Friday, May 19, 2017

The Ascension, the Priestliness of Jesus, and the work of Margaret Barker

Since my teenage years I have had an interest in how the Old Testament forms the backdrop to the New Testament, and in particular how the New Testament authors use Old Testament passages and symbols. My observations led me to embrace a basically typological approach to the OT at a time when most friends - both "conservative" and "liberal" - were pursuing debates about the OT from a purely historical/critical angle. Among my guidebooks back then were the works of Anglican writers Austin Farrer and Gabriel Herbert. Although typology can give rise to unrestrained and subjective allegorisation, I have always thought that a failure to embrace a balanced typological hermeneutic results at best in a sidelining of the OT except as "historical background", and at worst (as Aidan Nichols points out in his book "Lovely Like Jerusalem") in our becoming modern Marcionites

The connection of OT typology with the development of Christian worship seemed obvious to me as a young man formed by highly liturgical Anglo-Catholicism, a growing acquaintance with the Church Fathers, and those parts of the 1960s & 70s charismatic renewal emphasising the worship of the community as somehow part of our "offering" to the Father through Jesus our great High Priest.

In recent years there has been a revival of scholarly interest in these themes across the Christian traditions. One of the most significant contributors is Margaret Barker, a Cambridge theologian (and Methodist), whose work has been very widely acknowledged. A number of her essays are online. Visit her home page HERE. In July 2008 Margaret Barker was awarded a DD by the Archbishop of Canterbury "in recognition of her work on the Jerusalem Temple and the origins of Christian Liturgy, which has made a significantly new contribution to our understanding of the New Testament and opened up important fields for research."

I think that her book The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy should be required reading for all thoughtful Christians!

I mention this in the lead-up to Ascension Day, because I want to share with you a key passage from Margaret Barker's book which shows how central the Ascension was to the early Christians. (It also vindicates all those teachers, theologians and hymn-writers in the Anglo-Catholic tradition who have emphasized the Ascension as primarily a celebration of the Lord's high-priestly ministry.)

So, from pages 221 - 222 of The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy:

Only the high priest was permitted to pass through the veil and to stand before the throne or, in the desert tradition, before the ark, and he was only permitted to do this once a year on the Day of Atonement. The words of Leviticus 16:2 could imply that at an earlier period, the high priest had entered more frequently: “Tell your brother Aaron not to come at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is upon the ark, lest he die.” Entering the holy of holies was a terrifying experience, because the LORD appeared to the high priest “in the cloud upon the kapporet”. Before making the blood offering, the high priest took incense into the holy of holies, and this seems to have been a protection for him. “Put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the kapporet which is upon the testimony, lest he die” (Lev. 16:13). In later texts, the high priest carries a “fire pan” in to the holy of holies and places it before the ark. Then he puts the incense on to the charcoal, and fills the holy of hollies with smoke (m. Yoma 5:1). Other texts, however, imply that there was a golden altar, within the veil of the temple. The Letter to the Hebrews is clear; in the holy of holies stood the ark and the golden altar of incense (Heb. 9:3-4). The Hebrew text of 1 Kings 6:20 - 22, however, is not so clear, but could have described a golden altar within the veil. Unfortunately, the line, “He covered with gold the altar that belonged to the holy of holies” (1 Kgs. 6:22) does not appear in the LXX, and the text of v. 20 is disordered. The Vulgate, which is quite clear that there was an altar within the veil, was translated at the end of the fourth century CE by Jerome, who would have known the Letter to the Hebrews and thus would have read the ambiguities of 1 Kings 6:20 in the light of the later Christian text. However the incense was actually offered, the tradition is clear that the high priest needed the incense as protection when he entered the holy of holies, and that the incense used in the holy of holies was a special blend. It was deemed “most holy”, and anyone who used that blend outside the holy of holies was “cut off from his people” (Exod. 30:34-38).

Entering the holy of holies with a cloud of incense is the temple reality that underlies the visions of the human figure entering heaven with clouds or of the LORD appearing in clouds upon the throne. Thus did Isaiah describe his call to prophesy: he saw the LORD enthroned in the temple, between the six-winged seraphim, and the house was filled with smoke (Isa. 6:1 - 4). Daniel saw a human figure “one like a son of man” coming with clouds of heaven to the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13). When Luke described the Ascension he said that Jesus was “lifted up, and a cloud took him” (Acts 1:9). Jesus was passing beyond the veil, beyond the constraints of time and place. The men in white said that he would return in the same way. John introduced the Book of Revelation with the assurance, “He is coming with the clouds” (Rev. 1:7), and John was granted his own vision of the LORD’s return, which he recorded as the Mighty Angel coming from heaven wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head (Rev.10:1). Entering the holy of holies was entering heaven. And so these visions of a human figure going or coming with clouds must be understood in the temple setting of the high priest entering the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement.

