Tag Archives: Christology

Truth taught and loved since 33 AD

Church foundationI saw a bumper sticker several years ago that read: “Preaching Jesus Christ since 33 A.D.” One of the Orthodox Churches published it as a way of saying that truth, beauty, goodness and unity are given by Jesus Christ; Christ and the church is not a system of beliefs or policies created at-will. Read carefully the image here.

There is always the perennial question about following Christ in the Catholic Church: Why does it matter if you leave the Catholic Church? Does it matter if I stay in the Church?

You can have several approaches to the question, but here are the essentials:

1. the truth claims in God as One and Triune; that God is Being itself; that all beauty and unity are defining characteristics of Father, Son and Holy Spirit;

2. Grace –the inner life of the Triune God, not sin, is given to the Catholic Church because its founder, Jesus Christ;

3. Jesus gave his apostles the grace of the sacred Priesthood, and the other sacraments; the Church gave us the Holy Bible, our sacred Scripture revealed by God;

4. Saint Peter was given the pastoral authority and power to preach, teach, and lead the Church to the fullness of the truth, Christ Himself (Matthew 16; 17-19);

5. the power to forgive sins was given by Christ to Peter and Peter to those anointed to share in his ministry down through the ages (apostolic succession, it is called); we follow the Master in the unity and sacramentality of the Church.

Hence, he Catholic Church, was founded by Jesus and she contains the fullness of truth, as promised by Jesus Himself.

The Church is not merely one among many denominations. The Holy Spirit does not divide the truth; there are not personal versions of the truth that claim to set man and woman free. We believe in the objectivity of truth and this truth is not a thing, but a person. There is one Church only: the Catholic Church. In the USA we encounter many groups who claim to be a “church” and to have the fullness of truth.  Yet, the question needs to be raised: what do we think of the Protestant groups? The teaching of the Catholic states that each of the groups have some aspect of truth but they do not have the fullness of the truth as revealed by Scripture because they lack  valid priesthood and therefore valid sacraments (very few have 7 sacraments that are believed to be instituted by Christ to give grace). As a caveat, we teach and hold that the Orthodox Church has the fullness of truth and sacraments but it lacks true unity with the Body of Christ on earth. One day we will share the Holy Eucharist with the Orthodox.

Catholics are not perfect and they are certainly not holier than other Christians. We are a church of sinners seeking redemption in Christ Jesus. Our belief is that the Catholic Church is both human and divine. And because she shares in Christ’s divinity, it is holy and she will last forever (“I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20). The human side of the church explains the sins, the scandals, unfaithfulness of the people. Logically, though, you cannot claim that the presence of scandals and singer prove that the Catholic Church is false. It proves we need a Savior.

Considering the Christian ecclesial communities and churches, historically we can say that ONLY the Catholic Church existed since the time of Jesus. All other Christian churches have broken from the Catholic Church. Examples: Orthodoxy broke away from unity with the pope in 1054; various mainline Protestant communities were established during the Reformation (1517); and then many of the other smaller groups are breakaways from the Protestant communion.

It is recorded that Church history has lead many unbelievers to search and know the truth. History will demonstrate what the early Church believed about the Eucharist (the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist); how and why the early Christians prayed for the dead; what the Lord gave to the Apostles in terms of sacraments; Peter was clearly chosen by the Lord as the leader of His Church; that Mary was loved and honored by the early Christians and understood as the All-holy Mother of God.

No need for a Protestant Giussani today: a brief response to Archie Spencer

Worshipping, preaching and witnessing Jesus Christ as the unique and only Savior of the world is a complicated issue for some Christians today.

A good refresher course in the study of Christ as Savior and Redeemer would be situated in the CDF document Dominus Iesus (2000), or something more substantive as Jesuit Father Edward Oakes’ recent book, Infinity Dwindled to Infancy: A Catholic and Evangelical Christology (Eerdmans, 2011). There are other books to recommend but I am not writing to make those suggestions.

Archie Spencer,ThD, an Evangelical Christian theologian wrote a piece titled: “We stand in need of Protestant Giussani today.” Dr Spencer is a competent theologian with interests in a wide variety of reformed and evangelical matters including Christology. He teaches Systematic Theology at Northwest Baptist Seminary (Canada). In fact, he’s interested in the Christological controversies Christianity faced in the first three centuries of salvation history, particularly the Alexandrian type. Spencer is also versed in the method of Communion and Liberation and its founder, Father Luigi Giussani.  In my opinion, Spencer wrote a well thought-out essay (noted above); Catholics and mainline Protestants ought to read Spencer’s article (and then re-read it) for he clarifies the key point of what it means to be saved by Jesus Christ. He, however, opens a can worms that many in the Protestant world find difficult to preach today: Truth is objective, personal, merciful and exclusive.

