Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New Edition of the Book of Common Prayer by Lancelot Andrewes Press

Lancelot Andrewes Press has published a new edition of the Book of Common Prayer. I do not have one yet, but I will give a review when I do. This is brand new, and looks very beautiful.

Lancelot Andrewes publishes materials used mostly by Western Rite Orthodox parishes and traditional Anglo-Catholics. Among their most well known publications are the Book of Common Prayer for Orthodox Catholic use, the American Altar Missal, based on the 1922 version, the St. Alban's Prayer Book, which is very much like the traditional St. Augustine's Prayer book, the Monastic Diurnal with the day Hours, and Morning Matins Breviary.

The Book of Common Prayer as published by St. Andrewes is ideal for Anglo-Catholics. It is based on the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer, with some emendations to make it suitable for Orthodox Catholic worship. It includes mid-day prayer and compline, and Marian antiphons. It uses the 1943 Lectionary of the '28 Prayer Book.

The first edition sported a leather-flex cover, and now the second one, a nice cloth cover.  You may order the new prayer book from Andrewes Press.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Prayer of St. Mariam

O Holy Virgin Mariam in the peace of the Angel Gabriel, peace be unto thee. Thou are Virgin in Spirit as well as in body.

O thou Mother of Perfect God, peace be unto thee, Blessed are thou amongst women and Blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

Rejoice, O thou who are full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Ask and pray for us to thy Beloved Son, Eeyesus Kiristos, that he may have mercy upon our souls and forgive us our sins. Amen

- Prayer of St. Mariam (Ethiopian Orthodox tradition)

Friday, October 17, 2014

St. Ignatius of Antioch, October 17th

Today is the commemoration of St. Ignatius of Antioch, consecrated 3rd bishop of Antioch by St. Peter, the chief of the Apostles. He was also a student of St. John the theologian, author of the Fourth Gospel. It was largely the influence of St. Ignatius, and his clear teaching of the Real Presence in the Eucharist which led me back to catholic faith after spending sometime in my youth as a fundamentalist. He is therefore a patron saint for me.

St. Ignatius in his letters teaches Sacrament and social solidarity, like many of the other Church Fathers. It is this tradition that Anglo-Catholicism draws from for its vision of the Church and social justice.

In a time of persecution, Ignatius was arrested and escorted to Rome to face execution. During his journey from Syria to Rome, he wrote six letters discussing the sacraments, theology, and ecclesiology.

Here is a classic passage in which St. Ignatius integrates his sacramental and social teaching:

"They (the Docetists) have no care for love, no thought for the widow and orphan, none at all for the afflicted, the captive, the hungry, or the thirsty. They even absent themselves from the Eucharist and public prayers, because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the self-same Body of our Saviour Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins..."

 - Ignatius of Antioch (+ 107-110 CE) Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 6-7.

In this passage, Ignatius reflects on the meaning of his inevitable martyrdom:

"I am God's wheat, ground fine by the lion's teeth to be made purest bread for Christ. No early pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire. The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God."

- St. Ignatius of Antioch, Romans 4

Collect for St. Ignatius of Antioch:
Almighty God, we praise thy name for thy bishop and martyr Ignatius of Antioch, who offered himself as grain to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts that he might present unto thee the pure bread of sacrifice. Accept, we pray thee, the willing tribute of our lives, and give us a share in the pure and spotless offering of thy Son Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

St. Jerome, September 30th

Today, the 30th of September, the Church commemorates St. Jerome, doctor of the Church, Bible scholar, and translator of the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible.

O God, Who didst vouchsafe to provide for Thy Church blessed Jerome, Thy confessor, a great Doctor for the expounding of the Sacred Scriptures, grant, we beseech Thee, that through his merits we may be enabled, by Thine assistance, to practise what both by word and deed he hath taught us. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Scripture Reading:
...from thy infancy thou hast known the holy scriptures, which can instruct thee to salvation, by the faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice, that the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work.
- 2 Timothy 3.15-17, DRV

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Commandment of Love

Socialism is the realization in the social realm of the commandment of love...Orthodoxy cannot defend the capitalist system, for it is founded on the exploitation of labor. 

