29 June 2007

Officially On Vacation

Well, all... I am officially on vacation as of now...

Enjoy the next week and change, and I'll see you back here in the second week of July.

In your charity, please pray for me and my bride as we travel over the next week or so.

28 June 2007

Saints of the Day

I'll be out of town on vacation until July 9, so here are links to two saints who are commemorated between now and then:

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons
Commemoration - June 28

Saint Peter
Apostle and Martyr
Feast - June 29

See you back here in July!

26 June 2007

Really Bad Star Trek

Because sometimes you just need a little bit of humor in your life, enjoy this snippet of "Really Bad Star Trek".

George Weigel on Liturgical Translations

I don't follow politics all that much, but I recognize the name of George Weigel. Over on his blog, Latif Gaba posted a link to his recent comments on the proposed revision to the Roman Liturgy. Very interesting...

I am not sure how I feel about all his comments. I tend to prefer the translation "of one essence" as opposed to "consubstantial", and I tend to favor a liturgical language that is comprehendable by newcomers while, at the same time, is reverent and dignified.

Anyway, Weigel's comments are quite interesting, and worth a moment of your time. Just click on the header of this article to link to the text.

22 June 2007

Space Shuttle Atlantis

The Space Shuttle Atlantis should be landing today, either in California or Florida. In your kindness and charity, please pray for her crew's safe reentry and landing.

"Almighty God, creator of the moon, the stars, and this island Earth, look with your kindness upon the crew of the shuttle Atlantis as they prepare to return to earth, and grant to them and their mission controllers alertness and right judgement for a safe return. We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen."

Saint Alban of Verulamium


Commemoration - June 22

Prayer - Almighty God, your holy martyr Saint Alban, filled with your grace and strength, triumphed in the midst of suffering and was faithful even to death. Grant that we, who remember him today, may recieve the strength of the Spirit to stand courageously for our faith in this world, and recieve the crown of everlasting life in the world to come. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Readings - No Appointed Readings

Biography - Saint Alban of Verulamium (the city now known as St. Alban's, about twenty miles northeast of London, England) was a soldier in the Roman Army who gave shelter to a priest who was fleeing from persecution. During his time with the priest, he was converted. When officers came to Alban's house, he took upon himself the priest's clothes so that the priest might escape. Alban was hauled before the local magistrate. According to St. Bede, Alban encountered the magistrate before a pagan altar and confessed his Christain faith. As a result, he was tortured and murdered.

While traditionally the year 303 or 304 is named as the year of his death, recent studies suggest that he may have actually been martyred during the persecution initiated by the Emperor Septimius Severus in the year 209.

21 June 2007

Saint Eusebius of Samosata

Bishop and Martyr
Commemoration - June 21

Prayer – Father, receive the prayers we offer to you on the memorial of your martyr, Saint Eusebius of Samosata. Grant that, in our actions, we may be your witnesses; and fill us with the strength to contend for the truth throughout our lives, that we may be worthy at the last day to share in the heavenly joy of your martyrs and holy ones, together with Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Readings – No Proper Readings

Biography - Saint Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata (died c. 379) was a Christian martyr and opponent of the Arian heresy.

In 361 he became bishop of the ancient Syrian city of Samosata. Eusebius had been entrusted with the official record of the election (360) of Bishop St. Meletius of Antioch, who was supported by the Arian bishops, who were under the mistaken notion that he would prove sympathetic to their cause. When Meletius expounded his orthodoxy, the bishops persuaded the Roman emperor Constantius II, a staunch Arian, to extort the record from Eusebius and destroy it. In 361 Constantius threatened Eusebius with the loss of his right hand because he refused to surrender the record, but the threat was withdrawn when Eusebius offered both hands.

During the persecution of orthodox Christians under the Eastern Roman emperor Valens (also an Arian), Eusebius travelled incognito through Syria and Palestine, restoring orthodox bishops and priests who had been deposed by the Arians. In 374 Valens banished him to Thrace, a region in the Balkan Peninsula, but after the Emperor's death in 378, Eusebius was restored to his see of Samosata. While in Dolikha to consecrate a bishop, he was killed after being struck on the head with a root tile by an Arian woman.

