06 November 2008

"But Christ has a VISIBLE body"

Hijacking some words from David Schütz (and frequently bandied about by RC or Orthodox apologists as the argument that the corpus mysticum must then correspond to the visible corpus verum). And it is perfectly true: our Lord HAS a visible body. Do you see the body of the incarnate Lord now? No, you don't. What do the Apostles say?

"Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and full of glory." 1 Peter 1

and

"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that *when He appears* we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is." 1 John 3

Our Lord's very real body, born of the Most Blessed Virgin, is to us at the moment invisible, an object of faith. And this is so even in the Holy Eucharist. That will, of course, cease to be the case at the Parousia. Then we shall indeed "see Him as He is" and such seeing shall utterly transform us so that we shall be like Him. And, as St. Paul said in Colossians, "THEN we shall appear with Him in glory." (Col 3)

The Church, as an eschatological reality, remains in this age - the age that is coming to an end - essentially something UNSEEN. Hence, "I BELIEVE in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church." You can't see it. No Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox can see it. The Church isn't fractions; she's never less than the whole. And that's the vision of Church that we WILL see on the Last Day - the one assembly of all the saints, the people of God, gathered before the throne of God and of the Lamb. Think Revelation. Even for a Roman Catholic or an Orthodox Christian, the overwhelming majority of the Church remains NOT SEEN - for so many have died and been gathered to God's nearer presence awaiting the day of resurrection - and they, whom we do not see, are no less Church than we who continue to journey here below.

So don't give in to the apologists' argument on this one, dear Lutherans. The Church, as something eternal, is by very definition NOT SEEN (see 2 Cor. 4:18). The Church, as an object of faith, is by very definition NOT SEEN (Hebrews 11:1). And what saves this from falling into Platonism and the realm of mere ideas is the simple fact that to both of the above, the NT teaches us to add: YET. NOT SEEN YET, NOT SEEN FULLY IN THIS AGE. But she will appear - and it will correspond exactly to the appearing again of our Lord Jesus in the body He received from the Blessed Virgin - and what a glorious and joyous Day that will be!

58 comments:

orthodoxy hunter said...

Thank you and keep it coming. :)

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

You are correct but maybe over-emphasizing one side of the reality. This is likely in response to what you see as an over-emphasis on the visible nature of Christ and His Church by those in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

This is maybe a question of perception. I do not have an easy answer. However, I would add that both the bread and wine of the Eucharist, that is the Body and Blood of Christ, are truly visible and that our baptized brothers and sisters in Christ, that is the Body of Christ, are truly visible. I do have a concern with going totally invisible because this may be mistaken to treat our secular brothers and sisters in a good and proper way while, on the other hand, mistreating our Christian brothers and sisters. I think the Catholic and Orthodox understanding of the visible nature of Christ and His Church can add a balance, or needed corrective, for us when we are tempted to see faith as merely an invisible thing affecting only invisible realities. Here I am not responding to you per se but the topic as a whole. And, of course, the Scripture passages you cite mean what they say. Still, I am sure there are others that could be used to demonstrate the visible side too. No easy answer, just furthering the discussion.

William Weedon said...

Thank you, Fr. May (and Jen for the encouragement). There are aspects of the Church which are quite visible in this world. As we would say: "We are not dreaming of a platonic state, as some wickedly charge. But we do say that this church exists: truly believing and righteous people throughout the whole world." Real people do not a platonic state make! But the essential hiddenness of these real people AS one people with all who have been baptized into that one Body of the one Savior - this is a reality whose "seeableness" will take place finally and fully only at the joyous day of our Lord's appearing. Until then, the Church properly speaking - the ONE assembly of all believers - remains an object of faith.

I have become more and more convinced that attempting to "do" ecclesiology without BEGINNING with the eschatological nature of the Church ends up with distortion of what the Scriptures teach about her.

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

I am not sure what you mean by the eschatological nature of the Church as the beginning of ecclesiology or if I would fully agree. This needs further study on my part. The Eucharist must play a key role in this approach. With that I would agree. The creation of the Church is just as significant as to where she will end up - the Feast to come (a parallel maybe the creation of the world and the world without end.) So, what role would "looking back" have in an ecclesiology that begins the eschatological nature of the Church? Thank you for the discussion.

wmc said...

Thank you for these sound words. The corpus mysticum cannot be visible or it ceases to be a corpus mysticum (as in mysterion, that which is hidden). The Creed says it correctly when it confesses "we believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church."

Steven said...

But with all due respect Father May even in the Eucharist, the body and blood of our Lord and Saviour are hidden realties only "seeable" by faith in with and under the visible elements that can be seen with the eyes. In the same way that Christ's deity is hidden in, with, and under His humanity. I think it was Father Korby who said that between the Incarnation and the Unveiling of our Lord is the time for hearing.

William Weedon said...

Fr. May,

I mean that our thinking about Church needs to run FROM the eschaton where the Church will only finally and fully be revealed: the ONE assembly of all believers, gathered before the throne of God and the Lamb. Begin with understanding that THIS is Church and THIS is what will be finally apparent at the Parousia. Then we realize that nothing less than this is what it means to gather together AS CHURCH. We gather with this whole crowd - albeit the vast, overwhelming majority of those in the gathering are NOT SEEN and the assembly as ONE WHOLE is not seen. But when we come together at the Altar where the Lamb reigns in His sacrifice of love, in His body and blood, we are always gathered as one whole Body before Him.

And here's a point, I think, where Walther might have seen further than he is given credit for. For FINALLY, in that assembly as it rejoices eternally before the Lord, there is no "pastoral office." This office is needed for that time of overlap of the Ages before the final unveiling of the Kingdom; but it ceases HERE. Hence, the pastoral office does not belong to the essential nature of the Church, but is an accident of the HIDDENNESS of the Church in the current age - as under it, the One Lamb of God is pleased to be hidden as He carries out His service to His people, keeping them united to Him in saving faith until faith in things hoped for becomes faith in the Lord and His ONE Church that we can finally see and rejoice in forever.

Past Elder said...

