Sunday, April 29, 2007
This morning, we sang my favorite Welsh hymn, "Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendor." I was introduced to it at Nashotah House, when we sang it upon the occasion of the visit of the Welsh Primate, Archbishop Rowan Williams. Melisa liked it to, so we decided to use it during the offertory at our wedding (which is where the picture came from).
Here our humblest homage pay we,
here in loving reverence bow;
here for faith's discernment pray we,
lest we fail to know thee now.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou art here, we ask not how.
Thou art here, we ask not how.
Hear the tune Bryn Calfaria and read the text of the whole hymn here at the Oremus online hymnal.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
In this week's interview with The Boston Globe, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori stated:
“Where the protesters [against same-sex blessings] are, in some parts of Africa or in other parts of the Anglican Communion today, is where this church and this society we live in was 50 years ago, and for us to assume that people can move that distance in a year or in a relatively instantaneous manner is perhaps faithless,” she said. “That kind of movement and development has taken us a good deal of pain and energy over 40 or 50 years, and I think we have to make some space so that others can make that journey as well.”
Al Mohler insightfully characterized her comments in this way:
In other words, Jefferts Schori argues that time is on her side. The African churches will simply have to grow up and learn to play the game. They will have to learn to replace the authority of the Bible with the authority of modern therapeutic ideologies. They will have to learn to jettison biblical morality in favor of modern sexual “lifestyles.” They will have to learn to use interpretive techniques in order to make the Bible “mean” the opposite of what it states. They will have to get over their strange notion that the Creator has a design for human sexuality. They will have to denounce chastity and embrace sexual liberation.
Give these churches time, the Bishop suggests. After all, one can’t expect the Global South churches to go through this revolution in a day. Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori’s statement is a classic form of condescension. Allow those backward churches some time, she chides, in order that they will “make that journey as well.”
You can listen to Mohler's radio program on the topic. Of course, her statement is (unfortunately) totally in line with those of her predecessor, as noted in my blog entry on the New Dark Ages.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Monday, April 23, 2007
One person who held such a view very strongly in the early Church was a man named Marcion. He came to Rome in 140 and joined the Church there, but soon fell into heresy under the Gnostic teacher Cerdo. Marcion established his own rival church. His central belief was that the God of love revealed in Jesus Christ was utterly different from the God of law revealed in the Old Testament. Christianity was thus not the fulfillment of Judaism, but its replacement. Marcion proposed his own canon of scripture in which he eliminated the "Law and the Prophets" and replaced it with "the Gospel and the Apostle"--an edited version of Luke's Gospel and ten of St Paul's epistles.
Why do the Old and New Testaments seem to offer a different view of God (or for Marcion, describe different gods)? I think it largely has to do with perspective. The Old Testament is much larger, covers different concerns, and basically tells the story of the fall and the struggle to reestablish disciplined holiness on the earth. The New Testament is much shorter, it mainly tells the story of Jesus and the life of the early Church, and it tells the story of God's divine intervention of mercy for our salvation. However, they are both part of a whole story--the fall and redemption of humanity. The testaments are consistent with each other in the big picture. To illustrate how our perspectives can be misleading, I turned it around and chose five verses from to demonstrate the loving God of the Old Testament and the wrathful God of the New Testament.
A loving God . . .
And [God] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness"
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
Lamentations 3:22, 31-33
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. . . . For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
A wrathful God . . .
For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
[Jesus said] But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
The Objects of the Catholic Clerical Union
Section 1. The Affirmation & proclamation of the Catholic doctrine concerning the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ as contained in Holy Scripture and expressed in the Creeds and in the decisions of the seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church.
1 Timothy 4:16-17
“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Keep doing this, for by doing so, you save both yourself and those who listen to you.”
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be anathema! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be anathema!”
I began with a review of the consideration of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ at the Council of Nicaea and the description of the persons of the Godhead in the article on the Trinity at the "Seeker's Center" on the Episcopal Church's website, as analyzed in this previous post of mine.
I also distributed these notes on the doctrine of the person of Christ as affirmed in the ecumenical councils:
Jesus Christ . . . “God the Son,” the “incarnate Word”
One person . . . Two natures . . Two wills
1. First Council of Nicaea (325); repudiated Arianism (which considered Jesus an exalted creature) and adopted the Nicene Creed which said that Jesus is homo-ousios (or “consubstantial”) with the Father.
2. First Council of Constantinople (381); revised the Nicene Creed into present form and prohibited any further alteration of the Creed apart from an Ecumenical Council. It defined the Holy Spirit as a full and co-equal person in the Godhead, condemning the Macedonians (or “Pneumatomachi”) who denied the full divinity of the Holy Ghost.
