The Nativity of the Lord – St. Anthony of Padua

St. Anthony of Padua, doctor of the Church, usually portrayed holding infant Jesus in his arms (because of the vision he had and his sermons on Incarnation) will blow your mind with his sermons. Here is one of them. Good old Catholic preaching, not for the fainted of hearts.

Vision of St Antony of Padua,1631; Carducho, Vicente; St. Petersburg - Hermitage

THE FESTIVAL SERMONS: THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD

1. At that time: There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. [Lk 2.1]

In this Gospel three things are noted: the enrolment of the world, the birth of the Saviour, and the announcement to the shepherds. With God’s help, we shall say something about each of these, briefly and clearly.

[THE ENROLMENT OF THE WORLD]

2. The enrolment of the world, as it says: There went out a decree. Note that in this first clause there is moral teaching, about how anyone who wants to repent of the sins he has committed should first take a census of his life in contrition, and afterwards hasten to confession.

So it says: There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus. Caesar means ‘possessor of the chief place’, and Augustus is ‘standing with dignity’. He represents almighty God, the owner of the whole of creation; as in Isaiah 66: My hand made all these things; [Is 66.2]

and Job 9: Under whom they stoop that bear up the world, [Job 9.13]

meaning the prelates of the Church and the princes of the world who bear its weight. God stands with dignity, because, as Daniel 7 says: Thousands of thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before him. [Dan 7.10]

He is said to ‘stand’ when he gives help to his people, and to ‘sit’ when he passes judgement; and in either case he has dignity, glory and nobility. This our Emperor sends out his decree every day, by means of his heralds who are the preachers of the Church, so that the whole world may be enrolled. We speak of the ‘globe’, because the earth is round and the encircling Ocean flows round it and sets its bounds. The ‘globe’ is also human life, which comes full circle as Genesis 3 tells: Earth thou art, and to the earth thou shalt return. [Gen 3.19]

Each man must review this entire globe, recalling in bitterness of soul the things he did in childhood, in adolescence, in his youth and in his age. Note that it says ‘the whole world’, implying that the record includes sins of thought, word and deed, things done and things left undone, together with their circumstances. This is reinforced when we note that the word used means not just ‘written down’, but ‘described’, recorded in all the variety of their manner and circumstances.

This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria [Lk 2.2]. Cyrinus means ‘heir’, and he is the penitent, who is heir of God and fellow-heir with Christ [Rom 8.17], who says, My inheritance is goodly to me [Ps 15.6]. He makes the first census of his sins when he firstly in contrition makes a detailed examination of what he has done or left undone. He is ‘governor of Syria’ (meaning ‘sublimity’) because he has mastered pride and arrogance. Job 40 says of the devil:

He beholdeth every high thing. He is king over all the children of pride. [Job 41.25]
What more laudable governorship can there be, than to be in control of oneself and to humble one’s own pride?

3. And all went [Lk 2.3]. You see here the right order of penitence: first, to examine oneself; and then go to confession. They all went to be enrolled. Alas! How few go today! Jeremiah 1 bewails: The ways of Sion mourn, because there are none that come to the solemn feast. [Lam 1.4] There was only Joseph, the true penitent, of the house and family of David, who was truly penitent, and to whose house the Lord promised in Zechariah 13; in that day there shall be a fountain open to the house of David. [Zech 13.1]

The fountain of divine mercy stands open to the congregation of the penitent, for the washing of the sinner and the unclean woman, [ibid] that is, purging both manifest and hidden sins in them. This Joseph went up from Galilee (which means ‘a wheel’, and refers to the aforementioned examination of his life), out of the city of Nazareth (‘flower’). After the flower is the fruit, indeed from the first comes the second. In the same way contrition should be followed by confession, so that confession is as it were the fruit of contrition, together with absolution and reconciliation. And note that Joseph went up to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. Mary means ‘bitter sea’, and she signifies the double bitterness with which the penitent should go up to Judea (‘confession’), wherein is the city of David which is called Bethlehem (‘house of bread’). This is the food of tears, as is said: My tears have been my bread, etc. [Ps 41.4]

There is a concordance to this in Isaiah 15: By the ascent of Luith they shall go up weeping, and in the way of Oronaim they shall lift up a cry of destruction. [Is 15.5]

Here is the ‘bitter sea’. Luith means ‘cheeks’ or ‘jaws’, Oronaim is ‘the cleft of their sadness’. The weeper, i.e. the penitent, goes up to confession bedewed with tears, which go up from his cheeks to God, as Ecclesiasticus 35 says: Do not the widow’s tears run down the cheek, and her cry against him that causeth them to fall? For from the cheek they go up even to heaven: and the Lord that heareth will be pleased with them. [Ecclus 35.18-19]

The ‘cleft of sadness’ is the sorrow of a contrite heart, from which should proceed the cry of confession which the penitent should raise, so as to confess everything nakedly and openly.

4. And note that he goes up with Mary who is with child. The soul is made pregnant with a two- fold bitter sorrow by the fear of God, as Isaiah 26 says: As a woman with child, when she draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain and crieth out in her pangs: so are we become from thy face, O Lord (or according to another translation: from thy fear). We have conceived and have been as it were in labour, and have brought forth the spirit of salvation. [cf. Is 26.17-18]

The face of Christ, when he comes to judgement, impregnates the soul with holy fear, that it may conceive and bring forth the spirit of salvation.

[THE BIRTH OF THE SAVIOUR]

5. The birth of the Saviour: And it came to pass that when they were there [Lk 2.6]. Where? In the house of bread; and Mary is the house of bread. The bread of angels has become the milk of little ones, that the little ones may become angels.

Suffer the little children to come unto me, [Mk 10.14]
that they may suck and be filled with the breasts of her consolations. [Is 66.11]

Note that milk is sweet to the taste and pleasant to look at. In the same way, as the Golden Mouth says, Christ draws men to himself by his sweetness, as a magnet draws iron, saying in Ecclesiasticus 24: They that eat me shall yet hunger: and they that drink me shall yet thirst. [Ecclus 24.29]

He is pleasing to look at, for the angels long to gaze on him [1Pt 1.12].

