Monday, April 30, 2012

What the Magnificat Tells Us About Marian Veneration

One of the most beautiful prayers in the New Testament is the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), which tells of the holiness and mercy of God.  In that prayer, Mary proclaims (v. 46-49):
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
Mary's statement, “behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” is both prophetic (she's saying what will happen in the future, for all generations) and prescriptive (she's saying that this is what should happen, since she's saying it happens on account of the holiness of God).  Let's consider the Magnificat, then, both as a prescription, and a prophesy.

I. The Magnificat as a Prescription

The first point here is an obvious one: Mary is saying that all generations are right to call to her blessed, because God has done great things for her, and holy is His Name.  I brought this passage up to an Evangelical  I was speaking to recently, and asked how all generations call Mary blessed.  The person I was speaking to immediately conceded, that for Evangelicals, “we don't.”  A number of other Protestant converts have noticed the same thing:
Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato,
The Virgin in Prayer (1640s)
It was a startling paradigm shift to realize we treated her so allergically-and one which, I have since noticed, isn't unusual for converts. Dale Ahlquist, President of the American Chesterton Society, told me once that when he was still hanging back from the Church because of Mary, a blunt priest he knew asked him, “Do you believe her soul magnifies the Lord? It's right there in Scripture.” Ahlquist reflexively answered back, “Of course I do! I know the Bible!” But even as he replied he was thinking to himself, “I never really thought of that before.” It can be a disorienting experience. 
But, in fact, it is right there in the Bible. Her soul magnifies the Lord, and from that day to this all generations have called her blessed. So why, when we Evangelicals looked at Jesus, did we never look at Him through the divinely appointed magnifying glass? Why were we so edgy about calling her “blessed” and giving her any honor? That realization was my first clue that it was, perhaps, Catholics who were simply being normal and human in honoring Mary, while we Evangelicals were more like teetotalers fretting that far too much wine was being drunk at the wedding in Cana.
There are very few passages in the New Testament that explicitly address the way that future generations are to act. One of those passages is John 17:20-23, in which Jesus explicitly prays that the Church would remain One in subsequent generations. Another is this passage, calling all generations to bless Mary. To the point that Protestants can recognize that they're in violation of this call to honor Mary, it should be a wake-up call that perhaps they, rather than Catholics, are the ones with a Mary problem.


II. The Magnificat as a Prophesy

Virgin and Child with Balaam the Prophet,
Second century Marian art on the walls of the Catacombs.
The above point is one that I've heard before, and it's an important one.  But I think that there's another point, even more fundamental than the first, that gets overlooked. Mary isn't just saying that all generations should call her blessed.  She's saying that all generations will call her blessed.  That means that every generation, from the time of the Apostles up to the present, up to the end of time, has blessed Mary, or will bless Mary.

That's just taking the statement at face value, but consider: how did pre-Reformation Christians bless Mary?  There were no Evangelicals at the time, and so nobody within the Church treated Mary the way that Evangelicals treat her today. Christians were either Catholic or Orthodox, and we can say, as a matter of historical fact, that for several generations, Mary was blessed by several generations through Marian hymns, art, and prayers... the very things that Evangelicals object to.  These are ways that Catholics and Orthodox bless her still, down to the current generation.

We can know that the early Christians were strong believers in the Physical Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because their opponents used to accuse them of cannibalism.  Likewise, we can know that the Christians of the seventh century had a high view of Mary, because they were accused of being Mary-worshipers.  This is one of the charges leveled against us in the Qu'ran, for example.  The fifth chapter (or sura) of the Qu'ran is written as about, and then to, Christians.  Qu'ran 5:14 says,
A 6th century icon (a century before Muhammad)
depicting Mary and Jesus
And from those who say, “We are Christians” We took their covenant; but they forgot a portion of that of which they were reminded. So We caused among them animosity and hatred until the Day of Resurrection. And Allah is going to inform them about what they used to do.
One of the specific problems cited against Christians is that they allegedly worship both Jesus and Mary (Qu'ran 5:116):
And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, “O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?’” He will say, “Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen.”
Now, obviously, this grossly misrepresents Christianity.  We don't believe Jesus is a separate God from the Father, and we don't worship Mary at all.  But you can bet that if the seventh century Christians treated Mary the way that modern Evangelicals do, nobody would be accusing them of Mary-worship.  For that matter, let's not overlook the fact that the most common way that the Qu'ran refers to Jesus is as “Jesus, Son of Mary.” All of this suggests that Christians at the time took a very high view of Mary of the very sort that many Protestants object to today.

Now, this isn't a particularly controversial point.  No Protestant that I know denies that pre-Reformation Christians venerated Mary to a degree (and in a manner) that makes them uncomfortable.  But look at how Scripture treats the matter.  The Holy Spirit knows how future generations will honor and venerate Mary, and if He thought of this as blasphemous or idolatrous, it would be easy  to include a word of warning in Scripture against it.  But there's no such warning against Marian veneration.  Nor is the Holy Spirit silent on the matter of future Marian veneration, either.  God-breathed Scripture says, through the lips of Mary,  “behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” On what basis can Protestants now say that these prior generations were wrong to do so?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What Does the Book of James Say About Justification?

Perhaps no single doctrinal issue has caused more division between Catholics and Protestants than the question of justification, or how we are made righteous before God.  Catholic believe that we are justified by faith, but must cultivate this faith through good works done in obedience to God (what St. Paul calls the “obedience of faith,” in Romans 1:5 and Rom. 16:26).  Protestants, beginning with Martin Luther, insist that justification is by faith alone: that works play absolutely no role in justification.

