Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Tenth Station: Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

V. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi. [We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee.]
R. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum. [Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.]

Pope John Paul II

From the Gospel according to Mark. 15:24
The soldiers divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take.

MEDITATION

Tenth Station of the Cross,
Church of Saint-Brice-en-Coglès
As Jesus is stripped of his clothes at Golgotha (cf. Mk 15:24, etc.), our thoughts turn once more to his Mother. They go back in time to the first days of this body which now, even before the crucifixion, is covered with wounds (cf. Is 52:14). The mystery of the Incarnation: the Son of God takes his body from the Virgin’s womb (cf. Mt 1:23; Lk 1:26-38).

The Son of God speaks to the Father in the words of the Psalmist: “Sacrifice and offering you desired not; but a body you have prepared for me” (Ps 40:7; Heb 10:5). A man’s body is the expression of his soul. Christ’s body is the expression of his love for the Father: “Then I said, ‘Lo, I have come to do your will, O God” (Ps 40:7; Heb 10:7). “I always do what is pleasing to him” (Jn 8:29). With every wound, every spasm of pain, every wrenched muscle, every trickle of blood, with all the exhaustion in its arms, all the bruises and lacerations on its back and shoulders, this stripped body is carrying out the will of both Father and Son. It carries out the Father’s will when it is stripped naked and subjected to torture, when it takes unto itself the immeasurable pain of a humanity profaned.

The human body is profaned in any number of ways.

At this Station we must think of the Mother of Christ, because in her womb, in her eyes and in her arms the body of the Son of God was most fully adored.

ACCLAMATION

Jesus, sacred body, still violated in your living members. R. Kyrie, eleison.
Jesus, body offered in love, still divided in your members. R. Kyrie, eleison.

Pope Benedict XVI

From the Gospel according to Matthew. 27:33-36
And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull), they offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there.
MEDITATION

James Tissot, Jesus is Stripped of His Clothing (c. 1890)
Jesus is stripped of his garments. Clothing gives a man his social position; it gives him his place in society, it makes him someone. His public stripping means that Jesus is no longer anything at all, he is simply an outcast, despised by all alike. The moment of the stripping reminds us of the expulsion from Paradise: God’s splendor has fallen away from man, who now stands naked and exposed, unclad and ashamed. And so Jesus once more takes on the condition of fallen man. Stripped of his garments, he reminds us that we have all lost the “first garment” that is God’s splendor.

At the foot of the Cross, the soldiers draw lots to divide his paltry possessions, his clothes. The Evangelists describe the scene with words drawn from Psalm 22:19; by doing so they tell us the same thing that Jesus would tell his disciples on the road to Emmaus: that everything takes place “according to the Scriptures”. Nothing is mere coincidence; everything that happens is contained in the Word of God and sustained by his divine plan. The Lord passes through all the stages and steps of man’s fall from grace, yet each of these steps, for all its bitterness, becomes a step towards our redemption: this is how he carries home the lost sheep. Let us not forget that John says that lots were drawn for Jesus’ tunic, “woven without seam from top to bottom” (Jn 19:23). We may consider this as a reference to the High Priest’s robe, which was “woven from a single thread”, without stitching (Fl. Josephus, a III, 161). For he, the Crucified One, is the true High Priest.

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, you were stripped of your garments, exposed to shame, cast out of society. You took upon yourself the shame of Adam, and you healed it. You also take upon yourself the sufferings and the needs of the poor, the outcasts of our world. And in this very way you fulfill the words of the prophets. This is how you bring meaning into apparent meaninglessness. This is how you make us realize that your Father holds you, us, and the whole world in his hands. Give us a profound respect for man at every stage of his existence, and in all the situations in which we encounter him. Clothe us in the light of your grace.

Tenth Station of the Cross (detail),
Pfettisheim Saint Symphorian
Pater noster, ...
Fac ut ardeat cor meum
in amando Christum Deum,
ut sibi complaceam.


Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done
on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our Daily Bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.


Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls for the Third Time

V. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi. [We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee.]
R. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum. [Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.]

Pope John Paul II

From the Book of Lamentations. 3:27-32
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust, there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the smiter and be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off for ever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

MEDITATION

Ninth Station of the Cross, Notre-Dame, Geneva
“He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a Cross” (Phil 2:8). Every station along this Way is a milestone of that obedience and self-emptying. We appreciate the scale of that self-emptying when we begin to ponder the words of the Prophet : “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all... All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Is 53:6).

We can appreciate the extent of that self-emptying when we see Jesus falling for the third time under the Cross. We can appreciate it when we meditate on who it is falling, who it is lying in the dusty road under the Cross, at the feet of a hostile crowd that spares him no insult or humiliation...

Who is it who has fallen? Who is Jesus Christ? “Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a Cross” (Phil 2:6-8).

ACCLAMATION

Jesus Christ, You tasted the bitterness of the earth in order to turn our cries of pain into a song of joy. R. Christe, eleison.
Christ Jesus, you were humbled in the flesh in order to ennoble all creation. R. Christe, eleison.

Pope Benedict XVI

From the Book of Lamentations. 3:27-32
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust - there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off for ever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
MEDITATION

Ninth Station of the Cross, Three Falls Church
What can the third fall of Jesus under the Cross say to us? We have considered the fall of man in general, and the falling of many Christians away from Christ and into a godless secularism. Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church? How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there! How often is his Word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words! How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency! What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall! All this is present in his Passion. His betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his Body and Blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us (cf. Mt 8: 25).

PRAYER

Lord, your Church often seems like a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. In your field we see more weeds than wheat. The soiled garments and face of your Church throw us into confusion. Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them! It is we who betray you time and time again, after all our lofty words and grand gestures. Have mercy on your Church; within her too, Adam continues to fall. When we fall, we drag you down to earth, and Satan laughs, for he hopes that you will not be able to rise from that fall; he hopes that being dragged down in the fall of your Church, you will remain prostrate and overpowered. But you will rise again. You stood up, you arose and you can also raise us up. Save and sanctify your Church. Save and sanctify us all.

