Monthly Archives: April 2017

Archbishop Sample’s Bold Remarks on Classical Roman Liturgy

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Pope Francis facing ad orientem

Whenever speaking of priests and bishops I don’t really want to say, “He’s one of the good ones,” but I feel that way about my archbishop, Alexander K. Sample. I find him level-headed and wise.

Here’s a talk he recently gave on discovering the Traditional Latin Mass, or Tridentine Mass or, as it’s officially known, the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

I too have a desire for the Traditional Latin Mass, somewhat out of curiosity, somewhat because I’m sorta studying Latin, but mostly because I want to be holy and I am weak.

That might sound strange, but my thoughts are simple. We are called to be holy. God has given us many gifts and various means to help us become holy. These include prayer and scripture, fellowship and peaching, etc. The Mass is a gift to us. God does not need it, but we do. The Mass was made for us and we are made for Mass. It seems to me, in terms appropriate to reverence before our Lord and Savior, that the more traditional Mass is a better fit with our natures and fundamental human needs than the Novus Ordo Mass, or Ordinary Form. In other words, the more traditional Mass encourages holiness more than the more modern Mass, and I need all the help I can get.

Many will beg to differ.

Those who say they are Christians but not religious are gravely wrong. All humans are religious. Religion, and religious activities, are given to us as gifts. And the religious impulse is part of our DNA, out there by God. Our nature calls out for religion, and for rites, and for reverence. These things really matter. In fact, I think in today’s crazy world reverence is more important than ever. The Traditional Latin Mass seems to have a great deal more inherent reverence than the alternative.

For more of the Archbishop’s thoughts on liturgical reform, here is a two-part discussion he recently did on Mater Dei Radio:
Liturgical Reform Part 1 July 20, 2016
Liturgical Reform Part 2 August 16, 2016

However, the Traditional Latin Mass is not a requirement for the Christian life. It is not a requirement for holiness. And many find the Novus Ordo Mass very encouraging. In fact I do too — I am still in the presence of the Lord, still kneeling, still praying, still receiving His body and blood. But I believe the traditional Mass is a gift that coincides and fits human nature best. I would like to have the regular opportunity to receive such a gift in my area.

I hope the Archbishop’s views continue to get propagated and accepted throughout the archdiocese. But I know he is wise and will not force anything. It is really up to us to discover it and ask for it. Fortunately for me and my family, our parish, which does not do the Tridentine Mass (yet), is generally very reverent and solemn, frequently includes Latin, and the music is often quite beautiful, and the homilies are good. Still, I would love the option.

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Facing East: Returning to Ad Orientem

A number of Churches are trying trying celebrating the Mass with the ad orientem orientation. This is the more ancient tradition (for many centuries before Vatican II) of facing the altar when speaking to God, and then to the people when speaking to the people (versus populum). From what I know it does not necessarily mean also speaking Latin but can be, in fact, part of the Novus Ordo Mass as well as the Tridentine Mass.

I find the arguments for ad orientem appealing. My desire is to grow in holiness. The Mass is a tremendous gift to us, with a powerful sacrament in the Eucharist, to help us grow in holiness. Right worship is absolutely critical. I currently get blessed by the Novus Ordo Mass. I do not reject it like some do. However, anything that helps me focus on Christ and seek His face I welcome.

Here are a couple of videos about Churches and priests who have started celebrating Mass ad orientem. I think their testimony speaks for itself.

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a milestone

One week ago, on the Easter Vigil, my wife entered the Catholic Church.

I cannot be more overjoyed. Praise be to our Lord!

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Judgement and Works

peasants

BTW, our eternal destiny — salvation or damnation — is based on the works we do.

huh?

Growing up in church* I frequently heard teaching that included something like this: “I know it may seem the passage (or verse) says X, but in fact it really means Y.” In other words, although on the surface it looks clear, don’t be fooled. Since we know that such and such doctrine must be true, we therefore know that this passage can’t really mean what it seems to mean. This kind of approach was most evident (to me at least) on the topic of faith versus works. Since, of course, we know we are saved by faith alone (sola fide) then we know passages that say we are saved by works must actually be saying something else.

