On a lighter note, from our RC friends – the beard as a sacramental!

I think it’s important to be a man of virtue and distinction, and I think that in this vein the beard works as an excellent sacramental that sets us apart as men who desire these virtues. A sign of our masculinity in the world. I think a man can pursue these graces and virtues without a beard, but I don’t know why you would.

Source: This Is The Greatest Thing To Happen To Bearded Catholics Since The Franciscans… | uCatholic

While I am not Roman Catholic, as an Anglican I am part of the Church Catholic; and while I know many fine, earnest, and dedicated Christian men who do not sport beards, as a bearded man myself, I cannot fail to doff my hat to this sentiment!

Apparently the view was shared by no less an authority than the great saint and doctor of the Church, St. Augustine of Hippo:

st_augustine_beard_quote1

See also LentenBeards: Praying with the Bearded Saints – and of course, to tend your own beard in an appropriate blessed fashion, Catholic Balm Co.!

Confession 2017 — Bernie Sanders’ Christophobia | The American Spectator

I am a Jew. All of my ancestors have been Jews since Judaism was founded almost 6,000 years ago on the belief of a monotheistic God. I pray in Hebrew every morning and every night. And I am deeply, cruelly, painfully embarrassed at my fellow Jew, Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont…

Source: Confession 2017 — Bernie Sanders’ Christophobia | The American Spectator

There was a time when I kinda liked Bernie, I must confess. But those days are increasingly coming to seem like “a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

Commentator Ben Stein writes, inter alia,

Christianity, here in America, which has been such a great friend of us Jews, is far too powerful to be taken down by one angry Vermonter. But I am scared that as a nation, we among the political and media self-selected elite, so strongly blast “Islamophobia” but do not hear the onrushing sounds of Christophobia throughout the world and especially here at home.

Thank you, sir. Needless to say, I agree!

On a related note, Tim Count writes in “An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from a Vermont Pastor,”

Your [Senator Sanders’] actions towards and comments to Russell Vought during his confirmation hearing for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget endanger our rich history of religious freedom as both a state and a country…  Article VI of the U.S. Constitution declares, “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” …

As I have read your comments towards Mr. Vought and watched the video of your interaction, I am astounded at how quickly you have tied together personal faith that Jesus is the only Savior with an individual’s public policy. As Mr. Vought tried to express but was interrupted, Christians believe that all people are made in the image of God and thus should be treated with dignity and respect, even while we hold to Jesus’ statements such as, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

We do not have to be Universalists theologically to be able to hold public office nor to be good citizens in the Green Mountain State or in the United States of America. I believe that the founders of [Old First Church in Bennington, VT] would have been shocked at your statements, as they were leaving a government that told them what they could and could not believe. We have reverted back to a government that has a religious test, but rather than church membership allowing entrance into government office, it is now philosophical membership in secularism that holds the keys. Continue reading “Confession 2017 — Bernie Sanders’ Christophobia | The American Spectator”

Incense – The Morning Offering

Source: Incense – The Morning Offering

From Old Testament times believers have burned incense as an offering when worshiping God… Ancient pagan kings were often escorted with large fans of peacock feathers and burning incense when entering their palaces. Early Christians took both these symbols for their worship in recognition of Christ as their Sovereign King and Lord.

St. Bede’s does not currently have a location where we can use incense! But if or when, God willing, we do, I hope and plan to use it at least for high feasts!

“Let my prayer be set forth in thy sight as the incense [O Lord]; and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.”

~ Psalm 141:2 (Coverdale Psalter, as found in The Book of Common Prayer 1928)

Trinity Sunday

sbHoly Trinity in images - stained glass - small

Good morning, all, and happy Sunday! Wishing my Christian friends a holy and blessed Trinity Sunday: the only Feast in the Christian Year which is devoted to a doctrine, thus pointing to the importance of this doctrine – the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, one God in three Persons – to the Faith itself.

Why is it so important? Because it protects two of the key insights of the Christian faith: that God is One – Christianity is not tritheism; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three gods – and yet, at the same time, God is relational – not just with regard to His Creation, but in His very nature. And of course, it explains how, without tritheism, Christ can be God, as the Prologue to the Gospel of St. John (“… and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…”) and many of Jesus’ own sayings, recorded in the Gospels, assert.

