Thursday, October 13, 2016

Immenent and transcendent

I gaze in rapt attention at the dome with Christ's Icon towering above me set within a circle of the Holy Apostles calling to mind the testimony of our faith as the Choir chants: 
"Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." (Psalm 141:2)

This was one of my first Vespers in the Orthodox church and, though I am not Orthodox, the Icons and the hymn from the Psalm gave a profound sense of presence. It was, as if, the transcendent- God- has met the infinite- humanity- in a Divine symphony of which each of us has our own part. And though I write months after this first vesper I am struck by this concept. For so long, before coming to the Liturgical churches, I had been indoctrinated to view God as immanent and transcendent but primarily in a symbolic, or otherwise emotional, conceptual way; always there but never ready to be fully grasped, experienced.

That is to say; God is near in a bodiless manner that he is a loving father who, as stated in John 14 and 16, lives in and among us through the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. It was in reaching the Liturgical churches- Orthodox, Catholic, Luther, and Anglican- that I saw that it need not be that God is either present in a vague cognitive or emotional sense or He is a two-dimensional image which would obviously be Idolatry. The distinction set up and against the Liturgical, and sacramental theology is one that either God is spiritually in our midst though not in a manner that can be fully grasped without emotional sensations or cognitive acknowledgment. Otherwise, we worship "the created." This is simply and demonstratively not the case rather, Sacred Scripture teaches:

"6But as it is, Christb has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second."  (Hebrews)

These verses remind us that we have a new and better covenant. This new and better covenant connects the believer with God in unfathomable ways, as he quickens us to repent, love God and our neighbor. He gives us a new heart, and we commune with the Trinity in Christ, and with the Church in the Sacrament of the Altar (the Lord's supper). On top of all this God was pleased to use the waters of baptism  as the Sacred Scriptures say:   

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." Romans 6:3-6
"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

This passage shows us the Trinity's connection with the Baptismal waters which, by itself holds no power, but it is in the example of Jesus' own baptism that the waters of baptism were made significant (see 1 Peter 3:20-21). So, when we were, or are as the case may be, baptized we are reminded of the Trinity "In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." which should bring our mind first to the great commission and then to Jesus' own Baptism. 
And it is in this unfathomable imminence with God. Through the Liturgy, we are reminded that we are on family in Christ and we praise him with the Angel as stated in the Eucharistic prayer of the Book of Common Prayer (Anglican church):

"Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and  Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who forever  sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:"
In the Beauty of the Liturgy, we encounter God and are reminded that God is the God of the living not the dead and we encounter his all powerful imminence along with the church triumphant and the angels. Each part of the Liturgical worship is filled with Scriptures and balanced reminders of God and our relationship with him. 

Because our God is not the distant God of the Deists rather, we have a faith where the Physical and Heavenly meet as a divine Orchestra taking place within the worship of the Christians. The Christians "rites" exist in such a way that we encounter the Trinity profoundly as we read the word and live out the faith together.
In fact, Jesus told Nicodemus; "If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" We are brought back to this passage because it is a reminder that the Physical points to the Spiritual and the incarnation; which reverberates through the new covenant. This truth manifests in our worship reminding us that because God loves us he does, in fact, work within and among the finite for he is "good and a lover of mankind."


May the peace of Christ be with you.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Consuming Christ

