"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571
- Name: Texanglican (R.W. Foster+)
- Location: Bedford, Texas, United States
I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
St. Bernard on the Incarnation
A reflection from a sermon by St. Bernard of Clairvaux:
"Behold, peace no longer promised, but conferred; no longer delayed, but given; no longer predicted, but bestowed. Behold, God the Father has sent down to earth as it were a bag filled with his mercy; a bag to be rent open in the passion so that our ransom which it concealed might be poured out; a small bag indeed, but full. It is indeed a small child who is given to us, but in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead.
After the fulness of time had come, there came too the fulness of the Godhead. He came in the flesh, so that at least he might make himself manifest to our earthly minds, so that when this humanity of his appeared, his kindness might also be acknowledged. Where the humanity of God appears, his kindness can no longer be hidden. In what way, indeed, could he have better commended his kindness than by assuming my flesh? My flesh, that is, not Adam’s as it was before the fall.
What greater proof could he have given of his mercy than by taking upon himself that which needed mercy? Where is there such fulness of loving-kindness as in the fact that the Word of God became perishable like the grass for our sakes? ‘Lord, what is man, that you make much of him or pay him any heed?’
Let man infer from this how much God cares for him. Let him know from this what God thinks of him, what he feels about him. Man, do not ask about your own sufferings; but about what he suffered. Learn from what he was made for you, how much he makes of you, so that his kindness may show itself to you from his humanity.
The lesser he has made himself in his humanity, the greater has he shown himself in kindness. The more he humbles himself on my account, the more powerfully he engages my love. ‘The kindness and humanity of God our Savior appeared’ says the Apostle. The humanity of God shows the greatness of his kindness, and he who added humanity to the name of God gave great proof of this kindness. "
The image is a Nativity by Fra Angelico, ca. 1440. Pictured with the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph adoring the Child are St Catherine of Alexandria and St Peter the Martyr.
High and Low-brows in America in the Early 21st Century
The great underlying trend of intellectual life in the past century was the ascendancy of the academy. The modern research university has by now absorbed into itself an astonishingly large part of the nation’s intellectual life, with consequences yet to be fully grasped. One should acknowledge that, in many respects, this new institutional reality has been a good thing. The academy provided a haven for free and disinterested intellectual inquiry in a commercial society and gave those who work with ideas a place to make a decent living while plying their trade. The division of knowledge into academic disciplines and distinct communities of interpretation made for greater rigor and clarity in the production of studies in nearly all fields. Whatever its failings, the academy supplied a highly serviceable context for intellectual activity of a high order.
Yet there were costs, and they stemmed largely from success, not failure. The modern university still proceeded from Enlightenment assumptions about the nature of knowledge—that it can be objective, universal, progressive, and cumulative. Those assumptions worked fairly well for the natural sciences, moderately well for the hard social sciences, and not at all for the softer social sciences and the humanities, which found themselves in deepening crisis. The logic of specialization contributed to the problem by dividing inquiry into smaller and smaller subunits, each with its indigenous jargon and distinct community of interpretation, and each with little to communicate to the world beyond itself.
But this understates the extent of the problem. The abandonment of the general educated reader as a cultural ideal over the course of the century was, in fact, an intellectual, cultural, and moral calamity, and a betrayal of the nation’s democratic hopes. The situation at century’s end bore an uncomfortably close resemblance to what Santayana and Brooks had described nearly 100 years before. The split in the American mind still existed (as sharply etched as ever), and it still divided highbrows and lowbrows. But the highbrows became ponderous, impenetrable, professionalized academics, whose air castles of thought were surrounded by moats of jargon designed to keep the dabblers and dilettantes at bay. They were the true legatees and custodians of the genteel tradition, despite the disappearance of almost every trace of Victorian reticence and belletristic pretension. The lowbrows, meanwhile, were the manufacturers and purveyors of commercial mass entertainment, with debased aesthetic standards and a coarsening effect on the populace. Instead of being elevated by contributions from on high, political discourse was debased by the domination of the low.
