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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Lamb's Supper Part 2 - The Lamb of God (Agnus Dei)

"Agnus Dei, que tollis pecatta mundi, miserere nobis..." In the traditional Anglo-Catholic Mass based on the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, this classic petition of the Church is often recited or sung just before the Eucharist is distributed, and it reaffirms why we are Christians in the first place - Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed of His own volition that we might have eternal life.  The traditional Latin chant of this beautiful prayer is actually one of my favorite hymns, and although the English translation we use in our Anglican tradition is not quite as poetic as the Latin translation used by the traditional Roman Catholic Mass, it still conveys this same truth.  As we continue Dr. Hahn's text on this, we need to explore why, of all things, was one of the titles of Jesus the "Lamb?"  And, we begin this part of the study by discussing that.

In the book of Revelation alone, Jesus is called "the Lamb" 28 times, and this reference to Jesus is almost exclusively in Revelation and in St. John's Gospel.  There is an acilliary debate about authorship here, as some believe that St. John the Apostle, who wrote the Gospel, is a different person from the author of Revelation, whom some believe to be a man by the name of St. John the Elder.  This latter figure is cited because he was traditionally thought to have been a youth when Christ walked the earth, and knew the Lord personally - the passage in Scripture, for instance, where it says that this John laid his head upon the breast of Christ (John 13:23,25) at the Last Supper referred to a young St. John the Elder rather than St. John the Apostle.  Although an interesting debate, that discussion lies outside the scope of this study because the authorship of Revelation is not the focus here.  My Orthodox Study Bible though, in its introductory notes on Revelation on page 1706, maintains the historic position that John the Elder and John the Apostle (the Apostle was called "The Elder" in his later years) were the same person, and being this is the historic view of the Church, that is what this study will also maintain.  Also, the fact that the title "Lamb" is used of Christ in both the Gospel of John and Revelation suggests common authorship as well, and it establishes a continuity of documentation.

Jesus as the Lamb of God is a central tenet of both the book of Revelation and the Mass, and as such, we know who He is.  However, we also need to know what the Lamb is, as well as why we call Him that.  Therefore, the focus of that part of our study addresses these issues.

Dr. Hahn utilizes two sacrifices of significance from the Old Testament to give a sort of foundation to this whole image of Jesus as the Lamb, and the first we find in Genesis 14:18-20.  In that passage, an enigmatic figure by the name of Melchizedek makes his appearance in the narrative, and the first thing is to talk about the etymology of this guy's name, because it bears some significance on the story.  Melchizedek is one of those people whose identity has been disputed by theologians for centuries, and Scripture doesn't directly say exactly who he was.  One tradition I recall reading about identified Melchizedek with Noah's son Shem, and the reasoning behind this was that at the time of Abraham, Shem was still very much alive although over 600 years old.  It was not uncommon in those days - although our own rationalistic mentality today cannot fathom it - for people to live to advanced ages, and therefore I personally believe Shem did know Abraham and was around at that time.  However, whether or not he was the same as the Biblical Melchizedek is not something I would personally have a position on, although it is worth exploring.  The important thing about Melchizedek though was that the Church has historically seen him as as foreshadow of Jesus. and the key to that is in his name.  The name Melchizedek may well be a title as well, and it comprises two Semitic words (malka "king" + tzedekha "righteous") and he was also the ruler/priest of a place called Salem (from shalom = "peace"), which many Biblical scholars and theologians over the centuries maintained was the early site of where Jerusalem now stands.  If you put all that name together, what you then get is this - "Righteous King of Peace."  Compare that now with Isaiah 9:6, which many of you know from around Christmas when performances of Handel's beautiful masterpiece The Messiah basically bring these Scriptures to life for us - one of the titles given to Jesus as revealed to the prophet Isaiah was "Prince of Peace."   As we read on in the Genesis passage, we see that Melchizedek offers a sacrifice, but it involved no animals!  In verse 18, it says that Melchizedek was "a priest of the God Most High," and that after Abraham engaged the king of Elam in a battle to rescue Lot, who was taken captive in a battle between Chedorlaomer the king of the Elamites and an alliance of cities led by the king of Sodom, where Lot lived.  Abraham allied himself with the king of Sodom in this battle to rescue and liberate Lot from captivity, and when he did so Melchizedek came out to meet him and offered a sacrifice of bread and wine (v. 18).  The reason this is seen by the Church as a foreshadowing of Christ is because Melchizedek's priesthood typified Jesus' role as High Priest, who gives Himself to His faithful in the Eucharist.  This sacrifice is seen as a "superior order," and salvation always comes through that means.  Therefore, from very early on in the Old Testament, we see the Eucharist established, although it was not fulfilled until Christ instituted it later at the Last Supper.

The second sacrifice of significance is found in Genesis 22, the passage dealing with Abraham's attempted sacrifice of Isaac.  In verse 2 of the chapter, God Himself commands Abraham as a test of his faithfulness to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, on Mount Moriah.  This must have really baffled Abraham, as it would any loving father, but more was at stake here - I mean, after all, God had called Abraham to be "the father of many nations," and that Isaac, who was actually born to his nonagenarian wife Sarah, would be who would progenate that line through his seed.  So, it made no sense whatsoever why God would ask Abraham to do this.  But, the why is not what is important to the story, but rather the fact that Abraham, despite any confusion he may have had about what on earth was going on, obeyed, and that was what God was looking for!  Now, as for Moriah - where was that??   In 2 Chronicles 3:1, it is identified with the Temple Mount, and therefore with the Law - sacrifice was the rule and norm for atonement, as we will discuss briefly.  In earliest traditions of the Church, it has been proposed that the two mounts of Jerusalem (Calvary and Zion/Moriah) where much of the drama of Christ's redemptive plan would be carried out were also the center of the original Garden of Eden, and on those two mounts sat two trees - the Tree of Life is identified with the hill of death (Calvary) and the Tree of Knowledge is identified with the hill that embodied Mosaic law (Zion/Moriah).  Mount Moriah, you will also note, is identified as well with Mount Zion, as both represent the future Temple Mount.  Going back to the Melchizedek narrative, it is also said that he offered his sacrifice in the same place.  This then gives a lot of allegorical similarities to the Passion of our Lord - Isaac was a faithful father's (Abraham) only beloved son (note that Ishmael is older, but the custom didn't allow for Ishmael to be a legitimate heir of Abraham, which is why he isn't mentioned in this narrative), and part of the journey to the place of sacrifice was that Isaac had to carry the wood that he would be offered on up the hill himself.  Jesus, too, was God's only beloved son (John 3:16), and also had to carry the wood He was sacrificed on (the Cross) to the place of the sacrifice.  Any rate, Isaac was obviously a bright child, because he had a good father that taught him well, and one thing we note from Scripture is that Isaac was perceptive enough to understand that in order to do this, it was important to have the sacrificial animal (!).  So, Isaac asks his father, "My Father, look - the fire and the firewood, but where is the sheep for a burnt offering?" (Genesis 22:7, NKJV).  Abraham by this time is probably thinking to himself, "Oy!!!" but he answers judiciously, "My son, God will provide for himself the sheep for a whole burnt offering" (22:8. NKJV).  Now, here is where it gets really interesting!  Dr. Hahn points out in his book on 18 that there was not any punctuation in the original Hebrew translation of this verse, and he proposes an alternate reading of verse 8 that looks like this - "God will provide Himself, the Lamb, for a burnt offering."  Whoa!!!!!!!  Looking at it from that angle, we see a profound spiritual truth communicated here that gives us a Messianic prophecy of hope in the most unlikely of passages in Scripture, and of course, as we read on, God did provide a ram with its horns tangled in thorns nearby, and of course Isaac was spared.  It was a scary but valuable lesson for Abraham of the redemption God was going to bring to humanity via Himself.   And, this correlates with Galatians 3:14 - "that in Christ the blessings of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles."  

