Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Study Group, 2/26

Reading: Matthew 4-6

Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.

Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple, And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him.

And when Jesus had heard that John was delivered up, he retired into Galilee: And leaving the city Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capharnaum on the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim; That it might be fulfilled which was said by Isaias the prophet: Land of Zabulon and land of Nephthalim, the way of the sea beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people that sat in darkness, hath seen great light: and to them that sat in the region of the shadow of death, light is sprung up.

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say: Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And Jesus walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishers). And he saith to them: Come ye after me, and I will make you to be fishers of men. And they immediately leaving their nets, followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets: and he called them. And they forthwith left their nets and father, and followed him. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom: and healing all manner of sickness and every infirmity, among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria, and they presented to him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and such as were possessed by devils, and lunatics, and those that had palsy, and he cured them: And much people followed him from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain, and when he was set down, his disciples came unto him. And opening his mouth, he taught them, saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God. Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men. You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid.

Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house. So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled.

He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, that unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath any thing against thee; Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift. Be at agreement with thy adversary betimes, whilst thou art in the way with him: lest perhaps the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing.

You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell. And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell.

And it hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.

Again you have heard that it was said to them of old, Thou shalt not forswear thyself: but thou shalt perform thy oaths to the Lord. But I say to you not to swear at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God: Nor by the earth, for it is his footstool: nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king: Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil.

You have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other: And if a man will contend with thee in judgment, and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him. And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two, Give to him that asketh of thee and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away.

You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this? Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.

Take heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have a reward of your Father who is in heaven. Therefore when thou dost an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honoured by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth. That thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee.

And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard. Be not you therefore like to them, for your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask him. Thus therefore shall you pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our supersubstantial bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. Amen.

For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences. And when you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But thou, when thou fastest anoint thy head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father who is in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret, will repay thee.

Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also. The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome. But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be!

No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment? Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature by one cubit? And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. And if the grass of the field, which is to day, and to morrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith? Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore solicitous for to morrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.

For study: Summa Theologiae, First Part, Question 2: The existence of God: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1002.htm.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Rosary and Faith


This is the second essay in a series about ritual and faith. This entry is a joint piece by Thomas Lewis and Rt. Rev. John. 

The rosary is a ritualistic prayer that was revealed to St. Dominic during "the time when he was preaching to the Albigenses," having complained of little success, Our Lady responded, saying, "Wonder not that until now you have obtained so little fruit by your labours; you have spent them on a barren soil, not yet watered with the dew of Divine grace. When God willed to renew the face of the earth, He began by sending down on it the fertilizing rain of the Angelic Salutation. Therefore preach my Psalter, composed of 150 Angelic Salutations and 15 Our Fathers, and you will obtain an abundant harvest" (Source). The Angelic Salutation of the time was drawn from Luke 1:28,42: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb."

In 1569, Pope St. Pius V, a Dominican walking in the steps of St. Dominic, expanded the prayer to include "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death," while also recommending that one should meditate "on the mysteries which recall the entire life of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Source). There is no need to explain the Mysteries here, as they are discussed extensively elsewhere as well as being outside the scope of this essay, but this highlights that the rosary is a meditative exercise meant to draw the faithful closer to the Christ and the Blessed Mother. Just two years later, on Sunday, October 7, 1571, the fleet of the Catholic Holy League sailed to confront the Turkish navy "in the strait between the Gulfs of Patras and Corinth, then called Lepanto ... at day's end the Christian fleet had scored a decisive victory" (Source). St. Pius V attributed that great victory to the rosary and those who prayed it, and his successor, Pope Gregory XIII, "established an anniversary Mass of the Rosary on the first Sunday of October 1573."

This demonstrates that the Holy Rosary as ritual prayer provides not only a focus for a deepening of one's faith but also an affirmation of the faith itself against the wicked. The Church has used ritualistic prayer for the entirety of its history to bring the faithful closer to God, but the rosary has taken on a special role in that regard. Praying Our Lady's Psalter regularly is encouraged to induce a greater understanding of the Mysteries contained within the life of Christ and the Assumption and Crowning of the Blessed Virgin.

