Blog Template Theology of the Body: August 2006

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

South American Governments Murdering Abandoned Children Again

Of course the BBC headlines did not read "Bishop sacked for refusal to endorse doctor who aids young girl in the murder of an infant;" nor did the press report that the Argentinian government has decided to legalize the right of young women to become accomplices in the murder of children. Nonetheless, the BBC has been all over it: over the past weekend, the Argentinian government legalized abortions and persecuted the clergy who wished to defend tiny babies. How very modern of our friends across the border. Read the thing here.

In an act of high drama, Argentina's first legal abortion was performed today on a tiny 11-year old girl who, being the victim of rape and incest, was carrying a child in her very young womb. A prelate appropriately cited the dire warning of all three Gospels on point: "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea," (Matthew 18) referring, of course, to the rapist, the abortionist, and the Argentinan state. (The Argentinian government has been railing over the non-PC tone of this rebuke, and so they should. It is harsh. Pooh)

Did no one stop to think of the horrors that will be added to this little girl's life every time she recalls her role in killing the helpless life growing inside her- a little innocent life, like hers, helpless and abused? Does it really absolve the national conscience to make a murderer out of the child who was a rape victim? Did no one stop to think of dignifying her pain and shame by allowing her the opportunity to grant and nurture an infant life for a time, to experience the restoration that would come from an heroic act of love in allowing her child to live? This little girl is too young for the nightmares and the emotional trauma that will certainly ensue from the abortion that she was led to consent to (children are ALWAYS such easy political pawns-it's always disgusting). She is far too young for the cramping and the physical pain of recovering from a forced death inside her little body. It seems that South American governments are killing poor children again. God help us.


Israel, the covenant people of God, Who Were There First, understand something or other about Scripture... cf this excerpt on the advantages of the Oral Torah, formed and transmitted as Jewish Tradition, as opposed to merely dealing with the written text:

"If the entire Torah would have been given in writing, everyone would be able to interpret it as he desired. This would lead to division and discord among people who followed the Torah in different ways. The Oral Torah, on the other hand, would require a central authority to preserve it, thus assuring the unity of Israel..."

More on point here, from Shavuot.

Wow, THAT'S Explicit... and so early too

...The theme of this week turns out to be the issue of Prot conversion to Roman Catholicism... thus, a tidbit picked up this morning in my course on History of Doctrine:

"Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; we do this, I say, by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also by pointing out the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority -- that is, the faithful everywhere -- inasmuch as the Apostolic Tradition has been preserved continuously by those who are everywhere."

Irenaus, Against the Heretics, Book III, Chapter 3, ca A.D. 115.
More here.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Of, By, For the people:

“A people’s religion is ever a corrupt religion”

John Henry Newman

Monday, August 28, 2006

Now Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

My favorite theologian in the whole world is also my friend, who often dons his "grandfather" hat for me, and guides me and prays for me. He is perhaps most well known among the people who love him dearly for his profoundly crafted prayers. He sent this one to me over the weekend- I am honored to recieve it, and eager to share it.

O God of Israel, you called Israel into covenant with thee and promised them that their obedience to thee would be a blessing to the world of other peoples and nations. You came again to Israel in that Israelite named Jesus, whom we proclaim as our Christ and thy Son. From Israel and Jesus you have summoned Gentiles into a new covenant of love and peace with thee and with all others.

Most of us gathered here today, O Lord, are just such Gentiles, with nothing glorious to claim on our own. If left to our own devices we are subject to the sin of worshipping our own gods of Gentile power and war. As we now pray together, we confess our joy at being summoned by thy grace to know thee truly in Jesus Christ.

But we also confess our bewilderment at how difficult it is to learn to live under thy grace. Our own lives are often in disarray and confusion and that while we claim to be thy children by adoption, we act as the obedient children of other gods that beckon us to serve their glory. We confess that in the midst of so much violence and hatred in this world that we are attracted to those gods who are armed with weapons of mass destruction and who promise to protect us from enemies. When we are scared, Lord, and full of fear, we flee to those with guns and armor as the really important powers that will finally make us safe and secure.

With guns in our hands and money in the bank and security guards around us, we confess it is easy to forget about the poor, the weak, and the strangers that you love and have summoned us to love.

And yet, O Lord, it astonishes us that in spite of our pagan ways and our idolatries, you still extend thy grace to us. It is the tender threads of thy gracious forgiveness that draws us to this gathering for worship. In our weakness we yearn to hear again of thy grace, to have sketched out before us just what it means to become followers of Jesus. Even as we confess that our following Jesus is more nearly a hesitant stumbling and fumbling, we nevertheless reach out and grope for thy forgiving grace. We pray, O Lord, do not abandon us to the darkness of our self-centered fears and hatreds and our fondness for self-serving lies and falsehoods that incapacitate our will to love thy truth.

Reaching for goodness, O Lord, we pray for our pastor and his family.

