30 June 2006

A Radical Irreparable Mutilation of the Entire Faith

Hat tip to Ben Jonson over at Western Orthodoxy for posting this excellent letter by Father Alexander Schmemann to an episcopal friend on the topic of women's ordination. Given the recent sad news in the Episcopal Church, it is meet, right, and salutary to read Schmemann's words again. They were written what? 30 years ago or so? And yet they remain vital. Enjoy...

A letter written by Orthodox priest, Fr. Alexander Schmemann:

Dear Friend:

When you asked me to outline the Orthodox reaction to the idea of women's ordination to the priesthood, I thought at first that to do so would not be too difficult. It is not difficult, indeed, simply to state that the Orthodox Church is against women's priesthood and to enumerate as fully as possible the dogmatical, canonical, and spiritual reasons for that opposition.

On second thought, however, I became convinced that such an answer would be not only useless, but even harmful. Useless, because all such "formal reasons" - scriptural, traditional, canonical - are well known to the advocates of women's ordination, as is also well known our general ecclesiological stand which, depending on their mood and current priorities, our Western Brothers either hail as Orthodoxy's "main" ecumenical contribution or dismiss as archaic, narrow-minded, and irrelevant. Harmful, because true formally, this answer would still vitiate the real Orthodox position by reducing it to a theological context and perspective, alien to the Orthodox mind. For the Orthodox Church has never faced this question, it is for us totally extrinsic, a casus irrealis for which we find no basis, no terms of reference in our Tradition, in the very experience of the Church, and for the discussion of which we are therefore simply not prepared.

Such is then my difficulty. I cannot discuss the problem itself because to do so would necessitate the elucidation of our approach - not to women and to priesthood only - but, above all to God in his Triune Life, to Creation, Fall and Redemption, to the Church and the mystery of her life, to the deification of man and the consummation of all things in Christ. Short of all this it would remain incomprehensible, I am sure, why the ordination of women to priesthood is tantamount for us to a radical and irreparable mutilation of the entire faith, the rejection of the whole Scripture, and, needless to say, the end of all "dialogues." Short of all this my answer will sound like another "conservative" and "traditional" defense of the status quo, of precisely that which many Christians today, having heard it too many times, reject as hypocrisy, lack of openness to God's will, blindness to the world, etc. Obviously enough those who reject Tradition would not listen once more to an argument ex traditione....

But to what will they listen? Our amazement - and the Orthodox reaction is above all that of amazement - is precisely about the change and, to us, incomprehensible hastiness with which the question of women's ordination was, first, accepted as an issue, then quickly reduced to the level of a disciplinary "matter" and finally identified as an issue of policy to be dealt with by a vote! In this strange situation all I can do is to try to convey to you this amazement by briefly enumerating its main "components" as I see and understand them.

The first dimension of our amazement can be termed "ecumenical." The debate on women's ordination reveals something which we have suspected for a long time but which now is confirmed beyond any doubt: the total truly built-in indifference of the Christian West to anything beyond the sphere of its own problematics, of its own experience. I can only repeat here what I have said before: even the so-called "ecumenical movement," notwithstanding its claims to the contrary, has always been, and still is, a purely Western phenomenon, based on Western presuppositions and determined by a specifically Western agenda. This is not "pride" or "arrogance." On the contrary, the Christian West is almost obsessed with a guilt complex and enjoys nothing better than self-criticism and self condemnation. It is rather a total inability to transcend itself, to accept the simple idea that its own experience, problems, thought forms and priorities may not be universal, that they themselves may need to be evaluated and judged in the light of a truly universal, truly "Catholic" experience. Western Christians would almost enthusiastically judge and condemn themselves, but on their own terms, within their own hopelessly "Western" perspective. Thus when they decide -- on the basis of their own possibly limited and fragmented, specifically Western, "cultural situation" -- that they must "repair" injustices made to women, they plan to do it immediately without even asking what the "others" may think about it, and are sincerely amazed and even saddened by lack, on the part of these "others" of ecumenical spirit, sympathy and comprehension.

Personally, I have often enough criticized the historical limitations of the Orthodox mentality not to have the right to say in all sincerity that to me the debate on women's ordination seems to be provincial, deeply marked, and even determined by Western self-centeredness and self-sufficiency, by a naive, almost childish, conviction that every "trend" in the Western culture justifies a radical rethinking of the entire Christian tradition. How many such "trends" we have witnessed during the last decades of our troubled century! How many corresponding "theologies"! The difference this time, however, is that one deals in this particular debate not with a passing intellectual and academic "fad" like "death of God," "secular city," "celebration of life," etc.-- which, after it has produced a couple of ephemeral best-sellers, simply disappears, but with the threat of an irreversible and irreparable act which, if it becomes reality, will produce a new, and this time, I am convinced, final division among Christians, and will signify, at least for the Orthodox, the end of all dialogues.

It is well known that the advocates of women's ordination explain the Scriptural and the traditional exclusion of women from ministry by "cultural conditioning." If Christ did not include women into the Twelve, if the Church for centuries did not include them into priesthood, it is because of "culture" which would have made it impossible and unthinkable then. It is not my purpose to discuss here the theological and exegetical implications of this view as well as its purely historical basis, which incidentally seems to me extremely weak and shaky; what is truly amazing is that while absolutely convinced that they understand past "cultures," the advocates of women's ordination seem to be totally unaware of their own cultural "conditioning" of their own surrender to culture.

How else can one explain their readiness to accept what may prove to be a passing phenomenon and what, at any rate, is a phenomenon barely at its beginning (not to speak of the women's liberation movement, which at present is nothing but search and experimentation) as a sufficient justification for a radical change in the very structure of the Church?

How else, furthermore, are we to explain that this movement is accepted on its own terms, within the perspective of "rights", "justice," "equality," Etc. -- all categories whose ability adequately to express the Christian faith and to be applied as such within the Church is, to say the least, questionable?

The sad truth is that the very idea of women's ordination, as it is presented and discussed today, is the result of too many confusions and reductions. If its root is surrender to "culture", its pattern of development is shaped by a surrender to "clericalism." It is indeed almost entirely dominated by the old "clerical" view of the Church and the double "reduction" interest in it. The reduction on the one hand, of the Church to a "power structure," the reduction on the other hand, of that power structure to clergy. To the alleged "inferiority" of women within the secular power structure, corresponds their "inferiority," i.e., their exclusion from clergy, within the ecclesiastical power structure. To their "liberation" in the secular society must therefore correspond their "liberation," i.e., ordination, in the Church.

But the Church simply cannot be reduced to these categories. As long as we try to measure the ineffable mystery of her life by concepts and ideas a priori alien to her very essence, we entirely mutilate her, and her real power, her glory and beauty, and her transcendent truth simply escape us.

That is why in conclusion of this letter I can only confess, without explaining and justifying this confession by my "proofs." I can confess that the non-ordination of women to priesthood has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with whatever "inferiority" we can invent or imagine. In the essential reality which alone constitutes the content of our faith and shapes the entire life of the Church, in the reality of the Kingdom of God which is perfect communion, perfect knowledge, perfect love, and ultimately the "deification" of man, there is truly "neither male nor female." More than that, in this reality, of which we are made partakers here and now, we all, men and women, without any distinction, are "Kings and priests," for it is the essential priesthood of the human nature and vocation that Christ has restored to us.

It is of this priestly life, it is of this ultimate reality, that the Church is both gift and acceptance. And that she may be this, that she may always and everywhere be the gift of the Spirit without any measure or limitations, the Son of God offered himself in a unique sacrifice, and made this unique sacrifice and this unique priesthood the very foundation, indeed the very "form" of the Church.