Of course, no study of the Old Testament typologies of the Eucharist would be complete without of course mentioning the Passover.  Animal sacrifice of course was a very big part of worship in the ancient world, and in ancient Israel this was no exception - the only difference was that God Himself instituted the system via Moses on the Mount.  The animal sacrifice represented, first of all, the recognition of God's sovereignty over creation (note Psalm 24;1).  It also represented an act of thanksgiving (eucaristw in Greek or tauditho in both Hebrew and Aramaic), which signified we could only give back what we ourselves have received.  Sacrifice also signified a solemnly sealed agreement/oath, otherwise called a covenant.  And, it also could signify an act of penance - the animal's life is offered in our place.   The pivotal sacrifice of the whole OT is without doubt the Passover, and what marked the Passover was that it was to be celebrated with an unblemished lamb without broken bones.  And, this is where it really gets interesting!  In the traditional way of preparing the lamb, it was dressed and tied to a cruciform spit, and then dropped into the ground into a pit of hot coals where it was roasted.  The spit is of interest - cruciform!  A long pole secured the lamb down its length, and then its two front limbs were spread and secured with another pole which were tied where the poles intersected, creating a cross.  Today in Israel, the 1000-strong remnant of the Samaritan community still roast their Passover lamb in this way, as this picture shows:


The imagery here is amazing - even in the Old Testament, we see the foreshadow of Christ's Atonement in the Passover meal, and it is also interesting that this lamb was prepared as both an act of redemption as well as an act of consecration.   The Passover, of course, was instituted many years before the Temple was built, but it laid the foundation of the Temple as a pivotal place for the sacrifice to be offered. When the Temple was constructed during the reign of King Solomon, 2 lambs were sacrificed every day - one in the morning and one in the evening normally.  They were offered for atonement for the collective sins of the nation.  In the Temple therefore at that point, we see the simmering together of all strains of sacrifice from previous generations, and the Temple embodied the ceremonial and religious law of the people of Israel.  However, the offering of an external sacrifice was not enough, as God demanded an interior submission and sacrifice of ourselves as well - the external, therefore, had to reflect an internal work.  The elements of this internal sacrifice are noted as a broken spirit (Psalm 51:17) and genuine love and knowledge (Hosea 6;6).  It would be this interior attitude of sacrifice that Jesus would make central to His mission as it related to the Passover. 

Jesus is the ultimate Passover Lamb (John 19:14), and like the literal Passover lambs from the time the practice was instituted under Moses' leadership, not one bone was broken in Jesus' body when He was offered up on the Cross (John 19:36, referencing Exodus 12:46).  Onlookers seeing Jesus suffering offered Him sour wine from a sponge on a hyssop branch.  Now, a little discussion about that for a bir.  Many translations of the Bible render this "sour wine" to mean vinegar, but upon looking up the culinary practices of the region, it was more than likely the sour semi-fermented juice of unripe grapes that is called husroum, which is also known by its more common French name verjus.  I actually use this in cooking myself today, as I have a natural hatred and aversion to vinegar and it provides the acidic balance to my own cooking that frees dependance on vinegar for anything.  This husroum was, as recorded in Scripture, mixed with a substance called "gall" in Matthew 27:34 (prophetically referenced as well in Psalm 69:21) that more than likely had some narcotic property that eased the pain of the crucifixion processes - some theorize it came from a bitter melon called a colocynth, which does have medicinal qualities of pain relief as well as disinfective properties, but this probably would warrant more research.  But, the sour wine/gall elixir again is not necessarily the focus, but rather the hyssop that was used to administer it to Jesus on a sponge  In Exodus 12:22, God prescribed to Moses that the blood of the Passover lamb was to be applied to the doors of the homes of the Hebrews with a branch of hyssop, and in another place, it was also used to purge and purify (Psalm 51:7).  The message here is that the Body and Blood of Christ, therefore, also purge and purify us of sin as the hyssop did, and that a yielded, sanctified vessel (a priest?) was responsible for distributing the Blood to others.  So in essence, the hyssop is an allegory of the priesthood too.

It is also important to understand that Jesus is both Priest and victim (Luke 22:19-20), and therefore we proclaim Jesus as Agnus Dei because only a sacrificial lamb fits the divine pattern established for millenia of our salvation. 

So, what does this mean for us today?  First, our Passover Lamb is unleavened bread (the Body of Christ, instituted Himself), and our "feast" is the Mass (I Corinthians 5:7-8).  Also, the old covenant sacrifices make sense when we see them in lieu of preparation for the one Sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  And, it is not enough that Christ bled and died for our sake, but we need to accept that He did so - again, as in the OT, an outward expression needs an inward one for it to be effective. We therefore accept in our partaking of the Lamb in the sacrament of the Eucharist (note John 6:54).

