Monday, November 23, 2009
The Fourth century church historian Eusebius tells us that St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch was condemned to die in Rome by becoming "food for wild beasts on account of his testimony to Christ" (Ecc. Hist 3, 36). St. Ignatius was condemned during the reign of the Emperor Trajan (107 A.D.). He was transported "under the strictest military surveillance" which he recounts as "being bound amidst ten leopards that is, a company of soldiers who only become worse when they are well treated." Ignatius was taken as far as Smyrna where he was greeted by Polycarp the local bishop. From Smyrna Ignatius writes letters to four local churches. He writes to Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia (modern day Turkey), and to the neighboring cities of Magnesia, Tralles and Rome. Ignatius is then taken to Troas in the north-west corner of Asia. From Troas he wrote letters to the Philadelphians, to the Smyrnaeans and to Bishop Polycarp.
I would like to begin this reflection by focusing on Ignatius' letter to the Ephesians. In this letter he highlights the role of the bishop as a source of unity in the Church. He writese writ, "Thus it is proper for you to act together in harmony with the mind of the bishop, as you are in fact doing. For your presbytery, which is worthy of its name and worthy of God, is attuned to the bishop as strings to a lyre. Therefore in your unanimity and harmonious love Jesus Christ is sung." (Ignatius to the Ephesians 4:1). Later he adds a warning to those who might attempt to act without a bishop, "Let no one be misled: if anyone is not within the sanctuary, he lacks the bread of God. . . Therefore whoever does not meet with the congregation thereby demonstrates his arrogance and has separated himself . . . Let us, therefore, be careful not to oppose the bishop, in order that we may be obedient to God. (Ignatius to the Ephesians 5:1-3).
In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Ignatius addresses the intriguing question of why Jesus allowed himself to be baptized by John the Baptist?" Recently Pope Benedict XVI has reflected on this question in his work Jesus of Nazareth. He observes,
"Baptism itself was a confession of sins and the attempt to put off an old, failed life and to receive a new one. Is that something Jesus could do? How could he confess sins? How could he separate himself from his previous life in order to start a new one?" (p. 16-17).
The answer on one level is that Jesus did this to "fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). Pope Benedict notes, "Righteousness is man's answer to the Torah, acceptance of the whole of God's will, the bearing of the "yoke of God's Kingdom." (Jesus, p. 17). St. Ignatius addresses this question by recounting a primitive confession of the Church, "For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to God's plan, both from the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit. He was born and was baptized in order that by his suffering he might cleanse the water" (Ignatius to the Ephesians 18:2). St. Ignatius affirms that Jesus was baptized in order to "cleanse the water." In the Eastern Church the Feast of Epiphany is Jesus day of Baptism. Eastern iconography depicts the waters of Jesus' Baptism as a liquid tomb leading down to Hades. There is a close connection between Jesus Baptism and Easter. St. John Chrysostom writes, "Going down into the water and emerging again are the image of the descent into hell and the Resurrection." Jesus' Baptism purifies the waters of Baptism and joins them to the entire mystery of salvation. Pope Benedict notes, "The sacrament of Baptism appears as the gift of participation in Jesus world-transforming struggle in the conversion of life that took place in his descent and ascent" (Jesus, p. 21). As St. Paul, notes, "But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27). It is through baptism that we are brought into communion with Christ, and so into communion with his suffering, death and Resurrection. Earlier St. Ignatius describes the mystery of Christ's person in another early creed, "There is only one physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and unborn, God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first subject to suffering and then beyond it, Jesus Christ our Lord" (Ignatius to the Ephesians 7.2). It is only through the mystery of Christ who is "flesh and spirit, born and unborn, God in man" that the waters of Baptism become a life giving means of grace and the foundational Sacrament of initiation. Flowing out of this baptismal union with Christ is a universal vocation to holiness and apostolic witness. The Christian life becomes an active participation in the life of Christ and a light to the world in which we live. Holy Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us. (Novo Millennio Ineunte 74).
