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Topics - J. Thomas Shelley

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Your Turn / The Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist
« on: October 17, 2020, 11:36:25 PM »
The Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist is one of the rare, blessed days  universally commemorated by Orthodox and Western Christians alike on the 18th day of October...the nuances of New Calendar/Old Calendar and Western transferals to Monday notwithstanding.

It has been six years since this Feast last fell on a Sunday.  For Orthodox Christians there is no conflict between Sunday as the weekly Resurrectional Feast and the Commemoration of a Saint, for the Resurrectional hymns are meshed with those for the Saint like a pair of gears.

Eleven years ago was my final time to preach on a Sunday celebration of the Feast of St. Luke.  What follows is an after-the-fact reconstruction of a sermon preached first literally embracing an embossed metal lectionary (Gospel Book) cover...and ending by embracing another writing...obviously there were many details omitted from this framework/outline.

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Lectionary cover....the book of the Gospels

At the center, Jesus Crucified, Jesus Risen---the heart of every Gospel.

At the corners, each Evangelist, each portrayed with another character.

Matthew with human--genealogy extending to David, then Adam

Mark with lion--begins with the roaring cry of John the Baptist “REPENT”

John (Taffax helicopter) a whole different plane, weaving together in unique ways--the Eagle.

Which leaves Luke, portrayed with an Ox--not bull-headed, but because the story begins and ends in the temple, the place for sacrificing an ox for REALLY big sins.

Begins with the annunciation to Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, at the hour of incense, rope tied around his ankle lest God should smite him dead.

Ends with “continually in the temple, praising God.”

And for Luke, the praise of God conveyed through the marvelous canticles of the opening chapters, the canticles of the Church’s daily prayer and Eucharistic gathering, such as “Glory to God in the Highest”.

And there is one song which ties so much of Luke's Gospel together from Buryl Red’s Celebrate Life canatata...In remembrance of me.

In remembrance of me, eat this bread
In remembrance of me, drink this wine


A Gospel set at table--Simon the leper, eating with tax collectors--”fling a feast” for the prodigal--and guess what happens to the fatted calf in ordre for that feast to take place-we’re back to the ox again.

In remembrance of me, pray for the time that God’s own will is done.

Cast in prayer....often the notation “while He was praying”--as on the Mount of Transfiguration. Detail NOT included by Matthew or Mark.

In remembrance of me, heal the sick

Luke the Physicians (Colossians 4:14)--a special concern for the healing miracles and details of the ailments.

In remembrance of me, feed the poor

1:3 verses deal with wealth and poverty:  Poor Man Laz’rus and Rich man Dives

In remembrance of me, open the door and let your brother in, let him in.

Eating with outcasts and sinners...

In remembrance of me, search for truth
In remembrance of me, always love
In remembrance of me, don’t look above, but in your hearts for God.


This was the part that always troubled me.  Search for truth, always love...no problem
Not even “don’t look above” for that conveys the words of the angels at the Ascension in Luke’s second book, the Acts of the Apostles--”don’t look above--this Jesus who was taken from you shall return”.

But “look in your heart”?  I fear my heart, for I know that it is a divided heart.  Part yearns for God, but part seeks my own pleasure and need and desire.  But to look in your heart, that is a very Lukan phrase.

For Luke offers us another--different--sort of writing.  The Church of the East never speaks of “painting” an Icon but of “writing” and Icon.  Luke is believed to have written the Icon of the Madonna with child, when both he and Mary the Mother of our Lord were living in Ephesus--that same community of faith to which St. Paul wrote the Epistle with the name “Ephesians”.  And he wrote it of her who “pondered all these things and treasured them in her heart” so that she points to Christ. 

This is our highest calling--to point to Christ, Jesus Crucified, Jesus Risen.

Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth!

At the third to final paragraph I had picked up a very large Icon of the Virgin of Smolenska....briefly covering the Gospel book, returning the Icon to its stand before the final two lines.


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Your Turn / The Dormition of the Theotokos
« on: August 09, 2020, 05:12:28 PM »
Moving a few posts/exchanges from "We Are Not Quite Back..."

The Great Feast of the Dormition will fall on a Sunday in 2021....prepare now!


Regarding the Dormition - help me with Orthodox tradition/dogma on the topic, connecting to Repose vs. Assumption, and the earlier/earliest traditions in Ephesus and if those changed in Orthodoxy over the centuries.

Dave Benke

The Greek title for the August 15 Feast is Kisminis Theotokos which literally means "the falling asleep of the Theotokos".

Orthodox belief is that Mary, like all humans (other than Enoch and Elijah) died a natural death.  As she approached death, the Apostles who had been scattered about in mission were miraculously transported to her bedside.  After her death these chosen ones took her body to tomb.

But Thomas, "the twin", was delayed in arriving.   When he came to Ephesus he told the others that, just as with Our Lord's Resurrection, he would not believe unless he saw with his own eyes.  So they went to the tomb and opened it, whereupon it was discovered to be empty and they realized that her body had been carried into Heaven.

So, yes, Orthodox belief does have an element of Assumption; but the Assumption is understood in Roman Catholocism is a 20th century innovation, dogmatized just seventy years ago.  The key difference is that Orthodox believe that Mary truly died and that her physical removal was a secret, non-public miracle.

https://www.goarch.org/dormition
http://www.antiochian.org/regulararticle/124

I find this interesting.  If the apostles were miraculously transported to Mary's bedside, is there any reason given why Thomas was delayed?  Was it said to be purposeful on God's part, so that they would have a reason to open the tomb to find it empty?