Ninth Station of the Cross (detail),
Pfettisheim Saint Symphorian
Pater noster, ...
Eia mater, fons amoris,
me sentire vim doloris
fac, ut tecum lugeam.


Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed by Thy Name
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our Daily Bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.


O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord.

Does Water Baptism Save?

An Evangelical blogger and prison chaplain named Jeremy Myers wrote a post called “Don’t Get Baptized. Cut Your Hair!” His argument was that since Baptism was only symbolic, we should substitute for a symbol that we find more meaningful, like cutting our hair, or changing our names. From a Christian perspective, this is some of the worst advice you could ever give a person. That's not an exaggeration.  Jesus Christ tells us to get Baptized, and explicitly ties it to inheriting eternal life in Mark 16:16 and in John 3:5.  So this is a call to disobey Christ.  I don't care how clever the reasons are, that's astonishingly reckless advice.

Victor Vasnetsov. Baptism of Prince Vladimir (1890)
I confronted him about this, saying:
I understand that you view Baptism as strictly symbolic, and probably think it's fine to replace one symbol with another. But given how often Scripture speaks of Baptism as something that actually saves us by washing away our sins (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21, John 3:5, Titus 3:5, etc.), shouldn't you at least defer to the ancient practice?

After all, if there's even a slim chance that you're wrong, you may have just told people to violate Scripture and avoid the life-saving waters of Baptism. And what does it get them, or you, in return? A haircut? Or are you so confident that all of those Scriptural references really mean “Baptism is a symbol” that you'll stake other peoples' salvation on it?
His sole response was:
Much of Scripture says that water baptism saves? 2-3 difficult verses at most. And in the context, “saves” from what?
I first answered the idea that there were “2-3 difficult verses at most” by sharing this video with him:


I then rephrased my original questions to him: “(a) why should anyone ever take your reading of Scripture over the overwhelming consensus of Christians throughout history? And (b) given that, if you're wrong, people may end up in Hell (while if you're right, it's irrelevant), shouldn't you at least not urge people to avoid water Baptism?”

He responded to this by saying:
I have never denied that baptism saves. I have denied that we get eternal life through water baptism. The two are very different. Baptism does “save.” But “saves” from what?
From the response, I'm not sure if he's saying that Baptism saves us (but not from our sins), or that Baptism saves us from our sins (but not water Baptism). So I addressed both points:
Pietro Longhi, The Baptism (1755)
Baptism saves us from our sins. Jesus, in John 3:5, says that “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

St. Peter describes it like this in Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In the context, this is clearly a reference to water Baptism (see Acts 2:41). Peter is also referring to water Baptism in 1 Peter 3:21, as 1 Peter 3:20 makes clear, with its reference to those who “were saved through water.

Ananias similarly describes the role of water Baptism as the washing away of sins (Acts 22:16). And he says this to St. Paul after Paul has already come to faith (cf. Acts 9:17-19). Paul will later say that Christ “saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5; other translations: “washing of regeneration”). And in Hebrews 10:22, “having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience” is expressly tied to “having our bodies washed with pure water.

Besides all of these direct references, there are countless prefigurements of water baptism washing away sins, from Noah's Ark (which St. Peter explains in 1 Peter 3, mentioned above), to the Israelites passing through the Red Sea (which St. Paul compares with Baptism in 1 Cor. 10:1-2) to the healing of Naaman the leper in 2 Kings 5 (he also thought that the water element was pointless: cf. 2 Kings 5:12), to the healing of the blind man in John 9:1-11, etc., etc. Your earlier claim that there are “2-3 difficult verses at most” that describe water Baptism saving just isn't accurate.

Johann Lucas Kracker,
St. Francis of Solano Baptizing Indians (1770)
Likewise [...] there's absolutely nothing in Scripture that says that the waters of Baptism are merely symbolic, so we should feel free to replace them with another symbol, like “getting a hair cut, or changing your name.” In fact, even on a symbolic level, cutting your hair or changing your name doesn't preserve the washing imagery found in every single one of the Scriptural passages I referenced above. So even if you think Baptism is just symbolic... you're ruining the symbol, the “symbol” specifically chosen by Jesus Christ.

Finally, let's assume we can't come to agreement on this issue: what then? Hopefully, even assuming you're not 100% convinced that Christ established water Baptism, and didn't make it optional (even for those who have already been filled with the Holy Spirit -- Acts 10:47), you can at least see that there's a distinct possibility that water Baptism is an important thing for salvation and that as a follower of Christ, you shouldn't directly contradict Christ's orders by telling people, “Don't get Baptized.

So my suggestion is this: even if you're not wholly convinced, at least stop being cavalier and reckless on this issue, since if you're wrong, you're potentially doing a world of damage, and that's not something you want on your conscience. God bless.
I mention this publicly for two reasons: first, Myers' post remains public, so it seems important to address it head-on; and second, because I think plenty of Evangelical Protestants have never seriously examined the question of what exactly Baptism does (focusing instead on the age for Baptism, and its external form:  whether it should be by sprinkling, partial immersion, or full immersion).

One of the reasons that I think many Evangelical Protestants haven't looked at the issue very seriously is that the evidence is overwhelming.  Don't get me wrong: I recognize that on many of the issues dividing Christians, there's some degree of Scriptural ambiguity, and both sides can point to convincing-sounding passages to support their side.  That's the hazard of sola Scriptura: on many of the big issues, you're left guessing.  But this just isn't the case on the question of whether Baptism saves.

Noah's Ark (from an altar in Friesach)
On this issue, I don't see a way that Scripture could be much clearer than saying that on Noah's Ark, “a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also” (1 Peter 3:20-21).  So the Baptismal imagery in Scripture is particularly rich, and quite unambiguous that Baptism is more than a symbol.

This fact is made more apparent by contrasting it with the baptism of John, which was a baptism of repentance than didn't impart the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8).  In Acts 19:1-7, Paul encounters about a dozen men, headed by Apollos, who had received John's baptism (Acts 19:3).  He then gives them a Christian Baptism, at which point the Holy Spirit descends upon them (Acts 19:5-6).  Yet we're to believe that Christian Baptism is just symbolic, that it's less than John's baptism (Matthew 21:25)?

