Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

In All Things Charity

There is much temptation in the blogosphere to respond to our detractors in ways similar to how we are addressed. Sadly, the admonitions of our Lord Jesus regarding our responsibility to loving everyone, even our enemies, don't seem to apply in the blogosphere. We are all very defensive of our faith and I am often guilty of the above. The spirit of triumphalism often wins out over the spirit of charity in addressing issues of faith with those who disparage our own particular theology and world view. One of my recent blogs was about an evangelical pastor who misrepresented Catholic teaching in a sermon posted on the net. I wanted to post Theo's, (a frequent commenter) comments since they are so convicting!

"As it happens I know the pastor in question. He is a very good man who has sacrificed much in terms of worldly gain in order to serve the body of Christ and his community. I find it difficult to imagine that he would intentionally and knowingly speak falsehood about anyone or anything, the Catholic Church included. I hope, pray and choose to believe that he spoke in good faith, albeit in error--and shall continue to believe so unless the man himself personally testifies to the contrary.I believe Tiber is right in his reminding us to refrain from judging those who might make false reports or preach false teachings about the Church. Always, we should be ready to speak the truth--and lovingly defend the truth; however, we should ask God to help cure us of the natural inclination to ascribe ill intent. Of old, Joseph forgave and even blessed his own brothers who had done him ill *intentionally*, saying, "You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good." How much more charitable must we be to our Brothers in Christ who might do us ill, but intend it for good? When by Jesus' grace and mercy we might behold with our own eyes the Beatific Vision, and though our own offenses against God make us worthy of the second death, stand cleansed in the blood of the Lamb who was slain; what human soul, plucked from the fire by grace would dare hold any other soul so redeemed by God accountable for a debt? May God grant us the grace to always show kindness to those who judge us.
With prayers to you and all saints to pray for God's mercy upon me in my brashness,
I remain Your Brother in Christ,
--Theo "

Theo, your thoughts continue to blow me away and humble me. Thanks for visiting my little corner of the ever-expanding blogosphere.

The Feast of the Holy Family

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family. As a former evangelical believer, the concept of Jesus having a family only seemed important to me during the Christmas season. It was only once a year, that I came close to fulfilling Mary's statement in the Magnificat that "all generations will call me blessed." Catholicism has taught me to appreciate Jesus' family and the appreciation of his Holy Family encourages me to be a better father and husband. His step father, Joseph was a godly man who took great risk in his life to obey God, marry a virgin who was pregnant and then transport his new young family to safety in a foreign land. Surely, he modeled respect and obedience for God to young Jesus. His mother, Mary, is the model for all Christians by saying "yes" to God, "May it be unto me according to your word." Since Jesus' mom is Mary and he is my spritual brother, it is not a stretch to say that Mary is our mother too! At the Cross, Jesus gave his Mom to John, but this has always been interpreted by the Church as Jesus giving his mother to us as well.

Here is a poem posted by another revert/convert posted in honor of this great feast day.
Bon Appetit!

Jesus, Son of God,
You left glory and throne
And descended to earth
Where you had not a home
A babe at Mary's breast
You fell softly asleep,
Near her Immaculate Heart,
Full of love, pure and deep
St. Joseph did guide you
As you learned at his hand
And growing in stature
You became a man
You loved the world
But the world hated you
Our Lord of Mercy,
Bearing Good News
But love us you did
As you hung on that cross
Forgiving the sins
Committed by us
Breathing your last as
Blessed Mary looked on,
You gave us a Mother
When you gave her to John
Jesus, Mary we love you
Save souls that are lost
St. Joseph, patron of families,
Please pray for us!

susie melkus

Words of Padre Pio, A Modern Day Saint

I have blogged about St. Pio before, but after watching a DVD about his life last night I was inspired to blog about it today. The movie was called Padre Pio Miracle Man and was winner of one of the 2001 Los Angeles Film Awards. At 214 minutes long, it was definitely a marathon, but worth every minute! "Beautifully shot with picturesque Italian vistas, the film eloquently captures Padre Pio's simple spirituality of uniting one's life with Christ-especially in suffering." USCCB Film Office.

Padre Pio was a priest in the order of Capuchin friars of St. Frances in rural Italy . He received the stigmata early on in his priesthood. He was a mystic, a great confessor and had tremendous compassion for the sick and suffering. He opened a hospital that offered modern medical care to an area that was devoid of healthcare for the poor. He died in 1968 (when I was in the fifth grade and still going to Mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Cedar Knolls, NJ.) Many miracles have been attributed to his intercession and he was canonized a Saint by John Paul 2 on June 16th 2002. Some 45 years before this date, Padre Pio predicted that the young Polish cardinal would someday be a pope, "a good Pope."

Oh! If all men could only understand the extreme wretchedness and dishonour from which God's omnipotent hand has rescued us. Oh! If we could only perceive for a single instant that which still amazes the heavenly spirits themselves, namely, the state to which God's grace has raised us, to be nothing less than His own children, destined to reign with His Son for all eternity!

When it is granted to a human being to fathom this, that person cannot live anything but a heavenly life. 0 wretched condition of human nature! How often would the heavenly Father not be willing to reveal His secrets to us were He not compelled to do otherwise, since by our own malice we have rendered ourselves incapable of receiving these secrets. May the Lord be pleased to put an end to such squalor and wretchedness. May Satan's kingdom come to an end once and for all and may justice triumph everywhere.

From a letter in 1914 of Padre Pio .

Saturday, December 30, 2006

What Heaven will Be Like

59 banjo players got into the Guiness Book of World Records for the most banjo players simultaneously playing Foggy Mountain Breakdown

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Treadmill of Sacramentalism? Crank It Up!

On Christmas Eve I blogged about the privilege of going to Mass twice in 24 hours! Here is what I said:

"We celebrate Jesus coming into the world as Lord and Savior. We prepare him room in our hearts during Advent with prayers, fasting and giving. As Catholics, we continue to receive him, soul, body and divinity through the gift of the Eucharist as often as we take the Blessed Sacrament. That miracle that occurred 2000 years ago continues to occur on altars throughout the world as Christ gives us His flesh in an ongoing re-presentation of his sacrifice once for all.
We have the opportunity to receive Jesus today in Mass as well as tomorrow or tonite in Midnight vigil Mass. Not an obligation, a holy privilege!"

