Sunday, August 1, 2010

New Beginnings!

New Beginnings! 

I've been away for awhile, not far away; just far enough to make certain I'm on the right path. And I believe I am! By God's Grace.

Over the past several years I've attended many different church communities, of various denominations. I've learned quite a bit but admittedly never enough. Through some I've been amused; with others I've been amazed, often disappointed. Even others have been if not outright heretical, certainly theologically confused. 

The whole of Christianity is sifting. Much has happened in post-reformation Catholicism with a particular emphasis on the ramifications of Vatican II and of even greater concern is the turmoil and resultant splintering of the Anglican Church as is caused by the certain cultural/theological modernizations and liturgical innovations since the 60's. The so-called Age of Camelot.

My aim with this blog and to a broader extent, that of the Anglican Catholic Church is to "evangelize", to educate a whole community of believers; particularly of you here within the PineBelt.

This blog is not about opinions or personalities, but is about right (orthodox) beliefs; the Dogma and Doctrine as handed down from the teachings of the God-Man, our Savior Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our beliefs are those same beliefs that were taught by Christ Jesus to His first Apostles and then their disciples and close followers and for some 1800 years since, through Apostlolic Succession to the certain Church Fathers and Bishops of His Church.

The Anglican Catholic Church holds to these beliefs; And as St. Vincent of Lerins so eloquently spoke:"what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all").

What We Believe

What We Believe

This short statement of our beliefs was written by the Most Reverend M. Dean Stephens, late-Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Anglican Catholic Church, in February 1998.
Let me review briefly with you what the Anglican Catholic Church believes.
We believe in the One, Holy, Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe that there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved, and that most holy name is Jesus, Lord of heaven and earth. We believe that only through Him is the full revelation of God given to man and that we have the awesome responsibility to preach the Good News of salvation to all nations and tongues.
We believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the authentic record of God's revelation to man, a revelation that is valid for all men and all time. In the Bible we have God's revelation of Himself, His saving activity, and His moral demands. We believe that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16).
We believe the Catholic Faith as set forth in the three recognized Creeds of Christendom: the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and that known as the Creed of St. Athanasius. We receive and believe them in the sense they have had always in the Catholic Church.
We believe in the holy Tradition of the Church as set forth by the ancient catholic bishops and doctors, and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church.
We hold dear the seven Sacraments of Grace, namely, the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, Penance, and Unction of the Sick. We believe them to be objective signs of Christ's continued presence and saving activity among us. We believe in the holy sacrifice of the Mass and that the body and blood of Christ is truly and really present in the Holy Eucharist.
We believe in God's gift of the apostolic ministry to His Church, asserting the necessity of a bishop in apostolic succession (or a priest ordained by such) as the celebrant of the Eucharist.
Furthermore, we hold that the Holy Orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons consist exclusively of men in accordance with Christ's will and institution.
We believe in the sanctity of human life; that life begins at the moment of conception; and that the willful taking of that life in the womb by abortion to be a grave sin (Title XV, Canon I, 1.01 of the Canons of the Anglican Catholic Church).
We believe in the family, in the God-given sacramental bond in marriage between one man and one woman. We profess that sexual activity is to be practiced only within the bonds of Holy Matrimony.
We believe that man is very far gone from original righteousness, is in rebellion against God's authority, and is liable to His righteous judgment. We believe that all people, individually and collectively, are responsible to their Creator for their acts, motives, thoughts, and words, since we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
We believe it is the duty of the Church and her members to bear witness to Christian morality, to follow it in their lives, and to reject the false standards of the world.
Lastly, the Anglican Catholic Church acknowledges that rule of faith laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins: Let us hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all, for that is truly and properly Catholic.
The Bishops of this Church are committed to seeing that the Faith of Christ is kept entire as it was given to this Church. Any assertion to the contrary has no basis in fact. We call upon all the communicants of this church to believe without reservation that deposit of Faith that has been given to the Anglican Catholic Church and to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.


