Wednesday, November 30, 2005
(Why more Protestants don't regularly obey the command to "confess your sins one to another and pray for each other so that you may be healed" (James 5:16) is beyond me; and though lots of us have our "accountability partners" for such purposes, why one would not seek out the Trained and Ordained for this purpose is also beyond me).
The Church exhorts the following about its sacrament/practice of penance and reconciliation:
1. We have sins. Lots of them
2. Only God can forgive sins
3. Jesus Christ came into the world to save all people from the power of Satan, sin, and the consequence of sin, which is death, and thus to reconcile us to His Father
4. Jesus gave to the Apostles the power to forgive sins: "If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven. If you retain anyone's sins, they are retained." (John 20:22-23)
5. In order to recieve Reconciliation worthily, the sinner must be sorry for his sins out of perfect contrition, which is love for God (if the sinner doesnt have this sense, she should ask for it!); the sinner must make a firm purpose of amendment to avoid the sin committed as well as the circumstances which prompted the sin; and the sinner must examine her conscience for direct, conscious and free violations of any of the following-
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Remember the Lord's Day and keep it holy. Honor your Father and Mother. You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not desire your neighbor's spouse or posessions. Etc.
An Act of Contrition from St. Martin de Porres-
"Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you. I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all loving and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, and to make reconciliation and to amend my life."
Now go find a confessional, please.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Culture Pop: Opus
Dont anyone ever again say that the Romans cant enjoy some of the saving benefits of The Protestant Work Ethic.
DID ANYONE HEAR Terry Gross' interview about Opus Dei on NPR last night? Amazingly informative time. The Vatican spokesmen were gracious, articulate, so helpful. John Allen's new book, Opus Dei, sounds intriguing- and right in time for Dan Brown's prostitution of Da Vinci. Terry was as nasally perplexed and suspicious as ever (why on earth entitle the thing "Inside the Sect"...? smaller claims, Terry, please) but we do love her anyway. Get the interview here.
Opus Dei is a community of clergy and laity who are committed to the sanctification of work and the glorification of God in every sphere of life. I now love them.
From the Founder, St. Josemaría-
"Do everything for Love. Thus there will be no little things: everything will be big. Perseverance in little things for Love is heroism." The Way, 813
"Our ordinary contact with God takes place where your fellow men, your yearnings, your work and your affections are. There you have your daily encounter with Christ. It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all mankind." Conversations, 113
True religion which God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress...
Many of the articulate ladies at the Biblical Womanhood Blog are committed to centering their lives on the Titus 2:5 exhortation for women to be "keepers at home." (KJV, rendered "good housekeepers" by the later versions) They raise a compelling and Advent-appropriate question about the Church's mission-
What is the Church doing to fulfill its mandate to care for widows and orphans, particularly for single mothers who want to "stay home" to care for their children? Are there existing programs which work? We need suggestions...
Monday, November 28, 2005
Jesus said to his disciples,
"In those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see `the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.
Therefore, keep awake-- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."
The exposition at First Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas (a truly remarkable church, with wonderful outreach) emphasized Christ's coming reign of justice in this text; with the Suffering Servant text of Isaiah 42, the call was to extend mercy to the poor- especially prisoners at home and the suffering in Sudan. A fitting message for Advent. Addenda?...
With Advent the ecclesiastical year begins in the Western churches.
During this time the faithful are admonished to prepare themselves worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's coming into the world as the incarnate God of love, thus to make their souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace, and
thereby to make themselves ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world.
The Church calls upon her people to adore "the Lord the King that is to come," "the Lord already near," "Him Whose glory will be seen on the morrow," especially through fasting and works of charity.
...Our King and Savior draweth nigh; oh come, let us adore Him.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Culture Pop: Potter
Well, I did it. Enthusiastically. The Harry Potter films are great- well done, magnificent eye candy, and oooh so invigorating.
The problem is, they (and most recently, "Goblet of Fire") are distorting.
One dies for one's friends in these movies, but one can never quite be sure who one's friends actually are, so blurred are the lines between good and evil. It has become cliche in these story lines that a good guy is always hiding inside a bad guy, and vice versa.
