This is what happens when a holocaust survivor, who traveled to Israel and served in the army that expelled Palestinians from their homes….discovers Jesus. Something beautiful; a gift for the child of Bethlehem.
This is what happens when a holocaust survivor, who traveled to Israel and served in the army that expelled Palestinians from their homes….discovers Jesus. Something beautiful; a gift for the child of Bethlehem.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they must evaluate where they are and where they are going. Truth be told that probably happens several times in one’s life. I started a journey over a decade ago with the Church Catholic which led me to what some call the “bridge church,” The Anglican Communion. There have been ups and downs in that journey but it has been good. I have learned a lot throughout my time as an Anglican. It has been a very fruitful one. I have been confirmed, married, and ordained in the Anglican Communion. Likewise, all of my children have been baptized in the Church and have Anglican godparents. I have developed a lot of enduring friendships and have met several people who I would consider mentors in the faith. Through all the chaos that is in the Anglican Communion I can say that I have generally been blessed with faithful leaders who have walked with me and taught me much about what it means to love and serve the Lord. Among those mentors I count those who have gone before me in the faith, men like C.S. Lewis, Fr. John Mason Neale, Fr. John Keble, Fr. Richard Benson, Fr. Percy Dearmer, Fr. Edward Pusey, Archbishop Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop Charles Grafton, Archbishop Michael Ramsey, Bishop Jeremy Taylor, Archbishop William Laud, and many more. These names stand for men who were bulwarks of the Catholic Faith in a Communion that needed such voices in their times. It was always my intention to be a voice along with theirs in Anglicanism, defending and hopefully persuading the communion of her need for the Catholic faith. But as time has gone on and years have given way to a decade, it has became clear to me that the only way to be faithful to those who have gone before me in the faith, to be a faithful Anglican in the linage of such great men and saints as those mentioned, was for my family and I to be fully Catholic. It was not going to be enough for me to stand a bridge and point people in the right direction, I needed to finish crossing the bridge and be one of those who welcomed people home.
Being one with the pre-schism church has been the desire of Catholic Anglican leaders since the reformation. The architect of the English reformation Archbishop Thomas Cranmer saw himself doing this with his vision of a Prayer Book church. In defense of the English Church during the time of its reformation Cranmer commented, “This is the true Catholic faith, which the Scripture teacheth and the universal Church of Christ hath ever believed from the beginning, until within these four or ﬁve hundred years past…” The time table, of course, which Cranmer was using would have placed the Church, for which he was advocating, in line with the Orthodox East. His reference to the “four or five hundred years past” was a reference to the pre-schism Church, when the Eastern and Western Churches possessed one and the same faith. Likewise, when Archbishop Matthew Parker, the reviser of the Articles of Religion under Queen Elizabeth I, commented on the Articles he reminded the Church that the only way to ‘interpret” them was in the “most Catholic sense.” Dr. Edward Pusey, a spiritual leader of the Oxford Movement in the 19th century, taught that the authority of the Anglican Communion lay with the Early Church saying, “reference to the ancient Church, instead of the Reformers, [is] the ultimate expounder of the meaning of our Church.” Reformation and post-reformation Anglican leaders have all pointed to the early Catholic Church and not the 16th century protestant church, as to where all Anglicans must return, not just in spirit, but in truth. To go back to the reformers is not enough for they were always pointing beyond themselves the Church Fathers and through them to Christ Himself.
Part of that belonging to the Catholic Church is being in communion. It is no good to stand on one side of the pond and argue that people should embrace Catholicism when one lacks one of the key elements of the Catholic faith. That is why my family and I have decided to enter into full sacramental and visible communion with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church which subsists in Holy Orthodoxy. At the top of this post is an icon of St. Augustine of Canterbury carrying an image of Jesus. When St. Augustine, the Apostle of the Anglo-Saxons, reached the island of Britain in 597AD the story is told of how his company of men processed into King Ethelbert’s court with images of Christ painted onto wooden boards. Those images were of course holy icons of our Lord. Holy icons were present at the beginning of the life of the English Church through the missionary work of St. Augustine and they point to the orthodoxy and orthopraxy of the Church on the British Isles almost a thousand years before the reformation. (Of course, St. Augustine was not the first to bring the Catholic faith to the British Isles that was St. Aristobulus in 39AD.) This was the Church which existed on the island prior to the reformation, the one to whom all post-reformation Catholic Anglican fathers point to as the Church to which Anglicans must return. The hope has been that this would happen through a mass conversion of the Communion back to the faith of their Fathers, but that reality has born no fruit. One only has to look at the angst of most Anglicans today in regards to the 7th Ecumenical Council, which defended the use of holy icons against Christian and Muslim iconoclasts. The failure of the Anglican Communion to affirm an ecumenical council and consequently reject their own heritage in this specific way, and in other significant ways, has led me to the conclusion that if one is to be faithful to all Catholic witnesses within and without Anglicanism then there can be only one answer: to convert oneself. As I have said to many before the only way I can see myself being a faithful Anglican is to be Orthodox or to put it another way, to embrace the historic See of Canterbury is to embrace the Holy Orthodox Church.