Christ had a visible body when he was here on earth too, and that didn't seem to settle anything for unbelievers. For that matter, if he wanted a concrete body in which to be visible after he rose, he could have just hung around to end times, then, if you wanted to know what the deal was, just call him, and besides, a 2000 year old man is a pretty good argument all itself. And for that matter, even in the days when he DID hang around after he rose, he was known not in his phyical presence even when it was there, but in Word and Sacrament.

So we believe in the church as we believe in Christ. Yes Christ has a visible church body. A visible Word and Sacrament too, and in just the same way, not to the eyes, where presents itself a community, a book, bread and a cup, but to faith.

To go looking for it otherwise is like looking for Atlantis -- no matter what you think you've found, it's a pagan myth even if you're right.

William Weedon said...

Amen, Terry!

orrologion said...

Neither do you see body and blood in the Sacrament, and yet it is. Invisible and unseen aren't synonyms for not real.

Seeing is also dependent on what part of the body you are... and whether there is light.

William Weedon said...

Exactly, Christopher. Invisible and unseen are NOT synonyms for unreal. The Church may be VERY real in her life in this world without being visible and seen in her fullness - for now!

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

Thank you for these helpful responses. One example that I can think of that is both visible and invisible is the "communion of saints" or the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church" - on earth and in heaven. I know about the hearing in between now and then. Also, I know the elements in the Eucharist do not deny the hiddenness that is also there. Once again I believe it is both/and, that the Church on earth is as real as the Church in heaven. Then, as Fr. Weedon says in his response, we will rejoice in seeing both the Lamb and the one Church in heavenly glory. This is a mystery but it is both hidden and seen.

Schütz said...

Well, what a surprise. I have abandoned my family and gone to visit Pastor Fraser Pearce for the weekend and we were just looking at the blogs and lo and behold, Schütz appears on Weedon's blog!

There isn't much that I would add to what Pastor Timothy has said. Hidden visibility is still visibility. Christ while on earth (and after his resurrection, PE!) had a visible concrete body, but (even after his resurrection) his divinity was still "hidden" under his humanity. So, ixnay on the "invisible" but full agreement for the emphasis on "hiddenness".

And full agreement too on the emphasis on the necessity of faith. But one should not use that as an excuse for saying "unreal" - but that has also been said.

Yet one should say that faith is not necessary to see the thing itself. We confess that the bread of the Eucharist is the body of Christ. Anyone who sees the bread therefore also sees the body of Christ - even though they may not recognise it. Recognition of the visible, though hidden, reality requires faith.

I might refer you to Pastor Fraser's excellent blog on the "Formal and Material Principles" re Scripture (cf. here), which made me wonder whether it is healthy to make such a distinction between the "externam" and "internam" when we speak of the Scriptures (or the Incarnation or the Sacraments). The confession of the Catholic Church is that the Internam IS the Externam, if you get what I mean. Therefore, if you see the Externam, you see the Internam - even if you don't know what you are really looking at.

"Tangible", rather than "visible" is another way of looking at the issue. "Noli me tangere", Jesus told Mary Mag, but that implies that as a resurrected body he was truly tangible. He has not ceased to be tangible just because he has ascended into heaven. We can touch him in the Sacraments (and in his saints!). By touching the Externam we are truly brought into contact with the Internam - the best scriptural proof of this is Christ's word to Saul "Why are you persecuting me?" To persecute someone they have to be visible and tangible, not "an article of faith". QED, the Church is both visible and tangible, even if one still has to be knocked off their horse to realise what it is that they are seeing and touching.

Christine said...

And here is precisely the reason why the Incarnation plays out differently among Lutherans and Catholics. Our understanding of ecclesiology still has different emphases.

Christ is visible now in His Body, the Church and will be until the end of time. The Church was given some very specific marks to identify her as she walks on her pilgrim journey through this world. One only has to look at the wildly variant teachings of many Christian bodies to understand that.

That does not mean that every member of that visible Church is "saved" -- that will be revealed at the parousia.

Past Elder said...

The Incarnation plays out differently with us because we leave it at the Incarnation and don't abstract into a theological principle to justify all sorts of things.

You want some visibility, you guys? Here's what you do. Have your travel agent book you a flight to Omaha, tell the cabbie you want to go to St Mark Lutheran at 90th and Blondo, then get out and stare at the bleeder all you want.

That's how you get to the catholic church, but, that's not how you get to the catholic church.

Howzat.

William Gleason said...

Okay, the ramblings of this sociophobic Lutheran worm must become blogified here because the issue Fr. Weedon raised is IT…at least it is for this pastor. It is perhaps the (modern?) Lutheran’s Achilles’ heel. Maybe it takes a sociophobe to bring out the problem, because what we fear is being the focus of attention. You, Reader, do not see me, but I am here. Maybe you can see my avatar if it is allowed on your computer screen, but you definitely see my words. In my mind that means you see me. And that scares me. What scares me more is that God sees me.

All this discussion about what IS and what IS NOT, what can be SEEN and what cannot, is just fumbling with a slippery pig (greased, I believe, by President CFW Walther). Clearly the Lutherans are talking past the Papists and the Greeks, and vice versa. I don’t think the issue is so much on Visibility v. Invisibility; and I think the ‘both/and’ aspects of Visible and Hidden are true, most seem to agree. But the real issue is: on what ought we to FOCUS, that is, our heart and mind and soul. To put it another way, the question is not what is the object of our faith, or its reality, for we ALL know that He is Christ Jesus. The question in this age is: where do we see, AND KEEP ON SEEING, Jesus? Emphasizing the active and on-going here, or perhaps better is LIVING.

I know, you’re all probably saying, “Well, duh!”…particularly the non-Lutherans, but I’m addressing especially my Lutheran brethren who, like myself, seem to have difficulty seeing the hidden forest for the visible trees, which in this case is found in the surprising (to me) element Fr. Weedon inserted:

"And here's a point, I think, where Walther might have seen further than he is given credit for. For FINALLY, in that assembly as it rejoices eternally before the Lord, there is no "pastoral office." This office is needed for that time of overlap of the Ages before the final unveiling of the Kingdom; but it ceases HERE. Hence, the pastoral office does not belong to the essential nature of the Church, but is an accident of the HIDDENNESS of the Church in the current age - as under it, the One Lamb of God is pleased to be hidden as He carries out His service to His people, keeping them united to Him in saving faith until faith in things hoped for becomes faith in the Lord and His ONE Church that we can finally see and rejoice in forever."

