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Monday 29 February 2016

Reading Sigrid Undset, Novelist and Catholic Convert

Sigrid Undset
Cynthia Grenier argues that the work of the Nobel Laureate and Catholic convert, Sigid Undset, today is overlooked by the politically correct universities.  Hence they are missing out on one of the most insightful novelists of all time.
In her article: "Reading Sigrid Undset" Grenier describes the life and work this brilliant Norwegian who lived in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Here are some excerpts:
Seventy years ago Norwegian novelist Sigrid Undset was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. At 46 she was one of the youngest authors and only the third woman to be so honoured. 
As the decades have passed, it has become ever more evident that Undset's talent as a novelist places her, along with George Eliot, as one of the only two women meriting a place in the pantheon of the world's greatest writers. And to Undset herself goes surely the distinction of being the premier Catholic novelist of either gender [in recent years].
At the Nobel award ceremony in Stockholm, Par Hallstrom, a distinguished author in his own right and a member of the Swedish academy, praised her for her remarkable recreation of medieval life in her two major works, Kristin Lavransdatter and The Master of Hestviken, and for her profound insight into the "complex relations between men and women." But Undset's two masterworks explore matters far deeper than just the relationship between men and women. She is concerned with that ultimate relationship in life that of man and woman to their God.
Even so, Hallstrom's evaluation has stood the test of time admirably. Undset's two powerful novels, translated into 17 languages shortly after their original publication, have remained in print in English since 1925 (for the trilogy Kristin) and 1930 (for the tetralogy The Master). 
Vintage Books, a division of Random I-louse, recently brought out Kristen in paperback with handsome new covers. And Penguin Classics has issued its own edition with a new translation by Tina Nunnally (awarded a prize by the American Translators Association for her translation of the best-selling Danish thriller, Smilla's Sense of Snow). 
The Vintage edition of Kristen has sold 100,000 copies since 1989, while The Master, a much less well-known work in this country, still has sold some 60,000 during the same period. 
The writer emerges
Still, in recent decades the fashionable but decidedly unfortunate move away from religion and traditional values in American life, combined with Undset's Catholicism, may have constituted something of a barrier to her works being treated in women's studies programs or taken up by establishment critics. 
By all rights, Undset's wonderfully vivid portrayal of women as strong, capable, complex beings would, one might have thought, make her writings eminently attractive to women of today. Possibly better than any other writer, she depicts women as tremendously capable in dealing with practical matters, while also exemplifying maternal virtues. 
It is worth noting that inquiries into women's studies programs at Georgetown University and Harvard College drew complete blanks on her as a subject. Not only were Undset's novels absent from every reading list, but they were literally unknown to a number of professors.
Undset's own road to the Church was long, and in some ways it seems more understandable in contemporary terms than in those of her day. Her father was a respected Norwegian archaeologist and her mother, an educated and independent-minded woman from an affluent Danish family, assisted her husband as a secretary and illustrator. 
Both parents were atheists who brought up their three daughters to share their way of thinking. The mother was startlingly progressive for the 1880s, sending her girls to the first and only coeducational school in Oslo and dressing them in boys' breeches beneath their skirts.
The Scandinavian countries were notorious for their rigid Protestantism; the population was often repressed and repressive in their social behavior. Undset's beloved father died at 43 when she was only 11, but he had introduced her at a very young age to the Norse sagas that she soon precociously learned to read in Old Norse and Old Icelandic. The vision of the world presented in these stories was to mark her most celebrated fiction in years to come.
With her father's death, the family was left with almost no resources. Undset refused a scholarship to a university to avoid being pigeonholed as a future teacher, a profession to which she felt no inclination. 
Undset wanted to be a painter, but she had no money to attend art school. Instead, at 15 her mother sent her to a commercial academy. A year later, her hair still in long pigtails, she went to work as a secretary at the German Electrical Company in Oslo. She found the position dull and disagreeable, but for ten years it enabled her to support her mother and two younger sisters until they were old enough to become self-supporting.
To alleviate the daily tedium, Undset took to writing in the evenings, essentially putting in 18-hour days. When she was 20, she mentioned in a letter to a Swedish friend that she was absorbed in writing a novel set in the Middle Ages. 
Two years later, she sent her manuscript — an early form of what she would develop into The Master of Hestviken — to a leading publishing house, Gyldendal, only to get a cold rejection. "Don't try your hand at any more historical novels," wrote editor Peter Hansen. "It's not your line." The editor did, however, encourage her to try her hand at a more contemporary subject: "One can never tell!" 
Undaunted and determined  Undset did write another novel, Mrs. Marta Oulie, set in modern-day Norway. She sent it to a different publisher, who promptly accepted it for publication. The opening sentence, "I have been unfaithful to my husband," guaranteed that the novel would be talked about in literary circles. 
Two years later, perhaps to show the editor at Gyldendal she was indeed capable of writing an historical novel, she produced Gunnar's Daughter, which was set at the beginning of eleventh-century Norway.
The swiftly paced, 150-page novel (which Penguin Classics has just issued this year) is a story of extraordinary passion and violence, all the more so for having been written by a 26-year-old office worker with little experience of the world. 
Drawing on her intimate knowledge of the ancient sagas, Undset situated her tale at a time when the country was emerging from paganism and Christianity was just beginning to make inroads into daily life. 
Undset's Catholic Faith 
Sigrid Undset

Sigrid Undset received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928, for her remarkable description of life during the Middle Ages in Scandinavia, the 3-volume Kristin Lavransdatter.

