31 December 2008
Scenes from Christ Mass Eve
29 December 2008
Sister Parish in Oklahoma City
Fr Mark Wallace, the priest of St Andrew Orthodox Church (a Western Rite mission), reports that they celebrated their inaugural Mass in their new location on Christ Mass Eve. What a joy for that parish!
Photographs of the new location and liturgical space may be viewed here.
25 December 2008
24 December 2008
Christ Mass Greetings
Notice how Our Lord is adored: certainly with gifts and by some on bended knee; but also by the poor as well as the rich, by animals as well as by humans. Notice also how the serene Holy Virgin, who accepts no accolades for herself nor is giddy at what she has done, casts her gaze on her Son. Her joy is contained in Him; and so to Him she looks. And with her dispassionate gaze, she urges us to see and believe that her Son is our joy as well.
Most striking of all, however, is that Bonfigli deigns to include the crucified Lord. As you see Our Lord on the cross, your eye once more has little choice but to follow the lifeless peaceful gaze of the Crucified One to the Holy Child who is blessing all who approach. It is as if the crucified Lord is saying, “For this reason I was born, and for this cause I took human flesh from the pure Virgin—so that I might bless both rich and poor, both pure and sinful, both man and beast.”
Such words should put our heart at ease, and should chase away whatever fear and sadness we presently endure. For the Incarnate Lord is born to put an end to death and misery, and to unite us to His salvation by uniting us firmly to Himself.
May our hearts and minds, in all joy and confidence, ever be reminded, especially this Christ Mass tide, that Our Lord Jesus came into our flesh to unite Himself to our mortality and afflictions and to bear our sin, so that we might share in the blessing of His life, peace and mercy.
And may the richest blessings of this Holy Nativity be with you and yours.
The Icon of the Nativity
A message from our Bishop alerted me to this explanation of the Icon of Our Lord's Nativity. On the Eve of the Holy Nativity, I share it with you. (Note: the numbers on the icon refer to the numbers in the article below.)
What is the meaning of the icon of the Lord’s Nativity?
In this icon, the whole Gospel message of the incarnation of our Savior from the Virgin Mary is depicted, along with details added from the Holy Tradition. In many Nativity icons there are a multitude of details, in others less. In the diagram above, taken from a drawing for an icon, we can identify at least nine major elements.
The focus of the icon, of course, is on the birth of our Lord from His most pure virgin mother Mary (1). The Blessed Virgin is shown larger than any of the other figures, reclining on a mat or blankets, and looking not at her new-born Son, but rather with love and compassion towards her spouse, St. Joseph the Betrothed (8), and seeing his affliction and bewilderment over this most strange and divine birth. He is shown in the left bottom corner, conversing with Satan (7), disguised as an elderly, hunchback shepherd. The posture of St Joseph is one of doubt and inner trouble, for he wondered if it might be possible that the conception and birth were not by some secret human union. How blessed he was to serve the Mother of God and her divine Son, in spite of these thoughts and temptations, and to protect her from the evil gossip of the people who could not yet possibly understand so great a mystery. Tradition relates that Joseph was an elderly widower, thus having white hair and beard. Our Lord is shown in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, “for there was no room for them in the inn” (cf. Luke 2). The back-drop for the manger is a dark cave (3), which immediately reminds us of the cave in which our Lord was buried 33 years later, wrapped in a shroud. In the cave are an ox and ass, details not mentioned by the Gospels, but which are an invariable feature of every icon of the Nativity. The scene is included to show the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “the ox knows his Owner, and the ass his Master’s crib, but Israel does not know Me, and the people has not regarded Me” (Isaiah 1:3). Above this central composition, in the very center of the icon is the wondrous star (2) coming from heaven, which led the Magi (6) to the place where our Savior lay. Tradition speaks of the Magi being representative of all mankind: one being young (beardless), one being middle-aged (in the center of the group, and one being elderly (closest to the cave). The star reminds us of the heavenly orb we see on icons of the Theophany, or Pentecost, wherever divine intervention is indicated. The cow (animals) and star illustrate that all creation rejoices at the birth of the Messiah: the lowly and the great, the earthly and the heavenly.
The holy angels (4) are seen both glorifying God and bringing the good tidings of the Lord’s birth to the shepherds (5) who look in awe at the angles. The fact that Jewish shepherds and heathen magi were among the first to worship our Lord shows us the universality of this great event, meant for the salvation of all mankind.
The final detail of this icon, the scene of the washing of the Lord (9) is an element that has caused some controversy over the ages. In some churches of the holy monasteries of Mount Athos, the scene in the frescoes has been deliberately obliterated and replaced with bushes or shepherds. There was a prevailing opinion that this scene was degrading to Christ, who had no need of washing, being born in a miraculous manner from a pure virgin. But we retain this image on our icons, being part of the holy tradition passed on to us; truly it does not degrade the Lord, but magnifies Him, as is evident in the prayer that is appointed to be read at the time of Baptism for the midwife of a child: (from the Old-rite Potrebnik, 2nd Prayer for the midwife) “O Master, Lord our God… Who didst lie in a manger and didst bless the midwife Salome who came to believe in an honorable virginity…” (According to Tradition, Salome was a daughter of St Joseph by his previous marriage.) Who, more effectively than a midwife, could testify to the divine and virginal birth? Therefore we do well to understand the importance of this blessed scene.
Finally, as we look at the icon as one united composition, we can only be filled with joy, not only because of the bright colors and the festive activity depicted thereon, but for the joyous news of our salvation so clearly proclaimed by it. In it, all creation rejoices at the birth of our Lord: the heavens (a star and angels); the earth (the mountains, plants and animals), and especially mankind, represented most perfectly in the figure of the new Eve, the most pure Mother of God.
Christ is Born! Let Us Glorify Him!
12 December 2008
Avery Cardinal Dulles, RIP
Dr Dulles is famous for his writings, particularly his popular book on the church. He also wrote several articles for FIRST THINGS.
May he, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.
