Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Saints Part IV: Saint Basil on the Intercession of the Saints

Continuing on in the series on the Saints I wanted to have a quick look at Saint Basil of Ceasarea. There is no question as to the Early Church Father's endorsement of the veneration of the Saints and their relics. We have already examined St. Augustine and St. Jerome in the West, and now I want to shift over to the East. Saint Basil was a bishop in Asia Minor in the middle of the 4th century. His impact on liturgy and Christian orthodoxy is well known. What many people however do not know is the small but important treatment on the veneration of the Saints he gives in one of his letters, now known as letter 360. In it Saint basil gives a small profession of faith which resembles the Nicene profession. But in this one he makes a distinct reference to the Saints in directly asking for their intercession. This is very important to know as Catholics when we get bombarded by people who frequently quote the Church Fathers out of context. Not only does the great Saint cover this, he also covers the veneration of sacred images as well, again proving that this was not considered idolatry by the Saint. I will quote the letter in full, but it is quite short. I will add my bit of commentary in between portions of it.

Of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the invocation of Saints, and their Images.

According to the blameless faith of the Christians which we have obtained from God, I confess and agree that I believe in one God the Father Almighty; God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost; I adore and worship one God, the Three.

Here is a simple profession of the Holy Trinity, which was under attack in his time. In fact the ecumenical councils of the early Church dealt with the Holy Trinity as well as the person of Our Savior Jesus Christ.

I confess to the œconomy of the Son in the flesh, and that the holy Mary, who gave birth to Him according to the flesh, was Mother of God.

Here Saint Basil confirms the use of the title, "Theotokos" or "Mother of God."
This was also a point of debate in the early Church, which dealt with the two natures of Christ. Of course, the Catholic and Orthodox Churches continue to uphold these important decisions of the early Church, while most Protestants ignore them. The next passage is where the meat of the text is that deals with the Saints.

I acknowledge also the holy apostles, prophets, and martyrs; and I invoke them to supplication to God, that through them, that is, through their mediation, the merciful God may be propitious to me, and that a ransom may be made and given me for my sins. 

Saint Basil is very explicit here and says that he invokes the holy apostles, the prophets and martyrs who came before them in order that through them and their mediation that God may be propitious to him. This is a clear example of what we as Catholics and Orthodox also do. It is also clear that St. Basil, like we as Catholics today are not substituting the "mediation" of the Saints for the mediation of Christ. This would be a misreading of the Saint, and it is also a false accusation made against Catholics today.  Finally the letter is summed up in his veneration of the images of the Saints.

Wherefore also I honour and kiss the features of their images, inasmuch as they have been handed down from the holy apostles, and are not forbidden, but are in all our churches.

Wouldn't the Protestant today reject the act of Saint Basil kissing these images? How many times have I witnessed Protestants online telling their readers that Catholics who kiss the images of the Saints are committing idolatry. It is simply not so! What a beautiful testimony here to the ancient Christian faith! Here Saint Basil tells us that these images are in all of their churches! I find so many people outside of the Church today who think that the early Christians forbade images in the early Church, yet we see here that it is not so. With this testimony we again see our Catholic faith shine through the early Church. We see this same honor, veneration and respect being payed to the Saints today in every ancient apostolic Church including the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Stay tuned for an upcoming podcast on this subject where I will summarize much of the material I have been compiling here. I will also refute one particular individual who continues to quote the Church Fathers out of context on his blog quite frequently on this and other subjects concerning the Catholic faith.

The Saints- Part III: Saint Jerome-The Veneration and Honor of Relics

It is worth putting up Saint Jerome's entire letter written in the year 404 to a man named Riparius. It appears that Riparius is writing to Saint Jerome because a man named Vigilantius was causing trouble for Christians who were venerating the relics of martyrs. This letter is interesting because Saint Jerome seems to be at the end of his rope in dealing with people of his time who were attacking him and others for venerating the relics of the Saints. Here he calls Vigilantius, an "Unhappy wretch!" In fact Saint Jerome does not hold back when dealing with such accusations, and we as Catholics should not take these types of accusations lightly either. Those outside the Catholic Church today who accuse Catholics of idolatry in venerating the Saints and their relics should too be considered "Unhappy wretches."I have provided my own commentary as we go through the letter.

The beginning of the letter makes it very clear that St. Jerome is furious over these accusations.

To Riparius:

1. Now that I have received a letter from you, if I do not answer it I shall be guilty of pride, and if I do I shall be guilty of rashness. For the matters concerning which you ask my opinion are such that they cannot either be spoken of or listened to without profanity.

St. Jerome cannot even contain himself in responding to these types of attacks. Keep following, it only gets better. In the next portion of the opening paragraph he explains what is is that he is so upset about.

You tell me that Vigilantius (whose very name "Wakeful" is a contradiction: he ought rather to be described as "Sleepy") has again opened his fetid lips and is pouring forth a torrent of filthy venom upon the relics of the holy martyrs; and that he calls us who cherish them ashmongers and idolaters who pay homage to dead men.s bones.

Now, it is a recognized historical fact that Vigilantius was a Christian from Aquitania (Modern day France) who was recognized as being an opponent to the veneration of the Saints and their relics in particular. So, I find it interesting how Protestants quote Church Fathers like St. Jerome and St. Augustine, claiming that none of them believed in venerating relics, when we have guys like Vigilantius writing against them for this very reason. Saint Jerome counters with the same argument that Catholics counter with. I like the language St. Jerome uses here in his retort to such foolishness, fetid (having a heavy offensive smell) lips that pour forth a torrent of filthy venom, etc. St. Jerome was not playing! He was furious that he was getting a letter from his fellow Christian on this subject. He continues on.

Unhappy wretch! to be wept over by all Christian men, who sees not that in speaking thus he makes himself one with the Samaritans and the Jews who hold dead bodies unclean and regard as defiled even vessels which have been in the same house with them, following the letter that killeth and not the spirit that giveth life, [2 Cor. iii. 6].

"Unhappy wretch!" writes Saint Jerome in addressing Vigilantius. Saint Jerome then continues on to explain that they are not "worshiping" the Saints as if they were God, or deities, which we as Catholics also claim. But he follows up with an explanation.