As a result, the vital center of ideas still stood largely unoccupied. The leavening effect the two halves of the American cultural schism might have had upon one another—and occasionally did have—was hard to find, and harder to sustain. Those few hardy souls who were able to cross over—a Leonard Bernstein in music, a Tom Wolfe in literature, a David McCullough in history, an Andrew Wyeth in painting—won the scorn (often masking envy) of the illuminati and were dismissed as middlebrows, popularizers, and sellouts. Yet it is precisely in that vibrant democratic middle ground, where ideas drawn from elite and popular cultures mix and mingle, and where the friction between idea and lived reality is most powerful and productive, that the genius of American culture has been found in the past. Such was the hope of Emerson and Lincoln, whose uncommon eloquence sprang from the commonest of roots. Such was the promise of jazz, whose tangled and improvised mongrel beauty became the very image of modern America. The bifurcation of American culture, intensified by the heavy hand of the academy and the numbing effects of mass culture, has made it no easier for peculiarly American ideas of this sort, possessing both intellectual sophistication and wide democratic scope, to flourish and find a receptive audience. But an American artist or thinker can have no worthier goal than to reach that audience.
The entire piece may be found here .
Monday, December 27, 2004
Feast of Saint John the Evangelist
Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light, that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The image is a Carolingian ivory plaque, ca. 800, from Aachen showing St. John holding the incipit to his gospel with an eagle flying above.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
"Almighty God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and at this time to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that we, being regenerate and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end.
May God's blessings be upon you all this glorious day!
The image is from the Trebon altarpiece, before 1380.
Friday, December 24, 2004
May God's blessings be upon you as you prepare for the Christ Mass
The image is from Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 1413-1416.
A Christmas reflection from "Parochial and Plain Sermons" by John Henry Newman, Sermon 2:
He, indeed, when man fell, might have remained in the glory which He had with the Father before the world was. But that unsearchable Love, which showed itself in our original creation, rested not content with a frustrated work, but brought Him down again from His Father's bosom to do His will, and repair the evil which sin had caused. And with a wonderful condescension He came, not as before in power, but in weakness, in the form of a servant, in the likeness of that fallen creature whom He purposed to restore. So He humbled Himself; suffering all the infirmities of our nature in the likeness of sinful flesh, all but a sinner,—pure from all sin, yet subjected to all temptation,—and at length becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
I have said that when the Only-begotten Son stooped to take upon Him our nature, He had no fellowship with sin. It was impossible that He should. Therefore, since our nature was corrupt since Adam's fall, He did not come in the way of nature, He did not clothe Himself in that corrupt flesh which Adam's race inherits. He came by miracle, so as to take on Him our imperfection without having any share in our sinfulness. He was not born as other men are; for "that which is born of the flesh is flesh." [John 3:6]
All Adam's children are children of wrath; so our Lord came as the Son of Man, but not the son of sinful Adam. He had no earthly father; He abhorred to have one. The thought may not be suffered that He should have been the son of shame and guilt. He came by a new and living way; not, indeed, formed out of the ground, as Adam was at the first, lest He should miss the participation of our nature, but selecting and purifying unto Himself a tabernacle out of that which existed. As in the beginning, woman was formed out of man by Almighty power, so now, by a like mystery, but a reverse order, the new Adam was fashioned from the woman. He was, as had been foretold, the immaculate "seed of the woman," deriving His manhood from the substance of the Virgin Mary; as it is expressed in the articles of the Creed, "conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary."
Thus the Son of God became the Son of Man; mortal, but not a sinner; heir of our infirmities, not of our guiltiness; the offspring of the old race, yet "the beginning of the" new "creation of God." Mary, His mother, was a sinner as others, and born of sinners; but she was set apart, "as a garden inclosed, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed," to yield a created nature to Him who was her Creator. Thus He came into this world, not in the clouds of heaven, but born into it, born of a woman; He, the Son of Mary, and she (if it may be said), the mother of God. Thus He came, selecting and setting apart for Himself the elements of body and soul; then, uniting them, to Himself from their first origin of existence, pervading them, hallowing them by His own Divinity, spiritualizing them, and filling them with light and purity, the while they continued to be human, and for a time mortal and exposed to infirmity. And, as they grew from day to day in their holy union, His Eternal Essence still was one with them, exalting them, acting in them, manifesting Itself through them, so that He was truly God and Man, One Person,—as we are soul and body, yet one man, so truly God and man are not two, but One Christ. Thus did the Son of God enter this mortal world; and when He had reached man's estate, He began His ministry, preached the Gospel, chose His Apostles, suffered on the cross, died, and was buried, rose again and ascended on high, there to reign till the day when He comes again to judge the world. This is the All-gracious Mystery of the Incarnation, good to look into, good to adore; according to the saying in the text, "The Word was made flesh,—and dwelt among us."