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Corrupte apud Florezium, Augustine,
"Mentitur qui te totam legisse factetur"
My (literal) translation:
[Concerning Augustine] He is a liar who confesses to have read the whole [of his works].
 Full paragraph of PL 83.1109
Pro alumna alii ultique.
IV. Entit ; al., eninet.
V. Corrupte apud Florezium, Augustine,
Mentitur qui te totam legisse factetur.
Pro an quis alii ant quis. De re ipsa vide Etymo.og.
lib. vi, cap. 7, n. 3, versu 4, alii, quae loquur. Pro
ipse , alii ipsi, quod metro non congruit. Pro prudent-,
metrum desiderari ; sed videntur potius esse tres
hexametri sine ullo pentametro. De tertio versu dietum
in Isidorianis, loc. cit.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
How many times does my family fail to eat dinner together due to our commitments to Sports? Do I end up spending money unnecessarily on meals out because of the sports schedule?
How often does time spent with one child in sports take time away from my other children or my spouse? Does my spouse complain about the business of my schedule?
How does my involvement in sports impact my spiritual life? Does it interfere with Mass? Does it prevent our family from going to Mass together? Does it prevent me from attending other spiritual activities such as retreats, or classes for adult faith formation?
Do sports interfere with my child attending spiritual activities?
Do I allow myself to be pushed into giving excessive amounts of money and time to sports because of peer pressure and human respect?
Do I behave in a Christian manner while being a spectator? Do I unnecessarily discuss the faults of others? Do I treat the players with respect regardless of their performance at a particular game?
Am I supportive and encouraging of the weaker members of the team? Do I strive to model and build up virtue in the players?
Writing before he became Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger noted that "the light of Jesus is reflected in the saints and shines out again from them" (The Yes of Jesus Christ). He notes, "God's speaking to us reaches us through men and women who have listened to God and come into contact with God" (The Yes of Jesus Christ). As we continue to reflect on the message of the Didache we seek to find the face of Christ reflected there.
In chapter eleven of the Didache we are introduced to itinerate or travelling 'apostles' and 'prophets' who are to be shown hospitality and respected but who are not to ask for money for themselves or to 'out stay' their welcome. We read, "Now concerning the apostles and prophets, deal with them as follows in accordance with the rule of the gospel" (Didache 11:3). The pattern St. Paul established for his own ministry was to earn his own wages. The travelling apostles described here are the equivalent of missionaries and church planters rather than the original circle of the Twelve plus Paul.
Hospitality was to be shown to all travelers provided they were willing to work. "Everyone 'who comes in the name of the Lord' is to be welcomed" (Didache 12:1). The visitor, "if he wishes to settle among you and is a craftsman, let him work for his living" (Didache 12:3). Provision should even be made for those who need further assistance, we are told, "But if he is not a craftsman, decide according to your own judgment how he shall live among you as a Christian, yet without being idle" (Didache 12:4). This matches the advice of St. Paul, "For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If anyone will not work, let him not eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10). The kindness shown to these itinerate peoples recognizes their inherent dignity as persons and is mirrored in the modern the advice given in the Compendium of Social Doctrine, which notes that,
"Regulating immigration according to criteria of equity and balance is one of the indispensable conditions for ensuring that immigrants are integrated into society with the guarantees required by recognition of their human dignity. Immigrants are to be received as persons and helped, together with their families, to become a part of societal life" (CSDC 298).
The Didache moves on to discuss the phenomena of prophets who were active in leadership of the Church. Prophets who have been tested and approved and who wish to settle in the community are to be treated with special dignity. They are to receiving the "first fruits" of the wine, oil, money and clothing. We are told, "Take, therefore, all the firstfruits of the produce of the wine press and threshing floor, and of the cattle and sheep, and give these firstfruits to the prophets, for they are your high priests" (Didache 13:3). There role as 'priests' even relates to the Eucharist. In the long section relating prayers for the Eucharist we are told, "But permit the prophets to give thanks however they wish" (Didache 12:7).