We, it is true, refuse to worship or adore, I say not the relics of the martyrs, but even the sun and moon, the angels and archangels, the Cherubim and Seraphim and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come, [Eph. i. 21]. For we may not serve the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever, [Rom. i. 25].
Still we honour the relics of the martyrs, that we may adore Him whose martyrs they are.

So here we see that St. Jerome is clearly stating that the veneration or honor they are giving to the Saints and their relics is not the same as worshiping God. I covered this in my first part of this series. We give a high esteem or honor to them, not the worship or adoration that is due to God alone. Yet, like Catholics, St Jerome realizes that when we honor the Saints and their relics, that is leads us to adoration and worship God, whose Saints they are. In other words, we understand that their "saintliness" is not of their own origin, but derives from God. So Saint Jerome clearly endorses the veneration or honor of the Saints' relics, but does not approve of "worshiping" them as if they are God, or "gods".

We honour the servants that their honour may be reflected upon their Lord who Himself says: ..he that receiveth you receiveth me... , [Matt. x. 40]. I ask Vigilantius, "Are the relics of Peter and of Paul unclean? Was the body of Moses unclean, of which we are told (according to the correct Hebrew text, [Deut. xxxiv. 6]) that it was buried by the Lord Himself? And do we, every time that we enter the basilicas of apostles and prophets and martyrs, pay homage to the shrines of idols? Are the tapers which burn before their tombs only the tokens of idolatry?"

Saint Jerome continues and says that their honor reflects the work of the Lord which is in them. Then St. Jerome attacks the mentality of the Jews and the uncleanliness they attributed to the remains of the dead. Vigilantius must have used this reason as an argument against the veneration and use of the relics, and St. Jerome was refuting him on this. What is also telling here is that the basilicas of St. Jerome's time must have had relics in them as well because he makes reference to shrines in which they payed homage to the Saints in basilicas. He also makes reference to the candles or tapers which they burn before their tombs and relics. The Christians of his time must have made pilgrimages to these burial sites of the apostles as well. He clearly states that it is foolish to consider this idolatry. I already made mention of the symbolism of the candles in the second part of my series, in which they represent the light of Christ in the Saints. The next portion, we see St. Jerome calling for the bishop to strike down this guy who is making these false accusations, and he further refutes the accusations of the relics being unclean.

I will go farther still and ask a question which will make this theory recoil upon the head of its inventor and which will either kill or cure that frenzied brain of his, so that simple souls shall be no more subverted by his sacrilegious reasonings. Let him answer me this: Was the Lord.s body unclean when it was placed in the sepulchre? And did the angels clothed in white raiment merely watch over a corpse dead and defiled, that ages afterwards this sleepy fellow might indulge in dreams and vomit forth his filthy surfeit, so as, like the persecutor Julian, either to destroy the basilicas of the saints or to convert them into heathen temples? 

2. I am surprised that the reverend bishop in whose diocese he is said to be a presbyter [probably Exuperius of Toulouse] acquiesces in this his mad preaching, and that he does not rather with apostolic rod, nay with a rod of iron [Ps. ii. 9], shatter this useless vessel and deliver him for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved, [1 Cor. v. 5]. He should remember the words that are said: When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst unto him; and hast been partaker with adulterers, [Ps. l. 18]; and in another place, I will early destroy all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord, [Ps. ci. 8]; and again Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred ... , [Ps. cxxxix. 21, 22].

I thought that was pretty sharp and to the point no? Again the language used is direct and blunt. He wants this heretic to be struck down by the rod of iron! He considers Vigilantius' position to be an invention. If only we had people in the Church today like St. Jerome who were not afraid to openly challenge false accusations like these. Then Saint Jerome asks an important question.

If the relics of the martyrs are not worthy of honour, how comes it that we read Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints, [Ps. cxvi. 15]

It is quite clear here that St. Jerome believes that the relics are to be honored by all Christians. St. Jerome seems to quote psalm 116:15 to point out that the veneration of the martyrs corresponds to the same glory and honor given to them in the Scriptures. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."

If dead men's bones defile those that touch them, how came it that the dead Elisha raised another man also dead, and that life came to this latter from the body of the prophet which according to Vigilantius must have been unclean? In that case every encampment of the host of Israel and the people of God was unclean; for they carried the bodies of Joseph and of the patriarchs with them in the wilderness, and carried their unclean ashes even into the holy land. In that case Joseph, who was a type of our Lord and Saviour, was a wicked man; for he carried up Jacob's bones with great pomp to Hebron merely to put his unclean father beside his unclean grandfather and great-grandfather, that is, one dead body along with others. 

Here Saint Jerome continues to rail against the "uncleanliness" of the relics by looking to the Old Testament. What comes next is quite shocking and gives us an idea at how upset St. Jerome really is by these types of false accusations. 

The wretch's tongue should be cut out, or he should be put under treatment for insanity. As he does not know how to speak, he should learn to be silent. I have myself before now seen the monster, and have done my best to bind the maniac with texts of scripture, as Hippocrates binds his patients with chains; but "he went away, he departed, he escaped, he broke out," [as Cicero says of Catiline, Cat. ii. l], and taking refuge between the Adriatic and the Alps of King Cotius declaimed in his turn against me. For all that a fool says must be regarded as mere noise and mouthing.
I think this passage says it all concerning this false attack. Cut out his tongue! The man is insane! And so too we view those Protestants who falsely attack the Catholic faith as being insane and fools who must be regarded as nothing more than mere noise and mouthing. Of course the tongue thing may be a bit extreme, I am not sure if St. Jerome would have followed through or not, maybe he would have. One thing is certain, he justifies himself in the next passage.

3. You may perhaps in your secret thoughts find fault with me for thus assailing a man behind his back. I will frankly admit that my indignation overpowers me; I cannot listen with patience to such sacrilegious opinions. 

It seems that St. Jerome at the point of writing this letter was at the end of his rope. He must have been dealing with these types of heretics for quite awhile. It is apparent that he has lost his patience with the matter, and considers such men who oppose the honor of the Saints and their relics to be sacrilegious! We as Catholics also view those who oppose the honor and veneration of the Saints and their relics as a spit in the face of Jesus Christ.

