Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Eucharist - Encounter with the Real Presence of Jesus

When we affirm the ‘real presence’ of Jesus in the bread and wine, what do we mean by ‘presence’ and ‘real’?

In the accounts we have in the Bible relating to the Last Supper, Jesus says these words, “This is my body…this is my blood”. John in his account does not describe the Last Supper, but in John 6:48-58, Jesus describing Himself as the living bread, says that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day, for my flesh is true food and my blood true drink” So what does this mean for us? As seen in earlier studies, the Eucharist as a sacrament involves an ‘outward, visible sign’ that becomes a door or window to an ‘inward and spiritual grace’. But in the Eucharist, we are declaring that Jesus is not simply the presence of the inward spiritual grace, but is ‘really present’

The idea of Jesus being ‘really present’ in the bread and wine was widespread in the early church. Cyril of Jerusalem writing in 350AD, remarks that “Jesus, by His own will once changed water into wine at Cana…so why should we not believe that He can change wine into blood?” Augustine in 272AD wrote, “That which you see is bread and the cup, which…your eyes declare to you; but as to that in which your faith demands instruction, the bread is the body of Christ, the cup is the blood of Christ…these things are called sacraments for this reason, that in them one thing is seen, another is understood.

There are different ways a person or object can be have a presence for us. A local presence where someone or something is present in a particular place, a temporal presence where the object or person is present at a particular moment or time, and a personal presence in which a communication takes place between two people. It does not necessarily need a meeting in time and space. Another person can be present for us through reading a letter from them, or having a telephone or internet conversation with them even though they may be thousands of miles away.
In the Eucharist, there are several ways that Jesus is present for us:-
He is present in the reading of the gospel-The Word.
In the worship- Isaiah 57:15 “ For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite”.
In the human minister who stands in for Christ.
In the community because the Eucharistic community is made one body with Christ (Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread. Holy Communion order one, common worship, services for the Church of England)
After the words of institution, Christ is present in the bread and wine.
When we look how ‘real’ something is, most people would limit it to a ‘physical reality’; an object is what it is because of its molecular structure. From this point of view, Jesus is not ‘really present’ in the sense of being ‘physically really present’. However, we don’t normally limit reality to just ‘physical reality’. Without being consciously aware of it, we accept several kinds of ‘non-physical’ reality-Metaphysical Reality. These would include-‘Love’, ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’, ‘Meaning’, ‘Purpose’. Theologies that attempt to explain the ‘Real Presence’ use these ‘non physical’ ideas to aid them.
Theologies of the Real Presence include: Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation, Transignification and Transfinalization. We shall look at each one in turn.

Transubstantiation is a theology developed by Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274), which is based on the view of Aristotle that all matter has two qualities: Accidents-its outward appearance, shape, colour, and Substance- its essential nature. During the Eucharist according to this theory, the substance (essential nature) of the bread is changed into the substance (essential nature) of the body of Christ at the moment of consecration, although the accidents (outward appearance) of the bread remain the same. Likewise with the wine-the essential nature of the wine is changed into the essential nature of the blood of Christ while the outward appearance remains the same.

Consubstantiation is the name given to Luther’s view. He agrees with Aristotle, in that all matter has two qualities-accidents and substance, but according to his theory the essential nature of both bread and the body of Christ are present simultaneously in the bread, but the outward appearance remains the same. We cannot understand how this can happen but Luther uses an image borrowed from Origen, an early Christian scholar, to illustrate his point:-if a piece of iron is placed in a fire and heated, it glows-and in the glowing piece of iron both the iron and heat are present.

Transignification and Transfinalization are theologies developed by the Roman Catholic theologian Edward Schillebeeckx in the 1960’s. They are both based on the view that the identity of an object is based on-
Its molecular and atomic structure.
Its meaning or significance in the context it is used.
Its purpose or end goal (finality) within the context of its use.
In other words, at the moment of consecration when we are celebrating Eucharist, the meaning or significance of the bread and the wine changes. They no longer mean or signify food, but they mean or signify Christ. The end goal or purpose (finality) of the bread and wine also changes. The end goal (finality) of physical nourishment is replaced by the end goal (finality) of spiritual nourishment.

All these theologies of the real presence try to help us understand what happens during the Eucharist, but there is still an element of mystery because there are some things we cannot explain. John of Damascus (665-749AD) probably summed up this mystery best when he said:-
And now you ask how the bread becomes the body of Christ, and the wine and the water become the blood of Christ. I shall tell you. The Holy Spirit comes upon them, and achieves things which surpass every word and thought…let it be enough for you to understand that this takes place by the Holy Spirit.
by Rev. Esther Squire (CEEC)

The Eucharist as a meal - its origins and meanings.

The beginnings of what we now know as Eucharist has its roots in the ancient world. What started as a simple blessing at the beginning or end of a Jewish meal, through the ages has become one of the most important sacraments of the Church today. Although the way it is carried out may have changed, the meaning behind the celebration of Eucharist remains the same as it did when Jesus shared the meal with his disciples prior to His death.

For Jews living in ancient times meals were more than just a social occasion. They were important times for offering thanks to God. A Jewish meal began when the father or other community leader took bread, broke it and blessed it with these words, “Blessed be you, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth”, after which the bread was distributed to those present. On holy days a blessing was said at the end of the meal, which involved lighting a lamp and washing of hands. The leader would then recite several blessings thanking God for His provision, grace and mercy.

Jesus, during His earthly ministry enjoyed sharing meals with His disciples and other followers, and there are several accounts in the Gospels of Jesus providing food for those who followed Him, one such example being in Matthew’s Gospel c14:15-21, where we see Jesus multiplying a small amount of food to feed a large crowd of people. And it was during a meal to celebrate the Passover that Jesus gave new meaning to the covenant meal. We have four accounts of the words that Jesus used: - Paul, writing to the Church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 11: 23-25), Mark (writing 20 years after Paul) Mark 14: 22-25, Matthew (20 years after Mark) Matthew 26:26-29, and Luke (20years after Matthew) Luke 22: 14-20. All of these accounts agree that Jesus said “This is my body” but only Matthew adds the command to eat. In the accounts of Mark and Matthew, Jesus says of the wine, “this is the blood of the covenant”, but Paul and Luke have Jesus saying “This cup is the new covenant in my blood”, which according to John Macquarrie is more likely to be the original language. It is worth noting that both Paul and Luke record Jesus saying, “Do this in remembrance of me”. Neither Mark nor Matthew mention this but record Jesus saying He will not drink wine again until He drinks it at the heavenly banquet which is to come. In John’s gospel there is no description of the Last Supper. There is however a passage in John 6: 48-58, where Jesus describes Himself as the living bread, and His blood as true drink. He then goes on to talk about abiding in Him.

