Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Another High Tory Blog

I commend to my readers the Throne, Altar, Liberty blog, especially as a good reference for High Toryism in Canada.  (This blog, is, of course, a Southern U.S. High Tory blog.)

It is found here: http://thronealtarliberty.blogspot.com .

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Why, as a Christian, I like Hallowe'en (repost)

Christopher Lee as Dracula

Many of my fellow Christians get worked up over the dangers of Hallowe'en.  I personally have always liked it, for the same reason that I really like old horror movies, that is, about 1970 or before.  (After that, with special effects, they often strike me as a delight in violence and blood that is deeply disturbing.) Let me explain why.

Part of the danger we face nowadays is that we avoid the evil of evil.  Sometimes we romanticize and play down evil, like, it seems to me, the Twilight series does.  Or we are paranoid about it thus giving it power over us, like some of my fellow Christians do by trying to ban Hallowe'en altogether.  Or we delight in it per se, as it seems to me the modern gore and violence movies do.  

Essential to the old horror movies (and to the universe of good story) are stories with real villains and real heroes.  Everyone knew that vampires were bad things, that you shouldn't let them in the door, and that they (like evil generally) were deceptive.  They were dangerous, they made a good story, but they also were an object of fun.  Who wasn't delighted when the sun burned Dracula up?

During the Jewish feast of Purim, Jews tell the story of God delivering his people as found in the book of Esther. They hiss whenever Haman is mentioned, dress up in costumes, celebrate their deliverance from Haman and other persecutors of God's people, and mock Haman and his ilk.  It seems to me that this is the way we should approach Hallowe'en.  It is both a celebration of our deliverance from death and evil in Christ, and also a way of mocking the evil one and his minions, from whose power Christ has delivered us.  We should delight as we do it, remembering as St. Thomas More said, that “The devil … that proud spirit … cannot endure to be mocked.”  

We should not, however, diminish the evils of the world, or their real danger to us.  Stories, and play, and dressing up, are not only ways of making fun, but also ways of helping us to face reality.  They are ways of reminding ourselves, and our children, that there are real perils in the world.  As C.S. Lewis said: 

"… Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker. Nor do most of us find that violence and bloodshed, in a story, produce any haunting dread in the minds of children. As far as that goes, I side impenitently with the human race against the modern reformer. Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book. …"


So, let there be vampires!  And let the story end with the hero pulling aside the curtain so that they can be vanquished by the sun.  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Christian and the Social Reformer

It ought not be necessary for me to insist that the final aims of the churchman, and the aims of the secular reformer, are very different. So far as the aims of the latter are for true social justice, they ought to be comprehended in those of the former. But one reason why the lot of the secular reformer or revolutionist seems to me to be the easier is this: that for the most part he conceives of the evils of the world as something external to himself. They are thought of either as completely impersonal, so that there is nothing to alter but machinery; or if there is evil *incarnate* it is always incarnate in the *other people*—a class, a race, the politicians, the bankers, the armament makers, and so forth—never in oneself. There are individual exceptions: but so far as a man sees the need for converting *himself* as well as the world, he is approximating to the religious point of view. But for most people, to be able to simplify issues so as to see only the definite external enemy, is extremely exhilarating, and brings about the bright eye and the springy step that go so well with the political uniform.  This is an exhilaration that the Christian must deny himself. It comes from an artificial stimulant bound to have bad after effects. It causes pride, either individual or collective, and pride brings its own doom. For only in humility, charity, and purity—and perhaps most of all humility—can we be prepared to receive the grace of God without which human operations are vain.
—T. S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Whites and our Unwillingness to Give up Racism

I have been back in the South for three years. I am deeply disturbed by the plight of many of my black brothers and sisters, who seem worse off in general. The thing that disturbs me most is the behavior of far too many of my fellow white Southerners, not all, but enough to be decisive for the culture: These, particularly those who are well off, are willing to do anything to maintain their white privilege. They will become ostensibly Liberal and Progressive Democrats. They will make a brave pretence of being inclusive. They will happily give up every aspect but one of their Southern heritage and culture. They will even attack that heritage and culture—a heritage and culture that we share with Southern blacks, and which might help bring us closer. They will attack and scapegoat poor Southern Whites. And they congratulate themselves on all this, and feel justified in their own minds at how enlightened they are. But the one inheritance that really matters to them, the one aspect that they ought to have surrendered, conserving the good in the rest, the things that they will do anything—anything—to avoid actually surrendering, are their racism and privilege.

And they are not alone in this, for I have seen this same refusal in the North, among those who feel self-righteous in condemning the South, but who will not treat with human dignity their black neighbors, who will indeed go to any lengths to avoid them or acknowledge their existence.