My blog was read by a Protestant apologist/blogger and he then posted this in response on his blog:

"I am so thankful that I have a finished sacrifice that does not need to be "re-presented" on an altar. I am so thankful that the death of Christ perfects. What a tragedy that so many will be going to Mass, thinking they are approaching a "re-presentation" of the Cross, but will go away once again imperfect, without lasting peace, for they have no finished work, no imputed righteousness, upon which to stand. May God be pleased to continue to free men and women from slavery to such a treadmill of sacramentalism and bring them into the glorious truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ!"

In my Christmas Eve blog post, I was reflecting on how beautiful it is to receive Christ and I was attempting to make the point that Catholics don’t re-crucify Jesus with every Mass as we are often accused. The Altar of the Mass is where Christ’s sacrifice accomplished once and for all 2000 years ago is re- presented. In the spirit of charity, I do admire his heart for Catholics that he perceives as being in slavery and I appreciate his prayers for me. (we all could use more prayer). You are in my prayers too, brother James!

Catholics seem to think less of time and eternity as linear and more of God working mysteriously outside the dimensions of our perception of time. We don't have a problem with the non- bloody sacrifice being re-presented on the altar on a regular basis, though we believe full well as Protestants do, that His death on the cross was a one time event. It's a mystery not easily explainable or "exegeted" but yet experienced by the people of God for two millenia.

Therefore, I present to you the writings of the early Church. A "snapshot picture" of the early Church and its beliefs about the Sacrifice of the Altar via the Father's words. Truly these gems are worth much more than this blogger's 1000 words comments and apologetic arguments 1600 or more years later.

Could all these folks below have gotten it wrong? Logic tells me that the water is always purest closest to the source.

Here we go:

The Didache
"Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]" (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).

Pope Clement I
"Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its sacrifices. Blessed are those presbyters who have already finished their course, and who have obtained a fruitful and perfect release" (Letter to the Corinthians 44:4–5 [A.D. 80]).

Ignatius of Antioch
"Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice—even as there is also but one bishop, with his clergy and my own fellow servitors, the deacons. This will ensure that all your doings are in full accord with the will of God" (Letter to the Philadelphians 4 [A.D. 110]).

Justin Martyr
"God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [minor prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: ‘I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord, and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands; for from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, my name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering, for my name is great among the Gentiles . . . [Mal. 1:10–11]. He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us [Christians] who in every place offer sacrifices to him, that is, the bread of the Eucharist and also the cup of the Eucharist" (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 41 [A.D. 155]).

"He took from among creation that which is bread, and gave thanks, saying, ‘This is my body.’ The cup likewise, which is from among the creation to which we belong, he confessed to be his blood. He taught the new sacrifice of the new covenant, of which Malachi, one of the twelve [minor] prophets, had signified beforehand: ‘You do not do my will, says the Lord Almighty, and I will not accept a sacrifice at your hands. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice; for great is my name among the Gentiles, says the Lord Almighty’ [Mal. 1:10–11]. By these words he makes it plain that the former people will cease to make offerings to God; but that in every place sacrifice will be offered to him, and indeed, a pure one, for his name is glorified among the Gentiles" (Against Heresies 4:17:5 [A.D. 189]).

Cyprian of Carthage
"If Christ Jesus, our Lord and God, is himself the high priest of God the Father; and if he offered himself as a sacrifice to the Father; and if he commanded that this be done in commemoration of himself, then certainly the priest, who imitates that which Christ did, truly functions in place of Christ" (Letters 63:14 [A.D. 253]).

"Accept therewith our hallowing too, as we say, ‘Holy, holy, holy Lord Sabaoth, heaven and earth is full of your glory.’ Heaven is full, and full is the earth, with your magnificent glory, Lord of virtues. Full also is this sacrifice, with your strength and your communion; for to you we offer this living sacrifice, this unbloody oblation" (Prayer of the Eucharistic Sacrifice 13:12–16 [A.D. 350]).

Cyril of Jerusalem
"Then, having sanctified ourselves by these spiritual hymns, we beseech the merciful God to send forth his Holy Spirit upon the gifts lying before him, that he may make the bread the Body of Christ and the wine the Blood of Christ, for whatsoever the Holy Spirit has touched is surely sanctified and changed. Then, upon the completion of the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless worship, over that propitiatory victim we call upon God for the common peace of the churches, for the welfare of the world, for kings, for soldiers and allies, for the sick, for the afflicted; and in summary, we all pray and offer this sacrifice for all who are in need" (Catechetical Lectures 23:7–8 [A.D. 350]).

Gregory Nazianzen
"Cease not to pray and plead for me when you draw down the Word by your word, when in an unbloody cutting you cut the Body and Blood of the Lord, using your voice for a sword" (Letter to Amphilochius 171 [A.D. 383]).

Ambrose of Milan
"We saw the prince of priests coming to us, we saw and heard him offering his blood for us. We follow, inasmuch as we are able, being priests, and we offer the sacrifice on behalf of the people. Even if we are of but little merit, still, in the sacrifice, we are honorable. Even if Christ is not now seen as the one who offers the sacrifice, nevertheless it is he himself that is offered in sacrifice here on Earth when the body of Christ is offered. Indeed, to offer himself he is made visible in us, he whose word makes holy the sacrifice that is offered" (Commentaries on Twelve Psalms of David 38:25 [A.D. 389]).

John Chrysostom
"When you see the Lord immolated and lying upon the altar, and the priest bent over that sacrifice praying, and all the people empurpled by that precious blood, can you think that you are still among men and on earth? Or are you not lifted up to heaven?" (The Priesthood 3:4:177 [A.D. 387]).

"Reverence, therefore, reverence this table, of which we are all communicants! Christ, slain for us, the sacrificial victim who is placed thereon!" (Homilies on Romans 8:8 [A.D. 391]).

"‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not communion of the blood of Christ?’ Very trustworthy and awesomely does he [Paul] say it. For what he is saying is this: What is in the cup is that which flowed from his side, and we partake of it. He called it a cup of blessing because when we hold it in our hands that is how we praise him in song, wondering and astonished at his indescribable gift, blessing him because of his having poured out this very gift so that we might not remain in error; and not only for his having poured it out, but also for his sharing it with all of us. ‘If therefore you desire blood,’ he [the Lord] says, ‘do not redden the platform of idols with the slaughter of dumb beasts, but my altar of sacrifice with my blood.’ What is more awesome than this? What, pray tell, more tenderly loving?" (Homilies on First Corinthians 24:1(3) [A.D. 392]).

"In ancient times, because men were very imperfect, God did not scorn to receive the blood which they were offering . . . to draw them away from those idols; and this very thing again was because of his indescribable, tender affection. But now he has transferred the priestly action to what is most awesome and magnificent. He has changed the sacrifice itself, and instead of the butchering of dumb beasts, he commands the offering up of himself" (ibid., 24:2).

"What then? Do we not offer daily? Yes, we offer, but making remembrance of his death; and this remembrance is one and not many. How is it one and not many? Because this sacrifice is offered once, like that in the Holy of Holies. This sacrifice is a type of that, and this remembrance a type of that. We offer always the same, not one sheep now and another tomorrow, but the same thing always. Thus there is one sacrifice. By this reasoning, since the sacrifice is offered everywhere, are there, then, a multiplicity of Christs? By no means! Christ is one everywhere. He is complete here, complete there, one body. And just as he is one body and not many though offered everywhere, so too is there one sacrifice" (Homilies on Hebrews 17:3(6) [A.D. 403]).

"In the sacrament he is immolated for the people not only on every Easter Solemnity but on every day; and a man would not be lying if, when asked, he were to reply that Christ is being immolated. For if sacraments had not a likeness to those things of which they are sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all; and they generally take the names of those same things by reason of this likeness" (Letters 98:9 [A.D. 412]).

"For when he says in another book, which is called Ecclesiastes, ‘There is no good for a man except that he should eat and drink’ [Eccles. 2:24], what can he be more credibly understood to say [prophetically] than what belongs to the participation of this table which the Mediator of the New Testament himself, the priest after the order of Melchizedek, furnishes with his own body and blood? For that sacrifice has succeeded all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, which were slain as a shadow of what was to come. . . . Because, instead of all these sacrifices and oblations, his body is offered and is served up to the partakers of it" (The City of God 17:20 [A.D. 419]).

Sechnall of Ireland
"[St. Patrick] proclaims boldly to the [Irish] tribes the name of the Lord, to whom he gives the eternal grace of the laver of salvation; for their offenses he prays daily unto God; for them also he offers up to God worthy sacrifices" (Hymn in Praise of St. Patrick 13 [A.D. 444]).

Fulgentius of Ruspe
"Hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that the only-begotten God the Word himself became flesh [and] offered himself in an odor of sweetness as a sacrifice and victim to God on our behalf; to whom . . . in the time of the Old Testament animals were sacrificed by the patriarchs and prophets and priests; and to whom now, I mean in the time of the New Testament . . . the holy Catholic Church does not cease in faith and love to offer throughout all the lands of the world a sacrifice of bread and wine. In those former sacrifices what would be given us in the future was signified figuratively, but in this sacrifice which has now been given us is shown plainly. In those former sacrifices it was fore-announced that the Son of God would be killed for the impious, but in the present sacrifice it is announced that he has been killed for the impious" (The Rule of Faith 62 [A.D. 524]).

Well, as for me, crank up that sacramental treadmill, I’m jumping on and going to do a few laps with Augustine and Ambrose, at daily Mass . What is more awesome than this? (in the words of St. John Chrysostom) Besides, physical exercise profiteth little.

The inability for some folks to understand the sacraments may lie in the difficulty of accepting that God created matter, or stuff of earth, in which to conveys His grace. The early church was a sacramental church and being Jewish they didn't struggle with the way in which God used the stuff of earth to convey his grace. God created stuff, so he can use stuff; wine , bread, water, oil to convey his marvelous grace to us won through his redemption on the Cross.

The Bells of St. Mary's

For Christmas my sons bought me the DVD of The Bells of St. Mary's. Starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman and filmed in 1945 , it was nominated for 8 Oscars. If you haven't seen it, and are looking for a movie "like the way they used to make'm," this one's for you!
A great story of redemption and a look at Catholic culture in America during the 40's. The scene with Sister Benedict (Ingrid Bergman) praying before the Lord in the tabernacle was really touching and well done.

Infant Martyr Flowers

Today I received my e-newsletter from Human Life International .
Rev. Euteneuer explains how the feast of the Holy Innocents celebrated since the 6th century in the Catholic Church can inspire us to action to save innocent life in this generation. I encourage you to go to his website and read the brief article on Pro-Life New Year's Resolutions for 2007. He does a much better job than my post yesterday.

He makes a profound point in that the holy innocents slaughtered by Herod died for (in place of) Christ! Wow! I never thought about it in those terms and when I read the Christmas story, tended to skip over that tragic event. Some historians believe that only a small number of children, perhaps less than twenty, were killed by Herod's soldiers. None the less, these innocent lives are honored by the Church because they faced the wrath of the sword so that the baby Jesus could escape unharmed until the time for His perfect sacrifice had come.

St. Augustine referred to them as Infant Martyr Flowers

"These then, whom Herod's cruelty tore as sucklings from their mothers' bosom, are justly hailed as "infant martyr flowers"; they were the Church's first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief."

As with all feasts and devotional practices, the Church gives us these things as tools of sanctification and growth so we can more earnestly live our lives for Him. The purpose being that as our faith in Christ grows, our actions should also grow commensurately.

Father, the Holy Innocents offered you praise by the death they suffered for Christ. May our lives bear witness to the faith we profess with our lips. During this cold winter of unbelief, let our lives and witness work for an end to this frost of persecution(abortion). We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"A Voice Was Heard in Ramah....."

Today the Church celebrates the lives of those young children in Bethlehem who were slaughtered by order of Herod as he attempted to thwart the will of God and kill the King of Kings. I blogged on this before and encourage you to check it out, but on this feast day, let us continue to pray and act to end the slaughter of the innocents that continues in our day through abortion.

Please check out this website

“A voice was heard in Ramah,/sobbing and loud lamentation;/Rachel weeping for her children...” (Matthew 2:18).

