“We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.” -Nicene Creed
Baptism is the first of the Holy Mysteries, or Sacraments, of the Church. A Mystery is a sacred and holy act through which God’s saving power, His grace, works upon the recipient.
In Protestant countries, and particularly in North America, the predominant view of Baptism is that of it being a symbolic act. Baptism, in most Protestant churches, represents an act of obedience to Christ, an outward expression of an inward conviction. It is generally believed that one must first hear the Gospel, believe in Christ, and then be baptised; that only people of accountable age who have made a profession of faith should be baptised remains the dominant evangelical position. There are of course some variances and differences in the precise theology and expression, as well as some additional concerns for those Protestant churches that practice infant baptism, such as the Lutheran and Reformed churches.
The historic, and authentic, Orthodox-Catholic understanding of baptism is quite different however. The Orthodox-Catholic Church maintains the Sacramental efficacy of baptism as a true Mystery of our Lord. It is essential to our salvation, to our place in the Church, to our walk with Christ. Baptism is the foundation upon which the Christian life is built, it is the first Sacrament all Christians must receive. In Baptism the person dies to sin and is born-again into the spiritual life. As St. John says “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” Continue reading “The Mystery of Baptism”
Imagine you are standing in the middle of a vast plain. It is pitch black out, a cloudy night leaves no starlight and the moon is absent from the sky. The darkness is such that even your hand is unseen when held before your eyes. You have but a single light, a small candle that barely illuminates the ground for a few feet around you. If you move too fast, or the wind blows too hard, the candle extinguishes itself and leaves you in the darkness again. You relight the candle each time, but still, the light is barely sufficient. Somewhere out in the distance is your destination, you don’t know how far, or the path, only that it is there. The plain you walk on is covered with paths, with rivers and groves of trees, so you must find a path, follow it in darkness and hope that somehow you reach your destination.
Eventually perhaps you are lucky enough to meet a pilgrim in the darkness. This person holds a lantern, a light brighter than your own that lights up a larger area. The pilgrim seems to know what your destination is, and seems to have a better idea of how to get there. You talk to the pilgrim and eventually decide to follow this person’s advice to reach your destination. The pilgrim hands you a lantern of your own and places you on the correct path, then leaves you to find your way. While the going is easier, eventually you find that you still have to navigate treacherous cliffs and rapid waters. It is not always easy to determine if the path you follow is the correct one as it splits off often, and many paths seem equally worn. Continue reading “Do we read the Bible wrong?”
Everyone, whether or not he is a Christian, must expect a certain amount of sickness and discomfort to enter his life. Physical pain is universal; no one escapes it. Therefore, how much we suffer from illness, or how intensely, does not matter so much as how we understand these infirmities. The understanding is all.
If a man supposes that life should be one long, luxurious “vacation,” then any amount of suffering that comes to him is unbearable. But if a man views life as a time of sorrows, correction, and purification, then suffering and pain become not only bearable, but even useful.
Saint Ambrose of Milan says of the Christian attitude toward sickness: “If the occasion demands it, a wise man will readily accept bodily infirmity and even offer his whole body up to death for the sake of Christ….This same man is not affected in spirit or broken with bodily pain if his health fails him. He is consoled by his struggle for perfection in the virtues” (Exegetical Works). Hearing this, the man of the world is quite likely to exclaim: “What an idea! How can a man ‘readily accept’ illness and disease?” Continue reading “On Illness”
The vicissitudes of time and the machinations of men give words strange connotations. Often they no longer fit the mental pictures they create. When Woostockians looked up to Overlook Mountain and saw high on its slopes the gray clad figures of a religious community rehabilitating the deserted little chapel below Mead’s Mountain House, they were puzzled to hear the several young men calling themselves “Old”, displaying an evangelistic enthusiasm for a faith they called “Catholic”. They were completely nonplused when one of the older men of the community in overalls addressed a similarly clad younger man “Father”.
