Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Women Bishops and the Catholic Remnant

Yesterday, the Sydney Morning Herald ran this story on the controversial subject of women bishops:

Women bishops want male authority
Andrew West

WOMEN bishops must enjoy the same authority as their male counterparts if they are placed in charge of an Anglican diocese, say two pioneering Australian churchwomen.

Barbara Darling, who was consecrated Assistant Bishop of Melbourne this year, said she opposed any plan that would diminish traditional authority of bishops over their dioceses.

In an attempt to heal the rift within the worldwide Anglican communion over women bishops, the Church of England has proposed a compromise that would permit its two most senior clerics, the archbishops of Canterbury and York, to appoint men as "complementary bishops" to care for parishes that do not accept women in the ministry.

The proposal, released on Monday in London, deals only with the English church but is similar to an agreement reached by Australian bishops at a conference in Newcastle in April. It allowed for "alternative episcopal oversight" for parishes that refused to accept the authority of a female bishop.

Bishop Darling supports alternative oversight but said that a complementary - or "flying" - bishop should act only with the consent of the diocesan bishop. "Women as bishops must have the same authority as men as bishops," she told the Herald. "We need to acknowledge that some people, in good conscience, cannot accept women bishops.

"But we cannot have a situation where a man, appointed as a complementary bishop, can simply come in and override the authority of the woman."

She said a "substantial majority" in a parish, "not simply one or two people", would have to request the alternative oversight of a male.

Fourteen of the 38 Anglican provinces in the worldwide communion have approved women bishops, although only four major provinces - the United States, Canada, New Zealand and, most recently, Australia - have consecrated women to episcopal office.

Kay Goldsworthy, who was ordained in Perth in April as Australia's first female bishop, said she supported measures to maintain the unity of the Anglican communion but she feared that the opponents of female bishops would not accept compromise.

"It is only my opinion but I think some people who are opposed to us will never be appeased even when you bend over backwards for them," she said. "They will never accept that God is calling women to leadership in the church."

Here is the Response by the National Council of Forward in Faith Australia Inc:

The Council of Forward in Faith Australia Inc takes great exception to Bishop Kay Goldsworthy's statement reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that those who oppose the ordination of women "will never accept that God is calling women to leadership in the church".

This denigrates the great women in the past as well as the present who are leaders in the Church. In her attempt to make this an argument about leadership she is once again diverting attention from the main issue. We in Forward in Faith do not object to women in leadership roles. We do not doubt that Bishop Goldsworthy has lawfully become a bishop within the Anglican Church in Australia.

What we question is whether she is a bishop within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and whether in purporting to consecrate her, the Anglican Church in Australia has forfeited its claim to be part of the Catholic Church.

The great churches of the East and West say that she cannot be a Catholic bishop. So where there is doubt, Anglican Catholics must err on the side of certainty. If she is not a Catholic bishop, the validity of the sacraments she administers is at the very least thrown into grave doubt. To reduce our objections to a squabble about leadership illustrates the total refusal of her and her supporters to take seriously the conscientious grounds on which opponents of the ordination of women stand. For the people we represent this is a "salvation issue" ripping apart the sacramental communion of the Church.

That is the reason we keep on saying that the "protocols" - the so-called provisions for those who cannot in conscience accept that women can be priests and bishops - offered by the Anglican Church in Australia, fall far short of the minimum alternative episcopal structures to which we have always laid claim.

(From the Forward in Faith web site)

St Silvester 1

Fresco on the North Side of the Basilica di San Piero a Grado, Pisa Italy: Pope Sylvester shows the portrait of the Apostles to the Emperor Costantine. This fresco is the work of Deodato Orlandi, who worked at Pisa from 1300 to 1312.

Pope St. Sylvester I was born in Rome to Rufinus and Justa in the late 200's.

He was educated by a priest named Charitius or Carinus in literature and theology and was ordained a priest by Pope St. Marcellinus.

He witnessed Constantine's triumph in 312 and became Pope in 314 upon the death of Pope St. Melchiades. The same year he sent four legates to the Western Council held at Arles. The Donatist schism was condemned at this council and Pope Sylvester approved the canons written at the council for the whole Church.

He was responsible for the building of the original Basilica of St. Peter's and St. John Lateran and may also have been responsible for creating the first martyrology.

In 325 the General Council of Nicea was convened to deal with the Arian Heresy. The Arians professed that Christ was not truly God and this heresy became so prevalent that for a time most of the Christian world accepted the teachings. Sylvester was not able to attend the council because of his age but sent three priests, Osius, Vito and Vincentius to act in his stead. Showing the importance of the pope's representatives, the names of these three priests are placed ahead of the Eastern patriarchs in the list of those attending the council. The council condemned Arianism and drew up the Nicene Creed.

Pope Sylvester died in 335 after being pope for 21 years. He was buried in the cemetery of Priscilla but Pope Sergius II had his body moved beneath an altar in the church attached to the cemetery in the 800's.

In 1227 Pope Gregory IX made his feast universal for the Church. The Western Church commemorates the feast on December 31st. The Eastern Church commemorates it on January 10th.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another Miracle!

Sometimes we are so self absorbed, or so negative about what is happening in the world that we fail to notice the wonderful things God is doing in people's lives. You see, I believe in miracles. Most Christians accept that miraculous healings can occur in answer to prayer. But - in my opinion - far greater than the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the lame walking or even the cancer sufferer returning to health, is the miracle of God's grace that enables true forgiveness to flow from the hearts of those who suffer to those who have caused the suffering.

Here is an article from the Melbourne Age. I cried when I read it:

Melbourne Age December 30

The family of a teenager stabbed to death at a Sydney railway station have gathered for the much-loved youth's funeral, saying they forgive his killer.

Andrew Motuliki, 17, was stabbed in the chest with a large fishing knife allegedly after a fight broke out between two groups of teenagers on a train at Campsie station, in Sydney's south-west, on December 21.

Passengers on the train tried to give the Marrickville teenager first aid but he was pronounced dead on arrival at St George Hospital.

A 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been charged with his murder, as well as affray and custody of a knife in a public place.

He was refused bail in Parramatta Children's Court the day after the stabbing death.

"This boy who did this to my son, I forgive you," Andrew's father Etikailahi Motuliki told the Ten Network.

"Pray to God, pray for forgiveness."

His mother, Ane Motuliki, echoed the words of forgiveness, happy for the murder-accused to be dealt with by the courts, saying: "(I) leave up to whoever (to) deal with him".

