Thursday, March 11, 2010

"...a gap is opened in the ranks..."

March 12 is the Feast of St. Gregory the Great (his commemoration is in September on the Roman Catholic calendar).

Gregory's thoughts on the church ring true today, as The Episcopal Church (TEC) seems ready grasp at a few more minutes of media time by consecrating a Lesbian bishop. By rushing into LGBT ordination rituals without regard to wider Christian consensus, or even formal changes to its own Prayer Book language about the nature of marriage, TEC falls into a trap and, intentionally or not, betrays the wider Christian church. Gregory's warning is as urgent and tragic today as it was back in the 6th century:

"For when the faithful nations join forces with the holy preachers they become a great army in battles for the faith against the spirits of evil...

...and it is undisputed, that an army set in array appears terrible to the enemy when it is drawn up in such close order as to leave no gaps in its lines. For if an army were so deployed as to leave an empty space through which the foe could pass, it would assuredly not appear terrible to the enemy. Therefore when we form the line of spiritual battle against evil spirits it is absolutely essential that we be always united and constrained in charity, and are never found estranged by discord because whatever good works there may be in us, if charity is wanting, a gap is opened in the ranks by the sin of discord whereby the enemy avails to penetrate and smite us." Sermons on the Prophet Ezekiel I.8.6

TEC, absorbed with the claims of one small faction, is a gap in the Christian line of battle. And evil slips in and strikes down souls - those deceived by false teaching, those puffed up with private agendas, those embittered beyond charity on either side of "the issue," those turned off to the Gospel by the spectacle of an eccentric, squabbling religion.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.


eulogos said...

I see your comment feed says I arrived from Columbia, Maryland. That must be where SSA's server is. But I am in New York State.

Love the snowy picture in your masthead!

Although no one can speak against charity, which as St. Paul says, is the greatest of the theological virtues, I have to say, without meaning to be offensive, that POPE ST. Gregory, would say that failure to be in communion with the Bishop of Rome is TEC's major problem. He'd probably even tie the two together, as the theological virtue of charity is the love of the truth, and leads to the love of the brethren in eucharistic communion.

Susan Peterson

TLF+ said...

Susan aka eulogos - honored to have you post here!

I think that any form of Christian disunity would strike Gregory as a lack of love, or as he says in the quote, "a sin of discord." He was a Benedictine through and through, and stable life in Christian community meant a great deal to him.

But I wonder if organic unity with the Pope would loom larger than caritas for Gregory. He cut his ecumenical chops as an ambassador to the Byzantine church. His advice to Augustine of Canterbury was, "If you find Anglo-Saxon church customs that don't line up well with our Roman ways, leave them alone unless they clearly distort the Gospel" (very much an echo of Benedict who, after laying out an elaborate schedule for reciting Psalms, said "But if somebody comes up with something that works better, by all means use it.") No less than Calvin praised Gregory as "the last good Pope" for his collegial views of episcopacy and papal authority.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Orthodox Christians certainly affirm Gregory's comments on Ezekiel. We also pray for healing of the Great Schism from which all subsequent schisms derive impetus.

TLF+ said...

Alice, thanks for your comment. I was moved by the Orthodox rites around the coffin of John Paul II, which were given a prominent place in his burial liturgy.

eulogos said...

TLF, I think those would have been Eastern Catholic Hierarchs of various Eastern Catholic Rites, aka sui juris Churches in communion with Rome.

Someone correct me if I am wrong, but while the Orthodox might have come as observers, I don't believe that they would participate in a Catholic funeral.

Susan Peterson

TLF+ said...

Thanks, Susan! That is worth checking and that might well be the case. JPII was a significant ecumenical force, so it will be interesting to find out which group(s) were part of the liturgy and which were observers.

eulogos said...

JP II may have been a significant ecumenical force, but, you have heard the old conundrum about what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? JP II, and Benedict even more so, may be *nearly* irresistible but...

Susan Peterson
(sort of tweaking Alice here, in a friendly way, I hope.)