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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Saturday, 29 May 2010

THE WORLD AS SACRAMENT (by HH Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople)

 
THE WORLD AS SACRAMENT The Theological and Spiritual Vision of Creation: His All
Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

[From the Russian text, omitted in English] During his visit to the Russian Orthodox Church, on 26 May 2010 His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople visited the Department for External Church Relations, and met with students of the Saints Cyril and Methodius general-ecclesial post-graduate program.

26.05.2010

Introduction: Creation and the Virtue of Silence

In the Philokalia, St. Anthony of Egypt describes nature as a book that reveals the beauty of God's creation: ”Creation [he says] declares in a loud voice its Maker and master.” Or, as St. Maximus the Confessor claims in the 7th century, the whole world is a 'cosmic liturgy.' What, then, is the Orthodox theological and spiritual vision of the world?

As a young child, accompanying the priest of our local village to remote chapels on our native island of Imvros in Turkey, the connection of the beautiful mountainside to the splendor of God was evident. The environment provides a panoramic vision of the world, like the wide-angle lens of a camera, which
prevents us from exploiting its natural resources in a selfish way. The recent ecological disaster off the Gulf Coast in Louisiana reveals the consequences of ignoring this cosmic worldview.

However, to reach this point of maturity toward the natural environment, we must take the time to listen to the voice of creation. If we are silent, we shall experience what the Liturgy of St. James affirms:

'The heavens declare the glory of heaven; the earth proclaims the sovereignty of God; the sea heralds the authority of the Lord; and every creature preaches the magnificence of God.'

It is unfortunate that we lead our life without noticing the environmental concert that is playing out before our eyes and ears. In this orchestra, each minute detail plays a critical role. Nothing can be removed without the entire symphony being affected. No tree, animal or fish can be removed without the entire picture being distorted, if not destroyed.

Orthodox Theology and the Environment

In its foremost symbol, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Orthodox Church confesses 'one God, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.' From this fundamental principle and declaration of faith, the Orthodox Church articulates the concept of cosmic transfiguration, especially through its hymnography. The Feast of Christ's Transfiguration on August 6th highlights the integral connection between metamorphosis and theophany, extending the divine light and transformative power to all creation:

Today, on Mt. Tabor, in the manifestation of your light, O Lord, You were unaltered from the light of the unbegotten Father. We have seen the Father as light, and the Spirit as light, guiding with light the entire creation.

And the Feast of our Lord’s Baptism on January 6th proclaims:

The nature of waters is sanctified, the earth is blessed, and the heavens are enlightened, so that by the elements of creation, and by angels, and by human beings, by things both visible and invisible, God's most holy name may be glorified.

The breadth and depth of the Orthodox cosmic vision implies that humanity is a part of a 'theophany', which is always greater than any single individual. As St. Maximus states: “Human beings are not isolated from the rest of creation. They are bound by their very nature to the whole of creation.” Thus, in The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky urges:

"Love all God's creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things."

Eucharistic and Ascetic Spirituality

In order to achieve this sacramental vision of creation, human beings are called to practice a spirituality of thanksgiving and self-discipline. In theological terms, we are called to be 'eucharistic' and 'ascetic' beings. In this way, the Orthodox Church reminds us that creation is not simply our possession or property, but rather a gift from God the Creator, a gift of wonder and beauty. From the moment of creation, this world was offered by God as a gift to be returned in gratitude and love.

This is precisely how the Orthodox spiritual way avoids the problem of the world's domination by humanity. For if this world is a sacred mystery, then this in itself precludes any attempt at mastery by human beings. Indeed, the mastery or exploitative control of the world's resources is identified more
with Adam's 'original sin' than with God's wonderful gift. It is the result of selfishness and greed, which arise from alienation from God and an abandonment of the sacramental worldview. Sin separated the sacred from the secular, dismissing the latter to the domain of evil and surrendering it as prey to exploitation.

