The EENS Question

Outside The Church There Is No Salvation

The doctrine that "Outside the Church there is no salvation" is one that is constantly misinterpreted by those who won't submit to the Magisterium of the Church. Faith does not depend upon our ability to reason to the truth but on our humility before the Truth presented to us by those to whom Christ entrusted that task. This is why the First Vatican Council taught that it is the task of the Magisterium ALONE to determine and expound the meaning of the Tradition - including "outside the Church no salvation."
Concerning this doctrine the Pope of Vatican I, Pius IX, spoke on two different occasions. In an allocution (address to an audience) on December 9th, 1854 he said:
We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation; that she is the only ark of safety, and whosoever is not in her perishes in the deluge; we must also, on the other hand, recognize with certainty that those who are invincible in ignorance of the true religion are not guilty for this in the eyes of the Lord. And who would presume to mark out the limits of this ignorance according to the character and diversity of peoples, countries, minds and the rest?
[I could not find the text of the above document, but here's a document given March 17, 1856:
Do not cease to diligently defend your people against these pernicious errors. Saturate them with the doctrine of Catholic truth more accurately each day. Teach them that just as there is only one God, one Christ, one Holy Spirit, so there is also only one truth which is divinely revealed. There is only one divine faith which is the beginning of salvation for mankind and the basis of all justification, the faith by which the just person lives and without which it is impossible to please God and to come to the community of His children.  There is only one true, holy, Catholic church, which is the Apostolic Roman Church. There is only one See founded in Peter by the word of the Lord, outside of which we cannot find either true faith or eternal salvation. He who does not have the Church for a mother cannot have God for a father, and whoever abandons the See of Peter on which the Church is established trusts falsely that he is in the Church.  Thus, there can be no greater crime, no more hideous stain than to stand up against Christ, than to divide the Church engendered and purchased by His blood, than to forget evangelical love and to combat with the furor of hostile discord the harmony of the people of God.  Singulari quidem, March 17, 1856  (emphasis mine).

Again, in his encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore of 10 August, 1863 addressed to the Italian bishops, he said:
It is known to us and to you that those who are in invincible ignorance of our most holy religion, but who observe carefully the natural law, and the precepts graven by God upon the hearts of all men, and who being disposed to obey God lead an honest and upright life, may, aided by the light of divine grace, attain to eternal life; for God who sees clearly, searches and knows the heart, the disposition, the thoughts and intentions of each, in His supreme mercy and goodness by no means permits that anyone suffer eternal punishment, who has not of his own free will fallen into sin.  [Emphasis mine].
These statements are consistent with the understanding of the Church contained in the documents of Vatican II, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as explaining why the rigorist position of Fr. Feeney (that all must be actual members of the Catholic Church to be saved) has been condemned by the Magisterium. It is ironic that precisely those who know their obligation to remain united to the Magisterium, and thus on whom this doctrine is morally binding, keep themselves from union with the Roman See on this point.

Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL
Emphasis and added links by Scott Windsor

Merry ChristMass!

Well, I haven't posted since before the Christ Mass, but I do so now and my wish for all reading this is that they have a blessed and merry Christ Mass Season!  Remember, Christmas is not over!  On the contrary, the Christmas Season has JUST BEGUN!   The Christmas Season lasts at least until Epiphany, which is January 6th (longer in some traditions).   So continue to wish your co-workers and friends a Merry Christmas!  They may look at you a bit strange since for most Christmas ended on December 25th - but it may also give you an opportunity to share your faith with them.

And don't forget!  KEEP MASS in ChristMASS!


Fourth Sunday in Advent

Fourth Sunday in Advent
Epistle: I Cor. 4:1-5
Brethren: Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Here now it is required among the dispensers that a man be found faithful. But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you or by man's day. But neither do I judge my own self. For I am not conscious to myself of anything. Yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore, judge not before the time: until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. And then shall every man have praise from God.

Gospel:  Luke 3:1-6
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina: Under the high priests Anna and Caiphas: the word of the Lord was made unto John, the son of Zachary, in the desert. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins. As it was written in the book of the sayings of Isaias the prophet: "A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways plain. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Happy Hanukkah

Last Friday began the celebration of Hanukkah, so we're 5 days in at this point.   This is not a Christian holiday, and not one of extreme significance to Jews - but it does give them an opportunity of celebration during the season of Advent/Christmass for Christians and has thus gained in popularity in recent generations.  I felt it may be interesting and even helpful to share some of the meanings and traditions the Jews celebrate during this season.

What Is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah (or Chanukah, Hanukah, Hannuka or the Festival of Lights) is the celebration of the Jewish victory over the Syrians in 165 BC and the rededication of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  Jews now celebrate this holiday throughout the world with 8 days of merriment.  In 168 BC the Temple was seized and dedicated to the worship of Zeus.
Judah Maccabee and his soldiers went to the holy Temple, and were saddened that many things were missing or broken, including the golden menorah. They cleaned and repaired the Temple, and when they were finished, they decided to have a big dedication ceremony. For the celebration, the Maccabees wanted to light the menorah. They looked everywhere for oil, and found a small flask that contained only enough oil to light the menorah for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days. This gave them enough time to obtain new oil to keep the menorah lit. Today Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting candles in a menorah every night, thus commemorating the eight-day miracle.  (Source).

Significance of Hanukkah

According to Jewish law, Hanukkah is one of the less important Jewish holidays. However, Hanukkah has become much more popular in modern practice because of its proximity to Christmas.
Hanukkah falls on the twenty-fifth day of the Jewish month of Kislev. Since the Jewish calendar is lunar based, every year the first day of Hanukkah falls on a different day – usually sometime between late November and late December. Because many Jews live in predominately Christian societies, over time Hanukkah has become much more festive and Christmas-like. Jewish children receive gifts for Hanukkah – often one gift for each of the eight nights of the holiday. Many parents hope that by making Hanukkah extra special their children won't feel left out of all the Christmas festivities going on around them. (Source).