Lucas Cranach the Elder,
Martin Luther (1520)
Unlike many modern Protestants, Martin Luther acknowledged that Catholics (or, as he put it, “papists”), taught that faith was the foundation of salvation. That is, he recognized that we weren't actually Pelagians, and that we don't believe that you can work your way to Heaven (as is often claimed today).  But he still thought Catholics were wrong, and perverting the Gospel.  Here's how Luther contrasted the Catholic and Protestant position on justification:
They [Catholics] admit that faith is the foundation of salvation. But they add the conditional clause that faith can save only when it is furnished with good works. This is wrong. The true Gospel declares that good works are the embellishment of faith, but that faith itself is the gift and work of God in our hearts. Faith is able to justify, because it apprehends Christ, the Redeemer.
So both sides agree on justification by faith, but disagree on justification by faith alone.  That may seem like a minute squabble, but understand that Luther saw this as not only the single most important debate in the Reformation, but a battle to preserve the Gospel itself.  He described the conflict in these terms:
Since our opponents will not let it stand that only faith in Christ justifies, we will not yield to them. On the question of justification we must remain adamant, or else we shall lose the truth of the Gospel. It is a matter of life and death.
Given Luther's radical emphasis on justification by faith alone, Christians (of all stripes) are often surprised to learn that Scripture uses the phrase “faith alone” exactly once.  Here it is, from James 2:24:
You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
This explicit declaration in Scripture, that we're not justified by faith alone, would seem to end the dispute, right? Heck, even Luther saw the Book of James as fatal to his views on justification, and tried to remove it from the Bible.

St. James
But Protestantism has survived.  Modern Protestants both proclaim justification by faith alone, and believe that the Book of James is God-breathed Scriptures.  So how do they rectify the apparent contradiction?

One way is by claiming that James is writing against a “mere profession” of faith, and that “James is combating justification by profession alone, not sola fide, in this chapter.”  In other words, where James explicitly criticizes his opponents for having faith alone (James 2:24), or faith without works (James 2:14, James 2:17, James 2:20, James 2:26), this interpretation assumes that what James really meant to say was that his opponents have the wrong kind of faith, or that they don't really have faith at all.

This is part of a broader Protestant trend to read James as distinguishing between saving faith, and whatever he's criticizing in James 2.  So, for example, Arthur Pink, in his work Studies on Saving Faith manages to devote a full chapter to the idea of “counterfeit faith,” without pointing to a single passage of Scripture actually distinguishing between saving and counterfeit faith. And as Jimmy Akin notes in an excellent article on the subject, several Protestant translations (including the NIV, RSV and CEV) have even added words to James 2:14 to make the chapter fit this view.

But there are several problems with this interpretation.  The first, and most obvious, is that James acknowledges that those he's criticizing have faith, and notes that even the demons have faith.  The second is that James compares their faith to his own, and to Abraham's, and to Rahab's.

(1) The Faith of the Demons

In James 2:19, St. James acknowledges:
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe -- and shudder.
In saying, “You believe that God is one; you do well,” James forever dispels the notion that his opponents are merely professing to hold a faith that they privately doubt or deny.  But in comparing their faith to that of the demon's, James is showing the insufficiency of faith.

Medieval Illustration of one of the
Exorcisms Performed by Jesus
The demons know God exists, because they've encountered Him in a way that we haven't.  In fact, in Mark's Gospel, the first to identify Christ as the Holy One of God (after God the Father Himself) are the demons.  We see this in Mark 1:23-26:
And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
And again, in Mark 1:35,
And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
The demons know better than anyone on Earth who Jesus is, and they also know what that means.  Nor do they apparently doubt His claims: the demons tremble, as James says: they flinch before Him in anticipation of being destroyed, as Mark 1:24 makes clear.

Put another way, the demons understand and believe who Christ is, but despite this knowledge, they choose to work against Him, rather than work for Him, and are justly damned as a result.  This would seem to prove James' point: that works are vital to justification.  What we do, how we respond to faith, matters.  When we're tempted with something sinful, for example, do we follow the One we know is Lord, or do we oppose Him?

(2) The Faith of Abraham

In James 2:18, St. James compares his opponents' faith to his own:
Rembrandt, Sacrifice of Isaac (1635)
Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 
If the demons are examples of those who have faith, but for whom it does no good, James also provides Abraham (James 2:21-24) and Rahab (James 2:25-26) are examples of those who have faith and who are saved.  And what's the difference between Abraham and Rahab, on the one hand, and the demons, on the other?  It's not that the demons are just pretending to believe in God, or anything of the sort.  It's how each side reacts to this belief.  As James explains, Abraham and Rahab by the works they perform in response to faith.  To wit:

  • Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?” (James 2:21)
  • And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” (James 2:25)

James isn't saying that works, apart from faith, save.  But he is saying that faith is “completed by works” (James 2:22), and insufficient in itself.