Shortly after the killing, the Motulikis made a tearful public plea for people not to carry knives.

"I would like to appeal to kids everywhere not to carry knives," Mr Motuliki said the day after his son's death.

"They need to find out another way to solve their problems."

Following Monday's funeral, family and friends gathered at the scene of the stabbing, singing and praying for Andrew who was killed on his way to church just days before Christmas.

(c) 2008 AAP

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Litany to Jesus, our Eucharistic King

Lord Jesus Christ,
reigning in the glory of heaven,
living in the hearts of your people,
and truly present before us
in this Blessed Sacrament,
we kneel in adoration and love.
We thank you for making us your people
and drawing us into your love;
we thank you for all the blessings you give us
to strengthen us
as we make our pilgrimage
through this world to the heavenly country.

Lord Jesus, our Eternal King,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, most Merciful King,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, who came among us in great humility,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, who offers us healing and new life,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, who rose glorious from the dead,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, our Eucharistic King,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, the King foretold by the prophets,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, King of Heaven and earth,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, in whom,
with the Father and the Holy Spirit, we are One,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, whose Kingdom is not from this world,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, the Beginning and the End,
the Alpha and the Omega,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, who will come upon the clouds of Heaven
with Power and Great Glory,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, whose Throne of Grace
we are to approach with confidence,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, who, hanging on the cross,
gave your Mother, Mary, to be our mother also,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, who desires to heal us
of division and disunity,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, wounded by our indifference,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, who pours out the Holy Spirit
upon your people,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, who sends the Holy Angels to protect us,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, before whom every knee shall bow,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, whose reign will never end,
Reign in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, whose kindness toward us is steadfast,
and whose faithfulness endures forever,
Reign in our hearts.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Holy Family

The Holy Family, by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (1591-1666)

The Hardest of Abortion Cases
by Fr Robert Hart

Fr Robert Hart is a priest of the Anglican Catholic Church (Original Province) and a contributing Editor of Touchstone Magazine. This article first appeared in the January/February, 2004 issue of Touchstone.

I promised myself that I would not be the stereotypical father of the bride, like Spencer Tracy, who hates to give away his little girl. But as I walked her down the aisle, and approached the moment she would become a full-grown, married lady, I felt everything I had determined not to feel. Very far from my mind was the story of her strange origins. It is always far from my mind, unless something reminds me of it, like the recent news from Poland.

The infamous abortion ship from Holland was daring to stop off a port in Poland in order to make its "services" available to Polish women who do not have "reproductive rights"-as the anti-life crowd call them-in their own country. Polish law restricts abortions to cases in which the mother's life is threatened, to cases of incest, and to cases of rape. Compared to the ease with which most women in the Western world can obtain legal abortion for any reason, in fact for no reason at all, and at just about any time during pregnancy, Poland is better. But pro-life? No, sadly, no.

His Daughter Alone

Of my four children, my daughter alone is the one I adopted. I never exactly forget the fact; it simply passes out of conscious thought since it does not matter, for she is, in every way that counts, my daughter, my first child. Over the years, I have always felt what a father ought to feel.

When she was eleven, she suffered a staph infection, and Diane and I feared we would lose her. This was the second time in her short life that she was in danger of dying. The first time she was in danger she did not face an impersonal disease, but determined persons: when her mother had to fight against intruding social workers, and the whole system, for the right to make the choice that her baby would be born. After all, when a woman has been made pregnant through rape, it is not only her right, but her duty, to do the "honorable thing." At least, so it seemed from all the pressure put on her in those months. She was upsetting the expectations and demands that "liberated" women have no right to upset. She was refusing the "sacrament" of abortion.

What a terrible thing she did. For a woman to bear a child when abortion seemed so justified, so necessary, when the pregnancy was the result of rape-well, it was certainly anti-social behavior. She was coerced into seeing a psychiatrist who could help her overcome the obvious defect known to Christians as principle. He might even have cured her of maternal instinct and the malady called love.

But all those years ago I knew nothing of what had happened, only that she was suddenly gone, nowhere to be found. Why had this girl vanished from our hometown in Maryland without a trace? When I discovered her whereabouts, 3,000 miles away in California, I hastened to call her. I had expected, had hoped, to have seen her in those months. "I have a baby girl," she told me.

"Are you married?"


"I see. Well, as a Christian I hope you have repented of . . ."

"Well, it was from rape, actually."

I found that she would not put up her child for adoption. She was willing to live as a single mother because she could not be sure that a couple would raise her child to believe in Jesus Christ. She decided to keep the baby; and God rewarded her by giving her a wonderful, not to mention dashingly handsome, husband.

Convoluted Reasoning

I never think of my daughter's origins and the strange circumstances of her early life unless something brings them to mind; for example, the disappointing remarks of a "conservative" radio talk-show host. This fellow talks a lot about his Catholic faith and Irish heritage, so it was with some astonishment that I heard him defending his view that abortion in cases of rape may be justified. "After all," he pointed out, "it's not the same as when it's someone's fault that she is pregnant. I just think it's different." He certainly did not get this idea from the Catholic Church.

I remembered back over twenty years ago hearing the same convoluted reasoning from Christians, some Catholic, some Evangelical. I recall a very Evangelical and Charismatic lady asking me, "But if it was rape, why didn't she get an abortion?" I thought about the king of Judah, the one who would not execute the sons of his father's assassins because of the Law of God, which says "the children shall not be put to death for the sins of the fathers, nor the fathers for the sins of the children" (2 Chronicles 25:4; Deuteronomy 24:16).

Where did the "conservative" radio talk-show host get the idea that pregnancy is a penalty? If it is a penalty, it might be unjust for the innocent to bear it. But what if it is not a penalty? What if it is the healing that God might give to a woman who has suffered a violent attack? What if the Author of Life takes the opportunity to do good from someone's evil? The injustice done to Joseph resulted in the saving of his life, and that of millions of people, foreshadowing the good done for the whole world by the unjust crucifixion of a young rabbi from Nazareth. It is ever the way of God to make good come from the evil that men do.

Just who is it that these well-meaning people, such as the very Charismatic lady and the talk-show host, would sentence to death?

I remember the very wide eyes of a ten-month-old baby girl looking up at me, having just arrived by plane from California with her mother. I remember her first steps across my parents' living-room floor. After her mother and I were married, I remember the first Christmas in our apartment, and her excitement at the wonder of a lit and decorated tree. She had names for us from Winnie the Pooh. I was Pooh, she was Piglet, and as she looked at her mom, now pregnant with the first of our three sons, she said, "And mom's the kangaroo."

