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

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?

Christian Divisions

Often, on Social Media, the claim is made by well meaning Catholics that there are 40,000 different Protestant denominations, implying that ...