The Church structure found in the Didache is still very primitive and in the process of developing into its mature form. "Therefore appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are humble and not avaricious and true and approved, for they too carry out for you the ministry of the prophets and teachers. You must not, therefore, despise them, for they are your honored men, along with the prophets and teachers" (Didache 15:1-2). It is likely that at this early stage the titles 'bishop' and 'presbyter' were not distinguished (cf. Titus 1:5-9). Initially an Apostle, or his delegated coworkers in the apostolic circle (Timothy, Silas, Titus, Barnabas), were the leaders of Churches. Later a transition occurs with a single bishop in each community replacing the Apostles, and being assisted by presbyters. The strong involvement of prophets may have been an unusual element.
The phenomenon of Christian prophecy was still quite common in the early second century. St. Ignatius the Bishop of Antioch recounts his own prophecy in his letter to the Philadelphians, "I called out when I was with you, I was speaking with a loud voice, God's voice: "Pay attention to the bishop and to the presbytery and deacons. . . . the Spirit itself was preaching, saying these words: "Do nothing without the bishop. . . . ." (Ign.
Philadelphians 7:1-2). Ignatius encourages Polycarp to pray for the same gift, "but ask, in order that the unseen things may be revealed to you, that you may be lacking in nothing and abound in every spiritual gift" (Polycarp 2:2). Polycrates, the Bishop of Ephesus, describes the three prophetic daughters of the Apostle Philip "who lived in the Holy Spirit" at Ephesus and he describes Bishop Melito of Sardis (d. 190 A.D.) as "the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit" (Hist. Eccl. 5.24). The writer of the Shepherd of Hermas describes the experience prophecy (Herm Man. 11.9) as does Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho (39.1; 82.1; 88.1). The phenomena of prophecy also created difficulties for the early Church. The heretic Montanus and his prophets Maximilla and Pricilla claimed to receive a "new prophecy" which predicted the imminent end the world. The Montanists formed their own churches and eventually thought of their "new prophecy" as having greater value that Sacred Scripture. The Church rejected the Montanists as false prophets. At the same time the Church continued to recognize the role of genuine Christian prophecy. Although the Church gained more caution, St. Irenaeus of Lyon (190 A.D.) continued to describe prophetic phenomena in his churches at the close of the second century.
As we reflect on the gift of prophecy in the early Church, may we fan into flames the gift of the Spirit we have received through our Baptism, in order that we to might better reflect the face of Jesus, lighting up the pathways of this earth with faith and love.
Once again we are drawn to see the face of Christ reflected in the writings of the early Christians. The ancient document titled in English, The Teaching of the (Twelve) Apostles is regarded by modern scholars as a late first/early second century 'church manual' which was used to prepare catechumens for baptism and to pass on the primitive traditions about church order. The modern consensus is that the title was added later, so the work is typically referred to as The Didache which is Greek for 'Teaching.' In the first Christian centuries this work was highly esteemed. The document may have been regarded as Scripture by Clement of Alexandria in the second century and Origen in the third century. By the fourth century the Didache was excluded from the canon of Scripture, though it is still recommended for reading by St Athanasius and Didymus the Blind. Sections of the Didache were incorporated in later "Church Orders."
Modern studies have suggested that this work is a composite document which was edited between 70 -110 A.D. It is likely that two short sections of the Didache were used by the early Church to train catechumens who were being prepared for baptism. There is a section on good and evil behavior entitled 'the Two Ways' (1:1-6:2) and a section containing ancient liturgical traditions found in 6:3-10:6. This material is roughly contemporary with St. Mark's Gospel. Scholars believe that the 'Two Ways' section may have existed as an earlier independent document in the Jewish world. The editor then added certain sayings of Jesus, most likely from Matthew's Gospel. Other material concerning the behavior of traveling missionary apostles, and prophets and of the leaders of the community were then added near the close of the first century.
