EXPAND YOUR READING!!

"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Monday, 22 August 2016

THE CHRISTIANITY OF J.R. TOLKIEN author of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings."

J.R.R. Tolkien: Three Amazing Quotes
Matt Fradd
my source: Catholic Answers



Many of you are aware that J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, was a faithful Catholic.
I’ve often seen quotes on Facebook attributed to him without knowing if they were genuine. Turns out they were.
Here are three quotes from Tolkien on the Pope and the Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and The Eucharist.

The Pope and the One True Church

"I myself am convinced by the Petrine claims, nor looking around the world does there seem much doubt which (if Christianity is true) is the True Church, the temple of the Spirit dying but living, corrupt but holy, self-reforming and re-arising.

"But for me that Church of which the Pope is the acknowledged head on earth has as chief claim that it is the one that has (and still does) ever defended the Blessed Sacrament, and given it most honour, and put (as Christ plainly intended) in the prime place.

“'Feed my sheep' was His last charge to St. Peter; and since His words are always first to be understood literally, I suppose them to refer primarily to the Bread of Life. It was against this that the W. European revolt (or Reformation) was really launched—'the blasphemous fable of the Mass'—and faith/works a mere red herring.”

Can be found in Tolkien: Man and Myth, p. 193.

The Virgin Mary

“I think I know exactly what you mean by the order of Grace; and of course by your references to Our Lady, upon which all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded.”

Can be found in The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings, p. 76.

The Eucharist

“Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. . . . There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death.

"By the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste—or foretaste—of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires.

"The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion. Though always itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise.

"Frequency is of the highest effect.

"Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals.
Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your Communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children—from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn—open-necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to Communion with them (and pray for them).

"It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people.

"It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand—after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.”

Can be found in The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings, p. 219.


Matt Fradd is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Outreach for Integrity Restored, as well as their Director of Content Development. He is the editor of Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women who Turned From Porn to Purity and coauthor of Victory: A Strategic Battle Plan for Freedom in the..

 How J.R.R. Tolkien Helped to Lead C.S. Lewis to Faith
By ERIC METAXAS Published on October 12, 2015 


Eric Mataxas

Until I was an adult who had found faith and this world of meaning, I knew very little about C. S. Lewis. He was the Oxford don who turned from atheism to belief in God because late one night in 1930 he was walking along a wooded path behind Magdalen College with his friend J. R. R. Tolkien. This was years before Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings and long before Lewis wrote his famous Chronicles of Narnia. They were just young men who had survived the grim horrors of World War I, who had seen the ghastly hell and death of the trenches and the gas warfare, and who were now brilliant young professors at Oxford University.

But as they walked and talked along that path, long past midnight, Tolkien had the grounding of a deep belief in something else, and Lewis did not. Tolkien felt that this world was not all there is, but Lewis felt that it was, that the sad horrors of the war they had both survived told them this, that this ugly world was all there is and ever would be and we must face this, although it made us sad to think of it. But surely Lewis — or Jack, as his friends called him — sometimes also wondered why, if it were true, it would make us sad. If it were true, why would something in us want it not to be true? What was that something in us, and how did it get there? What was the meaning of the fact that we should desire something else? What was the meaning of our desire for meaning?

Lewis and Tolkien both knew and loved mythology and the myths of ancient cultures. They knew the old stories of the Greeks and the Romans, and they knew and loved the stories of the Norse gods. In his autobiographical memoir, Surprised by Joy, Lewis recalled how his heart had been pierced when he had read those lines from the Norse Ballads of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “I heard a voice cry, ‘Balder the beautiful is dead, is dead!’ ” Why had this so pierced his heart? Why should this nineteenth-century poem about a fictional character move him so? What was the meaning of that? But after the death ofMiracles.jpg his mother and the pains of life and the horrors of the war he had at least halfway pushed aside such feelings and had come to embrace the sad belief that we could not go back, and all of these stories were just stories. Beautiful stories, but just stories.

But Tolkien had another idea, although for him it was no longer just an idea. He knew that all of these ancient and beautiful stories were echoes of something larger and truer. They were signs that the human race knew of another world that had once existed and would exist again and even now existed in another realm, outside time. He knew the myths of the gods who died in a sacrificial way but who would rise again and live, but he did not know them as unconnected to the world of reality and history. For him they were echoes of a larger reality that had at one time burst through into history, but only once.

So that night on the dark wooded path with his friend Jack he asked the question that would change Jack’s life. He asked Jack to consider whether it was possible that one time this myth had coincided with history — whether one time eternity might have broken through into time. Tolkien suggested that it had, that the myth of the god who had died and come to life was an echo of a greater story — of perhaps the greatest story that ever was told — and that one time in history this eternal story had bloomed into reality, had broken through into history and time as a crocus breaks through the snow. And it had changed everything forever and ever, had brought spring into winter, had brought eternity itself into time. Lewis had never considered that. But Tolkien pressed him to consider it and so now he would consider it, and it would haunt him.



This is an excerpt from Miracles: What They Are, How They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life (Plume, October 13, 2015), now in paperback from Plume.


 Tolkien: Man Behind the Myth
At odds with his world, he created another.
Bradley J. Birzer/ DECEMBER 13, 2012

Tolkien: Man Behind the Myth
AP


On January 3, 2003, J. R. R. Tolkien would have celebrated his eleventy-first birthday, a most momentous occasion, the same birthday on which Bilbo departed the Shire for Rivendell.

What would this venerable Oxford don have thought about his position in Western culture at the age of 111, almost a half-century after he initially published his trilogy?

He would have seen reason enough for distress, chilling marks of the modern secular-scientific ideal. In the East: the killing fields, the gulags, and the holocaust camps. In the West: materialism, invasive corporate capitalism, and softly tyrannical bureaucracies. An anti-modern conservative, Tolkien often fell into despair, especially toward the end of his life, as he took account of the world situation.

"The spirit of wickedness in high places is now so powerful and so many-headed in its incarnations," Tolkien wrote in 1969, "that there seems nothing more to do than personally to refuse to worship any of the hydra's heads." The world, he thought, seemed little better than a new Tower of Babel, "all noise and confusion."

Yet, this most devout Christian would also see signs of immense hope, knowing well that St. Paul accorded it the second highest place among the virtues. Karol Wojtyla, pope, poet, playwright, and philosopher, had told Tolkien's beloved Roman Catholic Church, "Be not afraid," quoting Christ. Emboldened by this message, millions between 1989 and 1991 peaceably tore down the misanthropic Marxist-Leninist regimes.

This article is part of the Christianity Today eBook, J.R.R. Tolkien: The Man Behind the Hobbits, available now.

On Tolkien's 111th birthday, he would also be especially surprised to note that for 50 years, his myth—a myth he felt he had recorded rather than invented—had dramatically affected and shaped people all over the world. In it, they found depth, inspiration, and guidance—not the mere entertainment or escapism his detractors claimed. In The Lord of the Rings, they found models of Christian virtue, true heroism, and timeless Truth.

