Saturday, October 03, 2009

Friday, October 02, 2009

Keeping the Tuna Safe

Hilarious video featuring curious cats and those automated Halloween candy bowls.

PSA - Paid Socialist Actors?

Public Option PSA

Who's looking out for you?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Theology of Icons

The standard charge of meticulously-Protestant Christians is that catholics are idolatrous because they will reverence icons, altars, the sacrament and other persons. If we thought that these things were gods, that would be a valid charge. Indeed, there are badly instructed catholics who may have superstitious ideas about such things (particularly in places like the Philippines, Latin America, etc.). However, the biblical case for holy images is, I believe, overwhelming when one takes everything into account. Furthermore, it’s been settled by the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicea II in 787), which many Protestants claim to adhere to!

Nicea II based its argumentation upon the writings and argumentation of Ss. Theodore of Studium, Germanus of Constantinople, and John of Damascus. St. John of Damascus’ famous treatise in defense of holy icons forms the basis for the argument below. I will also include some quotes from various Fathers defending images, showing that this is part of the undivided practice and faith of the church.

1. Really the only apparent biblical argument against images is the Second Commandment. It is argued that there are to be no images made of God, or anything in heaven or earth. In response to this charge, it is important to note that this view is actually inconsistent and impossible. We should be careful to note that the literal wording of the Command forbids all making of any images of anything in heaven, earth, sea, etc. Reformed theologian Charles Hodge mentions a reformed colleague of his at Princeton who actually refused to use maps that pictured things like mountains, lakes, etc. This is a consistent outworking of the Protestants position. Such a position is totally ridiculous, but he was attempting to be as consistent with his heretical reading of the Second Command.

Two points refute this:

  • First, the Commandment specifically mentions heaven, earth, sea, etc. God seems to be pointing out the type of worship the Israelites encountered in their pagan neighbors like Egypt, Babylonia, Philistia, Canaan, etc. In other words, “heavens,” meaning astrology, “earth,” meaning animism and nature worship, and “sea” meaning various forms of aquatic idolatry, such as Nile worship. So, God is not railing against the inherent evil of an image, but against the practices of the Israelite neighbors, which included any or all of the above.
  • Second, God himself commands many holy images to be placed inside the Holy of Holies! 1 Kings 6 describes how ornate the inside of the Holy of Holies was, replete with images of Cherubim and Seraphim, and of course the Ark itself had two huge, golden Cherubim over its lid.
If images were inherently evil, God wouldn’t command His own tabernacle/temple to be full of them. Therefore, the Second Command cannot mean absolutely no religious images. It forbids pagan idolatry, and clearly the temple worship which had images was not idolatry.

2. Following in this same train, when the Israelites were in the wilderness and were bit by the snakes, God commands Moses to make an image of a bronze serpent and put it on a pole and all the Israelites are to look in faith to this image. This is recounted in Numbers 21. Once again, this is clearly a religious image because Jesus explains it as a type of His crucifixion in John 3:14-15. All who will look to His Holy Cross will be saved from the bite of the real serpent, the devil. So, we have here a vindication of the use of the crucifix. That’s why St. Paul sees power in the Cross of Christ (see Colossians 2:13-15) to disarm the devil’s fallen hierarchy of fallen angels. That’s why crucifixes are used in exorcisms. And it's a rare church that doesn't have a single cross in the place.

(Ironically, many will allow an American flag - replete with eagle at the top, symbol of Roman power - to be in their places of worship without a peep!)

3. The Bible itself is full is symbolism, which is merely another form of the use of images. Thus, the Holy Spirit appears in the form of a dove at Christ’s baptism. A dove, then, is legitimately used as an image of the Holy Spirit. The paschal lamb is an image of Christ, and so on. God presents Himself to us in Scripture through a variety of images. Human fathers, then, are an image of our heavenly Father. St. Paul, in Colossians 1:15, says that Christ is the image (Greek is “ikon”) of the invisible God. It was, in fact, the Jews who were enraged at Christ’s claim of divinity, a claim that provoked their erroneous zeal against holy images. How could the invisible Jehovah be Incarnate in a human image? To the Pharisees this was idolatry. But the catholic view gives due honor to the Incarnation by recognizing the validity and holy nature of images as part and parcel of the Incarnation, and this was the reasoning of Nicea II.

