Friday, July 31, 2009

Sacrifice in the Liturgy

At my friend George Weis' request, a refutation of this from a site which purports to show Catholics the "true gospel." My text in red theirs in blue.

Some Catholic apologists claim that the prophecy in Malachi 1:11 is fulfilled in the Roman Catholic sacrifice of the Mass. A footnote in the New American Bible says that this verse is a reference to ‘the pure offering to be sacrificed in messianic times, the universal Sacrifice of the Mass, as we are told by the Council of Trent.’

The fathers repeatedly refer to the Eucharist as the fulfillment of Malachi 1:11.

The Jews and their priests despised and profaned God’s name by offering blemished animals while keeping the best animals to themselves. God was dishonoured by their half-hearted service and their hypocrisy. God foretold a time when he would call the Gentiles to worship him. He will be glorified among the nations, ‘from the rising of the sun to its setting’, from the east to the west. His people will not be restricted to a single nation, but he will have worshippers ‘in every place’, implying the catholicity or universality of the church.
Sorta like the Catholic Church right?
The incense offered to God is our prayers, as the Psalmist says, ‘May my prayer be set before you like incense’, and again, the Book of Revelations identifies the incense offered before God as ‘the prayers of all the saints.’ (Psalm 141:2, Rev 8:3).
Moreover, the New Testament explains how the church offers a ‘pure offering’ to God. ‘Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased’ (Hebrews 13:15, 16). Our prayers and good works are an offering to God.
Catholics do not deny the sacrifice of praise.
The Eucharist is the prominent prayer of the church because during the Lord’s Supper we praise and thank God for the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Our English term ‘Eucharist’ is derived from the Greek word ‘eucharistia’ which means ‘gratitude, thanksgiving.’ Jesus gave thanks (‘eucharisteo’) when he took the bread and the wine (Matthew 26:27, Luke 22:19). In this sense the Eucharist is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

Thus, Malachi’s prophecy finds its fulfillment in our good works and prayers, especially the Lord’s Supper celebrated by God’s children from the four corners of the earth. The Didache and the early church fathers also rightly identified the Eucharist as the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy.
What about the sacrifice of the Mass? Surely the Mass is offered in every country of the world, and it has been celebrated since the times of the apostles. Sadly that is not the case because the significance of the Eucharist has changed over the centuries from a sacrifice of praise to a propitiatory sacrifice, that is, a sacrufuce to satisfy the justice of God for the sins committed against him. Malachi is not speaking about that kind of sacrifice.

Much has been written on the translation of the term ‘qatar’, rendered ‘incense’ in all the major Protestant Bibles, and ‘sacrifice’ in the Catholic versions. Both renderings could be correct, though the former is more likely. (No bias here I'm sure) The basic meaning of the word ‘qatar’ is ‘to smoke, to burn’. A Catholic commentator states that various forms of the word ‘have to do with any kind of offering which gives off smoke, but in postexilic texts precise enough to let us see what is being offered they have to do with incense or other aromatic substances.’ (The New Jerome Biblical Commentary - link).

Whether ‘incense’ or ‘sacrifice’ is preferred, the term does not mean a ‘sin offering’ and there is nothing in the context that compels us to understand it as a propitiatory sacrifice. That is the crux of the matter. In fact the same Catholic commentator concludes that the terms translated ‘incense’ and ‘pure offering’ do not have the to with animal sacrifices. ???

To prove the claim that Malachi is prophesying the Sacrifice of the Mass, it must be shown that he is speaking of a sin offering. To my knowledge that has never been done. On the contrary the study of the text leads us away from that conclusion. (This is not how theology is done. This is how Protestants corrupt theology - by textual criticism. Textual criticism and the historical method have things to teach us, but the truth comes from the mouth of the Church- not the university.)

During the Lord’s Supper, God’s people remember Christ and proclaim his death, giving thanks to God for providing a perfect redemption in the death of his Son. They praise God for Christ who ‘entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.’ (Heb 9:12). But according to Catholic teaching, during the Mass the sacrifice of Christ is carried on, perpetuated, renewed, re-presented and re-enacted. In this shift in the meaning of the Eucharist, God is neither pleased nor honoured. Christ is seated on the right hand of God, having obtained our redemption; he does not ‘constantly enter’ the sanctuary to carry on what he has already done once for all.

The author is confused because He is trying to fit the heavenly reality into the space-time continuum. The act of Calvary is past, but in Heaven it is ever present. There is no such thing as past tense outside of time. The continual presentation of the sacrifice by Christ, the High priest, to God the Father in no way violates the uniqueness of Calvary. Nor does the priest, acting in persona Christi, offering the same sacrifice in an unbloody manner (to quote St. Cyril), on behalf of the faithful, violate this unique office of Christ as our Redeemer.

The faithful do offer the sacrifice of praise and the Eucharist is itself a thanksgiving offering. That does not preclude it from being, as the fathers have always insisted, the same sacrifice of calvary.