She wrote 36 books, the mediaeval novels being one part. Another part are her contemporary novels of Kristiania (now Oslo) and Oslo between the turn of the century and the 1930s, the third part being literary essays and historical articles. Her authorship is wide-ranging and of remarkable depth and substance. None of Sigrid Undset's books leaves the reader unconcerned. She is a great storyteller with a phenomenal knowledge of the labyrinths of the human mind.
By Sigrid Undset: Kristin LavransdatterThe Bridal Wreath, the Mistress of Husaby, the CrossThe Master of Hestvike (in four volumes): The AxeThe Snake PitIn the WildernessThe Son AvengerJenny.

In the two masterworks written by Undset, Christian belief is essential to the stories and to herself being received into the Catholic faith 15 years later.  
In The Story of Viga-Ljot and Vigdis Undset portrays the main character, Vigdis, converting to Christianity mainly out of affection for  a favour a kindly monk. 
Speaking of Vigdis "She was not very zealous in the faith, for she had much to see to on her estate. " Vigdis lives on for another ten years. Her son, whom she bore as the result of rape delivered his father's head to her, and then leaves her, saying, "If I live, I will surely come back some day." But he never does. 
Vigdis dies alone, mourning, "I could not have hated him so long — it was the worst of all, that I would have loved him than any other man."
Undset borrowed not only from the Norse sagas, but from Scandinavian ballads as well. At least 20 such ballads have come down to us that recount tales of rape — though certainly not as Undset presents it — or attempted rape of a maiden, a theme not to be found in any of the sagas. Vigdis's rage and fury at her rape and her anguish during her pregnancy and solitary childbirth are completely comprehensible in modern terms. 
Although the custom of leaving a newborn to die may have been very much part of the culture of those distant centuries, Vigdis's angry desperation at her child's birth is echoed even today in recent accounts we have seen on the evening news.
Viga-Ljot may have brutally taken advantage of Vigdis, but Undset makes the character of this rugged warrior understandable, even sympathetic. She shows how he had had earlier evidence of Vigdis's interest in him. They had met alone in the woods together, kissed, and fondled on more than one occasion. More than once he told her he wanted to marry her. 
Even 20 years later, he tells her she is the only woman he has really loved. He admires her for her strength and courage, even when they are directed against him. But for Vigdis, justice is more important than love. Nominal Christian though she may be, her spirit is still anchored in the pagan world, far from the notions of forgiveness or yielding to a greater spiritual power.
Vigdis herself pays a terrible price for exacting her vengeance - dying alone without the presence of her only child or, more importantly, the comfort and support of dying in the faith. In a kind of terrible irony, Undset herself was to die in 1949, alone, in the middle of the night, and without the last rites of the Church. Her stoic nature had kept her from seeking any medical aid until it was too late. 
Of her three children by a talented if somewhat feckless artist (who may have inspired the character of Erland in Kristin Lavransdatter); the eldest died defending Norway against the Nazi invasion, a mentally handicapped daughter died at 20, and the youngest, a boy who accompanied his mother across Russia and Japan to the United States during the Second World War, seemed to have dropped completely out of her life. 
In an age when the most intimate details of the lives of virtually all celebrity figures are spread throughout the press and across television screens, it is surprising to discover how little we actually know of Undset's life. 
She wrote a memoir of her childhood in 1934, an account of her flight from Norway in 1942, and a memoir for children, Happy Times in Norway, published in English translation in 1942. For Twentieth Century Authors, published in 1940 at the height of the Russian invasion of Finland and only a few brief weeks before the Nazis crossed into Norway, Undset sent an autobiographical sketch to the editors. 
In an accompanying letter she wrote, "I have always hated publicity about myself. But as things are looking here in Fenno-Scandia at present — we may all be swallowed up and deported somewhere in Siberia by the Russian aggressors if Finland doesn't get the necessary support in her fight for independence — I have come to the conclusion that I may just as well tell something about myself whilst I can."
Of her marriage she speaks only of marrying a man with three children and soon having three of her own. Concerning her journey to the Catholic faith, she notes that "the war (World War 1) and the years afterwards confirmed the doubts I always had about the ideas I was brought up on — (I felt) that liberalism, feminism, nationalism, socialism, pacifism, would not work, because they refused to consider human nature as it really is." 
Simply and eloquently, Undset describes her coming to Catholicism as the arrival at her spiritual home:
By degrees my knowledge of history convinced me that the only thoroughly sane people, of our civilization at least, seemed to be those queer men and women the Catholic Church calls Saints. They seemed to know the true explanation of man's undying hunger for happiness — his tragically insufficient love of peace, justice, and goodwill to his fellow men, his everlasting fall from grace. Now it occurred to me that there might possibly be some truth in the original Christianity.
But if you desire to know the truth about anything, you always run the risk of finding it. And in a way we do not want to find the Truth — we prefer to seek and keep our illusions. But I had ventured too near the abode of truth in my researches about 'God's friends,' as the Saints are called in the Old Norse texts of Catholic times. So I had to submit. And on the first of November, 1924, 1 was received into the Catholic Church.
Both Kristin Lavransdatter and The Master of Hestviken detail the long, often difficult lifelong road of the two eponymous protagonists, each equally strong-willed, to submit to a higher power and attain their final salvation. Given the torn fabric of our culture today, a fabric marked by so much that is ugly, wrong-headed, and destructive, Undset's world, where values really matter, gives us a welcome opportunity for spiritual renewal.

