Pastoral Musings

mu-sing   /ˈmyo͞o′zĭng/  (noun) : a period of reflection or thought.

On this page will be posted random reflections and thoughts about the Catholic Faith and it’s practice. Nothing written here is meant to be profound, though I hope each piece will be somewhat edifying. Something new should be posted about once per week so please check back.  Thank you! Fr. Paul Beutell

September 12, 208 (Holy Name of Mary)

What does it mean to be holy?  In Hebrew it means sacred, set apart for God’s use.

Who is called to holiness? We all are. 1 Peter 2:9 states “But ye [all Christians] are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” Through Holy Baptism, God calls us out of the darkness of original sin into the marvelous light of Christ.

Being holy does not mean being perfect. In Scripture there are many examples of men who were holy, yet faltered. Some greatly so. Abraham faltered when he thought the promised seed would be fulfilled in Ishmael (Genesis 21:12). Moses faltered when he struck the rock (Deuteronomy 32:51). David faltered when he conducted the census of the people (2 Samuel 24) and of course with Bathsheba!  Elijah faltered on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:4). St. John Baptist faltered while in prison (St. Luke 7:18-23). St. Peter faltered in the court of the high priest (St. Matthew 26:69-75).

Possibly the most stark example of imperfect holiness is St. Paul. In Galatians 1:15, 16 he states God had separated him while he was in his mother’s womb, and yet in 1 Corinthians 15:9 he states he is the “least of the apostles” because he had persecuted the Church. God had set him apart, and yet he resisted that call until he met Jesus face to face on the Damascus road.

These are examples of holiness in Scripture. Each of them is far from perfect. And yet after faltering each repented and fulfilled their calling.

There is one person though who exemplifies perfect holiness. As perfect that is for one born of human parents. That person is the Blessed Virgin Mary. From before the foundation of the world God set her apart to be the sacred tabernacle for His only-begotten Son.

God did not randomly choose “just any woman” for this penultimate blessing! In Isaiah 7:10-14 God told Ahaz, king of Judah what He was going to do…a virgin would conceive. Galatians 4:4 states this was fulfilled “…when the fullness of time had come.” What fullness is he speaking of? The genealogies of St. Matthew 1:1-17 and St. Luke 3:23-38 tell us. We often think “Why do we need to read that stuff?” Here is why. In the eternal council of the Godhead it was determined that in the 14th generation after the Babylonian captivity the Messiah would be born. God had determined that was the ‘fullness of time.’ Mary had been chosen. God had known her before He formed her in the womb of St. Anne and appointed her to be the mother of His Son (i.e. Jeremiah 1:5).

Mary accepted her calling when she gave her fiat (St. Luke 1:38) and then pondered Jesus in her heart daily throughout her life (St. Luke 2:51). She was at the foot of the cross when Jesus died, and remained with the apostles afterwards (Acts 1:14) before humbly fading from the pages of Scripture; her work too being finished.  Her love for her Son and Savior was undying.

Because of her most excellent example of holiness, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Mary. She of all the saints; of all those who have been set apart for God’s exclusive use, can be honored in this way. Of course her holiness is different from that of Jesus’! Mary’s holiness is derivative. She derives her holiness from her Holy Son. Jesus’ holiness is self-given. He is holy because He is Eternal God and the Son of God. This distinction is extremely important, but it does not diminish Mary’s holiness.

When I meditate upon the holiness of Mary I think of Psalm 45:13-15 “The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king’s palace.”

The image here is striking. The psalmist is describing the throne room of the great King. His daughter is brought in garbed with the most beautiful handmade, gold garments. She is a pure virgin, as are all the women who accompany her. She enters with gladness and brings great joy to the palace. This is the Blessed Virgin Mary! Though in the fullness of time she is Jesus’ mother, in eternal time she is a daughter of the King. Her spiritual beauty is glorious. She is holy. And so is her name.

Each of us is called to be holy. Even if to this point we have faltered, we can still fulfill our calling today. God has set us apart through Baptism. He feeds us with the Holy Eucharist. Like the Blessed Virgin Mary we must daily give our fiat and then follow the way laid out for us. We can be holy, as He is holy.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

September 7, 2018 (Saint Evaritus, Bishop and Confessor)

I love baseball. I played it through high school (I wasn’t very good, but I loved it!). Of all the sports it is the only one I still watch consistently.

I’ve recently noticed that players have become much more argumentative with umpires over balls and strikes. Of course players and managers have always argued over this, but with the advent of “strike zone technology” players expect perfection from umpires. There have even been calls, from credible baseball people, to replace human, home plate umpires with electronic umpires. I think that would be a bad idea on several levels, the most important being there is no perfection in any other place in sports.

What the players forget is they too make mistakes. A lot of them. Pitcher’s don’t execute the right pitch when needed. Cather’s don’t block balls in the dirt all the time. Infielder’s misplay easy ground balls and outfielder’s fly balls. Both make bad throws.

I think one way to curb, if not stop all the complaining about balls and strikes is this…

Every time a player makes a mistake; not just errors recorded by the official scorer, any mistake, three fans get to come out of the stands, run up to that player and berate him for his poor play for one minute. The fans can’t go over the top with their criticism, just single the player out and let him know that as a professional ball player, being paid hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, he is expected to be make every play with perfection. Nothing less than that is permitted!

Of course this will never happen. Like the world in general, professional baseball players love to point out the errors of umpires, but overlook (if not excuse) their own.

The current players do not realize how much better umpires have become with calling balls and strikes.  I can recall the 1995 World Series. “My” Indians were playing the Atlanta Braves (what a politically incorrect Series that was!). The Brave’s pitchers, and especially Greg Maddox, were given the widest strike zone I’ve ever seen!  Look at the video on You Tube. It’s unbelievable!  It may have cost the Indians the Series that year?

Since the introduction of strike zone technology, all umpires (in the Major Leagues at least) are graded on their ability to call balls and strikes. The umpires themselves review their games and see if they are calling them according to the rule book. Since this has started, rarely do you see an umpire with a ridiculous strike zone. Yes, a few like “Cowboy” Joe West still think they are above the game (or that people came to watch him umpire) and call what they want, but for the most part umpires that cannot consistently call balls and strikes are weeded out. Most “missed” calls (and the technology still isn’t perfect, so how do we know for sure) are mere inches off the plate. I think umpiring is far better today than ever.

The use of technology as a training tool is great. It has really helped the game overall. But going to an electronic home plate umpire would be like giving pitchers goggles that would allow them to zero in on the exact place to throw his next pitch or batters goggles to show them exactly how to swing at each pitch. Such technology would make the game more “prefect”, but then it would no longer be the game I love.

So what does this have to do with Christianity? Maybe not much, but I touched on what I’m thinking about earlier.

So many in this world are expecting perfection from others, but excuse their own imperfections. They’ll berate the minimum wage fast food worker for slow service while excusing their own poor service in their $50k per year job. Many try to remove the sliver from their brother’s eye when they have a two by four in their own.

That teaching of Jesus’ (St. Matthew 7:1-4 and St. Luke 6:37-42) is often (mis) used to say we should never judge. That’s incorrect exegesis. Jesus is teaching we must be prudent with our judgments. We cannot judge others by a standard we do not judge ourselves with. We cannot look to the small faults of others when we have large faults of our own. St. Paul said he was the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Did he mean he sinned more than anyone else? No. He realized that for him, given his knowledge of and relationship with Christ, he sinned greatly. I think of this in terms of St. James 4:17 “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” St. Paul knew God was calling him to a high standard of holiness, and in failing that standard he was the chief of sinners.

We need to judge what is right and wrong, moral and immoral, sinful and not sinful. But we must do so with wise discretion, realizing we too do wrong, immoral and sinful things. We cannot judging others while excusing ourselves. And when we do have to judge others, we need to be cautious, and if the sin affects us, be forgiving.

We all sin. We all make mistakes. We need to remember this when we point out the faults of others. Baseball players need to remember this too.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

August 28, 2018 (St. Augustine of Hippo, Bishop and Doctor)

I walked into a convenience store yesterday and saw the front page headline of the Roanoke Times reporting Pope Francis was not going to respond to the written testimony of a retired Archbishop on the cover up of the homosexual abuse incidents involving a Roman cardinal in the US.

I’ve tried to avoid giving attention to this issue since it broke a few weeks ago because, after all, we all know Anglicans live in a glass house. Throwing stones is not a good idea. But when a paper in Southwest Virginia, where the population is less than 2% Catholic, puts an article about the Pope on the front page, it’s a big issue and should be considered.

I’m not going to get into the details of the scandal. It’s horrible. No need to pile on. Plus, I think the situation overall is actually a symptom of a greater problem.

I think the core problem here is papal ecclesiology itself. The papal office has too much centralized authority with too little accountability. As the saying goes “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We’ve seen this at other times in the Church’s history, but in today’s 24 / 7, world-wide news cycle we have the chance to see it in great detail

In Scripture, St. Peter is the undoubted leader of the apostolic band. His name is first in each list of the Apostles and after the Ascension he is out front of the twelve leading, preaching and evangelizing.

But when the Apostles met to choose the successor to Judas (Acts 1:15-26), St. Peter did not choose him on his own. The 120 lay persons were involved in choosing the two candidates. Once they were chosen, Peter did not select which of them would fill Judas’ office; the twelve, together, cast lots and let the Holy Ghost decide.

In St. Paul’s instructions to SS. Timothy and Titus on consecrating bishops, nowhere does it say “And be sure to send the names of the men chosen to St. Peter so he can approve them beforehand…”  St. Peter, nor the Church at Rome, were involved.

In the earliest years of the Church the local clergy and laity were involved in the selection and election of bishops. Whether actual ballots were cast, or voting was by known reputation or voice acclamation is not clear, but the laity were surely involved. If the other bishops did not agree with the choice they could refuse to enact or participate in the consecration. This provided checks and balances to the process.

Pope Leo I (AD 440-461) emphatically affirmed the right of the local clergy and laity being involved when he wrote: “The one who is to preside over all should be elected by all…When the election of the chief priest is being considered, the one whom the unanimous consent of the clergy and people demands should be preferred. … No one who is unwanted and unasked for should be ordained, lest the city despise or hate a bishop whom they did not choose.”

In the current papal system, the pope has the sole say in all consecrations. Candidates are typically selected by other bishops or papal legates and their names forwarded to the Pope. The Pope rarely if ever knows anything about the men, except what is written in their dossier. Some may go to Rome to meet with him briefly.  The result of this system has been the formation of a “good ‘ol boys network.”

Those standing outside of the Anglican glass house with stones in their hands are now saying “Yeah, but the Anglican system of electing bishops hasn’t gone so well.” True, in the Canterbury Communion and The Episcopal Church it did not. In part this is due to its own form of  “the network.” But inherent in the Anglican system is the right, given in Scripture (2 Corinthians 6:14-18), to separate from a hierarchy that perverts the Faith and practice of the Church, which the Continuing Churches did in 1978. The Roman Church (defying Scripture) has no such right in place. In the RCC, to separate from the papal office is to separate from the source of grace. It’s quite a conundrum for faithful RC’s.

My point here is, the root problem of this scandal is papal ecclesiology; the way the RCC selects, elects and consecrates bishops, and then promotes them within their church. There are no real checks and balances. Accountability only seems to occur when bishops get caught in crimes or sin.

There is a solution though. The Roman Church should totally reform their system. They need to reform to a system that more closely models Scripture and Tradition. The Pope can still be involved, as part of the checks and balances, but not as the sole authority. (It should be noted that I’ve read articles written by RC sources from as early as 2015 proposing the same).

It must be said there are many godly, orthodox and faithful bishops and cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church. But as this current scandal unfolds, it can be seen that many of those who have the most power are either corrupt themselves, or are willing to cover up for those who are corrupt.

I’m not happy to see what is going on here. Not at all. When one branch of the Church hurts, the whole of the Church hurts. We must pray for all involved; and especially for lay persons whose souls are being tortured, not wanting to support such evil, but fearing being cut off from grace.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

August 16, 2018 (St. Joachim, Father for the Blessed Virgin Mary)

There are four reasons why Catholics should have a burial mass…

  1. To worship Jesus Christ. The mass is the ultimate form of worship. It is the only form Jesus gave to His Church. It is the only form taught in the New Testament. It is the form that was used throughout the whole Church until the Reformation, when various sects began to opt for preaching-centered services. The mass should be the way we worship and thank God for each of the important events of life: Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony, and even death. For a Christian, death is truly a passing on to the new and everlasting life; much more a beginning than an end. We should give worship to God for this, even in our grief. As Job said when he had lost all his children “…the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21).
  2. To offer the Sacrifice of Christ for the repose of the departed person’s soul. This ideal is so lost today. Even we as Anglican Catholics have become so “protestantized” here! We take for granted that every person who is baptized goes directly to heaven. That’s not the case. The faithful departed go to Paradise, where they continue to grow in grace and in their love and knowledge of Christ. At the moment of death, few are ready to see Christ face to face. Paradise is the place the soul is prepared for the Beatific Vision. The faithful departed need our prayers during their time of preparation there, just as we need their prayers during our time of probation here on earth. While it is true those prayers can be offered using the Prayer Book’s Burial Office, there is nothing more powerful than offering those prayers through the one, perfect sacrifice of Christ re-presented in the holy sacrifice of the mass. We all live imperfect lives. Many live them with marginal faith and faithfulness. Our prayers cannot “give heaven” to anyone, but they can aid them in whatever preparation they must go through in order to face Christ on that Day. 2 Maccabees 12:39-45 is a powerful teaching on this. Also read 1 Corinthians 3:12-15.
  3. To remind us of our own mortality, our need to prepare spiritually for death and to renew our faith in the resurrection. This is so overlooked today! A burial mass with its solemn tone, its black vestments, its Scripture lessons on death and resurrection and, at least for me, the singing or recitation of the haunting sequence Dies Irae (Day of Wrath), reminds us, the living, that we need to prepare ourselves for the day when we will be the one laying in the casket. Yes, we have the hope; the real hope, of resurrection! But that hope must be based on a life of faith and faithfulness (obedience) to Christ and His Word. The burial mass (any requiem) reminds us of this fact.
  4. To thank God for the life of the departed person. The sole intention of a burial mass is the person being buried. We thank God for giving him or her life. We thank God that He chose them for baptism (Ephesians 1:4,5). We thank God they were raised in the Church and received the other Sacraments. Hopefully we can thank God they kept the Faith. This is the “celebratory” nature of a burial mass. In the panegyric, the address given by the priest between the completion of the mass and the dismissal of the body, statements about the faithfulness of the deceased can be included, but it is not a eulogy! There should not be a eulogy in a mass! Eulogies can be given at the wake in the funeral home before the mass or at the burial site after the mass.

In the contemporary Western Church most, if not all four of these reasons have been lost. Protestant churches have turned burial services into ridiculous “celebrations of life” complete with slide shows and favorite contemporary Christian or secular songs and storytelling. Some traditional Baptists turn it into an opportunity to get people saved. Rome now vests the priest and veils the casket in white. All the solemnity has not been removed, but as with just about every Roman mass today, even burial masses are about getting as many people “participating” as possible. It’s “family and friends on parade” to read the Scripture lessons, to sing this piece or play that piece of music, to give a eulogy (or worst) a “spiritual address.” These participants are not vetted by the priest to see if they practice the Catholic, or even the Christian faith!  Even if they are vetted, such things should not be part of the Church’s most sacred act of worship!

While our ACC churches have not yet gone the way of all flesh here, as a priest I’ve seen and received increasingly more requests to interject such things. Most often now people are not having burial masses, and are opting for the Prayer Book’s Burial Office. This is unfortunate. Typically the reason is, they don’t want to offend non-Catholic friends, or because few will receive (or many should not receive) the Eucharist. I understand both of these to a point, but both overlook the four reasons for the burial mass. The burial mass is for the departed person; for the repose of their soul! The wake, the gathering after the mass or the burial, those are for the living. We should not underestimate the teaching ability of the mass.

But, if a person decides to have a Prayer Book Burial Office service, or (please God no) just a memorial service (which should not be done in the church, have it in the funeral home chapel), encourage them to have a private requiem mass said too. This way the departed person is given the best gift for their journey into new and everlasting life; the perfect Sacrifice of Jesus, offered just for them, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

August 9, 2018 (St. John Marie Baptist Vianney, Confessor)

Is the use of capital punishment licit? Is it morally permissible by God?

Yes it is.

The foundation for this doctrine is given in the covenant God made with Noah after the flood. Genesis 9:6 states “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”

The allowance for capital punishment legitimately develops throughout Scripture.

The Old Testament allows for its use in the case of murder, rape, adultery, sorcery and false prophecy. These were not absolute commands, for often God spared the lives of people who committed them. But there was an absolute allowance for it.

In the New Testament the use of capital punishment develops in the direction of the state (legitimate governing authorities) and away from individuals or mobs. Jesus deterred the mob from stoning the women caught in adultery (St. John 8:1-11), yet He acknowledges Pilate’s authority to put Him to death (St. John 19:9-11) and does not dispute it when the “good thief” on the cross acknowledges the same thing in St. Luke 23:39-43. In Acts 25:7-12 St. Paul acknowledges the authority of the Roman Government to execute him if he is found guilty of a capital crime.

Romans 13:1-7 is the most direct passage giving the state the authority to use capital punishment. Verse 3-5 states “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” St. Peter teaches the same thing in 1 Peter 2:13-17.

The right of the state to use capital punishment is taught in Sacred Tradition. St. Augustine (and later St. Thomas Aquinas) wrote clear teachings on its use. Whether or not the use of this right is prudent, and if so under what conditions it should and should not be used, is discussed and disputed by the Fathers, but the right of the state to utilize capital punishment is not disputed.

There is no doubt then that the use of capital punishment, by legitimate governmental authorities, is licit. The Bishops of the branches of the Church, along with knowledgeable lay men and women, should continue to discuss its prudency, and for what crimes and under what conditions associated with those crimes, it should be used, but whether it is admissible cannot legitimately be disputed. The Church as a whole, nor any one branch of it, cannot legitimately say the use of capital punishment is inadmissible.