In 1977 an international congress of over 1,600 Anglican bishops, clergy, and lay people met in St. Louis, Missouri. They came together to determine the actions necessary to establish an orthodox jurisdiction in which traditional Anglicanism would be maintained, by returning to the fullness of the Faith of the undivided Catholic Church. Acting according to the principles determined by the seven great Ecumenical Councils of the ancient Church and adopting initially the name "Anglican Church of North America," they placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the retired bishop of Springfield, Illinois, the Right Reverend Albert Chambers.
In January 1978 Bishop Chambers expanded that jurisdiction and devolved it upon others, by taking order for the consecration of four more bishops. From these four bishops have come two jurisdictions, the Anglican Catholic Church and the Anglican Province of Christ the King, which now maintain orthodox Anglicanism in North America and beyond.
Bishop Chambers died in 1993. His steadfast faith and courage earned him a notable place in the history of world Anglicanism.
The Affirmation of St. Louis was adopted by those meeting in St. Louis as a statement of principles to guide them and others in the establishment of the new Anglican jurisdiction.

The Affirmation of St. Louis

The Continuation of Anglicanism
We affirm that the Church of our fathers, sustained by the most Holy Trinity, lives yet, and that we, being moved by the Holy Spirit to walk only in that way, are determined to continue in the Catholic Faith, Apostolic Order, Orthodox Worship and Evangelical Witness of the traditional Anglican Church, doing all things necessary for the continuance of the same. We are upheld and strengthened in this determination by the knowledge that many provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion have continued steadfast in the same Faith, Order, Worship and Witness, and that they continue to confine ordination to the priesthood and the episcopate to males. We rejoice in these facts and we affirm our solidarity with these provinces and dioceses.
The Dissolution of Anglican and Episcopal Church Structure
We affirm that the Anglican Church of Canada and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, by their unlawful attempts to alter Faith, Order and Morality (especially in their General Synod of 1975 and General Convention of 1976), have departed from Christ's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
The Need to Continue Order in the Church
We affirm that all former ecclesiastical governments, being fundamentally impaired by the schismatic acts of lawless Councils, are of no effect among us, and that we must now reorder such godly discipline as we strengthen us in the continuation of our common life and witness.
The Invalidity of Schismatic Authority
We affirm that the claim of any such schismatic person or body to act against any Church member, clerical or lay, for his witness to the whole Faith is with no authority of Christ's true Church, and any such inhibition, deposition or discipline is without effect and is absolutely null and void.
The Need for Principles and a Constitution
We affirm that fundamental principles (doctrinal, moral, and constitutional) are necessary for the present, and that a Constitution (redressing the defects and abuses of our former governments) should be adopted, whereby the Church may be soundly continued.
The Continuation of Communion with Canterbury
We affirm our continued relations of communion with the See of Canterbury and all faithful parts of the Anglican Communion. [Note: Because of the action of General Synod of the Church of England, Parliament, and the Royal Assent, the College of Bishops of the Anglican Catholic Church is obliged no longer to count the See of Canterbury as a faithful part of the Anglican Communion.]
WHEREFORE, with a firm trust in Divine Providence, and before Almighty God and all the company of heaven, we solemnly affirm, covenant and declare that we, lawful and faithful members of the Anglican and Episcopal Churches, shall now and hereafter continue and be the unified continuing Anglican Church in North America, in true and valid succession thereto.
In order to carry out these declarations, we set forth these fundamental Principles for our continued life and witness.
In the firm conviction that "we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ," and that "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved," and acknowledging our duty to proclaim Christ's saving Truth to all peoples, nations and tongues, we declare our intention to hold fast the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith of God.
We acknowledge that rule of faith laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins: "Let us hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all, for that is truly and properly Catholic."
1. The Nature of the Church.
We gather as people called by God to be faithful and obedient to Him. As the Royal Priestly People of God, the Church is called to be, in fact, the manifestation of Christ in and to the world. True religion is revealed to man by God. We cannot decide what is truth, but rather (in obedience) ought to receive, accept, cherish, defend and teach what God has given us. The Church is created by God, and is beyond the ultimate control of man.
