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July 16, 2019

Sacrosanctum Concilium

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Synopsis

Sacrosanctum Concilium is the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the sacred liturgy. It was the first document of the Council to be promulgated by Pope Paul VI (December 4, 1963). The provisions in this document eventually led to the New Order of Mass (Novus Ordo Missae) about seven years later.

Summary

INTRODUCTION

  1. Four goals of the Council:
    • increase vigor to life of the faithful
    • adapt institutions that can change to fit the times
    • promote Christian unity
    • call all of mankind to the Church
  2. Through the liturgy, the Church is made sacred.
  3. Practical norms should be established in the promotion and reform of the liturgy. These norms apply primarily to the Roman rite, but the principles and some norms apply to all rites.
  4. Obeying tradition, the various rites are held equal, to be preserved and fostered, and thus revised carefully.

CHAPTER I: GENERAL PRINCIPLES FOR THE RESTORATION AND PROMOTION OF THE SACRED LITURGY

I. The Nature of the Sacred Liturgy and Its Importance in the Church’s Life

  1. Christ, the Word made flesh, is the instrument of our salvation and perfect reconciliation with God. In Him we have the fullness of divine worship.
  2. The Apostles were sent to preach and to accomplish the work of salvation through the sacraments, especially baptism and the Eucharist.
  3. Christ is present in all liturgical celebrations (whole public worship): in the priest, in His Body, the Church, and in the Eucharist.
  4. The liturgy is a foretaste of Heaven.
  5. The liturgy is not the entire activity of the Church, for men must first be converted and do penance.
  6. The Church moves toward the liturgy and receives her power from it. The liturgy moves the faithful to be united in holiness.
  7. The faithful must be properly disposed lest they receive God’s grace in vain. Pastors must ensure that they are fully aware and engaged in the rite.
  8. Spiritual life is not limited to liturgy, but includes prayer: fraternal, interior, constant.
  9. Popular and ecclesial devotions in accord with laws and norms commended, but always surpassed by liturgy.

II. The Promotion of Liturgical Instruction and Active Participation

  1. Achieving the goal of full and active participation of the faithful in the liturgy begins with the priesthood.
  2. Liturgy professors must be trained.
  3. Liturgy courses to be required in seminaries/houses and principal in theological faculties, taught under theological, historical, spiritual, pastoral, and juridical aspects.
  4. Clerics in seminaries/houses to be given liturgical formation in spiritual life, with proper direction to foster understanding and participation.
  5. Secular and religious priests to be helped to understand the rites and live a liturgical life.
  6. Pastors must promote liturgical instruction of faithful and their active participation by word and example.
  7. Radio/TV transmission of rites (especially Mass) to be done with discretion and dignity under leadership of bishop-appointed persons.

III. The Reform of the Sacred Liturgy

  1. Some elements of liturgy are divine and immutable, others are not. Holy things should be expressed with more clarity. General norms hereby established:

A. General norms

  1. Liturgical regulation resides with the Apostolic See, with the bishop according to law, and with Competent Territorial Ecclesiastical Authority (CTEA) (limited). Priests may not change the liturgy.
  2. Tradition must be retained. Revisions require careful investigation. Unnecessary innovations must be avoided. New forms must grow organically from existing ones. Avoid notable differences in rites used in adjacent regions.
  3. Love of Scripture to be promoted. Lessons, prayers, collects, songs, actions and signs are derived from Scripture.
  4. Liturgical books to be revised ASAP by experts. Bishops worldwide to be consulted.

B. Norms drawn from the hierarchic and communal nature of the Liturgy

  1. Liturgical services are not private functions, but concern individuals in different ways according to rank, office and participation.
  2. Communal celebration is preferred over (quasi)private, especially Mass and administration of the sacraments.
  3. Each person (minister or layman) should perform (only his) office completely.
  4. Servers, lectors, the choir, etc. exercise genuine liturgical functions and should do so with sincere piety and decorum. They should be properly trained.
  5. Active participation includes acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, songs, actions, gestures, bodily attitudes, and reverent silence.
  6. Liturgical books to include rubrics for the people’s parts.
  7. No special honors for private persons or classes of persons aside from those for liturgical function, sacred Orders, or civil authority (when by law).

C. Norms based upon the didactic and pastoral nature of the Liturgy

  1. Liturgy is worship, but also instruction, not only in lessons and readings, but in prayer and song.
  2. Rites should be simple, short, clear, non-repetitious, commonly comprehensible, and self-explanatory.
  3. To connect words with rites:
    • There should be more reading from Scripture (varied and appropriate).
    • The sermon should be well-placed, exact, faithful, scriptural and liturgical, and focused on salvation (especially through the liturgy).
    • Liturgical instruction can include short directives and should use prescribed (or similar) words.
    • Bible services encouraged, especially on special days and when no priest is available (but Deacon or bishop-appointed person should preside).
  4. Regarding language:
    • Latin is to be preserved in the Latin rites.
    • Use of the vernacular language may be advantageous to the people and may be extended, first for readings and directives, then for prayers and chants.
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will decide extent of use of the vernacular language, pending approval by the Apostolic See.
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will approve translations of Latin texts into the vernacular language.

D. Norms for adapting the Liturgy to the culture and traditions of peoples

  1. Rigid uniformity not desired (unless faith or communal good is implicated; e.g. superstition or error). Genius and talents of races respected. Must harmonize with liturgy.
  2. Legitimate regional variations/adaptations (e.g. rubrics) permitted in liturgical books, but substantial unity of Roman rite must be preserved.
  3. CTEA (c.f. 22) will specify adaptations in sacraments, liturgical language. music, art, etc. per norms of this Constitution.
  4. Greater difficulties when more radical adaptation needed:
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will consider elements of tradition and culture and submit them to Apostolic See for consent.
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will be allowed to experiment within limits.
    • Liturgical laws often raise difficulties, especially in mission lands, requiring employment of experts.

E. Promotion of Liturgical Life in Diocese and Parish

  1. The bishop is the high priest of his flock and liturgical life of diocese centers around him.
  2. But he can’t be everywhere, so local parishes under pastors are set up, and sense of community encouraged.

F. The Promotion of Pastoral-Liturgical Action

  1. Zealous liturgical promotion/restoration is sign of God’s protection and the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
  2. CTEA (c.f. 22) will set up a well-advised liturgical commission to regulate pastoral-liturgical action and to promote studies and necessary experiments before adaptations are proposed to the Apostolic See.
  3. Every diocese (or several together) to have a commission on sacred liturgy under the bishop to promote the liturgical apostolate.
  4. Every diocese should also have commissions for sacred music and for sacred art (these may be combined with commission on sacred liturgy).

CHAPTER II: THE MOST SACRED MYSTERY OF THE EUCHARIST

  1. Christ gave the Church the Eucharist to perpetuate His sacrifice of the Cross.
  2. The faithful should not be strangers or silent spectators, but take part in the offering with the priest and learn to offer themselves.
  3. The following decrees maximize pastoral efficacy, especially on Sundays and obligatory feasts.
  4. The Mass is to be revised to clarify it’s parts and their connection, to be simplified but its substance preserved, with some parts discarded and others restored.
  5. Scripture readings are to be expanded over the course of several years.
  6. Greater importance is to be placed on the sermon. It should not be omitted on Sundays and feasts.
  7. The intercessory “Prayer of the Faithful” is to be restored, especially on Sundays and feasts.
  8. The vernacular may be used, especially for the readings and intercessory prayer, but also to parts pertaining to the people (c.f. 36 & 40). The people should also be able to say/sing the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin.
  9. Communion under both kinds may be granted as the bishop sees fit.
  10. The two liturgies that make up the Mass (i.e. Word & Eucharist) form a single act of worship and the faithful should be encouraged to participate fully.
  11. Concelebration extended under specified circumstances.
  12. A new rite for concelebration to be written.

CHAPTER III: THE OTHER SACRAMENTS AND THE SACRAMENTALS

  1. Sacraments sanctify men, build up the body of Christ, and give worship to God, but they also instruct, so the faithful should understand them.
  2. Sacramentals signify effects (esp. spiritual) obtained through Church’s intercession, properly disposing men and occasionally making them holy.
  3. The proper use of material things can (almost?) always be directed toward sanctification and praise.
  4. Some rites have made the use of these unclear, and so revision is necessary.
  5. The vernacular is particularly useful (c.f. 36) and rites will be prepared ASAP (c.f. 22)
  6. The catechumenate (period of instruction for converts) is to be restored.
  7. Initiation rites in mission lands can be adapted when compatible. (c.f. 37-40)
  8. Simple and solemn rites of adult baptism to be revised considering restored catechumenate, and new Mass written.
  9. Infant baptism rite to be revised, clarifying roles and duties of parents and godparents.
  10. Baptismal rite to have variants for large groups, mission lands, emergencies, etc.
  11. “Order of supplying what was omitted in the baptism of an infant” to be replaced. New rite for receiving validly baptized persons into the Church.
  12. Baptismal water may be blessed during the rite with short formula, except during Eastertide.
  13. Confirmation rite to be revised for clarity. Baptismal vows to be renewed. New introduction for Confirmation rite outside of Mass to be added.
  14. Penance rite and formulas to be revised for clarity of nature and effects.
  15. Extreme unction should more fittingly be called “anointing of the sick” and can be administered who one begins to be in danger of death, not when it is imminent.
  16. Continuous rite to be prepared for anointing of sick between confession and viaticum.
  17. Anointings and prayers to be adapted to correspond with varying conditions of the sick.
  18. Ordination texts and ceremonies to be revised. Opening speech by bishop may be in vernacular. All bishops present may lay hands in consecration of new bishop.
  19. Marriage rite to be revised to signify the grace and clarify the duties of the spouses. Regional customs retained. CTEA (c.f. 22) can create regional rite in conformity with law.
  20. Matrimony to be celebrated between sermon and intercessory prayers. Prayer for the bride may be in the vernacular. If outside of Mass, epistle and gospel readings and blessing required.
  21. Sacramentals to be revised to enable full participation and new ones added as needed. Reserved blessings to be few and in favor of ordinaries. Some may be adminitered by qualified lay persons in special circumstances.
  22. Rite for consecration of virgins to be revised. Religious profession/renewal to be created to achieve greater unity, sobriety, and dignity. Profession/renewal in Mass preferred.
  23. Burial rite to express clearly the paschal character of death and regional traditions are to be considered. This extands to liturgical color.
  24. Burial rite for infants to be revised, and special Mass provided.

CHAPTER IV: THE DIVINE OFFICE

  1. Praying the divine office is another way the Church ceaselessly praises the Lord and intercedes for the salvation of the world.
  2. It makes the whole day holy. It is prayed by priests, others by Church ordinance, and the faithful (in approved form).
  3. They fulfill the duty of the Church and represent her before God.
  4. Scripture can inspire pastors to offer praises of the hours more vividly. (1 Thes 5:11; John 15:5; Acts 6:4)
  5. That it may be better and more perfectly prayed, the Council decrees…
  6. Traditional sequence of hours to be restored to genuinely related to times of the day.
  7. Specific rules for Lauds and Vespers (chief hours), Compline, Matins, Prime (suppressed), Terce, Sext, and None.
  8. The divine office is the public prayer of the Church and a source of piety; thus adaptations may be made to make its use more profitable.
  9. Psalms distributed over more than one week. Revision of psalter to consider use of Latin, Latin Church tradition, etc.
  10. Regarding readings: more Scripture to be covered, other readings better selected, and martyrdom/lives of saints agree with historical facts.
  11. Hymns to be restored to original form, mythology and non-Christian content removed, additional selections to be added as occasion arises.
  12. Each hour to be prayed close to its canonical time.
  13. Choral-office communities bound to celebrate in choir every day in addition to Mass (e.g. orders of canons, cathedral/collegiate chapters, major orders, etc.).
  14. Major-order clerics not bound to office in choir are bound to pray the entire office every day. (c.f. 89)
  15. Rubrics can define when liturgical service can be substituted. Ordinaries can dispense or commute the obligation.
  16. Members of dedicated institutes perform the public prayer of the Church, even if in approved short form.
  17. Clerics not obliged to choir urged to pray in common. All should pray as perfectly as possible, both internally and externally. It should be sung as often as possible.
  18. Pastors should celebrate chief hours (esp. Vespers) in common in church on Sundays and feasts. Lay people are encouraged to participate.
  19. Regarding Latin:
    • Latin to be retained. Ordinary can grant use of vernacular (c.f. 36) for individuals for whom it is an obstacle.
    • A competent superior may grant use of (approved) vernacular, even in choir, to nuns and members of institutes.
    • A cleric can use the (approved) vernacular if praying with the faithful or people in previous line item.

