The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas | Intellectual Takeout

The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas
The man who calls himself “Arthur Pendragon,” one of the more visible proponents of neopaganism in Britain, leads a Winter Solstice ceremony near Stonehenge.

Professor William Tighe argues that, actually, the pagans co-opted it from the Christians.

Source: The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas | Intellectual Takeout

As we approach the Feast of the Nativity – “Christes Messe,” or Christmas – we begin to hear once again the complaints that Christians “stole” Christmas from Pagans, replacing an ancient pre-Christian celebration of the Solstice with the celebration of the Messiah’s birth.

It is unquestionable that many of the symbols and trappings we have adopted for our secular celebrations, from cut greenery to Christmas trees, have pre-Christian roots. And why should they not? In purely secular terms, every culture that moves into a new area adopts elements of what already existed.

And from a theological perspective, as I have mentioned on more than one occasion, the religious impulse comes from God and leads toward God; by that understanding, pre-Christian religions and spiritual traditions were reaching imperfectly toward the truth that Christianity expresses perfectly.

Why, then, should not aspects of those traditions which aren’t intrinsically opposed to the Christian message – and which, as in the case of light born amidst darkness, may even help to explicate it – be “baptized” into it? The answer is obvious: of course they should. Continue reading “The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas | Intellectual Takeout”

50 Years of Effete and Infertile Liturgical Culture Is Enough – Crisis Magazine

“There is only one thing to do: for the future of the Church, we must build again, drawing on those cultural accomplishments that are timeless, in the service of Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, in saecula saeculorum.”

— Dr. Anthony Esolen

Source: 50 Years of Effete and Infertile Liturgical Culture Is Enough – Crisis Magazine

From the incomparable Anthony Esolen​:

“I am struck by the strange inability of the council fathers to do the very thing they were urging the Church to do, which was to take stock of the times. Again and again, they instruct bishops and priests to adapt the life of the Church, including her places and manner of worship, to the times and to the characters of the various peoples of the world.

“What they missed, and what was right in front of them to be noticed, was that modernism as an ideology, with mass entertainment and mass education as its main engines, was obliterating cultures everywhere. Romano Guardini had written of this loss in The End of the Modern World.

“It was therefore the task of the Church not to be enculturated in a vacuum, which would be akin to emptying herself of her peculiar character, but to be herself and thereby to form culture, i.e., to bring culture once again to people who were rapidly losing their hold on all cultural memory.”

He is speaking of the Roman Catholic fathers of the Second Vatican Council, but his words apply equally to most “mainstream” churches in this day, including mainstream Anglican ones. He continues,

“This did not happen. It would have required profound meditation upon the meaning of culture, by churchmen steeped in the learning of three thousand years of Jewish and Christian arts and letters, and of the Greco-Roman matrix wherein the Church, by the providence of God, was brought to birth. However, schools and universities were abandoning that learning by throwing it overboard as ballast.”

I have commented more than once, in more fora than one, on our collective tendency to throw out the baby with the bathwater! So it is good to hear a scholar with the eminence of Dr. Esolen confirming my intuition. Here he is again:

“I am aware that the Church has often had to prune back an excessive exuberance in the arts, so that the visible would not overmaster the invisible… [however,] we now have the worst of both worlds.”

In other words, mainstream contemporary churches have given up “the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome” – by which I mean both culturally, as representing the core of Western civilization and, if by Greece is understood Eastern and by Rome Western Catholic Christianity, theologically and spiritually – for a doctrinally and aesthetically diluted and diminished form of Christianity which fails to uphold “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3), and which embraces vapid kitsch in what passes for liturgical art, music, and architecture.

In traditional Anglicanism, there is another challenge to be met: on the one hand a too-eager, overly enthusiastic embrace of Anglo-Catholicism to the point of seeking to become Rome without the Pope; and on the other, an Anglo-Calvinistic insistence on “Anglicanism as established,” which can almost make an idol of liturgical starkness and simplicity, and which theologically and spiritually threatens to thrust the Anglican tradition into Protestant sectarianism, rather than its true identity as a distinctive expression of the Church Catholic.

