Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Evangelizing (the) Tridentines. Here, Right Now.

Let's be courageously upfront about it, shall we?   The Church of Augustana is composed of Evangelical Catholics.  It always has been, long before 1530, or even before 1517.  The Lutheran Symbols say as much:

"And they (i.e., the folks those cleverly inventive Jesuits labeled as "Lutherans") teach that one holy Church is to continue forever.  The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered." (Augsburg Confession Art VII.1, "De Ecclesia;"  Concordia Triglotta, p.47, Concordia Publishing House, 1921 ... italicized emphasis in the quotation, CPH's).

Dr. Hahn's new book may sound appealing at first glance, but I don't see the "purgatory" of his upstart Tridentine Church as particularly "good news" for the Christian-to-be, or even approaching, anything that is full of grace.  See, I take the concept at its word.  The torments which are described as existing there are terrifying.  And unnecessary.  And by "unnecessary," I'm not talking about private Masses recited for the dead, or even "indulgences," as antidotes.   "Indulgences" do sound like a pretty cool way to limit the flames, but I don't know how to stroke the papal ego via Twitter.  Or how often I'd have to punch the "send" key to drop the temperature a degree or two, if I did.

Don't get me wrong.  I admire the missionary fervor of the Jesuits in the 16th and 17th centuries.  While the Church of Augustana was fighting for its life against Leipzig Interims, imperial armies and crypto-Calvinists, individuals like Xavier were indeed avidly and forthrightly evangelizing heathen Asia and the Americas.   But I think their unswerving initial focus as they addressed the pagans was on the Scripturally crucified Jesus and His sacramental graces, and not some extra-Scriptural "purgatory" or an extra-Scriptural "assumption" of our Lord's Mother ... who indeed is Ever-Virginal and is an icon of my mother, the Church who followed Christ's orders to give me life, through His Baptism.  "Whatever He says, do it."   Very Marian.  Very Church.  And very, very Lutheran indeed, by God's grace and love.

Putting the catechismally endorsed "best construction" on things, I am convinced that  St. Francis Xavier's focus was soon directed to the thief on the cross, an individual who avoided the mythical kingdom of "purgatory" through means of a stout defense of our battered and scourged Lord; by humbly admitting his sins to both peer's and redeeming God's earshot (which sins were significant, but no worse than mine); and finally, by asking his dying King simply to remember him, when Christ came into His Kingdom.

The thief, of course, received more than a cursory and momentary royal meme.

So taking on my duty as an Evangelizing Catholic, I will evangelize Dr. Hahn's evangelizing Tridentines with some extraordinarily good news:  If the merciful Christ can accept a  nefarious thief into His kingdom, on those terms, then I, a wretched miserable sinner, need have no fear of your foofram purgatory, even if it were real.  The merciful Christ finished the obligation of the Law which would condemn us to a very real hell, as He proclaimed on the cross; both for a dying repentant thief, and for a dying repentant rascal like me.   He won't and can't treat me any differently.   His promises stand firm.  And that's Gospel gold.

Oh, I know.  Maccabeus offered sacrifices for the sins of the dead ( 2 Mac 12:43-46).  Right.  And Jephthah vowed to God that if he were provided a victory over the Ammonites, the first thing coming through his door would be offered "up as a burnt offering."  ( Jdg 11:31).

Jephthah was a mighty warrior like Maccabeus and family.  And Jephthah won a battle.  The first thing coming through his door, presumably to celebrate daddy's triumph, was family.

In this case, a daughter.   Crumbs.

Like Maccabeus, like Jephthah, like the Tridentines and indeed like the Lutherans, all too often with their protestant worship forms which largely ignore repentance, the Church Triumphant and the Presence  ... well, every man [does] that which was right in his own eyes (Jdg 21:25).  There may be descriptions of silliness, in God's canon and Apocrypha; but there's no Scriptural indication that the Holy Ghost is admiring our wandering eyes, as we engage in the silliness.

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