19 June 2007

Saint Jude Thaddeus

Apostle and Martyr
Feast - June 19

Prayer - Lord, you chose your twelve apostles and granted them the Holy Spirit. You gave them the power to cure the sick, guide the peoples, and teach the nations. Grant that we may follow the example of all your apostles, especially Saint Jude Thaddeus, whose feast we celebrate today. Fill us with their apostolic zeal, and make us participants in their heavenly joy, and we will glorify you, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Readings - Morning Prayer: Jude 1-16
Divine Liturgy: Jude 17-23 and Mark 3: 13-19
Evening Prayer: Jude 24-25

Biography - Saint Jude, one of the twelve apostles of Christ, is descended from King David and Solomon, and is traditionally considered the son of Saint Joseph by his first wife.

Saint John writes in his Gospel, "... neither did his brethren believe in Him" (John. 7:5). St Theophylact, Archbishop of Bulgaria, explains this passage. He says that at the beginning of the Lord Jesus Christ's earthly ministry, Joseph's sons, Jude among them, did not believe in His divine nature. Tradition says that when St Joseph returned from Egypt, he began to divide his possessions among his sons. He wanted to allot a share to Christ the Savior, born miraculously and incorruptibly from the Blessed Virgin Mary. The brothers were opposed to this because Jesus was born of another mother. Only James, later called "The Brother of God," offered to share his portion with Him. Jude came to believe in Christ the Savior as the awaited Messiah, and he followed Him and was chosen as one of the twelve Apostles. Mindful of his sin, the Apostle Jude considered himself unworthy to be called the Lord's brother, and in his Epistle he calls himself merely the brother of James.

Saint Jude also had other names: the Saint Matthew terms him "Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddeus" (Mt. 10:3). Saint Mark also calls him Thaddeus (Mark 3:18), and in the Acts of the Holy Apostles he is called Barsabas (Acts 15: 22). This was customary at that time.

After the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, Saint Jude traveled about preaching the Gospel. He propagated the faith in Christ at first in Judea, Galilee, Samaria and Idumaia, and later in the lands of Arabia, Syria and Mesopotamia. Finally, he went to the city of Edessa. Here he finished the work that was not completed by his predecessor-in-mission, Saint Addai (Thaddeus, see note below).

There is a tradition that Saint Jude went to Persia, where he wrote his Epistle. In the Epistle much profound truth was expressed in a few words. Saint Jude's Epistle speaks about the Holy Trinity, about the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, about the good and bad angels, and about the dread Last Judgment. The apostle urges believers to guard themselves against fleshly impurity, to be diligent in prayer, faith and love, to convert the lost to the path of salvation, and to guard themselves from the teachings of heretics. He also says that it is not enough just to be converted to Christianity, but faith must be demonstrated by good works. He cites the rebellious angels and men punished by God (verses 6 ff.) to support this. Saint Jude died as a martyr around the year 80 near Mt. Ararat in Armenia, where he was crucified and pierced by arrows.

Note: Saint Jude Thaddeus is not to be confused with Saint Addai (often called Thaddeus) who, according to Eusebius healed the suffering of King Abgar. (Ecclesiastical History 1:13)

16 June 2007

Saints Leontius, Hypatius, and Theodulus

Commemoration - June 18

Prayer - Almighty God, in your grace Saints Leontius, Hypatius, and Theodulus triumphed over suffering and were faithful unto death - embracing martyrdom rather than deying their faith. Hear our prayer, and strengthen us with your grace, that we may endure reproach and persecution and faithfully bear witness to the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God; now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

Readings - No Proper Readings

Biography - Saints Leontius, Hypatius and Theodulus were Roman soldiers who were martyred for their faith.

Leontius was Greek by origin, and served as an officer of the imperial army in the Phoenician city of Tripoli during the reign of Vespasian (70-79). Leontius was distinguished for his bravery and good sense, and the people of Tripoli held him in deep respect because of his virtue.

The emperor appointed the Roman senator Adrian as governor of the Phoenician district, with full powers to hunt out Christians, and in case of their refusal to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods, to give them over to torture and death. On his way to Phoenicia, Adrian received a report that Leontius had turned many away from worshipping the pagan gods. The governor sent the tribune Hypatius with a detachment of soldiers to Tripoli so as to find and arrest the Christian Leontius. Along the way the tribune Hypatius fell seriously ill, and being near death, he saw in a dream an angel, which said: “If you wish to be healed, you and your soldiers should say three times: ‘God of Leontius, help me.’”.