I personally believe that God acts purposefully; Thomas' delay was for the purpose of opening the tomb but also to draw a parallel between his initial reaction to word of Our Lord's Resurrection and his reaction to learning of His Mother's dormition.

This Feast is an affirmation of the resurrection of the body, and it is indeed proper and right that she who was the first repository of the body of Christ and the ark of the New Covenant should be the first fruit of the general resurrection of mankind.



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Your Turn / Baptism: Ecclesial or "private" ?
« on: July 31, 2020, 11:48:55 PM »
Antiochian House of Studies (A.D. 2015)
Liturgical Theology 1 Question 1

Is Baptism a “private” or an “ecclesial” event?  How is Baptism connected to the Eucharist?  Does the contemporary Orthodox practice to which you have been exposed make this clear?


   From the very beginnings of Christianity, Baptism was a public and ecclesial event.   Indeed, even before the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension Baptism was anything but private.   The Synoptic Gospels begin the public ministry of Jesus by placing him elbow to elbow and shoulder to shoulder with those who had sought out John the Forerunner for Baptism in the Jordan river.   While this baptism of resentence for the forgiveness of sins was clearly not the same as Christian Baptism, the Sacrament must be  considered in that context.

   Next, the Sacramental action must be examined.   In its most basic form--let us imagine an emergency Baptism being administered by a layman--the candidate receives water (ideally by immersion but not necessarily) with the words “the servant of God N___ is Baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.   Even in this simplest form there is a two-fold community:   The community of ecclesia as embodied by the layman Baptizing; and the community of the Holy Trinity.    When the newly Baptized is able to receive the Eucharist (upon recovery, in this extreme example) reception of the Body of Christ is again two fold:   In receiving the Mystery of Communion the fullness of the Divine being comes to dwell bodily within the recipient.  Christ, who imparts His Body and Blood imparts the fullness of His Body:   His universal Body of the living Church as well as all of every time and every place who have ever belonged to that Body.   The Communion is the community of the Saints, ecclesia in the largest and grandest and fullest possible measure.

   The connection between Baptism and Eucharist is evidenced in the very earliest post-Apostolic writings.   In his Apology, Justin Martyr makes clear that the Eucharist is the meal of the Baptized, and only for the Baptized:  “this food is called among us Eukaristia , of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.” (Apology, ¶ LVXI)  As a side note, it is astounding, indeed, almost incomprehensible that this standard for admission to the Eucharist from antiquity is now undergoing serious debate by The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as they consider redefining “Eucharistic hospitality” to mean the Communing of all people who present themselves at the Chalice, Baptized or not.

   Justin’s description of Baptism strongly implies that the Mystery was celebrated with the gathered community:  “As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them.  Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated.”  (Justin ¶LVI).   As with earlier text of the  Didache Baptism is preceded by a period of prayer and fasting.  “And before the baptism let the baptiser and him who is to be baptised fast, and any others who are able.”  (Didache  ¶7)  But for Justin this time of fasting is undertaken by the entire community, not merely the candidates.

   The connection between the assembly of the Catechumens and the assembly of the faithful becomes less certain in the Apostolic Consititutions attributed to Hippolytus. describe Baptism as occurring at a location outside of the church building;  “When  they come to the water, the water shall be pure and flowing, that is, the water of a spring or a flowing body of water”  (¶21:2).   The assembly is enumerated as consisting of the catechumens and the clergy (Bishop, elders, and Deacons), but no mention is made of the laity nor of sponsors.  Following Baptism by submersion and anointing Hippolytus describes the assembly processing to another venue: “Then, drying themselves, they shall dress and afterwards gather in the church” (¶20:21) for the oblation.  Following the prayer of Chrismation,  “From then on they will pray together will all the people.” (¶20.29).   The text then describes a Eucharistic assembly attended by all the faithful.

   Did the entire assembly of the faithful accompany the Catechumens to the place of Baptism and witness the Mystery?  Or did they remain in vigil and prayer in the church awaiting the arrival of the newly illumined?   If the latter, did clergy remain with them to lead and direct their prayer, or were they left to their own devices?   While Hippolytus does not explicitly mention either scenario, his description of order in the church makes it extremely unlikely that the faithful would have assembled without their clergy.

   The nearly contemporary Catechetical Lectures on the Christian Sacraments are silent regarding the ecclesial vs. private setting of Baptism.   The lectures are divided into sections pertaining to the pre-Baptism exorcism, the Baptism itself, and the Chrismation.   A new section then begins concerning the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, followed by a description of the Euchasistic anaphora.   The text does not indicate whether Baptism occurred during the same service nor even the same day as the Eucharist; only that Baptism occurred “in the evening”(I.1).  It would be an importation of modern Western liturgical practice to assume Cyril was referring to Baptism taking place on the eve of Pascha, even though his description of the Sacrament (“O strange and wondrous mystery, we did not really die”) is replete with Paschal imagery.

   But if we look beyond the plain word of the text and consider its context in the great tradition, it becomes apparent that Baptism was administered in the context of Pascha.  Preceded by lengthy (perhaps three years) of catechesis, the preparatory process was most certainly ecclesial as it involved the teachers or catechists who were held in high esteem.