This priesthood is Christ's, not ours. None of us, man or woman, has any "right" to it; it is emphatically not one of human vocations, analogous, even if superior, to all others. The priest in the Church is not "another" priest, and the sacrifice he offers is not "another" sacrifice. It is forever and only Christ's priesthood and Christ's sacrifice -- for, in the words of our Prayers of Offertory, it is "Thou who offerest and Thou who art offered, it is Thou who receivest and Thou who distributest...." And thus the "institutional" priest in the Church has no "ontology" of his own. It exists only to make Christ himself present, to make this unique Priesthood and this unique Sacrifice the source of the Church's life and the "acquisition" by men of the Holy Spirit. And if the bearer, the icon and the fulfiller of that unique priesthood, is man and not woman, it is because Christ is man and not woman...

Why? This of course is the only important, the only relevant question. The one precisely that no "culture," no "sociology," no "history," and even no "exegesis" can answer. For it can be answered only by theology in the primordial and essential meaning of that word in the Church; as the contemplation and vision of the Truth itself, as communion with the uncreated Divine Light. It is only here, in this purified and restored vision that we might begin to understand why the ineffable mystery of the relationship between God and His Creation, between God and His chosen people, between God and His Church, are "essentially" revealed to us as a nuptial mystery, as fulfillment of a mystical marriage. Why in other terms, Creation itself, the Church herself, man and the world themselves, when contemplated in their ultimate truth and destiny, are revealed to us as Bride, as Woman clothed in sun; why in the very depth of her love and knowledge, of her joy and communion, the Church identifies herself with one Woman, whom she exalts as "more honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim."

Is it this mystery that has to be "understood" by means of our broken and fallen world, which knows and experiences itself only in its brokenness and fragmentation, its tensions and dichotomies and which, as such, is incapable of the ultimate vision? Or is it this vision and this unique experience that must again become to us the "means" of our understanding of the world, the starting point and the very possibility of a truly Divine victory over all that in this world is but human, historical and cultural?

29 June 2006

Joyful Tasks

Being a pastor is too much fun. No two ways about it.

This morning I got to read and discuss an outstanding passage from Diognetus with a group of laymen that I dearly love and treasure - and all over bad coffee and greasy breakfast to boot!

Came home and exercised, showered, prayed Matins, read from the Book of Concord, posted to ye old blog, printed out final copy of Sunday's bulletin, and it's 9:40!

Ahead today: More in Gerhard's Loci, the Sacrament to shutins in two nursing homes, Vespers followed immediately by the Eucharist for the day of Sts. Peter and Paul, a friend and family over for dinner, and then a school board meeting, followed by Compline to round out the day.

For the daily offices, I've been using the LSB (from the proposed version approved at Convention). I can't begin to say how impressed I am with the clean and only slightly updated ordos for Matins and Vespers and Compline. But these old eyes will definitely be glad when the Hymnal itself is available - the TINY print of the proposed version is proving a bit of a challenge.

Patristic Quote for the Day

How surpassing is the love and tenderness of God! In that hour, instead of hating us and rejecting us and remembering our wickedness against us, He showed how long-suffering He is. He bore with us, and in pity He took our sins upon Himself and gave His own Son as a ransom for us - the Holy for the wicked, the Sinless for sinners, the Just for the unjust, the Incorrupt for the corrupt, the Immortal for the mortal. For was there, indeed, anything but His righteousness that could have availed to cover our sins? In whom could we, in our lawlessness and ungodliness, have been made holy, but in the Son of God alone? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable working! O benefits unhoped for! - that the wickedness of multitudes should thus be hidden in the One holy, and the holiness of One should sanctify the countless wicked! - Epistle to Diognetus, par. 9 (anonymous, written about 124 A.D.)

Day of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

Collect: Merciful and eternal God, Your holy apostles Peter and Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of Your Son. Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may confess Your truth and at all times be ready to lay down our lives for Him who laid down His life for us, even Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Readings: Acts 15:1-21 / Galatians 2:1-10 / Matthew 16:13-19

Preface: It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, for You have mightily governed and protected Your holy Church, in which the blessed Apostles and Evangelists proclaimed Your divine and saving Gospel. Therefore with Patriarchs and Prophets, Apostles and Evangelists, with Your servants Peter and Paul, and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying... (LSB)

Then Christ said: And I say to you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. On this rock I will build the faith that you now confess, and on your words: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my Church. For you are Peter, and the name Peter comes from petra, the word for "rock" and not vice versa. "Peter" therefore comes from petra, just as "Christian" comes from Christ. - St. Augustine, Homily for this day

28 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

If any one, therefore, reads the Scriptures with attention, he will find in them an account of Christ, and a foreshadowing of the new calling (vocationis). For Christ is the treasure which was hid in the field, that is, in this world (for "the field is the world" ); but the treasure hid in the Scriptures is Christ, since He was pointed out by means of types and parables. -- St. Irenaeus of Lyons (Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 26)

Irenaeus of Lyons, Pastor

Irenaeus (ca. A.D. 130-200), believed to be a native of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), studied in Rome and later became pastor in Lyons, France. Around 177, while Irenaeus was away from Lyons, a fierce persecution of Christians led to the martyrdom of his bishop. Upon Irenaeus' return, he became bishop of Lyons. Among his most famous writings is a work condemning heresies, especially Gnosticism, which denied the goodness of creation. In opposition, Irenaeus confessed that God has redeemed his creation through the incarnation of the Son. Irenaeus also affirmed the teachings of the Scriptures handed down to and through him as being normative for the Church. (LSB)

Today we remember Saint Ireanaeus, Bishop of Lyons.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

Accept, O Lord, our thanksgiving this day for Thy servant, Irenaeus: and grant that all ministers and stewards of Thy mysteries may afford to Thy faithful people, by word and example, the instruction which is of Thy grace; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. (Brotherhood Prayer Book)

27 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

The flesh of Christ did not drag the Word of God down to its corruptible nature; rather, the flesh was elevated to the power of the better nature. Therefore, although the nature of the flesh, insofar as it is flesh, cannot make anything alive; nevertheless, it is able to do this because it has received the entire operation of the Word. The flesh of Paul or Peter or others cannot do this, but that of Life itself in which the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, can do this. Therefore, the flesh of all others can do nothing, only the flesh of Christ can make alive, because in it dwells the only-begotten Son of God. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, On John, Book 4, Chapter 23, cited in Catalog of Testimonies IV.

Cyril of Alexandria, Pastor and Confessor

Cyril (ca. A.D. 376-444) became archbishop of Alexandria, Egypt, in 412. Throughout his career he defended a number of orthodox doctrines, among them the teaching that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is "rightly called and truly is the Mother of God"--Theotokos, "the God-bearer" (Formula of Concord, VIII, Ep VIII, 12). In 431 the Council of Ephesus affirmed this teaching that the Son of Mary is also true God. The writings of Cyril on the doctrines of the Trinity and the person of Christ reveal him to be one of the most able theologians of his time. Cyril's Christology influenced subsequent church councils and was a primary source for Lutheran confessional writings. (LSB)

Today we remember St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Confessor:

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God; Whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

Let us pray. Accept, O Lord, our thanksgiving this day for Thy servant, Cyril: and grant that all ministers and stewards of Thy mysteries may afford to Thy faithful people, by word and example, the instruction which is of Thy grace; through Jesus Chrsit, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. (Brotherhood Prayer Book)

26 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

Therefore, when the will turns from the good and does evil, it does so by the freedom of its own choice, but when it turns from evil and does good, it does so only with the help of God. - St. Augustine, City of God, Book XV, Chapter 21


From the Lutheran Service Book:

The prophet Jeremiah was active as God's prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah ca. 627 to 582 B.C. As a prophet he predicted, witnessed, and lived through the Babylonian siege and eventual destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. In his preaching he often used symbols, such as an almond rod (Jer. 1:11-14), wine jars (13:12-14), and a potter at work (18:1-17). His entire prophetic ministry was a sermon, communicating through word and deed God's anger toward his rebellious people. He suffered repeated rejection and persecution by his countrymen. As far as can be known, he died in Egypt, having been taken there forcibly. He is remembered and honored for fearlessly calling God's people to repentance.

