Tuesday, April 29, 2014

On Profound Crisis in the Church: Roberto de Mattei (Against Normalist Notions)

The following article can be found in the 4/15 edition of The Remnant.

On Profound Crisis in the Church

(Special Report on a Lecture by
Roberto de Mattei
Roberto de Mattei)
By Vincent Chiarello
COSMOS CLUB, April 9, 2014—The stately Cosmos Club of Washington D.C., located in “Embassy Row” of our nation’s capital was the site of a recent talk by the Italian historian of religion, Roberto de Mattei. The attractive external design of the Cosmos Club is reminiscent of French la belle époque style architecture, and was constructed at the turn of the 20th century.
A crowd of more than 100, including at least four Catholic priests, attended the one-hour lecture in which de Mattei laid out the consequences of Vatican II, the expanded details of which are included in his recently published, The Second Vatican Council, an Unwritten Story.
Roberto de Mattei serves as President of the Lepanto Foundation, which, although American in its origins, maintains an office in Rome and is associated with Italian Christian organizations such as Marcia per la Vita - the March for Life.
He is the editor of the Italian journal,
Radici Cristiane (Christian Roots), and for his work with the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, the Holy See awarded him the insignia of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great.
He is also the author of The Vicar of Christ: Between the Ordinary and the Exceptional, and teaches Church History at the European University of Rome, where he is the head of the Faculty of Historical Sciences. 
De Mattei became a focus of attention when he was recently relieved of his position at Radio Maria, a Vatican radio station, after four years. He was told by Radio Maria’s Director, Fr. 
Livio Fanzaga, the priest who hired him, that the principal reason for his dismissal was that he had not affirmed the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church (my emphasis), something that still puzzles de Mattei and many others. 
In an interview prior to his departure to the U.S., de Mattei stated that he believes that his support in gathering signatures in support of the Franciscans of the Immaculate to offer the Tridentine Mass was “not liked by certain high ecclesiastics, who asked Fr. Livio for my head.” He then added that since Vatican II, while calling for “dialogue” with separated brethren, “...they (the anti-Traditionalists in the Vatican) use a fist of iron toward those within the Church who do not want to stray from the unchangeable Tradition of the Church.” 
Why he would become a troublemaker, subversive, or even a heretic to certain members of the Vatican’s dicastri (departments) was a theme, amongst others, that he would try to explain as part of the lecture at the Cosmos Club. 
In attempting to describe the changes in the Church over the past half century, Professor de Mattei sought to connect, as a historian, not a theologian, the impact of other cataclysmic events such as the French Revolution, “the mother of all revolutions,” to changing attitudes in the Church, something that another contributor to The Remnant, Prof. John Rao, has also described. 
As a historian he could see the early evidence of those consequences as Vatican II unfolded over the arc of a half century, and which are now clearly detectable to any observer. Noticeable changes from the Church’s earlier attitudes, de Mattei emphasized, came about as the Church increasingly adopted, perhaps unwittingly, the philosophical framework of the Italian Communist, Antonio Gramsci, who claimed that Socialism/Communism would “march through the institutions,” but in a nonviolent way. Gramsci’s philosophical victory, de Matttei maintains, is in claiming that “objective truth” would overtake that of “supernatural truth,” and that religious belief would slowly be replaced by a philosophical framework in which in order to survive the Church must modernize. That transformation is described by de Mattei as “principle giving way to praxis,” a situation in which the Church has increasingly “ceased to fight” for its principles. The historical evidence of that reversal, among other accommodations with modernism, “the synthesis of all heresies,” can be found the documents of Vatican II. 
While it is fair to say, as one questioner did, that although few recall the four Constitutions of the French Republic during the Revolution, most recall at least one major historical consequence: the guillotine. De Mattei reiterated that it makes little sense to examine the documents of Vatican II in a vacuum; it is what has historically happened to the Church in the intervening half century that really matters. To de Mattei there could be no question that a “profound crisis within the Church” now engulfs it. 
Many in the audience that night were aware of the paper delivered by Walter Cardinal Kasper in February of this year to a gathering at the Consistory on the topic of the family in preparation for the Synod that will be held in the Vatican this coming October. The German Cardinal’s paper expressed his (emphasis mine) belief that there should be a willingness by the Church to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments of the Church, including communion. As if on cue, major newspapers in the U.S. and Europe seized upon the prelate’s words to theorize that the Church was, indeed, making an effort to accommodate its principles with the modern world, a primary objective – aggiornamento – of Pope John XXIII in convoking of the Second Vatican Council. Those in the audience who wondered if de Mattei would broach that subject were not disappointed, for Kasper’s proposal came under scrutiny almost at the start of the historian’s talk. 
