30 November 2005

Blessed St. Andrew's Day!

I always love it when East and West agree, and East and West do agree that November 30th is the day set aside to commemorate St. Andrew. He's a special saint to me because it was at the Lutheran Church of Saint Andrew in Wheaton, MD that I was first baptized into the faith, confirmed, and given our Lord's body and blood. It was long years after I was a pastor that I realized that everywhere I served, I tried to "recreate" the St. Andrew experience - it was a fabulous parish, rich in music and with some outstanding preaching and teaching of the Gospel.

But back to St. Andrew the person, a tidbit from East and from West:

(Eastern Kontakion): Let us praise for his courage ANDREW the Theologian, first Apostle of the Savior and brother of Peter, for in like manner as he drew his brother to Christ, he is crying out to us: "Come, for we have found the One the world desires!"

(Western Post-communion prayer) We beseech thee, O Lord, that thy heavenly mysteries, which we have joyfully received on this festival of blessed Andrew thine apostle may effectually avail for the glory of thy saints and likewise for the forgiveness of our sins. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.

29 November 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Pray often that God may make thee worthy of the heavenly and immortal mysteries. Let neither day be without its work, nor night, but when sleep fails thine eyes, at once abandon thy thoughts to prayer. And shouldest thou find any shameful, any base imagination rising, reflect upon God's judgment, to remind thee of salvation; give up thy mind to sacred studies, that it may forget wicked things. - St. Cyril of Jerusalem, the Proto-catechesis, par. 16


The human race divides in two on the matter of poetry. There are those who love it and those who can see no need for it. If you're in the second camp, you can stop reading this post right now.

I must confess that I am a lover of poetry. The best definition I ever read of poetry is "words put together in such a way that they are hard to forget." Isn't that almost poetry itself? Martin Franzmann's rumored definitive words upon the Scripture controversy were: "We must never forget that God is poet." Franzmann, as usual, is right on.

And so to honor the joy of words put together in ways that are hard to forget, a fabulous poem by Betjeman. I figure since he STARTS off with Advent it's cool to share now, even though titled Christmas! Don't give up till the zinger in the last line.

John Betjeman

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker’s Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
“The church looks nice” on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says “Merry Christmas to you all.”

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s’ hearts are glad,
And Christmas-morning bells say “Come!”
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
Nor carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare--
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.

28 November 2005

Acts 8

What is to be made of St. Philip's giving out baptism that does not give the Spirit apart from the laying on of hands? (vs. 16)

What is to made of St. Peter's not treating the forgiveness of Simon's post-baptismal sins as a "sure thing"? (vs. 22)


Explanation of the Nativity Ikon

I picked this gem up off my sister-in-law's site:


27 November 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Great indeed is the Baptism which is offered you. It is a ransom to captives; the remission of offences; the death of sin; the regeneration of the soul; the garment of light; the holy seal indissoluble; the chariot to heaven; the luxury of paradise; a procuring of the kingdom; the gift of adoption. - The Protocatechesis of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, par. 16.

26 November 2005

Advent Carol

Drop down, Dew! O gracious heaven.
Let the sky rain down the just.
Let the earth bud forth the Saviour.
In Thy promise, Lord, we trust.
Thus the Patriarchs were crying
While the world in bondage sighing,
Sought in vain for Heaven's gate,
Closed by sin and Satan's hate.

God the Father in His mercy
Planned to save our fallen race,
Whilst the burden of our sinning,
God the Son deigned to embrace.
God the Spirit gave His token
Through the Virgin who had spoken:
Lo, Thy handmaid, Lord, hath heard;
Work in me Thy wondrous Word!

Then the Son took man's frail nature,
Was made flesh and dwelt on earth.
Light and life with grace abundant
He bestowed of priceless worth.
Earth, rejoice! Exult with gladness!
A new Sun dispels all sadness!
Let us then our voices raise!
Let us sing our Saviour's praise!

(Wish I could remember who wrote this Advent Carol; we sang it in Pro Musica Sacra at St. Louis seminary in the 1980's. It's a winner!)

Advent Thoughts

Today the Church - well, the Western Church at any rate - begins a new year of grace! And on this first Sunday in Advent for century upon century the Church had read and pondered the message of the prophet Zechariah, foretelling our Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday? At the start of Advent? It never fails to strike as strange those who forget that it is Advent we are beginning today, and not Christmas. The world sees no need for Advent - for repentance and preparation - also the world that lives inside of our hearts.

