Monday, May 30, 2011

Why Not "Open Communion"?

A good article on the Orthodox perspective of the Eucharist.

Why Not "Open Communion"?
Written by the Very Rev. John Breck

Especially at the feast of Pascha (Easter) non-Orthodox Christians ask why they may not receive Holy Communion in Orthodox parishes.  As painful as this refusal is, it is based on our understanding of the true meaning of the sacrament as revealed in Scripture and ecclesial experience.

A few months ago someone sent me a posting from an Internet site that spoke to the issue of communion among various Christian confessions.  In answer to the question why a Protestant believer was refused the sacrament at Easter in her boyfriend’s Catholic parish, the writer declared that non-Catholics do not believe in "the presence of God’s body in the transubstantiated host."  Therefore, "they cannot take communion."

Then the writer added: "There is just one exception to this rule.  Orthodox Christians (such as Greek Orthodox Christians) may take communion in all Roman Catholic Churches.  The reason for this is that Orthodox Christianity also teaches the actual presence of God in the host."

This widespread understanding of the matter is not accurate and needs to be corrected on several counts, theological as well as pastoral.
  An entire tome could be written by way of explanation, but here are a few of the most important elements.  In the next two columns we’ll explore some others.

In the first place, we need to acknowledge that many Protestant Christians (including many Anglicans) do believe that Holy Communion offers them a true participation in Christ’s Body and Blood.  They may not articulate that belief as Catholics or Orthodox would like; but their faith in Christ’s "real presence in the Eucharist" is genuine and should not be disparaged or denied.

Then again, Orthodox Eucharistic theology does not explain the change of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ as a result of "transubstantiation," the teaching that the "accidents" (visible properties) of the elements remain unaltered, while their "substance" or inner essence becomes the actual Body and Blood.  Orthodox tradition speaks of "change" or "transformation," (metamorphôsis; in the Eucharistic Divine Liturgy metabalôn, "making the change") but always with a concern to preserve the mystery from the probings of human reason.  It also speaks of the Body and Blood of the glorified Christ, making the point that our communion is in the personal being of the Resurrected and Exalted Lord, and not in the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus, torn and shed on the Cross.  The incarnate Jesus and the risen Christ are certainly one and the same Person ("Jesus Christ is Lord," the apostle Paul declares in Philippians 2:11).  But our communion is in the radically transformed reality of the risen Christ, who ascended into heaven and makes Himself accessible to us through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit within the Church.

Another point needs to be stressed.  It is true that Orthodox Christians are considered by some Catholic priests to be eligible to receive communion in their parishes; but this practice is not formally sanctioned by the Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the Holy Office or Magisterium).  On the other hand, the Orthodox Churches, united above all by their Eucharistic faith and practice, accept to communion only baptized Orthodox Christians, and then, theoretically, only when they have prepared themselves by prayer, by appropriate fasting, and -- in most traditions -- by confession of sins.  In addition, Orthodox bishops and other teachers make clear to their faithful that they can only properly receive communion from a canonically ordained priest or bishop within the context of the traditional Orthodox Divine Liturgy (which includes communion taken to the sick).

It is hardly enough, though, simply to state that the Orthodox do not teach "transubstantiation" (despite the term’s appearance in some of our liturgical books) and, if they are faithful to their tradition, do not receive communion outside of their own Church.  There is also the crucial matter of "ecclesial identity."  No Orthodox Christian receives Holy Communion in isolation.  We are incorporated into a universal community of persons, both living and departed, whose common faith and practice unite them in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.  Our existence in the Body of Christ, our ecclesial identity as Orthodox Christians, is such that we represent the Church in all that we are and do.  If I defy the ordinances of my ecclesial tradition and receive communion in another Church, or as a priest welcome a non-Orthodox believer to receive the Eucharist in my parish, I am acting in violation of my own tradition, to which I have committed myself before God.  And because of my solidarity with all other members of the Orthodox Church, I am implicitly involving them in my act of disobedience.