Peter’s sermon in Solomon’s Portico shows that this was indeed how the early Church understood the departure of Jesus. He had gone to heaven as the great high priest, and would emerge again at the appointed time, that is, to bring renewal from the presence of the LORD. This is exactly what happened on the Day of Atonement, sin was judged and the earth was then cleansed and healed for the New Year. Hence Peter’s warning: “Repent, that your sins may he blotted out” (Acts 3:19 - 21). What had been ritualized annually in the Day of Atonement was happening in their own times through the self sacrifice of the great high priest Jesus. Jesus had passed through the veil into eternity; he was outside time and matter and so had passed into the eternal present, no longer limited by the particular time and place of first-century Palestine. This is the context, too, of the words in the “high-priestly prayer” in John 17. Jesus knew that he was about to pass through the veil, that he was returning to Day One, i.e. beyond and “before” the creation. Thus: “Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory I had with thee before the world was made” (John 17:5).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

. . . All of which is why we should be still singing these hymns from our own tradition:

Alleluya, sing to Jesus,
His the sceptre, his the throne;
Alleluya, his the triumph,
His the victory alone:
Hark the songs of peaceful Sion
Thunder like a mighty flood;
Jesus, out of every nation,
Hath redeemed us by his Blood.

Alleluya, not as orphans
Are we left in sorrow now;
Alleluya, he is near us,
Faith believes, nor questions how;
Though the cloud from sight received him
When the forty days were o’er,
Shall our hearts forget his promise,
‘I am with you evermore’?

Alleluya, Bread of angels,
Thou on earth our Food, our Stay;
Alleluya, here the sinful
Flee to thee from day to day;
Intercessor, Friend of sinners,
Earth’s Redeemer, plead for me,
Where the songs of all the sinless
Sweep across the crystal sea.

Alleluya, King eternal,
Thee the Lord of lords we own;
Alleluya, born of Mary,
Earth thy footstool, Heaven thy throne:
Thou within the veil hast entered,
Robed in flesh, our great High Priest;
Thou on earth both Priest and Victim
In the Eucharistic Feast.

William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Once, only once, and once for all,
his precious life he gave;
before the cross in faith we fall,
and own it strong to save.

“One offering, single and complete,”
with lips and hearts we say;
but what he never can repeat
he shows forth day by day.

For as the priest of Aaron’s line
within the holiest stood,
and sprinkled all the mercy shrine
with sacrificial blood;

So he, who once atonement wrought,
our Priest of endless power,
presents himself for those he bought
in that dark noontide hour.

His manhood pleads where now it lives
on heaven’s eternal throne,
and where in mystic rite he gives
its presence to his own.

And so we show thy death, O Lord,
till thou again appear,
and feel, when we approach thy board,
we have an altar here.

William Bright (1824-1901)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Now upon the golden altar,
In the midst before the throne,
Incense of his intercession
He is offering for his own.
And on earth at all his altars
His true presence we adore,
And his sacrifice is pleaded,
Yea, till time shall be no more.
Alleluia, Alleluia
To th’incarnate Son of God,
Who, abiding Priest forever,
Still imparts his flesh and blood.

Then, adored in highest Heaven,
We shall see the virgin’s Son,
All creation bowed before him,
Man upon th’eternal throne:
Where, like sound of many waters
In one ever rising flood,
Myriad voices hymn his triumph,
Victim, Priest, incarnate God.
Worthy he all praise and blessing
Who, by dying, death o’ercame;
Glory be to God forever!
Alleluia to the Lamb!

Ernest Edward Dugmore  (1843-1925)

Monday, May 1, 2017

For Mary's Month of May - a Sermon of Fr Ignatius

The image of Our Lady at Capel-y-ffin
at the site of the apparitions in 1880

One of the most amazing figures of the Victorian age was the Rev’d Joseph Leycester Lyne (1837-1908), who as a young deacon served successively Fathers Prynne and Lowder, leaders in the Catholic Revival. He then became known as “Father Ignatius”, a monk-evangelist who sought to restore the religious life in the Church of England. He was a wildly eccentric man and his detractors were (and still are) many. But he was a great evangelist. The “ordinary people” heard him gladly. He drew huge crowds up and down Britain and throughout the USA, preaching mainly in secular buildings, and many responded to the Lord through his ministry. He established a monastery at Capel-y-ffin near Llanthony in the Black Mountains of Wales. It was here that there were apparitions of Our Lady in 1880. It is said that reports of miracles, like controversy, always surrounded him. His order died when he died.

The ruins of his chapel at Capel-y-ffin remain, and many pilgrims, myself included, have found it to be a spiritually powerful and evocative place.

Father Ignatius was a robust Anglican Catholic. But his fans included evangelical protestants as well. Indeed, he was an encourager of those leading the Welsh Revival of 1904. So, it is good to know that there is now an annual pilgrimage to Capel-y-finn which draws Christians of different traditions to honour Ignatius and to seek Our Lady’s prayers. For information on this, click HERE.

