Irenaeus on the Trinity  

Posted by Joe Rawls in ,

Irenaeus (d ca 202) was a native of Smyrna in Asia Minor.  He was a follower of Polycarp, who in turn was a disciple of John the Evangelist.  At some point he migrated to Gaul, where he eventually became bishop of Lugdunum (now Lyons).  He is best known for Adversus Haereses (Against Hersies), in which he defends a nacent orthodox faith against Gnosticism and other theological rivals.

Since his feastday falls today and we have recently celebrated Trinity Sunday, it is appropriate to hear what he had to say on trinitarian doctrine.  The excerpt following is from Alister E McGrath (ed), The Christian Theology Reader, 2nd ed, Blackwell 2001, pp 174-175.


This is the rule of our faith, the foundation of the building, and what gives support to our behavior.

God the Father uncreated, who is uncontained, invisible, one God, creator of the universe; this is the first article of our faith.  And the second is:

The Word of God, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who appeared to the prophets according to their way of prophesying, and according to the dispensation of the Father.  Through him all things were created.  Furthermore, in the fullness of time, in order to gather all things to himself, he became a human being amongst human beings, capable of being seen and touched, to destroy death, bring life, and restore fellowship between God and humanity.  And the third article is:

The Holy Spirit, through whom the prophets prophesied, and our forebears learned of God and the righteous were led in the paths of justice, and who, in the fullness of time, was poured out in a new way on our human nature in order to renew humanity throughout the entire world in the sight of God.

Chittister on Benedictine Prayer  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

Joan Chittister (b 1936) is a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania, and is one of the leading spiritual writers of our day.  In her new book The Monastery of the Heart:  an Invitation to a Meaningful Life (BlueBridge 2011) she talks about Benedictine prayer as an underpinning for real life, not an esoteric spiritual relic.  A hat-tip to National Catholic Reporter.


Benedictine prayer,
the heartbeat of Benedictine spirituality,
is always about
the presence of God in time--
this time, our time, my time.

Benedictine prayer is not mindless repetition
of endless formulas.
It is about the immersion in the mind of God
that living the God-life requires
if we are to be faithful to it
all our living days.

Prayer restores the soul
that is dry and dulled
by years of trying
to create a world
that never completely comes.

It heals the wounds of the day
and reminds us who we want to be
at the deepest, truest part of us.

Prayer lightens the load.
It gives fresh direction and new energy.
It fixes the eyes of the soul
on the real ends of life,
when the real goals of real time
seem unattainable.

It feeds the streams
of silence and sacred reading,
public and private prayer,
that are the pulse
of Benedictine life.

Benedictine prayer is steeped
in the psalms--
the cry of the poor throughout time.

It immerses us in the fullness of the scriptures
and their history of salvation.

It fills us with the Gospel accounts
of the life and message of Jesus.

As regular as the movement of the clock,
Benedictine prayer becomes for us
the pulse of the day,
the rihythm  of a life that might otherwise
be caught in the drumbeat
of ambition or profit or self-centeredness.

Prayer is the sustaining force
of a Monastery of the Heart
in a demanding world.

Prayer in the Benedictine tradition,
and so in a Monastery of the Heart,
springs from the reflection and soul-wrestling
that brings us to the bar of our deepest selves,
seeking forgiveness, pleading for strength.

It is said in concert
with monastics of the heart everywhere,
with those for whom care for the soul
and care for the world
are always equal concerns.

In a Monastery of the Heart,
we do not pray merely to pray.

We pray to become
more a sign of the mind of God today
than we were yesterday.

The Benedictine prays
to put on the mind of God
more and more
and forever more.

Ascension and the Sanctification of Matter  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

We honor today's feast of the Ascension with an excerpt from The Incarnate God, by John V Taylor (Continuum 2003).  Taylor was the Anglican bishop of Winchester and a rather atypical evangelical theologian.  A hat-tip to Episcopal Cafe.


So that he might fill the universe the Christ was emptied to the last drop of self.  But in his ascended glory he remains man.  Dare we believe that?  If incarnation did something to God, ascension did something to matter.  This was the culmination of the stupendous process we call creation.  The God who went to such infinite pains in the making and development of electronic systems, molecules, and chemicals, metal, rocks and living cells, structured forms and responsive nerves, did not at the final stage abandon matter; he liberated it.

The ascension of Christ promises the transfiguration of matter, its divinization, as the Orthodox Churches have never ceased to teach.  The physical will glow with God like metal enveloped and permeated by fire.  "The universe itself is to be freed from the shackles of mortality and enter upon the liberty and splendor of the children of God" (Romans 8:21).  That is the end to which we aspire.  And the way is the way of descent, the way of the death of self, again and again, the way of the broken bread shared with all, of the scarred hands that hold the world.