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Saturday, October 10, 2015

How the liturgical year gives shape and form to the Christian way of life.

Our calendars, time pieces, and work schedules make up a great part of our daily lives. Without these conveniences present to aide us in the formation of our time much would be left to chance. Often
times that chance is just an opportunity for chaos and disorder. Without the benefit of regulation things would go undone, and time would be misspent. Following this same train of thought, it would stand to reason that a schedule of our religious and spiritual observations would be significantly more important. The Church Year and our Christian way of life is regulated by such a schedule. It is our Liturgical Calendar.
The Gregorian Calendar starts with January; a winter month. Advent, four weeks prior to Christmas and the first season of our Church Calendar, is also a winter celebration. During Advent we prepare for the arrival of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Following Advent we celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas. The Christmastide season is celebrated from Christmas Eve until the Feast of the Epiphany around the sixth of January. Following the Epiphany is followed by several weeks of Ordinary Time leading up to the Lenten Season, in which we prepare for Easter. Prior to Easter we celebrate the Pachal Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. These holy days culminate with Easter in which we celebrate Jesus' return from the dead. Following Easter, the Liturgical Calendar is in Ordinary time until the return of Advent.
Within these Liturgical seasons are a myriad of various feast days, Holy Days of Obligation, and celebrations of Saints. While our collective work schedules may be essential for both social and financial security, the Liturgical Calendar is essential to our spiritual well being in living a state of life in Christ. In celebrating the events chronicled throughout our Church Calendar we draw ourselves nearer to Christ. Each Celebration is an opportunity for contemplation of God. The flow of the Liturgical Calendar takes us on a journey in which we follow Christ through His birth, ministry, death, and resurrection. It allows us to not only try to live the same type of life as Christ, but to contemplate the actuality of His life chronologically each year.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bioethics: Our Obligation to Feed and Hydrate the Helpless

It stands to reason that one would avoid the needless suffering of a loved one. Even without delving too deeply into moral theology, one of the most basic precepts of the faith is built upon Christ’s
words “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34, NRSVC). What these basic moral precepts establish is that our love for Christ, and therefore the whole of his Creation, should inform our treatment of others. Many people equate love with a feeling, and while this is not wrong, it is also a very small percentage of what love entails. “It presupposes respect for the fundamental rights that flow from the dignity intrinsic of the person” (CCC 1944). The love that this dignity springs from is a crucial element of any decision making process, it is even more urgent when human lives are at stake; as they are in modern medicine and bioethics. There has been much discussion concerning the ethics of care for those in a persistent vegetative state. The question has been raised whether or not it would be permissible, or perhaps even merciful, to allow those who have been given a grave diagnosis the option of terminating medical care. Essentially, it is a question of whether or not we should allow those with little chance of recovery to die of starvation or dehydration. As with any difficult medical decision where death is an option, the justifications for this are numerous; the primary argument being that it is difficult for the family of the patient, and that the patient’s quality of life is nonexistent. Where the logic of this stance fails is that it disregards the dignity of human life. The Church’s stance on this issue is explicit, unwavering, and rooted in love : “A patient in a ‘permanent vegetative state’ is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means’” (Responses to Certain Questions Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration).

Levada, William Cardinal. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Responses to Certain Questions Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration. The Holy See.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Understanding The Spousal Meaning of the Body