O Lord, it is not in our own name that we dare to pray these concerns and confessions; rather it is in the name of him who was slain by the powerful rulers of empire, even him named Jesus, the one who brings thy salvation to us. It is he who has also taught us to pray together: Our Father, who art in Heaven...


Cloistered Dominican Nuns in Hollywood. (You'll have to select it from the menu if the video doesn't play automatically.) The related article.

Culture of Life Projects II

Congratulations to Fr. and Mrs. Lee Nelson on the recent birth of their precious baby girl Moira Claire! Read more of the fun and see the beautiful photos at Fr. Lee's blog here.

The Nelsons are joined in their rejoicing by their little one's patrons, the Blessed Mother of God, Clare of Assisi, and Laurence of Rome!

Free Stuff, Stay Tuned

I have been combing through my stash of used audio books and lectures (very, very pleasant on long road trips) and have some that I would like to give away to worthy blog readers... stay posted... as soon as the inventory is complete, I will list the relevant titles and make them available. First come, first served.

Cliffnotes to the Summa

I knew they had to exist. Check out the Tour Through the Summa Theologica, available at Amazon.

Not Your Usual Suspects

The RC Church has had significant reason to boast of two illustrious converts from outspoken Reformed Protestantism in the past few years.

First, it was R.R. Reno in the Spring of 2005, professor of Christian theology at Creighton University and author of "In the Ruins of the Church: Sustaining Faith in an Age of Diminished Christianity," a book which had urged Protestants disillusioned with their churches and denominations NOT to swim the Tiber. We, especially those of the beleaguered Anglican Communion, had been citing Reno for all we worth. (it was the early Spring of 2005, I was curled up on a glittering RC friend's sofa drinking tea after a late night birthday party in Manhattan, and out it came... "so have you heard about Reno?"Arrggh)

Reno had to offer quite an explanation to his following, which he honorably did in the 2/05 issue of First Things, as available here.

Then, on Reno's heels, Rome Sweet Home gladly received Reno's friend and colleague Bruce Marshall, lauded rock star profess of theology at Southern Methodist University, formerly ardent evangelical Lutheran, and author of the watershed "Trinity and Truth." Marshall entered the Church quietly last Fall, leaving his admirers throughout the Prot world shaking their heads in awed confusion and conjecture- was he blackmailed by his wife? Was he feeling moldy? At any rate, the word is that the dilute "What Catholics Believe" committee in his parish did not make the good professor take their catechism course. He had, after all, written the book.

To date, Marshall has not written a Reno-style retraction to explain himself; but in class on Friday, I was there when he opened a class full of funny Methodists in prayer. And at the end, he quietly crossed himself...

Evangelical Judaism? In crisis, no less.

Here's an interesting article at Slate on the problems that Conservative Judaism is facing these days as it attempts to strike a balance between modernity and tradition and the be the middle ground between Orthodox Judaism and Reform Judaism. It should sound a familiar note to many readers of this blog.

Some excerpts:

I grew up in the Conservative movement, and my religious ideals line up with it in many ways. Yet I agree that it often misses the mark and suffers, as Schorsch said, from "a failure of nerve." As the world is growing increasingly religious, the faithful are not growing more interested in reconciling modernity and tradition. They are becoming more orthodox. It's somehow liberating (if not encouraging) to see the leader of a religious movement whose goal is to hold the middle ground forcefully wrestle with his sense of failure.

But Conservative Judaism has never adequately explained how its rabbis or congregants should decide which aspects of modern times are worth adjusting the law to, and which aren't. The decision in 1972 to ordain women rabbis at JTS wasn't advocated by the institutions' Talmudic scholars but by a committee of lay people. They made many strong moral and ethical arguments for ordaining women, but they couldn't ground their stance coherently in Jewish law.

MM's note: Robert Eisenberg deals with the same topic in his fun title "Boychiks in the Hood," which predicts the vital future of hyper orthodox Judaism in the American Future. See it here.

Friday, August 25, 2006

We Don't Want to Miss This: The Exodus Decoded

...a helfpul update in my inbox today:

At 11 pm central, Friday, August 25, the History Channel will be re-airing their 2 hour documentary, "The Exodus Decoded," about the Hebrews' exodus from Egypt.

The episode will deal with relevant "proofs" regarding the facts of the Biblical account. I hope to at least set my VCR to record this, if I am not otherwise occupied with my upcoming family weekend...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

It Is Time to Pray and Act

...For the victims of genocide and rape who are suffering at this moment in the violence of intensified killing in southwestern Sudan.

Most of those targeted by the militant Islamic janjawede militia in this genocide are Anglican Christians.

Visit Save to get involved; I send donations to them, and I keep up with the latest news from the region through their free updating service. See also their option for Communities of Faith in order to get your church/small group/Sunday school involved in this crisis.

From Brother Max

...I have always loved Pastor Lucado. The man loves Jesus. The two seem to know each other. He wrote this a few years ago-

"God, with eyes twinkling, steps up to the philosopher's blackboard, and erases the never-ending, ever-repeating circle of history and replaces it with a line; a hope-filled, promising, slender line. Looking over his shoulder to see if the class is watching, he draws an arrow on the end. In God's book man is heading somewhere."