Through the first half of the twentieth century, a wide range of Christians liked to sing his best-known devotional hymn:

Let me come closer to thee, Lord Jesus,
Oh, closer day by day;
Let me lean harder on thee, Lord Jesus,
Yes, harder, all the way.

Let me show forth thy beauty, Lord Jesus,
Like sunshine on the hills;
Oh, let my lips pour forth all thy sweetness
In joyous sparkling rills.

Yes, like a channel, precious Lord Jesus,
Make me and let me be;
Keep me and use me daily, Lord Jesus,
For thee, for only thee.

In all my heart and will, O Lord Jesus,
Be altogether king;
Make me a loyal subject, Lord Jesus,
To thee in everything.

Thirsting and hungering for thee, Lord Jesus,
With blessed hunger here.
Longing for New Jerusalem’s fullness-
No thirst, no hunger there.

Gladstone said that Father Ignatius was one of the greatest orators of his day. The leading atheist of the day, Charles Bradlaugh, said that he was the only man whose influence he feared upon his (i.e. Bradlaugh's) followers. Father Ignatius’ motto ‘Jesus Only’ symbolised his simple, direct message.

In his 1933 history of the Catholic revival, Desmond Morse-Boycott, while not overlooking the eccentricities, weaknesses and failures of Father Ignatius, echoes the feeling of many when he says of him and his rocky relationship with the Church of England: 

“A fool like St Francis, a hero like St Benedict, a revivalist like Moody, a lover of souls like General Booth, an ascetic like St Anthony the hermit, an orator as golden as Lacordaire, and as simple as a child, of whom his Church was unworthy. Alas! She is awkward in her handling of saints.”

Last year saw the publication of Hugh Allen’s meticulously researched New Llanthony Abbey: Father Ignatius’s Monastery at Capel-y-ffin which tells the story of the community from its origins in early 1860s East Anglia to its migration to Wales in 1870, its history through the following four decades (including the Apparitions of 1880), and its demise after the death of Father Ignatius. The later history of the monastery is outlined and brought up to date with information about the Father Ignatius Memorial Trust and the continuing appeal of New Llanthony as a place of pilgrimage. To purchase a copy of the book, click on the link to Amazon, or send a cheque for £20 (payable to R.W.H. Allen) to Hugh Allen, 3 St Peter’s Court, Tiverton, Devon EX16 6NZ (price includes postage and packing).

I cannot think of anything better to do at the start of Mary's Month of May than to share with you this sermon of Father Ignatius, preached during a mission at Westminster Town Hall in 1885:


“Mary, the Mother of Jesus.” These few words go right into our hearts, because we are the people of God. Let me say them over again, because there is such a wonderful charm and such a wonderful power in them. “Mary, the Mother of Jesus.” What! Do you believe, and do I believe, that Jesus had a Mother?

Do you believe and do I believe that Jesus has a mother now at this very moment? We do believe it, and, at this very moment, while our blessed Lord Jesus is in our midst, and while we are now enjoying a sense of His presence, we believe that He has a Mother. If He had not we should all be damned for ever. Why?

Because it is the Blood of the Lamb that has saved us and there is no pardon except through the human blood of Jesus. If Jesus had no Mother He would have no blood! What an awful mystery is this!
The greyest-bearded man listening to me now, has a mother either here or in the spirit-world; and most of us love our mothers; most of us love them with a love with which we never loved anyone else.

There is a peculiarity about the love for a mother which there is in no other love. It is nothing like the love of husband towards the wife. It is not the love which we have for a friend, or for any other relation.

The love of a mother is something that seems to be one of the initiatory mysteries of our existence. The very first sensation of our hearts was love for our mothers. We can almost recall the time when we could only just put our arms round our mother’s neck with tenderness giving her the first kiss.

My mother! There is no other relationship that touches the heart like the one expressed by these words! “My mother!” Of course I am not speaking now to those who, unhappily, have had very wicked mothers. Though, even then, there is something in the thought of “my mother” that would make it agonising to think anything that was bad of her.

Do I not recollect, myself, how proud I used to be of my mother? I did not think there was anybody in the world like my mother. And I am sure that is what Jesus thinks about His Mother, with His human heart; for He is very Man as well as very God. And Jesus knows one Being to whom He can look up and say, before the angels, before devils, before men, “ My Mother!”

There is to me, as a man, and as a Christian, a charm that is unutterable in the thought; “Mary, the Mother of Jesus!” Oh! to speak her name is, to me, such a bringing of Jesus to my heart, as man to man. If Mary be His Mother, I can realise that Jesus is my Brother.

He has the flesh and blood and bones of man though He be God of Heaven! “He came down from Heaven, and was Incarnate, by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”

“Mary, the Mother of Jesus!”