Beyond a 'eucharistic' spirituality, we are also called to practice an 'ascetic ethos', namely self-restraint and self-control, so that we no longer willfully consume every fruit, but instead manifest a sense of frugalityfrom some things for the sake of valuing all things. Then, we shall learn to care for plants and animals, for trees and rivers, for mountains and seas, for all human beings and the world. Then, we shall be instruments of peace and life, not tools of violence and death. Then, everything will assume its divine purpose, as God originally intended the world.

Creation and the Virtue of Compassion

On the sixth day of creation, God created man and woman in His divine image and likeness. Yet, what most people overlook is that the sixth day is not dedicated to the formation of Adam alone. That sixth day was shared with 'living creatures of every kind; cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the
earth' (Gen. 1.24) This close connection between humanity and the rest of creation is a powerful reminder of our intimate relationship with the environment. While there is undoubtedly something unique about our creation in God's image, there is more that unites us than separates us, not only as human beings but also with creation. It is a lesson we have learned the hard way in recent decades.

The saints of our Church understood this well. They knew that a person with a pure heart was able to sense the connection with the rest of creation, including the animal world. The connection is not merely emotional; it is profoundly spiritual, providing a sense of continuity and community as well as an
expression of identity and compassion with all of creation. One may recall St. Seraphim of Sarov feeding the bear in the forests of the north. As Abba Isaac of Nineveh observed:

A merciful heart burns with love for all creation: for human beings, birds, beasts, even demons-- for all God's creatures. When it recalls these creatures, it is filled with tears. An overwhelming compassion makes the heart grow small and weak, and it cannot endure to hear or see any suffering, even the slightest pain, inflicted upon any creature.

Interpreting the Concept of Sin

If the earth is sacred, then our relationship with the natural environment is sacramental. The 'sin of Adam' is precisely his refusal to receive the world as a gift of communion with God and with the rest of creation. St. Paul clearly emphasizes the consequences of the Fall, claiming that “from the beginning till now, the entire creation, which as we know has been groaning in pain” (Rom. 8.22), also “awaits with eager longing this revelation by the children of God.” (Rom. 8.19)

However, far too long have we focused-- as churches and as theologians-- on the notion of sin as a rupture in individual relations with each other or with God. The environmental crisis reminds us of the cosmic consequences of sin, which are more than merely social or narrowly spiritual. Every act of pollution is an offence against God as creator. Repentance implies a radical change of ways and worldview. Some fifteen years ago, at a conference in Santa Barbara, we declared:

To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. To cause species to become extinct and destroy the biological diversity of God;s creation; to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing climate change; to strip the earth of its natural forests or destroy its wetlands; to contaminate the earth's waters --all of these are sins.

Social, Political, and Economic Implications

Orthodox theology recognizes the natural creation as inseparable from the identity and destiny of humanity; every human action leaves a lasting imprint on the body of the earth. Human attitudes and behavior toward creation directly reflect human attitudes and behavior toward other people. Ecology is inevitably related to economy; our global economy is simply outgrowing the capacity of our planet to support it. At stake is not just our ability to sustain the world, but to survive. Indeed, scientists estimate that those most hurt by global warming will be those who can least afford it. Therefore, the ecological problem of pollution is connected to the social problem of poverty; for all ecological activity is measured by its impact upon other people, especially the poor.

Concern, then, for ecological issues is directly related to concern for issues of social justice. A Church that neglects to pray for the polluted environment is a Church that refuses to offer food and drink to a suffering humanity. A society that refuses to care for human beings is a society that ultimately
mistreats all of God's creation. The terms “ecology” and”economy” share the same etymological root (from the Greek oikos), which signifies “home.” It is unfortunate and selfish that we have restricted the application of this word to ourselves, as if we were the sole inhabitants of this world. This planet is the home of everyone, of every animal creature, as well as of every form of life.

