Thursday, March 31, 2011

Amos

Today, we remember Amos. The Orthodox Church in America has a nice little biography of Amos:

The Holy Prophet Amos, third of the Twelve Minor Prophets, lived during the eighth century before Christ. At this time the Hebrew nation was divided into two kingdoms: Judea and Israel. The Judean king Hosiah ruled in Jerusalem, but the ten separated Israelite tribes were ruled by Jeroboam II, an idol-worshipper. At Bethel he set up an idol in the form of a golden calf, which they worshipped, after they rejected the God of Israel.

The Prophet Amos was a Judean, from the city of Thecua in the land of Zebulon. Simple and untaught, but fervent in faith and zealous for the glory of the true God, this former shepherd and dresser of sycamore trees (Amos 7:14-15) was chosen by the Lord for prophetic service. He was sent to the kingdom of Israel to denounce the impiety of King Jeroboam, and also the Israelites for falling away from God. The prophet predicted a great misfortune which would befall Israel and the neighboring pagan nations, because of their impiety. As a result of his denunciations, the Prophet Amos repeatedly suffered beatings and torture. He returned to Bethel, and threatening inevitable misfortunes, he continued to call the Israelites to repentance.

The idolatrous priest Amaziah of the pagan temple particularly hated the prophet. The prophet predicted speedy destruction for him and all his household, and for this he was subjected to beatings. Hosiah, the son of Amaziah, struck the saint on the head with a club and seriously wounded him. Still alive, the Prophet Amos reached his native village and died there around 787 B.C. He is not to be confused with Amos, the father of the Prophet Isaiah.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Revivals: Defibrillation for the Dead

In America, when churches believe that their congregation or community has grown spitually weak they will have revival meetings. Evangelists are brought in, music is played to emotionally manipulate, and then there are the altar calls. Revivals are primarily geared toward people who are already members of the church with the secondary hope that others will come to make a decision for Christ.

Revivals fail because they are based upon a wrong diagnosis. The bad diagnosis leads to something that appears to produce results but is utterly ineffective. The revival is based on the idea that spiritual growth results in increased excitedness and that if people are not acting all excited then they have grown spiritually weak and need some defribrillation to get their spiritual hearts moving again. This is wrong for a couple different reasons.

First of all, as relationships mature, they get deeper but excitement tends to wane. Married couples generally start very excited but the excitement dies down as the relationship deepens. Hardly anything meaningful in society could happen if everybody acted like they did when they first fell in love.

Secondly, the revival assumes that the person is weak due to some kind of spiritual heart attack. However, the Scriptures say that people are not weak by nature but dead. If you give the dead corpses a series of shocks with the defibrillator of revivalism you may get the dead corpses to jerk and convulse but they will still be dead. After the corpse stops jerking and convulsing the revivalist assumes that what the dead corpse needs is another dose and the cycle continues.

What the corpse really needs is resurrection and revivalism cannot produce resurrection. No matter how many times you play a verse from a hymn on the organ (regardless of how loud the organ is) it's not going to resurrect anyone. God has not attached any promises to revival hymns or altar calls. But God does attach His promises to the preaching of the Gospel. Resurrection occurs through the preaching of the Gospel. The Law is preached so that the diagnosis is clear. You are dead in your sins. The Gospel is preached as the real cure to resurrect your dead corpse.

Someone may object that revivals are needed for the believer to get their weak spiritual hearts pumping correctly. But believers are also in need of resurrection. We have been given a new nature but we still have our old nature. Our old nature wars against our new nature. We do not need to make our old nature better. We need to kill it and keep killing it. This is done through the regular preaching of the Law and the Gospel. We are sustained by feeding on Jesus' body and blood in the Lord's Supper. The preaching of the Gospel and the feeding on Christ's body and blood don't look as spectacular as the revival meeting but they are the means through which Christ has promised to work. No such promises are attached to the new measures of the revival meeting.

Those who have revivals often starve the congregation of the Gospel and the Lord's Supper. The revival may be the only time that people get to hear something that even resembles the Gospel. Week after week people are told about how to be a good husband or wife, how to lead a holy life, how to do do do. They are starving for the Gospel. Often churches that have revival meetings are very critical of the Roman Catholic church for preaching works righteousness and for unbiblical practices that they have introduced. But the revivalist preaches a works righteousness that is in some cases worse than that of Rome and has his own unbiblical practices. The revivalist pastor does not give his congregation Christ's body and blood every Sunday but limits it to once a month or even less frequently to make it more special. When he teaches his congregation about the Lord's Supper, he denies that it is Jesus' body and blood. He thinks this is just a Roman Catholic superstition. But didn't Jesus say "this is my body" and "this is my blood"? He deprives his congregation of true nourishment by denying Jesus' very words. He starves his congregation by feeding them infrequently and when he gets around to feeding them he gives them artificial food. The Bible centers the service on the "breaking of bread" which is a reference to the Lord's Supper. But the high point of the revivalist service is the unbiblical altar call. The revivalist replaces the Lord's Supper with the altar call and sometimes replaces Biblical confession and absolution with accountability partners. The revivalist has no confidence in the very things that Christ has told us to put our confidence in and replaces them with his own human traditions that are devoid of any power.

Guido, Abbot at Pomposa

Today we remember Guido. According to Wikipedia:
Guido of Arezzo or Guido Aretinus or Guido da Arezzo or Guido Monaco or Guido d'Arezzo (c. 990 – 1050) was a music theorist of the Medieval era. He is regarded as the inventor of modern musical notation (staff notation) that replaced neumatic notation; his text, the Micrologus, was the second-most-widely distributed treatise on music in the Middle Ages (after the writings of Boethius).

Guido was a monk of the Benedictine order from the Italian city-state of Arezzo. Recent research has dated his Micrologus to 1025 or 1026; since Guido stated in a letter that he was thirty-four when he wrote it, his birthdate is presumed to be around 991 or 992. His early career was spent at the monastery of Pomposa, on the Adriatic coast near Ferrara. While there, he noted the difficulty that singers had in remembering Gregorian chants. He came up with a method for teaching the singers to learn chants in a short time, and quickly became famous throughout north Italy. However, he attracted the hostility of the other monks at the abbey, prompting him to move to Arezzo, a town which had no abbey, but which did have a large group of cathedral singers, whose training the Bishop Tedald invited him to conduct.

While at Arezzo, he developed new technologies for teaching, such as staff notation and the use of the "ut-re-mi" (do-re-mi) mnemonic. The do-re-mi syllables are taken from the initial syllables of each of the first six half-lines of the first stanza of the hymn Ut queant laxis, but the musical line shares a common ancestor with the arrangement of Horace's Ode to Phyllis (Odes 4.11) recorded in the Montpellier manuscript H425. Guido is also credited with the invention of the Guidonian hand, a widely used mnemonic system where note names are mapped to parts of the human hand. The Micrologus, written at the cathedral at Arezzo and dedicated to Tedald, contains Guido's teaching method as it had developed by that time. Soon it had attracted the attention of Pope John XIX, who invited Guido to Rome. Most likely he went there in 1028, but he soon returned to Arezzo, due to his poor health. It was then that he announced in a letter to Michael of Pomposa ("Epistola de ignoto cantu") his discovery of the "ut-re-mi" musical mnemonic. Little is known of him after this time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One of the Strangest Sermons I've Ever Heard

Bill Maye from Brickcity Community Church did a sermon series called "...all F'd Up." I listened to the first sermon. The sermon is exactly what the title is and he gets so many things wrong. But strangely, although still very distorted, the Gospel comes through more clearly than I've heard it many other places.

Eustasius, Apostle to the Bavarians

Today we remember Eustasius. According to Wikipedia:

Saint Eustace of Luxeuil (560? - 629?), also known as Eustasius, was the second abbot of Luxeuil from 611. He succeeded his teacher Saint Columbanus, to whom he had been a favourite disciple and monk. He had been the head of the monastic school.

During his abbacy, the monastery contained about 600 monks and was a well-known seminary that produced both bishops and saints. He was noted for his humility, continual prayer, and fasting. During his administration, as well as during the rule of his successor Saint Waldebert, Luxeuil acquired a high reputation for learning.

