Thursday, July 31, 2008
Catholicism: Almighty God and Humanity in all of its Supernatural Glory.
By Matthew James Bellisario
Man is a creature who is created with hopes, dreams and a sense of longing. He is created with a need for God, which for many of us is replaced for a need of created things. Man can create false gods, and man can disillusion himself with mere carnal delights and deny what he is really made for. Yes, he was made in the image and likeness of God, but man has been making false images out of God for centuries. Who is this Jesus of Nazareth that the Catholic man identifies himself with? We see Him as the Word made flesh, and Him who has dwelt among us. Not only has He dwelt among us, He still dwells among us, within us and around us.
The incarnation of Christ is the celebration of all that mankind is, or ever will be. It is God taking on humanity in all of its goodness, and yet it is God taking all of humanities deficiency and making it more than whole again. The Catholic man is not afraid to look upon the goodness of humanity, especially in the light of Christ. The Sacred Images that have graced Christian places of worship since the ancient Church began elevate us and bring us into contemplation of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. The images of The Blessed Mother tell us that Jesus was indeed human, yet all of her immaculateness tells us that Jesus was indeed God incarnate. The honor of the Saints in images and their relics tell us that God indeed saves and redeems us from our sins. Christ receives us in the Holy Sacraments. The water of Baptism washes away our sins, the mystery of Chrismation fills us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When we sin we go to God and repent, we hear the words of absolution given to us by those in which He sent to bind and loose.
As we walk throughout each day in the hustle and bustle of the workplace, we can identify with Him who comes to take away the sins of the world. We can receive Him in all of His fullness in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. God has come to us in our own flesh, and in our own world, to save us. Catholicism is the incarnation in all of its glory. The true Christian faith leaves no stone unturned when it comes to our humanity, and our eschatological end. Catholicism is the Sacred Scriptures breathing alive among us. It is the living Gospel being proclaimed throughout the centuries, as if each century were really one in the same. Entering into the ancient churches does not leave us empty as if visiting a museum, but brings us into a sense of the eternal Word. Catholicism meets humanity wherever humanity is able to wonder. The Gospel tells us the only way to live in order to give Almighty God the glory He deserves.
I challenge anyone to provide one area of human existence that the Catholic Church will not stand up and proclaim the truth in. She will not give in to the world, yet she embraces the incarnation of Jesus in the world in order to give us eternal life. She sees the incarnation as a blessing and a path to eternal life. The world in its complete fallen state will not last, yet the resurrected life will go on. The Church gives us the truth in all of our humanity so as to see it in its perfect, deified state. Our sexuality can not be tarnished by contraception, homosexuality or cohabitation. Morality and virtue are always promoted and defended, while immorality and vice is rebuked. Even when modern man comes to corrupt humanity by modern vehicles such as cloning and the murdering of human embryos, who is equipped to deal with such malice other than the living Church?
Catholicism represents this purity of the incarnation in every aspect of our being. When one enters into the Divine Liturgy, which has been celebrated since the apostles, one cannot help but be taken up by the chants, the incense, the Holy Images before them, and the presence of Almighty God who makes Himself present among us. We can hear it, we can see it, we can feel it, we can breath it. The Sacred Scriptures, The Holy Images, The Holy Eucharist, the incense rising to heaven to give glory to God. There is nothing in our humanity in which the Gospel of the Church does not touch.
The Church calendar gives glory to God in all of His being as has been revealed to us through Divine Revelation. We see the Annunciation celebrated where the coming of Christ is announced by the Holy Angel Gabriel to the Immaculate Mary. We contemplate His birth and incarnation. We celebrate Him walking among us, healing the sick, proclaiming the good news and raising the dead. We see Him elevate mankind above his natural end to a supernatural end. We live and breath his cross and His crucifixion. We are called to live and breath His suffering, and yet we are called to live His resurrection as well.