The real issue, however, is not one of obedience or disobedience to rules and regulations. 
If the Orthodox preserve the sanctity of the Eucharist as a supreme obligation, it is because of the often stated truth that communion in the Body and Blood of Christ is the very end or fulfillment of Christian existence.  It can not, for example, be reduced to a means by which to achieve "Christian unity."  (In any case, Church history has made it clear that sharing of Communion among Churches of conflicting theological teachings never results in lasting unity.)

The Eucharist is life itself.  It is the life of Christ that enables us to live our life in Christ.  To participate in the Eucharist as we are called to do requires our acceptance of a doctrinal attitude and commitment that is specifically "orthodox," grounded in the Scriptures and transmitted through the ages under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  It requires as well acceptance of an ascetic discipline, which includes personal prayer, liturgical celebration, fasting, confession of sins, and acts of charity: the ingredients of a life of repentance and of an ongoing quest for holiness.  And it requires that we honor our particular "ecclesial identity," together with submission to ecclesial authority represented above all by our bishops: persons canonically ordained and established, who are called by their actions and teachings to preserve and transmit the truth of the Orthodox faith while maintaining a bond of unity within the Body of Christ.  A unity grounded not in power but in mutual respect and fraternal love, shared by all members of the Church.

From this perspective, "open communion" -- the welcoming of non-Orthodox to share in the Eucharistic celebration -- is simply not possible without undermining the very meaning of the sacrament.
  This implies no particular judgment on the Eucharistic services of other Churches.  It acknowledges rather that for the Orthodox, the Divine Liturgy is what the name implies.  It is both the means and the end of Christian existence, an existence which arises from Orthodox faith, ongoing repentance, ascetic discipline, ecclesial identity and works of love.  To those who accept this "Orthodox Way," the Eucharist offers a true participation in the very Life of the risen and glorified Christ, just as it offers the forgiveness of sins, the healing of soul and body, and a foretaste of the heavenly Banquet in the eternal presence of God.

Our Sin Blinds Us

By St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
(Click on the name for more on St. Tikhon)

Whatever physical darkness is for the eyes, so is sin for the human soul. The spiritual darkness so darkens and blinds the eyes of the soul, that the sinner walks like the blind:
he doesn't know where the path leads him; he doesn't see before him the torment of an eternal death in which he might fall; he doesn't distinguish vice from virtue, evil from good, truth from lies, true good fortune from evil fortune, and, thus, seeing he does not see and acts by touching like the blind.

Does he live in good fortune? He becomes violent, as an untrained and unrestrained horse, and does not see that with this good fortune God draws him to Himself as a father of a little child draws an apple. Will misfortune visit him? He grumbles, is indignant and blames, that as if he told a lie; he makes complaints and says a malicious word: "Am I a liar? In what have I sinned? Am I really more sinful than others? Am I worthy of this? Does my work deserve this?" He justifies himself, being full of every kind of untruth; he cleanses himself, being all besmirched; he considers himself unworthy of temporal punishment, but worthy of the eternal; he praises his merits, which stand for nothing.

All of creation, the heaven, the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth and its fulfillment, as if by mouth "tells of the glory of God" (Psalm 16:2); but the blind sinner does not feel the majesty of His glory and does not tremble. God, both through creation and by His word, reveals Himself for everyone; but the sinner, like a deaf person, does not hear His word and does not recognize the Lord. He hears the name of God, but he does not recognize God: he hears the voice of the Lord only with carnal instead of spiritual ears, and therefore, "hearing he does not hear and seeing he does not see".

When God is preached by His holy word, then His sacred will is also preached; but the sinner doesn't know it and does not make it his own. His omnipotence and majesty is preached, before which the sinner is not humble. His righteousness is preached before which the sinner is not afraid and does not honor. His truth is preached before which the sinner does not believe. His omnipresence is preached, before which the sinner does not show reverence. He does not show it because does not recognize Him. His most wise reason is preached, in which the sinner does not discern. His highest holiness is preached which the sinner does not honor. His supreme authority is preached which the sinner does not obey. His awesome glory is preached which the sinner does not honor. His timeless goodness is preached, in which the sinner makes no effort to participate.
His fearful judgment is preached before which the sinner does not tremble, and so forth. Thus, the sinner is like "the man out of his mind who cannot know, and the stupid who cannot understand" (LXX Psalm 91:7) God and the acts of God.