Growing up in low church Charismatic Evangelicalism I remember always thinking that when Jesus said:
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom,” (The Lord’s Supper in Matthew 26).
That he was, logically, speaking entirely symbolically. I mean, how could he as God possibly mean this literally? It was not until my exodus from the church and my subsequent dive out of the shallow waters of modern Christianity into the deep ocean of the historic faith when I saw that, historically speaking, Christians out side of heterodox/heretical splinter groups universally confessed that at the very least they were participating in Christ (see 1 Corinthians 10:16). I could not for the life of me sink my teeth into this doctrine at first. How could God inhabit the material? How could Jesus be consumed?
I spoke with many many patient people about this doctrine because, as much as it terrified me it intrigued me. After months of chewing the meat of this doctrine, so to speak, I had an epiphany as I sat on the couch at a friends house. The words of 1 Corinthians 10:16–18 screamed at me and I, unlike many others, never had a deep connection to the argument in the bread of life discourse (John 6), though great men - such as Scott Hahn - have found that to be their life passage. The words of the 1 Corinthians passage clicked that one night specifically; “Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?” We truly participate in Christ just as the Jews truly participated in the sacrifice on the Altar. It is through this that we find God in a profound way. If Scripture said it, so I shall believe it. A further reading, though not Scripture, that proved to be the nail in the coffin for my Baptist mind set (I joined a Baptist church after leaving the charismatic one) was this quote from St. Ignatius of Antioch:
“Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox…They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans. 6:2–7:1).
Note, the above is not the whole quote because much of the quote does not fit most Christians who hold to the Symbolic view in today’s age. In fact, as a general rule, most Christians who hold to the symbolic view of the Eucharist are considerably more orthodox than the people whom St. Ignatius was writing about. As to “abstaining from prayer” as I understand it is the prayer as it relates to the Eucharist.
Now, to address a common argument against Real Presence . People will often then say, generally in response to the bread of life discourse; “well, Jesus also said ‘I am the vine’ or ‘I am the door’”. On first appearance this argument is the death blow to Real Presence but, upon further examination, it really is hardly a well thought out refutation. Rather, one need only look at the structure of the sentence to dismantle the argument and “properly divide the word of truth” (para). One can quickly note that Jesus, in these examples, is not claiming that those things are him but that you can use these physical realities to better comprehend the Spiritual realities. As Jesus told Nicodemus; “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12).
Jesus was explaining to him that the Physical can often demonstrate truths about the Spiritual and or clarify things that are hard to comprehend, though they still remain difficult to understand. While this passage is not connected, directly, to the passages above it is part of the hermeneutic-interpretive method that I am setting forth for you today. In the passages where Jesus is explaining that he is a door, vine, or what have you he is stating that even the material world points to himself, this point will come up in another article I plan to write in the near future, whereas when speaking of the bread he says “This is”. The language and grammar used on top of the fact of what the church has historically confessed should be enough to note errors in the symbolic view which, realistically, is a form of thought borrowed from Gnosticism which creates heavy distinctions between Physical and Spiritual and claims, more or less, that God would not and could not take on flesh. The doctrine of the Eucharist is, therefore, heavily incarnational.

two party politics

            The two party system

America has been a two party system for a long time. But, many Americans assume that this has just always been the case, that it is - in fact- exactly what the founding fathers had intended for our great nation.

Yet, this is not at all the case; rather, our founding fathers were terrified of this concept. In fact, back in England the parliament of the time was largely a two party system, not too much unlike our system today. That system was primarily the Tories and the Whigs. According to the the two parties had; “their view of what government should do and how strong it should be. Tories wanted rule by a strong king. Whigs wanted ordinary people to have more rights and gain more control of their government. In time, as Parliament took greater control, the Whigs and Tories developed into organized parties.” These two parties and their stance probably sound fairly familiar to modern Americans!

Now, we must consider whether or not this was what the American Democratic Republic was really meant to be. I will posit that the answer is, in fact, a resounding no. One of the early American giants, - John Adams- wrote:

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

The concern the founding fathers had was that if two major political parties existed then our constitution would be in danger as “political parties become arranged under its leader”. The focus would then become an extremely polarized interpretation- of the constitution, as well as an extremely polarized nation. Which, again, was a problem they recognized from England!

Upon initial consideration it appears that two parties are the best option because, as we all know, choice can also be problematic. I personally really like that more restaurants have the “coca cola freestyle” but, it is also problematic because among all the carbonated goodness it becomes more difficult to know what to choose. And this is a fairly simple example to say nothing of ten million political parties vying for your undying emotion; all of whom cannot realistically get far.

Those of us more familiar with foreign politics will also recognize that some countries face problems of stalled progress because they have so many different political parties and people become so fed up with each one each new election that they just keep voting new ones into office and not much can ever be accomplished as a result.

 America does, technically, have more than two political parties. But, the other two parties exist as a monopoly over the system. Which is why I think we need to change the system because, as monopolies do economically, so the two party system does politically. A monopoly constricts creativity and ingenuity because competition forces new ideas to constantly be put forward. Which is why I believe Americans deserve more options.

The two party system also creates issues in how we understand our rights as Americans. I am a book worm and watching politics today I am struck by how much Americans are like the Animals in “Animal farm”, - a book by George Orwell, - for those of you who are not familiar I do not mean this as dehumanizing people. What I mean by this is in this allegorical story the animals run the farmer out of the farm and a leader rises up. This leader as this leader, and his crew, ultimately convince the farm animals that the “head animals” have more rights than the rest leading to one quote “all animals are equal some are just more equal than others”. It finally reaches the point that the animals can no longer “read” the “constitution” they wrote and are reliant on the “elite” to more or less tell them what each thing means and its practicality. While I do not think we have reached this point I am concerned that as America becomes more polarized this becomes more and more possible.
With all of this in mind, though I cannot say exactly how we can do this, I am, however, convinced that Americans deserve more than our two party sy