The Archbishop of Canterbury mentions St. Elisabeth the New Martyr in his homilySource: The Archbishop of Canterbury
07 July 2015
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, conducted the baptism of Princess Charlotte at St Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham, today. Read the text of his homily below.
"It seems that different forms of ambition are hard-wired into almost all of us. At a baptism our ambitions are rightly turned into hopes and prayers for the child, today for Princess Charlotte. Everyone wants something for their children. At our best we seek beauty, not necessarily of form, but of life.
"In the reading from Matthew 18, Jesus is trying to turn one kind of ambition - an ambition for place and prestige - into an ambition for a beautiful life. To be great in the Kingdom of Heaven, he tells his very pushy disciples, is not about position but about beauty of life, a life that looks like his; and his example is someone unimportant in those days: a child.
"Amongst Princess Charlotte’s own ancestors, now buried in the Holy Land, is a saint, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, whose life was one of transparent beauty and death one of beautiful courage and service. In her life she forgave the man who killed her husband. At her cruel murder she continued to care for those suffering with her. It is of such beauty that Jesus speaks when he talks of being great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
"Such beauty of character begins with baptism, and is established in the habits of following and loving Jesus Christ; habits to be learned from parents and godparents, and the whole community of the church.
"Beauty is the implied prayer of the baptism service, beauty of life which brings true and eternal greatness. In such times as ours, those who suffer - such as the wounded or bereaved in Tunisia and other places - need lives of beauty around them; lives that share healing and hope, offering to all around them, both in times of light and darkness, a vision of a Christ-filled future."
Justin Welby became a Christian through the Evangelical wing of the Anglican Church. Hence his starting point is that we are born again through an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But his Christian experience, since his conversion, has led him to realise that, while an intimate relationship with Christ remains the basis of his Christianity, as Archbishop of Canterbury, he has been called to embrace Christians of every shape and size.
I shall use this fact to introduce a well known Orthodox archbishop who tells us about his own conversion to Christianity in a way that "born again" Christians will recognise and identify with without any reservation. We will then listen to a video of Archbishop Anthony Bloom talking about the action of the Holy Spirit which will have the full agreement of Pentecostals. We will then resume our commentary in which we hope to show that this personal experience of Christ and his Spirit shows that Catholics, Orthodox and Evangelicals are truly brothers and sisters who must pray together and do as much together as possible, offering to the world the witness of our common Christian experience. At the same time, we shall have to show in this article that there is another dimension perhaps several but with a common root, to Christianity, and hence to personal conversion, that Evangelicals are unaware of, which is why there is still a serious division.
There will be Catholics and Orthodox who will call to question the validity, the authenticity of personal conversion as told by Evangelicals in similar terms to Archbishop Anthony Bloom, simply because they lack other essential dimensions; but, if these Catholic and Orthodox are right, then how do we authenticate before the world our own religious experience? There will be Evangelicals who will call into question the authenticity of Archbishop Bloom's experience, simply because he belonged to a Church that offers prayers to Our Lady and the saints and uses icons. The same question can be posed to them.
Here follows is Archbishop Bloom's account of his own conversion.
REBIRTH OF FAITH
Until the middle of my teens I was an unbeliever – an aggressive one at that, as many are. I found God at a moment when I was not looking for him but when I need him desperately. For years life had been very hard and I had learned to fight, but when I was about fifteen fighting became suddenly much easier and then I discovered with dismay first, and with a certain sense of despair afterwards, that I could not cope with happiness. As long as I had to fight there was an aim ahead of me. When happiness came and there was nothing to fight for, or against, life seemed to me stale and aimless and I felt I could not stand aimlessness and a happiness which had no future.
This is the moment when God found me. I was then a member of a youth organisation, a Russian one, and I was invited to come to a talk given by one of our priests. I had no desire to go, but I went, and what you expect probably is that all of a sudden I was illumined and convinced. It was not like that at all. All I heard about Christ, about Christianity, aroused in me a sense of rebellion, or revolt. I found it ugly and disgusting and so when the talk was over, I went hurriedly home to find out whether what I heard was true: and as I was determined not to waste any more time than needed, I counted the chapters of the Gospels, discovered that the shortest was St. Mark’s, and set out to read it. I never suspected that that Gospel had been written specially for people of my kind.
What happened next is something which is difficult to describe. I was reading and I suddenly became aware of something which many of you must have felt. The sense that someone is looking at you. The sense that makes you turn in the street to find out what is going on. I felt that there was a presence the other side of the desk. I looked up and I saw nothing, but the sense of this presence was so strong, so overwhelming that I knew it was someone standing the other side of the desk, and further I became aware that it was the Lord Jesus Christ about whom I was reading. I cannot explain this. The sense of the presence of Christ, real, complete, has remained with me ever since, for more than forty years. I made thus the basic discovery of Christianity – that Christ was alive. I discovered the mystery of a resurrection of Christ which is at the very root of our faith. As St Paul puts it, “if Christ is not risen we are the most miserable of all men”, because then our faith, our hope, our lives, are founded on an hallucination, on an illusion, on a lie. I discovered then that the resurrection of Christ is the only event of history that belongs both to the past and to the present. It happened in the past and is real in the present because Christ is in our midst now as he was and as he shall be.
THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH
by METROPOLITAN ANTHONY BLOOM
MY COMMENTARY CONTINUED
I don't think any Christian can question the authenticity of the spiritual experience of Christ and the Holy Spirit in either the Orthodox, Catholic or Evangelical traditions without calling into question the authenticity of his his own tradition. Where Catholics and Orthodox differ from most Evangelicals is that, for us, our personal conversion to Christ, and our personal experience of Christ's and the Spirit's place in our lives is always and everywhere an ecclesial experience, an intimate experience of our participation in the life of the Church. As the 19th Century Orthodox theologian put it:
We know that when any one of us falls he falls alone; but no one is saved alone. He who is saved is saved in the Church, as a member of her, and in unity with all her other members. If any one believes, he is in the communion of faith; if he loves, he is in the communion of love; if he prays, he is in the communion of prayer. Wherefore no one can rest his hope on his own prayers, and every one who prays asks the whole Church for intercession, not as if he had doubts of the intercession of Christ, the one Advocate, but in the assurance that the whole Church ever prays for all her members. All the angels pray for us, the apostles, martyrs, and patriarchs, and above them all, the Mother of our Lord, and this holy unity is the true life of the Church.
St Peter Damian, hermit, bishop, cardinal, theologian and canonist (1007 - 1072) bears witness to this common tradition. In his famous treatise for his own Camaldolese hermits, he wrote:
Indeed, the Church of Christ is united in all her parts by such a bond of love that her several members form a single body and in each one the whole Church is mystically present; so that the whole Church universal may rightly be called the one bride of Christ, and on the other hand every single soul can, because of the mystical effect of the sacrament, be regarded as the whole Church. The cohesive force of mutual charity by which the Church is united is so great that she is not merely one in her many members but also, is some mysterious way, present in her entirety in each individual.....By reason of her unity of faith, she has not, in her many members, many parts, and yet through the close-knit bond of charity and the varied charismatic gifts she shows many facets in her individual members. Through the Holy Church is thus diversified in many individuals, she is none the less welded into one by the fire of the Holy Spirit. (On the Dominus Vobiscum)
What church we belong to is not a second question, asked separately only after our personal relationship with Christ. The truth is that we are already in a certain relationship with the Church by our personal relationship with Christ - to be in Christ is already to be within the Church, even before this relationship is visible through Baptism. Individual relationship with Christ and ecclesial relationship with Christ are not opposites, but simply dimensions of the same reality, two poles of an authentic Christian life. To affirm our personal relationship with Christ and to reject the Catholic (or Orthodox) Church is to send contradictory signals. To belong to the Church without a personal relationship with Christ is, while it lasts, a dead end. We must simultaneously cultivate both aspects of our Christian life for the good of each.
What then can be done about our evangelical brother or sister who cultivates a real relationship with Christ while rejecting the Church?
Firstly we must remember that the fullness of Catholicism is, first of all, in the incarnate Christ, and only afterwards in the Church by participation in Christ, by the power of the same Spirit by which the Word was made flesh. For this reason, the Church is his body and is inseparable from him.
Secondly, that Christ is the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 to discover the one who is lost: he himself is pro-active in seeking people out; and anything he has and any thing he is, by the power of the same Spirit whose activity forms the Church, is given by him in his kenotic search for souls. Hence, the Christian communities to which these Evangelicals belong are endowed with certain ecclesial characteristics as Christ uses them to reach, to form and to develop the Christian life of their members. These institutions, even though they lack apostolic roots, can become our allies in fulfilling our apostolic mission, simply because of their participation in the economy of Grace brought about by an over-generous God.
Thirdly, that anyone who is united to Christ in faith, even faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, even a faith that has to overcome obstacles created by the schism of his ancestors, can become an instrument of Christ and can reach heights of Christian maturity, and become a beacon of light for all Christians. I speak of the many Baptist martyrs in Russia, the Uganda martyrs who were Catholics and Anglicans together, and the modern martyrs of all churches and groups who have found unity in shedding their blood in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. I speak of C. S. Lewis who has been acclaimed radically Catholic by Catholics and Orthodox by Orthodox, while remaining happily Anglican, the spirituality shown in the hymns of Charles Wesley and the zeal of his brother John, and the holiness reflected in the negro spirituals of the Southern States of America, as well as countless others. While evangelicals are united to Christ, anything can happen, even Christian unity. Meanwhile, while the Spirit is active in so many of them, who are we to deny them the right hand of friendship?
Bro. Roger's Quotes:
For whoever knows how to love, for whoever knows how to suffer, life is filled with serene beauty.
If you knew that God always comes to you…What matters most is discovering that God loves you, even if you think that you do not love God.
“When tirelessly the Church listens, heals and reconciles, it becomes what it is at its most luminous—a communion of love, of compassion, of consolation, a clear reflection of the Risen Christ.” “Never distant, never on the defensive, freed of all harshness, the Church can radiate the humble trusting of faith into our human hearts.”
“Christ is communion…He did not come to earth to start one more religion, but to offer to all a communion in God…’Communion’ is one of the most beautiful names of the Church.”
“Make the unity of the Body of Christ your passionate concern.”