Is it possible to describe somebody without any indication of gender? Certainly there would be aspects of that person’s personality that transcend masculinity or femininity. Personality, however,
would be of little help if attempting to locate that person in a crowd. Outer indicators, such as clothes or hairstyle, could help as well, but these aspects are superficial and subject to change. At some point words such as “male”, “female”, “boy”, “girl”, “man”, or “woman”, are going to come into play. It is likely that this will happen sooner rather than later. While “male” and “female” are adjectives describing gender, “man” and “woman” are nouns identifying who a person is. This is not a negligible fact. Masculinity and femininity are integral parts of our being and a biological fact. While the procreative nature of our respective genders is only but a fraction of who we are, it is much of it. Humanity without gender is not only impossibility, it is inconceivable. While philosophers, humanitarians, and others have entertained the idea of a society without religion, science, possessions, or boundaries, none have been able to envision a genderless world. Gender is such a primordial virtue of creation that it is found in the very first book of the Bible. “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NRSVCE, Gen. 1:27). In the very next line God the Father Almighty instructs mankind to “Be fruitful and multiply” (NRSVCE, Gen. 1:28). God’s creation of man and woman, gendered in His image, is absolutely essential to understanding His intent for us; to love and be loved in His most holy name. Only through both masculinity and femininity are we able to fulfill and understand “the spousal meaning of love”, or as Pope John Paul II so succinctly puts it: “the power to express love: precisely that love in which the human person becomes a gift and—through this gift—fulfills the very meaning of his being and existence” (Theology of the Body 15:1).

There are several factors that contribute to the notion of nuptial love found in the Pope’s groundbreaking series of lectures collected in Theology of the Body (TOB). Fittingly, it is with Genesis in mind that the Pope begins his address on the spousal meaning of the body. Just as the first chapter of Genesis reveals the creation of man and woman in the imago Dei; the second chapter establishes a more nuanced aspect of the relationship between man and woman. Seeing Adam’s loneliness, despite his idyllic environment, God took his rib and created Eve. Adam’s joyful exclamations at having the opportunity for true companionship are shortly followed by the Scripture which lays the foundation for nuptial love and the family model: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed” (NRSVCE, Gen. 2:24-25).  According to Pope John Paul II, the two accounts of man’s creation serve to enable us to understand several different aspects of humanity at its inception. This “allows us to establish the original meaning of solitude, unity, and nakedness…it allows us to establish… understand and interpret man in what is essentially human” (Theology of the Body 13:2). Man’s creation, and subsequent deliverance from solitude into a state of communion with another, is a gift. It is this gift that informs humanity’s role in the cosmos. Created in God’s image, as we were, we are innately called to give freely of ourselves and, ultimately, our love. “As an action of God, creation thus means not only calling from nothing to existence and establishing the world’s existence as well as man’s existence in the world, but, according to the first account it also signifies gift, a fundamental and ‘radical’ gift, that is, an act of giving in which the gift comes into being precisely from nothing” (Theology of the Body 13:3). This gift contains several facets. Once we consider that Adam’s solitude is only satisfied through God’s creation of Eve, we are able to see this same solitude and need for communion evidenced in our own lives. There comes a time in every person’s life where he or she yearns for a relationship that exceeds that of mere friendship. Our solitude mirrors that of Adam. When we find the one with whom we choose to give ourselves the thirst of loneliness is quenched in the well of that spousal communion:
 The body, which expresses femininity “for” masculinity and, vice versa, masculinity “for” femininity, manifests the reciprocity and the communion of persons. It expresses it through gift as the fundamental characteristic of personal existence. This is the body: a witness to creation as a fundamental gift, and therefore a witness to Love as the source from which this same giving springs. Masculinity-Femininity – name, sex – is the original sign of a creative donation and at the same time the sign of a gift that man, male-female, becomes aware of as a gift lived so to speak in an original way. This is the meaning with which sex enters into the theology of the body (Theology of the Body 14:4).

