.  

But, this was not decided based on scriptural proofs. Why? Because the New Testament, as we know it today, was not the official scripture of the Church.  Yes, many, if not most, held to the inspiration of the various books, but the canonization of the New Testament would not come for another 50 years.

No, the decision was made based on the Incarnation having been handed down as part of Holy Tradition since the time of the Apostles.

So, why is this council important for us today?
  1. It was the first council of the Church to begin defining what it meant for Christ to be God and Man
  2. It was the first Ecumenical Council; it set the stage for the conciliar process which continues to this day, through Vatican II
  3. It made a doctrinal definition based on the Church's teaching as a whole, not on individual scriptural interpretation
  4. It gave us models for our own Christian lives, especially pertinent in today's world of increasing heresy - Athanasius and Nicholas.
  5. The creed produced by the council is the basis for the creed we profess at every Divine Liturgy, subsuently modified by the 2nd Ecumenical Council, in 381.
A final note: Some have claimed that Constantine called the council to impose his own theological vision on the Church. Were that the case, he was sadly disappointed; the indications are that, at the time, he leaned more towards Arius. Constantine was, in fact, not baptized until shortly before his death.

The Creed of Constantinople

  • We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.
  • And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
  • By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth];
  • Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;
  • He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven;
  • From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
  • And in the Holy Ghost.
  • But those who say: 'There was a time when he was not;' and 'He was not before he was made;' and 'He was made out of nothing,' or 'He is of another substance' or 'essence,' or 'The Son of God is created,' or 'changeable,' or 'alterable'— they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Nicene Council (Seventh Paschal Sunday)

First Antiphon:

All you peoples, clap your hands; shout to God with cries of gladness.
Through the prayers of the Mother of God, O Savior, save us.
For the Lord, the Most High, we must fear; great King over all the earth.
— Through the prayers of the Mother of God, O Savior, save us.
He subdues peoples under us, and nations under our feet.
— Through the prayers of the Mother of God, O Savior, save us.
God ascends amid shouts of joy; the Lord ascends amid sounds of trumpets.
— Through the prayers of the Mother of God, O Savior, save us.

Third Antiphon:

Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us acclaim God, our Savior.
— Son of God, who ascended in glory, save us who sing to You: Alleluia.
Let us come before His face with praise, and acclaim Him in psalms.
— Son of God, who ascended in glory, save us who sing to You: Alleluia.
For God is the great Lord and the great king over all the earth.
— Son of God, who ascended in glory, save us who sing to You: Alleluia.

Entrance Hymn:
Come, let us worship and fall down before Christ.
— Son of God, who ascended in glory, save us who sing to You: Alleluia.

Troparion and Kontakion:

Troparion (6): Angelic powers were upon Your tomb and the guards became like dead men; Mary stood before Your tomb seeking Your most pure body. You captured Hades without being overcome by it. You met the Virgin and granted life. O Lord risen from the dead, glory be to You!
Troparion - Ascension (4): You ascended in glory, O Christ our God; You delighted the disciples with the promise of the Holy Spirit. Through this blessing, they were assured, that You are the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world.
Troparion - Holy Fathers (8): O Christ our God, You are most glorified, for You  established our fathers as lights upon the earth. Through them You led us to the true faith. O most merciful Lord, glory be to You!
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
Kontakion - Holy Fathers (8)The preaching of the apostles and the decisions of the fathers have established the true faith of the Church which she wears as the garment of truth, fashioned from the theology on high. She justly governs and glorifies the great mystery of worship.
Now and forever and ever. Amen
Kontakion - Ascension (4)When You fulfilled the plan of salvation for us and united all things on earth to those in heaven, O Christ our God, You ascended in glory, never leaving us, but remaining ever-present. For You proclaimed to those who love You: I am with you and no one else has power over you.

Prokimenon (4)Blessed are You, and praiseworthy, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and glorious forever is Your name.
Verse: In all that You have done Your justice is apparent.
ProkimenonBlessed are You, and praiseworthy, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and glorious forever is Your name.


Reading of the Acts of the Holy Apostles. (Acts 20,16-18; 28-36)
In those days, Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus in order not to lose time in the province of Asia, for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if at all possible, for the day of Pentecost. From Miletus he had the presbyters of the church at Ephesus summoned. When they came to him, he addressed them, “You know how I lived among you the whole time from the day I first came to the province of Asia. Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them. So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears. And now I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated. I have never wanted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You know well that these very hands have served my needs and my companions. In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.” When he had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all.

Alleluia Verses

Verse: The God of gods, the Lord, has spoken and summoned the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Verse: Summon before Me, My people who made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.


(Jn 17,1-13)
At that time, Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began. I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly
understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am
coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in
the world so that they may share my joy completely.”

It is truly right… (Or the Hirmos of the Feast): 

O my soul, extol the Lord, Who, in glory ascended bodily into heaven.
Hirmos: We, the faithful, with one accord extol you, O Mother of God; for, in a manner beyond our understanding and expression, you gave birth in time to the Lord, Whom time cannot contain.

Communion Verse: 

Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the highest.
Exult, you just, in the Lord; praise from the upright is fitting.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

We have seen the true light: Be exalted above the heavens, О God, and let Your glory be over all the earth.

May our mouths be filled: Be exalted above the heavens, О God, and let Your glory be over all the earth. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

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 di...