Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hannah Phillips on how ordaining women changed the nature of the Church

The February 2013 issue of New Directions came out today, and a good issue it is! New Directions is the monthly journal of Forward in Faith, and always contains a range of thoughtful articles to inspire and resource orthodox Anglicans at this difficult time. (I was privileged to write its monthly “Letter From Australia” from 1999 to 2005.) That the journal continues to be published is a tribute to a succession of fine editors, editorial committee members and writers. The current editor is Fr Philip Corbett SSC, Priest Librarian and Chaplain at Pusey House, Oxford. 

The lead story in this month’s New Directions is Hanna Phillips’ explanation of why she is unable to support the ordination of women. It is reproduced below.

The entire issue can be read or downloaded HERE.

Many years ago when a vote was passed to ordain female priests, I was a teenager. The news had little impact in my convent school, except for Father wandering around muttering under his breath as to how this would change the nature of the Church. Now, I understand what that poor priest (in a school full of girls) was muttering under his breath. The nature of the Church changed on that day and continues to be manipulated by a secular philosophy.

No longer is being a ‘woman’ or ‘mother’ seen as being something to desire. In fact most of the time it is portrayed as someone failing to reach their full potential. This is not the image that God desired when he sent an Angel to an innocent girl and gave her the gift of carrying the Messiah. Echoed in that acclamation from Elizabeth, ‘Hail Mary, full of Grace’, is the message that this was a great and wonderful vocation from God. Mary both chose to accept this immense gift, but also bore with strength the sacrifices that came with it.

The Holy Mother has embodied the feminine characteristics that help to make the Gospels the powerful scriptures they are. The gift of the Messiah, born of a woman, was a boy. The maleness of Christ is essential to the narratives in the Bible. The significance of the two genders being different and complementary is written throughout the Bible, first of all as the People of Israel (God’s chosen people) being portrayed as a loved wife. The imagery is then carried on as the Church itself being the Bride of Christ and is therefore evident in the writing of our Liturgy.

To propose, even for a moment, that our omnipotent God had not known the implications of the impact of creating these roles, is to underestimate him. Should he have chosen to have reversed the parts of the sexes I am sure he could have done so, with success. Therefore the view of secular culture encounters a stumbling block, when advocating an apparently gender-neutral view of roles. The two genders are different and God created us to be so. It is generally considered that a female athlete would not compete against a male one, as she acknowledges she has no chance of success. This however does not in any way diminish the fact that she is a great athlete. So in the matter of Holy Orders, I believe that men and women were chosen for different roles within the Church. Saying that a woman cannot be a priest is not in any way undermining her value as a person, called to fullness of ministry in Baptism. Nor does it make her unequal in the eyes of God. ‘We are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal. 3.28), without all being/doing the same things.

The eventual consequence of this concept of equality is actually that we should have to rewrite the entire basis on which the Church operates. The Bible and the Liturgy are all intrinsically based on Father and Son being male. Already there is a requirement in some places to replace gender-specific words. The Lord’s Prayer itself, with words given by Jesus, would need to change. Making these alterations to the language we were given by God fundamentally changes the overall message we were given. To replace every reference to man and woman with gender neutral words would alter our perception of the narratives, therefore distorting the identity of the Holy Trinity and the message of the Gospels. Irreversibly broken When we admitted women into Holy Orders we began to change the course of our future as a Church. When Jesus made the decision to appoint twelve male Apostles, he established a line of apostolic succession. In admitting women to Holy Orders we interrupted this line of succession that God appointed, through Christ. However, there is a small corner of the Church that has preserved the apostolic succession. For me and others in my tradition, admitting women to the Episcopate, with no provision for extended oversight, means that our connection with the line of apostolic succession is irreversibly broken.

Recently I have had suggestions that I believe the theology I do either because I am angry at them having the choice, that I am jealous of female priests, that I have been brainwashed by men, or simply that I hate women. The latter in particular would involve me hating myself, and nothing could be further from the truth. I am completely at peace with the life I have and feel called to. It does not feel like I have not reached my potential as every day I teach, make peace, nurture and bring up the future of the Church. I have the time to enjoy my children and have more than enough to do sharing my knowledge of the Church and of God with them. I had the choice to explore ordination, long before it would ever have occurred to me. I chose not to follow that path. In doing so I hope to teach my daughter that there is something to be celebrated in being a mother, that it is not something in which you can fail to reach your potential, as society seems to imply, but a mysterious and glorious gift from God.

What I am angered by, however, is the insistence that women have a right to be bishops. No one, not even a man, has a right to it. It is a calling from God, that should be approached humbly. Those who desire the post are most obviously the ones who should not receive it. I see women in the news saying ‘I want’ with the expectation that they will just get because society in some way owes them. It concerns me that we give our daughters the idea that in order to be something you have to be like a man. It also gives them this notion that society owes them some form of automatic promotion just because they are a woman and therefore at a disadvantage.

The other result of this has been the example of democracy we have given our children. When the vote goes your way by just two votes, it is fine and the Holy Spirit is working. However, if it goes against the loudest voice by six votes, the system is broken and the Holy Spirit is not present. What kind of message does that give to the future of the Church?