On this feast day Lord Jesus, let us be the the new voice heard in "Ramah", and make our hearts weep for the those children lost to the holocaust of abortion. Make our weeping turn into prayer and action to end this modern day slaughter of the innocents.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What Are The Implications of The Immaculate Conception?

A Protestant friend recently posted an excellent question on my last post regarding the Immaculate Conception. " What Are The Implications of The Immaculate Conception?"
I assume he is wondering, why is it important for Catholic spirituality to be bound by dogmatic assertion that Mary was sinless from her conception? This is something that has been discussed and debated for almost two full millenia by the Church Fathers, Doctors of the Church and other theologians. I confess that I have not actually given much thought to the implications for me personally. It just makes sense to me that since God came to us in the flesh and is sinless, the flesh that gave birth to His human flesh should be immaculate (sin macula) as well, (without sin.)

But how does this play out in the life of Catholics? Being a neophyte revert (just coming back into the Church 2.5 years ago after a 30 year exodus) I would benefit from hearing from other Catholics regarding the question posed from my Protestant blogger friend (Pilgrimsarbour) Do feel free to comment, my more learned Catholic friends!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Catholics Inventing New Doctrines?

I recently heard that a song I wrote called Joseph's Blues was played by the associate pastor of my old evangelical church as a part of his advent sermon. My song described Joseph's initial human reaction to Mary's pregnancy (before the angel spoke to him). So I went to the website of the church and listened to the podcast of the sermon (yes, I admit it stoked my ego a bit to hear my song played in front of my old congregation.) The pastor focused his message on the Virgin Birth but then touched on the Immaculate Conception. He said that Pope Pius in 1854 invented this doctrine and it had not been present in the first to fourth centuries of the early church. His implication was that Catholics make up new doctrines as they go along. (Which interestingly, is what I was incorrectly taught in my new found days after being born again)

I am posting this today to give a brief apologetic of this misunderstood aspect of Catholicism . When the pope defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as dogma in 1854, he was not creating a new doctrine. As a matter of fact, in the very context of the pronouncement, Pope Pius explains carefully and repeatedly that this belief had been held by the early church fathers and was not a new and novel conception (no pun intended). So the doctrine was not new, but the dogmatization of it was. Before 1854, as a Catholic, you weren't bound to accept this doctrine, though the majority of the faithful did. After the dogma was pronounced, as a Catholic you were obligated to accept this ancient doctrine. The Church often dogmatized it's teachings as a way of clarification or to combat heterodox teaching. The Nicean Creed annunciating the doctrine of the Trinity, did not "make up the doctrine", but merely stated it as dogma to stem the rising tide of Arianism. To be a Catholic Christian in the early fourth century, you needed to adhere to the tenets of the creed, if you wanted to consider yourself part of the universal(Catholic) church.

David MacDonald gives a nice summary of this in his website Catholic Bridge:

"How come it took Catholics 1800 years to decide Mary was conceived without sin?
The Immaculate Conception was defined as a pious belief in 1453 and declared a doctrine by Pope Pius in 1854. But we must realize that the Church does not make something Dogma out of thin air. It is made Dogma after many centuries of careful considerations. For instance the Trinity took 300 years to turn into Dogma. The New Testament itself took 400 years. We Catholics are not in a rush to cement doctrine. We take our time.

This belief was a part of the early Church and has always been held as a pious belief by the faithful. We didn't just pull this stuff out of thin air. In fact Martin Luther, the father of the reform spoke about it 300 years before it became Dogma. The early Church father were talking about a millennium before that. Here is what some the greatest Christians were saying over 1600 years ago.

It becomes you to be mindful of us, as you stand near Him who granted you all graces, for you are the Mother of God and our Queen. Help us for the sake of the King, the Lord God Master Who was born of you. For this reason you are called 'full of Grace'..." (373 A.D., St. Athanasius)

Blessed Virgin, immaculate and pure you are the sinless Mother of your Son, the mighty Lord of the universe. You are holy and inviolate, the hope of the hopeless and sinful; we sing your praises. We praise you as full of every grace, for you bore the God-Man. We all venerate you; we invoke you and implore your aid...Holy and immaculate our intercessor and advocate at the hour of death and are holy in the sight of God, to Whom be honor and glory, majesty, and power forever (373 A.D., St. Ephrem of Edessa)

You alone and your Mother are more beautiful than the others; for here is no blemish in you, nor any stains upon your Mother. (St. Ephraim, Nisibene Hymns, 27:8, 370 AD) "

So clearly before the end of the fourth century, the early church was describing their belief in the sinlessness of Mary, which the reformers held to as well (at least early on in their writings.)

Monday, December 25, 2006

"Urbi et Orbi" Merry Christmas from The Vatican

The Vatican's official English-language translation of Pope Benedict XVI's
"Urbi et Orbi" Christmas Day address, delivered in Italian from the balcony in St. Peter's Basilica.
"Our Saviour is born to the world!" During the night, in our Churches, we again heard this message that, notwithstanding the passage of the centuries, remains ever new. It is the heavenly message that tells us to fear not, for "a great joy" has come "to all the people" (Lk 1:10). It is a message of hope, for it tells us that, on that night over two thousand years ago, there "was born in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:11). The Angel of Christmas announced it then to the shepherds out on the hills of Bethlehem; today the Angel repeats it to us, to all who dwell in our world: "The Saviour is born; he is born for you! Come, come, let us adore him!".
But does a "Saviour" still have any value and meaning for the men and women of the third millennium? Is a "Saviour" still needed by a humanity which has reached the moon and Mars and is prepared to conquer the universe; for a humanity which knows no limits in its pursuit of natures secrets and which has succeeded even in deciphering the marvelous codes of the human genome? Is a Saviour needed by a humanity which has invented interactive communication, which navigates in the virtual ocean of the Internet and, thanks to the most advanced modern communications technologies, has now made the Earth, our great common home, a global village? This humanity of the 21st century appears as a sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested triumphs.
So it would seem, yet this is not the case. People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and of unbridled consumerism. Some people remain enslaved, exploited and stripped of their dignity; others are victims of racial and religious hatred, hampered by intolerance and discrimination, and by political interference and physical or moral coercion with regard to the free profession of their faith. Others see their own bodies and those of their dear ones, particularly their children, maimed by weaponry, by terrorism and by all sorts of violence, at a time when everyone invokes and acclaims progress, solidarity and peace for all. And what of those who, bereft of hope, are forced to leave their homes and countries in order to find humane living conditions elsewhere? How can we help those who are misled by facile prophets of happiness, those who struggle with relationships and are incapable of accepting responsibility for their present and future, those who are trapped in the tunnel of loneliness and who often end up enslaved to alcohol or drugs? What are we to think of those who choose death in the belief that they are celebrating life?