Rectifying James and Paul

How then, should we rectify this with all of the statements that St. Paul makes against works in Romans and Galatians?  The Protestant Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible explains:
When Paul says that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law (Romans 3:28), he plainly speaks of another sort of work than James does, but not of another sort of faith. Paul speaks of works wrought in obedience to the law of Moses, and before men's embracing the faith of the gospel; and he had to deal with those who valued themselves so highly upon those works that they rejected the gospel (as Romans 10:1-21, at the beginning most expressly declares); but James speaks of works done in obedience to the gospel, and as the proper and necessary effects and fruits of sound believing in Christ Jesus. Both are concerned to magnify the faith of the gospel, as that which alone could save us and justify us; but Paul magnifies it by showing the insufficiency of any works of the law before faith, or in opposition to the doctrine of justification by Jesus Christ; James magnifies the same faith, by showing what are the genuine and necessary products and operations of it.
Yes, yes, and a thousand times, yes. The sort of “works” that Paul is clearly obedience to the Mosaic Law, which is why he also refers to it as “works of the Law” (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16), “the Law” (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:21) and uses circumcision as an example of the inadequacy of the Law (Gal. 5:6).  In 1 Cor. 7:19, St. Paul actually contrasts circumcision with obedience to God's commands, saying:
Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.
So obedience to the Mosaic Law is meaningless for salvation, while obedience to “the law that requires faith” (Rom. 3:27) is not.  This interpretation certainly makes sense of Paul's references, in Romans 1:5 and Romans 16:16 to the “obedience of faith.”  Faith is the foundation of salvation, but we need to respond to that faith by obeying God.   From this perspective, James and Paul clearly speak with one voice: there's no contradiction, or even a real tension between the two.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Who Was St. Mark? The Story of a Soul.

Today is the Feast of St. Mark, celebrating one of the four Gospel writers.  What do we know about him from the Bible?

Matthias Stom,
The Evangelists Saint Mark and Saint Luke (detail) (1635)
The place we hear the most about him is in the Book of Acts.  St. Luke generally refers to him in Acts as “John, also called Mark” -- John is a Jewish name, while Mark (or Marcus) is a Roman name.  It's here, in the Book of Acts, that we learn that he's the son of a prominent Jerusalem Christian named Mary (Acts 12:12).  Mark's family appears to be wealthy.  His mother's house is large enough to serve as the meeting place for many Christians, and when Peter arrives at it, he knocks on the door of the pyl┼Źn, which Strong's defines as “a large gate: of a palace” or “the front part of a house, into which one enters through the gate, porch.”  It's Rhoda, a servant of Mary's, who answers the door (Acts 12:13).

Father Panula, in his homily today, pointed to an intriguing part of Mark's Gospel, Mark 10:17-23, which appears to be autobiographical:
And as he [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: `Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'"  And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth." 
And Jesus looking upon him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."  At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.   And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!"
This account appears in Matthew and Luke's Gospels as well (Mt. 19:16-23; Lk. 18:18-24), but Mark includes a unique detail: that Jesus looked upon the man, and loved him.  The intimacy of this detail, coupled with the fact that we know Mark was a rich young man, makes it likely that the man was Mark himself.  Later, after telling of Jesus' arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Mark adds (Mark 14:51-52),
A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him,  he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
Again, Mark's is the only Gospel to mention this detail, and again, it's probably autobiographical. In fact, it appears to be the main reason to include this detail at all.

Paolo Veronese, Barnabas Curing the Sick (1566)
After the Resurrection, St. Peter comes to his mother's house (Acts 12:12-19), as I mentioned above.  Some time later, Mark joins St. Paul and St. Barnabas on their mission (Acts 12:25), and Acts 13:5 explains that he was there “to assist them.”  However, in Pamphylia, he deserted them, and went back to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13).  St. Mark gets back up from this third abandonment, but it causes some lingering damage, particularly to the relationship between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-40):
And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Come, let us return and visit the brethren in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are." And Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 
But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphyl'ia, and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp contention, so that they separated from each other; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.
In Colossians 4:10, St. Paul mentions an Evangelizer named Mark that he describes as Barnabas' cousin, and it's probably the same Mark. Certainly, this might explain why the dispute over whether or not to bring Mark along would be of such importance to Barnabas and Paul.  It's while accompanying Barnabas that Mark founds the Church at Alexandria, one of the greatest of the early Christian churches.

Jusepe Leonardo, Saint Mark (1630)
Mark ends up bravely following St. Peter to Rome, the heart of the Empire trying to destroy the Christians.  We know this from the way that Peter sends regards from the Roman Church in 1 Peter 5:13, “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.”  Irenaeus tells us that in Rome, Mark served as the “disciple and interpreter of Peter,” leading him to “hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.” That writing, of course, is the Gospel of Mark.

It's also here in Rome that Mark seems to have made amends with St. Paul.  In Colossians 4:10, during St. Paul's first imprisonment in Rome (see Acts 28:16), he seems to send Mark to the Christians of Colossae, writing, “Aristar'chus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions -- if he comes to you, receive him).” Later, Paul would write to Timothy, in 2 Timothy 4:11, “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”  

Eventually, we know from tradition that Mark's life ends well.  In addition to founding the Church in Alexandria, Egypt (mentioned above), he served as bishop, and it was there that he was martyred for the faith.  But it's fascinating to see how much of a struggle the Christian life was for him, particularly early on: how often he set out to chase the Gospel, chickened out, and ran away.  To his great credit, he never let these failures keep him down, turning back to God after every time he failed.  And for this, he's commemorated today.  May he be an inspiration to those of us who similarly struggle with cowardice in the faith.  Happy Feast Day of Saint Mark!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Gay Marriage, Incest, and Polygamy

One of the most often-mocked arguments in the debate over “gay marriage” is the argument that permitting gay marriage leads to permitting incestuous marriages, polygamy, and the like.  The  problem is, the argument is solid, and I've yet to hear a coherent answer for it.  For example, Jon Davidson evades the argument, rather than answering it:
Jon Davidson
Bringing up polygamy and incest is simply a dodge -- an attempt to distract people from the injustice of denying same-sex couples the same opportunity to marry that different-sex couples want to preserve for themselves. That others might argue that they want to marry their relatives or have multiple legal spouses requires that those arguments be separately evaluated; it doesn't make the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage right.
So advocates of traditional marriage are right to bring up polygamy and incest. Consider two hypotheticals:

  1. Harry and Larry are homosexual twin brothers, and want to marry.  Should they be permitted to?  Why or why not?
  2. Gary, Harry and Larry are homosexual triplets, and want to marry.  Should they be permitted to?  Why or why not?
All of this is a long way around of asking, if two men can marry, why does it matter if they’re brothers? And why does it matter that there be only two of them?