But do they? A good question to ask is, if the writer (St. Paul, St. John, etc.) of any passage in question meant what one has now figured out it “really” means, then why did he write it the way he did? In other words, if the writers of the New Testament meant to say we are saved by faith alone, then why didn’t they write that way? So many times they wrote we are saved by works, as well as by faith, grace, mercy, baptism, etc., that one wonders how did they get their doctrine so messed up?! But of course their doctrine was correct, and it is we who must correct our thinking.

As an example of what I mean, below are examples where New testament writers (many of the words are from the mouth Christ) point to something other than sola fide.

Anyway, I too feel convicted of often letting myself off the hook thinking it doesn’t ultimately matter how I live my life as long as I have faith. It’s a trap I fall into too often. I think we all do. Perhaps it’s a human tendency, perhaps a product of my Protestant upbringing (though I see it everywhere). And caring to do good is not the same as doing good. Caring may be enough, I mean I’m going to fail again and again, so caring has got to count for something, but I wonder.

Some might say that God doesn’t intend us to actually do good works, only that we try, miserably fail of course, and then turn to Him. That that is the purpose of having good works set before us as a goal; not that we do them but that we try and learn we can’t. I don’t see that teaching clearly articulated in scripture.

Some might say that good works are fine, and of course we should do them, but they are ultimately meaningless, that any work we do is really worthless. Again, I don’t see that teaching clearly articulated in scripture. In fact, clearly the opposite.

What I do see are repeated calls to good works, and that those works are critically tied up in our eternal destiny, and our movement towards becoming one with Christ and holy like our Father is holy. I also see we are utterly sunk without God’s grace and mercy. But still, we are called to be holy, to do good works. Our eternal destiny depends on it.

Judgement and works brothers and sisters. What do we do with this? What do we do with these verses?

Matthew 7:19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. . . .”

Matthew 7:21 “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Note: See the next several verses (7:22-27) to get a fuller picture of the implications.

Matthew 16:27 “For the Son of man . . . will repay every man for what he has done.”

Matthew 25:34-36 “Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’” (cf. 25:31-33, 37-46)

Luke 3:9 “. . . every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

John 5:29 “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”

Romans 2:5-13 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,  but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.

2 Thessalonians 1:8-11 . . . inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by his power, . . .

1 Peter 1:17 . . . who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, . . .

Revelation 2:23 . . . I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.

Revelation 20:12 . . . And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. (cf. 20:11-13)

Revelation 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.

Revelation 22:12 Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.

Those are just a few of many passages.

Peasant's Head

darn

*Sometimes I joke that I was moved from the hospital directly to the First Baptist church nursery, such was my experience.

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Gregory Wolfe on Christian Humanism

always worth hearing Greg Wolfe’s thoughts…

References:
Gregory Wolfe
Image Journal

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The Better World Party: or how the fact of political parties may be part of the problem

I don’t have any intention of this blog becoming political. I do wonder, however, and especially now that we have recently gone through another deeply problematic presidential race here in the U.S., about the nature of politics. In this country we have a two party system. All other parties (Green, Libertarian, etc.) have been carefully nullified by the forces of power (the two parties themselves, the press, and mostly by business interests). This is my opinion. Regardless, I wonder of the value of political parties.

Our society believes political parties are important, even necessary. Are they? I am inclined to think that parties are created and promoted because someone, or some group, desires power. The ideas behind the Republican and Democratic parties in this country don’t need parties in order to exist. And once those parties are created and grow they become increasingly disconnected from the rest of society, even from their own members. This is the way of political parties. They, by design, and because power always tends to concentrate (like wealth), become centralized, demagogic, and prone to simplistic slogans hiding their real workings behind closed doors. Clearly, and eventually, all “successful” political parties end up thriving largely based upon secretive power and the enthusiastic ignorance of their membership.

They also thrive by controlling the means of communication, especially mass communication. They are, in effect, big business-backed, government supported, marketing agencies designed to benefit a minority of interests by leveraging the support of a majority who, for many reasons, and with various levels of enthusiasm or resignation, go along with the game.