We are sowing dragon's teeth.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Bp. Mandell Creighton on Keeping the Church Open for Prayer, and the Public Celebration of the Daiky Office

"If the Church itself be a perpetual sermon, you must do all that you can to give it point and to enforce its application. There are two ways in which this can be done, two plain methods which I would like to think were universally adopted.

The Church must not only be cared for, but must be used. People must be exhorted to feel that it is their Church, open always for their use, ready with its suggestiveness at every crisis of their life, having a message for all their needs. We are maiming the meaning and usefulness of our Churches, if they are kept closed from one Sunday night till the next Sunday morning.

We are directly teaching that religion is a matter for Sunday services, and is not vitally connected with our weekday life. I am very strongly of opinion that every Church should be open and accessible to all at all times of every day. I know all that can be said against this suggestion. I know that people rarely use the Church when it is open. Can it be expected that the habit will grow up at once? I know all that is said about inconveniences, and dangers of loss, or of irreverence. My only answer is: You may have some cases of foolish conduct sometimes; but then they give you an opportunity of speaking on the subject directly, which may be of incalculable use.

There is perhaps no point on which you would be so sure of carrying everybody's sympathy with you: and to fan men's latent feeling of reverence into conscious expression is a most real advance. But I do not think that there is any real danger to be apprehended,—and I speak with some knowledge. For many years past I have been in the habit of examining parish Churches in various parts of England. I have 'gained considerable knowledge of the way in which they are cared for, and used.

In my experience I should say roughly that about half the parish Churches stand open; that those which stand open are much better cared for than those which do not; that they are as a rule more highly decorated, and might be supposed to have more to fear from mischief; that I can discover no peculiarities of position or of local conditions which determines the matter, but apparently only the feeling of the clergyman; that where the Church is open, there is generally affixed to the door a notice to that effect, with a request that any one entering the Church would pray for himself and for the parish. I think that a mere notice on the Church door, " This Church is open for prayer and meditation," is of inestimable value as asserting the place which these two things ought to hold in the life of every Christian.

Let me repeat; the Church itself is the first and most visible instrument of Christian teaching: it ought to be used to the full, and its meaning emphasised with all distinctness: let it be open at all times to all men.

But if the people are to be taught to use their Church, the clergyman must not only afford them opportunities, but must set them an example. The daily saying of Morning and Evening Prayer in Church is of great importance. Again, I know all that can be said by one who prefers to say them privately, because he is hopeless of being joined by any of his parishioners in Church.

But the fact remains that you are directed to say them in Church, unless you are reasonably let or hindered: and the absence of others is certainly no hindrance to you.

But I would call your attention to some definite points of practical value. You are trying to teach your people to pray: can you be doing your best if you do not bring it before them as a privilege, which you yourself enjoy to exercise? You may go about your parish and exhort to prayer: you may pray with the sick and those in calamity; but you will best enforce your lessons by your example.

The sound of the bell, especially when the listener knows that it is being rung by your own hands, if it does not operate as a summons, is yet a reminder, and brings a message of consolation and encouragement. It is well that you should pray with your people; it is well that they should know that you also pray for them. And I think there are few cases in which daily prayers are said in Church where a few pious souls do not gather occasionally after a time.

There are also other reasons of much importance for daily services—reasons which affect the usefulness of a country clergyman. It is of great service to himself that he should have some regular and fixed points in his daily work in his parish. It is inevitable from the nature of a clergyman's duties that they should be left to his own discretion, and that the times of their performance should be at his own choice.

The first thing that every man ought to strive to do is to be a law unto himself, and to economise his time by the formation of habits for its allotment. The existence of fixed times for daily Morning and Evening Prayer is a great help, and enables him to adjust other things accordingly. A regular hour for Church leads to a regular visit to the school. For the same reason it is a great help to his people. It vastly increases his accessibility, which is a matter of no little importance. Villagers are often shy; and many, who wish to see you, will not go so far as call upon you through a dread of clothing their question with undue importance in the eyes of others; but if they know that you are almost always at Church atfixed hours twice a day, they know where and when you can easily be found, and have a means of familiar intercourse which nothing else can give.

Again, the fact that you show yourself to have definite duties at definite hours assimilates your life to theirs, and makes the nature and aim of your work much more comprehensible to their minds. They can understand that a man is caring for them in very deed when they see him daily going regularly to the Church and the school, so setting before them the unmistakable outlines of a life devoted to prayer and teaching."

From Bp. Mandell Creighton, The Church and the Nation

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Summary of the Errors of Biblical Fundamentalism, Papalism, Traditionalism, and Religious Liberalism

Re-reading Abp. Michael Ramsey and others, it becomes clearer how the appeal to Scripture, as lived out in the Church's life, i.e., Tradition, and as interpreted by Reason provides the best basis for resolving the problems Christians face.  Let us first examine how the various partial or unbalanced approaches fail to do this.