I have read of the javelin of Phinehas, of the harshness of Elijah, of the jealous anger of Simon the zealot, of the severity of Peter in putting to death Ananias and Sapphira, and of the firmness of Paul who, when Elymas the sorcerer withstood the ways of the Lord, doomed him to lifelong blindness. There is no cruelty in regard for God's honour. Wherefore also in the Law it is said: If thy brother or thy friend or the wife of thy bosom entice thee from the truth, thine hand shall be upon them and thou shalt shed their blood, and so shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of Israel.. , [Deut. xiii. 5-9].
Once more I ask: Are the relics of the martyrs unclean? If so, why did the apostles allow themselves to walk in that funeral procession before the body -- the unclean body -- of Stephen, [Acts viii. 2]? Why did they make great lamentation over him, that their grief might be turned into our joy?

Here the great Saint continues to defend the veneration of the relics specifically and refers to the apostles who walked in the funeral procession with the body of St Stephen. Again, Vigilantius must have been using this argument to object to the veneration and procession of the relics, which apparently were taking place not only at their funerals, but that were processed with for veneration and as St. Augustine points out in Book 22, chapters 8-10 of "The City of God" many were healed by this veneration. St. Augustine also makes mention of prayers being made to the martyrs for their intercession as well. In the next passage it seems that St. Jerome is taking issue with Vigilantius' attitude towards prayer vigils. Of course we as Catholics understand the vigil prayers of the Church.

You tell me farther that Vigilantius execrates vigils. In this surely he goes contrary to his name. The "Wakeful One" wishes to sleep and will not hearken to the Saviour's words, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.. , [Matt. xxvi. 40, 41]. And in another place a prophet sings: At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.. , [Ps. cxix. 62]. We read also in the gospel [Luke vi. 12] how the Lord spent whole nights in prayer, and how the apostles when they were shut up in prison kept vigil all night long, singing their psalms until the earth quaked, and the keeper of the prison believed, and the magistrates and citizens were filled with terror, [Acts xvi. 25-38]. Paul says: Continue in prayer and watch in the same.. , [Col. iv. 2], and in another place he speaks of himself as in watchings often.., [2 Cor. xi. 27].
Vigilantius may sleep if he pleases, and may choke in his sleep, destroyed by the destroyer of Egypt and of the Egyptians.

Here Saint Jerome again exhibits his aggravation with Vigilantius. Apparently Vigilantius slept during the vigils in his contempt for it, and St. Jerome rails in after him saying, "and may choke in his sleep." What is telling here is that once one part of the true faith is abandoned it leads to other rejections of the faith. Here Vigilantius not only has decided that the veneration and honor of relics is wrong, but he also has decided that he will reject the prayers of the Church as well. Does this sound familiar? Yes, Vigilantius sounds like the prototype for Luther and the Reformers doesn't he?

But let us say with David: Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.. So will the Holy One and the 'Iyr [Hebrew for "Watcher"] come to us, [Ps. cxxi. 4 combined with Dan. iv. 13]. And if ever by reason of our sins He fall asleep, let us say to Him: Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord, [Ps. xliv. 23]; and when our ship is tossed by the waves let us rouse Him and say, Master, save us: we perish, [Matt. viii. 25; Luke viii. 24]

4. I would dictate more were it not that the limits of a letter impose upon me a modest silence. I might have gone on, had you sent me the books which contain this man's rhapsodies, for in that case I should have known what points I had to refute. As it is I am only beating the air and revealing not so much his infidelity (for this is patent to all) as my own faith. But if you wish me to write against him at greater length, send me those wretched dronings of his and in my answer he shall hear an echo of John the Baptist's words Now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.. 

Saint Jerome closes the letter by letting his recipient know that he will be glad to write more on the matter if he wishes, and that Vigilantius and those like him are akin to trees who do not bring forth good fruit which will be cast into the fire. This issue should therefore should be taken seriously by Catholics of good faith, and we should regard the writings of the Protestants who rail against the veneration of the Saints as wretched droning as well. 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book Recommendation: Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives

I am to the last few pages of a great book called "Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives," and it is about the life of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnitsa. He was a Serbian monk who was born in 1914 and went through the many trials that Serbia endured over the course of his life. The book is split up into two parts, the first biographical and the second part his thoughts on the spiritual life.  What makes this monastic warrior so interesting is that he is a monk of our times. He endured many trials of the modern age and went to his repose in 2003, so he has much advice in the spiritual life that most of us can relate to. The work is just over 200 pages, the first 60 being his biography, the remaining his thoughts on the spiritual life. He covers many topics of interest including, but not limited to: Our Thoughts, The Family Life, On Repentance, On Prayer, On The Spiritual Struggle, A Homily on the Dormition of the Theotokos as well as a collection of sayings of the Elder. 

The spirits under heaven are always setting traps in our thoughts. When St. Anthony saw all the different kinds of nets that the spirits of evil set in order to ensnare us, he sighed and said, "O my God, who then can be saved?"And he heard a voice : "Only the meek and the humble. What is more, these snares cannot even touch them." 

"Here on this earth people should strive to reject the suggestions of the spirits of evil. The Holy fathers tell us always to be vigilant and to be aware that any thought that disturbs our inner peace comes directly form Hades, and that we must not accept such a thought but reject it immediately."
Elder Thaddeus 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Monastery of Agios Savvas in Kalymnos-Virtual Tours

Every so often you run across something cool on the internet that you want to share. Check out the virtual tour of the interior of the Monastery of Agios Savvas on the island of Kalymnos in Greece. Here is another of the exterior.  What a great testament to the ancient monastic tradition.

The Bias Against Catholics and Sexual Abuse.

I do not believe that any faithful Catholic should have to tolerate even one case of sexual abuse in the Church. It has truly been a terrible time for the Church in recent years with these abuse cases. That said, why is it that no other group is looked at with the same intensity and scrutiny as the Catholic Church is looked upon regarding this issue? Is there a double standard going on here? Phillip Jenkins has just published a new article on this very subject. I suggest you check it out.You may also want to check out his book called, "The New Anti-Catholicism"

Here are a couple of excerpts from his article. I found the last quote quite interesting and it hits the nail on the head. I have seen all too frequently Protestants attacking the Catholic Church while ignoring their own cover-ups in their own churches.