Grenier, Cynthia. "Reading Sigrid Undset Today." Crisis 17, no. 2 (February 1999): 28-33.
To subscribe to Crisis magazine call 1-800-852-9962.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Sylvester Tan, SJ - Deacon at STM Trinity Sunday Solemn Mass, May 22

On Trinity Sunday, May 22, STM will be delighted to welcome, D.V., the newly ordained Rev. Sylvester Tan, S.J. as Deacon and Preacher on the occasion of his first Solemn Mass following ordination to the diaconate. 

Mass as usual is at 4:00 pm and we will welcome visitors and friends to a reception following.

 Catholic Parish of St. Thomas More, Personal Ordinariate CSP, Toronto.

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Pope Francis' Lenten homily in Ciudad Juarez on the final day of his visit to Mexico

In the second century Saint Irenaeus wrote that the glory of God is the life of man. It is an expression which continues to echo in the heart of the Church. The glory of the Father is the life of his sons and daughters. There is no greater glory for a father than to see his children blossom, no greater satisfaction than to see his children grow up, developing and flourishing. The first reading that we have just heard points to this. The great city of Nineveh, was self-destructing as a result of oppression and dishonour, violence and injustice. The grand capital’s days were numbered because the violence within it could not continue. 
Then the Lord appeared and stirred Jonah’s heart: the Father called and sent forth his messenger. Jonah was summoned to receive a mission. “Go”, he is told, because in “forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jon 3:4). Go and help them to understand that by the way they treat each other, ordering and organizing themselves, they are only creating death and destruction, suffering and oppression. Make them see this is no way to live, neither for the king nor his subjects, nor for farm fields nor for the cattle. Go and tell them that they have become used to this degrading way of life and have lost their sensitivity to pain. Go and tell them that injustice has infected their way of seeing the world. “Therefore, go Jonah!”. God sent him to testify to what was happening, he sent him to wake up a people intoxicated with themselves.
In this text we find ourselves before the mystery of divine mercy. Mercy, which always rejects wickedness, takes the human person in great earnest. Mercy always appeals to the latent and numbed goodness within each person. Far from bringing destruction, as we so often desire or want to bring about ourselves, mercy seeks to transform each situation from within. Herein lies the mystery of divine mercy. It seeks and invites us to conversion, it invites us to repentance; it invites us to see the damage being done at every level. Mercy always pierces evil in order to transform it.
The king listened to Jonah, the inhabitants of the city responded and penance was decreed. God’s mercy has entered the heart, revealing and showing wherein our certainty and hope lie: there is always the possibility of change, we still have time to transform what is destroying us as a people, what is demeaning our humanity. Mercy encourages us to look to the present, and to trust what is healthy and good beating in every heart. God’s mercy is our shield and our strength.
Jonah helped them to see, helped them to become aware. Following this, his call found men and women capable of repenting, and capable of weeping. To weep over injustice, to cry over corruption, to cry over oppression. These are tears that lead to transformation, that soften the heart; they are the tears that purify our gaze and enable us to see the cycle of sin into which very often we have sunk. They are tears that can sensitize our gaze and our attitude hardened and especially dormant in the face of another’s suffering. They are the tears that can break us, capable of opening us to conversion.
This word echoes forcefully today among us; this word is the voice crying out in the wilderness, inviting us to conversion. In this Year of Mercy, with you here, I beg for God’s mercy; with you I wish to plead for the gift of tears, the gift of conversion.
Here in Ciudad Ju├írez, as in other border areas, there are thousands of immigrants from Central America and other countries, not forgetting the many Mexicans who also seek to pass over “to the other side”. Each step, a journey laden with grave injustices: the enslaved, the imprisoned and extorted; so many of these brothers and sisters of ours are the consequence of a trade in human beings.
We cannot deny the humanitarian crisis which in recent years has meant migration for thousands of people, whether by train or highway or on foot, crossing hundreds of kilometres through mountains, deserts and inhospitable zones. The human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today. This crisis which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want instead to measure with names, stories, families. They are the brothers and sisters of those expelled by poverty and violence, by drug trafficking and criminal organizations. Being faced with so many legal vacuums, they get caught up in a web that ensnares and always destroys the poorest. Not only do they suffer poverty but they must also endure these forms of violence. Injustice is radicalized in the young; they are “cannon fodder”, persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs, not to mention the tragic predicament of the many women whose lives have been unjustly taken.
Let us together ask our God for the gift of conversion, the gift of tears, let us ask him to give us open hearts like the Ninevites, open to his call heard in the suffering faces of countless men and women. No more death! No more exploitation! There is still time to change, there is still a way out and a chance, time to implore the mercy of God.
Just as in Jonas’ time, so too today may we commit ourselves to conversion; may we be signs lighting the way and announcing salvation. I know of the work of countless civil organizations working to support the rights of migrants. I know too of the committed work of so many men and women religious, priests and lay people in accompanying migrants and in defending life. They are on the front lines, often risking their own lives. By their very lives they are prophets of mercy; they are the beating heart and the accompanying feet of the Church that opens its arms and sustains.
This time for conversion, this time for salvation, is the time for mercy. And so, let us say together in response to the suffering on so many faces: In your compassion and mercy, Lord, have pity on us … cleanse us from our sins and create in us a pure heart, a new spirit (cf. Ps 50).
I would like to take this occasion to send greeting from here to our dear sisters and brothers who are with us now, beyond the border, in particular those who are gathered in the University of El Paso Stadium; it’s known as the Sun Bowl, and they are led by monsignor Mark Seitz. With the help of technology, we can pray, sing and together celebrate the merciful love that the Lord gives us and that no border can stop us from sharing. Thank you brothers and sisters at El Paso of making us feel like one family and one, same, Christian community. 

