Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

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.

Jesus Christ and his dog, but in heaven?

This medieval image of “Jesus Christ and his dog” (Wedding at Cana) is a great image given recent silliness about dogs and their supposed souls.

The NY Times published a rather silly article yesterday about the pope saying dogs go to heaven. The below fold article was a grossly inflated piece without the author and the persons commenting on what the Pope reportedly said. Let’s try it this way: Fido is an honored creature in God’s Kingdom on earth, but having a soul is untenable. The RNS published “Sorry, Fido, Pope Francis did NOT say our pets are going to heaven,” debunking the myth. Beware: the media can be very misleading and sometimes dead wrong.

Jesus and his dog

































‘Bible historiée toute figurée’, Naples ca. 1350 (Paris, BnF, Français 9561, fol. 142v)

Light pointing to Christ in the Liturgy, in life

candlesDo you ever think about our use of light in the Church? Does the use of light in the Liturgy ever cross your mind other than what you have experienced at annual the Easter Vigil? Even those churches with dedication candles rarely, if ever, get used. So, it seems fair to say that we don’t think of lighting the Church as remotely significant to the liturgical act, not at least since Thomas Edison. The use of electricity has minimized the sensual experience of light and darkness as part of the litugical-theological drama in the Latin Church, and in the Eastern Churches where it was more developed over the centuries. But the Easterns have burned through tradition.

I have tried  to get priests and altar servers to be more attentive to the use of light and shadow in the time prior to and following the Mass but efforts have been rather difficult. More often we think of convenience, that is utility, as having a higher value than biblical typology. Think of the various points found in the Pentateuch, the prophets and the gospel of John. I happen to think that we need a recovery of biblical typology influencing liturgical ritual in concrete ways. Benedict XVI taught us this fact, too. Surely you might concede that Divine Revelation and development of biblical imagery in the Liturgy of Christ the Light has much to teach us —the lex orandi, lex credendi— thus having an educative side to our Catholic worship and imagination. The worship of God educates us as well as give proper glory and honor to God.

Catholic liturgy over the years has taught us that the burning candle is a form of sacrifice, a gift consuming itself just like the fire consuming the animal sacrifice; it also serves as a reminder of the prayerful intentions of the faithful. Churches have vigil lights at shrines imploring intercession. Even more poignant is the Paschal Candle because of its symbolism of the risen Christ Jesus. Some will recall that the wax made by honey bees is said to represent the flesh of Jesus; the wick and the wax working together is understood as a symbol of the hypostatic union of the Lord’s humanity and divinity; the flame recalls the Lord’s divinity. The biblical readings and prayers prayed at the Easter Vigil will remind the faithful of God’s presence among the Israelites in a pillar of flame. And no Catholic Church with the Eucharistic Presence is left without a vigil light continuously lit indicating the presence of Jesus Christ.

Imagine what our worship of the Triune God would be like if we were slightly more attentive to revelation and biblical premise! Certainly, our Christian anthropology would be keener. Little known is the Syriac liturgical tradition of which the Maronite Church belongs, has the unique ritual in the Liturgy of Lighting the Church. Yet, the lighting ritual has not really been seen in the USA too much until recently when Maronite Bishop Gregory Mansour asked the priests of the Eparchy of St Maron to shed some good light with both the candle lighting and the preparation of the gifts using the ritual the of “Lighting of the Church.”

Chorchishop Seely Beggiani, a liturgical theologian and recently the former rector of the Maronite Seminary in Washington, wrote about Light in the ritual of the Maronites.

Light is taken for granted by most people in the twentieth century. Our modern science has demystified the sun, the cycle of the seasons and the solar year. The invention of electricity has given ordinary human creatures power over light and darkness. Earlier generations were in awe of the sun and light. When day came to a close and pitch darkness covered the earth, they prayed that the sun would rise again and that warmth and life would again deliver them from the seemingly endless cold and a dying earth. Our ancestors had a deep awareness of their total dependence on light.

However, modern science can also make us aware of the absolute necessity of light in our lives. Photosynthesis is critical to any life at all on earth. If humans were deprived absolutely of light for even a short time, they would go mad and ultimately die. It is no accident that according to Albert Einstein the speed of light is the absolute for our universe.

Our faith tradition teaches us that primordial light was the first creation of God and thus the very stuff of the universe. God is portrayed as the “Father of Lights” and Christ is the Light of the World. The Bible often teaches us that we ultimately choose to live our lives either according to the Way of Light or the Way of Darkness; and that light leads to life while darkness leads to death. The true nature of Christ was revealed as uncreated light at the transfiguration, and it was the light of Christ at his death that destroyed the darkness of Sheol (the region of the dead.) Our immortal destiny is presented as the eighth day of creation where the sun will never set, where we are called to view the shining face of Christ.

It is for all these reasons that the lighting of the Church in preparation for the divine liturgy has such a great significance. In participating in this act we are proclaiming our readiness to be children of the light and to allow our deeds to be judged in the open light of day. The lighting of the candles announces the presence of Christ, the light of the world, whom we welcome among us. In the fully lighted church which represents the universe in miniature, we give thanks for the light and warmth of God’s creation.”

Jesus is the true vine

Jesus the true vine.jpg

Saint John’s gospel uses the agricultural image of vine and a vine dresser to express a relationship that is unique. Quite singular when you think that neither the Jews nor the Muslims would admit in terms of intimacy between the Creator and creature, Father and Son, God and me. So, why is Christ called the ‘true vine‘ and why are we his ‘branches’?  The short answer is because it is our Christian belief, our Christology, that God is waiting for humanity to bear fruit, sin notwithstanding.  The Incarnation, and the proclamation of  the Good News tells us of the wine of love, obedience and prayer with the goal of uniting God and humanity in a truer way.

That we are expected to “bear much fruit
and to rely on the Lord for all things there is a hope that we
remain in Him and  that His “words remain in you
“. There is a dependence on God in a radical manner that is unheard of in most of relationships. To remain, to abide, to stay close to Jesus is the key of the spiritual life. Not to remain in Christ is reject the offer of Grace. The question of what it means to remain in Christ is given by the second reading: keep the commandments, of both Testaments of sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Church. Concretely, we are nourished by Christ Himself in the sacraments of the Church, notably in the Holy Eucharist.

Christ’s desire for unity, a communio

angle of the vatican basilica.jpg

The Papal General Audience given in the Paul VI Hall today, Benedict spoke of the desire for unity that our Lord expressed in his priestly prayer at the Last Supper (John 17):

Against the backdrop of the Jewish feast of expiation Yom Kippur, Jesus, priest and victim, prays that the Father will glorify him in this, the hour of his sacrifice of reconciliation. He asks the Father to consecrate his disciples, setting them apart and sending them forth to continue his mission in the world. Christ also implores the gift of unity for all those who will believe in him through the preaching of the apostles.

Sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition and now echoed by Pope Benedict, believes that Christ’s priestly prayer is understood as His instituting the Church, the community of faith, the communio found  explicitly in a church that is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Taking the Pauline manner of thinking, we are disciples of Christ who, through faith in Christ, are one and share in His saving mission:

In meditating upon the Lord’s priestly prayer, let us ask the Father for the grace to grow in our baptismal consecration and to open our own prayers to the needs of our neighbors and the whole world. Let us also pray, as we have just done in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, for the gift of the visible unity of all Christ’s followers, so that the world may believe in the Son and in the Father who sent him.

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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