The author has not interacted with the unanimous testimony of the Church throughout history. She has always understood the sacrifice in this way. He mentions that the ideas of the Eucharist changed but offers no proof. To be sure, there was some development in the laity's understanding of their role in the sacrifice but the core action was always understood to be re-presenting the sacrafice of Calvary as is evident from the very earliest documents. (See the Didache in the link above).

Some of my previous posts on the subject:

Early Christians & the Sacrifice of the Mass
Augustine and Sacrifice
Cyprian on Sacrifice
Sacrifice in the first 40 years of Christianity
St. Augustine on Sacrifice (Again)

And here's Jason Evert on the Sacrifice of the Mass. Hope this helps.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Book Review: "The Shape of the Liturgy" by Gregory Dix

The Anglican liturgical historian, Gregory Dix published this fantastic study of the history of the Christian liturgy (though he humbly refers to it as an introduction) in January 1945 while World War 2 was still raging. At over 750 pages in small print it's not one of those books you finish over the weekend but it's well worth the read. It's hard to speed-read, but this is because of its interesting content rather than its difficulty.

Dix examines the development of the liturgy giving ample attention to the ante-Nicene Church about which I was thrilled. His style isn't especially breath taking but it's readable, simple, and always easy to understand. You never have to read a sentence twice and with so many sentences to read - that is warmly welcomed.

His historical work is excellent. No one could accuse him of being unfair, except perhaps those from within his own tradition . That is to say, he takes special care to deal with alternative views as fairly as possible. He's always scientific and never overreaches the evidence. Only an expert in liturgical history would walk away not having received a thorough education. In fact, I don't really have anything negative to say about the book except that it dragged on a bit at the end.

Anglicans will be particularly interested in the second to last chapter which deals exclusively with the development of the Anglican liturgy from the 16th century until the early 19th. Dix is decidedly not a fan of Cranmer and concludes that he is essentially Zwinglian in his Eucharistic theology and has a few strong opinions about the direction modern Anglican liturgy should take. From what I understand, some more traditionally minded Anglicans have taken issue with him on these points but that is a fight in which I do not have a dog. For what it's worth, he convinced me.

From a Catholic standpoint, one thing of particular interest was that Dix offers a real picture into the mind of the pre-Vatican II theologians and some of the perceived issues which Vatican II sought to address. The importance of rightly understanding the liturgical action of the early Church is something Dix stresses repeatedly and the language he uses to describe it is recognizable for those familiar with the right intentions of the second Vatican council.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in developing a strong, overall history of the development of the liturgy.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Divine Metaphor

My recent post on Called to Communion is called "The Divine Metaphor". Here's an excerpt:
Seeing that nature itself, revealed by God, is so inclined to teach us truth by metaphor, it comes as no surprise that the divinely revealed Scriptures make frequent use of allegory and symbolism. When the modern skeptic reads that John the Baptist wore camel’s hair and a leather belt, he thinks that the author is trying to conjure up a connection between St. John and Elijah. It has never occurred to the skeptic that what is said of John may actually be true. But on the other hand, when the Scriptures speak of the sun standing still, it has never occurred to the skeptic that the Scriptures might be speaking metaphorically. It’s obvious in the latter case, but in the former as well, a metaphor is at play. The divine metaphor opposes both fundamentalism and skepticism. The gospels record that Jesus rose on the third day, and the skeptic wants to insist that the gospel authors are inserting their own symbolic theology. This assumes the very antithesis of my argument: that God is not capable of enacting anything with meaning!
Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Pope Benedict Condemns Bombing in Cotabato City

This past Sunday, terrorists detonated a bomb during mass near the Cathedral of Cotabato City in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. My charity, the Philippine Aid Society, has established a relief fund and we will raise funds throughout the month of July to support the victims and their families. Please consider a donation of any amount to the Cotabato Relief Fund.

Hundreds of churchgoers remained inside the cathedral after the powerful explosion, praying even more fervently for “peace.” The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said that Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo was delivering his homily when the incident occurred, causing panic among churchgoers.

Read the whole story here.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Aren't We All God's Children?

I've heard it asked many times before in defense of some perversion, "Aren't we all God's children?" (which the wicked man asks when he means, "Doesn't God justify this sin?")