Historically, the answer to both of the above hypos would be that no, they shouldn't be allowed to marry.  Marriage has been classically understood to be tied to reproduction, and regulated by traditional morality, and the notion of same-sex marriage isn't just forbidden, but literally impossible, like arguing for the legality of four-sided triangles.  Additionally, on the grounds of public morality, incest and polygamy are forbidden.

But the entire argument behind the gay marriage debate is that public morality is an insufficient basis to preserve traditional marriage, and that marriage must therefore be redefined.  But the argument that public morality is an insufficient basis to preserve traditional marriage is of momentous importance.  

After all, there's no risk of genetic deformity in the case of homosexual incest, precisely because the partners are incapable of consummating their “marriage.”  And assuming that they're twin (or triplets), the risk of coerced marriage seems minuscule - at least, no higher than in any other context. So why shouldn't incestuous and polygamous marriages be permitted, if gay marriage is?  

It would seem that the only compelling reason to forbid incest and polygamy is public morality.  Yet that's the very cultural lifeline that gay marriage advocates are seeking to destroy.  So, it's not a dodge at all for advocates of traditional marriage to raise the issue of incest and polygamy.  On the other hand, it's Davidson, and other gay marriage advocates, who are left dodging, or providing facile answers to these question.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Which Books Were in Early Christian Bibles?

What canon of Scripture did the earliest Christians use?  A Protestant going by the handle Lojahw (Lover of Jesus and His word) argues that it was the modern Protestant Bible.  Specifically, he claimed that:
Bartolomeo Cavarozzi, St. Jerome in His Study (1617)
There were at least nine church fathers from the second through the fourth centuries who endorsed the shorter canon: six explicitly listed Esther, including Jerome and Rufinus, who agreed book-for-book with the Protestant canon.
I called him out on this claim, because it's demonstrably untrue (as we'll soon see).  He provided his list of nine Fathers, and sure enough, none of the nine actually agreed Book-for-Book.  The line he listed were: Melito, Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, Hilary of Poitiers, Athanasius, Gregory Nazianzus, Epiphanius, Rufinus, and Jerome. He also added the (possibly spurious) 60th canon of the Council of Laodicea. I pointed out that none of these actually used the Protestant canon, and he fell back to this position:
Joe, Your point is well taken that my wording was sloppy, but it is true that there is no way to rationally reconcile the canons listed by the church fathers with any other imagined “competing” Jewish canon prior to Augustine. The fact that all those church fathers attested to the same 22 books with minor variations (picture a target with lots of arrows close to the bulls-eye, but only 1 in the very center – can you not figure out what the archers were aiming at?)
So can we use a “bulls-eye” approach? Let's take a look.  I've compiled a chart of the various canons used by the early Church Fathers.  I've seen a similar chart compiled for the New Testament canon, so it's only fitting to get the facts right on the Old Testament canon.

Below that, I've compared it with the Catholic canon (which agrees with the canons of Scripture assembled by St. Augustine, Jerome's Vulgate, and the Third Council of Carthage) and the Protestant canon (which agrees with none of the Patristic canons).  My point is that no one, looking at the top half of the chart, would assemble the Protestant canon.  There's simply no circle formed around the bulls-eye of the Protestant Bible.

Es To Ju La Ba Ep Wi Si 1M 2M GE 151
Amphilochius N N N ? ? ? N N N N N N
Athanasius N N N Y Y Y N N N N N N
Augustine Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N N ***
Carthage Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N N
Cyril Y N N Y Y Y N N N N N N
Jerome Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N N ***
John Dama. Y N N ? ? ? ? ? N N ? ?
Laodicea Y N N Y Y Y N N N N N N
Melito N N N ? ? ? N N N N Y Y
Origen Y N N Y Y Y N N ? ?N N ***
Rufinus Y N N ? ? ? N N N N N N
Synopsis N N N ? ? ? N NN N Y Y
Catholic Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N N
Protestant Y N N Y N N N N  N N N N

*** Denotes that the Father described widespread use of the Deuterocanon in Church.

If you're wondering what those acronyms stand for, here's a Book listing, along with which churches today accept each Book:


Acronym Book Name Who Considers it Canonical Today?
Es Esther Everyone
To Tobit Catholics and Orthodox
Ju Judith Catholics and Orthodox
La Lamentations Everyone
Ba Baruch Catholics and Orthodox
Ep Epistle of Jeremiah (Baruch 6)
Catholics and Orthodox
Wi Wisdom
Catholics and Orthodox
Si Sirach
Catholics and Orthodox
1M First Book of Maccabees
Catholics and Orthodox
2M Second Book of Maccabees Catholics and Orthodox
Ge “Greek Esdras” Orthodox
151 Psalm 151 Orthodox

So, no, you can't deduce the Protestant canon via a bulls-eye approach, even one that cherry-picks the best Patristic evidence.  For example, apparently none of the Fathers accept Lamentations, while rejecting Baruch.  In fact, there seems to be a stronger case for including Baruch (including the Epistle) than for including the Book of Esther, which was expressly rejected by several Fathers.