Her days were accomplished that she should be delivered [Lk 2.6]. See, here is the fulness of time, the day of salvation, the year of goodness [cf. Gal 4.4; 2Cor 6.2; Ps 64.12]. From the fall of Adam until the coming of Christ, there was an empty time. Jeremiah says: I beheld the earth, and lo it was void and nothing [Jer 4.23]

because the devil had wholly laid it waste. It was a day of pain and weakness, as the Psalm says: Thou hast turned all his couch in his sickness, [Ps 40.4] an accursed year, as Genesis 3 says: Cursed is the earth in thy work; [Gen 3.17]

but today, the days are accomplished that she should be delivered. From the fulness of this day we have all received, and so the Psalm says: We shall be filled with the good things of thy house. [Ps 64.5]

To you, O blessed Virgin, be praise and glory, for today we are filled with the goodness of your house, that is, of your womb. We, who were empty before, are full; we who were sick are healthy; we who were cursed are blessed, because as Canticles 4 says: Thy fruits are paradise [Cant 4.13].

6. So there follows: And she brought forth her firstborn son. What goodness! What a paradise! Run, then, you famished, you avaricious and usurious people to whom money is dearer than God, and buy without money and without price [Is 55.1] the grain of wheat which the Virgin has brought fort this day from the storehouse of her womb. She brought forth a son. What son? God the Son of God. “O happiest of the happy, who has given a Son to God the Father.”1 What an honour it would be for some poor woman to give a son to a mortal Emperor! How far, far greater the glory of the Virgin, who gave a Son to God the Father! She brought forth her son. “The Father gave deity, the mother humanity; the Father gave majesty, the mother weakness.”2 She brought forth her son, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Who then is against us? [Rom 8.31] Isaiah 59 speaks of A helmet of salvation upon his head [Is 59.17]. This helmet is his humanity, upon the head of his divinity. The head is hidden beneath the helmet, the divinity beneath humanity. There is no cause for fear. Victory belongs to our side, because God in armour is with us! Thanks to you, O glorious Virgin, because through you God is with us. She brought forth his firstborn son, begotten of the Father before all worlds, first begotten from the dead, first begotten among many brothers [cf. Col 1.18; Rom 8.29].

7. There follows: And she wrapped him up in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger [Lk 2.7]. O poverty! O humility! The Lord of all is wrapped in a scrap of cloth! The King of angels lies down in a stable! Blush, insatiable avarice! Be ashamed, human pride! She wrapped him in cloth. Note that Christ is wrapped in cloth both at the beginning and at the end of his life. Mark 15 says: Joseph bought fine linen, and taking him down wrapped him up in the fine linen. [Mk 15.46]

Happy the man who ends his life in baptismal innocence. The old Adam, when he was cast out of paradise, was clad in animal skins, which become more discoloured the more they are washed, and represents the fleshly nature of Adam and his race. The new Adam is wrapped in linen, whose whiteness represents the purity of his mother, the innocence that comes from Baptism, and the glory of the general Resurrection.

And she laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. [Lk 2.7]

See here, as Proverbs 5 says: The dearest hind, and most agreeable fawn. [Prov 5.19]

Natural History tells that the female deer gives birth at the roadside. In the same way, the blessed Virgin gave birth at a roadside inn, where many roads meet.

[THE ANNOUNCEMENT TO THE SHEPHERDS]

8. The announcement to the shepherds:

And there were in the same country shepherds watching and keeping the night-watches over their flock. [Lk 2.8]

Keeping watch may be a matter of sitting up at night, or standing guard by day; that is why the ancient Romans used to divide the night between four ‘watches’, who took it in turns to guard the City. The night stands for our present life, in which we walk about as in the deceiving night. We do not see ourselves (our consciences) as one to another. Our feet (our minds’ affections) often stumble. The man who wants to keep good watch over his city must be on the alert throughout the four watches of the night.

The first watch is uncleanness in which we were born.
The second watch is the malice of our deliberate wrong-doing. The third watch is the misery of our earthly pilgrimage.
The fourth watch is the remembrance of death.

In the first watch a man must stay alert, so as to have a low opinion of himself; in the second, so as to afflict himself; in the third, so as to weep; in the fourth, so as to fear. Happy those shepherds who keep the night-watches in this way, for they are providing their flock with an excellent defence! Note that the shepherd keeps watch for two reasons: so that the thief may not steal, and so that the wolf may not devour. We are all shepherds, and our flock is the multitude of our good and simple thoughts and desires. We must keep careful watch over this flock, in the way mentioned, so that the thief (the devil) may not steal by suggesting sin; and the wolf (carnal appetite) may not devour by consent to sin. To all those keeping watch like this, the joy of the Nativity is announced today.

9. So there follows: And the angel said to them: Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. For this day a Saviour is born to you, etc. [Lk 2.10-11]

There is a concordance to this in Genesis 21:
Isaac was born; and Sara said: God hath made a laughter for me. Whosoever shall hear of it will laugh with me. [Gen 21.5-6]

Sara means ‘princess’ or ‘a coal’. She represents the glorious Virgin, our princess and Queen, set on fire like a coal by the Holy Spirit. Today, God has made a laughter for her, because from her is born our mirth. I bring you good tidings of great joy, for laughter is born, Christ is born. This is what we have heard today from the angel: Whoever shall hear of it will laugh with me. Let us laugh together, and rejoice together with the blessed Virgin, because God has made a laughter for us, that is, a cause for laughter and rejoicing for her and in her: Today a Saviour is born to you. If anyone were on the brink of death, or imprisoned in dungeon deep, and the news were brought to him: “Behold, he who shall save you is here”- would he not laugh? Would he not rejoice? He would indeed! So let us rejoice with a pure conscience and unfeigned charity, because today is born for us the Saviour who has rescued us from the devil’s power and from the Pit of Hell.

10. The sign whereby we may find this joy is given in the words that follow:

This shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. [Lk 2.12]

Note these two things: humility and poverty. Happy the man who receives this sign on his forehead and in his hand (that is, in word and deed). What do the words, You shall find the infant, mean, if not: You will find wisdom babbling, power made weak, majesty laid low, the immense made small, the rich made poor, the Lord of angels lying in a stable, and the Food of angels made like the fodder of animals, the unlimited confined to a narrow manger? This, then, will be a sign to you, so that you do not perish like the Egyptians or the people of Jericho.

And so, glory be to God the Father on high, and in earth peace to men of good will, for the Word Incarnate, for the Virgin giving birth, and for the Saviour being born. May he who is blessed for ever deign to bestow that same glory on us. Amen.