Why, if anyone pointed out to me the mother of a very great statesman, or the mother of a very great orator, or philanthropist, I should feel a kind of reverence for the woman for her son’s sake. Supposing, when the Duke of Wellington came back from the wars, during which he had sustained the honour of the British Empire, and in which he had, a thousand times, risked his life, for dear Old England, supposing, when he came back from the last of his wars, that the first person whom he had met was his mother: do you not think that the people would have said: “Look, that is the mother of Wellington”? And they would at once have made way to let the mother pass to her son’s side.

But she was not half so much the mother of Wellington as Mary was the Mother of Jesus. Mary is the Mother of Jesus in a far deeper, intenser sense. Jesus had no human father. Mary was the centre connecting Jesus with humanity. When Jesus thinks of Mary, there His thoughts must rest; for Mary is the beginning and the end of His humanity.

I cannot give utterance to one-millionth part of the feelings, in my own heart, when I think of Mary, the Mother of Jesus’, and it does not seem to me to matter, one single iota, what people say to me about this, for I feel that I have Jesus on my side; and that I have the Father on my side, Who, from all eternity, elected Mary to be the Mother mystic of His Son Incarnate.

The words “Mary, the Mother of Jesus” have a sound that makes me feel quite at home with God, because God, through Mary, became very Man.

Do you not all feel this? Are there any listening to me who think that I am exaggerating? If so, let me just refer them to one verse, in the 1st chapter of St. Luke, and let me ask them to listen to these words. They are in the 35th verse of St. Luke i, and it is a verse the like of which there is not, in all the Bible, for mystery tremendous, for marvel unutterable and ineffable.

“And the angel answered and said unto her. The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

Nazareth was busy in the fields, for it was spring time; the corn was beginning to grow, the birds were singing in the trees, and the farmers and the labourers were hard at work preparing for the planting of the earth; all nature’s toil was going on its way; but, in a little cottage, on the hill, there was a mystery of eternity being enacted between the Archangel of Heaven and the lowly maiden Mary.

No eye but the eye of Mary saw the tremendous glow of the gleaming light, when the Archangel came to her and said: “Hail, thou that art highly favoured,” and told her that she was to be the Mother of the Son of God. Then Mary asked him: “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” And now listen to the Angel’s answer: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest (that is of God the Father) shall overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy Thing Which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

My brethren, “the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee:” that is the Third Person. The Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: that is the First Person. “The Holy One born of thee” is the Second Person. There is the whole Trinity.

How awful, how blasphemous, if it be not true! ls it true? ls it true that Mary became the Mother of Jesus, by this tremendous and overwhelming revelation of mystery and truth? Is there, in existence, a Being who was the Mother of God the Son by the overshadowing of God the Father, and by the conception of the Holy Ghost?

It cannot be true!It is an utter impossibility!

Oh brethren, need I urge any argument to convince my present hearers that really and truly Mary became the Mother of Jesus, the Son of God, by the overshadowing of God the Father, and by the Holy Ghost coming upon her? No, because I know that you all believe it quite as much as I do. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is a mystery; but we do believe in this mystery of the New Testament; it is the foundation of all the other mysteries of Christianity, and they would be nothing but for this. Of course the outside world does not believe it; and a great many in the visible Church do not believe it either.

But if we do not believe in the miracle of the Mother of Christ we cannot not believe in the Divinity and in the Incarnation of Christ, nor in the Atonement of the Cross; for if the Blood that Jesus shed on the Cross was not that of the Son of God, it could not save us any more than any other blood.

We cannot prove it by argument; no logic can prove it; it cannot be proved by any other means than the Holy Ghost convincing the heart of the reality of this awful, and unutterable, mystery.

Of course if there be any individuals here who do not believe this mystery, my words must seem most blasphemous to them.

Can you feel how sweet it is to call Mary the Mother of God? I say I should not be a Christian if I could not believe that she was. What! God have a Mother! Certainly. And yet people, who call themselves Christians, scarcely acknowledge that Mary is the Mother of God.

Mary is not the Mother of God in the way in which my mother is my mother. She is not the mother of the Godhead. Mary is the Mother of the humanity of Him Who was God; of a Divine Person who, though He took human nature upon Him, was still very God. And this is a mystery that all must believe.

May I ask you, first of all, is it not tremendously necessary, in these evil days of rationalism and materialism, that we should be sound on this fundamental doctrine of our holy religion? Is it not necessary that we should know what we believe on this point, and why we believe it? Shall I, because I am afraid of the ridicule of an unbelieving world, say I do not believe that Christ is really God, and that Mary is only the Mother of a Divine person? Shall we say this? No; to settle the matter, we give the title to “Mary, the Mother of Jesus” of “Mother of God.”

And now, my brethren, consider how comfortable it is to be very clear on this point; because, when we are clear on this doctrine of Christ’s Mother, it brings Jesus so very close to us. We see Him, and we realise that He is our High Priest. If this mystery be not true, Christ is either not God or not man. If Mary be not the Mother of God, Christ is not God, and if Mary be not God’s Mother, God has never taken our nature and never redeemed us.

