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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

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Sunday, 30 June 2013

SAINTS PETER AND PAUL 2013



HOMILY OF ST GREGORY PALAMAS

The following is from Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki. Saint Gregory lived in the 1300s and is a very important Saint of the Greek Orthodox Church. He is another patron Saint of Thessaloniki, the great city that has produced many Saints - most notably Saint Demetrios the Great Martyr. In future posts down the line, I hope to share more about Saint Gregory.
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Given that Paul made the same confession of faith as Peter, and had the same zeal, humility and love, surely they received the same rewards from Him Who measures everything with completely just scales, yardstick and plumbline. Anything else would be unreasonable. That is why the Lord told Peter, "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18), whereas He said to Ananias of Paul, "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings" (Acts 9:15). Which name? Clearly the name we have been given, the name of Christ's Church, which rests on the foundation stone of Peter. Notice that Peter and Paul are equal in prominence and glory, and both hold up the Church. Consequently the Church now bestows one and the same honour on both, and celebrates them together with equal esteem. As we consider the outcome of their lives, let us imitate how they lived, or at least how they were restored through humility and repentance, even if we cannot attain to their other great and exalted achievements, which are appropriate to great men and fitting for great men to emulate. In fact, some aspects of their lives are probably impossible for anyone to imitate. Amendment through repentance, however, is more appropriate for us than for the great, since we all sin many times every day, and unless we lay hold of salvation through continuous repentance, we have no hope of it from any other source.
Repentance is preceded by awareness of our sins, which is a strong incentive to mercy. "Have mercy upon me", said the Psalmist and Prophet to God, "for I acknowledge my transgressions" (Ps. 5 1:1, 3). Through his recognition of sin he attracted God's compassion, and through his confession and self-condemnation he obtained complete forgiveness. "I said", the Psalmist tells us, "I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my heart" (cf. Ps. 32:5), because acknowledgment of our sins is followed by condemnation of ourselves, which in turn is followed by that sorrow for our sins which Paul calls "godly sorrow" (2 Cor. 7:10). After godly sorrow confession and prayer to God with a contrite heart come naturally (Ps. 51:17), as does the promise to keep away from evil from now on. This is repentance.
This is how Manasseh escaped being punished for his sins, even though he had fallen into many great and serious transgressions, and wallowed in them for years on end (2 Chr. 33:1-20). As for David, the Lord set aside his sin because of his repentance, nor did he deprive him of his Prophetic gift. When Peter resorted to repentance, he not only recovered from his fall and obtained forgiveness, but was also appointed to protect Christ's Church. As you see, Paul too was rewarded with this role after his conversion, once he had made progress and become more closely God's own than the others. Repentance which is true and truly from the heart persuades the penitent not to sin any more, not to mix with corrupt people, and not to gape in curiosity at evil pleasures, but to despise things present, cling to things to come, struggle against passions, seek after virtues, be self- controlled in every respect, keep vigil with prayers to God, and shun dishonest gain. It convinces him to be merciful to those who wrong him, gracious to those who ask something of him, ready with all his heart to bend down and help in any way he can, whether by words, actions or money, all who seek his assistance, that through kindness to his fellow-man he might gain God's love in return for loving his neighbour, draw the divine favour to himself, and attain to eternal mercy and God's everlasting blessing and grace.


-"Homily Twenty-Eight" from The Homilies of Saint Gregory Palamas, Volume Two, translated by Christopher Veniamin (St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, 2004), from www.oca.org