   Moreover, Baptism at Pascha brings to the Mystery a dimension that surpasses being “merely” ecclesial.   Fr. Schmemann cautions that an ecclesial understanding of Baptism can lead to “ecclesiolotry”.    The Paschal vigil is a celebration of Resurrection and of restoration, most especially the restoration of creation through the Crucified and Risen Word-made-flesh.   The “stuff” of creation, the primal elements of fire, water, air, and earth become integral parts of the church’s proclamation as she gives and receives the light, returns to the lavra of regeneration, hears the words of the kerygma, and finally tastes and sees the goodness of the Lord through the bread of earth becoming True Bread come down from Heaven.  In the context of the Paschal vigil Baptism is truly cosmological.

   Would that modern Orthodox practice reflected the fullness of the Mystery!

   As a recently enrolled Catechumen in the Orthodox Church, regrettably, I have been exposed to few celebrations of the Mystery of Baptism.   Despite attending Greek and Antiochian Orthodox weekday liturgies for  three and five years respectively I have only witnessed three Baptism: Two on successive years on Holy Saturday morning; and one in the early afternoon of a Sunday following the Divine Liturgy and coffee hour.   All of these were in the Antiochian jurisdiction.   In all except the Sunday afternoon Baptism the general congregation was not informed in advance that the Mystery would be celebrated.

   This basic failure at a minimum, to inform, much less to invite and encourage the congregation’s attendance does little to foster an understanding of Baptism as incorporation into the Body of Christ, or, more precisely, into discerning this Body as being more than the simply the Sponsors and invited family and friends.     Were it not for the presence of an already assembled congregation for the Liturgy of St. Basil on Holy Saturday even those Baptisms would have borne the appearance of being essentially private events.

   The Baptisms I witnessed all had an unmistakable connection to the Eucharist.   In the case of the Holy Saturday Baptisms the newly Baptized received their first Holy Communion at the Communion of the Faithful during the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil.  The Sunday afternoon Baptism also included Communion, of course, but this was from the Reserved Sacrament and administered only to the newly Baptized.  This practice does little to show the intrinsic connection between the Mystery of Baptism and the Sunday assembly, and the holy meal by which that assembly is uniquely identified as Christian.  In this instance the Communion--which by institution as well as entomology is meant to be communal--was also privatized.

   Having spent twenty-five years in the ministry of the Lutheran church, formed and shaped by the liturgy of the 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship and its ancillaries I count myself deeply blessed for having been able to celebrate the Mystery of Baptism in the manner for which Fr. Schmemann expresses deep yearning, yet simultaneously deeply saddened that such opportunities are rare (but not unheard of) within Orthodoxy.  Of the ninety-three Baptisms over which I presided,  twenty-one were during the Paschal Vigil. .All but five occurred within the Sunday Eucharistic liturgy..   Of the five anomalous celebrations three were in other church buildings so as to be able to use a font capable of Baptism by full submersion.  Only one was held in a private home (which, just a half century ago, was rather standard Lutheran practice) and  that was solely to allow the Baptism to be within earshot and view of the infant’s terminally ill grandfather.

   Placing Baptism within the Sunday liturgy undoubtabely helps to foster a deep respect and appreciation--indeed, an outright love--for this Mystery among the faithful.   The depth of this love was best articulated when a Seminarian assigned to the parish, as a part of a class project, asked many individuals “if the church were on fire, and you could remove just one item, what would that be?”   The overwhelming majority of those questioned replied, “the Font.”

   As a side note, the writing of this paper, occurring within a few weeks of my family’s pending Chrismation, has caused me to investigate the circumstances of the Baptism of each member.  Our only child was Baptized in a Eucharistic liturgy on a Sunday afternoon in an ecumenical setting adjacent to an international chaplaincy conference.  My wife my was Baptized on Easter Sunday in a gathered congregation.   As for me, I had known that I was Baptized on the 11th day of September--a date which has come to carry an overwhelming deluge of the sufferings of the Body of Christ--but I had been unsure as to whether this had been private or within such liturgy as the Methodist Episcopal Church followed in 1960.  It was an immense relief to discover a bulletin stating “Sunday morning”; not that Baptism outside of the liturgy would have been invalid, but that it would less than ecclesial.  The deficiency would not have been for me but for the community deprived of being able to witness the lavra of rebirth.

   Nearly one year ago I was delighted to learn that Metropolitan SAVAS has granted permission for the St. Matthew’s Greek Orthodox Mission in Blandon, Pennsylvania, to celebrate the Mystery of Baptism during the Sunday liturgy.   I have frequently observed how the York, Pennsylvania Greek community bears great similarity to how that same county’s Lutherans were almost precisely one hundred years ago.  In the early 20th century, Lutherans were struggling (and frequently dividing) over whether the liturgy and sermons should be in the ancestral tongue or in the language of their “new” homeland....even though in many cases the German Lutherans had been in America for 160 or more years.   I am now discovering that there are other parallels as well:   In those same pre WWI years Communion  was received infrequently (no more than four times per year), and Baptism was normally performed privately in the home.

   This small step--albeit in one specific mission parish--by the Greek Metropolis of Pittsburgh is nevertheless a positive sign that Baptism may yet be restored to its historic place in the fullness of the assembly of the faithful and thus better show forth that this Mystery incorporates--embodies--the candidate into the Body of Christ. 









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My heart is heavy this day for many reasons, not the least of which the news imparted on the now-locked Prayer Request discussion.