Indeed, since the trilogy's initial publication in the mid-1950s, Tolkien's popularity has waxed less and waxed more, but it has never waned. Poll after poll at the turn of the century declaredThe Lord of the Ringsthe book of the 20th century, with a readership, by one estimate, of over 150,000,000 persons worldwide. He would also see prominent academics at prestigious schools labeling him "The Author of the Century."

Out of Africa

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on January 3, 1892. Attempting to control the fraud that seemed rampant in the diamond trade, a British bank had relocated his father, Arthur Tolkien, there.

"My parents both came from Birmingham in England. I happened to be born [in South Africa] by accident. But it had this effect; my earliest memories are of Africa, but it was alien to me, and when I came home, I had for the countryside of England both … native feeling and … personal wonder." His own Middle-earth reflects what he called his "wonder and delight in the earth"—especially his life-long love of trees.

Two years later, his mother, Mabel, gave birth to Tolkien's only sibling, his brother Hilary. In 1895, Mabel returned to England with the two boys because of Ronald's health, and Arthur remained behind in South Africa, only to die a year later. Tolkien was particularly close to his mother after his father's death. She home-schooled the two boys during their early school-age years.

Even as a young boy, Tolkien loved languages. He invented his own, but his mother viewed them as a waste of his time. "As a child, I was always inventing languages. But that was naughty," Tolkien recalled wryly. "Poor boys must concentrate on getting scholarships. When I was supposed to be studying Latin and Greek, I studied Welsh and English. When I was supposed to be concentrating on English, I took up Finnish."

Through the door of language Tolkien entered the world of myth. "The seed [of the myth] is linguistic, of course. I'm a linguist and everything is linguistic—that's why I take such pains with names." A language, he believed, could not remain abstract. It must arise within a history and a culture—or, if lacking that, a mythology. Soon he would create for his own languages a most elaborate world indeed.

Son of persecution

In 1900, much to the dismay of her family, Mabel was confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church. Her family strongly disapproved of her decision—though they tended to be only nominally Protestant—and they cut her off from all family money. Four years later, Mabel died of diabetes, which might have been treated with sufficient finances. In his adulthood, Tolkien remembered his mother as "a gifted lady of great beauty and wit, greatly stricken by God with grief and suffering, who died in youth (at 34) of a disease hastened by the persecution of her faith."

It would be impossible to stress too much the influence her death had on Tolkien. He was almost 13 when she died, and she had served, effectively, as his only parental figure to this point. She had influenced him in everything, and Ronald would attempt to live up to her memory for the rest of his life. This was especially true in his religious devotions. "I witnessed (half-comprehending) the heroic sufferings and early death in extreme poverty of my mother who brought me into the Church," he reflected in 1963.

Mabel left Ronald and Hilary in the care of Father Francis Morgan, a Roman Catholic priest at John Henry Cardinal Newman's Birmingham Oratory. Half Welsh and half Anglo-Spanish, Morgan is described by Tolkien's biographer as "a very noisy man, loud and affectionate, embarrassing to small children at first but hugely lovable when they got to know him." Ronald struggled with Father Morgan at times, especially over dating his future wife Edith, but he considered the priest his true father. Indeed, Tolkien credited Father Morgan with solidifying the faith into which his mother brought him. "I first learned charity and forgiveness from him," Tolkien wrote in 1965.

At the Oratory, Tolkien absorbed the lingering, profound presence of Newman, the founder. Newman was a devout follower of St. Augustine, another significant influence on Tolkien. In his Apologia, Newman recorded having been deeply influenced by the Catholic doctrine of the warfare between the City of God and the powers of darkness. He believed this battle was about to intensify, as 19th-century liberalism was poised to usher in a secular, modern City of Man.

"A confederacy of evil, marshaling its hosts from all parts of the world, organizing itself, taking its measures, enclosing the Church of Christ as in a net, [was] preparing the way for a general Apostasy from it," Newman feared in 1838. Tolkien saw his world devastated by the forces that Newman had believed imminent.

A wartime awakening

After a highly successful college career at Exeter College, Oxford, Tolkien became an officer in the British military. He experienced first-hand the horrors of mechanized warfare in World War I. He was a member of the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers, one of the most decorated regiments of the war, and also a unit that suffered devastating casualties.

It was in the trenches that Tolkien first conceived the Middle-earth mythology. His son Christopher later found some of the first lines of verse containing "Seven names of Gondolin" "scribbled on the back of a paper setting out the chain of responsibility in a battalion."

He began writing in earnest during his sick leave in 1916 and 1917, "in army huts, crowded, filled with the noise of gramophones." As Tolkien admitted in his famous academic essay "On Fairy-Stories," "a real taste for fairy-stories was wakened by philology on the threshold of manhood, and quickened to full life [by] war."

In the filth of northern France, Tolkien longed for beauty. Frodo's passage through the Dead Marshes inThe Two Towers, said the author, consciously echoed the "miles and miles of seething, tortured earth" he had seen on the war's battlegrounds:

More loathsome far was the country that the crawling day now slowly unveiled to his shrinking eyes. … Here nothing lived, not even the leprous growths that feed on rottenness. The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails upon the lands about. High mounds of crushed and powdered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-stained, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows, slowly revealed in the reluctant light.

Doting father, Oxford "great"

In 1916, Tolkien began his own family when he married Edith Bratt, a woman he loved passionately and who served as the inspiration for the beautiful elven maiden, Luthien. Together, the two had four children: John (1917–2003); Michael (1920–1984); Christopher (b. 1924); and Priscilla (b. 1929). Priscilla recalled:

He was always there, at lunch and at tea. We children were allowed to run in and out of his study at any time, so long as he wasn't actually teaching. He was very much involved with family life and, since we were often hard up, he had to write and work far into the night just to make extra money.
Priscilla's reminiscences are typical. Tolkien's son Michael noted that he always took "my childish comments and questions with complete seriousness." And Tolkien's grandson Simon remembered his grandfather as "incredibly nice," with a deep voice, a laugh that "seemed full and his eyes … bright and full of life."

Indeed, there were few children that Tolkien seemed not to love. The last time his friend George Sayer saw him, Tolkien was with a number of children "playing trains: 'I'm Thomas the Tank Engine. Puff. Puff. Puff.' "

His children also served as the first audience for significant parts of his mythology.The Hobbit, which Tolkien had read at least in part to his children, "got dragged against my original will," as he put it, into the legendarium.

Tolkien had a full academic career, first at Leeds University from 1920–1925 and then at Oxford from 1925 until his retirement in 1959. He was regarded by Oxford students as one of the "greats" in both scholarship and personality. Few, though, thought well of him as a lecturer. So muffled and incoherent were many of his lectures, in fact, that one former student remembered him as having a "speech impediment." Tolkien himself was the first to admit his failings as a lecturer.

