Sunday, March 18, 2018

If You Cross The Jordan (Tiber) You Will Find Glorious Rest

The 5th Sunday of The Great Fast in the Eastern church is dedicated to St. Mary of Egypt.  Her story is read completely during the Great Canon of St. Andrews, the Thursday before the 5th Sunday.

She began her life as a young woman who followed the passions of the body, running away from her parents at age twelve for Alexandria. There she lived as a harlot for seventeen years, refusing money from the men that she copulated with, instead living by begging and spinning flax.
One day, however, she met a group of young men heading toward the sea to sail to Jerusalem for the veneration of the Holy Cross. Mary went along for the ride, seducing the men as they traveled for the fun of it. But when the group reached Jerusalem and actually went towards the church, Mary was prohibited from entering by an unseen force. After three such attempts, she remained outside on the church patio, where she looked up and saw an icon of the Theotokos. She began to weep and prayed with all her might that the Theotokos might allow her to see the True Cross; afterwards, she promised, she would renounce her worldly desires and go wherever the Theotokos may lead her.
After this heart-felt conversion at the doors of the church, she fled into the desert to live as an ascetic. She survived for years on only three loaves of bread and thereafter on scarce herbs of the land. For another seventeen years, Mary was tormented by "wild beasts—mad desires and passions." After these years of temptation, however, she overcame the passions and was led by the Theotokos in all things.

Following 47 years in solitude, she met the priest St. Zosima in the desert, who pleaded with her to tell him of her life. She recounted her story with great humility while also demonstrating her gift of clairvoyance; she knew who Zosima was and his life story despite never having met him before. Finally, she asked Zosima to meet her again the following year at sunset on Holy Thursday by the banks of the Jordan.

Zosima did exactly this, though he began to doubt his experience as the sun began to go that night. Then Mary appeared on the opposite side of the Jordan; crossing herself, she miraculously walked across the water and met Zosima. When he attempted to bow, she rebuked him, saying that as a priest he was far superior, and furthermore, he was holding the Holy Mysteries. Mary then received communion and walked back across the Jordan after giving Zosima instructions about his monastery and that he should return to where they first met exactly a year later. When he did so, he found Mary's body with a message written on the sand asking him for burial and revealing that she had died immediately after receiving the Holy Mysteries the year before (and thus had been miraculously transported to the spot where she now lay).

She heard a voice telling her "If you cross the Jordan, you will find glorious rest".  How this could be used in the Church today.  To the many unchurched, to the many more who find themselves in ecclesiastical communities that have no, little, some or much of the revealed truth of the one true faith.  That message today would be "Cross the Tiber and you will find glorious rest".

Monday, March 12, 2018

Gabe the Street Preacher

I stumbled across the YouTube page of a guy named Gabe The Street Preacher.  Specifically there was a link to the following video.  It was a 30 minute rant of various well traveled Anti Sacramental Liturgical churches.

Notice I didn't say Anti-Catholic.  Because what these itinerant street ramblers forget are my brethren in the Orthodox church. The churches of Apostolic origin, which are sacramental, liturgical churches, have our basis from the founding of the church at Pentecost. I watched the entire 30 minutes and the one thing I have to admire is the guys zeal for preaching what he believes, however misguided it may be.  But, to point out some of his errors, I offer the following:

:19 - "Call no man Father".  One of my favorites.  I've yet to hear these street preachers finish that bible verse.  "But you are not to be called rabbi (teacher), for you have one teacher and you are all brethren.  And call no man your father on earth, for you have on Father, who is in heaven.  Neither be called masters, for you have on master, the Christ".  They take a fundamental, literal approach to scripture when it says call no man father, yet they readily admit they are fathers (7:50 mark of video).  They have no issue calling those who teach their children teachers.    They ignore Scriptures such as Acts 7:2 - Stephen said, "Brethren and fathers, hear me.  The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia" Acts 7:2; "Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations which God thrust out before our fathers." (Acts 7:45).  Stephen said this right before he saw the heavens open up and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56).

They ignore St. Paul referring to Timothy as his son: "This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son" (1 Cor 4:17)  Timothy wasn't the biological child of St. Paul.  St. Paul was his spiritual child.   Or, they ignore St. Paul writing "I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.  For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do have many fathers.  For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:14-15).