Scripture, without Church, Tradition, or Reason leads to the kind of Biblical Fundamentalism which is so common in this country.  The result is that the very tools which allow us to understand Scripture are cast aside.  Because of this the meaning of Scripture in itself and for us is lost. Included in this is the theological meaning of Scripture, which is why we have it, that is, we lose the ability to understand the encounter of others with God, and to have our own encounter with God.

An overemphasis on "Church", such as found in the Roman Communion, leads to an inability to critique effectively the pronouncements of those in position of presumed ecclesiastical authority, especially the Pope and the organs of the Vatican.  It means that the this-worldly organization is emphasized to the exclusion of all else, and the real Church, (which exists not just now and in the past on earth, but is ever present in heaven in Christ before the throne of grace) becomes merely a justification for the power of a this-worldly organization.  Ultimately even God becomes just a justification, as is evident in some versions of the theology of the people of God, as espoused, for instance, by the current Roman Pontiff.  This problem is not unique to Rome: The General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the USA suffers the same temptation.

An emphasis on Tradition without the other tools leads to an inability to distinguish between the traditions of men, and the authentic living out of the Christian experience of God.  This is an error most common in Eastern Orthodoxy.  Thus Scripture cannot be used to make this distinction and correct human error that has crept in, nor can reason be used to clarify truths and their relation to each other.  The result is an inability to discern and appropriate authentic Tradition.  An interesting example of this is Traditionalist Roman Catholics, who combine a primary loyalty to the historic organization of the Roman Church with this kind of false traditionalism in such a way that makes it difficult for them to actually critique the mistakes of the current papacy: Having accepted most of the presuppositions of papal absolutism, especially the need for submission to the Roman Pontiff, they nonetheless struggle to justify disobedience to him in areas where they think him wrong.

Finally, the exaltation by Liberal Christians of Reason at the expense of Scripture, Church, and Tradition means that the Christian experience of God is not taken into rational account.  The result of this a priori exclusion of the theological data is itself irrational, and results in the replacement of Reason by secular ideology.  The triumph of the Broad Church party in Anglicanism, to the increasing exclusion of other points of view, has sadly led to the abandonment by very many Anglicans of their classic approach to the question of authority, and made the public face of Anglican churches in the West just another brand of Liberal Christianity.  The loss of doctrine, however, has, as Fr. Eric Mascall pointed out a half century ago, undermined the emphasis on social justice of the Liberal churches, and made them merely apparatchiks of the Governmental-Capitalist globalist establishment, with their concern for the poor and oppressed being revealed more and more as a front for exclusivity and clubbiness.

Thus we see how each of these unbalanced approaches ends up undermining the very things it seeks to preserve.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Clergy, and our Ordination Promise of Diligence in Public Prayer

Clergy, and our Ordination Promise of Diligence in Public Prayer

This morning I celebrated Morning Prayer, as I do every day (publicly most days), and I also celebrated a private eucharist for a small congregation for Independence Day, a major feast in the U.S.A. according to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.  Indeed both of these services were celebrated according to the 1979 Prayer Book, all in accordance with my ordination oath to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.

At ordination I promised to "be diligent in prayer, both public and private."  The most important duty of a "cleric" (i.e., all members of the ordained clergy, and those in some places called "lay clarks" or the like) is the public worship of the Church.  In the Anglican churches, the public worship, or services appointed for divine worship are Morning and Evening Prayer every day, and the service of Holy Eucharist, a.k.a., "Mass" or "The Service of Holy Communion", on Sundays and major feasts.  If there are none prepared and present to communicate, then Ante-Communion, a "Liturgy of the Word" in the language of the 1979 BCP", is to be offered.  This obligation of daily public prayer goes back long before the Prayer Book, to the founding of the Church of England by St. Augustine, and before that, to the earliest days of Christianity, and even back to ancient Judaism.

I was taught that when I as an ordinand in the Episcopal Church promised to "be diligent in prayer, both public and private" I was promising to celebrate and keep these services, to offer them in the place where I was assigned the cure of souls, to join in their public celebration otherwise whenever they were offered, or if there was no public offering, to celebrate them privately, with others if possible.  I was also taught, as a member of the clergy, to wear my cassock, or, in circumstances where that was impractical, like travelling, then to wear black clothing and my collar as much as I could.  It was in this way, by celebrating the public services of the Church, and in presenting myself as a cleric, especially as a priest, that I was to make my public witness to the faith, make myself available to those in spiritual need, as well as offering my life prayerfully for the salvation of souls.