The exception to Tolkien's poor lecturing was his recitation of Beowulf, much of which he had memorized. When discussing that old English tale, he became a bard, and the lecture room a mead hall. One student wrote of these performances:

He came in lightly and gracefully, I always remember that, his gown flowing, his fair hair shining, and he readBeowulfaloud. We did not know the language he was reading, yet the sound of Tolkien made sense of the unknown tongue, and the terrors and the dangers that he recounted—how I do not know—made our hair stand on end. He read like no one else I have ever heard. The lecture room was crowded—it was in the Examination Halls, and he was a young man then, for his position, long before "The Hobbit" or the Trilogy were to make him famous.

In The Atlantic Monthly, the poet W. H. Auden confided: "I do not remember a single word he said, but at a certain point he recited, and magnificently, a long passage of Beowulf. I was spellbound."

Yet, this was a man who also loved the Marx Brothers and boyish pranks. He once appeared at a formal party for Oxford dons dressed in "an Icelandic sheepskin hearthrug" and white face paint. At a lecture in the 1930s, Tolkien told his audience that leprechauns really existed—then, to prove it, pulled from the pocket of his old tweed coat a four-inch green shoe.

From myth to Messiah

Tolkien published a number of critical articles during his academic career, including numerous translations of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English works. as well as the essays "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" (1936) and "On Fairy-Stories" (1939).

In the latter essay, Tolkien describes how the perilous realm of Faerie reveals truth and beauty beyond normal comprehension; the true and the beautiful lead one to the Good and the One. Indeed, Tolkien saw the gospel standing behind and patterning all fairy stories.

Tolkien began writing—he preferred to call it "recording"—his mythology in 1916. Even at his death, he had failed to complete it, and his son Christopher has spent much of his adult life editing and completing what his father could not in one lifetime. The two most famous of Tolkien's stories,The Hobbit(1938) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954–1956), are profound manifestations of the larger mythology, which the author referred to as his legendarium. Since his father's death, Christopher has completedThe Silmarillion(1977),Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth(1980), and the 12-volume History of Middle-earth (1983–1996), each of which is indispensable to understanding the myth as a whole.


A double-edged fame

By the mid-1960s, Tolkien had reached the status of a popular icon. In the first ten months after The Lord of the Rings appeared in paperback in the U.S. in 1965, stores sold over 250,000 copies.

The 1960s brought not only fame but cultural change, which invaded even the great bulwark of traditionalism, the Roman Catholic Church. At one Vatican II–inspired Mass, Tolkien found the innovations too much for him. Disappointed by changes in the Mass's language and the informality of the ritual, he rose from his seat, made his way laboriously to the aisle, made three low bows and stomped out.

Much to the conservative Tolkien's chagrin, in the mid- to late 1960s the counterculture and political Left especially embraced his mythology. Afraid that such readers might create a sort of "new paganism" around his legendarium, Tolkien spent much of the last decade of his life clarifying its theological and philosophical positions in the work that becameThe Silmarillion.

The burden of the philosophical and theological intricacies of the mythology, his wife's deteriorating health in the mid-1960s resulting in her death in 1971, and his own natural ageing proved too difficult for Tolkien, and he died before finishing The Silmarillion. Still, the accolades poured in. In 1972, Oxford awarded Tolkien an honorary doctorate and the Queen named him a "Commander of the Order," a rank just below knighthood.

On September 2, 1973, Tolkien left the City of Man and became a permanent resident of the City of God.

To the last, critics continued to describe his works as trivial and escapist. But Tolkien was content to rest his case in a higher court.

"The only just literary critic," he concluded, "is Christ, who admires more than does any man the gifts He Himself has bestowed."

Bradley Birzer is Russell Amos Kirk chair in American studies, professor of history Hillsdale College (Michigan). He is also author of J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle Earth(ISI).


 20 Ways The Lord of the Rings Is Both Christian and Catholic
STAN WILLIAMS
my source: Catholic Education Resource Centre
Thanks to the vision and persistence of Kiwi filmmaker Peter Jackson and the financial backing of Warner Brothers' New Line Cinema, these great stories are now becoming accessible to millions more around the world.

Tolkien had hoped that others would come after him and like other myths adapt the Middle-earth stories to make them both applicable and accessible to new generations. Peter Jackson is doing that, and by most accounts doing it well. The third and last film in the series will be released December 2003.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision." [1] By design The Lord of the Rings is not a Christian allegory but rather an invented myth [2] about Christian and Catholic truths. But that presents a problem for filmakers. Because the Christian"

Our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:12)
"and when it comes to movies, audiences must SEE everything and anything that is important to the story. So, the conflict cannot be something the protagonist engages on purely a spiritual or emotional level — such as guilt, forgiveness, justification, or redemption. The source of the conflict has to be visible. 

Luckily — no, let's make that Providentially — Tolkien spent a life time sub-creating (as he called it) a Middle-earth that contains physical entities representing all that is good and bad in our Earthly journeys. There are Dwarves, Elves, Orcs, Wizards, Hobbits, Ents, Trolls, Wraiths, Uruk-hais and at least one Balrog — all with their own languages, culturs, history, and myths — to mix it up with humans in a grand and epic battle with evil. 

But a battle against evil alone does not make The Lord of the Rings fundamentally Christian and Catholic; and yet there are many ways that it is. Below are a few of these and one that is unique to Jackson's films. Can you tell which one it is?

A Christian Myth

Here are some of the ways The Lord of the Rings is a Christian myth.

Darkness pervades Middle-earth where man, beast and nature are called to an adventure full of peril and hope. Here is how Elijah Wood explains the film's dominant theme: â??No matter how bad things are, no matter how much evil there is in this world, there is always some good worth fighting for, worth standing up for, and worth some effort in carrying on.â? [3]

The One Ring illustrates how evil can entice and enslave. Beautiful gold rings are enticing to wear. But when we slip them on our fingers we announce our devotion and loyalty to their owner. 

Gandalf and Saruman, while not analogous, have traits, goals, and experiences similar to those of Jesus and Satan.Gandalf is even tempted in a battle with Saruman not unlike Christ is tempted by Satan in the wilderness. 

Evil is parasitic and can only destroy that which was created. Everything that Ilúvatar (God) created in Middle-earth (and in our world) is good. It is the perversion and corruption of what was created that is evil. Good can exist on its own. Evil can only live off what is good. 

Like all Chritians, Frodo is called to risk his life through great peril to save others. Frodo, like us, does not appear to be up to the task. He does not have any obvious talent suited for war. But he is chosen, as we are. We are all necessary for God's grand plan to be fulfilled; and even the most unlikely and disgusting Gollum-like beast in our life is necessary. And when Frodo asks, "What can a little hobbit do?" — Isaiah answers, "A little child will lead them" (11:6).

In the Shire, the Hobbits come naturally to living a beatific life that Christ calls Christians to live by. The Hobbits are the meek that inherit the earth, the merciful who receive mercy, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers. (Mt. 5:3-12) 

Like all Christians, Tolkien's characters are called to play roles in a story tht is much greater and more important than they are aware. Just as we are not aware of all that has happened before us, [4] so Gandalf, at the end of The Hobbit, says to Bilbo, "You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? "you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!" 