3. Council of Ephesus (431); repudiated Nestorianism (which overly distinguished the natures of Christ) and defended the title of the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos (or “Mother of God”). [Not recognized by the Assyrian Church of the East.]
4. Council of Chalcedon (451); repudiated the Eutychian doctrine of monophysitism (the human nature subsumed in the one divine nature of Jesus) and delineated the two natures of Christ, human and divine. [Not recognized by the Oriental Orthodox Communion.]
"Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance (homoousios) with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer (Theotokos); one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us."
5. Second Council of Constantinople (553); reaffirmed decisions and doctrines explicated by previous Councils, condemned new Arian, Nestorian, and Monophysite writings.
6. Third Council of Constantinople (680–681); repudiated Monothelitism, affirmed that Christ had both human and divine wills.
7. Second Council of Nicaea (787); restoration of the veneration of icons and end of the first iconoclasm. It practically condemned gnosticism and defended the full humanity in the person of Jesus Christ—the Word became matter and sanctified it.
There is a tendency to distort the gospel whenever it is received into a particular culture. It is understood through a particular cultural outlook, and doctrines can take on new meaning when adaptation becomes reinterpretation. To characterize the religious outlook of American culture, I turned to Harold Bloom's book, The American Religion: The Emergence of a Post-Christian Nation. Bloom described American religion as bearing the marks of independence, "enthusiasm," a gnostic philosophy, and an arrogance assurance of being loved by God. As he notes on pg 49:
"President Eisenhower is notorious for remarking that the United States was and had to be a religious nation, and that he didn't care what religion it had, as long as it had one. I take a sadder view; we are, alas, the most religious of countries, and only varieties of the American Religion finally will flourish among us, whether its devotees call it Mormonism, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, or whatever-you-will. And the American Religion, for its two centuries of existence, seems to me irretrievably Gnostic. It is a knowing, by and of an uncreated self, or self-within-the-self, and the knowledge leads to freedom, a dangerous and doom-eager freedom: from nature, time, history, community, other selves."
I then presented the following points for consideration and discussion (which was lively and thoughtful):
What I am about here today is to rally us anew to the basics of the historic faith—faith in a person named Jesus, a person whom we know. And we know people not just by their names, but also by their attributes. To understand Jesus, we need to understand his attributes.
** Modern heresies are not really modern. As they say, “there are no new heresies” because there are no new dogmas, and heresies are denials or distortions of dogmas.
**Heresies are not mutually exclusive and often overlap in an illogical manner. Without true understanding, confusion abounds. One may retreat from the full divinity of Christ in one situation and yet retreat from his full humanity in another, without examining the tension between the two. It is cognitive dissonance on a theological level.
**Heresies are often attached to culture and ours is Gnosticism, which is concerned with an interior knowing (e.g. "Do you know Christ as your personal Savior?" "Do you know you'd go to heaven if you died today?") and considers spirit to be better than matter. Thus, American religion has a tendency to underplay the humanity of Christ.
**Changes in faith and order like the ordination of women and the sanction of homosexual behavior (two sacramental equivocations of sex) are gnostic because they spring from a lack of appreciation of the full humanity of Christ. For example, an all male priesthood cannot adequately represent Christ, you must have male and female, which means Jesus is the either the embodiment of the perfection of androgyny or in his maleness is not fully human.
**Not all changes in faith and order necessarily indicate heresy by those who advocate them, because such changes are often driven by politics or culture rather than theology. Thus you may have those who affirm the historic doctrine about Christ, but also affirm innovations that may be inconsistent with that.
Cartoon from TownHall.com
In the midst of the terrible news of the carnage and death at Virginia Tech was a small ray of hope from the Supreme Court. The court upheld the federal ban on partial birth abortion. Surprise of all surprises, the majority decision was written by Justice Kennedy. Here's some of the story from Mark Sherman of the Associated Press.
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court's new conservative majority gave anti-abortion forces a landmark victory Wednesday in a 5-4 decision that bans a controversial abortion procedure nationwide and sets the stage for further restrictions. It was a long-awaited and resounding win that abortion opponents had hoped to gain from a court pushed to the right by President Bush's appointees.
For the first time since the court established a woman's right to an abortion in 1973, the justices said the Constitution permits a nationwide prohibition on a specific abortion method. The court's liberal justices, in dissent, said the ruling chipped away at abortion rights. The 5-4 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.
Siding with Kennedy were Bush's two appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, along with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The law is constitutional despite not containing an exception that would allow the procedure if needed to preserve a woman's health, Kennedy said. "The law need not give abortion doctors unfettered choice in the course of their medical practice," he wrote in the majority opinion.