How can we not hear, from the very depths of this humanity, at once joyful and anguished, a heart-rending cry for help? It is Christmas: today "the true light that enlightens every man" (Jn 1:9) came into the world. "The word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14), proclaims the Evangelist John. Today, this very day, Christ comes once more "unto his own", and to those who receive him he gives "the power to become children of God"; in a word, he offers them the opportunity to see Gods glory and to share the joy of that Love which became incarnate for us in Bethlehem. Today "our Saviour is born to the world", for he knows that even today we need him. Despite humanity's many advances, man has always been the same: a freedom poised between good and evil, between life and death. It is there, in the very depths of his being, in what the Bible calls his "heart", that man always needs to be "saved". And, in this post-modern age, perhaps he needs a Saviour all the more, since the society in which he lives has become more complex and the threats to his personal and moral integrity have become more insidious. Who can defend him, if not the One who loves him to the point of sacrificing on the Cross his only-begotten Son as the Saviour of the world?
"Salvator noster": Christ is also the Saviour of men and women today. Who will make this message of hope resound, in a credible way, in every corner of the earth? Who will work to ensure the recognition, protection and promotion of the integral good of the human person as the condition for peace, respecting each man and every woman and their proper dignity? Who will help us to realize that with good will, reasonableness and moderation it is possible to avoid aggravating conflicts and instead to find fair solutions? With deep apprehension I think, on this festive day, of the Middle East, marked by so many grave crises and conflicts, and I express my hope that the way will be opened to a just and lasting peace, with respect for the inalienable rights of the peoples living there. I place in the hands of the divine Child of Bethlehem the indications of a resumption of dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians, which we have witnessed in recent days, and the hope of further encouraging developments. I am confident that, after so many victims, destruction and uncertainty, a democratic Lebanon, open to others and in dialogue with different cultures and religions, will survive and progress. I appeal to all those who hold in their hands the fate of Iraq, that there will be an end to the brutal violence that has brought so much bloodshed to the country, and that every one of its inhabitants will be safe to lead a normal life. I pray to God that in Sri Lanka the parties in conflict will heed the desire of the people for a future of brotherhood and solidarity; that in Darfur and throughout Africa there will be an end to fratricidal conflicts, that the open wounds in that continent will quickly heal and that the steps being made towards reconciliation, democracy and development will be consolidated. May the Divine Child, the Prince of Peace, grant an end to the outbreaks of tension that make uncertain the future of other parts of the world, in Europe and in Latin America.
"Salvator noster": this is our hope; this is the message that the Church proclaims once again this Christmas Day. With the Incarnation, as the Second Vatican Council stated, the Son of God has in some way united himself with each man and women (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22). The birth of the Head is also the birth of the body, as Pope Saint Leo the Great noted. In Bethlehem the Christian people was born, Christ's mystical body, in which each member is closely joined to the others in total solidarity. Our Saviour is born for all. We must proclaim this not only in words, but by our entire life, giving the world a witness of united, open communities where fraternity and forgiveness reign, along with acceptance and mutual service, truth, justice and love.
A community saved by Christ. This is the true nature of the Church, which draws her nourishment from his Word and his Eucharistic Body. Only by rediscovering the gift she has received can the Church bear witness to Christ the Saviour before all people. She does this with passionate enthusiasm, with full respect for all cultural and religious traditions; she does so joyfully, knowing that the One she proclaims takes away nothing that is authentically human, but instead brings it to fulfillment. In truth, Christ comes to destroy only evil, only sin; everything else, all the rest, he elevates and perfects. Christ does not save us from our humanity, but through it; he does not save us from the world, but came into the world, so that through him the world might be saved (cf. Jn 3:17).
Dear brothers and sisters, wherever you may be, may this message of joy and hope reach your ears: God became man in Jesus Christ, he was born of the Virgin Mary and today he is reborn in the Church. He brings to all the love of the Father in heaven. He is the Saviour of the world! Do not be afraid, open your hearts to him and receive him, so that his Kingdom of love and peace may become the common legacy of each man and woman. Happy Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Amen to You Lord Jesus!

Dearest Jesus,
Amen, we begin, our King, amen. Amen to your humanity. Amen to your humility. Amen to the smiles of Mary and Joseph, who held you. Amen to your body, blood, soul and divinity. Amen to you, always and everywhere, in our hearts, forever. Amen.

"When the grasp upon Christ's divinity is sure and unfaltering, there is no danger that an intimate affection for his humanity will lead souls astray."
Robert Hugh Benson

"One difference between Christ and other men is this: they do not choose when to be born, but He, the Lord and Maker of history, chose His time, His birthplace, and His mother."
Saint Thomas Aquinas

Receive Jesus as Savior and Lord

We celebrate Jesus coming into the world as Lord and Savior. We prepare him room in our hearts during Advent with prayers, fasting and giving. As Catholics, we continue to receive him, soul, body and divinity through the gift of the Eucharist as often as we take the Blessed Sacrament. That miracle that occurred 2000 years ago continues to occur on altars throughout the world as Christ gives us His flesh in an ongoing re-presentation of his sacrifice once for all.
We have the opportunity to receive Jesus today in Mass as well as tomorrow or tonite in Midnight vigil Mass. Not an obligation, a holy privilege! Below are today's readings from Sacred Scripture. Merry Christmass!

Reading 1

Thus says the LORD:
You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah
too small to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel;
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient times.
Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time
when she who is to give birth has borne,
and the rest of his kindred shall return
to the children of Israel.
He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock
by the strength of the LORD,
in the majestic name of the LORD, his God;
and they shall remain, for now his greatness
shall reach to the ends of the earth;
he shall be peace.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 80

R. (4) Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power,
and come to save us.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
May your help be with the man of your right hand,

with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Reading II Heb 10

Brothers and sisters:
When Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.
Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,
behold, I come to do your will, O God.’”

