Friday, October 30, 2009

Little Flower Quote of the Day




Saint Therese recounts in her Story of A Soul some incidents from her early childhood, the accounts of which were preserved for her in letters of her mother. In a letter of 5 December, 1875, her mother, Zelie Guerin, writes of the young Therese:

"Baby is a little imp; she'll kiss me and at the same time wish me to die. 'Oh, how I wish you would die, dear little Mother!' When I scold her, she answers: 'It is because I want you to go to heaven, and you say we must die to get there!' She wishes the same for her Father in her outbursts of affection for him."

Traditional Psalters Now on Amazon

Just today I learned that the Liber Psalmorum, ie., the Latin Psalter, as well as the English/Latin Psalter, are now available at Amazon.

The Book of Psalms in English & Latin is a softcover, 6 X 9. And the Liber Psalmorum (Latin Psalms-English Preface) is a very handy 4.25 X 6.875, softcover. Each is also available as downloads.

You can buy them at either of two places:

1. At my storefront at Lulu.com,

2. And also now at Amazon.com.

My next project will be a traditional English only Psalter, in the Coverdale version. It will be about the same size as the Liber Psalmorum. Then it will be on to other things that are simmering on the back burners.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Little Flower Quote of the Day



(Saint Therese of Lisieux is often called the Little Flower.)

"It seems to me that if a little flower could speak, it would tell simply what God has done for it without trying to hide its blessings. It would not say, under the pretext of a false humility, it is not beautiful or without perfume, that the sun has taken away its splendor and the storm has broken its stem when it knows that all this is untrue. The flower about to tell her story rejoices at having to publish the totally gratuitous gifts of Jesus. She knows that nothing in herself was capable of attracting the divine glances, and His mercy alone brought about everything that is good in her." -Story of a Soul, ch 1

A Thought or Two in Defense of Eucharistic Adoration

Recently Paul McCain, an executive at Concordia Publishing House, published at his blog a compilation of Confessional and other Lutheran quotations on the Lord’s Supper. Such a thing is generally a useful and worthy resource, and I for one appreciate it. At the same time, I would take issue with a point or two raised there. You might wonder, how could I take issue with something that is merely a list of quotations from the Lutheran fathers? Good question. The answer is hidden in the subtle reality that even a seemingly objective thing as a list of quotations can be presented in a subjective or editorialized manner. The history of photographic journalism has proven to be a deceptively subjective medium, which can give different messages, based on such factors as lighting, angle, what is left out of the shot, and even the caption, or “copy.” Likewise, some of the same types of factors, as well as others, can influence the way in which quotations are employed. The above, to be sure, are general observations, not a critique of McCain’s catalogue of quotations in particular. Overall, his collection is a very good and straight forward epitome of the Lutheran position.


My critique has to do with just one small part of McCain’s catalogue, namely, the part under the heading of “Adoration of the Visible Element Repudiated.” The various headings in his compilation might be thought of as theses, and under that light the quotations under each heading might viewed as proof texts for the thesis, so that McCain would posit the thesis that the Lutheran Confessions repudiate the adoration of the visible element. This thesis is true enough. What is offered as proof for this thesis? We see three passages from the Formula of Concord, to wit:


(Quote 1) FC Ep VII.40 – “We reject and condemn … that the external visible elements of bread and wine in the holy sacrament should be adored.” Tappert, 486.


(Quote 2) FC SD VII.15 – “For they do not maintain that the body of Christ is present apart from the use, as when the bread is laid aside or reserved in the tabernacle or carried about and exposed in procession, as happens in the papacy.” Tappert, 572


(Quote 3) FC SD VII.126 – “We reject and condemn … the teaching that the elements (the visible forms of the blessed bread and wine) are to be adored. Of course, no one except an Arian heretic can or will deny that Christ himself, true God and man, who is truly and essentially present in the Supper when it is rightly used, should be adored in spirit and in truth in all places but especially where his community is assembled.” Tappert, 591.

The first quotation above directly pertains to the thesis, and its import is that in the Sacrament it is not the bread as such that we worship, for it is the work of men’s hands, and is comprised of created elements.

The second quotation, reproduced above, has nothing at all to do with the thesis at hand. It is in fact a passage that is often misused as a word against adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of the Mass, or even against the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament per se, depending on various interpretations of the usus, or “use,” of the Sacrament. In fact, adoration, both in the heart and by means of the body, which Christians render to the Blessed Sacrament, is commendable, appropriate, even proper and praiseworthy, especially when we consider what the Sacrament is. It is the true Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The catechism tells us a couple of other facts, which are wrongfully cited by some as reasons against adoration of the Sacrament: 1. that Christ’s Body and Blood are under bread and wine, 2. and that this Sacrament is given to us to eat and drink. That Christ gives His Body in the Sacrament for us to eat in no way means that it is wrong for Christians to approach so noble a Sacrament with reverence, and to worship Him where they recognize Him. In doing so, we follow the example of the wise men from the East. And the fact that Christ’s Body is given under bread does not mean we need to worry about the prospect of adoring mere created things. I have learned that there are some (and I don’t bring it up to necessarily condemn them, or personally attack them) who seemingly out of a well intentioned desire to be precise will refer to what we eat in the Sacrament as the “bread/body,” and so forth. The danger is that one will be unable to bring himself to look at the consecrated bread in the priest’s hand and with Luther and all the saints say that it is the very body, the very flesh, of Christ.