It is not as easy as one might suppose to maintain a healthy and fruitful “via media” (middle way) between extremes, “not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth,” in the words of a Collect for the commemoration of the gifted Anglican divine and champion of that via media, Richard Hooker! Yet it is a task worth undertaking even if we often fall short of its accomplishment. As the great conservationist Aldo Leopold put it, “In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve but to strive.”

The alternative is more of the same, the period and ethos which since Vatican II has transformed (and often not for the better) not only the Roman Catholic Church, but most of the Churches of the West; a period in which, as Dr. Esolen expresses it,

“we have endured fifty years of lousy church buildings, lousy music, lousy art, banal language, lousy schooling, dead and dying religious orders, and an unfaithful faithful whose imaginations are formed more by Hollywood than by the Holy One. We have been stuck in cultural and ecclesial neutral, i.e., rolling backward and downhill… neuter, effete and infertile.”

It is ironic indeed that a movement which was intended to make the Church more “relevant” to contemporary people and culture has had precisely the opposite effect: the more it attempts to ape popular culture, the less relevant it becomes.

For the relevance of the Church has always been in its critique of popular culture, pointing toward things which are higher, timeless and eternal: and ultimately, of course, to God the Three in One, Who is their Source – the perfection of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, of which our attempts at the same are always but pale reflections. Yet that does not mean we shouldn’t strive toward the higher things, quite the contrary:

“There is only one thing to do: for the future of the Church, we must build again, drawing on those cultural accomplishments that are timeless, in the service of Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, in saecula saeculorum [unto ages of ages].

The Oxford Movement Begins | Ritual Notes

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Most Anglo-Catholics know that 185 years ago today, John Keble ascended the pulpit at the University Church of St Mary’s in Oxford to deliver the sermon at the opening of the Assize Court. If the date is not remembered, the result certainly is…

Source: The Oxford Movement Begins — Ritual Notes

“Most Anglo-Catholics know that 185 years ago today, John Keble ascended the pulpit at the University Church of St Mary’s in Oxford to deliver the sermon at the opening of the Assize Court. If the date is not remembered, the result certainly is. John Henry Newman wrote that this sermon, easily forgotten during any other time, was the beginning of the Oxford Movement.”

The UEC, parent jurisdiction of the Oratory of St. Bede the Venerable and St. John’s Church, Westminster, is not located on the Anglo-Catholic wing of traditional Anglicanism, but rather considers itself Reformed Catholic, being devoted to the classic formularies of the Anglican tradition, and sometimes tends to look askance at the Oxford Movement (which admittedly, in its later manifestations, became rather ultramontane). Yet this essay makes some excellent points, noting that John Keble’s Assize Sermon of 1833,

“entitled National Apostasy, is unexpectedly good. Once you get through the dense beginning and understand the building argument, it not only speaks clearly to the times in 1833 but it has a remarkable resonance in 2018.

John_Keble.jpg

“In a nutshell, this is Keble’s argument:

“Like Samuel’s Israel, we prefer the lure to live in prosperity and so-called freedom like other non-Christian nations. Nations, and by-extension individuals, find justification for throwing off the yoke of Christ and the demands of discipleship. We look to threats outside and threats within to abandon godly principles (sound familiar?). We then blame government or religion for our ills and never ourselves. We rationalize and excuse every decision and act. We become so tolerant that we believe nothing and we persecute those who believe in the name of inclusion (oh my goodness!). This rebellion moves from individuals to public officials. The officials begin to attack Christ by attacking His Church, beginning with apostolic authority – bishops. This attack will come in the name of popularity and expediency…

“Keble calls the Church to follow the example of Samuel through constant intercession, which then gives grounding and strength to protest. Christians should continue to glorify God in their daily lives and routines and should not be so consumed with the concerns of the day that they neglect ordinary duties, especially prayer and devotion. This is an important point he makes. While we may not live to see wrongs righted, we are on the right and, ultimately, victorious side.

“Every one of his points deserves further reflection and exposition, but is this not the climate of 2018?”

I would certainly say that there are plenty of similarities and parallels! The article goes on to point out – cogently, I think – that

“The Catholic Revival in the Church of England had nothing to do with gin, lace, and backbiting, as is often caricatured. Yes, elaborate ritual and church building followed in the next generation, but this was a logical development of the belief that the Church is not the same as the Post Office. [Or, as I sometimes put it in defending the use of traditional language in worship, “The liturgy – the worship of God – is not Uncle Joe’s barbecue.”] The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives and not the same as chicken tetrazzini at the weekly Rotary Club. The development of ritual and devotion was the servant, the handmaid, to the truths Keble turned our minds to 185 years ago.”