Referring to Cardinal Kasper’s approach as “sociological,” de Mattei described the proposal as being framed in a way that pits “Church doctrine versus real-life convictions of many Christians,” as if one were at odds with the other. Further, the end result of such “situational ethics” changes would, aside from its antithetical nature to Catholic dogma, lead most certainly to “Catholic divorce” and permission of cohabitation. Cardinal Kasper’s overall approach was, then, a plea which de Mattei described as, “...the Church must adapt to the forces of history, not history to the unchanging principles of the Church.” 
Cardinal Kasper’s novel approach to re-thinking the sacrament of marriage is a direct historical result of Vatican II’s emphasis on “pastoral orthodoxy” as being the sine qua non of Church practice, even though it was patently antithetical to accepted Church doctrine for centuries. 
For a Traditional comparison to Cardinal Kasper’s proposal, de Mattei pointed to Pope Pius XII, who defined the morality issue in marriage thus: “ Continence within and outside of marriage is a Christian value; sexual union outside the sacrament of marriage of matrimony is a grave sin.” What Kasper was proposing had eliminated those differences, which had been “what the moralists always taught,” and at the same time the German Cardinal was discarding the dogmatic teachings of the pre-Vatican II Church, a major consequence of the Council. It is hard to believe that the participants in that aggiornamento suspected anything like the Kasper proposal would ever be considered, yet alone discussed. 
In attempting to explain the apparent amnesia that now is an integral part of current Church teaching, the lecturer devoted a lengthy review of the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes(Joys and Hopes), which was “supposed to be the ‘first proving ground’ of the Church’s capacity to enter into dialogue with the world,” or as described by one of the participants, “the promised land of the Council.” 
Here de Mattei points an accusatory finger at the Leon-Joseph Suenens, then Cardinal Archbishop of Brussels, who during the Council deliberations was relentless in his effort to “connect the Church’s teaching to the modern world,” and “became an icon of the Second Vatican Council.” 
Historically, the primary purpose of Catholic marriage was “to give children to God,” followed by the requirements of “mutual love and respect,” but in July ‘64, Pope Paul VI approved theschema (outline or preliminary text), drafted under the supervision of Cardinal Suenens which omitted that priority and now placed “giving children to God” and “mutual love and respect” on an equal footing. It also inserted that decisions regarding marriage, which of course included the use of birth control, could be left “up to the conscience” of the couple. The dominant role of the human conscience, rather than the application of ethical rules, was a further demonstration that the Council was now being orchestrated by prelates who had an aversion to universal moral laws: individual conscience, not Church doctrine, was to be sovereign in these matters. 
When Cardinal Suenens, in an impassioned plea to the Council Fathers questioned the Church’s previous marital priority and claimed that it had been, “over-emphasized to the detriment of the marital union,” he drew an interesting analogy: “Let us avoid another Galileo trial.” At that point, enraged by the speaker’s tone Ernesto Cardinal Ruffini pounded his fist on the table and later characterized Suenens’ words as, “horrendous,” and sought them stricken from the debate. 
The Belgian’s rhetoric was so inflammatory that even the pontiff upbraided the cardinal for his “lack of judgment.” Still, efforts to defeat the proposed wording of the document failed, and on December 7, 1965 Gaudium et Spes became one of the landmark documents of the Second Vatican Council. Can anyone today point to any aspect of Catholic family life that is in any way better than it was before Gaudium et Spes? 
In his talk, Roberto de Mattei highlighted the history of some, but not all, of the baleful aspects of the Second Vatican Council and the unraveling of Church doctrine and dogma, but he has only scratched the surface. For example, the Church’s current position on ecumenism flies in the face of centuries, if not millennia, of dogma and doctrine; yet, any attempt to call attention the previous Church holdings on this matter is brushed off as medieval in outlook, if not antediluvian. 
For a more nuanced and comprehensive analysis, de Mattei’s book on Vatican II should be read by those who seek an understanding of what happened at the Council meetings – and why. Still, in ways that are incomprehensible to many of the Faithful, the Vatican’s hierarchy has plunged the Church into an abyss that has had disastrous effects; yet, any effort to connect the dots between the baleful effects of Vatican II and the current disastrous decline of the Church in many areas is considered to be almost sacrilegious. De Mattei’s treatment at Radio Maria bears witness to that condition. 
Toward the end of his talk, de Mattei quoted a French novelist who wrote, “It is necessary to live as one thinks, to avoid winding up thinking as one lives.” To Roberto de Mattei, personal knowledge and understanding are necessary in following the moral and ethical guidelines set up by the Church to avoid a chaotic and uncertain morality. That fight has in large part been lost by the withdrawal of the Catholic Church from the lists of moral combat. 
In the end, however, de Mattei believes that the Second Vatican Council was not only a historical event, but an amorphous “Spirit” that has come down over the 50 years, a “Spirit” that has emphasized practice and deemphasized doctrine, but he is firm in his conviction that Christ will see to it that this “profound crisis within the Church” will not be allowed to have its enemies prevail. Of that end de Mattei is certain. ■ 


