31 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

From St. John Cassian:

"The thief who received the kingdom of heaven, though not as the reward of virtue, is a true witness to the fact that salvation is ours through the grace and mercy of God." - On the Eight Vices.

30 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

More St. Ephrem...

Behold, let no one say: I have committed many sins - there can be no forgiveness for me. He who says this does not know that God is the God of the penitent, that He came to earth not to save the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance, and that when someone repents the heavens rejoice over him.

True repentance consists in withdrawing from sin and nurturing hatred for it. For, lo, when someone says from his heart: I have hated deceit and been repelled by it - then God accept him with joy.

But behold, also let no one dare to say: I have not sinned. He who says this is blind; he has shut his eyes. He deceives himself and knows not that Satan is robbing him blind - both in word and deed, through all of the senses, sight, hearing, and touch, and through thoughts. For who can boast that he has an innocent heart and that all his senses are pure?

No one is sinless, no one is clean of defilement, no man is free from guilt except Him alone Who for our sake was impoverished, though He was rich. He alone is sinless Who took the sins of the world, wants all men to be saved, desires not the death of the sinner, and is a lover of mankind, abundantly benevolent, kindhearted, and sincerely loving.

Let us also run to Him, for all sinners who have run to Him have found salvation! (Spiritual Psalter, #126)

Halloween Fright Fest

Ack! My son went Goth for a halloween party last night! Fright fest!!!!

29 October 2005

Reformation Reflections

Tonight and tomorrow St. Paul's will mark Reformation.

I recently heard a pastor suggest that the appropriate color for Reformation is not red, but violet. This in recognition that the Reformation had the sad result of fracturing the Western Church. Those who beat their rah-rah Go Lutheran! drums on this day are pure sectarians.

Someone recently put it this way: Picture Martin Luther looking forward - 30,000+ denominations. Picture Martin Luther looking backwards - 2 "denominations" (at least of the Chalcedonian variety).

No Christian can look at the schism in the Christian Church with glee. It remains a tragedy for the saving Gospel and a triumph of Satan.

Reformation seems a very good day, then, to pray for the Church and her unity, and we know that what we ask may be impossible from the human point of view - but what does that matter? It is not impossible to God!

As we so often sing:

"Give Thy Church,
Lord, to see
Days of peace
And unity.
O Lord, have mercy!"

Ut unum sint! Amen!

Lengthy, but worth it - Patristic quote of the day

Every once in a while you'll hear that the problem with our Orthodox friends is that they just don't take sin seriously enough. This morning I was reading again from *A Spiritual Psalter* by St. Ephrem, a very common book of devotion used among Orthodox, and this meditation struck home both for its unrelenting law and its sweet Gospel. It's rather long, but I wanted to share it with you all:

Take an interest, at last, in your salvation, O sinner. Seclude yourself, collect your thoughts, and say to yourself: how much time have you spent feeding the lusts of your flesh and imagination, and what benefit has it brought you; what have you attained by doing this? Alas, my soul, what a state we have reached, what disorder!

Look - everyone around me is adorned with virtues and truly fears God; but I alone walk in darkness. Early in the morning do I repent of my deeds, yet a short while later I commit even worse errors. The Lord has given me strength and health and lo! I take this for granted and incur the wrath of my Creator.

Why art thou so apathetic, O my soul? Why art thou so careless? After all, thou canst not stay here forever. When the end comes, the Lord will send His angel to get thee and thou wilt have to leave this place whether thou so want or not. What then?

Acknowledge at last your extreme wretchedness, O man, and stop contradicting Him who created you and opposing His commands. Boldly say to the enemy who seduces you:

You, O devil, made me an object of shame for angels and men when I took your irreverent advice. You inspired me to think: for once I will satisfy my craving and lo! this small act became for me a great abyss and I gave myself up to your shameful desires. The water found a small crack and made it a big crevice.

You have clouded my mind with impure thoughts and hurled me fromsin to sin. You have anhilated my restraint on the pretext of bodily infirmity. You have alienated me from prayer and vigilance. You have implanted in me love for money, excusing this with teh approaching long years of old age. You have dried up my tears. You have hardened my heart. You have made me stray from obedience to Christ. You have multiplied my distractions. You have made me insubordinate. I have reached the point where I fail to labor over needful things and occupy myself with vain endeavors instead. You have taught me envy and slander. You have made me haughty, irritable and wrathful. You have taught me gluttony, drunkenness and sensuality. You have trained my thoughts to scatter while I read and sing psalms; thus I pray and do not know for what; I read psalms and meanwhile I surrender my thoughts to unrestrained wanderings.

Having thus exposed the wiles of the enemy, tell him with conviction: I have had enough of you, O devil. And leave the evil one and join yourself to the man-befriending God. Are you wounded? Despair not. Have you fallen? Get up and say bravely: now I have begun. Fall down before your Merciful Master and confess your sins.

But before you say anything He will already know what you intend to say. Before you open your lips, He will see what is in your heart. You will not be able to say: "I have sinned", before you see Him stretch forth His hands to receive and embrace you.