Well the answer is yes and no. We are all God's children but in different ways. Even irrational creatures are God's "children" in some sense. Listen to Aquinas:
Now it is manifest from the foregoing (27, 2; 28, 4), that the perfect idea of paternity and filiation is to be found in God the Father, and in God the Son, because one is the nature and glory of the Father and the Son. But in the creature, filiation is found in relation to God, not in a perfect manner, since the Creator and the creature have not the same nature; but by way of a certain likeness, which is the more perfect the nearer we approach to the true idea of filiation. For God is called the Father of some creatures, by reason only of a trace, for instance of irrational creatures, according to Job 38:28: "Who is the father of the rain? or who begot the drops of dew?" Of some, namely, the rational creature (He is the Father), by reason of the likeness of His image, according to Deuteronomy 32:6: "Is He not thy Father, who possessed, and made, and created thee?" And of others He is the Father by similitude of grace, and these are also called adoptive sons, as ordained to the heritage of eternal glory by the gift of grace which they have received, according to Romans 8:16-17: "The Spirit Himself gives testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God; and if sons, heirs also." Lastly, He is the Father of others by similitude of glory, forasmuch as they have obtained possession of the heritage of glory, according to Romans 5:2: "We glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God." - Summa Theologica 1.33.3

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Kingdom, Church & Communion


Objections to co-identifying the Kingdom and Church together spring, no doubt, from a purely eschatological rendering of “Kingdom.” It was always referred to eschatologically by Christ because while He was among us, it had not yet been fully manifested. But in the Church we do indeed see the “beginning of the Kingdom” because it is “already present in mystery” through her.1 Now there is certainly an eschatological dimension of the Church as the Bride of Christ while she awaits her final purification for the Bridegroom, but nevertheless she retains her identity as Bride of Christ and mystically the Body of Christ right now as she sojourns this earth as the Church Militant. For this reason, eschatological renderings of the Kingdom should not hinder our appreciation of the Kingdom of God as mystically present in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the Kingdom, in its present stage.

If this is so, and Christ Himself is the founder of the Kingdom, then the phrase “hierarchical continuum”, as applied to the Church, is supremely applicable. She is, as all Kingdoms are, a hierarchy and she shall continue in perpetuity. The objections to this phrase are raised for reasons parallel to the Gnostic agenda – as the gospel made Christ too mundane, so this conception of Kingdom makes the Church hierarchy too mundane. The kingdom, in their mind, is too involved in the space-time continuum; or more likely, involved in too dangerous of a way.

Those who would attack the Catholic Church are quite sure that she is one and the same, and therefore retains the ‘guilt’, as the aggressor in the Crusades and the Inquisition, but they are equally as certain that she is not the same, existing in continuity, as the Church who called the council of Nicaea and yet cannot offer a principled reason for this distinction.

As for the hierarchy: the individual Christian is directly connected to Christ spiritually, but sacramentally, he is connected to Christ only as a foot is connected to the head (through the hierarchy of the body) and not directly. The believer cannot bypass the hierarchy of the Church in his connection to Christ any more than a foot can bypass the hierarchy of the body in its connection to the head. It has been demonstrated here and in the links above, that Christ indeed founded a hierarchy which continues in perpetuity – one which cannot be broken and cannot, without penalty, be disobeyed.

Church & Communion

The divinely revealed marital analogy between Christ and the Church is helpful for developing a proper ecclesiolgy. The Church must be one because, as Dr. Peter Kreeft says, when Christ returns for His bride, He shall not be found a polygamist.2 Unity is one of the four marks of the Church which we confess in the Nicene Creed. The Apostles’ Creed also offers a helpful and trustworthy insight into identifying the true Church. As the Apostle’s Creed shows, Christians have always confessed faith in “the Holy Catholic Church” and in the “Communion of Saints” as explicitly distinct concepts.

The very ordering of these phrases suggests not merely an explicit distinction, but also a certain procession. We believe in the Church first because it is she who gave birth to the saints. But Protestant ecclesiology regularly confuses the Church with the Communion of Saints and this is a discontinuum of the orthodox Christian faith.

After this final case regarding the Catholic ecclesiology, which will be published shortly, we shall turn our focus to the authority of the Scriptures. We spoke of the Church first because it is she who holds them in her bosom and has delivered them faithfully to her children. But before we discuss the authority of the Scriptures, we must agree on the ecclesiological foundation of our faith.

Originally posted at Called to Communion.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Objective Beauty & Diversity

The modern mind does not understand beauty because it thinks beauty is wholly subjective. There may be a sense where degree of beauty is subjective, but beauty itself is as objective as mathematics. If we understood beauty, we could as easily refer to the beauty of a math formula as of a painting.

A thing is beautiful because, and insofar as, it conforms to a certain standard of perfection. But it seems then that pure beauty could have no diversity. For example, if all persons were purely beautiful, they would all look the same since they all conformed perfectly to a certain standard, namely: absolute beauty.

But let's take the example of a circle. A circle is called beautiful insofar as it is perfect and has no flat edges; i.e. it conforms to the ideal and perfect circle. But there may be different sizes of circles all conforming exactly to the perfect circle. Albeit crude, this is an example of how diversity might be admitted while maintaining an objective standard for beauty. For a more complex example, a mathematic formula is said to be beautiful insofar as it is true. But there are limitless possibilities for true formulas and the diversity may be great. So there is an objective standard for beauty along with unlimited diversity.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Pensees on Audio Book

Pascal's Pensees is now available on Librivox as a free audio book. I haven't read this since becoming Catholic. I'm looking forward to reading it again. Just passing it along for what it's worth.