Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the Resurrection

"What does faith in resurrection have to do with efforts to contain war, racism, global warming and terrorism? Everything."

"Another Way of Living"

Rita Wilson on "Greek Easter"

Rita Wilson is Tom Hanks' wife. She is cradle Greek Orthodox and is largely responsible for the making of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".

Why Easter is Greek to Me: Xristos Anesti!

Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

To all of our brothers and sisters who have celebrated Pascha today, may the joy of the Risen Lord saturate your lives this day and always.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Speaking of Ecumenism...

"[Byzantine] Orthodox and [Roman] Catholic Churches are allies, [Orthodox] Bishop Hilarion says"

So perhaps the Balamand Declaration is not dead after all...

Agreed Statements on Christology: For Fr. Robert primarily

I am linking the following primarily for Fr. Robert, aka "Irish Anglican", a commenter on Fr. Stephen's blog.

Agreed Statements between Representatives of the Oriental Orthodox and Byzantine Orthodox Communions


Orthodox Unity

Great and Holy Friday

For the Byzantine Orthodox, today is Great and Holy Friday, marking the execution of our Lord upon the cross.

"And the earth quakes in its pain, to behold its Creator slain."

So sings a contemporary [Orthodox] Christian music group called Kerygma, paraphrasing a line from one of the Byzantine Rite services for today.

For those of us using the Gregorian or the Revised Julian calendar, in both East and West, it is also the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist, traditionally regarded as the author of the Gospel which bears his name (written perhaps to record the memories of his mentor, St. Peter) and the founder of the Church of Alexandria.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Many Years! Chorepiscopus (Archpriest) Andreas Richard Turner and Amma (Mother) Caitlin Turner, St. Elias parish, Kodak, Tennessee. Avva Andreas today celebrates his...uh, late-40-something birthday. Amma Caitlin, Avva's beloved spouse, was ordained to the priesthood today back in 1994.

Happy Birthday!


Ad Multos Annos! (to both of you)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Blessed John Henry, Pray to God for Us!"

Convert to Roman Catholicism from Anglicanism, sometimes accused of "modernism," and lukewarm supporter of the decrees of the First Vatican Council, Cardinal Newman is finally going to be beatified.

"John Henry Cardinal Newman to be beatified"

Pope Benedict Meets with Survivors of Clergy Sex Abuse

(HT: Rocco Palmo)

"Victims of Abuse Recall Meeting with Pope"

Horne surprised himself at what he said to the pope after years of calling for meetings between popes and survivors.

Since he became an adult, he has rarely gone to Mass. A couple of hours before the visit, Horne went with his college-age daughter to the Papal Mass at Nationals Stadium.

"At that Mass, I realized that I hadn't given my daughter faith, but I could give my daughter something," he said. "I could show her never to give up. There was the head of the whole Catholic Church. And in an hour he was prepared to meet with me and other survivors. I had never given up hope that things might change. Given up faith sometimes, but never given up hope."

Ten minutes before the pope arrived, Horne asked a priest to hear his sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, popularly called confession. Catholics believe that in this sacrament Jesus directly provides the grace of healing and forgiveness.

When Horne faced the pope, he found himself telling the pope about his spontaneous preparation.

"I told him that I had not gone to confession in 35 years, but I went 10 minutes before I met him to ask forgiveness because I had hated him for years, I hated the church, I hated my God. I told him I wanted forgiveness so that I could be in the same place that he was when I met him. So I could have an open heart."

Pain fractured the pope's face like a man standing before a jury, Horne said but as he finished Benedict smiled and grabbed Horne's hand.

Read it all

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"What hath Rome to do with Salt Lake City?"

Last week, two major religious news stories competed for attention. The first, of course, was the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States. The second was the raid conducted by Texas authorities on the compound of the polygynous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the FLDS, because of alleged child abuse.

Given that the mainstream Mormon Church, the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the LDS, no longer practices polygyny, it seems that President Monson and Company are at pains to differentiate themselves from the above-mentioned FLDS and other “Mormon” splinter groups which continue to allow and encourage their male members to marry more than one woman at a time. Fair enough. Sort of like members of the mainstream Roman Catholic Church wanting to differentiate IT from the likes of the SSPX and the outright sede vacantists, or the “canonical” Byzantine Orthodox jurisdictions from the “noncanonical” Old Calendarists (as opposed to the canonical jurisdictions, such as the Russian Orthodox Church, which continue to use the Old Calendar).