Catholic Bishops call on the Government of Canada to respect life in the upcoming decisions relating to euthanasia

Bishops are calling on all Canadian Catholics and others who respect the sanctity of human life to speak to their MPs about the erosion of protection for vulnerable lives as legislation to control euthanasia looms before Parliament.

A previous letter by Cardinal Collins to Prime Minister Trudeau about the exclusion of pro-life MPs from the Liberal Party has gone unanswered. 

From the Most Rev. Douglas Crosby, OMI
Bishop of Hamilton
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
. . . The Supreme Court of Canada a year ago, in its decision in the case of Carter v. Canada, invited those in our land to choose death. Any adult suffering from an illness, disease or disability would have the option of physician-assisted suicide. Already, various voices in our country have argued in favour of this even being extended to minors. Appalling as that is, it is not surprising. Children as well as incapacitated adults are being euthanized in the handful of other countries where assisted suicide and euthanasia are now legal.

. . . During this Lenten season, together with my brother Bishops, I invite our community of faith and all its members to ponder deeply on this important and crucial juncture which our country is facing. Will we prefer palliative and home care, or assisted suicide and euthanasia? The choice is simple. Do we collaborate as communities of loving concern, supporting and encouraging one another to live our lives fully and in Christ's footsteps until God calls us to our heavenly reward? Or do we abandon the vulnerable, the elderly, the sick, the handicapped, the dying and the depressed, leaving them to stumble through loneliness and despair into the tragedy of dying by suicide? Do we defend health-care practitioners and institutions from being forced into becoming collaborators, obliged to condone or administer death by suicide? Or do we instead provide a system of social wellbeing and health care that protects the dignity of human life and the inviolability of conscience?
life-giving-enIn urging you to be in full communion with the Holy Father and your Bishops on this fundamental question, I invite you:
- To pray that the Holy Spirit enlighten and persuade the hearts and consciences of our Members of Parliament, provincial, territorial and municipal leaders, and those engaged in providing health care, so the lives of all the vulnerable are protected from conception to natural death;
- To become more knowledgeable about the negative moral and social consequences that euthanasia and assisted suicide will inevitably have on society and on individual lives;
- To express to your political representatives your concerns and your convictions about the necessity for palliative and home care, the need for national and local strategies to prevent suicide, and the evil of euthanasia and assisted suicide;
- To share with your family, friends, community and coworkers the resources developed as part of the Life-Giving Love National Campaign for Palliative and Home Care: Against Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide (http://www.lifegivinglove.com);
- To sign the ecumenical / interfaith Declaration on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide which has been endorsed by Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical Protestant, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders, together with more than 13,000 other Canadians (http://www.euthanasiadeclaration.ca/declaration/).