Man has this primal need to worship God, and worship is primarily an act that consists of several elements - praise, atonement, self-giving, covenant affirmation, and thanksgiving.  Our life is therefore surrendered in order to be transformed and shared with others as a witness of Christ to others.  Today unfortunately, there is a problem with much of what passes as "worship" in many churches of differing traditions and denominations.  I was listening to some DVDs of a Southern Baptist pastor in Las Vegas, Billy Crone, that dealt with the subject of the "Rise of Apostasy in the Last Days," and what he correctly noted is that there are four big manifestations of this apostasy - greed, worldliness, liberalism, and outright occultism, as embodied in many popular religious fads.  Greed is most often personified in the teachings of "Word of Faith" (or more appropriately, "blab-it-and-grab-it") televangelists we see in TV way too often.  Many of these preachers teach selfish motives for following Christ - if you follow Christ, according to these people, you will get money, fancy cars, etc.  Problem is, if that were true, you should be seeing the parking lots where these preachers fill auditoriums filled with Rolls Royces and Jags, but they are not.  The worldliness factor is embodied in the so-called "Church Growth" movements of the past 20 or so years, and also this new phenomenon called "Emergent Christianity."   These type of groups often say that numbers are important, and change brings numbers - therefore, let's not talk about those "nasty" subjects of sin, repentance, hell, etc. - God forbid you chase people off with that!  Liberal "Christianity" takes this even further, with things such as the heresies of "liberation theology," "Gay Christianity," and even some pretty bizarre stuff such as "nudist churches," "Christian polygamy," "pole-dancing for Jesus." "Porn Sundays" at some churches, and even the redefinition of the classic definition of "eunuch" to mean a gay man rather than a castrated man.  These things all have one thing in common - they are about how the person feels, or what the person wants, and have little to do with worshipping God or serving His Son, Jesus Christ.  These things ask nothing of the supposed "worshipper" and instead cater to fleshly lusts and crazy fads that have little (or more often nothing) to do with the teachings of the Church.  These things are blasphemous, and they are indicative of the last-days apostasy that the Apostle Paul warned in several of his epistles would occur.  And, as Pastor Crone very powerfully points out in his exposing this fluff, Jesus didn't come to suffer, die, and go through what He did just so some ding-dong in skinny jeans can get up there on a stage with a rock band and tell people it is all about their self-esteem!  The Church is not a motivational seminar:   it is the Bride of Christ, and as such Jesus Christ is the focus and center of our worship, adoration, and fellowship.  If Jesus is not central, then what you are attending is not a church, and if you are concerned about your eternal soul, you need to get out of there fast!  Worship without sacrifice is unfortunately the absurdity of the modern (or postmodern - same difference!) age, and as Russian Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann so eloquently put it in his book For The Life of the World (Crestwood, NY:  St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1963) secularism is the absence of man as a worshipping being  - if you serve self and its selfish passions and desires, you are not worshipping God, despite whatever name you call it.  Fr. Schmemann also notes on page 37 of his book that the Eucharist is the only full and real response of man to God's creation, redemption, and gift of heaven, because (on page 43) Jesus is our Bread (of Life) and His life was totally, absolutely eucharistic.  Therefore, as CAC Apostle John Cardale noted in his extensive study Readings Upon the Liturgy (London: George Barclay, 1848) when approaching the Eucharist we must humbly acknowledge our unworthiness - self-esteem means little when we are in the holy presence of God - and pray that we may not bring judgment upon ourselves by partaking unworthily (pp. 193-194).  And, that is why before we even partake of the Eucharist, the traditional Anglican Mass contains in its "Prayer of Invocation" the priest prays this phrase: "And here we offer and present unto Thee, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching Thee , that we, and all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with Him, that He may dwell in us, and we in Him."  Note the focus - on Jesus Christ, who is the Lamb of God offered for the sins of the world, and worthy of our adoration and worship.  There is no room for self at the altar of the Lord, but the focus is Him - that is why faulty fads and false doctrines are anathema to those who humbly and sincerely embrace the true faith of the Church.  If we understand that, and therefore humbly and with a penitent heart approach the Throne of grace, we then receive the Eucharist worthily - we decrease, in other words, and Christ increases.  And, that concludes this lesson, but we will pick up next time with a short history lesson about the Eucharist and how it developed from the early Church to today.  God bless until next time. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Lamb's Supper Part 1 - The Mass From Scripture

I have now been posting our parish Bible studies that I have been leading for about 3-4 months, and this post begins the second book we are studying called The Lamb's Supper by renown Roman Catholic theologian (and a convert from Evangelicalism) Dr. Scott Hahn.  Although Dr. Hahn's book is the primary text for the study, I will also be utilizing other sources as well, much as the procedure has been throughout these studies.  I hope that this series will be a blessing to you, and hopefully you gain a greater appreciation for the material we are studying at our parish and it will be useful to you as well. 

When the term "Mass" is talked about, many people think it automatically means Roman Catholic by identification.  However, other Churches (including my own communion, the Anglican Catholic Church) also use this term to refer to the weekly liturgical celebration of the Eucharist, and in this study it will sometimes be used simultaneously with the terms "liturgy" and "Eucharist," although it is not exactly the same as the Eucharist itself.  Therefore, as Dr. Hahn begins his first chapter in our text The Lamb's Supper (New York: Doubleday, 1999), he appropriately starts out by giving a Scriptural foundation for the Mass, as well as defining some terminology, which will prove helpful in the remainder of the book.  I am also going to be referencing Fr. Peter Gillquist's Becoming Orthodox (Ben Lomond, CA: Conciliar Press, 1992) for this particular lesson, because he has a chapter in that book which supplements beautifully the material Dr. Hahn has.

So, for the unfamiliar reading all this, what on earth do these terms "Mass," "Eucharist," and "Liturgy" all mean anyway???  Are they the same, or is there something different about each of them?  To answer that, let us first get some Scriptural background as we look first at Acts 13:2 - "As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said..." (NKJV).  Fr. Gillquist, rather than using the NKJV that I normally reference, utilizes instead the NAB, which reads like this - "On one occasion, while they were engaged in the liturgy of the Lord and were fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke to them..."  You look at that, and probably are thinking, "Wow, that is confusing - which one is it then??"  Fr. Gillquist, when he began studying this passage so many years previous, came to that same question, and then he did a study of the original Greek and here is what he found out.  In the original Greek text, the word used in this passage is leitourgounton, which when translated is clearly the English root liturgy!  The word itself actually comes from three Greek words (laos, "people + the article tou. which is a genitive meaning "of" or from + ergon, which can translate as "work," "labor," or "offering.") that when put together mean " a work (labor, offering) of (or from) the people."  Therefore, when it is a "liturgy of the Lord" it means an offering of the people to the Lord, and that is what liturgy means!  More specifically in context, it is a work of the people of God of worship to God.  When God receives this from us in the proper spirit we offer it to Him, He then can speak to us as the Church during the Liturgy.  That being said, and as Fr. Gillquist correctly points out in his text on page 76, despite some Protestant Evangelical accusations of "dead liturgy," in reality liturgy can be neither dead nor alive - it is the people who participate in it who are either spiritually dead or spiritually vibrant.  Looking at it this way then, the Liturgy is an offering to God from us, in essence a labor of our love to Him, and our attitude and participation in it determines its vitality.  To be fair to the occasional Evangelical visitor to one of our parishes, oftentimes it looks as if many of our people do seem to "go through the motions," making sure this is right or that is right, without doing as Acts 13 that we read earlier says - letting the Holy Spirit speak through the Liturgy to us.  The robotic attention to rubric and form is often a put-off to the Evangelical Christian because of two things.  First, on the positive, Evangelicals believe that their faith requires a personal dimension, which of course all Christians should have - we are not only a corporate Body of believers, but also Jesus has reached out to us individually.  However, on the negative side of that, Evangelicals often fall into a trap of what is called the "better felt than telt" syndrome which often confuses emotional response with participatory worship, and that can be about as big of a danger as Catholic Christians just slogging through the Liturgy every Sunday because it is an obligatory thing we do.  Neither extreme is what God wants, because neither the mystical response of emotion nor the juridical action of mere obligatory acquiescence constitute true worship because both take the focus off where our worship is to be directed (Jesus Christ) and instead focuses on what we either think or feel at the moment.  The challenge to us is to get past both, and instead allow God to enjoy the worship of our hearts desiring to follow Him, and then He can speak to us.  Historic liturgy provides the form for this, but we have to learn what liturgy is in order to appreciate and more fully participate in it.  