- page 173, The Orthodox Church, by Sergius Bulgakov

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Communion of Saints

I believe in the Communion of Saints- this statement is taken from the Apostle's Creed. All Christians believe, or should believe in the Communion of Saints. But some Christians do not understand why Catholic Christians (Catholics, Orthodox, Anglo-Catholics) pray to the saints, and pray for the dead.

The Communion of Saints is based on the Holy Eucharist:

Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. - 1 Corinthians 10:17 NIV

Death cannot break this bond of communion we have with Christ and each other. Every time we partake of the Holy Eucharist, we are celebrating it not only with those believers in our particular Church on a Sunday morning, but with every Christian who has ever celebrated and partaken in the Holy Eucharist:

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. - Hebrews 12:22-24 NIV

In coming to Christ, we do not come as an individual. We come as a community, as a body. As individuals, when we come to Christ, we come also to the assembly of angels and saints, in one body. The Sprinkled blood mentioned in this passage is the very Blood of Christ, shared in the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist.

Because of this solidarity of one Body of Christ that unites heaven and earth, we can pray for those who have died before us, and they can pray for us.

We believe we can pray for those who have gone before us, "in faith and hope of the resurrection," in the words of one Eastern Orthodox prayer.

He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin. - 2 Maccabees 12:43-46 NAB

Here is the commentary from the New American Bible on this passage: "This is the earliest statement of the doctrine that prayers (
2 Macc 12:42) and sacrifices (2 Macc 12:43) for the dead are efficacious. The statement is made here, however, only for the purpose of proving that Judas believed in the resurrection of the just (2 Macc 7:9, 14, 23, 36). That is, he believed that expiation could be made for certain sins of otherwise good men-soldiers who had given their lives for God's cause. Thus, they could share in the resurrection. His belief was similar to, but not quite the same as, the Catholic doctrine of purgatory."

Likewise, we believe that the Saints in heaven can pray for us Saints here on earth as well. As the passage from Hebrews above indicates, we have come to the "spirits of just men made perfect." This belief antedates the Christian era, as we see in this passage from 2 Maccabees:

[Judas Maccabeus] cheered them all by relating a dream, a kind of vision, worthy of belief. What he saw was this: Onias, the former high priest, a good and virtuous man, modest in appearance, gentle in manners, distinguished in speech, and trained from childhood in every virtuous practice, was praying with outstretched arms for the whole Jewish community. Then in the same way another man appeared, distinguished by his white hair and dignity, and with an air about him of extraordinary, majestic authority. Onias then said of him, "This is God's prophet Jeremiah, who loves his brethren and fervently prays for his people and their holy city." Stretching out his right hand, Jeremiah presented a gold sword to Judas. As he gave it to him he said, "Accept this holy sword as a gift from God; with it you shall crush your adversaries." - 2 Maccabees 15:11-16 NAB.

Here is commentary from the New American Bible on this passage: "Onias, the former high priest: Onias III (
2 Macc 3:1-40). Evidently the author believed that the departed just were in some way alive even before the resurrection." Jeremiah: regarded by the postexilic Jews as one of the greatest figures in their history; cf 2 Macc 2:1; Matthew 16:14. Who . . . prays for his people: a clear belief in the intercession of the saints.

We can pray for those who gone before us, and they can pray for us. There is solidarity of love in the One Body of Christ. Death cannot break that bond. We acknowledge this reality every time we celebrate the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Eucharist in our Churches. Consider this passage from the Book of Revelation:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. - Revelation 6:9-11 NIV

The Orthodox Study Bible offers this commentary on the passage: the vision of the souls of the martyrs under the altar (v.9) is derived from the OT practice of pouring blood (the physical manifestation of the life of the soul) of sin offering at the base of the altar of burnt offering. It is a basis for the historic Christian practices of building church buildings over the tombs of martyrs, placing relics of saints in the altar when a church is consecrated, and burying baptized people under the altar. Thus in the Divine Liturgy Orthodox Christians remember "those who lie asleep here, and in all the world."