Yes, we see Almighty Jesus in the Sacred Images, we see and honor His incarnation. When we see the Saints above our heads in sacred depictions we see Almighty God's glory shining through them, giving us hope that we may also rise to our supernatural ends. Where are the miracles of the ancients? In our Catholic faith miracles abound, just as if time had not advanced from the days of the apostles. Saint Padre Pio was an example of an apostle living in the present age, yet not different from the apostles that Christ appointed in His day. Many were lead to repentance through this Saint, and many lives have been changed forever from his witness. The Sacred Scriptures give witness to this kind of sacred faith. When we see Saint Peter's shadow healed the sick, we also see God doing the same in His Saints throughout the ages of His Church. Our humanity is now risen from the grave in Christ. Humanity has been deified. Mankind's deification is celebrated in its fullness in the Catholic Church. Where can Christ be met, loved and experienced in all that He is as the Word being made flesh? Not in any church that may hail itself as such, but only one that can prove its existence in her actions of worship throughout the centuries. It is His One , Holy and Apostolic Church that is the pillar of Truth. The Catholic faith is this Body of Christ existing beyond time and space. She is in the world, but not of the world. She is not afraid of celebrating mankind in the coming of Christ, as many today do who try and steal the Christian name. The Catholic Church is Jesus Christ giving mankind the eternal Word in all of the Holy Trinity's Supernatural Glory.
Posted by James Bellisario at 11:14 PM
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
This might be an off the wall post, but here goes. In the last 4 or so video posts on James White's blog he has managed to put together quite an array of color schemes to his comical wardrobe. In the midst of his Rush Limbaugh routine he alternates hats and shirts one day, and even changes his hat in the middle of another video from orange to green. What the heck is all of that about? Anyways, just something that caught my attention when I was visiting his blog. Black hat, green hat, orange hat...quite comical. He's like a cartoon character. I think maybe he should try the last cap that way he doesn't have to color coordinate so much...
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The use of Holy Images in the Church are a universal expression of love for God and the work he does in His Saints. We can see a testimony to the use of Sacred images in the early centuries of the Church from many preserved archaeological sites from ancient Christianity. The catacombs in Rome and the early house churches such as that of Dura Europos were adorned with images depicting Christ or scenes from the Sacred Scriptures. Images of Christ appeared as a way to contemplate the Word made flesh as the Gospel of Saint John proclaims. One of the finest and well preserved icon mosaics from the Byzantine era is in Ravenna, Italy. Unfortunately most of the icons in Byzantium were destroyed by the iconoclasts in the 8th century. The Church eventually overcame this heresy but not without suffering a severe loss to many Holy Images. The Byzantine influence however spread into Italy and this influence can be seen in Ravenna, Italy. Byzantium, although far from a heaven on earth, was for a time the sanctuary and jewel of Christianity in the greater known world, surpassing even the splendor of Rome for a time. Ravenna was the seat to the Byzantine government in Italy for a time.
The Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, was begun by Bishop Ecclesius in 527. It is a host of beautiful examples of early Byzantine iconography. Last year 2007 I was able to visit this beautiful church. The splendor of Christendom comes to life in these brilliant, colorful mosaics. An image of Christ hangs in the air between the Bema and the Nave of the Church surrounded by brilliant medallions of the Saints on both sides of Him. Saint Andrew gazes down upon all who enter. There is a lamb, symbolic of Christ, surrounded by choirs of angels in a dome adorning the Church. The side walls depict scenes from the Old Testament such as the life of Abraham and Moses. Theology comes to life as we see the altar as a main focus of the church. Abel and Melchizedek stand on both sides of the altar, there are also two loaves of bread and a chalice depicting the elements that will become the Body and Blood of Our Lord. The hand of God can be seen above the altar as appearing from the clouds. The Agnus Dei is etched in bands along the vault declaring here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Anyone who takes note of the theological symbolism in the iconography can see the plain literal meaning of Body and the Blood of Christ being present after being consecrated by the priest. The symbolism of the priesthood and the literal presence of Christ is unmistakable in the adornment of this glorious structure, as well as the Divine Liturgy which has been celebrated for centuries within her walls. Those who enter this holy sanctuary are utterly taken up into the Holy Mysteries of Almighty God. I couldn't help but be carried away by sheer awe at times, lead into prayer at yet another moment, while being subdued by sheer silence and contemplation in another . It was as if time stood still. There was no difference between the age of Justinian and my own. Looking to the sides of the bema the images of emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora gaze upon me. Here we see a time long past when the ruling authorities on earth also gave glory and honor to God. When we step into this holy space we are no longer burdened by the distractions of the world. We cannot doubt the One Apostolic Church that Christ has graced us with. The living faith still lives and breathes within her walls; bound not by time nor space. We see the Church, the pillar and bulwark of Truth standing majestically for all to admire and embrace.
