"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

Tuesday 29 May 2012


Fr Georges Florovsky

(click above)
 On the theology of Fr Georges Florovsky

To listen to A SUFFERING GOD (click)
by Dr Christine Mangala Frost who presents a series of reflections on the services of Orthodox Holy Week


Monday 28 May 2012




Today, Monday, May 28th, is the feast of St Augustine of Canterbury, first Archbishop of Canterbury, and Patron Saint of the English Benedictine Congregation to which Belmont Abbey (and our monastery at Pachacamac on the outskirts of Lima) belong
The first video is a short life of St Augustine of Canterbury.   The second is a tour of Canterbury Cathedral; anf the third is a full length BBC programme on the Murder of St Thomas a Becket, put here because it is so good.

Sunday 27 May 2012



Saturday 26 May 2012


It is often imagined that the early Christian prayed is ecstasis and spontaneously "in the Spirit" and that liturgical prayer came later, when life in the Spirit had cooled off. In reality, all the evidence points to the fact that the earliest Christians were Jews like the Apostles or gentiles like St Luke who had adopted Jewish faith and practises before Christian conversion. Hence, in the Apostolic Church, Jewish festivals became Christian festivals and Jewish liturgical prayers were re-written to bear a Christian meaning. In the process, Jewish Easter became Christian Easter and Jewish Pentecost became Christian Pentecost. St Luke's account in Acts gives us the Christian meaning of Pentecost and implies the difference between the Christian and Jewish feasts. His readers already knew the significance of Jewish Pentecost

It had been originally a feast to celebrate the harvest; but, in Our Lord's time, it had come to celebrate the giving of the covenant and of the Law on Mount Sinai. However, with the coming of Christ, there was a new covenant and a new Law. St Luke wishes to give us the basic structure of the new covenant and the new law, a covenant, based on the Incarnation, brought about by Christ in the power of the Spirit.. In fact, what St Luke shows us is the basic structure of every Christian reality, of the Church at all its levels and of our own spiritual lives. If you want to know how the Pope functions or any bishop or priest or you yourselves, then take a look at Pentecost.

St Luke has already illustrated this basic structure in the story of the Annunciation. The angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her that she is to become mother of the Messiah. It is stressed that this is quite beyond her capacity. How could she become the Bearer of God without it being a work of God? How could she become a mother without sexual intercourse? The answer is significant:
The Holy Spirit shall come upon her and the power of the Most High shall cover her with his shadow, on account of which, her child shall be called son of God.

The Holy Spirit will come upon her and all she will need to do is to respond in obedience:
Behold the handmaid of the Lord! May it be done to me according to your word.

She is enabled to become Mother of God because she is working in harmony with the Holy Spirit, and it is the Holy Spirit who enables her to become God's mother. Moreover, by the Incarnation, Jesus is united by the same Holy Spirit to the whole human race; and Mary becomes, like Eve, mother of all the living. No part of this would Mary have been capable of alone.

This is our key for understanding Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit. Whether we speak of the whole Church in its mission in the world or its prayer life, or of the local church that becomes body of Christ in the Eucharist, or the individual Christian in fulfilling his or her vocation as member of that body, what is required is the descent of the Holy Spirit and humble human cooperation in obedience. This is the New Law that takes the place of the Law of Moses. The presence of the Holy Spirit enables the Church and all its members to do things that could not possibly be done by human beings acting on their own.

Without the Holy Spirit, Scripture would not be the Word of God, God actually speaking.
Without the Holy Spirit, Christ would not be present in the sacraments.
Without the Holy Spirit, the Church could not say in its teaching, "It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us."
Without the Holy Spirit, Tradition would be simply the traditions of men and not the product of the cooperation between the Church and the Holy Spirit.

The miracle of the Mass comes about because the Church humbly obeys Christ's command, "Do this in memory of me," the Spirit doing in the Church what it could not do by itself.

Before the "Our Father" the priest says:
"At the Saviour's command and formed by divine teaching we dare to say.."
Why "dare"? Because we are claiming what even the Roman emperors did not claim. We are laying claim to be sons and daughters of God, not in a general metaphorical sense, but sharing in the  very particular divine sonship of Christ.    It is the Holy Spirit, uniting us to Christ , which permits us to really share in his filial relationship to his Father.

Without the Holy Spirit our faith would be mere opinion, our hope would be a vague wish, our charity would be feelings conjured up by ourselves, simply chemistry.

The Holy Spirit brings us into contact with what we believe, albeit in a glass darkly. He gives us foretastes of what we hope for. If our love is in harmony with that of the Holy Spirit, then we will love, not only with our own weak, passing human love, but with the very love of God.