The Church is the Body of Christ at work in the world. She is the society of the baptized called out from the world: In it, but not of it. As Christ's faithful Bride, she is different from the world and must not be influenced by it.
2. The Essentials of Truth and Order
We repudiate all deviation of departure from the Faith, in whole or in part, and bear witness to these essential principles of evangelical Truth and apostolic Order:
Holy Scriptures
The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the authentic record of God's revelation of Himself, His saving activity, and moral demands--a revelation valid for all men and all time.
The Creeds
The Nicene Creed as the authoritative summary of the chief articles of the Christian Faith, together with the "Apostles' Creed, and that known as the Creed of St. Athanasius to be "thoroughly received and believed" in the sense they have had always in the Catholic Church.
The received Tradition of the Church and its teachings as set forth by "the ancient catholic bishops and doctors," and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church, to the exclusion of all errors, ancient and modern.
The Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, the Holy Eucharist, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, Penance and Unction of the Sick, as objective and effective signs of the continued presence and saving activity of Christ our Lord among His people and as His covenanted means for conveying His grace. In particular, we affirm the necessity of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist (where they may be had) -- Baptism as incorporating us into Christ (with its completion in Confirmation as the "seal of the Holy Spirit"), and the Eucharist as the sacrifice which unites us to the all-sufficient Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and the Sacrament in which He feeds us with His Body and Blood.
Holy Orders
The Holy Orders of bishops, priests and deacons as the perpetuation of Christ's gift of apostolic ministry to His Church, asserting the necessity of a bishop of apostolic succession (or priest ordained by such) as the celebrant of the Eucharist -- these Orders consisting exclusively of men in accordance with Christ's Will and institution (as evidenced by the Scriptures), and the universal practice of the Catholic Church.
The ancient office and ministry of Deaconesses as a lay vocation for women, affirming the need for proper encouragement of that office.
Duty of Bishops
Bishops as Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers, as well as their duty (together with other clergy and the laity) to guard and defend the purity and integrity of the Church's Faith and Moral Teaching.
The Use of Other Formulae
In affirming these principles, we recognize that all Anglican statements of faith and liturgical formulae must be interpreted in accordance with them.
Incompetence of Church Bodies to Alter Truth
We disclaim any right or competence to suppress, alter or amend any of the ancient Ecumenical Creeds and definitions of Faith, to set aside or depart from Holy Scripture, or to alter or deviate from the essential pre-requisites of any Sacrament.
Unity with Other Believers
We declare our firm intention to seek and achieve full sacramental communion and visible unity with other Christians who "worship the Trinity in Unity, and Unity in Trinity," and who hold the Catholic and Apostolic Faith in accordance with the foregoing principles.
The conscience, as the inherent knowledge of right and wrong, cannot stand alone as a sovereign arbiter of morals. Every Christian is obligated to form his conscience by the Divine Moral Law and the Mind of Christ as revealed in Holy Scriptures, and by the teaching and Tradition of the Church. We hold that when the Christian conscience is thus properly informed and ruled, it must affirm the following moral principles:
Individual Responsibility
All people, individually and collectively, are responsible to their Creator for their acts, motives, thoughts and words, since "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ . . ."
Sanctity of Human Life
Every human being, from the time of his conception, is a creature and child of God, made in His image and likeness, an infinitely precious soul; and that the unjustifiable or inexcusable taking of life is always sinful.
Man's Duty to God
All people are bound by the dictates of the Natural Law and by the revealed Will of God, insofar as they can discern them.
Family Life
The God-given sacramental bond in marriage between one man and one woman is God's loving provision for procreation and family life, and sexual activity is to be practiced only within the bonds of Holy Matrimony.
Man as Sinner
We recognize that man, as inheritor of original sin, is "very far gone from original righteousness," and as a rebel against God's authority is liable to His righteous judgment.
Man and God's Grace
We recognize, too, that God loves His children and particularly has shown it forth in the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that man cannot be saved by any effort of his own, but by the Grace of God, through repentance and acceptance of God's forgiveness.
Christian's Duty to be Moral
We believe, therefore, it is the duty of the Church and her members to bear witness to Christian Morality, to follow it in their lives, and to reject the false standards of the world.