11 December 2008
Understanding St John & His Question
The church fathers teach that St John is not raising his own doubts, but is gently guiding his disciples to seek an answer to their doubts. For what it's worth, Martin Luther agrees. However, an existentialist reading (i.e., projecting what we would do, seeing ourselves as St John, making ourselves the subject of the inquiry), which became common after the Reformation (see Kierkegaard, et al.), suggests that St John is not so pious as to be above doubts and fears; in fact, to deny the possible doubts and fears to St John is to deny his "humanity" and, perhaps, call into question his need to be "saved from original sin" (assuming, of course, that original sin is the primary thing from which one needs to be saved).
In his characteristic manner, a friend offers a clear view of the "question behind the question" (i.e., which tradition is running one's hermeneutics).
As in so many other questions, it’s hard to separate an honest and open exegesis of the text from what we have theologically at stake in the answer. What is at stake here is: “Is John the baptist freed from original sin on this side of glory?”
You can see that the traditional answer to that question is Yes by looking at the Calendar. Only three people have liturgical celebrations of their physical birth: Jesus (Dec. 25), Mary (Sept. 8), John the Baptist (June 24). Normal saints are celebrated on their death days - their heavenly birthday... As explained in Weiser’s Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, that John and Mary get additional days for their physical births reflects the church’s ancient belief that Mary and John were cleansed of original sin before birth: thus John can leap in the womb and be full of the Spirit even there, and in Mary’s case, many believed that she was preserved from original sin altogether. ...
So, that’s what is lying behind this argument for many people. If you are invested in John being cleansed of original sin in the womb, you simply cannot understand him to be wavering in doubt. If you are invested in John being “just another sinner” then you will really want to jump on this verse as “proving” your point.
But I do not think that this verse can profitably act as a fulcrum to pry an opponent into one’s own camp. One’s opponent reads this verse (as oneself does) in light of a prior commitment: is John cleansed from original sin in this life ahead of the Consummation?
Understanding the "simul doctrine"
- The Orthodox rejection of the medieval notions distorting the patristic understanding of sin does not necessarily negate the understanding that the man of faith is simultaneously righteous and sinner.
- The Orthodox principle of theosis (that the Christian is in communion with and participates in God by faith) does not necessarily negate the understanding that the man of faith is simultaneously righteous and sinner.
- The Orthodox teaching that man, by God's grace, "works out his salvation with fear and trembling" (synergy) does not necessarily negate the understanding that the man of faith is simultaneously righteous and sinner.
- The clearest evidence for the three points above is found in the pre-communion prayers (both Byzantine and Western rites) which acknolwledge both man's unworthiness to approach God while, simultaneously, acknowledge the faithful man's participation in the Eucharist due to God's mercy. Such prayers (as well as other prayers and the teachings of the fathers on these points) are incomprehensible without a lively understanding that the man of faith is simultaneously righteous and sinner.
10 December 2008
The Conception of the BVM - Some Thoughts
1. The Feast of the Conception of the BVM (as it is known in Orthodox churches, and was previously known to Lutherans) is not tied up in notions of (original) sin or guilt (which, popularly amongst Rome, seems to mathematical), but is yet another opportunity to exalt the human nature in Christ.
2. Three (and only three) nativities are celebrated by the Church: Christ, Mary and St John the Baptizer. In the same way, three conceptions are also celebrated (25 March, 8 Dec, 25 Sept). Asking why only these nativities are celebrated might lead one to consider why celebrating the conceptions is important.
3. The Marian feasts, generally, not only exalt the human nature in Christ, but also God's magnificent mercy; namely, that He deigns to save man. ("What is man, that thou art mindful of him?")
4. That the Gospel reading for the Feast in the historic Western tradition is Mt 1.1-16 (exalting the ancestry of the Christ) should be instructive.
09 December 2008
Scenes from Last Night's Mass
Photographs of the evening candlelight Mass can be viewed here.
06 December 2008
Condolences from a Metropolitan
Patient Preparation (the Advent fast)
02 December 2008
Bishop to Visit Holy Incarnation
Vespers begins at 5:30 p.m., and Mass will be celebrated at 6:00 p.m.
During His Grace's visit, Bishop MARK will inspect the work on the Sanctuary project.
Note: In the Western tradition, the Conception of the BVM is commemorated on 8 December, while in the Byzantine tradition this feast is commemorated on 9 December.
Holy Incarnation Featured
30 November 2008
This is not the world we ought to desire
Our Blessed Lord Jesus has often instructed us in the true delights of the heart. He has told us how great His love is for us, how He has mercy on us, how intimately He unites us to Himself by His Spirit, how He has stored up riches for us, and how earnestly He longs us for us join His saints and angels in His heavenly kingdom. And when we hear these things, how our hearts burn within us! And how our desire fades for this world and this world’s good!
Yet now, with that same deep compassion and undying love, Our Lord today warns us that we may lose these riches and His kingdom. For while Our Lord God will never quit His love for us, and will never leave us nor forsake us, He knows that we can become so enwrapped in the cares and occupations of our life, in our pursuit for fleeting honors, and in satisfying our present appetite, that we lose our focus and so may miss out on the things that truly make for our peace. Our Lord knows that we can become so preoccupied with ourselves and our own anxieties that we forget all that He has given us and promised to us; and live unmindful that this is not the world we ought to desire.
28 November 2008
Of my daughter I shall boast...
Johannah is pictured with her father (an Orthodox priest) and her grandfather (a retired Lutheran minister).
27 November 2008
Why Seminarians attend Seminary
Seminarians do not come to theological schools to become 'professionals' and to be 'respected,' but rather to be crucified and thereby shine forth the light of Christ.
15 November 2008
This Year's Reflection on the Rubrics
When I was a Lutheran and read the rubrics, without much thought or attention I would skip over or edit those rubrics which I determined did not apply to the Lutheran liturgy. Among other things, that means I skipped nearly everything having to do with the canon of the Mass, and all the “ostentatious” rubrics about tones of voice, types of bows, etc. Of course, I would do the same with the liturgy itself. If I lifted some particular feast or text from the Roman or Anglican Missal, I would edit these to fit what I determined was the “Lutheran ethos.” (Honestly, I also did the same when reading the church fathers, aloud or privately.) It was only after I determined that I was not smart enough to correct or edit the church’s liturgy and tradition that I truly began to become Orthodox. The same applies to the rubrics. I’m simply not smart enough to know what to omit or change; and, frankly, the more I follow the rubrics as received within the Western tradition, the more I see not only the practical but also theological wisdom which they contain.