Therefore we cling to the truth that God so loved us that He came down from Heaven, took our nature upon Him, and bought His Church with His Own Blood. He so loved the Church that He gave Himself for it. Oh! my brothers and sisters in Jesus, this truth brings home to me so plainly that Jesus is the “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” It makes me to realise that I may cast all my sorrows on Him, for once He bore our sorrows; once he was “in all points tempted like as we are.”

How could He have been tempted like we are if He had not become “very man?” God could not be tempted. Therefore He came down and was Incarnate, and “was made man,” that He might be able to “be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” When you, yourselves, are nearly overcome with grief, when tears stream down your cheeks, then comes the thought to you that He suffered, that “Jesus wept,” that Jesus was weary! Oh, what calm it brings to the soul to know that He is able “to be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” because He “was in all points tempted like as we are.” It makes life so different to go through it with Him on our side. He once was like us, because He was “very man,” “born of the Virgin Mary.”

My love for the Blessed Virgin is one of the chief things for which I have been persecuted for twenty years, and misrepresented, and for which I have had to suffer a very great deal. I was about to preach a mission in a church, where I should very much have liked to have gone; but, all at once, the clergyman drew back because of my great love for the “Mother of God.”

There are plenty of people in the Church of England who do not believe it right to love her; and if there be any such people here present, may I ask them: Do they think we can grieve our Lord by loving His Mother? Instead of loving her too much, I feel that I cannot love her enough.

Brethren, I ask you quietly to put this question to yourselves: is it pleasing to our Lord that His people’s hearts should dwell with love on the remembrance of His Mother, or is it not? My feeling is that the more we revere the Blessed Virgin Mary the more we please her Son.

If you were to go to Margate Cemetery, at the end of July, where my own darling mother’s mortal remains are lying, till Jesus comes and “the dead in Christ rise first,” you would see her grave covered with beautiful flowers. Pounds and pounds are lavished on my mother’s grave, and this by people who have never seen her, but they have a love for her for my sake; and they will spend money on her grave, for my sake, out of gratitude for what I have done for their souls. And for Jesus’ sake we do honour to the memory of the Mother of Jesus.

It is for Jesus Only that I love the Virgin Mary. She would be no more than any other woman to me if she were not His Mother. Therefore, all the glory that I pay to Mary is for love of her Son; and I am sorry that anybody should think this wrong.

The next point is “praying to the Virgin.”

You ask your wife to pray for you, and you teach your child to pray for you, and in the same way I can understand our asking the prayers of those who are departed. I do not believe in asking the prayers of dead saints; but I never heard of a dead saint! I do not believe in dead saints. I believe that Jesus lives; and because He lives they live also; and that is the reason why we ask their prayers. I believe that they are “alive for evermore.”

The Bible says of the departed, “We are compassed about with a great cloud of witnesses.” While we are “running the race” they are the witnesses looking on. So that when a person speaks of “dead saints” and says that they cannot hear, he has no authority for his assertions from the Word of God.

So, my brethren, I not only believe that it is not wrong, but that it is right, and very helpful, to ask the prayers of my fellow-believers; and you will have to prove to me that the Blessed Virgin is not among the Living “Cloud of Witnesses” before condemning me for asking the prayers of her who is our Lord’s Mother.

If you say: “where are we told in the Bible to give all this honour to the Virgin Mary?” I would answer that if Queen Victoria were to walk into this room now, should I sit still and say: “I am not going to rise, I shall not get up, I am not told anywhere to do so” when I see the Queen? No. I should rise instantly, as an Englishman, because I believe the Queen is the Lord’s Anointed over us in civil matters; and I should wish to show her every honour that I could. I should not require to be told to rise; and therefore all that I want to be told is that Mary is the Mother of Jesus, and nothing else; and I must give her the honour that is her due.

There is the Mother of your Lord; treat her as you please, but, for myself, I say that the more I love my Lord and Saviour the more I shall reverence the Mother, whom “all generations are to call blessed.”

On the Cross Jesus said to His beloved disciple “Behold thy Mother” and in these words He speaks to me, “Behold thy Mother” and therefore I say: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me.”

Do not let prejudice cause us to misunderstand a simple thing like this.

And I ask you, before I conclude, does my love to the Blessed Virgin hinder me from enjoying Christ in His fulness? Do I mix up the mystery of the Virgin with the message of the Gospel to sinners? Certainly not; and I think that the more I love and reverence the Lord’s Mother, the more I realise what her Son is, and the more I long to proclaim what He is to a world that is “dead in trespasses and sins.”

Here are two more photos taken at the monastery built by Father Ignatius. The first shows the ruins of the chapel (with the tomb of Fr Ignatius). The other one is a lovely welcome to those who pass by.