The Fourth Day of July is the Commemoration of Andrew of Crete, Author of the Great Canon

Andrew of Crete, Author of the Great Canon

His Great Canon of Repentance is sung, one quarter at time, on the weekdays of the first week of Great Lent.   The entire Canon is sung on Thursday evening of the fourth week of Great Lent, interwoven with the vita of St. Mary of Egypt.

The Second Ode of the First Quarter seems well suited for all that this day has brought:

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Attend to me, O God my Saviour, with Thy merciful eye, and accept my fervent confession. (Proverbs 15:3; Psalm 33:15)

Refrain:  Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!

I have sinned above all men, I alone have sinned against Thee. But as God have compassion, O Saviour, on Thy creature. (1 Tim. 1:15)

Having formed by my pleasure-loving desires the deformity of my passions, I have marred the beauty of my mind. A storm of passions besets me, O compassionate Lord. But stretch out Thy hand to me too, as to Peter. (Matthew 14:31)

I have stained the coat of my flesh, and soiled what is in Thy image and likeness, O Saviour. I have darkened the beauty of my soul with passionate pleasures, and my whole mind I have reduced wholly to mud.

I have torn my first garment which the Creator wove for me in the beginning, and therefore I am lying naked. (Genesis 3:21)

I have put on a torn coat, which the serpent wove for me by argument, and I am ashamed. (Genesis 3:4-5)

The tears of the harlot, O merciful Lord, I too offer to Thee. Be merciful to me, O Saviour, in Thy compassion. (Luke 7:38; 18:13)

I looked at the beauty of the tree, and my mind was seduced; and now I lie naked, and I am ashamed. (Genesis 3:7)

All the demon-chiefs of the passions have plowed on my back, and long has their tyranny over me lasted. (Psalm 128:3)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

To the Holy Trinity: I sing of Thee as one in three Persons, O God of all, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Spotless Mother of God, only all-hymned Virgin, pray intensely that we may be saved.

Attend to me, O God my Saviour, with Thy merciful eye, and accept my fervent confession. (Proverbs 15:3; Psalm 33:15)


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Your Turn / Augustana Numerology, A.D. 2020
« on: June 23, 2020, 11:52:44 PM »
Preparing to celebrate the Nativity of the Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John on June 24 I could not help but recall that this Feast caused a delay in the adoption of the Confession of Augsburg.

That Confessional document was presented and signed on the following day, June 25, A.D. 1530.

Which makes this the 490th anniversary.

490 is the product  formed by Jesus' high bar of forgiveness, "seven times seventy times".

Perhaps there is something to be heeded and applied in these bitter and tumultuous times.

Perhaps we might spend more energies focusing on the 21 Articles held in common

Which happen to be evenly divisible by seven.

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Your Turn / It is all about love....
« on: April 24, 2020, 10:23:51 PM »
The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Commemoration of Cyrial & Methodius, Apostles to the Slavs
14 February AD 2010


Dear Esther:

It is all about love, this day.

Certainly Hallmark and every retail florist and almost any restaurant (a bit fancier than Wendy’s) isn’t about to let us forget that!   Displays of confections and plush toys and shiny balloons make the celebration of human love of Valentine’s Day inescapable.

Yet what little we know concerning the life of Saint Valentine (who is, after all, more mythological than historical) reveals that he was all about love:  First and foremost, love for his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; second, love for the people of God entrusted to his care.   Supposedly, his first love was so great that he suffered imprisonment, later martyrdom for his faith; his second love was so strong that along that final journey--from prison--he would send notes of encouragement signed, ”your Valentine.”.

It is all about love, this day.

The missionary Bishops Cyril and his brother, Methodius, were filled to overflowing with the same love of God which led them to love neighbors that they had never met.   They were sent as missionaries to the people of Moravia (yes, the ancestors of the Moravian church); and found that in order to teach the Gospel to the people it was first necessary to create a written alphabet.  Their “Cyrillic” alphabet became the basis of the written languages of much of Eastern Europe--including the Russian which is used in the title space of these Icons.   Cyril undertook this work with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength--just 50 days after completing that work, and presenting it to the Bishop of Rome he entered into Life on the 14th day of February.

It is all about love, this day.

What kind of love inspires people to give--to use the words of the 16th President whose birthday was fleetingly remembered two days ago--”their last full measure of devotion”?    It is a love unshaken by death; grounded in Christ, the Son of the living God.   It is a love that has glimpsed the dazzling beauty of Resurrected life.  It is a love that is established in faith and built up in hope--filled with a sure confidence that sufferings of this age are as nothing when compared with the glory that is to be revealed in Jesus Christ.

Such confidence and trust filled Moses the law-giver when he was privileged to glimpse the glorious land promised to his patriarch forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; although he knew that, according to God’s command, he must now depart this life even as people made ready to depart from Moab.

It is all about love, this day.

Departure and death are closely interwoven with the festival of the Transfiguration.    Certainly because the two appearing with Jesus on the holy mountain are two who did not experience a normal death:  Moses, buried by God in Moab in a grave unknown; and Elijah, taken up in a whirlwind with the chariots of fire.  And most especially because the subject of the conversation between the representatives of the Law and the Prophets is Jesus’s own departure, which Luke the Evangelist tells us “was to take place at Jerusalem”.

Said Leo the Great concerning this feast, “The great reason for this transfiguration  was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed.”    Out of love for Peter and James and John, Christ allows them to see that His coming Passion would not be God’s final word for Him, for them--for us.

It is all about love, this day.