This now leads me to the second term - Mass.  The Mass is almost exclusively associated with the Western Church, and the reason is because it is derived from a Latin root word rather than a Greek word.  The word "Mass" comes from the Latin word Missa, which means "dismissal" and comes from the concluding part of the Western Liturgy when the words "Ite Missa est" ("Go, it is the dismissal) which in more modern liturgies says this "The Mass has ended - let us depart in peace," or similarly worded benedictory statements.  In time though, it took on a more missionary/evangelistic dimension as it was rendered "Let us go in peace, to love and serve the Lord."  The term "Mass" for us as Anglo-Catholics should therefore present an evangelical challenge - we are to be the light of Christ to a world dying with sin, and when we receive Christ in the Eucharist it is to be transformative.  Therefore, despite the fact that some anti-Catholic fundamentalists sometimes try to villify the word "Mass," there is absolutely nothing evil, but rather something evangelistic, about the challenge we receive to share Christ, Whom we have received, with others in the world. 

The third term in relation to this, Eucharist, is from the Greek word eucaristw, which simply means "thanksgiving."  As this study goes on, we will be exploring that more in-depth, but suffice to say the Eucharist is the actual sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ we receive as the pivotal point of the Liturgy.  Remember, the whole of our discipleship and Christian life is Christocentric, meaning that all points back to the Lord Jesus Christ as part of our worship.  And, that is why we as Anglo-Catholic Christians believe very much in the Real Presence - Christ is really in the elements we partake in the Eucharist, not just being merely contained within them but rather they become His Body and Blood in a mystery we cannot necessarily explain, but the Holy Spirit confirms (see Acts 13:2 again!) that this is Jesus being made present to us.  

Dr. Hahn's book also takes another very unique approach to the Mass by centering his study around Revelation.  In his text (page 9 specifically) Dr. Hahn notes that Revelation comes to life before our eyes.  And, although Dr. Hahn takes more of a preterist position on Revelation rather than the historic futurist position I would subscribe to, what he says here does make sense - Revelation therefore is both a prophetic and a liturgical text, and Dr. Hahn focuses on Revelation 4 as the start of the liturgical dimension of this mysterious last book of the Scriptures.  As mentioned, the Eucharist is a covenant meal - it is the covenant Christ made of offering Himself for the remission of our sins and our restoration to what God originally created us to be - and it forms a sacred bond of the family of God.  And, in a tangible way, when we participate in liturgical worship in an earthly liturgy, we participate in a foretaste of the heavenly.  Many years ago, I heard a Pentecostal minister (as well as a relative of mine) named Perry Stone talk about how when God set up for Israel via Moses the worship He instituted first in the Tabernacle and later the Temple, it was modeled on what happens in the throne room of heaven.  Keeping in mind the Jewish roots of Christian worship, the Church picked up on this in her liturgy as well, but Jesus added a whole new dimension of it to His Church - He becomes a sort of shekinah that we can be nourished by, and He also becomes both the principle Priest and the sacrificial victim (more on that in the next study).  So, when we pray as discussed in the previous lessons on the Lord's Prayer, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," the Mass and celebration of the Eucharist in particular embodies that in that the kingdom of God comes to us now (in the Mass) but not yet (prophetic/eschatological).  

All of this tells us that the language of worship, therefore, plays a vital role in unifying Revelation as a book.  Liturgy, in essence, helps us to make sense of prophecy.  As my mentor and Greek Orthodox priest Fr. Eusebius Stephanou points out on page 62 of his book Sacramentalized But Not Evangelized (Destin, FL: St. Symeon the New Theologian Press, 2005), the ministry of the Word and the Eucharist are interrelated in the Liturgy - therefore, the subject of the sermon must be related closely to the altar, something that Monsignor Eugene Kevane in his works on Catechetics calls "Christocentricity."  Although Fr. Eusebius relates this to the Homily at Mass every Sunday, it also applies as well to our reading of Scripture too - although we obviously believe Revelation has an eschatological/prophetic message, it must also be read in a spirit of worship and it relates to the Liturgy of the Church, and the Holy Spirit speaks to us prophetically (if we care to listen!) throughout the Liturgy too.  And, as Dr. Hahn notes on page 12, Revelation was written about Someone (Jesus Christ) who was to come, and therefore in the Mass we have in essence "heaven on earth."

In addition to Revelation 4, Fr. Gillquist tells us about a related Scripture in Isaiah 6 that says that the prophetic insight we are to receive from the Liturgy is sensory, and he notes on pages 77-79 of his text that this passage of Isaiah is laden with sensory verbiage.  Of course, for our various liturgical traditions, Eastern and Western, we know of the Isaiah passage due to one thing we have in our Liturgies called the Sanctus - "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Sabaoth.  Heaven and earth are full of Thy Glory.  Hosanna in the Highest!"  As the famed Anglo-Catholic cleric and theologian Dom Gregory Dix notes in his classic text On the Shape of the Liturgy (New York: Seabury, 1945) this also evolved in the architecture of church buildings too, as Revelation 4 was made essentially to be more tangible in the place of worship as well as the words of worship.  Dix notes on page 32 of his classic text that in the East it was Jesus as the King Enthroned, as represented by the classic icon of Jesus Christ the Pantocrator.  In the Western Church, it was more of Jesus as the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God, As we'll see in the next study though, the Lamb represents not a contradiction of the Kingship of Christ, but rather the dimension of His Kingdom coming to us via His shed Blood and broken Body that makes us worthy of His kingdom.  This is given symbolic expression, Dix notes on page 30, in the throne of the bishop we have in many of our parishes being both the "throne of God and of the Lamb" - the bishops office, therefore to Dix, would embody both the revelation and redemption of Christ.  Hence again, the Word and Sacrament become interrelated to each other as one great act of God's love for us.