The Widespread Practice of the Church
Many of the short canons cited by Lojahw may be Church Fathers listing the Books the Jews found canonical, rather than the Christians.  For example, Origen says, “The twenty-two books of the Hebrews are the following…”  You'll note that I put asterisks next to certain Fathers (in the right-most column).  These are Church Fathers who testify that the Dueterocanonical Books were in widespread use in the early Church:
  • Origen's own Hexapla contained side-by-side versions of various translations of Scriptures, and included the Deuterocanon, which suggests he accepted them as canonical.  More explicitly, he elsewhere endorsed and defended various Deuterocanonical Books.  He argued for the inspiration of the longer (Catholic) version of the Book of Daniel against Sextus Julius Africanus.  Both Africanus and Origen appealed to the (Book of Tobit in the course of this dispute, and Origen acknowledged that, while it's not found in the Jewish version of the Old Testament, he accepted it, since “the Churches use Tobias.”  So citing him as a pre-Augustinian Father against the Dueterocanon is completely wrong and misleading.

  • The Council of Carthage, a regional North African Council, follows an earlier regional Council, called the Synod of Hippo, in endorsing the Catholic canon.  While we no longer have records of what happened at Hippo, this adds one more to the list.

  • Sandro Botticelli,
    Saint Augustine in His Study (1480)
  • St. Augustine explained that the canon wasn't based on his own opinion, but upon the widespread practice of the Catholic Church.  He introduced the list of the Books of the Bible by writing:
Now, in regard to the canonical Scriptures, he must follow the judgment of the greater number of catholic churches; and among these, of course, a high place must be given to such as have been thought worthy to be the seat of an apostle and to receive epistles. Accordingly, among the canonical Scriptures he will judge according to the following standard: to prefer those that are received by all the catholic churches to those which some do not receive.  
St. Augustine then proceeds to list the full and exact Catholic canon as Scripture.
  • Jerome, whose views on the canon I've discussed before, argued against the Deuterocanonical Books, but seems to have believed that the LXX version of the Old Testament (which contained the Deuterocanon) was a divinely inspired translation.  He also argued in favor of the longer Catholic version of the Book of Daniel.  Most importantly, on the question of the canon, he deferred to the “judgment of the churches,” and translated the full Bible (including the Deuterocanon) into Latin, in the famous Vulgate translation.
Lojahw's theory appears to be that Augustine is the first to treat the Deuterocanon as Scripture, and that earlier Fathers used something like the Protestant  Bible.  The record proves quite the opposite.  Apparently nobody used the Protestant canon of Scripture, while the acceptance of the Deuterocanon appears to have been widespread long before St. Augustine. By the way, I've included links in the chart above.  Feel free to double-check my work, and I welcome criticism in the comments section below. I think it's important that we put to definitively rest this question of whether the early Christians used the Protestant Bible.  If Protestants are right that (a) Jesus Christ intended us to use the 66-Book Protestant Bible, (b) that the Protestant Old Testament was the well-established canon by the time of Christ,  and/or (c) that the Protestant canon of Scripture can be easily deduced by Christians, it should be easy to find records of the early faithful using the Protestant Bible.  If not a single early Christian can be found using the Protestant canon, it would certainly appear that (a), (b), and (c) are false.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Big News ...

From left: Archbishop Naumann, Pope Benedict,
Fr. Brian Schieber and Fr. Gary Pennings
I wanted to take this opportunity to let blog readers know about a big change in my own life that could have an impact on the blog.  I've been accepted as a seminarian by the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas.  My last day with the law firm is Friday, May 4.  After that, I'll be headed off to Olathe, Kansas, to help out around the Archdiocese over the summer. God willing, I'll start pre-theology at Kenrick, in St. Louis, Missouri, in the fall.

I'm incredibly excited for what the future holds, and wanted to share two things in particular related to this blog.  First, the parish I'll be helping out in is Prince of Peace, under the watchful eye of one Fr. Andrew Strobl, Shameless Popery's clerical anchor.  That's not a coincidence, but an example of the largesse of my vocations director, Fr. Mitchel Zimmerman (who, I should add, is a blogger himself). Fr. Andrew has been a great spiritual mentor to me over the years, and I look forward to all that I can learn from him.

The second thing I'm excited for is the text that I got today, from Fr. Andrew, asking:
Is it OK if I call the apologetics series we're doing this summer at the parish “Shameless Popery”?
Seriously... so excited!  (I said yes, of course).

Flannery O'Connor on the Eucharist and Church History

I know I've posted this before, but I'm struck at how beautifully Flannery O'Connor expressed herself regarding both the Eucharist and Church history.  First, she famously had this to say of the Eucharist, as recounted in a letter she wrote in December of 1955:
Flannery O'Connor
I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater.  (She just wrote that book, A Charmed Life).  She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual.  We went at eight and at one, I hadn't opened my mouth once, there being nothing for me in such company to say.  The people who took me were Robert Lowell and his now wife, Elizabeth Hardwick.  Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequacy had forgotten them. 
Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.
This touches on a point that I find fascinating.  I find that while Protestants tend to overestimate the importance of our differences on justification, there's a tendency to underestimate the importance of our different understandings of the Eucharist.  Understanding this difference as one of degree (whether Christ is spiritually or physically Present) would be as misleading as supposing that it was just a difference of degrees between Arianism (which said that Christ was of a similar substance as the Father) and Catholicism (Christ is of the same substance as the Father).  In the case of Arianism, it's the difference between Jesus Christ being God or not.  In the case of Protestantism, it's the difference between the Eucharist being Jesus Christ or not.  For us, the Eucharist is everything, period.