That is what previous reflections on the rubrics have led me to. This year’s reading of the rubrics, however, has reminded me of one of the key principles in liturgy; namely, that since the tradition (i.e., the liturgy) is a living tradition, it is not learned from a book. Rather, the book merely reminds one of what one has seen or witnessed from other celebrants.
But what if, like me, one did not grow up witnessing the traditional Mass? All the bows, tones of voice, movements of the hands, etc seem so foreign and like so much unnecessary (and, at times, overly showy) “folderol.” They certainly don’t seem to fit our modern mindset. So one is tempted to jettison them.
Yet my three year old has taught me something else. All he knows liturgically is the Mass that he’s seen me celebrate. So, from time to time when he’s in the mood to “play church,” I’ll catch him speaking nonsense while conscientiously mimicking all the bows and gestures. He’s begun to learn the tradition—and simply by watching! I envy him that. At the same time, his mimickings are urging me to be ever much more careful in how I celebrate the Mass. For, like it or not, I’m passing on the tradition to him in a way that I never received; and I’d hate for him to have to relearn something because I was careless in my teaching when I was at the altar. Worse yet, I’m not sure I could stand the judgment in his tone when, later, he would either say, “Why didn’t you follow the tradition” or “If you can omit that gesture, why can’t we also omit this or that teaching”?
You see, that’s where “cafeteria Christianity” begins. Not in the philosophy of religion; that is, not when one is taught or determines that certain dogmas or morals don’t apply. Rather, the notion to adopt “cafeteria Christianity” (“which we used to call heresy”—Peter Kreeft) begins when three year olds mimic the priest celebrating Mass, and then later learn that the priest had the hubris to edit the traditional bows or gestures or tones of voice. And then these three year olds, when older, begin to ask themselves “Why didn’t the priest follow the tradition” and “If he can omit that gesture, why can’t we also omit this or that teaching”?
01 November 2008
And if One Never Lives...?
Like all high schools, these Catholic school students seek to understand by pushing the limits. More often than not, I repeat the clear logic I heard Dr Peter Kreeft present at a local Catholic parish earlier in October. It goes like this:
Life, liberty and the pursuit of prosperity/happiness are set in a specific order. How can one pursue prosperity or happiness if one has not liberty? And how can one pursue liberty is one has no life? Therefore, of the three, life is the greatest moral good.
I believe that, amongst all the very important issues in this year's presidential campaign, that greatest moral good of life must always reign firm. Of course, one could argue (as many do) that the war in Iraq is a life-issue. So are, to greater or lesser degrees, the policies touching upon poverty, healthcare and the like. But these are to greater or lesser degrees. To the greatest degree is that one can live.
Again, Dr Kreeft offers clear logic when he asserts that the war in Iraq is a key life issue, but what good is saving a soldier's life if we allow the destruction of the life of one who never had a chance to be a soldier--or anything else?
Recently, the Most Reverend Joseph Martino, Catholic Bishop of Scranton, offered the same clarity in a Pastoral Letter:
Another argument goes like this: “As wrong as abortion is, I don't think it is the only relevant ‘life’ issue that should be considered when deciding for whom to vote.” This reasoning is sound only if other issues carry the same moral weight as abortion does, such as in the case of euthanasia and destruction of embryos for research purposes. Health care, education, economic security, immigration, and taxes are very important concerns. Neglect of any one of them has dire consequences as the recent financial crisis demonstrates. However, the solutions to problems in these areas do not usually involve a rejection of the sanctity of human life in the way that abortion does. Being “right” on taxes, education, health care, immigration, and the economy fails to make up for the error of disregarding the value of a human life. Consider this: the finest health and education systems, the fairest immigration laws, and the soundest economy do nothing for the child who never sees the light of day.
Which Saints on All Saints?
It is not a mark of pride, then, but a recognition of godly humility when a person is canonized (officially recognized) as a “saint.” And it is a witness to all the faithful that we should strive not to be saints, but to live humbly, “soberly, and justly, and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” (Ti 2.12-13)
The greatest honor bestowed upon a saint, then, is to imitate that person’s life. And there are two things in particular that we should strive to imitate so that we might worthily commemorate the saints.
First, all saints—whether known or unknown—freely confessed Christ and His unending mercy by willingly sacrificing their life. Many of the saints made this confession by spilling their blood as martyrs. Others, however, did not receive the crown of martyrdom, but nevertheless made a great confession by sacrificing all that they had and all that they were for the love of God and the love of all men.
To commemorate the saints by imitation, then, means that we adopt this same attitude of self-sacrifice; that we become willing to give up all our possessions, all our ambitions, all our desires, even our own life if necessary, in order to attain the kingdom of heaven. That is how the saints lived and died; and we honor them by living as they did.
Secondly, all saints strove not for fame, but for humility. All of them desired to be known not for their deeds or writings. Rather, they desired simply to gain true life by losing their lives in a life dedicated to repentance. For they saw themselves as unworthy of even the least of Christ’s mercies, and so lived St. Paul’s creed: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Tim 1.15)
To commemorate the saints rightly, then, means that we adopt their spirit of repentance and humility; that we strive not to impress others, but instead strive to divest ourselves of all pride and self-serving desires. To live knowing that no one is worse than we are, that all are more deserving, and that the Lord should first save everyone else, even the worst sinner—that is the saints’ spirit of humility and repentance that we should strive to imitate. And whenever we do, we truly honor them.
30 October 2008
Bishop to Ordain former Lutheran pastor
27 October 2008
Among the new sections are the following:
• A page of photos
• Information about the Sanctuary Renovation Project which is currently underway
• A wish list
• The ability to donate online using PayPal
You are encouraged to visit the website today!
