The whole service of the Church a reasonable sacrifice to God

The texts for all his future sermons—which God knows were not many—were constantly taken out of the gospel for the day; and he did as constantly declare why the Church did appoint that portion of scripture to be that day read; and in what manner the collect for every Sunday does refer to the gospel, or to the epistle then read to them; and, that they might pray with understanding, he did usually take occasion to explain, not only the collect for every particular Sunday, but the reasons of all the other collects and responses in our Church service; and made it appear to them that the whole service of the Church was a reasonable, and therefore an acceptable sacrifice to God.

We begin with “Confession of ourselves to be vile, miserable sinners;â€? and that we begin so, because, till we have confessed ourselves to be such, we are not capable of that mercy which we acknowledge we need, and pray for: but having, in the prayer of our Lord, begged pardon for those sins which we have confessed; and hoping, that as the priest hath declared our absolution, so by our public confession, and real repentance, we have obtained that pardon; then we dare and do proceed to beg of the Lord, “to open our lips, that our mouth may show forth his praise;â€? for till then we are neither able nor worthy to praise him. But this being supposed, we are then fit to say, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;â€? and fit to proceed to a further service of our God, in the collects, and psalms, and lauds, that follow in the service. And as to the psalms and lauds, he proceeded to inform them why they were so often, and some of them daily, repeated in our Church service; namely, the psalms every month, because they be an historical and thankful repetition of mercies past, and such a composition of prayers and praises, as ought to be repeated often, and publicly; for with such sacrifice God is honoured and well-pleased.

Izaak Walton The Life of George Herbert

(Who is George Herbert?)

Irenaeus

Today we celebrate Saint Irenaeus

‘So also by the obedience of one man, righteousness having been reintroduced, shall cause life to fructify in those persons who in times past were dead…so did he who is the Word, recapitulating Adam in himself, rightly receive a birth, enabling him to gather up Adam (into himself) from Mary.’ (3.21.10)
‘Luke points out that the pedigree which traces the generation of our Lord back to Adam contains seventy-two generations connecting the end with the beginning, and implying that it is he who has summed up in himself all nations dispersed from Adam downwards.’ (3.22.3)
For if He be not the God of the dead but of the living, yet was called the God of the Fathers who are sleeping, they do indubitably live to God, and have not passed out of existence, since they are children of the resurrection. But the fathers are his children for (Ps 45.17) ‘Instead of thy fathers, thy children have been made to thee’.. For Abraham according to his faith followed the command of the Word of God and with a ready mind delivered up as a sacrifice to God his only begotten and beloved son, in order that God might also be pleased to offer up for all his seed his own beloved and only-begotten Son as a sacrifice for our redemption. (4.5.4) Against the Heresies
It is a good idea to know your saints

The Whole Christ

God could have granted no greater gift to human beings than to cause his Word, through whom he created all things, to be their head, and to fit them to him as his members. He was thus to be both Son of God and Son of Man, one God with the Father, one human with us. The consequence is that when we speak to God in prayer we do not separate the Son from God, and when the body of the Son prays it does not separate its head from itself. The one sole saviour of his body is our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who prays for us, prays in us, and is prayed to by us. He prays for us as our priest, he prays in us as our head, and is prayed to by us as our God. Accordingly we must recognise our voices in him, and his accents in ourselves.

Augustine Exposition of the Psalms – Psalm 85.1

Intercessory prayer – Bonhoeffer

All Christians have their own circle of those who have requested them to intercede on their behalf, or people for whom for various reasons they know they have been called upon to pray. First of all, this circle will include those with whom they must live every day. With this we have advanced to the point at which we hear the heartbeat of all Christian life together. A Christian community either lives by the intercessory prayers of its members for one another or the community will be destroyed. I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble they cause me. In intercessory prayer the face that may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner. That is a blessed discovery for the Christian who is beginning to offer intercessory prayer for others. As far as we are concerned, there in no dislike, no personal tension, no disunity or strife, that cannot be overcome by intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the community must enter every day.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Life Together 89

Thomas Aquinas on a better concept of freedom 1

The monumental achievement of Thomas Aquinas was to marry the wisdom of a millennium of Christian philosophy and theology to the new philosophy of Aristotle that had been rediscovered in Europe (largely through the mediation of Arabic philosophers) in the early thirteenth century. This intellectual marriage yielded a rich, complex, and (to use the precisely right word a few centuries before its time) deeply humanistic vision of the human person, human goods, and human destiny. Embedded in that vision of the human person was a powerful concept of freedom.

