Saturday, January 28, 2012

an answer to an enemy of the sacraments

Traditions are rooted in Scripture The Journal Gazette Fort Wayne, IN

The link above will take you to an article I wrote for the Fort Wayne newspaper when I stilled lived there.  It was after my unpleasantness with the bureaucrats but before I finally decided to move back to Milwaukee.  In other words, it was an interesting time.  I was without "direction" in life; had no "plan."  One thing I knew, however, was that I couldn't pass up a chance to engage a raving Protestant in the public square.  I just about forgot about this article until I came across a link to it today.  If I could do that article over again, I definitely would.  It was my first attempt at such a form, and unfortunately that's quite obvious.  Also, the title was imposed by the paper editor.  It's an awful title, but she didn't like mine, I guess.  Anyway, there it is, for what it's worth.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sherwood Anderson on New Orleans

Spend even a short time experiencing the unique culture of New Orleans, as I did a couple years back, and you begin to appreciate what those who live there know in the core of their being, that it has an intangible quality which makes it conducive to the arts, and to an artistic view of life.  In 1922 the great writer and friend of William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, articulated this truth in his own way, in an essay aimed at encouraging other artists to come to New Orleans.  I came across it recently, and thought I would share it here.  Cheers.

I address these fellows.  I want to tell them of long quiet walks to be taken on the levee in back-of-town, where old ships, retired from service, thrust their masts up into the evening sky.  On the streets here the crowds have a more leisurely stride...I stick to my pronouncement that culture means first of all the enjoyment of life, leisure and a sense of leisure.  It means time for a play of the imagination over the facts of life, it means time and vitality to be serious about really serious things and a background of joy in life in which to refresh the tired spirits.
In a civilization where the fact becomes dominant, submerging the imaginative life, you will have what is dominant in the cities of Pittsburgh and Chicago today. 
When the fact is made secondary to the desire to live, to love, and to understand life, it may be that we will have in more American cities a charm of place such as one finds in the older parts of New Orleans now.

Monday, January 16, 2012

a liturgical irony

It is very common in Lutheran churches for the Gospel reading in the Mass to be read exclusively by an ordained priest, whether he be the pastor or some other priest.  This is well-intentioned, and is, in the grand scheme, a positive tendency.  I could comment on how making the Gospel reading the exclusive domain of the presbyterate is an inadvertent rejection of the office of deacon, hallowed as it is by millennia of churchly practice, but that is not the point of the present observation.  Instead, and I don't say this against any particular pastor or church, but against an odd way of thinking that seems endemic in modern Missouri, I find an interesting irony.  Namely, this rule is kept even in many of the places where lay preaching routinely occurs, such as seminary field education parishes and seminary vicarage parishes. 

To be clear, I do not mean to imply that lay folk ought to read the Gospel in the Mass.  They should not.  Neither should they preach, though that also must be another discussion.  My point is that I find it funny, and ironic, that we let these guys preach, but we don't let them read the Gospel.  It is somehow inappropriate for them to read the Gospel upon which they will preach.  Are you picking up on the queerness of this line of thinking?  It's perfectly okay for a layman to publicly preach if he is deemed by the synodical apparatus to be an acceptable exception to what we claim in the Confessions, yet the reading of the Gospel is sacrosanct, the sole domain of the pastor.  The question is, if a seminarian can be assigned preaching duty in the Mass, as they routinely are in the vicarage year, why is he kept from reading the Gospel?  Why is reading the Gospel considered more important than preaching?

I will argue against seminarian preaching on another occasion.  Here I just wanted to highlight a particularly odd example of what I would call inconsistent thinking.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

a surprise gift

Last night a six-pack of Lakefront Beer was left at the back door of my apartment.  It didn't have a note on it, but was clearly left right at my door, so while I was curious about it, I did the only natural thing, and put it in my fridge.  I even drank one last night.  Right now, as I watch one of my favorite movies (Into Great Silence) I am drinking another one. 

Just a few minutes ago, there was a knock at my kitchen door.  It was my landlord.  We had a chat on various matters, and then I said, Say, I found a six-pack at the door.  He was like, Oh, that's for you.  It's your favorite beer, right?  I said, Yes, it is.  Thanks.

I have a kind friend for a landlord, and for this I am thankful.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

fleshly perception vs perception of Christ's flesh

One of the scripture texts cited by the deniers of Christ's real presence in the Holy Sacrament is the fifth chapter of Saint Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, where he speaks of the fact that it is not Christian to regard others, even Christ, in terms of the flesh. 

Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.


