The Church of Italy?

The Church of Rome is the second and last place the first bishop Peter reigned after Antioch. From here the Latin Catholic Church began her proliferation across the world, crossing national boundaries while preserving national identity for peoples. How can this happen? What religion could accomplish this? We explain in two other posts (The Evangelization of Celibacy, The Fulcrum of the Kingdom of God) that this has everything to do with celibacy.  The other Churches that came out of Antioch did not so emphasize celibacy for priests, religious, and laity and evolved into Churches of national associations but with intact Sacraments. Sources of sacramental graces for millions of peoples and families but with a limited international reach compared to the Latin Church, except when those families migrated.

The premise in western cultures that sexual activity is some sort of necessary evil with only marginal potential for something of beauty has many origins but one can point out the writings of Sigmund Freud, a drug addict and pervert, as one source. The foundation of every psychology department all over the world. We have no control over these urges. Some sort of compromise has to be worked out with our sexuality. But this is not so.  This has been permanently changed with the eternal work of Jesus, God and man, and His mother, the Mother of God. The Hearts of the new nature of mankind has been established. The particulars of this eternal event are wholly dependent on you and I.

So worked out for us here, celibacy not only becomes an attainable option, but the practical means for the evangelization of peoples. Without it, the Church of Rome will be reduced to the Church of Italy, or some other geographic boundary.

“Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better that what is admitted to be good.”

Saint John Chrysostom, De virginitatae

The Holiness of Restraint and Privacy

The devil cannot read our thoughts. For the devil’s craving to fill our mind with temptation and distraction, God designed a protection from satan’s plan for each of us through our will. Privacy, discretion, and prayer. So that each of us become like a portal to and from Heaven while living in a corrupt world. In our early years, it is the family that is supposed to protect our mind for lack of will. Protected in these ways we become invisible to satan.

Once our thoughts take on concrete word or action however, they become visible to satan. He then can show up. Look only how Jesus lived hidden from the world most of His life beginning with His conception in the womb of the Virgin. Even the angels of God did not know the exact moment of His conception, but could only announce it beforehand.

“The angel announces the birth to the virgin not after the conception, lest she should be thereby troubled, but before the conception he addresses her…”

St. John Chrysostom

“…the virginity of Mary was meant to baffle the prince of the world, who, when he perceived her espoused to a man, could cast no suspicion on her offspring.”

St. Ambrose

Satan showed up however once Jesus was directed to become public by the Virgin mother at the wedding feast of Cana. There was no temptation of Jesus in the wilderness before that. There was no visibility. When Jesus attempted to become public as a youth by teaching at the temple, He was whisked away by His mother and stepfather. Zeal is not a sin but timing is everything. With this invisibility, Satan’s only option are indiscriminate attacks, like the mass killings by King Herod, triggered by a moment of indiscretion by the three wise men. Note also, for later discussion, the context of the Nativity, which was the call to government census.

So are our holy thoughts to remain in us, never manifesting into action or word? Of course not. This is the realm of Holy prudence, discretion, patience and restraint. Designed to protect us from the devil and enemies. There is an incubation period needed. A formation. Charity can always manifest however in invisibility and can even enhance it, so do not restrain that. But charity can be imprudent and presumptuous sometimes. In phony cultures, the government deems charity must be public, such as for tax exemption, but that is not the way God works (Matthew 6:3).  In fact, most of God’s work is hidden from the world (John 21:25).

We can also act without speaking first to maintain invisibility. Not everything needs to be announced. God is the important witness of our acts.

How can we know more about when to act or speak? By God of course. But who protected and directed God the Son? The Virgin Mother. And who protected and directed her? Only God could have done that. The whole story of Jesus, from His conception to His crucifixion cries out that she must have been prefigured without sin. The devil may be in the details but the details of God are in the Virgin Mother.  Christianity without the Virgin Mother is unrestrained, even reckless.

In our understanding of all this, what can we make of our culture’s and government’s obsession with records, data, details of your life, notoriety, and fame. How can it be for any good? Can it really be for our protections or is it a framework for satan and our enemies. God certainly does not need it for our sanctity.  Take pornography for example:  If the  very act that creates us is public domain, then you have the guarantee that your life will be public domain from conception to grave. A corporation or government that spies on citizens has gone beyond their definitions. One that does the same while professing to be Christian is quite a distortion. But let’s restrain ourselves there.