Her very first day of school I remember watching her bravely walking into the classroom, as a lady laughed at the sight of my perplexity-a feeling of mingled loss and pride that was small compared to what I felt when I gave her in marriage to a fine young man. I remember her saying to him, "I do," and pledging her life not only to him but also to any children they are blessed with, and to God who blesses them.

She is a young lady who spreads joy wherever she goes. She has a place in the lives of many, not only her new husband, her parents, and her brothers, but many who know her well, and many who have met her in passing-a unique place that no one else could fill. She is happy by nature at 23, married, an avid reader, a good friend, a serious Christian. This is the person that these well-meaning people were willing to sentence to death. Oh, not now, not when they can see her; but when she was in danger the first time, in the womb and hidden from view.

Enough for Her

My wife is not living the life of a tragic victim. She is the happy mother of four children, and would not wish to part with any of them. My daughter learned of her origin after she was over twenty years of age and it became obvious that the truth could not be hidden without confusion. Someone had taken pictures of her as a three-year-old, at the wedding of her parents. I had been warned, "Never tell her, it would devastate her to know."

Not so. Rather, the mystery was unsettling, and the truth was welcome. You see, it did not matter. She had always known that God is the Author of Life-all life. Every human being is made in his image, and that means everything when a child is raised to understand that the image of God became more than an abstract idea in Hebrew Scripture when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And it was enough for her that she has a mother and a father who love her.

For both Diane and me, the details of our daughter's early life and strange origins are very much out of mind, far from conscious thought. That is, unless something brings them to mind, such as realizing that it is time to tell our story for the benefit of others who are caught in what seem like desperate circumstances, and who need the courage to make the decision to let the Author of Life do his healing and creative work, bringing light out of darkness and good out of evil: who need to make the decision of love.

Friday, December 26, 2008

St John, Apostle and Evangelist

Seeing Jesus in the Gospel of John An Excerpt from On The Way to Jesus Christ by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Pope Benedict's Midnight Mass Homily

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down upon the heavens and the earth?" This is what Israel sings in one of the Psalms (113 (112), 5ff.), praising God's grandeur as well as his loving closeness to humanity. God dwells on high, yet he stoops down to us God is infinitely great, and far, far above us. This is our first experience of him. The distance seems infinite. The Creator of the universe, the one who guides all things, is very far from us: or so he seems at the beginning. But then comes the surprising realization: The One who has no equal, who "is seated on high," looks down upon us. He stoops down. He sees us, and he sees me. God's looking down is much more than simply seeing from above. God's looking is active. The fact that he sees me, that he looks at me, transforms me and the world around me. The Psalm tells us this in the following verse: "He raises the poor from the dust" In looking down, he raises me up, he takes me gently by the hand and helps me to rise from depths towards the heights. "God stoops down." This is a prophetic word. That night in Bethlehem, it took on a completely new meaning. God's stooping down became real in a way previously inconceivable. He stoops down he himself comes down as a child to the lowly stable, the symbol of all humanity's neediness and forsakenness. God truly comes down. He becomes a child and puts himself in the state of complete dependence typical of a newborn child. The Creator who holds all things in his hands, on whom we all depend, makes himself small and in need of human love. God is in the stable. In the Old Testament the Temple was considered almost as God's footstool; the sacred ark was the place in which he was mysteriously present in the midst of men and women. Above the temple, hidden, stood the cloud of God's glory. Now it stands above the stable. God is in the cloud of the poverty of a homeless child: an impenetrable cloud, and yet a cloud of glory! How, indeed, could his love for humanity, his solicitude for us, have appeared greater and more pure? The cloud of hiddenness, the cloud of the poverty of a child totally in need of love, is at the same time the cloud of glory. For nothing can be more sublime, nothing greater than the love which thus stoops down, descends, becomes dependent. The glory of the true God becomes visible when the eyes of our hearts are opened before the stable of Bethlehem.

Saint Luke's account of the Christmas story, which we have just heard in the Gospel, tells us that God first raised the veil of his hiddenness to people of very lowly status, people who were looked down upon by society at large to shepherds looking after their flocks in the fields around Bethlehem. Luke tells us that they were "keeping watch." This phrase reminds us of a central theme of Jesus's message, which insistently bids us to keep watch, even to the Agony in the Garden the command to stay awake, to recognize the Lord's coming, and to be prepared.

Here too the expression seems to imply more than simply being physically awake during the night hour. The shepherds were truly "watchful" people, with a lively sense of God and of his closeness. They were waiting for God, and were not resigned to his apparent remoteness from their everyday lives. To a watchful heart, the news of great joy can be proclaimed: for you this night the Saviour is born. Only a watchful heart is able to believe the message. Only a watchful heart can instil the courage to set out to find God in the form of a baby in a stable. Let us ask the Lord to help us, too, to become a "watchful" people.

Saint Luke tells us, moreover, that the shepherds themselves were "surrounded" by the glory of God, by the cloud of light. They found themselves caught up in the glory that shone around them. Enveloped by the holy cloud, they heard the angels' song of praise: "Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace on earth to people of his good will." And who are these people of his good will if not the poor, the watchful, the expectant, those who hope in God's goodness and seek him, looking to him from afar?

The Fathers of the Church offer a remarkable commentary on the song that the angels sang to greet the Redeemer. Until that moment the Fathers say the angels had known God in the grandeur of the universe, in the reason and the beauty of the cosmos that come from him and are a reflection of him. They had heard, so to speak, creation's silent song of praise and had transformed it into celestial music. But now something new had happened, something that astounded them. The One of whom the universe speaks, the God who sustains all things and bears them in his hands he himself had entered into human history, he had become someone who acts and suffers within history. From the joyful amazement that this unimaginable event called forth, from God's new and further way of making himself known say the Fathers a new song was born, one verse of which the Christmas Gospel has preserved for us: "Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace to his people on earth." We might say that, following the structure of Hebrew poetry, the two halves of this double verse say essentially the same thing, but from a different perspective. God's glory is in the highest heavens, but his high state is now found in the stable what was lowly has now become sublime. God's glory is on the earth, it is the glory of humility and love. And even more: the glory of God is peace. Wherever he is, there is peace. He is present wherever human beings do not attempt, apart from him, and even violently, to turn earth into heaven. He is with those of watchful hearts; with the humble and those who meet him at the level of his own "height," the height of humility and love. To these people he gives his peace, so that through them, peace can enter this world.