With the passage of days, however, Woodstock had grown to know and like these men as they have grown to like Woodstock more and more. Through the first summer Sundays the bell that echoed down the mountainside from the Church of Christ-on-the-Mount called increasing numbers to worship with the young “Old” Catholics and with the advent of winter a place of worship had to be found in the village. Then in an old red barn, adjoining the Woodstock Country Club on the Saugerties-Woodstock road, whose hand hewn beams and weathered boards teem with memories and the romance of bygone days, they prayed for the common healing of the ills of humanity together with people who have been previously unchurched, dechurched or never-before churched. But with the exception of those with whom their activities have grown, and the friendly folk with whom they visit, the paradox of “Old” and “Catholic” and “young” and “evangelistic” still remains. Continue reading “Old Catholic History”
Here is my profession of faith, here,
the yearnings of my wretched breath to you
who constitute all things with your Word, God.
What I have discoursed upon before, I set forth again,
these written instructions and interpretations
for the masses of different nations.
I offer these prayers of intercession
in the thanksgiving prayer below.
I pray to your unchanging, almighty Spirit:
Send the dew of your sweetness upon my soul
to rule over the impulses of my senses.
Send the all-filling gifts of your merciful grace
and cultivate the reasoning fields hardened by my heart,
that they might bear the fruit of your spiritual seeds.
All gifts that flourish and grow with us, Teacher,
come from your all-encompassing wisdom.
You who laid hands on the apostles,
filled the prophets,
taught the teachers,
made the speechless speak,
and opened the ears of the deaf. Continue reading “The Creed of Saint Gregory of Narek”
Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
–Acts of the Apostles 2:38
What does Justification mean?
In Catholic theology justification is a term that means the cleansing of sin in a person, and the communication by grace of “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22) ” through Baptism. Catholics believe that mankind has inherited original sin through Adam. The original sin destroyed the righteousness originally attributed to our first parents and created the chasm of sin between God and man. Sin separates us from God and thus by justice causes death of the soul in hell. “For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)”. The Council of Trent affirms that original sin creates a weakness in human nature and calls this weakness of will concupiscence. Concupiscence weakens the will of man toward evil and warps his nature towards selfish passions rather than the love of God. Human nature and the Jewish law of the Old Covenant are incapable of allowing man in his natural faculties to rise above the fall of mankind and the temptations of Satan.
Because of the infinite love and mercy of God, Jesus Christ willingly paid for our sins by his suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection and thus merited the redemption of humanity. This means that provided humans cooperate by act of free will with God’s grace, a person can be justified by the grace of God and become a new creature in Christ. Justification of the soul is a work of grace by the Holy Spirit. With this in mind, we can define justification as the transformation of the soul from the state of original sin to that of grace and divine sonship through Jesus Christ.
One day, after celebrating Mass, the aged Pope Leo XIII was in conference with the Cardinals when suddenly he sank to the floor in a deep swoon. Physicians who hastened to his side could find no trace of his pulse and feared that he had expired. However, after a short interval the Holy Father regained consciousness and exclaimed with great emotion: “Oh, what a horrible picture I have been permitted to see!”
He had been shown a vision of evil spirits who had been released from Hell and their efforts to destroy the Church. But in the midst of the horror the archangel St. Michael appeared and cast Satan and his legions into the abyss of hell. Soon afterwards Pope Leo XIII composed the following prayer to Saint Michael, which is the original version:
Original – Prayer to St. Michael
“O Glorious Prince of the heavenly host, St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in the battle and in the terrible warfare that we are waging against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits. Come to the aid of man, whom Almighty God created immortal, made in His own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of Satan.
“Fight this day the battle of the Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. That cruel, ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of God and of His Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity.
“These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where the See of Holy Peter and the Chair of Truth has been set up as the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be.
“Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious power of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly find mercy in the sight of the Lord; and vanquishing the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.
V. Behold the Cross of the Lord; be scattered ye hostile powers.
R. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered, the root of David.
V. Let Thy mercies be upon us, O Lord.
R. As we have hoped in Thee.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Let us pray.
O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon Thy holy Name, and as supplicants, we implore Thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin Immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious St. Michael the Archangel, Thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all the other unclean spirits who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of souls. Amen.”