We now want to look at something else in Exodus 25:30, which Catholic theologian Brant Pitre notes in his book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist (New York:  Doubleday, 2011) is one Old Testament precursor of the Eucharist of which we will see many as this study progresses.  Pitre notes, on pages 132-133 of his text, that although many of today's Bible translations render the meaning "showbread" in this verse, the actual Hebrew word was panim, which translates as "bread of the face" or "bread of the presence."  The Bread in Exodus, therefore, represents an earthly sign of God's face and a visible sign of His love.  This therefore hearkens back to John 3:16, which many of us can quote from memory - God so loved us, that He sent His only begotten Son, and one of that Son's titles is the "Bread of Life" (John 6:48) and we are told by Jesus Himself, when He instituted the Eucharist, to "take this Bread and drink this Cup" because they are His Body and Blood, of a new covenant given for the remission of our sins (Matthew 26:28).   Therefore, unlike some quasi-gnostic tendencies among some Evangelicals to "spiritualize" everything in Scripture, God works through symbols and physical means to convey His eternal message to us, and he does it via seeing, hearing, touching/tasting, and smell.   As we go through this study, we will be addressing those areas more as well. 

There is also little doubt that Jesus was partaking of what today we would call a Jewish Passover Seder, and as Pitre points out on pages 150-157 of his book, there is an interesting parallel here as embodied in the four cups of wine partaken during a Seder meal.   The first cup, for instance, is called the Kiddush, and symbolizes sanctification.  If we look in our Anglican Book of Common Prayer (1928 American Edition) at the point in the Mass just as the Liturgy of the Word ends and the Liturgy of the Faithful begins, there is a General Confession that is prayed in unison by worshippers at the Mass.  One part of this Confession is of interest to this study - the petition "Forgive us all that is past, and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please Thee in newness of life."   This prayer prepares our hearts for the Body and Blood of Christ, much as the Kiddush cup prepares its participants to partake of the Passover lamb. The second cup is called the Haggadah, and has to do with proclamation of the Word.  In our Mass, this corresponds to the readings of Scripture and the Homily.  The third cup is called Berakah, and is a cup of blessing - in the Mass, this corresponds to when the priest consecrates the elements and they become the Body and Blood of Jesus.  This is played out in a very interesting way in the Eastern Church in that the priest, as he is praying the consecration, crosses his hands and makes a motion like wings flapping, symbolizing the Holy Spirit's entering the elements and transforming them.  In the Western Anglo-Catholic tradition, it is more subtle than that, as the priest blows - a symbol of wind, the Holy Spirit - on the consecrated elements symbolizing that they are now the Body and Blood of Christ for us to receive.  Between the third and fourth cups, the meal is then partaken, and at the conclusion of the meal is the cup of Hallel, or praise and acclamation, which serves as a sort of offering of thanksgiving (remember eucaristw)   and the words for that blessing if you want to read them are found in Psalm 118:5, 17-22.    This brings back the premise that this is a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and is indicative of a "finished work" - Ite missa est - and this is where the more profound dimension of the term "Mass" comes into play.  As we go on in this study, you can then see how it all fits together.

This lesson kind of introduced us to what we will be studying over the next several lessons, and as we delve deeper into Dr. Hahn's book more specific details will be discussed on these various aspects.  However, there are a couple of conclusions we need to draw from this lesson.  First, contrary to what some of our Fundamentalist brethren may accuse those of us who are Catholic Christians, the Mass is actually very Bible-based, as well over 95% of its read/recited content comes right from the pages of Holy Scripture itself.  If one took the effort to do so, the whole Mass could be referenced with Scriptural citations.  Second, the words Mass/Eucharist/Liturgy are often used interchangeably, and in some contexts this is permissable.  However, it must be also kept in mind that the Eucharist is the central focus of the Mass or Liturgy, and as such it has a unique place of recognition.  Third, ancient Hebraic practices are precursors to the Mass, but even those may be an icon of the worship that takes place in the heavenly throne-room of God - I am of the conviction that much of what we do in our worship mirrors the Kingdom in many aspects, and perhaps God illumined the prophets of old regarding Temple worship as a way of revealing a glimpse of His kingdom to us, and the Church carried on that in its liturgical traditions.  As we advance in this study, more of this will come together for us as we come to appreciate the richness of our worship as a Church.  God be with you until next time. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Lord's Prayer Part 11 - "Amen"

We have now come to the end of our official study on the Lord's Prayer, based on the great Roman Catholic theologian Romano Guardini's 1932 text, and what I am going to do for this last study is talk about the word "Amen" and then summarize what was discussed over the past several lessons.  Although the official study is finished, please continue to meditate on this great collection of petitions that Jesus Himself gave us as a pattern for our own prayer life, and utilize the wisdom of the prayer as you walk in your daily pilgrimage of life.

To start today, I want us to revisit what Guardini calls the "gateway" petition of the whole Lord's Prayer - "Thy will be done."  There are several things that this particular petition does.  First, it joins us in concern with the will of the Father.  Second, it is the heart of the whole prayer in that it joins the Christian in union with the Father in heaven via submission to God's will. This is very important, because the whole key to our own salvation of course is Jesus Christ and His atoning death for our sins on the Cross, and the ultimate will of the Father is that in His love we might be restored to the fulness of being in which He created us.  However, due to the free will factor, it is something we must desire as well, which is why it is important that the sovereign will of God is something that we desire to follow, and we must do so willingly.   Understanding the Lord's Prayer in that light helps make sense of the other petitions contained within it.

The first petitions of the Lord's Prayer, you will recall, do several things.  First, they initiate us into the mystery of the name of God.   Secondly, they initiate us into the mystery of His kingdom.  And third, they initiate us into the mystery of His divine will and its significance in heaven and on this earth.  Like the Ten Commandments, several Pauline epistles in Scripture, and other pillars of our faith, they embody the first of two components - how we relate to and serve God.