It wants to leapfrog over Advent and plunge right into the joy of angels and shepherds and Wisemen. But the Church in her wisdom says “no.” No, because if the joy of Christmas is going to be all that God intends it to be for His people, it needs to be received in hearts that are stilled and quiet, in hearts that have come to see the sorrow of sin and long to be freed from it. "Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come that we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins..." It needs to be received In hearts that understand Christ’s three-fold coming and can pray with fervor: “Come, Lord Jesus!” in the full meaning of that prayer.

Only such hearts are prepared to receive the fullness of the joy that lies in the Christmas Feast - a joy far brighter than tinsel and infinitely more satisfying than an endless round of parties and gluttony.

So on to Jerusalem! On to the One who comes riding in on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. See with your eyes. But believe with your ears. That is the key. What you see will offend you. What you hear will astonish and delight you. And what you hear is the deeper truth. "Your King comes to you!" Let us greet Him with songs of joy, repentant hearts, and eager longing! Amen.


One of my favorite people in all the world has joined the blogosphere: my sister (-in-law, but she's more like just my sister) Deb:


I remember the day (we were both teens) that I took a peak at the journal she left lying on the dining room table and was impressed with her writing, but she was VERY mad that I had read her stuff. Now I can read it and she can't fuss about it! Best of all - you can too!!!

25 November 2005


Recent joys:

The joy of a house filled with young people...Singing Christmas carols around the piano with Cindi, David, and Lauren (and wishing Bekah would join in!)...Matins sung in a full church...Tasting mom's cornbread dressing again, and wishing she and dad were still alive to share it with us...Friends singing together "Now Thank We All Our God" around a groaning supper table...Pinochle, even when the ladies win...Bringing communion to David in the hospital and learning about music afterwards...Jaclyn on the mend...Having all my children home...Finding out Opa and Grandma are arriving on Christmas Eve...Elena being chrismated on Saturday...Deb, Tim, Dorothy as catechumens...Anna playing the piano for us...Lauren, Lauren and Robyn up early to go shopping (see, miracles do happen!)...Bekah talking to Shawn for like HOURS...Bringing the Sacrament to Ray and Marvin...A cold day that presages the crisp air of winter (why does it always remind me of Aunt Emma's?)...Lucinda Bekemeyer's ginger cookies all made up and ready to bake tomorrow for tree trimming...The sight of children when they come home and all are in for the night...Vicar's joy in preaching...The outside cats grown all furry and frisky with the cold...Lucy barking at the "evil thing" (our vaccuum)...Listening to the Akathist of Thanksgiving on Ancient Faith Radio...The Jesus Prayer on long drives to the hospitals...Getting to baptize in German...

Glory to you, O Lord! Glory to you!

Patristic Quote for the Day

He it is Who was crucified with the sun and the moon as witnesses; and by His death salvation has come to all men, and all creation has been redeemed. He is the Life of all, and He it is Who like a sheep gave up His own body to death, His life for ours and our salvation. - St. Athanasius, *On the Incarnation of the Word* par. 37.

23 November 2005


A slight revision of Schmemann's final thanksgiving at his last Eucharist, that will be prayed at St. Paul's tomorrow at the conclusion of Matins:

Thank You, O Lord!

Thank You, O Lord, for giving us this opportunity to offer praise to the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for You have filled our hearts with the joy, peace and righteousness of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, O Lord, for having revealed Yourself unto us and giving us the foretaste of Your Kingdom.

Thank You, O Lord, for having united us to one another in serving You and Your Holy Church.

Thank You, O Lord, for having helped us to overcome all difficulties, tensions, passions, temptations and restored peace, mutual love and joy in sharing the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, O Lord, for the sufferings You bestow upon us, for they purify us from selfishness and remind us of the "one thing needed;" Your eternal Kingdom.

Thank You, O Lord, for having given us this country where we are free to worship You.

Thank You, O Lord, for this Church and school, where the name of God is proclaimed.

Thank You, O Lord, for our families: husbands, wives and, especially, children who teach us how to celebrate Your holy Name in joy, movement and holy noise.

Thank You, O Lord, for the kindly fruits of the earth and for the joy of sharing them together.

Thank You, O Lord, for everyone and everything.

Great are You, O Lord, and marvelous are Your deeds, and no word is sufficient to celebrate Your miracles. Amen.

Patristic Quote for the Day

For while all vices manifest themselves in wrongdoing, pride lurks even in our good works, seeking to destroy even them. - St. Augustine, *The Rule* 1.7

22 November 2005


I hijacked this article from Benjamin Andersen's blog: http://occidentalis.blogspot.com/

Well worth the read...