No Wonder They Call Him the Savior.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Those Teachin' Women: Baptist Pastor Expels Female Sunday School Teacher

So a Baptist pastor expels an elderly woman from the Sunday School teaching position that she had held for decades. Why? As the very very crowd lauds it, this action was taken because the good Baptists "wanted to take Scripture literally," and I Timothy clearly rails against a woman not keeping silence.

This is a problem, I say. Why? Because this action does not accord with what the Church actually believes and practices with regard to its women. Sure, it would be wonderfully convenient to act however we decided on the basis of One's Taking Scripture Literally. The problem, friends, is that no one is a literalist. We are indiscriminately fallen, selfish, complicated, motivated, and largely ignorant creatures who cannot even read the New Yorker well, much less the Canon. So what we get in the case of this little Baptist is, once again, the tedious result of refusing to conform to the historical repository of Christian belief. When we stand outside of the Church's tradition, we are bereft of the whole deposit of actual principle and are left with isolated verses taken out of context, so easily manipulated; we are denied the precious opportunity to conform ourselves to truth, and are left with myriad reactions to personal zeal... as in the case of this dear Baptist.

In short, the Church permits women to teach. Period.

Scripture indicates that the "teaching," IE, "doctrine" of the Church, is an apostolic prerogative; the Church refers over and over again to "the deposit of teaching," "the faith once delivered to the apostles by Christ." In other words, it was the unique privilege of the twelve apostles and their ordained successors to provide the church with its doctrine of salvation, and this doctrine (as we have it in Scripture) must not be altered or added to. Apostles teach, and the apostles were men; hence, women do not "teach." But in the same way, neither can unbaptized men nor lay men "teach" in the way that the apostles and their successors "teach." "Teaching" in the church means the authoritative establishing of binding doctrine, as established by the apostles in Scripture and commented on by their successors, the bishops.

With that having been said, there is nothing in Scripture or the tradition that prohibits a woman from proclaiming or expositing the faith once delivered in the "teaching" of the apostles; indeed, Paul affirms and presumes this sort of proclamation when he refers to/endorses women "prophecying" publicly to and with men in I Corinthians 11 and 14. The Church has historically taken this endorsement of womens' proclamation of the apostles' teaching one step further in recognizing various female saints to be "doctors" of the Church (a teaching office) on par with such greats as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.

The angel, and then Jesus, gives the order to WOMEN to "go and tell" His brethren what He has revealed to them (Matthew 28, Mark 16). Without investing women with the apostolicity enjoyed by the Twelve, this action of Jesus should become the definitive lense through which we may faithfully read every injunction to women's "silence."

In sum, a woman who extends the church's teaching in a Sunday school class is not "teaching" of her own accord; she is merely the Church's mouthpiece, as is every faithful minister. I simply do not see much that is Scripturally responsible in this pastor's actions. If I did, I would be the first to applaud him.

A Great Resource!

I just learned about a website called for anyone interested in becoming more involved in ministry, and enquring as to how to begin. Check it out! - I was very impressed.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Not for Young Readers, but Compelling

This link to a clip of Russian news report on a local village exorcist and his methods was intriguing. Watch it/download it here, and make sure your speakers will not blast the rather disturbing noises from the recording.

I'll be honest, I have a huge desire to act as an exorcist someday (can lay women do that?) You did not even have to meme me for that one. For some reason, I often tend to think that the love of Christ ought to so compel us that we ALL desire to set people free in this way, regardless of the levels of prayer and fasting involved....

More on point, from yours truly, here.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Time to Respond

... to the fabulous Book Meme that has been circulating. I in turn tag anyone who ever went to Hillsdale, in the spirit of recent re-acquaintance with old friends... via their blogs (cf these in the sidebar under "brothers." These boys are hilarious.)

The Book Meme

1. One book that changed your life: Quo Vadis, by Henry Seikowitz (sp?

2. One book that you’ve read more than once: See Above.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island: RC Catechism. It's rich, and the references alone provide an EXCELLENT run through both Scripture and Patristic theology.

4. One book that made you laugh: Cheaper by the Dozen.

5. One book that made you cry: Where the Red Fern Grows. When Little Anne dies... killer.

6. One book you wish had been written: How to Talk to a Roman Catholic if You are an Evangelical Fundy.

7. One book you wish had never been written: Patriarchy Made Simple by Doug Phillips, Esq. My arch nemesis.

8. One book you’re currently reading: Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read: The Case for Christ... and have been meaning to read it for the past five years.

10. One book you’d like to write: Sex in the Confessional: How the Baby Boomers Deprived their Progeny of the Gift of the Church.

Go for it, friends....

Saturday, August 19, 2006

In Tantum Iustus in Quantum Salvus

...a fav bit of Augustine's De Spiritu et Littera , from HOURS of translation practice today:

"In as much as one is saved, to the same extent one is righteous."