From Brotherhood Prayer Book:

Today we remember Jeremiah, the Prophet.

Jesus Christ the same; yesterday, today, and forever.

O almighty God, who has called us to faith in Thee, and hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good examples of Thy Saints, and especially of Thy servant Jeremiah the Prophet may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through Thy mercy, we with them attain to Thine eternal joy; through Him who is the author and finisher of our faith, Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

25 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

But what is He Who is at once the Most High and man, what but "the Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus Who gave Himself as a ransom for us"? This place indeed refers properly to His Incarnation, for our redemption was made by His Blood, our pardon comes through His Power, our life is secured through His Grace. He gives as the Most High, He prays as man. The one is the office of the Creator, the other of a Redeemer. Be the gifts as distinct as they may, yet the Giver is one, for it was fitting that our Maker should be our Redeemer. - St. Ambrose, Exposition of the Christian Faith, Book III, Chapter 2.

What did you observe this Sunday?

My good buddy Sal wrote that he was a bit disappointed that the LCMS church he attended today did not celebrate the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession (and he went Slovak this Sunday, though he may not know it; I LOVE the Slovaks - I vicared for them). St. Paul's, Hamel, didn't either - following the new rubrics from Lutheran Service Book, where the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession has been moved to the commemorations and is not regarded as a feast or festival.

We had a visiting clergyman with us this weekend and he asked about our non-celebration too. I must confess, I think that the LSB is more in the spirit of the Augustana than the LW with its observation of the day. The whole point of the Augsburg Confession was to confess "nothing new." To celebrate a day for the "nothing new" confession would be okay, but far more persuasive would be to celebrate the day as what it was: the Second Sunday after Trinity. That's not to put down the Augsburg Confession, but to honor it for what it intended to be: not a charter for Lutheran Independence, but a call for genuine catholicity.

24 June 2006


Here's a pic of Lauren and Dean. Dean's heading out to Alaska this week and we won't see him again till after school starts. Hope it's a great trip for him. Meanwhile, Lauren is headed back to Camp Wartburg. Given the nature of cellphones, I'm sure they'll be keeping in touch while apart.

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Collect: Almighty God, through John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, You once proclaimed salvation. Now grant that we may know this salvation and serve You in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

OT Reading: Is 40:1-5
Second Reading: Acts 13:13-26
Holy Gospel: Luke 1:57-80

Preface: It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, whose way John the Baptist prepared, proclaiming Him the promised Messiah, the very Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, and calling sinners to repentance that they might escape from the wrath to be revealed when He comes again in glory. Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying...

Bede: It is significant that John's birth is recorded as having taken place when the days began to grow shorter, while the Lord was born as they grew longer. It was John himself who explained the meaning of this contrast when the crowd thought he was the Christ because of his great virtues, and the Lord was considered by some as only a prophet and not the Christ because of his lack of austerity. "He must increase," said John, "while I must decrease."

Patristic Quote for the Day

And on the day called Sunday there is a meeting in one place of those who live in the cities or the country, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writing of the prophets are read as long as time permits. When the reader has finished, the presider in a discourse urges and invites us to teh imitation of these noble things. - St. Justin, Martyr, First Apology, par. 67

23 June 2006

What a Beauty!

It arrived today: Lutheran Service Book, One-Year Lectionary. Early on in the hymnal project, the Commission on Worship (COW) made a commitment that the historic series would not be a poor stepchild; it would get equal treatment. So the publication of the One-Year Lectionary at the same time as the C series of the Three-Year is cause for much rejoicing. They kept their promise in spades. The historic readings of the Lutheran Church are being given the due recognition they deserve - the series on which the classic postils were written and around which our historic music revolves.

Taking some cues from the lectionary that Augsburg-Fortress put out for the Revised Common Lectionary, the COW has published a book that is a delight to read from. The text is largish - 14 point or bigger? Best of all is the use of the "sense lines" which makes reading from the Lectionary very easy. If the rest of the LSB project is as polished as this, it will be a winner for sure. Wish we could use it this Sunday, BUT we have other things up our sleeves.

This Sunday we celebrate the confirmation anniversaries of those confirmed from 1951-1960 at St. Paul's, but pride of place goes to the confirmands who were confirmed in 1956. That's the parish's centenniel. That confirmation class gave to the parish a beautiful King James Bible with their names written in the front. We'll be reading from that on this Sunday. A Sunday with the KJV - gee, do ya think I can handle it? : )

Patristic Quote for the Day

It is in the first month, which is April, that the power of the resurrection is revealed. In the words of Holy Scripture, 'This month...will be to you the first among the months of the year' (Ex. 12:21). This month will clothe the naked trees with the glory previously hidden within them. And so, too, will the bodies of the righteous be glorified through the ineffable light - the power of the Spirit - that is already present within them; and this will be to them clothing, food, drink, exultation, joy, peace, and crowning all, life eternal. - St. Makarios of Egypt, *Patient Endurance and Discrimination* par. 61

22 June 2006

Where has the time gone?

My wife just left me a very sweet card on the computer - today is the 20th anniversary of my ordination. I can't believe that it has been so long. Many things to look back on in those years and plead for God's mercy and forgiveness. Many thanks to God that the ministry depends not upon the holiness or character of those who hold the office. Many thanks to God that He delights to work also through broken vessels.

A secret? I still struggle with preaching. To teach is something that I absolutely delight in - and I love the "back and forth" of discussion, but to stand in the pulpit makes me more than a tad nervous. Who am I to stand as the emissary of the Lord? How can I get myself out of the way to serve up the good things the Lord has for His people? And what absolutely drives me bonkers? Seeing a question cross someone's face in a sermon and NOT be able to stop and say: "What are you thinking?"

For the unspeakable privilege, though, of standing in the pulpit to proclaim the best news that anyone will ever hear; for the unspeakable privilege of pouring water in the divine name and knowing that a new birth has been bestowed; for the unspeakable privilege of laying hands upon penitents and imparting a forgiveness as certain on earth as it is in heaven; for the unspeakable privilege of consecrating and distributing our Lord's body and blood - holding the divine life in my hands and putting that life into the mouths of those I love; for the unspeakable privilege of ministering at the bedside of the sick and the dying; for the unspeakable joy of instructing children in all that God has given them; for all these blessings and so many, many more:

Gloria tibi, Christe!


There are people who are offended by the title of "Father" given to the pastors of the Church. I am not one of them. It is definitely to me a "machts nichts" matter. It has the advantage of pulling in the the relationship of family to the whole congregational scene and that is a far, far better way of thinking of the parish than the pastor as CEO, dreaming dreams in his office - "visioning" is it called?

Some fear it is catholicizing, but since it is used widely outside the Roman Church (Orthodox and Episcopalians use it quite frequently), that argument has got holes.

One good thing about Father is that you can't call the women who presume to hold the pastoral office by that name.

BUT I do want to clarify: though many people call me Father Weedon, I have never once in my life asked a soul to call me Father Weedon nor do I use the title of myself. It doesn't bother me, but it isn't something that I think matters terribly much. My preferred title is Pastor and that for the utterly profound reason that that's what I am used to. From the time I became a Lutheran, pastor was the name of the man who baptized me, gave me Jesus' body and blood and preached to me the Gospel. Plain old pastor. And that's fine by me.