A tradition states that he cured Sadalberga of blindness; he had been visiting Bavaria and cured this future saint of her ailment after stopping by at her house.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Prischus, Malchus, and Alexander, Martyrs

Today we remember Prischus, Malchus, and Alexander. According to Butler:

THESE eminent Christians, Priscus, Malchus, and Alexander, led a retired holy life in the country near Cæsarea, in Palestine. During the fury of the persecution under Valerian, they often called to mind the triumphs of the martyrs; secretly reproached themselves with cowardice, as living like soldiers who passed their time in softness and ease, whilst their brethren and fellow-warriors bore all the heat of the battle. They could not long smother these warm sentiments in their breast; but expressed them to one another. “What,” said they, “whilst the secure gate of heaven is open, shall we shut it against ourselves? Shall we be so faint-hearted as not to suffer for the name of Christ, who died for us? Our brethren invite us by their example: their blood is a loud voice, which presses us to tread in their steps. Shall we be deaf to a cry calling us to the combat, and to a glorious victory?” Full of this holy ardour, they all, with one mind, repaired to Cæsarea, and of their own accord, by a particular instinct of grace, presented themselves before the governor, declaring themselves Christians. Whilst all others were struck with admiration at the sight of their generous courage, the barbarous judge appeared not able to contain his rage. After having tried on them all the tortures which he employed on other martyrs, he condemned them to be exposed to wild beasts. They are honoured on this day in the Roman Martyrology.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Christ's Church: Her Biblical Roots, Her Dramatic History, Her Saving Presence, Her Glorious Future by Bo Giertz

Wipf and Stock sent me a review copy of Christ's Church by Bo Giertz and it's one of the best books I've ever read and definitely the best book that I have read describing what the Church is. This is the first book that Giertz wrote. It's very readable, yet profound. I don't think that anyone could walk away from this book without being challenged. Giertz takes the prayer in John 17 where Jesus prays for the unity of the Church very, very seriously. Nobody is innocent. Giertz is probably the strongest combination of confessional Lutheran and evangelical-catholic that I have ever read--this is seen most clearly in his description of the history of the Church in Sweden. The Church in Sweden seems to have experienced the Reformation in the most gradual and seamless way possible over the period of almost a century. There was no big upheaval. Apostolic succession continued. Giertz has some extraordinarily insightful things to say about confession and absolution as well as the Lord's Supper and baptism. There were a couple of typos throughout the book but nothing very distracting. There were cases where there some rather obvious translator notes that were simply enclosed in Parentheses without any indication that they were translator's notes. But overall, I was extremely impressed and hope that Giertz's works continues to be translated.

Rupert, Apostle of the Bavarians and John of Damascus

Today we remember Rupert, Apostle of the Bavarians and John of Damascus.

Butler has this to say about Rupert:

HE was, by birth, a Frenchman, and of royal blood; but still more illustrious for his learning, and the extraordinary virtues he practised from his youth. He exercised himself in austere fasting, watching, and other mortifications; was a great lover of chastity and temperance; and so charitable as always to impoverish himself to enrich the poor. His reputation drew persons from remote provinces to receive his advice and instructions. He removed all their doubts and scruples, comforted the afflicted, cured the sick, and healed the disorders of souls. So distinguished a merit raised him to the episcopal see of Worms. But that people, being for the most part, idolaters, could not bear the lustre of such sanctity, which condemned their irregularities and superstitions. They beat him with rods, loaded him with all manner of outrages, and expelled him the city. But God prepared for him another harvest. Theodon, duke of Bavaria, hearing of his reputation and miracles, sent messengers to him, earnestly beseeching him to come and preach the gospel to the Baioarians, or Bavarians. This happened two years after his expulsion from Worms; during which interval he had made a journey to Rome. He was received at Ratisbon by Theodon and his court with all possible distinction, in 697, and found the hearts both of the nobles and people docile to the Word of God. The Christian faith had been planted in that country two hundred years before, by St. Severinus, the apostle of Noricum. After his death, heresies and heathenish superstitions had entirely extinguished the light of the gospel. Bagintrude, sister of duke Theodon, being a Christian, disposed her brother and the whole country to receive the faith. Rupert, with the help of other zealous priests, whom he had brought with him, instructed, and, after a general fast, baptized the duke Theodon and the lords and people of the whole country. God confirmed his preaching by many miracles. He converted also to Christianity the neighbouring nations. After Ratisbon, the capital, the second chief seat of his labours was Laureacum, now called Lorch, 1 where he healed several diseases by prayer, and made many converts. However, it was not Lorch, nor the old Reginum, thence called Regensbourg, now Ratisbon, the capital of all those provinces, that was pitched upon to be the seat of the saint’s bishopric, but the old Juvavia, then almost in ruins, since rebuilt and called Saltzbourg. The duke Theodon adorned and enriched it with many magnificent donations, which enabled St. Rupert to found there several rich churches and monasteries. After that prince’s death, his son, Theodebert, or Diotper, inheriting his zeal and piety, augmented considerably the revenues of this church. St. Rupert took a journey into France to procure a new supply of able labourers, and brought back to Saltzbourg twelve holy missionaries, with his niece St. Erentrude, a virgin consecrated to God, for whom he built a great monastery, called Nunberg, of which she was the first abbess. 2 St. Rupert laboured several years in this see, and died happily on Easter-day, which fell that year on the 27th of March, after he had said mass and preached; on which day the Roman and other Martyrologies mention him. His principal festival is kept with the greatest solemnity in Austria and Bavaria on the 25th of September, the day of one of the translations of his relics, which are kept in the church under his name in Saltzbourg. Mabillon and Bulteau, upon no slight grounds, think this saint to have lived a whole century later than is commonly supposed, and that he founded the church of Saltzbourg about the year 700. See his life, published by Canisius, Henschenius, and Mabillon, with the notes of the last-mentioned editor.

Orthodox Wiki has this to say about John of Damascus:

Although he was brought up under the Muslim rule of Damascus, this was not to affect his or his family's Christian faith or cause any grievances with the Muslim countrymen who held him in high esteem. To the extent that his father held a high hereditary public office with duties of chief financial officer for the caliph, Abdul Malekunder, apparently as head of the tax department for Syria.

When John reached the age of twenty-three, his father sought out to find a Christian tutor who could provide the best education for his children available at the time. Records show that while spending some time in the market place John's father came across several captives, imprisoned as a result of a raid for prisoners of war that had taken place in the coasts of Italy. This man, a Sicilian monk by the name of Cosmas, turned out to be an erudite of great knowledge and wisdom. John's father arranged for the release of this man and appointed him tutor to his son. Under the instruction of Cosmas, John made great advances in fields of study such as music, astronomy and theology. According to his biographer, he soon equaled Diophantus in algebra and Euclid in geometry.

In spite of his Christian background, his family held a high hereditary public office with the Moslem rulers of Damascus, led by caliph Abd al-Malik. He succeeded his father in his position upon his death; John de Damascene was made protosymbullus, or chief councilor of Damascus.

It was around his term in office that burst of insurgence by the iconoclasts began to appear in the form of heresy, actions which disturbed the Church of the East. In 726, in disregard of the protests of Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, Emperor Leo the Isaurian issued his first edict against the veneration of images and their exhibition in public places. A talented writer and in the secure surroundings of the caliph's court, John de Damascene initiated his literary defense against the monarch in three Apologetic Treatises against those Decrying the Holy Images. This was the earliest of his works and the one which earned him a reputation. Not only did he attack the monarch, but his use of a simpler witting style brought the controversy to the common people, inciting revolt among those of Christian faith.

Unable to punish the writer openly, Leo the Isaurian managed to get possession of a manuscript written and signed by John de Damascene, which he used to forge a letter from John to the Isaurian monarch offering to betray into his hands the city of Damascus. Despite John's earnest advocation to his innocence, the caliph dismissed his plea and discharged him from his post, ordering his right hand, which he used for writing, to be severed at the wrist.

According to the 10th-century biography, his hand was miraculously restored after fervent prayer before an icon of the Virgin Mary. At this point the caliph is said to have been convinced of his innocence and inclined to reinstate him to his former office. However, John then retired to the Monastery of Saint Sabbas near Jerusalem, where he continued to produce a stream of commentaries, hymns and apologetic writings, including the Oktoechos (the Church's service book of eight tones) and An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, a summary of the dogmatic writings of the Early Church Fathers.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Patristic Exegesis: Reading Scripture in the Eucharistic Gathering by James G. Bushur

The July/October 2010 issue of Concordia Theological Quarterly has an excellent article entitled "Patristic Exegesis: Reading Scripture in the Eucharistic Gathering" by James Bushur. Bushur shows how the enlightenment has negatively influenced Biblical interpretation done by conservatives and liberals alike. Both the historical critic and the fundamentalist reject tradition. The historical-critical reader attempts to look behind the text to find the real meaning that was corrupted in one way or another by the church. The fundamentalist looks behind the tradition to find the real meaning in the text that was wrongly interpreted by the church. Bushur persuasively argues that both of these "scientific" methods are erroneous and a departure from Biblical interpretation as done by the early Christians. Bushur argues that the eucharistic gathering is the natural habitat of the Scriptures. Reading the Bible in the academy (whether as a fundamentalist or an historic critic) is like observing animals who are behind bars in a zoo. In the academy the Bible loses its teeth. In the eucharistic gathering the Scriptures retain their natural dangerousness.