“But still more has it baffled the prince of this world, for the malice of devils soon detects even hidden things, while they who are occupied in worldly vanities, cannot know the things of God.”

St. Ambrose

Uncountries

When a family starts, parents immediately start investing in their children. This investment is multifaceted but includes financial investment and is balanced with the cost of maintaining the home. The financial investment for the children is based on the number and each child’s potential. Each child has a potential that the parents gauge and develop and the financial investment is proportional to that potential. This determines the amount of money that becomes available. The child is meant to produce and their “return” on this investment is the honor and love back to the parents. If there is no such return, parents chalk it up. They did their job. If they are stingy with their investment, the child’s development may be stunted. If the financial investment is disproportional to their potential, they run the risk of spoiling the child. Producing a brat. Both parents might then be considered bad parents. What would be worse however would be if the parents put a price on their money. Charging interest. In addition, these bad parents may even demand a return on their money, principal and interest. One would have then to wonder what kind of parents these are and whether they are even worthy of the title. We could call them an “unfamily”.

The family can be considered the fractal of society. A fractal is a unit object, a building block, whose shape resembles the whole it makes up. So then one would expect the larger units to resemble the shape and function of its unit parts. This is how countries are defined. Originally it was the propagation of individual races that kept this shape but there is no reason why countries with multiple races cannot preserve this form and function. To preserve their definition as a country.

Countries, like families, also have the the obligation to provide a currency to maintain themselves and to provide a means for her citizens to exchange goods and services. This is the purpose of money. It is the birthright of nations. If the country cares for her citizens, the currency would be produced and volume gauged for the potential of her resources, citizens, her families, and communities. This determines the amount of money that becomes available. The citizen is meant to produce and the country’s “return” on this investment is the honor and love back to the country. If there is no such return, the county chalks it up. They did their job. If they are stingy with their investment, the country’s development may be stunted. If the financial creation is disproportional to their potential, they run the risk of becoming a country with little productivity.  This country might then be considered a bad one to live in. What would be worse however would be if the country put a price on their money. Charging interest. This is different from individuals, companies, and  private banks charging interest, which is their choice and the choice of the borrower. We are talking about the country putting a price on its money. Charging interest for money to come into existence. With each baby born.  Why do people even care about fiat currency? What about fiat currency with interest?  Why do people care about leveraging assets for liquidity when leveraging based on the “asset” of a loan is much worse? If all that has been done in recent history could be done with such a system, couldn’t it be done without charging interest?  What exactly is point of charging interest?

In addition, such an odd country may even demand a return on their money, principal and interest, hidden in the form of taxes. This is while they have the power to issue currency to pay for its services and maintenance to begin with and without a tax since they are providing liquidity for their existence anyway.  One would have then to wonder what kind of country that is and whether they are even worthy of the title. We could even call that an “uncountry”.  And what type of citizenry would warrant such power to decide interest rates for allowing money into existence?  This is the key point. If the medium of exchange of a country is based on a loan, then there will always be a perception that the money really belongs to the loaning institution and not the country.  It doesn’t. Laws like Glass-Steagal are meant to keep a lid on that perception, but that has not been brought back and the better solution is to issue a currency without interest.

Can a country become more disfigured than this?  Yes. There is one more iteration of this degradation. The worst of the bad is if the “uncountry” so disfigured exports its currency to other countries. Or simply persuades other countries to similarly put a price on their currency or by issuing them a loan so that even their taxes go to paying interest.  Thereby making them into “uncountries” and exporting all that comes with that disfigurement.

Nehemiah 5:7
I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!”

The Greater Story of Potiphar’s Wife

In the town of Maghdouche overlooking Sidon in southern Lebanon, is where legend says the wife of Potiphar (circa 1500 BC) is buried, seductress of Joseph from the Bible, which does not name her.  Jewish, Islamic, and Persian literature have her name Zulaikha. The story in the Bible is that after Joseph’s betrayal and sale into slavery by his kin (Genesis 39), he finds favor in the eyes of Potiphar, the captain of the Egyptian palace guard.  In that household, Joseph rejects the advances and seduction of Zulaikha. In the event that led to his imprisonment,  Zulaikha grabs the garment of Joseph but he escapes naked running out of the palace. She lies to Potiphar saying that he was the instigator and Joseph is sent to prison. There, Joseph finds new and greater favor and position with the Pharaoh, ultimately becoming a source of salvation and blessings for his kin, the very people who betrayed him.