Most of all I am frustrated at the lack of understanding of traditional Anglo-Catholic theology and the readiness of people to jump to the conclusions as to why it is practised. My beliefs have been well thought out as you have seen above. There have been many sacrifices in my life in order to follow traditional Church values, some of them on other issues than this. Still I believe those sacrifices have been worth paying. To assume I have a vendetta against women is to disregard years of discernment. All I ask is that you take time to understand what it is I and many others believe to be the truth of the Church. It is not something you need to accept, but respecting that it is a valid theology (one that is not rooted in misogyny) would be a start.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"It is all I have now left me . . . a power to forgive" (Charles, King & Martyr)

Today marks the 364th anniversary of the beheading of King Charles I (1600–1649). Go HERE for a previous blog entry about his martyrdom. In the light of yesterday’s post (on forgiveness), I share with you this passage from the last letter Charles wrote to his son:

It is all I have now left me, 
a power to forgive those that have deprived me of all; 
and thank God I have a heart to do it, 
and joy as much in this grace, which God hath given me, 
as in all my former enjoyments; 
for this is a greater argument of God’s love to me 
than any prosperity can be. 
Be confident (as I am) 
that the most of all sides, who have done amiss, 
have done so, not out of malice, 
but misinformation, or misapprehension of things.
. . . 
Farewell, till we meet, if not on earth, yet in Heaven.

And, courtesy of the Society of King Charles the Martyr, here is the well known hymn by Dorothy Frances Gurney, 1858 -1932, usually sung to the tune Redhead No. 76(English Hymnal 477):

Royal Charles, who chose to die
Rather than the Faith deny,
Forfeiting his kingly pride
For the sake of Jesu’s Bride;
Lovingly his praise we sing,
England’s martyr, England’s king. 

Mirror fair of courtesy,
Flower of wedded chastity,
Humble follower day by day,
Of the Church’s holy way;
Lovingly his praise we sing,
England’s martyr, England’s King.

All the way of death he trod
For the glory of his God,
And his dying dignity
Made a bright Epiphany;
Lovingly his praise we sing,
England’s martyr, England’s king.

Bless we God the Three in One,
For all faithful ’neath the sun,
For the faithful gone before,
And for those our country bore,
Chiefly him whose praise we sing,
England’s martyr, England’s King.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Power of Forgiveness

I have already shared with you a number of insights from Father Henri J.M. Nouwen (1932-1996). He was a Dutch-born Roman Catholic priest and writer who helped many people of different backgrounds and traditions to understand how walking with God can make a real difference to our lives. His books include The Wounded Healer, In the Name of Jesus, Clowning in Rome, The Life of the Beloved and The Way of the Heart. After nearly two decades of teaching at the Menninger Foundation Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, and at the University of Notre Dame, Yale University and Harvard University, he went to work with mentally challenged people at the L’Arche community of Daybreak in Toronto, Canada. One of his most famous works is Inner Voice of Love - A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom, his diary from December 1987 to June 1988 during one of his most serious bouts with clinical depression. 

It is possible to sign up to the Henri Nouwen Society and receive a short paragraph from his works every day in your email. Go HERE.

I am sure that these passages on forgiveness will be a blessing to many of you. They are from Fr Nouwen’s book Bread for the Journey: 

Community is not possible without the willingness to forgive one another “seventy-seven times” (see Matthew 18:22). Forgiveness is the cement of community life. Forgiveness holds us together through good and bad times, and it allows us to grow in mutual love.

But what is there to forgive or to ask forgiveness for? As people who have hearts that long for perfect love, we have to forgive one another for not being able to give or receive that perfect love in our everyday lives. Our many needs constantly interfere with our desire to be there for the other unconditionally. Our love is always limited by spoken or unspoken conditions. What needs to be forgiven? We need to forgive one another for not being God! 

There are two sides to forgiveness: giving and receiving. Although at first sight giving seems to be harder, it often appears that we are not able to offer forgiveness to others because we have not been able fully to receive it. Only as people who have accepted forgiveness can we find the inner freedom to give it. Why is receiving forgiveness so difficult? It is very hard to say, “Without your forgiveness I am still bound to what happened between us. Only you can set me free.” That requires not only a confession that we have hurt somebody but also the humility to acknowledge our dependency on others. Only when we can receive forgiveness can we give it. 

To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, “I no longer hold your offense against you” But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the “offended one.” As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God. 

How can we forgive those who do not want to be forgiven? Our deepest desire is that the forgiveness we offer will be received. This mutuality between giving and receiving is what creates peace and harmony. But if our condition for giving forgiveness is that it will be received, we seldom will forgive! Forgiving the other is first and foremost an inner movement. It is an act that removes anger, bitterness, and the desire for revenge from our hearts and helps us to reclaim our human dignity. We cannot force those we want to forgive into accepting our forgiveness. They might not be able or willing do so. They may not even know or feel that they have wounded us.

The only people we can really change are ourselves. Forgiving others is first and foremost healing our own hearts.

