Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Month: April 2005 (Page 1 of 2)

The Harrowing of Hell

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The Anastasis or the Harrowing of Hell 

From the Apostles Creed…

I believe in God the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth:
and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell;
the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

and I Peter 3:18-22

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

What does it mean that God descended into Hell (or to the dead–less baggage)? For some of us, mostly Americans I’d guess, the image of SWAT-team Christ kicking down the gates of hell (or Sheol, or Hades or…) and rescuing the souls of those who lived before Christ. There are two theories–the first is that Christ went down to Hell-propper and proclaimed the message of salvation to the spirits in bondage, the second is that Christ did the same, only the people were in limbo. The problem of course, is that one does away with the RC doctrine of Purgatory and the tradtion of limbo, one is left only with two options: say Christ went to the dead/hell or delete the offensive line from the Apostle’s Creed that says Christ descended. Then of course, one has to skip that part of first Peter as well.

The icon above is a depiction of the harrowing of hell. It definately makes one think about stories such as Lazarus and the rich man.

Cantuar to go to Rome

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rowan Williams, is to attend the solemn inauguration of the new pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday 24 April in St Peter’s Square in Rome. Archbishop Rowan will become the first serving Archbishop of Canterbury to attend such an occasion, at least since the Reformation. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has indicated its ‘great delight’ that he will be attending.

The Archbishop has confirmed that he will, again, be wearing the ring presented to his predecessor, Archbishop Michael Ramsey, by Pope Paul VI and a pectoral cross presented to him by Pope John Paul II.

Archbishop Rowan will travel to Rome on Saturday; he will be accompanied by the Revd Andrew Norman, Archbishop’s Secretary for International and Ecumenical Affairs, and by the Revd Jonathan Jennings, Archbishop’s Press Secretary.

Greetings and prayers for new Pope

Earlier this week, the Archbishop of Canterbury offered his best wishes and prayers for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on his election as successor to Pope John Paul II. He said: “We wish Pope Benedict XVI every blessing in the immense responsibilities he is about to assume on behalf of Roman Catholics round the world.

“His election is also of great significance to Christians everywhere. I look forward to meeting him and working together to build on the legacy of his predecessor, as we seek to promote shared understanding between our churches in the service of the Gospel and the goal of Christian unity.

“He is a theologian of great stature, who has written some profound reflections on the nature of God and the church. His choice of the name Benedict suggests that he wants to connect his vision of the Church to the monastic spirit of service and contemplation.

“He will be much in our prayers in the days and weeks ahead.”

Lambeth Palace press office:
Tel: 0207 898 1280/1200
Fax: 0207 261 1765

Richard John Neuhaus on Benedict XVI

There is dispute about whether he hurt himself with his homily at the beginning of the conclave. Another interpretation is that he deliberately set a dour tone in order to reduce the prospect of his being elected; the premise being that he will accept but does not want the office.

There might be something to that. It is no secret that he earnestly desires to return to his work as an academic theologian and acceded to John Paul’s desire that he head up the Doctrine of the Faith very reluctantly and only under obedience. He tried to resign in 1991, in 1996, and again in 2001. But, as he has described it, when he saw the determined obedience of the frail John Paul II in continuing until the end, he could not bring himself to insist upon resigning.

Observers jumped on Ratzinger’s homiletical reference to a “dictatorship of relativism,” and the headlines are already written announcing the election of the reactionary, archconservative, doctrinal enforcer Joseph Ratzinger. In fact, the homily was a call for an “adult faith” that rejected the “extremes” of agnosticism or fundamentalism, of skepticism or fideism. Amid all the pomp and glory and media hype, Ratzinger reminded the cardinals that it all means exactly nothing apart from Jesus Christ. Challenging the liberal-vs.-conservative dichotomy that is the staple of the comic-strip caricatures offered by media chatter, he insisted that love without truth is blind, and truth without love is–and here he quoted 1 Corinthians–but a clanging cymbal.

I have known the man for more than twenty years, and the homily was Ratzinger straight: precise, intense, radically Christocentric, and marked by a tranquil and humble obedience to the truth. Commenting on the words of the Lord that he calls the disciples not servants but friends, Ratzinger ended on the winsome note, “Thank you, Jesus, for your friendship.”

