Sunday, September 26, 2010
In the Lesson of today's Mass, we also heard Amos 6:1a, 4-7, in which the prophet Amos chastises "those who lie upon beds of ivory...who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp...who drink wine in bowls...but are not grieved over the run of Joseph!"
Similarly, in the Gospel, Jesus narrated the story of the "rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and who feasted sumptuously every day" while ignoring Lazarus, "a poor man" who day at his gate every day and "who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table."
I have found it helpful when, reflecting on the lectionary readings for a day's Mass, to check them against the fourteen articles of faith, the capital sins, and the virtues, in hopes of finding a practical application of Gospel in daily life.
We know of the "Seven Capital Sins" outlined by Pope St Gregory the Great in his Moralia in Iob 31:45, but what is often lost upon contemporary readers is that the so-called "fifth capital sin," namely "lust," has a broader meaning than what the English noun would suggest. In Latin, the word is luxuria. According to Lewis and Short, luxuria has the meaning of "riotous living, profusion, luxury, excess." In this context of hedonism, pleasure, and sensuality we derive the narrower vice of "lust." The connexion between luxury and lust is illustrated well by Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion, which often sets the standard for luxurious leisure, sensuous pleasure, and extravagance. Luxury, then, is a capital sin.
The Church has long taught that wealth, money, and comfort are not sinful in se. What makes these gifts incline us to sin is the fact that they often cause us to be blind to our neighbour's needs. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, never once does the rich man take notice of Lazarus. He is indifferent. "It's none of my business." "I'm not going to get involved." How man times have we heard these quintessentially American isolationist ethos? The plight of the poor is our business.
Think of the story in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. When Meriadoc and Peregrin try to convince the ent Treebeard to assist the World of Men in fighting against Isengard and Mordor, Treebeard says effectively that it does not involve the ents. "But you're a part of this world!" was Meriadoc's rebuke.
So it is with us. The poor is as much a part of the human family as our middle-class next-door neighbours, the homeless Vietnam War veteran, or the abandoned patient at a psychiatric ward. The grave sin of the rich man was that he never took notice of Lazarus in his need. He does not offer him any leftovers from the dinner-table. He does not provide him with employment and a living wage. Nor does he even negotiate with any other employers who might take in Lazarus for work. Being "full of sores," Lazarus may very well have been physically debilitated from working. The one who "feasted sumptuously every day" refused any measure of self-sacrifice to hire a doctor to look after Lazarus.
So the rich man, who disregarded the plight of the poor, rejected the Gospel mandate of almsgiving (cf. Mt 25:31-46) which is necessary for salvation. It is one of the three works of piety required of all Christians during the Lenten season and is found among the Seven Corporeal Works of Mercy.
Finally, I was struck by the inversion of fortunes between the rich man and Lazarus: "But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish'" (Lk 16:25).
We imperil our eternal salvation by neglecting the poor.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Note, first of all, that neither Sts Peter or Paul have their own feast day. Indeed, the Church celebrates the "Conversion of Paul" on 25 January and the "Chair of St Peter" on 22 February. The mere fact of conjoining two different classes of 'apostles' on one feast day merits some attention, because Peter was one of "the Twelve" and Paul was not. More to the point, the two once expressed fierce disagreement on the question of Torah-observance among gentile converts to Christ, which Paul related in Gal 2:11-13. By commemorating these two apostles at the same feast, the Church wishes to remind us of two things: first, their preeminence in virtue of their founding of the Roman Church, and second, that despite their earlier disagreements, they confessed and proclaimed the same Faith, and communion with these two apostles ensures communion with Jesus Christ. For this we have the venerable testimony of St Irenaeus of Lyons, who served as a bishop in Gaul (modern-day France), and himself a third-generation bishop in apostolic succession (since he was consecrated by St Polycarp of Smyrna, who in turn was consecrated by St John the Evangelist). This is what St Irenaeus has to say about Sts Peter and Paul and the Church of Rome:
"Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that Tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to people, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the Tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere" (Against Heresies, 3.3.3).