This story reminds us two recurring themes of God’s grace and mercy:

1. In being wronged and betrayed, we can become a source of grace for  people, many more people and much more grace than would have been available if the betrayal and evil had never been done.  In receiving God’s grace and mercy we bring along other people too.

2. The continuum of grace always occurs through the fulcrum of chastity.

But this story is only an early chapter, with earlier, later, and other chapters to come.

The town of Magdouche is an ancient promontory and look-out post for Sidon. During Phoenician times (peak 1200-800 BC) the promontory had the shrine to Astarte, the pagan goddess of war and sexuality. The pagan legend has Astarte bearing two sons from her brother, Eros and Lust. Astarte is likely the same pagan goddess of Sidon, Ashtoreth, who captured the heart of Solomon, son of David (1 Kings 11:5).

The shrine was taken over by Christians after the Virgin Theotokos stayed in a cave there while waiting for her Son to return from preaching in Sidon.  Jesus’ work in Sidon is referenced in many places in the new Testament (Matthew 11:21-22, Mark 3:8 and 7:31, and Luke 6:17) with even Matthew 15:21 referencing the city as a place of refuge for Jesus.

It took the convincing of St. Helena in the 4th Century by the devoted town folk for the empire to issue an icon of the Theotokos, reportedly painted by St. Luke, to the cave/Byzantine chapel: the Virgin of Mantara (the Waiting) or Virgin of Magdouche.

In the 8th Century, the cave was buried and hidden by locals to escape the detection of the local Moslem governors. Unlike the Caliph Omar who spared Jerusalem, they feared the cave would be destroyed by those leaders. Many of the region then dispersed into the higher mountains or converted to Islam. The Crusaders of the Latin Rite in Sidon of the 12th and 13th Centuries never suspected the chapel’s existence even with their own castle and chapel a stone’s throw from the hidden cave.

The cave’s legend lingered however.

Under the rule of the benevolent Druze Prince Fakhriddin II in the early 17th Century, peace and religious freedom was granted to the region. Byzantine Archbishop Euthymios Michael Saifi of Sidon (1682 – 1723) offered recognition of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Around that time, the grotto was rediscovered when a goat-herder boy went after a goat who had fallen into the cave.  The boy, we can call him Indiana Jones Jr., noticed the icon as the goat ran back into his arms.  He piled rocks to escape with his beloved goat, alerting the townsfolk of his accidental excavation. The  pilgrimages restarted.

So the worship of Astarte was replaced with love and devotion, now restarted, to the chaste and virgin Mother of God, the Living Ark of the Covenant. Her chaste and virgin Son was also wronged and betrayed, becoming a source of grace offered for all people, infinitely more than would have been available if the betrayal and evil had never been done. Lest anyone think that this is not related to the Potiphar story or that God’s hand does not sign scripture, read the evangelist Mark’s stunning account of what happened immediately after Jesus was betrayed in the garden of Gethsemane:

Mark 14:51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

The winter now is past, the rains have gone away. Arise my love, my bride from Lebanon and come. How you are beautiful my love, how you are fair. Among all women as a lily in the thorns.

Veni Sponsa Christi

Where Exactly Did the Wedding Feast of Cana Occur?

John 2:1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

Where exactly did this wedding occur?  In Cana of course. But where was that?  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but maybe the words of a saint are worthy too.

“Cana, in the neighborhood of the tribe of Archer, near Great Sidon.  This was the place where Jesus Christ our God transformed water into wine.”

Saint Eusebius of Caesaria, the first historian of the Church (264-349 A.D.)

Grotto of the Place of Waiting (Al Mantara), Magdouche, where Mary waited for her son to return from Sidon.

John 2:11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

The winter now is past, the rains have gone away. Arise my love, my bride from Lebanon and come. How you are beautiful my love, how you are fair. Among all women as a lily in the thorns.

Come, bride of Christ, receive the crown
which the Lord has prepared for you for all eternity;
for whose love you have shed your blood.
And you will enter into the Paradise among the angels.
Come, O you my chosen one, and I will set my throne within you:
so shall the King have pleasure in your beauty.

