Sunday, October 21, 2018

Into Eternity (The Border of His Sanctuary)


Glorious and solemn hour,
 Thus at last to stand,
 All behind us the great desert,
 All before, the land!

Past the shadow of the valley,
 Past the weary plain;
 Past the rugged mountain pathway,
 Ne'er to be again.

And before us, ever stretching
 In its golden sheen,
 Lies the fair, the blessed country
 Where our hearts have been—

Where our hearts have been whilst wandering
 Through the desert bare;
 For the soul's adored, beloved One,
 He abideth there.

Clad in love and glory stands He
 On that glowing shore,
 There to speak the blessed welcome,
 All our journeyings o'er.

Now at last our eyes behold Him,
 At His feet we fall;
 Two and three have we adored Him,
 Now are gathered all.

All His saints from all the ages,
 Every clime and tongue,
 All together now we worship
 In a faultless song.

In the song no discord troubles
 And no weakness mars,
 Sound we loud His Name beloved
 Far beyond the stars.

That blest song, first sung in glory
 By His lips divine,
 Now, in chorus deep and endless
 All his ransomed join.

Glorious and solemn hour,
 On the verge to stand
 Of that endless day of worhsip,
 Of that blessed land!

Not our sorrow we remember,
 All is lost in bliss—
 But our shame gives deeper sweetness
 To the Father's kiss.

Shame—that all that desert journey
 Nothing more could prove
 Than the marvels of His patience,
 How divine His love.

Tale of weakness, sin, and folly,
 Tale of wandering feet—
 Tale of strength, and grace, and wisdom,
 Victory complete.

Sin and death and Satan trodden
 'Neath those feet at length,
 In the glory of His triumph,
 Greatness of His strength.

Solemn hour—thus on the margin
 Of that wondrous day,
 When the former things have vanished,
 Old things passed away.

Nothing but Himself before us,
 Every shadow past—
 Sound we loud our word of witness,
 For it is the last.

One last word of solemn warning
 To the world below—
 One loud shout, that all may hear us
 Hail Him ere we go!

Once more let that Name be sounded
 With a trumpet tone—
 Here, amidst the thickening darkness,
 Then, before the throne.

G.W., The Border of His Sanctuary

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Russia and the Universal Church by Vladimir Solovyov

Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov (Влади́мир Серге́евич Соловьёв; 1853 –1900)

Excerpt from, Vladimir Solovyev, RUSSIA AND THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH, 1889, Part One, chap.III.

He distinctively religious character of the Russian people as well as the mystical tendency exhibited in our philosophy, our literature1 and our arts seem to indicate for Russia a great religious mission. 

Moreover, when our patriots are pressed to state what it is that constitutes the supreme vocation of our country, or the Russian “idea,” as it is called nowadays, they have no choice but to appeal to religion. According to them, Orthodoxy, or the religion of the GrecoRussian Church, in contrast to the religious bodies of the West, constitutes the true basis of our national being. Here, to begin with, is an obvious vicious circle. 

If we ask how the separated Eastern Church justifies its existence, we are told: By having formed the Russian people and provided its spiritual nurture. And when we enquire how that people justifies its existence, the answer is: By belonging to the separated Eastern Church. We are brought to this impasse by the difficulty of really deciding what we mean by this “Orthodoxy” of which we would claim the monopoly. 

This difficulty does not exist for those folk who are really orthodox in all good conscience and in the simplicity of their heart. When questioned intelligently about their religion, they will tell you that to be Orthodox is to be baptized a Christian, to wear a cross or some holy image on your breast, to worship Christ, to pray to the Blessed Virgin most immaculateand to all the saints represented by images and relics, to rest from work on all festivals and to fast in accordance with traditional custom, to venerate the sacred office of bishops and priests, and to participate in the holy sacraments and in divine worship. 

That is the true Orthodoxy of the Russian people, and it is ours also. But it is not that of our militant patriots. It is obvious that true Orthodoxy contains nothing particularist and can in no way form a national or local attribute separating us in any sense from the Western peoples; for the greater part of these peoples, the Catholic part, has precisely the same religious basis that we have. Whatever is holy and sacred for us is also holy and sacred for them. 

To indicate only one essential point: not only is devotion to the Blessed Virgin one of the characteristic features of Catholicism — generally practiced by Russian Orthodoxy3, but there are even special miraculous images venerated in common by Roman Catholics and Russian Orthodox (for example, the holy Virgin of Czestochowa in Poland). 