The Bible says, "The memory of the just will be blessed." - Proverbs 10:7 NAB.

We honor the saints because they are blessed. Mary the Mother of God prophesies of herself, "For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed."- Luke 1:48, NKJV

The Saints have come to the glory that awaits us all. For Catholic Christians, death is a sacrament, a passage way on our path to deification and glorification with the Saints with God in heaven.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Receiving the True Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist

This past week in the Episcopal Daily Office, we have read through John chapter 6. John chapter 6 contains Jesus's discourse on the Bread of Life. It is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. In the office the last two days, we read Jesus words about his Body and Blood:

So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.  This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever." This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Caperna-um. Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  But there are some of you that do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."  After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. 

- John 6.53-66 RSVCE

John's Gospel, which contains no account of the Last Supper, instead has this eloquent discourse on the Bread of Life. Jesus makes the startling claim "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you... my flesh is food indeed, my blood is drink indeed..." The Gospel records that many of his disciples quit following him after this discourse. They could not bear the words.

Is it hard for us to hear this saying today? Do we believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist? Perhaps we question that the bread and wine can change into the Body and Blood of Christ. But St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechetical Lectures, assures us that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. He compares the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ to Jesus changing the water into wine at the wedding of Cana:

Since then He Himself declared and said of the Bread, This is My Body, who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He has Himself affirmed and said, This is My Blood, who shall ever hesitate, saying, that it is not His blood?

2. He once in Cana of Galilee, turned the water into wine, akin to blood , and is it incredible that He should have turned wine into blood? When called to a bodily marriage, He miraculously wrought that wonderful work; and on the children of the bride-chamber Matthew 9:15, shall He not much rather be acknowledged to have bestowed the fruition of His Body and Blood ?

3. Wherefore with full assurance let us partake as of the Body and Blood of Christ: for in the figure of Bread is given to you His Body, and in the figure of Wine His Blood; that you by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, may be made of the same body and the same blood with Him. For thus we come to bear Christ in us, because His Body and Blood are distributed through our members; thus it is that, according to the blessed Peter, we become partakers of the divine nature 2 Peter 1:4 .

- St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures (4th Century). 

St. Cyril says that through the Eucharist, we assimilate the Body and Blood of Christ, so we can be deified (citing 2 Peter 1.4) and one with Christ. Jesus says, "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me." - John 6.56-67.

The Holy Eucharist unites us to Christ and each other, and deifies us to make us fit for union with God. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is an Apostolic doctrine, and was taught by Christ Himself. Tradition holds that  John the Apostle who leaned on Jesus's breast at the last supper, is the author of the Gospel bearing his name. One of his direct disciples, Ignatius of Antioch, handed on the Apostolic teaching of Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist in this remarkable passage from his letter to the Smyrneans:

"They (the Docetists) have no care for love, no thought for the widow and orphan, none at all for the afflicted, the captive, the hungry, or the thirsty. They even absent themselves from the Eucharist and public prayers, because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the self-same Body of our Saviour Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins, and which the Father in His goodness afterwards raised up..."

- Ignatius of Antioch (+ 107-110 CE) Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 6-7.

Read the passage from John's Gospel; contemplate the words of Jesus; come to Him in the Holy Supper, and receive His Presence.

Christianity is Catholic

"For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts." - Malachi 1:11, RSV.

Justin Martyr in the 2nd Century used the passage above from Malachi to explain the Christian Eucharistic Sacrifice. Ignatius of Antioch, writing about 107 C.E., taught that "the Eucharist is the self-same Body of our Saviour Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins, which the Father, in His goodness, afterwards raised up..."