In the early days of the Church, Eucharist, which comes from the Greek word eucharista and means thanksgiving, seems to have been called the ‘breaking of the bread’. Initially wine was only used on festival days, as most people were quite poor. It was at this time part of the community meal and followed the pattern of most Jewish meals and as Jesus had instigated at the Last Supper- the breaking of the bread was done before the meal and the blessing over the wine afterwards, but the breaking of bread was soon moved to the end of the meal. The custom of the community meals was to eat in small groups, round separate tables with a common dish and a common cup for each table. This caused problems, as some people missed out, while others, the well-off, ate at home and then drank too much when meeting together. Because of this the Eucharist soon became separated from the community meal. The Roman Governor Pliny the Younger, writing to the Emperor Trajan at the beginning of the second century, described Christians gathering before dawn for worship, and then meeting later in the day for a meal. The separation or these two meals had important consequences.

The time of Eucharist was moved to the morning.The different tables became one table (The altar). A ‘service of the word’ was added based on the liturgy of the synagogue service.
The early Christian Eucharistic liturgy is very similar to that used today. Justin Martyr writing in about 150AD gives us a picture. He describes a gathering including readings, sermon, prayers, and sharing of the Eucharist. Hippolytus, writing in his book Apostolic Traditions in 225 AD records a Eucharistic prayer that contains many of the Christian beliefs later used in forming the creeds.

Although the Eucharist meal may have changed over the years, one aspect remains the same. Sharing this meal together brings a sense of oneness, with Jesus, with each other and with the wider Church. We are all individuals, but we are also one Church, and we can say in the words of the liturgy, “ …Gather into one all who share this one bread and one cup, so that we, in the company of all the saints, may praise and glorify you for ever…”

By Rev. Esther Squire (CEEC)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

What’s Good News in the Revelation of Sacramental Thought?

In trying to answer this question we have to first discover what is meant by sacrament. According to one definition it is an outward visible sign that points the way to receiving the Grace of God. Fr. Karl Rahner says of grace that it is “God’s self communication to man”. So a sacrament is a channel for God to reveal Himself to us. It is important to note that the imparting of this grace is not dependant on the godliness of the minister or the faith of the person receiving the sacrament. If the sacrament is performed correctly according to the rites of the Church, and the person receiving sets up no obstacles to receiving grace, such as disbelief, the channel is open for God to impart His grace. The outward visible sign consists of two parts: matter, and form. Matter is the material substance used-for example, water in Baptism. Form is the actions or words used- for example, breaking and eating in the Eucharist. The inward sign is really the presence of God that is revealed as we partake in the sacrament. For example: in the Eucharist, God is present in the bread and wine, so when we eat and drink we become partakers of God’s grace revealed in the ‘ performance’ of the Eucharist. This in turn strengthens us in our Christian walk. The number of sacraments has varied through Church history and among the denominations, ranging from Augustine who recognised 304 sacraments (or sacred signs) to the Anglicans, Catholics and Orthodox who have 7 sacraments. A modern definition of a sacrament is ‘An encounter with God when something of the material world becomes a conduit, or door, to the sacred’. There are four primary ways that the sacraments become real in the lives of believers:-

  1. Jesus, the Eternal Sacrament.

  2. Creation- As a Sacrament of God

  3. The Church-Called to be a visible presence of Jesus in the world. There are 7 sacraments that Jesus moves throug today-Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Eucharist, Healing(Anointing of the sick), Holy Orders, Marriage. Through these key encounter with His grace He upbuilds His Bride and prepares her to serve the Father in the world. The Body of Crist, the Church, is His principle Sacrament to humanity. Through her He intends to communicate His love, mercy, and witness.

  4. Believers, as Living Sacraments.

Jesus is the Primordial, or Eternal Sacrament. He is fully God, and has been with God the Father since the creation of the world-“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning”. John 1:1. But He became human for us, and took on the physical limitations of a human being while remaining fully God. Because He remains fully God, he is able to reveal to mankind the truth concerning the Father. Macquarrie describes Jesus as “a ‘Supersacrament’, a unique manifestation in visible form of the authentic life of God”. When we think of a particular sacrament, i.e. ‘baptism, we normally think of the accompanying matter-water. Instead we should think of Jesus as the sacrament, allowing the Grace of God to be received. For example the sacrament of Unction or anointing with oil allows the recipient to have the Grace of wholeness.

Creation as a sacrament communicates the existence and nature of God to mankind.
Romans 1:19-20 says, “Ever since the creation of the world, His invisible nature-eternal power and divine character-have been clearly perceptible through what He has made”. We can see through looking at the creation around us a master craftsman at work. The Bible reminds us that the “Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament proclaim His handiwork”-Psalm 19:1. Everything in creation from the smallest animal to the highest mountain shows us the Creator God. In this creation is sacramental, because it is a way for our invisible God to reveal Himself to man.

As I have said previously the Church is called upon to be a visible presence of Jesus in the world. He no longer has a physical body on earth, so we as Christians need to be His eyes, ears, voice, hands, and feet. Ways of doing this are through the 7 sacraments that the Church uses today- Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Marriage, Anointing the sick, Holy Orders. Through these the Church is able to show others the way to God and give an opportunity for an outward sign of an inward change once a person has become a Christ follower (Baptism & Confirmation). Through reconciliation a person can receive confirmation that their sins have been forgiven if they have been confessed. When a marriage is celebrated, the grace of love is communicated as two people promise to love each other unconditionally. Through the sacrament of Anointing a person is able to receive the graces of wholeness and restoration, whether their need is physical, emotional or spiritual. And when a person is appointed to Holy orders, they are given the grace of service, to fulfil their calling and serve God both in their home Church and further afield as they are led.

