Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Mystery of Suffering

The problem of suffering is a mystery. Logically speaking, suffering seems to be incomprehensible in human terms. However, Christian witness draws on Biblical and tradition experience, particularly the life of Christ, to affirm the ultimate victory of God’s love in spite of evil. God never causes evil, but only permits it, whether it comes in the form of natural disaster or through the actions of people who wish to inflict harm on others. God has built laws into nature and freedom into people, and God respects that freedom. Often we may be tempted to ask “Why didn’t God stop that person from sinning, from hurting others?” If God did such a thing, we would all live a “programmed” robots. God gave us free will so that we could choose to love and do good. Evil is the misuse of this gift. On the other hand, even when evil is pervasive, God’s patient providence permits it only within limits, always seeking the ultimate salvation of his children who are open to his invitation of love. Christ said of the last days “If God did not shorten these days, no one would be saved”. Refer also to Job whose suffering, although great, was limited by God’s mercy. We are assured that, even when evil comes our way, God will not permit a trial greater than what we can withstand. Even when evil or suffering comes our way, God draws good out of it. Oftentimes when there is a tragedy in a community or a crisis in a family, we see people come together to support, to care for, to reach out to others in a way previously not thought possible. This is God’s grace prompting people to choose good over evil, life over death, giving over taking. The death and Resurrection of Christ is our great example of how God draws good from evil. By his death, Christ redeemed us, and by his Resurrection, he was glorified. Tragedy can help us clearly understand what is of greatest value in life: love. We put love in action by caring for people, and by responding in love to God’s love. Suffering is not a punishment from God. Our God is rich in mercy! He loves us and longs for us. He even suffers when we suffer because we are his children. We must always remind ourselves of this. It is true that our sinful actions have consequences that make us suffer, but we can’t regard these consequences as being willed by God. The father of the prodigal son knew that his son would suffer if he left home, even when the son would attempt to fulfil himself with external pleasures. His father still let him go out of respect for his freedom. The suffering of the son - his hunger - was a result of his action. Yet this father was also suffering, longing to see his son, and always on the lookout for him. And when he saw his son, the old man ran to receive him, embraced him and celebrated his return! God, our loving father, runs to meet us like the father of the prodigal son, even when we are still tainted with sin. Seen from another angel, suffering and trials can be considered eye-opening experiences and opportunities for us to purify our hearts, grow in wisdom, and realize how vulnerable we can be and how much we need our Father. If the prodigal son did not suffer, he would not have probably realised the need to return home, and he would be lost! Now let’s put together the above points: God never causes evil. Even when evil is pervasive, God’s providence permits it only within limits, always seeking our ultimate salvation. Even when evil or suffering comes our way, God can and does draw good out of it. Suffering is not a punishment from God. Our God loves us - He even suffers when we suffer because we are his children. Suffering can be an opportunity for us to purify our hearts and realise our need for God our Father. How love endures in sufferingLove itself involves suffering in this imperfect world. Growth and maturity, whether physically or spiritually, involve suffering and sacrifice. God’s grace prompts us to open ourselves to his love. As we grow in love towards the ‘other,’ we experience a longing to the beloved and this involves suffering. As we grow in love, we sacrifice of what we have for the good of the beloved, and this involves suffering. The more I love, the more I trust and become unselfish, and the more I die to myself in order to give more space for the beloved. We see this love perfectly in the life, suffering and death of Jesus Christ. His life was full of love. This is why he endured a lot of suffering and rejection and still accepted it. He went around healing people - even the enemies and the wrongdoers. He was misunderstood by his own disciples but he chose to love them further. He even called Judas, who betrayed him, a “friend”! Yet, he was rejected: his miracle that cured the lepers was not acknowledged, his listeners - amazed at his wisdom - still questioned his authority, his disciples whom he chose were more interested in their seats in the kingdom rather than in his mission. His healing of people was not always welcome as when they wanted to throw him off the cliff. He suffered humiliation by Pilate, and was considered a criminal by the Jewish authorities who conspired against him to put him to death. He was even mocked by the Roman soldiers and tempted by the Devil. At the end even his supporters fled away. Despite all his suffering culminating on the cross, he still loved his people and asked his Father to forgive them! Jesus’ love for his Father is yet another eloquent example of love that endures suffering for the sake of the beloved. Jesus’ long dialogue with his Father expresses his love and trust of his Father to the point of death and beyond death. He is alone in prayer and all his friends are already asleep! But here, in the depth of his loneliness, he utters the word “not my will, but your will.” We hear Jesus to the last moment, even in his agony and anguish on the cross, calling upon his Father and talking to his Father with complete trust. In the end, he says “In your hands, I lay down my soul.” This is Christ’s redemptive love. His love does not allow him, on this earth, but to suffer, and his suffering redeems man. How do we share in the redemptive suffering of Christ? St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is the Church.” Pope John Paul II commented on it: Just what is the discovery that Paul has made? And from where does his joy come? The Passion is complete, infinite in its satisfactory power, for with the Lord there is plenteous redemption. So neither Paul nor anyone else could add to that. The secret of Paul’s joy is that he now understands the salvific power of his own suffering. The cross has a meaning. He knows that Christ suffered in order to establish the reign of God. He knows, too, that Christ in His incarnate divine Person has in some way united Himself to every man. Therefore, would not every man be offered the possibility of becoming a “partner” in the Paschal Mystery? Would it not follow that the sufferings in his own flesh would serve to help bring “completeness” to Christ’s Passion by “conveying” the salvific power of the Redeemer’s suffering to that little Christian community there at Colossae? In this way he would more fully become Christ’s felllow-worker for the Kingdom. So Paul rejoices in this discovery and shares it with others so that they, too, will come to understand the salvific meaning of suffering. Accordingly, through their suffering Christians can become “collaborators” in the divine plan of Redemption and thus help to bring “completeness” to the sufferings of Christ. At one level, when we see our beloved suffer, we suffer with them. We are in solidarity with them. And that brings us closer to each other with more consolation and bonding. At a deeper level, responding to our own suffering without bitterness helps not only our inner healing but also makes us partners in the redemptive act of Christ that brings out the resurrection from death. At a deep level, we were all partners in solidarity with Adam in the original sin of disobedience. We become partners in solidarity with Christ in his act of obedience and self-emptying love. For example, those that are terminally ill, can be partners in the redemption of people if they choose to find the meaning of their suffering and death and accept it with the same spirit of trust that Christ gave. Not only they reflect and convey their radiant peace to their relatives and friends, but they also conquer that fear of absurdity with their trust in the loving God. The mystery of suffering of the innocent begs many questions. However, in Job we find that even though God does not give an intellectual answer, he justifies Job and blesses him multiple times after his sufferings. The Taizé Community comments in one of its articles on the website: The last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, shows in chapter 6, a great vision of human history seen in terms of a book sealed with seven seals. The first four seals depict humankind left to itself—a downward movement heading inexorably towards death. With the fifth seal we enter into the opposite movement, that of God’s coming to save. And it begins with the cry of "the souls of all the people who had been killed…" (Revelation 6:9-11). We should not limit this group to Christian martyrs; it evokes rather "the blood of every innocent person that has been shed on earth, from the blood of Abel the just" (Matthew 23:35; see Revelation 18:24). In God, the blood of the innocent receives an effective power that counteracts the destructive effects of violence. Their apparent defeat inaugurates a movement of liberation that culminates in the cross of Christ. This is what is shown in the opening of the next seal, which leads to "the great Day of the wrath of the Lamb" (Revelation 6:17). In the Bible, God’s "wrath" or "anger" is a technical term that describes the divine response to sin in order to restore justice that has been flouted. Here, it refers to the act by which Jesus takes all human sinfulness upon himself by undergoing its consequences to the very end, in his own body (see 1 Peter 2:21-24). By giving his life to the end, then, Jesus shares the fate of all the innocent victims of inhumanity and in this way ensures that their torment has not been in vain. He carries their suffering within his own relationship with the One he calls Abba and, since the Father always hears him (see John 11:42), we have the guarantee that this suffering is not wasted. It brings about the disappearance of the old world order marked by injustice, and the appearance of "new heavens and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13). This is the definitive response, because it is a lived one, to Job. Far from tolerating even for a single moment the suffering of the innocent, in his beloved Son, God drinks to the dregs that bitter cup with them and, in so doing, transforms it into a cup of blessing for all.