Christianity is Catholic; underscoring the truth of Catholic-Orthodoxy, we see that the Church offers the single sacrifice of Christ with the same basic understanding of the Holy Eucharist, throughout the various lands, nations and cultures that have been reached with the gospel: the Church reached from the British Isles, across Europe and Northern Africa, and even into Central Asia, and eventually as far as China, in the first millennium. Yet, all the Churches maintained a basic Catholic understanding of the Trinity and Person of Christ, Baptism, the Holy Sacrifice, the veneration of the Mother of God, and the Sacraments. This was not a top-down development, but the organic growth of the Church universal among various tribes, nations, and peoples, beginning with the original Apostles of Christ. For example, St. Mark the Gospel writer and interpreter for St. Peter in Rome, founded the Church in Egypt, and was the first Coptic Pope. St. Thomas founded Churches in Iraq and India. These Christian communities have existed in these lands since the first century. These Churches have faithfully preserved the Apostolic teaching.

The Protestant Reformation went to far; much of what was rejected were not the inventions of medieval Roman Catholicism, but ancient Christianity. True, Catholic, Christianity is based on the Bible, Creeds, and Sacraments, and is rooted in the traditions of the ancient Church.

That so much of contemporary Christianity has no liturgy or sacramental understanding of baptism and the Lord's Supper is sad in my view. I don't say this to disparage my fellow Christians, but to point out that much of contemporary Christianity has rejected ancient Christianity, and is poorer for it. Salvation is seen as static and individualistic, rather than dynamic and corporate. It is often rationalistic, in both it's liberal and fundamentalist form, rather thn sacramental and mystical.

However, many young people today are seeking something more solid and reliable; they are seeking liturgy and sacraments. Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. Most of the Christians in the world are still adherents of Catholic Christianity,  the largest communions being the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox,  and Anglican Churches. Many other Christians and churches are taking a fresh look at liturgy, sacraments, and disciplines and practices such as the Daily Office.

- Lance Goldsberry

Friday, August 15, 2014

Bulgakov on the Glorification of the Mother of God - Post by Joe Rawls on the Byzantine Anglo-Catholic

For today's feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God (the Assumption in Roman Catholicism; simply the feast of St Mary the Virgin in Anglicanism), we turn once more to Russian Orthodox theologian Sergius Bulgakov, who provides insights into how Mary's post-earthly existence--variously understood as passing directly into heaven without dying, or experiencing a post-mortem resurrection similar to that of Jesus--is an instance of the divinization or theosis which is God's intention for all of us.  The excerpt below is found on pp 76-77 of The Burning Bush:  on the Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God, Thomas Allan Smith, translator, Eerdmans, 2009.


   ...in her glorification the Mother of God receives through the Son from the Father the glory and power which are not inherently hers according to human nature.  This is divinization in the precise sense, a canopy of divine graced life unfurling over that being in which it is not inherent and which it transcends.  Because of this the whole difference between the Son and the Mother, between His and her power and glory, remains.  The first is boundless and unlimited, absolute, as the power of God in creation.  The second is derivative, a graced giveness, and in virtue of this derivativeness it is not unlimited, not absolute.  In other words, the Lord is God by nature, the Mother of God is not God by nature, but only by grace, no matter how full and complete her divinization is.  In her person is fulfilled only what is foreordained for all humans:  "I said, you are gods" (Ps 82.6; cf Jn 10.34-35).

...She is the petitioner on behalf of the human race and the mediator between God and human beings as a glorified and divinized human.  If the Lord is the petitioner and high priest in His capacity as the one offering Himself in sacrifice, she is the petitioner before Him...He joins in Himself two natures, but she raises up in herself, elevates to God humanity and all creatures.  As a creature, she does not participate in the divine life of the Most Holy Trinity according to nature, as does her Son; she only partakes of it by the grace of divinization.  But this grace is given to her already in a maximum and definitive degree, so that by its power she is the Heavenly Queen.  Between her and all the saints, no matter how exalted, angels or men, there remains an impenetrable border, for to none of them does the Church cry out save us, but only pray to God for us.  With respect to the whole human race she is already found on the other side of resurrection and last judgment; neither the one nor the other has any force for her...She is the already glorified creation before its general resurrection and glorification; she is the already accomplished Kingdom of Glory, while the world still remains "in the kingdom of grace."

source: http://thebyzantineanglocatholic.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Transfiguration [August 6]

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. The Gospel recounts Christ being transfigured before Peter, James, and John. Appearing with Christ our Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and Prophets of Israel. Christ is said to have shone like the sun. Our Gospel today is from Luke in the Episcopal Daily Office, but in the parallel passage in Matthew 17.2 we read: "And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light," which is much more descriptive.