Office, schmoffice! It’s the man! That imperfect, contemptible, damnable man (whom we respectfully call Pastor). What use is he?! A Lutheran today might want to say, “Well, none.” Or maybe, “Kinda.” Or “the pastoral office does not belong to the essential nature of the Church, but is an accident of the HIDDENNESS of the Church in the current age.” Slippery pig!

Let me say this as my stopping point: it seems to me that when the Lutherans kicked out the Bishop, they justified it because his office was only de jure humano. The thing is this, humano or not, that man is still linked to the divino jure in an inseparable way, a way that iconically represents Christ. Hence, the pastor qua Pastor (Bishop) may be seen as our living icon of Christ in our midst, a man through whom we may focus on the Man, Jesus Christ. And that also scares me.

My pitiful ramblings.

Christine said...

The Incarnation plays out differently with us

Well, glad we got that out of the way.

Even at the last ELCA parish I attended the congregation was shocked at the suggestion (of the pastor) that they employ an cross with a corpus of the Risen Christ in the sanctuary vis a vis the parish name of "Christ the Redeemer". No, they sputtered, we can't do that. It's too Catholic and besides we don't know what he looked like!" Typical midwestern Lutherans.

Ho hum.

At least the LCMS "mission down the street" still uses an empty cross.

For now.

Past Elder said...

Scares me too. If the Archbishop of Omaha is the living icon of Christ for me, holy crap, doesn't motivate me much to be a Christian but the living icon gig is great, better than Mike Murdoch's Boaz blessings -- the archdiocese recently plunked down about half a mil cash to buy him a retirement pad in a wealthy neighbourhood.

Silver and gold have I none indeed!

Still they give us what they have.

Nothing.

Christine said...

Oh well, the Omaha Archbish gets cancelled out by Archbish Sean O'Malley in Massachusetts whose simple lifestyle is a testament to his Francisican spirituality.

The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world. Those funds come primarily from the laity. We've got it over the Omaha Archbish.

At the Judgment the Archbish will be in good company with the Joel Osteens and other charlatans who don't practice what they preach.

Nothing new under the sun.

William Gleason said...

Past Elder,

I don't know anything about the Archbishop of Omaha, nor does he concern me. I know about myself, though. And I know that parishes I have served have many times plunked down a lot of cash for me (albeit far less than the amount you quote; boy, if only they did!) for which I was, and still am, most unworthy. Was it waste? If given for the sake of Bill Gleason, absolutely. If given for the sake of Pastor Gleason...well, I'll let the donors judge their own generosity and motivations.

Your apparent disapproval (please correct me if I'm wrong) of the living icon language, or "gig" as you put it, would illustrate exactly my point. You can't seem to differentiate between the man and the Bishop, neither (it seems) do you want to. Aware of your animosity toward the RCC, I still wonder if you might have the same attitude and say the same things toward a Lutheran pastor...I mean, only if he got on your wrong side, of course. Maybe I'm just misreading you. Forgive me if I am.

If you would agree that we may honor/respect our Pastor as our Shepherd in Christ, are we not really giving the honor to Christ Who bestows such gifts to the Church? And if we judge a bad bishop by his devilish actions, won't we also judge a good bishop by his Christlike actions? So our condemnation and our approbation are really not based on the man, but on the "spiritual reality" behind them. This is simply what I mean by iconic representation. I'm sure I am not doing justice to the doctrine.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gleason,

I think you are making a quite important point, and I appreciate it. In the Church's life in THIS age, Christ has indeed appointed and set into His Church those who stand in His stead and preach, teach, and administer His treasures at His command to bless His people, keeping them united to the Blessed Trinity by the saving faith that the Holy Spirit works through those means. The pastor as icon of Christ an be perfectly correct; but the difficulty is with the ICON - the seeing. The value of the Pastor is in HIS MOUTH. He's there to speak on the Lord's command the words that Christ has given Him to say. Significant, perhaps, that our Lord didn't tell the apostles that "whoever sees you, sees me" but "whoever hears you, hears me."

William Weedon said...

Christine,

LOL about the midwest Lutherans, for my experience is the exact opposite. It's so often on the coasts that one finds those barren barns with no images of our Lord. St. Paul's sports two in two d and one in 3 d. As an episcopalian visitor once said to me: "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. You must think it's all about Jesus." Bingo! The Church across the fields from us has the ascended Christ in triumph above the altar. The Church in Maryville sports a lovely crucifix upon the altar. The Church in Granite City does likewise, and upon the processional cross and with images in the stained glass. The church in Carpenter has a statue of the Savior above the altar. I could go on, but you get the idea. In these parts of the Midwest (in any case), you are MORE likely to see the Incarnate, Crucified, Risen and Glorified Lord depicted in our Churches - especially our rural ones - than not.

Past Elder said...

Judas at Foot Locker shopping for sandals, now we've got to pick and choose among living icons to find the REAL living icons? Well, I suppose when one's got to examine what the Catholic Church teaches in this or that parish to see if it's what the Catholic Church REALLY teaches, examine what the Catholic Church teaches in this or that school to see if it's what the Catholic Church REALLY teaches, get with all these changes in the church that aren't REALLY changes, why the hell not?

One thing about my living icon, he doesn't have a Victoria hanging around (or if he does, she'll be well out of sight). But at least you can get on a flight with him without worrying if his wife will go postal.

There's a TON of Lutheran pastors on my wrong side, starting with the clowns across town at the LCMS/Willow Creek megachurch, who seem to think, in the words of the lamentably now defunct Luther at the Movies blog, that worship should resemble an episode of American Idol.

My point in pointing out abuse isn't the abuse. Our beloved synod has been full of it since the scoop on Martin Stephan got out. The point is, we don't have the vested interest the RCC does. We haven't taken the way the church chooses its pastors and turned it into a sacrament, not to mention one upon which most of the other sacraments depend. So it's not the same if the "spritual reality" behind someone in the OHM turns out to be rotten or even not there.