There is a longing for the return of the king. As Christians long for the return of Christ the King, so the free people of Middle-earth long for their kingdoms to be once more united in peace and justice under the rightful heir. Did I mention that Aragorn looks like Christ?

The Fellowship of the Ring is constituted of different characters with different gifts suited for battling evil — the diversity keeps them united. This is not unlike the diversity of spiritual gifts and temporal talents given to the different members of the Christian community for the unity of the body — so that we might be dependent on each other.

Upon leaving Lorien, each of the Fellowship members are given custom fitted Elvish hooded cloaks not unlike St. Paul's amour in Ephesians 6:10-17. Again, Tolkien disliked allegory; so the cloaks are not exactly like St. Paul's amour of salvation. But they do have mystical traits of great aid that keep them safe in their battle with evil. 

A Catholic Core

The Lord of the Rings is also Catholic.

Tere are sacraments not symbols. For their journey, Galadriel graciously bestows upon the Fellowship — a representation of the church — seven mystical gifts; no mere symbols these, but glimmering reflections of the Church's seven sacraments — the conveying of spiritual grace through temporal rites. And at her Mirror, Galadriel derides the Reformers' taunt of Eucharistic magic in the Mass when she says: "For this is what your folk would call magic, I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem to use the same words for the deceits of the enemy." (353)

As grace and creation is experienced through a sacrament, so control and destruction is experienced through an anti-sacrament — the One Ring. The ring that Frodo bears is not symbolic, but rather operates as an anti-sacrament. Dependent on a person's spiritual disosition, a sacrament literally allows grace and life to flow into a person through the physical realm. Likewise in Middle-earth, the characters' spiritual disposition makes them more or less susceptible to the anti-sacrament power of the ring, which if worn, literally brings evil and destruction upon the bearer.

The protagonists pursue absolutes, rejecting any willingness to compromise or relativize. In Middle-earth there is an absoluteness of what is right and wrong. There is no hint of moral relativism that separates the different peoples, races, or creators of the freelands. Aragorn says to Eomer: "Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among men." (428)

The protagonists embrace suffering as a requirement of working out their salvation. It isn't enough to simply believe or have faith To be free of the tyranny of evil each of our protagonists must sacrifice, and work hard through great peril to secure their salvation and the right ordering of their world. 

The Shire, described as the ideal community, reflects the social teachings of Catholicism. The Hobbits benefit from a community structure with little formal organization and less conflict. They work only enough to survive and otherwise enjoy each other's company. There is no jealousy, no greed, and rarely does anyone do anything unexpected. There is a wholeness and graciousness about it that seems to come naturally out of selflessness. 

Gandalf, the steward of all things good in the world, reflects the papacy. Gandalf is leader of the free and faithful. He is steward of all things good in the world, but he claims rule over no land. As the Popes of history di with kings and emperors of our world, so Gandalf crowns the king and blesses him to rule with justice and peace. 

Middle-earth ideology reflects a corporate moral hierarchy and not individualism. There is no democracy or republic in Middle-earth. There are spiritual leaders like Gandalf, and Kings like Theoden and Elessar with lords and vassals. There is no defense of individualism, no claim of choice, and no justification for an individual to follow his conscience. 

There is a mystical Lady, like The Blessed Mother, who responds miraculously to pleas for help.The Lady is named Varda (or in Elvish, Elbereth or star-queen) and although she is never seen, she's is described as holy and queenly; and when her name is invoked — "O Elbereth! Gilthoniel! — as Frodo and Sam do on occasion, miracles follow that protect the quest and defeat the present enemy.

The sign of the cross.At the end of the first movie (and the beginning of the second book) Aragorn kneels beside the mortally wounded Boromir — and as he dies, Aragorn makes a rudimentary sign of the cross touching first his forehead and then his lips. It is a salute to Avatar, the One who created all. 

There is a last sharing of cup and bread, not unlike O.T. manna and its fulfillment in The Eucharist.Before the Fellowship departs from Lorien, Galadriel bids each to participate in a farewell ritual and drink from a common cup. More significant is the mystical Elvish food given to the fellowship — lembas or waybread. A small amount of this supernatural nourishment will sustain a traveler fo many days.

All of this should make viewing or reading The Lord of the Rings a more interesting and insightful experience for both Christians and Catholics. A fuller description of these themes can be found in the following books that were used for this article

Bibliography
J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-earth. Bradley Birzer, 2003. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books.Tolkien: A Celebration. Collected writings on a literary legacy. Edited by Joseph Pearce, 1999. San Francisco: Ignatius.Finding God in The Lord of the Rings. Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware, 2001. Wheaton: Tyndale House. Tolkien: Man and Myth. A literary life. Joseph Pearce, 1998. San Francisco: Ignatius.

Notes:

While Tolkien has written that in sub-creating these stories his allegiance was to Christ and the Church, Jackson's allegiance was to Tolkien. Jackson made this comment to a group of Christian writers: "We wanted to honor Tolkien and obviously he was a very spiritual person. We've taken an approach of never trying to put in our own message or our own baggage into these films. We want the films to respect him and what he was about." (Interview, New York City, December 4, 2002) 

To Tolkien, myths are true because they are part of our God created imagination, and because they bring us "such joy [that] has the very taste of primary truth." To Tolkien the story of Jesus Christ is a "true myth." When Tolkien shared this concept with C.S. Lewis during an afternoon walk, Lewis felt "a rush of wind that came so suddenly," and within days proclaimed his belief in Christ, becoming one of Christianity's most effective apologists. (See also Tolkien's essay, On Fairy-Stories.)

Interview, New York Cit, December 4, 2002.

Read The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien and edited by his son Christopher, also the Appendix that immediately follows the third part of the trilogy: The Return of the King.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

HOW MANY WILL BE SAVED? CHRIST'S ANSWER TO EACH OF US

21st Sunday of the Year


This teaching of Our Lord is introduced by a question,  How many people will be saved?  It is a sort of abstract question, one that can be discussed and answered in the comfort of our armchair, without exposing us to any danger, without challenging us to any task.  It is the kind of question we like; but, in the present Gospel reading, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to be crucified and has no time for armchair speculation.   He answers at a different level.  

He says that there are two gates or doors that people believe are ways into the kingdom of God, but only one can lead us to sit at the messianic banquet: there is the way of repentance which is hard and the way of complacency, which is easy.

The narrow way of repentance begins by   recognising our weakness, how easily our values can become distorted, how secondary things can become primary, how good things can become idols, how our past attainments and present qualities, if we pay too much attention to them, can make us blind and become obstacles to knowing God’s will. Even when we know what is wrong, we so often lack the strength because we do not realise how little we rely on Christ. Like the apostles on the Sea of Galilee when Christ was asleep in the boat, all these weaknesses, if they are not tackled, are like contrary winds, adverse currents, rocks and whirlpools that endanger the safety of the boat. Our   attention must be constant because the temptations are constant. The moment we are complacent, the moment we rely on our own intelligence, our own experience, our own routine rather than Christ as a guide, we are travelling through uncharted waters without maps, and  these weaknesses begin to re-assert themselves and are used by the Evil One to sink us when we are not looking.