Ludger of Münster

Today we remember St. Ludger. According to Butler's Lives of the Saints:

ST. LUDGER was born in Friesland about the year 743. His father, a nobleman of the first rank, at the child's own request, committed him very young to the care of St. Gregory, the disciple of St. Boniface, and his successors in the government of the see of Utrecht. Gregory educated him in his monastery and gave him the clerical tonsure. Ludger, desirous of further improvement, passed over into England, and spent four years and a half under Alcuin, who was rector of a famous school at York. In 773 he returned home, and St. Gregory dying in 776, his successor, Alberic, compelled our Saint to receive the holy order of priesthood, and employed him for several years in preaching the Word of God in Friesland, where he converted great numbers, founded several monasteries, and built many churches. The pagan Saxons ravaging the country, Ludger travelled to Rome to consult Pope Adrian II, what course to take, and what he thought God required of him. He then retired for three years and a half to Monte Casino, where he wore the habit of the Order and conformed to the practice of the rule during his stay, but made no religious vows. In 787, Charlemagne overcame the Saxons and conquered Friesland and the coast of the Germanic Ocean as far as Denmark. Ludger, hearing this, returned into East Friesland, where he converted the Saxons to the Faith, as he also did the province of Westphalia. He founded the monastery of Werden, twenty-nine miles from Cologne. In 802, Hildebald, Archbishop of Cologne, not regarding his strenuous resistance, ordained him Bishop of Munster. He joined in his diocese five cantons of Friesland which he had converted, and also founded the monastery of Helmstad in the duchy of Brunswick.

Being accused to the Emperor Charlemagne of wasting his income and neglecting the embellishment of churches, this prince ordered him to appear at court. The morning after his arrival the emperor's chamberlain brought him word that his attendance was required. The Saint, being then at his prayers, told the officer that he would follow him as soon as he had finished them. He was sent for three several times before he was ready, which the courtiers represented as a contempt of his Majesty, and the emperor, with some emotion, asked him why he had made him wait so long, though he had sent for him so often. The bishop answered that though he had the most profound respect for his Majesty, yet God was infinitely above him; that whilst we are occupied with Him, it is our duty to forget everything else. This answer made such an impression on the emperor that he dismissed him with honor and disgraced his accusers. St. Ludger was favored with the gifts of miracles and prophecy. His last sickness, though violent, did not hinder him from continuing his functions to the very last day of his life, which was Passion Sunday, on which day he preached very early in the morning, said Mass towards nine, and preached again before night, foretelling to those that were about him that he should die the following night, and fixing upon - place in his monastery of Werden where he chose to be interred. He died accordingly on the 26th of March, at midnight.

Friday, March 25, 2011

St. Dismas, the Good Thief

Today we remember St. Dismas. Dismas is the traditional name given to the thief who was crucified next to Jesus who Jesus promised would be in paradise with Him that very day. Dismas did not come offering his good works to Jesus. Dismas recognized his own utter sinfulness and Jesus' complete righteousness. He pleaded with Jesus for mercy and was granted Paradise. We do not act like Dismas. We act like the other thief. We think that if there really is a God then He has some obligation to take away every annoyance and inconvenience from our lives. We think we do not deserve to be treated this way. But in fact we deserve much, much worse. And yet, Christ still has mercy on us, Christ gives us Paradise.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

St. Gabriel, Archangel

Today we commemorate St. Gabriel, Archangel. According to Orthodox Wiki:

The name Gabriel comes from the Hebrew meaning "Man of God." It has alternately been translated "God is mighty" or "the strength/power of God." The Prologue from Ohrid explains his name this way: "Man-God. The Holy Fathers, in speaking about the Annunciation, interpret that an archangel with such a name was sent to signify who and what He would be like, who must be born of the All-Pure One. Therefore, He will be Man-God, mighty and powerful God."

Gabriel and Michael are the archangels who figure most prominently in the Bible, though it could be argued that Gabriel's role is the better developed. In the Old Testament, he is only mentioned by name in two visions of the Prophet Daniel (see Daniel 8 and 9). Here he explains to Daniel the future of Israel. Holy Tradition also credits Gabriel with inspiring the Prophet Moses to write either Genesis or the entire Pentateuch. Later Jewish Rabbinical literature states that he was the angel who taught Joseph the 70 languages needed to rule in Egypt, but this is not in the Genesis account.

The reason why Gabriel is most celebrated, though, is his role in the Annunciation and other events in New Testament times attributed to him by Tradition (although his name may not be mentioned explicitly in the text). Starting in Luke 1, Gabriel first appears to Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist. Zachariah initially refuses to believe that his barren wife, Elizabeth, and he will have a child in their old age. This is the moment in which Gabriel says, "I am Gabriel. I stand before God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this this good news" (Luke 1:19). He then strikes Zachariah mute until the birth of his son because of his disbelief.

Often Gabriel is also recognized as the angel who announced the birth of the Theotokos to her parents Joachim and Anna and who came to Joseph the Betrothed in a dream, telling him that Mary's pregnancy was indeed miraculous and that he should protect and care for her. He then appeared to the shepherds near Bethlehem, telling them of the Nativity. Thus he was the key figure in revealing to humanity the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also announce the Second Coming of the Lord by blowing a trumpet.

Finally, Gabriel was present during the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord. He is identified as the mysterious "young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment ... following Jesus" who fled naked after he was seized during Christ's arrest in Gethsemene (Mark 14:51-2). Most importantly, it was Gabriel who announced Christ's Resurrection to the Myrrh-bearing Women outside the tomb.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is Exclusive Psalmody Pagan Idolatry?

There are a small number of Presbyterians who argue for the practice of Exclusive Psalmody. They argue that the Biblical Law of Worship demands that we not worship God in any other way than what is prescribed in the Scriptures, therefore we may not sing anything in worship but the 150 Psalms of David. This position is based upon a number of anachronistic presuppositions and reflects a wrong view of "worship" in general.

Those who are engaged in this debate are more or less conservative Presbyterians (and Presbyterian wannabe Reformed folks) who have assumed a certain format for "worship" and are debating whether or not what gets plugged into that format should consist of Psalms only or Psalms and man-made hymns. Both pro- and anti-Exclusive Psalmody Presbyterians (as well as most evangelicals) would understand "worship" to consist of meeting with fellow believers, singing some songs, being led in prayer, hearing the Scriptures read, and hearing a sermon. What is sung is the psalms and/or hymns. The rest is not sung. The Exclusive Psalmodist does not argue that the sermon should be a verbatim recitation of one of the Epistles (which are inspired sermons given to us by God). Nor does the Exclusive Psalmodist say that we must only pray the prayers which are given to us in the Scriptures (which there are plenty of in the Bible). It is only what is sung according to the Exclusive Psalmodist that must conform to the Biblical hymnbook contained in the book of Psalms.

But this is problematic for a number of reasons. Historically, did the Christian church sing? Yes and no. What most people would understand as singing today did not get introduced into the church until the late middle ages. If you were in the church at the time of the Apostles you would not hear anything like "Amazing Grace." You would hear people engaging in a form of chant. Christian worship combined the worship of the synagogues with the worship of the temple and gave it a Christian twist. In Christian worship the book of Psalms has always played an important role. A Psalms was chanted as the celebrant entered. But the Psalm was not the only thing chanted. The prayers were chanted and the Scriptures were chanted rather than just read. Chanting served several very important functions. Chanting aids in memorization. Some have managed to decipher the chant notation found in the Old Testament. Much of Old Testament Scripture most likely was passed down orally through chant prior to being written down. Chant also kept the reader of Scripture from imposing a particular interpretation on the text through dramatic reading. But the Psalms were among various things that were chanted during the service which included prayers, the Scriptures and liturgical texts. There was not the sharp dividing line that we see today in the modern evangelical church between prayer and song. Throughout most of church history, hymns were not sung during the Divine Service but liturgical texts, antiphones, and responsories were all part of the service. Hymns were sung during Matins and Vespers. These were also chanted. Although the Puritans may have desired a more Biblical form of worship, what they ended up with was a type of worship that nobody had ever seen before. Throughout the Book of Revelation we find liturgical worship taking place and hints at liturgical worship throughout the Gospels and Epistles.

But there is a fundamentally deeper problem when people start speaking of the "Biblical Law of worship." True worship is Gospel. True worship is Divine Service. True worship is God serving us, not us serving God. True worship is not giving something to God and showing that I have fulfilled the Law. True worship is receiving God's good gifts through faith. All the complexities of the Old Testament Laws for worship were designed to show the Israelites that it was impossible for them to have a right relationship with God by worshipping Him rightly. They would always fail and so do we. The true God as He has revealed Himself in Christ is not like the pagan gods. He doesn't need us to feed Him food and He does not need us to feed Him glory. In the book of Acts, the early Christians met to "break bread" which is a reference to the Lord's Supper. That was the reason for their gathering. They met to receive. They met to receive Christ's body and blood. That was the purpose of the assembly.

Nobody who reads the 10 commandments on his own or guided by the historic teachings of the church is going to reach the conclusion that they are teaching exclusive Psalmody. There are plenty of real sins contained within the real 10 commandments that I break every day. I don't need to wedge in new commandments. The creation of new commandments to bind the consciences of others is idolatry--it makes the individual's brain his god. He plays Biblical hopscotch and finds laws through strange logical inferences and then condemns others for not following these laws. It becomes a way to distract himself from his own real sins and think that he's a little bit better than that guy who sings hymns.

If exclusive Psalmody is not the answer, should what happens when we gather in the name of Christ be a free-for-all? I don't think so. It would seem that the best solution would be to let what true worship is determine how we worship. If worship was all about us feeding God some glory then maranatha praise choruses or exclusive psalmody might work. If worship is all about emotional manipulation and our feelings then some post 1750 hymns or praise choruses might do the trick. But if true worship is not even really worship but a Divine Service where we receive God's good gifts by faith then we must look elsewhere. Do we need to invent something completely new to express this in the best possible way? I really don't think so. Instead, we should join in the historic liturgy that has existed in some form since the time of the Apostles and which most Christians still use. The historic is all about Christ and what He has done for us.