We are all wounded people. Who wounds us? Often those whom we love and those who love us. When we feel rejected, abandoned, abused, manipulated, or violated, it is mostly by people very close to us: our parents, our friends, our spouses, our lovers, our children, our neighbors, our teachers, our pastors. Those who love us wound us too. That’s the tragedy of our lives. This is what makes forgiveness from the heart so difficult. It is precisely our hearts that are wounded. We cry out, “You, who I expected to be there for me, you have abandoned me. How can I ever forgive you for that?”

Forgiveness often seems impossible, but nothing is impossible for God. The God who lives within us will give us the grace to go beyond our wounded selves and say, “In the Name of God you are forgiven.” Let’s pray for that grace. 

Forgiving does not mean forgetting. When we forgive a person, the memory of the wound might stay with us for a long time, even throughout our lives. Sometimes we carry the memory in our bodies as a visible sign. But forgiveness changes the way we remember. It converts the curse into a blessing. When we forgive our parents for their divorce, our children for their lack of attention, our friends for their unfaithfulness in crisis, our doctors for their ill advice, we no longer have to experience ourselves as the victims of events we had no control over.

Forgiveness allows us to claim our own power and not let these events destroy us; it enables them to become events that deepen the wisdom of our hearts. Forgiveness indeed heals memories.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Angelic Doctor's Day

St Thomas Aquinas, painted by Carlo Crivelli in 1476 (in the National Gallery, London) Although St Thomas is often shown with a sun on his chest (a symbol of sacred learning), and a pen, in Crivelli ‘s painting he has a book instead. St Thomas is holding a church with chipped masonry and plants growing out of the brickwork. But its spire has been repaired.

In the middle of the thirteenth century, the aristocratic Aquinas family from Southern Italy had an ambitious plan for their son’s future. Thomas, born in 1225, received his initial education at the Abbey of Monte Cassino, which had been founded by St. Benedict. Thomas’ parents knew he was focused on God, so they intended to use their influence to have him made Abbot of Monte Cassino, a position, they thought, fitting for the son of so noble a family.

First, however, Thomas needed to complete his studies, and his father sent him to the University of Naples. It was there that he came acrosss members of the new, dynamic and unconventional order known as the Dominicans or Order of Preachers. They inspired him greatly, and much to the disappointment of his parents, Thomas, joined them. He grew quickly in holiness and the knowledge of God, being nurtured by St Albert the Great who was one of his teachers. Eventually, Thomas became professor of Sacred Theology at the University of Paris at the same time as Bonaventure, who belonged to the Fransciscan order. 

Thomas died in 1274. He is recognised as a Doctor of the Church and as one of the most influential Christian teachers of all time, believing that all truth is from God, and that we should seek its integration. His teaching had a strong influence on the Counci of Trent. Known primarily for his philosophical writing in his multi volume “Summa”,  he also wrote commentaries on various books of the Bible. Yet in his time he was chiefly known as a man of prayer who deeply loved the Lord Jesus, and followed him. Indeed, he had famously written, “Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.” It is said that even Thomas’ philosophical study was drenched with prayer, and that this enabled him to discern what was wheat and what was chaff in the ideas of his time, and then integrate the wheat into the Christian tradition. In particular, he showed how much of the thinking of the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, could be beneficial in the presentation of Christian theology, although his approach had its opponents.

Thomas died in 1274 while en route to the Ecumenical Council of Lyons. We celebrate his feast today.

There is something more to be shared if we are to really grasp the kind of person Thomas Aquinas was. He had filled tens of thousands of pages with words about God, significant words and arguments that would light the way for many thousands of enquirers down through the centuries. Yet, before his death, he entered into what some call “his remarkable silence.” This has caused speculation as to whether he might have had a stroke;  most, however, believe that he had a vision of God’s glory and love which transcended even the very best of what could be written about him. Fr Robert Barron Writes: 

“In Naples, on the feat of St Nicholas, December 6, 1273, Thomas was, according to his custom, celebrating Mass in the presence of his friend, Reginald. Something extraordinary happened during that Mass, for afterward Thomas broke the routine that had been his for the previous twenty years. According to one source, he ‘hung up his instruments of writing,’ refusing to work, to dictate, to write. When his socius encouraged him to continue, Thomas replied very simply that he could not. Afraid that his master had perhaps become mentally unbalanced, the younger man persisted until Thomas, with a mixture of impatience and resignation, finally replied, ‘Reginald, I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me . . .’”

Here is Gerard Manley Hopkins’ translation of St Thomas Aquinas’ poem to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament:  ADORO TE DEVOTE

Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.

On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what thy bosom ran---
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory’s sight. Amen.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Revamped online presence of the English flying bishops

In the centre, today's newly consecrated Bishop of Beverley (the Rt Rev'd Glyn Webster), flanked by (L) the Bishop of Ebbsfleet (the Rt Rev'd Jonathan Baker) and (R) the Bishop of Richborough (the Rt Rev'd Norman Banks). 