I'm probably not doing justice to this doctrine either. I've lived under both ways, born and raised RCC, convert Lutheran. It ain't the abuses, liturgical, ecclesial, at the altar or the rectory back door, that's why I am not RC any more. What's behind the man in the OHM is the Word and Sacrament of Jesus Christ; what's behind the Roman priesthood (which I once considered joining, which I suppose would earn me all kinds of time in Purgatory if it existed) has Word and Sacrament in there someplace along with all kinds of stuff from the Roman priesthood it replaced as the Imperial state religion which, as the HRE and the Eastern Empire have crumbled into the dust of history, their state churches should too.

Then maybe we would have bishops who are bishops.

Now for Christine to come over the top rope with a flying elbow smash!

William Gleason said...

Perhaps that is where we Evangelical Catholics (Lutherans) differ from the Roman and Eastern Catholics. Still, in the biblical reference you aptly quote, the "you" to whom our Lord speaks and who are meant to be heard, are men, not abstractions; it takes a real man's mouth to preach, teach, and absolve, and actual hands to baptize and give the Lord's Supper. Otherwise, wouldn't the Bible alone be enough, as some assert?

And didn't Luther mean the same thing when he insisted that the Gospel needed to be preached, that is, spoken/proclaimed by a living, breathing preacher?

This seems to parallel Christ's words in John 6:63, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life."

I guess one of the things I am trying to understand is that in our effort to distinguish properly between the office and the man, don't we Lutherans fall into the trap of divesting the man from the office? That's why I was surprised but pleased to see your reference to the pastoral office turn up in a discussion on the Church. There is a correlation here, one that Rome and the EO seem to recognize, but that we Lutherans want to deny, or at least diminish. Not that I can pin it down. As I said, it is very slippery.

Thanks for your reply.

William Gleason said...

Past Elder,

You're a hoot! If only I understood everything you were saying. Anyway, by your closing words "Then maybe we would have bishops who are bishops" I'm glad to see you agree with me. :D

William Weedon said...

In her pilgrimage through this age to her full manifestation in the age to come, yes, of course, the Lord has divinely mandated and instituted shepherds to attend and serve His people in His stead and by His command. And they are quite visible - but what they are about is shepherding through SPEAKING, no? And not just any words THEY think up, but the joyful message Christ has given them to, which message of the cross is the power of salvation for those who are being saved. It's our food, our light, our clothing, our shelter, our all.

Past Elder said...

Thank you, Pastor G. I don't know what came over me here these last few posts, known as I am throughout the Lutheran blogosphere for my calm and measured discourse and altogether irenic tone.

We all wish the Reformation had "worked" and I don't think any of us thinks LCMS at any point in its history IS the catholic church or even the "evangelical Lutheran church" in which I publicly professed myself. Nor, I suppose I should add, do I think the formal boundaries of the Roman Church exclude the catholic church. For that matter, I'd sooner drink the blood of Christ with the Pope than get all purpose driven with Rick Warren.

Not to mention I could sit in with Jimmy Swaggart and blow your praise band out the door. I oughta go to sem even being 58 just to be the first LCMS pastor to hoop a sermon in the Common Service. (Yeah, I'm a page 15 kinda guy.)

I don't really think in this age we shall see a denomination where you say there, that's it, that's Christ's church, or at least the one in which its fulness subsists.

Which is back to our original point. I've seen both sides -- Catholics not reading the Bible because it's too Protestant and Lutherans not making the Sign of the Cross because it's too Catholic, to use these as examples of a much wider scenario. Not to mention what we've lost in the US to the influence of American Protestantism, which hardly began with Seminex or CCM.

For all of us, that ideal denomination lies in eternity, not here, but meanwhile the church is here, and not in any denomination, ideal or otherwise. Which is not at all to say it isn't visible, just to say you don't see it by the name on the church sign.

Sometimes I think if our pastors understood the Preface to the LC and all of us the rest of it, we'd be just fine.

William Gleason said...

Fr. Weedon,

Well, they speak the "audible sacrament", and hand out the "visible word". Right? And of course, all of it is nothing without the Word of God. Their speaking must be the Word of God, just as their acts must be the Word of God.

It is as Pastor Cwirla said, or at least alluded to, we are dealing with mysteries here. Yet, why do we NOT have a problem with the Sacrament of the Altar as a tangible, iconic presentation of Christ (by this I mean the Real Presence), but we have so much of a problem in the person of the pastor? I do not want to diminish the important distinctions around the Sacramental Presence of Christ's Body and Blood in the Lord's Supper, and the Ministry of the Word. But I think this is meant by the words of Apology XIII:

"But if ordination be understood as applying to the ministry of the Word, we are not unwilling to call ordination a sacrament. For the ministry of the Word has God's command and glorious promises, Rom. 1, 16: The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Likewise, Is. 55, 11: So shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth; it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please. 12] If ordination be understood in this way, neither will we refuse to call the imposition of hands a sacrament. For the Church has the command to appoint ministers, which should be most pleasing to us, because we know that God approves this ministry, and is present in the ministry [that God will preach and work through men and those who have been chosen by men]."

Maybe I'm just crosseyed. Or maybe the German and Latin say something different that I am reading in the English translation.

If it is not "where do we see, AND KEEP ON SEEING, Jesus", then through whom do we hear Jesus? I am open to correction here.

William Weedon said...

Nothing to disagree with there - that's why I said that "icon" could be correctly understood. Still, I note that when St. Leo the Great wished to point to the Lord, he didn't point to the priesthood, let alone the Church per se; he pointed to the Sacraments which the priesthood administers:

"Our Redeemer's visible presence has passed into the sacraments." - Homily on the Ascension

You know, my friend, we should have this conversation face to face, then we can spare our fingers the typing! :)

Past Elder said...

The important word is "if". If ordination be understood as applying to the ministry of the Word -- but it's not in the RCC.

It is a sacrament which imparts grace, in turn impressing on the soul an indelible character (along with Baptism and Confirmation) and THAT is what it is understood as applying to.