The problem that I see is that this foundation stone of our common life as Anglicans has been forgotten.  It is not my purpose to lay blame in raising this problem.  All of us have short-comings, all have sinned according to St. Paul, and none of us have grounds for boasting.  I know very well that the lack of diligence in daily public prayer was a problem long before I came along, and that most of us were raised in an environment where this obligation was ignored or set aside.  The Roman Church had even dropped the legal obligation for its secular clergy to do so about the time of the French Revolution (following the example of the Jesuits). However, I think it is time for us Anglicans to take stock of the fact that the Daily Office and the Eucharist are essential to the Anglican Way as set forth in the formularies and the Prayer Book.  We find ourselves, in fact, in a time of crisis, of judgement for our failings—and our churches, by and large, are shrinking.   God's judgement is usually a matter of letting us experience the consequences of our sins.  Might not the failing state of our churches be God's judgement upon us, for, among other matters, our lack of faithfulness in public prayer?

For my part, I cannot see any authentic way forward in terms of the renewal and mission of the Church than for us to get back to the disciplines of daily public prayer , and to promote them.  Here, with the in-course public reading of Scripture, including the Psalter, with the daily sacrifice of praise to God and prayer for our people, here lies the foundation for our spiritual renewal, for this public and objective prayer also provides the basis for a renewal of private prayer.  When our people know that their priests are on their knees, praying for them publicly every day, and inviting them to join in, either bodily present or only in spirit, then I think we may see signs of renewal among our people, and a willingness in them to be witnesses to the Gospel.  Without such a sound spiritual basis, I fear that all we have are marketing and gimmicks, without substance, and without that authenticity which alone can truly win souls to Christ.  Without such a sound spiritual basis, our witness to seek and serve Christ in all people seems false, and becomes at best an exercise is second-rate social work, or at worst one in accrual of secular political power for ourselves or those to whom we give our support.  Our striving for inclusion and to show the love of God for all easily becomes self-serving and, in fact, exclusive, unless it is firmly grounded in the that objective love of God which we contemplate in a disciplined life of prayer.

For these reasons I recommit myself to these disciplines of the Anglican Way, and I strongly urge my fellow clergy to do likewise.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Patriotism vs. Nationalism

Patriotism is love of my country because it is my country.  It is an aspect of piety, and considered a virtue.  It does not gloss over wrongs, but is sorry for them, seeks to learn from them and correct them, just as it rejoices over the good in my country, and seeks to emulate it.  Patriotism is to love my country not because it is objectively better than others, but because it is best for me, being my own. There is nothing wrong, indeed it is a virtue, to cherish and seek to preserve my country's culture, traditions, history, etc., because they make my country what it is.  

Nationalism (e.g., Americanism) thinks one's own country superior and others inferior, sometimes because of ideology, or because of racism or other forms of bigotry.  It overlooks one's own wrongs, and seeks to destroy the distinctiveness of others as a threat to one's own.  It can express itself in a fortress mentality, or in a desire for military, economic, political, or cultural conquest.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Offering Which Pleads for the Whole World

Viscount Halifax speaking 100 years ago today to an Anglo-Catholic audience:

 'How many feel when they are assisting at Mass that they are kneeling at our Lord's feet, beneath His Cross? That here is the offering which pleads for the whole world, for the sins of all, living and departed, the one offering of infinite worth we can make to "Our Father", the one offering which enables us to say with a sure confidence: "Look on the Face of thy Son, and only look on us as found in Him". Look on us who plead for the living and the dead that one Sacrifice offered by Him for all the sins of the world, past, present, and to come, that Offering by which Christ our Lord set Himself apart as the Victim for our salvation on the night of His Passion, that Offering completed on Calvary which is offered in all the plenitude of its power and efficacy wherever there is a priest to make the oblation of Christ's Body and Blood, and which has constituted the one great and abiding  Sacrifice of the Christian Church since the Day of Pentecost. When this is not realized, no wonder that the altars of the Church are deserted. "I, if I am lifted up, will draw all men unto Me". How, if there is no consciousness of that lifting up, no horror of the sins that necessitated so great an expiation, no sense of the need of the application of that expiation to ourselves, no perception that here and now the Lamb as it had been slain on Calvary is the one Offering that satisfies human needs and the cry of human souls? Surely, if there is any lack here, this is the point which most demands attention; surely here is the supreme object towards which all our efforts at improvement should be directed.'

h/t Fr. Hunwicke

Friday, June 17, 2016

Why We Should not Say, "The Catholic Church" to refer to the Roman Communion.

Why We Should not Say, "The Catholic Church" to refer to the Roman Communion.

The Church, according to the Scriptures, the Primitive Church, and the Fathers, is the body of which Christ is the head, and all the baptized are members.  She is also the bride of Christ, united in one flesh to him.  She is also the new family of God, by adoption into Christ, the New Israel, and the Kingdom of God in the process of being formed.  She includes the Church militant here on earth, the Church in purgatory, and the Church which has entered into the beatific vision before the presence of God, i.e., in heaven.

This Church is sacramentally (and thus really) present in the world, most particularly in the Eucharist.  Thus we speak of particular churches, celebrating in communion with their bishops, in succession to the apostles.