On a related note, Flannery O'Connor succinctly pointed out the illogical ecclesiology and Church history within Protestantism, in a July 1959 letter to one Dr. T.R. Spivey:
We mean entirely different things when we each say we believe the Church is Divine. You mean the invisible Church with somehow related to it many forms, whereas I mean one and one only visible Church. It is not logical to the Catholic to believe that Christ teaches through many visible forms all teaching contrary doctrine. You speak of the well-known facts of Christ’s life – but these facts are hotly contested – the virgin birth, the resurrection, the very divinity of Christ. For us the one visible Church pronounces on these matters infallibly and we receive her doctrine whether subjectively it fits in with our surmises or not. We believe that Christ left the Church to speak for him, that it speaks with his voice, that he is the head and we are the members. 
Juan de Juanes, The Last Supper (1560)
If Christ actually teaches through many forms then for fifteen centuries, he taught that the Eucharist was his actual body and blood and thereafter he taught part of his people that it was only a symbol. The Catholic can’t live with this contradiction. I have seen it said that the Catholic is more interested in truth and the Protestant in goodness, but I don’t think too much of the formula except that it suggests a partial truth. 
The Catholic finds it easier to understand the atheist than the Protestant, but easier to love the Protestant than the atheist. The fact is though now that the fundamental Protestants, as far as doctrine goes, are closer to their traditional enemy, the Church of Rome, than they are to the advanced elements of Protestantism. You can know where I stand, what I believe because I am a practicing Catholic, but I can’t know what you believe unless I ask you. You are right that enjoy is not exactly the right word for our talking about religion. As far as I know, it hurts like nothing else. We are at least together in the pain we share in this terrible division. It’s the Catholic Church who calls you “separated brethren,” she who feels the awful loss.
I had to fight the impulse to put every sentence in bold, because she manages to capture everything I could say in a few short paragraphs.  She points out the inherent contradictions within Protestantism, sees the brewing chaos within mainline Protestant (back in 1959!), and yet, she's not triumphalistic about it, but pained.  As much as I love Flannery's writings for her sharp wit and keen insights, the most beautiful thing to emerge from her writings is a true Christian love for the Eucharist and for her neighbor, even for those she disagreed with.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Understanding Christ's Resurrected Body

Caravaggio, Supper at Emmaus (1601)
This Sunday's Gospel involves one of the Easter Sunday appearances of Jesus Christ to the Disciples. It starts out with the two disciples from the road to Emmaus returning to describe how “Jesus was made known to themin the breaking of bread,” an obvious Eucharistic reference. But in the midst of this discussion, Christ appears (Lk. 24:36-43):
While they were still speaking about this, He stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, He asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; He took it and ate it in front of them.
This passage is fascinating, because it tells us quite a bit about the nature of Christ's Resurrected Body.  Jesus is really clear that He's not an immaterial ghost. He shows the Disciples His wounds, encourages them to touch Him, and physically eats in their presence (an event which would later be important in debunking the idea that the Disciples somehow collectively hallucinated Him).  We see something similar a week later, as John 21:24-29 reports:
Caravaggio, The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (1602)
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Here, He literally has St. Thomas put his hand in Jesus' wounded side.  His Body is clearly more than physical.  He's able to materialize in the locked room, and He disappeared from the sight of the two disciples at Emmaus in Luke 24:31.  But while His spiritual Body is more than physical, it's not less.  That is, the glorification of His Body doesn't involve His Material Body being destroyed, only made somehow greater than it had been.

The Incarnation, the Resurrection, and the Sacraments

Notice how beautiful the scenes above are, in which Christ has the Disciples see and touch His wounds.  He doesn't scold the Disciples (whose last encounter with Him, it should be recalled, involved all but one of them abandoning Him), but just shows them the physical signs of how much He loves them.  That's what a sacrament is, at heart: a physical manifestation of the love of God for us.

Christ's glorified Body is the first fruits of what our own bodies will be like in the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:21-23, 42-50):
Luca Signorelli, Resurrection of the Flesh (1500)
For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. [...]
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.  It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.

Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven.

Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Noel Coypel, The Resurrection of Christ (1700)
St. Paul's use of “flesh” (both here and elsewhere) was used by the Gnostics to claim that while the spirit is good, matter is evil.  This heresy is incredibly dangerous, because if flesh is inherently evil, then what to make of the Incarnation?  We would have to say either that Christ was tainted by sin, or that He didn't really take on our flesh.  In either case, this would render the Atonement false.

Fortunately, that's not the sense in which Paul means “flesh,” though.  When Paul contrasts “spirit” and “flesh,” he's really talking about where our mind and heart is: whether we're seeking after the things of Heaven, or obsessed with earthly pleasures (Romans 8:5-9). So Paul doesn't condemn our fleshly bodies, but does talk about how they need to be enhanced, spiritually.  He makes this clearest in Romans 8:23, in speaking of the resurrection as the awaited “redemption of our bodies.”  Our bodies aren't evil things to be discarded, but weak things to be upgraded.

And in fact, read carefully, that's the same thing he's saying here.  He's not suggesting we throw our old bodies away, but that our bodies, “sown” in the grave, are raised in the resurrection in a glorified form, not unlike the metamorphosis that as a caterpillar undergoes in becoming a butterfly. So the resurrection isn't the vanquishing of the fleshly and the material, but their redemption.