Approach with faith and He will cleanse you straightway as He cleansed the leper, lift you from your bed as He lifted the paralytic, and raise you from the dead as He raised Lazarus. - Spiritual Psalter, #122

28 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

On the Eucharist:

"That Sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the Word of Christ." - St. Ambrose, On the Mysteries IX.52

"The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: 'This is My Body.' Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feels what the voice speaks." - St. Ambrose, On the Mysteries IX.54

27 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

If you want with few words to benefit one who is eager to learn, speak to him about prayer, right faith, and patient acceptance of what comes. For all else that is good is found through these. - St. Mark the Ascetic, *On Those Who Think They Are Righteous by Works*

Lutheran Eye for the Quia Guy

(Quia means one subscribes the Lutheran Confessions BECAUSE they are a faithful exposition of Scripture - every Lutheran likes to think he's a quia. The nasty alternative is quatenus - subscribing insofar as the Confessions agree with Scripture. What follows is a test of your quianess. Enjoy!)

True or False:

1. Virginity is a higher gift than marriage.
2. Mary prays for the Church
3. Mary is called the most holy virgin
4. Prayer for the dead is not useless
5. It would be wicked thing for private absolution to disappear from the church
6. The bread in the Lord’s Supper is Christ’s body.
7. Pastors do not commune those they have not examined and absolved.
8. Mary is the Mother of God.
9. Justification can mean “to declare righteous” or “to make righteous” because Scripture speaks both ways.
10. 2 Maccabees is Scripture.
11. In the Eucharist the flesh of Christ given for the life of the world is our food and makes us alive by joining us to Christ.
12. We should teach people that church rites (made by humans) are to be kept if they can be observed without sin and contribute to peace and good order.
13. The best way for the Church to be governed is to have one head, Christ, and all the bishops – equal in office – keep diligently together in unity of teaching, faith, sacraments, prayers and works of love.
14. When the church is deprived of valid judicial process, you can’t remove ungodly teachings and impious forms of worship.
15. An ordination performed by a pastor in his own church is valid by divine right.
16. Children should be taught to make the sign of the cross.
17. The baptized children of God have free will and cooperate with the Holy Spirit.
18. After Baptism, the inborn corruption is to daily decrease so that we become increasingly gentle, patient, and meek, breaking away from greed, hatred, envy, and pride.

If you got 18 statements as true, congratulations!!! You really are a quia!

26 October 2005

Personal Notes...

I realize every day how much more I love my children. I wish I could spend more time with them. But Lauren is away at college, David is busier than ever with Tae Kwon Do, work, and play practice, and Bekah is rather involved with a young gentleman named Shawn. How did they grow up so fast?

Cindi continues to be the mainstay of my life. She is so beautiful, so kind, and always so damned organized. She keeps our lives running with her lists. Deo gratias!

I thank God for my vicar - and his heart for people. I thank God for Marianne and her devotion. I thank God for Robert and his plugging away at the choir no matter how many disappointments and setbacks plague the way. I thank God for Sandy and all the realism she brings. I thank God for Richard and the school, and all the little ones.

I say a special thanks to God for Worden calling Heath Curtis to be their pastor and pray that he may accept their call.

I am tired of itching. Skin ailment going on for a while now. It's driving me batty.

I am looking forward to getting away for a few days with Sandy, Matt, Katie, Cindi, Bekah and David in November.

I am deadly tired of the LCMess, and find even discussing the topic a bore. What's the point?

I hate it when friends are alienated and look forward to the great reunion at the Supper of the Lamb in heaven.

And I thank God for the foretaste of the feast here and now.

Enough "i, I, I" Thy will be done. Amen!

Who said it?

A bit of a falderall over my insisting that John 6 was applicable to the Sacrament at Higher Things last summer. I wonder if those who object would object to putting the matter this way:

The sacrament was instituted for the consolation and encouragement of terrified hearts, when they believe that the flesh of Christ, given for the life of the world, is their food, and when they believe that they are made alive by being joined to Christ.

Anyone take a guess who said it, when and where?

Patristic Quote for the Day

St. Ephrem again - really gotta love this guy:

Praise to Him who descended to us in human form!
Praise to the Invisible One who became visible for our sake!
Praise to the Eternal One who tasted death for us!
Praise to the Mysterious One whom no mind can comprehend, and who through His grace made Himself manifest by taking on flesh!

Blessed is He whose good will brought Him to His mother's womb and bosom, to be born and reared!
Blessed is He who partook of death and thus granted life to mankind!

Blessed is He who made our flesh a dwelling place for His mysterious being!
Blessed is He who declared to us His mysteries in our own tongue!

Praise to Him who liberated us, having been bound for our sake!
Glory to Him who is plenteous in mercy, who has redeemed us without taking anything in return!
Praise to the Judge who accepted condemnation for our sake!

(A Spiritual Psalter, #118)

25 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

"The Kingdom of heaven is not a reward for works, but a gift of grace prepared by the Master for his faithful servants." - St. Mark the Ascetic, *On Those Who Think They Are Made Righteous By Works* par. 2

24 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Beautiful prayer from St. Ephrem, the Syrian:

Our Lord Jesus, O venerable King, Who by Thy suffering hast vanquished death the torturer; O Son of God Who hast promised us new life and the heavenly Kingdom, remove from us all harm, that Thy grace might dwell in us, so that in the day of Thy coming we might come out to meet Thee in accordance with Thy good will, that we might behold Thee and stand before Thee with joy.

Blot out our sins with Thy forgiveness, that we might praise Thy name because of Thine acts of kindness. Vouchsafe all of us, O Lord, according to Thy grace to glorify and worship Thy divinity.

