The Kingship of Christ (and about that Consecration of Russia)

This post is not about whether the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart has been sufficiently done as instructed by the Virgin Mother of God in the early 20th Century. I believe the declarations and suggestions of the Latin Church leadership that it has. I could be wrong. I would think that there would be nothing wrong with a repeated or more formalized consecration now. Maybe to be more sure? It can’t hurt.

Instead this post is about a more encompassing historical perspective for the consecration, its meaning for the reign of Christ the King and with perhaps an unexpected conclusion. Asking for the reader’s patience through what could be perceived as a disjointed and even superficial discourse, we will suggest at the end that a solution of our times may be a practical agreed upon footnote from the Council of Nicaea, in the 4th Century.

Certainly we know that the evils of communism began with and were spread by the Soviet Union. Our Lady of Fatima spoke of this danger for the whole world. However there is a meaning that has its roots in ancient times and echoes throughout history. It has all to do with the tug of war between secular man’s power, represented by an expanding government, even to take captive the soul, and God’s Kingdom of Love.

The Request for an Earthly King

A beginning point is when the ancient Israelites complained to God for a worldly kingdom. The passages speak for themselves:

1 Samuel 8: 7 And the Lord told him [Samuel]: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king. …9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”…11 He [Samuel] said, “…17 … and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

The Kingdom of Heaven Established

Christ the King Icon Maaloula Syria
Christ the King Icon Maaloula Syria

Now fast forward to after the Resurrection of Christ, the Acts of the Apostles and the early centuries that followed. Christianity was rapidly expanding east and west. A peculiar event however recorded in the Acts of the Apostles gives one pause:

Acts 16: 6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

St. Paul
St. Paul

With repeated emphasis and with outward geographical meaning [look up the locations of those regions], God directly intervenes in shifting the emphasis of the evangelization from east to west, directing Paul’s zeal. Although ultimately a mystery, a logical reason for this is the destined location for Primacy of Peter in Rome, the capital of the Roman empire. Also, within the organizational backdrop of the Roman Empire, a council can convene to create statements of doctrinal orthodoxy for the whole of Christendom, for all the churches in the orbit of the empire. Here we see the benevolence of God who does not put His Kingdom at odds with government. Rather He proposes a marriage with government through conversion of the hearts of peoples who understand His Kingship present among them.

The First Ecumenical Council

Council of Nicaea
Council of Nicaea

The first such ecumenical council occurred in Nicaea in AD 325. The primary focus of this council was the defense against Arianism, which denied the full Divinity and full humanity of Christ. God’s Kingship has been established and in harmony with cultures, nationhood, and sovereignty. This dual nature of Christ, is also directly stated with the title of Mother of God, since God, taking the nature of man, must have a mother. In fact this title would have to be defended a few years later at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD).

The Parable of the Weeds

Our next point has to do with workers of deception that latch on the blessings that God gives man in constructing a just civilization, trying to replace it with a purely worldly governance that dominates rather than frees. Everyone benefits from the presence of Christianity, but there are those, among whom are Christians, who with time forget the grace of God. And there are those outside Christianity that build empires on the backs of the workers of God’s Kingdom. The betrayal of the doctrine of the dual nature of Christ defined at the Council of Nicaea has been presented here in a prior post. Although our Lord may have been referring to a different specific point in time, His parable of the weeds, reminds one of this kind of betrayal:

Matthew 13:24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Readers can familiarize themselves with history between the time of the First Ecumenical Council with Emperor Constantine, who was at the Council, and the rise and fall of his nephew Emperor Julian the Apostate. Julian represented the return to paganism for the empire as the Arian heresy spread and became the dominant theology amongst the bishops. From the fall of Julian, the fragmentation of the empire began, bloated from corruption, top heavy, heterodox, and mired by foreign entanglements. The fall of the empire is a type of a “time of harvest” from Jesus’ parable. The building of a worldly government always entails moral decay on a personal level, breakdown of families, loss of sovereignty, and foreign wars. This should remind us of our present time.