Opening his eyes Hypatius beheld the angel and said, “I was sent to arrest Leontius, how is it that I should appeal to his God?” At this moment the angel became invisible. Hypatius told his dream to the soldiers, among whom was his friend Theodulus, and all of them together asked for help from the God whom Leontius confessed. Hypatius was immediately healed, to the great joy of his soldiers, but only Theodulus sat aside, pondering the miracle. His soul was filled with love for God, and he told Hypatius to proceed twice as quickly to the city in search of St Leontius.

Upon their arrival in the city, a stranger met them and invited them to his house, where he lavishly hosted the travelers. Learning that their hospitable host was St Leontius, they fell on their knees and asked him to enlighten them with faith in the True God. They were baptized there, and when Leontius prayed over them calling on the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, a luminous cloud overshadowed the newly-baptized and poured forth rain. The remaining soldiers in search of their commander arrived in Tripoli, where the governor Adrian had also arrived. Learning what had happened, he order Leontius, Hypatius and Theodulus to be brought to him. After threatening them with torture and death, he demanded that they renounce Christ and offer sacrifice to the Roman gods.

All three firmly confessed their faith in Christ. Hypatius was put under a column and raked with iron claws, and Theodulus was mercilessly beaten with rods. Seeing the steadfastness of these saints, they beheaded them. After torture, they sent Leontius to prison. In the morning he came before the governor. Adrian tried to entice him with honors and rewards, but accomplishing nothing, he gave him over to new tortures. Leontius was suspended head downwards from a pillar with a heavy stone about his neck, but nothing could make him renounce Christ. The governor gave orders to beat the sufferer with rods until he died. They then threw Leontius' body outside the city, but Christians reverently buried it near Tripoli.

The deaths of these martyrs occurred between 70-79.

Saint Bernard Mizeki of Rhodesia

Commemoration - June 17

Prayer - Almighty and everlasting God, you kindled the flame of your love in the heart of your holy martyr, Saint Bernard Mizeki. Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God; now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

Readings - No Proper Readings

Biography - Saint Bernard Mizeki was born in Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique) in about 1861. When he was twelve or a little older, he left his home and went to Cape Town, South Africa, where for the next ten years he worked as a laborer, living in the slums of Cape Town, but (perceiving the disastrous effects of drunkenness on many workers in the slums) firmly refusing to drink alcohol, and remaining largely uncorrupted by his surroundings. After his day's work, he attended night classes at an Anglican school. Under the influence of his teachers, from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (an Anglican religious order for men, popularly called the Cowley Fathers), he became a Christian and was baptized on 9 March 1886. Besides the fundamentals of European schooling, he mastered English, French, high Dutch, and at least eight local African languages. In time he would be an invaluable assistant when the Anglican church began translating its sacred texts into African languages.

After graduating from the school, he accompanied Bishop Knight-Bruce to Mashonaland, a tribal area in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), to work there as a lay catechist. In 1891 the bishop assigned him to Nhowe, the village of paramount-chief Mangwende, and there he built a mission-complex. He prayed the Anglican hours each day, tended his subsistence garden, studied the local language (which he mastered better than any other foreigner in his day), and cultivated friendships with the villagers. He eventually opened a school, and won the hearts of many of the Mashona through his love for their children.

He moved his mission complex up onto a nearby plateau, next to a grove of trees sacred to the ancestral spirits of the Mashona. Although he had the chief's permission, he angered the local religious leaders when he cut some of the trees down and carved crosses into others. Although he opposed some local traditional religious customs, Bernard was very attentive to the nuances of the Shona Spirit religion. He developed an approach that built on people's already monotheistic faith in one God, Mwari, and on their sensitivity to spirit life, while at the same time he forthrightly proclaimed the Christ. Over the next five years (1891-1896), the mission at Nhowe produced an abundance of converts.

Many black African nationalists regarded all missionaries as working for the European colonial governments. During an uprising in 1896, Bernard was warned to flee. He refused, since he did not regard himself as working for anyone but Christ, and he would not desert his converts or his post. On 18 June 1896, he was fatally speared outside his hut. His wife and a helper went to get food and blankets for him. They later reported that, from a distance, they saw a blinding light on the hillside where he had been lying, and heard a rushing sound, as though of many wings. When they returned to the spot his body had disappeared. The place of his death has become a focus of great devotion for Christians of many different traditions.