8:25 - "Why do you live in sin?  I don't says the woman.  The street rambler takes that and says, Oh your spotless".   This one strikes a chord with me. Throughout this entire video, Gabe the Preacher talks about how he is no longer sinning, he no longer does the things he has on the list.  But the moment someone dares say they are not sinning, he jumps on them and says "Oh your spotless?"  From his words, it's hard to tell what his position is.  He says that once you convert and accept Christ, you no longer sin.  Maybe he has some of the once saved, always saved mentality.  So, even though he sins ("Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Rom 3:23), he is saved?    At the 19:32 mark he says, "You have to work out your salvation with fear and trembling"  So, maybe he doesn't believe in Eternal Salvation.

8:59 - There's only one mediator between God and man. Many Protestants are surprised when they realized that the Catholic church acknowledges Christ to be our one and absolutely unique mediator.  Fr. John Hardon wrote:  The Incarnation corresponds to mediation in the order of being, and the Redemption is mediation morally.  This kind of mediation is incommunicable.  No one but the Savior unites in himself the divinity, which demands reconciliation, and the humanity, which needs to be reconciled.  Nevertheless, lesser and subordinate mediators are not excluded.  The question is what purpose they serve and in what sense to they mediate.  They can help the cause of mediation in the only way the human beings (creatures) can contribute to the work of salvation, namely, by their willing response to grace, or interceding with God to give his grace, or freely cooperating with grace when conferred."

 Lesser and and subordinate mediators?  This is where the trouble starts.  And yet, in the context of 1 Timothy 2:5, demonstrates Fr. Hardon's point.  In the first two verses, St. Paul commands "supplications, prayers and intercessions to be made for all men.."  Christ is our one mediator/intercessor, yet, St. Paul commands all Christians to be intercessors/mediators.  How many of these people have prayer chains, ask others to pray for them?  You can't have it both ways.

10:53 - Along with other places in his video, he accuses Catholics of idolatry and quotes Exodus 20:4 "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.".  Anti-Catholic write Loraine Boettner, in the book Roman Catholicism, makes a blanket statement "God has forbidden the use of images in worship".  Yet, if you "search the scriptures" (cf. John 5:39) you will see the opposite is true.  God forbade the worship of statues, but he did not forbid the religious use of statues.  Instead, he actually commanded their use in religious context.  People who oppose religious use of statues/icons forget how many passages where the Lord commands the making of statues.  For example:

  • "And you shall make two cherubim of gold, of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat.  Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece of the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends.  The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another, toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be" (Ex. 25:18-20)
  • David gave Solomon the plan "for the altar of incense made of refined gold, and its weight; also his plan for the golden chariot of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the covenant of the Lord.  All this he made clear by the writing of the hand of the Lord concerning it all, all the work to be done according to the plan" (1 Chr. 28:18-19)
  • On the walls round about in the inner room and [on] the nave were carved likenesses of cherubim" (Ez. 41:17-18)
  • God told Moses to "make a [statue of] a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten when he sees it shall live.  So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live" (Num. 21:8-9)  
  • Yet, when people do adore a statue as a god the Lord becomes angry.  Thus when people did start to worship the bronze serpent as a snake-god (whom they named Nehushtan) the righteous king Hezekiah had it destroyed. (2 Kgs 18:4)
  • The Catechism of Trent taught that idolatry is committed by worshipping idols as God, o believing that they possess any divinity or virtue entitling them to our worship, by praying to, or reposing confidence in them. (374)  
  • Idolatry is a perversion of man's innate religious sense.  An idolater is someone who "transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God" (CCC 2114).

 St. Peter exhorted us to always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.  We need to understand our faith, we need to know what we believe and not be afraid to correct those who try and distort the faith we profess.  Have a blessed rest of the Great Fast.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Through The Years, 8 To Be Exact

This morning my Facebook memories popped up an old blog post that I had written 8 years ago today.  I had worked late on Saturday and ended up going to the local Latin rite parish instead of my new Ruthenian parish.  I wrote about things that drove me crazy, being a revert to the church and embarking on a journey in Eastern Christianity.  It got me thinking about how I might write that post today.