The importance of this cannot be overestimated. You (meaning you, not colloquial for one) could vest and say Mass exactly by the rubrics of the Roman Missal and preach a sermon Benedict XVI would preach, and you know what -- it ain't Mass and there's no Real Presence in the Eucharist (though lately they add that he may not be entirely absent either).

IOW, a Lutheran pastor and a Catholic priest could preside over exactly the same liturgy sermon and all, and one is valid and the other is not. Why? Nothing whatever to do with the "if", but with the lack of the indelible character imparted by the grace of Holy Orders giving you the ability to do it.

Which is a whole different thing than when an SSPX priest says a Tridentine Mass or an Orthodox priest a Divine Liturgy (oh what the hell, Mass) according to one of the Eastern Rites. These are valid too, sacramentally, though canonically illicit.

It's all about the "if".

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Pr. Weedon,

1. During the days of his earthly ministry, people could certainly point to Christ, could see him etc. He was most certainly visible and tangible.

When he ascended into heaven, he removed (for the most part) his visible presence from the earth. (Certainly Stephen, and Paul, and John, saw him after the ascension.)

But the things he *began* to do and to teach were continued after Pentecost by his body, the Church, which was most certainly as visible as he was during his earthly ministry. Everyone knew that the apostles and the community gathered around them were the Church. That community has continued in unbroken existence from that time to this.

(It strikes me, sometimes, that some Lutherans have a rather 'receptionist' ontology--that something *is* only in the practice of its characteristic function, and apart from that activity, steps into the shadows.)

In this life, we do not see the Head of the Body; but we most certainly see the Body of the Head.

2. To blind men *all* things are invisible--not because things in their nature are invisible, but because they are blind. The Eschaton has already broken in, at the coming of Christ (God *has spoken* in these last days...). Hence, even if we speak of the Church as visible in the eschaton, she must necessarily be visible now. That some do not see her is not a statement about her ontology, but rather about their epistemology.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

PS--I sometimes wonder if a discussion wouldn't progress better if either (a) the pedigree of the words chosen (e.g. 'hidden' or 'invisible' in this case) was made plain (not by quoting a Bible verse, but by seeing how this idea has been taught throughout the Church's life); or (b) the discussion was framed in somewhat different terms.

William Weedon said...

Father Gregory,

I'm a Lutheran, of course; so for me the witness of the Scripture is above all the way to go. In the comments I did cite that according to the great Pope St. Leo, the "visible" of Christ has passed precisely into the Sacraments (which, of course, was a rather broad term at that time in the Church).

The Church has indeed, or better said, IS indeed the breaking into this age of the Eschaton, but the nature of her existence in this age is precisely as a people oriented toward the unseen but certain future. The apostles are clear that she will not be seen for what she is (the one assembly of all believers) until Christ Himself is revealed in glory - "THEN we shall appear with Him." Meanwhile, it's "under the cross."

William Gleason said...

Fr. Weedon,

I look forward to the conversation.

Past Elder,

Of course, that is exactly what the Apology was referring to in that section, which starts out:

"The adversaries understand priesthood not of the ministry of the Word, and administering the Sacraments to others, but they understand it as referring to sacrifice; as though in the New Testament there ought to be a priesthood like the Levitical, to sacrifice for the people, and merit the remission of sins for others."

As you say, it is in the "if."

Also, agree with your previous post about denominational imperfections, as well as your preferences in "fellowship" (Pope v. Warren) and liturgy. Nevertheless, even though we might not find a perfect church or denomination, I think it is possible seek and find one with doctrinal and liturgical integrity. I think that the Lutheran Church as a denomination could be that, though most of the Lutheran bodies (synods, etc.) have compromised so much.

Fr. Hogg,

Your advice about using words that have a stronger ecclesiastical "pedigree" has merit. Piepkorn pointed out, for example, that the Confessions never use terms like invisible and visible church. However, I don't see why Bible verses should not be quoted (perhaps you mean exclusively). Even so, I think Fr. Weedon has been fairly consistent using patristic support in his blog. It is only a blog, after all, not a seminary course or church synod. It necessarily has limitations. :)

Past Elder said...

Pastor G, since we're new to each other's acquaintance, I might mention that when I first became Lutheran in 1996, it was in WELS, not LCMS. So I have been all over the map with you sacerdotal types, from a preconciliar altar boy who, if the priest didn't get the host on the tongue just right and you missed it with your paten, absolutely NO-ONE picked up that host but the priest, and then only with the fingers that had been consecrated, to finding out re the OHM that what is divine is the call, and the nature of the call, be it to pastor, teacher, administrator, elder, etc is human and they all equally have the divine call. Quite a jump. I just couldn't quite square the WELS take on the OHM with what I was reading in Tappert (it being before the McCain BOC). But what I was reading in Tappert squared exactly with what Scripture had to say, for that matter, what the RCC had to say except for all the hemming and hawing and stumbling over all sorts of stuff. So the LCMS understanding of the OHM was one of the big draws.

That and guys like you and PW and other confessional blogging pastors, where you can at least bring this stuff up without someone shouting "Adiaphora!" or "Christian Freedom" right away.

Throw in finding out about the Wauwatosa theologians and it was all over!

So I joined LCMS because, in the magnificent words of Pastor Lehmann, it's the worst synod in the world, except for all the others.

I most heartily agree that "it is possible seek and find one [denomination] with doctrinal and liturgical integrity. I think that the Lutheran Church as a denomination could be that, though most of the Lutheran bodies (synods, etc.) have compromised so much." I'm hoping LCMS can be that.

Now, before die Christine slides under the bottom rope and puts on the step over toe hold of saying Catholic communion reception isn't like that any more, I know, just making the point of the extremes.

William Weedon said...

Today's epistle from 1 Thes. 4 really drove home the same notion, by the way: that when Christ appears, then the Church will appear for what she is, the dead in Christ being raised first (and yes, the Apostle calls them DEAD) and then we who are alive being gathered with them to meet the Lord in the air. Thus, the whole Church appearing with the Lord at His parousia.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

He calls them "dead in Christ," not simply "dead." Elsewhere, though in some places he calls them "fallen asleep in Christ," he also calls them simply "fallen asleep" (which he never does in using the word "dead").