The fullness of life means choosing to be merciful and attentive to the needs of others; to pray and care for the sick, the suffering and the dying; and to accompany and comfort each of our brothers and sisters until death does us part. By choosing to be witnesses to and collaborators in God's saving mercy, we then choose – as Pope Francis reminded us earlier in this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy – to be reborn, to overcome the indifference which blocks solidarity, and to leave behind the false neutrality which prevents sharing. Through the grace of Christ, we can cooperate with him in building an ever more just and fraternal world, a world in which every person and every creature can dwell in peace, in the harmony of God's original creation. (Homily for the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, and the 49th World Day of Peace, January 1, 2016)
My brothers and sisters, as with Adam and Eve at the beginning of time, ours is the choice of eating of the tree of life, or from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which will surely lead to death. Just as Moses put before the Hebrews entering the Promised Land the life-altering choice of deciding to live as children of the living God, the One who is Lord, so we too, at the brink of such societal change, are called to choose life, truth, goodness and true mercy. The choice is set before us.

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Division in of the Body of Christ

Here are some thoughts gathered from various sources regarding the struggle for unity and the mission of the Ordinariates formed under Anglicanorum Coetibus:

Schism — however sincerely pursued, conventional, or seemingly culturally imperative — remains schism i.e. a breach, a wound in the body of Christ.  
Time and habit — together with popular acceptance and the enduring appeal of fresh breaks — do not transform the Anglican Church into a “branch” of the Catholic Church.  In fact, just the opposite happens: the longer Anglicans remain out of communion with Peter’s successor, the longer the principle of decay works to undermine the witness of the Body of Christ. 
We should not mistake the gradual numbing of our awareness of schism with its disappearance or release from our ongoing responsibility for it; much less should we excuse such visible disunity by appealing to an invisible “unity in Christ”— at least not while we’re praying on earth as it is in heaven.” 
John Henry Newman was right: “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.”  
Jesus foresaw that there would be quarrels and divisions, and he took steps to make sure that there would be a solution to the problem.  The Pope’s deepest identity is as St. Peter’s successor, his special role among the other bishops in apostolic succession, ultimately rests in the same Lord who prayed “that they may be one” (John 17:1).
St. Matthew shows us that Jesus is King by calling him the “son of David” (1:1). David was “the king” (1:6), Jesus is called the Christ, the “anointed one” (1:16), a title given to a Davidic king anointed at his coronation. God promised that David’s would be an everlasting dynasty: “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16). In Jesus, that promise is kept.
“The New Testament lies hidden in the Old,” St. Augustine said, “and the Old is unveiled in the New.” The Church lies hidden in Israel and Israel is unveiled in the Church. 

Raymond Brown put it this way: 

“The kingdom established by David was a political institution to be sure, but one with enormous religious attachments (priesthood, temple, sacrifice, prophecy)…. It is the closest Old Testament parallel to the Church.
God planned to bless the world through the twelve tribes of Israel, but they had scattered and failed.  Jesus grieved to see his people “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36-38), so in the very next verse he turned to his disciples and singled out twelve men to be the leaders of his new Kingdom (Matt. 10:1). 
By choosing twelve men to be his apostles Jesus, “the Root and the Offspring of David” (Rev. 22:16), gathered the twelve tribes of Israel. The significance of the Twelve, Richard Bauckham suggests, “undoubtedly related to the Jewish hopes for the restoration of all twelve tribes in the messianic age.” The Twelve "correspond symbolically to the twelve princes of the tribes of Israel in the wilderness (Num. 1:4-16).” He concludes: “Jesus’ appointment of the Twelve symbolized the claim that in his own ministry this messianic restoration of Israel had already begun in nucleus.”
David and his lineage, the anointed kings of Judah, did not govern alone. As king Solomon appointed twelve officers to rule his kingdom (1 Kings 4:7), so also Jesus appoints twelve apostles to rule his Kingdom after his ascension (Matt. 19:28). The Twelve are his royal cabinet, the body of men authorized to do the King’s will, entrusted with vice-royal authority to represent him in his New Israel, the Church: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me” (Luke 10:16; cf. John 20:21-23). As God planned to bless the world through Israel, he now plans to bless the world through these twelve apostles, “through their message” (John 17:20).
In the Old Testament the Kingdom of David was a manifestation of God’s own Kingdom (2 Chron. 13:8), but now God is Emmanuel (Matt. 1:23), now the Kingdom is “at hand” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7). 

Inaugurated in the present, the Kingdom of God will be consummated when the Son of Man returns—but until then, it remains present. It’s really here. The Church follows inevitably from the incarnation. You could literally touch the body of Jesus, and you can literally touch the Church. Like the Davidic Covenant, but now open to gentiles, this New Covenant is a social reality—a Kingdom, what Jesus calls “my Church” (Matt. 16:18).
The Twelve knew that Christ had appointed them to an office, and that an office left vacant must be filled. After the death of Judas, Peter says to the others: “Let another take his office” (Acts 1:20). There was no debate. And Matthias was chosen to be numbered among them.
Anglicans and Catholics agree: the Lord intended his Church to be governed through the apostolic succession. The apostles and their successors—the bishops—are empowered by the Holy Spirit “to care for the church of God” (Acts 20:28). To submit to their authority is to submit to Christ: “He who receives any one whom I send receives me” (John 13:20). Even after Christ’s ascension, the Kingdom was to remain a social reality. It retains a royal administration. Jesus has gathered the tribes.
The apostolic ministry of the Church runs deep into Israel’s history, to Jerusalem and her kings, and to the ministers of the kingdom. And the most important minister of the king was called ’asher ‘al-habayith (LXX: tamias), the royal vizier, or the “Master of the Palace,” (literally the “one over the house”). He was the na‘ar or soken (LXX: archon), the steward or chamberlain of the king’s house (2 Sam. 9:9; 13:17; 19:18; Est. 2:2). 

