The present life is a comedy, which passes away.

From SERMON XII. SEPTUAGESIMA SUNDAY – ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SALVATION – ” He sent them into his vineyard.” MATTHEW xx. 2 by St. Alphonsus Liguori

“How,” says Salvian, ”does it happen that a Christian believes, and still does not fear the future?” Christians believe death, judgment, hell, and Paradise: but they live as if they believed them not as if these truths of faith were tables or the inventions of human genius. Many live as it they were never to die, or as if they had not to give God an account of their life as if there were neither hell nor a heaven. Perhaps they do not believe in them? They believe, but do not reflect on them; and thus they are lost.

If the soul is lost, all is lost.

“What exchange can a man give for his soul:” (Matt. xvi. 26.)  (…) If, from being created by God to his own image, you do not comprehend the value of your soul, learn it from Jesus Christ, who has redeemed you with his own blood.

God, then, sets so high a value on your soul; such is its value in the estimation of Satan, that, to become master of it, he does not sleep night or day, but is continually going about to make it his own. Hence St. Augustine exclaims: “The enemy sleeps not, and you are asleep.” The enemy is always awake to injure you, and you slumber. Pope Benedict the Twelfth, being asked by a prince for a favour which he could not conscientiously grant, said to the ambassador: Tell the prince, that, if I had two souls, I might be able to lose one of them in order to please him; but, since I have but one, I cannot consent to lose it. Thus he refused the favour which the prince sought from him.

“What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul ?”“But one thing is necessary ?” (Luke x. 42.) It is not necessary to become rich on this earth to acquire honours and dignities; but it is necessary to save our souls; because, unless we gain heaven we shall be condemned to hell: there is no middle place: we must be either saved or damned. God has not created us for this earth; neither does he preserve our lives that we may become rich and enjoy amusements. “And the end life everlasting.” (Hom, vi. 22.) He has created us, and preserved us, that we may acquire eternal glory.

St. Philip Neri, conversing one day with Francis Zazzera, a young man of talent who expected to make a fortune in the world, said to him: “You shall realize a great fortune; you shall be a prelate, afterwards a cardinal, and in the end, perhaps, pope. But what must follow? what must follow? Go, my son, think on these words.” The young man departed, and after meditating on the words, what must follow? what must follow? he renounced his worldly prospects, and gave himself entirely to God;

“The fashion of this world passeth away.” (i Cor. vii. 31.) On this passage, Cornelius à Lapide , says, that “the world is as it were a stage.” The present life is a comedy, which passes away. Happy the man who acts his part well in this comedy by saving his soul.

David said: “One thing I have asked of the Lord; this I will seek after that I may dwell in the house of the Lord.” (Ps. xxvi. 4.) One thing only have I sought, and will for ever seek, from God that he may grant me the grace to save my soul; for, if I save my soul, all is safe; if I lose it, all is lost.

”The summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jer. viii. 20.)

“With fear and trembling work out your salvation. ” (Phil. ii. 12.) Hence, if we wish to save our souls, we must labour strenuously to avoid dangerous occasions, to resist temptations, and to frequent the sacraments. Without labour we cannot obtain heaven. “The violent bear it away.” The saints tremble at the thought of eternity.

Αγνή Παρθένε (Agni Parthene)

I can’t get enough of this lately. St. Nektarios of Aegina wrote this wonderful hymn and it is sung during Orthodox Vespers. I listen to it in Greek – by Divna Ljubojevic (angelic), another version (don’t know who is singing this one) and in Arabic.

But my favorite is sung by the Valaam monks:

You can sing with them, here is the Old Slavonic version transliterated in Russian and English

You can listen to it in English: part 1 & part 2

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

Bridegroom shares His cross

Jesus now hath many lovers of His celestial kingdom:
but few bearers of His Cross.
He bath many who are desirous of consolations:
but few of tribulation.
He findeth many companions of His table:
but few of His abstinence.
All desire to rejoice with Him:
Few wish to endure anything for Him.
Many follow Jesus to the breaking of bread:
but few to the drinking of the cup of His Passion.
Many reverence His miracles:
few follow the shame of His Cross.

[The Imitation of Christ] – Thomas a Kempis

Wielu ma dzisiaj Jezus tych, co kochają Jego Królestwo niebieskie, ale mało takich, którzy dźwigaliby Jego krzyż. Wielu ma spragnionych Jego pocieszenia, lecz mało pragnących dzielić z Nim ból. Wielu znajdzie przyjaciół do stołu, ale mało do postu.
Wszyscy chcą się z Nim cieszyć, mało pragnie dla Niego i z Nim cierpieć. Wielu idzie za Jezusem do momentu łamania chleba, lecz niewielu aż do wychylenia kielicha męki. Wielu podziwia Jego cuda, mało postępuje za hańbą krzyża.

[O naśladowaniu Chrystusa] – Tomasz z Kempis

Nuns instead of Lady Gaga

Couple of years ago the Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz made an album “Chant: Music For Paradise” which sold more than one million copies, after climbing to the top of European charts with their Gragorian chants.

Today’s story is similar, but about the Benedictine nuns of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l’Annonciation, from France ear Avignon. They have signed a deal with Decca Records, part of Universal Music, which counts Lady Gaga and U2 among its acts.

Their album “Voice: Chant from Avignon”, is scheduled for release in November 2010

this is eternal life that they may know You

Who would ever thought that Catholic Catechism would become one of my favorite books? Since our come back to the Catholic church I read it almost daily and I will read through it all systematically and slowly, so I can ponder and meditate upon every point. I don’t know how long it will take and it does not matter. So here comes the Prologue.

“FATHER, . . . this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”  John 17:3 “God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim 2:4 “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12 – than the name of JESUS.  Catholic Catechism, Prologue

Love knows the best. We can love only what we know. Mind can’t understand, but will can embrace. We need to know him with the heart and will, not only with the mind. If we know him in that way, we will fall down and adore.

This alone is the true knowledge of God: to know that God is beyond knowing.

–St. Thomas Aquinas.

When God visits you with measureless gifts, let your memory open immediately to receive what your intellect knows in His divine love, and let your will rise with burning desire to receive and gaze at the blazing heart of the giver, the gentle, good Jesus. Thus, you will find yourself burning and clothed with fire, and with the gift of the blood of God’s Son, and you will be free from all pain and unease. This is what took away the pain of the holy disciples when they had to leave Mary and one another, although they willingly bore the separation in order to spread the word of God.
Run, run, run.
— Saint Catherine of Siena

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.