29 September 2008
Yesterday, however, my voice was not as strong as usual. That, however, did not render the canon inaudible. Its inaudibility was the result of noisy little children. They were babbling, crying, screaming—you know, what little ones tend to do. Of course, leading the charge was my own. The mothers, bless their hearts, did not rush the children out of the nave when their children acted up. They’ve agreed that, as much as possible, children should remain during the Mass instead of being sequestered or unseen, particularly because they are communicants (i.e., full-fledged members of the community). On other occasions, the parents have whisked unruly children out for a time. However, they’ve heeded my encouragement that the holiest moment of the Mass should not be interrupted with unnecessary movement.
Therefore, the canon was difficult to hear—or was not heard at all. Nevertheless (as often happens), those in the habit of saying the “Amens” did so without hindrance because they knew what was being said, even if they did not hear every word. And, as never ceases to amaze me, the children were remarkably quiet during both the words of Christ and elevation. (Bells have a way of fascinating the youngest.)
07 September 2008
Living with Mistakes
Remember that before you judge or poke fun at Sarah Palin[, s]he’s not the candidate whose daughter messed up. She’s the candidate who didn’t get rid of the mess.
18 August 2008
Merits: Part II
In the first place, I think that if any introduction will bring distortions, then there was never a time when the word merit could be used profitably; OR, if there was a time when it could be used profitably, then it is not inevitable that any (or every) introduction of the concept or term will bring distortions in theology.
In the second place, Fr Gregory helpfully leads us to ask the following question:
- When does a word become so helplessly distorted that the rehabilitation of its proper use must be abandoned?
- Is it intellectually or theologically honest to avoid a disputed or "distorting" theological term or concept either by ignoring it or by translating it in such a way that it is no longer recognizable (e.g., instead of "merits" employ "godliness" or "sanctity")?
- What is the difference between omitting a term or concept that is dicey or requires careful catechesis and the Protestant principle (begun by Luther) of eviscerating that canon (because, in this particular instance, as the argument goes, the word "sacrifice" could not be properly rehabilitated)?
- If St Peter Chrysologus (and other church fathers) can speak profitably about the merits of the saints, wouldn't the argument that such language is now distorting, confusing or problematic effectively indicate a little less than the "fullness of the faith"?
17 August 2008
Commemorating the Dormition & Assumption of the BVM
An apt and comprehensive description of the importance and meaning of this feast is provided in the The Prologue from Ohrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, which I reproduce below. A hymn of praise and other devotional material can be located here.
The Lord Who, on Mt. Sinai, commanded by His Fifth Commandment: "Honor your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12), showed by His own example how one should respect one's parent. Hanging on the Cross in agony, He remembered His mother and indicating to the Apostle John, said to her: "Woman behold your son" (St. John 19:26). After that, He said to John: "Behold your mother" (St. John 19:27). And so providing for His mother, He breathed His last. John had a home on Zion in Jerusalem in which the Theotokos settled and remained there to live out the end of her days on earth. By her prayers, gentle counsels, meekness and patience, she greatly assisted the apostles of her Son.
Primarily, she spent her entire time in Jerusalem often visiting those places which reminded her of the great events and of the great works of her Son. She especially visited Golgotha, Bethlehem and the Mount of Olives. Of her distant journeys, her visit to St. Ignatius the Theophorus [God-bearer] in Antioch is mentioned, as well as her visit to Lazarus (whom our Lord resurrected on the fourth day), the Bishop of Cyprus, her visit to the Holy Mountain [Athos] which she blessed and her stay in Ephesus with St. John the Evangelist [The Theologian] during the time of the great persecution of Christians in Jerusalem.
In her old age, she often prayed to the Lord and her God on the Mount of Olives, the site of His Ascension, that He take her from this world as soon as possible. On one occasion, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and revealed to her that within three days she will find repose. The angel gave her a palm-branch to be carried at the time of her funeral procession. She returned to her home with great joy, desiring in her heart once more to see in this life, all of the apostles of Christ. The Lord fulfilled her wish and all of the apostles, borne by angels in the clouds, gathered at the same time at the home of John on Zion. With great rejoicing, she saw the holy apostles, encouraged them, counseled them and comforted them. Following that, she peacefully gave up her soul to God without any pain or physical illness.
The apostles took the coffin with her body from which an aromatic fragrance emitted and, in the company of many Christians, bore it to the Garden of Gethsemane to the sepulchre of [her parents], Saints Joachim and Anna. By God's Providence, they were concealed from the evil Jews by a cloud. Anthony, a Jewish priest, grabbed the coffin with his hands with the intention of overturning it but, at that moment, an angel of God severed both his hands. He then cried out to the apostles for help and was healed since [he] declar[ed] his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Thomas was absent, again according to God's Providence, in order that a new and all-glorious mystery of the Holy Theotokos would again be revealed. On the third day, Thomas arrived and desired to venerate [kiss] the body of the Holy All-pure one. But when the apostles opened the sepulchre, they found only the winding sheet and the body was not in the tomb. That evening, the Theotokos appeared to the apostles surrounded by a myriad of angels and said to them: "Rejoice, I will be with you always". It is not exactly known how old the Theotokos was at the time of her Falling Asleep but the overwhelming opinion is that she was over sixty years of age.
10 August 2008
Merits of the Saints?!
Therefore let us honor and esteem the merits of the martyrs as being the gifts of God. Let us beg for them, and add the inclination of our own will.
Most often, traditional Roman Catholics defend, and Orthodox and Protestants polemicists decry, the term "merits" within the medieval matrix of "supererogatory works" and "treasury of the saints." St Peter Chrysologus, however, is certainly not medieval, and does not, to my mind, evidence "pre-medieval" tendencies (whatever these may be). Hence, his use of the term "merits" suggests that, perhaps, there is a proper use of the term that neither reactively requires its deletion nor unthinkingly compels it to be understood in a scholastic context.
This suggestion is strengthened by hearing St Peter's use within the larger context:
My brethren, let no one arrogate to his own ability that which no one save God gives. When the Apostle was addressing the martyrs, rightly did he say what you heard when his Epistle was read today: 'You have been given the favor on Christ's behalf--not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him.' Therefore let us honor and esteem the merits of the martyrs as being the gifts of God. Let us beg for them, and add the inclination of our own will. For, our will follows; it does not take the lead. Nevertheless, charity is not lacking if our will is not lacking, for the eager will itself is called charity. Who is there who willingly fears? Who is there who unwillingly loves? May prayer be fervent, and let the feast of this martyr be celebrated. But let everyone who celebrates also imitate him, that the celebrating may not be idle. (Source)
Caveat: I don't have access to the Latin, only Ganss' translation. Perhaps the translation is misleading.