But what is Paul really driving at in this passage?  And who are the ones truly guilty of viewing matters from a fleshly point of view?  As it turns out, these questions, and Luther's answer, are manifestly relevant in our Protestant Gnostic world.  So I share what Luther says on this in his Great Confession.

It is well to understand that he does not refer here to Christ's personal flesh, as this spirit foolishly imagines, for that remains Christ's flesh in eternity and all the angels will recognize him in it eternally.  But just as we regard our brothers in a spiritual, no longer a fleshly manner, so much the less do we regard Christ in a fleshly manner.  Formerly, he means to say, when we were holy in Judaism and in the works of the law-which the false apostles are once again promoting-we knew nothing spiritually about Christ, but what we sought was merely fleshly.  For "we had hoped that he would redeem Israel," Luke 24, and would regard our holiness and glorify us according to the flesh.  This was really to know Christ according to the flesh-a real fleshly perception.  But all this has now passed away and died with him.  We no longer regard him so, for all this has vanished and we are entirely a new creation in Christ.  This interpretation is given you by Paul himself; just read and examine the text rightly.

Now, all who regard and know Christ from a fleshly point of view are inevitably offended at him, as was the case with the Jews.  For since flesh and blood thinks no further than it sees and feels, and since it sees that Christ was crucified as a mortal man, it inevitably says, "This is the end; neither life nor salvation is to be found here; he is gone; he can help no one; he himself is lost."  But he who is not offended at him must rise above the flesh and be raised by the Word so that he may perceive in the Spirit how Christ precisely through his suffering and death has attained true life and glory.  And whoever does this properly, whoever is able to do it, is a new creation in Christ, endowed with new spiritual knowledge.  Just so, even now, all are offended at Christ if they view his Supper in a fleshly manner, as the fanatics do.  They are the ones who regard Christ according to the flesh, as they accuse us of doing.  For flesh cannot say or know more than, "Here is bread and wine," therefore it must be offended at Christ when he says, "This is my body," for it is an old creation in Adam.  If it is not to become offended, it must rise above this flesh and believe the words, "This is my body"; then it will understand that this bread is not mere bread but the true body of Christ.

It grieves me, indeed, that the devil should thus ridicule God's words.  But it moves me to pity that the poor people should not see how the fanatics use these vague ideas as the foundation of their fantasies.  They boast, swearing by all they hold dear, that they have learned nothing from us.  Really, this is not necessary.  Their writings show it all too plainly, without boasting on their part.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

from the Great Confession

One of my favorite theological works of all time is Martin Luther's Confession Concerning Christ's Supper (usually referenced simply as The Great Confession) of 1528.  Besides being a brilliant work in terms of its spiritual, theological, and exegetical qualities, the reader also gets some delightful bonuses.  For example, in some places he gives the Zwinglians lessons in grammar.  In some, like what you will see below, he also gives them lessons in logic.  To round out the classic trivium, let me add that the whole book is a lesson in rhetoric.  I thought I'd share a particularly juicy passage from what is truly one of Luther's most important works.  Enjoy.

In the sixth place, he wishes to prove that Scripture also is opposed to our interpretation.  The first passage is precisely this one:  "This is my body which is given for you."  It is not true that this is Christ's body in the form in which it was given for us, for it was given visibly for us.  This we answered above, showing that this spirit makes a quality out of a substance, by a very faulty syllogism in which there are four terms, no universal premise, no essential predication, no distributed middle, and many other faults, for logicians know full well that "an accidental term cannot be subsumed under a substantial term."  Such reasoning, however, passes for Scripture and God's Word with this spirit!

In plain language, we do not say that Christ's body is present in the Supper in the same form in which he was given for us-who would say that?-but that it is the same body which was given for us, not in the same form or mode but in the same essence and nature.  Now a particular essence can very well be visible at one place and invisible at another.  Oh, this is fool's play!  No one will answer us.  All they want to do is talk twaddle and show off.

Again, it is allegedly opposed to the text, "As often as you eat this bread," etc. Because here the word "this" refers to the bread, therefore in the other expression, "This is my body," it must refer to mere bread, etc.  I reply, it is not necessarily so in every instance, nor can this be shown to be a necessary consequence; we have already proved the opposite, that in both places the word "this" refers to the bread, which is the body of Christ, and that neither refers to common bread only.

Again he cites St. Mark, "The Lord was taken up into heaven," and "I am leaving the world and going to the Father" (Jn 16), and, "I am no more in the world, but they are in the world" (Jn 17), and many other passages in which Christ is declared to be in heaven.  Well, we also believe and teach all this.  We did not need to be taught it.  What they do need to teach, however, is that because Christ is in heaven, his body cannot be present in the Supper.  This "impossibility" they ought to prove, then we would be convinced that these passages are opposed to our interpretation.  But they always teach us with great loquacity what we already know, and meanwhile masterfully keep silent over points about which we are asking.  Therefore we must hold on to our interpretation. 