Hanukkah Traditions

Every community has its unique Hanukkah traditions, but there are some traditions that are almost universally practiced. They are: lighting the hanukkiyah, spinning the dreidel and eating fried foods.
  • Lighting the hanukkiyah: Every year it is customary to commemorate the miracle of the Hanukkah oil by lighting candles on a hanukkiyah. The hanukkiyah is lit every night for eight nights. Learn more about the hanukkiyah in the article, What Is a Hanukkiyah?
  • Spinning the dreidel: A popular Hanukkah game is spinning the dreidel, which is a four-sided top with Hebrew letters written on each side. Read The Hanukkah Dreidel to learn more about the dreidel, the meaning of the letters and how to play the game. Gelt, which are chocolate coins covered with tin foil, are part of this game.
  • Eating fried foods: Because Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes and sufganiyot during the holiday. Latkes are pancakes made out of potatoes and onions, which are fried in oil and then served with applesauce. Sufganiyot (singular: sufganiyah) are jelly-filled donuts that are fried and sometimes dusted with confectioners’ sugar before eating.

Gaudete Sunday

Third Sunday in Advent - Gaudete Sunday:
Readings according to the Extra-Ordinary/Traditional Rite:

Epistle: Philipp. 4:4-7
Brethren: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety, but in every prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God. And may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Gospel: John 1:19-28
At that time, when the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to him, to ask him: "Who art thou?" And he confessed and did not deny: and he confessed: "I am not the Christ." And they asked him: "What then? Art thou Elias?" And he said: "I am not." "Art thou the prophet? And he answered: "No." They said therefore unto him: "Who art thou, that we may give an answer to them that sent us? What sayest thou of thyself?" He said: "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias." And they that were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him and said to him: "Why then dost thou baptize, if thou be not Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet?" John answered them, saying: "I baptize with water: but there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not. The same is he that shall come after me, who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose." These things were done in Bethania, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Comment: Gaudete Sunday!  Rejoice!  Our time of waiting is nearly over!  The coming of the Lord is near!  We meditate not only on the coming Christ Mass, but also the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior!   We rejoice in His confirmation by St. John the Baptist as prophecied by Isaiah.  Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say REJOICE!  Today we light the PINK candle of the Advent Wreath along with the first two purple candles we've lit the past two weeks.

Restored Order of Sacraments

8. What is the Restored Order of the Sacraments?
An increasing number of dioceses and parishes in the United States are adopting a Restored Order policy for the celebration of the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist. This means, quite simply, that it becomes standard policy for Catholics who were baptized in infancy to receive Confirmation before First Eucharist, not after. Practically speaking, this means that the two sacraments are received at the First Eucharist Mass, with Confirmation being celebrated after the homily.
9. Why do they call it Restored Order?
During the first five hundred years or so of the history of the Roman Catholic Church (and still today in the Christian churches of the East), it was always the case that the sacraments of Christian initiation were celebrated in an invariable sequence: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. And it was almost always the case that all three sacraments were celebrated together at the same time, even with infants.

History of the Advent Wreath

The History of the Advent Wreath


A Baptist friend asked me about the Advent wreath — its history, meaning, etc.. I think I gave her a pretty good answer. Perhaps you could provide a little more information...

The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition. However, the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia during Winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth. By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. After all, Christ is “the Light that came into the world” to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God (cf. John 3:19-21). By 1600, both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath.
The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The wreath is made of various evergreens, signifying continuous life. Even these evergreens have a traditional meaning which can be adapted to our faith: The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly, and yew, immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns, and one English legend tells of how the cross was made of holly. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.
The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.
The light again signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some modern day adaptions include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to replace the three purple and one rose candles with four white candles, which will be lit throughout Christmas season.

By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas.

In family practice, the Advent wreath is most appropriately lit at dinner time after the blessing of the food. A traditional prayer service using the Advent wreath proceeds as follows: On the First Sunday of Advent, the father of the family blesses the wreath, praying: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” He then continues for each of the days of the first week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg thee, and come, that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The youngest child then lights one purple candle.
During the second week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The oldest child then lights the purple candle from the first week plus one more purple candle.
During the third week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Thy ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The mother then lights the two previously lit purple candles plus the rose candle.
Finally, the father prays during the fourth week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The father then lights all of the candles of the wreath.
Since Advent is a time to stir-up our faith in the Lord, the wreath and its prayers provide us a way to augment this special preparation for Christmas. Moreover, this good tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our homes and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.

Saunders, Rev. William. “The History of the Advent Wreath.” Arlington Catholic Herald.
Reprinted with permission of the Arlington Catholic Herald.

True Meaning of Christmas

True Meaning of Christmas
The true meaning of the season as the name implies, is the Christ Mass.  This is a celebration of the Savior of the world's birth in Bethlehem.  It is truly the holy day season (the true meaning and origin of "holiday" is "holy day").  We should strive to not neglect the real meaning of the Christ Mass Season and everyone who gets this time off from work should be appreciative of the Catholic Church for setting this special season up for them.  Afterall, Jesus likely wasn't even born in December!   Consider the fact that shepherds were tending their flocks in the field - that's likely NOT a December in Bethlehem activity!

The Catholic Date for the Christ Mass
So if Jesus wasn't born in December, why do we celebrate His birth in that month?  In times of old it was believed that a prophet died on the anniversary of either their birth or conception.  The date of Jesus' death was during the Passover, which is a movable Jewish celebration, occurring on the week of the first full moon after the vernal equinox, precisely (by the Jewish calendar, which is lunar) Passover begins on the 14th of Nisan with the slaughter of the spotless lamb, which is to be eaten fully on that night of the 15th of Nisan.  Being a movable holy day (and birthdays are not) when the date for the Christ Mass was determined they figured as close as possible to when Easter would have been in the year 33 AD.  Settling on March 25th as the Feast of the Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she had been chosen to be the Ark of the New Covenant and Mary consented with her fiat, "be it done to me according to thy word."   Then figuring 40 weeks later we arrive at December 25th.  (For an interesting and logical view of when Jesus was likely actually born see this site which bases Jesus' birth in September-October upon the birth of John the Baptist). So the selection of December 25th is based upon the death of Christ at Easter in the year 33 AD (and not, as some would say, it was based upon the fact that there were some popular Roman feasts in December and Catholicism based the Christ Mass in paganism).