The Church is not just the church militant, nor a particular church, nor a group of particular churches in visible communion with each other.  It is certainly not an organization, juridical, or administrative structure in this world, although particular churches may rightly employ such this-worldly structures as part of their mission.

The Second Vatican Council says that the Church "subsists" in the "Catholic Church", meaning those particular churches in communion with the see of Rom. This is problematic because subsistences do not subsist in other subsistences.  Natures, essences, substances (ουσιαι) subsist in subsistences, but subsistences, being existent things, subsist in themselves.  Human nature subsists in human persons, for instance.  Thus to say that the Church subsists in something else, is to deny to the Church its own existence, since it must exist in something else.

Hence to use the term Church, as the Roman Communion now does so, ends in the logical denial of the fullness of the Body of Christ, and reduces the Catholic Church to only a this-worldly organization. It ends in a denial of that "One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church" as defined in the creeds, and as understood catholically, and although I am sure that is not the intent, the consequences of this error in the exaltation of bureaucracy and misuse of organizational power in the Roman communion and other churches influenced by its model are most evident.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Orlando Shooting: Stop the Hate

Let's not make this a matter of us vs. them.  The people who were killed did not deserve this because they were gay or lesbian.  The enemy is not Muslims.  The enemy is not gun owners.

Can we have a rational conversation about making it harder for hateful people to get the weapons to kill people?  We should, though we seem far from that right now.  But the enemy is not "them."

The enemy is the hate.  And until we deal with that, until we work to change people's hearts by loving them, until we make it our goal and whole purpose to love our neighbors and help them love one another, then we are doing nothing to stop the hate—and despite our best efforts to prevent them, people consumed with hate will continue to find the means to destroy the lives of others.

"We wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers..."

Monday, May 30, 2016

Is Anglicanism defined by the Reformation or by catholicity?

"One fact that certainly emerges from recent discussions is that the one thing which it was impossible for anyone to achieve, except by a sheer miracle, in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries [in the West] was a balanced or primitive view of any theological question.  Passions were too high and the legacy of the Middle Ages was too oppressive for that.  The suggestion which has been made in some circles recently that the Church of England, by its 'appeal to history', is committed without question to the ecclesiology and sacramental theology of the classical post-Reformation Anglican divines, and indeed even to their ecclesiastical polity, amounts to little more than a demand that it shall be permanently wrong.  That the divines in question were right in in appealing to Scripture and the Fathers, we may gladly admit.  That they always made that appeal correctly we may surely be allowed to doubt.  As a recent writer has remarked, the 'Anglican appeal to history' is one thing; the 'appeal to Anglican history' is another."
—Fr. Eric Mascall in The Recovery of Unity (Longmans, 1958; p. 122–123)

As Fr. Mascall makes clear, the important thing about the post-Reformation divines was their methodology, namely the appeal to Scripture as the deposit of faith, and to the early Fathers as sure interpreters of it.  It is their methodology, and not their conclusions which are important, and they themselves would fault us for forsaking the former for the sake of some of the latter.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sermon for the Feast of St. Augustine (Preached at Church of the Advent, Boston)

"Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.'"

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and Of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Today we commemorate St. Augustine of Canterbury, whose feast would have been celebrated yesterday, but for the greater feast of Corpus Christi.  However, because of his great importance for us, as I shall explain, St. Augustine cannot be omitted, and thus is moved to today.  Today, and the three days which come before, constitute, in fact, a happy coincidence of four feasts for Anglo-Catholics.  On Tuesday we celebrated Jackson Kemper, the great missionary bishop, who, among other achievements, founded my seminary, Nashotah House.  On Wednesday we celebrated St. Bede, the great scholar monk and theologian who is the founder and patron of what would become the Anglican theological method based on Scripture and the Church Fathers.  Yesterday we celebrated the great gift of Christ's Body, Corpus Christi, given to us in the Holy Eucharist, whereby receiving His Body we are increasingly incorporated into Christ.  And today, as if summing up all these themes for us, we have St. Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, the Apostle to the English, and thus the real founder of the Anglican Church.

St. Augustine was sent by Pope St. Gregory the Great to evangelize the English people.  It is true that Christianity had been in Britain a long time before St. Augustine, but the British Christians had, for reasons we can well understand, not proven the best missionaries for the pagan Anglo-Saxon invaders, hence the mission of St. Augustine, which founded a church precisely for them.  This Anglican missionary effort has persevered throughout the ages, was brought to this country, and is well exemplified by Bp. Jackson Kemper.

When St. Gregory sent Augustine, Augustine brought three things with him.  First, and important for us, he brought the Roman Liturgy, the mass, including the venerable Roman Canon, and the Roman office.  These two together constitute the first Anglican liturgy.  The second thing he brought was Benedictine spirituality, as Augustine and his companions were Benedictine monks.  Benedictine spirituality has been a keynote of Anglican spirituality ever since.  The third thing he brought was the doctrine and theology of the Roman Church, a theology of which St. Gregory the Great was a master.  It is that Biblical-Patristic theology that we find in St. Bede, and which is a defining characteristic of Anglican theology, as exemplified by the great theologians of the Oxford Movement.

