Monthly Archives: November 2012

looking to be refashioned…

I just read this yesterday. I think it is marvelous…

LUMEN GENTIUM — DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH
— CHAPTER VII —
THE ESCHATOLOGICAL NATURE OF THE PILGRIM CHURCH
AND ITS UNION WITH THE CHURCH IN HEAVEN

48. The Church, to which we are all called in Christ Jesus, and in which we acquire sanctity through the grace of God, will attain its full perfection only in the glory of heaven, when there will come the time of the restoration of all things.(237) At that time the human race as well as the entire world, which is intimately related to man and attains to its end through him, will be perfectly reestablished in Christ.(238)

Christ, having been lifted up from the earth has drawn all to Himself.(239) Rising from the dead(240) He sent His life-giving Spirit upon His disciples and through Him has established His Body which is the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation. Sitting at the right hand of the Father, He is continually active in the world that He might lead men to the Church and through it join them to Himself and that He might make them partakers of His glorious life by nourishing them with His own Body and Blood. Therefore the promised restoration which we are awaiting has already begun in Christ, is carried forward in the mission of the Holy Spirit and through Him continues in the Church in which we learn the meaning of our terrestrial life through our faith, while we perform with hope in the future the work committed to us in this world by the Father, and thus work out our salvation.(241)

Already the final age of the world has come upon us (242) and the renovation of the world is irrevocably decreed and is already anticipated in some kind of a real way; for the Church already on this earth is signed with a sanctity which is real although imperfect. However, until there shall be new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells,(243) the pilgrim Church in her sacraments and institutions, which pertain to this present time, has the appearance of this world which is passing and she herself dwells among creatures who groan and travail in pain until now and await the revelation of the sons of God.(244)

Joined with Christ in the Church and signed with the Holy Spirit “who is the pledge of our inheritance”,(245) truly we are called and we are sons of God(246) but we have not yet appeared with Christ in glory,(247) in which we shall be like to God, since we shall see Him as He is.(248) And therefore “while we are in the body, we are exiled from the Lord (249) and having the first-fruits of the Spirit we groan within ourselves(250) and we desire to be with Christ”‘.(251) By that same charity however, we are urged to live more for Him, who died for us and rose again.(252) We strive therefore to please God in all things(253) and we put on the armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil and resist in the evil day.(254) Since however we know not the day nor the hour, on Our Lord’s advice we must be constantly vigilant so that, having finished the course of our earthly life,(255) we may merit to enter into the marriage feast with Him and to be numbered among the blessed(256) and that we may not be ordered to go into eternal fire(257) like the wicked and slothful servant,(258) into the exterior darkness where “there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth”.(259) For before we reign with Christ in glory, all of us will be made manifest “before the tribunal of Christ, so that each one may receive what he has won through the body, according to his works, whether good or evil”(260) and at the end of the world “they who have done good shall come forth unto resurrection of life; but those who have done evil unto resurrection of judgment”.(261) Reckoning therefore that “the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in us”,(262) strong in faith we look for the “blessed hope and the glorious coming of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ”(263) “who will refashion the body of our lowliness, conforming it to the body of His glory(264). and who will come “to be glorified in His saints and to be marveled at in all those who have believed”(265).

References:
237 Acts 3, 21.
238 Cf Eph. 1, 1O; Col. 1, 20; 2 3, 10-13.
239 Cf. Jn. 12, 32.
240 cf. Rom. 6, 9.
241 Cf. Phil. 2, 12.
242 Cf 1 Cor. 10. 11.
243 Cf. 2. Pet. 3, 13.
244 Cf. Rom. 8, 19-22.
245 Eph. 1, 14.
246 Cf. 1 Jn. 3, 1.
247 Cf. Col- 3. 4
248 Cf. 1 Jn. 3, 2
249 2 Cor. 5, 6.
250 Cf. Rom. 8, 23.
251 Cf. Phil. 1. 23.
252 Cf. 2 Cor 5, 15.
253 Cf. 2 Cor. 5, 9.
254 Cf.Eph.6, 11-13.
255 Cf. Heb 9, 27.
256 Cf. Mt. 25, 31-46.
257 Cf. Mt. 25, 41.
258 Cf. Mt. 25, 26.
259 Mt. 22, 13 and 25. 30.
260 2 Cor. 5, 10.
261 Jn. 5, 29; Cf. Matt. 25, 46.
262 Ram. 8, 18; cf. 2 Tim. 2, 11-12.
263 Tit. 2, 13.
264 Phil. 3, 21.
265 2 Thess. 1, 10.

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Reading Vatican II

When it comes to understanding Catholic theology I am a true neophyte, a certified numskull. FYI. But I’m loving what I’m reading so far.