Juventutem Chicago Meeting talks 3/26

Over Lent I was blessed to attend, as a Sursum Corda Milwaukee Chapter representative, the Juventutem Chicago Chapter meeting at St. John Cantius.  Some good food, some networking and great food also followed.  But most importantly I was able to hear two great talks given by two fantastic priests Fr. C. Frank Phillips and Fr. Armand de Malleray.

The first talk given was by Fr. Phillips who is the Pastor of St. John Cantius, as well as the Founder of The Canons of St. John Cantius.  This community that he founded is dedicated to restoring the sacred to every aspect of the Churches life.  The canons celebrate Mass in both the ancient and new rites with a true sense of reverence and a firm adherence to the teachings put forth by Sacrosanctum Concillium. In the following talk, Father addresses his history with the Parish, the founding of the Canons and his great hope for the future of the Church and how a return to sacredness is key.

The second talk was delivered by the keynote speaker Fr. Armand de Malleray (FSSP), who is the Chaplin to Juventutem international.  The talk is primarily concerned with the founding of Juventutem, which is a ministry of young adults for young adults, and for the whole church.  His view on how the groups can grow and spread are included in the talk. He also takes a number of questions from those attending on various topics.  I do hope you will enjoy!

+Please Pray, Pray, and Pray some more for the young adult groups like Juventutem and Sursum Corda (ICKSP)+

Seat of Wisdom, Pray for Us!!

Monday, April 28, 2014

New Fr. John Hardon videos for your enjoyment

Below I have posted a few more topics that Father Hardon addressed in some of his talks which you can find in their entirety on The Real Presence Website, which is involved with his canonization process.

Also take the time to read his works and support his cause for canonization if you feel called to.  The official page for this is: http://www.hardonsj.org/

On the issues with the modern ecumenical movement: On the Anglican hierarchy and the issues related On the Methodist/Pentacostal hierarchy and related issues:


Saturday, April 26, 2014

St. Alphonsus on Divine mercy (A must read)

The Following excerpt on Divine Mercy can be found in St. Alphonsus de Liguori tremendous work:

Preparation for Death  

Consideration XVII
Abuse of Divine Mercy
“Knowest thou not that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance?” – Rom. Ii 4

First Point
God is Merciful, but he is also Just.

