Church as Assembly: Modernism, or a Traddy Idea Whose Time Has Come?

I’ve seen some Modernist-sounding* texts that use the word “assembly” to avoid the word Church. Instead of addressing the congregation, the priest (er, “presider”) addresses the “assembly of the People of God.” Etc. In Hebrew and Greek, the word we translate as Church does in fact mean “assembly.” I surmise that the people who prefer “assembly” do so because they think the word has a more democratic connotation than the hierarchical “Church.” One thinks of the expression “popular assembly.” Implicit in such a usage is a critique of “liturgy as court ritual,” a critique that has been debunked elsewhere.**

Now, one of a Traditionalist or even just plain orthodox-with-a-small-o persuasion might object to this usage of “assembly.” He might advance any number of arguments, the premises of which we don’t share with the people who push for the “assembly” understanding of the Church, and he might cite a bunch of Church documents, originally written in Latin, that no one who has a job has time to read. In these scenarios, I look to my mentor in evangelism and apologetics, Vin Lewis of All Roads Ministry (https://www.allroadsministry.com/). Vin would say to use the simplest, most direct, most memorable argument that requires the least specialist knowledge (such as Latin, Greek, and Hebrew). So, with that in mind, here is how I would respond: Continue reading

Communicating Perfection

So many ideas occur to me, and I can’t develop them. Either more immediate needs take precedence, or I wile away the hours on something trifling. When I recall the many thoughts both subtle and sublime that have passed through my mind, and I survey the meager record I have left of them, I get melancholic. And with melancholy come memories of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” or I quote Nero’s dying words, “What an artist dies in me.”

But enough of that. As I’ve learned, sometimes it’s good to publish your half-formed ideas. Who knows who might develop these thoughts, and do better with them than I could? So today I focus on a key element of the Catholic Faith and of Catholic practice: the communicability of perfection:

1.) The Father communicates to the Son everything that the Father has, save Fatherhood. This includes the Father’s identity as source of the Holy Ghost. The “Filioque” is essential. Continue reading

Our Lady’s First Apparition

Strange, how the seeds of doubt are sown. I read a blog post by someone who touts himself as a traditional Catholic. The author made an observation. Earlier in Church art, images of Our Lady always include Our Lord. Think of the icons of the East, where Our Lady typically holds the Christ Child. Think of Romanesque and Gothic statues of Our Lady seated, with the Christ Child on her lap. The author contrasted this artistic tradition with Neo-Gothic statues of the modern era, which often show Our Lady standing alone, her arms outstretched. This pose is often associated with Our Lady of Lourdes or Our Lady of Fatima.

The author was implying that this artistic convention is un-traditional and divorces Our Lady from Our Lord. It makes her an independent force or mediator, separate from Our Lord, making the Protestant allegation of Mariolatry seem true. This thought now occurs to me when I see statues of Our Lady absent a representation of the Christ Child. It occurs to me when I venerate Our Lady at the Lady Altar in a local church, where the statue shows Our Lady in the pose described above. It’s a wicked thought, but it takes some insight to redress. For me, the insight was slow in coming. It came one day when praying the Rosary, specifically the mystery of the Visitation. Continue reading

Twilight of the Idols, Part II: A Conversation at the Pearly Gates

St. Peter: Next up.

C.S. Lewis: Hmm . . . hello. Are you . . . St. Peter?

St. Peter: Yes, don’t the keys and the papal tiara indicate that?

Lewis: Erm, yes. <Starts to turn pale.>

St. Peter: Well, time for the standard questions. First question: At the moment of your death, did you believe with divine faith in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

Lewis: Pardon? Continue reading

Twilight of the Idols, Part I: A Riddle

“For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect.” Mat. 24:24

The purpose of this piece is to expose the prejudice that some Catholics exhibit when considering the life and the work of a specific Protestant author. Here, the prejudice is in the Protestant author’s favor. I intend to point out why this prejudice is incorrect. Let’s start:

Catholic missionaries evangelized the region around Nagasaki, Japan, in the late 1500s and early 1600s. Then the Japanese government turned against the Catholics, martyred the priests, and forced the Church underground. After Japan began to open up to the Western world in the 1800s, a Catholic priest arrived. A group of wary local women approached him and asked three questions (I paraphrase):

1.) Do you venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary?
2.) Do you obey the Pope of Rome?
3.) Do you have a wife?