Christians are living sacraments. In their book ‘How the understand the sacraments’ Bequerie and Duchesneau state, “…When any one of us chooses to act as Jesus was known to act, we too become living sacraments in our world. When I forgive my brother or sister from my heart, I become a sacrament of forgiveness; I unveil the face of God who forgives, just as Jesus did”. Whatever we do or say reflects the life that is in us. If we are in communion with God, that will affect how we live our lives. We become the hands of Jesus when we anoint the sick or share Eucharist with others. We become His voice when we share our faith with the world. In fact we actually ask God to enable us to do this every time we celebrate Eucharist using the words from the ‘Common Worship’ book-“…May we who share Christ’s body live His risen life, we who drink His cup bring life to others, we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world”. We are the window through which others will see God.

In conclusion, there are a number of ways of viewing how real something is. Some people take the view that the ‘spiritual’ world is a delusion and only rely on what their senses tell them. Others will say that the material world is unimportant, and true reality is mind and spirit. The Christian message however, as revealed in the Sacraments includes both the material (Physical) and spiritual worlds. The spiritual world expresses itself in and through the material. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us”-John 1:14. The material world, such as creation shows us God. Jesus, because He became human while remaining fully God, also shows us God by the example He left for us to follow. In John 20:21 Jesus said to His disciples, “Just as the Father sent me, I send you”. Through observing the sacraments and contemplating what they mean we are able to develop a deeper relationship with God, which enable us to become living sacraments in the world.

Rev. Esther Squire. (CEEC).

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Intimacy with God

Towards Intimacy with God by Fr.Thomas Keating

The source of Centering Prayer is the Trinity, God's life within us, begun in baptism or whenever we entered into the state of grace. The doctrine of the Divine Indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity is the most important of all the principles of the spiritual life. It means that God's own life is being communicated to us, but beyond the level of our ordinary faculties because of what might be called, to use a modern scientific analogy, its high frequency. It is so high in fact, that only pure faith can access the divine presence in its full actuality.

The doctrine of the Trinity affirms three relationships in the one God, whom tradition calls the Father, the Son (the Eternal Word of the Father), and the Holy Spirit. This is the principal mystery of the Christian faith.

"Father" in this context, encompasses every human relationship that is beautiful, good, and true, but it especially evokes the sense of parenting, of "sourcing." The doctrine of the Trinity has been developed in many different theological models over the centuries. Drawing on these models, we can affirm that the Father is the ground of all potentiality. The actualization of that potentiality within the Trinity is the Word. The Word is the Father coming to full expression of all that the Father is. In a sense the Father is nothing until he speaks the Word. He knows who he is only in the Son, only in his interior Word. The Spirit is the common bond of love that flows between the Father and the Son in total self-giving love. In other words, the emptying of the Father--the actualization of all that is contained in infinite potentiality--is expressed totally in the Eternal Word expressed within the Trinity The Father pours himself into the Son. One might almost say that there is nothing left of Him. The traditional theological doctrine of circumincession teaches that the Father lives in the Son, not in himself. The Son in turn, in confronting this immense goodness that has been handed over completely and freely to him, gives himself back to the Father in a kind of embrace, or what certain Fathers of the Church have called "the most sweet kiss" of the Father and the Son. The Spirit, then, is the love of the Father and the Son, their common heart, so to speak. In the Trinity, there is no self. Everything is self-surrender. Everything is gift. Everything is love. Hence St. John the Evangelist affirms unconditionally, "God is love."

With the same movement that the Father manifests himself in the Eternal Word, all creation comes into being in and through the Word. Thus the Word is the creative source of everything that exists (see the Prologue of St. John's Gospel), expressing itself in different ways throughout the different levels of creation. Creation consists of various manifestations of infinite reality without in any way exhausting that reality.

The emptying of the Word in becoming incarnate is the visible expression of what the Father is doing all the time in expressing his interior Word. When that manifestation takes place in creation, it has to be expressed by some form of emptying. Divine love, when it enters creation, has to be crucified because there is no way in which that love can be fully expressed in created terms without the Father in some sense dying. In creating, God in some way ceases to be God. At least, God ceases to be God in the way he was before creation. God must become totally involved in creation because each creature expresses something of the beauty, the goodness, and the truth of the Eternal Word who is the absolute fullness of God's expression. Jesus Christ is the fullest manifestation of this extraordinary love that we call unconditional or divine love. This is the heart of the Christian mystery--mystery, not in the sense of an intellectual puzzle, but in the sense of wonder and awe, communicating a delight that is inexpressible and that demands as the only adequate response our total surrender. The Trinitarian relationships, of their very nature, invite us into the stream of divine love that is unconditional and totally self-surrendered. This boundless love emerges from the Father into the Son, and through the Son is communicated to all creation. The invitation is given to every human being to enter into the stream of divine love, or at least to venture a big toe into the river of eternal life. As we let go of our false self, we move into this stream of love that is always flowing and bestowing endless gifts of grace. The more we receive, the more we can give. And as we give, we open the space to receive still more.

When that immense project is translated into creation and, specifically, into human life, we run into difficulties because we arrive at full reflective self-consciousness without the intimate experience of God's presence and unconditional love. That is one of the points I have emphasized in the Spiritual Journey video tapes and in the book Invitation to Love: we come to full reflective self-consciousness without the experience of intimacy with God and without consciously sharing in the divine life. When we sit in contemplative prayer letting go of our usual flow of thoughts and feelings, which reinforce our false selves, then our hearts are opened by our intentionality to the divine Spirit four hours a day. Unfortunately we have habits of refusal and opposition that make this access extremely difficult without a disciplined and regular practice of prayer.

The source of Centering Prayer, then, is not some aspiration, expectation, or far off ideal, but rather its source is the transcendent reality of the divine life present within us right now in the measure of our faith. This marvelous gift is given in baptism and even in the desire for God. The latter, I venture to say, applies to many people who do not name God in the same way that Christians do, but who have the desire to enter into union with the Ultimate Reality.
When we are sitting in Centering Prayer, we may seem to be doing nothing, but we are doing perhaps the most important of all functions, which is to become who we are, the unique manifestation of the Word of God that the Spirit designed us to be.

