Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lenten Day of Confessions - April 9

The Archdiocese of Toronto is offering a day in Lent for those who need to make their Confession before the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord at Easter. Parishes and chaplaincies are offering additional times for people to come to confession on Wednesday, April 9

Useful guides for self-examination and times for confession are provided for adults and young people at the archdiocesan website.

http://www.archtoronto.org/confession/index.htm

You can print the simple one-page examen based on the 10 Commandments for regular use. The site is a useful resource.



At STM/ Sacré-Coeur (Carlton St. at Sherbourne)  confessions are heard each Wednesday in Lent (including April 9) from 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD AND THE ASSENT OF FAITH

This is one of several "Annunciation' works by Fra Angelico, others follow.

As we celebrate the Annunciation of our Lord to Blessed Mary this ‘Lady Day’ (March 25 – exactly nine months before Christmas) we contemplate her assent to become the mother of Jesus, the Christ. In doing so, we are drawn to consider her assent to God’s proposal along with our own assent of faith. 

Full of grace, Our Lady Mary said her “yes” to God and so to the incarnation of God’s beloved Son for us and for our salvation. Mary’s affirmation and Jesus' self-sacrifice for us are both revelation and gift, calling us to faith.

Fra Angelico

Mary lived in a pre-scientific age and in a traditional Jewish society. It is difficult for us to imagine what her thoughts would have been at the Annunciation but what is clear to faith is that in her humility Mary found the fullness of human dignity completed in her through her co-operation with the Holy Spirit. 
How do we come to this faith?
Blessed John Henry Newman, though one of the greatest intellectuals of the 19th century, was also one who did much to communicate with the average person striving to live the Christian faith in an increasingly hostile secular society. 

Traditional Byzantine Icon: The Annunciation 

As an Anglican, Newman was both a tutor and professor at Oriel College, Oxford and pastor of the Church of St. Mary-the Virgin, the university parish church in Oxford. In his parish sermons (published as Parochial and Plain Sermons) he regularly addressed his parishioners, students and average people on matters of faith and doctrine.
One of the major themes in his sermons was faith and our response to God. Newman urged his listeners to simplicity and trust in God, a trust that enables us to receive or assent to the revealed truths of the Catholic Church.

This faith, however, did not mean, he insisted, that we should give up reason, science or any other way of understanding. Rather, faith is to be the complement of reason and science. One does not make sense without the others.

Newman comments on how a child’s mind gives us a striking pattern. Children distinguish right from wrong yet are not in bondage to an over-weaning individualism or what Newman called “private judgment”.

Newman advocated an expansive reason along with a reasoned faith. He criticized the Enlightenment understanding of reason as being a reduced notion of reason and one that sets itself as the judge of all truth, demanding exclusively scientific evidence. He argued that assent in faith to God is possible by means of more than just formal evidence.

Newman points out that many truths are received implicitly. People cannot explain what they know to be true in many cases and yet this does not diminish the truth of their claims. Someone in Alberta may never have traveled to the seashore, but he is absolutely certain the Pacific Ocean is to the West. He knows this both from the observation of rains falling on the mountains and, particularly, by trusting the word of those who have ‘seen and heard’. We might equate this with the oral and written tradition of revelation in the Church.

In fact, Newman asserted, and experience shows, that knowledge held implicitly is often held strongly and correctly. He criticized what he called “paper arguments” about God’s existence. He wrote: “Many a man will live and die upon a dogma: no man will be a martyr for a conclusion . . . . No one, I say, will die for his calculations: he dies for realities.” 



Newman gave a lot of thought to the question of faith and the assent of the mind to what God reveals through Scripture and Tradition as interpreted by the Magisterium of the Church.
 
Cardinal Newman advocated for an educated laity
and though never a bishop, he was finally made
a cardinal in his 80s by Pope Leo X.
 
In correspondence with William Froude, a younger brother of his great friend and late colleague Hurrell Froude, Newman developed his understanding of faith. Their correspondence over many years became the foundation for one of Newman’s major works, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. 



In Grammar of Assent Newman explained that for a child, God is a real being. A child perceives the existence of God as a Sovereign Law-giver and Judge, a personal reality outside of himself. God is not a notion or a conclusion.

By means of moral conscience a child has an image of God; it is basic and must grow. Conscience can be dimmed or obliterated, but it is real. As Newman put it, the image of God is: “an image of the good God, good in Himself, good relatively to the child, with whatever incompleteness; an image, before it has been reflected on, and before it is recognized as a notion. Though he cannot explain or define the word ‘God’, when told to use it, a child’s acts show that to him it is far more than a word.”