A primary argument posited by those who say the use of capital punishment is illicit is that its use destroys the human dignity of the person executed. It is a poor argument, based on humanism and not theology. Genesis 9:6 states the very reason God says capital punishment is licit is because man is made in His image! Since God is the sole author of life, He should be the sole determiner of when life should end. When a man or woman usurps God’s authority and takes an innocent life (this is what murder is, the taking of innocent life), he or she gravely, and permanently, offends the dignity of the victim. The price the murderer is to pay for such a grave offense is the loss of his own life.

There is a difference between the ontological dignity of man and the moral dignity of man. Man’s ontological dignity can never be lost. All human persons are created in the image and likeness of God and that dignity cannot be lost. But man can mar, and even lose, his moral dignity. When we sin we mar our moral dignity but not our ontological dignity. This is what God judges (see Genesis 4:10-15). When a person who commits murder is sentenced to capital punishment his moral dignity is judged by the state, his ontological dignity is not.

The purpose of capital punishment is three fold: to proclaim God’s supremacy over evil, reparation for the offense (“a life for a life”) and the protection of societal order (deterrence), and to allow the offender the opportunity to repent so he or she may still inherit eternal life by receiving God’s forgiveness. None of them should be set aside when discussing this matter.

When capital punishment should be implemented will always be a matter worthy of dispute, but its legitimacy should not be. Some governments use it very broadly; often for offenses that we in the United States (most of the west) believe are not right. I’m very uncomfortable seeing it used in our country based upon circumstantial evidence alone. There have been a number of cases when persons on death row were later released when DNA or other, and better, direct evidence proved their innocence.

What the Church and Christians cannot say, and remain faithful to Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, is the use of capital punishment is in itself morally wrong, and is therefore inadmissible. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition plainly teach it is admissible; it is morally right. Some people may not understand why, but then God’s ways are infinitely higher than ours.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

August 1, 2018 (St. Peter’s Chains)

There are a lot of really cool stories in Scripture. Jacob wrestling with an angel. Sampson killing the Philistines with the jaw bone of an ass. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego being preserved in the fiery furnace. These are just a few.

But one of my favorites is St. Peter being released from prison by an Angel; a story found in Acts 12:1-19.  There are several cool things about this incident, but the part I like best is how the angel led Peter past all the guards with the doors and gates opening before them. There are several good theological lessons in this incident.

Scripture tells us St. Peter was cast into prison four times in his life. The first time was with St. John (Acts 4:1-22). The second with all the Apostles (Acts 5:17-42). The third time alone. The fourth time in Rome, where he wrote his second epistle.

The first three times Peter was imprisoned God miraculously released him. The final time He did not.  What does that mean? Does it mean God no longer loved Peter? Does it mean God was punishing him? Does it mean God had abandoned him? No! God still loved Peter. He was not punishing him or abandoning him by not having him released that fourth time. God was showing Peter, and us, that He uses every circumstance; the “good” and the “bad” to draw us closer to Him, not to hurt us! Everything He does in our life, He does because He loves us.

We must always remember that God’s “end game” is to save us, in Christ, for eternity. He will allow, or do, whatever is necessary for us to respond by faith to Him. And He knows what we need in every situation.

Romans 8:35-39 reminds us “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

God does not stop loving us even when we are “imprisoned” by the circumstances of life.

We need to remember this! Maybe we have an illness, say cancer. It has gone into remission once or maybe more than once. But this time it’s not. The same procedures and medicines, and newer, stronger ones are not working. The disease has us imprisoned. We are facing death. This does not mean God has abandoned us!  It does not mean God is punishing us! He is preparing us to be with Him. He is using the circumstances to sharpen our focus on Him. He could be using us to minister to others in the midst of our illness?

We see this when we read 2 Peter (his fourth imprisonment). There he was in the Mamertine prison; the worst of all the prisons in Rome. It was death row. Many died in the prison itself. Though he knows he is about to die (see 1:13-15), there is not one word about his condition in this epistle. Not that it would’ve been wrong had he mentioned it, but he did not. He had reached the point in his life where Jesus words to him in St. John 21 “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?…Feed my sheep” had fully resonated. Throughout the entire epistle St. Peter is feeding his sheep; knowing they will be the last words he will share with the flock.

What Jesus said to him in St. John 21:18, 19 was being fulfilled “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not…Follow me.”

Peter was following Jesus…unto death. We need to follow Him too.

You or someone close to you may be facing a circumstance that has you imprisoned. Illness or injury, disease, addiction, loss. God has not abandoned you in it!  He has not!  His love for us is so real that He gave His only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus, to die for us. That is an extreme measure of love. If He so loves us, and He does, He will never abandon us.

I pray that if you are imprisoned by such a circumstance that you do as St. Peter did. Keep feeding the sheep, even if that lamb is yourself. If you know someone who is imprisoned by one of them, please do not leave them alone in it. Do not let them feel abandoned as St. Paul did in 2 Timothy 4:6-12 (written when he was in the Mamertine). If you have been abandoned by others, know you are not alone. You are not!  2 Timothy 4:16-18 states “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me…Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me… and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

When everyone else forsook St. Paul, God did not! He will not forsake us either.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

July 25, 2018 (St. James, Apostle and Martyr)

Fifty years ago today Paul VI, Bishop of Rome released his papal encyclical entitled Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life). While I’m no fan of the papacy, in this case I must give Paul VI credit for being courageous, if not prophetic, in this document.

Consider what was going on in the world at the time. In the East, Communism was in full strength with its false ideology of socialism (which to them meant controlling all aspects of human population and behavior). The Soviet Union controlled all of Eastern Europe and East Germany. Its ideologies were spreading like wild fire in Latin and South American countries. In Western Europe Christianity was dying. In the U.S. the Vietnam War was at its height. Marxism and Freudian psychology were infecting college campuses. Increased drug abuse and “free love” were being practiced as ways to expand the mind and free the body. The sexual revolution was in full swing.

Into this turmoil stepped Paul VI. He undoubtedly knew he would be criticized. Many of his own counselors told him not to release the document. The story is he was on the cusp of not releasing it, but after spending time alone, in prayer, he did. And thank God he did!  While few listened to him, even in the Roman Church, what he wrote needed to be written. Fifty years later Humanae Vitae has proven itself to be prophetic.

I hope you have read the document, but if not, please do. It is only 16 pages long and is readily found online. While Paul VI’s purpose was to warn the world about the affects of the growing use of artificial contraception, it was not his purpose to merely wag his finger at the world. He also exalted the gift God has given to man in human sexuality and moreover the gift of grace given in our Lord Jesus Christ.

I am not theologically adept enough to explain the document’s teaching in this space, and really there is no need. Many fine articles have already done that.

I would though like to give a few of my own thoughts…

Human sexuality is a gift God has given exclusively to one man and one woman who have entered into marriage (the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony). Within that relationship the couple is free to engage in sexuality in all “lawful” means. Those lawful means are to unite the couple as one, to procreate and to fulfill their God-given sexuality (Proverbs 5:19). This does not mean the couple should use each other to indulge all their fantasies.  Hebrews 13:4 is a sound guide “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” Sexual acts within marriage are not sinful. But when a couple replicates the practices of the sexually promiscuous and perverse, indulging sexual lusts, then God will judge it.

I was five years old when Humanae Vitae was published. In my twelve years of Roman Catholic School I was never taught anything about it. My eighth grade teacher (a nun) tried to teach us a little about proper sexuality, but we giggled at her so much she left the room in tears. Whatever she tried to teach us was wiped away by the priest who taught my tenth grade morality class!

My point is, I came into my marriage totally ignorant of proper, marital sexuality. I was married in the Roman Church, and we were introduced to their Natural Family Planning, but it was presented as a suggested choice. I recall several couples angrily scoffing at it.

I knew what any Christian should; that once I was married I was not to commit adultery. As one who knew some Scripture, I knew this meant both physical and mental adultery. But other than that, my information came from the world and the counsel of Protestant Christian friends, each of whom were ‘all in’ on artificial contraception.

My wife did not conceive our first child until after I was ordained a deacon in the REC in 1995. Eighteen months later we had our second son. Three years later we had our third (just after I was ordained priest). After the third child, the bishop I had at the time made it a point to talk to me about permanent forms of contraception. He felt it would be “irresponsible” on my part to burden a congregation I might have cure over in the future to have to provide a salary for a priest with a large family. To my shame I accepted his counsel. But as St. Paul writes “…where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:” (Romans 5:20).

Sadly, it was the Lambeth Conference in 1930 that first endorsed the use of contraception by married couples as responsible family planning. Though opposed by eminent Anglican Divines like Charles Gore, Bishop of Oxford, it still passed overwhelmingly. Maybe this is why the Episcopal Church, USA was the first to approve of abortion on demand in 1967, the seeds being planted 37 years earlier? The ACC accepts the 1930 Lambeth position on contraception. I pray that will change one day.

The biggest problems with artificial contraception are how it fosters a lack of trust in grace and how it affects our faith. Do we believe that God’s grace is sufficient to help us control our sexual desires? Or put another way; is sexuality outside of the reach of grace? Is it insufficient? Do Christian, married couples have sufficient faith to go before God in prayer and ask Him to guide them in building their families?  To trust that God’s plan for their marriage includes children, in His time? So many godly married couples trust every other area of life to God accept their sexuality. Contraception, and moreover the “contraceptive mentality” greatly aid this lack of faithfulness.

In 1968 Paul VI made four “predictions” about the effect contraception would have on society. Fifty years later they have proven to be prophetic. Here they are:

  1. an increase in marital infidelity.
  2. a “general lowering of morality.”
  3. men increasingly using women as “mere instruments of selfish enjoyment” rather than as cherished partners (today, many women have joined them in their use of men).                                                                                                                             4. an imposition of contraception by unscrupulous governments.

Undoubtedly all four of these have rung true, and are increasing!  Moreover, abortion has increased as an ultimate means of “contraception.” The driving force behind abortion on demand is not that most men and women want to kill their babies!  No, they want the “freedom” to have sex without the responsibility of marriage and / or parenthood.

On this fiftieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae I pray that at least all the Catholic Churches would see the evidence, and teach human sexuality in light of Paul VI’s teaching. It is not some “Medieval” document with “prudish views” of sexuality!  It was written on the cusp of the sexual revolution in the west. It has proven itself to be true (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

May we understand that the aberrant sexual behavior we see today has its roots in the sexual freedom fostered by the contraception mentality so many churches have accepted and teach; either verbally or by their silence against it.  If we want to see the sinful fruit of the contemporary aberrant sexual movement whither and die, then we must first kill its roots.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

July 18, 2018 (St. Bernard Mizeski, Martyr)

Having spent last week surrounded by children, I’ve been reminded that Satan has their souls on the top of his “hit list.” While he roams about like a lion seeking to devour any soul he can (1 Peter 5:8, 9), I think he particularly wants to devour the souls of children.

Children are marked, set apart by God in a special way. We tend to cringe more when we read about the holy innocents murdered by Herod the Great (St. Matthew 2:16-18) than we do about the murdered Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with his pagan sacrifices (St. Luke 13:1, 2).

Children are the presence of innocence in the Church. Children are trusting. They believe what they are told. Try to convince a child that what their father or mother has told them isn’t true is nearly impossible. The last person a child looses faith in is their parent. They have an almost blind trust in them.

Jesus says we all must have this sort of innocence, this sort of faith and trust. Remove this presence from the Church and what remains is a group of leathered and often jaded Christians concerned only about themselves. While churches are wrong to cater their worship services to children, they need to give great tolerance to them. They will make some noise during mass!  Don’t chase them and their parents away with angry looks or cold body language!

In St. Matthew 18:3 Jesus says “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus is not saying we are to remain immature in our faith. Hebrews 5:12, 13 states we need to move beyond the “milk” of the Faith to “meat.” And yet we must not lose our desire for the milk (1 Peter 2:2). We must continue to hunger and thirst after righteousness. We must remain trustful and innocent in our faith. We need to always believe what Jesus says the way a child does.  We must hold the faith.

When Satan devours the souls of children; when he gets them to lose their baptismal innocence and trust in Christ, he gets a huge foothold in the Church’s future. Parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts need to be very mindful of this, and guard the hearts, minds and souls of the little ones whom they have care of and influence over. Be the counterbalance to the world in their lives. Bring them to church! Take them to the local VBS, even if it’s not at your church (be careful what church it is at though). Introduce them to the hymns of the Church, or even let them listen to contemporary Christian music (drawing the distinction that it is no appropriate for worship services). Build them up in the Faith!  Teach them. Encourage them.

I’m amazed that parents will invest tens of thousands of dollars into sports, dance, music and other social activities for their children, but invest nearly nothing into their faith.  In fact how often do they have their kids (whole family) miss mass for social activities? A lot for some. There is no way God is pleased by this. Even if our sons and daughters have the skill to get totally free college tuition or become a professional athlete, dancer or musician; what good is that if they lose their souls in the process? (St. Matthew 16:26). Or maybe worse, become lukewarm in their faith (Revelation 3:15-17). Woe to us as adults if we lead these little ones away from Christ in the pursuit of worldly things (St. Matthew 18:6).

When Satan devours the soul of a child he not only has them, but could devour the souls in their future too. If Satan devours a young boy, he will not share and build the faith in his future wife. He will not share and build the faith in his future children. In his work he will not be the presence of Christ amongst his fellow employees (and if he is the boss, in that whole business). He will not bring Christ’s presence to the clubs he joins and the other men he befriends. By devouring the soul of just one young boy, Satan can negatively influence (if not eventually devour) the souls of all those whom he will interact with for the rest of his life!

These are just two reasons why Satan so lustfully desires the souls of children. He can remove the presence of innocence from the Church and he can affect the future growth of the Faith in the lives of many others. We see both happening in the Church today.

So then let us pray for children every day. The Prayer Book provides a marvelous prayer for them on page 43. There is another one for parents (and grandparents) on page 596. We should also pray the prayer For Religious Education on page 42.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

July 10, 2017 (Feria)

“Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.“  St. Matthew 19:13, 14

The 2018 DMAS Youth Camp is being held this week at a camp in Mechanicsville, VA. I’m blessed to be one of the camp counselors.  Our diocese has been hosting a camp for over 25 years now, 22 at the current location. It’s great to be around the young children of the Church. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen often enough for me so I’m “rusty,” but getting back up to speed.

This year’s camp is about prayer. We’re using art, music and teaching to instruct the campers about prayer. So, what will we be learning?

We’ll learn prayer is a conversation with God. In a good conversation we both talk and listen. In prayer, we do both too. We talk to God, and He talks back to us through Scripture, in our spirits and in the many ways He answers (which at times may be “No”).

We’ll learn we can pray any time, any place and for anything. We can pray in the morning, at noon and in the night. Psalm 119:164 states “Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments.” This number “seven” can mean seven actual times, or more likely it means “full” or “all the time.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 St. Paul states we should “Pray without ceasing.”

We can pray at church, at home, while sitting in traffic or out in public. We can pray in a prison cell, as St. Paul did. We can pray in a fiery furnace as the three holy Hebrew children did (Daniel 3:16-26). We can pray in a lion’s den as Daniel did (Daniel 6:16-28). We can even pray from the belly of a whale as Jonah did (Jonah 2:1-10)!

We can pray for ourselves, for others, for needs, for guidance, for health, for grace…You name it and we can pray for it! We can pray with our thoughts (mediation / contemplation), with our words and with our actions.

Broadly speaking there are four parts to prayer. These four parts can be remembered using the acronym ACTS. Prayer should include ADORATION, CONFESSION, THANKSGIVING and SUPPLICATIONS (prayers for us and others). We can have all four parts in one prayer and should certainly have them in each prayer session.

The Book of Common Prayer is a great instrument for teaching prayer.  In it there are prayers with all four parts; some are obvious and some more subtle. In it there are prayers we can use verbatim and from which we learn how to structure extemporaneous prayer. Here at camp we will use the Prayer Book in the teaching sessions, but it’s likely the campers will learn as much about it as we use it twice per day for Morning and Evening Prayer.  We will also have an instructed Eucharist during the week and the “Camp Mass.”  These help instill the Anglican prayer tradition in the campers.

All of this is pretty elementary, I know. But it should be. The campers are ages 8-14. But even the adults here are learning by being reminded of the basics. This is at least part of what Jesus means when He says “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.….” (St. Matthew 18:3). No matter how old or mature we grow to be, we are still God’s children!  We want always to receive the teachings of His kingdom with the grace, trust and faith of a child. We’re never too old or mature for Him.

The one thing I hope the campers learn this week is that prayer is primarily about building a living, dynamic and personal relationship with God. While corporate prayer is to be conducted “…with decency and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:40), individual prayer can be whatever we need it to be.

Sometimes we will approach God as Father. Sometimes we will approach Him as Abba (Daddy).  Sometimes we will cry. Sometimes we will laugh. Sometimes we will question. Sometimes we will express angst. As we read the Psalms we see a whole array of emotions and approaches. So long as we don’t blur the line between who is God and who is not (me, any of us) then we can go to God in prayer in whatever way we need to, at any time we need to. Prayer should be something we want to do! We should want to talk with God.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

July 4, 2018 (American Independence Day)

As I was driving to the parish this past weekend, I saw a sign on one of the local churches which read “Freedom is the Pearl of Great Price.”

I disagree.

Freedom is no doubt a gift. It is a gift from God. It is one of those good and perfect gifts from above, that comes down to us from the Father of lights (St. James 1:17). But it is not the Pearl of Great Price!

I believe in freedom. I agree with the framers of the Constitution who wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I believe in liberty. I pray daily that our country will always defend these rights for Christians (BCP pg. 36). All Christians should. But freedom and liberty are not the Pearl of Great Price.

Jesus tells us what the Pearl of Great Price is in St. Matthew 13. In that chapter Jesus is teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven. He uses His parables of the Sower and The Seed (vs. 1-23), the Wheat and Tares (vs. 24-30 and 36-43) and the Mustard Seed (31-35) to teach on the Kingdom. Then in verses 45 and 46 He says “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” From these verses, following after the parables Jesus taught in this chapter, we learn that the Pearl of Great Price is eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. There is no other Pearl of Great Price.

It is important to understand this.