... of course, Augustine (like Paul and Luther) then immediately proceeds to explain how to "become" righteous. Hello, quandry.

A Small and Sincere Tribute

Everyone, this is Tony and today is his birthday, and an occasion for the people who love him to say hey and thanks and congrats.

Here is my chirp: Tony, a best friend from college daze and a true colleague in campus ministry, is one of those people who make me smile at the way the Holy Spirit is so intent in getting the world to know something of the energy and generosity in the personality of our Jesus. Tony has always made alive to me the reckless, joyous abandon of that Lord who would run headlong into the world for a cross and a thronging herd of dirty people. And lest I seem to wax hyperbolic, let us pause and reflect on the generous life of a guy who was the first one you went to if you just wanted to talk about Jesus, knowing that he would stay up all night long if necessary to accompany you in the contemplation; who would then be up at five AM to strum his guitar for morning worship, regardless of who showed up; who would give anything away in order to know for sure that he had shown adequate love in any given moment.

Most recently, he and I traipsed through the Catacombs of St. Callixtus in Rome, although he did have to stop every few minutes to converse with Asian tourists. I kept thinking how appropriate it was to explore those earliest locations of the love of Jesus with someone who carries it on so well today. Happy Birthday, dear friend. Please, please keep it up.

The Way I See It

On my Starbucks cup this morning:

The Way I See It #121

"Isn’t it funny that no matter what your political position, you’re a conservative when it comes to what you want for your children? Both parties want to own them, even fringies extol them, but at heart, the values are conservative with a small “c” – a happy, monogamous marriage, a wholesome environment, a reliable job and a loving relationship with the family."

-- Diane Medved, Ph.D.
Psychologist and author of books on family, including The Case Against Divorce.

... so this was pretty good. We really need more savvy Christians submitting quotables to The Coffee Cup agenda at the nation's hottest brand, however. Come on, people. Represent.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Head on Over!

I have not taken it yet, but our friend the Ranter has posted a hip little theology quiz to help YOU, dear reader, find out where you truly belong in the Body of Christ. This is the moment of truth. Let me know how it goes...

(Ranter and First Apostle turned out to be "Catholic," so now we know that we duly can trust their commentary)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Power of Media

... I learned this from an ardent youth minister today, who is Very Big on youth workers comprehending the (freaky) level of influence that contemporary media forms impose upon modern liturgies and worship.

Case in point: before the Reformation, the standard seating arrangement in Church looked like this: (see immediately above- look Lord, no chairs!) Anyone who has ever wandered through an Orthodox or Catholic basilica in Europe, and wondered at the tendancy of the faithful to wander around hither and yon during Mass, or at the lack of permanent seating in the off times, will know what I mean. Simply put, there usually are no pews or permanent seating arrangements.

BUT then, post Reformation, we have this major change in the interiors of churches, such that they begin to look like this (see top left): Notice the shift from a vastly empty interior space in the shape of a cross to a structure that looks remarkably like a wide-open book. Why the difference? Because the Reformation introduced a staggering and novel emphasis on this... (see the open Bible, top right)

Pretty cool, huh?
(Fr. WB has pointed out that modern church architecture tends to resemble IPods, laptops, or projection boxes...)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Virgil's Messianic Eclogue

I have been preparing like mad for upcoming PhD language examinations, and recently translated this little passage for fun and practice. It is a prophecy of the classical and pagan poet Virgil (author of the Aneid), written about forty years before the birth of Christ. May we take this as pagan prediction of the Lord? The Early Christians certainly did.

From Virgil's Eclogue IV, ca 40 BC (translation all mine):

"Now comes the great new age: from Heaven the young man is sent, he who holds the divine life in himself, who sees God, and is himself seen by God. This young man will rule the world, for whom the strength of the father provides his peace. Moerever, few evils will persist then, those evils which required men to labor and to wage wars. (There were always many wars, waged over and over again, as when the great Achilles returned to Troy). Then the young man in his new age will make it so that there will be no labors and no wars; the sailors and fishermen will depart from their ships, and the farmers will abandon their fields- the earth itself will provide all things for all people.

Come quickly, promised age! Emerge from Heaven, small child to be born, and it shall be enough for my spirit to speak of your acts."

Mary is a pledge of the victory that Christ has won for us on the cross.

This past Sunday, August 13, 2006, was the Feast of the Assumption. Fr. WB preached on this doctrine, under no small amount of pressure, and managed to bring together beautifully some of the soundest principles of Christian Mariology. Enjoy!