In recognizing the primordial nature of the spousal meaning of the body, we must also take into consideration aspects of life prior to and following the fall that have served to inform the essence of love as we know it; “original nakedness” and “original innocence”. To do so we must, again, recall Genesis 2:25 “…the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed” (RSVCE). This passage is vital to understanding man’s original state. After falling prey to the machinations of the serpent, Adam and Eve not only lost sanctifying grace, but they also lost a state of life where nakedness was unaccompanied by shame. John Paul II illustrates how this loss of “original nakedness” serves to color the relationship between man and woman. Original nakedness, at its core, is the knowledge of shame that accompanies sin and consequent alienation from God. The fearless unconsciousness of nudity that Adam and Eve enjoyed prior to the fall indicates a certain purity that was lost upon eating of the fruit. In turn, the recognition of nakedness, as it is now perceived, as an agent for, almost exclusively, sexual expression is one of the most prominent themes of TOB. “The original reciprocal nakedness, which was at the same time not weighed down by shame, expresses such an interior freedom in man. Is this freedom a freedom from ‘sexual drive’? The concept of ‘drive’ already implies an inner constraint, analogous to the instinct that stimulates fruitfulness and procreation in the whole world of living beings” (Theology of the Body 14:6). This wound to the spousal meaning of the body is evidenced in man’s struggles with lust, adultery, fornication, deviancy, and any number of sexual sins. By God’s grace there is a solution to this sexual concupiscence, and it is rooted in love, and ultimately, Christ. “In his time, Christ was to be a witness to this irreversible love of the Creator and Father, which had already expressed itself in the mystery of creation and in the grace of original innocence” (Theology of the Body 16:3). It is this concept of original innocence, and the “beatifying immunity from shame as the result of love”, which holds the key to happiness (Theology of the Body 16:2). In the spousal relationship man finds the capacity for freedom from the shame of original sin, and is able to participate in and appreciate the masculine and feminine in a way similar to that of original innocence. “This innocence belongs to the dimension of grace contained in the mystery of creation, that is, to that mysterious gift made to man’s innermost [being] – to the human heart – to the human heart – that allows both, the man and the woman to exist from the ‘beginning’ in the reciprocal relationship of the disinterested gift of self (Theology of the Body 16:3). The spousal meaning of the body creates an environment in which the shame of nakedness is cast aside and man and woman are free to give of themselves in every way. In discovering this aspect of ourselves, this hidden heart, we are able to return to that state of life prior to the fall and enjoy the “revelation and discovery of the whole dimension of conscience… original righteousness” (Theology of the Body 16:5).

Masculinity and femininity truly transcends the precepts of biology and spirituality. Just as Christ’s dual nature is both earthly and divine, so must our relationships with each other reflect the knowledge of this reality. The spousal meaning of the body is both procreative and revelatory; it is both sanctifying and salvific. In giving of ourselves, freely and unencumbered, we open ourselves up to God’s plan of love and the sacrament of marriage. Pope Paul VI’s groundbreaking treatise on the role of the Church in the modern world, Gaudium et Spes, laid the ground work for Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, and the seeds of his commentary on the spousal meaning of love:
Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one . . . as we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et Spes 14)
The Church’s recognition and acceptance of the body as an integral aspect of our humanity sets it apart from other denominations who perceive the flesh as a source of sin and moral corruption. Understanding the spousal meaning of the body allows us to fully appreciate the gift bestowed upon us, and the fruits to be had in freely giving that gift to another. Man– male and female– are parts of a greater whole. We exist to participate in God’s creation and our bodies are a testimony to that fact.

Works Cited

John Paul II and Michael Waldstein. Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body. Boston, MA: Pauline  & Media, 2006. Print.

New Oxford Annotated Bible with The Apocrypha. 4th ed. Ed. Coogan, Michael D. OxfordUniversity Press, 2010. Print.

Paul VI. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World - Gaudium et Spes. Vatican: The Holy See. N.p., 7 Dec. 1965. Web. 02 May 2014.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Two Lungs of God’s Revelation: The Current State of Catholic/Orthodox Ecumenism