" If anyone believes that priests offend at a higher rate than teachers or non-celibate clergy, then they should produce the evidence on which they are basing that conclusion. I know of none. Saying "everybody knows" does not constitute scientific methodology."

"As the resulting Catholic horror stories accumulate, so many media organizations develop a ready-made format for reporting them, a familiar mythology of specifically Catholic malpractice. Saying that does not mean charging any particular news outlet with deliberate religious prejudice: Some go to great lengths to be fair to accused clergy. But when we approach the issue as a specifically Catholic one, we inevitably cast the church as villain, to the exclusion ofother interpretations. The more firmly the public accepts the image of the sinister priest, the harder it becomes to find juries who will disbelieve abuse allegations. The more cases are reported, the more people come forward to publicize their own complaints. Most plaintiffs are reporting genuine victimization, but some are not."

"Presently, though, pedophile pastors or teachers are little known to the general public, while pedophile priests have become a familiar villain. In consequence, cases of abusive priests are reported as part of a systematic crisis within a deeply flawed church, while non-Catholic offenders are treated as isolated villains, just bad apples within their professions."

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Saints: Part II- Can the Saints Pray for Us?

The Saints: Part II- Can the Saints Pray for Us?
Matthew J. Bellisario 2010
In the first part of this series we examined what type of “worship” Catholics give to the Saints. We determined that it was a type of veneration in which we express a deep respect, honor, reverence and love for our brothers and sisters in Christ who now reside in the heavenly realm with Christ. We also realized that we also adore God as well when we praise the Saints, and we recognize the grace of God that was bestowed upon them. It is worth noting what St. Jerome had to say about this, “Still we honor the relics of the martyrs, that we may adore Him whose martyrs they are. We honor the servants that their honor may be reflected upon their Lord who Himself says:--'he that receiveth you receiveth me.' Jerome, To Riparius, Epistle 109:1 (A.D. 404) In this second part I wanted to examine whether or not it seems probable from the Scriptures and from Tradition as to whether or not the Saints in heaven can see us and pray for us. 
Our first stop will be Sacred Scripture. In the Gospel of Luke we see Jesus clearly tell his followers that all who have departed in faith are still “living”, and that the dead rise again. This seems to imply that those who have gone on are not sleeping or in a state where they are oblivious to what is going on in the Body of Christ. “Now that the dead rise again, Moses also shewed, at the bush, when he called the Lord, The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; For he is not the God of the dead, but of the living: for all live to him.” (Luke 20:37-38) All those in the Body of Christ are alive,including those who have gone on before us. In the Apocalypse of Saint John we see many instances of those in heaven worshiping God as we do here on earth. “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats; and upon the seats, four and twenty ancients sitting, clothed in white garments, and on their heads were crowns of gold...And they rested not day and night, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.” (Rev 4:4,8) In chapter 5 we see a clear reference to heaven where there is worship representative of the Mass, including the use of incense and where the prayers of the Saints are presented before almighty God. “And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints: And they sung a new canticle, saying: Thou art worthy, O Lord, to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God, in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation. And hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:8-10)
It is well known that the ancient tradition of the Catholic Church is to have relics of the Saints put in the altars which are venerated during the worship of the Mass. This is not an invention that was made out of thin air. The first Christians in the catacombs worshiped on the relics of the martyrs and Saints, and the idea is represented in Sacred Scripture. “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying: How long, O Lord (holy and true) dost thou not judge and revenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Rev 6”9-10) There are some who think that these texts are only referring to something in the future which will take place only at a later time and that those who have gone on before us are not in the state in which these texts refer. Yet we know that this is not true based on consistent interpretation of tradition in the Church, in her liturgies and in its consistency with other parts of Scripture which allude to those who have gone on before us like Moses and Elias for example, are still alive and were revealed as being so in the Gospels. During the Transfiguration Jesus Himself revealed that Moses and Elias were indeed alive and able to see and participate in some form after their deaths. “And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him.” (Matthew 17:3) Finally in the book of Hebrews we see Saint Paul tell us that there is a great cloud of witnesses watching over us as we here on earth strive to serve almighty God. “And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us...” (Hebrews 12:1)
Many use the text of 1 Timothy to claim that Catholics are violating the one mediator who is Christ by asking the Saints to pray for us. “For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus: Who gave himself a redemption for all, a testimony in due times.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6) The Catholic Church however is not saying that the Saints are like Christ who is our redemption and who is able to reconcile mankind to God by the shedding of His blood. We simply see the Saints as our living brothers and sisters in Christ who are still living and able to pray for us as we ask people to do so on earth. If it is not a violation of the one mediator-ship of Christ to ask for someone’s prayers while they are alive here on earth, it is not a violation to ask those living in heaven to pray for us either. What is also ironic is that Protestants will quote 1 Tim 2:5-6 to refute Catholics saying that we are violating Christ’s mediation by asking others to pray for us, yet they skip over verse 1 which tells us that we should pray for others. “I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men:...” (1 Timothy 2:1) So, if the Saints can hear and see us, and they are indeed alive and active in the Body of Christ, then it would seem that there is no violation of Christ’s mediation by asking them to pray for us. 
If we now look to the early Christians as witnesses, we can see very plainly that they also venerated the Saints and asked for their intercession. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem wrote, "Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, that at their prayers and intercessions God would receive our petition. Then on behalf also of the Holy Fathers and Bishops who have fallen asleep before us, and in a word of all who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls, for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful sacrifice is set forth." Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 23:9 (A.D. 350)