Patristic Quote for the Day

He makes the point clearly when he says: "My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you." [Gal. 4:19] Now then, where or in what place or part of our body does he say that Christ takes form? Do you think he means on the brow or in the face, or in the breast? Assuredly not! It is rather inside, in our hearts. Perhaps you supposed that He takes form bodily? Away with the notion! Rather, He indeed takes form, but bodilessly as is proper to God. Besides, just as a woman surely knows when she is with child that the babe leaps in her womb and could never be ignorant of the fact that she has it within her, so the one who has Christ take form within himself and is aware of His stirring, which is to say His illuminations, is in no way ignorant of His leaps, that is His gleamings, and sees His formation within himself. Christ is not, for example, reflected like the light of a lamp in a mirror, is not an apparition without substance like the reflection, but appears in a light which is personal and substantial; in a shape without a shape, and a form without form He is seen invisibly and comprehended incomprehensibly. - St. Symeon the New Theologian, *On the Mystical Life: the Ethical Discourses* p. 169

21 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

Narrow is the way of life, and broad the way of torment; prayer is able to bring a man to the house of the kingdom. This is the perfect work; prayer that is pure from iniquity. The righteousness of man is as nothing accounted. The work of men, what is it? His labour is altogether vanity. Of Thee, O Lord, of Thy grace it is that in our nature we should become good. Of Thee is righteousness, that we from men should become righteous. Of Thee is the mercy and favour, that we from the dust should become Thy image. Give power to our will, that we be not sunk in sin!
- St. Ephrem the Syrian, A Homily on Admonition and Repentance, par. 7.

20 June 2006

Currently reading...

*Father Elijah* by Michael D. O'Brien. What a wonderful, wonderful work!

"He is mercy. There is nothing that cannot be forgiven."

"He wants you to know that nothing you can do will ever destroy His love. He has sent a man back from the dead to tell you this."


Patristic Quote for the Day

[Sometimes the Scriptures speak of evils as coming from God - Job comes to mind. This is a very helpful clarification from St. John of Damascus]

His permission, therefore, is usually spoken of in the Holy Scripture as His energy and work. Nay, even when He says that God creates evil things, and that there is no evil in a city that the Lord hath not done, he does not mean by these words that the Lord is the cause of evil, but the word 'evil' is used in two ways, with two meanings. For sometimes it means what is evil by nature, and this is the opposite of virtue and the will of God: and sometimes it means that which is evil and oppressive to our sensation, that is to say, afflictions and calamities. Now these are seemingly evil because they are painful, but in reality are good. For to those who understand they became ambassadors of conversion and salvation. The Scripture says that of these God is the Author.

--St. John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book IV, Chapter 19

18 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

35. Of these read the two and twenty books, but have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings. Study earnestly these only which we read openly in the Church. Far wiser and more pious than thyself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench thou not upon its statutes. And of the Old Testament, as we have said, study the two and twenty books, which, if thou art desirous of learning, strive to remember by name, as I recite them. For of the Law the books of Moses are the first five, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. And next, Joshua the son of Nave, and the book of Judges, including Ruth, counted as seventh. And of the other historical books, the first and second books of the Kings are among the Hebrews one book; also the third and fourth one book. And in like manner, the first and second of Chronicles are with them one book; and the first and second of Esdras are counted one. Esther is the twelfth book; and these are the Historical writings. But those which are written in verses are five, Job, and the book of Psalms, and Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, which is the seventeenth book. And after these come the five Prophetic books: of the Twelve Prophets one book, of Isaiah one, of Jeremiah one, including Baruch and Lamentations and the Epistle; then Ezekiel, and the Book of Daniel, the twenty-second of the Old Testament.

36. Then of the New Testament there are the four Gospels only, for the rest have false titles and are mischievous. The Manichaeans also wrote a Gospel according to Thomas, which being tinctured with the fragrance of the evangelic title corrupts the souls of the simple sort. Receive also the Acts of the Twelve Apostles; and in addition to these the seven

Catholic Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude; and as a seal upon them all, and the last work of the disciples, the fourteen Epistles of Paul. But let all the rest be put aside in a secondary rank. And whatever books are not read in Churches, these read not even by thyself, as thou hast heard me say. Thus much of these subjects.

--St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, IV

Don't you hate it

when you get a totally interesting thought in the middle of a sermon and are not sure what to do with it? This morning our Gospel was Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19ff). But as I was preaching this text, it hit me clear as could be how utterly individualistically I tend to think about death. Death as the death of ME, or of this or that person. But death is bigger than that. Much bigger. Because what dies when a member of the human family dies is a whole complex of relationships into which that person has been placed. Death truly tears apart what God has joined together. The very nature of grief should have told me that a long time ago, but it didn't sink into my consciousness. I mean, I knew it in an intellectual way. Donne and "for whom the bell tolls" but I don't think I ever saw it the way I should have until this morning. And that is why our Lord's resurrection was not alone, but with many others according to St. Matthew. Death's destruction is for the Christian not confined to the confession that the flesh will be raised. It means also that the complex of relationships into which we have been brought in the Holy Church are really and truly forever - God has given us a home in the full sense of that word which can never ever be lost - brothers and sisters whom we will enjoy for all eternity. So, since I didn't get to say all this in this morning's sermon, I wanted to share it now. : )

17 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain. - St. John Chrysostom, Homily 3 on 2 Thessalonians

16 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

We hold, moreover, that Christ sits in the body at the right hand of God the Father, but we do not hold that the right hand of the Father is actual place. For how could He that is uncircumscribed have a right hand limited by place? Right hands and left hands belong to what is circumscribed. But we understand the right hand of the Father to be the glory and honour of the Godhead in which the Son of God, who existed as God before the ages, and is of like essence to the Father, and in the end became flesh, has a seat in the body, His flesh sharing in the glory. For He along with His flesh is adored with one adoration by all creation.
- St. John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book IV, Chapter 2

(Compare to FC SD VIII:28)

Corpus Christi?

Apparently there is a bit of discussion in the Lutheran Blogosphere about the propriety of observing the Corpus Christi feast - a feast of decidedly dubious origins in the Middle Ages.

The assumption seems to be that Lutherans simply abolished this feast from their liturgies in the 16th and 17th centuries. However, that is not entirely accurate. Most orders did so, but there are notable exceptions. Brandenburg in the 16th century, and the Magdeburg Book in the 17th century.

In the later, a full century after the Reformation, we find the Lutheran cathedral at Magdeburg observing the following on the Thursday Mass following the Feast of the Holy Trinity:

The Introit appointed is the same as that the Romans give for Corpus Christi: Psalm 81:17 antiphon for the Psalm; Psalm verse is 81:1.

The Kyrie is the Paschal tone.

The Collect is the collect appointed for Trinity Sunday

The Epistle is 1 Cor. 11:23-29 (same as for Corpus Christi)

The Sequence is "Lauda Sion Salvatorum" - the same as for Corpus Christi, though a slightly "corrected" text - following Lossius' Psalmodia:

Original: Dogma datur Christianis, quod in carnem *transit* panis, et vinum in sanguinem.

Correcta: Dogma sacrum Christiano, quo cum pane datur caro, et cum vino sanguis Christi.

Note that this is a direct assault upon celebrating the day as a "Transubstantiation" day.

The Gospel is John 6:55-58 (substantially the same as for Corpus Christi)

So, here you have a 17th Century Church Order from Magdeburg in effect keeping the propers for Corpus Christi without giving the mass a special name. What I suspect happened on this day, however, would be a preaching upon the texts that would seek to refute the Roman use and practice of the Feast and stress instead the importance of receiving the Sacrament for the forgiveness of sins and not parading it around town.

For whatever the above might contribute to the discussion...

15 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day - By the Cross all things have been made right!

Every action, therefore, and performance of miracles by Christ are most great and divine and marvellous: but the most marvellous of all is His precious Cross. For no other thing has subdued death, expiated the sin of the first parent, despoiled Hades, bestowed the resurrection, granted the power to us of contemning the present and even death itself, prepared the return to our former blessedness, opened the gates of Paradise, given our nature a seat at the right hand of God, and made us the children and heirs of God, save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. For by the Cross all things have been made right. - St. John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book IV, Chapter IX

14 June 2006

patristic Quote for the Day

It is one and the same God Whom both the Old and the New Testament proclaim, Who is praised and glorified in the Trinity: I am come, saith the Lord, not to destroy life law but to fulfil it. For He Himself worked out our salvation for which all Scripture and all mystery exists. And again, Search the Scriptures for they are they that testify of Me. And the Apostle says, God, Who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son. Through the Holy Spirit, therefore, both the law and the prophets, the evangelists and apostles and pastors and teachers, spake.