This was the office given to Joseph by the Pharaoh (Gen. 41:40; 45:8). He was the highest ranking official in the kings royal court, not unlike a medieval maires du palais or a prime minister, appointed to manage the day-to-day affairs of the kingdom. Continued in Solomon’s reign (e.g. 1 Kings 4:6;18:1-5), the office was second only to the king in authority. He was not the king himself, but he was the king’s mouthpiece, the amicus regis, the king’s right-hand man, his confidant and counselor, the court of final appeal.
During the lifetime of the prophet Isaiah, a man named Shebna was the prime minister of king Hezekiah sometime between 715 and 701 BC. But he prepared a tomb for himself in the special place reserved for the royal sons of David. God sent Isaiah to Shebna with news that he would be replaced by a more righteous man, Eliakim the son of Hilkiah:
Thus says the LORD to Shebna, master of the palace:
“I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station.
In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah;
I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your girdle,
and give over to him your authority.
He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.
I will place on Eliakim’s shoulder the key of the House of David;
he shall open, and none shall shut;
and he shall shut and none shall open.
I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot,
to be a throne of honor to his father’s house” (Isa. 22:19-23).
Although this chamberlain is mentioned elsewhere in Scripture ( 1 Kings 4:1-6; 18:3; 2 Kings 15:5; 18:18, 37; 19:2), here we learn so much about this unique office. Notice, for example, that the symbol of the prime minister’s authority was the keys of the royal establishment, as he had the power to open doors as well as to close doors to those who sought the king’s presence. 