So much misrepresentation is made regarding the “A,B & C” parishes (and others) who look for ministry to the Provincial Episcopal Visitors (“PEV’s” or “flying bshops”). This provision came about nearly twenty years ago in the Church of England as a legal right for those women and men of the Church who in the absence of proper Catholic consent are unable to affirm the ordination or women to the priesthood and episcopate. Clearly in the mind of the liberal establishment it was meant to be a kind of palliative care for our constituency until we die out . . . which they thought would happen fairly quickly. To the astonishment of many, the suffragan “sees” of Ebbsfleet, Richborough and Beverley, together with the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Fullham in London, Southwark and Rochester dioceses, have grown and flourished, and are producing a new generation of young ordinands. 

This, of course, makes some of the more extreme liberals white hot with rage, which is why they insisted that the legislation for women bishops include the abolition of the “A, B & C” resolutions by which parishes come under the ministry of the PEV’s.  

Thank the Lord for the growing number of truly liberal Church of England people who themselves approve of the ordination of women but who in the name of fairness are now demanding proper provision for those unable to accept the innovations of the day. When you think about it, liberal parts of the Anglican world are morally obliged to make such provision by the “theology of reception” that has been officially embraced by the Communion. 

There are many currents of renewal (catholic and evangelical alike) within the Anglican world. In the Church of England, the ecclesial reality constituted by our people is one of these.

Just today in York Minster, the new Bishop of Beverley was consecrated. The Minster was packed, and there was great rejoicing among the people.

I notice that the websites of the three suffragan sees have had a makeover (and when Bishop Jonathan Baker moves to Fullham in a couple of months time, I'm sure there will be a revived Fullham website).

It’s worth having a look at the sites, and especially the sermon preached by Bishop David Hope at today’s consecration.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Limited Free Access to Theological Journals through JSTOR

Those who look at theological journals but live a long way from libraries that enable free access (or find it difficult to pay the fee to access them online) will be interested to know that JSTOR’s archives of more than 1,200 journals is now open for limited free access. 

Anyone can sign up for a JSTOR account and read up to three articles for free every two weeks. You can read more about it HERE or register with JSTOR HERE.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Pope John Paul II preaching in Canterbury Cathedral, 1982

In most countries today marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. When I was young it seemed that so much was being achieved to bring Christians together. There had always been pockets of believers across the traditions - lay, religious and ordained - who yearned for the unity in truth we share through faith and Baptism to be made visible in this world. They understood that our DISunity dishonours God, and makes the Gospel less credible to those we are trying to reach for the Lord.

Momentum for Christian Unity grew from the last decades of the 19th century and reached something of a springtime in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the aftermath of Vatican II. The “New Movements” in the Church as well as the growth of communion ecclesiology - which undergirds both the Vatican II documents and the ARCIC documents - were felt to be evidence of the Holy Spirit at work to create the unity for which we prayed.

It was a honeymoon time for those who shared the great vision. I myself was privileged to be involved at a number of different levels.

For some time, however, we have been said said to be back in an “ecumenical winter.” There are contrary movements among Christians. And there are new polarities and divisions within as well as between the churches. After such a promising beginning, for example, ARCIC, the Anglican-Roman Catholic ecumenical journey, has slowed right down, chiefly, it has to be said, due to the creation of NEW obstacles on the Anglican side that were not present when serious talks began in the late 1960’s.

But it is inconceivable that a prayer prayed by the Lord Jesus will go unanswered! So, while not presuming to criticise those who for reasons of conscience move from one ecclesial body to another - for one thing,  in their own way they actually contribute to a growth of understanding among Christians -, we continue to pray and work for renewal and unity, not now expecting to see it in our lifetime - a matter of huge grief for those of my generation -, but doing our bit while believing in the grace of God and the moving of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of the people of God.

We need to remain focused on that goal when making decisions within our own churches, as well as when we relate to other churches, not JUST for the sake of unity, but so that the world might believe.

For Anglicans, one of the great "unity occasions" was the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Canterbury Cathedral on the eve of Pentecost 1982, when he and Archbishop Runcie signed a Common Declaration committing our churches to working and praying towards full ecclesial reunion.

So, I share with you today the homily Pope John Paul preached in Canterbury Cathedral at that service. (I'm don't think I'm alone in saying that it evokes a sense of the expectancy of those days, as well as real grief at what has happened since . . . but it ought to spur us on in faithfulness to the Lord): 

The passage which has just been read is taken from John and contains the words of Jesus Christ on the eve of his Passion. While he was at supper with his disciples, he prayed: ‘That they may all be one’ even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me’ (Jn 17:21).

These words are marked in a particular way by the Paschal Mystery of our Saviour, by his Passion, death and Resurrection. Though pronounced once only, they endure throughout all generations. Christ prays unceasingly for the unity of his Church, because he loves her with the same love with which he loved the apostles and disciples who were with him at the Last Supper. ‘I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word’ (Jn 17:20). Christ reveals a divine perspective in which the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are present. Present also is the most profound mystery of the Church: the unity in love which exists between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit penetrates to the heart of the people whom God has chosen to be his own, and is the source of their unity.

Christ’s words resound in a special way today in this hallowed Cathedral which recalls the figure of the great missionary Saint Augustine whom Pope Gregory the Great sent forth so that through his words the sons and daughters of England might believe in Christ.