Conclusion: A New Worldview

We have repeatedly stated that the crisis that we are facing in our world is not primarily ecological. It is a crisis concerning the way we perceive the world. We are treating our planet in a selfish, godless manner precisely because we fail to see it as a gift inherited from above; it is our obligation to receive,
respect and return this gift to future generations. Therefore, before we can effectively deal with problems of our environment, we must change the way we regard the world. Otherwise, we are simply dealing with symptoms, not with their causes. We require 'a new heavenly' worldview if we are to desire 'a new earth.' (Rev. 21.1)

This is the source of our optimism. The natural environment--the forest, water and land-- belongs to all generations. Your generation is entitled to a better, brighter world; a world free from degradation, violence and bloodshed; a world of generosity and love. It is the selfless love for our children that will
show us the path to the future. And it is your generation that will initiate the changes in lifestyle to secure this future.

May God bless you in this sacred struggle.
(thanks to Rdr James of IRENIKON)

Friday, 28 May 2010

THE HOLY TRINITY



Trinity Ikon Meditation - Sr Jane Louise SSM from Fr Simon Rundell on Vimeo.

1)   It is accepted in Catholic Tradition that all God's activity in his creation, what is called his activity ad extra, is a single activity common to Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   Where the Father acts, the Son and the Spirit act too; and where the Son acts, the Father and the Spirit act as well; and where the Spirit acts, the Father and the Son are also involved in the same action; because all three Persons have the same will and the same action (energia) springing from the same free decision of that will.   It is also clear that in the Incarnation and in the whole Christian Mystery, the Person's relationships in the divine act of salvation differ from one another in a way that reflects the internal relationships they have within the Trinity.   If this were not so, the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity would be reduced to an interesting fact about God, revealed for its own sake, and with little relevance to salvation beyond the fact that one of the Persons became man.   Any exposition of the Christian Mystery must begin and end with the Blessed Trinity because Christian revelation is essentially trinitarian in structure.   When this is forgotten, Father, Son and Holy Spirit become either different names for the same Reality, or they become three separate people, and each can be invoked without any reference to the other two.

Within the Blessed Trinity, the Father is the Source of the Son and the Holy Spirit.   The Son is eternally generated  from the Father by the Holy Spirit; or, the Holy Spirit is the Father's Breath by which the Word is uttered.   The Spirit is also the love of the Father for the Sonand the love of the Son for the Father.   As the mutual love of the Father and the Son for each other, this is the sense of the famous filioque clause in the Creed, "We believe in the Holy Spirit ...who proceeds from the Father and the Son:"   But, according to St Thomas Aquinas, there is a sense in which he proceeds from the Father alone: while the Son can be said to receive from the Father the power to "breath" the Holy Spirit, the Father does not receive that power from the Son.   The Son is the Image of the Father who receives from him all that he is, and he does what his Father does; but the Father is not Image of the Son.   Instead, through the power of the Spirit who is in Both, the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father.   St Gregory Palamas, who is an important witness to the Eastern Tradition, wrote,

The Spirit of the Word from on high is like a mysterious love of the Father towards the Word mysteriously begotten; it is the same love that is possessed by the Word and the well-beloved Son of the Fathertowrds him that begat him; this he does insofar as he comes from the Father conjointly with this love, and this love rests naturally on him.

This is echoed by Sergius Bulgakov:
The Holy Spirit "proceeds" from the Father to the Son as the hypostatic love of the Father, which "abides" in the Son, fulfilling his actuality and possession by the Father.   In turn, the Holy Spirit passes "through" the Son, returning, as it were, to the Father in a mysterious cycle, as the answering hypostatic love .   In this way, the Holy Spirit achieves his own fulfillment as the Hypostasis of Love.