May the eyes that here have seen Thy glory there behold Thy great mercy. May the ears that here have heard the sound of Thy words hear there also the sounds of rejoicing. May the lips that here have glorified Thee in Thy churches be vouchsafed there also to sing praises to Thee. May the tongue that here has cried "Holy, holy, holy" there also be turned to praise Thee. May the hands that have held Thy flesh and blood receive from Thee pardon from debts. May the feet that have entered the holy temple there also walk about the dominion of life.

Send our congregation, our brotherhood that worships Thy divinity, the entire fullness of Thy saving gifts. May Thy supreme love remain with us, and may it make us worthy to offer Thee due praise.

Open Thy door to our prayer, and may our service be pleasing to Thee.

Turn to us, O Good One, according to Thy compassion; and drive away from us all harm, that we might ceaselessly praise thee, O Lord, and Thy Father and the Holy Spirit.
- A Spiritual Psalter, #106

23 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Double dose today!

"He is the Cause of all causes, although not of all choices." - St. Augustine, City of God, Book V, Chapter 8

"We can learn this, too, [it is] the remission of sins which makes us citizens of the Eternal City." - St. Augustine, City of God, Book V, Chapter 17

22 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Adornment of our prayer, O Jesus, fortify our supplication, that it might ascend with Thee to Thy Father and obtain for us the object of our request!

Through Thy loving-kindness Thou defendest us before Thy Father, for Thou art the chosen sacrifice, offered for the world.

For Adam, who tasted the fruit, Thou didst embrace the pillar at the judgment place. For Adam's children, who sinned before Thee, the executioners pierced Thee with nails.

Thou hast taken upon Thyself the common debt of all in order to pay it back to Thy Father - pay back also, O guiltless Lord, those sins with which our freedom has indebted us.

Thou hast redeemed us from the curse of the law by Thy precious blood. Deliver also those redeemed by Thy blood from harsh justice.

--St. Ephrem the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #102

20 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Even our virtue in this life, genuine as it is because it is referred to the true goal of every good, lies more the pardoning of sins than in any perfection of virtues. Witness the prayer of God's whole city, wandering on earth and calling out to him through all her members: 'Forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.' - St. Augustine, City of God, Book XIX:chapter 27.

19 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

No man must be so committed to contemplation as, in his contemplation, to give no thought to his neighbor's needs, nor so absorbed in action as to dispense with the contemplation of God. - St. Augustine, City of God, Book XIX: Chapter 19

18 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Since our Lord Jesus Christ was without sin, "because he hath done no
iniquity, he who taketh away the sin of the world, neither was there deceit
in his mouth," He was not subject to death, even though death had by sin
entered into the world. As so for our sakes He submits to death and dies
and offers Himself to the Father as a sacrifice for us. For we had offended
Him and it was necessary for Him to take upon Himself our redemption that we
might thus be loosed from the condemnation - for God forbid that the Lord's
blood should have been offered to the tyrant! Wherefore, then, death
approaches, gulps down the bait of the body, and is pierced by the hook of
the divinity. Then, having tasted of the sinless and life-giving body, it
is destroyed and gives up all those it had swallowed down of old. For, just
as the darkness entirely disappears when light is let in, so is destruction
driven away at the onset of life, and life comes to all, while destruction
comes to the destroyer. - St. John of Damascus, *On the Orthodox Faith*
Book III, chapter 27

17 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

"The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together." - St. John Chrysostom, Homily 20 on Eph 5

16 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

"I am the food of grown men. Grow and you shall feed upon me. And you will not, as with the food of the body, change me into yourself, but you will be changed into me." - St. Augustine, Confessions VII:10 - a passage which clearly informs Dr. Luther's nearly identical comments on the Holy Eucharist.

15 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

"High position is no excuse for pride; it is faith and love that are everything, and these must come before all else." - St Ignatius of Antioch, Smyrneans 6

Thought for the Day

A point that Schmemann made (in that outstanding work *The Eucharist*) that helped me through an impasse...

I was always taught by my favorite teacher to beware of an understanding of salvation that gets the job done by way of incarnation and makes the sacrifice of the cross extraneous.

But a whole different light is shed upon this when one realizes that sacrifice, the giving and pouring out of one's life for another and into another, is simply the heart of the Blessed Trinity, for this is how the Divine Persons constantly relate to themselves, and in this sense, our Lord's incarnation is already sacrifice - the pouring out of His life to give us life, giving Himself to us.

The cross is in every sense the culmination of this giving of Himself to us, but we should not narrowly think of sacrifice as involving suffering and death. If sacrifice involves suffering and death in "this world" it is not because of the nature of sacrifice but because of the nature of "this world" - its essential falleness is revealed in its rejection of the sacrificial love of God.

This also sheds some light on the Eucharist as sacrifice. Of course, under the definition offered above it would be sacrifice precisely in the sense that here our Blessed Lord continues to pour His life, His forgiveness and His love into us AS our life. His life in us!

14 October 2005

Thought for the Day

From something I posted over on the Lutheran-Orthodox Dialog...

The Reformation's essential insight might be summarized as "but this [wrath, the opus alienum of God] is not the deepest truth about God; the deepest truth about God is that He is for you and loves you in Christ." The East seems to be saying, "It's not only the deepest truth, it's the only truth!"