In the constitutional revision which must be undertaken, we recommend, for the consideration of continuing Anglicans, the following:
Retain the Best of Both Provinces
That the traditional and tested features of the Canadian and American ecclesiastical systems be retained and used in the administration of the continuing Church.
Selection of Bishops
That a non-political means for selection of bishops be devised.
Tripartite Synod
That the Church be generally governed by a Holy Synod of three branches (episcopal, clerical and lay), under the presidency of the Primate of the Church.
Scriptural Standards for the Ministry
That the apostolic and scriptural standards for the sacred Ministry be used for all orders of Ministers.
Concurrence of all Orders for Decisions
That the Constitution acknowledge the necessity of the concurrence of all branches of the Synod for decisions in all matters, and that extraordinary majorities be required for the favorable consideration of all matters of importance.
Re-establishment of Discipline
That the Church re-establish an effective permanent system of ecclesiastical courts for the defense of the Faith and the maintenance of discipline over all her members.
Constitutional Assembly to be Called
That our bishops shall call a Constitutional Assembly of lay and clerical representatives of dioceses and parishes to convene at the earliest appropriate time to draft a Constitution and Canons by which we may be unified and governed, with special reference to this Affirmation, and with due consideration to ancient Custom and the General Canon Law, and to the former law of our provinces.
Interim Action
In the meantime, trusting in the everlasting strength of God to carry us through all our trials, we commend all questions for decision to the proper authorities in each case: Episcopal, diocesan, and parochial, encouraging all the faithful to support our witness as subscribers to this Affirmation, and inviting all so doing to share our fellowship and the work of the Church.
Prayer Book--The Standard of Worship
In the continuing Anglican Church, the Book of Common Prayer is (and remains) one work in two editions: The Canadian Book of 1962 and the American Book of 1928. Each is fully and equally authoritative. No other standard for worship exists.
Certain Variances Permitted
For liturgical use, only the Book of Common Prayer and service books conforming to and incorporating it shall be used.
Inter-Communion with other Apostolic Churches
The continuing Anglicans remain in full communion with the See of Canterbury and with all other faithful parts of the Anglican Communion, and should actively seek similar relations with all other Apostolic and Catholic Churches, provided that agreement in the essentials of Faith and Order first be reached.
Non-Involvement with Non-Apostolic Groups
We recognize that the World Council of Churches, and many national and other Councils adhering to the World Council, are non-Apostolic, humanist and secular in purpose and practice, and that under such circumstances, we cannot be members of any of them. We also recognize that the Consultation of Church Union (COCU) and all other such schemes, being non-Apostolic and non-Catholic in their present concept and form, are unacceptable to us, and that we cannot be associated with any of them.
Need for Sound Theological Training
Re-establishment of spiritual, orthodox and scholarly theological education under episcopal supervision is imperative, and should be encouraged and promoted by all in authority; and learned and godly bishops, other clergy and lay people should undertake and carry on that work without delay.
Financial Affairs
The right of congregations to control of their temporalities should be firmly and constitutionally recognized and protected.
Administrative Matters
Administration should, we believe, be limited to the most simple and necessary acts, so that emphasis may be centered on worship, pastoral care, spiritual and moral soundness, personal good works, and missionary outreach, in response to God's love for us.
The Church as Witness to Truth
We recognize also that, as keepers of God's will and truth for man, we can and ought to witness to that will and truth against all manifest evils, remembering that we are as servants in the world, but God's servants first.
Pensions and Insurance
We recognize our immediate responsibility to provide for the establishment of sound pension and insurance programs for the protection of the stipendiary clergy and other Church Workers.
Legal Defense
We recognize the immediate need to coordinate legal resources, financial and professional, for the defense of congregations imperiled by their stand for the Faith, and commend this need most earnestly to the diocesan and parochial authorities.
Continuation, Not Innovation
In this gathering witness of Anglicans and Episcopalians, we continue to be what we are. We do nothing new. We form no new body, but continue as Anglicans and Episcopalians.
NOW, THEREFORE, deeply aware of our duty to all who love and believe the Faith of our Fathers, of our duty to God, who alone shall judge what we do, we make this Affirmation. Before God, we claim our Anglican/Episcopal inheritance, and proclaim the same to the whole Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