A fascinating article on the problem of the filioque by Father Theodore Stylianopoulos, from The Greek Orthodox Theological Review (1986). Here are Father Theodore's conclusions:

"Two key factors are crucial to the ecumenical settlement of the filioque question. The first is the recognition that the theological use of the filioque in the West against Arian subordinationism is fully valid according to the theological criteria of the Eastern tradition. In the West the filioque has been used to stress: (1) the consubstantial unity of the Trinity, (2) the divine status of the Son, and (3) the intimacy between the Son and the Spirit. All these points are also integral elements of Eastern trinitarian theology anchored on the Cappadocian teaching of περιχώρησις ("mutual indwelling") of the persons of the Trinity, a teaching reflected by the Nicene Creed which professes an equal worship and glorification of the Holy Trinity. Thus a fundamental and wide agreement exists between Eastern and Western trinitarian doctrine affirming the complete reciprocity and mutuality of the Son and the Spirit in their eternal relations (immanent Trinity) as well as their manifested action in creation, Church and society (economic Trinity). Christ is both the bearer and the sender of the Spirit. The Spirit of God is in every way also the Spirit of the Son.

"The second key factor in the resolution of the filioque question is the recognition that biblical and patristic theology commonlly affirm the teaching of the "monarchy" of the Father, i.e., that the Father is "the sole principle (ἀρχή), source (πηγή), and cause (αἰτία) of divinity" (Klingenthal Memorandum). This teaching is of decisive importance to Eastern trinitarian theology and a teaching which the filioque clause in the West, according to contemporary Western interpretations, has never intended to deny. However, the Augustinian interpretation of the filioque, i.e., that the Father and the Son are the common cause of the eternal being of the Spirit, unintentionally compromises the "monarchy" of the Father according to Cappadocian trinitarian theology presupposed and reflected by the Nicene Creed in which the verb "proceeds" (ἐκπορευόμενον) refers to the eternal origin of the Spirit from the Father. Eastern trinitarian thought as expressed by Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory the Cypriot and Gregory Palamas conceives of the Son as mediating, but not causing, the Spirit's procession from the Father. On this nuanced difference in doctrinal interpretation hangs the whole weight of centuries of controversy between the Eastern and Western churches. The formula "who proceeds from the Father through the Son" is a sound theological resolution of this problem in the conciliatory spirit of Maximos the Confessor laying aside the above specific Augustinian interpretation as an erroneous theological opinion but at the same time affirming the active participation of the Son in the eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father.

"Finally, the filioque question does not signal a "great divide" between the Eastern and Western churches because these churches commonly confess the dogma of the Holy Trinity and share broad agreement regarding the work ("economy") of the Spirit according to Scripture, tradition, and liturgy. The filioque marks not a decisive difference in dogma but an important difference in the interpretation of dogma due to the differing Cappadocian and Augustinian approaches to the mystery of the Trinity. The theological implications of this difference are a more consistently biblical and personal understanding of the Trinity as concrete persons and careful avoidance of any modalistic tendencies confusing the uniqueness of each of the divine persons. The well-known critique that the filioque subordinates the Spirit to the Son and thereby "depersonalizes" the Spirit seems to express theological polemic rather than theological truth. As far as the practical implications of this difference is concerned, i.e., the often repeated charges that the filioque leads to authoritarianism, institutionalism, clericalism and other similar tendencies, one is hard pressed to demonstrate these historically and theologically because such tendencies, as well as their opposites, have existed in most churches with or without the filioque. More fruitful for further study are the specific implications of the Augustinian and Cappadocian approaches to the Trinity and theology in general, especially the implications for life, spirituality and practice. This kind of direction in ecumenical theology would be welcome because, next to and after a resolution of the specific filioque question, which is a highly nuanced question of trinitarian theology, such a direction would help focus attention on the wider role of the Spirit in the churches, society and creation today."

Patristic Quote for the Day

Be cautious of harsh words. Should you utter them, then do not be afraid to speak the healing word with the same mouth that caused the wound - St. Augustine, *The Rule, 6.2*

21 November 2005

A Homily for Advent I

The Donkey (G. K. Chesteron)

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

The donkey had its hour, indeed. “One far, fierce hour and sweet.” Who but our God could come up with such a totally unimpressive way to enter His City as the long-awaited, long-promised King? Who but our God would dream up riding a donkey – “with monstrous head and sickening cry” – on His way to save the world by being the sacrifice for the sins of all? He was coming to be the beast of burden that bore the burdens of all our race, and so what else to ride but a donkey?

Such is the way of the God who is born in a cattle stall to refugee parents in an occupied land. Such is the way of the God who would bring life to the world by taking the world’s death into His own body. Such is the way of our God. The humble, lowly, un-presupposing way. The donkey way of doing things.