·         The Sense of The Sacred – I’ve been to a few latin rite masses in the past 8 years.  By and large, they leave me disappointed in the loss of the sacred.  I’ve seen people going up to communion be-bopping like they were at a concert.  They put their hands out or worse, take the Precious Body out of the hands of the ordinary or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.  I’ve heard some terrible homilies, I’ve heard homilies that seemed to be more stand up comedy than sermon.  And yet, I still have found beautiful and reverent masses.  I’ve sat in parishes with Jennie and seen devotion to the Theotokos and Christ that make me realize just how far I need to progress in my spiritual journey.  I’ve seen a priest at the Cathedral in Tucson offer the Holy Sacrifice of The Mass better than I’ve ever seen the Novus Ordo offered before.  I’ve been to beautiful churches throughout Arizona, throughout the USA that ooze The Scent of Holiness.  Through it all, I thank God that I was brought to Eastern Christianity.  I sat in a Melkite parish just 3 days ago that, while small, was the epitome of beauty and holiness.  In that, I know that my home will always be in the East.

·         Vestments – I still have trouble with this one.  By and large latin vestments are so plain, so ugly.  I just don’t understand how this happened in such a short period of time. 

·         Protestant-like services – Yep, this one still makes me crazy.  Why, after the Eucharistic prayer and Epiclesis have been prayed by the priest do we turn our focus away from the mystery at the altar to handshakes, peace signs, waves?  In the Eastern church, the kiss of peace takes place right before the Creed.  Bishops exchange the kiss of peace with Bishops, priests with priests and deacons with deacons.  Move it to a more appropriate place in the Liturgy.

·         Over-use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.  Several months ago I was at a mass presided over by a Bishop, assisted by two priests and one deacon.  When it came time to give communion, only one priest gave communion along with a gaggle of EM’s.  Like I said 8 years ago, I don’t have an issue with the use of EM’s, but 75% of the clergy not doing their job is just wrong.  I went to a daily mass where the number of EM's outnumbered the people in the pews.  And I don't want to get going about communion in the hand.  An indult, born out of disobedience by conniving bishops in the US.  The vote looked more like Chicago politics than a true reflection of the wants/needs of the faithful.  Come to think of it, it was Archbishop Bernardin, eventually Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago who tried to garner the needed majority.  

I wrote that I can not in good conscience attend a Mass anymore with such disregard for the Holy and Sacred.  My tone has softened since that time, helped in large part by a good and holy priest from the Institute of Christ the King who told me one time, “At times when attending the Novus Ordo you just have to offer it up.  After all, Jesus is still present on the altar, regardless of how he got there”.  Those words allowed me to see beauty in the Western mass.   I'm happy to say that I will be receiving the sacrament of marriage at Jennie's latin rite parish.  The sacraments/mysteries are "everywhere present and filling all things".  There is beauty everywhere and that liturgy will be wonderful.

When people ask me what is different between East and West I like to say, “We are all on a journey to the same place. Some take detours, some take the backroads, some take the freeway.  As long as you wind up at the destination, who cares how you got there.  What’s important is that you got where you were going.”

Over 8 years, I’ve grown in my understanding and love of the Eastern church. I was in formation for holy orders for almost 3 years.  I learned so much about the faith, about the liturgy, about the history.  I am happy that I made the canonical switch and deep down, I know the East is the only place I will find my personal salvation….even though it may be through Antioch instead of Carpathia.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My Latest Trip To The Local Latin Rite Church

I ended up working on Halloween night and didn't get home until almost 10PM. I was pretty wound up and didn't get to sleep until late. When I woke up this morning, I decided to make the shorter drive to my local Catholic Church, instead of the longer drive to my Byzantine Catholic Church. I believe I have posted before about the crazy things that go on in some Latin Rite parishes and how that had me searching out other options in the Catholic Church or Eastern Orthodoxy.