Premarital Sex

What is true love based on? It is based on human dignity. And our dignity stems from 2 facts: God created every creature out of love. We are the fruit of his love. God made humans even in his image and likeness..The basis of our dignity is that image which made us surpass all other creatures. He made us in his image because he wants to dwell with us. In the Christian faith, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. God walked among us because he wants us with him. He visited us to restore us (his creation) to our original image of creation so we can return to him and return his love with free love... As much as God loves us and wants to build a relationship with every one of us, he calls us to protect the dignity of each other not slander it. And what is the deepest love and relationship on earth? It is that between man and woman It is therefore fitting that man protects the dignity of his beloved (and the woman hers) In the Song of Songs, Solomon calls his beloved one his sister - he will protect her honor and dignity as a man does for his sister! His beloved is much more than an object of desire to him. Let us now look at our "free-world" society. The laws proclaim that man is free to do what he wants andthe media promotes ideas of free relationships. You are free to do what you feel like, but in fact you are used as an object to promote their products! You call that free? Yes - free to abolish the respect for the other's body- you are engaging with her for your own interests at the expense of her body. This is the body that the Apostle says is not ours but is God's- this is the body that Christ bought at a high price. This is the body that the Holy Spirit uses for his indwelling in us. It is his temple. The solution to premarital sex is to consider what God does (he loves) and gives (dignity). In this deepest of all relationships, do not go the cheap way but consider that the woman you love is your equal and equally blessed by God's love who gave her dignity as a child. Abstain from sex that makes her an object of your desire, and wait until you marry to express that love as an eternal gift of self never ending and exclusive to her and fruitful as God's creation of us was so fruitful. The fruit is yet another dignity called a child. And in fact the family you build will resemble the family of God (man and woman beget a fruit of their love that is full of life and not only passing emotion) From a strictly social perspective, the couple that claim they are in love have to find other ways of expressing their love to each other as there will be times where it will not be possible to express it through sex. So if you accept pre marital sex without commitment, then if, for any reason, the relationship breaks and you go into a new one, you will be inclined to do the same with your new partner. Where is true love then, the first, second, or even third partner... no limits to the number of times you can engage in pre-marital sex. It loses its meaning and the values it is supposed to represent... The only solution to premarital love is to make it a life-time commitment, exclusively to each other, and a fruitful relationship that it reinvigorates and brings to life this love with offspring. This is called Christian marriage! ** Additional material 1. Biblical data: Mt: 15:19, Mk 7:21, Acts 15:20, 29, 21:25, 1 Cor 6:13, 18, Gal 5:19, Eph 5:3, Col 3:5, 1 Thes 4:3, Rev 2:14, 20-21, 9:21 2. Janet Smith's study shows the current social and cultural impact on young people to participate in premarital sex and suggests ways to avoid it: 3. See also:

The Incarnation

We spoke earlier about why we believe in the God of Christianity. We learned that our faith teaches us about a God who is so close to his creation. He created out of love. And by his love he sustains creation in existence. Modern cosmology suggests that creation started with a "Big Bang" according to the theory. The cosmos came out of nothing. And we can still detect today the echo of the first moments of the "Big Bang" (through the cosmic microwave background radiation). Modern science supports our faith that God created all out of nothing. And our faith says that God not only created everything out of nothing, and out of love, but also that he himself is LOVE. Eternal love. Our one God the Trinity is love. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father and the Holy Spirit is the bonding love between the Father and the Son. Since God is love, he created us out of love, and is full of love towards us. He took the initiative to save us from our sins and to get us fulfilled in him by his outpouring grace. He entered history to save us. The incarnation of Christ is the event in which God becomes one of us "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" The incarnation is not only the work of Christ, the Son. In the annunciation, the archangel Gabriel tells Mary that "the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." We see how the Holy Trinity is involved in the incarnation. It is a marvellous event for humanity. The incarnation starting with Mary's pregnancy is the beginning of God being one of us and enduring our human resistance to him to the point of death- a death in which he frees us from sin and selfish disobedience. Christ's resurrection into glorified life is the result of his enduring love to no end. But note that God does not save us in spite of ourselves. He does not force us to live in his presence. He is almighty and all-powerful, yet he chooses in love to give us the freedom to respond to his invitation freely. And the human person who responded perfectly to his invitation is the Virgin Mary. This is why she was chosen to be the mother of his Son. Mary said to the Archangel "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord." Her response to the invitation is echoed again at the wedding in Cana. "Do whatever he tells you," she advises the servants. In the incarnation God invites humanity to share in his kingdom and a beautiful response is given by Mary. Mary is therefore the second Eve who through her obedience, the result of disobedience of the first Eve was annulled. Mary is the mother and the archetype of the church, which is the seed of the kingdom of God. May the Lord grant us his peace through Mary's prayer.

How to read and interpret the Bible

So how do we interpret the Bible?
 First, the teaching of the Church: The Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 112-114).

Be especially attentive to the content and unity of the whole Scripture (this means that the interpretation of one part must be in accord with the rest of the Bible whose centre and goal is Jesus Christ).

Read the Scripture within the living Tradition of the whole Church (the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture).

Be attentive to the analogy of faith ( i.e. the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves within the whole plan of Revelation) In Scripture God speaks in a human way.

To interpret Scripture correctly the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words. To discover the authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres (narrative, poetry, prophetic, history and so on), and the modes of speaking and narrating at that time. (Cf. CCC 109,110).

Interpreting Scripture “is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God” (Cf. CCC 119). 

More about interpretation in general
Interpretation is usually the task of Biblical scholars familiar with the history, context and language of Scripture as well as the Tradition of the Church. The Pontifical Biblical Commission made up of leading Biblical scholars who are appointed by the Pope is consulted on new issues of Biblical interpretation.

However, the final judgment is exercised by the Pope and other bishops of the Catholic Church. Published works approved usually carry an official declaration by the bishop (called “imprimatur” in Latin) that the publication is free of doctrinal error.

Good Resources You can tap into: Here is an excellent online introduction to a library of Scripture study resources by a well known scholar, Dr. Scott Hahn: Here is an actual Bible study case (6 courses of Bible including some 30 lessons).

More on how to read the Bible? 
As I have indicated, it is important that you do not stop at the text you read, but get also a good idea of the background of the text: when it was written, why it was written, to whom it was written, and the context in which it was written. One way to help you choose which references to use is the “imprimatur” indicated above at the beginning of the book. Another good rule is that the book conforms in its content to the Creed which we recite in Mass every Sunday. For example, an interpretation that denies the divinity of Christ is not a Catholic interpretation. Much of today’s free interpretation by Fundamentalists is based on a literalist (not literal) reading and interpretation of the Biblical text. For example, Revelation of John is often used out of context to give prophecies for the end of the world. The Catholic Church does not agree with a simple literalist approach, but takes into consideration insights afforded by modern Biblical scholarship and supported by the Fathers and great exegetes or interpreters (such as St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and Origen.) Another literalist interpretation is the idea that God created the world in literally six days. Since the Sun is created in the fourth day, the “day” in Genesis cannot refer to our solar 24-hour day based on the Sun! In spite of scientific evidence that the age of the universe is 14 billion years, some Fundamentalists still insist that the Biblical days are 6 solar days.

The example of Genesis 1
Now to really understand the story of creation it is important that we understand its background and context. It is not a myth. On the contrary it is a response of God’s prophets to the Babylonian myth of creation. And it reveals a powerful truth. It uses narratives familiar to the writers at that time but is quite unique to Israel: The Jews after being captured by the Babylonians had lost hope in their God whom they had worshiped in Jerusalem and now feel abandoned (does this remind us of the feelings of the disciples after Christ’s death and prior to his Resurrection?). Surrounded now by Babylonian culture, the creation myth of Babylon crept in. The myth is a struggle of the gods (of Babylon) out of which the world is made. Here is the beauty of Genesis: it reassures the Jewish people that their God Yahweh is the only God. He is the one who creates the universe out of nothing. He is the one who makes humans in his image, not out of the blood of a dead god as in the creation myth of Babylon. In the Hebrew Bible there is at once the supreme power and goodness of God who creates a good world and the dignity of man! (Does this remind us of the feelings of the disciples after Christ’s death and prior to his Resurrection…Feeling of betrayal? – but wait…Christ’s Resurrection (life out of death – a new creation) is God’s response to the disappointed disciples! Christ is risen and by his Resurrection he brings creation to the fullness of life!) Now you may understand a bit of the background of Genesis 1. Read the text again in a new light.

Thomas' Doubt Leads to Faith

[On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."] (John 20: 19-23) This Gospel tells us that the 11 were afraid hiding from the Jews, locked in their fear and not only in that place! The leader is dead, he who was supposed to lead them into the new kingdom. No more more saviour from the Romans occupying their land! There is only pain now. And then, Jesus came and stood in their midst with his pronouncement of peace. Look at this: this is the peace that he had promised them. It makes them full of joy. Moreover, he is sending them as the Father sent him. The meaning of Apostle is “sent” to the world. He breathed on them like God breathed on Adam to give him life (Genesis 2). What life is Christ giving them: The Holy Spirit whom we know is “the Lord giver of life.” (the Nicene Creed) – This is a new life from God. The Resurrection transforms our life into a new life. We will no longer be mortals in our sins, but have the chance of eternal life if we receive the forgiveness of sins that Christ is giving through his Church in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or confession. [Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"] (John 20: 24-29) Two notes here:First Thomas wants to believe. He wants to see the wounds of Christ to believe. Experience of faith is not the absence of sorrow and pain but the bearing of pain in faith. From pain and the wounds emerges the faith “My Lord and My God” Second: When John wrote his Gospel in the 90’s, he was responding to the heresy of Docetism which claimed that Christ did not really share our humanity but only appeared as a human. Johnis telling us that Christ truly suffered and died as a human. Thomas’ declaration "My Lord and my God!" echoes the beginning of John’s Gospel “And the Word was God” In it Thomas proclaimed that Christ is God and John reminds us of this reality from the beginning to the end of his book. John is called The Theologian in the Eastern Church. And his book’s symbol is the eagle. Christ is risen. He is truly risen!

