Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Liturgy Is For God

“There were practical reasons for the fact that [the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy] was the first [of Vatican II]. Yet looking back, we have to say that this made good sense in terms of the structure of the Council as a whole: worship, adoration, comes first. And thus God does….The Constitution on the Church, which then followed as the Council’s second text, should be seen as being inwardly bracketed together with it. The Church derives from adoration, from the task of glorifying God. Ecclesiology, of its nature, has to do with liturgy. And so it is logical, too, that the third Constitution talks about the Word of God, which calls the Church together and is at all times renewing her. The Fourth Constitution shows how the glory of God presents itself in an ethos, how the light we have received from God is carried out into the world, how only thus can God be fully glorified. In the period following the Council, of course, the Constitution on the Liturgy was understood, no longer on the basis of this fundamental primacy of adoration, but quite simply as a recipe book concerned with what we can do with the liturgy. In the meantime many liturgical experts, rushing into consideration about how we can shape the liturgy in a more attractive way, to communicate better, so as to get more and more people actively involved, have apparently quite lost sight of the fact that the liturgy is actually ‘done’ for God and not for ourselves. The more we do it for ourselves, however, the less it attracts people, because everyone can clearly sense that what is essential is increasingly eluding us.”

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Summary Of The First Eight Ecumenical Councils

Nicaea: (325)
The Council of Nicaea sought to address Arius’ distortion of the Gospel, whereby he said that not only was Christ subordinate to the Father, but that the Son was created from nothing. For Arius, there was no distinction between being “begotten” and being “made.” However, if the Son is “made”, then He is made ex nihilo and is but a mere creature and not God. Nicaea clarified that there is in fact a distinction and that the Son is “begotten, not made.” The revolutionary teaching of the Nicaea declared that there is a radical distinction between God and creatures. The Son is either God or not. There are no grades of divinity. The Son is homoousios (one in substance) with the Father.

Yet, even though Nicaea countered Subordinationism and Arianism, some rejected it because it was the first time that non-Scriptural language was inserted into a Creed of the Church. The Council also was able to be affirmed by Modalists. In an effort to clarify the teaching of the Gospel, the Cappadocian Fathers made the distinction between ousia (nature) and hypostasis (person). In the Trinity there are 3 hypostases in 1 ousia. The hypostases are what is particular and the ousia is what each has in common.

This new terminology carried into Constantinople I (381), which added the clause on the Holy Spirit in order to counter the Spirit Fighters. This council also condemned Apollinarus by affirming that Christ did indeed have a human mind. It also affirmed that Christ’s Kingdom will have no end, thus effectively denying the Modalist error which said that the Trinity was a temporary manifestation and that God the Father is merely acting as the Son and then as the Holy Spirit, but would later go back to being the Father again. Constantinople solidified the teaching of the Trinitarian unity of One God in Three Persons.

Once the Trinitarian Controversy was cleared up by the first two Ecumenical Councils, it gave way to hash out the Christological controversies.

These began with the debate between Nestorius, the Patriarch of Constantinople and Cyril, the Patriarch of Alexandria. Nestorius was teaching that Mary was not to be called Theotokos, the God bearer, because this leads to Arianism due to the implication that the Son came to be at a point in time and was not eternal. Nestorius said Mary is rather the Christotokos, the Christ bearer. Nestorius believed that Christ was two persons united in one prosopon.

When Cyril of Alexandria heard this teaching, he wrote to Nestorius to clarify what he had said. Nestorius did not respond, so Cyril wrote to the Egyptian bishops and monks in defense of Theotokos. Cyril said that Mary must be Theotokos because of the hypostatic union. The divine nature is distinct from the human, thus God did not change when He was born and died. Therefore, Theotokos does not lead to Arianism. Mary is the mother of a person, not a nature!
At the Council of Ephesus (431), led by Cyril, Nestorius was anathematized and Eutyches the monophysite was condemned because the dual nature of Christ was taught at Constantinople.

After Ephesus, the Robber Synod of 449 was called by Monophysites in order to exonerate Eutyches and condemn all those who supported Ephesus.

In 451, the Council of Chalcedon was called by the Emperor Marcion. Chalcedon reversed the Robber Synod’s decrees and put forth the clear teaching of the hypostatic union that Christ is One Person with two natures, both Fully human and Fully Divine. The two natures of Christ are united in One Person without confusion, change, division, or separation.