It can be argued that orthodox Catholics converge with the Evangelicals in ways (e.g., Christology) many mainline Protestants do not today. I appreciate much of what he proposes: Jesus Christ is either the center of my life, or He’s not; either Christ is my only Savior, or He’s not. Right-believing, right-worshipping and right-living Christians can’t utilize other methods for Christian life. BUT Dr Spencer doesn’t complete the case.

Respectfully, I note two glaringly missing points in Spencer’s article: (1) Christians can’t be satisfied with the separation of the Body of Christ (the Church) with various ecclesial communities; the divisions among Christians is a scandal for those baptized in Jesus Christ. The other matter missing (2) is the issue of right-worship –the sacred Liturgy and sacraments administered by a valid priesthood is the only realistic way to make Christ known, lived and proposed to the world. Protestant worship is missing some very essential matters of right belief. The lex orandi tradition is very limited in Evangelical, Lutheran and Anglican (Protestant) worship.

Hence, I would never be able to support the idea that Christians in other ecclesial communities need a “new” Giussani without wrestling in a more direct way with the fact that unity among Christians and a proper, that is, faithful worship are non-negotiables and that we can’t be satisfied with the religious status quo. To love Luigi Giussani and his Christocentricism is to be catholic and to live the Catholic faith. Christians, including Catholics and Orthodox have Luigi Giussani pointing the way, and exhorting us to live under the banner of Jesus Christ in a Church that lives properly the faith handed down to us from Apostolic times. I doubt that Giussani would say that it is a good thing to keep the divisions in Christianity alive and to worship without the Eucharist and the other sacraments as a reasonable proposal. Giussani always points in an uncompromising way to the fullness of truth as lived in the Roman Church (even to the point of accepting the Church of the millennium).

It is theologically and humanly incoherent to believe otherwise.

Desiring to do everything the Father desired

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Saint Hilary of Poitiers: “He who said ‘I have come not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me’ hastened to fulfill the task he had undertaken out of obedience, though in such a way as to remind us that he possessed a will of his own. In fact, he willed whatever the Father willed. His saying ‘I have come not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me’ revealed who had sent him and whom he obeyed, but without detriment to his own power of willing. Desiring to do everything the Father desired, Christ hastened to carry out his wishes with regard to his passion before the wicked could hinder him or prevent his doing so. He had a great longing to eat the Passover with his disciples, and he celebrated the paschal meal in haste. He had an intense desire to drink the cup of his passion, for he said: ‘Shall I not drink the cup which my Father has given me?’ When the search party came to arrest him and asked which man was Jesus, he stepped forward of his own accord. He asked for the sour wine which he knew he was destined to drink, and having drunk it and achieved his great purpose he said: ‘It is accomplished’, thus expressing his joy at obtaining his heart’s desire.”

When you meet Christ, you accept his history

Father Sergius Bulgakov expressed himself very adequately when he said: “He who has once met Christ, His Savior, on his own personal path, and has felt His Divinity, has, in that very moment, accepted all fundamental Christian dogmas — Virgin Birth, incarnation, Second Glorious Advent, the Coming of the Comforter, the Holy Trinity. To this I want to add: Or else he has not yet met Christ, or, at any rate, has not recognized him.”

— Father Georges Florovsky in The Work of the Holy Spirit in Revelation

New York-native Benedictine monk illuminates the Word

Pope Paul VI told us we need more witnesses to the faith. I’ve quoted the pope several times on this just point. True, the personal witness of a man and woman to the inner and outer works of the Holy Spirit is what concretely moves the heart. Truth is encountered in the witness. Father Tom Rosica, CSB, of Salt and Light TV interviews known and less known witnesses of the faith that for me, really opens new vistas.

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That I am interested in sharing the beauty of the Benedictine charism on Communio as the baptismal vocation is lived through monks, nuns, sisters and the laity. Father Rosica interviews Benedictine priest and monk Father Michael Patella of Saint John’s Abbey (Collegeville. MN). It is linked at the end of this post.
Saint John’s is a very large large abbey. At one time it was the largest in the world, now the monks numbers about 150. The monastic community administers a university, a high school, a press, an ecumenical center, a critically acclaimed international library of digital manuscripts, and several parishes. The monks of this abbey also serve the Church in a variety of places in the USA and other countries. No one can doubt the creative genius as a gift the Spirit with the men called to live a monastic vocation at Saint John’s Abbey.
Father Michael’s interview happened in August 2012 and was released in April 2013.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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