You'll need to unpack your thoughts on 1 Thessalonians 4 a bit, wrt to Church. I find it significant that the two times St. Paul refers to "church" in 1 Thessalonians, he is speaking of entities which can be pointed out (i.e. visible):

1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the *church* of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

1 Thessalonians 2:14 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the *churches of God* in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews...

I look forward to your unpacking this a bit more, as time permits (I've got 100 journals to go through, so my involvement may be rather spotty.).

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

Yes, of course, there and throughout the NT you have local churches referred to. But if you hold that together with what the Apostle teaches elsewhere (his spirit being gathered with the assembled local church when he is far away; the blessed dead being there; the angels there and so on), you realize that the specific eucharistic assembly of the baptized believers in each location manifests a far greater reality than can be observed. Hence back to Hebrews 12:22ff. Each specific eucharistic assembly of baptized believers is the visible at that place of a far greater invisible (or unseen) assembly that will finally and fully only be visible at the final Day, the Day without Evening in the Kingdom of our Father. THEN the Church shall be seen in her true nature. She's a great reality in this world even so, hidden beneath these various local gatherings. I think Staniforth rather nicely translated St. Clement of Rome's way of saying this with the term: "the colony of the Church at Rome." Or, as a Lutheran might be tempted to say: "marks of the Church" - signs that reveal the presence of the One Assembly under that rag-tag local assembly with its own internal tensions and struggles.

William Weedon said...

By the bye, did I ever share with you Luther's teaching on this in 1528. I just sent his words to a friend - I find them fascinating and beautiful. He's commenting on our Lord's prayer in John 17:

For to everyone who believes through the word of the Apostles, the promise is given for Christ's sake and by the power of this prayer, that he shall be one body and one loaf with all Christians; that whatever happens to him as a member for good or for ill, shall happen to the whole body for good or for ill, and not only one or two saints, but all the prophets, martyrs, apostles, all Christians, both on earth and with God in Heaven, shall suffer and conquer with him, shall fight for him, help, protect, and save him, and shall undertake for him such a gracious exchange that they will all bear his sufferings, want, afflictions, and he partake of all their blessings, comfort, and joy.

How could a man wish for anything more blessed than to come into this fellowship or brotherhood and be made a member of this body, which is called Christendom? For who can harm or injure a man who has this confidence, who knows that heaven and earth, and all the angels and the saints will cry to God when the smallest suffering befalls him?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

I have this annoying habit, I must confess, of wanting to have things laid out in a clear and simple manner. This habit leads to lots of questions about little things; but big ideas are built from decisions about such little things.

1. I note that you didn't respond to my pointing out the distinction between "dead" and "sleeping." May I take it that you agree with it?

2. Your statement about the church as local eucharistic assembly is true enough as far as it goes, but begs the question. Which communities are, indeed, 'local eucharistic assemblies'?
a. What constitutes a 'eucharist'? Do those local gatherings which deny Christ's true presence celebrate a eucharist? If not, would you deny the name 'church' to them (since the meaning of 'church' is, after all, closely connected to the point of this thread)?
b. St. Ignatius said "Let that be held a valid eucharist which is under the bishop or one to whom he shall have committed it." Do you agree with what he says here? How do you understand it--i.e.
i. what does he mean by 'bishop' here?
ii. what does he mean by 'committed' here?

You can see, I trust, that these questions are not tangential, but directly to the point of your speaking of the eucharistic community. [For me as an Orthodox priest, 'local eucharistic community' requires a succession of teachings (2a above) and teachers (2b above), existing in a communion fellowship.]

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Christine said...

In these parts of the Midwest (in any case), you are MORE likely to see the Incarnate, Crucified, Risen and Glorified Lord depicted in our Churches - especially our rural ones - than not.

Very true, Pastor Weedon. My thoughts weren't very well organized on that one. It's curious that in the ELCA congregation I quoted (located in Northeast Ohio) many of the members had Midwestern roots. That's why I was surprised by their iconoclastic attitude.

For PE:

Now for Christine to come over the top rope with a flying elbow smash!

Please, please -- with those kinds of accolades it's so easy to make me think more highly of myself than I ought --

Meanwhile, speaking of the search for perfection, as Greek and Armenian monks pummel one another,

"see how they love one another ..."

Past Elder said...

Well, as I ain't gonna be Orthodox and I ain't gonna be Catholic because Pastor's explanations of stuff look pretty good to me in light of Scripture, history and the Fathers so I'm gonna be Lutheran, just sign me:

The unworthy not even an elder any more,

Terry

Andrew said...

Maybe I'm thickheaded, but it seems to me that Apostolic Succession and the three-tiered ministry are pretty visible things.

Why are Lutherans against this again?

Forgive me if that's a stupid question.

William Weedon said...

Andrew,

Apostolic succession is not something anyone can see; it is something also that is believed. You can see one bishop lay hands on a priest, but who can see that that bishop's succession goes straight back to the Apostles? The three-fold office, can at best be a mark of the Church, but note that it didn't mark the APOSTOLIC Church - how weird is that?

Fr. Gregory,

About the dead and sleeping, I really wanted only to make the point that when sometimes Lutherans are chastised for referring to the dead in Christ, and told: "They are ALIVE in Him" (something, of course, we grant), the language of the "dead in Christ" is apostolic.

The Eucharist is constituted by a local assembly of baptized believers in which a called and ordained servant of the Word takes, blesses, and distributes the bread and wine with Christ's own words and at His command so that the baptized believers in that place receive the Savior's body and blood for the forgiveness of all their sins. Why do you ask a question to which you know the Lutheran answer? The bishop to which St. Ignatius referred, of course, was the ordinary president of the LOCAL eucharistic assembly and could hunt up the members by name. I think the nearest reference to what he called bishop in his day is what we call pastor in ours. One authorized by him obviously refers to the presbyters, whom he distinguishes from the bishop (though this distinction is not observable in the NT or in some other early writings, as you know). A bishop was the earthly head of the Eucharistic assembly, in St. Ignatius' theology, standing in the place of God the Father to offer the gift of the life that is in the Son.