Keeping "Christ" in Christmas?
Well yes, by all means I support the concept of keeping "Christ" in Christmas!  We should not only be keeping Christ in Christmas - but also not losing site of keeping Mass in Christmas!  That is the true "reason for the season" - which is to celebrate Christ's birth AT Holy Mass!  What we don't necessarily need to support is boycotting those who wish to say "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings."  If someone wishes you "Happy Holidays!" then they are actually wishing you the best for the HOLY DAY of the Christ Mass!  The "Season's Greeting" should be responded to with, "and a Merry Christ Mass to you too!"  Those who make a big deal with boycotts and the like are missing the opportunity to redirect those who may indeed be missing the point of the Holy Day Season.  Rather than cast a negative upon the season, wouldn't it be better to turn it into a positive reflection upon Christians and bring a true remembrance to the Christ Mass Season?

A Blessed Advent Season to You!
Another point we should make - prior to December 25th it is NOT the Christ Mass Season!  Starting four Sundays prior to the Christ Mass begins the season of ADVENT!  This is a season of preparation, anticipation and penance - similar to, but not as strict as the Lenten season.  The TRUE Season of Christmas BEGINS with the first Mass of Christmas, which is traditionally the "Midnight Mass" - though many diocese now end Advent on December 24th with a vigil Mass and technically that would mean the Christmas Season for them begins on the 24th.  Speaking to die-hard Traditionalists, celebrating the evening before is not necessarily a "bad" thing either since by Jewish custom the next "day" begins at sunset, not at midnight per our Western tradition.  So if you're reading this during Advent, I wish you a Blessed Advent!  This, again is also an appropriate response to someone who wishes you a "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings," and may be an ice-breaker for you to discuss why you responded that way and share your faith with them at their bidding (if they ask).  If you're reading this between December 25th and January 6th (the season of Epiphany begins) then I wish you the Merriest/Happiest Christ Mass season!  


Beginning of Advent

When Did the Celebration of Advent Begin?
The recognition of the liturgical season began in about the 5th or 6th century in the Latin Church and there is no record of Advent prior to the 8th century in the Eastern Church (source).  There is some mention at a synod held in Saragossa in 380 which disallowed absence from Mass between December 17 and Epiphany decreed in the fourth canon from that synod (ibid).  So it is possible this seasonal celebration began in the 4th century shortly after Roman persecution of the Church had ended and Catholics could openly celebrate and publicly announce liturgical rites and seasons.

From the Aquinas and More website:
The exact time when the season of Advent came to be celebrated is not precisely known. Of course, it was not in practice before the celebration of the Nativity and Christmastide began; the earliest evidence shows that the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord was established within the later part of the 4th century. There are homilies from the 5th century that discuss preparation in a general sense, but do not indicate an official liturgical season. A Synod held in 590 established that Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from November 11th until the Nativitywould be offered according to the Lenten rite. This and other traditions, such as fasting, show that the period of time now established as the Advent season was more penitential (similar to Lent) than the liturgical season as we know it today.

A collection of homilies from Pope St. Gregory the Great (whose papacy was from 590-604) included a sermon for the second Sunday of Advent, and by 650 Spain was celebrating the Sundays (five at the time) of Advent. So it seems the liturgical season was established around the latter part of the 6th century and first half of the 7th century. For the next couple of centuries, Advent was celebrated for five Sundays; Pope Gregory VII, who was pope from 1073-85, reduced the number to four Sundays.  (Source).

Sola Scriptura and Sproul Redux

I am reposting this since the first time it seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle, plus I use it in response to Turretinfan.

My Response:

RC Sproul, Jr. writes: "The Bible does not have specific text that suggests that the Bible alone is our final authority in all matters of faith and practice."  There are others, in fact a non-Catholic friend of mine on the Locutus Webboard asked about sola scriptura at NTRMin and "DTK" openly stated "no where in the Bible are these answers stated as posed," but it is rare to see a proponent of sola scriptura, in so many words flat out admit there is no specific text which suggests the Bible alone is (their) final authority in all matters of faith and practice.  Kudos for Sproul on that.  He goes on to say, "Those who delight to point this out, however, typically Roman Catholics and the eastern Orthodox, typically miss the point. First, their energies more often than not are aimed at the Anabaptist error that we call solo Scriptura."  First off, let me say I do not delight in this for it is a sad truth he speaks here.  How many millions have been bamboosled by the lie of sola scriptura?  There can be no joy in knowing how many souls have been taken down this false path. 

The next point I'd make is "sola" and "solo" are really two conjugations of the same word in Latin, one has masculine form the other has feminine form.  When put with the feminine noun of "scriptura" - only "sola" is appropriate.  Secondly, being Latin, "scriptura" would not be capitalized.  This isn't really against what RC Sproul, Jr. is saying, just how he's saying it - and I can accept what he's saying, these are just a couple pet peeves of mine.  For the sake of the argument, I'll "make no more hay" over the use of "solo scriptura" in this response.  Sproul uses this differentiation between those who use Scripture as their final authority and those who would essentially use Scripture as the only authority.  In actuality, those whom he would say adhere to the Anabaptist error are indeed adherents to sola scriptura - whereas a more accurate term for folks like Sproul would be fina scriptura since Scripture is not the only authority but it is the final authority.  In that respect whether you're calling it sola or solo scriptura - it is a-historical as well as reprehensible and ignorant to cling to the "sole" authority concept.

Sproul goes on to say:
Sola Scriptura, like the Scriptures themselves, recognizes that God has gifted the church with teachers and pastors. It recognizes that the church has progressed and reached consensus on critical issues in and through the ancient ecumenical creeds. It affirms with vigor that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants. But it also affirms that even these giants have feet of clay. And there is where the Bible does in the end teach sola Scriptura.