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Lewis on Christmas in the modern West
As is usually the case, C.S. Lewis' reflections on twentieth-century Christmas observances are well worth a read. They may be found here . I wish all my readers a fruitful time of preparation for the coming Christ Mass. May God bless you all.
The image above is the Nativity of an unknown Austrian master, ca. 1400.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
St. Vincent's Campanile Rises Heavenward
The cathedral's new bell tower is now on the way up! Yesterday the workmen began to raise the steel framework. The completed tower will have a brick facade to match the nave and chapel next to it. For scale, note the workman who is climbing the center column. There are still thirty more feet of skeleton to be added to the top before it reaches its final height. (The gentleman in the foreground is my father, who is making a photo essay of the tower's progress for our cathedral's web site.)
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Dulles, JP II, and the Eucharistic Church
Avery Cardinal Dulles' recent reflections on John Paul of Rome's theology of the "eucharistic Church" are well worth a read. They may be found here .
The image above is from Giotto's "Last Supper" fresco in the Arena Chapel, Padua, 1304-06.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle
"How can this be?"
I know that the feast of the Annuciation is still months away, but I recently found this image on-line and I wanted to share it with the readers of this blog. It is "The Annuciation" by American painter Henry Ossawa Turner (1898). At St. Vincent's School we have our own lectionary for the children's daily chapel and, understandably, we cover the birth narrative (except for the Nativity itself) with the kids in the week before school breaks for Christmas. Last week we covered the Annuciation and the Visitation, so my thoughts have been running in that direction lately. I love Turner's painting because of the expression on the Blessed Virgin's face. (Click on the image for a larger version.) We see a Galilean girl, perhaps awakened from a nap, taking the most earth-shaking news ever given with a mixture of apprehension and openness ... or better yet, curiosity. "How can this be?" Beautiful. Pray for us, O Theotokos, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
Newsweek's bias unmasked
The "Weekly Standard" online had a very interesting piece describing how Newsweek magazine's recent (and annual) attack on the Scriptural version of the Nativity has been met by bloggers this year. Here is an excerpt:
"Hit pieces like Meacham's targeting Christianity have become commonplace in recent years as magazine editors and book publishers have come to understand the size of the market for stories on faith, but find themselves staffed almost exclusively with skeptics of one degree or another--usually extreme skeptics. So the offensive article/book/documentary appears, sales skyrocket, and a few weeks later some angry letters to the editor follow which are shrugged off as way too little, way too late. That was then. The blogosphere is now.
Within 10 days of Meacham's article's appearance, his credentials had been reviewed for all to see by Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The article itself had been painstakingly--and fairly--sliced and diced by accomplished theologian, pastor, scholar, and author, Dr. Mark D. Roberts, whose double Harvard degrees, including a Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, make his careful and complete criticisms of Meacham's reporting hard to dismiss.
After interviewing both Mohler and Roberts for two hours on the air, I then posted links to the Newsweek piece and their criticisms, and invited bloggers from around the internet to weigh in via a virtual symposium I term a "Vox Blogoli." Dozens of bloggers accepted the invite, and an astonishing array of piercing reviews of Meacham followed. Among many favorites are the Evangelical Outpost and Tapscott's Copy Desk, but all of them are well worth the read. (The complete list of symposium posts can be read here.)
What the blogosphere allowed to happen is the organization of dissent which is focused, credentialed, complete, and--crucially--publicized. No fair reader of Meacham's piece and the commentaries on it can conclude that Meacham produced good journalism. It is simply too one-sided, too agenda-driven, and too ignorant of serious scholarship to qualify as anything other than a polemic. The exposure of Meacham's folly doesn't guarantee that Newsweek won't stumble again, but it surely must give others in his position pause. The blogosphere has experts and megaphones. As Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost concluded "the mainstream media is only able to retain their influence by convincing the populace they possess special skill and knowledge. But as the Internet continues to fill with . . . debunkers, the media continues to lose credibility, influence, and power."
The entire Weekly Standard article can be found at
Thursday, December 16, 2004
"on them has light shined"
Theotokos and the Prophet Isaiah, St. Catherine's, Sinai, 13th century.
"But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.