14 July 2008
Let me suggest, then, the following working definition:
Faith is living against the fears and doubts that arise from the flaws, imperfections, disappointments and afflictions brought on us by others or ourselves.The devil plays on these turmoils to increase fear and doubt in our mind and soul. To live against these is to live as if they will not control either our life in God or our love for another. For to let them control us is to fall into pride and selfishness--which is the mother of fear since fear is fundamentally the child of the the lie that we matter most.
10 July 2008
Morey & Orthodoxy
What I found interesting are the reviews or comments to his book as they appear near the bottom of the Amazon website.
The brother priest asked if a response to the publication would be helpful. Knowing the publication and its desire not to inform but to promote a certain view of Lutheranism, and its propensity of twisting words, I suggested that my brother priest leave it alone. Having now skimmed the outline and the reviews, my suggestion remains firmly entrenched.
Errors of Time
Let me suggest that, at root, Nestorianism, as well as the other errors, are errors of time. That is, they are errors because they are attempts by man to bind eternal divine mysteries to a particular point of time. Time, of course, is a creature, and the passing (or winding down) of time is an indication of death. Hence, by binding eternal mysteries to a particular point of time, the divine is forced to be a creature, and life is forced to deal with death on death's terms.
"Forced to be" is a specifically chosen phrase in order to indicate that man is insisting that God and His mysteries answer to our way of thinking. But that is not the right order of things. The right order is that God assumes humanity, and life swallows up death. Hence, moments of time are transformed into eternal realities--rather than eternal realities being confined to time. Therefore, the mystery of Christ's incarnation, His mystical Supper, His mystical Body, etc. are divine mysteries which, by locating themselves within time, thereby transform time.
The clearest indication of this is the sacrifice of Christ which takes a particular moment (the crucifixion) and "crashes it down" at all times and in all places during the Mass/Divine Liturgy.
Much of this, as you'll notice, depends upon St Augustine's brilliant analysis of time, by which He shows that events in time can become, by God's mercy, the "eternal now."
Thoughts on Today's Blog Reading
That bit of reading led me elsewhere. I read the angst of Church of England bishops (see here, here and here) who are distraught both (a) that the latest final straw has been reached in discovering that the Church of England is not the Church, and (b) that Rome (no mention of Orthodoxy) does not accept them as the Church.
I sympathize with these bishops (as I do also with the above mentioned Lutherans) because I know from experience how hard it is, in the midst of debate or angst, to step back and see what seems clear to others.
Finally, I was led to Fr Gregory Hogg's blog. He seems to be commenting on these, and other, discussions when he suggests a similarity in the line of thought between the errors of "receptionism," the Protestant definition of visible/invisible (or hidden/revealed, if you prefer) Church, Nestorianism, Barthianism, etc. I think he's on to something, but he admits he is having difficulty classifing the similarities.
One commentator suggested that the common theme is reductionism. What I suggest is my next post. So "stay tuned." :)
04 July 2008
Presiding from the throne was His Grace, Bishop MARK. The celebrant was the Rt. Rev. John Mangels, the predecessor and successor to Fr David at St Augustine of Hippo Orthodox Church in Denver. Assisting were Fr. Nicholas Alford of St Gregory the Great Orthodox Church in Washington DC and yours truly. Fr John Connely of St Mark Orthodox Church in Denver assisted at the interment and, with Subdeacon Benjamin Anderson, formed the Schola. Fr Patrick Reardon of All Saints Orthodox Church was the homilist. Several other Orthodox clergy from the Antiochian Archdiocese and the Orthodox Church in America were also in attendance.
30 June 2008
The Repose of the V. Rev. Fr. David Lynch
Fr. David was a sometime member of the Church of the Incarnation before it was received into the Orthodox Church. He served as one of my ordination sponsors in February 2007. And in April 2007 he was celebrant at the first Easter Mass at Holy Incarnation.
Please remember Fr David, his wife Martha, and his children in your prayers today.
Requiescat in pace.
14 June 2008
How Very Interesting
Read about it here.
18 May 2008
Easter Photos from a Sister Parish
As one means of making such a “connection,” this link is provided. It provides photos from this year’s Paschal celebration at St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in Whittier, California.
HT: Western Orthodoxy
26 April 2008
Christ Killed What Was Killing Everyone
In anticipation of Pascha, I offer the following from our Holy Father among the saints Peter Chrysologus:
Christ accepted death so that death would die. Christ, by being killed, killed what was killing everyone. Christ entered the tomb in order to open up hell. So, having abolished the authority of death, having destroyed the prison of hell, and having annihilated the very power of death, Christ now should not be anointed as a dead man, but should be adored as Victor.
13 April 2008
For Bill, Matthew, et al.
The altar was the “Lady Altar” (a side altar) at the former Incarnation Orthodox Church in Detroit.
We are currently considering bids which have been presented for permanent remodeling of the interior.
08 April 2008
Orthodox Holy Week
06 April 2008
The good people of Zion, with their pastor, are in my prayers.
On the Reading of Parish Newsletters
25 March 2008
Patronal or Titular Feast?
But it seems more proper, both in the Western tradition and given the name of our parish, to call today our Titular Feast or Feast of Title. Why? A Patronal Feast is the Feast of the Saint who is the patron of the parish. For example, if a parish is named "St Boniface, Apostle to the Germans, Orthodox Church" (wouldn't that be nice!), then the Patronal Feast would be 5 June, the Commemoration of St Boniface. It would be not only the "name day" of the parish, but also understood that St Boniface prays for the parish and that the parish has a special devotion to St Boniface.
However, Holy Incarnation is named for a mystery, not a saint. And while our Patron Saint (as decreed by our Bishop) is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the particular mystery to which we are, by name, attached would be either the Feast of the Nativity or the Feast of the Annunciation. (Another possibility would be the Feast of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary, should this feast be observed in our Vicariate.)