CHAPTER V: THE LITURGICAL YEAR

  1. Christ’s work of salvation must be celebrated on various days throughout the year (Sundays, Easter, etc.).
  2. The annual cycle honors Mary as well, who has an inseparable with salvation.
  3. The annual cycle memorializes the saints and martyrs as faithful examples.
  4. Traditional seasonal discipline completes formation of the faithful through instruction, prayer, penance, and merciful works.
  5. The Church celebrates the paschal mystery every 8th day (Lord’s Day, Sunday). The faithful are bound (required) to celebrate.
  6. The liturgical year to be revised, and the seasons preserved/restored to suit modern times, their specific character to be retained, with local adaptations allowed (c.f. 39-40).
  7. Propers for feasts of the Lord should take precedence over propers for saints’ feasts.
  8. The twofold character of Lent (baptismal and penitential) should be emphasized.
  9. Lenten penance should be both internal/individual and external/social, take into consideration regional circumstances, and encouraged by CTEA (c.f. 22). The paschal fast should be kept everywhere on Good Friday and into Holy Saturday.
  10. Feasts of saints who are truly of universal importance should be celebrated by the universal Church; others can be left to particular Churches, nations, etc. to venerate.

CHAPTER VI: SACRED MUSIC

  1. Music is the greatest art in the Church and is integral to solemn liturgy. Scripture, the Fathers, and the Popes agree. “[T]he Church approves of all forms of true art having the needed qualities, and admits them into divine worship.”
  2. Liturgical worship is more noble in song, including the faithful with assistance of ministers. (c.f. 36, 54, 63, 101; i.e. use the vernacular)
  3. Sacred music to be preserved and choirs promoted, but bishops and pastors must ensure active participation of the faithful. (c.f. 28, 30)
  4. Music must be taught in seminaries, novitiates, houses, schools, etc. by trained teachers. Higher institutes of sacred music should be founded. Composers and singers (esp. boys) must be liturgically trained.
  5. Gregorian chant should be given first place, but polyphony and other forms should not be excluded. (c.f. 30)
  6. Three books of chant to be prepared (typical, critical, simple).
  7. Religious singing of faithful to be fostered so that norms and rubrics can be met.
  8. Missionaries to be trained in music so that worship can be adapted to incorporate native genius/art in mission lands.
  9. The pipe organ should be given first place, but other instruments may be used with consent of CTEA (c.f. 22, 52, 37, 40), only if suitable for sacred use and edification of the faithful.
  10. Composers should cultivate sacred music, not limited to music for large choirs but for small one and the faithful. Texts must conform to doctrine. Scripture and liturgical sources should be used.

CHAPTER VII: SACRED ART AND SACRED FURNISHINGS

  1. The Church has always been a patron of the arts and has admitted changes in materials and style as art progresses.
  2. The Church has not adopted a particular style. Her treasury of art must be preserved. Modern art must give due reverence and honor.
  3. Ordinaries should seek beauty (not sumptuous art), remove works repugnant to faith/morals/piety or that are mediocre, and build churches suitable for celebration of and full participation in the liturgy.
  4. Placement of images in churches for veneration to be maintained, but in moderation and in proper spatial order.
  5. Ordinaries judge the art, giving a hearing to the diocesan commission on sacred art, to experts, and to other commissions (c.f. 44-46).
  6. Bishops should imbue artists with spirit of sacred are and of liturgy in person or through priests. Artists should be trained. Artists imitate God the Creator.
  7. Canons and statutes to be revised regarding material things: building, altars, tabernacles, baptisteries, images, vestments, etc. CTEA (c.f. 22) empowered to make regional adaptations.
  8. Clerics to be taught about the history and development of sacred art.
  9. Pontificals reserved for those with episcopal rank or particular jurisdiction.

APPENDIX: A DECLARATION OF THE SECOND ECUMENICAL COUNCIL OF THE VATICAN ON REVISION OF THE CALENDAR

  • The Council would not object to assigning Easter to a particular Sunday of the Gregorian calendar provided that non-Catholic Christians agree.
  • The Council would not object to designing and introducing a perpetual calendar into civil society provided that a seven-day week with Sunday is preserved.

Observations

  • The first session of Vatican II convened on October 11, 1962. Pope John XXIII died the following June. Within a month, Pope Paul VI is elected, and the second session began September 29th, 1963. This document was promulgated just over two months later, on December 4.
  • Many of the visible differences between the old Mass and the new Mass are not found in Sacrosanctum Concilium. In fact, it may come as a surprise to some that many provisions and decrees contradict common practices found in the Mass today, including:
    • Latin is not eliminated, but is specifically retained, and the vernacular is reserved for certain uses
    • Gregorian chant is given preference over all other forms of sacred music
    • Pipe organs are given preference over all other instruments
    • Celebrating Mass versus populum is not mandated or even mentioned
  • The phrase “active participation” is prolific throughout.
  • Many revisions are called for, but there are very few details or limits.
  • There are a lot of provisions made for “mission lands” and regional variations/adaptations.

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July 10, 2019

Justin Martyr’s First Apology

Filed under: Christianity,Religion — Brandon @ 4:05 pm

Short URL: https://wp.me/pb7U7-2Xy


Synopsis

This Second Century explanation of Christian belief was written as a plea to the Roman Emperor to end the unjust persecution of Christians in the realm. The chief charge against Christians was that of atheism, especially the refusal to make offerings to the Roman gods. Justin was a convert from Platonism (and several other Greek philosophies) and he used reason and logic to defend the Christian faith and prove that the charges were unwarranted. Found in this work are principles and practices still central to the Catholic faith today.

Authorship

Justin (Iustinus) was born in Flavia Neapolis (Syria Palaestina) at the beginning of the Second Century, converted to Christianity in his early 30s, and was martyred for the faith in his mid-60s. This work has been dated around A.D 155

Summary

I chose to summarize this text by rewriting it in condensed and simplified language. The bracketed numbers indicate the transition between chapters as defined in the English Translation found at New Advent.

To Emperor Antoninus Pius, his sons, and the sacred Senate,

[1] I, Justin of Flavia Neapolis, present this petition on behalf of all who are unjustly hated and wantonly abused, myself included. [2] We ask that you, who are lovers of truth, judge us (Christians) based on an honest and thorough investigation and not on evil rumors, [3] for if any are found truly guilty after giving a testimony of their lives, then they should be punished, and if not, then it is only fair that they not be harmed, else the guilt be upon our judges. [4] A name alone is not an adequate basis for conviction or acquittal, for praise or punishment, yet the name “Christian” is being taken as proof against us. He who denies the name is acquitted and he who does not is punished, without any investigation into the deeds of either. All Christians are being accused based on the wickedness of a few, whereas those amongst your philosophers who are worthy of punishment themselves for these same crimes are instead praised. [5] If you would examine the charges made against us, you would know that we are not atheists at all. These accusations are the lies of demons masquerading as gods, about whom Socrates tried to issue a warning, yet he too was put to death as an atheist. [6] So, we are atheists with respect to those gods, but not with respect to the true God, who we adore (Father, Son and Spirit) and invite all to know. [7] Again, just as philosophers are called such regardless of their actual wisdom, some Christians are called such even if they are wicked; thus, we ask that each be judged and convicted on account of his own actions.

How then are you to recognize a Christian? [8] We know that we can deny the name and escape punishment, but we do not wish to live a lie, and in the end, dying for the name can only benefit us. For we believe (rightly or wrongly) that they who do God’s will are rewarded, and those who do not are punished eternally. [9] Christians do not worship idols, because they are just profane things shaped by evil men and to do so would be insulting to God who has ineffable glory and form. [10] We have been taught and we believe that God does not accept material offerings, but instead accepts those who imitate his virtues, for God created man on his own accord, and anyone who willfully chooses to do what is pleasing to God will be delivered from suffering and reign by his side. This is the message we desire all to hear and consider, yet we are set back by the accusations of demons. [11] Yes, Christians look for a kingdom yet to come, but not a human kingdom. [12] We also believe that it is impossible to hide from God and so choose to live good lives, and that should all men understand this, then none would choose wickedness even for a short time; therefore, Christians could be your valuable allies in keeping the peace. [13] Christians do not make offerings of blood, libations, or incense, but of thanksgiving in prayer and song for health, sustenance and salvation. We worship Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as well as the prophetic Spirit.

[14] Despite what our accuser demons have said to deceive you, we who once lived deeply in sin now live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus, which promote amongst other things [15] chastity, charity, [16] patience, honesty, not taking oaths, [17] obedience to civil authorities and paying taxes. This is because we believe that our lives will lead to eternal reward or punishment. [18] Death, should it truly be final, would benefit the wicked, but there are many known even to you who have professed that the souls of the departed persist. Show to us the same kindness, then, as we believe even more firmly in God than they do. All things are possible for God, and so we believe that we will receive our own bodies again after death, [19] an idea which should not seem any more impossible than the generation of human life as it occurs naturally. [20] These same (or similar) thoughts have been expressed by some of the poets and philosophers, so why then are we hated? [21] Likewise, what we claim regarding Christ — that he was begotten, crucified and died, rose from the dead, and ascended to Heaven — is not unlike what you believe about the Sons of Jupiter (save that Jupiter and his offspring are endowed with human weaknesses). [22] That he came to us through a peculiar birth and suffered a terrible death does not make him unique amongst the gods and heroes.

[23] We want you to understand these things about Christians. First, what we say is in accordance with the prophets of old (i.e. older than your writers) who spoke the truth. Second, Jesus Christ is the only Son of God who willfully became man and taught us so that the human race may be converted and restored. Third, before he came, demons (through the poets) spread rumors and lies about him, just as they have spread lies about us. [24] Others freely worship animals and other natural objects and do not even agree on which ones to worship, and yet we who often say similar things are wrongly executed for worshiping a different God than they do. [25] Though some of us once believed in the same gods as you, we have learned to despise them, and to pity those who still believe in them, because they have been deceived by devils. [26] Ever since Jesus ascended into Heaven, certain men have come forward claiming to be gods (and you did not persecute but honored them). There was Simon the Samaritan who performed mighty acts of magic in Rome (works of the devils within him), and he was called a god, and a statue near the Tiber was erected to his honor. Simon’s disciple, Menander performed magic in Antioch and persuaded many that they would never die. Marcion of Pontus is now teaching about a god greater than the Creator, causing many people to blaspheme and deny that God is the maker of this universe. These men and their followers are called Christians though they teach other things (much as those who disagree with the philosophers in their doctrines are often called philosophers as well), and we do not know if they commit the crimes of which we are accused, but we do know that they are not persecuted for them as we are who have not committed them. I have written a treatise against all the presently-known heresies, which I can provide if you would like to read it. [27] We have also been taught that infanticide (leaving babies exposed to the elements) is wicked [29] and doing so would make us murderers (for we marry only to have children, else we live continently). Moreover, nearly all of the babies who are left to die in this manner are gathered and raised to be prostitutes here and in every nation. You hire them and receive taxes from them when you should be banishing them. In pictures of your gods is often found a serpent, [28] which is the symbol of Satan, the prince of the wicked spirits, according to our writings. Jesus foretold that Satan and all who follow him will be eternally punished in everlasting fire. This punishment has been delayed by God only out of mercy for those who may still repent, even those yet to be born. God made men to be rational beings capable of choosing good; therefore, one who thinks that God does not care for these things either implies that God does not exist or asserts that God does not pay any regard to vice and virtue — or even that he delights in vice!

