Monday, December 10, 2012

Great Post for Parents

Found this over at The Gospel Coalition blog.  I highly recommend it as thought provoking and challenging for parents trying to navigate the "busyness" of childhood.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Random Thoughts

Random disconnected thoughts on a rainy day:
  1. God is the Subject not the Object of Theology.
  2. Yes, Virginia there is a truth.  Not my truth.  Not your truth.  “What is truth?”  The answer, “Jesus Christ.”
  3.  Discipleship is about following that Truth, and conforming our lives to Him.
  4. Interestingly, to me at least, I read the following sentence recently from The Good and Beautiful God (Smith: IVP 2009), “The one primary mission for a pastor should be to make disciples, but there are a thousand other pressing needs, problems, and agendas that easily throw us off-track”.  Good words to remember, and now, today, an email from Bishop Daniel stating the same thing.  I do not believe he is reading the same book, so….
  5. Maybe, these thoughts are not really disconnected.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

RIP Dave Brubeck

The great Jazz musician died just short of the age of 92.

Here is a part of his composition of the music for a Mass:  To Hope.

Requiescat in pace!

Clement of Alexandria (2012)

Today we remember Clement of Alexandria (c. 210).

From The Fragments of Clement of Alexandria (VIII, 1), and appropriate for Advent:
Repentance than becomes capable of wiping out every sin, when on the occurrence of the soul's fault it admits no delay, and does not let the impulse pass on to a long space of time. For it is in this way that evil will be unable to leave a trace in us, being plucked away at the moment of its assault like a newly planted plant.
As the creatures called crabs are easy to catch, from their going sometimes forward and sometimes backward; so also the soul, which at one time is laughing, at another weeping, and at another giving way to luxury can do no good.
He who is sometimes grieving, and is sometimes enjoying himself and laughing, is like a man pelting the dog of voluptuousness with bread, who chases it in appearance, but in fact invites it to remain near him.
The Collect
 O God of unsearchable wisdom, you gave your servant Clement grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, the source of all truth: Grant to your Church the same grace to discern your Word wherever truth is found; through Jesus Christ your unfailing light, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, November 30, 2012

St. Andrew's Day (Repost from 2011)

Happy Patronal Feast to my Scottish and Russian friends, and of course, to me!  (It's my confirmation name, and I wasn't named after David of Wales so March 1 doesn't count.)  As a Christian, a Scot, and a Russophile, I wear a dual crucifix on a daily basis, the front side of which is the Romanov eagle with superimposed crucifix, the back is St. Andrew crucified on the X cross.

In looking for media for today I came across two pictures.  One is the Cathedral of St. Andrew in St. Petersburg, Russia, the other St. Andrew's from St. Andrew's, Scotland.  Guess which one is functioning today.

Interestingly, the Russian cathedral was severely damaged during the Soviet Era. In the 1920's protesters trying to save the icons clashed with Bolsheviks. It was closed in 1938 and the dome was used as an anti-aircraft emplacement during the 900 day siege.  The guns were actually placed under the dome where the altar would have been.  It was even rumored to be the storage locker for the Department of Anthropology for the University.  The cathedral was returned to the Church in 1992.  Today it is a thriving place of worship, and I had the honor of worshipping there in 2005.

The picture below is of St. Andrew's, Scotland which was "cleansed" in 1559 during John Knox's reformation and abandoned for a small parish church in 1561. 

Russia, former member of the USSR abandons secular materialism and is in the midst of religious revival.  Scotland, my land, in the midst of a secular materialist revival. Irony?

The Collect for St. Andrew's Day:

Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Breaking News!

I am now tired of all the political ads, wrangling, and phone calls asking for me to support any candidate.  If you are the last undecided voter in America would you please tell someone!  Maybe then they will leave me alone.

I am checking out for the next 48 hours and going on a media fast.  I am doing this for the sake of my soul and sanity.  I will vote tomorrow, and will be holding our election in my prayers.  I encourage you to do the same. I will be praying that the division in our nation, fostered by our ruling class in order to win elections and encouraged by the media in order to sell advertising, will by the grace of God be healed one day.

And now for something completely different, courtesy of Air New Zealand:

Maybe one day Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Communists, etc., can share the same flight in civility like the Wizards, Elves, Orcs, Hobbits, Humans, and Dwarves above.

Yes, I am a geek, and a dreamer!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

God Grant You Many Years...

... H H Tawadros, new Pope of the Coptic Church.

Here is the video of the selection from the BBC.

If you are interested in Coptic TVs coverage the entire liturgy is below.  The actual selection begins at about the 3:30 mark.

May God preserve the Coptic Church, and may H H Tawadros lead you well in your witness to Christ, and through your trials.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Election Time

It is election time.  No, I do not mean our secular election activities here in the States.  It is election time for the Coptic Church (often with the redundant modifier "of Egypt", as Coptic means Egyptian).  On Sunday the Church will elect its new Pope. Yes, there is a Pope not in Rome.  He will be the successor to such giants as Mark the Evangelist and Athanasius in the Apostolic See of Alexandria.  It will be quite an event for this minority population that has often been persecuted by the majority, and has especially suffered in the last several years.

The election process itself is of interest to me.  Last week over 2200 people (laity & religious), voted on a list of candidates for the position. The top three vote getters, all celibate monks as required by canon law, moved to the next phase of election.  On Sunday, November 4, the three names will be placed in a box on the altar of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria.  Following the liturgy, a blindfolded child will be led to the box and will select one name from within it.  That name will be read, and the individual acclaimed as Pope (Patriarch of Alexandria).  To dispel any thoughts that the election is rigged, the other names in the box will then be drawn and read.  This doesn’t sound like too bad a way to choose a leader to me, democratic with a Divine finish.

Please pray for the Coptic Church and its election, especially as the Pope has a significant task ahead of him in shepherding his flock through the complexity that is modern Egypt.

Now, as to our own elections, maybe the Copts are on to something?

Seriously, though, here are my musings for the month of November.

November 2012
“Memento mori (remember your mortality),” a servant would voice this phrase over a Roman general as he made his triumphal entry into the Eternal City.  It is a stark reminder of the impermanence of purely human endeavor and achievement.

As November opens, we will participate in a celebration of civic values by electing our national leaders.  On election day, I urge you to follow your conscience as you exercise your right to vote.  Vote for the person you think is the best candidate.  Vote with humility, recognizing that good Christian people who struggle with the call of the Gospel can, and will, disagree on the political solutions to our nation’s problems.   Vote remembering that sin compromises human political systems, solutions, and endeavors. Vote remembering that each of the candidates is mortal.  Vote remembering that we are not electing a savior from any party. 

