Monday, October 15, 2007

The Protestant Revision of History

I find it amusing that Francis would suggest that the Vincentian canon would be at odds with the seventh council, since it is this very criteria that was used by the seventh council to arrive at their ruling. People like John of Damascus used the Holy Tradition as their argument concerning icons and the role of the prayer to, from and with the intercession of the saints in heaven.

Concerning Athanasius:

"For in the image is the shape and form of the Emperor, and in the Emperor is that shape which is in the image. For the likeness of the Emperor in the image is exact; so that a person who looks at the image, sees in it the Emperor; and he again who sees the Emperor, recognises that it is he who is in the image. And from the likeness not differing, to one who after the image wished to view the Emperor, the image might say, ‘I and the Emperor are one; for I am in him, and he in me; and what thou seest in me, that thou beholdest in him, and what thou hast seen in him, that thou holdest in me.’ Accordingly he who worships the image, in it worships the Emperor also; for the image is his form and appearance. Since then the Son too is the Father’s Image, it must necessarily be understood that the Godhead and propriety of the Father is the Being of the Son." against the Arians.--Book iii.

"What do our adversaries say to these things, they who maintain that we should not worship the effigies of the saints, which are preserved amongst us for a remembrance of them." - Athanasius to Antiochus the Ruler.

"We, who are of the faithful, do not worship images as gods, as the heathens did, God forbid, but we mark our loving desire alone to see the face of the person represented in image. Hence, when it is obliterated, we are wont to throw the image as so much wood into the fire. Jacob, when he was about to die, worshipped on the point of Joseph’s staff, not honouring the staff but its owner. just in the same way do we greet images as we should embrace our children and parents to signify our affection. Thus the Jew, too, worshipped the tablets of the law, and the two golden cherubim in carved work, not because he honoured gold or stone for itself, but the Lord who had ordered them to be made." St Athanasius, from the Hundred Chapters addressed to Antiochus, the Prefect, according to Question and Answer.--Chap. xxxviii.

"Incline thine ear, O Mary, to our prayers, and forget not thy people. We cry to thee. Remember us, O Holy Virgin. Intercede for us, O mistress, lady, queen, and mother of God." St Athanasius, from the Homily "The Annunciation of the Mother of God".

Is it reasonable to suppose this is authentic? Could it be a forgery as some have suggested?

Well it does agree with what we know of the early Church at Alexandria. A third century scrap of papyrus from Alexandria, that is a century before Athanasius reads:

"We seek refuge under your protection,
Holy mother of God;
Do not turn away our prayers in our need,
But always deliver us from all danger,
O glorious and blessed Virgin."

In a subterranean sanctuary that was discovered, dating from third-century Alexandria there is an icon of Mary at Cana with an inscription to "Holy Mary" (Haghia Maria)

Concerning the quote from Athanasius which is attributed to Anthony, it isn't even about a saint who is departed to be in heaven with Christ. Are we to attribute to Athanasius that he was even against Christians praying for one another? Is that not also slander against Athanasius?

Concerning the quote of Athanasius where he condemns worshipping dead things, and reverencing things in place of the true God. We say the exact same thing in all our worship services. We praise saints who smash the idols of pagans and who worship anything in place of the true God. We even have icons depicting these things. Thus we see no conflict when Athanasius says the exact same things we say. Francis may see a conflict, but Orthodoxy never has. We would also agree completely with Tertullian's condemnation of idols, and making "things in heaven, in the sea and in the earth, consecrated as God, in opposition to God." It's a terrible sin, but it does not induce me to burn up my photo albums and DVD collections, let alone icons.

And Athanasius' argument that one would not confuse the asking of God with the asking of a creature really adds little to the debate. I agree with Athanasius that it would be foolish to confuse the nature of God's giving with that of a creature, so that you would mix the two ideas together.

I guess many people also see a conflict between "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image". Exodus 20:4 vs “You shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat." Ex. 25:18. Obviously the Jews never saw a conflict. This ark with its images of angels was called by David the footstool of the Lord's feet. (1st Chronicles 28:2). In Psalm 99 [98 in the Septuagint] David says to bow down (‏ וְֽ֭הִשְׁתַּחֲווּ) at his footstool, which was the ark.