First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings,
holocausts and sin offerings,
you neither desired nor delighted in.”
These are offered according to the law.
Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.”
He takes away the first to establish the second.
By this “will,” we have been consecrated
through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Luke 1

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Advent Prayer

    Third Week of Advent Prayer
    (from Evangelical Catholicism)
    For Humility and an End to Materialism

    Dear Heavenly Father,
    As our hearts are evermore filled with joy
    as the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
    approaches near,
    give us the perseverance
    to remain in your love
    during this season and not be blinded
    by consumerism and materialism
    that seems to be all around us.
    May we empty ourselves completely
    from our pride, banal concerns and desires,
    so that we may find in you
    the sweet freedom and joy we all long for.
    Grant this through your Son,
    Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives
    and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
    one God, forever and ever.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Living Nativity

Let us strive to be like Mary who is docile and pure.

Let us strive to be like Joseph who listens carefully to others.
Let us strive to be like the Angels who bear good news of love.
Let us strive to be like the Kings who seek Truth and share with others.
Let us strive to be like the Christ Child who humbles Himself to be with us on earth.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The "O" Antiphons, An Ancient Advent Devotion

From as early as the fifth century, Christians have recited, chanted or prayed the "O" Antiphons as part of their evening vespers (prayers) in the octave before Christmas from December 17 to the 23. Each antiphon is from Isaiah's prophecy of the coming Messiah. They are preceded with the exclamation "Oh", hence the name, the "O" antiphons. The beautiful advent hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel annunciates each antiphon.

The following explanation is from Father William Saunders:

The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. Let’s now look at each antiphon with just a sample of Isaiah’s related prophecies :

O Sapientia: “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).

O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).

O Radix Jesse: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and A On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

O Clavis David: “O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” Isaiah had prophesied, AI will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6).

O Oriens: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).

O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4) .

O Emmanuel: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”

(7:14). Remember “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.”

According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia - the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.

What wonderful tools our Church gives us to increase our devotion to Christ at this holy season!

As Far As the East is From the West...

Sacred Scripture tells us that "as far as the East is from the West, he has removed our transgressions from us." Can East and West could be any further apart from each other? Can we imagine the real possibility of being totally freed from the power and effect of sin in our lives?
The appearance of that bright and solitary star so many generations ago signaled that the God of the universe would break into our finite dimensions of time and space to enable us to experience Him eternally in His time and space. As the priest says in Mass before the consecration, "Jesus shared in our humanity that we may share in his Divinity".
As the celebration of this season comes to a climax, we remind ourselves that God physically became present in the form of man to separate us from our sins and unite us once again to Him.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

More Scenes from Santa Monica

Along Ocean Blvd. in Santa Monica the various churches placed their depictions of the Nativity using mannequins, statuary, if you will, to represent the Holy Family. The Trinity Baptists, Lutherans, Calvary Baptists, and of course, Catholics participated in this happy event.

After Mass tonite, I was chatting with a cradle Catholic (baptized Catholic, never left the Church) and asked him point blank if he ever worshipped statues. At first he seemed taken aback at my question
since I don't think he was ever asked this. Thinking I caught him by suprise, surely he would slip and let out the secret that we all suspected, that Catholics do indeed worship statues. He thought for a moment, then said, "No I never worshipped a statue." I said "Hmm..... so why have them around?" He said without hesitating; "It provides a visual."

Ok, I get it, so these statues, are 3-D images which provide "a visual" so they point to what they represent. I asked him if he prayed to statues and he said, of course not!
So the reason all these denominations and not just Catholics use statues are to provide a visual lesson for all to see. To proclaim the gospel through
3 D images (graven images) that represent the people and events of the Nativity is a godly and holy endeavor of all the ecclesial communities of the Santa Monica area. It is gratifying to see the ecumenical way in which the churches cooperate to tell the story of Christ's birth.

(Still though, the way that they use the locked chain-link fence in front of the statues makes me wonder if that is done to prevent people from prostrating themselves before these images)

Caro Cardo Salutis.

My priest friend Father Bernie recently sent me this quote of Tertullian, a second century Christian articulating the incarnation. (166-225 A.D)

Translation: The flesh ( of Christ) is the hinge of salvation.
In other words, if the Son of God would not have taken upon himself our human nature, we would not be saved. Father Bernie says "That's a lot of theology crammed into three little words! "
Amen brother!
What a great simple meditation as we approach Christmas day!


More on Statues

Even in the materialistic and fairly hedonistic city of Santa Monica, there are public displays of the Christmas story on city property. Along the beach walk on Ocean Blvd (where the cover photo of one of Clapton's albums was taken), there is a series of scenes from the Nativity story that several local churches put together.
Apparently, they are tools of evangelism since they offer tracts at each station.

All the tracts were gone so I couldn't
see whether they printed the warning:

"These statues are for evangelistic purposes only and not meant to be

A Little Perspective Here...

The Universal Church

I just got back from a trip to LA for a recording session. Whenever I am in a city away from home I go to to find a place for daily Mass and Sunday worship. In the City of Angels there was no shortage of churches and we found a Church named St. Ann's, just like our home parish! In years past as a non-Catholic Christian, if I was away from home on Sunday, and couldn't find a church that was similar to my home church, I simply wouldn't go. I didn't want to take a chance of worshipping at a church where the theology wasn't the same as mine.
In the Catholic Church, the liturgy remains the same some 3000 miles away and 2000 years later I am again able to meet my Lord in the Eucharist. It makes sense to me that the Church should indeed be universal so that the same beliefs and practices instituted by the apostles will be taught and practiced everywhere.

"[T]here are many other things which most properly can keep me in [the Catholic Church’s] bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15–17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here. And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called ‘Catholic,’ when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house" ( St. Augustine, Against the Letter of Manicheus Called "The Foundation" 4:5 [A.D. 397]).