Unfortunately, after Chalcedon, Monophysitism still persisted. At the Council of Constantinople II (553), the Emperor Justinian had three Nestorians condemned in order to placate the Monophysites.

In an effort to appease both Monophysites and Chalcedonians, Sergius, the Patriarch of Constantinople suggested Monothelitism, meaning that Christ only had one will or energy. However, saying that Christ only has one energy means that He only had one nature. Maximus the Confessor argued that a single energy reduces to a single nature and denies the Incarnation. For nature, if it is there, is operative. If Christ only has one energy, then the divine nature will win out, thus Christ would not have a human nature. But as Chalcedon defined, Christ is one person with two natures, both human and divine. This means that since Christ has two natures, He also must have two wills or energies.

All this led up to Constantinople III (680-681) which was called by Constantine IV. This council clarified how we ought to understand the duality and union of Christ at the level of energies. What Chalcedon applied to the natures, Constantinople III applies to the energies. We insist on the unity of Christ without mixing at any level of the natures.

After this council, Iconoclasm began in 726. Iconoclasm is a Christological controversy because it relates to the Incarnational principle that the created world, even the material world, can manifest God Himself and yet remain what it is. Iconoclasm began when the Byzantine Emperor, Leo III, saw iconophiles as idolaters based on Exodus 20:4. He began a campaign against Icons and destroyed the Icon of Christ that was above the doors of the Imperial Palace. This controversy divided the Imperial Court.
The backers of Iconoclasm from the Fathers of the Church were Eusebius and Origin.

Constantine V made the argument that:
1. Christ’s two natures cannot be separated.
2. You can’t circumscribe the Divine Nature.
3. Therefore, you cannot depict Christ.

Constantine continued to inflict heavy persecution on iconodules.
He was combated by the Pope who fought back politically.
Germanus of Constantinople also clarified that it was not the wood that we worship, but the image.

In 787, Nicaea II was called by the Empress Irene. This council condemned iconoclasm as a movement that strikes at the heart of the Christian Faith. If you cannot have a picture of the Son of God, you deny the Incarnation. You deny Him bodily existence and therefore deny the capacity of the body to manifest the identity of God. Nicaea II also distinguished between the kinds of veneration: latria and dulia.

The last remnants of iconoclasm were stamped out in 869 at the council of Constantinople IV.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Marian Consecration

"It is because she is Mother of the Church that the Virgin is also the Mother of each one of us, members of the Mystical Body of Christ. From the Cross, Jesus entrusted his Mother to all his disciples and at the same time entrusted all his disciples to the love of his Mother. The Evangelist John concludes the brief and evocative account with these words: "Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!'. And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home" (Jn 19: 27). This is the [English] translation of the Greek text "εiς tά íδια", he welcomed her into his own reality, his own existence. Thus, she is part of his life and the two lives penetrate each other. And this acceptance of her (εiς tά íδια) in his own life is the Lord's testament. Therefore, at the supreme moment of the fulfilment of his messianic mission, Jesus bequeathes as a precious inheritance to each one of his disciples his own Mother, the Virgin Mary. "

-Pope Benedict XVI

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Balthasar And Barth

While Hans Urs von Balthasar and Karl Barth were diametrically opposed on the doctrine of the Analogy of Being, they did agree on the necessity of the Analogy of Faith.

Both men insist that there has got to be a Christo-centric revolution and the aim of theology must be making Christ the center towards which all things tend!

This Christo-centric revolution consisted of three parts:

1) Centrality of the person of Christ in the life of faith.
-Christ is the figure of figures. The one in whom the entire plentitude of the God-head is made bodily present. Christ is the historical self emptying of the eternal self interpretation of the Father in the Son.

2) The whole movement of this divine person is towards Calvary.
-This is the place where God most profoundly reveals Himself. This is the place of the majesty, glory, and power of the Triune God. Here the Father hands over to sinful men, His purely innocent Son. It is important that we insist that the Son even in the teeth of this treachery, agrees to this willingly and lovingly. The Son is moved by an incomprehensible death of Love both for the Father who hands him over and for the world, on whose behalf He dies. The whole event of Christ turns on the radical obedience of the Son to the Father.