We can lose our political freedom. We can lose our social liberty. If we lose either or both, we do not lose the Pearl of Great Price!  In St. Luke 17:21 Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is not merely a place, a location in the heavens. No, the Kingdom of Heaven dwells within all who believe in Jesus Christ by faith. In Ephesians 2:6 St. Paul states that in Christ we are, today, in a real sense seated in that place.  In 1 John 4:17 we are told “…as [Jesus} is, so are we in this world.”  No government, no loss of freedom or liberty can take that away from us!

Think of the life of St. Paul. He was a Roman citizen, endowed with all the freedom and liberty a Roman citizen could have (Acts 16:36-38 and 22:27, 28). And yet when his political freedom and social liberty were taken from him (for preaching the Kingdom of Heaven and, in Nero’s mind, challenging Rome’s political power) St. Paul did not lose his freedom or his liberty in Christ. He certainly did not lose the Pearl of Great Price.

We as Christians find our liberty in Christ, not in the state. 2 Corinthians 3:17 states “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” In Galatians 5:1 St. Paul writes “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free…” In Galatians 5:13 he writes “…brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”  In these instances St. Paul is speaking specifically about our liberty from the Law. If Christ transcends the Law of Moses, He certainly transcends the laws of men and governments. Our liberty and freedom is in Christ.

Political freedom and social liberty are fleeting. They can be decreased and even taken away. But our freedom and liberty in Christ cannot!  Freedom and liberty are good. They are good and perfect gifts from the Father of lights. But, they are not the Pearl of Great Price.

As we celebrate Independence Day let us be thankful for the political freedom and social liberty we have as citizens of a great nation. But moreover let us be thankful for our freedom and liberty in Christ, and that in Him, we possess the Pearl of Great Price.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

July 2, 2018 (Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

I wish I could say I became an Anglican Catholic from the moment I attended my first ACC mass.  I didn’t. It actually took me several years to come into the church.

I was raised Roman Catholic during the very turbulent early years after Vatican II.  In those days the “two integrities” of that church were on open display. On the weekdays when I served at the school mass for the nuns I saw the Latin mass, on Sundays I saw guitars at my home parish. The traditional morality taught to me by the nuns in grade school was contradicted by the priests in high school.

I fell away from that church in my late teens, and after my conversion as a young adult I primarily attended Evangelical churches for the next ten years (with a brief return to the RCC in the late 80’s). In the Evangelical churches I heard an emphasis on Scripture which touched me deeply. Since I did not understand proper hermeneutics I didn’t realize they essentially interpreted it privately (2 Peter 1:16-21), each pastor having his own “take.” But it did open me up to a love of the Word.

I was introduced to Anglicanism in 1994. At the time I attended my first service, I was an evangelical looking for some stability in worship (liturgy) and doctrine. I found both in the Reformed Episcopal Church. The REC wasn’t Catholic, but that’s not what I was looking for at the time. I joined the REC a few months after attending my first service.

I first heard of the ACC in 1997. By then I was a deacon in the REC and taking seminary classes through online distance learning working my way towards being a presbyter. When I became connected to the internet I started searching for other Anglican bodies (checking out the “competition”) and found there were two ACC parishes within driving distance. Being curious I visited both for week day mass. I liked what I saw. It reminded me of the weekday masses I served at in the Roman Church as a boy, except the liturgy was in English! (how many times did I wish for that while serving).

It was seven years from the time I first heard of the ACC until the time I joined in 2004. Through those years I was aided by several wonderful priests from various diocese of the church. Even though I brought many years of ecclesiastical baggage with me, they were patient with me. They were willing to exchange e-mails with me and meet with me at ACC events I attended. The clergy at the local parishes gave me books to read and spent hours with me in thought provoking conversation. I appreciate the fact they did not cajole nor condemn me. Each helped me become an Anglican Catholic before I joined the church. By the time I joined it was a “no brainer.”

On May 24, 2004 when I met with my chief mentor, The Venerable Joseph E. DeHart (of blessed memory) to tell him of my desire to join the ACC, I was ready.  I was well taught, and so convinced in my mind of the faith and practices of the ACC that I “surrendered unconditionally.” Though I was in orders from the REC, I did not negotiate. Whatever conditions the Bishop set, I followed.

At our recent Synod it was rightly said that there are very few, if any “ready-made” Anglican Catholics any longer. There may be a few who, as I was, are in other Anglican bodies, but the flow from the Episcopal Church has run dry. For our parishes to grow we now have to make disciples.  Often from the ground up.

To do this we need to be willing to meet inquirers where they are at. They may be evangelicals who are looking for stable faith and worship. They may be Roman Catholics who are weary of how malleable faith and practice in their church has become; how their bishops seem to be more focused on social politics than faith.  They may be Lutherans, Methodist or Presbyterian. They may have been in the Church but have fallen away and are looking to come back, or were baptized but not raised in the Church or never baptized at all and totally unchurched. They may be young, middle aged or elderly. They may carry a lot of ecclesiastical baggage with them.

No matter where they are coming from we need to meet them where they are. We have to be willing to work with them from their starting point not ours. We need to teach them at their own pace.  In doing this we are not to, and cannot, compromise the doctrines or the disciplines of our church! One of the things I greatly respected about all the “mentors” I had during my inquiry is how they kept the lines very clear. I was allowed to fully participate in everything appropriate, and the rest I was only allowed to observe. This made Anglican Catholicism very valuable to me.  It was not “easy in, easy out.”

Our church faces a great challenge today and in the days to come. How can we continue to build a church in a post-Christian, bordering on anti-Christian, age? If we are willing to meet inquirers where they are and guide them patiently to where they need to be in order to become Anglican Catholics, then I believe we can work through those challenges and build the next generation into our church!

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

June 26, 2018 (Feria)

The Forty-first Synod of the Diocese of the Mid Atlantic States was held last week. As we gathered to assist at the Friday morning mass (on the Feast of St. Alban) with all the delegates present, I was reminded of Nehemiah 8:1 “And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel.”

In Chapter 7, Nehemiah recorded the vast number of the families of Judah which returned from exile in Babylon and were again resident in Israel. But when they gathered for worship, God did not see them as a vast number of families. He saw them as one man; Israel. He saw them through the covenant He had made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel) and David. He saw “one man.”

This is how I sensed God saw us as we gathered as a Diocese for mass. Not as individual clergy and lay persons, not as delegates from individual parishes, not even as an individual diocese. He saw us through the covenant He has made with one Man, His Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

The credit for this unity must be given to the Holy Spirit, of course. He is the Person of the Godhead that unifies the faithful in the Lord Jesus. But Archbishop Haverland and Bishop Lerow also deserve credit. They recognize the Holy Spirit is leading our church in the direction of unity, and are leading us in it too. Archbishop Haverland’s tireless work with the other G-4 churches has set the tone and direction. Bishop Lerow has risen above the seeds of disunity, selfishly-sown by a few priests of our Diocese in this past year, allowing us to “…press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14).

This is an important role for bishops. Ephesians 4:13 charges them, as successors to the Apostles, to lead the rest of the clergy and the laity of the Church “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:”  They are to lead us, as Ezra and Nehemiah led Israel, to the place where God can look down upon us as “one man” as we worship and do our work for the Gospel in the world. Our Bishops are doing this.

At the Synod, Archdeacon Jeff Johnson said he sensed a spirit he had not sensed in a long while. I’m glad he said that for it confirmed what I was sensing. I think others may have sensed it as well.  Fr. Pothin Ngyele reminded us we are a ‘spiritual enterprise,’ during his report on the Northern Region. This truth must not be lost! The temporalities of a diocese are important. The spiritualities are indispensable! Synods often spend more time and effort on the former than the latter.

The Church faces many challenges today. And as traditional Anglo-Catholics we face greater challenges than churches that are willing to compromise with the zeitgeist. The only way we can overcome these challenges are with truth and unity. We need to have a unity of faith, a unity of doctrine, a unity of purpose and a unity of direction. We must endeavor to maintain the unity of spirit and the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).

In St. John 16:33 Jesus says “…In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. 1 John 4:4 states “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” With Christ in us, we can overcome everything the Father desires for us to overcome. But we must submit to the lead of the Holy Spirit and be united as “one man.”

The processional hymn for the Friday Synod mass was the great Irish hymn St. Patrick’s Breastplate (# 268 in our Hymnal) Its powerful opening states “I bind unto myself today, the strong Name of the Trinity. By invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in Three.” May our Diocese emulate the most Holy Trinity and be united in faith, purpose and witness in the days to come!

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

June 20, 2018 (Translation of St. Edward of England, King and Martyr)

There is a show on cable television about knife making called “Forged in Fire.” Maybe you’ve watched it? The contestants, called “blade-smiths,” are given a hunk of steel and asked to forge out a knife in their “signature style.”

I know absolutely nothing about knife making, and would never attempt doing it. But I really enjoy that show!  Why? Well, I appreciate the skill; watching the blade-smiths take crude steel and craft it into working knives. It’s really amazing to watch. They have to heat the steel in a forge, pound it into shape, grind it to make the forged piece clean and sharp and then put handles on to make them fully functional. It’s tremendous workmanship.

It reminds me of Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” When I’ve mused on this verse previously (see my 06-06-18 musing), I’ve thought primarily about the works we do. But now I’m thinking that the greater work, the more important work, is the work God does in us.

God is the master “blade-smith” and we are a hunk of crude steel. Throughout our lives He forges us into working witnesses for His Son, Jesus Christ. He forges us by heating us in the crucible of life; the trials and tribulations we all face. He pounds us into shape, drawing us out from a raw state, and then grinds off the worldliness that covers us to make us fully functioning witnesses in His signature style.

I believe, and have experienced, that God will allow us (like Job) or put us into (like Jonah) whatever is necessary in order for us to be saved. This is His forging process.

On the television show, the blade-smiths heat, pound out and grind the metal over and over again in order to make a functional blade. The heat softens the metal, the pounding shapes it and the grinding makes is clean and sharp. The process is often brutal to watch, but it all has a purpose.

Ezekiel is inspired to describe the forging process this way: “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:24-27) These verses describe the transformation God works in us by Baptism and Confirmation. He sets us apart, washes us, gives us a new heart and puts His Spirit in us. He transforms us!  We are His workmanship.

Malachi 3:2, 3 states “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifer of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.” This process can be brutal at times, but it all has a purpose.  We are God’s workmanship. He is forging us into living offerings of righteousness; the righteousness of Christ living in and through us.

Even the great St. Paul had to go through a transformative process (Acts 9:16 and 2 Timothy 4:7, 8). It was not comfortable. St. Paul describes the forging process he was being put through in 2 Corinthians 11:23-12:10. Be sure to read it. His forging included physical, spiritual and emotional discomfort. But it also included God’s loving consolation. At various points a blade-smith takes his piece of steel out of the forge and puts it into oil to cool it (called quenching). He then tests it to see if it has hardened. If it has, the grinding begins. If not, it’s back into the fire!  This is a metaphor for the forging St. Paul endured. But look at the finished product!

We are going through a similar process. God is putting us into His forge, pounding us out, shaping us, grinding us down and occasionally testing to see how hardened (how pure) we’ve become. He “tests our metal.” He’s not looking at what we are doing, but who we are becoming. Are we becoming men and women, priests and parents, clergy and communicants, workers and citizens who are workable witnesses for Christ?

If we are, our forging time is coming to an end. If not, then it’s back into the fire or to the grinder until we are! For we are His workmanship.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

June 18, 2018 (St. Ephraem the Syrian, Deacon, Confessor and Doctor)

The Old Testament Scriptures are a spiritual mine filled with nuggets that can enrich our faith. We may have to dig a little to find the veins of those riches, but they’re worth the dig!

I’ve not always felt this way. As a child in school I was only taught ‘Bible stories’ about some of the Old Testament characters. I learned the stories of Adam and Eve, Sampson, David and Goliath, Solomon and a handful of others, but they weren’t taught in light of salvation history. The Bible we used was the ‘Good News for Modern Man’, which only had the New Testament.

As a 9th grader I was required to take Old Testament History. My recollection is it was taught as the history of the Jewish people until the time of Jesus. There was nothing about types or something that could enliven faith. It reminded me of the World History class I took that same year. Dull and boring.

After my conversion at 20, the only parts of the Old Testament I read were Psalms and Proverbs. Lessons were read from it at the Roman Catholic parishes I attended, but the priests never preached on them. The pastor of one of the Evangelical churches I attended preached on it often, but his understanding was deeply clouded with pre-millennial, dispensational theology. Not very helpful.

It wasn’t until I started seminary classes in 1995 that the Old Testament started to make sense.  Those studies opened it up, as I learned it teaches God’s loving, covenantal relationship with His chosen people (Galatians 4:19-26). I learned of shadows and types, the Old Testament being fulfilled in the New Testament.

This foundation brought the Old Testament to life for me! I now enjoy it and look forward to reading portions of it every day at Morning and Evening Prayer. I often go beyond the portion appointed for the day. Sometimes I get more insight from it than the New Testament lessons.

Here are two examples.

Last week the daily lectionary appointed certain selections from the Book of Joshua to be read at Morning Prayer. Chapters 3 and 4 give the account of Israel crossing through the Jordan River before the sacking of Jericho. God also told Joshua to have 12 stones, one for each Tribe, be taken from the river and placed on the Jericho side of it as a memorial of how God dried up the Jordan (which had overflowed its banks) so Israel could cross it to enter the Promised Land.

In these events we see a type of Holy Baptism (compare Joshua 4:23 and 1 Corinthians 10:1, 2).  Baptism is a crossing from sin into new life and a memorial of God’s gift of salvation. These symbols of Baptism are advanced even further when we read that the next thing God commanded Joshua to do (Chapter 5) was circumcise every male; circumcision being a type of Baptism (Colossians 2:11, 12).  As a side you will note that the “captain of the Lord’s hosts” (Joshua 5:13-15) did not enter into the camp until the men were made holy by circumcision. That “captain” is a theophany, a pre-incarnate manifestation of Christ, and not an angel. An angel would not allow Joshua to fall down before him and worship him (Revelation 22:8, 9).

The second example is in chapter 6. Here Joshua is commanded to form a processional and march around Jericho one time for six days and seven times on the seventh day. As they marched around each time the men were completely silent, but seven priests going before the Ark of the Lord were blowing horns. On the seventh day, after they had marched around the city the seventh time, the priests gave a large blast on their horns and the men shouted. As they did, the walls around Jericho fell flat and the city was sacked.

In this we see that the Church conquers her foes (the world, the flesh and the devil) with worship! We prepare ourselves through the week with prayer for the seventh day, the Sabbath Day, Sunday. As we gather together on the seventh day and join our voices together in the worship of God, the walls of the enemy’s camp are brought down and we go in and conquer in Jesus’ Name! This idea is reinforced by Psalm 73, where the psalmist cries out about being troubled by sinful men. He can’t make any sense of it, until he goes into the sanctuary of God (Psalm 73:16, 17). We find the answers we seek in worshiping God.

As with all allegorical interpretations of Scripture, these two examples are not perfect. They are types. But I think they help bring the Old Testament to life. While the literal / historical interpretation of Scripture is the most important, the New Testament is filled with passages where Old Testament events are interpreted and understood in a spiritual sense.

One “revision” I’d like to see to our Sunday Holy Communion liturgy is allowance for an Old Testament lesson each Sunday. At least one of our G-4 sister churches does this. I know the 1928 BCP rubrics allow for Morning Prayer to be used up until the canticle after the First (Old Testament) Lesson. I tried that when I was in the REC and found it to be clumsy. It would be simpler to add the “starred” (*) lesson for Morning Prayer into the liturgy. Adding an Old Testament lesson would allow preachers to bring the Old Testament to life for many.

I encourage taking a renewed approach to reading the Old Testament. Christ and His Church can be seen in it!  We just need to make the effort to mine down a little and find Him.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

June 16, 2018 (Votive Saturday of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Have you ever had this conversation?…

Q. I don’t know if ‘you Catholics’ are Christians.

A. What do you mean?

Q. You worship Mary and the Saints.

A. What? No we don’t. At least orthodox Catholics don’t.

Q. Yes you do, or at least you pray to them.

A. We ask for their intercession, we ask them to pray for us; to God, but we don’t ask them to answer our prayers. Only God answers prayers…

The conversation goes on from there. Have you had that conversation? I have any number of times.

Catholics DO NOT worship Mary or the Saints!  Certainly those who understand the place of the Saints and the Blessed Virgin in the life of the Church do not.

The Church is a living Body composed of three parts: the Church Triumphant, the Church Expectant and the Church Militant.

The Church Triumphant is composed of those Saints (capital “S”) who have already attained to the Beatific Vision. They today, see Christ face to face. Those who make up this part of the Church are the Apostles and the other men and women identified in Scripture. It also includes those men and women the Church (the whole Church, and maybe even particular branches) have canonized.

The Church Expectant is composed of those who have died in the Faith. These are the men and women who believed upon Jesus for salvation and were faithful, but did not fulfill their calling in Christ as completely as the Saints. One day they too will share in the Beatific Vision, but for now they are securely with our Lord in Paradise (see St. Luke 16:19-31 and 23:39-43). This is the part of the Church you and I are to be striving for. Canonized sainthood is ultimately determined by God, for we can only walk in those good works prepared in advance for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10), but we all can be faithful whether we have been given one talent, two talents, or five talents (St. Matthew 25:14-30).

The Church Militant is composed of all those who have been baptized, living on the earth at any given moment. You and I are in this part of the Church right now. We are called in Christ to strive by grace through faith to find and do that which God has prepared in advance for us to do, to serve and to glorify the Father in Christ. We are the ones who have an open invitation to dine at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (St. Luke 14:7-11) each Sunday.

The members of the Church Militant venerate and honor the members of the Church Expectant and the Church Triumphant. We do NOT worship them!

Veneration is given to the members of the Church Expectant. They have fought the good fight, finished their course and kept the faith. We do not ask for their intercession, because they have yet to attain the Beatific Vision, but we do pray for them. There would be no harm in saying “pray for me,” but they are generally not invoked by name. We do though pray for the repose of their souls, and their continued growth in grace and in their knowledge and love for Jesus (2 Maccabees 12:41-45 and BCP pg. 332 and 334 prayer 1).

Honor (dulia) is given to the members of the Church Triumphant. In their earthly life they fully did that which God called them to do, and therefore we believe they already see Christ face to face. High honor (hyper-dulia) is given to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the Queen of the Saints, Theotokis, the Mother of God. By her fiat the Father’s plan of salvation, crafted from before the foundation of the world, was set in motion (Galatians 4:4, 5). The Blessed Virgin, of all the Saints, perfectly fulfilled her calling in Christ her Son.