Well, I’ve begun reading the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Perhaps, in a way, I am reading these documents in light of the Year of Faith, which I find a great idea and something I hope brings about genuine and organic renewal—something we all need.

The Second Vatican Council seems to be such an important event of the last century, profoundly influential on so many levels, and still very much alive in some important sense. And it’s importance, especially regarding it ecumenical focus, is relevant for Protestants as well as for Catholics. Along with the documents, which are themselves marvelous (as far as I can tell so far), I find the council a source of interest because of the great individuals who participated both in and after the council. This look at the council by Fr. Robert Barron is fascinating:

Look who was at the council:

A young Ratzinger and Yves Congar at Vatican II

Cardinal Joseph Frings and a young Ratziner at Vatican II

Here’s another take on the significance of the council:

I am curious if there is a difference, generally speaking, in evaluations of the council and it’s impacts by those in Europe and those in the U.S.

I am no scholar, and in many ways I feel overwhelmed by the vastness of the council. I also am looking from the “outside” in that I am not a Catholic—not yet anyway. Maybe what’s so interesting about the council is just how immense and human it was. This was a council in touch with its times and actively transparent (up to a point) in a way unlike previous councils.

The following is a great overview and perspective on the council by Rev. John W. O’Malley:

I don’t know much about Fr. O’Malley, he may be in one of those two “camps” spoken of by Fr. Barron, and it seems he may be more in the concilium camp than the communio camp—for me, at this time, the communio camp stirs my heart more, but I know very little of each. However, his last comment, which was his answer to the question of where is his hope, he says, “In the living God.” That, I think, is really the key.

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Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Do I?

We Christians like to speak of a “personal relationship with Jesus.” We often like to think of Jesus as our friend, our buddy, our confidant. Modern evangelism tends to avoid bringing up the awfulness of hell anymore as a motivator to become a Christian (we make fun of fire-and-brimstone preachers), rather the emphasis is placed squarely on the positive relationship aspects of salvation. “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” “Come to Jesus!” There must be many ways to think about this, but I believe in general we tend to produce an image in our heads of Jesus as our friend. Jesus loves us, he even died for us, but is friendship the best way to think about our relationship with him? Is he our friend or is he our lord?

Are Jesus and you on a roadtrip together, or are you doing his will? Is my relationship with Jesus more like having coffee with a friend or more like coming before the throne of a king?

A great many Protestant/Evangelical church services revolve around creating the feelings of having a personal relationship with Jesus; a kind of emotional high that evokes heartfelt emotions and supposedly “recharges one’s spiritual batteries” for Monday. That seems to be the job function of what is often called the “worship team.” Churches that are most successful at creating those feelings tend to grow big and become financially rich. Apart from the fact that, though Jesus does truly exist, the “Jesus” we claim to know is largely one of our imaginations; and apart from the clearly manufactured and manipulated emotional elements of many of these church services, a question still remains: Do we have the right kind of relationship in mind when we claim a personal relationship with Jesus?

I cannot imagine anyone having a more clear understanding of a “personal relationship with Jesus” than his apostles, except, of course, his mother. If this is true, then I am struck by these two verses:

One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; (John 13:23)

And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.  (Revelation 1:17a)

The first takes place during the upper room discourse prior to Christ’s crucifixion.  John the apostle leans back against Jesus. There is a closeness, an intimacy, a personal relationship going on there. Of course all the apostles had a personal relationship with Jesus, for they walked with him, ate with him, boarded with him, and were taught directly by him. But the intimacy with John wonderfully contrasts with John’s response at seeing the risen Christ in his vision of Heaven. Here John turns and sees Jesus in his glory. What is John’s response? He falls at Christ’s feet as dead. John is an apostle, one with a close and intimate relationship with Jesus, but now he is falling down in profound reverence at the feet of his lord—as though his very life depended on it.

Is it better to approach the throne of Christ standing up because one is confident in one’s “standing” before him, or to fall down before him as though dead, only to have him then raise one up to standing saying, “be not afraid”?

We know that God loves us. We know that Jesus gave his life for us. We know that the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son, works intimately on our hearts. But can we say that we have a personal relationship with Jesus as though he is our friend, our buddy, our warm fuzzy? Perhaps John saw Jesus as a kind of “big brother” buddy when they were walking around Galilee, but that obviously changed once Christ rose in glory. If John fell down at Christ’s feet as though dead, what should be our response to Christ? Are we willing to accept a Christianity that, perhaps, gives us not so much a friend as a lord? I know I have rarely exhibited the kind of reverence and service due to Christ.