The current state of ecumenism between the Catholic Church and representatives from a multitude of diverse faiths could not have been predicted even one-hundred years ago. Singular among the organizations who
have taken issue with the Catholic Church over the last two-thousand years is the Eastern Orthodox Church. Soon after the end of the first millennium, political and theological circumstances led to the unfortunate and calamitous schism between the Churches of the East and West. This wound to the body of Christ would not be the last, but it has been the most long-standing. There are multiple calls to unity among God’s people in Scripture. In his Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul the Apostle made his case for unity through Word of God: “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose” (NRSVC, 1 Cor. 1:10). The Gospel according to John recounts that as Jesus ascended into heaven he petitioned God for the unity of his Church: “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one” (NRSVC, Jn 17:11). With all of this in mind, the Second Vatican Council renewed the quest for ecumenical dialogue between the Church and her estranged brethren. While there are those who oppose these discussions, there is little denying that the current environment between the Churches of the East and West are closer than they have been in centuries. In order to gain a better understanding of the present climate of ecumenism between the Church in Rome and the Eastern Orthodox church we must consider the theological issues at hand, the persons involved, and the documents produced from the dialogue. Before we delve into how these discussions have developed since the end of the Second Vatican Council, we must first take a brief look at what caused the initial separation.

The fracturing of the Catholic Church into other denominations has been referred to as “wounds to unity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 817). By their very nature, wounds are not surgical, and are, therefore traumatic, messy, and painful. The Schism that caused the wounds to the Church have scabbed over and scarred, but the evidence of harm remains. Fortunately, Christ is “The Great Physician”, and, as such, tends to our “wounds”. As with any organization, there has been a degree of infighting within the Church since its inception. The major political and theological disagreements that plague the Church have traditionally been addressed either at councils, by local bishops, or, ultimately, the Bishop of Rome. Unfortunately, as the whole of Christendom grew, so did the political aspect of the Church’s hierarchy. Heretical sects were numerous and problematic. “In the effort to settle heresies which were rending the empire asunder, emperors seriously tried to bring about reconciliation… in their efforts to suppress heresy… called all the first councils… [and] would continue to be a constant third party disturbing Christian harmony between East and West” (Bausch 172). This empirical meddling complicated relations between the see of Rome, which had an agreed upon primacy, and the see of Constantinople, which was the political seat of the Empire. While there had always been liturgical and traditional differences between the two geographical locations, they had not been divisive enough to indicate a break. Theologically, it was the inclusion of the filioque to the Creed that has caused the most dissension. “The Orthodox churches of the East have remained fiercely attached to the language of the Constantinopolitan creed, while the Latin church unilaterally inserted the term filioque, by which it affirmed that the Spirit PROCEEDS FROM THE FATHER AND THE SON, not simply from the Father” (Marthaler 248). While this had been contentious for quite some time, and undoubtedly colors Eastern and Western approaches to the Trinity, it was nearly five-hundred years before additional political tensions merited the type of opposition that would lead to schism. As time passed political affiliations waxed and waned, as did the influence of Rome and Constantinople. Questions of Papal primacy and jurisdiction grew. Hordes of invading Normans and Muslims only served to complicate the matter. The political split between Constantinople and Rome finally came in the form of the mutual excommunications of 1054. The East had appealed to the West in an attempt to bolster their forces against these invading forces, and it seemed that diplomatic relations between the East and West were at their highest point in decades. Unfortunately, both Pope Leo IX and the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, sought to have each opposing church bend to the customs and will of the other in order to make this alliance possible. They both refused. “The ultimate result was that on July 16, 1054, the Cardinal [Humbert] publicly delivered the bull of excommunication to Cerularius. In turn, an Eastern synod condemned the Western ‘heresy’ and excommunicated the cardinal and his associates” (Bausch 178).While there have been several unsuccessful attempts at reunion since this event, it was seen as the point in which conflict had reached critical mass. Until the Second Vatican Council here had been very little ecumenical dialogue since the Council of Florence in 1452 (Bausch 180).