Many adults: "cannot explain religious truths, but they know them because they have a moral conscience that speaks to them of right and wrong, and of a Law Giver and Judge. 

In the same way, all can have this real knowledge of God and ‘faith’ in that he creates, judges, rewards and punishes. The certainty of this faith, however, is soon questioned."

Over the years, Newman and William Froude discussed the subject of certainty and certitude. Froude claimed the right to skepticism of any truth: “Our doubts in fact, appear to me as sacred, and I think deserve to be cherished as sacredly as our beliefs.”

In a reply to Froude, Newman distinguished between religion and science: “Much lies in the meaning of the words ‘certainty’ and ‘doubt’ much again in our duties to a person, as e.g. a friend.  Religion is not merely a science, but a devotion.” 



Newman argued that evidence is not the foundation of faith though it plays an important part in our understanding of God’s created world. In Newman’s defense of the rationality of “simple faith” he tried to find an adequate answer to the problem of the certitude in what he called “the assent of faith”.

Newman dedicated part two of the Grammar of Assent to explain how a person reaches certitude. He coined the term “the illative faculty” or “illative sense’. The root of the word ‘illative’ comes from ilium the Latin root term for the liver – an essential internal organ. We might say that his allusion is to what we would call a “gut instinct” for truth.

Newman describes in this section of “The Assent of Faith” a natural mode of reasoning which is unconscious and implicit; it goes from concrete things to other things, not from propositions to propositions as formal inference or logic does. 



One reaches certitude through this illative sense. A skeptic might reply that this is no more than a leap of faith, but there is no such leap because the assent of faith is a cumulative process.  We grow into a conviction, rather than leap into it.

Newman used the example of a polygon inscribed in a circle. As its sides become smaller it appears to become the circle. It never becomes the circle but the mind closes the gap. 

Faith is a personal act by which a person apprehends religious truths from others not simply a subjective feeling .

Newman references the humility of a child-like spirit as being a necessary condition for belief, not one to be denigrated but rather one to be accepted as a gift. Without humility one is incapable of believing in God.

Those without child-like openness establish their own universe and close themselves off from any supernatural reality. Pride closes a person in the limited sphere of rationality. 



The Annunciation 1425 - 1430, Masolino da Panicale, Italy

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

The challenging doctrines of the Church e.g. the nature of marriage between man and woman, it’s indissolubility, the Pope’s authority, the Real Presence, the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Our Lady and other doctrines are not simply matters of fact but are based upon physical realities in the light of revelation.

After a long Mediterranean journey, while still an Anglican, Newman suffered a life-threatening illness in Sicily. He composed the hymn “Lead Kindly Light” humbly asking God to guide him.  The text of the hymn remarks that once “pride ruled my will.” Newman prays: “Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see / The distant scene, one step enough for me.” 



The assent of faith holds a claim to the believer’s mind, which can integrate the physical with the notional (world of ideas). God reveals himself and speaks through the Church to both the physical and spiritual realities of life. 

Unlike theological propositions, faith is not simply a set of logical conclusions. Faith is a higher knowledge, along with the other forms of knowledge and experience we have an illative sense of what is true. 

This illative sense, Newman argued vehemently, is not contrary to reason but works in harmony with what science can prove. Again, faith speaks to the ‘why’ not the ‘how’ of reality.

Fra Angelico

God is revealed both by nature and by revelation as Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, knew intuitively and so responded to God's revelation herself becoming an agent of revelation. 

Humans act on God’s terms, accepting with humility what God reveals. Together, reason and experience help us come to the assent of faith. 

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman did just that in his life, making him an example not only for the most highly intellectual and academic, but for all Christians.

Quotations from: M. Aquilina and J. R. Velez, Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman, available from Amazon.ca or on E-Bay.

Blessed John Henry Newman

Praise to the Holiest in the height,

And in the depth be praise;

In all His words most wonderful,

Most sure in all His ways.

Words:  John H. Newman, “The Dream of Gerontius,” 1865.
Published as a poem in “The Month: An Illustrated Magazine of Literature, Science and Art.   These lyrics appeared in hymnals shortly thereafter.


Monday, March 24, 2014

"THE WOMAN AT THE WELL" Lent 3A Homily at STM – March 23, 2014

Icon of the Samaritan woman with Jesus at the well - 8th century, Antioch

 “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but the one who drinks of the water that I will give will never thirst again  . . .  a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

We see how the Israelites’ hearts  became hardened by their sufferings in the desert as we read the Exodus story read today.  We come to understand that though they saw God’s mighty deeds, still, in their preoccupation with thirst, they grumbled and put God to the test.  This was a crisis point recalled also in today’s Psalm 95, so familiar to us from the office of daily Morning Prayer.

