Sunday, May 31, 2015

Holy Trinity: Fr. Andersen Homily

Sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Fr. Eric M. Andersen
Holy Trinity in Bandon/St. John the Baptist in Port Orford
May 31st, 2015

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

  What do we mean when we say that God is One? We mean that He is undivided, and indivisible. In other words, the One God cannot be added to or subtracted from. Whatever is undivided in itself, is one. When something is incapable of being divided, it is called simple. Other things are referred to as composites. God is undivided and indivisible and therefore, God is simple. God is not a composite. But what is a composite? A composite has no being so long as its parts are not united into one, and a composite receives its unity at the moment when composition sets in. So for instance, water is a composite of hydrogen and oxygen (H2O). It is not water until that composition is made. The water has no being before and it cannot be divided and still be water. This is different from the unity of the One God. God is not a composite like water. God is simple unity. But do we not believe that God is a Trinity? Doesn’t that mean three parts? Would that not make a composite? How do we say that God is simple when we can identify three parts? 

  First of all, we do not identify three parts because a “part” signifies “an incomplete being,
requiring it to be complemented by another” (Pohle-Preuss. God: His Knowability. . . 201). God is not incomplete. There is no potentiality in God. He is not becoming, not expanding, not growing. He is complete. He is perfection Himself in His fullness before time, in time and outside of time. So God is simple. This was taught in the 2nd century by the earliest of Church fathers, Origen and Irenaeus, and later, it was formally defined by the 4th Lateran Council in 1215. So, if anyone ever attempts to put you down by calling you simple, you just say to them: “Well, the 4th Lateran Council defined God as simple; so if it’s good enough for God, then it’s good enough for me!” 
  By saying that God is One, we also mean that God is unique in His being. In other words, there is no other. This is what we profess in the Creed: I believe in One God. In this we are monotheistic. God Himself has told us through the prophet Isaiah: “I am the first and the last, and therefore there is no God besides me” (Is 44:6). God, being One, is then defined as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These three persons in the One God are indivisible, because they are not parts. If God had parts, He would be a composite. No, God remains simple, not a composition, even in His three persons.

  Various heresies emerged during the first centuries of Christianity as theologians struggled to figure out this quandary. The heresy of Arianism contended that God the Father was indeed uncreated but that the Son and the Holy Spirit were created by the Father and inferior to Him. The Church countered by defining that the Son is consubstantial with the Father. Consubstantial means that the Son is of the same substance as the Father. This is what we profess. The Son is begotten of the Father, but begotten from all eternity; not made, not created, not a creature. He was begotten and He is the Only-Begotten. Likewise the Holy Spirit was not made, nor created, nor begotten. Jesus is the Only-Begotten. The Holy Spirit instead proceeds. . . or spirates. He proceeds from the Father and the Son. 
  These three are perfectly co-equal and co-eternal. Each of the individual persons of God possesses the entire divine nature. St. Augustine wrote that each one of the divine persons has as much perfection as all three together have: “So great is the Father alone or so great is the Son alone, or so great is the Holy Spirit alone as is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit together.”

  I invite you to take up your bulletins and follow along with the Athanasian Creed. This is a liturgical creed of the faith attributed to St. Athanasius. He was exiled off an on as a bishop over many years because he defended the divinity of Jesus Christ against the Arian heresy. This creed is therefore, very clear in defending the divinity of Jesus Christ and asserting the equality of all three persons of the Holy Trinity in their Godhead. Historically, this was recited every Sunday in the Divine Office. Currently it is only recited once a year on Trinity Sunday, but only in certain forms of the Office. I find it to be helpful in grasping the Church’s teaching on the Holy Trinity because it is repetitive and very clear. It may take a few readings for it to settle in, so I give you the first reading here while we are together, and I invite you to just listen and follow along this first time, and then take it to your prayer time as spiritual reading or Lectio Divina.