The Trinitarian life is not a strategy, a program, or some kind of box into which we fit. It is rather an activity of grace that enables us to experience ever increasing interior freedom, even to the point that St. Augustine describes, "One has the freedom not to sin," that is, not to function out of the false self in any way at all. This is the freedom of the children of God.

The source of Centering Prayer is the Trinitarian life. Thus in this prayer we are trying to touch base, so to speak, with a life that is objectively--that is, really--present within us and that we access through faith, hope, and divine love. The exercise of these three theological virtues is precisely the transforming dynamism used by the Spirit to awaken in us the deeper levels of divine awareness. Paul says that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for" (Heb. 11:1). It is the invincible conviction that we are united to God before we can feel it or know it in any other way except through self-surrender. This is what opens the heart to what Paul calls the inpouring of divine love. "Hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5). Thus the source of Centering Prayer, as a preparation for the contemplative life, is the Trinitarian life itself, which is going on inside us and is manifested by our desire for God, to seek the truth, and to pray.

The focus of Centering Prayer is Christological. The attraction of grace may have many different forms and aspects, but in the context of the Christian life it is focused on Jesus Christ. This means that as we sit in faith, opening to the fullness of the presence of God within us, we share the dynamic of the Paschal mystery. In other words, when we stop acting out of our false self and the emotional programs for happiness by deliberately entering into silence and solitude during the time of Centering Prayer, we are immersing ourselves in a special way in the Paschal mystery. The Paschal mystery is Christ's passion, death, and resurrection, the most comprehensive manifestation of who God is, as far as this can be expressed in human terms. The emptying of Jesus is the visible symbol or sign--indeed the actualization in creation--of the infinite emptying of the Ultimate Reality--Infinite Goodness throwing itself away in love.
In the midst of a community praying together in Centering Prayer is the Risen Christ. He is not visible to our eyes, imagination, or senses, but on the spiritual level we intuit the presence of the divine when it is strongly present, as we sometimes do in a sacred shrine and, at times, in our own hearts. The deep conviction of presence beyond words or thoughts that awakens the desire for God is the divine life going on within us, letting a spark of insight or bliss drop into our starving faculties to awaken the fire of divine love when it seems to be going out.
We are living in a world that rejects love and that affirms selfishness as the ultimate value. The pressure from society is constantly insinuating itself through our upbringing, education, and culture. Society as a whole is saturated with the non-God.

First we have to affirm our interior freedom to be who we are or who we want to be in the face of all worldly enticements, including the worldly enticements associated with the spiritual journey. We bring the false self with us into the spiritual journey and into our relationship with God. Perhaps for many years our relationship with God might be termed co-dependent because we deal with God in the magical way that is characteristic of children. An important fruit of contemplative prayer is to be purified of our childish ideas about God. As our idea of God expands, there is no word, no way, no gesture, that can articulate it anymore. Hence we fall into silence, the place we should have been in the first place.

God's first language is silence. There is no word in the Trinity except the Eternal Word, and that one Word contains everything. As St. John of the Cross writes: "It was said once, and said in absolute silence. And it is only in silence that we hear it."

We have to climb up to this kind of silence. This language is not taught in the Berlitz repertoire. We have to teach ourselves. The primary teaching of Centering Prayer is basically very simple and can be expressed in two words: "Do it!" It will then do you. But it requires doing it every day That is extremely important when we consider the other influences that are bearing down upon us. At times in our lives we have to make choices and set up priorities. Once we are dealing with Christ as the primary focus of our prayer, there is no longer a question of simply choosing between good and evil. There is a question of choosing between good, better, and best. The exercises or methods that we used in the beginning may have to be set aside for better tools, and finally for the best tools when we have moved as far as our human faculties can move us with the help of grace. Then without doing anything, silence does everything in us.

There is another important aspect to the fact of Christ as the focus of Centering Prayer. Our intention in sitting down is to open to the presence of Christ, remembering that the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus reveal the mystery of the Trinity more than any other event. We are assimilating the presence of Christ in Centering Prayer, regardless of what we feel and of what thoughts go by, as long as our intention is to identify with that presence.

Christ's passion, as I understand it, is our own human misery. He has taken upon himself all the consequences of the human condition, the chief of which is the feeling of alienation from God. That is the emotion he felt most poignantly on the cross when he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It is also at the heart of our own experience of the purification of the unconscious. The false self is invited to dissolve through the gradual process in which we come to know the dark side of our personality and our incredible possibilities for evil. But to experience this in the context of a loving God, in the context of being fathered and mothered by the divine life going on within us, is precisely what enables us to face that dark side and our capacity for evil without being blown away.

The metaphor of the spiral staircase that we developed in Chapter 8 emphasizes that as we go down in humility we experience a corresponding level of inner resurrection. The fullness of divine life of course is not permanently established until we come to the bottom of the pile of our emotional junk. The undigested emotional material of a lifetime has to be processed by the Divine Therapist before we can access the fullness of liberation from the false self. As Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father except through me," that is, without accepting what he has accepted. He has entered into and accepted the human condition just as it is for our salvation.
Redemption, in this light, is not a cloak over our sins, but the inner transformation of our attitudes and motivation into the mind and heart of Christ. This process secretly goes on during periods of Centering Prayer. One is sitting, so to speak, on the cross with Christ, identifying with him and relinquishing the obstacles in us that hinder the free flow of divine love.

Normally the signs of resurrection are experienced more in daily life than during prayer itself. Our best criteria for judging whether our faith experience is really bearing fruit is in the growth of our desire for God--not a particular desire for this or that experience, but a general loving hunger for God. This is the most certain sign that the divine life is becoming healthy, strong, and powerful within us.

When we are doing Centering Prayer in a group, we access the contact that each of us has already made with the divine presence within us. This is our special gift to the group. The presence of Christ becomes more powerful because of our respective contributions to the interior silence of the assembled community. The intensity of that reservoir of interior silence enriches everybody at a deeper level than they might be able to reach alone.

