Thursday, December 31, 2009

St Basil on indifference to doctrine

The following words of Saint Basil the Great apply to all of us, but especially to clergywho are indifferent to matters of Faith, to the struggle for the Faith “once delivered.” One of the reasons I left the Presbyterian Church USA was that it had slid into functional congregationalism, such that I could no longer uphold my ordination vows. National standards for ordination were ignored in many churches so that they could "ordain" non-celibate LGBT folks as deacons & elders. And the conservatives (notice I didn't say evangelicals) were often so afraid of being pegged as mean or meddling that they would ignore problems of lapsed discipline & doctrine unless it showed up vociferously in their own presbytery or congregation. I opted for revived Anglicanism because there is still a healthy sense that the bishop is the defender of the faith and a sure link to the historic faith - and thus has to meddle when people tamper with catholic doctrine or practice. Similarly, all ordained persons are seen as clergy and held accountable to the bishop - so there's no hiding behind "he's just a deacon / elder" (in the mainline "reformed" churches, deacons & elders are often seen as little more than congregational officers). And because our sacramental unity is at stake, there's no problem with an Anglican - laic or cleric - raising concerns to their bishop / archbishop concerning the teaching of a particular individual.

Saint Basil was writing to men who were far less blinded by the god of this world, but who nonetheless exhibited indifference to the fate of churches outside their diocese. May we all take the Saint’s words to heart and lend a helping hand to all of our brethren who are outside of our diocese or local church but in urgent need of our support and encouragement.

“We stand in the arena to fight for our common heritage, for the treasure of the sound faith, derived from our Fathers. Grieve with us, all you who love the brethren, at the shutting of the mouths of our men of true faith, and at the opening of the bold and blasphemous lips of all who utter unrighteousness against God. The pillars and foundation of the truth are scattered abroad. We, whose insignificance has allowed of our being overlooked, are deprived of our right and free speech. Enter into the struggle for the people’s sake. Do not think only of your being yourselves moored in a safe haven, where the grace of God gives you shelter from the tempest of the winds of wickedness. Reach out a helping hand to the churches that are being buffeted by the storm, lest if they are abandoned, they suffer complete shipwreck of the faith. Lament for us, in that the Only-Begotten is being blasphemed, and there is none to offer contradiction.

--- Letter CCXLIII to the Bishops of Italy and Gaul

Today, there is hardly a church which is not being buffeted by the spirit of secularization. The faithful of the churches everywhere are being abandoned by thieves (John 10:1) to the wolves of this world and are in need of a helping hand, lest they suffer “complete shipwreck.” The Son of God and His Body are being blasphemed, so let us all “offer contradiction.”

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Santa's got a knife!

From the BBC News.

A Turkish archaeologist has called on his government to demand that Italy return the bones of St Nicholas to their original resting place.

The 3rd Century saint - on whom Santa Claus was modelled - was buried in the modern-day town of Demre in Turkey.

But in the Middle Ages his bones were taken by Italian sailors and re-interred in the port of Bari.

The Turkish government said it was considering making a request to Rome for the return of the saint's remains.

While Christmas is by and large not celebrated in Muslim Turkey, the Christmas figure of Santa Claus certainly is, in the Mediterranean town of his birth.

He was born in what was then the Greek city of Myra in the third century, and went on to become the local bishop, with a reputation for performing miracles and secretly giving gold to the needy - on one occasion being forced to climb down a chimney to leave his donation.

After his death he was canonised as Saint Nicholas, and venerated in much of the Christian world. But when Myra was occupied by Arab forces in the 11th Century, Italian sailors came and took the saint's bones to the port of Bari, where they remain interred to this day.

Prof Nevzat Cevik, head of archaeological research in Demre, says Saint Nicholas had made it clear during his life that he wanted to be buried in his home town.

Even without the bones, the town of Demre has not been shy about cashing in on its most famous native son - today visitors to the Byzantine church there are greeted by a large, plastic Santa statue, complete with beard and red snow-suit.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009