Imagine a political leader in the western world saying something like this:

“If there is to be Better World [a Republican world, a Democratic world, a Libertarian world, etc.] , there must be a Better World party. Without a Better World party, without a party built on the Better World goals and ideals, and in the Better World way of doing things, it is impossible to lead this country and all its people in defeating the forces [those of other political parties] who stand against a Better World.”

Of course no good marketing strategy would use the Better World moniker for the name of a political party, but you get the idea. And I realize this verbiage is rather clunky, but it is taken (hacked rather badly) from another political leader, an idealist and a utopian who envisioned a better world in opposition to the forces of evil, a man who saw concentrated power as a way of helping his country become a land of goodness, wealth, and peace.

“If there is to be revolution, there must be a revolutionary party. Without a revolutionary party, without a party built on the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary theory and in the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary style, it is impossible to lead the working class and the broad masses of the people in defeating imperialism and its running dogs.”

Quote from Mao Tse-tung, found in “Revolutionary Forces of the World Unite, Fight Against Imperialist Aggression!” (November 1948), Selected Works, Vol. IV, p. 284.

We might cringe that these words are from Mao, but the human heart that beat in him is the same as the one you and I have — and prone to the same weaknesses and skewed desires. The politics in the U.S. became years ago (really from the very beginning) the purview of a few seeking wealth and power for the “benefit” of everyone. Political parties became the way for power to concentrate more fully and be wielded more aggressively.

I firmly believe the only real alternative is love, is humility and sacrifice, is the way of the cross. To think otherwise is to live in fear.

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Hearsay vs. Encounter

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Most personal religious belief is based on hearsay. This includes Christianity — what he said, what the pastor said, what parents say, what tradition says, what the Bible says, we understand our faith because of what others have said. This is a good thing. The Church teaches that the essential beliefs of the faith have been handed down from the beginning orally through teaching and testimony. Most of the early Christians, including that incredible first generation, did not have direct, first-hand experience of Christ. The Gospel spread throughout the known world by way of witness, and reports of witness.

In the gospel of St. John we read: ‘Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”‘ (John 20: 28-29)

Of course I am using the word “hearsay” as a rhetorical device. We normally use the word to mean a rumor, or something heard that cannot be verified.

And yet, for all of us (except, perhaps, a few mystics) we know the basic tenets of our faith because we have been told about it or read about it. This fact does not make Christianity less true, but it does highlight a couple of things. First, we are indebted to those who have gone before us and have taken the time to teach us. This is especially true of the Apostles, disciples, and writers of the New Testament, but it is also true of parents, pastors, fiends, and many others. Second, belief by way of hearsay is not the same thing as belief because of encounter. Encounter is one’s own experience of God. At various times in history individuals have had powerful encounters with God — Moses, Christ’s disciples, St. Paul, and numerous saints down the ages. These are the more obvious encounters, but most Christians have also had encounters with God. It is arguable that one cannot be a Christian without having an encounter with God.

This is why a person can grow up in a Christian family, go to church regularly, and be a Christian in one sense, but then have a profound conversion experience later in life and become “born again” as it were. In other words, without “encounter” Christianity remains for the individual, essentially hearsay.

When the Holy Spirit moves within the heart of a person a profound experience occurs. God has reached out, presented Himself in some mysterious way, has penetrated the hard heart, and established a level of faith within the individual. For many this encounter comes as a surprise. For some it comes from searching, seeking out God, asking that He enter in as it were. Regardless, surprise or answer to prayer, when we have an encounter with God we are never the same.

Encounter is also something that can happen invisibly until, perhaps much later, the individual realizes what has happened. Encounter can occur frequently, perhaps even regularly. But it may happen rarely in a given person’s life as well. It is a mystery. Like the wind, it comes and goes, and we only see the effects.

The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

Finally, there is no competition between hearing and encounter. Our faith is not based on one or the other, but on both. But we should recognize that mere knowledge, or being able to repeat what we’ve been told, does not constitute a full knowledge of Christ. And our encounters should be tested against the words of truth.

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