12 June 2007

Let Go and Let God

Personal and Pastoral Reflections on the Mystery of Reconciliation
One morning, upon awaking, I was particularly troubled by some sins that were plaguing me. These were sins that I had been aware of, that I had taken to God the previous night, but that I was never able to get over. They were repeated sins, ones that I knew darned well I needed to stop, but that were so simple to fall into that I almost gave them no second thought. As I was trying to pray that morning, I decided that I needed to go to Confession. This was nothing new for me, as I have been going to Confession since I was baptized in the mid-80's. However, I had been in a slump, and for quite some time had avoided the mercies of the Rite of Reconciliation. Why had I done such a thing? Simple pride. As a Presbyter, I did not want to go and look another Presbyter in the face and have him think badly of me.

Seems like an irrational fear, given the fact that in the nearly six years of my presbyterial ministry, I have never once looked down upon anyone who has come to me to make a confession of sin. Yet, when the shoe is on the other foot, it seems so very, very difficult to approach the graces of Absolution through the confession of one's sins. Even as a Presbyter, when I walk into a confessional, I think to myself that I must know how Pharaoh and his horsemen felt when they saw the wall of water starting to crash back down on them. There is a reason for this feeling, and the best explanation I have found for it comes from a surprising place - a twelve-step program called "Emotions Anonymous".

The twelve-steps form a very powerful way to understand the Rite of Reconciliation, and to prepare our hearts and minds for the worthy reception of the graces of Holy Absolution. In the pages that follow, I will be paraphrasing some of the material found in the "Emotions Anonymous" twelve-step program. I will be applying the concepts of sin to them, so what you see here will be somewhat different than the material you would find in an "EA" source.

The first basic concept that we must grasp about our faith life after sin is this: We must admit that we are powerless to overcome our sins, and that our sinfulness has become unmanageable. This is a very stirring, shaking, and fearful realization for anyone who has come to it. In spite of the fear, however, we must admit that we have no power to help ourselves. Coming to that realization - the realization that our sinfulness is overwhelming when we try to stand alone - begins a long path that leads us to the need for reconciliation.

The second concept that follows immediately upon the fearful awareness of the first is that there is someone greater than we are who can deal with our sins. As a result, we must stop trying to fix everything ourselves. We cannot atone for our own sins, failings, and shortcomings. We must realize that only God can aid us in overcoming our despair and pain - the emotions that sin causes in the soul.

Following the realization that God has to intervene, we must proceed at once to turn our mind, body, and spirit over to the will of God. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (a Roman Catholic religious order, better known by their more common name, the Jesuits) had a total grasp of this concept, and in Spiritual Exercises, he prays:

"Take, Lord, receive: all my liberty, my memory, understanding, my entire will. Give me only your love and your grace: that is enough for me. Take, Lord, receive all I have and possess. You have given all to me, now I return it."

To be able to change our lives, to be able to overcome our sinfulness, we must stop trying to overcome on our own, and we must give to God the reins of our heart. We cannot try to make meaningful changes, to avoid sin, the convert our spirits to follow the calling of God, if we ourselves cannot die daily to ourselves, and live daily unto Christ Jesus.

Once we have come to a point where we are ready to turn the wheel over to God, we have to do something about our own will. Yes, our own ornery companion for the journey, our will, left to its own devices, will soon find a way to leave in the dust all the progress that one had made up to now. Our will often finds ways to sabotage the next step - one of the very important steps in the process of overcoming sin: we must search our lives, our hearts, our minds, our desires, leaving no stone - or sin - unturned. We must make a total and complete inventory of our sinfulness and come to the realization of just how full of sin and corruption we have become. This is, of course, easier said than done.

Our own will is not all that likely to submit to the discipline of admitting our failings. Thus, when the time comes to prepare for confession, I advise penitents to write down their sins, and to use some guide - such as the Decalogue - to assist them in making an examination of their lives. By praying the prayer of Ignatius, and making a serious examination of our lives, we can effectively tackle the next step in reclaiming our lives from the stranglehold of sin.

It is now time to admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our sins. For most, this is when the terror begins. I have heard virtually every possible excuse for avoiding this step. In fact, I have used some of them myself. The root reason that we wish to strongly to avoid this part of the step is the fact that mankind is, in our day and age, supremely prideful. Our egos are so fragile that even the slightest bruise seems impossible to recover from. And yet, it is not until we have confessed our faults that we can claim the victory that God gives us in Christ.