The priest answered Yes to first two questions and No to the last one. The women then went away. Sometime later, the men of their village returned to the priest, revealing that they were “Kakure Kirishitan,” the secret Christians of Japan.* Continue reading

The Immaculate Conception and the Cleansing of the Temple

I propose that there is a mystical connection between Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception and Christ’s cleansing of the Temple as told in the Gospel of St. John. Unlike in the Synoptic Gospels, in St. John’s Gospel the cleansing of the Temple occurs at the beginning of Our Lord’s public ministry, not long after the Wedding at Cana.* Here’s the aftermath of Our Lord knocking over the tables (2:18-22; emphasis added):

“18 The Jews, therefore, answered, and said to Him: What sign dost thou shew unto us, seeing thou dost these things? 19 Jesus answered, and said to them: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 20 The Jews then said: Six and forty years was this temple in building; and wilt thou raise it up in three days? 21 But He spoke of the temple of His body. 22 When therefore He was risen again from the dead, His disciples remembered, that He had said this, and they believed the scripture, and the word that Jesus had said.”

I propose that there’s a hidden meaning to the number 46 years that explains its presence in the text. Like the Temple of Herod, Our Lord’s Body was, at this point, 46 years in the making. For that was the number of years from the Immaculate Conception to the beginning of Our Lord’s public ministry. Continue reading

“All who are truly Christ’s believe . . . the Conception of the Mother of God without stain of original sin”

Regardless of the date that appears above, it’s still December 8 here in the Driftless. Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patroness of the United States of America. In honor of our nation’s patronal feast day, I cite His Holiness Pope Pius XI’s encyclical letter Mortalium Animos (1928), emphasis added:

“Besides this, in connection with things which must be believed, it is nowise licit to use that distinction which some have seen fit to introduce between those articles of faith which are fundamental and those which are not fundamental, as they say, as if the former are to be accepted by all, while the latter may be left to the free assent of the faithful: for the supernatural virtue of faith has a formal cause, namely the authority of God revealing, and this is patient of no such distinction. For this reason it is that all who are truly Christ’s believe, for example, the Conception of the Mother of God without stain of original sin with the same faith as they believe the mystery of the August Trinity, and the Incarnation of our Lord just as they do the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, according to the sense in which it was defined by the Ecumenical Council of the Vatican. Are these truths not equally certain, or not equally to be believed, because the Church has solemnly sanctioned and defined them, some in one age and some in another, even in those times immediately before our own? Has not God revealed them all?” (http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_19280106_mortalium-animos.html)

Shooting Down a Trendy Objection to Transubstantiation

There is a certain trendy objection to transubstantiation that goes like this:

“Of course, I believe in the Real Presence. But ‘transubstantiation’ is a very abstract term that would limit the Real Presence to a specific, Aristotelian philosophy. Why must we pry into mysteries and define the ‘how’ of the Real Presence? When it comes to the Real Presence, there’s more that unites Catholics with the Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans than what divides us.”

This is very seductive, specious nonsense. Let me reduce this objection: the Church should not define the ‘how’ of a dogma using terms that are specific to this or that philosophical school. Transubstantiation depends on an Aristotelian distinction between substance and accidents, and therefore is too specific and limiting.

We can reject this very easily: Continue reading

Where Are Youth Groups in Scripture?

The next time a “Sola Scriptura”-type Protestant asks you where some Catholic practice is in Scripture (statues, candles, incense, etc.)*, ask them where the following are in Scripture:

–Organized youth groups. Where does St. Paul ever say, “Organize youth groups so teenagers can flirt with each other and have sleep-overs and get away from their parents”?

–Church camps. Ditto above.

–Church-affiliated schools and universities. Ditto yet again.

–Formal church buildings. I don’t remember Our Lord ever building a physical church building. To our knowledge, the Apostles didn’t, either. They met in a dining room (the Cenacle).

–Pews at church. If you have an issue with statues, why not with pews, or stained glass, or steeples, or bells, or tacky banners?

–Asking people if they’re saved. Where in Scripture does a Christian ever walk up to someone and ask them point-blank, “Are you saved?” Continue reading