I try not to be critical and look for liturgical abuses, but they just seem to jump out at me. For those who are not Catholic or were not Catholic during the 70's and early 80's, these things may seem trivial or even the norm. Some of the things today that bothered me:

  • The Sense of The Sacred - During my growing up years, people came to Mass early and prayed or quietly reflected before the mass. My first experience at a Protestant church had me shocked; people acted like it was a party, yacking it up like they were sitting in their living room. One of the things that bugged me about the Latin Church I found in this decade was that we had lost the sense of the sacred. This morning, I heard more people talking about yesterday's football game or where they were going to watch football today. I heard people complaining about other people in the church. It went on and on and on. And the killer for me today happened when the an annoucement was made today that there would only be one collection today; someone belted out, "It's about time" and most of the church erupted in laughter. Catholics believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist and in the tabernacle and this is how we act?
  • The next thing that just grated my nerves was the Vestment worn by the Priest. Again, for those who are not Catholic this may seem trivial, but the Vestments worn by the Priest have a meaning. For example, on Pentecost, the Priest wears Red to symbolize The Holy Spirit. Today was the Feast of All Saints Day which means the liturgicl color is white. The Priest's vestment was some multi-colored item that looked like it was made in the 60's by someone using LSD. Why is it so difficult to follow the prescribed liturgical norms?
  • Another thing that has crept into the Latin Church is an increasing push by some parishes to make the Mass more "Protestant like". This is exclusively a post Vatican II phenomena. One could write a book on things that have changed, but the one that just seems to bug me the most centers around the Lord's Prayer and Sign of Peace. In many Latin parishes, people join hands for the Lord's Prayer, raise their hands for the doxology and making a ridiculous show during the sign of peace. Again, to someone from a Protestant background, this may seem silly. But you have to understand why an orthodox Catholic is bothered by this. The whole purpose of the Mass is to honor and worship God. It is not for fellowship, catching up with old friends, shaking hands or making a show of being a big happy family. The Lord's Prayer comes right after the body & blood of Christ has been consecrated and is present on the Altar. This should be the most reverent time of the mass and all our focus should be on Christ, yet it has become a focus on "We" instead. The sign of peace comes and you find people walking all over the Church to shake hands, give hugs, etc. Again, it takes away from what our focus should be; the worship of God.
  • There is a publication called the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. It is the "roadmap" on how the Mass is to be conducted. There are prayers that are to be said exactly as they are prescribed. One of the things Vatican II brought into the Church was "poetic license" on the part of some Priests to make things up as they go along. Today, during the Ecce Agnus Dei was just another example of poetic license. The prayer, which takes place as the body & blood of Christ are raised in front of the congregation is to be said as follows" This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, happy are those who are called to his supper." Today's version went something like, "Today is the time when we honor all those saints who have gone before us or those saints who are sitting next to us, happy are we who are called to this banquet". Yikes.
  • In the Latin Church, there has been a spike in the use of Eucharistic Ministers (EM). An EM is someone approved by the Priest to distribute the Eucharist. In the Byzantine Catholic Church, we do not use EM's, however I fully understand why they are used in the Latin Church and have no real issue with it. My pet peeve comes from EM's giving a blessing to those who come up for communion but are unable(not in state of grace, not Catholic, etc). There is an office in Rome called the Congregation for Divine Worship that gave guidance on this very subject in 2008. In the letter, the following points were expressed and intended to serve as the liturgical norm. 1) The liturgical blessing of the Holy Mass is properly given to each and all at the end of the Mass; 2) Lay people, within the context of Holy Mass, are unable to confer a blessing; 3) Furthermore, the laying on of hands or hand, which has its own sacramental significance, is inappropriate here; 4) In a similar way, for others who are not admitted to Holy Communion in accord with the Law of The Church, should not approach Holy Communion or receive a blessing. With all of this said, I continued to see an EM laying hands, offering blessings, etc. Please, say the black, do the red.

I just can't in good conscience attend a Mass anymore with such disregard for the Holy and Sacred Celebration of the Mass. Until the "Reform of the Reform" of Vatican II is completed, I think I will be attending an Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy or Holy Mass said using the liturgical books of 1962(the Latin Mass).

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Life Debate

News From the Front Line

For those who do not know, October is the month that 40 Days for Life runs every day. 40 days is an effort of prayer and fasting for the end of abortion in the United States. One of the lies that abortion advocates use is that everyone has a choice and that choice must be respected. This is all good so long as the only choice being offered up is from Planned Parenthood. If you offer another option, they show their true colors.