If “piety” is indeed the distinctive characteristic of our national genius, the fact that the chief emblems of that piety are common to us and the Westerns compels us to recognize our oneness with them in what we regard as the most essential thing of all. 

As regards the profound contrast between the contemplative piety of the East and the active religion of the Westerns, this contrast, being purely human and subjective, has nothing to do with the divine objects of our faith and worship; so far from being a good reason for schism, it should rather bring the two great parts of the Christian world into a closer and mutually complementary union. But under the influence of that evil principle which is constantly at work on Earth, this difference has been abused and twisted into a division. At the moment when Russia was receiving baptism from Constantinople, the Greeks, though still in formal communion with Rome after the temporary schism of Photius4, were already strongly imbued with national particularism which was fostered by the contentious spirit of the clergy, the political ambitions of the emperors, and the disputes of the theologians. 

The result was that the pearl of the Gospel purchased by the Russian people in the person of St. Vladimir was all covered with the dust of Byzantium. The bulk of the nation was uninterested in the ambitions and hatreds of the clergy and understood nothing of the theological quibbles which were their fruit; the bulk of the nation received and preserved the essence of orthodox Christianity pure and simple, that is to say, faith and the life of religion formed by divine grace and expressed in works of piety and charity. But the clergy, recruited in the early days from the Greeks, and the theologians accepted the disastrous inheritance of Photius and Cerularius as an integral part of the true religion. 

This pseudo-Orthodoxy of our theological schools, which has nothing in common with the faith of the Universal Church or the piety of the Russian people, contains no positive element; it consists merely of arbitrary negations produced and maintained by controversial prejudice: 

“God the Son does not contribute in the divine order to the procession of the Holy Spirit.” 

“The Blessed Virgin was not immaculate from the first moment of her existence.” 5

 “Primacy of jurisdiction does not belong to the see of Rome and the Pope has not the dogmatic authority of a Pastor and Doctor of the Universal Church.” 

Such are the principal negations which we shall have to examine in due course. For our present purpose it is enough to observe in the first place that these negations have received no sort of religious sanction, and do not rest on any ecclesiastical authority accepted by all the Orthodox as binding and infallible. 

No ecumenical council has condemned or even passed judgment on the Catholic doctrines anathematized by our controversialists; and when we are offered this new kind of negative theology as the true doctrine of the Universal Church, we can see in it only an extravagant imposture originating either in ignorance or in bad faith. In the second place, it is obvious that this false Orthodoxy is no more adequate than true Orthodoxy as a positive basis for the “Russian idea.” 

Let us try to substitute real values for this unknown quantity called “Orthodoxy” over which a pseudo-patriotic press is always working up an artificial enthusiasm. According to you the ideal essence of Russia is Orthodoxy, and this Orthodoxy, which you especially contrast with Catholicism, amounts in your view simply to the divergences between the two professions of faith. The real religious basis which is common to us and the Westerns seems to have no more than a secondary interest for you; it is the differences between us to which you are really attached. 

Very well, then, substitute these specific differences for the vague term “Orthodoxy” and declare openly that the religious ideal of Russia consists in denying the Filioque, the Immaculate Conception, and the authority of the Pope. It is the last point that you are chiefly concerned with. The others, you know well, are only pretexts; the Sovereign Pontiff is your real bugbear. All your “Orthodoxy,” all your “Russian idea” is, at bottom, then, simply a national protest against the universal power of the Pope. But in the name of what? Here begins the real difficulty of your position. 

This bitter protest against the monarchy of the Church, if it is to win men’s minds and hearts, should be justified by some great positive principle. You should confront the form of theocratic government of which you disapprove with another and better form. And that is exactly what you cannot do. What kind of ecclesiastical constitution would you confer upon the Western peoples? Are you going to extol conciliar government and talk to them of ecumenical councils? Medice, cura teipsum

Why has not the East set up a true ecumenical council in opposition to those of Trent or the Vatican? How are we to explain this helpless silence on the part of Truth when faced with the solemn self-assertion of Error? Since when have the guardians of Orthodoxy become mean-spirited curs that can only bark from behind a wall? 

In point of fact, while the great assemblies of the Church continue to fill a prominent place in the teaching and life of Catholicism, it is the Christian East which has for a thousand years been deprived of this important feature of the Universal Church, and our best theologians, such as Philaret of Moscow, themselves admit that an ecumenical council is impossible for the Eastern Church as long as she remains separated from the West. 