(Fr. WB mentions that this kind of interaction is Accurate to Real Life. Of course. But the consensus is that this kind of subtle analysis is just Not For the Young. And those awkwardly adolescent scenes of Harry in Tub are just untoward.)
Furthermore, The Power which is weilded by the dear little magicians is so completely impersonal and unhypostasized and unpredictable; I am all about little Christian tots loving the "magic" which surrounds the miraculous (I do) and thinking of themselves as actors in the supernatural wars between God's angels and The Devil (I did)- but far be it from them to conceive of magical power as a faceless Force apart from their benevolent Lord and Savior (or as apart from their terrible enemy The Devil, for that matter.) Too much willy-nilly magic.
In the end, I stand with the Holy Father on Potter, as I ought: "the Potter books corrupt the hearts of the young, preventing them from developing a properly ordered sense of good and evil, thus harming their relationship with God while that relationship is still in its infancy. It is good that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly..."
Also various notes on the Potter phenomenon at the Touchstone Archives...
Saint Andrew, The First Called
The Church's season of Advent begins with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle.
From St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Dallas Texas:
"First-Called Apostle of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, thou high follower of the Church, most praiseworthy Andrew!
We laud and glorify his apostolic labours, we lovingly commemorate his blessed coming to Christ, we revere his honourable sufferings which he bore for Christ.
We honour his holy memory, and firmly believe that the Lord lived, and that thus his soul lives as well, and that he remains with Christ for all ages in heaven, where he has the same love for us as when he, in the Holy Spirit, foresaw our conversion to Christ; and he not only loved us, but prays also for us unto God, seeing all our needs in His light.
Thus we believe and this our faith we confess, O Saint Andrew, and believing, we ask and pray our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ that He may grant us sinners all those things needful unto our salvation.
And that as you Andrew, according to your Lord's voice, did promptly leave your nets and follow Him unwaveringly, each of us might seek not that which is his own, but think rather of the profit of his neighbor and his higher calling.
We have hope in your prayers, which avail much before our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom belongeth all glory, honour and worship, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, unto ages of ages."
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Fr. WB is such the churchhound; he and I have sniffed out some of the coolest places and people of worship the world over, and today's find at the Our Lady of the Atonement Church in San Antonio, Texas, is no exception.
(The Church of the Advent in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, which we literally stumbled into a few years ago, still tops the list, nontheless)
This Roman Catholic parish is "Anglican Use," so the prayers and order are wonderfully familiar to the Anglo Catholic. Fr. WB was Rather Enamored, claiming that this sort of arrangement is perhaps The Wave of the Future for faithful Anglicans. I rather hope so.
Very Good Things at Our Lady of the Atonement (if one is willing to look past a little faithful kitsch...)
1. Robust, masculine, well-ordered liturgy
2. Lots of young people out for Mass on Saturday morning
3. Big Construction project underway to expand the sanctuary, indicating need for room to accomodate Growing Numbers... a huge chapel for Adoration... and enormous "cry rooms" for all the babies (we found one named John Paul)
4. Large, growing school immediately attached.
All in all, hooray!
Friday, November 25, 2005
The genocidal conflicts in Sudan, one of the most urgent humanitarian crises in our world, effects Christians in particular.
The Africa Messenger of Persecution Project reports that the state-sponsored persecution of Christians in western Sudan is, as of last week, resulting in "rapidly escalating violence (which has) pushed humanitarian organizations to the brink of of emergency withdrawl... the consequences of such withdrawl will be catastrophic, measuring in hundreds of thousands of lives. Although 400,000 have already died over the past two and a half years, the worst may just be beginning...the number of conflict-affected persons in Darfur was actually 3.4 million persons as of August 1, 2005. " Read more here.
Pray especially for women and children who are captured and brutally abused by state-supported radical Muslim terrorists each and every day. Pray that God's comfort would reach those suffering in the Sudan, and that the Gospel of Christ might spread through the witness of the persecuted.