And not only in relation to God, but also in relation to his neighbor, i.e. to any human, the blind man is a carnal and unenlightened man. We see that a person does evil to his neighbor, which he himself does not want; and does not do good to him, which he himself wants. We see that he is indignant and angry at the one who offends him; he abuses, abases, blames, discredits, lies about him, steals, kidnaps, takes away that which is his, and does other offenses; but he himself does such evil, or repays evil with evil, and is not ashamed and does not sense this. On the other hand, he wants his neighbor to be merciful to him and not leave him in need, for example: to quench his thirst and to give him drink when he thirsts, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger into his home and to comfort the sick and visit those in prison and do other works of mercy for him. All of this he wants, this truth is indisputable, but he himself does not want to do the same for a neighbor. We see that this evil is self-love, an untruth and blindness in Christians, who either silently pass by his neighbors living in misery as if not seeing them, or is ashamed to ask: "what can I do for him?" Many have plentiful food and a magnificent table for themselves, but do not care about a hungry neighbor; others wear all kinds of expensive clothes, and do not care about their naked neighbor; others build rich, large and tall houses and decorate the rest of the building, but for their neighbor who does not have a place to lay his head and to rest they do not care; they have silver, gold and other riches, comfortable for soul and life, that is kept whole and is saved, but there is no care for their neighbor who is burdened with debt and it is torment or prison for him for his shortfalls or sitting debts and suffering. We see this self-love and untruth in Christians: for not only they do evil, but also they don't do good for their neighbors, there is the untruth.

But, what it is even worse, we see that many Christians are not ashamed and are not afraid to steal, to kidnap and to be cunning, to flatter, to lie, to deceive, to slander, to scandalize, to denounce, to abuse, to commit adultery and make other offenses against their neighbor that they themselves would not want. All this comes from blindness.


H/T: Mystagogy

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Archbishop Demetrios on Suffering

"If we have the eyes to see, and a heart that is open to God’s movement, suffering helps us delve much deeper than the superficial level of life at which so many of us live. Suffering pushes aside the shallowness of life, and helps us focus solely on what is eternal – God Himself. Taken in this manner, the Christian understanding of suffering is this unique opportunity to see and meet God."

-Archbishop Demetrios of America

Friday, May 27, 2011

God's Existence: The Argument from Contingency

... as summarized by the great apologist Frank Sheed:
If we consider the universe, we find that everything in it bears this mark, that it does exist but might very well not have existed. We ourselves exist, but we would not have existed if a man and a woman had not met and mated. The same mark can be found upon everything. A particular valley exists because a stream of water took that way down, perhaps because the ice melted up there. If the melting ice had not been there, there would have been no valley. And so with all the things of our experience. They exist, but they would not have existed if some other thing had not been what it was or done what it did.

None of these things, therefore, is the explanation of its own existence or the source of its own existence. In other words, their existence is contingent upon something else. Each thing possesses existence, and can pass on existence; but it did not originate its existence. It is essentially a receiver of existence. Now it is impossible to conceive of a universe consisting exclusively of contingent beings, that is, of beings which are only receivers of existence and not originators. The reader who is taking his role as explorer seriously might very well stop reading at this point and let his mind make for itself the effort to conceive a condition in which nothing should exist save receivers of existence.

Anyone who has taken this suggestion seriously and pondered the matter for himself before reading on, will have seen that the thing is a contradiction in terms and therefore an impossibility. If nothing exists save beings that receive their existence, how does anything exist at all? Where do they receive their existence from? In such a system made up exclusively of receivers, one being may have got it from another, and that from still another, but how did existence get into the system at all? Even if you tell yourself that this system contains an infinite number of receivers of existence, you still have not accounted for existence. Even an infinite number of beings, if no one of these is the source of its own existence, will not account for existence.