Friday, August 24, 2007

St. Bartholomew the Apostle

Feast Day August 24

Bartholomew the Apostle was a Galilean, and went to the nearer regions of India which had fallen to him by lot for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There he preached to those peoples the coming of the Lord Christ according to the Gospel of St. Matthew. But, since he had converted many in that region to Jesus Christ, he had to endure many trials and persecutions; and he went into Greater Armenia.

Here he brought Polymius the king and his wife and twelve cities to the Christian faith. This aroused against him the hatred of the priests of that people. They inflamed Astyages, the brother of King Polymius, against the Apostle so that he commanded that Bartholomew be flayed alive in a most cruel way and beheaded; and in this martyrdom the Apostle gave up his soul to God.

His body was buried at Albanopolis, the city of Greater Armenia where he suffered. It was later taken to he island of Lipari and afterwards was transferred to Benevento. Finally it was taken to Rome by Emperor Otto III and placed in a church on the island in the Tiber dedicated to God under the title of St. Bartholomew’s.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

St. Mary the Virgin

The Feast of the Assumption (Dormition) of Blessed Virgin Mary

Each August 15th we celebrate the feast day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. The Dogma of the Assumption (the declaration that after her death Mary was taken up to heaven body and soul) was solemnly declared by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950. Although it is not an “official” dogma for the Anglican Church, it is held as a universal truth by most faithful Anglican

The belief in the Assumption dates back to the early centuries of the Church. Christians always believed that Mary’s death was a falling asleep in the Lord or dormition. Dormition is from the Latin word for sleep, from which we get the word dormitory. At her dormition, or final sleeping, Mary was immediately taken up to God. Actually the Dormition of Mary or, to use our terminology, the Assumption of Mary was one of the most popular themes in religious art of the medieval times.

To the ancient and medieval Christians, the Assumption of Mary showed the fulfillment of God’s promise to his faithful Christian. Mary’s life was difficult. She suffered the scorn of the neighborhood busybodies because she was pregnant before marriage. She had to quietly endure this waiting for the day that God's plan would someday become evident. In the small tight knit community of Nazareth, everyone knew that Mary's pregnancy shocked and upset her betrothed husband, Joseph. He was a man who, even though he was as gentle as possible, had resolved to send her away. Later in the infancy narratives, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, would be presented. Elizabeth’s son would be born in a home with numerous people attending. Mary’s child was not born in a home, but in a stable. This would be a hardship and suffering for any mother. The Gospel of Matthew says that Mary and Joseph also suffered exile in Egypt to flee Herod. Mary, a young girl with a baby, would not receive any help from her own mother, Anne. Later on Mary would suffer the indignities of people telling her that her son had lost his mind. She would have her heart torn out as her son died on the cross. Then, even after the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, Mary would have to put up with the petty squabbling of the apostles.

Mary’s life was difficult. But she had total faith in God's will for her and for his people. Therefore the Feast of the Assumption celebrates her faith being justified.