Doctors who violate the law could face up to two years in federal prison. The law has not taken effect, pending the outcome of the legal fight. In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the ruling "cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this court."
Dr. LeRoy Carhart, the Bellevue, Neb., doctor who challenged the federal ban, said, "I am afraid the Supreme Court has just opened the door to an all-out assault on" the 1973 ruling in Roe. Wade. The administration defended the law as drawing a bright line between abortion and infanticide. Reacting to the ruling, Bush said that it affirms the progress his administration has made to defend the "sanctity of life."
"I am pleased that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that prohibits the abhorrent procedure of partial birth abortion," he said. "Today's decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people's representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America." ...
More than 1 million abortions are performed in the United States each year, according to recent statistics. Nearly 90 percent of those occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and are not affected by Wednesday's ruling. The Guttmacher Institute says 2,200 dilation and extraction procedures — the medical term most often used by doctors — were performed in 2000, the latest figures available. Six federal courts have said the law that was in focus Wednesday is an impermissible restriction on a woman's constitutional right to an abortion. ...
The procedure at issue involves partially removing the fetus intact from a woman's uterus, then crushing or cutting its skull to complete the abortion. Abortion opponents say the law will not reduce the number of abortions performed because an alternate method — dismembering the fetus in the uterus — is available and, indeed, much more common.
Across all occupations, on average 47 percent of those surveyed said they were satisfied with their jobs and 33 percent reported being very happy.
Here are the Top 10 most gratifying jobs and the percentage of subjects who said they were very satisfied with the job:
- Clergy—87 percent
- Firefighters—80 percent
- Physical therapists—78 percent
- Authors—74 percent
- Special education teachers—70 percent
- Teachers—69 percent
- Education administrators—68 percent
- Painters and sculptors—67 percent
- Psychologists—67 percent
- Security and financial services salespersons—65 percent
- Operating engineers—64 percent
- Office supervisors—61 percent
A few common jobs in which about 50 percent of participants reported high satisfaction included: police and detectives, registered nurses, accountants, and editors and reporters.
The perceived prestige surrounding an occupation also had an effect on job satisfaction and general happiness. Not all jobs linked with prestige topped these charts, however, including doctors and lawyers. Smith attributes this to the high degree of responsibility and stress associated with such jobs.
“The least satisfying dozen jobs are mostly low-skill, manual and service occupations, especially involving customer service and food/beverage preparation and serving,” Smith said.
Here are the 10 least gratifying jobs, where few participants reported being very satisfied:
- Laborers, except construction—21 percent
- Apparel clothing salespersons—24 percent
- Handpackers and packagers—24 percent
- Food preparers—24 percent
- Roofers—25 percent
- Cashiers—25 percent
- Furniture and home-furnishing salespersons—25 percent
- Bartenders—26 percent
- Freight, stock and material handlers—26 percent
- Waiters and servers—27 percent
Three occupations—clergy, firefighters and special education teachers—topped both the job-satisfaction and overall happiness lists. Roofers made it on the bottom of both charts, with just 14 percent of roofers surveyed reporting they were very happy.
People who scored high on the happiness scale had the following jobs:
- Transportation ticket and reservation agents
- Housekeepers and butlers
- Hardware/building supplies salespersons
- Mechanics and repairers
- Special education teachers
- Actors and directors
- Science technicians
Jobs that plummeted to the bottom of the happiness chart along with the roofers included garage and service station attendants and molding and casting machine operators.
Smith said the results could be useful for job-seekers as “psychological reward” is another factor, in addition to salary and employment security, that can be considered when choosing a profession.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Brain scanning technology has been the stuff of science fiction for decades, yet has been a long time coming in practical application. ...
Emotive's technology is based upon a new manner of interpreting the electrical activity in the human brain via EEG that looks below the individually unique (and thus difficult to accurately analyze) outer cortex to deeper regions of the brain. Users wear an electrode studded headset that wirelessly interfaces with a receiver already no larger than a USB ram drive. ...
Emotive premiered at GDC to establish contact with game developers and begin providing a development SDK to interested studios. A consumer launch is planned for 2008, and though pricing has not been announced, CEO Nam Do promised us that it will cost "Less than a PS3."
Read the entire article by Gerry Block here.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Saturday, April 07, 2007
The Holy Fire of the Easter Vigil starts by itself every year in the empty tomb of the risen Christ and pilgrims bathe their hands and faces in its flame. It is a ritual shared throughout the world with the (unmiraculous) lighting of the New Fire at the Great Vigil of Easter. But in Jerusalem, things are a little different. It is a true miracle? It certainly is fascinating, and though it is known throughout the Eastern Church, it is almost unknown in the Christian West.