It seems that Saint Augustine in is age had heretics attacking him for accusing him of worshiping idols as well when he honored the Saints and asked for their intercession. Saint Augustine refutes their fallacy. "As to our paying honor to the memory of the martyrs, and the accusation of Faustus, that we worship them instead of idols, I should not care to answer such a charge, were it not for the sake of showing how Faustus, in his desire to cast reproach on us, has overstepped the Manichaean inventions, and has fallen heedlessly into a popular notion found in Pagan poetry, although he is so anxious to be distinguished from the Pagans. For in saying that we have turned the idols into martyrs, be speaks of our worshipping them with similar rites, and appeasing the shades of the departed with wine and food…It is true that Christians pay religious honor to the memory of the martyrs, both to excite us to imitate them and to obtain a share in their merits, and the assistance of their prayers. But we build altars not to any martyr, but to the God of martyrs, although it is to the memory of the martyrs. Augustine, Against Faustus, 20:21 (A.D. 400) It is also no secret that St. Augustine attested to many miracles brought about by the veneration of the Saints and their relics, and you can read it for yourself in his grand work, “The City of God.”
Likewise Saint Jerome had to battle those whom he called “inventors” for their false accusations in attacking him for venerating the relics of the Saints. He responded quite firmly, “I ask Vigilantius, Are the relics of Peter and of Paul unclean? Was the body of Moses unclean, of which we are told (according to the correct Hebrew text) that it was buried by the Lord Himself? And do we, every time that we enter the basilicas of apostles and prophets and martyrs, pay homage to the shrines of idols? Are the tapers which burn before their tombs only the tokens of idolatry? I will go farther still and ask a question which will make this theory recoil upon the head of its inventor and which will either kill or cure that frenzied brain of his, so that simple souls shall be no more subverted by his sacrilegious reasonings. Let him answer me this, Was the Lord's body unclean when it was placed in the sepulchre? And did the angels clothed in white raiment merely watch over a corpse dead and defiled, that ages afterwards this sleepy fellow might indulge in dreams and vomit forth his filthy surfeit, so as, like the persecutor Julian, either to destroy the basilicas of the saints or to convert them into heathen temples?" Jerome, To Riparius, 109:1 (A.D. 404). There are many more examples I could quote form the early Fathers on this subject. For the sake of brevity I will refrain from doing so,  
Finally it is worth noting that the veneration of Saints has existed in the Divine Liturgy from the earliest times of structured Christian worship. Every documented liturgy that dates back to the ancient apostolic Churches contain prayers to the Saints, as well as prayers that pay tribute and honor to the Saints. For example, we see in the Proskomedia (Greek word meaning offering. The first part of the Liturgy derives its name from the early Christian custom of the people offering bread and wine and all else that was needed for the Liturgy.) in the Eastern Church liturgy, that there is a portion of the bread that will be used for the veneration of the Saints. “From the second prosphora, the priest cuts out one portion in honor of the Virgin Mary and places it on the right side of the Lamb on the diskos. From the third prosphora, which is called "that of the nine ranks," are taken nine portions in honor of the saints, John the Forerunner and Baptist, the prophets, the Apostles, the hierarchs, the martyrs, the monastic saints, the unmercenary physicians, the grandparents of Jesus, Joachim and Anna, the saint who is celebrated that day, the saint to whom the church is dedicated, and finally the saint who composed the liturgy being celebrated. These portions are placed on the left side the Lamb. From the fourth prosphora, portions are removed for the hierarchs, the priesthood, and all the living. From the fifth prosphora, portions are taken for those Orthodox Christians who have reposed.” (Bishop Alexander (Mileant) 2001) 
There are several parts of the liturgy where the intercession of the Saints are petitioned by the faithful. For example, one antiphon of the Divine Liturgy reads, “Through the intercessions of the Theotokos (The Mother of God), Savior, save us” and at the dismissal the priest asks for the intercession of the Theotokos and the Saints. “May Christ our true God, through the intercessions of His all-immaculate Mother, of the holy and glorious Apostles, of our Father among the Saints, John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople ... and of all the Saints, have mercy on us and save us, for He is good and the Lover of mankind.” These types of prayers to the Saints are said in the proper worship of every ancient Rite of the Church. 
Before I close I would like to address the lighting of candles in the Catholic Church. Some people ask why we light candles in front of the icons or other images of the Saints in our churches. We can see from the quote that I cited earlier that Saint Jerome in the early 400s burned candles before the tombs of the martyrs. This was done for a variety of reasons. It is to represent God’s grace, the fire of the Holy Spirit which is present among the faithful, and among the Saints. It also represents the fire of prayer among the faithful, and the light that Christ has brought into the world. In short it symbolizes the new life that is given to us by the fire of Divine love. Turtullian in the 2nd century wrote of the use of candles in the liturgy, “We never hold a service without candles, yet we use them not just to dispel night's gloom we also hold our services in daylight but in order to represent by this Christ, the Uncreated Light, without Worn we would in broad daylight wander as if lost in darkness.” We also see the candles that burn in the sanctuary of the Church near the tabernacle where Our Lord is Present to identify His presence there as well. The lighting of candles was not foreign to the ancient Christians, and the Jews also included such symbolism in their liturgies, “He set the candlestick also in the tabernacle of the testimony over against the table on the south side, Placing the lamps in order, according to the precept of the Lord.” (Exodus 40:22-23) 
So in closing we can rest assured that the worship given to the Saints is appropriate in the Catholic faith, and that it not only gives honor and veneration to our brothers and sisters in Christ, it also gives honor to God for the grace that he gives us and His Saints. It is also reasonable to believe that the Saints are not dead and are not completely separated from us, for none are dead that live in Christ. (Luke 20:37-38) Scripture and Tradition attest to this very fact. Finally, we should not be embarrassed about lighting candles before the icons, relics and other images of the Saints. It is an appropriate symbolic act that represents our faith in God, the light of Christ, and the continuous prayers of the Saints before almighty God. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bishop John Bura Visits Epiphany Ukrainian Catholic Church-St. Petersburg, Fl.

Today was a great day at Epiphany of Our Lord, Ukrainian Catholic Church in Saint Petersburg, Florida. The newly appointed bishop of the Eparchy of Parma, His Grace, Most Reverend John Bura, celebrated the Divine Liturgy today and visited with members of the parish afterwords in the hall during lunch. Here are some pictures of the memorable event that show the splendor of the Eastern Catholic Tradition.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Saints: Part I-Do Catholics Worship the Saints?