According to the 13th century Eastern theologian, Gregory Palamas, the Light that shone around Christ were God's divine energies, divinity itself. In the Transfiguration, we behold the Divinity of Christ, and our own call as human beings to become divinized by Grace.

The early Church Fathers said that Christ became a human being so that human beings might become God. We are reminded of Christ's uniqueness as the Son of God, but also, our own destiny to become sons and daughters of God as well.

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature..."

- 2 Peter 1.3-4 RSV
The Collect.
O GOD, who on the mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine only-begotten Son wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistering; Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in his beauty, who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.
The Epistle. 2 St. Peter i. 13.
I THINK it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
The Gospel. St. Luke ix. 28.
AND it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Behold thy mother (for Mother's Day)

When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

- John 19.26,27 AV

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Biblical Social Justice and the Minimum Wage

This is not a topic I hear much of from the pulpit, the minimum wage. This is a biblical social justice issue (James 5.4, Ecclessiasticus 34.21,22 AV). Where are the preachers of social justice? Biblically-based preachers need to get on this.


 The bread of the needy is their life: he that defraudeth him thereof is a man of blood. He that taketh away his neighbour’s living slayeth him; and he that defraudeth the labourer of his hire is a bloodshedder.

 - Ecclesiasticus 34.21,22 AV.


Senate Republicans Block Minimum Wage Bill Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a bill that would gradually increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. “It really does astound me that at a time when our Republican friends in the house are voting to give huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires and large corporations, they don't have it in their hearts to give us at least a $10.10 minimum wage, which would take so many people out of poverty,” Sen. Bernie Sanders told MSNBC

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Lord and my God: The First Sunday after Easter

The readings for the First Sunday after Easter (St. Thomas Sunday) proclaim the bodily resurrection of Jesus the Christ, and that we find salvation through faith in him and his resurrection. Jesus through the resurrection reveals himself as Lord and Messiah. For me, like Thomas, he is Lord and God.


For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

- Psalm 16.10

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [whom] having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

- 1 Peter 1.3,8,9

My Lord and my God.

- John 20.28

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

IS Baptism necessary for Salvation?

Peter baptizing on the Day of Pentecost

IS Baptism necessary for Salvation?  Let's consider today's reading for the Tuesday after Easter. Did Peter say, “come forward and receive Christ as your personal Lord & Savior?” No, he said, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins.”

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified.  37 Now when they heard [this,] they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?  38 And Peter [said] unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  39 For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, [even] as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him.  40 And with many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation.  41 They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added [unto them] in that day about three thousand souls.

- Acts 2:36-41 (American Standard Version)

Contemporary Christians do not appreciate that baptism is generally necessary for salvation, but we are reminded of this truth in today’s Epistle reading for the Tuesday after Easter. Notice, when the crowds on Pentecost ask Peter what they must do, Peter does not simply say "receive Jesus as your Lord and Saviour," but, "Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ..." Coming to Christ in the ancient Church included baptism.

The catechism of the Book of Common Prayer teaches this:  Question. HOW many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church?  Answer. Two only, as generally necessary to salvation; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.

The Scriptural support for this is abundant (e.g., John 3.5, Acts 2.38, Acts 22.16, Titus 3.5, 1 Peter 3.21). In baptism we are buried with Christ and raised to newness of life with him (Romans 6.3,4), and we receive the Spirit (Acts 2.38).