God will love wives through the love of their husbands, husbands will be loved  by God through the love of their wives, and children through the love of their parents. Our love of neighbour will convey to that neighbour the love of God. In the whole Christian life, we will be other Christ's, and all our activities will have two dimensions, distinct but not separate,: our own contribution and that of the Holy Spirit who enables us.

All this depends on our lives being in harmony with the Spirit. The technical word is "synergy", "working together in harmony"; and the Moral Law that replaces that of Moses is our striving to give up our own self-will in order to work in harmony with the Spirit. The most basic law is obedience to the Holy Spirit from moment to moment. As with Mary, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord.."; as with Jesus, "Not my will but yours be done", the more our will is subservient to the Spirit, the holier we are, and the more God can use us for his purposes.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came first on the Church, on the Christian community, and then on individuals. The more we are in harmony with the Church, the better we will be able to discern what God wants us to do from moment to moment. The fight to bring our wills into harmony with the Spirit and thus to take full advantage of being a Pentecost people, will last all our lives and beyond, as our obedience and humility grow ever deeper; and the more humbly obedient we are, the more we will love as Christ did who was obedient unto death.

Even though prayer, penance and good works are an integral part of any Christian life, even more basic is obedience because all activities are only authentically Christian when they are the fruit of this obedience to the Spirit.

Every circumstance in our lives, from moment to moment, gives us new opportunities to grow in harmony with the Spirit, new opportunities of humility and obedience, new chances to love with the love of Christ.

We haven't touched on miracles in this sermon, which is unusual when talking of Pentecost. Nevertheless, real as they often are, the real wonder of Pentecost is not miracles: it is the very fact that we can live in harmony with the Holy Spirit, so that our lives have a divine as well as a human aspect. That we are a Pentecost people and body of Christ: this is the wonder of Pentecost.

Christ's Easter Mystery of death and resurrection has worked!! Through Christ's Spirit, God and nature can work in fundamental harmony and does so in the Church and in each one of us in so far as we appropriate to ourselves the reality of Pentecost. When the feast of Pentecost is over, let us continue to make Pentecost a reality in our lives.
The ultimate video I offer to the "Comunidad Jesus vive", a charismatic seminary in Lima where I was 'Padre Formador' in 2006.   It is Pentecost as celebrated by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  I think they will agree they have something in common.  Happy Pentecost to you all!!

Friday 25 May 2012



You have no need for anyone to teach you.   The anointing you have received teaches you all you need to know.

We, whose words come to you from without, are like gardeners who can cultivate a tree externally, but can neither make it grow nor form fruit on its branches.  Unless he who created and redeemed and called you speaks to you in your hearts, where he dwells in faith through the Spirit, the sound of our voice echoes in vain.   This is evident from the fact that in a large audience of people, not all are convinced by what is said, but only those to whom God speaks interiorly.

Now those to whom God speaks interiorly are those who open their hearts to him, and those who open their hearts to him are those who close them to the devil.   The devil would like to get a foothold in our hearts and there whisper all his seductive suggestions.   But what does the Lord Jesus say?   "The prince of this world in cast out."   Does this mean that he has been thrown out of heaven and earth, out of the created universe?   No, it means that he has been cast out of the hearts of believers.   Since, then, the invader has been cast out, let our Redeemer take up residence - for he who created us has also redeemed us.   Henceforward, the devil's attacks come come without in the form of various temptations, but the one whose master is God gives no consent to them.   He has been taught by the anointing of which I have spoken.

This anointing is true, Saint John tells us; in other words, the Spirit of the Lord cannot give false teaching.   It is no lie.   Persevere in the teaching you have learned from it.   And now, little children, abide in him so that when he appears we may be full of confidence before him and not be put to shame at his coming.


We, whose words come to you from without, are like gardeners who can cultivate a tree externally, but can neither make it grow nor form fruit on its branches.  Unless he who created and redeemed and called you speaks to you in your hearts, where he dwells in faith through the Spirit, the sound of our voice echoes in vain.
When St Augustine speaks of himself as a gardener who must tend the plants while respecting the laws of Botany, he is speaking about his role as Bishop of Hippo, as liturgical preacher, when he can be confident that the Holy Spirit will use him as a vehicle to lead his church to the Truth.   Yet, for him, this is not enough.   For the people to receive the word from him, the Holy Spirit must be active in them as well.   A sermon seems to be the work of the preacher, standing alone in front of the church, but, in fact, it is an event in the life of the whole church, and the Holy Spirit is active in the whole community.   Thus the preacher preaches, fully aware that, if he does his job in a way open to the Spirit, the event is a little Pentecost, with the Spirit active in the whole community.   Without the action of the Spirit in both minister and those being ministered to, nothing can happen.