[AN ALLEGORICAL SERMON]

11. A child is born to us, and a son is given to us,
and the government is upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of peace. [Is 9.6]

This is in Isaiah 9; above, in chapter 7, he had said:
Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son:
and his name shall be called Emmanuel. [Is 7.14]

that is, God-with-us. This God is made a little child for us, is born for us today. There are many reasons why Christ is called a little child; and for briefness’ sake here is just one: if you hurt a child, make him cry, or smack him; but then show him a flower, a rose or something like that, and after showing it give it to him- then he will not remember the hurt, he will put away his indignation and run to embrace you. In the same way, if you offend Christ by mortal sin, or inflict any kind of injury on him, but then offer him the flower of contrition or the rose of tearful confession (“Tears are the soul’s blood”)3, then he will not remember your offences, he will take away your guilt and run to embrace and kiss you. So Ezekiel 18 says: But if the wicked do penance for all the sins which he hath committed, I will not remember all his iniquities. [Ezek 18.21,22]

And Luke 15 says of the prodigal son: His father saw him and was moved with compassion; and running to him fell upon his neck and kissed him. [Lk 15.20]

And in II Kings 14 it says that David received Absalom to his grace, and kissed him, though he had killed his brother [cf. 2Kg(Sm) 14.33]. A child is born to us, then.

And what use to us is the birth of this child? Much indeed, and in every way. Hear Isaiah 11: The sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp:
And the weaned child shall thrust his hand into the den of the basilisk.
They shall not hurt, nor shall they kill in all my holy mountain. [Is 11.8-9]

The basilisk (‘basileus’ or king of serpents) is the devil; and also the asp. His hole and den are the hearts of the wicked. On these, our little child puts his hand, when by the power of his divinity he draws out the devil from them. So Job 26 says: His obstetric hand brought forth the winding serpent. [Job 26.13]

A mid-wife’s job is to bring the child out of darkness into the light; so Christ with his powerful hand pulls the ancient serpent out of the dark hearts of the wicked, so that he and his minions may do no harm to the body without permission (they could not enter the swine without permission [cf. Mk 5.13]), and may not kill souls with eternal death. Before the coming of the Saviour, the exercised power over the human race, to foully harass the bodies of men and pull down souls to misery in hell. In all my holy mountain refers to the Church, my holy place in which I dwell.

12. There follows: and a son is given to us. There is a concordance to this in II Kings 21:

There was a third battle in Gob against the Philistines, in which Adeodatus the son of Forest an embroiderer of Bethlehem slew Goliath the Gethite. [2Kg(Sm) 21.19]

Note that the first battle was in the desert: Jesus was led into the desert, etc [Mt 4.1]; the second was in the open field (that is, in his public ministry): Jesus was casting out a devil [Lk 11.14]; the third was on the Cross, nailed to which he defeated the ‘Philistines’ (i.e. the spiritual powers). This third battle took place ‘in Gob’ (which means a lake or hollow) referring to the wounds of the Redeemer, and especially to the wound in his side, from which flowed the twin streams of our redemption. In this low-lying area Jesus is given to us simply by the mercy of God the Father, to be our champion. He is ‘son of Forest’, because, as Mark says, he was in the desert with the beasts; or because he was crowned with thorns. He is ‘an embroiderer’, having adorned with the sevenfold gifts of grace the ‘coat of many colours’, human nature, which he made ready for himself in the Virgin’s womb. He is ‘of Bethlehem’, because he was born of the Virgin this very day in Bethlehem. Alternatively, he is ‘son of Forest’ in his Passion, ‘an embroiderer’ in the general Resurrection (when he will clothe us in a robe adorned with four gifts), and ‘of Bethlehem’ in the eternal banquet. This our champion, though knocked down at the low point of his Passion, in turn struck down Goliath of Geth (the devil).

13. So there follows: and the government is upon his shoulder. There is a concordance to this in Genesis 22: Abraham took the wood for the holocaust, and laid it upon Isaac his son. [Gen 22.6]

It says in John 19:
And bearing his own cross he went forth to that place which is called Calvary. [Jn 19.17]

How great the humility of our Redeemer! How great the patience of our Saviour! Alone, for all of us, he carried the wood on which he was hung, on which he was crucified, on which he died. As Isaiah 57 says: The just perisheth and no man layeth it to heart. [Is 57.1].

The government is upon his shoulder; and so the Father says in Isaiah 22: I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder. [Is 22.22]

The ‘key’ is the Cross of Christ, which opens for us the gate of heaven. The Cross, note, is called both ‘key’ and ‘government’: a ‘key’ because it opens heaven to the elect; ‘government’ because by its power it thrusts the demons down to hell.

14. There follows: and his name shall be called Wonderful (in his Nativity), Counsellor (in his preaching), God (in his working of miracles), the Mighty (in his Passion), the Father of the world to come (in his Resurrection). When he rose, he left us the sure hope of rising ourselves, as it were an inheritance for his children after him. He will be the Prince of peace in eternity. May he, the blessed God, graciously grant us this. Amen.

[A MORAL SERMON]

15. A child is born to us. Morally. Matthew 18 says of this little child: Unless you be converted and become as this little child, etc. [Mt 18.3]

Note that when a little child wakes up during the night, he cries; when he is naked, he is not embarrassed; when he is hurt, he runs to his mother’s arms. When his mother wants to wean him from her milk, she puts a bitter ointment on her breasts. He is inexperienced in the world’s malice, he does not know how to sin. He does no harm to his neighbour, he does not bear a grudge, he hates no-one. He does not seek riches, he is not bedazzled by worldly glory, he is not impressed by human dignity. The ‘little child’ is the penitent who is converted, who was previously puffed up with pride of heart, given to boastful words, ostentatious in worldly wealth. Now he a little child, humble and of little account in his own eyes. When he awakes to the remembrance of his former life, he weeps bitterly. He is not ashamed to be naked and poor for Christ’s sake, nor to strip himself bare in confession. When he suffers an injury, he does no hurt in return, but has recourse to the Church and pours out his prayer for those who persecute him or speak ill of him. Mother Church weans him from her milk when she puts the ointment of bitter penance upon the breast of carnal pleasure which he used to suck. The other points are obvious, and need no comment.