Following a half century of harrowing World Wars, a war of another type was to be the background upon which a new era of interfaith dialogue would emerge. Prior to the close of the Second Vatican Council, in the midst of the Cold War, Pope Paul VI met with Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople in Jerusalem. The momentousness of this encounter cannot be understated. Vatican II was reaching its conclusion, and the renewed focus on ecumenism was a central issue. Together, these two leaders prayed, exchanged gifts, and created an environment favorable to ecumenical dialogue that the East and the West had not enjoyed in centuries. “As a direct result of their meeting in Jerusalem in 1964, Pope Paul VI and the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I came to issue, on December 7, 1965, the day before the end of Vatican Council II, the of their Common Declarations officially lifting the joint excommunications which had been issued… in 1054 (Whitehead 57). They would meet once again in 1967; promulgating yet another joint statement concerning the state of Catholic/Orthodox dialogue. These meetings between the Bishop of Rome and Orthodox Patriarchs continue to this day. One of the most influential Vatican Documents detailing the nature of ecumenical dialogue was Unitatis Redintegratio. With this decree, the council put forth the principles by which the Church hoped to proceed ecumenically with diverse ecclesial communities. The document makes “Special Consideration of the Eastern Churches” and seeks to inform the method by which unity is achieved: “It is the Council's urgent desire that, in the various organizations and living activities of the Church, every effort should be made toward the gradual realization of this unity, especially by prayer, and by fraternal dialogue on points of doctrine and the more pressing pastoral problems of our time” (Unitatis Redintegratio 18). The Pope has the ability to speak on behalf of the Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church, however, is conciliar and does not have a central authority. That being the case, Pope John Paul II’s meeting with Bartholomew I in 1979 resulted in the commissioning of a joint committee, The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, by which ecumenical dialogue would continue and issue cooperative statements. “Bartholomew I was essential… in getting fourteen national Orthodox Churches to participate in the renewed dialogue conducted by The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church” (Whitehead 194). Together with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, these fourteen autocephalous churches have promoted ecumenical dialogue and released numerous statements spanning over thirty years. Many important documents were produced by this commission prior to the end of the millennia were. 1982’s The Mystery of the Church and the Eucharist in the Light of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, concerns the commonality we share in the Holy Eucharist, and the authority by which it is presented by both the churches of the East and West. In 1988 the commission released a document that detailed Eastern and Western stances on hierarchy, authority, and apostolic succession. This document addresses issues that have been historically divisive; such as Papal primacy and the conciliar nature of the Eastern Church (The Sacrament of Order 55). 1993 saw the promulgation of a different type of joint document altogether. Whereas the previous documents had been, for the most part, positive; Uniatism: Method of Union of the Past, and Present Search for Full Communion, was primarily negative in tone. This document deals with the conversion of certain Oriental Orthodox Churches to Catholicism. Representatives of the Eastern Orthodox Church believe that this was done:
In the course of the last four centuries, in various parts of the East, initiatives were taken within certain Churches and impelled by outside elements, to restore communion between the Church of the East and the Church of the West. These initiatives led to the union of certain communities with the See of Rome and brought with them, as a consequence, the breaking of communion with their Mother Churches of the East. This took place not without the interference of extraecclesial interests. In this way Oriental Catholic Churches came into being. And so a situation was created which has become a source of conflicts and of suffering in the first instance for the Orthodox but also for Catholics (Uniatism 8).
While it is clear that the hope for unity continues, the path by which this is achieved is highly contested. Fortunately, the post-millennial search for communion continues despite bumps in the road.
The new century has born witness to a multitude of substantial moments within the Catholic Church. We have seen the death and canonization Pope John Paul II. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has become the first Pope to resign from office in nearly six-hundred years. The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, makes him the first pontiff from the Americas. In keeping with these groundbreaking developments, much has happened in the way of ecumenism over the last fifteen years. Fortuitously, the eighth plenary session in, Baltimore, Maryland, recognized both the history of the ecumenical movement while also looking to the future: “This year, 2000 years after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Joint International Commission celebrates the 20th anniversary of the beginning of its work at Patmos and Rhodes in 1980. It is a beautiful opportunity to thank God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - for what has been accomplished together during these two decades” (Communiqué ). In an encouraging show of support by the Church, Pope John Paul II, only months from death, returned the relics of St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (Whitehead 63). Bartholomew I, whose ecumenical agenda had not slowed since his installation in the early nineties, met with Pope Benedict XVI in late 2006 to discuss the state of both Churches and the world in which they reside. The Levant, and the area surrounding it, has been embroiled by violence for over 2000 years. Woefully, the wars rage on. “We take profoundly to heart the cause of peace in the Middle East, where our Lord lived, suffered, died and rose again, and where a great multitude of our Christian brethren have lived for centuries. We fervently hope that peace will be re-established in that region, that respectful coexistence will be strengthened between the different peoples that live there” (Common Declaration 5). Despite the convivial nature of these meetings, the need to also address issues that continue to be divisive is crucial. 2007 found the dialogue once again turning toward the question of Papal authority and primacy versus Orthodox sobornost: “It remains for the question of the role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of all the Churches to be studied in greater depth. What is the specific function of the bishop of the ‘first see’ in an ecclesiology of koinonia and in view of what we have said on conciliarity and authority in the present text?” (Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity, and Authority 45). The thirteenth of March 2013 joyfully marked an ecumenical first since the Great Schism, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I attended the inauguration of the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. In May of 2014, on the 50th anniversary of the institution of modern ecumenical dialogue between the East and West, Pope Francis and the (ever present) Bartholomew I met in Jerusalem to discuss peace and humanity:
United in our intentions, and recalling the example, fifty years ago here in Jerusalem, of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, we call upon all Christians, together with believers of every religious tradition and all people of good will, to recognize the urgency of the hour that compels us to seek the reconciliation and unity of the human family, while fully respecting legitimate differences, for the good of all humanity and of future generations. In undertaking this shared pilgrimage to the site where our one same Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and rose again, we humbly commend to the intercession of the Most Holy and Ever Virgin Mary our future steps on the path towards the fullness of unity, entrusting to God's infinite love the entire human family (Pilgrimage to the Holy Land 9-10).
In the light of all that has happened, and with the lengthy history of separation, it would be difficult to predict where these dialogues may go. On the one hand the prospect of reunification seems remote. With nearly one-thousand years of opposition behind us, fifty years of real ecumenical dialogue seems negligible. However, Jesus Christ only walked the Earth for thirty three years, three and a half of which, according to scripture, were active ministry. In this small amount of time he: rebukes Satan, draws apostles, turns water to wine, drives the moneychangers from the temple, walks on water, feeds the multitudes, heals the sick, and raises the dead. He does all of this before saving the souls of all humanity on the cross! The point is, I firmly believe that through Christ anything is possible. More than anything, I believe this is possible because he wills it. When and where this will happen is up for debate. What is certain is that the pride and ego that permeates man’s heart must take a back seat to the movement of the Holy Spirit within these ecumenical dialogues. The Church is the Body of Christ; and, as with any body, a fully functioning healthy body has the ability to reach its full potential. As Pope John Paul II was fond of saying: “the Church must breathe with her two lungs!” (Ut Unum Sint 54).