As Pope Benedicts pointed out in one of his Angelus meditations for the Third Sunday in Lent: The theme of thirst runs throughout John’s Gospel: from the meeing with the Samaritan woman at the well to the great prophecy during the feast of Tabernacles (John 7: 37-38) and even from the cross, when Jesus fulfills the Scriptures when he says “I thirst” (John 19:28).

Jesus thirsts for the good of others, for their salvation (John 19:28). He longs to give the Samaritan woman “living water” that wells up to eternal life.

Let us hear Jesus again in the words of the classic tones of the KJV translation:

“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:  But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Icon of the Woman of Samaria with Our Lord - Artist unknown

 These living waters can’t be drawn from the well of Jacob, father of the Israelites and the Samaritans (the woman at the well was a Samaritan).  You might say that the well of "good will" had been poisoned by the animosity between Samaritans and Jews not unlike it is today between Jews and Arabs (all of them Semites and sons of Abraham). But Jesus is greater than Jacob (Luke 11:31-32). He overcomes the divisions of history and the prejudice of humans.

The well from which we have drawn is also a worthy patrimony, that of the Anglican or English Catholic Church. Like the Jewish tradition it is a worthy tradition of faith handed down the generations from many who have served God in their generation. It has  and has been for the good of God’s people.  It is t the church of our Baptism for many of us here today.  It is a worthy heritage and is the spring-water, which has nourished many saints through the ages.

The living spring water is deep within the tradition yet we cannot rely solely upon tradition we need the living water of Jesus himself, his presence with us.

In an interesting parallel, the Samaritans were actually Israelites who had escaped exile when Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom eight centuries before Christ (2 Kings 17:6,24-41). They were despised for intermarrying with non-Israelites and worshipping at Mount Gerizim, not in Jerusalem.

Woman at the well - modern icon

But Jesus tells the woman that the “hour” of true worship is coming, when all will worship God in Spirit and truth.  Jesus’ own “hour” is the “appointed time” that St. Paul speaks of in today’s Epistle. It is the hour when the Rock of Salvation for all humanity was struck on the Cross.  Struck by the soldier’s lance, living waters flowed out from our the side of Jesus – our Rock ( John 19:34-37) the Rock of Ages, stuck for me, let me hide myself in Thee.

These waters flow as the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39), the gift of God, is given to his people (Hebrews 6:4). By these living waters the ancient enmities of Samaritans and Jews may be washed away, the dividing wall between Israel and the nations broken down. (Ephesians 2:12-14,18).

Since Jesus hour, all may drink of the Spirit in Baptism (1 Cor 12:13) and in this Eucharist, the Lord is now in our midst –  He was at the Rock of Horeb and at the well of Jacob and he is present with us today in Word and Sacrament.

Jesus calls us to believe him today: “I am He,” Jesus proclaims. He is the Messiah who has come to pour out the love of God into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. How can our hearts remain hardened?  Jesus is here for all and his Sacred Heat offers us life – living water for all who will accept him and we turn to him in humility and penitence.

He is here, with us in his real presence at the altar saying to us: whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.”

Jesus is the:  “spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  

Woman at the well - a modern icon 

Icons - Courtesy St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, TX 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Melkite Catholic Church and the Syrian Conflict