This passage is well-known, even to Christians who furiously refuse to submit to the constitution Christ willed for his Church. Opinions abound as to how the full force of Irenaeus' words can be diluted in order to escape the imperative of obedience to the Church's leadership, but this is only weakly effective when Adversus haereses 3.3.3 is lifted from the context of Books III and IV. For example, if one wanted to discover who has the "valid platform" to proclaim the Gospel, Irenaeus responds: "It is possible, then, for everyone in every Church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the Tradition of the Apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. Any we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the Apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about" (3:3:1). Again, "The true knowledge is the doctrine of the Apostles, and the ancient organisation of the Church throughout the whole world, and the manifestation of the Body of Christ according to the succession of bishops, by which succession the bishops have handed down the Church which is found everywhere" (4:33:8). But Irenaeus' point about the Church of Rome, organized and constituted by Sts Peter and Paul, remains: "For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority..." (3:3:2).
We should not imagine Irenaeus to be an innovator. The priority of the Roman Church was attested in a twofold manner by St Clement of Rome, an early bishop, perhaps third or fourth in succession after St Peter, and probably the same person mentioned by St Paul in Phil 4:3. In his so-called First Epistle, Clement of Rome strenuously objects to the ejection of presbyters by the members of the Church at Corinth. In so doing, a bishop on the Italian peninsula is exercising a kind of jurisdiction over a local Church in Greece. Already, by A.D. 95, the Roman Church has exerted itself authoritatively. And, to buttress his argument, Clement wrote:
"The Apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the Apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Spirit, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and of those who should afterward believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus says the Scripture in a certain" (First Epistle of Clement, 42).
In other words, just as Christ came from the Father, the Apostles came from Christ (cf. Jn 20:21). Subsequently, the Apostles appointed bishops and deacons as superintendents and servants over the communities of Christians they had founded. Clement then quotes the Septuagint version of Isaiah 60:17 in a variant no longer extant. The critical text here reads, καὶ δώσω τοὺς ἄρχοντάς σου ἐν εἰρήνῃ καὶ τοὺς ἐπισκόπους σου ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ, "and I will make thy princes peaceable, and thine overseers righteous." Leaving aside questions of the historical-critical method, Acts 14:23 speaks of Sts Paul and Barnabas appointing presbyters in the Churches they established in Asia Minor; in Phil 1:1, St Paul refers to the "bishops and deacons" in the Church at Philippi.
But we can go back futher still. According to his brief autobiography in Gal 1:11-2:12, St Paul retreated to Arabia and then to Damascus after his conversion (1:17). Three years after his conversion, Paul met with the leadership of the Mother-Church at Jerusalem (1:18). "Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me" (2:1). This would correspond with Acts 15 during which the first "dogmatic decree" was issued by the Church. But note that Paul speaks of his companionship with Barnabas, who first emerges in Acts 4:36. Later, in Acts 11:22, the Church at Jerusalem had dispatched Barnabas to encourage the Church at Antioch (good riddance, for his name means "son of encouragement"). Soon, he sought out "Saul" and both of them "assembled with the Church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch" (Acts 11:26).
What is significant is that while Paul encountered the Lord Jesus on the way to Damascus and from this experience received a transmission of Divine Revelation from Him, he never presumed any authority therefrom. In fact, his mission was not inaugurated until a certain liturgical experience (λειτουργούντων δὲ αὐτῶν τῷ κυρίῳ, Acts 13:2) at the Antiochian Church, during which the Holy Spirit commanded that Barnabas and Saul be "set apart...for the work to which I have called them" (ibid.). While indeed the experience on the way to Damascus was an encounter with the Risen Christ, we cannot ignore this encounter with the Holy Spirit, or even to set the two in opposition. Jesus Christ invited Saul to believe in him while on the way to Damascus; the Holy Spirit invited him to exercise an office. "Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off" (Acts 13:3). The Antiochian Church was planted as a result of the Christian diaspora following the martyrdom of St Stephen the Archdeacon (11:19); it had also grown due to the witness of Christians from Cyrpus and Cyrene, but it was not allowed to flourish without any oversight from the Mother-Church at Jerusalem: "News of this came to the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch" (11:12). St Luke the Evangelist does not tell us what "rank" Barnabas held when he was sent from Jerusalem to Antioch, but he most certainly exercised an authority, especially in light of 12:23. Later, "prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch," who were, again, authority-figures in the earliest Church (and who, apparently, still flourished when the Didache was composed: "But permit the prophets to make Eucharist as much as they desire," 10.7).