The original Jewish 'Two Ways' tradition focused on the teachings of the ten commandments, "There are two ways, one of life, the other of death, and between the two ways there is a great difference." (Didache 1:1). The Christian version of this tradition found in the Didache replaces the authority of the law with that of the sayings of Jesus. One interesting note in this section of the document occurs after quoting the fifth and sixth commandments, "You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery." The Didache includes an example after this prohibition, "you shall not abort a child or commit infanticide." Both the Old Testament and Jewish custom recognized the grave offence of this act, but this is the first explicit instance of a Christian prohibition against this intrinsically evil act (Cf. Evangelium Vitae 62).
The later section of the Didache (Chapters 7-15) deals with variety of topics. The Didache gives instruction on how to perform Baptism, on the Eucharist, and even how to deal with traveling apostles and prophets. The section on Baptism advises;
Proselyte baptism also played a role in role in Gentile conversions to Judaism. Later Talmudic traditions view the newly baptized proselyte "like a child newly born" (Babylonian Talmud, Yevamoth 48b) with a completely new legal identity and understood that "God forgives the proselyte all his sins" through the conversion rite (Talmud Yerushalmi, Bikkurim 3:3). There is even evidence of a first century rabbinic dispute between Eliezer ben Hyrkan (ca. A.D. 90) and Jehoshua ben Chananja over whether circumcision or immersion made a man a Jew. As Pope Benedict has pointed out, already at the time of Jesus, John the Baptist was administering baptism "as a concrete enactment of conversion that gives the whole of life a new direction forever" (Jesus of Nazareth). Later Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit creating a new sacramental dimension to this rite. In the Didache, Baptism takes place in the name of the Trinity and implies incorporation into the Eucharistic community which has been "gathered together and became one" (Didache 9:4) in the Eucharist. The newly baptized are invited to join in the Eucharist celebration. The privilege of receiving the Eucharist is denied to those who are not yet baptized;
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The Catholic Key Blog: Real Men in Black . . . Vestments
Here’s something most Catholics my age or younger have probably never seen – black vestments. Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Kansas City hosted a special Mass for All Souls Day using antique black vestments.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Today Our Lady of Good Council Parish hosted a special Mass for All Souls using antique black vestments. Rev. Msgr. William Blacet presided assisted by Dcn. Ralph Wehner, Director of the Office of Worship. The vestments were over 180 years old.
Photographs by Scott McKellar.
As we continue our theme of seeking the face of Christ in the face of the early Church we must examine the letter of St. Clement to the Romans. Clement of Rome is an acclaimed figure in antiquity. Christians and heretics alike tried to claim him as their own. He is venerated in the prayers of Roman Canon, which names the first three popes (after Peter) as 'Linus, Cletus, and Clement.' Yet the actual text of the letter of St. Clement to the Corinthians begins with no mention of the author. Early church tradition has always ascribed the letter to Pope St. Clement I of Rome. St. Irenaeus claims that Clement had personally known the Apostles Peter and Paul and that "the preaching of the Apostles still echoed in his ears" (Adv. Haer. III, 3.3). Tertullian wrote that Clement of Rome was consecrated by Apostle Peter himself (De praescr. haeret. 32).
Clearly Clement of Rome was a well known and famous person but in spite of this little is known about his life. The name Clement was fairly common. While there are a number of intriguing possibilities, most scholars think that St. Clement was an otherwise unknown slave or freedman from a wealthy Roman family who took the name of Clemens. Traditionally scholars have dated the letter near the end of the reign of Domitian (95 or 96 A.D.)
Clement's letter show parallels to a type of political letter in which the orator appeals for unity against factions which have arisen in a region outside of Rome. It would be rash to speculate, that this demonstrates the early church incorporated a Roman imperial model of leadership. By mid-second century, the pattern of a single bishop in each town claiming full apostolic authority and assisted by a council of presbyters emerged without dispute. St. Clement notes,
The fact that Clement uses a particular governing style does not mean he wishes to adopt the full Roman mindset. One must also deal with the irony of scholars who on the one hand wish for a weak and disorganized church structure in Rome during this period, but on the other hand claim Clement is marketing an imperial model power in his letter almost as though he were a patriarch!
The letter Clement writes to the Corinthians exhorts them to heal the schism or faction that a certain group of younger leaders have created by deposing some bishops who were appointed by the Apostles (1 Clement 42:1-5; 44:1-6).