I missed something there...  where does the Bible teach sola scriptura?  Let's try to get this straight, the Bible allegedly affirms "these giants have feet of clay," and supposedly from that "this is where the Bible does in the end teach sola Scriptura (sic)."  This is a complete non-sequitur.  Just because an authority has "feet of clay" (man), that is not an affirmation of anything being a sole or even final authority.

Sola Scriptura (sic) is a biblical doctrine not because the Bible says so. That would be a tautology- the kind of argument we find in that collection of lies the Book of Mormon. Instead the Bible is our alone final authority because it alone is the Word of God. It has been attested, authenticated, by God Himself. Miracles serve as the divine imprimatur, the proof that this is a message of God. This is how Nicodemus reasoned when he said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). This is also how Jesus Himself reasoned when He first forgave the sins of the paralytic lowered through the roof. In response to the unspoken charge that He had blasphemed, Jesus told the man, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house” (Matthew 9:1-8).

Let us first ask how finding the explicit teaching that Scripture is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice is a tautology.  A tautology is a needlessly repeated statement which does not provide additional force to the comment (eg. "a necessary requirement" or "one after the other in succession" or "to reiterate again" how about "joint cooperation?").   If there were a passage in Scripture which said, "Scripture is the final authority on all matters of faith and practice" where's the tautology?  The point is, whether it is a tautology or not, it is not recorded in Scripture, period.

I'll leave the accusation upon the Book of Mormon alone for now not that I disagree, just that it seems an emotional and unsupported appeal to stir up anti-Mormonism.  The appeal would have substance if he gave us a couple of examples of these lies.  Unsubstantiated claims (whether I agree with them or not) should be avoided - so I am.

This brings us to the statement, "the Bible is our alone final authority because it alone is the Word of God."  And we must ask, where does the Bible itself teach that the Bible alone is the Word of God?  God spoke through the Prophets, was every word they spoke inscripturated?  Scripture itself also promises that the Holy Ghost would be with His Church, guiding the Church to all truth until Jesus returns again in glory - is the Holy Ghost mute?   Sproul uses Nicodemus as an example of Scripture teaching that Jesus is of God based upon the miracles Jesus did, "for no man can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."  Again with the non sequitur!  The fact that one does signs and wonders does not automatically equate to God being with him or the voice of God speaking through him!  Scripture even tells us that Pharoah's magicians performed signs and wonders matching Moses up to the final plague, does that mean Pharoah's magicians were with God because they performed signs?  The Beast/AntiChrist of Revelation 13 is mortally wounded and heals itself! 
"The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing." [2 Thes. 2:9-10]
So signs and wonders are not the true sign that someone is with God or not!  They could be, but based on that alone you have a 50/50 chance.

Sproul goes on to say:
I would be quite content to add as a second infallible and inerrant authority the ancient creeds of the church under the following conditions. First, those who gathered to formulate these creeds would need to have their message authenticated by miraculous works. Let them raise men from the dead.

We must answer to Sproul with 2 Thes. 2:9-10. 

Sproul continues:
Second, we must add those creeds to our Bibles. If both sources are equally authoritative, why do we separate them?

Why must these be added to the Bible?  Sproul already concedes there is no Scripture which states or even suggests that the Bible alone is the final authority on matter of faith or practice, so why insist upon this "solo" mentality? 

Sproul even states:
In like manner, I’d be content to add as a second infallible and inerrant authority the statements of the Pope when He speaks ex cathedra. First, however, let him raise men from the dead. Second, let us add his words, assuming he would even tell us what they were, to our canon.

We must answer to Sproul with 2 Thes. 2:9-10 again.  Signs and wonders do not a prophet make!  Signs and wonders do not equivocate to one who speaks for God.

Next Sproul echos the same tome which anyone who has been around apologetics at all has seen:
But wait, there’s more. I want an authoritative list, in both instances of what these messages are. Ask someone Orthodox to show you exactly where you can read their infallible tradition and you will receive slippery ooze. Ask someone Roman Catholic for a list of infallible papal or consiliar statements, and you will receive the same.

Now, whereas we do have lists - no pope or council has seen it necessary to have an infallible list of dogmatic teachings.  You can turn to Denzinger's Enchiridion Symbolorum et Definitionum (Sources of Catholic Dogma) or Dr. Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma as rather exhaustive lists; but let us ask RC Sproul to provide us with the authoritative list of books which should be compiled into what he now calls The Bible!  In asking us to provide such lists, he defeats his own position because Scripture alone does not provide us with the authoritative list of what IS Scripture!  In fact, when on the subject of sola scriptura, as the Protestant final authority, it is a bit of a diversion to throw out a table-turning question to Catholics, or a red herring tactic to divert attention from where sola scriptura lacks even the capability to declare what necessarily comprises the Canon of Sacred Scripture.  On the other hand, Catholicism does not declare a single final authority in all matters.  For some matters, even most, Scripture is sufficient; however Scripture is silent on many matters, especially those involving moral decisions with modern technology, such as cloning and in vitro fertilization.
I will add, whether or not the Catholic Church has an infallible list of infallible documents has no bearing on the sola scriptura debate.  I maintain that the Scriptures are inerrant, however I would not say they are infallible.   People come up with fallible interpretations of Scripture all the time - which does not affect the inerrancy of Scripture - but Scripture does not interpret itself and even warns us that Scripture is hard to understand and can be interpreted to ones own destruction (St. Peter speaking of St. Paul's Epistles, 2 Peter 3:16).

Sproul begins to wrap it up here:
Finally, there is this problem. In both instances, Rome and Orthodoxy, you run headlong into the problem of the infinite regress. That is, those who are less strident in their views on tradition, who deny that tradition carries additional content to the Scripture, instead argue that tradition gives an infallible and inerrant interpretation of Scripture. Okay. Where then can we find an infallible and inerrant interpretation of the interpretation? Assuming we could succeed there, of course, we would need an inerrant interpretation of the interpretation of the interpretation. Ad nauseum.

All Sproul provides here is a slippery slope argument.  The fact of the matter is, Scripture itself tells us that the Holy Ghost would be with Jesus' Church until the end of the age.  Did "the age" begin or end in 1517?  No, and if we were to accept it "began" there - then we'd have to also accept that for nearly 1500 years the Holy Ghost was not with His Church - or that His Church did not exist for that period of time.  Either way, it would make the promise of Scripture to be false for "until He returns again" does not exclude that 1500 year period.