Sin and Redemption

Does man really need redemption? When Man sinned by trying to be “like God”, it was that he refused to recognize his own limits and wanted to stand on his own (i.e. become autonomous and self-sufficient), thus he delivered himself up to death. Evil has this character that it is not only a perverted use of what is inherently good, but is also self-destructive. On his own, man does understand that his life alone does not endure and that he must therefore strive to exist in others, so as to remain through them and in them in the land of the living. Man tries this by living in one’s own children: that is why in primitive peoples, failure to marry and childlessness are regarded as the most terrible curse; they mean hopeless destruction, final death. Another way discloses itself when man discovers that in his children he only continues to exist in a very unreal way; he wants more of himself to remain. So he takes refuge in the idea of fame, which should make him immortal if he lives on through all ages in the memory of others. But this second one of man’s attempts to give himself immortality fails just as badly as the first: what remains is not the self but only its echo, a mere shadow. So, self-made immortality is really only a hades, a “scheol”: more non-being than being. The inadequacy of both ways lies partly in the fact that even the other person to whom I have entrusted my continuance will not last - he too will perish. It is in vain that man attempts to give himself eternal life on his own. Eternal life requires God’s intervention to restore man. It requires His redemption. Incarnation — in which God assumes a human nature - is the necessary basis of redemption because this, in order to be efficacious, must include in the one redeemer both the humiliation and nature of man, without which there would be no human act of sacrifice, and the dignity of God, without which the satisfaction would not be adequate. "For an adequate satisfaction", says St. Thomas, "it is necessary that the act of him who satisfies should possess an infinite value and proceed from one who is both God and Man" Redemption in History Salvation history traces a pattern of God’s redemptive work. God chooses Abraham and blesses him with the promises of numerous progeny. Isaac, his miraculously-born son, is seen as prefiguring the redemption of Christ by his acceptance of his father’s will to be offered as a sacrifice. Again we see in Joseph, the providence of God that saves the Israelites in difficult times. Redemption is particularly seen in the deliverance of God’s people from the slavery of Egypt often described as a ransoming: “For remember that you too were once slaves in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God ransomed you” (Dt 15:15). This is an imagery since God does not pay a price for ransom. God has intervened also in might in the restoration of His people after the Exile (Is 29:22; 35:10; Jer 31:11). Prophets of the Exile looked forward to a restoration that would establish God’s messianic kingdom, including a fundamental conversion from sin, establishment of justice, peace among all people, and obedience to God (Jer 31: 31-34). In Isaiah, salvation is attributed to God’s activity (Is 9:6). The saviour would come from the house of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16). The conception of redemption shifts gradually from the earthly to the spiritual redemption from sin. A high point in Old Testament spirituality is reached in Psalm 50, a fervent and hopeful prayer for forgiveness by one who is convinced that God will not spurn a contrite and humble heart (Ps 50:19). It is written that God “will redeem Israel from all their iniquities” (Ps 129:8). Another high point is reached in the “Suffering Servant” of the Lord, in recognizing that the innocent victim suffered because the sins of all had been placed upon him (Is 52:13-53:12) “But he was pierced for our offences, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed” (53:5) In the New Testament, redemption is described as the deliverance, through the death and Resurrection of Christ, from the state of estrangement from God (Rom 4:25) that prevailed from the earliest days of human existence (Gen 3:1-11:19), ratified by each person by his own sins (Rom 3:23); this redemption includes all of creation for it “was made subject to vanity” because of human sin (Rom 8:20). The final stage to be realized at the general resurrection, will bring with it the end of all the ills that afflict human kind, but many of the messianic benefits are already enjoyed by the redeemed. However, the disciples themselves thought of Christ as an earthly redeemer - On the road to Emmaus after Christ’s crucifixion, we read their complaint “But we were hoping that it was he who should redeem Isreal” (Lk 24:21). Their mistaken notions were corrected by Jesus Himself (Lk 24:25-27). Although the total redemptive work of Jesus includes His incarnation, life, passion, death, and Resurrection, His death is the cause par excellence of redemption. His ministry was marked by miracles that signified the overthrow of the kingdom of Satan in order to make way for the kingdom of God. He referred to himself as Son of Man, found in Daniel’s prophecies as a transcendent divine being (Dn 7:13), and identified His mission with that of the Servant of the Lord (Isaiah). He came “not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). How then should the “ransom” be understood? Jesus dies in order to deliver “many” (a term that does not necessarily imply any restriction) from their states as sinners and ultimately death. However the image of a price of ransom cannot be pressed too far; man is held in bondage to sin through the activity of Satan, but it cannot be thought that the price (the life of Jesus) is delivered to Satan; he has no rights over God’s creatures. Jesus does die in obedience to the will of the Father and to offer Him a sacrifice on behalf of all, and in this sense His life might be said to be paid to God. All sacrifices of mankind to conciliate God by cult and ritual were bound to remain helpless human work, because God does not seek, nor does He need, bulls and goats but man! Man’s unqualified “yes” to God could alone form true worship. Everything belongs to God, but to man is given the freedom to say yes or no, to love or to reject; love’s free worship is the only thing for which God must wait - the only worship or “sacrifice” that can have any meaning. In Christ the idea of the substitute sacrifice has acquired a new meaning. Christ took from man’s hands the sacrificial offerings and put in their place his sacrificed personality, his own “I” (Heb 9:11). When the text says that Jesus accomplished the expiation through his blood, this blood is not to be understood merely as a material gift and measurable means of expiation, but as signifying the release of life and a concrete expression of self-emptying love that extends “to the end” (John 13:1). To the extent that this exodus of love is the “ec-stasy” of man outside himself, in which he is stretched out, torn apart, to the same extent worship (sacrifice) is always the cross and dying of the grain of wheat that can only come to fruition in death. However, the governing principle of the sacrifice, is not pain and destruction, but love. In the depth of His agony, He cries out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34), a prayer of Isreal (Ps 22:2) which summarizes in a shattering way the needs and hopes at the moment when he is so utterly abandoned by God. The Son still holds on to the faith when faith seems to have become meaningless. His cry is not for his survival but for the Father. He has descended into hell and still established the nearness of God in the midst of apparent abandonment. Where hell is radical loneliness, Christ went down into the abyss of our abandonment. Where no voice can reach us any longer, there he is. Hell is thereby overcome by his love. He has trampled death by his death. In rising from the dead, Christ, unlike Lazarus, did not simply return to the mortal life He had known before but He was glorified and exalted to the right hand of the Father (Mk 16:19). The new life He now possesses is conferred on the believer in virtue of His Resurrection “For since by a man came death, by a man also comes resurrection from the dead. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made to live” (1 Cor 15:21-22).

How to pray effectively

1. Connecting with God at Mass: The Eucharist (Mass) is the prayer of the Church par excellence since it includes Christ himself praying for us in his sacrifice. We should participate actively in Mass all the time. God is especially present there for the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ himself under the form of bread and wine. 2. How to connect with God elsewhere: We should also realize that communing or connecting with God is not only at Mass because God is everywhere and the Church is the people of God everywhere. Scripture tells us we should pray through the day but without neglecting our work or other people. All sorts of happenings can remind us of God’s presence. If you are worried or suffering, you may want to say something like “I know, Lord, that you are with me. Help me to trust in you and accept my little suffering without bitterness as a small share in your suffering love for us”. If the sunset is gorgeous, thank God for making this universe so delightful. If someone shouts at you, be patient and pray for him – he may be hurting for whatever reason that you likely do not know…You can use all occasions and events as opportunities to raise your mind and soul to God. 3. Forms of prayer: vocal prayer (speak to God such as in the community celebration of Mass in Church); meditation (meditate on readings from Scriptures, liturgy or spiritual writings); contemplative prayer (attention is fixed on the Lord – intense mystical love of God which is an advanced form of prayer). In addition to public prayers which are essential and in which we share physically and spiritually at Church, there are also private prayers in which we share spiritually by praying for each other. The next points are mainly for private prayers. 4. When and where to pray? Choose a suitable time and a quiet place to pray everyday. Jesus himself recommends that we go to our private room, close the door, and pray to the Father in secret (Matthew 6:6). Choose a time when you are not sleepy and a place where you do not have noise around. Many Christians pray and thank God after they get up in the morning and before they go to bed at night as well as before and after meals. 5. How long to pray? Start with, say, 10-20 minutes and incrementally increase it. It is more important to be able to maintain what you committed to than to commit to a time you cannot keep. Prayer, like any other activity, is learned and so it is harder at the beginning, and may have no feelings initially but as you persevere, you will benefit more and will find joy in the Lord. The quality of prayers is more important than the quantity. It is better to offer a few prayers with depth of attention than many repeated with little care or in a rushing way, but this does not mean that we reduce our quality prayer to almost no time with God. 6. Meditation: Collect yourself (maybe by recalling the divine presence). Read a passage from the Bible (Psalms are beautiful prayers), or perhaps from the life of a saint or a prayer from the Church’s liturgy. Then reflect on what you read by trying to apply it to your own situation and life and by conversing with the Lord about it. Avoid distraction of thought – this takes training - and focus on something specific and resolve to change it so that the action may match the prayer. If audible reading helps you focus on your reading then by all means do it. 7. Prayer is more than asking or thinking: Prayer involves more than only thinking, and love is its core. It includes examining your conscience, being sorry for your sins and faults, asking for forgiveness and petitioning the Lord for his help, adoring and praising God, thanking him and recalling to mind all the good things you achieved with his help. Prayer involves listening as Samuel said “Speak Lord for your servant is listening”. It also includes praying for others as Moses prayed for his people in the desert. 8. What to pray about: Pray for all the needs and blessings in this life in every endeavour, but above all pray for eternal life with God which alone gives authentic meaning to our existence. There is nothing fundamentally wrong in being materially rich - David was king and is a great saint. However it is important that we do not get too attached to material ownership, pleasures and pride. 9. Important decisions: Jesus prayed intensely before all his decisive moments: before his baptism and mission, in the night before his crucifixion and death, and at his election of the 12 apostles…Likewise we should pray also before all our decisive moments to discern God’s will and seek his blessing. Jesus prayed in full trust of his father even when in agony and called him “Abba” (daddy) ”Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” and the Father answered Jesus prayer beyond all hope by raising him from the dead …Likewise we should trust God our father. 10. Frequent Short Prayers: In addition to Our Father and Hail Mary learn to pray short sentence prayers. “Zealous Christians have a certain technique that they apply to secure the continual remembrance of God more firmly. It is the constant repetition of a short prayer, ordinarily either ‘Lord, have mercy’ or ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner’” (From the letters of bishop St. Theophane the Recluse) 11. Does God change his mind when he answers prayers? Not really. God always wants us to be fulfilled and happy. He knows that only in him will we be truly fulfilled. But he does not force us to be close to him since he respects our freedom. If someone was sick and was healed as a result of a prayer, it does not mean that God changed his mind and healed him. It means that as a result of prayers (his prayers or others prayers in heaven or on earth) he came closer to God so he received the will of God which includes his healing and well being. God always wants people to be saved - only those who refuse to be with God are not in his heaven. Prayer helps us to be brought closer to God and align our will with God’s will as the Virgin Mary did when in trust she accepted to be Christ’s mother. Her cooperation with God resulted in the incarnation and salvation. Prayer restores us to God’s likeness. When Abraham gave the Lord his son, he conformed to the likeness of the Father who does not spare his only son for our salvation. It is coming closer to God that brings about healing and restores us to to God’s likeness. 12. Perseverance in prayer: Never give up, never despair. Continue to pray. For her perseverance, the importunate widow was rewarded (Luke 18: 1-8), and the tax collector was rewarded for his humility (Luke 18: 9-13). Jesus answered the cries of the Canaanite- a stranger- and the good thief who called on him in the last moment. The bleeding woman and the tears of the sinful woman prayed in silence and they were answered. Our God and saviour is a God of hope. Even if you find yourself surrounded with difficulties or wretched in misery, remember that Christ conquered death itself and triumphed to life. There is no permanent defeat in Christianity. Period. “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer, and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7)