Some scholars have highlighted the central theme of the letter as 'order' which may represent a parallel to the philosophy of Stoicism common during this period. Another group of scholars have emphasized the theme of 'restoring peace' following a Jewish-Christian theology which highlights obedience to the will of God as expressed by the Old Testament prophets. It is certainly possible to embrace both of these at once. Clement may well be interested in both 'order' and 'peace'. Echoing St. Paul in Philippians 2:6-11 and 2 Corinthians 8:9, Clement highlights the supreme dignity of Christ under the title the "Scepter of God's majesty" (1 Clement 16:2). Christ is the sign of 'order' and a model of humility. Clement writes,
The Monarchical Episcopate
When we use the term 'Monarchical Episcopate,' it refers to the idea that a single bishop was appointed as the leader of a geographic area, usually a city. Bishops are the successors of the apostles, appointed by them to lead (CCC 77). In the New Testament, Titus is told to "appoint elders in every town" (Titus 1:5). We must recall that in the letter to Titus the terms 'elder/presbyter' and 'bishop' are used without a distinction between the two terms (cf. Titus 1:5-9). There is strong evidence that by the end of the second century a clear distinction between 'bishops' and 'presbyters' was made. One sees the pattern of a single bishop leading a community. Prior to this time there may well have existed communities which collegial leadership existed without a 'residential bishop.' This makes sense where originally an apostle was giving leadership to the community (either directly or through his delegate), and then after the passing of the apostle a transition to a new leadership model would emerge. It is likely that some communities initially had a more collegial type of leadership while others quickly had a single leader. By mid-second century, the pattern of a single bishop in each town claiming full apostolic ministry and assisted by a council of presbyters emerged. St. Clement of Rome (c. 96 A.D.) notes,
"Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry." (1 Clement 44)
The fact that Clement says "we are of the opinion" in the above passage and does not explicitly name himself the 'Bishop of Rome' in his letter has led some modern interpreters to say that Clement's letter must be viewed as evidence that the church in Rome had only collegial leadership in this time period. Many Protestant interpreters feel compelled to argue that there was no single bishop administering the Roman church. Some even speculate further the leaders of the Roman church were scattered among house churches and were no more than parish priests without a central leader. This seems like a rather heavy burden of speculation to place on the single word 'we'. While it is certainly possible there was a time of transition between the direct leadership of the apostles and a single bishop ruling the church of Rome, as Otto Karrer has pointed out it is very reasonable to believe the bishop-presbyters worked together and that "one of them was probably responsible for unity amongst his colleges and within the congregation as a whole." The one responsible for this leadership was soon called the 'bishop.' Other examples from the same era show exactly this picture. St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35-107 A.D.) who is himself a bishop, in his Letter to the Ephesians describes the bishops "who have been appointed throughout the world" (3:2). He writes;
"Wherefore it is fitting that ye should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also ye do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung" (Ign. Ephesians 4:1).
While the terms 'bishop' and 'elder/ presbyter' were not clearly distinguished in the New Testament, the communities St. Ignatius writes to across Asia have three clearly distinguished offices: bishop, presbyter, and deacon. One can see this again in St. Ignatius' Letter to the Trallians, He writes;
Similarly let everyone respect the deacons as Jesus Christ, as also the bishop who is a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and as the band of the apostles. Nothing can be called a church without these. (Trallians 3:1)
Even more boldly St. Ignatius writes to the Smyrnaeans;
"You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ (followed) the Father, and (follow) the presbytery as the apostles; respect the deacons as the commandment of God. Let no one do anything apart from the bishop that has to do with the church. Let that be regarded as a valid Eucharist which is held under the bishop or to whomever he entrusts it" (Smyrnaeans 8:1).
While some scholars see St. Ignatius' early second century comments as an endorsement and promotion of what would eventually be the norm in the mid-second century, there is little evidence of resistance. One suspects the scholarly attempt to emphasize earlier diversity in church order is motivated not by historical integrity but by the desire to dissent from modern church order.