What does that look like? Some of it can be heard here but I will try to summarize it. All of the sections are drawn from the Scriptures. We begin by confessing that we are sinners. We receive forgiveness for our sins. Then a Psalm is chanted (Introit). We sing the Gloria Patri to the Triune God showing that our understanding of the Psalm is different from that of the Jews. Then we call upon Christ for mercy. Then we sing the song the angels sang when they announced Christ's birth. Then we pray. There is an Old Testament Reading. Then we chant a short portion of the Scriptures. Then there is an Epistle Reading. Then we stand as the Gospel Book is brought out and sing Alleluia. We sing praise to Christ. We say the Nicene Creed which is focused upon Christ and His work. We sing a hymn. The pastor preaches a sermon that shows us that we are real sinners and then tells us that Christ died for our sins and that we are forgiven. As the bread and wine are brought out we sing and ask God to cleanse our hearts. Then there is the prayer of the church. In the words of Isaiah we sing to the "Lord God of Sabaoth." We pray the  Lord's Prayer. The pastor chants the Words of Institution and pronounces the peace of the Lord on us. We ask the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world to have mercy on us and grant us His peace. Then we kneel for communion. The pastor places the body of Christ on our tongues (showing we do nothing but receive the good gifts) and says "The true body of Christ given for you." He gives us Christ's blood and says, "The true blood of Christ, shed for you." Then we sing the Song of Simeon, we thank God, and we are blessed with the Aaronic blessing.

Victorian, Proconsul of Carthage

Today, we remember Victorian, Proconsul of Carthage. Victorian was killed in 484 by the Arian Vandals. Victorian was a wealthy Christian who had been appointed Proconsul. He served obediently as an administrator to the king until he was asked to convert to Arianism. Victorian refused and was tortured and killed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nicholas of Flue

Today we remember Nicholas of Flue. He is not one of my favorite saints. Abandoning your wife and family to become a hermit does not seem very noble, but God does often bring about great good through our sinfulness. John Coulson writes the following about him:

Had Nicholas not been a saint, or had he eaten and drunk like other saints, Switzerland with all it has meant for peace and humanity would probably not exist today. For Nicholas's entire life was ordained in view of his vocation to save his country.

Nicholas von Flue was born on March 21st, 1417 in the Canton of Unterwalden on the lake of Lucerne, a citizen of a peasant democracy and a farmer's son. As he grew up he proved himself a capable farmer, and the ability he displayed in the local parliament, of which every male citizen was a member, led to his election at an early age as councillor and judge. He also proved himself a capable commander of troops. In the war against the duke of Tirol he persuaded his compatriots to respect a convent of nuns. Though willing to perform his military service, Nicholas condemned as immoral, wars of aggression and the slaughter of non-combatants inevitable in any major modern war. About the age of thirty he married a farmer's daughter, Dorothy Wiss, and built a farmhouse to receive her. The couple had ten children and descendants survive to this day.

Nicholas had thus approved himself to his countrymen as a thoroughly capable man, as farmer, military leader, member of the assembly, councillor, judge and father of a family—also a man of complete moral integrity. All the while, however, he led a life of contemplative prayer and rigorous fasting. He was the subject of symbolic visions and a diabolic assault.

After some twenty years of married life, in 1467 Nicholas received a compelling call to abandon his home and the world and become a hermit. Though she had just borne his tenth child his wife heroically consented. His neighbors, however, even his older children, regarded his action as indefensible, unbalanced, immoral and irresponsible. He set out for Alsace, where he intended to live. Had he carried out his intention his vocation would have been missed. A storm, however, symbolically interpreted, and friendly advice not to settle where the Swiss were detested made him turn back from the border. At the same time he became incapable of eating or drinking—a condition which continued for the rest of his life. As an act of obedience to a bishop he once ate with acute agony a piece of soaked bread. (The problem of prolonged fasting is more fully discussed in the account of St. Lidwina of Schiedam.)

He resumed to his native canton, passing the first night undiscovered in the cow-shed of his farm and settled in a hermitage at Ranft within a few miles of his home. It was no temptation to return home, as he never felt the least desire for his former life. Symbolic visions continued to be a feature of his contemplation, and when, after a month's strict surveillance, his countrymen were convinced that his fast was genuine, they recognised his sanctity and vocation, and he became a spiritual guide whose advice was widely sought and followed. Pilgrims came from distant parts to consult him. He acquired influence with Duke Sigismund of the Tirol, whom he confirmed in his neutrality when the Swiss confederacy met and defeated Charles of Burgundy. Everything was ready for the climax of Nicholas's life: the accomplishment of his unique vocation.

The victorious cantons were at loggerheads. The rural cantons opposed inflexibly the demand of Zurich and Lucerne that Freiburg and Soleure be admitted to the confederacy. A conference held at Stans, December 1481, failed to reach agreement. Next day the delegates would disperse and a civil war ensue which would presumably have destroyed the confederacy. The parish priest, once Nicholas's confessor, hurried to Ranft and laid the matter before the hermit. During the night Nicholas dictated suggested terms of agreement. The priest resumed in time to persuade the delegates to give a hearing to the proposals of a man so widely respected for his well tried practical abilities and so widely venerated for his holiness. The terms suggested—the conditional admittance of Freiburg and Soleure—were unanimously accepted and embodied in the agreement of Stans. Switzerland had been saved.

Nicholas survived his achievement almost six years, universally revered, visited and consulted. On March 21st 1487, his seventieth birthday, he died, apparently of his first illness. One is glad to know that his wife and children attended his deathbed. After all, she had never lost her husband completely.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Southern Baptists Review Rob Bell's New Book

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary reviewed Rob Bell's book Love Wins via panel discussion. I don't think they realize how deep the problems really are or how deep the problems are with his opponents but I was pleasantly surprised by the tone of the discussion. They acknowledged that Bell had some legitimate objections to things taught by some evangelicals. It was clear that every person on the panel had read the book carefully and tried to put the best construction on it. There were no heresy hunters to be found and the whole thing seemed to be done out of genuine pastoral concern.

St. James the Hoosier: Reminiscere Sunday, March 20, 2011

My pastor's sermons are now being posted on YouTube.

St. James the Hoosier: Reminiscere Sunday, March 20, 2011

Benedict of Nursia

Benedict of Nursia is the father of Western monasticism. According to ChristianHistory.net:

Despite the fact that we have a full biography by Gregory, we know very little about Benedict. The biography mostly tells of signs and wonders performed by Benedict (miraculously mending a broken sieve, calling forth water from a rock, raising the dead, and so on). We can piece together, though, a sketch of his life.

Benedict was born as the Roman Empire was disintegrating, and during his youth, the Italian peninsula was the scene of constant war between barbarian tribes. The young Benedict moved from his birthplace (Nursia in Umbria) to Rome but soon abandoned the "eternal city" when he became disgusted with the paganism and immorality he saw there. He retired to a cave at Subiaco, some 30 miles east of Rome, where he lived as a hermit and endured severe privations.

He sought as little contact as possible with others. An admiring monk delivered Benedict his food from above the cave, dangling it by a rope with a bell attached to get Benedict's attention.

He also disciplined his flesh. According to Gregory, he was once nearly overcome with lust as he remembered a certain woman. Benedict stripped himself and ran naked into thorn bushes so that "all his flesh was pitifully torn: and so by the wounds of his body, he cured the wounds of his soul, in that he turned pleasure into pain, and by the outward burning of extreme smart, quenched that fire."

As his reputation for holiness—and perhaps performing miracles—spread, more and more monks tried to attach themselves to him. He reluctantly agreed to become abbot of a small monastery, but after the attempted murder, he moved back into solitude.

Again monks sought him out, and before long he had established 12 monasteries with 12 monks in each. But the envy of local clergy (one of whom, according to Gregory, tried to put the poison in a loaf of bread) so disturbed Benedict that he moved again, and with some disciples established another monastery, this time on the mountain above Cassino, about 80 miles south of Rome.

His fame continued to spread (even the king of the Goths, Totila, came to see him) as his reforms continued. Gregory says that when Benedict came across a local chapel devoted to the old Roman god Apollo, he "beat in pieces the idol, overthrew the altar, set fire to the woods," and made it into a Christian sanctuary.

Taking ideas from a number of earlier monastic writings (and likely from his own experience), Benedict wrote a Rule for his monks, one that is today praised for its balanced approach to monastic life. Besides the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, it stressed communal living, physical labor, common meals, and the avoidance of unnecessary conversation.

At the same time, Benedict made allowances for his monks—for differences of age, capabilities, dispositions, needs, and spiritual stature. There is a frank allowance for weaknesses and failure, as well as compassion for the physically weak. "In drawing up these regulations," he said, "we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome."

But he was no libertine: "The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love."