The third theological principle on which Centering Prayer is based is that Centering Prayer is ecclesial in its effects--ecclesial in the sense of the original meaning of the word, which indicates a social dimension, function, or reality. Once we begin the spiritual journey, there is no longer merely private prayer. Our prayer becomes a participation in the groanings of the Spirit for all the intentions and needs of the human family. This does not mean that we do not pray for our loved ones at other times. But it does mean that during the periods of Centering Prayer we enter into a sense of oneness with everyone else who is experiencing grace, and with the whole human family. At times we may actually feel this bonding. This bonding is the heart and soul of a Christian community. Without it one wonders how effective a gathering of Christians really is. Gathered to participate intentionally in the Paschal mystery, the Centering Prayer meeting becomes a liturgy without words, a celebration of each one's union with Christ and of our
gratitude for participating in the inner life of the Trinity. Every little drop of that experience is of almost inconceivable value and vastly transcends the assembled community itself. In other words, the divine energy that is accessed by each one's participation in Christ's passion, death, and resurrection becomes a kind of universal prayer for the needs of the whole human family. It has a radiation that is truly apostolic, apostolic in the sense of transmitting the grace of Christ into this world.

It also means that our personal creative energies are being awakened. Most of us are probably not using our full potential precisely because we have been sitting on it. Once we have fully identified with the Paschal mystery and are willing to take the aches and pains of purification that are the way to inner resurrection, we may experience in various ways a further call to some kind of ministry I hesitate to use the word "ministry" because the word is so hackneyed that people think in terms only of concrete activities that are well known. All I can say is that the ministries and the charisms that are announced by Paul in I Corinthians 12 are only examples of what the Spirit can do once we have identified with this process. Our prayer is certain to have an effect on others and to force us to express this love in daily life. We do not have to think about it too much because, when the time comes, we will know what we are supposed to do or it may happen spontaneously. It may also change several times in our lifetimes, especially if we begin this journey early enough.

Excerpted from "Intimacy with God" by Fr. Thomas Keating.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Condemned to Immortality,a meditation on the Resurrection
by Archimandrite Dr Justin Popovick

People condemned God to death; with His Resurrection He condemned them to immortality. For striking Him, God returned embraces; for insults, blessings; for death, immortality. Never did men show more hate towards God than when they crucified Him; and God never showed His love towards people more than when He was resurrected. Mankind wanted to make God dead, but God, with His Resurrection, made people alive, the crucified God resurrected on the third day and thereby killed death ! There is no more death. Immortality is surrounding man and his entire world.
With the
Resurrection of the God-Man, the nature of man is irreversibly led toward the road of immortality and man's nature becomes destructive to death itself. For until the Resurrection of Christ, death was destructive for man; from the Resurrection of Christ, man's nature becomes destructive in death. If man lives in the faith of the Resurrected God Man, he lives above death, he is unreachable for her; death is under man's feet. Death where is thy sting, hell where is thy victory? And when a man who believes in Christ dies, he only leaves his body as his clothes, in which he will be dressed again on the Day of Last Judgement.
Before the Resurrection of the God-Man, death was the second nature of man; life was first and death was second. Man became accustomed to death as something natural. But after His Resurrection the Lord changed everything: and it was only natural until Christ's Resurrection, that the people became mortal, so after Christ's Resurrection it was natural that the people became immortal.
Through sin, man becomes mortal and temporal; with the Resurrection of the God-Man, he becomes immortal and eternal. In this lies the strength, in this lies the power, in this lies the might of Christ's Resurrection. Without the Resurrection there is no Christianity. Among the miracles, this is the greatest one; all other miracles begin and end with it. From it sprouted the faith and the love and the hope and the prayer and the love toward God.

from Philosophical Cliffs

The Church Fathers On Resurrection

Christianity is two thousand years old, and the concept of resurrection is more common today than in the past. The earliest Christians lived in a different world than ours:

"Christianity was born into a world where its central claim was known to be false. Many believed that the dead were non-existent; outside Judaism, nobody believed in resurrection....Lots of things could happen to the dead in the beliefs of pagan antiquity, but resurrection was not among the available options." (N.T. Wright, The Resurrection Of The Son Of God [Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2003], pp. 35, 38)

The earliest Christians were criticized for their belief in resurrection. It was one of the primary subjects of the earliest apologetic works of the church fathers. Some of the fathers wrote on the subject in the context of their own suffering, even martyrdom.

"Day and night declare to us a resurrection. The night sinks to sleep, and the day arises; the day again departs, and the night comes on. Let us behold the fruits of the earth, how the sowing of grain takes place. The sower goes forth, and casts it into the ground; and the seed being thus scattered, though dry and naked when it fell upon the earth, is gradually dissolved. Then out of its dissolution the mighty power of the providence of the Lord raises it up again, and from one seed many arise and bring forth fruit....Having then this hope, let our souls be bound to Him who is faithful in His promises, and just in His judgments. He who has commanded us not to lie, shall much more Himself not lie...The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ has done so from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand." (Clement of Rome, First Clement, 24, 27, 42)

"I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ. Rather entice the wild beasts, that they may become my tomb, and may leave nothing of my body; so that when I have fallen asleep in death, I may be no trouble to any one. Then shall I truly be a disciple of Christ, when the world shall not see so much as my body. Entreat Christ for me, that by these instruments I may be found a sacrifice to God. I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles; I am but a condemned man: they were free, while I am, even until now, a servant. But when I suffer, I shall be the freed-man of Jesus, and shall rise again emancipated in Him." (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter To The Romans, 4)

"And though all the men of your nation knew the incidents in the life of Jonah, and though Christ said amongst you that He would give the sign of Jonah, exhorting you to repent of your wicked deeds at least after He rose again from the dead, and to mourn before God as did the Ninevites, in order that your nation and city might not be taken and destroyed, as they have been destroyed; yet you not only have not repented, after you learned that He rose from the dead, but, as I said before you have sent chosen and ordained men throughout all the world to proclaim that a godless and lawless heresy had sprung from one Jesus, a Galilaean deceiver, whom we crucified, but his disciples stole him by night from the tomb, where he was laid when unfastened from the cross, and now deceive men by asserting that he has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven. Moreover, you accuse Him of having taught those godless, lawless, and unholy doctrines which you mention to the condemnation of those who confess Him to be Christ, and a Teacher from and Son of God. Besides this, even when your city is captured, and your land ravaged, you do not repent, but dare to utter imprecations on Him and all who believe in Him. Yet we do not hate you or those who, by your means, have conceived such prejudices against us; but we pray that even now all of you may repent and obtain mercy from God, the compassionate and long-suffering Father of all." (Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, 108)