May they never be forgotten!

 


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Children or Slaves? The Abyss of Difference Between Islam and Christianity

Can Islam and Christianity be seen as being the same, or similar, or as complementing each other, or are they so radically opposed and at loggerheads that it is a grievous error to see them as having anything meaningful in common?

Source: Children or Slaves? The Abyss of Difference Between Islam and Christianity

It is a commonplace in certain quarters today – from the secular, largely left-wing media, to the current Pope – to talk and act as if Christianity and Islam are basically comparable and equivalent: “People of the Book,” just two ways of worshiping the same God. But is that accurate?

Most people are at least vaguely aware that Islam does not consider Jesus Christ the Son of God, let alone the Incarnation of God’s creative Word. He is a messenger of God, a prophet, theoretically respected, but far less revered than Mohammed.

But the differences go still deeper, as this post relates:

“God is not love as a father,” the Islamic scholar replied. Instead, he employed the analogy as that of the love that an owner of a dog has for his pet, i.e. not fatherhood but ownership. For a moment, Hahn thought he was joking. He wasn’t.

“He didn’t smile. He said what he meant and he meant what he said. And I realized that Allah does not love as a father. It is a master/slave relationship. It is a religion of divine slavery. [Islam means “submission.”] And if we don’t like it, we have to realize that’s how they define their own religion. Those were the terms he was using. And to say that God is Father and we His children is not only a presumption, it is blasphemy.”

A couple of minutes later, Hahn again referred to God as Father and the Islamic scholar pounded his fist on the table, stood up and stormed out of the restaurant. Whether we like it or not, Christianity and Islam are separated by an abyss of difference. The “God” that Muslims and Christians worship is not the same God. One God might be the true God but, if so, the other is a false god. They cannot co-exist as true gods. It’s a question of being logical, not theological.

And as for atheism, there is at least one thing it shares with Islam. Neither the atheist nor the Muslim believes in the Son of God, nor the love of the Father for the Son, nor that the Father so loved the world the He gave us His only begotten Son that we might not perish but can have eternal life. In this sense, we can say that Muslims and atheist share the same radical impoverishment. They need our prayers.

Indeed they do. But they also need – or at least, we need – our discernment.

If Muslims indeed believe they are worshiping the same God as Christians, they are doing so incorrectly and erroneously; their idea of God is badly screwed up. Alternatively, the “god” they are worshiping – which they think is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (who is revealed in the Christian faith as a Trinity of Persons in Unity of Essence, and of Whom our Lord Jesus Christ is the Second Person, the only and eternal Son of the Father, and the Incarnate Word, though neither Jews nor Muslims believe this) – is not in fact that same God; it is something quite different, and very likely demonic.

And of course, atheists – of whom many are, in fact, good, decent, and moral people (who fail to realize that they are so because they are living off the capital of a moral code imprinted into our Western consciousness by thousands of years of Judeo-Christian religion) – are likewise sadly misguided. But here again, Jesus was not merely a great moral teacher, although he was that, of course. He was and is also, again, the Incarnate Word of God, the only Son of the Father. His own teachings make that abundantly clear.

One can either accept them or reject them, but as C.S. Lewis explains it in Mere Christianity, He said what He said, and therefore He is either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Trinity Sunday: A Few Traditions and Links | The Homely Hours

The Collect for Trinity Sunday

“Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us steadfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.”

Source: Trinity Sunday: A Few Traditions and Links | The Homely Hours

Today is the Feast of the Holy Trinity: Trinity Sunday. While arguably the only feast day in the Church’s calendar to celebrate a doctrine, rather than a person or an episode in the life of Christ, in fact Trinity Sunday celebrates three Persons: the Holy Trinity itself, one God in trinity of Persons, but unity of Substance. This doctrine is at root a Holy Mystery, as is the Incarnation itself; yet it is, with the Incarnation, one of the two core doctrines of Christianity.