The thing that makes many Lutherans nervous about the Eastern approach, I think, is that they fear that it makes Aslan a tame lion. We all know He is NOT a tame lion. And His love with which He loves us IS a consuming fire.

I was thinking of how Voyage of the Dawn Treader helps us get at this. Do you remember when Eustace had turned into the dragon, and in the water the Lion rips through the dragon's hide with his claws to set Eustace free?
There's terror there, alright. It is the terror because we have grown rather comfortable in our dragon's skin and the thought of having it painfully stripped from us terrifies the daylights out of us. But it is Love that extends the nails and Love that rips through the skin and Love that causes us such pain in order to set us free.

When one reads St. Ephrem's Spiritual Psalter it becomes clear to me that the East knows that it is LOVE who is doing all this, but that it is still terrifying and hurts. In other words, the thing that the West fears if you lose the vicarious satisfaction language (that Aslan becomes a pussycat) is far, far from the case.

What is most striking to me of late is that in the West it seems we have made the cross be what it was not - we have tried to see in it God's wrath at human sin (and I think that very well may be a projection) instead of
seeing the horror of what it really is: human wrath directed at God's love. But glory be to Jesus, in Him is a love as strong as death, yes, stronger! Stronger than our hatred! Stronger than our rejection and fears! A love that pardons us in the moment that gathers together into one the very meaning of all human sin: the telling of God to get out of OUR world and leave us alone. His answer is: No, I will not leave and leave you alone, for I am your life and you can't make me hate you! I love you, I forgive you.


Homily for Trinity 21

Homily for Trinity 21 (2005) [Hosea 13:14 / Eph 6:10-17 / John 4:46-54)

His child was dying, and he knew that he was helpless. No human being has the strength to fend off that Monster once it grabs hold. With pitiless intensity it gobbled up the very life of his child and he had zero power against it.

But then he heard that Jesus was not too far away and hope revived. His faith in Jesus was not the strongest, but Jesus would take care of that. He makes the journey from Capernaum to Cana and arrives breathlessly and finds Jesus, maybe grabs him by the arm and starts pulling: No time to waste, he thought.

And there you see the weakness of his faith. Oh, he thought Jesus could heal. But he was under the impression that Jesus had to be standing right besides the afflicted person to do the job. And healing was one thing; raising the dead another. He seemed to hope that if he could only get Jesus to his child before his little boy breathed his last, there would be hope. But who can hope in the face of death itself?

Little did he understand Whose arm he was pulling. The same Lord whose arms would spread wide upon a cross to reveals Him as the one speaking in today’s Old Testament reading from Hosea: “O death, I will be thy plagues! O grave, I will be thy destruction! Repentance shall be hid from my eyes.” He stood before the One who had come into our flesh precisely to plague death and destroy the grave. He stood before the One who was LIFE, the Life that was with the Father before time began and the Life that now was clothed in flesh and blood to destroy the death we had brought on ourselves with our fall into sin.

Jesus says to him: “Except ye signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” Sounds kind of harsh, doesn’t it? But Jesus speaks it to strengthen this man’s faith. When the fellow answers: “Sir, come down ere my child die.” Jesus gives him neither sign nor wonder, but a promise.

“Go thy way; thy son liveth.” Study the man’s face. Can you see the conflict there? True worship is taking hold of him. For true worship is “faith wrestling with despair.” (Tractatus) Faith, born of the promise given, wins the day and he turns away from Jesus and begins hurrying back home.

But do you imagine for one moment that he went home all joyful and without any anxiety? No. I don’t think so.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Epistle) And so the battle begins in earnest as the demons begin their assault: “He wouldn’t even come with you; you see how much he cares about your child; you see how hard he answered you; sent you away with mere words; he doesn’t give a fig about you or your lad.” And that demon would no sooner shut up than the next would chime in: “Oh, he’ll heal your boy alright, but only if you believe hard enough. Why, if you doubt, you’ll lose the healing. And the boy will die. You’ll have wasted it. God will be punishing you for your unbelief.” And then another would throw in the thought: “You must have been a pretty rotten man for God to have visited your sins upon your child. Remember when you did this and that? Remember? Now you’re paying the price.”

And so on and on, all the miles back to Capernaum. What does he have to fight such a horrid battle? He has a promise from Jesus. “One little word can fell him” said Luther in “A Mighty Fortress.” Do you know what he said the little word is? LIAR! You tell the demons, “quiet you liars and hear the promise of Jesus! He does not lie. He does not deceive. What He says He delivers most certainly. My son lives!” Thus one uses the sword of the Spirit, that is the Word of God, in the battle against the principalities, the demons. In the battle of faith wrestling with despair.

“Go thy way; Thy son liveth.” That was Jesus’ promise. And is it an accident that when his servants meet him, before he even arrives at home, they speak in his hearing the very words of Jesus: “Thy son liveth!”? Jesus’ word caused it to be so. “When?” he asks. “When did the boy mend?” They tell him and he knows that it is at the exact hour that Jesus spoke the word. And the man, who had believed and yet had known the struggle of unbelief now told with great joy the story to all his household and they all believed with him. Jesus delivers what He promises.

Your Jesus will never let you down. He may indeed send you to Capernaum with nothing but a promise in your pocket, but it is only and always to teach you that having His promise, you have everything you need and more.

