Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wherein Deacon Kyle Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is

I have a lot of ideas, thoughts, you know those things in your head that you respond to by saying, "Hey, I like that.  I should tell somebody."  I have those thoughts often.  This place is a forum for some of them.  One, in particular, has come to the fore as of late.  This one.

I'm in a new parish.  This parish school has a much smaller library, but still has the accelerated reading program the previous school had.  The Percy Jackson and Harry Potter books are well worn and have gone through many hands, no doubt.  Again, this irks me.  These school children are being formed by teenage warlocks who use poor means to achieve good ends and modern teenage Greek demi-gods.  (I personally was formed, other than the Redwall series, by comic book super-heroes, who have their own issues.  That's another post.)

The Lord put it on my heart to do something.  So I put my money where my mouth was.  I started searching on this wonderful consumer interweb for the full collection of the Redwall series.  I found it on ebay and won it.  Seventeen books of good teen fiction are getting ready to enter the 20 shelf library below.   Boy am I excited.

I share this with you not to brag or puff myself up (or at least so I say to myself).  I mean share this with you because I am putting my money where my mouth is and where the Lord is leading me.

Now let formative literature spring forth from the loins of the library!

P.S. If it so moves you to donate for other good read materials such as lives of the saints feel free to contact me.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Eucharist in the Apostolic Fathers Part Four: The Didache

This is the final installment of this little followed series.  Today we look at the Didache (Ignatius press' catechetical series might come to mind, it follows in the footsteps of the early Church catechetical document).  The Didache is an interesting document that was rediscovered on one and half centuries ago.  Previously there were only excerpts in the writings of the Church Fathers.  It is was highly reverenced and considered as great source of early Christian life   There are three Eucharistic chapters, nine, ten, and fourteen.  

Chapter 9 can be seen as the offertory rite of the early church.  If one were to compare chapter nine with the offertory rite in the Ordo Missae there are definite similarities. The Ordo Missae says “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands it will become our spiritual drink.  Blessed be God forever.”[ii]  The Didache says, “First concerning the Cup, ‘We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the Holy Vine of David thy child, which thou didst make know to us through Jesus thy child; to thee be glory forever.’”[iii]  There occurs a thanksgiving for the gift of the wine given from the Father to be returned to him in offering.  Then there is the acclamation, blessed be God forever and to thee be glory forever.  There continues here the typological aspect of the Eucharist, which began in the gospel of John and in the Pauline letters.  The Eucharist fulfills the wine that sits next to the showbread outside of the Holy Holies.  Chapter nine continues with the Johannine typology of the manna. “As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains, but was brought together and became one, so let thy Church be gathered together from the end of the earth into they kingdom, for thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.”[iv]  The final aspect of chapter nine and probably its defining Eucharistic aspect is the excluding of unbaptized from the meal. “But let none eat or drink of your Eucharist except those who have been baptized in the Lord’s name.”[v]  The only reason to exclude unbaptized from a meal would be a sacramental meal wherein only those who were called into the flock can partake.  This hints at a sacramental structure based on the primacy of baptism in the sacraments of initiation. 

Chapter ten is said to a prototype preface.  The same elements occur, thanksgiving for the gifts received and praise by way of the Sanctus, “Hosannah to the God of David.  If any man be holy, let him come!”[vi] and “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.  Hosanna in the highest.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”[vii]  These are remarkably similar.  Rordorf says that the Sanctus originates from the Jewish meal blessing.  Also, within chapter ten there is the manifestation of the eschatological nature of the Eucharistic sacrifice in the words Maran atha.  “The expression of the expectation of the parousia which St. Paul has preserved for us, confirms what he himself has allowed us to see of the eschatological orientation of the first Christian Eucharists, where they ‘proclaimed’ the death of the Lord, ‘until he comes.’”[ix]  Finally, chapter 10 demands the presider, or prophet as he is called, to chose the place and time for the celebration.  The presider is said to be the bishop, who proclaims the word of God and officiates at the celebration. 

 Chapter fourteen deals with the Sabbath.  It proscribes that the Eucharist should be celebrated “on the Lord’s Day.”[x]  One should come clean from sin.  This is the first discussion of fruitful reception of the Eucharist.  “After confessing your transgression that your offering may be pure; but let none who has a quarrel with his fellow join in your meeting until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice be not defiled.”[xi]  If one has the stain of sin his offering of himself at the Eucharistic sacrifice will not be pure.  Furthermore, if you are distracted be a quarrel this quarrel will prevent you from receiving the sacrament, which is an offering of self to Christ, as best as possible.  Herein also lie the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist.  If one stained by sin or not properly recollected, one cannot sacrifice a proper spiritual sacrifice in union with the unbloody sacrifice on the altar. “For this is that which was spoken by the Lord, ‘In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice, for I am a great king,’ saith the Lord, ‘and my name is wonderful among the heathen.’”[xii] 