Recently in Tucson, a mobile ultrasound bus was brought down from Phoenix and parked across the street from the local abortion mill. The organizers made sure they had all their permits, licenses, etc and that parking the bus was legal. A sign on or near the bus said, "Free Pregnancy Tests". The first person to come out was the Principal at a local school near the abortion mill. She insisted that the bus could not park their and that it must be moved at once. The organizer of the event showed her all the applicable permits and said that the bus was not moving. She stormed away in a huff.

Next, someone from the abortion mill came across the street and also insisted that the bus be moved. Again, the organizer showed all the applicable permits and calmly stated that the bus was not moving. The debate from the abortion mill worker became increasingly nasty and the organizer said, "maybe you should bring your Rabbi, pastor or priest and we can reach an agreement". She stormed away, saying I don't have one.

The first woman who showed up at the bus came over to get a free pregnancy test. She was going into the abortion mill but they charge for the test, so the free test sign caught her eye. One thing that needs to be said is that the inside of the bus is specifically non religious or anti-abortion. There are no signs, no literature, etc talking about the evil of abortion. A nurse administered the test which turned out to be positive and offered up an ultra-sound. Two heartbeats were detected on the ultrasound. The mother of the twins said, I guess I have to make a decision if I want to be mother to twins. The nurse told her, "Either way, you will still be a mother to twins". The women looked up, smiled and said, "You're right."

That's where the story ends. No one knows if she went forward with an abortion or kept her twins. The question that I have to ask is "What's wrong with this service?" Why are the abortion mills afraid of informed consent? I believe it is much easier to kill a blob of tissue than it is to kill an unborn baby.

Consider this statement, "An abortion kills the life of a baby after it has begun. It is dangerous to your life and your health". ---1962 Planned Parenthood brochure. See picture at hyperlink

It is interesting that once the abortion mills started making millions of dollars, the statement that abortion kills the life of a baby disappeared.

Christ, speaking to the Pharisees said, "Yee are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father yee will do. He was a murderer from the beginning and abode not in the truth because there was no truth in him. He speaketh a lie; he speaketh his own; For he is a liar and the father thereof."

The same can be said about the abortion industry. As mentioned above, Planned Parenthood said abortion kills a baby. Now, it's not a baby, rather a mass of tissue. How about these items:
  • I said I was gang raped, but I lied; I said I didn't know who the father was, but I did; I said I hated my baby, but I didn't. - Norma McCorvey, aka Jane Roe from Roe v Wade.
  • "We spoke of 5,000 - 10,000 deaths per year from illegal abortions. I confess that I knew that figure was totally false. It was a useful figure, widely accepted. So why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics." - Bernard Nathanson, founder of NARAL
"Yee are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father yee will do. He was a murderer from the beginning and abode not in the truth because there was no truth in him. He speaketh a lie; he speaketh his own; For he is a liar and the father thereof."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

I Am The Bread of Life

One of the central elements of the Catholic and Orthodox faith is the belief that Christ is really present, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist. Belief in the Real Presence is often attacked by non-catholic Christians who are trying to win souls to their belief. I have had people tell me that Catholic worship a cookie because that's all that the Eucharist is. Anyone who has read a Chick tract will be familiar with the phrase “Death Cookie”. Or, I've been told that belief in the Eucharist is non biblical. What follows is a short apology on why Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe in the Real Presence.

The Bread of Life Discourse

"I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever." These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Then many of his disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Petedr answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” - John 6:48 -68

Most Christians who deny the Real Presence quickly dismiss this passage as it was symbolic. However, the murmuring of the Jews is the clearest evidence that they had understood the preceeding words of Christ literally. Yet far from repudiating this construction as a gross misunderstanding, Christ repeated his words in a most solemn manner. In consequence, many of his Disciples were scandalized and said “This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” But instead of retracting what He had said, Christ rather reproached them for their want of faith, by alluding to His sublimer origin and His future Ascension into heaven. And without further ado He allowed these Disciples to go their way.