"Even though fire destroy all traces of my flesh, the world receives the vaporized matter; and though dispersed through rivers and seas, or torn in pieces by wild beasts, I am laid up in the storehouses of a wealthy Lord. And, although the poor and the godless know not what is stored up, yet God the Sovereign, when He pleases, will restore the substance that is visible to Him alone to its pristine condition." (Tatian, Address To The Greeks, 6)

"For as the Lord 'went away in the midst of the shadow of death,' where the souls of the dead were, yet afterwards arose in the body, and after the resurrection was taken up into heaven, it is manifest that the souls of His disciples also, upon whose account the Lord underwent these things, shall go away into the invisible place allotted to them by God, and there remain until the resurrection, awaiting that event; then receiving their bodies, and rising in their entirety, that is bodily, just as the Lord arose, they shall come thus into the presence of God. 'For no disciple is above the Master, but every one that is perfect shall be as his Master.' As our Master, therefore, did not at once depart, taking flight to heaven, but awaited the time of His resurrection prescribed by the Father, which had been also shown forth through Jonas, and rising again after three days was taken up to heaven; so ought we also to await the time of our resurrection prescribed by God and foretold by the prophets, and so, rising, be taken up, as many as the Lord shall account worthy of this privilege." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5:31:2)

"Assuredly, as the reason why restoration takes place at all is the appointed judgment, every man must needs come forth the very same who had once existed, that he may receive at God's hands a judgment, whether of good desert or the opposite. And therefore the body too will appear; for the soul is not capable of suffering without the solid substance (that is, the flesh; and for this reason, also) that it is not right that souls should have all the wrath of God to bear: they did not sin without the body, within which all was done by them. But how, you say, can a substance which has been dissolved be made to reappear again? Consider thyself, O man, and thou wilt believe in it! Reflect on what you were before you came into existence. Nothing. For if you had been anything, you would have remembered it. You, then, who were nothing before you existed, reduced to nothing also when you cease to be, why may you not come into being again out of nothing, at the will of the same Creator whose will created you out of nothing at the first? Will it be anything new in your case? You who were not, were made; when you cease to be again, you shall be made. Explain, if you can, your original creation, and then demand to know how you shall be re-created. Indeed, it will be still easier surely to make you what you were once, when the very same creative power made you without difficulty what you never were before. There will be doubts, perhaps, as to the power of God, of Him who hung in its place this huge body of our world, made out of what had never existed, as from a death of emptiness and inanity, animated by the Spirit who quickens all living things, its very self the unmistakable type of the resurrection, that it might be to you a witness - nay, the exact image of the resurrection. Light, every day extinguished, shines out again; and, with like alternation, darkness succeeds light's outgoing. The defunct stars re-live; the seasons, as soon as they are finished, renew their course; the fruits are brought to maturity, and then are reproduced. The seeds do not spring up with abundant produce, save as they rot and dissolve away; - all things are preserved by perishing, all things are refashioned out of death. Thou, man of nature so exalted, if thou understandest thyself, taught even by the Pythian words, lord of all these things that die and rise, - shalt thou die to perish evermore? Wherever your dissolution shall have taken place, whatever material agent has destroyed you, or swallowed you up, or swept you away, or reduced you to nothingness, it shall again restore you. Even nothingness is His who is Lord of all." (Tertullian, The Apology, 48)

"This temporal and brief suffering, how shall it be exchanged for the reward of a bright and eternal honour, when, according to the word of the blessed apostle, 'the Lord shall change the body of our humiliation, that it may be fashioned like to the body of His brightness!'...What now must be the vigour, beloved brethren, of your victorious consciousness, what the loftiness of your mind, what exultation in feeling, what triumph in your breast, that every one of you stands near to the promised reward of God, are secure from the judgment of God, walk in the mines with a body captive indeed, but with a heart reigning, that you know Christ is present with you, rejoicing in the endurance of His servants, who are ascending by His footsteps and in His paths to the eternal kingdoms! You daily expect with joy the saving day of your departure; and already about to withdraw from the world, you are hastening to the rewards of martyrdom, and to the divine homes, to behold after this darkness of the world the purest light, and to receive a glory greater than all sufferings and conflicts, as the apostle witnesses, and says, 'The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.'" (Cyprian, Letter 76:2, 76:7)

"[Jesus] accepted a decaying body so that decaying bodies might put on immortality." (Athanasius, cited in I.D.E. Thomas, The Golden Treasury Of Patristic Quotations [Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Hearthstone Publishing, 1996], p. 228)

"Wherefore the city [Rome] is more notable upon this ground, than upon all others together. And as a body great and strong, it hath as two glistening eyes the bodies of these Saints [Paul and Peter]. Not so bright is the heaven, when the sun sends forth his rays, as is the city of Rome, sending out these two lights into all parts of the world. From thence will Paul be caught up, from thence Peter. Just bethink you, and shudder at the thought of what a sight Rome will see, when Paul ariseth suddenly from that deposit, together with Peter, and is lifted up to meet the Lord. What a rose will Rome send up to Christ! what two crowns will the city have about it! what golden chains will she be girded with! what fountains possess! Therefore I admire the city, not for the much gold, not for the columns, not for the other display there, but for these pillars of the Church." (John Chrysostom, Homilies On Romans, 32, v. 24)

Origionally published on TRIABLOGUE by Jason Engwer .

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Lent - A Season spent preparing for Resurrection

How shall we approach this Lenten season.? Shall we "give up" some little pleasure or perhaps suppress some carnal desire for the next 40 days? may I suggest a better way....

Lent is a liturgical season reserved for entering into, or reestablishing, the Sanctuary of our heart, and meeting our creator in the midst of the desert of modern living. It is a divine opportunity for preparation. Preparation for what you may well ask? Preparation for life I shall answer. In John 10:10 Jesus promised so very much more than a redemption from Hell through justification. He promised new life, His inner divine life, to beat within our breast.

Lent is a season for drinking from the water of life that flows from His heart. It is the season of rediscovery of the beauty of desert solitude and life. Here in His womb of silence we can meet again with the reality of God, ourselves, and others. Divine life, "Zoe" resurrection life, is received through communion with God.