And His promise to you preeminently is that He has come to be the plague of death and the destruction of the grave. He has come not merely to rescue this or that person from impending death, giving a reprieve. No. That would be a gift far too small. He has come to suffer and die for you and in your place, to punch a hole right through that Monster’s stinking belly, and to bring you and all out alive – not like this little boy who was only given a bit more time before death surely munched again, but to clothe your mortality in immortality; to clothe the perishable, with the imperishable. And like the great Captain of His people, He leads the way. He goes before and blazes the path, opening the way out of death and corruption. On His cross He enters into death’s dark pit, He goes into the grave, and fills it with the dazzling splendor of His divine presence, and death He shatters and the grave He overcomes. Just like He promised through the prophet Hosea. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.”

The body and blood that accomplished this He now gives to you with His promise. His promise that they carry to you the canceling of every charge the Law could lay against you, and thus they give into you the pledge of victory over the grave. They are, after all, the Body and Blood of the Living One who will never die again and whom death cannot touch.

With them as the promise you put in your pocket, or rather, your mouth, He sends you out to wrestle with the demons who would tell you that it is all a fantasy and nothing more. You have the power to defeat their lies now. You know that His promise is more sure than anything in this world, stronger than your sin, and mightier than your death. Amen.

13 October 2005

Thought for the Day

The cross reveals not God's wrath at our sin, but our sinful wrath at God's love.

Patristic Quote for the Day

Fasting has been discussed a bit on the Lutheran-Orthodox Dialog. I recently posted there this quote from St. John Cassian from the Philokalia to demonstrate that fasting should not be understood legalistically, though of course it is commanded by God:

"I shall speak first about the control of the stomach, the opposite to
gluttony, and about how to fast and how much to eat. I shall say nothing on
my own account, but only what I have received from the Holy Fathers. They
have not given us only a single rule for fasting or a single standard and
measure for eating, because not everyone has the same strength; age, illness
or delicacy of body create differences. But they have given us all a single
goal: to avoid over-eating and the filling of our bellies. They also found
a day's fast to be more beneficial and a greater help toward purity than one
extending over a period of three, four, or even seven days. Someone who
fasts too long, they say, often ends up by eating too much food. The result
is that at times the body becomes enervated through undue lack of food and
sluggish over its spiritual exercises, while at other times, weighed down by
the mass of food it has eaten, it makes the soul listless and slack... As I
said, the Father have handed down a single basic rule of self-control: 'do
not be deceived by the filling of the belly (Prov. 24:15, LXX)' or be led
astray by the pleasure of the palate." - St. John Cassian, cited in the Philokalia

12 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

When is a King More Glorious?

First of all we must consider, when is a king more glorious? When he is decked out in his purple, adorned with the diadem, covered with gold, high on high throne, only when he is ready to go in solemn procession or seated in private? Or is he more glorious when wearing ordinary attire for the battlefield, last in honor, first in perils, laden with a sword, heavily equipped with arms, when for his country, for his citizens, for his children, and for the life of all the people he destroys the enemy, despises dangers, thinks little of wounds, and is willing to endure his own death for the safety of his people, so that he gains a greater victory and triumph by despising death than by defeating the enemy itself?

And so what is the problem if Christ came to our condition of slavery from the bosom of His Father, from the hidden realm of divinity, in order to restore us to his liberty; he endured our death in order that we might have life by his death; when by disdaining death he brought us mortals back as gods and put us earthly beings on the same level as heavenly ones? - St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 72B par. 4

10 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

[Citing John 20:22,23] Where are those who declare that sins cannot be forgiven human beings by human beings? Where are those who oppress people such that once they fall because of the devil's influence, they are never to arise? Where are those who out of their mean spirit take away and refuse a cure for infirmities and medicine for wounds Where are those who thwart sinners by shamelessly promoting despair of being forgiven and returning? - Sermon 84:7 by St. Peter Chrysologous

09 October 2005

On the bright side...

Josh, Matt, Anna

LEW resting with her Lucy-love, and Katie watching jealously

Tiff sacked out

...it's only 40 days before Lauren comes home again!!!

She and her roomie Tiff joined us this weekend and it was great having her (and her friends!) around the house. What a hoot to have the house invaded by Lauren and Robyn, Dillon, Matt (aka Dingo???), Anna (and her piano playing and singing!), Josh, Jerad, and also Bekah's friend, Shawn, and of course Bekah and David. As I've said many times - I just don't get it when folks don't enjoy the teen years of their kids. I LOVE having these young folks around.

Patristic Quote for the Day

and the rest of the prayer of St. Ambrose (the first half is at the end of Homily for Trinity 20):

Look therefore upon me with the eyes of Thy mercy, O Lord Jesus Christ, eternal King, God and Man, crucified for man. Hearken unto me whose trust is in Thee: have mercy upon me who am full of misery and sin, Thou Fountain of mercy that will never cease to flow. Hail, Victim of salvation, offered for me and for all mankind upon the Altar of the Cross. Hail, noble and precious Blood, flowing from the wounds of my crucified Lord Jesus Christ, and washing away the sins of the whole world. Remember, O Lord, thy creature, whom Thou hast redeemed with Thine own blood. It grieves me that I have sinned, and I desire to amend what I have done. Take away therefore from me, O most merciful Father, all my sins and iniquities; that being purified both in soul and body; I may be made meet worthily to taste the Holy of holies; And grant that this foretaste of Thy body and blood, which I, unworthy purpose to take, may be for the remission of sins; for the perfect cleansing of my faults; the driving away of shameful thoughts, and the renewal of good desires, the healthful performance of works well-pleasing unto Thee; and the most sure protection of soul and body against the wiles of my enemies. Amen.