We read in the parable of the cockle, that the servants of the good man of the house, seeing that it had grown up in the field along with the wheat, wished to pluck it up. Wilt thou, said they, that we go and gather it up? (Matt xiii, 24). No, replied the master; suffer it to grow up, and then it shall be gathered and cast into the fire. In the time of the harvest, I will say to the reapers: Gather up first the cockle, and bind it in bundles to burn. In this parable we see, on the one hand, the patience with which the Lord treats sinners; and on the other, the rigor with which the chastises the obstinate. St. Augustine says that the devil deludes men in two ways, by despair and hope. After the sinner has offended God, the enemy, by placing before his eyes the terror of divine justice, tempts him to despair; bu before he sins, the devil encourages him to sin with the hope of divine mercy, Hence the Saint gives to all the following advice: “After sin, hope for mercy; before sin, fear justice.’” He who abuses God’s mercy to offend him, is undeserving of mercy. God shows mercy to those who fear him, but not to those who avail themselves of his mercy to banish the fear of God from their hearts. Abulensis says that he who offends justice may have recourse to mercy; but to whom can he have recourse, who offends mercy itself?
It is hard to find a sinner so sunk in despair as to wish for his own damnation. Sinners wish to sin, without losing the hope of salvation. They sin and say: God is merciful, I will commit this sin, and will afterward confess it. They say, observes St. Augustine, “God is good, I will do what I please.” (In Jo. Tr. 33). Behold, the language of sinners: but, O God, such too was the language of so many who are now in hell.
Say not, says the Lord, that the mercies of God are great; that however enormous your sins may be, you will obtain pardon by an act fo contrition. And say not: The mercy of the Lord is great: He will have mercy on the multitude of my sins (Ecclus. V 6). Say it not, says the Lord; and why? For mercy and wrath quickly come from Him, and His wrath looketh upon sinners. The Mercy of God is iinfinite, but the acts of His mercy, or His mercies are finite. God s merciful, but he is also just. “I am just and merciful,” said our lord to St. Bridget; “but sinners regard me only as merciful.” (Rev. 1, 1, c. 5). St. Basil writes that sinners wish to consider God only as good and merciful.  To bear with those who avail themselves of the mercy of God to offend him, would not, says Father M. Avila, be mercy, but a want of justice. Mercy is promised, not to those who abuse it, butthose who fear God. And His mercy, said the divine mother, to those that fear Him (Luke, I, 50). Against the obstinate, threats of just retribution have been pronounced; and, says St. AUfustine, as God is not unfaithful to his promises, so he is not a liar in his threats (De Vera Poenit. C. 7). Beware, says St. John Chrysostom, when the devil, not God, promises you divine mercy, that he may induce you to commit sin. “Never attend to that dog that promises to you the mercy of God.” (Scal. Spir. Gr. 6). “Woe,” says St. Augustine, “to him who hopes inorder to sin.” (Ps. 144) Oh! How many says the Saint has this vain hope deluded and brought to perdition! “They who have been deceived by this shadow of vain hope cannot be numbered.” (Serm. 154, E.B. App). Miserable the man who abuses the mercy of God to offer new insults to his majesty! St. Bernard says that Lucifer’s chastisement was accelerated, because he rebelled against God with the hope of escaping punishment. King Manasses sinned; he afterward repented, and obtained pardon. His son Ammon, seeing tht his father’s sins were so easily forgiven, abandoned himself to a wicked life with the hope of pardon: but for Ammon there was no mercy. Hence, St. John Chrysostom asserts that Judas was lost because he sinned through confidence in the benignity of Jesus Christ (In Mat. Hom. 83). In fine, God bears but he does not bear forever. Were God to bear forever with the sinners, no one would be damned: but the most common opinion is tht the greater part of adults, even among Christians, are lost. Wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are that go in thereat (Matt. Vii, 13).
According to St. Augustine, he who offends God with the hope of pardon “is a scoffer, not a penitent.” (Ad Frat. In er. S. 11).  But St. Paul tells us that “God does not allow himself to be mocked.” (Gal. vi, 7). To continue to offend God as often and as long as the sinner pleases, and afterward to gain heaven, would be to mock God. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. He that sows sin, has no reason to hope for anything else than chastisement and hell. The net with which the devil drags to hell almost all Christians who are damned, is the delusion by which leads them into sin with the hope of pardon. Sin freely, he says to them; for, after all your iniquities, you will be saved. But God curses the man that sins with the hope of mercy. The hope of sinners after sin is pleasing to God, when it is accompanied with repentance; but the hope of the obstinate is an abomination to the Lord (Job, xi 20). As the conduct of a servant who insults his master because he is good and merciful, irritates the master, so such hope provokes God to inflict vengeance.
Affections and Prayer:
Ah, my God! I have been one of those who have offended Thee because Thou wert bountiful to me. Ah, Lord! Wait for me, do not abandon me. I am sorry, O infinite Goodness! For having offended Thee, and for having so much abused Thy patience. I thank Thee for having waited for me till now.
Henceforth I will never more betray Thee, as I have hitherto done. Thou hast borne with me so long, that Thou mightiest one day see me a lover of Thy goodness. Behold, this day has, I hope, arrived: I love Thee above all things, and esteem Thy grace more than all the kingdoms of the world: rather than lose it, I am ready to forfeit life a thousand times. My God! For the love of Jesus Christ, give me holy perseverance till death, along with Thy holy love. Do not permit me ever again to betray Thee, or to cease to love Thee. May! Thou art my hope: obtain for me this gift of perseverance, and I ask nothing more.

