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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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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD

http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/ In the twelve months before his sudden death, Hans Urs von Balthasar had been writing a series of reflections on the twelve articles of the Apostles' Creed. These texts, which are undoubtedly among the last things he wrote, take on the character of a legacy, a spiritual testament. For they amount in their extraordinary compactness and depth to a little "summa" of his theology. What he had set out in detail in numerous books over five decades, he summarizes in Credo: Meditations on the Apostles' Creed in contemplative plainness and simplicity. All the characteristics that make von Balthasar's work so distinctive and valuable are to be found here: breadth of vision, loveliness of style, and an intuitive-contemporary passion that allows him to "pray intellectually and think 'cordially'." The following is von Balthasar's reflections on the phrase, "Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary"


. I "Conceived." This is said of the Son of God, but it sounds passive; an Other is active in this conception, and he will be named immediately: the Holy Spirit. And an Other is she who conceives: the Virgin Mary. Just as a child is passive when conceived, whereas the parents take part actively. But it is only later on that a child awakens to consciousness, whereas the Son of God possesses eternal consciousness and also the will to become human. To be sure. Yet still we acknowledge in faith that he does not incarnate himself, does not himself take hold of the human nature that he will inhabit, but allows himself to be conveyed, as the "seed" of the Father, into the virginal womb by the Holy Spirit. 

But this means that the occasion of his Incarnation is already the beginning of his obedience. Theologians have very often claimed the opposite, on the ground that the union of the human and the divine natures occurs solely in the Son as the Second Person in the Divinity. However, the creed describes not a "taking of something to oneself," but an "acquiescing in something that happens to one." In this pretemporal obedience, the Son still differs profoundly from naturally engendered human beings, who are not asked whether they wish to come into being or not; the Son permits, in full consciousness and with full consent to the divine plan for redemption, himself to be used as the Father wishes. But already here, he does so in the Holy Spirit of obedience, through which he will atone for the disobedience of Adam and "infiltrate" it. He does not, like a capitalist, cling to the treasure of his divinity as if he had earned it himself (Phil 2:6). He has received it from the Father and can "deposit" it with the Father in order to bring clearly to the fore, out of his eternal devotedness to the Father, the aspect of obedience that inheres in that devotedness and exemplifies what a creature should show in relation to God. II "'By the Holy Spirit." He is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. But now, when the Son becomes human, he, the indivisible Spirit of both, becomes, in the Father, the Spirit who issues directives and, in the Son, the Spirit who receives directives. Already so in the act of the Incarnation itself, since the Spirit conveys the Son, as "seed of the Father," into the Virgin's womb, and the Son, in the same Spirit, allows himself to be so conveyed. If the Holy Spirit, as a single Person, is both fruit of, and testimony to, the mutual love between Father and Son, then it is evident here how much the directing by the Father and the obeying by the incarnate Son are, right down to their deepest roots, consummate love. For us humans, that will mean that our obedience, which we owe to our Creator and Lord and to all his direct and indirect commands, can be, in Jesus Christ, and even must be, an expression of our love; so that any love of God or other human beings which excludes obedience, or wishes to get beyond it, does not at all deserve the name love. III "Born of the Virgin Mary." Here we have a great theater of war. If he is to become a human being, then why no normal human conception? And if this virginal birth (about which there was obviously no knowledge until relatively late; Paul still knows nothing of it, nor does Mark) is to be understood as an act of homage to a Jesus who is venerated as God, then must that not be connected with the influence of Hellenistic legends or rather more plausible Egyptian myths? And finally, even assuming that the (already married) Virgin could have conceived without male participation, are we to assume, even more improbably, that she also gave birth as a virgin? And is there not, by the way, ample talk of brothers of Jesus? So why make an exception solely for the "first-born" (Lk 2:7)? A whole host of questions, which would require a book to answer. Here only in shorthand: the Virgin Birth stems directly from the early stages of the Old Covenant, when God restores sexual power to a waning body (Abraham, Zechariah and his barren wife), and the miracle that the "barren" woman will have more children than the fertile one is a stock symbol of God's power to reverse things. That is most likely the reason why the prophecy of Isaiah ("the young woman [or: virgin] shall bear," 7:14) is resolutely translated by "virgin" already in pre-Christian times (Septuagint). "Brothers" is used today, among many Arabic peoples, as a term for more distant relatives; this undoubtedly lies in the background to the Greek adelphos, which implies, in the narrower sense, "brother." And how typical of our age of minimalistic faith is the conceding of a virginal conception while dispensing the believer from having to accept a virginal birth. As if the second would not be as easy for God to bring about as the first. But then why? Because in the New Covenant the fruitfulness of virginal life (consider above all the Eucharist of Jesus), a fruitfulness not toward regenerated mortality but into life everlasting, will be a decisive feature of the new meaningfulness of body and sex. To be noted well: this is not to deny to Mary the (messianic) pains, spiritual and physical, of her Advent-they represent solidarity with the chosen people and, in an anticipatory way, with the body of her Son (cf. Rev 12:2); but at Christmas, the Old Covenant and its expectations pass over into the quite different fulfillment of the New. All this is pure biblical logic, and all parallels with antiquity are lacking in the decisive depth that pertains  to revelation.   O
THE ANNUNCIATION
painted by a monk of Pachacamac