Thursday, December 14, 2006

God Mave Mercy! More Holy Innocents

Ukraine Killing Newborns To Harvest Stem Cells Says BBC With Video Evidence

This time of year focuses on the greatest event in human history, God coming to us as a child.
Yet 2000 years after the Nativity, the hearts of men remain hardened and the slaughter of innocent life continues just as it had under the orders of Herod in the town of Bethlehem after Christ was born.

In Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life) John Paul 2 states:

Christian Tradition-as the Declaration issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith points out so well61-is clear and unanimous, from the beginning up to our own day, in describing abortion as a particularly grave moral disorder. From its first contacts with the Greco-Roman world, where abortion and infanticide were widely practised, the first Christian community, by its teaching and practice, radically opposed the customs rampant in that society, as is clearly shown by the Didache mentioned earlier.

Human life is sacred and inviolable at every moment of existence, including the initial phase which precedes birth. All human beings, from their mothers' womb, belong to God who searches them and knows them, who forms them and knits them together with his own hands, who gazes on them when they are tiny shapeless embryos and already sees in them the adults of tomorrow whose days are numbered and whose vocation is even now written in the "book of life" (cf. Ps 139: 1, 13-16). There too, when they are still in their mothers' womb-as many passages of the Bible bear witness60-they are the personal objects of God's loving and fatherly providence.

Advent Prayer

Father, in the wilderness of the Jordan you sent a messenger to prepare people's hearts for the coming of your Son. Help me to hear his words and repent of my sins, so that I may clearly see the way to walk, the truth to speak, and the life to live for Him, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Feast of Our Lady Of Guadalupe

Today the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A day that commemorates the Marian apparition of the 16th century in the New World.
In 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, an Indian convert, in a small town 30 miles north of Mexico City and spoke to him in his native Indian dialect. He then relayed the story to his bishop who was understandably skeptical . The bishop asked Juan Diego for a confirmatory sign from Mary and the Virgin directed him to collect a bundle of roses in a cloth sling called a tilma to bring to the bishop. When he delivered the roses, the bishop fell to his knees for two reasons. First, those particular roses would normally not grow at that time of year and secondly, the tilma or cape Juan used to carry the roses to the priest was now miraculously embossed with the image of the Virgin Mary, now known as the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Why did God allow this apparition of Our Lady to appear? What could be the fruit of such an event? Up until this time, the Spanish Conquistadors had been attempting to convert the native indians of Mexico mostly by force and Christianity was not spreading rapidly.
After the apparition, it is estimated that approximately 9 million native Mexicans were baptized and converted to Christianity! The practice of infant sacrifice by the aztec religion abruptly ended and the Spaniards were convicted of their poor treatment of the native people.
So the result of Mary's appearing was conversion of many souls and the end to infanticide as a pagan religious practice. That is why Our Lady of Guadalupe is now the patron saint of the unborn.

Mary's role was to bring the Christ child to the world for our redemption and she has continued throughout history to draw people to her son, Jesus. Catholics believe Revelation of John speaks of Mary and her Queenship from these scriptures.

Revelation 12

1And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

2And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

3And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

4And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

5And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

6And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

7And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

8And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

10And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

11And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

12Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

13And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.

14And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

15And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.

16And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

17And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Monday, December 11, 2006

St. Damasus and The Canon of Scripture

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Damasus (305-383) a pope of the fourth century. It was never a dull moment during his papacy. He was dealing with the Arian and other heresies , defending himself against scandalous charges of adultery and fighting against an anti-pope. He then commissioned his secretary, St. Jerome, to translate Scripture from the original languages into Latin, known as the Vulgate. This would allow the Scripture to be more accessible in a language more commonly understood in that day, than Hebrew and Greek.
It was at the Council of Rome in 382 that St. Pope Damasus decreed the final canon of Scripture. Often, it is said that the Council of Trent codified the canon of Scripture after the reformation, but the evidence points to this early council as the when the canon was finalized. The Council of Trent reiterated the canon in a response to the reformer's revision of the historic canon.
Here is the decretal of Pope Damasus regarding Scripture as well as the authority of the Catholic Church to make such a statement.

"It is likewise decreed: Now, indeed, we must treat of the divine Scriptures: what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she must shun. The list of the Old Testament begins: Genesis, one book; Exodus, one book: Leviticus, one book; Numbers, one book; Deuteronomy, one book; Jesus Nave, one book; of Judges, one book; Ruth, one book; of Kings, four books; Paralipomenon, two books; One Hundred and Fifty Psalms, one book; of Solomon, three books: Proverbs, one book; Ecclesiastes, one book; Canticle of Canticles, one book; likewise, Wisdom, one book; Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), one book;
Likewise, the list of the Prophets: Isaiah, one book; Jeremias, one book; along with Cinoth, that is, his Lamentations; Ezechiel, one book; Daniel, one book; Osee, one book; Amos, one book; Micheas, one book; Joel, one book; Abdias, one book; Jonas, one book; Nahum, one book; Habacuc, one book; Sophonias, one book; Aggeus, one book; Zacharias, one book; Malachias, one book.
Likewise, the list of histories: Job, one book; Tobias, one book; Esdras, two books; Esther, one book; Judith, one book; of Maccabees, two books.
Likewise, the list of the Scriptures of the New and Eternal Testament, which the holy and Catholic Church receives: of the Gospels, one book according to Matthew, one book according to Mark, one book according to Luke, one book according to John. The Epistles of the Apostle Paul, fourteen in number: one to the Romans, one to the Corinthians [2 Corinthians is not mentioned], one to the Ephesians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Galatians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy, one to Titus one to Philemon, one to the Hebrews.
Likewise, one book of the Apocalypse of John. And the Acts of the Apostles, one book.
Likewise, the canonical Epistles, seven in number: of the Apostle Peter, two Epistles; of the Apostle James, one Epistle; of the Apostle John, one Epistle; of the other John, a Presbyter, two Epistles; of the Apostle Jude the Zealot, one Epistle. Thus concludes the canon of the New Testament.
Likewise it is decreed: After the announcement of all of these prophetic and evangelic or as well as apostolic writings which we have listed above as Scriptures, on which, by the grace of God, the Catholic Church is founded, we have considered that it ought to be announced that although all the Catholic Churches spread abroad through the world comprise but one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of other Churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall have bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall have loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Prepare Ye The Way of The Lord

Today's Gospel Reading in Mass Luke 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:

A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Lord Jesus, during this precious season of Advent,
I ask that you help me prepare the way for your coming.