And Sproul concludes this article with:
No, the Bible is God’s Word. It is perspicuous, understandable. It says what it means and means what it says. It is attested by the miraculous power of God. And it is all these things, alone. It alone, all by itself, equips us for every good work. Flee anyone who tells you that more is required to understand, or more is required to obey.

Again, we must remind Sproul of his concession - The Bible does not have specific text that suggests that the Bible alone is our final authority in all matters of faith and practice.  Nowhere does it teach that it (the Bible) alone, all by itself, equips us for every good work. Miracles alone are not absolute evidence something comes from God.

In short, not only does Sproul concede this debate from the onset - his rationalizations are proven to be illogical and not competent to stand under criticism.  Anyone who has believed what RC Sproul, Jr. teaches on this subject should flee from him.


Second Sunday in Advent

According to the Traditional/Extra-Ordinary Rite:

Epistle: Rom. 15:4-13
Brethren: For what things soever were written were written for our learning: that, through patience and the comfort of the scriptures, we might have hope. Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be of one mind, one towards another, according to Jesus Christ: That with one mind and with one mouth you may glorify God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore, receive one another, as Christ also hath received you, unto the honour of God. For I say that Christ Jesus was minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: But that the Gentiles are to glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: "Therefore will I confess to thee, O Lord, among the Gentiles and will sing to thy name." And again he saith: "Rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people." And again: "Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles: and magnify him, all ye people." And again, Isaias saith: "There shall be a root of Jesse; and he that shall rise up to rule the Gentiles, in him the Gentiles shall hope." Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing: that you may abound in hope and in the power of the Holy Ghost.

Gospel: Matt. 11:2-10
At that time, when John had heard in prison the works of Christ: sending two of his disciples he said to him: "Art thou he that art to come, or look we for another?" And Jesus making answer said to them: "Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me."
And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: "What went you out into the desert to see? a reed shaken with the wind? But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed in soft garments, are in the houses of kings. But what went you out to see? A prophet? Yea I tell you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: 'Behold I send my angel before my face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.' "

The theme of the Epistle reading is hope - hope in the coming of the Lord.  The Gospel speaks of John the Baptist who prepared the way of Jesus.  Again, preparing the way of the Lord.

Sola Fide for LP

This entry is a continuation from:

> LP: Hopefully someone notices that
> flooding comments is not enough to
> deliver the proof of the point.

sw: The objective reader will notice that I have merely responded to your points, point by point, which necessitates breaking into multiple comments in order to get around the limit Blogger puts upon the comments section.
sw: The objective reader will also see that it is you who is manipulating the text of James 2 in order to make your point - and rather than a point-by-point response this time, I will focus upon your manipulation and misinterpretation - not to mention your contradicting yourself.

> LP: Some of your exposition is fine but
> you make a category mistake in saying
> that James was referring to both types
> of faith in Jas 2:24.
sw: How can I possibly be wrong about that?!  St. James himself contrasts the difference between a living/saving faith and a dead faith!

> LP: I am asserting though some of your
> expositions are fine, the conclusion you
> make that faith + works = justification
> is wrong, you are the one making a non
> siquitor.

sw: Well, let us examine this again, and let us examine the consistency of your own words.

> LP: Your latching on Jas 2:24 and
> thinking there - Lutherans are wrong, at
> first blush might convince, but words
> have meaning and they find their
> meaning in context.

sw: I've stuck with the context to prove the meaning and refute your misrepresentation.

>> sw: Sorry LP, but you're simply wrong
>> here. The faith being spoken of is the
>> same throughout James 2 -
>> ... No LP, it is faith which works
>> which justifies.

> LP: Notice your double talk?
sw: No, I see no double talk there.  You're simply attempting (and failing) to use the argument I used against RC Sproul and Lutheranism against me.  There is no double-speak in what I said above!  James 2 is all about faith in Jesus Christ.  You can have faith in Jesus Christ and no works and that faith will not save you; you can have faith in Jesus Christ with works and then you may be saved!  It's the same faith in both situations.  When St. James speaks of the demons having faith - they have that same faith!  They too believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead - but they have no good works! 

> LP: You are correct, in the bolded line,
> hence, faith which does not work does
> not justify which is what Jas 2:24 is
> saying.
sw: Yes, that is what I am saying - and since a faith without works does not justify, the concept of being saved by faith alone is categorically a lie.

> LP: My point is that you made a
> category mistake in lumping all of faith
> (simply because you saw the word -
> faith, alone etc) in that faith described
> in Jas 2:24. Because if you are correct,
> then James is also rebuking the one
> who has a living faith, a textual absurdity.
sw: No LP, what is it which makes faith "living?"  It is WORKS!  I also did not merely latch on to verse 24!  I refer to the entire context, so let me quote it again for you here:

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?  For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
(James 2:17-26 KJV)
sw: I've bolded all the sections in the context which pertain to what I'm saying, and it is clearly not just verse 24!  The REAL POINT of James 2 is that you must have faith AND works for justification, for faith alone is dead.

> LP: My second point. You would have
> heard the Lutheran principle - Scripture
> interprets Scripture.

sw: And talk about absurdities!  Any logically minded person knows that no book interprets itself! Scripture presents the Word of God to His People.  EVERYONE who reads Scripture interprets on some level!  However, that was NOT one of your points NOR is it pertinent to THIS discussion!  If you would like to engage in a sola scriptura discussion/debate, I would be more than happy to oblige, let us not be distracted by such diversionary tactics in THIS discussion of sola fide.

> LP: In your equation:
> faith + works = justification,
> I asked you what these works are - you
> do not know what they are. You demure
> on this one and are Nike - JUST DO IT
> (SOMETHING). But you do not know
> what IT is, to say the least.
sw: First off, it's not my equation, it is St. James' equation!
sw: Secondly, I answered you with examples.  If you have faith first, then ANY good works may suffice!  USING that faith is what is important!  Feeding the poor, clothing the naked, aiding a fallen neighbor, loving one another... the point is there is no set list, for it would be unending.  You want a cookie cutter god, not a loving God who accepts the free will good works of men done in faith.  The True God does not generate a list of minimum requirements, it is an open commandment.  If you have a true and living faith, it will be evidenced by your works for it is the works which perfect the faith (James 2:22).