The Father Ignatius Memorial Trust was established in 1966, shortly before the centenary year of the founding of the monastery at Capel-y-ffin. It had the twin objectives of restoring what remained of the ruined church and tomb, and fostering its use as outdoor place of worship. Many volunteers have given their time and energy freely to preserve the structure. Damage caused by lightning and frost, as well as the indifferent quality of some of the original construction has presented severe problems over the years, and many reverses. It is hoped to enable public access once more to the tomb of Father Ignatius. Why not make a donation, or request the next Newsletter of the Father Ignatius Memorial Trust.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Emmaus - Fr Michael Scanlon & Encountering the Lord in the Sacraments

Fr Michael Scanlon T.O.R. (1931-2017), long-time President of Franciscan University, Stubenville, USA, was a significant leader of charismatic renewal in the early days. He visited Australia in 1975, and spoke of the need for renewal in our experience of the sacraments. The following is taken from his article, Meeting Jesus in the Sacraments, published in the October 1975 issue of New Covenant Magazine.

Three things need to happen for there to be a real renewal of sacramental life:

1. The sacraments must be understood as personal contacts with the saving, healing Lord Jesus. We must be able to experience the sacraments not as objective entities but as personal encounters through which Jesus reaches out to us - now saving, now forgiving, now consecrating and blessing, now uniting, now empowering, and now healing.

Unfortunately this original and necessary dimension of personal encounter and response eventually became overlooked in favour of the automatic effect of the sacraments. Rituals evolved to symbolize the specific action of grace in each sacrament to enrich the experiences and communicate the solemnity of what was happening. Today, our personal encounter with the Lord is precisely what is again being recognized and expected.

In a real way, we personally encounter Jesus in each of the sacraments. The model for this meeting appears in the account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They meet Jesus but do not recognize him. They find his presence compelling; they respond, urging him to stay. He explains the Scriptures and their hearts burn within them. And then Jesus presents the sign of the Eucharist. "When he had seated himself with them to eat, he took the bread, pronounced the blessing, then broke the bread and began to distribute it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, whereupon he vanished from their sight" (Luke 24:30-31).

From this incident there emerge some clear lessons on the sacraments. Luke is encouraging Christians to let the Spirit of Jesus reveal the Scriptures to them when they are gathered together. He is also teaching them to recognize Jesus - as did the disciples - in the breaking and distributing of the bread each time they celebrate the Eucharist. As soon as the disciples recognized Jesus in the sign of the bread, he disappeared; in other words, there was no longer a need for his physical presence. Now, knowing Jesus to be present among them, the disciples turn around, return to Jerusalem, and are reunited with their brethren. This is the purpose of all sacraments: to meet Jesus now, under the signs, and through that encounter to be more deeply united with the brethren.

2. The sacraments must be seen as an entering into a renewal and a deepening of the covenant life that God's people have together. Unless the sacraments are understood as establishing and renewing the covenant between God and man, the fulness of the encounter with Jesus will be lost. Jesus comes to his body, his church, and within that context to the individual man or woman. He does not come sacramentally to any person apart from the body. Each sacrament, therefore, is a call to respond, to go deeper and more specifically into our covenant with God.

Through Baptism, Jesus invited us into the solemn new covenant with God to become the new people of God. As the church developed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, this initiation found its completion in Confirmation - a baptism with "spirit and fire" and empowering to witness to the new covenant. In the Eucharist we celebrate the new covenant, opening our lives to the Spirit and deepening the covenant relationship. Penance enables us to be reconciled to the people of God by letting us repent of infidelity to the covenant. In Matrimony and Orders, special covenant relationships are established both to function within the people of God and to symbolize the broader covenant with God. Finally, we celebrate the nature of covenant as a healing, reconciling, life-giving relationship through the power of the Anointing of the Sick.

3. The priest and the people must expect the Lord to work powerfully in each sacramental action. While it is important to understand the sacraments rightly as encounters and covenant celebrations, it is equally important to approach them expecting the Lord to act powerfully in them here and now. It is a matter of lively, expectant faith. It is again reaching out to touch the hem of Jesus' garment saying, "If only I do, I will be healed." And since the community members call forth this faith from one another, the ministers too must expect that power will go forth from them. The more the sacramental words and actions truly represent a powerful Jesus and a living covenant relationship, the more expectant the faith will be.

It is time to renew the sacraments in their roots of power . . . to incorporate the good in current theology and liturgical practice into the overwhelming truth that Jesus the Lord is solemnly present to us in a saving way in each sacrament. Jesus is given as the Father's sacrament for us. We can meet him in every sacrament.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Marcus Loane on Luke 24 (the Road to Emmaus)

One of the loveliest things about Eastertide is to hear Luke 24 read in church - the account of the Risen Jesus appearing to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, whose hearts "burned within them" as he explained the Scriptures, and who eventually recognised him "in the breaking of the bread."