Patristic Quote for the Day

and the rest of the prayer of St. Ambrose (the first half is at the end of Homily for Trinity 20):

Look therefore upon me with the eyes of Thy mercy, O Lord Jesus Christ, eternal King, God and Man, crucified for man. Hearken unto me whose trust is in Thee: have mercy upon me who am full of misery and sin, Thou Fountain of mercy that will never cease to flow. Hail, Victim of salvation, offered for me and for all mankind upon the Altar of the Cross. Hail, noble and precious Blood, flowing from the wounds of my crucified Lord Jesus Christ, and washing away the sins of the whole world. Remember, O Lord, thy creature, whom Thou hast redeemed with Thine own blood. It grieves me that I have sinned, and I desire to amend what I have done. Take away therefore from me, O most merciful Father, all my sins and iniquities; that being purified both in soul and body; I may be made meet worthily to taste the Holy of holies; And grant that this foretaste of Thy body and blood, which I, unworthy purpose to take, may be for the remission of sins; for the perfect cleansing of my faults; the driving away of shameful thoughts, and the renewal of good desires, the healthful performance of works well-pleasing unto Thee; and the most sure protection of soul and body against the wiles of my enemies. Amen.

08 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Thou hast taken upon Thyself the common debt of all in order to pay it back to Thy Father - pay back also, O guiltless Lord, those sins with which our freedom has indebted us. Thou hast redeemed us from the curse of the law by Thy precious blood. Deliver also those redeemed by Thy blood from harsh justice. May the debts of Thy servants not exceed the compassion of the kindhearted Lord, for no matter how great our errors might be, Thy loving-kindness is yet greater. It is true that many, many debts are upon us, but Thou hast a multitude of compassions. And if truth itself should weigh them, then all our debts shall be less than Thy compassions. Who shall set about weighing Thy compassions and comparing them to our iniquities? The mountains can be weighed, but Thy compassions are beyond measure. They compassions are more precious than life, for life has its measure, but Thy compassions are immeasurable. May Thy compassions be also our rampart. - St. Ephrem, *A Spiritual Psalter* #102

07 October 2005

Homily for Trinity 20

Homily for Trinity 20 (2005) [Last paragraphs were changed to what now appears before being preached]

It’s a fabulous feast – no two ways about it. And there’s not a human being who is not invited; not a single one who is unwelcome. The good will of the King extends to all his subjects: “Come, celebrate with me!” he calls. He sends His servants out to the ends of the earth summoning “the good and the bad” – “Come to the Feast! Come and be glad! Greatest and least, come to the Feast!”

What is the fate of this invitation? We see three responses to it. First, there are those who say: “You can keep your feast! I’ve got more important things to do.” Our Lord lists some of them out: farming, business. But we could add a few more, and chief would be recreation and relaxation. “We can’t come to your feast, Lord, because we’re too busy relaxing, camping, boating, spending quality family time together, you name it!”

But you know what? Most of those who think like that aren’t here today, I suspect. So let’s talk about the other two responses, because they concern us vitally.

Second, there are those who come to the feast with joy, and they dress up for it. They may not have the best and flashiest duds, but they show by what they wear that they’re glad to be there and wish to honor the kindness of the King. What are those garments they wear? We can understand what they are if we think about the final response to the invitation.

For thirdly, there was the man who showed up and sat down at the feast without wedding clothes. Dr. Luther says we are to picture the blacksmith who comes straight from the smithy, all covered in grime, unwashed and wearing his work clothes, who marches in and sits right down among the other guests. As the King comes in among the gathered guests the fellow sticks out like a sore thumb.

The King walks right up to him and inquires: “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?”

Notice that the King does not speak to him in enmity. He calls him friend. There is nothing but kindness in the heart of the King even toward this man. It reminds me very much of when Judas led the soldiers to Jesus, how our Lord greeted him with the words: “Friend, why have you come?” But the loving King whose heart is filled with kindness and mercy toward all, who hates nothing he has made, will not look upon a person “robed in contempt” of him and his Son. It is a dishonor to the King and to the King’s Son to dare to come to the marriage feast wearing your same old work clothes, soiled and tattered.

When the man has no answer for the King, the King orders him bound, hand and foot, and carried into the outer darkness where there is weeping for the heat and gnashing of teeth for the chill. You see, there is no alternative. There is finally only the light and joy of the Feast or the dark empty loneliness. It’s not as though there were another place!

Who is this man, then? Who is this one who is tossed out of the light, the joy, and the celebration into the dark void? He is the one who presumes to come to the Feast with the attitude: “God forgives me! Great!!!! I’ll take His forgiveness, but I don’t want to be freed from my sin. No. I want to continue in it. I have no intention whatsoever of struggling against it. I like the way I am just fine, thank you very much. God accepts me, after all, just the way I am and that’s how I intend to stay, by golly!” Do you see what he is NOT wearing? He is not wearing repentance! For the wedding garment truly is, above all else, a repentant heart.

