Sunday, December 30, 2012

St. Athanasius: "Upon this faith the Church is built"

It will not be out of place to consider the ancient tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church, which was revealed by the Lord, proclaimed by the apostles and guarded by the fathers. For upon this faith the Church is built, and if anyone were to lapse from it, he would no longer be a Christian either in fact or in name.

We acknowledge the Trinity, holy and perfect, to consist of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this Trinity there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a blend of creative and created being. It is a wholly creative and energizing reality, self-consistent and undivided in its active power, for the Father makes all things through the Word and in the Holy Spirit, and in this way the unity of the holy Trinity is preserved. Accordingly, in the Church, one God is preached, one God who is above all things and through all things and in all things. God is above all things as Father, for he is principle and source; he is through all things through the Word; and he is in all things in the Holy Spirit.

Writing to the Corinthians about spiritual matters, Paul traces all reality back to one God, the Father, saying: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of service but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone.

Even the gifts that the Spirit dispenses to individuals are given by the Father through the Word. For all that belongs to the Father belongs also to the Son, and so the graces given by the Son in the Spirit are true gifts of the Father. Similarly, when the Spirit dwells in us, the Word who bestows the Spirit is in us too, and the Father is present in the Word. This is the meaning of the text: My Father and I will come to him and make our home with him. For where the light is, there also is the radiance; and where the radiance is, there too are its power and its resplendent grace.

This is also Paul's teaching in his second letter to the Corinthians (2:13): The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. For grace and the gift of the Trinity are given by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Just as grace is given from the Father through the Son, so there could be no communication of the gift to us except in the Holy Spirit. But when we share in the Spirit, we posses the love of the Father, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Spirit himself.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

In the beginning was the Word: A Christmas Reflection from the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams, offers the following Christmas reflection on the Prologue of the Gospel according to St. John (a transcript is below the video).

It's a slightly strange way to start a Gospel you might think. We expect something a bit more like the beginning of the other Gospels: the story of Jesus's birth perhaps or his ancestry, or the story of Jesus's arrival on the public scene. 

But at the beginning of St John's Gospel what St John does is to frame his whole story against an eternal background. And what he's saying there is this: as you read this Gospel, as you read the stories about what Jesus does, be aware that whatever he does in the stories you're about to read is something that's going on eternally, not just something that happens to be going on in Palestine at a particular date. 

So when Jesus brings an overflow of joy at a wedding, when Jesus reaches out to a foreign woman to speak words of forgiveness and reconciliation to her, when Jesus opens the eyes of a blind man or raises the dead, all of this is part of something that is going on forever. The welcome of God, the joy of God, the light of God, the life of God - all of this is eternal. What Jesus is showing on Earth is somehow mysteriously part of what is always true about God. 

And that's why it's central to this beginning of John's Gospel - that he says the light shines in the darkness and the darkness doesn't swallow it up. How could the darkness swallow it up? If these works of welcome and forgiveness, of light and life and joy, are always going on, then actually nothing can ever make a difference to them. 

And that's why at the climax of this wonderful passage, St John says, the Word of God, the outpouring of God's life, actually became flesh and blood. And we saw it - we saw in this human life the eternal truth about God. We saw an eternal love, an eternal relationship; we saw an eternal joy and a light and a life.

So as we read these stories we know that nothing at all can make a difference to the truth, the reality, they bring into the world. This is indeed the truth; this is where life is to be found. And this explains why at the end of St John's Gospel, he famously says that if we tried to spell out all that this means, there would be no end of the books that could be written.

So in the light of that overflowing joy and everlasting truth, I wish you every blessing and happiness for this Christmas and the year ahead.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"To what did Mary assent when she said to Gabriel, 'Fiat mihi'?"

To what did Mary ... assent, when she said to Gabriel, "Fiat mihi," "Let it happen to me"? Of course it was her womb that with these words she offered, to be God's space in the world. The whole history of Israel had been God's labour to take Israel as his space in the world. And it was indeed a labour, for Israel by her own account was a resistant people: again and again the Lord's angel announced his advent, begged indeed for space, and again and again Israel's answer was "Let it be, but not yet." Gabriel's mission to Mary was, so to speak, one last try, and this time the response did not temporize ...

"Fiat mihi," said Mary, giving her womb as space for God in this world. After all the Lord's struggle with his beloved Israel, he finally found a place in Israel that unbelief would not destroy like the Temple, or silence like the prophets, or simply lose, like the Book of the Law before Josiah. This place is a person.

~ Robert Jenson, "A Space for God" in Carl Braaten & Robert Jenson's Mary, Mother of God

H/t to Catholicity and Covenant for the quote

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rowan Williams on Changing a Non-Religious Person's Views

Noting his consistent engagement with the "New Atheism," Catholicity and Covenant calls our attention to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' response to the question, "What would you say to a non-religious person to change their views?"  His response begins around 16:31 in the following video, and I've also shared that response below:

I’d say try and find the best art, the best writing and the best music that’s come out of the religious context and ask where does it come from? 
It doesn’t come from nowhere: so the poetry of a George Herbert or a T.S. Eliot, the art of a Rembrandt, the music of a Bach or Mozart, or even, Arvo Pärt, or modern composers. That’s the world that religion helps to create, and I think I’d just say: ask whether that’s a bigger or a smaller world, a richer or a poorer world and start from there.

++Rowan here offers a generous invitation to non-believers, skeptics, and atheists not only to imagine what the world would be like if the best of religious contributions to history and culture had never taken place, but also to ask: If there is genuine beauty in the contributions of religious persons to this world, and if the moral values of love, compassion, and respect for the dignity of all persons promoted by religion are worth embracing, could it be that these are "echoes of a voice" or signs that point to the reality of God?  That strikes me as a civil and respectful approach to apologetics and evangelism.

Friday, December 7, 2012

St. Ambrose: "The Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation"

"The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church's foundation is unshakable and firm against assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress. There is a stream which flows down on God's saints like a torrent. There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace."

Fr. Tony Clavier: "The ties that bind us"

"Those now living, caught up in this conflict, are baptized. That should be a significant point, a ‘given’ in any discussion about how a Christian body manages dissent and conflict. The ties that bind us aren’t tribal, or structural or canonical. They are sacramental. Our church doesn’t own the sacraments. It exposes them, makes them available, in obedience to our Lord’s will and commandment. Our church’s clergy point to them, open them, in familiar acts of obedience. That obedience runs deeper than any oaths to man-made canons or structures."

~ Fr. Tony Clavier, on the Presiding Bishop's acceptance of Bishop Mark Lawrence's alleged "renunciation" of holy orders 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rowan Williams: "What we aspire to as Anglicans"

" ... what we aspire to as Anglicans is not to be a federation of loosely connected and rather distant relatives who sometimes send Christmas cards to each other, but a true family and fellowship in which we share our hopes and know that we are responsible for each other’s well-being and integrity before God."

~ Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, 

Monday, December 3, 2012

St. Irenaeus: "God has a good will toward us continually"

There is no coercion with God. He has a good will toward us continually. He gives reliable counsel to humans and angels (who also are rational beings), to whom he has given the power of choice. Those who yield obedience therefore possess what is good freely and justly. It is given by God but preserved by themselves. … The human spirit is possessed of free will from the beginning, and God is possessed of free will, in whose likeness humanity was created. Humanity is advised to hold fast to the good and thereby be responsive to God. This refers not only to works but faith as well. God preserved the human will free and under his own control … as is shown in Jesus’ word to the centurion: “Go. Be it done for you as you have believed.”