            So, then, what did the Holy Spirit preserve for the modern Church by way of extant writings of the sub-Apostolic age in view of the Eucharist?  Found in some shape or form in all four sources is the notion of the Eucharist as a sacrifice.  Being so close to Jewish Christians and experiencing or hearing about daily pagan sacrifices, the Eucharist is the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.  There are certain offices that officiate at the liturgy of the Eucharist, the primary one being the bishop.  The Eucharist is a source of communion with one other, the universal church, Christ Jesus, and through Him God the Father.  The Eucharist is Jesus' flesh.  They affirmed the Real of Presence of Jesus in the sacrament.  In fact, Christology is intertwined from then on with Eucharistic theology by way of defense against the Donatists.  The Eucharist engendered Christian living and imitation of Christ.  It was through the Eucharist that the sub-Apostolic Church encountered Christ.  Their faith and charity became Eucharistic in nature even unto death.  The Eucharistic liturgy was still closely connected, though very different to, the Jewish meal blessing.  The Eucharist is the fulfillment of the types of both the sacrifices and bread occurrences of the Old Testament.  Finally, even so early in the Church, there was the notion of proper disposition when encountering the altar of the Lord.  For a more fruitful reception one must confess their sins and forgive their brother.  The Apostolic Fathers and their contemporaries were Eucharistic.  They had known some of the Apostles but had not known Christ.  They were the second generation.  They encountered Him through the Blessed Sacrament.  Vatican II affirmed their faith and practice in calling the Eucharist the “source and summit” of our faith.  They embodied this.

[i] Willy Rordorf, “The Didache,” in The Eucharist of the Early Christians, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (NY: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1978), 10-11; Andre Garakas, The Origin and Development of the Holy Eucharist: East and West (NY: St. Paul’s, 2006), 69;  O’Connor, 6; and Bouyer, 117-118.   
[ii] PDF of New Translation into English, 2008 from
[iii] Didache in The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1 of the Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1998), 323
[iv] Ibid.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] PDF of New Translation into English, 2008 from
[viii] Rordorf, 14. 
[ix] Bouyer, 118-119. 
[x] Didache, 331.
[xi] Ibid.
[xii] Ibid.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

St. Augustine on the Lie of the 'Golden Age'

I was very much struck by the Office of Readings today.  St. Augustine hits it right on the mark, even for us post-moderns.  I'll let him speak for himself.
Whenever we suffer some distress or tribulation, there we find warning and correction for ourselves. Our holy scriptures themselves do not promise us peace, security and repose, but tribulations and distress; the gospel is not silent about scandals; but he who perseveres to the end will be saved. What good has this life of ours ever been, from the time of the first man, from when he deserved death and received the curse, that curse from which Christ our Lord delivered us?
  So we must not complain, brothers, as some of them complained, as the apostle says, and perished from the serpents.What fresh sort of suffering, brothers, does the human race now endure that our fathers did not undergo? Or when do we endure the kind of sufferings which we know they endured? Yet you find men complaining about the times they live in, saying that the times of our parents were good. What if they could be taken back to the times of their parents, and should then complain? The past times that you think were good, are good because they are not yours here and now.
  If you have now been delivered from the curse, if you have now believed in the Son of God; if you are now well versed or trained in sacred scripture, I am surprised that you should reckon Adam to have had good times. Your parents carried the burden of Adam as well. Indeed it was Adam who heard the words: In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, and you shall work the ground from which you were taken; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you. He deserved this, he received this, he was given this as the result of God’s just judgement. Why then do you think past times were better than yours? From that Adam to the Adam of today, toil and sweat, thorns and thistles. Have we forgotten the flood? Have we forgotten those burdensome times of famine and wars? They were written about to prevent us complaining of the present time against God.
  What times those were! Do not we all shudder to hear or read of them? So we have rather cause for congratulating ourselves than grounds for complaining about our own times.
Times were better when I was younger, or when our parents were our age is a lie.  Times were different but because sinful man was involved they were never better.  Grass is green on both sides just as some of it has died as turned to dust on both sides.  St. Augustine is inviting us to look at reality instead of fantasizing about the past.  Don't believe the lie of the 'Golden Age,' rather look to the truth that we live redeemed in Christ and live in Him not in fantasy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Eucharist in the Apostolic Fathers Part Three: St. Polycarp of Smyrna