Veni Sponsa Christi

The Word Woman

Twice in the Gospel of John, Jesus addresses His own mother as “woman.”

John 2: 4  “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

John 19:26 “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,””

This is the same term of expression He uses for the Samaritan woman who had had five husbands (John 4:21) and the adulteress about to be stoned (John 8:10).

Why the apparent dishonoring of His mother? Particularly in the setting of the culture of the time in the middle east, still present to this day, of honoring motherhood.  Jesus is reminding us of the role of His mother as the new Eve, who will produce the fruit of redemption from the new tree of the cross, to counter the disobedience of the first woman who offered the forbidden fruit.

But there is more.

Jesus is also reminding us that the notion of the Creator, God (Himself) would need a mother to do anything is ridiculous if she was not meant to be for us. Our mother. If she was not meant to be the mother of humanity. He submitted Himself to her for us.

Hail then to our Mother, whom the early Fathers called the glory of the new Israel.

Psalm 131:

1 Yahweh, my heart is not haughty, I do not set my sights too high. I have taken no part in great affairs, in wonders beyond my scope.

2 No, I hold myself in quiet and silence, like a little child in its mother’s arms, like a little child, so I keep myself.

3 Let Israel hope in Yahweh henceforth and for ever.

 

“Through Mary, the miserable obtain mercy, the graceless find grace, the sinners receive pardon. The weak gain strength, earthlings acquire heavenly things, mortals win life, and pilgrims find their country!”

Saint Augustine

The Monetization of Religion and the Betrayal of St. Athanasios

This post can be an extension of the a prior, Taxes and the Incarnation of God, where the idea that a tax exemption for a religion as a corrupting element is introduced.   Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, paid the tax of His time then to serve as an example for us in our time. However the true story that follows can also be taken at face value about the history of early Christianity and provide insight into the propagation of heresy, and how seeds were sown for times that followed, including our own.  The history of the time is well-documented in many references but the particular details come from the reference, The Place of the Patriarchs of Antioch in Church History, by Exarch Elias B. Skaff, 1993,  Sophia Press.

With the Edict of Milan in 313, Emperor Constantine ended the official persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. In fact the Edict gave freedom to all religions while it ended all ordinances hostile to the Christian religion. Constantine also gave the Church a tax-exemption status.

Meanwhile a disseminating heresy, formalized by Bishop Arius, resisted the idea that Jesus Christ is God as God the Father.  This heresy was addressed at the Council of Nicea in 325, where the defense of the co-substantial nature of Jesus with God the father (Greek term: homo-ousios) was championed primarily by Saint Athanios, a deacon from Alexandria, and Saint Eustathius, Bishop of Antioch.  The Arian heresy was important to counter, because anything less than the co-equal Divine Nature of Jesus Christ with God (the Father and Holy Spirit) meant a return to the monotheism of Judaism or monotheistic variants where Jesus was less than God.  Jesus is the eternally-begotten Divine Son of God the Divine Father. Eternally begotten also means that there never was a single point in time when He was begotten, before which the Father was alone without Him. He was, is, and by the definition of the word eternal, will always be begotten [1][2].

The condemned Arius was present at the Council of Nicea and his followers were influenced to sign the Nicean Creed at the urging of the sister of Constantine, Constancia. Within a few years, Constancia’s influence on the Emperor resulted in the re-admitting of Arius into the Church.  Bishops leading the Arian heresy regained imperial favor which resulted in the replacement of Saint Eustathius, Bishop of Antioch, with an Arian.  A persecution of Athanios began. A slow and labored fracturing at the Church of Antioch was started, whose first Bishop was the Apostle Peter.  Antioch is also known as the seat of the famous Bishop and martyr St. Ignatius in the 2nd Century.  At one point,  the majority of bishops in both eastern and western churches followed the Arian heresy.  Even after Arianism waned, divisions among the orthodox prevailed at Antioch and despite the works of Saints Basil and Chrysostom, the center of eastern orthodoxy shifted to Constantinople.   Antioch continued in orthodoxy, with the Melkites dividing off to formally recognize the primacy of the Bishop of Rome in the 18th Century.