2)   Without this action of the Spirit, the Incarnation could not have taken place because it is that which enables his human nature to be that of the Word who "enlightens everyone coming into the world (John 1, 9).   It was necessary so that while he remained a historical figure. his human activity could burst the bonds of time and place and embrace the whole of humankind in a love that is both truly divine and truly human.   As a consequence, the Blessed Virgin Mary is Mother of all the living (Gen. 3, 20) because she is the mother of him who embraces in himself the whole human race.   This role requires from her a love for the whole of human kind which she gradually acquired by her intimate relationship with Christ during his life on earth  and, most especially by her participation in his crucifixion (John 10, 26).

Without the Spirit, Jesus could not have borne our sinsand hence could not have saved us.   Because of his Spirit-given solidarity with the whole human race, he suffered the full effects of our separation from his Father: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me.""   He became sin for us(2 Cor. 5, 21) so that his mental suffering must have far outstripped his physical pain.    However, his obedience unto death, his love that cost him the last drop of his blood, his unswerving fidelity to his Father in spite of everything, reflected the divine love he has for his Father as a response to the Father's love for him by which he is eternally the Son; and his Spirit-given solidarity with the human race ensures that the Father's love for him spills out on to us, taking the form of pardon for sin, adoption as sons and daughters, and our sanctification by sharing in his divine life.   Without Jesus, the Father could not have a proper relationship with human beings, but through Jesus Christ, we truly become his sons and daughters and he truly becomes our Father.

3)   We could us any of the prayers in the New Rite, but we shall use Eucharist Prayer III.   Just as the Mass begins, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," and ends with the Trinitarian blessing, sothe Eucharistic Prayer begins with two mentions of the Trinity and ends with the Trinitarian doxology.   This is what scholars call an inclusion, and it means that the whole prayer and even the whole celebration are all about the Holy Trinity.

The prayer opens with the statement thatconnects the Mass with everything else: everything that exists rightly praises the Father because all life, all holinesscomes from him through Jesus Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit.   The Father is the Source of both the Son and the Holy Spirit and is the Source of all blessings in his creation.   He generates the Son by the breath of the Holy Spirit, so that Father and Son are one in the same Spirit....

The Father in this Eucharistic Prayer is portrayed as the Source of all life and holiness, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit; and he is the Goal to which we all are moving, as  the Holy Spirit scoops us up in the doxology and brings us through the Son into the Father's Presence.   We thus participate in that flow of love between Father and Son , sharing in their communion by sharing in the Spirit.   Another name for all this is "salvation"; and this is what we thankfully celebrate in the Mass.
(texts taken from "Heaven Revealed - The Holy Spirit and the Mass" by David Bird OSB, Gracewing, UK)

Friday, 14 May 2010

Jesus Prayer - Prayer of the Heart: Power of Name Jesus Christ, Praying the Jesus Prayer, Jesus Prayer Stages, Jesus Prayer's Purpose


Jesus Prayer - Prayer of the Heart: Power of Name Jesus Christ, Praying the Jesus Prayer, Jesus Prayer Stages, Jesus Prayer's Purpose

Prayer of the Heart for the Faithful Living in the World
http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/elderjoseph_prayerintheworld.aspx

Prayer of the Heart for the Faithful Living in the World

Saying the Jesus Prayer
http://www.svots.edu/albert-s-rossi-saying-the-jesus-prayer/

Saying the Jesus Prayer





Wednesday, 5 May 2010

ABBOT PAUL'S HOMILY IN THE PRESENCE OF THE ARCHBISHOP AND CLERGY OF CARDIFF



“The man who stands firm to the end will be saved.” These words from today’s Gospel for the Feast of the Martyrs of England and Wales are the words of Jesus to his apostles and so they are his words to us as well. They are words that ask for perseverance in our priestly life and ministry, but they are also words that strengthen our hope, for God is always faithful to those who are faithful to him. We see this in the example given us by St Stephen in the first reading from Acts. He, like the Martyrs of England and Wales, was faithful to the end and willingly gave his life for Christ and the Gospel. His fidelity and fortitude led to the conversion of St Paul for the man in charge of Stephen’s executioners was soon called to be an Apostle and the greatest theologian and missionary the world has ever known. Don’t lose heart then and don’t give up the fight, for “the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