There is no question of the "ordination" of Paul and Barnabas, since the "imposition of hands" is a recurrent motif in the Scriptures which signals a transfer of authority. The classic example of Moses bestowing authority on Joshua in Numbers 27:18, 23) should suffice as a paradigm example.
What is even more significant is that St Paul did not presume to act on his own authority--despite being called by Christ and dispatched by the leadership of the Antiochian Church. "Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain" (Gal 2:1-2). In other words, Paul wanted to ensure that his teaching was consonant with the that of the Twelve, and indeed it was, as the verdict of the "Jerusalem Conference" decreed. Later, he was 'promoted': "...and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognised the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship..." (Gal 2:9).
Even after granting a kind of nihil obstat, the Jerusalem Church still saw it fit to provide additional oversight to the Antiochian Church: "Then the apostles and the presbyters, with the consent of the whole Church, decided to choose men from among their members and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers..." (Acts 15:22).
Space necessitates passing over many more details of St Paul's ministry, especially with respect to his work in perpetuating the Church's authority and leadership. In the chapter following the narrative of the "ordination" of Paul and Barnabas, St Luke reports that "After they had appointed presbyters for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe" (14:22).
Where is St Peter in all of this? Apart from his role at the Jerusalem Conference, he appears to have been a travelling bishop who, on the basis of his authority as primus inter pares among the Apostles addressed the Churches scattered across "Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (1 Pet 1:1)--quite a large expanse of territory to address a letter, for which reason we must assume was intended to have an "encyclical" quality. Towards the end of his first epistle, St Peter speaks about the exercise of the Pastoral Office: "Now as a presbyter myself...I exhort the presbyters among you to tend the flock of God what is in your charge, exercising the oversight [ἐπισκοποῦντες]" (5:1-2). The Apostle here speaks clearly of the exercise of episcopal authority, that is to say, the authority of a bishop. The scarcity of New Testament witness to the ministry of St Peter makes the witness of the Early Fathers--especially the Apostolic Fathers and the Apologists--to be invaluable. We cannot delve further here.
Finally, let us consider the evidence of the Epistle to the Hebrews on the question of ecclesial leadership. The author makes use of the Greek noun hegumenos (pl. hegoumenoi) to denote the officers of the Church to whom Christians owe obedience. "Remember your leaders [ἡγουμένων], who preached the Word of God to you, and as you reflect the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith (Heb 13:7); "Obey your leaders [ἡγουμένοις] and do as they tell you, because they must give an account of the way the look after your souls; make this a joy for them and not a grief--you yourselves would be the losers" (Heb 13:17); "Greetings to all your leaders [ἡγουμένοις] and to all the holy ones" (Heb 13:24). Jean Galot explains that "hegoumenos which is the participle of a verb that means 'to walk in front of, to guide, to lead, to command,' and implies 'preeminence, authority, direction'" (Theology of the Priesthood, San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1985 ). These leaders cannot be anyone other than those established by the Apostles and, in turn, their successors (cf. 1 Clement 42 above).
Both Sts Peter and Paul brought their testimony of Christ to Rome. The 'grand finale' of the Acts of the Apostles is that St Paul arrived at Rome, first as a confessor (cf. 28:14b, 30-31) and then as a martyr, for which the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls stands as an eloquent memorial. On 6 December 2006, it was announced that this glorious "Apostle to the Nations" was indeed interred at this church. St Peter hints at his presence in Rome by the code-word "Babylon" (1 Pet 5:13). He is interred beneath the high altar at the Patriarchal Basilica of St Peter on the Vatican Hill. From Rome, then, emanated the Church's mission to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world, since it was to the Successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him that the task of evangelism was entrusted. Today, this communion is manifested, in part, by the bestowal of the pallium by the Successor of Peter to the metropolitan archbishops. It was on this date in 2007 that the Archbishop of Edmonton, the Most Reverend Richard Smith was invested with the pallium to signify his charge to "tend to the flock of God" that is in his charge (1 Pet 5:2). On this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the Church commemorates our ecclesial communion that is effected, in part (albeit significantly) by our own communion with the local bishop. As St Ignatius of Antioch--who received the office from St John the Evangelist--said, "Wheresoever the bishop appears, let the people be, even as wheresoever Christ is, there is the Catholic Church" (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 8).
Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (London, UK: Penguin Books, 1993).
Frederick J. Cwiekowski, The Beginnings of the Church (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1988).
J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1979).
Adrian Fortescue, The Early Papacy to the Synod of Chalcedon in 451 (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2008).
Veselin Kesich, Formation and Struggles, Part 1 (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir Seminary Press, 2007).
Francis Sullivan, From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the Episcopacy in the Early Church (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 2001).
This entry is dedicated to the Most Reverend Lord, +RICHARD WILLIAM SMITH, Archbishop of the Metropolitan Church of Edmonton. Ad multos annos.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
The flyer for the event can be found here.
Check out the new Mark Seven Bible Institute website at http://Mark7BibleInstitute.Wordpress.com.
You can register with Camp Mark Seven here.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
As we know, the Holy Father's area of expertise is that of fundamental theology; as a matter of fact his own habilitationsschrift and his book Revelation and Tradition, co-authored with Fr Karl Rahner, found its mature expression in the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, promulgated on 18 November 1965.
Not unlike the Arian heresy which still flourished at least until the sixth century despite the First Ecumenical Council, many Catholics still suffer from a profound misunderstanding on the nature of "Divine Revelation" despite the clear teaching of the Second Vatican Council and, more recently, the 2008 Synod of Bishops.
Recently I came across a posting at a Traditionalist website in which someone wrote "Dei Verbum--revealed in Sacred Scripture and Divine Tradition." Besides the obvious paucity of proper Latin grammar, our blogger perpetuates the blunder that then-Father Ratzinger fought so hard to suppress: that Revelation is something contemporaneously tangible. Of course Fr Ratzinger had in mind the "propositional model" of Revelation, but our blogger comes close to the position and perhaps even surpasses Protestantism in equating Revelation and Scripture by insisting that Tradition "reveals" Scripture!
Consider three starting-points. First, in the Gospel According to John, we read at the end of the Prologue, "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known [exēgēsato]" (RSV). The NAB is perhaps better, "...has revealed him." A direct-equivalency translation might read, "the Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has exegeted him." According to the Fourth Evangelist, then, Jesus Christ, or more to the point, the Incarnate Word (cf. Jn 1:14) has "revealed", "exegeted", or "made known" the Father. It was God, qua God incarnate, who reveals God, albeit in a human language because his audience was the human race (Jn 1:1).
Second, the narratives of the Transfiguration makes abundantly clear the superiority of Jesus Christ as the revealer of God. The premise of the Transfiguration is that the Incarnate Word, as Divine Revelation, supersedes the revelation of the Old Testament, personified by Moses (= "the Law") and Elijah (= "the Prophets") when the two figures disappear and only Jesus remains, to which the Father says "Listen to him!" (Mt 17:5, Mk 9:7, Lk 9:35). It is significant that in each of these narratives, the evangelists were careful to preserve the note that Jesus was found "alone" in reference to the Father's voice.
Third, at the beginning of the Letter to the Hebrews, the author compares the history of God's self-disclosure by contrasting how God once "spoke through the prophets" but now "he has spoken to us by a Son" (Heb 1:1, 2).
The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei verbum, makes it clear that it is the Incarnate Word who is the revealer of God, and that there will be nothing more revealed:
Then, after speaking in many and varied ways through the prophets, "now at last in these days God has spoken to us in His Son" (Heb. 1:1-2). For He sent His Son, the eternal Word, who enlightens all men, so that He might dwell among men and tell them of the innermost being of God (see John 1:1-18). Jesus Christ, therefore, the Word made flesh, was sent as "a man to men." He "speaks the words of God" (John 3;34), and completes the work of salvation which His Father gave Him to do (see John 5:36; John 17:4). To see Jesus is to see His Father (John 14:9). For this reason Jesus perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making Himself present and manifesting Himself: through His words and deeds, His signs and wonders, but especially through His death and glorious resurrection from the dead and final sending of the Spirit of truth. Moreover He confirmed with divine testimony what revelation proclaimed, that God is with us to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to life eternal.