3) Theology of History (rooted in the personhood of Christ).
-For Barth, there was a false dualism that had to be overcome. This was the doctrine of Calvinist Pre-destination, which said that by God’s own eternal decree, some men have been destined to salvation and most others are damned to Hell. God Himself is the scale between these two demands of justice and mercy. Mercy however cannot be demanded, only asked for.
----For Barth, this is divinely insupportable. This is because Christ, Who is the saving Word of God, speaks this Word to every human being. Nobody is predestined for damnation. Everyone has been thought of by God from all eternity for Beatitude. Christ is the Saving Word!
For Barth, the purity of salvation that is Christ is already active in His Father’s eternal plan of salvation. He is the agent of creation and source of light and this creation fashioned by this word from its very beginning is orchestrated to return back to the Father. This is the finality that the entire human race is to move. The whole of created reality has already been effectively determined by God for salvation. The grace of Christ has already disarmed the world. He has already disseminated every encounter of sin.

Balthasar comes very close to this idea, but without leaving the grounds of orthodox Catholic theology. Barth, however, crosses the line.

The Church teaches that in and only in Christ, the Father has mercy on all the others. He has called all of us in and thru Christ into communion with Him.

Balthasar takes up this universalistic starting point and joins it in a very original way with the Logos Christology of the ancient Church, particularly with that of Origen, but stops short of the heresy of Apokatastisis, which was condemned by the Church in the middle of the 6th century. This heretical notion was taken up by Origen and pushed as far as can possibly go by his disciples. They took the view that the ‘punishment of devils and wicked men was only temporary” and those punishments will cease because the devils and wicked men coming to their senses will finally repent of their sins and be restored to their original state of blessedness. Origen ventured this idea as a hypothesis, always subject to the correction of Holy Mother Church. The Church condemned it, after Origen had died, in the form it took by his disciples. They advanced it not as a hypothesis, but as something that enjoyed mathematical precision.

Balthasar was falsely accused of this heresy. Yet he never proposed apokatastisis as something we can affirm or propose. He stated that Christ is viewed as THE concrete Incarnate expression of that universality of meaning and being which belongs to God Himself by virtue of His divine absolute nature. What this means is that in His concrete person, in this historical self emptying, the whole meaning of universal history and the meaning of the nature of the Logos that underlies this history, all finds its fulfillment in Christ. They have no meaning apart from the Logos. This applied not only to people and created beings, but also to anything else in the world that evinces some intelligibility. All of that, says Balthasar, is to be integrated and brought into completion in the one perfect Word, the Logos.

In Christ, there takes place a synthesis of the universal with the particular; universal significance and every concrete expression. The two are somehow wedded together in Christ. In the person of Christ, every conceivable concrete historical existence is brought together and unified. Thus, Christ becomes absolutely significant to all being and all reality; all creation, from angels to amoebas, and all things in between.

A two-fold claim emerges on the basis of this analysis:

a) Christ is the absolutely unique one. He is irreducible. He cannot suffer any reduction to something other and lesser than Himself. This is why we speak of Christ as the mystery of God. Mystery has entered history and become a material thing. Christ is this ground, the bedrock upon which everything else is to be predicated. In no way can Christ be subsumed and swallowed up by some other category of idea. What Balthasar and the Church insist on is that everything else has to measure up to Christ. He is the standard against Whom everything else is judged!

b) On the other hand, nothing is to be divided from or separated out from Christ. His way is not an exclusionary way. He does not occupy center stage in a way that every other thing is swept off the stage. He makes room for everything else in Himself except, of course, sin. But everything else, Christ is infinitely eager to integrate and include, not just people, but insights, longings, etc. They all find their comprehensive life in Christ.

These two concepts put together reveal that perfect exclusivity and perfect inclusivity together find their respective center of gravity only in Christ. All of this has come to be because the Word became flesh.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Church Fathers On The Real Presence of Christ In The Eucharist

“Of all the fathers, as many as you can name, not one has ever spoken about the sacrament as these fanatics do. None of them uses such an expression as, ‘It is simply bread and wine,’ or ‘Christ’s body and blood are not present.’ Yet this subject is so frequently discussed by them, it is impossible that they should not at some time have let slip such an expression as, ‘It is simply bread,’ or ‘Not that the body of Christ is physically present,’ or the like, since they are greatly concerned not to mislead the people; actually, they simply proceed to speak as if no one doubted that Christ’s body and blood are present. Certainly among so many fathers and so many writings a negative argument should have turned up at least once, as happens in other articles; but actually they all stand uniformly and consistently on the affirmative side.”