First of all let me congratulate you, Archbishop Peter, on your appointment to Southwark and assure you of our prayers and support as you prepare to leave Cardiff and return home. I have no doubt that, contrary to our Lord’s experience, you will be accepted as a prophet in your own country and among your own people. We thank you for the eight and a half years you have spent among us at the head of this great Archdiocese. It has been a joy and a privilege to work with you in the vineyard of the Lord and, with your example and encouragement, to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments in this small corner of God’s Kingdom. Our prayers, our thoughts and our affection go with you. We will all miss your cheerfulness and honesty, your availability and clear thinking, your sense of reality and above all your humility. You have been a friend and a companion more than a bishop and a pastor rather than a prelate. Thank you for the support and care you have given to each one of us. As the Poor Clares always say, “God reward you, father.”

It gives me and the Community great joy to welcome you all to Belmont this morning, bishops, priests and deacons of the Archdiocese of Cardiff and Diocese of Menevia. This is where your history, indeed our common history begins, the fascinating story of the re-founding of the Welsh Catholic Church in modern times. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Belmont in 1859 and the consecration of the church in 1860, we have organised a number of different events. On 2nd February we welcomed the religious of the two dioceses and today the clergy. In three weeks’ time it will be the turn of our Anglican and Protestant brethren. There will be a big jamboree on September 4th, Feast of the Dedication, but we thought it best to invite our friends and colleagues to smaller, more homely celebrations where we can just be ourselves.

This church and monastery were originally built to commemorate the conversion to the Catholic faith of Richard Francis Wegg Prosser of Belmont House. Ironically, he had just received an inheritance from an Anglican clergyman relation who had stipulated that a church be built with the money. The Church of England contested the building of a Catholic church, but Wegg Prosser won the court case because his uncle’s will didn’t actually say that the new church should belong to the Established Church. And so it was that Bishop Thomas Joseph Brown, who is buried in the north transept beneath the window of the Welsh saints, came to accept the gift of land, church and monastery for the use of the English Benedictine Congregation and as the cathedral for his new Diocese of Newport and Menevia. He was Prior of Downside when appointed Vicar Apostolic of the Welsh District, that is the whole of Wales together with Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, in 1840. Then in 1850 he was named Bishop of the new diocese, a post he held until his death in 1880. Without exaggeration he can be called Father of the Catholic Church in modern Wales.

It is important to remember that when Brown became Vicar Apostolic in 1840 and was consecrated by Dr Wiseman there were but 750 Catholics in the whole of Wales served by nine priests. Catholicism was at its lowest ebb. Only a man with his tenacity, ingenuity, faith and vision could have set about building up the Church in such unpromising circumstances. To be truthful, he was not happy about the reintroduction of the diocesan system in 1850 and would have preferred that Wales remain a missionary vicariate. In 1850 the six northern counties of Wales became part of the Diocese of Shrewsbury, whereas the rest of Wales together with Herefordshire became the Diocese of Newport and Menevia. Now Brown wished his cathedral to be built in Newport, the only large town in his diocese at the time, but neither Downside nor Wegg Prosser were willing to grant him his wish. So he had to make do with Belmont. It is interesting to note that Downside did eventually build a church in Wales that was worthy to become a cathedral, St Joseph’s, Swansea.

But we haven’t come here this morning for a history lesson, though it is important not to forget the past, not to forget our history, a history of which we should all be very proud. Belmont is the mother church of two dioceses and for 150 years, not to mention the long period of between the dissolution of the monasteries and Catholic emancipation, we Benedictines have contributed, usually beyond our means and often beyond the call of duty, to building up and supporting the life of the Church in this land. We should remember, for example, the diocesan priests trained here at Belmont alongside their Benedictine contemporaries. Until the 1940s many of the Cardiff and Menevia clergy were ordained here at Belmont, the last being Frank Murphy, Cyril Schwarz and Trevor Driscoll who received the minor orders in 1943 and 44. The Archbishop would come up to Belmont and spend the whole morning ordaining people. It must have been an extraordinary carry-on, but then, unlike us today, they had both stamina and vocations in those days.