More recently, the rosary has also been expanded to include the Apostles' Creed and the Gloria Patri, making it serve almost as a mini-catechism refreshing and reaffirming one's faith with each recitation. This combined with the meditative state allows one to contemplate the broader Mysteries of the Faith and one’s relationship to God.  We are incapable of fully understanding the Divine on our own, but praying the rosary helps us receive the truth that God wishes us to receive. Without the gift of the rosary and the lesson of ritual prayer contained within, many faithful, both past and present, would have been lost or never would have found their way to the Lord. For this gift, we must raise our voices to the heavens in praise and thanks.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Study Group, 2/19

Reading: Matthew 1-3

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac. And Isaac begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Judas and his brethren. And Judas begot Phares and Zara of Thamar. And Phares begot Esron. And Esron begot Aram. And Aram begot Aminadab. And Aminadab begot Naasson. And Naasson begot Salmon. And Salmon begot Booz of Rahab. And Booz begot Obed of Ruth. And Obed begot Jesse. And Jesse begot David the king. And David the king begot Solomon, of her that had been the wife of Urias. And Solomon begot Roboam. And Roboam begot Abia. And Abia begot Asa. And Asa begot Josaphat. And Josaphat begot Joram. And Joram begot Ozias. And Ozias begot Joatham. And Joatham begot Achaz. And Achaz begot Ezechias. And Ezechias begot Manasses. And Manasses begot Amon. And Amon begot Josias. And Josias begot Jechonias and his brethren in the transmigration of Babylon. And after the transmigration of Babylon, Jechonias begot Salathiel. And Salathiel begot Zorobabel. And Zorobabel begot Abiud. And Abiud begot Eliacim. And Eliacim begot Azor. And Azor begot Sadoc. And Sadoc begot Achim. And Achim begot Eliud. And Eliud begot Eleazar. And Eleazar begot Mathan. And Mathan begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

So all the generations, from Abraham to David, are fourteen generations. And from David to the transmigration of Babylon, are fourteen generations: and from the transmigration of Babylon to Christ are fourteen generations. Now the generation of Christ was in this wise. When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child, of the Holy Ghost. Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately. But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name JESUS. For he shall save his people from their sins.

Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. And Joseph rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him his wife. And he knew her not till she brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him. And king Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda. For so it is written by the prophet: And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel.

Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them; And sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come to adore him. Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country.

And after they were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him. Who arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and he was there until the death of Herod: That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called my son.

Then Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. But when Herod was dead, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph in Egypt, Saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel. For they are dead that sought the life of the child. Who arose, and took the child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. But hearing that Archelaus reigned in Judea in the room of Herod his father, he was afraid to go thither: and being warned in sleep retired into the quarters of Galilee. And coming he dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was said by prophets: That he shall be called a Nazarene.

And in those days cometh John the Baptist preaching in the desert of Judea. And saying: Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by Isaias the prophet, saying: A voice of one crying in the desert, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.

And the same John had his garment of camels' hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins: and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the country about Jordan: And were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. And seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them: Ye brood of vipers, who hath shewed you to flee from the wrath to come?

Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance. And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father. For I tell you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham. For now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that doth not yield good fruit, shall be cut down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you in the water unto penance, but he that shall come after me, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire. Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan, unto John, to be baptized by him. But John stayed him, saying: I ought to be baptized by thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering, said to him: Suffer it to be so now. For so it becometh us to fulfill all justice. Then he suffered him. And Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to him: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him. And behold a voice from heaven, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

For study: Summa Theologiae, First Part, Question 1. The nature and extent of sacred doctrine: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1001.htm.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ritual and Meaning in Faith



On my journey through spiritual matters, I have come to realize that faith without ritual has no meaning.  It is through ritual that the bond between Creator and created is strengthened and deepened.  If you look at human culture throughout history, it has until recently relied heavily on ritualistic worship to draw people closer to the Divine.  It has only been since the rise of Protestantism that mankind has truly started losing this important aspect of worship, something intrinsic to our very being.

The Protestants have put forth the idea that all one needs to do is “accept Jesus” to be saved.  This flies in the face of millennia of human worship as it is the ritualistic aspect of worship that deepens one’s faith in and understanding of God.  This abandoning of the cultic practices that have defined the Church for 2000 years is at the root of the decline of adherence to the Christian faith as defined by Protestant teachings.