Philaret of Moscow (Василий Михайлович Дроздов; 1782 -1867)

But it is the easiest thing in the world for our self-styled Orthodox to confront the actual councils of the Catholic Church with a council that can never take place and to maintain their cause with weapons that they have lost and under a flag of which they have been robbed. The Papacy is a positive principle, an actual institution, and if Eastern Christians believe this principle to be false and this institution to be evil, it is for them to create the organization which they desire to see in the Church. Instead of doing so, they refer us to antiquarian traditions, though they admit that they can have no relevance to the present situation. 

Our anti-Catholics have indeed good reason for going so far afield in search of support for their thesis; the fact is that they dare not expose themselves to the ridicule of the whole world by declaring the synod of St. Petersburg or the patriarchate of Constantinople to be the real representative of the Universal Church. But how can they talk of appealing, after all this time, to ecumenical councils when they are obliged to admit that they are no longer feasible? Such beating of the air is only a complete revelation of the weakness of this anti-Catholic Orthodoxy. 

If the normal organization and proper constitution of the Universal Church requires ecumenical councils, it is obvious that the Orthodox East, fatally deprived of this essential organ of Church life, possesses no longer a true Church constitution or a regular Church government. 

During the first three centuries of Christianity, the Church, cemented by the blood of the martyrs, convoked no world-wide councils because she had no need of them; the Eastern Church of to-day, paralyzed and dismembered, is unable to convoke them though she feels her need of them. Thus we are placed in a dilemma: either we must admit, with our extreme sectarians, that since a certain date the Church has lost her divine character and no longer actually exists upon Earth; or else, to avoid, so dangerous a conclusion, we must recognize that the Universal Church, having no organs of government or representation in the East, possesses them in her Western half. 

This will involve the recognition of a historical truth now admitted even by the Protestants, namely that the present-day Papacy is not an arbitrary usurpation, but a legitimate development of principles which were in full force before the division of the Church and against which that Church never protested. But if the Papacy is recognized as a legitimate institution, what becomes of the “Russian idea” and the privilege of national Orthodoxy?


1.Our best modem writers have been impelled by a religious idealism which has proved stronger than their aesthetic vocation to abandon the too restricted sphere of literature and to appear with varying success as moralists and reformers, apostles and prophets. The untimely death of Pushkin debars us from deciding whether the religious tendency shown in his most finished productions was deep enough to become in time predominant in his thought and to make him quit the domain of pure poetry, as happened with Gogol (in Correspondence with my friends), with Dostoyevski (in An author’s diary) and with Tolstoy (in My Confession, My Religion, etc.). It seems that the Russian genius does not discover in poetic expression its final objective or the medium suited to the embodiment of its essentially religious ideal. If Russia is called to convey her message to the world, that message must sound forth not from the dazzling regions of art and literature, nor from the proud heights of philosophy and science, but only from the sublime and lowly peaks of religion. My Russian and Polish readers will find a detailed proof of this thesis in the second edition of my work, La Question nationale en Russie, the last chapter of which has been translated into Polish by M. Bénoni and published as a pamphlet entitled Russia and Europe.

2. “Most immaculate” or “all-immaculate” (vseneporochnaya) is the epithet regularly added to the name of the Blessed Virgin in our liturgical books, being the translation of the Greek παντάµωµος and other kindred words.

3.By this term I do not exclude the “old believers” properly so called, whose differences with the State Church are not concerned with the true object of religion.

4. The final rupture, which did not occur till later, in 1054, was nothing in fact but a mere event without any kind of legal or binding sanction. The anathema of the legates of Pope Leo IX was not aimed against the Eastern Church, but solely against the person of the patriarch Michael Cerularius and against “the partners of his folly” (folly obvious enough, to be sure); and, on the other hand, the Eastern Church has never been able to assemble an œcumenical council which, even according to our own theologians, is the only tribunal competent to pass judgment on our differences with the Papacy.

5.Thus these theologians blinded by hatred have the temerity to deny the manifest belief of the Eastern Church, both Greek and Russian, which has never ceased to declare the Blessed Virgin to be all-immaculate, immaculate par excellence.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Hope in a Time of Darkness and Despair

Related image

This is the season of hope. Not if you’ve been listening to the daily news, of course, but it is if you’ve been going to Mass and listening to the readings. We’ve been showered daily with hope-filled readings from the prophets — mostly Jeremiah, Isaiah, or Zechariah. There’s been a lot of the “wolf being a guest of the lamb” sort of thing; promises of “rich food and choice wines” (indeed, “juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines”); the deaf will hear and the blind will see; God will wipe away tears from every face.