The Words of Institution

“And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said “Take; this is my body. And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” Mark 14: 22-24

In this passage, Jesus did not say this is a symbol of my body. He said it was his body. Reading in the Epistles, there is more evidence that the Disciples believed in the Real Presence. Consider the following passage:

“For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord's supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another comes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink it? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you! For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the nigh when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrances of me. In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgement against themselves. 1 Corinthians 11:18-29

St. Paul believed in the Real Presence. He repeats the words of institution and chastises the Corinthians on eat and drinking unworthily.

Early Church Fathers

Denial of the Real Presence by some Christian churches is a rather new theory, coming about after the Protestant reformation. Instead of relying on interpretation of scripture from someone 1600 or more years after the event took place, I like to look at what the early church believed on a topic. With regards to the Real Presence, there is a wealth of writings.

“the Eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which the Father in His goodness raised” - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Epistle to the Smyrneans 6:2)

Clearly he intends this realism to be taken strictly, for he makes it the basis of his argument against the Docetists denial of the reality of Christ's body(Doctrines, 197). St. Igantius's argument would not have been persuasive to his opponents unless belief in the Eucharist as truly the Body and Blood of Christ was pervasive by AD 106.

“We do not receive these as common bread or common drink. But just as our Saviour Jesus Christ was made flesh through the Word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food which has been eucharistized by the word of prayer from the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus. - Justin Martyr (First Apology, 66:2)

“He took that created thing, bread, and gave thanks and said, ‘This is My body.’ And the cup likewise, which is part of that creation to which we belong, He confessed to be His blood, and taught the new oblation of the new covenant; which the Church receiving from the apostles, offers to God throughout all the world. . . . Then again, how can they [Gnostic heretics] say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body of the Lord and with His blood, goes to corruption and does not partake of life? . . . When, therefore, the mingled cup and the manufactured bread receives the Word of God, and the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ is made, from which things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can [the Gnostics] affirm that the flesh is incapable of receiving the gift of God, which is life eternal, which [flesh] is nourished from the body and blood of the Lord, and is a member of Him? - St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, writing around 160 AD (Against Heresies, 4:17:5, 4:18:4-5, 5:2:3)

Note that here St. Irenaus supports both the Catholic view of the Real Presence and the Eucharistic sacrifice in the same context. And so it is with all the Church Fathers: Tertullian, Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Athanasius, Augustine, Cyril of Jerusalem. I read them and found they all believed in the Real Presence and the Eucharist as the New Covenant sacrifice.

I ran across the following quote on day and was surprised at the author of it. The quote goes as follows:

“Who, but the devil, has granted such license of wresting the words of the holy Scripture? Who ever read in the Scriptures, that my body is the same as the sign of my body? Or, that is the same as it signifies? What language in the world ever spoke so? It is only then the devil, that imposes upon us by these fanatical men. Not one of the Fathers of the Church, though so numerous, ever spoke as the Sacramentarians: not one of them ever said, It is only bread and wine; or, the body and blood of Christ is not there present.

Surely, it is not credible, nor possible, since they often speak, and repeat their sentiments, that they should never (if they though so) not so much as once, say, or let slip these words: it is bread only, or the body of Christ is not there, especially it being of great importance, that men should not be deceived. Certainly, in so many Fathers, and in so many writings, the negative might at least be found in one of them, had they thought the body and blood of Christ were not really present; but they are all of them unanimous” - Martin Luther(Luther's Collected Works, Wittenburg Edition, no. 7 p, 391)

I stumbled upon these writings and works as I was deciding on what Church to attend. Only two Christian groups have believed consistently in the true presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist through all of Church history; The Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox church. Other issues, such as the papacy and unity, steered me away from the Orthodox Church and back into the Catholic Church. I have continued my study of the Eucharist and am ever more fully convinced that the Catholic teaching is the teaching passed on from Christ to his Apostles. It is eminently defensible and has become a central tenent of my Christian faith. Union with our Lord in the Holy Eucharist brings me peace and joy beyond anything I have had in my life before.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Show me in the Bible where it says priests can't be married

A few weeks ago, a conversation with a co-worker started out with the question listed above. It came out of nowhere and was delivered with a less than charitable tone. The hot topic at that time was a Catholic priest in Miami who was discovered on a beach with his long time lover. For some reason, it seems like I've been doing quite a bit of Catholic Apologetics lately and this question was another one that needed to be addressed.