What if we discover that Jesus doesn’t care all that much if we have warm fuzzy feelings toward him, rather that he wants us to keep his commands: to feed the hungry, help the poor, the orphans , the widows, to be a unified church, to submit to the authority of the apostles (and their successors), and to participate in the corporeal and tangible activities that God gave us to sanctify us, that is, those gifts known as the sacraments? Is not this the right kind of relationship? Can we live with that?

If so, what would this then look like? How would this affect our lives, our relationships, our sanity? And how would this affect our worship, or perhaps, how should this affect the way we “do church”? Might “church” then look less like a Protestant/Evangelical/emotional worship service and more like a solemn Catholic (or perhaps Orthodox) mass? (This is not to say that Catholics shouldn’t get a bit more evangelical in spirit as well.) Does the Eucharist (with Christ being really present) and the serving of others constitute our true personal relationship with Christ, and the rest being, perhaps, merely imagination and emotion? If we are the body of Christ then is not our unity some indication of our relationship with Jesus, who is the head of the Church, and our disunity a sign of a poor relationship with the head? If this is so, then to be Protestant must require answering the question every day, “Why am I still Protestant?” We should have a very good reason, for the implications of disunity are too great not to take this seriously; the implications of being comfortable and unquestioning in the “breakaway churches” might be very grave indeed.  And if I don’t have a good answer am I then willing to admit the seriousness of my situation? If I am not Protestant, but rather some vague evangelical who just “loves Jesus”, am I capable of admitting the serious of my situation?

I ask because I don’t know. But I have my suspicions.

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A Prayer for Guidance

The following is a prayer from Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225 -1274). Perhaps this prayer should be said by every teacher or tutor before class begins:

O creator past all telling,
you have appointed from the treasures of your wisdom
the hierarchies of angels,
disposing them in wondrous order
above the bright heavens,
and have so beautifully set out all parts of the universe.

You we call the true fount of wisdom
and the noble origin of all things.
Be pleased to shed
on the darkness of mind in which I was born,
The twofold beam of your light
and warmth to dispel my ignorance and sin.

You make eloquent the tongues of children.
Then instruct my speech
and touch my lips with graciousness.
Make me keen to understand, quick to learn,
able to remember;
make me delicate to interpret and ready to speak.

Guide my going in and going forward,
lead home my going forth.
You are true God and true man,
and live for ever and ever.

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a prayer for beginnings

The prayer that was prayed at the beginning of Vatican II:

We are here before You, O Holy Spirit, conscious of our innumerable sins, but united in a special way in Your Holy Name. Come and abide with us. Deign to penetrate our hearts.

Be the guide of our actions, indicate the path we should take, and show us what we must do so that, with Your help, our work may be in all things pleasing to You.

May You be our only inspiration and the overseer of our intentions, for You alone possess a glorious name together with the Father and the Son.

May You, who are infinite justice, never permit that we be disturbers of justice. Let not our ignorance induce us to evil, nor flattery sway us, nor moral and material interest corrupt us. But unite our hearts to You alone, and do it strongly, so that, with the gift of Your grace, we may be one in You and may nothing depart from the truth.

Thus, united in Your name, may we in our every action follow the dictates of Your mercy and justice, so that today and always our judgments may not be alien to You and in eternity we may obtain the unending reward of our actions. Amen.

This prayer was composed by St. Isidore of Seville, to be used during the Second Provincial Council of Seville, Spain, in 619. It was also used during the Fourth Provincial Council of Toledo, Spain, in 633. With this prayer the sessions of the First Vatican Council began in 1869. It was said in Latin before every morning meeting of the preparatory commissions and conciliar commissions of Vatican II.

I cannot think of a better or more beautiful prayer for a beginning.

Found it here.

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A recommendation from J. R. R. Tolkien

It is easy to romanticize religion or religious experience, only to find it all too mundane. On the other hand, one might embrace the mundane and discover something truly romantic. The first is the repeatable romantic experience; high hopes brought low, longings dashed, experiences become hollow. The second is the realist vision: it is in the ordinary one finds Heaven. I think Tolkien, for all his brilliant fantasies of Middle Earth, was at heart a realist who discovered the truly romantic in the mundane. And it is the mundane world of ordinary communion that often has the deepest roots. As Tolkien says below, “The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion.”

The following is a letter Tolkien wrote to his son:

Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament… There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death. By the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste -or foretaste- of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires.

The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion. Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise. Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals.

Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children – from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn – open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand – after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter to his son.

He had me at: “Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated…” I look forward to meeting him someday.

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“…but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”

God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering

God will provide himself the lamb

provide himself the lamb

himself the lamb

himself    the    lamb

…and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

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