Today we commemorate St. Mary the Virgin, the end of her life on earth, and the beginning of her life in heaven. In the Christian West, this celebration is usually called the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary because the tradition of the Church teaches that after Mary died, her soul as well as her body were “assumed” into heaven. The tradition of the Church teaches, in other words, that Mary has already experienced the resurrection of her Body; she has already experienced what all of those who love Christ are destined by him to experience at the end of time. But for Mary it has already happened. If Christ is the “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1.18), then Mary is the second-born – because she is the present inheritor of God’s promises to all those who have a share, through faith, in the deliverance of Christ Jesus. And as the present inheritor and heir of what has been promised to each of us at the end of time, Mary is an icon of our own selves – though not as we are now – sinful, subject to corruption, and struggling; making slow, painstaking progress in our lives of faith. Rather, Mary is presently an icon of what we will be, by the grace of God, in the future, at the end of time, when our perfection will be completed, even as hers has already been completed, when our deliverance from sin and death will be eternally sealed by the resurrection of our bodies, the loosing of the bonds of physical corruption and decay, to which we and everything in the material universe is presently subjected. As St. Paul says: the last enemy to be destroyed by Christ, is death itself (1 Corinthians 15.26). And when our Lord’s victory over death is sealed by the resurrection of our bodies, at Christ’s second coming, then – but not till then – we too will come into our inheritance – the inheritance of his glory, of divinity, of incorruptibility, and of life everlasting. Then we too will be crowned with glory and immortality, even as Mary has already been crowned (2 Timothy 4.8 & Rev. 12.1).

Mary is a pledge of the victory that Christ has won for us on the cross. Having already fully reaped the benefits of Christ’s passion, having had her redemption sealed in the resurrection of her body, she shows us the grace, the beauty, and the power of an intimate union with Jesus. She shows us our own destiny as children of God and as heirs with Christ of the promises of the Father: Mary shows us what it looks like to be a finite creature wrapped, by grace and faith and love, in God’s very own infinity.

Today we celebrate the receiving into heaven of her through whom Salvation Himself was given to God’s whole creation. The Lord of Life was alive inside of Mary for nine months! How then could she possibly have seen the grave? Or how could the darkness of death possibly have closed over her, when the Light that gives life to the whole world shone secretly and exclusively inside of her body for three trimesters? The Light of Life was carried by her, nourished by her… His own blood, His own divine life, was mingled with hers (John 6.51) in a way unknown to anyone before or since Mary. And even more: Mary was united to Christ as only a mother can be united to her son. She was united to him by the intensity of a mother’s love. When the Magi came to adore the newborn King, Mary saw them adoring her Son, her own baby. And when Jesus hung from the cross, there was one onlooker who saw hanging there something more than a victim of Roman justice, more than a Rabbi, more even than a friend or a master: there was one in the crowd, and only one, who looked at the man on the cross and saw her only Son broken and dying, her own little baby struggling for air. Why do salvation and redemption apply to Mary in a special way? Because she plumbed the depths of the suffering and death of Jesus as only a mother could. And we humans are exalted with him only by plumbing those depths… the depths of his suffering and death (2 Tim. 2.11).

But what difference does it make to you and me that Mary is so special? It makes a difference for two reasons. First, because it reveals something about Jesus. Mary is the Mother of God. But calling her the Mother of God is not so much saying something about her… its really saying something about him of whom she is the mother… its saying something about Jesus. Its saying that he is God. I’ve known plenty of Protestants and Evangelicals who are happy to call Mary the “mother of Jesus,” but can’t seem to bring themselves to call her the “Mother of God.” I want to ask them: what does it mean if Mary is the mother of Jesus, but not the mother of God? It can only mean one thing: that her Son isn’t God. Mary’s exaltation and glory in catholic doctrine and devotion is part and parcel of the greater exaltation and glory of her Son. If it weren’t for Jesus, Mary would just be an unknown Jewish girl from a backwater of the Roman Empire. Its no coincidence that one of the symbols associated with Mary in art and iconography is the moon, which gives off no light of its own, but only reflects the light of the sun. But in fact, it reflects the light of the sun so well, it is the second most luminous body in the heavens.

Mary’s greatness makes a difference first because her exaltation is a reflection of Christ’s greater exaltation. And the second reason her greatness makes a difference is an extension of the first: Mary’s exaltation makes a difference because she is an icon of ourselves. In looking at her, in contemplating her, we see something about ourselves, something about our own relationship with God, about who we are and about who we are called to be in relationship to Christ. Understanding Mary to be the Immaculate Virgin-Mother of God who even now participates intimately in Christ’s own redeeming work – this understanding is an affirmation of what is possible for us through him when we assent with Mary to God’s call to us, when we open our hearts to the overflow of his grace in our lives. When we venerate Mary for her assent to the call of God in her life, we are in some measure assenting to the call of God in our own lives, and we are affirming the gracious possibilities of our own vocations as children of God, as his servants and handmaidens; When we venerate Mary for her openness to the Holy Spirit of God, we are affirming the possibility of the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us, enabling us to minister Christ to this broken world, through our assent to God’s call. When we say to God, with Mary, “Be it done to me according to thy Word,” then we become, with Mary, “full of grace” – filled with his grace – then the Light of Christ that is the Life of the world and the glory of God, begins to shine inside of us - then we become bearers of God in the person of Jesus Christ. His grace and his power begin to flow through us, his light begins to shine in us; he suffers himself to be brought by us to others in need of him, to be born of us, to a world groaning for salvation (cf. Te Deum – “thou didst not abhor the virgin’s womb”). Mary’s exaltation – and her ministry as intercessor and advocate – come from her intense love of her Crucified Son. And so it is with us. If we will be heirs of his glory and effective ministers of his gospel, we must be united with Mary in the love of Jesus Christ, her Son. If we are not united to him, we are like moons cut off from the light of the sun: we become cold, dark, and lifeless.