   This lack of self-satisfaction, this constant awareness of our weakness, this  attention to our continual need to steer close to the will of God, to renew our commitment to Christ at every moment, is called “Repentance”.

Repentance is not “feeling sorry for our sins”, though someone who repents may well feel that sorrow.  Repentance is changing direction, re-aligning our values - not once but continually - giving up our worldly way of looking at what we do and , and seeking only the will of God, as Christ did: He who said, “Not my will but yours be done,” and as the Blessed Virgin said, “Behold the handmaid  of the Lord: may it be done to me according to his word.”   When this becomes the way we look at things, every moment becomes a sacrament in which we find the will of God and his Presence and; and, to boot, we are passing through the narrow gate.

What about the wider gate  that doesn’t lead anywhere, the one  at whose entrance so many people wait to enter but cannot because it is locked?   It is the wide gate of complacency, the one where people look at themselves and decide that they have changed enough and need only to change others, who are content with their own discipleship, with their own strengths, with their own attainments, with the gifts that God has given them in the past, and they are so content that they are oblivious to the gifts and challenges that he is offering in the present. It is a religious life that is standing still because of self-satisfaction or laziness; and, when people stand still, they cannot be arriving anywhere, especially at the messianic banquet.

How many of us have joined this crowd and have stood outside this gate, without, perhaps, realising it!.  Perhaps we all have done so at some time, or even most of the time!   Instead of actively seeking what we must change so that we can do the will of God better, we protect ourselves with our religious routine so that nothing will change.   Instead of seeking out the will of God in every situation, at every moment, we take refuge in generalities and avoid specifics that might challenge us.   If our sins do not make us feel guilty, we accept them as part of ourselves and vaguely rely on God’s mercy rather than do our own part that enables the Holy Spirit to eradicate them or simply to make them harmless.    All this is the wide gate that leads to nowhere.

Of course, if we are entering the narrow gate, we have become subject to Christ’s will in every situation.  Believe it or not, this means we have become subject to his discipline; and he will discipline us whenever he decides to do so, through his very active Providence; and this is not always pleasant.  That is what the second lesson, from Hebrews, is all about.  

We must become aware of his discipline and what he is telling us through our circumstances.  If he is not disciplining us at present, we can be assured that he will do so when he is ready.  If he never disciplines us, then it is perhaps a sign that we are waiting at the wrong gate.

Jesus says in the Gospel that some who at present appear to be “last” will be first when the coming of Jesus in glory takes place. Conversely, some who are “first” now, in prestige, in religious complacency, could ultimately be last or miss out altogether at the coming of the Lord.   

It is important to understand that, if we put ourselves among the "last who shall be first", then we are probably suffering from the pride that belongs to those who are standing before the wide gate of complacency.   It is better to put ourselves among the "first who shall be last", and then call on Our Lord Jesus Christ to have mercy on us as sinners.  If this cry is genuine, then, and only then, will we be entering through the narrow gate.

Implied in this message of Jesus is the answer to the original question about “how many” will be saved. We believe many will be saved and from all races. However, and most importantly, this gospel gives us  a clear call, wherever we come from,and in every generation, always to strive earnestly, throughout our lives, to enter God’s banquet hall. This can only happen by looking for and doing God’s will day in and day out.

The biblical scholar, the late Father Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., comments on this Sunday’s Gospel text with these words:
“We must be willing to accept the sudden, unexpected turns of life, even to be at peace with our sinful, suffering moments, to be ready for the unplanned yet heroic demands of sickness and misfortune. When we seem to become the outcast, we are one with those who are coming from the ends of the earth and entering by the narrow door” (from “Biblical Meditations for Ordinary Time, Weeks 10 – 22,” Paulist Press, 1984, p. 387).

Hence, we can pass through the narrow gate of repentance only if we constantly ask ourselves, "What does God want from me today?", never being satisfied with yesterday's answers, but by looking as clearly as possible through the sacrament of the present moment to God who calls us.


Tuesday, 16 August 2016

THE LIMITS OF THE CHURCH by Fr Georges Florovsky

“The Limits of the Church” by Fr. Georges Florovsky



The following piece by Protopresbyter Georges V. Florovsky was originally published in 1933 in Church Quarterly Review. Where Florovsky does not translate foreign phrases, we have supplied a translation in brackets for non-specialists.

It is very difficult to give an exact and firm definition of a ‘sect’ or ‘schism’ (I distinguish the theological definition from the simple canonical description), since a sect in the Church is always something contradictory and unnatural, a paradox and an enigma. For the Church is unity, and the whole of her being is in this unity and union, of Christ and in Christ. ‘For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body’ (1 Cor. 12.13), and the prototype of this unity is the consubstantial Trinity. The measure of this unity is catholicity or communality (sobornost), where the impenetrability of personal consciousness is softened – and even removed – in complete unity of thought and soul, and the multitude of them that believe are of one heart and soul (cf. Acts 4.32). A sect, on the other hand, is separation, solitariness, the loss and denial of communality. The sectarian spirit is the direct opposite of the Church spirit.

The question of the nature and meaning of divisions and sects in the Church was put in all its sharpness as early as the ancient baptismal disputes of the third century. At that time St Cyprian of Carthage developed with fearless consistency a doctrine of the complete absence of grace in every sect, precisely as a sect. The whole meaning and the whole logical stress of his reasoning lay in the conviction that the sacraments are established in the Church. That is to say, they are effected and can be effected only in the Church, in communion and in communality. Therefore every violation of communality and unity in itself leads immediately beyond the last barrier into some decisive ‘outside’. To St Cyprian every schism was a departure out of the Church, out of that sanctified and holy land where alone there rises the baptismal spring, the waters of salvation, quia una est aqua in ecclesia sancta [“because the water in the holy Church is one”] (Epist. lxxi, 2).

The teaching of St Cyprian as to the gracelessness of sects is only the opposite side of his teaching about unity and communality. This is not the place or the moment to recollect and relate Cyprian’s deductions and proofs. Each of us remembers and knows them, is bound to know them, is bound to remember them. They have not lost their force to this day. The historical influence of Cyprian was continuous and powerful. Strictly speaking, in its theological premises the teaching of St Cyprian has never been disproved. Even Augustine was not very far from Cyprian. He argued with the Donatists, not with Cyprian himself, and did not try to refute Cyprian; indeed, his argument was more about practical measures and conclusions. In his reasoning about the unity of the Church, about the unity of love as a necessary and decisive condition for the saving power of the sacraments, Augustine really only repeats Cyprian in new words.

But the practical conclusions drawn by Cyprian have not been accepted and supported by the consciousness of the Church. One may ask how this was possible, if his premisses have been neither disputed nor set aside. There is no need to enter into the details of the Church’s canonical relations with sectarians and heretics; it is an imprecise and an involved enough story. It is sufficient to state that there are occasions when, by her very actions, the Church gives one to understand that the sacraments of sectarians – and even of heretics – are valid, that the sacraments can be celebrated outside the strict canonical limits of the Church. The Church customarily receives adherents from sects – and even from heresies – not by the way of baptism, thereby obviously meaning or supposing that they have already been actually baptized in their sects and heresies. In many cases the Church receives adherents even without chrism, and sometimes also clergy in their existing orders. All the more must this be understood and explained as recognizing the validity or reality of the corresponding rites performed over them ‘outside the Church’.

