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

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 minds 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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