It is this combination of compassion and discipline that made the Rule a model for many later monastic orders besides the Benedictine, and one reason why monasticism became such a viable life for so many over the next centuries, during which the institution literally shaped the future of Europe.

When Benedict died, he was buried next to his sister, Scholastica, traditionally regarded his twin and also a follower of the monastic way.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

St. Archippus

Today we remember St. Archippus. According to Orthodox Wiki:

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Archippus is numbered among the Seventy Apostles. He is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Colossians (Colossians 4:17) and his letter to the Apostle Philemon (Philemon 11:2). Along with Sts. Philemon and Apphia he ministered to the town of Colossae from its Christian center, the home of Philemon. During a pagan feast the Church had gathered in Philemon's home for prayer. When the pagans learned of it they raided the home and took Sts. Archippus, Philemon, and Apphia to be killed. They were whipped, buried up to their waists and then stoned. St. Archippus survived this attack, barely, and the pagans then pulled him out and left him for the children's amusement. They stabbed him all over with knives and he gave up his soul to God.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Papist Preaches Christ-Crucified

While looking for some resources on the Triduum the other day, I came across a sermon by a Roman Catholic priest named John Corapi for Holy Thursday. This sermon was unusual for several reasons. The typical Protestant sermon is 30 to 45 minutes long. The typical Roman Catholic sermon is 7-10 minutes long. Lutheran sermons tend to be between 10-20 minutes (although I have heard some excellent ones that were only about 5 minutes long). John Corapi's sermon is almost an hour long. John Corapi also knows his catechism well--he knows Roman Catholic doctrine inside and out. Typically, Roman Catholic sermons tend to be moralistic with Jesus set up as are moral example. But Corapi's had quite a bit of doctrine. Most importantly, the first half of the sermon is focused on Christ-crucified. It literally nearly drove me to tears and had some of the best preaching of the cross that I've ever heard. On occasion there would be mention of some unbiblical concepts such as purgatory but it was really quite good. He spoke of how true wisdom can only be found in the cross and how pilgrimages are nice but to find Christ all you need to do is come to the Eucharist. He also spoke of our true identity being in Christ and of receiving our identity in baptism. After the first half it sort of went down-hill, Corapi spent most of it teaching about the Roman Catholic understanding of the priesthood. But overall, the sermon was far better than most non-Lutheran sermons I've heard and even better than some Lutheran sermons I've heard among the non-liturgical crowd.

I also listened to his sermon for Good Friday. It was strangely not as focused on Christ-crucified as his Holy Thursday sermon was. It had more to do with suffering and living the crucified life but it did have some helpful parts. It was a welcome departure from Protestant sermons which seem uncomfortable with the cross and are always telling us to live the resurrected life.

St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today we remember St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Joseph faithfully served in the unusual vocation of guardian of God and husband of Mary. When he discovered Mary was pregnant he was determined to be as merciful as possible to Mary by putting her away secretly. But an angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tell him to take Mary as his wife and that the child in her womb was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Remarkably, Jesus responds in faith and is obedient to the Word of God that he heard in his dream. If the tradition contained in the Protoevangelium of James is accurate this is even more remarkable. In the Protoevangelium Joseph is depicted as elderly man who was widower with children of his own who reluctantly agreed to marry Mary after being chosen by lot. After being out of town working for a few months he comes home and finds that his betrothed is pregnant and assumes what any man would. But Joseph believes the revelation of God rather than his reason.

Almighty God, from the house of Thy servant David Thou didst raise up Joseph to be the guardian of Thy Son and the husband of His mother, Mary: grant us grace to follow the example of this faithful workman in heeding Thy counsel and obeying Thy commands; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Alexander and Cyril of Jerusalem

Today we commemoratethe martyrdom of Alexander of Jerusalem. According to Wikipedia:

He was the first Bishop of Cappadocia and was afterwards associated as coadjutor with the Bishop of Jerusalem, Saint Narcissus, who was then 116 years old. Alexander had been imprisoned for his faith in the time of Roman Emperor Alexander Severus and on being released came to Jerusalem, where he was compelled by the aged bishop to remain, and assist him in the government of that see. This arrangement, however, was entered into with the consent of all the bishops of Palestine (Syria Palaestina). It was Alexander who permitted Origen, although only a layman, to speak in the churches. For this concession he was taken to task, but he defended himself by examples of other permissions of the same kind given even to Origen himself elsewhere, although then quite young. Alban Butler says that they had studied together in the great Christian school of Alexandria. Alexander ordained him a priest.

Alexander is praised for the library he built at Jerusalem.

Finally, in spite of his years, he, with several other bishops, was carried off a prisoner to Caesarea, and as the historians[who?] say, "The glory of his white hairs and great sanctity formed a double crown for him in captivity". His vita states that he suffered many tortures, but survived them all. When the wild beasts were brought to devour him, some licked his feet, and others their impress on the sand of the arena. Worn out by his sufferings, he died in prison. This was in the year 251.

We also commemorate Cyril of Jerusalem. According to Wikipedia:

Little is known of his life before he became a bishop but some is known; the assignment of the year "315" for his birth rests on mere conjecture and appears to be actually closer to 313. St. Cyril was ordained a deacon by Bishop St. Macarius of Jerusalem about 335, and a priest some eight years later by Bishop St. Maximus. About the end of 350, he succeeded St. Maximus in the See of Jerusalem and became its bishop.[2] Naturally inclined to peace and conciliation, St. Cyril at first took a rather moderate position, distinctly averse from Arianism, but (like not a few of his undoubtedly orthodox contemporaries) was by no means eager to accept the uncompromising term homoousios (ὁμοούσιος) (that is, that Jesus Christ and God are of the "same substance" and are equally God). Separating from his superior, Metropolitan, Acacius of Caesarea (a partisan of Arius, who taught that Jesus was a divine being created by—and therefore inferior to—God the Father), St. Cyril took the side of the Eusebians, the "right wing" of the post-Nicene conciliation party, and thus got into difficulties with his superior, which were increased by Acacius's jealousy of the importance assigned to St. Cyril's See by the Council of Nicaea. A council held under Acacius's influence in 358 deposed St. Cyril and forced him to retire to Tarsus (in present-day Turkey). At that time he was officially charged with selling church property to help the poor, although the actual motivation appears to be that St. Cyril was teaching Nicene, and not Arian, doctrine in his catechism. On the other hand, the conciliatory Council of Seleucia in the following year, at which St. Cyril was present, deposed Acacius. In 360 the process was reversed through the metropolitan's court influence, and Cyril suffered another year's exile from Jerusalem, until Emperor Julian's accession allowed him to return. The Arian Emperor Valens banished him once more in 367. St. Cyril was able to return again, at the accession of Emperor Gratian, after which he remained undisturbed until his death in 386. St. Cyril's jurisdiction over Jerusalem was expressly confirmed by the First Council of Constantinople (381), at which he was present. At that council, he voted for acceptance of the term homooussios, having been finally convinced that there was no better alternative.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Love Wins by Rob Bell or the Story of Star Wars Jesus Vs. Velvet Jesus

I have not read Love Wins but have read Velvet Elvis, watched most of the NOOMA videos and listened to the numerous interviews with Rob Bell as well as both positive and negative reviews of the new book. Somebody I used to work with has written a very thoughtful review of Rob Bell's new book. From what I can tell, the book is methodologically similar to Velvet Elvis. Rob Bell tells stories about things that happened in his own life while growing up in evangelicalism. He very accurately describes the dated and inaccurate portrait of Jesus that modern evangelicalism gives us and then presents us with his own portrait of Jesus, life, the universe, and everything. (Everyone knows that the real answer is 42.) The problem with Bell (like Plato) is not so much his criticisms--they are often spot on--the problem is the portrait that Bell presents as the solution.

But the purpose of this post is not to criticize Rob Bell--the purpose of this post in this penitential season of Lent is to call us all to repentance. I believe that the real failure of the churches that Rob Bell is reacting against is what makes the popularity of Rob Bell possible as well as the real failure on our own part as individual Christians.

But unfortunately, I must start with Rob Bell. Rob Bell's teachings are actually far worse than most of his critics realize. Unfortunately most of his critics have no knowledge of historic Christian teaching and are only able to respond to buzz words like "universalism." And Bell can easily respond to such people. When somebody gives him a definition of universalism and then asks if he is one, he redefines what the term means and then denies he is a "universalism" without ever responding to what the first person meant when asking if he believes in universalism. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. If you read Velvet Elvis,  you will find that in the footnotes he recommends some New Age authors. And if you read Bell carefully you will find that Bell's god resembles the impersonal force of New Age Spirituality more than the God of historic Christianity. Sure, Bell will quote one of the church fathers or a Scriptural passage from time to time, but he always does so out of context--looking for passages that he can twist through the lens of New Age Spirituality. I'm told that in Love Wins Bell compares God to the force in Star Wars and George Lucas intended to promote New Age Spirituality in the Star Wars movies. For Rob Bell, Jesus is the incarnate postmodern paradox. He purposefully ignores some of the rather direct statements of Jesus about God's wrath, sin, and hell and says that Jesus was both very inclusive and very exclusive. If someone teaches that God is an impersonal force, I don't think it really matters very much if the person teaches universalism. Rob Bell is already operating outside of the bounds of historic Christianity and simply attaching a Christian label to New Age Spirituality. Rob Bell has traded in Velvet Jesus for New Age Jesus, or if you prefer, Star Wars Jesus. Rob Bell claims to be orthodox but defines the term "orthodox" in a way that removes all meaning from the word.