Among my treasured books is Marcus Loane's "Life Through the Cross", published in 1966, the year the author became [Anglican] Archbishop of Sydney. Sir Marcus died in 2009 aged 97, having continued to minister to the glory of God throughout his long retirement. He did not set out to write an "original" commentary, or to break new ground in Biblical scholarship; his sole purpose in "Life Through the Cross" was to beckon the gaze of his readers to the Man of Sorrows who died for our salvation and rose to share his victory with us.

As always, Sir Marcus did it so movingly. A "literary hack" like me is reduced to wonder just by the rolling beauty of his turn of phrase. He was an artist who painted with the English language, a real wordsmith, precise and poetic at the same time. I loved hearing him preach. Indeed, I remember - as if it were yesterday - the sermon he gave at my Confirmation in 1964. An old-fashioned evangelical and evangelist, his dislike of Anglo-Catholicism failed to diminish his very real fellowship with and respect for those individual Anglo-Catholics he felt loved the Lord and preached the Gospel. He was, for example, a friend and admirer of Archbishop Philip Strong.

I share with you today, from "Life Through the Cross", Sir Marcus' reflection on Luke 24:

Luke proceeds with a brief reference to the speech that followed: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."' Cleopas must have remembered the words in which the Lord began with a clarity which time could not diminish, but he could not quote in detail all that ensued. It is enough to know the drift of that conversation; the journey was sweetened by a fascinating exposition of all that the prophets had spoken. The Son of Man had been saturated with the knowledge and the teaching of the Scriptures; He was at home in its language and its spirit as no other had ever been. He could quote from the law and the prophets with an insight and an application which amazed His hearers, and the last words He had uttered before He bowed His head to die had been words of Scripture. He had felt no hesitation in His reference to the words of prophecy and in His claim that they were now fulfilled before men's eyes (Luke 4:21). But there is no record apart from this momentous occasion of a sustained exposition of all that the Scriptures taught with regard to Him Who was the Christ. It was for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that He took the key of David and set out to unlock all the Messianic teaching in the Old Testament Revelation. He did for them what He was soon to do for their companions who were still in Jerusalem: "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day" (Luke 24:45, 46).

"He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." There were many fingers of a prophetic character which all pointed forward to the Christ that should come. He was the seed destined to crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15; 1 John 3:8); He was the lamb God would provide as substitute and sacrifice (Genesis 22:8; John 1:29). He was the true Paschal victim whose blood would be shed for many (Exodus 12:13; Matthew 26:28); He was the great High Priest who would enter into the holy of holies once and for all (Leviticus 16:2; Hebrews 9:12). He was like the smitten rock from which there sprang a stream of living water (Numbers 20:11; John 7:38); He was like the brazen serpent that was lifted up for life and healing (Numbers 21:9; John 3:14). He was that star out of Jacob which shone as the herald of a new day (Numbers 24:17; Revelation 22:16); He was that great prophet whom God promised to raise up like unto Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22). The Psalms had told how He would come to do the will of God (Psalm 40:7, 8; Hebrews 10: 7), and how the nails would pierce His hands and feet (Psalm 22:16; Matthew 27:35). The Prophecy of Isaiah had made it clear that He would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:17), and that He would be led like a lamb to the place of slaughter (Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32). It was through Him that a fountain would be opened for sin and uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1; 1 John 1:7); it was in Him that the sun of righteousness would arise with healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78). He was prefigured in the symbolic character of things like the pillar of cloud by day and the column of fire by night, the blood of sprinkling and smoke of sacrifice, the seamless veil and mercy seat; He was foreshadowed in the personal history of men such as Joseph and David, Jonah and Jeremiah, Daniel and Mordecai. There were indeed countless signposts to show that Christ was in all the Scriptures and that He was no other than Jesus of Nazareth.

This fact was so significant that it formed part of the apostolic witness from the outset: "Let all the house of Israel know that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). The Son of Man had been impregnable in His appeal to the testimony of the Scriptures; they were the rock on which He had taken His stand against all the storms of controversy. "Ye search the Scriptures," He said for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me: And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life" (John 5:39, 40). They sat in Moses' seat, yet they did not believe Him of Whom Moses wrote: "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me," He said; "for he wrote of me" (John 5:46). Men who knew the letter of the Law had no real insight into its truth, and could make no reply to His devastating criticism. Had they never read what Moses wrote? (Mark 12:26). Had they never read what David did? (Mark 2:25). Nothing is so final as the statement which He ascribed in parable to Abraham: "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them" (Luke 16:29). But there was a plausible argument which was meant to turn the edge of these words: men would be more likely to repent if one were to visit them from the dead. Then He declared in words of absolute finality: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:31). Thus a solemn appeal to the Scriptures bears out the claims of truth with the most far-reaching authority: "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43).

Thus a seeming stranger to the course of events in those days at Jerusalem passed from Moses to Malachi as He talked with them by the way and "opened . . . their understanding" (Luke 24:45) in the Scriptures. He showed them how the law and the prophets had all foretold that the Christ would suffer before He could conquer; then He showed them how all that they foretold had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.