> LP: Your equation , faith + works
> = justification, is an RC doctrinal
> equation an not necessarily the
> equation St James is making(.) You
> contradict St. Paul and make
> St James contradict St Paul who
> said.. Here is proof:
> Here is the ESV
> 8For(Q) by grace you have been
> saved(R) through faith. And this
> is(S) not your own doing;(T) it
> is the gift of God, 9(U) not a
> result of works,(V) so that no
> one may boast
. 10For(W) we
> are his workmanship,(X) created in
> Christ Jesus(Y) for good works,(Z)
> which God prepared beforehand,(AA)
> that we should walk in them.

> In the above salvation is not a result
> of works(.)  In your equation ,
> faith + works = justification , makes
> works a cause of salvation.

sw: First off, no - works are NOT the cause of salvation - but they are a necessary component to the equation!  Faith alone cannot save, nor can works alone save.  Protestants, like you, seem to always remove faith from the equation when you challenge Catholicism.  You're constantly making the Catholic equation to be works = salvation and the Protestant equation is faith = salvation - when I am saying NEITHER of those equations are true!  Faith alone is no different than the faith of the devils - it is faith + works = justification and justification leads to salvation IF one perseveres in that saving faith (which necessarily includes works).

> LP: I suggest to you that you got
> your conclusion wrong, here is the
> right equation if you may...
> faith = justification + works.
> Faith (not assent, or mere belief) in
> Christ, results in justification, results
> also in works - Eph 2:10.

sw: Notice, you're jumping context!  St. James, which is the context we're discussing, does not ever put the "equation" into the syntax you've used - in fact, that syntax would contradict what St. James clearly stated.  So let's look at Eph. 2:10 in context:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

sw: Saved by faith is the clear statement from St. Paul in Ephesians, but in order to not be in contradiction with St. James we need to ask what KIND of faith is St. Paul talking about?  Clearly it is "saving/living" faith, and therefore good works necessarily accompany that faith.  But St. Paul also clearly states "not of works" - is there a contradiction here?  No!  One only need to look at the very next verse (context, context, context) to see he's talking about works of the Law, which can be demonstrated throughout the references Protestants typically cite for support of sola fide.  St. Paul opposes works of the Law - not the good works which are necessary for "living/saving" faith.  So let's look at verses 11-13:
11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (NKJV)

sw: So the context explains that it is not through acts like circumcision which save us, but it is through faith, and as we've already demonstrated, that faith must have good works along with it (so it is never alone if it's "living/saving" faith) for justification which leads to salvation.

> LP: Hence, in this equation, we do not
> need to know works because it will
> automatically happen.
sw: The debate is not over whether or not the works are automatic, but as to whether or not they always accompany a "living/saving" faith.  They do, causa finita est.

> LP: It is not a factor and no one can
> boast, but in your equation since in it
> works is the cause of justification along
> with faith, boasting is possible, because
> you can say - I HAVE DONE SOMETHING.
sw: Nice try, but as St. James says: "2:18 But someone will say, 'You have faith, and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."  Is St. James using the "boasting" St. Paul speaks against, or have you misinterpreted St. Paul?  I suggest it is the latter, otherwise you're espousing that Sts. James and Paul oppose each other.
> LP: This is the reason that Abraham did
> not even know that by offering Isaac, he
> was proven to be righteous.
sw: Whether or not Abraham knew it is irrelevant - he was justified by his works, period.  That is what St. James tells us.  No amount of rationalization can take away the plain text.

> LP: In my equation, you cannot ask me
> the question what are these good works
> so that one might be saved. It is not a
> factor, it happens but it is not a cause
> of my salvation.

sw: Your equation is based upon your imputation of Calvinistic or perhaps Lutheran thought into the text of St. James.  St. James does not lay it out the way you have, whereas what I have presented is verbatim from his epistle.

> LP: Hence, my question to you - which
> you evade, if Jesus died on the Cross
> what was he doing there if you are to
> supply something so that you may be
> saved. You called this black white fallacy.
> But you wave your hand at this by simply
> labelling my point without offering any
> reason why my question is invalid and
> not reasonable to ask. Rather I believe
> my question is very reasonable.

sw: I can tolerate a lot, but one thing I have a problem tolerating is absolute falsehood and/or one bearing false witness as you have just done.  I will quote my words again to save the readers from having to go back to the original comment, though that too is linked if anyone wishes to see it in the original context:
>> sw: FAITH comes FIRST
>> LP, then in order for that FAITH
>> to be LIVING FAITH it must
>> have WORKS. What FAITH are we
>> talking about here, LP? It is FAITH
>> in God that He sent His only
>> begotten Son to die on that cross
>> for us and that whosoever
>> believes in Him shall not perish,
>> but have everlasting life.

sw: In my next comment

> sw: The point was (which DID
answer your question) is that
> If you have not faith in the cross,
> then no amount of works justifies.
> THEN comes the "dead faith" which
> St. James speaks - for even the
> demons have faith that Jesus died
> on the cross - but what they lack
> is GOOD WORKS!  In summary, IF
> you have faith in the cross AND do
> good works with that faith, then
> you have living faith which does
> justify.  Doing works without faith
> will not avail you anything.
> Pagans and other non-believers do
> "good" things all the time, but such
> without faith is nothing in the eyes
> of God, according to Scripture.
> Faith then must PRECEDE and
> ACCOMPANY good works.  So
> without the cross, the works are
> meaningless.  So you HAVE been
> answered, TWICE now - and sola
> fide is proven (again) to be a lie.
sw: And repeating myself again makes it now THREE TIMES you've been answered on this AND my answer has been explained - so you're definitely bearing false witness.  You may not LIKE the answer given or the explanation, but to say I have evaded your question (which I have not) and have not provided any explanation (which I have done).  Again, the reason your question falls into the black/white fallacy is you asked: "If that (works + faith) is acceptable to God, then what was Jesus doing on the cross, since you can do something, and that would be alright?"  The logical end to your statement is: "Jesus dying on the cross makes everything else we can do unacceptable to God."  To be pleasing to God it's either entirely the cross or nothing.  That's black and white and not true.   I reiterate MY point - NOTHING is pleasing to God without faith in the cross FIRST.  THEN, if that faith is a living/saving faith, works will necessarily accompany the faith.  A living/saving faith is NEVER alone.  Sola fide is a lie.