This is a general ecclesiological principle, illustrated by the use of the words "Dominus vobiscum", which is said by an ordained minister before beginning the Eucharistic Prayer, before proclaiming the gospel, celebrating a sacrament, giving a blessing, or reading a prayer on behalf of the whole church in the Divine Office.   The reply, "Et cum spiritu tuo" means, "And with the ministry you received at ordination".   

This exchange implies that, if the Lord is not with the people, they will not be able to participate in the blessing or sacrament, or understand the Gospel or be included in the prayer.   Again, if the Lord is not activating what the minister received at ordination, he will be unable to  perform his task.  Both priest and people are dependent on the Spirit all the time.

The Russians are not the only ones to die for their faith!  The story of the Cristeros in Mexico.


Thursday 24 May 2012


 The Press divided those taking part in the Second Vatican Council into “Conservatives” and “Progressives”. Of course it was an over-simplification; but it was handy and suited their journalistic purpose. In fact, among those who wanted to change things, (the “Progressives”), there were at least two tendencies that had distinct goals, though this was not so apparent at the time. Both wanted decentralization of the Church in order to give more importance and autonomy to the local Church; both thought that the teaching of Vatican I needed to be balanced by an emphasis on collegiality and the function of the local bishop; both wanted a reform of the liturgy; and both were ecumenically orientated. They often spoke the same language and voted the same way in the Council; but their goals and their theological positions were irreconcilable as they stood, and this has only become apparent to the Church at large since the Council. 
Firstly, there were the liberals, often Anglo-Saxon, who wanted more decision-making at local and individual levels, and hence less directives from the centre. Like the conservatives who saw the Church as a perfect society, they thought of the Church in political and legal terms, even though, like them, they accepted that this political entity is the body of Christ. The doctrine of the body of Christ served to justify and sanctify their basically political view of the Church, just as it justified and sanctified the legalistic view of the conservatives. Like the conservatives, they thought that the solutions to the Church’s problems were about jurisdiction and law, but, unlike the conservatives, they advocated a contemporary liberal political model which gave more freedom for the individual to make decisions and take initiatives, a certain level of democracy in the Church, and a far greater tolerance of dissent. Generally, but not always, they accepted papal dogma as a law of belief that was binding on them, but they interpreted it so that that the pope could only pass such a law in very restricted circumstances; and they believed that everything not defined in an “infallible decree” could be freely doubted or disbelieved or changed. They wanted to leave as much as possible up to the individual to make up his own mind. In things biblical, they considered the methods used in modern scholarship to be the surest way to understand Scripture. In things theological, they insisted on academic freedom for theologians and denied the right of the Vatican or any other ecclesiastical authority to question, criticize or, still less, to condemn their conclusions.. 

In things ecumenical, they looked to the Anglican Church as a natural partner, though wanting more coherence than the Anglican Communion has. They saw the Second Vatican Council as the Catholic equivalent to the Protestant Reformation; and, in its popular version, liked to contrast “post-Vatican Ii” with “pre-Vatican II”, where “pre-Vatican II” is everything that is conservative and bad, and “post-Vatican II” is all that is progressive and good.. Funnily enough, because they have a basically political vision, they are much closer in their understanding of the Church to the conservative camp who they oppose at every turn than they are to the second group who voted with them in the Cyouncil. Later, they would see the problem of women priests in political terms, as part of the fight for equal rights for women, and would consider it an open question because there is no dogma against women clergy, and the Scriptural argument is inconclusive. Scripture can be interpreted in the light of the feminist agenda rather than by Tradition because women priests is basically a political problem.

This other group were often patristic scholars and liturgists like Ratzinger and Bouyer; and they saw the Church, not in political terms, but primarily as a sacramental organism, and believed that the authority of popes and even of general councils is limited and the ties between a bishop and his flock are assured by this very fact. 

The juridical ties that bind a bishop to his flock only give external shape to much deeper ties that are the fruit of the Holy Spirit acting through the liturgy. The Pope, although he has universal episcopal jurisdiction over the whole Church, cannot act as though these deeper ties do not exist. To do so would be to deny the Source of his own relationship with the Church. His universal jurisdiction is the servant of the true Source of Catholic unity which is the Holy Spirit acting through the liturgy and manifesting his Presence in ecclesial love. The pope is servant of Catholicity world-wide which is called communion, and he is servant of Catholicity in time, down the ages, from the time of the Apostles to the present day, which is called Tradition. This group wanted to see the liturgy reformed to express the sacramental nature of the whole Church rather than as an expression of powers given to priests as individuals at their ordination; they believed that “Tradition” is an ongoing process in which the Church acts in harmony with the Holy Spirit and is an absolutely central dimension of the Catholic Reality;