Neither were later Jews against images and veneration. The ancient synagogue at Dura-Europos, which was destroyed in the mid 200s AD is filled with icons and imagery. And ancient house churches from the same period were also found containing icons. As the Christians inherited Jewish worship practices, they must have been guided in interpretation of Exodus 20:4 by the Jewish practices, which clearly were not iconoclastic. No wonder Orthodox churches are covered in images, since the Jewish synagogues were the same. And yet there is no condemnation of the Jews by Christians over this issue.

The Church knows about the counter arguments. But it reads the data differently, and since the Church is the actual one which grew up in the cultural context in question, it is in a far better position to understand the complexities of the issues involved.

Protestants think to themselves that the early church must have been primitive and basic, with no relationship to the ornate and colourful world of Orthodoxy with its churches and vestments. But the facts and archeology say differently. Ancient Jewish and Christian worship is characterised by the ornate, by images, icons and symbolism. The ancient Christian catacombs contain icons, including those of Mary holding the Christ child as would be familiar to any Orthodox Christian. (Ouspensky, Leonid, Theology of the Icon, Vol 1, Crestwood, NY (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press), c1978, pp. 74-75).

The Jews understand the difference between veneration and worship. A pious Jew kisses the Mezuza on his door post, he kisses his tallit (prayer shawl) before putting it on, he kisses the tallenin, before he binds them to his forehead, and arm. The Torah is kissed when it passes by in the synagogue, and also before the reader reads it in the Synagogue. No doubt, Christ did likewise, when reading the Scriptures in the Synagogue. Would we therefore accuse either Jews or Christ of worshipping papyrus and ink?

However, the Jews did not venerate the saints, because before Christ came in the flesh and triumphed over death by His Resurrection, the Saints of the Old Testament were not in the presence of God in Heaven, but were in Sheol (often translated as "the grave", and translated as "hades" in Greek). Before Christ's Resurrection, Sheol was the destiny of both the just and the unjust (Genesis 37:35; Isaiah 38:10), though their lot there was not the same. As we see in Christ's parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31; cf. Enoch 22:8-15 [although the book of Enoch is not included in the Canon of Holy Scripture, it is a venerable part of Holy Tradition and is quoted in the Epistle of St. Jude, as well as in many of the writings of the holy fathers]) there was a gulf that separated the just from the unjust, and while the righteous were in a state of blessedness, the wicked were (and are) in a state of torment—the righteous awaited their deliverance through Christ's Resurrection, while the wicked fearfully awaited their judgment. Thus under the old covenant, prayers were said only for the departed (2Mac. 12:44), because they were not yet in heaven to intercede on our behalf. As Hebrews says when speaking of the Old Testament Saints, "And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us" (Hebrews 11:39-40). In Hebrews 12, it goes on to contrast the nature of the Old Covenant (12:18ff) with that of the New (12:22ff)—and among the distinctions he makes, he says that in the New Covenant we "are come unto... the spirits of just men made perfect (12:22-23). In Matt. 27:52 "The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised". As both the Scriptures and the rest of Holy Tradition tell us, while Christ's body lay in the tomb, His Spirit descended into Sheol and proclaimed liberty to the captives (Ephesians 4:8-10; 1st Peter 3:19, 4:6;).

And these Saints that have triumphed over this world, now reign WITH Christ in Glory (2nd Timothy 2:12), and continually offer up prayers for us before the Lord (Revelation 5:8; the Martyrdom of St. Ignatius, Ch. 7 [St. Ignatius was one of the disciples of the Apostle John, and was made Bishop of Antioch by him]).

