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

Friday, August 31, 2012

The "Death" of God?

For many decades now the Positivists have been insisting that God does not exist if we cannot observe him in scientific experiments.
This has been reflected in writings of "New Atheism" scientists and philosophers such as Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker and Daniel Dennett. The anti-religion thrust broadened to touch on everything in schools and academia. Generations of children have been stripped of their rights to pray in class at public schools. In universities, professors who declare their Christian beliefs may be harassed until they leave. A few years ago, the Canadian Association of University Teachers expelled a professor in Western Canada when he dared to critique the homosexual unions on moral grounds.  While the American Constitution protects the freedom of religions, a new religion stripped from God seems to have an increasing monopoly on "the truth." Although neuroscientists are able today to explain what goes in the 100 billion neurons in each human brain, they fail to provide a satisfying answer as to why human brains exist. What makes man know that he knows? Why does life exist at all? Indeed, why is there a universe rather than nothing? To answer the question of the Big Bang, Steven Hawking posited a theory of multiverses, but, according to his theory, these multiverses are inaccessible to us. The answers are beyond scientific reach.
There is a connection between science and religion but we cannot derive answers to the religious quest by creating a philosophy based on materialist natural science. Religion provides moral answers to man which are not observable in the laboratory.
In his lecture Friday August 31 at Jesus the King Church, Fr. Georges Baliki, Editor of Al-Macarra, recalled the materialist New Atheism phenomenon and implored Christians attending the lecture to defend the moral values of Christianity which are under attack everywhere. Materialism, he said, is the major challenge to Christianity in the West today. In formulating its constitution in 1999, the European Union representatives refused to recognize the role of Christianity in building the civilization of Europe in spite of the fact that Europe itself would not have historically achieved its unity without the Church.
Fr. Baliki advised his large audience to extend the presence of Christian moral values in their families and to their children. In spite of the small number of Christians present today in the Middle East, the vitality of faith is capable of carrying the message of Christ in the region and living in peaceful coexistence with Non-Christians who as fellow humans are brothers and sisters to us. Christians were always present in the Middle East and will continue to be present, for their role in the history of the Middle East cannot be overlooked.

To respond effectively to today's challenges, Christians need to be one again, he said. Christians must participate in the ecumenical movement which aims at reuniting the Churches of Christ.

Basing his ecumenical approach on history of Christianity, Fr. Georges Baliki argued for the importance of Christian unity. The twelve Apostles and their disciples spread the Christian faith in Jerusalem and Antioch as written in the Acts of the Apostles. St. Peter and St. Paul preached in Rome, Ephesus, and Athens while St. Mark, a disciple of the Apostles, preached in Alexandria. According to Tradition, St. Andrew preached in Asia Minor and St.Thomas went to the East as far as India. Christianity spread in the known world like fire. Yet following the declaration of Constantine that made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, major schisms started.

The tragic schisms of the past caused separation of numerous people from the Catholic Church. With claims to the truth coming from many sects and esoteric religions, atheists are not able to find their way to the true faith. Following the Council of Ephesus in 431AD, followers of Nestorius of Constantinople who rejected the veneration of Mary as Mother of God escaped the Byzantine empire to Persia for fear of persecution by orthodox Christians and have been continuing their tradition as Assyrians.  Following the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, millions more Christians followed their excommunicated patriarchs and bishops due to a misunderstanding of philosophical terms and rivalries between patriarchs.  In God's providence, those separated Christians, whether Assyrians or Non-Chalcedonians, carried the Christian faith to Ethiopia, Arabia, China and India and were at times massacred for their faith. Meanwhile, the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople developed rivalries, divergent theologies, cultures and languages and their heads ended up excommunicating each other in the major schism of 1054. The Churches of the Eastern Roman Empire including Russia, Serbia, Romania, Jerusalem and Antioch followed the Orthodox Church of Constantinople while the Churches of the West followed the Church of Rome.

In the 16th century Martin Luther rightly started a protest against misuse of the Papal authority to bring more money for building Churches but ended up separating himself from the Catholic Church when he proclaimed that the Bible alone as he understood it is the sole source of revelation and therefore could save him and other Christians who believed in his words. He was able to get the protection of princes who did not wish to pay dues to the Pope and took them and their subjects with him. Other Protestants followed suit in their own interpretation such as Calvin and Zwingli.  The Anglican Communion went its way when England's King Henry VIII, wishing to have a son, wanted the Pope to recognize his second marriage as lawful, yet Rome did not agree. In reaction, Henry VIII made himself Supreme Head of the Church of England and was excommunicated with his followers. Today over 3,500 Protestant communions exist, each of them claiming to own the truth.

In the early 20th century the ecumenical movement spread first in Christian Protestant Communions. The World Council of Churches was established with membership of major Protestant and Orthodox communions. In an act of openness, the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) opened dialogue with the above separated Christians. The dialogue has since made important contributions to a mutual understanding of the many beliefs that unite Christians.

In closing, Fr. Baliki emphasized that unity in faith does not threaten diversity in expressing the faith in the liturgies of different Churches.  The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches recognize the mysteries or sacraments which are signs of God's grace.

If we need atheists to recognize God, we need to show them love and love them as we know that He loved us to the end for "God is Love." This will be actualized in Christian unity.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

St. John Chrysostom on the Resurrection of Christ

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.
And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior's death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

Today's Quote

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


See Links to Websites Below