> LP: Well I have much more to say,
> I am not deluded to thinking you are
> convinced. Since this is your blog
> obviously you have the last word.

sw: First off, I do not require the "last word" here just because it is my blog.  The fact is you continue to end your comments with questions or statements that I have not answered your question(s).  If I did not answer, you would accuse me of avoiding the question! 
sw: Second, I asked you a direct question in my last comment, and you have not only evaded it, you've ignored it entirely.  I ask again to save you from having to go back to the original:

sw: One more thing, which I've asked before - but I haven't asked of you yet, have you ever asked yourself why the absolutely ONLY PLACE in Scripture where the words "faith" and "alone" are used together is in NEGATION of sola fide?  Either way, what is your answer to this?

First Sunday in Advent:

From the Traditional or Extra-Ordinary Rite:

Epistle: Rom 13. 11-14
A reading from the Epistle of the blessed apostle Paul to the Romans. Brethren, knowing the time, that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is past, and the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Gospel: Luke 21:25-33
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke.
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: "There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves: men withering away for fear and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved; and then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand." And He spoke to them a similitude: "See the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh; so you also, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Amen I say to you, this generation shall not pass away till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away."

The focus is on the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  The preparation/anticipation of the Advent Season reminds us not only of the celebration of His birth - but the Second Coming where He will come again in glory and honor - and judgment.  So prepare ye the way of the Lord!

St. Nicholas

Feast Day - December 6 (which this year is also the Second Sunday in Advent)

Bishop and Confessor

The great popularity of St. Nicholas in both the East and the West is proved by the numerous churches dedicated to him and the frequent use of Nicholas as a Christian name. Yet all that we know for certain about him is that he was made archbishop of Myra in Asia Minor, where he died in the year 324 A.D. Many of the legends concerning St. Nicholas had to do with his abounding charity and extraordinary miracles, and particularly his Christ-like love for children, so that in Catholic countries he is said to make an annual visit on his feast day to bring presents to little ones.

INTROIT Eccli. 45:30
The Lord established a covenant of peace with him, and made him a prince, that the dignity of priesthood should be his forever.
Ps. 131:1 O Lord, remember David and all his meekness.
V. Glory be . . .

O God, You glorified the holy bishop Nicholas by working countless miracles through him. Grant that we may be spared from the flames of hell by his merits and prayers. Through Our Lord . . .

Commemoration of preceding Sunday

EPISTLE Heb. 13:7-17
Brethren: Remember your prelates who have spoken the word of God to you: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation, Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today: and the same for ever. Be not led away with various and strange doctrines. For it is best that the heart be established with grace, not with meats: which have not profited those that walk in them. We have an altar whereof they have no power to eat who serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the holies by the high priest for sin are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people by his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore to him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For, we have not here a lasting city: but we seek one that is to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise always to God, that is to say, the fruit of lips confessing to his name. And do not forget to do good and to impart: for by such sacrifices God's favour is obtained. Obey your prelates and be subject to them. For they watch as being to render an account of your souls.

GRADUAL Ps. 88:21-23
I have found David, My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him, that My hand may help him and My arm strengthen him.
V. The enemy shall have no advantage over him, nor shall the son of iniquity have power to hurt him.

Alleluia, alleluia! V. Ps. 91:13
The just man shall flourish like the palm tree; he shall grow like a cedar of Lebanon.

GOSPEL Matt. 25:14-23
At that time, Jesus spoke this parable to His disciples, "A man going into a far country called his servants and delivered to them his goods; And to one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one, to every one according to his proper ability: and immediately he took his journey. And he that had received the five talents went his way and traded with the same and gained other five. And in like manner he that had received the two gained other two. But he that had received the one, going his way, digged into the earth and hid his lord's money. But after a long time the lord of those servants came and reckoned with them. And he that had received the five talents coming, brought other five talents, saying: 'Lord, thou didst deliver to me five talents. Behold I have gained other five over and above.' His lord said to him: 'Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.' And he also that had received the two talents came and said: 'Lord, thou deliverest two talents to me. Behold I have gained other two.' His lord said to him: 'Well done, good and faithful servant: because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.' " 


Advent 2

Why In December?
It seems strange that Advent and the Christ Mass are celebrated in December, for Scripture tells us the shepherds were tending their flocks in the fields when the angels announced His birth.  For shepherds to be in the fields the actual birth event should be in Spring or Summer, perhaps as late as early Autumn, but not in the dead of Winter!  I also blogged on this back in 2005 - and the reason for December 25th is not based in pagan rituals (as many non-Catholics would have you believe) but in the fact that early Christians believed that prophets died on an anniversary of their birth or conception.  Since Easter (Christ's death and resurrection) is in the Spring, nine months later places the birth in December.  That is not very scientific, I know, but then again - the early Christians were not necessarily so scientifically minded as we would be in the 21st century.  So don't be scandalized by those who wish to put paganism upon us, the real reason has nothing to do with paganism.  The early Christians were not so concerned about whether it was Summer or Winter - but with setting a calendar for annual remembrance of the life and ministry of Jesus, His mother, the Apostles and other Saints in Christian history.

