Christian Life/Personal Holiness: July 2008 Archives

from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (DRC)

11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual grace, to strengthen you: 12 That is to say, that I may be comforted together in you, by that which is common to us both, your faith and mine. 13 And I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that I have often purposed to come unto you, (and have been hindered hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. 14 To the Greeks and to the barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise, I am a debtor; 15 So (as much as is in me) I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are at Rome.

from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (KJV)

11For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;

12That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

13Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.

14I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.

15So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

In Greek

Paul expresses his longing to see the Church of Rome. This has been a goal of many of his missionary trips and he had yet to set foot in the place. Little did he know that soon enough he would find his last residence there.

The purpopse of his mission to Rome? This may be among the more beautiful sentiments and emotions expressed in this letter--"that I may impart unto you some spiritual grace, to strengthen you: That is to say, that I may be comforted together in you, by that which is common to us both, your faith and mine. " For mutual strength and comfort. In the company of believers, even believers we have never met, if we are rightly focused, we should experience this mutual aid society. I know that when I walk by a cubicle where there is some evidence, no matter how small, of Christian belief, I am comforted--there is a sense that here is someone else upon whom I could rely for prayer and support in the midst of the storm. To this end, I have discretely displayed six different small icons and a plaque bearing the biblical admonition, "This is the day the loard hath made, let us rejoice and be gald in it." And having these, I have been approached from time to time to pray with others who are undergoing trials. Openness about our faith is something Paul will mention again--indeed in the verse that follows today's passage, when he launches into the profound theological reflections that make up the body of the letter. However, he touches on one of the reasons for it here--when we are in community, part of the body, we should support one another as the body supports all of its parts. It isn't an option, it is a requirement of a fully functioning body. Indeed, we don't have the "option" to respond to calls for prayers from those around us, we have the responsibility--prayer functioning something like the lungs, heart, and immune system of the body as a whole.

Paul goes on to say that he has often thought of coming to Rome, but the providence of God has not yet determined the time for it. The love that comes through these words, while expressed in something of a restrained fashion, perhaps because of the need for translation, is rooted in Christ and profound to the depths of St. Paul's being. If we refer to the Greek, the first word expressed in verse 11 is much more plangent than , "I long to see you." The Greek word means to yearn after or intensely crave possession. Longing is nice, but yearning speaks of a deeper beat of the heart. And part of this yearning is for what is expressed in verse 13, he longs to come to help the people within the Church to grow and to help the Church itself to grow in numbers (that I might have some fruit among you.)

Verse 14, while still within the salutation and greeting, begins a theme that will be repeated throughout the letter. Paul notes that "To the Greeks and to the barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise, I am a debtor." Which is to say, that Paul takes the wisdom of God from where it is to be found--sometimes with the wise, sometimes with the simple, sometimes with the people who profess His name, sometimes with those who know Him but dimly. It is a credo of courage and the root of the Catholic tradition. It is why the Church was unafraid to translate the Bible into many languages (after a time) and also why the liturgy is so constructed as to reflect some elements of the culture in which it is celebrated without altering the eternal center of the Mystery celebrated. There is wisdom to be found all around us--God speaks to us through the people we meet and the events that occur in the day. If we screen out ninety percent of what He has to say because it does not come from an approved source, then we deprive ourselves of enormous benefits potentially available to us. We should follow St. Paul's example and be indebted to wise and simple, greeks and barbarians.

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from The Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (DRC)
8 First I give thanks to my God, through Jesus Christ, for you all, because your faith is spoken of in the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make a commemoration of you; 10 Always in my prayers making request, if by any means now at length I may have a prosperous journey, by the will of God, to come unto you.

from The Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (KJV)

8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

9For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;

10Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.

In Greek

Here, we learn something interesting about the Roman community--Paul has yet to visit them. He writes from Corinth--most scholars place the date of the later sometime in the fifth decade of the first century--perhaps 52 A.D. Paul is about to embark on a journey to Jerusalem to deliver some of the money and relief he has received from the Churches in Asia Minor to the Church at Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, he will be arrested and imprisoned for the final time--and he will at last achieve his goal of traveling to Rome.

In the words of greeting, Paul at once expresses his deep love for the Church of Rome, his desire to go there, and his constant prayer for them. He is the role model for intercessory prayer, demonstrating in thought, word, and deed that one can pray for people one has never seen.

Because Paul has never visited with the Romans, the letter has a peculiar character. Most of the other letters attempt to address an immediate problem within the community. However, the letter to the Romans does not do so. Instead, it is a deeply theological reflection on the meaning of Christianity and of the salvation that God has fashioned for all people through time.

(The substance of this entry is derived from the introductory material to William Barclay's The Letter to the Romans, excerpts of which are available here.)