[30] What proof do we have that Jesus was not a magician like the men discussed above? Things that were prophesied about him have happened as predicted. [31] Jewish prophets, inspired by the Spirit, published their prophecies, which were preserved by the kings and eventually compiled into books in the Hebrew language. These books were later translated into Greek and sent to Egypt at the request of King Ptolemy. Though read by Jews everywhere, they do not understand the prophecies and have become our enemies, for the books foretell the entire life of Jesus and make clear that the Christ was not sent for the Jews alone. [32] It was Moses who first prophesied the coming of Jesus from the tribe of Judah, that he would be sought by all nations, and that he would enter his kingdom on a foal and endure a bloody passion. All of these things you can verify by inquiry. Isaiah was another who prophesied the same things in different ways, [33] and that he would be born of a virgin. These things were predicted by God through the Spirit so that when they came about, his people would recognize the Christ and believe. And when his coming was nigh, a messenger of God came to the virgin and foretold that her son would save his people from their sins, and this is why his name in Greek means Σωτήρ (Saviour). [34] Even the place his birth, Bethlehem in Judah, was foretold by another prophet, Micah, and this can be verified in the tax records registered under the rule of the first governor, Cyrenius. [35] It was also prophesied by Isaiah that Jesus would escape notice until he was a man and that he die upon a cross. The details in David’s foretelling of the crucifixion can be verified in the Acts of Pontius Pilate. Zephaniah, too, spoke of the foal. [40] The king and prophet David wrote extensively about the proclamation of Christ’s coming, and his goodness, and how kings would conspire against him, and how he will be victorious over all of his enemies, [41] and that he should be feared and praised for he reigns from the tree (cross). [45] David foretold of Christ’s ascension, and [47] Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, [48] the healing miracles of Jesus, the persecution and martyrdom of those who follow him, [49] the Jews’ rejection of him, [50] his humiliation, and [51] his majesty and might over his enemies. [46] Those who lived before Christ and lived reasonably can rightly be called Christians, whereas those who lived without reason were wicked and hostile to Christ. [52] And just as all of these prophecies have come to pass, so shall the ones that have not yet happened. For it has also been foretold that Christ will come into the world again in glory, giving immortality to the good and eternal punishment to the wicked. [53] And there are many other prophecies, but we find these persuasive enough for those who wish to understand and are not mere assertions without proof, like the fables about the Sons of Jupiter. Why would we choose to believe all of this ourselves without proof?

[36] It is important to hear the words of the prophets as if spoken by one voice, even if the words are attributed to different persons. The Jews did not understand this and thus did not recognize Christ when he came. [37] At times, the words are attributed to God the Father, [38] to the Son, [39] or directly to the Spirit himself. [42] Note also how the prophecies are sometimes stated in the past tense, as though they had already happened. [43] And lest our reliance on prophecy imply that we believe everything to be based on fate, it must be stated that our belief that reward or punishment is to be granted to each man based on the merit of his actions is predicated on the idea that each man has the free choice to avoid evil and do good. For if men by fate are either good or bad, then one could never be capable of being the other or to change his ways, and it would seem in the end that fate would actually be working against herself (unless virtue and vice have no objective meaning, which is an impious thought). No, the only inevitable thing is that reward and punishment is based on choice, and in this way did God create man uniquely. [44] The prophets teach the same, for Moses tells us that God presented a choice between good and evil to the first man and commanded him to do the good, and Isaiah proclaimed that those who willingly obey God will eat the good of the land but the disobedient will be devoured by the “sword” which is the everlasting fire. Plato said too that the blame belongs to he who chooses, but this he took from Moses who came before him. Indeed, anything that the philosophers and poets have said concerning the immortality of the soul came from the prophets. for the seeds of truth are found among all men, though they may not fully understand the truth and assert contradictions. God knows all that will be done by all men, and has made it known that rewards follow according to the merit of actions because he cares and provides for them; yet men are often forbidden under pain of death from learning the truth by those who wish to keep them enslaved. We not only read for ourselves, but present these truths to you with nothing to hide or fear, and if we win over only a few, it is still a gain.

[54] The unproven myths of the poets are the works of demons who influenced men to write about fantastic tales in an attempt to make the prophecies about Christ sound also like works of fiction. For example, the story of Bacchus, a Son of Jupiter, was fabricated in response to the prophecy of Moses, and of Perseus in response to Isaiah, and Hercules and Æsculapius to oppose other prophecies. [64] Likewise, the stories of the Daughters of Jupiter, such as Proserpine (also called Kore) and Minerva (called the first conception [ἔννοια]) have been fabricated in imitation of Moses. [55] They could not understand the crucifixion, however, so all references to it are symbolic. The form of the cross, for example, which resembles a man with arms outstretched, is ubiquitous in the world, as it appears in the masts of ships, in workmen’s tools, and even in the Roman standards. [56] This obfuscation of the prophecies was not enough, and the demons sent men (like the aforementioned Samaritans, Simon and Menander) to continue the work. [57] They also could not understand that Christ should be hidden after He came and could not convey the notion of eternal punishment, but only that the wicked should hate and kill us though we have no reason to hate them. [58] And so we now have heretics such as Marcion of Pontus in our midst. [59] As proof that the poets and philosophers borrowed ideas from Moses the prophet, consider the contributions attributed to Plato. The manner and materials used to create the world were described first by Moses. Also, the darkness that the Greeks call a god, Erebus, was derived from his story of creation. [60] Plato misunderstood the story of the bronze serpent and thus claimed that the second power (the Logos) was spread out crosswise in the universe. Likewise, reading about how the Spirit of God moved over the waters, he mentions a third power (the Spirit).

[63] How, then, did God appear to Moses? All Jews teach that God spoke to Moses through an angel in a burning bush, declaring that he was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But it was prophesied (even by Christ himself) that the Jews knew him not. Just as the Son of God was called (of old) the Word of God, he has also been called an Angel (because he has taken the appearance of an angel and of fire) as well as an Apostle (because he declares and reveals). The Jews did not recognize that Moses spoke, not to the Father, but to the Son in the burning bush. They do not recognize the Logos as the Son or that God even has a Son, nor was any of this revealed to them. But since the days of the prophets, the Son became a man by the will of God to suffer, die, and rise again so to conquer death and attain salvation for those who believe in him. From this we can reason that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though dead, still exist and belong to Christ, for they were the first to search after God.

[61] It only seems fair to explain some of our practices, the first being the way in which we dedicate ourselves to God and are made new through Christ. All who believe begin with prayer and fasting (along with the community) for the forgiveness of their past sins. We then wash them in the water in the name of God, the Father, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. This idea that we must be born again was handed down to us by both Christ and the Prophets. [62] This practice of washing has been imitated by demons who require it in the temples, as well as the removal of shoes based on Moses’ account of the burning bush. [65] The brethren then gather and pray for the newly baptized person, and for the whole community of believers as well, that we, having accepted the truth (faith) and kept the commandments (works), may be saved eternally. After a holy kiss, the one presiding is given bread and a cup of wine mixed with water, and after giving a lengthy prayer of thanksgiving to which the people express assent by saying “Amen!” (γένοιτο; so be it), he distributes the bread and wine through the deacons, some of which is taken away to those who could not attend. [66] We call this food the Eucharist (Εὐχαριστία). It is reserved for those who believe, have been baptized, and live accordance with the teachings of Christ. And it is not common food, but is the very flesh and blood of Christ. (The demons have imitated this as well in the mysteries of Mithras.) [67] On Sundays, all believers who live nearby, from city or countryside, gather to listen to readings from the memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets for as long as time permits, after which the one presiding provides verbal instruction with regard to what they’ve heard, and then the whole assembly partakes of the Eucharist as described above. Those willing and able contribute to the care of orphans, widows, the sick and the suffering, the poor, prisoners, pilgrims and all who are in need. This large assembly is held on Sunday, because it is the first day of God’s creation and the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

[68] In conclusion, if these things we say sound reasonable to you, then please honor them. If not, you may consider then nonsense, but do not punish those who do believe them with death as though they were your enemies. Injustice will not be overlooked by God. Your father, Emperor Adrian, wrote in a letter that by his authority proper judgment could be demanded, yet we make this appeal to you and provide this explanation because we know that what we ask is just.