Of course, being a pastor this leaves me in a very difficult situation. As I could not make this decision on my own without talking with my family, I could not make this decision on my own without talking to the people in my own parish and to my Bishop. My own parish is now in discernment, thinking through what all of this could mean for them personally. And my bishop has been gracious through all of this time of discernment. None of this is an easy decision, but Jesus never promised that our life with Him would be easy. I don’t have all the answers and as I am journeying to Orthodoxy I can only pray that I can be faithful in small ways to Jesus. To my Anglican friends I would say there are many holy men and women in Anglicanism who point to the Catholic faith which is found in the Orthodox Church. Read them, study them, follow them as they sought to follow Christ. Seek the fullness of the faith which Catholic Anglicans have been seeking throughout the centuries. And as we all seek to be faithful to Christ it is my prayer that we all may truly be one, not just spiritually, but visibly and sacramentally one as Christ and the Father is one to the Glory of our Lord’s name. Amen.
Finally, an Atheist/comedian, Sanderson Jones, has said what I have been thinking for while about modern church, but have not been able to put so succinctly, “There’s so much about Church that has nothing to do with God — it’s about meeting people, it’s about thinking about improving your life.” Much of what passes for Church is little more than secular godless Christianity. In in a lot of western minds church is about a variety of things: community, music, and/or talks about living better. Even when God is talk about in many churches it is always in reference to the individual and what God can do for them to make their lives better according to modern western comforts. As one pastor who visited the Atheist Church said, “Being here, I felt there was as much of what I call ‘God’ as there was in my own church this morning,” he said. “Everything we’ve said here would be completely at home in my church.” If atheists can reproduce a service that is similar to a Christian service, we would probably be wise to reevaluate what we are doing in Church.
Personally, I do not find any of this bizarre. I actually believe the idea of an Atheist Church makes sense. I venture to say that the reason these atheists feel so at home in the Atheist Church is because they were catechized to think of Church as having nothing to do with God in the first place. Consequently, this is why I believe so many Christians are leaving the Church. Not because of organized religion or dogma; but because they have only experienced organized irreligious gatherings and learned from them that they don’t really need a kind of god. There are a lot of places to find personally fulfilling irreligious gatherings, even in an Atheist Church.
Around this time every year, some groups of “fundamentalist Christians” team up with their atheist counter-parts to begin to call into question the celebration of Easter (as it is called in churches of Anglo-Saxon heritage), or as it is known in the rest of the Church, Holy Pascha (Passover). One of the symbols that such skeptics like to call into question is that of Easter eggs. There are a lot of reasons people say eggs are a symbol of Easter. One of the harmless myths is that eggs represent new life, and therefore Christians adopted eggs as symbols of resurrection. While that is an admirable story, it is just not true. Another more sinister myth about the origin of eggs is that the Church simply co-opted some pagan fertility cult celebration and that eggs were the symbol of a fertility goddess. Now the problem with this myth, besides it being wrong, is that no one has actually identified which fertility goddess the Christians supposedly took over. Was it Ishtar, Eoster, Brigid, Heryshaf? Name some European or Mediterranean fertility goddess, and I am sure that some skeptic has claimed that Christians ripped off her cult.