Did the early Christians believe that Jesus was God?

Christians believed Jesus was truly the Son of God since the beginning, long before the Emperor Constantine ruled the Roman Empire in the 4th century. Here is some evidence: - The 4 Gospels present and reflect the belief of the very early Christian communities that Jesus was divine. By the beginning of the 2nd Century, the 4 canonical Gospels were already in place (See next question). - The Gospels point to Jesus’ power over evil forces (miracles are called ‘Dynamis’ or power in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; and called ‘Signs‘ in John). Through his power, Jesus ushered the kingdom of God and expelled the Devil in a way that suggests his divine authority. In his famous Sermon, he does not speak on the authority of earlier Rabbis but on his own authority “But I say to you..” (Cf. Matt 5). He “clearly presents himself as changing the governance of the world and of human lives” (Cf. Raymond Brown; “An introduction to New Testament Christology”) - Jesus forgives sins – reserved to God alone. He changes the names of his disciples - reserved to God alone in Jewish tradition (Cf. Cepha to Peter). And he alone is the Judge at the end of times of all people. - At his baptism and transfiguration, the Father testifies to his divinity (Matt 3:17, 17:5). - In the oldest accounts, Jesus takes upon himself the divine name “I AM” (Mark 6:50; compare with John 8:58) which is the way God revealed himself to Moses, the name reserved to God alone. He also refers to himself as “the Son of Man” which does not refer to his humanity but to his divinity as revealed in Daniel in the Old Testament: “In my vision at night I looked and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him.” (Daniel 7:13-14) - Peter confesses the divine sonship of Jesus (Matt 17:17), and Thomas exclaims “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28)- The Jews understood Jesus’ claim that he considered himself divine and wanted to stone him since he made himself “equal to God” (John 10: 33) - Modern historical scholarship shows that by the year 35 AD there were already hymns and confessions of faith in the Church praising Christ as God and quoted in Paul’s letters which talk about Jesus being “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1, 15-20) and in the very nature of God “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness” (Ph 2:6-7) - Current exegesis has established that Jesus called God his Father “Abba” in a unique way unknown in Jewish tradition. While Jewish tradition avoided calling God by his personal name, Jesus refers to God by that intimate relationship thus changing the terms of relating to God in a significant way (Cf. J. Jeremias, “Abba”, 1966; J. Meier, “Jesus”, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1990). - As Christians started to form their distinctive communities and believed Jesus was God, the Jewish Rabbis in their Council of Jamnia condemned Christians decisively after the destruction of the Temple (70 AD). - The early Church Fathers, well before the time of Constantine, are quoted decisively in support of the divinity of Christ: Ignatius of Antioch (1st century-107), Clement of Alexandria (105-211), Irenaeus of Lyons (c.140- 200?), Justin Martyr (c.100-165), Origen (185-252). - The fact that early Christians believed in the divinity of Christ is also found in Roman and Jewish sources of the first and second centuries. Pliny the Younger (61-115 AD), a Pagan Roman Senator and writer observes in his letter to the Emperor Trajan that Christians in their assemblies chanted a hymn to Christ as God. (Ep., X, 97, 98). The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus refers to Christ in his Antiquitates iudaicae (XVIII, 63-64) towards the end of the first century.