With these, we’ve heard about making the lofty mountains low and filling in the valleys; promises about making the parched land exult and the steppe rejoice and bloom with abundant flowers; about turning the desert into marshland and the dry ground into springs of water; and a whole lot about people singing and shouting for joy, being glad and exulting. These are the readings we get every year at about this time. It’s Advent, and the Church thinks it is a good time to remind us that we’re to be a people “looking forward” to something – something very good.

A colleague reminded me recently, however, that all these very hopeful exclamations were made by men with good reason to view their times as not at all hopeful – whose historical situation was, to put it mildly, less than optimal. Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Zechariah all foresaw or experienced the utter defeat of Judah at the hands of her enemies and the exile of her people to an alien land.

All of them could see there was slavery and hardship in the future of a people who believed that nothing could defeat them since they were God’s “chosen,” and He had given them the “Promised Land.” And yet, there they were, on the verge of the abyss, looking over the edge, feeling the earth starting to give way beneath their feet. It would a long, hard fall. But in spite of it all, they were singing God’s praises and promising a bright future. Were they out of their minds? We don’t think so now, but it wouldn’t have been a bad bet at the time.

What is the ground of our hope? According to Thomas Aquinas, the motive or formal object of hope is God’s infinite power. We can hope because we believe that “for God all things are possible.” Fr. Benedict Ashley remarks in his wonderful book Living the Truth in Love (and repeats in his International Catholic University lectures based on the book) that “God’s mercy and promises would not be grounds for hope if God were powerless to fulfill his promises.”

Despair suggests Ashley, can be defined as “the deliberate acceptance of the thought that even God cannot save us from disaster.” Accepting this thought is to give in to what a friend of mine calls “the illusion of the powerlessness of God.” You have probably experienced the power of the illusion – the voices inside you that insist: God is not present in my suffering. He can’t “make straight” what is crooked. He can’t “right” what is “wrong.” He can’t fix what is broken. The forces of evil in the world and within us cannot be conquered.

Christian hope is the hope you have when there is no hope. In East Coker, T. S. Eliot bids his soul to:

. . .be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

When the present is dark and the future darker, as it was for the prophets whose words of hope and joy we read in this season of Advent, it is at these times especially when we are called to walk by faith, not by sight – faith: the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.

It would be a great mistake, however,” Fr. Ashley wisely warns, “to judge that every person who seems without hope has committed this grievous sin of despair. A very common pathological mental condition is what is called depression, which can have many causes, genetic, hormonal, or the result of severe shocks such as the death of loved ones or the traumas of wartime combat. . . .When a person is suffering from mental pathology or simply grieving over tragic losses, or suffering under the heavy burdens of life and sickness, as Job was, their temptations to despair are spiritual trials not sins. One has only to read the Psalms to see how those who truly love God and hope in him, nevertheless complain to him, and find hope very hard.”

In these trials, we become purified of every other motive except confidence in God’s almighty power: “Trust in the LORD forever!” we read in Isaiah 26:4, “for the LORD is an eternal Rock.” The word “trust” here in the Septuagint is the Greek word for “hope.” He is a strong rock; He cannot be overcome. And in that, we find hope to go forward, even in the midst of great trials and tribulations and during times of darkness.

Do you not know
or have you not heard?
The LORD is the eternal God,
Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint nor grow weary. . . .
He gives strength to the fainting;
for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint. (Is 40:28-31)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

What Were Calvin, Zwingli and Wesley's Views on Virgin Mary?

John Calvin

John Calvin by Holbein.png

It has been said that John Calvin belonged to the second generation of the Reformers and certainly his theology of double predestination governed his views on Marian and all other Christian doctrine . Although Calvin was not as profuse in his praise of Mary as Martin Luther he did not deny her perpetual virginity. The term he used most commonly in referring to Mary was "Holy Virgin".

"Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary was at the same time the eternal God." [John Calvin, Calvini Opera [Braunshweig-Berlin, 1863-1900], Volume 45, 35]

"We have already said in another place that according to the custom of the Hebrews all relatives were called 'brethren.' Still Helvidius [a 4th century heretic] has shown himself to be IGNORANT of this by stating that Mary had many children just because in several places they are spoken of as 'brethren' of Christ." (Commentary on Matthew 13:55)

[On Matt 1:25:] The inference he [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband . . . No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words . . . as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called 'first-born'; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin . . . What took place afterwards the historian does not inform us . . . No man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation.(Harmony of Matthew, Mark & Luke, sec. 39 (Geneva, 1562), vol. 2 / From Calvin's Commentaries, tr. William Pringle, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949, vol. I, p. 107).