You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor,you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this." Isaiah 9:1-7
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Nashotah Speakers on Islam and the Realities of Persecution
Rubble in Protestant Church of Islamabad after the March 18, 2002 grenade attack that killed four Christians during Sunday worship
The overwhelming majority of the world's Muslims are peaceful and moderate, but the three speakers at the annual academic convocation at Nashotah House warned that Christians, and Americans, must not underestimate the religious fervor of the radicals nor the reach of sharia law. "Worldwide Christianity and the Encounter with Islam" was the title for a day-long series of lectures and multimedia presentations Nov. 12 sponsored by the Wisconsin seminary.
The Rt. Rev. Benjamin Kwashi is Bishop of Jos, in Nigeria, where, he said, 50 percent of the population is under 20 years of age. "We are persecuted where we are, and there is nowhere to turn," he said. But persecution has sharpened Nigerian Christians" theology, he declared.
"Whoever chooses Christianity in northern Nigeria knows the possibility of persecution," said Bishop Kwashi, who related the history of the Church in North Africa, which flourished until the Europeans left. "The Bible had not been translated into Berber, so Christianity was only in the cities. When the Europeans left, the native peoples went over to Islam." Making the kingdom of God real now involves practical initiatives such as donations of food, medicine and support for education. In Nigeria, school fees are not covered by the government.
The Rev. Canon Patrick Sookhdeo is director of the Barnabas Fund, a British non-governmental organization which "exists to assist persecuted Christian minorities by prayer and practical support." He has written and lectured on Islam and multiculturalism, and is himself a convert. Most Muslims, he said, are peaceful and moderate, and the history of Islam and Christianity reveals not only conflict and confrontation but, frequently, cooperation.
Islam, he said, has a different world view from Western societies. The sacred and the secular, religion and politics, are united, with God at the center. Sharia law demands submission to divine rule, and is not a system of legislated, flexible law but is seen as perfect law revealed of God.
Christians, he said, are often caught in the middle, between "The West" and Islam, and are often viewed as agents of the U.S. and the CIA. Conversion, apostasy from Islam, is extremely dangerous. "In Saudi Arabia," he asserted, "I'd be dead."
Baroness Caroline Cox is deputy speaker of the British House of Lords. She delivered the convocation address, and participated in the afternoon discussion. Photographs she presented showed people in the most devastated places, the dire "frontiers of faith" where people beg not to be forgotten. She spoke of burned villages in Indonesia, where such persecution had been going on for years but which "we only heard about when a Bali nightclub was attacked." She told of Sudan, where moderate Arabs buy back enslaved women and children to free them. "Why are we silent about slavery?" she asked. "The clergy, the people, are crying out for any Christians to visit them, help them. We must build bridges of understanding and love, not walls."
Baroness Cox issued three challenges: Islam, she said, must have the courage to promote moderate religion, and to think critically from within. Democratic societies must find ways to overcome the terrorist training which uses their cherished freedoms against them. Finally, Christianity, she said, must keep a strong vision, a real faith to hold to, a cause to commit to.
"Pray for discernment," she said.
The Living Church
Sunday, December 12, 2004
More from Jayne Ozanne
Our campanile is finally under construction!
Bishop Wright speaks out on the Windsor Report
“As a member of the Lambeth Commission which produced the Windsor Report, I have been dismayed to see the misrepresentation, in some newspapers, of the views of the Chairman, Archbishop Robin Eames. Archbishop Eames has now issued a statement in which he has put the matter straight. Having worked with him closely for the last year, I can say with full assurance that this new statement, rather than the misleading reports, represents his true mind. The Lambeth Commission was not a think-tank representing a pressure group. It represented the wide range both of geography and opinion in the Anglican Communion, and its recommendations were unanimous. The Report urgently requires, not more leisured debate, but action. I strongly support the Archbishop in saying that the Primates, at their meeting in February, must not only take forward further discussion of the Report’s longer-term proposals, but must actually implement the recommendations which address the immediate problems we have been facing.
Co. Durham, DL14 7NR”
Saturday, December 11, 2004
Warning to the Archbishops
“I remain convinced that the only way for the Church to survive the storms that are currently besetting it is to embrace the hard truth with honesty and humility.” According to the Times, she questions whether Church leaders really believe any more in a God who can move mountains or in a God who can raise the dead, and she warns that the Church seems to have forgotten how to meet the cost of being Christian.