Our own Bishops trace their succession back to St. Augustine of Canterbury, to St. Gregory the Great, and back to St. Peter, whom our Lord commanded to fish for men.  The Anglican theologian, Fr. Eric Mascall, points out that Apostolic succession is not a dead thing, but a living thing.  Just as the membership of the church is not diminished by death, so too the membership of the episcopate is not diminished by death.  St. Augustine, now before the throne of God in heaven, is alive and at work in our church today by the power of the Holy Spirit given to him at his consecration to the episcopate.  He is at work through the bishops consecrated in succession to him, through the priests ordained by those bishops, such as your humble preacher, and the the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the faithful by those bishops at your confirmation.  And not only us St. Augustine at work in us, but St. Gregory the Great, St. Peter, and all the faithful bishops in their succession.  They are here today with us, sharing in the worship of this holy mass, and here, where we are increasingly incorporated into Christ, is that work more and more brought to perfection in us.

Therefore let us thank God for the gifts of St. Augustine, for the liturgy, theology, and spirituality of our Anglican tradition, and let us open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, that He may make us worthy successors to St. Augustine, that that same Spirit may let St. Augustine work through us, so that we may, like him, be fishers of men in our time.  Amen.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Short Homily on the Ascension



A Short Homily Preached in St. Bede’s Chapel
on the Feast of the Ascension
May 5, 2016
by
Fr. Michael LaRue

Acts 1:8 “You will receive power, after the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judaea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The Ascension is, of all feasts in my lifetime, the one with which we seem to have the most problem.  It is a feast which is shunted off and minimalized (the great majority  of our poor brethren in the Roman Communion in this country cannot even celebrate it on the day).  Why is this?  I think the reason is this passage, the last of Jesus’ Resurrection appearances and the account of his going into Heaven (that is, of going from us and into that place where he is fully in the presence of God his Father). We have a hard time, because this passage [Acts 1:1-11], and the whole thing that it discusses, Resurrection and Ascension, just seem incredible.

Can we believe it?  That is, can we believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, that he was visible, touchable, that he ate with his disciples, and finally that he rose up, in their view, and out of their sight, to go to a place which — as we would put it — does not exist in this physical universe.  If we are to believe his testimony, St. Luke certainly believed so, and went to great lengths to find out whether this it is true. Our problem in believing this comes, I believe, from the fact that  the Bible has been so misused in our time that we have a hard time trusting it.  But I do not think that the misuse of Scripture is a good reason for rejecting Scripture — and I think there are good reasons for accepting it.

I do not have time in this short homily to go over all the arguments, but I will cite a couple.  Bishop J.A.T. Robinson, not a person noted as a great conservative, wrestled with these same problems, and came to the conclusion that Acts (like, as he contends, the rest of the New Testament) must have been written fairly early, certainly before the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. Commenting on this, Fr. Eric Mascall points out that, therefore, Luke’s claim to have examined the evidence and talked to the witnesses becomes even more credible. 

 From another perspective, let us take Fr. Reginald Fuller, from whom I had the pleasure of learning, who was not only not a fundamentalist, but who was a student of the best known of the higher critics, Rudolf Bultmann. He demonstrated that according to the most rigorous application of the historico-critical method, the Resurrection appearances belong to the eariest layer of the Kerygma, that is of the Church’s preaching.  In short, according to Bultmann’s own method, the Resurrection cannot be demythologized as Bultmann wished.  I have given us two reasons why I think we must face the historicity of the Resurrection.  If you want a fuller argument, I would recommend reading Bp. N.T. Wright’s works on this subject.  

This leaves us with two choices.  Either we accept that the Resurrection appearances happened, or, if we reject the possibility of the bodily Resurrection and Ascension on a priori grounds,  we have the problem of a sizeable number of people sharing the same set of inexplicable mass hallucinations.  

It is not easy for many to accept, but if we accept the almost incredible fact of the Resurrection and Ascension, and the witness of Christians throughout almost two millennia to the transforming power of the Risen Jesus, then we have consequences from today’s passage to deal with.  We cannot minimalize this feast and what it has to say to us, as we have done.  We cannot allow ourselves to have a comfortable Jesus of our own imaginings, who walks only with us, and just for us.  We cannot have a Jesus in our pockets.  We have a Jesus who reigns, who is Lord and King not just of our lives, not of an earthly Israel, but of the whole cosmos.  

We have a Lord, according to today’s passage, who teaches us commandments, commandments that he expects us to follow.  And we are not powerless to follow these commandments.  We have a Lord, according to today’s passage, who gives power to those who trust in Him.  Think about that.  There is, if Christianity is true, there nothing more empowering than being a follower of Jesus the Christ, because we have power, and not any power, but the power of God, the Holy Spirit living in us.  And this power is to be his witnesses, to the ends of the earth.  