For a Lutheran, a local eucharistic assembly requires the baptized believers in that place, a man whom they have called to serve in the one undivided office of the ministry and who has been ordained to that office by fellow presbyters, and the elements used in accordance with the Savior's Words of Institution.

You think:
Bishops in apostolic succession are required
Lutherans have no bishops
Lutherans have no Eucharist.

We deny the middle premise, for we insist that there is no apostolic difference between a presbyter and a bishop. "I ordain AND CONSECRATE you to the office of the holy ministry in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church."

William Weedon said...

Oh, and obviously, denying the second premise, we deny the conclusion - as Terry said!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon, you wrote:

PW: About the dead and sleeping, I really wanted only to make the point that when sometimes Lutherans are chastised for referring to the dead in Christ, and told: "They are ALIVE in Him" (something, of course, we grant), the language of the "dead in Christ" is apostolic.

FG: I, for one, would not chastise anyone for speaking of the dead *in Christ*, because that expression is delightfully oxymoronic and thoroughly biblical. But to speak of them simply as dead is to let the fallen world's judgment rule the Christian faith.


WW:The Eucharist is constituted by a local assembly of baptized believers in which a called and ordained servant of the Word takes, blesses, and distributes the bread and wine with Christ's own words and at His command so that the baptized believers in that place receive the Savior's body and blood for the forgiveness of all their sins. Why do you ask a question to which you know the Lutheran answer?

FG: Because, dear Pr. Weedon, it appears not to have a single Lutheran answer anymore, as you know and endorse. But beyond that, it's also worth noting that for Lutherans the eucharist is constituted 'from below to above', as your own answer reveals. (One minor change to your answer: not the baptized believers, but the confirmed Lutheran believers receive, right?)


WW:
The bishop to which St. Ignatius referred, of course, was the ordinary president of the LOCAL eucharistic assembly and could hunt up the members by name. I think the nearest reference to what he called bishop in his day is what we call pastor in ours. One authorized by him obviously refers to the presbyters, whom he distinguishes from the bishop (though this distinction is not observable in the NT or in some other early writings, as you know). A bishop was the earthly head of the Eucharistic assembly, in St. Ignatius' theology, standing in the place of God the Father to offer the gift of the life that is in the Son.

FG: Yes, of course, because St. Ignatius writes before the rapid growth of Christianity led to the development of parishes. Here, it seems to me, is a fundamental difference between us: for Lutherans, the episcopal office arises from the priestly office; for Orthodox, the priestly office arises from the episcopal office. Let those who read history judge which is more accurate.

WW:
For a Lutheran, a local eucharistic assembly requires the baptized believers in that place, a man whom they have called to serve in the one undivided office of the ministry and who has been ordained to that office by fellow presbyters, and the elements used in accordance with the Savior's Words of Institution.

FG: Then, I gather, some of the parishes with whom you are in communion fellowship are not Lutheran--is that right?

WW:
You think:
Bishops in apostolic succession are required
Lutherans have no bishops
Lutherans have no Eucharist.

We deny the middle premise, for we insist that there is no apostolic difference between a presbyter and a bishop. "I ordain AND CONSECRATE you to the office of the holy ministry in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church."

FG: Yes, I suppose for Lutherans there is a great mystery in Ignatius. How did a man so closely attached to the Apostles, so thoroughly misunderstand their clear teaching as to set up a threefold office? How did the Church, which always fought against innovations, so meekly accept this revolution? Your problem is not that you have no bishops, according to your understanding of that term. Your problem is that you have far too many of them, right?

Christine said...

We deny the middle premise, for we insist that there is no apostolic difference between a presbyter and a bishop. "I ordain AND CONSECRATE you to the office of the holy ministry in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church."

Well, Martin of Tours, with his vocations of bishop and monastic, would not have seen it that way. No sola scriptura for him.

But I respect the LCMS position far more than I do that of the ELCA with their current "ecclesiastical" structure, really just a higher administrative post as regards "bishops". They let the Episcopal church bully them into that one just fine (not to mention that there is no such thing as a "lady bishop".

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

I'll decline to go round and round with you on this yet one more time. You know where the position of your church and mine differ on the topic; and I think you have to read the Fathers with blinders on (and you think the same of me).

Christine,

Jerome - same century as St. Martin - saw matters differently. Somehow that great one of the four doctors of the Western Church tends to be ignored on this question. If Jerome saw things differently, why would you suppose St. Martin of Tours wouldn't agree with St. Jerome? After all, St. Jerome has the Scriptures to back him up!

Christine said...

Pastor Weedon,

Jerome was an extreme ascetic (one reason he is generally not popular in Protestant circles, especially with good Father Martin Luther), not an episkopoi.

Here's a couple of interesting (Catholic) snippets about him:

Jerome was a strong, outspoken man. He had the virtues and the unpleasant fruits of being a fearless critic and all the usual moral problems of a man. He was, as someone has said, no admirer of moderation whether in virtue or against evil. He was swift to anger, but also swift to feel remorse, even more severe on his own shortcomings than on those of others. A pope is said to have remarked, on seeing a picture of Jerome striking his breast with a stone, "You do well to carry that stone, for without it the Church would never have canonized you"

And a quote:


In the remotest part of a wild and stony desert, burnt up with the heat of the scorching sun so that it frightens even the monks that inhabit it, I seemed to myself to be in the midst of the delights and crowds of Rome. In this exile and prison to which for the fear of hell I had voluntarily condemned myself, I many times imagined myself witnessing the dancing of the Roman maidens as if I had been in the midst of them: In my cold body and in my parched-up flesh, which seemed dead before its death, passion was able to live. Alone with this enemy, I threw myself in spirit at the feet of Jesus, watering them with my tears, and I tamed my flesh by fasting whole weeks. I am not ashamed to disclose my temptations, but I grieve that I am not now what I then was" ("Letter to St. Eustochium").

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Pr. Weedon,

I rather thought it would end as it has, but I thought it worth trying, if only because there is a substantive point between us that is not doctrinal, but historical in nature. Did the presbyteral office derive from the episcopal office, as I'm saying, or did the episcopal office derive from the presbyteral office, as you're saying?