But we shouldn't forget that Star Wars Jesus would never exist if not for Velvet Jesus--or at least he would not be as popular. Velvet Jesus is manifested in different ways. Some churches prefer the young and lean Velvet Jesus and other prefer the older and overweight Velvet Jesus but it is still Velvet Jesus. This can be seen in the worship wars. Young Velvet Jesus wants to sing praise choruses and old Velvet Jesus wants to sing revival era hymns. Old Velvet Jesus considers himself to be traditional but the tradition that he follows is a rather new one that has no ties to the ancient church. Velvet Jesus tends to view the Scriptures primarily as an instructional manual for life. Inference is built upon inference and Velvet Jesus will tell you what to wear or how to be a good parent or who to have a successful relationship or if you need to send your kids to a Christian school, or a public school, or homeschool them. Velvet Jesus has an even longer list of unspoken rules that you are expected to follow--Velvet Jesus can't really come up with any Scriptural passages to label your deviance from these rules as sins but breaking any of Velvet Jesus' rules will put you outside of real fellowship with Velvet Jesus. Having a different ethnic identity from Velvet Jesus will often make you a second-class citizen of Velvet Jesus' church. Velvet Jesus has tunnel vision when it comes to the Scriptures. Depending upon which Velvet Jesus you run into, Velvet Jesus might think that the Bible is all about the rapture or Israel or the covenant or predestination or evangelism or having purpose or being successful. Velvet Jesus is comfortable with certain sins but will not tolerate those who struggle with others. Velvet Jesus is afraid of questions because Velvet Jesus is too limited to engage in thoughtful conversation.


Velvet Jesus does not know how to respond when he sees others suffering. Velvet Jesus often assumes that the suffering are suffering because of something that the suffering have done. At the very least, Velvet Jesus thinks that the suffering need to have a more positive attitude because Velvet Jesus knows that if you turn your life over to Velvet Jesus and have a positive attitude that your football team will win all of their games and your potatoes will start growing and your marriage will be restored (and your boss will probably buy you a new car). In this respect we have all bought into the lies of Velvet Jesus--we all tend to believe that those who are suffering have brought it upon themselves because the alternative is too scary. If they did not bring it upon themselves then we could suffer in the same way.

Unfortunately, Velvet Jesus is self-deceptive and most of the time will not admit to doing any of these things. He will confidently engage in his battle with Star Wars Jesus but will not stop to think about what is attractive about Star Wars Jesus. Many are raised within the fellowship of Velvet Jesus. Some are abused by Velvet Jesus. Some attend colleges run by Velvet Jesus where Velvet Jesus teaches them to doubt core teachings of the Christian faith. The professors of course at Velvet Jesus University have learned to avoid certain buzzwords to avoid being fired. But Velvet Jesus University teaches them to doubt. And when they are filled with doubt and start asking questions of their Velvet Jesus pastor, they quickly discover the pastor has no real answers and will not tolerate questions. Some of course fall into sins in college that Velvet Jesus will not tolerate. So where are they to go as sinners and doubters? Star Wars Jesus welcomes them in with the message that God is love and that they have a safe place to doubt. And Star Wars' Jesus' thinking about God is only a couple steps away from Velvet Jesus' language of "what does this passage mean to you?" and "the Lord laid it upon my heart that..."

What is the answer to all this? Repentance. What does the true painting of Jesus look like? Crucified Jesus! Velvet Jesus and Star Wars Jesus both want to avoid even looking at the Crucified Jesus. Star Wars Jesus ignores Him and Velvet Jesus says that he worships the resurrected Christ (despite the fact that Paul said he preached nothing but Christ crucified). Crucified Jesus does not turn away from your suffering, He bears your suffering! Crucified Jesus is not afraid of questions and doubt, nor does He leave you in your doubt. Crucified Jesus brings you Truth because He is the Truth. The Lutheran Confessions say that true worship is "faith struggling against despair." Crucified Jesus does not hang there on the cross to be served by you but to serve you. Crucified Jesus give you forgiveness for your sins and feeds you His body and gives you His blood to drink.

The historic liturgy of the Church is still the best way to deliver Crucified Jesus because the liturgy is centered upon Crucified Jesus. We need not engage in worship wars and market ourselves to a certain segment of the population. Rather we join in the prayers that have been going on since the ancient church. We receive the Crucified Jesus and we join in the heavenly worship--we worship with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. There is a real mystery in the worship of the Crucified Jesus that has existed since the foundation of the Church--not one that has to be invented by some postmodern paradox. There is a mystery in the Mysteries. We receive the crucified Jesus' very body and blood but we are not told how. We can know with certainty that what the Crucified Jesus' tell us is true because He rose again. We need not debate or speculate as to what our resurrected bodies will look like but we can know that our bodies will be resurrected. Why we suffer in every instance is not explained but we can look to the Crucified Jesus and know that God loves us more than we could ever imagine.

The Crucified Jesus provides a real place for real joy and real suffering because both are found in the Crucified Jesus. When we worship the Crucified Jesus we are united by the Crucified Jesus and not by a common emotional experience. Because we are united to the Crucified Jesus we can be little christs to one another and bear one another's burdens--recognizing our own failure to do so when we see the failure of others to do so for us. The Crucified Jesus has always been true picture given to us in the Scriptures and still will be when the Star Wars Jesus is replaced by an iPad Jesus.

Happy Gertrude and Patrick's Day!

Today we remember Gertrude of Rivelles. According to Wikipedia:

Saint Gertrude of Nivelles (626 – March 17, 659) was abbess of the Benedictine monastery of Nivelles, in present-day Belgium.

She was a daughter of Pepin I of Landen and Saint Itta, and a younger sister of Saint Begga, Abbess of Andenne, Saint Bavo and Grimoald I.

One day, when she was about ten years of age, her father invited Dagobert I and some noblemen to a banquet. When on this occasion she was asked to marry the son of the Duke of Austrasia she indignantly replied that she would marry neither him nor any other man, but that Jesus Christ alone would be her bridegroom.

After the death of her father in 640, her mother Itta, following the advice of Saint Amand, Bishop of Maestricht, erected a double monastery at Nivelles. She appointed her daughter Gertrude as its first abbess, while she herself lived there as a nun, assisting the young abbess by her advice. Among the numerous pilgrims that visited the monastery of Nivelles, there were the two brothers St. Foillan and St. Ultan, both of whom were Irish monks who had lived c.633-651 in East Anglia, and were now on their way from Rome to Peronne[disambiguation needed], where their brother St. Furseus, lay buried. Gertrude and her mother gave them a tract of land called Fosse on which they built a monastery. Ultan was made superior of the new house, while Follian remained at Nivelles, instructing the monks and nuns in Holy Scripture, and was later murdered there by bandits.

After the death of Itta in 652, Gertrude entrusted the interior management of her monastery to a few pious nuns, and appointed some capable monks to attend to the outer affairs, in order that she might gain more time for the study of Holy Scripture, which she almost knew by heart. The large property left by her mother she used for building churches, monasteries and hospices. At the age of thirty-two she became so weak through her continuous abstinence from food and sleep that she found it necessary to resign her office. After taking the advice of her monks and nuns, she appointed her niece, Wulfetrude, as her successor, in December, 658. A day before her death she sent one of the monks to St. Ultan at Fosse to ask whether God had made known to him the hour of her death. The saint answered that she would die the following day during Holy Mass. The prophecy was verified.

Wikipedia provides a helpful summary of the life of St. Patrick as well as St. Patrick's famous prayer:

I bind to myself today The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity: I believe the Trinity in the Unity The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism, The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial, The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension, The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today The virtue of the love of seraphim, In the obedience of angels, In the hope of resurrection unto reward, In prayers of Patriarchs, In predictions of Prophets, In preaching of Apostles, In faith of Confessors, In purity of holy Virgins, In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today The power of Heaven, The light of the sun, The brightness of the moon, The splendour of fire, The flashing of lightning, The swiftness of wind, The depth of sea, The stability of earth, The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today God's Power to guide me, God's Might to uphold me, God's Wisdom to teach me, God's Eye to watch over me, God's Ear to hear me, God's Word to give me speech, God's Hand to guide me, God's Way to lie before me, God's Shield to shelter me, God's Host to secure me, Against the snares of demons, Against the seductions of vices,

Librovox has a free downloadable audiobook that contains the collected works of St. Patrick.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Heribert of Cologne

Today we commemorate Heribert of Cologne. Wikipedia says:

He was born in Worms, the son of Hugo, count of Worms. He was educated in the school of Worms Cathedral and at the Benedictine Gorze Abbey in Lorraine. He returned to Worms Cathedral to be provost and was ordained a priest in 994.