One of my favorite organizations helping those in the Sudan: http://www.savedarfur.org/
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
The Great Thanksgiving
The Pilgrims were radical reformers of the Church. On this civic commemorative day when we stop to give thanks for God's providence according to their example, we should remember that the Church's prayer of Great Thanksgiving centers on God's one supreme provision in the sacrifice of Christ for us... which the Church commemorates by a Thanksgiving Feast.
Here is the text of the prayer of Great Thanksgiving which the Pilgrims may have used at such times, from The Second Prayer Book of Edward VI, 1552.
"ALMIGHTIE and everliving God, we most hartely thank thee, for that thou dooest vouchsafe to fede us, whiche have duely receyved these holye misteries, with the spirituall foode of the most precious body and bloud of thy sonne our saviour Jesus Christ, and doest assure us thereby of thy favoure and goodnes towarde us, and that we bee verye membres incorporate in thy mistical body, which is the blessed companie of all faythfull people, and be also heyrs, through hope, of thy everlasting kingdom, by the merites of the most precious death and Passion of thy deare sonne. We now most humbly beseche thee, O heavenly father, so to assiste us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy felowship, and do al such good workes, as thou hast prepared for us to walk in: through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the holy ghost, be all honour and glorye, world without ende. Amen."
This blog is now officially on its Thanksgiving Break. Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Culture Pop: Apostasy?
I just attended a lecture given by author Stephen McDowell (Liberating the Nations). Intensely uncomfortable.
McDowell's program is as follows-
"How do we go about liberating the nations? By infusing into them the principles contained in the Bible. History has shown that the most free and prosperous nations have been those that most accurately applied the principles of Christianity in every sphere of life. Learn Biblical priciples of education, government, economics, law and family life. Examine the role of the church, the family, the media, and civil government in a nation, and learn what you can do to bring Godly reform. This book is being used by thousands of people in scores of countries."
It sounds good. But what would Christ have to say in response to the claim that "history has shown that the most free and prosperous nations have been those that most accurately applied the principles of Christianity in every sphere of life...?"
It seems to me that "take up your cross and follow me," and "attend to the least of these" is a really poor recipe for nation-building. Christ's Kingdom is not of this world, and for a good reason.
New International Version
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
I am wondering whether we have any good examples of this passage being lived out in the life of the Church; where did you last see this verse obeyed?
I have to go with Stanely Hauerwas on this one, personally; his favorite example of this kind of activity is exemplified in the life of Henri Nowen, the Yale professor who spent the last years of his life living in L'arche Communities with the mentally disabled- to quote Stanley, "that's just the Kingdom." Why? Maybe because it's so unglamorous, so without notoriety, so incongruous. I'm trying to figure it out myself...
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
Friday, November 18, 2005
Culture Pop: FOCUS
Fr. WB and I drove down to Greenwich last night to learn more about FOCUS, a ministry to young people in private secondary schools. This group is young, enthusiastic, relational, and self-giving evangelism par excellence, and may be best understood as the equivalent of Young Life high school ministries, but tailored to the needs of the Prep set. FOCUS, as described in their mission statement...
"FOCUS, the Fellowship of Christians in Universities and Schools, is a diverse community of students, parents, faculty, clergy, professionals, and business people from a variety of Christian denominations drawn together by a common faith and purpose. Our purpose is to share with independent school students a life rooted in God that is real, adventurous, intellectually sound, and eminently practical"...
... is awesome. We should all support them in our prayers and efforts. Everyone with an extra hour of time on their hands needs to be reaching out to a high school student in some way. This is Probably Critical for the church. It is certainly critical for the young people who so need to know how much our Lord loves them.
Check out this link to learn about volunteering with FOCUS. Way to go, guys!
Thursday, November 17, 2005
A rather tight and decent (and potentially pastoral) explanation from Gregory Koukl, an apologist at Stand to Reason:
What makes you think that taking away evil in the world has anything to do with God's strength or goodness?
God certainly is strong enough to obliterate evil from the earth or to have prevented it in the first place. No question about that. But let me ask you a question. Is it a "good" thing that God created human beings as free moral creatures, capable of making moral choices? It strikes me that the answer to that is yes. Because God is good--which is one of the things in question here--God created free moral creatures.