Works Cited

Catechism of the Catholic Church: With Modifications from the Editio Typica. 2nd ed. NewYork: Doubleday, 1997. Print.

John Paul II. Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint: On Commitment to Ecumenism. The Holy See, n.d.Web. 9 May 2015.

The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Communiqué: Emmitsburg- Baltimore USA, July 9-19, 2000. The Holy See, n.d. Web. 9 May 2015.

The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Common Declaration of Pope John Paul II and the Ecumenical Patriarch His Holiness Bartholomew I (July 1, 2004). The Holy See, n.d. Web. 9 May 2015.

The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Common Declaration by Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (25 May, 2014). The Holy See, n.d. Web. 9 May 2015.

The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity, and Authority. The Holy See, n.d. Web. 9 May 2015.

The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Joint declaration of Pope John Paul II and the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I at the conclusion of the visit of the Pope to the Phanar [30 November 1979]. The Holy See, n.d. Web. 9 May 2015.

The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. The Mystery of the Church and the Eucharist in the Light of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. The Holy See, n.d. Web. 9 May 2015.

The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. The Sacrament of Order in the Sacramental Structure of the Church, with Particular Reference to the Importance of the Apostolic Succession for the Sanctification and Unity of the People of God. The Holy See, n.d. Web. 9 May 2015.