God is sovereign and can save people however God chooses. The Spirit is not bound to the sacraments, but we are (Donald Bloesch). To the conform to the Apostolic preaching, we in the  Church must teach the necessity of Baptism, which although may not be absolutely necessary, is ordinarily necessary for salvation.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

An Easter Meditation by Bede Griffiths

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
- Colossians 3.1-4 NRSV (Epistle reading for Easter).
For Easter, I want to share the thoughts of Dom Bede Griffiths, my favorite spiritual writer, which are taken from his book, Return to the Center. These passages are from chapter Six, Sin and Redemption, and chapter 14, Death and Resurrection.
"When Christ was hanging on the cross,  He experienced the pain of the whole world, from the beginning to the end of time, because He experienced it in the Word, which is before all things, and in all things, and above all things. By this suffering the pain of the whole world was reconciled to God, brought into unity of the divine life...
"He took upon Himself the sin and suffering of the whole world; He recapitulated all its stages and brought it into the consciousness of the Word. This is the meaning of redemption. Each of us was 'in Christ' on the cross, just as each of us was in Adam when he sinned. We bear the sin of Adam in us - the sin of man -but in Christ our human consciousness has been opened to the divine...
"There is no such thing as individual salvation.  We are saved as members of a Body, of an organic whole, of man and the universe. Just as we are 'born in sin,' as members of fallen humanity, so we are born in Christ, as members of His Body, of redeemed humankind. 'As in Adam all die, so also in Christ, shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15.22).'
"When Jesus surrendered His life on the cross, He brought to fulfillment this movement of the human soul; He accomplished the total surrender of humankind to God, of the human to the divine; He achieved the final death of the self to the world and raised it to eternal life in the resurrection."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Oscar Romero March 24

Oscar Romero was shot as he elevated the Sacred Chalice containing the Precious Blood of Christ during the Mass. As Jim Wallis wrote at the time in Sojourners, "Romero's blood mingled with the Blood of Christ." Tertullian said that blood is the seed of the Church. Romero himself said, "if I die, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people. A Bishop will die, but the Church, which is the people of God, will live forever." -Lance


March 24th is the Feast day of Oscar Romero in the Episcopal Church. The Servant of God Oscar Romero is a modern saint.

A Voice for the voiceless, he fearlessly denounced the poverty and injustice in El Salvador even though it surely met his death. He was prophetic in the Old Testament sense, in the mold of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and others. He insisted that the Reign of God is for the here and now as well as the hereafter.

Oscar Romero was shot as he elevated the Sacred Chalice containing the Precious Blood of Christ during the Mass. As Jim Wallis wrote at the time in Sojourners, "Romero's blood mingled with the Blood of Christ." Tertullian said that blood is the seed of the Church. Romero himself said, "if I die, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people. A Bishop will die, but the Church, which is the people of God, will live forever."

There are those who would still try and silence the Voice of the Poor. Oscar Romero's cause of beatification and canonization is, according to one Vatican spokesperson, "years away." He has been declared a "Servant of God." One cannot help but wonder if there are politics involved here, since Oscar Romero is linked to liberation theology, though he was theologically very conservative. In the ancient church, martyrdom alone sufficed for sainthood, and for Christians on earth to invoke a Saint. But the Salvadoran people, and those who believe the Bible's message of the Cross, social justice, and the Kingdom of God, already know that Oscar Romero is a saint, and intercedes for us before the throne of God.

"Blessed Oscar Romero, pray for us!"

Readings for Oscar Romero
Psalm 31:15-24
Isaiah 2:5-7
Revelation 7:13-17
John 12:23-32
Preface of a Saint (3)
Prayer Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to thy Word who abideth, thy Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen.

Wikipedia Article on Oscar Romero
At Westminster Abbey, the center for the Church of England, there is a Gallery of 20th-century martyrs at Westminster Abbey. They include, among others, some of my faith heroes such as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.,  Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Roman Catholic Archbishop ├ôscar Romero. Oscar Romero the Roman Catholic Archbishop in El Salvador was shot to death on March 24, 1980, while celebrating the Mass. In his role as Archbishop, he was an outspoken prophet of social justice and advocate for the poor and oppressed in his country. Below are some of his quotes. Oscar Romero's Feast Day on the Episcopal Church Calendar is March 24th, the day of his martyrdom.

What an honor to think that all of you before me are Christ! Even the humblest peasant...you are Christ! For your baptism is one with the death & resurrection of the Lord."

"When the church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises."