The remaining petitions of the Lord's Prayer remind us of the fact we need God in our everyday lives too.  They can only be integrated though into our lives in lieu of the first three or four petitions though, as they reflect the simplicity of the child of God who draws life from the first mysteries and only by acknowledging and understanding the first can we live the second.  Remember what Jesus told us?   In our Anglican liturgy, we recite it during our Masses as what is called the "Summary of the Law," and here is what that says from the Book of Common Prayer:

"Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith.  Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the Law and Prophets."

For some of my Evangelical brethren reading this who may not be as familiar with Anglican liturgy, you will recognize this right out of Scripture.  Remember Jesus, when He was being harassed by the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 22:37-40, and that He used that to answer the "zinger" one of them threw at Him in verse 36 about what the greatest commandment was.  It is indeed something that the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and even the theme of Scripture hangs upon - the book of Ephesians, for instance, deals a lot with these two themes, which I have identified as 1) how we relate to God, and 2) how we relate to one another.  With that in mind, the idea conveyed is this - submission to God's will is transformative, and will be reflected in how we interact on a daily basis with others.  Hence, the "glue" that holds these two commandments on which all the Law and Prophets (as well as Apostolic teaching) hang is the sovereign will of God, simple as that.

Now that we have summarized the Lord's Prayer by seeing that it is the will of God, and our willful submission to it, which makes the petitions of the prayer possible, I want to now discuss the closing lines of the Lord's Prayer.  Many Anglicans, Protestants, and even some post-Vatican II Roman Catholics may think it somewhat perplexing that Guardini leaves out the common close of the prayer which we know as the words "for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, amen."   The "Amen" is what Guardini, in traditional Roman Catholic fashion prior to Vatican II, focuses on, and I want to discuss that a bit to help people understand why he does what he does.  In reading what Fr. William Saunders wrote about this, the whole closing phrase is a traditional doxology that was not included in the original Scriptural rendering of the Lord's Prayer we find in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.  The doxology was a Hebraic practice that was utilized at the conclusion of a prayer in order to bring the focus back to worship of the one true God.  It was originally part of the Lord's Prayer in early liturgies, although it was later omitted due to focus on the Christological focus of the Eucharist, prior to which the Lord's Prayer was said before partaking.  It appears too, according to Fr. Saunders, that the doxology may have been reintroduced during the reign of Elizabeth I as part of the traditional Anglican liturgy, which is why traditional Anglicans say it (Fr. William Saunders, "Who Added the Doxology?" at http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/DOXOLOG.HTM - accessed 6/26/2015).   Personally, I don't think it does any harm omitting or adding it, as the focus of the prayer and its powerful message are not affected regardless, but it will explain why Guardini doesn't lend any discussion to it in his text.  Rather, Guardini focuses on the "Amen," which as we know means from the Hebrew tongue either "So be it" or "Let it be."  The "Amen" is to remind us, Guardini notes, that the right prayer (meaning a prayer said in the right spirit) is also an action, be it interior or exterior.  And, as an action, it demands a genuine transformation within the whole person must take place.  The heart yearns and tends toward God, but there must be a stoutness of character to avoid the temptation to shirk our responsibility to respond to that calling of God to Himself.  And, it is to be a consistent attitude, rather than a passive feeling of the "warm fuzzies," and therefore requires a solid frame of mind that also finds expression of this attitude in everyday action.  Therefore, our "amen" to the petitions of the Lord's Prayer sort of acts like the signature on a contract, and focuses us back on the kingdom, which we will now discuss.

The kingdom of heaven is not something that just falls out of the blue at us, and it doesn't evolve from the nature of man, as some modern liberal theologians like Jurgen Moltmann seem to mistakenly think.  The kingdom comes from God Himself, and is also in a continual state of coming - the kingdom, to use a cliche, is "now but not yet," in other words.  The most visible demonstration of this is in the reception of the Holy Eucharist, which we will get into next study.  And, although the kingdom of heaven is in a "continual state of coming," it must be seized by us and drawn to us.  It demands that we risk making a commitment, which unfortunately much in our own human nature due to concupiscence (we talked about that before - the propensity to sin which we inherently received as a race at the Fall), and it means that we must keep the "passions" (see our last study) in check if the kingdom is to have scope within us.  And, that leads to an interesting insight Guardini talked about in his text that I never thought of before, but it makes a lot of sense.

If we look in Matthew 11:12, we are told that the kingdom of heaven suffers violence from opposing forces on earth, and that the "violent" take the kingdom by force?  What does that mean?   If we go to Ephesians 6, we have a clue - it is a form of spiritual warfare that we must fight on a daily basis against the self, as well as against Satan and his minions.  We are also told to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3, NKJV), and regarding Satan, we are to "resist the devil" by "submitting to God" and the devil himself will flee from us (James 4:7, NKJV).  It is a struggle to live for God, as many things come against us to derail us from what God wants us to be, and Scripture from Jesus' own words even to Revelation itself constantly reminds us of that struggle we have.  We cannot therefore afford to be timid, and must break through ourselves via submission to God's will and our own self-discipline to follow His will at any cost.  The "amen" signifies that determination to break through, and it is our pledge to commit to follow what we confess with our mouths.

In case you haven't gotten the idea yet, it is apparent that the whole of the "Our Father" revolves around the kingdom of God.  It expresses the hope of its coming ("not yet," anagogical/eschatological) and the consciousness of its nearness ("now," practical).  When we say "Amen," therefore, we say in effect "I want the kingdom to come!"  And, this is what Jesus came to tell us, as is marked by the beginning of His earthly ministry when His first recorded words in the Gospels were "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!" (Mark 1:15, NKJV)   Repentance, therefore, is a prerequisite for entry into the kingdom, and the Cross is the sole means of that repentance.  So, how then does the kingdom come (or not) to us?

First, the kingdom doesn't just fall out of the sky into our laps, but rather calls to us as the heart of the Gospel message.  We are compelled to believe this message, but in order to do so, it requires a change - we are to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, repent of our sins and allow His shed blood to cleanse them, and then we must bow our own will beneath His.  The latter part is an easy thing to say but not so easy to do, as our free will can make us stubborn, shutting itself up to the invitation of God to receive His salvation.  Also, our "passions" are resolute and cling to us, with our inner nature being fastened to those old ways by many roots.  Do you remember what the Apostle Saint Paul said we had to do also?   In Colossians 3:9 we are told to "put off the old man with his deeds," which also hearkens back to something said earlier in another epistles when we are reminded that "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41, NKJV).  The concupiscence we all have is something that we must constantly contend with in this life, for although we may desire to follow Christ and His commands, and submit to His will, we also have base desires that seek gratification - this is "the flesh" it talks about in Scripture so much.  Many of those base desires are not in our best interest, and indeed they can imperil our very souls if we indulge them.  This is another reason why submission to the will of God is vital to our faith, because only with God in control of our lives can be subdue those propensities and keep them in check.  And, the simple word "Amen" has a bigger role than we realize in that, because that little four-letter word draws a line for us to our endless questioning and wavering, and it sets the necessary boundaries to make us take our commitment to God seriously, even at all costs.  Therefore, the "Amen" does some things for us.