We can, and we should, ask the members of the Church Triumphant to pray (intercede) for us. But we do not ask them to answer, to fulfill those prayers!  Only God answers prayers. But the Saints, and in particular the Blessed Virgin Mary, effectively intercede for us.

Think about it, I ask fellows Christians here on earth (members of the Church Militant) to pray for me. From what I see they are being faithful, and I believe they will actually pray for me and can pray for me because they are in the state of grace. But I really don’t know if either is true. I know the Saints pray for me and I know they are perpetually in the state of grace, so of course they pray for me. So why not ask them to?

The objection is, “But they’re dead, they can’t hear us.” Really? The Saints are more alive than you and I are, and Hebrews 12:1 states they are very aware of what we are doing here on earth. Witnesses both see and report what they see. As we ask their intercession in our prayers, they bring those requests before the throne room of God (Revelation 5:8).

So NO!, Catholics do not “worship Mary” or any of the Saints. That would break the First Commandment. And YES!, Catholics are Christians. We believe the one, perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is the full, perfect and sufficient oblation for the sins of the world. We  confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus, and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9, 10). We know were saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10). And, we venerate and give honor to the  Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints. Because doing so brings honor and glory to the One who created them: the One, True God!

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

June 11, 2018 (St. Barnabas, Evangelist and Martyr)

I grew up in the shadow of two American-brand automobile manufacturing plants. A large percentage of the men in my neighborhood worked at one of those plants. It was the late 1960’s through the 1970’s, as the invasion of Japanese automobiles was beginning.

No one in my neighborhood drove a “foreign car.” The community demanded everyone “Buy American.” Doing otherwise was blasphemous. That “tradition” has had a deep impact upon me. I’ve owned sixteen cars in my life; each one of them has been a GM, Ford or Chrysler / Dodge product.

This “tradition” doesn’t make much sense anymore. Every foreign car company does some level of manufacturing in the US now, employing American workers, and a lot of American cars are now manufactured in foreign countries. But I just can’t seem to break with the “tradition” I was raised in. It’s kind of silly. It’s actually more nostalgia than tradition; a desire for the “good ol’ days.”

People can be like this when it comes to their church. They hold on to traditions as long as they can, even when it no longer makes sense. They hold on even when the church they are holding onto exists in name only. The sign out front still says “Saint so and so,” but the Gospel hasn’t been preached or the sacraments properly administered there in years.

The Anglican Catholic Church is a church of tradition; Sacred Tradition that is. Sacred Tradition is the doctrines and practices taught by Jesus and His Apostles, not recorded in Scripture (Acts 1:3, 2 Thessalonians 2:5 and 3:6) and those taught and practiced by the Church from the sub-Apostolic age (AD 70) through the 11th century; the time in history when there was one visible Church. We do not elevate Sacred Tradition to the level of Scripture, but we do utilize it to establish an understanding of the Faith and its practice in those places where Scripture does not speak, or where there is dispute over what Scripture says.

Since we are Anglican Catholics (Catholic being the noun and Anglican the adjective), we also adhere to the Anglican tradition and the Prayer Book tradition. But, we only adhere to those parts of each which agree with and are complimentary to Sacred Tradition. We do as St. Paul teaches in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”

Since the Reformation, “Anglicanism” has been a mix of Catholic, Protestant and latitudinarian beliefs and practices. This was necessary in England because it was a national church, and the Crown demanded her subjects to be members. The Protestant Episcopal Church in America had to hold the “low church” and “high church” together in order to survive after the Revolutionary War. They were able to keep an uneasy tolerance of each other for about 90 years, but ultimately it was untenable.

The Anglican Catholic Church today, while still maintaining remnants of the Protestant Episcopal Church, is not that church. And she should not be! A church cannot maintain “two integrities” within it. If the members of a church body do not agree on the nature and essence of the Church, her ministry, sacraments, liturgy and practices, it will not have unity.  Ephesians 4:8-15 teaches that after Jesus ascended He appointed the Apostles and other officers of the Church (v. 11) to bring about unity in faith and practice. If a church does not have agreement on the essential matters of doctrine and practice, then it is failing this part of our Lord’s will for His Church!

What is essential and what is “adiaphora” (things indifferent to the Faith) is not always black and white.  This is where a church must look to her Bishops (as the successors to the Apostles), and trust her Bishops, to guide them as their Reverend Fathers in God. This is where her Bishops must be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (St. Matthew 10:16), to discern what those lines are to be.

For example, I think parishes that use the 1928 Prayer Book liturgy for Holy Communion and those that use the Anglican or American Missal can rightly be in the same church. Both rites maintain the essential components of Sacred Tradition, Anglican tradition and Prayer Book tradition. But, the parishes using either form of the liturgy cannot deviate on the Church’s belief, taught in Scripture and Sacred Tradition, that our Lord Jesus is truly and substantially Present in the consecrated elements of the Eucharist. A parish that believes in the “Real Presence” cannot be in fellowship with one that believes in the “real absence”!

In the forty years since her exodus from the Episcopal Church (TEC), the ACC has undergone a time of sifting. Not wheat from chaff, but Catholic from Protestant. The only “low church” v. “high church” disputes I’m aware of (and my view is limited) have to do with levels of liturgical ritual (which I think is adiaphora) and not with the understanding of dogma (the essentials). While historically Anglicans are Protestants in the Reformation sense of that word, the ACC is not a Protestant church in the 21st century sense of that word.

For those who remain in a parish for nostalgic-tradition reasons, hoping they will once again see the “good ol’ days”, I can only say if the Holy Spirit has written “Ichabod” (meaning “the glory of the Lord has departed”; see 1 Samuel 4:21, 22) over the door of your parish, then 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 states you need to leave! Light can have no fellowship with darkness.

As for me, I’m thinking the next time I need to buy a car I need to suck it up and buy foreign. Not because they are always better these days, but in order to acknowledge the fact the “good ol’ days” are not coming back.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

June 6, 2018 (In the Octave of Corpus Christi)

(A second musing for this week)

The matter of Faith and Works in Salvation has been on my mind….

Ephesians 2:8-10 is the definitive (not the only) passage of Scripture on this matter: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” St. Paul is inspired to teach that we are saved by grace through faith and not by works. But then he adds that works are involved in some way.

St. James, in chapter two of his Epistle, more definitely brings works into the equation. He writes (vss. 14-18) “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?…Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”

St. Paul might jump back into this discussion to say (Romans 4:2-5): “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

St. James might then counter (2:20-24): “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”

Reading these passages may lead us to throw up our hands and cry out “Holy contradictions Batman!” But there is no contradiction in Christ. There are paradoxes; that is things that seem to be contradictory (but are not), but no contradictions.

The passage of Scripture that unlocks the paradox of faith and works in salvation is Philippians 2:12, 13 “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”  God works into us, into our spirits, grace which leads to faith. We then take hold of what God has worked in, and work it out. Not just any works mind you! The works that matter for salvation are those which God has ordained in advance for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). What are they? Scripture identifies them generally, so we must read and know them (2 Timothy 2:15), and then we must ask the Holy Ghost what we are to do specifically (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).

In order for men (males and females, see Galatians 3:26-29) to be saved, grace must be given by God. In the Catholic faith grace is assuredly given in Holy Baptism, which is why infants should be baptized ASAP. This grace; which is the unmerited favor of the Father given to us solely for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, leads us to faith. Once faith is grasped, salvation is, at least in one sense, given. “For by grace are ye saved through faith…” as St. Paul states. But how do we know that our faith is genuine? How do we know we have a true and lively faith?  By works. “…I will shew thee my faith by my works.” as St. James states.

Salvation then is not a matter of faith vs. works. It is a matter of faith made manifest by, or in, works. It is not “either, or” but “both, and.”

Here is an analogy that may be helpful. You remember the vending machines that exchanged dollar bills for quarters? There may be a few around still. You’d put a dollar in the slot and the machine would dispense four quarters. The dollar bill had to be placed face up so the machine could scan it to see it was truly a dollar bill and not a counterfeit. But scanning the face side alone would not get you the quarters; the whole bill had to go into the machine. The face side of the dollar bill is works. The bottom side (or the fullness) of the bill is faith. Works show that faith is genuine and not counterfeit faith. Faith and works are the two sides of the same “coin.”

Let us not then get caught up in a faith v. works argument; of pitting St. Paul v. St. James! The Holy Ghost is the Author of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:15-17), and since there is no contradiction in God, we know the answer cannot be faith v. works; one or the other, or one absent of the other. What we need to do is strive, by grace through faith, to be faithful; to add to our faith and become fruitful as St. Peter teaches in 2 Peter 1:5-10.  We are to work out what God has graciously worked in.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

June 4, 2018 (In the Octave of Corpus Christi)

June is typically “wedding month.” Weddings can be nice, but marriage is more than a wedding. A wedding is the celebration of a marriage. Marriage is the institution of God. A wedding is a party. Marriage is a sacrament.

In the early days of Creation God created the woman, Eve from the side of the man, Adam (Genesis 2:20-23). Verse 24 states “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” God sees husband and wife as one flesh.

During His earthly ministry Jesus elevated the institution of marriage, establishing it as a sacrament; the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. In St. Matthew 19:3-9, some Pharisees came to Jesus to dispute the issue of divorce. Jesus pointed to Genesis 2:24 and then in verse 6 added “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” With these words, Jesus endued the institution of marriage with sacramental grace.

It is with this understanding that Jesus’ statement in verses 8 and 9 makes sense. Moses allowed divorce, but “I” (the Lord Jesus, ruler of heaven and earth) say “NO!” Divorce is not permitted except in the case of adultery. Whoa, wait…What Jesus is saying here is tough to understand! His disciples reacted by saying, if this is the case then it’s better not to marry! (v. 10). But Jesus could say it. He could reset the marriage bar to a higher level. Why? Because He had endowed it with sacramental grace.

Sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace given. In the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, the man and the woman are the ministers. When they take their vows before the priest, they administer this Sacrament to each other. With those vows, symbolically sealed by the blessed rings given and received, the marriage is really sealed with sacramental grace. All the grace (unmerited favor of God) the man and the woman will need to fulfill those vows “…for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health…” (BCP pg. 301) is sealed upon them in this Sacrament. As with the other six sacraments, God gives the grace necessary to fulfill what He calls us to do. In the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, He calls us to be faithful to the vows we make to our spouse, “till death us do part.”

Sacramental marriages are to be reflections of the relationship between Christ and His Church. In Ephesians 5:21-33 St. Paul teaches about the relationship Christian husbands and wives are to have. In vss. 31 and 32 he writes “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”  The union of Christ to His Church is indissoluble! The union of a husband to his wife is to model it. While in the measure of time the union of man and woman as husband and wife in marriage came first, St. Paul is saying it is a reflection of the greater eternal union of Christ and His bride, the Church (Ephesians 1:4,5).

Marriage reflects the relationship of Christ and His Church when mutual submission exists. As Christ willingly submitted Himself to death on the cross for His Church, out of love for her; so a husband must willingly submit to the death of himself (his ego) for his wife, out of love for her. This is Galatians 2:20 manifesting itself in marriage. And as the Church submits herself to her Groom, the Lord Jesus, out of love for Him and His love for her demonstrated in His passion and death for her, so a wife must submit to her husband out of love for him, and his love for her demonstrated in his death to himself (his ego) for her. A husband can have no expectation his wife will be submissive to him, unless he has first given himself up for her (please take the time to read Ephesians 5:21-27).

In order for marriages to reflect the relationship between Christ and His Church the husband and the wife must love each other the way Christ loves the Church and the Church loves Christ. True love desires the greatest and best for one’s beloved; and as Christians we know the greatest and best anyone can receive is heaven. Therefore, when a man says “I love you” to the woman he is marrying, he should be saying “I desire heaven for you.” And when a woman says “I love you” to the man she is marrying, she should be saying “I desire heaven for you.”  And in saying “I desire heaven for you” is included “I don’t want you to break the seventh Commandment, and therefore I will remain committed to you as Christ is to His Church.” Both husband and wife need to be committed to this level since they administer the Sacrament to each other.

I’m not naive. At least I don’t think I am. I realize the world has made marriage very complicated today. But where sin abounds, grace abounds more (Romans 5:20). This being so, nothing the world says or does negates what Christ, through His Word, teaches!  His power surpasses all the evil this sinful world can conjure up. But the Church must be willing to teach it!  Priests must have the boldness to fearlessly prepare engaged couples properly! Christian couples must study and live what the Scriptures teach.

“Everyone loves a wedding.” There’s a television channel that devotes weekly movies to them. But the fact is over 50% of “Christian marriages” (not sure how that’s defined) end up in divorce! As both a police officer (in my “former life”) and as a priest, I’ve seen the tragedy divorce is. We can do little to prevent this in the Church at large, never mind society at large. But in our own branch of the Church we must do all we can to prevent it. We have Scripture and Tradition, and God will hold us accountable to them.

If you will be attending a wedding this June, enjoy it. But please pray for the couple. They are going to need it.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

May 29, 2018 (Feria)

The Feast of “Corpus Christi?…that’s Roman!”  No, it’s not… Well okay, historically the Roman Catholic Church was the first to celebrate it, but that doesn’t mean it should be dismissed as being “Roman”!

The feast was instituted in AD 1264 by Urban IV, Bishop of Rome and became implemented throughout the Western Church in 1317 by John XXII. Originally celebrated on the Thursday after Whitsunday, it was moved to the Thursday after Trinity Sunday by Pius V (the Pope who excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I). Corpus Christi was widely celebrated in England until its suppression in 1548. It was never restored to the kalendar of the Church of England, but Anglo-Catholics began to celebrate it again in the 19th century.

The information presented thus far seems to give credibility to this feast being “Roman.” And, if it was the ‘Feast of the Transubstantiated Presence of Christ’ it would be. But it’s not. Transubstantiation did not become Roman Catholic dogma until the Council of Trent (1545-63). Up until then, Roman Catholicism did not dogmatically define “how” Christ is Really Present in the Eucharist. Until then their dogma was more similar to Anglican Catholic dogma today. We dogmatically believe Christ is Really and Personally present in the Eucharist, but do not dogmatically define how. It is a holy Mystery.

Urban IV instituted this feast out of his concern the people of the Western Church were losing their belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. What was true then in the 13th century is all the more true today in the 21st!  Today, only Roman Catholics (officially, not so sure about the average RC), the Orthodox, Lutherans and Anglo-Catholics believe in the Real Presence. In the United States and Western Europe that is a small percentage of the population, and an ever shrinking percentage of Christians! Therefore Urban IV’s concern in those days should be an even greater concern for us today!

Belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is equally Biblical as being Born Again. All Bible-believing Christians believe we are born again in Baptism, but fewer and fewer believe we partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. A simple comparison of St. John 3:3-5 and St. John 6:53-58 shows both are equally true. In both instances Jesus uses His solemn oath “Verily, Verily” (in Greek this means “surely, of a truth”). In addition, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper He said emphatically “This is my Body…This is my Blood.”

Jesus says we must be born again to enter into the Kingdom of God, and He equally says we must eat of His flesh and drink of His blood if we are to have life in us.” The former initiates eternal life, the latter sustains it.

In 1 Corinthians 10:16 St. Paul states “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” The word “communion” in Greek is “koionia” which means “intercourse.” Our partaking of the Eucharist is the inter-communion of Christ’s Body and Blood into our bodies and souls; as He comes to dwell in us, and we in Him (see the Prayer of Humble Access).

In 1 Corinthians 11:26 St. Paul states “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” Partaking of the Eucharist is a defense of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and partaking of the Eucharist in the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi is a defense of the dogma of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

When we think of the importance Jesus places on receiving His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we see how important it is for us to not only defend; but tell, teach and proclaim this dogma to the Church and in the world!  Jesus says (in St. John 6:53) unless we eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, which is only done in the Eucharist, we have no life in us. That is a very powerful statement. A statement equally as powerful as “…Ye must be born again.” (St. John 3:7).

If your parish is celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi (and hopefully all Anglican Catholic parishes are), then, if at all possible, we should be at mass. If your parish is having Benediction too, all the better!  If your parish is not celebrating this feast, or you cannot assist at mass on that day but can get into the nave at some point on the feast, then go and pray that the Holy Spirit would increase the knowledge and love of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist in the Church. Of course you can do the same from home too.

Celebrating this feast isn’t “Roman”, it’s Catholic. It’s Biblical.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

May 24, 2018 (Thursday in Whitsun Week)

What is the Holy Spirit’s role in salvation?

In St. John 16:8-15 Jesus says that after He ascended to His Father, He would send the Holy Spirit (the Comforter) to do three things Reprove, Guide and Glorify. Let’s look at each of these.

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to reprove the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment (16:8-12). The word “reprove” in Greek means “convict” or “admonish.” The Holy Spirit’s role in salvation is to convict the world of its sinfulness, convict the world of Christ’s righteousness and the standard of righteousness He has set, and convict the world that as Satan was judged in the death and resurrection of Jesus, so one day each of us will be judged. The Holy Spirit shows each of us our own sins and unrighteousness, leads us to know the truth that salvation from our sins can only be obtained by faith in Jesus Christ and that one day each of us will face God’s judgment.

Second, the Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth. He is the one who guides, who leads us to know all truth as it is in Jesus (Ephesians 4:21).  This promise was given directly to the twelve apostles, and therefore is given to the Church primarily. When the Church is united it will always be lead into truth. Historically this is seen in the Conciliar Era (through AD 1054). Often against great odds the truth always overcame error when bishop’s from the whole Church, East and West, met together in ecumenical council. Since the Church’s first and Great Schism doctrine has become confused and truth is being lost. The more the Church fractures the more this will be the case. This promise is also given to individuals, but only in a secondary sense. As each of us submits to the lead of the Holy Spirit, He will lead us to know the truth necessary to be saved, and if we do as St. Peter exhorts in 2 Peter 1:5-8 and use the study of Scripture (see 2 Timothy 2:15 and 3:16,17) to add to our faith, then we will become productive members of the Kingdom of God.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus. The Spirit does not draw attention to Himself, but always directs attention to Christ. In St. John 16:13 Jesus says “…he (the Spirit) shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear (from Christ), that shall he speak.” At His ascension, all glory in heaven and earth is given to Jesus!  The Holy Spirit magnifies that glory by directing all honor and praise to Him.  Churches that overemphasize the “baptism of the Spirit” err greatly. The Holy Spirit always directs all power and glory to Jesus.

