"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 26 March 2013


I was going to have an entirely different post for today, until  I read this passage from Father Stephen's blog, and I could not resist the temptation to print it.   I thoroughly agree with it, not as an Orthodox-leaning Latin , though, I suppose, I am that in a way,  but as a dyed- in- the- wool Roman Catholic who believes that it best explains the place of the Incarnation and of Mary in our own Catholic spirituality.  I shall follow this really excellent exposition from Father Stephen's blog with similar views  held by some saints in our Western tradition. I shall then draw out some implications from what I have read.   
Our Lady of the Passion, called in the West, "Our Lady of Perpetual Succour".   The Christ Child looks at the instruments of the Cross and, in fright, jumps up into his mother's arms (his sandal is falling off) His mother is looking at us, challenging us: "Are we really worth the death of her Son?  Are we taking his death sufficiently seriously?   Do we sufficiently value the salvation that Christ has won for us?
“Hail, Mary, Full of Grace,” – the Cause of All Things
by father stephen

I treasure the small volume of George Gabriel,  Mary the Untrodden Portal of God. Gabriel occasionally strikes hard at the West and the book would perhaps be strengthened with a less combative approach to the differences of East and West in the faith (my own opinion), but I liked the book and found Gabriel addressing many things, well foot-noted, that are not found in many other places. I share an excerpt.


From eternity, God provided for a communion with His creation that would remain forever. In that communion mankind would attain to the eternal theosis for which it was made. The communion, of course, is the Incarnation through the Ever-Virgin. Mankind's existence and, therefore, that of all creation is inexorably tied to Mary because she was always to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word. The fathers say that neither the course of human events nor necessity of any kind forced the Uncreated One to join to Himself a creaturely mode of existence. God did not become flesh because some actions of the devil or of man made it necessary, but because it was the divine plan and mystery from before the ages. Despite the works of Satan and the coming of sin into the world, the eternal will of God was undeterred, and it moved forward.

History and the course of human events were the occasion and not the cause of the Incarnation. The Incarnation did not take place for the Crucifixion; the Crucifixion took place so the Incarnation and the eternal communion of God and man could be fulfilled despite Satan, sin, and death. Explaining that there was no necessity in God the Father that required the death of His Son, St. Gregory the Theologian says the Father "neither asked for Him nor demanded Him, but accepts [His death] on account of the economy [of the Incarnation] and because mankind must be sanctified by the humanity of God." St. Gregory is telling us that, from before the ages, it was the divine will for mankind to be sanctified and made immortal by communion with the humanity of the Incarnate God, but corruptibility and death came and stood in the way.  By His Passion and Resurrection, Jesus Christ destroyed these obstacles and saved, that is, preserved, mankind for the Incarnation's eternal communion of the God-Man and immortal men. St. John of Damascus repeats the same idea that the Incarnation is a prior and indeed ontological purpose in itself, and that redemption is the means to that end. Thus, he says the Holy Virgin "came to serve in the salvation of the world so that the ancient will of God for the Incarnation of the Word and our own theosis may be fulfilled through her."


Saint Albert the Great (1196/1206 - November 15th, 1280) teaches that the Divine Logos would have become man even if man had not sinned:

"I believe that the Son of God would have become man even if there had been no sin...Nevertheless, on this subject I say nothing in a definitive manner; but I believe that what I said is more in harmony with the piety of faith." 
"Credo quod Filius Dei factus fuisset homo, etiamsi numquam fuisset peccatum...tamen nihil de hoc asserendo dico : sed credo hoc quod dixi, magis concordare pietati fidei."
- St Albertus Magnus, III In Sententiarum d. 20, a. 4