The Saints: Part I-Do Catholics "Worship" the Saints?

Matthew J. Bellisario 2010

Do Catholics worship the Saints? Yes we do! I know that is shocking right? Please read on before you assume too much from what I just wrote. Many Protestants often accuse Catholics of “worshiping” the Saints as if they are on par with God Himself. They see candles burning before an icon of the Theotokos and they automatically assume that Catholics are giving a form of worship to her that is due to God alone. This is certainly not true and yet many persist in slandering Catholics by accusing them of idolatry. The first thing that we need to look at is the term “worship.” 

Although the Church has used different terms in the past which have their origins in Greek and Latin to explain different types of worship such as dulia (worship given to the Saints-veneration), hyperdulia (Worship given to the Blessed Virgin Mary-higher form of veneration) and latria (Worship that is due to God alone) I want to focus on the English word, "worship." Because if we look at the word "worship" and what it means, it also explains these types of distinctions in the English language.

Throughout time the term “worship” has taken on many meanings. In the English language today, especially when it comes to theological terms, it is often thought of in relation to the "worship" that is due to God alone. But one problem with the English language is that it often does not have words that directly translate over to accurately represent the meaning of words in other languages. For example, the word worship in English covers a myriad of meanings, although some will insist it only means the type of "worship" that is due to God alone. However, even if we look at the Webster’s Dictionary definition, it does not define the word “worship” in this exclusive way.

The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.
The ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed. 
Ardent devotion; adoration. 
often Worship Chiefly British. Used as a form of address for magistrates, mayors, and certain other dignitaries: Your Worship.
v., -shiped, or -shipped, -ship·ing, or -ship·ping, -ships, or -ships.

To honor and love as a deity. 
To regard with ardent or adoring esteem or devotion. See synonyms at Revere.

To participate in religious rites of worship.
To perform an act of worship.

So even in Webster we can see that the word “worship” does not always mean the "worship" that is due to God alone. It can simply mean to regard with an ardent, adoring esteem or devotion. Why is it that Protestants often forget this meaning for the word and insist upon the other when attacking Catholics? But what is more telling are the synonyms that Webster’s gives for the word “worship.” You will see some of these words used by the Catholic Church to explain what it is that Catholics do when they light a candle in front if the icon of the Theotokos, for example. The Church frequently uses the word “venerate” as a substitute for the word “worship”, to more accurately define the action of “worshiping” Saints. In other words, we must be specific in the English language for the sake of those who would misinterpret the meaning of “worship” when it comes to the Catholic religion, because it means two entirely different things when it applies to the “worship” of God, and when it applies to the “worship” of the Saints.

Lets take a look at the synonyms and their meanings in reference to the word “worship.”

SYNONYMS revere, worship, venerate, adore, idolize.
These verbs mean to regard with the deepest respect, deference, and esteem. Revere suggests awe coupled with profound honor: "At least one third of the population ... reveres every sort of holy man" (Rudyard Kipling). Worship implies reverent love and homage rendered to God or a god: The ancient Egyptians worshiped a number of gods. In a more general sense worship connotes an often uncritical devotion: "She had worshiped intellect" (Charles Kingsley). Venerate connotes reverence accorded by virtue, especially of dignity or age: "I venerate the memory of my grandfather" (Horace Walpole). To adore is to worship with deep, often rapturous love: The students adored their caring teacher. Idolize implies worship like that accorded an object of religious devotion: He idolizes his wife.

All of these words and meanings are synonyms and meanings for the word "worship" in the English language. Now lets take a look at what the word “revere” means. Revere means to have a deepest respect and a profound honor for someone. We as Catholics have a deep respect and honor for the Saints. Adore is another synonym which means to have a deep love for someone. Finally, the most common word used to describe the form of "worship" for the Saints is the word "venerate" which means,  connoting a reverence accorded by virtue to someone. It is in the context of revering and venerating that the word “worship” is understood in reference to the Saints. It is a deep respect, honor, reverence and deep love held for our brothers and sisters in Christ who now reside in the heavenly realm with Christ. They are part of the Church Triumphant. At the same time, while we give this form of "worship" to the Saints we are also giving a type of glory to God by the mere fact that we recognize that these Saints were nothing without God’s grace. We know that the virtue that we are adoring or revering in the Saint as a person is ultimately from God, and not from the Saint themselves. So even this lessor form of "worship" or veneration in the end ultimately gives glory and honor to God Himself. It is much the same when we honor our parents as God asks us to do. We in some way also honor God by doing so, yet we are not "worshiping" our parents as we do God. So it is with this attitude that the Church teaches us to approach the Saints with. The Church does not teach that we should approach the Saints as we approach God. The word “worship” has many meanings, and Protestants outside the Church need to learn to be honest and respect the use of the word as it is intended to be used by the Catholic Church. It is  intellectually dishonest to say that Catholics are "worshiping" the Saints in the manner that is due to God alone, this is simply not true.

The next article in this series I will be focusing on whether or not the Saints can hear and can continue to pray for us in heaven. I will also address the lighting of candles and its symbolism in the veneration of the Saints as well. Stay tuned. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Private Confession is Apostolic

Also, after the Resurrection the Lord said : “‘As the Father sent me, I also send you.’ And when He said this He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them, if you retain the sins of any they are retained’” (John 20:21-23).

Some people today love to use modern liberal historians to try and shake people's faiths as to the apostolic origins of the Sacraments. One Sacrament that frequently comes under attack is the Sacrament of Confession. Many historians falsely claim that it was an invention of the middle ages and that private confession only developed and was never practiced in the early days of the Church. In fact, some historians claim that it was Pope Innocent III who invented and insisted on private confession. If that is the case, then why do we have writings from Popes like Leo the Great from 500 years before Pope Innocent III addressing private confession? An ex-Catholic by the name of John Bugay over at "Beggars All" has sadly bought into this fraudulent history, and is now trying to convince Catholics and others that the Sacrament of Confession and the act of doing penance is a later medieval invention. The fact is, private confession dates back to the apostolic times. If we examine more than just a few liberal historians, we will see that the Church, while not using the Sacrament as frequently as we do today, none the less had private confession in its earliest days. 