The Holy Spirit takes the objective, finished work of Christ and applies it subjectively in the hearts of all those who are baptized and believe. One of the great gifts of Holy Baptism (by water and the Spirit) is the assured presence of the Holy Spirit infused into our spirit, leaving an indelible mark that will never be erased. From that day on we can count on the Spirit being there, and as we respond to grace, leading us ever closer to Christ. In fact we can only respond to grace because the Holy Spirit dwells in us. The Holy Spirit is also the one who feeds our souls with the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. By the Spirit we feed in our hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.

Of course the Holy Spirit can manifest Himself in a number of ways in our daily lives, but each of those manifestations leads us back to this three-part role of reproving, guiding and glorifying. Of each of the ways He manifests Himself, my favorite is the “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-15). As a friend once told me, “The Holy Spirit is a perfect gentleman.” He does not force Himself upon us, but lovingly reproves, guides and glorifies.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

May 16, 2018 In the Octave of Ascension

Iran, North Korea, China, Russia. We all know these names. Each of these nations contributes to making the world in this 21st century dangerous.  Being aware of these threats is important, and yet Scripture helps keep even legitimate concerns in balance.

Psalm 2:2-4 states “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.”  The Father and His anointed, the Lord Jesus, look down upon what the leaders of nations do to gain power with great amusement.

God is sovereign. He rules over the nations. When it looks like a nation is getting away with evil and gaining power, God says “Not so fast!” Psalm 75 speaks to this truth. Verses 4-10 states: “The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are [weak]: I bear up the pillars of it… I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn… For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another…All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.”

I know this, and yet at times I find myself feeling anxiety about international affairs. Psalm 37:1-3 provides an answer for that anxiety: “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.”  Simply put, Christians are to go about their lives; living life in Christ, trusting that God has everything under His sovereign control. If we keep our lives pure and unspotted from the world (St. James 1:27) and love fervently, covering a multitude of our own sinfulness (1 Peter 4:8) then we can trust the Lord will provide all our needs (St. Matthew 6:33,34).

For me the greatest beauty of the Ascension is how it teaches us that Jesus is today, right now, at this very moment seated at the Father’s right hand mediating and advocating for us. I love Daniel 7:9-14 (it’s the Evening Prayer lesson for Ascension Eve). This is Daniel’s vision of Christ’s ascension. Verse 14 states that upon His arrival in heaven Jesus was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom. “…his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Jesus’ dominion has begun. He has dominion right now. His dominion will never end!

The kingdoms and rulers of the world (including our own) can plot and scheme all they want, but God is not impressed. He certainly is not worried! He is all knowing and all powerful. All is under His control. As He did with Pharaoh in the days of Moses (Romans 9:17), God uses the nations for His glory and the salvation of His people. Even in times of persecution and injustice, God is ever saving those who believe and remain faithful. As Jesus told the Apostles in St. John 16:33 “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” 1 St. John 5:4, 5 states “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

May 9, 2018 St. Gregory Nazianzus; Bishop, Confessor and Doctor (Vigil of the Ascension)

The duty of the Church and each baptized member therein, is to declare the evangel, the Good News to the world. Most simply that Good News is the Incarnation, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world. By implication it includes the truth about who the One, True God is; a Trinity in Unity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost and that the Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ is fully and completely God and Man; two complete natures in One Person.

This is what the members of the Church are to believe and tell the world. Of course we cannot do this of our own selves, but only by the power of the Holy Ghost working in us by grace through faith.   No man can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 12:3).

Every member is to participate in this commission Jesus has given to the Church, and yet not every member has the same calling, gifts and opportunities to fulfill it. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 St. Paul states each member of the Church is given different gifts.

So if each member is to participate in the commission Jesus has given to the Church, but not all have the same calling, gifts and opportunities, how can each member be obedient to the commission? By understanding there are four “levels” (there is probably a better word for it, but right now I can’t think of it) to evangelism.

Level one is to Defend the Faith. In St. Matthew 10:32-38 Jesus says “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven… He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” In this passage Jesus says plainly that we must be willing to defend the Faith, and our faith in Jesus. No matter who may challenge us, no matter who may come to hate us, no matter who may betray us, we must be willing to defend the Good News!  Every Christian has this calling; each has the grace of this gift, and will likely be given the opportunity to evangelize in this manner at some point in their life.

Level two is to Answer for the Faith. 1 Peter 3:15, 16 states “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” At this second level we need to have faith that is true and lively enough to be able to respond to the questions others may ask about why we live the way we do (in the world but not of the world) and what Jesus means to us (what He means to me, personally). This level of evangelism still takes a “defensive” posture; an apology (defense) for the Faith. We are going about our business, living faithfully, seasoning our conversation with salt here and there (Colossians 4:6, St. Matthew 5:13) and someone asks us “Why?” Why do we live and believe the way we do. If the question is asked, we need to be ready to answer.

Level three is Tell the Faith. The example of this in Scripture is St. John 20:17, 18 “Jesus saith unto her (Mary Magdalene), Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” St. Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples that she had seen the resurrected Jesus, and what He had  told her. Jesus did not ask Mary Magdalene to know and be able to explain the theology of the resurrection. He simply told her to tell what she knew to those whom she knew. She knew she had seen Jesus alive, risen from the dead. She knew He had spoken to her and what He had said to her. This is all Jesus expected her to tell the Apostles.  All Jesus expects us to do is to tell what we know to those whom we know. We know Jesus has risen from the dead and we know what He has done in our lives. This is what Jesus expects us to tell those whom we know.

Level four is to Go with the Faith. In St. Mark 16:15 Jesus said “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” At this level of evangelism a calling may be involved. Not ordination necessarily, lay persons are very effective at this level, but the gift of evangelism. This is presenting the Faith in an offensive (contrasted with defensive) manner. We look for opportunities to put our self in places and situations to proclaim the Good News to anyone who will listen.

Every baptized member of the Church has a duty to declare the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. At the most elementary level we must defend the Faith and should be able to express the hope we have in Christ. Being able to tell what we know to those we know is a great asset. Praying for the gift of the calling to “Go…” is a worthy petition.

Romans 10:14, 15 states “How then shall they (unbelievers) call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Verse 17 adds “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

It is the duty, really the privilege, of each member of the Church to tell the Good News to others. Let embrace this privilege and bring that Good News to others!

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

May 2, 2018 (St. Athanasius, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor)

What’s in a name? It could be a lot. Names mean something. Names have meaning.

For example, Athanasius means immortal (his theology is “immortalized” within the Church). Saul means big while Paul means little…God knew what He was doing when He changed the Apostle’s name. Joseph means increase. Mary means wished for. Elizabeth means abundance.

Names can have meaning in another way. People are named after other people. Fathers tend to name their first son after themselves. Often time children are given the names of relatives or other people who had an impact upon their life or whom they’d like to honor. This gives the name meaning; it means they are to carry on a family legacy or live a life that honors the person whom they are named for. For some children that’s a heavy burden.

In the paradox between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, I wonder where the naming of children fits. We know that every child born is known of God from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), but what about their name? God chose the name of Adam, and allowed Adam to name Eve. He named Jesus, but then Jesus is His only begotten Son. Being omniscient, God certainly knows in advance what each child’s name will be, but I wonder if He influenced the names of at least some like Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Esther or David?

Let me use myself as an example. My name is Paul Thomas. I was named after my father’s older brother (I’m actually Paul Thomas, II). That was my dad’s motive in naming me, but did God have another? Both Paul and Thomas were apostles. Paul means little, which I must be daily reminded of by the Holy Spirit and Thomas means twin. I often see myself in the twin spiritual dispositions described in Romans 7:7-25. Did God allow me to be named Paul Thomas because He knew what my struggles would be and wanted me to know that He knows, so I know He is with me in those struggles? I don’t know? Really, I’m speculating (and maybe hoping).

I think it’s important to know the meaning of our name. We should know its etymological meaning (i.e. Joshua / Jesus means salvation) and its family significance. I think we should also know what our name means to the Church. For example, someone named Francis (male) or Frances (female) should do a little research and learn about the saint they were named for. They can then adopt that saint as a patron or patroness and seek to emulate their faith principles in their own life and ask their intercession. If you do not have a Christian name (for example my eldest son has two Hebrew names), then adopt a saint as a patron or patroness and name yourself after them (my son took Francis Xavier as his confirmation name).

Getting back to my original thought, names have meaning. My wife and I have three sons. We prayed and thought about the names of each one. Your parents named you for a reason. If you have children, you did the same. God knows our name. He knew what it would be before we were born! He may have asserted some divine influence in the name we were given.

Knowing the meaning of our name, especially its etymology and meaning to the Church, is one of those little things that can be helpful to us in our faith-walk. It can be encouraging or sobering.  It can remind us to keep going, or warn us to make a change. Like Athanasius, it could be our legacy. Either way, it has significance.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

April 25, 2018 (St. Mark, Evangelist and Martyr)

I heard it once again the other day; the expression Christians often use that drives me crazy: “Well, all we can do is pray!” While sometimes this is true, prayer should not be seen merely as a “last resort.” Instead, prayer should be the first action, the continuous action and the last action of everything we do.

Philippians 4:6 states “Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  The word “supplication” in Greek means to “ask, seek, entreat in the time of need.”  This is St. Matthew 7:7, 8 where Jesus tells us we must “ask, seek and knock” in our prayers. We are not to just ask once and then go silent, seek for a minute and then move on, knock once and stop. The implication is to keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking; we are to entreat the Lord!

1 Thessalonians 5:17 states we are to “Pray without ceasing.”  This does not mean we are to spend all our time physically upon our knees in prayer, but it does mean we are to be praying continually throughout our day. We can be on our knees in our hearts, humbling ourselves before God all the time. Praying without ceasing means we converse with God continuously, throughout our day. It is beginning all actions with prayer, continuing all actions with prayer and concluding all actions with prayer (“Direct us, O Lord…that in all our works begun, continued and ended in thee…” BCP pg. 49)… These do not have to be pre-composed prayers, just sincere conversations with Him.

If we’ve never tried to pray without ceasing and we’d like to start, there are some simple ways to do so using the tools we have as Anglican Catholics.  First, we need to commit ourselves to praying Morning and Evening Prayer. This will help us develop discipline in prayer and will also teach us how to pray by giving us both prayers to pray and the structure of prayer (to the Father, through the Son, by / in the Holy Ghost). Second we should add wake up and bed time prayers, so our first and final thoughts of each day focus on our dependence upon God and our need for Him to lead us in all things. We can use the Prayer Book for these, use other books with prayers, or they can be extemporaneous. Using the Psalm appointed for a particular day from the daily lectionary, or favorite Psalms, are excellent forms. Remember, we pray the psalms, not read them! Third, add a time of mid-day prayer. There are some good written prayers, like the Angelus, which can be used for this time, but extemporaneous prayer is good too. Of course we should already be praying before all our meals.

When we have all five of these times of prayer in place, we will have built a solid prayer frame for our life. Then all we need do is fill in the frame with small little prayers, what the 17th century English Divines called “ejaculatory prayers”; prayers that come from the heart, written or extemporaneous, to fit particular situations. If our life is built upon Scripture and Tradition (Ephesians 4:1-16), then we will have set this frame upon a sure foundation which will not fall when the storms of life beat against it (St. Matthew 7:24-27).

God always answers prayer!  Always! He may not always answer the way we want, or time His answers to when we want, but He does answer. As a parent I know that “No,” and “Wait” are answers! Not the answers our children may want, but real answers none the less.

St. Ignatius Loyola reportedly taught “Pray as if it all depends on God, Work as if all depends on you.” We are to do these two; pray and work simultaneously. As we do all we can to bring an answer to our own prayers, we are to be praying all we can for God to bring an answer to them. We cannot first do all we can, leaving God out and then, after we’ve done what we can, turn to God in last-ditch desperation. Instead, we are to be praying desperately before and during everything we do.

Maybe we don’t pray the way we should because we lack confidence that God will agree with what we are praying for? If the desire of our prayers is to glorify God, and all of our prayers end with “Thy will be done”, then what Jesus promised in St. John 16:23 is assured (see 1 John 5:14).

There are certainly going to be times when all that can be done in a given situation is pray. But if we start in prayer, pray throughout and, do whatever we can possibly do too, then some of the desperation is taken out. Prayer will then become the “be all and the end all” of our relationship with God in Christ, not a last resort.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

April 17, 2018 (St. Stephen Harding, Confessor)

Our Lord Jesus Christ has given His Church Seven Sacraments. While some categorize them into two “greater” or “dominical” (instituted directly by Christ) and five “lesser,” or “ecclesiastical” (instituted by the Church), there are none the less seven of them.

The Sacraments are Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation, Penance, Matrimony, Holy Orders and Unction. Each is equally a means of grace. This is what makes them Sacraments. They are not mere signs, but signs that effect what they symbolize.

Baptism’s sign is water. Holy Communion’s is bread and wine. Confirmation’s is the laying on of hands. Penance’s is the words of absolution. Matrimony’s is the exchange of vows (and the blessed rings). Holy Orders’ is also the laying on of hands. Unction’s is oil.

The Sacraments effect what they symbolize.  Baptism washes the soul from the guilt of original sin (and any actual sin in adults). Holy Communion feeds the soul with the Body and Blood of Christ. Confirmation seals the soul with the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Ghost. Penance absolves the soul of sin. Marriage gives the grace needed to fulfill the vows given and received. Holy Orders gives the grace necessary to fulfill each office. Unction heals; sometimes the body and always the spirit. The Sacraments are real means of grace.

There is a difference between say, the waters of Baptism and the water in the holy water stoop at the entrance to the nave. Baptismal water regenerates, the holy water reminds us we have been made regenerate. The sign of the cross placed upon the one being baptized indelibly marks the soul and body for Christ. The sign of the cross we make with the holy water says we are still manfully fighting under Christ’s banner. The holy water in the stoop is a helpful reminder. The baptismal water is the power of God (Titus 3:5)!

What the Word is for the ears and the mind, the Sacraments are for the rest of the senses and the body. St. Augustine taught the Sacraments are the “Word made visible.” Both are objective means of grace. What is true about the Word in Isaiah 55:11 “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” is true about the Sacraments.

For example, Romans 6:3, 4 “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” The sign of baptism buries and raises us in Christ. Or, St. John 6:55, 56 “For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” When we partake of the Holy Eucharist we feed upon the Body and Blood of Christ. Yes, the Sacraments truly effect what they signify. They are the verbum visibium.

Armed with this knowledge we should take full advantage of the grace God provides in the Sacraments. Baptism and Confirmation are indelible, so they should never be repeated. But when we doubt, we should remember them. We should know those dates (mine are 06-16-1963 and 11-18-1976) and use them to remind ourselves we belong to Christ. When our soul is hungry we should feed on Christ’s Body and Blood. When it needs forgiveness we should receive priestly absolution. When it is sick we should receive unction.

The Anglican Catholic Church is a Sacramental church. Yes, we are a Church of the Scriptures; we uphold the Prima Scriptura (Scripture first) principle of the Church Fathers. But also like them we are Sacramental. Our daily life is a life of Word and Sacrament, beautifully woven into the fabric of our being, our essence, like a fine tapestry.

Let us contemplate, utilize and thank God for our sacramental fabric and by it hold fast unto everlasting life!

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

April 10, 2018 (Easter Feria)

I wonder how many of the followers of Jesus must have felt today?  It was twelve days after Jesus’ crucifixion and nine days after His resurrection.

When I say Jesus’ followers, I don’t mean the Twelve, or St. Mary Magdalene and the other holy women that were close to Jesus, or even the Seventy whom Jesus sent out to preach and heal. I mean those who were followers at a greater distance. Those in the smaller towns and villages who saw and heard Jesus preach once or twice, believed what they were able about Him, but were not called to leave all and be with Him, and returned to their homes, jobs and families filled with hope the Messiah had come!

There was no radio or television in those days. There were no phones or texting. There was no internet, no Google or Facebook, no Twitter or Instagram. News traveled slowly; mouth to ear or in written letters carried by messengers on foot or by donkey. Those who lived in a town or village far from Jerusalem would have to wait days for news to get there.

Let’s say I lived in Tyre along the coast of the Mediterranean, on the far northwest end of Judea. It would take a long time for news from Jerusalem to reach me, and that news would be spotty at best. At first I would’ve heard Jesus had been crucified…and then, likely a few days later, that His disciples were saying He had risen from the dead but the Pharisees were saying the disciples stole the body!  What was I to believe? Like Cleopas my hopes would at first be dashed, but then after hearing Jesus had risen they would be…? The contradictory news of crucifixion and resurrection, the lack of eyewitnesses in a town so far from Jerusalem or Galilee…again what was I to believe?

As Christians, two thousand and eighteen years removed from the day of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, we need to be mindful that there are still many people today who don’t know what to believe. Their reasons are different; it’s not that the information is not available. But there is still a lot of contradiction, often coming from Christians themselves!  We can be inconsistent in our testimony. We can be inconsistent in our witness. Often worse, our testimony and witness can contradict each other.

Those who would like to believe, but don’t know what to believe, are looking to us (to Christians) to learn what they need to know and believe. What are our words and our actions, what are our lives saying to them? Do they see and hear contradictions? Are we at mass every Sunday, but the rest of week living worldly? Do our mouths speak the praises of God in church, and then speak like a soldier on the battlefield outside it? Do we talk about love for our brothers and sisters, but never show that love to anyone, accept maybe to those who love us first?

Before His Ascension, Jesus told the Apostles “…ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). As members of the Church Catholic, baptized and confirmed in the Apostolic faith, we have a share in and a responsibility to fulfill this charge!

We are to be witnesses for Christ!  But if our witness is nothing but contradictions…if our lips and lives are not in sync, then we become nothing but a “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Eighteen days after Jesus’ crucifixion, it is understandable why a follower of Jesus, or any citizen of Tyre, would have been confused about what happened in Judea during the first Holy Week. Miles away from Jerusalem, and with the slow and spotty way news traveled, it would have been difficult for them to get a consistent, confirmed witness.