With 1.6 million members world-wide, the Melkite Church is another significant sui iuris church in communion with Rome. However, Melkites are geographically very much spread out due to persecution and consequent emigration from the Middle East. Most recently Melkites have suffered greatly in the Syrian conflict.
Christian churches are destroyed in Syria by jihadists.
 In a recent interview (March, 2014) with Aid to the Church in Need, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Jean Abdon Arbach of Homs said 20,000 Christians now live in Homs itself and altogether 200,000 in the region. He said that 600 families from outside Homs were now living there and that the area was home to many thousands of Catholics.
Mother and baby light a candle in a
Melkite church in Damascus.
The report continued: Speaking during a visit to ACN’s international headquarters near Frankfurt, Germany, the archbishop, a 61-year-old native Syrian, said: “The situation in and around Homs is calm. Government troops have almost complete control over the region and the rebels control four or five districts. The main fighting is taking place in the cities of Yabroud and Hama.”
Archbishop Abdon Arbach stressed that he and other Church leaders were determined to stay with their people. He said: “For the faithful, it is important that their priests and their bishop bear the suffering and persevere like anyone else.” He went on to warn of trouble ahead for Christians in northern Syria forced to comply with Shari‘a Islamic law rigorously enforced by extremists. He said: “Firstly, Islamic law is to be applied. Secondly, all Christian symbols, which are publicly visible, are to be destroyed and thirdly, Christians who wish to remain will in future have to pay a special tax.”
These are the terms spelled out by organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Isis), which have required Christians and other minorities living under their rule to pay up to £435 per year in Jizya tax.
Archbishop Abdon Arbach’s comments came as fellow Melkite Greek Catholic Damascus-based Patriarch Gregorios III led calls for the release of bishops and other clergy, many of them kidnapped in rebel-held territories in Aleppo and elsewhere in northern Syria.
Archbishop Prendergast of Ottawa visited with Meliktes recently.
In a statement released following the recent Assembly of Catholic Hierarchs (Bishops) in Syria, Patriarch Gregorios singled out for special mention kidnapped Aleppo Archbishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yizigi as well as Fathers Michael Kayyal and Ishaq Mahfouz.
Stating that 100 Syrian churches now lie damaged or destroyed, Patriarch Gregorios stated: “We declare our rejection of all forms of extremism, murder and extortion and all attacks on people and buildings.”
In making his comments, the Patriarch was reflecting renewed hopes following the release on Sunday (9 March) of 13 Sisters kidnapped last December from their monastery in the mainly Christian town of Maaloula, 40 miles north of Damascus.

HISTORY OF THE MELKITE CATHOLIC CHURCH
The term Melkite is from the Syriac word malkā meaning "King".  Originally it Melkite was a pejorative term for Middle-Eastern Christians who accepted the authority of the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) and the Byzantine Emperor. This was the name given to them by non-Chalcedonians.
Melkite Catholics celebrate Mass in Augusta, Georgia USA
The Greek element signifies the Byzantine Rite heritage of the church, the liturgy used by many of the Eastern Churches. The  Melkites are Catholic by acknowledgment of the authority of the Pope and participate in the worldwide church. 
The Melkite Church of Antioch claims to be the "oldest continuous Christian community in the world" dating to the time of St. Peter’s ministry. The first chair of Peter, before his move to Rome, is claimed by the Melikite community.
A Melkite Catholic Wedding in the USA
In Arabic, the official language of the church, it is called ar-Rūm al-Kathūlīk. The Arabic word "Rūm" means “Greek” from the word in Greek "Romioi" by which the Byzantine Greeks identified themselves.  "Romania" comes from the same root (Greek: Ρωμανία) or New Rome, (Latin: Nova Roma Greek: Νέα Ρώμη). The term refers to the Byzantine Greek heritage and the city of "New Rome", i.e. Constantinople. There is also the Romanian Greek Catholic Church, a sui iuris Eastern Rite Church not to be confused with the Romainian Orthodox or the Latin Rite Catholics in Romania.
Scholars attribute the writing of the Gospels in Koine Greek (the popular Greek language of commerce of the day) to the Hellenized (Greek) Christian people of Antioch. These included authors St. Peter, St. Luke and others. By the 2nd century, Christianity was widespread in Antioch and throughout Syria. Growth of the church did not stop during periods of persecution. At the end of the 4th century Christianity became the official state religion.
The Melkite Byzantine Catholic Church traces its origins to the Christian communities of the Levant (including Lebanon, Isreael, Syria and eastern Turkey) and Egypt. Until persecution drove them out, one of the largest Melkite Catholic communities was in Egypt where fully 20% of the population including Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Catholics were Christians (more about Coptic Catholics). The church's leadership was vested in the three Apostolic Patriarchates of the ancient patriarchates: Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.
In 1847, Pope Pius IX (1846–1878), reinstituted the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Patriarch Gregory II Youssef (1864–1897) focused on improving church institutions. During his reign Gregory founded both the Patriarchal College in Beirut in 1865 and the Patriarchal College in Damascus in 1875 and re-opened the Melkite seminary of Ain Traz in 1866. He also promoted the establishment of Saint Ann's Seminary, Jerusalem, in 1882 by the White Fathers for the training of the Melkite clergy.
Following the Hatt-ı Hümayun of 1856, decreed by Sultan Abdülmecid I, the situation of Christians in the Near East improved. This allowed Gregory to successfully encourage greater participation by the Melkite laity in both church administration as well as public affairs. Gregory also took an interest in ministering to the growing number of Melkites who had emigrated to the Americas.