St. Polycarp, an apostle of St. John the Evangelist, was the bishop of Smyrna and a contemporary of St. Ignatius.  He wrote a letter to the Philippians not soon after the martyrdom of Ignatius. Polycarp warned the Philippians against the heresies of the day, namely Docetism.  He does not mention anything Eucharistic is this short letter; its focus is rather narrow in scope.  There is also an account of his martyrdom, which is the first recorded account of martyrdom outside Scripture.  He gives a speech before he is burned at the stake wherein the beauty and eloquence of an old bishop is surely displayed.  In that speech there is not direct reference to Scripture, but Louis Bouyer mentions an interesting point about his martyrdom.  “The account of his martyrdom shows us this bishop handing himself over to the fire exactly as if he were going to celebrate the Eucharist for the last time.  And in this supreme celebration where he identifies himself with the victim, which is Christ, we can think that the prayer derives from the Eucharist, which he was accustomed to offer.”[i]  Polycarp is augmenting a primitive Eucharistic prayer for the offering of himself instead of the unbloody sacrifice on the altar.  “Thou has granted me this day and hour, in the cup of the Christ, for the Resurrection to everlasting life … may I, today, be received among them before Thee, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice as Thou … hast prepared beforehand, and shown forth, and fulfilled … I glorify Thee through the everlasting and heavenly high priest, Jesus Christ, thy beloved Child.”[ii]  We see again the Eucharistic Christianity that was so captivating about Ignatius of Antioch.  Polycarp, who did not know Jesus in the flesh, knew Him best through the Blessed Sacrament.  It felt most natural to pray his final prayer in Eucharistic fashion.

[i] Louis Bouyer, Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer, translated by Charles Quinn (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968), 114-115.
[ii] Martyrdom of Polycarp, in The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 2 of the Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1998), 331-332.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Eucharistic the Apostolic Fathers Part Two: St. Ignatius of Antioch

Two weeks ago we discussed the beginnings of a Eucharistic theology in the writing of St. Clement of Rome. This week we delve into a deeper and more plentiful corpus from which to draw a beautiful theology of the Eucharist.  

A few years after Clement's letter to the Corinthians, St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote seven letters, six to Christian communities and one to St. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, on his way to martyrdom in Rome.  There are five major Eucharistic themes in these letters: sacrifice, the offices of the Eucharist, sacrament of unity, Eucharistic Christology, and Eucharistic Christianity.  The notion of sacrifice was the major theme running through all of the Apostolic Fathers.  The Eucharistic sacrifice takes on a special tone in Ignatius. “Be careful therefore to use one Eucharist for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup of union with his blood, one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery and the deacons my fellow servants, in order that whatever you do you may do it according unto God.”[i]  The altar is the place of sacrifice.  It is where the bishop with the presbytery offers the body and blood.  The Greek word used, ousiasterien, can also be translated as sanctuary, the place of sacrifice.  “It seems that the conception of the Eucharist as the sacrifice of the Church suggested this designation.”[ii] 

In this quote from his letter to the Philadelphians Ignatius also points towards certain offices that officiate at the Eucharistic sacrifice.  There he mentions bishops, presbyters, and deacons.  The bishop though is the presider at the Eucharist. “Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints.”[iii]  The bishop is seen as the representative of Christ, who unifies the church.  The presbyters assist the bishop in his role.  They are seen as a different office something that was not distinguished in Clement of Rome.  The deacon serves at the sacrifice.  John Zizioulias says that the orders “have survived in history as constitutive for the Eucharist.”[iv]  Ignatius places them within the Eucharistic sacrifice by the will of God.  It is at the Eucharistic sacrifice that the office gain their sustenance and are united more closely to Him whom that represent, in persona Christi.

Furthermore, through the bishop presiding as representative of Christ the Church becomes one body. “Hasten all to come together as to one temple of God, as to one altar, to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from the one Father, and is with one, and departed to one.”[v]  The Eucharist united the local church under its celebrant, the bishop.  They come together at one temple.  The Eucharist brings themto not only the local church but the entire Church extended through time and space at the one altar of sacrifice. “Zizioulas interprets Ignatius’ words to the Smyrnaeans as teaching that, in which Eucharistic event, the historical, earthly gathering around the bishop is ‘exactly the same as … the whole Church united in Christ.’”[vi]  It not only unites the whole Church but it unites the Church with the Father. “The Eucharistic assembly generates unity unity with the bishop, unity with the entire Church, and unity with Christ who is inseparably one with the Father.”[vii]  Ignatius’ shining reason for the unifying nature of the Eucharist has to do with his treatment of the Docetists.  They, not recognizing the humanity of Christ, saw the Eucharist as an abomination and did not partake of it. “Let no man be deceived: unless a man be within the sanctuary he lacks the bread of God, for if the prayer of one or two has such might, how much more has that of the bishop and of the whole church?  So then he who does not join in the common assembly, is already haughty, and has separated himself.”[viii]  By not partaking of the bread of God, a Johannine name for the Eucharist, which unites the Church as one, the Docetists separate themselves from the Church and from Christ.  This is the strongest and most vivid description of the unifying nature of the Eucharist in early Christian literature.  It indeed gives full life to the term, communion.