I mention this, because understanding this is key to understanding the sacraments.  In 1 Cor. 10:1-4, St. Paul says this:
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
The Gathering of Manna (c. 1465)
He's talking about the manna that the Israelites ate in the desert, and the water that they drank from the Rock. But notice: this spiritual food and drink was also physical food and drink.  By this point, a picture should begin to emerge:

  • Christ's Resurrection spiritual Body isn't a ghostly Body, but a physical Body that could be touched (and with which He could eat);
  • Our spiritual bodies are glorified versions of our own physical bodies;
  • The spiritual food and drink the Israelites ate and drank were physical food and drink.
All of this is relevant in discussing the sacraments, since it's a huge stumbling block for some Protestants to imagine God's grace working through physical actions.  Physical things, like the Eucharist and Baptism, are viewed to be symbolic, precisely because they're material.  And the notion of using something like a relic seems blasphemous.  

At heart, this tendency is Gnostic, and it runs directly counter to the Incarnation.  Plus, take even a basic look at Christ's public ministry, and you'll see how often He heals through physical contact.  I'll just take a few of the more extreme examples:
  1. Jesus heals a man's blindness by spitting into the dirt, and rubbing the resultant mud in the man's eyes (John 9:6), then having him wash in the Pool of Siloam (John 9:7);
  2. Jesus heals a deaf-mute man by putting His fingers in his ears, then spitting and touching the man's tongue (Mark 7:33)
  3. Jesus spits directly on a man's eyes, and then lays hands on him twice, to cure him of blindness (Mark 8:23-25)
  4. A woman is healed by simply touching the hem of Jesus' garment (Lk. 8:40-48).
  5. Jesus Christ died on the Cross for us, “being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).
That last one, of course, is a big deal.  If physical things are merely symbolic, not spiritual, the Passion of Christ was for nothing.  Why treat Baptism and the Passion any differently?  

Duccio, The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (1461)
One final note: the Resurrection doesn't undo the Incarnation, it brings the Incarnation to its completion by glorifying the flesh.  That's why Christ having the Disciples see and feel and touch His wounds is so important. And it's why we see the Apostles continue to manifest the Incarnation in a very sacramental way throughout their own ministry: even Peter's shadow (Acts 5:15) and Paul's handkerchief (Acts 19:11-12) heal people.

Understanding Christ's Incarnation, and particularly His Resurrected Body, is tied to understanding the sacraments.  It should come as no surprise, then that those Reformers who rejected the Catholic understanding of sacraments tended to also have a deeply misguided view of the nature of Christ's Resurrection Body.  For example, Calvin argued that Christ probably moved the stone guarding the Tomb, rather than walking through it, and he denied that Jesus could penetrate through solid matter or could disappear.

So it's important that we pay close attention in these weeks after Easter, and learn about the nature of Christ's Body, and both what it entails for our own bodies, and what it signifies about the manner in which God uses the material worlds as paints for His canvas of grace.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What Should Christians Think About Adoptive Parenting?

Guido Reni,
Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus (1635)
A week ago, a Democratic lobbyist named Hilary Rosen said that Mitt Romney's wife Ann “has actually never worked a day in her life,” since she's a stay-at-home mom. A lot of people, particularly stay-at-home parents, were understandably upset. But that doesn't justify the response of the Catholic League, via Twitter, claiming that adoptive motherhood isn't real motherhood:
Lesbian Dem Hilary Rosen tells Ann Romney she never worked a day in her life. Unlike Rosen, who had to adopt kids, Ann raised 5 of her own.
And while Rosen has apologized, Catholic League refuses to, and just sends out more defensive tweets, instead. I would have been more shocked at this sentiment, if I hadn't recently heard something even worse from a Protestant commenter calling himself MackQuigly.  In response to a post I wrote on why the Marian doctrines matter, MackQuigly responded:
She [Mary] wasn't perfect - she even lied publicly about who Christ's father was - Luke 2:48.
It's the same argument: that adoptive parents aren't really parents.  What's weird about all of this is that both of the speakers here are professed Christians, and Christianity has some really clear things to say about adoptive parenting.  Let's review.

  1. Jesus Christ was adopted.  Obviously, given the Virgin Birth  (Mt. 1:23; Lk. 1:34), Jesus doesn't have a biological father.  So God entrusts Jesus to the care of St. Joseph, who is responsible for, amongst other things, naming Him “Jesus” (Mt. 1:21, 25).

  2. James Tissot, Jesus Found in the Temple (1890)
  3. St. Joseph is considered Jesus' father.  Ironically, the very passage that MackQuigly uses to “prove” that Mary lied about Jesus' paternity begins this way:  “Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover” (Lk. 2:41), and then says that when Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem,”  “His parents did not know it” (Lk. 2:43; see also Lk. 2:27).  In the passage immediately preceding this one, Luke is even more explicit, saying that Jesus' “father and His mother marveled at what was said about Him” (Lk. 2:33).  So Scripture is clear that, as His adoptive father, St. Joseph is Jesus' father.  And the young Jesus Christ responds accordingly, submitting to the authority of both Mary and Joseph (Lk. 2:51).

  4. Messianic Prophesies are fulfilled through St. Joseph's lineage. St. Matthew's Gospel opens on this line: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mt. 1:1).  The Old Testament promised that the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham and of David, so Matthew's explaining how Jesus fulfills this.  What's remarkable is that he measures the genealogy from Abraham down to “Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah” (Mt. 1:16).  That is, he traces Joseph's family tree, even though Jesus was likely a descendant of Abraham and David through Mary's lineage as well.