We don’t have that excuse today.

Christians know what happened that week. We know Jesus was crucified, that He lay dead in the tomb for three days and then arose from the dead!  Further we know that over 500 people saw Him alive, and that at least the Twelve, if not more, saw Him ascend into heaven. We know He appeared to St. Paul and called him to be an apostle. We know all these things…but what are we witnessing to others? What news are we telling them? Is it the Good News?

Is our witness consistent or a contradiction. Is our message steady or mixed? Jesus has declared that faith will be born in unbelievers through hearing the word of God preached (Romans 10:17). Not just by the clergy, but by all Christians. And today, what we preach with our mouths must be backed up by what we live. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi we need to “Preach the Gospel, use words if necessary.”

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

April 3, 2018 (Easter Tuesday)

“And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.” (St. Luke 24:35)

That is the last verse of the Gospel Lesson for Easter Monday (St. Luke 24:13-35). You probably know it as the “Road to Emmaus” account. In this account, a man named Cleopas and a companion (in Tradition his name is Simon) were walking to Emmaus from Jerusalem on the afternoon of the Resurrection. As they did, they discussed the events that had occurred in Jerusalem over the past three days; Jesus’ crucifixion and death, and His reported resurrection. They were puzzled by it all. They didn’t understand why Jesus, the one they thought was going to redeem Israel, had suffered and died? And then the reports of His resurrection! It overwhelmed them.

At one point in that seven mile journey, Jesus came along side of them and asked what they were talking about. Scripture states they were “holden” (restrained) and did not recognize Him. After telling Him what had occurred, and that their hopes appeared dashed, Jesus continued to walk with them, teaching them from Moses through all the prophets how the Christ had to suffer and die in order to redeem Israel. Despite being taught the Scriptures by Jesus Himself and having their hearts burning within them as He taught (can you imagine that Bible study!), their ability to see it was Jesus teaching them remained restrained. Eventually they reached Emmaus and the two men invited Jesus to stay and dine with them. He accepted. You know the rest…As they sat at the table, Jesus took bread, blessed and break it. When He did, the eyes of Cleopas and Simon were opened and they saw, they knew, it was Jesus that had been teaching them!

Cleopas and Simon were disciples of Jesus. Eusebius wrote Cleopas was a brother of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster father of Jesus. The point is, he would have known Jesus had his eyes not been restrained. Yet he did not recognize Him, nor understand Him as He taught. He didn’t understand that is, until Jesus celebrated the Eucharist!

You and I, and each of Jesus’ disciples have likely been in a similar situation as Cleopas was. We’ve wrestled with what God is doing in our lives or in the world, and just cannot understand. Like him we are sad, frustrated, bewildered; possibly even angry. What is God doing? Because we are His disciples we are in the Scriptures. We are reading them, meditating upon them and asking God for us to see answers in them, but like Cleopas we are not getting an answer. At least not one that is clear.

What are we to do when this happens?

We are to go see Jesus in the Eucharist!  There, as the Eucharist is celebrated, the eyes of our understanding will be opened. There Jesus is, standing at the Table (the altar) in the person of the celebrant priest, blessing and breaking the bread, which is His Body. There, Jesus will be made known to us just as He was to Cleopas.

He might not expound all we are searching the Scriptures to know, but in revealing Himself to us we will know He has truly risen from the dead; which is really all that matters!  We prayed Psalm 2 in Morning Prayer this past Easter Sunday morning. It gives God’s answer to the many sinful things going on in the world, and what God has done about it: He has sent Jesus, His anointed, to deal with it all!  Jesus died for it (for us) all and He now lives to overcome all that the world can conjure up. Sometimes this is all God allows us to know. Sometimes He restrains us from knowing more.

In 1 Corinthians 10:16 St. Paul states “…The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” The word communion in Greek is koinōnia. It means fellowship, intercommunion, (spiritual) intercourse even. When we receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist we have all three with Jesus!  He is made known to all five of our senses, and then comes to dwell in us in, and we in Him!  There is nothing more spiritually intimate for us to partake in on this side of heaven.

1 Corinthians 11:26 states “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” Each time we partake of the Eucharist we proclaim the Gospel, and as we proclaim the Gospel we receive the promise Jesus gave in St. Matthew 28:20 “…lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Reception of the Eucharist assures us Jesus is always with us, and in us.

It is not unusual for a disciple of Jesus to struggle to understand Scripture. In fact, the proof we are truly His disciple is that we are struggling to understand. We’ve not given up. We’re willing to ask, seek and knock. When we struggle, let us be sure to seek Jesus in the breaking of bread; in the Holy Eucharist. He will be made known to us there. He will give answer to our need, even if that answer is “…my grace (given in the Holy Sacrament) is sufficient for thee…” (2 Corinthians 12:9). That may very well be the best answer we can ever receive?!

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

March 26, 2018 (Monday Before Easter)

In my formation for the priesthood I was taught it is best to not preach a sermon within the masses celebrated on the weekday’s during Holy Week, save on Maundy Thursday. And on Maundy Thursday the sermon should be more of a homily; a brief address on one point of the holy day, not a time to “preach.”

Some may think this is because the Scripture lessons appointed for those days are long and, particularly in this 21st century, people’s attention span are the opposite. But that is not the reason.

I was taught the reason is, during this week it is best to allow God’s Word to do its work. The lessons appointed foretell through Isaiah, comment through St. Paul (on Easter Even, St. Peter) or report through the Gospel Evangelists the saving actions of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. What more can any preacher add to what the Holy Ghost has given those writers to say?

During this week the priest should, more than any other week, trust what God says in Isaiah 55:11: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”  During this week the priest should step aside and let the Holy Ghost, through the Word, do His work.

The Gospel lessons in particular are most powerful. Each is part of the Passion narrative; the specific events that won salvation for us!  They are God’s word on this matter. They tell man what He wants us to know His Son, Jesus, did for us to save us from our sins. They are not “theology” per se, yet they are didactic; possibly the most didactic portion of Scripture? They teach through the facts they report.

If we know nothing else about Jesus, we must know this! 1 Corinthians 2:2 states “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” In 1 Corinthians 1:18 we are told: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” We must, by faith, receive the powerful message of Christ crucified if we are to be saved!

Therefore we would be wise to take the time to read the Passion Narratives. If mass is offered and we can hear them there, all the better! But if not, at home we can still “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest…” them (see the Collect for Advent 2).  After we have heard and / or read them we should meditate upon them; looking for little details we may have overlooked or have not connected to other details. Remember, this is God’s record of those events! Everything He has decreed necessary to know about Jesus’ passion and death are recorded in those narratives. On our part, we must pay attention!

It’s easy to think, “But I know this stuff.” Do we? Yes we know the overview, but do we know the details? Have we connected the dots? For myself I’d say, not as I should. But that can change. We can take the time to read those narratives again, as if we were reading them for the first time.

We can wrestle with them the way Jacob wrestled with the “man” (likely a theophany) in Genesis 32:24-32. Jacob would not let go until the man had blessed him. We can do the same with these narratives! Of them St. Leo I wrote “Let us toil in thought, let us fail in insight, let us falter in speech; it is good for us to feel how inadequate is the little we are able to express concerning the majesty of God.”

There are good Catholic and Orthodox commentaries, and even whole books, that can give us new insight into them, but first we should start with knowing the narratives themselves. Just “Joe Friday” them (you remember, from Drag Net “…Just the facts…”). And then let those facts resonate in our spirit, allowing the Holy Ghost to fill us with the wisdom and power of God. Our efforts will not return void, but will prosper for our salvation!

Have a blessed Holy Week.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

March 20, 2018 (St. Cuthbert, Bishop and Confessor)

A verse from the Gospel Lesson of Lent III has remained with me since that Sunday. It’s St. Luke 11:17. Jesus says “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.” How true this is. Of course it is true. Jesus said it!

The application of this passage is broad-ranging, but I’ve been thinking about it in the context of the Anglican Continuum…

For almost its entire forty years the Continuum has been a house divided. What began with great hopes and aspirations broke apart almost immediately. Some of it could have been expected. The “tent” was too big. In the 20th century (and now in the 21st) it’s a lot to ask for people with broadly-diverse understandings of doctrine to remain united. We’re too tribal.

The surprising, and sad, thing is that the Catholic portion of the Continuum divided. I joined the Continuum after all the splits had occurred, so I am not a veteran of those “wars.” As an outsider looking at the Continuum, I tried to determine the differences between the churches. I found few. But then there could be factors I’m not aware of. From what I saw, some preferred the Prayer Book over the Missal, some more or less ritual, or some give greater weight to the Articles of Religion, but the essential doctrines and practices were the same. I couldn’t understand why they were divided, other than ecclesial politics and men wanting to be “popes.”

I’m not alone in what I saw. Others have seen this too. I am glad to see it’s ending if not over.

Five years ago the presiding bishops of four of the six continuing churches began discussions about co-operating with each other. Over time, those talks turned towards the possibility of unifying the four in some form. That unity took a first big step this past October when those four bishops signed an agreement establishing full communion (Communio in sacris) with one another.

Since that historic day, the unity discussions have continued. This is more than a paper agreement. Later this year the bishops of the G-4 churches (as they are being called) will discuss issues of polity, diocesan boundaries and canons. There will likely be another joint synod in 2020. The process continues. There is much yet to do.  And yet the foundation has been laid.  I hope the bishops continue to proceed cautiously, letting each step in the process settle before adding more to it.

When the intercommunion agreement was signed, one of the bishops declared “We are now one!” That statement echoes the words of Jesus in St. John 17: 20, 21 “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee…” Our Lord Jesus Christ wants His Church to be one.

Psalm 133:1, 2 states “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;” The anointing referred to was Aaron’s consecration to the Old Covenant high priesthood (Exodus 40:13). How fitting for the bishops, our “high priests,” to be anointing us with the oil of unity.

Ephesians 4:3-5 states the Church is to “Endeavour (ing) to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” The G-4 churches are working in this direction.  We have no ability to unite the whole Church, or even all of what is called “Anglicanism,” but we can be instrumental in uniting the Continuum.

Our parish is blessed to be on the “front lines” of the unity process. One of our new sister parishes, an APA parish, is located 10 miles away. In this past year the two parishes have become acquainted with each other. In this coming year we will have two joint worship services, the first of them being a joint Easter Vigil service, within which we will receive the Eucharist together. I sense our relationship is genuine.

I don’t think it is too much to say that this is the direction the Holy Ghost is leading Continuing Anglicanism in the 21st century. Lord willing, this next generation will realize what those who gathered in St. Louis in 1977 and Denver in 1978 prayed for. We must continue to pray, but we also must do the work. Bishops, clergy and laity must be willing to humble themselves and serve each other for the cause of Christ, the Gospel and historic Anglicanism. If Archbishop Haverland is correct (and I think he is) that “Classical Anglicanism is now preserved only in its Anglo-Catholic form…” then the results of this effort might just make or break “Anglicanism”?

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

March 13, 2018 (Lenten Feria)

How often do we say something like “Oh yeah, I know…”, or “Yeah, I’m friends with…”?

Of course both may be true. But often we may have only met that person (and in that sense know them), or have a friendly relationship with them (but are not actually friends). Yet we still say we know them or are friends with them.

Are we doing the same with Jesus? Are we saying we know Him and are friends with Him, when really we only know of Him and are only on “friendly terms” with Him?

The difference is very important.

In life saying we know someone, or are friends with someone, whom we really do not know or are not really friends with, can hurt our credibility. Saying we know or are friends with Jesus, when we only know of Him and are not really His friend, can cost us everything!

Saying, “I know Jesus” means something.  Saying, “I’m friends with Jesus” means something specific. Both mean something very real. They say we know Jesus personally.

In St. John 15:14 Jesus says “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” Jesus’ friends obey Him. He’s the Lord of their life. He has dominion over their thoughts, words and deeds.

What does Jesus command us to do? Scripture, each verse, tells us (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). St. Luke 10:27 summarizes it for us “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” Love summarizes what Jesus commands of us. In St. John 13:34 Jesus says “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Jesus commands us to love Him and to love one another. As we do them both, we show we are truly His friend.  We prove we truly know Him.

In St. John 14:15 Jesus says “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” And in v. 23 he reiterates: “…If a man love me, he will keep my words:” Loving Jesus means we know and obey His Word. They are synonymous.

Let’s go a little deeper shall we? In Philippians 3:10 St. Paul defines his understanding of knowing Jesus: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” When we know the affect of Jesus’ resurrection upon all of creation, and especially in redeeming man, when we can fellowship with Him at the level of His sufferings, when we are one with Him in His sacrificial death, then we really know Jesus. Then we really are His friends.

In St. John 15:13 Jesus says “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus’ closest friends lay down their lives for His sake and that of the brethren. They “take up their cross” and follow Him (St. Luke 9:23). This kind of friendship denies itself, its ego, for Christ. Galatians 2:20 says “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

The more we identify with Christ. The more we understand the power His resurrection can have over our life. The more we identify with His sufferings, saying with St. Paul in Colossians 1:24 “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:.” The more we allow Jesus to draw us to the Cross (St. John 12:32), losing ourselves in Him to suffer for His glory and the salvation of others, then we truly know Jesus and are His friends.

None of us can know Jesus perfectly. None of us can be the perfect friend to Him, He is to us. And yet by grace we are to strive towards perfection. Philippians 3:14 states “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  Jesus has set the bar high, yet we are called to strive towards it. By grace we can certainly attain to whatever Jesus has called us to.

A familiar song states: “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear…Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share?”

It’s easy to say we know Jesus and to say we are His friend. But do we really know Him? Are we truly His friend?  Scripture will let us know. Obedience will be the evidence.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

March 6, 2018 (SS. Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs)

This date is special to me. March 6. It is the date of my conversion back to the Christian Faith. The year was 1984, thirty-four years ago today. I remember it as if it were yesterday…

I woke up that morning like any other. I had little hope and few expectations. Like today, it was a Tuesday. I did not have to work. At the time I handled the food prep and was an assistant manager at a local pizza restaurant in Ohio. I was 20 years old.

During the previous four-plus years my life had either spun in circles or spiraled down. At 16, I started to lose my faith in the Church (Rome at that time). By 18, I had lost my faith in faith. I still thought there was a God, but was fading away from Him. The only prayer I could say was the Lord’s Prayer.

I started to dabble in Buddhism and by the time I was 20, I had been to Lexington, KY for meditation instruction. A local martial arts instructor was my teacher. I practiced Tibetan Buddhism, which is a most evil form. I used the Tibetan Book of the Dead as a guide. Dangerous stuff.

On the outside things might have looked okay. I kept my job and even advanced a little. My boss talked of making me the manager when I turned 21. But on the inside I was so lost! Failed relationships, erratic behavior, alcohol and drug use. It was bad. Give me a night or two off with the wrong people and I’d get myself into trouble.

It got so bad my mother, saint that she is, had to kick me out of her house (my father died when I was ten).  I was disrupting the household and setting a very bad example for my two younger sisters and my younger brother. It had to break her heart, but tough love was her only option. She, like St. Monica the mother of St. Augustine, must have been working overtime in prayer for me. I was a great disappointment.

Two times during the months I lived in an efficiency apartment, I put my life in jeopardy. Not on purpose. I was never suicidal or a nihilist. I was just stupid. I had relinquished control of my life to Satan. Buddhism is the “beautiful side of evil.” In the first brush with death I rode on the top of a van at 50 mph, nearly falling off several times. The second, I could have died like Keith Moon of The Who. My guardian angel was with me and I woke up face down.

That scared me. Thank God something finally did! I begged my mom to let me move back home, promising I’d obey her rules. It was January 1984.

And I did. I did not drink or take drugs. I was only out late if I was closing the pizza shop. My mom had a room built for me in our basement so I would not wake her or my siblings up when I came home from work late. There was a full bathroom in the basement too. It was a simple room; a bed, a desk and a dresser. Oh, and a three foot ceramic statue of Buddha!

I worked in the afternoon and evening, so I was home in the mornings. My mom, though Roman Catholic, watched the 700 Club television show. I wouldn’t watch it, but would hear it in the background while eating breakfast. I heard testimonies of men and women who had messed up their lives like I was doing, but called out to Jesus and their lives changed. I didn’t understand the theology behind it. I was ignorant of Scripture, having never really been taught beyond Bible stories. But the testimonies I heard sounded real. They touched my spirit. I heard those testimonies here and there for about six weeks. Then, on March 6, 1984 everything changed!

As I said, the day started out as usual. I got up and ate, and then got ready to drive to the bank to cash my pay check. Before I left I got the mail, which was usually delivered first thing in the morning in my neighborhood.

I received a letter in that day’s mail. It put all my failures right in my face. As I drove to the bank at 10:30 a.m. in my 1974, yellow Olds Delta Eighty-eight that letter was on my mind. My sins of the past four years crashed in upon me. Tears welled up and I cried out to God. I didn’t think to pray to Jesus or in His Name. I just cried out to God. And He heard me!  I cried so hard and prayed from such groaning and pain in my spirit that I don’t remember a good portion of that drive to the bank. To this day I can remember, I can picture it as I write this, where I was on my driving route when I cried out. I said something like “God, I’ve messed up my life. If you can still do something with me, please do so!” The next thing I remember I was parked in the lot of the bank. A warm peace flooded my spirit, my mind and my body. My life had changed!

I went home immediately afterwards and went to my room. I took my Buddha statue and smashed it on the driveway! I took all my books and notes on Buddhism and burned them in our incinerator!  Months later I learned the Ephesians had done the same thing when they were converted (Acts 19:18, 19). My mom was out when I got back, but when she returned I told her I had turned my life over to Jesus. By then I knew He was the One who heard me as I drove. We cried and then prayed together.

That was thirty-four years ago today. Since then I’ve put the Lord to the test and grieved Him more times than I’d like to admit. But, I have not let Him go again. I know He is real and He will never leave me nor forsake me. He had not walked away from me when I was 16, and He will not now.

I’ve recounted all this here today in hopes that if someone who reads it is lost as I was, they might know there is Someone who can restore their hope and their life. His name is Jesus Christ. I’ve also written this for those who have a family member or a friend who is lost, and they are praying for them. Keep Praying!  Don’t give up!  My mother didn’t, thanks be to God!