Esther, your arrival at this congregation came in a season of departure.  You arrived with two tow-headed youngsters on the Sunday when we blessed seeds for their departure into the soil; a celebration that was bittersweet in that year of our Lord 1997 because just three weeks before (and just  two days apart) we had planted in God’s garden the holy seeds of the resurrection in the persons of two faithful, farmer-neighbors Lester Shaffer and Wilmer Glatfelter.

About a year later I saw a deeper dimension of your love on the morning of our first-ever Memorial Day liturgy.   To be precise, I did not see that dimension until long after we had been bade to “go in peace” and “serve the Lord”--for as I was locking the church door and heading to my car I noticed that you and Bill were showing Jenn and Will every Veteran’s grave in both Cemeteries.  I was so moved that I wrote about that experience a year later in this parish newsletter--and thousands have read of that day through the posting of that newsletter article on the web site of usmemorialday.org.

It is all about love, this day.

Esther, your gifts for teaching the young were nurtured first within your own family.    I hope I can always remember the time that your parents were attending a Fire Police meeting far away, and you asked me to help with the evening milking.   You insisted that I get to Zeigler’s Church Rd in time for supper; and before we tucked in to pork chops with horseradish Will led us in a grace that began “Hush little rooster.....”

That is when I began to notice you with an eye for this ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ.

You began to serve in many wonderful ways; Choir, Council, Council Secretary, Christian Education Co-Chair.   

And then, during the meeting held three years ago envisioning our future; you asked a good question--which only served as further evidence of God’s call on your life--”why are there only three Deacons”?

It is all about love, this day.

The answer to the question is found in today’s Feast, in following the pattern set down by Jesus Christ.   While He was surrounded by great crowds, He had chosen just twelve Apostles; and, even within that Apostolic circle He had chosen three (no more, no less) to be witnesses of great things kept from all the rest.  It was only  Peter, James, and John, who witnessed the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law; it was only Peter, James, and John who witnessed the raising of the daughter of Jarius; and it was only Peter, James, and John who witnessed the glorious Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor.

Through their witness, the faith of the others--and through their witness, the faith of all who follow Christ was to be strengthened.  To continue the reflection of Leo the Great:  With no less forethought he was also providing a firm foundation for the hope of his holy church.  The whole body of Christ was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his give.  The members of that body were to look forward to a share in that glory which had first blazed out in Christ their head.

It is all about love, this day.

And it is not about us.   Or more precisely, it is only about us insofar as we are, in the words of St. Paul, “slaves for Christ’s sake”.  And Esther, you have lived that all your life, following the good examples of your parents Nelson and Judy; your Aunt Barb of blessed memory, and, as I have come to learn, the example of Grandpa Milton in serving county and community with no regard for self.

So then, let us pray with John Henry Newman:

   Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as thou shinest;
   so to shine as light to others.
   The light, O Jesus, will be all from thee,
   None of it will be mine.
   No merit to me,
   It will be thou who shinest through me upon others.
   O let me thus praise thee, in the way which thou doest love best,
      by shining on all those around me.
   Give light to them as well as me;
      light them with me, through me.
   Teach me to follow forth thy praise, thy truth, thy will.
   Make me preach thee without preaching--
      not by words, but by my example and by the catching force,
      the sympathizing influence
      of what I do--
   By my visible resemblance to thy saints,
      and the evident fullness of the love which my heart bears to thee.

AMEN.

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Your Turn / Welcome back, but what the HACK?
« on: March 22, 2020, 02:41:44 PM »
DNS "unable connect" and other error messages are occurring with increasing frequency on this forum.

Glad to see it up and running especially in such critical times for communications, but one has to wonder about the techno-gremlins.

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https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/german-bishops-proclaim-homosexuality-normal-adultery-not-grave

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German bishops proclaim homosexuality ‘normal,’ adultery ‘not grave’

BERLIN, December 9, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― The Commission for Marriage and Family of the German Bishops’ Conference has come to a consensus that homosexuality is a “normal form of sexual predisposition.”

Two German prelates have also claimed that Amoris Laetitia teaches that sexual relationships formed after a divorce are neither gravely sinful nor a bar to the reception of Holy Communion.

On December 5, the German Bishops’ Conference published a press release detailing the results of an “expert consultation on the topic ‘The sexuality of man: how to discuss it scientifically-theologically, and how to assess it ecclesiastically?’”

The consultation, which included a panel of bishops, sexologists, moral theologians, dogmatic theologians, and canon lawyers, took place in Berlin and concluded on December 4. The timing of the event coincided with the German bishops’ departure along their own “synodal path.”

According to the press release, the experts agreed that “human sexuality encompasses a dimension of lust, of procreation, and of relationships.”

They also agreed that homosexuality is as “normal” as heterosexuality and that neither sexual attraction should be changed.

“There was also agreement that the sexual preference of man expresses itself in puberty and assumes a hetero- or homosexual orientation. Both belong to the normal forms of sexual predisposition, which cannot or should be be changed with the help of a specific socialization,” the press release stated.

The communiqué offered this status of normality as the reason why “any form of discrimination of those persons with a homosexual orientation has to be rejected,” a teaching it says has been demanded for “quite some time” by the teaching office of the Church and was “explicitly stressed by Pope Francis” in Amoris Laetitia.

Agreement had its limits, however. There was no consensus on “whether the magisteral ban on practiced homosexuality is still up to date.” The experts also disagreed on whether or not both married and unmarried people should be allowed to use artificial contraceptives.