Shepherd of Hermes, 80AD

"But you, having been strengthened by the holy Angel, and having obtained from Him such intercession". Shepherd of Hermes,

Clement of Alexandria 208AD

He also prays in the society of angels, as being already of angelic rank, and he is never out of their holy keeping; and though he pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him.
Clement of Alexandria

Origen 233 AD

"But these pray along with those who genuinely pray-not only the high priest but also the angels who "rejoice in heaven over one repenting sinner more than over ninety-nine righteous that need not repentance," and also the souls of the saints already at rest." - Origen

Cyprian 253 AD

"our love may continue in the presence of the Lord, and our prayers for our brethren and sisters not cease in the presence of the Father’s mercy." - Cyprian, 253AD

Methodius of Olympus 305AD

"Blessed of the Lord is your name, full of divine grace, and grateful exceedingly to God, mother of God, you that givest light to the faithful.", "Hail to you for ever, you virgin mother of God, our unceasing joy, for unto you do I again return." Methodius of Olympus, 305AD

Cyril of Jerusalem 350 AD

"Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, that at their prayers and intercessions God would receive our petition" - Cyril of Jerusalem

Meletius of Antioch 358 AD

"What took place was most edifying, and we ought always to bear this consolation in mind, and to have this saint before our eyes, whose name was invoked against every bad passion and specious argument. This was so much the case that streets, market-place, fields, every nook and corner rang with his name. Not only have you longed to invoke him, but to look upon his bodily form. As with his name so with his image. Many people have put it on their rings and goblets and cups and on their bedroom walls, so as not only to hear his history but to look upon his physical likeness, and to have a double consolation in his loss."

Basil 354 AD

"The image of the king is also called the king, and there are not two kings. Neither power is broken, nor is glory divided. As we are ruled by one government and authority, so our homage is one, not many. Thus the honour given to the image is referred to the original. That which the image represents by imitation on earth, that the Son is by nature in Heaven."

Hilary of Poitiers 368 AD

To those who would fain stand, neither the guardianship of saints nor the defences of angels are wanting.

Gregory of Nazianz, 380AD

"May you [Cyprian] look down from above propitiously upon us, and guide our word and life; and shepherd this sacred flock . . gladden the Holy Trinity, before which you stand" , Orations 17[24]

"Yes, I am well assured that [my father’s] intercession is of more avail now than was his instruction in former days, since he is closer to God, now that he has shaken off his bodily fetters, and freed his mind from the clay that obscured it, and holds conversation naked with the nakedness of the prime and purest mind . . . " (ibid., 18:4).

Gregory of Nyssa 380AD

"[Ephraim], you who are standing at the divine altar [in heaven] . . . bear us all in remembrance, petitioning for us the remission of sins, and the fruition of an everlasting kingdom" - Gregory of Nyssa, (Sermon on Ephraim the Syrian 380AD

John Chrysostom 392 AD

"For he that wears the purple himself goes to embrace those tombs, and, laying aside his pride, stands begging the saints
to be his advocates with God, and he that hath the diadem implores the tent-maker and the fisherman, though dead, to be his patrons. Wilt thou dare then, tell me, to call the Lord of these dead; whose servants even after their decease are the patrons of the kings of the world? And this one may see take place not in Rome only, but in Constantinople also." -- John Chrysostom 392AD

"When you perceive that God is chastening you, fly not to his enemies . . . but to his friends, the martyrs, the saints, and those who were pleasing to him, and who have great power [in God]" John Chrysostom - Orations 8:6

"If you despise the royal garment, do you not despise the king himself? Do you not see that if you despise the image of the king, you despise the original? Do you not know that if a man shows contempt for an image of wood or a statue of metal, he is not judged as if he had vented himself or lifeless matter, but as showing contempt for the king? Dishonour shown to an image of the king is dishonour shown to the king". - Commentary on the Parable of the Sower

Ambrose of Milan 393AD

"May Peter, who wept so efficaciously for himself, weep for us and turn towards us Christ’s benign countenance" Ambrose of Milan (The Six Days Work 5:25:90 393AD

Augustine, 400AD

"As to our paying honor to the memory of the martyrs, and the accusation of Faustus, that we worship them instead of idols, I should not care to answer such a charge.. It is true that Christians pay religious honor to the memory of the martyrs, both to excite us to imitate them and to obtain a share in their merits, and the assistance of their prayers. We regard the martyrs with the same affectionate intimacy that we feel towards holy men of God in this life, when we know that their hearts are prepared to endure the same suffering for the truth of the gospel. There is more devotion in our feeling towards the martyrs, because we know that their conflict is over; and we can speak with greater confidence in praise of those already victors in heaven, than of those still combating here. What is properly divine worship, which the Greeks call λατρια, and for which there is no word in Latin, both in doctrine and in practice, we give only to God. " -- Against Faustus the Manichean

