"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Church Teaching and Arrogance

I recently posted a Facebook status and preached a sermon dealing with the necessity of Christian unity in the promotion of evangelism. It was received lukewarmly in both mediums. But I was struck by the words of one person who said "I don't know how you can talk about Christian unity when you won't even consider other people's point of view."

I admit, this comment stung. Its foundation is that I'm prideful, arrogant, and unwilling to admit that I could possibly be wrong. It's particularly hurtful because for many years I struggled with an almost unbridled arrogance and have felt that in the last 5-7 years I have made progress in being more humble.

It's also hurtful though because it is false. When it comes to the Christian Faith, there can only be one right answer to each individual matter of doctrine. By my late teens, I was on a mission to find out what I believed and why. I had grown up as a fairly evangelical, low-church, reformed Anglican. If you would have asked me my primary purpose as a Christian, I would have have likely answered "evangelism". If you would have asked me how a person is saved I would have launched into some diatribe about Calvinism and how grace is credited to some invisible bank account because of the faith of the believer in the person of Jesus Christ. Anything else I would have probably considered unimportant or ancillary.

But when I decided to attend a Catholic college, I made it a point to open myself up to experiencing new Christian traditions. It is because of this that I am no longer anything of a predestinarian-(though there are still questons in my mind about forensic and inherent justification). It is because of this, that I am a proud Anglo-Catholic who thinks that worship of Almighty God and participation in the sacramental life of the Church are my top priorities. Now one could say that I just changed my mind on some issues and I'm now as stubborn in my views as I ever have been. But that is where you would make your greatest error.

The reason I'm Catholic is because I wanted my thoughts and the doctrines I believed, to be those which were believed by Christians for the last two millenia. I wanted my thoughts to be framed not only by the living but by the dead. I desired the influence of the great theologians and mystics of the past-Augustine, Aquinas, Bernard, Theresa, Catherine, and Faustina, to name a few.

The Faith to which I hold, is the faith of the universal Church. Yes, that does mean I reject innovations of the last several hundred years-dispensationalism, Calvinism, and anti-sacramentalism come immediately to mind. But it is not because I'm being arrogant and carving out some theological niche for myself. I believe what I believe because it is what, as St. Vincent said, has been "believed everywhere, always, and by all." I'm not naive. I'm familiar with the arguments against the development of doctrine in the Catholic Church, particularly after the seven ecumenical councils.

But my positions are those which have been held from the beginning. It is not arrogance to submit my will to Mother Church's teachings-rather, it is a form of humility to say "I don't understand all of these things, but I accept them anyway." Truly, I can say I have opened myself up to the possibility that I was very wrong-and have made changes accordingly. Furthermore, as I hinted at above, there are important doctrines on which I lack a clear understanding and am still trying to learn.

By God's grace, I will ever remain open to seeking the Truth. My prayer for all people in the Church is to give fair voice to the chorus of opinions of our forebears. It is odd that in a country as committed to the democratic system as the United States, we often forget to look at the majority opinion in matters of religious doctrine.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Solemnity of Christ the King

Tomorrow marks the Sunday next before Advent, which we know as the solemnity afore mentioned. The Holy day was pronounced by Pope Pius XI in 1925. It is a wonderful feast intended to counter the secularization of the world and the rise of powerful national leaders. There is but one King-and he is all-powerful and reigns over this world and the world to come. (Though his rule over this one has yet to be consumated-hence the placement of this feast just prior to period where we look and prepare for our Lord's second coming when every knee will bow to him.)

While this Solemnity is relatively new to the Church's calendar, it should be pointed out that the last Sunday before Advent has always been dedicated to celebrating the Kingship of Christ. In the Anglican Church, the lectionary points us to a strange place for the Epistle lesson. The appointing of this reading makes it evident that role of Christ as King of the Cosmos it to be at the center of the liturgy on this Sunday. From Jeremiah 23 we read these words:
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth...and this is his Name whereby he shall be called "The LORD our Righteousness."

This has been the reading appointed for hundreds if not thousands of years for tomorrow. It is one of the precious few times that the Epistle is taken from something other than the Apostolic letters. A point is being made here. Thus, while the feast of Christ the King is new, the Church has dedicated tomorrow for a long while to remembering that the individualism we so often celebrate as the greatest good is actually an inversion of the reality that there is a Mighty Ruler who exists outside of us and this earth. His name is Jesus.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Oscar Hammerstein and Me

For those of you who may check up on my blog periodically, I apologize for the lack of posts and hope that you will continue to check for updates. It has been an unusual season of life for me. I'm very tired. I took on too much work this year. Between teaching 25 piano lessons a week, spending nearly nine hours in other classrooms (including one in Philadelphia), rehearsing for performances of Berlin's White Christmas in December, all the grading and planning, plus dealing with the non-stop barrage of visitors to see my ailing grandmother (not to mention the stress from watching her slowly fade), blogging has simply been at the bottom of my to-do list. I hope that this will change soon.

As I sit here this morning, finally with a few minutes to write, I cannot think of anything to say. Which reminded me of something I read recently which some of you might find interesting.

In one of the more famous pieces from the Sound of Music, the Von Trapp children sing the song Do-Re-Mi. Their governess, Maria, tries to teach them the solfege syllables by giving definitions and illustrations of each syllable. "Do-a deer, a female deer" is one example. But for those of you who know the whole song, you know there is one line which sounds like Hammerstein just ran out of ideas. If you have ever thought that, you are absolutely correct. "La, a note to follow Sol" was intended to just be a placeholder until Hammerstein could think of a better line. However, that time never came. Incredibly, one of the most noted lyricists of the last century suffered with a bout of writer's block which was never rectified. It's almost comical when you think about the line-once you know it was intended to be a filler, it sounds ridiculously out of place.

Consider this post my "La, a note to follow Sol".