He wore special robes of honour and a girdle, a traditional priestly garment (Lev. 8:7). His office did not cease with his death: it was a chair to be filled by one man succeeding another. He was a “father” to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. While many of the king’s ministers had power to bind and loose, the prime minister could bind what the others had loosed and loose what the others had bound. He had plenary authority, total veto power. He was someone who you can hang a lot of weight on, like a peg in a sure spot.
The Davidic kingdom is the closest Old Testament parallel to the Church. It’s no surprise, then, that while Christ appointed twelve ministers to govern his Kingdom, only one of them was made “prime minister.” Only one could bind what the others loose and loose what the other bound.
In Matthew 16:17-19 we read: “When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples: ‘Who do people say that the Son of man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” The text continues:
Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to youbut my Father in heaven.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,
And whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Jesus just held something like the first ecumenical council. He gathered together the bishops-in-training of his Church to discern his identity. As a council, however, they are unable to say. But Simon steps forward with a revelation given to him from the Father: “You are the son of God!” By this, Simon does not mean, “You are the Second Person of the Trinity.” Rather, he is acknowledging that God has fulfilled his promise to David: “I will raise up your offspring after you … and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son” (2 Sam. 7:12-14).
Simon shines a light on the dynastic identity of Christ. So, in turn, Christ shines a light on the dynastic identity of Simon. In the presence of the other ministers, Jesus then appoints him to the office of the ’asher ‘al-habayith by paraphrasing Isaiah 22:19-23. The thematic parallels are strong: “what he opens, none shall shut” and “what you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,” the “sure peg” and the “rock,” the “key of the House of David” and the “keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.” Jesus appointed Peter as the new “master of the palace” in his Kingdom so that he could shepherd the people in his name.
Peter’s modern-day successor—the pope—serves as the current prime minister in Christ’s Kingdom. Like Eliakim, who was a “father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” the pope leads as the “Holy Father” of the Church. As in the Davidic kingdom of old, the pope is the King’s premier representative. Until the return of the king, there was a steward over Gondor. Until the return of Christ, there will be a steward over the Church.
Often Anglicans draw an artificial line here. They concede that Jesus gave Peter, together with the other apostles, an important role in the establishment of his Church. As the representative and spokesperson for the apostles, the rock and the keeper of the keys, Peter would open the door of the gospel to Jews and Gentiles alike (Acts 2, 8. 10). But, they say, Matthew 16:17-19 says nothing about papal or apostolic succession. Peter fulfilled the promised role as a leader in the Church, and that role ended with his death. Many insist that Jesus never intended Peter’s office to have successors.
But why the dynastic reference to Eliakim? Why the “rock” and “keys”? For the rock represents permanence, and the keys symbolize succession. They are an office of authority (Luke 11:52; Rev. 3:7), and an office left vacant must be filled. Has not Christ made it plain that his Church is as Petrine as it is apostolic? On what ground or principle should those appointed to apostolic ministry have successors but not the appointed office of prime minister? 
Vladimir Soloviev reflects beautifully on Jesus giving Peter the keys:
Our Lord expressly connected the permanence and stability of his Church in its future struggle against the powers of evil. If the power of binding and loosing conferred on the apostles is not a mere metaphor or a purely personal and temporary attribute, if it is, on the contrary, the actual living seed of a universal, permanent institution comprising the Church’s whole existence, how can Peter’s own special prerogatives, announced in such explicit and solemn terms, be regarded as barren metaphors or as personal and transitory privileges? Ought not they also to refer to some fundamental and permanent institution, of which the historic personality of Simon Bar-Jona is but the outstanding and typical representative?
The God-Man did not establish ephemeral institutions. In his chosen disciples he saw, through and beyond all that was mortal and individual, the enduring principles and types of his work. What he said to the college of the apostles included the whole priestly order, the teaching Church in its entirety.
The sublime words which he addressed to Peter alone created in the person of this one apostle the undivided, sovereign authority possessed by the universal Church throughout the whole of its life and development in future ages. That Christ did not see fit to make the formal foundation of his Church and the guarantee of its permanence dependent on the common authority of all the apostles (for he did not say to the apostolic college: “On you I will build my church”) surely shows that our Lord did not regard the episcopal and priestly order, represented by the apostles in common, as sufficient in itself to form the impregnable foundation of the universal Church, in her inevitable struggle against Hades.
In founding his visible Church, Jesus was thinking primarily of the struggle against evil; and in order to ensure for his creation that unity which is strength, he crowned the hierarchy with a single, central institution, absolutely indivisible and independent, possessing its own right the fullness of authority and promise: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).”
Christ is the foundation of the Church (1 Cor. 3:11). Yet the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles (Eph. 2:20). In Revelation 21:14 we read, “The wall of the City had twelve foundations, and on them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Christ is the firm foundation of the Church … yet so are the apostles. Christ is the solid rock on which we stand, yet in Matthew 16:17-19 the Lord says that Simon is the “Rock” (in Aramaic, Cephas).
Jesus literally invented this name. To translate it into Greek, Matthew did something practical: he took a feminine word, petra, and “masculinized” it so that it could be for the first time a man’s name, Petros, or Peter. Naming Simon “Rock” may be a reference to Abraham (Isa. 51:1-2). It may also be a reference to Solomon, who built the temple on a large foundation stone (Isa. 28:16). Regardless, the only other men God personally re-names are Abram and Jacob, and every new name represents covenant, headship, fatherhood, and authority.
The “keys” and “rock” are the premiere symbols of succession and permanence. Contrary to popular Anglican opinion, they do not suggest that the Petrine office would die with Peter, but rather that it would be, like its Old Testament parallel, an office filled by successors. Christ did not intend his Church ever to be apostolic apart from Peter. Like a rock, the Petrine office is not going anywhere.
The Pope’s leadership throughout Church history is just a continuation of Peter’s leadership throughout the New Testament. 
It should be remembered that the ministry of the Pope actually predates the formation of the New Testament canon and in some ways directed the process of finalizing what is in the New Testament.

There are little hints of it everywhere. For example, Matthew writes: “These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, who is called Peter,” (10:2). Paul says that Christ “appeared to Cephas and then to the twelve” (1 Cor. 15:3-5). But there are really big examples too. Peter announces that Judas’ office must be filled (Acts 1), Peter preaches the first sermon (Acts 2), Peter performs the first miracle (Acts 3), Peter speaks in Solomon’s portico, Peter speaks before the Council (Acts 4), and it is Peter who Paul must see when he visits Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18). 

Peter decides to confirm the first Samaritans (Acts 8) and to baptize the first Gentiles (Acts 10). He alone could have stood up and announced the final decision of the first council (Acts 15). Peter alone is the holy father of the new family of God, the keeper of the keys, the rock, the vicar of Christ. And despite all of this, he remains nothing compared to his King.
So it is that the Church Fathers acknowledged the leadership and prerogatives of Peter’s office as the keys were passed on to Linus, Cletus, Clement, down through the ages. Dionysius of Corinth, the twelfth pope, wrote in AD 170: “You have also, by your very admonition, brought together the planting that was made by Peter and Paul at Rome.” 

In AD 200, Tertullian says with joy: “Was anything withheld from the knowledge of Peter, who is called ‘the rock on which the Church would be built’ with the power of ‘loosing and binding in heaven and on earth’?” 