“Sacrificial giving is not a concept that we in the West have either embraced or understood. We are too comfortable and, as a result, too compromised. I see a time of great persecution coming, which will drive Christianity all but underground in the West. I believe that this will primarily take the form of a social and economic persecution, where Christians will be ridiculed for their faith and pressurised into making it a purely private matter.”
Friday, December 10, 2004
NPR interview with Bishop Duncan of the ACN
I think you will find it worth hearing.
Greetings from sunny Saint Vincent's! This was taken just a few minutes before morning chapel started today. The children are just starting to arrive. I really enjoy watching our students troop in for prayers. They are still young enough that many of them actually look forward to chapel! Today most of the kids brought in presents for the less fortunate. I am so happy to be part of the St. Vincent's Cathedral School community. It has been a real blessing to me. Sorry, no deep reflections this morning. Just a little sunshine in the church.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Avebury church, Saxon and Norman, Avebury, England.
I was studying in England in the summer of 1989 when I had an experience of the Holy Spirit that changed the course of my life. Before that summer I had been a strict materialist, an "agnostic" who was for all practical purposes an atheist. I will probably tell the story of that experience on this blog some other day. But for now, suffice to say that one minute I didn't believe in God and the next I couldn't doubt the reality of the divine. I wasn't certain how to understand that contact with Divinity yet, and I was not yet consciously a Chirstian, but I knew that my old understanding of the world was entirely wrong. There was a God and that God loved me. That I knew now. The subsequent course of my summer after that event in late June, 1989, involved trying to make sense of God's touching of my heart. I was in England to study English social geography in a summer program at Oxford. But in fact most of my subsequent summer was spent reading on spiritual themes (I bought a 1662 Prayer Book, for example) and visiting "holy sites" trying to understand a sacred reality that I had discounted my entire life. One of the sites I visited was Avebury. It has an Iron Age stone circle of roughly the same date as Stonehenge, and that is what draws most of the tourists. But the old church in Avebury is what captivated my imagination. It has both Saxon and Norman elements. Hard as it is to believe, this was the first Christian church in which I ever sat and prayed. If ever there was someone who didn't know how to pray, it was me then. And of course those prayers were directed toward "God, whoever you may be." I assume the Holy Spirit interpreted even those miserable "groanings." It was a crucial first step on my road into God's arms. I haven't been back to Avebury since, but that day still means a great deal to me.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
"the goats on his left"
Christ separating the sheep from the goats, St. Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy, before 526 AD.
For those faithful readers of this blog who might think that my Advent reflections this year are focusing too heavily upon the Last Judgment, I offer a bit of humor. It revolves around the justness of the Lord's choice of goats to represent the reprobate at the End of Days.
This might seem unfair toward goats to many of you. But it seems spot on to me. You see, I have a history with goats. Well, one goat in particular--Goldie. When I was a boy, my father's friend Earl owned goats. I enjoyed petting the goats in their pen when we went to visit Earl in the country. On one rather lengthy visit I discovered that one of the nanny goats had given birth to a kid a few months before. The kid's name was Goldie, due to her color, of course. Well, I was delighted and spent most of the day playing with Goldie. I soon discovered that Goldie liked to butt me with her head. I playfully reciprocated, getting down on all fours and butting heads with the young goat. (This seemed quite sensible to me as a ten year old.) I had a blast. We visited Earl several more times in the next few weeks, and each time I would butt heads with Goldie the kid.
Then almost a year passed before we went back out to see Earl. When I finally visited him and his goats again, I discovered that Goldie was now fully grown. I petted her, but she seemed not particularly interested in me anymore. She had put away the things of childhood, I thought. But then I bent over to pick up something out of a manger to try to feed her. When she saw me bending over, something must have clicked in her brain. She made a sudden and violent charge at me and smashed her head into mine. I went flying, naturally, and landed flat on my back! I was out cold for almost a minute!
So there you have it. Goats standing in for the wicked? I believe it! "Depart from me!"
Monday, December 06, 2004
"till the moon shall be no more"
Exterior tympanum, Ste Madeleine, Vezelay, France, 1120-1132.
Give the King your justice, O God, *
and your righteousness to the King's Son;
That he may rule your people righteously *
and the poor with justice;
That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, *
and the little hills bring righteousness.
He shall defend the needy among the people; *
he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.
He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, *
from one generation to another.