This lent I would like you to share with me from the waters of life that flow through the Anabaptist Community, The Bruderhof. I invite you to read from their wonderful book "Why Forgive" available as a free E-Book (just follow the link provided).

I pray that every Missionary of the Holy Spirit will not be known for their perfectionism but rather for their sincere love, humility, and willingness to forgive.

"One day Abraham invited a beggar to his tent for a meal. When grace was being said, the man began to curse God, declaring he could not bear to hear His name.
Seized with indignation, Abraham drove the blasphemer away.
When he was at his prayers that night, god said to him, "This man has cursed and reviled me fifty years and yet I have given him food to eat every day. Could you not put up with him for a single meal?"
("Taking Flight" by Fr. Anthony de Mello S.J., Page 157. )

With much love,

Fr. Gerard M.H.S.

Friday, September 01, 2006

How to become the change you wish to see - Part 1 -

"You are the Light of the World... You are the Salt of the Earth..."

- Jesus of Nazareth-

To be a Missionary of the Holy Spirit we must first become a Friend of the Holy Spirit. In today's Church culture those who produce results are applauded and praised. Those who serve in silence are all too often ignored or considered lesser. For example: We honour the international evangelist or the successful Christian business person and mentally pass by the faithful church member who brings their children up in the knowledge of God and love. Who is the greater? Neither! They are great in the Father's eyes in so far as they dwell in and share His love & mercy. While it is right that we honour those who serve well our beloved Master, it is also true, that in the human need for love, acceptance, and appreciation, and through our primal need to belong to the "in-group" many have "burned out" in the search for illusory ministerial success and human pier approval.

In God the Father's eyes, what is spiritual success? Mother Teresa once expressed it thus: "We are not called to success, but to faithfulness". This "faithfulness" is a faithfulness to living in the centre of the Father's will and desires. If God calls you to love those of your own household and your neighbour, and you go to a war torn area and hold a mass crusade, but neglect your own, then though many may have been brought to Christ through the miracle action of the Holy Spirit honouring the Divine Gospel, you will have failed in your primary calling! We have been called firstly into relationship with the Trinity. All other callings spring from this well. Eph.2:10. All Christian service which substitutes this reality is void of usefulness to the Father's Kingdom. The service becomes a "dead work" because it substitutes the reality of that which flows from the Divine expressing itself through the human.

Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but
yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks with compassion on this World. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
-- St. Teresa of Avila -

Jesus died and rose to realize RECONCILIATION for humanity (2 Cor.5:16-21). This reconciliation is therefore an already accomplished fact in the heart and mind of our Father. The veil in the Temple was torn. That veil had separated man & woman from the presence and power of God through the effect of human sin in the human heart and conscience. Christ's blood sacrifice on Calvary not only atoned for sin, it remitted sin. This remission is not a covering but an annihilation of the fall, commission & guilt of humanity. It-is-finished! Anyone, anywhere, can now look to Christ's atoning sacrifice and enter in to a full and complete relation with the Trinity. The love of God the Father pours out towards us. The grace and the healing Lordship of Jesus, the Christ, is ours, even before we know to ask for it. The Friendship and Fellowship with The Holy Spirit, that Jesus in His humanity enjoyed, is now ours to the same level and extent. Reconciliation means exactly that and the barrier between God and man has been eliminated in His flesh!

So we begin our journey to become the likeness of He whom we follow with a clear way opened into the centre of the Trinity and a true and sincere invitation to Friendship and Fellowship with God.

For the purpose of this series I shall share Seven "How to" Keys to realise this calling.

  1. How to live in the Presence of God.

  2. How to receive Revelation Knowledge.

  3. How to overcome the past & appropriate a new life and inner identity.

  4. Discover three spiritual "tools" that experientially open Friendship with God for you.

  5. How to discover & enter into your Ministry.

  6. How to make His Kingdom visible to the World.

  7. Discover the Secret of Jesus' ministry.

With much love,

Your Brother,

Fr. Gerard

Missionary of the Holy Spirit

Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Living in Community" by Fr. Tony Palmer M.H.S.

