Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"The most basic Christian gesture in prayer"

"The most basic Christian gesture in prayer is and always will be the sign of the Cross. It is a way of confessing Christ crucified with one's very body. ... By signing ourselves with the Cross, we place ourselves under the protection of the Cross, hold it in front of us like a shield that will guard us in all the distress of daily life and give us the courage to go on."

 ~ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), 

Monday, February 18, 2013

St. John Chrysostom on the Study of Scripture

Let us give diligent heed to the study of Scripture.  For in the tumult of life it will save you from suffering like those who are tossed by troubled waves.  The sea rages, but you sail on with calm weather; for you have the study of the Scriptures for your pilot; this is the cable which the trials of life do not break asunder. 

Let our soul weigh anchor in the reading of Scripture.  For the study of Scripture is a haven without waves, a tower that is unshakeable, a glory that cannot be wrested away from anybody, a weapon that cannot be defeated, a joy that does not pall.  In reading Scripture, the soul is relieved from harm, and enjoys much calm and peace.

quoted in Dee Pennock, God's Path to Sanity (2012)

Friday, February 15, 2013

What are the Practices of Lent?

Fr. Barron offers practical guidance on the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Spiritual Defects and the Need for Redemption

There are certain diseases - you might call them spiritual birth defects - with which we are all born.  They are a part of being mortal (subject to death).  They are not our original true nature, but have come upon us because of the fall of Adam and Eve from Paradise.  Jesus came to heal these spiritual birth defects of ours, to deliver us from them and the death that goes with them, and to restore in us the beautiful spiritual nature we were created to have.

We have two different natures: (1) the nature we were created with, which is the nature to which Christ restores us; and (2) the nature we are born with, which is the nature of the fallen Adam and Eve, in need of healing and redemption by God.  All the great physicians of the soul through the centuries of Christian history have regarded the Adam and Eve account as a description of our human nature, both now in our present life and later, when it has been redeemed and restored to the likeness of God as it was created to be (Gen. 1:26).  Being in God's (Christ's) image and likeness is the human nature we were created to possess and can now regain through Jesus. ...

So we were not created to have any spiritual defects that are not in Christ, who has none.  No spiritual defects we've inherited through the flesh as a result of the fall of Adam are natural to what we were created to be.  According to Scripture, they are all unnatural.  We were created with one nature and are born into this life with a different nature, a fallen nature with the various spiritual birth defects that accompany it.

To say that a spiritual defect is our God-given nature because we are born with it, then, is a theological error.  And any theological error, as the saints teach, provides access for evil to come in and establish a preference for such errors, and an avoidance of truth, in a person.  One theological error, they say, leads to others.  Thinking an inborn defect is "natural" (and therefore unavoidable), for instance, cuts off any readiness to believe that redemption is needed - or a Redeemer, or the repentance to which the Gospel calls us.

~ Dee Pennock, God's Path to Sanity (2012)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bishop William Mercer Green: "Upon the safe and happy middle ground of Catholic truth"

Whilst recording, as in duty bound, these lapses of our clerical brethren, I do it with unfeigned sorrow and humiliation.  But, at the same time, I cannot repress the grateful thought that the extreme views, which in all these cases, led those once sound in the faith to depart from the purity and catholicity of our standards, have no place, so far as I know, amongst us.  My brethren of the clergy and laity, may you and I never be drawn aside from the faith and practice of the Prayer-book, which is but an epitome of the Bible, either by the seductive wiles of Romanism on the one hand, or the levelling, popularity-seeking of a diseased Protestantism on the other.  Upon the safe and happy middle ground of Catholic truth may we ever be found, battling for God and his Church. 

~ The Rt. Rev. William Mercer Green, first Episcopal bishop of Mississippi, in an address to the 24th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi on May 9, 1850

Source: Journal of the Proceedings of the Twenty-Fourth Annual Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Mississippi, held at St. Andrew's Church, Jackson, May 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th, 1850

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Massey Shepherd on the Importance of Corporate Worship

In our modern Western culture, with its prevailing philosophy of individualism, there is a widespread notion, even shared by many professing Christians, that a man who absents himself from the corporate worship of the Church harms no one but himself.  But such a conception is just the reverse of the early Christians' approach to worship.  Separation from the fellowship meant separation from the Body of Christ.  Without each one's participation, that Body was dismembered of a necessary limb, and to that extent its unity was broken and its vital force impaired.  In a comment upon our Lord's saying, "he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad," an early Church manual of worship and discipline put the matter this way: "Since you are the members of Christ, do not scatter yourselves from the Church by not assembling.  For since you have Christ for your head, as He promised, do not be neglectful of yourselves nor deprive the Savior of His members, nor rend and scatter His Body."

Especially in the Eucharist was the oneness of fellowship in Christ exhibited in all its fullness.  It was not a rite performed by the clergy on behalf of such individual Christians as felt disposed to make the effort to attend.  It was the common action of all the redeemed children of God, in obedience to Christ's command, to offer and present themselves, souls and bodies, as a living sacrifice united with and conformed to their Lord's uttermost oblation of Himself on Calvary.  Only thus could they, the Church, realize in supreme degree that which they were called and sanctified to be by their baptism into Christ - namely, members one of another in Him.  Lest the unity of this offering be impaired in the slightest measure, it was their custom to take the sacramental gifts regularly to every member  unable to attend the common gathering - the sick and those in prison for their profession of the Name of Christ.  And this was done, too, with the additional risk of detection by the police and further attacks of persecution. For such dutiful devotion one with another the martyrs "loved not their lives unto death."