Observations

  • Antoninus Pius was Roman Emperor from A.D. 138 to 161, whose reign was notably peaceful.
  • Justin begins by naming his father and grandfather. All sources agree that from these names we know Justin belonged to a pagan family. Also, the town of his birth was a colony established by Rome.
  • Justin appeals to the truth, as the Emperor and his sons “are called pious and philosophers, guardians of justice and lovers of learning”.
  • In Chapter 3, Justin quotes an unnamed source, “Unless both rulers and ruled philosophize, it is impossible to make states blessed.”
  • Chapter 4 exposes the hypocrisy of the Romans for allowing philosophers to not only escape punishment but to receive honor for committing the same crimes of which the Christians were being accused, atheism and blasphemy being chief among them.
  • In Chapter 5, Justin personifies Reason (i.e. Logos) as the incarnate Jesus.
  • In Chapter 6, a direct reference to the Trinity is made.
  • Christian mercy and justice are illustrated in Chapter 7: “For we will not require that you punish our accusers; they being sufficiently punished by their present wickedness and ignorance of what is right.”
  • Salvation by both faith and works is described in Chapter 8: “For, impelled by the desire of [eternal] life, we…hasten to confess our faith, persuaded and convinced as we are that they who have proved to God by their works that they followed Him…can obtain these things.”
  • Plato claimed that Rhadamanthus and Minos (demigods of Hades) would punish the wicked for a thousand years.
  • In discussing idols, Justin notes that the craftsmen use inferior materials “often out of vessels of dishonour” and that they “are practised in every vice”. Compare this with the Christian iconographers who use pure and natural materials and paint in prayer.
  • Also concerning idolatry, Is 44:9-20 and Jer 10:3 are referenced.
  • “We have been taught…” The English text actually states, “But we have received by tradition…”
  • In Chapter 10, Justin emphatically states that willfull acts of believers (“choosing them by means of the rational faculties He has Himself endowed us with”) are proof of their devotion to God and thus lead to salvation. He also states that the demons take “as their ally the lust of wickedness which is in every man”.
  • The second direct reference to the Trinity is made in Chapter 13.
  • Chapters 15-17 convey the teachings of Jesus about several topics primarily by paraphrasing scripture. Most of the material comes from the latter portion of Matthew 5 (starting at around verse 22), with some lines from Chapters 6, 7, 13, 19 & 22, as well as a few lines from Mark and Luke. The lines are not presented in the same order as they appear in Scripture, as a block quote for example, but in line with Justin’s argument as applicable.
  • Chapter 19 gives insight into how the ancients viewed life. The living body is created from very basic material and can return to basic material, “dissolved…like seeds resolved into earth”. Thus, why should the resurrection of the body be hard to believe?
  • Per the Wikipedia article on Simon Magus, the statue of Simon the Magician that Justin said in Chapter 26 was erected in Rome was discovered in the 16th Century, and the inscription that reportedly read Simoni Deo Sancto (Simon the holy God) actually read Semo Sancus, and was therefore not a reference to Simon at all, but to an older diety.
  • In Chapter 27, several details about Roman immorality are provided that would be superfluous here.
  • In Chapter 28, Justin makes a logical connection between the creation of man with rational powers who can choose to do good and the delay in God’s wrath against the powers of evil, so that every man — even those not yet born — has an opportunity to repent. This belief of the early Christians seems to contradict the concept of predestination, at least in the Calvinist sense.
  • The summary of Chapter 29 has been moved in between Chapters 27 & 28, and both the story of the youth who petitioned permission from Felix the Governor to become a eunuch as well as the reference to Antinous have been omitted for better continuity.
  • Infanticide is explicitly called murder in Chapter 29.
  • EDITORIAL NOTE: Chapters 31 through 60, 63 and 64 constitute a treatise on how the prophecies about Jesus provide enough evidence to warrant belief. Specific references to the prophecies of Moses, David, Isaiah, and others are made in order to show that what they claimed about the coming Christ had actually happened as predicted. It is important to note that because Justin’s explanation is lengthy and layered, I have rearranged the summarized material into a more logical sequence. This isn’t to say that Justin’s message is flawed, but that in shortened form, the narrative would sound very disjointed if the original order were to be followed exactly. The reorganization yielded four topical paragraphs: (1) Specific prophecies about Christ in Jewish literature, (2) notes on the nature, style, and interpretation of Jewish prophecy, (3) the work of demons to undermine and circumvent the prophecies, and (4) the manner in which God spoke to Moses.
  • In Chapter 31 we are given examples of how Sacred Scripture was inspired by the Spirit and preserved by men.
  • The English translation uses the work “predict” a lot in the chapters about Jewish prophecy. It is good to keep in mind the etymology of that word (pre- “beforehand” + dicere “to say”), because modern usage of the word connotes that the person making the prediction does so either by their own power or by the power of some supernatural force, but not typically by the power of God.
  • In Chpater 32, prophecies by Moses (Gn 49:10) & Isaiah (Is 11:1) are fulfilled by the foal on Palm Sunday and the bloody passion; also destruction of the temple is mentioned.
  • Chapter 33 Scripture references: Isaiah 7:14, Luke 1:32; Matthew 1:21
  • Chapter 34 Scripture references: Micah 5:2
  • Chapter 35 Scripture references: Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 65:2, Isaiah 58:2, psalm ?, Zechariah 9:9
  • In chapter 35, Justin cites the Acts of Pontius Pilate as a source. It can be found in the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus
  • In chapters 37-39, Justin illustrates how the words of prophecy can be attributed to different persons (Father, Son, Spirit) by providing excerpts from Isaiah.
  • Chapter 40-41 Scripture references: Psalm 18:1-6, Psalms 1 & 2, Psalm 95
  • Chapter 43 is a testimony regarding free will, responsibility/accountability for one’s actions, and control over one’s own salvation, and a denial of predestined fate.
  • Chapter 44 quotes Isaiah 1:16; the Oracles of Hystaspes & Sibyl & the Prophets forbidden by a law successfully established through men by demons.
  • Chapter 45 quotes Psalm 109 (110); Justin again claims that death is no harm to the Christians and that the unjust hate of the Romans will bring upon them eternal punishment.
  • Chapter 47-51 Scripture references: Is 64:10-12; Is 1:7; Is 35:6; Is 57:1; Is 65:1-3; Is 5:20; Is 52:13-15, Is 53:1-8; Isaiah 53:8-12; Ps 23 (24): 7-8; Daniel 7:13; also a second citation of the Acts of Pontius Pilate
  • Chapter 52 Scripture references: Ezekiel 37:7-8; Isaiah 45:24; Isaiah 66:24; there is a reference to Zechariah in Chapter 52 but cant identify the passage exactly
  • Chapter 53 Scripture references: Isaiah 54:1; Isaiah 1:9
  • Chapter 54 Scripture references: Genesis 49:10
  • Chapter 55, Roman standards: vexilla
  • In Chpater 56, Justin asks the emperor to destroy the statue of Simon.
  • In Chpater 57, Justin re-emphasizes that the Christians do not fear death, and those who have them killed “that we may be deprived of life and pleasure” would do well to learn the Christian doctrines and gain eternal life.
  • Chapter 59-560 Scripture references: Gn 1; Deut 32:22; Numbers 21:8
  • In Chapter 60, the physiology of the Son of God came from the Timæus of Plato.
  • Chapter 61 Scripture references: John 3:5, Isaiah 1:16-20
  • In Chapter 61, Justin explains the reason for baptism as handed down from the Apostles. He states that man is born “without our own knowledge or choice” and raised with “bad habits and wicked training”; thus, baptismal washing allows willful penitents to “become the children of choice and knowledge” and to be forgiven past sins. This does call into question the practice of infant baptism, though Justin does not even mention it, much less explicitly condemn it. He also states that baptism is also called “illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings”, which sounds somewhat Gnostic (though according to theologian Marcellino D’Ambrosio, this chapter is included in the Office of Readings).
  • Chapter 63 Scripture references: Isaiah 1:3, Matthew 11:27, Exodus 3:6, Luke 10:16
  • Chapter 64 mentions two Daughters of Jupiter. Proserpine was called Persephone in Greek mythology and was abducted by and eventually married Hades, king of the underworld. Minerva was called ἔννοια/énnoia, which means to consider or reflect upon, and Justin claims that her myth arose from Moses’ writing that the Word (the Logos, the very thought of God that is God) was present at the creation of the world.
  • Chapters 65-67 describe the Mass. Believers gather in prayer of petition, they share a kiss of peace, sacrificial gifts of bread and diluted wine are given to the “president” (one presiding) who prays a prayer of thanksgiving over them in the name of the Trinity, there is a great Amen!, the gifts are distributed to the people by the servers (deacons; no indication of sacramental orders here) to eat, and some is taken to those who were absent (still a common practice today). The Eucharist was reserved for those who believed the same thing as the community, who had been baptized and who lived according to Christ’s commandments; though Justin does not use any sort of technical language here, such as “free from mortal sin” (or even “remaining in the friendship of Christ”), it is obvious that the same meaning is intended, that the person partaking of the Eucharist is not working against the will of God or the teachings of Christ. The notion that the bread and wine are the very body and blood of Jesus is stated explicitly. Luke 22:19 Chapter 67 notes that readings of Scripture and a sermon based upon them were part of the Eucharistic celebration on Sundays, as well as an offertory collection to support widows, orphans, and others in need.

December 29, 2017

Ignatius’ Epistle To Polycarp

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Synopsis

Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr of the early Church, wrote to Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna, wherein he imparts wisdom regarding behavior proper for a bishop, married Christian couples, and Christian communities in general.

Authorship

Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, while imprisoned and in transport to Rome in about the year A.D. 108, wrote letters to several of the ancient Churches. He also wrote a personal letter to his friend and fellow bishop, Polycarp of Smyrna. Full authenticity of the contents of these letters is not generally accepted; however, the most egregious embellishments can be identified and removed using copies of the letters from different ages and sources. The original letters and contemporary copies have been lost to antiquity.

Resources

Two copies of this letter were used to produce the summary below. The English version provided the bulk of the material, and the Greek was used to gain clarity on specific points.

English: New Advent
Greek: TextExcavation

Also, the language search tools found at the Perseus Digital Library (Tufts University) came in quite handy for understanding the Greek.

Summary

The format of this letter is commensurate with Ignatius’ other epistles, though not identical. After the salutation and customary self-humiliation and praise of the recipient, The main topics of discourse are presented, of which this letter contains three. The first is a series of exhortations made to Polycarp, providing advice, counsel, and encouragement; this occupies the space of three-and-a-half chapters. After that, one chapter is dedicated to married couples within the Christian community and another to the duties of Christians in general. Finally, some specific instructions are given for Polycarp to carry out.

  • Salutation
  • Commendation
  • Exhortations
    • Keep a steady course
    • Maintain position in both flesh and spirit
    • Preserve unity
    • Model Godly forbearance
    • Lovingly support the faithful
    • Pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17)
    • Always seek understanding (continuous learning?)
    • Be watchful
    • Communicate
    • Bear the infirmities of all
    • Don’t just love good disciples, but humbly subdue the troublesome
    • There is no one solution to all problems
    • Big problems can be mitigated with consistent care
    • Always be “wise as a serpent, and harmless as a dove.” (Matt 10:16)
    • As flesh and spirit, you can deal with all evil: that is plainly visible and that which can only be revealed by God
    • Navigate well, that you and yours may reach God
    • Be sober, for eternal life is at stake
    • In all things may my soul be for yours, and my bonds also, which you have loved.
    • Don’t fear teachers of false doctrine (1 Tim 1:3, 1 Tim 6:3)
    • Stand firm despite relentless opposition
    • Bear all things…as you want God to bear with you
    • Grow in zeal
    • Weigh carefully the times
    • Look for Him who became like us and suffered for our sake
    • Protect widows from neglect
    • Permit nothing to be done without your consent just as you seek the approval of God in all you do
    • Assemble frequently (Mass?)
    • It is better that slaves submit out of glory of God than to be freed and become slaves to their own desires (c.f. 1 Tim 6:1-2)
  • Duties of Husbands and Wives
    • Flee from abuse and don’t remain silent about it
    • Women should be satisfied with their husbands out of love of the Lord (Eph 5:22)
    • Men should love their wives as Christ loves the Church (Eph 5:25)
    • If one can remain unmarried and pure without boasting or conceit, let him do so to the honor of God
    • Those who do marry should do so with the approval of the bishop, and thus according to God’s will, not for lust
  • Duties of the Christian Flock
    • Remain submissive to the bishop, presbyters, and deacons
    • Work together as servants of God
    • Please God, your general and employer, and do not desert him
    • Let your baptism, faith, love, and patience endure and protect you
    • Work, that you may be rewarded according to the value of your deeds
    • Be patient with one another as God is with you (Matt 6:19-21)
  • Instructions
    • Elect by solumn council a new bishop for Antioch
    • Correspond with adjacent Churches on my behalf
  • Commendations of Others
  • Farewell

Observations

Papal Primacy. In his salutatory remarks, Ignatius addresses Polycarp as one “who has, as his own bishop, God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Historically, there has been much debate about Ignatius’ understanding of the Church in terms of structure, his vision of the local bishop as the spiritual leader over presbyters (as opposed to a Congregationalist view), and whether or not he recognized (even the notion of) the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. One might interpret this phrase to mean that he did not, in fact, recognize the Roman Bishop as anything but perhaps a distant peer, and that a bishop must give an account to no man but answer only to God himself. In my assessment, this conclusion is both over-reaching and anachronistic. The primacy of the Pope is not an issue being addressed in the letter at all, and Ignatius’ statement should not be taken as a testamony as such. This debate belongs to a different era (beit AD 381, 484, 654, 736, 867, 1054, 1281, 1472, or 1517).

Upon This Rock. At the beginning of Chapter 1, Ignatius claims to have “obtained good proof that [Polycarp’s] mind is fixed in God as upon an immoveable rock (πετραν)”. This phrase calls to mind the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:18, I tell you that you are Peter (Πέτρος) and upon this rock (πέτρα) I will build my Church.. No, Ignatius is (most likely) not alluding to Peter or the Papacy, but it is interesting that he describes Polycarp’s understanding of the faith in the same manner.

Subjunctive Mood. In the line from Chapter 1, “I entreat you…exhort all that they may be saved”, the verb for “saved” (σωζωνται) is in the subjunctive mood.

Sports Medicine. Like Paul, Ignatius likens the Christians to athletes (thrice in this letter alone) and to life as a race to be run with eternal salvation as the prize. He also notes that athletes are often injured, yet they still strive to win, that there is no one cure for all types of wounds, and that as athletes we must remain sober and ready.

Holy Battle Gear. Also like Paul (Eph 6:10-18), Ignatius speaks of putting on the armor of God (Chapter 6), complete with helmet (faith) and spear (love).