If sacraments are performed, however, it can only be by virtue of the Holy Spirit, and canonical rules thus establish or reveal a certain mystical paradox. In what she does the Church bears witness to the extension of her mystical territory even beyond her canonical borders: the ‘outside world’ does not begin immediately. St Cyprian was right: The sacraments are accomplished only in the Church. But he defined this ‘in’ hastily and too narrowly. Must we not rather argue in the opposite direction? Where the sacraments are accomplished, there is the Church. St Cyprian started from the silent supposition that the canonical and charismatic limits of the Church invariably coincide, and it is his unproven equation that has not been confirmed by the communal consciousness of the Church.

As a mystical organism, as the sacramental Body of Christ, the Church cannot be adequately described in canonical terms or categories alone. It is impossible to state or discern the true limits of the Church simply by canonical signs or marks. Very often the canonical boundary determines the charismatic boundary as well, and what is bound on earth is bound by an indissoluble bond in heaven. But not always. And still more often, not immediately. In her sacramental, mysterious being the Church surpasses all canonical norms. For that reason a canonical cleavage does not immediately signify mystical impoverishment and desolation. All that Cyprian said about the unity of the Church and the sacraments can be and must be accepted. But it is not necessary to draw with him the final boundary around the body of the Church by means of canonical points alone.

This raises a general question and a doubt. Are these canonical rules and acts subject to theological generalization? Is it possible to ascribe to them theological or dogmatic grounds and motivation? Or do they rather represent only pastoral discretion and forbearance? Ought we not to understand the canonical mode of action as a forbearing silence concerning gracelessness rather than as a recognition of the reality or validity of schismatic rites? And if so, is it then quite prudent to cite or introduce canonical facts into a theological argument?

This objection is connected with the theory of what is called ‘economy’ (oikonomia). In general ecclesiastical usage ‘economy’ is a term of very many meanings. In its broadest sense it embraces and signifies the whole work of salvation (cf. Coloss. 1.25; Eph. 1.10; 3.2, 9). The Vulgate usually translates it by dispensatio. In canonical language ‘economy’ has not become a technical term. It is rather a descriptive word, a kind of general characteristic: ‘economy’ is opposed to ‘strictness’ (akribeia) as a kind of relaxation of Church discipline, an exemption or exception from the ‘strict rule’ (ous strictum) or from the general rule. The governing motive of ‘economy’ is precisely ‘philanthropy’, pastoral discretion, a pedagogical calculation – the deduction is always from practical utility. ‘Economy’ is an aspect of pedagogical rather than canonical consciousness. ‘Economy’ can and should be employed by each individual pastor in his parish, still more by a bishop or council of bishops. For ‘economy’ is pastorship and pastorship is ‘economy’. In this is the whole strength and vitality of the ‘economic’ principle – and also its limitations. Not every question can be asked and answered in terms of ‘economy’.

One must ask, therefore, whether it is possible to treat the question of the baptism of sectarians and heretics as a question only of ‘economy’. Certainly, in so far as it is a question of winning lost souls for Catholic truth, of bringing them to ‘the word of truth’, then every course of action must be ‘economic’; that is, pastoral, compassionate, loving. The pastor must leave the ninety and nine and seek the lost sheep. But for this very reason the need is all the greater for complete sincerity and directness. Not only is unequivocal accuracy, strictness and clarity – in fact, akribeia – required in the sphere of dogma (how otherwise can unity of mind be obtained?), but accuracy and clarity are above all necessary also in mystical diagnosis. Precisely for this reason the question of the rites of sectarians and heretics must be asked and answered in terms of the strictest akribeia. For here it is not so much a quaestio iuris [“question of law”] as a quaestio facti [“question of fact”], and indeed of mystical fact, of sacramental reality. It is not a matter of ‘recognition’ so much as of diagnosis; it is necessary to identify and to discern mystical realities.

Least of all is the application of ‘economy’ to such a question compatible with the radical standpoint of St Cyprian. If beyond the canonical limits of the Church the wilderness without grace begins immediately, if schismatics have not been baptized and still abide in the darkness that precedes baptism, then perfect clarity, strictness, and firmness are even more indispensable in the acts and judgements of the Church. Here no ‘forbearance’ is appropriate or even possible; no concessions are permissible. Is it in fact conceivable that the Church should receive sectarians or heretics into her own body not by way of baptism simply in order thereby to make their decisive step easy? This would certainly be a very rash and dangerous complaisance. Instead, it would be connivance with human weakness, self-love, and lack of faith, a connivance all the more dangerous in that it creates the appearance of a recognition by the Church that schismatic sacraments and rites are valid, not only in the minds of schismatics or people from outside, but in the consciousness of the majority of people in the Church and even of its leaders.

Moreover, this mode of action is applied because it creates this appearance. If in fact the Church were fully convinced that in the sects and heresies baptism is not accomplished, to what end would she reunite schismatics without baptism? Surely not in order simply to save them by this step from false shame in the open confession that they have not been baptized. Can such a motive be considered honorable, convincing, and of good repute? Can it benefit the newcomers to reunite them through ambiguity and suppression of truth? To the reasonable question whether it would not be possible by analogy to unite Jews and Moslems to the Church ‘by economy’ and without baptism Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) replied with complete candor: ‘Ah, but all such neophytes – and even those baptized in the name of Montanus and Priscilla – would not themselves claim to enter the Church without immersion and the utterance of the words, ‘In the name of the Father, etc.’ Such a claim could only be advanced through a confused understanding of the Church’s grace by those sectarians and schismatics whose baptism, worship and hierarchical system differ little externally from those of the Church. It would be very insulting to them, on their turning to the Church, to have to sit on the same seat with heathens and Jews. For that reason the Church, indulging their weakness, has not performed over them the external act of baptism, but has given them this grace in the second sacrament’ (Faith and Reason, 1916, 8-9, pp.887-8).

From the Metropolitan Anthony’s argument common sense would draw precisely the opposite conclusion. In order to lead weak and unreasoning ‘neophytes’ to the ‘clear understanding of the Church’s grace’ which they lack, it would be all the more necessary and appropriate to perform over them the external act of baptism, instead of giving them, and many others, by a feigned accommodation to their ‘susceptibilities’, not only an excuse but a ground to continue deceiving themselves through the equivocal fact that their ‘baptism, worship and hierarchical system differ in little externally from those of the Church.’