I hear they are getting together this weekend... maybe they will exchange White Zuchettos?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cardinal Ratzinger on Kneeling (Postures): A Full Excerpt from "Spirit of the Liturgy

Below you will find a transcribed full excerpt from then Cardinal Ratzingers monumental effort Spirit of the Liturgy. This part of the book was brought up in a lentan retreat I attended at St. Stanislaus, and I believe it is worth your time even though it is fairly long:

Spirit of the Liturgy

By Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect CDF (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)

3. Posture
Kneeling (prostratio)

There are groups, of no small influence, who are trying to talk us out of kneeling. “It doesn’t suit our culture”, they say (which culture?). It’s not right for a grown man to do this – he should face God on his feet.” Or again: “It’s not appropriate for redeemed man – he has been set free by Christ and doesn’t need to kneel anymore.” If we look at history, we can see that the Greeks and Romans rejected kneeling. In view of the squabbling, partisan deities described in mythology, this attitude was thoroughly justified. It was only too obvious that these gods were not God, even if you were dependent on their capricious power and had to make sure that whenever possible, you enjoyed their favor. And so they said that kneeling was unworthy of a free man, unsuitable for the culture of Greece, something the barbarians went in for. Plutarch and Theophphrastus regarded kneeling as an expression of superstitio. Aristotle called it a barbaric form of behavior (cf. Rhetoric 1361 a 36). St. Augustine agreed with him in a certain respect: the false gods were only the masks of demons, who subjected men to the worship of money and to self-seeking, thus making them “servile” and superstitious. He said that the humility of Christ and his love, which went as far as the cross, have freed us from these powers. We now kneel before that humility. The kneeling of Christians is not a form of enculturation into existing customs. It is quite the opposite, an expression of Christian culture, which transforms the existing culture through a new and deeper knowledge and experience of God.

Kneeling does not come from any culture – it comes from the Bible and its knowledge of God. The central importance fo kneeling in the Bible can be seen in a very concrete way. The word proskynein alone occurs fifty-nine times in the New Testament, twenty-four of which are in the Apocalypse, the book of the heavenly liturgy, which is presented to the Church as the standard for her own liturgy. On closer inspection, we can discern three closely related forms of posture. First, there is prostratio – lying with ones face to the ground before the overwhelming power of God; secondly, especially in the New Testament, there is falling to ones knees before another; and thirdly, there is kneeling. Linguistically, the three forms of posture are not always clearly distinguished. They can be combined or merged with one another.