Indeed, the great battle in the Christian Church has always been the precise identity and nature of Christ Himself. Is He merely a gifted and inspired human teacher and prophet, or is He in fact God? And if so, how is it that He is Divine? Was He created by God, adopted by God, or is He actually Divine in and of Himself? This was a major struggle in the 4th century – between the Arians (disciples of a presbyter named Arius) and the orthodox, catholic Christians, led by St. Athanasius – and it remains a struggle to this day.

Many today, Christians as well as non-Christians, believe Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ – the Messiah, the Anointed One of God – to be the Son of God, if at all, through adoption: that he was a great human religious and moral teacher, perhaps indeed “anointed by God,” but nonetheless human. The problem with this is that, if true – if Christ was only a human teacher, however great – then Christianity is but one human philosophy, one school of thought, among many in the “supermarket of religions.”

Orthodox, catholic Christianity – what some call “the Great Tradition” of Christianity – teaches something more radical, and ultimately far more rewarding: that Jesus the Christ was the Incarnate Word of God: that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” as the Prologue to St. John puts it. That the very Word of God Himself became Man for our sake, walked among us, taught us by word and example, died for us and rose again.

It is this which, to me, gives Christianity its power: not necessarily or primarily its moral teachings – many of which, as others have pointed out, may be found in other religions and philosophies. This is not surprising, if one believes that the human religious impulse comes from God and tends toward God, and that there is such a thing as natural, or general, revelation. But, orthodox Christians believe, Christ is the reality which pre-Christian myths foreshadowed, and toward which pre-Christian philosophies reached. To borrow the Platonic analogy of “the Cave,” they were the shadows on the wall; He is the thing itself.

But as I say, this is a debate which has raged since the earliest centuries of the Christian Church. Is Christ simply a man, however gifted? Or is He God? The solution reached at the Council of Nicaea, 325 AD, under (as Christians believe) the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was to affirm that Christ was indeed homoousios (of one single identical substance, essence, or nature) with God the Father, not (as the Arians would have had it) homoiousios, or “of like substance.” That is to say, Nicaea affirmed the full personal divinity of Christ: “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.” The first Council of Constantinople (381 AD) further affirmed that the Holy Spirit was the full Third Person of the Trinity; thus, what we nowadays call the “Nicene Creed” should properly be called the “Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.”

The Definition of Chalcedon (451 AD) more fully defined the relationship between the divine and human natures of Christ Himself, and the Athanasian Creed (so-called, it was not actually by St. Athanasius; dated c. late 5th/early 6th century AD) provided further explication on both the Doctrines of the Holy Trinity (one Nature in Three Persons) and the Incarnation (two Natures in one Person), while adding some imprecations against those who do not hold the fullness of these doctrines.

Trinity Sunday, the observance of which developed over time, celebrates the Holy Trinity, one of these two most distinctive and important doctrines of the Christian Church. It is important to note that the Holy Trinity, like the Incarnation, is a Holy Mystery: we can say what we can say about it, but ultimately, the details of this sacred reality are known but to God (“now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face,” as St. Paul said).

As one commentator has put it,

“By mystery the Church does not mean a riddle, but rather that the Trinity is a reality above our human comprehension which we may begin to grasp, but ultimately must know through worship, symbol [see the image in stained glass, above], and faith. It has been said that Mystery is not a wall to run up against, but an ocean in which to swim.”

Rather a fine metaphor, in my opinion! And it reminds me of the analogy of the Eastern Orthodox mystic St. Symeon the New Theologian, who compared our knowledge of God to a man standing beside a vast ocean at night, holding up a lantern… Here, at any rate, is the traditional (English language) text of the Nicene Creed, as used in the Western Church:

nicene-creed

And here is another graphic image in stained glass, reminding us (in Latin) that the Father is neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit; the Son is neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son: but all are God.

Holy Trinity in Latin

Wishing everyone, once again, a holy and blessed Trinity Sunday!

The First Book of Common Prayer, 1549 | For All the Saints

The first Book of Common Prayer came into use on the Day of Pentecost, June 9, 1549, in the second year of the reign of King Edward the Sixth. From it have descended all subsequent editions and revisions of the Prayer Book according to the use of the several Churches of the Anglican Communion.