Introduction: - We must approach the study Church history, seeing the Church as a “United Believing Community”. - This is not being presumptuous nor narrow minded but scriptural. Jesus’ dying prayer was for the Church, the Universal “catholic” Church to be ONE. - Although we are many, we are ONE. - This was also His first recorded prayer for us as a Church! John 17:20-21 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21“that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
1. UNITY - From the outset we need to see the direction in which Christ saw the direction of the Church and the purpose for our presence on the Earth, as a united Community. - Our points of departure are UNITY and COMMUNITY. - The Church is called to be ONE. “That they all may be one". - This is not a hope nor a dream it is already done in Heaven, as this was our Lord’s own personal prayer, and therefore we may rest in the hope of it’s fulfillment. - We are the instruments God wishes to use to bring about this ONENESS, that Jesus asked the Father for. - We are to finish what He started. Jesus asked the Father to make us ONE so, “that the world may believe that You sent Me.” - “UNITY” is the other half of “commUNITY”. Without UNITY, community cannot exist.
2. COMMUNITY - To understand Community, we need to look back at the original context, in which Christ gave birth to His Community, the Church. - What was life like in Israel 2000 years ago? Was it like our modern independent lives today? - The answer is that life then, was VERY different to what it has evolved into today. - For the majority, life in Israel around the time of Jesus was very unfair. - The majority were POOR, not middle-class. - Society was made up of the majority being poor, and the minority being rich, with virtually no middleclass. - They were either very rich or very poor. - This lead to many injustices done to the poor, by the ruling rich class. - Poor people were BOTH economically and politically poor. - This left the majority (the poor), very vulnerable and helpless also in civil atrocities, like having their land taken away by rich rulers, etc. (1 Kings 21:1- 15) King Ahab had a palace in Jezreel, and near the palace was a vineyard owned by a man named Naboth. 2 One day Ahab said to Naboth, “Since your vineyard is so convenient to the palace, I would like to buy it to use as a vegetable garden. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange, or if you prefer, I will pay you for it.” 3 But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance that was passed down by my ancestors.” 4 So Ahab went home angry and sullen because of Naboth’s answer. The king went to bed with his face to the wall and refused to eat! 5 “What in the world is the matter?” his wife, Jezebel, asked him. “What has made you so upset that you are not eating?” 6 “I asked Naboth to sell me his vineyard or to trade it, and he refused!” Ahab told her. 7 “Are you the king of Israel or not?” Jezebel asked. “Get up and eat and don’t worry about it. I’ll get you Naboth’s vineyard!” 8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, sealed them with his seal, and sent them to the elders and other leaders of the city where Naboth lived. 9 In her letters she commanded: “Call the citizens together for fasting and prayer and give Naboth a place of honor. 10 Find two scoundrels who will accuse him of cursing God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” 11 So the elders and other leaders followed the instructions Jezebel had written in the letters. 12 They called for a fast and put Naboth at a prominent place before the people. 13 Then two scoundrels accused him before all the people of cursing God and the king. So he was dragged outside the city and stoned to death. 14 The city officials then sent word to Jezebel, “Naboth has been stoned to death.” 15 When Jezebel heard the news, she said to Ahab, “You know the vineyard Naboth wouldn’t sell you? Well, you can have it now! He’s dead!” 16 So Ahab immediately went down to the vineyard to claim it. - In order to seek economic and civil protection, the Israelites would seek employment from the wealthy. - However, being employed by a wealthy Patron extended beyond the normal “employer-employee” relationship as we know it today. - Being employed by a Patron, meant you now became part of his “Household”.
- “Households” were made up of : a) the Family Head, the Patron (Paterfamilias) b) his direct family. c) his extended family. d) servants and slaves. - It was not only family. - Becoming a member of a Household gave both economic and civil/political protection. - However being a member of a Household also had religious obligations attached to it. - The main obligation that is pertinent to our study of the Christian Community is the practice that, all the members of the Household had to devote themselves too the same Deity worshiped by the “Paterfamilias”, Family Head/Patron. - So when the Family Head gave his life to Christ, everyone in his Household were obliged to follow suit. - Save the Head of the Household, and the entire Household gets saved: The Jailor: (Acts 16:30-31) “Sirs, what must I (Paterfamilias), do to be saved?” 31So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” The Roman Centurion – Cornelius: (Acts 10:1-2, Acts 11:13-14) “1There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius (Paterfamilias), a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2a devout man and one who feared God with all his household”. ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14‘who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved”.
Other references to: N.T HOUSEHOLDS: John 4:53 1 Cor 1:11 Acts 10:21 Cor 1:16 Acts 16:5 Phil 4:22 Acts 16:31-34 2 Tim 1:6 Acts 18:82 Tim 4:19 Rom 16:10-11
- Religious meetings were held in the Paterfamilias’ home, as his home would be large enough to dedicate one room to such weekly religious meetings. - The Jewish “Synagogue” was a meeting in a home, Archaeology has confirmed this. - As Household’s converted to Christianity, the synagogues became Churches. (Acts 20:20) - 20“I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house”. (Philemon 1-2) - To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, 2to the beloved Apphia, “ Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house”. - It was into this context that Christ gave birth to His Community, a Household of Believers. (Gal 6:10) “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith”. (Eph 2:19) “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (Paterfamilias), 21in whom the whole building, being joined together (Unity), grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”. - There did not exist any buildings “solely” dedicated as Churches until the 2nd and 3rd Century AD. - For the first two hundred years, Church was in someone’s home, and this included meetings to Ordain Priests and Bishops, Baptisms and Eucharist (Communion Services). - The fact is the Church is a Household, we are already a Community, and we just need to “live out” what we ARE already.
3. The Apostolic Church (30-100 AD) - Rome had various judgments against the early Church, which lead to our persecution. - To name only two of them: a. Anti-Family: Upon being saved and received into the “family” of the Christian Community, “The Household of Faith”, individual loyalty turned to that of their new-found Christian family. Although being Christian made the individuals better family members in their own homes, when they had to take sides, they gave their loyalty to their Christian family ‘The Household of Faith” first. b. Anti-Social behavior: This charge simply came from their refusal to participate in the immoral lifestyles of the Roman population. They refused to go along with the crowd.
4. Living in Communiy today - In order to understand how to live in Community today, we need to look back to the past. - Experiential Christianity is lived out in Community. - Experiential Christianity is lived our in Sharing. - Experiential Christianity is lived out in Loving. - Experiential Christianity is lived out in Receiving. - Experiential Christianity is lived out in Inter-dependence. - None of the above can be lived out in isolation and in independence. - Our modern culture is in direct opposition to Christian Community living. - Firstly it must be understood that both the desire and ability to live in Community is a grace given by our Paterfamilias Himself… Christ. - It is a super-natural grace which enters our lives upon our “rebirth” and initiation into the Household of Faith. - The way we think and live is not “natural”; we have become foreigners to this world. (Heb 11:13) “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth”. - Living in Community for us as modern Christians is possible, and God has given us all that we need to build up His Community on Earth: a) Sacrifice yourself: (Roma 12:1-5) 1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 3For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” b) Employ the Fruit of the Holy Spirit from within us: (Gal 5:22-26) “22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another”.
Conclusion - Christianity is the only hope of long-term survival for civilized mankind. - Our Theory of evolution has failed us, we are not getting stronger! - Our world is in a state of entropy, it’s getting weaker. - Our “pop psychologies” have been proven inaccurate, and have destroyed our morals. - Our non-biblical philosophies have left us void of any meaning to life. - We are destroying our planet. - We are loosing our families. - We are loosing Society and civilization. - We have been given the only TRUE hope – A Christian World. - It is planned for God to descend to Earth from Heaven, to live permanently with His Household, set up His government and rule and reign with His Household members for all eternity, in peace and everlasting prosperity, without sin, sickness or sadness. (Rev 21:1-7) - It is written: “1Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” 5Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” 6And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son”.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
References: 1. UNISA Biblical Archaeology Mod. 1, 1996 2. Dictionary of Paul & his Letters. Hawthorne. P.417, Inter Varsity Press. ISBN 0-85110-651-X 3. Against the Wind, M. Baum, 1998. The Plough Publishing House ISBN: 0-87486-953-6 4. The Study of Liturgy. SPCK Pub. Cheslyn Jones. 1978. ISBN: 0-281-03578-