The most common complaint I hear when talking to someone about this step in the process is that the sinner does not want to take the sins to another person. Often one will hear it said, "I don't believe in telling a minister my sins. It's none of his business." Sadly, such thinking is flawed. While the intention of this message is not to give you a full, mechanical understanding of the Rite of Reconciliation, it is necessary to understand why the Rite exists so that we might properly consider the great mercy that flows from the heart of Christ.

If we are to live by the biblical standards for Christian living, we must tell someone else of our sins, for as the Letter of James tells us:

". . . confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed." (James 5: 16a)
We have no choice! We must confess our sins to someone else. If we do not do so, we are disobeying the inspired Word of God. As a result, we must ask ourselves the question, "Whom, logically, should we confess to?" In the ancient Church, the matter was simple. One went before the Church, confessed their sins in public, and made amends during the season we now call Lent. At the first Easter Eucharist, they would be readmitted to the fellowship of Christ's Church through the Eucharistic banquet. As a result, the words of Christ were literally fulfilled:

"Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops." (Luke 12: 2-3)

Everyone knew what you had done, but that wasn't so bad because you knew about everyone else's faults and failings. Over time, however, as mass conversions to the faith occurred, the ability to demand accountability to an entire fellowship of believers began to disappear. Views on Luke 12 suddenly became very detached from any notion of application to the daily life of the Christian. Luke 12 quickly became a prediction of what the last judgment would entail: everyone's sins would be revealed. As a result, something had to be done.

While the congregation heard a penitent's sins, they did not pronounce the absolution of the sins. This was restricted to the successors of the Apostles, the Bishops (and later the Presbyters) of the Church. The reason derives from Jesus' first appearance to his disciples after the Resurrection in the Gospel of John:

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld." (John 20: 19-23)

Only a successor to the Apostles could forgive or withhold forgiveness, and there was indeed a strong awareness of the need for continuity in the Apostolic ministry, as the first chapter of Acts teaches us:

In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, "Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry... For it is written in the Book of Psalms, 'May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it'; and 'Let another take his office.'" (see Acts 1: 15-20)

Just as a nurse would discuss continuity of care in a hospital, the Apostles were discussing the continuation of the apostolic ministry by filling a vacant position. For this reason, the historic episcopate is often called "Apostolic Succession". Therefore, the charism of the apostolic office was, by the power of the Holy Spirit, conferred upon Matthias, and he became a part of the "Apostolic College".

Thus, the Bishops (and, by extension, the Presbyters) of the Church today have the authority to declare the absolution and forgiveness of sins, because the Scripture records the transmittal of that authority by Christ himself.

Not wanting to experience public humiliation, men and women throughout the Christian world began to flock to their clergy in private so that their confessions might be heard and absolution granted.

There are, of course, benefits to making a confession to a person instead of directly to God in your prayers. Your prayers do not hold you accountable, do not confront you with the filth of your sins as does another individual. When we pray privately, we tend to have a way of sanitizing our sins, making them seem more palatable. As a result, nothing ever gets done about them. Additionally, our own quite prayer does not supply us with advice, with a remedy to our sins. This is not to say that every piece of advice that a confessor gives to a penitent is going to be so perfect that it helps the individual avoid every sin for the rest of his or her life, but it is much more helpful than simply trying to thumb through the Bible and find one's own answers. Just as a man who proclaims himself to be a surgeon of the body cannot function without the proper education, we cannot work on our spiritual lives by declaring ourselves to be qualified to fix our own problems. We must have outside assistance, or we will surely find ourselves repeating the same sins over and over again.

The next thing we must do is to simply trust in God's mercy. We must believe that, according to his promise, he puts our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. Our sins are removed, wiped clean, deleted - all for the sake of the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

After we have confessed and have received counsel, we must attempt to make things right with those we have injured. Perhaps it's the restoration of property, the mending of a broken relationship, or even a little self-mortification, when we find ourselves in a situation where we can no longer make amends to someone we have wronged.

In a similar vein, we must also be ready to sever ties to those things that have caused us to sin. Perhaps we need to cancel magazine subscriptions, spend less time watching television or surfing the Internet. Perhaps it means being careful about the new friends we make, and whom we associate with. Sometimes it will mean ending a friendship that is causing sin and pain to well up within us. No matter what the sacrifice we will be called to make to avoid sin, it will be something we can do, if we only turn our efforts over to the Holy Spirit to guide and to confirm.