Freedom, for St. Thomas, is a means to human excellence, to human happiness, to the fulfillment of human destiny. Freedom is the capacity to choose wisely and to act well as a matter of habit or, to use the old-fashioned term, as an outgrowth of virtue. Freedom is the means by which, exercising both our reason and our will, we act on the natural longing for truth, for goodness, and for happiness that is built into us as human beings. Freedom is something that grows in us, and the habit of living freedom wisely must be developed through education, which among many other things involves the experience of emulating others who live wisely and well. On St. Thomas’ view, freedom is in fact the great organizing principle of the moral life and since the very possibility of a moral life (the capacity to think and choose) is what distinguishes the human person from the rest of the natural world, freedom is the great organizing principle of a life lived in a truly human way. That is, freedom is the human capacity that unifies all our other capacities into an orderly whole, and directs our actions toward the pursuit of happiness and goodness understood in the noblest sense: the union of the human person with the absolute good, who is God.

George Weigel A Better Concept of Freedom

The mystical unity of Scripture and the Church

In the disintegration of Western thought the Church has been treated as sociological entity; its human, visible aspects have become separated in idea from its mystical and divine aspects. This dichotomy lies at the root of all our Western divisions, and this appears to be reproduced in them all. Thus the conception of a single divine-human organism reaching from heaven to earth tends to be broken up into compartments between which a great gulf is fixed. In the result the proportions of truth suffer and every element of the whole gets out of focus. Whether the earthly, visible part is thought of in ‘Catholic’ or ‘Protestant’ terms the result is grievous impoverishment. Moreover ‘piety’ and ‘mysticism’ become individual and isolated, instead to being the salt of the common life which is both divine and human because it is rooted in Christ.

There is a sense in which the mystical unity of Scripture correspond to the mystical unity of the Church. These two forms of mystical unity are complementary; each is necessary presupposition for the right understanding of the other. Each embodies God’s self-communication to man in Christ; each attains its true unity only in Christ. There is an indwelling of Christ both in the people and in the Book. A return to the sources of illumination in him is inevitably a return both to the message of Scripture about the Church and to the life of the Church as set forth in Scripture. Such a return is necessarily a permanent task of the whole Church, to which each of us contributes no more than a minute fragment.

L. S. Thornton The Common Life in the Body of Christ (1941)

Yes, we do have an Anglican communion ecclesiology, and in this work by a member of the Community of the Resurrection it is in the form of a biblical theology,

Maximus: The physical creation is the garment of the Word

According to Maximus it was not, properly speaking, Christ who was transfigured when he was seen in glory; it was the disciples, who were momentarily enabled to see him as he truly is. “They passed over from flesh to spirit before they had put aside this fleshly life, by the change in their powers of sense that the Spirit worked in them, lifting the veils of the passions from the intellectual activity that was in them.” Again it is the passions that must be overcome before true vision can occur-though in this case “the veils of the passions” are removed momentarily by a miraculous intervention of the Spirit. Of the many layers of meaning in the vision itself, the one that concerns us here relates to the garments of Christ. Maximus finds in these a symbol “of creation itself, which a base presumption regards in a limited way as delivered to the deceiving senses alone, but which can be understood, through the wise variety of the various forms that it contains, on the analogy of a garment, to be the worthy power of the generative Word who wears it.” The physical creation is the garment of the Word, from which the Word itself shines forth to those who are able to see.