St Paul insists in the letter to the Ephesians that there is but “one Lord, one faith and one baptism” to which from his teaching of the Church as the Body of Christ we can add “one Church”. The history and the present reality of the Catholic Church in Wales (and not forgetting, as we sometimes do, Herefordshire) is the story of a joint venture, a united mission, a great work we all undertook and continue in faith to undertake together, bishops, priests, deacons, religious of all kinds, both women and men, and our lay people, whose contribution continues to grow and bear fruit. Together we are the successors of the Martyrs whose feast we keep today. This year we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the execution at Leominster of the Herefordshire martyr Blessed Roger Cadwallader, like St John Kemble a secular priest. We are also the descendents of penal day Catholics, of converts to the Catholic faith, of Irish, Italian and other 19th and 20th Century immigrants and today we serve a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic Church that in many of our parishes is vibrant with new life.

If you were to believe what the media says, then you might be misled into thinking that the Catholic Church in this country is on its last legs, struggling for survival and doomed to die an early death. Some regard this as a fait accompli and it is sad to say that there are prophets of doom even within the household of the faith. But are we going to succumb so easily to fashion? Remember the words of Dean Inge, “The man who weds himself to fashion will soon find himself a widower!” What has to stop is the petty squabbling and backbiting that’s going on among Catholics in the public forum, above all on internet and in the press. “A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand,” said the Lord Jesus, but he was talking not of the internal life of the Church and of fraternal relations, but of Satan and his gang.

Now we have the spirit of Bishop Brown and of his great successor Bishop Hedley, who between them served our Church as bishop for 75 years. We have the spirit of the Martyrs. Above all we have the Spirit of Jesus and we live by his word and the truth of his Gospel. “The man who stands firm to the end will be saved.” The time in which we live and serve Christ and his Church is no time for pessimism or negativity. This is a time for hope and for action. This is the moment God, in his mercy and love, has given to us. Because this is true we should rejoice and our joy should be infective. We have not lost the missionary spirit of the early Church or of our English and Welsh martyrs. We will do no less than Bishop Brown, Bishop Hedley and those who followed them and their contemporaries. We believe in the saving power of God’s word, in the grace of the Sacraments, in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the efficacy of prayer, all this in a living community that is aglow with a charity which is practical rather than theoretic and a sense of justice and of human rights that recognise the true dignity of every living creature and the right to life from conception to a natural death. No other Church has the fullness of the riches of God’s own life which through the Incarnation of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit he shares fully with us, so that we can say, in the words of St Paul, “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

Inflamed with the love of God and the knowledge of his grace, we have a message to preach that is worth preaching and a life to share which is worth sharing. Following the example of our Martyrs and relying on their intercession, we can play our part in the transmission and preservation of the Catholic faith. Walking in the footsteps of Thomas Brown and Cuthbert Hedley and of the other great heroes of the Catholic Church in modern times, we too can instil new vigour, new life and new hope into a Church which is thirsting for renewal, for renewed vitality and missionary zeal. This is our vocation, this is our mission and this is our time, this is our God-given moment. What a judgement awaits us if we let it slip away by through fear, indolence or indifference. May Our Lady of Penrhys, of the Taper, of Tintern, of Madley and of her countless other names and titles pray for us and fill us with enthusiasm by her maternal encouragement and chiding. Her word for us today is the same message of hope she heard from the lips of the Archangel Gabriel, “For God nothing is impossible.” Fathers and brothers, sisters and mothers, on what we do today depends the future of the Church and of the faith in our land. It’s a matter of life and death, and infinitely more important than a General Election.

Praised by Jesus Christ. Amen



The Abbot, Dom Paul Stonham with Dom Andrew and a guest.

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