Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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

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