The cleric whose writings most influenced the decrees of Vatican II was Yves Congar, including his work on the Meaning of Tradition. He examined what the Church Fathers taught us about tradition throughout Church History, and as expected, since it was not hotly debated until the Reformation, there was a great many teachings on what tradition meant. […]
Catechism / Biblical Studies
Religious liberty was a controversial topic, religious liberty was either comforting or threatening to the faith, depending on the region. In America, religious freedom was a guaranteed constitutional right that helped Christianity thrive. In Latin American, aggressively polemic American evangelicals were eager to poach the Catholic faithful. In the communist Eastern bloc, the persecuted Church dreamed of guaranteed rights to religious liberty so the Church could thrive. In continental Europe, many Catholics equated religious liberty with the ideas of the French Revolution and its hatred of all things religious. In Italy and Spain the Catholic Church was granted preferential treatment by the state, would a new emphasis on religious liberty lead to a loss of faith in these countries? […]
Luther starts his Large Catechism commentary on this commandment memorably, “Besides our own body, our wife or husband, and our temporal property, we have one more treasure which is indispensable to us, namely, our honor and good name, for it is intolerable to live among men in public disgrace and contempt.” Our reputation is our most precious possession, more important than baubles and gold, every man wants “to maintain his self-respect before his wife, children, servants, and neighbors.” […]
For Americans, what is puzzling is why a Declaration of Religious Freedom not be an obvious right, why would bishops argue over this decree over three sessions of Vatican II, and why would it need to go through six drafts before being approved? The United States was the first major country to guarantee the freedom of religion in our founding documents, and the American bishops led by John Courtney Murray led the Council in the formulation of the final drafts on religious freedoms.
To understand the controversy over the doctrine of religious liberty we need to review European history from classical times to modern times. In future years we plan a series of more in-depth blogs in this interesting history, here we will review the broad brush of history as it relates to religious history. This is general knowledge so we will forgo footnotes, instead I will provide links for the various Great Courses that IMHO best pertain to these topics. Painting history with such a broad brush may reveal more about my own personal beliefs than the actual history, hopefully it will spark your curiosity to study further these topics so you can come to your own conclusions. […]
In Murray’s words, the final decree denies the concept of a “double standard, freedom for the Church where Catholics are a minority, privilege for the Church and intolerance for others when Catholics are a majority.” Murray describes freedom of religion as three tiers. First, religious liberty is a human right and a personal freedom and a collective freedom for the citizenry. Second, religious liberty is a political doctrine on the functions and limits of government in religious affairs. Finally, religious liberty is a theological doctrine that governs the relationship between the Church and the state. […]
Eastern / Early Church Fathers
Many pray for show, and John Climacus knows this. How a brother in the monastery treats those around him as a window into the true state of his soul. He who truly Loves God treats his brothers with respect and kindness and humility. He who truly Loves God repents of his failings when he treats his brothers poorly. Indeed, when John Climacus advises those who live in the world on how to live the solitary life, he doesn’t emphasize prayer and fasting, but rather he cares more how they treat their neighbors:
“Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me:
‘We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?’
I replied to them: ‘Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be arrogant to anyone; do not hate anyone; do not be absent from the Divine Services; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man’s domestic happiness, and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way, you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.’”
John Chrysostom is the most strident of the early Church writers in his writings opposing the Judaizers where he warned his flock that Christians should not adopt Jewish customs and practices, that Christians needed to celebrate the Church festivals rather than the Jewish festivals, that Christians should not attend services at the synagogue. His work “Against the Judaizers” is so polemic that it is far more anti-Semitic than the writings of Barnabas and St Justin Martyr and many other church fathers, it is painful for us modern readers to read, we who remember the horrific events of the Holocaust. This work is not in the standard collection of the works of the Nicene and Anti-Nicene Fathers, but it was widely read in medieval times and afterward, and unfortunately was used to justify the European and Russian pogroms and persecutions against the Jews.
One scholar who has pondered the problems posed polemic stands against the Judaizers by St John Chrysostom and also St Cyril is Robert Wilken. In this book “John Chrysostom and the Jews,” he explores the history of the early church to better understand the world of the early Church Fathers. We cannot totally excuse the errors in the teachings of the early Church Fathers, but neither can we blindly judge and condemn them for not knowing the lessons of the Holocaust. There is nothing wrong with reading the Church Fathers as they apply to our modern world, but particularly in this case we should also let the Church Fathers in their ancient historical context, we need to do both lest we have a distorted understanding of the history of our faith. […]
Marriage is a monastic calling. Marriages are only truly happy when each spouse puts the needs of the other first. Marriages are truly happy where the love each spouse has for the other is like the love St Paul describes, patient, kind, not jealous or boastful, not rejoicing in the wrong but rejoicing in the right, bearing all, believing always, hoping always, enduring everything, never failing.
Work, career and schooling are monastic callings. To get a good job, we spend many years of schooling to learn our trade or profession. If we spend all our school years partying and not studying, we pay for our lack of attention for the rest of our lives. To keep our job, we need to keep our bosses and customers happy. Even when know they are wrong, we bite our tongues and endure, because we work for them, and they are often right anyway. Our job is to serve them. If we mistakenly think they are there to serve us, we will have no job. If the company loses sight of their customers’ needs, the company itself may eventually bankrupt itself.
Child rearing is a monastic pursuit. When children are small they demand your attention, and sometimes they cry and you don’t know why. You can spend fun time with your children when they are little, playing with them and taking them places, or you can spend anguished time with them later, answering to judges and policemen. St Paul in Timothy teaches us that mothers are saved through child rearing if they lead a godly life. We are all saved if we put the needs and desires of others ahead of our own selfishness. […]
Bad habits and bad habits are incredibly difficult to even see in our souls. Changing bad habits and attitudes are is even more difficult. We can spot the bad habits and attitudes in others, but we rarely see them in ourselves. If others point out our bad habits, often we deny them. The deeper the truth that is seen, the deeper is our hurt, and the more vehemently will we deny our faults.
The Ladder of Divine Ascent is about developing the spiritual discipline needed to change bad habits and bad attitudes. This discipline is born of our repentance. Our sins and the consequences we suffer are our fault, and we should repent. Even when they are not our fault, they especially are our fault, or they may be caused by sins in prior generations long forgotten but never properly buried. Through our sufferings we work out our salvation.
The Ladder of Divine Ascent teaches us that when we Love God when we love our neighbor. When we rehabilitate our relationships with those close to us, our spouse, our family, our bosses, our co-workers, our teachers; that is when we begin to Love God. For most of us the most important and most difficult relationship is our relationship with our spouse. […]
St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “when we fulfill the commandments in our outward actions, we receive from the Lord what is appropriate; but any real benefit we gain depends on our inward intention.” When we live a godly life, the immediate reward is the living of a godly life. Salvation is promised in the next life for living a godly life, as St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “fear of hell and love for God’s kingdom enable us patiently to accept affliction; and this they do, not by themselves, but through Him who knows our thoughts.”
However, salvation can also be attained in this life when we are transformed into godly people, adopted sons of our Father in Heaven. Luke reminds us, “once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ’The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’”
St Mark continues, “Christ is Master by virtue of His own essence and Master by virtue of his incarnate life. For He creates man from nothing, and through His own Blood redeems him when dead in sin; and to those who believe in Him He has given His grace. When Scripture says ‘He will reward every man according to his works’, do not imagine that works in themselves merit either hell or the kingdom. On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer bound by contract, but God our Creator and Redeemer.” […]