"A church that suffers no persecution but enjoys the privileges and support of the things of the earth - beware! - is not the true church of Jesus Christ. A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they are secured in their sinful state, betrays the gospel's call." (1/22/78) -- Salt of the Earth's remembrance of Archbishop Oscar Romero

We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our Christmas cribs. We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed at night with nothing to eat, among the poor newsboys who will sleep covered with newspapers in doorways.   --Archbishop Oscar Romero, December 24, 1979

"We are never embarrassed of saying, 'The Church of the Poor'." (Christmas Eve 1978 Sermon).

"If God accepts the sacrifice of my life, may my death be for the freedom of my people ... A bishop will die, but the Church of God, which is the people, will never perish." (Interview, a couple of weeks before his assassination.)

"May this Body immolated and this Blood sacrificed for Mankind nourish us also, that we may give our body and our blood over to suffering and pain, like Christ -- not for Self, but to give harvests of peace and justice to our People." (Uttered seconds before a gunshot pierced his heart as he prepared to consecrate the Eucharist.)

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Ground of Being

At 54, I have not yet come to a final understanding of God and I don’t think I can. The thoughts below are born from another discussion I had with some friends, where one friend was being dismissive of Tillich.

I can see why Tillich, who had men die in his arms in the trenches of World War I, could see God squeezed out of this world. John A.T. Robinson challenged not only our notions of God “up there,” but also, “Out there.” It had to be done. Remember, those who wrote the creeds still thought of God as “up there,” as did the biblical writers. Paul Tillich, John A.T. Robinson, and in our day, John Shelby Spong, are simply saying we have to let go of that god.

I think God is rather “transpersonal,” having both personal and non-personal aspects. Yes, God is the ground of being, God is existence Itself.

I personally believe that Eastern Metaphysics (e.g., Bhagavad Gita) provides a better way of understanding the Incarnation than Greek thought. We are all children of God. God and God’s creation are not separate realities, therefore, God can be incarnate. But the divine is within all of us.  God is one without a second, the only Reality.

If we are going to posit a suffering God in our understanding of the incarnation, that God cannot be limited to one Person 2000 years ago in Palestine. The suffering God is present in all the poor, oppressed & suffering (Matthew 25).

God is beyond our language and description. Sometimes, the less we say about God the better.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Spirituality of George Harrison

Today, on his birthday, I want to honor the spirituality of George Harrison. I find George's spirituality very inspiring for my own relationship to God.

George did not always “walk the talk,” as evangelical Christians say, and George would readily acknowledge this. But he steadfastly followed his spiritual path all his life. He never swerved from it. George's life long passion as an adult was the pursuit of God.

When George passed away in 2001, his widow Olivia Harrison said, “George left this world in the same way he lived in it- in the consciousness of God.” According to Olivia Harrison, upon George’s death, “There was a profound experience when he left his body. It was visible. He just lit the room.”

George's spiritual path was based on Hinduism, which he first embraced in the mid sixties. During the filming of the 1965 movie Help! on location in the Bahamas, the Beatles met Swami Vishnu-devananda, founder of Sivananda Yoga, who gave each member of the band a signed copy of his book, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. George became interested in Indian and Hindu culture. He learned to play the sitar, and had as his teacher Ravi Shankar. Shankar was not only a musical mentor, but a spiritual one as well.

The Beatles went through their famous chapter with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and visited him in India in 1968. The other Beatles lost interest in the teacher, but George remained committed to his spiritual practice.

To understand George's spirituality, we need to know a little bit about Hinduism. In its popular form, Hinduism may seem to be polytheistic, with many divinities. But actually, Hinduism teaches that there is only One Reality, which is the foundation of our being, and our task in life is to realize our divine potential, our union with this One Reality. In Hindu scriptures, Ultimate Reality, God, is called Brahman. The Divine within us is called Atman, roughly analogous with the Soul in Western religion. Hinduism (at least one major stream of the tradition) teaches that the Brahman and Atman are ultimately the same. Our separateness from God is an illusion.