Some people may recognize the presence of Christ’s true Body and Blood in the Sacrament, but will not worship Him in the Sacrament because of a subtle, and flawed, Christological way of thinking. Namely, Christ’s Body, that is, His humanity, much like bread, is a created thing, and therefore ought not be worshipped. Or at best it is worshipped by coincidence, by association, with a sort of hyperdoulia, or bond service. Martin Chemnitz brilliantly corrects this view in the twenty ninth chapter of his book, De Duabus Naturis in Christo. There he argues at length, in ways I don’t have space to reproduce here, that Christ is indeed properly adored in both His human and divine natures, and not as though He were adored twice, but with one adoration, for the natures in Christ are distinct yet inseparably united in one Person, and they share in a complete communication of attributes. He writes, for example:

“Christ’s human nature through the personal union and the exaltation or glorification has been raised above every name, so that He has all creatures in subjection under His feet as His dominion and realm. And since He has received all power in heaven and on earth, Christ therefore rules powerfully over all, but especially as the Head of the Church (Eph. 1), not only by the divine but also by His assumed nature, with the differences of the natures and the exaltation of the human nature unimpaired.”

In the course of this argument he provides valuable testimony from the ancients, such as the following, and as you ponder these, consider the Eucharistic implications:

“The prophet says that the earthly element which the Lord Jesus took on in His assumption of the flesh is to be worshipped, and thus by the figure of the footstool this earthly element is understood, and by this earthly element we understand the flesh of Christ which even today we adore in our service and which the apostles, as we have explained, adored in the Lord Jesus.” -Ambrose, De Spiritu Sancto, Bk 3, ch 11

“Do not think that in Christ there is only the humanity or only the deity. But believe faithfully in both and humbly worship both.” –Leo, Sermo 46 de Quadregesima

“Christ according to His human nature received this honor that every knee should bow before Him.” –Cyril, Dialogus VI

The third quotation provided by McCain (see above), actually supports the physical adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. As Chemnitz writes: “no one except an Arian heretic can or will deny that Christ himself, true God and man, who is truly and essentially present in the Supper when it is rightly used, should be adored in spirit and in truth in all places but especially where his community is assembled.”

To be sure, these reflections do not amount to an attack on any one person. I have merely used an unfortunate flaw in the manner in which McCain assembled his collection of quotations as a jumping off point for a consideration of the evangelical and catholic, ie., the Lutheran, understanding of the praiseworthy practice of worshipping and adoring our Lord Jesus Christ, truly and personally present in the Blessed and venerable Sacrament of the Altar. And I would leave the reader with just one more quotation from one of the great teachers of the Church. This is a prayer, by Saint Bonaventure, the great doctor of the thirteenth century, which I encourage you to use at Mass, in your worship of Christ present on the altar, after you have received Communion, or after the service before you leave the pew. I also suggest praying this on your knees.

Pierce, O most sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the most joyous and healthful wound of Thy love, with true, serene, and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with love and longing for Thee, that it may yearn for Thee and faint for Thy courts, and long to be dissolved and to be with Thee.

Grant that my soul may hunger after Thee, the bread of angels, the refreshment of holy souls, our daily and supersubstantial bread, having all sweetness and savor and every delight of taste.

Let my heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, upon whom the angels desire to look, and may my most inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of Thy savor.

May it thirst after Thee, the fountain of life, the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the richness of the house of God.

May it ever compass Thee, seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, attain Thee, meditate upon Thee speak of Thee, and do all things to the praise and glory of Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, and with perseverance unto the end.

May Thou alone be ever my hope, my entire assurance, my riches, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my fragrance, my sweet savor, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession and my treasure, in whom may my mind and my heart be fixed and firm and rooted immovably hence forth and forever. Amen.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Therese of Lisieux on God's Grace

Lutherans are generally not accustomed to discussions of St. Therese of Lisieux, nor do they tend to know much about her. She far postdates the Reformation, and lived her whole short life, after childhood, in the seclusion of a Carmelite monastery in rural nineteenth century France, and so she does not have a natural place on the radar of conventional Lutheran thought. Since I am not a conventional Lutheran, allow me to break with convention. Father Wilhelm Loehe in the nineteenth century was wise enough and spiritually insightful enough to recognize that it is possible, even profitable, for Lutherans to include non-Lutherans in their devotion, so that in his martyrology he could include such people as St. Theresa of Avila, a Spanish Carmelite mystic of the sixteenth century. Likewise, I suggest that today we would do well to consider the life and sufferings of another Carmelite, Therese of Lisieux, who called herself Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. Her life and way of thought inspired in the last century the French writer Georges Bernanos to write his brilliant novel, The Diary of a Country Priest, the protagonist of which is in some important ways modeled after Therese. When I get time, there is much I would like to say on that book. More importantly, Therese herself deserves to be introduced to Lutheran circles, so I will devote some blog space for that purpose.