One may ask who gave the Church this right not merely to change, but simply to abolish the external act of baptism, performing it in such cases only mentally, by implication or by intention at the celebration of the ‘second sacrament’ (i.e. chrismation) over the unbaptized. Admittedly, in special and exceptional cases the ‘external act’, the ‘form’, may indeed be abolished; such is the martyr’s baptism in blood, or even the so-called baptisma flaminis [“baptism of flame”]. But this is admissible only in casu necessitatis [“the case of necessity”]. Moreover, there can hardly be any analogy between these cases and a systematic connivance in another’s sensitiveness and self-deception. If ‘economy’ is pastoral discretion conducive to the advantage and salvation of human souls, then in such a case one could only speak of ‘economy in reverse’. It would be a deliberate retrogression into equivocation and obscurity for the sake of purely external success, since the internal enchurchment of ‘ineophytes’ cannot take place with such concealment. It is scarcely possible to impute to the Church such a perverse and crafty intention. And in any case the practical result of this ‘economy’ must be considered utterly unexpected. For in the Church herself the conviction has arisen among the majority that sacraments are performed even among schismatics, that even in the sects there is a valid, although forbidden, hierarchy. The true intention of the Church in her acts and rules would appear to be too difficult to discern, and from this point of view as well the ‘economic’ explanation of these rules cannot be regarded as convincing.

The ‘economic’ explanation raises even greater difficulties when we consider its general theological premises. One can scarcely ascribe to the Church the power and the right, as it were, to convert the ‘has-not-been’ into the ‘has-been’, to change the meaningless into the valid, as Professor Diovuniotis expresses it (Church Quarterly Review, No.231 [April 1931], p.97), ‘in the order of economy.’ This would give a particular sharpness to the question whether it is possible to receive schismatic clergy ‘in their existing orders.’ In the Russian Church adherents from Roman Catholicism or from the Nestorians, etc., are received into communion ‘through recantation of heresy’, that is, through the sacrament of repentance. Clergy are given absolution by a bishop and thereby, the inhibition lying on a schismatic cleric is removed. One asks whether it is conceivable that in this delivery and absolution from sin there is also accomplished silently – and even secretly – baptism, confirmation, ordination as deacon or priest, sometimes even consecration as bishop, without any ‘form’ or clear and distinctive ‘external act’ which might enable us to notice and consider precisely what sacraments are being performed.

Here there is a double equivocation, both from the standpoint of motive and from the standpoint of the fact itself. Can one, in short, celebrate a sacrament by virtue of ‘intention’ alone and without some visible act? Of course not. Not because there belongs to the ‘form’ some self-sufficient or ‘magic’ effect, but precisely because in the celebration of a sacrament the ‘external act’ and the pouring-forth of grace are in substance indivisible and inseparable. Certainly, the Church is the ‘steward of grace’ and to her is given power to preserve and teach these gifts of grace. But the power of the Church does not extend to the very foundations of Christian existence. It is impossible to conceive that the Church might have the right, ‘in the order of economy’, to admit to the priestly function without ordination the clergy of schismatic confessions, even of those that have not preserved the ‘apostolic succession’, while remedying not only all defects but a complete lack of grace while granting power and recognition by means of an unexpressed ‘intention’.

In such an interpretation the Church’s whole sacramental system becomes too soft and elastic. Khomiakov, too, was not sufficiently careful, when, in defending the new Greek practice of receiving reunited Latins through baptism, he wrote to Palmer that ‘all sacraments are completed only in the bosom of the true Church and it matters not whether they be completed in one form or another. Reconciliation (with the Church) renovates the sacraments or completes them, giving a full and Orthodox meaning to the rite that was before either insufficient or heterodox, and the repetition of the preceding sacraments is virtually contained in the rite or fact of reconciliation. Therefore, the visible repetition of baptism or confirmation, though unnecessary, cannot be considered as erroneous, and establishes only a ritual difference without any difference of opinion’ (Russia and the English Church, ch. vi, p.62). This is impossible. The ‘repetition’ of a sacrament is not only superfluous but impermissible. If there was no sacrament and what was previously performed was an imperfect, heretical rite, then the sacrament must be accomplished for the first time – and with complete sincerity and candor. In any case, the Catholic sacraments are not just ‘rites’ and it is not possible to treat the external aspect of a sacramental celebration with such disciplinary relativism.

The ‘economic’ interpretation of the canons might be probable and convincing, but only in the presence of direct and perfectly clear proofs, whereas it is generally supported by indirect data and most often by indirect intentions and conclusions. The ‘economic’ interpretation is not the teaching of the Church. It is only a private ‘theological opinion’, very late and very controversial, which arose in a period of theological confusion and decadence in a hasty endeavor to dissociate oneself as sharply as possible from Roman theology.

Roman theology admits and acknowledges that there remains in sects a valid hierarchy and even, in a certain sense, the ‘apostolic succession’, so that under certain conditions sacraments may be accomplished – and actually are accomplished – among schismatics and even among heretics. The basic premises of this sacramental theology have already been established with sufficient definition by St Augustine, and the Orthodox theologian has every reason to take the theology of Augustine into account in his doctrinal synthesis.

The first thing to notice in Augustine is the organic way in which he relates the question of the validity of sacraments to the doctrine of the Church. The reality of the sacraments celebrated by schismatics signifies for Augustine the continuation of their links with the Church. He directly affirms that in the sacraments of sectarians the Church is active: some she engenders of herself, others she engenders outside herself, of her maid-servant, and schismatic baptism is valid for this very reason, that it is performed by the Church (de bapt. i, 15, 23). What is valid in the sects is that which is in them from the Church, that which remains with them as their portion of the sacred inner core of the Church, that through which they are with the Church. In quibusdam rebus nobiscum sunt [“In some of the things we are”].

The unity of the Church is based on a twofold bond – the ‘unity of the Spirit’ and the ‘bond of peace’ (cf. Eph. 4.3). In sects and schisms the ‘bond of peace’ is broken and torn, but the ‘unity of the Spirit’ in the sacraments is not brought to an end. This is the unique paradox of sectarian existence: the sect remains united with the Church in the grace of the sacraments, and this becomes a condemnation once love and communal mutuality have withered and died.

With this is connected St Augustine’s second basic distinction, the distinction between the ‘validity’ or ‘reality’ of the sacraments and their ‘efficacy’. The sacraments of schismatics are valid; that is, they genuinely are sacraments, but they are not efficacious by virtue of schism and division. For in sects and schisms love withers, and without love salvation is impossible. There are two sides to salvation: the objective action of God’s grace, and man’s subjective effort or fidelity. The holy and sanctifying Spirit still breathes in the sects, but in the stubbornness and powerlessness of schism healing is not accomplished. It is untrue to say that in schismatic rites nothing is accomplished, for, if they are considered to be only empty acts and words, deprived of grace, by the same token not only are they empty, they are converted into a profanation, a sinister counterfeit. If the rites of schismatics are not sacraments, then they are a blasphemous caricature, and in that case neither ‘economic’ suppression of facts nor ‘economic’ glossing over of sin is possible. The sacramental rite cannot be only a rite, empty but innocent. The sacrament is accomplished in reality.