It is not coincidental that the month of November ends with the Feast of Christ the King.  As we elect our national leaders, the Church reminds us that we serve a Risen King.   Remember that we have a Savior who was sent for us.  Remember that our true citizenship is in the Kingdom of God.  “Christ is Lord”, is the radical political and social claim that we make each time we celebrate the Eucharist.  It is the confession that recognizes the true triumphal entry of the One who through his Crucifixion and Resurrection can claim Lordship over all creation.  It is a confession that recognizes the victory of our God, and prays for the final transformation of all to Christ’s rule.

Remember that those who have put on Christ, who confess that he is Lord, “shall not die for ever”, and that his Kingdom endures unto the ages of ages. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Quote of the Day

To today's successors of the Apostles, I offer the following quote from Thomas Oden's The African Memory of Mark (IVP: 2011, 57)
Subsequent generations of witnesses are perennially pledged and bound to recall accurately the salvation event as received (Gal 1:19-20; 1 Thess 2:3-8)....The disciples at second hand (noneyewitnesses) do not receive a new, separable, improved or different revelation but attest to the original revelation centered on the events of the cross and resurrection, and upon personal meeting with the unique person--Son of Man and Son of God.  The task of apostolic successor is not to improve upon the message or embellish it or add to it one's own spin, but rather simply to remember and attest it accurately, credibly and intelligibly.
This is the test that African theology, from the earliest days, used to test whether a teaching, and its teacher, was consistent with the apostolic testimony.  I might also add that it was the test used at the Council of Nicea as regards Arius' heresy.

I encourage everyone to pick up a copy of Dr. Oden's work.  It is well-written, accessible, and informative.  It challenges the "received" Western wisdom, based in our historical method, to re-access Mark and the earliest recollections of him in the Church in the "heart" of Christianity.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An Open Letter

The Following is an open letter from The Rev. Bosco Peters who runs the Liturgy blog.  For those of you who are interested, it tracks pretty closely with the vision that is in development for our local parish of Worship, Formation, and Sending.

Dear Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Anglican Consultative Council,
This open letter is a passionate request that you revise the Anglican five-fold mission statement and explicitly include worship/liturgy.
The five-fold mission statement is regularly used as a starting point for the life and mission of the church. It is good, but inadequate. I ardently advocate that our worship, our liturgy, be central, and be seen to be central, to the church’s mission. Its omission from the five-fold mission statement affects our church life and integrity.
The Anglican five-fold mission statement from the Anglican Consultative Council has:
  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
(Bonds of Affection-1984 ACC-6 p49, Mission in a Broken World-1990 ACC-8 p101)
I propose that worship, liturgy, is not a means to further the mission of the church. It is not a means to further any or all of the dimensions in the five-fold mission statement. Worship, in and of itself, is an essential dimension of our mission and should find its place in our accepted mission statement.
Worship, liturgy, especially the Eucharist, is understood, by the majority of Christians, to be “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 11). St Ignatius Loyola understood “The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God” (The Principle and Foundation in his Spiritual Exercises).
Although worship is not a means, giving it centrality does lead to desirable effects. On the other hand, I would argue, the loss of the pivotal place of worship and liturgy leads to consequences, such as the loss of the unifying power of common prayer, of common worship.
I would suggest that as Anglicans unity has been a gift to us through common prayer which has been at the heart of Anglicanism. We neglect our shared spiritual disciplines, and our common unity in God through Christ in the Spirit, at a cost to our unity. Lex orandi, lex credendi, (“the law of prayer is the law of belief”); lex vivendi, in fact. Prayer shapes belief which shapes our life.
In this province, as just one example, during the last three decades we have seen the removal of the clergy’s requirement of Daily Prayer and a diminution of study, training, and formation in liturgy, worship, spirituality. Stressing the centrality of worship and liturgy in a revised Anglican mission statement I hope will be part of returning training formation and study of liturgy, worship, spirituality to be foundational to our life as church. I would love to see contemplation, spirituality, prayer, worship, liturgy as being foundational to formation of our clergy and our communities. Placing worship/liturgy as central to a revised, updated, mission statement will, I hope, aid renewal. The contemplative dimension provides a solid foundation in our new often-post-modern, often-post-Christian context, where many are unnecessarily disconcerted by change and also new conclusions in scientific, ethical, and even theological endeavours.
I understand that the Anglican Consultative Council has previously discussed having worship as a dimension of church mission, and this letter advocates that revising our five-fold mission statement, to place worship at the heart of church mission, be once again progressed.
Be assured that my prayers are with you as you gather for your meeting in Auckland
Rev. Bosco Peters
Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Little Fall Goodness

Or teens are not as bad as many think they are.

From the Columbus Post Dispatch (Go Bucks!):

For all 18 years of her life, Megan Ryan has given to others.
Last night, her peers at Bishop Hartley High School returned some of the love. Ryan, who has Down syndrome, was crowned the 2012 homecoming queen during a ceremony at the Roman Catholic school on the East Side.
Her fellow seniors chose their outgoing, ever-smiling classmate from among 10 nominees (with Jacob Smith selected king ).
The rest of the article is here.

This reminds me of last year's homecoming king at Tri-Valley (Go Vikings!), when a similar choice was made.

Human value, it is a beautiful thing!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mrs. of Nazareth

I am not going to wade deeply into the newest media releases on a Fourth Century Coptic text fragment, that may or may not be authentic, and is reputed to state that Jesus was married.  Others have done so already, and I will not repeat their work.  Hey, why reinvent the wheel on a regular basis?  If you are interested, I would recommend this article from catholicity and covenant.

What intrigues me is the subtext of articles that assumes Christianity is a religion rooted in history.  It is almost as if there are some waiting expectantly for the one thing that will prove the real historical Jesus was nothing like the Jesus of the Scriptures, and thus will pull down the edifice of Christianity as we know it.  Of course, if that happened many would celebrate, others mourn, and yet others continue to redefine the argument.

It is interesting that those in the camp waiting, dare I say hoping, for the “one thing” understand that it must come out of history.  They are undeniably correct.  Christianity is not rooted in philosophy.  It is not a mere ethical system.  Christianity is rooted in an historical, and historic, claim, the resurrection of Jesus.   This is the central claim, Jesus is alive, and the tomb is empty. The question that must be answered by each one of us is, “What happened on that Sunday morning in Jerusalem?”   Everything else in Christianity derives from this central event.

Therefore, I am not that worked up, either way, by a late text, most likely Gnostic, which states Jesus had a wife. 