The question then remains, if eggs did not become an Easter symbol from some pious folk understanding of nature or from some pagan fertility goddess, then why did eggs become a symbol of Pascha/Easter? The answer lies in Catholic Tradition and Church history. Going back to the First Council of the Church in the fourth century, a season of preparation for the celebration of Pascha was regulated for the whole Church. Of course various local churches prior to the first Council had some kind of preparation for Pascha, but Lent became normative for the whole Church after the First Council. A part of this preparation included fasting. This fasting took on a particular theological characteristic. If Lent is to prepare us for Pascha, that ought to mean that we should grow in virtue and devotion to God. Growing in virtue and devotion was symbolized in the Church as “returning to The Garden of Eden.” One of things that most Christians don’t think about regarding the Garden narrative in Scripture is the reality that humans are portrayed as vegetarians. Animals specifically were not given to man to eat until after the narrative of the flood in Genesis. So as a part of living into the narrative of “going back to the Garden” during Lent, abstaining from meat and eventually all animal byproducts became the normative fast. Thus, St. Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome, could write to the first Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Augustine, in 604AD, “We abstain from flesh, meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese and eggs.” It is from this fast, which is still kept by many Catholics, Orthodox, and Anglican Christians to this day, that eggs became a symbol of Pascha/Easter. Lent begins in the West with what is called today “Fat Tuesday” or “Pancake Tuesday” the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. That is where Christians in times past would gather all the food that they were to give up during the 40 days of Lent that could go bad and cook a huge meal. Pancakes became a symbol of that because they require milk and eggs and so you would use all your milk and eggs on Fat Tuesday so nothing would be wasted. But as any farmer can tell you, chickens do not stop laying eggs during Lent. Many eggs would go bad, but never the less, when Easter morning came, families would often have a lot of eggs to feast on after their fast was over. This brought another practice into being because the faithful would gather their eggs, place them in a basket, and carry them to church on Easter morning to have the priest bless heir “Easter Basket” of eggs as sort of as symbol of “first fruits” of what they would be feasting on during the great 50 days of Easter. And so we see, once again, how skeptical, rationalistic mythologies fall to wayside as people take the time to actually study Catholic tradition instead of making uninformed assumptions. So remember to bring your basket of eggs to the Church for your priest to bless on Pascha/Easter morning!
Today offers us a rather interesting reflection on the liturgical year. Over a decade ago William J. Tighe wrote an article entitled “Calculating Christmas,” where he argued convincingly that the origin of Christmas was not pagan but deeply Jewish and consequently Christian. The basis of his argument centered on an old Jewish tradition that taught that the prophets of Israel died on the same day as they were conceived. For Jewish people this was a sign of their holiness and the visible hand of God working in their lives. Of course on the Church Calendar March 25th is the Feast of the Annunciation which celebrates the conception of our Lord. What is often forgotten, though, is that in the early western church March 25th was also believed to be the day that Christ died. This was of course a mistake; Christ could not have died on that date, but never the less historical figures as early as Tertullian (AD 160) believed and propagated it. Western Christians not only taught that March 25th was the day of Christ’s death, but consequently because of their Jewish roots taught that March 25th was the date of His conception. As William J. Tighe said in his article, “The early Christians applied this idea (the prophet tradition) to Jesus, so that March 25th … (was) not only the supposed (date) of Christ’s death, but of his conception… as well.”1 However, because this date was untenable the Church eventually followed their Jewish elders in celebrating the movable Passover Feast which Christians know and follow still to this day. This left March 25th solely as the Feast of the Annunciation and consequently from there early Christians calculated the nine month mark to determine the birth of Christ. As we all ought to know nine months after the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25th) Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus (December 25th).
What is interesting this year is that the Feast of the Annunciation happens to fall during Holy Week. We don’t celebrate it until after Easter week in the West (this year being April 8th), but the close proximity of this Feast with the Passover of our Lord is a reminder of the Jewish roots of the early church. It is a reminder of the origins of Christian Holy Days and the devotion that went into selecting dates and commemorating major events in the life of Jesus our God. The early church was not full of opportunists looking to hijack pagan holy days, rather it was full of devote men and women seeking (imperfectly) to keep the feasts of our God. Finally, this year should give us a moment to pause and think through the importance of knowing our history as Christians and how we should not be willing to buy into every skeptical conclusion drawn by those who are trying to undermine our faith rather than understand it.
Dear friends, as some of you may know several friends and I have been working with various people to form a community for Catholic Clergy and those that support the Catholic Faith within the ACNA. We have finally got to a place where we would like to make it available to view and receive feedback on it. We have been working with a few Bishops to see if there would be support.. We have received some support from Bishop Iker and Bishop Foley. However, we are not going to be accepting any ‘memberships” unless it does get formal recognition from the ACNA.