So why we standing here gawking?  We have work to do. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Why I am back as a priest in the Episcopal Church


Many people have asked me why I have gone back to the ministry of the Episcopal Church, after spending a number of years living in the Roman Church, and what I am doing back here, as it were. My apologies for not getting this completed earlier, as I had promised. The short answer is that years ago I made a promise as a priest in the Episcopal Church, and am trying to follow my conscience before God in doing so. However, I think I owe you all a fuller explanation.

Among other things, I think I made the mistake of mistaking ideology and this-worldly institution for Tradition and Church. Coming from the Anglo-Catholic tradition, it seems useful to begin there, with some things that may at first seem trivial, and I apologize if this seems round-about, but my argument depends on examine the problem of tradition, and especially of liturgical praxis, since "the law of praying establishes the law of believing."

I think one serious mistake that many Anglo-Catholics made, that I made, was to take current Roman Rite practice in the Roman Church as their model. We have our own tradition, which goes back to St. Augustine of Canterbury, and that tradition already includes everything of consequence that the Anglo-Catholics strive for. I am not saying we cannot learn from, or even borrow from RC's (including baroque-style vestments), but the model must be our own tradition. Likewise this does not mean that recovery is not part of the program. It must be our duty to "restore those things that are gone to decay" and I would include among that the venerable Roman Canon. So, while I would not now use the current Roman Missal, I am sympathetic to the English and Anglican Missals, using the latter, which happily provides Sarum options. Latin in the liturgy is another thing we need to revive, although it never fell out entirely, being in use at the two ancient Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, (which also maintained, through its celibate fellows, the spirit of monastic life until the revival of that in the mid- 19th century). I celebrate in Latin as often as I can, that is whenever I am not dealing with a congregation who would be alienated by its use, and for my private prayers use a form of the ancient Roman office that was in use in England prior to the Reformation (key elements of which were likewise long preserved in the universities), and taken up again by religious communities during the Catholic Revival.

To take another problem, taking the position that Anglican-style vestments, with their pre-Reformation origins, are somehow Protestant, seems to me a very un-catholic and sectarian approach into which some Anglo-Catholics have fallen. Many Anglo-Catholics also adopted the Novus Ordo. However, when I look at the Novus Ordo Missae and the ethos that produced it, it seems to me the product of a repressed sexuality, especially homosexual desire, that came out in destructive anger towards the liturgy. (I believe it is sacramentally valid. I believe it can be celebrated reverently, and I know of good priests and congregations that do so—but they are a decided minority.) I would say that there is much about it that is consequently un-catholic. There is a lot in the current Anglican liturgies that is an improvement, but for Anglicans to have taken on so much of the Novus Ordo and its ethos, the whole a deeply flawed and foreign product, and one that is the result of a deeply conflicted and repressed sexuality, seems to me a terrible mistake. To my fellow Anglicans I would say that we need to get over being governed by other people's neuroses, deal with our own, and get back to the fullness of our own tradition. Further, our approach to Scripture, Tradition, and Reason gives us a much better theoretical basis to address the crisis in human sexuality, if only we will use it.

Some would say that the ordinariates for former Anglicans set up by order of Pope Benedict XVI in Anglicanorum Coetibus allows for us to keep our traditions in union with the Roman Church. However, the fact that the ordinariate in this country does not use Anglican-style vestments, does not use the traditional Anglican lectionary, and was forbidden the use of the traditional Latin liturgical forms, is to me more than sufficient evidence of the un-catholic and sectarian spirit behind its the implementation of Anglicanorum Coetibus (though not about the Pope who authored it) , and the un-catholic and sectarian approach of the Bishop's Conference and the Roman dicasteries, commission, and bureacracy that implemented it. In short, insofar as the presumed goal of the ordinariates was catholicity, they have failed by failing to respect the Anglican tradition, and this reveals a profound and wider failure in the Roman Church—one which made keeping the legitimate traditions that I received impossible.

Nor could I become Orthodox, which means accepting the Byzantine Liturgy and ethos as normative: it is certainly catholic in itself, but its exclusive use to the denial of others is not, and I was raised in and received my faith from the Anglican Tradition, in the Episcopal Church. Nor could I ever in good conscience commit the sin of sacrilege by being absolutely re-ordained in either the Roman or Byzantine churches, as they require, and certainly by the traditional Latin Catholic approach to ordination, I have never had cause to believe that my ordination was invalid.