And this humble, unpretentious and unimpressive way, our God does not give up. Not till the last day when it won’t be a donkey he comes riding on, but the very clouds of heaven. Until that day, though, it’s the donkey way of doing things.

Water, bread, wine, hot air from a man’s mouth. Them be the lowly beasties that God STILL chooses to “ride on” to come to us, to be our servant King. They look so ordinary, so utterly unimpressive. I mean, think about it. A man dressed up in an outfit that looks more than a bit like a circus clown pours a handful of water over the head of an oblivious child and that’s the difference between eternal life and eternal death, between heaven and hell? Or certain words are spoken over bread and wine which they are given out into our mouths, and this is the food that if one eats of he does not die, but lives in Christ forevermore? Or a bunch of people sit in pews week in and week out listening to a man jaw on about stuff from a book whose last bit was written 2,000 years ago, and this is what the Church lives from?

The world is aghast that the Church could even go on existing from such donkey-business. And more than one voice (even those who claim to be inside the church!) suggest that if the Church has a future, she’d best give up the donkey business and start looking for something a little more impressive. But we inside the Church, we know that the donkey had it hour – one far, fierce hour and sweet.

We know WHO the donkey was carrying into Jerusalem that fateful day. We know WHAT He was coming into Jerusalem to do. Not to be battling and solving any earthly dilemmas, but to battle and conquer nothing less than sin, death, and hell. He was riding in to be the sacrifice for all time and for all peoples who will but trust what He there accomplished and did.

And so we delight in the donkeys he continues to use. That His Word comes riding into our lives attached to a handful of water and claims us as His very own, marks us as belonging to Him, and gives us the promise of eternal life – it fits his normal way of doing things – it’s donkey business. That bread and wine are changed, so that now they are His body and blood of the Redeemer and that He gives them to us to eat and drink so that our sins might be forgiven and we might be united to Him and His endless life – it fits his normal way of doing things – it’s donkey business. That the words of sinful and foolish men, who can be justly compared at times, I freely admit, to a donkey (and even given the not-so-nice name that we usually give donkeys), that the words of these men can be the words of life itself. This is no surprise to us. It fits His normal way of doing things – it’s donkey business.

And that He would then have use of donkeys even like you, and use you to bear Him and His Gospel to others, inviting them to join in the never-ending procession that surrounds the one who comes riding to us on such humble means – why, there’s nothing odd about that at all. It fits His normal modus operandi – it’s donkey business.

“Behold, your king comes to you.” And how he comes is in the way of the donkey, lowly, unimpressive, and yet truly the Very Son of God, come to you to take from you your sin, your death, your hell and to give to you His very own righteousness. “The Lord, our Righteousness” as Jeremiah had it today. And so the Church has never stopped crying out to Him: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” So if it’s donkey business time, then there is no time for the monkey business of the works of darkness. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. We best be putting on the Lord Jesus, letting Him climb right atop us foolish looking beasts, we donkeys, and letting Him ride and direct us, making no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires. Not the ways we would choose to go, but directed by Him who sits upon us. Our donkey riding King, our Savior, our Jesus. Amen.

Patristic Quote for the Day

"The soul, having obtained union with the Word, descended into hell; but, using its divine power and efficacy, it said to the ones in bondage, 'Go forth!'" - Cyril, De Recta Fide ad Theodosium

[Note that this quote, referring to the rescue of the Patriarchs and OT believers from Hades at Christ's Descent into Hell, is specifically cited in the Catalog of Testimonies that was appended to the Lutheran Book of Concord. Dr. Luther speaks the same way in his famous sermon on the Descent: "Our Lord Jesus Christ did descend into hell, battered hell open, overcame the devil, and *delivered those who were held captive by the devil.*" (HP I:480) and "Christ has crushed hell, opened up heaven, bound and taken captive the devil, *and delivered the prisoners.*"]

20 November 2005

Doing the Happy Dance!

Rejoicing in the good gifts of God to our sister parish Trinity Lutheran Church in Worden (with whom we share a school) of Pr. Heath Curtis and his family. Pr. Curtis will likely be installed prior to Christmas. Now the only thing that would crush me is if Pr. Curtis turns out to be a Browns fan - like his otherwise wonderful predecessor...

Patristic Quote for the Day

I don't usually post from sources that I have not personally read, but Robert Davis posted this beautiful quote from St. John of Kronstadt on the Orthodox-Lutheran dialog yesterday and I wanted to share it:

"What shall I bring to Thee, Lord, for all Thy mercies which Thou continually bestowest so bountifully upon me? My faith alone, for I have no works that shall justify me; I have done no good thing before Thee. But even my faith is also Thy gift. Receive Thine own of Thine own offered Thee, for everything is Thine, and we are All Thine. Thou art our most perfect Prototype."