The Athanasian Creed:
Whoever wishes to be saved must, before all else, hold the Catholic Faith: for unless each one maintains it whole and inviolate, he will

certainly perish in eternity:
  This, then, is the Catholic faith: We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without confusing the Persons or separating the substance; for indeed the Person of the Father is one, the Person of the Son another, the Person of the Holy Spirit another; but the divinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, and their majesty coeternal.
  As the Father is, so is the Son, and so is the Holy Spirit; uncreated the Father, uncreated the Son, uncreated the Holy Spirit; infinite the Father, infinite the Son, infinite the Holy Spirit; eternal the Father, eternal the Son, eternal the Holy Spirit; and yet they are not three eternal beings, but one eternal; just as they are not three uncreated beings or three infinite beings, but one uncreated being. In like manner, omnipotent is the Father, omnipotent the Son, omnipotent the Holy Spirit; and yet they are not three omnipotent beings, but one omnipotent being. Therefore, the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God; and yet there are not three Gods but one God. In the same way, the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord; yet there are not three Lords, but there is one Lord; for just as we are compelled by Christian truth to confess each Person individually as God and Lord, just so the Catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three Gods or three Lords. 
  The Father was not made by anyone; nor was he created or begotten; the Son is from the Father alone, neither made nor created but generated; the Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son, neither made nor created nor generated, but proceeding. Therefore, there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. And in the Trinity, there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or lesser, but all three Persons are coequal and coeternal with each other. And so, in all things, as was said already above, both the unity in the Trinity and the Trinity in the unity must be worshipped. Let anyone therefore, who wishes to be saved think of the Trinity in this manner.     
  But it is necessary for eternal salvation also to believe faithfully in the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The correct faith, therefore, is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God equally and man; he is God generated from the substance of the Father before all ages; and he is man born from the substance of a mother in time; perfect God and perfect man, subsisting with a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father according to divinity, less than the Father according to humanity; and while he is both God and man, nevertheless, there is but one Christ, not two; not one, however, by a transformation of the divinity into flesh, but by the assumption of the humanity into God; he is entirely one, not by a confusion of substance, but by the unity of person. For just as one man is a rational soul and flesh, just so the one Christ is God and man. He suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, and on the third day rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father, from whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. At his coming, all men are to rise again with their bodies, and they will given an account of the own deeds; and those who have done good will go on to eternal life, but those who have done evil will go into eternal fire. 
  This is the Catholic faith: unless each one has believed it faithfully and firmly, he will not be saved. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. 

  In closing, the mystery of the Holy Trinity cannot be understood or demonstrated by reason alone. The Church teaches this. The Athanasian Creed is a reasonable presentation of this teaching. We can come to understand it partially by use of our reason and intellect. But the mystery of the Holy Trinity must be known by Divine Revelation. It must be known by intellect or reason elevated by the supernatural infused virtue of faith. When we are in a state of sanctifying grace by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we can come to be certain of such mysteries of the faith. But even in a state of grace, God still allows us to struggle for a greater purpose. When we come to know God personally as a beloved Friend or as the Spouse of our souls, the divine mysteries become more and more clear to our human minds. When we come to know Him, we come to understand Him. Let us seek to know Him and to understand Him and to Love Him in each of His three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Solemnity of the Ascension

It's that time of year again, when Ascension Thursday is celebrated on Sunday for most of us here in the US. For those who are able to attend Mass in the extraordinary form on a regular basis, the issue is moot: Ascension Thursday falls on, well, Thursday, and the following Sunday is called "Sunday after the Ascension".  

Whether you celebrate the Ascension on Thursday or on Sunday, here is a good meditation on the subject.

From the lessons for the office of matins for the Solemnity of the Ascension:

From the Sermons of Pope St Leo the Great.
1st on the Lord’s Ascension.

After the blessed and glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, wherein the Divine Power raised up in three days the true Temple of God Which the iniquity of the Jews had destroyed (John ii. 19), God was pleased to ordain, by His Most Sacred Will, and in His Providence for our instruction and the profit of our souls, a season of forty days which season, dearly beloved brethren, doth end on this day. During that season the bodily Presence of the Lord still lingered on earth, that the reality of the fact of His having risen again from the dead might be armed with all needful proofs.

The death of Christ had troubled the hearts of many of His disciples their thoughts were sad when they remembered His agony upon the Cross, His giving up of the Ghost, and the laying in the grave of His lifeless Body, and a sort of hesitation had begun to weigh on them. Hence the most blessed Apostles and all the disciples, who had been fearful at the finishing on the Cross, and doubtful of the trustworthiness of the rising again, were so strengthened by the clear demonstration of the fact, that, when they saw the Lord going up into the height of heaven, they sorrowed not, nay they were even filled with great joy. And, in all verity, it was a great an unspeakable cause for joy to see the Manhood, in the presence of that the multitude of believers, exalted above all creatures, even heavenly, rising above the ranks of the angelic armies and speeding Its glorious way where the most noble of the Archangels lie far behind, to rest no lower than that place where high above all principality and power, It taketh Its seat at the right hand of the Eternal Father, Sharer of His throne, and Partaker of His glory, and still of the very man's nature which the Son hath taken upon Him.

Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us also rejoice with worthy joy, for the Ascension of Christ is exaltation for us, and whither the glory of the Head of the Church is passed in, thither is the hope of the body of the Church called on to follow. Let us rejoice with exceeding great joy, and give God glad thanks. This day is not only the possession of Paradise made sure unto us, but in the Person of our Head we are actually begun to enter into the heavenly mansions above. Through the unspeakable goodness of Christ we have gained more than ever we lost by the envy of the devil. We, whom our venomous enemy thrust from our first happy home, we, being made of one body with the Son of God, have by Him been given a place at the right hand of the Father with Whom He liveth and reigneth, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Fr. Andersen Homily: God is Love

A Homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Holy Trinity in Bandon; St. John the Baptist in Port Orford

May 10th, 2015

Dominica VI Paschae

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; remain in my love.  
Sicut dilexit me Pater, et ego dilexi vos; manete in dilectione mea.  

In the holy scriptures, we find that there are different kinds of love.  In the English language, they tend to all be translated with the same word: ’love’.  The readings for today speak of love, but two different words are used even in the same sentence in the Epistle of St. John: Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God (1Jn. 4:7).  He uses a verb and a noun.  The phrase, ‘let us love’, uses the verb diligo, dilexit from which the English word ‘diligent’ is derived.  This is the same verb used by Jesus in today’s gospel: As the Father loves me, so I also love you.  This specific word that Jesus uses for love means to choose to love, to prize, or to esteem highly.  In the English language, the word ‘diligent’ is the opposite of negligent.  Diligent means careful, assiduous, accurate.  In this type of love, there is an intellectual choice that is rooted in the will rather than the emotions or passions.  Jesus is asking you to choose to love Him and to choose to remain in His love by obeying His Commandments.  He says to us: It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you…  By those words, he is referring to this type of love.  He chose to love us.  We must choose to love Him, but it is He who has first chosen to love us. 

St. John extends that message out from the Gospel: Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God.  Here he uses a second word for love as a noun.  That word is caritas, or ‘charity’ as we know it in the English.  Charity has the meaning of something rare, precious, costly.  The love of God is indeed costly, because it cost Him His very life, His Precious Blood poured out for us.  It makes that much more sense, then, to understand the words that St. John uses here:  Beloved, let us choose to love one another diligently, carefully, accurately––because charity, which is precious and costly, is of God.  Because charity is so rare, so costly, so precious, it is therefore a treasure that we must protect and preserve with diligence, care, accuracy as we pass it on one to another.  It is not something to pass on negligently, but diligently. 

How can we do so?  Jesus tells us: “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love.  Now the word that Jesus uses here is not the noun caritas, meaning charity, but back to dilectione, which is diligent, careful, constant love.  We must therefore be diligent and constant and careful in choosing every day to keep His commandments in order to remain in His constant love.  We do not remain in His diligence merely by existing.  We do remain in His charity.  He has died for all of us and each of us and will not take that back.  That is His charitable love which is precious and always extended to us.  But to remain as His chosen one is up to each of us in our careful, constant diligence.  By doing so we choose Him who has chosen us and we direct that diligent love not only back to God but to our neighbor, because of the charity of God, who is charity itself.   

Monday, May 4, 2015

Impressions of a Vigil and Funeral Mass

Lt. Col. H. Clifford Colvin,
requiescat in pace
Ms. Barbara Etter of Bend, Oregon, writes here about a vigil and a funeral Mass she attended recently in Baker City, Oregon, at St. Francis de Sales Cathedral parish. The deceased was Lt. Col. H. Clifford Colvin, a local parishioner who served with great distinction in the US Marine Corps.

Vigil and Rosary
 Introductory Rite:
The greeting of the body at the church with the sprinkling with Holy Water was followed by the family placing the pall on the casket.  During the procession the small schola (two singers) sang the Latin chant Subvenite Sancti Dei.  When the casket had been brought to the front of the Cathedral, the cross was placed upon it.  Father Colvin then extended the invitation to prayer and sang the opening prayer.

Liturgy of the Word
The first reading:  1 John 3:1-2  We shall see God as He really is.
Responsorial Psalm, also chanted in Latin was Unam petii a Domino
Gospel:  John 14:1-6 In My Father’s House there are many mansions…. This was sung by Fr. Andrew Colvin.  Fr. Colvin proceeded to give a homily which included reminiscences of growing up in the Colvin family and the intensity of his father’s faith, how he lived his faith, and instilled the Catholic Faith in his children.  It made me think what it would have been like to grow up in a caring, sharing, faithful family.