Thus we are driven to see that the beings of our experience, the contingent beings, could not exist at all unless there is also a being which differs from them by possessing existence in its own right. It does not have to receive existence; it simply has existence. It is not contingent: it simply is. This is the Being that we call God.
All this may seem very simple and matter of course, but in reality we have arrived at a truth of inexhaustible profundity and of inexhaustible fertility in giving birth to other truths.
From Theology and Sanity (pp. 54-55), available in both paperback and electronic book formats.
The Ignatius Press 

Religions are NOT equal

All religions are not equal expressions of the Divine nature. The trap of relativism, or the desire to condense diverse mediums of human expression into equal forms, causes us to question that understanding. If God is real, then all methods of expression, understanding, and relating to Him cannot be valid.

Why does it matter, how you view God? Because How we understand God necessarily affects how we will relate to Him. If we believe that God is loving, then love is our highest virtue. If we believe that God demands retribution for all slights of faith, then we will be violent against unbelievers. If we believe God likes necklaces made from baby fingers, then things quickly get twisted. Therefore, a proper understanding of who God is, and the proper way to relate to Him, not only for our faith, but also for our spiritual fulfillment and maturity.

The first tenant of orthodoxy must be that there is a single Truth AND it is knowable. The first part, a single truth, is vital because a rejection of truth is a rejection of all reality. Quite simply, we either live in a real and objective reality, or I am a brain in a vat. Because if there is no single reality, then every individual lives in a dream world. Additionally, one must also accept that reality can be grasped, understood, and/or realized. This is a simple concept that we are all intelligent beings, and we are capable of interacting and knowing our environment, both physically and spiritually.

If this is true, then we must accept that there is only one faith, one religion, that could or does, express the fullness of Truth. To keep it short, some religions may hold SOME truth, but not the FULLNESS of Truth (meaning the rest is fallacy, opinion, or deceit). Certainly, all cultures contain the natural human desire to search, know, and have a relationship with God, but there being only a single Truth, and all religions differ in what that Truth is, there can be only one true faith.

For a Christian, only Christianity can be that True expression of the Divine reality. We, as Christians, believe that Jesus is God, and His words are a guide to this Truth. In the Bible, Jesus tells us about this single Truth:

John 14 

5 Thomas said to him: Lord, we know not whither you go. And how can we know the way? 6 Jesus said to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me. 7 If you had known me, you would without doubt have known my Father also: and from henceforth you shall know him. And you have seen him.

In effect, He says, I am the way to God, because I AM God. You can't reject God, and still expect to be with God after this life.

Even within Christianity, however, not all 'denominations' can hold the fullness of this Truth. One denomination may be very secular, believing that a general concept of God is enough for our spiritual lives, while the opposite end may believe that God has already determined your fate, no matter your convictions. The only thing that makes these denominations considered 'Christian' is that they maintain a faith in Jesus. Even then, the understanding of who Jesus is and what His message means, differs. Again, if there is a Truth, and it is knowable, then they cannot all be valid expressions of faith.

I have tried, in this post, to keep the topic generic to a single Truth. I haven't attempted to proclaim that Truth. However, to find that Truth, one is greatly aided by knowing history. How can that be? Why can finding God be this hard? Because there are real forces that do not desire you to follow God, and you must often follow that desire with a determined effort to find God. Christian history will quickly reveal the fallacy of Protestant positions, often leaving a determination between the Catholic faiths (Roman, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox). When you study, you must remember, men are sinners, but the Church is Divinely installed by God Himself (Jesus). This perspective can help you sift through the 2,000 years of human interaction within Christian history.

To end with some humor, I leave you with this video from Andrew Klavan. He expresses that all religions can't be good. After all, if all religions are good and worth expressing, then Satanism, the worship of sin and evil, is good, too.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scripture and the Use of Relics

Shameless Popery: What Scripture Says About Using Relics

A while back, a Protestant friend of mine wanted to understand what relics were, and how it was different than magic or idolatry.  I think the Catholic belief in relics can be traced to Scripture and to the earliest days of the Church, so I thought I'd do my best to lay that out today.
What Does the Church Teach?