All Scripture, then, is given by inspiration of God and is also assuredly profitable. Wherefore to search the Scriptures is a work most fair and most profitable for souls. For just as the tree planted by the channels of waters, so also the soul watered by the divine Scripture is enriched and gives fruit in its season, viz. orthodox belief, and is adorned with evergreen leafage, I mean, actions pleasing to God. For through the Holy Scriptures we are trained to action that is pleasing to God, and untroubled contemplation. For in these we find both exhortation to every virtue and dissuasion from every vice. If, therefore, we are lovers of learning, we shall also be learned in many things. For by care and toil and the grace of God the Giver, all things are accomplished. For every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to hint that knocketh it shall be opened. Wherefore let us knock at that very fair garden of the Scriptures, so fragrant and sweet and blooming, with its varied sounds of spiritual and divinely-inspired birds ringing all round our ears, laying hold of our hearts, comforting the mourner, pacifying the angry and filling him with joy everlasting: which sets our mind on the gold-gleaming, brilliant back of the divine dove, whose bright pinions bear up to the only-begotten Son and Heir of the Husbandman of that spiritual Vineyard and bring us through Him to the Father of Lights. But let us not knock carelessly but rather zealously and constantly: lest knocking we grow weary. For thus it will be opened to us. If we read once or twice and do not understand what we read, let us not grow weary, but let us persist, let us talk much, let us enquire. For ask thy Father, he saith, and He will shew thee: thy elders and they will tell thee. For there is not in every man that knowledge. Let us draw of the fountain of the garden perennial and purest waters springing into life eternal. Here let us luxuriate, let us revel insatiate: for the Scriptures possess inexhaustible grace. But if we are able to pluck anything profitable from outside sources, there is nothing to forbid that. Let us become tried money-dealers, heaping up the true and pure gold and discarding the spurious. Let us keep the fairest sayings but let us throw to the dogs absurd gods and strange myths: for we might prevail most mightily against them through themselves.

[He goes on to list the canon, listing the canon of the Hebrew Bible (without Apocrphya) and the NT plus the Apostolic Canons and Clement]

--St. John of Damascus, *Exposition of the Orthodox Faith* Book IV, chapter 18

13 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day - Glorying in the Cross

Moreover we worship even the image of the precious and life-giving Cross, although made of another tree, not honouring the tree (God forbid) but the image as a symbol of Christ. For He said to His disciples, admonishing them, Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven, meaning the Cross. And so also the angel of the resurrection said to the woman, Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth which was crucified. And the Apostle said, We preach Christ crucified. For there are many Christs and many Jesuses, but one crucified. He does not say speared but crucified. It behoves us, then, to worship the sign of Christ. For wherever the sign may be, there also will He be. But it does not behove us to worship the material of which the image of the Cross is composed, even though it be gold or precious stones, after it is destroyed, if that should happen. Everything, therefore, that is dedicated to God we worship, conferring the adoration on Him.

The tree of life which was planted by God in Paradise pre-figured this precious Cross.

For since death was by a tree, it was fitting that life and resurrection should be bestowed by a tree. Jacob, when He worshipped the top of Joseph's staff, was the first to image the Cross, and when he blessed his sons with crossed hands he made most clearly the sign of the cross. Likewise also did Moses' rod, when it smote the sea in the figure of the cross and saved Israel, while it overwhelmed Pharaoh in the depths; likewise also the hands stretched out crosswise and routing Amalek; and the bitter water made sweet by a tree, and the rock rent and pouring forth streams of water, and the rod that meant for Aaron the dignity of the high priesthood: and the serpent lifted in triumph on a tree as though it were dead, the tree bringing salvation to those who in faith saw their enemy dead, just as Christ was nailed to the tree in the flesh of sin which yet knew no sin. The mighty Moses cried, You will see your life hanging on the tree before your eyes, and Isaiah likewise, I have spread out my hands all the day unto a faithless and rebellious people. But may we who worship this obtain a part in Christ the crucified. Amen.

--St. John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book Four, Chapter Eleven

12 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

Always be revolving, in speech and in your mind, upon the words of God: for God gave this to be a prize for labors, a little light for seeing something hidden; or else, to be a blessing that by the holy God's great laws you might be pierced; or, third, that by these cares you might withdraw your mind from earthly things. But, lest you be stolen in mind by foreign books (for in them many evil things have been inserted) receive, friend, this list of mine of books which are approved. (He goes to list the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures and of the NT - without Revelation. He skips over the Apocrypha entirely). If there is anything else besides these, it is not among the genuine.
- St. Gregory of Nazianzus, On God and Man, "Concerning the Genuine Books of Scripture" (PG 37, 471-474)

11 June 2006

God bless all the Michaels of the world!

Today, as Michael left church, he informed me: "I am not a catholic. I am a Lutheran."

An odd thing to say, you might think, but Michael has this reaction once a year. It invariably happens on Trinity Sunday when we confess the Athanasian Creed. You see, Michael USED to be a Roman Catholic, and he has never forgotten his conversion to Lutheranism and the joy that it brought to his heart. He just doesn't get this Creed that shows up in the liturgy once a year here.

The key, as always, to attend to what is confessed. The Creed leaves you in zero doubt as to what the Catholic faith is:

"And the catholic faith is this: that we worship one God in in trinity and Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance." (LSB translation)

Friends, the Romans do NOT have the word "catholic" copyrighted as their own. It belongs to those who worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God. THAT is the catholic faith, nothing else. Let this bring joy and comfort to your hearts. To be catholic is nothing more and nothing less than to join the countless multitude who stand before the throne of God and proclaim:

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever! Amen.

So, to Michael and any others who were disconcerted by what was confessed today: focus on the words of the Athanasian Creed and rejoice in true catholicity - join in the glorification of the Holy, Consusbstantial, Life-creating, and Undivided Trinity, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages! Amen!

Homily for Trinity 1

Homily for Trinity 1 (2006)

Why Abraham? Why not say: “He went to heaven” or some such? What’s so special about Abraham and his side that he gets picked out?

Abraham was not a poor man, after all, not by any measure. A wealthy man - every bit as rich as the rich man in the parable, if not far richer. So why pick him? We get a clue if we remember what happened when unknown visitors appeared on Abraham’s doorstep by the Oaks of Mamre? Do you recall?

“When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said: ‘O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet and rest yourselves, and after that you may pass on - since you have come to your servant.” And then Abraham and his wife prepared an unbelievable feast for these three men. Sarah kneaded up 21 quarts worth of flour (Pastor Feicho tells me that amount to 187 biscuits per person!) and made cakes and Abraham had his servants prepare a young calf, and served it with curds and milk. A feast indeed. And all for men he never knew. Just because they landed on his doorstep.

Do you see the contrast then with the other rich man - the one in the parable? He can call Abraham “Father” but this is not a case of “like father, like son.” This son may have shared Abraham’s blood, but he did not share his mercy, his kindness, or his faith. His faith did not extend itself in hospitality to any who came to him. His was a life without mercy.

Think of our lives today. We are so busy. We run from one thing to the next. Is it any wonder that loneliness is epidemic among us? We have neither time for the silence of withdrawal for personal reflection nor the time for hospitality, for welcoming people into our homes. And we’ve simply accepted this state of affairs as normal. Today’s Gospel challenges that.

In Bible Class a couple weeks ago we were looking at another passage in Luke’s Gospel - chapter 11, verse 41. There Jesus said: “But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean to you.”

Give alms from within - in other words, our mercy, our hospitality, can never just be a matter of setting THINGS in front of others: gifts to buy them off so that they leave us alone. What we must give alms of is the stuff within: our very selves. Lazarus hungered for more than just the crumbs from the Rich Man’s table. He hungered for a friend to talk to, to share with. It was the Rich Man himself that could have provided for Lazarus - not just “charity” (as we’ve come to think of it) but love, giving alms of self to another. Time, friendship, and food.