Regardless of which Feast the Bishop would have chosen, it would have seemed odd to term that day "Patronal Feast," since neither Christ Mass nor Annunciation are patrons. Hence, we have taken to call it by the name common in the West; namely, the Titular Feast.
At Holy Incarnation, we celebrated our Titular Feast last evening with First Vespers of the Annunciation followed by the Mass. The celebration was rather low-key on purpose for a number of reasons. We look forward to a grander celebration in the years to come.
All Quiet on the Southeastern (Michigan) Front?
No pictures yet because (a) everything is not in place and (b) we're kind of slow about these things anyway.
15 March 2008
"Let us Exult over the Crafty Reptile"
The following words from St Cyril of Alexandria address the victory Our Lord achieved for mankind by His fasting and temptation.
[The Lord] arose and helped [us], having taken the form of a slave, and being made in the likeness of men: for so did He as one of us set Himself as an avenger in our stead, against that murderous and rebellious serpent, who had brought sin upon us, and thereby had caused corruption and death to reign over the dwellers upon earth, that we by His means, and in Him, might gain the victory, whereas of old we were vanquished, and fallen in Adam.
Come therefore and let us praise the Lord, and sing psalms unto God our Saviour: let us trample Satan under foot; let us raise the shout of victory over him now he is thrown and fallen: let us exult over the crafty reptile, caught in an inextricable snare: let us too say of him in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “How is the hammer of all the earth broken and beaten small! Thou art found and hast been taken, because thou stoodest against the Lord.” For of old, that is before the time of the advent of Christ the Saviour of all, the universal enemy had somewhat grand and terrible notions about himself: for he boastfully exulted over the infirmity of the inhabitants of the earth, saying, “I will hold the world in my hand as a nest, and as eggs that are left I will take it up: and no one shall escape from me or speak against me.” And in very truth there was no one of those upon earth who could rise up against his power; but the Son rose up against him, and contended with him, having been made like unto us. And therefore, as I said, human nature, as victorious in Him, wins the crown. And this in old time the Son Himself proclaimed, where by one of the holy prophets He thus addresses Satan; “Behold, I am against thee, O corrupting mountain, that corruptest the whole earth.”
09 March 2008
For Those Who Want to See Pictures...
You can also see a picture of the interior (before remodeling and set-up) by selecting this link.
Giving Up Something for Lent?
In the Orthodox Church, the Lenten Fast does not ask or require Orthodox Christians to “give up something” for Lent. The Fast is not an individual choice or personal practice, but a community discipline. Therefore, the Fast is not simply abstaining from food or disciplining your appetite. Rather, it prescribes the common rule the faithful are to follow as they fast together. Individuals may certainly choose to “give up” additional items during Lent, but such choices should not replace the Church's fast, and should be made in consolation with individual’s spiritual father.
The church fathers assume that the fast is a communal exercise. They also teach, quite consistently and vigorously, that the fast is more than eating less or abstaining from certain foods. One disciplines the body, they teach, so that one may better discipline the soul. One fasts from food so that one may learn to fast from sin. In the Western tradition, this "true fast" or "spiritual fast" is emphasized not only in the excerpts from the church fathers that are read during Matins, but also in many of the daily collects.
Those interested in the Orthodox Lenten Fast as it is maintained in the Western tradition are directed to this resource and this resource.
26 February 2008
What Fasting Does for the Soul
As we are about to undertake the customary sacred fast of Quinquagesima, we must realize that what soap does for human bodies, this is what fasting supplies to Christian souls: it cleanses the filth off the senses, it washes away the offenses of the mind, it removes the crimes of the heart, it removes the blemishes from the heart, and with marvelous splendor it leads the entire human being to the luster of charity. And just as Spring curbs and reins in all the violent storms, clears up the sky’s complexion, gives peace to the earth, and calls forth and rouses to living vigor the whole body of the world, which had been buried in the death of winter; so too does fasting quiet every conflict, restore peace to one’s limbs, enkindle souls lulled to sleep and deadened by the chill of negligence, and bring virtue to life and thaw it out entirely. (St Peter Chrysologus)
24 February 2008
Holy Incarnation Website Updated
What Is This Race Which We Run?
St. Paul plainly tells us that we are running a race. And he urges us not simply to run, but to run that you may obtain the prize. The holy Apostle sets the goal before us. We are running to win. The prize has been set before us; it is in clear view. Now we must attain that which has been promised. Now we may lay hold on the treasure that has been stored up for us. And with this goal in mind, we run not with uncertainty, not as someone just pounding the pavement and going through the motions. Rather, we should run so that, in the end, we stand with those who have fought a good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith.
But what is this race which we run? What is the course? And what is the point?
Fear propels most runners. They run to stay healthy, to prolong life, to avoid death. Pride propels a few. They run for the glory, for the accolades and fame. Still fewer run for the sheer joy of running. They run because they enjoy the atmosphere, and get caught up in the act. For all three—the afraid, the proud, and the lovers—for all three, the race is this world. They run the human race. That is to say, they run only with this life in mind: to get the most they can from the time they have, and to experience all that the world offers. They afraid fear missing out. The proud want to be remembered in the record books. And the lovers of this world get caught up in the act of living, in taking it all in, in living life to its fullest.
But that is not our race. For this world does not offer the prize that we seek. This world offers only disappointment and death. Its promises fade or are broken. And getting caught up in this world’s living means getting caught up in its march to death. For in the end, this world’s prize may be monuments for a few and satisfaction for some, but the grave for all.
Yet we run not because of fear or pride or love of this world.We run to obtain the prize. Which means that we run so that we might lay hold on eternal life, unto which we have been called.
The Spirit has sealed us as His own in Holy Chrismation so that we run our race not in vainly, not beating the air worthlessly, but so that we may obtain an incorruptible prize, undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. And His goal for us is not that we live life to the fullest, but so that we live life in His fullness.
Read the full sermon here.
23 February 2008
A New Blog
This blog contains news and items of interest for members and friends of Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church.
Check out the latest entry, on the Lenten Fast.
17 February 2008
Holy Incarnation Church has a Home!