The medieval theologian William of Saint Thierry once said that God from the time of Adam saw that his grandeur provoked resistance in man, that we felt limited in our own being and threatened in our freedom. Therefore God chose a new way. He became a child. He made himself dependent and weak, in need of our love. Now this God who has become a child says to us you can no longer fear me, you can only love me.

With these thoughts, we draw near this night to the child of Bethlehem to the God who for our sake chose to become a child. In every child we see something of the Child of Bethlehem. Every child asks for our love. This night, then, let us think especially of those children who are denied the love of their parents. Let us think of those street children who do not have the blessing of a family home, of those children who are brutally exploited as soldiers and made instruments of violence, instead of messengers of reconciliation and peace. Let us think of those children who are victims of the industry of pornography and every other appalling form of abuse, and thus are traumatized in the depths of their soul. The Child of Bethlehem summons us once again to do everything in our power to put an end to the suffering of these children; to do everything possible to make the light of Bethlehem touch the heart of every man and woman.

Only through the conversion of hearts, only through a change in the depths of our hearts can the cause of all this evil be overcome, only thus can the power of the evil one be defeated. Only if people change will the world change; and in order to change, people need the light that comes from God, the light which so unexpectedly entered into our night.

And speaking of the Child of Bethlehem, let us think also of the place named Bethlehem, of the land in which Jesus lived, and which he loved so deeply. And let us pray that peace will be established there, that hatred and violence will cease. Let us pray for mutual understanding, that hearts will be opened, so that borders can be opened. Let us pray that peace will descend there, the peace of which the angels sang that night.

In Psalm 96 (95), Israel, and the Church, praises God's grandeur manifested in creation. All creatures are called to join in this song of praise, and so the Psalm also contains the invitation: "Let all the trees of the wood sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes" (v. 12ff.). The Church reads this Psalm as a prophecy and also as a task. The coming of God to Bethlehem took place in silence. Only the shepherds keeping watch were, for a moment, surrounded by the light-filled radiance of his presence and could listen to something of that new song, born of the wonder and joy of the angels at God's coming. This silent coming of God's glory continues throughout the centuries. Wherever there is faith, wherever his word is proclaimed and heard, there God gathers people together and gives himself to them in his Body; he makes them his Body. God "comes." And in this way our hearts are awakened. The new song of the angels becomes the song of all those who, throughout the centuries, sing ever anew of God's coming as a child and rejoice deep in their hearts. And the trees of the wood go out to him and exult. The tree in Saint Peter's Square speaks of him, it wants to reflect his splendour and to say: Yes, he has come, and the trees of the wood acclaim him. The trees in the cities and in our homes should be something more than a festive custom: they point to the One who is the reason for our joy the God who for our sake became a child. In the end, this song of praise, at the deepest level, speaks of him who is the very tree of new-found life. Through faith in him we receive life. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist he gives himself to us he gives us a life that reaches into eternity. At this hour we join in creation's song of praise, and our praise is at the same time a prayer: Yes, Lord, help us to see something of the splendour of your glory. And grant peace on earth. Make us men and women of your peace. Amen.

Copyright Vatican Publishing House

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Greetings . . . everybody!

Gerburt Christi by Franz von Rohden (1817-1903)

It is my sincere hope that all readers of this blog, especially parishioners, relatives, friends and colleagues, enjoy a happy and holy Christmas, and God's blessing for 2009.

May this be a time of rediscovering God's love and peace as we celebrate the wonderful gift of Jesus who came to rescue us from our sins and renew our lives with his presence.

May the Lord Jesus bless you and keep you, and may his Holy Mother enfold you in her prayers.

* * * * *

Yea, Lord we greet thee,
'Throned upon thine altar,
Jesu, to thee be glory given.
Word of the Father,
Sacrament Most Holy,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

* * * * *

Almighty God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as 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 Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

(Collect for Christmas Day,
Book of Common Prayer)

A Christmastide Devotion at Benediction

Before thine altar, O most Holy Child,
we kneel today,
So long ago the shepherds knelt before thy cradle.
And, even as they,
beholding their God
in the face of a little Child,
fell down and worshipped;
so we, beholding thy sacred Presence
beneath the sacramental veil,
praise and adore our Lord and our God.

We give thee thanks for thy great mercy.
O Holy Child,
we give thee thanks for thy great humility.
For in the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
Hosanna in the highest!
And the Word was made flesh,
and dwelt among us;
And we have beheld his glory.

Word made Flesh
pray for us.
Emmanuel, God with us
pray for us
Wonderful Counsellor,
the Mighty God
Grant us thy peace.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Speaking of Christmas trees . . .

Christmas Midnight Mass at St John Cantius Roman Catholic Church in Chicago

O Emmanuel . . .

O EMMANUEL, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations and their Saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God.

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, expectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

O Rex . . .

O KING OF NATIONS, thou for whom they long, the Cornerstone that makest them both one: Come and save thy creatures whom thou didst fashion from the dust of the earth.

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

The whole world waits for Mary's answer

Annunciation by Tanner Henry Ossawa, 1898 (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Today's Gospel Reading was of the Annunciation of the Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38). There is so much there that can be applied to our own pilgrimage of faith. In this morning's homily, we concentrated on two main points: Mary's response to the Word of God, and her openness to the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit.

ANOTHER THING: Every Advent I look forward to the Office of Readings for December 20th, for then we hear St Bernard's magnificent paragraphs depicting the whole world waiting with baited breath for Mary's response to the Angel. It moved me, again, yesterday. Here it is:

You have heard that you shall conceive and bear a Son; you have heard that you shall conceive, not of man, but of the Holy Spirit. The angel is waiting for your answer: it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for the word of pity, even we who are overwhelmed in wretchedness by the sentence of damnation.

And behold, to you the price of our salvation is offered. If you consent, straightway shall we be freed. In the Word of God were we all made, and lo! we die; by one little word of yours in answer shall we all be made alive.

Adam asks this of you, O loving Virgin, poor Adam, exiled as he is from paradise with all his poor wretched children; Abraham begs this of you, and David; this all the holy fathers implore, even your fathers, who themselves are dwelling in the valley of the shadow of death; this the whole world is waiting for, kneeling at your feet.

And rightly so, for on your lips is hanging the consolation of the wretched, the redemption of the captive, the speedy deliverance of all who otherwise are lost; in a word, the salvation of all Adam's children, of all your race.

Answer, O Virgin, answer the angel speedily; rather, through the angel, answer your Lord. Speak the word, and receive the Word; offer what is yours, and conceive what is of God; give what is temporal, and embrace what is eternal.