That’s how Abraham was. He didn’t just give food to strangers and walk away; he welcomed them to his home. He celebrated that they had come to him. And that, of course, points to the true Son of Abraham: He who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor that we through his poverty might become rich: our Lord Jesus.
God didn’t just send us some food so that we could put fuel into our bodies and keep on going. With the food, God gives Himself. That’s vital. That’s what the Eucharist is all about. “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.” That’s salvation. It’s what human beings ache for in the depths of their heart whether they know it or not.

When our Lord went to His cross He embraced fully the horrid loneliness that we fallen humans have chosen for themselves. He took it all into Himself and out of that horrible depth He cried out. “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” Entering that loneliness and filling it with His forgiveness, His love, His presence, He destroyed it forever. Sin is always loneliness - man going his own way: “they have turned every one to His own way.” But when “the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all” the power of sin to separate us from Him - and also from each other - was broken entirely! Loneliness is destroyed by the Son of Mary!

And it is no accident that He shared a meal where He gave more than bread to His own - where He gave them His very self, His true body and blood. “Do this as the memorial of me!” he told them. As the memorial of the One who was not content to give things - but who gave Himself.

Our turn now. We know that we still feast at the table where our Lord gives us Himself - the Body that shattered the grave and the Blood that forever blots out the handwriting against us. He gives us Himself without holding anything back. The Father sends us the Son who sends us the Spirit to bring us to the Son who brings us to the Father. That is how entirely God has given Himself to us. And we know that this is life.

Such life then He sets before us on His Table. If gathering together and receiving from God the gift of Himself pours life itself into us and renews us - how can we ever fail to see that what happens here should not be a blip on the screen of our lives? What happens here in this holy place manifests what all of life is created and meant to be! All that it can be when it is lived by faith in Him! Do you think it was an accident that when the Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost, one of the things we learn about them is that “day by day...together breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts!”

In their homes as in our ours, in every one of them, stands a table. Whether we are single or whether we are married; whether we are blessed with children or whether we are not. In each home there stands a table, and that table testifies to the will of God for us humans: to be family to each other, sisters and brothers of the Son of God. Such a simple vision God has: all of us members of one family, eating from one table, and giving ourselves fully and completely to one another. No such thing as strangers to each other, because every human is a welcome guest! Simple, but powerful. And that’s life! It starts here, it goes on forever in eternity.

Let our tables at home begin to reflect the heavenly Father’s table. Be done with token charity, and instead open wide our hearts, our lives, yes, our homes to each other and to all whom God brings our way. Rejoice to extend to others the hospitality of Abraham, knowing it is a joyous reflection of the hospitality of Him who has gone before us to prepare us a place at His Father’s table and a welcome in His Father’s home, to whose Kingdom may He grant us all to attain through His mercy and love for mankind. Amen.

St. Barnabas, Apostle

Today the Western Church observed the Feast of the Holy Trinity. But this day is also set aside to remember St. Barnabas, the Apostle, whose commemoration is then transferred to tomorrow:

Almighty God, Your faithful servant Barnabas sought not his own renown but gave generously of his life and substance for the encouragement of the apostles and their ministry. Grant that we may follow his example in lives given to charity and the proclamation of the Gospel; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Is 42:5-12 / Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3 / Mark 6:7-13

It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, for You have mightily governed and protected Your holy Church, in which the blessed apostles and evangelists proclaimed Your divine and saving Gospel. Therefore with patriarchs and prophets, apostles and evangelists, with Your servant Barnabas, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying: Holy, holy, holy...

Patristic Quote for the Day

Brothers, he who has bestowed upon you the gift of faith has also taught you how to pray, and he has fitted the whole formula of supplication into a few words, because when asking something of his father, a son does not have the arduous task of making a lengthy petition. For just as need forces a child to make a request, so too charity compels a father to give. Therefore, the Father, who gives willingly, shows us not so much that he should be asked as what should be asked for, in order that the son should please him by asking for what is right, since he can displease him by making a request for what is foolish. Listen to the Father, and believe that you are already his children, so that you may obtain without delay what you are asking for. - St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon #71 (Fifth Sermon on the Lord's Prayer), par. 1

10 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

That is, when there is hope of mercy, when it is the time of pardon, when there is opportunity for repentance, let us confess to him as Father, so that we do not experience him as Judge; let us disclose to his kindness what we have done so that we are not forced to explain to his severity what we hide in silence; let us tell our sins in the time of indulgence, lest if we keep silent we weep when we receive a sentence. And why should I say more, brothers? This most compassionate prophet exhorts us to stay ahead, not of the Judge, but of judgment. - St. Peter Chrysologus, On Psalm 94 (95), Sermon #46 par 3

We're the Tops!

St. Louis's Race for the Cure, that is. This year's effort in behalf of fighting breast cancer was the largest such race in the whole U.S. of A. Participating this year, among many thousands, were three special people:

Cindi Weedon, Forrest Feicho, and Tanya Feicho (Pastors Feicho and Weedon did their part by cheering on from the sidelines!)

I thought about my sister (who finished treatments for breast cancer last year), our good friend Gail Cogswell (battling it right now), Jane Krauser (who died of it this past year), my Aunt Kitty (who died of it back in the 1980's), and Lois who has survived many years. God grant that today's efforts bring us much closer to a cure.

09 June 2006

Watch out, world!

This boy has just earned his black belt in Tae Kwon Do. And he broke a brick with his hand to prove it. OUCH! Congratulations, David! Pictured are Master Winkler, David Weedon, and Master Dave.

The Love of God

Ah! how much then ought we to love Him who first so dearly loved us. He loved us before we had any being, for it is because of His divine love that we were born into the world. He loved us when we were yet enemies; for it is because of His divine love and compassion that He sent His Son to redeem us. He loved us when we had fallen into sin; for it is because of His divine love that He does not instantly deliver us over to death, when we transgress against him, but patiently awaits our conversion. It is because of His divine love that above what we deserve, aye, even in very opposition to our just deserts, He is leading us to His heavenly mansions.

Without the love of God never couldst thou come to a saving knowledge of God. Without that love all knowledge would be worthless; nay, more, would be harmful to thee. Why does love exceed the knowledge of all mysteries? Because the latter may be found even in the devil, but the former only in the gody. Why is the devil the most unhappy being? Because he cannot love the Highest Good. Why is God, on the other hand, the most happy and blessed of all beings? Because He loves a things and takes delight in all the works of His own hands....

Love unites and transforms; if thou lovest carnal things, thou art carnal; if thou lovest earthly things, thou shalt become earthly. But flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. If thou lovest God and divine things, thou shalt become divine....

The love of God is the seal of God upon His elect and believing children. God will not acknowledge as His own in the last Judgment, those who are not sealed with this seal. For faith itself, which is the sole means of our justification and salvation, is not genuine unless it shows itself by love (Gal. v:6); it is not true faith unless it be also an unwavering trust, and such trust is not possible without the love of God.

--Johann Gerhard, Sacred Meditation IX

Patristic Quote for the Day

But you say: "Granted that I can ask: how shall I be able to knock at heaven in its hidden mystery?" How? By repeating your prayers, and by waiting to see what judgment the Benefactor makes; by very patiently putting up with the delays of the Giver; because the one who, as soon as he knocks, becomes angry if he is not given an immediate hearing, is not a humble suppliant but an overbearing bully....Even if he continues to delay into the future, patiently wait for your Lord. - St. Peter Chrysologus, Homily #39 on Luke 11:5-10, par. 6

08 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life's different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on course.

The ancient fathers showed us how we should carry out this duty: Clement, Cornelius, and many others in the city of Rome, Cyprian at Carthage, Athanasius at Alexandria. They all lived under emperors who were pagan; they all steered Christ's ship - or rather his most dear spouse, the Church. This they did by teaching and defending her, by their labors and sufferings, even to the shedding of blood.