If you wish to read a concise study of the “Quest for the Historical Jesus”, I recommend N.T. Wright’s, Who was Jesus?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cyprian of Carthage (Bishop and Martyr, 258)

A short reading from his treatise on The Lord's Prayer (chapter VIII):

Before all things, the Teacher of peace and the Master of unity would not have prayer to be made singly and individually, as for one who prays to pray for himself alone.  For we say not “My Father, which art in heaven,” nor “Give me this day my daily bread;” nor does  each one ask that only his own debt should be forgiven him; nor does he request for himself alone that he may not be led into temptation, and delivered from evil. Our prayer is public and common; and when we pray, we pray not for one, bur for the whole people, because we the whole people are one. The God of peace and the Teacher of concord, who taught unity, willed that one should thus pray for all, even as He Himself bore us all in one.  This law of prayer the three children observed when they were shut up in the fiery furnace, speaking together in prayer, and being of one heart in the agreement of the spirit; and this the faith of sacred Scripture assures us, and in telling us how such as these prayed, gives an example which we ought to follow in our prayers, in order that we may be such as they were: “Then these three,” it says, “as if from one mouth sang an hymn, and blessed the Lord.” (Song of the Three Children, v. 28) They spoke as if from one mouth, although Christ had not yet taught them how to pray.  And therefore, as they prayed, their speech was availing and effectual, because a peaceful, and sincere, and spiritual prayer deserved well of the Lord.  Thus also we find that the apostles, with the disciples, prayed after the Lord’s ascension: “They all,” says the Scripture (Acts 1:4), “continued with one accord in prayer, with the women, and Mary who was the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.”  They continued with one accord in prayer, declaring both by the urgency and by the agreement of their praying, that God, “who maketh men to dwell of one mind in a house (Psalm 68:6),” only admits into the divine and eternal home those among whom prayer is unanimous.

The Collect

Almighty God, who gave to your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Blessed Cyprian pray for us.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Aidan (651) & Cuthbert (684) Bishops of Lindisfarne

From the The Ecclesiastical History of England by The Venerable St. Bede available at CCEL.

On the life of St. Aidan.

FROM this island, then, and the fraternity of these monks, Aidan was sent to instruct the English nation in Christ, having received the dignity of a bishop. At that time Segeni, abbot and priest, presided over that monastery. Among other lessons in holy living, Aidan left the clergy a most salutary example of abstinence and continence; it was the highest commendation of his doctrine with all men, that he taught nothing that he did not practice in his life among his brethren; for he neither sought nor loved anything of this world, but delighted in distributing immediately among the poor whom he met whatsoever was given him by the kings or rich men of the world. He was wont to traverse both town and country on foot, never on horseback, unless compelled by some urgent necessity; to the end that, as he went, he might turn aside to any whomsoever he saw, whether rich or poor, and call upon them, if infidels, to receive the mystery of the faith, or, if they were believers, strengthen them in the faith, and stir them up by words and actions to giving of alms and the performance of good works.
His course of life was so different from the slothfulness of our times, that all those who bore him company, whether they were tonsured or laymen, had to study either reading the Scriptures, or learning psalms. This was the daily employment of himself and all that were with him, wheresoever they went; and if it happened, which was but seldom, that he was invited to the king’s table, he went with one or two clerks, and having taken a little food, made haste to be gone, either to read with his brethren or to pray. At that time, many religious men and women, led by his example, adopted the custom of prolonging their fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, till the ninth hour, throughout the year, except during the fifty days after Easter. Never, through fear or respect of persons, did he keep silence with regard to the sins of the rich; but was wont to correct them with a severe rebuke. He never gave money to the powerful men of the world, but only food, if he happened to entertain them; and, on the contrary, whatsoever gifts of money he received from the rich, he either distributed, as has been said, for the use of the poor, or bestowed in ransoming such as had been wrongfully sold for slaves. Moreover, he afterwards made many of those he had ransomed his disciples, and after having taught and instructed them, advanced them to priest’s orders.

On the life of St. Cuthbert.

 AFTER this, Cuthbert, as he grew in goodness and intensity of devotion, attained also to a hermit’s life of contemplation in silence and solitude, as we have mentioned. But forasmuch as many years ago we wrote enough concerning his life and virtues, both in heroic verse and prose, it may suffice at present only to mention this, that when he was about to go to the island, he declared to the brothers, "If by the grace of God it shall be granted to me, that I may live in that place by the labour of my hands, I will willingly abide there; but if not, God willing, I will very soon return to you." The place was quite destitute of water, corn, and trees; and being infested by evil spirits, was very ill suited for human habitation; but it became in all respects habitable, at the desire of the man of God; for at his coming the wicked spirits departed. When, after expelling the enemy, he had, with the help of the brethren, built himself a narrow dwelling, with a mound about it, and the necessary cells in it, to wit, an oratory and a common living room, he ordered the brothers to dig a pit in the floor of the room, although the ground was hard and stony, and no hopes appeared of any spring. When they had done this relying upon the faith and prayers of the servant of God, the next day it was found to be full of water, and to this day affords abundance of its heavenly bounty to all that resort thither. He also desired that instruments for husbandry might be brought him, and some wheat; but having prepared the ground and sown the wheat at the proper season, no sign of a blade, not to speak of ears, had sprouted from it by the summer. Hereupon, when the brethren visited him according to custom, he ordered barley to be brought him, if haply it were either the nature of the soil, or the will of God, the Giver of all things, that such grain rather should grow there. He sowed it in the same field, when it was brought him, after the proper time of sowing, and therefore without any likelihood of its bearing fruit; but a plentiful crop immediately sprang up, and afforded the man of God the means which he had desired of supporting himself by his own labour.
When he had here served God in solitude many years, the mound which encompassed his dwelling being so high, that he could see nothing from it but heaven, which he thirsted to enter, it happened that a great synod was assembled in the presence of King Egfrid, near the river Alne, at a place called Adtuifyrdi, which signifies "at the two fords," in which Archbishop Theodore, of blessed memory, presided, and there Cuthbert was, with one mind and consent of all, chosen bishop of the church of Lindisfarne. They could not, however, draw him from his hermitage, though many messengers and letters were sent to him. At last the aforesaid king himself, with the most holy Bishop and other religious and powerful men, sailed to the island; many also of the brothers from the isle of Lindisfarne itself, assembled together for the same purpose: they all knelt, and conjured him by the Lord, with tears and entreaties, till they drew him, also in tears, from his beloved retreat, and forced him to go to the synod. When he arrived there, he was very reluctantly overcome by the unanimous resolution of all present, and compelled to take upon himself the duties of the episcopate; being chiefly prevailed upon by the words of Boisil, the servant of God, who, when he had prophetically foretold all things that were to befall him, had also predicted that he should be a bishop. Nevertheless, the consecration was not appointed immediately; but when the winter, which was then at hand, was over, it was carried out at Easter, in the city of York, and in the presence of the aforesaid King Egfrid; seven bishops coming together for his consecration, among whom, Theodore, of blessed memory, was Primate. He was first elected bishop of the church of Hagustald, in the place of Tunbert, who had been deposed from the episcopate; but because he chose rather to be placed over the church of Lindisfarne, in which he had lived, it was thought fit that Eata should return to the see of the church of Hagustald, to which he had been first ordained, and that Cuthbert should take upon him the government of the church of Lindisfarne.
Following the example of the blessed Apostles, he adorned the episcopal dignity by his virtuous deeds; for he both protected the people committed to his charge by constant prayer, and roused them, by wholesome admonitions, to thoughts of Heaven. He first showed in his own life what he taught others to do, a practice which greatly strengthens all teaching; for he was above all things inflamed with the fire of Divine charity, of sober mind and patient, most diligently intent on devout prayers, and kindly to all that came to him for comfort. He thought it stood in the stead of prayer to afford the weak brethren the help of his exhortation, knowing that he who said "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," said likewise, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour." He was noted for penitential abstinence, and was always through the grace of compunction, intent upon heavenly things. And when he offered up to God the Sacrifice of the saving Victim, he commended his prayer to the Lord, not with uplifted voice, but with tears drawn from the bottom of his heart.
The Collect:
 Everliving God, you called your servants Aidan and Cuthbert to proclaim the Gospel in northern England and gave them loving hearts and gentle spirits: Grant us grace to live as they did, in simplicity, humility and love for the poor; through Jesus Christ, who came among us as one who serves, and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Augustine of Hippo