Conciliar Salvation
by
Fr. Stephen Freeman of
for the feast of the Annunciation
March 25th

This is a brilliant blog by Fr Stephen Freeman, an Orthodox priest,
and this is an excellent post.

I consider it both a strange mystery and a settled matter of the faith that God prefers not to do things alone. Repeatedly, He acts in a manner that involves the actions of others when, it would seem, He could have acted alone.

Why would God reveal His Word to the world through the agency of men? Why would He bother to use writing? Why not simply communicate directly with people? Why speak to Moses in a burning bush? Why did the Incarnation involve Mary? Could He not have simply become man, whole, complete, adult, in a single moment?

Such questions could be multiplied ad infinitum. But at every turn, what we know of God involves others as well. We may rightly conclude that such a means of acting pleases Him.

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation when the Church celebrates the Incarnation of Christ at word of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. An Orthodox hymn on the feast says:

The manner of His emptying cannot be known;
the manner of His conception is beyond speech.
An Angel ministers at the miracle; a virginal womb receives the Son;
the Holy Spirit is sent down; the Father on high is well pleased,
and according to their common counsel, a reconciliation is brought to pass
in which and through which we are saved.

“According to their common counsel” is a rich phrase describing this conciliar action of God.

At the same time that this conciliar mode of action seems obvious to Orthodoxy, it is frequently denied or diminished by others. There is a fear in some Christian quarters that were we to admit that God shared His action with any other, our salvation would be a matter of our own works and not the sovereign act of God. It is feared that a conciliar mode of action shares the glory of God with mere mortals.

It is true. This understanding shares the glory of God with mere mortals. But, interestingly, St. Paul says that man is the “image and glory of God” (1 Cor. 11:7). Apparently, we were brought into existence in order to have such a share.

The failure to understand this and the effort to re-invent the Christian story with diminished roles for angels and saints, or Christians themselves, comes very close to setting forth a different gospel altogether.

The Word became flesh of the Virgin Mary. The flesh of the Virgin is also the flesh that is nailed to the Cross (when her soul was itself mysteriously pierced). The flesh which we eat in the Eucharist is also the flesh of the Virgin – for there is no flesh of God that is not the flesh of the Virgin.

And it does no good to protest that the Word merely “took flesh” of the Virgin. For Adam cried out concerning Eve, “This is truly bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” And St. Paul noted concerning the wife of a man that a man should love her, “For no one ever yet hated his own flesh.”

I puzzle at how Christians who understand that it is wrong for a woman to say, “It’s my body and I can do with it what I want,” when she is carrying a child, can at the same time treat the Mother of God as though she had merely lent her womb to God for a period of time.

God’s conciliar action in our salvation is so thoroughly established that it involves our will, our soul, our flesh and bones. He includes bread and wine in our salvation so that the fruit of this garden might become the fruit of life. Everything around you is for your salvation and has its share.

This is not only true in the Incarnation, but continues to be true for every saving effort in our lives. We cannot save ourselves, of course, for that, too, would be denying the conciliar action of God.

There is a saying among the fathers, “If anyone falls, he falls alone, but no one can be saved alone.” But I think we cannot even say that we fall alone – for the one who falls is equally bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Christ does not distance Himself from the one who falls, but unites Himself with him so completely that He endures the consequence of our fall, entering death and hell to bring us back alive.

The Church is nothing other than the conciliar salvation of God, bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh – His body. We are being saved together whether we will admit it or not. Those who study and quote the Bible are themselves handling documents that were written, copied and preserved by others. It is a conciliar document.

The Orthodox way of life urges us to embrace the fullness of our conciliar being. In sacraments and saints in worship and wonder we live within the cloud of witnesses and share the common struggle.

For this reason let us unite our song with Gabriel’s,
crying aloud to the Virgin:
“Rejoice, O Lady full of grace, the Lord is with you!
From you is our salvation, Christ our God,
Who, by assuming our nature, has led us back to Himself.
Humbly pray to Him for the salvation of our souls!”ur

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