The Mother of All Heresies and the Mother of All Councils

Pantocrator Icon
Pantocrator Icon

In denying the Divinity and humanity of Jesus, Arianism opens up the historical figure of Jesus to all sorts of interpretations, such as that of Islam who describes Him as only a human prophet. Heterodox (errant) teachings also explode. This is touched on in our prior post. One can think of the First Council then as where Christ’s Kingship was defined for all of history just as the heresy that it countered was one from which all errors emanated. Future councils can then be thought of addressing corollaries of orthodoxy just as the heresies they fought are variants  of Arianism. This is the implicit or stated position of the present day Orthodox Churches not in communion with the Roman Church, who were, nonetheless present at the Council of Nicaea via Apostolic succession. These were the eastern Churches in the orbit of the empire at that time. The future councils that followed then were increasingly concerning the Roman Church, eventually to counter the more specific and western cultural errors of the second millennium, such as those from which emerged with protestantism, moral relativism, modernism, and the like. For the smaller and more regional Orthodox Churches, these councils seem unimportant. The Latin Church, or See of Peter, headed by the Pope, is in this interpretation the spearhead of Christianity. Where the devil concentrates his attacks in history. Without this perspective, we find ourselves arguing over the differences in tiles like of the Immaculate Conception and the title All-Pure which pervades the eastern liturgy.

A Timeline Overview of a Slow Schism and Isolation Starting after the Council of Nicaea

Russian Mary Icon
Russian Mary Icon

Most scholars put the final break between the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches at the formal schism of 1054. Until that time, theological and political differences between Eastern and Western Christianity slowly accrued for centuries. Details of these differences include issues of the procession of the Holy Spirit, using leavened or unleavened bread in the liturgy, the role of other patriarchies. But these are better presented by scholars. Rather, we would like to point out a perspective by stepping back for an overview of this history, from the directing of the Apostle Paul’s zeal westward leading to the Council of Nicaea and to the present time. At Nicaea Christendom is defined for the faithful and for all time to follow. What follows is a slow isolation of the Apostolic Churches, Orthodox and Roman Catholic, while keeping the Sacraments available for those who chose to be faithful to them. At the latter part of the timeline, in the 9th Century, the Byzantine monks Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius translated the Gospel to the Slavonic language setting up the Christianization of the Slavs, including Russia, in the 10th Century. Suddenly, a very large chunk of the East became Christian, reaching the Pacific Ocean, and curiously just before the schism was formalized.

Our Lady of Kazan
Our Lady of Kazan

Becoming the last major Apostolic Church before the formal schism and one that did not exist in the orbit of the Roman Empire before its breakup, can we see perhaps why it was in Russia that the evils of communism began as a major political movement in the 20th Century? The western (Roman Catholic) church in the millennium after the schism and leading up to Communism, defended western attacks on the physical Kingship of Christ such as protestantism, moral relativism, modernism, secularism, etc. Being the Holder of the Keys of the Kingdom, the Latin Church was still able to effect vast eastern evangelizations in her fight against these errors and her internal corruptions. The evangelizations of Saint Francis Xavier comes to mind.

But if we are to take the warning of our Lady of Fatima seriously, the widest threat from a secular world government came from the country wherein is the last Apostolic Church before the schism, the Soviet Union. A Church that was not in the orbit of Christendom at the time of Council of Nicaea. We can see now more meaning behind the consecration of Russia.

Interestingly, the formation of the College of Cardinals, the body used to elect the Pope, was approximately coincident with the final Schism and isolation of the Churches, certainly by 1099.

There is much meaning to learn from timelines.

The Isolation of the Churches May Have Run its Course and a Footnote from the Council of Nicaea

SS Peter & Paul
SS Peter & Paul

Combining this timeline overview and the times we live in, particularly the compromise of the See of Rome with secular and shallow world government movements suggests that the isolation of the Apostolic Churches may have run its course. God exists independent of time however and promises that no trouble can befall His faithful without a way out, a grace for all trouble and temptation we undergo.

1 Corinthians 10:13…fidelis autem Deus qui non patietur vos temptari super id quod potestis sed faciet cum temptatione etiam proventum ut possitis sustinere.