All of that, however, is sort of a digression. What these two stories represent to me has to do with some basic questions regarding authority and continuity in Church life. All who consider the Book of Mormon inspired Scripture, whether in Salt Lake City or in Eldorado, Texas, even those in the former Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now called the Community of Christ, ground themselves in a tradition of "restoration," of continuing revelation, of “new prophecy,” rooted, not in the continuity of THE Tradition going back, without break, to the Apostles, to Christ Himself, and attested in the New Testament, but in “revelations,” including the Book of Mormon, received by one Joseph Smith, Junior, whose standing as a “prophet” is based largely on the notion that said Apostolic Tradition had somehow failed. For the followers of Smith, this failure is called the “Great Apostasy.”

I will not attempt to recount the entirety of Smith’s career. He lived in the early nineteenth century and began to receive his “revelations” in an area of western New York State which was then called ‘the burned-over district” because it had been the scene, so many times, of the fires of Protestant revivalism. According to the book, Mormon America, the scene was dominated by Methodists, Presbyterians, Quakers, and Baptists. Also present were influences from such entities as Swedenborgianism and a folk tradition of ritual magic, the latter being something that Smith had dabbled in, hoping to find buried treasure. Not an Episcopalian nor a Lutheran in sight, few or no Roman Catholic clergy, and certainly nothing or no one that could be called Orthodox, whether Byzantine or Oriental. So, while the Protestant Canon of the Bible (and a high degree of biblical literacy when it came to the text) was certainly present, what was absent was what could be called a “hermeneutic of continuity” or a "hermeneutic of the Tradition" adequate for the accurate and complete interpretation of the Bible.

In fact, in many ways, the hermeneutics emanating from the above-mentioned Protestant groups were, and are, by way of reaction to the Roman Catholic iteration of the Apostolic Tradition, and these hermeneutics, largely stemming from John Calvin (or, in the case of Methodism, largely in reaction to Calvinism), simply ignored many of the questions which the Apostolic Tradition answers. (Calvinism also provided Smith with the notion of said “Great Apostasy”, at least in embryonic form.) For example, the AT posits the existence of an authoritative priesthood and teaching office (the latter understood somewhat differently by the Roman Catholic Church than by Orthodoxy), whereas, in Calvinism, the emphasis is on the “priesthood of all believers” and upon individual interpretation of Scripture. While there are, of course, Pastors in these Protestant Churches, there is really no “controlling” teaching “authority” in any of these branches of Protestantism.

So Smith, apparently knowing little of the AT, and rejecting much of what he did know, accepts this notion of a "great Apostasy" and posits a "restoration" based in revelations received by him alone during his life, relevation which is “continuing," and given to those "prophets" who suceed him after his death. He institutes a new priesthood which, while authoritative in its highest reaches, is also quite democratic. This is but one example. Another would have to do with the fate of the dead. The AT, of course, encourages prayer for those who have departed this life. Not so Calvinism. Smith? Baptism for the dead, of course. Even more outside the AT is Smith’s Doctrine of God (the Father), who is “an exalted man” and Smith’s statement that “spirit is matter.” For Smith, creation is not ex nihilo, but is the result of his god (gods, actually) organizing eternal matter into the present cosmos. It could therefore be argued that Mormonism is, in fact, atheistic, since, for it, deity does not transcend the cosmos, and that Mormons are simply materialists of a certain "spiritual" bent. Whatever the case, these beliefs certainly have a great deal in common with certain strains of contemporary neo-paganism and remind one of C.S. Lewis' comments about "materialist magicians" in The Screwtape Letters.

In short, I am convinced that Mormonism was able to begin and to gain traction because representatives of the authentic and complete Apostolic Tradition, whether Orthodox or Roman Catholic, or those of the old high church Anglicanism, or even of Lutheranism, were not present to counter it in the very beginning. Thus, I see the two competing religious news stories of last week as a metaphor for the competition between the authentic Apostolic Tradition, as represented by Pope Benedict, and the new prophecy of Joseph Smith, which seeks to supplant this authentic Christian Faith “once delivered to the Saints” and continuous in time, if not entirely in space, "until the end of the age".