 and their ecumenical gaze fell on the Orthodox and other Eastern Churches as their natural partners. As the Holy Spirit was present and active in the Church before and during the Council, and would be present after the Council, because it is the presence of the Holy Spirit that makes the Catholic Church what it is, any changes would have to be consistent with the unity of the Church across time and space. For them Vatican II could not be a “Catholic Reformation” in the Protestant mould, because the Holy Spirit is constantly acting in “synergy” with the Church which is thus a divine – human reality, the body of Christ. What the Spirit does together with the Church in one generation cannot be overthrown in the next. Clearly Fr Joseph Ratzinger has not changed his theology. This is how he saw it at the time:
“The decision to begin with the liturgy schema was not merely a technically correct move. Its significance went far deeper. This decision was a profession of faith in what is truly central to the Church–the ever-renewed marriage of the Church with her Lord, actualized in the eucharistic mystery where the Church, participating in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, fulfils its innermost mission, the adoration of the triune God. Beyond all the superficially more important issues, there was here a profession of faith in the true source of the Church’s life, and the proper point of departure for all renewal. The text did not restrict itself to mere changes in individual rubrics, but was inspired from this profound perspective of faith. The text implied an entire ecclesiology and thus anticipated … the main theme of the entire Council – its teaching on the Church. Thus the Church was freed from the ‘hierarchological’ (Congar) narrowness’ of the last hundred years, and returned to its sacramental origins” (14). Theological Highlights of Vatican II (New York: Paulist Press/Deus Books, 1966)

The ‘hierarchological’ narrowness was the ‘conservative idea of the Church as held together by a hierarchic system with the pope at the top. In its place, the Church was returning “to its sacramental origins”, without, of course, denying its hierarchic structure. Little did he know that many who voted the same way as he did were advocating another form of “narrowness”, equally political, but cast in a liberal democratic mould.

There is no doubt that Vatican II endorsed Ratzinger’s position. The great change of perspective and emphasis is contained in this key sentence in the Constitution on the Liturgy: the liturgy is “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fountain from which all her power flows.” ((Const. Lit. I. 10). The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells out the meaning of this all important sentence+

1104Christian liturgy not only recalls the events that saved us but actualizes them, makes them present. The Paschal Mystery is celebrated, not repeated. It is the celebrations that are repeated, and in each celebration there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that makes the unique mystery present.
1105 The Epiclesis (invocation upon) is the intercession in which the priest begs the Father to send the Holy Spirit … 
1106 Together with the anamnesis the epiclesis is at the heart of every sacramental celebration, most especially of the Eucharist…
1107 The Holy Spirit’s transforming power in the liturgy hastens the coming of the kingdom….
1108 In every liturgical action the Holy Spirit is sent in order to bring us into communion with Christ and so to form his body. …The most intimate cooperation of the Holy Spirit and the Church is achieved in the liturgy. The Spirit, who is the Spirit of communion, abides indefectibly in the Church. For this reason the Church is the great sacrament of divine communion which gathers God’s scattered children together. Communion with the Holy Trinity and fraternal communion are inseparably the fruit of the Spirit in the liturgy. (my emphasis).

The liturgy is “the source of all the Church’s powers” because “the most intimate cooperation of the Holy Spirit is achieved in the liturgy” That the Church is the sacrament of communion in the life of the Blessed Trinity and of the human race is “inseparably the fruit of the liturgy”. Hence the Church is not infallible because the pope and general council are infallible: it is the other way round. The liturgy is the source of their ability to exercise that authority because it is the vehicle of “the most intimate cooperation of the Holy Spirit and the Church” without which the infallibility of popes and general councils would be impossible. The liturgy is also the summit towards which dogmatic pronouncements are directed because it is only when the dogmatic teaching is integrated into our worship that it is fully functioning as a dogma.

Hence, on specific occasions, pope and council are infallible with the infallibility of the Church, an infallibility which springs from its liturgical life, where the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the life of the Church is at its most intense. The theologians of this group would have agreed with the Armenian Orthodox theologian Vardapet Karekin Sarkissian who wrote, “Faith or doctrine is not truth on paper, or formulae in creeds and conciliar decrees or canons, but something living, faith lived or doctrine professed in the permanent experience of the Church’s life as a whole; in other words “Orthodoxia”.” (“Orthodoxy” is, at one and the same time “true doctrine” and “true worship”, really meaning "true glory". Because the Church is "orthodox", it manifests the "true glory" of God as Christ did on the Cross. In other words, Orthodoxy finds its fullest expression in the liturgy where it is a part of worship, not in the decrees of councils or popes, however infallible they may be when they define doctrine; the orthodoxy of dogmatic definitions is ordered towards true worship, and in this way gives glory to God.) 