From "My Life in Christ" St. John of Kronstadt

19 November 2005

Homily for the Last Sunday of the Church Year

St. James writes: “Show me your faith without works and I will show you my faith by my works.” In other words, works are faith made visible! Faith you can see. The Lutheran Confessions speak of such works as “the fruits of faith.” I bring this up because of today’s Gospel, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins.

This Gospel teaches us something vital for every Christian to know. And that is simply that not everyone who expects a welcome to the great Wedding Feast will in fact get one. Not everyone who believes that their place is assured will find it so. Some will “wake up” to find the Bridegroom from behind a closed door speaking to them the unutterably sad words: “I do not know you.”

Those to whom these words are spoken are people who have been dressed up for the Wedding Feast by Holy Baptism, who have waited for the Bridegroom, who had their lamps lighted and who, like the others fell asleep, only to be wakened by the shout at midnight: “Behold the Bridegroom comes! Go forth to meet him!”

Only they couldn’t, because the oil in their lamps was running near to empty. They ask the wise for some oil, but the wise couldn’t share with them – not now. So off in the mad dash to find the oil before the wedding starts. But they come too late and end up pounding upon a shut door, ultimately excluded. Lost to the joy and the feasting and the celebration within – where they had fully expected to be.

Each of us is one or the other. Each of us will be on one side of the door or the other. And because that is so, one over-riding question begs for an answer: “What’s the oil?”

Would have been nice if our Lord had explicitly said what it was. But alas, he does not. Or does he? He tells us that the oil is what allows the light to shine. We remember how early on in Matthew’s Gospel our Lord had exhorted his own: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Our Lord is teaching us that the faith that finally saves is the kind of faith that shines! The faith that manifests itself, betrays its presence, in deeds of mercy and love. To come to the wedding feast and try to get in without the light of these good works shining in our lives is to find ourselves on the wrong side of the door! Unknown by the Bridegroom.

Goodness, I hear you thinking, is Pastor saying that salvation is then due to our good works? God forbid! It was not the absence of the good works that shut out the foolish virgins – the absence of the good works was but the flickering and dying of the light! But what caused the light to go out? St. Mark the Ascetic helps us get a handle on this: “When Scripture says, ‘He will reward every man according to his works,’ do not imagine that works in themselves merit either hell or the kingdom. On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself.” Faith, you see, is the key.

But there is such a thing as a “faith” that does not bring forth the light of good works. That’s why I mentioned James at the start of the homily: “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:12-18)

The deeds of mercy that the Judgment requires, then, are not something tacked onto faith – faith plus works. The deeds of mercy that the Judgment requires are simply faith itself made visible, faith shown to be ALIVE. This is how Luther put it once: “Faith is a living, busy active powerful thing; it is impossible for it not to do us good continually. It never asks whether good works are to be done, but has done them before there is time to ask the question, and is always doing them."

So if you hear the parable of the wise and foolish virgins and begin to sweat a bit – and who of us doesn’t? - the answer is not to try to tack on some good works to your life. That would like trying to make light shine without fuel! Good works will flow from your union by faith with Christ. What did our Lord say? “Apart from me, you can do nothing!”

Apart from the Virgin’s Son, apart from your Crucified and Risen Savior, apart from His presence, His life, His gifts within you there will be only darkness, no matter how hard you strive. But connected to Him, joined toHim by a living faith, there will be light shining in you and through you, the Light that is Christ Himself.

And that is what the means of grace are for, my friends! To dispense the oil that will fills your lamp and set your life burning bright. For the oil that is living faith, dispensed by the Word of God, pours Him who is the Living Mercy of God into your life. By the Spirit’s power, He who came into the flesh and mounted the cross for you where He forgave your sin and rose again from the dead to be your Life, He comes to you, connects to you in Word, water, body, and blood! Faith holds onto Him, and that’s why it saves!

You want your life to shine with good works? Then in repentance devote your life to union with Christ through His Word and His Sacraments. THAT is how you can be zealous for good works without falling into the trap of legalism and pride, imagining that the good works are due to you and your diligence, instead of being the inevitable result of Christ and His giving. Your lamp then will not go out.

Let no one ever tell you that good works are not important, or that they don’t matter. Their presence or absence is the irrefutable sign of faith’s being real or a deception: a faith that connects you to the living Lord and so saves; or a faith that is merely an idea in your head and so does nothing. As the Church likes to sing: “For faith alone doth justify; works serve the neighbor and supply the proof that faith is living.” Grant us all, Lord Jesus, an abundance of such proof uniting our lives to Yours by a living faith through Your Word and Sacraments – a faith that shines for all to see and grows ever brighter until the Day of Your return! Amen.