So join with Mary, in prayer. Appropriate her prayer: say to God with her confidence “Be it unto me according to thy Word.” Be united to her in the love of her Son. Contemplate the great mystery of the Incarnation of God through the loving eyes of Mary. Clutch Jesus tightly to your breast, as the Blessed mother clutched him to hers. Sit in prayer with Mary at Jesus’ feet; listen adoringly to his teaching. And most of all, join with Mary at the foot of the cross: enter with her into the agony of her Son. Let the wounds of his love afflict your soul as they afflicted hers. And know that when you love him as your own, then you become his own, then you also become the heir with Mary of the promises of Christ: of his victory, of his immortality, and of his ageless and unsurpassable glory. Amen.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Culture of Life Projects

Welcoming Jaxon Walter Colquitt Friday, August 11 5.45 a.m. 7 lb. 2 oz

Enormous congratulations to our own contributor Mrs. J on the birth of her nephew... and abundant prayers and thanksgiving on behalf of this precious baby's mother, fellow blogger, who you can get to know at "Happily Ever After" here.

To God be the glory for all of His blessings in His church's families!

A Theology Contest!

Fr. WB is hosting a theological blogging contest... try to crack his really interesting quandry, (which was actually cited at Canon Kendall Harmon's Titus One Nine!) here.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

At it again: The Church of the City

“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross. America is neither the light of the world nor the hope of the world.”

Read the rest from the New York Times here, and as covered so well by Garland here.

One of my professors used to say that the proper use of prepositions is one of the most critical aspects of orthodoxy. He was so right.

A friend took me to a luncheon yesterday that turned out to be a networking event for local evangelical churches- mega churches, house churches, disjointed zealots all, etc. The purpose? To build momentum towards the formation of a kind of Protestant Evangalical/Pentecostal "diocese" which would oversee and organize the work of otherwise isolated churches in my hometown under one key "bishop" figure who would organize the ministers within his cure. They call themselves "The Church of the City." The goals of this initiative are greater efficiency and force through structural unity, something that the evangelical world has only enjoyed through the semblance of unity afforded by a regrettably disheveled aesthetic held unfortunately in common (no offense, Michael W. Smith). I am all for this structural unity, of course; history has proven that the top-down episcopacy of the early church is simply the best expression of Christ's servant-lordship in the heavenly Kingdom which is the Church. But, as I so often do at such gatherings, I was squirming through the whole thing...

I was troubled. The language which these good people use to communicate their laudable vision reflects the sordid, deprived ecclesiology that bankrupts the Bride of Christ in our idolatrous American culture. A Church of the City? What is this "of?"

I am a Classics person. I read Latin and Greek a lot, and in that kind of verbal algebra you have to figure out exactly what the "of" is doing in a sentence. It may sometimes be a locative genitive, expressing place. It may be a genitive of agent, expressing the means by which a result is accomplished; or it may be a partititve force, expressing a thing in terms of its distinction from its genus. But almost always, "of" denotes posesssion. Do you get that? The city's church?

The Church is Christ's. The church is not a function of local culture, nor should it ever be conditioned by political need or social proclivities. The Church is not a base for American politics nor a rec center for Christian families. In addressing the needs of the world, the Church is to respond only to Christ. Alone among the other glories of the fallen creation, the Church is "of" Christ. It is only in this way that the Church can fulfill her vocation to be for the world in sacrifical love, service, and instruction in spirit and in truth. Thus we may say that the Church is for the city, because the Church is Christ's loving gift to the needy world for its healing and benefit. The Church is in the city certainly. The Church's people may come from the City, in entering the City of God demarked by the Church's jurisdiction, as they go in and out and find pasture. But in no way may the Church remain the Church of Jesus Christ and simultaneously be the Church of the City.

Let me say this carefully. The Apostles and Mary left that upper room and immediately fell into the Spirit's will of gathering a community to celebrate the memory of the Lord. They sang His praises among the excellent civic structures of Roman life for centuries, and in posing serious risks to the proper organization of society (they had another Lord to whom they gave their money and their virgins, for instance), many, many of them died because they refused to be "of" the city. Thus when Constantine provided the Church with its state-sanctioned status, Augustine responded with the Church's definitive warning against confusing the Kingdom of the Crucified, who fed the poor and died that all might live, with the Kingdom of the Emperor, which would inevitably exploit the poor and kill persons to defend its own interests: in Augustine's City of God and City of Man, we are told once and for all that though the two "kingdoms" may exist among each other, they are forever seperated, if only because one will perish and the other will enter into the eternal embrace of God. For centuries onward, the Church was able to flourish in its own development as the polis of God among the nations, from time to time getting it right, and at other times failing utterly; but in general, the Church undersood that she was a Kingdom separate and consecrate, with corroborating structures evident in the papal "monarchy," the centralized government at Rome, and the common law of the vox fides. This happy understanding (among other blessings) was neatly shattered by the Protestant Revolt, particularly where Luther's belligerance propelled hordes of formerly good Kingdom citizens into the far country of anarchy.