So, when some worldly person is converted and becomes one of Christ’s little ones, we ought to burst forth in joy of heart with exultant voice, and say: A child is born to us! So John 16 says:

A woman (Holy Church),

when she is in labour (in preaching or in showing compassion to sinners), hath sorrow;

but, when she hath brought forth (by contrition and the sinner’s confession)

the child (the newly converted),

she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. [Jn 16.21]

Of John (‘the grace of God’) was said: Many shall rejoice in his birth [Lk 1.14].

16. And a son is given to us. Thanks be to God! Because from a slave of the world and of the devil we have derived a son of God. Such a one says in the Psalm: The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee, [Ps 2.7]

by grace: who were yesterday a slave of guilt; and because you are a son,

Ask of me, and I will give thee the Gentiles (rebellious thoughts) for thine inheritance,

and the utmost parts of the earth (your bodily senses) for thy possession; [Ps 2.8]

so that you may prevail over both. A son, as referred to in Genesis 49: Joseph is a growing son, a growing son and comely to behold. [Gen 49.22]

He is ‘growing’ in virtue of his poverty; as Joseph says in Genesis 41: God hath made me to grow in the land of my poverty. [Gen 41.52]

He is ‘comely to behold’ by his humility; so that Genesis 29 says of Rachel (meaning ‘sheep’, that is ‘humble’): she was well favoured and of a beautiful countenance. [Gen 29.17]

He is ‘given to us’; for, He was dead and is come to life again, was lost and is found [Lk 15.24].

For what purpose is he given and found? Surely, for the labour of penance.

17. So there follows: And the government is upon his shoulder. There is a concordance to this in the last but one chapter of Genesis: Issachar shall be a strong ass lying down in the borders. He saw rest that it was good: and the land that it was excellent. And he bowed his shoulder to carry. [Gen 49.14-15]

Issachar (meaning ‘man of reward’) is the penitent who serves manfully for an eternal reward, and so is called ‘a strong ass’. Ecclesiasticus 33 says of him:

Fodder and a wand and a burden are for an ass. [Ecclus 33.25]

Fodder of any kind, so that he does not grow weak; the wand of poverty, so that he does not get skittish and kick with his hoof; the burden of obedience, so that he does not become unused to labour. The medicine of penance is compounded from these three ingredients.

He lies down ‘in the borders’. The two borders are the entry and the exit of life. He lies down in these, because he abases himself in the first and weeps for himself in the second. The foolish man does not live ‘on the borders’, but in the middle. So Judges 5 says: Why dwellest thou between two borders, that thou mayest hear the bleatings of the flock? [Jg 5.16]

Between birth and death there is only the vanity of the world. The ‘flocks’ are the movements of the flesh, and their ‘bleating’ is their allurement, which the man who takes his ease in the vanity of the world hears. But the penitent man, living on the borders, lifts up the eyes of his mind and sees the repose of happiness and glory, that it is good in the glorification of the body; and he sees the land of eternal stability, that it is very good in the contemplation of the Trinity. He bows his shoulder to bear government, namely the yoke of penance whereby he governs both himself and his temptations. So Ecclesiasticus 6 says: Bow down thy shoulder and bear her [Ecclus 6.26].

18. There follows: and his name shall be called Wonderful, etc. Note that in these six words is summed up the whole perfection of the penitent or just man. He is ‘wonderful’ in his thorough and frequent self-examination, and he sees wonders in the deep places of his heart. Thus Job was ‘wonderful’, because the whole world wonders at his patience. Chapter 7 says: I will not spare my mouth, I will speak in the affliction of my spirit: I will talk with the bitterness of my soul. [Job 7.11]

Such affliction of spirit and bitterness of soul leave nothing unexamined, when they sift and search everything to the bottom.

He is ‘counsellor’ in the spiritual and bodily needs of his neighbour, as Job 29 says: I was an eye to the blind and a foot to the lame. [Job 29.15]

The blind man is one who does not look into his conscience; the lame man is one who deviates from the straight road of justice. The just man gives counsel to both, because he is ‘an eye’ to the former, instructing him so that he can recognise the defects of his own conscience; and ‘a foot’ to the latter, supporting him and guiding him to put his steps in the way of justice.

There follows: ‘God’. The just man is called ‘God’ figuratively, in the rule over subjects. Thus in Exodus 7 the Lord says to Moses: I have appointed thee the God of Pharao;

and in Exodus 22: If the thief be not known, the master of the house shall be brought to the gods (i.e the priests); and shall swear that he did not lay his hand upon his neighbour’s goods. [Ex 22.8]

And again: I have said: You are gods [Ps 81.6].

Alternatively, ‘God’ in Greek is ‘Theos’, that is ‘He who sees’, since ‘theoreo’ means ‘I see’; ‘theo’ also means ‘I run’, because he traverses everything. The penitent is called ‘God’ because he sees and runs: he sees the things that are above in contemplation, and so he runs towards the goal set before him in the race of penitence.

He is ‘mighty’ in fighting against temptation; as in Judges 14: A young lion met Samson, raging and roaring; and the spirit of the Lord came upon Samson, and he tore the lion as he would have torn a kid in pieces. [Jg 14.5-6]

The young lion is the spirit of pride, or lust, or something of the sort. It rages in its vehemence, it roars in its cunning. It appears suddenly and attacks with force. But when the spirit of contrition, of divine love or fear, falls on the penitent, he tears the spirit of pride (represented by the lion), as he tears the spirit of lust (represented by the goat-kid, because it stinks) in pieces, because he destroys it utterly in itself and in its concomitants.

He is ‘Father of the world to come’ in preaching by word and example. So the Apostle says: My little children, of whom I am in labour again, until Christ be formed in you. [Gal 4.19] And: By the Gospel of Christ I have begotten you, [1Cor 4.15], namely to eternal life.

He is ‘Prince of peace’ in the tranquil dwelling together of mind and body. So Job 5: The beasts of the earth (i.e. the motions of your flesh) shall be at peace with thee: and thou shalt know that thy tabernacle is in peace. [Job 5.23-24]
And chapter 11: Being buried (i.e. hidden from the world in contemplation) thou shalt sleep secure. Thou shalt rest, and there shall be none to make thee afraid. [Job 11.18-19]

May he who is blessed for ever be pleased to grant us this. Amen.