4. Some Protestants may hold to the validity of images, but deny the reverence paid to them as idolatry. We must ask, then, does Scripture provide any warrant for reverencing anything created? All are agreed that worship (latria) is to be paid only to God. But what about reverence, as in dulia? Is it licit to give homage, reverence, even prostration to any created thing/image? I believe the biblical answer is yes, since we see several times in Scripture men in authority being reverenced. For example, Joseph, as a ruler in Egypt, deserves the homage of his brothers and sisters, and thus they “bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground” (Gen. 42:7). The company of the Lord’s prophets bow down before Elijah in reverence in 2 Kings 2:15. Surely if it were inherently wrong to bow before a created thing (and Joseph and Elijah were created), they would have rebuked others for so doing. But, there are numerous examples of this in Scripture. St. Paul says to give “honor to whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7), and if anyone is due honor, it is the clergy - especially bishops - who labor in the word (of double honor according to Paul in 1 Tim. 5:17).

5. In Acts 19:11-12, cloths and handkerchiefs are touched by St. Paul, and are then placed upon those possessed and the spirits are driven out by these “relics.” Likewise, the woman with an issue of blood touches the hem of Jesus’ garment and “virtue goes forth from him” to heal her. The bones of Elisha even resurrect a dead soldier (2 Kings 13): this is the entire principle behind relics. Things–matter–stuff can be consecrated/sanctified for a holy purpose. Thus, Jesus spits in the sand and makes clay, rubbing it on the blind man’s eyes to heal him. Jesus could have simply spoken a word and healed the man, but in this instance He chose to use mud–stuff, to do the miracle. We call this the “Incarnational Principle.” It is the same thinking behind all sacramental practice.

6. Likewise, in the OT period, even places were holy. Places like Mt. Sinai, the Temple, etc. But this practice is not rejected in the NT, contrary to what many Protestants may think. In John 5, there is a pool where an angel stirs up the water and the first to enter the pool is healed. This is the principle behind shrines and healing icons. In 2 Peter 1:16-18, St. Peter calls the mountain that he witnessed the transfiguration on the “holy mountain.” So, even in the New Testament the principle of holy places is not abolished as something strictly Old Testament. One sees, then, that there is biblical basis for the catholic practices of relics, images and icons. If there is discernment, it must lie not with strict prohibition, but with regard to application.

7. The Early Church Fathers are also very clear:

“We do not worship, we do not adore [non colimus, non adoramus], for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the Creator, but we venerate [honoramus] the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore Him whose martyrs they are.” Against Riparium -St. Jerome

“We by no means consider the holy martyrs to be gods, nor are we wont to bow down before them adoringly, but only relatively and reverentially.” Against Julian -St. Cyril of Alexandria
And St. Augustine against Faustus the Manichaean:
“We, the Christian community, assemble to celebrate the memory of the martyrs with ritual solemnity because we want to be inspired to follow their example, share in their merits, and be helped by their prayers. Yet we erect no altars to any of the martyrs, even in the martyrs’ burial chapels themselves.”
No bishop, when celebrating at an altar where these holy bodies rest, has ever said, “Peter, we make this offering to you”, or “Paul, to you”, or “Cyprian, to you”. No, what is offered is offered always to God, who crowned the martyrs. We offer in the chapels where the bodies of those he crowned rest, so the memories that cling to those places will stir our emotions and encourage us to greater love both for the martyrs whom we can imitate and for God whose grace enables us to do so. This is part of what we mean when we confess the communion of the saints.