The Docetists had a faulty Christology that led to a faulty Eucharistic theology.  This shows the intimate relationship between the two.  “In Ignatius’ thinking, belief in the reality of Christ’s life-giving flesh has immediate consequences for Eucharistic theology.”[ix]  The Docetists failed to see that the Eucharist was the flesh of Christ. “I desire the ‘bread of God,’ which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was ‘of the seed of David,’ and for drink I desire his blood, which is incorruptible love.”[x]  The Son of God became flesh, sarx.  He suffered and died only to be risen on the third day.  The Eucharist, then, is the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ.  This is the closest any of the Apostolic Fathers comes to transubstantiation language.  To confirm this, Ignatius says of the Docetists, “They abstain from Eucharist and prayer, because they do not confess the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ who suffered for our sins, which the Father raised up by his goodness.”[xi]  The flesh of Christ, natural and Eucharistic, are both the object of the same faith of Christians.  “At every point there is the same flesh, the one sarx, of Christ.  The reality of Christ’s human flesh in his incarnation and the reality of his Eucharistic flesh are the objects of the one and the same faith.”[xii]  They are, in a sense, inseparable, one from the other, for those who never met Christ in the flesh.  Being post-Apostolic, Ignatius never met Christ in the flesh.  His experience of the flesh of Christ was in the body and blood of the Eucharistic sacrifice. 

These notions of sacrifice, presiding at the sacrifice, sacrament of communion, and flesh of Christ were taken on by Ignatius himself.  He saw his impending martyrdom as a sacrifice to the Father in union with the sacrifice of Christ.  He was offering himself, being both priest and victim, though in an analogous way, with Christ.
Suffer me to be eaten by the beasts, through whom I can attain to God.  I am God’s wheat, and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found pure bread of Christ.  Rather entice the wild beasts that they may become my tomb … then shall I be truly a disciple of Jesus Christ … Beseech Christ on my behalf, that I may be found a sacrifice through these instruments.[xiii] 
Ignatius had imbibed a Eucharistic Christianity.  He even compared himself to the Eucharistic species.  He wished to sacrifice himself to the Father in the way that he has experienced Christ sacrifice himself. 
The entire thinking of Ignatius in this mater is a dynamic prolongation of the Eucharist.  Like the Eucharist, and on the basis of it, martyrdom derives its value from the passion of Christ and leads to resurrection.  Through identification with Christ and through the complete gift of self that martyrdom entails, Ignatius will fulfill in himself the radical meaning of the Eucharistic sacrifice; as far as possible, he will make real in himself the Eucharistic mystery that is celebrated in the sacrifice of the altar.[xiv]

Ignatius by his very life and death lived, for the Christian faithful, the Eucharistic mystery.  He, in this time of Docetist heresy, lived a life in the flesh and for the flesh and with the flesh of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.  One can only imagine the great reverence he had in presiding over a Eucharistic celebration, especially in the time awaiting his execution by beast.  He embodied the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist.  By his martyrdom, he brought together the Christian community, in praise and thanksgiving to Lord, that such an imitator of Himself witnessed to them by his life and death.  By dying for the sake of the Lord, he died professing the fleshy existence of Jesus wishing to enter into glory with Him.

[i] Ignatius of Antioch, “Letter to the Philadelphians,” in The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1 of the Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1998), 243.
[ii] Johannes Quasten, Patrology, Volume 1 The Beginnings of Patristic Literature (Westminster Maryland: Newman Press, 1962), 66.
[iii] Ignatius of Antioch, “Letter to the Smyrnaeans,” in The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1 of the Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1998), 261.
[iv] John Zizioulias, “The Ecclesiological Presupposition of the Holy Eucharist,” Nicolas 10 (1982), 343-344,  quoted in Paul McPartlan, The Eucharist Makes the Church: Henri de Lubac and John Zizioulas in Dialogue (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1993), 195.
[v] Ignatius of Antioch, “Letter to the Magnesians,” in The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1 of the Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1998), 203.
[vi] McPartlan, 169.
[vii] Raymond Johanny, “Ignatius of Antioch,” in The Eucharist of the Early Christians, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (NY: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1978), 60. 
[viii] Ignatius of Antioch, “Letter to the Ephesians,” in The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1 of the Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1998), 179.
[ix] Johanny, 57.
[x] Ignatius of Antioch, “Letter to the Romans,” in The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1 of the Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1998), 235.
[xii] Johanny, 53.
[xiii] “Letter to the Romans,” 231.
[xiv] Johanny, 65.