Dear brethren, all of us have become particularly sensitive to these words of the priestly prayer of Christ. The Church of our time is the Church which participates in a particular way in the prayer of Christ for unity and which seeks the ways of unity, obedient to the Spirit who speaks in the words of the Lord. We desire to be obedient, especially today, on this historic day which centuries and generations have awaited. We desire to be obedient to him whom Christ calls the Spirit of truth.

On the feast of Pentecost last year Catholics and Anglicans joined with Orthodox and Protestants, both in Rome and in Constantinople, in commemorating the First Council of Constantinople by professing their common faith in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life. Once again on this vigil of the great feast of Pentecost, we are gathered in prayer to implore our heavenly Father to pour out anew the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, upon his Church. For it is the Church which, in the words of that Council’s Creed, we profess to be the work par excellence of the Holy Spirit when we say ‘we believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church’.

Today’s Gospel passages have called attention in particular to two aspects of the gift of the Holy Spirit which Jesus invoked upon his disciples: he is the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of unity. On the first Pentecost day, the Holy Spirit descended on that small band of disciples to confirm them in the truth of God’s salvation to the world through the death and Resurrection of his Son, and to unite them into the one Body of Christ, which is the Church. Thus we know that when we pray ‘that all may be one’ as Jesus and his Father are one, it is precisely in order that ‘the world may believe’ and by his faith be saved (cf. Jn 17:21). For our faith can be none other than the faith of Pentecost, the faith in which the Apostles were confirmed by the Spirit of truth. We believe that the Risen Lord has authority to save us from sin and the powers of darkness. We believe, too, that we are called to ‘become one body, one spirit in Christ’ (Eucharistic Prayer III).

In a few moments we shall renew our baptismal vows together. We intend to perform this ritual, which we share in common as Anglicans and Catholics and other Christians, as a clear testimony to the one sacrament of Baptism by which we have been joined to Christ. At the same time we are humbly mindful that the faith of the Church to which we appeal is not without the marks of our separation. Together we shall renew our renunciation of sin in order to make it clear that we believe that Jesus Christ has overcome the powerful hold of Satan upon ‘the world’ (Jn 14:17). We shall profess anew our intention to turn away from all that is evil and to turn towards God who is the author of all that is good and the source of all that is holy. As we again make our profession of faith in the triune God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - we find great hope in the promise of Jesus: ‘The Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you’ (Jn 14:26). Christ’s promise gives us confidence in the power of this same Holy Spirit to heal the divisions introduced into the Church in the course of the centuries since that first Pentecost day. In this way the renewal of our baptismal vows will become a pledge to do all in our power to co-operate with the grace of the Holy Spirit, who alone can lead us to the day when we will profess the fullness of our faith together.

We can be confident in addressing our prayer for unity to the Holy Spirit today, for according to Christ’s promise the Spirit, the Counsellor, will be with us for ever (cf. Jn 14:16). It was with confidence that Archbishop Fisher made bold to visit Pope John XXIII at the time of the Second Vatican Council, and that Archbishops Ramsey and Coggan came to visit Pope Paul VI. It is with no less confidence that I have responded to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to be with you today at Canterbury.

My dear brothers and sisters of the Anglican Communion, ‘whom I love and long for’ (Phil. 4: 1), how happy I am to be able to speak directly to you today in this great Cathedral! The building itself is an eloquent witness both to our long years of common inheritance and to the sad years of division that followed. Beneath this roof Saint Thomas Becket suffered martyrdom. Here too we recall Augustine and Dunstan and Anselm and all those monks who gave such diligent service in this church. The great events of salvation history are retold in the ancient stained glass windows above us. And we have venerated here the manuscript of the Gospels sent from Rome to Canterbury thirteen hundred years ago. Encouraged by the witness of so many who have professed their faith in Jesus Christ through the centuries often at the cost of their own lives - a sacrifice which even today is asked of not a few, as the new chapel we shall visit reminds us - I appeal to you in this holy place, all my fellow Christians, and especially the members of the Church of England and the members of the Anglican Communion throughout the world, to accept the commitment to which Archbishop Runcie and I pledge ourselves anew before you today. This commitment is that of praying and working for reconciliation and ecclesial unity according to the mind and heart of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

On this first visit of a Pope to Canterbury, I come to you in love - the love of Peter to whom the Lord said, ‘I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren’ (Lk. 22:32). I come to you also in the love of Gregory, who sent Saint Augustine to this place to give the Lord’s flock a shepherd’s care (cf. 1 Pt. 5:2). Just as every minister of the Gospel must do, so today I echo the words of the Master: ‘I am among you as one who serves’ (Lk. 22:27). With me I bring to you, beloved brothers and sisters of the Anglican Communion, the hopes and the desires, the prayers and good will of all who are united with the Church of Rome, which from earliest times was said to ‘preside in love’ (Ignatius, Ad Rom., Proem.).

In a few moments Archbishop Runcie will join me in signing a Common Declaration, in which we give recognition to the steps we have already taken along the path of unity, and state the plans we propose and the hopes we entertain for the next stage of our common pilgrimage. And yet these hopes and plans will come to nothing if our striving for unity is not rooted in our union with God; for Jesus said, ‘In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him’ (Jn 14:20-1). This love of God is poured out upon us in the person of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth and of unity. Let us open ourselves to his powerful love, as we pray that, speaking the truth in love, we may all grow up in every way into him who is the head, into our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Eph. 4:15). May the dialogue we have begun lead us to the day of full restoration of unity in faith and love.

