Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Announcing: Called to Communion

For the last couple months I've been privileged to prepare for this project which will be of utmost interest to my readers. First, the website is Called to Communion, and the driving theme is a search for re-unification between Reformed Protestantism and the Catholic Church. It has a group blog but it's much more. Logistically, it is centered around peer reviewed papers which will be published in a carefully planned order. It also has a podcast which I am particularly excited about.

I could say more about it but the list of contributors, all formerly affiliated with the PCA, OPC, CRC or some other Reformed denomination will speak louder than my description:
  • Bryan Cross (of Principium Unitatis)
  • Dr. Neal Judisch (of Towers & Tongues)
  • Tom Riello (former PCA pastor)
  • Taylor Marshall (of Canterbury Tales: former Episcopal priest)
  • Andrew Preslar (of Apology of Miscellanies)
  • Dr. Jonathan Deane
  • Tom Brown (From Ecumenicity)
  • Sean Patrick (formerly of You Are Cephas)
  • Matt Yonke (of Homesick No More)
  • Yours truly
If you haven't guessed already, I highly recommend you visiting this site and subscribing to the RSS feed.

Monday, February 23, 2009

See You on the Flip Side

Me and the Mrs. are heading to the Philippines tomorrow morning. After about 28 hours of travel and waiting, we'll be there - tired and disoriented, but there.

During our layover in Tokyo, I will be announcing a new web project that I've been collaborating on. If I don't get that post up, you can assume that I've been ambushed by ninjas and was unable to publish it (there's also a slim chance that Narita International doesn't have wi-fi). So look for that post bright and early on Ash Wednesday morning. Otherwise, I suspect you'll see it announced on the blog of another contributor.

Speaking of which, may all of you have a wonderful Ash Wednesday and a blessed Lent. As for today, happy St. Polycarp day.

St. Polycarp, pray for my family on this trip and pray for the re-unity of the Church - East & West. Amen.

Intended Puns

"No pun intended" generally means "I did intend the pun and I want to make sure you don't miss it."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Harnack on Symbols

What we nowadays understand by "symbol" is a thing which is not that which it represents; at that time [antiquity] "symbol" denoted a thing which in some kind of way really is what it signifies. - Harnack History of Dogma 1888, I. p. 397
And here I thought it was only we Catholic polemicists that said such things.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Eusebius - Church History on Audio Book

Eusebius's "History of the Church" is now available on LibriVox.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Corporate Worship & Individualism

Lately I’ve read various literature from the earlier part of the 20th century that, for a pseudo-trad like me, draws helpful attention to the needs (perceived or real) that led to Vatican II. The corporate, liturgical worship of the lay community in the early Church had faded for the Catholic mind on account of Eucharistic piety developed in the middle ages and perhaps a conservative reluctance to move one way or the other on those issues (particularly liturgical) that were firmly established as an answer to the Protestant Reformation. It is clear that something went wrong when the Church aimed to address this problem, but what was it?

Vatican II sought to re-emphasize the corporate worship in liturgy – the part of people. This participation was never reducible to verbal assent to what, in essence, only the priest did. The ecclesia offered themselves along with the non-bloody sacrifice of Christ (this is ancient terminology, not medieval) although the president uniquely acted in persona Christi.

I’ve often lamented the fact that liberals have destroyed the word “community”; I’m afraid to use it, and I shouldn’t be. “Community” has been emphasized, not to the correction of over-emphasis on individual piety, but to its exclusion. Whereas in the middle-ages, corporate participation in liturgy faded in the Catholic mind, in our time what has faded is individual piety. Though both are mistakes, the latter is the more dangerous.

One of the major problems is that the catechists force-fed corporate participation in the liturgy to a culture that doesn’t understand corporate participation in anything. Individual Eucharistic piety may have been stressed in the middle ages, but it was stressed in a culture that didn’t learn about “community” from a Catechism or from an impotent homily on Sunday morning, it was a culture that lived as a community. Because of this, emphasis on the corporate aspect of liturgy was more or less unneeded.

We are in the midst of a supremely challenging situation. The laity, who live and breathe individualism, have been corralled into communal expression to the exclusion of individual piety. When everything is seen through the lens of the universal, the particular tends to be lost or obscured. The result of all this is that they understand neither the liturgical role of the community nor of the individual. They do not actively participate in the liturgy (they think this means to say “amen” loudly). They don’t understand individual culpability (they think ‘sin’ is a rupture in the communal harmony). And least of all do they balance these polar truths of Christian life.

This is where the proposed solution would come in a well thought out post. I don’t have the wisdom for such a proposal. Perhaps readers would like to offer their thoughts.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Patristic Carnival XX

Phil has the latest Patristic Carnival up. Take a look.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Arguments From Silence

It is usually a mistake to argue from silence, but it is always a mistake to dismiss such an argument for that reason alone.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Doubt as a Tool For Learning

"We cannot be certain that..." is too often the starting point of modern research.