Under the word 'brethren' the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity. (Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 283 / Commentary on John, (7:3) )

It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor. ... Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary was at the same time the eternal God. (Calvini Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Braunschweig–Berlin, 1863–1900, v. 45, p. 348, 35.)

 Related image

"To this day we cannot enjoy the blessing brought to us in Christ without thinking at the same time of that which God gave as adornment and honour to Mary, in willing her to be the mother of his only-begotten Son." [John Calvin, A Harmony of Matthew, Mark and Luke (St. Andrew's Press, Edinburgh, 1972), p.32].

"There have been certain STRANGE folk who have wished to suggest from this passage [Matt 1:25] that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; BUT WHAT FOLLY THIS IS! "For the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards; he simply wished to make clear Joseph's obedience and to show also that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was God who had sent his angel to Mary. He had therefore NEVER dwelt with her nor had he shared her company.... "And besides this, our Lord Jesus Christ is called the first-born. This is NOT because there was a second or a third, but because the gospel writer is paying regard to the precedence. Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether or no there was any question of the second. Thus we see the intention of the Holy Spirit. This is why to lend ourselves to FOOLISH SUBTLETIES WOULD BE TO ABUSE HOLY SCRIPTURE...." (Sermon on Matthew 1:22-25, published 1562)

"Concerning what has happened since this birth the writer of the gospel SAYS NOTHING...certainly it is a matter about which NO ONE will cause dispute unless he is somewhat curious; on the contrary there never was a man who would contradict this in obstinacy unless he were a PIG-HEADED and FATUOUS [i.e. foolish and stupid] person." (Commentary on Matthew 1:25)

Ulrich Zwingli

"It was given to her what belongs to no creature, that in the flesh she should bring forth the Son of God." [Ulrich Zwingli, In Evang. Luc., Opera Completa [Zurich, 1828-42], Volume 6, I, 639].

"I firmly believe according to the words of the Gospel that a pure virgin brought forth for us the Son of God AND REMAINED A VIRGIN PURE AND INTACT IN CHILDBIRTH AND ALSO AFTER THE BIRTH, FOR ALL ETERNITY. I firmly trust that she has been exalted by God to eternal joy above all creatures, both the blessed and the angels." (from Augustin Bea "Mary and the Protestants" MARIAN STUDIES Apr 61) [Ulrich Zwingli, Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 424]. Zwingli used Exodus 4:22 to defend the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity.

"I speak of this in the holy Church of Zurich and in all my writings: I recognize MARY AS EVER VIRGIN AND HOLY." (January 1528 in Berne, cited in Max Thurian)

"I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary." [E. Stakemeier, De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, K. Balic, ed., (Rome, 1962), 456].

"Christ ... was born of a most undefiled Virgin." [E. Stakemeier, De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, K. Balic, ed., (Rome, 1962), 456]

"It was fitting that such a holy Son should have a holy Mother." [E. Stakemeier, De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, K. Balic, ed., (Rome, 1962), 456].

The more the honor and love for Christ grows among men, the more esteem and honor for Mary grows, for she brought forth for us so great, but so compassionate a Lord and Redeemer. (Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, v. 1, pp. 427–428.)

He turns, in September 1522, to a lyrical defense of the perpetual virginity of the mother of Christ . . . To deny that Mary remained 'inviolata' before, during and after the birth of her Son, was to doubt the omnipotence of God . . . and it was right and profitable to repeat the angelic greeting - not prayer - 'Hail Mary' . . . God esteemed Mary above all creatures, including the saints and angels - it was her purity, innocence and invincible faith that mankind must follow. Prayer, however, must be . . . to God alone . . . 'Fidei expositio,' the last pamphlet from his pen . . . There is a special insistence upon the perpetual virginity of Mary.(G. R. Potter, Zwingli, London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1976, pp.88-9,395 / The Perpetual Virginity of Mary . . ., Sep. 17, 1522)

Zwingli had printed in 1524 a sermon on 'Mary, ever virgin, mother of God.' (Thurian, ibid., p.76)