But this changes everything, doesn't it? What makes you think that strength has anything to do with God creating a world in which there are genuinely free moral creatures and no possibility of doing wrong?
You see, now we're back to square circles. It's just as ridiculous to ask God to create a world in which we have genuinely free creatures with no possibility to do wrong, as it is to ask Him to create a square circle. The task has nothing to do with His strength. It has to do with the nature of the problem. If you're going to have morally free creatures--that is, human beings that can make moral choices for themselves--and if God is good, then He is going to create creatures that will be truly morally free. But that entails, of necessity, at least the possibility of evil in the world.
In the Christian point of view, God did the ultimately good thing by creating morally free creatures that went bad...
Read the rest here.
Kudos to JTron for bringing up the excellent question about the suffering which occurs entirely apart from social sinning, such as natural disasters and disease; and kudos to Fr. WB for providing a very good framework for answering that problem in terms of "a broken world." Jill Briscoe, noted Anglican apologist, agrees: in the face of tsunamis and hurricanes, we see the reality of the world which groans until the revelation and redemption of God is final (Romans 8 is right on point here).
I would submit also that people tend to become uncomfortable with these explanations of pain as resulting from a broken world and moral failure; such an answer seems incomplete. In fact, such an answer is incomplete, until both you and your audience have acknowledged your own "breaking" role in the broken world. May I suggest that such a conversation about the problem of pain is a good opportunity to recognize (gently) the sin and brokenness of the one who brings these troubling questions about the reality of pain, and the consequent need for the Savior?
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Hans Urs Von Balthasar
"My kingdom is invisible, but I want to establish you, my Bride, before the eyes of men so visibly that no one will be able to overlook you."
-From The Conquest of the Bride- read the whole essay here.
And a very cool atonement image:
Closed and well-armored was the world against God from all sides, and it had no eyes to look out since all of its glances were turned inwards on itself. But its interior resembled a hall of mirrors in which the finite appeared refracted as far as the eye could see, multiplying itself infinitely and thus playing the self-sufficient god. Only the world’s gullet gaped outwards, ready to swallow down whoever dared approach.
This is a war for God’s beloved creation. Sin has so corrupted the interior of the world that it is trapped in an abyss of self consumed lust. Its only hope is to be redeemed from the inside out: God will enter into the heart of His creation, exposing His love filled heart to all the powers of evil for only love can overcome this damnation.
And now God’s Word saw that his descent could entail nothing but his own death and ruination—that his light must sink down into the gloom—he accepted the battle and the declaration of war. And he devised the unfathomable ruse: he would plunge, like Jonas into the monster’s belly and thus penetrate death’s innermost lair; he would experience the farthest dungeon of sin’s mania and drink the cup down to the dregs; he would offer his brow to man’s incalculable craze for power and violence; in his own futile mission, he would demonstrate the futility of the wolrd; in his impotent obedience to the Father, he would visibly show the impotence of revolt; through his own weakness unto death he would bring to light the deathly weakness of such a despairing resistance to God; he would let the world do its will and thereby accomplish the will of the Father; he would grant the world its will, thereby breaking the world’s will; he would allow his own vessel to be shattered, thereby pouring himself out; by pouring out one single drop of the divine Heart’s blood he would sweeten the immense and bitter ocean. This was intended to be the most incomprehensible of exchanges: from the most extreme opposition would come the highest union, and the might of his supreme victory was to prove itself in his utter disgrace and defeat. For his weakness would already be the victory of his love for the Father, and as a deed of his supreme strength, this weakness would far surpass and sustain in itself the world’s pitiful feebleness. He alone would henceforth be the measure and thus also the meaning of all impotence. He wanted to sink to low that in the future all falling would be a falling into him, and every streamlet of bitterness and despair would henceforth run down into his lowermost abyss.
No fighter is more divine than the one who can achieve victory through defeat. In the instant when he receives the deadly wound, his opponent falls to the ground, himself struck a final blow. For he strikes love and is thus himself struck by love. And by letting itself be struck, love proves what had to be proven: that it is indeed love. (From "Heart of the World," Chapter 2)
Von Balthasar Index
YOU DESPERATELY NEED A SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR... These are the words of the dynamic and amazing Congregationalist Professor John Reist. He was right.
