O Clavis David,
et sceptrum domus IsraŽl,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit,
claudis, et nemo aperuit:
veni, et educ vinctum
de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.
O Key of David,
and scepter of the house of Israel,
you open, and no one shuts,
you shut, and no one opens:
come, and lead the prisoner
seated in darkness
and in the shadow of death.
Continue reading “O Clavis David”
As most Christians know, the traditional marks of the Church, taken from the Nicene Creed, are that the Church is ďone, holy, catholic and apostolic.Ē Each of these can be traced directly to New Testament precedents (Ephesians 4 is a good place to begin, where all of them are manifest). Indeed, most, if not all, Christians can agree with them, though their implications may create some controversy.
But rather than talk of the ďNiceneĒ marks of the Church, I want to highlight three other New Testament markers. As will be seen, I am sensitive to these marks particularly and specifically because of my background in Protestant churches. They are as follows: The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth, is the dwelling place of the Living God, and is one Body.
Continue reading “The New Testament Marks of the Church”
O Radix Jesse,
qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos,
jam noli tardare
O Root of Jesse,
who stand as a sign for the people,
kings stand silent in your presence,
whom the nations will worship:
come to set us free,
put it off no longer.
Continue reading “O Radix Jesse”
For my brothers and sisters in the Restoration Movement churches, the following statement may seem fundamentally contradictory and nonsensical: It is the Restoration Movement Plea itself that directed me to the Orthodox Church.
Continue reading “How the Restoration Movement Plea Directed Me to the Orthodox Church”
[Note: The following is bound to offend most. Read with caution. Pray with discernment. But most of all pray for me, a sinner.]
It is taken as a given that the divisions among Christian churches is a scandal and a blasphemy. This is unquestionably true. It is also taken as a given that the reunion of all Christians in one visible body is a good explicitly tied to which is a more effective evangelism. This, too, is unquestionably true.
On the basis of these fundamental truths, then, is raised the ecumenical edifice. The rationale is something like this: We must work to eliminate division between our various bodies and to foster unity at every opportunity. So ecumenical groups such as the World Council of Churches, and the U.S. National Council of Churches work hard to remove the barriers circumscribing fellowship. Other groups, such as pro-life Catholic and Evangelical organizations, work hard to join together in common causes based on clear Gospel and Church teaching. But primarily, ecumenical work is seen as the coming together on matters of belief and worship, discipline and polity, such that denominations otherwise formally divided from one another can come more closely to share in ministerial, liturgical, and, ultimately, Eucharistic fellowship. To accomplish this, of course, the primary and non-negotiables of belief must be staked out and common ground achieved.
This last is not only misguided, but a mistake. Contrary to common present-day mores, unity is not about feeling close, or doing and saying the same things at the same times with one another. Rather, unity has to do with dying to self and thorough-going obedience to Christ. Indeed, the Gospel necessarily creates division. The Gospel necessarily destroys any peace that is not built on the exclusive claims of Christ on us.
Matthew puts it primarily in filial terms:
Continue reading “Necessary Gospel Division and Its Implications for Ecumenical Work”
[Note: This completes this series of posts. The entire series can be found here on this blog. I have also posted it here as a single html document.]
It may not be hyperbole, nor redundant, to say that for Christianity everything is in some way a reflection of Christology. Ecclesiology is founded on a proper Christology; what you say about the Church you effectively say about Christ. What you believe about the Mysteries (or Sacraments) is an outgrowth of what you believe Christ has come to do. The reverence or inattention you give to Mary comes from your vision of Jesus. Whether or not you believe the classical dogma of the Trinity will determine what you believe about Jesus. Christology is the dogma upon which hang all the unique beliefs and practices of the Christian Faith.
The divisions among Christians are not so monstrous simply in terms of a lack of institutional unity. Rather such divisions are so hideous because they divide not a Church, they sever Christians from one another not merely over whether baptism is necessary to salvation or not, no, such divisions are hideous because they attempt blasphemy: the division of Christ within himself. Whether or not the Church is to have bishops is not a matter of Church polity, it strikes at the heart of what we believe about Jesus. If we believe differently about the Church, we believe differently about Jesus. The implication is inescapable: to preach a different Church is to preach a different Christ. The Incarnation is that central to every particle of our faith.
These several doctrines of Christianity make sense only in light of the Incarnation. Philosophy does not comprehend Christian theology. Philosophy attempts to reduce talk of God to logical syllogism and rational category. But no person can be reduced to a logical formula or defined in a single concept, or even a group of concepts. And if this is true of human persons, how much more the Second Person of the Trinity. Philosophy must reduce God to a concept. But God is not a concept. God is a Person, indeed a Trinity of Persons. Philosophy cannot synthesize this. Confronted by the Incarnation, philosophy is burst asunder, unable to hold together the paradox. Theology shares this same ultimate failure when theology takes its cue from philosophy rather than from prayer, worship and poetry.
But one thing philosophy can witness to is that on Christianity’s own unique terms, which is to say, on the terms of the Incarnation, it is coherent. Philosophy may not accept the cornerstone of Christianity, the Incarnation of Christ. But philosophy can attest that having been built on and from that cornerstone, the lines are straight. The various patterns are woven expertly together into a whole so beautiful, so pure, so real that one is left speechless and penitent.
Christ himself has appeared to us. Glorify him.
The Incarnation and Mary
We have already seen how the Incarnation is not just an isolated point of doctrine among a list of other points of doctrine which Christians are called to believe. Rather, the Incarnation is the foundation and limit of all our doctrines, from the Holy Trinity, to salvation, to the Church and Sacraments. But most especially is this so in terms of Mary, our Lord’s mother.
Continue reading “The Coherence of Christian Theology VIII”
et dux domus IsraŽl,
qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O Mighty Lord,
and leader of the house of IsraŽl,
who appeared to Moses in the burning bush,
and on Sinai gave him the law,
come to redeem us with outstretched arm.
Continue reading “O Adonai”
A brief moment of unmitigated, unpasteurized, unhomogenized fatherly pride happened last night at Vespers. Well, actually a couple of moments.
First, during one of the prayer litanies, Sofie got a little restless, so we let her down. She walked around a bit, but finally came up to me on my left side, and pointed at my prayerbook. I had her sit on the floor, and then I let her hold my book. As she grabbed it, she attempted to make the sign of the cross: pinched her little fingers together and made the vertical. I helped her with the rest of it, then she opened the book and turned some pages and tried to make the sign of the cross a couple more times during the prayers. She sang with the choir a couple of times.
It was glorious. She was there all good-smelling from her bath and dressed in her footy pajamas worshipping her little heart out with the rest of us.
But the best part of all happened after the service was over.
Anna was talking to one of the parishioners, so I took Sofie up to the iconostasis. I helped her make the sign of the cross in front of the icon of the Theotokos, then held her up so she could kiss it. We did the same in front the icon of Jesus the Pantokrator.
As we finished, Father Patrick was closing the Royal Doors and said, “Now there’s a little girl that loves Jesus.”
I smiled in response . . . and glowed the rest of the night.
I’m still a bit luminescent.
Glory be to God.
[Note: It’s been over a month since my last entry in this series. The entire series can be found here. Once complete, I will format the entire series into a single html document and will post the URL for those interested.]
The Incarnation and the Sacraments
When one turns to the Sacraments, or the Mysteries, one has not ceased to have to do with the Church. There are two extremes one may fall prey to here, both of them a separation of the Sacraments from the Church, and both of them denials of the fullness of the Incarnation.
Continue reading “The Coherence of Christian Theology VII”