"There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for the dead who are remembered. For it is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended" -Sermons 159:1

"At the Lord’s table we do not commemorate martyrs in the same way that we do others who rest in peace so as to pray for them, but rather that they may pray for us that we may follow in their footsteps" Homilies on John 84

"Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ" The City of God 20:9:2

Jerome 406 AD

"You say in your book that while we live we are able to pray for each other, but afterwards when we have died, the prayer of no person for another can be heard. . . . But if the apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, at a time when they ought still be solicitous about themselves, how much more will they do so after their crowns, victories, and triumphs?" - Against Vigilantius 6

Cyril of Alexandria 410 AD

"If images represent the originals, they should call forth the same reverence."

Maximus of Turin 450 AD

"And after this all rose with tears of devotion, and kneeling down, prayed. And every one kissed the holy Gospels, and the sacred Cross, and the image of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and of Our Lady, His Immaculate Mother (Θεοτόκος), putting their hands to it in confirmation of what had been said."

Now to answer Francis' questions more specifically, no it doesn't matter what protestants think, nor does it matter, at least since the schism, what Roman Catholics think, because neither of those groups are in the Church, nor is their religion, in the strictest sense, the Christian religion in the fullest sense, so they can't be considered to be "in Christianity". The reason I say this was outlined in my previous post.

Some may think this is overly harsh, to identify only Eastern Orthodoxy as the true church, but what are the alternatives to making a stand on where the true church is? Francis would have me accept sola scriptura, but he utterly failed in the challenge to show us whose canon of scripture is the true one. He failed to demonstate the Johannine epistles are in the canon against the teachings of the non-Chalcedoneon churches. And he failed to demonstrate that 1 Clement was not in the canon, against the teachings of the Ethiopian churches. His commentary on the canonical status of Esther, which suffers all the problems of the Roman Catholic deutero-canon similarly told us exactly zero. So Francis would have me follow sola scriptura whilst leaving me ignorant of what scripture is.

The alternative left to me is to take my canon from a church claiming to have the authority to tell it to me. But then I have to identify this visible and true church. But maybe Francis can't find one. Maybe the saint-praying, icon venerating Athanasius, Augustine, Chrysostom, Basil, Jerome, Ambrose, Hilary, Cyril, Gregory can't convince Francis that they represent true Christianity and apostolic teaching. Maybe he thinks these illustrious names all represent the church off the rails, fallen into heresy. So now I have to choose my canon of scripture by weighing up one false church against another, since all those post-canon early churches were saint-praying icon venerating. Picking a canon from one false church over and against another false church. That's a tough call.

But strangely, Francis has no problem accepting other teachings that can't be proven to come from the apostles. He failed to offer anything convincing that the Johannine epistles were apostolic. He accepts 2 Peter as scripture despite the total lack of evidence that it existed prior to about 150 years after Peter died. Apparently Francis can overcome the historical silence because of the weight of the consensus in the saint-praying, icon venerating Orthodox church. All that remains is for Francis to gain some consistency, and some faith, and accept that the teachings of the Orthodox Church are true, not just picking and choosing, but in a consistent manner.

Or maybe he won't. Is it because he is smarter than Athanasius, Augustine, Chrysostom, Basil, Jerome, Ambrose, Hilary, Cyril and Gregory put together, and can interpret scripture better than them? Maybe he knows scripture better than Chrysostom who memorized all the scriptures from Genesis on forward. Or maybe somehow he knows what never occurred to these men, that sola scripture is the apostolic teaching, even though the Fathers never heard of it.

Frankly, it's all very confusing how Francis got to be where he is, being so certain he is right, and yet the early Church couldn't figure it out the way he does. With all that brain-power missing the mark, what hope have I got? None apparently, since I can't hope to contend against the combined knowledge of all the Fathers put together.

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