The German bishops’ press release mentioned in particular Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, the head of the Commission for the Family, and Bishop Franz-Joseph Bode of Osnabrück. Both had been present at the Synod on the Family in Rome in 2015. According to the statement, both men stressed “the importance of a solid discussion based on human sciences and theology and stressed the developments that already can be found in Amoris Laetitia.”

As their example of a “development” in Amoris Laetitia, the German bishops state that the document says “a sexual relationship after a divorce and remarriage is no longer generally assessed as being a grave sin, and, subsequently, a general exclusion from the reception of the Eucharist is not foreseen.”

The other German prelates in the panel included Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz, Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz, and several auxiliary bishops from the Commision for the Family.

The 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church states clearly that homosexual acts are “instrinsically disordered” and “contrary to the natural law” (CCC 2357).

“They close the sexual act to the gift of life,” it continues. “They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.”

“Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

However, the Catechesis does indeed stress that the suffering of people with same-sex attraction should not be increased by unkind treatment:

    The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition (CCC 2358)

The Catechism also stresses that “homosexual persons are called to chastity” and can “approach Christian perfection” through self-mastery, friendship, prayer, and sacramental grace (CCC 2359).

However, there is widespread rebellion in the Catholic Church in Germany against the perennial doctrine of the Church on sexual matters, including among members of the German Bishops’ Conference. The German Bishops Conference’s insistence on holding its own synod, or “synodal path,” without Vatican permission, has more traditional German Catholics worried.

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, a president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, has warned that proceeding down this  path — one that  questions the Church's teachings on the celibate, male priesthood; homosexuality; and marriage — could lead to a “national church” without “nearly any ties to Rome.” The dubia cardinal stated that this would be “certainly be the surest path into the final decline” of the German Church.

Erbarme dich, Herr.

9
Your Turn / In Memoriam: Rev. Dr. Howard J. McCarney
« on: November 18, 2019, 10:01:07 PM »
 November 13, 2019

 
We learned that the Rev. Dr. Howard J. McCarney died this morning, November 13, 2019, at the age of 98. Bishop McCarney was ordained in 1945 and served as President of the Central Pennsylvania Synod of the Lutheran Church in America from 1966 to 1987. As soon as the funeral arrangements are finalized, we will issue an In Memoriam .

Please keep the McCarney family, especially Ruth and daughters Kathryn and Christine, in prayer during this time.

Yours in Christ,
†James S. Dunlop, bishop
Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA 

10
Your Turn / Sacramental Security
« on: September 16, 2019, 09:30:23 PM »
Forum member "evangelical catholic" raised a question about communicable disease and the veneration of Icons.

That brought to mind concerns I had expressed 18 years ago to the ELCA Division for Worship in an email which received only a cursory "we will consider this" reply.   Of course, that message had nothing to do with the veneration of Icons but much to do with safeguarding the elements of Sacraments from tampering.

Quote
These are extraordinary times, when, more than ever, we are called to be a people of faith rather than a populace of fear.  In these times we must keep our focus upon the Crucified and Risen Lord who nurtures our faith at word and table with “the bread of life” and “the cup of salvation.”

To encourage the people of faith to avail themselves of this means of grace, we might consider a few measures that should be regarded as prudent, rather than paranoid.

We might evaluate the security of the storage of the elements used for the Eucharist.  Are the sacramental bread and wine stored in an area readily accessible to visitors and passerby, or in a facility that is not normally open to the public?  Where are the cruets or flagon and paten placed for the liturgy?  If an Offertory procession is used, are the elements placed on a table in the Narthex or at rear of the Nave?  If so, is there an usher assigned to keep watch over them to prevent tampering?

I raise these questions not to be alarmist (God knows there is too much alarm already) but simply to suggest that we might want to do things a bit differently in these times so that weaker consciences might not be afraid.  For example, the elements might be kept in a Sacristy until the sharing of the Peace, then, during that period of activity, the gift bearers might take them to the rear of the Nave in preparation for the Offertory.

(Similar care should also be taken with the ewer and Baptismal water).

I would suggest that these thoughts be shared with our ecumenical partners, especially the Roman Catholics and Episcopalians for whom offertory processions are the norm.


I must add:  The Orthodox practice is that the prepared Chalice and Paten remain safely within the Altar on the Prothesis until they are carried through the assembly by the Priest (and Deacon) during the Great Entrance.

11
Your Turn / Sacramental Security
« on: September 16, 2019, 09:30:10 PM »
Forum member "evangelical catholic" raised a question about communicable disease and the veneration of Icons.

That brought to mind concerns I had expressed 18 years ago to the ELCA Division for Worship in an email which received only a cursory "we will consider this" reply.   Of course, that message had nothing to do with the veneration of Icons but much to do with safeguarding the elements of Sacraments from tampering.

Quote
These are extraordinary times, when, more than ever, we are called to be a people of faith rather than a populace of fear.  In these times we must keep our focus upon the Crucified and Risen Lord who nurtures our faith at word and table with “the bread of life” and “the cup of salvation.”

To encourage the people of faith to avail themselves of this means of grace, we might consider a few measures that should be regarded as prudent, rather than paranoid.

We might evaluate the security of the storage of the elements used for the Eucharist.  Are the sacramental bread and wine stored in an area readily accessible to visitors and passerby, or in a facility that is not normally open to the public?  Where are the cruets or flagon and paten placed for the liturgy?  If an Offertory procession is used, are the elements placed on a table in the Narthex or at rear of the Nave?  If so, is there an usher assigned to keep watch over them to prevent tampering?