So the problem doesn't seem to be ambiguity in Scripture.  Rather, it appears to be (1) some sort of dogmatic rejection of the whole idea of sacraments, or (2) a presupposition that saving faith is a formless thing that Baptism would somehow detract from.  Given the clear Scriptural evidence, then, it may be time to revisit and correct those faulty assumption.  Finally, to those claiming that Baptism is just a symbol, what is the Scriptural support for this?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Did the Greek Old Testament Include the Catholic Deuterocanon?

Fragment of the LXX
A reader e-mailed to ask about the use of the Septuagint (or LXX), the Greek version of the Old Testament used by the Jews at the time of Christ, and by the early Christians.  This reader had encountered Protestants claiming that while the early Church used the LXX, this didn't include the Deuterocanon.

The problem with this claim is that we have copies of the LXX, and it includes the Deuterocanon.  We also have a wide corpus of testimony from the early Church regarding the use of the Deuterocanon.  Let's start with R. Timothy McLay, who addresses the difference between the Hebrew and the Greek Old Testament in his book The Use of the Septuagint in New Testament Research:
The number and content of the Jewish Scriptures that were later deemed as canonical are different in the two traditions. For example, the Protestant tradition is dependent upon the HB [Hebrew Bible] and counts the number of Old Testament books as thirty-nine, though the number of books in the HB is twenty-four: five of the Law, nine Prophets (1 and 2 Samuel and Kings count as one; Twelve Minor Prophets count as one), and eleven Writings (1 and 2 Chronicles count as one), while the LXX has fifty-three. We only have to compare the books that are contained in the Hebrew canon with the LXX to see that the LXX has a greater number and that there are also differences in the order of the books. Note, for example, that the book of Daniel is ordered with the Writings in the Hebrew Scriptures, while it appears with the Prophets in the LXX.
After listing both canons, McLay adds that:
Map of Greece, showing Berea in the upper-left corner.
The differences that exist between the Hebrew and the Greek canons of Scripture, both of which were preserved by the Jewish community, indicate that it is potentially extremely important to decide what Scriptures were the intended subject of 2 Timothy 3:16. Given the fact that the NT, like the LXX, is written in Greek and that many of the citations of Scripture in the NT agree word for word with how the passage reads in Greek, it becomes all the more likely that the Greek Jewish Scriptures were a significant influence on the NT.
This gets to an important point. 2 Timothy 3:16 (originally written in Greek) affirms the Scriptures as God-breathed.  And Acts 17:11 praises the (Greek) Bereans for their attentiveness to the Gospel and their daily examinations of (Old Testament) Scriptures.

If the New Testament writers didn't want their audiences to treat these Books as Scripture, they certainly chose odd ways of expressing that.  Instead of including even a short note explaining that these Books weren't inspired, they appear to have included them in the category of God-breathed Scripture.

The Use of the Deuterocanon in the Early Christian Church

History is also clear that the Christians used Greek versions of Scripture, including the Deuterocanonal Books, in church.  For example, Sextus Julius Africanus wrote to Origen, warning him against using the Greek version of Daniel, since it contained two sections (called Susanna and Bel and the Dragon) that do not appear in the Hebrew version.  Origen responded:
Origen (184/185 – 253/254)
In answer to this, I have to tell you what it behooves us to do in the cases not only of the History of Susanna, which is found in every Church of Christ in that Greek copy which the Greeks use, but is not in the Hebrew, or of the two other passages you mention at the end of the book containing the history of Bel and the Dragon, which likewise are not in the Hebrew copy of Daniel; but of thousands of other passages also which I found in many places when with my little strength I was collating the Hebrew copies with ours.
This makes it clear that, from a very early date, the Christians and Jews used a separate Old Testament canon, and that this was no secret.  Origen then notes that both the LXX and the Theodotion translations have this longer version of Daniel:
Of the copies in my possession whose readings I gave, one follows the Seventy, and the other Theodotion; and just as the History of Susanna which you call a forgery is found in both, together with the passages at the end of Daniel, so they give also these passages, amounting, to make a rough guess, to more than two hundred verses.
Africanus doubts the Greek version of Daniel since it described some of the Jews in captivity as living in relative luxury.  Origen points out that Africanus is relying on the Book of Tobit for support.  Of course, Tobit (like Judith, and the Greek version of Daniel) was accepted by Christians, but not the Jews:
August Malmström, Tobias healing his Blind Father's Eyes (19th c.)
You raise another objection, which I give in your own words: “Moreover, how is it that they, who were captives among the Chaldeans, lost and won at play, thrown out unburied on the streets, as was prophesied of the former captivity, their sons torn from them to be eunuchs, and their daughters to be concubines, as had been prophesied; how is it that such could pass sentence of death, and that on the wife of their king Joakim, whom the king of the Babylonians had made partner of his throne? Them, if it was not this Joakim, but some other from the common people, whence had a captive such a mansion and spacious garden?” 
Where you get your lost and won at play, and thrown out unburied on the streets,” I know not, unless it is from Tobias; and Tobias (as also Judith), we ought to notice, the Jews do not use. They are not even found in the Hebrew Apocrypha, as I learned from the Jews themselves. However, since the Churches use Tobias, you must know that even in the captivity some of the captives were rich and well to do. Tobias himself says, “Because I remembered God with all my heart; and the Most High gave me grace and beauty in the eyes of Nemessarus, and I was his purveyor; and I went into Media, and left in trust with Gabael, the brother of Gabrias, at Ragi, a city of Media, ten talents of silver.
Origen's testimony is hardly unique (I quoted St. Augustine on the authenticity of the Deuterocanon yesterday).  But what makes his testimony so valuable is that:

  1. Origen is a scholar and a translator, 
  2. he actually owns multiple translations of Scripture, 
  3. he's writing at a very early date, in the first half of the 200s, 
  4. he's describing the inclusion of the longer version of Daniel in every Christian copy of the Greek Old Testament, and
  5. he's testifying to the common practices of the Christian churches, rather than simply his own opinion.  That is, this wasn't simply a Book he thought should be in Scripture, or a Book included for edification: these were Books used in church, everywhere.
The fact that even Africanus, in writing against the use of the longer version of Daniel, would rely on the (Dueterocanonical) Book of Tobit confirms just how widespread the Deuterocanon was in the early Church.