  5. Christ teaches that biological fatherhood isn't the only source of fatherhood. When certain Jewish interlocutors claim to be sons of Abraham (which they are in a biological sense), Christ rejects this notion of sonship, since they don't follow the way of Abraham (John 8:31-47).  This ties in with the general pattern of the New Testament prioritizing spiritual fatherhood, the same reason we call priests father, or that St. Paul calls himself Timothy's father through the Gospel (1 Cor 4:15).
    Henrik Olrik, Sermon on the Mount (19th c.)

  6. We are sons of God through adoption.  Ephesians 1:5 says that God the Father “predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”  Jesus is the only-Begotten Son of the Father (John 3:16), while we are His sons and daughters through adoption.  We dare to pray the “Our Father” (Mt. 6:9) only because we believe that adoptive Fatherhood is true Fatherhood.

  7. The Church has a Patron Saint for Adoptive Children.  It's St. William of Perth, himself an adoptive father.
So if you want to take the Catholic League / MackQuigly view that adoptive parenting isn't real parenting, you have to do more than just reject the clear teaching of Scripture.  You would have to reject your own adoption as a child of God, a truly grave prospect.  Otherwise, I think whoever runs Catholic League's twitter needs to apologize for an uncharitable and un-Catholic sentiment, and move on.

For a palate cleanser, here are a couple of great Catholic blogs from the perspective of adoptive parents: Just Showing Up, and He Adopted Me First.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Why Bishops Don't Say, "The Lord be With You"

When we switched to the new translation of the Mass this past Advent, much was said about the fact that now, when the priest says, “The Lord be with you,” we respond, “and with your spirit,” instead of “and also with you.”  In a 2005 newsletter announcing this change, the USCCB explained:
Eugeniusz Kazimirowski,
Divine Mercy (1934)
Where does this dialogue come from?
The response et cum spiritu tuo is found in the Liturgies of both East and West, from the earliest days of the Church. One of the first instances of its use is found in the Traditio Apostolica of Saint Hippolytus, composed in Greek around AD 215. 
How is this dialogue used in the Liturgy?
The dialogue is only used between the priest and the people, or exceptionally, between the deacon and the people. The greeting is never used in the Roman Liturgy between a non-ordained person and the gathered assembly.

Why does the priest mean when he says “The Lord be with you”?
By greeting the people with the words “The Lord be with you,” the priest expresses his desire that the dynamic activity of God’s spirit be given to the people of God, enabling them to do the work of transforming the world that God has entrusted to them.

What do the people mean when they respond “and with your spirit”?
The expression et cum spiritu tuo is only addressed to an ordained minister. Some scholars have suggested that spiritu refers to the gift of the spirit he received at ordination. In their response, the people assure the priest of the same divine assistance of God’s spirit and, more specifically, help for the priest to use the charismatic gifts given to him in ordination and in so doing to fulfill his prophetic function in the Church.
Abp. Boglio celebrating Mass aboard the USS Nimitz
What you may not have known, though, is that bishops don't say “The Lord be with you.”  Instead, they say,  “Peace be with you” (Pax vobiscum).  I'd wondered why, but never read up on this.  Yesterday, I learned the answer.

Since it was Divine Mercy Sunday, I went to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where Abp. Broglio of the Archdiocese of Military Services was celebrating a special Mass entrusting the men and women of the armed services to Jesus.

He began with the “Peace be with you,” and then explained that this comes from the Hebrew greeting Shalom, but more particularly, from the manner in which Jesus uses it.  Yesterday's Gospel saw Him use this greeting three times (John 20:19-21, 26):
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." [....]

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you."
This greeting, according to the NAB footnotes, is tied to Christ's promise to leave us His Peace (John 19:27).     With that in mind, consider these instructions from St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing c. 107 A.D. to the Smyrnaeans:
Raphael, Christ Blessing (1505)
Flee from schism as the source of mischief. You should all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ did the Father. Follow, too, the presbytery as you would the apostles; and respect the deacons as you would God's law. Nobody must do anything that has to do with the Church without the bishop's approval. You should regard that Eucharist as valid which is celebrated either by the bishop or by someone he authorizes.  Where the bishop is present, there let the congregation gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. Without the bishop's supervision, no baptisms or love feasts are permitted. On the other hand, whatever he approves pleases God as well. In that way everything you do will be on the safe side and valid.  It is well for us to come to our senses at last, while we still have a chance to repent and turn to God. It is a fine thing to acknowledge God and the bishop. He who pays the bishop honor has been honored by God. But he who acts without the bishop's knowledge is in the devil's service.
St. Ignatius was a student of the Apostle John, and this text shows that, contrary to modern claims about the rise of the Catholic Church, an incredibly high view of the clergy (and specifically, the episcopacy) existed from the Apostolic age.

But it does more than that.  It also shows why it's fitting that the bishop should greet us with the words of Christ, while the priests use the words of the Apostles (), a subtle reminder that the bishop along enjoys the fullness of the sacrament of holy orders, being more perfectly configured to the Person of Jesus Christ than even a priest.  And finally, it's a nice reminder at the painstaking and loving manner in which the Mass is imbued with layers upon layers of meaning: that even something as simple as the form of greeting should speak volumes about the Church's sacramental understanding, and to call to mind, from the first moment of the Mass, Jesus and the Apostles.