Source: The First Book of Common Prayer, 1549 | For All the Saints

A “high holy day” indeed, for us Anglicans! The use of The Book of Common Prayer, and more broadly the Common Prayer tradition of which it is the centerpiece, is the hallmark of the particular Anglican expression of Christianity. Nor for nothing is the BCP often referred to as “Thomas Cranmer’s immortal bequest”! Read on for more…

The Book of Common Prayer 1928, which is the Prayer Book of my (and our, if you are a member or friend of St. Bede’s Anglican Mission) ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the United Episcopal Church of North America (UECNA), is the last American Prayer Book to be unquestionably in the direct line of descent from the 1549.

The 1979 Prayer Book, as used by The Episcopal Church (TEC, formerly Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, or PECUSA), while it has its pluses, is more of a “book of alternative services,” and its theology can get a bit hazy, at times.

I don’t share the dislike, bordering on downright antipathy, of some traditional Anglicans for the ’79, so long as it’s understood for what it is – a book of alternative services – and is not confused with being “the” Book of Common Prayer, and as long as it is interpreted in accordance with the classical Common Prayer tradition: 1549-1662 in the UK, 1789-1928 in the US. With those caveats, it contains useful resources.

But the 1549 is the original! “The” Book of Common Prayer, as it were… although the 1662 has been the standard for three-and-a-half centuries, and remains so, for the Church of England, today. And it is that first Prayer Book – the one that began it all, so to speak – that we celebrate today!

It is time to defend Western Christendom!

Templar knight kneeling in prayer

I have been thinking, deeply, about the crisis – or perhaps one ought to say, converging crises – facing the West at this time in our history. And I have come to the conclusion that the primary problem facing our Western civilization in dealing with Islamist terrorism and, more broadly, the multi-pronged (religious, paramilitary, socio-cultural, and as a sub-set of the latter, sexual) jihad against us, is not simply that Christians are too nice for our own good. We may well be, but the root problem goes deeper than that.

The real problem, I think, is that far too many Christians have lost their faith. I am not talking about the atheists, militant or otherwise; I am not even talking about the “nones” (Religious Affiliation? None of the Above), although the growth of both is concerning. I am talking about professed Christians who, while they may still accept the moral codes and social norms (however diluted or creatively interpreted) of Christianity, have nonetheless lost sight of the core principle: namely, the identity of Christ Himself, within the doctrine of the Holy Trinity (one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

Why do I say that? Simply this: if you really and truly believed that Christ is the only and eternal Son of God, the Incarnate Word of the Father –

the only-begotten Son of God; Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made,

in the words of the Nicene Creed, which has defined the essentials of the faith since 325 AD – then it would matter to you, and matter deeply, that Christians are being murdered en masse in the name of Islam, in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere; that churches in Europe are emptying at an alarming rate, and many of them are either being destroyed or turned into mosques; that according to some reports, as many as 40% of Moslems, ordinary Moslems, in the West would prefer to live under Sharia law; that Islamists – and not just ISIS terrorists, but relatively ordinary Moslem preachers and relatively ordinary Moslem believers – are actively calling for and expecting the conquest of the West by Islam, the imposition of Sharia for Moslems living in Western countries, and other special privileges for Moslems not granted to followers of any other religion.

As Italian journalist and author Giulio Meotti puts it, writing for The Geller Report,

“Europe as we know it is disappearing under the weight of falling birth rates, de-Christianization and Muslim proliferation. The great Medieval churches were built to assert pride, and conversely, the sight of an abandoned church or in ruins today sends a strong message. A world is being eclipsed.”

This is happening not in the Middle East – once the cradle of Christianity but now an area where the followers of Mohammed reign supreme – but from Dearborn, Michigan, to Birmingham, England; from Stockholm, Sweden, to Nice, France. Continue reading “It is time to defend Western Christendom!”

Chesterton on Christianity and barbarism

Cathedral interior - Gothic arches

Wise words from the great G.K. Chesterton:

“If our faith had been a mere fad of the fading empire, fad would have followed fad in the twilight, and if the civilization ever re-emerged (and many such have never re-emerged) it would have been under some new barbaric flag. But the Christian Church was the last life of the old society and was also the first life of the new. She took the people who were forgetting how to make an arch and she taught them to invent the Gothic arch.

“In a word, the most absurd thing that could be said of the Church is the thing we have all heard said of it. How can we say that the Church wishes to bring us back into the Dark Ages? The Church was the only thing that ever brought us out of them.”

— G.K. Chesterton: “Orthodoxy,” Chap. IX – Authority and the Adventurer | http://bit.ly/2s1FelS