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I continue to read through Soul in the City and while there is nothing astonishing here, there are a great many insights that are thought-provoking and even, as my protestant friends would have it "convicting."

fromSoul in the City
Marcy Heidish

"There are some peoplewho, in order not to pray, use as an excuse the fact that life is so hectic that it prevents them from praying. This cannot be," wrote Mother Teresa of Calcutta. "Prayer does not demand that we interrupt our work, but that we continue working as if it were a prayer" Everything we do, then, can be offered to God in a prayerful way.

If you don't feel comfortable with concepts such as breath prayer, try speaking directly to God. Just speak. Tell Him everything; talk to Him. "He is our father," Mother Teresa said. "He is father to us all whatever religion we are."

Add insights from Saints and holy people of all faiths, to outright challenges at the end of each chapter:

[source as cited above]

5. Begin to see God in each person you pass in a crowd. Practice this slowly for one block, then two block, then more.

6. Pray silently in a crowd. Deliberately note when you're intent on holding your own in an urban setting.

10. When you're walking downtonw or in an urban settings, try this mental exercise: imagine being part of a crowd swarming around Jesus. Do you behave differently? Is your attitude different? Note these times in a journal.

Ms. Heidish write's particularly for the urban dweller, but her advice holds for anyone who feels hard-pressed by the tensions, anxieties, and heartaches that come with living in a world that is moving far too quickly for us. The warm and beautiful insights of this book can help us to focus once again on the presence of God wherever we happen to be.

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How to Be Enlightened


I excerpt an essay by the Reverend Professor Christopher Seitz, not as a piece of triumphalistic crowing, but to show how similar we are and in what a similar position we find ourselves to the American Episcopal Church:

from "Enlightened American Episcopalianism"
Revd. Professor Christopher Seitz

This needs to be confronted as a reality lest the dynamics of the present season fail to be grasped. Traditional Christians should not assume they are the possessors of a Catholic faith and practice that is being challenged by a new view of things, albeit a new view with a lot of power and influence. Traditional Anglican teaching on the Bible and human sexuality, even granting a range of traditional views on exegesis and interpretation, is not in any position of authority or antecedence, so far as enlightened Episcopalianism is concerned. At most it is quaint and out of date, and need not be taken seriously except as one of several post-modern options. The idea of a range of catholic and traditional understandings of the interpretation of scripture, outside of which there is error and misjudgment, is not possible for even the most generous enlightened Episcopalian. All interpretations are more or less valid, because the truth of the matter is that in the area of human sexuality, anecdote and personal experience are the only arbiters. That is what enlightenment in the nature of the case means. Something is unequivocally true because progressive Episcopalians know this is the case. Everyone else is either an opponent, or someone lacking the proper time spent with the enlightened ones, or is ignorant and culturally backward. But an enlightened progressive will not usually deliver this last verdict publicly because it is more congenial to defer to post-modern accounts of everything being a possible interpretation, or the view that 'enlightenment' comes through shared experience and just more time with the knowledgeable ones.

We can see in this discussion much of the modern Progessive Catholic viewpoint. Fortunately for the Catholic Church, we have a teaching magisterium which serves to moderate the swings we might otherwise take as popular opinion seeks to change centuries-old established tradition rooted in fundamental truth. It appears that parts of the Anglican communion are no longer able to accept the authority of scripture or of Church Teaching. It is possible that many progressive Catholics would find themselves in a similar boat.

That said, it is extremely important to have this agitating progressive voice to constantly speak up for those who we might otherwise find cause to treat quite poorly. It is undeniable that the human animal is a master of making distinctions, most specifically distinctions that redound to personal good often at the expense of others. When the progressive voice urges us to embrace the homosexual community, what we should hear there is not the extremes of what that can mean, but the necessary reminder that we are all sinners and should afford all sinners the love that we ourselves desire. We should not accept homosexuality, but we are absolute required to accept, embrace, and love homosexuals. A long while back Tom at Disputations shared a brief admonition that I had always believed, but have, as a result of his work, been able to place words on:

"Love the sinner, ignore the sin."

That's what we should hear in the cries for reform of progressive Catholics. We can ignore the error of what they are saying and look behind the words for the root cause they are invoking. When Sister Joan demands ordination of women, it is good to look beyond those words at how the Church, and we as members of the Church have or have not treated women fairly within our communities.

We have much to learn from each other. Strip away the rhetoric and see if there is an underlying truth, and underlying sense of hurt that may have resulted from past sins, and then adjust within anything that requires adjustment so that we don't unintentionally harm again.

All of this from the reflections of a beleaguered Episcopalian on the ongoing present pain of his Church. We have much to learn from one another.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Christian Life/Personal Holiness category from July 2008.

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