But we would love to have your thoughts and feedback. We are working very hard (special thanks to Joshua Watson) to have a large archive of resources on the website so please take a look, we have links to 200+ FREE Google and Kindle Books. A lot of them were published before there were copyright laws, but come on the best people to read are dead!
Along with books we have podcasts, articles, and websites of various topics. This is only the beginning, there will be an on going process of uploading more content to the site for the free access of people looking to live out the fullness of the faith. IF you have suggestion of articles, books, podcasts, blogs, websites, etc please contact us.
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The Birth of Rowan Declan: An anglo-catholic priest’s reflection on his families first home-birth.
In my first post [here] I basically just told our family’s birth story from my perspective. Now I want to simply offer some reflections on home births in general from this experience.
The first thing that comes to my mind when I reflect on our home birth is how little “medical” intervention there was in this birth. The majority of the time Que labored was done quietly alone in our room. There were times people made sure she was doing well. There were things like blood pressure that needed to be monitored. But there were no machines needing to be hooked up, consequently no bloody beeping noises. No intravenous therapy. No forced fasts. To be honest it was rather uneventful compared to our other births. Up until the actual pushing there really was no need for anyone to be around Que unless she wanted them to be there.
Of course this was also reflected in the price tag for our birth. I have seen the bills for our previous births and all three of them, though paid by medicaid, were over $10,000.00. The average price for a home birth is $3500.00, but even an “expensive” home birth is a lot cheaper than going to a hospital. It is rather intuitive I think. Just compare a local doctor visit to an emergency room visit. The price is extraordinarily different. And with all of the current debates about healthcare reform and discussions about the rising cost of medical care, here at least seems to be a very pragmatic option to offer mothers which could save them a lot of unneeded medical intervention and a lot of wasted money. So the question at least in the state of Georgia is not whether the state will be paying for births, which is completely covered for everyone through medicaid, but whether the state might consider another option for mothers which would be beneficial for everyone including taxpayers. This of course would include re-writing laws to make midwifery a more viable option within this state as well as providing legal protection for intentional home births. If women can give births in cars and hospitals (which seem to be the only acceptable places for women to give birth), I think the traditional home should be an option as well.
Another thing that stood out to me was how “normal” this birth seemed to be. There was no rushing to find baby sitters. There was no need to prepare bags for nights away from our home. We did not have to worry about our dog. To be honest with the exception of Que sequestering herself in our room most of the time, the day Rowan was born was like any other day. I woke up fed the kids, made sure they had their naps, and by the evening we were all resting in our home with our new addition. Don’t get me wrong Que and I were tired, but least we were able to sleep in our own beds instead of uncomfortable hospital gurneys.
A great thing for us was the ability to have our religion play a big part in the delivery. There were icons placed around our room. A statute of our Lady was present. We had our relics, rosaries, and pray beads with us. Not to mention our small home altar, which is right now in our room, and little Rowan was blessed in front of it right after he umbilical cord was cut . Those things are with us throughout other events in our lives, it seems like those things ought to be there at the birth of one of our children. Likewise, if I was not a priest, a priest could have easily been called to the home latter that day for the blessings of the Church without having to worry about visitor hours and how many people were in the room. All of those things made this delivery seem not only normal, but sacred, as participating in the creation of life ought to be.
Finally on the positive side, this was a family affair. We did have a lot of people in our home, but our children were able to be there and able to see their new sibling almost immediately. They were not cranky and tired tucked away in a waiting room for an undetermined amount of time. No one needed a call to bring them up to the hospital. There were no hospital regulations to keep some of them out. It was a beautiful thing to have our family around and everyone seemed to benefit from it. Now of course I am not the one to make the final decision there are a lot of factors to take into consideration with home births, but when (God-willing) we have other children I would love to have them in our home. It just seems to make sense. Of course, there was the matter of “clean up” after the birth which was not the most pleasant thing. But the mid-wives took care of most of it. I only had to drain the pool and discard the pool “cover.” The positives clearly outweigh the negatives. The question left then is what would we have done about emergencies? And the answer to that question is we would have rushed to the hospital, like any emergency. Hospitals are not horrible. They are a necessary part of healthcare system. But that would be in the case of an emergencies and pregnancy in and of itself is not an emergency. With all things considered this was a great experience and I can only hope that other families will have this option in the future.