NOTES
1 ARISTOTLE, De somno et vigilia, 3
2 AUGUSTINE, Sermo 351,4,7; PL 39.1512
3 JEROME, Letter to the monk Rusticus, 125,8; PL 22.1076

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The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury

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Early Challenges and the Confessions of the Church

Great lecture from the series The Threefold Body of Christ by a joint preaching project of our Priories of St. Vincent Ferrer in New York City and St. Mary in New Haven, CT.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 


(a) The Hebrew/Jewish tradition

(b) The Platonic insight and the Hellenic situation

(c) Jesus at the confluence of Judaic and Hellenic thought and Gnosticism

(d) The Alexandrian and Antiochene responses

(e) Arianism, Nestorianism, and Monophysitism; Augustine

Christian is my name, but Catholic my surname

Saint Pacian (310—391 AD), bishop of Barcelona and Church Father in his Epistle I explains that “Catholic” marks the unity of the people that were uncorrupted:

But under the Apostles, you will say, no one was called Catholic. Be it thus. It shall have been so. Allow even that. When after the Apostles heresies had burst forth, and were striving under various names to tear piecemeal and divide the Dove and the Queen of God, did not the Apostolic people require a name of their own, whereby to mark the unity of the people that were uncorrupted, lest the error of some should rend limb by limb the undefiled virgin of God? Was it not seemly that the chief head should be distinguished by its own peculiar appellation? Suppose, this very day, I entered a populous city. When I had found Marcionites, Apollinarians, Cataphrygians, Novatians, and others of the kind who call themselves Christians, by what name should I recognise the congregation of my own people, unless it were named Catholic? Come tell me, who bestowed so many names on the other peoples? Why have so many cities, so many nations, each their own description? The man who asks the meaning of the Catholic Name, will he be ignorant himself of the cause of his own name if I shall enquire its origin? Whence was it delivered to me? Certainly that which has stood through so many ages was not borrowed from man. This name “Catholic” sounds not of Marcion, nor of Apelles, nor of Montanus, nor does it take heretics as its authors.

st. Pacian

Many things the Holy Spirit hath taught us, Whom God sent from Heaven to the Apostles as their Comforter and Guide. Many things reason teaches us, as Paul saith, and honesty, and, as he says, nature herself. What! Is the authority of Apostolic men, of Primitive Priests, of the most blessed Martyr and Doctor Cyprian, of slight weight with us? Do we wish to teach the teacher? Are we wiser than he was, and are we puffed up by the spirit of the flesh against the man, whom his noble shedding of blood, and a crown of most glorious suffering, have set forth as a witness of the Eternal God? What thinkest thou of so many Priests on this same side, who throughout the whole world were compacted together in one bond of peace with this same Cyprian? What of so many aged Bishops, so many Martyrs, so many Confessors? Come say, if they were not sufficient authorities for the use of this name, are we sufficient for its rejection? And shall the Fathers rather follow our authority, and the antiquity of Saints give way to be emended by us, and times now putrifying through their sins, pluck out the grey hairs of Apostolic age? And yet, my brother, be not troubled; Christian is my name, but Catholic my surname. The former gives me a name, the latter distinguishes me. By the one I am approved; by the other I am but marked.

THE NUPTIALS OF THE LAMB AND HIS BRIDE, Stephen Adam, 1906

And if at last we must give an account of the word Catholic, and draw it out from the Greek by a Latin interpretation, “Catholic” is ‘every where one, or, (as learned men think,) “obedience in all,” i. e. all the commands of God. Whence the Apostle, Whether ye he obedient in all things; and again, For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous. Therefore he who is a Catholic, the same man is obedient . He who is obedient, the same is a Christian, and thus the Catholic is a Christian. Wherefore our people when named Catholic are separated by this appellation from the heretical name. But if also the word Catholic means ‘every where one,’ as those first think, David indicates this very thing, when he saith, The queen did stand in a vesture of gold, wrought about with, divers colours; that is, one amidst all. And in the Song of Songs the Bridegroom speaketh these words, My dove, My undefiled, is but one; she is the only one of her mother; she is the choice one of her that bare her. Again it is written, The virgins shall be brought unto the King after her. And further, Virgins without number. Therefore amidst all she is one, and one over all. If thou askest the reason of the name, it is evident.

How to die to see God

Mystical Prayer in the Holy Spirit

St. Bonaventure – Doctor of the Church

This reading on mystical (contemplative) prayer, taken from St. Bonaventure’s Journey of the Mind to God (Cap. 7,1 2.4.6: Opera Omnia, 5, 312-313), is used in the Roman Office of Readings for the Feast (liturgical memorial) of St. Bonaventure on July 15.

Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch, that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulchre, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in paradise.

For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.

If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervour and glowing love. The fir is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardour of his loving passion. Only he understood this who said: My soul chose hanging and my bones death. Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God, for it is certainly true that: No man can look upon me and live.

Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness, silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination. Let us pass over with the crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that, when the Father has shown himself to us, we can say with Philip: It is enough. We may hear with Paul: My grace is sufficient for you; and we can rejoice with David, saying: My flesh and my heart fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my heritage for ever. Blessed be the Lord for ever, and let all the people say: Amen. Amen!

This is an interesting read, because in our times everything points to the opposite way of believers reaching to God’s presence. Christians are trying to find God mostly by experiencing Him, and the cavalcades of worldly distractions might suggest that the same intensity of emotional engagement with “spiritual” things (think: cool, relevant Christian church) will overpower the former and bring the soothing presence of God (with His blessings = answers to my prayers). Not so, says St. Bonaventure, and many mystics. Cherishing death is the way.

The issue of authority in the Early Christianity

Notes from “The issue of authority in the Early Christianity” Dr Kenneth Howell teaching from Coming Home Network Conference

1. Questions that need to be asked

  • How did the authority of the Apostles expressed itself in their ministries, when the New Testament was not yet completed?
  • What kind of authority did the Apostles have? Was it just a guidence and suggestions without the force of the divine law?
  • Was the authority of apostles shared by others and passed on or did it cease with their death?
  • If the authority of the Apostles was passed, what form did it take?

2. Great Commission was given to the Apostles as the foundation of the church: the ministry of Word and Sacraments, modeled after Jesus’ ministry: preach and heal.

3. John 20 – What kind of authority did Jesus give to the Apostles when He appeared to them? It is the same authority as Christ had himself – the authority of forgiveness of sins was given to the Apostles. If ultimate authority does not derive from the Book, because the Book came from the church, the ultimate authority comes from that body of men that God planted in this world to do his work.