-Martin Luther

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Why Qumran?

Around 160 BC, a group of Israelites called the Essenes settled down on the Northwest corner of the Dead Sea in a place called Qumran. The Dead Sea is called so because of the high salt density which makes it impossible for life to inhabit it. The Sea also gives off a putrid stench which makes the smell of the mills in Steubenville, Ohio seem like roses. So why would anyone want to live there? Why, of all the places in the Judean desert, did the Essenes settle at Qumran? There are a couple of reasons. One of these is that the Qumranites saw themselves as an Eschatological community waiting for the coming Messiah. Another reason which the Qumran document, The Manual of Discipline, explains is:

“When these become members of the Community in Israel according to all these rules, they shall separate from the habitation of ungodly men and shall go into the wilderness to prepare the way of Him; as it is written, Prepare in the wilderness the way of…., make straight in the desert a path for our God (Is. 40:3).”

Yet, the passage from Isaiah only tells them to go out into the wilderness, it does not tell them precisely where. While I haven’t found anywhere in the Qumran documents to support this, I believe this passage from Ezekiel 47:1-12 may have provided the Essenes with a more specific destination:

“Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me round on the outside to the outer gate, that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side. Going on eastward with a line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the loins. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, "Son of man, have you seen this?" Then he led me back along the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw upon the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the stagnant waters of the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes every living creature which swarms will live, and there will be very many fish; for this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea; from En-gedi to En-eglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets; its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing."

The water flows out from the Temple and falls into the Dead Sea. It seems that the Essenes would have seen this passage and resolved to follow the path where the water poured out from the Temple in hopes of meeting the Messiah there at Qumran when he comes. Unfortunately for the Essenes, they were a bit off on their interpretation as Danielou tells us in his book, Christ and Us:

“[The] flowing into human nature of the grace first contained in the Manhood of Christ, as at its source, is expressed in Scripture through a series of images, each of which throws one aspect into relief. The first is that of a spring from which the Spirit flows as a fountain of living water bearing all before it, as a river giving rise to life wherever it spreads forth its waves, the cosmic Jordan whose source is in heaven, and which carries up to heaven the souls baptized in its water. This is the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy. Ezekiel had claimed that in the days of the Messiah a stream of water would flow eastwards from beneath the temple and fall into the eastern sea, the Dead Sea, so as to make all things live. This living water flowed indeed from the pierced side of Christ, the Temple of the New Covenant, to give life not to the fishes of the sea, but to those living souls which should be caught by the fishers of men, and of which the fishes were a type. Thus from the Manhood of Christ, transfigured by the divine energy, the divine life, the Spirit begins to be poured out upon the whole of mankind, so as to give life to all flesh by virtue of the continuity that unites His humanity with the rest of humanity.”

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Don't Wait!

“Do you see what devices the devil contrives, what shame, what ridicule? Let us rid ourselves of this disgrace; let us live as Christ has enjoined. He gave us Baptism, not that we should receive and depart, but that we should show the fruits of it in our after life. How can one say to him who is departing and broken down, Bear fruit? Hast thou heard that ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace? (Gal. v. 22) How comes it then that the very contrary takes place here? For the wife stands there mourning, when she ought to rejoice; the children weeping, when they ought to be glad together; the sick man himself lies there in darkness, and surrounded by noise and tumult, when he ought to be keeping the high festival; full of exceeding despondency at the thought of leaving his children orphans, his wife a widow, his house desolate. Is this a state in which to draw near unto mysteries? Answer me; is this a state in which to approach the sacred table? Are such scenes to be tolerated? Should the Emperor send letters and release the prisoners in the jails, there is joy and gladness: God sends down the Holy Ghost from Heaven to remit not arrears of money, but a whole mass of sins, and do ye bewail and lament? Why, how grossly unsuitable is this! Not to mention that sometimes it is upon the dead that the water has been poured, and holy mysteries flung upon the ground. However, not we are to blame for this, but men who are so perverse. I exhort you then to leave all, and turn and draw near to Baptism with all alacrity, that having given proof of great earnestness at this present time, we may obtain confidence for that which is to come; whereunto that we may attain, may it granted unto us all by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.”

-St. John Chrysostom in Homily I of his Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles.