Tuesday, October 30, 2007

“Fear God. Honor the King.” (1 Pet. 2:17)

It has been said that the separation of Church and State is good for the Church. Worldly impotence, apparently, does wonders in keeping churchmen humble.

This is not a new idea. Lactantius (c. 304-313) wrote, “[God] would have Christians live under the power and government of others, lest they should become corrupted by the happiness of prosperity, slide into luxury, and eventually despise the commandments of God.” Ironically, Lactantius would later be appointed tutor to the son of the first Christian emperor, St. Constantine. I certainly hope that living under Christian government did not cause him to despise the commandments of God.

Everyone needs to be humble. Both churchmen and statesmen are meant to serve God. Who is going to keep the statesmen humble? Clearly, no one has been doing this for quite some time.

King Henry II, on the other hand, after he encouraged the murder of St. Thomas Becket, was made to walk barefoot through the streets of Canterbury wearing sackcloth while eighty monks flogged him with branches. He then spent the night in the martyr's crypt. The same kind of penance should be recommended to certain Presidents of the United States for their crimes against humanity. As the Church and State are separate, who is to recommend it? Together, Church and State could keep each other humble.

It has been said that the Government should listen to the people and the people should listen to the Church. Should the Government listen to the people if the people hate the Church or Her teachings? If most people favor the legalization of the murder of a certain class of people (which, debatably, they do) shouldn't the Government stand with the Church, rather than the people? The law must not be relative to the whims of the masses. Truly, the people should listen to the Church, but when have they ever done that?

In the 18th century, democracy was an idea unpopular among faithful Catholics - opposed by the Pope and those loyal to him. Clearly, this is no longer the case.

I have often heard justified complaint that Catholics in America are more concerned with worldly acceptance than with fidelity to Tradition. This is the direct and inevitable consequence of the Catholic adoption of an American culture based on democratic principles. How can bowing to the will of the majority ultimately be anything other than relativist?

Many American Christians balk at my notion that the authority and power to rule does not come from the people. This idea is shared by, of all people, Jesus Christ: "You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above," He said (John 19:11). The power to rule comes from God. You know, Divine Right and that sort of thing. “For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Rom. 13:1). A government that does not acknowledge this true source of its power fails to govern well.

“My opinion is this: that in this way a kingdom may be governed in peace – when the sovereign is acquainted with the God of truth. That is, if the ruler withholds from doing wrong to his subjects out of fear of God, and he judges everything with equity…. For, if the sovereign abstains from doing wrong to those who are under his rule, and they abstain from doing wrong to him and to each other, it is evident that the whole country will dwell in peace. Many blessings, too, will be enjoyed there, because among all of them the name of God will be glorified. For what blessing is greater than for a sovereign to deliver the people that are under his rule from error, and by this good deed render himself pleasing to God”
– St. Melito (c. 170).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Way of Life

“There are two ways, one of life and one of death.”

Thus begins the Didache (c. 100 A.D.), an ancient Christian text meant to preserve the teachings of the twelve apostles. Our way of life is of great significance, leading, as it does, to either everlasting glory or everlasting perdition. Choose, then, your way of life with care, with faith, with love.

Before Christianity was called Christianity, it was called the Way (Acts 18:26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). Another ancient religion still carries this moniker: “Taoism” means “the right way” (there must be a wrong one, then).

Even as His Holiness battles the dictatorship of relativism, the phrase “way of life” is rigorously replaced with “lifestyle” by those who will tolerate no discrimination.

“Style” carries with it no judgment, neither condemnation nor approval. If I prefer action painting to color field painting, what’s that to you? If you prefer floral prints to paisley, what’s that to me? These are differences of style only; they carry no moral quality. There is nothing wrong with using the word “lifestyle” when referring to innocuous things.

On the other hand, the adulterers, predatory pedophiles, and sodomites of this world would have us believe their “way of life” is actually just an “alternative lifestyle,” as morally neutral as a preference for floral prints. Just type “alternative lifestyle” into Google (or don’t, rather). On page one I get links about swingers, bisexuals, bondage, sadomasochism, nudism, polyamory, fetishes, and personal ads for arranging anonymous affairs between married people. These are not styles of life; they are ways of death. On the same page appear links about vegetarianism and living in old houses. Our use of the term equates incidentals with perversions, good with evil, right with wrong. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).

In the 1970s, “the lifestyle” referred to what is now commonly called “swinging.” Today, “Lifestyle” is a brand of condoms.

The term “lifestyle” is as modern as “way of life” is ancient. Coined in 1929 as a specific psychological term, in much of its current usage it is a faddish and vapid term. Even in many situations where it is appropriate, "way of life" expresses meaning better.

The phrase, “there are two styles, one of life and one of death,” is void of meaning. This, I believe, is our culture’s objective – to strip meaning and significance from all human actions – to make it so it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it’s “your own thing.”

But it does matter. It matters in the here and now and it matters in the hereafter.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Blessing of Animals

Today, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron of animals, blessings of animals are taking place in parishes across the world. Our cat was suitably censed and soaked with holy water by the ordained hand of Fr. Sid Sidor as he spoke the words of blessing. We now have a holy cat. Our other cat remains unblessed, we being unable to handle two cats at the service. Tonight the holy cat bit the unholy cat’s neck.

There are many days traditionally associated with specific blessings:

Feast of the Holy Theophany / Epiphany – January 6th
– blessing of water / blessing of chalk (Western) / blessing of houses

Feast of the Presentation / Candlemas – February 2nd
– blessing of candles (Western)

Feast of St. Blaise – February 3rd
blessing of throats (Western)

Flowery Sunday / Palm Sunday
– blessing of pussy willows (Eastern) and palm branches

Pascha / Easter
blessing of Easter baskets (Eastern)

Feast of St. Elias – July 20th
– blessing of vehicles (Eastern)

Feast of the Transfiguration – August 6th
– blessing of fruit (Eastern)

Feast of the Holy Dormition – August 15th
– blessing of flowers (Eastern)

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