Holy Incarnation is a Western Rite Orthodox parish in metropolitan Detroit. Western Rite parishes are Orthodox parishes utilizing the liturgical tradition of European Christianity. In particular, the Sunday Mass follows the historic Latin or Roman rite. All of our services are in English but the order of worship, customs, and liturgical art follows a pattern familiar to most Christians in Europe and America.
From 1975-2001, Incarnation Orthodox Church in Detroit served the liturgical needs of Western Rite Orthodox Christians in and around Detroit, and was the cornerstone of the Western Orthodoxy in the Midwest. Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church builds on the legacy of the former Incarnation parish. The new building will further the permanent re-establishment of a Western Rite presence in Detroit. It also increases the Orthodox presence and mission in the downriver area. The newly purchased building is located in Lincoln Park, Michigan, a near suburb in the downriver area of Detroit.
The building is in good repair, but will require renovations so that the worship space is suitable for the Western Orthodox liturgy. For updates concerning the move, and to learn more about Holy Incarnation, readers are invited to visit the Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church.
The Mustard Seed
The Gospel, then, teaches us that faith and the kingdom of heaven are intimately related. Of course, one needs faith to enter the kingdom of heaven. But also, the kingdom of heaven is seen only with the eyes of faith. In other words, the kingdom we strive to attain promises security, riches and other ‘rewards’ which can be grasped and held dear only by faith. Faith, of course, is not readily apparent or visible, and in fact seems as insignificant as the mustard seed. In the same way, the kingdom of heaven is not readily apparent or visible, and seems insignificant.
Consider also this: the full power of the mustard seed is revealed only when it is crushed. When nature crushes the seed, a great tree takes root. When a man deliberately crushes the mustard seed, the seed produces a strong and rich spice. In the same way, crushing faith by persecution or martyrdom reveals both its strength and the ‘spice’ of overwhelming love for God. And ‘crushing’ or breaking open the kingdom of heaven reveals both the riches it contains, and the love it releases.
At root, then, what is truly the kingdom of heaven? Once again, St Ambrose urges us to believe that “The Lord Himself is the grain of mustard seed. He was without injury; but the people were unaware of Him. … [Yet] He chose to be crushed. … He chose to be planted in the earth [when He was buried]. … [Then] He sprung up in a garden, where He also rose from the dead, and became a tree;” namely, the Tree of Life.
01 February 2008
Okay, My Turn
Here are the rules:
Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
Find Page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
Tag 5 people.
From the Orthodox Missal According to the Use of the Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. (Stanton NJ: St Luke's Priory Press, 1995). This portion is from the Maundy Thursday Gospel (Jn 13.2-6 in KJV).
And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
(By the way, the Missal sits in front of me on a turning carousel . I'm glad the carousel wasn't turned to my Liber Usualis since typing neumes is a bit tricky!)
I tag the following (yes, I know it's only 3):
Pr David Petersen
30 January 2008
Pope Benedict XVI & Unity
In the liturgy of the ancient Church, after the homily the Bishop or the one who presided at the celebration, the principal celebrant, would say: "Conversi ad Dominum". Then he and everyone would rise and turn to the East. They all wanted to look towards Christ. Only if we are converted, only in this conversion to Christ, in this common gaze at Christ, will we be able to find the gift of unity.
HT: Rorate Cæli
27 January 2008
Metropolitan Kallistos Ware to Visit Detroit
Below are the details, which were originally posted here.
St. Andrew House presents…...
Renowned Orthodox Writer & Theologian
Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware)
The Future of Orthodoxy
Eucharistic Community & Unity: Achieving Both
For more than 15 centuries, Orthodox Christians were defined by their faith and worship, following the Great Commission of Jesus Christ to "...go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..."
Metropolitan Kallistos will explore the future of Orthodoxy in American and offer his thoughts on how a united Orthodox Church can prosper and effectively preach the Gospel in today's world.
When: Tuesday, Feb 19th 7:00 PM
Books will be available for purchase and signing by His Excellency,
courtesy of Pascha Books.
For more information, contact Dean Calvert
at 248 624 1222 or email email@example.com
Visit St Andrew House online
20 January 2008
Three Aspects of Our Lord's Incarnation
This mystery is magnified and heightened by the simple fact that our pride, which leads to rebellion from God and rejection of His will; our pride, which urges us to cling stubbornly to what we think is good and right; our pride, which finally drags us back to the earth instead of up to God; our pride, which pushes us to believe little about God and to think much of ourselves; our pride, which causes us to love ourselves, and worry about the inconsequential, and strive for riches that break or rust or decay—our pride neither causes Our Lord to reject us, nor prevents Him from carrying through with His original plan. That is what makes this grand mystery even greater—that Our Lord’s desire for union with us is not affected by our proud and selfish refusal to seek union in Him.
And so, despite our sin, Our Lord comes down. And mindful of our mortality, Our Lord puts on our flesh. And risking Himself so that He might love us back to Him, Our Lord enmeshes His divine nature with our human nature—all so that His original desire, His plan for uniting all creation, through man, to Himself, might be accomplished.
Since we celebrated the feast of the Nativity, we have seen that this great mystery of Our Lord’s holy incarnation has three aspects. The first aspect we saw when the Magi visited the newborn Christ Child. That visit made known to us that Our Lord desired union not only with His chosen people, but with all men. He was incarnate so that, in Him, all men might be united to God. The second aspect we saw when Our Lord willingly and determinedly was baptized by St John in the Jordan. That baptism made known to us that whatever we had done, whatever sin we had committed, would not prevent Our Lord from reasserting His love for us. He was incarnate so that, in Him, sin might be forgiven and death undone.
And now, today, Our Blessed Lord Jesus reveals to us the third aspect of this great mystery of His holy incarnation. What we hear and see in today’s Gospel is that this union of God in man is pictured in the marital union of man and woman. And we see that this union of God in man is consummated by water and blood. And so Our Lord reveals that He became incarnate so that, by water and blood, He might wed all men to Himself.