He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, *
like showers that water the earth.
In his time shall the righteous flourish; *
there shall be abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more.
He shall rule from sea to sea, *
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
His foes shall bow down before him, *
and his enemies lick the dust.
The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute, *
and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts.
All kings shall bow down before him, *
and all the nations do him service.
For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, *
and the oppressed who has no helper.
He shall have pity on the lowly and poor; *
he shall preserve the lives of the needy.
He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, *
and dear shall their blood be in his sight.
Long may he live! and may there be given to him gold from Arabia; *
may prayer be made for him always, and may they bless him all the day long.
May there be abundance of grain on the earth, growing thick even on the hilltops; *
may its fruit flourish like Lebanon, and its grain like grass upon the earth.
May his Name remain for ever and be established as long as the sun endures; *
may all the nations bless themselves in him and call him blessed.
Blessed be the Lord GOD, the God of Israel, *
who alone does wondrous deeds!
And blessed be his glorious Name for ever! *
and may all the earth be filled with his glory.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Offering the Unbloody Sacrifice
"If it be objected, that according to the usual acception of the word, ["priest"] signifies him that offers up a Sacrifice, and therefore cannot be allowed to a Minister of the Gospel, who hath no Sacrifice to offer.
It is answered: that the Ministers of the Gospel, have Sacrifices to offer, S. Peter 1 ep. 2. 5. Ye are built up a spiritual house, a holy Priesthood to offer up spiritual Sacrifices of prayer, praises, thanksgivings, &c. In respect of these the Ministers of the Gospel may be safely in a metaphorical sence called Priests; and in a more eminent manner than other Christians are; because they are taken from among men to offer up these Sacrifices for others. But besides these spiritual Sacrifices mentioned, the Ministers of the Gospel have another Sacrifice to offer, viz. the unbloody Sacrifice, as it was anciently call'd, the commemorative Sacrifice of the death of Christ, which does as really and truly shew forth the death of Christ, as those Sacrifices under the Law did foreshew it, and in respect of this Sacrifice of the Eucharist, the Ancients have usually call'd those that offer it up, Priests. And if Melchisedeck was called a Priest, (as he is often by S. Paul to the Hebrews) who yet had no other Offering or Sacrifice that we read of, but that of Bread and Wine, Gen. 14. He brought forth Bread and Wine; and, or, for (the Hebrew word bears both) he was a Priest, that is, this act of his was an act of Priesthood, for so must it be referred, he brought forth Bread and Wine; for he was a Priest. And not thus, and he was a Priest, and blessed Abraham (for both in the Hebrew and Greek there is a Full point after these words, and, or, for he was a Priest.) If, I say, Melchisedeck be frequently and truly call'd a Priest, who had no other Offering, that we read of, but Bread and Wine, why may not they whose Office is to bless the people as Melchisedeck did, and besides that to offer that holy Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood of Christ, of which, his Bread and wine, at the most, was but a type, be as truly and without offence called Priests also?"
From "A Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer," by Anthony Sparrow, D.D., London, 1672. The image above is a mosaic in the Church of St. Vitale in Ravenna, mid-6th century.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
"O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded"
Crucifix reliquary with evangelists' symbols, Anglo-Saxon, late 10th century.