Doubt does not produce certainty. We proceed from the known to the unknown and not the other way around. If doubt ends with certainty, it's because it led to something known first.

Our research may conclude with, "we cannot be certain that..." just make sure it doesn't start there.


The Church isn't Authoritarian. God is. Anyone who complains that the Church is authoritarian hasn't misunderstood her; they've misunderstood God.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Liberal Catholic Scholarship

Gregory Dix, in his book The Shape of the Liturgy, has this to say of "liberal catholic scholarship":
the liberal catholic's head may be in the right place, but his catholic heart has failed him at the critical moment.
His context is a bit different than mine no doubt, but I can imagine this little quip will come in handy. Why does Raymond Brown keep coming to mind?

Love Versus Contraception

If you have 10 minutes, you need to read "The Expansive Logic of Love".
the logic of contraception eventually, and intrinsically, works to undermine the logic of love, and vice versa.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Book Review: Patrology Vol I by Johannes Quasten

To review this book succinctly, I loved it and I'm not surprised.

Quasten is a first rate historian and what shines on every page is his love for the Church. Now if I told you of my mother, I could, with strict limitation, relate factual information of her and leave you thinking she was a bad person. But that's not what's going to happen if I ever tell you the story. There's a simple reason for this. It's the same reason why, generally speaking, if you read Church history from a Protestant, you'll come away with the impression that the Church has more bad characteristics than good. For most of these historians, it's not until we receive the step mothers of the 16th century that we have anything nice to say. Though yes, the first mother had good children here and there – she was more or less a witch (Substitute that w with something else if needed). It was more than refreshing to read Church history by one who loves the Church as mother.

Now this sort of disposition cannot be found at all in the fundamentalists. They hate the old wench. Presbyterians pretend to like her, but they convolute and twist everything she said. Old mother, they say, would get along just fine with the new step mothers. Anglicans & Eastern Orthodox are fairer to her and more fond. But neither of them are shy about casting doubt in strategic places. Neither of them speak of her with that certain confidence of continuity that Quasten does. Only a Catholic can speak of her in this way.

So much for my apologetic plug – onto the book.

The style was excellent and the scholarship commendable. I found only one or two small things which I would nuance any other way than his. It is a fine book of reference if you don't read it straight through. I would heartily recommend it as a must for anyone interested in Patristics.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Mass in West Hollywood – I Remain in Shock

On Saturday in LA, my wife and I caught a cab from the Getty Center to West Hollywood via Bel Air and Beverly Hills.

The Church looked like a Church – not stunning but built properly (and to my delight, the altar rail remained). No altar girls were present, no army of EMHCs, but there were five men as altar servers and one venerable priest, hunched over, who labored with apparent difficulty and help from his cane and another man to climb steps to take his seat. Somehow you could see, as you watched, a man who had walked with Christ for a long time.

All the ordinaries were in Latin – the official language of the Church. We chanted the missa primitiva, which the USCCB last year recommended all US Catholics be taught. (My parish missed that memo I guess). Even the “Our Father” became the Pater Noster and I chanted along hearitly.

Active participation... I mean actual participation (it's participatio actuosa right?) I'm left wondering why the 5:00 hippie mass at my parish has almost no participation while this, and every reasonably reverent mass I've ever been to, has the laity chaffing at the bit to participate. The chants were known well, and though the attendance was less than half of what would be typical at my parish, the sound was twice as loud and immeasurably more beautiful. At my parish, the only things which you can count on the laity participating in are the things which they aren't supposed to do like shooting invisible fireballs at the priest with annoying, gaudy tilts of the head “and also with you” and holding hands as if we were singing Kumbaya instead of praying the Our Father. You can't count on them actually saying the Our Father or singing along with the Ordinaries. Most of them can't even be bothered to genuflect properly. I digress.

The homily was something special. The old priest stayed seated in his chair for understandable reasons and spoke slowly and lovingly as a grandfather addressing his family. Now there was nothing casual about this. Everyone who's ever been there knows that an old man addressing his family with deliberation (regardless of place and seating arrangements) isn't casual at all. Even the children sit still for this. I felt, on one hand, as a guest at a friend's family banquet and on the other, as at my own family's banquet hearing a paternal address from a patriarch, who instantly earned my respect and affection by virtue of blood relation rather than personal history. It was exactly like this in fact, but the blood that connected us was not our own.

We were instantly received at the family table. In fact, an elderly lady, clearly a fixture of the parish, asked my wife and I if we would present the gifts for consecration. Absolutely. Now when we offered the gifts to the priest, he whispered a welcome to us and he told me “I like your beard”. My suspicions were confirmed. He was a man of God.

What a wonderful experience. Here in the very heart of Babylon, the Word of God is continuously proclaimed, the very Body of Christ is offered and souls are set right with the Lord. If a light shines so brightly in the dimmest of all places (morally speaking), then there is hope yet for any part of the world via the Catholic Church.