The Richness of the Divine Liturgy in the Melkite Catholic Church

The ancients called this gathering of the faithful synaxis, a convention: a community that looks to eternity. Worshiping together in community, the faithful experience more readily both their unity in Christ and the power of the Spirit. They learn how to open and abandon themselves to the revelation of God, to experience Him, and thus are able to witness to their religious experience.
In these public functions there is constant motion and personal participation. Every act, gesture and movement of the body has its meaning. People sway with their bodies, move their hands, raise and lower their eyes, bow their heads. Their voices rise and fall in heartfelt supplication.
Every person performing a bodily gesture in the celebration points to a spiritual reality and acclaims it. Preparation of the Gifts In the ancient Church only the baptized, the initiated and those instructed in the faith were allowed to bring their offerings to the altar. Bread and wine symbolize those who are united to Christ and made one with Him in baptism. As the many grains of wheat and the many grapes have to be crushed to become a new form of life-giving element which is bread and wine, so also the baptized are grafted onto Christ and voluntarily surrendered and given to Him to be one with Him. With Christ who is our Bread we become new life, life divine.
From the material offerings of bread and wine of the faithful, the deacons—and, later in history, the priests—selected what was necessary for the sacrifice and used the rest for their subsistence or the subsistence of the poor. The simple ceremony of offering, receiving, selecting and distributing the bread and wine, which is the human part of the covenant, was made at a special place called prothesis or proskomedia (table of oblation). This ceremony became more elaborate later and developed into a short story and a condensed drama of the whole eucharistic sacrifice.
Among all the loaves offered there is one called prosphora, representing Christ and stamped with a seal bearing His name: "Jesus Christ the Victor," IC XC NIKA. When this seal is cut it is called "the Lamb", the Lamb of God who represents here all humanity. The priest lifts up the prosphora and signs it three times with the lance that pierced the side of the Lord on Calvary. He cuts the seal marked with Christ's name, saying: "As a sheep He was led to the slaughter. And as a spotless lamb before the shearers, He did not open his mouth. In His lowliness His judgment was taken away. And who shall describe His generation?" The priest, thrusting the lance into the right side of the bread, lifts out the lamb, saying: "For His life was taken away from the earth." He turns it face down and pierces it on the side stamped "Jesus," saying: "One of the soldiers pierced His side with a lance." Wine is then poured into the chalice with some drops of water. The memory of Calvary becomes alive again, and the priest declares, "...and at once there came forth blood and water and he who saw it bore witness, and his witness is true." Another special piece is cut "in honor and memory of our most highly blessed and glorious Lady the Mother of God" and is placed at the right of the Lamb, for indeed, "at Your right stood the queen in an embroidered mantle of gold." Other pieces are cut in honor of angels, prophets and saints. Christ is thus surrounded by saints. Other pieces are cut for the living (militant church on earth), and the dead (the suffering church in Purgatory) so that, by the mercy of God, they are joined to the victorious church in heaven around the Lamb on His throne. The priest puts a star on the oblation and declares that a "Star came and stood where the Child was." He declares the faith of the assembly in the Incarnation of the Son of God. Here is Bethlehem! Even the covering of the oblation becomes an occasion for the glorification of God: "The Lord is king, He has clothed Himself with splendor; the Lord has put on might and has girded Himself! Your glory, O Christ, has covered the heavens, and the earth is full of Your praise."
The solemn Divine Liturgy
1. The liturgy of the Catechumens (Service of the Word) "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…" 
a. Litany of Peace: Every prayer, as every act of the Christian, is ordained ultimately, not only to his own fulfillment in the "vision of God" in heaven, but also to the transformation and consummation of all things in Christ. In Christ all that is, is full of possibilities for beauty, truth, community and justice. And the Christian is vowed to draw out all these possibilities into the realities of this world. All of reality invites him to respond to goodness with goodness of his own.
This vision of the praying Christian is most explicitly clarified in the Litany of Peace, which opens all Byzantine public prayers. In this litany the Christian gathers within himself the public servants: authorities both religious and civil; cities, country places and all those who live in them, the travelers; the sick and those forgotten brothers who are in prisons. The Christian lives deeply in touch with all the troubles of the world and feels the pain of human life intensely. He brings all the earth and whatever it contains to God for His mercy, and dedicates himself for its healing and welfare.
When Christ ascended the cross, He succeeded in spreading over the whole world more of Himself, more of love and salvation than there will ever be of death, hatred, self-centeredness and sin. The mercy of God is the life-giving perpetuation of the divine energy of the Redeemer’s love, an outpouring of love and goodness that sanctifies and divinizes. The mercy of God is not a condescension, a paternalism on the part of God, a "crumb that falls form the Master’s table." The mercy of God is God Himself in His transforming presence! It is He, the Bread broken for all, generously given and completely surrendered.
The cry of "Lord, have mercy," therefore, invokes the divine presence on the whole of creation, upon mankind and matter, upon the whole world thought of as gathered in the one embrace of Christ.
b. Procession of Gospel and Hymn of the Incarnation: "The antiphons of the Liturgy are the prophets’ predictions which foretold the coming of the Son of God... that is, they reveal His incarnation which we proclaim again, having embraced knowledge of it through those who have become servants, eyewitnesses and attendants of the Word." (St. Germanos of Constantinople, Historia Ecclesiastica, 23 (c 725 AD)). Historically speaking, the antiphons were popular demonstrations and processions through the streets and winding roads of a given locality, from church to church, leading to the main Church where the celebration had to take place. These processions were meant to gather on their way the "good and the sinners, inviting every one, believer and unbeliever, to the wedding-feast of the King" (Matt 22:8). The word antiphon means a refrain to a reading or to a rhetorical declamation often repeated during the course of a procession. Antiphons are devised to provoke in people enthusiasm, and joy, and to help them see the goodness of God who hears the immense desire of humanity:
“Only-begotten Son and Word of God, immortal as You are! You condescended for our salvation to take flesh of the holy Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary, and without undergoing change, You became man. You were crucified, O Christ God, and crushed Death by Your death. You are One of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit: save us.”
The ministers form a great procession with lighted candles, covered with a cloud of incense. The bejeweled Holy Gospel book, which is the symbol and sign of Jesus Christ Himself, is carried high on the head of the celebrant or the deacon. This procession symbolizes the preaching of Christ in Palestine. The candle-holders represent John the Baptist who preceded Christ and prepared the way for him. The whole assembly singing rises to honor the coming of the Lord. Everyone bows profoundly at the passage of Christ, adoring Him present in His book of life. The Gospel Book is thus brought with solemnity into the midst of the congregation and finally to the sanctuary. "…the priest, standing in front of the altar, raises the Gospel Book and shows it to the people, thus symbolizing the manifestation of the Lord, when He began to appear to the multitudes. For the Gospel represents Christ in the same way that the books of the Old Testament are called the Prophets… (‘They have Moses and the Prophets,’ Lk 16:29)…" Nicholas Cabasilas, Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 20 (c.1350 AD)
c. Hymns in Commemoration of Saints: After the entrance of the Gospel and its enthronement on the altar, the throne of God as it were, the people go on with their celebration of the saints or of an event in the life of Christ. Heroes and benefactors of humanity, the saints have surrendered themselves to God and to their brothers and sisters. They become pure transparencies for God’s action, and thus they are to us extended radiances of the incarnation.
d. Hymn to the Thrice-Holy God (Trisagion): The Christians are the associates of angels in their service before God. We enter into this association when we proclaim with them the holiness of the divine Trinity. At this point in the Liturgy, we affirm this association as we chant the Trisagion: "Holy is God:" the Father, who is origin, source and point of return of all creation; "Holy the Mighty One:" the Son. He is mighty because He conquered evil and death and wrought salvation and resurrection. "He is mighty, because through Him the Father was revealed to us and the Holy Spirit came to this world" (vespers of Pentecost). "Holy the Immortal One:" the Holy Spirit, who is life and life-giving, whom nothing—no evil, no sin, no amount of gravity of sin—can ever kill or wipe out from the soul of the Christian. "The Fathers originally received from the angels the ‘Holy, holy, holy’ and from David the remainder, where he glorified God in Trinity, saying, ‘My soul thirsted for God, the mighty One, the living One’ (Ps 41:3), and rightly and most appropriately composed the Trisagion Hymn. As a mark of petition they added—again from David—the ‘have mercy on us’." (St Simeon of Thessalonike, Treatise on Prayer 24 (c. 1425 AD))
e. Readings from Scriptures and Homily: The Church chose two readings for each Sunday: one from the Epistles and one from the Gospel books. The readings are arranged such that they fit the holy season celebrated. For example, during Lent, one reading includes the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, and another retells the parable of the prodigal son. When the Gospel is read, the assembly stands in honour of the Word of God.
"Before the Gospel, the deacon comes with the censer in his hand to fill the church with sweet fragrance for the reception of the Lord, reminding us by this censing of the spiritual cleansing of our souls with which we should attend to the fragrant words of the Gospel." Nikolai Gogol, Meditations on the Divine Liturgy (19th Century) ... it got about that He was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door, and He was preaching the word to them." (Mark 2:1-2) The story of the life and deeds of Christ is called Gospel, good news, because it is precisely news of life.
We Christians do not read, we proclaim the Gospel. Whether read or chanted, the proclamation of the Gospel has this one function: to convey the power of its words, and the joy of being in the presence of God. Saint John Chrysostom says, "When emperors of this world speak, we all shout with one voice and one heart, ‘Glory to you, lord.’ But when the Lord Jesus speaks in His Gospel, our enthusiasm grows stronger and louder and we repeat it twice, ‘Glory to You, O Lord, glory to You!’" Our enthusiasm becomes love and we repeat the cry twice, once before the proclamation of the Gospel and once when the proclamation has ended.
The readings are followed by the homily in which the priest expounds on the meanings and spiritual treasures for the people’s benefits. The catechumens (those who are not yet baptized) used to attend the service of the Word with the faithful to benefit from learning the Christian faith. Prayers for them followed, then they were required to leave the church before the service of the faithful (the Eucharist) commences.
2. The liturgy of the Faithful (The Eucharist)
a. The Procession of Offerings: The solemn transfer of the oblations to the altar takes place. A stir of anticipation runs through the whole congregation. Seized by the awareness of what is going to happen, everyone falls into a humble, yet confident, change of heart. Purification of all sins is effected. The faithful know that they are forgiven and sanctified. Now they can face their Redeemer and God, unite with Him and feel their oneness with Him. They realize that they "mystically represent the cherubim," consequently they "put aside all worldly care and sing the thrice holy hymn to the King of the universe who is coming escorted by all the angelic hosts."
b. The Kiss of Peace and Recitation of the Creed: The sign and seal of the love of God is the love of neighbor. After having obtained forgiveness from God and making our peace with Him, we now ask forgiveness from each other." "Everyone present confesses and proclaims his unity with Christ, the Lover of mankind: "I will love You, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my fortress, my refuge and my deliverance!" Because of the love of the Lord who fills us with His peace and joy, we overflow with love. And because we know that Christ has forgiven us, we feel the urgent desire to forgive others and to be at peace with them. Each member of the assembly shakes hands or embraces his neighbor and says: "Christ is in our midst." And the other answers, "He is and always will be." The kiss of Christ is the dynamic sign wherein Christians express their love for each other before they share the one bread. It is Christ who unites us to one another and through one another to God. "If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23–24)