Posted by James Bellisario at 12:50 PM
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Fun trivia here for those who wonder how the fish symbol came to be stuck on thousands of cars these days; the symbol of course originating back to the early church. The early Christian symbolism of the Fish derived from the first five letters in Greek abbreviated meaning...
Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter
I Ch Th Y S or Jesus Christ, Son of God , Savior.
I ch th y s spells Fish in Greek. (ΙΧΘΥΣ, Greek for fish)
Posted by James Bellisario at 12:04 PM
Saturday, July 26, 2008
No, we all do not worship the same God.
I wanted to put somewhat of a controversial topic up. It contends that many of us today are much too complacent with those who reside outside of the One True Faith. Many of us today take the unique situations of invincible ignorance and baptism of desire and use that as a reason to nullify the need to evangelize. We tend to think that Protestants are OK as well as Muslims and pagans all the same. In today's culture of relativism it seems as if everyone is as good as in, when it comes to heaven. Where has our evangelization gone? I took a drive through the country roads where I live and I saw 20 different Protestant sects within 5 miles of each other, and not one small Catholic Church in place for miles to evangelize these cults from their heretical doctrines of men. I am being a bit overzealous here for a reason. We today would rather be nice than be signs of contradiction to the world. We tell the Muslims it is OK to follow Muhammad rather than Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We tell the pagans that it is OK to be pagans, rather than calling them to conversion. Here are a few quotes of some Saints that we would do well to remember.
St. Peter Canisius said "Who is to be called a Christian? He who confesses the doctrine of Christ and His Church. Hence, he is truly a Christian thoroughly condemns and detests, the Jewish, Mohammedan, and the heretical cults and sects."
St. Peter Mavimenus said, "Whoever does not embrace the Catholic Christian religion will be damned, as was your false prophet Mohammed."
St John Vianny said, "My friend, there are not two ways of serving Our Lord; there is only one good way, and it is to serve Him as He wishes to be served"
Sacred Scripture also puts the one true Church as the dividing line of authority and belief. Matthew 18:16-20 reads, (Taken from the Douay Rheims online)
16 And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. 17 And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican. 18 Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning any thing whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven. 20 For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
20 "There am I in the midst of them"... This is understood of such assemblies only as are gathered in the name and authority of Christ; and in unity of the church of Christ. St. Cyprian, De Unitate Ecclesiae.
Posted by James Bellisario at 1:52 PM
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Many so-called "Reformed" apologists these days such as James White continue to attack the veneration of relics. Yet we can see that the ancient apostolic churches once again prove that the "Reformation" is where sacredness is lost. Here we see an image made of ivory from the early 5th century in Byzantium. We can see a grand procession through the streets with the Emperor in procession with two priest carrying the relics to a new church in Constantinople. The crowds peer on from every side as the Christian faith is embraced and the Saint is honored. The priests are wearing vestments as they sit in the wagon holding up the reliquary, taking it to the Church that was being built on the right. Here we see the glory and splendor of the Church being lived out in this ancient Christian capital. Were the veneration of relics an invention of medieval Rome? Far from it. Every apostolic Church before the Protestant Reformation venerated them.
Posted by James Bellisario at 11:13 PM
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
So now the Church has to wait another 2 years for a new English Liturgy translation? Then who knows if they will agree on that one. It is my hope that the Vatican steps in with its own English translation instead of waiting on this conference. The USCCB has once again failed to do what it is supposed to do. I'm not sure but I think they started this process about 3 years ago now and we are still waiting...... Some bishops think that the American public is too stupid to understand a better and more traditional translation of the Liturgy. What happened to the good old days when the Pope just spoke, and it was done? Thank God for the Eastern Church Liturgies and the Tridentine Mass. I am blessed to have them both where I live. Its all smoke and mirrors.
Sometimes you have to blow off some steam!
See links below for more info on this.
Posted by James Bellisario at 9:41 PM