But the honor strictly called “worship”, or latria, that is, the special homage belonging only to the divinity, is something we give and teach others to give to God alone. The offering of a sacrifice belongs to worship in this sense (that is why those who sacrifice to idols are called idol-worshipers), and we neither make nor tell others to make any such offering to any martyr, any soul, or any angel. If anyone among us falls into this error, he is corrected with words of sound doctrine and must then either mend his ways or else be shunned.

Even the incense that is sometimes burned in front of ikons is merely a reiteration that we believe the whole church triumphant prays for us and cheers us on in our run of faith. The saints themselves forbid anyone to offer them the worship they know is reserved for God, as is clear from the case of Paul and Barnabas. When the Lycaonians were so amazed by their miracles that they wanted to sacrifice to them as gods, the apostles tore their garments, declared that they were not gods, urged the people to believe them, and forbade them to worship them.
The truths we teach are one thing, the abuses thrust upon us are another.

heavy h/t to Jay Dyer

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Libera sings the Sanctus to Pachelbel

Here's what they're singing:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Why can't these boys show up and assist at the liturgy every Sunday?

Litany to Obama?

See for yourself.
I'm betting that lady pretending to be a presbyter is on the payroll somewhere in TEC.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Iconography for Michaelmas

Today is Michaelmas (the feast of Michael and the Holy Angels). It's pronounced "MICK-el-mus" and is a traditional starting time for school. In God's providence, it also falls immediately after Yom Kippur this year.

Collect: Everlasting God, who have ordained and constituted in a wonderful Order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Readings: Psalm 103; Genesis 28:10-17; Revelation 12:7-12; John 1:47-51
Cathedral Choral Society, Washington National Cathedral - Ye watchers and ye holy ones 17c

Found at bee mp3 search engine
Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
bright seraphs, cherubim, and thrones,
raise the glad strain,
Cry out, dominions, princedoms, powers,
virtues, archangels, angels' choirs,
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
Alleluia! alleluia!

O higher than the cherubim,
more glorious than the seraphim,
lead their praises,
Thou bearer of the eternal Word,
most gracious, magnify the Lord, Refrain

Respond, ye souls in endless rest,
ye patriarchs and prophets blest,
Ye holy twelve, ye martyrs strong,
all saints triumphant, raise the song, Refrain

O friends, in gladness let us sing,
supernal anthems echoing,
To God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, Three in One, Refrain

In the days before widespread literacy, the Church taught with images. Cultural commentators tell us that images are making a come-back (TV, YouTube, etc.) as the power of the written word seems to diminish among the hoi polloi. While this is to be lamented, all is not lost. Again - the Church taught the faith this way for over a millenium.

Today, as I reflect on the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, I'm struck by what the iconography teaches about our spiritual warfare. Look at these pictures and tell me what you notice.

Seeing a common theme, yet?

Try noticing where the spear is placed.

Do you see it?


(The same is true in the iconography of St. George, Patron protector of England, whose shield has been adopted as the symbol for the Anglican Church in North America.)

Because Satan's greatest tool is deception!

Our spiritual warfare consists of being sanctified in the truth and casting down arguments that hold themselves up against the truth of Christ. It's not easy - and in an age that appreciates the appearance of substance rather than substance itself - it can get you labeled as "mean" or "intolerant" or "narrow-minded."

But remember that the highest messenger of God (literal translation of archangel) is so because he constantly destroys the lies of the devil, robbing him of power in the world.

Go and do likewise.

(Here's some help.)

Holy Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do you, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
The Prayer of Leo XIII
to be said after Mass

Monday, September 28, 2009

Saintly Good King Wenceslas

One of the best loved Christmas Carols is "Good King Wenceslas." In 1853, John Mason Neale chose Wenceslas as the subject for a children’s song to exemplify generosity. It quickly became a Christmas favorite, even though its words clearly indicate that Wenceslas ‘looked out’ on St. Stephen’s Day, the day after Christmas. So Good King Wenceslas is actually a Boxing Day carol! For a tune, Neale picked up a spring carol, originally sung with the Latin text ‘Tempus adest floridum’ or ‘Spring has unwrapped her flowers’ (see below). This original spring tune was first published in 1582 in a collection of Swedish church and school songs.