Why delay? Why tremble? Believe, speak, receive! Let your humility put on boldness, and your modesty be clothed with trust. Not now should your virginal simplicity forget prudence! In this one thing alone, O prudent Virgin, fear not presumption; for although modesty that is silent is pleasing, more needful now is the loving-kindness of your word.

Open, O Blessed Virgin, your heart to faith; open your lips to speak; open your bosom to your Maker. Behold! The Desired of all nations is outside, knocking at your door. Oh! if by your delay he should pass by, and again in sorrow you should have to begin to seek for him whom your soul loves! Arise, then, run and open. Arise by faith, run by the devotion of your heart, open by your word. 'And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord : be it done to me according to your word.'

From The Homilies of St Bernard (Hom 4,8-9) as given in The Divine Office, Volume 1.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

O Oriens . . .

O DAY-SPRING FROM ON HIGH, Brightness of Eternal Light, and Sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree in St Peter's Square, Rome

Did you know that there are Catholic priests and Protestant pastors who refuse to let people put Christmas tree in churches on the basis that the Christmas tree is a pagan symbol? There are also very conservative Jewish people who never have a tree because it is Christian! And paradoxically, the vast majority of the implicitly pagan people around us (and, of course, I say that lovingly!) manage to be open enough to the Gospel to decorate their homes in honour of the Lord' Nativity.

In fact, many Christmas customs have evolved from centuries of interaction between faith and culture. When the Gospel was embraced by peoples in different parts of Europe, useful and well-loved aspects of pagan festivals were "baptized." The Catholic evangelist always tries to find continuities between a people's culture and the Gospel (consider St Paul's preaching in Acts 17).

The Christmas tree has actually been Christian for a very long time. There is an idea that Martin Luther popularised it, but we know that it goes much back further into Europe's Catholic past. We know that St Boniface used its triangular shape to teach about the Holy Trinity in his evangelisation of the Teutonic peoples. Merging into this is the fact that "Paradise Trees", allegorically connecting the tree in the Garden of Eden and the tree of Calvary frequently appeared in medieval mystery plays, and in the Preface of the Cross in the Missal:

It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee : O Lord holy, Father almighty, everlasting God. Who by the tree of the Cross didst give salvation unto mankind : that whence death arose, thence life might rise again : and that he who by a tree overcame, might also by a tree be overcome : through Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore with Angels and Archangels . . .

The same truth is brilliantly celebrated in the well-known hymn "Sing my tongue the glorious battle" by the 6th century Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus:

Faithful Cross, above all other,
one and only noble Tree,
none in foliage, none in blossom,
none in fruit thy peer may be;
sweet the wood, and sweet the iron,
and thy load, most sweet is he.

Bend, O lofty Tree, thy branches,
thy too rigid sinews bend;
and awhile the stubborn hardness,
which thy birth bestowed, suspend;
and the limbs of heaven's high Monarch
gently on thine arms extend.

Thou alone wast counted worthy
this world's Ransom to sustain,
that a shipwrecked race for ever
might a port of refuge gain,
with the sacred Blood anointed
of the Lamb for sinners slain.

It is well-known that the modern popularity of Christmas trees in Britain is due to the influence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

So . . . the tradition has a long pedigree; and whatever its precise origin, it has become a powerful way of representing the Gospel (which always finds new forms of expression in symbols that did not start out as specifically Christian).

The Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, London, which, since 1947,
has been a gift of Norway in appreciation for British help in World War II.

Friday, December 19, 2008

O Clavis . . .

O KEY OF DAVID, Sceptre of the house of Israel, who openest and no man shutteth, and shuttest
and not man openeth; Come and bring forth out of the prisonhouse him that is bound.

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israël, qui aperis, et nemo claudit, claudis, et nemo aperuit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

I'm no Scrooge . . . BUT . . .

I wrote this reflection four years ago. Go HERE for the entire article.

I have often heaped scorn on the kill-joys who want to stamp out Santa Claus and other features of Christmas that bring back some of the happiest memories of family and childhood.

But I must confess that in recent years I have become more sympathetic towards them. And I have become deeply disturbed by the lack of proportion in the message Christmas celebrations now convey to our children and grandchildren.

In The Age newspaper a few days ago, Muriel Porter wrote about friends of hers who took their young son to see the Myer Christmas windows. He was engrossed by them, carefully following the story of The Polar Express - a story he knows well - from scene to scene. Then he came to the window depicting Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus. The nativity tableau was quite new to him. "So what's the story here then?" he asked his parents. (Click HERE to read on.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

O Radix . . .

O ROOT OF JESSE, who standest for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the nations shall seek: Come and deliver us and tarry not.

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

O Adonai . . .

O ADONAI, Captain of the house of Israel, who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and gavest him the law on Sinai: Come and deliver us with thine outstretched arm.

O Adonai, et dux domus Israël, qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

WOMEN BISHOPS: More on "Codes of Practice" (for Australia, read "Protocols")

December's New Directions (the monthly Forward in Faith magazine) arrived in the mail this morning, together with the quarterly tabloid "Forward Plus." They can, in fact, be downloaded from the Forward in Faith Website, although this takes a long time if you have only a dial-up connection.

Both publications are excellent . . . but the front page of "Forward Plus" is so good that I've reproduced its content here.

On two separate occasions a few years ago I was assured by smirking Australian liberal bishops that "before long" it will not be possible to speak of the "flying bishop" system of the Church of England as an example of Anglican provinces ensuring the "sacramental space" necessary for real Catholics to survive in Anglican structures. That the C. of E. through its famous Act of Synod did so back in 1994 obviously irritates a whole lot of liberal Anglican bishops around the world. It is not surprising that liberal Aussie bishops include within their networks of friends those labouring long and hard to get rid of the Act of Synod in England and to introduce women bishops with only a "Code of Practice" for Catholics - rather than the "structural solution" our people have always said was the bear minimum we could live with in good conscience.

This post is a catalogue of what various people at the October FiF National Assembly said about the Code of Practice. Bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia take note . . . ALSO Australian Catholics and Evangelicals who might be tempted to think that the "protocols" suggested for this country will deliver a satisfactory outcome - or even basic fairness - take note, too!