On the eve of his Passion, Jesus told his disciples: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments’ (Jn 14:15). We have felt compelled to come together here today in obedience to the great commandment. the commandment of love. We wish to embrace it in its entirety, to live by it completely, and to experience the power of this commandment in conformity with the words of the Master: ‘I pray the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you’ (Jn 14:16-7).

Love grows by means of truth, and truth draws near to man by means of love. Mindful of this, I lift up to the Lord this prayer: 

0 Christ, may all that is part of today’s encounter 
be born of the Spirit of truth 
and be made fruitful through love.
Behold before us: the past and the future!
Behold before us: the desires of so many hearts!
You, who are the Lord of history 
and the Lord of human hearts, 
be with us! 
Christ Jesus, eternal Son of God, 
be with us! Amen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Lord's Baptism . . . Metropolitan Anthony

From the Sourozh web site:

The day of the Epiphany is the day when the whole world is being renewed and becomes a partaker of the saintliness of God. But at the same time, it is the day when Christ enters on the way to Calvary.

He came to John the Baptist on Jordan, not in order to be cleansed, because he was pure of sin, both as God and in the humanity made pure throughout the history of Israel by those ancestors who had given their lives to God and whose saintliness culminated in the all-purity of the Mother of God, so pure, so stainless that She could be brought into the Holy of Holies, into which even the High Priest dared not come except once a year, and only after a special sanctification.

Christ did not need cleansing. But these waters, into which all the sinners who had come to John the Baptist confessing the evil of their lives had washed themselves, were as it were heavy with the sinfulness and therefore the mortality of mankind. They had become waters of death, and it is in these waters that the Lord Jesus Christ merges Himself on that day, taking upon Himself the mortality resulting from the sin of man.

He comes, immortal in His humanity and His divinity, and at the same time He vests Himself with the mortality of the sinful world. This is the beginning of the way to Calvary. This is a day when we marvel at the infinite love of God. But as on every other occasion, man had to participate completely in the ways of salvation which God had provided. And this is why Christ comes and becomes partaker of our mortality, to save us. The culminating point will come on Calvary when He will say, ‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?’ It will be a moment when God as He was in His humanity will have lost communion with the Father by partaking of the destiny of mankind. This is the ultimate act of divine love.

Let us therefore today wonder and marvel, and worship this love of God, and learn from Him; because He said in the Gospel, ‘I have given you an example. Follow it.’ We are called, within the limits of our sinfulness and humanity, to carry one another’s burdens, unto life and unto death. Let us learn from this. We find it so difficult to carry the burdens even of those whom we love; and practically impossible to shoulder the burdens of those whom we do not love with a natural, direct tenderness. Let us learn, because otherwise we will not have learned the first lesson which Christ gives us when He enters upon His ministry. Amen.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jesus Sings

Many times from the 1970’s onward I have taught the amazing truth that the Lord Jesus comes to church with us, and that from “the midst of the congregation” he praises the Father. Of course, this is connected with the fact that “Christian prayer” is NOT in the first instance the prayer of Christians at all . . . “Christian prayer” is the prayer of JESUS, the movement of love between him and the Father, to which we are joined by the Holy Spirit. WE become part of the prayer of Jesus, because the Church is his Body. We are swept up into the movement of his self-offering. (Go HERE for a short presentation of this teaching.)

Along the same lines, I share with you today an article by Tony Reinke, a former journalist who is now a theological researcher, writer, and blogger for John Piper’s Desiring God ministry. Piper and Reinke are from a Baptist/ Reformed background, demonstrating how similar concepts are sometimes - surprisingly - shared by Christians of very different traditions, indicating the wider purpose of God in drawing us closer together. 

If Scripture didn’t say it, I wouldn’t either. But it’s true. In four places in Scripture we read that Jesus, the Son of God himself, raised his voice in worship.1

Which is immediately confusing on one level. It's not that there's anything wrong with singing, just that I imagine our Savior much better suited as the silent recipient of adoration and worship (Revelation 5:6–14). But he also sings. And the only way to understand why Jesus sings is to briefly walk through all four passages (here split into three categories).

First, Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26 are two parallel texts picturing Jesus “singing a song of praise.”

Both passages are brief. We read that Jesus sang a hymn with the disciples at the conclusion of the Lord’s Supper. It was just before he set out to pray on the Mount of Olives. In their fellowship, Jesus lifted up his voice and sang a hymn, a customary finale to a Passover meal together. And that’s it. The biblical writers have little more to say about it.

Very likely this song was some portion of Psalm 114–118, and very likely it was sung antiphonally, meaning Jesus led the men by singing a line, and the disciples responded by singing a “Hallelujah.” Back and forth they responsively marched through a psalm in song.2 Given the profoundly messianic lyrics, and the timing of the meal, I imagine it was a memorable evening of sober theological reflection.