POPE FRANCIS' HOMILY FOR THE FEAST

Your Eminences,
Your Eminence, Metropolitan Ioannis,
My Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are celebrating the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles, principal patrons of the Church of Rome: a celebration made all the more joyful by the presence of bishops from throughout the world. A great wealth, which makes us in some sense relive the event of Pentecost. Today, as then, the faith of the Church speaks in every tongue and desire to unite all peoples in one family.
I offer a heartfelt and grateful greeting to the Delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, led by Metropolitan Ioannis. I thank Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I for this renewed gesture of fraternity. I greet the distinguished ambassadors and civil authorities. And in a special way I thank the Choir of the Thomaskirche of Leipzig ? Bach?s own church ? which is contributing to today?s liturgical celebration and represents an additional ecumenical presence.
I would like to offer three thoughts on the Petrine ministry, guided by the word “confirm”. What has the Bishop of Rome been called to confirm?
1. First, to confirm in faith. The Gospel speaks of the confession of Peter: “You are Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16), a confession which does not come from him but from our Father in heaven. Because of this confession, Jesus replies: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (v. 18). The role, the ecclesial service of Peter, is founded upon his confession of faith in Jesus, the Son of the living God, made possible by a grace granted from on high. In the second part of today?s Gospel we see the peril of thinking in worldly terms. When Jesus speaks of his death and resurrection, of the path of God which does not correspond to the human path of power, flesh and blood re-emerge in Peter: “He took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him … This must never happen to you” (16:22). Jesus? response is harsh: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (v. 23). Whenever we let our thoughts, our feelings or the logic of human power prevail, and we do not let ourselves be taught and guided by faith, by God, we become stumbling blocks. Faith in Christ is the light of our life as Christians and as ministers in the Church!
2. To confirm in love. In the second reading we heard the moving words of Saint Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tm 4:7). But what is this fight? It is not one of those fights fought with human weapons which sadly continue to cause bloodshed throughout the world; rather, it is the fight of martyrdom. Saint Paul has but one weapon: the message of Christ and the gift of his entire life for Christ and for others. It is precisely this readiness to lay himself open, personally, to be consumed for the sake of the Gospel, to make himself all things to all people, unstintingly, that gives him credibility and builds up the Church. The Bishop of Rome is called himself to live and to confirm his brothers and sisters in this love for Christ and for all others, without distinction, limits or barriers. And not only the Bishop of Rome: each of you, new archbishops and bishops, have the same task: to let yourselves be consumed by the Gospel, to become all things to everyone. It is your task to hold nothing back, to go outside of yourselves in the service of the faithful and holy people of God.
3. To confirm in unity. Here I would like to reflect for a moment on the rite which we have carried out. The pallium is a symbol of communion with the Successor of Peter, “the lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion” (Lumen Gentium, 18). And your presence today, dear brothers, is the sign that the Church?s communion does not mean uniformity. The Second Vatican Council, in speaking of the hierarchical structure of the Church, states that the Lord “established the apostles as college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from their number” (ibid., 19). To confirm in unity: the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the primate. Let us go forward on the path of synodality, and grow in harmony with the service of the primacy. And the Council continues, “this college, in so far as it is composed of many members, is the expression of the variety and universality of the people of God” (ibid., 22).
In the Church, variety, which is itself a great treasure, is always grounded in the harmony of unity, like a great mosaic in which every small piece joins with others as part of God?s one great plan. This should inspire us to work always to overcome every conflict which wounds the body of the Church. United in our differences: there is no other Catholic way to be united. This is the Catholic spirit, the Christian spirit: to be united in our differences. This is the way of Jesus! The pallium, while being a sign of communion with the Bishop of Rome and with the universal church, with the Synod of Bishops, also commits each of you to being a servant of communion.
To confess the Lord by letting oneself be taught by God; to be consumed by love for Christ and his Gospel; to be servants of unity. These, dear brother bishops, are the tasks which the holy apostles Peter and Paul entrust to each of us, so that they can be lived by every Christian. May the holy Mother of God guide us and accompany us always with her intercession.
Queen of Apostles, pray for us! Amen.





HOMILY OF ABBOT PAUL
SS Peter and Paul 2013 

            Both Peter and Paul were called by Jesus to follow him as disciples and to proclaim the Gospel as apostles. Jesus calls us, as he did them, to be and to do. He calls us for ourselves and for others, for our own good and for the good of all. Abraham was called to be the father of a multitude of nations; his descendants would be as numerous as the stars of heaven or the grains of sand on the seashore. All that is true, but to begin with he was called simply to be God’s friend, our father in faith. It is our personal relationship with God that transforms our lives and enables us to share in his work of bringing salvation to the ends of the earth.

            Caesarea Philippi was the turning point in the ministry of Jesus and in the lives of the disciples. It was there that Jesus asked the Twelve to stand up and be counted, to set themselves apart from the crowd. “But you,” he asked, “who do you say that I am?” It was Simon Peter who spoke up, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” to which Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. It was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So now I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.”

            Peter proclaims his faith in Jesus, a faith which is gift and revelation, not opinion or intuition. In return Jesus proclaims his faith in Peter, a faith such as only God can have in a human being. A vocation is the fruit of faith, our faith in God and his faith in us. In recognising Jesus for who and what he is, Peter comes to the realisation that he can no longer believe without sharing his faith, that faith without mission is no faith at all. Faith can be and is a most personal thing; no two people have the same relationship, the same friendship with God. We are all different, but faith can never be private, tucked away, of no consequence to our lives. Faith shows us the path we should take, the way we should live. It is what makes us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. That is why Jesus says to Peter, “On this rock I will build my Church.”

            Writing to Timothy, Paul leaves us in no doubt as to the source of his vocation. “The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear.” The Lord stood by me. A vocation is a gift made to those who search for the truth, who search for God with a sincere heart, but you can only respond to God’s call and fulfil his vocation if you allow the Lord to stand by you. In other words, stability depends on humility. And another thing, our vocation belongs to God, it is not ours. It is not our right but his free choice.