The Birth of Rowan Declan:
An anglo-catholic priest’s reflection on his families first home-birth
After a few days of reflecting on the birth of Rowan, I decided that it would be a good thing to offer my thoughts on my family’s first home birth. First off giving birth is never an easy venture for a mother to go through, so I cannot say that the actual birth itself was easier. However, I am always amazed at my wife’s strength and long-suffering when it comes to pregnancy and birth. This time was no different.
We were two weeks late and there was a lot of anxiety in the extended family about why we were not “doing” anything. Truth be told, I was anxious but I knew I could trust my wife. I had been with her through three other births. Likewise, I knew that she was a doula and though it was hard to feel helpless, I was not as concerned because I trusted her to know what to do even if that was to do nothing. This of course did not flow to the rest of family and essentially that led me to a conversation black out, where I decided that I personally was not going to take any calls from our extended family until the baby was born. Boundaries are important and learning how to restrict people from over burdening your family is one of the best lessons any family can learn.
It was August 7th when finally things started to really pick up. By early afternoon we knew that things were starting to progress but we were not sure that they were going to continue. I started to do a few things I knew needed to get done. During the kids quiet time I took a nap, because the potential was there for a long night. After quiet time and naps were out of the way I got the kid’s rooms cleaned up. Then we ate some dinner. Afterwards the kids got ready for bed. With the kids in bed I started cleaning up the house for our potential visitors.
It was early into the night that Que called her doulas. With things progressing throughout the night, the midwives and photographer were called. With two doulas, three midwives, and my wife preferring to labor alone there was not a lot for me to do but learn patience, practice hospitality, and nap in between major events. It was early in the morning of August 8th around 2:30am that Que asked me to start filling up the birth pool and contact her mother. At 3:30am the birth pool was filled up half way and I text Que’s mom to let her know that things were progressing. With that done I continued to wait down stairs. Even though I was tired I could not sleep, because our other three children were all born at 4:00am and I was not sure that our fourth one was going to be different. But 4:00am came and left, Que’s mother joined us, and Que continued to labor on. With things mellowing out and the kids soon to be waking up I took one more nap. 6:00am rolled around and our kids started waking up and so I got up and fixed them breakfast. The rest of the morning was filled up taking care of the kids and periodically checking up on Que. Around lunch time Que started to talk about breaking her water. So I fed the kids and our guests and got the boys into quiet time.
It was right after lunch that Que decided it was time to move this pregnancy along and so I warmed up the birth pool with more hot water. When the pool was ready Que’s mother brought up our eldest daughter and the mid-wife broke Que’s water. With the water broken it was only a matter of time and so I put on my cassock, a crucifix, and grabbed my Manuel for Anglo-Catholic Devotion. Normally a priest is called shortly after the birth of a child to give thanks over the mother and child, but being the father and husband I decided to prepare before hand so I could pray during the birth, and then right after the birth bless them both. Of course you don’t have to be a priest to pray during the pregnancy and I would encourage more Catholic husbands and fathers to offer these prayers on behalf of their wives and children. After the water was broken it wasn’t long until she started having stronger contractions. At about 1:30pm she entered the birth pool and I entered into a time of prayer. Over the next thirty minutes or so Que was pushing and I was praying. She was saying some words which cannot be repeated here and I was praying the Jesus Prayer and the Litany to Our Lady of Walsingham.
After 3-4 four contractions, Que pushed out little Rowan Declan Brown at 2:03pm. She not only pushed him out on her own, she caught little Rowan and pull him up out of the water. Que worked to clean the baby up while Nevaeh and I watched little Rowan as he was getting acclimated to his new world. Around 2:20pm I cut the umbilical chord, which I have done for all of my children. Que then started to get ready to move into the bed and I took Rowan Declan and blessed him with the sign of the cross. And around 2:45pm Que and the baby were in the bed and around 3:00pm those gathered in the room assisted in blessing Que and giving thanks to God for the safe delivery. After everything calmed down a bit, I brought our two boys up to meet their new brother and our family settled into the evening with our new addition to the family.
Lord have mercy…I wish I could write my book quickly, “Democracy, The West and the decline of Christianity: A look at the Decline of Christianity in Eastern Europe, The Middle East, and North Africa in the 20th century” Islam was the first great threat to Christianity in those regions, Democracy became the second. Christians in the West have decided that Liberal Democracy is the savior of the world and therefore have demonstrated clearly how idolatry is so dangerous.
This is a wonderful critique of the claim that Anglicanism is Calvinist Church by Fr. Novak, check it out.