But most of the details about the song and how they sung it are left unsaid.

Jesus sang. We know that much.

Second, Hebrews 2:12 pictures Jesus “singing a song of praise.”

In this next passage we find a New Testament writer quoting a line from a rich messianic psalm, Psalm 22:22. The psalm seems to be used to illustrate the solidarity of the incarnate Christ and believers.

Apparently embedded in Christ's incarnation is his commitment to participate in community worship. And if this is true, it helps to explain his commitment to local synagogues during his ministry. But this may also help explain why Jesus sings with his disciples. At the Lord’s Supper, he raised his voice in worship of his Father, and by this he actively engaged in the disciples’ humanity. He shared their life, participating in their human experience (Hebrews 2:14).

He sang to make possible his unique, substitutionary work on the cross. Christ was not ashamed to stand beside us. He was not ashamed to become our brother (Hebrews 2:11). What inconceivable mercy that he was not ashamed to suffer and die for us! His participation with humanity qualifies him to suffer as our punitive and substitutionary sacrifice (Hebrews 2:10).

Jesus, as the perfect worshipper, sang hymns to the Father. As we will see in a moment, he continues to sing hymns to the Father. But here we need to see that Jesus sang because he is our Brother.

Third, Romans 15:9 pictures Jesus singing and playing an instrument, fulfilling the role as the Church’s chief worship leader.

In this final text, the Apostle Paul also cites from the Old Testament a line from David and his psalm of thanksgiving (Psalm 18:49). But in the Old Testament language we discover a singer engaged in more than a solo. Here the singing includes an instrument, and David takes a role similar to that of a worship leader. Again, a corporate theme emerges here.

Of course any Jewish worship leader could lead the Jewish nation in worship. But this worship leader has set his sights on something larger, on leading worship among all the Gentile nations. This worship leader will not sing in spite of the Gentiles, but he will sing among the Gentiles.

Paul is speaking about Christ by his reference to Psalm 18:49. The resurrected Christ is a victor and has taken his place as a global worship leader. “According to Paul’s citation, the risen Messiah confesses and praises the divine name among the Gentiles, bringing them salvation,” writes Mark Seifrid, a Bible scholar. “Behind and before the single mouth by which believing Jews and Gentiles glorify God (Romans 15:6) is the mouth of the Messiah, who makes known the name of God to them (Romans 15:9).”3

So Christ fulfills a two-directional ministry as our mediator:

Jesus mediates our relationship with God (God-to-man).
Jesus mediates all our worship of God (man-to-God).
This twofold mediating work of Christ is inseparable.

God is worshipped around the globe as a result of the all-sufficient work of the resurrected Christ. In this way, Jesus is the Perfect Worshipper of his Father. And from heaven he fulfills the role of Chief Worship Leader of the global church.

Behind the corporate worship in our local church, and behind the global worship of the nations, is our mediator, our Brother, the Perfect Worshipper, and our perfect Worship Leader. We are united to Christ, and in him all our worship is brought together into one global choir to the praise of the Father.4

Jesus sang.

Jesus still sings.

Can you hear him?

1 For the technical exegesis behind this conclusion see Vern Sheridan Poythress, "Ezra 3, Union With Christ, And Exclusive Psalmody" Westminster Theological Journal, 37/1 (Fall 1974), 73–94.

2 D. A. Carson, "Matthew," The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Zondervan, 1984), 8:539.

3 In G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Baker Academic, 2007), 689.

4 The concluding summary paragraphs are largely developed from the writings of John Calvin, Edmond Clowney, and from Reggie Kidd’s book, With One Voice: Discovering Christ's Song in Our Worship (Baker, 2005).

Friday, January 11, 2013

The sins of shame and envy (from Father Stephen's blog)

One of the emails I look forward to each week is from Father Stephen Freeman, a priest of the Orthodox Church in America. He serves as the Rector of St Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Father Stephen is the author of numerous published articles and the book, Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe. He is also the author of the popular podcast, Glory to God, on Ancient Faith Radio.

I was so moved by this week's message on the sins of shame and envy, that I want to share it with you. Go HERE to visit Father Stephen's blog and to sign up to his email list.

Several years back I stumbled on a book about the sin of envy. I was struck by what I read and realized that I had never heard a sermon on the topic (nor preached one). Though a number of the Fathers cite envy as the first and greatest sin, it never seemed to come up as a spiritual topic. I also realized that it was almost never mentioned in confession. A strange sin – perhaps the greatest and yet held in secret.

Over the course of the last year, a number of things have introduced me to the topic of shame. I have explored its role in my own life and become far more aware of its almost ubiquitous presence in our culture. It is recorded as the first human response to sin – they hid themselves. However, I again noted that I had rarely heard the subject discussed and did not find it to be a topic that arose in confession. A strange emotion – perhaps the oldest human emotion – universal – and almost never discussed.

There are some obvious reasons (and some not so obvious) for the hiddenness of shame and envy. Shame, as an emotion, was overlooked (or reinterpreted) for a long time within the community of psychotherapy. How Freud and others handled its expression is outside the scope of this piece – but it did not make their list of primary concerns. More recent work in psychology has brought greater attention to the topic – with a resulting growth in published material and therapeutic techniques geared towards understanding and treating toxic shame.