I know it is Advent, but I have been thinking rather a lot about the Passion of our Lord lately. Actually, I have been thinking about Mel Gibson’s portrayal of the crucifixion in his film, “The Passion of the Christ,” to be specific. Television advertisements for the DVD of that film are now running frequently in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, bringing images from the movie to mind on a regular basis. I actually saw it for the first time on Ash Wednesday, its opening day, when five of my friends and I saw it in Chicago after evening Mass. Those friends of mine are all committed “Nicene Christians” (RC, evangelical, and ‘classical Anglican’), and seeing “The Passion” with them on that somber day was a deeply moving experience—almost like going on a pilgrimage. And as a work of cinema I found the film rather well done. But one side effect that I did not expect was the way watching the movie changed my perception of the iconography of the cross. In the film Christ is flogged so severely that he is literally flayed alive. By the time he is nailed to the cross, Jesus has very little intact skin left on his torso and is covered in blood. This might not be too far from the historical truth. The Romans could certainly be exceedingly cruel in their executions. And undoubtedly “his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men” that we would be astonished to see him (Isa 52:14). The horrible appearance of the Lord hanging on the cross in the movie certainly adds to the emotional impact of the crucifixion scene. But very little of the great iconographic tradition of the eastern or western Churches has gone so far in depicting the revolting details of Christ’s death. After seeing the film and returning to my room in DDH I gazed up at the Byzantine-style crucifix over my bed and found it “passion-less.” It was virtually bloodless, except for a small stream gushing from the piercing in the Lord’s side and one drop falling from each pierced hand. Indeed, Jesus appeared almost elegant in his extreme humility. A cross that meant a great deal to me just a few hours before now left me cold and disappointed. Of course, many other crucifixes through the ages, including the more than thousand-year-old one from England shown above, have followed in that same aesthetic tradition. It took more than a week before that Byzantine cross regained its normal place in my prayer life as Gibson’s “Passion” began to fade in my imagination. Now, looking back on it, I think my response to the film was rather like my response to my first attendance at a charismatic Eucharist at an AMIA parish in the Chicago suburbs. At that time I found the worship to be exhilarating and vivid. In comparison the High Mass at the Church of the Ascension the lively, “Spirit-filled” worship seemed much more immediately and authentic. I am sure many people find such worship to be meaningful for similar reasons. But being the kind of person I am this feeling didn’t last. For me the quieter, more “stately” aesthetic of traditional High Mass or classic Christian iconography has more “staying power.” This older, more deliberate way of worshipping in song, liturgy, and image has stood the test of time and most certainly ought to be propagated into the future. This is not to say that the Gibson film and more contemporary worship styles have no place. For other people they might provide an invaluable aid in taking the Gospel to heart and lifting that heart up to God in praise and thanksgiving. But as for me, “Give me that ol’ time religion.” But enough of me. Have a blessed Advent.
"The Dream of the Rood"
The Ruthwell Cross, Northumbrian Anglo-Saxon, ca. 750 AD. The sides of this cross are inscribed in runic characters with "The Dream of the Rood," an Anglo-Saxon Christian classic.
An Advent reflection from "The Dream of the Rood":
95 "Now I command you, my beloved warrior,
Nu ic þe hate, hæleð min se leofa,
that you tell this sight to men [and]
þæt ðu þas gesyhðe secge mannum,
disclose these words--that it is the cross of glory
onwreoh wordum þæt hit is wuldres beam,
on which the almighty God suffered
se ðe ælmihtig god on þrowode
for the many sins of mankind
for mancynnes manegum synnum
100 and Adam's former action
ond Adomes ealdgewyrhtum.
He there tasted death; but again the Lord arose
Deað he þær byrigde, hwæðere eft dryhten aras
with his great might as a help to man.
mid his miclan mihte mannum to helpe.
He then stepped into the heavens. Hither again the Lord himself
He ða on heofenas astag. Hider eft fundaþ
will direct his course to this middle-earth
on þysne middangeard mancynn secan
105 to seek out mankind on the judgment day,
on domdæge dryhten sylfa,
the almighty God and his angels with [him],
ælmihtig god, ond his englas mid,
in order that he then will judge, he who has the power of judgment,
þæt he þonne wile deman, se ah domes geweald,
each one as he shall have earned for himself
anra gehwylcum swa he him ærur her
in this brief life.
on þyssum lænum life geearnaþ.
110 Nor may there be any unafraid
Ne mæg þær ænig unforht wesan
of the word which the Ruler will say:
for þam worde þe se wealdend cwyð.
he will ask before the multitude where might the man be,
Frineð he for þære mænige hwær se man sie,
the one who for the sake of the Lord's name would
se ðe for dryhtnes naman deaðes wolde
partake of bitter death, as he earlier did on the wooden beam.
biteres onbyrigan, swa he ær on ðam beame dyde.
115 But they will then be afraid, and the destitute ones will consider
Ac hie þonne forhtiað, ond fea þencaþ
what they might begin to say to Christ.
hwæt hie to Criste cweðan onginnen.
Nor need any to be terrified there then
Ne þearf ðær þonne ænig anforht wesan
who earlier for himself bears the best of signs in his breast.
þe him ær in breostum bereð beacna selest,
But through the cross every soul who desires to dwell with the Lord
ac ðurh ða rode sceal rice gesecan
120 shall come to the kingdom
of eorðwege æghwylc sawl,
from the earthly way."
seo þe mid wealdende wunian þenceð."