Today is the feast of St. Augustine of Hippo.  Here is a brief excerpt on the importance of memorizing the creed.  Notice that the written form of the creed was not to be relied upon in worship, rather it was a memorized symbol of faith.  What difference does it make to an individual to have something memorized versus recitation from a written page?

1. Receive, my children, the Rule of Faith, which is called the Symbol (or Creed). And when ye have received it, write it in your heart, and be daily saying it to yourselves; before ye sleep, before ye go forth, arm you with your Creed. The Creed no man writes so as it may be able to be read: but for rehearsal of it, lest haply forgetfulness obliterate what care hath delivered, let your memory be your record-roll: what ye are about to hear, that are ye to believe; and what ye shall have believed, that are about to give back with your tongue. For the Apostle says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” For this is the Creed which ye are to rehearse and to repeat in answer. These words which ye have heard are in the Divine Scriptures scattered up and down: but thence gathered and reduced into one, that the memory of slow persons might not be distressed; that every person may be able to say, able to hold, what he believes. For have ye now merely heard that God is Almighty? But ye begin to have him for your father, when ye have been born by the church as your Mother.

From the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 

The Collect for St. Augustine:
Lord God, the light of the minds that know you, the life of the souls that love you, and the strength of the hearts that serve you: Help us, following the example of your servant Augustine of Hippo, so to know you that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Really Pakistan?

I know there are many moderates out there, but when was the last time Christians arrested, demanded the death of, or killed anyone specifically due to their blaspheming our religion and/or holy books?  Of course, there are sick and crazy Christians who advocate, and even perpetrate violence, but they are the exception, not the rule.  But in Pakistan what we have been told are exceptions are becoming the rule.

Seriously Pakistan, arresting an 11 year-old girl with Down's syndrome, at the behest of the mob, for blasphemy because she was carrying ashes of Quran pages is a real act of courage.  Incidentally, it looks like she was set up.

Also look up the case of Asia Bibbi.  She's another victim of Pakistan's peaceful blasphemy law.  Sentenced to death and in prison for over two years now for allegedly saying bad things about a certain prophet.

Please pray for Christian's who are suffering around the world due to their faith.

Pray especially for Rimsha Masih and Asia Bibbi.

Pray also for those inciting this hate, and involved in the prosecution.  Yes, we should pray for our enemies.

By the way, British pop group ooberfuse (incidentally Pakistani Christians) has released two excellent tracks supporting Rimsha Masih and Asia Bibbi.  You can find them at  They are my new favorite group.  The music videos are below.

Monday, June 25, 2012


It's been a drought month.  This is true for the agriculture in this area.  We are down quite a bit in rainfall with nothing on the radar for the next week.  We are dry and need relief.

The same has been true for this blogger.  I just realized it has been 24 days since I posted anything.  That is not good, or rather maybe it is really good, in any case, I have felt a bit dry.  Too much admin time, too much planning, too much stuff to do.  Juggling it all, even with a fairly decent task management system has proven difficult as well.  I apologize if yours was one of the pins that got dropped this month.

My beloved has been in Mexico for two weeks now, and enjoying her language classes immensely.  She's having a blast, and recovering her fluency.

Haltlet #1 and I leave for Russia on Wednesday.  This is an every four year mission, and I am quite excited for it.  This will be her first international travel.  More importantly, I look forward to the father/daughter time, and the spiritual refreshment that always occurs when I meet my friends in Sablino and work and worship with them.  It is wonderful to drink from the fountain of the Eastern Church, and right now, boy do I thirst.

Please pray for rain, for our farmers, and spiritual rain on this mission trip.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Justin Martyr AD167

Justin, a Greek-speaking pagan student of philosopy from Samaria, was converted following an encounter with a stranger on the shore of the Mediterranean near Ephesus.  He became a Christian was was convinced that Christianity was the only "safe and profitable philosophy"

Justin moved to Rome, where as a teacher he engaged in public debates. At one of these, he and his students, were accused of immorality and ignorance by a certain Crescens who then caused charges to be produced against Justin and his students.  At their trial they were given a chance to renounce their faith, an opportunity they refused, thus bringing about their death around 167.

Justin is known for his two Apologies (Defenses of Christianity) and his Dialogue with Trypho.  What follows are paragraphs 9-12 of his first apology, found at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