Pentecost icon
Pentecost icon

Christ promises that He will return, not during trouble, but AFTER the Gospel is preached to all the earth (Matthew 14:14)[1]. So all available graces have to used first. All graces come from Christ’s supreme act of salvation on the cross and these graces became available for all time at Pentecost. The Council of Nicaea defined the true natures of Christ and addressed other matters as the empire’s first ecumenical council after Pentecost. It is the ecumenical council most proximal to Pentecost and is the last such council before the subsequent slow fractioning and isolation of Apostolic Churches.

So was there a grace defined at the Council of Nicaea as contingency for what was to follow? We point out an agreement somewhat obscure and certainly dwarfed by the definition of Christ’s dual nature:

Canon 6

Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop.

While this Canon has been debated over the centuries, it should be clear that it includes the appointment of bishops by each Apostolic jurisdiction (how these patriarchies are defined I would leave for those more qualified than me). That the granularity of the Church is preserved by the patriarchies appointing their own bishops is made explicit by the last sentence. It also states that the patriarchy’s authority is the same as that for the Bishop of Rome. By using here the term Bishop of Rome, the Canon is not stating that the Patriarchies have independence from the See of Peter as the Holder of the Keys of the Kingdom. That is a different jurisdiction, instituted by Christ Himself, and not by the Council.

Peter with the Keys
Peter with the Keys

Recall that it is Christ that appoints the Apostles, not the Apostle Peter. It is Christ who admonishes the seven bishops in Asia Minor. The Vicar of Christ can admonish an eastern bishop but he does not appoint him. A bishop appointed by Rome is no guarantee of orthodoxy, as is so clearly evident in our time. Rome cannot even guarantee her own orthodoxy especially with the present College of Cardinals, let alone the orthodoxy of an eastern bishop. Is the neglect of this canon a source of pride for both sides that amplifies schisms and breeds heresies and their innumerable flavors.  Providence has defined this canon at the same time when Christ’s Nature was defined for all times to follow. Could the canon be a faint reminder of Christ’s advice in the parable of the weeds, a remedy for the ubiquity of evil? Preserve the granularity for the final harvest?

One Heart

St. Cyprian Icon in Maad Lebanon
St. Cyprian Icon in Maad Lebanon

“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, 3rd Century).

Icon at the Home of St. Alphonsus Liguori
Icon at the Home of St. Alphonsus Liguori

This heart is the Immaculate Heart or heart of the Theotokos, present at Pentecost.

St. Joan of Arch with visions
St. Joan of Arch with visions

There is a quote from the story of Saint Joan of Arch who’s martyrdom had everything to with the loss of her county’s sovereignty and a corrupt bishop. “Act. And God will act.” So was Russia sufficiently consecrated to the Immaculate heart by the various Popes in the 20th Century? Maybe. Is a return to the norm of Canon 6 from the Council of Nicaea needed? With the present state of affairs, it sure can’t hurt. After all, all sides signed it.

Mother of Perpetual Help, Pray for Us
Mother of Perpetual Help, Pray for Us

 

 

 

[1] This is why I believe that we are not at the time of Christ’s second coming. But this is just my opinion.

 

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.

The Divine and Preservation of Identity

We have an innate tendency to want to trust and give ourselves to an entity, a person, a group, or idea. Many of us know the feeling, after having submerged ourselves to another or another thing, of being used or forgotten, let down or taken advantage of. Our sense of identify is lost in these predicaments. Our sense of freedom diminishes. This is what cults do to people, the mainstream media also, political parties and the like. Personal relationships can do that. Jobs also. It behooves to be cautious. To hold back. Be prudent.

But the innate lives on in us. Who can we ever give ourselves to in abandon where we would feel and know we are finally “home”, a part of a whole without losing our sense of identity?  God, the creator of our identity, can do that. It is a miraculous “mark” of God that He makes you part of Him while actually gaining your sense of identity.  Isn’t this the mark of true love? Where the lover gives him or herself over to the other without self-consideration only to find themselves the better for it?