Steering a Big Ship

My sense is that Pope Benedict XVI may further ecumenism more than a “liberal” could… primarily this is because I feel that conservatives have a more realistic understanding of the differences between faiths and a beter grasp of the places where cooperation and unity are possible. This is, I believe and hope, what will arise from Pope B’s papacy. But we shall see… Here’s an article about his first mass, which traditionally sets the tone for a Papacy.

ROME, April 20 – In his first Mass as pope, Benedict XVI reached out to the church today, setting out some of the themes of his papacy in conciliatory language.

He specified some of the top priorities of his papacy: the promotion of the unity of Christians and a commitment to ecumenism, the continued dialogue with other religions and the fulfillment of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

Speaking in Latin, as is customary, in the brightly frescoed Sistine Chapel, where he was elected only a day before, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 78, also made repeated references to his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, confirming that his own papacy would be one of continuity.

He told the gold-robed cardinals in attendance that he would assume as his primary task the “full and visible unity of all the followers of Christ.”

More than a task, he said, it was a duty where “concrete gestures” were required and not vague motions of good sentiment.

American cardinals said today that the new pope had been unfairly caricatured as an unfeeling conservative in his role for more than two decades as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s chief doctrinal watchdog.

They instead described him, at a news conference at the Pontifical North American College, as a caring, brilliant churchman who listens to those with opposing views.

“He wants to be collegial,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington. “He wants the advice of cardinals. That for me is one of the great things.”

Cardinal Edward Egan of New York called Pope Benedict calm and strong. “I think he’ll play well as soon as people come to know him,” he said. “This is a very unprepossessing, humble, and if I may say, lovely gentleman.”

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles said, “We have to get to know this man” beyond his public image as a cold disciplinarian.

In a homily on Monday, Cardinal Ratzinger said that Christians were being tossed about by the waves of Marxism, collectivism, libertinism and atheism.

And he was highly critical of the creation of new “sects,” a term often used by church leaders to refer to Christian evangelical movements, drawing Christians into what he said was “error.”

But in his first homily as pontiff he took a much softer stance, saying he was disposed “to do what was in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism.”

And in a gesture perhaps intended to allay the fears of those critics who saw his election as shutting the door on the inter-religious dialogue started by his predecessor, Pope Benedict appealed to “those who follow other religions,” reassuring them that the church wanted to continue to construct “an open and sincere dialogue” with them.

He also promised to continue carrying out the Second Vatican Council, “in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the bi-millenary tradition of the church.

Forty years after the end of the council that radically reformed the church, he said, “the council documents have not lost their actuality,” and their teachings are particularly important to the current petitions of the church and today’s “globalized society.”

The 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church made frequent references to his predecessor, John Paul II, and to the immense outpouring of public affection that accompanied his final illness and death. The late pope, he said, left a church that is “more courageous, more free and more young.”

His final thoughts in the homily were for the young, and Pope Benedict said he looked forward to meeting “the future and hope of the church and humanity” in Bonn next August for World Youth Day. He pledged to continue the dialogue launched by his predecessor, and promised to listen to their expectations.

Views from Russia

In a congratulatory message to Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday, Patriarch Alexiy II, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, signaled a new willingness to heal a centuries old split between the two faiths.

“Our Churches, which have authority and influence, should unite their efforts to spread Christian values to modern humankind. The secular world is losing its spiritual way and needs our joint testimony as never before,” he said.

Some Russian media, meanwhile, appeared to take caution in dedicating coverage to the new pope, perhaps a result of nationalism ignited by the death of Pope John Paul II. In the wake of the pope’s passing, one Russian lawmaker proposed a ban on coverage, saying it amounted to Catholic “propaganda” at the expense of the Russian Orthodox Church. A parliamentary vote on the proposal failed to pass.

Only a handful of newspapers gave the new pope front-page coverage, relegating the story to the inside pages. Breaking news of Benedict XVI’s election did get prominent attention on state-controlled Russian television on Tuesday.

Despite the Russian patriarch’s positive comments on a Catholic-Orthodox rapprochement, others saw the new pontiff, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as a possible roadblock to better ties between the two religions.

Daily newspaper Gazeta noted that Ratzinger, as chief of religious doctrine under John Paul II, believed in the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church over the Russian Orthodox Church, which split from Rome in the Great Schism of 1054.

The newspaper said Benedict XVI could treat the Orthodox as a “forgotten daughter than a sister religion.”