Jesus Christ is God. He is the Son of God. He is Way, the Truth and the Life. He is my Lord and Savior.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

February 27, 2018 (Lenten Feria)

St. Joseph Barsabas.  Who is he you might ask?

St. Joseph Barsabas, surnamed Justus, was a candidate along with St. Matthias (whose feast day we celebrated on February 24) to replace Judas Iscariot in the Apostolic College after Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin and then hung himself in the “field of blood.” His name is mentioned only once in Scripture, in Acts 1:23.

Both Joseph Barsabas and Matthias were disciples of Jesus from the time of His baptism in the Jordan River through the day of that election (Acts 1:21, 22). He was a witness to many of Jesus’ teachings and miracles, and to the Resurrection. Eusebius (AD 260-340) states he was one of the seventy disciples Jesus sent throughout Judea to evangelize and heal the sick recorded in St. Luke 10:1-24. He was in the circle of Jesus’ disciples just outside of the twelve Apostles.

What happened to Joseph Barsabas after that election? Scripture doesn’t tell us, but Tradition does. Well at least a few things.

After Joseph Barsabas was not elected he continued to evangelize. He suffered much in his efforts, primarily at the hands of unbelieving Jews. Papias (AD 60-130) states he was forced to drink poison and miraculously survived (see St. Mark 16:18).  He was later consecrated Bishop of Eleutheropolis, a city which was outside of Hebron in what was once the kingdom of Judah. According to the historian Josephus, Eleutheropolis (then known as Betaris) was ransacked by the Roman Emperor Vespian in the Jewish War of AD 68.  It is likely Bishop Joseph Barsabas was martyred at that time. His feast day is kept on July 20.

Things could have gone much differently for Joseph Barsabas. He could have rejected the election of Matthias, claiming the Holy Ghost was not present in the assembly of Apostles and 120 believers gathered for it. He could have denigrated them, saying Satan was in their midst, if not in their hearts. I mean, the casting of lot’s was essentially a roll of the dice! Didn’t he equally and possibly more than Matthias, deserve to take Judas’ seat in the Apostolic College? Why didn’t the 120, the Apostles and then the Holy Ghost Himself, who inspired the Apostles to cast lots, choose him?

Joseph Barsabas could have done any of those things, but he didn’t. He humbly accepted Matthias’ election as the choice of the Holy Ghost working through the 120, the Apostles and the casting of lots. Instead of quitting the Church, creating a schism or going off in a pout, he continued to serve Jesus and the Church with great, fervent zeal.

Psalm 75:5-7 states “Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck. For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.”  No doubt as a faithful disciple of Jesus, Joseph Barsabas knew this Psalm. And on the day the successor to Judas Iscariot was chosen, he accepted the decision with humility as God’s will.

In the history of Continuing Anglicanism, too often men have not acted the way Joseph Barsabas did. If they were not chosen to be a candidate for an Episcopal election, or they were a candidate but were not elected, instead of accepting the decision of the jurisdiction or diocese as the decision of the Holy Ghost working through the clergy, laity and canonical process, they rejected it in the strongest of terms and harshest of ways. In doing so they essentially said the Holy Ghost was not present amongst the electorate or its process. Wow!

Unlike Joseph Barsabas, who accepted the process and the decision as the work and will of the Holy Ghost and the Church (i.e. Acts 15:28) and went on to serve in the manner Christ called him to (see Ephesians 2:10) until the day of his martyrdom, these men have disrupted and disturbed the peace of their jurisdiction or diocese, creating unnecessary hurt and schism, and suffocating evangelism!

This is a great scourge on the witness of Continuing Anglicanism.

Hopefully today this scourge has come, or at least is coming, to an end. As the various Joint Synod churches (and I pray soon the APCK) unite, the prayer is that the Holy Ghost will guide the Bishops, other clergy and laity of each jurisdiction (and one day as an organically united body) to elect men who seek to serve Christ and His Church as bishops; men who do not have “mitreitis” (lust for the bishop’s mitre).

Equally so, the prayer is that those who are not elected would accept the result as the work of the Holy Ghost. As Hebrews 5:4 states “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” That is what Joseph Barsabas did.  He accepted the decision of the Holy Ghost and the Church, and Christ crowned him with martyrdom and later the Church canonized him.

Let us Pray…St. Joseph Barsbas Justus, intercede for the Church, in particular the Continuing Anglican branch. May we all exercise the humility you did, and in doing so build up the Church. To the glory of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

February 20, 2018 (Lenten Feria)

When people think of Lent, most think in terms of “giving something up.” People give up a certain type of food or beverage. Some give up a certain television show. Others give up cell phone obsession.

Giving up things is good, especially things we will continue to give up once Lent is over. After Lent, we may not need to be as strict as we are in Lent. For example, we could occasionally partake of that certain food or beverage, we could occasionally watch that television show, and there may be a day when circumstances dictate being attached to our phone. During Lent we will have broken the habit and shown ourselves we can live without that thing, so after Lent we can partake of it in a healthy way, in moderation. Of course there may be something we give up during Lent that is so destructive to our faith that we should never partake of it again!

If we didn’t prepare for Lent during the “Gesima season” by praying for guidance from the Holy Ghost, and had to make a last minute decision on what discipline to practice for Lent, then “giving something up” is often the default decision .

But in Lent we should really do more than give something up. We should also add something. Ephesians 4:22-24 states “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” St. Paul uses the terms “put off” and “put on” to describe the best way to grow our faith in Lent; really, the best way to grow our faith year ‘round. We should not only give up something (“put off”), we should add something (“put on”).

In Ephesians 4:25-32 St. Paul provides a list of things we can put off and put on. He puts equal emphasis on both. We are to stop lying and speak the truth. We are to stop stealing and labor for the things we need. We must not only let go of bitterness, wrath and anger, we need to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving. We see the Apostle’s point.

Both in Lent and in life, growing in our faith is more than finding ways to put off ways we sin. In fact, if we were able to accomplish that we would leave a vacuum which Satan could fill with far worse sin (St. Luke 11:24-26)! We need to fill the vacuum left by what we put off, by putting something on. We need to add to our faith!

2 Peter 1:4-8 states “…having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  After we have escaped the world’s lusts (see 1 St. John 2:15-17) we need to add certain things to our faith; if that is, we want to be fruitful in our love and knowledge of Jesus.

That’s really the crux of the matter isn’t it? Do we do the religious things we do; you know, give up things during Lent, attend mass, pray or serve in order to (so we think) “avoid hell”? Or, do we do religious things because we want to love and know Jesus our Savior better? Do we want to merely “put off hell”, or do we want to “put on heaven?”

St. Paul and St. Peter say we need to both put off sin and put on love and knowledge. Loving, serving and growing in Christ are accomplished with what we put off and what we put on. If all we do is put off sin, but never add anything to our faith we will not grow in our love for and knowledge of Jesus. Or, if all we do is put on. If we practice perfect discipline during Lent, become perfect in our mass attendance, pray the daily offices and serve tirelessly, but do not stop habitual sin, we will not grow either. We need to put off. We need to put on.

As we continue in this Lenten season, let us rethink our disciplines in light of what we see in the instructions of SS. Paul and Peter. If the things we put off and put on are truly life changing, these remaining weeks of Lent will be just the beginning!

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

February 13, 2018 (St. Kentigern, Bishop and Confessor / Shrove Tuesday)

I was a “rink rat” growing up.

In the winters I would hang out at the city ice rink. I’d have my skates with me and would look for any opportunity to get on the ice. On Friday and Saturday nights I’d drag my equipment with me to see if the guys renting the ice after public skating needed a goalie. Nine of ten times they did and I’d get to play.

As a kid I remember seeing what I affectionately think of as “church rats” at the local parish. They were typically older men and women, likely retired, who seemed to be somewhere on the parish property all the time (I’d cut through it a lot on my way to other places). Usually I’d see them pulling weeds, caring for the priest’s vegetable garden, throwing salt on the walkways or just puttering around the grounds and sanctuary.

Then there were other times when I saw them inside the church praying. Back in those days the church’s doors were open through the day. I’d stop in to get a drink of water or warm up as I cut through, and I’d see them kneeling or sitting in a pew just praying, no one else around. Mass was not about to begin nor had it recently ended. It was just them, alone, with God. I admired this, a lot.

In St. Luke 2:25-38 we are told about two great “church rats” Simeon and Anna.

Simeon was a devout man and a prophet. He was daily at the Temple praying for the “consolation,” the redemption, of Israel. The Holy Ghost was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the Christ face to face. Once he saw the infant Jesus’ face, his work as a prayer warrior was finished and he proclaimed he was ready to depart in peace.

Anna was a prophetess and a widow who lived at the Temple.  For eighty-four years she was day and night inside the Temple gates, praying and fasting. When she saw Jesus, she praised God and told everyone that salvation had come to Israel.

We don’t have many “church rats” today. In part this is because, for safety purposes, our churches are not open like they used to be.  But even if they were, few would likely take advantage of it. We’re busy (doing what I don’t know?) so few have time to putter around the church or sit in the sanctuary to pray. I think the Church has really lost something.

But we don’t have to be on the property of our parish to be a “church rat.” Unlike Israel we don’t have one, centralized place of worship. Jesus told the woman at the well “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father…But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” (St. John 4:21, 23).

Church buildings where orthodox, Biblical, sacramental worship takes place are important, but they are not essential the way the Temple was. If it became necessary, we, like the early Church, could worship God fully and properly anywhere. All we need is a proper priest, bread and wine (and a table would be nice), and we can worship and commune with Jesus (St. Luke 24:30-32).

How then can we be “church rats” in this 21st century? We can live with the attitude and desire of Simeon and Anna. We can set our hearts, minds and desires on Christ and His Church.

Every morning we can begin our day with prayer, and then pray Morning Prayer too. Throughout the day we can keep our mind on the things of God (“pray without ceasing”) and when opportunities arise to worship, work at or serve our parish, or our fellow parishioners, we can be the one who is there. We can end our day with Evening Prayer and then pray again before we go to sleep. If we awake during the night, we can pray (Psalm 36:4).

We may not be able to be physically at the church day and night like Anna or daily like Simeon, but our hearts and minds can be on it like theirs was. We can pray for the consolation of the Church. We can pray for the ACC, the other Joint Synod churches, and our parish. We can pray for our bishops and other clergy. We can pray for lay readers and those who serve before, during and after mass. We can pray for our musicians and singers. We can pray for our church school teachers. We can pray for our fellow parishioners and for those who may visit (and pray more will visit!). The point is, we don’t have to be physically at the church to be a “church rat.” But, we do need to have the spirit and desire of one.

The benefits of being a “church rat” are great. Look at Simeon and Anna. For all their love, care and prayers for the Church, they got see Jesus face to face! Well worth their effort, wouldn’t you agree?

Have a holy and blessed Lent!

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

February 6, 2018 (St. Titus, first Bishop of Crete, Martyr)

I find that one of the most difficult spiritual disciplines to practice is being still before God.

Psalm 46:10 states “Be still, and know that I am God…” Psalm 4:4 states “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah”

Throughout the Book of Psalms that word Selah appears, always at the end of a verse. While its meaning is not certain, it is believed to mean stop and listen or pause and think. Taking time to stop and listen or pause and think is something we can use to strengthen our personal relationship with God.

When I muse about this, 1 Kings 19:9-18 comes to mind. The prophet Elijah had just finished calling fire down upon the sacrifice he offered to God upon Mount Carmel and ordering the slaughter of 950 priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-40). King Ahab and the evil Queen Jezebel were in hot pursuit of Elijah, and he sought refuge in the cleft of a rock on Mount Horeb.

There on the mount, after fasting 40 days, the Lord spoke to Elijah and instructed him on what he was to do next. Where did Elijah hear the Lord? It was not in a fierce mountain wind. It was not in an earthquake. It was not in fire. It was in a still, small voice. As Elijah sought God in stillness, God spoke to him and instructed him.

God will instruct us too, but we have to get still before Him and listen for His voice in the stillness.

Getting still before God is harder than ever in our day. There is so much noise! Radio, television, computers, and the worst of all…cell phones!  Some have come to think they must have their cell on or at least near them all the time. They have to receive the next text, Tweet, Facebook update or e-mail immediately. Aargh!

We need to find a place, or make a place, where we can be alone and get still before God. A room in our home where we do nothing other than pray and study is ideal. But if we do not have a room we can use exclusively for prayer and study, we at least need a place without a television or radio.  If a television or radio has to be in that room, put the remote in another room until you’re finished. The room can have a CD player to play quiet music, though I think total silence is best. Our cell phone CANNOT be in that room with us! CANNOT! Put it in another room and silence it!

Once we are in our place we need to become still. We don’t need a particular technique to do this. It may take practice to find our way to stillness, especially if we’ve not been still before God in a long time. We should have our Bible next to us. While hearing from God does not require reading Scripture, the Holy Spirit may lead us to look up a passage(s) to give us insight and answers. God’s direction is heard most reliably through His Holy Word (Psalm 119:105).

As we become still, we then fill our thoughts with the things of God. Use prayers or verses of Scripture you already know to get your thoughts on Him. Psalm 139 can be very helpful or something as simple as “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:9, 10). The first prayer on pg. 594 of the BCP is a good one to use. The Luminous Mysteries of the rosary may be helpful. Once our thoughts are on God, all we need to do is listen. Be still. Be quiet. Let God speak. Think on Him. Contemplate Him. Meditate on Him.

Christian meditation is different from the Eastern forms. The latter calls the practitioner to totally empty the mind of all thoughts. Christian meditation calls us to totally fill our mind with thoughts of God. This is what we want to do, fill our thoughts with God. Just be still and listen for His voice. He will be there.

Being still before God takes practice. All good things do. Don’t get discouraged. There is no right or wrong way. The only goal is stillness. Feel your way, allowing the Spirit to guide you. Don’t worry about time; how long or how short you are still, or when you need to finish. The Spirit will let you know. If there is a clock in the place you use, try to face away from it. Don’t wear a watch. Get one on one with God who is outside of time. If you are time restricted, set a timer in another room that you can hear at your place.

These are just ideas. Let the Holy Spirit guide you. This is very personal, so make it personal.

On Wednesday nights during Lent, between Ash Wednesday and Holy Week, the sanctuary at St. Peter’s will be open for quiet time before our Lord, Really Present in the Tabernacle. See the schedule page on this website for more information. This is an opportunity to prime our ability to get still before God.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

January 30, 2018 (Blessed Charles Stuart, King and Martyr)

The Church uses four colors to symbolize the primary liturgical seasons of the kalendar. White is used for festive seasons like Eastertide and Christmastide. Violet is used for the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent. Green is used for Epiphanytide and Trinitytide. Red is used for Pentecost. There is also black for Good Friday, All Souls and on requiems, and gold can be used for the high feasts like Easter, Christmas, Epiphany and Christ the King.

We are in pre-Lent, the “gesima-Sundays.” In this season violet is the traditional color, though Rome uses green and calls it “ordinary time” (?). But if I was “in charge” of liturgical colors, I’d propose using a different color for pre-Lent: Yellow! Not bright yellow, like the sunshine, but yellow-orange, caution-yellow, the yellow used in traffic signals.

I’d use caution-yellow because pre-Lent is a cautionary season. Its purpose is to remind, if not warn, us that Lent is coming and we need to prepare for it.

How do we prepare for Lent? By deciding what our Lenten discipline will be. We should not wait until Shrove Tuesday to decide “I’ll give….up for Lent.” That sort of knee jerk decision will almost certainly fail. Unless of course you decide to give up brussel sprouts, and since you hate them already, you can easily keep it!

If, as we should, we want to practice some form of increased discipline during Lent we should, today, start to decide what that will be. There are two weeks to go before Ash Wednesday. Each day until then we should ask the Holy Ghost to guide us in determining what discipline we should practice during Lent. If we ask, He will answer. And He knows what we need most to grow spiritually (Romans 8:26). That’s what Lent is for, to plant seeds for spiritual growth, not to just “give something up” for 40 days.

It could be we need to pray more often? It could be we need to pray more fervently, meaning not in a rush or by setting up a prayer closet (a “war room”), away from as many distractions as possible? It could be we need to start using a devotional to guide our spiritual walk? It could be we need to start using our spiritual gifts? It could be we need get more involved in our parish? It could be we need to become involved in works of service and mercy? It could be we need to attend Sunday mass more consistently, eliminating excuses? It could be we need to attend mass on each of the Prayer Book holy days or weekday masses? It could be we need to begin to study our Bible and not just read it? Or, it could be we need to give up chocolate?

The Holy Ghost will let us know if we need to do any of what I’ve listed, or something else, in order to continue to grow spiritually.

The best thing about asking the Holy Ghost to guide us in determining what our Lenten discipline should be is, He will tailor it to our exact needs and abilities. We won’t be too hard or too easy on ourselves. We won’t get caught doing something others are doing, but really isn’t for us to do. If we approach this petition with honesty, willing to do what the Spirit guides us to do, He will show us exactly what we need, and help us find the will and strength to do it.

The Epistle lesson for Septuagesima Sunday is 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Here St. Paul uses the analogy of a marathon race for the Christian life. Like a seasoned racer we need to grow in temperance. We need to run with greater certainty, fighting through the aches and pains (spiritual and physical), the “side-stitches” and “cramps,” in order to obtain the prize waiting for us at the finish line: the crown of everlasting life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

St. Paul uses this same analogy in Hebrews 12:1-4. Here we are encouraged to run with patience, laying aside the weight of sin that can so easily derail our spiritual growth. But in doing this we are not alone!  We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, the saints that have gone before us who intercede for us as we run. More so we have Jesus to look unto!  He is the One who initiated our faith at Baptism, and He is the One who will complete our faith with a holy (not necessarily an easy) death. We need to look unto Him!

As the Israelites, when they journeyed to the Promised Land, were told to look upon the bronze serpent on the pole to be healed from the bite of the fiery serpents that infected the camp (Numbers 21:4-9), so we must look unto Jesus, lifted up on the cross (St. John 3:13-15) and now ascended in heaven (Acts 7:55-60), to heal us of the bites of the fiery serpents: Satan and his demons, we encounter on our journey, our marathon, to the Promised Land of Heaven.