The 11th chapter of the Book of Revelations presents a woman who is clothed in the sun with the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars. The scene is not easy. The woman wails in childbirth. At the moment of the birth an awful beast appears ready to devour the child. The child was snatched up to God and his throne and the woman was protected in a special place prepared for her.

Biblical scholarship views this woman as symbolizing the Church, given the glory of God yet suffering as she tries to make him present to the world. The work of the Church is in fact the very Son of God. The Son is united to the Father. The woman, the Church, is protected by God.

Tradition views this passage in a different way. The woman is Mary, with her whole life seen in one glimpse. She is the one chosen to be the mother of the Son of God. Therefore, she is clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet and wearing a crown of twelve stars. But she also suffers. She wails in pain. Her Son is attacked by the devil, but ultimately He is united to the Father. Mary is also protected in a special place set aside for her.

The solemnity of the Assumption considers Mary receiving the reward for her labor of love. She is taken to that special place that we call heaven.

She trusted in God and God justified her trust. Her life ended in her sleeping in the hand of the Lord, her dormition. She would live forever, body and soul, in heaven. She would be the one who all generations will call blessed. She will be the one who receive the total benefit of the sacrifice of Jesus. At her death, her final sleeping, Mary’s body would be raised up and united with God.

All of us have difficult situations and periods in our lives. All of us are tempted to give up our lives, to go a different way. How many of us know people who have just left, left their spouse and children, left the priesthood, left their lives. We are all tempted to walk away. But we can’t give in. We are called to sacrifice. We are called to be followers of Christ, who died on a cross.

And we trust God to pull us through. He's sees the sacrifices we make to be his followers. And we benefit. We benefit here on earth because we are happy living lives that our Christocentric, centered on Christ and his sacrificial love, rather than lives that are egocentric, selfish.

Mary had free will. She was not a plastic statue; she was a real person who could have said “no” to the angel or “no” to God’s plan at any time during her life. She could have complained. She could have doubted. She could have walked away. But she didn’t. She accepted all. She rejoiced in the new way to love she found with this special child. She sacrificed everything for him who was love.

We remember Mary and her life in the Anglican rosary. It is a wonderful background for prayer and mediation. It is an opportunity to slow ourselves down. And I recommend the rosary to you and in particular for the family who are blessed with children in the home.

When we pray to Mary, we should remember that Mary was a real person very much like us. She had difficult choices. She chose love, but this love entailed sacrifice and suffering. It also brought eternal happiness.

Mary’s Assumption is a reminder to us that God has a plan for each of us, a purpose for each of our lives. If we allow him to complete his plan in us, we also will be taken to that special place prepared for us, the place of inexpressible joy that we call heaven.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Homily for the Feast Day of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

“I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” —Philippians 3:12

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Name—of Jesus Christ—whose name in regard to character and authority is so firmly bound to the person himself, that we as disciples of Christ are exhorted to baptize, exorcise, heal the sick, and raise the dead by and through the sacred and salvific power of its very invocation. Indeed, today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Name—of Jesus Christ—whose name in regard to character and authority in Hebrew and Aramaic is strikingly similar to the phrase “he will save,” and whose name reminds us that God is with us—even to the end of the age. Yes, today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom every knee shall bow, and under whom all creation (as we speak) is being re-ordered and in and by whom all meaning is being re-inscribed in the actualization of God’s Holy Covenant.

The faith that we demonstrate and enjoy in proclaiming Jesus Christ Lord is the sustaining and propulsive power that continually drives us to insist on proclaiming to the world the message of Christ’s forgiveness of sin, comfort in times of weakness, loneliness, and desolation, and revolutionary subversion of violent force into works of love in any situation—come what may, fear or no fear, anxiety notwithstanding.

Yet the question our Savior asked his disciples in antiquity is the same one that he asks each one of us today: Who do you say that I am?