This is what the Lord looks for in his people! “A broken and contrite heart, these, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51) Having such a heart of repentance there is no sin that can harm you! The Advent of the Lord then will only mean that your heart’s desire has come – that He will free you from all the sin you struggle with in your life, from all the tears over constant falling, from all the agony over remembered transgressions. Anyone who longs to be freed from sin has nothing to fear from that day.

But those who love their sin and have no intention of letting it go, who do not struggle against their anger, their greed, their pride, their unkind and bitter words, their impure thoughts, their indulgence of the flesh, who dare to come to the great wedding unchanged, without renewal, without amendment of life, without repentance and its fruits – for these the arrival of the King will be terrifying indeed. It will reveal that in their heart they did not want HIM, and so they will be given instead their heart’s desire. To exist apart from Him, from His light, love, and mercy.

Today the marriage of the King’s Son is set before you – the Table is laden with what will become the very Body and Blood of the King’s Son, given with joy to BE your life. The Body and Blood that upon the Golgotha’s tree bore every sin, forgiving them all, He offers to you – not so that you can continue in rebellion and disobedience, but precisely so that you can be freed from them. He gives you forgiveness that He might come to you and enter you and give you a share in His own divine life! To accept such a gift from His hand is to live in repentance –to be clothed in the wedding garment indeed.

Three sorts of guests then: those who despise the invitation and turn away from it; those who accept the invitation and rejoice in the forgiveness of Christ precisely so that they can be cleansed from their sins; and those who accept the invitation and presume upon the forgiveness of Christ to continue in their sin.

Which kind of a guest am I today? It matters not what kind of a guest I have been before. What matters is what I am now. I know which kind of a guest Christ wants me and you also to be! One who can join St. Ambrose in praying:

“To the table of thy most sweet feast, O loving Lord Jesus Christ, I, a sinner, presuming nothing upon my own merits, but trusting in Thy mercy and goodness, approach with fear and trembling. For my heart and my body are stained with many and grievous sins, my thoughts and my lips have not been carefully kept. Wherefore, O gracious God, O awful Majesty, I, in my misery, being brought into a strait turn to thee, the Fountain of mercy, to thee I hasten to be healed, and flee unto Thy protection; and thee before whom as my judge I cannot stand, I long to have as my Savior. To thee, O Lord, I show my wounds. To thee, I discover my shame. I know my sins, for which I am afraid are many and great. But my trust is in thy mercies of which there is no end.” Amen.

Patristic Quote for the Day

Death came to His body, therefore, not from Himself but from enemy action, in order that the Saviour might utterly abolish death in whatever form they offered it to Him. - St. Athanasius, *On the Incarnation* par. 24

06 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

We must next consider the end of His earthly life and the nature of His bodily death. This is, indeed, the very centre of our faith, and everywhere you hear men speak of it; by it, too, no less than by His other acts, Christ is revealed as God and Son of God. - St. Athanasius, *On the Incarnation* par. 19

05 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

"Blessed is he that has eaten of the Bread of love which is Jesus. While still in this world, he breathes the air of the resurrection, in which the righteous will delight after they rise from the dead." - St. Isaac the Syrian (cited in *These are the Sacraments* by Coniaris)

03 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

From a Homily by St. Caesarius of Arles (d. 542)

By suffering death unjustly, Christ payed what Adam
justly owed. The latter stretched out his hand to sweet
fruits, the former extended them to the bitter cross; the one
points out the tree of death, the other the tree of salvation.
The one lifted himself up against God and fell; Christ
humbled Himself in order to raise up all men. Adam brought
death to everyone, Christ restored life to them all. At that
time each one who looked on the brazen serpent was healed
of the poisonous serpents. The brazen serpent which was put
on a tree overcame the poison of the living serpents; when
Christ hung on the cross and died, He suppressed the ancient
poison of the devil and freed all men who had been struck by

O blessed cross which makes men blessed! O cross, from
which such great and wonderful fruits are gathered! The
fruit of the cross is a glorious resurrection. This fruit of the wood
is truly planted “near running water,” [Psalm 1:3] for Baptism is
always joined to the cross. However, this wood produced “its
fruit in due season,” at the Lord’s Resurrection. It will do so
again when He appears from heaven, “is seen on earth,” and with
the dazzling sign of the cross preceding Him, comes from above.
Then, the bodies of all men who are buried will rise again, and
then, “The faithful shall exult in glory.” Then those who are not
confounded now because of the cross of their King and Lord but
rather glory in it, “shall sing for joy upon their couches.” [Ps.
149:5] To Him is honor and glory together with the Father and
the Holy Ghost world without end. Amen.

02 October 2005

Patristic Quote for the Day

Everywhere the Apostle teaches the indivisiblity and co-essentiality of the Holy Trinity, and that where the Son is, there is the Father also; and where the Father is, there is the Holy Spirit; and where the Holy Spirit is, there is the entire Godhead of three persons, the one God and Father, together with His co-essential Son and Spirit, Who is blessed forevermore! Amen. - St. Symeon the New Theologian, from *On the Mystical Life*

01 October 2005

Gem from O.P.

I just love O. P. Kretzmann. This is a real gem of a piece he wrote years and years ago. Brings to mind, with tears, cases I know of today... It's called "Compline"...

Mr. Hieronymous Smith called the meeting of the voters of St. Chrysostom’s to order... As the buzzing subsided, he looked into the corner where the pastor sat... This was not going to be easy... He cleared his throat: “This meeting was called on account of the special request of some members who have something to bring up... I will give the floor to Mr. Barnabas Harmon”...