". . . BECAUSE it cannot provide us with our honoured place in the Church of England. We need provision by Measure which will ensure that we have Bishops who are our Fathers in God and who have jurisdiction to ensure the future of the Catholic Movement in the Church in England."
- Margaret Tilley (Member of General Synod)

". . . BECAUSE it would violate the integrity of our position as one of obedience which it is, and treat it as a matter of opinion which it is not and - if enacted - would ensure that the Church of England would fall foul of secular sex discrimination legislation."
- Fr Sam Philpott SSC (S. Peter's, Plymouth)

". . . BECAUSE it cannot provide the stability the Church of England collectively needs in order to be an effective witness to the Gospel. It would be inadequate for those it is meant to aid, and unsatisfactory to those who oppose it. Finally, the implications behind it are so harmful to ecumenical dialogue that those who take seriously Christ's call that 'they may be one' may well find the Church of England an impossible communion within which to strive after that goal.
- Daniel Lloyd (Seminarian)

". . . BECAUSE it can give us neither spiritual and theological integrity nor legal security. It cannot therefore be a basis for growth, but only for terminal care, and the extinction (in a short period) of our position."
Fr Jonathan Baker SSC (Principal, Pusey House, Oxford)

". . . BECAUSE it promises what it cannot deliver. However nice its intentions might be, they would not be legally enforceable. When the last attempt was made to revise the Act of Synod, a new act and code were produced by a committee chaired by the then Bishop of Blackburn; even though both were rejected, some bishops and archdeacons have tried to pretend that the rejected code is in force! Likewise, the Code for the Pastoral Measure has been flagrantly flouted in some places by those who should know better."
- The Rt Rev'd John Broadhurst (Bishop of Fulham)

". . . BECAUSE it would destroy the integrity of the localised manifestation of the Episcopate in a manner demeaning to all involved, it could only be the cause of hostility and confrontation - the Church must not legislate for institutionalised self-harming."
- Fr Trevor Jones SSC (S. Peter's, London Docks)

". . . BECAUSE, sacramentally, it would remove the guarantee of the validity of the sacraments and, ecclesiologically, no proper Catholic Bishop would accept that he could have authority transferred or delegated to him from someone about whose orders there is doubt."
- Ian O'Hara (Member of General Synod)

". . . BECAUSE what we seek is a Catholic solution: a solution that we can live with in conscience. That cannot be achieved by a Code of Practice; by a system that legislates for discrimination; that cannot of its nature provide for the permanent preservation of our Catholic integrity and our understanding of Episcopal authority and the Apostolic Succession, the bedrock of Tractarianism; that is demeaning and patronising both to women and to us; that cannot provide for parity and equivalence. Unlike S. Martin of Tours, the General Synod and the Bishops of the Church of England did not share their cloak with us; rather, they passed by on the other side and threw us a Code of Practice on the etiquette of begging."
- Fr William Davage SSC (Custodian of Pusey House Library, Oxford)

". . . BECAUSE it would fail to guarantee a future in the Church of England for those of us preparing for ordination. The Church of England has affirmed our vocation to ordained ministry; a Code of Practice would deny us the opportunity to fulfil it."
- James Bradley (Seminarian)

". . . BECAUSE because it would simply be an unenforceable guideline as to how a woman bishop should exercise her authority and jurisdiction, which is the very thing we cannot accept."
- Fr Paul Benfield SSC (St Nicholas', Fleetwood)

". . . BECAUSE it would be like the Act of Synod: PEVs acting with authority delegated from the diocesan bishop; if the diocesan bishop is a woman, this cannot do. There would be sacramental confusion because it would not be clear whether or not a male priest had been ordained by a women bishop. It would be at best a temporary stopgap; those who are calling for a Code of Practice Crunch time for the Church are the very same people who are simultaneously calling for the rescinding of the Act of Synod; it will not be long before they call for the rescinding of the Code of Practice!"
- Fr Simon Killwick (Christ Church, Monton Street Manchester)

". . . BECAUSE it would require women bishops to delegate to others (men!) essential functions of the episcopal office. As such it would be sexist, and would demean both the office and person of lawfully consecrated women."
- Fr Geoffrey Kirk (S. Stephens', Lewisham)

". . . BECAUSE they bring out the worst in people: no one ever follows the spirit of a code; they always prefer the letter of it. A code's worth nothing without a sanction to enforce it and so it simply will not do – except for lawyers like me, who will spend hours trying to find ways round it!"
- Fr James Patrick SSC Reader of the Crown Court & Hon. Curate of All Saints, Clifton

". . . BECAUSE it cannot enshrine the theological conviction, held in good conscience, of those who remain unable to accept the innovation, and as such would bring to an end any understanding of the doctrine of reception. Nor can it cover issues connected with jurisdiction, which can only be met by primary legislation and as a result sacramental assurance in the life of the Church would be compromised. It would be, by its very nature, time-limited and open to alteration, if not abolition, so it would renege on the binding promise of an 'honoured place' to enable us to flourish and grow. It would herald the death-throes of a catholic identity for the Church of England."
- Fr David Houlding SSC (Master General of the Society of the Holy Cross)

". . . BECAUSE it would not provide the ecclesial provision we need; on the contrary, it would, in fact, undermine those female bishops under whose territorial jurisdiction we would find ourselves. It's rather like trying to explain to the people with whom you share a house that you need to find a different way of living together, say, by building an extension. 'OK, so what do you need?' asks one. 'Hm, we need some bricks, mortar, a couple of windows - that should do it.' The result: 'Right, well, here's some tarpaulin and a few tent pegs. Sure, it's not what you asked for, but we reckon that'll do.' If we're going to live together in God's house, we need the bricks and mortar of alternative provision."
- Alexandra Vinall (Post Graduate Student, Oxford)

". . . BECAUSE it offends the integrity of every opinion.
- Ellie Haynes (Diocese of Bath & Wells)

O Sapientia . . .

O WISDOM, that camest out of the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to another, firmly and gently ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of understanding.

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter, suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

What are the "O Antiphons" of Advent?
Go HERE for a quick explanation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Is the "pagan origin" of Christmas a myth?

William J. Tighe, a friend of ours, and Associate Professor of History at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, published an article in TOUCHSTONE MAGAZINE back in December 2003, challenging the idea that the Church took over a pagan festival on which to celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world. This is how he begins:

Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ's birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus' birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the "Birth of the Unconquered Son" instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the "pagan origins of Christmas" is a myth without historical substance.

Well . . . that rather puts a nail into the coffin of one of the most cherished "orthodoxies" of our post-Christian age! Go HERE to read the entire article.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Visit to Bethlehem - Fr Bill Weston

The Rev'd William Weston served in the Anglican Dioceses of Newcastle, Melbourne, and Canberra-Goulburn, before becoming Rector of Dee Why (1966) and then Gordon (1979) in the Diocese of Sydney. As well as having been a much loved parish priest, Father Bill was a leading exponent of the healing ministry. He died in 1990. This article is an extract from his book: The Pain and the Glory - A Journey in Israel Through the Rosary.