To begin with, what does the Church teach about relics? So far I know, the Catechism has only one entry that mentions them, and it says:
1674 Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church's sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, etc.
In other words, relics are one way of drawing us closer to God.  We're not saying that the veneration of relics is indispensable to salvation, and we're not saying that you should (or may) worship relics.  “Veneration,”  called dulia in the Latin, is a sort of religious honor, the way we're humbled by manifestations of holiness.

Think about it this way.  There are folks in this world who you'd be humbled to be next to -- the folks you consider your personal heroes.  That's not a bad thing -- in fact, it's a sign of humility. Of course, it can be a bad thing, if your heroes are bad role models. But with the Saints, the Church points us towards heroes of the faith, something of a Hall of Fame of those who have run the race before us.  This is all very Scriptural: Hebrews 11 does the example same thing with the heroes of the Old Testament, declaring that “the world was not worthy of them” (Heb. 11:38).  That is, Hebrews 11 praises both God working through the Saints, and the Old Testament Saints themselves.

So that sense of wonderment -- where we see the work of God lived out in a person's life, and we honor and respect that -- that's probably the best way I can describe “veneration.” I should also point out that Catholics venerate the Holy Bible. We don't think it's God, obviously, but we recognize that God is at work in the Bible in a unique way, distinct even from how He's at work in the lives of the Saints. I suspect that most Protestants venerate saints and the Bible in their own private way, they just don't call it that.

So with relics, we've got the same thing. These are the bones, clothes, etc., of the great Saints who have gone to God before us. But beyond simply being an object of religious honor, to remind us of God's work in the world, and those who have gone before us in Faith, we believe that miracles can actually happen through the use of relics.  It's this last belief that gets labeled as idolatry or superstition, so let's see what the Bible has to say.

What Does Scripture Say About Relics?

(1) The starting point for an examination of Scripture on this point should be Acts 19:11-12:
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.
That's what Catholics believe about relics, nothing more, nothing less.  Look at the elements:

  1. The objects in question are handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him,” what Catholics would call Paul's relics.
  2. These relics are producing miraculous healings, without Paul doing anything.
  3. These healings are still a way that God performed extraordinary miracles through Paul.” 
  4. These are actual miracles, not simply some placebo effect.
So the first thing we can say is that what Catholics believe about relics seems very much to be how Scripture describes relics. There are people healed because they got to touch a relic of St. Paul's. Butwhy does God do this? I think that there's a hint in the fact that these are counted as “extraordinary miracles through Paul.”  It's a sign of God's favor on a particular Saint.  One of the ways we determine if a given person is in Heaven is if God performs miracles when we pray to that person. If He does, it seems to confirm that His favor is upon them, just as the Resurrection showed that the Father's favor was upon Jesus Christ.  Finally, though, the fact that Paul doesn't actually do the miracle -- God does -- shows that while the Saints are honored and blessed by God, He's still the one in the driver's seat. The Saints lead us to God, and always refused any attempt to be made into gods themselves (see Acts 14:11-15).

(2) But these miraculous relics weren't limited to Paul. In Acts 5:12-16, we hear
The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 
As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
Again, we see the same thing: a relic of the Saints (here, the mere shadow of Peter) brings about innumerable blessings, miracles, and healings.And the reason is for the same reason that the Apostles were performing “signs and wonders among the people.” It showed that these men come from God, and that their message is true.

(3) We see this in the life of Christ Himself. Mark 5:25-34:
And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,  because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” 
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
This is a very different miracle from the ones we're used to.  Here, simply touching the clothing of Christ heals this woman, before He's even aware that she's there. Mark actually makes a point of including the fact that He felt the power go out from Him, but still asked who it was who had touched Him.  And Jesus ascribes the healing to the woman's faith, although it's clear that His own poweris the operative power of healing.  She's got the faith to believe that simply to touch something worn by Christ is sufficient to be healed.  Some Protestants consider that superstition, but our Lord apparently does not.