Good Works. Chapter 6 includes a line that states, “Let your works be the charge assigned to you, that you may receive a worthy recompense.” I found the Greek (τα δεποσιτα υμων τα εργα υμων, ινα τα ακκεπτα υμων αξια κομισησθε) and looked up each word, eventually coming up with “Where your work is stored, there your unbounded worth will be taken care of.” This sounded too similar to Matthew 6:19-21 to dismiss (to paraphrase: don’t store treasure on earth where it can perish, but in Heaven where it cannot be destroyed, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also). I settled on the amalgamation of “Work, that you may be rewarded according to the value of your deeds” for the summary above and added the reference to Matthew.


December 28, 2017

Ignatius’ Roman Epistle

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Synopsis

Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr of the early Church, wrote to the Church in Rome, imploring that the faithful there not prevent his martyrdom.

Authorship

Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, while imprisoned and in transport to Rome in about the year A.D. 108, wrote letters to several of the ancient Churches including the Christians in Rome. Full authenticity of the contents of these letters is not generally accepted; however, the most egregious embellishments can be identified and removed using copies of the letters from different ages and sources. The original letters and contemporary copies have been lost to antiquity.

Summary

Unlike his letters to the Churches in Asia, this letter is short and bears a simple message: don’t stop the Romans from killing me. It is clear from his salutatory introduction that he holds the Roman Christians in high esteem. He also suspects that they, out of brotherly love, will do anything they can to prevent his execution. Ignatius wishes to see the Lord and sees martyrdom as a direct path to this end.

Frankly, I find it difficult to glean much from this letter that could not be understood from reading the text itself. There is no hint of dogmatic beginnings or compelling exegesis to perform. Again the message is simple. The language, however, suffers from the disease of elegance, meaning that we modern readers have little patience for the flowery language employed, no matter how close to the original Greek the translator was able to render the English.

So, I feel that the best service I can provide at the moment is to do as I have done with other such writings and provide a more succinct rendition that may appeal to the current generation:

To the wonderful Christians in Rome,

[1]My prayers have been answered! I’m coming to see you as a prisoner and, God willing, to be executed in Rome. You who live there have ample opportunity to be martyred, but I had to go out of my way to make this happen. I’m just afraid that you, out of love, will prevent this from happening. [2]I may never have this opportunity again, so please, the best thing you could do for me is to just not say anything to anyone and let it happen. [3]Please do pray for an increase in my strength and resolve though. I would much rather be considered a true Christian after my death than to claim to be one and fall short. [4]Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, that my body be completely devoured so that no one must worry with my remains. [5]I hope the beasts attack quickly, and if they don’t attack me at all, I will provoke them! Bring it on! [6]Nothing in the world can profit me, for the world is death and Jesus is Life, and [7]I do not desire worldly food, but only the bread and drink of God, which is the flesh and blood of Christ. [8]I no longer want to live as man lives; pray that I obtain what I desire. [9]Pray also for the Church in Syria that I have humbly left behind. My soul praises you along with the other Churches that have met me with love along the way. [10]Tell those who have arrived before me that I am on my way. They are good people, so please show your hospitality to them.

Farewell!
Ignatius (a.k.a. Theophorus)
August 23rd

An Aside

If the letter above comes across as irreverent or even flippant, please know that this is not the intent. I’ve simply read with understanding Ignatius’ message and recast it in the words that might would be used by a modern English speaker. If anything, this is a reflection on our modern culture that devalues thoughtful personal correspondence and makes an idol of brevity. God only knows what Ignatius might’ve said if he had been limited to only 140 characters.

In all fairness, I am a modern English speaker too, and if I have misunderstood what Ignatius was trying to say, by all means, please bring it to my attention.


October 5, 2017

Amoris Laetitia

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Synopsis

This is Pope Francis’ controversial exhortation (2016) that followed the two Synods on the Family (2014 & 2015).

Resources

Observations

  • The title (The Joy of Love in English) is derived from the first words of the document.
  • Paragraph 57 states, “The Synod’s reflections show us that there is no stereotype of the ideal family, but rather a challenging mosaic made up of different realities…”. This seems to be a deviation from the Church’s perennial teaching that both the Trinity and the Holy Family are indeed stereotypes of the ideal family. These examples are even cited in paragraphs 29 and 30.
  • Paragraph 78 clearly indicates that those in “irregular unions” do not (but may someday) enjoy sacramental marriage.
  • Paragraph 83 asserts that the Church rejects the death penalty.

Summary

Introduction

  1. Family love is much desired today, especially by young people.
  2. The synod examined complex modern marriage/family issues to provide clarity to the Church.
  3. Solutions need not be doctrinal, but can differ by culture.
  4. The process was eye-opening. Contributions and considerations are recorded herein.
  5. It is fitting to write this in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
  6. I will cover Scripture, current issues, Church teaching on marriage, love, pastoral advice, and a call for mercy and discernment.
  7. Many questions were addressed, hence the length of this writing. Read carefully and with purpose.

Chapter 1: In the Light of the Word

  1. The Bible is full of stories about families and their problems.
  2. The union of man and woman has existed since the beginning.
  3. The couple is made in God’s image, a sign of his creation.
  4. The fruitful love of the married couple is an image (icon) of God’s Trinitarian nature. Salvation history progressed through families, and thus, through the ability of the married couple to beget life.
  5. Love is an encounter, each giving the self to the other.
  6. The union is not merely physical, but the clinging of two souls in harmony.
  7. Children are a sign of continuity and are the building blocks of society.
  8. God should be found in the home, the domestic church.
  9. Faith is passed down through the family.
  10. Parents are responsible for education, and the children should respect them.
  11. Children are people, not property.
  12. Pain, evil, and violence can break up families, love and purity can be overturned by domination.
  13. The Bible also contains stories of family violence and hatred.
  14. Family problems are woven into Jesus’ parables.
  15. Thus, Sacred Scripture does not contain abstract ideas, but comfort for the suffering.
  16. Man is a laborer and work is essential to human dignity.
  17. Labor sustains the family and develops society.
  18. Unemployment, poverty, and hunger diminish the serenity of family life.
  19. Sin results in social degeneration and injustice; this includes the abuse of nature.
  20. Christ taught the law of love (by word and example), which bears the fruits of mercy and forgiveness.
  21. Love moves us toward tenderness.
  22. Thus we have examined the family in Scripture, a communion of persons in the image of the Trinity that should become an even greater dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.
  23. The Holy Family of Nazareth, and Mary in particular, are models for understanding the family experience.

Chapter 2: The Experiences and Challenges of Families

  1. The family is the future, and many studies have examined the challenges of today’s family, including the Synod.
  2. The family continues to evolve. It receives less outside support than in times past, but benefits from duty-sharing and improved personal communication.
  3. Extreme individualism is a danger to relationships, commitment, and the generous giving of self.
  4. In the light of such individualism, family life is seen as a benefit only when convenient.
  5. Christians cannot stop advocating marriage and should not impose it by rule, but should better understand and convey the reasons for choosing it.
  6. Marriage has been presented as an abstract theological ideal, with far more emphasis on the procreative aspect than on the unitive.
  7. Doctrine, bioethics, and moral issues have been the focus, not presenting marriage as a path to development, fulfillment, and grace.
  8. Thankfully, most people value permanent relationships and many experience the grace of the Sacraments, but too much pastoral energy has been spent denouncing worldliness instead of teaching how to find true happiness. The Church’s message is perceived as different from Jesus’ teachings.
  9. Christians cannot stop warning against cultural decline. Relationships are increasingly commoditized: consumed for certain benefits and then disposed of.
  10. The reasons for avoiding or postponing the start of a family are many. We must learn to arouse the courage of young people.
  11. Today’s culture does not harness affectivity, resulting in the inability of people (and thus marriages) to mature properly.
  12. Population decline is the result of politics, science, industrialization, social fears, consumerism, etc. The Church opposes State promoted/enforced population control.
  13. Weak faith in modern culture leads to distance from God and loneliness, both in individuals and in families. The State is responsible for helping young people realize plans for having a family.
  14. Public policy (juridical, economic, social, fiscal) should reduce family suffering (unemployment, healthcare, etc.) so that the family can nurture relationships within as well as participate in society.
  15. Irregular family constructs, war, terrorism, crime, and hardships of urban life contribute to the suffering of children. Scandalous abuse occurs when and where they should be the most safe.
  16. Migration can be beneficial to the family in some cases and destabilizing in others. Pastoral programs should be offered to those who leave as well as for those who stay behind.
  17. The family that welcomes a child with special needs is a special witness to faith and the gift of life.
  18. The same is true for the family that loves and cares for its elderly members, who too-often are considered a burden. The Church opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide as threats to the family.
  19. Poverty can greatly inhibit the personal growth of a child. The Church should offer comfort rather than judgment.
  20. Family life is often affected by everyday challenges such as job-related stress/exhaustion, addiction to television, lack of a common family meal, fear of the future welfare fo the children, etc.
  21. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, and other addictions contribute greatly to the breakdown of the family today.
  22. The weakening of the family threatens individual maturity, communal values, and moral progress of society. Only the family based on the traditional marriage can ensure the future of society. Other family constructs can only secure a certain level of stability at best.
  23. Some countries allow for polygamy, arranged marriages, and cohabitation (premarital and/or permanent), and legislation increasingly favors individual autonomy over the value of traditional marriage.
  24. The recognition of women’s rights has advanced in general, but a dignity equal with that of man is not yet fully realized.
  25. Men play an important role in family life and their absence is detrimental.
  26. Various forms of gender ideology deny the differences between man and women, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. Also, scientific advances allow for the separation of procreation and parenthood. Man today is tempted by culture to take the place of the Creator, instead of being a creature who respects what has been created.
  27. The challenges that families face today should drive missionary creativity.

Chapter 3: Looking to Jesus: The Vocation of the Family

  1. Families must be formed around the proclamation of the Gospel message (i.e. kerygma).
  2. Our teaching on the family must be inspired by, and indeed, can only be understood in the context of the Gospel message.
  3. This chapter is a summary of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family.
  4. Marriage is a gift from God and must therefore be safeguarded.
  5. Jesus not only reaffirmed that marriage is indissoluble, but also taught that it is a restoration of God’s original plan for man.
  6. Jesus redeemed marriage and the family and bestows on them the grace to reflect the love of God and our communion with him.
  7. Jesus’ ministry was filled with interactions with families.
  8. The beauty of family life is exuded in the Nativity and the life of Jesus prior to public ministry.
  9. Nazareth can teach all families how to be a light in the world.
  10. Marriage is a community of life and love grounded in Christ through the spouses (Gaudium et Spes), and the Body of Christ is built up via the domestic church, making the Church manifest (Lumen Gentium).
  11. Church teaching has developed to include the responsibility of parenthood (Humanae Vitae) and the relationship of the family to the Church (Evangelii Nuntiandi).
  12. Family love is the way of the Church and, thus, marriage leads to holiness (Gratissimam Sane, Familiaris Consortio).
  13. Marital love based on the love of Christ becomes an icon of God’s relationship with his people (Deus Caritas Est), and love in general is a key principle of life in society (Caritas in Veritate).
  14. The Trinity resembles a family, and just as the Holy Spirit is a sign of the Father’s love for the Son’s bestowed at his baptism, so Holy Matrimony is a sacramental sign of Jesus for the Church.
  15. This sacrament is a sanctifying and salvific vocation, not merely a social convention, ritual, or sign of (human) commitment
  16. Marriage is a serious commitment of complete self-giving. The spouses become one flesh, just as Jesus took on the flesh of mankind.
  17. Physical union is expressed in complete consent; thus, marriage points to the mystery of the incarnation.
  18. The (Christian) man and woman are the ministers of this sacrament, which is manifested by their mutual concent and expressed in physical union. When a non-Christian couple is baptized, their (affirmed) marriage automatically becomes sacramental.
  19. The Gospel helps even immature and neglected marriages grow.
  20. Human relationships can only be truly understood in the context of Christ, yet (at least some of) the reality of marriage can be seen in other religious traditions.
  21. Pastoral care is warranted for those in irregular unions and the Church seeks the grace of their conversion, which, through deep affection and noteworthy stability, may lead them to sacramental marriage.
  22. Pastors must clearly state Church teaching while exercising careful discernment (situational awareness), and must not judge those seeking counsel.
  23. The conjugal union is naturally procreative. Children are the fruit and fulfilment of love.
  24. Man and woman share in the work of creation; thus they are instruments of God’s love.
  25. Having children is increasing becoming a small varible in a couple’s life plan, and the Church applauds couples who accept children into their lives, including children who are adopted or have disabilities.
  26. If the family is the sanctuary of life, then it is hypocritical for the spouses to reject or destroy it. Putting the right to one’s own body over the right of another to live effectively asserts that the other person is one’s property (sic. the right to choose when and how the property will be disposed of). This is the rationale for supporting the rights of conscientious objection and of a natural death (i.e. without treatment or euthanasia), as well as the rejection of the death penalty.
  27. The education of children is a right and duty of the parents, and all others involved (i.e. schools) are subsidiary and complementary, but cannot replace parents.
  28. The Church supports and assists parents in this vocation that is an intrinsic part of marriage.
  29. The family perpetuates the faith in its many facets. (CCC 1657)
  30. The Church is a family of families, and the Church and the family mutually benefit one anouther.
  31. Family love continually strengthens the Church, and the role of the family vocation is unique and cannot be replaced.