18 November 2005

A beautiful article

Aslan on the mind... a beautiful article. Christos anesti!


(Thanks to my sister Deb for pointing this one out)

Patristic Quote for the Day

He, indeed, assumed humanity that we might become God. He manifested Himself by means of a body in order that we might perceive the mind of the unseen Father. He endured shame from men that we might inherit immortality. He Himself was unhurt by this, for He is impassible and incorruptible; but by His own impassibility He kept and healed the suffering men on whose account He thus endured. In short, such and so many are the Savior's achievements that follow from His Incarnation, that to try to number them is like gazing at the open sea and trying to count the waves. - St. Athanasius, *On the Incarnation of the Word of God* par. 54

[Compare to the Words of the Proper Preface for Christmas...]

17 November 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

(A little more Athanasius...)

But for the searching and right understanding of the Scriptures there is need of a good life and a pure soul, and for Christian virtue to guide the mind to grasp, so far as human nature can, the truth concerning God the Word. One cannot possibly understand the teaching of the saints unless one has a pure mind and is trying to imitate their life. Anyone who wants to look at sunlight naturally wipes the eye clear first, in order to make, at any rate, some approximation of the purity of that on which he looks; and a person wishing to see a city or country goes to that place in order to do so. Similarly, anyone who wishes to understand the mind of the sacred writers must first cleanse his own life, and approach the saints by copying their deeds. Thus united to them in the fellowship of life, and he will both understand the things revealed to them by God and, thenceforth, escaping the peril that threatens sinners in the judgment, will receive that which is laid up for the saints in the kingdom of heaven. *On the Incarnation of the Word of God* par. 57

Patristic Quote for the Day

From the Scriptures you will learn also of His second manifestation to us, glorious and divine indeed, when He shall come not in lowliness but in His proper glory, no longer in humiliation but in majesty, no longer to suffer but to bestow on us the fruit of His cross - the resurrection and incorruptibility. No longer will He then be judged, but rather will Himself be Judge, judging each and all according to their deeds done in the body, whether good or ill. Then for the good is laid up the heavenly Kingdom, but for those that practice evil outer darkness and eternal fire. - St. Athanasius, *On the Incarnation of the Word of God* par. 56

16 November 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

"Meet it is to worship the Father Who sent us His Only-begotten Son, Who saved our race from death and Satan, and who sits at the right hand of His Father entreating His compassion on behalf of all of us!" - St. Ephraim the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter*, #150

14 November 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Glory befits God because of His majesty, while lowliness befits man because it unites us with God. If we realize this, rejoicing in the glory of the Lord, we too, like St. John the Baptist, will begin to say unceasingly: 'He must increase, but we must decrease.' - St. Didochos of Photiki

13 November 2005

Blessed Holy Sausages Day!

Today just happens to be, according to the local use, the Feast of the Holy Sausages. Fried in generous amounts of grease, served with saurkraut, potatoes, gravy, horseradish, bread, applesauce, and cranberry sauce, wrapping up with a desert of your choice and a steaming cup of hot coffee. Sigh. Life is good.

Piepkorn reminds us that "the Kingdom of God does not consist in buying one another's pies." Too true. But there are some pies that come close - and my wife knows how to make them!

It is beautiful to see how so many from the parish come out and lend a helping hand to put this thing on each year.

Now, if these Germans would just learn the use of hot pepper flakes in their sausage-making, we'd be getting somewhere.

Feet are tired (I served the first shift 11:30-3:00) and I think I'm going to go put them up. Patristic quote of the day will have to wait for tomorrow.

12 November 2005

Vacation Report

We had a GREAT time with Matt, Sandy, and Katie. The rock formations down there are really neat. The woods reminded me much of the woods in Richardsville. Here are some pics of the mini-vac:


10 November 2005

Mini Vacation

Deaconesses are fabulous! Especially when they take you on vacation!!! Today we're headed down to Shawnee National Forest with Sandy and her family to spend a couple days. Should be great. Tonight we have a cabin with fireplace. I'm really looking forward to the get away.

Meanwhile thoughts and prayers are with Jim and his family in NY and wishing for them the peace that passes understanding. Jane's funeral will be on Friday. They're celebrating the Mass at the funeral - as one of my members said last year, "that way I can be at my funeral!"

So won't be posting on the blog for a few days.

09 November 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Standing by the coffin I gazed therein and beheld the corruption of the flesh. In the grave it had become repulsive - there was nothing to resemble and attractive face; instead dry, crumbling bones covered with corruption were to be seen. With sorrow and grief I withdrew from the coffin, carried by my thoughts to that time when we will be resurrected to the sound of the trumpet and will glorify Thee for the resurrection prepared for Adam's descendants and will say: Praise to Thee, O Lord of all!

I heard what is written about the resurrection in the Gospel; I thanked God and exclaimed: Praise to the all-holy nature of Thy dominion, that in the beginning adorned our nature and honored it with Thine image, and in the last times sent down Thy Son! And He saved from ruin and will come again to resurrect all of Adam's race. He will carry the righteous up to heaven and cast the lawless into Gehenna - and they will exclaim: just is Thy judgment, O Lord and King! Praise to Thee, O Lord of all!

--St. Ephraim the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #134

08 November 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

We cannot with all our heart forgive someone who does us wrong unless we possess real knowledge. For this knowledge shows us that we deserve all we experience. - St. Mark the Ascetic, *On Those Who Think They Are Made Righteous By Works* (par. 49)

Worship at St. Paul's

Anyone who would like to listen in to the liturgy for All Saints from St. Paul's, KFUO is broadcasting our services during November, December, and January. You can listen in here:


07 November 2005

Sad Day

Today started out with sadness. I have a very close friend, James Krauser. He's a remarkable man in many ways, a parish pastor, an outstanding homilist, and the secretary for the New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We've been arguing theology and loving liturgy since we were at Concordia Bronxville together back in the early 1980's. Today Jim's only sister died. Jane was younger than us by a few years - she was only 43. She had struggled with breast cancer and its spread for a number of years. Jim and his mom have now buried his father and are preparing to bury Jane. Only Jim and his mom are left. I'd invite you all to pray for him and for the repose of his sister. Rest eternal... (in the way of the West) and Memory eternal... (in the way of the East). Either way, Jimbo, I love you, my brother and wish so much I could be with you during this rough time. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." Psalm 116.

06 November 2005

All Saints Homily

Homily for All Saints (2005) - Revelation 7:9-17 / 1 John 3:1-3 / Matthew 5:1-12

All saints goes wrong when one sees the great crowd and starts analyzing and poking at them, focusing on them, instead of focusing on what they are focused on. For when you look at the crowd the one thing that surely strikes you is that they are all staring in the same direction, gazing upon the same object, with the same look of astonishment and awe and love upon their faces.

Otherwise they are very different – some were among the rich and most among the poor, some black and some white, some red and some yellow, some struggled with this sin and some with that, some thought one thing and some another. Oh, they are a very diverse crowd in so many ways.

But the thing that holds them together as ONE crowd is the object on which they are fixed and the love and awe that shine from them as they rejoice to look upon what they look upon.

So one does not analyze that look and imitate it outwardly so that one can sort of “fit into the crowd.” That’s to be what Dr. Luther calls “a paper saint.” Instead, one pushes this way and that to get in and get a glimpse of what it is that they are all so intent upon! Because if you do that, then you too – no matter what the unique struggles and burdens of your life - will come to wear the same look of astonishment and awe and love on your face. Not because you’re trying to be like the crowd, but because you also see what the crowd has seen – and you’ll drop to your knees too, and awe and love will shine from your face as well.

So onto the first reading, where we meet them. A multitude so great that no one could fix a number on it – from all the nations, tribes, peoples and tongues of the earth – clothed in white and bearing aloft the palm branch of victory in their hands, shouting, proclaiming and saying. But what is that they are focused on? Not on themselves! Where are they staring? Not at each other! They are all facing the throne of God and of the Lamb. And they sing aloud: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb!”

Do you see the look of awe and wonder on their faces? They are now seeing Him with the eyes of the body whom they had heard before with their ears. He is their Joy and their Delight. They sing with the Psalmist: “Whom have I in heaven but Thee, and there is none upon the earth that I desire besides Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

And what a portion He is! “They are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits upon the throne shelters them with His presence. Nothing in all creation can harm them! For the Lamb in the midst of the throne is their Shepherd, and He guides them to springs of living water, and God Himself wipes away every tear from their eyes.” A huge portion, indeed!

And so they stare into the face of Him who is the Gift of all of this and more, the One they call the Lamb, the One we call Jesus – a gift beyond all meriting or deserving. A gift that is all the more astonishing because of how it was given. For when the Father saw our desperate plight, He did not only send us prophets with words of judgment and hope, He not only gave a Law to show us our great need, but finally at the last, He sent to us His beloved and only Son. Sent Him into our flesh from the Virgin’s holy womb. He came among us not only to pay the debt of honor we all owed to the Father and could not pay, but He came to do far more! He came to release us from the prison of our sin and death, to clothe us with His own righteousness, to bring us into His Father’s house and make us co-heirs with Him of His glory. He came to summon us to the feast, that we might sit down beside Him at the Father’s table and enjoy a life – a feast - that no death will never destroy and no sin can never take away.