But despite Luther's democratizing impulses, it ontologically remains that the Church is no democracy formed by human will, for human expediency. The Church is an eternally nuptial "Body" called into being by the will of God. She has a KING. Thus it was that the splintered factions of the Church in the wake of the Protestant Revolt sought a superstructure, as appropriate for a Kingdom. But now there was none available to them. The only organizing principle that came to mind to these anxious Reformers was... you got it... the nation and its substructures. So the Reformers turned for organization to the feudal princes about whom Jesus had always hinted... "little flock, they will resist you." And now we have the laudible aim of inter denominational unity organized under the auspices of the local secular polity... not the Church universal, as manifested in a particular township, but rather, "The Church of the City."

The Church and the State, properly understood as parallel and eternally separate worlds, so often become merged in the Protestant mind. What we have is the rhetoric that I heard at my luncheon as we sang the praises of a "God-birthed USA"... "the nation as THE instrument of God's renewal among The Other Nations..." "the city as a light." In this rubric, the unity of the church becomes desirable, not in reflection of Trinitarian desire, but merely as a means for national socio-political progress; and, incidentally, the hallmark of such a church's success is the great benefit of its members' election to political offices.

The problem? These ideas defy Scripture. In the history of the universe, if we speak indeed of Scripture and not our political ambitions, God has "chosen" only one nation as His instrument, and that nation is ancient Israel. Those who would draw a false analogy between the US of A and the Israel of God are completely unjustified, and I think a little rebellious, because the New Testament is clear: it is the Church that constitutes the new Israel. And like Israel, the Church is a pilgrim nation, a universal and timeless creature, properly rejected by that world who cannot ever comprehend her in her lovely, waiting adoration of One alone, as she serves the least of these and the enemy in ways that the state never could. She is the universal creature, really separated and distinguished only by spatial instantiations of the everlasting whole. Let us have the Church in the city, for the city, from the city. But please, never the Church of.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Monks of New Skete

My newest share in God's creation looks like this, see above right. Her name is Ezali, and she is perfect.

I was given a training manual on puppy raising written by none other than a group of cloistered Orthodox monks in Upper New York State who... you guessed it... raise and train dogs as their ministry. How cute is that. You can find their manual on the theology and practicalities of puppy raising here. I always knew monasticism had untapped potential for vital contribution to family life...

The Place Where Your Glory Dwells: Fenelon III

The Beauty of the Cross

"The Kingdom of God began at Calvary. The Cross was a necessity. When we pick up the cross of Jesus and bear it in love to Him, His Kingdom has also begun in us. We must be satisfied to carry that cross as long as it is His will. You have need of the Cross as well as I. The faithful Giver of every good gift distributes them to each of us with His own hand. Blessed be His name! Every cross which He gives is purely for our profit."

Fenelon, Letter 3.

Accidental Corpus et Sanguine

... Furthermore, I am sick and tired of trite, titillating theologies of the Eucharist among those Modern Evangelicals who like to pretend that their own divines (read: Martin Luther, John Calvin, et al) did not believe in the effective, transactive nature of the Eucharist. I have seen good people tossing Ritz crackers and grape jouce around at the end of a service with nary an Institution Narrative to ground their haphazard affair of nodding to the nice images of bread and wine. How nice. A common meal of common foodstuffs to bind us all in charity or something... But is this sort of practice Biblical? Hardly.

Matthew 26: 26 28- "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body...And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Cf Mark 14 and Luke 22 as well.

John 6: 53- 56-
"Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 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."

1 Corinthians 10:16- "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?"

1 Corinthians 11:25-27 - "After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord."


Monday, August 07, 2006

It's academe gone very, very, very wrong. Very wrong.

In some ways, it could be any other academic conference: Dr Christopher Blazina, an associate professor of psychology at Tennessee State University, has a PowerPoint presentation prepared. The audience is studiously attentive. And a couple of people are typing directly into their laptops. It could be any other academic conference apart from the fact that there are at least three middle-aged women dressed as witches complete with hats, cloaks and wands. In front of me is a row of four twenty-something women in grey school skirts, knee-socks and black gowns. And, sitting next to me, assiduously writing notes with a feathered quill onto what looks like parchment, is a boyish-looking teenage girl with cropped brown hair, and, the tell-tale giveaway, a pair of little round glasses.

Lumos 2006 is not just another conference, it's 'a Harry Potter symposium', and most of the audience aren't academics at all, they're common-or-garden fans, 1,200 of them in total, here for three days' worth of talks, presentations and panels. Dr Blazina's presentation is just one out of a possible six others being held in the same time slot, including 'Not Just Good and Evil: Moral Alignment in Harry Potter' and 'Bloody Hell! Why Am I So Wild About Harry?'