I raise these questions not to be alarmist (God knows there is too much alarm already) but simply to suggest that we might want to do things a bit differently in these times so that weaker consciences might not be afraid.  For example, the elements might be kept in a Sacristy until the sharing of the Peace, then, during that period of activity, the gift bearers might take them to the rear of the Nave in preparation for the Offertory.

(Similar care should also be taken with the ewer and Baptismal water).

I would suggest that these thoughts be shared with our ecumenical partners, especially the Roman Catholics and Episcopalians for whom offertory processions are the norm.


I must add:  The Orthodox practice is that the prepared Chalice and Paten remain safely within the Altar on the Prothesis until they are carried through the assembly by the Priest (and Deacon) during the Great Entrance.

12
Your Turn / Memorial Day, Then and Now
« on: May 27, 2019, 09:28:16 AM »
http://www.usmemorialday.org/Speeches/Other/shelley1999.htm

On Memorial Day of last year I found myself doing something which I had never done before; indeed, something which at one time I could not even have conceived of doing: conducting a service of worship.

Memorial Day has been largely abandoned to Veteran’s groups conducting military services in a few larger cemeteries. The response of the Church has been either to ignore the day altogether, or to so drape it in red, white, and blue that the nation--and not the Triune God--becomes the object of devotion and worship. It was probably because of the excesses of the latter that I found myself among the former--among those who ignored the day.

But years of passing by a cemetery on the way to worship time and again have had a profound effect upon me. “I believe in...the communion of saints”, always (to use Luther’s phrase) “most certainly true” has become more than just words in a Creed; but a constant, discernible presence of the faithful departed of every age.

So also have years of coming increasingly frequently to the Lord’s table had a profound effect upon me. The communion of saints is not found in a cemetery, but in, with, and under the Presence of the Living Christ; who is Himself present in, with, and under the bread and wine of the Holy Communion. We meet and greet the saints at the table of their Lord.

Yet it was reading a children’s book on the patriotic holidays that stirred me to action; for it was only then that I discovered that in the years just following the Civil War the day was observed by holding church services (which were filled) and not by going to stores (which were closed). Now--as with so many customs of our culture--Memorial Day’s observance has been almost entirely reversed. And in that reversal the day’s original and highest meaning has been lost.

So it was that on Memorial Day of 1998 a small congregation assembled to hear the Word and share the Supper and to enter the hallowed ground of
the cemetery for concluding prayers by a Civil War veteran’s grave.

Much to my surprise, it was one of the most moving services of the year. I was at first struck that the first folks to arrive were some of our oldest and very faithful women, some of whom began to attend to the Altar, even though, for some, it was not “their month.”

The Altar, since the earliest days of Christianity, has most often been constructed to resemble a sarcophagus, that is, an above ground burial vault. In the first centuries, services were held on the vaults of martyrs. The attention given to the Altar seemed very much like the attention given to the Civil War casualties’ graves in Columbus, Mississippi, that began the Memorial Day customs of “decorating” the monuments of the fallen; and, on a yet deeper level, the faithful love shown by the women of the disciples who “came to the tomb early...”

Touching, too, was to see our Bill Clark and his family seated in a front pew. Bill--a Pennsylvania National Guardsman--had come in uniform.

But most touching of all was to watch the Clark family--even long after the service had concluded--visit each monument in both the old and new cemeteries that had been decorated with a miniature flag by the York County Veteran’s Council .

Willie and Jennie Clark will remember that this day is set aside for more than picnicking, fireworks, and shopping at Wal-Mart.

It is so blessed to obey God’s command to teach our children diligently--to instruct them in the meaning of each feast that we keep. For God spoke through Moses concerning the Passover: This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord, throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance forever...And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of Lord’s
passover”

And God later spoke through St. Paul concerning the greater Passover and the greater Deliverer:

    Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us.
    Therefore let us keep the feast.


As we keep the memorial of our Passover--our passing from Death to Life through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ--as we keep the feast, we are assured of the Presence of the Risen Christ. And we are doubly assured of His presence as we instruct our children on the feast; for then His final Beatitude is given to us:

    Make disciples of all nations...teaching them to observe
    all that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you
    always, even to the end of time.


So let us keep the feast--hallow the day-- and share the blessing! This holy Easter day; this holy Eastertide; this Memorial Day.


13
Your Turn / On the eve of the Lenten Fast
« on: March 05, 2019, 09:01:17 PM »
In the Pennsylwania [sic] Dutch country today is Fastnacht Day, ja?

So it is the eve of the Great Lenten Fast...Ash Wednesday will quite literally mark its beginning for many Western Christians. 

In the Orthodox Church we will begin this coming Monday.   As a final preparation, on Sunday we will serve the Vespers of Forgiveness, mutually asking one another for pardon of all offenses so that we may enter into the holy season in peace.

Quote
We are entering the godly contest of the blameless Fast. 
Let us all diligently subdue the flesh through self control. 
Let us seek the Lord with prayers and tears,
and completely deliberate every vice, and shout to Him,
"We have sinned against You.
Save us, as you saved the Ninevites of old, O Christ our King. 
Grant us to share in your heavenly kingdom, O compassionate Lord."