Had this question come up one year ago, I would have shrugged it off and moved on with the task at hand. However, I felt that it needed to be addressed as this was not the first time this co-worker had asked questions about the Church.

The first thing I stated was that I didn't believe that something had to be written in the Bible to be a belief or practice. Of course this was not well received and I was told that the Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness.” Being the novice apologist, I said “Amen”, I agree completely with that text. However, where does it say in that phrase “Sola Scriptura” or the Bible alone? I was met with a repeat of that same verse and I asked the same question until we moved on to another question.

Not wanting to get into a verse slinging contest, I asked him if he believed in the Trinity. Predictably his answer was “Yes”. I asked him to turn to the page in the Bible that used the word Trinity. Of course, there is no mention of Trinity in the Bible, even though the concept of the Trinity is scattered throughout the Bible. I asked him how he believes in the Trinity if it wasn't in the Bible? He had no answer for that.

I also asked if he had made an “Altar Call” and prayed the sinners prayer in his church. His answer was “Yes”. To which I charitably asked him to show me where that was in the Bible. Again, no answer. While he wasn't convinced that Sola Scriptura was wrong, at least it gave him pause that many of his beliefs, customs & practices are not found in the Bible.

Finally, I asked him if he had read the Gospel of John. Specifically, Chapter 21, verse 25. In that verse, John says “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that should be written.” John lays out that many things Christ did were not recorded in writing. Scripture alone, could be debated another day.

At that point, I moved on to the question of priestly celibacy. I explained that celibacy is a discipline of the church and not a dogma. For the first ten centuries of the church, priests were allowed to be married. However, never in the history of the Catholic or Orthodox church was an ordained priest ever allowed to marry. In short, a married man could become a priest, but a priest could never marry. Also, because it is a discipline and not a dogma, you would not expect to find a direct commandment in the Bible. The Church, as well as many Protestant churches, practices many disciplines such as:

Abstinence from meat on Fridays
Praying the Daily Office

While there is no scripture that says priests must live a celibate lifestyle, there are several verses that talk about the benefits of celibacy. A few I mentioned were:

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchasity, and marries another, commits adultery. The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry” But he said to them, “Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”
Matthew 19: 9-12

I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.
1 Corinthians 7: 7-9

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord but the married man is anxious about wordly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband.
1 Corinthians 7: 32-34

The subject of Father Alberto Cutie came up. He was a priest who took the vow of celibacy but found himself in love with a woman. Cutie left the priesthood and recently joined an Episcopal church in order to marry the woman and still participate in ministry. Also, the topic of the child sex abuse scandal came up and my co-worker offered up that celibacy was the cause of that. What I said to that issue is that a priest makes a vow of celibacy, much like a man makes a vow to forsake all others when he is married. You would have to be living under a rock to not know that many married men break their wedding vows. We are broken creatures due to the fall of our first parents, Adam & Eve. Allowing a priest to have a wife is no guarantee that he would remain faithful to that vow either. One only has to look at a sampling of high profiled married Protestant ministers who broke their marriage vows:

Ted Haggard (Homosexual activity while married)
Jimmy Swaggart (Activities with a prostitute while married)
Jim Baker (Jessica Hahn affair while married)

On the topic of the sex abuse scandal, it was and remains a horrible atrocity that took place. The handling of it from the local bishops all the way to the highest levels in Rome was shameful. However, it is disingenuous to blame it on a celibate priesthood. For the previous 2 years, both of us worked online child sexual exploitation crimes. During that time, we executed over 35 search warrants and arrested a similar number of people. Most of these arrests where married men. Clearly, deviant sexual behavior was not eliminated by being married. In addition to my unscientific results, the three leading insurers of protestant churches in the United States reported they receive upwards of 260 sexual abuse cases regarding children under the age of 18 each year. Pedophiles are pedophiles regardless of practicing celibacy, marriage, homosexuality or any combination thereof. (

I believe that the discipline of celibacy has a firm foundation in scripture. Jesus said “He who is able to receive this, let him receive it”. St. Paul wrote “the unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord.” Clearly, not all are able to walk that path. To those unable to exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion. The celibate lifestyle is a powerful devotion to our Lord and those who practice it should be admired, not put down.