In other words, (1) did the apostles put bishop-pastors in each major city, with a group of presbyters beneath each of them, and then later on some of those presbyters were assigned a 'parish satellite' from the mother church, where the bishop resided; or (2) did the apostles put pastor-bishops in each parish, and then later on groups of those pastor-bishops elected one of their own as bishop, and have him serve, with a de iure humano distinction from them only, in the main parish?

(I'm trying to state this as objectively as possible.) Your view seems to require a history like (2) above; mine seems to require a history like (1) above. This matter should be possible to unpack historically, I'd think.

In Christ,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

That is of course THE question historically. Again, I'll ask, what did St. Jerome teach on that question? See Letter 146 to Evangelus. Of course, appealing to Jerome alone can't answer the question historically, but it does show what a great fourth century father taught on the question - and he was closer to the time than we are! Further evidence might be the term "succession of presbyters" which Irenaeus employs or the manner that Didache 15 can say:

Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, 1 Timothy 3:4 and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers.

Pax!

William Weedon said...

One last: while Ignatius was no doubt close to the apostles, can we not say the same of St. Clement of Rome? Polycarp? Yet this idea is not present in either.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

St. Jerome's letter is indeed interesting. It's written to refute the idea that deacons are equal to presbyters, as you know.

But he can't be arguing for the identity of the presbyteral and episcopal offices; for he says, "what function, *excepting ordination*, belongs to a bishop that does not also belong to a presbyter?" When, then, in this letter he says that "presbyters are the same as bishops," he can't be meaning that _simpliciter_; if he did, he would be contradicting himself (since he himself, in context, notes a distinction of function). He is, rather, grouping presbyters and episcopoi over against diakonoi--the whole point of the letter in context.

Just as, in that same letter, he notes that presbyters/episcopoi are higher than deacons because they have a function that deacons don't have--viz, the ability to confect the Eucharist, so also, when he says that episcopoi have a function that presbyters don't, he must be understood to set the bishops above the presbyters. And just as the ability to confect the eucharist belongs to one and not the other _de iure divino_, so must the ability to ordain set bishops above presbyters _de iure divino_. At the very least, the burden of proof falls on those who would make it de iure humano.

The unworthy presbyter,

Fr. Gregory

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

The evidence of the Didache, coming from well within the first century, must be understood in its historical context. The arising of a presbyteral office in a parish setting would occur naturally as the Church grew in the second century, and began to have multiple parishes in the same city.

The apostles appointed bishops (as even Dr. Luther testifies) in a sole location in a city (since the bishop was there, let's call it a 'cathedral'), and with those bishops, councils of presbyters. As the church grew to have multiple parishes in the same city, the bishop would delegate the task of presiding at eucharist at the outlying altars to some of his elders. But the presbyter/parish paradigm we're familiar with is an outgrowth of an earlier bishop & presbyters/cathedral paradigm. And the distinction of bishops/priests/deacons must have been there in principle from the beginning; otherwise, its rise and acceptance without argument is inexplicable historically. Here, too, Jerome notes the acceptance of a change in Alexandria without controversy. He also testifies to the episcopacy as a "more exalted position". That the presbyters elected a bishop in Alexandria is not evidence that the bishop is the same rank as the presbyter; it shows how men were placed into the office at a specific time in history, just as the "choose for yourself elders and deacons" you cite doesn't imply that elders and deacons are of the same rank as the laity.

The unworthy presbyter,

Fr. Gregory

William Weedon said...

No, I don't think you can get a jure divino out of that letter:

"But at a later date the choice of one who was placed ahead of the others was undertaken as a remedy against schisms, lest some one person by attracting a following would rend the Church of Christ. Thus at Alexandria from St. Mark the Evangelist down to the bishops SS. Heraclas [d. 247] and Dionysius [d. 265], the presbyters always chose one of their own number whom they would place on a higher level and call their bishop, just as if an army were to make an emperor, or deacons would choose out of their midst one whose diligence they knew and call him archdeacon." THEN comes the sentence: "For apart from ordination, what does a bishop do that a presbyter does not do?"

And so in his commentary on Titus (1:5) he writes "On that account these things as we demonstrated that among the ancients presbyters and bishops were the same, but gradually, in order that the emerging shoots of dissension might be plucked out, the whole responsibility was transferred to a single person. Therefore, as presbyters know that they are subject to the one who has been placed over them by an ecclesiastical custom, so the bishops should know that they are greater than presbyters more through custom than through the verity of an ordinance of the Lord and that they ought to rule the church in common."

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

I didn't say that presbyters/bishops and deacons were of the same rank as the laity. Of course you believe that it must have been there from the beginning; but this is an assumption that I do not believe the witness of the apostles' teaching from the New Testament bears out. In fact, on the matter of the three fold office, St. Ignatius is such a lonely witness in his time that some scholars have posited, as you know, that his epistles cannot be authentic. I don't believe that, though I recognize that scholarly debate continues. I believe he was seeking to ESTABLISH a norm that was not present elsewhere - either in Rome (Clement) or in Asia Minor (Polycarp).

orrologion said...

Invisible and unseen are NOT synonyms for unreal. The Church may be VERY real in her life in this world without being visible and seen in her fullness - for now!

Sorry for the very belated response. Hope all is well with you and yours. Our 10 week old baby and my being absent in NYC much of the week at work has me behind.

I was afraid you were going to go for this interpretation of the metaphor. Ah, sleep addled brain of mine.

While it is true that one may not discern the Lord's Body and Blood, one doesn't see nothing, we see bread and wine. I would argue that the marks of the Church are more tangible and physical than a minimal, subjective mark such as "the Gospel rightly preached [whatever that means] and the Sacraments [whatever that means".

Of course, not discerning can also mean there is nothing there.

Lucian said...

Was Christ's body unseen the whole time also, since we do confess to believing Him being made flesh of the Holy Ghsot and of the Virgin Mary? (Seriuously, is this the BEST You can do?)

Nick said...

It sounds as though this essay by John Behr may be related:
http://www.svots.edu/Faculty/Fr_John_Behr_Category/The_Church_in_Via/