Nevertheless it is impossible, Augustine argues, to say that in the sects the sacraments are of avail, are efficacious. The sacraments are not magic acts. Indeed, the Eucharist itself may also be taken ‘unto judgement and condemnation’, but this does not refute the reality or ‘validity’ of the Eucharist. The same may be said of baptism: baptismal grace must be renewed in unceasing effort and service, otherwise it becomes ‘inefficacious’. From this point of view St Gregory of Nyssa attacked with great energy the practice of postponing baptism to the hour of death, or at least to advanced years, in order to avoid pollution of the baptismal robe. He transfers the emphasis. Baptism is not just the end of sinful existence, rather it is the beginning of everything. Baptismal grace is not just the remission of sins, but a gift or pledge. His name may be entered in the army list, but the honor of a soldier lies in his service, not in his calling alone. What does baptism mean without spiritual deeds?

Augustine wishes to say the same thing in his distinction between ‘character’ and ‘grace’. In any case, there rests on everyone baptized a ‘sign’ or ‘seal’, even if he falls away and departs, and each will be tried concerning this ‘sign’ or ‘pledge’ in the Day of Judgement. The baptized are distinguished from the unbaptized even when baptismal grace has not flowered in their works and deeds, even when they have corrupted and wasted their whole life. That is the ineffaceable consequence of the divine touch. This clear distinction between the two inseparable factors of sacramental existence, divine grace and human love, is characteristic of the whole sacramental theology of St Augustine. The sacraments are accomplished by grace and not by love, yet man is saved in freedom and not in compulsion, and for that reason grace somehow does not burn with a life-giving flame outside communality and love.

One thing remains obscure. How does the activity of the Spirit continue beyond the canonical borders of the Church? What is the validity of sacraments without communion, of stolen garments, sacraments in the hands of usurpers? Recent Roman theology answers that question by the doctrine of the validity of the sacraments ex opere operato [“operating by the work itself”]. In St Augustine this distinction does not exist, but he understood the validity of sacraments performed outside canonical unity in the same sense. In fact ex opere operato points to the independence of the sacrament from the personal action of the minister. The Church performs the sacrament and, in her, Christ the high priest. The sacraments are performed by the prayer and activity of the Church, ex opere orantis et operantis ecclesiae [this phrase is translated by the previous clause, “performed by the prayer and activity of the Church”]. It is in this sense that the doctrine of validity ex opere operato, must be accepted. For Augustine it was not so important that the sacraments of the schismatics are ‘unlawful’ or ‘illicit’ (illicita); much more important is the fact that schism is a dissipation of love. But the love of God can overcome the failure of love in man. In the sects themselves – and even among the heretics – the Church continues to perform her saving and sanctifying work. It may not follow, perhaps, that we should say that schismatics are still in the Church. In any case this would not be precise and sounds equivocal. It would be truer to say that the Church continues to work in the schisms in expectation of that mysterious hour when the stubborn heart will be melted in the warmth of God’s prevenient grace, when the will and thirst for communality and unity will finally burst into flame. The ‘validity’ of sacraments among schismatics is the mysterious guarantee of their return to Catholic plenitude and unity.

The sacramental theology of St Augustine was not received by the Eastern Church in antiquity nor by Byzantine theology, but not because they saw in it something alien or superfluous. Augustine was simply not very well known in the East. In modern times the doctrine of the sacraments has not infrequently been expounded in the Orthodox East, and in Russia, on a Roman model, but there has not yet been a creative appropriation of Augustine’s conception.

Contemporary Orthodox theology must express and explain the traditional canonical practice of the Church in relation to heretics and schismatics on the basis of those general premises which have been established by Augustine.

It is necessary to hold firmly in mind that in asserting the ‘validity’ of the sacraments and of the hierarchy itself in the sects, St Augustine in no way relaxed or removed the boundary dividing sect and communality. This is not so much a canonical as a spiritual boundary: communal love in the Church and separatism and alienation in the schism. For Augustine this was the boundary of salvation, since grace operates outside communality but does not save. (It is appropriate to note that here, too, Augustine closely follows Cyprian, who asserted that except in the Church even martyrdom for Christ does not avail.) For this reason, despite all the ‘reality’ and ‘validity’ of a schismatic hierarchy, it is impossible to speak in a strict sense of the retention of the ‘apostolic succession’ beyond the limits of canonical communality. This question has been investigated exhaustively and with great insight in the remarkable article of the late C.G. Turner, ‘The Apostolic Succession’, in Essays on the Early History of the Church and the Ministry, edited by H.B. Swete (1918).

From this it follows without a doubt that the so-called ‘branch’ theory is unacceptable. This theory depicts the cleavages of the Christian world in too complacent and comfortable a manner. The onlooker may not be able immediately to discern the schismatic ‘branches’ from the Catholic trunk. In its essence, moreover, a schism is not just a branch. It is also the will for schism. It is the mysterious and even enigmatic sphere beyond the canonical limits of the Church, where the sacraments are still celebrated and where hearts often still burn in faith, in love and in works. We must admit this, but we must remember that the limit is real, that unity does not exist. Khomiakov, it seems, was speaking of this when he said: ‘Inasmuch as the earthly and visible Church is not the fullness and completeness of the whole Church which the Lord has appointed to appear at the final judgement of all creation, she acts and knows only within her own limits; and (according to the words of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 5.12) does not judge the rest of mankind, and only looks upon those as excluded, that is to say, not belonging to her, who have excluded themselves. The rest of mankind, whether alien from the Church, or united to her by ties which God has not willed to reveal to her, she leaves to the judgement of the Great Day’ (Russia and the English Church, ch. xxiii, p.194).

In the same sense Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow decided to speak of Churches which were ‘not purely true’:

Mark you, I do not presume to call false any Church which believes that Jesus is the Christ. The Christian Church can only be either purely true, confessing the true and saving divine teaching without the false admixtures and pernicious opinions of men, or not purely true, mixing with the true and saving teaching of faith in Christ the false and pernicious opinions of men’ ( Conversation between a Seeker and a Believer Concerning the Orthodoxy of the Eastern Greco-Russian Church, Moscow 1831, pp.27-29).

‘You expect now that I should give judgement concerning the other half of present Christianity,’ the Metropolitan said in the concluding conversation,

but I just simply look upon them; in part I see how the Head and Lord of the Church heals the many deep wounds of the old serpent in all the parts and limbs of his Body, applying now gentle, now strong, remedies, even fire and iron, in order to soften hardness, to draw out poison, to clean wounds, to separate out malignant growths, to restore spirit and life in the numbed and half-dead members. In this way I attest my faith that, in the end, the power of God will triumph openly over human weakness, good over evil, unity over division, life over death (ibid. , p.135).

These statements of Metropolitan Philaret are a beginning only. Not everything in them is clearly and fully expressed. But the question is truly put. There are many bonds, still not broken, whereby the schisms are held together in a certain unity with the Church. The whole of our attention and our will must be concentrated and directed towards removing the stubbornness of dissension. ‘We seek not conquest,’ says St Gregory of Nazianzen, ‘but the return of our brethren, whose separation from us is tearing us apart.’

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