For the sake of brevity, I should like to mention, in the case of prostratio, just one text from the Old Testament and another from the New. In the Old Testament, there is an appearance of God to Joshua before the taking of Jericho, an appearance that the sacred author quite deliberately presents as a parallel to God’s revelation of himself to Moses in the burning bush. Joshua sees “the commander of the army of the Lord” and, having recognized who he is, throws himself to the ground. At that moment he hears the words once spoken to Moses: “Put off your shoes from your feet; for the place where you stand is holy” (Josh 5:15). In the mysterious form of the commander of the army of the Lord”, the hidden God himself speaks to Joshua, and Joshua throws himself down before him. Origen gives a beautiful interpretation of this text: “Is there any other commander of the powers of the Lord than our Lord Jesus Christ?” According to this view Joshua is worshipping the One who is to come-the coming Christ. In the case fo the new testament, from the Fathers onward, Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives was especially important. According to St. Matthew (22:39) and St. Mark (14:35), Jesus throws himself to the ground; indeed, he falls to the earth (according to Matthew). However, St. Luke who in his whole work (both the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles) is in a special way the theologian of kneeling prayer, tells us that Jesus prayed on his knees. This prayer, the prayer b which Jesus enters into his Passion, is an example for us, both as a gesture and in its content. The gesture: Jesus assumes, as it were, the fall of man, let’s himself fall into man’s fallenness, prays to the Father out of the lowest depths of Human dereliction and anguish. He lays his will in the will of the Fathers: “Not my will but yours be done.” He lays the human will in the divine. He takes up all the hesitation of the human will and endures it. It is this very conforming of the human will to the divine that is the heart of redemption. Or the fall fo man depends on the contradiction of wills, on the opposition of the human will to the divine, which the tempter leads man to think is the condition of his freedom. Only one’s own autonomous will, subject to no other will, is freedom. “Not my will but yours…” – those are the words of truth, for God’s will is not in opposition to our own, but the ground and condition of its possibility. Only when our will rests in the will of God does it become truly will and truly free. The suffering and struggle of Gethsemane is the struggle for this redemptive truth, for this uniting of what is divided, for the uniting that is communion with God. Now we understand why the Son’s loving way of addressing the Father, “Abba”, is found in this place (cf. Mk 14:36). St. Paul sees in this cry the prayer that the Holy Spirit places on our lips (cf. Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6) and thus anchors our Spirit-filled prayer in the Lord’s Prayer in Gethsemane.

In the Church’s liturgy today, prostration appears on two occasions: on Good Friday and at ordinations. On Good Friday, the day of the Lord’s crucifixion, it is the fitting expression of our sense of shock at the fact that we by our sins share in the responsibility for the death of Christ. We throw ourselves down and participate in this shock, in his descent into the depths of anguish. We throw ourselves down and so acknowledge where we are and who we are: fallen creatures whom only he can set on their feet. We throw ourselves down, as Jesus did, before the mystery of God’s power present to us, knowing that the Cross is the true burning bush, the place of the flame of God’s love, which burns but does not destroy. At ordinations prostration comes from the awareness of or absolute incapacity, by our own powers, to take on the priestly mission of Jesus Christ, to speak with his “I”. While the ordinands are lying on the ground, the whole congregation sings the Litany of the Saints. I shall never forget lying on the ground at the time of my own priestly and episcopal ordination. When I was ordained bishop, my intense feeling of inadequacy, incapacity, in the face of the greatness of the task was even stronger than at my priestly ordination. The fact that the praying Church was calling upon all the saints, that the prayer of the Church really was enveloping and embracing me, was a wonderful consolation. In my incapacity, which had to be expressed in the bodily posture of prostration, this prayer, this presence of all the saints, of the living and the dead, was a wonderful strength – it was the only thing that could, as it were, lift me up. Only the presence of the saints with me made possible the path that lay before me.

