Monday, December 28, 2009

A New Year Meditation

In light of our upcoming New Year celebrations, I have posted a portion of an article by Fr Patick Henry Reardon, a Senior Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity.


Whereas English has only one word for time, other European languages more carefully distinguish between time as instance ("How many times?") and time as sequence ("How much time?").

The ancient Greeks, who thought a great deal about time (among many subjects), also had two different words that we English-speakers are forced to translate with the single word "time." Since there is a very profound difference between those two words, and because time is an important theological subject in the New Testament (itself written in Greek), it is useful to examine this difference.

The first Greek term is chronos, meaning time on the move, time as before and after, time as the future passing through the present and so becoming the past. From this Greek word chronos we derive such English terms as chronic, chronicle, and chronology. Thus, we call an illness chronic if it lasts a long time. A chronicle is an account of events through a sequence of time. Chronology is the itemized, studied measurement of time.

Indeed, measurement is one of the distinguishing characteristics of chronos, which is a quantitative concept. Time that cannot be measured is not chronos. Time in this sense is dimensional, quantifiable; it can be "accounted for."

In addition to chronos, however, the Greeks also spoke of time as a moment, time as occasion, time as qualitative rather than quantitative, time as significant rather than dimensional. This second word for time is kairos.

Strictly speaking, we don't measure kairos. We don't ask someone, for example, "How much Christmas did you have?" We inquire, rather, "what sort of Christmas did you have?" With kairos we employ the category of qualis, not quantum.

The reason that time in the sense of kairos cannot be measured is because it is always a now. A now is obviously indivisible; an instant is, so to speak, too brief to account for. By the time you stop to measure a now, it is already gone. Now is punctuated by a swift, indecipherable passage from this to that. Furthermore, if now cannot be measured, it can also not be counted. It is futile, for example, and probably a threat to sanity, to ask how many nows there are in an hour. Unlike the past and the future, nonetheless, the now really exists. Indeed, now is the only time that does exist. In the strictest sense, "there's no time like now."

Kairos, because it is present, is an icon of eternal life. To experience the now, after all, one must be alive. The dead know nothing of now. Therefore, the now, the kairos, is an icon of the life of heaven. Indeed, eternal life is an everlasting now, in which there is no sequence, no before and after.

Eternity is not a long time. Strictly speaking, there is simply no length to it. Nothing elapses. The infinite is not measurable. Thus, "when we've been there ten thousand years/ bright shining as the sun/ we've no less days to sing God's praise/ than when we've first begun."

(The Rev. Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, 2009; article found at,)

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Christmas Meditation


The origins of the title the “Mother of God” are obscure. What is clear is that the first completely authenticated instances of the use of the title came from the city of Alexandria. Alexander (the predecessor to Athanasius) referred to Mary as Theotokos in his encyclical of circa 319, in his defense against the heresy of Arius. It seems reasonable to conclude that this title already enjoyed widespread acceptance in the piety of the faithful at Alexandria and beyond. (Mary Through The Centuries, Pelikan, 1996)


In any study of Mary, in and in particular, in the study of her role in the redemption of the world, one of the issues that stands out in bright colors is that of her titles. Her titles illumine certain areas of theology in very important & unique ways. Even a cursory analysis of these titles teach us about the various aspects of union between God and man.

Mary’s primary title is that of Theotokos, it is generally translated “mother of God”, however, a more accurate translation would be “bearer of God.” As is obvious this title highlights just as much, if not more, about God than about Mary. The whole point of the title is the incarnation of God.

However, there is an addition benefit gained form the title Theotokos, the title also connects her faithfulness to our salvation, thus giving great value & importance to Mary for each and every Christian. For the Christian, Mary’s value consists of her unique co-operative work (energy) with the desires and work (energies) of the Trinity. By this faithfulness, she unlike Eve, (the mother of those who die) becomes the mother of the one who lives forever, & those who live forever in him. And this faithfulness consisted of freely choosing to gestate, bear, & raise, our Lord. The title Theotokos therefore connects humanity to God, first by highlighting the role of human faithfulness in the plan or redemption, and second by highlighting the role of the incarnation.

Perhaps, one of the main reasons that many contemporary Christians have such a truncated understanding of the doctrine of the incarnation and human works is due to their elimination of Mary & her titles from Christian doctrine. Properly recovering Mary, will be the task of this century for the post reformation west.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Proceeding and Sending of the Spirit, are They The Same?


We can summarize the chapters 14-16 of John’s gospel by saying that it is the Father who sends the Spirit, but the Spirit’s coming is conditioned by, and is in the most intimate connection with the person of the Jesus, and the completion of his work in his death and resurrection.

We can cite John 14: 16, I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate (NRSV), or 14: 26 the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name. Or also 15: 26, "When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf” (NRSV). Here, it is Jesus Himself who sends the Spirit- which is what the west wanted to underline- but, it is from the Father that He is Sent; it is from the Father that the ultimate source proceeds, and that is what the east wanted to underline.