The method for realizing this identification with the divine is Yoga. There are different types of Yoga, two of the most common forms are Karma Yoga, union through detached action, and Bhakti Yoga, union through devotion. There are other types of of Yoga as well.

George followed a path of devotion most of his life. Following the path of devotion, one must choose an image of God, and be devoted to that image. For George, it was Krishna, God in human form. The Bhagavad Gita, one of the primary Hindu scriptures, presents teaching on devotion to Krishna, and on the paths of Karma and Bhakti Yoga.

George was also ecumenically minded. He believed that Jesus was a manifestation of God, and said in an interview in the early eighties, “The Greek word for Christ is Kristos, which is, let’s face it, Krishna, and Kristos is the same name actually.” During his 1974 American concert tour, George encouraged his fans to “Chant Krishna! Chant Jesus! Chant Buddha!”

Besides his devotion to God, George was also devoted to Hindu teachers, especially Paramahansa Yogananda. Paramanhansa Yogananda is famous for being the wisdom of Hinduism to the West, and he taught the fundamental unity between Yoga and Christianity. George wrote his song, Fish on the Sand, from the 1987 Cloud Nine album about his devotion and reliance on Yogananda. George often enjoyed visits to the Self-Realization Fellowship Center in Encinitas, California, which was founded by Yogananda.

George's spiritual practice was largely based on saying a mantra and chanting the Name of God. His big #1 hit from 1971, My Sweet Lord, features the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra, and chanting the Divine Names of Vishnu and Lord Rama. He also produced a hit single of the Hare Krishna Mantra performed by the Radha Krishna Temple in 1970.

George maintained his practice of mantra all his life. For this sort of spiritual practice, the Name of God and God are the same; to practice Mantra is to put one's self in the presence of God. George likened the practice of mantra to “God dancing on your tongue.”

One of my favorite religious songs of George is Awaiting on You All, from the 1971 All Things Must Pass album. The song proclaims that by “chanting the Names of the Lord you'll be free..” The song is upbeat. I love the words expressing devotion to Jesus:

You don't need no passport
And you don't need no visas
You don't need to designate or to emigrate
Before you can see Jesus
If you open up your heart
You'll see he's right there
Always was and will be
He'll relieve you of your cares.”

I also like the lyrics that seem to be distinguishing between religion and God in this song:

You don't need no church house
And you don't need no temple
You don't need no rosary beads or no books to read
To see that you have fallen
If you open up your heart
You will know what I mean
You've been kept down so long
Someones thinking that we're all green.”

George shared his faith on all of his albums, sometimes to the chagrin of critics and some fans. But I personally find his spiritual songs very edifying.

Probably his two most well known spiritual songs are My Sweet Lord from 1971, and Give Me Love, 1973, both #1 hits which express devotion to God. But for me, the greatest of his spiritual songs was the title track on his last album, Brainwashed.

The message of Brainwashed is that we are in a “Matrix”-type of world, “brainwashed by the military, brainwashed by Dow Jones... brainwashing us in Brussels, brainwashing us in Bonn, brainwashing in us in Washington, in Westminster and London...”

In the song, George cries out, “God, God, God, won't you save us from this mess...”

In the middle of the song, there is an interlude in which a lovely female Indian accent recites a brief passage from a Hindu religious classic book, How to Know God - The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, page 130:

The Soul does not love, it is Love Itself;
It does not exist, It is Existence Itself;
It does not know, It is Knowledge Itself.”

George, as his wife said, lived his entire adult life in the consciousness of God.

As a Christian, I find I have a lot in common with George. My spiritual teacher is Bede Griffiths. I follow a path of inter-spirituality, which is based on my devotion to Christ, but also influenced by yoga. My own practice is a mantra based on the Christ, which is taught at Bede Griffith's Shantivanam Ashram in India. I also chant the name of Christ. I find peace in this practice amid life, which can often be stressful. It is reassuring to me to realize that God is lives in me, and that I can know God. It gives me hope for the future.

For me, George is a spiritual brother. His example of clinging to God all his life, in spite of his failings, is inspiring to me.


Here are some links to some online articles about George's faith:

This blog post was originally posted on Lance's Blog.