Secondly, we must mention the gesture of falling to ones knees before another, which is described four times in the Gospels (cf. MK I:40; 10:17; Mt 17:14; 27:29) by means of the word gonypetein. Let us single out Mark I:40. A leper comes to Jesus and begs him for help. He falls to his knees before him and says: “If you will, you can make me clean.” It is hard to assess the significance of the gesture. What we have here is surely not a proper act of adoration, but rather a supplication expressed fervently in bodily form, while showing a trust in a power beyond the merely human. The situation is different, though, with the classical word for adoration on one’s knees – proskynein. I shall give two examples in order to clarify the question that faces the translator. First there is the account of how, after the multiplication the loaves, Jesus stays with the Father on the mountain, while the disciples struggle in vain on the lake with the wind and the waves.  Jesus comes to them across the water. Peter hurries toward him and is saved from sinking by the Lord. Then Jesus climbs into the boat, and the wind lets up. The text continues: “And the ship’s crew came and said, falling at his feet, ‘Thou art indeed the Son of God’” (Mt 14:33, Knox version). Other translations say: [The disciples] in the boat worshipped [Jesus], saying…” (RSV). Both translations are correct. Each emphasizes one aspect of what is going on. The Knox version brings out the bodily expression, while the RSV shows what is happening interiorly. It is perfectly clear from he structure of the narrative that the gesture of acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God is an act of worship. We encountered similar set of problems in St. John’s Gospel when we read the account of the healing of the man born blind. This narrative, which is structured in a truly “theo-dramatic” way, ends with a dialogue between Jesus and the man he has healed. It serves as a model for the dialogue of conversion, for the whole narrative must also be seen as a profound exposition of the existential and theological significance of Baptism. In the dialogue, Jesus asks the man whether he believes in the Son of Man, The man born blind replies: “Tell me who he is Lord.” When Jesus sys, “It is I who is speaking to you”, the man makes the confession of faith: I do believe, Lord”, and then he “[falls] down to worship him” (Jn 9:35-38, Knox version adapted). Earlier translations said: “He worshipped him.” In fact, the whole scene is directed toward the act of faith and the worship of Jesus, which follows from it. Now the eyes of the heart, as well as of the body, are opened. The man has in truth begun to see. For the exegesis of the text it is important to note that the word proskynein occurs eleven time sin John’s Gospel of which nine occurrences are found in Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan women by Jacob’s well (Jn 4: 19-24). This conversation is entirely devoted to the theme of worship, and it is indisputable that here, as elsewhere in St. John’s Gospel, the word always has the meaning of “worship”. Incidentally, this conversation, too, ends – like that of the healing of the man born blind – with Jesus’ revealing himself: “I who speak to you am he” (Jn 4:26).