4. The Acts of the Apostles describes the ministry which surrounded mostly two Apostles – Peter (ch.1-12) and Paul (ch. 13-28)

5. Two important decades of the church of the first century:

  • First Ecumenical Council (Acts 15) in Jerusalem concerning the main question: Is circumcision necessary for salvation? (Do the Gentiles have to live as Jews to be saved? ) The Pharisees in Antioch were insisting on circumcising Gentiles, so Paul and Barnabas brough this question to the  Apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem. Apostles and presbyters together with the whole church made their decision, and sent the letter with their decision to inform the church of Antioch, which was looking to Jerusalem church as to the mother church. The leaders of the church recognized historical connection that must be maintained with what has proceeded them. How much connection do we need with history that proceeded us? Do we live in continuity or are we free to establish a sort of different faith based on what we read in the New Testament? The church had the sense of “catholicity” already there. They communicated the decision in the form of the letter and four messengers. The church in Antioch did now want to make the decision by themselves, but asked the church in Jerusalem for a council. This happened around 50-60 AD.
  • If Peter and Paul were in Rome in the early 60ties than what Peter says at the end of his second letter is important 2Pet 3:15 Peter is affirming the authority of divine inspiration of writings of another Apostle.
  • In the last letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus he tells them that they should be very careful to protect the sound teaching (sound words, helpful teaching) which they have received. Paul mentions that those who oppose the Gospel do not hold to those sound words of Jesus. And he tells Titus that he should ordain presbyters who are able to exhort in the sound teaching and to rebuke those who contradict them. The content of faith (deposit of faith) has to be guarded and transferred to their successors. 2 Tim 2:2: This is the pattern of the passing on of the content of faith to the next generation.
  • Paul leaves instructions how to establish permanent offices of bishops, presbyters (elders=priests), deacons. Content of the faith and the offices guarding the content.

6. From 60 AD to 120 AD all of the witnesses suggest that the notion of the Apostolic succession and the authority of a bishop is a norm and the rule within the church. Clement of Rome, third bishop of Rome after Peter, wrote a letter in the 90ties to Corinthians who wanted to overthrow their bishop. The letter explains the order of authority given: God- Jesus-Apostles and the order of continuity of authority within the church in the office of bishops, as well as the primacy of the Roman bishop.

7. The authority of a bishop and pope (bishop of Rome) is the authority of a servant. Authority does not derive from bishops themselves, but authority derives by being faithful witnesses in the offices that were established by the Apostles.

8. I live in a church where the leaders lived in a stream of continuity from the times of Jesus and Apostles. This continuity with the early church gives us the confidence that what we believe was not invented yesterday, that what we believe comes fro the very root of the church with a divine authority of Christ Himself. The church that we are part of has been established by a living Son of God, and He decided that He would commit that authority to fallible men.

unity. part 5

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Why Not Now?

Well, if God can do this, if God can effect an ecumenical reunion, why not now?  Why does he delay?  God never delays.  Well then if the teachings of the Church are true, why doesn’t God convince Protestants of those truths?  I think the reason is spiritual and personal, more than theological.

Why should God let Protestants become Catholics when many Protestants, perhaps most, already know Christ more intimately and personally than many Catholics, perhaps most!  How can God lead Protestants home to the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church until the Catholic Church becomes that fullness that they knew as Protestants plus more, not any less!  When Catholics know Christ better than Protestants do, when Catholics are better Protestants than Protestants, then Protestants will become Catholics in order to become better Protestants!

When Catholics are evangelized, Protestants will be sacramentalized.  But not before!  Evangelizing comes first.

So I think we Catholics have to change first.  But that change involves not the slightest compromising with anything Catholic: no dumbing down of the faith and no addition from without, no paganization nor secularization nor negation not weakening.  Only a rediscovery of our own essence from within.  Frankly, it is the Protestants who are going to have to add to the doctrines they rejected by seeing them differently.  What we have to add, or rather, rediscover is something even more important then doctrines: namely the relationship that we have neglected.  A truer relationship with a person is even more important than a truer concept about him.  So that point will probably make many Protestants cheer.

But any good Protestant who is hearing this ought to protest one thing I said a few moments ago: namely that Protestantism is essentially a protest movement, essentially negative.  Protestants defend Protestantism as essentially positive.  Why?  Not because it doesn’t have a pope or Transubstantiation or purgatory or rosary, that is negative.  But because it knows Christ, because its essence is the absolute all-sufficiency of Christ.

But that means that good Protestants are Protestants for exactly the same good reason that good Catholics are Catholic: out of fidelity to Christ.  So if the Protestant and the Catholic are both totally sincere about this Christocentrism, If both sections of Christ’s orchestra want only to follow the baton of Christ the one conductor, and if they never yield on this holy fanaticism of love and loyalty to Christ, then they will play in harmony.  For we know that Christ’s will is harmony, and unity.  Look at that most intimate glimpse of the inner life of the Trinity that we have in Scripture: Christ’s high priestly prayer to His Father just before His death in John 17.  Unity is central to it.  Departure from Christ was the fundamental cause of the Church’s tragic divisions in the first place.  Another word for departure from Christ is “sin.”  Therefore, return to Christ will be the cause of the Church’s return to unity.  That is simple logic.  I could put that into a syllogism.  It is also simple sanity and sanctity.  Another word for “return to Christ” is “sanctity.”

When bishops and theologians become saints, then Catholics will become Evangelicals and Evangelicals will become Catholics.  When both Protestants and Catholics become saints they will become one.  For a saint means only an “alter Christos,” another Christ, a little Christ, and Christ is not divided.  Christ’s body is not divided.  When Christ comes at the end of the world to marry His Church, He will not be a polygamist.  The Church will not be His harem.

Taken from Ecumenism without compromise by Peter Kreeft

Dlaczego nie teraz?

Jeżeli więc Bóg może to uczynić, jeżeli Bóg może wpłynąć na zjednoczenie ekumeniczne, dlczeo nie miałby uczynić tego teraz? Dlaczego zwleka? Bóg nigdy nie zwleka. Jeżeli więc nauczanie kościoła jest prawdziwe, dlaczego Bóg nie przekona protestantów do tych prawd? Sądzę, że przyczyna tkwi bardziej w sprawach duchowychi osobistych, niż w teologicznych.