When Pope John Paul II was asked to permit women to be bishops, he did not answer that he was against women bishops. He said that he had no authority or power to permit women bishops. He declared in Sacerdotio Ordinatio : “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. LK 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful” (no. 4) Others want to abolish the old rite of saying Mass and celebrating the sacraments.. Cardinal Ratzinger said wrote:
From my own personal point of view I should like to give further particular emphasis to some of the criteria for liturgical renewal thus briefly indicated. I will begin with those last two main criteria.

It seems to me most important that the Catechism, in mentioning the limitation of the powers of the supreme authority in the Church with regard to reform, recalls to mind what is the essence of the primacy as outlined by the First and Second Vatican Councils: The pope is not an absolute monarch whose will is law, but is the guardian of the authentic Tradition, and thereby the premier guarantor of obedience. He cannot do as he likes, and is thereby able to oppose those people who for their part want to do what has come into their head. His rule is not that of arbitrary power, but that of obedience in faith. That is why, with respect to the Liturgy, he has the task of a gardener, not that of a technician who builds new machines and throws the old ones on the junk-pile. The "rite", that form of celebration and prayer which has ripened in the faith and the life of the Church, is a condensed form of living tradition in which the sphere which uses that rite expresses the whole of its faith and its prayer, and thus at the same time the fellowship of generations one with another becomes something we can experience, fellowship with the people who pray before us and after us. Thus the rite is something of benefit which is given to the Church, a living form of paradosis -- the handing-on of tradition." (His review of The Organic Development of the Liturgy by Dom Alcuin Reid OSB of Farnborough Abbey.
"Therefore, with the greatest feeling, great understanding for the preoccupations and fears, in union with those responsible, one should understand that this missal is also a missal of the Church, under the authority of the Church; that it is not something of the past to be protected, but a living reality of the Church, much respected in its identity and in its historical greatness. All the liturgy of the Church is always a living thing, a reality which is above us, not subject to our wills or arbitrary wishes." ((from a speech at Fongombault in July 2001)

For Ratzinger no one has the authority to invent and propose for use a completely new rite. All the rites in use except for the Armenian Rite have their origins in the three patriarchal sees of Apostolic Foundation, Rome, Antioch and Alexandria, and even the Armenian rite belongs to a Church that was evangelized in Apostolic times. Hence all Catholic rites are products of Apostolic Tradition which it is the function of pope and bishops to protect and serve, not to replace or abolish. They are not free to cut the Church loose from these rites or to make arbitrary changes. On the contrary, they are fulfilling the purpose of their authority when they use it to protect and make them more accessible. He wrote:
"The Christian faith can never be separated from the soil of sacred events, from the choice made by God, who wanted to speak to us, to become man, to die and rise again, in a particular place and at a particular time. . . . The Church does not pray in some kind of mythical omnitemporality. She cannot forsake her roots. She recognizes the true utterance of God precisely in the concreteness of its history, in time and place: to these God ties us, and by these we are all tied together. The diachronic aspect, praying with the Fathers and the apostles, is part of what we mean by rite, but it also includes a local aspect, extending from Jerusalem to Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople. Rites are not, therefore, just the products of inculturation, however much they may have incorporated elements from different cultures. They are forms of the apostolic Tradition and of its unfolding in the great places of the Tradition." (163/4 The Spirit of the Liturgy)

The 2nd Vatican Council is also an event within this Tradition. This means that the post-conciliar liturgy must be interpreted in the light of the Tradition of which it is a relatively new expression. It also means that the pope does not have the power simply to abolish a form of liturgy that has been the norm for many hundreds of years,n nor to abolish the new rite, however much he may prefer the old..; The pope is the guardian of Tradition,not its master. To use Cardinal Ratzinger’s metaphor, the pope is like a gardener who has to respect the laws of botany, not a mechanic who can construct what he likes as long as it works. He has written:
"After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not "manufactured" by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity. . . . The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition."(165/6 The Spirit of the Liturgy)

The Church is a sacramental organism, a living process that develops according to its own inherent laws; and these have to be respected by whoever is in charge, just as much as by those who obey him. The Church is not a mechanism nor is its basic structure the product of mere legislation. Therefore, those in charge of the Church on earth cannot simply re-construct it at will using their legal authority. The Church, far from being the “perfect society” of the conservatives or the “liberal society” of the progressives, is the most imperfect of human societies because it can only function by the power of the Spirit who is outside its control. It needs and has a proper juridical system, but this system is at the service of the Spirit who requires the obedience of faith, both from those who legislate and enforce and from those who obey. Jurisdiction has no power over Tradition and must always act within it. I believe that this is the reason why the Pope did not consult the bishops when he gave general permission for the use of the old Latin rite: he believed that the attempt to block its use was as beyond his and their authority as it is beyond the authority of the Anglican Synod to introduce into the Church female bishops and priests. 