13 January 2008
Christ, the Sin Offering
When Our Blessed Lord assumed our flesh, He adhered Himself to our mortality. The unchangeable God was now capable of aging; the impassible was now capable of suffering; the divine was now capable of bleeding; and the eternal God was now capable of dying. Yet the flesh He carefully selected to knit to His divine nature was the pure and holy flesh of the Blessed Virgin Mary. With that flesh He bound Himself to our vulnerability, but He did not bind Himself to our sin. With that flesh, He became mortal but not sinful.
It was not until Our Lord was advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men that He chose to subject His flesh to temptation. It was not until He was ready to accomplish His mission for our sake that Our Lord determined to take up and bear the sin of the world. It was not until He was fully prepared that Our Blessed Lord, who knew no sin, freely determined to be made sin for us, that we might be made the [righteousness] of God in him. And by being “made sin,” we are not saying that Christ became the sinner, but rather that He, the Righteous One in whom all Righteousness abides—He was made by the Father the victim for the sins of the world. (St Cyril of Alexandria; cf. Ambrosiaster; ACC NT VII.252)
Christ Jesus, then, enters the Jordan River to declare that He is determined, He is willing, He is capable and He is ready to be the Lamb of God who is sacrificed so that all men, and all creation, might be freed from the death-curse that sin has brought.
12 January 2008
O Lamb of God! Thou didst enter into the stream to purify it, the Dove came down from heaven, for thy sweet meekness attracted the Spirit of love; and having sanctified the waters, the mystery of thy Baptism was over. But what tongue can express the prodigy of mercy effected by it! Men have gone down after thee into the stream made sacred by contact with thee; they return regenerated; they were wolves, and Baptism has transformed them into lambs. We were defiled by sin, and were unworthy to stand near thee, the spotless Lamb; but the waters of the holy Font have been poured upon us and we are made as the sheep of the Canticle, which come up from the washing fruitful, and none is barren among them (Cant 4.2); or as doves upon the brooks of water, white and spotless as though they had been washed with milk, sitting near the plentiful streams! (Cant 5.12)
Preserve us, O Jesus, in this white robe which thou hast put upon us. If, alas, we have tarnished its purity, cleanse us by that second Baptism, the Baptism of Penance. Permit us, too, dear Lord, to intercede for those countries to whom thy Gospel has not yet been preached; let this river of peace (Is 66.12), the waters of Baptism, flow out upon them, and inundate the whole earth.
We beseech thee, by the glory of thy manifestation at thy Baptism, forget the crimes of men, which have hitherto caused the Gospel to be kept from those unhappy countries. Thy heavenly Father bids every creature hear thee. Speak, dear Jesus, to every creature!
06 January 2008
An Epiphany Sermon from the Fathers
Although in the mystery of the Lord’s Incarnation itself there were clear signs of his eternal divinity, nevertheless today’s feast discloses and reveals in manifold ways that God came into a human body, so that mortality, always developed in darkness, may not lose through ignorance what it has been made worthy of holding and possessing through such great grace. For he who willed to be born for us did not want to remain unknown by us; and so he discloses himself in a way that the great mystery of his merciful kindness may not become a great occasion of error.
Today the Magus finds crying in a cradle the One whom he was seeking as he shown among the stars. Today the Magus admires evident in his swaddling clothes the One whom he experienced as hidden for a long time within the constellations. Today the Magus ponders with deep amazement what he sees and where: heaven on earth, earth in heaven; man in God, God in man; and the One who is not able to be contained in the whole world, he sees confined in a tiny body.
Therefore, because the Magus is unable to figure this out and cannot grasp it, he immediately adores him. For he sees that the stars, the mood, and the sun do not shine as brightly in heaven as the flesh he gazes upon has shed light upon the earth. He sees that in one and the same Body divinity and humanity have merged together in unity. While he believes that the One her is God, recognizes that he is King, and understands that he will die out of love for the human race, his thoughts frighten him as he deliberates how God is able to die, how the Restorer of life can be put to death, and thus the Magus stops searching with ingenuity for what he cannot find with his own ingenuity.
And since he sees that he wandered astray for a ling time in the sky with the wandering stars, he rejoices that on earth he has reached God by the guidance of a single star, and the Magus perceives that everything in the sky that is seen clearly by human eyes lies veiled with profound mysteries, and now that he sees this he acknowledges, as evidenced by the mystical gifts that he offers, that he believes and no longer pries in to it: with incense for God, with gold for the King, and with myrrh for the One who is going to die. He professes his faith in God with incense, and in the King with gold, so that he may now appease with lavish homage the One whom he refused and offended by his prying and impertinent activity, and in order to fulfill what many suppose refers to the eunuch who is also from
The Magus saw Christ; he reached ahead of the Jew with his own hands, because at the time when the Jew was betraying Christ by the wickedness of Herod, the Magus with his gifts was acknowledging that Christ was God. This is why the gentile, who was last, became first, since at that time the faith of the Magi consecrated the belief of the gentiles and denounced the cruelty of the Jews.
 Singular for Magi.
05 January 2008
The Gospel & the Torah
Among the problems through which the apostolic congregations had to find their way, few were as difficult as the connection between the Gospel and the Torah. This question required not only a theological answer, but also practical guidance of a pastoral kind. That is to say, early Christians needed to know, not only how Jesus related to the Law, but also how, in practice, they themselves were related to Judaism. In considerable measure the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of St. Paul were devoted to this double question.
The same twofold problem was addressed in the Gospel of Matthew. For Matthew the question of how the Gospel and the Torah were related was inseparable from the problem of how the Christians were related to Jews. Matthew did not answer this question by simply distinguishing between the Gospel and the Law. He did not say that Christians have the Gospel, while Jews are stuck with the Law.
This rather simple answer, in Matthew's eyes, would have implied a radical discontinuity in the history of salvation. Instead of "fulfilling" the Law and the Prophets, Jesus would simply have abrogated them. There would be no necessary, theological connection between the New Testament and the Old, and Christians would be rootless with respect to history.
Beginning his treatment of this question, Matthew cited the saying of Jesus, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (5:17). And in what sense did Jesus "fulfill" the Law and the Prophets? According to Matthew this "fulfillment" had to do with the teaching of Jesus--the Gospel--as it related to the Torah. And how was the Gospel related to the Torah? By a kind of radical "excess": "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (5:20).