The New Testament witness, expressed particularly by John but confirmed by the other evangelists, is that the Spirit is sent by & from the Father but through the Son. The manner in which the Father and the Son are involved in the sending is described in a way that enables both sides to make a credible appeal to the texts. (Nicene Christianity, Thomas Smail, 2001)


The battle between East & West regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit has several layers at which the subject must addressed. One is, who gets to create and change the contents of the creeds of the catholic faith? That layer of concern, I will deal with in another post. In this one I will address the canonicity of each side’s claim regarding the procession of the Spirit. As Smail points out, even a cursory overview of the respective passages in scripture reveal that both sides have valid parts to their arguments. However, in order to get to the root of the debate I want to assert that the solution can be found in making a the distinction between the proceeding and sending of the Holy Spirit. What is meant by proceed is that point from which the Spirit finds its origin and its first sending, and what is meant by sending is the continuation of the Spirit to its originally intended destination.

With this distinction made, it seems that the claim of the east while true may be incomplete. Not being exhaustive does not make one's claims wrong, & no one would argue that the original version of the creed meant to be totally exhaustive. Nevertheless, it can also be said that there is incompleteness in the Original creed's dealings with the final destination of the Spirit. the real question is whether or not it is necessary to be more complete in with this creed.

It is here that the west took some risks. One cannot deny that the west's desires were well founded in that they wanted to assert that the procession of the Spirit stops at Jesus unless Jesus sends the Spirit to the church. This assertion of the west is not only correct, but in their opinion a necessary distinction. However it is here that the west errs. Proceeding & sending are not identical. The Spirit initially proceeds from the Father to the Son, and only secondly does the Son send that same Spirit to His Body the church. Therefore to say that there is a double procession is not completely accurate. Yet it is totally true that the sending by the Son completes the destination of the original procession. In short, the procession is through the son. The west seems to have used a term that caused confusion when it added, and the Son (filioque) to the creed, even though the point they tried to make was valid.

Because of the first layer of concerns, which is authority in the church, I personally do not advocate changing the creed from its original form of 381 (without the filioque). However, I am convinced that if instead of the filoque, the west would have would have inserted, “Who proceeds from the Father to the Son,” there would have been no contention raised by the east, & both sides would have gotten their point across. As it stands however, the term proceeding from the Father and the Son is not completely satisfying, and it can even lead to several dangerous misunderstandings regarding the Trinity's nature as primarily a hierarchy. At the same time, I want to affirm that I agree with the west that addressing the sending of the Spirit by our Lord Jesus is relative and important, because without it the work of Christ is belittled, and truncates thus Trinitarian understanding.

The fact is that the east and the west need each other in order to have the fullness of that faith which was delivered to the saints, and this doctrine is just one perfect example of that truth!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Will The Real Trinity Please Stand Up!


The uncontroversial third article of the creed of 381 became highly controversial some centuries later and led to the Great Shcism between east and west. Where the creed had originally affirmed that the Spirit proceeded from the Father, the west, in an excess anti-Arian zeal, began to confess that the Spirit preceded from the Father and the Son (The Council of Toledo 589 AD). This addition however, was violently rejected by the Eastern Orthodox Churches. (Nicene Christianity, Seitz, 2001).


Many western Christians have no idea why it is that the eastern church gets so frazzled about the “Filioque” clause that was added to the Nicene Creed. The fact is however that for most western reformation Christians, the Trinity is not central to daily life. Yes, reformation Christians know that the Father is credited for bringing about the creation, the Son for redemption of that creation, and the Spirit for the giving life, but beyond that the doctrine looses its centrality. Not so for the first millennium churches. Each of the two communions, the Latin and the Greek, developed a different way of looking at the Trinity and therefore at looking at God.

The Trinity can only be approached from two perspectives, either from the oneness of the godhead (the west), or from the three-ness of the godhead (east). Since Augustine, the west saw the oneness as the place to begin, pure essence, thus in the godhead they concluded was a hierarchy. The Father is first, & He begets the Son, the Son is second, and from the two together proceeds the Spirit. The east however, saw no hierarchy in the godhead, only a circle of mutual self- emptying love. Hence, the Father begets the Son, and from the Father proceeds the Spirit. The Spirit proceeds to the Son & back to the Father, through the Spirit the Father begets the Son, who in turn gives himself to the Father. In this view God is a concilliar Godhead living in perfect wholeness and love, rather than a hierarchical godhead that flows from the top down.

These two differing views produce two different Gods, two different kinds of churches, and two different views of salvation. One sees a monarch that needs to be satisfied for the wrongs done to him, the other sees a co-equal God, each person serving the other. One sees salvation as keeping the hierarch happy by satisfying his legal requirements thru payment, the other sees salvation as on entering into the concilliar life of the godhead by the destruction of death. One sees the church as hierarchical, the lower serving the greater (papal), the other sees the church as concilliar, all serving one another with order.

Thus it is easy to see that unilaterally altering the creed was not only destructive to unity, but also injured the church, and salvation itself, and we in the west now bear its injuries.