9. Certainly we do not honor with many sacrifices and floral garlands the objects that men have fashioned, set up in temples, and called gods. We know that they are lifeless and dead and do not represent the form of God—for we do not think of God as having the kind of form which some claim that they imitate to be honored—but rather exhibit the names and shapes of the evil demons who have manifested themselves [to men]. You know well enough without our mentioning it how the craftsmen prepare their material, scraping and cutting and molding and beating. And often they make what they call gods out of vessels used for vile purposes, changing and transforming by art merely their appearance. We consider it not only irrational but an insult to God, whose glory and form are ineffable, to give his name to corruptible things which themselves need care. You are well aware that craftsmen in these [things] are impure and—not to go into details—given to all kinds of vice; they even corrupt their own slave girls who work along with them. What an absurdity, that dissolute men should be spoken of as fashioning or remaking gods for public veneration, and that you should appoint such people as guardians of the temples where they are set up—not considering that it is unlawful to think or speak of men as guardians of gods.24710. But we have learned678 [from our tradition] that God has no need of material offerings from men, considering that he is the provider of all. We have been taught and firmly believe that he accepts only those who imitate the good things which are his—temperance and righteousness and love of mankind, and whatever else truly belongs to the God who is called by no given name. We have also been taught that in the beginning he in his goodness formed all things that are for the sake of men out of unformed matter, and if they show themselves by their actions worthy of his plan, we have learned that they will be counted worthy of dwelling with him, reigning together and made free from corruption and suffering. For as he made us in the beginning when we were not, so we hold that those who choose what is pleasing to him will, because of that choice, be counted worthy of incorruption and of fellowship [with him]. We did not bring ourselves into being—but as to following after the things that are dear to God, choosing, them by the rational powers which he has given us—this is a matter of conviction and leads us to faith. We hold it to be for the good of all men that they are not prevented from learning these things, but are even urged to [consider] them. For what human laws could not do, that the Word, being divine, would have brought about, if the evil demons had not scattered abroad many false and godless accusations, with the help of the evil desire that is in every man by nature [and expresses itself] in all kinds of ways.679 None of this, however, matters to us.
11. When you hear that we look for a kingdom, you rashly suppose that we mean something merely human. But we speak of a Kingdom with God, as is clear from our confessing Christ when you bring us to trial, though we know that death is the penalty for this confession. For if we looked for a human kingdom we would deny it in order to save our lives, and would try to remain in hiding in order to obtain the thing we look for. But since we do not place our hopes on the present [order], we are not troubled by being put to death, since we will have to die somehow in any case.
12. We are in fact of all men your best helpers and allies in securing good order,680 convinced as we are that no wicked 248man, no covetous man or conspirator, or virtuous man either, can be hidden from God, and that everyone goes to eternal punishment or salvation in accordance with the character of his actions. If all men knew this, nobody would choose vice even for a little time, knowing that he was on his way to eternal punishment by fire; every man would follow the self-restrained and orderly path of virtue, so as to receive the good things that come from God and avoid his punishments. There are some who merely try to conceal their wrongdoing because of the laws and punishments which you decree, knowing that since you are only men it is possible for wrongdoers to escape you; if they learned and were convinced that our thoughts as well as our actions cannot be hidden from God they would certainly lead orderly lives, if only because of the consequences; as you must agree. But it seems as if you were afraid of having all men well-behaved, and nobody left for you to punish; this would be the conduct of public executioners, not of good rulers. Such things, we are convinced, are brought about by the evil demons, the ones who demand sacrifices and service from men who live irrationally; but we have not learned [to expect] any unreasonable conduct from you, who aim at piety and philosophy. But if like thoughtless men you prefer custom to truth, then go ahead and do what you can. Rulers who respect reputation rather than truth have as much power as brigands in a desert. The Word himself has shown that you will not succeed, and after God who begat him we know of no ruler more royal or more just than he. For just as all men try to avoid inheriting the poverty or sufferings or disgrace of their ancestors, so the sensible man will not choose whatever the Word forbids to be chosen. He foretold that all these things would happen—our Teacher, I mean, who is the Son and Apostle of God the Father and Master of all, that is, Jesus Christ, from whom we have received the name of Christians. We are sure that all the things taught by him are so, since we see that what he predicted is actually coming to pass. This is God's work, to announce something before it happens and then to show it happening as predicted. I might stop here and add no more, having made clear that we ask for what is just and true. But though I know that it is not easy to change over at once a mind which is bound down by ignorance, I am encouraged to add somewhat to persuade the lover of truth, being sure that one can dispel ignorance by putting truth against it.

The Collect for Justin Martyr
Almighty and everlasting God, you found your martyr Justin wandering from teacher to teacher, seeking the true God, and you revealed to him the sublime wisdom of your eternal Word: Grant that all who seek you, or a deeper knowledge of you, may find and be found by you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today is the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and commemorates her visit to Elizabeth.  It was on the occasion of this visit that we get two of the great catholic prayers.  Elizabeth's "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb," and Mary's magnificent response, "My soul magnifies the Lord".  The latter is also known as the Magnificat and is one of the canticle options for Morning Prayer, and the preferred option for Evening Prayer.

The Icon to the left is one of my favorites. Notice that in the "x-ray" of the womb that the fetal Jesus and fetal John are represented as miniature human beings.  This is partly to keep us from over sentimentalizing the event.  Notice also, that John has his arms crossed, and is kneeling to receive the blessing of Jesus.  He is acknowledging the Lordship of Christ and recognizing that we are only blessed through Jesus.  May we acknowledge that same Lordship in our lives, as well as following the example of Mary's obedience to that Lordship.

The Collect
Father in heaven, by your grace the virgin mother of your incarnate Son was blessed in bearing him, but still more blessed in keeping your word: Grant us who honor the exaltation of her lowliness to follow the example of her devotion to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jeanne d'Arc

Jeanne d’Arc 1431

I find the inclusion of Jeanne d’Arc in Holy Women, Holy Men, to be a bit intriguing as she is both a soldier and mystic.  In a church that seems, in its unofficial doctrine, to veer toward pacifism, the inclusion of a violent person, a battle leader, a patriot, a nationalist, in its most recent collection of commemorations is striking.  Her inclusion as a mystic may be more understandable as mysticism is highly subjective and experiential, thus affirming the bent toward using experience as a significant tool of theological reflection.  Remember, experience cannot be questioned in the post-modern mind.
However, it was exactly Jeanne’s experience that was questioned, which led to her execution, and ultimately her posthumous acquittal by Pope Callistus II.

There is always a tension between the individual experience of the believer and theological reflection.  Maybe the best answer is to return to the concept that we shall be known by the fruit we bear.
In any case, despite the politics of her trial, I am a big fan of Jeanne d’Arc.  From the little we have recorded of her visions, she was no heretic, and her mystical visions fell in line with creedal Christianity.  She was a patriot, seeking peace between the Houses of Orleans and Burgundy.  She fought against the territorial expansionist appetites of the English (allied with Burgundy), and inspired a people.  One wonders what would have happened if she had had the full support of the French court at the hour of need, rather than falling victim to the politics of the English, Burgundian, Orleanais, and their vassals in the Church.

Among the propers for this day is Psalm 144.  (In the army, this was known as the artilleryman’s psalm.) 
Blessed by the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war
And my fingers for battle;
He is my steadfast love and my fortress,
My stronghold and deliver,
My shield and he in whom I take refuge,
Who subdues peoples under me.
O LORD, what is man that you regard him,
Or the son of man that you think of him?
Man is like a breath;
His days are like a passing shadow.
Bow down your heavens, O Lord, and come down!
Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
Flash forth the lightning and scatter them;
Send out your arrows and rout them. (vs 1-6)
It is a fitting psalm for Jeanne and her commemoration.

One of the most powerful performances in film history was given by Maria Falconetti as the title character in Dreyer’s 1927 La Passion de Jeanne of Arc.  In the 1990s, Richard Einhorn, composed a new soundtrack for the silent film, using medieval mystical texts and letters for the lyrics of the libretto.  It has been powerfully paired with Dreyer’s film.  Below is the first section of eight available on YouTube.  I still moved by this pairing and Falconetti can say more with her eyes than I can with words.