What modern Protestant Christians have lost sight of in their rebellion against the Church is that tradition and form of ritual draw believers to the Divine.  Professed belief alone without ritual action to strengthen it is meaningless and hollow.  To paraphrase James 2:17, faith without works is dead.  This is referring to charitable, moral, and just action, but it could just as easily be applied to holy ritual.  If you simply profess faith and do not participate in ritualistic worship, how are you to commune with God in a truly meaningful way?  Private prayer is important, but it lacks the reinforcing power of the Mass.  The Mysteries enshrined in Catholic practices, when understood properly, will draw one closer to their Creator as they better understand their relationship with Him.

If ritual explaining Divinity is removed from worship, the understanding fostered by that core of the faith is lost.  Once again, this is evident in modern Protestantism.  Ask the average Protestant why they do what they do in their worship, and most will not be able to answer. They do not understand their own faith and religious practice because they have removed the history, tradition, and ritual that defines it.  They have been told that it is enough to simply believe, even though the Word of God has said differently.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Rhetorical Trap of Anti-Christian Relativists

"I'm not trying to argue in a relativistic sense, but rather an objective one. You're the one who says genocide and religious violence is okay for Christians but not Muslims. I'm far more objective in my morality. Genocide is bad. In all cases."

This "wisdom" was offered by a godless visitor to this blog. Can you spot the rhetorical trap? The premise of his/her argument is that an action (A) is inherently wrong in all cases. If God commands Christians to do A, it is just as wrong as the Christians' enemies doing A for their own reasons. Thus, Christians cannot criticize Islamic violence if they are willing to commit violence in the name of God, even if God specifically commands us to do so. In effect, a Christian who accepts this premise has to also accept that Christianity and Islam are equally valid or invalid. There is no room for there being an objective truth in favor of one and not the other.

The second part of the trap is that a Christian, who maintains that God cannot commit evil and thus cannot command us to do evil in His name, is told that he must then also accept that Muslim violence is equally valid because Muslims claim they also do it in the name of God. Again, this is a relativistic position that presupposes that a Christian and a Muslim both have equal claim to God or lack thereof. If the Christian condemns Islam, he condemns Christianity. If he validates Christianity, he also then validates Islam.

Of course, as with most such rhetorical traps, the entire premise is false and purposely crafted to attempt forcing the Christian to embrace the godlessness of the ἄθεος. The presumption is that the Christian will never agree that the horrendous actions of paynims is justified in the name of God, and, by setting the rhetorical trap, the ἄθεος seeks to make the Christian renounce the Word of God itself as well as any sense that Christendom should and must be defended with violence if needed. After all, the Bible is perfectly clear in how the faithful should contend with subversive paynims in their midst:
"But if you will not kill the inhabitants of the land: they that remain, shall be unto you as nails in your eyes, and spears in your sides, and they shall be your adversaries in the land of your habitation." - Numbers 33:55
There are numerous other passages in the Bible that directly deal with this and similar issues including God commanding the faithful to wipe out entire cities and tribes for their sins. Again, however, the ἄθεος tells us that such actions are always wrong in all cases without exception. Are we to then accept that God, in His infinite wisdom, can commit evil and command us to commit that evil? If we accept that God can not only be wrong but evil, then is He truly God? Such is the crisis of faith that the ἄθεος seeks to engender.

It is impossible for both Christianity and Islam to be valid. In John 14:6, Jesus specifically says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me," but Islam not only denies the divinity of Jesus but even tries to misrepresent the Bible to prove that point (Source). They instead claim that Jesus was only another prophet of the Lord, preparing the way for Mohamed. A paynim claiming to do something in the name of "Allah" is not the same thing as a Christian obeying the commandments of God.
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" - Matthew 7:15-16
Consider the fruits of Christianity versus those of Islam. Consider that European Christians explored the entire world and brought civilization everywhere they went. Compare that to the fact that Islam only "flourished" when it was able to steal from other peoples, and, in the absence of such sources, the Islamic world has largely slipped back to a backwards way of life. Consider that Christians stood against those who commit human sacrifices while paynims still arbitrarily execute people in the street in the name of "Allah."

The godless may consider God to be no different than a desert demon, but Christians must not allow themselves to be misled by such morally relativistic nonsense.

Nobiscum Deus.