I hope it will be clear from these two passages that the Greek Fathers’ view of nature is very different from our own. We tend to think of nature as an autonomous system that can be understood largely in its own terms. It may need grace to complete or fulfill it, as Aquinas taught; nonetheless, as the very notion of “completion” shows, the starting point is nature. That is why Aquinas begins the Summa by discussing at length what can be known of God based on natural reason.

The view of Maximus is different. He does not think of nature as an autonomous system; it is more like a bush burning with divine fire, or a garment worn by God and shining with uncreated light. Another metaphor Maximus offers makes his view clearer. He says that physical things are to God as printed words are to their meanings. To study the physical world as an autonomous system would make as much sense as scrutinizing the marks on a piece of paper as if they were mere physical objects. The marks are not there to be studied in their own right, but to be read through, as it were, so as to discern the meaning behind them. If they seem to make no sense, then the solution is not to scrutinize them more and more closely; it is to learn the language in which they are written. The way one “learns the language,” however, is not by intellectual effort. It is by purifying oneself from the passions through ascetic struggle and obedience to the divine commandments.

David Bradshaw Christianity East and West: Some Philosophical Differences

Truth in its wholeness

The doctrine of the life shared in Christ is brought into relation to the doctrine of the Body of Christ. The life shared is embodied. The Church is related to Christ as his mystical complement in the one organism of the new creation.

Today men desire the integration of life upon a new basis. But the rival solutions offered cancel one another out; for none of them represents the whole which corresponds to human nature as God individualism it. More serious, however, is the fact that this situation is the counterpart of disunity amongst Christians and is closely connected with that disunity. Moreover our present dilemma is one which would seem to involve us in a vicious circle. Truth in its wholeness can be rightly apprehended only within a common order of life…the principle signifies that the broken mirror of Christendom cannot without grave distortion reflect the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

L. S. Thornton The Common Life in the Body of Christ (1941)

Maximus: participation 2

In such a person the apostolic word is fulfilled. In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17.28). For whoever does not violate the logos of his own existence that pre-existed in God is in God through diligence; and he moves in God according to the logos of his well-being that pre-existed in God when he lives virtuously; and he lives in God according to the logos of his eternal being that pre-existed in God… In this Way he becomes a ‘portion of God’ insofar as he exists through the logos of his being which is in God and insofar as he is good through the logos of his well-being which is in God; and insofar as he is God through the logos of his eternal being which is in God, he prizes the logoi and acts according to them. Through them he places himself wholly in God alone, wholly imprinting and forming God alone in himself, so that by grace he himself ‘is God and is called God’. By his gracious condescension God became man and is called man for the sake of man, and by exchanging his condition for ours revealed the power that elevates man to God through his love for God and brings God down to man because of his love for man. By this blessed inversion, man is made God by divinization and God is made man by hominisation. For the Word of God and God wills always and in all things to accomplish the mystery of his embodiment.

Maximus Ambiguum 7

Maximus: participation

There can be no doubt that the one Word of God is the substance of virtue in each person. For our Lord Jesus Christ himself is the substance of all the virtues, as it is written: This one God made our wisdom, our justice, our sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1.30). These things of course are said about him absolutely, since he is wisdom and righteousness and sanctification itself. They are not, as in our case, simply attributed to him, as for example in the expression, a ‘wise man’ or a ‘just man’. It is evident that every person who participates in virtue as a matter of habit unquestioningly participates in God, the substance of the virtue. Whoever by his choices cultivates the good natural seed shows the end to be the same as the beginning and the beginning to be the same as the end. Indeed the beginning and the end are one. As a result, he is in genuine harmony with God, since the goal of everything is given in its beginning and the end of the everything is given in its ultimate goal. As to the beginning, in addition to receiving being itself, one receives the natural good by participation: as to the end, one zealously traverses one’s course toward the beginning and source without deviation by means of one’s good will and choice. And through this course one becomes God, being made God by God. To the inherent goodness of the image is added the likeness (Genesis 1.26) acquired by the practice of virtue and the exercise of the will. The inclination to ascend and see one’s proper beginning was implanted in man by nature.

Maximus Ambiguum 7