For now, let me share some juicy bits from her autobiography, Story of a Soul, which I find myself again reading lately. I'm thinking I might share some of it here, bit by bit, in Weedon fashion.

At the beginning of her writing, she admits her perplexity that God would give so much grace to someone as unworthy as her. In considering this, she writes:

"Then opening the Holy Gospels my eyes fell on these words: 'And going up a mountain, he called to him men of his own choosing, and they came to him.' This is the mystery of my vocation, my whole life, and especially the mystery of the privileges Jesus showered on my soul. He does not call those who are worthy but those whom He pleases or as St. Paul says: God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will show pity to whom he will show pity. So then there is question not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God showing mercy."

Back by Way of Evanescence

I've been unable to blog lately, but as a way of getting myself back into a blogging groove, I thought I'd share something with those in the audience who are not averse to rock music. Since we're now within a few days of Halloween, perhaps something on the slightly "goth" side is appropriate. One of my favorite bands is Evanescence, especially in terms of its first album. The following is one of those songs, which in one sense appears to be about a lost or forbidden love. Aside from the marital love of my life, my great passion in life is Theology, and so this song reminds me of that relationship. Click here for a live performance, and I warn you that it is almost always a bad idea to read the comments on youtube. Cheers.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Chalcedonian Council Opens

On this day in 451, a mere one thousand, five hundred, and fifty eight years ago, the Council of Chalcedon opened, and lasted several weeks, ending on the first of November. I don't recall many celebrations in the year 2001, which would have been a very fitting year in which to mark the anniversary of this great ecumenical council. Nevertheless, whenever this date comes around each year, Christians everywhere, certainly of those churches that confess a Chalcedonian Christology, ought to use this as a teaching moment, and an occasion for celebration. For the major business that kept the bishops busy those many days in the mid fourth century town of Chalcedon, a city which eventually became swallowed up into the great city we now call Istanbul, was one of the final Christological controversies left to be resolved.

It often happens that when one error is corrected, another one surfaces on the opposite side of the spectrum. The Council of Ephesus in 431 took on the Nestorian heresy, which despite the intentions of its advocates, had divorced Christ's two natures so crassly as to effectively leave Him with a duality of persons. One of the more famous implications of this mode of thinking was that it was impossible for a Nestorian to call Mary the "Mother of God." A mere twenty years after Ephesus the opposite problem had to be addressed, viz., that of monophysitism, its chief advocate being Eutyches. Under this heresy, Christ's natures are not merely united in one hypostasis, but blended into one nature.

The Church's Christology is beautifully rounded out with the clarification of Chalcedon. Ironically, one cannot really discuss this council without mention of a man who was absent, and yet was a key player. This is of course Saint Leo the Great. Pope Leo did not attend, but sent a few representatives instead, and with them a few letters, amongst which was the so called Letter to Flavian, the archbishop of Constantinople. This letter became known as Saint Leo's Tome, and effectively guided the debate. The Letter has both a Latin and a Greek history, and exists in many translations today. The one with which I am most familiar is from the old 19th century vintage Nicene & Post Nicene Fathers series, which is even online now, probably in many different places on the web. Here is one such source. If you can, take a moment to read it over today. This is our Leonine, and Chalcedonian heritage.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

on Saint Jerome

It is a significant step forward for modern American Lutheranism that Saint Jerome now has a place in the liturgical life of the Missouri Synod. How much of a place is another question. But at least he is mentioned in the new worship books, and merits a bio on the LCMS web site. So I am very grateful for these developments. For Jerome was a holy priest, and is a great doctor of the Church. Counted, in fact, as one of the four great Doctors of the Latin Church, he has an immortal place, or should, in our study and spirituality. I myself find not only his writings, and of course his translating work to be of great value, but also his life to be very instructive. He was a man who knew what it was to wrestle with the Old Adam, and to find his comfort in Christ.

I commend to the reader the magisterial biography by J.N.D. Kelly. And I commend to your devotion this homily by Father Larry Beane.

Now a quick note or two of gentle criticism. First, The LCMS seems embarrassed to call Jerome a "priest," and opts instead for the innovative designation, "Translator of Holy Scripture." Second, The writer or committee responsible for this bio has Jerome's birth in 345. In doing so, he/it indeed is in line with much of popular literature on St. Jerome, such as Justo Gonzalas' Story of Christianity. Books of that sort tend to place his birth in the mid to late 340s. I, however, side with a much earlier dating of Jerome's birth. Kelly devotes a whole excursus, a veritable chapter of its own, to this very question, and argues for the year 331. I find his argument convincing. But each student of church history, will, of course, come to his own conclusion.