Dlaczego Bóg miałby pozwolić protestantom stać się katolikami, kiedy to protestanci, a prawdopodobnie przynajmniej większość z nich, zna Chrystusa bliżej i bardziej osobiście niż wielu katolików, a prawdopodobnie niż większość z nich! Jak Bóg miałby prowadzić prostestantów do domu, do pełni wiary w kościele katolickim, jeżeli kościół katolicki nie jest pełnią przez nich poznaną wcześniej plus czymś więcej, a nie mniej! Kiedy katolicy znają Chrystusa bliżej niż protestanci, kiedy katolicy bądą lepszymi protestantami niż sami protestanci, wtedy protestanci staną się katolikami, aby zostać jeszcze lepszymi protestantami!

Kiedy katolicy będą ewangelizowani, protestanci będą “sakramentalizowani”, lecz nie wcześniej!  Ewangelizacja musi być pierwsza.

Myślę więc, że to my, katolicy musimy się zmienić jako pierwsi. Zmiana ta nie zawiera jakiegokolwiek kompromisu ze strony katolicyzmu: żadnego ogłupiania wiary, żadnych dodatków, żadnego pogaństwa ani sekularyzacji ani też negacji lub osłabiania. Tylko ponowne odkrywanie naszej istoty od wewnątrz. Mówiąc szczerze, to protestanci będą musieli dodać parę wcześniej odrzuconych doktryn, które rozumieli inaczej. Co my musimy dodać, lub raczej, odkryć na nowo jest ważniejsze niż doktryny: relację, którą zaniedbaliśmy. Prawdziwsza relacja z osobą jest ważniejsza, niż prawdziwsza idea na temat tej osoby. Ten punkt na pewno zadowoli wielu protestantów.

Lecz każdy porządny słyszący to protestant powinien zaprotestować przeciwko jednej rzeczy, o której wspomniałem: a mianowicie przeciwko temu, że protestantyzm jest zasadniczo ruchem protestującym, zasadniczo więc negatywnym. Protestanci bronią protestantyzmu jako zasadniczo pozytywnego. Dlaczego? Nie dlatego, że nie posiadają papieża, transubstancjacji, czyśćca czy różańca, gdyż są to elementy negatywne. Ale dlatego, że znają Chrystusa, gdyż istotą protestantyzmu jest samowystarczalność Chrystusa.

Oznacza to więc jednak, że dobrzy protestanci są protestantami z tego samego powodu, z którego katolicy są katolikami: z powodu wierności Chrystusowi. Jeżeli więc zarówno protestant jak i katolik są szczerze chrystocentryczni, jeżeli obie sekcje orkiestry Chrystusa pragną podążać za batutą Chrystusa, jedynego dyrygenta, i jeżeli nigdy nie mają zamiaru poddać się w tym świętym fanatyźmie miłości i lojalności względem Chrystusa, zagrają harmonijnie. Wiemy przecież, że wolą Chrystusa jest harmonia i jedność. Popatrzmy na najbardziej intymny moment życia wewnętrznego Trójcy opisanego w Piśmie św.: modlitwa Chrystusa, najwyższego kapłana, skierowana ku Ojcu, tuż przed śmiercią w Ewangelii Jana 17. Jedność jest tutaj w centrum. Odejście od Chrystusa było główną przyczyną tragicznych podziałów kościoła. Innym słowem na odejście jest “grzech”. Dlatego też, powrót do Chrystusa będzie przyczyną ponownego zjednoczenia. Taka prosta logika. Mógłbym to ująć syllogizmem. Jest to również prosta trzeźwość i świętość. Innym słowem na “powrót do Chrystusa” jest “świętość”.

Kiedy biskupi i teologowie stają się świętymi, wtedy katolicy staną się ewangelikalistami a ewangelikaliści staną się katolikami. Kiedy protestanci i katolicy zostaną świętymi, wtedy będą jednym. Gdyż święty to nic innego jak “alter Christos”, kolejny Chrystus, mały Chrystus, a Chrystus nie jest podzielony. Ciało Chrystusa nie jest podzielone. Kiedy Chrystus przyjdzie przy końcu czasów aby poślubić Swój kościół, nie będzie poligamistą. Kościół nie będzie Jego haremem.

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unity.part 4

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A Surprising Clue

But reunion without compromise between Catholics and Protestants still seems impossible.  Yet, here’s a surprising clue that it may be possible after all: the main point of what I said in the last few minutes “Jesus only,” “the all sufficiency of Christ,” that’s the essential Protestant point and it was just made by me, a Catholic.

That point seems to be an essential dividing point for Catholicism seems to Protestants to violate that point.  Catholicism seems to Protestants to be “Christ plus paganism,” “the Ark plus the barnacles,” or “Christ plus many human traditions and historical accretions,” “Christ plus the pope,” “Christ plus Mary,” whatever.  The most serious Protestant objection to Catholicism as a religion, not just as a theology, is that it violates the scriptural teaching of the all sufficiency of Christ, the teaching that there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.

To Protestants, Catholicism seems to add other mediaries, other intermediaries between man and Christ: Mary, the saints, the Church, Sacraments, priests, human traditions.

But I suggest that if Protestants make just one single adjustment in their vision, they will see the possibility of reunion.  Not just theologically, but more deeply religiously and spiritually, without any compromise at all.  And that one adjustment is not to see Christ in any different way at all, but to see the Church in a different way.  Not as an obstacle between us and Christ, not even as an intermediary between us and Christ, but as the very body of Christ Himself.

And why would they make that adjustment?  Well, which of these two concepts of the Church is the scriptural way of seeing it?  Come on, answer honestly.  You read the Bible and isn’t the Bible the supreme authority for any Protestant?  Once Protestants see the Church’s identity, they can love her instead of fearing her because the body of Christ is Christ as your body is you.  It’s not an alien, it’s not an obstacle.  How can your own body be an obstacle?  How Gnostic!  The body is not your prison house, or your coffin, or your punishment.  It’s not even your tool, or your clothing, or your house.  It’s not This Old House.  It’s you.  Although it’s not the whole you.  It’s not your head, or your soul.  The same is true of Christ’s body which is what the New Testament calls the Church.  It is Christ.  Though it’s not the whole Christ.  He is her head.  And the Holy Spirit is her soul.