The Collect
Holy God, whose power is made perfect in weakness: we honor you for the calling of Jeanne d’Arc, who, though young, rose up in valor to bear your standard for her country, and endured with grace and fortitude both victory and defeat; and we pray that we, like Jeanne, may bear witness to the truth that is in us to friends and enemies alike, and, encouraged, by the companionship of your saints, give ourselves bravely to the struggle for justice in our time; through Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Blessed Jeanne d’Arc, Maid of Orleans, pray for us.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Saints and Commemorations

I will sometimes post on a particular commemoration, and if you follow them, you will know that I still use the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, rather than the more recent, Holy Women, Holy Men.  It has been difficult for me to adapt to the new book, not because the name is changed, but the content is a bit off, to my mind at least.  One of the difficulties is that the number of commemorations keeps increasing, and we are heading to having a commemoration for every day, and two on some.  Part of the Reformation was calendrical simplification.

The other reasons, have been difficult for me to digest and express.  Then along comes Dr. Derek Olsen from The Living Church, who gives expression to my thoughts.

First on the pattern of the Collects in HWHM.

The pattern inherent here can be described — perhaps a bit reductionistically — as follows: “O God, we thank you for A. and B. who were great Xs. Help us to be great Xs too.” The action and the relationship described in the prayer are strictly between “us” and God; we thank God, and ask God to motivate us in particular ways. The saint or saints serve only as historical illustrations. They are neither engaged nor beseesched: within the scope of the collect, they have lost both their agency and personhood. They are historical, not eschatological.
Also troubling is the relationship between the “X” for which the prayer asks and the Christian life. In these collects, the saints are exemplars, but what we ask to imitate is their professionalism, their success at “X-ness.” The problem is that we are not trying to form professionals; we are trying to form Christians. Whether the saints were good at their jobs — however holy those jobs might have been — is not the point. Rather, the point should be that these specific people displayed the incarnate presence of Christ in their lives and were thus participants within the sacramental conversion of all creation into the life of God.

And on the other issue.

Alternatively, several individuals are recognized as being the first at achieving or accomplishing something. Firstness is a historical category, not an eschatological or spiritual one. What if some unknown archive were rediscovered and their “firstness” were overturned? If they became the second at their achievement would they still be remembered on the strength of their witness to the risen Christ ahead of the deserving alternatives? These questions and more lead me to ask if Holy Women, Holy Men has met the mandate asked of it in 2003: Is it truly complete, or would it benefit from further thought and revision?
Holy Women, Holy Men had the opportunity to serve as an extended parish directory for the Episcopal Church to give names, addresses, and snapshots of those who even now participate within our larger community. What we received instead is a history book filled with facts and past dates. Our eschatological partners have been reduced to historical examples. The theology of our prayer book requests more, expects more. Good work has been done here — but better work awaits.

The above are from his article "So Great a Cloud of Memories" in the May 6, 2012 edition of The Living Church.

Dr. Olsen also blogs at haligweorc.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Intemperate Thought

How can the Church speak convincingly on public policy and poverty, when it cannot/does not solve the problem of poverty in its own midst?

Just filing the thought away.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Getting the Right Fit

Haltlet #2 had a birthday last week and all he wanted was a new basketball backboard.  So, of course, he received one.  However, his father, channeling his inner Scot, decided that all we needed was the backboard. The current pole system was just fine, so why not buy a backboard and rim with a "universal bracket" to replace the broken one?  I saved a $100 and felt good about not adding to the local landfill and getting the boy what he really wanted, a "win-win".  (He also was fully outfitted for the baseball season).

The good feelings did not last long, yesterday, when I put the thing together.  Besides the directions reading like they had gone from Mandarin to English through  a bad version of Google Translate, they were just wrong.  I put the bracket together, per directions, and found that the support brace, could not be attached as it would cause the bracket to be too short to fit the attachment points on the backboard.  So, the solution was to improvise, and I did it well, if I say so myself. As an added bonus, there were no injuries, but my patience was taxed.

Then, the magical time arrived to attach the board to the pole.  I had 30 minutes before he came home, and I thought what a great surprise to have it up for him when he exited the bus.  I dutifully attached the top with the U bolt, and lo and behold, if I attached the bottom, the backboard would have followed the angle of the pole and looked goofy, let alone be non-functional.  You see, the pole is on one of those portable bases and angles out from it, and the original bracket is what was broken. I know, I should have seen it coming, but I'm a priest, not a physicist, and Haltet #1 was not there to help me do the math.

What to do, what to do?  Having grown up on the farm, I engineered a good farmer's fix.  I measured the gap necessary to make the basket parallel to the ground then attached the U bolt to a section of 1x3 and added 2x4s to the bracket to make up the gap and attached these to the 1x3.  It took me a bit longer, but actually worked. Admittedly, it looks a little redneckish, but hey, the max height on the current post is 8' and I expect to replace it again in the next two years, since he will grow and inevitably the wind will blow the thing over again.

Of course, it would have been easier if I had just thought through the problem when I bought the thing, and had not decided I did not need an integral system, but that after-market backboards could just be hung on anything like an afterthought.  It also would have saved me a lot of frustration.

I wonder how often it is that I/we treat our faith the same way, like an after-market addition.  We try to take it and hang it on our previously built infrastructure, then when it doesn't fit we find all sorts of ways to "jury-rig" the system for "the time being" until we have time to add it properly, or replace it when it does not quite match our "self-made/pre-made" identity.  Christianity, then, becomes one more consumer product to make us happy and decorate our pre-fab existence.

However, like the Haltlet's backboard, the problem is not with the faith, but with trying to hang it on a structure that is faulty.  Christianity is an integrated system, it is supposed to change us, to make us new, to rebuild and restore us, to make us who we are truly meant to be.  It is not an aftermarket addition, but a radically different life that should influence all we are, all we do, and every aspect of our lives.

Friday, May 11, 2012


I do not usually go political, but two news items came to my attention this morning.

  1. A student at the University of Minnesota-Duluth went on a hunger strike for gender neutral bathrooms.  According to reports the student called the standard arrangement "oppressive".  Luckily, the hunger strike only took one day, and the University gave in to the demands.
  2. I also received a review of the book Escape from Camp 14.  The book chronicles the life of one Mr. Shin, a North Korean, who was raised in, and subsequently risked his life escaping from, one of  the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's gulag-like political prisoner camps.  It is rumored that over 200,000 people are kept in these camps, and just being related to a prisoner is enough to garner a one way ticket.  It seems like the rulers of the DPRK are jealous gods who visit the sins of the fathers on the third or fourth generations. The book reports the harrowing details of a Mr. Shin's life. A life of beatings, forced marriages (with visitation 5 nights a year), hunger, death., and escape for the chance, just once, to have a full stomach.
OK, which organization is actually more oppressive? Remember that hunger strikes only work when the "oppressors" actually care enough that you are hungry, and despite their hate take the steps to keep you from dying.