The Anglican Synod claims more authority than the pope, but no more authority than those that want the Vatican to abolish outright the old Mass.   For both Anglicans and Catholic liberal progressives, law and not Tradition has the last word.  For the Catholic Church of Ratzinger, as well as for the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, Tradition and not law has the last word. To pass the measure on women bishops through synod the Anglicans show that they have a ‘lower’ doctrine of the relationship between the structure of the Church and of Tradition. It is not enough to say as the Archbishop of Canterbury did, that there is nothing in Scripture strong enough to impede the introduction of women bishops and priests. In a Catholic view of Tradition, the understanding that the Church has gained down the ages of a particular biblical text and the implications the Church has drawn from that reading form part of any full exegisis of that text, even if scholars tell us that this is not the original meaning. Texts can grow in meaning and may come to express different meanings which reverent prayer can turn into a coherent whole.. In Catholicism the Bible does not stand alone apart from Tradition, because the Holy Spirit is involved in both, which means they belong together. The continual exposure of the Church to the Bible through the liturgy, in which things old and new are understood with the help of the same Spirit who is Author of the Bible, is a constituant dimension of Tradition.

Has it ever occurred to you that those who wish the Church authorities to completely abolish the old Latin Roman rite and to permit women bishops share the same presuppositions as those who want the pope to declare the Blessed Virgin “Mediatrix of All Graces”?

Those who wish the pope to make the teaching on Mary a dogma believe that law is above liturgy. It is not enough for them that Our Lady’s holiness and position in God’s plan of Salvation are expressed in prayers, prefaces and offices of the Catholic liturgy. They hold that an official papal proclamation of Mary’s privileges gives more glory to God and to Our Lady than the liturgy does. Law is above liturgy in their estimation of things, even in giving glory to God. They are not sufficiently aware of the synergy between the Spirit and the Church which is the basic reality of the liturgy and makes it the supreme, highest expression of the Catholic faith; though, in times of crisis it may be necessary to proclaim or emphasize anew a dogma of pope or council in order to preserve the unity of the Church or in order to interpret the liturgy aright when this becomes a matter of dispute.. However, the liturgical expression of a truth is a good deal closer to the reality it is expressing than is a proclaimed dogma. It is the function of dogmatic pronouncements to expound and defend Catholic orthodoxy so that the liturgy can more faithfully give glory to God.

Like those who want a new dogma, the reformers believe that the pope’s signature is all that is needed to change a sacramental practice of two thousand years. For them law is above liturgy. Similarily, the Anglicans believe that it lies within the competence of their Synod to introduce women priests and bishops. Both Catholic reformers and Anglicans underestimate the importance of the organic nature of the Church’s Tradition and exaggerate the power of jurisdiction in its relationship to liturgy. They forget that it is from the celebration of the liturgy that all the Church’s power flows, not the other way round..

 In contrast, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer is the classic example of a rite which is the product of a victory of law over liturgy, as well as over the Tradition which the liturgy expresses; so, in accepting women bishops and priests, the Anglican Church is only being consistent with its past.   In contrast, the "ordinariates" aim to re-integrate Anglicanism into the Roman Rite from which they were untimely ripped at the Reformation.

It is because of these principals that the Pope Benedict XVI restored the old Latin Mass by removing the prohibitions that were de facto imposed on its use. He justifies this move by an appeal to Tradition:
"It is good to recall here what Cardinal Newman observed, that the Church, throughout her history, has never abolished nor forbidden orthodox liturgical forms, which would be quite alien to the Spirit of the Church. An orthodox liturgy, that is to say, one which expresses the true faith, is never a compilation made according to the pragmatic criteria of different ceremonies, handled in a positivist and arbitrary way, one way today and another way tomorrow.

