Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On the Cross and Christmas

Patheos has a new article by David Henson about why the Cross does not belong at Christmas. You can find it here: Born to Die?: Why the Cross doesn't Belong at Christmas.

He wrote it in response to a Church Christmas sign that read "Born to Die".

Yesterday, I passed a church sign that proclaimed Christmas was the story of a baby born to die. It seemed a macabre, odd way to wish passersby a merry Christmas. Apparently, though, quite a few Christians root the story of Jesus’ birth in his death, as if they are determined to nestle the cross into the manger’s hay, right next to Jesus.

I disagree with both sides in this argument. Born to die is a terribly reductive way to look at the birth of our Savior. But on the other hand the mystery of our salvation is an indivisible whole. And Henson's attempt to divorce them I think is ill conceived and the result of bad theology. Pascha is present in the Nativity as the Nativity is present in Pascha. The author uses the Nicene Creed's statement that the Incarnation is salvific to argue that the Paschal event is not also salvific. 

The point isn’t the crucifixion, or the resurrection for that matter. Rather, it’s the incarnation. Our creed proclaims as much: “for us and for our salvation, he came down … and became incarnate.” That’s why the cross doesn’t belong in the Christmas story. That’s why Jesus wasn’t born to die.

This reading of the Creed requires us to ignore the clause of that follows his quotation. "For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;".  Henson is right to say that we are saved by Christ's life, but he errs in dividing Christ's death and resurrection from that life. 

The luminous child of Mary does show what the Divine Life is through his life, his wonderful and beautiful ministry, but also his death. It is his death that shows that this Life is so powerful that even Sin and Death cannot destroy it. "Christ is risen from the dead,Trampling down death by death, And upon those in the tombs Bestowing life!" And this is the Son of Mary who's birth we celebrate this Christmas season, the one who was born to give us the Divine LIfe, here and now, by his birth, death and resurrection. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

On the Daily Office and Catholic Social Conscience

Derek Olsen has posted his wonderful presentation given at this year's The Society of Catholic Priests conference in southern California.  Usually when Anglo-Catholics talk about social conscience they link it with the Eucharist, but Dr. Olsen does a wonderful job of showing how the Daily Office can also strengthen and inform our social conscience. Here's a quote to whet your appetite:

There are three fundamental concepts within the psalter that are crucial and inescapable elements of the catholic social conscience. First, they show us the center—that is, they define a reality where all creation is oriented towards God and participates together in the mutual worship of God. Second, they emphasize the rule of law—that is, they emphasize that justice is a key attribute of God and that justice, righteousness, and equity must be central values for us because they flow directly from the identity of God himself. Third, they form us in the habit of empathy because they place in our mouths the words of the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, and they invite us to see the world through those eyes, and to recognize the injustices seen through those eyes.

Check out the rest at Haligweorc

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Prayerbook Rule

Derek Olsen has a great blog post about Percy Dearmer on the Prayer Book system.

For Dearmer the Prayer Book (in this case the Church of England Prayer Book of 1662) is a complete system that leads the christian into a full christian life.

The Churchman is helped by the grace of God all through his life, from the cradle to the grave. He is baptized as a little child, and thus brought into the [28/29] Holy Catholic Church and made a member of Christ. 

He goes on to talk about catechesis, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Holy Matrimony, Last Rites which brings one to the end of the human life.  Cradle to Grave as Dearmer says.

But besides these pivotal points in life the Prayer Book provides guidance for the daily life of a christian.

Every day of the week. Morning Prayer in the morning and Evening Prayer in the evening, “that the people (by daily hearing of holy Scripture read in the church) might continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God.” 

The Calendar, the Lectionary, and The Daily Office are meant to form us by daily prayer and the reading of Holy Scriptures.  And they can do just that if we use them.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

For Trinity Sunday

Blessed Julian of Norwich on the Trinity

“Suddenly the Trinity filled my heart full of the greatest joy, and I understood that it will be so in heaven without end to all who will come there. For the Trinity is God, God is the Trinity. The Trinity is our maker, the Trinity is our protector, the Trinity is our everlasting lover, the Trinity is our endless joy and our bliss, by our Lord Jesus Christ and in our Lord Jesus Christ. . . for where Jesus appears the Trinity is understood.” 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Christian Consumerism

David J. Dunn has posted about the Christian response to consumerism at Eastern Orthodox Consumerism.

Considering the all pervasiveness of the consumer culture Christians have to respond and they usually respond in one of two ways.  Economic asceticism and Economic hedonism.

One spurns the pleasures of the world as sinful. The other seems materialistic, except that consumer materialism is false and temporary. We consumers do not cherish the material world so much as we cycle through it.

He then points to the living out of the liturgical life as a way of transcending these dichotomies.  The Eastern Orthodox liturgical cycle is noted for its frequent fasts.  The fast of course is always a prelude to a feast. 

Our liturgical life is a pattern of feasting and fasting. The purpose of the fast is not to punish ourselves, to deny the goodness of matter, or simply to deny ourselves luxuries. A fast is like an appetizer. When we fast, we anticipate the feast. This temporary “denial” of some matter is actually an affirmation of it. Because the fast anticipates the feast – which anticipates the feast of feasts in God’s kingdom – then what we consume for us becomes a kind of icon.

And so matter, that which is consumed, becomes a means of grace to use a more western idiom.  Though the Eastern Church is noted for the emphasis it places on fasting (and feasting), the Western Church also has its own traditions to which we might do well to attend to once again.  Our calendar also has a pattern of fasting before feasting Lent and Advent being the prime examples.  And throughout the year we had the Ember days in each of the four seasons and the weekly Friday abstinence/fast. Learning to live into these practices can be very liberating.  

According to Dunn
embracing the fast in anticipation of the final feast of the kingdom – is one way to discipline our desires and maybe make us more conscientious consumers. If what we buy brings us into peace with God and neighbor, contributes to our love of others, and brings us joy that lasts longer than the euphoria of the initial purchase, then consumer culture’s grip on us is just a little less secure.   

That is definitely something worth doing.