Indeed, Christ himself explains what "being in the world" means, in Luke 24, where he says, "These are the words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you."  What! Was he not still with them?  And did he not eat with them after his resurrection?  Certainly he was no longer with them in the manner in which he had once been with them, in mortal form and limited to this life in the present world, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 concerning the natural and the spiritual man.  But from these expressions it cannot be proved that he cannot be present bodily.  For as has been said, he sat and ate and spoke with them-and yet he is no in the world.  Thus also, "You also have the poor with you, but you will not always have me with you" (Mt 26).  What is meant here by the expression "with you" is explained by the text itself, and is easy to see, namely he is not with us in the same way as the poor are with us.  And so forth.  To whatever further passages they may introduce, one may briefly reply: Christ is not with us in mortal and earthly fashion, as the poor are.

Hence they cannot by this method succeed in proving that our interpretation is contrary to Scripture.  But it is Zwinglian logic to take substance for accident and "which" for "of what kind," as if I should say, "Christ is not present in the Supper in a certain form, therefore he is not present bodily"; "Christ is not with us in a certain form, therefore he is not with us at all," jumping right from a particular to a universal.  "The mayor is not in the bath in his red breeches, therefore he is not in the bath."  "The king is not at the table with his crown on, therefore he is not at the table."  All this is child's play and buffoonery, as the schools are well aware, but among these spirits it is supposed to pass for Scripture and the Christian faith.

If they insist on the basis of these passages that Christ is no longer with us, they must also conclude that Christ is not with us spiritually either.  For the words stand there clearly, "I am no more with you," which declares positively that he is not with us at all.  "Yes," they say, "bu we have clear passages to the contrary which assert that he is with us spiritually, such as John 16, "We will make our home with him," and Paul in Ephesians 3, "Christ dwells in your hearts," etc.  I reply: My friend, why shouldn't they also find the text in the Supper to be opposed to the same?  If Christ can be present with them in a certain form without contradicting the text, "I am not with you," then he can also be present with us in the Supper, notwithstanding the same text, "I am not with you."  If that text does not invalidate their passages concerning the spiritual nature of Christ, neither does it invalidate our text concerning the invisible nature of Christ in the Supper.

Thus their objection is as sharply opposed to them as to us, and by whatever means they extricate themselves they extricate us also.  And our interpretation remains unimpugned: "This is my body."  For if they prove anything with their passages, they prove that Christ is not present in the Supper in a visible, mortal, and earthly mode-a thing which it is not in the least necessary to prove, for we acknowledge it all.  But what they ought to prove is that our interpretation is false and that Christ lies when he says, "This is my body."  But no one steps forth to prove it, for they are nothing but fickle windbags, soiling a lot of good paper with vain and worthless words and making fools of poor simple Christians. 
(Robert H. Fischer's translation, AE 37)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

If the circumcision of Christ is one of the focuses of this day in the Church Year, the other focus is the naming of Jesus.  And one of the thoughts to which this led me, as I was sitting in church waiting for Mass to begin, is that this is an especially appropriate occasion on which to pray the Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.  It is one of those traditional, yet non-liturgical, litanies with which Lutherans are all too unfamiliar.  After all, it's not in a CPH book.  Luckily, I had with me this morning a book which does include this litany.  What follows is the Litany of the Name of Jesus, and I recommend it to your devotion, today or any day.

 
Kyrie:             
Eleison.

Christe:                 
Eleison.

Kyrie:                    
Eleison.

O Jesus, hear us:
O Jesus, graciously hear us.

O God, the Father in Heaven:
Have mercy upon us.

O God, the Son, Redeemer of the world:
Have mercy upon us.

O God, the Holy Ghost:
Have mercy upon us.

O Holy Trinity, one God:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Son of the living God:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Splendor of the Father:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Brightness of eternal Light:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, King of Glory:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Sun of Justice:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, most amiable:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, most admirable:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, the mighty God:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Father of the world to come:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Angel of Great Council:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, most powerful:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, most patient:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, most obedient:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Lover of Chastity:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, our Lover:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, God of Peace:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Author of Life:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Model of Virtues:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, zealous for souls:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, our God:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, our Refuge:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Father of the Poor:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Treasure of the Faithful:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, good Shepherd:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, true Light:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, eternal Wisdom:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, infinite Goodness:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, our Way and our Life:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, joy of the Angels:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, King of the Patriarchs:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Master of the Apostles:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Teacher of the Evangelists:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Strength of Martyrs:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Light of Confessors:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Purity of Virgins:
Have mercy upon us.