First, it changes the instability of creature into fidelity to God.  Secondly, it brings our flight from God in sin to a standstill.  However, due to our limited nature on this earth, this is a commitment we must continually renew, and on a daily basis.  We renew that commitment by studying God's word, talking to Him in prayer (using the Lord's Prayer either directly or as a model), and regular fellowship with our brethren in the Church via the sacramental bond of the Lord's table (the Eucharist).  And, every "Amen" lies valueless unless God Himself pronounces it - what on earth does that mean???  It means that God honors our contract to Him when we pray it with the right attitude of heart and in a contrite and humble spirit which desires to submit to His will and overcome the stubbornness of our own limited flesh.  And, finally, the "Amen" expresses God's determination to see His kingdom realized in us as His servants but ultimately on this earth literally when Jesus returns.  And, as Guardini notes on page 101 of his text, the "Amen" itself turns into its own petition - a petition which declares "Lord, do Thou say Amen!"   What this all means in more basic terms is this - if we approach God honestly and humbly, and willingly accept that "His will be done" as a desire of our own, God will pronounce the "Be it so!" upon us and He will see our faithfulness.  It is not a big mystery either, nor does it require any special ritual - Jesus already did all that upon Calvary, and God pronounced the "Amen" on that as well when Jesus utttered the last words on the Cross, "IT IS FINISHED!"   And, for us, when we submit to God's will and commit ourselves to follow Christ, it is indeed a finished work for us that we can, provided we keep the commitment ourselves, have solid hope.  God bless you all until next time.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Lord's Prayer Part 10 - "But Deliver Us From Evil"

In this part of the study, we come to the last petition of the Lord's Prayer - "Deliver us from evil."  It is first important to examine what is meant by this petition in its literal sense, as it can be translated a couple of different ways.  Some Scripture translations have it as "deliver us from the evil one," meaning the wiles of Satan, but Guardini uses the Duay-Rheims translation, which like the KJV translates it as we are accustomed - "Deliver us from evil."  Either way, honestly, is fine, and no theological conflict of interest will ensue from either, as both have orthodox support.  So, Guardini in his text begins by raising some important questions about this passage.

The first, and most important question to ask is this - what is the evil from which we should ask to be delivered?  There are, of course, many to choose from, and generally these evils tend to come to us and we don't really have to make a lot of effort finding them (nor should we, if truth be told!).  However, the important emphasis of the text is not from what we should be delivered from, but rather who the petition is directed to, and it is addressed to Divine Providence Himself.  On page 86, Guardini makes an important observation when he notes that Providence becomes only what it really signifies based on the measure we enter into agreement with God in concern for the kingdom.   So, what on earth does that mean??  It follows the theme of the book as Guardini has written from the start - God's will is sovereign, as we noted in Lesson 1, but it also can be weakened by man's resistance to it.  God doesn't, in other words, force us to submit to His will, but rather we make a conscious choice, based on the free will He gave us, to submit ourselves to that will.  Therefore, our willingness to submit to God's will for our lives is measurable in the commitment we make to do so, and that is the measure of Providence we will see manifested.  Like everything else we pray in the Lord's Prayer, any petition therefore that God preserves us from evil come within the framework of Divine Providence.  If we do choose to enter into that fullest measure of agreement with God in concern for the Kingdom ("Thy will be done," in other words), it has a transformational effect on the world around us - in other words, as God's will is good, and for our good, all comes together for good for those who love and serve the Lord in fulness of being (Note Romans 8:28).

That all being said, it is important to see the even and consistent flow of the Lord's Prayer as studied from this point.   Deliverance from evil is linked closely to the petition that asks God for forgiveness of sin.  Evil is an effect of sin, and if Newton's Law is applied, it would look like this - an evil action will produce an evil reaction.   Guardini, on page 87 of his text, goes into an example of how, if he feels an animosity toward his neighbor, it colors the way he perceives his neighbor - the "good" is filtered out and the evil is concentrated.  As a result, a hermeneutic of suspicion is applied to the offending neighbor's communication to the point that if the feeling becomes manifest in action, and if the neighbor is not anchored in righteousness from God himself, then the attitude he displays toward the neighbor will be reciprocated by the neighbor and adopted and focused back at him.  In short, evil begats evil.  If we have this attitude as a part and parcel of our personality too, other things happen to us as well - stirring speech remains lifeless to the hearer, the intended thrill of a situation leaves the respondent cold, the joyful and generous is discouraged, and the exalted becomes trivial - all of this arises from a condition of the heart.  The Church Fathers addressed this as well extensively in many of their writings, and we now will turn the focus to them.

In the writings of the Church Fathers, in particular the Eastern Fathers, there is a lot of discussion devoted to dealing with "the Passions," and as Guardini notes, these "Passions" rage within and make one restless.  But, what are these "Passions?"   St, Gregory of Sinai, in his discourse entitled On Commandments and Doctrines, deals at length with the "Passions" and what they are, and so far his discussion is one of the most extensive I have come across, so we will try to summarize what he says here.  For one thing, passions are provoked by sinful acts, and the logical order of how this works is this - concupiscence is the nature within us which engenders a propensity toward sin, and by giving into temptation that is often aggravated by Satan to cause us to sin, the concupiscent drive to sin, if heeded, becomes manifest by a sinful act.  The sinful act, in turn, gives us a hunger to engage in it that the Fathers call a passion.  The passion then engenders in us an addiction to engage in the sinful act, and our normal thought processes are distracted by this addiction to the point it dominates our lives and endangers our soul.  Satan's primary way of doing this is through the lusts of the flesh, which are sensory-based - pleasures that we enjoy become idolatrous vices when indulged in excess, and hence we are driven to more sinful behavior to satisfy that appetite.  As St. Gregory notes, these distractive (and ultimately destructive) thoughts are the work of demons, and they are precursors to the passions.  So, demonic provocation (appealing to those base desires that are part of our concupiscent nature) begets the evil thoughts which, when given into and acted upon, become sinful actions (Palmer, Sherrard, and Ware, ed,  The Philokalia Vol. IV {London:  Faber and Faber, 1995}  pp.  223-227).  Guardini picks up on this further in his text, as he notes that the exasperations of everyday life aggravate these temptations, and that the ultimate effect of these passions is the devaluation of the self and other people, and the destruction of order in thought and feeling (distractive thoughts?) which results in confusion.  Evil does assault us from all sides, but its greatest battleground is within the mind itself.  Protestant Charismatic author Joyce Meyer, in her book Battlefield of the Mind (Tulsa:  Harrison House, 1995) notes that our reasoning is often used by Satan to steal the will of God from us, and the way that happens is that God may direct us to do a certain thing, but it doesn't make sense to our "rational" way of thinking, so we tend to reject it.  Some of what God leads us to do doesn't always conform to the logic of the human mind, in other words (Meyer, pp. 86-87).  Again, this is concurrent with what Guardini says in his text about allowing externals - even human rationalism - to destroy the divine order of thought and feeling, and this results in a confusion.   The antidote to this is found in Ephesians 6:17, in part of the classic "Armor of God" passage - the helmet of salvation.  If you have read my own book on Ephesians, you will note that one of the things I compare the human person to is a temple, and the mind is its outer court - everything we perceive in the senses is processed through our mind, in other words.  That is why, in submitting to God's will, we have a sort of filter that protects our heart and soul from those things our mind comes in contact with, and therefore that filter is what God's "Helmet of Salvation" is.  We have to guard ourselves, in other words, against those things which, either by just human influence or the manipulations of Satan and his demons, could potentially cause us to sin by appealing to certain things that should not be appealed to.  And, this is why our perception is also important, which we will now discuss more in detail.