We are already in this race, but are we engaged in it? Are we giving it our best? Are we running with certainty? Are we fighting the enemy or shadow boxing (1 Corinthians 9:26)? The Holy Ghost will assuredly let us know.

Really, I don’t want caution-yellow to be the actual color for pre-Lent!  But it is a good reminder and warning for us to prepare for Lent. And, like a caution-yellow signal at an intersection we can heed it or ignore it.  It’s our choice.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

January 24, 2018 (St. Timothy, Bishop and Martyr)

What is the “Catholic Church”?

The word “catholic” means universal, so in the fullest sense the body of believers founded by Jesus, endued with the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, and entrusted to the twelve Apostles to build “into all the world” (St. Mark 16:15) is the Catholic Church, since there are Christians throughout all of the world.

But today the Catholic Church needs to be defined more specifically. The early 20th century Church of England theologian Darwell Stone states this Church has two marks: universality and communion with those bishops consecrated in the episcopal succession that can be traced back to the apostolic church. I call this the Catholic Church Proper (CCP).

Scripture defines the Church Jesus founded as a visible body of baptized men and women who continued in the fellowship of the Apostles, met together to hear God’s Word preached and taught, receive the sacraments, and worship God (Acts 2:42). The Church was one body; with one Lord, one faith and one baptism (Ephesians 4:5) as its foundation for membership.

This one Church was visibly one, what Stone calls “subjective unity,” until AD 1054 when the Eastern and Western parts split. From that point through today the Church only has “objective unity”, which is unity with Christ as her head. Subjective unity, what we today call intercommunion, has been lost. Subjective unity was further severed when the Western Church subdivided at the Reformation. Since then the Church has continued to divide into smaller and smaller pieces, to the point where subjective unity has all but disappeared.

Yet objective unity remains. The Church, all parts that maintain Biblical doctrine, is still One Church, with one Lord, faith and baptism. But is this the Catholic Church Proper?

I say no, since for so many there is no desire to have the episcopal ministry. In fact for the vast majority of Protestants there is nothing but disdain for the episcopal office, even though Scripture plainly teaches it (1Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9) and the need for the succession to be perpetuated (Acts 1:15-26, 1 Timothy 5:17-22, Titus 1:5)!

The CCP maintains both marks, universality and the episcopal succession. Herein we have the best way to answer the question “What is the Catholic Church?”

In this 21st century there are four churches, or four branches, of the CCP: the Eastern or Orthodox, the Roman, the Anglican and the Old Catholic. These four branches have maintained the two marks of the CCP. Sadly, much of the Anglican branch (and Old Catholic) has surrendered its apostolicity due to the “ordination” of women, but the Anglican branch remains alive through the Continuing Anglican churches.

These four branches each maintain universality; they are present throughout the world and in communion with bishops that have maintained the apostolic, episcopal succession and the sacramental ministry that flows forth from it. Each has objective unity with Christ. What the four lack is subjective unity with one another.

This lack of intercommunion is the cause of many problems for the CCP. Objective unity is the essential unity of course, but subjective unity is important too. If nothing else, it is essential to the witness of the Church. St. Paul scolded the Corinthians for being “of Paul”, “of Cephas (Peter)”, “of Apollos” (1 Corinthians 1:12).  The CCP should not be divided! Yet she is.

So then what can done to restore subjective unity? I think there are few initial things:

First, each branch must maintain orthodoxy. Straying from truth is straying from Christ. The Church is unfaithful when she tries to be relevant to the zeitgeist. When orthodoxy is lost, objective unity (unity with Christ) is lost. Without objective unity there can be no subjective unity. An example of this is the intercommunion Orthodox churches sought with the Canterbury, Anglican Communion in the 1970’s and 80’s which was stopped by the heresy of the “ordination” of women. Second, each branch must be who they are. While each branch should draw upon the others’ spirituality, each needs to remain true to themselves. This is where diversity is good. The Body cannot be all an eye or all an ear, etc. (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). Each has something to contribute to the whole. Third, each branch needs to stop diminishing, if not invalidating, the others’ sacramental ministry. It can be shown that each of the four has a true part of the episcopal succession that dates back to the apostles, and has the proper matter, intent and form in their sacramental ministry. We need to focus on what we have in common, not what makes us different. Last, each branch needs to stop having “ecclesiastical pissing matches.” Often clergy, and laity, act like dogs running about marking trees in a city park to claim superiority. How is that helpful? How is that Christian? How is that Catholic?

The CCP will not regain subjective unity by becoming all of one branch (all Roman, Orthodox, Anglican or Old Catholic). We will regain subjective unity by using our spiritual gifts to maintain the portion of Christ’s vineyard we’ve been given and working towards using those gifts to compliment, instead of compete with, each other.  Each branch has something very valuable to contribute to the whole.

I do not know if there has ever been a more deeply divided body than the Continuum? And yet as we have seen over the past four years, when churches (led by their bishops) are willing to submit to the will of the Spirit, dialogue openly and with charity, work together to resolve differences and focus on what is common, subjective unity is possible! And it can be achieved without compromising orthodoxy. In fact, it can actually strengthen it. This example is sounding a witness throughout those Anglican and conservative Episcopal churches that have maintained some level of internal orthodoxy.

The Catholic Church Proper has the ability to regain subjective unity. She can once again be the Catholic Church. She can regain it, because the presence of the Holy Ghost dwells within each branch, and He desires nothing more than for the CCP to be one, as the Holy Trinity is One (St. John 17:22).

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

January 16, 2018 (Bl. William Laud, Bishop and Martyr, Transferred)

The mid 17th century was a tumultuous time in England. The ecclesiastical peace set by Elizabeth I had faded, and factions within the church had again risen to prominence.

Puritanism had arisen, threatening to pull the Church of England into Continental Protestantism. But King James I, and more so his son Charles I (Charles the Martyr) would not  allow this to happen unchallenged. They were Catholics and knew the Church of England was a catholic church, Protestant only in the sense it had separated from Rome’s particular errors.

Charles needed an Archbishop willing to do the heavy lifting necessary to restore Catholic faith and order to England. He found him in William Laud. Laud served as archbishop from 1633-1645 (the last four years he was in prison). During this time he spent all his energy trying to restore order to the church against the extreme protestantism of the Puritans.

Ordained a priest in 1601, Laud steadily climbed to the top of the ecclesial order of the church gaining a reputation as a man of holiness, prayer and great learning (his book of private prayers is quite beautiful). In 1626 he succeeded the holy and learned Lancelot Andrewes as the bishop of Bath and Whales. When Charles I succeeded his father to the throne in 1629, Laud became one of his closest advisors. When Archbishop George Abbot died, Laud succeeded him (1633).

Laud did his best to revive the faith and practices of the Church of England in the catholic direction, but was violently opposed by the Puritans. At times his methods were seen as “heavy handed”, yet in retrospect, given the age, they were often necessary. The Puritans did not desire to find some kind of middle ground, so Laud would not compromise either.

Under Laud two great Anglo-catholic principles were formulated: Laudianism and Caroline spirituality. Laudianism has to do with ecclesiastical and liturgical order; essentially the assertion of the three fold clerical order, Canon Law and the Book of Common Prayer. Caroline spirituality is the teachings of the Caroline Divines; Andrewes (the one who birthed the movement), John Cosin, George Herbert, Mark Frank, Jeremy Taylor, et al.  Both of these principles remain relevant to Catholic-Anglicans today.

Despite his efforts, Laud was not successful. He was martyred, by beheading, on January 10, 1645.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” This is true of Laud. His blood planted seeds that have borne fruit; first in 1833 in the Oxford Movement and then again in 1977 in the Continuing Anglican Movement.

Laud’s life teaches us the Anglican Catholic faith is worth defending. It is worth our being ostracized by Evangelicals and Roman Catholics. It is worth our efforts to preserve and perpetuate it. It is a living faith, relevant in the English speaking world today.

Throughout history, God has raised men to take a stand for the faith and order of the Church. William Laud was one of those men. We should thank God for him.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

January 10, 2018 (Of the Octave of Epiphany)

The first Anglican parish (actually it was a traditional, Episcopal parish) I joined was named Church of the Epiphany. It was in the fall of 1994.

I’m still embarrassed to admit this, but I had no idea what the Epiphany was, never mind what the word meant. Despite 12 years of Roman Catholic school and being in that church longer than that, I had never heard of the Epiphany…at least I don’t remember hearing of it.

I remember when I was given my first Book of Common Prayer. I paged through it and… lo and behold… there on page 107 saw “The Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.” I read the Collect and the Lessons, and had my own epiphany! For the first time I knew which event in the life of Christ the Epiphany was.

Over the years I have met many people who have the same ignorance of the Epiphany I had. This is understandable. Non-lectionary churches rarely teach on the event, never mind its message. And many lectionary churches do not emphasize it, most often moving it to the Sunday closest to the Feast. For the latter it’s a “chicken or egg” like situation. I’m not sure if the Church stopped emphasizing the Feast, so people stopped attending mass on the day, or the people stopped attending mass on the day so the Church stopped emphasizing the Feast? Either way, it “is what it is.”  Churchmen are ignorant of this feast.

That’s unfortunate…really, it is. The message of this feast is fundamental to the message of the Catholic Faith! That message can be summed in two words: Revelation and Worship. The message of the Epiphany is the message of revelation and worship.

The Gospel lessons of Epiphanytide (which can be as many as six Sundays, this year it’s three) each give an account of ways Jesus was revealed as the Messiah. First to the magi by the star. Then by Jesus’ own testimony to Joseph and Mary in the Temple. Then by the testimony of St. John the Baptist. Then by His miracles and teaching. God has revealed to man, to the world, that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior the world had been waiting for.

In the reaction of the magi to seeing the toddler Jesus, the reaction of St. John Baptist (St. Matthew 3:13-15) and the reaction of the leper (St. Matthew 8:2 see Epiphany 4), we see the second message of the Epiphany: worship!  When they encountered Jesus, the magi, the Baptizer and the leper each worshiped Jesus!

This message we learn from Scripture; the message of Revelation and Worship, is a life-message!  You and I should reveal Jesus and worship Jesus! We should do these with our lips and in our lives. We should do them formerly at mass and actively in life.

First, as Anglican Catholics we should want, really want, to worship Jesus!  He is our Lord, He is our Savior. There should be nothing more important in our lives than going to mass where we enter into and receive Jesus. With the Psalmist we should say “I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1). When we are there, we should bow, kneel and fall prostrate before Him, Really Present in the Tabernacle. Or do we not really believe He is Present…?  We should sing (even if, like me, we’re not good at it). We should participate in the prayers and responses attentively. We should be heard especially when we say the “Great Amen” at the conclusion of the Canon (very bottom of pg.81 in the Prayer Book).

Second, our worship should lead us to reveal Jesus to others. We need to “manifest” Christ to others. To who should we reveal Him? To the next person God gives us the opportunity to. We can manifest Christ in our words and our actions. We can manifest Him directly and indirectly.  Directly by telling others about Him and spreading the Good News verbally. Indirectly by loving and serving the brethren; always prepared to share why we do what we do.

Anglican Catholics should not be ignorant about the Epiphany! There just is no excuse for it! We should know the Biblical-historical event it celebrates and the message Scripture teaches about revelation and worship, yes, but we also need to live that message formally and actively!

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

January 3, 2018 (Octave of St. John the Evangelist)

Salvation is by grace, through faith, unto good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). God gives man grace. That grace, when nurtured births faith. That faith brings forth good works unto salvation.

God gives grace through three primary means: Scripture, the Sacraments and prayer. All three are part of the baptismal rite; Scripture is read, the Sacrament (water) is administered and prayers are offered. Through all three grace is given; grace that regenerates the soul, infusing it with the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5-7). It is a gift from God, not of works, so man can make no claim to it. Infant baptism is the greatest proof of God’s mercy. Before the infant boy or girl can do anything good or bad, God gives the initiating grace necessary to be saved!

The Person of the Word, engrafted into the soul through the written Word and the sacramental Word needs to be received by faith (St. James 1:21).  This is on us. We are responsible for doing this. God will not do it for us. Grace is received by faith formally at Confirmation. In this second Sacrament, belief in Jesus that has been engrafted in the heart is confessed with the mouth unto salvation (Romans 10:9, 10). When that profession is made, the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Ghost (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord) are sealed upon the soul. These gifts are necessary to strengthen faith unto eternal life. The third Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist, provides the spiritual nutrition the soul needs for these gifts to strengthen; the result being holiness and everlasting life (Hebrews 12:14).

In Baptism we are saved (1 Peter 3:21). In Confirmation we are saved (Romans 10:9, 10). In the Eucharist we are saved (St. John 6:54). These are “positional” truths. In other words, through each of those Sacraments, God gives the grace necessary to be saved. The recipients can claim this salvation, they can claim they are a Christian, because God is faithful and always ministers grace through the Sacraments, which are the “word made visible” (St. Augustine).

The question, or issue, then is how the Word: the Person, the Written and the Sacramental, is received? Have we received it by faith? Or has it fallen upon shallow, rocky or thorn-filled soil in our soul (St. Mark 4:1-20)?  What is done formally at Confirmation must be done daily for the rest of our lives. We must show forth our faith in Christ with our lips and in our lives each day with our words, our actions and our deeds.

We show forth our faith with words by confessing it each day. When we pray Morning and Evening Prayer we must say the Apostle’s Creed! Don’t skip it! Rehearse the Articles of the Faith every day. We also show forth our faith with our words by defending it and by sharing it. Jesus said if we refuse to confess Him before men, He will refuse to confess us as one of His to His Father on the Day of Judgment (St. Matthew 10:32). St. Peter said we must always be prepared to give an answer to all who ask, the reason for our hope in Christ (1 Peter 3:15).

We show forth our faith in our actions through weekly, faithful reception of the Holy Eucharist. St. Paul wrote “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Corinthians 11:26).  Mass attendance (more correctly “assisting at mass”) is an obligation. Remember what Jesus said about the reaction the Lord of the feast had to those who refused to attend His banquet for superficial reasons (St. Luke 14:16-24). Yet we shouldn’t go for juridical reasons! We should go because we know Jesus is particularly Present, in a manner He is not present in any other way here on earth, and we want to be with Him.

We show forth our faith in our deeds. These are our good works. St. James says poignantly, faith without works is dead; it is not faith at all! Works are the fruits of faith. Others will believe our faith by our works. Not just our benevolent works! Even those not being saved do them. Our faith is proved by our moral works; how we conduct ourselves in day to day situations, when we think no one else is watching, what we say and how we say it, how we “love the brethren” (1 St. John 3:10). Those good works show to God, and to others, we are being saved.

Let us thank God for grace, faith and good works. Grace is the power that makes faith and works possible. Faith is the way we can “feel” we are being saved, for by faith we know God’s presence within us in every situation. Works prove we have faith; to God and to man, including ourselves.

Have a blessed 2018!

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

December 27, 2017 (St. John, Apostle and Evangelist)

Christmastide is a time of great joy in the Church. In this season we celebrate Emmanuel, God with us. We celebrate the great truth that the Second Person of the Eternal Trinity has come to earth as Man, the man Jesus of Nazareth!

But should we celebrate Jesus’ Presence with us only during Christmastide?  

Jesus came to earth for a specific purpose; to redeem us from sin. The Godhead had determined that since a man, Adam, had sinned; only a man, Jesus the perfect man, could redeem from sin. That’s exactly what Jesus did…

By the mystery of His holy Incarnation; by His holy Nativity and Circumcision; by His holy Baptism, Fasting and Temptation, Jesus has redeemed us!  By His Agony and Bloody Sweat; by His Cross and Passion; by His Precious Death and Burial and by His Glorious Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus has redeemed us! (see the Litany, pg. 55 in the 1928 BCP).

After His Resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven and today sits at the right hand of His Father in glory. Does this mean He is no longer with us? Does this mean Emmanuel, God with us, was only relevant for Christians from 0 to 33 A.D.? Of course not! Before He ascended, Jesus told us “…lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (St. Matthew 28:20).

But how? By the Holy Spirit, yes (St. John 14:16-18). But also in a more particular, and if you will, personal, way in the Eucharist! Jesus is with us; Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist!

On the night He instituted the New Covenant Passover on Holy Thursday, Jesus said “This is my body…This is my blood.”  In St. Luke 24:30-35 we are told Jesus is made known to us “…in the breaking of bread.”

This truth gives us great cause to celebrate! And we should! We should celebrate Jesus’ Presence among us as often as we can. The Apostolic Church celebrated it daily (Acts 2:42). As Anglican Catholics we should celebrate it at least weekly on the Lord’s Day. Being in the Real and Particular Presence of Jesus should be meaningful to us, more meaningful than anything else in this world!

Think of it…Our God and Savior loves us so much that He provides and offers us a way to meet Him “face to face” to dine with, and in our hearts by faith, upon Him!  What He feeds us with is the true manna, the bread which came down from heaven, the Word of God made flesh…His very Self!

As awesome a mystery as Jesus’ Incarnate Presence is, His Eucharistic Presence is equally so. That God is Present to us today is…how can it be described? It is incredible!  True it is a veiled presence. But who of us, sinful as we are, can look upon His unveiled glory and live (Revelation 1:12-17)?

Now some get distracted by the veil, saying Jesus’ presence is a mere memorial. Some say He is present spiritually, but not Really (as if the two can be distinguished!). The truth is, veiled beneath the bread and wine is the Body and Blood (Soul and Divinity too) of Jesus! He said “my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed.” (St. John 6:55). The word “indeed” in Greek means “truly, of a truth, in reality, most certainly.” Jesus is the One who says the consecrated Bread and Wine of the Eucharist are “indeed” His Body and Blood. As Catholics we don’t dispute it, we believe it!

It is, then, not just “Oh yeah, God is with us.”  It is “GOD IS WITH US!!” We have just as great a reason to celebrate God’s Presence with us as those living during the 33 years Jesus lived and walked this earth did. God is still with us!  Jesus still comes to us! He remains Emmanuel! Why would we not want to be with Him?

When Christmastide ends, Jesus remains Emmanuel! He is with us always, and will be with us unto the end of this age…in the Holy Eucharist!

Let us celebrate His Presence, each Sunday and any day mass is celebrated!

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

 

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