Advent 1

What is the Season of Advent?
Advent is the start of the Liturgical Year in Catholicism, and a tradition which has been maintained in many other Christian cultures.  The Liturgical Year ends on the "Last Sunday After Pentecost" or also called the "Last Sunday in Ordinal Time" (ordinal means "counting" - since we count the weeks after Pentecost - there is also an ordinal time after Epiphany, prior to the observance of Lent).  The celebration on this last Sunday of the year is in honor of Christ the King.  Then comes the "Catholic New Year!"  This is the time of Advent, a time of anticipation and preparation for the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  We are reminded of the Scripture "Prepare ye the way of the Lord" (I always recollect the Godspell tune of the same name).  Advent takes place on the four Sundays prior to the celebration of the Christ Mass (Christmas), which is celebrated on December 25th each year.  Since Advent is tied to the Sundays prior to the Christ Mass and that Mass can be on any day of the week being tied to the calendar date of December 25th, the beginning of and length of Advent varies from year to year.  Advent ends traditionally at the Midnight Mass of December 25th (though in many/most modern traditions this Mass is now a "vigil Mass" on the evening of December 24th - more on that in a bit). 

We celebrate the time of Advent as a time of anticipation and preparation/penance for the coming of the Lord.  The season is just prior to the Christ Mass Season - which celebrates His First Coming, but the Scripture readings for Advent deal mostly with His Second Coming.  Thus the Advent Season is really a time of reflection of our lives preparing the way of the Lord to come again. whether it be in our lifetime or sometime in the future.  The key point would be to be ready for Him, for no man knoweth the hour.  So, while we sing Vene, Vene (O Come, O Come) Emmanuel - while not losing sight of the upcoming Christ Mass, let us also join in calling for His Second Coming!

Excommunication and Abortion

I'm making this a new blog entry for two reasons: 
  1. In the Authority of the Church thread, the comments are getting a bit too long. 
  2. This is more of a side topic than was originally intended for the Authority of the Church thread.
Edward Reiss said...
sw: I presented a news story of Rome's reaction/explanation to the Pope Benedict XVI/Speaker Pelosi meeting - and Alan responds to his bickering entry from his own blog site.
Well, he still gave her communion. That is more important than some "strong" words, isn't it? Doesn't action speak louder than words? That is the issue.    
sw: Then your issue is an anachronism.  She received Holy Communion at a Papal Mass (was it from the Pope?  I can't find that it was, only that he was there as the celebrant) back in 2008.  In February of 2009 the Pope had the "strong words" for her.  I find no news regarding her participation in Eucharist since that time, nor has Alan presented any evidence of that.  All we have is this continued anachronistic argument.
Ed continues: As has been stated, I don't think anyone is stating that the RCC is formally against abortion--that is very, very easy to show.  
sw: I'll state it - The Catholic Church is formally against abortion.
Ed continues:  The problem is that the RCC allows people who are proudly pro-choice, i.e. pro an intrinsic evil, to publicly receive communion. You are asking us to take it on faith, more or less, that the Majesterium could well be working diligently behind the scenes. The problem is that the acts of the bishops do not comport with the formal teaching that abortion is intrinsically evil.
sw: If individual bishops are failing to do their duty, that is not an argument against the Catholic Church, it is against that specific bishop.
Ed continues:  I think that it is a travesty.
sw: It is scandalous, to say the least - but I agree with you here.
Ed continues: In fact, have a look at the following link: Money (I believe you mean USA Today) quotes:
"'Do you agree with the excommunications given to legislators in Mexico City on the question?' a reporter asked. 'Yes. The excommunication was not something arbitrary. It is part of the (canon law) code. It is based simply on the principle that the killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with going in Communion with the body of Christ. Thus, they (the bishops) didn't do anything new or anything surprising. Or arbitrary.' Church officials later said the pope may have thought the Mexican bishops had issued a formal declaration of excommunication for the legislators — something Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera has said he has no intention of doing. ... 'Since excommunication hasn't been declared by the Mexican bishops, the pope has no intention himself of declaring it,' Lombardi said in a statement approved by the pope. But Lombardi added that politicians who vote in favor of abortion should not receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. 'Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist... Politicians exclude themselves from Communion.' Pressed again to say whether the lawmakers were excommunicated, Lombardi reiterated: 'No, they exclude themselves from Communion.'"
Ed continues:  Interestingly, the pope seemed to have a straight forward answer--the excommunication of the pols, but his retinue "clarified" his statements to mean that even if these pols are formally excommunicated by their support for abortion they may still receive communion. OK. But it seems odd that an excommunicated person should be able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. In the Lutheran church we believe that one can excommunicate one's self and deviously receive anyway, but the difference is that the sins of the pols are quite public. Again, it seems odd. Apparently there is a mode of being excommunicated which does not entail being refused the Body and Blood of Christ, which is called *communion*.
sw: You appear to misunderstand what is going on here.  The excommunication is automatic, no "decree" is necessary.  Lombardi commented that the politicians should exclude themselves.  Scripture itself does not put the onus upon the celebrant (or Eucharistic Minister, as the case may be) to judge/refuse one from receiving the Eucharist.  No, the onus is put back upon the recipient - if the person receives unworthily, then they eat/drink judgment/damnation upon themselves (1 Cor. 11:27-29).
Ed continues:  Oh, I found this quote to be interesting: "The Mexican politicians who supported the measure shrugged off Benedict's comments Wednesday. 'I'm Catholic and I'm going to continue being Catholic even if the church excommunicates me,' said leftist Mexico City lawmaker Leticia Quezada. 'My conscience is clean.'" Apparently she has not received the message that the pope is the vicar of Christ.
sw:  It is equally apparent that this politician is not aware that she is not her own Judge.  I agree with your comment though and reiterate it, "apparently she has not received the message that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ."  To put herself in direct opposition to the Pope, especially to express that opinion publicly, is scandalous to say the least.  Regardless of her defiant expression, we can also agree with her - if the Church excommunicates her she does indeed remain a Catholic!  She is still obligated by the duties and responsibilities of every faithful Catholic.  Excommunication simply means she is not in full communion with the Catholic Church and is thereby to refrain from partaking in any of the Sacraments, except the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession).  If she chooses to partake in the Eucharist while excommunicated, then St. Paul's words apply to her. I hope I have answered you sufficiently, if you feel I have not, please feel free to use the comments section.     In JMJ,     Scott<<<

Feast of the Assumption

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