(4) Go back to the Old Testament, to Elisha. 2 Kings 13:20-21 says,
Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.
This passage is important, because it shows that the Saint isn't actively performing these, in the way that other miracles are performed. Even after Elisha's dead, God works through him.  That's the reason relics work, at the end of the day: because God wills to use all sorts of things to bring about healing and salvation.  But He doesn't choose randomly - in every case, it's either been His Son or the Saints who He works through.

(5) Finally, we know that the early Church used relics, as well.  That is, just as Elisha's bones show that healing relics pre-date the New Testament, the early Church shows that they continue on afterthe New Testament. Let's take just a couple example.  First, through Eusebius (c. 263-339 A.D.) and Caius (early 200s), we know that the early Church kept the “trophies” of St. Peter and St. Paul in the Vatican.

St. Augustine, beloved by Catholics and Protestants alike, said that in Book XXII, Chapter 8 of City of God that:
For even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ, whether by His sacraments or by the prayers or relics of His saints; but they are not so brilliant and conspicuous as to cause them to be published with such glory as accompanied the former miracles.
That's pretty clear.  Likewise, St. Ambrose of Milan, writing in the latter half of the fourth century, wrote:
For after I had dedicated the basilica, many, as it were, with one mouth began to address me, and said: Consecrate this as you did the Roman basilica. And I answered: "Certainly I will if I find any relics of martyrs." And at once a kind of prophetic ardour seemed to enter my heart.

Why should I use many words? God favoured us, for even the clergy were afraid who were bidden to clear away the earth from the spot before the chancel screen of SS. Felix and Nabor. I found the fitting signs, and on bringing in some on whom hands were to be laid, the power of the holy martyrs became so manifest, that even whilst I was still silent, one was seized and thrown prostrate at the holy burial-place.
The first paragraph refers to a Catholic practice - in consecrating a Church, we embed the relics of a Saint. As you can see, this custom is not new.  A little later, in the same letter, Ambrose writes:
On the following day we translated the relics to the basilica called Ambrosian. During the translation a blind man was healed [...] They [the Arians] deny that the blind man received sight, but he denies not that he is healed. He says: I who could not see now see. He says: I ceased to be blind, and proves it by the fact.
So relics were widely used, venerated (there are folks falling prostrate!), and are bringing about miraculous cures. What we see is that from the Old Testament, down through the New, through the times of the early Church, all the way to the present, the same central things have been believed about relics. Catholics simply conform with this Scriptural belief.  It's not idolatry or superstition. It's good old-fashioned Bible religion.

Finally, note that Catholic Answers has a great list of early Church writings about post-Apostolic miracles, some of which involve relics, here; and a helpful entry on relics here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Apocalypse Now?


On The Holy Spirit

     The Holy Spirit in the West is often misunderstood or ignored when concerning God. Even when trying to understand the Holy Spirit, a westerner may have trouble understanding the Holy Spirit's role in the Godhead.

The following are excerpts from St. John of DamascusExposition of the Faith. Like all Saints, even though St. John lived during the seventh century, his insight is both timeless and relevant to every age. Human nature is unchanging, in addition to our unchanging God.