I have never thought, still less taught, or declared publicly, anything concerning the subject of the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our salvation, which could be considered dishonourable, impious, unworthy or evil . . . I believe with all my heart according to the word of holy gospel that this pure virgin bore for us the Son of God and that she remained, in the birth and after it, a pure and unsullied virgin, for eternity. (Thurian, ibid., p.76 / same sermon)

"He who was about to remove our sins but not to make all men holy, must be himself holy. Hence God sanctified his mother: for it was fitting that such a holy Son should have a likewise holy mother...."; "I have never thought, still less taught, or declared publicly, anything concerning the subject of the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our salvation, which could be considered dishonorable, impious, unworthy, or evil...I hope this is sufficient to have made plain to pious and simple Christians my clear conviction on the matter of the Mother of God: 'I believe with all my heart according to the word of holy gospel that this pure virgin bore for us the Son of God and that she remained, in the birth and after it, a pure and unsullied virgin, for eternity." (Annotationes in Evangelium Lucae, and sermon on "Mary, ever virgin, Mother of God" in 1524, cited in Thurian, page 23, 76)

Heinrich Bullinger

Heinrich Bullinger.jpg

Heinrich Bullinger, Cranmer's brother-in-law, Zwingli's successor said:

'In Mary everything is extraordinary and all the more glorious as it has sprung from pure faith and burning love of God.' She is 'the most unique and the noblest member' of the Christian community . . . 'The Virgin Mary . . . completely sanctified by the grace and blood of her only Son and abundantly endowed by the gift of the Holy Spirit and preferred to all . . . now lives happily with Christ in heaven and is called and remains ever-Virgin and Mother of God.'(In Hilda Graef, Mary: A history of Doctrine and Devotion, combined ed. of vols. 1 & 2, London: Sheed & Ward, 1965, vol.2, pp.14-5)

"What pre-eminence in the eyes of God the Virgin Mary had on account of her piety, her faith, her purity, her saintliness and all her virtues, so that she can hardly be compared with any of the other saints, but should by rights be rather elevated above all of them..."; "...And if she who was wholly pure from her birth did not disdain to be purified, that is to say to receive the blessing of purification, is this not all the more reason why those who fall under the yoke of the law by reason of their real impurity should observe the same?"; "...we believe, that the pure and immaculate embodiment of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, that is to say her saintly body, was carried up into heaven by the angels..." (cited in Thurian, page 89, 197, 198) 

John Wesley (Founder of Methodism)

Related image

The Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as when she brought him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin. ("Letter to a Roman Catholic" / In This Rock, Nov. 1990, p.25)

Juniper Carol, editor, Mariology, 3 volumes (1955-1961)

Max Thurian, Mary: Mother of All Christians (Herder, 1964)
Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (TAN, 1974)
John Henry Newman, Mary: The Second Eve (TAN, 1982)
Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church (Ignatius Press, 1999 English trans, orig 1991 in Italian)
Scott Hahn, Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God (Image / Doubleday, 2001, 2006)
William Ullathorne, The Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, an Exposition (orig 1855, Christian Classics, 1988)
Dwight Longenecker and David Gustafson, Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Brazos Press, 2003)

Catholic View on Virgin Mary:

Orthodox View on Virgin Mary:

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What Is the Martin Luther's View on Virgin Mary?

Related image

Martin Luther

Along with virtually all important Protestant Founders (e.g., Calvin, Zwingli, Cranmer), Luther accepted the traditional belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary (Jesus had no blood brothers), and her status as the Theotokos (Mother of God):

"She is rightly called not only the mother of the man, but also the Mother of God ... It is certain that Mary is the Mother of the real and true God."[ Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works, English translation edited by J. Pelikan [Concordia: St. Louis], volume 24, 107]

It is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man is able to exult in such a treasure. Mary is his true Mother .. (Sermon, Christmas, 1522)

Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees . . . If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother. (Sermon, Christmas, 1529).

God says…"Mary’s Son is My only Son." Thus Mary is the Mother of God. (Sermons on John, chapters 1-4, 1537-39).

God did not derive his divinity from Mary; but it does not follow that it is therefore wrong to say that God was born of Mary, that God is Mary’s Son, and that Mary is God’s mother…She is the true mother of God and bearer of God…Mary suckled God, rocked God to sleep, prepared broth and soup for God, etc. For God and man are one person, one Christ, one Son, one Jesus, not two Christs…just as your son is not two sons…even though he has two natures, body and soul, the body from you, the soul from God alone. (On the Councils and the Church, 1539).