The orthodox forms of a rite are living realities, born out of the dialogue of love between the Church and her Lord. They are expressions of the life of the Church, in which are distilled the faith, the prayer and the very life of whole generations, and which make incarnate in specific forms both the action of God and the response of man." .
However, there is still much work to be done, both by persuading the Latin Mass people that the “new Mass” is fully Catholic, a new expression of the age-old Catholic Tradition, and by persuading the advocates of the “new Mass” that the very nature of the liturgy imposes on the Pope the obligation, not only to permit, but to support the “old Mass”, not against the “new Mass” but in favour of those for whom the old Latin Mass is the normal means by which they participate in the Christian Mystery. Judging by the bitterness that is shown, both on the internet and on the ground, and by the opinions expressed by even very knowledgeable people who have the good of the Church at heart on both sides of the debate, we have a long way to go; but contact in charity is the only way forward. As in the wider ecumenical scene, faith is knowledge born of religious love. Where there is no love, no proper understanding of each other can be sustained. The basis of understanding is the same, both within the Catholic Church and in our relations with traditions external to her: it is love which illuminates our faith, and which drives us on to embrace and comprehend expressions of the same faith that are beyond but not incompatible with our own  

Tuesday 22 May 2012

THE POWER FROM ABOVE by Fr R. Cantalamessa O.F.M. Cap

Everyone has on some occasion seen people pushing a stalled car trying to get it going fast enough to start. There are one or two people pushing from behind and another person at the wheel. If it does not get going after the first try, they stop, wipe away the sweat, take a breath and try again. ... 

Then suddenly there is a noise, the engine starts to work, the car moves on its own and the people who were pushing it straighten themselves up and breathe a sigh of relief. 

This is an image of what happens in Christian life. One goes forward with much effort, without great progress. But we have a very powerful engine ("the power from above!") that only needs to be set working. The feast of Pentecost should help us to find this engine and and see how to get it going.

The account from the Acts of the Apostles begins thus: "When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all together in the same place." 

From these words, we see that Pentecost pre-existed Pentecost. In other words, there was already a feast of Pentecost in Judaism and it was during this feast that the Holy Spirit descended. One cannot understand the Christian Pentecost without taking into account the Jewish Pentecost that prepared it. 

In the Old Testament there were two interpretations of the feast of Pentecost. At the beginning there was the feast of the seven weeks, the feast of the harvest, when the first fruits of grain were offered to God, but then, and certainly during Jesus' time, the feast was enriched with a new meaning: It was the feast of the conferral of the law and of the covenant on Mount Sinai.

If the Holy Spirit descends upon the Church precisely on the day in which Israel celebrated the feast of the law and the covenant, this indicates that the Holy Spirit is the new law, the spiritual law that sealed the new and eternal covenant. A law that is no longer written on stone tablets but on tablets of flesh, on the hearts of men. 

These considerations immediately provoke a question: Do we live under the old law or the new law? Do we fulfill our religious duties by constraint, by fear and habit, or rather by an intimate conviction and almost by attraction? Do we experience God as a father or a boss? 

I conclude with a story. At the beginning of the last century a family from southern Italy emigrated to the United States. Not having enough money to pay for meals at restaurants, they took bread and cheese with them for the trip. As the days and weeks passed the bread became stale and the cheese moldy; at a certain point their child could not take it anymore and could do nothing but cry. 

The parents took the last bit of money that they had and gave it to him so that he could have a nice meal at a restaurant. The child went, ate and came back to his parents in tears. The parents asked: "We have spent all the money we had left to buy you a nice meal and you are still crying?" 

"I am crying because I found out that one meal a day was included in the price and this whole time we have been eating bread and cheese!" 

Many Christians go through life with only "bread and cheese," without joy, without enthusiasm, when they could, spiritually speaking, every day enjoy every good thing of God, it all being included in the price of being Christians.

The secret for experiencing that which John XXIII called "a new Pentecost" is called prayer. That is where we find the "spark" that starts the engine! 

Jesus promised that the heavenly Father would give the Holy Spirit to those who asked for him (Luke 11:13). Ask then! The liturgy of Pentecost offers us magnificent words to do this: 

"Come, Holy Spirit ...

Come, O Father of the poor, 
Ever bounteous of Thy store, 
Come, our heart's unfailing light. 
Come, Consoler, kindest, best, 
Come, our bosom's dearest guest, 
Sweet refreshment, sweet repose. 
Rest in labor, coolness sweet, 
Tempering the burning heat, 
Truest comfort of our woes!"
Come Holy Spirit!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa is a Franciscan Capuchin Catholic Priest. Born in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, 22 July 1934, ordained priest in 1958. Divinity Doctor and Doctor in classical literature. In 1980 he was appointed by Pope John Paul II Preacher to the Papal Household in which capacity he still serves, preaching a weekly sermon in Advent and Lent.

I conclude this post by Fr Raneiro Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household with a few remarks.  