So yes, the LXX includes the Deuterocanon, and according to Origen, so did all of the other Greek versions of Scripture that the early Church used.  As a postscript, having established that the Greek version of the Old Testament included the Deuterocanon, consider that most of the New Testament quotations of the Old Testament are from the Greek, that Jesus typically quoted from the Greek, and that certain New Testament prophesies are only found in the Greek version.

The Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem.

V. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi. [We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee.]
R. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum. [Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.]

Pope John Paul II

From the Gospel according to Luke. 23:28-31
But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold the days are coming when they will say, blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never gave suck. Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

MEDITATION

Eighth Station of the Cross, Saint-Jean-Baptiste au Béguinage
Here is a call to repentance, true repentance, and sorrow at the reality of the evil that has been committed. Jesus says to the daughters of Jerusalem who are weeping at the sight of him: “Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Lk 23:28). One cannot merely scrape away at the surface of evil; one has to get down to its roots, its causes, the inner truth of conscience.

This is precisely what Jesus means to say as he carries his Cross: he always “knew what was in man” (cf. Jn 2:25) and he continues to know it. That is why he must always be for us the closest onlooker, the one who sees all our actions and is aware of all the verdicts which our consciences pass on them. Perhaps he even makes us understand that these verdicts have to be carefully thought out, reasonable and objective (for he says: “Do not weep”), while at the same time bound up with all that this reality contains: he warns us of this because he is the one who carries the Cross.

Lord, let me know how to live and walk in the truth.

ACCLAMATION

Lord Jesus, knowing and merciful, the Truth leading us to life. R. Kyrie, eleison
Lord Jesus, the compassionate one, whose presence eases our pain in the hour of trial. R. Kyrie, eleison.

Pope Benedict XVI

From the Gospel according to Luke. 23:28-31
Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

MEDITATION

Eighth Station of the Cross, Citizen's Hall (Munich)
Hearing Jesus reproach the women of Jerusalem who follow him and weep for him ought to make us reflect. How should we understand his words? Are they not directed at a piety which is purely sentimental, one which fails to lead to conversion and living faith? It is no use to lament the sufferings of this world if our life goes on as usual. And so the Lord warns us of the danger in which we find ourselves. He shows us both the seriousness of sin and the seriousness of judgment. Can it be that, despite all our expressions of consternation in the face of evil and innocent suffering, we are all too prepared to trivialize the mystery of evil? Have we accepted only the gentleness and love of God and Jesus, and quietly set aside the word of judgment? “How can God be so concerned with our weaknesses?”, we say. “We are only human!” Yet as we contemplate the sufferings of the Son, we see more clearly the seriousness of sin, and how it needs to be fully atoned if it is to be overcome. Before the image of the suffering Lord, evil can no longer be trivialized. To us too, he says: “Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves... if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

PRAYER

Lord, to the weeping women you spoke of repentance and the Day of Judgment, when all of us will stand before your face: before you, the Judge of the world. You call us to leave behind the trivialization of evil, which salves our consciences and allows us to carry on as before. You show us the seriousness of our responsibility, the danger of our being found guilty and without excuse on the Day of Judgment. Grant that we may not simply walk at your side, with nothing to offer other than compassionate words. Convert us and give us new life. Grant that in the end we will not be dry wood, but living branches in you, the true vine, bearing fruit for eternal life (cf. Jn 15:1-10).

Eighth Station of the Cross, Pfettisheim Saint Symphorian
Pater noster, ...
Tui Nati vulnerati,
tam dignati pro me pati,
pœnas mecum divide.


Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed by Thy Name
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our Daily Bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Let me share with thee His pain,
who for all my sins was slain,
who for me in torments died.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mark Driscoll and the Canon of Scripture

Mark Driscoll
Popular Protestant pastor Mark Driscoll (of Mars Hill church) thinks we Catholics have too many Books in our Bibles.  That's no surprise; almost all Protestants think this.  But thankfully, Driscoll takes the time to explain why he thinks this, which makes it easy to show where and how he's wrong.

If you're not familiar, the Catholic Bible has seven more Books [Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch (including the Epistle of Jeremy, a.k.a., Baruch 6), 1 and 2 Maccabees], along with longer versions of Esther and Daniel, compared to the Protestant Bible.  We call these Books the Deuterocanon; Protestants call them (and several other books) the Apocrypha.  So the question is: are Catholic Bibles too big?  Or are Protestant Bibles too small?

Now, I've previously responded to the claims Driscoll made, along with Gerry Breshears, in Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe.  But today, I wanted to address the arguments he makes in another of his books, called On the Old Testament, which has received high praise from folks like D. A. Carson and Professor Bruce A. Ware.  So here's Driscoll's argument, from pages 30-31 of the book, explaining why he rejects the Catholic Deuterocanon, along with my responses:

I. Divine Silence?
During the four hundred years of silence between the end of the Old Testament and the coming of Jesus, many other works were written, including books of history, fiction, practical living, and end-times speculation. These books are known as the apocrypha, which means “hidden” or “secret” because the religious leaders of that time preferred that the books not be widely read by the people.
Rembrandt, The Prophetess Anna (1631)
First off, let's address this idea that there were “four hundred years of silence.”  Scripture makes no reference to such an event.  In fact, Luke 2:36 refers to the prophetess Anna, who is “very old” by the time of Christ's birth.  That is, the clear impression is that God continued to send prophets up until the time of Christ.  Jesus seems to confirm this in Matthew 11:13, when he refers to the prophets and the Law as culminating in John the Baptist.

So where does this idea of an end to Old Testament prophesy come from?  Professor Albert Sunberg points to the Jewish historian Josephus, who, writing around 90 A.D. “limited the period of divine inspiration to the time from Moses to the time of Artaxerxes I” and was “the first witness to a twenty-two book canon and to a time-limited theory of inspiration.” From a Christian perspective, however, Josephus' argument doesn't hold water. All Christians, Catholics and Protestants, reject the idea that the period of divine inspiration ceased at the time of Artaxerxes I in the fifth century B.C.  After all, this would be a reason to reject the entire New Testament, not just the Deuterocanon.