(Pastor) Somehow he was even more tired than usual this evening... The strong coffee Mother had given him just before he left the house seemed to have no effect... He closed his eyes for a moment... Thirty years now... The day when he had come to St. Chrysostom’s... The crowds... The good wishes... The little wooden church over on Elm Street... A long time ago now... This parish house – he had paid for it with his blood... His heart had never been the same since that breakdown... The church next door... Something of him lay buried there... He had watched every stone go into it... Perhaps God had really been good to him... The dreams of his youth – some of them had come true... He had not failed his Lord... If he could only keep going a few more years... Some things still needed to be done at St. Chrysostom’s... Not old yet, but tired... Better listen to Barnabas...

“We all know, Mr. Chairman, that things haven’t been going well at St. Chrysostom’s... Maybe its nothing serious, but only last week the Bowling League busted up on account of some members do not like the way the pastor always comes around and asks them to come to church... Only a couple weeks ago, one of the young men in the church – a fine, up-and-coming young fellow, Mr. Chairman – says to me that the young people are beginning to go over to St. Elijah’s... It seems they have a young fellow from Styx College, is right in there with them... And so a couple of us got together, Mr. Chariman,” -

(Pastor) If he could only keep his eyes open now... He peered over at Barnabas... The boy had really turned out better than he had expected... He remembered him in confirmation instructions, a good boy, only a little slower than the rest and always too sure that he was right... A little jealous, too, of others who had more than he... But he had prospered... Assistant Manager of the Feltman Shoe Company now... A little too fast for his age, but his well-made suit fitted him snugly... Perhaps he had better talk to Barney one of these days... Something worldly and smug about him... After all, Barney was one of his boys... His eyes closed again... What had Mother said before he left the house?... Oh yes, “If you get sleepy, pinch your wrists.”... He smiled... That was Mother, always worrying...

“And so, Mr. Chairman, a couple of us got together at my house, nothing official of course, and sorta talked things over... We all know what our pastor has done for our church... I don’t haveta go into that... But, Mr. Chairman, time marches on, as the poet says, and our pastor, it seems to us, is getting along in years... St. Chrysostom’s is a big parish, and we got some very important people here”...

(Pastor) Important people... How his mind was wandering tonight... That word “important”... There were some in St. Chrysostom’s alright, but Barney wouldn’t know that most of them lived down by the railroad tracks... Saints, some of them, like Mrs. Morton with her drunken husband and six children and her eyes bright with unshed tears... Saints down there... Perhaps he had been spending too much time there lately... He liked to sit in the broken rocker and listen to Grandpa Jepson... He was blind, but he saw more than anybody else... Mother had scolded him for it... She was right, too... Of course, he had tried to find an excuse... Wasn’t it true, he had asked Mother, that every evening there was a meeting, and if he went out in the afternoon to visit the members on the street where Barnabas had built his new house, he always ran into bridge or cocktail parties, and everyone was embarrassed?... Yes, it was easier to go see Grandpa Jepson – and he had taken the easier way... That was bad... Mother was right... More visits on Grace Boulevard after this...

“And so, Mr. Chairman, we think the Church Board ought to see the Pension Board and ask them to put our pastor on the retired list... We have always paid our percentage, and they ought to be glad to help us out... What we need here is a young fellow with lotsa pep and salesmanship who can give a sermon with punch and arrange affairs with zip in them to draw the people in this here community... Of course, we don’t want to be in a hurry about this... Let’s take two or three months to look around... But, Mr. Chairman, something’s gotta be done” -

(Pastor) So that was it... It had come now, and somehow it did not hurt as much he thought it would... After all, he was getting old... Over sixty... When you get old, things look different... Barney wasn’t important, not really... His soul was, but somebody else would have to see to that now... Perhaps Mother and he could live on the edge of town in one of the little bungalows the Government was renting so cheap.... Then he could still go down to see Grandpa Jepson and Mrs. Morton and the redheaded Johnson boy, who would make a good minister some day... But Mother... How would he ever be able to explain it to her?... Mother was always so practical... She would tell him right away that all they had was the furniture and a thousand dollar insurance policy... Oh well, that would be hers – and the way he felt tonight – soon enough... He looked around the room... Hardly a man there whose hand he had not touched at the altar on thirty-one confirmation days... He had baptized their children, seen their hopes crushed and rise again, stood with them as death swept over them... They looked a little uneasy now... Waiting for him to say something... He really should... Tell them they were doing the right thing... That he was getting old, that their way was no longer his... He would get up and tell them that and then go home to Mother... But that strange mist over his eyes... Almost as if they were covered with angel wings... That roaring in his ears... New sounds, not of earth...

He slumped forward in his chair... They caught him before he fell... There was a big smile on his lips... Mother would have the insurance now, and perhaps God would let him sit near the door and wait for Grandpa Jepson...

(from *The Pilgrim*, CPH 1944, pp. 51-54)

Patristic Quote for the Day

"In this life we aren't cleansed from sin by our own good deeds or our own power, but by God's compassion and forgiveness. For God, in His goodness, has given us any holiness we might have. While in the flesh, we might tend to attribute too much to ourselves if we don't live under God's pardon until the end." St. Augustine, City of God 10.22