Cyprian of Carthage wrote in 256: “Would heretics dare to come to the very seat of Peter whence Apostolic faith is derived and whither no errors come?” Augustine of Hippo summed up the ancient faith succinctly: “Rome has spoken; the case is closed.”
The papacy has undergone development through the centuries, but it has not departed from the essential components given it by the Lord, acknowledged by his contemporaries, and accepted by the early Church. The papacy was God’s original idea, established for the good of his Church, for the glory of the Trinity’s great name. For Peter’s successor is still what Christ said he would be: a rock. When the Pope solemnly defines an issue, we can join the fathers of the Council of Chalcedon with joy: “This is the faith of the fathers! This is the faith of the apostles! Peter has spoken!”
Jesus deserves our total obedience. If the Kingdom of God is nothing less than the gathered tribes of Israel then I don’t see how we can justify being out of communion with Christ’s appointed “prime minister,” the keeper of the keys, Peter and his successors. Jesus deserves our total allegiance. Schism is sin, no matter how eloquent our excuses. To those scattered national churches and independent provinces who remain out of communion with the pope, St. Paul’s question is a challenge: “Is Christ divided?” (1 Cor. 1:13).
 John Henry Newman, put it this way:
Turn away from the Catholic Church, and to whom will you go? It is your only chance of peace and assurance in this turbulent, changing world. There is nothing between it and skepticism, when men exert their reason freely. 

Private creeds, fancy religions, may be showy and imposing to the many in their day; national religions may lie huge and lifeless, and cumber the ground for centuries, and distract the attention or confuse the judgment of the learned; but on the long run it will be found that either the Catholic Religion is verily and indeed the coming in of the unseen world into this [world], or that there is nothing positive, nothing dogmatic, nothing real in any one of our notions as to whence we come and whither we are going. 

Unlearn Catholicism, and you become Protestant, Unitarian, Deist, Pantheist, Sceptic, in a dreadful, but infallible succession.
The remedy for Anglican division, and the problem of schism in general, is the Pope as shown by the bible which the office of Peter predates and shapes. 

To leave the rock on which Christ built his Church is to build on sand. Only the Catholic Church, filled with the Holy Spirit and the promise of Christ to Peter, is capable of perpetual unity and renewal. Ultimately, Christ established the Petrine office so that his Church may be truly one for the glory of the Holy Trinity.

Father Phillips on Merbecke . . .

Father Phillips gives us an interesting musical meditation for Lent on his blog atonement online.

I often reflect, similarly, about those who have died as baptized Anglicans:  Now they see in the fullness of the Catholic Faith having the dross burnt away by the fire of God's love.  

Fr. Christopher Phillips  . . .  

Most Anglicans, when they hear the name John Merbecke, probably think immediately of the very simple and plain setting used for “The Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion.” 
Each year in our parish we use this setting for some of the Sung Masses in Advent and Lent. Musically it’s not terribly exciting, but that’s the point of using it during this season. It’s tuneful but not overwhelming, and when it’s sung by the pure voices of children, it affords an interesting seasonal change.

The roots of this little setting couldn’t be more Anglican. In 1550, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer had asked Merbecke to provide service music “containing so much of the Order of Common Prayer as is to be sung in Churches.” It was to be simple and able to be sung by everyone, and the requirement was “for every syllable a note.”

We don’t know anything about Merbecke’s musical education, but apparently he was an accomplished singer and organist. Born in c.1505, by 1531 his name heads the list of choristers at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. He was appointed Organist of St. George’s in 1541. The virulent protestantism creeping through Europe was making its way into England at that time, and Merbecke was drawn into it, even though he was serving at the King’s Royal Chapel. 

That was a strange time – King Henry had broken with Rome, but in many ways he remained conservative in his religion, and in those circumstances, Merbecke’s protestant sympathies forced him into a double life. Of course, it couldn’t last forever, and by 1543 his protestantism was revealed. He was accused of owning and writing heretical documents – something that was, in fact, true. Along with two other colleagues at St. George’s, Merbecke was arrested. Charged with being a heretic, he was condemned to death. 

Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester, pleaded Merbecke’s case before the King, and he was given a reprieve. Released from his imprisonment, Merbecke returned to his post of Organist at St. George’s, where he stayed until his death in c.1585.

Although John Merbecke is probably best remembered for his 1550 work on the "Booke of Common Praier Noted," before the English Reformation he was a somewhat talented composer of liturgical music for the Catholic Church, although not many of his compositions survive. His "Missa Per arma iustitie" is still available, as well as the Marian anthem "Ave Dei patris filia." The antiphon "Domine Ihesu Christe" is probably one of his better works, although it’s more sturdy than beautiful.

John Merbecke became a convinced Calvinist, and he expressed great regret for his Catholic compositions. In fact, in 1550 he wrote, “…in the study of music and playing on organs, I consumed vainly the greatest part of My life.” It’s really his "Booke of Common Praier Noted," with its simple Communion setting, which has made Merbecke best known, and that wasn’t actually a work of composition; rather, it was a fitting of the words of the English liturgy to modified plainsong melodies.

I’ve wondered, as I hear his Communion setting being sung at a Catholic Mass, what he would think. I’m quite sure that if he had witnessed such a thing during his earthly life, he would have been appalled – but now that he has the knowledge which comes with eternity (and I do hope he’s spending it in heaven), I would imagine he appreciates the unexpected turn of events which has brought his music back to the Church in which he was baptized.