Once the brotherly love of forgiving is secure, the whole assembly bursts into reciting the Creed which articulates the faith of the Church. In reciting the Creed we plunge into life, the life of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God the Creator is an artist, a worker, an inventor and maker of things and producer of life. Since God is a worker-artist, all of His creation is good. The Son is a savior and a lover. "For us men and for our salvation" He lived, suffered, died, resurrected, ascended and will come back again. The Holy Spirit is life and Giver of life and eternal joy. Christians who proclaim in the Creed their acceptance of life in God, Father-Son-Holy Spirit, enter into the realm of creation, into the Kingdom of heaven, and become ready to respond to God’s excellence and love in the accomplishment of the mysteries soon to become reality on the altar.
It is the glory of the Christian to declare that all this was planned and executed by God, not for God’s sake, but "for us men and for our salvation." We were redeemed, not because of our success or our mature years, but because of our troubles and perils and God’s greater love for us. In this we find rebirth in death, resurrection and life eternal. We are ready to go deeper into the realities of God and become "eucharistic." "Through Him let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God..." (Hebrews 13:15)
c. Offering (“Anaphora”): After the priest blesses the faithful, the offerings of bread and wine are now "lifted up" from the earthly place to the divine and holy altar of God in heaven, thereby uniting the two. In this action of lifting up, the whole creation finds its way to God who pours out on it the same love He has for His Son. Salvation is thus made present and real. The Church also becomes real. She is seen to be what she really is, "the Bride of Christ," pure and undefiled.The anaphora or lifting-up remembers and expresses in its reality a double movement, one of descent and one of ascent. In the first movement, God descends upon man and creation to "lift them up" and make them sharers in His divine life. This movement is called "a mercy of peace". The mercy of God is the gift of God, His self-revelation and self-giving. The second movement is a movement of ascent. Man is taken up to God to offer Him praise and thanks. This movement of ascent is called "sacrifice of praise."
Thanks and praise: this is the answer of man to the gift of God, his awareness and recognition of God's goodness. The tremendous mystery of the power, condescension and infinite love of God in "descending" and "lifting up" is enacted on the altar in these two successive and dynamic movements by which creation and man are deified. This mystery will culminate in the final and decisive union of the Creator with His creature in Holy Communion.
Let us stand well! Let us stand in awe! Let us be attentive! Heaven and earth listen! God is pouring Himself down upon us! We adore in a great hush. We plunge into the abyss of concentration and the rapture of a mystic vision. This "eucharist" or thanksgiving is the expression of life in God and the only true relationship between man and God. It is what really "makes possible" all that will follow. The breadth of perspective of the true meaning of God’s intention and of His relation to creation is present here. The Father planned from all eternity and made this world and man and placed them in space and time. The Son embodied them in His own divine person in the incarnation and saved them by His offering or sacrifice. The Holy Spirit renews this salvation and divinization by His descent at the epiclisis, just as He did by His descent at Pentecost.
All these divine historical actions become actual and alive before our very eyes. The world of faith takes shape, and the eternal mystery of God becomes reality in time.
The Angelic Hymn: Once again Christians share in the life of angels and declare that we are sharing in their function and playing their role. We recognize that we are not only associates of angels, but more: we take their place on earth as ministers before the altar: "We thank You for this liturgy which You are pleased to accept from our hands, even though there stand before You thousands of angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim… singing, proclaiming, shouting the hymn of victory and saying: “Holy! Holy! Holy Lord of hosts! Heaven and earth are filled with Your glory. Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."
 According to St. Germanos, the four words “singing, proclaiming, shouting the hymn of victory and saying” refer to the multi-faced animal that Ezekiel saw in his vision: singing refers to the eagle, proclaiming refers to the ox, shouting refers to the lion, and saying refers to Man. The four creatures are symbols of the four evangelists. As we surge on the wings of our dignity, we join in the vision of Isaiah to sing the hymn of heaven, "Holy! Holy! Holy!" and add to it the children’s cry to Jesus when he entered Jerusalem “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." The world to come is already here present in the "fullness of Your glory." Christians reach the apex of their glory when they go beyond the horizon of the prophets and visionaries to look at the Trinity with an ineffable movement of joy.
We address ourselves first to the Father:
Consecration: "Holy are You and all-holy — You and Your only-begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit. Holy are You and all-holy and magnificent is Your glory! … You so loved Your world as to give it Your Son, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. …" (Liturgy of St John Chrysostom). Then we recall the memory of the Son: "When He had come and fulfilled all that was appointed Him to do for our sake, on the night He was delivered up —or rather, delivered Himself up for the life of the world —He took bread, … and gave it to His holy disciples and apostles and said: “Take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you for the remission of sins.” He took the cup of wine and said "Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins." The Fathers say that the Christian "hopes for what exists already" and remembers what is to come in the immediate, because he drinks at the Source of the living water. "Remembering, therefore, this precept of salvation [‘Do this in anamnesis—remembrance—of me."] and everything that was done for our sake: the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the enthronement at the right hand [of the Father], the second and glorious coming again, …"
This is the memorial, which makes present and manifest here and now the divine events of the life of Christ. The Christian remembrance or memorial is not simply a recalling to mind of an event which existed once upon a time. Recalling the mysteries or events of the life of Christ who is risen, alive, always present, always active, makes them present with the same effectiveness and strength as when they were enacted by Christ. The ministers around the altar and the assembly of the baptized are now all wrapped in adoration. The deacon crosses his hands, the right stretching over the left to take up the diskos which lays on the left, the left hand stretching under the right to take up the chalice which is at the right. He elevates both in gesture towards the east, then towards the west, the north and the south, thus planting Christ in the four corners of the universe, or rather gathering the universe in these four movements to offer it in Christ and with Christ to the Father, as the priest says: "We offer You Your own from what is Your own, in all and for the sake of all." The priest offers to the Father “We offer You Your own” (i.e. Your Son’s body and blood)..”from what is Your own” (i.e. brought from Your creation: bread and wine..) ” in all” (i.e. in the name of all creation..) ”and for the sake of all." (i.e. for the sake of all creation.) The whole history of salvation, the whole revelation of God’s love, the whole meaning of Christianity is here made manifest. The whole value and the very meaning of life is given to the Father. The Father recognizes the whole creation in His Son and pours upon the whole universe the same love He has for His Son.
"In this offering," says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, "we bring to the presence of God the Father heaven, earth, oceans, sun, moon and the entire creation…" and we break out in praise and thanks: "We praise You, we bless You, we give thanks to You, … O our God." The priest falls on his knees, begging for the descent of the Holy Spirit: "We ask and pray and entreat: send down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here offered." The Holy Spirit comes to fill us and to transform the bread and wine by His power to the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Sins are forgiven and life is given. The Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—takes hold of us, divinizing us. Theosis is realized!Ministers at the altar and all the assembly of worshipers fall down on their faces, saying: "Amen! Amen! Amen!"
Intercessions for the Church: The Church, the communion of saints, remembers all her members in the Body of Christ: the saints who are in heaven, and especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God to whom we sing “It is truly right to call you blessed O Mother of God…”, then we remember those who left this world in the hope of rising again that they may rest in peace. We also remember the living faithful starting with the leaders and servants of the word of God: the Pope of Rome, our Patriarch, and our bishop (of the city or land or area).
The Lord's Prayer: The Church then sings the prayer “Our Father.” The word "Father" on the lips of those who believe the message of Christ adds power and dignity and heightens their already sublime role in creation. We are commanded to say to this Abba, "Thy kingdom come!" which means, "take over, be the only one who inspires, directs and rules my life." We say it with mixed emotions but with daring. "Kingdom of God" means justice, peace and love. It is not simply a question of personal salvation or fulfillment, but the establishment of a new order of things. Those in the kingdom give to whoever asks, treat everyone as real children of God, forgive without question, resist evil. The kingdom is characterized, therefore, by healing, forgiveness, sharing, reconciliation: all of which are acts a "family" shares and enjoys. God is a Father, Abba. The person who says the "Our Father" comprehends that he or she is united with everyone and that all are equal in the eyes of God, in whom they all find peace and salvation. They all belong to the kingdom: they are brothers and sisters. Whoever says the "Our Father" must say it aloud, because it is "Our." "Our" is a word of the community. Every member of the community must hear it. We say it also with our arms open to the heavens, the "Shamaim": to "the everywhere." It is in the "everywhere," indeed, that the Abba resides and dwells.
d. Holy Communion: The priest … takes the Bread of Life and, showing it to the people, summons those who are without mortal sin and are worthy to receive it fittingly: ‘Holy things to the holy!’ … The faithful are called ‘saints’ because of the holy thing of which they partake: because of Him whose body and blood they receive. "The priest breaks the Holy Bread, saying, ‘Broken and distributed is the Lamb of God: broken and not dismembered, always eaten and never expended, but making holy those who receive it.’" "Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: Behold, this has touched your lips, will remove your transgressions and wash away your sins" (Isaiah 6:6-7).
 By uniting to our human nature, Christ made our flesh a part of His divine person. When we partake of the Eucharist, we unite to Him and receive His divine graces.
Thanksgiving: "We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit..." Having become one flesh, one soul and one heart with Christ, the communicant bursts into a hymn of glory and joy, the joy and glory of being and of existing. His feet are, indeed, on the ground, but his chin is uplifted and his head stretches to the highest heaven. All his senses are awake and vibrant to the presence of Christ.The priest recites the prayers of thanksgiving and supplications for the Church, the governors, and all the people. The faithful burst “Blessed be the name of the Lord now and for ever”…
e. The Final Blessing: The priest gives final blessing to the faithful “The blessing of the Lord be upon you, through His grace and love for mankind, now and always and forever and ever…. May Christ, our true God who is risen from the dead through the prayers of His all-pure Mother, and through the supplications of the holy, glorious and praise-worthy apostles, and of our father among the saints, John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, of Saint N . . .patron of this holy church, of Saint N . . . whose memory we celebrate today, of the holy and just ancestors of God Joachim and Ann and all the saints, have mercy on us and save us, for He is good and loves mankind.”
"The priest brings out to the people the prosphoras or altar bread from which the portions were cut out and removed, and thus is retained the great and ancient pattern of the Agape or love-feast, which was observed by the Christians of primitive times. Therefore, everyone who receives a prosphora ought to take it as bread from the feast at which Christ, the Creator of the world, has Himself spoken with His people, and one ought to consume it reverently, thinking of oneself as surrounded by all men as one’s dearest and most tender brothers. And, as was the custom in the early Church, one ought to eat the prosphora before all other foods or take it home to one’s family or send it to the sick or the poor or to those who have not been able to attend the Liturgy." Nicolai Gogol, Meditations on the Divine Liturgy.

