30 January 2008

Pope Benedict XVI & Unity

Last Wednesday (23 Jan 08), in a General Audience commemorating the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity," His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, said the following near the end of his remarks.

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

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, the author of several popular books on Orthodoxy, will present a lecture in metro Detroit on Tuesday, February 19. Metropolitan Kallistos is the author of The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way. His lecture is sponsored by the St. Andrew House.

Below are the details, which were originally posted here.

St. Andrew House presents…...

Renowned Orthodox Writer & Theologian

Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware)

The Future of Orthodoxy

in the United States

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..."

Yet in America, the Ancient Orthodox Church is seen as an “ethnic” church, defined more by the nationality of its members rather than the tenants of the One-True Faith.

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.

Where: St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church

2160 E. Maple Rd

Troy, MI 48083-4483

Tel: 248-589-0480

When: Tuesday, Feb 19th 7:00 PM

Registration: $10.00

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 dcalvert@netscape.com

Visit St Andrew House online

20 January 2008

Three Aspects of Our Lord's Incarnation

The great and wondrous mystery of Our Lord’s incarnation, the mystery of God becoming man, the mystery of the divine nature putting on human flesh, the mystery of Our Lord God becoming all that we are so that we might live in Him and enjoy all that He gives—that great mystery is what we continue to celebrate, not only this Sunday but every Sunday and, in fact, every day. For this is why we were made by God—so that we might not only live with Him, but also live in Him; so that there might not be merely a union of God and man, but the union of man in God.

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

The following is an excerpt from the sermon preached today at Holy Incarnation Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church. Using the propers for Gregorian Use parishes in the Western Rite Vicariate, the sermon is based on the Gospel reading for the Octave of the Epiphany, which is also the Commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord.

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.

Read more.

12 January 2008

Octave Meditation

What follows is a brief meditation, by Dom Prosper Guéranger, on Our Lord's baptism, which is commemorated tomorrow at the Octave of the Epiphany.

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

An except from a sermon for Epiphany Day by St Peter Chrysologus:

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[1] 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 Ethiopia: “Ethiopia will reach out its hands.”

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.

[1] Singular for Magi.

05 January 2008

The Gospel & the Torah

One of my priest-brothers, Fr Patrick Henry Reardon, has recently written a provocative and insight piece concerning the relationship between the Gospel and the Torah. Perhaps you will agree as you read this except. (Regrettably the remainder of this essay, which I received by email, is not yet available online.)

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).

Epiphany - the Manifestation of God in the Flesh

The Feast of the Epiphany, one of the four cardinal feasts of the Church, is the continuation of the mystery of Christ Mass since both feasts celebrate the mystery of God’s manifestation or appearance in the flesh to man. Therefore, this is a day to renew the joy caused by the Holy Incarnation of Our Lord and God.

Since the fourth century, in the Western Church the two feasts have focused first on the manifestation of God in the flesh to the children of Israel, and then on the manifestation of God in the flesh to Gentiles. The Gospel appointed for today indicates a second chief theme that differentiates Epiphany from Christ Mass. While on Christ Mass we heard the angels tell the shepherds to recognize the Word made flesh (“let us see this word”), today we hear of the Magi who come to worship the newborn King (“they adored Him”). Hence, today’s feast urges us both to acknowledge the Lord’s manifestation and to worship Him as He comes to us in the flesh.

To encourage our worship, the prophet Malachi invites us to “behold the Lord the Ruler [who] is come” (Introit); and the prophet Isaiah acclaims that “thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” (Epistle) These prophetic words coax from our hearts and mouths the prayer that “we, who now know [God] by faith, may come at length to see the glory of [His] Majesty.” (Collect)

Finally, the chants in today’s liturgy beseech us to imitate the Magi by presenting gifts. What gift we present is indicated by St. Paul: “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service.” (Rom 12.1)

From the Sunday bulletin for Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church.