Byzantine Holy Week - Bridegroom Homily

It is Holy Week in the Byzantine Orthodox Churches. When we in the ACCA celebrated Holy Week back in March, along with the Western Churches, I delivered the following homily, which has been slightly revised and extended, at a service of the Bridegroom Vespers. The Scripture reference is Matthew 25:1-13 (RSV):

[Jesus said,] "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, `Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, `Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, `Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, `Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."
In each of the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, just prior to the recounting of His death and resurrection, Jesus discusses the Eschaton, the end of history. The approach of the Gospel of John is slightly different, but in all four gospels, one thing is clear: the end of history, “the last days” begins with the execution and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In this parable, the Lord concludes by calling upon us to “watch.” We can know neither the day nor the hour of his appearing. This applies not only to the end of history, to the Lord’s return “in glory to judge both the living and the dead,” but to the moment of our own personal eschaton, our own death. Now we do not know if we shall be alive in the flesh when the Lord returns; however, we do know, barring the Second Coming, that each of us one day will leave this earthly life behind, and for that, we are called to be ready, our lamps full of the oil of the Holy Spirit, and with oil to spare, oil that we have purchased with our very life, in which we have been, and are being, "crucified with Christ". This is indeed our own personal apocalypse, and mine is mine alone, and yours, yours alone.

One major difference between our Tradition and Evangelicalism is that we take very seriously the communitarian aspects of the Christian faith. For us, in one sense, everything begins and ends with the Church. However, within the context of this Community, founded by the Lord himself and enlivened by the burning oil of the Holy Spirit, there is, in another sense, an individual relationship with the Lord that is uniquely mine, uniquely yours. There is a place in my heart, the wedding chamber if you will, the Holy of Holies, where no one can enter but myself and the Lord. In this sense, I cannot share my oil with you, nor you with me. I cannot be baptized for you, nor receive the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit in chrismation on your behalf. I cannot be absolved for your sins, nor you for mine. I cannot receive the Body and Blood of the Lord in your place, nor you in mine.

We can and should pray for each other, but I cannot do your praying for you, nor you for me. Hence, this message to watch, to be ready, to stay awake, is uniquely addressed to each of us as distinct persons. And yet, because the bridegroom is delayed, it is assumed that we will, each of us, fall asleep, only to awaken when the call is given: “The Bridegroom is coming.” Therefore, knowing this, we must, when awake, take care to have stored up for ourselves an adequate supply of oil. This is one reason why the Church gives us the seasons of Lent and Advent, so that, for a few weeks, we might focus on repentance, on acquiring the oil that we need. This is why we are called to fast regularly, usually twice a week, in order to focus more carefully on prayer, and are called, upon all occasions, to give of ourselves, and of our time, talent, and treasure, in service to others.

However, we cannot stress enough that the God-given context for this individual relationship with Christ is the Community of the Church, the very Body of Christ. Indeed, in the Orthodox traditions, temples are designed, on the basis of the old Temple in Jerusalem, with this in mind. Our temples are macrocosms of the microcosmic temple of the heart, and vice-versa. Further, if you keep your individual lamp burning, you will shed its light on us, and will encourage each of us to do the same. While there are some things that only I can do, things that only you can do, there is nothing that I do, that you do, that does not impact the Community, the Church, as a whole, either for good or for ill.

We are a team, but as on every team, each member has his or her own role to play, and each of these roles is indispensable. The Church, this Community, is the Body of Christ, and because we are each “members of Christ,” we are, as St. Paul also writes, “members one of another” just as the Divine Persons of the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are “members one of another” from all eternity. Thus, the Church, the Body of Christ, who is "the Last Adam," is humanity re-created in the image and likeness of God and is therefore the ikon of the eternally communitarian Godhead.