Jesus, Crown of all Saints:
Have mercy upon us.

Be gracious unto us:
Spare us O Jesus.

Be gracious unto us:
Graciously hear us, O Jesus.

From all evil:       
Deliver us, O Jesus.

From all sin:         
Deliver us, O Jesus.

From the crafts and assaults of the devil:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

From the spirit of fornication:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

From everlasting death:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

From the neglect of Thy inspirations:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

By the mystery of Thy holy Incarnation:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

By Thy Nativity:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

By Thy Infancy:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

By Thy most divine Life:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

By Thy Labors:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

By Thy Agony and Passion:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

By Thy Cross and Dereliction:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

By Thy Sufferings:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

By Thy precious Death and Burial:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

By Thy Resurrection:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

By Thy Ascension:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

By Thy Institution of the Most Holy Eucharist:
Deliver us, O Jesus.

By Thy Joys:       
Deliver us, O Jesus.

By Thy Glory:     
Deliver us, O Jesus.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world:
Spare us, O Jesus.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world:
Graciously hear us, O Jesus.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world:
Have mercy upon us, O Jesus.

O Jesus, hear us:
O Jesus, graciously hear us.

Kyrie:                    
Eleison.

Christe:                 
Eleison.

Kyrie eleison. Amen.
Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our Daily Bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation. X But deliver us from evil. Amen.

Let us pray:
O Lord Jesus Christ, Thou hast said, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you"; mercifully attend to our supplications, and grant us the grace of Thy most divine love, that we may love Thee with all our hearts, and in all our words and actions, and never cease to praise Thee.   Make us, O Lord, to have a perpetual fear and love of Thy holy name, for Thou never failest to govern those whom Thou dost solidly establish in Thy love. Thou who livest and reignest, world without end.
Amen.

From the Divine Office today

R.  Not knowing man, the Virgin Mother gave birth wihout pain, and brought forth the world's Redeemer ; * And he, the King of the Angels, received nourishment from a heaven-filled virginal bosom.
V. The mansion of the modest breast becometh a shrine where God shall rest : the pure and undefiled one within her womb conceived the Son.
R. And he, the King of the Angels, received nourishment from a heaven-filled virginal bosom.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
R. And he, the King of the Angels, received nourishment from a heaven-filled virginal bosom.

(from the office of Matins for the feast of the Circumcision of Christ)

Saint Ambrose on the Circumcision of Christ

This day in the Church Year marks two things in particular, the circumcision of Jesus, which took place on the eighth day after His birth, and the holy name of Jesus, given on the same occasion.

Regarding the circumcision of Christ, let me share with you a wonderful litle word from Saint Ambrose, assigned to the Divine Office this morning.  As you read this, take note of a few things:  1. the christological focus of Ambrose's reading of the Old Testament, 2. the rich imagery Ambrose employs as he develops the notion of Mary as an icon of the Church, 3. and what I find to be a subtle but significant point, namely, that Ambrose does not say that Christ opened His mother's womb (he couldn't say that, since that didn't happen) but nevertheless uses that imagery to make a point about the fruitfulness of the Church.
But since the body and mind of man remain yet infected with a proneness to sin, the circumcision of the eighth day is meant to put us in mind of that complete cleansing from sin which we shall have at the resurrection. This is doubtless to be inferred from the words : Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy unto the Lord. That is, these words are literally true only of the delivery of the Blessed Virgin. Verily, he that opened her womb was holy, for he was altogether without spot. And we may gather that the Law hath this meaning because the Angel said almost the same words : That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Among all them that are born of women the Lord Jesus Christ stood alone in holiness. He alone, because of this immaculate birth, felt no contagion from human corruption ; it came not near him because of his heavenly majesty. Otherwise (that is, if we are to apply this passage of the Law literally) we are obliged to say that without exception every male that openeth the womb is holy ; and how then shall we explain that so many were unrighteous? Was Ahab holy? Were the false prophets holy? Were they holy on whom Elijah justly called down fire from heaven? But he to whom the sacred commandment of the Law of God is mystically directed is the Holy One of Israel. And he alone hath opened the secret womb of his holy virgin-bride the Church, filling her with a sinless fruitfulness whereby to bring forth the People of God.

a christmas day picture

A scene from Christmas Day.  Two of my nieces (Ali on my right wearing my top hat and Kate on my left) are posing with their crazy uncle.  I decided for the fun of it to wear my Indian kurta for the occasion.