My first view of Bethlehem was from a kibbutz where the party with whom I was travelling stopped for lunch before going on to see the place where Mary gave birth to Jesus.

We looked across a wide valley to see the buildings of Bethlehem above terraces of olive groves, hugging the ridge on the other side. Towers of Christian churches and Moslem mosques dominated the skyline. Then we were driven on, eight kilometres from Jerusalem, past the fields where the shepherds watched their flocks by night, up a steep hill to The Church of the Nativity which is described as the oldest church in the world.

After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., Christians returned and identified many of the sites associated with Jesus Christ. In 135 A.D., the Emperor Hadrian attempted to obliterate these sites. He built a wall around the hill of Calvary, filled it in and on it built a temple to Venus. On the site
identified as the birthplace of Jesus, he built a temple to Adonis. However, what Hadrian intended to bury forever he actually preserved and located for future generations.

When Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Empire early in the fourth century, Hadrian's buildings were demolished and the sacred sites were unearthed.

The place where Mary gave birth to Jesus was found intact, and Constantine surrounded it with a great church. This church was badly damaged in a revolt of Samaritans in 519, but it was rebuilt by the Emperor Justinian. It was the only church in the Holy Land which escaped destruction by the Persians in 614 when they embarked on a campaign to destroy all Christian buildings.

The Church of the Nativity was spared because the Persians found in it a mosaic representing the three wise men in Persian dress.

There is only one entrance to The Church of the Nativity now. Two large doors were walled up, and the third was reduced to a small narrow opening, known as The Eye of the Needle. This was done to prevent men riding into the building on horseback, bent on destruction.

To enter the building it is necessary to bow low, as did the shepherds and wise men when they beheld the Christ child.

The grotto of Christ's birth dispels all the Christmas card conceptions one may have had of the Nativity. There was no quaint stable with clean convenient straw, but simply the hard earth shelter of a rugged cave in which a few animals could take refuge.

Before I left Australia I had promised two friends who were ill, that I should say special prayers for them in the Holy Land. People were lighting candles and placing them near the grotto. I acquired two candles and made them the outward and visible sign of the prayers I offered for my friends. I left them glowing in the shadow of that place which had been illuminated by the Star of Bethlehem.

A silver star with the Latin inscription "Hic de Maria Virgine Jesus Christus natus est" (Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary), marks the place where Mary gave her baby to the world. To the right of this place was the site of the manger in which the baby was laid in swaddling clothes.

In the first chapter of his Gospel, St. John states that the Son of God is the eternal Word "
by whom all things were made" (John 1:3) and that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).

St Paul wrote, "
in Christ was all the fulness of God embodied" (Colossians 2:9).

The title Mother of God (in Greek
Theotokos) was given to Mary at The Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431. The title was given, not so much to honour Mary as to emphasise the deity of Jesus Christ. Those who refuse to honour Mary as the Mother of God cannot truly believe in the Incarnation.

In The Apostles' Creed, in professing our belief in the manner in which the Word became flesh, we say, "He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary." It was God himself who planted the seed of human life in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Nazareth.

As Nicholas Cabasilas says,
"The Incarnation was not only the work of the Father, of his Power and his Spirit, but it was also the work of the will and faith of the Virgin. Just as God became incarnate voluntarily, so he wishes that his Mother should bear him freely and with her full consent."

So, in the Nicene Creed we profess our belief that "for us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost, of the Virgin Mary and was made man."

Can anyone question why these words drive some people to their knees?

The wonder, the stupendous wonder of their meaning, seems to demand recognition in an act of human humility, because God has shown his great love for man by abandoning his heavenly glory, to share the life of man in complete humility in an act which holds time together.

This is the great fact which the Church calls us to celebrate on Christmas Day.

Each of the photos in this post depticts the Church of the Holy Nativity, Bethlehem
(This large one is from

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More on Our Lady's Immaculate Conception . . .

The blog of St Stephen's House, Oxford, contains an excellent sermon preached by Father Robert Farmer at their celebration of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception on Monday. This was the beginning of the college's Advent Retreat, the theme of which was the French School of spirituality. Father Farmer's sermon draws on the Fathers of the French School and their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Go to the sermon HERE.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Getting ready for His coming

During Advent we read the Old Testament prophecies of the coming of God's Messiah. We also hear New Testament prophecies of the return of Jesus at the end of these "last days" to wind up human history. In each case, the burden of Scripture is the greatness of Him who is coming, and our need to be properly prepared.

Of course, this is the same Jesus who comes to us in Holy Communion - and St Paul tells us in his first Letter to the Corinthians how important it is that we don't take this particular coming of the Lord for granted. He urges us to "examine" ourselves before turning up to Mass.

There is no more striking a prayer of preparation for Holy Communion than this one by Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626):

O Lord, I am not worthy,
I am not fit,
that thou shouldest come under the roof of my soul;
for it is all desolate and ruined;
nor hast thou in me fitting place to lay thy head.

But, as thou didst vouchsafe to lie
in the cavern and manger of brute cattle,
as thou didst not disdain to be entertained
in the house of Simon the leper;
as thou didst not disdain that harlot,
like me, who was a sinner,
coming to thee: and touching thee;
nor the thief upon the cross confessing thee:
So me too the ruined, wretched, and excessive sinner,
deign to receive the touch and partaking
of the immaculate, supernatural,
life giving, and saving mysteries
of thy all-holy Body and thy precious Blood.

Listen, O Lord, our God, from thy holy habitation,
and from the glorious throne of thy kingdom,
and come to sanctify us.
Thou who sittest on high with the Father,
and art present with us here invisibly;
come thou to sanctify the gifts which lie before thee,
and those in whose behalf, and by whom,
and the things for which, they are brought near thee.
And grant to us communion, unto faith, without shame,
love without dissimulation,
fulfilment of thy commandments,
alacrity for every spiritual fruit;
hindrance of all adversity,
healing of soul and body;
t we too, with all saints,
who have been well-pleasing to thee from the beginning,
may become partakers of thy incorrupt and everlasting goods,
which thou hast prepared, O Lord, for them that love thee;
in whom thou art glorified for ever and ever.
Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world,
take away the sin of me, the utter sinner. Amen.