I am terrified when I think of al of this. Fear and trembling came upon me and the darkness of my sins almost covered me. I would gladly give up the task of guiding the Chruch which I have accepted if I could find such an action warranted by the example of the fathers or by Holy Scripture.

Since this is the case, and since truth can be assaulted but never defeated or falsified, with our tired mind let us turn to the words of Solomon: trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own prudence. Think on him in a your ways, and he will guide your steps. In another place he says: The name of the Lord is an impregnable tower. The just man seeks refuge in it and he will be saved.

Let us stand fast in what is right and prepare our souls for trial. Let us wait upon God's strengthening aid and say to him: O Lord, you have been our refuge in all generations. Let us trust in him who has placed this burden upon us. What we ourselves cannot bear let us bear with the help of Christ. For he is all-powerful and he tells us: My yoke is easy and my burden is light.

--(a few days late, but...) St. Boniface, Letter 78

07 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

Do you think that a mortal heart grasps the extend of the Lord's charity towards us? Do you think that a mind burdened by the weight of an earthly body can understand or realize God's affection towards us? For whatever sparkles, shines, and gleams with the splendor of heaven, whatever on earth bursts forth with flowers, whatever pleasant taste there is in fruit, and whatever joy there is in living beings, have all been made out of love for us, and have been designed to serve us. But althought they are great, nevertheless, they are small insofar as indicating heavenly love towards us. To us the principalities of heaven, the heavenly powers, the celestial dominions, to us the choirs of angels give service with tireless vigilance. But even these are small and inferior as signs of the intimate bond God has with us,and as paltry in value as the creature is inferior to his Creator.


But he considered this to be still too little, if he were to show his affection toward us by bestowing blessings on us,but not by enduring adversities. After all this he entered his own world in poverty, he lay in a cradle: thus as a human being by his crying he implores, he seeks, he pleads for the loving kindness that he himself has shown to you. ... The Ruler of all ages is seized, the Founder of the earth is arrested, the Bestower of all pardon to humanity is judged, the Giver and Restorer of life is punished, the Resurrection of all is buried, so that the slow mind of human beings and their very dull intellect would learn of God's fondness towards them by his death at least. For that intellect has not perceived or recognized God's charity toward humanity from his prophecies and innumerable gifts. God, therefore, who made us to exist, who granted us life, also taught us how to pray, because he wanted to furnish everything, sine he willed that he be invoked by means of his own prayer.

--St. Peter Chrysologus, Homily #69, par. 2 *On the Lord's Prayer*

06 June 2006

Who said it?

"The Church is fulfillment - here at length all is as it ought to be. The Church is fulfillment, and what is fulfilled without it? Behold the Church! It is the contrary of loneliness - blessed fellowship! Millions of the blessed and of believers - who are becoming blessed - and, in the midst of their songs of praise, the Lord! No longer lonely, but permeated, satisfied, yes, blessed is he who is one of the Millions, each of whom has Christ, adn with Him heaven and earth!"


For Amber Waves of Grain...

Lloyd is our next door neighbor. I'd say his wheat is just about ready to harvest. It was so beautiful, I had to take a picture. Gonna make Vicar Roemke hanker after the midwest again...


...and the livin' is easy!

Bekah and Lucy STILL in bed at 11:30:


My friend Jeff Bull just pointed me to this link:

Click Here

Check this puppy out! St. Paul's - looking incredible.

Certainty vs. Security

Okay, let's have some thoughts on this topic. I confess that I have never understood the drive to say: "I KNOW I will go to heaven." The reason for this is quite simple: I live with the very real possibility that I may reject the grace of God. I have no question that "God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son." I have no question that God's will for me is to remain in saving faith in my Lord until the end. He wills that for all people! But I also know that God will never coerce me in this regard. Salvation remains gift; and gifts are always rejectable.

So it seems to me that when our Lord warns: "He who endures to the end will be saved," He meant it!

St. Paul also seems to speak this way quite clearly in Philippians 3:12,13; 1 Cor 9:27.

There IS certain salvation in Christ; there is NO certainty that I will be in Christ when I die. Therefore this calls for constant and unending vigilance and attendance upon the promises of God and the Means of Grace.

Gerhard speaks of this in his meditation on carnal security where he stresses that such absolute security is not possible in any place: an angel fell in heaven; Adam fell in paradise; Judas fell under the tutelage of Christ Himself.

Note that this does not drive one to despair, but to attend to the promises of God in the preaching of the Gospel, the reception of the Sacrament, the promises of Baptism and Absolution. Because there is no "once saved, always saved" business; because our Lord could reference "those who believe for a while and then fall away" we must guard against all forms of carnal security until our dying breath.

Okay, you all. Ducking!

Patristic Quote for the Day

To be in heaven in a wondrous thing; to live in heaven is majestic. But how great it is to reign in heaven is beyond our mortal intelligence to judge. Nevertheless, O man, you have learnt that you are unable to make such a judgment from the following words of the Apostle: "What eye hath not seen nor ear heard is what God has prepared for those who love Him." - Sermon 25 on "Fear not little flock, for the Father has chosen to give you the kingdom!" - St. Peter Chrysologus

05 June 2006

Happy anniversary to us!

It was on this day, June 5, some 24 years ago that Cindi and I were united in holy marriage before the altar of the Lutheran Church of St. Andrew in Silver Spring, MD. Babe, I love you! You are the greatest!!!

Life on a Highway

I live 2 miles north of a small community of just over 600 people. The area is rural. I look out my office window and see trees, fields, and the Church. It sounds so idyllic. The only problem is the INTERSTATE. Interstate 55, winding its way from St. Louis to Chicago happens to lie a couple hundred feet from my office. Of course, a tad closer are the remnants of the Mother Road - Route 66. St. Paul's sits right on the old Route 66, but literally three feet from Route 66 at this point is I-55.

It makes for an odd juxtaposition. Pr. Haun referenced it in his sermon yesterday, and I've felt it myself for a number of years. Here we sit and things change oh, so slowly here. But roaring by us night and day without let up is the highway. The Church and the world. The world in such hurry, racing and roaring, slaves to the urgent. And then the Church - in a way unmoving, set back and not just watching the world race by, but inviting the world to get off the highway for a while and enjoy the calm, the peace, the unchanging God whose merciful compassions never fail, for they are grounded in Jesus Christ who is the same, "yesterday, today, and forever."

It was a couple winters ago. There was a light snow on the ground. The early service had just let out - the day was the Sunday after Christmas. The organ was still playing the postlude. We looked up in amazement and a whole herd of deer were running through the meadow opposite the Church. There must have been 20 of them. Immediately I felt I was in the carol: "The Holly and the Ivy." It was a beautiful moment. But if you were racing down I-55, chances are very good you'd never have seen it. It was a sight visible only to those who had taken the exit and rested for a bit in the peace of God. "Be still and know that I am God."

Patristic Quote for the Day

[In the following, St. Peter Chrysologus answers the question of why keep the martyr's days, their "heavenly birthdays"?]

Dearly beloved, when you hear about the birthday of the saints,do not think that mention is being made of their birth from flesh into life on earth. There is a question of their birth from earth to heaven; from toil to repose; from temptations to rest; from tortures to delights which are not fleeting, but strong, firm, and everlasting; from worldly hilarity to a crown of glory.

Such birthdays of the martyrs are celebrated in a fitting way. Therefore, when a festival of this kind is being kept, do not think, dearly beloved, that the birthdays of the martyrs should be ceebrated only by meals and more elegant banquets. Rather, what you celebrate in memory of a martyr is something proposed for your imitation. Consequently, dearly beloved, observe the ardor of the congregation which is present. At one time on this date a mob of evil men stood by, when, through the tyrant's orders, St. Cyprian was being maltreated. There were crowds of evil-doers and bands of onlookers. Now, a devout multitude of the faithful has assembled to rejoice. Then, there was a crowd of furious agitators; now, one of those who rejoice - then, a band of men without hope; now, one of the men who are full of it.