Jolly Old St. Wenceslas

Who was King Wenceslas anyway? Wenceslas was the Duke of Bohemia who was murdered in 929 AD by his wicked younger brother, Boleslav. As the song indicates, he was a good, honest, and strongly principled man. The song expresses his high moral character in describing King Wenceslas braving a fierce storm in order to help feed a poor neighbour. Wenceslas believed that his Christian faith needed to be put into action in practical ways. Wenceslas was brought up with a strong Christian faith by his grandmother St. Ludmila (herself a convert of Saints Methodius and Cyril). Wenceslas’ own mother Drahomira, however, joined forces with an anti-Christian group that murdered Wenceslas’ grandmother, and seized power in Bohemia. Two years later in 922 AD, the evil Drahomira was deposed, and Good King Wenceslas became the ruler.

His mother secured the apostasy and alliance of her second son, Boleslas, who became henceforth her ally against the Christians. Wenceslas in the meantime ruled as the brave and pious king of Bohemia. When his kingdom was attacked, the prince of the invading army, which had been called in by certain seditious individuals, was approaching with a lance to slay him. This prince, named Radislas, saw two celestial spirits beside him; he had already seen him make the sign of the cross and then heard a voice saying not to strike him. These marvels so astonished him that he descended from his horse, knelt at the feet of Wenceslas and asked his pardon. Peace was then reestablished in the land.

In the service of God Saint Wenceslas was constant, planting with his own hands the wheat and pressing the grapes for Holy Mass, at which he never failed to assist each day. He provided for the poor and himself took what they needed to them at night, to spare them the shame they might incur if their poverty became public knowledge. He desired to introduce the Benedictine Order into his kingdom, but was struck down by a violent death before he could do so and himself enter a monastery, as he wished to do.

His piety provided the occasion for his death. After a banquet at his brother’s palace, to which he had been treacherously invited and where he manifested great gentleness towards his brother and mother, he went to pray at night before the tabernacle, as he was accustomed to do. There, at midnight on the feast of the Angels in the year 938, he received the crown of martyrdom by the sword, at the hand of his own brother.

He became Bohemia’s most famous martyr and patron saint. His picture appeared on Bohemian coins, and the Crown of Wenceslas became the symbol of Czech independence.

Intergenerational Appeal

Even as a young child, I remember feeling moved as I sung this jaunty, unusual carol. Recently the phrase ‘Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer’ really spoke to me. It reminded me that sometimes there are times in our lives when life and its stresses seem to overwhelm us, and we feel that ‘we can go no longer.’ The response of Good King Wenceslas was most interesting. He said: ‘Mark my footsteps, my good page, Tread thou in them boldly: Thou shalt find the winter’s rage freeze thy blood less coldly.’ Wenceslas reminds us that when we are all alone, life can feel very bleak. It is at such times that solidarity with another human being can help ‘our blood freeze less coldly’. Wenceslas affirms that we are not alone, and subtly points to the basic Christmas message that Jesus our Master will never leave us in the cold.

Further, the appeal to walk in the steps that others have forged for us is being used in Benedict XVI's appeal - on this Feast of St. Winceslas - to Europe to recover her Christian patrimony before she reverts to barbarism.

In His Master’s Steps

In the last verse are the memorable words: ‘In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted.’ The author John Neale, an Anglican priest, shows us here that the essence of true living is learning to walk in our Master’s steps. All of us need a Higher Power to help guide us along our journey. Jesus said: "If anyone would come after me (and tread in my steps), he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Our challenge each Christmas is to look beyond the toys and tinsel, to see ‘the Master’s steps.’

Good King Wenceslas (76.76D)

Found at bee mp3 search engine

Sources 1, 2, 3, & 4.