* Excerpted mainly from Archbishop Joseph M. Raya’s “Eyes of the Gospel”, and Archbishop Lotfy Laham (Now Patriarch Gregory III) “Orders of rite” (Arabic), 1988

Do we need to participate in Mass on Sunday?

Rather than giving it a negative connotation of obligation, we have positive reasons why participation in Mass is necessary: 1. In Mass, (called Divine Liturgy in the Eastern Church, including the Melkite Church - see next article on the richness of the Divine Liturgy), the sacrifice of Christ is offered to the Father for the forgiveness of sins, and for blessings on the community and the whole creation "Without me you can do nothing." Christ said to His disciples. Christ is "the offered and the offerer." In private prayer at home, the prayer lacks the sacrifice of Christ offered on our behalf for our sake. 2. In Mass, the whole community, and not only an individual, is praying the thanksgiving prayer. The Mass is the sublime thanksgiving for what the Trinity has done for us. This is part of the communion of saints. But more importantly, the community partakes of the body and blood of Christ "If you do not eat my body and drink my blood, there is no life in you." Because the Eucharist is a sign of communion in the same faith, we call reception of the Eucharist "communion." The Eucharist is the most important spiritual nourishment that Christ offers every one of us through the Church. We should approach it with reverence and without blemish. 3. In Mass, we share as a community, and as the People of God, in the day of rest, the "Sabbath", that God wanted His people to observe. Since it was a Sunday when Christ rose from the dead, we, the Church, celebrate it on Sunday. It is not only a union with the community but also a union with God at the same time in the day He ordained dedicated to remembering His love for us. Mass is meant for celebration within a community. It is not merely a setting for private prayer or meant as a supplement to our individual spiritual life. In the Mass, the sacrifice of Christ is offered to God the Father by the priest on behalf of the Christian community. Our faith teaches us that what we proclaim in the Eucharist, Christ's death and resurrection, is also made present in that very action by the power of God's love and goodness. This is the heart of our faith in the sacrament we call the Eucharist, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the real presence of Christ. Christian worship is based on the New Testament revelation of God as a "community" of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When we are baptized into Christ we are made children of the Father and bearers of the Spirit, truly members by extension of the community of the Trinity. Together with all the baptized we are being joined together as a holy temple, "built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God" (Eph 2:22). We are enjoined to let ourselves be the living stones of this temple: "Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). The Church’s worship is precisely God’s instrument for making us a people, forming us into His kingdom-"The Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". Thus we repeatedly pray in the Divine Liturgy for "unity in the faith and the communion in the Holy Spirit." Thus "communion" must not be narrowly understood as reception of a private share of the divine life through the Eucharist. Even the single prayer that Jesus taught his disciples starts with the words “Our Father.” We say “our” because we are collectively praying together in the community of the human race. Our sharing in the life of the Trinity includes the "communion" of all other believers and we become interrelated members of the Body of Christ. This communion is equally the basis for that closer unity which must take place among the members of the community manifested in works of charity for one another. This communion among believers presupposes communion with God and, hence, incorporates it. Divine worship in the Church, then, is inherently communal, uniting a particular gathering of people with the entire Christian community throughout space and time-in fact with the entire created cosmos- through our union with Christ. We must also be aware that celebrations of the sacraments are not completely private ceremonies. Sometimes baptisms and weddings are misconceived as pertaining only to the involved family. Each of these is, instead, the action of the whole community. They express our integration into a community of faith, the body of Christ, which is the Church. * Some excerpts are taken from (c) 1998-2002, and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops(c) 2000.

Is there evidence for God in contemporary cosmology?

Very simply, contemporary scientific research in cosmology found that: - The universe was not there from eternity but has a beginning (which we call the Big Bang) - The universe was so fine-tuned that any slight change in its initial conditions or the constants in physical laws would have prevented life from appearing on Earth (this is referred to as the Anthropic Principle) How are these findings new? - Greek thought as well as Buddhist and Hindu traditions assumed that the universe always existed from eternity (beginningless). Science, however, appears to support the idea that the universe is created in the same way it is claimed in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (i.e. it begins to exist) - 3 possibilities could explain the cause of the fine-tuning of the universe: 1) The universe is necessarily the way it is and could be no other way. But this is illogical since the universe could have been different, and the basic laws and constants could have been different. 2) the universe is fine-tuned by chance. This would entail that the universe is one of trillions of universes, each with a different set of laws, and ours alone happens to have the set of laws that allow life. This is not only highly speculative and inefficient but even if other universes exist there is no way we could ever know since they would not be accessible to us according to the theory of General Relativity. 3) The universe was designed by a super intelligence. This is the most reasonable possibility. Logical consequences: Everything that begins to exist must be caused by something/someone else. Since the universe began to exist, it must have a cause. Since the universe is intricately fine-tuned, it is reasonable to believe that the cause behind it is a great mind i.e. a personal being (what Alfred Hoyle, an atheist physicist, called a super intellect). This super intellect personal being is who we call God. It follows then that modern cosmology points to evidence for the existence of God. Notes: 1. If you wish to delve into the Biblical account of creation, here is an interesting point from the Bible: In Genesis, the earth is described as formless void. Since nothing can exist without some form, absolute formlessness is nothing. The universe, and every existing thing, even empty space, is structured by dimensions, has form and so absolute formlessness is nothing. God creates the world from nothing. In creation, the whole substance of a thing is produced from nothing and not from pre-existing material (as in some polytheistic and pagan religions). The creature depends entirely for its being on a higher cause without which it would cease to exist. The ancient Hebrew authors could not express this conceptually because they lacked the philosophical expression, but the closest they could get is a poetic image of a formless void. 2. Here is a website that displays video clips on evidence for God from science: 3. Here is an in-depth article about the fine-tuning of the universe