Moreover the Word must also possess Spirit. For in fact even our word is not destitute of spirit; but in our case the spirit is something different from our essence. For there is an attraction and movement of the air which is drawn in and poured forth that the body may be sustained. And it is this which in the moment of utterance becomes the articulate word, revealing in itself the force of the word. But in the case of the divine nature, which is simple and uncompound, we must confess in all piety that there exists a Spirit of God, for the Word is not more imperfect than our own word. Now we cannot, in piety, consider the Spirit to be something foreign that gains admission into God from without, as is the case with compound natures like us. Nay, just as, when we heard of the Word of God, we considered it to be not without subsistence, nor the product of learning, nor the mere utterance of voice, nor as passing into the air and perishing, but as being essentially subsisting, endowed with free volition, and energy, and omnipotence: so also, when we have learned about the Spirit of God, we contemplate it as the companion of the Word and the revealer of His energy, and not as mere breath without subsistence. For to conceive of the Spirit that dwells in God as after the likeness of our own spirit, would be to drag down the greatness of the divine nature to the lowest depths of degradation. But we must contemplate it as an essential power, existing in its own proper and peculiar subsistence, proceeding from the Father and resting in the Word , and showing forth the Word, neither capable of disjunction from God in Whom it exists, and the Word Whose companion it is, nor poured forth to vanish into nothingness , but being in subsistence in the likeness of the Word, endowed with life, free volition, independent movement, energy, ever willing that which is good, and having power to keep pace with the will in all its decrees , having no beginning and no end. For never was the Father at any time lacking in the Word, nor the Word in the Spirit.

The next chapter deals with the Holy Trinity as a whole. This excerpt being on the Holy Spirit more specifically.

Likewise we believe also in one Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life: Who proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son: the object of equal adoration and glorification with the Father and Son, since He is co-essential and co-eternal : the Spirit of God, direct, authoritative, the fountain of wisdom, and life, and holiness: God existing and addressed along with Father and Son: uncreate, full, creative, all-ruling, all-effecting, all-powerful, of infinite power, Lord of all creation and not under any lord : deifying, not deified: filling, not filled: shared in, not sharing in: sanctifying, not sanctified: the intercessor, receiving the supplications of all: in all things like to the Father and Son: proceeding from the Father and communicated through the Son, and participated in by all creation, through Himself creating, and investing with essence and sanctifying, and maintaining the universe: having subsistence, existing in its own proper and peculiar subsistence, inseparable and indivisible from Father and Son, and possessing all the qualities that the Father and Son possess, save that of not being begotten or born. For the Father is without cause and unborn: for He is derived from nothing, but derives from Himself His being, nor does He derive a single quality from another. Rather He is Himself the beginning and cause of the existence of all things in a definite and natural manner. But the Son is derived from the Father after the manner of generation, and the Holy Spirit likewise is derived from the Father, yet not after the manner of generation, but after that of procession. And we have learned that there is a difference between generation and procession, but the nature of that difference we in no wise understand. Further, the generation of the Son from the Father and the procession of the Holy Spirit are simultaneous.

All then that the Son and the Spirit have is from the Father, even their very being: and unless the Father is, neither the Son nor the Spirit is. And unless the Father possesses a certain attribute, neither the Son nor the Spirit possesses it: and through the Father , that is, because of the Father's existence , the Son and the Spirit exist , and through the Father, that is, because of the Father having the qualities, the Son and the Spirit have all their qualities, those of being unbegotten, and of birth and of procession being excepted.
For in these hypostatic or personal properties alone do the three holy subsistences differ from each other, being indivisibly divided not by essence but by the distinguishing mark of their proper and peculiar subsistence.

Further we say that each of the three has a perfect subsistence, that we may understand not one compound perfect nature made up of three imperfect elements, but one simple essence, surpassing and preceding perfection, existing in three perfect subsistences. For all that is composed of imperfect elements must necessarily be compound. But from perfect subsistences no compound can arise. Wherefore we do not speak of the form as from subsistences, but as in subsistences. But we speak of those things as imperfect which do not preserve the form of that which is completed out of them. For stone and wood and iron are each perfect in its own nature, but with reference to the building that is completed out of them each is imperfect: for none of them is in itself a house.

The Holy Spirit is as much God as the Father or Jesus Christ the Son. His hypostatic person should not be forgotten as he is a revealed nature of God Himself.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Both now and ever, and unto the Ages of Ages. Amen.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Shameless Popery: Why (and How) Catholics Pray to Saints

Shameless Popery: Why (and How) Catholics Pray to Saints: "A non-Catholic friend of mine who'd been following the news about JPII's beatification wanted to know how prayer to saints worked. Specific..."