Fr. Paul Helfrich of The Brotherhood of Hope agrees: "every believer has the right to be accompanied."
Spiritual Direction is the old monastic practice of mutual submission and guidance between Religious with regards to their prayer lives (think also, Scripturally, of Samuel and David in the OT... Blessed Mary running straight to Elizabeth after hearing The News... all of the care St. Paul devoted to his apostolic charges... the list goes on). It's now Rather Trendy. Anyone who finds a spiritual director commits to the huge privilege of plopping down in the Director's company at regular times to unveil the secrets and quandries and questions of his prayer life, vocational discernment process, and moral life. It's wonderful. It is not "having an accountability partner," nor is it the "headship" which gets tossed around in various Charismatic circles; rather, it is spiritual self-disclosure to one who is trained to listen capably, prayerfully, and reflectively, and who has a modicum of authority to suggest What You Should Do With Yourself.
I have had a Spiritual Director for the past three years, and dont really know how I survived without one prior.
What you should all do: scurry off and find a good Dominican to be your spiritual director. They will probably take you, whoever you are. Otherwise, NB that the Episcopalians have a really rich and expansive tradition of this sort of thing - the Society of St. John in Cambridge, MA is especially prolific. Methodists do spiritual direction really well. If you are a real Protestant, then you must be careful- say that you are looking for a "mentor" or someone to "disciple you" or something equally non-hierarchical, or They May Think You Are Nuts.
So, who has a Director? And if not, why not, for Pete's sake?
On Wednesdays, we will discuss those practices of prayer which are inspired by Scripture and guided by the Church, from which every bit of our lives and work should proceed.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
I accompanied Fr. WB and dear Wallace to the Anglican Communion Network's Conference, "Hope and a Future," over the weekend. This is a Highly Controversial Situation. If you need to catch up on what's going on between the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church USA (though I hardly suspect that's the case), please cf the continuing discussion at Whitehall; Fr. WB is a much better exponent of the relevant politics, and this blog deals with the Church’s capacity to proclaim Christ. As to this issue, Christ was certainly proclaimed at the Conference: in the first place, the Anglicans imported some of the most ardent Evangelicals going to focus the mood explicitly and en toto on our Jesus, plain and simple – Rick Warren proved to be utterly commendable, and though Anne Graham Lotz sadly failed to tailor her remarks to the sacramental understanding of her audience, saintly Joni Erikson Tada echoed the prayers of the Church beautifully throughout her message, "dont misuse your suffering" - and secondly, the entire mood, as I experienced it, was truly characterized by authentic humility and charity (and, as I understand it, this is even more important than landing on the right side of a schism).
Nontheless, the prospect of a break between the zealous Anglicans and their deviant ECUSA siblings is tragically sad. Will such a break enhance the Church's mission? I don't know. I do know that the rigorous morality which the African, Asian, and Conservative primates insist upon is the only thing that will "work" (pragmatically speaking here) in a world where Islam is, in fact, The Fastest Growing Religion. Please dont anyone try to take over North Africa with a Gospel of easygoing "inclusion," or with an attempt to present Christianity as the preferable faith because we have the questionable "charity" to endorse and tolerate the homosexual practices which so contradict the dignity of the human person. It just wont make sense to the rigorous morality of the Jihadists. And it REALLY wont make sense to the persecuted faithful who would like to win their Muslim neighbors to Christ through the purity of their lives.
Ontologically and finally, the Church needs to be rid of sin. Holy, holy, holy.
Thus this blog will address issues of the Church's mission, and our derived individual missions, each Tuesday. Hooray!
And The Winner Is:
Thanks to Garland and Rev. Grubbs for their comments especially-
Monday, November 14, 2005
14For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
15And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
19After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
20And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
25And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
27Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
28Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
29For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
... So have at it: if you were to produce a sermon on this text, what would you highlight? (and yes, the "here we learn that God is a capitalist" quip is already very much taken). Can this text "preach?" Let us know...
In the effort to frame each week and its work and discourse in the Scripture, this blog will record the Sunday lectionary reading each Monday.