The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away and we now await no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Tim. 6:14 and Tit. 2:13). (Dei verbum, 4).
To equate Scripture and Tradition with Divine Revelation, then, is to compromise the finality of Divine Revelation in Jesus Christ. The Incarnate Word reveals the Father, and none else. In the Incarnate Word, everything that can be said of God has been said. Pentecost was, as it were, the "period" at the end of the divine discourse that was the life of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, therefore, Scripture and Tradition cannot "reveal" the Word of God precisely because to "reveal the revealer" reduces the revealer to a forerunner. It would reduce Jesus Christ to a "precursor of Scripture and Tradition" and lower him to the rank of St John the Baptizer, who was the Forerunner of the Lord.
Coming back to the Synod of Bishops, we must ask, if the Incarnate Word is the revealer of the Father, why do we need Scripture and Tradition?
What has been "said" in Divine Revelation has been committed to the memory of the Church. We find a pointed expression of this in the charism of infallibility which Christ has entrusted to his Church. Scripture and Tradition, therefore, are "aids to memory" as they help us to remember the deposit of faith that has been handed onto the Church. Inasmuch as I might have a childhood memory buried under more recent ones and a perchance visit home to browse through old family albums helps me to "recover" what I had apparently forgotten, the Church has recourse to the Bible and Tradition as a method to evoke an article of faith in her vast repository of memories of her Founder. As the Synod Father said in their "Message to the People of God":
The Sacred Scriptures “bear witness” to the divine word in written form. They memorialize the creative and saving event of revelation by way of canonical, historical and literary means. Therefore, the word of God precedes and goes beyond the Bible which itself is “inspired by God” and contains the efficacious divine word (cf. 2 Tm 3:16). This is why our faith is not only centered on a book, but on a history of salvation and, as we will see, on a person, Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, man and history. Precisely because the capacity of the divine word embraces and extends beyond the Scripture, the constant presence of the Holy Spirit that “will lead you to the complete truth” (Jn 16:13) is necessary for those who read the Bible. This is the great Tradition: the effective presence of the "Spirit of truth" in the Church, guardian of Sacred Scripture, which are authentically interpreted by the Church’s Magisterium. This Tradition enables the Church to understand, interpret, communicate and bear witness to the word of God. Saint Paul himself, proclaiming the first Christian creed, will recognize the need to “transmit” what he “had received” from Tradition (1 Cor 15:3-5). ("Message of the Synod of Bishops to the People of God," no. 3).
Scripture and Tradition, then, "bear witness" to the Incarnate Word who reveals the Father. Since it was born of the Church (for they were written by members of the Church, e.g. St Paul the Apostle) under unrepeatable circumstances (e.g. "inspiration"), it cannot supersede Divine Revelation but only testify to it. And because they are family albums, only members of the family called "Church" are entitled to insert themselves into its audience (cf. Tertullian, Praescriptione haereticorum, 15.3-4) and see themselves in the memories evoked. More importantly, the Church's "memory" of the Incarnate Word must be coupled with the fact that God has no memory but lives at each moment in history instantaneously. In the sacred liturgy, the mystery of anamnesis takes place in which the syntaxis is inserted into the event of Christ and therefore become contemporaneous with the life of the Incarnate Word, especially in his paschal mystery.
It is in the liturgy, then, that we "hear" the Father's Son, that we become participants in the act of Divine Revelation, beholding the Father in the face of Jesus Christ, this liturgy which bears Tradition and proclaims Scripture. It would be appropriate, here at the end of this posting, to include the great "Hymn of Justinian" chanted in the Byzantine Rite before the Liturgy of the Word. It captures well the subject-matter of our reflection:
Only-Begotten Son and immortal Word of God,
who for our salvation did will to become incarnate
of the holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary,
who without change did become Man and was crucified, O Christ our God,
trampling down death by death, who are one of the Holy Trinity,
glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us!