Recitation of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Reading of the poem High Flight was done in honor of his being a Top Gun fighter pilot.
Prayers of Intercession included the litany, the sung Lord’s Prayer, and the concluding prayer.
Concluding Rite was the Blessing and the hymn “For All the Saints” led by the folk group.  We sang all eight verses so it was the first time I had heard some of the verses.
We were then invited to come forward to pay our respects.  When it was my turn I could not help but give a salute and say, “Well done Lt. Col. Colvin.”

Afterwards, I heard people making the comment that it was so good to hear Latin chant in the Cathedral again.  To me it was touching and prayerful; in fact when I closed my eyes it sounded as if the Angel Gabriel was singing with a soft voice of another angel.  I don’t know how it was done, but the two voices sounded like a whole choir of heavenly angels. It was a beautiful experience for me.   I can only dream of having such a beautiful wake service.

Funeral Mass
This was a concelebrated Mass with several priests and two prelates: Bishop Liam Cary (in choro), Right Reverend Joseph Stanichar (of  the Duchovny Dom Monastery near Weston, Oregon; Ruthenian Rite), Reverend Andrew Colvin (son of the deceased), Reverend Robert Greiner (Cathedral Rector), Reverend Stanislaw Strzyz , and Reverend Andrew Symakowski.
Gold vestments were worn.

I had never met a Ruthenian Rite priest or prelate before, and found Father Stanichar’s vestments striking; he had no miter, but a gold crown of sorts.  It was beautiful.  When it was time for him to pray his section of the Eucharistic Prayer (Roman Canon), he sang it.  He told me later that they always sing their prayers, that prayer should be sung.  I thought that was interesting; by singing, one is not just saying words, but is also lifting one’s voice to God in true prayer. Perhaps that is why we sing the Divine Office.  I learned something new from him. [Ed. note:  Father Stanichar is a mitered archpriest of the Byzantine (Ruthenian) Rite; he is not technically a bishop, but is given the right to wear the vestments of a bishop.]

The Mass itself followed the Novus Ordo funeral rite, but instead of all being English, most of the singing was Latin Gregorian chant.

Introductory Rites
The opening song was “On Eagles Wings” (folk group).  The entrance procession was the Introit antiphon Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis, followed by several verses.
The Kyrie was from the Requiem Mass, using double, not triple, invocations, but it was done in Latin.  The Gloria was sung by Fr. Colvin himself.  I don’t remember ever singing a Gloria at a funeral Mass before, but I do not know all the rubrics of the Easter Octave – maybe it is done at this time.

Liturgy of the Word
Following the proclamation of the first reading the response Requiem (same as the introit antiphon) with psalm 112 v.7
The Gospel Acclamation was Alleluia alleluia. Laetatus sum in his quae discta sunt miki: in domo Domini ibimus. Fr. Colvin sang the Gospel if I remember correctly. A homily and General Intercession followed.

Liturgy of the Eucharist
The offertory hymn was the traditional text of the prayer Domine, Jesu Christe…..
The Sanctus and the Agnus Dei were sung in Latin from Mass XVIII, not the Mass for the Dead. The Agnus Dei used Miserere nobis instead of dona eis requiem.  This is the rubrics for the Novus Ordo Mass.
The Communion Hymn was the antiphon Lux aeternam luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in aeternam: quia pius es. This was with the verses from  psalm 130.

Final Commendation
The Responsory was Libera Me…  The Song of Farewell was the antiphon In paradisum… followed by the Prayer of Commendation with the antiphon Chorus Angelorum.

The concluding song was the Navy Hymn: “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”, with all verses, including one that was written especially for the Marine Corps:

            Eternal Father grant we pray to all Marines both night and day
            The courage, honor, strength and skill their land to serve, Thy law fulfill
            Be Thou the shield forevermore from ev’ry peril to the Corps.

At the reception afterwards, I was approached by several people who heard me singing and said, “Keep up the good work.”  Again I was told that it was good to hear chant in the Cathedral.  Two people even looked at my Liber Brevior [which includes Gregorian chant propers for Sundays and major feast days in the Extraordinary Form]. Maybe this is a sign that perhaps chant will come back now that people have heard it and know it can be done.  I know if people only had the opportunity to hear chant again it would be used more frequently.

This is almost the way I would envision my funeral to be, but… in the Extraordinary Form.