For what it's worth, his etymology of the word “apocrypha” is also probably wrong.  (Ironically, the word most likely refers to an event from the apocryphal Fourth Book of Esdras).  More importantly, as we'll see, the religious leaders embaced the Books in question as Scripture; they didn't discouraged people to read them, as Driscoll claims.

II. The Deuterocanon Was Never Considered Scripture?
While these books were read by some of God’s people, they were treated like popular Christian books in our own day, such as those by C. S. Lewis; they were never accepted as Scripture, for many reasons.
Try telling that to St. Augustine of Hippo, who Driscoll rightly describes as “one of the greatest theologians in church history.”  Back around the 410s, in his famous book City of God, St. Augustine wrote this about the Old Testament canon:
Anonymous, St. Augustine (19th c.)
Now the whole canon of Scripture on which we say this judgment is to be exercised, is contained in the following books:—Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; one book of Joshua the son of Nun; one of Judges; one short book called Ruth, which seems rather to belong to the beginning of Kings; next, four books of Kings, and two of Chronicles—these last not following one another, but running parallel, so to speak, and going over the same ground. The books now mentioned are history, which contains a connected narrative of the times, and follows the order of the events. 
There are other books which seem to follow no regular order, and are connected neither with the order of the preceding books nor with one another, such as Job, and Tobias, and Esther, and Judith, and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Ezra, which last look more like a sequel to the continuous regular history which terminates with the books of Kings and Chronicles. Next are the Prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David; and three books of Solomon, viz., Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. Still they are to be reckoned among the prophetical books, since they have attained recognition as being authoritative.

The remainder are the books which are strictly called the Prophets: twelve separate books of the prophets which are connected with one another, and having never been disjoined, are reckoned as one book; the names of these prophets are as follows:—Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; then there are the four greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel. The authority of the Old Testament is contained within the limits of these forty-four books.
St. Augustine leaves no question that all seven Books of the Catholic Deuterocanon are considered Scripture along with the rest of the Old Testament. And his testimony makes clear that they're not even marked off in a separate section, but carry the full “authority of the Old Testament.

As I've shown in the past, not a single Church Father ever used the 66-Book Protestant canon.  Driscoll may think that the early Christians were wrong to consider these Books canonical, but it's just indefensible to say that these Books “were never accepted as Scripture.”  The evidence is unambiguous.

III. Guilt by Association? 
Joseph Smith, Jr.
First, many of the apocryphal books were also pseudepigraphal, meaning that they were written under a pen name so that the true identity of the author would be unknown. The pen names were often those of biblical people (e.g., Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Solomon), deceitfully leading readers to believe those books were written by these biblical men. It would be similar to me putting Billy Graham’s name on the book to sell more copies.
Driscoll is conflating the Deuterocanonical Books (which Catholics consider inspired by the Holy Spirit) with the Pseudepigraphal books (which we don't). So this isn't an argument against the Catholic canon at all.  Rather, it exposes a problem I've mentioned before: Protestants lump the Deuterocanon in with the Pseudepigrapha, and argue against the whole thing (under the heading “Apocrypha”) by arguing against the Pseudepigrapha.

It's a dangerous and misleading argument.  It would be like Catholics grouping the writings of Luther and Calvin in with the writings of Muhammad and Joseph Smith, Jr., and claiming that these writings should be rejected since “many of them claim to be post-Biblical revelations.”  That claim, while perhaps technically true, would be wildly misleading, and unfair to Luther and Calvin.

IV. No Scriptural Citation?
Second, while the Old Testament is quoted roughly three hundred times in the New Testament, none of the apocryphal books are ever quoted in the New Testament or even alluded to, with the exception of a very debated section of Jude.
This isn't true, as I've mentioned before.  There are lots of allusions to the Deuterocanonical Books throughout the New Testament.  To take one example, James Swan, an anti-Catholic Calvinist writing for Beggars All, has admitted that it “seems highly probable” that Hebrews 11:35-37 is a reference to 2 Maccabees 7.  True, there are no unambiguous direct quotations of the Deuterocanon, but that's true of several Old Testament Books that Protestants accept, like Joshua, Judges, and Esther.

V. Did the Catholic Bible Exist Before the Reformation?
Jacques Blanchard, Tobias Healing the Blindness of His Father
Third, both Jews and Christians rejected any of the apocryphal books as divinely inspired sacred Scripture until the Catholic Council of Trent in 1546. At that time, the Catholic Church was facing a growing protest movement (now known as Protestantism) that denounced some of the church’s teaching as unbiblical. Among the chief critics was the Catholic monk Martin Luther, who pointed out that praying to saints, paying indulgences to the church, and purgatory were not found in the Bible. In an effort to defend themselves, the Catholic Church voted to insert new books into the Bible, more than a millennium after the Old Testament canon had been closed and the apocryphal books had been rejected as Scripture. Why? Because it found some support for its unbiblical doctrines in the apocrypha and, rather than changing its doctrines, it instead chose to change its Bible.
Again, this is completely, wildly wrong.  Let's look at the actual evidence.  Here's what the Third Council of Carthage, in 397 A.D. wrote:
It was also determined that besides the Canonical Scriptures nothing be read in the Church under the title of divine Scriptures. The Canonical Scriptures are these: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings [First and Second Samuel and First and Second Kings], two books of Paraleipomena [First and Second Chronicles], Job, the Psalter, five books of Solomon, [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus] the books of the twelve prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezechiel, Daniel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras [Ezra and Nehemiah], two books of the Maccabees
Kirill I of Moscow
(Russian Orthodox Patriarch)
That's the Catholic Old Testament.  And Driscoll can hardly claim ignorance here, since he cites to the Third Council of Carthage in his book Doctrine (more on that here).