Therefore, at the end of the Great Fast, as we prepare to enter into the Passover mystery of our Lord’s death and resurrection, let us, indeed, obtain for ourselves an ever greater measure of this precious oil. If we have not yet gone to Confession during the Fast, let us by all means do so. If we need to reconcile ourselves with someone, let us do that. Whatever the Lord is calling each of us to do in this regard, let us accomplish it, and by all means, let us continue to watch and pray, and to pray for those who have left our community. We are at this moment awake, it may be later than we think, and the Bridegroom is indeed arriving soon. To Him be all glory, honor, power, and worship, together with His unoriginate Father+, and the all-Holy, Good, and Lifegiving Spirit, One God in both worlds unto the Aeon of aeons. Amen.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fr. Stephen on Hell

Is Hell Real?

"...the 'fire' of hell is not a material fire, but itself nothing other than the fire of the Living God (Hebrews 12:29). For those who love God, His fire is light and life, purification and all good things. For those who hate God, His fire is torment, though it be love."

Read it all

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tagged by a Meme

Arturo's tagged me with a meme, my response to which is as follows:

The Rules:
a) The rules of the game are posted at the beginning
b) The blogger who gets tagged must answer the following questions about himself
c) After this has been accomplished, the blogger tags five more to answer the meme, and leaves a comment at their blog to answer it

1) What I was doing ten years ago:
A) Being a priest;
B) Running a medical transcription business with my wife;
C) Raising two teenaged daughters;
D) Living in a ramshackle antebellum plantation house that had been built with slave labor.
(Thirty years ago, to quote Arturo, I too was “agitating for social unrest leading up to and including worldwide socialist revolution to overthrow the bourgeoisie”.)

2) Five things on my to-do list:
2-1) Figure out how my younger daughter can come up with the money she needs to continue her education;
2-2) Go visit my wife’s elderly aunt;
2-3) Win Powerball (see above and below);
2-4) Get the fuel injectors on our car replaced (also a money problem);
2-5) Decide, with my wife, what the next step in our lives is going to be, possibly opening a chapel and book-and-ikon/coffee shop in Gatlinburg, Tennessee area.

3) Things I would do if I were a billionaire: Pay off outstanding debts; Set up a family trust; Fully fund my Church’s ministries and clergy; Fully fund my younger daughter’s education; Fully fund my elder daughter’s education and/or business aspirations; Create an intentional, residential Christian community combining a full cycle of daily liturgical services with self-sufficient living and responsible environmental stewardship; Donate to a variety of worthwhile projects, churches, and other institutions.

4) Three bad habits:
4-1) Smoking cigarettes and occasionally, (high quality) cigars or a pipe;
4-2) Salty language;
4-3) Watching late-night television (Letterman, Leno, Ferguson, Charlie Rose).

5) Five places I have visited:
5-1) Washington DC;
5-2) Decatur NE;
5-3) Jacksonville/St. Augustine FL;
5-4) Anderson IN;
5-5) Regina SK, Canada.

6) Five jobs I’ve had:
6-1) Various on-air radio jobs, including disk jockey and news reporter/anchor;
6-2) Emergency Room Hospital Corpsman in the Navy;
6-3) Security Guard;
6-4) Medical Transcription manager/account executive;
6-5) Psychiatric Technician.

7) Five snacks I enjoy:
7-1) Mixed nuts with less than 50% peanuts;
7-2) Sherbet, especially orange or lime;
7-3) Deli meats;
7-4)Deli cheese, especially Swiss;
7-5) Teriyaki wings.
(I am also a great fan of salads.)

8) Five places I’ve lived:
8-1) Scobey, Montana (Google it or look it up in Wikipedia);
8-2) Milwaukee, Wisconsin (like the late Tom Snyder, I am a Marquette University drop-out);
8-3) Racine, Wisconsin;
8-4) Lexington, Kentucky (as a seminary student);
8-5) Knoxville, Tennessee.

I tag the following:

1) Fr. Tim at Timotheos Prologizes.
2) Jandy at Just Genesis.
3) Pastor Todd Wood at Heart Issues for LDS.
4) Fr. Rob at Stellar Cross.
5) Fr. Peter-Michael at Monasticism.

Sorry, y'all.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

On a Personal Note...