His main thesis seems to be that Harry is growing up. Or as he puts it, 'Hogwarts is a tangible liminal state where Harry learns to re-sort Bad Objects and decathect from them'.

Here's the whole thing. From the Guardian UK.

CF MM's post on the Potter Phenom while youre at it...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Accidental Baptism

I so often wonder about the Evangelical theologies of baptism that reduce the command to be baptized to a merely laudible gesture in the Christian life. It seems to me that most of we Evangelicals need to heed the Church's historical injunction that we read our Bible more, and carefully...

As I read it, the Bible could very well be taken to describe baptism as the sacrament and means of salvation.

John 3: 3-5- "Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again...I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit."

Mark 16:16- "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."

Acts 2:38- "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins."

Acts 22:16- "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and (thus) wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."

Galatians 3:17- "It is those of you who have been baptized into Christ that have put on Christ."

Matthew 28:19- "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost..."


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Charity Wins Deep Loyalty for Hezbollah

"...Hezbollah has provided essential services for years to Lebanon’s poor Shiites. When Haider Fayadh, left, a cafe owner in Tyre, could not pay a huge electricity bill, Hezbollah paid it..."

More from the NY Times coverage here.

CF this nifty little challenge on point from Acts Chapters 2 and 4:

"And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers...And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need...And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need."

Hmmm... the things the Western Church needs to recall...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Athlone Cross

I am going through old posessions in preparation for my family's upcoming move, and just came across this 8th century Celtic cross... a gift that is also a relic from Fr. WB's more exploratory days. You can purchase one for personal devotion from the same people who make labrynths. Heh-heh.

The Catholic Fast

... I have just about had it. I am going to check into a beautiful retreat center for one night at the end of this week, and do that dreaded thing that so many ardent Christians talk a lot about but practice seldom (including me!)... I am going to fast.

Having said that, I am going to do a Catholic fast. Protestants and Catholics fast very differently. Ever prone to that nuisance, Gnosticism, we Prots are given to the denial of the body in the most rigorous forms in order to achieve spiritual transcendance. Ugggh. I once went for 21 days on water and vegetable broth with a group of Charismatics in such a spirit. Once I started visiting my RC friends, I discovered (oh relief!) that the body is part and parcel of our redemption, CF The Incarnation rightly understood. So Catholics fast differently. They are respectful of hunger pains! They are moderate! They care! ... so on a Catholic fast day, you get to have lovely tea and crackers and perhaps a salad and some soup. AND it's still a proper fast, with all attendant benefits in tow.

So I am going to fast like a Catholic.

(CF the amazement that this post provoked from our friends at Holy Whapping)

The Place Where Your Glory Dwells II

"A cross which comes from God ought to be welcomed without any concern for self. And when you accept your cross this way, even though it is painful, you will find that you can bear it in peace. But when you recieve your cross unwillingly, you will find it to be doubly severe. The resistance within is harder to bear than the cross itself! But if you recognize the hand of God, and make no opposition to His will, you will have peace in the midst of affliction. Happy indeed are they who can bear their sufferings with this simple peace and perfect submission to the will of God! Nothing so shortens and soothes suffering as this spirit of non-resistance."

Fenelon, Letter II

Discovering the Rosary

On a happier note, I have been discovering the Rosary lately—which is to say, I have been praying it. I am finding it is one of the things I like the very best about the RCC (after apostolic succession and holding the full deposit of faith, that is). I would encourage everyone to make this a part—even a central part—of his or her devotional life. This is what John Paul II had to say about it in his apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae:

The Rosary of the Virgin Mary, which gradually took form in the second millennium under the guidance of the Spirit of God, is a prayer loved by countless Saints and encouraged by the Magisterium. Simple yet profound, it still remains, at the dawn of this third millennium, a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness. It blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian life, which, after two thousand years, has lost none of the freshness of its beginnings and feels drawn by the Spirit of God to “set out into the deep” (duc in altum!) in order once more to proclaim, and even cry out, before the world that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour, “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6), “the goal of human history and the point on which the desires of history and civilization turn”.

The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium.
It is an echo of the prayerof Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb. With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.

Once again, Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex is on point with some get-started tips and recommendations.

And Rosary Army has this on the history of the Rosary; will give you a rosary, and other resources to many to list.


Why do I keep reading the Slate? Especially when I have to endure juicy tidbits like this from Christopher Hitchens, professional curmudgeon and pot-stirrer:

And it has been obvious for some time to the most meager intelligence that he is sick to his empty core with Jew-hatred. This is not just proved by his twistedly homoerotic spank-movie The Passion of the Christ, even though that ghastly production did focus obsessively on the one passage in the one of the four Gospels that tries to convict the Jewish people en masse of the hysterical charge of Christ-killing or "deicide."

Sigh. I tend to agree with Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex, and Hitchens' comments tend to corroborate that theory.