It is for a purpose that the birthdays of the martyrs are celebrated every year with joy: that that which happened in the past should remain in the memory of devout men of every century. The festival is carried out, dearly beloved, that you may not say that you know nothing about it. The festivities are celebrated annually to keep you from saying: I forgot.

- Homily 129 on St. Cyprian the Martyr

04 June 2006

150 Years and Pentecost

Today was the first special anniversary service for St. Paul's parish in our 150th anniversary year. The focus of this service was the school, and we had an all-school reunion dinner in the gym following the second divine service. Lois Senechal Rimbau won the prize for the teacher who came the furthest (Manhattan); Tara Sauerwein Januhowski was the former student who travelled furthest (from Texas) - we also learned that Tara was the expert at dealing with mice in the classroom; she stomped on them! Pr. Monte Haun - son of the parish and former Lutheran teacher and now pastor - delivered a fine homily at the two morning services. And to add to all the joy: today was the glorious feast of Pentecost, and we got to sing one of my all-time favorite hymns (both in text and tune):

Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord!
Be all Thy graces now outpoured
On each believer's mind and heart;
Thy fervent love to them impart.
Lord, by the brightness of Thy light,
Thou in the faith dost men unite
From ev'ry land and ev'ry tongue.
This to Thy praise,
O Lord our God be sung.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Come, holy Light, Guide divine,
Oh, cause the Word of Life to shine!
Teach us to know our God aright
And call Him Father with delight.
From ev'ry error keep us free;
Let none but Christ our Master be
That we in living faith abide,
In Him, our Lord,
With all our might confide.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Thou holy Fire, Comfort true,
Grant us the will of Thy work to do
And in Thy service to abide;
Let trials turn us not aside.
Lord, by Thy pow'r prepare each heart
And to our weakness strength impart
That bravely here we may contend,
Through life and death
To Thee, our Lord, ascend.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Patristic Quote for the Day

The Son is thus the icon of the Father, and the Holy Spirit the icon of the Son. Whoever, therefore, has seen the Son, has seen the Father, and whoever has seen the Holy Spirit has seen the Son. As the Apostle says: The Lord is the Spirit; and again, The Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words...crying, Abba Father. He says rightly that the Lord is the Spirit when He cries "Abba! Father!" not that the Son is the Spirit - far from it! - but that the Son is seen and beheld in the Holy Spirit, and that never is the Son revealed without the Spirit nor the Spirit without the Son. Instead, it is in and through the Spirit that the Son Himself cries "Abba, Father!"

--St. Symeon the New Theologian, Third Ethical Discourse

03 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

And, before the ages, He predestined that as many as should believe in Him and be baptized in His name, that is, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and eat the pure body of His Son and drink His precious blood, would be justified from sin, that is to say, would be freed and glorified, and become partakers of life everlasting - just as He Himsef, the Master of all, has said: "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has everlasting life" and "He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life." So then, my brother, see how you were foreknown by God, and predestined, and glorified, and justified, and called up into everlasting life through faith in Christ and holy Baptism. - St. Symeon the New Theologian, Second Ethical Discourse.

02 June 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

What is more awesome: that God gives Himself to earth, or that He places you in Heaven?
That He Himself enters a union with flesh, or that He causes you to enter into a sharing of the Divinity?
That He Himself accepts death, or that He recovers you from death?
That He Himself is born into your state of slavery, or that He makes you to be free children of His own?
That He takes your poverty upon Himself, or that He makes you His heirs, yes, co-heirs of His unique Self?

It is indeed more awesome that earth is transformed into a heaven,
that man is changed by deification,
and that those who lot is slavery get the rights of domination.
All this is indeed something to fill us with fear.

Nevertheless, the present situation has reference not to the one instructing
but to the One who gives the command.
Therefore, my little children,
let us approach where charity summons, love draws, and affection invites us.

May our hearts perceive God as our Father!
Our voice should proclaim this,
our tongue should utter it,
our spirit should shout it aloud;
and everything that is in us should be in tune with grace, not fear.
For, He who has changed from a judge into a Father has wished to be loved, not feared.

--St. Peter Chrysologus, *Sermon 67* - to the Catechumens on the Our Father

01 June 2006

Ascension Day Words from Blessed Johann Gerhard

[the Western Church is still in Ascensiontide; today Ascensiontide begins for our sisters and brothers in the Eastern Church. Some great words for both:]

O blessed Lord Jesus, how gloriously Thy passion hath ended!
What a blessed and sudden transformation is here!
Ah, in what awful anguish I saw Thee upon Mount Calvary,
and now in what glory I behold Thee upon Mount Olivet!
There Thou didst suffer alone;
here Thou art attended by a vast multitude of the angelic hosts;
There Thou didst ascend to the cross;
here Thou dost ascend in a cloud to heaven;
There Thou wast crucified between two thieves;
here Thou dost exult among angelic choirs;
There Thou wast nailed to the cross as a condemned criminal;
here, free from all condemnation, Thou art the deliverer of those condemned to eternal death;
There Thou didst bleed and die;
here Thou dost rejoice and triumph.

Christ is our glorious head; we are the members of His body; rejoice thou and shout for joy, O faithful soul, in the ascension to heaven of thy Head. The glory of the Head is the glory also of the members. Where our flesh reigns there let us believe that we too shall reign. Where our blood rules, there let us hope that we too shall be glorious; though our sins would forbid this, yet our participation in His holy nature makes it possible. Where the Head is there shall also the other members of the body be; Christ, our Head, hath gone into the heavens, hence the other members of the body with good reason hope to enter heaven, and not only so, but even now already have a possession in heaven. Christ came from heaven for our redemption; He returns thither for our glorification. He was born in the flesh for us, He suffered for us, and therefore He ascended for us. The passion of Christ wins our love; the resurrection of Christ strengthens our faith; the ascension of Christ confirms our hope.

We ought, however, to follow our heavenly Bridegroom not only in ardent desires, but also in good works. Into the celestial city shall enter nothing that defileth, in token of which angels appeared at Christ's ascension as coming from the heavenly Jerusalem and clothed in white apparel, as tokens of innocence and purity.

Pride cannot ascend to heaven with the great Master of humility;
Nor evil with the Author of all goodness;
Nor discord with the Prince of Peace;
Nor lust and wantonness with the Son of the Virgin;
Nor vice with the Parent of all virtue;
Nor sin with the Holy One,
Nor our sinful infirmity with the Great Physician.

Does any one desire to behold God in the future life; let him live worthily in the sight of God in this life.

Does anyone hope for the blessedness of heaven by and by; let him love not the world now.

O Bessed Lord Jesus, draw our hearts after Thee, we beseech Thee!

St. Justin, Martyr

Today we remember St. Justin, the Martyr.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.
Jesus Christ the same: Yesterday, today, and forever.

Almighty God, who didst give Thy servant Justin boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may likewise ever be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for His sake; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

(Brotherhood Prayer Book)

Patristic Quote for the Day

And really, my brothers, when does a doctor ever seek or regard the will of his patients, inasmuch as one who is sick always desires and asks for the opposite treatment? This is why he administers and prescribes now iron, now fire, now bitter potions against their will, in order for them to be able to appreciate the cure when they are well, which they could not appreciate when ill. And if a man pays no heed to insults and disregards curses, in order to confer of his own accord life and health to those afflicted with diseases, how much more so does Christ the Physician with divine goodness draw to salvation those afflicted with diseases, that is, laboring under the madness of sins and offenses, even when they are unwilling and do not want it?

O, if only we were willing, my brothers, if only we all were willing to give our full attention to the paralysis of our minds! We would then discern that our soul was deprived of virtue and lying prostrate on a bed of vice; it would be clear to us how Christ each day both regards our damaged wills, and drags us and urges us on against our wills to remedies that can heal and save us.

- Homily #50, par. 4 (On the Paralytic), St. Peter Chyrsologus