And yet just as it would seem to be over, there is still more that must be done to reinforce the grace that we receive through the Rite of Reconciliation. We must constantly attempt to see ourselves as God would see us, and when we find ourselves slipping into sin and disorder, we must rush back to God and to our confessor, make our sins known, receive absolution, and so continue the cycle of growth and strengthening. We must reinforce our confession with frequent prayer, and we must center our prayer - especially in times of great temptation - on our attempts to avoid sin and to master our flesh by the power of the Spirit. We must also encourage others to do the same.

After reading all these long-winded, high-sounding comments, many people will probably point out that the days of frequent confession, and its practice by many, is long past. Perhaps this is true. If it is, it is a great sorrow, for the grace that is inherently present in the pronouncement of Holy Absolution is beyond all telling.

It is terribly presumptuous of us, who now live over nineteen hundred years separated from Christ and the Apostles, to change the process laid down in his Word concerning the remittance of our sinfulness. Social conventions, personal fears, and egotistical pride prevent us from approaching the wellspring of grace present in Confession. Many will say, "I make my confession at the Divine Liturgy, and there I do receive Absolution." Indeed, that is true, but such an approach is minimalist at best. One usually makes the confession because it is printed in the service book, not out of any personal need or desire to do so.

It has been suggested that the Penitential Rite should be removed from the public liturgy of the Church. I totally agree. Why? Because I believe that everyone should be coming to Confession at least weekly, if not daily. In an ideal world, the Presbyter would be sitting inside the Communion rail, or in a confessional, and as you entered the Church for the service, you would walk forward, kneel, make your confession and receive counsel and absolution, and then go to your seat and give quiet thanksgiving until the Liturgy began. This is the custom in the Eastern Church, and our Eastern brethren have no confession of sin in their Liturgy.

Let us pray for the day when we are willing to be held accountable for our sins, to make changes in our lives to avoid sin, and to make confession more routine and less fearful, so that many will avail themselves of the great power of the Keys, present to us by the grace of the Holy Spirit, in the Sacramental Rite of Reconciliation.
All Scripture Quotations in the Preceeding Article are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, (C) 2001 Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


In the past, I have made various and sundry attempts to keep up a blog. I haven’t always succeeded. Okay, in reality, I haven’t succeeded at all. So – as they say – here we go again!

Why am I a Christian?

In the modern era, there are countless religious options available to the American public. Even within the Christian tradition, there are well in excess of fifty-thousand denominations, jurisdictions, and sects. Some claim to be the only source of truth and holiness, others hold different views.

As I draw near to my tenth anniversary of ordination, I have taken some time to reflect on why I am what I am. To that end, today I am looking to share the answers to a question I am often asked: Why am I a Christian?

I am a Christian because of God's grace.
I know that, to many, this seems like a cop-out answer, but it is true. God has given me the good fortune to grow in knowledge and love of his Son. From my grandmother who taught me about Jesus first, to the parish priests who encouraged my faith in my youth, to my friends who, even today, remind me of just how important Christ is in my life, I have been surrounded by God’s grace, expressed through human instruments.

I am a Christian because of my sin.
Sounds like an odd answer, but it’s true. I am not capable of offering a perfect enough prayer, a perfect enough sacrifice, or a perfect enough service to God to offset my sins. I need Jesus Christ. I need his atoning death to become at-one with the Divine. Truly, Christ became one with us that we might become one with him! It is in Christ, not myself, that I find my redemption.

I am a Christian because of my response.
Here is where I depart from my Calvinist (and perhaps Lutheran) friends. As firmly as I believe in the concepts of election and predestination, I also believe in free will. This puts me in the camp of the Orthodox. I am convinced that synergeia is the most complete, biblically-based doctrine concerning the salvation of mankind that one can find. Saint Athanasius says it quite well in is work, “On the Incarnation”:

The Word of God came in His own Person, because it was He alone, the Image of the Father, Who could recreate man made after the Image. In order to effect this re-creation, however, He had first to do away with death and corruption. Therefore He assumed a human body, in order that in it death might once and for all be destroyed, and that men might be renewed according to the Image [of God].
Being Saved...
Thus, salvation – “being saved” – refers to the process that St. Athanasius speaks of, being rescued from death and corruption and eternal fire. There is nothing that anyone can do to earn salvation; it is a free gift from God. However, this gift – this relationship – must be accepted by the believer. God will never force someone to love him or to have a relationship with him. To be saved, we must work together with God in a synergeia, uniting our will, efforts, and actions to God, and seeking to conform them more perfectly with his day by day.

All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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