An excerpt from Fr. John Hardon's article "Confession of Sins: A Divine Institution" explains.

In the early Church, Christians were expected to live very holy lives. And they did. To become Christian meant to expect to become a martyr. Every pope for the first three hundred years of the Church’s history was murdered for the faith. Countless thousands shed their blood in witness to their love for Christ.
Understandably, therefore, the sacrament of Confession was not so frequently received by persons whose lives were a living martyrdom. Yet, even in the early Church, sinners were reconciled after they had confessed their sins, received absolution and performed what to us must seem like extraordinary penance for the wrong they had done.
The emphasis in those early days was on confessing mortal sins. And there were bishops who had to be reproved by the pope for excessive severity, either in demanding public confession of grave crimes or even refusing to give absolution for such sins as apostasy, adultery, fornication or willful murder.
One document issued by Pope St. Leo the Great in the middle of the fifth century, deserves to be quoted in full. He is writing to the bishops of Campania in Italy, reproving them for demanding a public confession of sins before receiving absolution in the sacrament of Penance.
I have recently heard that some have unlawfully presumed to act contrary to a rule of Apostolic origin. And I hereby decree that the unlawful practice be completely stopped.
“It is with regard to the reception of penance. An abuse has crept in which requires that the faithful write out their individual sins in a little book which is then to be read out loud to the public.
All that is necessary, however, is for the sinner to manifest his conscience in a secret confession to the priests alone…It is sufficient, therefore, to have first offered one’s confession to God, and then also to the priest, who acts as an intercessor for the transgressions of the penitents” (Magna indignatione, March 6, 459).
It is a matter of history, therefore, that private, individual confession of one’s sins to a priest goes back to apostolic times. Christ Himself prescribed confession in the sacrament of Penance, and His directives were followed since the first century of the Christian era.

Among the doctrines of revealed faith which the Church had to defend, was the precept of sacramental confession...
The Protestant leaders in the sixteenth century rejected the sacrament of Confession as divine institution. And they especially reacted against the Catholic Church’s teaching about the need for telling one’s sins to a priest. As a result, the Council of Trent issued no less than fifteen solemn definitions on the sacrament of Penance. Two of these deal specifically with the obligations to confess one’s sins to a priest. They are critically important in our ecumenical age. The following positions are declared as contrary to the Catholic faith:
“If anyone says that sacramental confession was not instituted by divine law or that it is not necessary for salvation according to the same law; or if anyone says that the method which the Catholic Church has always observed from the very beginning, and still observes, of confessing secretly to the priest alone is foreign to the institution and command of Christ, and that it is a human origin: let him be anathema.
“If anyone says that, to obtain remission of sins in the sacrament of Confession, it is not necessary according to divine law to confess each and every mortal sin that is remembered after proper and diligent examination, even secret sins, and sins against the last two commandments, and those circumstances which change the character of a sin…or finally that it is not permissible to confess venial sins: let him be anathema.”
No apology is needed for these long quotations from the Church’s irreversible teaching on the sacramental confession of sins. Nor need we apologize for one more quotation, this time from Pope Paul II. He insists that personal, private confession of sins to a priest in the sacrament of Penance, is the right of every single believer, as it is also the right of Christ, the Divine Redeemer.
It is worth noting some writings of the early Church Fathers who also spoke of this Sacrament. Don't let these unbelievers dupe you into believing that there was no Sacrament of Confession in the early Church, it is a lie. 

St. Athanasius said, “As the Baptized is enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, by means of the priest, the repentant is granted forgiveness of his sins by the grace of Christ, also through the priest.”

St. Augustine said, “The Lord Jesus Christ rose Lazarus from the death and those around him (the apostles) loosed him from the grave clothes that bound him.” Was the Giver of life unable to loosen the grave clothes? By loosening them, the apostles denoted their authority of absolving and forgiving sins, which the Lord granted to them and their successors."

St. Gregory of Nyssa said, “Regard the church priest as a spiritual father for you, reveal to him your secrets openly, just as a patient reveals his hidden wounds to the physician, and so is healed.”

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Monastic Life: A Mark of Authenticity

