Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Those Pesky Marks, Seen Upon Rising

You have only one of two behavioral responses to express, following the post-slumber shock of recognition.

You will either recoil from the ugly wounds ... in terror and horror of what you inflicted on a God you perceive as having been absent, unfaithful, capricious and uncaringly vengeful; projecting onto Him your own anger and rebellious disdain (and thence tragically enough, devolve to become smugly satisfied with your delusional wisdom, as you weep and gnash your teeth in the darkness) ...

Or ...

You will be attracted to such beauty, like St. Didymus, in holy fear and love of a servant-God you now see and feel fully, face-to-face, as truly Emanu-El and Savior and Lord ...  more than you have ever experienced Him before (and thence, to advancing from memories of Fore-tasting to an engagement in the never-ending Party).

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Look! Is It an Angel? The Order of Creation? No ... It's Ralph Lauren!

It is September.

A month noted for the changing of the seasons, a slow metamorphosis from stitched horsehide to laced pigskin, and for many, a changing of the duds as well ... from those spiffy summer whites, to the more earthy tones and patterns of the browns, the grays, and the hounds-tooth.

Ah yes, September ... glorious September;  a month calendrically symbolized by a nine, wherein the laity may actually begin to shed the flip-flops, the T's, the jeans and the halters so as to dress to the nines again, in the reverent worship of the Almighty God who comes to His Altar and serves us. 

Maybe even the "ministers" themselves will come to so shed, if we are truly blessed.  Maybe       

But speaking of a changing of the duds, one such transition occurred within the Roman church on an autumnal Oct 15, 1976.   On that date, its Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith  issued a declaration entitled Inter Insigniores (cf.  The treatise is probably best known, today, for summarizing the theological and historical rationales for excluding women from the Holy Offices of priest and bishop.

There is a bit more to it, however.

Section 4, paragraph 3 of I.I. solemnly intones the following:

"Another objection [to the permanency of the Lord and His Apostles' restrictive views regarding pastoral gender] is based upon the transitory character that one claims to see today in some of the prescriptions of Saint Paul concerning women, and upon the difficulties that some aspects of his teaching raise in this regard. But it must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on their head (1 Cor 11:2-16); such requirements no longer have a normative value."

The attitude expressed here, immediately above, decisively decapitates Canon 1262 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which mandated that women "shall have a covered head and be modestly dressed, especially when they approach the table of the Lord."  The authorized Roman counter-argument made some sixty years after the formulation of the 1917 Canon Code, then, is that a discipline assigned to and assumed by saintly women is of little real consequence; and that St. Paul's prescriptions to the Corinthian people of God (and other churches of the Christian Way) were driven from prevailing cultural influences ... the very stuff serving in the formation of tradition, in other words.  Somehow, the spectacle of the Roman church so blithely deserting a tradition because ... because ...  well, because it's nothing but a tradition not only puts a serious crimp in the wearing of those lovely and laudable mantillas; but also threatens the gaining of indulgence through the twitterings to a pope.  And the latter's been a smart-phone tradition for but a few weeks, at most.  The head-covering's been around for a couple of millennia, at last count.

Frankly, in comparison (all right, all right; better said "in theory" ), the Church of Augustana treats ancient tradition far less cavalierly than Rome's Sacred Congregation of our era.  In the Augsburg Confession (Art XXVII.40,41), to illustrate, the assertion is made by the Evangelical Catholics that "many traditions are kept among us, such as the order of   readings in the Mass, holy days, etc., which are conducive to maintaining good order in the Church."  Elsewhere (Art XXVII.45), the Lutheran fathers quote the Tripartite History, Book IX, which reads "It was not the intention of the Apostles to make decrees about festivals but to preach good conduct among people and godliness."   There you have it.  There is found the proper role of tradition; not something with which to forge a salvific justification apart from Lord Christ, but rather something to encourage a Godly etiquette and behavioral decency, in His Presence.  A humble head-covering can do that, as can the study of the lives of the saints, that cloud of witnesses which has gone before us, and triumphed.

The 1976 I.I. is sorely mistaken on a very vital point.  The prescriptions of blessed St. Paul in 1 Cor 11, regarding the head-coverings of women in the context of the Mass (i.e., the Divine Service) were not "probably inspired by the customs of the period."  Piffle.  This weighing of the statistical confidence levels is a blatant resort to brain cells which can lead to a Fall.   The Apostle does not make any excuse for his advice, based on the haute couture of the first century A+D world.  Read the text closely.  The reasons given for a specific, womanly example (to Adam's brutes) of a deep reverence towards God are 1) the acknowledgment of the Order of Creation, which reality of Order testifies to the mystical relationship existing between Christ (Head) and His Church (body); and 2) "because of the angels," who apparently take great interest in what we the children of God are up to.  We can delight these creatures, it seems, and perhaps even inspire them; but we can certainly also appall them.  The styles of the New York, Paris and Milan runways come and go, and are exceedingly ephemeral; the angels, in contrast, come and go and are eternal.  They're still around, and it's all very, very Scriptural.  It thus would be well for the members of the Church catholic, both men and women alike, to take angels and their sensitivities seriously. 

But then perhaps St. Paul's 1 Cor 11 is speaking more directly to our attitudes, and those broken and contrite spirits directed towards our merciful God (Ps 51), than to an eye-balling of our external accouterments ... however lovely, and however good, they may be. The over-arching theme of St. Paul's writing places a far greater value on the circumcision of the heart, than on an excision of the epidermis.  This is the Age of Unmerited Grace.  We are saved by Christ's blood and His merits; we are salvaged by a cross; not by our scarves, our derbies or our i-phones.

But here's the thing.  Even St. Peter admits that he finds St. Paul's letters to be difficult to understand at times (2 Pt 3:16); and that the "unlearned and the unstable wrest [with such], as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction (Authorized Version)."  Unlike the supposedly learned and magisterially stable Sacred Congregation, however, that fellow nicknamed "the Rock" by Lord Christ doesn't blow off the Pauline head-scratchers ... if they indeed are really that ... as little more than cultural phenomena and mere habits, subject to autopsy by the neighborhood anthropologist.   Maybe these constitute a special occasion for Lutherans, instead, to remind ourselves that great mysteries like order and even the angels do matter (including that jackass walking around like a roaring lion); to admit to our weaknesses when it comes to the Word; and to take some time in our Sunday frivolities and freedoms to earnestly repent, as well as to praise.