  •  I have had enough experience of the Charismatic Renewal to know that it is a genuine renewal in the Spirit and leads many people to holiness, even though many have an over-use of imagination on the way and some are led astray.   Much the same can be said for any popular movement, like the monastic movement in the 4th century
  • If the way of the Old Testament was the Law, the way of the New Testament is to live in synergy with the Holy Spirit as we give up our self-will in favour of the will of God, moment by moment, and also - in the words of St Seraphim of Sarov - holiness is nothing less than "the asquisition of the Holy Spirit"..
  • Our model is the Blessed Virgin who replied to the Good News conveyed by the angel, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord.   May it be done to me according to your word."   She gave birth, but it was the Holy Spirit that enabled her to become the God-bearer which was far outside her powers alone.   So with us: we respond to God's invitation, and the Holy Spirit enables us to be and live by being sons and daughters of God "in Christ".
  • History and our own experience have shown that the Holy Spirit can act in ways thatare obviously externally dramatic, but that he usually doesn't.  Ordinary, every-day events can be just as charged with the Holy Spirit and, in the sacraments, even more so.   An authentic Christian life is shot through with the Holy Spirit all the time; and
  • We don't have to act in our prayer like descendents of African slaves in Los Angeles, to dance around and clap our hands, to be genuinely charismatic; even though no harm is being done and much good achieved by doing so if it helps us to respond to the Holy Spirit.  I used to tell the students in a "charismatic" seminary where I worked for a year, that all the clapping and dancing around is like shaven heads and bells and smells in the monastery, mere froth on the beer.   It is not what is essential.   On the other hand, if beer is without froth, then it is probably dead and needs to be replaced: but each to his particular kind of froth.- F
  • Do not despise another man's froth, whether it be happy clappy behaviour or birettas and old lace.   It might be the best way he has to tap the riches of the Spirit, and you may find yourself separated from your brother by something that has no importance in itself.- Fr David

Monday 21 May 2012


Irenaeus of Lyons: The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the Restoration of the Image of God 

By the hands of the Father, that is, by the Son and the Holy Spirit, man, and not merely a part of man, was made in the likeness of God.

Now the soul and the spirit are certainly a part of the man, but certainly not the man; for the perfect man consists in the commingling and the union of the soul receiving the spirit of the Father, and the admixture of that fleshly nature which was moulded after the image of God.

[...] When the spirit here blended with the soul is united to God’s handiwork, the man is rendered spiritual and perfect because of the outpouring of the Spirit, and this is he who was made in the image and likeness of God.

But if the Spirit be wanting to the soul, he who is such is indeed of an animal nature, and being left carnal, shall be an imperfect being, possessing indeed the image of God in his formation, but not receiving the similitude through the Spirit; and thus is this being imperfect.

[...] That flesh which has been moulded is not a perfect man in itself, but the body of a man, and part of a man. Neither is the soul itself, considered apart by itself, the man; but it is the soul of a man, and part of a man. Neither is the spirit a man, for it is called the spirit, and not a man; but the commingling and union of all these constitutes the perfect man.

And for this cause does the apostle, explaining himself, make it clear that the saved man is a complete man as well as a spiritual man; saying thus in the first Epistle to the Thessalonians: “Now the God of peace sanctify you perfect; and may your spirit, and soul, and body be preserved whole without complaint to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now what was his object in praying that these three — that is, soul, body, and spirit — might be preserved to the coming of the Lord, unless he was aware of the [future] reintegration and union of the three, and that they should be heirs of one and the same salvation? For this cause also he declares that those are “the perfect” who present unto the Lord the three component parts without offence.

Those, then, are the perfect who have had the Spirit of God remaining in them, and have preserved their souls and bodies blameless, holding fast the faith of God, that is, that faith which is directed towards God, and maintaining righteous dealings with respect to their neighbours.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses, 5, 6, 1.


1 the perfect man consists in the commingling and the union of the soul receiving the spirit of the Father, and the admixture of that fleshly nature which was moulded after the image of God..   

In Genesis, Adam was moulded out of mud on which God then breathed.   Alone among the animals was this reception of God's breath.   The human being is mud, (a product of the meterial world), that is living, (has a soul) on which God breathed, ("breath" and "spirit" being the same word in Hebrew).   In Christian Tradition, the human being is not just a soul living in a body, as some Platonists believe; nor is he just a body that works, as is believed by materialists; nor is he simply one living being among others, as Buddha believed and as some deduce from Evolution.  The human being is a living en-souled being, one of whose essential dimensions is openness to the eternal, to God, (he has "spirit")   Karl Rahner defined the human being as "capax Dei".   If any of these three dimensions, body, soul and spirit, is not functioning properly, the human being is sick, sick in his nature, because it is natural for the human being to share in God's life.   For us to be fully human, God needs to continue to breath on us his Holy Spirit as he did with Adam.   Separation from God is unnatural for the human being, because he needs the free gift of union with God to be - in the words of St Irenaeus - fully alive: to be healthy, we, alone among the animals, need God. 

"The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God.


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