More to come…


August 23, 2017

Catholic Hate Groups

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Amidst the many news articles and commentaries published last week about the violence in Charlottesville and the tearing down of Confederate statues, I happened to notice a few Tweets about the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map. I ignored them until someone started to point out that fourteen Catholic organizations were included. I had to learn more.


The Southern Poverty Law Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a nonprofit organization that specializes in civil rights litigation. It was the brainchild of Morris Dees and was co-founded with Joseph J. Levin Jr. in 1971. Beginning with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in 1979, the firm continues to monitor several categories of hate organizations across the United States and files lawsuits on behalf of victims when hate-related events occur. The Wikipedia article about the SPLC includes a list of their most notable cases. As part of their monitoring, the SPLC maintains lists of organizations that conduct hate-related activities. The Hate Map featured on the SPLC website is a visualization of these lists that can be filtered by category and by State. (There is also a Wikipedia article dedicated to maintaining a cumulative listing, but it currently holds only three years of list data.)

What criteria must be met to end up on the map? The answer to that seems to be a bit subjective. The most basic criteria is that a listed organization attacks or maligns a specific class of people. Beyond that, inclusion is handled on a case-by-case basis. In the 2006 Winter Issue of the firm’s magazine Intelligence Report, the twelve (at the time) Radical Traditionalist Catholic groups are described, and it is clearly stated that their primary target is the Jews. The article was posted online in January 2007.

The Catholic List

Of the 917 organizations on the list, fourteen of them are categorized as “Radical Traditional Catholicism”. Here is the list as it appeared in August 2017:

  1. Christ or Chaos [Dr. Thomas A. Droleskeyis, Website]
  2. Culture Wars/Fidelity Press [E. Micheal Jones & James G. Bruen Jr., Website]
  3. Robert Sungenis [Website, Wikipedia]
  4. Catholic Family News / Catholic Family Ministries [Joseph John Vennari, Website, Wikipedia]
  5. Most Holy Family Monastery [Michael Diamond, Website, Wikipedia]
  6. In the Spirit of Chartres Committee [Website]
  7. IHS Press [Website, Wikipedia]
  8. Catholic Counterpoint [John Maffei, Fr. Gregorius Hesse & Fr. John O’Connor, Website]
  9. IHM Media [Website]
  10. Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary [Fr. Leonard Feeney, Website, Wikipedia, Catholicism.org]
  11. Fatima Crusader, The / International Fatima Rosary Crusade [Fr. Nicholas Gruner, Website, Wikipedia]
  12. The Remnant Press [Michael Matt, Website, Wikipedia]
  13. OMNI Christian Book Club [Website]
  14. Tradition In Action (TIA) [Website]

All Wikipedia articles linked above include an indication that the organization in question is included on the SPLC list.

Commonalities

An examination if the organizations’ websites and related information, a number of similarities start to arise:

  • All of the organizations oppose (to some degree) the teachings of the Catholic Church.
  • Almost all of the organizations sympathize with schismatic (e.g. SSPX) or heretical groups.
  • Almost all of the organizations are owned/operated by or are based on the work of single individuals or small groups.
  • Many of them offer literature or share content written by the same authors (e.g. Sungenis, Vennari)
  • Only one organization appears to promote physical activities. The remainder author or publish literature.
  • None of the organizations appear to promote violence.

Wait…what? All of these organizations oppose the Church? Indeed. For those not familiar, there are a number of believers who identify as Catholic but who do not align themselves with the present-day Church. Vatican II was a breaking point for most of them due to its wide-sweeping reform in both the Church’s customs as well as her approach to man’s problems in the modern day. The Latin Mass was no longer the norm (thought by many to be forbidden), church architecture leaned toward the modern, and ecumenism seemed to trump dogma. Some view Pope Pius XII (d. 1958) as the last true Pope and consider all of the Popes that followed to be antipopes. This topic has become a hotbed for Catholesque conspiracy theories written à la Dan Brown.

While ecumenism typically involves building relationships and resolving differences with other Christian denominations (i.e. getting a little too chummy with those Protestant heretics), the post-conciliar Church also boosted its involvement in interfaith dialogue with members of other religions, particularly Jews and Muslims. Traditional Catholics (or “Trad Caths” as they are often called these days) only see this fraternizing as an opportunity to compromise the faith, and thus they label the modern Church and its leadership as traitors against Christ. They speak out vehemently against her, stating in no uncertain terms exactly with whom they do not believe the Church should associate and why. Recall that one criterion for being on the Hate Map is that the organization maligns (syn: defame, slander, vilify, slur and revile) a specific class of people? With that in mind, could it not be said that the literature associated with this movement isn’t only anti-Semitic, but anti-Catholic as well?

The real Catholic Church (headed by the real Pope) does not promote hate of any kind (as it is a mortal sin) and it does not compromise on faith and morals — even if some of its members do. Despite what the Traditionalists believe, the purpose of the Second Vatican Council was not to reshape the Church to conform with the world’s norms, but to understand how the Church could better serve the world in its Catholic ministry. It should also be noted that there are traditionalist Catholic groups on good terms with the Holy See who accept (in spirit anyway) the documents of Vatican II and who have been approved to practice the traditional rites of the Church.

Reaction

It’s hard to believe that anyone would want to be called a racist or a hatemonger, but given their dedication to the cause, it is rational to assume that many wear it as a badge of honor. But is this true of the Radical Traditional Catholic crowd? A few articles I found would suggest the answer is an emphatic no! In Philadelphia Magazine’s 2013 piece What Hate Groups Say About Being Called Hate Groups, Catholic Counterpoint owner John Maffei, the follower of an anti-Semitic renegade priest, denies being a racist, stating that he is simply nostalgic for the way life used to be. Only a few days ago, on August 16th, Micheal Matt of The Remnant defended the 50-year-old newspaper after the local CBS television station in Minnesota, WCCO-TV, attempted to link it with the white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, VA based on the paper’s inclusion on SPLC’s list. He referred to the SPLC as a generator of fake news, which is a popular name for propaganda containing false or misleading information presented in a way that makes it look like real news from authentic sources. Similarly, two days later, Brother André Marie of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary posted Civil Unrest Means Hate Map Time for Lazy Journalists, asserting that the SPLC profits greatly by framing conservative organizations as hate groups and providing false information to journalists and law enforcement, while ignoring leftist extremists. (It seems that the SPLC has cast a few stones in Brother André’s direction as well.)

Conclusion

While it is clearly wrong (indeed, quite sinful) to hate another person or group of people, it is not necessarily wrong to disagree with them. In fact, the right to harbor and even promote differences of opinion is protected by the Constitution of the United States (yeah, that whole First Amendment thing again, with its freedom of speech and religion). A line must be drawn somewhere, and it seems that the primary conflict between the SPLC and the “Radical Traditionalist Catholic” groups is that they don’t agree where that line should be. I invite readers to seek out and review the literature on their own. Does it call for the active extermination of the Jewish people? Or does it lay out in scholarly terms an argument based on hard facts that supports the notion that Jewish beliefs pose a real threat to Christianity? Is it somewhere in between? Does it attack people or ideas? How much of it is based on assumptions and speculation? And where is Dan Brown when you really need him anyway?


March 24, 2017

What Does “Catholic” Mean Anyway?

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My recent post covering the five Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch to the Churches in Asia gave rise to some interesting discussions online, including one about the origin of the word “Catholic”. I knew the general answer, that the word means “universal” and that Ignatius was indeed the earliest author to use it, but I wasn’t satisfied with that. I wanted to dig deeper. Here is the result of my research.


Ignatius of Antioch

A discourse on the meaning of the word ‘catholic’ would hardly be complete without some mention of Saint Ignatius of Antioch who used it to describe the Church in his letter to the Smyrnæans in approximately A.D. 108. His message to the believers in Smyrna was clear: be subject to your bishop in all things concerning belief. This is the earliest known writing in which the Church is referred to as ‘universal’ and that leads many people to the conclusion that Ignatius was the first to give the Church her name, or at least the first to coin the phrase. Nothing in the text, however, supports the hypothesis that Ignatius was trying to do either. It appears more likely that he was using a common adjective to describe the whole body of believers everywhere, and that the phrase caught on amongst early Christian writers.

Here is an excerpt taken from the eighth chapter of Ignatius’ letter to the Smyrnæans (taken from NewAdvent.org). The key line of interest has been emphasized and the phrase Catholic Church rendered in bold:

Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid. [Smyrnæans 8]

Here is the emphasized line in Greek (from TextExcavation), again with Catholic Church in bold:

οπου αν φανη ο επισκοπος, εκει το πληθος εστω, ωσπερ οπου αν η Χριστος Ιησους, εκει η καθολικη εκκλησια.

I would take the time to provide a word-for-word translation of the entire excerpt, but it’s not really necessary for this discussion. There are online lexicons and translators for that purpose, so if you are not familar with Greek, now might be a good time to check out some of these tools.

εκκλησια

Let’s start with the noun in this phrase. This is the less controversial of the two words. Almost always rendered in English as ‘church’, the word ekklēsía really just means assembly or gathering, as in a group of people assembled together. It was the term used to refer to the principal assembly of the Athenian democracy over 400 years before Christ walked the Earth. So, which assembly of believers Ignatius is talking about? Since the letter was written for the Chirstians in Smyrna, is he only referring to that assembly? Obviously, no. Ignatius clarified his message by modifying this noun with the adjective καθολικη.

καθολικη

This adjective is actually a combination of two root words: κατά (katá) + ὅλος (hólos). According to Strong’s Concordance, κατά (2596) is a preposition that can have various meanings, such as “down from”, “throughout”, and “according to”. Likewise, ὅλος (3650) is an adjective that means “all”, “whole”, or “entire”. Note how the words are combined into a single adjective, καθολικη. When used to modify the word ekklēsía, one might read the phrase as “according to the entire assembly” or “throughout the whole church”. It requires no stretch of thought to see why the word “universal” is used in translation.

To take this one step further, please note the spelling of the word. The suffix identifies the word’s declension, which is a fancy way of saying number, case, and gender in a single word. Taking a glance at the Wiktionary entry for καθολικός, we can easily determine that for three grammatical cases, this variant of the word modifies a female noun (which εκκλησια is) and is singluar. Ignatius is talking about one church. This implies a level of unity beyond that of the local church and her bishop. Ignatius did not consider the Christian communities to be a loose federation of independent congregations, at least when it came to matters of faith.