I have lingered over these texts, because they bring to light something important. In the two passages that we looked at most closely, the spiritual and bodily meanings of proskynein are really inseparable. The bodily gesture itself is the bear of the spiritual meaning, which is precisely that of worship. Without the worship, the bodily gesture would be meaningless, while the spiritual act must of its very nature, because of the psychosomatic unity of man express itself in the bodily gesture. The two aspects are united in the one word, because in a very profound way they belong together. When kneeling becomes merely external, a merely physical act, it becomes meaningless. On the other hand, when someone tries to take worship back into the purely spiritual realm and refuses to give it embodied form, the act of worship evaporates, for what is purely spiritual is inappropriate to the nature of man. Worship is one of those fundamental acts that affect the whole man that is why bending the knee before the presence of the living God is something we cannot abandon.
I saying this, we come to the typical gesture of kneeling on one or both knees. In the Hebrew of the old Testament, the verb barak, “to kneel”, is cognate with the word berek, “knee”. The Hebrews regarded the knees as a symbol of strength; to bend the knee is, therefore, to bend our strength before the living God, an acknowledgement fo the fact that all that we are we receive form him. In important passages of the Old Testament, this gesture appears as an expression of worship. At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon kneels “in the presence of all the assembly of Israel” (2 Chron 6: 13). After the exile, in the afflictions of the returned Israel, which is still without a Temple, Ezra repeats this gesture at the time of the evening sacrifice: “I…fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God” (Ezra 9:5). The great psalm of the passion, Psalm 22, ends with the promise: “Yes to him shall all the proud of the earth fall down; before him all who go down to the dust shall throw themselves down”. The related passage Isaiah 45:23 we shall have to consider in the context of the New Testament. The Acts fo the Apostles tells us how St. Peter (9:40, St. Paul (20:36) and the whole Christian community (21:5) pray on their knees. Particularly important for our question is the account of the martyrdom of St. Stephen. The first man to witness to Christ with his blood is described in his suffering as a perfect image of Christ, whose Passion is repeated in the martyrdom of the witness, even in small details. One of these is that Stephen, on his knees, takes up the petition of the crucified Christ: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (7:60. We should remember that Luke, unlike Matthew and Mark, speaks fo the Lord kneeling in Gethsemane, which shows that Luke wants the kneeling fo the first martyr as his entry into the prayer of Jesus. Kneeling is not only a Christian gesture, but a Christological one.
For me, the most important passage for the theology of kneeling will always be the great hymn of Christ in Philippians 2:6-11. In this pre-Pauline hymn, we hear and see the prayer fot he apostolic Church and can discern within it her confession of faith in Christ. However, we also hear the voice of the Apostle, who enters into this prayer and hands it onto us, and ultimately, we perceive here both the profound inner unity of the Old and New Testaments and the cosmic breadth of Christian faith. The hymn presents Christ as the antitype of the First Adam. While the latter high-handedly grasped at likeness to God, Christ does not count equality with God, which is his by nature, a “thing to be grasped”, but humbles himself unto death, even death on the Cross. It is precisely this humility, which comes from love that is the truly divine reality and procures for him the “name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on Earth and under the Earth” (Phil 2: 5-10). Here the hymn of the apostolic Church takes up the words of promise in Isaiah 45:23: “By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘to me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall sear.’” In the interweaving of the old and New Testaments, it becomes clear that, even as crucified, Jesus bears the “name above every name” – the name of the Most High – and is himself God by nature. Through him, through the Crucified, the bold promise of the Old Testament is now fulfilled: all bend the knee before Jesus, the One who ascended, and bow to him precisely as the one true God above all gods. The Cross has become the world-embracing sign of God’s presence, and all that we have previously heard about the historical and cosmic Christ should now, in this passage, come back into our minds. The Christian liturgy is a cosmic liturgy precisely because it bends the knee before the crucified and exalted Lord. Here is the center o authentic culture – the culture of truth. The humble gesture by which we fall at the feet of the Lord inserts us into the true path fo the life fo the cosmos.
There is much more that we might add. For example, there is the touching story told by Eusebius in his history of the Church as a tradition going back to Hegesippus in the second century. Apparently, St. James, the “Brother of the Lord”, the first bishop of Jerusalem and “head” of the Jewish Christian Church, had a kind of callous on his knees, because he was always on his knees worshipping God and begging for forgiveness for his people (2, 23, 6). Again, there is a story that comes from the sayings of the Desert Fathers, according to which the devil was compelled by God to show himself to a certain Abba Apollo. He looked black and ugly, with frighteningly thin limbs, but, most strikingly, he had no knees. The inability to kneel is seen as the very essence of the diabolical.

But I do not want to go into more detail. I should like to make just one more remark.  The expression used by St. Luke to describe the kneeling of Christians (theis ta gonata) is unknown in classical Greek. We are dealing here with a specifically Christian word. With that remark, our reflections return full circle to where they began. It may well be that kneeling is alien to modern culture – insofar as it is a culture, for this culture has turned away from the faith and no longer knows the One before whom kneeling is the right, indeed the intrinsically necessary gesture. The man who learns to believe learns also to kneel, and a faith or a liturgy no longer familiar with kneeling would be sick at the core. Where it has been lost, kneeling must be rediscovered, so that in our prayer, we remain in fellowship with the apostles and martyrs, in fellowship with the whole cosmos, indeed in union with Jesus Christ himself.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Thank You Lord for ALL Priests!!

St. Teresa of Avila receiving Holy Communion (Source)

Prayer for Priests by St. Teresa of Avila

O my Most Sweet Jesus, O Jesus, Eternal High Priest, keep Thy priests in the shelter of Thy Sacred Heart, where no one can hurt them. Keep their anointed hands unsullied, which daily handle Thy Sacred Body. Keep pure the lips which are reddened with Thy Precious Blood. Keep pure and unworldly their hearts which are sealed with the sublime token of Thy glorious priesthood. Cause them to grow in love and loyalty to Thee and protect them from the contamination of the world. With their power of transforming bread and wine, give them the power of transforming hearts. Bless their work with rich fruit and grant them one day the crown of eternal life. Amen.