Some of Jesus’ disciples said that he was John the Baptist, and others that he was Elijah. St. Peter even confessed Jesus as the Christ—the Messiah—anointed one of God... Yet St. Peter’s confession wasn’t so strange considering that at the time, there were many who were claiming this title, and performing miracles by the score. What was perhaps more interesting about St. Peter’s confession was the confession he himself received from Jesus in return: `'You are Peter (or “rock” in quotes!) and on this rock will I build my church.” Needless to say, there is a pun regarding the names Peter and Jesus, probably owing to the Aramaic and Hebraic property to allow proper names and place names to be descriptive of the very being of things and persons.

So perhaps it may be similar for us—although my name `'George” meaning farmer might only apply if we are considering parables about vineyards.

The point is, that in confessing who Jesus is to us—individually and corporately, Jesus confesses us as faithful witnesses and disciples, and in this we are given an identity—we find out who we are in relation to God. As we appreciate here at St. Ignatius Church and according to Acts 11:26, “in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians,” so in confessing Christ as Lord, we in turn take on his name and are called Christians—not as a surname, but as a change of name similar to that experienced by Abraham the father of our faith: we too make a testimony of loyalty to God: to follow Jesus, Lord and Savior of all, and to bring his teaching to the world as the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

Now this name “Christian” that we have been given and in which we rejoice is not to be taken lightly or for granted as though it were merely a given as opposed to a gift. As our philosopher friends Kierkegaard and Bonhoffer knew, taking on the name of Christ lightly and not in earnest—even with plenty of theological, liturgical, biblical, and pious window dressing—is at best to make a mockery of God, a mess of our lives, and to try and buy discipleship at a fixed cut rate.

For to do so in this wise is to take the name of the Lord in vain, and to squander the opportunity to walk in the way of our teacher and savior Christ, and to grow into the stature that he lovingly wills for us.

Judge for yourself: this is not an easy road—for to choose to follow Christ and take on his Holy Name is to choose to follow the one who had no place to lay his head... and in terms of the world, to choose this is to choose certain downfall. Yet as Christians, we already know that we are not merely bound by the world—how boring and easy that would be; would that that were the case! Our greater responsibility has to do with eternity, and to realize that eternity begins on this side of the grave.

We have already been born again by water and the Holy Spirit by virtue of our baptism. We affirm this birth whenever we partake of the Holy Sacraments in the community of the Body of Christ known as the Church.

The decisions we make now have eternal repercussions... And the commitment we have now as brothers and sisters in and of Christ exacts not merely the whole of our terrestrial lives from us, but an eternal responsibility to living up to our birthright. The choice is all yours.

by The Rev’d Fr. George M. Rogers III, given at St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church, NY, NY, Assistant Rector, Christ the Redeemer, Pelham, NY

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Today we celebrate the occasion on which Christ, as He was beginning to teach His disciples that He must die and rise again, revealed Himself in shining splendor to Peter, James, and John. Moses and Elijah were present, and are taken to signify that the Law and the Prophets testify that Jesus is the promised Messiah. God the Father also proclaimed him as such, saying, "This is my Beloved Son. Listen to him." For a moment the veil is drawn aside, and men still on earth are permitted a glimpse of the heavenly reality, the glory of the Eternal Triune God.

Our Lord had spoken to His disciples many times not only concerning His Passion, Cross, and Death, but also concerning the coming persecutions and afflictions that they themselves would endure. Since all these evils were near at hand, but the enjoyment of good things which they hoped to receive in their stead was yet to come, our Savior desired to give them full assurance, evidently and openly, concerning that glory which is prepared for those who endure to the end. Therefore, fulfilling that which He had promised shortly before, that "there be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His Kingdom" (Matt. 16:28), He took His three foremost disciples and ascended Mount Tabor, where He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as the light. Suddenly, together with this dread and marvelous effulgence of light, there appeared those pinnacles of the Prophets, Moses and Elias, who spoke with the Lord Jesus concerning His saving Passion which was about to take place. Standing before Him as reverent servants, they showed that He is the Lord of both the living and the dead, for Moses came forth from Hades, having died many centuries before, and Elias, as it were from heaven, whither he had been taken up while yet alive. After a little while a radiant cloud overshadowed them and out of the cloud they heard that same voice which had been heard at the Jordan at the Baptism of Christ, testifying to the Divinity of Jesus and saying: "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased; hear ye Him" (Matt. 17: 5).