Just as our ability to keep the sixth through tenth commandments (5th-10th in some numberings) is dependent upon our good will towards our neighbor, as expressed in the tenth commandment, "Do not covet," so our ability to keep the commandments outlining our duty towards God are, in traditional rabbinical interpretation, dependent upon our keeping the 5th commandment, and honoring our Fathers and Mothers who teach us the faith. (Hence this commandment is reckoned by the Rabbis as part of our duty towards God.) My job as an Anglo-Catholic priest is to keep and pass on the tradition as it was given to me. It is not my job to waste my time worrying about the stupid and wicked things done by my fellow Anglicans, our Bishops, General Convention, or the Archbishop of Canterbury—any more than it is my duty to worry about the stupid and wicked things done by the Pope in Rome and those who work for him. I am bidden to practice and teach the commandments of Christ, the "Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of Christ," and to do so as the Episcopal Church, a member church of the Anglican Communion, has received them, and it is this to which I have sworn a solemn oath. (If I had been raised and received the faith as a Roman Catholic, or Russian Orthodox, with a particular tradition in that church, which tradition I was sworn to uphold, I would be obliged in conscience to act rather differently.)

The fact that the fundamental unity of the Church of Christ is hidden in this world by heresy and schism is not a problem that I can solve, though it is indeed something I am obliged to work for and help correct: I am not allowed as a Christian to accept or settle for division as normal, but am to do all I can to work the visible manifestation of the unity of the Church. I pray regularly, especially and particularly , for my own bishop and the bishop of the diocese in which I am resident, but also for all Christians including especially the Roman Pontiff as first among the bishops and Patriarch of the West — and in doing that manifest at least in my prayer the communion that is not now visible. However, as a catholic Christian, I can only work for that unity by keeping the commandments, and that includes the commandment to honor the tradition that I have received, and those who passed it on to me, which leaves me only one moral option at this moment, and that is to be the most faithful Christian priest I can be, and to do so in the Episcopal Church.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Do not Be Afraid

The risen Christ appearing to the Eleven,
from Duccio's Maestà
Dum haec autem loquuntur, Iesus stetit in medio eorum et dicit eis
«Pax vobis. Ego sum. Nolite timere.»
— Luke 24:36
As they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, "Peace be unto you. It is I. Do not be afraid."
The world wishes us to be afraid, and, in fact, our Enemy counts on our fear to keep us under his control. But our Lord says, "Do not be afraid."
Do not be afraid, for I have overcome the world.
Do not be afraid, for I have have risen from the dead.
Do not be afraid, for I have torn opened the gates of Hell, and have conquered Death, and have freed the souls in prison, and have bound the Deceiver.
elieve in me, and rise to life everlasting.
So why should we turn back and live in fear after this Easter? How can we, having once seen the risen Lord? Let us keep our eyes on the Lord, cast our fear on the Lord, trust in Him, and live in joy, a joy the world cannot take from us.

Monday, January 25, 2016

How Different Denominations Do King Cake

(On the last day of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity)
How Different Denominations Do King Cake

Orthodox: ‘The term "King Cake" is a Latin heresy. “Epiphany Cake” is the orthodox theological term. The first Epiphany Cake was made by the Theotokos for the Apostles in 40 A.D.' When the chef of the Bulgarian patriarch adds cinnamon to the recipe, the Bulgarian church is excommunicated by the Serbian patriarch, and Constantinople must intervene to restore peace.

Roman Catholics:
"The recipe for King Cake has been revised in accordance with Vatican II." Bishops had suppressed the old recipe, until Pope Benedict, in the Apostolic Letter "Crustum Regium" decreed that all Catholics may cook and eat the old cake whenever they wish. The local bishop’s directive implementing the letter directs that the pre-Vatican II recipe may be eaten only on the Thursday before the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time in a parish in the diocese due to be closed in six months. In his Wednesday Angelus Address, Pope Francis recently condemned priests who praise the old recipe as tastier as "idolatrous neo-Pelagians lacking in mercy."

Baptists:
"King Cake" is Catholic idolatry. However a "Bible Cake" consisting of a braided filled brioche covered with green, purple, and yellow icing, is served on the second Sunday in February, it being stated publicly that no alcohol was used in its making.

Methodists:
King Cake is served as dessert in the February Church supper. The following Sunday a sermon on King Cake is preached by the Senior Minister, in which he is careful to avoid mentioning the Epiphany, the Three Kings, Lent, or any other religious topic.

Episcopalians:
Episcopalians do not eat King Cake, but “Epiphany Cake.” The recipe does not matter, and new recipes are encouraged. However the Association of Trans-genderist Episcopalians (ATE) have undertaken a campaign to abolish the eating of Epiphany Cake as speciesist.

Anglican Church in North America (ACNA):
ACNA has an official policy condemning recipe relativism. Permitted recipes include any recipe authorized before 2000, and any recipe put forward by the Evangelical party as promoting Church Growth. Meanwhile David Virtue has published an editorial condemning King Cake as a homosexualist Anglo-Catholic plot leading to incense and orgies.