Protestants will not and should not stop protesting against the Catholic Church until they see the totally Christocentric character of her and all her teachings.  Sometimes, the understanding of the Church’s Christocentrism can be the key to understanding the Christocentric nature of each of the Church’s teachings.  And sometimes, it works the other way around.  Doctrine by doctrine, yielding its Christocentric treasure at the heart as it is more deeply explored and understood.  As Christ the teacher appears at the heart of each of the Church’s teachings.  I know a number of Protestants who have read the Church’s new Catechism and had been amazed at how consistently Christocentric everything in it is.  And unless Protestants see this, how could they think of reunion with Catholics?  And how can they see this, unless Catholics show it to them?  And how can Catholics show it to them, unless they see it themselves?  And how can they see it, unless they have a teacher, a preacher?  As it is written, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that preach the good news.”

In this light, it seems to me, clearly Providential that God has raised up for our time, the time of the end of the second millennium, the millennium of Christian disunity, and the beginning of the third millennium, hopefully the millennium of Christian re-unity, has raised up John Paul the Great.  The most Christocentric pope of modern times, probably of all times.  The most ecumenical pope of all times, and yet one who is totally and traditionally and enthusiastically Catholic.  Is the pope Catholic?  There have been times in the Church’s dark history when that joke was not funny.  Today it’s funny.

Taken from Ecumenism without compromise by Peter Kreeft

Zaskakująca wskazówka

Bezkompromisowe zjednoczenie protestantów i katolików nadal wydaje się jednak niemożliwe. Lecz tutaj właśnie znajdujemy zaskakującą wskazówkę, która jest w stanie umożliwić ponowne połączenie: główny punkt, o którym mówiłem w ostatnich minutach, “tylko Jezus”,  “samowystarczalność Jezusa”, jako istotny punkt protestancki, a ja – katolik właśnie go poruszam.

Kwestia ta wydaje się być zasadniczym punktem dzielącym, gdyż katolicyzm wg protestantów zaburza ten stan. Katolicyzm wydaje się dla protestantów być “Chrystusem z dodatkiem pogaństwa”, “arką z dolepionymi skorupiakami”, czy “Chrystusem z ludzkimi tradycjami i historycznymi nawarstwieniami”, “Chrystusem z papieżem”, “Chrystusem z Maryją” itp. Głównym zarzutem protestanckim co do religii katolickiej, nie tylko jako teologii, jest naruszenie biblijnego nauczania na temat samowystarczalności Chrystusa i wyłączności pośrednictwa Jezusa Chrystusa pomiędzy Bogiem a czlowiekiem.

Dla protestantów katolicyzm wydaje się dorzucać innych pośredników pomiędzy czlowiekiem a Chrystusem: Maryję, świętych, kościół, sakramenty, księży, tradycje ludzkie.

Lecz pozwolę sobie zasugerować protestantom jedną korektę do ich sposobu postrzegania, dzięki której ujrzą możliwość zjednoczenia. Nie tylko w sensie teologicznym, lecz w głębszym religijnym i duchowym, bez wymaganych żadnych kompromisów. Zmiana ta nie dotyczy postrzegania Chrystusa w innym świetle, lecz postrzegania kościoła na nowy sposób. Mianowicie nie jako przeszkody stojącej pomiędzy nami a Chrystusem, nie jako pośrednika pomiędzy nami  a Chrystusem, lecz jako prawdziwego ciała samego Chrystusa.

Dlaczego mieliby oni przystać na taką zmianę? Zauważmy, która z tych dwóch koncepcji kościoła jest obrazem biblijnym? Bądźmy przy tym szczerzy. Czytasz Biblię i czyż nie jest ona najwyższym autorytetem dla każdego protestanta? Kiedy protestanci ujrzą charakter kościoła, zaczną go kochać zamiast się go bać, gdyż ciało Chrystusa jest Chrystusem, tak jak twoje ciało jest tobą. Nie jest kimś obcym, ani nie jest przeszkodą. Jak twoje własne ciało mogłoby być przeszkodą? Byłaby to gnoza! Twoje ciało nie jest więzieniem, trumną czy też karą. Nie jest nawet twoim narzędziem, odzieniem, czy mieszkaniem. Jest tobą. Jakkolwiek nie pełnią ciebie. Nie jest twoją głową lub duszą. Taka sama prawda może być powiedziana o ciele Chrystusa, które w Nowym Testamencie jest nazwane kościołem. Kościół to Chrystus. Jakkolwiek to nie pełnia Chrystusa. On jest jego głową, a Duch święty jest jego duszą.

Prostestanci nie przestaną i nie powinni protestować przeciwko kościołowi katolickiemu dopóki nie ujrzą całkowicie chrystocentrycznego charakteru i całego nauczania kościoła. Niekiedy zrozumienie chrystocentryzmu kościoła może być kluczem do zrozumienia chrystocentrycznej natury całego nauczania w kościele katolickim. Niekiedy również działa to w drugą stronę. Rozważając w sercu dogmat po dogmacie, poddając go chrystocentrycznej zasadzie, dochodzi się do głębszego zrozumienia. Chrystus nauczyciel staje się widoczny w sercu każdego nauczania kościoła. Znam wielu protestantów, którzy po przeczytaniu katechizmu kościoła katolickiego ze zdziwieniem ujrzeli chrystocentryczną konsekwencję wszystkiego, co tam zawarte.  A jakże protestanci mieliby myśleć o zjednoczeniu z katolikami, jeżeli tego nie ujrzą? A jakże katolicy mieliby na to wskazać, skoro sami tego nie widzą? A jakże mieliby to ujrzeć, skoro nie mają nauczyciela, kaznodzieji? Jak jest napisane: “Jak piękne stopy tych, którzy zwiastują dobrą nowinę!

Ujmując to zagadnienie w tym świetle, wydaje mi się, że w sposób opatrznościowy sam Bóg spowodował, że w naszych czasach końca drugiego milenium, które charakteryzowało się podziałem, i na początku trzeciego milenium, z nadzieją na milenium zjednoczenia chrześcijańskiego, Bóg powołał Jana Pawła Wielkiego. Najbardziej chrystocentrycznego papieża czasów współczesnych, a prawdopodobnie w całej historii. Najbardziej otwartego na ekumenię, a jednocześnie całkowicie tradycyjnego i entuzjastycznie katolickiego.  Czy papież jest katolikiem? W ciemnych fragmentach historii kościoła bywało, że taki żart nie był wcale śmieszny. Dzisiaj jest.

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