19 April 2005

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum;
habemus Papam:

Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum,
Dominum Josephum
Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger
qui sibi nomen imposuit Benedictum XVI

Benedict XVI

Greetings to the Holy Father

Apostolic Blessing ‘Urbi et Orbi’

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord.

The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with inadequate instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers.

Let us move forward in the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help. The Lord will help us and Mary, his Most Holy Mother, will be on our side. Thank you.

Dancing around the Sacred Oak of Insanity

This story just gets more and more bizarre… We should all pray for Mr. Melnyk and his wife, they sound as though they are in the midst of a spiritual struggle.

Episcopal priest who turned Druid changes his mind

By Kristin E. Holmes
Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA (4/19/2005)–In a rapid change of heart, a local Episcopal priest is abandoning Druid spirituality – a decision made one day after it was reported that he had renounced his Episcopal ordination and become the founding priest of a Druid group.

The Rev. W. William Melnyk notified Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison of his turnabout in a telephone message Friday evening, Bennison said yesterday.

Melnyk did not say whether he would seek reinstatement as an Episcopal priest. He lost his post as rector of St. James’ Episcopal Church in Downingtown in November when the news of his Druid involvement first came to light.

In a voice mail to The Inquirer, Melnyk said he had removed the Druid group’s Web site from the Internet and was cutting his ties with Druid spirituality. He attributed his decision to “events that have transpired in the last 24 hours.”

Melnyk did not elaborate, and said he would not comment further. He and his wife left over the weekend for a vacation abroad and were not available for comment.

Melnyk’s involvement with Druidism caused a scandal in Episcopal circles, and he had declined to speak publicly about it for months. But when the news of his formally becoming a Druid priest was reported last week, he briefly decided to comment.

In an interview Friday, Melnyk disputed widespread accounts that his wife, the Rev. Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk, also an Episcopal priest, was equally involved in Druid activity.

The controversy had begun after a feminist liturgy written by Ruppe-Melnyk was posted on the Episcopal Church USA Web site. The liturgy, which had references to “God the Mother,” was characterized by conservative watchdog groups as pagan and Druidic when they discovered it also posted on a Web site created by her husband.

Melnyk said the Web site was aimed at people who wanted to practice both Druid spirituality and Christianity. Ruppe-Melnyk denied that the liturgy had any Druid-inspired content.

Soon after, Melnyk resigned at the request of his parish vestry. His wife has kept her post as rector of St.-Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Malvern.

After his resignation, Melnyk said he spent several months in reflection.

“I had been working on a ministry seeking to find common ground between two traditions, but the bishop of Pennsylvania and vestry of St. James said ‘you can’t do that,’ ” he said Friday. “So I decided I had to make the decision that had the most personal integrity for me.”

That decision was to renounce his ordination vows and become a Druid priest. He called it a “joyous occasion.” But by the weekend he reversed himself and cut his Druid ties.



This was the letter Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger sent to the gathering of Episcopalians in Dallas in October of 2003 on behalf of Pope JPII. I pray that Ratzinger’s papacy is both doctrinally orthodox and pastorally inovative to address all the problems the Roman Church is facing. I do not believe the charicature of him as an unthinking conservative and, while I certainly disagree with him on a variety of issues (My own perfect candidate for Pope not exisiting, i.e. someone who would end mandantory clerical celibacy, encourage ecumenism, maintain moral, ethical and doctrinal orthodoxy [and yes, I know married clergy would breach that for some of my RC friends] and deal with the abuses of theology exhibited by extreme mariology etc…basically a conservative Anglican–is there even such a thing anymore?)

From Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Prefect of the congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Vatican, on behalf of Pope John Paul II

I hasten to assure you of my heartfelt prayers for all those taking
part in this convocation. The significance of your meeting is sensed
far beyond Plano, and even in this city from which Saint Augustine of
Canterbury was sent to confirm and strengthen the preaching of Christ’s
Gospel in England. Nor can I fail to recall that barely 120 years
later, Saint Boniface brought that same Christian faith from England to
my own forebears in Germany.

The lives of these saints show us how in the Church of Christ there is
a unity in truth and a communion of grace which transcend the borders
of any nation. With this in mind, I pray in particular that God’s will
may be done by all those who seek that unity in the truth, the gift of
Christ himself.

With fraternal regards, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Joseph cardinal Ratzinger

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