Another Look

Now that we have examined the key words in question, let’s reconstruct the line in English based on the Greek above. Again, I am not going to explain every word as they can easily be referenced online. I used the Greek Dictionary Headword Search engine in the Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University to translate the line as follows:

The place where lights the bishop, there the multitude is one; even as, where is Christ Jesus, there is the whole assembly throughout.

Ignatius is clearly drawing an analogy that makes perfect sense in his plea for the Churches in Asia to remain in unity with their respective bishops who are, themselves, in unity insofar as the teaching of the faith is concerned. What’s more, this concept of the whole assembly of believers being ever-present with Christ is an expression of what Mircea Eliade would call sacred time and space, though whether Ignatius intended to convey this idea or if it was a product of divine inspiration will be left for discussion at another time.

Word Usage

Some make the argument that Ignatius coined the word καθολικη, based primarily on the observation that the word is not used in the Bible to describe the Church…in fact, it doesn’t appear at all in the Bible. (Such people also tend to be Fundamentalist Christians who only know the word “Catholic” as a proper name and who want to prove that the Church’s universal authority is illegitimate by claiming that Ignatius invented the word after the age of the Apostles and therefore it isn’t “Biblical”.) However, if the word καθολικη (or more properly, καθολικός) existed prior to the time of Christ and the Apostles (and was even found to be commonly used), then there should be instances of it in other Greek texts that predate the New Testament. Whether or not these texts are part of Sacred Scripture is, of course, immaterial, but it never hurts to start there.

The words κατά (2596) and ὅλος (3739) both appear numerous times in the New Testament (480 and 1411 respectively). The word καθό (2526), which means “according to”, is found four times (Rom 8:26, twice in 2 Cor 8:12, and 1 Peter 4:13). The word καθόλου (2527), which is an adverb meaning “entirely” or “at all”, is found once, in Acts 4:18: they instructed them not to teach at all in the name of Jesus. Browsing through Hatch & Redpath’s 1897 Concordance to the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament), a similar pattern emerges: many references to the root words, a handful to καθό and καθόλου, and none for καθολικός. So, the root words and some similar words appear in the Bible, but the specific usage we are seeking here is not present.

A search of other Greek texts proves to be more fruitful. Again, using the Greek Dictionary Headword Search engine in the Perseus Digital Library, a search for words starting with καθολ resulted in over sixty hits across eleven works. Nine instances were found in the Histories of Polybius (200-118 B.C.), two of which concern making a “general assertion” (καθολικῆς ἀποφάσεως). The geopgrapher Strabo (63 B.C.-A.D.24; thus immediately prior to Jesus’ public ministry) used it in his work on Geography. The excerpt …ὥστ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ἔνεστι καθολικῶς εἰπεῖν ἐπὶ τῶν ἀπεριλήπτων τὸ πλῆθος… [Strab. 17.3] is translated in the accompanying English translation as “…so that it cannot be asserted generally of places indefinite in number…”, but could probably be reduced to “…it cannot be generally said…” So much for the notion that Ignatius was the original inventor of this word.

There are examples of the word being used by writers contemporary to Ignatius as well. The Stoic Philosopher Epictetus (A.D. 50-135) used the word six times in his Discourses. One sample drawn from that work is καθολικοῦ μέμνησο [book2, chapter 2], which is rendered in the accompanying English version as “Remember, then, the general rule…” but which could probably be simplified as “Remember generally…”. In a work called Tetrabiblos by Claudius Ptolemy (A.D. 100-170; yes, the same Ptolemy famous for his geocentric model of the universe), there can be found thirteen separate instances of the word with usages similar to those found in Polybius, such as to describe a calling, a custom, etc. Two more instances can be found in M. Antonius Imperator Ad Se Ipsum by Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121-180). And so on and so forth. Even if the Perseus Digital Library contains a complete collection of ancient Greek texts, there is proof enough that the compound word καθολικός was common in ancient Greek texts, making Ignatius’ single use of it even less extraordinary.

Incidentally, the largest number of search hits (21 occurences) arose from the Church History according to Eusebius (~A.D. 260-341), six modifing the “assembly” (same usage as Ignatius), four in reference to letters or letter writers (i.e. epistles, as in the Catholic Epistles of Peter, Jude, James, and John), and the remainder modifying various other words to describe general knowledge, direction, order, etc. So, while this adjective was starting to grow in usage, it was still not used to refer exclusively to the Church, even in the Fourth Centruy writings of the Church Fathers.

Conclusion

Ignatius was not attempting to give a name to a universal church, or to coin a new phrase, but was simply using a common adjective to describe the collective of all Christian believers everywhere. In the long run, of course, that is what eventually happened. “Catholic Church” is a proper name that, today, specifically identifies an assembly of people around the world that is rooted in a common belief, and whose “headquarters” (if you want to call it that) is located in Rome. It is slightly more complicated than that, of course, because the Roman Church is just one of many that belong to this more universal collection of Churches, but then, this makes Ignatius’ message even more understandable for modern Catholics.

Addendum: New Questions

Doing this research has brought to mind two additional questions that will make for some interesting study in the future.

First, at what point in history did the word ‘Catholic’ become part of the proper name of the Church, and thus an adjective that exclusively associates whatever it modifies as belonging to the same? One might expect to find this usage prevailent in the writings of the Protestant Reformers and possibly even in Catholic writings in the years leading up to the Reformation. I have seen some claims online that explain how the Church didn’t have to qualify itself as Catholic until Protestant thought became widespread and uncontrollable. Perhaps this was the same reason καθολικός became so popular amongst the Church Fathers, as they were often combating the early heresies and wrote about how these strange beliefs contradicted the Church’s universal teachings.

Second, why does καθολικός not appear in Sacred Scripture? This may be much harder to answer, as it requires a deep understanding of ancient Greek and how the language evolved over time. It may have to do with the level of sophistication with which the various authors wrote. All of the examples given above where the word appears are from works written by scholars, philosophers, scientists, and even an Emperor! Their education, and thus their, command of the Greek language was undoubtedly superior to those common men who roughly incribed the stories of the Apostles while in hiding for fear of Roman persecution. Likewise, translation of ancient Hebrew writings, most of which had already been passed from age to age as oral traditions, into Greek may have dictated the use of simple language.

Perhaps these questions have already been answered in some scholarly works just waiting for me to discover.


March 15, 2017

Ignatius’ Asian Epistles

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Synopsis

Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr of the early Church, wrote to several Churches in Asia, imploring the faithful to remain united with the teachings of their bishops.

Authorship

Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, while imprisoned and in transport to Rome in about the year A.D. 108, wrote letters to several Christian communities in Asia. Three of these letters (to the Churches in Ephesus, Magnesia, and Tralles) were written while he was imprisoned in Smyrna, and two (to the Churches in Philadelphia and Smyrna) were written after he was transported to Troas. Full authenticity of the contents of these letters is not generally accepted; however, the most egregious embellishments can be identified and removed using copies of the letters from different ages and sources. The original letters and contemporary copies have been lost to antiquity.

Summary

The following is a summary of the major points addressed in each letter:

Ephesians Magnesians Trallians

  • Salutation
  • Praise of the Ephesians
  • Praise of their Bishop
  • Praise of their Deacon, others
  • Remain united with the Bishop
  • Denounce hypocrisy
  • Be an example through prayer and works
  • Give thanks to God often
  • Statement on faith and love
  • Statement on silence
  • Warning against false doctrine
  • The advent of Christ
  • Promise to write again
  • Request for prayers

  • Salutation
  • Praise of the Magnesians
  • Praise of their Bishop, Priests, Deacon
  • Honor the bishop despite his youth
  • Disobedience mocks God, earns death
  • Remain united with your Bishop
  • Avoid Judaizing
  • Be united in doctrine and deed
  • Request for prayers

  • Salutation
  • Praise of the Trallians
  • Be subject to the Bishop
  • Honor the Deacons
  • Humility in writing
  • Avoid heresy
  • Avoid temptation
  • History of Christ
  • More praise of the Trallians
  • Request for prayers
Philadelphians Smyrnæans

  • Salutation
  • Praise of the Philadelphians
  • Praise of their Bishop
  • Remain united with the Bishop
  • Avoid schismatics
  • Request for prayers
  • Avoid Judaizing
  • Praise of the Gospel over the Law
  • End of persecution
  • Thanks to certain persons

  • Salutation
  • Praise of the Smyrnæans
  • Avoid heresy, which leads to death
  • Remain united with the Bishop
  • Honor the bishop
  • A word of thanks
  • Request to sent message to Antioch

Observations

Pauline Style. The style in which Ignatius writes is strikingly similar to that used by Paul. An elaborate greeting, followed by some commentary on the community to which he is writing, followed then by some order of business to discuss, etc. Compare the contents of the first three Ignatian epistles to, say, the opening paragraphs of 1st Corinthians.

The Saint John Connection. All five churches are in western Asia (modern-day Turkey). Three of the churches (Ephesus, Smyrna, and Philadelphia) are of the seven mentioned in the Apocolypse of Saint John (a.k.a. the Book of Revelation). Patmos, the island where John was exiled, is just off the coast. Tradition tells us that John wrote his three (Biblical) epistles while living in Ephesus and his Apocolypse while on Patmos. Both Ignatius (Bishop of Antioch) and Polycarp (Bishop of Smyrna) are believed to have been disciples of John.

Unity. The underlying theme running throughout Ignatius’ Asian epistles is the importance of unity within the Christian communities. To Ignatius, this was manifest in maintaining unity with “the bishop and the presbytery” (the latter referring to the collection of priests that serve the bishop of course). This is an extension of Paul’s proclamation that there should be no divisions amongst Christians (1 Cor. 1:10+).

Ignatius uses strong words to emphasize this urgent need for unity. He likens obedience to the bishop to obedience to Christ himself and declares that the disobedient man separates himself from the Church and thereby condemns himself. Consider the following exceprts:

It is therefore befitting that you should in every way glorify Jesus Christ…that by a unanimous obedience you may be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment, and may all speak the same thing concerning the same thing, and that, being subject to the bishop and the presbytery, you may in all respects be sanctified. [Ephesians 2]

Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God. […] He, therefore, that does not assemble with the Church, has even by this manifested his pride, and condemned himself. [Ephesians 5]

It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself. [Ephesians 6]

It is therefore fitting that you should, after no hypocritical fashion, obey [your bishop], in honor of Him who has willed us [so to do], since he that does not so deceives not…the bishop that is visible, but seeks to mock Him that is invisible. [Magnesians 3]

…while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons…Let nothing exist among you that may divide you; but be united with your bishop, and those that preside over you, as a type and evidence of your immortality. [Magnesians 6]

…let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ,…and the presbyters as the sanhedrim of God, and the assembly of the apostles. Apart from these, there is no Church. [Trallians 3]

Wherefore, as children of light and truth, flee from division and wicked doctrines; but where the shepherd is, there follow as sheep. [Philadephians 2]

For where there is division and wrath, God does not dwell. To all them that repent, the Lord grants forgiveness, if they turn in penitence to the unity of God, and to communion with the bishop. [Philadephians 8]

Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid. [Smyrnæans 8]

In these bold words of Ignatius we find the roots of basic Catholic concepts, such as the Magisterium, the ordinary authority of the bishops, and latae sententiae excommunication, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Knowing the Community by the Bishops. While imprisoned in Smyrna, Ignatius was visited by delegations from at least three Christian communities. It is notable that these delegations included not just priests and deacons, but the local bishop as well! He apparently spent time talking with these men about their flocks and he makes it a point to mention in his letters that he “knows” them through their bishops. It may be a reflection of the translation, but his words seem to imply a deeper relationship and not just a surface knowledge of them. Consider the following excerpts:

I received, therefore, your whole multitude in the name of God, through Onesimus…your bishop… [Ephesians 1]

…I have had the privilege of seeing you, through Damas your most worthy bishop, and through your worthy presbyters…and through [the] deacon… [Magnesians 2]

I know that you possess an unblameable and sincere mind…as Polybius your bishop has shown me, who has come to Smyrna…that I beheld your whole multitude in him. [Trallians 1]

This language reinforces the unity found within these early Christian communities and the notion that the faithful are bound up to their bishop who is not only God’s representative to them, but their representative to God and to others.