In an effort to explain its reality and significance, The Homely Hours points us to

“a beautiful post on Celtic Christianity and Trinitarian Theology, specifically how it manifests itself in the Carmina Gadelica, a collection of Gaelic hymns and prayers:

For the Gaelic writers, the Trinity is not an esoteric dogma to be recited and systematized but rather a living and lived reality, for God as Creator is near to us in creation, and all that he has made is a reflection of his power and his goodness. The triune life of the Three is not confined to the gates of heaven but spills overflowing onto earth, where those who call for aid find peace and rest in the divine communion. The Trinity is near to us in every aspect of our lives, and in the love of the Three we are complete and healed from our brokenness:

In nearness to the Trinity farewell to all my pains,
Christ stands before me, and peace is in his mind.

(Carmina Gadelica, 346, p. 312)

“You can also read more on Trinity Sunday at Full Homely Divinity:

As early as the ninth century, the first Sunday after Pentecost was being observed in some places as a day particularly devoted to celebrating our trinitarian faith in one God in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, the observance was far from universal and one pope even dismissed it as an unnecessary observance since every act of worship is offered in the Name of the Trinity. In 1162, Thomas Becket was ordained to the Priesthood on Ember Saturday in Whitsun week. On the next day, he was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury. As Archbishop and Metropolitan, he obtained for all of England the privilege of celebrating the Sunday after Whitsunday as Trinity Sunday. After his martyrdom in 1170, and subsequent canonization, his shrine in Canterbury became one of the most important pilgrimage shrines in all of Europe and the popularity of Trinity Sunday also spread. In the 14th century Pope John XXII added Trinity Sunday to the calendar of the whole Western Church. For many centuries, the Sundays after Paschaltide were counted as “Sundays after Trinity,” and the season was known as “Trinitytide.”

And for those of us of a more traditional bent, of course, it still is.

See also:

While usually associated (understandably) with St. Patrick’s Day, the “Lorica (Breastplate) of St. Patrick” – also known as “The Deer’s Cry,” or simply “I Bind Unto Myself This Day” – is also highly appropriate for Trinity Sunday, being a majestic and inspiring invocation of the Holy Trinity!

“I bind unto myself today
the strong name of the Trinity
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One and One in Three…”

Wishing everyone a holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity Sunday, and season of Trinitytide which follows, and will last until Advent brings us ’round again to the Cycles of Christ’s Nativity, and later His Passion. May God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – One God in
Trinity of Persons and Unity of Essence – bless all who read this!

Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, 373 | For All the Saints

Source: Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, 373 | For All the Saints

“Rarely in the history of the Church has the course of its development been more significantly influenced by one person than it was by Athanasius in the fourth century. It is not an exaggeration to say that by his tireless defense of the phrase in the Creed of Nicaea, homousios, “of one being [with the Father]”, he preserved orthodox teaching for the Church in the East during a doctrinally turbulent time in the Church’s history. Two of the late fourth century defenders of the Nicene teaching noted his contribution, Gregory of Nazianzus calling him ‘the pillar of the Church,’ and Basil the Great saying that Athanasius was ‘the God-given physician of her wounds.'”

St. Athanasius was one of the most influential and tireless defenders of Nicene orthodoxy – affirming the Trinitarian nature of God and the full divinity of Christ, as being “homousios” – “of the same substance” – with the Father, as distinct from the followers of Arius, who maintained that He was a created being who was “homoiousios” – “of LIKE substance,” not the same, and therefore inferior.

Because the letter “i” in Greek is “iota,” this is the origin of the saying (now becoming archaic) that “there is not an iota’s worth of difference between them,” meaning that there is little-to-no actual difference between two supposedly separate viewpoints. In fact, of course, there was a fundamental difference between these two views!

During much of Athanasius’ episcopate, the Arian party was in the ascendant, with the collusion of certain of the Roman emperors, so that he suffered not only opposition but even exile: to the point that “Athanasius contra mundum” – “Athanasius against the world” – became a catch-phrase. However, he was supported by the Church in the West, including the Bishop of Rome, one of the Five Patriarchates of the Ancient Church, and the only one in the West.

Had Athanasius not stood so firm, it is likely that Christianity, if it had even survived, would be a very different faith than it is: those of us who believe that God ultimately directs history would have to say that he was inspired by God to be an instrument of that survival.