Me? I'd rather use a gendered restroom than live in the DPRK.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gregory Nazianzen "The Theologian"

Gregory of Nazianzus, also known as Gregory The Theologian, was ordained against his will in 361.  Gregory was born in what is now Turkey, and known at the time as Cappadocia.  With Basil "the Great" and Gregory of Nyssa, he shares the title of "Cappadocian Father. He was a supporter of the Orthodox position, and specifically Basil, in the latter's struggle with the Arian Emperor Valens.  Ultimately, Gregory was invited to lead a theological mission to Constantinople, and it was there that his the theological quality of his mind and sermons were noticed.  By popular consent, he was acclaimed the Bishop of Constantinople in 380 at the Church of Hagia Sophia.  After the Council of Constaninople in 381, he retired to Nazianzus and died in 389.

Little well known is that Gregory was a religious poet.  What follows are two brief poems from Browlie's translation, available at CCEL.
 An Evening Hymn

Now at this evening hour,
O Thou, my Christ, to Thee,
Thou Word of God, Eternal Light,
All grateful praises be.
From Thee the Spirit comes,
Third beam of peerless light,
And in Thyself one glorious orb
The triple rays unite.
Thy word and wisdom Thou
To lighten man hast given,
That he the splendour might reflect
That shines superb in heaven;
And having light within,
Might see Thine image bright,
And daily rise, till he himself

A Morning Hymn

The morning breaks, I place my hand in Thine,
My God, ’tis Thine to lead, to follow mine;
No word deceitful shall I speak the while,
Nor shall I stain my hand with action vile.
Thine be the day with worthy labour filled,
Strong would I stand to do the duty willed;
Nor swayed by restless passion let me be,
That I may give the offering pure to Thee;
Else were I ’shamed when hoary age I see,
Shamed were this board that bears Thy gifts to me:
Mine is the impulse; O my Christ, I pray,
Be Thou Thyself to me the Blessed Way!

The Collect for St. Gregory Nazianzus:
Almighty God, you have revealed to your Church your eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace, that like your bishop Gregory of Nazianzus, we may continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; for you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.


Friday, May 4, 2012

St. Monica (Monnica)

Today is a special day in our family, as it is the feast day of St. Monica (or Monnica). Monica is the name my beloved chose for her confirmation in The Episcopal Church eleven years ago.  So, in good fashion we are going to celebrate her feast day tonight by having tamales, margaritas, and taking in the Illinois Symphony Orchestra concert.  I know, Monica was from North Africa, but my beloved is heading to Mexico in a month for a month, so we are on a bit of a kick right now.

St. Monica was born around 331 in North Africa, and later married a certain Patricius who was a pagan from Tagaste (probably modern Algeria).  As she grew in her faith, she eventually brought her husband to Christianity as well.  She was particularly known for her life of prayer in her later years.   One of her sons, Augustine, was ambitious to be a rhetorician, and spent the early part of his life searching the various religions for truth and beauty.  He dabbled in Manichaeism and was known for living a dissolute and disordered life.

Monica’s prayer was for the conversion of her son, and in 387, Ambrose of Milan baptized Augustine.  Augustine, of course, went on to be one of the greatest preachers and theologians of the Post-Nicene era, and his feast is celebrated on August 28.

Stephen Adly Guirgis in his play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, portrays Monica as a streetwise, foul mouthed, “Saint” who says, "people in heaven don't want to hang with me 'cause they say I’m a nag. It’s true.  You know what I say to that? I say—‘cause I am a nag. And if I wasn’t a nag, I wouldn’t have made it to be no saint, and the Church wouldn’t have no father of the Church named St. Augustine...And when he started messing up, like all the time and constantly, I nagged God---to save him.  I nagged and nagged and nagged, till God got so tired of my ---- that he did save my son.”   This does seem to sum up Monica’s prayer life, a continual appeal to God that her son would come to faith, and a prayer that was answered in time.  I know, the language is rough, and St. Monica, from what we can tell was not a foul mouthed, street wise, Jersey Girl (think a really bad Rizzo), but the play is a good one.  I will not give away the ending.

Here is a reflection on St. Monica in the words of her son from The Christian Classics Ethereal Library edition of St. Augustine’s Confessions, Book IX.13:
But now, with a heart cured of that wound, wherein it might seem blameworthy for an earthly feeling, I pour out unto Thee, our God, in behalf of that Thy handmaid, a far different kind of tears, flowing from a spirit shaken by the thoughts of the dangers of every soul that dieth in Adam. And although she having been quickened in Christ, even before her release from the flesh, had lived to the praise of Thy name for her faith and conversation; yet dare I not say that from what time Thou regeneratedst her by baptism, no word issued from her mouth against Thy Commandment. Thy Son, the Truth, hath said, Whosoever shall say unto his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. And woe be even unto the commendable life of men, if, laying aside mercy, Thou shouldest examine it. But because Thou art not extreme in enquiring after sins, we confidently hope to find some place with Thee. But whosoever reckons up his real merits to Thee, what reckons he up to Thee but Thine own gifts? O that men would know themselves to be men; and that he that glorieth would glory in the Lord.
I therefore, O my Praise and my Life, God of my heart, laying aside for a while her good deeds, for which I give thanks to Thee with joy, do now beseech Thee for the sins of my mother. Hearken unto me, I entreat Thee, by the Medicine of our wounds, Who hung upon the tree, and now sitting at Thy right hand maketh intercession to Thee for us. I know that she dealt mercifully, and from her heart forgave her debtors their debts; do Thou also forgive her debts, whatever she may have contracted in so many years, since the water of salvation. Forgive her, Lord, forgive, I beseech Thee; enter not into judgment with her. Let Thy mercy be exalted above Thy justice, since Thy words are true, and Thou hast promised mercy unto the merciful; which Thou gavest them to be, who wilt have mercy on whom Thou wilt have mercy; and wilt have compassion on whom Thou hast had compassion.
And, I believe, Thou hast already done what I ask; but accept, O Lord, the free-will offerings of my mouth. For she, the day of her dissolution now at hand, took no thought to have her body sumptuously wound up, or embalmed with spices; nor desired she a choice monument, or to be buried in her own land. These things she enjoined us not; but desired only to have her name commemorated at Thy Altar, which she had served without intermission of one day: whence she knew the holy Sacrifice to be dispensed, by which the hand-writing that was against us is blotted out; through which the enemy was triumphed over, who summing up our offences, and seeking what to lay to our charge, found nothing in Him, in Whom we conquer. Who shall restore to Him the innocent blood? Who repay Him the price wherewith He bought us, and so take us from Him? Unto the Sacrament of which our ransom, Thy handmaid bound her soul by the bond of faith. Let none sever her from Thy protection: let neither the lion nor the dragon interpose himself by force or fraud. For she will not answer that she owes nothing, lest she be convicted and seized by the crafty accuser: but she will answer that her sins are forgiven her by Him, to Whom none can repay that price which He, Who owed nothing, paid for us.
May she rest then in peace with the husband before and after whom she had never any; whom she obeyed, with patience bringing forth fruit unto Thee, that she might win him also unto Thee. And inspire, O Lord my God, inspire Thy servants my brethren, Thy sons my masters, whom with voice, and heart, and pen I serve, that so many as shall read these Confessions, may at Thy Altar remember Monnica Thy handmaid, with Patricius, her sometimes husband, by whose bodies Thou broughtest me into this life, how I know not. May they with devout affection remember my parents in this transitory light, my brethren under Thee our Father in our Catholic Mother, and my fellow-citizens in that eternal Jerusalem which Thy pilgrim people sigheth after from their Exodus, even unto their return thither. That so my mother's last request of me, may through my confessions, more than through my prayers, be, through the prayers of many, more abundantly fulfilled to her.
I would encourage you to read Book IX, chapters 8-13 for a deeper understanding of St. Monica.