Paul also wrote, “I have fought the good fight to the end. I have run the race to the finish. I have kept the faith.” Perseverance and obedience go hand in hand, they cannot be separated. Indeed, there can be no obedience without perseverance. Living the Christian life, doing God’s will, listening to his voice cannot be a sporadic thing dependent on our whims and mood or on fashion. God’s call, the gift of a vocation demands our all: there has to be total commitment.  


            Now the essential, the basic vocation we all share is that of being a Christian. “Repent and believe the good news.” May the Lord bless us abundantly and may we continue to respond generously and lovingly to God’s call, recognising the faith he has in each one of us and the trust he has placed in us. To him alone be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen.

In his meeting with the Orthodox representatives, led by Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas, Pope Francis spoke of important progress in the official dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, which has already produced many joint documents. The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, co-chaired by Metropolitan Ioannis, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, is currently studying the key question of primacy and collegiality in the Church of the first century, one of the main obstacles on the road to unity and reconciliation between the East and Western Churches, which divided in 1054. 

In his address to the delegation, Pope Francis said “It is significant that today we are able to reflect together, in truth and love, on these issues, starting with what we have in common, but without hiding that which still separates us. This is not merely a theoretical exercise, but one of getting to know each other's traditions, in order to understand, and sometimes to learn from them as well. We know very well,” the Pope said, “that unity is primarily a gift from God for which we must pray without ceasing, but we all have the task of preparing the conditions, of cultivating the soil of the heart, so that this extraordinary grace can be received.”


Please find below a Vatican Radio translation of the full text: 

Dear Brothers in Christ,

I am particularly pleased to greet you with a warm welcome to the Church of Rome, which is celebrating its patron saints Peter and Paul. Your presence in this circumstance is a sign of the deep bond that unites the Church of Constantinople and the Church of Rome in faith, hope and love. The beautiful custom, which began in 1969, of exchanging delegations between our Churches for their patronal feast days , is for me a source of great joy: fraternal encounter is an essential part of the journey towards unity. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Your Holiness Bartholomew I and the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who wanted to once again send a high level delegation. I remember with fraternal affection the gesture of exquisite attention shown to me by Your Holiness Bartholomew, when you honored me with your presence at the celebration of the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome. I am also very grateful to Your Eminence, for your participation in this event and I am happy to see you again on this occasion.

The search for unity among Christians is an urgency which, today more than ever, we cannot ignore. In our world, hungry and thirsty for truth, love, hope, peace and unity, it is important for our own witness, to be finally able to announce with one voice the good news of the Gospel and to celebrate the Divine Mysteries of the new life in Christ! We know very well that unity is primarily a gift from God for which we must pray without ceasing, but we all have the task of preparing the conditions, of cultivating the soil of the heart, so that this extraordinary grace can be received.

A fundamental contribution to the search for full communion between Catholics and Orthodox is offered by the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, co-chaired by Your Eminence, Metropolitan Ioannis, and by my venerable brother Cardinal Kurt Koch. I sincerely thank you for your valuable and tireless commitment. This Commission has already produced many common texts and is now studying the delicate issue of theological and ecclesiological relationship between primacy and synodality in the life of the Church. It is significant that today we are able to reflect together, in truth and love, on these issues, starting with what we have in common, but without hiding that which still separates us. This is not merely a theoretical exercise, but one of getting to know each other's traditions in order to understand, and sometimes also to learn from them. I refer for example to the reflection of the Catholic Church on the meaning of episcopal collegiality, and the tradition of synodality, so typical of the Orthodox Churches. I am confident that the effort of shared reflection, so complex and laborious, will bear fruit in due time. I am comforted to know that Catholics and Orthodox share the same conception of dialogue that does not seek a theological minimalism on which to reach a compromise, but rather is based on the deepening of the one truth that Christ has given to His Church, which we never cease to understand better as we are moved by the Holy Spirit. For this, we should not be afraid of encounter and of true dialogue. It does not take us away from the truth, but rather, through an exchange of gifts, it leads us, under the guidance of the Spirit of truth, to the whole truth (cf. Jn 16:13).

Venerable Brothers, I thank you once again for being here with us for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. We confidently invoke their intercession and that of the Holy Apostle Andrew, the brother of Peter, for our faithful and for the needs of the whole world, especially the poor, the suffering and those who are unjustly persecuted because of their faith. Finally, I ask you to pray for me and to ask others to pray for me, so that the Lord may help me in my ministry as Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter.



Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/06/28/pope_to_orthodox_delegation_from_ecumenical_patriarchate/en1-705667 

of the Vatican Radio website 
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