The sequels of the Arian heresy may not be obvious to the casual observer of history and for our time. Consider however the following quote from the monotheistic religion of Islam:

“He, God, is one! God, the Eternal One! He will not generate, nor was he generated, and none is equal to him!” (Koran, 112, 2,4).

And for the Christian in the current age, are there heresies or unorthodox teachings, such as those for contraception that are related? Consider again the following quote by Saint Athanios about an Arian Bishop of Antioch, Leontius, who sterilized himself to live with a woman:

“How can sterile and ignorant persons understand the eternal birth of God?”

Note carefully. Baptism imparts the pro-creative Nature of the Trinity on us. Even without us physically procreating. In fact much more so than procreating. Meet the only religion of God, the ONLY religion compatible with our physiology.

Can then the dilution and weakening of Christian teachings then be related to the influence of government or empire?  Is one mechanism of influence of empire over the Church that of tax-exemption?  Do Christians have to oscillate from persecution and physical martyrdom to heresy of teachings during “official” offers of freedom of religion but with outside influence?  Can the worship of “officialdom” in our time explain the lukewarmness and even doublespeak of bishops and shepherds? Note that it only took a a generation for the persecutions of Christians to resume under Constantine’s nephew, Julian the Apostate.

[1] With the Incarnation of God in the flesh, His eternal begotten nature becomes manifest in the flesh through the Virgin Mother. The Eternal has now entered the physical realm.  That is why she is ever-virgin, and mother of the new eternal race.

[2] This understanding of the eternally begotten nature of Christ (past, present, and future) has the potential to solve the Filioque controversy, since the Holy Spirit, with the same eternal nature has to exist (in mystery and outside the constraint of time) in the “was”, “is”, and “will always be” begotten nature of the Son.  Only in the “will be begotten” understanding of the Son, can we see how the Holy Spirit can proceed from the Father alone.

The Fulcrum of the Kingdom of God

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fulcrum as follows:

1. The support about which a lever turns

2. One that supplies capability for action

This post expands on a prior, The Evangelization of Celibacy, to expound on what has developed into dogma in the apostolic churches. On celibacy, chastity, and marriage. Even contraception. The word dogma has acquired bad connotations in our current age, causing some people, even clergy, to question dogma and think that it somehow needs to evolve, and keep up with the times. They think that dogma is somehow arbitrary and without any objective truth at its roots. But dogma is developed for our protections and for actualizing the work of God, as a manual or handbook is written for the operation of a tool or device. Some people can expand on their knowledge on how something is designed to work and develop a working knowledge of how to use a tool or device without the use of a manual. But this is generally not a good practice.

Jesus says in John 10: 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works…

More about works in Hebrews 4: 3…And yet His works have been finished since the creation of the world.

These passages remind that God’s purpose will be done. He simply asks for humans to witness to them. The emphasis is for humans, flesh and soul. The exquisite model of this is how God used the Virgin to transfer the throne of David:

Luke 1: 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David, 33 and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.

God then is the force behind the works. The Virgin, flesh and soul, is the fulcrum, or vehicle “about which a lever turns” and the “one that supplies capability for action”.

There are of course other works of the flesh that constitute the fulcrum for God’s eternal Kingdom. The central acts of the Kingdom are the crucifixion and resurrection, but here we discuss our role as sexual beings, men and women with procreative potential.

God’s use of a Virgin as the fulcrum of the Kingdom is an act that captures runaway sexuality. God uses His original design to implement His Kingdom. There is no redesign. The sexual physiology of our bodies is for procreation, a scientific fact. The baptized then are changed to recognize their bodies as manifestations of the Kingdom through a number of ways that include chastity of the single, fidelity of the married, and celibacy for the religious. The chastity and celibacy for a couple using natural family planning combines all of these. Avoiding the morbidity of drugs. Sexual expression has been recaptured by our will, the means to beautify the soul. Our bodies become the fulcrum for the Kingdom.

God is not outdone in generosity. The religious that sacrifices their sexual propensity to procreate, are rewarded with the procreation of members for the Kingdom, becoming the vehicle “about which a lever turns” and the “one that supplies capability for action”. This is the explanation of the urgency in the Apostle Paul’s writing about not recommending marriage over celibacy.  He was not a homosexual and did not hate women. Now we can see that Paul’s writings are a sample of how God taught the early Church to bestow the title of Father on a priest.