In addition to the Third Council of Carthage, how about the Decretum Gelasianum, the canonical list (likely dating from the fifth century) calling the Deuterocanonical Books “Scripture”, and distinguishing them from the Apocrypha?  Or the Synod of Hippo, in 391, which the Third Council of Carthage cited to in support of its Scriptural canon?  Or Canon LXXXV of the Apostolic Canons, which the Eastern Orthodox consider inspired?  Or the Cheltenham List (c. 360)?  Or what about Session 11 of the Ecumenical Council of Florence in 1442?  For that matter, what about the Latin Vulgate, the Bible used by almost all Western Christians from the fourth century forward?

Or if diving into all that history seems too daunting, perhaps a little common sense will suffice. The Coptic, Oriental, and Eastern Orthodox all split off from the Catholic Church centuries prior to the Reformation, yet all of them include the Deuterocanon in their Bibles (along with a few other books we Catholics reject).  Were that part of the anti-Protestant conspiracy to add Books to their Bibles, too?  Or might this whole theory be just a bit... implausible?

So yes, the Catholic Bible definitely existed before the Reformation.  What about the Protestant Bible?  Not so much.

Conclusion

All of Driscoll's claims about why we should reject the Catholic canon of Scripture are wrong. And not wrong in the sense that I disagree with his reasoning or belief. Wrong in the sense that he makes factual claims that are objectively false.  This isn't like debating whether or not James K. Polk was the greatest president.  This is like denying that James K. Polk ever was the president.

So let's get to brass tacks: the early Church treated the Deuterocanon as if it was inspired by God.  The Church, in various Councils, including Ecumenical Councils, unambiguously established the Catholic canon.  None of the early Christians used the Protestant Bible.  It was Martin Luther who removed the Deuterocanon from the Bible, and he also spoke against the canonicity of parts of the New Testament: Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation.

The Seventh Station: Jesus Falls for the Second Time

V. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi. [We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee.]
R. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum. [Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.]

Pope John Paul II

From the Book of Lamentations. 3:1-2, 9, 16
I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light... He has blocked my ways with hewn stones he has made my paths crooked... He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes.

MEDITATION

“I am a worm, and no man, scorned by men, and despised by the people” (Ps 22:6). The prophetic words of the Psalmist are wholly fulfilled in these steep, narrow alleys of Jerusalem in the final hours before the Passover. We know that those hours before the feast are unnerving, the streets teeming with people. This is the context in which the words of the Psalmist are being fulfilled, even though nobody gives this a thought. Certainly it passes unnoticed by those who jeer, those for whom this Jesus of Nazareth, as he now falls for the second time, is a laughing-stock.

And he wills all this, he wills the fulfilment of the prophecy. And so he falls, exhausted by all the effort. He falls in accordance with the will of the Father, a will expressed in the words of the Prophet. He falls in accordance with his own will: “How then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Mt 26:54). “I am a worm, and no man” (Ps 22:6). Not even an Ecce homo here (Jn 19:5), but something much less, much worse.

A worm creeps along the ground, whereas man, like a king among creatures, walks above it. A worm will gnaw even at wood: like a worm, remorse for sin gnaws at man’s conscience. Remorse for the second fall.

ACCLAMATION

Jesus of Nazareth, you became an outcast among men, in order to ennoble all creatures. R. Kyrie, eleison.
Jesus, servant of life, crushed by men, yet raised up by God. R. Kyrie, eleison.


Pope Benedict XVI

From the Book of Lamentations. 3:1-2,9,16
I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light. He has blocked my way with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked. He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes.
MEDITATION

Seventh Station of the Cross,
Church of Saint-Brice-en-Coglès
The tradition that Jesus fell three times beneath the weight of the Cross evokes the fall of Adam – the state of fallen humanity – and the mystery of Jesus’ own sharing in our fall. Throughout history the fall of man constantly takes on new forms. In his First Letter, Saint John speaks of a threefold fall: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life. He thus interprets the fall of man and humanity against the backdrop of the vices of his own time, with all its excesses and perversions. But we can also think, in more recent times, of how a Christianity which has grown weary of faith has abandoned the Lord: the great ideologies, and the banal existence of those who, no longer believing in anything, simply drift through life, have built a new and worse paganism, which in its attempt to do away with God once and for all, have ended up doing away with man. And so man lies fallen in the dust. The Lord bears this burden and falls, over and over again, in order to meet us. He gazes on us, he touches our hearts; he falls in order to raise us up.

PRAYER

Lord Jesus Christ, you have borne all our burdens and you continue to carry us. Our weight has made you fall. Lift us up, for by ourselves we cannot rise from the dust. Free us from the bonds of lust. In place of a heart of stone, give us a heart of flesh, a heart capable of seeing. Lay low the power of ideologies, so that all may see that they are a web of lies. Do not let the wall of materialism become insurmountable. Make us aware of your presence. Keep us sober and vigilant, capable of resisting the forces of evil. Help us to recognize the spiritual and material needs of others, and to give them the help they need. Lift us up, so that we may lift others up. Give us hope at every moment of darkness, so that we may bring your hope to the world.

Seventh Station of the Cross, Pfettisheim Saint Symphorian
Pater noster, ...
Pro peccatis suae gentis
vidit Iesum in tormentis,
et flagellis subditum.


Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed by Thy Name
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our Daily Bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.


For the sins of His own nation,
She saw Jesus wracked with torment,
All with scourges rent:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus.

V. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi. [We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee.]
R. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum. [Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.]

Pope John Paul II

From the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. 53:2-3
He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

MEDITATION

Tabacchetti and Giovanni d'Enrico, Christ on the Road to Calvary (1600)
Tradition has bequeathed us Veronica. Perhaps she is a counterpart to the story of the Cyrenian. As a woman, she could not physically carry the Cross or even be called upon to do so, yet in fact she did carry the Cross with Jesus: she carried it in the only way possible to her at the moment and in obedience to the dictates of her heart: she wiped his Face.

Tradition has it that an imprint of Christ’s features remained on the cloth she used. This detail seems fairly easy to explain: since the cloth was covered with blood and sweat, it would preserve traces and outlines.