In the same year Otto III appointed him chancellor for Italy and four years later also for Germany, a position which he held until Otto's death on 23 January 1002. Heribert accompanied Otto to Rome in 996 and again in 997, and was still in Italy when he was elected Archbishop of Cologne. At Benevento he received investiture and the pallium from Pope Sylvester II on 9 July 999, and on the following Christmas Day he was consecrated at Cologne.

In 1002, he was present at the death-bed of the emperor at Paterno. While returning to Germany with the emperor's remains and the imperial insignia, he was held captive for some time by the future Henry II, whose candidacy he at first opposed, but whom he served faithfully subsequently.
Shrine

In 1003 Heribert founded the Abbey of Deutz on the Rhine, at a strongpoint that controlled the western entry to the city of Cologne; when he died in Cologne on March 16, 1021, he was buried in his abbey church...His reported miracles included ending a drought...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Loginus

Today we commemorate Longinus. According to Wikipedia:

Longinus is the name given in medieval and some modern Christian traditions to the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus in his side with a lance...while he was on the Cross. The figure is unnamed in the gospels. The Longinus legend further identifies this soldier as the centurion present at the Crucifixion, who testified, "In truth this man was son of God."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Give Up Worship For Lent!

For Lent, I propose a holy fast! A fast from worship! A fast from worship for the rest of your life! The word "worship" comes from the Old English word "weorthscipe" and means "to ascribe worth to God." And I contend that in most circles the idea is taken a step further and worship is understood to mean "to add worth to God." It is thought in the minds of many that when people gather in the name of Christ on Sunday morning it is because we have something that God wants--our worship. The true God is turned into a pagan deity whose existence depends on our worship--much like the deities depicted in the movie Clash of the Titans.

The idea that we gather primarily for the benefit of God is deeply embedded in the vocabulary of almost every denomination even though it varies by denomination. The Roman Catholic has his "holy days of obligation." But surely Protestants have cast all this aside, haven't they? No, in many cases Protestants are worse. The Purpose-Driven crowd very explicitly says that worship is not for you, it's for God--apparently God has low self-esteem. Even the Westminster Confession suggests that the chief end of man is "to glorify God." It goes on to say "and enjoy Him forever" but the emphasis seems to be on "bringing glory to God." God needs a glory recharge. We are even told by some that it is inappropriate for us to cry out to God for help without first engaging in some flowery adoration--because it's very important to suck up to the man upstairs.

The idea that we add worth to God is found in the vocabulary of different church bodies in regard to the sacraments. Certain ideas within Roman Catholic theology are very bad in this regard, but Protestants are far worse. Baptist groups speak of the sacraments as "ordinances" which turn them into a work that we perform. Those in the Reformed camp speak of sacraments as "means of grace" but treat them as ordinances. They teach that the sacraments are transformed into means of grace through the individual partaking worthily. In practice they regard them as ordinances that must be carried out. That is why they practice communion infrequently. If communion were a wonderful gift then they would have communion as often as possible. But they regard it as law, so they do it as infrequently as they feel they can legally. Some attach lengthy forms to make sure that ever i is dotted and every t crossed. The form itself leads to infrequent communion because nobody wants to hear the form read again.

If we do not gather to give God something then why gather at all? We do not gather for worship. We gather for Gottesdienst. We gather for God's service. We do not gather to serve God but to be served by God. We gather to receive the forgiveness of sins from God. We gather to receive God's flesh and blood to eat and drink. God's flesh and blood are gifts, not ordinances. God is not made better by our "worship." God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He doesn't need anything from us. After we receive God's good gifts we naturally respond in thanksgiving to God, but to put the emphasis on our thanksgiving is absolutely ridiculous. If someone were handing out free money and you were going to go pick some up and then tell the guy thank you, what would you say when your friend asks you what you are doing. "I'm going to go tell someone thank you." No! You would tell him that there is guy and he's giving out all this money and you are going to receive some of it.

I declare a fast--a fast from worship! Receive the good gifts of God. Receive forgiveness of sins! Receive Jesus' very body and blood!

St. Matilda

Today we remember St. Matilda. According to Wikipedia:

As a young girl, she was sent to the convent of Herford, where her grandmother Matilda was abbess and where her reputation for beauty and virtue (probably also her Westphalian dowry) is said to have attracted the attention of Duke Otto I of Saxony, who betrothed her to his recently divorced son and heir, Henry the Fowler. They were married at Wallhausen in 909. As the eldest surviving son, Henry succeeded his father as Saxon duke in 912 and upon the death of King Conrad I of Germany was elected King of Germany (East Francia) in 919. He and Matilda had three sons and two daughters...

After her husband had died in 936, Matilda and her son Otto established Quedlinburg Abbey in his memory, a convent of noble canonesses, where in 966 her granddaughter Matilda became the first abbess. At first she remained at the court of her son Otto, however in the quarrels between the young king and his rivaling brother Henry a cabal of royal advisors is reported to have accused her of weakening the royal treasury in order to pay for her charitable activities. After a brief exile at her Westphalian manors at Enger, where she established a college of canons in 947, Matilda was brought back to court at the urging of King Otto's first wife, the Anglo-Saxon princess Edith of Wessex.

Matilda died at Quedlinburg, she outlived her husband by 32 years. Her and Henry's mortal remains are buried at the crypt of the St. Servatius' abbey church.

Saint Matilda was celebrated for her devotion to prayer and almsgiving; her first biographer depicted her (in a passage indebted to the sixth-century vita of the Frankish queen Radegund by Venantius Fortunatus) leaving her husband's side in the middle of the night and sneaking off to church to pray. St. Mathilda founded many religious institutions, including the canonry of Quedlinburg, which became a center of ecclesiastical and secular life in Germany under the rule of the Ottonian dynasty, as well as the convents of St. Wigbert in Quedlinburg, in Pöhlde, Enger and Nordhausen in Thuringia, likely the source of at least one of her vitae.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Euphrasia of Egypt

Today we remember Euphrasia of Egypt. According to the infallible Wikipedia:

Euphrasia was the only daughter of Antigonus—a nobleman of the court of Emperor Theodosius I, to whom he was related—and of Euphrasia, his wife. When Antigonus died, his widow and young daughter withdrew together to Egypt, near a monastery of one hundred and thirty nuns.This was less than a century since St. Anthony had established his first monastery, but monasticism in that time had spread with incredible speed.

At the age of seven, Euphrasia begged to take vows and become a nun at the monastery. When her mother presented the child to the abbess, Euphrasia took up an image of Christ and kissed it, saying, "By vow I consecrate myself to Christ." Her mother replied, "Lord Jesus Christ, receive this child under your special protection. You alone doth she love and seek: to you doth she recommend herself." Soon after, Euphrasia's mother became ill and died.

Hearing of her mother's death, the Emperor Theodosius I sent for Euphrasia, whom he had promised in marriage to a young senator. She responded with a letter to the Emperor declining the offer to marry; instead, she requested that her estate be sold and divided among the poor, and that her slaves be manumitted. The emperor did as she requested shortly before his death in 395.


Another version of her biography states that Euphrasia was raised in the court of Theodosius, and that her mother joined the monastery; Euphrasia joined her as a child. The same version says that it was Theodosius' successor, Arcadius, that commanded her to marry the senator, but she was likewise permitted to remain a nun and give away her property.
Euphrasia was known for her humility, meekness, and charity; her abbess often advised her to perform manual labor when she was burdened with temptations. As a part of these labors, she often carried heavy stones from one place to another—once she did so for thirty days at one time. Euphrasia died in the year 410 at the age of thirty.
Euphrasia is said to have performed many miracles--including casting out demons and healing the blind.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gregory the Great

Today we commemorate the life of Gregory the Great. He lived from 540-604. Gregory was a staunch defender of the orthodox doctrine of the resurrection, but his most profound influence on the church was in the liturgy. Among various other things he established the nine Kyries and introduced a number of liturgical reforms including moving the "Our Father" to the place in the Service of the Sacrament just before the fraction. Gregory the Great. Gregory the Great recognized the "Our Father" which says "and give us this day our daily bread" as a consecratory prayer and so made it part of the consecration.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Eulogius fo Cordoba

Today we commemorate the martyrdom of Eulogius of Cordoba. I found this information about Eulogius of Cordoba.

Under Muslim rule since the year 711, many Orthodox of Cordoba had settled into an all too ‘comfortable’ relationship with their rulers. Martyrdom was to challenge the conformism and complacency of most of the Christians of Cordoba who, though second-class citizens, lived harmoniously with their Muslim rulers. In reality, they were gradually, almost unnoticeably, being assimilated. Most notably of all, the erastian-minded Bishop of Cordoba, one Reccafredus, placed compromised and co-operation with the Muslim authorities above the Faith. In fact, controversially, and scandalously, he was to side with the Muslims against the martyrs of his own Church that he was supposed to represent. No doubt he feared loss of power and the closure of some of the four basilicas and nine monasteries in and around Cordoba.