Make my crooked ways straight, fill the empty areas of my soul with your goodness.

Make the mountains of my pride and arrogance low,

Make my winding and manipulative ways straight.

Take my exceedingly rough edges and make them smooth,
Let people see You in me so that I can help to show forth your salvation
by the life I live in you.

I give you all the glory and trust in your grace and mercy to answer my prayers
In your precious name, Jesus, I pray.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Symbols: How The Stuff of Earth Can Point Us to Heaven

On Pilgrimsarbours blog he eloquently describes the beauty of a house of worship and the transcendence that was intended by it, but often missed. When I was an evangelical christian , I ascribed to the theory of "less is best" and the simplest plainest warehouse we could find would be the "most spiritual" place to gather and worship.
I now find myself visiting the most ornate and beautiful Churches and shrines because of their ability to draw our hearts towards heaven. This time of year is so full of beautiful symbols God has given to stir our hearts and remind us of the great things He has done for us. I am so thankful that I have come to appreciate this 'quality of transcendence' that Pilgrimsarbour describes in his post. Check out his full post but here's a bit of it:

"...I think I always took the statuary, the stations of the cross, and other physical representations for granted. And being young the deep symbolism of these objects escaped me. But now I find myself drawn to the beauty of many of these things, and to Whom and to what they were designed to guide our praise and attention. I suppose I could say that I miss some of them. Protestant churches, in a reasoned bid to make sure that only Christ is glorified, and not man, often have a tendency to swing the pendulum unduly in the opposite direction"

Friday, December 08, 2006

Immaculate Conception and Spiritual Genetics

In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Pope Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin." Today the Church celebrates this event in salvation history with the feast of the Immaculate Conception. (BTW, in Mass this morning, I listened very carefully and not once did I hear Mary worshipped or exalted above her human, but special station in life.)

The idea of Mary's freedom from original sin since her conception is not new and the pronouncement of 1854 was the Church dogmatizing what had already been believed by the Church since the early Church Fathers. So it is not a novel doctrine created in 1854 that the Church's detractors often say. How can the Catholic Church make dogma? Only by Jesus handing the keys to Peter and giving him and his successors the authority to bind things on earth that will be bound in heaven. Now that's authority, but not man's. It is God's given to man through the transfer of the keys of the kingdom.(But that's the topic of another blog)

The Church Fathers came to the belief that Mary was preserved from sin through the merits of Christ on the Cross. Since God is not bound by our linear view of the passage of time, it is not too difficult to conceive that He could save her by his death on the Cross. All humans need the Savior and Mary is no exception. It's just the timing of which that doesn't fit into our finite construct of time and events. Christ has been the savior since the beginning of time and remains so eternally.

Now the Genetics of the Incarnation. God contributed His part, divine nature and Mary, the human part, the "carne". In genetics each parental contribution (gamete) carries the specific qualities and "nature" or genetic make up of the contributing parent. In order for Jesus to be truly human, he had to "inherit" a flesh component that carried the nature of his mother. In order to be divine, he had to "inherit" the divine nature of God the Father through the Holy Spirit. The fancy word for this is the Hypostatic Union. The Hypostatic Union is the union of the divine nature and the human nature in the one divine person of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, Mary's flesh could not have born the stain of original sin. Genetically speaking, she had to be sinless in order to contribute sinless flesh to Christ. To assume Mary was born with original sin would necessitate that she had to transmit this "sin nature" to her son. We know that this isn't the case and Christ is sinless, the perfect lamb of God. Therefore, Mary too had to be "sine macula" without stain of original sin; Immaculate. Non-Catholics believe we are exalting her to a divine status by using the title "Immaculate." This is not the case at all, but is a theological term based on sound reason and explained by "spiritual genetics."

Church Fathers and The Sinlessness of Mary

In refuting Pelagius St. Augustine declares that all the just have truly known of sin "except the Holy Virgin Mary, of whom, for the honour of the Lord, I will have no question whatever where sin is concerned" (De naturâ et gratiâ 36).

St. Ambrose (d.397) refers to the Blessed Virgin as "free from all stain of sin."

St. Severus, Bishop of Antioch (d.538) states: "She (Mary)...formed part of the human race, and was of the same essence as we, although she was pure from all taint and immaculate."

St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem (d.638), refers to Mary's pre-purification in this address to the Virgin: "You have found the grace which no one has received.... No one has been pre-purified besides you."

St. Andrew of Crete (d.740) tells us that the Redeemer chose "in all nature this pure and entirely Immaculate Virgin."

Theognostes of Constantinople (c.885) makes explicit reference to Mary's sanctification as taking place at the moment of conception: "It was fitting indeed that she who from the beginning had been conceived by a sanctifying action...should also have a holy death...holy, the beginning...holy, the end, holy her whole existence."

Genesis 3:15 and Luke 1:28 in Sacred Scripture are not "proof texts" for the doctrine but have provided the Church with evidence that points to this belief. The idea of Mary being the New Eve giving birth to the New Adam furthers the understanding of this dogma.

Proof From Reason from New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:
There is an incongruity in the supposition that the flesh, from which the flesh of the Son of God was to be formed, should ever have belonged to one who was the slave of that arch-enemy, whose power He came on earth to destroy. Hence the axiom of Pseudo-Anselmus (Eadmer) developed by Duns Scotus, Decuit, potuit, ergo fecit, it was becoming that the Mother of the Redeemer should have been free from the power of sin and from the first moment of her existence; God could give her this privilege, therefore He gave it to her. Again it is remarked that a peculiar privilege was granted to the prophet Jeremiah and to St. John the Baptist. They were sanctified in their mother's womb, because by their preaching they had a special share in the work of preparing the way for Christ. Consequently some much higher prerogative is due to Mary. (A treatise of P. Marchant, claiming for St. Joseph also the privilege of St. John, was placed on the Index in 1833.) Scotus says that "the perfect Mediator must, in some one case, have done the work of mediation most perfectly, which would not be unless there was some one person at least, in whose regard the wrath of God was anticipated and not merely appeased."