Yet this detail can have a different meaning if it is considered in the light of Christ’s words about the last days. Many will then ask: “Lord, when did we ever do these things for you?”. And Jesus will reply: “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (cf. Mt 25:37-40). In fact the Savior leaves his imprint on every single act of charity, as he did on Veronica’s cloth.

ACCLAMATION

Face of the Lord Jesus, disfigured by pain, resplendent with God’s glory. R. Kyrie, eleison
O Holy Face, imprinted on every act of love. R. Kyrie, eleison

Pope Benedict XVI

From the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. 53:2-3
He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
St. Veronica with the Holy Kerchief (1420)
From the Book of Psalms. 27:8-9
You have said, “Seek my face”. My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek”. Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Cast me not off, forsake me not, O God of my salvation.

MEDITATION

“Your face, Lord, do I seek. Hide not your face from me” (Ps 27:8-9). Veronica – Bernice, in the Greek tradition – embodies the universal yearning of the devout men and women of the Old Testament, the yearning of all believers to see the face of God. On Jesus’ Way of the Cross, though, she at first did nothing more than perform an act of womanly kindness: she held out a facecloth to Jesus. She did not let herself be deterred by the brutality of the soldiers or the fear which gripped the disciples. She is the image of that good woman, who, amid turmoil and dismay, shows the courage born of goodness and does not allow her heart to be bewildered. “Blessed are the pure in heart”, the Lord had said in his Sermon on the Mount, “for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). At first, Veronica saw only a buffeted and pain-filled face. Yet her act of love impressed the true image of Jesus on her heart: on his human face, bloodied and bruised, she saw the face of God and his goodness, which accompanies us even in our deepest sorrows. Only with the heart can we see Jesus. Only love purifies us and gives us the ability to see. Only love enables us to recognize the God who is love itself.

PRAYER

Lord, grant us restless hearts, hearts which seek your face. Keep us from the blindness of heart which sees only the surface of things. Give us the simplicity and purity which allow us to recognize your presence in the world. When we are not able to accomplish great things, grant us the courage which is born of humility and goodness. Impress your face on our hearts. May we encounter you along the way and show your image to the world.

Sixth Station of the Cross, Pfettisheim Saint Symphorian
Pater noster, ...
Quis non posset contristari
Christi Matrem contemplari
dolentem cum Filio?


Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed by Thy Name
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our Daily Bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.


Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother's pain untold?

Uniting Pro-Life Protestants and Catholics in Christ

Yesterday's “Conversation on Unity in Christ's Mission” between Francis Cardinal George and Evangelical author and former pastor John Armstrong was thoroughly enjoyable.  The two men shared an obvious love for one another and for Jesus Christ.  John spoke of being enriched by Catholic writers from long before the Reformation, who sound little like modern Evangelicals; Cardinal George spoke of the need for Catholics to learn a thing or two on preaching from Evangelicals. But despite the mutual respect and admiration, both men were forthright on the differences, and the things that still separate us.  Chris Castaldo, an Evangelical ex-Catholic, was the host, and he asked good, substantive questions from justification, to mixed-marriages, to the way that each side understands Evangelization.

Towards the end, he asked, “Why don't we see more events like this?”  Cardinal George pointed out that, since Evangelicalism has no hierarchy or visible authority, opportunities for Evangelical-Catholic dialogue is limited.  Nobody can claim to represent Evangelicalism, the way that, say, the Archbishop of Canterbury can officially represent the Anglican Communion.  John had noted numerous times that plenty of Evangelicals were upset that he'd even attended the event, underscoring the crisis of authority within Evangelicalism.  

This is a good point, but John quickly pointed out the other side of the coin.  While there's little top-down dialogue between Evangelicals and Catholics (since there's little top to speak of in Evangelicalism), there's a lot of grassroots ecumenism going on.  John pointed out several areas in which Catholics and Evangelicals dialogue with one another, and work side by side, including pro-life activism.  

Fr. Marcel in front of 3300 flowers,
representing the daily death toll from abortion
I saw a few great examples of this over the past week.  On Friday, as I've mentioned, I went to the Rally protesting the HHS Mandate.   The Rally began with everyone on their knees, Catholics and Protestants praying together to God for an end to abortion and an end to the HHS Mandate.  Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Reformed Presbyterian Church was one of the speakers, and he talked about his love and appreciation for the Catholics involved in the movement, saying he had to take down a picture of the Beatles in his room so he had space to put up a picture of Cardinal Dolan.  Afterwards, Rev. Mahoney arranged for Fr. Marcel Guarnizo to lead Catholics in a Rosary.  

Two days later, at Encircle the Supreme Court, we came together once again to pray that God's Will be done, for the protection of innocent life and religious freedom, and that He would give wisdom and courage to the justices of the Supreme Court.  After we prayed the Lord's Prayer together, Fr. Marcel lead everyone, Catholic and Protestant alike, in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy (starting with step 6).  He joked that this was a “compromise,” since there's nothing in the Divine Mercy Chaplet that Protestants would object to (like asking for the intercession of Mary or the Saints).

As fascinating at that was, the thing that really shocked me was the prayer that Rev. Mahoney lead us in, a prayer written by Mother Teresa that includes the line, “Jesus is the Sacrifice offered at the Holy Mass for the sins of the world and mine.” Hearing a Presbyterian minister lead a group of Catholics and Protestants in praying this was a bit ... surreal.  But it was certainly a welcome reminder that the pro-life movement has produced a genuine grassroots ecumenical dialogue. 

The protesters.
That's not to say that this “ecumenism of the trenches” is without its malcontents.  I encountered some of them at Encircle the Court.  To set the stage a bit,  Rev. Mahoney had asked we not bring signs, since this was about God, not politics.  We weren't protesters, per se: we were just concerned Christians and Americans who wanted to pray that God's will be done.  While we were praying around the court, we had the pro-Obamacare people in front of us, camped out and awaiting oral arguments.  By the end, we had some actual protesters with signage arrive. The signs ranged from the generic to the offensive (like a sign with an upside-down American flag saying, “Jail to the Chief”).  These protesters are part of a fringe of Evangelicalism that believes it's immoral to even protest abortion along with Catholics. Being in between these two groups (literally) was fascinating, since both sides disliked us, but for opposite reasons.