On pages 88-89 of his text, Guardini spends a lot of time dealing with the term "world" and what it entails.  It is important that we understand first that this world exists for and by man, and as such it has two centers.  First in externals, things.  Secondly, in man himself.  Through the eyes of man the world is perceived.  Through the will of man the world is encountered.  Finally, through the heart of man the world is felt.  As man therefore relates to other human persons, as well as to things he encounters, so the "world" becomes.  Man forms the world in conformity with his own specific being - this is called one's world view.  Therefore, if there is evil in man, so likewise that evil in man will be reflected in the world around him.  Outside of our individual beings, there are real things, and interaction of course exists between us and these things.  With that in mind, the true significance of the term "world" lies in the vital interplay of thing and person that arises from this interaction.  The resulting effect, therefore, of this interaction will be determined by what man permits, decides or influences.   God made it this way, but with a different dimension - the world He intended for us comes into being only in conjunction with us.  Through the Revelation of Himself, God has called man to perfect Nature in this encounter.  This goes back to basic Thomistic metaphysics - God authored two "Books" (Nature and Revelation) and the second perfects the first.  In order for this to happen as God intended though, the outcome of this encounter is determined therefore by what man himself is - the good in man becomes the good in the world, and likewise the evil.

That brings us back to this petiton - we are in essence praying to be delivered from the evil within ourselves, so that it may not become manifested evil in the world!  Therefore, the petition challenges us that we may be taught to understand that evil comes from evil within.  We also desire to be taught that the world can continually renew itself, with the good within us producing good outside us.  To put this in a theological framework, the transformation Christ does in us should show as our witness to the world around us, and if it does, our quality of life improves and impacts those around us because Christ is allowed to do His work in us, and the resulting effects are called in Scripture the "fruits of the Holy Spirit" we find listed in Galatians 5:22.  Also, the redeemed in Christ receive the seed of a new creation (note Revelation 21:1) and it is spoken into us by Christ Himself when we submit our wills to His perfect will ("Thy will be done").  And, much of this also has its power in words too, as we see next.

The pervasiveness of the spoken word is something that is inescapable.  Even after its sound fades, the spoken word enters into the consciousness of its hearers (this is even true in the parables of Jesus, of particular note the classic Parable of the Sower found in Matthew 13). It also shapes our Christian walk too, as Scripture reminds us that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the Word of God" (Romans 10:17, NKJV).  Therefore, when we hear the Word of God expounded on in our Masses and other liturgical services every week, and we allow it to be listened to, it becomes a part of our inherent reality.  Evil likewise has its origins in words spoken, either by ineptitude, negligence, or past evil deeds.  The wickedness of the heart can become a tangible reality in the world, as we are seeing increasingly in society today.  This wickedness then becomes distilled into evil, and emerges to confront others in the form of scandal ("false witness") hindrance, and oppressive atmosphere.   And, if allowed to grow and persist, it begets more evil, becoming a seemingly endless chain.  But, there is good news.

First though, what is true on a personal level is also true in the collective history of humanity - Darwinism, for instance, begat eugenics, which in term begat evils such as Nazism in the early part of the 20th century.  Therefore when in this sense the petition "deliver us from evil" is prayed, it means breaking the chain by which evil continually arises out of wickednesss, and therefore preventing the propagation of new evils.  Again though, this breaking of the "continual chain of evil" only comes when the individual human heart submits itself to God, undertaking the task that His will be done.  So, surrendering our will to God's will breaks the bondage of evil.  Furthermore, although this evil is real and does exist, blind fate does not compell us to become entangled in its destructive cycle.  Redemption can be realized, and that is why Christ came to earth and died for our sins!  Through the redemptive shed Blood of Jesus Christ, the freedom of the children of God is awakened in man.   And, as a result, it penetrates as an emanating power the chain of universal evil and breaks it.  St. Paul, like the many Fathers of the Church that came after him, affirms that evil comes from sin, and the greatest of all sins that Guardini identifies is the breaking away of man from living union with the will of God.  And, this is a sin that finds its way into every heart, and it continues to operate every time we do sin.  And, that is the reason why we seek, on a daily basis, the grace of God through Christ to sustain us - Jesus is our Daily Bread, the Bread of Life, and we receive Him at every Eucharist we partake of.  This is why our prayer life and faith must be living and active, and not just mere lip-service.

Ultimately then, because we all have this concupiscence to sin, and are vulnerable not only to the passions that are birthed by allowing that sin to manifest in action, but also to Satan and his demonic minions enticing us with things that appeal to those passions externally, our plea for deliverance from evil also becomes an intercessory prayer on behalf of humanity, as a petition for deliverance from evil in its totality.  That of course will not be fully realized until Christ returns and restores the universe and heals it from the effects of the Fall, but as Christians our daily lives are a pilgrimage of faith in that direction on a personal level.  And, deliverance from evil doesn't refer to secular time - rather, it truly is eschatological, something that pervades the spirit of the whole petition.  Therefore, although we are to pray for this daily, the fulness of salvation will only be realized with Christ comes back as one of three interventions, the first being the Creation itself, the second the Redemption.  So, the plea "Maranatha!" (Revelation 22:20) is tied to this petition in a really profound way.  And, like most prayers, it refers to now as well as hope for the future.  God bless you until next time.