Short Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel
The well-known short version of this prayer follows in English and Latin. The Pope ordered this prayer to be recited daily after Low Mass in all the churches throughout the Catholic world. However this practice was almost completely swept away in the 1960s by liturgical changes made in the wake of Vatican Council II.
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.
Most of us in Western countries lead very insular lives. We understand, on an intellectual level, that not everyone has the same standard of living or access to technology that we do, but fail to really comprehend what that means. We also may fail to understand exactly how other people, other societies and cultures, interact with the technology that is available to them. This insulated perspective can have numerous repercussions for people who live and breathe technology, specifically for those people who work in the Information Technology field.
Information Technology is no longer a local field of employment or study. It is almost impossible to work at any level within the IT field and not have a global presence to some degree. And it is becoming more and more vital that we learn to interact as global citizens since the World Wide Web, and the technologies that are associated with it, are breaking boundaries and national borders faster than anything we have ever dreamed of in the past.
Digital Citizenship is a way of looking at our lives – specifically at that point where information technology begins to define our place in the world. Digital citizenship is all about how to be appropriate, responsible, and ethical, within the boundaries of cyberspace. Digital citizenship is the new Emily Post for the Matrix and while it may sound funny, it is absolutely crucial to today’s marketplace and to the economic wellbeing of our companies and countries.
We need to understand that our presence online isn’t the same as the neighborhood presence of a local store. The grocery store on the corner is marketing to a very specific demographic, the people who live within a few miles. No one else in world probably even knows about that store. But build a website, develop an ecommerce shop, and suddenly you are available to everyone everywhere, suddenly you are a global citizen with a digital presence. Now people in England, Oman, or Thailand, can shop your store. You are no longer simply selling to a small community, you are selling to every community. What exactly does this mean for us and what are the implications of digital citizenship?
First, we have to learn to communicate on a global level, and we have to realize that communication is not about talking, it is about sharing ideas. Unfortunately, at this time, I am limited to English so I cannot carry a conversation with anyone unless they happen to speak my language. But that does not stop me from communicating. We can share ideas through the magic of information technology, through the digital sharing of pictures and graphics, through the use of online translators and with the help of a myriad of people who are also online and willing to help facilitate communication. But we have to remember that communication is not occurring between two computers, or two smart phones, but that these are just the devices that are allowing two human beings to interact at a distance. We need to treat our digital communication as if it were a face to face meeting.
Which leads to the discussion of etiquette. You simply cannot treat people differently online, than you would in person. As we spend more and more time immersed in a digital world, it seems as if people are developing these digital personas, masks that they hide behind, and then acting out in the most inappropriate ways. Our failure to grasp the importance of treating other people fairly, with respect, is probably the single biggest obstacle that we face as citizens of a digital world. Perhaps we really do need an Emily Post for the Matrix. And not just for our words, but we need to be aware of our virtual actions, the way we present ourselves, the images we post online.
Digital commerce is rapidly becoming the norm for shopping. It is so much more convenient, with better prices and more selection, than driving up the street to a small store and being forced to choose from their limited stock. But commerce online can be inhibited by a failure to properly present what you are selling. If you are unable to communicate the precise nature of what you offer, how do you expect anyone to purchase it? And how many times have we had to deal with a lack of communication between buyer and seller or with rude help desks that simply don’t seem interested in your lack of ability to understand what a particular website is unsuccessfully attempting to sell. We need to look at the bigger picture and not limit ourselves to a local mindset. Even if you are selling to a particular demographic or region, the ability to communicate your wares, your ideas, your skills, to a global audience will better present your product to a local audience.
We tend to think that we have a right to do whatever we like when we are online as if the Internet were some giant free-for-all. But our rights have to be tempered with responsibility. Our rights should never allow us to run roughshod over other people, nor allow us to bully or denigrate them. Speak freely certainly, but don’t yell fire in a crowded theater.
If we can learn to be better digital citizens in a World Wide ‘Globe’ we can increase our ability to collaborate with others. We can improve marketplaces and honest competitiveness between businesses. We can help others in ways and to degrees never before possible. We can change the world for the better.