This picture shows the distribution of Holy Communion in November 2005, just four months after the formation of the Patmos House Community. In those days our Sunday Mass was celebrated in Cheer's Tavern, Spring Hill! (In the background is the Rt Rev'd Maternus Kapinga, Bishop of Ruvuma in the Anglican Province of Tanzania, who ministered to us that weekend.)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Our Lady's Immaculate Conception

Today is the third anniversary of Father Tony Iball's ordination to the priesthood; it was fitting, then, that he should have been the celebrant at Mass this morning.

Full marks to Father Hunwicke for good-naturedly speaking for all Anglican Catholics who celebrate the Feast. (Actually, his Blog is really worth keeping an eye on.) He says:

"It is possible for right-thinking people to feel a trifle awkward about the fact that the Byzantine Tradition and the Latin look just a weeny bit out of kilter on the question of our Lady's Immaculate Conception. Prescinding from detail, I find a lot of comfort in comparing the underlying logic of the Immaculate Conception with that of our Lady's Presentation in the Temple (Nov 21). In each case, our Lady is situated in a prelapsarian context.

"For us Latin Catholics, she is the new Eve and as immaculate as the first Eve was before her Fall. For S Gregory Palamas, Mary, while in the Temple, was fed there with 'mystic food by the care of the angels, food which Adam had not tasted: because, if he had, he would not have fallen from life'. He goes on to argue that 'this immaculate woman' did not logically need to die; although briefly she did so before her Assumption. West and East unite in seeing our Lady as the Paradisal Mother of the New Adam.

"Those, of course, who deny the Immaculate Conception fall under the anathema attached to Blessed Pius IX's definition of 1854. Those who deny the Presentation fall under the anathemas of the fourteenth century 'Palamite' Councils, damning those who say that 'the Immaculate One, the Theometer . . . did not enter into the Holy of Holies'. Moi, I don't incur either anathema."

Friday, December 5, 2008


Father Stephen Hill is the celebrant at this Patmos House Community Mass

It is interesting that liturgical scholarship is now calling into question so many of the assumptions of the 1960s and 70s, including the idea that in authentic Christian worship the "celebrant should face the people" across the altar. The following piece from Bishop Renfrey's book What Mean Ye by this Service (1978), a critique of An Australian Prayer Book of the Anglican Church of Australia, should not be forgotten. Back then his was a voice crying in the wilderness. Now many others have caught up!

"In the years which have followed Vatican II considerable interest has been aroused in the Church of England concerning the place of the altar in the church and the position which the priest takes at the altar. Following the changed custom of the Roman Catholic Church whereby the priest now stands behind the altar and faces westward towards the people, some Anglican priests have followed suit. It is worth looking at some basic considerations concerning this subject.

"In Christian centuries from the earliest times prayer and worship have been offered to God by worshippers, priest and people, facing east. Since it was believed that Christ had ascended on the Mount of Olives, which lay to the east of Jerusalem, and also that his expected and eagerly awaited Second Coming would also appear in the east (Acts 1:11), Christians turned to the east to welcome the Parousia of the glorified Christ.

"The house churches of the second century frequently had a cross placed on the eastern wall in acknowledgment of the belief that the Second Coming of Christ would be marked by the sign of the cross appearing in the eastern sky (Matt. 24:30). It is good for us to be reminded that for those early Christians the celebration of the Holy Eucharist did not only look back to the Last Supper, but also heralded a joyous looking forward to the Second Coming of Christ in his
glory in the consummation of the ages. We bear St. Paul's words in mind in this connection. 'As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes' (1 Cor. 11:26).

"When Christians were able to move from house churches to buildings constructed exclusively for worship, these buildings were constructed to face the east for the reason already given. They were 'orientated', as we would say. There is also evidence that the priest celebrating the liturgy faced the east with the people. The Rev’d. C.E. Pocknee, who is a recognised authority on primitive liturgical matters and the author of several books on these subjects, has recently written that archaeological evidence now available from Syria demonstrates the fallacy of the belief that the priest celebrating the liturgy in primitive times always stood facing the people. He goes on to say: 'Throughout the larger part of Christendom and from the earliest times churches have been constructed to face east; and for the celebrant to celebrate in such buildings facing the people would have meant facing west, the region of darkness, a liturgical and ceremonial contradiction of the purpose of an orientated building. In the primitive era baptizands faced west and renounced Satan, and then turned east and embraced Christ and the light of the Cospel.'

"It is sometimes said in support of the westward position that in some old basilicas in Rome the celebrating priest faces the people across the altar. However, as the Rev'd. C.E. Pocknee points out, in these churches, notably in St. Peter’s in the Vatican and at St. Mary’s Major in Rome, it is impossible for the priest to stand on a foot-pace before the altar because an opening or fenestration has been constructed in that position through which the faithful can see the reliquary of the Saint whose body has been buried beneath the altar. Such basilicas give no liturgical support for a universal adoption of the westward position. Pope Vigilius bore witness to the normal practice when, writing in the sixth century, he said that although in some churches in Rome the celebrant faced the people, in most other places the celebrant had to turn round when he saluted the people.

"Those who desire to promote the custom of the priest facing the people across the altar need to find grounds of justification other than those of primitive practice and belief. In fact, there are strong liturgical considerations in favour of the eastward position, because nothing then stands between priest and people, but all are turned in the same direction to offer to Cod their united worship in the great action of our redemption in Christ."
* * * * * * * * * *

Bishop Renfrey was a devotee of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and an active member of the Prayer Book Society. But in 1980 he published a Mass book which demonstrated his preference was for enrichment of the Prayer Book Rite with material drawn from Catholic sources (i.e. the English Missal). Here is his rationale for doing so:

" . . . It may be as well to answer those who assert that . . . the Book of Common Prayer must be used without any additions, deviations or enrichment. . . . an assertion which reveals in those who make it a failure to understand that those who believe the Church of England to be catholic see the Book of Common Prayer as steeped and grounded in the catholic faith, and to be interpreted accordingly. Ours is not a religion of a book, but of Christ our Lord, and of that living organism, His Church, which He founded and which He continually infuses with His life. The Book of Common Prayer is Catholic because it belongs to the Catholic Church, and, in using it the Church clothes it, where it is bare, with the prayers and ceremonies of the past. Our loyalty is to Christ's Church, and to the Book of Common Prayer only as it belongs to this Church. It does not stand alone, apart from the Church from which it derives. What it asserts is Catholic: what it is silent about is supplied from Catholic tradition."
From Catholic Prayers for Members of the Church of England in Australia , Adelaide, 1980