Envy’s neglect is less explainable. Pride seems to have pushed it aside. A number of Fathers list pride as the dominant and “original” sin (unlike those who list envy). Our modern culture, for whatever reason, has focused more on pride as an inner issue. The promethean image of Milton’s Lucifer, who would “rather rule in hell than serve in heaven,” has been seen as the quintessential image of pride. Modern man’s push for ever greater mastery over himself and his world are seen by some as rooted in pride and a Luciferian rebellion. However, I think envy is the far more prevalent sin – and far more destructive of both individuals and those envied by them. The New Testament cites envy as the motive behind Christ’s crucifixion (Matt. 27:18).

Shame, by its very nature, tends to be secret. Shame is defined as the sense that there is something wrong with me (rather than that I have done something wrong). Guilt is the term used to describe feelings that what we have done is wrong – whereas shame is far deeper. Mere embarrassment does not rise to the level of shame. For some, there is an almost ever-present sense of shame, a feeling of unworthiness and abandonment that gives rise to a range of destructive behaviors. It is generally understood that shame is a feeling that human beings cannot endure. It is either resolved or quickly changed into more bearable forms (depression and anger – sometimes rage being the most common). Displacing shame by blaming others is another survival strategy.

The feeling of shame provokes a desire to hide. A small child will cover their face with their hands (or otherwise hide their face) or quickly adopt a mask of disinterest or anger to keep shame at bay. Some simply cry. As a male authority figure (with a dark, strange cassock and a long beard), I am used to small children sometimes responding with a “shamed” expression. A parent suddenly presents a small child to me, who is overwhelmed (and thus shamed). Rather than smiling and responding warmly, they burst into tears (sometimes rather inconsolably). It’s disconcerting for all concerned!

I have thought a great deal about the dynamic of hiddenness and revelation that characterizes much of Orthodox liturgical piety. The hiddenness of a mystery, protects us and allows us to cautiously bring our shame into a more open position. Forms of liturgy (and non-liturgy) that boldly announce God and democratize the worship experience never get beyond shallow expressions. Their construction exists to avoid what must stay hidden (or it reveals them inappropriately and asks for them to be revealed in ways that are dangerous and destructive). The drama of the liturgy is both a theological reality and a spiritual balm. The Tradition has a wisdom about the deepest aspects of our humanity and treats them rightly and with respect.

The secrecy of confession is a tool that accompanies the liturgical life. It is a place where the shame that we normally avoid can be dared – and often healed with exposure to the light. But the light is soft enough (when wielded by a good confessor – or one with enough sense to say nothing) not to injure us.

Over the past year, as I noted earlier, I’ve seen how far-reaching the power of shame can be in people’s lives. It is a frequent source of anger; it drives perfectionism; it creates anxiety and panic; it encourages blame and falsely accuses the self; it is the origin of rage. Because it is secret, and generally unbearable, it is often forgotten, hidden within painful memories. The healing of such a thing is a slow work, requiring safety and love. Ideally, the Church should be such a community but very rarely is. Sometimes the local parish is a place where shame is created and nurtured – a spiritually toxic dumping ground.

Interestingly, it is noted in the literature that even discussing shame can cause shame (so I apologize). Shame can go “viral.” There are those awful moments from time to time – a child’s recital when a piano passage is forgotten – the child feels shame and frustration and everyone in attendance shares the shame. Our faces flush, we look everywhere but at the child.

These are profound and deep parts of our lives – again very seldom discussed or recognized. A sizable portion of our behavior and emotions come out of these difficult places. Knowing this should give us pause in our conversations. Am I speaking from the heart or simply displacing shame into some other form? I am convinced that the larger part of our arguments (including religious arguments) are ultimately driven by displaced shame.

Envy (not to forget the topic) is also disguised in our lives. Envy is more than a desire for what someone else has (that would be mere covetousness). Envy wants the other to suffer loss and simply be deprived. In the so-called “politics of envy,” decisions are made to tax the wealthy (for example) regardless of the actual benefit to the state. The recent increase in taxation of the wealthy in France (to 75%), did nothing to address that nation’s financial crisis. It simply attacked a convenient target.

The Scriptures often describe envy as the “evil eye” (ophthalmos poneros). It has a a destructive capacity almost beyond calculation. The passions of various modern revolutions have often been grounded in envy. Unable to achieve a reasonable and prosperous society, revolutions turn with envy towards destruction. The end is mere destruction – not fairness – not equality – just destruction.

Modern cultures have almost no means for addressing shame. A school full of children are murdered (an act of envy) and we rightly feel shame – national shame. But the discussion quickly movements to anger, depression and argument. The shame remains unaddressed and unhealed – a toxic source of our continuing modern malaise.

But these are “secret” sins. The spiritual life will make little progress and growth so long as such secret sins remain unnamed and unhealed. The journey from the shame of Adam and Eve and the envy of the devil into the truth and the light of Christ is the true path of salvation. It is the road less traveled.

A Christian ending to our lives, without shame or fear before the dread judgment seat of Christ, may the good Lord grant to us.