- Life Through The Cross, M.L. Loane, 1966, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pages 240-242

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The road to Emmaus and the New Testament reinterpretation of the Old Testament

And he said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

One of the textbooks I thoroughly enjoyed in my student days, and to which I have returned many times, is An Introduction to the Theology of the New Testament (SCM Press, 1969 ed.) by Alan Richardson (1905-75), Dean of York, Professor of Christian Theology in the University of Nottingham and Canon of Durham Cathedral.

There are some truly memorable passages in this book, and it deserves to be better known among today’s theological students. One such passage occurs in the first chapter ("Faith and Hearing") in which Richardson explains his assumptions with regard to how the New Testament uses the Old Testament. Richardson asks the question, "Whose idea was it to reinterpret the Old Testament idea of redemption in this way?" He writes:

. . . Many . . . details . . . elaborate this basic conception of Jesus as himself the New Israel who accomplishes and brings to its conclusion the role which the Old Israel essayed but did not complete. Where the Old Israel had failed, the New Israel conquered. The Scriptures were fulfilled; the story of redemption was concluded. 

Since the rise of modern biblical scholarship the question has been asked, Who first thought of this way of setting forth the significance of the historical life of Jesus? 

Every conceivable kind of answer has been given. It could not have been the Evangelists who first thought of it, because St Paul knew it long before St Mark’s Gospel was written. It could hardly have been St Paul, if we may trust the evidence which he himself supplies, including, of course, his own protestations of loyalty to the Gospel which he had received. Could it, then, have been the community at large, the Church into which St Paul “was baptized?” Some scholars have assumed that the early Christian community collectively worked out the theology of Christ as the fulfilment of the Scriptures. Such a conclusion, however, is not convincing, because communities do not think out such brilliant reconstructions as this uniquely original reinterpretation of the OT plan of salvation. 

There must have been some profoundly original mind which started the whole development on its course. Are we to assume that some creative thinker, whose name and whose memory have perished, is the genius behind the NT theology? Such a conclusion would indeed be an argumentum ex silentio.   

There remains only one other possibility: the mind behind the NT reinterpretation of the OT theology of redemption was that of Jesus himself. Could any solution be more probable? It was the Lord himself who first suggested, as much by his deeds (signs) as by his words, the fundamental lines of the theology of the NT. 

One gains the impression from reading the Gospels that the disciples were slow to understand what Jesus was trying to teach them during his historical ministry (e.g. Mark 4:40f.; 6:51f; 8:16-21; 9:32, etc.; cf. Luke 24:25; John 14:9, etc.), and that it was not until after the crucifixion and resurrection that the clues which he had left with them began to shape in their minds a coherent pattern. After the resurrection of Jesus they themselves were conscious that they were being guided by the Spirit of the living Lord into all the truth concerning him (John 16:12-15); the things which the historical Jesus had said to them were now brought vividly to their remembrance through the activity of the Holy Spirit in their midst, and now they understood their inner meaning (John 14:26). 

This is the hypothesis upon which the argument of this volume is based, and it is our contention that it makes better sense of the NT evidence than does any other; its validity will be attested by its success or failure as a foundation for a coherent and soundly historical account of the theology of the apostolic Church.

Alan Richardson, An Introduction to the Theology of the New Testament (SCM Press, 1969 ed.), pages 22 to 23.

Chesterton on the Lord's Resurrection

G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936), philosopher, commentator and Christian apologist suggests in The Everlasting Man (1925) how news of the Lord’s resurrection might have been construed as it filtered through to Rome: 

The members of some Eastern sect or secret society or other seemed to have made a scene somewhere; nobody could imagine why. One incident occurred once or twice again and began to arouse irritation out of proportion to its insignificance. It was not exactly what these provincials said; though of course it sounded queer enough. 

They seemed to be saying that God was dead and that they themselves had seen him die. This might be one of the many manias produced by the despair of the age; only they did not seem particularly despairing. They seemed quite unnaturally joyful about it, and gave the reason that the death of God had allowed them to eat him and drink his blood. 

According to other accounts God was not exactly dead after all; there trailed through the bewildered imagination some sort of fantastic procession of the funeral of God, at which the sun turned black, but which ended with the dead omnipotence breaking out of the tomb and rising again like the sun. 
pp. 295-6 

And this, from the same book, a piece on Easter Sunday as the first day of the new creation: 

They took the body down from the cross and one of the few rich men among the first Christians obtained permission to bury it in a rock tomb in his garden; the Romans setting a military guard lest there should be some riot and attempt to recover the body. There was once more a natural symbolism in these natural proceedings; it was well that the tomb should be sealed with all the secrecy of ancient eastern sepulchre and guarded by the authority of the Caesars. 

For in that second cavern the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried. It was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages. In the great Roman phrase, they had lived. But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead. 

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.