The Monastic Life: A Mark of Authenticity
Matthew James Bellisario 2010
One sign that you are part of the authentic Christian faith is the fact that faith and works are lived out in harmony and are not artificially separated from one another. The true Christian faith takes very seriously the command of Jesus to keep His commandments (John 14:15), and to be perfect as our Father is in heaven. (Matthew 5:48) The Church has heard the words of Jesus and followed Him, “Yet one thing is wanting to thee: sell all whatever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” The Church has consistently lived out Saint Paul’s call to chastity and obedience. (1 Cor 7:5, Col 3:22) Catholicism as well as all of the ancient apostolic Churches, have throughout the ages given us great witnesses, who have by the grace of God, lived these Scripture verses to the fullest. These Scripture passages are witnesses to the core principles of monasticism: poverty, chastity and obedience. 
Those of the true faith do not view mankind infused by God’s grace as a dunghill, which was how the infamous arch-heretic Martin Luther viewed man. In fact, Luther’s thought was blasphemous and was ultimately an insult to God. The grace that God bestows upon His children actually changes them and makes them holy. “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51, 2 Cor 7:1, 1 John 1)The Saints knew this and they dedicated their lives not to merely believing in Christ, but believing Jesus Christ, and actually dedicating their lives to doing His will. “Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.” (James 2:18) The Saints also knew that true faith in Christ was based on their faithfulness to loving Him and keeping His commandments. Christ Himself said, “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.” (Matthew 16:27) It is in the monastic lives that we see the passages of Scripture coming alive with a pure radiance that can never be extinguished. 
Monasticism is therefore another stamp of authenticity for the true Christian faith. It is a practice that has been part of both the East and Western Christian traditions since the most ancient times of Christianity. We see the marks of monasticism lived out in Scripture with St. John the Forerunner, who lived on locusts and wild honey, practicing penance and calling for others to do the same. Jesus and His apostles also lived a type of monastic life. They did not make their homes in any certain place, and they often retreated into the wilderness where they often prayed. Jesus Himself spoke of those who would come after Him who would fast and do penance. (Matthew 9:15) The early Christians likewise also adapted a variety of forms of monasticism in imitation of the Savior and His apostles. 
Most Church historians admit that there had been individual hermits practicing their Christian faith in a monastic form since apostolic times. We see Paul the Hermit and St. Anthony of the Desert living ascetic lives in the middle of the third century, yet there are records of strict Christian communities existing from at least as early as the second century. St. Macarius the Great, following in the footsteps of the disciplines set forth by St. Antony and St. Pachomius, founded a type of monastery in the year 328 in Scetis. These monastic fathers were followed by St. Basil the Great, St. Martin of Tours and later Saint Augustine and St. Benedict, who all were important figures in developing the monastic way life. 
We look at St. Antony of the Desert and we find a man driven by God’s grace to be prefect for the kingdom of heaven. People traveled days to seek his spiritual direction and witness the grace of God flow from him like a fountain of living water. St. Athanasius greatly admired St. Antony and he wrote of St. Antony’s life telling us of his piety and asceticism through which God deified him and humbled him, and making him more Christlike each day. Many great Saints like him lived lives devoted to doing God’s will by imitating Christ. They went into the desert or wilderness and sold all they had to go about preaching the Gospel and living a life of prayer. 
Who can forget Symeon the Stylite who lived on a pillar for 36 years in Syria, building his column higher and higher in an effort to obtain silence and solitude? Yet he could not escape those who traveled from afar to see the grace of God shine through him, as well as to seek his wisdom, prayers and advice. These Saints gave witness to the saving grace of Christ, and it was this grace that people were drawn to as well as their examples that drove them to imitate their virtuous lives as best as they could. These monastics, even though they spent much of their time alone, did not practice the faith for themselves only. God used them in a variety of ways including using their prayers to bring many to salvation, as well as using them as examples of what God was capable of doing in the sinful lives of men. In short, these Saints were beacons of light for the faith, and many have found their way to God through them. Monasticism continued to grow and flourish throughout the ages in both Eastern and Western Christianity.
We only see the break with monasticism with the rise of the pretended “Reformers” in the mid 16th century. Martin Luther, who was an Augustinian monk eventually realized that he could not hack the monastic life, and therefore broke his promise to God to live a life dedicated to Him alone. Luther had serious problems trying to live this type of life, and it eventually tormented him to the point of abandoning the true faith in favor of one of his own invention. Luther was no stranger to playing the character of Hamlet well, and frequently said he was “forced” into making a vow that he he never wanted to make. “When I was terror-stricken and overwhelmed by the fear of impending death, I made an involuntary and forced vow” (Hausrath, "Luthers Leben" I, Berlin, 1904, 2, 22) Not only would he leave the monastic life in a state of cowardice and despair, but he would eventually share his malicious contempt for the monastic life with an ex-nun in an invalid marriage. 
Likewise Henry VIII across the channel in England would also turn his face away from the Church. After breaking with the Church over his obsession for womanizing, he eventually attacked and destroyed countless monasteries, ransacking them for the gold chalices and other precious items found in them that were used to give glory to God. As time went on, the pretended “Reformers” continued in their assault against monasticism, and to this day they have lost this beautiful mark of the true faith to the detriment of many souls. 
Today however, the true Church still bears the mark of monasticism. The Catholic Church is home to many monastic communities who continue to pray unceasingly for the salvation of souls. The examples of Padre Pio and Mother Teresa, still shine brightly. Likewise, the Orthodox Churches also retain their Eastern monastic tradition. We see the monks on Mt. Athos who have been consistently practicing monasticism on the peninsula for over 1000 years now, praying with their prayer ropes and living lives of holiness to uphold the very foundations of the Church. Certainly, any Christian “church” that does not retain the practice of monasticism cannot be considered as an authentic expression of the true Christian faith. All of the ancient apostolic Churches retain this practice of asceticism. Monasticism is surely a mark of the true faith, and it will continue on until the end of time. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

St. Cyril of Alexandria and Marian Devotion

Here are some thoughts to ponder on the veneration of the Mother of God from some of the texts of St. Cyril of Alexandria, who was the Patriarch of the Church in Alexandria from 412 to 444. He was a staunch defender of the Catholic faith and he fought with great fervor against the heresies of his day, which included those who opposed the proper theological titles of "Mother of God" or "Theotokos" in Greek, for The Blessed Virgin Mary.

"That anyone could doubt the right of the holy Virgin to be called the Mother of God fills me with astonishment. Surely she must be the Mother of God if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, and she gave birth to him! Our Lord's disciples may not have used those exact words, but they delivered to us the belief those words enshrine, and this has also been taught us by the holy fathers.

In the third book of his work on the holy and consubstantial Trinity, our father Athanasius, of glorious memory, several times refers to the holy Virgin as "Mother of God." I cannot resist quoting his own words: "As I have often told you, the distinctive mark of holy Scripture is that it was written to make a twofold declaration concerning our Savior; namely, that he is and has always been God, and that for our sake in these latter days he took flesh from the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and became man."

Again further on he says: "There have been many holy men, free from all sin. Jeremiah was sanctified in his mother's womb, and John while still in the womb leaped for joy at the voice of Mary, the Mother of God." Athanasius is a man we can trust, one who deserves our complete confidence, for he taught nothing contrary to the sacred books."

“What! Nestorius dares to suffer men to say in public and in his presence that he who calls Mary the Mother of God is to be anathema! He hurls his anathema, by means of his partisans, at us, at the other Bishops of the Catholic Church, and at the ancient Fathers, who in all ages and places in one accord have acknowledged and honored the holy Mother of God! And have we not the right to repay him in his own coin and say, ‘If anyone denies that Mary is the Mother of God, let him be anathema’? ….

A Hymn to the Theotokos

Through you, the Trinity is glorified.
Through you, the Cross is venerated throughout the world.
Through you, angels and archangels rejoice.
Through you, the demons are driven away.
Through you, the fallen creature is raised to heaven.
Through you, the churches are founded in the whole world.
Through you, people are led to conversion.