Excavations in Ostia have uncovered her original tomb, although here remains were translated to the Church of St. Augustine, Rome, in 1430.

For a different short biography read here.

The Collect for St. Monica (Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2006)
O Lord, through spiritual discipline you strengthened your servant Monnica to persevere in offering her love and prayers and tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine their son: Deepen our devotion, we pray, and use us in accordance with your will to bring others, even our own kindred, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Athanasius Against the World

I have not been very good at blogging on the Saints’ Days in the past couple of months.  I apologize, as they are very important to the life of the Church.  So, with that in mind I bring you Athanasius.  

According to Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2006, Athanasius was called “the pillar of the Church” by Gregory of Nazianzus and “the God-given physician of her wounds” by Basil the Great.  It was as the secretary to the Bishop of Alexandria that Athanasius attended the Council of Nicaea where he was indispensible in winning approval for the phrase homoousios (of one Being or Substance) to be the creedal and doctrinal statement  that defined the full godhead of Jesus Christ.  His opponents (Arians) preferred the term homoiousios (similar).  Contrary to popular tradition, Athanasius’ position, and that of the Council were not innovations, but expressed what the Church has always believed from the beginning.

Athanasius would become the Bishop of Alexandria, and would spend the remainder of his life defending Orthodox Christology even against Emperors.  In fact, he was exiled five times due to his support for the Nicene statement, and so often appeared to be in the minority that it was said to be “Athanasius contra mundum.”  He had a quick mind, a ready wit, and is described a being a bit argumentative.

For more on Athanasius go here.

In the back of the Book of Common Prayer there is a creed called the Quicunque Vult or more commonly, The Creed of Saint Athanasius (Book of Common Prayer 1979, 864).

The authorship of the creed is debatable, and it is not an Ecumenical creed, but has been used in the West since the Fourth or Fifth Century.  Its style has led to its association with St. Athanasius.  Within Anglicanism, this creed has been mandatory in the Books of Common Prayer since 1549.  The 1549 Book of Common Prayer mandated its use on Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday.  The 1552 revision added the feasts of St. Matthias, St. John the Baptist, St. James, St. Bartholomew, St. Matthew, St. Simon and St. Jude, and St. Andrew.  The 1662 revision concurred with the 1552 and thus the creed is still mandatory in the Church of England.  In The Episcopal Church, the current Book of Common Prayer is the first to include the creed within its pages, and its use is not mandated.

For more on the Athanasian Creed go here.  The full text of the creed as published in the BCP follows.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.
Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish
And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity,
     neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory
     equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and
     one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty.
And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.
And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord.
And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by
      himself to be both God and Lord,
So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion, to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten,
      but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three
      Holy Ghosts.
And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another;
But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.
So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be
He therefore that will be saved is must think thus of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the
      Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of
      God, is God and Man;
God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance
      of his Mother, born in the world;
Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his
Who, although he be God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ;
One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God;
One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, he sitteth at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from
      whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead.
At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their
      own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into
      everlasting fire.
This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.

The following passage is from Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation of the Word” part 42, found at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library:

For just as, while the whole body is quickened and illumined by man, supposing one said it were absurd that man’s power should also be in the toe, he would be thought foolish; because, while granting that he pervades and works in the whole, he demurs to his being in the part also; thus he who grants and believes that the Word of God is in the whole Universe, and that the whole is illumined and moved by Him, should not think it absurd that a single human body also should receive movement and light from Him. 2. But if it is because the human race is a thing created and has been made out of nothing, that they regard that manifestation of the Saviour in man, which we speak of, as not seemly, it is high time for them to eject Him from creation also; for it too has been brought into existence by the Word out of nothing. 3. But if, even though creation be a thing made, it is not absurd that the Word should be in it, then neither is it absurd that He should be in man. For whatever idea they form of the whole, they must necessarily apply the like idea to the part. For man also, as I said before, is a part of the whole. 4. Thus it is not at all unseemly that the Word should be in man, while all things are deriving from Him their light and movement and light, as also their authors say, “In him we live and move and have our being.” 5. So, then, what is there to scoff at in what we say, if the Word has used that, wherein He is, as an instrument to manifest Himself? For were He not in it, neither could He have used it; but if we have previously allowed that He is in the whole and in its parts, what is there incredible in His manifesting Himself in that wherein He is? 6. For by His own power He is united wholly with each and all, and orders all things without stint, so that no one could have called it out of place for Him to speak, and make known Himself and His Father, by means of sun, if He so willed, or moon, or heaven, or earth, or waters, or fire; inasmuch as He holds in one all things at once, and is in fact not only in all but also in the part in question, and there invisibly manifests Himself. In like manner it cannot be absurd if, ordering as He does the whole, and giving life to all things, and having willed to make Himself known through men, He has used as His instrument a human body to manifest the truth and knowledge of the Father. For humanity, too, is an actual part of the whole. 7. And as Mind, pervading man all through, is interpreted by a part of the body, I mean the tongue, without any one saying, I suppose, that the essence of the mind is on that account lowered, so if the Word, pervading all things, has used a human instrument, this cannot appear unseemly. For, as I have said previously, if it be unseemly to have used a body as an instrument, it is unseemly also for Him to be in the Whole.
Finally, here is the Collect for St. Anthanasius from Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006.

Uphold your Church, O God of truth, as you upheld your servant Athanasius, to maintain and proclaim boldly the catholic faith against all opposition, trusting solely in the grace of your eternal Word, who took upon himself our humanity that we might share his divinity; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.