After the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the leader of the protesters spoke to us through a megaphone, saying, “You've just taken two steps forward and four steps back.  When you pray the Rosary, you're praying to Mary, and you shouldn't be surprised that God doesn't hear your prayers.” No matter that we had just prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet, not the Rosary; that there had been no prayers to Mary; and that Fr. Marcel had explained all of this a few moments before.  The protesters were here to express disdain for Catholics, as well as for those like Rev. Mahoney who would stand alongside us.

At this point, Rev. Mahoney went back to his microphone and announced that these folks had nothing to do with us, asking that we not speak to them or engage them.  By the time I left, it appeared that everyone had honored this request.  It was clear that the protesters were just a fringe, and that the overwhelming majority of the Protestants there felt comfortable at least praying the Lord's Prayer with us.

Andrea del Sarto, Madonna of the Harpies (detail) (1517)
It would be a mistake to view this as simply a marriage of convenience between two groups who will then go back to distrusting each other.  On the contrary, as Tim Perry, author of Mary for Evangelicalsexplains:
First, we must consider the impact of what Timothy George has called the “ecumenism of the trenches.” Over the last 35 years or so, evangelicals and Catholics have slowly come to appreciate how much we share in terms of morality, particularly in the thorny ethical problems surrounding the beginning and end of life, the definition of marriage, and the constructive role faith can and should play in the public realm. I think this has led to the establishment of grass roots friendships based on trust. To put the matter bluntly, theological disagreement takes on a whole new tone when you’re praying together in front of an abortion clinic. Key evangelical theologians and leaders like Timothy George, J. I. Packer, and Chuck Colson have used that trust wisely to engage in theological dialogue with Catholic theologians and leaders. Once such theological ties were established, it was only a matter of time before Mary came up. Since the third generation of the Reformation, she has personified every major doctrinal dispute, whether sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, or solo Christo.
There is, I think, great reason to be hopeful. Evangelicals are increasingly feeling comfortable acknowledging Catholics as Christians, and recognizing a common faith.  And this, as Perry acknowledges, is something of a first step that opens the doorway for authentic and meaningful Catholic-Evangelical dialogue.  Given this, I would not be surprised if God heals the wounds of the Reformation using the Roe v. Wade backlash, rather than relying on the work of joint theological commissions.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus to Carry the Cross

For the last fourteen days of Lent, I'm posting one Station of the Cross per day, taken from Pope John Paul II's 2003 Good Friday meditations, and Pope Benedict's 2005 Good Friday meditations, both delivered at the Colosseum.

FIFTH STATION: SIMON OF CYRENE HELPS JESUS TO CARRY THE CROSS

V. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi. [We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee.]
R. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum. [Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.]

Pope John Paul II

From the Gospel according to Mark. 15:21-22
They compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his Cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.

MEDITATION

Simon of Cyrene, called upon to carry the Cross (cf. Mk 15:21; Lk 23:26), doubtless had no wish to do so. He was forced to. He walked beside Christ, bearing the same burden. When the condemned man’s shoulders became too weak, he lent him his. He was very close to Jesus, closer than Mary, closer than John who - though he too was a man - was not called upon to help. They called on him, Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as we learn from the Gospel of Mark (Mk 15:21). They summoned him, they compelled him.

How long did he continue to resent being forced into this? How long did he continue to walk beside this condemned man, all the while making it clear that he had nothing in common with him, nothing to do with his crime, nothing to do with his punishment? How long did he go on like that, torn within himself, a barrier of indifference standing between him and the Man who was suffering? “I was naked, I was thirsty, I was in prison” (cf. Mt 25:35-36), I carried the Cross. “Did you carry it with me?” “Did you really carry it with me to the very end?”

We do not know. Saint Mark simply records the names of the Cyrenian’s sons, and tradition has it that they were members of the Christian community close to Saint Peter (cf. Rom 16:13).

ACCLAMATION

Christ, Good Samaritan, neighbour to the poor, the sick, the lowly. R. Christe, eleison.
Christ, Servant of the Eternal Father, you consider done to you every act of love towards the exile, the outcast, the stranger. R. Christe, eleison

Pope Benedict XVI
From the Gospel according to Matthew. 27:32; 16:24
As they went out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry his cross.

Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

MEDITATION

Fifth Station of the Cross, Saint-Jean-Baptiste au Béguinage
Simon of Cyrene is on his way home, returning from work, when he comes upon the sad procession of those condemned – for him, perhaps, it was a common sight. The soldiers force this rugged man from the country to carry the Cross on his own shoulders. How annoying he must have thought it to be suddenly caught up in the fate of those condemned men! He does what he must do, but reluctantly. Significantly, the Evangelist Mark does not only name him, but also his children, who were evidently known as Christians and as members of that community (cf. Mk 15:21). From this chance encounter, faith was born.

The Cyrenian, walking beside Jesus and sharing the burden of the Cross, came to see that it was a grace to be able to accompany him to his crucifixion and to help him. The mystery of Jesus, silent and suffering, touched his heart. Jesus, whose divine love alone can redeem all humanity, wants us to share his Cross so that we can complete what is still lacking in his suffering (cf. Col 1:24). Whenever we show kindness to the suffering, the persecuted and defenseless, and share in their sufferings, we help to carry that same Cross of Jesus. In this way we obtain salvation, and help contribute to the salvation of the world.

PRAYER

Lord, you opened the eyes and heart of Simon of Cyrene, and you gave him, by his share in your Cross, the grace of faith. Help us to aid our neighbors in need, even when this interferes with our own plans and desires. Help us to realize that it is a grace to be able to share the cross of others and, in this way, know that we are walking with you along the way. Help us to appreciate with joy that, when we share in your suffering and the sufferings of this world, we become servants of salvation and are able to help build up your Body, the Church.

Fifth Station of the Cross, (detail) Pfettisheim Saint Symphorian
Pater noster, ...
Quis est homo qui non fleret,
matrem Christi si videret
in tanto supplicio?


Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed by Thy Name
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our Daily Bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.


Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ's dear Mother to behold?