St Francis de Sales (1567 - 1622)
"Now of all the creatures which that sovereign omnipotence could produce, he thought good to make choice of the same humanity which afterwards in effect was united to the person of God the Son; to which he destined that incomparable honour of personal union with his divine Majesty, to the end that for all eternity it might enjoy by excellence the treasures of his infinite glory. Then having selected for this happiness the sacred humanity of our Saviour, the supreme providence decreed not to restrain his goodness to the only person of his well-beloved Son, but for his sake to pour it out upon divers other creatures, and out of the mass of that innumerable quantity of things which he could produce, he chose to create men and angels to accompany his Son, participate in his graces and glory, adore and praise him for ever. And inasmuch as he saw that he could in various manners form the humanity of this Son, while making him true man, as for example by creating him out of nothing, not only in regard of the soul but also in regard of the body; or again by forming the body of some previously existing matter as he did that of Adam and Eve, or by way of ordinary human birth, or finally by extraordinary birth from a woman without man, he determined that the work should be effected by the last way, and of all the women he might have chosen to this end he made choice of the most holy virgin Our Lady, through whom the Saviour of our souls should not only be man, but a child of the human race. Furthermore the sacred providence determined to produce all other things as well natural as supernatural in behalf of Our Saviour, in order that angels and men might, by serving him, share in his glory; on which account, although God willed to create both angels and men with free-will, free with a true freedom to choose evil or good, still, to show that on the part of the divine goodness they were dedicated to good and to glory, he created them all in original justice, which is no other thing than a most sweet love, which disposed, turned and set them forward towards eternal felicity."


On the Primacy of Christ:

God is love, and all his operations proceed from love. Once he wills to manifest that goodness by sharing his love outside himself, then the Incarnation becomes the supreme manifestation of his goodness and love and glory. So, Christ was intended before all other creatures and for his own sake. For him all things were created and to him all things must be subject, and God loves all creatures in and because of Christ. Christ is the first-born of every creature, and the whole of humanity as well as the created world finds its foundation and meaning in him. Moreover, this would have been the case even if Adam had not sinned.

+ Saint Lawrence of Brindisi

It seems that, by reading an Orthodox article on the reasons for the Incarnation, I have stumbled on an understanding which, because of its ecumenical accord, has good claim to be that of the Church in both East and West.  The saints whom I have quoted in favour of this teaching were important theologians in their day, with a reputation for sanctity and for learning that has lasted to the present.   Modern theologians do not really concern themselves with this question; but the tendency to see creation and redemption as two moments in one single, overall divine plan, the stress on our natural desire for Christ, and talk of the “Cosmic Christ”, all favour the thesis proposed in this Orthodox paper.     Nevertheless, the clarity with which it is taught puts us all in the author’s debt and motivated me to look at our own tradition with new eyes.

When the history of the Catholic Church in the modern age comes to be written, the presence of Russian émigré theologians in Paris after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the fact that they came into contact with the resourcement theologians (1*) with their   nouvelle theologie will have immense significance. Both groups were under a cloud with their respective authorities, the Russians because they lived in Catholic Europe and were suspected of being contaminated by popery, and the resourcement theologians because they had set themselves against the commonly taught manual theology and claimed we can only move forward by   returning to the patristic sources.  For the Catholic group, things changed dramatically in Vatican II and the later election of two popes from their number. 

 This encounter became the historic cause of much of our present understanding.   Both sides were rather surprised to discover that they basically had the same religion, that their criticisms, however strongly put, were criticisms from the inside, not from the outside, and, for that reason, had to be listened to: that they had, not two distinct traditions, but, as Father Georges Florovsky put it, one single Tradition which has become disjointed in certain areas.   Father Georges Florovsky recognised that, in spite of differences that are important enough to be obstacles to communion, Catholic and Orthodox traditions belong to each other.  (See the video by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware on Catholic - Orthodox relations).   This means that our encounters will not only be opportunities to learn about each other: looking at our different theologies will shed light on our understanding of ourselves and of our own faith.   This is what has happened here.   Let it go on happening. 
(1*) see "La Nouvelle Theologie) 

click on ANCIENT FAITH TODAY for an Orthodox interpretation.



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