The Trinity: the divine communion of love

The dogma of the Trinity is central to Christian faith. It was revealed by Christ to His disciples and is present in the early tradition of the church. Two biblical truths are revealed in the dogma of the Trinity:1. There is one God - Christianity shares this belief with the other monotheist religions. The central teaching of the Old Testament called the Shema proclaims: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deut. 6:4).2. There are three distinct persons who are God: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18). Since this dogma expresses the inner life of the triune God, it is beyond full human comprehension and cannot be proven by human reason. However, the dogma is not against reason. Here we attempt to give a rational approach based on the thought of St. Augustine (Doctor of Church, 5th century) followed by a reference to the dogma in the New Testament. Rational Approach When God was asked what His name was, He said “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). God does not become - He IS. He IS forever. He is all-holy and all-powerful...But can God be reigning one and alone for all eternity? The non-Christian monotheist religions believe He enjoys being alone and being powerful, but for how long? One thousand billion years..then God would say: It’s boring to be God! Even if He has everything, He would still be missing the essential: love because love requires someone else to love (or else self-love becomes narcissism.) And the God of Christians is not only a God of love. He is Love. Unlimited Love. He is perfect and unlimited in all the other attributes: unlimited in His power, in His justice and in His holiness. But His essential being or His essence is love. Without love, God would not be God. Here is a simplified way of describing it as a story: From eternity God poured out Himself in love and thus begot His Son, an image of Him. God became a father when He poured out Himself and at this point He looked at his Son and experienced love. In his act of unlimited love, He emptied Himself and gave His divinity totally to His Son. What did the Son do with the gift of divinity? The Son received His Father’s love and discovered that He has everything from His Father and He could not live without love, because life is love and nothing else but love. So the Son emptied Himself and gave all He has - all the divinity - back to the Father. Neither the Father wants the gift of divinity nor the Son wants it. Why? Because love is giving and giving away oneself! In order to realize His fatherhood, the Father has to empty Himself - the Son after listening to the love whispering in Him, gives back His filial love to His Father. This dynamic force of love that pushes the Father to love and the Son to return His Father’s love with love is the Holy Spirit. Now, the true story is that this dynamic movement of love continues from eternity to eternity. There was no time when the Father was alone (or else He would not be in love and would not then be God). There was no moment when the Son did not exist. The Creed says about Christ “begotten of the Father before all ages. God from God ..of one substance (or of one being) with the Father.” The Father begets the Son in self-emptying love and the Son receives His Father’s love and returns the self-emptying love to the Father, and the Holy Spirit, who is Love binds them in unity and brings them together. God is one in His essence but there are three distinct persons in God. Everything that the Father has, the Son also has and the Holy Spirit also has except the differentiation in the relationship. The Father alone is the source (or principle) and Father; the Son alone is the Son begotten; and the Spirit alone is breathed and proceeds from the Father and the Son (or from the Father through the Son.) Each person is distinct yet they share a common nature and are inseparable. As the word comes out from the mind but still remains inseparable from the mind, the Son is also called the Word of God. This expression “Logos” or Word was used to refer to the Son in the Gospel of John. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). A simple physical illustration involves the Sun together with its light and heat that emanate from it. The three elements are not separate and each of them can be referred to as the Sun. Thus the Trinity is not a remote dogma added to the Christian faith. The Trinity is at the centre of Christianity. Now all the acts of God can be seen in light of the Trinity: a divine communion of self-emptying love. God's act of creation is an act that reflects His love. God's act of redemption in Christ is an act of self-emptying love. Even when God permits suffering and death, He is still in love with His creation. Even when God permits evil, it is because He respects the free will of His creation and so it is still part of His love. Are there implications for the Trinity in our life? “The most profound reason for my being a Christian is the Trinity. This is because I find in the faith of the Triune God not only the most sound conclusions based on the Scriptural data but also the most profound vision of human existence known to man. That the God of the universe is fundamentally love, not arbitrary power, is incredible. That the appearance of God in this world was in the form of a lowly “servant” of the world Who gave His life on the Cross, is the most incredible scandal thinkable. At its heart, however, the Christian Gospel affirms what every heart needs and longs for. We need to “die to ourselves.” We need to live by love. We need to come to understand the reason for being in this universe is that we might share the divine life which is, at its heart, self-giving. You see, the Trinity is not only a dogma of Christian faith, but is a source of the most profound practical truths imaginable. The Trinity has implications for how I treat my family. The Trinity has implications for how I look at all other human beings. The Trinity has implications for the profession that I choose to spend my few days in this world practicing and how that will be done. The Trinity has implications for what I will consider the goal and purpose of my existence.” (Mark McNeil). The Holy Trinity is the love which made us. This is why we are relational creatures, because we were made in God’s image; we were made for communion by a God who is communion. The early Christians experienced themselves as worshipping the one God of their Jewish ancestors. They also realized that when they looked at Jesus, they saw God. They further realized that because of Jesus Christ, their lives had been placed in the Holy Spirit. In the 4th century the Church defended and proclaimed the divinity of Christ (at the Council of Nicea, 325 A.D. against Arius), and the divinity of the Holy Spirit (1st Council of Constantinople, 381 A.D. against Macedonius). The Trinity is not only a central doctrine but a living experience for the Christian faith based on the ineffable love of God. The Trinity in the New Testament* Christ only made the great truth known to the Twelve step by step. First He taught them to recognize in Himself the Eternal Son of God. When His ministry was drawing to a close, He promised that the Father would send another Divine Person, the Holy Spirit, in His place. Finally after His resurrection, He revealed the doctrine in explicit terms, bidding them "go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:18). The force of this passage is decisive. That "the Father" and "the Son" are distinct Persons follows from the terms themselves, which are mutually exclusive. The mention of the Holy Spirit in the same series, the names being connected one with the other by the conjunctions "and . . . and" is evidence that we have here a Third Person co-ordinate with the Father and the Son.The phrase "in the name" (eis to onoma) affirms alike the Godhead of the Persons and their unity of nature. Among the Jews and in the Apostolic Church the Divine name was representative of God. He who had a right to use it was invested with vast authority: for he wielded the supernatural powers of Him whose name he employed. The use of the singular, "name," and not the plural, shows that these Three Persons are that One Omnipotent God in whom the Apostles believed. There are many other passages in the Gospels which refer to one or other of the Three Persons in particular and clearly express the distinct personality and Divinity of each. In regard to the First Person it will not be necessary to give special citations: those which declare that Jesus Christ is God the Son, affirm thereby also the distinct personality of the Father. The Divinity of Christ is not only in the Gospel according to St. John but also in the Synoptic Gospels: _ He declares that He will come to be the judge of all men (Matthew 25:31). In Jewish theology the judgment of the world was a distinctively Divine, and not a Messianic, prerogative. _ In the parable of the wicked husbandmen, He describes Himself as the son of the householder, while the Prophets, one and all, are represented as the servants (Matthew 21:33 sqq.). _ He is the Lord of Angels, who execute His command (Matthew 24:31). _ He approves the confession of Peter when he recognizes Him, not as Messiah - a step long since taken by all the Apostles -- but explicitly as the Son of God: and He declares the knowledge due to a special revelation from the Father (Matthew 16:16-17). _ Finally, before Caiaphas He not merely declares Himself to be the Messiah, but in reply to a second and distinct question affirms His claim to be the Son of God. He is instantly declared by the high priest to be guilty of blasphemy, an offense which could not have been attached to the claim to be simply the Messiah (Luke 22:66-71). St. John's testimony is yet more explicit than that of the Synoptists. He expressly asserts that the very purpose of his Gospel is to establish the Divinity of Jesus Christ (John 20:31). In the prologue he identifies Him with the Word, the only-begotten of the Father, Who from all eternity exists with God, Who is God (John 1:1-18). The immanence of the Son in the Father and of the Father in the Son is declared in Christ's words to St. Philip: "Do you not believe, that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?" (14:10), and in other passages no less explicit (14:7; 16:15; 17:21). The oneness of Their power and Their action is affirmed: "Whatever he [the Father] does, the Son also does in like manner" (5:19, cf. 10:38); and to the Son no less than to the Father belongs the Divine attribute of conferring life on whom He will (5:21). In 10:29, Christ expressly teaches His unity of essence with the Father: "That which my Father hath given me, is greater than all . . . I and the Father are one." The words, "That which my Father hath given me," can, having regard to the context, have no other meaning than the Divine Name, possessed in its fullness by the Son as by the Father. In regard to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, in Luke 12:12, "The Holy Spirit shall teach you in the same hour what you must say" (Matthew 10:20, and Luke 24:49), His personality is clearly implied. These passages, taken in connection with Matthew 28:19, postulate the existence of such teaching as we find in the discourses reported by St. John (14-16). We have in these chapters the necessary preparation for the baptismal commission. In them the Apostles are instructed not only as the personality of the Spirit, but as to His office towards the Church. His work is to teach whatsoever He shall hear (16:13) to bring back their minds the teaching of Christ (14:26), to convince the world of sin (16:8). It is evident that, were the Spirit not a Person, Christ could not have spoken of His presence with the Apostles as comparable to His own presence with them (14:16). Again, were He not a Divine Person it could not have been expedient for the Apostles that Christ should leave them, and the Paraclete take His place (16:7). Moreover, not withstanding the neuter form of the word (pneuma), the pronoun used in His regard is the masculine ekeinos. The distinction of the Holy Spirit from the Father and from the Son is involved in the express statements that He proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son (15:26; cf. 14:16, 26). Nevertheless, He is one with Them: His presence with the Disciples is at the same time the presence of the Son (14:17, 18), while the presence of the Son is the presence of the Father (14:23). In the remaining New Testament writings numerous passages attest how clear and definite was the belief of the Apostolic Church in the three Divine Persons. In 2 Corinthians 13:13, St. Paul writes: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all." Here the construction shows that the Apostle is speaking of three distinct Persons. Moreover, since the names God and Holy Spirit are alike Divine names, it follows that Jesus Christ is also regarded as a Divine Person. So also, in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11: "There are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit; and there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord: and there are diversities of operations, but the same God, who works all [of them] in all [persons]." (Cf. also Ephesians 4:4-6; I Peter 1:2-3.) In regard to Christ, the Apostles employ modes of speech which, to men brought up in the Hebrew faith, necessarily signified belief in His Divinity. Such, for instance, is the use of the Doxology in reference to Him. The Doxology, "To Him be glory for ever and ever" (cf. 1 Chronicles 16:38; 29:11; Psalm 103:31; 28:2), is an expression of praise offered to God alone. In the New Testament we find it addressed not alone to God the Father, but to Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 4:18; 2 Peter 3:18; Revelations 1:6; Hebrews 13:20-21), and to God the Father and Christ in conjunction (Revelations 5:13, 7:10). Not less convincing is the use of the title Lord (Kyrios). This term represents the Hebrew Adonai, just as God (Theos) represents Elohim. The two are equally Divine names (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:4). In the Apostolic writings Theos may almost be said to be treated as a proper name of God the Father, and Kyrios of the Son (see, for example, I Corinthians 12:5-6); in only a few passages do we find Kyrios used of the Father (1 Corinthians 3:5; 7:17) or Theos of Christ. The Apostles from time to time apply to Christ passages of the Old Testament in which Kyrios is used, for example, I Corinthians 10:9 (Numbers 21:7), Hebrews 1:10-12 (Psalm 101:26-28); and they use such expressions as "the fear of the Lord" (Acts 9:31; 2 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:21), "call upon the name of the Lord," indifferently of God the Father and of Christ (Acts 2:21; 9:14; Romans 10:13). The profession that "Jesus is the Lord" (Kyrion Iesoun, Romans 10:9; Kyrios Iesous, I Corinthians 12:3) is the acknowledgment of Jesus as Yahweh. The texts in which St. Paul affirms that in Christ dwells the plenitude of the Godhead (Colossians 2:9), that before His Incarnation He possessed the essential nature of God (Philemon 2:6), that He "is over all things, God blessed for ever" (Romans 9:5) tell us nothing that is not implied in many other passages of his Epistles. The divinity of the Holy Spirit is equally clear. He reveals His commands to the Church's ministers: "As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them: Separate me Saul and Barnabas . . ." (Acts 13:2). He directs the missionary journey of the Apostles: "They attempted to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not" (Acts 16:7; cf. Acts 5:3; 15:28; Romans 15:30). Divine attributes are affirmed of Him. _ He possesses omniscience and reveals to the Church mysteries known only to God (I Corinthians 2:10); _ it is He who distributes charismas (I Cor., 12:11); _ He is the giver of supernatural life (2 Cor., 3:8); _ He dwells in the Church and in the souls of individual men, as in His temple (Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19). _ The work of justification and sanctification is attributed to Him (1 Cor., 6:11; Rom., 15:16), just as in other passages the same operations are attributed to Christ (1 Cor., 1:2; Gal., 2:17). To sum up: the various elements of the Trinitarian doctrine are all expressly taught in the New Testament. The Divinity of the Three Persons is asserted or implied in passages too numerous to count. The unity of essence is not merely postulated by the strict monotheism of men nurtured in the religion of Israel, to whom "subordinate deities" would have been unthinkable; but it is, as we have seen, involved in the baptismal commission of Matthew 28:19, and, in regard to the Father and the Son, expressly asserted in John 10:38. That the Persons are co-eternal and coequal is a mere consequence from this. Excerpts from a lecture by Fr. Henri Boulad in Toronto, 2002 * Summary of The Trinity in the New Testament is based on excerpts from the Catholic Encyclopedia, (c) 1910.

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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