--Stichera from the Vespers of Forgiveness

And in that spirit I ask you: 
Forgive me, brothers and sisters, if in any way I have offended you.

14
Your Turn / Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, A.D. 2019
« on: January 17, 2019, 07:05:29 PM »
Today, the 17th of January, the Commemoration of Anthony the Great, Father of monasiticism, was a pre-Feast, of sorts, for the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.  The Octave itself begins on the 18th with the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter on the Lutheran and Episcopal calendars and closes on the 25th with the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. 

In the Orthodox Church--which is in dire need of prayer for unity within itself, and for which such prayer is offered with every Great Ektania--the week is framed by the Feasts of Sts. Athanasios and Cyril, Patriarchs of Alexandria on the 18th and Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople on the 25th.

Whether the week be bracketed by first-century Apostles or fourth-century Patriarchs, it affords an opportunity to take to heart the petition of the Great Ektania, particularly the opening four petitions which were woven into the fabric of Lutheran worship in North America some 60 years ago with the publication of the Service Book and Hymnal.

How ironic, that during those six decades intra-Lutheran unity made great strides forward, culminating with nearly adopting a single worship book used by all major bodies in the 1970's, only to stumble and fracture two decades later.

And, to be fair and balanced, the Orthodox Church has had its own internal struggles.  The Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem remain out of Communion with each other.  That fracture was one of the factors causing the June 2016 meeting in Crete to be something other than a true Ecumenical Council; the fault lines listing participants and non-participants perhaps a preview of greater divisions which may ensue over the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox.

I became acquainted with the beginning of the Great Ektania in my 16th year when my organ teacher insisted that I learn Setting Two of the Service Book and Hymnal.   So for over four decades these petitions have been an important part of my rule of prayer; and this week will be no exception.

Indeed, with all that surrounds us, they may be offered with greater dynamis:

In peace, let us pray to the Lord....Lord, have mercy.

For the peace from above and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord...Lord, have mercy.

For the peace of the whole world, for the stability of the holy churches of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord...Lord, have mercy.

For this holy house and for those who enter it with faith, reverence, and the fear of God, let us pray to the Lord...Lord, have mercy.

...Commemorating our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commend ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.




15
Your Turn / Weekly Eucharist: A Parable
« on: April 05, 2018, 12:41:24 PM »
A PARABLE

Once upon a time there was a farmer who had a silage feeder.  All kinds of cattle would come to the feeder; happy little heifer calves; and big bad bulls alike .  The farmer only filled the feeder four times a year, but when he did, the cattle gathered around, little and big alike.  It didn’t take long until the feeder was empty; but it would stay empty until the right number of months had passed.

After some years the farmer noticed that the little heifers would scrounge around the feeder hungrily in between feedings, hopeful that a few grains remained.  So the farmer decided to fill the feeder at the beginning of every month.  The cattle herded around it, little and big alike.  The little heifers ate happily, but the big bad bulls began to stomp and snort and snort and stomp.  “We don’t need to be fed so often” they complained.   Since they were bigger--and thought that they were stronger--they felt they could fend for themselves between feedings.  So the big bad bulls didn’t feed quite as often as the little heifers; but it still didn’t take long until the feeder was empty.  The feeder would stay empty until the right number of weeks had passed.

The farmer noticed that still the little heifers would scrounge around the feeder hungrily in between feedings, hoping that a few grains remained.  So the farmer decided to fill the feeder twice each month.  The little heifers herded around and ate happily, but the big bad bulls stomped and snorted and snorted and stomped all the louder.“We don’t need to be fed so often” they complained, “and, what’s more, we don’t think that you need to be fed so often either”.  The little heifers were puzzled.  They were feeling better, and stronger, and healthier.  How could this feed be so bad for them?  And why were the big bad bulls becoming louder and more vicious?  They weren’t eating the feed that they snorted was bad any more frequently--in fact, some were eating less than before.  But the little heifers still fed well, and it didn’t take long until the feeder was empty.  The feeder would stay empty until exactly two  weeks had passed.

After some years the farmer noticed that the little heifers would scrounge around the feeder hungrily in between feedings, hopeful that a few grains remained.  So the farmer decided to fill the feeder at the beginning of every week.   The little heifers herded around and ate happily, but the big bad bulls were enraged and  stomped and snorted and snorted and stomped louder than ever before.“We don’t need to be fed so often” they complained, “and, what’s more, we don’t think that you need to be fed so often either.  What’s good enough for us should be good enough for you”.

The little heifers were afraid of the big bad bulls, but knew that the farmer would continue to provide for them.  But one day as the farmer was filling the feeder, the big bad bulls rushed at him and began butting their heads against him and jabbing their horns at him.  The little heifers watched, helplessly, and very confused.  They couldn’t understand what was going on.  The farmer had fed them well, and they were stronger and healthier than ever before.    Their feed was good.  The farmer was their friend, he was doing what was good for them.    Why were the big bad bulls so vicious? 

“We are content”  said one of the little heifers.  “We don’t have to fend for ourselves anymore between feedings.  Our needs are provided and we are healthier and happier than ever before.  We aren’t making the bulls eat the feed--nobody is forcing them.  Why do they want to take it away from us--and make us go hungry?    Maybe the bulls have been fending for themselves too much for too long.  Maybe they can’t accept being cared for by another.   Maybe that is why they are trying to be rid of the caregiving householder.  Maybe that’s what has made them big and bad”

“Maybe” said another, “they’ve stayed away from the manger too long”

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