It was to challenge this assimilation and erastianism that the monastic-backed martyrs stood up for the Orthodox Faith. It was to defend them and support them that Fr Eulogius, later aided by a pious and educated layman called Paul Alvarus, recorded the acts of their martyrdom. Fr Eulogius composed treatises, letters and a martyrology, justifying and defending the sacrifices of the martyrs against those lukewarm Christians who opposed them. The only manuscript of all of St Eulogius’ writings, Documentum martyriale, the three books of his Memoriale sanctorum and Liber apologeticus martyrum, was found in Oviedo, where the relics of the saint were translated in 884. Much later it was to be printed in the Latin Patrology of Migne and it is the primary source of our knowledge of the events of Cordoba at this time.

St Eulogius was of noble Cordoban descent, one of six children. His mother was called Elizabeth. We are told that his grandfather, also called Eulogius, used to cover his ears and murmur a psalm whenever he heard the call of the muezzin. As a child Eulogius had been given to the monastery of St Zoilus, where he had come under the influence of the Abbot and spiritual father, Speraindeo, a wise and learned man. Speraindeo had written the passion of two Cordoban martyrs of the 820s, John and Adulf, and had also issued a point by point rebuttal of the claims of Islam. Under him Eulogius studied the patristic sources then available in Cordoba, became a priest and in his turn trained other young men as priests. However, his greatest spiritual achievement was to be his own eventual martyrdom, which he had feared he would not be worthy of, and the records he made of the passions of the martyrdoms before him...the authorities arrested the virgin Lucretia for apostasy. ‘Born among the dregs of the gentiles’, Lucritia was introduced to the teachings of Christianity by a relative named Litiosa. At first no one had suspected that Lucretia’s frequent visits to Litiosa’s home were anything more than social. Even after her parents discovered the truth and tried to dissuade her, Lucretia refused to relent. But like Flora, Lucretia began to fear the spiritual consequences of practising her religion in secret.

Using messengers, she sought the advice of Fr Eulogius and his sister Anulo, who, like Litiosa, was also a ‘virgin dedicated to God’. Both encouraged her to leave home. So as to be able to depart without arousing suspicion, Lucretia made it appear as if she were attending a wedding. But no sooner was she out of sight than she hastened to meet Fr Eulogius and Anulo. Like Flora’s brother, Lucretia’s parents responded by applying pressure on the Orthodox community in an attempt to determine her whereabouts. But in this case the search efforts were hindered by Fr Eulogius who made certain that the girl never stayed in any one hiding place for very long. Fr Eulogius continued to meet Lucretia to instruct her in the Orthodox Faith. But after one of these sessions, her appointed escort failed to appear to lead her to her latest hiding place. A betrayal led the authorities to the house, where they not only arrested Lucretia for apostasy, but Fr Eulogius for proselytizing. On 11 March 859 Fr Eulogius, though given a chance to avert his execution, was beheaded. Four days later Lucretia met the same fate.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Caius and Alexander of Apamea

Today we commemorate the martyrdom of Caius and Alexander. Very little is known about them. They were martyred for opposing the Montanist heresy. The Montanists were similar in some respects to some modern Pentecostal groups and even mainline Protestantism. The Montanists believed that their own ecstatic prophecies superseded and fulfilled the teachings of the Apostles. They also taught that if a Christian fell from grace he could not be redeemed. Christ speaks to us in the Scriptures and says that the Holy Spirit does not speak of himself but of Christ and so all these sectarian groups that claim to be acting as a mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit are truly acting as a mouthpiece for an unholy spirit. We also read in the Scriptures that if we say we have no sin we are liars and that forgiveness is always found in Christ.

O God, by Whose permission, we are celebrating the heavenly birthday of Thy Holy Martyrs Caius and Alexander, grant that we may rejoice in their companionship in everlasting bliss; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost: ever one God, world without end.Amen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste

Not only is today the beginning of the 40 days of Lent, it is also the commemoration of the Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste. The following is taken from this website.

When the pagan Licinius ruled the eastern half of the Roman Empire (307-323 AD), it was his evil intent to eliminate Christianity from the lands under his control, and especially, for fear of treason, among the troops. One of his supporters was a cruel man by the name of Agricola who commanded the forces in the Armenian town of Sebaste, in what is now eastern Turkey. Among his soldiers were forty devout Christians who wielded equally well the sword of battle and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17). These men formed an elite bodyguard. When it came to Agricola's attention that they were Christians, he determined to force them to renounce their' faith and bow down to the pagan gods. He gave them two alternatives:

"Either offer sacrifice to the gods and earn great honors, or, in the event of your disobedience, be stripped of your military rank and fall into disgrace."

The soldiers were thrown into jail to think this over. That night they strengthened themselves singing psalms and praying. At midnight they were filled with holy fear upon hearing the voice of the Lord: "Good is the beginning of your resolve, but he who endures to the end will be saved" (Matt. 10:22 ).

The next morning Agrricola summoned them once again. This time he tried to persuade them by flattering words, praising their valor and their handsomeness. When the soldiers remained unmoved, they were again thrown into prison for a week to await the arrival of Licius, a prince of some authority.

During this time they prepared themselves for the trial of martyrdom. One of them, Cyrion by name, exhorted his fellow soldiers:

"God so ordained that we made friends with each other in this temporary life; let us try not to separate even in eternity; just as we have been found plea sing to a mortal king, so let us strive to be worthy of the favor of the immortal King, Christ our God."

Cyrion reminded his comrades in arms how God had miraculously helped them in time of battle and assured them that He would not forsake them now in their battle against the invisible enemy. When Licius arrived, the soldiers marched to the interrogation singing the psalm, "O God, in Thy name save me" (Ps. 53), as they always did when entering upon the field of contest.

Licius repeated Agricola's arguments of persuasion, alternating between threats and flattery. When he saw that words were of no avail, he ordered the soldiers sent to jail while he thought up a form of torture sure to change their minds.

After prayers that night, for a second time the soldiers heard the voice of the Lord:

"He who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live. Be bold and have no fear of short-lived torment which soon passes; endure...that you may receive crowns."

The next day the soldiers were led to a lake. It was winter and a frosty wind was blowing. The soldiers were stripped of their clothes and ordered to stand through the night in the freezing waters. A guard was set to watch over them. In order to tempt the holy warriors of Christ, warm baths were set up on the side of the lake. Anyone who agreed to sacrifice to the idols could flee the bitterly cold waters and warm his frozen bones in the baths. This was a great temptation which in the first cruel hour of the night overpowered one of the soldiers. Scarcely had he reached the baths, however, than he dropped to the ground and died.

Seeing this, the rest of the soldiers prayed the more earnestly to God: "Help us, O God our Saviour, for here we stand in the water and our feet are stained with our blood; ease the burden of our oppression and tame the cruelty of the air; O Lord our God-on Thee do we hope, let us not be ashamed, but let all understand that we who call upon Thee have been saved."

Their prayer was heard. In the third hour of the night a warm light bathed the holy martyrs and melted the ice. By this time all but one of the guards had fallen asleep. The guard who was still awake had been amazed to witness the death of the soldier who had fled to the baths and to see that those in the water were still alive. Now, seeing this extraordinary light, he glanced upward to see where it came from and saw thirty-nine radiant crowns descending onto the heads of the saints, immediately, his heart was enlightened by the knowledge of the Truth. He roused the sleeping guards and, throwing off his clothes, ran into the lake shouting for all to hear, "I am a Christian too!" His name was Aglaius, and he brought the number of martyrs once again to forty.

The next morning the evil judqes came to the lake and were enraged to find that not only were the captives still alive, but that one of the guards had joined them. The martyrs were then taken back to prison and subjected to torture; the bones of their legs were crushed by sledge-hammers. The mother of one of the youngest, Heliton, stood by and encouraged them to endure this trial. To their last breath the martyrs sang out, "Our help is in the name of the Lord," and they all gave up their souls to God. Only Meliton remained alive, though barely breathing.

Taking her dying son upon her shoulders, the mother followed the cart on which the bodies of the soldiers were being taken to be burned. When her son at last gave up his soul, she placed him on the cart with his fellow athletes of Christ.

The funeral-pyre burned out leaving only the martyrs' bones. Knowing that Christians would collect these relics to the eternal glory of the martyrs and their God, the judges ordered them to be thrown into the nearby river. That night, however, the holy martyrs appeared to the blessed bishop of Sebaste and told him to recover the bones from the river. Together with some of his clergy, the bishop went secretly that night to the river where the bones of the martyrs shone like stars in the water, enabling them to be collected to the very last fragment. So also do the holy martyrs shine like stars in the world, encouraging and inspiring believers everywhere to be faithful to Christ even to the end.

Thus they finished the good course of martyrdom in 320, and their names are: Acacius, Aetius, Aglaius, Alexander, Angus, Athanasius, Candidus, Chudion, Claudius, Cyril, Cyrion, Dometian, Domnus, Ecdicius, Elias, Eunoicus, Eutyches, Eutychius, Flavius, Gaius, Gorgonius, Helianus, Herachus, Hesychius, John, Lysimachus, Meliton, Nicholas, Philoctemon, Priscus, Sacerdon, Severian, Sisinius, Smaragdus, Theodulus, Theophilus, Valens, Valerius, Vivianus, and Xanthias.
O God, by Whose grace, we are celebrating the heavenly birthday of Thy Holy Martyrs: grant that we may rejoice in their companionship in everlasting bliss; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.