In this work whereby she was made the Mother of God, so many and such great good things were given her that no one can grasp them. ... Not only was Mary the mother of him who is born [in Bethlehem], but of him who, before the world, was eternally born of the Father, from a Mother in time and at the same time man and God. (Weimer’s The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v. 7, p. 572.)

It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin. ... Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact. (Weimer’s The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v.11, pp. 319–320; v. 6. p. 510.)

Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that.(Luther's Works, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30) & Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (vols. 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (vols. 31-55), 1955, v.22:23 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) )

Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . I am inclined to agree with those who declare that 'brothers' really mean 'cousins' here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. (Pelikan, ibid., v.22:214-15 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) )

A new lie about me is being circulated. I am supposed to have preached and written that Mary, the mother of God, was not a virgin either before or after the birth of Christ . . . (Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:199 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) )

Scripture does not say or indicate that she later lost her virginity . . .When Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her . . . This babble . . . is without justification . . . he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom.(Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:206,212-3 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) )

Editor Jaroslav Pelikan (Lutheran) adds:

Luther . . . does not even consider the possibility that Mary might have had other children than Jesus. This is consistent with his lifelong acceptance of the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary. (Pelikan, ibid.,v.22:214-5)

"...A virgin before the conception and birth, she REMAINED a virgin also AT the birth and AFTER it." (February 2, 1546 Feast of Presentation of Christ in the Temple)

". . . she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin. . . . God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. . . . God is with her, meaning that all she did or left undone is divine and the action of God in her. Moreover, God guarded and protected her from all that might be hurtful to her."
(Ref: Luther's Works, American edition, vol. 43, p. 40, ed. H. Lehmann, Fortress, 1968)

"Men have crowded all her glory into a single phrase: The Mother of God. No one can say anything greater of her, though he had as many tongues as there are leaves on the trees." (From the Commentary on the Magnificat.)

". . . in the resolutions of the 95 theses Luther rejects every blasphemy against the Virgin, and thinks that one should ask for pardon for any evil said or thought against her." (Ref: Wm. J. Cole, "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?" in Marian Studies 1970, p. 116:)

"In Luther's Explanation of the Magnificat in 1521, he begins and ends with an invocation to Mary, which Wright feels compelled to call 'surprising'". (David F. Wright, Chosen by God: Mary in Evangelical Perspecive, London: Marshall Pickering, 1989, p. 178, Cited from Faith & Reason, Spring 1994, p. 6.)

Immaculate Conception was a doctrine Luther defended to his death (as confirmed by Lutheran scholars like Arthur Piepkorn). Like Augustine, Luther saw an unbreakable link between Mary's divine maternity, perpetual virginity and Immaculate Conception. Although his formulation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was not clear-cut, he held that her soul was devoid of sin from the beginning. Three hundred years before it was declared Dogma, the Protestant reformer Martin Luther said:

"But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul, it is piously and suitably believed, was without any sin, so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God to receive the holy soul thus infused. And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin..." [Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works]

It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527).

"...above all it is necessary for us to see what original sin is in order to be able to understand how the holy Virgin Mary was released from to the conception of the Virgin Mary whose body was procreated in the fashion of other children, until the soul was infused, it was not necessary that she should be conceived as was Christ; for she was able to be brought forth under the law of original sin, up to the time when her soul was bestowed. But, in that which concerns the other conception [the passive conception], that is to say the infusing of her soul, one believes with devotion and holiness that she was brought forth without original sin, in such a way that at the moment of her soul being infused she was also similarly purified from original sin, and at the first instant in which she began to live she was without sin, adorned with the gifts of God." (Sermon on the Day of the Conception of Mary, Mother of God, 1527; cited in Thurian, page 197)

 " This immaculate and perpetual virginity forms, therefore, the just theme of our eulogy. Such was the work of the Holy Ghost, who at the Conception and birth of the Son so favoured the Virgin Mother as to impart to her fecundity while preserving inviolate her perpetual virginity."9

 Related image

Although he did not make it an article of faith, Luther said of the doctrine of the Assumption. In his sermon of August 15, 1522, the last time Martin Luther preached on the Feast of the Assumption, he stated:

There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith . . . It is enough to know that she lives in Christ. [Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works (Translation by William J. Cole) 10, p. 268]

Despite his unremitting criticism of the traditional doctrines of Marian mediation and intercession, to the end Luther continued to proclaim that Mary should be honored. He made it a point to preach on her feast days.

The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart. (Sermon, September 1, 1522) [Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works].

"Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honoured? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent's head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing." [Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works, English translation edited by J. Pelikan [Concordia: St. Louis], Volume 51, 128-129]. Luther made this statement in his last sermon at Wittenberg in January 1546.

[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ . . . She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures. (Sermon, Christmas, 1531).

No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity. (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation, 1537).

One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God's grace . . . Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ . . . Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God. (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521).

Whoever possesses a good (firm) faith, says the Hail Mary without danger! Whoever is weak in faith can utter no Hail Mary without danger to his salvation. (Sermon, March 11, 1523).

Our prayer should include the Mother of God…What the Hail Mary says is that all glory should be given to God, using these words: "Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ. Amen!" You see that these words are not concerned with prayer but purely with giving praise and honor…We can use the Hail Mary as a meditation in which we recite what grace God has given her. Second, we should add a wish that everyone may know and respect her…He who has no faith is advised to refrain from saying the Hail Mary. (Personal Prayer Book, 1522).

 Image result for mary through the centuries pelikan
Jaroslav Pelican, Mary Through the Centuries, 1998.

Celestial Chant from Aleppo

 Image result for monastery cave candle

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Welcome to the World of Beautiful Byzantine Chant in Modern English!


Fr. Apostolos Hill’s recording “Hymns of Paradise: Hymns of Life and Hope


Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes.
The choir of the saints has found 
the fountain of life and the door of Paradise. 

May I also find the way through repentance, 
I am the sheep what was lost, 
call me up to You, O Savior, and save me.

Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes.
You who did fashion me of old out of nothingness, 
and with Your Image Divine did honor me;

but because of the transgressions of Your commandments, 
did return me again to the earth from whence I was taken;
lead me back to be refashioned into that ancient beauty of Your likeness.

Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes.
I am the image of Your unutterable glory, 
though I bear the scars of my stumblings.

Have compassion upon me, the works of Your hands, 
O sovereign Lord, and cleanse me through Your loving-kindness;
and the homeland of my heart’s desire bestow on me, 
by making me a citizen of Paradise.

*the rest of the lyrics and musical notes; here. (p.16-)

Image result for russian orthodox oil painting

A few years ago when I first became interested in the traditional byzantine chant of the Orthodox Church, I came across Fr. Apostolos Hill’s recording “Hymns of Paradise: Hymns of Life and Hope,” his English language adaptation of the remarkably beautiful Memorial Service. It was not until I heard this work that I began to appreciate these important hymns. I had simply never heard them executed competently in English anywhere in Greek Orthodox Church of America.

I was also deeply struck by Fr Apostolos’ simple and direct chant style, which is free of affectation, unpretentious, clear, and, in my opinion, simply beautiful. In short, a model for what I wish traditional chant in English would sound like in American parishes. In this recording, Fr Apostolos captures the spirit of an earlier, humble American plain chant tradition, while introducing elements of traditional byzantine chant, which is largely monophonic, uses an isson, and is practiced without any instrumental accompaniment. I appreciate that he avoids many of the vocal habits of popular music that some American psalti bring to their chant, while he similarly avoids injecting the vocal ticks of Greek psalti, which, to my ear, can sound false when found in our English language chanting.

Fr Apostolos’ adaptations are traditionally minded and not based on a single traditional musical text (warning to the musical purists). I count two moments of polyphony on the CD – the first and most obvious is the Trisagion hymn which he bases on the Arabic melody that is very popular here in the US. The second is in the Troparia Tone 8 “Among the Saints” which is subtle and reminiscent of harmonies found in the English adaptations of Vassilis Hadjinicolaou. I still found these pleasant, respectful, performed with sensitivity, unlike certain polyphonic treatments found in GOA parishes.

To my knowledge, Fr Apostolos has not made available a score for this music, so I’ve posted here my own transcription for those who want something to follow. It is in western notation and can be used to chant with friends. It is offers a simple introduction to traditional chant for English speakers who have no prior experience with byzantine style music. It should be used with the CD, not alone. I have not had time to correct the mistakes that riddle it – and there are many. I made it originally just for myself as a listening exercise. Again, I think it is the direct, clear and simple quality of Fr Apostolos Hill’s chant style that is most remarkable and useful, not necessarily the quality of the adaptation on its own.

I very much look forward to having more traditional adaptations from Fr. Seraphim Dedes or Fr. Ephraim of St Anthony’s Monastery. These two offer the best resources for English speakers to learn traditional byzantine liturgical chant.

The CD of Fr Apostolos Hill’s “Hymns of Paradise” can be found here.