The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Uniatism: Method of Union of the Past, and Present Search for Full Communion. The Holy See, n.d. Web. 9 May 2015.

Marthaler, Berard. The Creed. 2nd ed. Mystic, Connecticut: Twenty Third Publications, 1993. Print.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with The Apocrypha. 4th ed. Ed. Coogan, Michael D. Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.

Orthodox Roman Catholic International Dialogue. The Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration of 1965. The Holy See, n.d. Web. 9 May 2015.

Whitehead, K. D. The New Ecumenism: How the Catholic Church After Vatican II Took Over the Leadership of the World Ecumenical Movement. Staten Island, N.Y.: St. Pauls/Alba House, 2009. Print.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Word Made Flesh and The Inauguration of the Kingdom of God

As Catholics, we have been privileged to bear witness to the inauguration of two Popes within recent memory. Both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis were appointed to the role of Bishop of Rome and leader of the Holy Catholic Church in the sight of millions, if not billions, of people as successors
to St. Peter; the rock upon which Christ founded his Church. Unlike the inauguration of the Kingdom of God, by Jesus Christ, these inaugurations were formal, traditional, and laden with ceremony. That is not to say, however, that Christ’s very own inauguration was not present in these events, as the Papal inauguration takes part during a liturgical celebration at Mass. Inaugurations, while not frequent, are familiar. The inauguration of the Kingdom of God, as it occurs in scripture is not the same animal. Many of the same implications of this inauguration are, however, similar to these earthly appointments. The King of God’s Kingdom is Jesus Christ. In recognizing the arrival of our King, we must also recognize the portents of and implications of his Incarnation: The gospels detail the actualization of the kingdom, preparation for its arrival, the calling to it, the response to the call, and the faith that results in having responded. Every one of these aspects are integral to understanding how the coming of Christ, the Word Made Flesh, represents the inauguration of the Kingdom of God.

While the coming of Christ was prefigured numerous times throughout the Old Testament, it was John the Baptist who most explicitly told of Jesus’ arrival in the New Testament.  Prior to Christ’s baptism, in Matthew, we find John urging those who have come for baptism to repent of their sins as a true authority greater than he would soon arrive:
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near… I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:2, 3:11).
The Baptist makes it clear that should any oppose the will of Christ suffering would ensue. The will of Christ is none other than love, or “good fruit.” “Bear fruit worthy of repentance… every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:8-10).

After the inauguration of the Pope, and similarly the inauguration of the president, we are charged with adhering to the power of their office. Following Jesus’ Baptism and his time in the wilderness Jesus goes to Galilee where he initiates a call for disciples:
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him (Mark 1:16-20).
Simon, Andrew, James, and John recognized Jesus’ authority. It was by Jesus’ authority, and the faith displayed by the apostles, that Jesus established a mission of evangelization: “And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons” (Mark 3:14-15). As disciples of  Christ, and pilgrims en route to the Kingdom, we are similarly called.
Returning the inaugural analogy of the elected president, we realize that his authority, and the rewards that may be had from its observance, are only possible through willing participation. Christ has invited, encouraged, and facilitated our entry into the Kingdom of God, but none of that is sufficient if we are unwilling. What good is a map if we insist that it need not be followed? There are many parables within the Gospels that illustrate this point. The parable of the Sinful Woman illustrates consequences of both great and little faith; great and little reverence:
I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little… Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you; go in peace (Luke 7:44-50).
Jesus rebukes Simon for his judgment on the Sinful Woman and praises her faith. It is her willingness to submit to and recognize the dominion of Christ that garners her acceptance within the eyes of the Lord. We are called to respond comparably.

The faith that results in the inauguration of God’s Kingdom through the Word is compelling and resolute. The amount of denial necessary to disbelieve something that you have prepared for witnessed and responded to would be considerable if not impossible. Perhaps a more appropriate term would be hubris. The intention of faith in God’s kingdom is deliberate and participation in Him is necessary.