Poll of a Billion Monkeys

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wednesday Religious Assessment 1/10/07

Wednesday Religious Assessment

Biblical Languages and Translations - Useful Tool from Infinite Spaces

Does Missions Work Start At Home? - Are things like VBS local Missions, or local Ministries?

Amniotic Stem Cells and ESCR

Does this Surprise anyone concerning Modern Science? - I mean, is anyone really, truly surprised?

Some Culture: Some Secular, Some Divine

A Dissenting View, of sorts - From Argent by the Tiber

Orthodoxy in the 21st - I found this piece particularly interesting since after retirement I intend to become an Orthodox Priest. I've seen a lot of interest in Orthodoxy generally, and more broadly in movements towards greater Orthodoxy in a variety of denominations. For instance I now attend a family church which is Southern Baptist. Nearly every holiday, and on more and more common occasions as well my church seems to become more traditional and sacramental at celebration. On special occasions we become more and more liturgical and traditional, so that even at Communion (which Baptists call the Lord's Supper) there is ever more an emphasis on liturgy and the sacramental nature of the event. My pastor, who is somewhat unusual for a Baptist Minister/Preacher, quotes the Saints in sermons (he writes and delivers exceptionally unusual and very good sermons) and often refers to the Greek. Our church has recently undergone an expansion and building program and the baptistery and pool were for the first time decorated. (Had it been up to me I would have created a mosaic within the pool itself.) I have jokingly told my pastor that eventually we will have stained glass windows and Icons hanging about the church. (I am a big proponent of Icons as both a tool for spiritual and religious focus, and as a method of spiritual training.)
The general point is I see a movement in many Protestant churches towards greater ritual and tradition, and I think this is because by discarding those things over the years many Protestant churches have become "hollow and empty and uninspiring." And I suspect that many Protestant churches that have experimented with trendy political movements, such as ordaining gay pastors or priests, or entirely discarding certain theological doctrines and dogmas in an attempt to woo worshipers via political means are simply doing so because they are seeking artificial methods of providing meaning. As such, they fail eventually and attendance and support plummets. By seeking political meaning instead of spiritual meaning they achieve neither, and are becoming more and more nothing but imitationally Christian by rote and past lineage.
On the other hand I think that both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox church (especially the Orthodox church) have failed to expand over time as they could have because of a far too strict reliance upon past tradition and lineage. To a large extent they rely upon their numbers to be replenished simply by birth or prior patronage and therefore to a large extent they lack the Missionary and Ministry Spirits that have for a long time (up until recently anyway) animated and enthused many Protestant denominations.
I see a day coming when two things will happen, indeed they have already begun: 1) Protestant churches will return to the more open and positive ritual and traditional roots of the Elder Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, and the elder churches will become more Mission and Ministry driven in order to become stronger proselytizers, and 2) There will be an eventual Reunification, not just of Orthodox and Catholic, but of most branches of the church, Protestant included. What that Reunification will look like, what form it will take, how the details will be worked out, exactly how it will function I don't know. But I feel it in my guts. History is moving towards that eventual end.

Good Review of The Rise of Benedict XVI - On the Curt Jester


VATICAN CITY, JAN 7, 2007 (VIS) - After having presided at Mass in the Sistine Chapel, during which he administered the Sacrament of Baptism to 13 newborn infants, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square below.

"Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which closes the period of Christmas," he said, pointing out that the Baptism is mentioned, in different ways, in all the Gospels. "It was, in fact, part of the Apostles' preaching, because it constituted the starting point of the entire arc of deeds and words to which they were called to bear witness."

Jesus' Baptism was extremely important for the apostolic community, "not only because then, and for the first time in history, the mystery of the Trinity was made manifest clearly and completely, but also because with that event Jesus' public ministry began. ... The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan anticipates His Baptism of blood on the Cross and symbolizes the entire sacramental activity with which the Redeemer would achieve the salvation of humanity."

The Holy Father recalled that "this Feast is, after Easter, the oldest," and indicated how "there is a close correlation between the Baptism of Christ and our own Baptism. In the Jordan, heaven opened to show that the Savior has opened the way of salvation, and we can follow it thanks to the new birth 'of water and the Spirit' that comes about in Baptism. In Baptism we are inserted into mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, we die and are born again in Him, we cloth ourselves in Him. ... The duty that arises from Baptism is, then, that of 'listening' to Jesus, believing in Him and following Him obediently, doing His will."
ANG/BAPTISM CHRIST/... VIS 070108 (320)


VATICAN CITY, JAN 10, 2007 (VIS) - In this morning's general audience, held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 7,000 people, Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen.

"St. Stephen," said the Pope, "is the most representative figure of a group of seven companions," who concerned themselves with charitably serving the needs of members of the Christian community, whether of Jewish or of Greek origin.

"Tradition sees in this group the origins of the future ministry of deacons," upon whom the Apostles "laid their hands," a gesture that in the Old Testament "has above all the significance of transmitting an important task," said the Pope.

"That this was an important action, to be undertaken following due discernment, becomes clear from a reading of the First Letter of Paul to Timothy: 'Do not be hasty in laying on of hands, nor participate in another man's sins'."

"Apart from his charitable service," the Pope continued, "Stephen also carried out evangelizing activity among his countrymen, the so-called 'Hellenists'." To them "he reread the Old Testament in the light of the announcement, death and resurrection of Jesus." This rereading "provoked the reaction of the Jews who perceived his words as blasphemy."

Stephen "shows that the mystery of the cross lies at the center of the history of salvation," and that "the cult of the temple is finished" because the Risen Christ "is the new and true 'temple.' It was precisely this 'no' to the temple" that led to his death sentence and martyrdom. After his stoning, the group of Jewish and Hellenic Christians fled Jerusalem "and became itinerant missionaries. ... Persecution and consequent dispersion became mission."

The Holy Father explained how the story of St. Stephen reminds us that "social commitment to charity can never be disassociated from the courageous announcement of the faith." With charity, the first martyr "announced the crucified Christ, even to the point of accepting martyrdom."

"The cross remains central in the life of the Church as well as in our private lives. In the history of the Church, passion and persecution will never be lacking," said Pope Benedict, but, "in the famous phrase of Tertullian, ... 'we multiply every time we are cut down by you.' The blood of Christians is a seed."

"In our own lives too, the cross, which will never be lacking, becomes a blessing," he concluded. "And accepting the cross, knowing that is it is and becomes a blessing, we learn the joy of being Christian, even in moments of difficulty."
AG/ST. STEPHEN/... VIS 070110 (440)


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