MELKITE CATHOLICS AND THE DOCTRINE OF INFALLIBILITY
In 1889 Patriarch Gregory II dispatched Father Ibrahim Beshawate of the Basilian Salvatorian Order in Saida, Lebanon to New York in order to minister to the growing Syrian community there. Gregory was also a prominent proponent of Eastern ecclesiology at the First Vatican Council. 
In the two discourses he gave at the Council on May 19 and June 14, 1870 he insisted on the importance of conforming to the decisions of the Council of Florence, of not creating innovations such as papal infallibility, but accepting what had been decided by common agreement between the Greeks and the Latins at the Council of Florence, especially with regard to the issue of papal primacy.
He also defended the rights and privileges of the patriarchs according to the canons promulgated by earlier ecumenical councils. Speaking at the Council on May 19, 1870, Patriarch Gregory asserted:
The Eastern Church attributes to the pope the most complete and highest power, however in a manner where the fullness and primacy are in harmony with the rights of the patriarchal sees. This is why, in virtue of an ancient right founded on customs, the Roman Pontiffs did not, except in very significant cases, exercise over these sees the ordinary and immediate jurisdiction that we are asked now to define without any exception. This definition would completely destroy the constitution of the entire Greek church. That is why my conscience as a pastor refuses to accept this constitution.  (C. Patelos, Vatican 1st et les eveques uniates, Louvain: Nauwelaerts, 1981, 482-283)
Pope Pius XII met with the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch.
Patriarch Gregory refused to sign the Vatican I Council  dogmatic declaration on papal infallibility. He and the seven other Melkite bishops present voted non placet at the general congregation and left Rome prior to the adoption of the dogmatic constitution Pastor Aeternus on papal infallibility.  
Other members of the anti-infallibilist minority, both from the Latin church and from other Eastern Catholic churches, also left the city. Fr. John H. (later Cardinal) Newman, though not at the Council, was very sympathetic to those who did not think it wise to define “infallibility” at the Council.
After the First Vatican Council concluded an emissary of the Roman Curia was dispatched to again seek the signatures of the patriarch and the Melkite delegation. 
After further prayer and consideration Patriarch Gregory II and the Melkite bishops subscribed to it, but with the qualifying clause used at the Council of Florence attached: "except the rights and privileges of Eastern patriarchs."
Patriarch Gregory and the Melkite Catholic Church remained committed to their union with the Church of Rome. Relationships with the Vatican improved following the death of Pius IX and the subsequent election of Leo XIII as pontiff. 
Leo's encyclical Orientalium Dignitas addressed some of the Eastern Catholic Churches' concerns on latinization and the ultramontane centralizing tendencies. Pope Leo also formally recognized an expansion of Patriarch Gregory's jurisdiction to include all Melkites throughout the Ottoman Empire. 

DEVELOPMENT OF MELKITE LITURGY
Patriarch Maximos IV Sayegh took part in the Second Vatican Council where he championed the Eastern traditions of Christianity, and won a great deal of respect from Orthodox observers at the council as well as the approbation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras I.
Following the Second Vatican Council the Melkites moved to restoring traditional worship. This involved both the restoration of Melkite practices such as administering the Eucharist to infants following post-baptismal chrismation as well as removal of Latin-rite elements such as communion rails and confessionals.
A movement to celebrate the Melkite liturgy in the language of the local people wherever Melkites settled was spearheaded by the future archbishop of Nazareth, Father Joseph Raya of Birmingham, Alabama (later a member of Madonna House, Combermere, CANADA where he is buried.) 
The issue garnered national news coverage after Bishop Fulton Sheen celebrated a Melkite Pontifical Divine Liturgy in English at the Melkite National convention in Birmingham in 1958, parts of which were televised.
In 1960, the issue was resolved by Pope John XXIII, at the request of Patriarch Maximos IV, in favour of the use of vernacular languages in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. 
Pope John also consecrated a Melkite priest, Father Gabriel Acacius Coussa, as a bishop, using the Byzantine Rite and the papal tiara as a crown. Bishop Coussa was almost immediately elevated to the cardinalate, but died two years later. His cause for canonization was introduced by his religious order, the Basilian Alepian Order.
Today the Melkite Catholic Church is an Orthodox church in full communion with the Holy See of Rome and so an important part of the Catholic Church. Melkites have an authentic voice from the East for the worldwide Church. They are a bridge between peoples and traditions and as such an example for Ordinariate Catholics.