See also another example of how the Kingdom passes on through the celibate (eunuch): Acts 8:26-40.

So we humans become the fulcrum of the Kingdom if we accept the force at work. Hence we have a working definition of the True Faith. If we do not accept the Faith, God will simply find others about whom the lever may turn and who can supply the capability of action.

“It is for God to grant His grace, your task is to accept that grace and guard it.”

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem.

“Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better that what is admitted to be good.”

Saint John Chrysostom, De virginitatae

The Dual Nature of Christ and What It Means To Us. Guadalupe Revisited.

Jesus Christ is God and and Man, the staple teaching about God in His Church. This has been true since the birth of Christ, actually since the Annunciation, when Christ was conceived by God the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary. Perfectly God. Perfectly Man. Two natures. One Person. This dual nature (hypostasis) has been expressed in the Oral Apostolic tradition and in iconography, long before the printing press and the more widespread literacy that occurred in the second millennium. In ancient iconography, this is written in the extension of the second and third digit of the right hand of Christ as in the ancient icon of Christ Pantocrator from Mount Sinai monastery:

(The opposing two remaining fingers with the thumb represent the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one Divine Person, but that is not the subject of this essay.)

The dual nature is also written in the asymmetry of the eyes and facial expression. The asymmetric eyes indicate Christ’s (God’s) new (since the Incarnation) will to see with both Heavenly and human eyes.

A Heavenly and earthly perspective. This is for us, as He intercedes for us humans before God the Father. It is also representative of His life when He walked on earth, Perfectly God, and perfectly human. Two planes of existence. (Here are two examples of Christ being perfectly human in humility while being God: John 11:33-35, Matthew 24:35-37.)

Now what this means to us in the Vine of Christ is exactly the same. It is our life on two planes of existence, the human plane and Divine plane, where the Divine is through the Sacraments, the perspective of the eastern churches. How we live in the Divine plane is by living our ordinary human lives while partaking in the Sacraments. (Willful rejection of the Divine plane of existence is remedied through the Sacrament of Confession). We cannot fathom the full significance of our Divine plane of existence at this time (we can barely appreciate the significance of our human existence) but one way we can remind ourselves of this mystery is to think of ourselves as a chamber or temple where God and His angels, patriarchs, faithful, saints and the Queen of saints meet, confer, inspire, and act exactly in our moment in history, without us necessarily knowing of any plan or action, nor necessarily while receiving any inspiration, although He may let us, His vessels, know some things according to His Holy will or even give us a supernatural power to execute His will. Sometimes this occurs in the humiliations and sufferings of our human lives and these states may be when His power is most manifest (2 Corinthians 12:9). Here in the human plane, we work out God’s justice in penance. The Sacraments are the exquisite methods used by God whereby He imparts His Nature to us in doses while implementing His will on earth, even before we are fully converted. Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.

“For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the the hope of the resurrection to eternity.”

Saint Irenaios of Lyon, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 18, 2nd Century

How encouraging it should be to seek the Sacraments in this, God’s plan of salvation. How encouraging it should be to know that Christ’s dual nature becomes manifest in us this way. But how ineffable is our understanding a mystery so great. So let’s look at another icon for inspiration. This time of the Mother of God and from a different era and civilization, also without widespread literacy.

The asymmetry of the face of the Virgin of Guadalupe has been brought up recently with insight.

This link exposes the two sides of the Virgin’s face. We can extend this further, noting that the “brighter” or blissful side of the face is on the heavenly side, represented by the mantle of stars and the “sad”, or we can say more human/suffering side, with the tear drop in the eye, is on the side of the earth colored tapestry.  The pattern on the earthly tapestry is a direct reminder of the Mayan calendar for the peoples of that culture and represents our human existence at any moment in history. This is the sojourning (or revealing/manifesting?) side with the knee bent forward. (Click on image for detail.)

The Virgin’s forearm lifts the heavenly garment out of the way to expose the earthly tapestry for us on that side of her face. The winged creature (or Saint Juan Diego) reinforces this point by having one hand on the heavenly and the other on the earthly vestment, bringing each forward to parallel the facial expressions. And if you look closely at his face, you can wonder of another creature with human and heavenly perspective.

How ineffable is our understanding a mystery so great, but how full of grace is the Theotokos, assumed into heaven body and soul, to give us insight into the mystery in such a beautiful way.