"On Holy Saturday believers gather in great crowds in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. For on this day fire comes down from Heaven and puts fire on lamps in the Church." Thus one reads in one of the many Easter itineraries to the Holy Land. "The Miracle of the Holy Fire" by Christians from the Orthodox Churches is known as "The greatest of all Christian miracles." It takes place every single year, on the same time, in the same manner, and on the same spot. No other miracle is known to occur so regularly and for such an extensive period of time; one can read about it in sources as old as from the eighth Century AD. The miracle happens in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, to millions of believers the holiest place on earth. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre itself is an enigmatic place. Theologians, historians and archaeologists consider the church to contain both Golgatha, the little hill on which Jesus Christ was crucified, as well as the "new tomb" close to Golgatha that received his dead body, as one reads in the Gospels. It is on this same spot that Christians believe he rose from the dead. . . .
[The Patriarch reports] "From the core of the very stone on which Jesus lay an indefinable light pours forth. It usually has a blue tint, but the color may change and take many different hues. It cannot be described in human terms. The light rises out of the stone as mist may rise out of a lake it almost looks as if the stone is covered by a moist cloud, but it is light. This light each year behaves differently. Sometimes it covers just the stone, while other times it gives light to the whole sepulchre, so that people who stand outside the tomb and look into it will see it filled with light. The light does not burn I have never had my beard burnt in all the sixteen years I have been Patriarch in Jerusalem and have received the Holy Fire. The light is of a different consistency than normal fire that burns in an oil lamp. At a certain point the light rises and forms a column in which the fire is of a different nature, so that I am able to light my candles from it. When I thus have received the flame on my candles, I go out and give the fire first to the Armenian Patriarch and then to the Coptic. Hereafter I give the flame to all people present in the Church." . . .
As with any other miracle there are people who believe it is fraud and nothing but a masterpiece of Orthodox propaganda. They believe the Patriarch has a lighter inside of the tomb. These critics, however, are confronted with a number of problems. Matches and other means of ignition are recent inventions. Only a few hundred years ago lighting a fire was an undertaking that lasted much longer than the few minutes during which the Patriarch is inside the tomb. One then could perhaps say, he had an oil lamp burning inside, from which he kindled the candles, but the local authorities confirm to have checked the tomb and found no light inside it. The biggest arguments against a fraud, however, are not the testimonies of patriarchs. The biggest challenges confronting the critics are the thousands of independent testimonies by pilgrims whose candles were lit spontaneously in front of their eyes without any possible explanation.
Want to know more? Here is the rest of that excellent brief article on the phenomenon by Niels Christian Hvidt. You can find the Wikipedia article on the Holy Fire here. Also, here is page with a fascinating video of the event in which "a flaming ball of the Holy Light runs through and over peoples heads and lights up a faithful man’s candle." Also, check out the testimony of Jerusalem Patriarch Diodorus I here on the right sidebar of the Living Miracles website.
The sanctuary is stripped of its ornaments and the cross is veiled in black.
The Blessed Sacrament is kept at the Altar of Repose until it is used for Holy Communion at the Mass of the Presanctified Gifts on Good Friday.
Good Friday is the one chance during the year to see a plain sanctuary.
One thing that becomes visible is the crack in the mensa of the high altar, created by a lightning strike in the late 1990s which sent the crucifix crashing down.
I thought this was amusing. I found this advertisement on my car in the church parking lot on the most solemn day of fasting in Christendom.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Before coming to the new campus, it was the custom at our parochial school to do the stations of the cross as the morning chapel service on the last school day before Easter. With a new campus, we lost the access to the church building with its stations along the wall and had to be creative. Thankfully, I think we found something even more special.
Some of our students present posed scenes of the fourteen stations of the cross on the stage for our meditation. It has been a blessing to all of us in our preparations for Easter. These are pictures from this year's devotion.
Words of welcome and an opening prayer
ALMIGHTY GOD, who most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus receives the cross
3. Jesus falls the first time
4. Jesus meets his mother
5. Simon of Cyrene caries the cross of Jesus
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus with her veil
7. Jesus falls the second time
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls the third time
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. Jesus is taken down from the cross
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb
Click here to listen to the Good Friday message on the BBC from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
The solemn Liturgy of Good Friday was held at St Peter's Basilica.
Prostrating to begin the liturgy, the pope then listens to the lessons.
Then followed the solemn collects, interceding through the atonement.
"Behold the wood of the cross..." The veneration begins.
Later, the pope leads Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum.
"If you do not take up your cross, you cannot be my disciple."