For reference, here is a list of the names of the clergy and other visitors:

  • Ephesians: Onesimus (Bp), Burrhus (Dcn), Crocus, Euplus, Fronto
  • Magnesians: Damas (Bp, Bassus (Pr), Apollonius (Pr), Sotio (Dcn)
  • Trallians: Polybius (Bp)
  • Philadelphians: unnamed bishop
  • Smyrna: Polycarp, though not named in this letter

Dissenters. Unity with the bishop and the presytery isn’t important for the sake of simple affiliation. It is the way in which the faith is preserved and transmitted. Ignatius warns the Asian Churches about several types of dissenters, those who stray from the teachings of Christ and the Apostles as it is communicated through the bishops.

The first type of dissenter is the hypocrite, one who professes to be a follower of Jesus but who does not live a life in accordance with his teachings.

For some are in the habit of carrying about the name [of Jesus Christ] in wicked guile, while yet they practise things unworthy of God, whom you must flee as you would wild beasts. [Ephesians 7]

It is better for a man to be silent and be [a Christian], than to talk and not to be one. It is good to teach, if he who speaks also acts. [Ephesians 15]

It is fitting, then, not only to be called Christians, but to be so in reality: as some indeed give one the title of bishop, but do all things without him. Now such persons seem to me to be not possessed of a good conscience, seeing that they are not steadfastly gathered according to the commandment. [Magnesians 4]

Another type is the heretic, teacher of false doctrine. Some of Ignatius’ warnings are generic, as is the case with the passages below. It may be harsh to hear that heresy ultimately destroys both the heretic and his followers, but this is the same warning issued by Saint Peter in his second encyclical (2 Peter 2:1-3) and even by Christ himself (Mt 18:6, Mk 9:42, Lk 17:2).

Nevertheless, I have heard of some who have passed on from this to you, having false doctrine, whom you did not allow to sow among you, but stopped your ears, that you might not receive those things which were sown by them… [Ephesians 9]

…how much more shall this be the case with anyone who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God…such an one becoming defiled [in this way], shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens unto him. [Ephesians 16]

I therefore, yet not I, but the love of Jesus Christ, entreat you that you use Christian nourishment only, and abstain from herbage of a different kind; I mean heresy. [Trallians 6]

In the category of heretics, we must include the Judeaizers who sought to bring the faithful Gentiles under the yoke of the Mosaic law. Paul writes at length about such heretics in his letter to the Galatians (the whole letter is about this) and to a lesser extent in his letter to the Ephesians (chapters 2-3). The Incident at Antioch (yes, the same Antioch in Syria where Ignatius eventually served as bishop) which led to the Council at Jerusalem (Acts 15) is the event that prompted Paul to issue such warnings.

Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace. For the divinest prophets lived according to Christ Jesus. [Magnesians 8]

If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day…how shall we be able to live apart from Him, whose disciples the prophets themselves in the Spirit did wait for Him as their teacher? [Magnesians 9]

For were He to reward us according to our works, we should cease to be. Therefore, having become His disciples, let us learn to live according to the principles of Christianity. [Magnesians 10]

But if any one preach the Jewish law unto you, listen not to him. For it is better to hearken to Christian doctrine from a man who has been circumsised, than to Judaism from one uncircumcised. But if either…do not speak concerning Jesus Christ, they are in my judgment but as monuments and sepulchres of the dead, upon which are written only the names of men. [Philadelphians 6]

Likewise, Ignatius mentions in several of the letters that there are some who believe that Jesus did not suffer and die at all, but that his body was merely an illusion. The heresy is called Docetism and its proponents would eventually come to be known as the Docetæ. Trallians 9-11 is one example, but his lengthiest treatment on this particular heresy is in Smyrnæans 2-7.

Unique to the letter to the Philadelphians, Ignatius advises the faithful to avoid those who seek to divide the Church. These dissenters are called schismatics.

If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion [of Christ]. [Philadephians 3]

References

All quotes above came from the letters as they appear on NewAdvent.org.


January 23, 2017

Martyrium Ignatii

Filed under: Christianity — Brandon @ 10:18 am
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Synopsis

The Martyrium Ignatii (“Martyrdom of Ignatius”) provides details about the trial of Ignatius of Antioch before Emperor Trajan, his transport to Rome by way of Smyrna and Troas, and his execution in the Roman arena as he was fed to the beasts.

Authorship

This account is written from the perspective of one who accompanied Ignatius from Antioch to Rome, possibly Philo, a deacon from Tarsus, and Rheus Agathopus from Syria. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, scholars generally agree that the narrative is authentic, but since the earliest reliable copy is a revision with its earliest witness in the Tenth Century, it is also believed to be highly interpolated.

Summary

Here are the main points covered in this document:

  • Ignatius, disciple of John the Apostle, was bishop of the Church in Antioch (Syria).
  • He guided his Church through the persecutions under Domitian and survived.
  • He longed for a closer relationship with Christ through martyrdom.
  • Emperor Trajan forced Christians to choose to worship Roman gods or be killed.
  • In his ninth year as Emperor, Trajan was passing through Antioch on conquest.
  • Trajan questioned Ignatius about his religious disobedience and influence.
  • When Ignatius confirmed his devotion to Christ, he was sentenced to fight the beasts in Rome.
  • He was transported from Antioch to Seleucia, and then by sea to Smyrna.
  • He visited his former disciple, Polycarp, who was now the Bishop of Smyrna.
  • He was also visited by bishops, priests, and deacons from various cities in Asia.
  • To repay their hospitality, Ignatius wrote to the cities, giving praise and instruction.
  • They sailed to Troas and Neapolis, then traveled by land to Philippi and Epirus in West Macedonia.
  • From there they sailed to Rome, skipping Puteoli; thus, Ignatius could not follow in Paul’s steps.
  • Landing in Portus, he prayed with the brethren for the end of persecution, and was thrown into the arena.
  • His bones were collected, wrapped in linen, and returned to Antioch.
  • The authors of this account assert that, after his death, Ignatius visited each of them one night in their dreams.

Observations

  • External sources seem to agree that the letters to the Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, and Romans were written in Smyrna, and the letters to the Philadelphians, Smyrnæans, and to Polycarp were written in Troas.
  • According to Chapter Four, this account originally included a copy of Ignatius’ letter to the Romans. (This makes sense, as the authors returned to Antioch from Rome with Ignatius’ bones, and could have obtained or produced a copy there.)

January 21, 2017

Scottish Cathedral Permits Koranic Recitation

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News broke last week about a cathedral in Scotland that permitted the recitation of a Surah from al Qur’an during the evening Epiphany service. To be clear, this was the Episcopal (i.e. Anglican) Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, not the Presbyterian (i.e. Church of Scotland) Glasgow Cathedral. I soon found some still photos and then the video on YouTube (the highest-quality copy of which has since been removed). In them a young Muslim woman stands at a lectern shaped like an eagle as she sings in Arabic. Just beyond her sit a priest and the chancel choir in the transept of a beautiful old church. The sacred vessels are prepared and the rood screen adorned with strands of twinkling electric Christmas lights.

At first, I took this to mean that the Gospel reading (at what Catholics and many Anglicans would call a “Mass”) had been replaced with the Koranic account of the Annunciation and Nativity of Jesus, which is found in the nineteenth Surah (chapter) titled Maryam (Mary). This would, of course, undermine the very purpose of attending the Service, which is to hear the Word of God, receive some practical instruction in the faith based on those readings (the sermon), give thanks to God for his salvific work through his Son (the Eucharist), and then be sent out into the world to proclaim the good news to others. The Gospel message rests at the core of this mission. It is unthinkable to supplant the very basis of a Christian’s work with a non-Christian text.

Thankfully, this was not the case. True, the recitation was made during the Eucharistic service at Epiphany, but according to Provost Kelvin Holdsworth’s blog, the Eucharistic service carried on as usual: the expression of the community’s faith in Christ, the recitation of the Nicene Creed, and the proclamation of Christ’s divinity in the Eucharistic prayers. According to Holdsworth, the purpose for allowing the recitation was not to incorporate a teaching or form of worship from another religion into their own, but to make the Muslims who were visiting for that specific celebration to feel welcome and comfortable in the church. “Frankly, we think it is a good thing that Muslims are coming to church and hearing us proclaim the Gospel of Christ.” he writes. “No-one pretends that Muslims and Christians believe the same things. We know that Muslims don’t believe in the divinity of Christ – that’s a known and accepted fact. It isn’t surprising. […] We don’t do syncretism, we do hospitality.” Besides extending hospitality, the recitation also seems to have created opportunities for open dialogue between the Muslim and Christian congregants. Holdsworth adds that the recitation of selections from al Qur’an during Christian worship services is rare, but not unheard of, noting that it had been done a few years earlier in the very same Cathedral in the presence of the Bishop during a Lessons and Carols service without nearly the same amount of publicity or backlash.

And there certainly has been backlash. This service, “regarded locally as a good event” according to Holdsworth, was subsequently reported to the general online audience in a very negative way, giving rise to many hateful responses, including serious threats against the safety of the clergy and people of Saint Mary’s Cathedral. Considering that these responses were described by Holdsworth as Islamophobic, it can only be assumed that the majority of them came from Christians angered by the Cathedral’s actions. Indeed, highly-critical opinions of this event are not difficult to find on YouTube and other sites, and Christians seem to be the ones complaining about it. It seems quite ironic that those most concerned about Muslim violence against Christians would resort to threats of violence themselves. This can hardly be considered an appropriate Christian response.

One of the chief complaints that I have seen is that the Surah that was recited that Epiphany evening is particularly anti-Christian…which is actually a fairly accurate claim. Surah 19 begins with the annunciation stories of Zechariah and Mary, similar to what is found in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel, followed by some mention of Old Testament Prophets, and then a foretelling of Paradise for the righteous and the judgement and punishment in which all non-believers are condemned to a fiery eternity. One of the worst things the unbelievers proclaim about God is that he had begotten a son, because having children is something that creatures do and it is not fitting for God to have a son. Well, that’s exactly what Christians do proclaim, isn’t it? I don’t know Arabic, so I couldn’t tell for myself which verses marked the beginning and the end of the recitation, but so far I have found several blogs claim that it ended with verse 36, which is at the end of the Marian narrative. Verse 35 is the first of two that state that God should not have a son (the other being verse 92) and was therefore included.

And what does the Anglican Church have to say? Only a day or two after the Epiphany service made Internet headlines, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, a prominent figure within the Anglican Communion and expert on Christian-Muslim relations, publicly condemned the practice of reading al Qur’an during Christian worship services and even called for disciplinary action for those involved at St. Mary’s Cathedral. He plainly explains that the Surah in question promotes the nontrinitarian heresy of adoptionism, this is, the belief that Jesus was not a true son of God, but merely adopted. This heresy has been around since the Second Century. Nazir-Ali’s condemnation brings us full-circle, back the the mission of the Church and the original purpose of the Eucharistic service.

Finally, on January 13th, the Scottish Episcopal Church released a statement on the matter, first recognizing the importance of interfaith work and then pledging to explore ways to strengthen interfaith relations in the context of worship. Regarding the specific controversy at St. Mary’s, however, the Primus is leaving that up to Provost Holdsworth and the Cathedral’s faith community.


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