Holy Virgin in my heart
every day before I start.
And when the daily heartbeats stop,
catch me Virgin when I drop.

The Bishop of Rome and the Twelve

The crises of our time compel us to look at the history and in the current ecclesial crisis we can look at Christ’s foundational and therefore eternal work for perspective. The Melkite Eparchy of Newton has an excellent document, The Melkite Church at the Council, in support of the argument to be presented here, particularly Chapters 5-7. This much shorter discussion will touch on the history of the College of Cardinals after primarily presenting the case for election of the Bishop of Rome by all apostolic churches.

That all the apostolic churches, including the Orthodox churches recognize the Primacy of the See of Peter is assumed here. This is generally case with the definition of primacy more the subject of controversy than its existence.

“He showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God… The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:10,14).

John’s reference is for the Church defined by Christ in the 12 Apostles. Most would agree that the number 12 represents the entire Church he founded. His foundation is an ecclesial mystery not founded by of the apostles, including the apostle Peter, rather by the mystery that is His presence after the resurrection. This Presence is Sacramental and in the case of the present day apostles, it is the Sacrament of Holy Orders that creates the new generation of apostles. The work and collegiality of the 12 apostles including the addition of more, not the least of whom is Paul, is well documented in the Acts of the Apostles. These works are both autonomous while in recognition of the Primacy of Peter, even with disagreements that are at worst temporary in the mystery of Christ’s Presence.

From Chapter 6 of the above reference:

“Holy Scripture affirms a power of primacy, on the part of Peter, over the rest of the Apostles and over the whole Church. But Scripture does not affirm in any way that no bishop can be constituted in the Church except through the intervention, “direct or indirect,” of Peter and his successors, the bishops of Rome. We even explicitly see the other Apostles constituting bishops without referring in any way to Peter. The same is true of their disciples, such as Titus or Timothy. If it is necessary to understand the text as applying to bishops in the strict sense, doesn’t the Scripture say that it is the Holy Spirit who instituted the bishops to rule the Church (cf. Acts 20:28)? It is difficult, without doing violence to the text, to find in the Scripture a basis which permits affirming that no bishop obtains jurisdiction over his Church except through the “direct or indirect” intervention of the Bishop of Rome, successor of Peter.”

Just as the validity of the Sacraments of Eucharist and Penance are direct works of God the Holy Spirit and are operational, i.e. valid, in all the apostolic churches and as affirmed by the Latin Church, so must the priesthood and episcopal ascendancy to Patriarchs of the eastern churches be valid. If the concern by the Latin Church under the See of Peter is that allowing full communion of the Eastern apostolic Churches with the Latin Church would compromise the Church instituted by Christ, then that same concern should be for any Sacramental event. A glaring witness of our time is the both doctrinal and personal perversion of priests and bishops, yet this does not compromise the efficacy of the Sacrament offered to the recipient. Christ guarantees His work and Presence in the Sacrament while waiting for the personal conversion of the administrator if necessary. He will confront the Bishop as he does with the seven Bishops in Asia Minor in the Book of Revelation, interpreted symbolically or literally. Therefore the ascendancy of the Bishop of Rome could involve the Patriarchy of the Eastern Churches to complete the role of the Bishop of Rome as representative of the 12 apostles. This completeness may have been wanting for over 1000 years.

This theory suggests certain degradation in those churches excluded from their “birth right” as part of the “12”. This can be the loss of the reach commanded by Christ to Peter to “feed my sheep”. Similarly, degradation to autocracy of the role of the See of Peter becomes a risk in any exclusion of the “12”.

“There is, in fact, among the bishops only one Church, only one soul, only one heart… There is, through the institution of Christ, one and only one Church, spread out over the whole world, one and only one episcopacy represented by a multiplicity of bishops united among themselves… The Church forms a single whole, whose bond is the union of bishops” (St. Cyprian of Carthage, Epistle 66, 8,3).

As a final note, we touch on the body used to elect the Bishop of Rome in our current time and for the last 1000 years, namely the College of Cardinals. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that this was initially a closed group of individuals that included non-clergy and grew at the expense of the successors of the Apostles. Compare this to the notion of the “12” in full effect at the time of the Acts of the Apostles and for the first millennium.