Today also marks the 31st anniversary of my baptism and confirmation/chrismation, which occurred during the Easter Vigil at the Church of the Gesu, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, back in 1977.

the Fundamentalism of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, of the Wesleyan (sort of) Church of the Nazarene, of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God and the charismatic renewal of the "Jesus Revolution"
Roman Catholicism
Byzantine Orthodoxy (almost)
the Antiochian Catholic Church in America

"What a long, strange trip it's been."

Thanks be to God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 - 1945)

Today, April 9, marks the 63rd anniversary of the death of Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred by the Nazis in the final days of World War II in Europe.

In June, 1944, as he remained in prison, Bonhoeffer wrote a poem, known in English as "Who am I?" In many ways, it sums up the entirety of his life.

Who am I?
They often tell me I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a squire from his country-house

Who am I?
They often tell me I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.

Who am I?
They also tell me I bore the days of misfortune
Equally, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath,
As though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I?
They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

Martyr Dietrich, ora pro nobis!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Open Communion, Orthodox Style

(HT to TitusOneNine)

Fr. Peter-Michael Preble, a Byzantine Orthodox priest, has raised the issue of "open communion" in a series of posts on his blog, Monasticism, the first of which is here. This, predictably, has instigated some intense discussion, both on Fr. Peter's blog and on the TitusOneNine post, linked above. Just to be clear, Fr. Peter is NOT advocating giving Holy Communion to the unbaptized, and not, apparently, to those who deny the Real Presence. However, in suggesting that it may be appropriate for a Byzantine Orthodox priest to communicate, say, faithful Roman Catholics, or even Anglicans or Lutherans, he is certainly challenging extremely longstanding and prevailing assumptions of the ecclesiology of the Byzantine Orthodox Churches.

The Church in which I serve, the Antiochian Catholic Church in America, routinely communicates baptized non-members. However, we also follow St. Paul in that we encourage prospective communicants, whether members or non-members, to "examine themselves" prior to receiving the Body and Blood of Christ (I Corinthians 11:28). In a sense, this puts at least part of the onus on the recipient of Holy Communion as to whether or not said recipient should be receiving at that time. Thus, I suggest that the following statement provides useful guidelines in continuing this practice and is applicable equally to both members and non-members of the ACCA:

"All Christians who are baptized in water 'In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,' who hold to the Christian Faith as stated in the Nicene Creed, and who, being repentent of their sins, are commited to following Jesus Christ as Lord, God, and Savior, are invited to receive the Holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ with us."
Let's unpack that a bit. First, baptism: certain rites of baptism, in which the Trinitarian formula is used, do not qualify, specifically that of the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (the Mormons). Why not? Because in both cases, while the Trinitarian formula is used, the Doctrine of God is not that of the historic Church. This exclusion is implied in the next statement, referring to the Nicene Creed, which is the bottom line statement of faith of all orthodox Christianity, whether Orthodox, Roman, or Protestant. Next, repentance: if one is aware of unrepented, unconfessed major sin, one should by all means seek the sacramental Mystery of Reconciliation prior to receiving. One should also be intentionally commited to following Christ. Finally, the issue of what one is receiving: we are absolutely clear about what we believe and teach the Holy Mysteries to be: the Body and Blood of Christ. If you do not so believe, everything else being equal, know that this may change if you DO receive. We've seen it happen before.

Finally, a word about the integrity of Christian initiation: IMHO, the Roman Church and the Anglican Churches would do themselves a great favor by, in all cases, immediately confirming/chrismating and then giving First Holy Communion to ALL whom they baptize, including and especially infants and small children and then, communing these "little ones" regularly. For a baptized child, the "sacrament of conversion" is not Confirmation, it is Reconciliation.

Just my $0.02...

Happy Tartan Day

(HT to Timotheos Prologizes)

The little Church to which I belong, while theologically and liturgically Syriac, has a big chunk of ethnic Scots among its constituents, including Avva Andreas and Amma Caitlin Turner, Subdeacon Jeremiah King, and yes, our bishop, Victor Mar Michael Herron. This is also the case with our friends in the Order of Celtic Benedictines - Hey, Mother Charlie and Deacon Will Buckans!

Then, of course, a bit closer to home, there is Khouria Susan, our daughters (therefore), and even yours truly to a small extent.

So, to all you Scots, semi-Scots, and honorary Scots, a belated happy Tartan Day.