But it is when the saints look at him and see HOW He did all this that their love and joy overflow. “Rich wounds yet visible above in beauty glorified.” They see on His body - the marks left by all our sore abuse of Him. They see where the nails were driven, where the spear ran through, where the whip scarred his sacred back. All of which was our telling Him: You get out of our world and leave us alone! We don’t need you! To which He responded, “I love you and I forgive you and there is nothing you will ever be able to do that will make me hate you. I blot out your sin. I destroy your enemy the devil, I abolish your death!”

And seeing Him so they are changed, transfigured. Our epistle today said: “Beloved, now we are the children of God and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Merely having that hope, being baptized into it, already changes a person, but when that hope is realized, when you stare into the face of Him who loved you to the cross and resurrection, and has at last brought you home, you will be “like Him.” Seeing Him will change everything.

And so the crowd stares at this Lamb! Sings to this Lamb! Falls down before this Lamb, this Lord Jesus! That's why I kneel during the Words of Institution, for after the word of Jesus has been spoken over the bread, that bread is the Body of the Lamb; and after the word of Jesus has been spoken over the cup, that cup is the Blood of the Lamb. The Holy Liturgy offers a teasing taste of this as we are summoned to join their endless doxologies…with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.

And make no mistake about it: this is what makes a saint, to be part of this crowd, that from the heart sees Jesus as this Lamb, the One given for us, and so forever in love worships and praises Him! To ache for the day when we will see Him whom we have loved without seeing..

On the mountain Jesus sat and around Him gathered his disciples. And He spoke blessing on them as they looked into His face. But they would fully understand those blessings only when they came to know that the One blessing them was none other than their Lamb, the Lamb given them by the Father’s love. Blessings that would reach their ultimate fruition when they stand before Him with the whole crowd on that glorious day and experience the unspeakable comfort of a nail-scared hand, gently touching each face, wiping away every tear. Blessed indeed are all who in that crowd! Blessed are all who see and praise the Lamb! All saints! Amen.

05 November 2005

Purely Personal Joy

So David and I were talking about the trouble so many of his friends have with their parents - endless conflicts and arguments and constant misunderstandings. And he told me: "I tell them, I just don't get it. My parents are my friends." Is that cool or what? This week it was driven home to me how very blessed we are as a family, and I thank God for the joy and friendship we find in each other's company. It is surely an undeserved gift of God and to Him be the praise and thanks!

04 November 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

I have nothing. If anything is found in my possession, it is because Thou hast taken pity on me and given it to me. I am exceedingly poor; if I am to become rich it will all be a gift from Thee. It will all be Thine, just as it was Thine before. I beg only for grace - I confess that if I am to be saved, I shall be saved through Thee. - St. Ephrem, *A Spiritual Psalter* #128

03 November 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

"By no other means could we have attained to incorruptibility and immortality than by union with Incorruptibility and Immortality." St. Irenaeus, Refutations 3, XIX, 1

02 November 2005

A Radical Question

The Gospel reading from Matthew 25 - the sheep and the goats - a question that has bothered me for sometime is how can it possibly be that IF the sheep and the goats are those in the Church they could say to Christ: "When did we see you?" when we all know perfectly well that we meet our Lord in each and every person in need.

Could the "panta ta ethne" (all nations) here refer specifically to those who did not have the opportunity to hear the gospel? And yet who used the light of Christ (who enlightens every man coming into the world - John 1:4) to extend mercy to the suffering and whose sins Christ forgives?

I'm ducking, because I honestly don't know if it can be understood in this way. But it strikes me that in three parables of judgment in Matt 25 we might cover the church (the virgins), the pastors (the stewards), and those who never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel?

PLEASE note that I am not saying this is so. I am asking if it could be so. And if so, could it illumine Romans 2 - with its "their thoughts sometimes excusing them" and Acts 17 - with its He is not far from anyone of us.

Patristic Quote for the Day

"The resurrection shall not take place for the primary purpose of judgment but for the will of the Creator and the nature of creatures." Athenagoras, *On the Resurrection*, par. 14

01 November 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

He [Paul] scorned justification by the Law so that he might receive the justification of faith. And so he loudly proclaimed: "The things that were gain to me I have counted as loss for Christ." - Discourse III: VI.2 St. John Chrysostom