Such are the marvels, truly worthy of God, celebrated in this present feast, which is an image and prefiguring of the future state of the righteous, whose splendor the Lord spoke of, saying: "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun" (Matt. 13:43).

In the East, the Festival of the Transfiguration has been celebrated since the late fourth century, and is one of the twelve great festivals of the East Orthodox calendar. In the West it was observed after the ninth century by some monastic orders, and in 1457 Pope Callistus III ordered its general observance.

The following is an excerpt from a Sermon by Pope St. Leo the Great (Sermo de Transfigurat., ante medium)

THE Lord took chosen witnesses, and in their presence revealed his glory. That is to say, the form of body which he had in common with other men, he so transfigured with light, that his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment became exceeding white, even as snow. Now the chief purpose of this Transfiguration was to remove from the hearts of the disciples their fear of the Cross. So, before their eyes, was unveiled the splendour of his hidden majesty, that the lowliness of his freely-chosen suffering might not confound their faith. But nonetheless there was also thys set forth, by the providence of God, a sure and certain hope for holy Church, whereby the whole Body of Christ should know with what great a change it is yet to be honoured. For the members of that Body whose Head hath already been transfigured in light may promise themselves a share in his glory.

ALSO, that the Apostles might be strengthened, and brought forward into all knowledge, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias (that is, the Law and the Prophets), talking with them. This glorification of Christ took place before five witnesses, as though to fulfil that which is written : At the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. What can be more certain, or better attested, than this matter which is proclaimed by the trumpets of both the Old and the New Testament, and concerning which the witness of ancient testimony uniteth with the teaching of the Gospel? The pages of either Covenant strengthen one another, and the brightness of open glory maketh manifest and distinct him whom the former prophecies had promised under the veil of mysteries.

THE unveiling of such mysteries roused the mind of the Apostle Peter to an outburst of longing for the things eternal, which despised and disdained things worldly and earthly. Overflowing with gladness at the vision, he yearned to dwell with Jesus there, where the revelation of his glory had rejoiced him. And so he said : "Master, it is good for us to be here ; if thou wilt, let us make here tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias." To this proposal the Lord answered nothing, thus signifying that what Peter wished was not wrong, but out of place, since the world could not be saved but by the death of Christ. And the Lord's example was to call the faith of believers to this, that although we should have no doubts concerning the promise of eternal blessedness, yet we are to understand that, amid the trials of this life, we are to seek for power to endure rather than for glory.

From the Anglican Breviary

At the time of the Reformation, it was still felt in some countries to be a "recent innovation," and so was not immediately taken over into most Reformation calendars, but is now found on most calendars that have been revised in the twentieth century.

According to tradition, the Lord's Transfiguration came to pass forty days before His Crucifixion; this is why the Transfiguration is celebrated forty days before the Exaltation of the Cross.

A recent tendency though, in the West is to commemorate the Transfiguration on the Sunday just before Lent, in accordance with the pattern found in the Synoptics, where Jesus is represented as beginning to speak of his forthcoming death just about the time of the Transfiguration, so that it forms a fitting transition between the Epiphany season, in which Christ makes himself known, and the Lenten season, in which he prepares the disciples for what lies ahead. Whether observing the Transfiguration then will affect the observation of it on 6 August remains to be seen. It might be that we are called to observe the Transfiguration on both days.

Compiled text from various internet and written sources. A.A.B.